An Upside Down Kingdom!

John 12:24-25 “Truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, but whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.”

Jesus words are both compelling and convicting. His kingdom is an upside down kingdom to the popular voice of self-centeredness and self-absorption that we are saturated with in our culture. Jesus says that in order to truly live, you must love this temporary world less for the sake of others eternities. A life surrendered to Christ doesn’t exist for ones self but for the benefit of others. Following Jesus isn’t “me first” but “Christ first” and the application of that is in the way we relate to and treat others. 

A Kite in God’s Hurricane!

Recently, in the news we’ve all heard of the tragic events surrounding Hurricane Sandy which hit the northeastern coast of the United States. Over $20 billion worth of damage is estimated to have occurred and many lives have been lost. Don’t you think it’s odd that we name such cataclysmic events after lovely ladies names… like Sandy or Katrina or Cyclone Tracey. I know a Tracey and she is a lovely lady. Why don’t we call them ‘Hurricane Hitler’ or ‘Hurricane Lucifer’ or ‘Cyclone Frankenstein’? Just a thought!

No matter how sturdy or stable a house, boat or car looks pre-hurricance, if the hurricane winds are strong enough then the object will have no power over itself to determine where the wind blows it. There are massive implications in the spiritual dimensions of life as well.

One of the symbols of the Holy Spirit is Wind. All throughout Scripture we read of the wind of God’s Spirit blowing upon his people and world events (Ezekiel 37, Acts 2). John 3:8 says, ‘The wind blows where it wishes. You can hear its sound but you don’t know where it comes from or where its going. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit of God.’

Believers are born of the Spirit of God and are children of the wind of God’s Spirit blowing upon people. I’ve observed, though, that after a number of years, some believers become very static and inflexible when it comes to the leading of the Holy Spirit in their lives. The opposite should be the case. The longer we walk with God, the more flexible, dynamic and passionate we should become as we anticipate the blowing of the Spirit in our lives.

Unfortunately, hard-heartedness anaesthetises us to the Spirit’s leading in our lives. A hard heart disguises itself in religious activity and piety (Pharisees) but really finds its seed in pride which leads to rebellion. Hebrews 3:7-8 says, ‘Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts, as in the day of rebellion.’

What stirs God’s heart to blow a hurricane in our lives is a soft and broken heart before him. It’s not that God can’t blow upon a hard heart, he does all the time (after all, how could any of us be saved), it’s that he delights in blowing upon a soft heart. Psalm 51:17 says, ‘The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit. A broken and contrite heart O God, you will not despise.’ Are you a bucking stallion that needs breaking or do you have a soft heart that the trainer (Holy Spirit) is able to bridle and ride into God’s purposes on?

The Oracle!

A Kite in God’s Hurricane!

John 3:8 ‘The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.’

I have lived for many years with a high level of clarity on what goals I would like to achieve in my life. However, over the last 3 years I have become more and more relaxed about what I want to achieve and more and more focused on Jesus and what he wants me to do.

I have found that God has used key people and unique circumstances to help me release my grip on those things I once held so dear and close to my heart. The more I lose my life for God’s purposes, the more I seem to find God’s grace at work in my life. Often we hold so tightly onto things in life we deem to be important that we actually don’t realise the damage it’s causing us. Too many of us shape our identities on things (possessions, people, performance, career, image) rather than on our relationship with God.

There is freedom to be found in abandoning one’s self to God. He alone establishes our identity and sense of purpose in life. While he can and does use events, conversations and people to help shape us, the most important shaping comes from an intimate relationship with him.

In this season of self-abandonment I have found myself praying the boldest prayer I have ever prayed, ‘God make me a kite in your hurricane!’

Oh my gosh. I love this prayer. Every time I pray it, something wells up in my spirit and I’m filled with a sense of awe and amazement at the goodness and wonder of almighty God. God responded to me the first time I prayed it with, ‘Be very careful what you pray for, cause you might just get it.’ I don’t think we realise how seriously God takes our prayers. When I pray, ‘God make me a kite in your hurricane’, I’m saying to God,

“My life is yours. I present my body as a living sacrifice on your altar. Do with me and through me what you want. I don’t want to be on the outside looking in, I want to be in the epi-centre of the eye of the storm of what you are doing on planet earth. Blow my life in the direction you want me go. Blow in my life, like a hurricane. Let it be so shockingly obvious to the world, that you and you alone have done what you are doing in my life and ministry. Don’t bless what I’m doing, just connect me to what you’re doing, cause what you are doing is already blessed. I love you and I abandon myself to you. I don’t have an agenda anymore, other than to do what is on your heart and fulfil the purpose for which you created me. In Jesus mighty name, Amen.”

Where are you spiritually at today? Are you holding things so tightly to your heart that you would die, if they were taken from you? Or are you living with a sense of abandonment to God and his purposes in your life? I dare you to pray this audacious prayer, ‘God, make me a kite in your hurricane!’ Truth is, you better hold on cause he might just answer it.

The Goal of Ministry!

Over a decade ago I began the journey of full-time ministry, failing to realise that as a follower of Christ, I was already in full-time ministry. Every single Christian is called to Ministry (Eph 4:11-16), every single Christian is gifted for ministry (1 Cor 12:7) and every single Christian can find enjoyment in their ministry (Ecc 2:24). However, unless you understand the goal and purpose of your ministry, you will never fulfill the point of it.

Colossians 1:24-29 is a key passage that points us to the goal of our ministry. Some of the key themes found within it are:

  1. God uses suffering as a means to advance the goal of ministry (v24)
  2. God’s called you to be a steward of the ministry he’s entrusted to you (v25)
  3. The mystery is fulfilled in Jesus Christ in us, the hope of glory (v26-27)
Paul brings us to verse 28 which is the crescendo of the text and outlines to us the GOAL of Ministry:
“Him, we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone, with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone mature in Christ.”
The GOAL of ministry is to present everyone mature in Christ. In between justification and glorification, there is this precious labor of love called sanctification. Some pastors and believers are only focused on the justification of the saints or even the glorification of the saints but Paul says, the goal of ministry is presenting everyone mature in Christ. This is discipleship 101.
The problem with some of our current approach to ministry is that we feel so overwhelmed by secularism, that we want to make Jesus look so cool, so badly and be liked by everyone that instead of aiming our ministry at presenting everyone mature in Christ, we get distracted by party tricks to get people in the door and once we get them in the door, we have no idea what we’re going to do with them.
If the goal of ministry is attracting a crowd only and getting a temporary bunch of decisions, then party tricks will work in the short-term but Jesus didn’t say GO and make converts, he said, GO and make disciples… this is the process of maturation in Christ and where there is no maturing in Christ, something is wrong in our approach to ministry.
Paul outlines to us how we are to go about the GOAL of presenting everyone mature in Christ: There are 3 key actions emphasized in this passage:
  1. Our ministry must be Christ-centered – It’s Jesus we proclaim because Jesus is the hero of the story from Genesis to Revelation.
  2. Our ministry must warn people of the consequences of sin – Romans 6:23 reminds us that the wages of sin is death but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus. If our ministry removes the doctrine of sin then what need has anyone to be saved.
  3. Our ministry must teach people to grow in Christ – We must be an example in our teaching and lifestyle of the re-prioritizing of kingdom values instead of worldly values.
I encourage you to not serve up a diet of candy, pizza, coke and cheeseburgers to attract a listening. This won’t truly serve them but instead nourish people’s souls with what will produce the full measure and stature of Christ in their lives.
Grace! 

Do what God asks you to do!

Luke 6:46 “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you?”

I could talk about this subject all day, not just because there is so much teaching in the Scriptures on it but because I am a walking illustration of both the blessings of obedience and the consequences of disobedience. You need to understand something really critical to your walk with God. Obedience does bring a blessing and disobedience does bring a curse upon your life.

The Holy Spirit spoke into my Spirit one day, “I will not bless you at the expense of disobedience.” In other words God’s blessing isn’t cheap. God also said to me one day, “If I ask you to do something, it isn’t law, it’s my will for you that I want you to obey me in”.  

Don’t call Jesus your Lord, if you aren’t going to do what he tells you to do. I think we are kidding ourselves if we think we can follow Jesus but not do some of the things he asks us to do. The chief indicator of Christ’s Lordship in our lives is our obedience to his commandments. Jesus said, “If you love me, you will obey my commandments”. Even the Great Commission outlines the process of making disciples includes, ‘teaching them to obey everything I’ve commanded you’.

For several years God has asked me to get up at 5am every day and spend quality time with him. While I’m a morning person, I have never taken this seriously enough to warrant a change in my lifestyle to action what the Spirit of God is asking me to do. I saw this as ‘Law’ rather than obedience and so procrastinated on it and dismissed it . However, God has repeatedly asked me to obey him in this area and went so far as to inform me that my disobedience was bringing a curse upon me and my ministry. I can tell you that when I began to hear the word of the Lord, a healthy fear of God came upon me. I asked God, “Why are you so intense about me getting up at 5am?” He said to me, “I want you to know that apart from me, you can do nothing. I want you to know that the blessing and success I give to you hasn’t got anything to do with you but comes from me and my grace in your life. If you are going to bear much fruit, you are going to do it my way, not your way.” Needless to say, I’m now a regular riser at 5am because I know the issue isn’t about 5am, it’s about my obedience in the context of my relationship with Jesus.

Too many of us are concerned about the outcome of our lives (results, fruit, success) rather than our obedience to Jesus. God said to me, “Obey me and the results will take care of themselves.”

What has God asked you to do that you have been procrastinating on? Stop bringing a curse against yourself and just do it. The blessing of God follows obedience. This isn’t a teaching of ‘law’ but a fundamental part of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. Either Jesus is Lord of your life or he isn’t.

Insight!

I was always on my mind!

If we only live with ourselves in mind, we will miss what God has in mind for us!

Too many of us are caught up with ourselves always on our mind. When you are pre-occupied with yourself, you have no room to be interested in others. The bible exhorts us to, “Look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Phil 2:4). When you are always on your mind, you only ever see life from your limited perspective. Your world becomes bigger when you start to seek first to understand rather than trying to always be understood. God has plans for you that are about your well-being and success (Jer 29:11) but as long as you are always on your mind, you will never understand or embrace the plans that he longs to reveal and outwork in your life.

If we want to follow Christ we must deny ourselves – Jesus said in Luke 9:23, “If you want to come after me, you must deny yourself…” This is a hard saying because it is difficult in our day and age to swim upstream and not be on about your agenda. Everything we are taught at school, in the media and in the culture around us promotes the idea that we are the centre of the universe. But Jesus calls us to live with the spirit of the kingdom of God in our minds and hearts, not the spirit of the world = self! You’ve got to leave yourself behind.

Leaving yourself behind looks like Sacrificing yourself for the Call – Jesus said, “Take up your cross daily and follow me.” You can’t follow Jesus and follow yourself at the same time. You have to choose. No one can serve 2 masters, you either follow one or follow the other. When Jesus took up his cross he sacrificed himself for others. Jesus said, “No servant is greater than his master.” If Jesus is our master and he is our ultimate example, then who are we to think we can follow Jesus and excuse ourselves out of the cost of discipleship. Everyday we have a choice – live for ourselves or live for Christ. Jesus said, “Not my will, but yours be done” and he has been exalted to the right hand of the Father. Satan said, “I will be like God” and the bible says, “He fell like lightning from heaven.” Who you sacrifice for will determine your ultimate destiny.

The Kingdom of God is an upside down kingdom – The spirit of the world says, “Live for yourself and you will have true life.” but Jesus says, “Die to yourself and you will have true life.” We are not to be conformed to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of our minds to think like Jesus thinks and order our lives after the pattern of the kingdom of God. One of the reasons why the world looks at the church and thinks that we’re weird is because we operate by a different law. The law of the Spirit of God is now in effect and what people perceive as normal, God perceives as weird and what the world perceives as weird, God perceives as normal. Living for God and others will be seen as weird but go ahead and live with others on your mind anyway.

It’s dangerous to live for yourself and achieve your goal – Jesus said, “What will it profit you, if you gain the whole world and lose your own soul?” The answer = nothing. You could live completely for yourself and even achieve your goal but be completely miserable because you are the only in your small little world. A Day is coming called the Day of Judgment when your work will be tested by fire and if it survives the test, you will be rewarded but if it is burned up, you will suffer loss (1 Cor 3:13-14). What profit are living for – Temporary or Eternal?

Insight!

Despicable Me!

Luke 9:23 “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself.”

I encourage you to see the movie ‘Despicable Me’. Truth is, the only reason I watched it, is because I have three darling kids who wanted to see it. I expected a typical kids movie but what I got was an encounter with Jesus teaching played out on a movie reel.

The story line of the movie is about a man who grows up enjoying being very despicable. He’s a criminal mastermind whose ultimate dream is to steal the moon. For him to do so would mean he’s reached the pinnacle of significance. However, he encounters some stiff competition from someone keen to outdo him and so Mr Despicable encounters three orphans and decides to use them to gain advantage over his competition. Along the journey these three little orphans steal his heart and he starts to soften and prioritize them over his dream of stealing the moon. In fact Mr Despicable gets more than he ever dreamed, he gets a life where he can share love and receive love and his life is never the same. See the movie to fill in the rest of the details.

I think this is a great metaphor for life and ministry. It’s great to have a dream but too easily do we make the pursuit of that dream, call, ministry or life (however you define it) about US. The dream or call may be honorable in and of itself but the subtle shift in our hearts towards ourselves (our success, our image, our reputation, our desires, our needs) can actually be fatal both for us and the dream, let alone others.

As long as your call is about you, you’ve missed the point. In fact, no matter how much energy you expend into making your call happen, the reverse can take effect and it actually starts slipping away from you because you’re misusing the call for the purpose it was given to you in the first place, others.

If you will direct the focus of your call away from you and onto others, your desires and dreams will most probably take care of themselves, or in the case of “Mr Despicable”, your desires will be replaced with God’s desires that are far better for you anyway. Let go, and let God take control of your life. Whether you do or not is a matter of trust. Do you actually trust that God, who called you in the first place, is more than capable of holding your call for you, as well as your dreams and desires?

I encourage you to get on with the business of living for God and living for others without worrying about yourself. Pour yourself out for others and God’s blessing will follow you all the days of your life. The Spirit of the Lord was on Jesus for his ministry to others, not on him ‘just because’. There was a purpose and reason for the anointing being given to him = to heal the broken-hearted, preach good news to the poor, open eyes that are blind and proclaim the year of God’s favor.

The sad truth is you could achieve your dream and ‘steal the moon’ and feel very significant… for a moment… but deep in your heart feel the gnawing ache of emptiness because you have actually forfeited your soul, making your life all about you. Do something weird for a change, actually take Jesus’ words seriously and live by them. I’m trying to and its making all the difference.

Insight!