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Armed…Ready For Battle

battle-ready“Armed…Ready for Battle”

Believing & Expecting

Vince D’Acchioli

This is the title of the message I am developing to be delivered this month in California. It may be the most important message I have ever assembeled and having come together as a result of my re-reading all of my email updates regarding our struggle with Cindy’s hospitalization. There were no less than 15 lessons I have discovered in this process. I have distilled this large number down to six.

Little did I know when God shared that word with me on December 24, 2008—My people are not prepared—that it was for me. This recent battle has caused me to examine the sometimes pretentious attitude that I am “ok” and just need to communicate what God is saying to them, and look more closely at my own life.

The struggles I have experienced over these past 3-4 years have produced lessons that could fill a book, and seems as though every time I thought I had some new revelation about what God wanted to communicate, He was not willing to let me get away with teaching it until I lived it. Over the next several months I want to share some of these with you in our TargetPoint series. My prayer is that you recognize some of these as precious nuggets God intends for you to have in your journey. I see them as a developing set of armor that will be required in the battle yet to come.

You will never rely upon someone you do not trust…and you will never trust someone you do not know

I want to use the remainder of this TargetPoint to set the overarching idea that will set the stage for the rest of this series. In my Men On Target seminar I say something like this to the men—you will never rely upon someone you do not trust…and you will never trust someone you do not know. The idea here is that many of us do not trust God because we really do not know Him at the depth we need to bring about real faith in His ability to handle all of our cares.

I have discovered that teaching this principle is a lot easier than living it. Early on in my experience with Cindy I had to come to terms with whether I truly believed God was in charge. I had to come to a place where I not only believed but had a sincere sense of expectation as well, i.e. A woman who desires a child can believe she is going to get pregnant—a woman who is expecting buys the furniture for the room.

Of course we know that believing and expecting is no guarantee that it will always turn out the way we want—the results are in God’s capable hands. Our job is to simply trust Him. I am reminded of a powerful story in the Bible I had the occasion of reading this morning. It is found in 2 Kings 19.

Leading up to verse 14, Hezekiah had numerous warnings from Sennacherib that he was about to lose the battle—virtually everything. There was ample evidence in the history record that would indicate he was doomed—Sennacherib did not lose and he reminded Hezekaih of this in a powerful and threatening letter.

For me the letter from this powerful adversary represented the human acknowledgement of the predicament. In our case the doctors, while not the real enemy, were representing what our adversary would want us to believe—there is no chance. Look at what Hezekiah did here beginning in verse 14:

Hezekiah received the letter from the messengers and read it. Then he went up to the temple of the LORD and spread it out before the LORD. And Hezekiah prayed to the LORD : “O LORD, God of Israel, enthroned between the cherubim, you alone are God over all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth. Give ear, O LORD, and hear; open your eyes, O LORD, and see; listen to the words Sennacherib has sent to insult the living God.      2 Kings 19:14-16

Immediately after reading the report he went to the temple and laid it before his God. What a powerful picture for us to consider regarding our battles. I am reminded that under the new covenant we no longer are required to go to the physical temple—you and I are the temple. Hezekiah then acknowledges God for who He is in a very poetic fashion and then asks Him to ponder what this earthly scenario looks like—this man is insulting you Lord—you are my representative.

Shortly after hearing the negative report about Cindy and literally in the heat of this incredible battle I found myself doing the same thing—the only thing we are all called to do—bring our petitions before Him. Winning the battle or suffering loss is not the issue—laying it all before our awesome God who loves us and knows exactly what is in our best interest is.

What is your threatening letter today—could it be a serious illness or the loss of someone dear to you? Perhaps it is the loss of income or the potential of facing bankruptcy. Or maybe you are suffering from a sense of great defeat—everything around you looks bleak. Please consider this story and bring your circumstance before God. You may even want to write it out and find a quite place to kneel before Him and lay it out.

I encourage you to do it—do it with a sense of believing and expecting your precious heavenly Father to respond—just as He has done countless times before. He is truly AMAZING!

Giving Thanks

It was one of those unforgettable moments. I was driving to the hospital on my way to visit Cindy. Although I had been processing the whole idea of believing and expecting, I never-the-less went into a period of intense whining. I am a good whiner—some might say even a professional. It was during a particularly dark time in this lenghty ordeal with my beautiful wife’s life-threatening illness. In the midst of my complaining He spoke. It was a tender voice that I knew immediately was my precious Lord. He said, Vince do you have anything in your life for which you are thankful?

Talk about a change of thought process and direction. I knew this was from our wonderful Savior—the very Person who holds all of our circumstances in the palm of His hand. I immediately went into a chorus of things I was thankful for—here is a partial list as best as I can remember:

  • I thank you Lord for:
  • The special relationship Cindy and I along with our extended family have with 
each other and with you
  • For two of the best daughters any dad could ever have
  • Son-in-laws that love you and extend that love to our daughters and five very 
special grandchildren
  • How you are watching over us and extending a supernatural sense of peace 
through this process
  • The myriad of friends who have, are, and will continue praying for Cindy through 
this difficulty
  • The unusual sacrificial giving we have experienced and that our future in this area 
is truly in your hands
  • The special future you have already planned for us
  • Your incredible outpouring through the ministry you have given Cindy and me 
and the tens of thousands of lives that have been impacted
  • Who you are—the GREAT I AM

I am pursuaded that one of the very special and pleasing things our Lord experiences happens when we thank Him in the midst of our greatest struggles. 
It is a powerful demonstration of taking our focus off of our own pain and letting Him know how much we love Him. It is not always easy, however. The flesh is very powerful and the enemy of our soul is always right there telling us what a victim we are and how God really isn’t around to help.

Letting Go

Last month I talked about God dealing with me in the area of having a thankful heart. It was not long after that time the news regarding Cindy got worse—one doctor indicated that there was no way she could make it through this. Needless to say, his was the most devastating news we could have imagined.

It was at this critical juncture that the Lord wanted to deal with another issue in my life—the tendency to want to control and a reluctance toward total surrender to Him. I had to ask some pretty tough questions as I found myself living in what I call a Spiritual Tweener; that awkward place where I knew that God was fully in control and at the same time realizing that there were two distinctly different ways He might express His will.

“There is an outcome I am going to like a lot,” I thought, “and there is one that I am going to hate.” I remember thinking that I was afraid but not fearful. I was afraid of what I would have to go through if He took her yet not fearful in the sense that He was not there. I trusted Him completely and do not know how I could have made it without that. The bigger question for me was, is Vince getting out of the way and letting God do His work?

Please understand that I am not suggesting I could interrupt God. However, most of us are pretty capable of hunkering down and not spiritually letting go. I believe there is a spiritual principle at work here and that God is waiting for us to completely abandon to Him before He acts.

It was a few days later that I found myself at Cindy’s bedside doing the most difficult thing I have ever done—letting her go. I was alone with her but she was completely out—no awareness at all of what was happening. I remember holding her arm up with my hand and praying—the following is as close as I can remember uttering to God:

It was the most difficult thing I have ever done

Lord, you love this precious woman way more than any human can imagine—please forgive me for not remembering at times that she belongs to you—not me.  Thank you for giving her to me and touching my life through her in ways that are unbelievable.  Lord, I now release her to you.  I ask you Lord to reach down right now and as I physically let this hand go from mine to yours in the natural—that in the spiritual realm you would have your way.  Your destiny for Cindy is not mine to control.  Whatever future you have in mind for her I humbly submit to your will.

I do not remember a time throughout this ordeal where I have felt more peace. While not giving up or admitting defeat I had come to terms with leaving everything totally in His capable hands. I also remember Him telling me to get off of that rollercoaster. I, like so many, have a tendency to ride the rollercoaster at times like this. There were plenty of extreme highs and lows to go around. The Lord reminded me of a passage I teach on, one which became the basis for our original ministry name, Path Levelers, Inc. It’s found in Proverbs 4:25-26, Let your eyes look straight ahead, fix your gaze directly before you. Make level paths for your feet and take only ways that are firm.

You have no business being on that Rollercoaster!

Perhaps you are going through something right now that calls for a sincere reflection on these ideas. Here are some questions for you to ponder and process with the Lord:

  • Are you living in that Spiritual Tweener place—knowing that God is there and sensing that confidence mixed with the very real emotion of being afraid? It’s ok—in fact it is very normal but you must resist the tendency to become fearful and doubt that God is there.
  • Have you truly let go? Are you willing to let the knife come down on your Isaac and trust him totally? Take it to Him in prayer and remember that nothing belongs to you—it is all His—your family, possessions, even the clothes on your back are all on loan from God.
  • Do you find yourself suffering from intense emotional highs and lows as you navigate your trial? Ask God to help you off the rollercoaster. Fix your gaze directly before you and onto His great vision and purpose and do not let your flesh get the better of you.  
BROKEN DREAMS 
As children bring their broke toys with tears for us to mend, I brought my broken dreams to God              because He was my friend.

 But then instead of leaving Him in peace to work alone, I hung around and tried to help with ways that were my own.

At last I snatched them back and cried, “How can You be so slow?” “My child,” He said, “What could I do? You never did let go.  – Author Unknown

Coming To The End Of Yourself

Last month I talked about God dealing with me in the area of letting go. I shared the incredible and difficult experience I had in that ICU as I prayed for Cindy and released her totally to our Lord. Over the next week or so God was slowly dealing with another very important area of my life. In fact, I will never forget His words to me in the car as I was driving home from the hospital—Vince, you are NOT God—I am God!

Wow. It occurs to me that not many of us would ever presume to be God. We would probably not mouth the words, God you are sure blessed to have me to help you or I know you must be pleased with all I am doing for You. Perhaps we would not be that overt but I wonder how often we either believe or act out in ways that would suggest this?

I am pursuaded that one of, if not the most importatant idea God is trying to suggest to us is something that was so powerfully demonstrated in the life of His Son Jesus—HUMILITY. One of the greatest orators of the sixteenth century was a French Catholic, Jacques Benigne Bossuet. He is quoted as saying, Man makes himself God through pride, God makes Himself man through humility. He goes on to say, man falsely attributes to himself what belongs to God; and God, in order to teach him to humble himself, takes what belongs to man. This is the remedy for insolence!

Man makes himself God through pride, God makes Himself man through humility

The more I see God at work in my life, breaking, shaking and taking—the more I am convinced that this is His way of getting our attention and smashing our insolence. For me, I picture God following behind me most of my life with this perplexed look on His face whispering—hey Vince—let me know when you are done. The sad part about this illustration is that I put Him behind me most of the time instead of in front where He really belongs. God will not show up until we are at the end of ourselves.

Nothing in my life has had the impact on me that our recent struggle with Cindy’s health has produced. I was forced to a complete end of Vince. In fact, I remember going to speak at a local men’s event I had on my calendar in the middle of this struggle—I told the men I was excited to come and be with them because I knew Vince would not be coming with me. They knew what I meant—when Vince shows up it is a different deal—it is all about how I can deliver and impress.

I have discovered the incredible freedom that comes when you are completely empty and God can truly flow. I now find myself measuring my worthiness not in terms of my preparation or how much I know, so much as whether I am empty enough for God to fill the void.

Humility is not an abject, groveling, self-despising spirit;  it is but a right estimate of ourselves as God sees us.   –Tyron Edwards

The above quote from Tyrone Edwards is so right on. It is only when we can truly see ourselves as God does that we can become humble—knowing how incredibly awesome He is and how small we are. Our inability to do this stems from a very human nature that demonstrates reluctance toward total surrender. In some ways this is connected to the letting go principle I shared last month.

So, what is the take-away for this TargetPoint? We all need to answer the question—have I come to the end of myself? Do I have a right sense of who I am before my awesome Lord? I think these are hard questions for most of us to answer without help—especially if we are tending to struggle with the very pride which may form our answer in dysfunctional ways.

You may want to ask those who are close to you to help you better understand how you are perceived. Most of us know the difference between relating with someone who is truly humble, and when we are with someone who is not humble and it’s all about them. I do not know what current, and perhaps difficult circumstances you may be facing. But I know this—unless we come to a place where we recognize our absolute need for God we will always struggle in this area with the warped sense that we can do it.

My encouragement to you is to fight through this tendency—recognize you cannot do it without our loving Father God and let Him in—no—ask Him in.

Learning My Lessons

On yet another occasion while driving to the hospital I clearly heard God challenging me to consider a different approach to praying through this difficult situation. He said—Vince, I want you to start praying that you do not miss what I am trying to teach you in the midst of this struggle! My immediate reaction was a question—do I stop praying for Cindy, Lord? He then impressed upon me the need to do both—pray for Cindy and not miss the lessons He wanted to teach me.

I am pursuaded that God never wastes a good old struggle to get a powerful life lesson communicated to us. In this case prayer for Cindy was no longer an issue—there were literally tens of thousands of people around the globe holding her up. What God was saying was deeply personal—He wanted me to discover something important. Something fresh and challenging. Something to help me become more of the man He wants me to be.

In James 4 the bible says to consider it pure joy when facing trials. It does not say consider it pure joy once you have been through the trial and look back at what it produced. The consideration often comes in the midst of diffulties. I have pondered this verse and wondered how that is possible—I think I am beginning to understand what God wants me to see here. So, my focus changed and I began to pray, God please do not let me miss what you are trying to teach me in the midst of this current circumstance.

Lord, please do not let me miss the lessons you are trying to
teach me in the midst of this struggle

The next day I received an emergence phone call that Cindy needed a procedure done immediately to remove blood clots from her lungs that were preventing oxygen from getting into her lower chambers—she was dangerously close to suffocating to death. I will never forget this scene. A team of doctors and assistants entered this tiny ICU room with a boatload of equipment and a television screen. They were preparing to go in through her ventilator tube with a camera and wire with a clamp on it to remove the clots.

I do not remember the doctor’s name who did the procedure—I do remember finding out she is one the best in the field and now refer to her affectionately as Doctor Grabber. She must have gone in with that wire 30-40 times. Each time you could see what was happening clearly on the TV. She would grab a clot and begin to pull—it would stretch and then a small chunk would come out. All the people in the room would say ooooh no! Then, she would grab another and a big chunk would come out—they would cheer and applaud.

When it was all over the team gave her an ovation right there in that small room and the whole unit could hear it. It was unbelievable. They succeeded and she was free from danger. Needless to say, I was grateful and worn out. Later that day I was driving home and God whispered something in my ear that jolted me—Vince, you have a lot of clots. I think I said, excuse me. He then said, Oh, I do not mean physical clots, Vince—they are spiritual clots. You have stuff in your life that in the same way that Cindy’s clots were preventing breath from getting into her lower chamber and threatening her life—yours are stopping the breath of My Spirit from flowing through your life in the way I intend. I have been reaching down into your life and trying to get those clots out for a very long time.

I immediately got this picture of God up in heaven with a band of angels (assistants) all around—with a huge widescreen TV hanging in the background. The bystanders are watching God reaching down into Vince D’Acchioli’s life and grabbing hold of those spiritual clots. As He is pulling the are all looking on with great hope that the big one comes out only to be disappointed as that small chunk breaks off. I can hear them saying oooh no! Then, He reaches for another and a huge chunk comes out and all respond, WOW look at that one—that was awesome!

My friend, I want you to know that I am not unaware of my clots—and neither are you. We know the areas of our life that God is wanting to work on. We understand the things we need to get control over in order to please God and became all we can be for Him. The question is, will we let Him help us get un-stuffed? Will we allow our struggles in life to become an opportunity for God to show us what we need to learn and will we get serious enough to commit to change?

My prayer here is that you will take away from this TargetPoint what I did through this experience—the awareness of places in your life that need to be cleaned out so that God can better have His way with you. In 1 Peter 1:22 it says, Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth… Here we see a profound relationship between obedience and purification. If we wonder at times why you do not see God’s hand being extended through our life the way you would like—could it be that we are violating this principle?

HAVE YOU ASKED GOD TO SHOW YOU YOUR LESSON?

Understanding Miracles

I was literally overwhelmed regarding this final principle. While traveling to the hospital I had one of the most tender conversations with God I have ever had. The prognosis for Cindy was still not good and we were not sure if she was going to make it. I remember weeping and crying out to God, I am so weary of not seeing your miracles. I know that you, like me, believe God can perform miracles—and that He does. But if you are like me I am weary of not seeing more of them.

I remember saying that even if He chose to take Cindy home that would be ok—and if this wasn’t going to be a miracle I still desire to see His miracles. I meant that—of course I wanted Cindy to be the miracle but I had also come this far and truly was comfortable that He was in control. I no sooner got those words and subtle complaint out of my mouth than He spoke. He said, Vince, do you remember the other day when you entered that ICU—I remember this vividly—do you remember that Cindy was still in a coma and had not been awake in weeks? Remember when you came around that corner and you saw her face—her eyes popped open and she gazed at you and got that little smile on her face? Choking back the tears I said, yes Lord I do remember.

Then He said, Vince do you remember the other day when you went in to her room and she was completely limp—no ability to move a muscle? Remember when you put your finger into her closed hand and experienced that ever so gentle squeeze and you saw that little tear roll down her cheek? No longer able to control my own tears I said, yes Lord I do.

Well, He went on to remind me of a couple more occasions like these and then He paused—I think to give me time for what He was about to shout in my ear. He said, Vince, those are my miracles. And when you quit looking for Me in the sensational…you’ll find Me in the simple! WOW! This changed my whole focus. In our culture we are prone to discount the simple and only look for the sensational. Everything we do, even in our churches, is built around the idea that bigger is better—or certainly has more credibility. God was saying the opposite. Yes, He is the God of the BIG—but He is equally the God of the simple.

When you quit looking for Me in the sensational…You’ll find Me in the simple

He wants us to look right in front of us—every day—every step-along-the-way for His purpose. He wants us to notice the small things that come our way like that person waiting on you at the restaurant that is not very friendly and consider how God might be viewing them. He wants us to see Him in ALL our circumstances—not just the big or grandiose ones. This idea was huge for me. Now, I get up every morning asking Him to go before me and help me recognize what He may be doing. I ask Him to please not let me miss what He is doing and how I can enter in—all the time.

My friend, in all of this I believe I have discovered the secret to life. It has to do with where I place God in my life. Do I place Him on the other side of my circumstances so that I see Him through the lens of my struggles? Or, have I put Him between me and my circumstances so that I see them through Him. The difference is huge. In the former scenario my circumstances rule me. My vision of God is tainted by life’s struggles. I find it difficult to sense His working in my life as I strain to work out my own resolutions.

Does this sound familiar? If He is between me and those same circumstances, then two things happen. First, I see everything through His eyes and can trust that He is the author of my life and I trust Him completely. Second, those same circumstances have to get through Him in order to impact me. Here is a great truth, loved one; if your circumstances have to go through Him to get to you—then no matter what happens we can glory in the fact that God is in control and His purposes will be realized.

Everything changes when I am able to see life’s struggles through the eyes of my heavenly Father

You might say, that sounds great Vince but how do I get God there—I’ve tried and I can’t seem to see my trials through His eyes—what is the secret? I have discovered that the only way I can get God there is by my deliberately putting him there—daily. I get up every day now asking Him to guide me and help me see today’s challenges through His eyes. I make sure I do not start my day without reading the Word, praying and praising Him. I have spent most of my life looking for short cuts around this—there aren’t any.

So, if you find yourself like me—prone to wandering in the darkness—then place the embodiment of light Himself in front of you. And remember this—the enemy of your soul is relentless. There will continue to be times of darkness and despair as our flesh caves in to his lies. The process of working though that and realizing that I am seeing God now more clearly than my struggles is called spiritual maturity. It will not happen overnight—I am certainly not there yet, but it will happen if we commit to the process.

I have been doing this long enough now to say with boldness, “no matter what happens to me I will not abandon my savior—I love my Jesus more today than ever in my life”.

For the ways of a man are before the eyes of the LORD, and He watches all his paths.  Prov. 5:21

ARE YOU WATCHING FOR THE SIMPLE?

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The Kingdom Of God

mt-6-33-seek-ye-first“The Kingdom of God”

Vince D’Acchioli

My brother-in-law and I were talking recently about ways in which contemporary Christian teaching may be missing the central issues of the Bible and its message.

Let’s set out by making a sweeping assumption: As disciples of our Lord Jesus Christ, our ultimate source for faith and instruction for living must be the exemplary life of obedience and clear teachings of the Master Himself. Simply stated: As followers of Christ, we accept Jesus’ words as the lens through which everything including the remainder of Scripture must be examined.

Jesus words, recorded in Luke 6:46 are a graceful yet pointed rebuke. “Why do you call me Lord,” He asked some of His first disciples, “and not do what I tell you.” So what then is the key to understanding and experiencing the Lordship of Christ? It’s seems pretty simple: Do what He tells us to do. But what is it that He wants us to do?

As followers of Christ, we accept Jesus’ words as the lens through which everything including the remainder of Scripture must be examined

Now before we get ahead of ourselves there are a two things worthy of contemplation: 1) While the phrase The Kingdom of God or The Kingdom of Heaven (synonymous concepts) does not appear even once in the Old Testament and only 15 times outside the Gospels where it appears 103 times, it is at the very heart of Jesus’ teaching. 2) Establishing the Kingdom of God was the Master’s objective and providing entry into it His cost. “Your Kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is on heaven,” Jesus taught all of us to pray. And immediately following His desert temptation and the incarceration of John the Baptist, Matthew tells us, “From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’”

Think about that for a minute. Is Jesus telling us that the Father’s will is to bring the Kingdom of Heaven to earth? Is this what Jesus so emphatically announced as He began His public ministry and the singular idea that dominated every parable and sermon? As His disciples should this be our focus as well? And if the answer to those three questions is yes, how does this stack up to the way we approach teaching the Bible today?

In the next few months we are hoping to address these issues and would thoroughly welcome your input and thoughts. In order to set the stage let’s begin by defining some terms… Kings and Kingdoms:

Is a King without a Kingdom really a King? Is a Kingdom without a king really a kingdom? Clearly not! As with earthly realms, The Kingdom of God requires both a king and a kingdom to have either. However, there are significant differences between worldly systems of every kind and the Kingdom of God.

For starters:

  1. Worldly kingdoms are ruled by imperfect men. The Kingdom of God is ruled by the King of Kings, Jesus Christ.       “Follow us” is light-years from “Follow Me.”
  2. Worldly kingdoms are restricted by geographical boundaries, political partisanship, cultural norms, ethnicity, economics and language. The Kingdom of God is not limited by any of these considerations. The most well known address in the New Testament says, “For God so loved the world” and my guess is that we all fit in there somewhere.
  3. Authority in worldly kingdoms is most often centralized in a small group of wealthy and influential people. The Kingdom of God operates on the principle that all men and women carry equal weight with God and strictly warns against the corrupting influence of wealth and celebrity.
  4. The kingdoms of this world rule exclusively from the top down wherein leadership accrues power and the strong continue to oppress the weak.       These types of hierarchal systems are anathema to the Kingdom of God, and Jesus had nothing good to say about them. The Master said that the greatest in the Kingdom of God is the one who takes the role of a servant. Kingdom authority, Jesus taught us, leads from the bottom up.
  5. The Kingdom of God functions by rules that are upside-down and often appear nonsensical when compared to the regulations imposed by worldly systems.
  6. A causal commitment to any worldly system is acceptable and commonly viewed as prudent. The Kingdom of God is an all-or-nothing arrangement. Oil and water doesn’t really get at it.       It’s more like life and death.

The Kingdom of God is the place where the will of God and
the obedience of His people intersect.

 

“The Kingdom of God Vol2”

Last month we began by providing some contrast between worldly and Godly kingdoms. Our promise for this month was to unpack a working definition and the best way to do that is to go to the master Himself, Jesus, and examine His words. Last month we mentioned that establishing the Kingdom of God was the Master’s objective and providing entry into it His cost.

Establishing the Kingdom of God was the Master’s
objective and providing entry into it His cost

In the Bible The Kingdom of God is mentioned over 100 times. Mark records in 1:14 that Jesus came into Galilee preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God… In Mark 1:1 it says the beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ. What then is this verse referring to? It is clearly talking about the gospel of the kingdom of God—not the four written gospels we commonly refer to. In most of Jesus parables He talked about the kingdom of God. When He sent His disciples out in Luke 9:1-2 it says then He called His twelve disciples together, and…sent them to preach the kingdom of God.

Jesus, in response to questions about the end times says in Matt 24:14this gospel of the kingdom of God shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come. In Acts 19:8, 20:25 and 28:23,31 Paul teaches extensively on the kingdom of God. Mark’s Gospel records that at the very beginning of Jesus public ministry He issued this declaration: The time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God is at hand (Mark 1:15).

Luke 17:20-21 says, The kingdom of God does not come with observation; nor will they say, see here! or see there! For indeed, the Kingdom of God is within you.

In Chapter 4 Jesus tells a large crowd of people the parable of the Sower and the Seed. From this parable we can learn something important about the Kingdom of God.

1) The Kingdom of God is initiated by God. He plants the seed. This seed is not planted by the will or energy of people. This is so important. We may participate in God’s plan of establishing His Kingdom on earth, but our efforts and doctrine are not the source of the Kingdom.

2) The Kingdom of God appears almost insignificant in the beginning. It is hidden in our hearts so that it may form a strong root.

3) The seed of the Kingdom is planted without prejudice. A human farmer would be careful with the precious seed. God is willing to take many more chances than we would. His desire is to have all people respond to His generous offer of salvation.  

4) Not all Kingdom seed produces a harvest. This is a sad but accurate description. However, these statistics should never deter us from our mission. Jesus’ final recorded command in Matthew 28 was that we should go to all the nations teaching the Gospel of the Kingdom.  

5) Jesus strictly warned that there are things that can hinder or destroy the seed of the Kingdom of God:

  • The express work of Satan in stealing the seed through deception and falsehood.
  • Troubles and hard times that drive a weak believer back to his former way of living.
  • The satisfaction and celebrity that often comes with wealth and worldly success.

6) The future is guaranteed and the harvest will be bountiful because it is God’s Kingdom. And for now, remember the prayer Jesus’ Himself taught us to pray, “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Our job then is the same as that of the Perfect Servant: Announcing that the Kingdom of God is at hand, and then living like we believe what we’re saying.

Jack Hayford says it this way, when ordinary people like you and I receive forgiveness of sins and are born again, open access to “see” and “enter” the Kingdom of God is established within. John 3: 3,5 –a miracle of divine grace, given alone through faith in Christ and secured through His cross

When ordinary people like you and I receive forgiveness of sins and are born again, open access to (see) and (enter) the Kingdom of God is established within.

 

“The Kingdom of God vol3”

Luke 17:20-21 The kingdom of God does not come with observation; nor will they say, see here! or see there! For indeed, the Kingdom of God is within you.

Last month we concluded with a promise to talk about character and The Kingdom of God in our next volume. In the above verse Jesus is making it pretty clear that The Kingdom of God is resident in the believer. We must understand that He was talking to his followers when He made that statement. Conversely, He was also acknowledging that those who are not followers and do not have His Holy Spirit in them, are not only void of this kingdom within, but do not understand it.

When ordinary people like you and I receive forgiveness of sins and are born again, open access to (see) and (enter) the Kingdom of God is established within.
 
–Jack Hayford

The above quote from Jack Hayford provides a simple way of understanding how this works. When we ask Jesus into our lives and allow His Holy Spirit to lead us we appropriate not only the understanding of the kingdom but the power necessary, not only to experience, but to extend it through our lives.  

So, this all begs the question what is the evidence (fruit) that suggests we are living a life governed by His Spirit? In other words, are there character traits visible in the life of a person that is manifesting living within this heavenly kingdom? I can think of no better place to discover what that looks like than to turn to Jesus’ own words in Matthew chapter five where He gives one of the most profound messages ever recorded: The Sermon on the Mount.

Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them. He said:

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Now we need to remember a couple of things here that are very important. Each of these blessings are available today for those who are people of faith and have asked Jesus into their heart.  Jesus was not laying out a set of rules or conditions but rather providing a description of what life looks like in the Kingdom of God.

The opening phrase of each Beatitude does not contain a verb in the Hebrew translation. They were not statements as much as exclamations. It would look more like, O the blessedness of the poor in spirit. He is saying, congratulations, hurrayhow happy.

If pride is the characteristic of our fallen nature evidenced in living in our worldly kingdom than humility is the strong contrast Jesus is teaching here as He talks about the character of those living within The Kingdom of God.

Understanding this context, let’s look again at what Jesus is saying:

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Jesus is saying how blessed we are when we are broken of our earthly nature and can come before Him in a spirit of humility as a poor beggar. It’s when we can come before Him seeking the truth in humility.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

Here our Lord is suggesting an aching heart and genuine sorrow that leads to repentance of our sins and our ability to recognize and enter into mourning over the pain of others will result in our being comforted.

Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. 

This has to do with our total surrender to our Heavenly Master. Just as a broken stallion is not void of its power and has only subjected it to the rider, we understand the importance of submitting everything we are to God. In Psalm 37:11 the word meek is translated humble or gentle.

 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

 
Jesus is saying here hurray for you if you pursue righteousness in Him.   Congratulation, when you understand that only I can meet your needs. (Read Revelation 7:16-17)

Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.

This has to do with the powerful spiritual principle that say’s as we forgive—we are forgiven. Jesus is communicating here one of His most important ideas in my view. He so wants His people to be full of mercy, forgiveness and compassion toward others. This is perhaps one of the most important characteristics of someone living within The Kingdome of God and so desperately needed today.

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

I am convinced Jesus is talking about authenticity here—He is saying congratulations for being the real deal. This is another reminder of the powerful relationship between being obedient and living a righteous life and coming closer to God as a result.

 
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

The Hebrew word for peace is shalom and means wholeness, completeness, reconciliation, and not merely the absence of strife.  Jesus is saying something very profound here—that those who pursue peace will be called the sons of God.  

Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

This blessing of heaven comes from a people who are not preoccupied with nursing their wounds but rather those who understand they are in good company as a result of their persecution.

The Kingdom of God is the intersection of Jesus’
words and our willingness to live within them.

 

“The Kingdom of God vol 4”

Then [people] also brought infants to [Jesus] that He might touch them; but when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them. But Jesus called them to Him and said, Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God. Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it. Lk 18:15-17, NKJV

It is not the wealthy, the strong, or even the wise who are great, but the humble, the servants, the poor, the children. You cannot enter the kingdom unless you become like a child. Wisdom, wealth, power—these are worthless currency in Christ’s kingdom. He deals in hearts of love, praise, and devotion. These are the gifts He longs to receive.

In our upside-down world we seem to get everything backwards. I think this tendency also exists within the church today. I was asked the question once, how many of the beatitudes would be considered gifts. I had to think about that and concluded, none. I am convinced that in our world we tend to look for people who are gifted rather than people who may reflect what Jesus is referring to in the beatitudes. We look for form over substance.

In our upside-down world we seem to get everything backwards. I think this tendency also exists within the church today.

I wonder what our world would look like if more Christians lived a life reflective of these wonderful attributes? The whole point of this series is to take us to this question and challenge all of us who call ourselves followers of Christ to examine ourselves and make a decision regarding what kingdom we want to live in. I am persuaded this is the fundamental reason why the church in our culture has often times failed to bring about real transformation. The deep authenticity represented in these character traits is seldom to be found.

How did this happen and what do we need to do about it? Good questions. It happened as over several decades we have allowed the culture to influence our behavior more than God’s Word. We have indeed substituted the Truth for a lie. As we are experiencing in our current election cycle, we have a church that has lost her compass and voice and replaced it with political correctness and the desire to hide out buying into the world’s version of separation of church and state.

We are also not involved enough in the education of our own kids in order to insulate them from the fallout of secular ideology. It takes no more than a casual look at where our culture is today and the unbiblical values it has adopted to understand the serious condition we are in. I know that I have personally experienced a tendency to believe we have come too far and a mindset that is inclined to give up. However, we must never forget that God is alive and well on planet earth and He is still on the throne.

With that in mind we must NEVER give up. Now we come to the hard part and our second question…what do we need to do about it? I say this is hard because what is going to be required of you and I is not going to be easy or convenient. We are going to have to ask ourselves some tough questions about how we are living our lives. I hate to use an old cliché but it fits…we have to start with the person we see in the mirror.

I want to ask each person reading this to honestly rate yourself in the areas below. As you do I want to challenge you to take note of the areas that need improvement and develop a deliberate strategy to improve. You, your family, your workplace, your church and friends are desperate for what only a transformed, authentic follower of Jesus can supply.

 

On a scale of 1-10 how would you rate yourself? (Read Matt 5-7)

The poor in Spirit: Those who are aware of their dependence on God. Religion has no place in this program. When was the last time you surrendered total dependence to God? It is an ongoing surrender…not a one-time event.

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Those who mourn: Those people with the ability to enter into another person’s suffering and loss. When was the last time someone else’s problems took precedence over yours?

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The meek: People with little self-recognition or the need for it. Someone whose praise is always on another person’s lips, someone who can give preference to others. These are men and women who have an inability to be offended. When was the last time you willing choose the lower place, or deferred to someone less skilled or less deserving?

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Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness: People who understand that righteousness comes from obedience. When was the last time you gave into that sin that is ensnaring you? Do you have a bondage issue?

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The merciful: These are the kind of people that display forgiveness and kindness toward others. When was the last time you were able to forgive an enemy or someone who did you a terrible injustice? Are you able to see others through Gods eyes and not your own?

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The pure in heart: People who have a sincere heart. When was the last time you did something without a self-serving inclination? When was the last time you blushed at anything? Have you ever found joy in someone else’s pain?

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The peacemakers: These are people who are quick to reconcile, and are willing to risk interceding to bring peace. They are non-violent and non-judgmental. When was the last time you wished your enemies well and served them? Do you like bringing division or unity to the Body of Christ?

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Those who are persecuted/insulted/lied about: And for Righteousness—added together. This is describing people who suffer for the sake of their testimony for Christ. Can you be still in the midst of persecution and know He is Lord and follow His lead?

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Intentional Christianity

christ-the-intentional-savior   Intentional Christianity 

By:

Vince D’Acchioli 

If only we could pull out our brain and use only our eyes.

Pablo Picasso

While this may sound like a ridiculous notion, at times it seems that the very brain that helped interpret our original vision is often the thing that ends up drawing us off course. It happens everywhere, in our private lives, family, business and yes, even in the church.

The Problem:

While speaking to a group of local pastors recently, I asked them the following question, “Pastor, what is your product?” I could tell that some of them were a little intimidated by my use of business terminology. I explained that my question was not meant to address them personally, but rather the broader aspect of the church. In other words, if the church were a factory, what would its product be? Many of the men had a difficult time articulating a response.

After a few minutes I initiated a second question, “What is Chrysler’s product?” The immediate response was “cars”. I then suggested, “While it is true that Chrysler does make cars, cars are not really their product. As confusion began to break out among the crowd, I continued on, “Chrysler’s ultimate product is transportation. They manufacture different kinds of cars in order to satisfy a wide range of transportation needs.”

The pastors seemed to readily accept this notion. I then restated my first question, “So, using this illustration, what is your product?” After several minutes someone responded, “The product of the local church should be Christ-like people.” What a great answer! We should be producing people whose lives truly reflect the life and love of Jesus Christ. However, aren’t Christ-like people really like the car?

You see, I believe that the product of the church ought to be a godly world. It would follow then, that the product of a local Colorado Springs church ought to be a godly Colorado Springs. I wanted these pastors to see the big picture. Just as Chrysler remembers each time they manufacture a car that their primary purpose is to satisfy and provide transportation needs, we as the church need to recognize that the primary purpose of building up Christ-like people is to draw others to Him and ultimately produce godliness in our communities.

In keeping with this train of thought, whom should we identify as our “customer”? I believe many would suggest that those attending our churches are our customers. This is not the case. Our real “customers” are the lost, and those in attendance are in training to reach them. I believe it is critical for us to understand this paradigm.

Our “customers” are the lost, and those in attendance are in training to reach them.

Standing before this group of pastors, I continued on with a more challenging question, “Most of us would agree that Chrysler is doing a pretty good job in delivering a quality product, now tell me, how do you think the church is doing?” In other words, if the church were an actual factory whose bottom line profit was directly related to the quality of its product, would we be in business? The silence was deafening as I began to complete my discussion with the following illustration:

Let’s assume that Chrysler has gone out and purchased the best raw materials available. At this point, they throw all of this rubber, glass, metal, plastic, etc. into a box on the factory floor and call it a car. Quite obviously, we would never identify this box of parts as a car. Disassembled, those parts could never satisfy our need for transportation. Now I want you to think of an average man or woman sitting in church receiving some of the greatest raw material the world has ever heard. (Not since Jesus walked the planet, have we been equipped with such extraordinary wisdom and knowledge). To think that this individual will step out of that building as a Christ-like person is as ludicrous as believing that the box of parts is a car.

So how should we go about solving this problem? Chrysler figured out something that I believe we, as the Body of Christ need to consider and employ. First, they go to the drawing board and ask themselves some tough questions. What is the finished product supposed to look like? How will it operate and what features will be needed to insure quality transportation results? In answering these questions a vision is captured. Each member of the staff leaves that planning session knowing exactly what it is they want to build.

Next, Chrysler initiates an assembly line. An intricate process is involved in the construction of a vehicle. You cannot put the wheel on before the axle is there, and before the engine can be installed a solid frame must be constructed. It’s interesting that in the academic community we understand the absurdity of teaching advanced calculus to a first grader, yet somehow we have overlooked that concept in our efforts to develop Christ-like people. Just as Chrysler’s work is done part upon part, as Christian leaders our work needs to be accomplished precept-upon-precept.

Building principle upon principle is critical. However, there is one final step that must be taken to insure success. Understanding that a product is only as good as one’s ability to measure or evaluate it, Chrysler’s process goes beyond the assembly line. For them, each vehicle is considered both costly and significant, and therefore, each one must be inspected for quality and reliability. Thus, before leaving the factory Chrysler sends a person with a clipboard to the end of the line. This person is required to give the car a thorough inspection. If the car passes, it is released to the marketplace and offered for transportation. If the car fails inspection, it is sent back to the assembly line for the appropriate adjustments.

It is important to realize where we as the Body of Christ are falling short of this over-all process. Many churches are still struggling to understand what their product should be. Others have a keen knowledge of their product, but have not discovered how to put the assembly line into place. And then there are those who seem to have a firm grasp of the precept-upon-precept approach, yet they are experiencing limited success because they are not measuring their results. Too often church leaders have no idea how John and Mary are really doing in their world.

The Solution:

I believe that the Chrysler illustration suggests at least three major points that must be considered if we are to build a successful ministry:

  • First, we need to catch the vision – Who are our “customers”? What is our true product? What does it look like? Chrysler takes its understanding of what the customer needs, goes to the drawing board and creates a visual image of the product before any actual procedure is put into place.

Point of action: Put together a list of what are the essential characteristics of a Christ-like person. Decide what these individuals need to understand and how they will need to behave in order to impact others.

  • Second, we need to implement an assembly line. Once Chrysler has a clear understanding of what the finished product should look like, it then puts together an elaborate assembly process to lead to the desired result.

Point of action: Now that the characteristics of a Christ-like person have been defined, we must learn to teach them systematically. Develop a process for instruction, and insure that each level is being supervised and guided by a staff member or team.

  • And third, we need to find an accurate means of measuring our effectiveness. Like Chrysler, when all is said and done, we must be able to answer the all-important question, “Is our product doing what it has been designed to do?”

Point of action: We must be creative in developing strategies that allow us to stay more connected to our “flock”. This should be a priority. As pastors or small group/cell leaders we must take seriously the spiritual health and vitality of each member under our care.

Imagine the glorious possibilities if every church and church-related ministry took this kind of approach and began to focus on the visible impact of their teaching. I believe we would see a re-vitalization among the Body of Christ, one that would produce a harvest of fully devoted followers of Christ with a passion for reaching out to a hurting world.

As co-workers in Christ, dedicated to the fulfillment of His business, let’s re-evaluate our process so that we might have a better chance of impacting our world with Godly and effective followers of Christ. Let’s begin to practice Intentional Christianity!