Monday, November 12, 2007

Kingdom Living IX: Word of the Kingdom As A Life Force

Any footprints of God this past week? God sightings?

Look back each day, each week for God’s footprints.

If you don’t get one of the messages, it’s okay. That might be where God is working. What voices do you hear when you don’t get it?

There may be also be something to unlearn before we can learn. We don’t know exactly what God is up to but you can bet he’s up to something!

John 3- the Holy Spirit is uncontrollable but always active. The ancient Celts actually chose the wild goose as a better symbol of the HS for their culture than the dove precisely because it was way too easy to envision domesticating & controlling the dove.

Far from scaring us though we can be sure the Holy Spirit is comforting, guiding, leading and healing. We were created to be healthy and whole and to live in the kingdom of God. The Spirit is moving us towards that reality if we’ll let Him. How the Spirit does that is quite often unpredictable.

It’s like an alien trying to figure out a car from a junkyard. Ever seen some of the uses of old cars? Chicken coops, planters, heck I was part of a group that delivered an old broken down van to Mexico to become a Sunday School classroom!

That’s what we’re like as humans. We think we know what we were created for, but it’s God who knows. And we can trust the Spirit to help put us back together the way we should be.

Philippians 4:19
And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.

But but but…

John 4:13-14
Jesus answered, "Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life."

You will never thirst again. Wow. That’s why Jesus said, “Seek first the kingdom, and all these things will be added unto you.”

We’ve drifted away from the kingdom. We have to learn and relearn kingdom life.

1 Corinthians 12:31
And now I will show you the most excellent way. (But now I want to lay out a far better way for you. The Message)

Hodos: now the word for street used in Athens. Jesus says, “I have a better street for you to walk down, to drive on.”

That is the life of learning love from 1 Corinthians 13. Not easily angered- at least we have a little wiggle room!

I hope you had a burden lifted. We don’t ‘do’ love like that; love does that. We seek love & it does that.

Patient, long-suffering: I’m going to be patient this time. I’m really going to suffer long for this person. It won’t work. Don’t look at yourself- look at love and patience will follow. The kingdom of God is at hand & so this is really possible!

Matthew 4:17
"Change your life. God's kingdom is here."

Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people.

Wherever the kingdom is there are these three things: teaching, proclaiming, which is different than teaching, it’s announcing, putting up banners etc. It’s what Christmas With Style is- we don’t teach the women, or others, we just do it as a sign that God’s kingdom is already here.

The third characteristic is healing. That’s why I get a real sense that God wants to do some stuff in and through our lives. It’s a sign of the kingdom. Someone mentioned to me recently, ‘you really stirred something up.” I haven’t stirred anything but the Holy Spirit has & is.

In Matthew 11 John the Baptizer sends someone to ask Jesus if he’s actually the one. We still have that problem to this day, and in our own lives. When the chips are down is Jesus really the man? Jesus didn’t fit the mold of the Messiah in His day and we have our doubts, too.

In Matthew 9:35ff: Jesus goes around teaching, preaching (proclaiming) and healing. It’s too big a job so He asks for help. He sends out the disciples.

Matthew 10:1,7-10
He called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out evil spirits and to heal every disease and sickness.

As you go, preach this message: 'The kingdom of heaven is near.' Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received, freely give. Do not take along any gold or silver or copper in your belts; take no bag for the journey, or extra tunic, or sandals or a staff; for the worker is worth his keep.

These aren’t just pretty words. We often read the Bible unrealistically. "That’s nice…the kingdom of God came through the apostles." We are the bearers of the same message, the kingdom.

In the Lukan account, chapter 9, Jesus gives the disciples authority (ecousia) and dunamis, power. He says to them, ‘you have the right and the power to do this.’

Matthew 28 the great commission, “Go into all the world…”

“All authority on heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore…Go”. Always ask yourself what the therefore is therefore.

Names mean reality: surround them in the reality of the Trinity, not just mention the names of Father, Son & Holy Spirit when they’re baptized. ‘On earth as it is in heaven.’

And I am with you until the end of the age: Until the job is done.

We’re a people called into a kingdom. In all we do we acknowledge the kingdom of God ala Colossians 3:17.

The kingdom isn’t just a word- it is power.

Paul in prison, “It's what I'm sitting in jail for right now—but God's Word isn't in jail!” (2 Timothy 2)

The word of God, the presence of God is a tangible force. God will not overwhelm you, you don’t have to give into it if you don’t want to, you always have a choice, but you will feel it at times.

We always have a choice of response. This is a kingdom principle. Many people in the days of Jesus yawned at His life. Some folks followed for a time but they lost interest in pursuit of something else. Others bailed when it got challenging when the pressure was turned up. Still others went all in with everything they had.

Matthew 13: the kingdom of heaven is like… Jesus was showing us how you teach the kingdom, by analogy that we understand.

"A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed,” this was a common story from the day.

Think about the seeds. Seeds have life in them. They produce their kind: apples- apples, oranges- oranges.

Psalm 119:105
Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.

The word is energy, a power a living force like yeast. The kingdom of God is like yeast, working it’s way through everything.

God’s divine conspiracy is to overcome evil with good. And it’s going to work.

Acts 10:38
…how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him.

Even back in the OT covenant days God was with them in power. Isaac had such a presence with God that his neighbors asked him to move away (Genesis26:16)!

There were four responses to the seed being planted. Remember that the seed actually had life and power.

The first response was, “Some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up.” v. 19- they don’t understand it. What you don’t understand you forget; you have no category for it. You don’t know what you don’t know unless you want to know what you don’t know that you don’t know. That means to come out of denial and say, “I’m not God I don’t know it all.”

We have our minds somewhere else. We’re distracted. We have our projects: our thoughts, our career; our hobbies; our marriage; our children. They are all important but they’re not God or the kingdom. They only really work in the kingdom!

He who has ears let him hear. Not everyone has ears to hear. Our ears are for sifting- we get just enough so we can switch off what we don’t like. (Romans 1)

Vv. 9-18 while seeing they do not see. These are opportunities & invitations. Jesus says, “I’m not going to run over people who don’t want me.” That’s’ the nature of spiritual reality- it only goes where it is wanted.

Think about it: god has to hide to make room for us to be able to hide and go our own way. You & I have the power to be deaf to God.

The second response was the group that liked what they heard. If God is that good He’s going to fix me up is the mantra. They understand it in terms that hey prefer- blessings, possessions etc.

God wants us to become the kind of people who He trusts with His power to do what we want to do. We in turn want to do what He wants to do.

We have a lot of work to do on our ‘wanters’. What is it that you want?

Romans 8:28
That's why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.
(And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.)

All things work together. What is it that’s not so good in your life? Are you trying desperately to get rid of it? Maybe God has something else in mind.

It’s like trying to eat a cake one ingredient at a time: first the eggs, flour, butter. It doesn’t taste so good. It all goes together. We want God to fix this and fix that. The cake isn’t ready yet so let’s make it the way we want it. The person who isn’t getting fixed the way they want is out of here.

2 Corinthians 6:4-10
As servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left; through glory and dishonor, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors; known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything.

“I didn’t sign up for this…” I hope we are starting to understand what Paul said, “When I am weak I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:11

The third response is the group that doesn’t quit. They don’t give up. They stay with it, but they stay with a lot of others things too. We call these things, ‘weeds’. V22: the plant isn’t dead; it’s just really spindly and doesn’t produce any fruit or shade for others.

This is where spiritual disciplines come in. they are activities in which we access realities of the kingdom. We do some form of them like worship, going to a service, giving.

A discipline is something in your power that enables you to accomplish what you can’t do by your own power.

If you don’t know French you can’t speak it by just trying. (Although I try & fake it!)

You can’t just sit at a piano and play. There are things that if you did them you would be able to play.

Psalm 119:11
I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.

That is a discipline.

Joshua 1:8
Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.

Pull up the weeds. Solitude and silence is often where we need to start. They say silence is golden but judging by the way we run from it we’re not interested in that kind of currency!

Fasting helps teach us to not depend so much on our impulsive will and to choose to live out of our reflective will.

You say, “I don’t have time.” The way you get things done is to not do certain things.

Horse sense: the ability to say, “Nay!”

Disciplines help us to pull up the weeds. Learn to let God run your life. Take your hands off the wheel.

Solitude and silence are the cure for busyness. Also for loneliness.

"Our language has widely sensed the two sides of being alone. It is created the word 'loneliness' to express the pain of being alone, and it has created the word 'solitude' to express the glory of being alone."
Paul Tillich

Absolutely Clear by Daniel Ladinsky
Don't surrender your loneliness
So Quickly.
Let it cut more deep.
Let it ferment and season you
As few human
Or divine ingredients can.
Something missing in my heart tonight,
Has made my eyes so soft,
My voice
So tender,
My need of God
Absolutely clear.

These disciplines are self-validating meaning that if you stick to it you’ll experience something. They are not works righteousness, they are woks of wisdom.

Put them into practice. We can’t just talk. The guidance device in a missile doesn’t take over until the missile has left the launch pad.

The fourth response was the group who bore fruit from all the planting. The life of God really took hold and grew. We can live like this. This is for us.

Philippians 4:19
And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus. Paul was in in prison when he wrote that.

Hear the word of God speak in Matthew 6:25-34
"Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?

And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."

There is a God established order that is adequate for you and me. The word of the kingdom is a life force.

I am willing to be made willing.


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