Tag Archives: Kingdom of God

Is eternal life a real thing? Titus 1:1-4, Part 4

13 Jun

Take a look at Titus 1:2.  There is a repeated word in the original Greek in which Paul wrote, but for some reason the English translations I looked at don’t repeat it.  Here is how verse two would look if that word were repeated:

“in hope of life eternal, which was promised by God, who does not lie, before time eternal.”

See that repetition?  And also see the emphasis on God as telling the truth?  I mentioned that in the previous post, as Paul is very concerned that Titus and the Christians on the Island of Crete focus on truth. Why does Paul need to say that God doesn’t lie, though? Isn’t that obvious?

Actually, no. In fact, the concept of God as truthful, contrasts to the Greek and Roman gods, who the people in Crete were raised on.  One author I read said that “there was never a greater lying trickster than Olympian Zeus, who always seemed to wrap himself in a fog in order to ravish some maiden out of sight of his wife, Hera, and then to lie about the deed.” (Baugh, Titus)

Paul knows his audience.  He knows what the Cretans believed, because they were taught it from the days of their childhood, and Paul see how they act.  He wants to assure Titus and the church in Crete that the hope they have in Jesus is based on the fact that he is the truth.

What’s more, the truth God promised was from eternity to eternity, that there is hope of life in him!  What a wonderful way to start a letter, isn’t it?  There is hope in God, hope for life, and God doesn’t lie about this.  It is true!

Continue to verse 3. There  Paul explains that, “At God’s appointed season, He brought his word to light.” What is God’s Word?  His word is the truth that Paul mentioned in verse 1, the truth of Jesus. “He brought it to light” is the idea of revealing it.   Paul says that through the preaching, the proclamation, that was entrusted to him, then, he is helping people see the truth of Jesus, shining a light on it so people can see it. 

Now this is Paul speaking…he was an apostle…so maybe this is just something that he does?  Maybe we don’t have to?  Maybe it is just for the evangelists?  The missionaries?  The pastors?

No, this is for us all!  We all can shine a light on who Jesus really is.  We recently had a discipleship training event at Faith Church that made this very clear. The mission of God’s Kingdom to make disciples is for all Christians. How do we know this? Think back to Matthew 28:20.  There Jesus says that a disciple is someone that is learning to obey everything Jesus commanded the original disciples.  One of those commands is “go make disciples”!  So it is every disciple’s call to make disciples.

Paul goes on to say that the preaching entrusted to him was by the command of God our savior. Paul repeats this in verse 4 when he refers to Christ Jesus our savior.  That repetition means it is an important concept. 

How is Jesus our savior?

Savior from what?  What do we need saving from? 

Savior for what?  What do we need saving for?

Paul doesn’t explain these things.  He will later in the letter.  We’ll get to that.  For now, Paul is saying that we have a savior in Jesus, that Jesus is the truth that leads to godliness.  In other words, while there are many people and organizations trying to get us to believe that they have truth, Paul is saying that truth is found in Jesus.  True hope for life eternal is in Jesus.  Throughout the letter we’re going to hear him talk about this more.  In this greeting, he just introduces it.  So if you are struggling, wondering if there is hope, wondering what is the truth, keep reading Titus.  Feel free to read ahead!  Comment below. I would be glad to talk further.

Many in our world do not have hope.  Paul clearly wanted Titus and the people in his church to know the source of truth that leads to godliness. 

Now that Paul has described his role as a servant apostle to proclaim the hope we have in Jesus, he next refers to the recipient of the letter. Check back tomorrow as we learn about Titus.

A story about what happens after people die

6 Aug

Photo by Ashim d’Silva on Unsplash

What happens after a person dies?  My uncle recently sent me this story, author unknown, that tries to answer that question.

On the outskirts of a small town, there was a big old pecan tree just inside the cemetery fence. One day, two boys filled up a bucketful of nuts and sat down by the tree, out of sight, and began dividing the nuts.

‘One for you, one for me, one for you, one for me,’ said one boy.  Several dropped and rolled down toward the fence.

Another boy came riding along the road on his bicycle. As he passed, he thought he heard voices from inside the cemetery, so he slowed down to investigate. Sure enough, he heard, ‘One for you, one for me, one for you, one for me…’

He just knew what it was. He jumped back on his bike and rode off. Just around the bend he met an old man with a cane, hobbling along.

‘Come here quick,’ said the boy, ‘you won’t believe what I heard! Satan and the Lord are down at the cemetery dividing up the souls!’

The man said, ‘Beat it kid, can’t you see it’s hard for me to walk?’ When the boy insisted though, the man hobbled slowly to the cemetery.

Standing by the fence they heard, ‘One for you, one for me.  One for you, one for me.’

The old man whispered, ‘Boy, you’ve been tellin’ me the truth.  Let’s see if we can see the Lord!

Shaking with fear, they peered through the fence, yet were still unable to see anything. The old man and the boy gripped the wrought iron bars of the fence tighter and tighter as they tried to get a glimpse of the Lord.

At last they heard, ‘One for you, one for me. That’s all.  Now let’s go get those nuts by the fence and we’ll be done.’

They say the old man had the lead for a good half-mile before the kid on the bike passed him.

That boy and the old man had a very interesting view of God and what happens after people die!

While we might take issue with their theology, we can agree with them that something does after to people after they die.  We believe that there is an eternal destiny for all.

Therefore, a significant element of the mission of God’s Kingdom has been that Christians tell the story of hope that we have because of what Jesus has done for us.  We don’t have to look at life beyond the grave with fear because we have hope in Christ.  Additionally, Jesus said that the hope we have in him matters before we die.  We believe that becoming a disciple, a follower of Jesus, gives us hope for eternal life after death, and gives us hope for best possible way to live now.  We believe that God is preparing a place for us in heaven, and he is seeking to transform society now!  Eternal life in heaven, abundant life on earth.  That’s how we summarize this amazing Kingdom of God.

As Peter continues teaching the Christians in the Roman Empire around the year 65 AD, he now teaches them about how to live out this mission of God’s Kingdom among people who might be antagonistic or atheistic, agnostic or apathetic.

So please read 1 Peter 3:13-17.  This week we’re going to see how Peter instructs Christians to talk about this hope they have.

What my sons’ mugshots taught me about citizenship

13 Jun

How about those two cute little mugshots?  They are my two oldest sons in September 2000, when they were 3 and 2 years old.  Our family of four had just moved to Kingston, Jamaica, and we had to apply for immigration status as legal aliens.  That meant we had to get photos taken and use those photos for immigration cards which we carried with us.  Even the boys at 3 and 2 years old had to have legal alien status.

Something curious happened, though, when the photographer took our photos.  What you see above is round 2.  In the first round of photos, he took the photos, developed them, and surprise, they showed nothing by eyeballs and hair.  Two eyeballs on a plain background with no body!  What?  The photographer had not adjusted the camera settings to account for our light skin tone!  That was one of the first times we felt a tinge of what strangers and aliens feel.  After a good laugh and a few setting changes to the camera, the photographer retook the photos and all was well.

We often felt like strangers in Kingston, and we were official aliens in Jamaica.

All week long we’ve been talking about strangers and aliens.  (You can review the previous posts here and here.)  That might sound odd, depending on how you are thinking about the word “aliens.”  Creatures from outer space?  No.  Peter is using the word “aliens” like we do when we use the phrase, “illegal aliens.”  In our society, an alien is a person from one country that is trying to set up a new life in another country, just like we did in Jamaica.

So why would Peter use that concept to describe Christians?  In our study of 1st Peter 1:17-21 and 2:11-12, Peter tells the Christians in the Roman Empire around 65 AD that they are aliens and strangers in the world.

It’s like the words of the old spiritual: “This world is not my home, I’m just a passin’ through.”  All Christians, Peter says, are living in a foreign land.  We have another true home country.  We are from another place.

But what other country is he talking about? First of all, many of the Christians Peter was writing to were actual strangers and aliens.  Some had fled for their lives, leaving their home country, and became refugees in another country, in order to escape persecution.  They could easily have felt like strangers in their new country.  Second, as Christians, followers of Jesus were a unique, tiny minority in the Roman Empire.  Christianity was relatively new, only about 30 years old, and very few people understood it or accepted it.  So Christians were perceived as strange in regard to their beliefs.  In both areas the physical and the spiritual realms, those Christians were strangers and aliens.

Likewise, though we Christians today might not be strangers and aliens in our earthly country of citizenship, we are strangers and aliens in a very real spiritual sense.  We are citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven.

We believe that, we claim it, but if we are honest it can be very hard for many of us to grasp how our citizenship in God’s Kingdom should impact our lives.

Why?  Because we get so entranced by what we see, touch, and feel.  It is super easy to get focused on what affects us.  It is all too easy to think, “I am an American.”  We were born here, we live here, we are comfortable here.  It is all we know.  Alien?  Stranger?  It sure doesn’t feel like it.  It is hard to see ourselves as citizens of the Kingdom of God, because it is invisible.  It is much easier to identify as an American.  So what Peter has to say is difficult and radical: you’re actually an alien, from another place.   That American birth certificate, passport, voting card, social security number, ID card, and driver’s license?  None of it depicts your true identity, or your true home.

Remember that concept of new birth in Christ, being born again, that Peter talked about in verse 3?  When you choose to believe and follow Jesus, you are born again into his country.

I didn’t choose to be a citizen of the USA.  I was born here, in Virginia.  My birth certificate proves I am a citizen of the USA.  When I travel abroad, I carry my US passport, and when I return to an airport in the USA, at the immigration checkpoint the officer glances at my passport and says, “Welcome home!”

What I need to dwell on more is that I did choose to be a citizen on the Kingdom of Heaven, through new birth.  Christians, disciples of Jesus, have been born into a new place, and thus we are citizens of the Kingdom of God, and that citizenship is the true one.

How do citizens of an earthly country see themselves also as citizens of the Kingdom of God?  Can we hold dual citizenship?

What Peter is saying is that we Christians do have a dual citizenship.  But our citizenship in an earthly nation is temporary.  That whole nation is temporary.

Tom Hanks’ movie, The Terminal, illustrates this well.  Hanks plays a man who is from a small country.  The man is traveling outside his country, and on the way home, while in a foreign airport, he is shocked to learn about a revolution in his country.  In a very short time, that country is dissolved and a new one forms.  The airline will not let him back without proper identification.  What country did he belong to?

Some of us might have a change of citizenship like that while we are on this earth.  And for all of us, no matter if they drape an American flag on our casket, when we die, our citizenship in the USA is over.

Citizenship in heaven, however, is forever.

So Peter is saying that we Christians must choose to live now during our earthly lives, by the principles of the Kingdom of God, which is forever. How do we do that?  Check in tomorrow and we’ll begin to look at what Peter says Christians should do to live as strangers and aliens in the world.

Turning guns into plows – Just a future vision? Or possible now too?

29 Nov

Image result for turning swords into ploughs

A vision of the mountain of God!  We’re studying prophecy during Advent 2016, and week 1 takes us to Isaiah 2:1-5, a glorious image of events in the last days.

The temple mount is in Jerusalem, and it is not all that high.  When you think of tall mountains around the world, you don’t think of Jerusalem.  But if you are thinking of the nation of Israel, you do.  It certainly isn’t the highest point in the nation, but symbolically for the people of Israel it is the high point.  Notice that in the vision we see that it will be raised above the hills?  Raised?  Physically? Is Isaiah’s vision saying that the temple mount in Jerusalem will go through a geological upheaval and be raised higher than Mt. Everest?

The temple mount is 2430 feet above sea level.  Everest is 29029 feet, ten times higher!  God could easily raise up the temple mount higher than Everest if he wanted.  But you’d think that would make it really hard for people to get there, which is a big point of this passage.

But maybe I’m being hyper literal, and I shouldn’t be.  This is where prophecy can get tricky.  Maybe all this vision in Isaiah 2 means is that God will raise the temple mount above the rest of the city and the hills nearby.  Could be, but I doubt that is how God intends for us to understand the vision.

I suspect this elevating of the temple is entirely symbolism!  No actual physical movement needs to take place.  The image of the mountain of God being raised above all other mountains, I think, is just a symbolic way that God is saying the glory and importance of the mountain will be raised in the hearts and minds of all people because of who is there.  God himself is there!  So God’s presence makes his mountain the greatest of all.

What is striking about this passage is what happens next at the end of verse 2: people from all over the globe make their way to Jerusalem. But why?  The answer is in verse 3.

The peoples of the world want to go to the mountain to be taught God’s ways, so that they may walk in his paths.  They show that they want to learn.  They are teachable and humble.  And what do they want to learn?  God’s ways.  Why?  They value God’s ways enough that they not only want to learn them, but they also want to be changed by what they learn, as they want to walk in his paths.

How about you and I?  Do we have a humble teachable desire to learn God’s ways and be changed by them?  In this passage we see a picture of the future, a day when people from all nations are seeking God, when many people desire to learn from God.  But what about right now?  Right now it is the church that should lead the way in streaming to God, desiring to learn from him.  We the church should be the example now, though only in small part, of what life in the Kingdom of God will look like world-wide in the future.  We the church should be showing the world what the future will look like.

The next thing we read in verse 3 is about the law and the word of God going out.  What does this mean?  What significance does it have?  Perhaps there is a connection between the going out of the law and the word in verse 3 and what happens in verse 4?  Take a look first of all at verse 4:  God judges and settles disputes.  He is bringing peace.  In his Kingdom there is peace.  Then notice the illustrations of this peace that are the remainder of verse 4:  The tools of war become tools of industry, farming.  What once was used for destruction of humanity has been retooled for the flourishing of humanity.  God’s word and law transform society.  Wars cease, and so nations do not need to train up armies for war any longer.

What an amazing vision of the future!

But we live in the here and now. When you read such a wonderful vision of the future, does it discourage you, because we see so much war around us now?  Think about it.  What we read in this beautiful picture in Isaiah 2 is so different from what we see in the world around us.  War and hatred prevail.  Darkness.  When you watch the news, it can seem like the world is a very dark place.

In Cambodia the darkness of the Khmer Rouge devastated the country in the 1970s.  Millions died in the Killing Fields.  Thankfully that era is gone, and Cambodia is a nation slowly allowing its eyes adjust to the light.  One beautiful picture of this is how survivors of trafficking are taking old landmines and turning them into attractive jewelry.  Learn more here.

So I love how Isaiah’s vision finishes in verse 5 “come, let us walk in the light.”

See the connection between verse 5 and 3?  Both verses 5 and 3 talk about walking in the way of the Lord.  In verse 3 it was through the teaching of the Lord that the people learn to walk in his ways.  This teaching ministry was a huge focus for Jesus.  He taught the people what life in the Kingdom of God looked like.  We can learn to live that way now, to walk in the light now as verse 5 indicates.

kingdom-of-god-is-likeThis is why on this first Sunday of Advent we remember that the first part of the mission of the Messiah, who was Jesus Christ, was that Jesus was teacher of the way of the Kingdom.  When you read through the four stories of his life, the biblical books of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, you see him spending a lot of time teaching.  He taught the crowds.  He taught his disciples.  He taught his enemies.  He taught individual people here and there.  He told stories.  Parables we call them.  Often the phrase that he used to start his parables was “The Kingdom of God is like…”

Jesus came to teach us about the true Kingdom of God.  It is a Kingdom that is not just far far away or life after death.  The Kingdom of God, Jesus taught his disciples in Luke 17:21, is among us.  We don’t have to wait for the Kingdom until we die; we can and should work towards the continual advancement of the Kingdom in the here and now.  This is the life of discipleship that Jesus taught.

So let’s imagine what the Kingdom of God could be like in the here and now as it grows among us.  As one person gives their life to follow the way of Jesus, they themselves are gradually being changed.  They are learning from Jesus how to live in the here and now.  For example, when they used to be selfish, they learn from Jesus to practice self-denial.  When they used to indulge in impurity, Jesus teaches them to be holy.  Where the ugly things of the world used to pour out of their lives, now the good things of the Fruit of the Spirit flow from them: love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, kindness, and self-control.

The Kingdom can impact us!  We learn from Jesus how to live and we start to look more and more like him.  His Kingdom is evident in our lives.

But it doesn’t stop there.  As we are following the way of Jesus, we also want others to follow that way as well.  As we are disciples of Jesus, learning from him how to live, we are discipling others to follow Jesus as well.  Every disciple of Jesus is also a disciple-maker for Jesus.  “Go and make disciples,” he told his followers.  So as the Kingdom reigns over us in increasing measure, so it expands and grows and reigns over other people as well.  Other people in our own families.  Our friends.   And most often that expansion, that growth of the Kingdom, happens because we the disciples of Jesus are actively allowing the Kingdom to grow in our own lives, and we are seeking its growth in the lives of others.

But it doesn’t stop there either.  As more and more people allow the Kingdom to rule and reign over their lives, soon society begins to change.  People no longer need to cheat and steal.  People no longer need to purchase the latest greatest gadgets in order to find fulfillment.  People no longer need to spend money lavishly on themselves.  People heal broken relationships.  People have renewed strength to fight and win over addictions.  Generosity is the norm.  There is plenty of money left over to feed the hungry, house the homeless, and clothe the naked.  People at war can’t remember why they are fighting because they are so overcome with forgiveness and love for one another.  Criminals stop their lives of crime.  Prisons start to empty and shut down.

This is the vision of the Kingdom in the future for sure.  The day when God’s rule and reign will be complete.  But it can also start here and now.  That was a large part of Jesus’ Mission as Messiah, to teach about how his followers can live out that amazing Kingdom here and now.   And you know what? That’s what we Christians are to do.  Take a look at Acts 2:42-47 and you see them living this amazing vision out.

Right after Jesus returns to heaven, what do those first disciples of Jesus do?  They seek to live out the Kingdom right there together.  And that is what we are called to do as well.

So let us walk that road of discipleship to Jesus together.  Let us earnestly seek to learn from Jesus how to live so that not only might we be transformed, but others and our society will be as well.  And it starts with us.

This Advent, what will it look like for you to say “Jesus, teach me how to live!”

That time Jesus said a chicken would save the world – Luke 13:22-35

28 Dec

In this story, Jesus takes a question from the crowd: “Will only a few be saved?”

How will he answer?

144,000?  Maybe that’s how many will be saved?

Nope, he doesn’t say that.  His answer is a story.  He tells a parable about a man with a house, and the house has a narrow door.  In the story people will try too enter the house, but the owner will shut the door.  Outside the people start banging on the door, frustrated as to why the owner will not let them in.  From the other side of the door he calls to them “I never knew you! Go away.”

Outside you can see the people looking really confused, shrugging to one another with a look on their face that says “What is he talking about?”  They respond back to him saying “But we ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets!”  It sure sounds like the people outside have convincing evidence for him to think, “You’re right…fine!” then open the door and let them in.  There seems to be a relationship between the people outside and the owner of the house.

Instead the owner shouts back, “I never knew you! Away!”

The Pharisees speak up because they suspected, rightly, that Jesus was telling this story about them.  They tell him to leave that place because they local maniac king Herod was apparently uttering threats against Jesus!

Jesus, undeterred, says “Go tell that fox that I must be about my business.”  Jesus then proceeds to say that a chicken will save the world.

Kind of.

But truly, when you think about it.

He doesn’t use the words: “a chicken will save the world.”  He says that he is like a hen who has desired to gather her chicks.  He is using a simile, a figure of speech, to liken himself to a chicken.  And he does desire to save the world.  That was why he was born.  That was the focus of his preaching, that the Kingdom of God was being made known through him.  That people should follow his way.

And so in an astounding image, Jesus says that he looks at the people (and he specifically mentions the city of Jerusalem here), and desires to draw them in like a hen would lift up her wings and cover her little chicks.

That’s how God feels about us.  He loves us and wants to save us.  Jesus never answers the question if just a few will be saved.  Instead he reminds of how God wants to save us.  He has not only provided a door, albeit a narrow one, for us to walk through in order to be saved.  God also loves us and wants to save us.  We see the heart of God in this passage.  God’s heart is an attitude of grace, love and mercy for us.

There’s a problem though.

In the narrow door story, the people thought they knew Jesus, but they were wrong.

In the hen story, Jesus goes on to tell the people, they were not willing to be gathered under his wings.  Instead people are like a chick who would run away from the loving, care of the mother hen.

We might ask why any chick would do that.  Why would they be unwilling when the care of their mother is so good and safe and warm?  I can’t answer for a chick, but I think you and I can answer that question for humanity.

So what if we rewrite the question: Why would so many people turn away from God?  When God loves us so much, when he gives us grace and mercy, when he sent his Son to give his life for us so that we can walk through that narrow door, why would we not want to be close to him?

There are many reasons why a person would not want to be close to God.

It could be distractions.  Our American society has a lot of entertaining distractions to offer.  If we have food, clothing, and fun (and we have oodles of them here), why do we need God?

It could be disbelief.  Plenty of people simply don’t believe in God.

It could be particular view of God.  Some see God as a tyrant or judgmental.  Who would want to be close to that kind of God?

There could be more reasons.  How do you feel about God?  Do you feel close to him?  Do you feel far?

I don’t know that I can answer the questions and concerns that you have about God.  But the parables Jesus tells us in this passage give us some clues.  First, the narrow door is still open.  Enter through it. Get to know him, to really know him.  Knowing him starts with a question: “What does it mean to really know him?”  Then make this year the year where you seek that answer.  Jesus’ parable suggests clearly that we should not assume that we know him.  Instead have a teachable heart that says “Lord, I want to know you better!”

I came across an article this past week that could point out roadblocks that could prevent you from knowing God better.  It’s called 10 People Nobody Can Help.  Are you one of those 10?

Second, be like the chick that is willing to be gathered under his wings.  Run to him.  Remember that he loves you.  God is not angry at you.  He wants to be close to you.  Jesus’ point is that staying under his wings is the best possible place to be.  Do you believe that being close to Jesus is the best possible place to be?  I will probably not be able to convince you.  Instead I urge you to take him at his word and give him a try.

Want to know how to run to him?

It starts with prayer in the midst of situation “Lord, I trust in you. Take my life. I give myself to you. I want you to help me.  I want to know you more.” And you have to mean it.

Jesus, another time, said “Abide in me, and let my words abide in you.” Get his words in you. Study the Bible.   Even if it is reflecting on one verse per day.   Read a chapter of Proverbs per day. Read a Psalm per day. Then get in touch with someone who can help you study the Bible deeper. Get a study bible and use the notes.

Be committed to his mission of making disciples. Be discipled yourself by someone who is more mature. Ask them to disciple you. I should be able to go to each of you and ask “Who is discipling you?” and you should be able to give me that name. And from the other direction I should be able to ask you “Who are you discipling?” and you should have a name. You can ask the same questions of me!

Abide under his wings through being generous with your money. Abide through giving of your time to serve the Lord…in a ministry in the church, in a community outreach, etc. This is the sacrificial nature of the disciple of Jesus.

As we head into 2016 let’s take a look at Jesus and let’s check our hearts. Are we “riding the coattails” of our family’s Christian values, are we hoping we are being good enough because there are so many others who are worse?

OR are we willing to do the hard work, to make tough choices and to follow God’s best way for our lives? To look at ourselves and see which ways we might be able to make changes to grow to be more and more like our Jesus. He wants to gather us. He loves us. Are we running to him or away from him?”

How God’s Kingdom can change the world – Luke 13:10-21

21 Dec

We Christians talk a lot about the Kingdom of God, but what exactly is it?  Just a place people go to in the afterlife?  Heaven?  Jesus often said things “The Kingdom of God is among you, is near, has come.”  What in the world did he mean?  The people in his day often seemed confused about the Kingdom of God.  I wonder if we are too.

In Luke 13:10-21, Jesus has the perfect opportunity to talk further about the Kingdom.  After ticking off the local synagogue ruler for doing a healing on the Sabbath, Jesus tells two super short parables about the Kingdom.

First is the Mustard seed; it’s tiny, but grows huge. I’ve never seen this in real life, so I’m going to take Jesus’ word for it. 

The second is about Yeast; again it is tiny, but infects a huge lump of dough. How huge? Massive. The NIV says “large amount of dough”, but Jesus actually uses a specific measurement here. If you’re reading in the Greek, it is 3 satas. A sata was 12-13 liters. So about 36 liters worth of dough. Who can do the math to convert that to gallons? 9.5. You can make a lot of bread with 9.5 gallons of dough. To his main point, Jesus is right. Even a tiny amount of yeast will expand, multiply and spread through that dough.  Again, I haven’t worked with yeast before, but some bakers I’ve talked with vouched for this story.  They told me that it is amazing to watch work through some dough.

What is the Kingdom of God like? In these two parables Jesus teaches that the Kingdom starts small, but grows and expands with surprising hugeness.

What in the world is Jesus thinking here? Why would he want to tell these two parables at this point?
With the healing having just taken place, and with the interaction about Sabbath, what about this situation caused him to think about the nature of the Kingdom of God?  Could it be that he wants to point out to the people how different the Kingdom of God is to the religious system that they are used to?
The Kingdom of God is surprising like the mustard seed. That tiny little seed grows into something huge. The Kingdom of God, like the Yeast, is contagious, it spreads surprisingly fast through even a large group. The Kingdom of God grows and strengthens as it grows. How does this happen? By following the rules and regulations of a man-made religious system? Nope. Instead the Kingdom’s surprising growth happens in us and through us when we follow the way of Jesus who was willing to follow the way of the Kingdom even if it meant not following the man-made rules of the local religious system.

I love how Jesus refers to this in the Lord’s Prayer that we talked about a few weeks ago. You know the phrase “Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven”? Think about the dynamic of that. God wants his kingdom to come into our lives so we are transformed by him. Our lives should be growing, changing as a result of following Jesus. Let the Kingdom of God work its way through your life.
Let the Kingdom of God grow in you. Let’s not be a people who brainlessly follow religious rules, like the synagogue ruler wanted Jesus to. Let us allow God’s Kingdom to fully infect us.

How? How do we allow God’s Kingdom to flow through us?  There are at least a couple lessons to learn from this story in Luke 13:10-21:

First, do good, like Jesus did. There are so many ways to apply this.  What does being a do-gooder look like for you in your home, in your office, in your school?

Second, practice the principle of Sabbath: rest, don’t work 24-7, worship, be with your family. I’ve been convicted of this lately. Our denomination sets how much vacation time I get. Pastors start with three weeks of vacation each year. Each of those weeks can include one Sunday off. For every ten years of ministry, you get an additional week off, maxing out at five weeks. Each year pastors are also allowed to be away for one Sunday of Ministry or Study Leave, such as when I was away on the mission trip to Kenya. I’ve been with the EC Church for 13 years in full-time ministry, so I now can take four weeks off each year, including four Sundays away.

Frankly, I’ve done a terrible job of taking my vacation. Don’t applaud that.  Sometimes employees where it as a badge of honor that they don’t take vacation. There is a great reason for vacation, and no matter your profession it is very wise to take it. I say that based in the principle of Sabbath. As much as you and I should be finding weekly time for rest, family and worship each week, we should also use our vacation time.

I am not trying to impose a new rule, a new Sabbath day, or anything like that. I am saying that we should look at the principle of Sabbath, and we should apply it to our lives. There are some other ways to allow the Kingdom of God to infect you:

  • Be disciples who make disciples – watch the Kingdom grow through you.
  • Pray for the filling of the Spirit.
  • Immerse yourself in the Word of God – Read the Word.

Do you ever think, “What can I do? I am just one insignificant person?” But that’s exactly how the kingdom of God starts. Through one person. Start Small. One little thing. If each person did one thing, imagine the impact. We can too easily think that our one life impact is too small, doesn’t matter. We don’t have to get massive attention, or right away make a radical impact. Our culture loves to highlight the big splashes. But what about all the people who are just faithful in small ways? They never get a news story about them. They never become famous. But they are being faithful. Put together they are a massive impact.

This is one of the reasons why I love that in our school district we have a ministerium that works together in unity.  Churches of all shapes and sizes have joined together to promote Christ and share his love to our community.  In recent years the ministerium started Conestoga Valley Christian Community Services which features a clothing bank and food bank making a difference in the lives of people in our school district.  I’m honored to be a part of that.

Allowing the Kingdom to infect your life might start very small. Like the mustard seed. Like the yeast. But that is okay. Start something!

Have you lost the Christmas (Kingdom) Spirit?

17 Dec

My family loves the movie Elf.  This year we watched the movie version  starring Will Ferrell, and the cartoon version starring Jim Parsons, both to hilarious laughter, though I think most of the family would say they prefer the movie version.

The premise of the movie is that a human, named Buddy, is raised by elves in Santa’s Workshop.  As he grows into an adult he struggles being so different from the elves, as you can see in the picture above.  His solution is to leave the North Pole, and travel to New York City to find his real dad.  Once there much hilarity ensues, but in the process Buddy discovers a troubling reality.  So many people, including his dad, have lost the Christmas spirit.

Buddy, of course, has a personal friendship with Santa and his reindeer, so he assumes the truth of Christmas.  Buddy is filled with Christmas spirit.  In New York City, though, he finds Santa Claus impersonators, a disturbing lack of Christmas cheer, and plenty of nonbelievers.

One of the central questions of the movie is how to help people regain that Christmas spirit.  I encourage you to watch the movie to see how it turns out.

As we continue studying the Gospel of Luke we come to Luke 13:10-21 where some people in Jesus’ community, like those people in the movie Elf, seem to have lost something.  While the people in the movie lost the Christmas spirit, the people in Jesus’ day had lost a true understanding of the Kingdom of God.

In Luke, we’ll see that they thought the Kingdom was one way, and Jesus says “No, it is something very different.”  In essence we’ll hear Jesus say “You’ve lost the spirit of the Kingdom of God.”  It’s a pretty shocking story because the very people who are to understand the Kingdom best actually don’t understand it.

Because of that, this story just might be very instructive to us.  Do we know what the Kingdom of God is like?  Do we understand how it works?  How is God’s Kingdom supposed to impact us?  Can you say that you have been impacted by the Kingdom of God?

What does the Kingdom of God matter, anyway?  Is it possible that we think we have a firm grasp on the Kingdom of God, but we have actually lost it?

Join us at Faith Church as we talk about this further.