RSS

Monthly Archives: March 2012

March Madness

It’s March Madness! People all across the country have filled out the NCAA Basketball Tournament brackets. We even have a tournament challenge for a cash prize at my place of employment just like I’m sure so many others do. And just when it appears like I’m doing well, mine and millions of others’ brackets get busted by major upsets. This year was no different. I know mine got jacked up completely! There’s an excitement that still wells up inside of me when I see the elation of a game winning shot or an underdog small college team defeating their Goliath. There are also the feelings of sadness for teams who are ousted, especially for the seniors who realize that they have just played their last collegiate game. Such a range of emotions, but after all, they don’t call it March Madness for nothing.

So where am I going with all of this? Well, it’s funny how even when I’m indulging in escapism from the cares of this world, or allowing my attention to be seriously diverted away from the Lord, He always manages to speak to me regardless. It’s like my ears never quite shut down and I’m able to hear and discern what the Lord is saying. He really can choose any medium or method He desires to speak to all of us. So as I have watched the games and shared in the triumphs and downfalls of the tournament, the Lord has been directing my attention to something unusual and unlikely: the benchwarmers. These are not the players who just aren’t in the starting five but still get regular playing time during the games. I’m talking about the ones whose primary role is to work hard in practice to prepare those who do get on the court during the games. These players might see some playing time for the last few minutes of a game if their team is up by thirty or forty points. However, the reality is that they still have a role.

march madness

The Kingdom of God is similar to the basketball team. God is the coach and maybe we can look at pastors, bishops and apostles as assistant coaches or maybe members of the starting five players. We the people are the players on the team and some of us have “starting” type roles. In other words, God has entrusted certain ministries and tasks to people that He ordained. These individuals are supposed to give God all the glory even though they may have various degrees of “visibility” to those around them. Whether it is music artists, major authors or positions of authority, these all tend to represent those who are a part of the starting five. These are the people who are in the forefront and who get to participate more actively in the work of the ministry because they are seen. Just like the players who get playing time, the crowd watches them and cheers them on. The truth is that they bear a great responsibility that cannot be given to just anyone. God, or coach, uses whomever He desires to carry out certain “plays” or assignments. This is based upon pre-ordained destiny and just His overall master plan. He created each of us to fulfill specific assignments. Everybody cannot be a part of the starting five or even come off of the bench. Luke 12:48 says “But he who did not know, yet committed things deserving of stripes, shall be beaten with few. For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more.” (NKJV) This is a reality that citizens of the Kingdom have no choice but to embrace. We must know that we will only be truly successful in the spirit realm when we are doing the will of God and not trying to play in someone else’s position. Everybody can’t be in the forefront and wasn’t designed for such.

So back to the tournament games, what I kept noticing was that the benchwarmers expressed just as much emotion in the triumphs and defeats as the starters, and in some cases even more. What the Lord was demonstrating is that when we are all UNITED for a common cause, we share in the victories and defeats, no matter the role that we play. We all should have the desire to see the Kingdom of God manifested in the earth and we should desire to be people reconciled back to the Father. Selfish desires, ambitions and the need to be affirmed by men have no place in the Kingdom. I admire that those benchwarmers were NOT ASHAMED and not full of pride that would prevent them from fulfilling their role. They were comfortable and secure in their identity, and did not operate in a spirit of rebellion and/or resentment. The truth is that no matter the sport, the most successful teams usually have very supportive benches. I’m sure you are getting where I’m going with all of this.

So if you are someone who appears to be on the bench I pray that you will seek after Him like never before if you are struggling with patience or contentment. Unfortunately, our flesh tells us that if we are not visible then we are not valuable. I Corinthians 12, starting at verse 12 talks about the body being unified and functioning together as one, and that one part is no more important than the other. I encourage all to read that passage as a reminder that in the Kingdom we are all on the same team. Our treasures in heaven will NOT be determined by visibility or being a part of the starting five. They will come from doing His exact will for our lives and believing that there are no insignificant assignments.

There is light at the end of the tunnel. You won’t always be on the bench. Just like some of the benchwarmers, you may just find your way into the starting five in the future or at least begin coming off of the bench. God is likely forming your character before He decides to use you at a greater level. Coaches are the same way. They are constantly assessing their players and often times; some benchwarmers develop their game and character where the coach decides to use them. Sometimes they work themselves into the starting five after the couple of years of development, and others at least become good enough to come off of the bench. However, some benchwarmers remain in their position because they have contentment and are not majoring in the minors. They were designed to work hard in practice and motivate their teammates. Some individuals in the Kingdom will be comfortable being behind the scenes or even being a gatekeeper and will have a peace that surpasses all understanding. Their willingness to die to themselves will pay them eternal dividends. But there are also benchwarmers who possess an extraordinary ability like quickness, and the coach reserves them for crucial situations that may determine whether or not the team wins the game. It may be a little bit of a rarity that they get playing time, but they were made for “crunch time.” Some of you are the same way. You are specialists. God desires for you to seek His Kingdom and righteousness first, so that you will be ready for the season when He calls for you because you are a secret weapon. He has not forgotten you and know that His plan is the very best for you. We cannot be affirmed by being one of the starting five. The only real satisfaction and affirmation comes from resting in the arms of the Head Coach: The Heavenly Father.

Nathan Allen Copyright ©2012

Advertisements
 
4 Comments

Posted by on March 31, 2012 in Spirituality

 

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Confessions from a Spiritual Slave

I have come to the end of the road and cannot move forward. I have received confirmation several times in the span of maybe two or three weeks and so now I can no longer avoid or run from the truth. It’s just like someone with a megaphone in your ear, and they are shouting so loud that it even hurts to a degree. So what it is the issue, you might be asking. Well, I have no choice but to accept that the Lord is calling me into rest. Painfully, I am going to have to find some sort of peace in this because I know now that there are some personal issues that have come up that must be dealt with, and that my endeavors will have to take a backseat for now. A better way of saying it is that communing with God is going to have come before everything that I adore and am hoping for. My life is going to have to be restructured and I will have to commit to changes that might seem undesirable. It is time for me to put the rest the issues of my heart that are holding me back. It is not enough to simply know Jesus Christ as my lord and savior. It is not enough to simply have salvation and operate in my various talents and spiritual gifting. It is now time to know God more intimately as my Father and finally become a son

Recently, I read a book by Jack Frost entitled, From Spiritual Slavery to Spiritual Sonship. To say the least, the words about spiritual slavery described me almost to the nth degree. I’m not going to give you a dissertation about the book, but in short, it is about becoming a son of God and becoming secure in your identity in Christ. Only a son of God will trust Him enough to simply rest in and believe in His promises. A son of the Most High doesn’t strive to get what he wants and doesn’t have anything to prove. He is not moved or threatened by the success of others. A son has connected with the heart of the Heavenly Father in such a way that it brings a supernatural joy and peace that he walks in. He is not anxious, nor jealous, and has learned to delight in the Lord. The son desires a deeper relationship with the Lord more than blessings or success.

 A slave in the spiritual sense is constantly doing and does not know how to be a son of God. He doesn’t know how much the Father loves him and lacks a sense of affirmation and worth in simply being who God has created him to be. The slave needs to be busy in order to feel productive. He often needs to feel a sense of accomplishment in order to avoid feeling like a failure. The slave is unable or even maybe unwilling to believe that God wants the best for him and is not withholding anything from him. The slave often times has good intentions but is subject to doing what he wants to do instead of looking for the will of the Father. He is always searching and looking, but often times he has no clue as to what he is looking for.

The perfect example of the spiritual slave is the older brother in the parable of the prodigal son found in Luke 15:11-32. He seemingly did everything right and was extremely loyal to his father but felt that he was owed something. He didn’t understand that his father loved him deeply and celebrated him everyday. Seeing his younger brother being celebrated for simply returning home after committing a lifetime of sin was unbearable because he didn’t realize that his father celebrated him everyday. While I believe that I have had the experience of both brothers, more often I have felt very much like the older brother. In one of my earlier posts, I talked about how I felt like I wasn’t properly rewarded for being a “good little church boy” and how it hurt me to my core to not experience certain things that others did. All because I failed to trust in His plan for me and allowed circumstance to convince me that He loved me less. This is some of the worse kind of slavery one can experience.

 The truth is that I’ve had the attitude of the slave for a LONG time. This started with me back in my earlier years and never really stopped. The only period I can think of where I may have had some measures of peace and affirmation was the period after I decided to leave my past life behind and follow Christ for real. I miss those days. I had some of the most amazing quiet time experiences and started hearing the Lord’s voice so clearly! I long for those days to come back in some form. What happened was, I then started trying to make up for “lost time.” Reality slapped me upside the head and despite all that I had experienced, I allowed the enemy to come in and poison my mind with the idea that I had wasted too much time. I believed that I was supposed to have been so much more successful and that I needed to start “moving and shaking.” So off to the races went my life. Bombarded with media images, thoughts of all my past failures and the feeling that I had to something to prove to everyone and myself, I started casting several irons into the fire. But it got even worse after my near-death experience in 2008. Now I REALLY had to “succeed” because my present reality looked like failure and I was consumed with ideas that my life was going to be full of disappointment.

So to remedy these thoughts and feelings, I got busy with ministry and my writing. I have become involved in different ministries outside of the four walls of a church in order to gain experience and “build my credentials.” I began to stay busy with ministry as a means for filling a deep void in my heart. They were all irons in the fire so that I could achieve my dream career and overcompensate for what I considered to be a waning social life. They were my ticket to building the life that I believed would fulfill me and to redeeming the times. In addition to the mayhem is my present-day indifference and boredom with the institution of church… So I’m like a car running on empty and my journey to nowhere has reached its end. I have become worn out and tired. My mind is always racing and it is RARE that I even get a full night’s rest or even sleep soundly. My mind is obsessed with the future to where I don’t enjoy the present the way that I should. Spiritual warfare has become heightened as I now know that the enemy is trying to make me lose my mind with all these negative thoughts. Not one day passes where I don’t have at least one “THIS SUCKS!” moment. At the same time, I know that I have placed demands on God, which is a BIG no-no. I have not accepted and trusted in whatever inheritance He has awaiting me. I’ve been trying to earn it, even if I didn’t realize it.

I’m not trying to throw myself under the bus here because God has been gracious and has used me in the midst of my madness. I have grown as a spoken word artist, and I have gained experience with teaching and leading small groups. Most importantly, others have been blessed. However, if I were resting in Him and allowing Him to call the shots, I could have been and would be much more effective. I also no longer want to minister from a place of pain and where it even begins to feel like a burden. But let’s be honest. If it is your season to go forth in your purpose and destiny, all you have to do is move when He says move and do what He says. Everything else will fall into place. If I have to strive on my own to make things happen, that is usually a sign that you are out of His will. For a true son, opportunities will usually present themselves. Even though there will always be challenges, life still flows much more smoothly. A son is never out of position and rests in knowing that he is bringing glory to God, no matter the cost. A slave needs self glory to feel good and is going to pursue whatever looks good, smells good or that which seems like a good idea. A slave is subject to be led by “passions” and desperately needs to be “happy” in the midst of his own chaos. A slave will get burned out over time because he is following his own mission which leads to heartache and death while a son follows the Father’s mission which leads to life and peace. That mission also involves periods of rest as well. (smile) A son is content and has authentic joy because he is resting in the promises of the Heavenly Father.

In closing, I have decided to answer His call to rest. I will need help with this because I am fearful. I don’t even know what rest is going to look like. I already know that I will be consumed with thoughts of “falling behind” and “being overlooked.” Not to long I ago I came face to face with someone who has walked in places where I desire to as well. This just may be a test to see if I love Him or the doors that He can open. The truth is that I’ve forgotten how to have fun and savor the blessings of each day. I have been like the Energizer Bunny and would now be uncomfortable with the very peace that I desire. How sad… My life doesn’t look the way I had hoped, but carrying on the way that I have will only lead to more stress, more tiredness, more anguish and more compulsive activity. The joy of the Lord seems to have departed from me and I don’t have a hunger for His Word. This is what happens when you don’t enter into His rest. Spiritual slavery is just like an addiction, and those caught up in it need an intervention. Hopefully mine begins now.   

Nathan Allen Copyright© 2012

 
7 Comments

Posted by on March 5, 2012 in Spirituality

 
 
%d bloggers like this: