Guest Blog from Paul J Murphy

" Paul, bring a sermon with you to Uganda because the church will ask you to preach." I dutifully printed and packed one of my recent sermons and headed for Uganda. But, after being in Uganda for 4 days I realized the sermon I had packed was best left unused. So with a blank piece of paper, and a pen I sat down and reflected on what I had been seeing, hearing, and experiencing while in Uganda. And a sermon flowed. It spoke to the Ugandans, and it spoke to me.

"the Kingdom of Heaven is like a mustard seed planted in a field. It is the smallest of all  seeds, but it becomes the largest of garden plants and grows into a tree where birds can come and find shelter in its branches."   (Matthew 13:31-32)

Turn on the news, browse any news source and power struggles are the way of the world. This month it is Ebola and civil or sectarian wars in Syria and parts of the Middle East. Still wrenching from power struggles are Egypt, Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, South Sudan, Central African Republic, Congo, Thailand, Ukraine and Russia. and the list goes on and on...and on. Control through power - military, money, or political power is the world's way. The distortion of the golden rule is too often how things work - "the one with the gold makes the rules". Even here in our own country, money is often the driving influencer behind politics.

Jesus had no army (who would have felt alarmed if told "the disciples are invading!"). Jesus had no financial clout nor any political position or party affiliation. Yet 2,000 years after His death, Christianity is global and growing!

 "The Kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed".......

Nearly 20 years ago, 4 men in rural Uganda climbed onto their very used bicycles and began pedaling. They biked over 40 miles each way on dirt roads with ruts and potholes. They were biking to speak with a church planter evangelist named Patrick to ask if he would help plant a church in their rural area of Palisa, Uganda. Patrick agreed. Now, 18 years later, there are 35 churches in the Palisa region, which have sprung up from that one church plant - all of which came about due to the seed faith of 4 men who biked over 40 miles. They had no political clout. Just bikes and a love for The Lord.

 "The Kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed".......

Remember the Lord's Prayer..."Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth". How does the Kingdom come? What are we saying when we pray for that?

Jesus did not need an army, or money, or political "power" because the territory He seeks to conquer is the hearts and lives of people. The Kingdom is an inside-out movement. Money, military might, or political power cannot change a heart, nor can they create a voluntary surrender of heart loyalty. 

Hearts are softened and conquered by serving love. Look in Philippians chapter 2. Paul urges them to "be one in spirit and purpose" (2:2). He means being "others" instead of merely "self" focused (2:3-4). Jesus is the example (Philippians 2:5-8). Jesus did not cling to His status and position....Jesus emptied Himself becoming a "servant" of others (of 'sinners', not churchgoers)....Jesus suffered in love even to the point of a cruel and unfair death on a cross. All of that was for others. Jesus' way of extending the Kingdom was by serving others in love, even suffering in love. That is the polar opposite of how our world thinks about winning and ruling!

Yet, God honors humble, serving in love of others (see Philippians 2:9-12). And as followed of Jesus, we are to follow His lead (that is Paul's point in Philippians 2:12-16). Paul himself is a model of serving love (2:17-18) "even if my life is being poured out" for you... "I am glad and rejoice".  His life "poured out" in loving service of others. Just like Jesus.

 "The Kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed".......

Here is the point - you and I are like seed. At work, you are the seed. At home, you are the seed. In our neighborhoods, and schools, we are the seed. Even with opponents and enemies, we are the seed of the kingdom.

As we serve others, by pouring ourselves out for them in love we stand out as strikingly different from how the world works. We fulfill Jesus command "if you love one another as I have loved you, the whole world will know you are My disciples." Love, suffering love for others is the fingerprint of Jesus. It is what touches, moves, and brings about heart surrender in others.

·         Where has God placed you as the tiny seed He intends to use?

·         Do you have the attitude of Jesus of serving others in love or are we trying to exercise power over people?

·         Who are you, or can you serve in the love of Jesus?

 "The Kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed".......

Paul J. Murphy,  PROGRESS & JOY

Paul Murphy has served 33 years as a pastor, encompassing two permanent senior pastorates and 13 intentional interim pastorates in “turnaround” situations --  churches going through crisis or transition.  Paul has served churches of varying sizes, denominations and demographics. He has also experience as an executive in the faith-based non-profit world. Paul’s heart is to see the church BE the body of Christ to a needy, lost world.

Paul founded his own nonprofit, called PROGRESS and JOY – taken from Philippians 1:25. Its focus is renewing churches, developing leaders here in the US and overseas in Haiti and Uganda.   Paul has worked with multiple denominations as well as consulting with urban, ethnic, and immigrant faith-based groups. His specialties are change management and leader development. He works with leaders through individual one-to-one coaching and group trainings called Servant Leader Boot Camp. He works with churches and ministries through conflict mediation and a participatory vision process called Church Check-Up. He is ordained with the Evangelical Free Church of America.

Paul and his wife Liz are both native Californians. They met in college and have been married for 37 years. They have 3 adult children and 1 grand-daughter. Paul and Liz live in the suburbs of the Twin Cities of Minneapolis, St Paul.

  • Oct 19, 2014
  • Category: News
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