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Posts Tagged ‘heaven’

Jesus talked about the kingdom of God a lot.  I was told He mentions the Kingdom of God 84 times in the Gospels.  At the very start of His ministry He proclaims in Mark 1:15 “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”
Mark 1:15 ESV   https://www.bible.com/bible/59/MRK.1.15.ESV  The Kingdom of God was not a future event Jesus was calling people to prepare for eventually.  The Kingdom of God was a present reality He was calling them to join now.  He is still calling people to join the Kingdom and to partake of the benefits and responsibilities of kingdom citizenship.

Some may ask, if God is good and His Kingdom is present now, then why do we still have school shootings, and wars, and conspiracies, and child molesters and on and on.  Two primary reasons come to mind.  The first is God is patient and desires everyone to have an opportunity to hear and respond to the Gospel.  Jesus died so that all may enter into the Kingdom of God.  But entrance into the Kingdom is not automatic.

The Kingdom of God is unique.  God the Father is the King and like all Kingdoms He reigns supreme.  I have studied a bit of history the past few years and one of the realizations that I came away with is just how long civilization has existed with monarchies as the primary form of government.  And under good, benevolent kings life flourished.  God is the ultimate in good and benevolent.  His people are not simply subjects to be ruled, but when we enter His kingdom we become His children.  We are heirs with Christ Jesus becoming daughters and sons of the Lord God.  Unique to God’s family, we enter through a dual process.  In a natural family you are either born into it or you can be adopted into it.  But for God’s family we are both born into it and we are adopted into it.

‘Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” ‘  John 3:1-8
https://www.bible.com/bible/59/JHN.3.1-8

‘For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. ‘  Romans 8:15-17  https://www.bible.com/bible/59/ROM.8.15-17

Jesus ushered in the Kingdom of God with His life, death, and resurrection.  The Kingdom of God is a present reality.  But as mentioned in the second paragraph, why are there still bad things that happen?  So God’s mercy is one reason.  God’s plan is the second reason.

There is war in the heavenly realms.  Satan was once an angelic being of high status.  Unfortunately he desired higher status still and pride brought about his downfall.  Since that time he has lead a rebellion against the Lord God.  Humanity is the battlefield.  Mankind is God’s crowning creation.  We are specifically created to be able to choose to love.  That is God’s plan and our purpose.  Satan strives to thwart that.  God will not “make” us love Him because then it wouldn’t truly be love.  And thus we have the reason the Kingdom of God is not fully revealed.  God desires for the Kingdom to be revealed through His children living in such a selfless, loving, sacrificial way that those who are not yet His children will question, will wonder, will be drawn to Him.  He desires that those who don’t yet know Him will become seekers of the Truth behind a people who are manifestly different than the rest.

Being a Jesus-follower for many years now, I can see the Kingdom of God all around me.  But I know it remains obscured to many.  God has called me, along with every born-again child of God, to live in and display the reality of the Kingdom of God right now.  It is not something far off, but here and now.

I thought about today’s post a good bit yesterday as I had a 3-hr drive late in the evening.  I had the title and I had thought about a lot of different things to share about the Kingdom of God, but as I neared my destination, I whispered a prayer, “Lord, give me the words you want me to share.” and I knew He would provide.  As I dreamed last night I met my best friend from high school, Scott.  He was playing in a band.  He had either a clarinet or some other marching band type instrument in his hand.  We haven’t seen each other in quite some time so we hugged and celebrated getting to see each other.  He was preparing for a parade.  I laugh because he told me he was playing three different instruments now.  It was great to see Scott and my heart was full from the visit.  You see, my friend Scott passed away over 17 years ago.  He was an athlete and as far as I know he never played any musical instruments.  But in the presence of the King, he has learned new ways to celebrate and make a joyful sound.

Yes, the Kingdom of God is here right now and it is bigger and better than we realize.

Be blessed my friends.

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Always be ready.

I was not raised evangelical.  In fact the denomination I was raised in, Episcopal, was referred to as the “Frozen Chosen” by evangelist Billy Sunday.  Talking about faith, particularly speaking from the heart, speaking with passion, was NOT something I witnessed growing up.  That is not a value statement or a condemnation.  In fact I knew many Episcopalians who practiced the faith in very real, very devout ways.  It was just not a normal experience for people in the church I grew up in to speak about the faith… unless they were paid clergy.  And even then it was primarily a cerebral exercise more than a discussion that engaged the emotions.

So when I came to faith at age 23… in an Episcopal retreat called Cursillo, I was on fire for God, overwhelmed by a love and passion for Jesus and others, yet without a natural outlet to tell my story.  I can distinctly remember my Dad laughing good-naturedly and telling me, “Yeah, some people think that new Christians need to be locked up for a few months right after conversion so they don’t scare everybody to death.”  I believe I took that in the right way… that I needed to be sensitive to where others were and approach them in the right manner.  I also realized that was a very “Episcopal” thing to say.

Thirty two years later I’ve made plenty of mistakes both being too bold and being too timid in sharing my faith.  But along the way I’ve learned a few things that I think the Father would have me share with you.  As always we cannot go wrong with looking at Jesus, modeling what He did, and seeking to follow the Holy Spirit in speaking and doing as He leads.

  1. Beginning our day in intimacy with the Father sets the stage for our engagement with others.  When we start with time alone speaking with God, reading the Word, and allowing His Spirit to brood over us and work within us, we are spiritually prepared for the meetings with others we will have through the day.
  2. Keeping an open heart to the Holy Spirit will make us sensitive to the needs of others.  Today I was in a trade show for the consulting firm I work for.  I gave a presentation this morning (which for all intents and purposes was my main reason for being here) and then I manned the booth to meet potential customers as they walked through the exhibits.  On multiple occasions today as I stood at my booth awaiting someone to walk up the Holy Spirit impressed upon me to pray for divine conversations.  I did and sure enough, they happened.  (That is the real reason I was here!)
  3. Divine conversations have a two critical components – a listener who is receptive and a story-teller who is sensitive to the Lord’s leading.  I talked business about 85 – 90% of the day, but the 10 – 15% where the Holy Spirit opened the door were amazing.  This is an area where I have often erred either being too strong or too soft in my delivery, but today it consistently flowed.
  4. Our job is not to convert people.  Our role is to be obedient to the Lord’s leading and faithfully share from the Word in us and the life experiences He has brought us through.  It is the Holy Spirit’s job to bring people to conversion.  Yes, there will be times when we are there at the point someone makes a decision to give their life to Christ.  This is a glorious experience and true blessing to be a part of, however we do not need to take too much responsibility.  Our responsibility is simply to be obedient to the Holy Spirit’s prompting.
  5. This life is a prelude to something greater, something more real.  It is the door through which we pass to get to our ultimate home.  This life is not inconsequential, but it is also not our ultimate destiny.  The relationships we have here are the one thing that appears to have a link on through to eternity.  That belief helps me to hold onto the things of this life lightly, the relationships in this life more firmly, and the faith in Jesus most tightly.

It was a God-day and a great day.  I was able to hear other people’s stories, engage them where they were, and in a number of instances share God’s love through telling God-stories.  I sit here with a light and joyful spirit thinking of how good God is to allow us to participate with Him in His work to reach people wherever they are and draw them closer to Himself.  He is soooo good!

I pray you have a day full of divine conversations.  Be blessed and be a blessing!

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It has been a hard week.  Last weekend a tragic car crash took the lives of four of my son’s friends – one a roommate, two other teammates with him on his college soccer team, the fourth a senior female tennis player who epitomized friendliness and zest for life.  I have watched and at times tried to help, but in the immediacy of the situation, words are of little comfort.  The past two days I have given my son space that he and I both needed.  He has been with friends comforting and being comforted.  I slipped up into the mountains and let the Lord minister to my soul.  I have four things I have had reinforced through this that I would like to share with you today.  I doubt any of these will be new to most of you, but they are foundational truths that will help us in the good times and the tough times.

The first truth the Lord spoke to me Wednesday night after attending two of the funerals.  Admittedly I was feeling sad for a different reason than you might suspect.  While I empathized with the parents to the extent that I could and I can relate with the students to a degree because of losses I have suffered, my sadness was that I had spent 12 hours “being there” for Sam and it didn’t seem like he needed me.  Even at the time I realized that my feelings were indicative of my own insecurity and, to a degree, selfishness.  I wanted to be needed.  As I sat there praying, I groaned, “Lord please help my son, please draw him close to you and comfort him.  And please help me to know what to do to help.”  And the Lord spoke to my spirit, “Who’s son is he?”  I was a little taken back by the firmness in the question, however I quickly realized my mistake.  As our children were growing up, we often prayed prayers of relinquishment over them.  We are given responsibility to train up our children, but we are only stewards for a short time.  They never cease to be God’s children.  And as they get older the relationship shifts such that we must… MUST… get out of God’s way.  He loves them more than we ever can.  Even our most faithful, most effective parenting falls short of our heavenly Father’s love for them.  I have to chuckle as I write this because there are times when prayers of relinquishment are easy… like when you have about pulled out every hair on your head and you are down to your last nerve…  But Sam and his friends were hurting and my desire was to wrap them in my arms and to take them to a safe and peaceful place… but that was NOT my role.  Needless to say, I prayed the prayer of relinquishment.  God is Sam’s heavenly Father.  I love Sam and I will be there for him, but he is God’s child and as such I can fully trust the Lord to provide for him.

The second truth is that we all have choices.  We gain wisdom from many different sources – our parents, teachers, coaches, pastors, friends.  It is vital that we take that wisdom and use it to make wise choices.  Our choices have consequences.  Good choices lead to more positive outcomes.  Poor choices, or not making a choice but just going with the flow, can lead to outcomes that are less desirable.  Professionally I am a Reliability Engineer.  One of the things that I have done a lot of is failure investigations.  In every significant failure there are a number of things that went wrong to result in the failure and negative outcome.  While we will never have absolute control over all the circumstances we find ourselves in, we do have an opportunity to make wise choices that reduce the risk of negative outcomes and increase the probability of good outcomes.

The third truth is relationships are paramount.  We can accumulate things, we can be successful in our professional life, we can even cultivate a good reputation, but the reason we are here is for the relationships we build and the lives we touch.  Jesus came to earth and became a man.  He lived a full live in his thirty years from infant to adulthood in relationship with others.  Living in meaningful relationship with others has certain key components, the chief among them is love.  Kyle, the roommate and best friend to one of the boys who passed away shared a brief vignette.  He described how passionate James was, not just about his sport, but about life.  One of the things James would do is he would always tell his friends, “I love you, man.”  And he would wait expectantly for his friend to acknowledge and respond.  It was a game of sorts, but at it’s heart was a young man who understood the importance of relationships.  Almost every Sunday James would take as many friends as he could back to his parent’s home to have Sunday dinner and hang out.  He knew the value of relationships.  And James’ investment in others has not gone in vain.  I got word of appreciation from James’ mother last night.  It seems this week was James’ younger brother’s birthday.  My son and some other boys went to their home and spent the day with Landon celebrating his birthday, making it memorable.  That’s what you do when you love, when you understand the value God puts on relationships.

Finally, the fourth truth is that this life is but a prelude.  This has been a theme that the Lord has hammered home for me for about seven years, but experiencing the end of the earthly life of four great young adults emphasizes anew the brevity of life.  Scripture tells us that this is not the end, but only the beginning.  Every one of us are created by God to exist forever.  The part of us that is spirit and soul will continue after our physical body has stopped working.  His desire is that we live with Him forever, but He has allowed us to make that choice.  Actually this point is a summation of all the previous points – real life is found in the perfect Father – God.  We all have choices with the most important choice being what are we going to do about Jesus.  And our relationship with Jesus followed by the myriad other relationships are the ultimate reason we are here.  Our relationships now give color and value to life on this side of the grave and, to a degree we can’t fully understand until we have crossed over, they impact life on the other side of the grave too.

The two young men whose funerals I attended this week had experienced salvation by trusting in Jesus earlier in their life.  Today they are experiencing REAL LIFE, a larger life than we can imagine.  As I hiked and experienced God’s refreshing over the past two days, I was repeatedly reminded that the best this life offers, – the most stunning sunrise, the most beautiful location we will ever see, the most touching moment of intimacy, the most exhilarating thrill we ever experience is but a foretaste of what God has in store for His children when they come home.

Pretty Place, Camp Greenville, SC, Oct 16, 2015 (47) Pretty Place, Camp Greenville, SC, Oct 16, 2015 (113) Pretty Place, Camp Greenville, SC, Oct 16, 2015 (129)

Thank you Father for the lives of James, Josh, Mills, and Sarah who my son and many others had the privilege of knowing and being friends with.  Bless and comfort their family and friends.  Please use their loss to touch many and to draw them closer to you.  Thank you for the manifestation of your great love in mercy and grace.  Amen.

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