“To a Mature Man”: Stage 6–Service

Well, brother, we’re half way through the journey to Mature Manhood. We are in the midst of the Kingdom stages, and while this stage on the surface may seem linked to the previous one, there will be some distinctions carried here, which I believe are helpful. I see some believers who are plugged in to a community who have not realized this stage. Most of them, I suspect it is because they lack power. If a believer has not yet received the Holy Spirit, has not followed his leading to depend on God, and has not received a mission from him, this stage cannot take place.

Israel

What happened after Israel inherited the land? They asked for a king, and God gave them one, which they ended up despising, and then He raised up a man who was after his own heart, who shepherded God’s people Israel. In doing so, he was meeting physical and spiritual needs of the people. David and his son Solomon were both active in setting up a kingdom and a temple for the worship of God. They followed God’s heart, and found that He was a God who serves.

Jesus’ Example

In Luke’s Gospel after the separation from the community in chapter 4, Jesus begins his Ministry. The word “ministry” is misleading because only some people seem to be called to “ministry” but the word ministry simply means “service.” Jesus began his work of Service.
Preaching the Kingdom. Look at the first things Jesus did after the people of the synagogue nearly killed him in Luke 4:29. By verse 31-32 Jesus taught with authority the message of the Kingdom. He has given that same authority to his disciples to preach the Kingdom of God. This kind of authority amazed people.
Casting out demons. In the very next verses there was a man with a demon who rose up, in the synagogue no less, (take warning) and tried to disrupt him. The message of the Kingdom of God has the authority and it will stir up spiritual opposition. Jesus cast out demons to meet the spiritual needs by casting out the spiritual forces which had dismayed and oppressed His people.
Healing diseases, by verse 38 Jesus in his full humanity sought to restore the whole human, body and spirit, earth and heaven. He healed the mother in law of Simon, and what did she immediately get up and do?

Jesus’ Followers

What’s more: Jesus got his disciples to help him in chapter 9.

And He called the twelve together and gave them power and authority over all the demons and to heal diseases, and He sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God, and to perform healing.

The three things his disciples were doing, were the same things that Jesus was doing!

A sterilized Christianity will not be able to bear with this statement, but it must be said: Jesus gives power to his followers to do the miraculous to enact spiritual and physical service by the power of the Holy Spirit as an advancement of the Kingdom of God. The Christian who has been with Him will know that this is possible with God, it is difficult to the one of little faith. The Christian who has not learned the power of the Holy Spirit will be of no use to this Kingdom service.

Characteristics of this Stage

Power– The Holy Spirit of God will do the miraculous through this follower, by keeping the believer in a dependent, trusting, and devoted relationship. These are the three chords that make up the rope of faith: Dependence on God, Trust in God, and Devotion to God. These three bind the believer to the one who truly has the power, and who can shine the glory of God in their own clay vessel.

Temptations to Worldliness— The pitfalls of this stage are not so much about personal vice, though these are ever present so long as we are in this flesh, but rather about the direction of virtue. If the evil one can side-track the empowered believer to build worldly kingdoms, or make peace by worldly means, he will have secured a super-worker to construct his Babylonian Empire which ultimately raises it’s fist at God, and upon whom God ultimately lowers His fist.

Accomplishment— the news of such a mighty power in the world awakening people to the reality that God is King, and that His Kingdom is near them will spread as the Power of God accomplishes what man never could. In the Church, it looks like what Paul described in 1 Corinthians 14:25. The unbeliever confronted by the miraculous will fall on his face and worship God, “declaring that God is certainly among you.”

A quick note to those who are cessationists (meaning those who do believe the supernatural workings of God are no longer happening): you cannot deny that there is spiritual power at work in the world today: on both sides. And wherever the power of evil rises, the power of God’s Holy Spirit must be there to meet it. Not everyone has the same gifts, but the gifts of manifestation that are listed in 1 Corinthians 12 are not just for the early church, or apostles. To think that the gifts ceased because all the Canon of Bible was completed is, to me, indistinguishable from a Deist perspective of God’s actions done only in the past, which dehumanizes Christ, the Bible, and the Church. Remember Jesus’ prayer specifically for the church who were still going to believe in John 17:22, “The glory You [Father] gave me [Jesus], I [Jesus] have given them [The Church].” What glory? The revelation of God in power. And if there is no supernatural power, there is no revelation of God’s glory. If there is no revelation of God’s glory, then Jesus’ prayer is meaningless, and the church is just another club.

Application:

1. Boldly advance the Kingdom as the Holy Spirit leads you on your specific mission. Pray and teach and do the work of service for people’s physical and spiritual needs.

2. Do not ignore the importance of signs to believers and unbelievers, but instead practice them in the congregation. 1 Corinthians 14 speaks of tongues and prophecy, two miraculous signs which must be implemented according to God’s guidelines inside the church and out.

3. If you are struggling, because you believe you have a mission from God, and you feel hopelessly weak to enact any sort of supernatual power, I tell you, press into the God. You are weak. He is strong. He is the one with the power, and He will enact the supernatural. Seek Him earnestly, and commune with Him. Paul spent sleepless nights to seek Him. It could be that there are areas of disobedience in which you are not being FAITH-ful to God. If you are not fully dependent on Him, Your faith will break. If you are not fully trusting in Him, your faith will break, and if you are not fully whole-heartedly devoted to Him, your faith will break. But remember the encouragement from Paul to Timothy, “Though we are faithless, he remains faithful.” (2 Timothy 2:13) And also remember, “He uses the weak things to shame the strong.” ~1 Corinthians 1:27

4. Avoid the extra-mission-al things with which the world distracts you, especially those that promise reward. Jesus stayed dependent on God, and trusted God to work out all things, when people asked him to do things, to which he said “No.” (Example: John 6:15) It keeps the believer humble instead of thinking himself to be the Savior of the World. Jesus is. As Paul said to the Corinthians, “What then is Apollos? And what is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, even as the Lord gave opportunity to each one.” 1 Corinthians 3:5

As a Christian reaches this stage, and lives out the power of God in his life as the Kingdom of God advances, may he say what Paul said in 1 Corinthians 4:1– “Let a man regard us in this manner, as servants of Christ.” And again in 2 Corinthians 4:1-7,

Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we do not lose heart. But we have renounced the hidden things of shame, not walking in craftiness nor handling the word of God deceitfully, but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God. But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them. For we do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves your bond-servants for Jesus’ sake. For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us.

O Lord, Thy Kingdom Come! Thy Will be accomplished as it is in Heaven, so also upon the earth!

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Answer: The Cross

“By His stripes we are healed.”
There it is again.
I’ve heard that so often, like I’ve heard, “By the atomic bomb Nagasaki was destroyed.”
Let me rearrange it:
We are healed by His stripes.
Let me take care of the pronouns.
We are healed by Jesus’ stripes.
Let me personalize it for this blog.
I am healed by Jesus stripes.

Why? What about Jesus getting beaten senseless is so healing for me? I’m sick. I consider the deepest cause of my sickness is my own self-salvation, my own self-righteousness, my own self-service, or simply, my own “sin.” Is it just a matter of Jesus being beaten for that, that I am healed?

“The stripes that wound scour away evil.” All the brokenness of the world He scoured away in his body. There is something to that, because His resurrection proved that God was coming not just to crucify the world, but resurrect the world. The world will burn. The world will be remade. We will die. We will be changed. Every pain I face isn’t just a reminder that it hasn’t happened yet. It’s a chance to go to the cross and embrace it and say, “I accept your mercy to righteously judge my brokenness and my sinfulness because of your great love, and I lay down my life again, the way Jesus did on the cross, and ask you, that I may take it up again to serve you a little longer.”

The Cross is the door; only the dead can pass through it. That means I can’t save myself, I can’t heal myself, I can’t rule myself, I can’t love myself, or keep my relationships or my family, my church, even my own life for myself. “God you can have me, but you can’t have my family.” You haven’t gotten a hold of it yet. It’s Christmas, the “Family Holiday” it has become more so than Thanksgiving. Everything needs to be nailed to the cross, even family. Right?

So how does this practically apply? I am going to wait patiently for the Lord to completely heal me. Seems simple. People of the “Faith” tradition will say, “Proclaim it!” I do indeed. Just remember God doesn’t listen to the proud. He listens to the humble. 🙂 The humble are those who embrace the cross. It’s perfectly in keeping with God’s plan for the world to work supernatural healing in the world. I kinda want someone to come to my house and teach me a bit more of how this works, but the cross takes care of all sickness. And if there’s a sickness still, then He’s bringing part of the world to the cross, until it’s completely put to death. I guess.

The Cross is the answer. Thoughts?

My Truck

Pretty as a 19-year old model
Shiny like she’s brand new
Bright red like a fire hydrant
Big like the King of the road

An 8-foot bed huge loads handles well
Her gate well-oiled snugly shuts
A bed liner makes the whole body protected
Its ridges guide the water out straight

Beneath the shine, a villainous corrosion
An oxidization made brittle by city salt
The frame has holes and cracks that deepen
Every bump it takes, and puddle it fords

One bump, the spring shackle bracket broke
And the left back corner of the truck bed sank
Suspension, transmission all put under tension
And the metal floor of the bed began to scrape

ACH! That noise! That digging scream
That cried for repair before the break came
It would punch a hole in the 8-foot bed,
If it was not healed with the Welder’s flame.

BREECH! That bump cost far too much
Too long the scream went unacknowledged
And now silenced the dagger is still
Jutting up through the floor of the 8-foot bed.

The frame now bears weight on the bone of the Truck
And the bed liner is not pierced but raised from the floor.
But a once water-tight 8-foot bed has a leak,
And the moaning continues as the hole gets bigger.

Aiee! Ach! That shameful burden stabbed
My heart to know my own neglect
Caused one small problem to cause many more
And now the damage cannot be undone.

But repair can be made by the Welder’s flame.
The community shop can raise up her frame
Line up the spring shackle bracket again
And solder it back to shoulder loads well again.

The hole in the 8-foot bed can be patched.
And the scar will still hold the water inside.
In fact, the strength lent to this space may be needed
Should any further breech occur beneath.

But the rust still needs to be arrested.
Or the problems will continue unless dealt with

The Hedgeman

Madam Grandmother had a house of grey:
Grey roof, grey shutters, grey siding.
All one story; All one level
Surrounded by box hedge plants waist high.

A hedgeman had come and trimmed them recently
But he only chopped the shape just right.
He did not seek to undertake
The dive seeking weeds of thorn and vine:

Young spritely clinging little buggers
Troublesome meddlers in a boxy world
In shadowy subtlety they showed their heads
A long time they had grown in secret.

The hedgeman returned at the grandmother’s request
The bushes needed trimming, but the vines were his quest.
Over two days he set about the purge
Of everything that grew up from secretly seeded earth.

He found himself saying, as the vines scraped his arm:
“My goodness this bush is a pain.”
But then he thought to himself:
I wonder if God looks that way on me?

Extricating and tending the bush planted well.
From the weeds of the seeds of the unworthy sown.
Did the Maker of creation who saw it was good
Did He say, “This is a pain.” When the devil’s seed was sown?

Grace shines like the hot afternoon sun on his back.
Reminding him of the Maker’s glowing face.
Which does not cool when faced by those who turn
Their back on him shady tents to pitch.

O grief, such grief: that crown of thorns
That encircled the Savior’s human brow
To crown the flower with Satan’s weeds
To raise up a sacrifice of earth because of Heaven’s love.

Of course! Twas not for grief He bore
But for the Joy that was set before!
His cross he endured and the seed he planted
In the tomb of the rock to sprout forth with new creation!

Determined by his Father’s love,
Pronounced for the world from the beginning
He did not merely say, “It is good.”
He simply “Saw that it was good.”

Now the hedgeman was ennobled to press
Through the thorns that tore his exposed flesh
For in these thorns a fresh thought was true:
God fell in love with the world to make it new.

Emancipation: the feeling surged as one by one the vines relinquished their hook
They could not withstand the power of man determined to make the bushes good.
Why? Because these bushes were planted first, and then the weeds took root.
The bushes are good, it’s the weeds that have corrupted their look

So even though the weeds are deep entwined
With the plants of the Grandmother’s good intention
Still, deeper is the ability to dig
With a pair of pruning sheers to clip the hidden stems.

Strong is the stock the Sower sowed
When He made the world out of His goodness
The enemy may have added his own ingloriousness
But the Angels can tell what is good by its fruit.

Oscillating between standing and kneeling
The hedgeman cleared away the weeds by probing deeply.
Humility and confidence to seek understanding and apply it:
Getting to the root, and pulling up the shoot.

Familiar with these living plants
Their tender leaves not sown by chance
Were worth releasing from these self-ish pokes
For which the fire the Angel stokes.

Grappling with the plant near the top does no good.
It took a long time to reach the now spoiled-sightly top.
With a firm hand the hedgeman pulls on the vine
So he can pluck the thorns like a bow string and cut the base.

Others yank the plant up by the stem
Hoping that the whole thing will come right out.
Those who are clever know such a risk is not sound
Even if it clears the top, soon the issue will reemerge.

During his struggle, He sees the Creator dealing with him.
Not managing his issues so as to keep God busy
But always asking the questions that get at the heart
Of why man hides and turns his back on Him.

Resting in the tension of the Master’s pull
And wincing at the precise cuts of the wise Healer
Leveling haughty lusts from creeping back out again.
He reminds me of His pleasing and excellent plan

Utilizing the hedgeman to keep the hedges beautiful
The Creator has appointed a manager for His Creation
A Creation He made so beautiful, that it was even good in His own eyes.
The only One who is Good, saw that it was good.

Lo, He did not only say “It was good” when he made the light.
Nor even when he made land, trees, fruit and seed
Nor even when he made stars, and birds and fish and animals
But when He appointed man to rule He saw that it was VERY good.

Ended the task, back stood the hedgeman and smiled
The grey house framed by box-hedged life
The weeds were cast away to rot, to be chewed, and to die
And the Hedgeman sees that the Earth is worth redeeming.

The Flower of Hell

There once was a flower
With a terrible power
Its air reeked of death
On its poisonous breath
Its pedals were all thorns
Pointed outward like horns
Its colors were deep crimson
Tipped with blood of its victims
Its leaves were like stone
And it grew all alone
Its stem was a shell
Infested by Hell.
Oh just look at it!                                                                            Hideous and horrid!
Who could but hate                                        this monstrosity florid?
To the untrained eye,                    there was no good to see
But the Gardener knew     there was life to set free
For he saw at its base,
A scar marking the place
A young seed gasped for air,
But it found no tender care
But dark creatures of dust
Made a home in its crust
It forgot why it arose
To what end life grows.
He approached the flower
With its terrible power
Smelling that stench
Making nostrils to pinch
And puffed out a whistle
That tottered the thistle
In the cool breeze it swayed
And death’s spell was allayed.
His eyes stared deep into the cold iris
Its thorns lashing out did not bemire his
Reflected in his tender watery eye
Was not the plant to slay, and die
But the living seed it bore within
For a crop of new flowers to begin
A cruel mark upon the garden’s name
Would be suffered for its life despite the pain.
With hands of great care, and words of good hope
He bathed the infested tears with lye and soap
So the insect onslaught might be reversed
And the plant might be as the seed planted first
Then leaves of stone, he scraped down to the vein
Where the lines still kept their chlorophyll stain
Slowly but surely it looked like a flower
Which held a significantly different power.
So its wound was soothed by tears that fell
From the eyes of Heaven to the scarring of Hell.