Tag Archives: the Kingdom of God

March 28; Focus on the Future.

Joshua 13-15

Joshua was 85 years old, and felt as strong as he’d felt decades earlier. He was ready to take the Promise Land, to lead the Israelites into battle after battle, and to finally realize what God had promised them centuries earlier. The man doesn’t seem to be slowing down in his old age.

It reminds me that all of us have things to do in Christ’s kingdom. But sometimes we old folks get stuck in the past. We remember the good old days and lament their passing. We know things were better back then, we had more energy back then, people listened to us better back then. Some of us get a bit smug thinking we’ve done our time, now it’s someone else’s turn. We hit a certain age and think it’s time to retire.

I’m sure the Israelites were glad Joshua didn’t have that attitude.

Joshua was an old dude. But he wasn’t wasting time looking back. And neither should we.  Whether you are an octogenarian like Joshua, or a busy mom in her thirties; newly retired, or someone just beginning a career, God has something for you to do. You are a vital part in His kingdom, a vessel through which He wants to reveal Himself.

I’m not saying it’s wrong to look back. In fact, I believe we’re missing something if we don’t. But I think God would have us consider our focus. If our focus is on the past, how can we move ahead? If we focus on the past, we will miss what God has in store for us today.

What ministry would God have you undertake? What has He gifted you with that He wants you to use for His glory? You might not be able to teach pre-schoolers anymore. But I bet you can use the phone to be an encourager to someone.  You might not be able to show hospitality to strangers as easily as you used to, but I imagine you can sing in the choir, or fold the bulletins, or sew on a button. You can do ANYTHING God has gifted you to do.

Let’s learn something from Joshua who didn’t think being 85 was any reason to slow down. Let’s find out what God would have us do for His glory. Forget the aches in our joints, or the shaking of our hands. Forget using our jobs and our families as excuses for sitting back. As God wants to move ahead in 2019 let’s figure out what we can do.

And then let’s do it!

Matthew 20-22; The Invitation

Jesus sure had a lot to say about the Kingdom of God. I’m learning some things about my own walk with Him as I consider how the Church should look and operate according to the Lord. I want to be an intentionally obedient citizen.

Jesus tells us in chapter 20 the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who hires laborers. For one thing, this parable reminds me we all are to be out there working, planting, watering, and harvesting every day.

And, although this parable is talking about the heavenly kingdom and grace, God is revealing some things about Himself. First, He is the boss. Period. How He runs things is really not our business. He’s not sending out a survey asking how we think He’s doing. He doesn’t need our approval. But He wants us to know He is a good boss, a fair boss, as well as a generous boss.

Which leads me to the second thing God is revealing about Himself in this parable: His grace is His to give and I can be sure that, as His child, I will not be cheated. As a citizen of the Kingdom of God, I am assured that my King does all things well. I need to look less at others, and recognize the enormous amount of grace He has shown me. God is generous to me.

The next parable is also about a landowner. This one reveals that the Jews would reject Jesus as the Messiah, and would be responsible for Jesus’ death. The kingdom is no longer a Jewish thing. It’s a believers thing. Praise God!

And that parable is reinforced in the next one, the wedding banquet. God’s kingdom is open to everyone; rich, poor, good, bad…

But, and here is the kicker, only those wearing “wedding clothes” will be granted entrance. The invitation is there. But you can’t be a citizen of God’s Kingdom on your own terms. The Kingdom of God is reserved for those who accept God’s grace through the blood of His Son, Jesus Christ.

Looking at God’s Kingdom through these chapters reminds me what a privilege it is to belong. It encourages me to get out there, working for a harvest, inviting others to join us who know Jesus as our Savior.

So I’m inviting you!

Matthew 19; A Great Place To Live

My thoughts on the Kingdom of God, the Church, continue as I read what Jesus said here in Matthew 19. What does it mean that His Kingdom is made up of children, and poor people?

Well, first of all, it isn’t. But Jesus teaches us an important lesson about attitude here. Child-like faith is not childish faith.

I’m with my niece from Texas and her two young daughters this weekend. This is only the second time I’ve been with her 18 month old, so it took a while for her to warm up to me. But I’m proud to tell you I can now peel a banana for her, and actually pick her up on occasion. We’re becoming best buds!

Last night we went to my sister’s house for a cookout. There were about 50 people there, none of whom were familiar to Colette. And even though there were children running around the back yard, Colette stayed close to Mommy. She’d venture out a bit, but if things got confusing, she’d run to her mom.

At one point, I held out my arms to “rescue” her when she found herself among grown ups she didn’t know. She looked at me and I could tell she knew who I was. But she shook her head no, then ran to Mommy. She wasn’t upset. She just wanted to be close to her mother.

I think that’s like us who are in God’s family. We live life, venture out, but we also stay close to our Heavenly Parent because when things get confusing, we know where to go. We know who to trust.

Of course, that’s not all there is to a relationship with God. As we mature, our walk with Him deepens, our faith is strengthened, and we become farmers and fishermen like I talked about the other day.

But Jesus is teaching us that our attitude toward Him should be as pure, as innocent, and as complete as a child’s trust in her parent. I never saw Colette even consider handling her fear on her own. Never saw her try to manufacture confidence or power in herself. Her 18 month old self understood what some of us have forgotten: Complete trust outside ourselves.  I believe that’s what God wants of us, too. Just to trust Him. Period. Not to depend on our selves.

Or our possessions.

That wealthy young man was undoubtedly a good man. But he wanted to hold on to God and his money. He wanted to follow Jesus, but he also wanted one foot in the world, too. Jesus tells us that’s not how it can be in His Kingdom.

Everything we have, everything we are, has to be given to Him, nothing held back. There will be people in heaven who had healthy bank accounts while living here. But they will be the ones who held Jesus more tightly than they did their dollar bills. And Jesus warns us that’s not always easy to do.

The Kingdom of God is made up of us who have placed our trust, our very lives in the hands of the Creator. Like a child in the arms of the Father, nothing held back.

The Kingdom of God is a great place to live.

Matthew 13-18; The Kingdom of God

I have a burden for the Church, we who are God’s Kingdom through the blood of Jesus. I’m concerned because it seems we are looking more and more like the world, and less and less like the Kingdom described in Scripture. I’ve been encouraged, and convicted as I’ve spent some time these past couple of days looking at what Jesus said about His Kingdom. I’d like to pass on to you what God has laid on my heart.

William Barclay says, “To be in the Kingdom is to accept and to do the will of God.” (The Daily Study Bible Series, the Gospel of Matthew, Volume 2; page 87;Westminster Press; Philadelphia, PA; 1975) God’s Kingdom isn’t some future phenomenon. It’s us today in 2018. And our King has drawn pictures about how He expects His Kingdom to look.

Matthew recored seven parables that Jesus taught in the chapters I’ve been looking at. Each one begins, “The Kingdom of Heaven is like…” As we look at these I pray we will consider our own standing in God’s Kingdom, that we will consider how our church fellowships are doing, and what we can do to make the Church, God’s Kingdom, be exactly who He told us to be.

The first three parables Jesus spoke in these chapters concern something small growing to something big. The good seed (13:24), the mustard seed (vs 31), and the yeast (vs 33). I’ve looked at this a couple of ways. One, when we first come to know Jesus as our Savior (the Sower of the good seed),  our faith is often as small as a mustard seed, our knowledge limited. But as we spend time with our Savior, as we read His Word and fellowship with other believers, that faith grows. Or it should. I wonder if there are people in our churches who are satisfied with their seed-faith. What good is that? There can be no harvest of stunted seeds. That can’t be good for the Kingdom.

The other way I see this is in the common misconception: “What can one person do?” We are tempted to focus on the weeds growing all around us. God is telling us not to worry about that. He’s got it covered. We are asked to do is grow, stay connected to Him, the source of all we need to be healthy Christians. Yes, there is a force of evil out there that intends on choking the life out of us. But if we are growing, those weeds have no power over us. And God is the One who will weed out the evil. He wins.

And, like the yeast, if we are faithfully doing what God is asking of us, it will spread. You might think you are insignificant in light of the Billy Grahams of the world. Your contributions to the Kingdom might be done behind the scenes, your efforts quietly transforming your surroundings and the lives of people you touch for Jesus’ sake.

What can one person do? There is no limit if Jesus in it! Dear one, nothing done in Jesus’ name is insignificant! And it all works together to produce the Kingdom of God Jesus is describing.

Jesus said the field in which He is sowing good seed is the world! Oh that the world, our world, our homes and neighborhoods, would be germinated with the Gospel… and thrive!

The next two parables are about treasure. (13:44-45) What is that treasure other than Jesus Himself? The world is desperately searching for Him. They keep turning over rocks and finding fools gold and glass pearls. But the truly valuable treasure, the real thing they are looking for is Jesus only. And those of us who know Him know He’s worth everything.

But God is asking me if I’m content to hoard the treasure I hold, when I can look all around me and see people who are still looking under rocks, who are parading around their fools gold and glass pearls and trying to pass them off as the real thing. Is it ok for me to say, “They can believe what they want to believe. If they want to think that glass is a real pearl, who am I to say it’s not?”

It’s not! And you know it.

It’s not enough to be in possession of this priceless treasure. There are people in your life, and in mine, who are searching. But is the Kingdom (are we) failing because we aren’t showing those people where they can find the real thing?

The sixth parable (13:47-50) is about the fisherman who throws out the net and brings in ALL the fish, good and bad. As the Church, we are told to go into ALL the world and share the Gospel. Sometimes I think we can get comfortable writing our check out to missions and feel we are obeying that commission. But is that how Jesus is describing His Kingdom?

All of us need to be faithful to throw out those nets in our homes, our neighborhoods, our workplaces, in the streets, wherever there are people who don’t know Jesus. It’s not up to us to decide who will be responsive. We don’t pick and choose who we think deserves God’s grace. We aren’t told to be judges. We are called to be fishers of men. I wonder if God’s Kingdom (you and me) doesn’t need to repair some nets and get busy throwing those nets out there.

The music minister at my church is an amazing fisherman. Recently he stopped at a gas station, and went inside to pay for his gas. The only person in the store was a young man behind the counter, tattooed, pierced, and sporting a spiked purple hair-do. Paul, whose teenaged son was waiting in the car,  didn’t throw his money on the counter and run. He stopped and started talking to the young man. And as Paul often does, he steered the conversation to Jesus.

He asked the young man if he knew Jesus. The boy said, No. Paul asked if the boy would like to know more about Him. The boy said, Yes. Right there and then Paul shared the Gospel with a weird looking young man who’d been searching for that treasure. Paul asked him if he’d like to pray to receive Jesus as his Savior.

The young man said, “Yes!”

But just then, another customer came into the store. Then another, and another. Paul went out to his car and sat with his son for awhile. They had somewhere to go, but there was a young man in that store who was more important.

Finally, the store cleared. Paul went back into the store and prayed with that young man to receive Christ. Paul threw out a net, and Jesus reeled him in.

I think that’s exactly what Jesus is saying to us through these parables. When we are faithfully doing what He’s asked us to do, He does the rest. And His Kingdom grows one soul at a time.

The last parable is found a few chapters later. (18:23ff) It’s so easy to recognize other people’s faults. Not so much when recognizing our own. And sometimes, we don’t forgive like we have been forgiven.

It always hurts me when I hear Christians say about someone who has hurt them, that they hope God will give them what they deserve. “What goes around comes around.” “Vengeance is mine, saith the Lord.” I think that attitude is hurting God’s Kingdom.

We should never NEVER forget what God has forgiven of us. When Jesus taught us to pray He told us we should ask God to help us forgive others the same way He forgives us. That, my friend, is undeserved forgiveness, complete forgiveness, self-sacrificing forgiveness. And that’s the forgiveness we are to extend to others.

We as the Church of God are under attack. The Kingdom of God is being criticized for things that we should be criticized for, and for things that are outright lies. We, as members of God’s Kingdom are walking around with targets on our backs.

But we need to remember how Jesus told us to deal with our enemies. Love them. Pray for them. Turn the other cheek in Jesus’ name. If we get caught up with the social media frenzy, if we think we have to have a response to every stupid thing people say, we aren’t representing the Kingdom of God very well. Because Jesus died for every one of those people.

Every one. Including people with purple hair and nose rings. Including people who have treated us unfairly. Including the Muslim who just moved in down the street, or the homosexual who delivers your mail.

As I look at the Kingdom of God as described in these verses I am encouraged. I do see people who are farmers sowing seed, people who are sharing their gold mine, fishermen who are casting out their nets with abandon. May God bless each of you and grow His Church as you are yielded to Him.

But I also have a concern. The harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few. Are we making God’s Kingdom stand out because we are being faithful, are we sharing the amazing treasure we have in Jesus, are we that yeast that is transforming the world by our presence? And are we casting out the Gospel net, and drawing people in?

May each of us consider our role in the Kingdom of God. And may we all be the people God can use to sow the seed, transform the dough, direct people to the treasure, cast the nets, and demonstrate what His forgiveness looks like.

For Jesus’ sake. And for His glory, may the Kingdom of God stand, and grow, until He comes.

 

 

 

 

 

May 1 – Come Together

2 Samuel 5:1-10, I Chronicles 11-12

The kingdom is being handed over to David. Thousands of mighty warriors are pledging their allegiance to their new king. Some believe so strongly that David is God’s chosen leader, they risk their lives to give David a drink of water.

I Chronicles 12:32 says the people “understood the times, with knowledge of what Israel should do.”

That got my attention.

As Christians, do we understand our own times, or are we hiding our heads in the sand? We have so much information at our fingertips. Do we use it to find out what God is doing outside the four walls of our homes? Are we aware of how much control Satan is taking in our world? And, are we in God’s Word daily so that we have the knowledge of what the Church – you and I – should be doing?

Verses 38-30 of this chapter tell us the warriors came to David with “a perfect heart to make him king over all Israel.” Everyone was of one mind to make him king.

Wouldn’t that be incredible if that happened today, if all of us who call ourselves Christian would come together as one, with pure hearts, to make God our King – truly our King? If we put aside political agendas, denominational differences, music preferences, sin, control, and determined to follow God only?

The Bible tells us that these people, who came together to be with David, to fellowship with their king experienced joy. Oh, for the joy of corporate fellowship with the King of Kings!

Sure, these warriors were prepared for battle. So should we be. But that didn’t stop them from  coming together and enjoying the sweet fellowship with the king.

Let’s be warriors who, together with pure hearts, serve our own King as He deserves. There is joy for those who do.

October 22

Luke 17:20-18:14; John 7:1-52

Jesus is becoming more and more clear about his purpose on earth. In Luke 17:21 he spells out the following:

…the kingdom of God is within you.

He goes on to tell them the Son of Man will suffer and be rejected by “this generation”. Yet the people still expected that material kingdom.

For centuries, tradition looked forward to the Messiah who would sit on a throne after conquering Israel’s enemies. They were in no way ready to give up on that dream.

Even Jesus’ brothers didn’t get it. They may have believed Jesus could be that conqueror because they tried to push him into showing himself to the world ( John 7:1-5). And wouldn’t the flesh and blood brothers of the king have positions of royalty in the new government? They may have believed that, but John tells us they did not believe IN Jesus.

Jesus went so far as to tell his followers that where he is going they won’t find him. His disciples thought maybe he was talking about Greece. Again, they weren’t ready to give up on their hope of a material kingdom.

This subject is not over. It will be repeated and reinforced many times throughout the New Testament. My question is: Are you a citizen of the Kingdom of God? Have you bowed before him, accepted Jesus as your Savior, and made him King of your heart? Do you live your life with the knowledge that relationships, trials, successes, sin and disease, are temporary and bound to life on earth? 

Jesus said the kingdom of God is within us. It’s a spiritual kingdom with God himself on the throne. You are invited to be a part of this glorious kingdom and walk with God in this life and live with him forever when this life is over. If Jesus is Lord of your life, I rejoice with you. If you haven’t as yet confessed your sins and accepted his grace, becoming a citizen of the kingdom of God, I am praying that you’ll do that today. 

Your Majesty, we bow before your throne today as citizens of your kingdom. Thank you for Jesus who gives us access to your throne room, who went before us to prepare a place for us, and who wants to welcome each of us home when this life is over. May all who read this blog today know you as Savior, may we realize the joy of sins forgiven, the strength you provide for the challenges of life, and the assurance of eternity with you. You are Lord. You are our King. And you reign forever and ever. Amen.