Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, “The time has come”, he said. “The Kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!”
It was a typical Tuesday. The staff gathered around the table to go over the business of the church. At one point in the meeting the statistics from Sunday were passed out. As I read the monthly report my heart sunk. Our attendance was down slightly again this month. I could feel my face flush with frustration, and my dark side wanting to point fingers at others rather than take a hard look in the mirror. Like looking in the mirror and not liking what you see this simple report darkened my day.
For two years I had been pushing to take our church to the next level. We reorganized, started a new worship service, advertised, and knock on a few doors, but little changed. Too often my self-esteem gets chained to the wrong reports. Instead of hearing the voice from heaven, I hear that inner voice crying loudly “do more…work harder…earn it…prove how good you are.” This sarcastic voice too often drowns out the inner voice of God seeking to bless me for who I am not what I do.
That evening as I was muddling over the events of the day in the back of my mind. I picked up a little book entitled This Beautiful Mess by Rick McKinley. Rick was unknown to me until West Texas A&M invited him to speak on campus. The dean asked me to be part of this event. To learn more about Rick and his message I pick up a copy of his book and began to read as an act of discovery. To my surprise I discovered myself on the pages of his book.
Rick’s theme for the book is the Kingdom of God. A theme that echoed in the words of Jesus but is often lost in the rhetoric of the Western Church. Rick shared his early encounters with the Kingdom and I saw my heart laid bare on the printed page. He wrote:
“Eventually my spiritual bubble burst. I realized that Jesus did not want to help me be a better king. Neither did He want to be king of my kingdom at all. Really, I was a lot like those patriotic crowds in Palestine who wanted Him to be king of their country. I was simply trying to get God to endorse my agenda. But He would have none of it.
“At the time it felt like a crisis. God seemed to be stepping away from me, almost abandoning me. I was unsure what the problem was. Had God quit liking me? Didn’t He appreciate the plans I was making for the two of us?” (Rick McKinley, The Beautiful Mess p.36)
As I read these words I could see myself trying to force my crown on Jesus’ head like a sacred “crown of thorns” as it were. I wanted Jesus to do my will. I wanted him to build my kingdom. Granted, I gave lip service to making Jesus king, but it was on my terms, in my timing, and in my kingdom. It is sad how blind the teacher can be at times!
By grace the Lord is opening again my eyes to a lesson He has tried to teach me time and time again. I guess you could say I am slow when it comes to realizing that it is not about me, but it is about Him. Jesus is my King, and He invites me to be a servant of His Kingdom.
Being part of His Kingdom is more a matter of “being” than “doing”. It is embracing the reality that I am a child of God and learning to live with childlike joy and innocence–and dependence.
Rick McKinley adds: “We’re so inclined to try to make things happen for God. Every week we’re tempted to get out a measuring stick. Did we get higher? Are we sliding down? And we figure God is measuring us too–but God is not measuring anything. He only wants us to live in a dimension that is already there. Week after week, He is simply inviting us to be part of what He is already doing”. (McKinley, The Beautiful Mess, pg. 61-62)
I knew that, but I keep forgetting it in my relentless striving to move up the ladder of leadership success and excellence. Henry Blackaby taught me that less in his classic Experiencing God when he pointed out that effectiveness is “joining God in His work”.
Simply put the Lord spoke to me through my brother Rick to remind me that Kingdom living is not “advancing the Kingdom”, but rather “embracing the Kingdom” and seeing the King at work all around you–especially in the day to day simple circumstances of your heart and life. You simply needs eyes to see and ears to hear!