Category Archives: Kingdom of God

The Centurion Who Honored Jesus

There’s a lovely story in the gospels about a centurion who’s servant was very sick. Matthew (Matthew 8:5-13) said the centurion approached Jesus and Luke (Luke 7:1-10) says that he sent elders of the Jews to speak for him. In both accounts, all he asked Jesus to do was speak the word of healing because he understood authority. “For I too am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. And I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”

Jesus was amazingly impressed by this man’s faith. “Truly, I tell you, with no one in Israel have I found such faith.” In all of the travels that Jesus did up and down the region where people were being healed everyday, he’d never seen this much faith. What’s even more amazing is that the man was a Roman, not even Jewish.

I love this centurion so much because he epitomizes what a believer should look like. According to Luke, he sent others to speak for him because he didn’t feel worthy to have Jesus come to his home. I think that kind of humility must have been uncharacteristic for most Romans. And he loved the Jewish people enough to build them a synagogue with his own money. He was humble, loving, and generous–all the qualities that we should exhibit.

On top of that, he was a man who understood power and authority. I don’t believe for a moment that any order he gave was second-guessed or ignored. The Roman army was notorious for its discipline. His orders would be obeyed or heads would roll. Imagine that combination of gentle caring and power. That’s exactly what we are called to live in.

We’ve been given all authority to heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, and cast out demons.  (Matthew 10:8) We are to do what Jesus did, and more, but we are to do it in the power of the Holy Spirit who is the source of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. (Galatians 5:22) Gentle, loving, power and authority, working in the kingdom for the sake of others without needing recognition. This centurion has a lot to model for us. I, for one, can’t wait to meet him in heaven.

Seek His face

Work Out Your Own Salvation

When Paul said to work out your own salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12), he didn’t mean to make up your own rules for what salvation is, he meant make sure you know you are saved because the consequences are unthinkable if you are wrong. We know that, “if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Romans 10:9) God didn’t want to make it difficult. The thief on the cross was with Jesus in paradise.

But what comes after salvation? How do we “work it out”? Jesus had some very chilling words to say about that, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you workers of lawlessness!’” (Matthew 7: 21-23)

Think about that! Someone who can prophesy and do miracles in Jesus’s name cannot make it into heaven. Jesus calls them workers of lawlessness because they took the power of God to do miracles without loving Him. Jesus there would be many!

Who then can be saved? “Only he who does the will of My Father in heaven.” When we do the Father’s will, Jesus will “know” us because the only way we can do the Father’s will is to be in communion with Him. Jesus is our example. He spent hours and hours in prayer going to the Mount of Olives to pray “as was His custom.” (Luke 22:39) He spent precious time with God worshiping and listening. We have to know how to hear Him if we are going to do His will. Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” (John 10:27)

I don’t believe that God wants us to live in terror not knowing if we are saved. He’s a good Father and wants us to be with Him, but we have the responsibility to be good children. It’s not always easy, but it’s never boring. “And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” (Mark 12:30) Do that and you can’t go wrong.

What Is Your Calling?

We all want to know what we were born to do. There’s something inside us that cries out to know purpose. Some of that is born from fairy tales where a poor, insignificant youth is called upon to become a hero and find a great destiny. Those born into a royal lineage know from an early age what they are meant to do. The rest of us have to figure it out. God will direct some through obvious or subtle means as testimonies will show, but that doesn’t seem to be the case for everyone.

I think that’s because God lets us make choices. We are free to be who we want to be. God doesn’t require that we find His perfect will to go into specific areas of employment. He lets us explore and decide. We can ask for His help and His favor, but He has given us a tremendous amount of freedom to do what we want. Our calling is our own heart’s desire.

As believers, we often rate those in ministry higher than those who work outside the church, but God doesn’t do that. In fact, we are told, “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men,” (Colossians 3:23) Your work is your calling. Wherever you work, you are a light set upon a lamp stand. You are God’s emissary. Be kind. Be generous. Be patient and compassionate. You are more of an influence working among nonbelievers than anyone working in the church because you are known and they are not.

You have as much access to God as anyone on earth. The time you spend seeking Him and learning from Him is not lesser than the same time spent by great ministers of the faith. You can hear the Lord just like they do. You can glean wisdom from the Bible, be inspired by His voice, and see signs and wonders all in a day at work. Living in the Kingdom is far from dull. Your calling is to live in grace of God to be a blessing to others. Start there and see where you go.

Quit Thinking Of Heaven!

OK, I realize that a Christian blog telling people to quit thinking of heaven sounds wrong, but I do have reasons for saying it. Heaven is not fire insurance. We don’t become saved to avoid hell, we become saved to be with God. Our thoughts should not be so focused on heaven that we neglect what happens on earth.

Jesus said that He wants us to “have life and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10) That can only come through developing a relationship with Him. That abundant life isn’t dispensed from on high, it develops as we spend time in prayer, talking to Him, listening to Him, reading His word, trusting Him all the time. There is so much that He wants to do for you, but if all you’re thinking about is just making it through this life so you can reach heaven, then you are missing the whole point of knowing God the Father. He wants to draw His children to Him and enjoy them just like we do.

It’s about the journey. It’s about all the issues that we face every day and how we respond to them. Do we fly off the handle and stress our way through, or do we turn immediately to God and ask for help? And will we trust Him when He says He will make a way where there is no way, or will we help Him and mess it all up? The journey is about the daily relationship with the Most High who know all our problems and all our joys. He can do what no man can do, but we will never see it happen if all we’re thinking about is a far off future.

And don’t assume that you can’t have that relationship with God because you are imperfect. Pick any hero of faith from the Bible and take a good look at his or her life. No perfection. God is quite aware of our humanity. He made us so He knows what our limitations and failings are, and He LOVES us. He loves us despite our weaknesses. He LOVES us. And the more time we spend with Him, the more those weakness begin to change into strengths. When we trust Him, He shines through us, even if the very next thing we do is something stupid.

Hold the joy of heaven in your heart, but look around today and see the goodness of God and watch for Him to be the Great I Am in your life. Your journey starts now.

When The Enemy Lies

Your know those times when the world is falling apart and everything you do is wrong? You feel like the stupidest person on earth and nothing anyone says helps you in the least. Guess whose game plan that is! Hint, it’s not God’s. Satan’s plan is to kill, steal, and destroy. That means that he will use every device to pull you down, if not physically, then emotionally. The enemy lies.

Granted, we have to admit that we are not perfect, but doesn’t mean that every evil thought that runs though our head, especially when we are stressed, it true. Whether is comes, from your own thoughts, the news, or someone you know, lies will try to take you down; lies that are completely false and destructive.

So what do you do? First, you have to recognize them. Jesus said,  “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.” (John 14:6) He also said, ” My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” (John 10:27) That means that you need to learn to hear His voice and you do that through reading the Word and prayer. Ask the Holy Spirit to speak to you. Ask Him to help you hear His voice. He wants more than anything to be in communion with you, like any loving parent would. Spend as much time as you can learning to hear Him. He will be surprisingly responsive to encourage you to come closer. Do it! It’s awesome.

After you know that you are hearing God, knowing what is true becomes easier. All you have to do is ask. Even so, when we are under pressure, or have to deal with serious difficulties, it’s not always easy to realize that the enemy is at work. That’s why having a habit of spending time with Jesus is important, especially in the hard times. He will help clear your mind and keep you centered so you can see what is true and what is a lie.

And when you recognize a lie, all you have to do is rebuke it. Rebuke the lies of the enemy and claim the truth of God for your life. Thank God for His goodness and faithfulness and ask Him to lead you in all righteousness. He gave us authority over all the works of the enemy. We don’t have to put up with lies that tear us down. Be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. (Matt 10:16) Don’t fall for the lies. You are amazing.

Why Do You Want Salvation?

If asked, I think most people would say that the reason they want to be saved is to avoid going to hell. It’s not an unreasonable desire, but I think it misses the entire point of salvation. Let’s go back and look at why that is.

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. He had to create it because there was nothing, nothing that we understand anyway. He made the earth and animals and people. Then He chose a specific people group to call His own. He led them and taught them to understand their need to trust Him and His will and desire to love and protect them. As we follow the story of human interaction with God, it becomes clear that the reason for creation was for God to have a relationship with us. Not an oppressive, domineering relationship, but an intimate, loving, family relationship.

“And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, Abba! Father!” (Galatians 4:6) He has called us to be His own family. We’re meant to call Him Daddy, or Papa. He wants to spend time with us, enjoying our company, teaching us and protecting us in life.

As an adult, I learned much more about my earthly father than I did as a child. The more time I spent with him, the more stories I heard that I had never heard before. The same is true with God. Never assume that because you believe in God and accept His salvation that that’s all there is. He promises that we “may know the mystery of God, namely Christ,  in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” (Colossians 2:3) Those treasures aren’t just dropped in your lap. They don’t automatically come after a set amount of time or service. You have to want them. You have to spend time with Papa asking for more. Ask and it will be given. He is delighted to show you the deeper things.

Why should you want to be saved? Because it allows you to know the most magnificent mind in the universe and be called his family and friend. Dive into that and the idea of being saved to avoid hell becomes irrelevant.

Is Christmas a religious holiday?

What Does Christmas Really Mean?

When you think of Christmas, you automatically think of Christmas trees and Santa Claus. Never mind. Enjoy the holiday with your family. Give presents and have a nice meal. Ignore how the date was chosen and all the baggage of those long lost associations. What Christmas really means is that amazing moment when Heaven came to the earth.

Imagine that. The God of heaven coming to earth because He had a plan to love us and save us. Jesus is the Son of God, part of the magnificent Trinity, so yes, God came down to live with us. His plan was to teach us to love as He loves, to trust Him in all things, and to encourage us with blessing and hope for the astonishing future waiting for us. It was the divine appointment meant to set the plan of salvation into action. Next to creation, it was the greatest event to happen on earth.

What does it mean to us today? If we call Jesus Lord, it means a time of reflection that eclipses the tawdry commercialization of the season. It’s a time to wonder at the stunning blueprint written in heaven to draw us into the eternity of His love. You could lose yourself just thinking about how Abraham was picked to be the father of a people chosen to hear the voice of God; about the Godhead living as a child among a people who despised and ignored Him for generations; about the destiny He created for each of us if we honor and love Him with all our heart.

Christmas is when Heaven came to earth in the most divine, lavish demonstration of love we will ever know. Sing the carols of Silent Night, Holy Night and Hark, the Herald Angles Sing. Sing with the joy of thankfulness and wonder of what we celebrate. Heaven came to give us the greatest blessing known to man.

What Does It Mean To Trust God?

 Trust in the LORD always, for the LORD God is the eternal Rock. (Isaiah 26:4)

All you who fear the LORD, trust the LORD! He is your helper and your shield. (Psalm 115: 11)
 
Trust in the LORD with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. (Proverbs 3:5)
 
 Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. [Jesus] (John 14:1)
 
Over and over again we are told to trust God. It should come naturally when we love Him with all our heart, all our soul, and all our mind. But do we? Easier said than done sometimes.
 
We don’t live in a society where we are encouraged to trust God, so when we run into situations that can turn us into panicked monkeys, it’s not always easy to remember to trust the One who excels at making everything work out for the best. Take another look at the scriptures above. Not one of them says, if you feel like it. You will notice that they are emphatic. These are not suggestions, these are commands, because if we will indeed trust in the Lord, He will save us from immeasurable pain.
 
Sounds good, but how do you do it? I remember my small cousin when she was about eighteen months old. My uncle would hold her standing straight and tall in one hand and lift her up so she stood six feet in the air as calmly as if she stood on solid ground. Why? Because she had absolute trust in him. She had no reason to believe that he would allow her to be hurt. The rest of us watched with terrified glee, but she never batted an eye.
 
We must trust God the same way. Don’t let your heart be troubled. This takes some self discipline. Anxiety will come, it will, but then you must rebuke it. Literally rebuke it and then turn to God and tell Him that you trust Him in this situation. When it happens again, you know the drill. Don’t allow your heart to be troubled. Sit back and think of God the Father as the loving God who holds you in His hand and will not allow you to fall. Thank Him for that. The more you acknowledge His goodness and ability to take care of you, but easier it will be to turn your trust to Him automatically. Soon anxiety will have no hold on you. You can be free.
Forgiveness comes from a heart of love.

Forgiveness Is A Necessity, You Don’t Have A Choice

Does it ever surprise you that out of nowhere you suddenly remember an incident that happened years ago that makes you feel uncomfortable? Perhaps someone did something that hurt you or made you angry. You thought you put the whole thing behind you, but there it is again popping up in your memory, and it still bothers you.

I believe that when that happens, the Holy Spirit is prompting us to forgive someone because we didn’t do it before. We hold on to resentment, anger, bitterness over something that happened so long ago we forgot about it, but the emotions are still impressed deep within our spirits. God wants to clean us up, to heal us of past wounds.

I have learned that whenever I suddenly remember a past event like that to pause and think – did I ever forgive that person? No I did not and that’s why the memory and feelings still persist. So now I forgive without question. There’s no reason to hold onto bad feelings, ever. I think that the more we clean out those bad feelings, but easier it is to hear God.

And that’s not the only reason to forgive. “But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” (Matt 6:15) That’s a startling reason to forgive. Jesus told the story of the unmerciful servant (Matt 18:23-35) as a clear teaching on what He expects of us. His blood covers our sin. His blood, tortured from his body. He did that willingly because He loves us so much. If we can’t forgive people after what He did for us, He has every right to not forgive our sins, and we know that the wages of sin leads to death.

Just forgive. It’s not that hard. You just acknowledge you haven’t forgiven that person and do it. Then ask God to forgive you for not doing it sooner. Then be aware of those awkward memories. Ask yourself, do I need to forgive them? Is that why the Holy Spirit is reminding me? Just do it.

God Wants To Give You Treasure, Are You Ready?

A wooden treasure chest with an open lid and illuminated from inside.“I will give you the treasures of darkness and hidden riches of secret places, that you may know that I, the LORD, who call you by your name, am the God of Israel.” (Isaiah 45:3) This verse has always fascinated me. God must be so amused by how much we think we know about – everything. We know so much and yet so little about the human body, life in the ocean, the expanse of space. We think we know about Him. And yet He has the amazing promise that He would show us treasures and riches that have been hidden just so He could reveal them to us.

God is far more giving and generous than we know, yet the Puritan ethic is that we should not ask anything for ourselves. It is somehow selfish to want to be blessed. I don’t think God sees it that way. I think He wants to bless our socks off. Yes, James does warn us, “When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.” (James 4:3) It can’t be denied that selfishness can get in the way when what we want means more to us than God Himself.

However, when our priorities are straight, when we love God with all our heart, all our soul, and all our mind (Matthew 22:37), our loving Papa God says, “Ask of Me, and I will give you the nations for Your inheritance, and the ends of the earth for Your possession.” (Psalm 2:8) He wants to bless us. He’s waiting for us to come to Him as loving sons and daughters so He can pour out blessing that only He can provide. But until He can trust us with the treasure, He will wait until we are ready. We must have a generous soul, a heart of humility, a willingness to be corrected. He won’t trust His treasure to babies. He is looking for maturity and faith to trust Him completely in hard times. He is looking for our love and praise that spills from us like a delighted lover. That one can be blessed with the treasures of heaven.

I wonder about these treasures. Knowing that God is magnificently awesome, His treasures will be mind blowing and I want to see them. So I press in. I want to know Him more. I want to hear His voice and see His face. I want every blessing that belongs to me because it shows me how stunning Papa God is. It makes me so excited I could dance.