Kingdom

Read John 18:25-40

“My kingdom,” said Jesus, “doesn’t consist of what you see around you. If it did, my followers would fight so that I wouldn’t be handed over to the Jews. But I’m not that kind of king, not the world’s kind of king.” (John 18:36 MSG)

Black Friday is a mystery to me. I know there are lots of good deals in the stores, but I’m amazed each year at the frenetic energy that goes into shopping on this day. It’s gotten to the point where for some, Black Friday actually now begins on Thursday and continues through the weekend. I don’t get it. At least I didn’t read any stories about people being trampled to death this year. For so many it seems like how much stuff we have is “King”… or at least it is a reflection of the kind of kingdom we are building in this world.

Yesterday was “Christ is King” Sunday on the church year calendar. Jesus is King, but where does that intersect with us today? Jesus said, “My Kingdom is not of this world…” Well, I think a lot of people are asking, “Where is it?” We long for the Kingdom of God to become more real here and now because sometimes it seems like things are falling apart all around us… and our pursuit of stuff isn’t cutting it It is only dragging us further down. Jesus, you teach us to pray, “Your kingdom come…” Well, we need to put our hands on it… touch it, taste it, smell it, etc. How can your Kingdom move from just being something abstract or something we long for in the future? We need your Kingdom to come here and now.

Do you ever find yourself asking these kinds of questions? Expressing these kinds of longings?

If we want to know what the Kingdom of God looks like, we have to look to Jesus who is the King of this Kingdom. He is King and he embodied the Kingdom by how he lived.

When we look to Jesus we see the Kingdom coming in the big stories:

  • Healing Stories
  • Calming the Sea
  • Feeding 5000

These are big stories, but many of them seem out of reach for us… even though they’re not. But we also see the Kingdom coming in the seemingly little things Jesus does.

  • He ate with people… tax collectors and sinners.
  • He spent time with people… made friends who were more like family.
  • Cried with people. He shared in and stood with people in their hurts.

How do we begin to join with Jesus in his Kingdom work in the world? How do we begin to experience the Kingdom come? How begins with who.

Maybe the big things are out of reach for us at this point… but as we grow in faith they won’t be. Take a look around you this week. Who can you bless with you time? Your skill? Your resources? Your presence? Kingdom living can begin as simply as bringing a Turkey sandwich to a shut-in or helping a neighbor hang a picture on the wall.

If we don’t take the simple steps to begin joining Jesus in embodying his Kingdom, then no matter how much stuff we have (even if we found it at deeply discounted prices) then we are missing out on the Kingdom.

Imagine if we could take the Black Friday passion and energy and harness it for Kingdom living. EVERYONE WOULD KNOW CHRIST AS KING!

Read Psalm 91:1-16

Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. (Psalm 91:1 TNIV)

It is, “Black Friday” and I am up early. No, not to shop. I am up to find a little quiet before the day begins. We are in the mountains at my parents house (one of the most peaceful places I know) but I can imagine the chaos down the hill. We’ll be down in it later to go to the farmers market to get our Christmas tree, but in this moment there is peace.

Thank you, Lord for your peace and protection. Thank you that we can find shelter in you and rest in your shadow.

I’m reminded this morning of a song by Aaron Keyes based on Psalm 91.  You can listen at the link below.  Take a moment today and rest. Breathe deep and give thanks.

Dwell

12 Stones

Read Joshua 4:1-24

I remember several years ago watching a video series called, “That the World May Know” by Ray VanderLaan. In the series Ray takes students around to several different biblical archaeological sites and digs deeper into stories of scripture by explaining the context. It is a fascinating series. One of the episodes talks about this passage. A short summary of what he shared about the 12 stones can be found here:

http://www.followtherabbi.com/world/encyclopedia/article/standing-stones1

These memorials were intended to be reminders of God’s faithfulness along the way. They were reminders of the times when God came through in the most unexpected and amazing ways. I know this never happens to us, but for them sometimes in times of struggle or doubt they needed reminders of the reality that God was for them, and that God had been with them even in their most impossible past.

How has God been faithful to us in the past? What do we do to remember God’s faithfulness in our present? How do we learn to trust in God’s faithfulness for our future? These aren’t meant to be rhetorical questions. Are there things that have happened along the way? Times when we can remember how God came through when all seemed lost or impossible? Are there memorials we need to build to remind us that God has been for us and with us in our past so that we might remember more fully that God is for and with us in our present and future?

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Command. Obey. Love.

Read John 14:15-24

“If you love me, obey my commandments. (John 14:15 NLT)

Command. Obey. Love. Do these words even go together?

Command. Maybe we are shaped by images of drill sergeants or football coaches barking out orders. There is certainly an expectation of obedience. You obey or there is significant consequence. But love isn’t gruff or bossy… love is patient, love is kind. Love doesn’t look like, “Do what I say, or else…”

“If you love me, obey my commandments.”

Obey. If I do what you command, will you love me then? I want to earn your approval by doing what you require of me. I want to succeed to make my father proud. But love… true love is not based on fulfilling requirements. True love is not based on accomplishments. Love keeps no record of wrong. Love is not love if it based on condition.

Command. Obey. Love. How do we reconcile these words?

“If you love me, obey my commandments.”

When we become confident in the love God has for us — love made real and tangible and in the flesh by Jesus — we become confident in who we are. We are children loved by our Father, not based on condition or behavior or accomplishment… just because we are his. When we know we are loved, it is only natural to express our love in return. We live and we love as we are loved.

What is the greatest command? To love the Lord in the same manner we are loved BY the Lord. The second? Love your neighbor… in the same manner we are loved BY the Lord. The command is to love. To acknowledge the the identity we find in knowing we are loved is to go and do the same.

Command. Obey. Love.

“If you love me, obey my commandments.”

Yes I will.

Into the Night

Read John 13:18-30

Remember the story of Nicodemus in chapter 3? Several weeks back when we read that story we talked about how John uses the images of light and dark, day and night throughout his gospel. In this part of the story Judas, the well known “betrayer” of Jesus is literally dining alongside the light of the world. He forgets who he is (a follower and friend of Jesus) and choses to leave the light (Jesus) behind and go out into the night. Remember, night or darkness in Johns imagery literally meant, “a time of moral stupidity.” That sounds harsh, I know, but the reality was a harsh one. Judas willingly walked into the night and got lost there.

I think what gets under our skin in this story is not so much that it happened… but that it happens. It still does. In your life and in mine. Daily we make choices that betray our identity in Jesus. We do and say things that are not really any different than what Judas did that night. We willingly step into darkness when the light of the world is right here with us. Praise Jesus that his grace continually calls and welcomes us back into the light because none of us want to get lost in the dark.

How might our story be different today? How might we live more fully into our identity as children of the light? How might we make darkness flee instead of the other way around?