Kingdom Living


“Ding dong! Avon Calling!” You might remember the old commercial for the make-up representatives who sold to housewives door to door.

Some calls are easier to hear and to head than others. Whenever Mom steps out on the back porch and calls, “Suppertime,” the kids come running from all directions. My father used to come to the back fence and purse his lips together emitting a shrill whistle. We recognized that as a call to come in from wherever we were. He had a different call from the pulpit when he was preaching—to call one of his four errant children into line, he simply snapped his fingers. I don’t think anyone in the congregation noticed except the four little Potters whose ears perked up as they immediately straightened in their seats.

The call of Jesus is a like that. Some hear it clearly while others miss or almost miss it. Many church members think that Jesus only calls ministerial or missionary types with a special calling. But the moment that a person responds to the offer of eternal life, there is a special call upon them. The call of Jesus to be Jesus to the world around them.

Can you hear His calling? Are you responding to His calling? Or are you simply coasting by on His grace and mercy without adjusting your ways to His?

 

“Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent Me, even so I am sending you.’”   —John 20:21

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Something there is that is intimate about a walk. Especially if that walk is with someone meaningful. Early in the last century, if a young man and woman were beginning to see one another exclusively with the eye to possible matrimony, they might say to their friends that they were “walking out” with that special someone. From time to time, when a person wanted to discuss something without the prying ears of an audience present they might ask the friend to “take a walk with me.”

When you take a walk with a person, there is a certain level of privacy achieved even though you may be in the great outdoors. Conversations can be deep and meaningful in which the participants can truly get to know one another. We can learn each other’s thoughts, emotions, and heartbeats. In the case of young sweethearts, there is the opportunity to walk hand in hand and truly feel the presence of the other. In the case of close friends, there is the opportunity to grow closer and even participate in private, unhindered conversation.

This is what it is to walk with Jesus; to sense His presence as we pass through life, to converse with Him in the heartfelt conversation of prayer. This is the desire of the heart of every person: to walk with the Maker, conversing and communing with Him at the most intimate of levels. It was for this kind of walk that we are created. It is toward this kind of relationship that we are constantly running. It is only in this kind of relationship with Jesus that we can find completeness.

Set aside some time to walk with Jesus this week. Walk with Him. Talk with Him. Let His presence in your daily routine refresh you, mind and spirit. It is what you seek. It is what He desires.

“Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden at the time of the evening breeze”  —Genesis 3:8a

I would like to take a moment to wish all my readers a very Merry Christmas!

The word “Majesty” carries with it a lot of weight. In monarchies the king and queen are referred to as “Your Majesty.” Webster defines the word as “sovereign power, authority, or dignity.” When we look at a beautiful sunrise or sunset, or at a panoramic view of the beauty contained only in nature, we describe it with the term “majestic.”

And so, as we think of the event of Christmas on this Christmas Day isn’t majesty just the right word? Consider the Baby born in a manger, tucked away where no one would see Him. And then His very birth is announced out in the countryside to a group of unlikely witnesses:  shepherds, just going about their routine duty. So majestic was the announcement that they abandoned their duty (most likely a capital offense) and not only rushed to see the sight, but also spread the word throughout the rest of the night as they traveled to and from Bethlehem. Majesty!

And to top off the whole picture, we see wise men, sages from a far away land, arriving in a caravan shortly after the birth to present this One they recognize as a new King with gifts fit only for One of great majesty. And to think that we still celebrate all of these centuries later. That is Majesty!

  “And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”  – Isaiah 9:6b

The Start of Good Work

Mr. Vela was a really good boss. He would ask you to do a task—always related to your job in the store. If he knew that you had never done the job before, he would show you how to do it. If it was simply moving merchandise from one place in the store to another, he would make clear which items were to be moved, from where, and to where—he would also indicate if you needed to change the pricing on moved items.

This communication was difficult for him because English was not his first language. But he never repeated himself, and more than once he would say in his heavy accent, “I wan’ you to take dese ones over here an’ put dem over dere.” And workers would do it, willingly and correctly.

Sometimes it is difficult to understand the task that God has for us because we just aren’t listening closely enough—perhaps we are even forgetting to start at the beginning of Good Work: communication with the Boss through prayer. God has a good work for us to do. Let’s listen carefully, pray diligently, and work heartily to accomplish the task.

 

“[P]ray to the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest.” –Jesus, to the His Disciples (Luke 10:2b)

One of the greatest obstacles to overcome when addressing the American culture is the approach that the evangelical church has to amassing her converts. We think that everyone wants the same thing that we want. But perhaps they don’t. Mark Twain picked up on this discrepancy between what the witness wants and what the target wants and recorded it in his boys’ novel The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

Miss Watson would say, “Don’t put your feet up there, Huckleberry;” and “Don’t scrunch up like that, Huckleberry -­ set up straight;” and pretty soon she would say, “Don’t gap and stretch like that, Huckleberry -­ why don’t you try to behave?” Then she told me all about the bad place, and I said I wished I was there. She got mad then, but I didn’t mean no harm. All I wanted was to go somewheres; all I wanted was a change, I warn’t particular. She said it was wicked to say what I said; said she wouldn’t say it for the whole world; she was going to live so as to go to the good place. Well, I couldn’t see no advantage in going where she was going, so I made up my mind I wouldn’t try for it. But I never said so, because it would only make trouble, and wouldn’t do no good.

Now she had got a start, and she went on and told me all about the good place. She said all a body would have to do there was to go around all day long with a harp and sing, forever and ever. So I didn’t think much of it. But I never said so. I asked her if she reckoned Tom Sawyer would go there, and she said not by a considerable sight. I was glad about that, because I wanted him and me to be together.

It seems that Huck didn’t have a full understanding of the concepts of Heaven and Hell, but neither did Miss Watson have a cultural understanding of her pupil. Sadly, we seem to miss the point of culture still today. Just to assume that someone wants to go to Heaven when they die is a misconception. Some people are positive that there is no Heaven and there is no Hell.

If my premise is that salvation is all about getting to Heaven, then my premise is flawed as well. Look at much of the music popular in the church today—you know, that Southern Gospel variety. Here we find songs like “Carried Away” which says, “I’m gonna let the glory roll when the roll is called in Glory,” and “Heavenbound” to name a couple. We probe our friends’ readiness to accept the message of Jesus by asking, “If you were to die tonight and stand before God in heaven, and He asked you, ‘why should I let you into my heaven?’ what do you think you would say?” Our entire focus is on heaven.

I recall a youth minister who was fond of saying (because we as Baptists immerse baptism candidates), “If heaven is all there is to salvation, then the preacher should hold you under when he baptizes you.” The point he wanted to make: there must be more than just an end game involved here.

When I think about all of these things, I come to the conclusion that not only is heaven (or a trip there) not the basic point of salvation but neither should we make it so. Heaven, as wonderful as it is or will be, when seen as the point of salvation is the selfish side of salvation, if any side at all. It becomes the carrot with which we tantalize those who are not of us.

The point of salvation, as I understand it is to draw me into a relationship with the Creator, and so that I can give Him all of who I am—including the glory for who He is. In determining that, I should begin to build relationships with people where they are so that I can glorify God in their presence. In so doing, perhaps they will become a part of Christ’s kingdom for the express purpose of building a relationship with the Creator and giving themselves to Him in the process.

That said, I must then begin to develop relationships outside the church that invite rather than alienate. To do that, I must know the culture outside my own church culture and live my life accordingly.

Recently I found in my mailbox a copy of Planting Churches in the Real World by Joel Rainey. I already have a copy, and have reviewed it here. Head on over and checkout the review, then post a comment in the comment section on this post answering the following question —

I once taught English at the high school from which a famous drummer graduated. Name the drummer and his band. (They soared in the 70s.)

The first one to answer correctly will win a copy of the book.

Church Planting in the Real World is an excellent resource for pastors and church planters, by the way.

I’d like to start this with a lengthy quotation that haunts me still, although I encountered this fable as a college student (more years ago than I care to admit):

A Fable

They were not overdressed, but their clothes spoke of quality, impeccable with a hint of flair—the right balance for the morning’s gathering. On this fall Sunday the four of them had just come from morning worship service at their church in the near suburbs.

One of the couples seemed in their mid-twenties, at that point where youthful enthusiasm haas merged with the air of confidence from early business success. Their companions appeared in the prime of middle age, reflecting a subdued pride of accomplishment mixed with physical well-being born of careful diet and measured exertion.

They had chosen a restaurant table near, but not next to, the tinted window, a location affording a view without distraction. After sutable study of the oversized menu, featuring samples in four-color views, each husband placed an order. In due course the diners were enjoying the cuisine, paced with relaxed conversation. They murmured proper appreciation of the dishes set before them, each laden with ample serving.

The young wife saw them first. Perhaps the two youngsters had left their customary alley route for a short cut beside the eating place. Maybe some movement among the diners caught the children’s notice. Or the seductive aroma may have beckoned them. What ever the reason, there they were, faces pressed to the window. They said nothing to each other, but stared at the tastefully set tables, the finely dressed patrons, and the heaping servings.

The pair’s color was uncertain. Perhaps brown; or black. A generous trimming of grime on each face blurred the hue. Their skin matched their clothes, dirty with a thoroughness achieved only over many days. They were not exactly thin, but their gaunt faces and the dullness in their eyes hinted at a lack of proper food.

The young wife stared, saying nothing. The sudden lump in her throat, born of a surge of pity, blocked words. She gently laid down her food-laden fork, but its soft tap against the plate drew the attention of the others at the table. Without a spoken question, they followed her line of sight. And they, too, became arrested by the sad tableau at the window.

Perhaps a dozen thoughts scampered through the young woman’s mind. Among them were words she vaguely associated with the morning’s sermon. The message, she seemed to recall, had something to do with responsibility to neighbors.

Here husband broke the silence. “Seeing those hungry faces makes this steak taste a little flat,” he ventured. The older man nodded his agreement. His wife added, “How can you look at them and not do something?”

“What can we do?” challenged her husband.

“It’s so simple, so obvious,” she answered with disdain, looking from the still-steaming food to the hungry eyes.

She pushed back from the table. With an unaccustomed directness she strode almost silently across the carpet. Straight to the window she moved, found the tassled cord dangling at the wall, and firmly pulled it. With only a sibilant swish the heavy, almost luxurious, drapery material shut out the view. The drapes swayed for a moment before their weight stilled the motion.

Resuming her seat, the young woman reached fro her fork. “There now,” she said brightly, “isn’t that much better?”

(from Endangered Species by Dunn, Loring, and Strickland, Broadman Press, Nashville, pp. 121-123)

Poverty has a face. It is a face that we would like to ignore. But if we look around us, we will find it staring through our window. Whether we are in the city, the suburbs, or even in a village such as the one where I live, poverty is with us. We must do something. Let me offer a couple of possible actions:

  • Donate to a charity that focuses on iradicating poverty.
  • Volunteer your time at a shelter or soup kitchen.

Whatever you do, don’t ignore the faces in your window.

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