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For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him. 2Chronicles 16:9

Those of you who have followed my writing may be surprised to read that I am excited and hopeful for the church in 2021; including that portion of her who resides in America. I often have to remind myself of this fact, but it is nevertheless true.

There are two reasons for my hopefulness. First, I believe the wife of the Lamb is making herself ready, and she will be perfectly beautiful (Revelation 19:7-8). Secondly, I believe the storms and chaos God is allowing (creating?) give testimony to His continued long-suffering and persistence for her and His Son.

It is no coincidence that 2021 promises to be as chaotic and challenging as 2020. Nor is it an accident that storms are lining up like tropical depressions during hurricane season. Who can imagine how long the season will last, or how severe the storms will be? Only God knows! However, regardless of length and severity, His children rest secure, believing He will use the storms and chaos for our good (Romans 8:28).

Indeed, God will use the storms and chaos of this decade to dramatically transform the individuals, families, and fellowships who keep their eyes focused on the Lord and their minds set on things above. Our prime objective, for ourselves and those in our spheres of influence, must be our maturation in the Lord. Moving up and forward is the only way we avoid wasting the pain and discomfort storms and chaos introduce into our lives.

With this exciting and hopeful perspective in mind, Read the rest of this entry »

Moreover, when you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance. For they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you do not appear to men to be fasting, but to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly. Matthew 6:16-18

The first eighteen verses of Matthew 6 speak collectively of our positioning as loyal subjects before our sovereign King. We’ve covered these in smaller bites, but together they make up an important course of the feast we know as the Sermon on the Mount. All that we do as kingdom citizens is to be done before God and – intentionally – not before men.

Importantly, Jesus did not say, “…if you fast”. Fasting is not an optional discipline for the serious Christian; it is assumed. Furthermore, Jesus speaks of fasting in exactly the same way He speaks of doing good works and praying, thus highlighting the importance of fasting in the normal Christian life. Lastly, we discover that the very same consequences are reserved for those who fast to receive worldly benefit: the charge of hypocrisy and loss of heavenly reward.

These are sobering considerations. The discipline of fasting has been lost to much of the church and confused by most of the rest (myself included). Frankly, I think we have made fasting too difficult, causing some to struggle unnecessarily and eventually give up on it altogether. We also have too many man-created prescriptions and plans for fasting. In my humble opinion, we should focus more on motivation than form and procedure, and trust the Holy Spirit’s guidance in the details. Read the rest of this entry »

The chaos we have experienced this year – and will continue to experience for the foreseeable future – has been an incredible drag on personal and corporate productivity. How does one manage their time and the time of others in the midst of such uncertainty?

As strange as it may sound, grieving offers a strategic advantage to the Christian leader who will go there and subsequently help their spheres of influence do the same. God is calling us to more – to a higher level of glory (and kingdom productivity). To get there, we must grieve.

Chaos can be confusing and distracting, drawing us away from God’s purpose in our lives. It can become overwhelming and discouraging, threatening to destroy our destiny as kingdom citizens. In other words, we become unproductive.

On the other hand, chaos can be used by God to clarify and concentrate our focus, while empowering and encouraging us for kingdom assignments – the good works God prepared for us to walk in (Ephesians 2:10). Furthermore, God intends for chaos to draw us closer to Himself and transform us into the image of His Son’s glory.

But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord. 2Corinthians 3:18

Consider the ugly, leaf-bound, and leaf-eating caterpillar who metamorphoos into a beautiful, free-flying, and nectar-eating butterfly (the Greek for transform is metamorphoo). Dying to his old way and form, the caterpillar becomes a glorious new form of God’s creation. Read the rest of this entry »

Chaos can be confusing and distracting, drawing us away from God’s purpose in our lives. Chaos can become overwhelming and discouraging, threatening to destroy our destiny as kingdom citizens. On the other hand…

Chaos can be used by God to clarify and concentrate our focus, while empowering and encouraging us for kingdom assignments – the good works God created for us to walk in (Ephesians 2:10). God intends for chaos to draw us closer and transform us into the image of His Son’s glory.

But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord. 2Corinthians 3:18

Consider the ugly, leaf-bound, and leaf-eating caterpillar who metamorphoos into a beautiful, free-flying, and nectar-eating butterfly (the Greek for transform is metamorphoo). Dying to his old way and form, the caterpillar becomes a glorious new form of God’s creation.

Similarly, God will use the chaos of this decade to dramatically transform the individuals, families, and fellowships who keep their eyes focused on the Lord and their minds set on things above. The Holy Spirit waits for God’s people to submit to His transforming – metamorphoo’ing – work.

Recognizing that transformation comes by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:2), we offer here a tool which will help every Christian think rightly about the chaos God allows and creates.

Before we begin, it is important to set our minds on using this tool prayerfully. Think of it as a conversation starter and a framework for capturing what you hear. DO NOT reason your way through it.

Process Locator Tool

God has a way for everything, including the way He maximizes chaos in our lives. Recognizing that He uses chaos to transform us into the image of the glory of His Son, we look to His process for our transformation – found in Psalm 37:1-7.

The key here is finding one’s place in the process (and the place of those you are leading), so you can begin to ask the right questions (and help others to do the same). Take your time; let the Holy Spirit guide you. Read the rest of this entry »

Recently, we wrote about Suffering’s Role in Overcoming Our Flesh – how God uses suffering to drive a wedge between our spirit man and our flesh. You may recall that suffering exposes the character of our flesh (whiny, self-centered, blame-shifting, etc.) while at the same time encouraging us, as born-of-God spirit beings, to turn to God for comfort, endurance, and direction.

In the same way, the chaos we will continue to face through much of the 2020s is intended by God to drive a wedge between our spirit man and the world. The individuals, families, and fellowships who choose God’s way through the chaos will enjoy His grace and glory. Sadly, others will allow the chaos to further conform them to the world.

So, how do we join God in the process and help others do the same? The answer can be found in a few familiar passages.

Trust in the LORD, and do good;
Dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness.
Delight yourself also in the LORD,
And He shall give you the desires of your heart.
Psalm 37:3-4

Separation from our flesh and the world begins with trust in the LORD – for His grace and faithfulness in the process (Step 1). It will help to know that “the land” is His kingdom, and “delight” means to be soft (i.e., surrendered to His molding hands). The LORD owns the process and knows best how to apply it to His people.

Furthermore, the LORD puts His desire for separation into our hearts. These heart ties draw us into His presence and love, and sustain us when separation from our flesh and the world becomes difficult and painful. The Holy Spirit patiently waits for us to invite Him to stir up the desire of our heart for separation unto the LORD (Step 2). Read the rest of this entry »

…we have known that of God we are, and the whole world in the evil doth lie… 1John 5:19 (YLT)

There are two kingdoms and many nations. The nations of this world lie under the power of the evil one. Notice this is not the literal reading of 1John 5:19, as translated and quoted by many. There is another enemy involved: “the evil”, which is our rebellious and carnal mind. Nevertheless, the dominion of Satan over this world and its nations is convincingly conveyed elsewhere.

And the devil said to Him, “All this authority I will give You, and their glory; for this has been delivered to me, and I give it to whomever I wish.” Luke 4:6

And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience… Ephesians 2:1-2

But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them. 2Corinthians 4:3-4

The United States of America (and every other nation) lies under the power of Satan. It may claim to be “One Nation Under God”, but claims do not make themselves true. This claim can only be true in as much as America is submitted to the reign of God Almighty. Functioning as a democratic republic, where the rights of individuals is paramount, is a difficult to impossible place to start. Read the rest of this entry »

“Revival is God’s people doing God’s work, God’s way.” Vance Havner (2008)

“The Sermon on the Mount is a statement of the life we will live when the Holy Spirit is having His way with us.” Oswald Chambers (1995)

I recently learned an important lesson about doing things God’s way. When a local Sunday School class invited us to lead a study of the Sermon on the Mount (SOTM), I suggested a twenty-six-week series. The class leadership countered with twelve weeks or less and only thirty minutes of teaching each week!

How do you cover fifty-plus sayings of Jesus in such a limited timeframe? Concerned twelve weeks would not allow for anything more than a compromised exploration of the most important sermon ever preached and that generalizing the Sermon would not adequately encourage the doing necessary to produce strong houses (Matthew 7:24-25), I pressed for more time. The leaders stood firm.

Much to my surprise, the syllabus we developed together turned out to be God’s way for the study. He used what I would call an overly simplified approach to reveal several foundations of His kingdom and its good news. Honestly, I am amazed at the revelation and encouragement I received from the study.

In the process, I also learned that deep technical dives into Scripture are not always the best method for teaching, and that God orchestrates teaching opportunities with more consideration for the audience’s needs than the teacher’s abilities and preference.

Lastly, I was once again reminded that God has a way for everything; finding and following His ways always leads to exciting adventures and discoveries.

It should come as no surprise that Jesus has much to say about doing things God’s way: the only way He did everything (John 5:19, 30; John 12:49-50; and John 14:24). In this article, we will explore two of God’s ways for doing the sayings of Jesus. But first… Read the rest of this entry »

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. Romans 12:2

Romans 12:2 reveals two important things about the Christian mind. First, there is something wrong with it; it must be “renewed, renovated, and completely changed for the better (Blue Letter Bible, Outline of Biblical Usage, 2020).” Second, without this renewal, the Christian will remain both conformed to the world and unable to know and obey God’s good, acceptable, and perfect will.

The renewal of our minds – required for our transformation into Kingdom citizens – is more challenging than most Christians recognize. We are born with a nature that works hard to interpret the things we hear and read in ways that will not disrupt our established paradigms. We prefer to trust existing interpretations of Scripture and are encouraged to do so by our teachers.

Holding fast to sound doctrine is important, but resistance to paradigm shifts can leave us short on the truth. Therefore, it is important to recognize that the combined doctrines of man fall short of explaining God and His kingdom. Our maturation as Christians requires a humble approach to learning. We would do well to maintain an objective consideration of God’s word and the vastness of its truth.

What if, instead of relying on comfortable interpretations, we accepted the word of God as it is written, allowing it to challenge our paradigms? What if, instead of applying assumptions of hyperbole or metaphor to every passage that threatens us, we wrestled to grasp the depth of God’s word? With these challenges in mind, we offer a case in point from two statements found in John’s first epistle:

Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God. 1John 3:9

We know that whoever is born of God does not sin; but he who has been born of God keeps himself, and the wicked one does not touch him. 1John 5:18

Taken literally, the Holy Spirit (through John) claims that every Christian does not and cannot sin, because he has been born of God, because he keeps himself (i.e., attends to carefully, takes care of, guards), and because the wicked one has no influence over him. Take a moment to consider this claim literally; resist the temptation to explain it away. The implications are astounding!! Read the rest of this entry »

Jesus gave ten examples to help us understand that the kingdom is a matter of the heart. We will explore three more here. Because they are examples, the “doing” of these sayings is easier to identify – and that is a good thing. However, we must remember that Jesus’ focus remains on our hearts, not our performance; the goal is to be made into kingdom citizens, not to make or justify ourselves.

Do Not Swear at All

Most of Jesus’ sayings in the Sermon on the Mount – you know, those sayings we are to do – are truly beyond our human ability. They are only accomplished by the life of Jesus Christ, the One who has come to live in us. Here we find an exception – one saying that appears quite easy to obey. And yet, mankind has amazingly chosen to do something in complete opposition to what Jesus has said. Truly, how do we excuse ourselves?

Consider the matter of oath taking. Jesus said:

Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform your oaths to the Lord.’ But I say to you, do not swear at all: neither by heaven, for it is God’s throne; nor by the earth, for it is His footstool; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. Nor shall you swear by your head, because you cannot make one hair white or black. But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one. Matthew 5:33-37

Could anything be more clear? Whatever is more than our “yes” and “no” is from the evil one. Why then do so many followers of Jesus Christ submit to the courts of this nation, put one hand on a Bible, raise the other, and swear to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth? Is this not taking an oath? Does it make it okay – or does it make it worse – that a Bible is used in this process?

These questions lead us to a deeper kingdom principle; something deeper than dos and don’ts. For those with eyes to see, this is a great example of the subtly of the evil one’s deception; leading to our conformity to the world. Read the rest of this entry »

The Greek word translated as “repentance” literally means “to change one’s mind”. When Jesus began His ministry, He came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.” (Mark 1:14-15, NKJV). With that in mind, I want to challenge you to consider how you might change your mind about the Sermon on the Mount.

The Sermon on the Mount is a description of character and not a code of ethics or of morals. It is not about what we must do to be a Christian, but what God does once we become one (Lloyd-Jones, 1976). In other words, it is not a list of requirements for entering the kingdom of God, but a description of the life we are empowered to live as we enter in.

As we consider hearing these sayings and “doing” them, the greatest challenge we face is coming to terms with not only not being able, but also not being expected, to do them in our strength, power, intelligence, etc. This is not a high-minded spiritual concept. It is a very practical principle for life in the kingdom of God (i.e., our salvation). It is by grace (alone), through faith (alone) that we come to understand and enter God’s kingdom.

In his book, The Sermon on the Mount, Roger L. Shinn (1962) recognizes the salt and light passage as the first half of a kingdom paradox. The second is found in Matthew 6:1, 5, and 16, where Jesus warns His disciples to avoid giving charity, praying, and fasting to be seen by others. So, how is one to be light to the world and not let others see what they are doing? The resolution to the paradox is found in Matthew 5:17-20, the subject of our next lesson.

Before we go there, we must first understand Jesus’ metaphor of salt and light, which itself contains a mystery requiring our repentance (i.e., thinking differently). Doing so will also shed some light (pun intended) on Shinn’s paradox. Read the rest of this entry »

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