Monday, June 28, 2010

IT'S ALL GONNA BURN

Everything you currently own will eventually belong to someone else. Someone else will drive your car when you're gone. Someone else will wear your clothes when you're dead. Someone else will live in your house when you have passed away.

"...Godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that." (1 Timothy 6:6-8)

What does it mean to be content in our society? Thanks to the power of advertising and marketing, it's quickly becoming a lost art. Commercials urge us to be discontent with the things we own and to pursue the newest item on the market. Everywhere we turn we are told that we can never really be fully happy unless we own the latest gadget or drive the latest car or wear the coolest fashions.

Sometimes we need to be reminded of what really matters in life. Often, those wake up calls can be quite painful. Maybe we lose our job, or we have to move, or someone we love gets hurt, or is diagnosed with cancer, or our marriage hits the rocks, or our children turn to drugs. In those moments we wake up and realize that our stuff is worthless and all that matters is how much we need God.

I think this is why Jesus told us to seek first the Kingdom of God and not to worry about clothes, or food, or houses, or any of the other things that the pagans spend their lives to attain. God loves us. He's watching us. God knows our needs before we ask. He wants us to focus on His Kingdom and on having a good relationship with Him.

Recently, after a rather large wildfire here in Orange County destroyed several homes, a local news crew interviewed a woman who stood in the smoldering ashes of her former house alongside her husband and children. They extended the microphone under her nose and asked, "Can you tell us how you feel after having lost so much?" The woman looked into the camera and said, "I can't really think about what I've lost. All I can see is what I've gained."

The reporter wasn't expecting this so she asked, "What do you mean? What have you gained?" The woman replied, "I've gained a greater faith in God, I've gained a greater sense of community with my neighbors here on this street, I've gained a greater appreciation for my children and a love for my husband. When I count all of that, what I've lost doesn't seem like so much."

As Paul says, "...we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it". How often do we forget that obvious truth? How often do we live our lives as if our joy and our happiness depended on seeing the latest film or attending the coolest party or owning the hippest technology? Too often.

The Kingdom of this World is passing away. The Kingdoms of Pleasure and Entertainment and Fashion and Vanity are all soon to fade into Eternity. Jesus urges us to look up, to lift our heads and to realize that this blip of life here is soon to give way to an endless life in the presence of God Himself.

Start living for God's Kingdom today. Start investing in the values of His Kingdom where forgiveness and mercy and love and compassion are most important.

-kg

Friday, June 25, 2010

CHRISTIAN IMMIGRANTS

These days it seems that Americans are becoming more and more polarized over the issue of illegal aliens and their impact on our economy. What I find most sad is how many followers of Jesus are siding with their political party on this issue rather than taking God’s Word into consideration.

In Exodus 22:21 God says, "Do not mistreat the alien or oppress him, for you were once aliens in Egypt". Doesn't that mean that God expects His people to show compassion and love to those who live as strangers among us? Even those who are – in the same way that the Jews were in Egypt – oppressed, mistreated, abused, and treated as slaves should receive special treatment from the people of God.

In any debate, we should find ourselves always on the side of the weak, and the oppressed, not on the side of the rich and the strong and the powerful. Jesus set us an example. He was a friend of sinners. He was found hanging with drunks and prostitutes and lepers. We should be found where Jesus was found most often – among the oppressed and the forgotten.

"Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position." – Romans 12:16

Someone once suggested to me that it would be appropriate for Churches to issue Green Cards to new converts immediately after baptism in order to remind them that they are resident aliens in this World.

Jesus agreed with this idea of Christians as immigrants when he said, "My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it." (John 17: 15-16)

Followers of Jesus need to align themselves more closely to the outcast, the poor, the sick, the illegal alien, and the elderly. We should befriend those who are dying of cancer. We should comfort those who are suffering from aids. We should have more in common with the weak in our society than with the strong.

We are not of the world, any more than Jesus was of it. So, why do we continue to support the power structures of this world?

Obviously, these words from Jesus suggest that we need to examine our own materialism, our pursuit of fame, our desire for money and our love of self. But I also believe that this verse says something about our basic sense of identity.

As we argue over the dinner tables – or the blogsphere – about these issues of immigration reform and the laws being passed in Arizona against illegal aliens, I am disturbed to hear no Christian voices speaking out about our need to see ourselves in the faces of those who are oppressed.

The truth is that we are more like these resident aliens than we realize. These people are – like us – strangers and aliens in this place. So, why are we not out there marching alongside them, asking for them to be treated fairly and seen as worthy human beings who deserve the same chances we've been given?

I will admit, this is an especially difficult issue for people of faith. On the one hand we have laws of the land that should be enforced, but at the same time we have people who are working harder than we are, doing things most of us would not do, for less money than we would ever consider working for, and paying taxes and social security that others will enjoy and they will never collect. Where is the greater injustice being done? Does anyone defend this injustice with the same passion as they defend the rights of the middle class or corporations?

As followers of Jesus, this is not a political issue for us. I know for many others that this is purely a political issue. But, for us it cannot simply be a Republican or a Democrat debate. We have to look to our Lord and our Master. We must consider the code of the Kingdom of God which is our true home, not the party line or the American way. We are the descendants of a Body that has always been counter cultural and Kingdom-minded. Our vision must be focused clearly upon Jesus our King and our feet must walk where He walks.

Again, this isn't about your political opinions or attitudes as much as it is about how you - as a follower of Jesus - actually put your faith into practice.

The Church today is more American than Christian. We are largely unable to divorce our faith from our nationalism. This, to me, is very troubling because it means that we are unable to understand Jesus and His teachings apart from our own cultural context.

To help American Christians understand how this Americanized Christianity can blind us I have often tried to ask followers of Jesus to realize that the vast majority of our brothers and sisters on the Earth are not living in America. This means that many of them are following Jesus in nations like Korea, Africa, Russia, China, and other countries with radically different political ideas. So, if someone comes to Christ in China, for example, does that mean that they also – upon receiving Jesus – suddenly become a Capitalist? Of course not. The decision to surrender your life to Jesus and follow His teachings and example does not make you an American. We have to try to conceptualize - and practice - our faith apart from our patriotism.

We have to begin to admit the possibility that one can be a Christian without pledging allegiance to the flag, or the nation for which it stands. In fact, I believe that we must strive to see Jesus as clearly as possible - apart from our cultural, political and nationalistic filters. I also believe that our posture towards the poor and the outcast should be modeled after our Lord Jesus, not out of some political worldview.

Our hope – as followers of Jesus – is in the power of the Gospel to change hearts. It is not in the power of politics to legislate morality and create a Theocracy.

Jesus told us, "If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you" (John 15:19).

This verse is especially troubling to me. It makes me ask myself, "Does the World hate me?" or even worse, "Do I hate the World?" Now, I don't mean "hate" in the sense that I should hate other people, but do I hate the system, the consumerism, the focus on the flesh rather than the spiritual? Do I hate it when I see the stranger and the alien in our land being oppressed and mistreated? Does it cause me to remember that I am also not of this world?

"You adulterous people, don't you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God." (James 4:4)

The Governments of this planet are of this world, they are not of God. Our allegiance is to Jesus alone. His Kingdom is our only true homeland.

We, as followers of Jesus, should be comfortable among the ranks of the misunderstood, the hated, the outcasts and the despised. We should go out of our way to embrace those who are, like us, on the margins of this world. That means the poor, the prostitutes, the unpopular, the prisoners, and yes, even the undocumented immigrant.

Even if we cannot bring ourselves to skip work and carry a sign of protest in the streets to show our support, perhaps we could at the very least offer up a word of prayer to ask God to bless these aliens in our midst? Perhaps, eventually, we might even come to see these people as fellow outcasts and unwanted immigrants who are more like us than we might think.

Are you a follower of Jesus? Can I see your Green Card?

-kg

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Team Angelica

Graduation ceremonies are fascinating to me. They evoke the end of one chapter in life and celebrate past accomplishments, but also look forward to the great unknown - that empty page of life still overflowing with possibility yet unwritten.

It’s a gathering of hundreds of strangers all acknowledging the power of potential and mourning the end of childhood innocence. Together we’re bound by our common emotions of pride, hope, and lingering sadness. Children enter adulthood. Adults fondly remember their own youthful hope and optimism. Friends say goodbye yet still maintain that they will keep in touch and be friends “forever”.

Last night someone summarized the process of graduation as bittersweet and I think that’s certainly an appropriate word.

My wife and I took our boys to attend the high school graduation for Angelica, our “Easter Angel” who showed up on our doorstep on Resurrection Sunday evening and touched our lives deeply. In that brief hour, we discovered a sister in Christ, and a daughter in spirit who was so remarkably loved by God that we couldn’t help but love her as well.

At the graduation last night, we got to meet Angelica’s foster family. It blessed us to know that she is being cared for by such a loving and supportive Christian family. Patrick and Nora are committed to opening their home to girls like Angelica and they have two other girls in their home, as well as an adult son, Duke – all of whom care for Angelica as if she were their own.

We also met Angelica’s mentor, and even her birth mom, and her brother, Salvador. All of whom were there to cheer Angelica on as she did something that no other person in her family had ever done before – Graduate from High School.

After the tearful ceremony, we made our way through the crowd together and we found Angelica in her black cap and gown. She was already being embraced by her friends and her family, but when I saw her and held out my arms to her, she ran into me – nearly knocking me down –and buried her head in my shoulder. Her reaction took me by surprise to say the least. I held her and she cried, and cried, and then she cried some more. Finally I said, “Wendy is here, too. You should let her have some of this” and she turned, saw Wendy, and grabbed her and cried even more – loudly and with complete oblivion to anyone else around her.

But then the tears turned to laughter and we helped her wipe her eyes. Next, we all posed for picture after picture after picture together. Her birth mom kept saying, “Uno mas” and handed her camera to anyone nearby so they could snap just one more picture of Angelica in every possible combination of family members and friends and moms and siblings.

Eventually we looked around and realized that the stadium was empty. We were being asked to move so that the trucks could back up to the gate and workers began to move the folding chairs off the field. So, we hugged each other over and over again, and we made sure to exchange phone numbers with Angelica’s foster parents, vowing to share dinner together as one big family soon.

As our family walked to the car – all alone in the massive, empty parking lot – I reflected on what God had done to us. How He had knit our family into Angelica’s and allowed us to be part of a large network of people who love this girl and support her and care about her so much. We were not the lone saviors of this young woman’s life. We were part of a pattern of various angels sent by God to love and bless and encourage this amazing young woman in her destiny to become someone even more amazing. Someone who will touch and encourage many others in her lifetime.

God’s favor and grace upon Angelica is profound. We are honored to be among the growing number of servants who are helping to shape her life and surround her with an unbroken chain of support.

We’re just happy to be part of Team Angelica.

-kg

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The House of Eleven Windows

The wife’s name was Ethel. She and her husband were once missionaries to Mexico, many years ago. Ethel was one of the few people I’ve ever met who had a genuine prophetic gifting. This means she would often have words of encouragement for people that included details only God would know. One evening, as we were having dinner in her home, Ethel told us why she had invited us over to her house.

“I have a Word for you,” she said.

After dinner she began to tell us about a vision God had shown her several months earlier on a Sunday morning. It happened when we were still on staff at the Vineyard church in Tustin – before we left to start our house church. In fact, at the time of her vision, no one knew were leaving, and no one knew we were thinking of planting a house church where 100% of the offering would go to help the poor in our community.

Ethel started by telling us how her vision began. Wendy and I had come and sat down in front of her and her husband during worship. She told us how, during the worship, she kept seeing a large, three-story house with eleven windows all over it. She kept seeing it in her mind every time she closed her eyes and so she started to pray and ask God what this picture meant. God spoke to her heart and said that it was because Wendy and I were going to be leaving and that we were going to start a house church.

Sitting there at her dinner table, Wendy and I slowly turned to look at each other in amazement. No one was aware that we were leaving to start a house church at this point in time. This was quite an on-target word of encouragement to us.

She wasn’t finished. She said that she then asked God why there were eleven windows on the house. God spoke to her heart again, as we were standing in front of her worshipping, that the eleven windows stood for eleven windows of opportunity that He was about to open up for us in this new ministry.

At the time of this dinner with Ethel, Wendy and I didn’t know where we would end up living. We had just been told by our then-current landlord that we needed to move because they wanted to sell their house. Ethel’s word of encouragement meant a lot to us because it meant that God had confirmed our calling and that He intended to bless us in this new adventure.

Soon enough we moved out of our old house, stored our belongings in a storage unit, and began searching for a new house. In a few weeks we moved into our new house in Orange, a few miles away from our old house. After a few more months we began our first house church meetings and called it “The Mission”.

After being in that new house only a few months, my family and I were leading a “Kids Club” in our home to reach out to the children in our neighborhood. We were having Thursday evening house church meetings with a handful of others and things were going pretty well.

One night, I couldn’t sleep and I got up to pray. It was about three o’clock in the morning. I went into the den where we normally host our house church gatherings and I began to pray about that word He gave us through Ethel months before. I prayed and asked God to show me more about what those “eleven windows of opportunity” really meant.

Suddenly, I realized something amazing. I started to mentally count how many windows there were in this new house we were now living in. I counted eleven windows. I mentally did the count in my head again, adding up the windows in each room one more time to be sure. Again, the number was the same. Eleven windows.

The simplicity of this realization washed over me like a flood of emotion. I sat on my couch, in the dark and began to shake my head in wonder and disbelief. All those months ago, long before anyone knew we were even thinking of starting a house church, long before we ourselves even knew where we’d end up living next, long before we’d ever started to walk out our calling to be missionaries in our city, God had this house in mind. God held this place for us. He intended for us specifically to be in this neighborhood, to minister to these children, to lead the house church in this very place. He even counted the windows and told us about it months in advance so that we’d know we were in the right place at the right time.

As I sit here writing this, in the house with eleven windows, I do not know what God is about to do next. But I do know that God has us in the right place. I do know that God has seen the end from the beginning and I know that He will carry us in His arms, as He always has before.

Just this morning, I got up to pray again. I went into the den and knelt in front of the same sofa to pray. I again remembered the word about the eleven windows. Then I started to count the doors in our house, just out of curiosity.

Can you guess how many doors there are in this house?

-KG

The "Secret" Teaching of Jesus

Hiding in plain site is a teaching from the lips of Jesus that I would venture to guess most Christians have never heard before. Or, if they have heard it before they've simply dismissed it as being one of those "hard sayings" and laid it on the pile of other verses which seemingly defy understanding.

No matter what denomination or tradition you come from, I'm certain you've memorized the passage where Jesus teaches his disciples how to pray:

"Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed by thy name. Thy Kingdom come. Thy will be done, on Earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespassees as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil."

Frankly, I'd be willing to bet that it would be easy to find unbelievers who could repeat this passage without much trouble. Aside from John 3:16, it's probably the most oft quoted verse in the New Testament from the mouth of Jesus.

That's why the verse immediately after this section is called the "secret" teaching of Jesus on the subject of forgiveness. Because even though it's just one verse beneath this famous quote, it's largely unknown by those who call themselves followers of the One who said it.

Here's the "secret" teaching:

"For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins." - JESUS (Matthew 6:14-15)

What's that?! Is Jesus suggesting that our forgiveness is conditional? Wait a minute. I never once heard a single sermon on such a thing in my entire life. How can it be?

Is Jesus forgetting that "if we confess our sins he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness"?(1 John 1:9)

And what about the fact that the Psalms tell us that "as far as the east is from the west, this is how far he has removed our sins from us"?(Ps 103:12)

Obviously, there's something going on here that we're missing. What could it be?

The reason this teaching from Jesus seems so strange to our ears - other than the fact that we've probably never heard a sermon on this in our lives - is that we often forget that unforgivness is a sin.

If we hold a grudge against someone, that is a sin. If we refuse to repent of our sin, and if we do not stop practicing this sin of unforgiveness, we cannot be forgiven of it.

Simply confessing that we have sinned in some general sense and then expecting to be forgiven of even those sins which we have not repented of is presumptuous to say the least. In order to receive forgiveness, we have to honestly confess our sins to God and we need to repent of these actions which hurt our relationship with God - and which also hurts us as well.

Jesus and the rest of the Apostles make it very clear that our love for God is reflected in the way we love - and forgive - one another. These two things are forver linked together. As Jesus said, when asked what the greatest commandment in the Law was:

" 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments." – Matt 22: 34-40

I love that Jesus throws in a bonus answer. Even though they did not ask him what the second greatest commandment was, he tells them anyway. Probably because he wanted to make this very important point: Loving God and loving others are "like" one another.

“We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, "I love God," yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother. - 1 John 4:19-21

See? We cannot love God if we do not love - and forgive - our brothers and sisters.
Love, for a follower of Jesus, is what marks us. We are to be known for our love. We are commanded to love. We are expected to practice loving until we become experts at loving others and then we are to teach others how to love like Jesus loved us.

"My children, I will be with you only a little longer. You will look for me, and just as I told the Jews, so I tell you now: Where I am going, you cannot come. "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." – John 13:33-35

If we cannot love that person who has wronged us, then how can we love God? If we cannot forgive the person who has hurt us, then how can we honestly say that we ourselves have known forgiveness?

"Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you." Colossians 3:12-13

How much have you been forgiven? How good did it feel to have that weight lifted off of your shoulders?

Let go of your unforgiveness and repent of this sin which holds your own soul captive.

As a wise man once said, "Holding a grudge is like drinking poison and expecting it to hurt someone else."

The person you set free when you forgive is in the mirror. Have mercy.

-kg

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

THE EARLY CHRISTIANS

Two great quotes from early Christian brothers and sisters as found in the book, "The Early Christians" by Eberhardt Arnold. Available as a FREE PDF download right
HERE

"Among us you can find uneducated people, artisans, and dear old
mothers who would not be able to put into words the usefulness of their
teaching, but by their deeds they demonstrate the usefulness of their
principles. They do not repeat words learned by heart, but they show
good deeds: when hit they do not hit back, when robbed they do not go
to court, they give to those who ask, and they love their fellowmen as
themselves." - Athenagoras, A Plea Regarding Christians.

"That we for the most part must be considered poor is no disgrace
to us but an honor. A life of luxury weakens the spirit. Frugality
makes it strong. And yet, how can anyone be considered poor who does
not feel any want, who does not covet what belongs to others, who is
rich in God’s eyes? Much more should he be considered poor who always
craves for more while he already has much.

"Let me tell you what I think. No one can be as poor as he was at birth.
The birds live without any inheritance, and cattle find their fodder each
day. Yet these creatures are on the earth for our sake. We possess all of
them if we do not covet them. Just as a man traveling on the road is the
better off the lighter his bundle, so too, he who makes himself light by
poverty, who does not need to pant under the burden of wealth, is
happiest on his journey through life. If we regarded wealth as useful we
would ask God for it. He surely could give us a share of it, for everything
belongs to him, but we would rather despise wealth than have it in our
hands." - Minucius Felix, Octavius 36

Thursday, June 17, 2010

SOLIDARITY WITH THE POOR

As I sat with my friend Tom Crisp this week over lunch, we talked about the radical way in which the early church engaged with the poor. Their perspective was so Kingdom-minded that they fully embraced the idea of being in community with the poor at any cost. Their compassion for the needs of their brothers and sisters that they gladly surrendered their earthly possessions to ensure that everyone in the Body had enough to eat and a place to sleep.

In contrast, I began to see how the Church today – and this includes myself – has focused largely on engaging the poor by attempting to improve their economic status. Rather than give up what we have, our energies have been applied to helping the poor in our society to acquire the skills necessary to become like us and join the middle class of society.

Essentially, the early church sold off their possessions to become one with the poor, and today the modern church holds on to its wealth and looks for ways to eliminate poverty.

I say this less as a critique and more as an observation. I find this intriguing. In fact, I’m surprised that I’ve never heard this idea expressed before. And of course a wide array of questions begin to form and splinter outward from this realization.

Should the church be moving into poverty rather than moving the poor into the middle class?
Can we ever truly eliminate the “us versus them” mentality without becoming poor ourselves?
What does this idea of surrendering my wealth and my status in society have to do with following Jesus?

Certainly, if I wanted to, I could make a pretty strong case from scripture that following Jesus means laying down our lives, the poor are rich in faith towards God, and a whole lot more.

At the same time, I understand that there is a balance to this conversation. Scripturally, Jesus didn’t tell everyone who wanted to be his disciple to sell all that they had and give it to the poor first. However, in that same context, Jesus affirmed that all of the disciples had done just that and would be blessed a hundred fold in this life and in the life to come.

I also understand that, as a father and a husband, the idea of becoming one with the poor in this radical fashion brings more than a little discomfort. How can I reconcile this idea of giving up my possessions and my wealth if it means my children don’t have the food they need, or the education, or a place to sleep at night?

As I consider this new testament perspective on engaging the poor in this way, I am reminded that these same early Christians also developed a policy that said, “he who won’t work won’t eat.” So, I understand that there’s a balance somewhere between absolute poverty and begging for food versus working to provide for your own needs – and the needs of others.

Obviously, I have not fully thought this all out yet. I’ve only just recognized a difference between the posture of the early church towards the poor versus our posture – and my posture – to the poor today.

Like most of what Jesus taught us, putting his words into practice is not easy.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic.

Peace,
kg

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

THE MIRACLE OF TODAY

Of all of the teachings of Jesus, there's one in particular I find myself turning to again and again. It's in Matthew chapter 6 where Jesus teaches his disciples not to worry about tomorrow, but to seek first the Kingdom of God and trust Him for everything.

On Saturday I received a mysterious package in the mail. It was an unexpected gift from my friend Tim Price. The envelope contained a book by Ray Mayhew called "And Joy Begins to Flower".

In this book I found a section which unpacked some of what Jesus was talking about in Matthew 6 regarding living one day at a time and trusting God with our whole life.

"Even creation itself unfolded one day at a time. Man was created on day six, only to find that his first full day, the seventh, was a day off. He was to begin life by learning that it is to be enjoyed, one day at a time."

I find it interesting to examine the order of creation and man's place in this order. We show up near the end and immediately learn to rest because God has already done everything in advance. Of course, we do know that God did eventually get around to assigning a few tasks to mankind, but that came later. Our first thought should be to rest in Him and only do what He asks us to do - and allow God to do His part.

"One of the keys to maintaining an inner life free from anxiety and stress is to live life in the same units as God gives it to us - one day at a time."

Again, I agree with this bit of practical wisdom from Mayhew's book. At my work I find myself getting stressed out by all of the various projects that are thrown at me on a constant basis. Even though that giant 25 page website needs to be done by Friday, I start to hyperventilate on Monday. Usually I get it done by Wednesday, but the damage is done. I've wasted time worrying and I've endured unnecessary stress.

The words of Jesus are especially comforting:

"Do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself." - Matt 6:34

Of course, hearing these things and actually putting them into practice are two entirely different things.

Living every day one at a time is how we were created to live. I've often wondered why this is so hard. Why do I wallow in nostalgia? Why do I spend hours dreaming of the future? Why is it so hard for me to confine my imagination to the present? Maybe because the present isn't as exciting as the past or the future? We tend to glorify the past and idealize the future, forgetting that at one time our past was the present and our future will be experienced in the now.

Mayhew points this out when he observes:

"Today is a big enough chunk of time to do something with, but not so big as to overwhelm us with responsibilities. Yesterday has gone. It's irretrievable. Tomorrow is only conceptual - when it arrives it will be today."

And

"The temptation of the old is to live in the past - the "good old days". The temptation of the young is to live in the future - "things will be better after graduation, after marriage, after promotion. The danger of both is that we fail to grasp and redeem what lies in our hand - today.

I once had a job working as the Director of Sales and Distribution for Vineyard Music Group. At the time, it was the best job I had ever had in my life. I had a large, private office with a couch, a refrigerator, and a door that locked. I was being paid more money than I had ever earned in my life. I had a title, and I had the power to hire and fire and train a combined team of 20 people. It was the best job I ever had. In fact, I had myself convinced that this job was the reason I had been born and that my career would continue in this trajectory towards infinity.

I was wrong.

After about 3 years I lost that job due to a series of company-wide layoffs after the death of our GM, Chris Wimber. Instead of returning to that lofty place of power and prestige I ended up doing temporary work for a year and a half.

During that time I did everything in my power to get back to that office, and that job, and to return to that career path. God wouldn't open the door.

I can remember attending a church service during that time where the message was about living in the now and not attempting to return to the "good old days" or to always dream of tomorrow. Up until that sermon, I hadn't even admitted to myself that I was living in the past and I had to repent.

I've also listened to people talk about how one day they want to go to China or to Africa to be a missionary and give their lives for the Gospel and serve the poor in India. But often these people end up doing nothing in the here and now to serve the poor or to reach the lost because they are still waiting for the door to open one day when they can do those things "over there". This is an example of how we can live in the hope of tomorrow and totally miss what God wants to do in our lives today.

As Mayhew points out, "Today is the container into which He ladles the grace we need. Today is the platform on which He wants us to demonstrate His adequacy. When tomorrow becomes today the miracle will be repeated."

Don't get so entangled with yesterday, or so enamored with tomorrow, that you miss what God wants to do in our life right now.

Where do you live? Who are your neighbors? Who are your co-workers? This is your mission field. This is where God has sovreignly placed you today. Be a servant where you are now. Touch the people in front of you. Bloom where you are planted.

Peace,
kg

Monday, June 07, 2010

Make Me A Servant

Followers of Jesus remember only the needs of others and the example of Jesus humble service. No task is is beneath those who emulate the Messiah. No person is disqualified from receiving mercy and grace. There is no level too low for us to bend our knees in service.

Our amazing God has overwhelmed us with His humility. The creator of the universe became our servant, took on human form and suffered in our place. He submitted to us, and therefore we can do no less than submit ourselves to Him, and to make ourselves available to serve anyone in our path.

God's plan was to change the world with love. The love He showed us was extravagant. It wasn't based on merit. Those who deserve love the least are the very one's who need it the most. Therefore, our calling is to make ourselves low, humble ourselves, and repeat the question that Jesus Himself asked more than any other - "What would you have me to do for you?"

Freely we have received immeasurable grace from His hand. Freely we are compelled to give love and grace without measure.

God, please help us to be conduits of your love to others in this world who have never seen or experienced the quality of love you have shown to us.

Make us like you - a servant of all.
-kg

"Make Me a Servant"

by Kelly Williard

Make me a servant

Humble and meek

LORD let me lift up those who are weak

And may the prayer of my heart

Always be

Make me a servant

Make me a servant

Make me a servant, today.

*See Philipians 2

Friday, June 04, 2010

TOP 10 ARTICLES ON MY BLOG LAST MONTH

Just an FYI. These were the top read articles on my blog during the month of May:

CONTENTMENT VS COMPLACENCY -223
GOD DOES NOT USE PEOPLE - 142
THIS IS NOT A CHURCH - 139
ANSWERING QUESTIONS ABOUT OUR HOUSE CHURCH - 86
WHAT WOULD JESUS DO? (WALTER KIRN) - 85
FIND THE CHURCH IN THIS PICTURE - 77
HOUSE OF PRAYER - 66
WOUNDS OF WISDOM - 43
MINISTRY OF RECONCILIATION- 31
CONSUMPTION, EXPRESSION & IDENTITY – 30

Thursday, June 03, 2010

GO FIRST

I know that when we look at the Kingdom of God we usually talk about how it’s upside down from the reality we were born into. We emphasize that the greatest in the Kingdom of God is the servant of all, and how the first are last and that we should put the needs of others above our own. However, I believe there’s an exception to this rule in the Kingdom of always allowing others to go first out of love for them.

Sometimes we must be the first in order to express the love of God to others. For example, we should always be the first to ask forgiveness, or admit our mistakes, or to take off our masks when we’re gathering with others. We should be the first to confess our sins to one another. We should be the first to admit our weaknesses. We should be the first ones to humble ourselves and reconcile ourselves to those who have hurt us.

Yes, in God’s Kingdom the first are last and those who lose their life find it, even though they die daily. But sometimes we need to be willing to go first, even if it means falling flat on our face. The risk is great, but the potential for learning humility and sharing in the sufferings of Christ are worth it. After all, Jesus asked us to take up our cross, but He went first.

Be the first so that others can be set free from their guilt, their sin, their pride and their failures. Don’t wait for someone else to go first. Jesus is with those who take the first step in faith.

-kg

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Jesus: Messiah

Lately I've found myself re-reading the Gospels and replacing the word "Christ" with the word "Messiah". Why? Because I've realized that, for most of my life I've read the term "Christ" as if it were just a synonym for Jesus, or worse yet, as if it were his last name.

Of course, I do realize that "Christ" is not Jesus' last name. That's why I've begun to consciously substitute the word "Messiah" for the word "Christ" as I read the New Testament now. Because I've started to realize that the word "Christ" has very little actual meaning for me. However, the word "Messiah" is much more meaningful.

Here's the Webster's definition of "Messiah":
literally: "anointed"
1 the expected king and deliverer of the Jews
2 a professed or accepted leader of some hope or cause


As I read the New Testament with the more robust term "Messiah" in place of "Christ", I am reminded that Jesus is the anointed one. He is the expected king. He is my leader. He is the promised one who has the power to save me, and everyone else.

Certainly these two words are synonymous with one another. Using one over the other doesn't change the meaning of the text in any way. However, in a more practical sense, I am missing the fullness of this word when I read "Christ". Yet, when I read "Messiah" it sort of takes my breath away.

Maybe you're different. Maybe, for you, these two terms are virtually interchangable. But for me, they are not. The term "Christ" has become a title, an empty word containing no tangible truth. But "Messiah" to me is a word that comes alive in my heart. It reminds me that Jesus is the One. He has come. And He is still fulfilling the promises made to His people thousands of years ago.

"But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name." - John 20:31

"Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah." - Acts 2:36

I think that the original authors of these passages intended that the readers and the hearers experience a genuine sense of excitement at the sound of these words. When I read the word "Messiah" I get that sense of wonder again. I catch myself breathing faster.

Maybe it's because I am more aware than ever these days just how much I am in need of a Messiah that this simple exercise matters to me? I don't know. All I can say is that the New Testament is coming alive to me again, after many years of being stale, and I'm very thankful to know the power of the name of Jesus, and to call on Him as my Messiah, and Lord.

-kg