Monday, October 31, 2011

The Kingdom Conflict

Kingdom Conflict: Triumph in the Midst of TestingKingdom Conflict: Triumph in the Midst of Testing by Joseph Stowell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Joseph Stowell uses the book of Genesis to show how we (Christians) should act and react to Kingdom Conflicts. In the afterword Stowell states, "War. Battles. Conflicts. Strategy. These may be concepts that make us uncomfortable. We prefer lives that are smooth, peaceful, and tension free. Yet the kingdom conflict is both biblical and relevant to our lives today. Just because we don't enjoy discussing battle plans doesn't mean the war isn't taking place.  We should learn from the victories of those who have gone before us. And more importantly, we should learn from their mistakes. Why else would Scripture be so starkly honest about so many people's failures if not to teach us and give us the opportunity to avoid making the same blunders?"

If you are interested to learn from the saints of the past then this is a book you will want to read!

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Here are some excellent quotes from this great book:

Excuses are an anesthetic of Satan. They numb us to the operation of sin in our lives. They make us insensitive to sin’s impact and deceive us as to our responsibilities.  p. 14

“Life is not made by the dreams we dream but by the choices we make.” How true. Choices are the ingredients of triumph or failure. p. 17

Never look at the temptation. Always look beyond it and see the tempter! p. 25

Satan uses creation (the tree) to entice man into his control. Man submits to the alluring creation and in so doing serves Satan. God is expelled from the experience. This new “fallen factor” permeates everything godless man does. Tragically, it is even reflected in the behavior of some believers. Creation, in the form of silver, gold, cars, houses, bodies, vacation spots, and every material portion of the universe, lures us to live for it and to sacrifice values of godliness to satisfy our unchecked desires. This fallen factor places the material over the spiritual. It degrades us, and it brings death and Satan’s defilement to our environment and experience. p. 31

To dedicate self to the benefit of God and others is a strong defense against sin (Matthew 22:37-40). p. 54

Though we as parents don’t personally select our children’s partners, we can be committed to the same ideals and pass them on to our children. Here are a few principles we can start with.
Principle # 1: Never consider marrying anyone outside the scope of your spiritual heritage (Genesis 24:3-4).
Principle # 2: Never spiritually backtrack for marriage (Genesis 24:5-6).
Principle # 3: Maintain an unflinching trust in God (Genesis 24:7-8).
Principle # 4: Make a commitment to these principles before you begin searching for a partner (Genesis 24:9).
Principle # 5: Go where the fishing’s good (Genesis 24:10-11).
Principle # 6: Pray (Genesis 24:12-14).
Principle # 7: Ask God for discernment (Genesis 24:15-21). pp.  64-66

It is instructive to note the basis for Abraham’s interest in Rebekah. The qualities she had developed set a standard for anyone looking for a meaningful marriage partner today.
  • Neat Appearance (Genesis 24:16)
  • Moral Purity (Genesis 24:16)
  • Respect for Authority (Genesis 24:18)
  • Hospitality (Genesis 24:17-18)
  • Willingness to Go the Extra Mile (Genesis 24:19-20) pp. 67-68

As the Westminster Catechism says, “The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” p. 77

The Fall of man (Genesis 3) realigned our nature to reflect the will, emotions, and personality of Satan and his system. Redemption was God’s way of restoring us to our original purpose (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). His indwelling Spirit became the internal dynamic that would lead and teach us for the purpose of glorifying Him (John 16:12-15). This divine purpose requires that I commit to align myself with God by submitting my will to His will, and to submit my emotions and character to the work of the Spirit that I might reflect His character. But alignment is not easy. p. 80

President Reagan kept a sign on his desk that read, “There is no limit to what a man can do if he doesn’t care who gets the credit.” Biblically, there is no limit to what God can do through us if we are willing to give Him the credit. That’s what it means to glorify His name. p. 81

While it is relatively easy to tell people what God is like, it is even more significant to show them with our actions. p. 81

Kingdom people are meant to be people in process – people continually growing and becoming more like Christ. This process is a lifelong development of our spiritual potential, yet it takes place one-step at a time. It’s a slow yet significant stretch. p. 86

God sovereignly chose Abraham and Sarah to become stewards of the promised victory through Christ (Genesis 12:1-3). He stepped out with God, became mobile, and entered the process. It was a process that demanded three things from Abraham.
  • First, the process demanded obedience, a submitted will (Hebrews 11:8). There is essentially one key principle to spiritual mobility: God is the boss and can unconditionally call the shots in our lives.
  • Second, Abraham’s process demanded persistence. Victory is not assured at the altar of commitment. It is won in the persistence of our hearts not to flinch from our resolve to obey (Hebrews 11:9, 15-16).
  • Third, the process involved productivity. Twenty-five years after obeying God and leaving their home country, Abraham and Sarah gave birth to Isaac, the promised son of the messianic line (Hebrews 11:11-12). Persistent obedience is not a dead-end street. God will produce His plan through us in His time and His way, as long as we remain faithful. pp. 86-87

For every good plan of God to bless us, Satan responds with some kind of counterattack. The account of Abraham and Sarah in Hebrews 11 delineates four obstacles that threaten to block the progress of God’s process.
Fear of the Unknown-When threatened by fear of the unknown, we must remember all that God is and all He promises to be. The one sure known in the unknown is that God is there (Hebrews 11:8).
Past Comforts-The second obstacle we can expect is the pull of past comforts (Hebrews 11:9, 13, 15). Obedience to God may demand lowering our comfort level to live a simpler, less materialistic existence, and the pull of past standards of living will threaten to bring the process to a quick halt.  Why did Abraham and Sarah persist in the process? Because “they were longing for a better country-a heavenly one” (Hebrews 11:16).
Believing the Impossible-There are some words you should never use in His presence, and impossible is one of them. It’s not in His vocabulary.  Obedience to God often moves us into the territory of the impossible.  When God does the impossible, then and only then can He show the extent of His strength on our behalf. That’s how He demonstrates His glory to a watching world. He delights in the impossible.
Lack of Immediate Gratification-Lastly, the process of spiritual growth is difficult because there is seldom instant feedback (Hebrews 11:13). Even with no instant feedback, this life was persistent in the process and productive far beyond itself.
When we step out with God, we must do so in faith, believing that He is the known in the unknown. We must develop an unflinching belief that He is the God of the impossible. Our commitment is not to the here and now, but to the bigger picture. These things fortify our persistence and guarantee productivity. pp. 89-93

Financial pressure always distracts us from God’s best. p. 114

If we understand why God doesn’t come rushing to our side every time we call Him, we can learn to wait patiently for Him. There are at least three reasons why God waits before responding to us.
  1. God waits for the sake of our growth. Prosperity without pain doesn’t do much to motivate my spiritual life. But let some crisis hit and immediately I become sensitive to God.
  2. God waits for the sake of His glory.  Why did God wait till Abraham and Sarah were past childbearing age to give them a son? It was so He would be glorified and the credit would be totally His. Abraham and Sarah both needed firsthand experience with the glory of God. As faithful as they had been so far, neither of them really believed that He was the God of the impossible (Genesis 17:17-18; 18:10-14). Therefore, He allowed them to wait until it would take a miracle to honor His promise to them, and then He glorified Himself on their behalf.
  3. God waits because He works on our ground. God works His plans and purposes through our lives, our politics, our economics, our complexities, and Satan’s domain. God’s design is to work His will on our turf and in the environment of this world. That takes time because we are slow to change and Satan’s domain is strong and aggressive. pp. 116-119

When God requires from us what He has promised to us, always-eventually supernaturally-repays. And when He does, we are better off than before (Hebrews 11:17-19 By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had received the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, even though God had said to him, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.” Abraham reasoned that God could raise the dead, and figuratively speaking, he did receive Isaac back from death). p. 129

The issue of values is not a matter of what we own, but rather a matter of what owns us. p. 134

Spiritual maturity is measured by a person’s willingness to take a short-term loss for a long-term gain. p. 136

We detect signs of our divided loyalties when we are willing to exchange character for cash, conviction for convenience, Christ for comfort, purity for pleasure, holiness for self-fulfillment, financial faithfulness for material gain, God’s way for our way, or truth for error. Each of these actions is a betrayal kiss on the cheek of Christ who dwells within us. p. 138

Love for God and love for others will drive us to purity. p. 152

But Joseph came to realize that God is able to use even offensive and intentionally evil acts to accomplish His purpose. Why would Joseph seek revenge or maintain animosity toward tools that God used to bring about good? With this awareness, he was free to forgive his brothers.  When Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34), He recognized that behind those wicked hands was the hand of God, accomplishing the most glorious event in history (Acts 2:23-24).  Walking in righteousness keeps us alert to the fact that God is at work in everything, even the things we tend to find offensive. This then enables us to forgive those who hurt and offend us. God will deal with those people. In the meantime, He will use their negative actions to produce His best through us. p. 154

War. Battles. Conflict. Strategy.  These may be concepts that make us uncomfortable. We prefer lives that are smooth, peaceful, and tension free. Yet the kingdom conflict is both Biblical and relevant to our lives today. Just because we don't enjoy discussing battle plans doesn't mean the war isn't taking place. We should learn from th e victories of those who have gone before us. And more importantly, we should learn from their mistakes. Why else would Scripture be so starkly honest about so many people's failures if not to teach us and give us the opportunity to avoid making the same blunders? p. 159

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