Supreme Ambition Ministries

To Know Christ and to Make Him Known – Philippians 3:10

SO YOU THINK YOU CAN DANCE?

So You Think You Can Dance?

The Essence of Covenant Community

Living within a culture where divorce is commonplace and single-parent homes are more the norm, it is difficult for those of us in the Twenty-first century to grasp the importance of a covenant relationship as it relates to Christian growth and discipleship. So, what defines a Christian community? It is possible that in taking a look at the Biblical concept of marriage we may shed some light upon the concept of covenant discipleship?
Marriage, a Spiritual Template

The heart of God is all about relationships. For that reason He placed humans in families. Therefore, the Christian concept of marriage is a marvelous template for covenant relationship, as well as growth and training in Christian discipleship. The divine plan for marriage is for one man and one woman to continue in their intimate relationship for life. However, since the invention of television and the influx of the digital revolution, human senses are brainwashed, and placed on overload, when it comes to what one might expect from a marriage relationship. Hollywood promises emotional fireworks and explosions of passion at every turn. Not surprisingly, it delivers poorly. Tinseltown’s answer to our disappointment with its failed promises is merely to find another partner. According to divorcerate.org, “The divorce rate in America for first marriage, vs. second or third marriage is 50% of first marriages, 67% of second and 74% of third marriages end in divorce.” Apparently, the entertainment industry’s predictions do not get better with multiplicity of partners.
Marriage in a truly Christian environment cannot be improved upon as a template for teaching people how to live in community. Mankind was not made to live in isolation. We function better in a setting where we have the opportunity to make one another better. The author of proverbs says, “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17, ESV). How disappointing it is when companions bail out on one another at the least provocation. Doing this defrauds the couple and the family unit of the ability to observe how to live and behave in the midst of adversity. Therefore, society misses the opportunity to have crack troops, who have weathered the storms of life, and who can pass down to all observers their secrets to victorious living. Of course, this does not take into account the relationships that are abusive, or hopeless for one reason or another. In those situations, the choices are often limited, and making informed decisions is difficult at best. Under normal circumstances, however, it seems that the experience of marriage can be a catalyst not only for the home, but also for the community at large, and for the Church in particular. The dissolution of a marriage, on the other hand, affects both the couple and those attached to them either through birth, or through other significant relationships. Scars cover the lives of countless numbers of people because of failed marriages. The branches of this poisonous vine weave their way through generations and leave traces of their irritation on the souls of friend, foe, and fellow without discrimination. Perhaps the most tragic realization that the Church must recognize is that the failure of marriage today is virtually equal to that of the world. It appears that most people enter into a marriage relationship with the idea that the person they marry will make them happy.

Contrarily, if a couple considers its marriage vows as something more than a simple ceremony with some colorful words, their declaration may be one in which they recognize they have entered into a covenant, not only with one another, but also with God. If they have entered into this covenant soberly, and determine that the promises they make to one another before God are binding, then the chances of their marriage ending diminish greatly.

Similarly, the new birth is a marriage ceremony of sorts. The decision a candidate for discipleship makes to cease living independently, and to begin living in a covenant relationship is as serious as the choice of a life partner. If divorce adversely affects scores of people, what is the effect upon the Church and the culture of people entering into a covenant relationship with God and his people unadvisedly, or lightly? Furthermore, if divorce stifles the emotional maturity of growing children, what does the severing of bonds among God’s people do to young Christian disciples? The spiritual aptitude of any local expression of Christ will not rise above the devout intellect and practice of the least mature member of that Body.

Remember the words spoken by the Lord Jesus, “If any two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name there am I among them” (Matthew 18:19-20, ESV). The root word for ‘agree’ is sumphoneo (symphony), and signifies a harmonious blending of musical instruments. Is there a better place to observe the symphony of true Christianity than in the relationship of two believing, married partners, warts and all, who passionately love their Lord and one another? There is a marked difference between the love of a middle school couple and that of a more mature couple after several years of marriage. The Bible says, “If any two of you agree . . .?” That statement, alone, implies negotiation, submission, and self-denial. For many, it assumes someone got his way, and someone else did not get her way. Truly, this would be the result, were it not for the fact of the dance, or the symphony. In a vital covenant relationship, either marriage or church, the issue is not whether person “A” or “B” gets what he wants, but rather, to what extent does each surrender to the dance (will of God)? Is fulfillment in life accomplished by one’s ability to accumulate the most toys before he dies? Is one’s relationship in marriage successful because her partner makes her happy, or because she finds mutual fulfillment with her partner as they lay down their lives in service for one another, for others and for the glory of God?

C. S. Lewis wrote,
“The idea that ‘being in love’ is the only reason for remaining married really leaves no room for marriage as a contract or promise at all. If love is the whole thing, then the promise can add nothing; and if it adds nothing, then it should not be made.”

The method people use in choosing a church today is typical of a society influenced by Post-modern thought. One chooses churches, marital partners, jobs, etc. according to how much pleasure one receives from the choice. Parents often choose a church according to the types and numbers of programs offered to them and their children. Of course, it is good for churches to offer options; however, if one’s experience in church is little more than a propositional one, the intimate connection with Christ and his community lessens. The Biblical ideal in marriage is for one to take his time in choosing his life’s companion. He must understand that his decision is for life, and that his commitment involves a covenant agreement. It should not be broken simply because he is not as happy as he had hoped. The bliss of marriage comes as two very different personalities share a common goal of allowing their marriage to be the dance of life that brings glory to God. They discover their mutual fulfillment as they ride the waves of frustration and experience the hills and valleys of joy and disappointment. Their individual experiences in the journey they share not only shape them into mature persons in Christ, but also mold their corporate existence as a family into a model for effective community living.

Even as Jesus found a ‘door of hope’ in the dark, gloom of a borrowed tomb, perhaps we, too, can find a window of opportunity in the difficult work of learning how to dance.  Remember when you were  twixt twelve and twenty and you went to that first dance?  Remember how insecure you felt about the dance.  As you and the object of your affection approached one another, then casually embraced one another, the awful thought struck you that you weren’t sure what to do next.  ”Who should lead?”  ”Who should follow?”  What if both wanted to lead . . . or follow?  Many people in all types of relationships make it no further in their communion than the approach.  Others ‘take the bull by the horns’ so to speak and take on a part of the dance that does not belong to them.  Sadly, all the observers see is two or more insecure people concerned more about how they look as participants than about the greater glory of the dance.  This, I fear, is a picture of our culture:  People who don’t know how to dance in their relationships.  The Bible offers us the best instructions for proper relationships but we’ll have to sacrifice to discover it.

This is a section of a soon to be published book, entitled, You Have Been Called: Revolutionary Discipleship Through the Covenant Family.   All rights reserved 2010.

June 22nd, 2012 Posted by | Christian Life, Church, Fellowship, Relationships, True Church LIfe | comments

An Eight Cow Christian!

     ticket-scalping.jpgWhat is my value to God?  How does He view me with all my warts…failures…and…well…sins?  Jesus opens a window into the value he places upon me and every Spirit-born believer.  In Matthew 13 our Lord shares a number of parables all wrapped around the theme of the ‘Kingdom of Heaven’.  Interpreting parables can be a fussy kind of thing.  One must keep in mind that with the parables there is one interpretation. There may be multiple applications within the context of truth declared but the interpretation is single in its scope.  Ok, enough with theology!  Let’s get to the heart of the issue. 
     
     I don’t have time to argue this point, but believe me when I say that Jesus uses the term “Kingdom of Heaven” to define that period of time between his first coming and his second coming.  Also, please undestand that to the ancient Hebrew the pearl had no value whatsoever.  In fact, you will not find it used in the Old Testament at all, except for some mistranslations.  Furthermore, Jesus own interpretation of the parable of the weeds sets the prameters for the interpretation of the Eight parables, when it comes to identifying the characters in the parables.  For instance,  the ‘man’, the ‘sower’, the ‘merchant’ must always refer to God, because Jesus defined him as such in the parable of the weeds.  The ‘field’, Jesus said, is the ‘world’.  Get the picture?  In the parable of the Pearl of Great Price Jesus says, ‘…the kingdom of heaven is like a ‘Merchant’ who went in search of fine pearls…”  When Jesus said this, the disciples were in great confusion.  It would be like me saying, “the kingdom of heaven is like a ‘cow-pile’.  Yeah!  You heard rightly…cow-pile.  I guess that’s not quite right either, because you can use manure for fertilizer, but you get the picture, don’t you.  NO VALUE WHATSOEVER IN THE PEARL!
 
     Apparently, Jesus saw value where no one else did.  From before the foundation of the world our Lord made a decision that he was going to shed the garments of diety and go on a quest for something of such unique value that all except he would not even recognize its value.  You and I are that pearl.  He saw value where there was none.  He saw us not as we are but as what he would make us to be. pearl-of-great-price.jpg
      Perhaps I can tell this better by offering a cultural illustration.  In the South Pacific it used to be the custom of men to trade cows for a wife.  A father might receive two cows for an average daughter.  An above average girl would often bring her father three cows.  Only a rare beauty would bring the unheard of price of four cows.  Once there was a father with a daughter so homely that he was hoping he could get just one cow for her.  There was another man on the island, who was considered to be a very astute trader.  One day he came to the father with the homely daughter and offered eight cows for her.  Everyone thought the man to have lost his mind.  However, it was not long before this homely girl was transformed into the most beautiful and gracious woman in the land.  She had started to think of heself as ‘an eight cow woman’, and she became one.
 
     cow.jpg Did you notice in the parable of the pearl how much Jesus paid for us?  The Bible says, “…he went and sold all that he had…”  The blood of God’s Son was the price paid for us.  Hey!  Can you get what this means?  I am an Eight Cow Christian.  You are too!  There was no value in us as far as the world was concerned, but the King of the Universe  saw us wallowing in the mire and muck of this world.  We were dressed in the most homely, unattrative manner.  Our hair was unkempt, and a beauty king or queen we weren’t .  But O Look at us now! One final thought. What would it be like if we would start treating one another like Eight Cow Christians instead of a one or two-cow deal?
 

May 6th, 2009 Posted by | Christian Education, Christian Life, Discipleship | 2 comments

THERE WERE TWO TREES IN THE GARDEN

     Living the Christian Life is not hard…it’s impossible.   Now before the theology police try to have me burned at the stake,two-trees2.jpg let me explain why I would risk expressing such a thought.  This statement is a product of about 40 years of ministry and dealing with many people who have become frustrated with themselves and their inability to live up to the ideals of what some say constitutes the life of a good Christian.burned-at-stake.jpg  I mean really, if each of us believers in Jesus was to make a list of everything every preacher told us to do to be a good Christian, we would need an extra sheet of paper, maybe two (Timmmmmberrrrr!).  Here’s a partial list of some of those things I have heard and tried (unsuccessfully) to keep perfectly.  Read your Bible…Do it every day…and be sure and get up at 5:00 in the morning to begin.  You slouch!  You’re already behind John Wesley.  He got up at 4:00 a.m. and had preached Three times before noon.  Second, Pray!  Do it on your knees and at least 1-2 hours per day.  Third, Witness for Jesus...Remember, “…he that winneth souls is wise…”  Fourth, Obey the Holy Spirit.  Don’t dare miss a leading of the Lord or you can’t go to heaven.  Fifth, attend church faithfully…and don’t miss a service.  God doesn’t like it when people miss church.  Follow those few with Tithing, being filled with the Spirit, and finding your gift area and walking in it.  Whew!!!  I’m tired already.  Oh, wait a minute…I forgot Sanctification.  We’ve got to be sanctified.  “…Without holiness no one shall see the Lord.”  Let’s see how I’m doing so far.  Forget that!  How did I do today?  Let me get my list and check a few of these off.  Hope I didn’t miss one.
      Just writing that paragraph makes me nervous.  Actually most of the things I listed and so much more are helpful and some are even tree-of-knowledge.jpgnecessary for a successful walk with God but there is a problem.  The problem is the approach.  It is a “Do” oriented approach.  Now “Doing” is important in the Christian Life also, but it can never come before ‘being’.  The secret to living the Christian Life is hinted at in Genesis 2:9b.  “The tree of life was in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.”  Look a little more closely at this verse.  Do you see it?  There it is?  Both good and evil are in the same tree.  What!  Yeah!  Good and evil are in the same tree.  There is the problem with trying to live the Christian Life.  Men have a tendancy to live in extremes.  Once we are saved we want to please the Lord with our actions, but we do it out of the abundance of our souls rather than our spirits, and we do as many good things as we can.  We make our lists of the good and right things we are supposed to do.  Our list is not too long when we first start, but as we listen to sermons and read our Bibles and go to seminars our lists get longer and longer until we become wrapped up in our list.  The end result of this is frustration.  Frustrated people either give up or, worse, just settle into a ‘religious’ life.
      A religious life usually consists of someone who has made a list just long enough that he can be relatively successful at keeping.  Her ability to keep the list makes her very proud and…if you please…a member of a very exclusive club…LEGALISTS.  There is also another side to religiosity, LICENTIOUSNESS.  These folks think that God’s grace has little to no responsibility attached to it.  As long as they feel comfortable for having prayed a prayer of repentance so they can go to heaven when they die, they are actually fairly satisfied with their life as is.  All of this comes out of the same tree.
      Therein lies the big problem.  As long as we keep trying to live the Christian Life out of our human souls we will fail.  The soul is where the Intellect, Emotions and Will reside.  God is Spirit…not soul.  Spirit is the highest life form.   The Christian Life is…God.  That is…whatever God does is the Christian Life.  Here are some questions we might ask ourselves. Does God read his Bible?  Does He tithe?  How about Church?  Does He go there on Sunday?  Surely He speaks in tongues, right?  Again, let me say these things are important (I hate burning at the stake).  But the key is to become a participant in Eternal Life.  Peter said in 2 Peter 1:3 “His divine power has granted us all things that pertain to life, and godliness through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence…so that…you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.”
 
     I wonder if this conversation ever took place?  Did Jesus speak to the disciples just before the Ascension and say, “…Now boys, I lived the Christian life by partaking of my Father’s life.  I only did what I saw him doing and only spoke what I heard him saying.  We communed together every day.  We enjoyed one another’s Presence.  But you peons can’t do it that way.  You need to Read your Bibles and pray and tithe and…and…and do it all without complaining.  I connected with my Father, but you will have to live the Christian Life by a secondary method.”  That conversation never took place.
tree-of-life.jpgIf Adam had partaken of the Tree of Life, the very Life of God would have flowed through him.  His obedience would have been the result of his passionate relationship with his loving God.  God would have been “at work in him both to will and to do of his good pleasure” (Phil. 2.13). A Christian cannot obey his way into fellowship with God, but he can fellowship his way into obedience to God. Interestingly, when a person becomes a Christian he receives that Life, Eternal Life.  God begins to commune with him through his spirit.  He begins to produce in him the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5.22-23).  What is fruit anyway?  Fruit is the result of a tree that is drowning in life.  In Christ we have the privilege of choosing once again how we will live the sanctified Life.  We can choose one tree out of which still flows good and evil or we can choose the other one…The tree of Life.  There were two trees in the garden.  There still are.  One leads to fellowship, the other to religion.  Which will you choose?

May 5th, 2009 Posted by | Christian Life, Discipleship, Fellowship | 7 comments