Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Those who are hungry...

"The Kingdom of God is like a treasure hidden in the field," Jesus tells us. Truly it so often feels that way- so frustratingly hidden.

"The Kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed," he tells us, "for the Kingdom of God is among you now." So if Christ is the incarnate word of God, coming from Heaven to Earth to establish the Forever Kingdom, why is the whole thing so hard to find sometimes? Shouldn't such a thing as massive as the existence of an all-powerful, all-loving God come with "signs to be observed"?

I am speaking as one who has been radically transformed by Christ and his Kingdom. One who has seen miracles, spoken with people who have met Jesus in dreams and visions and who bring very convincing testimonies to the table. And yet, like those who walked through the parted sea and went on to doubt and grumble at their God, I find myself wrestling with the hiddenness of it all.

One thing is certain, God has no trouble displaying his existence. Nothing could be simpler for the Almighty. If the foundation of the Kingdom was merely belief in, or more precisely acceptance of, the existence of God, then a few displays of splitting the skies could have done the trick a long time ago. Clearly, God wants to build his Kingdom on a different bedrock.

So what is it- this foundation of the Forever Kingdom? As I read the gospels, the answer cries out to me again and again. Hunger. In God's redemptive plan for humanity, he is trying to build a new kind of Kingdom, made up of a new kind of people. And for it to work, for the perfect union between God and man that God has dreamt of since Eden to come to pass, it means the people in that Kingdom must truly want to be there. It means they are hungry, perhaps desperate is the better word, for God and his presence in their lives. They are not just showing up half-heartedly, following routine or escaping punishment. This Kingdom must be their treasure.

And that is why he has hidden the Kingdom in the ordinary- so that only the hungry will find it. That is why he hid his knowledge in parables, so that the hungry would seek it out. That is why he asks us to persevere in prayer, because only the hungry will keep going.

After all, he tells us that "many are called, but few are chosen." Many are invited, but only a few respond. Only a few ask, seek and knock. Only a few "strive to enter the narrow door" that leads to life. Think of it this way, even when Jesus walked on the earth, probably only a small percentage of those living in Palestine ever actually met him. There he was, the King of Kings, walking around, doing miracles, declaring the reign of God on the earth, and yet most people just sat in their homes, or went on with their routine. They worked and played and laughed and cried, living their lives while Life itself walked among them, writing their small stories while the great Story was unfolding before their eyes, beckoning them to join in. Few were hungry enough to come to see him, even less to follow him. Why should we expect it to be different now?

So, to echo the quote Steve Jobs loved, "Stay hungry, stay foolish." The Kingdom of God is actually all around you, advancing and changing the world even when you can't see it. Keep seeking, knocking and asking- because only the hungry find the treasure.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The Forever Kingdom

The Forever Kingdom.

We were born into dark kingdoms, ruled by cruel masters. Naturally speaking, we were born into worldly systems that would turn us into slaves and consumers. Systems based on corruption and deception. Systems that aim to use us up and discard us. Some of us were born into abusive systems of dictatorship and violence. Others were born into more subtle systems, systems that pretend they can heal us and fulfill us but in the end choke us on materialism and greed- wear us down in a race that has no finish.

On a deeper plane, we were born into spiritual darkness. Cruel spiritual masters harrassed and accused us with fear and guilt, shame and hopelessness. They told us we would never be enough, never be lovable. They told us that if there was a God, he was cold and angry, staring down with eyes of condemnation and a hand ready to strike. They shackled us with doubt and meaninglessness, and told us it was our fault.

We weren't born for these kingdoms. They are not our home. And they will not last- already they are fading away, their clock is ticking. The Forever Kingdom has come.

The prophets heard whispers of it for hundreds of years. Each got pieces- none saw the whole thing. Isaiah saw a King who would be counselor, deliverer, father and peace giver to the whole earth- one whose rule and peace would only continue to increase for all time. Jeremiah saw a servant filled with God's spirit who would never rest until he had cause justice to touch the ends of the earth. Ezekiel saw a day coming when God would step in himself and be a good shepherd to his lost and broken people, that he would go forth and rescue them from their cruel masters by his own hand.

And Daniel- Daniel saw a vision of a man coming before the throne of Almighty God. He saw God in his pleasure bestowing on this man authority, granting that all nations would someday come into his Forever Kingdom. He saw a Kingdom that would begin as a small stone, but would grow into a great mountain, until it filled all the earth.

Hundreds of years they heard whispers, and they believed, and they prayed, and they waited. And finally the Forever Kingdom, like a stone as small as one carpenter in a forgotten corner of a vast empire, crashed into our darkness.

A Kingdom where you are loved to the core. A Kingdom where you are a vital part of God's plan of redemption. A Kingdom where you live filled with God's spirit, guided by his voice, and surrounded by his presence. The Kingdom we've been dreaming of.

"The Kingdom of God is at hand!" he cried. "Come and enter it!" And he calls it out still today, through his spirit and through the countless men and women who have tasted the Forever Kingdom,
he says come!

Come, leave the emptiness of worldly empires that offer no peace.

Come, leave the oppression of spiritual forces that know only to condemn and harrass.

Come home to the Forever Kingdom.

Wednesday, December 03, 2014


I am driven by the desire to be successful. Aren't we all?

Success is a slippery word. It's entirely subjective. Successful at what, and according to who? How do we know when we have succeeded? How do we know when we have (what's that ugly word? Ah yes...) failed?

Money. Awards. Plaudits. Admiration. Achievements. Surely one of them scratches your itch. We can't help it, we hunger for some concrete measurement that can tell us, convince us, that we are successful.

So when Jesus invites us to enter a new kingdom, an entirely different kingdom that begins the moment we put our story in his hands and continues forever, it changes everything- including success. Romans 12:2 tells us that if we want to discover God's will for us, his pleasing and perfect destiny over our lives, we must change the way we think. The old way of thinking, the values and mentalities of our modern culture, will never get us there. We will not see clearly until we reboot and allow God's spirit to rewire our hard drive, especially regarding success.

In God's Kingdom, there is only one measure of success: his pleasure over our lives.

Set your goals, make your plans. Yet remember, money, awards, plaudits, admiration and achievements, no matter what great deeds acquired them, will disappear like vapor in the wind. All that will remain is you and him.

Luke 10 gives us a profound story. Jesus visits two sisters, Mary and Martha. Martha is working hard, making lunch, taking care of responsibilities. Mary, on the other hand, just sits at Christ's feet and listens to him. Jesus tells Martha "You are bothered by so many little things- yet only one thing actually mattered. And your sister Mary figured it out."

We often think our successes- the good stuff we do- will win God's favor. The opposite is true. We must give him our hearts first, must let his presence and affection scratch our "success itch", then go out and do what needs be done.