What is the Kingdom of God like? How would you describe It? These questions Jesus asks and then answers by saying, ‘It is like a tiny mustard seed’, planted in a garden. Planted within earthen vessels, the Kingdom is within you. God has given to each a measured task in this Kingdom. And He has not called me to compare my work to the work of others, He simply seeks for me to follow my unique talents in bringing an increase to this living structure. Right now, in the crucible of your circumstances, God is developing faithfulness to make sons of His kingdom in order that in these days ahead, we might be that city set on a hill–a bright light and living demonstration of relationship marked by His love. Recently, it was impressed upon me and now I say to you, God is not finished with your mistakes and is working to prepare you for the work of His kingdom by turning your failure to His testimony. The days ahead will require light. Jesus said in Matthew 5:13-15, you are the light of the world to make a point of your usefulness to His kingdom in this very hour. Are you going to work with Him, or let the enemy rob you of your place and purpose? There is a call for a decision on your part, trusting completely in the work He has finished and is seeking to complete in you for His glory to shine. There is a hill that that stands before you and He says rise and to the darkness shine.
Have you ever found yourself the recipient of some critical advice? My Granddad would often offer his help in the form of critical advice. Looking back now, I would have to say in regard to me, he was most always right. I have come to appreciate every bit of advice the longer time goes by. A number of months ago someone sent me an e-mail offering me some help in the form of critical advice. I found myself at a loss for what to say or how to respond. I either didn’t respond or kept my response to something like, “thanks”. The e-mail bothered me greatly then and I saved the mail, but had done little with it until something made me remember that it was sent. I looked back at at the nearly 8 month old note only with the same continued loss for how to make any meaningful response to such a well intended criticism. I mean in my head I could think of all kinds of one liners and little zingers which could justify my solid position and the choices I had made, but none of them seemed the appropriate or Godly response. I continued on with my Saturday plan deciding to go for a bike ride in the morning hours. I had a planned route in mind, but as the ride progressed I was having second thoughts about going the full distance. Rather than turn back, I made a decision to continue my ride to endure the full course. Somewhere at 3/4 of the trip I began to go up hill; it was one with a long climb. I knew it was there but thought somehow I might be able to coast my way through some of it. It proved to be more a mind game than anything else and the thought to turn around going back the other way did occur to me. I heard the Lord say, ‘Come to Me‘! There is a word that has been spoken about you, it may be true, completely unfounded, or a half truth spoken out of wrong motives, but no matter, God says, ‘Listen to Me! God says reflect on Me…and I will give to you an abundance of wisdom.’ The exercise of ‘going up the hill’ brought forth some lessons worth learning; these offer insight into your trial. Have you ever felt like you were going up a hill? People had some advice for you, although you weren’t entirely convinced they understood your struggle. Don’t worry, God in His wisdom presents you with this trial, and He has answers meant for your overcoming. God revealed, this exercise before you is really a battle for your mind. On the basis of Proverbs 22:13, I believe God says, ‘the way of wisdom is in believing you will overcome not be overcome.’ Last I checked, we overcome because of the blood of the cross. God says based on Isaiah 55, ‘My thoughts are not yours and you don’t even think like Me, If it was up to your thinking, you would have turned around, missed the hill and with it My insight for overcoming.’ In Proverbs 22:17 God says, ‘apply your mind to My knowledge….’ You see, the hill not only tests your mind, but it tests your will. You are going to have to commit yourself completely. It is applying your mind to the body of God’s thinking, not taking a little dab of truth here and there as you want to apply it. God says, ‘your spirit is willing but your flesh is weak and you need the exercise the hill provides. So make up your mind and renew your resolve to trust Me up the hill and strength will be given to you that you know not.’ As Jesus faced the up-hill of the cross, He found strength there in the garden by surrendering His will to the Father’s good pleasure and obtained the will to overcome. God says to your hill, ‘I will that you overcome….Come to Me and I will give you My mind and My strong resolve and you will overcome.’ This hill you face may have come in the form of a rebuke, or personal attack. It may be be a trial that is very real or maybe even imagined. But God says to you, ‘this hill represents a clear place for your victory.’ ‘Come to Me and I will set your face like flint and give to you the understanding you need to respond to you friends, critics and enemies….It will be a glorious testimony of Me and My power to deliver you from what the enemy says, and I will make you to overcome.’ Psalm 37:5-6 (nlt) says, ‘trust in the Lord and He will make your innocence radiate.‘ So go ahead and trust Him, your victory has been assured!
“Are you saved?” I can remember as child a Baptist preacher saying every week without fail the words; ‘Are You saved?’ I believe those 3 words are possibly Baptist’s greatest contribution to the faith. You may know a lot about Him, but do you know Him? If there is no grieving or sorrow over your sinful condition…no witness of the Spirit, then you don’t know Him. For Jesus to truly save you, you must believe you are drowning and in need of saving—otherwise the broken cry for a savior is not heard and He cannot save. It is a matter of need…do you need Him? Do you see your very real need of His love and forgiveness? Or, do you see yourself ‘pretty good’– never considering that one sin…it’s rebellion like witchcraft that has you under a spell of deception never considering yourself that bad; it is your only weak link, but it is powerful enough to destroy your whole life with that one unredeemed failure. I see God is not mocked and sin must be atoned for. What are you doing and where are you taking your sin for atonement? Because what He takes, He covers–what He covers, He redeems, what He redeems He changes, and what He changes He keeps for Himself with a movement of the Spirit that directs my steps to increase as His disciple and witness. So, I ask you again, “Are You Saved…Are You Really Saved?”
I recently found myself thinking of the failures of the past and felt shame…are you living under shame? Shame is a covering of the enemy to protect his domain and he will use it to wrap you in his plans and identify your life with failure. If you remain under its tutelage it will hinder or even destroy the plan of God for your life. Shame is a destroyer of confidence with God, unknowingly it seeks to wrap you in its garment to neutralize your purpose and steal away God’s plan for your life. I began seeing something about this shame and what I want to present this to you that shame is as counsel. Are you under its advisement? Are you hindered by doubts, fears, self-justification and feelings of inadequacy? These thoughts are nothing more than idolatry, they are worried about preserving your life according to your own self centered view. Think of it this way, these thoughts will lead you to fashion and shape life according to fears and not by faith. I like the illustration I heard recently that man molds with butter, but God molds with clay. They both are shaped to fit a useful ideal however, when the fires of opposition come, one melts, the other becomes hardened to a vessel fit for the Master’s use. Isaiah 42:17 confirms that shame is rooted in idolatry by saying those who trust in idols will be put to shame. Living under the counsel of shame upholds yesterday, it is old man thinking, self talk and self right living, but cannot provide the Grace necessary to walk uprightly, for it only skews my view of things. Seeing my world view, real or imagined, only hindered me from moving in what I knew to be God’s will for those who find their identity in Him. I began seeing my need for God’s presence because it magnifies my position in Christ, whose worth cannot be compared to my ideal which is idolatry and will counterfeit Christ but never produce His image. I need the Counsel of the Rock! Hebrews 12:1-2 says, ‘lay aside the sin that so easily entangles you’. This sin has been the obsession of your whole life, it has colored and clouded your thoughts with shame and it keeps you from finding the steadfast counsel of the Rock. Hebrews 12 continues by saying, ‘Fix your eyes on Jesus.’ He is the rock of your salvation, the perfecter of your faith. It is a faith cleft within the Rock to enable you to see yourself covered by the image of the son. There under His shadow will you find cleansing, covering and a counsel leading you to despise the covering of shame. Hebrews 12:2 says in effect let your life be molded in the image of one who endured the cross, by despising the shame in order to obtain His place in the presence of God.