And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior. For He has had regard for the humble state of His bond slave; for behold, from this time on all generations will count me blessed. “For the Mighty One has done great things for me; and holy is His name. “And His mercy is upon generation after generation toward those who fear Him. “He has done mighty deeds with His arm; he has scattered those who were proud in the thoughts of their heart. He has brought down rulers from their thrones, and has exalted those who were humble. “He has filled the hungry with good things; and sent away the rich empty-handed. “He has given help to Israel His servant, in remembrance of His mercy, as He spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and his descendants forever.” And Mary stayed with her about three months, and then returned to her home.
When I saw this morning’s passage I thought, “Uh oh, I’m up against it today. How am I to relate to the mother of God!” I am not a woman. I’m not from the same race of people. I’m not under the Law of Moses. And, I am two millennium removed from that era. However, as I take some time with the passage, as is almost always the case, something alive begins to stand out. This is typically my invitation to proceed.
My initial thoughts were, “Mary is rejoicing… as well she should! I guess I would too if I had…… ….. , then I was stopped in my tracks. I didn’t get to the balance of that thought, ” if I had God in my womb”, because His Spirit, reminded me that He was in my heart. I have Christ in me. This passage is known in Latin as the Magnificat meaning, “my soul magnifies”. The NAS has interpreted the original greek to say, “my spirit rejoiced”. My soul too magnifies the Lord as this reality is dawning afresh in me.
We tend to read the scriptures and idolize characters such as Mary as those with greater callings than us. Without demeaning them, God disagrees totally with us. He has a much higher opinion of us than we do of ourselves. Jesus himself would say here…
“Are you listening to me? Really listening?….. Let me tell you what’s going on here: No one in history surpasses John the Baptizer; but in the kingdom he prepared you for, the lowliest person is ahead of him. (from Matt 11:11-15)
Jesus goes on to say..
From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and violent men take it by force…….He who has ears to hear, let him hear.
A few friends have called my writing style; stream of consciousness. Since I don’t know the possible categories of styles; yesterday I called it expository testimonial – giving a verse by verse account of the hope that is within me. My prayer is that my writing leaves clues, especially for my friends and family as to how the Holy Spirit works in the interior of our lives where his kingdom is being birthed.
When we are commanded by Jesus to seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, what thoughts come to mind? I know that my evangelical wineskin response has been; to fulfill the great commission and all that entails (which is much). When I hear about the kingdom today something entirely different comes to mind. This morning I would like to share my account of this particular aspect of my hope.
A few years ago, after a long season of things not being well with my soul, where I was seeking any wind of revival that might be blowing, my ship hit a dead calm. I even tried rowing for a while but I soon saw the futility of that. My only resort was to ask God to let the revival I had tried to run down simply catch up with me. I prayed (you may think I am crazy), Lord, please let the next revival begin in my heart, I can’t go another step without you.” I don’t know about any slated corporate revivals but God did facilitate a personal revival in my heart. The story involves many chapters but I wanted to share one specifically; one I associate with the kingdom of God and the idea of taking it by violence.
As I was being lifted by God’s kindness out of the slough of despond, I felt new life and energy stirring in me. Since my tank had been empty, and I had been asking to be filled, I was convinced the spoon was in God’s hand. George Eldon Ladd says in his book the Gospel of the Kingdom, “The kingdom of God is an inward power which enters into the human soul and lays hold of it. It consists of a few basic religious truths of universal application.” This makes me think of Paul’s comment….
I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus………..let us keep living by that same standard to which we have attained.
I felt as though something had laid hold of me and whether my response was the violence of Matthew 11:12, I do not know. I only know that something arose within me with a powerful resolve that flowed out of my birthright-identity that Christ had just restored. To best describe what was going on in me, I will refer you to a few of George C. Scott’s lines from the movie Patton….
“I’ve always felt that I was destined for some great achievement, what I don’t know. ….The last great opportunity of a lifetime – an entire world at war, and I’m left out of it? God will not permit this to happen! I will be allowed to fulfill my destiny! His will be done.”
“A good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan executed at some indefinite time in the future.”
All I can say is that out of my restored identity there was something rising up and saying I have a great destiny – a kingdom-destiny. I am assuming this solely because Christ lives in me. I am assuming that since Christ lives in us, the emergence and expression of his vibrant life through us will be the catalyst for expansion of God’s kingdom. I have come to believe that God is saying that the Church has a corporate appointment with kingdom destiny….
And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.
In the past three years, I have been converted from a worship leader-elder-teacher in a local church (whose heart was nearly comatose) to an untitled person who’s influence has expanded by acknowledging what Ladd called, a few basic religious truths of universal application. Paul may have called them standards. I have simply begun to call them kingdom values. Here are 7 that come to mind;
1. God is building a kingdom culture that will never end. Construction began with Jesus Christ. He was the corner stone.
2. We are the living stones who, in their ever increasing resemblance to their elder brother (Jesus), will comprise this kingdom.
3. The beach head for the kingdom of God on earth is the human heart where Christ dwells and aspires to rule.
4. Before significant kingdom construction can begin right-of-way must be procured. Kingdom citizens and builders are those who have ceded title over all that they are to Christ.
5. Before significant construction can begin demolition of old thought structures must be located and torn down.
6. Each of God’s children are strategically located and gifted to fulfill essential kingdom tasks.
7. Spiritual fathers will cast this vision and help identify individual gifts and kingdom assignments.
I will close with a declaration from the psalms and a prayer.