A Pearl And A Treasure

The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. – Matthew 13:44

Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it. – Matthew 13:35-36

In this conversation that Jesus is having with His disciples, He is explaining what the Kingdom of Heaven is like. In other areas of the Bible, The Kingdom of Heaven is referred to as the Kingdom of God. Both of these phrases refer to the reign of God. I was reading these verses, trying to find some understanding to them the other day. After some discussion, prayer, re-reading and looking at another blog post, which unfortunately I can’t remember the source right now, my eyes were opened to something I had never seen here before

These two men went off and sold everything they had for these treasures and, which means that they were refocusing their lives around something new. Both recognized the great worth in these treasures. These items were worth more to them than everything else they owned. They were worth more than everything in this world that defined them. It doesn’t even seem like they hesitated or weighed the options in making this decision. The answer was simply too obvious.

The Kingdom of Heaven, the ultimate reign and supremacy of God, is greater than everything else that exists in our lives. What these parables tell us is that the reign of God, the eternal purpose that’s in Christ, is something that is worth centering our entire lives around. It’s worth forsaking everything we know, own and do. I don’t believe we necessarily have to sell everything we own to recognize and experience the life of Christ, although I do believe there are times and situations where God has His people do this. What I’m saying is that the Kingdom of God is greater than my little kingdom that I’m building with my job, home, talents, etc. Jesus Christ cannot be just some part of our lives. He IS our life. The Kingdom of God is not just some far off reality that we’ll experience when we die and go to Heaven. The reign of God is among us and it’s something that we not only experience for ourselves here and now, but we are also agents of the Kingdom, bringing it to others as Christ is living in and through us.

We need to recenter our lives around Christ everyday. Regardless of our daily to-dos, He must be the center, focus and source of all life. Though this may be a challenge sometimes, it’s not impossible. So let’s sell all we have in order to purchase something of greater worth. Let’s forsake our lives in order to know a greater life. That greater life is Christ. He is the way, the truth and the life. The reign of God is worth more than we can give up. It’s all or nothing.

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Choked away by the cares of this world

Matthew 13 is a chapter that I’ve read, studied and heard taught about many times. In fact there was a season in my life, a few years ago, I kept coming back to these words that Jesus spoke over and over to see if my life and the lives of brothers and sisters around me were good soil. In this chapter of Matthew Jesus teaches about the parable of the sower and the various types of soil the seeds fall on. I’ve recently found my mind wandering back to these verses. I wanted to revisit these words that Jesus spoke because I often feel like my life is the thorny soil. That’s not to say I don’t know Christ at all or that His word never sticks to me like glue. But there are times that I can look on and clearly see that the word God spoke to me was choked out the by the cares of this life.

This is what Jesus says in His parable concerning the thorny soil and good soil:

7 Other seeds fell among thorns that grew up and choked out the tender plants. 8 Still other seeds fell on fertile soil, and they produced a crop that was thirty, sixty, and even a hundred times as much as had been planted!

Here is His explanation the thorny and good soil:

22 The seed that fell among the thorns represents those who hear God’s word, but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the worries of this life and the lure of wealth, so no fruit is produced. 23 The seed that fell on good soil represents those who truly hear and understand God’s word and produce a harvest of thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times as much as had been planted!”

God’s word applies to our lives. Period. Everything that God speaks to us applies to our lives both individually and corporately. As believers we all know that God speaks to us in many different ways. Sometimes Christ is revealed to us through reading the Bible or some other Christ-centered writing. He often reveals Himself to us through things like music, teachings and the conversation that takes place in the context of community. Every time that God speaks He is revealing Christ to us in some way, as Christ is the beginning, the end and therefore everything in between. I believe that for as much as the Lord speaks to us there is just as much noise coming at us and demanding our attention from the world. Now keep in mind that not all of these things that are demanding our attention are inherently “bad” things. in fact for most people they are things like family, friends, work and culture. All of these are good, even great things…but yet they still have the ability to choke out the word of God, to blind us from seeing our true love who is seated at the right hand of God, Jesus Christ.

It’s not impossible to both walk in the spirit and live our everyday lives. As a matter of fact they go hand in hand. Our spiritual life isn’t the collection of time spent reading the Bible, listening to music that glorifies Christ or even bible studies and church meetings. Our spiritual life is our life. We should be just as spiritual during “normal” times of the day as we are when we are explicitly thinking about Jesus. We have this tendency to think of certain things as spiritual and certain things as secular, but there is no difference. If we are in Christ then we are in Him regardless of what we’re physically doing. That is, if we are in Him and the life of Christ is our life source.

However, in all things, Christ must have the supremacy. Christ Himself must be the reason we are able to even get up in the morning. The only reason that I can even truly love is because of Christ who is love. So it’s possible to still have Christ at the forefront of our minds and even live by His very life while still doing the things we do. Through the grace that the Lord gives though, we have to rely on Him in order for the Word that He has spoken to us, which is Christ, to not be choked out and covered up by all of these things and tasks around us. This can only be done by the life of Christ. I know very well from experience that apart from Christ I can do nothing. I can’t even please God apart from Christ.

Go check out Matthew 13. Looking back, which of the soils has your life been?

Learning to be intentional without an agenda

Lately the word “intentional” has been burning though my mind and spirit. I’ve been wanting to do things on purpose rather than than sit back passively and wait for things to happen. There is without a doubt times and seasons to simply sit and rest in Christ. Those times are necessary, in fact I believe that we should have some sort of rest in Christ at all times. I also don’t believe that there is a single thing I can do on my own apart from the life of Christ. I’ve learned many times that the only good that can come out of me is completely Christ without a trace of myself. While on this journey that my wife and I are on with a few other brothers and sisters we have completely done away with agendas. We have had countless conversations about the spontaneity of the Holy Spirit when Christ is the head. I still believe this 100% but I also believe that God has taken us another step deeper in this line of thought. We can still be spontaneous even while being intentional. I’m finally realizing that there is a difference between having a set agenda and simply being intentional.

What are we being intentional about? Knowing and sharing Christ together in community. At least that’s the goal, the process is tough at times though. It’s also important to remember that it is a process rather than an overnight change. Heck, rather than a quick year or two change in many cases, including ours. There is a detox from former practices, orders and programs that we have all been going through together. I completely believe that God is continuing to grow and mold us into one body, one living organism.

How can I be sure that God is doing this work? Because when our schedules get busy and we don’t hang out we all notice it. We recognize the difference between times of building each other up and times of not building each other up. Simply put, we recognize our need for each other. We have been shown that the Christian life isn’t one of independence but of interdependence. The Christian life is a shared life rather than a bunch of individuals trying to live life on their own. Rather than scattered bricks we’re being into one building, each brick relying on the other for support and completion. This entire building is then held together by the mortar, which is Christ.

So what is it that we need to be intentional about if Christ is our head? Actively seeking Christ and walking in Him daily. Not that we need to create rules for ourselves, but to simply be mindful of Christ and allow him to to live through us at all times in our homes, coffee shops and work. Being mindful of His life in us.

We also need to be intentional about getting together and sharing our lives with each other. Not that we need set times throughout the week the we rigorously follow. Rather that we intentionally make time for each other. Through the life of Christ living in us we naturally want to spend more time together. Of course spending time praying, reading and learning together, but also sharing meals, cleaning the yard and playing games. Authentic shared life is intentional. I believe that this is something that has become more real than ever to all of us. It encourages me to step back and take a look in at what God is really doing and how He’s making Himself known to us where life happens. We’re such an incredible and at times difficult journey, but I wanted trade it for any other way.

Our death and life in Christ as a historical fact: Part 2

Last Monday I shared two excerpts of scripture that relate to our death in Christ as well as our new life in Him. To recap, here are the excerpts again:

Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. – Romans 6:3-11

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. – Galatians 2:20

One thing that really sticks out to me in Paul’s letter to the Romans is the vocabulary that he uses. In the above passage from Romans 6, Paul uses past tense vocabulary such as “if we have been united with Him” and “our old self was crucified with Him”. This wording is important because it shows that Paul is talking about past events, this means that our old self being crucified is a past event, something historical that happened long ago. We were crucified when Christ was crucified, we were in Him at the time He was crucified.

In understanding that our death in Christ is something historical that happened in the past our prayers can change from “Lord, please kill me and live through me” to “Lord, help me to remember my place in you, my new nature which is Christ”. Our old man has died and Christ is alive through us. Therefore the problem isn’t that our old man must constantly die but that we must remember that the old man is already dead and Christ is alive in his place and walk in that truth.

You may say, however, that Paul “died daily” therefore death to ourselves is a constant thing, something that happens when we wake up every morning. It’s true, we must die daily and put to death the remnants of our old self. We must submit our desires to the Lord everyday because I for one have a lot of hopes and dreams that may or may not align with God’s vision. Those things must be put to death. But i believe that those things are put death naturally when our mindset and focus is on Christ. As we constantly remember our place in Christ and allow Him to live all else falls away.

So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

There’s so much more to be said on this topic. The above is simply a starting point, understanding our place in Christ is something that is essential to our life. This is something that the Spirit repeatedly reminds me of so I’m sure more posts will follow on this subject. But above all else, seek God on this matter for yourself. Read the above scriptures in their full context and allow the Holy Spirit to teach you and reveal this to you and your tribe. I know there is a lot more scripture that directly relates to this, what are some that God has used to teach you these things?

Again, I highly recommend that you read The Normal Christian Life by Watchman Nee for more teaching on the subject of our death and life in Christ.

Why I Haven’t Blogged Since Monday

This will be just a quick update for everyone who has been checking back for the follow up post to Our Death and Life in Christ as a Historical Fact: Part 1 that was posted Monday. I apologize for the delay of the post coming up. My grandpa died this week so we had the showing Wednesday and the funeral was yesterday. Liz and I spent time with family and took a little time to relax as well as I was off of work. However, the funeral was good and God was glorified in what often seems to many people to be an awful and depressing event. I even learned things about my grandpa that I never knew, which was very cool and comforting.The man who led the funeral service is a close family friend and someone who truly loves and wants to glorify Christ. He spoke about how believers should handle death differently than the rest of the world because we have the hope of glory in Christ. He quoted Paul in saying that “to be absent from the body is to be present with Christ”, I fully believe this to be true.

Death is hard for some people to handle, but it’s not an end to a long or short life. Death is the doorway to eternity, it’s a completely new beginning that will never end.

In closing, I hope to have the follow up post to Monday’s blog up soon. It may be up this afternoon, but if not I may even try to do a Saturday post. Thanks again for all your interest in this blog, I can’t wait to talk with everyone some more.

Our death and life in Christ as a historical fact: Part 1

First off, I’m really sorry for the delayed post to any of you who were checking back. Things got super busy and I was unable to get this up until today. I very much appreciate everyone’s interest though and really look forward to continuing this conversation with all of you.

Last week I shared a little bit about my experience from reading The Normal Christian Life by Watchman Nee. I also mentioned that last Thursday’s post would set the stage for today’s. What I want to share today is what I believe to be one of the most important things that I learned from reading The Normal Christian Life, in fact probably one of the most important truths I’ve learned in the whole 22 years I’ve been here. This is a revelation that I believe is a foundational truth when it comes to our life in Christ. This lesson has to do with our death in Christ and that death being a historical fact, an event that has already happened.

Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. – Romans 6:3-11

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. – Galatians 2:20

Today I just want to leave you with these bits of scripture, they are very big contributions to this conversation on our death and life in Christ and how that is a historical fact, an event that has already happened. I’m going to continue Wednesday and go into what I have learned with other brothers and sisters concerning these verses and this very subject. In the meantime, please consider these excerpts from Paul’s letters and go read them in the full context that they were written in. Also feel free to share your thoughts on this subject and what you’ve learned on your journey.

My experience reading The Normal Christian Life by Watchman Nee

So this is the first blog I’ve posted since last week, and it’s a
short one. However, this post will be leading right into the blog that I will be writing tomorrow.

This is not a full book review. It is simply a brief synopsis of my experience with this book.

A couple years ago a friend told me about this little book called The Normal Christian Life by a man named Watchman Nee. I found things that my friend was saying to be very interesting, much deeper than things I’ve read and teachings I had heard in the past. After a short time I went to a local bookstore to find this book that seemed to have so much truth in it. Sure enough the bookstore had it, and it was even really cheap. So I started reading The Normal Christian Life for the very first time. I was amazed at how difficult it was for me to understand what Watchman Nee was talking about. I’ve never had to read a book so slow, read such small pieces at a time or re-read so many pages and chapters, every page was like a new revelation. I carried this book with me everywhere I went for about a year. If I had my Bible with me, sure enough that little book was with me as well. So after about a year of reading, thinking, meditating and talking about the teachings contained in this book I finished reading it, and have since then read various sections of it over and over. When I step back and look at the truths contained in The Normal Christian Life I realize that they are basic Christian truths, at least they should be. Points such as our death in Christ, our new life in Him and the fact that we can’t please God so we should stop trying should all be very elementary in the Church, but yet I had a hard time understanding them at first, even after growing up around Christianity nearly my entire life. The Normal Christian Life is a book that I recommend to every Christ follower, no matter their background, doctrines, church practice, age or even their denomination.

I’m telling you all of this because I be posting another blog tomorrow about one of the truths I learned from reading this book that completely changed my life and view on a lot of things. It was a truth that set me on a long journey which I am still on. What I’m going to share tomorrow is something that I believe should be one of the foundational pieces of truth for beginning this lifelong journey toward Christ and in Christ. I suspect that tomorrow’s post will be pretty long, longer than usual, so please feel free print it out and continue reading or simply keep coming back to pick up where you left off. I won’t be posting any other blogs after tomorrow’s until next week.