My wife and I started a new thing.  We were inspired my some friends of ours to start praying together in a more formal way.  We chose Monday night as our night to have a serious prayer time together.  So we began last night.  And let me say… it was nothing extraordinary 🙂  There was something slightly interesting about it, though.

We put the kids to bed and tried to get our infant settled enough.  We listened to a Paul Baloche song, Here And Now, (great song!) to get us focused and “tuned in” then started to pray.  I held our fussy baby while we prayed.  Our 5 year old kept yelling things to us from her bedroom and even came out a few times.  (Let me tell you, your response as a parent to a bothersome child is really held accountable when it occurs during a prayer time!)  My cell phone even rang.  But we kept on and prayed for about 10 minutes.  It did cross our minds that when we tried to pray there were many distractions.  One might say the Enemy was trying to distract us.  Does that happen?  Perhaps.  At any rate, we didn’t take the opportunity to give up and I’m glad we didn’t.

It’s a small but good start.  Just like I think when I exercise, even if I didn’t run far or long, I at least got out and helped establish the habit in my life. Finally, I feel like I’m getting to the heart of this blog.  I hope to continue to share what we learn so others can be challenged and encouraged to make that final step into the Kingdom.

In my time with God this morning, these 5 steps came to me.  How simple would it be if we lived our lives by these steps.

STEP 1 – Die to self.

STEP 2 – Report to Jesus and receive orders.

STEP 3 – Carry out orders.

STEP 4 – Report back to Jesus.

STEP 5 – Repeat daily.

Tonight my wife and I will start what we hope to be a weekly routine and we’ll start with steps 1 and 2.  I have a feeling I have some ideas of what #2 already is.  Doing theses steps, of which step 1 in itself is where I usually get stuck, will require some things.  One being guts.  Another being trust.  We will most certainly need to sharpen our listening skills to be able to discern Jesus’ voice.  And we need to learn how to do this together.

I’ll post a follow up report.

Last night was not unlike many nights before.  I was up with a crying 1 month old baby.  Last night was unique in that a thought occurred to me.  One could summarize parenting into one word: Sacrifice.  That lead me to think of marriage and other relationships and how they could also be summarized by the word sacrifice.  And, of course, in light of this blog, life in The Kingdom is largely categorized by sacrifice.

Do you recognizes the screen shot above?  This is an image from the movie Mr. Holland’s Opus.  This is one movie I love and hate to watch.  Its the story that follows a music teacher (Mr. Holland) and his family through the ups and downs of his teaching career.  I love the movie because it’s fun and a very moving story.  But the audience’s heart goes out to the main character.  He has this dream to compose this Opus, this masterpiece.  Year by year, life keeps getting in the way and you see him slowly realize his personal dream will probably not be realized because so many other things demand his attention – things he didn’t necessarily plan on or ask for.  You see this man who has to continually make sacrifices.

Jesus once stopped and turned to a large crowd who was following them and talked to them about the cost of being His disciple.

“Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it? For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him, saying, ‘This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.’

“Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Will he not first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.”

I have to wonder if I have really counted the cost of being a parent.  Or even a husband.  Or even a disciple of Jesus.  Being a parent costs a man a lot.  In fact, I would venture to say it costs what it costs a man to be a disciple.  A man must give up his life for his family.  A man must sacrifice for his family.

For me, sacrifice largely means time and attention.  My kids need me to put the computer away and be engaged with them lest I teach them that Dad doesn’t care what they have to say.  I need to look when they say “look, Dad!” lest I teach them that their accomplishments don’t matter to Dad.  I need to have them on my mind through the day lest they learn that Dad only cares about us when he’s not busy with work.  I need to be there when I say lest they learn Dad doesn’t really do what he says.

How is my time, my work, my [whatever] more important than my kids?  Andy Stanley nails this topic in his book, Choosing to Cheat: Who Wins When Family and Work Collide?, a must read for any parent struggling to prioritize family over career.  He asks the pointed question: Why choose to do something that hundreds of other people could do over something that only you can do?

That is an important principle I’m sooo glad I’ve learned as a dad.  There is NO ONE ELSE IN THE WORLD that can give my kids what I can give them.  Look around – everywhere kids are growing up without dads in their lives.  There are kids without dads in the home and kids with dads who aren’t engaged in intentional relationships with their kids.  If you got right beneath the surface one would find so many people with wounds left by Mom or Dad many years before.

Parenting = Sacrifice. I know what it will cost me.  I hope I am willing to give it all.  And I’m going to keep fighting.  Because so many things will vie for my attention and if I’m not on my guard trivial things will distract me from one of the most important tasks in my life right now.  Trivial things will pass and when I look up, there my kids will be all grown up and my influence will be gone.  My kids are counting on me.

And for Mr. Holland?  Well, I won’t spoil the surprise completely.  He got his reward in the end.  I’m sure he realized his sacrifice was worth it.  As will I, I trust.  In a few years I will have no memory of these sleepless nights and no regrets about the things I missed out on because of the time and attention my children required.

I’m positive I will only regret not spending more time with them.

I’m not too far into this journey and I already find myself at a crossroads. I dove head first into the blog world and discovered many new and exciting things. Two things in particular stand out. First, I discovered that I love blogging. I finally found a medium where I can throw together all my choice forms of expression into one location. Second, I found out that there are people out there making a living blogging. There are ways to make money with your blog and there’s even a guy out there who is not shy about sharing that he makes 6 figures from blogging professionally.

What is it about money that lures us in. Even those of us who feel like we could do so much if we had financial freedom are not free from subtle temptations. I have to be honest… When I think of all the people I could help if I had unlimited resources I can’t help but ALSO dream about that brand new house or that awesome home theater. Or that dream family vacation. So who’s to say that I really could handle a bunch of money if God threw it my way. I’m not living sacrificially now. Why would God give me more if I’m not using what I have now for His Kingdom?

Anyway, that’s a side point. I’m not talking about getting rich (which, by the way, I think we are ALL rich) I was talking about a crossroads. When something crosses our path that awakens a desire in us, we stand at a crossroads. Ideally we let the cross street whiz us by because we are dead focused on our current course. We are hitting all the green lights. But sometimes we roll to a stop and start looking around at other roads. Or we get enough of a glance at the road sign to make a impulsive turn off course.

I am tempted here. Tempted to chase a new career path that will give me many good things. What would be bad about working from home and spending more time with my family? What would be wrong about paying off all our debt and having hundreds of dollars a month to hand out to those in need? What if I could influence thousands of people for God and impact thousands of families? I can’t deny that right under the surface lies selfish ambitions. I could have lots of money… I could be famous… I could have thousands of people tell me how great I am….

I started this blog because I am seeking the Kingdom of God and wish to share my journey. This side street sounds a lot like taking my life back into my own hands. It sounds a lot like I think I can handle resourcing my own ministry and God can bless it if He wants or just watch as I make it happen.

So where do I go from here? Stay the course. I didn’t start this blog to make it my job. Maybe that’s what God has for me down the road. Until then I will continue to chronicle my family’s journey into the Kingdom. Shoot. I don’t even know if anyone is reading this anyway…

Ok, so what about those ads on the side? So far they are not bringing in a significant amount of money. I’ll keep a couple up to cover the cost of the blog. And I do want to support and endorse some companies I use.

What about you? What crossroads have you found yourself at? Are you at one now? Leave a comment.

I am not trained in Theology.  I am not an expert on this stuff.  But I’ve had a serious relationship with God for a good 20 years. He is leading me and my family on this journey.

(Hopefully) This post will be a summary of what my thoughts are about the Kingdom – the main ideas that are driving this blog (and my life).  Christians who come to this site and see the title up top may think, yeah, the Kingdom, I get it.  But don’t let that phrase pass you by.  I used to. God has been showing me that “The Kingdom” is much more than a Christian-y saying.
The Kingdom of God, or the Kingdom of Heaven was one of Jesus’ main points.  It was one of his top sermon topics.  I’ve been a Christian my whole life.  I grew up going to church on Sunday morning, Sunday night and Wednesday night.  Yet this one fundamental, very important truth, was not pounded into me like now I wish it had been.
When we become Christians, everything changes.  Well, it’s supposed to.  When we become a Christian, the Bible says we are a new creation.  The Bible says our citizenship is in Heaven.  The Bible seems to be telling me that when I gave my life to Jesus and accepted his payment for my sin and all that, everything changed.  Not changed from pink to red.  Not changed from sad to happy.  But changed from red to a circle.  (huh?)  That’s just it.  I think I’ve missed it.  We change completely.  We’re not just a new version of our old self.  We are in a new category.  Our old self no longer exists and we have been created again from scratch into a completely new entity.  We aren’t erased from the page and redrawn.  Our paper is burned in the fire and we are created as a sculpture from a fresh block of marble.  Our old identity is no more.  We have a new identity.   
I’ve been in ministry for over 5 years now.  We spend a lot of time, we pastors, trying to figure out how to get people into the church.  We seek God for wisdom and try to figure out how to change lives – how to reach people.  Through these kinds of thought processes, and through my own personal growth, God has been showing me more and more every day that my life does not reflect this truth of being a new creation.  In reality, it’s more like I kept my old life and tried to convert it to Christianity.  This is a fundamental problem.  I kept my life
What I think has happened is that I don’t see myself too much differently than if I weren’t a Christian at all.  The Bible says to not conform to the patterns of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  So it’s all about our mindset – our perspective – how we see ourselves.  And until recently, I’ve allowed American culture to shape my perspective and identity.  So I asked myself, what do I do to change that.  For me, the answer has been The Kingdom
Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about the Kingdom.  And I think God has guided me to create this blog to share what He’s showing me.  Why? I’m not sure. You tell me.  Joel Comiskey, in his brand new book, The Relational Disciple, writes:

“Often believers in the church see themselves as individuals first, Americans second, and Christians third”

This is helpful to explain what I’m talking about.  Perhaps the thought process goes something like this: Hi, my name is Ben.  I am an American who is a Christian.  So we see ourselves as Christians within the frame-work of an individualistic American existence.  Could it be that we have built our Christian faith on an individualistic American mindset?  There are many who would agree – and have written books on the topic.  Nonetheless, that’s what God is showing me.  In Christ, there is no Jew, no Gentile, no male, no female, no American, no individual, no protestant, no Catholic.  When we become Christians, labels like “American” no longer carry any significance.  I’m starting to learn that there’s a lot of worldly kingdom stuff that holds no significance to someone who identifies himself as part of a God-Kingdom.
A few years ago a good friend of mine was catching me up on his life.  He said that his family had achieved the American dream and he was now trying as fast as he could to get out of it.  My thinking is along those same lines.  A few months ago, I wrote in my journal, “The pursuit of the American dream leads away from Jesus”.  Perhaps that’s where I have truly been heading.  I’ve been tricked.  I’ve been lied to.  I have not embraced my new identity – my TRUE identity.
I am a Citizen of God’s Kingdom and wordly stuff holds no significance to my life (well, at least that’s what I hope some day will be my life-guiding principle – I’m not there yet!)  I know many Christians have thought about this stuff.  I have too, on and off, for a number of years.  But how many of us actually do something about it and make the necessary changes in our lives.  I feel like I’m now ready to start facing those changes.  To abandon it all (little by little!)  To, as the Bible puts it, die to myself.
Let me try to summarize my thoughts here.
God is leading me and my family to finally fully embrace our citizenship in the Kingdom of Heaven and finally renounce our citizenship in a worldly (self-centered) kingdom.  God is helping us (my family) to see ourselves primarily and exclusively as members of a spiritual Kingdom and community where Jesus is Lord (in charge).  This might (and probably should) cause us to live in a way that is contrasting to our culture which, consequently, should not be a concern to us anyway.
So, if this makes any sense to you, then God’s grace is on you!  I’m still sorting it out.  This is mostly new to me.  But I really think I’m on to something!  I feel like I look up and God is looking at me with a proud look in His eyes that says “YES!  You are getting it!”
I will close with some bullet point thoughts that I hope to explore more in depth in future posts.
  • In the Kingdom, there is only significance in the spiritual, not the physical.
  • In the Kingdom, relationships are the most significant part of life.
  • In the Kingdom, I must see my wife and myself as one and my family as one.  I am my family.  My family is me. (Similarly, I am one with Jesus)
  • In the Kingdom, my (or our, meaning, my family) resources belong to God and are given to us to use for His purposes 
  • Parenting is an act of stewardship and the family is the context in which my children will learn how to live and love in the Kingdom of Heaven
  • I must see all people as spiritual beings (souls) who will live forever somewhere – and God is actively seeking to bring them into His Kingdom through people like me
  • There is no “I” in the Kingdom (well, yeah, there is an ‘I’…you know what I mean!) – I’m not sure how to say it –  there is no emphasis on individual identity.  Emphasis is all given to the King and the collective group is His people.
  • I have no right to my life – meaning, I must give up my dreams, my plans, everything.  God is in charge and I live as though I really believe that!
  • I must expect people to think I’m kind of radical – and I must receive my value and validation from God, not people.
  • In the Kingdom, my primary concern is serving others.  And (as Charles Stanley said) God takes full responsibility for a life that is fully devoted to Him. In other words, I don’t need to worry about my (or my family’s) needs being met – God will take care of that.  We just need to seek His Kingdom.
So, that’s what is all about.  Yes, there will be videos, songs, creative projects.  But the real deal is my family’s adventure in being fully devoted to Jesus.
I’d love to hear your thoughts.  Or, better yet, join us!