Risky Business…

…gotta blog about it…

…gotta say something!

I’ve had the impression in the last couple of months that God is dropping various “threads” in front of me and saying, “Make something with this.” I think my first several strands had me thinking of “braiding”. Then perhaps, “knitting”. Now, I wonder whether God might be saying, “Stop thinking about a tiny macrame plant holders and begin to think BIG!

Last weekend we had Martin Scott at our church for a weekend of intercession training and, in addition to it being a fabulous weekend in all respects, he said one thing and gave me one thing that are both stirring up “bigger thinking” for what to do with my “threads”.

  • First of all he reminded us that God says that He will give us above and beyond what we can ask or imagine. (Eph 3:20) He showed us that though God goes beyond our imagination, the size of our imagination plays a part. Imagine small...you’ll get more than small. Imagine BIG, you’ll get more than BIG! I have to say that this is not my habitual way to function. I tend to think a bit more like Gideon when he responded to the angel and said that he was a “nobody” just trying to keep from getting squashed by the enemy (Judges 6:11-23)…but of course, God had a different perspective! I believe I just might be starting to think bigger!
  • Then, I was looking at the books that Martin brought to sell. (We don’t often have a selection of books in English to peruse through around here!) I had already 4 of the 10 or so titles that he was selling. I picked up one, titled Church that WORKS that caught my eye because of the title and especially because of one of the co-authors, James Thwaites, whose books like The Church Beyond The Congregation and Renegotiating The Church Contract have been books that I’ve wanted to read for some time now (can you say, ” wish list“?). I expressed my interest in the book and he just gave it to me! What a blessing! Thanks Martin!

So now, I’m thinking like industrial textile mill! (Strangely enough, the textile industry used to be quite big in this valley!)

I’m only on the first chapter of this book, but already I’m very stirred in my spirit about how God would want to use me, in relationship with others in His Body in this area, as a concrete channel of His blessing to manifest His Kingdom here in our town, valley, region, nation and continent. When I say “concrete”, I’m thinking literally of “concrete”…buildings…buying them…working in them…housing people in them…etc. My prayer this morning as I prayer-walked our town was to be this channel…somehow! In fact the prayer walking itself is a good example of how this vision is starting to grow in me.

Thanks to Google Earth!Since we’ve been here in this town, I’ve been prayer-walking its streets with some degree of consistency. I change my route a lot, but here’s the perimeter of my town and I think it will become my route for a while.There is something about walking and praying at the same time that connects in my spirit in a big way…and, of course, I love the images that the Lord presents using Joshua and Caleb about where their foot treads, He will give them that land. For me it’s a big deal already that the Lord would give me Soultz as an inheritance. As with most of Europe, the signs of eternal life in Soultz are calcified, decayed or buried. Seeing a Soultz for Jesus would be a fabulous thing. But God didn’t say, “ask of Me and I will give you the small towns.” No, He used the word nations (with an “S“). (Psalm 2:8)

Well, for me, walking more than Soultz’s perimeter is “more than I can ask or imagine” because of my joints. After about 45 minutes of walking, my hips begin to whine and my knees and ankles don’t really stimulate me to go “above and beyond” either! But, there are three nations within spittin’ distance in this neck of the woods and God is helping me to see bigger!

Thanks to viaMichelin.com!So now there is a project on the table to prayer-walk the borders of Alsace within the next 14 months. It’s not “my project”, but I have a strong desire to be involved and I think the Lord may be asking that of me as well. This is a first-step physical connection to the spiritual reality that God is extending to us (our family) a measure of authority to establish His Kingdom here in Alsace…but as with Joshua and Caleb, this is not handed to us on a silver platter.

The French government has already told us “no” when we requested a more firmly established residency status. To me, God has said “Yes…now go and take this land.” So I want to be like Caleb, who when he was 85 took hill country (the Vosges mountains in Alsace?) from the enemy!

So, I’m “training” on my “Soultz Prayer Loop” but I want to see bigger! things!

In these Bible examples, we see faith, and I’ve heard that the late John Wimber used to say, “Faith is spelled r-i-s-k.” Again, like Gideon, I’ve never been high on the “risk-taking scale”. I can point to more than one personality-typing test that will prove to you that it’s just not me! But if it’s true that “without faith it’s impossible to please God“, well then…?

It’s clear in the Parable of the Talents that God rewards Kingdom-building risk-taking. In the “return-on-investment” category, I’d put us somewhere between the 2nd and 3rd servants. We’ve done more than bury our talents but I think that God is calling us higher. He’s not scolding, but he’s saying, “I’ve given you more than you’ve put to work for My Kingdom. Part of what I’ve given you has effectively been buried, and I’d like you to risk investing that as well.

So, now I’d like to give God all our “loaves and fishes” and see what He will do with them. This probably involves our house and my computer skills. God has been graciously leading us down this path whereby we really do need to invest everything for the sake of His Kingdom in this land, or we risk to lose that which we have managed to hold on to this long.

The Kingdom is risky business…

The role of the Vinedresser…

In the 15th chapter of John’s Gospel, Jesus tells us that He is the vine and we are the branches. It’s a powerful image that bears much reflection. Bruce Wilkinson’s book gives some great insights on the subject. Indeed it is probably understood only to the degree that it is lived.

Another aid in understanding this metaphor is certainly to spend time in vineyards and learn, first-hand, what this is all about really. Overlooking our town of Soultz in the Alsace region of France, we have a hillside of vineyards. It’s about a 5 minute walk from our house to get into the heart of these vineyards…and your heart will be pumping after the walk up the hill too! I’ve not profited enough from their proximity in the year we’ve lived here so far. For my physical heart’s sake and my heart of heart’s sake, I vow to go there more often.

This morning I went there and I felt that I got another glimpse into this metaphor of John 15.

“I am the vine, you are the branches…” actually doesn’t appear until verse 5. Verse 1 and 2 speak of another player in this drama…The Vinedresser. This is God the Father, and I saw a bit of truth about His role this morning. Let me explain…

In modern vineyards, there are metal cables strung along the row of vines at varying heights for the vine branches to attach themselves to. Otherwise, it’s a pretty unkempt, floppy mess!

The vinedresser is the one who plants these vines in a row and then stretches this straight cable all along the row. What is interesting is how the vine branches are attached to these cables. Take a look at the following two pictures:

The branch holds on tight! The branch had some help here!

I took these pictures this morning of the same vine. The picture on the left is of a branch up high, at the top of the plant. The picture on the right is of a branch down low, at the bottom of the plant. The difference I saw was striking.

  • The branch up high held on to the cable with its own natural strength and abilities
  • The branch down low was attached by a metal clip that the vinedresser had put on
  • The branch up high was thinner
  • The branch down low was thicker
  • The natural grip of the high branch was nicer to look at
  • The super-natural grip of the low branch seemed comparatively ugly…
  • The natural grip for the branch up high could support the weight of the high, thin branch
  • The branch below could not have been held up by such a natural grip and did not even appear to be trying to create one
  • The branch on high had no grapes
  • The branch below had several clusters of grapes that were in the process of ripening

It says in verse 8 that the Father, the Vinedresser, is glorified when we bear much fruit. What I saw was that our Heavenly Father gives us a strong, straight support upon which to lean. In the metaphor, this could be the Word of God and/or the Holy Spirit. They both work in tandem anyway. Perhaps it is the whole package of how we are “supported”. We don’t fall when we are supported. That’s the first truth and it’s an important one.

So often though, we’re a Church that looks good; has high flourishing, green branches, but they are not necessarily the ones that are bearing the fruit. What I saw was that the low, mature branches were bearing the fruit. I also saw that the Father had “supernaturally” provided for those branches that were heavy-leaden with fruit. He attached the branch Himself to the support with an “anchor” sure and firm and stronger than any anchor that the branch could have provided for itself. The branch was focused on bearing fruit, not being up high, not how it looked, not supporting itself.

The low branch glorified the Vinedresser…

Be Glorified Father!