The Child at the Back…

Once upon a time, a small troop of people drudged along an uphill road, and found they’d arrived at their destination. They sought the Kingdom of God, and had reached the front gates.

Together they paused in silence, rapt in wonder, awe, worship, gratitude, and… honestly… fatigue, yet aglow with their sense of accomplishment. Most, but not all, were middle aged or older. Most were well dressed, some in ornate robes, others in business attire, some in Sunday best. There were both men and women.

An ancient man, apparently the porter, appeared outside the door and greeted the group cordially.

“Welcome to the Gates of the Kingdom of Heaven. It is wonderful to see all of you. Now, why have you come?”

At this, there was some milling about and muttering. None was quite sure what to say. Finally a man stepped forward and said, “Sir, we seek to enter. We have have traveled long hard roads, seeking to enter in to the Kingdom of God.”

The old gatekeeper nodded, “that’s marvelous. Well done. Now, good sir, why should I admit you? What is your qualification?”

The man pulled out a neat scroll and handed it forward. “I have sought this gate all my life. I have lived a righteous life, always doing right as I could. I’ve never lied or defrauded anyone. I fear God, and seek to obey His commandments with all my heart.”

The old man nodded approvingly, took the scroll, and said, “Well done, my son. You are very near indeed to the Kingdom.”

Turning to another petitioner, he asked the same questions. This man was mighty in worship leadership and had led thousands of believers in singing the praises and glory of God. He, too, was congratulated on his efforts and assured that he was very near.

The next was a woman who had spent her entire life in prayer and encouraging others to spend time with the Lord. She offered up all sufferings to the glory of God, and sought His will in all things. She had raised her children to fear and reverence God, and do what was right to honor Him. She too was congratulated, encouraged, and assured of her nearness.

This went on as one after another, everyone named their accomplishments and sacrifices in God’s name, and declared their honor and worship of Him. Each had done wonderful things, including one who had studied their whole life acquiring great academic honors and mastering all the sacred languages. He sought admittance through his efforts to teach the world of the wonders of the words of God. The last, or nearly last, conversation was with a mighty pastor who had built a magnificent cathedral, led many thousands to relationship with God, and trained many hundreds in their own lives of ministry and service. When asked why he had done all this, he said that Jesus was his Lord and his model, and he sought to live as Jesus had lived, in honor of God.

Everyone thought, “Ah, certainly THIS man… with all THAT to say…. all THAT he has done…. surely, this man, will pass through the gate.”

Yet, he received the same response, including the great approval and encouragement, from the Porter.

A quiet scuffing sound was heard from the back of the group, as a small child in quite nondescript clothing had turned around and began to shuffle back down the road away from the gate.

The Porter stepped forward, raised his cracked voice, and addressed the child. “You there!” as he stretched his arm towards the child and all the adults made way. (The wee one had been hidden at the back of the group where no one had seen.) The shuffling steps stopped, as the downcast figure slowly turned.

“Mm… me? Sir?” the child responded in a voice nearly too soft to hear.

The old man smiled warmly, “Yes, youngster. You. Why are you here?” The Porter’s eyes shone with friendly light as he encouraged the child to speak. “Don’t be afraid. Please tell me why you’ve come.”

“Well, sir. I came to find this gate, and to pass through into there, into the Kingdom.” The sibilant voice grew a bit, as the child’s eyes rose to meet his.

“Very good, little one. Why then, do you seem to want to leave before we’ve even spoken?”

The gaze and voice quickly dropped again. “Because I see now, I realize… I haven’t done any of the great things all these fine people have done. I have nothing to show you, good sir. I’m not even properly dressed, being a bit ragged and dusty like this. I have no business here. I’ll go quietly, sir.”

“Wait, little one. How did you find the path to here?”

“Oh, that. Well, sometimes, I seem to hear Jesus’ voice calling me, leading me. Sometimes I think I can see His footsteps, or I catch a glimpse of Him up ahead. I think I’ve heard Him call to me, saying ‘Follow Me’, and so, whenever I’ve thought I had the direction right, or I could see the steps, I’ve tried to follow. One day, I met up with all these people, who had maps and books and things. And together, here we are….”

“I see,” nodded the old Porter. “So you followed. Now, granted that you don’t yet have a big list of mighty deeds or works to show, tell me WHY you want to enter these doors? What do you hope to gain?”

The child was a long time before answering, but no one broke the silence. All the elders found themselves thinking about the question for themselves. What did they really seek, hoping to enter in?

Finally the child answered, “Sir, I just want to get in to find HIM. I’ve heard Him. I’ve seen Him from time to time. But I just want to find Him, grab Him, and… and… hug Him.”

At this, some of the elders repressed a snort. How silly did that sound? Jesus is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords! The Great Majesty of All Creation. And here this child speaks of grabbing… and hugging… psh.

The Porter came close up to the child, dropped to one knee so they were face to face, and nearly whispered… “And why, child… Why do you so seek to hug Him that you’ve come all this way and dare even this?”

Tears welled as their eyes met, and the child whispered simply, “because, sir, I love Him. I don’t know very much. I haven’t done very much, certainly nothing great. I’ve just heard His voice, seen Him now and again, and I love Him. That’s why I’ve come.”

The old Porter hugged the child, as the great gate door dissolved. There, to the astonishment of all, stood Jesus Christ, King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Joyfully He laughed as He dropped to one knee with His arms wide open for the child.

“Finally! You’ve arrived! I’ve been waiting. Together we will see everything. I cannot wait to show you.” Jesus had lifted the child up in His arms with a mighty heave. If a little one could fly, that’s how it seemed as together they shared a moment of sheer joy unspeakable.

Turning to the others, the Lord said, “I am so glad you are ALL here. You are so very close. You have all done so well, My good and faithful servants. As soon as you are ready, come in and join Us. You lack only one thing…” and, carrying the child in His arms, He passed through the gate back into His Kingdom.

Astonished, all the elders were left standing with the Porter, who had gently arisen and strode back to his post. Everyone was reviewing these amazing events in their mind, pondering heavy to understand.

The eldest and wisest of the lot, suddenly smiled and nodded. He exchanged glances with the Porter, who realized that understanding had dawned. Quietly he walked up to the Porter and whispered in his ear. The Porter stood aside as he passed in.

Everyone left standing there wondered what he had understood, and what he had said.

What’s it all about?

Catchy tune, poignant words. “What’s it all about, Alfie” is a 1966 Burt Barach song, written for the movie Alfie. It was a sad movie. I saw it when it first came out and was sorry I did.

But those words ring around in my head these days as I read so many prophecies, so many news stories, so many opinions from political pundits and religious experts.

Here’s another catchy tune, from 1971. It has better words, straight out of the Bible:

“Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things shall be added unto you.”

In the last few weeks, I have watched the Holy Spirit demonstrate the kingdom of God in a variety of ways. Here’s a few instances:

A young college student was tormented by fear after his dad died in his sleep several months ago, terrified that his mother would also die suddenly and leave him an orphan. Unable to shake this dread, he was calling her at work multiple times a day just to be sure she was okay. They both knew he needed help. He needed deliverance. His mom came to me for help.

Several friends of his family gathered around him after church a couple of weeks ago. We commanded the tormenting spirit to leave and spoke God’s peace and joy to him, as the evil spirit of fear completely left him. Then we prayed for him to be filled with the Holy Spirit, and he was. It has been marvelous to see what the Lord has been doing in his life since that morning. Freedom!

This past Sunday our pastor didn’t preach a usual sermon or teach a usual Bible lesson – he read long passages of scripture from Isaiah and Matthew, the prophecy and fulfillment of Jesus’ crucifixion.

“It was for you,” he said. “All of it was for you.” Then as he waited the Holy Spirit moved across the congregation, bringing several people forward for prayer. One young woman had decided to accept Jesus’ sacrifice and to say, “Yes, it was for me!” It was wonderful to join in praising God for her new life in Christ.

Not all the work of the kingdom I’ve been observing recently was in church altars or aisles. Last week in a local retail business, I had the privilege of laying hands on a 50 year old man for healing, and then for him to receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit. He had recently been diagnosed with liver cancer and was facing weeks, perhaps months, of radiation and other therapies.

The power of God fell in that room. The presence of the Holy Spirit was so palpable, those observing were in tears – including me. We knew God was beginning something remarkable in him, even as he complies with his doctor’s plans for treatment. He was already an intercessor for his family and friends; now he will be interceding for his physicians, hospital staff, other patients and their families, all the new needy people he will encounter in this new chapter of his life.

The 54 year old son of friends had what should have been routine hernia surgery some weeks ago, but complications led to the build-up of fluid in his chest and then to non-healing of his surgical incision. Soon he was critically ill – an infection had developed in his blood.

He fell into a coma-like state and his family sent out an urgent request for intercession. His doctors weren’t optimistic for his recovery, but his family refused to be pessimistic as we spoke life, healing, wholeness, total and complete normal function to his body. Now only a short time later he is awake, talking and very hungry! After weeks of IV’s he is eating regular food – such a dramatic improvement that only the Lord can get the credit. And the glory!

In this last month there have been so many other opportunities, other occasions for the Lord to show himself strong on behalf of those whose hearts are right toward him. He’s waiting for his people to take him where he wants to go and let him do what he wants to do. What he’s always done – demonstrate His kingdom.

If instead of looking at what’s wrong around us (in church, in government, in business, in family) let’s look at how we can manifest the kingdom of God in our part of the world. Letting Jesus use our eyes to look through is truly “eye-opening.” So many hurting people surround us every day, people who need help. God’s help. Our help.

When we see them that way, we’ll intervene. We’ll intercede. We’ll open our mouth and let the Holy Spirit fill it, extend our hand to convey God’s peace in the midst of turmoil. We’ll lay hands on the sick and see them recover. Speak the command and see demons flee.

That’s what it’s all about.

What is “Applied Ministry”?

7 If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; from now on you know Him, and have seen Him.”

Philip *said to Him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” Jesus *said to him, “Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own initiative, but the Father abiding in Me does His works. 11 Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me; otherwise believe because of the works themselves. 12 Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father. 13 Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it.

15 “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments. [John 14]

Don Merritt, another editor of Church Set Free, did seminary teaching in “Applied Theology”, rather than Systematic Theology.  I subscribe to this worldview. Rather like when…

1Jesus spoke these things; and lifting up His eyes to heaven, He said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify Your Son, that the Son may glorify You, even as You gave Him authority over all flesh, that to [a]all whom You have given Him, He may give eternal life. This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.”[John 17]

There is a kingdom’s worth of difference between “knowing ABOUT” God, the Father, Jesus, the Holy Spirit… between studying, memorizing, analyzing, arguing, discussing, striving to comprehend all there is to know ABOUT God… And (in the biblical sense of “know Thee”, as Jesus uses here) Intimately KNOWING the Father, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom He sent.

A vast body of resources exist for talking ABOUT ministry, the scriptural underpinnings, what is worthy, what is not, what to teach, how to teach, what to think, what to believe, what to preach. There is no shortage of opinion, discussion or debate about what to think, believe, or feel… to be Christian.

But aside from talking, whether about what “church people” should (or must) BELIEVE ABOUT God, or about how to MANAGE “church people” and what they believe, what money they give, how often they attend church, or what kind of music they listen to in official times of worship in the church building… there isn’t really a whole lot out there about HOW to DO “ministry”.

This section of this blog considers “ministry” to mean “servanthood”, in the sense of the scriptural word “Doulos” or “bondservant”. A minister may be “official” or not, “ordained” or not,  “male” or not, “adult” or not. A minister, as considered in this section of this blog, is any person who can say, as did Jesus’ mom… “behold the ‘duolos’ of the Lord”. A minister, of any size, shape, age, or persuasion… simply acknowledges “belonging to the King”.

“Applied Ministry” then, will focus not just on the “will” of the Father (and Jesus), or the “words” of the Father (and Jesus), but on the “works”, the “acts”, the “deeds”… the “servanthood” that PERFECTLY REFLECT(ED) the will of the Father through Jesus! This section does not primarily focus on the “What” or the “Why” of Church Matters… but the “How”.

Questions, comments and concerns are more than welcome! How to execute servanthood in the name of Jesus to heal, restore, and love hurting broken people in a world of shadows… How to grow in our own servanthood… How to grow in our love and our embrace of the Intimate Presence of God… These are the matters I hope to address in this section, from a variety of perspectives.

Welcome! Please speak, contribute, ask! I hope this will be and become a place where, “You’ve got questions… He has answers!” Differing views, respectfully expressed… MORE than welcome!

Joy and Grace to you, Gentle Reader!

The Little Monk