Posts Tagged ‘kingdom’

FinishedIt’s the last breath, this “giving of the spirit.” We breathe in an out, minute by minute and day by day, but then, there is eventually the last breath. And so it was for the Christ.

And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. [Matthew 27:50, NIV]

The one thing that has crawled around inside my head ever since Mike died is a simple question: Was Mike really done? Had he accomplished his mission, his purpose? There were so many plans yet and so many possibilities. Was he really done?

And as I reviewed the stories in Matthew, Mark, Luke & John, of Jesus’s last day, especially his time in the garden, I sense a similar question. For he does ask in verse 39 (and 42 and 43), . . . “if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will,” or some version of this. There are many treatises on this request, but for me, today, I am simply caught with the similarity to my own question. Could Jesus be asking, “am I done?” “Am I done already?” “Is it enough?”

God’s answer was clear. To that point, what needed to be done was done and what needed to be done next, had to be endured for the completion of the whole package.

Jesus’s moment was in the garden, the moment he let go one more time, and trusted in the Spirit of God that indwelled him.

There was another flash of crisis I think, on the cross, before he last breath. In verse 46, “About the ninth hour Jesus cried out, “Eloi, Eloi, lamas sabachthani” –which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Another question about the end? Is this it? Some have written that Jesus was separated from God in that moment as he took on the sins of the world. But I’m not so sure. I believe God spoke and it was private. And God said, “Come.”

I believe the same for Mike, who lay on the floor alone, in much pain, and probably cried out to his God, to his Savior, and he was no longer alone but joined to the world of Spirit who said, Come. It is finished.

And he too, gave up his spirit, into the loving care of God of gods, King of kings, Lord of Lords. Rest now, my husband and my friend. I give you into God’s care now too.

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Acts 6:8-9
Now Stephen, a man full of God’s grace and power, did great wonders and miraculous signs among the people. 9Opposition arose, however, from members of the Synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called)—Jews of Cyrene and Alexandria as well as the provinces of Cilicia and Asia.

It isn’t mentioned anywhere else that I could find, this “synagogue of freedom.” So, it must of been a local phrase coined at the time. And yet, it clearly represented the establishment… the norm. These were the ones who so feared the changes brought on by the believers in Jesus that they created a separate identity that held a powerful buzz word: freedom. How ironic. Because it was really the teachings of Jesus that promised freedom not the laws perpetuated and elaborated by the temple priests, teachers of the law, and their “synagogue of freedom.”

Today, there are similar organizations that are predominately concerned with “protecting” the people from change in their personal view of true doctrine. They are generally conservative in all areas of life both religious, social, and political. There is no room for anyone who does not conform to their views.

But Jesus had room for everyone. Jesus was confident enough in the power of the Kingdom, through the Holy Spirit, to transform lives from within. He did not look at the outer shell of a person, but the heart. He was less concerned with the actions of a person’s past and more concerned with their potential. He believed in the power of love and hope and grace.

Jesus was an idealist.

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John 18:36
Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place.”

If one of us from the 21st century was catapulted back in time, we might encounter some small understanding of the differences between Jesus and the “world” in which he found himself. His appearance in human history was a great turning point. His ministry time was spent trying to explain, through teaching, stories, actions, demonstrations, miracles, and transformations, what his kingdom was like. For some people, it continued to be a “foreign language.”

Becoming a true follower of Christ requires some “out of the box” thinking. I think we have really downplayed his supernatural Self. What would happen if Jesus showed up in our century? How would he convince anyone that he was not of this world… that He was the Son of God… that he was the king of another kingdom?

The first thing he did was live among the people for some thirty years. He learned the “ways of the land.”

In the end, he did a very simple thing: he built relationships and told stories. He accepted people where they were and shared his insights with them. He even healed some of them. And each one, either through a story they heard, a touch, or a healing, each one was sent out to tell what he or she had heard, saw or felt.

We all respond differently to what we experience. Each story, each testimony, each image, and each word we share is part of the tapestry of Christ’s presence on earth. Jesus’s kingdom is all about potential: a mustard seed, a treasure hidden in a field, a mystery, a fisherman’s net, a small child, a banquet. Each one is a word picture for another way of living… another kingdom.

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Romans 8:11
And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.

Yesterday, Pastor Craig gave a powerful message for Easter calling us to strength, calling us to engage that same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead to raise us from our own crucifixions. When we face our most difficult trials, we must look to the One who can teach us, who can show us, who can uphold us from within.

Like all of the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23), strength is like them and comes from within; it, too, is an attribute of the Kingdom of God within us (Luke 17:20-21).

There is a tension between our own way and the way of Jesus. There is a tension between our own ways and the ways of the kingdom of God. We must surrender to this Way daily (… your Kingdom come, Your will be done in Earth as it is in heaven…). Note, I have changed “on earth” to “in earth” because I also think of Earth as my body… the flesh, the three-dimensional self and then the three-dimensional world/environment around me. “For nothing is impossible with God.” (Luke 1:37)

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Luke 3:4
As is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet: “A voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him…”

Lent is a time of preparation and this is the word I am hearing for us today. Before anything of import can happen, usually there is a time of preparation. If we are going on a trip or buying a house or having company for dinner, there is planning and preparing the way. God used John to prepare the way for Jesus. And He wants us to remember that process. I sense that something is about to happen … but are we ready? One of my favorite songs says, “Lift up your head, to the coming King…” and it is based on Psalm 24:7-10:

Lift up your heads, O you gates;
be lifted up, you ancient doors,
that the King of glory may come in.

Who is this King of glory?
The LORD strong and mighty,
the LORD mighty in battle.

Lift up your heads, O you gates;
lift them up, you ancient doors,
that the King of glory may come in.

Who is he, this King of glory?
The LORD Almighty—
he is the King of glory.

And although the words say “heads”… I am so sure it also means our hearts… lift up the gates of your heart that the King of glory may come in! Prepare your heart. The Lord is near.

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Weekend message was actually quite provocative for me as Pastor elaborated on Matthew 16:19, “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”

And I thought about the process of using those keys to bring others to and through the door of the kingdom… the door Christ Jesus, the kingdom of God. And I began fantasizing even more about the “events” that would be authentic enough to reveal the heart of the matter… where the invitation into the kingdom would not be cliche, but mezmerizing and creative and thought-provoking and unexpected and tantalizing and refreshing and hope-filled and loving!!!!!

I have been a Christ follower almost 30 years! And yet I remember my “sinner’s prayer” where I, alone in my brother’s guest room on Christmas Eve, confessed that I believed the Word of God to be true, that Jesus was indeed who He said He was, and that mysteriously, what He did on the cross was significant and meaningful and life-changing … for me! And so, I asked that I might become a follower of Jesus… the door opened. But before I went in, I had one proviso … just don’t make me a Christian.

When I tell this story, everyone laughs… somehow, it resonates… they know what I mean. But here’s the sad part: somehow, it still feels that way. Oh, there have been long seasons where I have worn the mantle very well, but there have also been times when I have bristled under it’s narrow confines.

Today, more than ever … if I am going to be one of the holders of the keys … then I just want to use it to open the door, not hand out the rules. The way is narrow enough without me adding my versions of stumbling blocks.

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