Left for Dead

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Left for Dead

I just love this picture, there is so much truth and victory in this picture. This is a mango tree that someone cut down to just a stump and left for dead. But the roots on this tree were strong. Not only did the tree live, it grew a new branch AND one fruit. Now this tree could have looked at itself and been discouraged, it could have said, “I used to produce hundreds of fruits but now I only have one.” Or this tree could have said to itself, “what was meant to kill me has only made me stronger, and look I still bore fruit!” The same applies to us, the enemy comes to steal kill and destroy but Jesus is in the business of bringing dead things back to life. Maybe you feel like the enemy has under cut you and left you for dead. Maybe the fruit in your life right now seems small compared to what you expected or to what you used to produce. But remember, Jesus brings dead things back to life, He restores what the enemy tried to kill. But the moral of this story, is really about the root system. If our roots go deep in Jesus we can never be left for dead. If you are in a good season invest in growing your roots deep into Jesus. If you are in a rough season call on Jesus to breath new life into the roots you have no matter how small. Even a small root, when given to Jesus is enough. No matter where you are, or what you are going through the Lord has perfectly positioned you to thrive. The Lord can bring fruit even from a stump left for dead.

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Growing Must Change Direction

It is only April, and I am finding myself fighting thoughts of being bored with this year. Last year was a doozie for me, and I jumped into 2018 thinking it would be another year for strides of great growth.

Over the last year and a half, I made a significant move in:

    • A Relationship (ending)
    • New Living arrangements
    • Career Change
    • New Church Commitment and Leadership
    • and Travel

At the start of this year I made plans to continue in these grand adventures, but I am finding there is less to do.  You don’t make staggeringly large new commitments every year. If you did, it wouldn’t be called a commitment – It would be called a fling!  I realized this week, after commitment comes maintaining. Growth in a different direction. A going deep instead of going wide.

Growing wide feels good.  You see progress in a short period of time and you enjoy the reach, touch, and feel of experiencing things as brand new.  The new job, the new house, leading at church for the first time, traveling someplace you have never been, the list could go on.  Going deep is another beast. It appears to move slower and feels at times gut wrenching. You are no longer trying something for the first time, rather you are sanding down the rough edges of yourself and burrowing into long forgotten corridors of your soul.

You can’t grow wide forever.  It will make you weak; and when the storm comes you won’t be able to sustain.  As much as going deep is less glamorous, it is essential. Finding ways to keep your heart alive in the mist of repetition, determining to love harder, hold your temper more, breath deeper and sing louder, is the fuel to live.

Where are you at currently?  Growing deep or growing wide?
What is the value in one or the other, or both?

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Staying Down Deep

When I was a kid, I used to try and sit with my legs crossed at the bottom of the pool.  My cousins and I would pretend we were having a tea party down there. It never worked though.  I would get frustrated as we would float back up to the surface of the water; our imaginary tea party being pulled away from us.  As much as it was good for us to breath, there was something special I wanted to enjoy at the bottom of the neighborhood pool which I was kept from.

As I have been pondering living a life deeply rooted in God’s love and trust, I have been looking for ways to go deep and stay deep.  You can get to the bottom of a pool by diving in, but how do you stay there?  You can go deep with God for a moment at a conference, a worship night, or a great service on Sunday, but how do you make it last?  How do you stay deep when other things in the world keep trying to pull you back? How do you stay rooted and grounded?

I was told last week to read John 17 500 times.  I am at just over 5. I am excited to continue though because it is Jesus’ prayer for us.  For US. For His disciples at the time, but also for every. one. else. who would believe in Him.  Jesus prays for us! It is beautiful! For me, I want to read it and get to know it. I would encourage you do to the same.  When I think about getting to know Jesus’ prayer for us, it reminds me of how important knowing the word of God is for
staying deep.

Going deep and staying deep seem to be the simplest, and yet hardest things to do.  I have found these four things to be key in my life as I have pursued living in the deep places of trust and knowledge of God:

  • Reading the promises of God.  Read until the word of God is thickly surrounding your heart and mind.
  • Pray without ceasing.  Communicate with God constantly.  Ask Him to speak to you. Ask Him to whisper to your heart.  Pray with others. Ask other people to remind you of who you are.
  • Worship!  We enter His courts with thanksgiving in our hearts!  Sing out a song! Shout it out if you need to!
  • Sit.  Be. Refresh in the presence of God.

Let the words of God, in song, in prayer, in praise, in quiet, and in rest, take you deeper into the very heart of God!

What about you?  How have these four things impacted your life?  What other things do you find help you stay deep?

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Roots Which Hold Tight

Tree roots are fascinating to me. How do they hold onto the ground? It is just dirt!  Most my thoughts of dirt revolve around gardening, potting soil, puling weeds out of the ground, dirt falling through my fingers, and well… mud!  None of these aspects of dirt appear to me to be strong. Yet trees, with their roots, literally grab a hold of dirt and use it to stand as an impenetrable pillar in the sky.  Only the strongest weather pulls them out of their God given place in the earth.

If simple dirt keeps a tree strong and steady, is there a simple thing for us to hold onto?  What is our dirt? What keeps us strong? What does roots going down deep look like for us?

A verse Tim used recently at Kingdom Life for our Discovery Bible Study was from Ephesians 3.

I pray that from his glorious unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit.  Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully.  Then you will be be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. – Ephesians 3:14-19 NLT

Paul’s words are: “Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong.”  The Passion Translation says: “the resting place of His love will become the very source and root of your life.”  It is God’s love which keeps us strong and is the source of life. Our roots holding tightly to Him. Of course our simple “dirt” is the love of God.  What else could it be?  

Yet, Paul knows this is not a simple task, and prays for the body of Christ to be empowered with inner strength.  What are we empowered to do? To trust. “Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him.”  

Trust is the key to receiving love.  What relationship can last without trust?  How can you go deep with someone if you are always questioning their motives, or their heart, or their commitment to you?

Bill Johnson once said, “I will never sacrifice what I know about the goodness of God on the alter of human reasoning … so I have an explanation of what happened.  I don’t need an explanation … I have a person I get to walk with.  I have Jesus.”

Trust is the key to going deep.  Trusting God is good, and He has good for us.  Then fully being surrounded by His love, is what will hold us in the deep place.

We must allow ourselves to ask the question, where I am not trusting God, and what is the truth?  What am I believing which keeps me from believing what is true about God? Then, how do we immerse ourselves in trust?

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The Broken Dishwasher

But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. – 1 Tim 6:6-8

Have you ever found yourself in that moment where you are thinking, “I could be happy if only I had…?” If only you could have or get this one thing. It could be anything from the extraordinary to the mundane. A new car to a new book. Maybe, like the Israelites, just a better menu of food options. Paul says that all we need is godliness and contentment. He goes on to say that all we need is food and clothing. He may be oversimplifying this because we would also need shelter. Columbia all weather jackets didn’t exist when Paul wrote this. We would need to have somewhere to get in out of the cold and rain. But Paul’s point is not to accumulate material things, no matter how valuable they are, for we brought nothing into this world and we can take nothing with us. My own father died at just age 55 naked in the shower. His life of working two jobs meant nothing at that point, and he certainly took nothing with him. I have spent much time in Africa with people who have nothing. Living in a grass hut, with one set of clothing and eating millet porridge or rice every day, with maybe some fish or a skinny chicken. And yet, I find that they are far more content than most Americans. Years ago, when my wife and I were at a low time in our finances and I was in seminary, our dishwasher died. I complained to God, “why is this happening God, I am giving up everything to serve you.” But we just learned to live without a dishwasher. My wife would wash the dishes, I would dry them and put them away, and our small children would play on the floor under our feet. We actually grew to enjoy the family time and grew quite content with it. It was then, once we were content, that God stepped in and gave us a dishwasher. Now some people might be thinking, “yeah a dishwasher is cute, but my situation is so much more serious.” And it well may be, but the principle is the same. Paul’s command applies to every situation and every circumstance. Be content! Jesus wants all our focus to be in Him, regardless of what we have or don’t have. If things are getting in the way, or would get in the way, I believe Jesus will even keep them from us.

So how to do I learn to be content. Practice simplicity, simplify your life as best you can. Also try fasting, you can fast anything. But try a complete water only fast for a few days.

But most important find your satisfaction in Jesus! For Jesus is always content, there is no anxiousness in Him.

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Exceedingly

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Philippians 4:4

Last week we looked at the passage in Acts 16 where Paul and Silas were beaten, flogged, and thrown into the inner cell. But lest we think that was a onetime event 2 Corinthians 11 tells us Paul endured this kind of flogging 5 times, three more times beaten with rods, and stoned once. All of these were meant to take you to death’s door, and were needless to say very painful. All of this torture Paul endured meant he had wounds on top of scars. His body barely healing between events. This same text also tells us that he was shipwrecked three times, spent a day and a night floating in the open sea, and faced every kind of danger. He has also gone without food, sleep and found himself cold and naked. All for the sake of the Gospel. And yet, he gives this command to rejoice. This command to rejoice comes approximately 27 years after Paul’s conversion so Paul has had more than a few difficult circumstances by the time he gives this command to always rejoice.

What does Paul mean when he says rejoice? The word in Greek can actually be translated as “rejoice exceedingly.” The structure is also a command. You could state it this way, “be rejoicing exceedingly all the time, rejoice exceedingly.” So this isn’t a onetime event nor is it something that we do when we feel like our circumstances will allow it. This is to be a way of life, a posture of heart. Always aligning our heart with that of Jesus. His Kingdom is bigger than our circumstances. Rejoicing isn’t just giving lip service to nice platitudes, but a heart that is deeply focused on Jesus and His kingdom coming. Our circumstances, as difficult as they are, can pass in an instant. But Jesus is always and forever good and true. Rejoice!

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Rejoice Through it All

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Philippians 4:4

Paul gives us this simple but firm command to rejoice, and not just sometimes but always! But has Paul lost his mind, has he not endured any difficult circumstances? Some would argue that given their life’s circumstances there is no way they could rejoice. Therefore, Paul must not have experienced anything similarly difficult. So, let’s take a minute and look at Paul’s life. In Acts 16 Paul and Silas are stripped naked, beaten, then severely flogged. Flogging would have ripped hunks of flesh off their bodies. This would have left them covered in gapping, open flesh wounds, and at death’s door. The point of the flogging was to let “fate” determine whether or not they lived. Then Paul and Silas are placed in the “inner cell” with their feet fastened in stocks. The inner cell could be described as a cistern or even septic tank. It would have most likely been below ground level and holding waste water or other waste material. Now imagine all that dirty water and waste getting into their open wounds. How do Paul and Silas respond? In verse 25 it says that at about midnight they were praying and singing hymns to God. The reason they were singing at midnight is you can’t sleep when you are in that much pain and locked in stocks. They certainly had every right by the world’s standards to be in pretty foul moods. Not the time or the place you would expect to be rejoicing. But that’s exactly what they did, rejoice! How, how could they do that at such a time? Because they had been with Jesus, they had seen Jesus. They know what Jesus is about to do and what Jesus had called them to. They had their eyes, their,
hope, and their trust completely on Jesus.

In the midst of whatever difficult circumstances you are facing, keep your eyes completely on Jesus. What we are facing is not as difficult as what Paul went through or what Jesus went through on the cross. But Jesus, (and Paul) have been there and know what we are going through. Keep your eyes on Jesus and follow Paul’s command to rejoice! The story in Acts 16 ends with God breaking open the prison with an earthquake. Rejoicing on earth brings the resources of heaven.

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Safety is Leaning Toward Failure

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my
witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.
Acts 1:8

Edwin Friedman in his classic work A Failure of Nerve says this, “If a society is to progress, then safety can never be allowed to become more important than adventure.” His premise is that when a society becomes more concerned with playing it safe, not taking risks, over protecting the status quo then that society will not progress and therefore begin to fail. Because it is in risk taking, adventuring, pioneering, and innovation that a society moves forward. I believe the same is true of Christianity and the church. We have not done a very good job of living out the Great Commission Jesus gave us. We have played it safe rather than going on the great adventure that Jesus has invited us into. In this passage in Acts chapter 1 Jesus says He will empower us with the Holy Spirit, not for our own benefit but to empower us to be His witnesses. Then Jesus calls us not just to the familiar (Jerusalem) but to ones very different than us (Samaria). Jesus also says that we are to go the ends of the earth. Jesus has called us to a great adventure. He has called us to people who might be considered enemies, he has called us to travel to strange places, to eat strange food, to experiences different cultures, all to be His witness. But what happened? We are still Jerusalem! The same holds true for the church. Many churches don’t want to do anything to offend or disturb the regulars. They don’t want to do anything to offend or put off the occasional visitor who wanders in. So, churches grow slowly and anemically.

The problem, in both cases, safety. We fall into the trap of playing it safe. Not taking risks, not going on adventure, not daring greatly, not innovating. Jesus empowered us with the Holy Spirit, He told us not to fear. Now it’s time to adventure with God.

How do I start? This doesn’t mean you have to book a plane ticket to some distant place. It starts at home. The harvest is plentiful all around us, there are people different than us all around us. Start with prayer, give your fears to Jesus, and give Him permission to take you out of your play-it-safe zone. Start with having a conversation with someone different than you. Start with experiencing a culture different than your own (There are ethnic neighborhoods and restaurants all over Chicagoland). The ends of the earth have come to us.

Let’s not see it as the Great Commission, but rather let’s live it out as the Great Adventure, daring greatly. The greater the adventure, the greater the reward. Let’s lean away from safety and toward adventure, to be His witnesses. God actually created us for adventure! Take the safety belt off and adventure with God, empowered with the Holy Spirit.

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Kingdom Life

Our Next kingdom Life is Wed Dec 6th. Dinner starts at 6:00pm and worship and teaching begins at 7:00pm.
From Disciple Making Movements we will be talking about finding the person of peace.

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Please join us as we welcome Amit A. Bhatia, (PhD, Intercultural Studies). He has spent more than 20 years bridging the gap between academia and the church. Throughout seminary he served as a pastor in several different multi-ethnic congregations, and is currently serving as Director of Outreach at his church in Lincolnshire, IL. As a Christian of Hindu background, Amit consistently engages people from other faiths with the gospel of Jesus Christ. Fully committed to training Christians for ministry, Amit currently teaches part-time in the Christian Ministries department at Trinity International University, specializing in courses on missions, world religions and culture.

Dr. Bhatia will Share his testimony; give a brief understanding of Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, Sikhism, Judaism; and then simple pointers about connecting with and evangelizing non-believers.

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Kingdom Life on Wed Nights

Kingdom Life will resume on Wed Sept 14th. Dinner starts at 6:00pm with worship and teaching starting at 7:00pm. Come join us!
The rest of the schedule is:
Sept 14th
Sept 28th
Oct 12th
Oct 26th
Nov 9th
Nov 23rd
Dec 14th
Jan 11th
Jan 25th
Feb 8th

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Sunday service 10:30am
We’re located in Crystal Lake, IL at 7105 Virginia Rd. #18

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