Kingdom thoughts part 4

There are many thoughts and opinions on the kingdom of God, and most of the time those thoughts and opinions are correct in some way, but sometimes they are unbalanced. I think every concept on the kingdom can be driven into a ditch. I feel confident in that statement because I have done it, I have even done it on this blog. I have taken a thought or kingdom concept that is correct, and surrounded it with supporting information without also including the scriptures that bring balance to the thought. So I thought I might write about some opposing concepts, and some of the ditches that each can fall into.

There are some people who become hyper focused on building, obtaining, and conquering for the kingdom, but they forget that there is a social part of the gospel message, and there really is injustice in the world. On the opposite extreme you have people that say there is no point in building anything, and that the only thing that matters is getting people saved to leave this world because it is already too far gone (I have written more specifically about this in other parts of this series). One side wants to ignore the inconvenient truth of injustice and build, while the other side wants to ignore building and escape the world.

Building without balance can lead to disaster. If you were to do a little research on homelessness on the west coast of America right now you would find that it is growing into a very serious problem. Through the explosion of tech. companies (mostly) the west coast is building itself into having a serious problem on its hands. There are people with good jobs that are homeless because the growth has forced them out of the market. Building without balance can also lead the heart astray. There is a reality that giving handouts can cripple a people group; however, there is also the reality that first world countries sometimes build at the expense of third world countries. When a first world country extracts $20 for every $2 (made up numbers) they give to a third world country the heart has been led astray. In some cases it’s not handouts that are crippling people, it is injustice. Sometimes it’s not the handouts(just to state it plainly for balance, sometimes it is the handouts), it is the theft. Unbalanced capitalism can lead to injustice. When socialism takes from those that do, and gives it to those that don’t, that is injustice. When communism takes everything from the people, and the government decides what you get regardless of your work, that is injustice. The point is that everything has a ditch that we can fall into.

I have written more on the building side this time because as I said before, I have written about the other extreme more previously. On one side we have to look out for ditches like nationalism, triumphalism, and so on. On the other side we have to look out for ditches like defeatism, escapism, and so on.

So there is building, and there is also bringing justice where there is injustice. There is the preaching of the salvation message, and there is the preaching of the kingdom message. Although I would really just say there is preaching the gospel of Jesus as it contains both of those and more.

Both extremes can be said to contain truth, but left unbalanced I think they can both become wrong. When the extremes are put together it brings balance, and I think that balance gets us to a closer truth of kingdom expression.

As I’ve said before, I don’t know if I’m right, But hopefully I have got you thinking, and eager to dig into the word of God for yourself.

God is for you, and I am for you!

Kingdom thoughts part 3

The kingdom of God is at hand and present in the world, that is according to Jesus anyway. Some would argue the point, but I side with Jesus. Clearly it is not present in its final form, but it is present. The New testament tells the story of the kingdom becoming present, how it moves, and that it will someday come in its full expression. It seems that the bible isn’t telling us a story where the creator God wants to rescue His created people from His created world. It seems more like it is a story of God rescuing and redeeming us to rule with Him over His rescued and redeemed world. Taking spirits with souls out of this world to a place out in space somewhere called heaven doesn’t seem to be a theme in the bible. (of course I am not implying that there is no heaven, I am just saying that God is bringing heaven here) It is more like we will be resurrected just like Jesus to function on a recreated world. Christianity is not just about getting saved so we can escape earth and go to heaven; however, it’s not hard to see why this concept is popular with the evil that is in the world, and if I’m just getting saved to go to heaven it eliminates my need to be responsible to this world. We talk about gifts, callings, and purpose on this world for a reason. We do have things to do, and Apostle Paul insists that what we do for the kingdom is not in vain.

There are many that believe this to be true; however, there are also many ideas about what it looks like. There are ideas of exhortation and self-help motivation, morality, social agendas and so on. None of those things are wrong, the body has many parts; however, we can get so stuck on our way and expression that we say the others are wrong. The kingdom is not singularly any of those things, nor is it simply the sum of those things. It is not just natural expressions such as feeding the hungry, it is also super natural expressions such as miracles; however, it is also much more than those things even. Through the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus, the kingdom will someday come in its full expression and the world will be free of evil, sin, and death. This is something that even in our best work we can not do. When we look at Jesus we look at the kingdom, it entered the world when He entered the world. When we look at Jesus we see the natural expression when He feeds the 5,000. We see the supernatural in the healings, and resurrection of the dead. We also see the deciding blow to evil, sin, and death at the cross, and in God’s time we will walk on a world that is fully free of it. The kingdom is not just advancing social and political reform, etc, and it certainly isn’t about escaping the world, it’s about the rescue and redemption of God’s creation, and His glory. There are some things that literally only God can do, but there are certainly things that He does do through us. Even at the very foundation we are created in His image, meaning in the very least we are to reflect Him in the world. There are countless scriptures, and parables that speak of our responsibility as stewards. There are certain things that we cannot do such as what is mentioned above, and it is the height of human arrogance and pride to think that we can bring together the summation of all things; however, there are things that we are meant to do for the kingdom.

I know God has set you apart, and equipped you to do the things He has called you to do.

God is for you , and I am for you!

Kingdom thoughts part 2

It seems that most people, at least in America, have one of two opposite views of extremes. Some say everything is getting worse and worse, while there are others that say everything is getting better and better. I would suggest that it is possible that neither one of those are correct. In part 1 it was suggested that evil is still present, but it doesn’t mean everything is spiraling into the abyss.

If we go back to the very beginning, God declared that His creation was good. This is important to note because so many Christians declare the opposite, that the world is a terrible place. It doesn’t appear that the early church had this view. I don’t think they believed everything was getting better and better, or worse and worse. I think they believed they were in God’s created world, and that through Jesus there was started a plan of rescue and redemption.

I think a helpful shift in our hearts and minds in this area may be to move from thinking horrible world and wonderful heaven, to thinking kingdom present and kingdom to come. I would suggest that we no longer look forward to abandoning the horrible world, or waiting on evolution/progress to create us a kingdom, but put our hope in God’s plan of rescue, redemption, the cross, resurrection, recreation, and the kingdom of God. We tend to think of leaving this terrible place, but the bible insists that heaven is coming to earth. Jesus even instructed us to pray that heaven would come to earth. We tend to think of heaven as out in space somewhere, and hell under our feet. So a popular concept is that we will one day float off to heaven as a transparent spirit with a soul. This matches several theologies, but I don’t think it matches the bible. If this were the case then it seems that death would only be partially defeated. If part of what God created gets lost in death, then how is death defeated? In the beginning when God said that creation was good, Adam and Eve were body, soul, spirit. When Jesus was resurrected, He had a physical body that Thomas could touch. I tend to think the bible says we will to, especially if we will be as He is, which is what the bible says. 1 Corinthians 15 is a good place to read some of this as well as Romans 8, and of course there are many other places. Of course I don’t know what all of this looks like, but I do think it can be said that there will be a physical body. The bible gives us more directional signs and symbols than 3-D pictures and blueprints.

We have to believe God when He said His creation was good in the beginning. I believe that it was supposed to reflect Him. With humans specifically, I think were supposed to reflect worship back to God, but also reflect His nature into the rest of creation through stewardship. We have of course failed in this from the beginning, but it is important to remember that God never fails. The things we do for the kingdom now, and the present expression of the kingdom are just a dull glimpse of what it will be when Jesus returns. Where we fail as stewards, God steps in rescues and redeems through Christ.

It is important to keep our faith in the good things that God is doing in His time and wisdom. Continuing to worship Him, and keeping our faith in His good work will also remind us that Jesus is the one coming with God’s kingdom (this doesn’t change our actions in being co-laborers with Him). This helps avoid some of the ditches that we can fall in with kingdom now theology such as pride, arrogance, and the building of our own empires while putting His name on the door. Sometimes things that begin with good kingdom intentions can fall out of alignment. People can be lured into worshipping power, pleasure, wealth, etc by the enemy. It is possible to fall into the trap of worshipping the created rather than the creator. However, I think this can be avoided if we keep our hope in God’s plan of rescue, redemption, the cross, resurrection, recreation, and the kingdom of God.

There is so much I don’t know, But I know my hope is in Him, and His kingdom is beyond what I can imagine.

God is for you, and I am for you!

 

 

Thoughts on the kingdom part 1

This series of posts, however many I end up doing, will consist of my thoughts on the kingdom that I have written in my journal over the past months as I’ve studied and read books. I will say that if you only read one rather than the whole thing they may seem unbalanced, but I will make an effort to be balanced in them as a whole. For example, what I write today will seem somewhat pessimistic as I present the reality of evil in the world; however, I will follow-up with a post all about our hope for the future.

So with that being said the underlying theme I will be dealing with now is the concept of human progress, and our ability to progressively, and eventually create God’s kingdom on the earth. There are many who hold this belief; however, I can not be fully on-board with it. I don’t believe that this concept is rooted in the bible, and I think that the early church knew that only God can build His kingdom in its full expression. As a side note you can read an earlier post related to that thought here.

I think the concept of human progress in this area is really rooted in the European enlightenment, grew in the 19th and early 20th centuries, and really bloomed in the late 20th and now early 21st centuries. From the late 19th century to now we have seen the advance of science, economy, freedom, wide-spread education, etc which has made it seem like we were on our way to tomorrowland, or wonderland. This works really well for political speeches; however, a trip around the world will prove that just because some people have these prosperities does not mean that all do. And at this point if you are to just quote Jesus in saying that you will have the poor with always, it shows where your heart is and its condition.

The concept of human progress does not account for the fact that as the wheat is growing, so are the tares. As our human advances are moving faster and faster, evil is still present and people are still suffering.

We speak of human progress sometimes as if we can create God’s kingdom within the world as humans. As I’ve said before we can build FOR His kingdom, but we can not create it. What I think is a closer truth is that only God can build His kingdom, and the full expression has been built elsewhere, and when Jesus steps back into this realm we will see. We sometimes act as if through progression we will eventually be made perfect. We sometimes act as if the world is ours and we can exploit and destroy it as we see fit. We sometimes act as if by our own hard work and education we can turn the world into the wonderland that we want. All of these things are exactly counter to being dependent on God’s grace. God creates, rescues, redeems, etc, and we can do nothing apart from Him. The best that we can do is only a minor expression of what He will do when He finalizes His kingdom.

You can pile up for yourself all of the progressive data you want, but it will remain helpless in acknowledging the existence of world wars, sex trafficking, child abuse, malnourished children, impoverished countries, and so on. If progress in our own power were true then these things wouldn’t continue to exist. Even though we have these proofs that progress in our own power is a myth we push it that much more, I guess it is an inconvenient truth when human suffering, and misery washes up in our face.

The real reason this is a myth is because evil is present, and the condition of the human heart is a struggle. There are studies that seem to show that there is more prosperity now than ever (it would take another post to address the abuse that comes out of this prosperity) and that there has never been a time in history better than now. That may be true, but it does little to eradicate evil. Evil will exist until the one true judge arrives to eliminate it. We as humans are incapable of doing so. We are ever flawed in our judgements. My misjudgments alone are enough to prove it.

If evolution (which is really what the concept of progress is) has given us the evils listed above then there is no reason to think that if we simply keep trying to get better as people, that these wicked things which have always existed will somehow suddenly go away because we are now better humans. The only suddenly that will take place is when Jesus steps back through the veil into this realm.

If we were to only believe in our own human progress we certainly would not arrive at wonderland. Two major views that come out of science related to the big bang theory is that it will eventually run out of energy, stop expanding, and everything will freeze, or gravity will eventually pull it all back into itself and implode. Not wonderland. The only hope, and optimism is in God and His kingdom, not man’s ability to build it.

Even if we were to somehow will ourselves into wonderland, it would not solve the problem of evil and suffering. Who are we to build ourselves a kingdom on the sufferings of others? We have been doing it for a long time, and it is evil. I don’t believe this is God’s plan. I think a closer truth is that Jesus will one day step in as judge and vindicate those who have been abused and do justice to the evil of this world.

The concept of progress is not able to deal with evil, and to go even further, it certainly has no answer for dealing with death. Only God, only the cross, only Jesus, only His kingdom can deal with these things.

I don’t know if I’m right, but I hope this at least gets you thinking.

God is for you, and I am for you!

What did Jesus do on the cross?

I don’t really know if I would be correct, but I would reason that most people look at what Jesus did on the cross the same way. I would reason that most people would say something along the lines of- Jesus died on the cross for my sins so that I can spend eternity in heaven. (This is not wrong; however, I would argue that it is very partial, and possibly gets us out of alignment in the thought process)

I think most people look at the cross in such a way as to ask the question: How can I get to heaven despite my sin problem? The answer becomes like that above, Jesus died on the cross for me. Again not wrong, but limited, and almost selfish in nature.

The point of this post is to challenge you to think outside the box, or just to get you thinking in general.

What if you were to ask the question: How can God’s plan for the growth of His kingdom be continuing when there is so much death, destruction, and corruption among humanity? The answer then becomes-when Jesus died on the cross He defeated the evil that has enslaved humanity which has ensured that evil actions would continue.

There are many answers to the question that gives this post a title, and it is my hope that you will dig in a little further.

However, lets look at some implications from this brief example alone. If I am saved just to spend eternity in heaven, then I may as well take my ball and go home. However, if I am also saved to have a purpose in God’s plan of rescue, redemption, and renewal then I have reason to be here. Jesus walked about performing miracles, healings, casting out demons, and so on. That sounds like rescue and redemption to me, and those are the same things he sent the 12, and the 70 (or 72 whichever you like) out do. It is the same thing we are to do. Asking different questions about the same event forces you to have a larger perspective.

Dig in, and go deeper!

There is great purpose for you beyond your personal salvation!

God is for you, and I am for you!

 

A brief word on becoming a son

For a very big part of my life I did things in large part in order to gain approval, or avoid punishment. That was the highest percentage of what motivated me. A couple of simple examples: I didn’t want to get in trouble with my parents, or I wanted to get a high five from my boss. It’s a good thing to please your parents and your boss. The problem wasn’t with them, or even in my actions, the problem was in my motivations. This becomes an even bigger problem in our spiritual life, and that is what I will attempt to very briefly explain today.

If I am motivated to serve God because I am afraid of punishment, feel an obligation to serve, seek approval, or feel trapped then I have the mindset of a slave. I know this because all those things are symptoms of slavery. This is very important because if I am motivated by symptoms of slavery, and I have the mindset of a slave, then it means I see God as a slave master. This is a very unhealthy place to be, and a place that will only serve to hinder our spiritual journey.

So how to do we transition from a place of slavery to a place of sonship. The reality is that Jesus has already done it all. Jesus did not partially win a battle, He has the victory in its fullness. This means that if you are in Christ you are no longer guilty, and that is at least one of the key elements. You have to recognize that you are no longer guilty. There has to be a change in the servant’s heart. You have to go from guilt to gratitude. This means that you will no longer be motivated the same way.

It means I am motivated to serve God because of my gratitude for the gift of freedom and redemption. I don’t feel an obligation to serve, I have a desire to serve. I’m not just doing things for approval, I’m doing things out of love. I don’t do things because I am trapped, I do things because I am free to do so.

This change of heart and mindset may only be a part of this transition, but it is a large part. Where a slave has to, a son wants to, and that it is a substantial change within the heart and mind of a person. Where you were once a hindrance to your own spiritual journey, you are now a partner in furthering your journey.

God doesn’t see you as a slave, and I want to encourage you not to see God as a slave master. If you take a look at your life and realize that the things that motivate you are symptoms of slavery, and you want to change that, there is no better time than now. Ask your father God to help you change your mind and your heart in these things. Be transformed by the renewing of your mind.

God is for you, and I am for you!

“This is what my love is like….”

“This is what my love is like”…..this is what I heard the first time I ever knew without a doubt that God spoke to me. This is a piece of my testimony, but it is really about my father God, and my wife. I’ve never spoken this testimony without crying, and I’m sure I will cry while typing it. In my experience there are some God moments where the emotions never fade.

There was a time in my life when I was struggling with how to go about life in general, and to go along with that I had a lot of pent-up emotions. I was trying to figure how to move beyond the life I had experienced while at the same time trying to figure out how to fit into the life ahead of me.

I knew my wife was going to be different as soon as I met her, and from our first date there’s never been a day when we haven’t been together. However, the early days of our relationship coincided with my time of struggle. So along with my other struggles, I was trying to figure out how to have a healthy relationship. Neither one of us really had anywhere we could draw from on what that looked like.

She was at my house, and I can’t remember what our disagreement was about, but I do remember all of that pent-up emotion boiling. I got so mad that I went out to my garage and started slamming my barbell off of the ground in a rage. I can remember thinking that she would leave and never want to return. That thought sobered me up a little bit, and I put the barbell down. I turned around, and she was standing there. She saw it, she witnessed my worst moment. She stepped to me, wrapped me in a hug, and just said it’s ok, I love you. She had every right, and reason to have responses other than that. It was a moment later in our hug that I heard God say to me “this is what my love is like.” “I love you the same in your worst moments as I do in your best moments.” Nothing in my life has been the same since that moment.

When everybody else left, she stayed. When she had reasons to leave, she stayed. When no one was there, she was. When I was at my worst she loved me. She was the physical reality of God’s spiritual reality in my life. When it comes to living a kingdom first life, God, and my wife are the biggest part of why I am where I am today.

I loved God, and I had always been in some level of relationship with Him, but I didn’t want anything to do with going to church, I had enough bad experiences with that. It was my wife who convinced me to go to a church that she knew about that would be different. There is no chance that I would have ever taught a lesson, preached a message, or even be sharing on this blog if it wasn’t for that moment. If it wasn’t for God, and my wife.

People will tell you that God loves you no matter what, and that’s a good thing. I had been told that many times, and I even believed it. However, when God Himself says that to you in your worst moment, you know without a doubt that it is true.

I’ve said it before, and I will say it again, there are very few things that I can tell anybody with 100% certainty; however, one of those that I can is that God loves you. At your worst or at your best, it doesn’t matter. That’s what His love is like. His love is perfect even when you are not. His love is complete, even when you are broken.

God loves you, and so do I!

 

Ask for help

There are times in life when you need a little boost, even when you are living a kingdom first life. There will be things that you are trying to overcome that you can’t seem to overcome, but really all you need is a little boost. That boost usually comes in the form of a person.

When I was in the army I had a hurdle that I couldn’t seem to overcome. It was the 2 mile run. I wanted to get the max score on my 2 mile run, but I came up just shy of it two or three times. It made me mad! I could max the push-ups and sit-ups in less than half the amount of time given, but the 2 mile run kept me from a perfect score.

There were two things that kept me from maxing the 2 mile run, and it wasn’t my ability. It was the excuses I was giving myself such as maybe my legs are too short and I’m not built for the 2 mile run, or maybe it’s because I’m a little too heavy from spending time in the gym. The second thing was my pride that kept me from asking for help. After all I was known for being physically fit, I shouldn’t need help, people come to me for help.

I got frustrated enough that I got over myself, and asked for help. I went to a person. I asked sergeant Furqan to pace me on the 2 mile run.

The morning went as usual, I maxed my push-ups and sit-ups and it was time for the run. Sergeant Furqan got beside me and we took off. The pace was faster than I expected, I was on the verge of an all out sprint the whole time. I was thinking to myself that maxing this thing really wasn’t for me, my legs must be a blur like in a cartoon, and I might die! However, for every one of those thoughts, sergeant Furqan was telling me something else and pushing me.

When we were about a half mile from the finish line, and I could see it, something crazy happened. After I thought I was on the verge of sprinting this whole time and I would never be able to keep the pace, I realized I had another gear and shifted into a new stride. I even pulled away from sergeant Furqan, and I crossed the finish line with 20 seconds to spare. I maxed the 2 mile run for the first time!

It didn’t take some miracle, or grand scheme. All it took was someone coming alongside me, and giving me a little boost. Sometimes we need people like that. People who will help you get over your self perceived limitations, and weaknesses. Someone who will help you get past all the reasons why you can’t do what you are trying to do. Someone who will come along side you when other people say you can’t do something, or that you can’t get things right.

What’s awesome is that sergeant Furqan let me pull away. He wasn’t like so many people  who call themselves leaders. He didn’t have to beat me to the finish line. I heard him kind of laugh as I kicked it into the next gear, and I could hear him pushing me on as I ran ahead of him. What an amazing thing. I want to do that. I want to get alongside people and give them a boost. I want to cheer them on as they kick it into the next gear. I hope I already do.

There are so many people who will tell you all of the things you are doing wrong, and why you aren’t blessed and have no favor and so on. This is why we need to find the people who look past your short legs, and help you anyway. We all have shortcomings, but there are people who are willing to look beyond those things. Sometimes it feels like they are few and far between, but they are out there.

All it took was one person to come alongside me one time. I maxed the 2 mile run every time I ran it after sergeant Furqan helped me. You may be stuck in a rut, but sometimes all it takes is one person to bust you out. God designed us in such a way that we need not only Him, but His people. Don’t let your pride, or weaknesses that you think are too big to overcome keep you from finding the right person. God puts people in your life that can help you. Find the right ones, and ask them for help. God has way too many great works for you to do to be stuck in a rut.

God is for you, and I am for you!

 

Own it as if…………an exhortation for you

At this point in my life, I have learned that there are things that happen in life that you do not ask for, and were outside of your control. You do everything right, or at least to the best of your ability, but things still happen. It’s a fact of life even as a Jesus following Christian.

However, your position as the steward does not change whether things are going great, or when everything has fallen apart. When “life” has happened, even if you did nothing wrong to cause it, you have to own it as if it was all your fault.

What I mean by that is that wherever you land after the event, you have to get up, take responsibility and begin (maybe better said, continue) to steward things from where you are at. Stand in your faith with confidence, be a good steward with what you have where you are at, be thankful for the growth that comes with the hard time, and start the climb.

Because of His word, I have confidence that faith pleases God, He rewards good stewards, and He has great plans in store for you.

People may or may not be around to help, but the one who has given you every spiritual blessing in heaven will be. If you will fully own it, and have faith that God is fully for you then I know you won’t stay where you landed forever. You may be there for a season, but God will use it as a springboard (the bigger the fall, the more compression on the spring) to propel you beyond where you were before.

God is for you, and I am for you!

 

Calling and purpose simplified

Everyone wonders about their calling and purpose. I would also say that most people over analyze, and over complicate their calling and purpose. I know I always have; however, things have become much more clear and simplified for me this year. With that being said I would like to share with you what the Lord has shown me in these things.

Remember this is simplified, not exhaustive.

Romans 8:28-28 And we know that [a]God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. (emphasis mine)

We ARE called, and we are called according to HIS purpose. Your calling does not come out of your own great idea, It comes from a God idea. His purpose for you is your calling. How does that help? I am glad you asked.

I will share a scripture that sums up purpose and calling.

Matthew 28:19-19 [a]Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.

So we all have a purpose and calling to disciple nations (a plurality of people). How does that clarify what you are to do personally? This is what the Lord revealed to me.

God places a desire or you could even call it a burden in us for a place, He places in us things that we are naturally good at because of giftings and abilities, as well as desires to do certain things, and He places in us a connection to certain people that we can’t always explain as well as a desire to help certain groups of people. You could possibly say that we all have the same purpose to disciple groups of people; however, the way we are called to do it, where we are called to do it, and with whom we are called to do it is all personalized by God.

So calling and purpose simplified is to go where He has put in your heart to go, do what He has put in your heart to do, and do it with the People He has put in your heart to do it with.

Now this is where faith comes in, faith is actually doing it. Faith is getting rid of all of the excuses as to why you can’t go, and can’t do.

I’m going to leave it at that. Be encouraged, let your faith rise up, and go do it.

God is for you, and I am for you!