When Mom died of cancer in February of 2005, it came during a dark, cloudy period of my life. Yes, the day of the funeral had clear blue skies and white, cold snow, but Mom’s passing was tough for all of us.
That year (2005) Sandy and I decided to plant fewer vegetables and go for flowers. We may have had three 7’ x 2’ plots of soil, so 30’ to 40’ square feet of soil. A lot, by urban standards. The beauty of those irises, lilies, hydrangeas, and assorted other flowers transformed our backyard. I think Sabrina Hartlzer may have already been living there—if so she had all sorts of flowers and flower pots. Beauty opens our eyes to see more. And beauty soothes our souls. God is the source of beauty, so ultimately beauty should lead me back to God, right? Not always. If beauty alone did the leading back to God, I’d probably wear make-up, invest in better-looking teeth, and consult a cosmetic surgeon to see if anything could be done about my Miller nose.
Beauty, love, peace, joy, rest. All of these blessings can be enjoyed by Christ-followers, children of God. I noted recently something about flowers and sharing the gospel. A few people commented to me about the flowers. Was there a resistance to linking the good news of Jesus to flowers? Not sure.
Insert story here… During the Syrian siege of Samaria in II Kings 7, we listen in to a conversation between four leprous men in Samaria. They reason amongst themselves that if they stay in the city they will die of starvation. So they decide to head out to the Syrian army and hope they obtain mercy. Well, the Syrian army had “heard” the noise of an approaching army during the night and had fled, leaving horses, tents, and donkeys. These four men found beauty and bounty! They “went into one tent and ate and drank, and carried from it silver and gold and clothing, and went and hid them, and went into another tent, and carried from there also. Then they said to one another, “We are not doing right. This day is a day of good news, and we remain silent. Now therefore, let us go and tell…”
Do these lepers have anything to teach Christ-followers? Yes, walk into the presence of the Lord. Plant those flowers. Discover the extravagant goodness of God. Receive His love, peace, joy, rest. Do you know He loves you?
If I know and experience the authentic, everlasting love of the Father, it leads me to the next step “This day is a day of good news, and we remain silent. Let us go and tell!”
For Christ-followers, open-hearted recognition and experience of God’s extravagant mercy and boundless love should ALWAYS lead his people to go and tell and of the goodness of God.
If we do not tell of God’s love, do we really know His love?
What can flowers teach us? Jesus said we should consider the lilies. They do not toil or spin. Yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?
Ah, so the flowers CAN bring us back to God. Clothed in the righteousness of Christ, we go and tell.
What if the house we are building or fixing up and spending so much time on is going to burn someday anyway?
What if there is a cheaper vacation option to pursue, and we could pass the savings along to help those struggling in the Rohinga refugee camps in Bangladesh?
What if my neighbor dies without Christ this week and I realize I've spent five years planting flowers but never shared the Gospel with her?
What if warming the bench at church was not all God intended for the follower of Christ?
What if saving for retirement is a man-made construct that never shows up in the teachings of Jesus?
What would happen if I truly believed in the power of prayer? And what if I spent more time in prayer than on my phone?
What if every Christ-follower in the USA would ask God to give him/her a friend from a different ethnic and/or socio-economic background this year, and then walk through God's open doors for personal growth and change?
What if, for every believer in Jesus in the USA, denominational affiliation became secondary to radical allegiance to the Life and Teachings of King Jesus?
May our Father in heaven draw your heart and spirit to His heart, in deeper sanctification and holiness.
I noted some days back that I am an ambassador of the Kingdom of Heaven, so I am very politically involved in the Kingdom of God. It is an unshake-able kingdom. A few people said that we need to have more discussion on how that actually plays out in our everyday lives.
For one thing, the news you consume, the books you read, the people with whom you associate, and the media outlets you frequent have the capacity to shape you. Don’t bury your head in the sand, but always consider that the messaging often does not have the agenda of the Kingdom of Heaven.
“Watch out. Beware the leaven of the Pharisees and of Herod.” (Mark 8:15). This was a warning of Jesus. Leaven is yeast. Once it enters dough it spreads through the whole dough.
Watch out! Let’s try something with that passage, painting in broad strokes for our day. Watch out!
Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees (the religious right). The elements of the gospel writ large are Law, Holiness, Righteousness, Truth, but they often miss Grace, Mercy, Compassion, and Love. There is not a whole gospel in their news sources. They often provide statistics, facts, clinical analyses of the “news” and circumstances involved, but there is often little heart. You can try to clean the outside of the cup, but the inside is still corrupt. Beware of the leaven of the religious right, who state that all news of any source from the “radical left” is wrong and should never be trusted because of its agenda. So they flock to their own “alternative” news sources, but who on their end have no King but Trump and no Kingdom but the USA. The Kingdom of God lies somewhere below the USA on the priority list. Beware the leaven of the Pharisees. Jesus reserved his harshest words for the Pharisees.
Beware of the leaven of Herod (the radical left). The elements of the gospel writ large are Grace, Mercy, Compassion, and Love, but they often miss Law, Holiness, Righteousness, and Truth. There is not a whole gospel in their news sources. They have preached tolerance and diversity for decades, and in the miasma of teachings have lumped “social justice” into an ever-expanding cadre of oppressed groups: feminists for “reproductive rights” (abortion); LGBTQA+ “rights,” immigration rights, rights of ethnic minorities, and on and on. If someone disagrees with the overall “tolerance” agenda, the radical left will demonize that person or group and exclude them for intolerance, ruining lives with impunity. They are tolerant of all, except for those who do not agree with them. The radical left is not content to address the white privilege in the USA—they want “reproductive rights” and LGBTQA+ rights as well. Beware of the leaven of Herod (the radical left).
If you exclude one whole source of news and information, and only rely on the other, you may become what that other represents. At a foundational level, neither side (radical left or religious right) represents the Kingdom of Heaven.
Keep in step with the Spirit. Christians are called to do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God. And Christians are certainly called to pray for justice, and to speak and act against injustice. At times this involves communicating with policy-makers and local leaders regarding the changes needed.
Dear friends, let us crucify the flesh with its passions and desires, and by love serve one another.
I think some more discussion could be helpful in this matter.
I am extremely political. Sometimes polarizingly so. My King said, in his first speech in office “"The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel." He has commissioned me to be an ambassador of the Kingdom of God, wherever I go and with whomever I meet. He has blessed this ambassador with the privilege to be born in the USA and live here on American soil. He has instructed me to pray for kings and all those in authority, so that we may live quiet and peaceful lives.
But he has never, ever instructed me to live exclusively for an earthly kingdom, or to die for an earthly kingdom. Respect those in authority? Yes! Honor the leaders? Yes! Pray for them? Absolutely! Give my allegiance to them and the system, heart and soul? No! I have no King but Jesus. When I take up my cross and follow King Jesus, it is for His Kingdom first, no matter where I live and no matter what ruling documents form the basis of that nation-state.
He (God) uncovers deep things out of darkness, And brings the shadow of death to light. He makes nations great, and destroys them; He enlarges nations, and guides them. (Job 12:23).
In the current chaos all across America, I am saddened and disturbed by the destruction, division, and looting. Remember when Jesus said “The thief comes to steal, kill, and destroy, but I have come that you may have life, and have it to the full?” (John 10:10). Well, we are seeing the stealing, killing, and destroying and it’s devastating. But I feel no inner compulsion to defend this country, just because I was born and raised here. I have had my skin crawl by reading “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee” where leaders lied and broke "treaties," colonists killed Native Americans, destroyed their villages, and stole whatever was left. I have read of the atrocities of this nation against slaves and the subsequent post-civil war policies that continued the offenses, and it hurts me. Art galleries, museums, and wealthy Americans all across the USA "own" artifacts, gold, and silver that was often taken through legalized extortion from people and groups in other regions and from other backgrounds. If it has a "legal" stamp on it, we reason it was not stolen. But art dealers and those dealing in antiquities know that this thievery has happened for decades in America. The Congo has been pillaged of its treasures for centuries in exchange for a pittance, but somehow that is okay and it not considered "looting." I am an ambassador in the Kingdom of God. I feel no inner compulsion to defend a rapacious nation-state in which I live, even if I have been a beneficiary of much of its strengths.
I wince at the language of “burn it to the ground and start over.” That does not make sense from a practical point of view. I certainly can’t put forth a candidate to suggest to lead that new start-up nation with grace and civility. And I can't imagine finding a viable representative group to draft a new constitution that would be accepted by even 60% of the populace.
But I am first a citizen of the Kingdom of God. Kingdom of God (this includes church), family, then country. I am not just a citizen in the kingdom of God; I am an ambassador, which makes me politically engaged.
May God empower His Kingdom ambassadors to be people of active prayer, witnesses for Christ, moving forward with grace, truth, and love. He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love. (Colossians 1:13).
Why are there so many godly people who disagree on Covid-19, ranging from it’s a hoax to it’s for real?
-Experiences, perspective, and conditioning shape our understanding of reality
Why do so many godly people disagree on the underlying causes and issues of ethnic division, or even on the best way forward to unity in Christ?
-Experiences, perspective, and conditioning shape our understanding of reality.
Well, Christians can at least agree that the Bible is God’s Word and is true for our time, right?
Why are you cautious there?
Because even here, the people who taught us and shared with us from the Word of God brought their experiences, perspectives, conditioning and culture into the discussion.
But here I will venture back into reality, unstained and uncluttered from “perspective.” I heard recently from a friend who advised correctly “You can’t write perspective a blank check.” True. Consider Jesus, the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Your perspective will not change the reality that Christ died on the cross for the sins of the world. He gave his life as a ransom for many, whether you experienced that or not. All have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God. That is also a reality, and your perspective one way or the other will not change that reality. We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due for the things done in the body, whether good or bad. This is reality.
He who knows to do good, and does it not, to him it is sin. Whatever is not of faith is sin. That is reality.
But wait, our minds try to understand what that “do good” really is, and what exactly is “not of faith?” So we are back to experiences, perception, and conditioning that influence our understanding of this reality.
Ah, check this out. A word to those who have given their lives to Jesus. (I Corinthians 2:16) We have the mind of Christ.
Yes! Now there is something solid to lay hold on.
We have the mind of Christ. We reject carnality. All that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, we reject.
Because we have the mind of Christ.
A repentant believer, giving his life to Jesus Christ, invites Christ into His heart to rule, reign, convict, and live. The Holy Spirt of God puts his finger on the areas of sin and self that need to be changed. Every Christ follower is given the opportunity to ask the Holy Spirit to “search me, and know my heart. Try me, and know my thoughts. See if there be any wicked way in me. And lead me in the way everlasting.”
Moment by moment, day by day, week by week, from glory to glory He changes us. Refining, shaping, pruning, challenging, sifting, encouraging, singing over us—all of these loving acts of the Father by His Spirit continue to make us into the image of His Son. Wow. So as we get changed, and put on the mind of Christ, even our perspective and experiences and conditioning are transformed and refined.
Thank you, Jesus.
Son of the Father, husband to Sandy, father of six amazing gifts, Bronx brother, active participant in Believers in Jesus Church, insurance adjuster, occasional runner