Dear Friends and Family,
As always, my words will make so much more sense if you can read the daily passage. What I write is nearly always provoked by the daily passage. I try and write in what I perceive as the spirit of the author’s intentions.
We each have a story to tell and whether we see it yet or not, its an important one! It is God’s desire that we recognize his authorship in our narrative. It his desire that we understand how he goes about writing upon our hearts so that we are not robbed of the glorious pleasure of this adventure. Our understanding is also important so that the publication of our stories is not unnecessarily postponed. (After all, their are potential readers all around us!)
While it is true that it is our story, it is truer yet that we are his story. As our beloved brother Paul has stated, “It is Christ in us, who is the hope of glory.” In Christ the word became flesh and, as astonishing as it might seem, God wants His Word, Jesus Christ, to be made flesh again in you and I. As God’s children, we are not just in a holding pattern waiting for heaven and God’s chosen means of transportation to that destination (rapture, death or chariot of fire?). Far from it. We are daily being transformed into the image of God in Christ. In your heart’s vision, is this the primary assumption you carry about yourself ? It is God’s.
Christ, the light of heaven, is present on earth in the Holy Spirit in individuals therfore the light of heaven is in you and I! As new chapters are being added to our stories, the light of heaven is shining on earth through us. As Christ becomes Lord in practice (not just in theory or profession) of our individual and collective hearts, the nature and essence of heaven, Jesus Christ, will glow brighter on earth, And in the process we shall become the long awaited City Set Upon A Hill (which I suspect is one of the latter chapters of God’s masterpiece; The Story of My Kingdom).
I believe the story will come together sooner as we jointly lay hold of the vision of the Kingdom of God. Without this vision, I fear aspects of the intended plot will be lost and perish. (the language borrowed from Proverbs 29:18 is not accidental.) As the appointed ones in the Body of Christ grasp and cast this vision, old wineskins will be made new.
But there will be birth pangs. It will be a time of turmoil within the body of Christ because good church people will resist being made into citizens of the kingdom. To them, everything was working fine without anything new. Old-time religion will seem better to them than this new-time religion. However, no one can enter the kingdom with religion in their hearts. The kingdom is antithetical to religion. (Keep in mind that religion is simply the corrupting notion that we can do anything to win or earn God’s love and blessing.)
Culture rules and having been raised in religious cultures where the good news was always equated to the gospel (which, in turn, defined the kingdom – mostly as souls saved unto eternity), it will be a mighty contraction for sure to experience an 180 degree change of mind (repentence); equating the good news instead to the kingdom of God of which the gospel of Jesus Christ is only a part; where souls are not just saved and shelved for the after life, but instead, commissioned with essential kingdom assignments and responsibilities in this life.
I believe it is God’s intention, just as Isaiah saw it, to fill the earth with His glory. Much traditional eschatology postpones this event exclusively for a day when human flesh has been removed from the equation, no longer the impediment to the Kingdom it was always belived to be. We can think of this camp as the Kingdom-Then camp. (Then being after we are dead.)
Another camp, which we can think of as the Kingdom Now camp, seems to have hardly any concern for the flesh as an impediment. In fact many of them perceive the kingdom as the stage where they will ascend to new heights of wealth and authority. The flesh and its desires are in many ways accommodated. I believe both of these camps convey things about God’s kingdom that are accurate as well as things that are grossly distorted and will ultimately be costly to them and the kingdom.
When I read the scriptures, I see the kingdom of God as The Kingdom (of both) Now & Then. As Jesus becomes Lord over more of our lives (while we are living in the here and now), His kingdom is expanding. Important note; The kingdom of God exists everywhere that Christ is reigning. Our lives are transformed in Christ from glory to glory. ( Note: I don’t see this as the glory of birth to the glory of heaven that awaits us upon our deaths. I see from glory to glory meaning from one glorious chapter of Christ’s transforming work in our lives to the next.)
The networks of humanity that God has sovereignly entrusted us with will witnesses our growing freedom and joy as Christ rules over more an more of our hearts. With our lives, we will be the publishers of His expanding kingdom chronicle within. The light of heaven, which is Jesus Christ, resident in our hearts, will shine and the good news that Christ is present and among us will be evident. We will lay hold of that for which we were laid hold of – a truly great commission where every redeemed soul, in the process of being made disciples, will play an indispensable part in God’s perfect will being presented on earth as it is in heaven.
Here is a counter-religious-cultural consequence of the gospel of the kingdom. Its primary engine will not be seminarians. Not too surprisingly, the last shall be made first. It will be those who have been the underclassmen of current christian religious culture – those classed by the degreed ones as laypersons. The seminary was never the incubus of the kingdom. It was and always will be the human heart – the temple of God on earth.
Here is another counter-religious cultural consequence of the kingdom of God. The church building and programs will not be the primary place of expression of Christianity. Because of the place God has chosen as his address on earth (our hearts), the place where his glory will be displayed is in the midst of our everyday, ordinary walk-around lives. Read and listen to Romans 12:1-2 in your heart. Perhaps the Spirit will reinterpret this verse for you through the lens of his kingdom.
Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out.
“For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.” Habakuk 2:14
Were we thinking Habakuk’s foretold flood of God-knowledge was going to be published in bibles and christian books? Digital MP-3 sermons and audio CD’s? The glory of the Lord has been reserved for, and will be displayed in, human vessels of honor. In fact his glory is already on display in the earth wherever His Spirit has prevailed (or is prevailing) over human flesh (with its selfish bent and inherent vain imaginations). Everywhere His Spirit is displacing man from his own earthly kingdom we are viewing the kingdom of God – His will being done on earth as in heaven.
I believe as we virgins wisely fill our lamps; as we prospectors discover the treasure of Christ in the fields of our hearts; as we merchants sell all to obtain the costly pearl, the glory of the Lord will indeed fill the earth. I believe as the vision of the kingdom takes root, our hearts (in all our various camps) will be drawn together forming a great kingdom-relational-community net that God is casting and will drag through the earth rescuing all those whose names are written in the Book of Life. I feel as though Jesus still stands among us and asks…
“Have you understood all these things?……every scribe who has become a disciple of the kingdom of heaven is like a head of a household, who brings out of his treasure things new and old.“
Whether we are from an old or a new camp is not important. We all have our inherent Kingdom-blind spots and our valid kingdom treasures. The old is essential to the new and the new is essential to the old. As the age of the kingdom is birthed, with its inherent and painful contractions it will be the bonds of love that will hold us together and even our inevitable tension will add to the glory of what the world will witness. They will see that they (his saints) are one as Jesus and his Father (and ours) are one.
Father, My prayer is that we will fully grasp that you have already touched, not only our mouths but our hearts; that you who touched Isaiah’s lips have also touched our hearts, causing our iniquity to be taken away and our sin to be forgiven. I pray that we shall see that even though the forest of this world appears to have been clear-cut, that we, in whom your Spirit dwell, are the stumps that remain and that the holy seed is its stump. Raise up those O Lord who will cast the hope-filled kingdom vision of the springs of your Spirit opening up in our hearts irrigating and nourishing the devastation in and around us; transforming deserts into lush gardens. With Isaiah, would you commission us afresh as kingdom sons and daughters. Help us to hear your question, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?” May your Spirit prevail over our flesh and may you hear our reply, “Here we are. Send us!” And Lord may our hearts live in the glorious anticipation that your glory shall fill the earth, Almighty and Wondrous King! Amen