Posts Tagged ‘Kingdom of God’

Of course, we know why a lot of them followed Jesus. He was healing the sick, and at the beginning of his mission/ministry, he was healing them all. He was a sensation! Who wouldn’t follow? Don’t we do the same today? Don’t we follow the wondrous . . . the unbelievable . . . the news worthy . . . the tragedies . . . and the inexplicable?

Matthew 4:24-25
News about him spread all over Syria, and people brought to him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed; and he healed them.Large crowds from Galilee, the Decapolis,Jerusalem, Judea and the region across the Jordan followed him.

If Jesus was doing the same thing today that he was doing back then, he wouldn’t just have a few hundred or thousand following, he would have millions through the Internet and media. It would be a real circus.

He had only just started his ministry according to Matthew. He was making the circuit around Galilee, stopping into various synagogues along the way and teaching about the kingdom of God being near and close at hand. (It was thirty square miles.) He had headed back home to Nazareth first, got shut out of his home church and then headed to Capernaum (via Cana) where his reputation both followed and preceded him. His notoriety started heating up pretty fast.

Currently, we’re in Olympics fever from London, and I marvel as I watch the various athletes exhibit their best efforts while being followed by a slew of reporters and cameramen. There are remote cameras following them above the water as well as along the track. There are satellite cameras and there are long lenses poking out from every corner. Every movement, every tear, every laugh or smile, is caught on camera. Every win, whether by a long shot or a hair’s breadth, is captured.

Can you imagine the cameras capturing the healings of the Christ? Who would interpret? Who would be the pundits? Who would get the first interview? What would the witnesses say? How long would the healed person be followed around by reporters, perhaps looking for a fake? Where would Jesus go to avoid the constant barrage of both the needy people as well as the rubber-neckers? Where would Jesus go to bypass the media? And who would know the truth? Would we believe what we saw on camera? Would we follow Him on Fox News or NPR? Would we snatch up People magazine to see the pictures of someone rising from the dead? Or would we pick up the Inquirer in the grocery line that exposes Jesus as a fraud?

What keeps me following Him today? Is it the scripture stories? Is it the fellow believers? Is it my circumstances, once dire, and now more stable? Is it the miraculous or the mundane? Is it the charismatic pastor or the throbbing music beat at church?

There were times in my journey when I longed to see and experience more of this Jesus/Holy Spirit, not unlike the fantastic descriptions in scripture, written and retold, and then sustained by faith and repetition through the centuries. I wanted a miracle! Each decade in the 20th century has brought various phenomena, from speaking in tongues, to falling in the spirit, to laughing in the spirit, to prophetic utterances, to spontaneous healings, to golden dust falling on the faithful. Each manifestation brought thousands into a place and time, who like the followers of Jesus, wanted to see, hear, and feel, a tangible presence of God. And although it was often fleeting, many were not disappointed. At least, not at first. But then the phenomena passed, the touched people moved on, the crowds thinned, and we looked for the next manifestation.

But who/what did we follow? The miracles or the person? Who did they follow? The miracles or the person?

And all the while. The kingdom was near and still is. The kingdom is within us; in our midst. [Luke 17:21] Here. Everything needed is right here. Right now.

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I have studied wisdom in the scriptures off and on for some years. Wisdom, as she is personified female in Proverbs, intrigues me. I had forgotten, until now, that wisdom reappears here in James. And she is freely available to me, if only . . .

James 3:17
But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.

First of all, I think it’s important, in this case, to remind myself (and you, dear reader) that the kingdom of God is within me by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. And yet, as big as God is, obviously, not all of God is within me either, just my share. But, as surely as that portion is within me, then my portion of wisdom is there as well. Both wisdom and the Holy Spirit are part of me, working in me to bring about my sanctification, my fullness in Christ, the light, released in totality, my actions a mirror of what is good and right, living through generosity, sacrificial letting go, and holiness.

These are the kernels which I have not yet appropriated from wisdom: purity (of thought, actions, motives); loving peace more than being right; being considerate of others without judgment or obligation; submitting my way to the Holy Way; offering mercy first; manifesting the good fruit of love in action; impartiality toward those who are rich or poor, sick or well, strong or weak; and above all sincerity and authenticity, plainly in view.

Wisdom is my fraternal twin who I have ignored most of my life.

What prevents our closeness, our unity? Envy and selfish ambition. These are my step-sisters. They are the ones I brought into my Christ relationship years and years ago. I hid them in the closet, believing they might still be needed one day, their personalities tempered by the Presence. Instead, when they came out, they were the same. And like Cinderella’s step-sisters, they were still cruel taskmasters, who take advantage of my every situation, point out what I am lacking, what I should have, who I could be, where I could live, if only . . .

They are the drum beat that never stops. They are the ones who taught me that what I have is never enough. They are the ones who encourage perfectionism. They are the ones who surround me like 360 degree mirror to show me all of my flaws and weaknesses and drive me to run faster, harder, longer.

Envy, Selfish Ambition, I want you to meet my other sister, Wisdom. She is going to live here now too. She is strong and knowledgeable. She is my advocate.

And she wants me to try on the glass slipper.

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Kingdom Within by Raymond Andrews

Jesus speaks innumerable times about the kingdom of God, what it’s like, where it is, and what it means to His followers. But it is in Hebrews where we are reminded that this is an unshakeable (indestructible) kingdom: eternal and purified by fire (and blood).

Hebrews 12:28-29
Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our “God is a consuming fire.”

Over the past few years, as I have methodically read through the New Testament and looked for personal applications, I have become more and more secure in my belief that this kingdom of God is not of the 3-D world we can see and touch but it is in that “other” reality – that place within, that place outside our senses, that place of Holy Spirit, that place that defies logic and that place which was opened to humankind through the mediation of the Christ/Messiah whose act of sacrifice tore the veil asunder [Matthew 27:51].

I try to imagine the power and glory that was on Mount Sinai, where the Israelites fled from Egypt and stood to hear from their God, what they should do next. And from there, they wandered the desert, carrying the “glory of God” with them in the Ark of the Covenant. And finally, with King David and his son, Solomon, the great temple was built in Jerusalem and the ark was given a final resting place in the Holy of Holies [II Chronicles 7:1], where only the high priest could enter once a year. This is all symbolic and intentional.

Now, the Messiah comes, the veil is torn, the ark is opened and all of this glory is placed within the kingdom and we are invited to participate in it through the Christ.

Is this not worthy of awe and reverence?

Despite all the horrendous things the Church may have done throughout the centuries, the cathedrals they built to immortalize our King make sense. I know they were not built in a righteous way, the poor were taxed and unholy deals were made with the rich, but there is a breath of God that remains in these places even today.

Whenever I visit a city that has a cathedral, I want to go. I want to walk through and sit and be silent there. I am awed in these places.

Of course, there are nature locations that give the same feeling: water falls, canyons, hot springs, lakes, oceans, forests, mountains… just to name a few.

As much as I enjoy contemporary Christian worship, there is a part of me that misses the wonder, the intense quiet, and the Holy Presence that permeates high church worship.

If I could describe that kingdom within me (which is impossible) but perhaps, just a color, a shape, a smell, a sound: what would it be? I don’t know. I just don’t really know.

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Photo by Roy Mac

A friend of mine derisively asked me what traditional Christians believed they were being saved from? She, who believes more so in the oneness of all things and the greater gestalt of body, mind, & soul, has no reason to entertain an eventual end result of hell. Is that what salvation is all about: “not” hell and “yes” heaven?

I Timothy 4:16
Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.

It’s not quite so simple for me. I mean, I believe in a God that is so not like us that we can’t fathom what God IS. Why else would God say, “I am that I am” [Exodus 3:4]. God is non-dimensional in a human sense and because God probably dwells in a non-dimensional or other-dimensional world (for lack of a better term), is that heaven? Or is that simply not our world?

Then, to complicate matters, some of this non-dimensional space exists within us — that’s the “kingdom within” stuff.

“Once, having been asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, ‘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.’ “[Luke 17:20-21]

Isn’t the kingdom heaven? Yes. Within . . . and without. Because God is greater than my interior self or my personal piece of the Holy Spirit.

So what is hell then? Well, it’s certainly NOT any of those things. It’s not experiencing the kingdom within or without. It’s not being aware of personal spirit, much less Holy Spirit. It’s a separation. The question is whether there is sentience (awareness, mental perception, consciousness) after the body stops working, after the body dies. Is it hell because the self knows it is separated? [See the story of Lazarus, a poor man who begged at the gate of a rich man every day. Lazarus died and went to heaven while the rich man died and went to hell – and knew it. Luke 16:19-31]

Christ says the way of the personal spirit, the soul if you will, is easy after “body death” when it’s connected to a “host.” We are literally invited to become parasitic and leech off the Holy Spirit as much as we want. I know these terms are generally used in a negative sense, but think about it. And for interest’s sake, I found that one of the synonyms for parasite is follower or apostle as well as bootlicker, sycophant and servant.

“This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” [I Timothy 2:3-4]

Knowledge of the truth is awareness of the way.

To be saved then is to discover the inner way and to be conscious of it, to choose to jump on the back of the Host. Once attached and embedded, then Self is redirected and desire is born to love, to help, to enlighten, to listen, to bear, to hope, to renew, to persist, to expand, to glow, to know, and to become transparent.

There are a lot of people who are bashing Rob Bell for his latest book called “Love Wins.” Lots of hype. But it’s interesting to me to discover how many people are angry that he is saying that Love might be so powerful that it will become the ultimate paradox and break open the gates of hell. God is Love and God provided the Christ to reveal the mystery of the love message and the Holy Spirit to work the message in our lives.

In the early days of my Christian walk, I cringed when well-meaning people in passionate church settings would ask me if I’d been saved. I had no idea what they were talking about except for some vague sense of possibly escaping the fires of Dante’s Inferno if I asked Jesus into my heart. Asking Jesus into one’s heart is only effective if we latch on tight to the Host. Life is a rodeo. And hell is a tsunami of the soul.

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I am grateful that I have never had my house broken into. But I know people: my brother’s place was wiped out of all electronics, DVDs, bicycle, etc. A colleague from work lost all of her jewelry to a thief in the night. And one family had all of their children’s gifts stolen from under the tree on Christmas Eve.

I Thessalonians 5:2, 4
. . . for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. . . . But you, brothers and sisters, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief.

I have been told that it feels like a rape of one’s life, to experience this kind of invasion. It’s usually inexplicable, and unlike TV, where Monk comes in and floats his hands around to figure out why and who and when, there is rarely recovery of one’s things or capture of the thieves.

Paul writes that the coming of Christ, the total renewal of Spirit, and the “end of the age,” will come when least expected by most people. And yet, as believers, we are not to be surprised. I had never picked up on that before; I focused on the unexpected thief and figured we were all in the dark. Not so.

Unfortunately, others have taken this piece of information as an encouragement to set the date and time. Over the years, there have been a number of end time dates announced and yet, the dates have come and gone, and we’re all still here. Things are heating up a bit now and both believers and non-believers are predicting cataclysmic events in 2012. Some base their predictions on complex studies of the prophetic literature and calendar mathematics, while others are enamored of the Mayan calendar and the implications of its final year.

I still believe we “see through a glass darkly” and we will not understand the fullness of the “return of Christ” until it happens. But I will hold to this: as the Holy Spirit within me manifests more each day, as the Light within me finds open avenues to shine out, then this Coming may indeed be anticipated.

But for now, I’ll just wait.

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An idolater cannot see the inner way. The appeal of the outside world, where sensuality, lust for things and love of money prevail, blocks the path to the riches of God which are the inheritance of a believer: peace, love, joy, contentment, relationship.

Ephesians 5:5
For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a person is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.

It’s not so much that all these things and behaviors are “bad” per se, but they cannot coexist in the same space with the things of God, that’s all.

More about idols.

(FD 3)

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Where is this glory of the New Covenant? Some would say it is totally manifested in the Christ through the Holy Spirit. That’s fine to say, but where is it today? I have heard others say, the glory is the character of Christ. Is that all there is to it? Really? Just a concept?

II Corinthians 3:7-8
Now if the ministry that brought death, which was engraved in letters on stone, came with glory, so that the Israelites could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of its glory, fading though it was, will not the ministry of the Spirit be even more glorious?

This scripture references the specific glory that was reflected in the face of Moses as a result of his time with God and the creation of the ten commandments. It wasn’t just his demeanor and it wasn’t the Holy Spirit shining out from within. But it was Light and it was Power and it was evident. And according to Paul, the glory of the New Covenant, the power and light of the law of Spirit written on the hearts of believers, that message is brighter and stronger.

I think the Light has been shuttered by unbelief.

There’s so much talk about “scriptura sola” (by scripture alone) and the inerrant Word of God and yet, some of the most potent statements are tamed: “I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.” [John 14″12] or “. . . I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” [Matthew 17:20b]

Until we are operating in these arenas, we have not experienced the fullness of the New Covenant.

Until we are loving God and loving others fully, we are not functioning according to the truth of Christ.

The ministry of the Holy Spirit is Light and power and strength. But the Holy Spirit will not do battle with us either. We must work together.

I’m still going “my own way.” I confess. I make a plan and constantly ask God to bless it (or fix it when things go badly). And, in His grace and patience, God waits for me to get it, to really let go.

Dying to self [John 12:23-25] is not be just some nice poetry. It is the true “way” to the out-flowing of power, the unshuttered Light, the glory.

But to die to myself is change like no other change I have ever known or seen. It’s a total unknown. What does that dying look like? What does that feel like? What do I say or do? Or not do or say?

Some people have sought out this place of Spirit flow . . . they’ve laughed themselves silly, they’ve twitched, they’ve dropped gold dust from their fingertips, and they’ve spoken in tongues for hours and hours. But until the Glory manifests through the presence and release of the Holy Spirit, these are interpretive manifestations.

I don’t have any answers at all, but I do sense a missing piece.

Like the Kingdom that is within so is the Glory. It’s there. It’s here. Holy, holy, holy.

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