Which Kingdom? Your Own, The World’s, or God’s?

All creation was made to be an inhabitation for the Kingdom of God. He set it in motion; He defined it – a Kingdom of righteousness, wholeness, peace, love, joy; the list could go on. God gave us a choice:

“”For this commandment which I command you today is not too difficult for you, nor is it out of reach. It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will go up to heaven for us to get it for us and make us hear it, that we may observe it?’ Nor is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will cross the sea for us to get it for us and make us hear it, that we may observe it?’ But the word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may observe it. “”See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, and death and adversity;” in that I command you today to love the LORD your God, to walk in His ways and to keep His commandments and His statutes and His judgments, that you may live and multiply, and that the LORD your God may bless you in the land where you are entering to possess it. But if your heart turns away and you will not obey, but are drawn away and worship other gods and serve them, I declare to you today that you shall surely perish. You will not prolong your days in the land where you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess it.” Deuteronomy 30: 11-18

Deuteronomy 28 lists the blessings associated with obedience to God’s statutes, as well as, the consequences or curses related to neglecting those principles. He also sent His Son (John 10:10) that we might have life by choosing Him, but we have the freedom to choose; life or death, His Kingdom or the worlds.

His goal will one day be reality… no matter what we choose.

 

Many find ourselves living in a world where the fast lane is the heaviest traveled path. We live in a time of instant cereal, instant potatoes, instant service; a drive-thru and microwave existence, and knee jerk reactions for many people. Social media has changed from My Space and Facebook to 140 character tweets on Twitter and Instagram, where a picture says a thousand words!? Media today is made up of sound bites that only give partial and sometimes biased views, rather than the whole story or whole truth. As a rule, we want what we want, and we expect it yesterday rather than when we asked for it today. Tolerance is exalted and called for on every front until it tramples on someone getting their desires met, and then the gloves come off because you’re interfering with my rights. At that point, some of us lose sight that sometimes our rights negate or trample the rights of others. These results were never the intent of our Creator!

Again, His Kingdom is defined by righteousness, wholeness, peace, love, joy, putting others first, caring for: the afflicted; brokenhearted; captives; prisoners; and those who mourn. (Isaiah 61) We are encouraged to take care of the weak, infirmed, poor, widows, orphans, our elderly. (The Kingdom way) The world tells us to look out for ourselves (look out for number one). We are told if we don’t take care of and look out for yourself, no one will! We are told to go for the gusto; enjoy it now while you can, and encouraged to stock up on the latest of everything. These two kingdoms are almost always giving us opposing messages. For example, one says don’t dare let them get by with treating you that way. The other tells us to turn the other cheek and forgive. One brings life to relationships; the other kills relationships; sometimes forever!

Not all of the differences are as cut and dried as these. No, some are much more subtle, and some are even hard to differentiate. Even more important, there are plenty of kind, loving, moral individuals who don’t believe in God or His Kingdom and many Kingdom people or believers that are stuck in a non-Biblical world view. Many are tempted to make the mistake of drawing conclusions and stereotypes of others based on religious beliefs, on ethnicity, on skin color, on their level of education, on their political leanings, etc. The question is: are you willing to be characterized by the same standards that you describe others? And is it a fair or accurate assumption to say that all ______________(you fill in the blank) are ___________________! One example for you that I hear or see on social media: “They don’t have a job because they are too lazy to work and want the government to take care of them.” I’m sure there are those for whom this would be a true statement, BUT there are many who are unable to work regularly because of certain disabilities, others who live in an economically challenged area and do not have the means to move to a new area to find employment. Stereotypes are unfair in most cases and are just mean-spirited and unnecessary. They also lead to the type of behaviors we see in the news media all the time. All lives matter in the eyes of God! Every one of His creations is important to Him. Do we all please Him? No, but He loves us in spite of our shortcomings. If that were not true, why would His Son, Jesus Christ have come to this planet and lived and died to make way for us to find grace and peace with God? To give us the opportunity to have eternal life with God?

We are told in the Word of God;

For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek; there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise.” Galatians 3: 26-29

My brethren, do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude of personal favoritism. For if a man comes into your assembly with a gold ring and dressed in fine clothes, and there also comes in a poor man in dirty clothes, and you pay special attention to the one who is wearing the fine clothes, and say, “You sit here in a good place,” and you say to the poor man, “You stand over there, or sit down by my footstool,” have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil motives? Listen, my beloved brethren: did not God choose the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him? But you have dishonored the poor man. Is it not the rich who oppress you and personally drag you into court? Do they not blaspheme the fair name by which you have been called?’ James 2: 1-7

Our Heavenly Father doesn’t show favor based on our skin color, our ethnicity, our bank account or lack of, our gender, our appearance, or based on whether we are in bondage or free. He sees us either as we are (condition of our heart) or through the blood of Jesus Christ, His Son if we believe and receive His salvation.

You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’ I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives his best—the sun to warm and the rain to nourish—to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that. “In a word, what I’m saying is, Grow up. You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.” Matthew 5: 43-48
“Dear friend, listen well to My words; tune your ears to My voice.

Keep My message in plain view at all times. Concentrate! Learn it by heart!

Those who discover these words live, really live; body and soul, they’re bursting with health.” Proverbs 4: 22-24

We get to choose! Moment by moment, hour by hour, day by day!! Will we choose our way, the world’s way or will we choose God’s way? Will we choose love? Will we choose life? Or Will we choose death? He sets before us life and blessing or death and curses. Our choice, what will we choose?

May His grace and peace abound to you this day!

Grace Stoppers

   

 “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, self-control. Against such things there is no law.” (‭Galatians‬ ‭5‬:‭22-23‬ HCSB)

      For the last six weeks, a friend and I have been studying the fruit of the Spirit together. We began with an overview of the Book of Galatians and a few a couple of weeks began to study each of the listed fruit, one per week. This weeks fruit: Patience; oh yes,I heard those groans! If only I had a dollar for everyone who has ever told me “Don’t pray for patience; you’ll get it, but it won’t be fun or pretty in the meantime.”! I would be sitting somewhere warm on a sunny beach enjoying the roar of the ocean and the sun beating down on my face as I write instead of looking out at glistening trees, a cold but gentle wind blowing, and a misty rain gently watering them. Oh how I miss the warm sunshine! 

      Hopefully that provided a little recovery time from the shock of that much dreaded word, patience. We are learning through studying this particular fruit that there are two types of patience mentioned in the New Testament. One is patience through circumstances and the other is patience with people. Patience with people is the type of peace referred to in the fruit of the Spirit. Interestingly, though we are studying this fruit, we first tackled the patience with circumstances and learned that hope is the key to having patience when facing difficult situations; hope coming from the Greek word elpis, meaning hope-the desire of some good with the expectation of getting it. That’s pretty straight forward. As long as we have hope, we tend to be able to press through the less than enjoyable aspects that we sometimes face. Without hope, we find it much more challenging!

     The second patience, patience with people can get much more complex, especially in those closest relationships. Hope may be important in these relationships but perhaps mercy is even more important when we endeavor to grow in patience with the people in our circles of influence and with people in general. Mercy or compassion can be a powerful tool especially when it comes to having patience with people. 

      Just an example from my own life: many years ago, my husband and I were having breakfast in a local restaurant. A customer comes in and is seated across from out table. From the very beginning, nothing went right in her opinion and everyone within a ten table radius was aware. People were getting up and leaving be cause of the scene. We had a birds eye view and could not help but hear as things escalated.  This young waitress did not deserve the treatment she was receiving. As we continued to witness this spectacle, I pointed out to my husband that even if she was performing poorly it was no way to treat her. Maybe she broke up with her boyfriend/spouse, had a sick child, a family member sick or dying. We have no idea what people are dealing with in their lives! We went to the register to pay and Kevin gave me his keys. Then he addressed the manager and explained that we had observed everything and the server had done nothing to deserve what was happening. He then asked me to wait in the car (which I did though it was a hard request to follow).  He said he then said a quick prayer and with the same compassion and mercy I had expressed for the server; he approached this lady sitting with her two adult daughters.  He was very respectful and asked if he could join them for a moment. Then my sweet husband who looked about eighteen with his ‘baby face’, proceeded to ask her with great respect if she’d ever considered that the young server might be struggling with some kind of life trauma or tragedy or had spent the night up with a small child that was sick and sleepless? (We knew this one well as young parents ourselves!)  Kevin said her daughters looked so relived and this lady’s whole countenance changed. They all thanked him and he started out to the car. I met him at the door where the manager thanked him…it had been a while and I must admit I was a little concerned and I decided I needed to check on him.

     In the end, mercy, compassion and patience triumphs! We may not always see results right away and it is possible we may not see results at all. Nevertheless, it is a seed that is well worth sowing! (Lord, please give me the grace and wisdom to remember this life lesson!) Why?  Because even if it does not touch the person benefiting from it, others see. Even if it doesn’t touch the lives of observers, it changes us! It is a sure way to teach us to be more Christ-like by walking in the Spirit and exhibiting the fruit of the Spirit; an intentional though momentary choice to live beyond that moment, beyond our circumstances and beyond our own little world in a place where grace flows freely.

      Grace flows freely where love, joy peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness and self-control abound.  Why Grace Stoppers then? There are also those things which clog and even stop the flow of grace. Let’s list just a few:

  • Hate, joylessness, discord, impatience, meanness, doubt, harshness, selfishness
  • Anger
  • Unforgiveness
  • Hopelessness 
  • Bitterness
  • Jealousy

Help us, oh Father God, to lay these down! Help us to walk by the Spirit, in the fruit of the Spirit 

and in the Mighty name of Jesus!



 Praying you are blessed with His grace, His peace and Fruit that remains!

 

 But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely. Legalism is helpless in bringing this about; it only gets in the way. Among those who belong to Christ, everything connected with getting our own way and mindlessly responding to what everyone else calls necessities is killed off for good—crucified.”(‭Galatians‬ ‭5‬:‭22-23‬ MSG)

Days of Grace-Day 11

     We  have now spent ten days focusing of the Grace of God. I don’t know about you, but His grace never ceases to amaze me! Sometimes it seems to show up at the very last possible moment, just when you think you can not make it another day or another step. Other times it comes suddenly and unexpectedly. Sometimes it comes before you even realize you need it; or right in the midst of something; then He reminds you… remember, I have already made provision for that.  I don’t know about  you, but sometimes for me grace can be as simple as a glimpse of a rainbow that brings a big smile to my face and child-like joy and wonder in the middle of an ordinary or complicated day. “Why is that grace?” you might ask. These are just a few examples of things I just delight in: a rainbow; a beautiful cardinal or blue bird that lands on the rail of my back deck unexpectedly while I am studying or writing; a child’s laughter or children running and playing; a beautiful sunrise or sunset; a beautiful blue sky filled with fluffy clouds that form all kinds of shapes gently blowing over my head. Again, “why?” You see, I am one of those people (you might know one or be one,too) whose mind runs constantly full speed ahead and  rarely slows down or  takes a rest from thinking. Seriously the wheels are always turning! Even in my sleep, I have vivid dreams. It is always nice to get unexpectedly surprised by one of these grace moments when the glory of God shows up and my mind just takes a few moments to pause and relish in the moment of glory rather than rushing around and missing them. His glory is  all around us if we just take the time to notice!

     The scripture for grace today is a prophetic word from Zechariah found in chapter twelve. It is a prophecy for a future time. Commentators aren’t completely in agreement or completely convinced when it will take place but let’s look at it anyway and then we’ll talk about it just a little.

“I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplication, so that they will look on Me whom they have pierced ; and they will mourn for Him, as one mourns for an only son, and they will weep bitterly over Him like the bitter weeping over a firstborn.  “In that day there will be great mourning in Jerusalem, like the mourning of Hadadrimmon in the plain of Megiddo.  “The land will mourn, every family by itself ; the family of the house of David by itself and their wives by themselves; the family of the house of Nathan by itself and their wives by themselves; the family of the house of Levi by itself and their wives by themselves; the family of the Shimeites by itself and their wives by themselves; all the families that remain, every family by itself and their wives by themselves. Zechariah 12:10-14

     I don’t know about you but the Spirit of grace and supplication seems to refer clearly to the Holy Spirit because He is the one Who draws into belief in Jesus, the One they pierced. This gives us a good indication that the prophecy takes place in the future and after the time of Christ’s birth, death, burial and resurrection. Other than that, it could be hard to pin point. Many believe that this referred to the time in AD 70 when the Romans sieged Jerusalem and the second temple of the Jewish people was destroyed. Still others believe that it is a future event, and some believe it is a double prophecy depicting both.

     Since our focus is on grace and the Spirit of grace (Chen, meaning grace, favor, charm, elegance and acceptance) and supplication ( Tachanuwn, meaning supplication, supplication for favor with God or man); I think we can say for certain that this prophecy would take place after Christ’s return to Father God’s right hand and after the day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit was given to all believers in Christ. AD 70 seems like a definite fulfilling of this prophecy, because there certainly was great mourning in the land over the loss of their homeland and the loss of their temple. Will we once again see it fulfilled, in our lifetime or the future? Who can say but our gracious God.

     This I do know, both from personal experience and based on the history we have traced over the last week and a half: God has this and He will provide His people every ounce of grace and mercy needed if there is yet another fulfilling to come!  His grace is sufficient for everyone; His love is unending; His mercy endures forever; and He is enough for any and every situation that we face in our life! Skeptical? Just give Him a try! He is who He says He is! He is faithful even when we doubt Him and when we are not faithful. His promises are true even when they are not in our timing and His timing is always right on time because He sees things from a much bigger perspective than we do. In every trial, difficulty or loss that I have experienced in my life, He has proven this true. It may have taken more time for me to see it than I would have liked, but never-the-less it is true!

Grace and blessings to you, my friend! Until next time…

Tried, Tested…and True?

Just thinking this afternoon about how as humans we are always looking to the next thing. Babies learn progressively from the first smile, turning over, sitting up, crawling, pulling up and finally taking steps. We adults do the same with the exception of we often do not take the time just to enjoy where we are at the moment. A few examples: when we are young we can not wait to be grown up; can’t wait to finish school, move out; get married; then, we tend to covet the freedom our single friends enjoy when we are married or the companionship our married friend enjoy when we are single. Many desire children and when they are here, we long for them to sleep through the night, out grow teething, be able to talk so they can tell us what is wrong when they feel bad, walk, start school…

Our techie world continues to teach us to not be satisfied with our phone, computer, tablet, car, TV:  the minute we purchase one it is on it’s way to being obsolete. Chances are that within 2 days to 6 months there will be a faster, better, fancier or sleeker one and many of us will be dreaming of the new best thing!  The world around us makes it hard to be content and just enjoy the moment in which we are living. This becomes even more apparent when we are in a time of trial or difficulty. Many times I find myself looking everywhere for an escape hatch when one of those times come around. Why? because I don’t like conflict, discomfort. I like choices to be easy, people to be loving and kind. The truth is life is not always easy, comfortable and neat and if it were, we would never grow or mature. Take the teething baby for example, in order for the baby to grow teeth, there is pain as the teeth push forward and break the skin. Without that pain the little baby would continue to grow but be relegated to a life of soft mushy food. Many also have used the example of a child. Children are wondrous and a blessing from God, however as they develop there is often morning sickness, stretching and discomfort at times for the mother and they are birthed through travail and pain.