Kairos Stories

Kairos—καιρός  There are two words for time in Greek; chronos and kairos. The first identifies chronological time while the latter emphasizes an opportune moment in which to seize. God provides the moment and we are charged with responding to the opportunity.

What’s the New Normal for the Church?

The Lord is revealing through the pandemic the new normal for the church. It is obvious to some, but others may need a little help to see what the Lord is up to. Here is what the Lord has been showing me and others. Let me walk you through a bit of my own experience.

Around the time I wrote Neighborhood Initiative and the Love of God, I asked a class I was teaching at the Valley Vineyard, “If you were a farmer and you were given the responsibility of planting and gathering a harvest out of every area of our Valley, how you would go about it?” The answer was pretty simple. The participants said they would break the Valley up into smaller sections and assign farmers to each section. Each farmer would plant seeds in his field and before long a harvest could be gathered from every field across the Valley. 

Consider the spiritual implications of this response and what Jesus had in mind when he said, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into His harvest field” (Matthew 9:38 NIV). 

            The Lord of the harvest has answered the prayers of many and has sent us out to work in each of our sections in His harvest field. The Lord has situated us in homes and apartments/condos so we can work in the field He has assigned to us. I remember in the early days of Neighborhood Initiative saying, “I dream of a day when we meet a Christian we don’t know that we will ask, not what church do you go to, but what harvest field are you working in?” The Lord is certainly bringing this dream to pass in our day.

            Our pastor, Jimmy Reyes, made a comment that has stuck with me and I have pondered it over and over again. He said, “What will be the new normal for the Valley Vineyard when we come out of the pandemic? We can’t go back to the way it was.” What a profound thought. If we are merely looking to get back to normal, then we are missing a very important lesson the Lord is teaching each of us through the lockdown in our own neighborhoods. Those who live next door to us are very important to Him—He commanded us to love our neighbors as ourselves. This unique opportunity is a lesson of a lifetime for us who are in His Church. He is orchestrating a new normal for the Church.

Change is Happening

 We all don’t like change, pastors included, but when God introduces new wine to His Church, because of things that our happening on the world scene it is time for us to adapt to what He is initiating. One of the things, I believe, He has been introducing, for some time now, is the neighboring movement. What I see with this movement, which is not so with the church model we are more familiar with today, is that it is pliable like a new wineskin and can adapt to the drastic changes in our present culture. We see how a home-centered church can acclimate and stand strong in such places as China and Iran. The question we must ask ourselves, how has the American church stood up to the pandemic?

Before the shelter in place order, I was asked in so many words, “Why should Christian leaders rethink how we do church? Here was my answer for pastors at the time. “We must not be naïve about the future of our country. We may not be prepared for something that may strike at the heart of where the church is vulnerable here in the U.S. and that is we depend and rely entirely too much on our buildings and our pastors, which could very well be our Achilles heel. All you have to do is contrast how the church in China held up under persecution versus the church in Russia. Like the Early Church, the Chinese church is thriving under persecution, because the home is central and they are multiplying leadership. Whereas, the church in Russia was devastated by persecution, because there was too much dependence on the pastor/minister and the building. Leaders in the church today must prepare for persecution, which may very well be eminent. We must emphasize the centrality of the home for ministry and multiplying disciples who will carry on the Lord’s work. I don’t mean to say that pastors aren’t important, because they are. However, they need to encourage their people to take their eyes off them and make discipleship to Jesus central. If you as a pastor are not doing this, your people will not hold up as the winds of change are sweeping through our land.”

Making Disciples of Jesus

When I first got involved with neighboring at the Valley Vineyard, I put together a little neighboring handbook entitled Developing a Neighborhood Ministry. The subtitle was The Church’s New Frontier. A pastor friend of mine said to me, after looking at the booklet cover, “This is not the Church’s new frontier.” We responded to one another with a smile, because we both new that neighboring is what the Lord instructed His 12 disciples to do in Matthew 10 and the 70 to do in Luke 10 when He sent them out. He told them to go from house to house and search for a worthy person or a person of peace. Once they found one, they were to stay with that person and invest in their lives. The home was central to the advance of the Lord’s kingdom. The Church needs to move back to what Jesus instructed His early disciples to do. Because our church buildings are the center for ministry rather than our homes, we have lost sight of our mission in the world. Michael Green in his book Evangelism and the Early Church said, “Christians missionaries made a deliberate point of gaining whatever households they could as lighthouses, so to speak, from which the gospel could illuminate the surrounding darkness.” With this home-centered focus, the Early Church grew exponentially. The church today has moved away from this and the growth of the Lord’s kingdom has suffered. When those in your congregation begin to realize that their homes are the center for ministry and the pastor’s role is to equip them so they will love their neighbors as themselves, then you will find that they will begin to live their lives like Jesus did by becoming incarnational.

What the Lord is doing in our day is radical, which means getting back to the root. He is taking His Church back to its roots…what we read about in the book of Acts. Won’t you join Him where He has planted you?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Secret of Serving Like Jesus During the Pandemic
Chapter 3 The Secret of Serving Like Jesus

It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” “No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.” “Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well! ”Jesus answered, “Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.” For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean. When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them (John 13:1-17).

Like a dramatic one act play, Jesus demonstrates something here before his disciples to help them understand that his whole life was about serving people. As Jesus said, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). Jesus unveiled the essence of his earthly life before his disciples in a beautiful portrayal in the upper room. He conveyed to his disciples the important need for daily cleansing as they walked in this world, but he also wanted his disciples to understand that serving is at the core of what is required of being a disciple if you want to want to have influence in people’s lives.

One Act Play

Jesus communicates this profoundly without words, but through his actions by washing his disciples’ feet. A service always carried out by the least of the servants or a child. He demonstrates that this is a humble act by removing his outer garment, just like he set aside his outer garment of royalty when he left heaven. He then wrapped a towel around his waist like a servant, demonstrating that this is what he did when he became a man and took on the life of a servant. When he finished washing their feet, he put back on his outer garment and returned to his place, just like in the future when he would put back on his garment of royalty and set back down on his throne in heaven. He then asks his disciples, “Do you understand what I have done for you?” He wanted them to look at what he just exhibited and asked them if they understood what he was portraying. He is asking them, are you willing to step down from your “lofty positions” and become servants of humanity like I have? And that’s the question that all of us must answer if we want to reach a world that is so bent on being somebody. Becoming a servant is counterintuitive to our human nature. We don’t like to take the lower positon and we would much rather associate with people with status in society. It is an upside-down kingdom that he is inviting his disciples into, where they become subservient to the people around them. This was a very big pill for them to swallow. After all, James and John, at the time, were pursuing sitting on his left and right side in glory, but Jesus was saying become a servant and put on the towel like I have.

Learning to Put on the Towel

        I have found if we are unwilling to take on the role of a servant, the Lord has his ways of humbling us in life so we learn the importance of putting on the servant’s towel.

Years ago, I was a pastor of college group that grew in numbers very rapidly. It was incredible to be a part of these wonderful people’s lives, I was on top of my game, but at the same time I was a complete failure as a father and being there for my dear wife. Friends tried to point out to me the changes I needed to make, but their counsel only irritated me. The Lord had to humble me so I would become a servant at home. He removed me from this position of success by his sovereign hand. I took the first job that came to me through a friend. I became an operator of a large folding machine at an advertising company. On one occasion, I remember looking at these day-labors who were filling boxes with the advertisements that were coming off my machine. I remember saying these pitiful words to the Lord, “Don’t they know who I am?” He responded so clearly to me, “They don’t care who you are.” When I arrived home that evening, my wife jo handed me a wrapped package. I took the wrapping paper off with excited anticipation and there inside was one of those Hallmark plaques. I wasn’t into Hallmark, but this plaque put me in my place. On it was a painting of a father on a dock fishing with his son. Written on the plaque were these words, “Try not to be a man of success, but rather try to become a man of value.” The quote came from Albert Einstein. These words penetrated my heart. These two incidents along with many others began to shape my life as a servant. Another quote that kept running through my mind at the time was by Thomas Merton. Here is my variant of it, “Be careful when you climb the ladder of success only to find when you reach the top it is leaning against the wrong wall.” The Lord began to show me that true success was being in his will. For eight years, I continued working in very humble jobs, but those years were some of the best years of my life with jo and my three boys. Jesus showed me, like he did his disciples, being a servant in this life is the best way to live life.    

        Jesus then says something, in this story to his disciples, that may be missed if you read over these verses too quickly. And here’s the secret. “I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.” Most miss that when we put on the servant’s towel like our master, we will be “blessed.” Now the blessings come in a multitude of ways, but when you begin to serve others in your neighborhood, at work, or wherever you spend your days, life then is filled with wonderful surprises given to you by the Lord. This may shock you, but by serving others you enter the best life.    

A time for reflection

The apostle Paul puts words to what Jesus portrayed in the upper room for his disciples in Philippians 2:

 

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

Who, being in very nature[a] God,
    did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
    by taking the very nature[b] of a servant,
    being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
    he humbled himself
    by becoming obedient to death—
        even death on a cross!

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
    and gave him the name that is above every name,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
    in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
    to the glory of God the Father.

 

Would family members or others characterize you as being a servant? If yes, why? If no, what would it take to become a servant with those you spend your day with?

 

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Respond

 

When the Lord confronted me about not being a servant at home, I asked my wife, “What can I do to prove I love you?’ She said, “You can start by washing the dishes.” I have been washing dishes to this day—mind you, that was just the start. If it is your desire to become a servant like Jesus with those you listed in Chapter 1, list ways that you can begin serving them.

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Jesus’ Secrets for Advancing His Kingdom
Chapter 2 The Secret of Caring Like Jesus

Then Jesus made a circuit of all the towns and villages. He taught in their meeting places, reported kingdom news, and healed their diseased bodies, healed their bruised and hurt lives. When he looked out over the crowds, his heart broke. So confused and aimless they were, like sheep with no shepherd. Matthew 9:35-36 (The Message Bible by Eugene Peterson)

 

Sheep Without a Shepherd

 

As in the story of the Good Samaritan, relationship with others, starts with showing mercy, not judgement. In fact, James says, “Mercy triumphs over judgement” (James 2:13). This can revolutionize the way you think about people in your neighborhood, at work, or school. Matthew tells us that Jesus looked upon the multitude, not with judgement, but His heart broke for them, because He saw them like sheep without a shepherd. Jesus used this comparison because He knew the disciples understood fully well what it meant for sheep to be without a shepherd. For those of us who don’t spend time with sheep, we are unaware of how grave it is for sheep to be left alone. Without a shepherd, domestic sheep will die. If they fall over on their back, they can’t right themselves. Sheep are defenseless animals and are so fearful that a stray jackrabbit will cause a flock of sheep to stampede. Without a shepherd, there is extreme tension between sheep…like we see among people in our world today. However, when the shepherd walks up to the sheep all of this stops and they focus on the shepherd. It was Jesus’ intent to help His disciples, and us, to capture the human condition without the Good Shepherd.

Mercy Triumphs over Judgement

One of the significant blemishes on the church today is judgmentalism toward those outside the church. James, Jesus’ half-brother, makes a weighty point that should override the propensity of us Christians to make such judgments. He says, “If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing right. But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers…Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment” (James 2:8-9, 12-13). James splendidly conveys, because we have been shown mercy we of all people should in turn pass on that same mercy to everyone else. He points out that if we make distinctions by showing favoritism in loving our neighbors, then we sin and become a lawbreaker. Making these kinds of judgments and distinctions is in violation of the royal law, loving your neighbor as yourself. In other words, if you close your heart to being merciful, then you close your heart to His mercy. The same door through which the mercy of God came into your heart and life, rescuing and transforming you, and enabling you to live by the royal law, is the door through which that mercy must flow out to others. But if you slam that door shut because you don’t like your neighbor or coworker because of the way they live their lives, or feel yourself to be morally superior to them, then you have slammed and locked the very door through which God’s mercy was longing to come to you as well. Now that may sound very severe, but it is true. Please know that I have made judgments of people more times than I would like to admit, but I am grateful that the Lord has rescued me many times from this foolishness because of His abounding mercy and grace.

One of the ways to get over our judgments of others is to look back to our condition without the Shepherd. Do you remember how you were, before His love invaded your life? Before Dave McNeal came into my life in Thailand and introduced me to the Lord, my life was filled with shameful activity. I am not proud of what I was like back then and I have great regret for the way I lived my life. I am not alone, the apostle Paul said of himself, “Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst” (1Timothy 1:15). Reflecting on what you and I were like should lead us to have mercy. This is where it all begins…having the heart of God for people…one of mercy, not of judgement. It is very hard for us to do, but I have found that judgement accomplishes nothing, but mercy opens the hearts of souls to the love of God. They want to know that God loves them unconditionally and we are the means for showing them that kind of love. Through us they will begin to understand Jesus’ compassion for them no matter what condition they are in without the Good Shepherd.

A Time for reflection

First, take some time to reflect on your way of life before you knew Jesus. Then ponder how He sacrificially died for you and personally stepped into your life and forgave you of all your sins. You might want to do this while partaking of communion. In light of what Jesus has done for you, consider each of those you listed in Chapter 1. How do their lifestyles, attitudes, and beliefs differ from yours? What has been your attitude toward these people or others?

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Respond

Dave McNeal never pointed out the shameful way I was living my life, but took genuine interest in my life and listened to me a great deal. I am sure if he would have been critical about my way of life I would have distanced myself from him, but because of his loving mercy I opened up to him and the Lord. To care for people like Jesus did may require a shift in your attitude from being judgmental to showing mercy. How is the Lord leading you to care for them despite their lifestyles, attitudes, and beliefs knowing they are like sheep without a shepherd? (It may be listening, being kind to them in some unique way, giving them a gift, etc.)

Jesus’ Secrets for Advancing His Kingdom
Chapter 1 The Secret of Loving Like Jesus

“A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine.

Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’ “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?’” (Luke 10:30-36).

It may have never occurred to you, but Jesus loved His neighbors perfectly when He was here on earth. The gospel accounts reveal His love of neighbor. One of the greatest demonstrations of this kind of love is revealed in this story of the Good Samaritan told by Jesus to an expert in the Law.

His intent was to test Jesus and justify himself by asking, “Who is my neighbor?” (Luke 10:25-29). Jesus points out that the two religious leaders (priest and Levite) in the story avoided caring for the man on the side of the road who was beaten, robbed, and left for dead. It is veiled, but if you look closely you will see that Jesus used the Samaritan, the most despised in society at that time, to portray the way He loved people in comparison to that of the religious leaders of his day.

Jesus was not one to toot His own horn, so He wrapped something about Himself in the story of the Good Samaritan. You will find in this story a picture of Jesus’ life of love. More importantly, Jesus reveals the kind of love He showed to all of us in this narrative. Notice the comparisons between the Samaritan and Jesus.

The Samaritan (An Outcast) Jesus (An Outcast)
– The Samaritan took pity on him – Jesus took pity on us.
– He came near to him – He came near to us in the incarnation
(John 1:14)
– He bandaged & anointed him – He bandaged us and
anointed us with His Spirit
– He paid the price for him – He paid the price for us.
– He told the innkeeper he would return – He said He would return for us.

At the close of the story, Jesus asks the expert in the law,” “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.” (Luke 10:36-38) In other words, Jesus was saying, go and do what I have done.

This is what the Lord is calling us to, to love people the way He has loved us. This is what will make a difference in our relationship with those we spend time with in our neighborhoods during the pandemic and where work or go to school.
Jesus’ Love in a Neighborhood

In some cases, we may be asked by the Lord during the pandemic to do something that may violate the six-foot social distancing rule. In other words, we may have to do something for a neighbor that may require risk. There was a woman in a neighborhood who was deeply stressed after an incident her husband had in their garage. Her husband has life threatening health issues and had a severe cold for the last two weeks.

As he was backing his vehicle out of his garage, he thought the garage door was all the way up, but it wasn’t. He backed his car into the roll-up garage door and literally pushed it off the rollers and outside of the garage. His wife had called a garage door repair shop and they said they would come out to repair the door, but it was getting late and they never showed up. She was not only concerned that the garage door was damaged and open to anyone driving by, she was fearful of a break in during the night, because of recent home invasions.

One of their neighbors nearby, we’ll call him Jim, heard about this and went up to see if he could help. When he arrived, he found the neighbor’s wife attempting to use a pair of pliers to repair the damage. There was no way she was going to fix the garage door. He offered to help, but she was reluctant. After some coaxing she allowed him to give her a hand. As he was working on the rollers he was conscience of the six-foot rule of social distancing, but cast fate to the wind and helped her anyway.

After a while, he realized his own limitation in fixing the door and reached out to a neighbor a couple of blocks away, who we’ll call Bob. He is a retired school bus mechanic. Bob is one of those kind of guys that loves to tackle situations like this. He is like a soldier who has no fear. However, his wife was quite concerned about him helping, considering the pandemic. Bob grabbed his tools and the two of these men went up the street to help their neighbor. When they arrived, Bob sized up the situation and what was needed to get the damaged door back on its rollers and functioning. The two men worked together and then another neighbor from across pitched in. Bob used his crowbar to get the door back in alignment. This wife was relieved that the door could be closed and couldn’t thank everyone enough for getting the door shut.

As the guys walked back to Bob’s house, he said to his neighbor, “You have to pray for me. My wife wasn’t at all pleased that I did this. In normal circumstances, she would have been more than happy that I would help a neighbor.”

Like in the story of the Good Samaritan, sometimes loving our neighbors can be life threatening. During the pandemic, we need to hear from the Lord on situations like this and let Him lead us to what He is calling us to do. When I was in Thailand during the Vietnam War, there were those who were adrenalin junkies who liked to put themselves in harm’s way. This is not what we should be doing. We should hear from the Lord in matters like this and then His love compel will us to care for a neighbor in distress or need.

Jesus’ love on Campus

Loving like Jesus applies to all contexts where God has placed us, not just in our neighborhoods. Dallas Willard, a dear friend and well known philosophy professor showed this kind of love while he was a teacher at USC. He was loved and respected by students and faculty alike. I heard a colleague speak about Dallas at one of his memorial services of how Dallas impacted his life and eventually brought him into a relationship with the Lord.

He pointed out that they worked together on the campus and traveled together while working in Europe during a summer. Through this trip the professor pointed out how he was able to observe Dallas’ life. After many years, Dallas and his wife Jane invited him over for dinner.

During the conversation that evening this professor was reading over one of Dallas’ books that was just released. As he read and was in conversation with the Willards, his eyes were opened to the truth of the gospel and he gave his life to the Lord and he began his journey. It took time, lots of time, but that is what is needed if we want to see people come into God’s kingdom. We need to love them and patiently wait for the Lord to open their hearts to the things of God. God is faithful and He will provide the opportunity in due time.

A Time for reflection

Whether it is in a neighborhood or on a university campus or where God has placed us, God wants to use us to touch the lives of people. Who is the Lord putting on your heart to actively love where you live, work, go to school, or play? List the names of those He has put on your heart below.

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Respond
Jesus told us, “…let your light shine before others, that they may see your good (beautiful) deeds and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). I remember before I was a believer, Dave McNeal, the one who led me to the Lord, gave me a significant gift that helped open my eyes to Jesus…I still have that gift fifty years later, because God used it to open my heart to Him. List unique ways in which you can begin to love those you listed to help open their eyes so our Father is glorified.

Jesus’ Secrets for Advancing His Kingdom During the Pandemic

Jesus’ Secrets for Advancing His Kingdom

During the Pandemic

 

Introducing Jesus’ Secrets

In my previous books, Neighborhood Initiative and the Love of God, The Incarnational Church, and The Kairos Adventure, I emphasized the centrality of the home for loving and caring for neighbors. In our day, the believing home has been deephasized by the Church. We underestimated its significance when it comes to the advance of our Lord’s kingdom. But if you look closely at the book of Acts and read about the early church, you will find that the gospel spread rapidly through the unique Christian home. The flow of Gods’ love starts with Christians in their home, married or single, and begins to stream into our nieghborhoods, the places where we work, go to school, and other places where we spend our day. With today’s pandemic, we have a perfect opportunity to live this out with our neighbors.

For years, I was looking to find how the gospel could spread in an authentic and naturally-supernatural way. After years of searching, I found when our home became central for the advance of God’s kingdom and I began to live as Jesus did where God had placed me, my search was over.

Why the Term “Secrets” is Used

The word “secrets” is used in the title and here in the introduction, because all too often we who desire to see Jesus’ kingdom advance, resort to methods and programs, or our own strategies, which have a very short shelf life, rather than what Jesus put forth in the Gospels about how his kingdom advances. Believe me, I have done all three. But Jesus’ approach is counter intuitive to these. His approach involved relationship, which I have found is sustainable. Jesus spoke about these secrets in Matthew 13:11, after his disciples asked him why he spoke in parables, he said, “Because the knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them.” The “them” that Jesus is referring to here are those who didn’t have eyes to see (13:12). The intention of this book is to help us come to grips with many of Jesus’ secrets for advancing his kingdom—his reign and rule—which are often overlooked.

The Importance of Love

This small book is all about Jesus and how He lived a life of love with those He encountered during his time on earth. Jesus not only exemplified it, but commanded us to do the same when He said, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” The Apostle Paul said the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this Great command of Jesus (Ephesians 4:13). James, Jesus’ half-brother, called this neighborly love the “Royal Law” (James 2:8). This is what those in our neighborhoods today are waiting to see in us who believe—an inexplicable love that attracts them to a God who loves them deeply.

        We can’t stir up this kind of love in our own strength. The source of the love Paul and James speak of originates in God. “We love because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19). It is a gift given to us by the Spirit of God—“The fruit of the Spirit is love…” (Galatians 5:22). We are merely a branch on the Vine and if we are abiding in the Vine, the fruit of His love flows freely through our lives and has remarkable influence in the lives of others. 

Learning the Significance of Love

It is easy, for us who believe, to take for granted God’s love streaming through us. Many years ago, I became profoundly aware of what it was like not to experience His love. My attitude toward a brother soured and it led me into a downward spiral with this person and, more importantly, with God. Bitterness got the best of me and I was stuck. During a two year season, I tried my best to live my life for God, but because of pride I was shut off from experiencing His love. Through a series of events, God brought healing to my soul and restored my relationship with Him and this brother. It was a humbling experience. He used this portion of scripture to bring conviction and draw me back into relationship with Him, “Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister” (1 John 4:20, 21). When you are trapped in bitterness, it is very hard to get out of it. In fact, it is impossible without God. He graciously ripped out the bitter root with these words, “This is not about _______ (the brother’s name here) this is about you.” Conviction swelled within me and I humbled myself before the Lord and confessed to this brother my bitterness and lack of love and God set me free and His love once again poured freely through me. His favor came back and He began to use me once again, because without God’s love I have nothing. I call it “my million dollar experience I wouldn’t give a dime to do again.”

I share this personal story because if you are stuck like I was, this little book will not be helpful until you are right with God. If all is well with your soul then you’re ready to take a closer look at what Jesus’ Secrets for Advancing His Kingdom is all about.

It’s an Organic Work of God

This is not a program, but an organic work that God desires for His people. It’s encouraging followers of Jesus to go out of their way to befriend those where God has placed them—to care for them, listen to them, serve them, and be there for them. It is letting your light so shine before them in such a way that they see Jesus in you and desire to have the kind of love you have. People are looking for someone who is authentic, one who loves them from a pure heart with no other motive but to communicate that they have value and God sees them as a precious treasure.

The seed of any plant has within its construct all that it requires to become what it will be at maturity. So like the tiny mustard seed, Jesus’ love starts small in each of His followers and by God’s power has the potential to change the lives of those where God has placed us. As God’s kingdom work grows in you, and then through you, it will accomplish what the Lord intends, one of flesh that extends to the hearts of those where God has placed you within your neighborhood. For some this will require a paradigm shift from methods and programs to relating to people where they are in life’s journey. This may make some of us uncomfortable, but we must enter into their world, as Jesus entered ours, and begin to love them in spite of their attitudes, beliefs, and lifestyles.

God has placed you and me where He has so that we will live like Jesus, that is, that we will love our neighbors as ourselves. Where each of us spend our time in our journey in this world is not by chance, but by God’s sovereign design so that we will be His representative to those we encounter from day to day (Acts 17:26-27).

        In Jesus’ Secrets for Advancing His Kingdom, you will observe how Jesus lived and instructed us to live so that we will be led by God’s Spirit to lead others into a relationship with Jesus through His love. Each chapter will introduce you to another story, or parable, or instruction to help you live like Jesus did. Each chapter will speak of Jesus, the one who knows how to help people into his kingdom. This is all to the end that others will enter His life (John 10:10) and love (1 John 4:7-12), so they will in turn do the same for others.

        Right after my dear friend Dave McNeal led me to the Lord in Thailand, during the Vietnam War, he said, “Now you go and do what I did for you.” I thought, “No way!” But when I returned to the states, the love of Christ flowing through me compelled me and I began to share His love with everyone I could. The Apostle Paul makes it clear that this is what Jesus’ love does in and through us once we believe,

“For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again” (2 Corinthians 5:14 and 15).

 

Simply stated, because of His love for us and in us, we can’t stop showing His love to others.