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One does not need prophetic gifts to recognize that the chaos and storms of 2020 will continue for the foreseeable future. The 2020s will likely be the most chaotic time most of us (at least in America) will experience in our lifetime.

Translating this into “kingdom-speak”: This decade will be the most opportunistic and pivotal time the God-assigned ambassadors to the United States of America have seen in almost 100 years.

There is no better time to be a disciple maker than in the midst of chaos and storms. If our houses remain standing, many who have lost theirs will be coming to us for refuge, encouragement, and understanding.

With this great opportunity in mind, I dare say we all could use a bit of inspection and restoration. Therefore, as we close out this incredibly chaotic year, I offer you three considerations:

Perspective: We are seated with Christ in heavenly places, with access to Heaven’s perspective (Ephesians 2:6). God offers His peace and purpose in the chaos and storms.

Furthermore, strong houses are built from an eternal perspective; they are built to last, not to survive for a year or two. Patchwork and paint-overs won’t cut it. We must secure and strengthen our house through the spiritual disciplines God has provided.

Position: God providentially positions us geographically, relationally, and with particular responsibilities. Consideration for the impact zone of these dimensions is critical. Our influence will be greatest (for God’s glory) with people in our closest spheres.

We must avoid and reject the temptation to give unbalanced attention to people and situations on our periphery (e.g., political wrangling in Washington, D.C. and riots on the other side of the country). 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 »

Late last year, while researching for an article, I discovered the Global Rich List calculator. At the time, it reported that a U.S. worker making the federally mandated minimum wage ($7.25/hour) earns more salary than 92.2% of workers in the rest of the world. The statistics do not lie: American Christians are rich.

That’s a good thing, right? Well, as with so many things in this world, that depends on your perspective. From a heavenly perspective, we all have reason to be concerned.

Then Jesus looked around and said to His disciples, “How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God!” And the disciples were astonished at His words. But Jesus answered again and said to them, “Children, how hard it is for those who trust in riches to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” And they were greatly astonished, saying among themselves, “Who then can be saved?” But Jesus looked at them and said, “With men it is impossible, but not with God; for with God all things are possible.” Mark 10:23-27

Jesus’ warning raises two important questions: Why is it so hard for the rich to enter the kingdom of God? How do we mitigate the risk?

The first question is not hard to answer; the Bible has much to say on the subject. The answer to the second question is not so obvious (at least, for most of us). Here are nine reasons it is so hard for the rich to enter the kingdom of God:

  1. The rich tend to trust in their riches (v. 24).
  2. Riches are deceitful, choking the word of God from our lives, resulting in unfruitfulness (Matthew 13:22).
  3. The unfruitful are cut off from Jesus Christ and thrown into the fire (John 15:2,6).
  4. The rich are tempted to bury their riches, instead of investing them into the kingdom of God (Matthew 25:24-27,30).
  5. The poor have been chosen to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom (James 2:5).
  6. Our heart is tied to our treasure (Matthew 6:21).
  7. To whom much is given, much will be required – including our riches (Luke 12:48).
  8. The world’s goods are given to meet the needs of others (1John 3:16-18). The rich are responsible to know how much to give away.
  9. The rich are most at risk of two powerful and destructive deceptions: they do not need God (Revelation 3:17), and/or God needs them (Acts 17:25).

Read the rest of this entry »

And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words. Therefore do not be like them. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him. In this manner, therefore, pray… Matthew 6:7-9a

The denomination in which I grew up recited what we called “the Lord’s Prayer” (aka, the Model Prayer) during every church service. It was probably the first passage I memorized as a young Christian. Regrettably, it became “vain repetition”; I really didn’t think about what I was praying.

In a previous article, we proposed that the Model Prayer is something more than a prayer to recite once a week; it is a prayer of positioning. The Model Prayer is not the prayer to end all prayers, but the prayer to begin all prayers. It is through this model that we come into the Father’s presence – in humility, meekness and total dependency on Him. Without this positioning, all that we have to say are the vain repetitions of man.

Our Father in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name.
Your kingdom come.
Your will be done
On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
As we forgive our debtors.
And do not lead us into temptation,
But deliver us from the evil one.
For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.
Matthew 6:9b-13

In this article, with this notion of positioning in mind, we would like to explore three foundational truths that have been lost to the modern church. All three are found in the prayer’s last acknowledgement: For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. We will look at them one at a time. Read the rest of this entry »

The following is an addendum to An Enemy Lies Within, where, in the section on liberating others, we expose several ways Christians in America are being deceived by their carnal mind. Here, we address the way God views wealth and His prescription for investing it.

Warning: this will be one of the most threatening articles we have written. The reader will be tempted to dismiss it as impractical nonsense. Be encouraged: God is the wisest wealth manager and investment counselor. More importantly, He loves His children and knows what they need before they ask. Hear Him out on this; His objective is your highest return on the investment He has made in you.

As we begin, let’s first address the notion of wealth. Because we are community people – members of the Body of Christ and one another – it is important that we consider wealth relationally. Wealth is a relative consideration. Some of God’s people are wealthier than others, and that is not necessarily a bad thing. We learn in the Parable of the Talents that God entrusts more to some than to others (Matthew 25:14-30). Furthermore, Jesus instructs us that “to whom much is given, from Him much will be required (Luke 12:48)”. In His sovereign omniscience, God determines the amount of wealth each one should have.

So, who is wealthy among you? Let’s take a look at some surprising statistics. According to the Federal Reserve’s Survey of Consumer Finances, the average net worth of all U.S. families is $692,100. Using the calculator provided by the Global Rich List, we discover that the average American family is worth more than 98.74% of everyone else in the world. Using the more conservative median figure ($97,300) puts the average American in the top 8.31% wealthiest people in the world (i.e., wealthier than over 91%).

The statistics relative to income are even more startling. A U.S. worker making the federally mandated minimum wage ($7.25/hour) earns more salary than 92.2% of workers in the rest of the world. The statistics don’t lie: American Christians are rich.

Given these statistics, it is easy to understand why Christians should be giving more careful attention to the way we manage our wealth. Jesus put it this way: Read the rest of this entry »

Stories are best understood from the perspective of the author, not the reader. In fact, it is one of the reasons we read: to entertain and learn from someone else’s viewpoint. When reading a letter, we best understand what the writer is trying to communicate when we “put ourselves in their shoes”. In regards to the Bible story, most Christians believe that God is the author; it is His perspective and “shoes” we should adopt when we read and share it.

Generally speaking, most Christians struggle to understand the central purpose of God in the Church Age. Most of us think the story of the Bible is about us. This misguided thinking centers around our perspective of the next three days – what we observe and give focus to on Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday.

Therefore, it should be helpful to consider the next three days from God’s perspective. What do those days mean to Him? What is His purpose in them? What’s in it for God?

For those of you struggling with the notion that Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday are about God and His benefit, we offer the following passages. First, there is God’s word to Ezekiel regarding the new birth.

Therefore, say to the house of Israel, “Thus says the Lord God: ‘I do not do this for your sake, O house of Israel, but for My holy name’s sake, which you have profaned among the nations wherever you went.'” Ezekiel 36:22

“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them.” Ezekiel 36:26-27

“Not for your sake do I do this,” says the Lord God, “let it be known to you. Be ashamed and confounded for your own ways, O house of Israel!” Ezekiel 36:32

We learn from this prophecy of the new birth that God blesses His people for His name sake. The New Testament carries the same message, captured powerfully in Paul’s letter to the Colossians.

For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and
for Him.
Colossians 1:16
Read the rest of this entry »

In God’s economy, we have no right to a particular standard of living, nor to pursue one. Like Paul, we must learn to be content regardless of our standard of living (Philippians 4:11-12). Indeed, this mindset is prerequisite to our doing “all things through Christ, who strengthens me (v.13).”

We have what we have either because God has given it to us, or we have claimed and carved it out for, by, and to ourselves. For the vast majority of us, there is a mixture; and it is hard to determine what falls into each of these two categories. It may be time for an assessment of the situation.

It is also difficult and threatening to consider what needs to go. Some things we possess will never be anything but the weight and sin that so easily ensnares us (Hebrews 12:1). Or, alternatively, God may consecrate an ill-gotten possession for His eternal use. Recognizing that presumption is an unsafe tactic, how do we know what God would have us do? Read the rest of this entry »

Theological facts are like the altar of Elijah on Carmel before the fire came, correct, properly laid out, but altogether cold. When the heart makes the ultimate surrender, the fire falls and true facts are transmuted into spiritual truth that transforms, enlightens, sanctifies. The church or the individual that is Bible taught without being Spirit taught (and there are many of them) has simply failed to see that truth lies deeper than the theological statement of it. A.W. Tozer, That Incredible Christian

I believe it was Andrew Murray that confessed to teaching beyond personal practice. The same was true of Paul (Philippians 3:12); so, I am in good company in regard to the following.

God has used my study of microeconomics to shed some light on His economy. The truth can be both convicting and encouraging. I pray your consideration of the following will also make you free.

  1. If what we are doing has no current or future value to the kingdom of God, then we are devaluing the time and life we have been given.
  2. The way we invest what has been invested in us either adds to, or subtracts from, the value of it.
  3. The cost of time is the explicit time spent in the activity PLUS the implicit lost opportunity cost (i.e., what could have been earned doing a more profitable activity). Lost opportunity cost is many times greater, but often hidden from our consideration.
  4. The issues of cost/investment also apply to our talent, money, belongings, etc.

This kind of thinking raises the bar considerably. Is it too much to expect? Beware of your soulish reasoning. Don’t let your mind play tricks on you.

Most would agree that Jesus perfectly invested what the Father was investing in Him. This Son of Man, knowing what the Father was capable of, said a couple of interesting things.

Read the rest of this entry »

And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ. Colossians 3:23-24

Work is a part of the normal Christian life. It is not a deviation; and it is not God’s intention for work to be a distraction from our living that life. Work is a place where the Christian life is to be lived – in fullness. Grace and faith are necessary at work. Salvation happens at work. So does transformation, sacrifice, making disciples and every other Christian activity and process.

There is nothing in the kingdom of God that does not belong in the workplace. In fact, it is God’s intention for all of the workplace to come under His reign. Whether we want Him to or not, God is at work in the workplace. It is a sobering fact: We are either for Him, or against Him; victor, or victim.

Ask God to give you a new paradigm regarding His kingdom in the workplace. Why has He given you authority and influence there? What might the normal Christian life look like – for you – in the place where you, and most everyone else, spend most of your waking hours?

Humbly yours and forever His,

P.S. – This is the first of a new series I am calling “A Moment with the Map Maker”.  These will be quick read devotions (200 words) that are easy to share with those in your spheres of influence.  Let me know what you think.

Bible with Cross ShadowThere are some sayings of Jesus that do not line up with the average person’s reality. It is at those times that Bible teachers are tempted to justify Jesus’ commands, and defend the word of God. I’m just saying… from personal experience.

My intention in this article is to take a different course. Instead of defending or explaining away, let’s simply try to understand how to do this saying. It is, after all, what the Master desires for us.

Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. Matthew 7:7-8

On the surface, this is not a difficult saying to do. Most Christians spend a lot of their prayer time asking God for things. Most human beings are seeking the truth; and many of them are knocking on the door of heaven, genuinely trying to get into the kingdom of God.

The problem we face in this saying is: Not everyone who asks receives; nor do those that seek find. Many are finding the door closed no matter how passionately they knock. So what is the problem here?

We know that Jesus is not a liar. There must be something more; something Jesus is assuming we understand in this saying. Hopefully, that understanding will help us be better doers; and help us appropriate His promises of getting, finding and entering. Read the rest of this entry »

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