The Kingdom Edge
I needed a place to begin writing, so here is a cathartic way for that to happen...a site of views and musings based on the Word of God, and maybe mixed in with a few pop culture commentaries...
A LEaders Perspective
I'm a growing leader. One of the things that I am struggling with, is the inability to let things go...ever had that struggle? I have to admit that my greatest fear is not a persons ability to accomplish what is needed to be done, but that they will accomplish it the way I would. Its an even bigger issue, when you're a Pastor of church that is in a mode of growth. As a Pastor I have to admit that when God gives an instruction to me, that I feel like I have to be the one to accomplish it.
There was another leader in Scripture that probably had the exact same feeling. That leader is one of the greatest leaders Israel ever had. That leader is Moses. Moses had this great opportunity as a leader. God had met with him, and gave him a blueprint for a place to Worship; well actually it wasn't just a place of worship, it was THE place where God had determined he would dwell among HIS people he had just set free after 400 years of slavery in a foreign land. He had determined to build a habitation amongst them in the Promised Land, the land of Canaan--a land he had promised to them through their Father Abraham. Flash forward to the beginning of their Freedom and God has a plan; he wants to build himself a tent to dwell among them, meet them at and lead them from! Moses chronicles this truth stating that there is no other nation on earth whose God wants to dwell amongst them. Its what separated them from everyone else they lived around.
There is a key thought that was so awesome that it has freed me and I hope that it will bring a freedom to us all who lead especially in matters of the Kingdom! Here is what the scripture says in Exodus 31:1-6
"Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: “See, I have called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah. And I have filled him with the Spirit of God, in wisdom, in understanding, in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship, to design artistic works, to work in gold, in silver, in bronze, in cutting jewels for setting, in carving wood, and to work in all manner of workmanship. “And I, indeed I, have appointed with him Aholiab the son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan; and I have put wisdom in the hearts of all the gifted artisans, that they may make all that I have commanded you:"
WOW! What a thought! The Lord didn't just call Moses to build the Tabernacle for him, he also equipped others who would come alongside and make it happen; and even then, without Moses having to actually touch the work! Leaders have to lead from a place of "hand on" rather than "hand in". Its a releasing, an empowering and a breath of fresh air too! Moses needed help to accomplish the vision he had been given and God gave him the help! This is so cool to me. The responsibility is not just to search for those who will help in seeing the vision accomplished, but to TRUST GOD'S PLAN that he has the people already lined out as well in gifting and talent which comes from Him. Of course, there is still the instructive side of leading in the vision--the part we never lose as leaders--that keeps us focused on seeing that the skills and talents are developed and that the direction is maintained.
But there is also another lesson to learn here too...its found later on towards the end of Exodus. In chapter 35, Moses is speaking to the people about the plan and acknowledges that God had given him men who were gifted in the areas necessary to accomplish the vision. He empowered them to lead those who would come alongside them in the process of the vision as well, by approving of them with words that were full of trust in God's plan and in them to accomplish the tasks set before them.
Whats the leaders perspective? To TRUST GOD with the Vision, to TRUST GOD with the people and to EMPOWER the people GOD entrusts to you. This can accomplish more for the Kingdom than I can by myself or including you...ourselves.
Keeping Fire Upon the ALtar
There is a law of sacrifices found in the book of Leviticus that is an imperative I believe for us to follow. Its the law of the burnt offering, which is the all encompassing offering. Its an act of worship, one that recognizes an absolute desire of obedience and relationship with God first mentioned when God required Abraham to offer Isaac on the altar as a burnt offering. Other Sacrificial laws fall under this law, however this one has specific instructions attached to it. Its not a beholding to that law per se, but rather being beholden to a principle that expands beyond Israel to EVERY believer on the planet. Twice in Leviticus 6 (vs. 12,13), the command is given that the "fire on the altar is to be kept burning; it must not go out." The priests were instructed every morning to lay wood upon the altar. The point for this, is to maintain the intensity of the fire. Put simply upon the altar of our hearts, like the fire on the altar of Israel was to have a continual intensity. Why? Because of the continuous offering of sacrifices on that altar throughout the entire day.
So what is the wood we offer on the fire of the altar of our hearts? It certainly isn't prayers for forgiveness, those would be considered sin(s) being forgiven. So it has to be something else! The answer can't be ourselves, because that again would be considered an offering; the sacrifice of self to God. Remember this is not about what a fire burns up, but what keeps it going! There are many interpretations about what wood means in scripture, but for the most part everyone revolves around the idea of salvation, especially since the altar sacrifice is a type of Jesus on the Cross. There are three components of fire, that are necessary to keep it going, first was the heat source which was the Fire which fell from Heaven at the first building of the altar, secondly oxygen (wind and in scripture a type of the Spirit of God), and lastly a fuel source which in this case is the wood as opposed to some combustible liquid.
So God provides the Heat source, He provides the oxygen source and its up to us to bring the combustible source! And that source...get ready...is PRAISE AND THANKSGIVING FOR SALVATION! We can ill-afford to lose sight of our Salvation. The more we stay praising and thanking God for the cross and for Salvation, the more we continuously give fuel to the fire that is burning, and the more oxygen is required to intensify the flame. You can also incorporate the testimony of your Salvation experience in this too. Praise is NOT a sacrifice when its considered a pleasure! When was the last time you were truly thankful for Salvation? Don't take it for granted any longer, build up a stockpile of praise to bring, begin to feed the Fire of the Spirit with the Praise for Salvation and watch as the Wind of the Spirit begins to raise the flame higher and higher. And whats even cooler is the when the fire in you grows in intensity, it begins to heat up further and further distances from you. People will sense the Presence of God in you and the door of faith will pave the way for the miraculous to reveal Gods love to others through you! ITS A WIN WIN SITUATION!
SO BRING THE WOOD PRIESTS, INTENSIFY THE FLAME OF FIRE IN YOUR HEARTS AND CHANGE THE WORLD!
What I Learned from a Homeless Community
My wife and I decided to go to New Orleans for a couple of days for our 20th wedding anniversary. And we even went during Mardi Gras! Now I know some of you might be thinking, "why on earth would a Pastor and his wife go to that place during that time"? And I would answer simply...we wanted to! It wasn't really all that bad, at least, during the day. Most of our site seeing was done, well before the nightly celebrations filled with beads, breasts and beer, and we were a few blocks from Bourbon St, so it wasn't even that loud. We went for the food, and the ambiance of the French Quarter of New Orleans, plus I got to see where at least parts of one of my favorite shows, NCIS-New Orleans, is filmed! What I didn't expect was to see and hear from such a large community of homeless people, and to learn from them. So here is what I learned...
1. Community is important. You might think to yourself, duh, but it was quite visible when walking around Decatur St. The homeless community stuck together! There were groups everywhere, and they would travel together, as well as sit down together. They were always in "talk-mode" with one another. I think the biggest impact was that many CHOSE THE LIFE. They didn't choose it because of circumstance, they chose it because of the family connections that were apparent in the groups. Many were smart and saavy types, who could be successful in anything they put their minds too if they would separate themselves from the group, but instead what kept them was the level of acceptance from one another within the group (something they risk when leaving). The fear of disconnectedness with one another was huge! This showed me that community is about belonging, and belonging accepts one another warts and all! This is important for having an open arms policy as a Kingdom Community.
2. Community is about COMMUNICATION. The "Lone Wolf" is not allowed to thrive in existence in a strong community, and especially in the Kingdom Community. There was an importance on letting one another know of where they might be going or would be. There seemed to be a certain level of transparency in communicating. It wasn't about control, it was about accountability. Accountability carries among its definitions, one which is "information before it is required". I like to think of it as caring through sharing. If the group or anyone in the group doesn't know "where" a person is, then there is a diminishing of caring that could arise. The opposite is also true, through transparency, I care enough to let you know where I am at or how I am doing. A growing and strengthening community that thrives on care, doesn't allow "I don't know" to be a viable excuse when it is connected to a person, there whereabouts, or even greater their spiritual development.
These two elements of community are somewhat universal. They are evident, I believe in every type of community that is found. Without them, I'm not so sure that a person can say without doubt that they have a strong community around them. Its more important that this describe the atmosphere of the church. It is from the strength of this type of community, that you have a united mission and vision and find your gifts to contribute to the thriving and growth of that community. The goal is to create this type of behavior in every group found within the community of the church. Not only should this be the evidence of community in the corporate, but it should also run as a thread through small group ministry too...after all, we can only be as strong as the weakest connection. Lets leave no room for disconnect!