Friday, July 31, 2015

Keeping up with the Kingdom

"Then He said, 'What is the kingdom of God like?  And to what shall I compare it?  It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and put in his garden; and it grew and became a large tree, and the birds of the air nested in its branches.'

And again He said, 'To what shall I liken the kingdom of God?  It is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal till it was all leavened.'"
Luke 13:18-21
Exponential Multiplication

That's what the Kingdom of God is like.  It is reaching everywhere, it is penetrating everywhere.  Not because we are credited as having taken it, but because that is the nature of God's love.  God's love as expressed in the gospel of Christ and in His miracles and transformations and authoritative power is infectious.  It is a reaction that changes people, just like yeast creates a reaction that makes dough rise.  It spreads quickly from one group to the next, along lines of community belonging.  Once we have seen our closest friends or family in our lives be changed by Jesus, the stark change, the hunger for more of God cannot be contained.

So the question isn't how quick or successful the yeast or mustard seed is, by its nature.  We know it works.  We know it wins.  We know it incarnates to reach every nook and cranny of this city.  We have heard stories of how the gospel spreads like wildfire in every part of the earth.  The question is, do we unintentionally create obstacles?  Do we keep in step with God's speed?  Is what we do like a mustard seed or like yeast in bread dough?  Or do we look a little differently arranged than that?

If Jesus is "that fast" to lend authority, do we reflect that in how quickly we lend authority?

If Jesus is "that fast" to save groups of people and incorporate them in the life of God, do we ever bottleneck that flow?

I know I do, especially the second above.  Ask me what kinds of stuff I'm finding in myself as obstacles..

Kingdom Yeast in Salem and Keizer

Jesus is the "woman" in the parable of the yeast.  He is kneading the Kingdom into Salem and Keizer.  The yeast will permeate because no one will stop it.  If we don't keep up, it doesn't mean the yeast will fail to permeate.  It does reflect on us however as not being in synch with its pace and direction.  Therefore, there are real rewards and judgments that are coming our way when we do or do not facilitate the Kingdom in our city.
"And the Lord said, 'Who then is that faithful and wise steward, whom his master will make ruler over his household, to give them their portion of food in due season?  Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes.  Truly, I say to you that he will make him ruler over all that he has.  ...  [Yet] that servant who knew his master's will, and did not prepare himself or do according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes."
Luke 12:42-47
This parable recalls Joseph.  What was Joseph doing while imprisoned in Genesis 39?  He dispensed daily ration of grain to the prisoners.  He knew how much grain it took to survive on.  He knew how much each person needed and he made sure everyone prospered.  This was absolutely critical training needed to later rule over all of Egypt during the famine.

A man who practices faithfulness to their neighbor in the small ways will find rulership over much more in the Kingdom.

Lent Authority is Multiplied Authority

When Christian authority is leaned upon from one Christian to another, the effect is the number of those in Christian authority increase, and the church grows indefinitely in this pattern.

Joseph's "grain" may be metaphorically equivalent to Kingdom authority.  Without authority, the Kingdom doesn't spread.  Without authority, Christians don't fully embrace their responsibility and privilege to represent God.  To be sure, every believer in Christ has authority, just as the Kingdom by nature is a tiny seed with tremendous reactionary capability.  Only when a Christian does not understand, experience or believe in his own power, does the Kingdom get stop-gapped.

How much Christian authority does it really take to successfully accomplish the Great Commission?  Does it take a lot?  Or is it more ration-sized?  If some have too much authority stock-piled in barns, does that impose a paradigm to others that they do not have enough authority?

Can we see how stockpiling authority is out of synch with God's speed of Kingdom saturation?
"But the ruler of the synagogue answered with indignation, because Jesus healed on the Sabbath; and he said to the crowd, 'There are six days on which men ought to work; therefore come and be healed on them, and not on the Sabbath day.'"
Luke 13:14
This is just one of a thousand gospel examples of not keeping up with the Kingdom.  This ruler got in trouble with Jesus because he imagined he might restrict growth to 6 days instead of observing that it moved contiguously on the seventh.  Whether it is in regard to days and time or any other way of life, our preconceptions of the Kingdom can stockpile authority and not see it spread to where it is truly needed most.  What about missionary power?  Can missionary potential be stockpiled?
"Then He spoke a parable to them, saying: 'The ground of a certain rich man yielded plentifully.  And he thought within himself, saying, "What shall I do, since I have no room to store my crops?"  So he said, "I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there I will store all my crops and my goods.  And I will say to my soul, 'Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.'"  But God said to him, "Fool!  This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?"  So is he who lays up treasures for himself, and is not rich toward God.'"
Luke 12:16-21
Be it Joseph's positive example from Genesis or the parable rich man's antithetical example, it is clear that God wants to save all people, and He has the means to do it very quickly and very powerfully. I've been honest enough to admit that I don't facilitate the Kingdom as I might, and I assume I'm not alone in this.

I usually come back to some basic objectives to get me on track.  Helpful tips I can share to keep up with the Kingdom:

1)  End discrimination.  Our ministry preferences have to end.  We will get stuck over and over again being out of touch with who God wants to save and where and when and how if we discriminate ministries or people to be involved in.  It's probably the hardest and most important daily decision I choose to make, so I feel it too.  We all get comfortable and begin to religiously identify who we are with what we do, as the parable of the good Samaritan teaches us.

2)  Get into a practice of observation.  Notice how passion for Jesus moves through relationships and communities.  Consider keeping track of this as the most important administrative priority.  Make phone calls.  Ask to go out to coffee.  How do routines and belonging to communities factor on the spread of the gospel?

3)  Ask God for wisdom.  God wants His people to believe in their own authority in Christ to execute the great commission to the full and to the best of their gifting and ability.  This goes for people who have known Christ all their life or are just coming around.  It may take some discipling-up or dusting off the founding documents and histories of your Christian tribe.

4)  Discard regularly.  We want to be good stewards who feed people well.  There are good things we do all the time that get us into a rut.  The rut I'm referring to is not Spiritually, inwardly, like a personal dry spell.  I'm talking about fruitfulness in illuminating the Kingdom to others.  Is anyone testifying of God's goodness through your ministry?  Are they making the choice to take up their cross because of your ministry?  Are they being loved without strings attached, if they are unbelievers or wary of God?

5)  While strategy and observation are essential, don't spend all your effort on this.  Have your own, deep, passionate, humble decimation before God.  It is the meek and those who are poor in Spirit who will inherit the Kingdom.  Remember how empty life was when you came to the gospel, and stay there.  Let the gospel dwell richly within you.  I can testify that when I have been the most decimated, God comes around in my confusion and pain to be awesome in His Kingdom.  Others will catch the yeast of the Kingdom best through your own relationship.

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