Thursday, June 14, 2007

Missing Jesus if We Follow Kingdom of this Age

Summer 2005
I miss my best friend.
With the intensity of her year caring for her little preemie and the back and forth lifestyle between states I’ve been living, our hearts have paid the price. I love her, but life is so different for us now. I have prayed for time to open up and we both agree time together is essential for our hearts to stay alive. We speak ‘life’ to one another even when we just go grab some yogurt or get a short walk in. So what the heck happened to me the other day? She called to see if I could take a couple hours out of my day and join her at the beach with her baby. Here’s the deal it’s mid-week, “work” time. I hear in my head, “You gotta put your hours in?” “Are you doing enough?” “What would your ministry partners think?” “Are you really doing enough ‘ministry’ these days?” A jumbled phone line of interrogation crowds my mind.

So why the litany of questions when I’m invited to spend time with a friend? Why the sudden judgment and fear that this will lead to a lackadaisical, irresponsible lifestyle? Do I trust that Jesus will redirect me if I’m moving off His path? Not really (or so my struggle shows).

Here’s the problem, I’ve lived most my Christian life compartmentalizing things—this is ‘ministry’ this is ‘personal’ this is ‘recreational’ and so the list goes. Now I’m realizing this is the way the ‘old kingdom’ worked. Jesus seems to be trying to teach me something about integrating a new way of living in this world. Becoming present, open, and available to what He brings up around me. This situation walked me right into the Battle of two Kingdoms--the Kingdom of this Age that is ruled by the evil one and the Kingdom of Heaven that is ruled by Christ. Who will I follow? And do I hear the invitation?

God has been inviting me into these day to day “interruptions.” This felt like the millionth time something like this came up this summer—so I knew Jesus must be trying to free something jaded in my thinking. Deciding whether to go to the beach with my friend and thinking about saying yes felt wrong, selfish, and somewhat shameful--like I’m going to be “found out.” I’d rather say NO and avoid the panicky feelings than Yes. How can I avoid getting into situations like this? OK, I tell myself, maybe if I grow in discernment more this feeling will go away. Or what if I organize my life a little more so I’ll feel “better” if I choose to go? Do you hear that, what do I need to do so I don’t have to have these disruptive, uncertain situations? How can I “arrange” so I don’t have to “depend?” In the moment of needing to decide I cowered, started to lean towards “getting my work done” (though my work is caring for others—which makes this all rather humorous) but then I hear, “Go.”

Here’s what Jesus knew that I didn’t. My friend had had a really hard day feeling the weight of her mommy loneliness and needing a peer to just be with her and her daughter. Jesus asked me to meet her in this and knew I was available. But I could have missed it based on the reasoning I followed.

Living in His Kingdom has flipped everything upside down and He has to reprogram my thought patterns. He continues to ask me that famous question, “Will you follow me?” In situations like this one He calls into question the world’s way of decision making and doing day-to-day life and I feel rather scared to follow him.

See the reality is most of us don’t question the cultural norms ruling us or driving our decisions. Our western culture values busyness, efficiency, and productivity. Have you ever stopped to question the energy that is driving you? More is better, a busy schedule is a good schedule, the more communication the more important you are…it goes on and on. I watch families trying to have a beach day, meanwhile dad is on the phone connecting with work, mom’s watching the kids but trying to reconnect with dad, and the kids are looking up with the quizzical faces wondering when they’ll finally get time to play with dad and mom. We live in a world that’s trying to fit 3 things in 1 at every moment and it’s driving us all mad. Literally. We are a depressed nation. We are like hamsters going round and round in a ball, stuck because the ball is suffocating us and killing our hearts. And you know what? There is a bent in me that still wants to live like this. I don’t question it rather I join right on in it because I feel productive, useful, and that I’m "earning my keep." To be still and present to what comes in my day makes me more vulnerable and I have to feel those irritating, disruptive questions about my worth. “Am I enough?”

Having done ministry for years you’d think I know by now it will never be enough and taking on more is almost always worse.
People never really get you, they get parts. If I really get down to the motives as to why I join the drivenness of the world it's because I’m probably feeling insecure about whether “I am enough” or I’m trying to impress myself, others, or those I work with by taking on more. Somehow “more” attaches itself to meaningfulness and worth. To live a more hectic life quiets that nagging voice and temporarily makes me feel better. But when my busyness (and it can be an internal busyness of the mind or an external one of activities) takes on a life of it’s own and starts to rule me, I begin to see the world’s idol of drivenness and efficiency is ruling, not my heavenly Father. More, more, more until my heart is flat lined and I simply am a walking zombie going from thing to thing to thing. Where is God in that?

When the God of the Universe became man, he displayed for us a rather counter cultural way of living a life of Godliness and daily ministry. I see Jesus being intentional and meaningful with the moments he’s given, not taking more and more on. In fact, he seems to pull away when the momentum takes over. It really rattled the cages of his disciples. (Mine too!)

There is something to the union Jesus experiences with His Father that gives him the freedom to set limits, walk into his purposes, and say no when the momentum of “doing good works for God” gets going. He knew something rather foreign to us about faith and about trusting the Father. Jesus never said no when someone came to him for healing or forgiveness however he didn’t seem intent on going after everyone.

Imagine the horror you’d feel towards your pastor if you had brought some friends to hear him speak and he and some of his friends decided to leave because they sensed the Spirit saying they needed time alone. Or if you had planned a huge evangelistic outreach for your church or campus group only to have the keynote speaker call to cancel because the Father seemed to be saying this wasn’t the right time or way to do it. In today’s church, hell might break loose.

So what are we supposed to do with a Savior who models life with God as a moment by moment discernment of the will of His Father? A lot of where Jesus spent his time was alone or with a few. It almost seems as if the public moments we’re to invite others into his private moments with His Father, to tell people the way to get to Him.

I hope you're disrupted by this...I am! So, which kingdom are you livin' in?

The revolutionary work Jesus came to accomplish was to be different from the world system already in place. Jesus, as the King of kings, came to establish His kingdom on earth with those who become His disciples on the earth. This kingdom is not separate from the earth, but different from it. Check it out. What Jesus shared seems to most always be just the opposite of what the world system is today and just the opposite of what we feel is the natural thing to do. Instead of buying and selling being the primary theme, Jesus teaches giving and receiving. Instead of getting even, Jesus teaches the supernatural power of forgiveness. Instead of avoiding pain and suffering, Jesus teaches to embrace your pain and suffering so that you will emerge more whole. Instead of being repulsed by the poor, diseased and disabled, Jesus teaches to go to them and extend His love toward them. Instead of going with the crowd, Jesus teaches us to stand with Him and His people. Instead of loving the masses in general (whatever that means), Jesus teaches us to love one another--on the personal level. ---Tim Timmons

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