THE RESTORATION OF THE KINGDOM

To conclude what I‘ve been writing about the Kingdom of God I’ve written a short story. Here is the first part.

 

In the beginning, the Great Ruler established a new kingdom within his realm. He loved this new kingdom and enjoyed visiting with his new subjects. He saw to it that they had everything needed for a blissful life. However, one of his other subjects rebelled against his rule and decided to take over this new kingdom.

Through deception and lies, he convinced the inhabitants of the new kingdom to join his rebellion. The new kingdom then came under a curse of death and destruction. It became a dark place full of evil. The rebel leader delighted in this for he himself had become evil.

His rule over the new kingdom went on for many years. Finally, the Great Ruler had enough. From the very beginning, he had a plan to regain his new kingdom. It was now time to implement his plan. His plan was kept secret, and he caught the rebel leader by surprise.

The great Ruler sent his Son to the new kingdom, but he came not as a ruler but in the likeness of the humble people. Later, the son began to announce that the Great Ruler’s kingdom had come. This disturbed the rebel leader, so he began to figure out how to stop this challenge to his rule.

The Son showed the power of the Great Ruler’s kingdom with many signs and wonders. The people began to follow the Son because they were intrigued by his teaching and the miracles he did for them. They were also drawn to him because he had power over the rebel leader’s soldiers.

Many of the people desired to enter the Great Ruler’s kingdom, but there was a problem. All of them had indulged in the evil of the rebel leader. They could not enter the Great Ruler’s kingdom without first being cleansed. The rebel leader knew this so he was confident that he would keep his subjects. He thought, “I’ll get my subjects to kill the Son then I’ll for sure have the victory.”

Next week the conclusion

LIVING IN THE KINGDOM OF GOD NOW

Over the last two weeks I’ve shared these thoughts:

When Jesus came to earth, he brought the Kingdom of God with him.

Through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, he gave us access to the Kingdom of God.

To enter the Kingdom of God, we must surrender our will to God’s will and receive Jesus as our savior.

As soon as we enter the Kingdom of God, we gain eternal life.

 

Before we entered God’s Kingdom, we were simply dissipating life. One of the blessings of living in God’s Kingdom is his will now guides our lives. God’s will can be explained by these two commands. Jesus told us in Matthew 22:37-39, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: love your neighbor as yourself.” God’s will is to help us step beyond our self-centeredness and live a life of purpose.

What I have observed, over the years of living in God’s kingdom, is that every one of God’s children has a unique and specific purpose to fulfill. Bonnie calls this our passion. For her and me the passion has been for children in need. Our lives together have always been directed toward serving children. The seed of this passion was planted very early in our lives and is now satisfied as we walked with the Lord. What is your passion?

The Kingdom of God is a glorious place, even now, for those who love him. We look forward to Jesus’ return and the final defeat of evil, but for now, we have a purpose to fulfill. “Let us not become weary of doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up (Galatians 6:9).”

DIVINE SOVEREIGNTY

In his book Eldon Ladd points out that God’s kingdom is not a place, but is simply his right to rule, his divine sovereignty. God’s kingdom exists right now. We enter god’s kingdom when we surrender our will and except his will. His will being foremost that we receive the gift of his son’s redeeming work. Receiving God’s salvation births us into his kingdom.  We are a new creation in Christ (2Corinthians 5:17) with an existence in God’s eternal kingdom.

Though we who have received salvation in Jesus are now part of his eternal kingdom, we also exist here in the temporal world. How does our new status affect our physical presence here? Eldon Ladd states the answer very nicely, “The kingdom of God is, then, the realization of God’s will and the enjoyment of the accompanying blessings” (*Ladd, page 24).

In my personal experience of realizing God’s will in my life, I have found comfort, protection, maturity, physical and emotional strength, and an overall exciting challenging life. The accompanying blessings are manifest in my family and friends and a meaningful existence. God treats each of his children individually, according to who he created us to be, yet we all benefit from his will and the accompanying blessings.

If you have received Jesus as your savior, you have eternal life in God’s kingdom. You now exist in the realm of God’s divine sovereignty. We will someday leave our existence in the temporal world, but we will continue to live forever with God our Father.

Next week let’s look further into our presence in this world as God’s children.

 

*The Gospel of the Kingdom of God, George Eldon Ladd, Martino Publishing 2011

LOVE OVERCOMES FEAR

1 John 4:17-19 (The Message)

God is love. When we take up permanent residence in a life of love, we live in God and God lives in us. This way love has the run of the house, becomes at home and matures in us, so that we’re free of worry on Judgement Day – our standing in the world is identical with Christ’s. There is no room in love for fear. Well-formed love banishes fear. Since fear is crippling, a fearful life – fear of death, fear of judgement – is one not yet fully formed in love. We though, are going to love – love and be loved. First we were loved, now we love. He loved us first.

I have come to the conclusion that maturing as a Christian is synonymous with maturing in love. Learning to love is nurtured by our grasping of the reality that God loves us.

Love begets love. Fear opposes love. As the above scripture points out: “There is no room in love for fear. Well-formed love banishes fear.”

There is natural fear. I don’t get too close to the edge of a cliff, and I keep my distance from poisonous snakes. However, the unfounded fear of impending doom opposes love. When we embrace God’s love for us, we put aside fear; for we know, he cares for us. Death and judgement are taken care of.

John 3:16 (The Message)

This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life.

The freedom we gain through salvation in Jesus Christ allows us to walk through life without fear. His love conquers the fear in us. The less we fear, the more his love passes from us to others. Isn’t it the goal of Christians to love one another?

A prayer: Help us Father to more fully grasp the love you have for us that we might grow in love for each other.

FREEDOM IN JESUS

In Romans Chapter 6, Paul gives us a detailed explanation of the freedom we have as believers in Christ Jesus. As I read through this chapter, it reminded me of what life was like before I surrendered to Jesus. I was in control, and nothing seemed to be going right. When I surrendered to Jesus, I gave him control. It was very freeing. I realized that, though I thought I was in control, I had been under the control of my sinful nature.

The challenge of living in this freedom is founded in who’s in control. When I am truly surrendered to Jesus, I’m free to humbly respond to daily life with love and forgiveness. When I take back control, I’m living in my sinful nature. The lie is that when I’m in control, I can make things right; but no, sin takes over. The mess I create leaves me in pain, stressed out, and filled with regret.

Jesus has set me free from sins control. Only in Jesus can I live freely.

A SOLID FOUNDATION

Throughout my diverse teaching career the subject I most commonly taught was U.S. History. Having spent my early years on the east coast, much of what I taught was set in places that were familiar to me. The inscriptions that I often read in those places were filled with Christian words and ideals. It was obvious to me that our country had a Christian foundation. Aren’t those inscriptions still there? Aren’t our founding documents full of Biblical references?

What would be the purpose of denying this foundational connection to the Christian Religion? Perhaps there are those who would go another way, to change the foundation. Can you change the foundation without destroying the building? If the foundation is faulty, don’t you have to build a new building? What would be the foundation for this new building? Whatever it is, if it’s not Jesus, it will crumble.

I will close with this excerpt from George Washington’s Farewell Address from 1796:

Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of men and citizens. The mere politician, equally with the pious man, ought to respect and to cherish them. A volume could not trace all their connections with private and public felicity. Let it simply be asked: Where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths which are the instruments of investigation in courts of justice? And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.

[This is a repost from last August 2016. I thought it worth revisiting in light of the current political circus.]

STAY WITH GOD

1 Samuel 12:20 “Do not be afraid,” Samuel replied. “You have done all this evil; yet do not turn away from the Lord, but serve the Lord with all your heart.”

Pastor Eric used this scripture several weeks ago in his sermon. I have thought about Samuel’s words ever since. Our natural tendency is to hide from the Lord when we’ve done wrong. After the very first sin, Adam and Eve hid themselves from the Lord. But Samuel is telling the Israelites to stay with the Lord. Face the Lord with what you have done. It is a brave and humbling thing to face God, but without God there is no life.

I was riding along in my driver’s training car when this thought came to me; Jesus told us what happens when we come to God with the guilt of our sins. In the parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32) Jesus tells us what to expect from our heavenly father when we turn to him. The prodigal son came to his senses and realized that in his father’s house there was life. He hoped for a lowly position. What he received was welcoming arms and celebration.

God loves us; we are his children. In God, we find forgiveness and grace. Stay with God, for there is no other place where we find life.

WHAT CONSTRAINS YOU?

I was reading in the book of Job a couple of days ago when I came upon these words, “The fear of God has kept me from these things – how else could I ever face him?” (Job 31:23 The Message) Job says these words after he describes a long list of sins he did not committed. What constrained Job was his relationship with God.

These words and my thoughts about these words sent me into self-evaluation. I asked myself, “what constrains me.” After much contemplation my final answer to the question of what constrains me is I love God. How could I ever face him if I indulged in things that would displease him? Well, unfortunately, I have indulged in many things that would displease him. I find that I am unable to please God on my own. What a dilemma, I love God and want to please him, but I can’t seem to restrain myself.

The Apostle Paul describes this dilemma and then says, “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God – through Christ Jesus our Lord!” I need a savior. I can’t do it on my own. Jesus has not only saved me from sin, but he has sent me a helper, his Holy Spirit. God has done everything to help me in my desire to please him. When I fail; He forgives me. How amazing is that!

SHOW ME YOUR WAYS LORD

Show me your ways, Lord, teach me your paths. Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long. (Psalm 25:4&5)

This week, I’ve been meditating on Psalm 25. In this psalm, David expresses his trust In God, and explores what it means to follow God. Those of us who make decisions from a Godly perspective are often thought foolish by worldly standards. David asks, “Do not let me be put to shame.” But, David knew that those who follow the ways of the world will eventually be put to shame.

Verses 4 and 5 of Psalm 25 were part of a worship song we sang many years ago, so those words are very familiar to me. However, I never spent much time thinking about the words, “Show me your ways, Lord, teach me your paths.” David articulates, in these words, the desires of all God’s children. Show me, God, how it’s supposed to be; guide me and teach me.

As I reflect on my years of following the Lord, they have indeed been learning his ways and seeking his path for my life. I’m reminded of Jesus’ words in this favorite passage:

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28&29)

My human nature continually fights against this rest that Jesus offers, but I stay in the battle, for I have this burning desire. I want to know his ways and learn his paths.

THE PICTURE OF YOUR LIFE

Have you ever opened a 1000 piece puzzle and dumped the contents out. It’s quite a jumble of pieces and cardboard dust. Now imagine that someone gave you this puzzle in a Ziploc bag without a picture. It would be quite a challenge to put together. Wouldn’t it be nice if somebody came along who knows exactly what the picture looks like? That person could guide you while you worked to put the puzzle together.

Isn’t this what life is like? We don’t know what it will look like. We’re just trying to put the pieces together. And, isn’t Jesus the one who knows the whole picture? When he was on the cross, just before he gave up his spirit, he said, “It is finished.” He had completed the goal of restoring our relationship with God.  Now he’s at work guiding us through life. We should let him. When we pray, we should trust him for the answer. He has the whole picture, and he knows what’s coming.