It’s About Kingdom Building

Click here to read Acts 23.

Paul is in a heap of trouble here. It seems the message of the gospel has touched a raw nerve with everyone he comes in contact with. Everyone, that is, except the Roman centurions watching set to watch over the apostle in chains.

In one of his letters to the Corinthian people, Paul tells them he has become all things to all people so that some may be saved. Paul is one who can learn the area, learn the people, and know what to say and how to say it to strike nerves. That is why he was able to give more defense of his work and insult the high priest (presumably not knowing who the high priest was).

The apostle is respectful of those in positions of authority and he shows it by apologizing and showing he knows, through scripture, how he is supposed to behave. He is masterful at gaining the rulers ears and attention and, at the same time, he is phenomenal at banding people together because of their hatred for him and the message of Christ he proclaims.

Several years ago, I bought the CD audio version of Dale Carnegie’s famous book “How to Win Friends and Influence People.” This is a book I would like to re-read again someday in the future. This is a book I would recommend to you, if you haven’t read it yet.

One of the concepts I derived from listening was making sure people know why you do business with them (i.e. remind them what their good at) and then ask for what you are needing. I have learned that when people know you truly respect, not just use flattery, you can easily “win” people over. No, this is not manipulation. This is using Ephesians 4:29 into practice and applying it to everyday people’s lives.

It really is about finding the right people to talk with, to do business with, and to basically hang around that will help you get what you are needing. I know this can make it sound like this is all one sided; but it’s not because the other person has a chance to build a new relationship, gain business, and live with the joy of knowing they are doing what God has called them to do (as long as what they do helps to build society up and move it towards redemption and reconciliation with God through Jesus Christ).

Influencing people is where is gets more challenging. This would mean people have to have some sort of respect for you or what you stand for. Paul was masterful at influencing people to band together against him. Did they respect Paul? I think their respect for the power of God was greater and they were terrified to listen to how their lives were not meshing with the real God. The people were influenced by the fear of repentance that Paul was proclaiming.

Now it’s your turn. Think about who you’re influencing and how. Does your life, and your actions, work towards building people up to be who God created them to be? Remember, it’s not about getting what you want; it is all about allowing the Holy Spirit into our lives to mold us into the image and likeness of God through Jesus Christ.

It’s about building the Kingdom of God with God.

Ephesians 2:8-10 CEB

You are saved by God’s grace because of your faith.  This salvation is God’s gift. It’s not something you possessed. It’s not something you did that you can be proud of. Instead, we are God’s accomplishment, created in Christ Jesus to do good things. God planned for these good things to be the way that we live our lives.

Taking a Stand

Click here to read Acts 13:13-52.

What is something you feel people need to hear? When we have something to say, do we always speak up? Or do we shy away? Sometimes we take the chances and sometimes we don’t.

Paul and Barnabas were travelling and entered into the synagogue. The leader was reading from the Law and the Prophets. Notice this is a time of hearing scripture, learning, and worshipping as a community. Gathering together was and still is important in our faith development.

After the reading of the scripture, the leader asked the crowd (congregation) if anyone would like to speak and give a sermon. I know of many people who would stand up to speak at every opportunity, mainly to speak to their own agenda. We hear propagandas all the time. A person or group just want to speak to “make sure” everyone hears what they want to say. Notice the key word there, “want.”

If there is something from the Holy Spirit, in my experience, we see how the community is build up, how God’s Kingdom is expressed and experienced, and how much it weighs on our hearts and spirits until we speak or act. I think Paul had something like this kind of desire everywhere he went. His only agenda was to speak and proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ. All he needed was an opportunity to speak.

When the opportunity arose at the synagogue, he took it and captured the congregation’s attention with his knowledge of the scriptures and his passion. There is a difference when people tell what’s in the scriptures versus passionately speaking about what’s in the scriptures. One has an agenda to hold people down. The other has an agenda to lift up Christ and to build the community.

Paul’s intention is to build the community. He walked through the, what we call, Old Testament and showed how everything pointed to and lead to Jesus Christ. This is a great recap of the Old Testament story through the Gospels. (Another place to find a recap of the Old Testament is in Acts 7.)

Paul spoke with such passion and authority that people believed the message and wanted to learn more. There were also people who were upset and angry about the message that they just wanted Paul and Barnabas to leave. People will respond to grace when we proclaim and take opportunities to speak about Christ, the Holy Spirit will use the message to fill the hearts of those who are truly hearing.

Remember that when we have an opportunity to speak about grace, take it. You never know how the Holy Spirit will be experienced in the hearts of the people listening. Let’s continually work to build people up and bring the Kingdom of God with us wherever we are.

Loving Others

How many times have you heard your pastor or other people say, “you need to love other people and show God’s love to others”? Tell the truth, do you sometimes wish people would stop telling you to act that way? All we need to do is to turn on any media stream and find conflicting stories that  leave us in a state of confusion. Why should we love the murders, the law breakers? Why do I have to give to help starving orphans on the other side of the world that I will never see?

WHY DON’T WE LIKE TO HEAR WE NEED TO HELP OTHERS OR LOVE OTHERS?

Our fallen humanity instinct is to think of ourselves and our wants/desires/needs before we help others. It is in our non-perfect state that we end up looking after #1 before we look after other people. This can even be the case with our children. The roots of this mindset and “instinct” go all the way back to the beginning. We can read about this in the Bible in Genesis chapter 3.

In the book The Quest for Holiness—From Shallow Belief to Mature Believer, David Long writes, “when Adam and Eve turned away from God and to themselves, their nature changed to one with a tendency to disobey, a bent toward sinning in which the first thought is of self, not God and neighbor…This fallen self will always advocate that we put self first over God and others…This simply means we put our own needs first and hence, in a sense, worship self. Instead of glorifying God and serving of others, the fallen self steals the glory due God and turns it to itself.”

What this is saying is that we have to own the “why” of why we are the way we are. (Romans 7:15-20) It is because of our fallen state that we are this way.

BUT JESUS CAME AND CHANGED EVERYTHING!

Jesus changed how humanity thought loving other people was like. We love to blame other people when we mess up or refuse to act when we need to. Or, when we do sin, we do wrong, some people will say “the devil made me do it.” Since Chris came, we do not have this excuse.  The love of God through Jesus Christ continues to work in us and shows us where our lives do not align with God. We learn to take ownership of our actions and lives and don’t blame other people or entities for our lack of showing love. 

Jesus showed humanity that love is not a simple feeling, it is a state of being. It doesn’t matter the situation of the other person, we have the opportunity to show grace and God’s love to the outcasts and the poor in our world. It is because of the grace God gives us we are able to help and reach out to those in need. (Ephesians 2:8-10)

Being in a relationship with God means we’ll help and show love to others But what does it mean to show love?

  • The Apostle Paul wrote a great definition of what love is in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7. Since we are made in the image of God, and God is love, do we live up to this standard each day? I know I don’t. But it is absolutely incredible that God continues to mold us more and more each day into the image of His Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ.
  • Love is putting other people’s needs above our own at times. Jesus says in John 15:13, “No one has greater love than to give up one’s life for one’s friends.” We will often have to put aside our personal preferences for those that will glorify the Kingdom of God instead of making sure we are comfortable. If our personal preferences and our own comfort is more important than another’s person salvation, we have our priorities mixed up. If we love the building more than the God we worship, something is wrong.

The point is to build up the people in the community so the Kingdom of God in known and experienced.

There are many ways we can share God’s love to build people up so the community improves. This is how we build up our community and to live more into who God created us to be:

  • Clothing those who need clothes
  • Feeding those who need food
  • Talking with those different than us
  • Taking time to show other people (outside your family and friends since they matter to God, they matter to you)
  • Investing time in people to help develop work skills (not just for your benefit but what the community needs)
  • Spend time with people who live their life for serving God through serving others…not as a “holy huddle” to talk about why things are bad but to serve the people of God
  • Inviting people to worship to experience grace

It is through an outpouring of the grace and faith we received that we are able to show and give grace. The grace of Jesus Christ is incredible. Even though we do not live up to his expectations (though we are being molded into his image), Christ invites us to dine with him and feast at his table.He laid down his life so we could have life and share his life with others.

So, what are your thoughts?

  • What do you think about the phrase, “if our personal preferences and our own comfort is more important than another’s person salvation, we have our priorities mixed up?”
  • What do you think “personal preferences” means?
  • What more could you add that would build up the community and it’s people even though it may go against our personal preferences?

Life After Life

what-is-life-660

Colossians 2:6-15 So live in Christ Jesus the Lord in the same way as you received him. Be rooted and built up in him, be established in faith, and overflow with thanksgiving just as you were taught. See to it that nobody enslaves you with philosophy and foolish deception, which conform to human traditions and the way the world thinks and acts rather than Christ. All the fullness of deity lives in Christ’s body. And you have been filled by him, who is the head of every ruler and authority. You were also circumcised by him. This wasn’t performed by human hands—the whole body was removed through this circumcision by Christ. You were buried with him through baptism and raised with him through faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead. When you were dead because of the things you had done wrong and because your body wasn’t circumcised, God made you alive with Christ and forgave all the things you had done wrong. He destroyed the record of the debt we owed, with its requirements that worked against us. He canceled it by nailing it to the cross.When he disarmed the rulers and authorities, he exposed them to public disgrace by leading them in a triumphal parade.

I always think and believe it is awesome whenever a person accepts Jesus Christ as Lord. One of the things I have in mind is that I would like to see how this new relationship is going to change the person so God is placed as the central focus of their life.

Truthfully, this is something I struggle with daily because it is so easy to get caught up in what is going on in the world. The feeling felt at the time, and even right after, accepting Jesus Christ can quickly fade as we get back into our “normal” day to day routines. This is where we’ll forget that God is our central focus and that we are actually called to be different from the culture.

Being different from culture does not mean that we degrade others for not believing, or by living a certain way. Nor does it mean that we exclude ourselves and become hermits. Instead, we live in the culture but we do not allow the popular opinions and thoughts to govern how we think and how we act. It can be so easy to follow the crowd; but what if the crowd was walking toward a cliff?

Paul is reminding us that it is Jesus who fills us and that is where we govern our lives from. I have heard a person say “don’t let a book written by men influence how you live your life.” When I hear quotes like this, I am reminded how people have used the Bible to tear down other people who do not believe the same things or live the same way. Quotes like this actually make me sad, because it is also clumping Jesus into this thought.

I believe Jesus changes people. When we allow Christ into our lives we do live differently and the people around us will take notice. We are not the same people as we were before we encountered Christ as we are today and we should be careful to remember that Jesus Christ has made and is continually making us into new creations. We no longer have to live in fear of our past. We live because of the hope we have in Jesus Christ. We continue to have life after we have accepted the life in Christ.

#ToTheGloryOfChrist