Posted in Character, Faith

Living in The Middle Lands

Desert Land

The other day my granddaughters were dawdling at breakfast. As incentive I set the timer for ten minutes to see if they could finish eating before the time was up. They both finished with five minutes to spare, and the three of us watched the remaining seconds count down. It seemed like the longest five minutes ever!

I’m not a very patient person, especially when it comes to reaching goals. If I can see the steps needed to head in a direction, I want to speed through (with excellence) all the steps to the end and enjoy the fruits of my labor. We all know that life isn’t neat and tidy like that, but I like the idea. And, waiting doesn’t come easily for me.

We live in an awkward time in God’s kingdom. Jesus Christ has already finished the work of redemption. He won the victory against the enemy, defeating sin and death. The kingdom of God has already come. However, it will not be perfected until the coming of the new heavens and earth. It’s the age of Already But Not Yet. I call it The Middle Lands.

We live in The Middle Lands. Not just as we wait for the fulfillment of God’s kingdom, but also as we wait for the fulfillment of our own goals and desires. Most of our lives are spent in various regions of The Middle Lands.

~Waiting for a loved one to trust Christ as Savior.
~Waiting to find that special someone with whom to spend the rest of your life.
~Waiting for the Lord to provide His healing touch for you or someone close to you, preferably this side of heaven.
~Waiting for strained relationships to be restored.
~Waiting for your organization’s strategic plan to gain momentum and succeed.
~Waiting to get well established in a meaningful career.
~Waiting to see the promises the Lord has spoken to your heart come to pass.
~Waiting for the prayers that you have sown with tears to be answered.

How can we thrive as we wait in The Middle Lands, during a tension-filled time between times?

Be real about where you are. I love the honesty of the Psalms, especially the ones penned by David. He didn’t pretend that his circumstances were great when they were not. He stated that he was fleeing from his enemies. He admitted that he felt downcast. But he didn’t stay in a mopey, negative state. He acknowledged the Lord’s faithful presence in the midst of his difficulties.

Cultivate an attitude of hope. Our trust must not be in our own abilities to perform or achieve. We place our trust in the Lord who is the Source of hope. We build a solid foundation of hope, as we humbly yield our own wills to God and meditate on His lovingkindness toward us. We remember the promises He has fulfilled in our own lives and throughout history, and believe that His timing is best.

Keep an eternal perspective. We choose to believe that what God says about Himself is true. We allow His truth to be expressed through our lives. Though our suffering and troubles may be long lasting, they are momentary in light of eternity. Our existence on this earth is temporary, designed to develop immovable trust in the Lord. One day we will be with Him forever, and there will be no more pain, sickness, sorrow, and death.

As Christ followers filled with His Spirit, we can experience joy, peace, comfort, and the wonder of God’s presence while waiting in The Middle Lands.

Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. ~Romans 15:13

For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. ~2 Corinthians 4:17

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, help me to trust You in the good times and the bad. I want to keep my eyes on You every day and in every situation. Remind me that the best is yet to come at the culmination of Your Kingdom. I hold onto hope, believing in Your lovingkindness. Empower me to thrive as I wait in The Middle Lands. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Advertisements
Posted in Character, Teamwork

Beware of Division!

It starts small and grows quietly, hidden from view, but eventually infects others. Insidious and sinister, it threatens to dismantle God’s work. Whether you are a leader or a follower, it’s important to be on guard for this dangerous foe. People, beware of division!

How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity! (Psalm 133:1 NIV)

Unity can be described as oneness of mind or objective among a group of persons; concord, harmony, or agreement (dictionary.com). Unity creates synergy as different people with different gifts and talents work together to achieve a common goal. Division stands in opposition to unity. Division is threatening because it can be subtle and hard to detect, especially in the beginning stages. Eventually it affects the organization like yeast in a batch of dough. As division grows it becomes increasingly destructive.

Dag Heward-Mills describes seven stages of disloyalty, which are manifested in various degrees of division. Awareness of these stages helps us to identify when division begins, and then make adjustments in ourselves and guide others away from it.

Independent Spirit—This is an attitude that begins to question the set up of the group. While dissenters still actively participate, they do what they want in spite of contrary instructions. They may think, “This meeting isn’t valuable; I’m not going to attend” or “I don’t agree with the way things are done; I’m going to do it my own way.”

Offense—No matter where you go, there is no such thing as a perfect church or company. We can hurt each other without meaning to. This hurt, when not dealt with appropriately, can easily turn to offense. When people harbor offense in their lives, it colors the way they view others and the ones with whom we work and serve. Unresolved hurts and offenses can push them down the path of division.

Passivity—When offense grows and is left to its devices, people become passive. They disengage, becoming indifferent and uninvolved. Rather than speaking with those who offended them to resolve difficulties, they shut down and keep it to themselves.

Critical Spirit—There is a small step from passivity to being critical. People with a critical spirit see more and more negativity around them. They scrutinize others for faults, and they only see the imperfections of others.

Political Spirit—People who are politically motivated seek to involve others in their beliefs and ideas. They want to gather a following of supporters to address what they believe to be problems, or to sympathize with their offenses. Some political statements might be:

I love (insert name), BUT (insert an offense). Please pray with me about this.
or
How did you like the service today? I didn’t really get anything out of it.
or
A lot of people are saying “such and such.”

A political spirit creates an environment of discontent.

Deception—At this stage, people have become blind to their own faults and believe they could do the job much better than those currently leading when given the chance. They may despise their mentors and teachers, or become deceived by personal success. The greatest deception occurs when divisive people fight the authorities that have been set over them, those who have been a blessing to them.

Rebellion—If allowed to continue, deception evolves into rebellion. It seeks to replace and take over rightful authority, to betray and turn against its own leader. This is the ultimate disloyalty.

Do you see yourself described in any of these stages of division? What corrective action do you need to take?

Friends, beware of division. It is a tool of the enemy to dismantle the work of the Lord. God does not support a rebellious spirit in any way. Pray for discernment, and keep yourself walking in loyalty and unity for Kingdom causes.

Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a loyal spirit within me (Psalm 51:10 NLT).

Source:

Dag Heward-Mills, Loyalty & Disloyalty: Dealing With Unspoken Divisions in the Church (TN: Carpenter’s Son Publishing, 2013).