If you haven’t noticed lately, some don’t think America is great anymore.
The solution for some is to protest, though their freedom to do so proves the point is moot.
Others seek to make America great again by running for office.
What about those of us who follow Christ? What are we to think and do? I think we can find some clues in Mark 4.
Jesus compares the kingdom of God to a mustard seed. It’s small, but grows into a 15 foot bush. So big, in fact, that the bird see the comfort of its shade.
Jesus, it seems, doesn’t focus on earthly kingdoms. His concern is for His Father’s kingdom.
Where do the birds turn for rest? The kingdom. Not the nations of the world, but God’s kingdom.
America isn’t great? Seek the kingdom of God.
America’s great again? Seek a kingdom that puts it to shame.
The birds seek the shade of the kingdom. May we follow the birds’ lead.
I’m sitting here writing a blog post. Tomorrow I’ll be leading my team through a quarter end.
I’ll run a few miles.
Read a few blog posts. And tweets. Listen to some podcasts.
Come home after a long day.
What AM I going to do all day?
Am I going to be kingdom seeking? I want success. I have ambitions. I’ve set some goals. Jesus said to seek His kingdom first and a whole lot of stuff would follow.
Am I going to be kingdom building? One way or another, a kingdom is going to be built by what I do. Whose? Mine? Or His?
Am I going to be kingdom centered? Is he at the heart of all that I do today?
We all need to ask ourselves these questions. The answers will move us in one direction or another. Or at least reveal our direction.
What AM I going to do today?
What ARE you going to do today?
What’s you’re answer?
I read this post from Seth Godin last week. I hope you’ll check it out before we move on. Don’t worry. I’ll wait on you.
Great. Welcome back.
What struck me in that post is how it matches what it takes following Christ.
Let’s take a look at what it looked like in the Bible.
Jesus began preaching the kingdom of God and repentance. He healed people. He brought some back to life. Everything was going great. Many knew that He was the Messiah.
Then He began talking about dying to self. Picking up your cross and following Him. Hating your father, mother, brothers and sister, even your own life.
He began talking about drinking His blood and eating His flesh. Few were getting it.
A rich man came to him and asked him what it took to get into the kingdom. Jesus quizzed him about the commandments. He gave the right answers. What was next? Go sell everything you got and let’s get to it. Follow me.
The fellow went away sad.
What’s the point?
The point is that so many of us, and by us I mean me, want the easy way out. We want to follow Jesus as long as it’s nice and tidy, wrapped up with a bow.
We want our nice, easy church service where we go see our friends and sing our fun songs about Jesus, then go out to eat or over to Grandma’s house for Sunday lunch.
We want our faith to be like those free samples we get at Sam’s Club or Costco. We want just a taste, enough to just make us feel good, but we don’t want to commit to the entire product. We don’t want to buy the whole thing.
What Jesus is free, but costly. It cost Him His life. All it takes for us is to give up everything for Him.
Abraham did that. He had a son of promise who he had waited decades for. God told him to take him up on a mountain and sacrifice Isaac. Abraham did and then God stopped him. Abraham was willing to give up everything for God.
A man at my church just quit a $70,000 per year job. He’s selling his house. Why? To follow the Lord. He doesn’t know what that means yet. But he’s happier than almost anyone in our church.
Truly following Christ isn’t a walk in the park. It’s free, but costly. But that’s what he demands of us. Everything. All of us.
What have you given up for Christ in your life?
Worry has been a part of my life for far too long in my life. I grew up with worry being one of the main parts of my life. I was an anxious kid, full of anxious worries anticipating an anxious future.
Somewhere along the way, I decided to stop worrying. Maybe it was because I was afraid of what it would eventually do to me. Perhaps I was tired of the control it had on my life. It could have been due to what scripture had to say about anxiety.
The problem is that it isn’t simple or easy. If it was, no one who follows Christ would ever worry or be anxious about anything.
I’ve had conversations with people over the years about worry and anxiety. I may have even angered a few.
I recall one conversation I had a few years ago. Someone chastised me a bit for not worrying enough about my family. This person believed that worry was the truest form of love that a person could express. I jokingly wondered if they thought that Jesus got it all wrong when He said to “be anxious for nothing.”
A friend of mine from church recently felt compelled to tell us a story about a particular Saturday. He had his entire day planned out, but nothing came to fruition the way he wanted.
He had the opportunity to discuss with some people. He boiled it down fairly simply. Worry is not of faith. That which is not of faith is sin. Worry is sin.
John Piper wrote a book a few years ago based on some sermons called Battling Unbelief. He tackles several subjects that cause us problems that befall us and states that our falling to them is unbelief.
Let’s think about that for a second. Anxiety and worry are really just signs that we don’t believe God’s promises.
Jesus said that the birds, the flowers are dressed beautifully,and that He cares more about us than them. What is to be our response?
In the immortal words of Alfred E. Neuman, “What, me worry?”
I’m not going to insult you by saying that you won’t worry. It will happen to you and to me. Our reaction is what makes the difference.
We can embrace the worry and let it control and guide us through life.
Or we can take the better path. Seek God’s kingdom. Trust Him. Believe Him.
Are you a worrier? Or do you fight worry?
I recently had a conversation in social media about the minimum wage. It began with me posting a Tweet that went something like this:
Minimum Wage Increase = Price Increase. Net Effect Zero.
An old high school friend took me to task because I stated that companies would raise their prices to pay for the increase. Unfortunately, I have to stand corrected. There are other ways that businesses can pay for a minimum wage increase.
A business can reduce its workforce.
Hours can be cut.
Benefits can be removed.
After all, the guy or gal who benefits from having his wage increased doesn’t suddenly begin producing more for his company. This is an expense for the business and is not simply absorbed. At least not by the normal business.
The thought that came to mind, though, was how should we who live in the kingdom of God react to a minimum wage increase? Or better yet, how should we be good corporate citizens or business owners?
First, we should always strive to do better than the world. Will we always have jobs that pay less than others? Absolutely. Some simply do not produce the same value as others. The guy who brings more income to the business should be rewarded more than the guys who is simply in a support role.
However, we should always try to do more than the minimum required of us by the world. If the minimum wage is ten dollars an hour, how about practicing a tithe and pay ten percent more than required. Perhaps that isn’t feasible, but it would be a great goal to shoot for.
There are other ways that we can do our best for the kingdom of God as well. How about building the most efficient and creative systems that we can that will benefit our employees? Attrition happens. If you lose someone from your team and don’t replace them, spread their pay among the remaining workers.
Seek to give better benefits than the company down the road. Do better than the standard. If two weeks of vacation is the norm, do better than the norm. Are six sick days a year the average? Be above average and give seven. Is a six percent match on 401(k) what most people get? Give an extra percent.
Will it cost you money? Yes. Will it attract better employees? Yes. Will you make a difference in people’s lives? Absolutely.
Obviously this ended up being about more than the minimum wage. As well as it should be. Could a business do all of these? No. They still have to stay in business and make a profit for the owner. However, we should try to honor the Lord by being better than those businesses that simply follow the standard worldly business practices.
What are some ideas for how a business could make the lives of their employees?
What is your dream?
I know you have one. Everyone has a dream. You may have lost it, misplaced it or forgot about it, but you have one.
A while back I had a phone conversation with a man. I had recently switched positions at work, changed jobs. I had dealt with him on some issues before changing and needed to help out again. We solved the issues and then chatted. He asked me and important question. “Is this your dream job?”
This wasn’t the first time I had ever been asked this question. I was asked this in an interview once. The interviewer asked me to take a blank sheet of paper. He told me to describe my perfect job. “Write down your dream job.” I wrote it down. i described it to him. Fortunately, I didn’t get that job. I would have been miserable.
I know a man whose dream it was to retire at 52. That was the only dream I ever knew of him to have. Get his thirty years in at his company and retire. He sacrificed a lot to make this happen. He retired at 52 assuming nothing would ever go wrong. The recession happened and now that dream has been destroyed. I say that to point out that our dreams can be misplaced.
Do you have dreams?
There was a time that this was not happening. Dreams weren’t happening in the Bible days. Visions were infrequent. It just wasn’t happening for some reason. God only knew why.
1 Samuel 3:1 says that Word from the Lord was rare in those days, visions were infrequent
Word from the Lord was rare.
Visions were infrequent.
The Message paraphrases it this way: Revelation was rarely heard or seen.
What a terrible time to live, without word from the Lord. This is not the way life should be for those that follow the Lord. Look at what Peter says in Acts quoting Joel:
And it shall be in the last days, God says That I will pour forth My Spirit on all mankind; And your sons and daughters shall prophesy, And your young men shall see visions, And your old men shall dream dreams.
Young. Old. In-between. It doesn’t matter. God is going to give us dreams and visions through His Spirit.
The question we have to ask ourselves is this: Are our visions and dreams coming from the Lord?
Caleb had dreams. His was to get to the Promised Land. He was one of two spies who reported that the Israelites should proceed on to the country the Lord was giving them. Ten others said no. This led to forty years of wandering in the desert wilderness. Finally, they went in and captured the country.
Caleb was 85 years old then. It was time to retire, right? Not really. He still had dreams that were coming from the Lord. He went to Joshua and asked for certain land. What did he want to do? Fight giants in the hill country. How about that? At 85, he still wanted to push and fight for the Lord.
How do we do that? How do we get our dreams and visions from the Lord? He said that He would pour His Spirit out. Does it take any effort from us?
Yes and no.
Psalm 37:4 says for us to Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of our heart.
Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.
He will give you dreams. How? By delighting yourself in Him.
Does He give us mystic trances? Not often.
Dreams like Joseph? Rarely, but not ruled out.
I had a seminary professor describe how he came to the seminary he teaches at. He was struggling with the decision to move there. A woman came to him and asked if he was moving. She had a dream that he was. He asked her where he moved to in the dream. She said Philadelphia. This disappointed him since the seminary was not in Philadelphia. Then he realized that the seminary and the church of Philadelphia in Revelation were just alike. So, he moved to the seminary.
How do we delight in the Lord?
First, we have to experience eternal life. Do you have salvation from the Lord?
Next is abundant life. Are you seeking your joy in the Lord as in John 10:10?
Finally, do you have a Spirit-filled life? Is the word of God richly indwelling you?
Jesus tells the Parable of the Treasure in Matthew 13:44. A man stumbles across a treasure in a field. He buries the treasure and then buys the field. He sold everything to do this. Then he owns not only the field, but the treasure.
This mans dream was the treasure – the kingdom of God.
God will laugh at your dreams. What you can come up with on your own doesn’t compare to the dreams He wants to give you. You want to do such-and-such? God has something better for you. Something you can’t imagine. Something that you can only dream through Him.
What about the Church? Does it have a place in our dreams? Absolutely. Each and every one of us make up the Church. Each and every one of us should be dreaming dreams through the Lord.
The Church should be a place of God-given dreams that further the kingdom of God and glorify Christ.
Our dreams in the Lord should be celebrated, encouraged and supported within the confines of Christ’s Church.
Paul continues to describe this life of freedom that we have in Christ. He tells the Galatians in verse 16 to walk by the Spirit. Why? So that “you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. Within the freedom that Christ gives, there are two options for life. Walking by the Spirit or walking by the desire of the flesh. We might wonder what the difference in life is now? Before Christ, there is no option to walk by the Spirit. Life is simply led by the desires of the flesh. Without Christ, one is a slave to it.
These two options in life are set against each other. The flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh. There is a war going on within the life of each follower of Christ. For these are in opposition to one another. What are the results of this war? You may not do the things that you please.
Instead, Paul describes the life that he wants the Galatians to live. He tells them that if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law. Now that the Galatians are followers of Christ, they are not under the life of the Law that the false teacher, the Judaizers, want them to live.
What do each of these lives look like? The deeds of the flesh are evident, which are immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities. strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing and things like these. Paul warns the Galatians that the false teaching that he is fighting does nothing to rid anyone’s life of these things. The results? I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
Instead, Paul describes what the life of following Christ and living by the Spirit looks like. The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience,kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. These are the characteristics of the Christian life. Against such things there is no law.
So, how do the Galatians get to the point of having this kind of life? Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. In their freedom, the Galatians are to, led by the Spirit and walking in the Spirit, to put the old life to death. The Judaizers’ teaching? Do it through the power of the Law and legalism that we are teaching. The result is that the desires of the flesh may only be wounded and they rise up angrily on a regular basis to dominate life. Instead, Paul teaches that, through Christ and the Spirit, the flesh is to be mortally wounded. It is dying. It may lash out on occasion, but the result is that it cannot consume their life.
1. We have two options in life: walking by the Spirit or the desires of the flesh.
2. These two ways of life will war within you.
3. Practicing the desires of the flesh does not lead to the kingdom.
4. Walking in the Spirit lead to the fruit of the Spirit growing in your life.
5. Following Christ requires us to execute the flesh.