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This article is a bit of a walkabout. It reminds me of a tourist group out for a sight-seeing adventure. Not every sight will be for everyone, but each one will find something here to encourage, edify and equip them for the good work we have all been created to walk in (Ephesians 2:10).

Every Jesus follower is responsible to be (or become) a faithful steward of God’s mysteries (1Corinthians 4:1-2). So why do we so often play the mystery card to avoid our responsibility as stewards? For example, the fact that we have been made one in Christ Jesus is a mystery (Galatians 3:28). We would rather keep it that way than commit to the hard work of agreeing with Jesus’s prayer for the manifestation of that reality (John 17:23). And another: The Bible suggests that church discipline is necessary for strong healthy fellowships. Rather than search out its proper application, most church leaders treat it as a mystery – avoiding it altogether for fear of running off the wrong people.

God’s expects us to steward His mysteries for the advancement of His kingdom. Playing the mystery card for our own motives (e.g., to avoid difficult responsibilities, or excuse error in our teaching) is rebellion; many times unintended, but nevertheless adversarial to the purposes of God.

We must search out the mysteries of God. To the best of our ability? Yes, and no. With the help of others? Again, yes and no. Under the anointing and guidance of the Holy Spirit? Yes and yes.

With the anointing and guidance of the Holy Spirit, we search out the mysteries of God with our whole heart and the help of others – the purpose of our search being His glory and the advancement of His kingdom.

Let’s practice our searching with Ephesians 6:10:

Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.

Paul is encouraging us to be strong in two distinct ways. We are to be strong in the Lord, and we are to be strong in the power of His might. In my humble opinion, this is the most power-filled verse in the entire Bible. Three of God’s “power” words are included:

  1. Be strong (endynamoō): The root is dynamis – the explosive power of God.
  2. Power (kratos): The dominion of God – the power of His authority to reign.
  3. Might (ischys): The ability and force of God – to accomplish what He intends.

This is what Paul is talking about when he goes on to encourage us to put on the whole armor of God. This is what it takes to stand against the wiles of the devil. Get your head around that!

As leaders in the Workplace – that includes all segments (business, religion, education, government, etc.) – we are responsible for leading others into this kind of radical life. Note carefully: This is the normal Christian life!

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I don’t know who first said, “The Bible is the LORD’s manual for life,” but it is surely as true now as it was then. The LORD has a way for everything. We ignore His ways at our peril.

Most would readily agree that the Bible contains prescribed ways for salvation, sanctification, and all the other big Kingdom processes. Some have recognized His prescription for building the church (Ephesians 4:11-16) and evangelizing the world (John 17:21-23). When we follow the LORD’s ways, He gets involved – sometimes just to show that His ways are the best ways.

The Process

As important as success is to the LORD and man, it should not surprise us to discover that the LORD has prescribed a way of finding and securing success. He has revealed it in Psalm 37. Let’s take a look at it.

1 Do not fret because of evildoers,
Nor be envious of the workers of iniquity.
2 For they shall soon be cut down like the grass,
And wither as the green herb.

Step 1: Taking our eyes off the world and focusing them on Jesus. Beholding His glory, we will be transformed into the same likeness, by the Holy Spirit (2Corinthians 3:18). Furthermore, knowing the fate of the worldly, we should fear the desire to become like them (James 4:4).

3 Trust in the LORD, and do good;
Dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness.

Step 2: The LORD desires and has commanded us to trust Him. To trust in anything or anyone else is idolatry.

Step 3: The LORD has created us to walk in good works (Ephesians 2:10). It is there that we find Him. Those works are determined by Him, and He is glorified in them (Matthew 5:16).

Step 4: The LORD promised “the land” to the Israelites. He has promised something much greater to the followers of Jesus Christ. He has promised us abundant life in His kingdom. We must dwell in Christ and learn to live in the kingdom of heaven. “The kingdom of heaven is like…” It is important to recognize this kingdom is here now.

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The kingdom of heaven is like a mighty river that flows through our lives – the Kingdom River. There are people that visit the river on special occasions to temporarily enjoy its beauty and refreshing water. There are others that regularly go down to the river – bringing along their ski, pontoon, or fishing boat (and the occasional friend) for the various forms of entertainment these devices and the river might provide to them.

Some people enjoy the Kingdom River so much, they have built houses on its banks. As folks back home say, “they have a ‘place’ on the river.” They go to the river almost every weekend – to get away from the hustle and bustle of the world. Some of them even live in yachts and houseboats, floating right on top of the mighty river.

None of these people are river people. Most of them don’t even know that river people exist. Those who know a little something about the river people consider them quite odd and, if they will admit it, scary. Like the mysterious water people Elwin Ransom encountered in Perelandra, the true river people live in – AND BREATHE!! – the Kingdom River.

The river people are very much unlike everyone else. They do not have roots on land. They do not visit the mighty river on special occasions, or for regular entertainment. For them, the river is not a place to get away from the world.

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Now that we have positioned ourselves to hear God’s instruction, and discovered the purposes of God in His call to more, we can begin to explore His process for planning. I feel the need to share – here at the beginning – that God’s way for planning is not like anything you may have experienced in the world.

There are many ways that the kingdom of God is contrary to the world (e.g., love your enemies, the greater serve the lesser). Planning is one of those things. In fact, planning as we know it – work breakdown structures, contingencies, etc. – have no place in the kingdom of God.

This is a hard thing for a process-oriented problem solver to share. I love planning. Task lists are my thing. It is hard letting go of what you are good at.

That is why, when God called me to the more of Workplace Ministry, the first thing I had to die to was my propensity to create and own the process. At first, I thought God’s issue with me was my desire to own and control. While that was something He would deal with, the bigger consideration was the method of planning itself. Read the rest of this entry »

The kingdom is like a mighty river, flowing over time. The river is a story – the story of God’s kingdom. It is the Kingdom River.

Like most mighty rivers, the Kingdom River has a deep channel; a channel that cuts through time, on the river’s way through eternity. The Kingdom River makes its own path. It determines, by its power, where it will flow.

In the channel of the Kingdom River, the current flows deep and with great power. It draws all of humanity to itself. But, the channel of the Kingdom River is a dangerous place. All who are swept up in it eventually drown.

The Kingdom River, as it is with most mighty rivers, also has its shallows and quiet pools; places where young and old first enter – where they find peace and comfort. In this part of the river, the waters rarely come up to your knees; and the strong current is rarely felt. Still, many are satisfied to stay there.

Regrettably, they are not aware of the dangers that are lurking nearby.

Removed from, but within view of the Kingdom River, is a broad road. Many are traveling down the broad road. Many – perhaps most – of those traveling on the broad road are irritated by the site of the river. They want nothing to do with it. They consider the people gathered at the river to be foolish and weak.

Many others, on the broad road, are comforted in knowing that the river is close. When they pause to look and consider the road, they feel drawn to come near. But that would require them to leave the broad road, and they are not ready for that. Perhaps some other day. In the end, they never make it to the river’s edge.

This is a sad tragedy, but not so much as that which unknowingly threatens the shallow and quiet pool dwellers.

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You are not making disciples if the disciples you think you are making are not, themselves, making disciples.

I have been communicating this word of encouragement for years now. Someone finally challenged me on it – his conviction being that making disciples is reserved for a select group of Christians, that have been given a select group of gifts.

As I understand it, his concern is that I am encouraging disciple makers to expect others to pursue areas of giftedness that God does not have for them. I highly respect this man’s opinion and concern; and recognize that others may share it.

Our conversation has caused me to reexamine my position. I hope you will consider the following.

And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20

The Great Commission means a lot of different things to different people. Some haven’t thought much about it. Others have assumed that their teachers and preachers were experts in its meaning.

I don’t expect you will make that mistake with me. In fact, I strongly encourage you to consider the meaning for yourself. Does our Lord’s commission – given with all authority in heaven and on earth – apply to you (and to everyone you are discipling)? Read the rest of this entry »

Bible with Cross ShadowJesus only spoke what the Father was speaking; and that with intentionality. In the Chapter Five Summary, we recognized that Jesus began the Sermon on the Mount with the Beatitudes, in order to lay a foundation for our understanding of the normal Christian life – a life of being, and being made.

Only Jesus Christ can live the normal Christian life. We know that He has come to live that life in and through us. The first disciples did not have the advantage of that understanding; and still, they determined to trust and follow Him. For the modern disciple, this is a challenge and encouragement to embrace the truth: Jesus would only command that which the Father was willing and capable of doing (Philippians 2:13).

It is essential that we understand this from the beginning; for the sayings of Chapter Six are otherwise confusing and/or discouraging. Jesus made it clear from the beginning that our hope must not be in our self will and power. If you have not understood and embraced the sayings of Chapter Five, go back and allow the Holy Spirit to transform you through the renewing of your mind. Only then will you be prepared to hear and do the sayings of Chapter Six.

General Message

The overarching theme of Chapter Six is sacrifice. From giving up the praises of men and our right to hold them accountable, to forgoing earthly treasure and security for that which is eternal, Jesus’ sayings leave no doubt that we must sacrifice our earthly desires to participate in His plans. This, of course, should not surprise us.

… whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. … whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple. Luke 14:27 and 33

As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. John 10:15

So Jesus said to them again, “Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” John 20:21

Sometimes we just have to hear the most obvious truths over and over again; because our minds have a sneaky way of passing over (or forgetting) them. Jesus’ walk on this earth, from start to finish, was one of sacrifice. He calls His disciples to follow Him. Where do we think that following will take us? Why would we expect it to look any different than what He experienced?

Specific Sayings

As you consider the following list of sayings found in Chapter Six, be sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s guidance toward the ones that you should be working out with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12). Yes, that is the way we find the normal Christian life.

  1. Resist the Enemies’ Temptations
  2. Do Things God’s Way
  3. Learn to Pray
  4. Forgive Their Trespasses
  5. Fast to Please God
  6. Store Up Treasures in Heaven (Part 1)
  7. Store Up Treasures in Heaven (Part 2)
  8. Store Up Treasures in Heaven (Part 3)
  9. Get Focused; Stay Focused
  10. Do Not Worry About Your Life

There are many sayings like these within and outside of the Sermon on the Mount. Most Christians know and give assent to their existence. Far less hear and do them with the necessary passion. We have been lovingly and justly warned: Waiting until the storm hits to begin hearing and doing the sayings of Jesus – even the hardest to hear and do – is to wait for our destruction. It is foolishness. Amen.

Humbly yours and forever His,

Bible with Cross ShadowMoreover, 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

It is interesting, revelatory and (at least for me) convicting that Jesus speaks of fasting in the same way He spoke of doing good and praying. In doing so, He is making it clear for us that fasting is to be a very important part of the normal Christian life. Fasting for worldly benefit carries the same consequences: Identification as a hypocrite, and loss of heavenly reward.

My conviction is not for being a hypocrite. It goes much deeper than that. Jesus did not say, “…if you fast”. He assumed that His followers would fast; as much as they would do good and pray.

There was a time in my life when I fasted on a fairly regular basis. Then I stopped. I don’t remember when, but it was some time ago. I had a good reason for laying down this discipline. At the time, it had become a legalistic ritual. My motivations were wrong, so I quit.

I am sure that my plan was to correct my motivations and return to fasting; but it didn’t happen. I believe I know why, and I am not happy about it. Perhaps it will help you to know why I faltered. For me, what follows is a confession that I believe will gain the Father’s forgiveness and His deliverance from all unrighteousness (1John 1:9). It will also make my house stronger.

Having recognized the fault in my motivation for fasting, I began searching the Scriptures for the right one. I learned that many Christians fasted for four primary reasons:

  1. To show humility and repentance;
  2. To seek God’s face more fully;
  3. To know God’s will; and,
  4. To demonstrate sincerity in something we desire from God.

As you can see, there is a strong connection between fasting and prayer. In a sense, fasting is an enabling discipline for the improvement of our prayer life; and, consequently, our relationship with our heavenly Father. Who wouldn’t want that? I was ready to get started.

Being the process-oriented person that I am, I just had to ask God the question, “So then, how would you have me fast?” The Father really likes it when His children ask Him these kinds of questions. His children don’t always like the answer. Read the rest of this entry »

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