Archives For May 2009

Did Jesus mean for everyone to know of the Kingdom of God?
Luke 8:10

“The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of God has been given to you, but to others I speak in parables, so that, “‘though seeing, they may not see; though hearing, they may not understand.’

Luke 9:26-27

If anyone is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God.”

Luke 22:18

For I tell you I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.”

 Did Jesus intend that the kingdom of God be a mystery to some or even many? I like to think of myself as a somewhat informed Christian but, except for the first one, the verses above don’t help me understand the concept of the kingdom of God. The first verse tells us that Jesus did let the apostles know the secrets of the kingdom of God but hid it from others. Even the disciples knowing is not that obvious to me. They later did all kinds of things that made them look like they didn’t know of it.

The second and third verses that talk about the kingdom of God coming before some he was talking to would die. Just what was he talking about? I just don’t know.

Here is the verse we will use for this discussion:

Luke 17:20-21

“The kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation, nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is within you.”

Jesus clearly says that the kingdom is not a place that you can observe or see but that it is within you. This has some serious ramifications. The Lord’s Prayer talks about the kingdom of God in Heaven and on earth. Is the kingdom of God in Heaven a particular place that we go to when we die? Or is it a more spiritual realm that is not “place” dependent. Since God is not dependent on time and space we may never be able to fully understand the concept of the kingdom of God. I know other places talk about us having glorified bodies in heaven. If that is so then it seems like it needs to be a physical place.

At any rate, I am sure that among possible other things the kingdom of God must reside in all believers’ souls that is it must be “within us”. Understanding this fully is well beyond my present comprehension.

Who gets into the Kingdom of God?

Everyone wants to see the kingdom of God but Jesus points to some qualification on getting there. Let’s look at those verses:

Luke 6:20

Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.

Mark 10:14-16

“Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”

 Mark 10:24-25

“Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”

John 3:5-8

“I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”

According to Luke account the poor are among those who get into God’s kingdom. Of course, this verse is taken out of the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus had a lot to say about living on earth and it’s resulting consequences.

Ok, the second verse says that we must be like little children or we will not enter into the kingdom. There is a lot of discussions around about just what it means to be like children. To me, it means we must throw off the earthly kingdom mentality that we have learned. When we try to equate the kingdom of God to any earthly kingdom we are completely misguided. It is quite impossible for any earthly kingdom to reflect the kingdom of God. There is no kingdom in this world that even remotely resembles the kingdom of God. NONE. God does not favor one earthly kingdom over another; as is the case for us sinners there is no earthly kingdom that meets God’s expectation; in fact they are all radically different than the kingdom of God. We must throw off this mentality if we are to ever understand the kingdom of God.

The third verse talks about the “rich man”. He seems to come up frequently in Biblical text. I think this goes along with the previous one in that when we relish things of this world we are jeopardizing our place in the kingdom of God.

The last reference verse is quoted often for a number of different occasions. Some say being born again happens when you are baptized; for many of us that means when we were little babies. Others believe that being born again is that instant in your life when you consciously accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior. I won’t get into that battle here. But Jesus does say that being born again is a requirement for getting into the kingdom of God.

 Something has been on my mind for the last few day so I am going to interrupt my study of the Kingdom of God for a quick non-related post. What does it take to get individual congregations to cross denominational boundaries for the common good? Jesus told us to be one as He and the Father are one. But it seems that that is an almost impossible task in today’s Christian world. Years ago when I was a Catholic I was told that I could go to another church as long as I “sat on my hands”. That is to say in no way participate in any of their service activities. I realize that since then the Catholic church has revised that advice although I really don’t know to what extent.

To bring up the reason for this post, right at a year ago I organized a benefit dinner for a local Christian homeless shelter at my local church and invited members from twelve other area churches to attend and support the shelter. Of the twelve, not one showed a positive response or any of their members attend! I was planning on making the dinner an annual event, Lord knows the shelter can use the money especially now. I would like to do the dinner again but I don’t think it would be fruitful without Christians in the community attending. I was even somewhat disappointed at my own church members attendance. It was much less than I anticipated. I guess I am gun shy and don’t want to be burned again.

What is the Kingdom of God?

 Let’s look at a few places where Jesus talks about the Kingdom of God and what it might be:

Luke 4:43-44

“I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns also, because that is why I was sent.”

 
 Mark 4:30-32

“What shall we say the kingdom of God is like, or what parable shall we use to describe it? It is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest seed you plant in the ground. Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds of the air can perch in its shade.”

Luke 13:20-21

“What shall I compare the kingdom of God to? It is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into a large amount of flour until it worked all through the dough.”

Jesus stated in the first referenced quote teaching us about the kingdom of God was one of his highest priorities. Jesus even goes so far to say that that is why he was sent. To me that means teaching us how to live. Some want us to believe that the 100% total purpose for Jesus’ coming was to die for our sins. While I believe his substitutional death was of primary importance this verse says it was not the only act of primary importance. Some would have Jesus jump directly from this birth to the cross, bypassing the 33 years he lived on this earth.

From the second referenced verse it sounds like Jesus knew all he could do was to plant the seed and wait for others to help it grow. Eventually it will take over and become the “largest of all plants”. Just when that happens only the Lord knows. But it is our duty, some say command, to do our part to nourish that seed as stated in the Great Commission. Let’s also not forget that line in the Lord’s Prayer where we are to pray that God’s kingdom come to earth as it is in heaven.

The last verse, I think, gives us a clue on how that is the happen. When making bread, or so I have been told, yeast is a very critical ingredient. Jesus is telling us that he brought the yeast that will eventually be worked through all the flour. This verse is kind of ironic to me as I thought that the Jews of Jesus’ day ate unleaven bread, that is bread without yeast . Oh well another mystery to think about (ha).

Crown and Cross Graphic 219x321

Jesus spoke about the kingdom of God more frequently than any other topic, and it pervades all his actions as well. He mentioned the kingdom of God more than 70 times in the Gospel texts and it is mentioned by his disciples more than 30 times. Since I haven’t done so yet I thought I would spend the next several posts trying to discover just what is the “kingdom of God”? I will do that primarily through studying the red letters. Let’s start out with this post covering some of the higher levels of this topic and then in the coming posts we will address where Jesus mentioned the kingdom of God.

To me the kingdom of God is all about whether we are loving as Jesus loved? That is, the kingdom of God is an action oriented place. Jesus’ love totally encompasses the kingdom of God. Many of the verses that Jesus quotes show that it is literally impossible for any kingdom of earth to even remotely approach being like the kingdom of God. There is no such thing as a Christian Nation. Just as we are all sinners and therefore totally fail live up to God’s expectations all nations on this earth are totally incapable of meeting God’s kingdom standards. Not even one! We in the U.S. have the largest military complex in the history of the world. The Kingdom of God has NO military but instead will love their enemy and even die FOR them. How ironic!

This study is all new to me so please chime in with your opinions, whether they agree with me or not. I don’t claim to have all the answers, or even any for that matter. I’m just a guy trying to understand the concept of the kingdom of God. Let’s enjoy this coming study and please provide any input you can. Due to some side issues I will be posting twice a week, instead of three times, for the next month or so. I just need to back off for a little while to spend more time on some other issues.

no_one_should_go_hungry_food_drive_typographyI have been volunteering at a cafeteria/soup kitchen in a Christian homeless shelter for over four years now. This was part of my progression from a hectic life to the slow lane. It was doing dishes and helping to fix the meals that I learned one of the places the Lord truly intended me to be. Over these years I have progressed to doing solo days when needed. Sandy, the full time cook at the mission had some surgery yesterday and will be off for a week or more. My prayers and many others are with her for a full recovery. If anyone should get a full portion of the Lord’s love she should. Anyway, starting today and for three days next week I will be the substitute “chef”. I, with the help of others including some who have volunteered from my church, will prepare about 500 meals during this time. Of course what we have will depend on what food comes into the mission. That seems to change on a daily basis. During these hard economic times donations for these types of places typically decrease while the need increases. It is hard for them to stay afloat under these conditions. I am hereby making a heartfelt plea to anyone who reads my blog to seek out a shelter in your community (they exist in almost all communities) and lend a hand or give them a few dollars. After all the Lord did tell us that when we help “the least of these” we are actually helping Him. Isn’t that a wonderful thought. Also say a little prayer for me to get it right during my hours there in the coming week. Thank you Lord for another opportunity to share your love in my life.

grace-candle-213x188

I saw the title quote for this post form a story about Wintley Phipps who is a very popular singer/pastor. As soon as I heard it I was struck to the heart. If you really think about the words in the hymn “Amazing Grace” you come to the realization that the hymn is about reaching past our arrogance and past our pride and into the true nature of God. I have to tell you about a very personal incident in my life. It was during the singing of this hymn that I truly felt the presence of the Holy Spirit enter my life after so many years of renouncing Him and the rest of the Trinity. It was a feeling that I know I will never experience again in my life. It was the point where I finally “got” it. We can’t depend on our own actions to get us right with God. If we do that we are doomed from the start. Yes, we are to do our utmost to help the Kingdom of God thrive on this earth, but since we are sinners to our very nature it is totally impossible to earn our way without Jesus Christ. It is through the “Amazing Grace” of God that we are able to do good on this earth and to spend an eternity with our Lord and Savior. Amazing grace is indeed a VERY sweet sound. I will spend the rest of my life thanking God for it and trying to live out His love in my daily life.

These next couple of posts are very personal in nature. I will be revealing some of my soul in them. Please bear with me or if you want just skip over them.

 I talk a lot about how we shape our futures by the God given free will choices we make. But, it was also very important for me to understand that God has a dream for how my life should run its course. If I were to totally give in to God’s will His dream would certainly be accomplished and I would be a much better person. Of course that has not happened, especially in my younger more rebellious years. Anything that reeked of authority I wanted nothing to do with. And, my religious experiences during that time definitely reeked of authority. Now that I am over the hill I truly believe that I have finally found what God’s dream for my life is.  Each of us has different roles to play in God’s kingdom. It is very important that we find exactly where he wants us to be.

 I can only imagine what my life would have been like if I had taken the time to seek God’s dream for me when I was younger. But, of course God probably knew that I wasn’t ready for his dream at that time. It takes some of us longer than others to finally give up our pride and the thought that “we” are in control of things and give our lives over to our Lord.

Here is a quote from a book by Gregory A Boyd that is the basis for this post:

The heart of Jesus’ teaching was “the kingdom of God”. He spoke about that topic more frequently than any other, and it pervades all his actions as well. Indeed, the Gospels make it clear that Jesus was the embodiment – the incarnation – of the kingdom of God. When Jesus was present, so was that kingdom (Matt 12:28 and Matt 3:2 & 4:17). Though the world as a whole was and remains part of the domain in which Satan is king, in Jesus the domain in which God is king has been introduced into the world. A central goal of Jesus’ life was to plant the seed of his new kingdom so that, like a mustard seed, it would gradually expand. Eventually that kingdom would end the rule of Satan and reestablish God, the Creator of the world, as its rightful ruler (Matt 13:31-32). In other words, Jesus came to destroy the cosmic “power over” lord and establish the kingdom of God upon the earth. (Heb 2:14, 1John 3:8)

The kingdoms of the world are all about power. They have big police forces to enforce their rule, big armies to drive people into submission, and overall power to enforce their wills. The kingdom of God is about service, love, and fellowship. It is about taking care of those on the margins of society, being our brothers keeper, being a servant not a ruler.

We Christians should never be too aligned with the kingdoms of the world. It puts a bad face on God and is certainly not furthering the kingdom of God on earth. Given the sinfulness of man and Satan’s rule over the earth it is quite impossible for any kingdom of the world to be like the kingdom of God. The kingdom of God must be won one soul at a time.