It feels good to be rich

Kingdom Principle: Stewardship of resources is a matter of thanksgiving and generosity.

Jeremiah 32:1-3a, 6-15 Psalm 91:1-6, 14-16 1 Timothy 6:6-19 Luke 16:19-31
  • In business there must be a profit margin which demonstrates good business.
  • In ministry there must be a prophet margin which demonstrates godly ministry.

The Good life is a Godly life where there is a value for both profit and prophet. The profit margin leads you to enjoy all the resources & riches the Lord has provided. The prophet margin calls us to be rich in good deeds, filled with thanksgiving and generous and as we share with all those in need. (Micah 6:8, Matthew 25:14-46)

I have worked in not-for-profit organizations (churches, city transformation teams, & counseling and coaching groups) and well as in for-profit industries (Entertainment, education & sales). No “job” (where you receive financial compensation) will last without making a profit. The difference between the not-for-profit and the for-profit is who benefits from the profit. (Not-for profits, must make a profit, but the benefits are NOT to be owned or controlled by the leaders of the organization, rather they are put back into the organization to fulfill its mission. For-profits can put the profits in the pockets of its leaders and owners, for that is the mission of the business.  Our lives need to have both profit margins and prophet margins. The Bible says, the poor will always be with you, and it addresses the rich not as the problem. Rather the problem is when the rich find their identity in their wealth. For this reason the command of 1 Timothy is not against money, nor that money is evil, rather it is to find joy in all God provides, being rich in good deeds and generous by sharing with those in need.

Last week the “rich man” had a stewarding problem, which turned out to be a relationship issue. This week the rich man has a stewarding problem, which is both a relational issue and also a financial issue. The rich man was neither generous to nor thankful for the poor man, Lazarus while on earth. God is generous to all… Those who do not live a life of Thanksgiving and Generosity – miss life altogether and are left with bitterness and jealously when they finally realize what they missed. To be rich is not the problem. To not be rich in love and good deeds is the problem whether you have financial resources or not. The rich man of Luke 16 was not rich in good deeds. Jesus had followers who were rich (Luke 8:1-3) Joseph of Arimathea was “rich”, and Lydia was “rich” to Paul. Jeremiah demonstrates that God has given him provision and peace through buying land that has no value in the current/impending threat of captivity and destruction of Judah. To steward according to a prophet margin in primary to the profit margin. Meaning you must value the richness of good deeds, over the value of riches. However, if you follow the prophet margin and the profit margin, you will have more riches with which to be generous.

How you steward your money is the key importance to whether your money will become a vice or a virtue in your life. Stewardship begins with your primary relationships and the way you learn to either use people or invest in people. (or if you feel used or invested in) The same is true for finances.  When you use your finances to get what you want – you learned it most likely in your primary relationships. This must be confronted and healed, and will only take place in the presence of a prophet’s message – You are loved by the God who is generous – Follow God’s ways.

The life you live on this earth is to be a foretaste of what you will enjoy for eternity. Heaven on earth is to begin now – I call it ATHOE. God’s desire is not for you to be miserable (suffering, poor, living in want and destitute); rather it is for you to be saved from the Kingdom of darkness. (1 Tim 2:3-6, Colossians 1:13-14) Joy and contentment are the roots of thanksgiving in the midst of trials and troubles in life. (James 1:2, Romans 5:3-5, & Philippians 4:10-14) Further because of your salvation by faith, your life is to be filled with Good works. (James 2:14-24 , Romans 12:1-3, 9-21, Philippians 2:19-22, 25, 4:2-3)  Therefore, in Jesus we have all we need to enter into that life of faith and fulfillment. For, it is not a sin to be rich, rather it is the temptation to be rich which ensnares many people and a sin to pursue the glory of riches – for it will lead to ruin and destruction. How much more we are called to pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, and gentleness, for out of such things generosity and thanksgiving will flourish.

So what about the $$$ – Steward what you have generously and with thanksgiving. Lazarus died just like the rich man died– you too will die, so don’t fear or avoid death. Rather pursue life, the make the most of materials of this world are not eternal, but what you do with them does have eternal impact.  The Rich Man found himself in a place of torment seeking comfort and pity from Lazarus, whom all his earthly life he had not the slightest compassion toward – and now he is asking for the good deeds he never offered.  Death and punishment has prompted the rich man to see the true value of money. (much like last week – the manager’s fear opened his eyes) Money has no value in the life to come – so the call is to figure out the value of money in this life.

That value riches and money is two-fold;

  1. for those in need     (both your needs and that of others – food & clothing)
  2. for your enjoyment (both your enjoyment and that of others – thanksgiving & generosity)

Anyone who reads this and thinks – “I have a need” – is missing the point for in fact when you have Jesus – then – No, you don’t have any need – for all needs are met in Him. (If you are reading this and don’t have Jesus fully in your life – please reach out to me  – I want to know why you are still reading this – I’m fascinated by your dedication– I’ll pay you $$$ to hear your thoughts) Thus we must discover what is true joy in this life, and as the Psalm points out this week that joy is to have no fear, and to be loved and in love with God Our Savior. To return to the beginning, we need a prophet & profit message in our lives:

  • The prophet message:

Be filled with Thanksgiving & Generosity demonstrating your Hope in God!

  • The profit message:

Be filled with Thanksgiving & Generosity so others put their Hope in God!

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Shrewd Stewards always have enough

Kingdom Principle: Stewardship of relationships yields eternal wealth

Jeremiah 8:18-9:1 Psalm 79:1-9 1 Timothy 2:1-7 Luke 16:1-13

Last week we addressed how we can identify ourselves as saints, sinners, fools or evil in the Kingdom of God. The call last week was to see ourselves as saints. This week we see that saints act as stewards.

Stewards are placed in charge or called to manage another’s person’s resources. Saints are the stewards of God resources.

  • Saints are Stewards
  • Sinners are Savers
  • Fools are Spenders
  • Evil are Steal’ers. (Sorry Pittsburgh)

Sinners are savers because they fear they never have enough. They are focused on the problems and not the solutions. (The Luke passage this week commends the shrewd steward as he sought solutions rather than being stuck in a problem.) Savers are holding out for “rainy” days, rather than believing that God is reigning over them in all ways. A sinner can never save enough, because they truly believe they are not “enough”. Shrewd stewards always have enough, because they are not looking to prove, protect or pleasure with resources. Rather they walk as saints in the perfection of their King.

Fools are spenders because they lack wisdom. Spending is not the problem, for a steward must spend to be about their owners business.  In our current culture fools view credit cards as stewardship, but that is foolish. It appears that you are managing, but in reality you are shifting and rotating your debit, rather than experiencing freedom. Jeremiah laments that the foolish actions are being called to account by the debit collection of God, they have overextended their credit, rather than turning to God for freedom.

Evil are stealers because they find satisfaction in taking what does not belong to them. They have greater enjoyment in taking from others, rather than from building and establishing capital for themselves. In fact, they lack all creative ability, as they focus on destroying another creation as the means as to make their mark in this world. Evil can appear to be very wealthy, but this was built on other backs. Evil  and fools will be owned by their possessions, rather than owning of possessions.

Let us return to the call to be Saints who Steward. Stewardship is a principle, that is built upon your ethics and values. Being a steward need not merely be financial.. In this way, saints are not merely managers of God’s kingdom resources, (as if that is outside of themselves or objectified) they are the very embodiment of God’s ways in the Kingdom. Saints steward and leverage everything, even their very lives for the Kingdom.

Stewards are not savers, because accumulation is not their goal, but they are not spenders because it costs them nothing to reallocate their masters resource. In all this, the gain or the loss return is for the “master’s” benefit not their own. Stewards are not seeking to increase their own pleasure or protection rather they receive it all is hearing the voice of the master say, “well done good and faithful servant”. Here are ideas to help you on your way of stewardship.

Steward your time – Are you always running behind, then you are never fully present with people. Release your anxiety and need to perform for others. Plan ahead, Covey tells us to plan the big rocks, and let the pebbles fall where they may. (Big Rock are always relationally based) How much time do you dedicate to your own renewal? We all have 168 hours each week – How will you not spend or save time this week – rather how you will you see your time, and not your own, but rather as a gift to steward.

Steward your money – next week’s post

Steward your sufferings – in two weeks

Steward your faith – Who will benefit from you coming along side them, who is struggling or is filled with doubt? Sharing your story (this is a time issue not money) is to steward your faith. Allow the provision of God to be multiplied as you give it way, as he is your Shepherd, you will no longer have want.

Steward your relationships – This can been done through time, faith, money or sufferings… Imagine your life as a network of relationships. How can you help make valuable connections between those who at his point are disconnected?  (Thank you social media for helping us) Where might you invite someone into relationship with you, not for your gain, but for their surplus.

Intercession and prayer for others is the clumination of stewardship of relationships via time and faith. You know an all-powerful, loving God who extends his hand to you in prayer. You have access to the throne room of grace and you are called to go there boldly and to ask for even more than you can possibly imagine -So Go -and ask on behalf of your relationships – it will increase your relationship, it will increase your faith, it will increase your time (in that you will not waste your time on efforts that produce results)

In Prayer and Intercession

  • Proclaim the Freedom of the Lord to those who are in bondage, slavery and broken under oppression.
  • Pray for Sinners, Fools and those who are evil that the Kingdom of God will become like honey to their lips and light to their darkened eyes.
  • Pray for our government leaders and city councils that they may come to know God’s justice and mercy. …. Jeremiah will later teach this to the people in exile, “Seek the peace and prosperity of the city – Pray to the LORD for it, for if it prospers so shall you” (Jer. 29:7)
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If Saints can’t lose are Sinners lost?

I wrote this post 3 years ago – and I believe and apply it more today than on the day I wrote it… ENJOY! I have now helped to write www.athoe.org to equip people to live as Saints.

Kingdom Principle: The King unconditionally accepts all into the Kingdom with uncompromising standards.

Jesus came to save sinners! An encounter with Jesus; will leave you a fool-hearted or saintly.

Jeremiah 4:11-12, 22-28 Psalm 14 1 Timothy 1:12-17 Luke 15:1-10

This post has nothing to do with why I am sending my children to San Dimas High where they will be “Saints”. But I can guarantee you once this comes to pass they will always identify as a “Saint” and never a “BearCat” (the other local High school mascot). Identity is a huge theme of the Kingdom and it is the goal of this blog to assist followers of Jesus to identify with the principles of the Kingdom.  So – do you identify more with the term sinner or saint? Those who find their identity in the Kingdom are saints. (this may be a bit presumptuous– but please don’t think – “I’m Not Perfect, but Forgiven” – for me that is just an excuse for Christians to identify as being just like everyone else – just better, because their sin doesn’t send them to hell. We (those who are redeemed by the blood of Christ) are saints because our identity becomes rooted and established in Christ & His Love alone, and in Christ there is no sin. This is the gift of His righteousness. I can expand on this, but biblical defense will be enough here (read for yourself )

The principle today is that regardless of who you are, or what you have done – you can and will be accepted into the Kingdom by the standard of Christ Jesus.  If you do not enter by the King’s standard then you do not enter. Those who enter are saints, which live their lives as servantleaders of the great King. Those who have not entered the kingdom are Evil, Fools, or Sinners.  I will define all these terms (being greatly assisted by the Word of God, and the book Bold Love.

Evil  – Person who is cold-hearted, and delights in destructive behaviors. With no ability to be empathetic (connecting emotionally with others) and through craft and deception, they strip others of hope for the purpose of inflicting shame and hatred on humanity. (An Evil person is a fool who continues to become hardened until their heart becomes  stone.)

Fool – Person who is arrogant and self-centered often filled with self-hatred, yet in complete denial of such reality. (You can not know yourself if you don’t know God – therefore the fool pronounces “there is no God”.  This leads them to reject wisdom and in exchange seek to increase pleasure and feed their own pride. They often live in the extremes of life (legalism or indulgence) disregarding consequences and rejecting constructive discipline. They avoid intimate & authentic relationships that call for integrity.

Sinner – Person who is capable of evil and at times acts like a fool. Sinners accept the standards of this world,  and are often blown by wind and crushed by the waves of change. Therefore they are control “freaks” or “victims” and in the challenges and confusion of life they do not seek wisdom.  Sinners struggle with envy, greed and poor judgment, their focus remains on their problems (sins and addictions) rather than in discovering solutions and growth.

Saint – Person who is capable of evil and at times acts like a fool. Saints surrender to the conviction of the Holy Spirit and in wisdom seek repentance and forgiveness. Saints may continue to struggle to honor God with all of their life, yet their focus remains on the Center-ness of Christ in their lives for the Kingdom of God is in them. Saints are often more honest or comfortable with sin (even their own sin), for shame and guilt have been crucified in them.

These terms are not intended to be labels by which you can judge others (that would be foolish), rather they are to serve you in your purist of identity with the King.

Paul – was a foolish legalist who was a blasphemer, a persecutor and violent man.  Paul killed Christians – in his misguided zeal, his actions were evil. In his ignorance, pride had crippled him and when he encountered Christ, he became transformed as a Saint.

I believe those who struggle with sin – do so because they focus on the sin (as a problem and not the Savior… their focus is on the uncompromising standard (which is holiness) rather than the unconditional acceptance. (which is love) To focus on the standards is to earn ones acceptance and to identify with the world.  The Fool has no understanding and does not listen… because it is a matter of the heart. (The Proverbs tell this well) It is their heart which is corrupt; it is for this reason the saints are called to pray, because prayer brings wisdom which changes the heart.

There is much behind this quick reminder of identityWisdom wastes no time with a fool and walks away from evil, and to righteous anger is what moves a saint to know when to walk away.  We are not to simply cut off from relationships, rather the goal is reconciliation. Further the only way to remove the barriers in relationships is through the leading with our ears that we love others.

Therefore the standard by which we are accepted into the Kingdom is Love.  Are you Loved? Do you Love? The acceptance of being loved by God is the movement of the King upon His People and only after this movement can there be a mission to love others. Rejection of this love is a foolish reaction, but it is an option. Sinners do not enjoy the peace and prosperity of the Kingdom because their identity is rooted in world and sin. Remaining in this place will call for a foolish expression even to say there is No God.

I’m a saint – by LeCrae

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Greed Sucks, but sex, success and stuff doesn’t have too.

Kingdom Principle: Greed sucks the life out of you, thanksgiving sustains your abundance.

Hosea 11:1-11 Psalm 107:1-9, 43 Colossians 3:1-11 Luke 12:13-21

By its nature, greed will never stop sucking… it is like a black-hole. Greed sucks everything unto itself until it eventually consumes itself.  While I am not an expert on space, gravity or science in general, I have heard that you cannot escape a black hole either by feeding it or running away from it….  It is like trying to control our flesh/earthly nature – it cannot be done; the flesh must be crucified (Gal. 5:24)– totally destroyed or else its roots will again bear the fruit of this world.

Thanksgiving is counter-balance to Greed, where both seek abundance!

  • Greed consumes possessions and passions.
  • Thanksgiving confesses grace and truth.

But you don’t simply wake up and start to be thankful one day when you have led a life of greed. Let us first discover how deep the roots of greed reach, then how to foster a life of thanksgiving so that we don’t fall into the never satisfied gravity of greed. Contrast the roots of the Spirit with the shoots of rebellion which are the 7 deadly sins.)

Greed is never satisfied – it just keeps accumulating.  There are many expressions of greed. Greed is closely associated with idolatry, because greed places you as the god at the center of all things. The 10 Commandments bookend with revoking idolatry and greed: Thou shall have no other god’s before me and Thou shall not covet. (Exodus 20:3,17Greed is a root that thrives in the soil of a wicked heart, where greed is allowed to continue the heart become more wicked. Greed is a sin of excess. Greed is expressed outwardly in many forms….

One shoot of rebellion in the body is sexual immorality. (Gluttony & Lust) Sexual immorality includes anything that “feeds” the desires of the body including but not limited to adultery and homosexuality, pornography to prostitution

One shoot of rebellion in the soul is impurity of mind and emotion. (Wrath & Envy) Impurity includes anything that “feeds” the desires of the soul this is often expressed as lustful passion and evil desires

One shoot of rebellion in the spirit is arrogance and self-righteousness. (Pride & Sloth/Acadia) Self-Righteousness justifies one’s actions or avoidance of actions as superior in comparison to another.

Beware any prideful stance to speak of sexual immorality or impurity as detestable things that others do (as opposed to you) for this road is paved by generations of individuals who are arrogant, overfed and unconcerned with the needs of the poor. (Ezekiel 16:49) It is for this reason that Sodom was destroy and we find the focus of the Hosea passage resolving the issues of Israel’s greed..  It is for this reason that the love of money is declared to be the roots of all kinds of evil. (1 Tim. 6:10) This is the focus of the Luke passage.

  • Greed is always accumulating, Thanksgiving is always appreciating.

To appreciate is the increased value and awareness of an asset as unpacked in 2LAF with regards to listening and relationships. Since greed is taking more than you need or require, the way to eradicate greed is by re-establishing what your needs are. This is captured in Col. 3 as by being raised with Christ and setting you hearts on things above. In this our old ways (flesh or sin nature) is taken off, and the new self is renewed in the righteous image of Christ. The LORD satisfies and fills the one who is wise and ponders the loving deeds of the God. (Ps. 107:8-9, 43)

The Church in Acts understood the solution to being overcome with greed, the tangible outcome was they sold their possession and gave to those who had a need and were filled with thanksgiving. (Acts 2:42-46) The rich man whom Jesus spoke of in the parable today completely missed it. He obsessed in his abundance, and attempted to store it away for later, yet he never saw  the purpose of his labor or his life. How far have most people come from this today?

The Problem is ownership by possessions not ownership of possessions.

When your possessions and passions own you, your flesh is your master.  Therefore, if you can’t tithe for fear of the bills that will come, or when you are working so hard to make the money you need, that you have no time to talk with a neighbor  or care for others you have succumbed to ownership by possessions. Your stuff owns you, not the other way around….

Take 10 minutes and walk around your house, look at what you own, as well as what emotionally or financially owns you. (Anything that you are in debt with on/to owns you, as well as possessions that you can’t bear to part with from a certain outfit to heirlooms) And since no one can serve two masters (Luke 16:13) we must declare to the world in whom do we trust.

There is no real security in wealth, but there is wealth in real security.

Trusting in the provision of the LORD is the only true security. Real security is discovered by being satisfied in God’s deliverance.  If you read all of Psalm 107 you discover the pattern, either you are thankful for what you have in God, or you are focused on what you want, which leads to rebellion and suffering. To which God will intervene for His love endures forever, and he will reject his promises.  Yet this intervention is not always pleasant, and often it is a painful reminder of the selfish coveting/greedy choices you have made and the consequences that follow. Discovering that the Lord has not left you but delivered you always bring an expression of thanksgiving.

Stewardship and Generosity increase our Thanksgiving which overcome Greed…

Stewardship is the call to manage, invest and leverage all that God has made you a steward (manager) of…. In this a true steward knows and declares, none of “this” is mine – there is no possession for a steward. (this includes your children, your work, your success or your failure) Stewards have been entrusted to care and maximize all they have been entrusted with.

Generosity is the call to give, distribute and bless using all that God has place at your disposal. In this God is the giver and you are the steward, and you must constantly check-in with the Holy Spirit to know how much and to whom to give, but your call is not to first meet your own needs, but rather trust in God to be your shepherd and care taker.  And in the same way God calls you to do the same for your brother or sister.

May Stewardship and Generosity become your redeemed story to tell.

 

 

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Relationships Redefined

Kingdom Principle: The Kingdom yields rights not rules in our relationships.

Hosea 1:2-10 Psalm 85 Colossians 2:6-15, (16-19) Luke 11:1-13

This is not about being able to define relationships, rather this is expressing the reality that God redefines our relationship with everything else when we are in relationship with Him.

  • The relationship between Hosea & Gomer is not as it as it seems…
  • The relationship between Israel & the Land is not as it seems…
  • The relationship between God & the disciples is not as it seems…
  • The relationship between Christ and the church is not as it seems…
    • Each relationship has been redefined.

This redefinition is the core of transformation. In this way all the rules that were applied before the relationship are no longer applicable. In this way there are no longer rules that govern the relationship, rather there are new rights. In the Kingdom of God – freedom is a right, Grace is a right, forgiveness is a right, Mercy is a right. These are declarations of truth that are fully given to you on the path of life in the Kingdom. In this realm of relationship, it is yours to explore rather than having rules to follow.  When Jesus says “Follow Me” this is not followed by rules or guidelines, it is followed by a journey across the land.

When we follow the rules expecting to be rewarded, the rule is a means to an end. In the Kingdom the King rules. This rule is not a means to an end, rather it is the end and the reward rolled into one thing – A Relationship. When we follow Jesus, the reward is not in the completion it is in the transformation. Hosea is transformed in his obedience, yet to be obedient to God as King, he must deviate from the rules and expectations that had been set before him. This is a mark of surrender.  In this way he is transferred into a new “land” and transformed in his obedience. When you read Hosea and wonder – WHY?, HOW? Or any others state of perplexed wonder – the reality must set in that this is exactly what Jesus has done for us.

In Christ, we have been transferred from the Kingdom of darkness into the Kingdom of Light. This new land is only accepted through the covering of Christ’s blood – the forgiveness of sin. In this land, sin no longer rules  – therefore it matters not what you eat or drink or if you observe religious services. It is the FREEDOM which is a right, yet in this right, we are subject to the rule of the King which guides and speaks to our heart and conscience. In this way we are slaves to righteousness rather than to the law.

Therefore: Does your relationship with the King yield more rights or rules in your life. In the Kingdom of Christ as King – it is rights. (If it feels like rules, seek forgiveness and embrace grace. What are the right you declare based on your relationship of the King. If you do not know the answer to this – Check out www.athoe.org go to I am renewed to discover prayers, declarations and commands of the Kingdom.

 

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SHUT UP -to- listen!

Kingdom Principle: Leading with your ears is often thwarted by your mouth

Amos 8:1-12 Psalm 52 Colossians 1:15-28 Luke 10:38-42

James 1:19 says that we are to be quick to listen and slow to speak…. The last two weeks we have focused our efforts on being quick to listen, this week we focus on being slow to speak.

In the Gospels, Jesus told many of those he healed and his disciples not to tell others what he had done or that he was as the messiah.  (Mark 3:12, 5:43, 8:30; Luke 8:56, 9:21, Matt 8:1-4, 16:20, John 7:1-5) There are many who try hard as they may to understand the reason for this caution and call not to spread the good news. I am proposing here, that Jesus may be known a thing or two about who to spread the Gospel, and sometimes it is best to lead with your ears and not your mouth. Meaning – don’t say anything – you must learn 2LAF rather than trying to convince others of your own experience. There are various others explanations as to why Jesus says, “Don’t say anything. The most erroneous explanation came early in the 1900’s called the Messianic Secret stating that Jesus himself did not know that he was in fact “The Messiah” (anointed and chosen of God – savior of the world”) and therefore he wanted to keep his “power” or messiah features a secret. The more common and contemporary explanations range from theological explanations of God’s desire to conceal the truth from the “wise” not wanting the plans of God to be revealed before their time, -to- the need for Jesus to conceal his power so that people did not rush to him for healing, or for political revolution. This verbal concealment does not announce the good news, because of fear, and there is no fear in love – therefore I throw them out. Jesus is the very image of the invisible God… in His coming to earth there is no act of concealing, rather the act is revealing. It is for this revelation that Jesus was sent to dwell on earth with humanity.  The reasons for concealment given above are selfish and fearful, neither of which are in line with the Character of God. Two weeks ago it was established that leading with your ears is an act of love.  Therefore, Jesus is telling his disciples and those he healed to lead with their ears… telling them to close their mouths.

The “thing” prevents you from leading with your ears is your mouth.

Abraham Lincoln said it well, “It is better to remain silent and thought a fool, than to speak and remove all doubt.”  Keeping your mouth shut, gives you a fighting chance to win over those who seek to destroy you.  Those who are rooted in the Spirit will use the power of the tongue to proclaim hope, but as we, this week we see in Amos that Israel brought about their own judgment by saying….  “We do not care for the poor and needy, nor do we care for the feasts and festivals of God.” God reminds them of their frailty and desire to be in control while they refuse to listen to God. Therefore, God declares, I will speak to you no longer, “a famine of hearing the words of the Lord” will come because you do not listen to me. In a real sense, God is demonstrating that sometime the best way to get people to listen, is by ceasing to talk. Israel is quick with their mouths and slow with their ears – the exact opposite of what James calls us to be.  The Psalm is more direct, with regards the tongue, saying those who plot destruction and do not turn to God as their stronghold seek to destroy others with their tongues (the same root word is in verse 2 &7). Finally this week we encounter another passage that is as often misunderstood or misdirected as that of the call to “not tell others about healing or good news” the story of Martha and Mary.  Some have made this a passage about the elevation of the role of women as disciples, saying Mary sat at his feet, a place reserved for men. Others profess that this is a passage to highlight our need to “be” and not “do”, saying Mary choose what is better  – to sit and not be busy like Martha. The list goes and there is potential and real truth in all the above… But (I propose) that what is being revealed through the lectionary this week is that when Martha “opens her mouth” she fails to lead with her ears, in fact, she goes so far as to become the rebuke and instructor of the Lord, telling him what to do and say.  If Martha never opens her mouth, (but continues to do her work) how does the story unfold, we will never know – This is not to say that we are to simply “shut up and stuff our frustrations” rather we  are to “SHUT UP!” to LISTEN.

When your mouth open, your ears are closed.

 Martha may very well have been listening to the message of Jesus, look back as last week’s post I gave common errors in listening. Martha made them all. Each of Martha’s errors line up with the errors of listing with one’s mind, emotion or will, rather than being rooted or anchored and listening in the Spirit.

  • Distraction is revealed when listening with your mind.  (Luke 10:40a)
  • Irritation or Upset is revealed when listening with your will. (Luke 10:40b)
  • Worry or Anxiety is revealed when listening with your emotions. (Luke 10:41)

(A Bonus Scripture note – read the story of the “Good Samaritan” (Luke 10:25-37) and “Mary & Martha” (Luke 10:38-41) as ONE UNITED story of example of how to be on mission (Luke 10:1-24) and the role of prayer in the mission. (Luke 11:1-13)

Saint Francis of Assisi has another quote that is not as well know –  “It is no use walking anywhere to preach, unless your walking is our preaching.” (the other paraphrased is “preach the gospel always, use words when necessary”) Let us have no need to proclaim the flesh, rather let it be crucified, let us walk in the power of the Spirit. Might the healed leper lead with their ears, rather than being rejected with their mouth.  Let our walking be our preaching, know that this does not silence us, rather it empowers us to lead with our ears and respond with our heart. WE are called to do act and do the Samaritan did (last week) as well as this week  to choose as Mary does to sit and listen at the feet of Jesus.

One moved in action & One moved in contemplation,

One male & One female,

One a Gentile & One a Jew,

Both leading with their ears…..

Jesus is revealing the reconciliation of all things, and these two are leading the way. Paul declares that it is God who has chosen to make known the glorious riches of this mystery. Might we live more fully to move as the nameless man who acted quickly, as well as Mary who was quick to listen, in this we will lead others to be mature in Christ. Let it begin in us as we learn close our mouths and opening our ears – so that our walking is our preaching.

This week when you have the desire to tell someone something that you know to be true, or good advice, seek to lead with your ears rather than your mouth.

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Do you have lobes of love?

Kingdom Principle: Leading with your Ears is act of Love

Amos 7:7-17 Psalm 82 Colossians 1:1-14 Luke 10:25-37

While your brain is divided into four lobes and your heart has four chambers… the true lobes of love are those of your ears. Last week we spelled out the first three steps of 2LAF (Listen, Accept, Forgiven)…. When you do not engage in that act of listening to the Spirit then when it comes to engaging with others, it is as if your ears are filled with mountains of ear wax.  The LORD can melt that mountain, (Ps. 97:5) But this post is not about having lovely lobes, it is how we use those lobes to love others. We are called to Love with our ears.

Last week we focused on the anchor of the Holy Spirit and our listening to God. (Our own acceptance and forgiveness takes root in us here.) This week we will see that in listening to God, we will better be able to Love, Appreciate and Forgive others as the LORD leads.  This may be look like the work of the Good Samaritan or the bold Proclamation of Amos. To Love, To Accept and To Forgive cannot truly be done from a pedestal or prideful stance, rather it returns us to the acts of a Kingdom ServantLeader.  It is our calling and anchoring of the Spirit of God which motivates love to be a gift given away. We are confronted this week with texts of Judgment. This post is from the perspective that in order for the one being judged to hear the words spoken to them, there must be a relationship established.

The Lord tells Amos… “these are my people, yet I will spare them no longer”. The reality is that before the of the words judgement can be delivered… the giver must learn to 2LAF before they seek to speak. This again is why we must first lead with our ears.   In this way we are able to listen to the thoughts and questions behind the spoken question and we remain anchored when someone does something that we presume is stupid or ridiculous – when what you (in your flesh) really want to do is blast them with your opinion, rather than giving them the message of the Lord. As my listening coach (and author of the book recommended last week) says, “listening creates a bridge – that enables the other person to hear you at the “right” times. That right time is when you have earned the “right” to speak as the Lord leads you, not simply as you see it fit.” When we answer another’s problem or give the solution to their situation – it often makes us feel powerful. This power makes it all that much harder for us to die to self.

Here’s our problem – Jesus was fully anchored – this is our call in John 15 to abide and remain…. I (and maybe you too) however need some work in this area. Listening as an act of Love is the work we need.  As the Expert/Teacher of the Law asked Jesus a question, Jesus replies with a question to clarify what is being asked. This is further developed as Jesus appreciates the exchange and the answer that the expert gives. There is no offense or call for the other to defend their question. To this then Jesus teaches by telling a story- again letting the Spirit bring the revelation and truth rather than Jesus needing to show His wisdom or power. With Amos, twice previous to this week’s text, the Scriptures point out that Amos wants God to relent on the judgment against Israel, but here in the third vision, Amos learns 2LAF.  But rather than blasting Israel in Judgment, Amos listens to what Amaziah says and summarizes his words and clarifies the thought so that Amaziah might hear the word of the LORD. This effort of listening creates the bridge so that the intended message is received rather than reacting to Amos as the messenger. This act of listening seeks to appreciate the person and the perspective from which they are coming from.

The act of leading with your ears is only possible if “I” decrease and the presence of Jesus increases. Yet how often do we get caught up in trying to say the right words and thinking that we must demonstrate God’s truth. This is overcome in us as we focus on the “roots” rather than the “fruits” of the Holy Spirit. Let us have lovely lobes and lead with our ears.

2 LAF (listen, accept, forgiven, LOVE, APPRECIATE, FORGIVE) is the act of leading with your ears. Unfortunately, we misplace the emphasis of leading as an act of our mouth and saying the right things. Paul spells out in Colossians the results rootedness of the Spirit; Bear Fruit of Spirit, Growth in Knowledge, Strengthen in power, Increased endurance & patience, thankful living. These results will be markers by which the world around us will be able to know what it “sounds” like 2LAF. But they are not dependent on our words. As St. Francis Assisi is often quoted, “preach the gospel at all times, using words when necessary.”

Listening is the Key to Relationships: 2LAF is the means to enjoying Relationships. Below is an outline helping you to see common errors in listening with your mind, will or emotions rather than with your spirit.

Listening with your mind – reveals you are distracted

Our Error is to:
__Think__    of your response while they speak

__Assume_    you know what they mean

__React__    to one thing you heard them say

__Pretend_    you care or have time if you don’t

Listening with your will – leaves you irritated

Our Error is to:
__Solve____   the other person’s problems

__Share____   similar experiences to empathize

__Minimizing_   their problems for the positive

__Attempt_   to will them to do anything

Listen with your emotion  – increases your anxiety

Our Error is to :
__Express_   your personal concerns, wants and outcome

__Miss__   their non-verbal’s  and history

__Exaggerate__   emotion and emphasis of words

__Fear _   that acceptance of the person equals agreement

Listen with your spirit–  be slow to speak (see next week’s post)

Our Goals are to:
_Acknowledge_   another person  (Rooted with the Spirit)

__Accept__   another person    (Receive with Respect)

__Appreciate__   another person   (Recognize with Gratitude. )

__Affirm___   another person  (Release with Blessings)

 

Listen – we are sent into the world as listeners, because the Lord has listened to us

Accept – we are sent into the world to accept, because the Lord has accepted us

Forgiven – we are sent into the world as forgiven, because the Lord as forgiven us

Love – we are sent into the world to love, because the Lord loves the world

Appreciate – we are sent into the world to appreciate, because the Lord appreciates the world

Forgive – we are sent into the world to forgive, because the Lord forgives the world

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learn to laf

Kingdom Principle:  You must be anchored in the Spirit or you will be blown by the world.

2 Kings 5:1-14 Psalm 30 Galatians 6:(1-6), 7-16 Luke 10:1-11, 16-20

How often have you heard something only to have to ask, “what did you say?” because you truly were not listening. In this week’s text, Naaman says to Elisha, “I heard you, but I’m not listening”, or more accurately, “I’m not listening because you are not saying what I was wanting to hear from you”. Elisha can say to Naaman, “I hear you as I hear the LORD, and may you be blessed by what you hear from me.” The passages this week draw to the surface the power of listening.  This post and next week will bring to light the power of listening and the key element of a prophet to hear to God.  The Goal of the next two weeks is that we will learn 2LAF. (pronounced “to laugh”) This teaching was given to me by a mentor, Chuck Miller and covers only 2 pages of his wonderful comprehensive (350 pages) study of spiritual leadership and discipleship. A much different and new & fresh look at communication is call INTRIGUE by Sam Horn. Her book “Got your attention?” is not about our spirituality, but one of greatest tools I have found on connecting with other in a very practical manner.

Who has accepted you? Who has listened to you? Who has forgiven you? The person who has fulfilled these three roles in your life has given you a great gift. This lays the foundation of a relationship with you. If you will not listen to someone, that relationship will struggle to grow. We must connect with others to experience change in ourselves. Yet all too often our focus is how can we change others rather than looking at our own lives. In that we are living in judgment over them rather than acceptance of, this relationship will never be one of intimacy and joy. While relationships are initiated by listening, there must a two way engagement of the information. This exchange in healthy relationships will be in an acceptance of each others identity.  However, acceptance is not the same as approval. This acceptance is to embrace one’s reality with respect, not to judge or to evaluate.. This is not “to hate the sin, but love the sinner”, rather is to see the person regardless of sin or label and know that not one of us is perfect. To declare approval or potentially dis-approval is to have completed the judgement. Elisha does not judge the King, he hears his distress. Paul counsels us to listen with gentleness not judgement, Jesus’ instruction to the 70 are built on establishing relationships with those to whom they hope to reach, even to listen to others rejecting, and accept them as people, proclaiming the truth of the kingdom, rather judgment of their state. This is vulnerability is only possible for those who themselves have accepted their imperfections. What must follow in this relationship is the freedom of forgiveness.

Has God listened to you? Accepted you? Forgiven you? If so you are in relationship with Him. God hears my cry and he covers my sin and shame and pronounces me forgiven. (Romans 5:8-11) In this God accepts me for who I am and the sin which once separated us, now catapults me into a relationship. It is through the act of being forgiven that all barriers are removed. What is more is that God has fully offered this forgiveness prior to my even asking. So the key to this relationship is my acceptance of my need (see ATHOE), and the receiving of the gift that God has given me.  This is where the listening must begin, and when we see the beauty of this relationship we can’t help but 2LAF.

LISTEN, ACCEPT, FORGIVEN  – are the first three steps L.A.F.

The first three steps in the relationship are about one’s awareness of themselves. First, I open my ears to listen, then, I open my arms to accept and finally I open my eyes to forgiveness.

To open one’s ears, a person must be grounded and anchored in the truth of the Holy Spirit. When I am dependent on the other person’s approval or my need to be loved, then my listening will be corrupted. When we open our arms to receive another (in the form of a hug or handshake, or simply unfold our arms of judgment, to an open posture of acceptance), you expose yourself and become vulnerable. When I am hiding or covering up my true feelings and fears, then I cannot open myself to another person. Finally, I need to open my eyes to my own need of forgiveness. This final step brings us all to level ground. Relationships are complicated, and even more so when people see themselves as standing on unequal ground.  The first 3 steps to LAF are in our own self-discovery.  The ground at the foot of the cross is level.  To open my arms to a loving Savior reminds us just how much we have been forgiven.

Yet this is just the first step… We all need more joy in our lives and “laf” is a good start to a relationship, but we must L.A.F 2x as much. Our second step to “laf” more is

LOVE, APPRECIATE, FORGIVE  (we will look at these next week)

Now to review step 1:

Listen – we are sent into the world as listeners, because the Lord has listened to us

Accept – we are sent into the world to accept, because the Lord has accepted us

Forgiven – we are sent into the world as forgiven, because the Lord as forgiven us

How to take action:

  1. Set to Pray, (then do it) with the expectation that you will listen as much as you talk…. Prayer is communication with God, not simply to God…  so spend as much time listening in prayer as you do speaking.
  2. Hear the Truth! There is more than one spirit, and you want to make sure you are hearing the Spirit of Truth. The best way to do this is through the Scriptures.  Read these Scriptures out loud, and everywhere there is an underlined word or space – read your name there.
  3. Practice. This means actually listening – which is hard work.  If you don’t know where to start, read this book that outlines the process….
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Be the Giving Tree

Kingdom Principle: The Spirit of God flows from the “root” to the “fruit” by means of “gifts”.

Psalm 77:1-2, 11-20 2 Kings 2:1-2, 6-14 Galatians 5:1, 13-25 Luke 9:51-62

To be a giving tree, we must: tend to the roots, live into the gifts and give the fruit away.

Unfortunately, most Christians tend to the fruit, give the roots away (which isn’t ours to give), and wonder why we are not living in to the gifts.

When the roots are tended to and nourished the tree shall not be shaken. (Hebrews 12:28) However, just because the roots are set, does not mean fruit will be produced. Since God is doing the “work” when it comes the roots, it is our “job” to respond to this work, and focus our efforts elsewhere.  When we place our focus on the fruit, we are hijacking the process of our development. The fruit will be a by-product of a flourishing tree.  This flourishing is marked by the flow of that which the roots produce having a way to become expressed as fruit, this flow and movement is established by the Gifts of the Spirit. Therefore, our focus is to be the body of Christ living into the gifts of the Spirit. Most Christians strive for the Fruit of the Spirit while being complacent or even avoiding of the Gifts of the Spirit. Below we will address the roots, you can read this post about the gifts, and a couple of quick points on the fruit are:

  1. God is love. God is Spirit. Love is the fruit of God’s Spirit fully flowing through us and love is expressed in our joy, peace, patience….
  2. Believers either have all of the Spirit in the roots, or they have none…. If you lack fruit, it is not a lack of the Spirit. It can be said that it is not a that you don’t have all the Spirit, rather it is that the Spirit does not have all of you.
  3. The fruit is expressed in our whole being – our body, soul and spirit. The 9 expressions of fruit can be seen distinctly as they correspond to each aspect of our life. The spirit expresses love, joy and peace, the soul expresses patience, kindness, goodness, and the body expresses faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

The roots of the Spirit grow out of the deposit or seed of the Spirit. This deposit is a work of God as an act of Grace. The quality of the soil (our hearts), the environment and the nourishment the seed all impact the health of the roots. (Matt 13:1-23) Meaning – we can and must take care of the roots of the Spirit.  Here are the roots:

To focus on the roots, we must give energy to the soil of our hearts through:

  • Exposure to the Son – Spending time in relationship with Jesus.
  • The right nutrients –  Feeding your heart the truth of the Scriptures and life giving worship.
  • The right environment – Fellowship with people of encouragement and edification.

The link between the Roots and the Fruit of the Spirit is created by the expression of the Gifts of the Spirit in our lives. Where we have the roots, but no expression of Gifts, we are required to wear the mask control verses expressing self-control as an expression of the Spirit. This mask is what often produces the hypocritical label from non-believers when they look beneath the surface of our lives.

What does all this have to do with the Scriptures this week:

  1. Elisha tended to the roots of the Spirit learning from Elijah, which gave him a hunger for the spiritual gifts.
  2. In the Psalm we see the work of God, and leading to deposit the roots.
  3. In Galatians we learn the expression of the fruit of the Spirit, which is contrasted with being a slave to the law. We must move in Freedom to express such fruit. This freedom is a work of the Spirit – which leads us back the roots and the gifts.
  4. In Luke we see the impact of our choices and our investments. Fruit of the Spirit is not a given in our lives, just because we know Jesus. Our Faith will be the measure by which we live into the gifts, which will increase the flow of the fruit.

Anything that leads to good other than following Jesus is a burden and a yoke of slavery, this is why His burden is easy and His yoke is light (Matt 11:29-30)

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Thy Kingdom Come

Kingdom Principle: The transformative work of the Spirit in us is the Kingdom coming here on earth.

Our “work” is expressed in our Prayers, Declarations, & Commands.

1 Kings 19:1-4, (5-7), 8-15a Psalm 42 and 43 Galatians 3:23-29 Luke 8:26-39

 

I thankful for a guest post here by Kimberly Harp –

About a year ago, I read I John 4:4 for the first time (not literally as I had heard it many times before but this time in its fullest of meaning)-

“You dear children are from God, and you have overcome them,because the one who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.”

Can you just sit with that for a second? I mean, really, this reality is life-changing. The fullness of this Scripture implicates us to live and love differently. We are not to live timidly. We are not to live with our heads down, denying the power of the Spirit within us. We are not to ignore what we have been given through Christ. We are being called children of God, temples of the Holy Spirit who have a greater power in them than that of this world! And yet, just yet, we often mimic the Psalmist who asks, “Why are you downcast, O my soul, and why are you disquieted within me?” Or we find ourselves like Elijah, fleeing for our lives, not usually literally but more often figuratively as we hide from our fears and insecurities. I guess I am asking us today to think about how we might claim I John 4:4 more often. How might we step into the transforming work of the Spirit that it not only changes us but the world around us?

I think it starts by us praying more. Pray, believing that God has the power to do the impossible. You know where I start here…in my disbelief. Disbelief floods my mind and then I pray the opposite back to God. I love that Elijah is standing on a mountain waiting for the Lord to pass by and he does not see Him in the ways He expects but in the “sound of sheer silence.” God’s ways are above our ways. Pray for the impossible. The ways that are not even shown to you yet.

Then, declare hope. Declare confidently in the hope of the fulfillment of the promises of God. You know where I start here…with the Word of God, the living and breathing Word of God. The Psalmist in chapter 42 declares, “These things I remember….” What promises of God do you remember and know to be true? Those are to be your declarations. In Luke, we find Jesus sending the man who He just delivered from a legion of demons- to “return home and declare how much God has done for you.” What great things can you point to and declare?  We find the truth in Galatians that we are heirs with Christ, can we sit with that one too? I mean, really sit with it. “Heirs according to the promise” – wow, what an identity shift. What would it look like for you and me to live as heirs to Christ? How would that change how you declare the promises of God?

Lastly, we need to command love. Command, claiming the power of love to be the only rule of your life. Oh, this is hard for me as I don’t want to throw out all the “rules”. I don’t want to do something “wrong”. So, I have to push all that aside and set into love… God is love… Perfect love casts out all fear…For God so loved the world. Commanding is claiming God’s power over us. It goes back to the truth of I John 4:4 that there is a power that is available to me and is in me! Am I accessing it for love? The Psalmist commands his soul to hope in God. The angel commands Elijah to eat and go- both commands of love from God to take care of his earthly body and to protect himself. It’s not easy to step aside from ourselves but when we do the Kingdom takes reign and it is beautiful.

These- specifically praying, declaring and commanding-are still being worked out in me. It’s called the transforming work of the Spirit and it is a process. A journey. The development of me decreasing and the Spirit in me increasing. I hope that you are on a journey too.

To learn more about Prayer, Declare and Command in order to live on Earth as it is in Heaven – go to www.ATHOE.org

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