Archive | July 2010

The Paradox of Promotion

“Listen carefully: Unless a grain of wheat is buried in the ground, dead to the world, it is never any more than a grain of wheat. But if it is buried, it sprouts and reproduces itself many times over. In the same way, anyone who holds onto life just as it is destroys that life. But if you let it go, reckless in your love, you’ll have it forever, real and eternal.”
-Jesus (John 12:24-25 The Message)
We are citizens of an upside-down kingdom. The path to the top is a journey to the bottom. Success is not measured by the earthly standards of how many people answer to you but rather of heavenly standards of how many people you affectionately served. Jesus was the manifestation of this kingdom, the kingdom incarnate. Serving was not just His message but also His mission and His manner of life. Jesus, the King of kings, declared over His own life, “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many”  (Matthew 20:28 NKJV).  His words pierced the hearts of the disciples—dealing a deathblow to the worldly mindset of position. This simple statement is the quintessential paradox of promotion.
In order for us to operate in this paradoxical kingdom, we must understand the process that Christ walked through.  The scripture says, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9 NKJV).  We, the body of Christ, have the riches of the kingdom.  Christ Who was rich (heavenly) became poor (took on flesh) so that we who were poor (already flesh) could become rich (heavenly) through Him.  Two questions come to mind.  What is our appropriate position in Christ and how do we apply that truth?  Paul, in writing Ephesians, often called the Epistle of the Heavenlies, declared our position.  He said, “But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised [us] up together, and made [us] sit together in the heavenly [places] in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:4-6 NKJV).  Question one – answered!  Our appropriate position as the body of Christ is to be seated with Him (Ephesians 1:20 NKJV) in heavenly places.  That is good news.  But how do we take our seat?  How do we operate in this truth?  Let me break the cardinal rule and answer that question with a question.  How did Christ take His seat?  The answer to the latter question establishes a pattern that in turn answers the initial question.
Question one answered!  Our appropriate position as the body of Christ is to be seated with Him in heavenly places (Ephesians 1:20 NKJV).  That is good news. But how do we take our sear? How do we operate in this truth? Let me break the cardinal rule and answer that question with a question. How did Christ take His sear? The answer to the latter question establishes a pattern that in turn answers the initial question.
So, how did Christ take His seat?  There are four strategic moments in which Christ demonstrates the process to promotion.
The Gethsemane Place
The second garden.  Adam lost all of humanity in the first garden, Eden.  Christ began the process of the redemption of all humanity in the second garden.  Gethsemane literally means “an oil press.”  It is a place of great pressure and a place of great decision.  The Bible notes that as Jesus began to pray in the garden His sweat became like great drops of blood.  Why the intensity?  Why the press?  Because the Gethsemane place is the place of consecration.  The prayer of Jesus indicates the process He was engaging.  Let’s look at the most powerful words ever spoken in Gethsemane: “Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done” (Luke 22:42 NKJV).  The prayer of consecration is the prayer to do the Father’s will regardless of anything else.  The cup that He spoke of was the punishment for the sin of the world.  Notice He says, “if it is Your will” and “not my will, but Yours be done.”  Sound familiar?  Of course, this is the very same thing that Jesus taught us to pray.  “Your kingdom come. Your will be done. On earth as [it is] in heaven” (Matthew 6:10 NKJV).  If we are to take our seat in heavenly places we must first consecrate our lives to His will.  His will should be paramount in our lives.  Food for thought: if our will supersedes His, then who is Lord?  When we place our will above His, we place ourselves on a fleshly throne and disqualify ourselves from sitting in the heavens with Him.  We must live the consecrated life.  We must have a Gethsemane moment in which we cry, “Not my will but Your will be done.”
The Golgotha Place
The second tree.  Adam indulged the flesh with the first tree, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, the one tree God said he could not have.  Christ crucified the flesh on the second tree, the cross of Calvary, the one tree that God could not avoid.  Golgotha was the name of the hill on which He was crucified.  It’s defined as “the place of the skull.”  The imagery is so rich; some have said that the hill itself actually had the similitude of a skull.  Golgotha is absolutely the place of death; it is the place of the crucified life.  The agony of this place is hard to imagine.  It was at this place where our Lord endured.  The writer of Hebrews said it like this, “looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross” (Hebrews 12:2 NKJV). Too often, we the body, try to negotiate with our flesh.  We struggle with fleshly desires and attitudes.  But the Bible gives only one clear way to handle the flesh – crucify it.  I find it interesting that this place is called
the place of the skull.  I am convinced that the battle for the crucified life begins and ends in the mind.  Paul explained this to the Philippian church when he wrote, “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, [and] coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to [the point of] death, even the death of the cross” (Philippians 2:5-8 NKJV).  Let this mind be in you…humility and obedience to the point of death.  More food for thought: if I don’t die to myself then does Christ fully live in me?  Could this be why Paul said, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the [life] which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Galatians 2:20 NKJV). The crucified life is critical to following The Crucified One.  Christ, Himself said, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me” (Luke 9:23 NKJV).
The Grave Place
The second death.  Adam died the first death in disobedience in the garden resulting in separation from God and banishment from the garden.  Christ died the second death in absolute obedience resulting in the reconciliation of the world back to the Father and citizenship to His kingdom.  This is the place of change. Everything changed when Christ was in the grave!  I oftentimes liken the grave to the secret place.  The secret place is secret because it is your place to meet with God and deal with you.    The grave to me is the place of change or transformation.  Think about the metamorphosis of a caterpillar into a butterfly.  The caterpillar creates a grave-like place, a cocoon, in which the old dies and the new is formed.  We need a grave-like place, a secret place in which the old man dies and the new man is formed.  The writer of Romans articulated this incredible need to be buried with Christ when he said, “How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?  Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?  Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death” (Romans 6:2-4 NKJV).  We are to deal with the sinful nature of the flesh by burying it through baptism into death.  Keep in mind this is the paradox of promotion.  These truths are not always easy to follow because they are so contrary to the fleshly nature.  Yet more food for thought: if I do not bury the old man can a new man rise?  Jesus went to the grave, and so should we.
The Glory Place
The second life.  Adam lost the first life in the garden—a  life that was meant to be eternal.  Christ overcame sin and death, conquering the grave and establishing a new life in Him – life eternal.  Our Lord did not stay in the grave; He was resurrected and took His seat at the right hand of the Father in the heavens.  This is the place of the champion life, the life of the over comer.  This is the place we need to reach, the place of absolute victory.  Paul prays an amazing prayer in Ephesians that describes this victory.  He states, “That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, And what [is] the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set [him] at his own right hand in the heavenly [places], Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come” (Ephesians 1:17-21 NKJV).  The story does not stop there; if we are in Christ, then the apostle continues further in the letter to the Ephesians to say, “But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved) And hath raised [us] up together, and made [us] sit together in heavenly [places] in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:4-6 NKJV).  We are to be seated in the heavenly places with Christ Jesus – the seat of victory.  The road of redemption is completed when we enter into the fullness of this new life.  “Just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4b NKJV).  Food for thought, if we don’t take our seat how do we overcome?  We must live the resurrected life in Christ Jesus.
This paradox of promotion is the essence of His kingdom.  Let me leave you with this statement made by Jesus, “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.  For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it”  (Mark 8:34-35 NKJV).

Character Conundrum

Who am I really?
Have you ever stopped to ask yourself that question?  I’m not talking about skimming over the idea of life; I mean really asking the question.  At the deepest, most private, most intimate aspect of your life, who are you really?  In the honest answer of that question did you find a discrepancy between who you are and who you should be?  That, my friend, is the conundrum of character.  Many can put on a facade for others about who they are, but a façade – or better yet – a reputation is not character. The early educator Horace Mann once said, “Character is what God and the angels know of us; reputation is what men and women think of us.”
A conundrum is defined as a difficult problem, a dilemma, or anything that puzzles.  It is a word that is often used in regards to a riddle or a seemingly insoluble situation.  Imagine that two people’s lives hang in the balance and you only have the ability to save one life.  Which life would you save?  There lies a conundrum.  This question is not just an example of a conundrum; it is indeed, the reality of our own personal character conundrum. We have, warring within us two natures or two characters. If we are to become all that God has intended, one must live and one must die.
Character, according to the American Dictionary of the English Language (Noah Webster 1828), is defined as: “the peculiar qualities, impressed by nature or habit on a person, which distinguish him from others.”  In the words of Pastor Frank Damazio, “Character is the inner life of man.  It will reflect either the traits of the sinful nature (being influenced by the world) or the traits of the divine nature (being influenced by the Word of God).”  Proverb 27:19 states, “As in water face reflects face, so a man’s heart  (moral character) reveals the man” (emphasis mine). Character, by these definitions, is the true identity of a man.  Who you and I desire to be is not our character, but rather who we are, right now.
I believe that if you break the Bible down into the most basic story line it would consist of two main characters, Christ and Adam.  Everyone else is a type and shadow of these two.  Christ is the divine nature of the kingdom, and Adam is the sinful nature of the world.  For example, Egypt was a type and shadow of the world (Adam) in which the people were caught in bondage and sinfulness.  On the contrary, the Promised Land was a type and shadow of the kingdom (Christ) in which the people were free and lived in a land that flowed with milk and honey.  The desire of God was to redeem the Children of Israel out of Egypt and release them into the Promised Land, the perfect type and shadow of mankind’s redemption and re-birth.  Just as the Bible is a narrative of two natures, Christ and Adam, so our lives are a microcosm of the same narrative. This is our character conundrum.  We are Adam, and we are Christ.  We must now choose with whom we will identify and become.
In 1 Corinthians 15:45-49, Paul wrote to the Corinthian church, “Thus it is written, The first man Adam became a living being (an individual personality); the last Adam (Christ) became a life-giving Spirit [restoring the dead to life]. But it is not the spiritual life that came first, but the physical and then the spiritual. The first man [was] from out of earth made of dust (earthly-minded); the second Man [is] the Lord from out of heaven. Now those who are made of the dust are like him who was first made of the dust (earthly-minded); and as is [the Man] from heaven, so also [are those] who are of heaven (heavenly-minded). And just as we have borne the image [of the man] of dust, so shall we and so let us also bear the image [of the Man] of heaven”  (AMP).
Paul was clear in his understanding of the two natures of man.  In this scripture, he was encouraging the Corinthians to not be bound by the earthly man (Adam) because there is now resurrection and new life in the heavenly man (Christ).  Notice he said, “We have borne the image of the man of dust.”  These three words together are from the Greek word, phoreo, which means “to bear constantly, to wear as pertaining to clothing.”  It denotes the idea of a continuous or habitual condition.  Now, the Bible is clear that we all have been born into the image of Adam, the habitual condition of sin. That is why Romans 3:23 declares, “For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God…” The good news is that we do not have to stay there!  Paul went on to say, “So shall we also bear the image of the Man of Heaven.”  These bold type words form the same Greek word, phoreo, again, meaning to wear as pertaining to clothing, continuously or habitually.  This means we have a choice on what we will “wear.”
The context in which Paul discussed what to wear was focused on image – two images, earthly image and heavenly image.  I remember there used to be a Sprite® commercial that boldly declared, “Image is nothing. Thirst is everything. Obey your thirst.”  Cleverly spoken, however it is a lie.  The truth is your image will determine your thirst; therefore, image is everything!  This is especially true in regards to the image Paul was speaking of.  Image is the Greek word, eikon, (where we get the English word icon), which means “a figure or likeness.”  In relation to this scripture it has the idea of not only resembling the likeness of Christ but also representing that likeness, not only outwardly but also authentically inwardly – which deals with moral character.
Let’s look a little deeper.  Paul also wrote a similar, perhaps more defined idea to the church in Colosse.  “But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds, and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him…Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection” (Colossians 3:8-10,12-14, NKJV emphasis mine).  Notice the definition of the two characters; one established in Adam. The other established in Christ.  If we take a simple personal inventory using the definitions that Paul used it will be clear with what image or character we identify.
I don’t believe the conundrum has much to do with how to align ourselves with the right character – put off one, put on the other – but rather recognizing in the first place that there are two characters in play.  Most people struggle, unaware that one nature must die and one must live.  Which one lives and which one dies, this is where the conundrum begins.  Let me leave you with this final statement from Jesus Himself, “Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me (Christ), let him deny himself (Adam), and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his (Adam) life will lose it, but whoever loses his (Adam) life for My (Christ) sake will save it” (Luke 9:23-24 NKJV amplification mine).

The Challenge of an Atheist

We are kingdom people and the kingdom of God should be on display daily in us and through us! Let us live out  Matthew 5:14-16 which states; “You are the light of the world…let your light so shine before men, that they might see your good works (actions) and glorify your Father in heaven.”  Please remember that the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power! (1Cor. 4:20) The Apostle Paul made his intentions clear when he said; “For I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is the power of God unto salvation for everyone who believes…” (Rom. 1:16)

Below is an actual challenge given by an atheist to those around him who claimed to be Christians yet their lives didn’t match their confession. Please read and ponder.

Challenge of an Atheist

Were I a religionist, did I truly, firmly, consistently, believe, as millions say they do, that the knowledge and practice of religion in this life influences destiny in another life, religion should be to me everything.  I would cast aside earthly thoughts and feelings as less than vanity.  Religion would be my first waking thought, and my last image when sleep sank me into unconsciousness.   I would labor for her cause alone.  I would not labor for meat that perishes, nor for treasure on earth, but only for a crown of glory in the heavenly regions, where treasures and happiness alike are beyond the reach of time and chance.  I would take thought for the morrow of Eternity alone.  I would esteem one soul gained to heaven worth a life of suffering.  There shall not be worldly prudence, nor calculating circumspection in my engrossing zeal.  Earthly consequences should never stay my hand nor seal my lips.  I would speak to the imagination, awaken the feelings, stir up the passions, and arouse the fancy.  Earth, its joys and its grief’s, should never occupy a moment of my thoughts, for these are the affairs of a portion of eternity so small that no language can express its comparatively infinite littleness.  I should strive to look but on Eternity and on the immortal souls around me soon to be everlastingly miserable or everlastingly happy.  I would deem all who thought merely of this world, merely seeking to increase temporal happiness, and laboring to obtain temporal goods, I would deem all such as purely mad men.  I would go forth to the world and preach to it, in season and out of season, and my text should be, “what would it profit a man if he should gain the whole world and lose his own soul.” -Author Unknown

I hope that stirred you as it does me. A good reminder to live this life to the fullest, looking for the God opportunities to share the gospel with mankind! I will leave you with the words written in Philemon 6; “I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ.”

Be Blessed! PR

Attendance is NEVER Enough

“Those who are planted in the house of the LORD Shall flourish in the courts of our God.” Psalm 92:13

When Cairn and I finished building our first house we began the daunting task of landscaping it. Cairn’s grandparents had a house about an hour away and they offered to give us this beautiful Red Japanese Maple tree that was planted in their backyard. We accepted the offer. A friend and I made the hour journey to their home with shovels, gloves, and a pick-up truck. We had never transplanted a tree…we had bought some before in a nursery (pre-packaged for easy planting) but never transplanted. We began to dig this tree out…we dug and dug and dug. Finally after a few hours of intense digging we were able to release the tree from the soil. It was an intense undertaking to separate that tree from the soil it was invested in. That tree was deeply rooted in that fertile soil!

Imagine local churches filled with congregants that are that invested in God’s house like that tree was invested in that soil. People who don’t just attend but are firmly planted in the house of God! Are you just attending church or are you planted?

There is a major difference between the two. One is casual (even if it’s weekly) the other is committed! One is interested the other is invested. We, “the Body of Christ”, must never be satisfied with mere attendance. The flourishing begins only when we are firmly planted in God’s house!

The scripture clearly implies two types of people in the afore quoted verse. Those who are planted (clearly stated) and those who are not (clearly implied). It also implies two indicators that determine which person we are. Those who are flourishing (planted) and those who are not flourishing (not planted).

When a tree is planted in soil the two come into a covenant together. The two begin to work together to produce what the other needs. If either one, the tree or the soil, do not operate in covenant or do not invest in the other, then the relationship and the ability to flourish will be poor at best. However, if the two begin to work together in covenant, investing in each other, the ability to flourish is unstoppable.

How do we become planted in God’s house? Great question. Being planted is in essence a deep investment that continues to grow deeper over time. One way to tell if you are invested (planted) is to ask what would it take to get me out of this church? How invested are you in the local church God has called you to? Do you tithe? Do you give above your tithe as the Lord directs? Do you volunteer? Are you moved to action when you see a need in the church or do you relegate it off to someone else? Are you using the gifts and talents God has given you to help the church expand the Kingdom of God? Are you in deep relationships with those around you in the church? Is your heart captured by the vision of your church? All these questions, answered honestly, hold the key to determining your investment level.

Get planted and watch as you begin to flourish, full bloom, in God’s house!