How Things Happen

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31 He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his field. 32 It is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is larger than all the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.”

33 He told them another parable. “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, till it was all leavened.”

Matthew 13:31-33, ESV

These are perhaps the three most potent verses in the entire Bible. And whenever you find “potency” you will find a strong possibility of exponential growth. It may be a steady synergy, or an explosive fission. Either way, it’s going to grow!

Both the seed and the yeast have so much in common. They are two sides of the same proverbial coin. And they represent explosive growth. If they are unleashed, watch out! They are both “pep and power” and now set loose they will take off.

The seed is put in the ground and the yeast in the flour. And the farmer and the baker both do their initial work of planting or kneading, and then they just stand back, their work is pretty much done. They now just let “nature” take its course.

These parables Jesus taught here are small— but hardly less significant because of their brevity. These two can bury you with all they imply and mean. When we think clearly about yeast in your cupboard and that single seed in its package, we should see the “life” that resides in them, and the potential that waits.

I think much about the Church. At times, I admit I get frustrated with it. I get judgmental, and fearful that it won’t survive into the next century.  I truly understand that I can be critical. At times my friends must deal with my “ugliness,” but still they put up with me. (They are true friends.)

The kingdom is growing, and advancing. I love the wonderful promise in Isaiah 9:6, (usually read at Christmas time only. A mistake.) But Isaiah 9:7 is also pretty amazing too,

“His government and its peace
    will never end.
He will rule with fairness and justice from the throne of his ancestor David
    for all eternity.
The passionate commitment of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies
    will make this happen!”

Let it grow, let it grow! 

*

ybic, Bryan

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Leaving a Wilderness [w/ A Lot of Help]

Stranded by Snow

The bitter cold was intense in the car.

“Who is this coming up from the wilderness,
      Leaning upon her beloved?”  

Song of Solomon 8:5

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Once while stranded in the Alaskan wilderness I almost froze to death.  It was cold, 20 F below zero.

About 30 years ago, a friend and I felt directed to bring in Bibles and discipleship materials into the village of Minto, very near the Arctic Circle.  We were driving in a little red Datsun through about eight inches of snow late at night. Suddenly, the car just quit running.  We looked at each other, and we started to assess our situation. No cell phone, on a very remote road with no heat.  We both knew that unless God made a direct intervention, we would never survive the intense cold.  We prayed, and waited and thought. We had to fight the panic.

There is a wilderness we all must traverse.  It can be as difficult and extreme as an Arctic landscape.  The Shulamite girl in Song of Solomon knew this terrain.  It is a desperate place to be.  This world is a bitter place, and provides little in the way of solace and comfort.  We are called to be “pilgrims and strangers,” making this journey of faith to a heavenly city.

The opening verse has witnesses or observers making a declaration.  They seem to be shocked, and amazed by what they see.  The Shulamite girl was spotted, making her way, slowly threading her way up from the wastelands.  The path has been difficult, it would’ve been easier to quit.  It has taken everything she could muster up.

But the crescendo in this verse is the declaration, “she is coming up…leaning on her beloved.”  She found the help she had to have, at the side of One who loved and beloved.  He had come, at just the right time to lift her up and lead her out her extremity.  She has found that He is her strength.  It is He who has come to deliver her.  The verse suggests that it is the bridegroom that is the determining factor.

His presence changes everything.

We were miraculously rescued after about 20 hours.  How we survived in that frigid isolation is beyond me.  Freezing to death was truly imminent.  I remember squeezing through the car window when it became first light.  The snow had completely covered the car, and as I surveyed our surroundings, I remember thinking how desolate it was.  We had stalled on a high ridge, and it seemed like the loneliest and most isolated place on Earth.

This afternoon I sat out on my deck, looking and thinking.  This verse entered my brain like a bullet.  Walking with Jesus through my wilderness has challenged and wearied.  I have fallen more times then I can count.  Each time I have picked myself up.  Do you know why? Because when I’m with Jesus, I know I will be fine.

aabryplain

 

 

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Teachability Rides a Chariot

We live out our lives making decisions.  Many are like ‘forks’ in the road.  They are made and they shunt us in another direction.  Some are dramatic, we see very quickly that the road is going to take us in a radically different path.

Sometimes, if we’re honest, we will admit to backtracking, retracing our route back to the point we turned.  A lot of time it is too late, and the moment has past.

I think I have been learning to receive correction and rebuke from others.  I’m thinking of the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8:30-31,

“So when Philip ran toward the chariot, he heard the man reading from Isaiah the prophet [on his Kindle]. Philip asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?”

 31 He answered, “How can I understand unless someone explains it to me?” Then he invited Philip to climb in and sit with him.”

We see here such a thoughtful humbleness– a ‘teachableness’ that this eunuch possesses.  He is confident enough in himself to acknowledge that he just doesn’t know.  He is so eager to be set on the right course that he invites Philip to a Bible study in the chariot.

We are responsible for our receptivity to truth.  It is our personal decision to either seek or not seek.  No one else can make this decision for us.  We come to a decision point and we go the way things seem to direct us.  And we learn; God and how we learn!

The book of Proverbs is saturated with ideas on being guided by our humility when it comes in contact with truth.  Furthermore, there are many warnings about receiving correction and reproof gracefully.  If we believe what we are reading, at that point all of a sudden our stubbornness and rejection become a very bad thing. And God loves it when we ask Him to teach us.

It seems that scriptural truth is almost always negative when it is first encountered.  It will not sit well, and I will try to shake it off.  But truth can be remarkably persistent.  ‘Forgive your brother’, the Holy Spirit says.  And you say right away, ‘Not a chance!’  But, give it time, and the Word will soften rock.  If you respond properly, humbly, you be able to make the right decision.

One more thing, Jesus told us in Matthew 18:3,

“I promise you this. If you don’t change and become like a child, you will never get into the kingdom of heaven.”

There will need to be a complete alteration in our hearts if we are to accommodate this command.  Becoming a child is more difficult as adults as becoming an adult is for a child.  It takes a great amount of brokenness to make the transition.

God fully intends to work with you on this.  He doesn’t seem to ever give up.  He is wonderfully persistent, and for some reason, He loves you. LOL.

aabryscript

 

The God of Coincidences

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“For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.”

1 Corinthians 15:25

In the spring of 1995, I was taking my family across the border into Mexico to live. All we owned was what we could pack in the trunk of my old Chevy. We were flat broke and unsure of where we would spend the night. But we heard from the Lord; we knew he was leading us into a situation where we must walk by faith, and not by sight.”

We were caravaning with missionaries who were to be stationed about 40 miles south of our ultimate destination. But we had separated two days before in Arizona. We knew we would see them a bit later. The evening before our crossing, we managed to scrape enough money to spend one last night in San Diego.

I’m ashamed to say that I was not the man of faith and power that I should of been. I cried out a desperate and short prayer, “Help me God, show me that this is really you. I need to know that your hand is in this.” I was taking my wife, and two small children into Mexico, and we didn’t even know where we were going to spend the night.

I was pretty stressed the morning of our crossing, and hearing nothing from the Lord. We merged into the heavy traffic for our inspection when we heard a horn behind us. I just thought it was part of the process, and ignored it. But it kept honking. I looked in the mirror to see what the problem was.

Directly behind us was the couple we had been with in Arizona! Suddenly I knew this was God speaking directly to me. I was staggered as I extrapolated the odds of this happening, it was unbelievable. We had left them behind two days ago and now we meet up at the very precise time, in the same lane of traffic.  The odds of us converging at the same time had to be astronomical!

The Lord spoke to me right then and there, “I am in control.” All my anxiety, all my fear just lifted– I knew deep down He was leading us. I could trust Him, even though life seemed so very precarious. We were in His hands! This would be a faith booster in some hard times to come.

You may have had an experience like mine. When God touches a heart and makes it peaceful– it is a beautiful thing. But it can be something different. The Apostle Paul on the Damascus Road was stunned when Jesus spoke to him. Paul’s companions heard a voice but saw nothing (Acts 9:7).

We must become people who insist that every believer have their own experiences with God.

It is the spiritual privilege of every child of God. When “it” happens, it will be something to be treasured. Looking back I see that moments like this enable one to go through a great deal. Someone once said, “Coincidence is when God wants to remain anonymous.”

When we hear his voice or see his handiwork, it is truly then we become his disciples.

aabryscript

 

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Little Sin, Little Love— Much Sin, Much Love

 “Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.”  

Luke 7:47 

I have been a disciple of Jesus for almost 35 years.  But it seems that I really haven’t been a desperate lover of Jesus until recently.

I have seen a lot of stuff, so I made a quick list–

  • the charismatic movement
  • the Imperials
  • New Wine Magazine
  • “I Found It”
  • Larry Lea‘s Prayer Program
  • the PTL Club
  • the Shack
  • Jesus’ festivals, Festival of the Son
  • Promise Keepers
  • Anita Bryant
  • the Living Bible, youth edition
  • YWAM teams, the Candle– SF
  • Four Spiritual Laws
  • ’88 Reasons Why
  • “Honk if You Love Jesus”
  • street preaching in Haight Ashbury, SF
  • Don Francisco
  • carrying the cross, Arthur Blessit
  • the Hiding Place
  • Watchman Nee
  • Outdoor baptisms in city parks

I’ve been exposed to a lot of winds blowing through, and moving on.  You learn to separate the chaff from the grain.  Much of my life has been spent winnowing out to get to the good stuff.  God, through his word describes a coming “trial by fire” over each person’s works.  Romans 14:12 says, “Yes, each of us will give a personal account to God.”    

One time I walked as a backslidden Christian. I remember once waking up from a drunken stupor with my t-shirt soaked in blood. That blood was someone elses.  I sobered up really quick.  There was this shadowy awareness of beating someone to the point of death.  I still catch myself wondering what exactly happened.  There is so much stuff that will be revealed, and I have done many despicable things.

The judgment seat of Christ, therefore, involves believers giving an account of their lives to Christ. The judgment seat of Christ does not determine salvation; that was determined by Christ’s sacrifice on our behalf and our faith in Him. All of our sins are forgiven, and we will never be condemned for them. We should not look at the judgment seat of Christ as God judging our sins, but rather as God rewarding us for our lives. Yes, as the Bible says, we will have to give an account of ourselves. Part of this is surely answering for the sins we committed.    

The word used is “bema seat”, it was where the judge sat during athletic contests.  Think of the high chair on which a court official sits during a tennis match.  His word is not to be debated or ignored.  Jesus fully intends to judge us.

The issue will not be our salvation, but our faithfulness.    

Loving Jesus must become your critical objective for the rest of your days, 1 Peter 4:8, “Love covers a multitude of sins.”  We also read of the sinful woman who washed Jesus feet, “therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.” (Luke 7:47)

My dear one, practice loving him– starting today.  Many are the doers, few be the lovers.  The demanding weight of evangelism and world missions has quadrupled in the last 10 years.  Now is our time!  We love much!  Time is becoming short.

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Suffering: Finding Some Reasons

suffering1“Since he himself has gone through suffering and testing, he is able to help us when we are being tested.”

Hebrews 2:18, (NLT)

“Whenever you meet someone who has really suffered; been limited, gone through things for the Lord, willing to be imprisoned by the Lord, just being satisfied with Him and nothing else, immediately you scent the fragrance. There is a savor of the Lord. Something has been crushed, something has been broken, and there is a resulting odor of sweetness.”

  Watchman Nee

I remember a time many years ago when I felt like I had a ‘charmed’ life. I had no issues, few problems– life was smooth, there was no ‘roughness.’ I felt like I was God’s favorite, His ‘golden boy.’ I should have known it wouldn’t last :-).

Suffering in the scriptures is often linked with the concept of endurance. Often within the selected verse the writer weaves into it this idea. I believe that to endure something transforms it to good. Believers will suffer, but the issues get transformed into something quite beautiful, if, we add the ingredient of patient endurance.

“We give great honor to those who endure under suffering. For instance, you know about Job, a man of great endurance. You can see how the Lord was kind to him at the end, for the Lord is full of tenderness and mercy.”

James 5:11

In many ways, suffering is a tutor teaching us the foreign dialect of the Kingdom. If done under the kind direction of the Holy Spirit, it can give us a working knowledge of patience, endurance and joy. We must learn to speak in another language. A suffering believer will find a new vocabulary in pain that allows him to speak with understanding to those who are also in pain.

I spent several years studying Spanish. Even though I wasn’t really fluent, I discovered it opened a whole new world; being bilingual created new opportunities that I’d never even knew existed. I believe that suffering works under this same principle.

light-end-tunnelDo you speak the language? Can you communicate with love to those who hurt? Learning it can transform you to a person that can speak authoritatively to a wide swath of people. Having had to handle your own pain gives you the privilege of interpreting God’s love into pain and hurt.

From our own hurt (through endurance and joy) we can help others. I can always tell a fellow-sufferer. They are typically gentle and loving people, devoid of pride and control. These are the ones who have learned to speak the idiom of the Kingdom of God.

“He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us… We were crushed and overwhelmed beyond our ability to endure, and we thought we would never live through it. In fact, we expected to die. But as a result, we stopped relying on ourselves and learned to rely only on God, who raises the dead.

2 Corinthians 1:4, 8-9

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Making Pain Work for You, [Trials]

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“Then they went back to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch in Pisidia. 22They encouraged the followers and begged them to remain faithful. They told them, “We have to suffer a lot before we can get into God’s kingdom.”

Acts 14:21-22, CEV

Paul and Barnabas, together are perhaps the most gifted men ever to minister the Gospel.  They have an amazing love for the Church.  They operate out of great difficulty, but the deep work they do, proceeds out of encouragement.  I looked at a dozen or so translations of the Bible–all of them translate this, “encouraged.”  Every single one!

Earlier in chapter 14, we can read about the brutality and ugliness they had to walk through.  It was very bad, beyond belief.  But these two never ever lose their love for the Lord, and for His people.  Their ministry continued to be full of optimism and comfort.  They simply can’t be poisoned by the nastiness and bitterness just days before.

They understand something.  What they have to say (as they minister that comfort) kind of boggles everyone’s thinking.

They said, “We must suffer many things to enter God’s kingdom.”

Comforting and strengthening, isn’t it?  Sometimes when I read this passage I can’t believe what they are saying!  It doesn’t make any sense at all.   I believe there are three things we must process to fully understand these verses.

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1)  What comforts us is not always comfortable.

 I’m slowly coming to the place of accepting pain and sickness as my personal doorway into the Lord’s kingdom.  I know my mental illness has opened an entrance into something wonderful.  My months of being institutionalized in different hospitals has seemed to have filled me with grace, gentleness and love–in other words, the kingdom. At least that is what I think.

2)  What we think is the best way often is not.

No one chooses one’s particular path.  If we could we would all be driving a BMW and our homes would be palaces, we would win the lottery on a regular basis.  Our children would be little angels.  We would never be sick, or have a chronic illness.  But–we can’t enter His kingdom, unless there are trials.  They have to be there, they must.  Somewhere it says,  if we suffer, we will reign.

3)  What we need from our elders and pastors is the truth.

 Often the leadership of the Church keeps this one in the closet.  They communicate very well other subjects that are enjoyable.  And we pressure them to do this, gently and subliminally of course.  And everyone wonders why we don’t mature in our faith.  Paul and Barnabas are tremendous leaders, but they don’t roll things in sugar, and their ministry carries on the sufferings of Jesus.

Often it seems, when God chooses to bless a man or a woman greatly, He will send a trial to prepare them deeply.

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