Posts Tagged ‘new creation’

sunrise

Sunlight breaks through hotel window.
A building crescendo toward a week to come.IMG_0807

Youth & beyond, a pond teeming
With life, some life anew.
So few moments
but filled with
Something esoteric to this umwelt.
As felt need meets prayers from home
That intercede
For transformation.

For some, simply vacation
But even this offers to displace
The patterns and anxieties normally served
God uses such a swerve
Even as they work up the nerve to speak.

And peek through clasped hands
A glance at a future yet undecided
Confided only in quietest of moments,
After noises fade, we find He has made

New Creation.

And I get to watch them take
first wobbly steps.
Get to speak Hope.

Someday they will run and dance.

And I will too.

 

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Political Climate

As we walk forward, toward the unknown we begin to roam in new altitudes,

and attitudes mixed with platitudes have begun to make it hard to breathe

the hot air just a little too thin, sunlight begins to dim and I realize

I’m in flip flops stopped at the bottom rock looking at the top of a mountain I’m unprepared to climb.

And I’m here today to say, I think that’s okay.

Because this is Mount Political Climate.

You may have noticed a slight decrease in temperature because it’s cold

A system way too old for anyone to question, we’ve steam-rolled the bold ways of discovery

And fell deep into the well of “this is how it’s been done”, and the sun continued to rise

so our decision must be wise. We disguise the misguided attempts at others to deconstruct

Those who might call it corrupt, because they’re simply outsiders, underperformers,

Unprepared misfits who couldn’t handle the climb

But it’s time those of us not clinging to the ledges to look up

And realize what we seek, might just not be the peak

Of Mount Political Climate.  Refuse to Climb it.  Walk Around.

Walk Around.

The sounds should astound us at first, like a thirst that’s unquenchable

Things unmentionable aired out for public consumption, because that shows gumption

Whatever that is.

And the fad is growing to start showing your opponents weaknesses before they get a chance

To show you with your pants down.  The town meeting ignores the fact that

you’re running to be a leader,
Because deep down, they’d rather be amused.

A in the negative, Muse meaning to think, we are a people not thinking

While our patterns go on stinking and bringing about change in ways

we never would’ve chosen On purpose

Getting nervous as we’ve only scratched the surface

The fact is, we deserve this type of leadership, because it’s only a megacosm

Of the micro we live every day

As we live to get paid, and sway situations to shine the sun on our day

I wanna get mine and protect it, and keep others out so they can’t infect it, but don’t try to inspect it,

because – like I told you, it’s mine.

My Mountain of Political Climate.  Refuse to Climb it. Walk Around.

Walk Around.

And so we’ve found that sounding an alarm might just do some good

And it could shake you and I away from what would, toward what should happen, as we’re mapping new routes

As we refuse to climb the foodholds set before us, though others may ignore us, or abhore us,

Our voices join in one chorus,

That healing won’t come by name calling, health is not built by a wall, and one sure way for us all to fall is to try and stand so tall everyone else seems small.

The ball is in our courts, to call our courts to once again view the human in their being.

To start seeing names instead of numbers, to welcome new comers to the table, and perhaps rising above all political noise, is the silent necessity of, Love.

The hidden wealth of nations is not found in vaults, or in banks.

That Power is not found in muscles, missiles and tanks.

That Happiness not found in tickets to Disney and apple pie.

We must go beyond a simple cry for change, and embody what we hope

Facing the ends of our rope, we come together, tethered to something greater than ourselves

Dusting off the shelves of a room we knew well when we were young

Before we became so high strung, and the songs we sung were a lot more inspiring

Not conspiring for one to rise, but to ignore such lies and seek the good of all.

Because, humanity, united we stand, and divided we will fall.

But it’s a Mountain, this Political Climate.  Refuse to Climb It.  Walk Around.

language of (new) creation…

Anyone who has spent time in a land where a different language is spoken knows just how much it can impact your daily existence – even in small ways that add up.  It made me think about something bigger…

There is an ancient language, that has always existed.  Long before we could measure time itself, this language brought order to chaos and spoke form to formless.  The language was shared by both creator and creation, but it didn’t take long before the language was forgotten by those created to speak it into and over creation.

It was the language of love.  The language of life.  The language of new.

The language of God.

The brokenness in what was intended to be natural communication caused pain.  A father whose children no longer knew what it meant that they were loved infinitely and intimately.  These children pursued other sources of identity and value.  So He “called out” a people and enabled them to speak this language with Him.  It was meant to be a living illustration for all peoples, of what life could be like with these new ancient linguistic capabilities.  Finally, the world was ready, and He came down to tear down the walls of silence separating those who could not speak or hear.

The Word was for all.  Some chose to listen, and not speak.  Some chose to speak, and not listen.  Some misunderstood, for the words they heard were not the ancient Word, but merely poor imitations of those who’d grown able to repeat what they’d heard, but had no idea how such grammar functioned.

Yet God continued to hear and speak, and this ancient language was changing lives and bringing redemption to brokenness, light to darkness, love to emptiness, and hope to hopeless.  It is the whisper of a space and time where such language will be the ONLY language spoken by all.  Many have heard the proclamation that such a time has arrived even now, and have begun to speak that way.

But such language was foreign to the self-centered dialects that had been established over time.  As the people aware of this ancient tongue go out speaking the language of New Creation, they grow tired of the constant need for translation and surroundings that don’t seem to understand.  So regularly, these New Creation citizens gather together for encouragement.  They celebrate by joining as one voice and hearing from God, and go out with a renewed commitment to help others recover the language they were born to speak.

Unfortunately, some have allowed such gathering to become the purpose and goal of the language.  We are reminded that the purpose of language is to be spoken.  The purpose of this ancient transforming love and life-giving language is that it would be heard and spoken by all.  It is the language of New Creation.  The language that will transform your home, your community, and our world.  The language of Love found in the life and Words of Jesus Christ.

These words may not always make sense to the language our world has learned to speak.  These words may look foolish.  But they are Love, in ways our creation was made to receive ages ago…and will one day again fully.

Will you hear the Father’s love today?  Will you speak? Will you join with others who need the encouragement of your presence in such endeavors?  You are invited…

 

 

Luv is a Verb (part 2)

So what does THAT look like? It seems to look, like Love. Not love like feelings and mushy stuff and roses. But love like laying down a life for ones’ friends. Love like sacrificing our own desires, and letting go of self preservation for the sake of living naturally as one through whom God loves. It’s not an effort-based thing either, not something they’ve been trying really really hard at, in an attempt to look like the loving Christian they know they’re supposed to be. Like the toddler earlier, it’s not an obsessive compulsion to make sure Loving acts are happening regularly. It’s a natural, and often “giddy” outflow of what exists in the heart sourced in Christ.

King Jesus tells them “for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me. I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.”

I always forget this next verse comes from BOTH those who followed Jesus, and those who did not. They’re taken back, surprised, and ask the King, “Lord, when was this?” They had NO IDEA they were serving and showing love to Jesus. They were simply living out of the New Creation they had been transformed to be. They were living naturally out of the heart of God. It might be tempting in our walk with Jesus to think, “I know God wants me to love each person as if I were loving Jesus himself. So I’m just going to pretend each person I bump into is Jesus.”

But if I look into the face of every person I meet, and only see Jesus, I’m missing out on the beauty and uniqueness of all the individual lives and ways God has shown his creativity. God doesn’t look down on us, and forget our names, faces, and stories, seeing only Jesus. But because of what Jesus has done, God is able to look fully at each of us as individuals. Your name, your story, and all the unique ways He has created you to reflect bits and pieces of God into the world. THAT is how we love, because that is how we have BEEN loved! Once again, the child of God can only do that which they see the Father doing.

So we see the people of God, not aiming for larger mansions in heaven. Not loving the least of these because they know it’s part of their Christian duty. Not even because they see Jesus in every face around them. But because their very nature has been changed. Their reflex is no longer “Self”. Their reflex has become “Love”, even to the very least of these. To those our world overlooks, tramples underfoot, and has forgotten about. Those our world is afraid of touching, or even just, afraid of. To the very last in line, the follower of Jesus is broken as God’s heart is broken toward them. Desiring justice. Desiring to care for them. The orphan, the widow, the poor, the hungry, the powerless, the voiceless, the sick, those with nothing to offer us in return. The people of God naturally reach out in love, with the heart of God. And in each of these cases, it makes us vulnerable. It costs something. It may lead us the way of the cross.

In his book, Bob Goff writes, “That’s because love is never stationary. In the end, love doesn’t just keep thinking about it or keep planning for it. Simply put: love does.”

Or as DC Talk put it back in the 90’s, “Luv is a verb”

This is not a foreign concept to us, as Free Methodists either. John Wesley wrote, “This is the sum of Christian perfection: It is all comprised in that one word, Love. The first branch of it is the love of God: And as he that loves God loves his brother also, it is inseparably connected with the second: “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” Thou shalt love every man as thy own soul, as Christ loved us.”

It seems so simple. It seems a little mushy even. And yet we can’t get away from the fact that it seems to be completely tied to those who anticipate the coming justice and reign of Jesus as Lord fully over all things. It makes these “acts of love” even more vital, and even more connected to what is coming as the Son of Man returns to sit on His Throne. Because we are not just loving to make someone feel good. We are loving as a powerfully subversive statement that says, even in the midst of laws and cultures that say otherwise – LOVE like God’s is the way of my Citizenship. It is the way of my King.

So what is our challenge this morning, in the midst of these Truths? How do we ensure that we don’t end up like the second group? This group may have had a large and honest love for Jesus, because they genuinely wanted to be saved from sin, and wanted to enjoy heaven for eternity. They say to Him, “Wait….when did we even see you, and have a chance to offer you food, drink, clothes, or invite you in?” To them Jesus gives the same response, “..just as you did or didn’t do for the least of these, who are members of my family, so you did for me.”

How do we begin moving in the direction of the first group, who’s knee-jerk response was to love without regard? Based on what we hear Jesus describing in his response about what the son can do, it would seem we first need to start with realizing what the Father is doing. And what the Father IS doing? is loving.

God. Loves.

God Loves you, no matter what you come from, and no matter how you’ve lived toward Him. God loves you, whether you’re important and people listen to you, or you have very little influence and a timid voice. Whether you are a decision maker, or whether life pretty much dictates what road you have to travel. God loves you.

But also, God loves them. The people on the other side of the street, that make so much noise or act so different it makes you uncomfortable. God loves them. Those imprisoned for making horrible choices, and living what seems to be comfortably in broken lives. God loves them. Those who completely disagree with you theologically, politically, and work hard to make sure your efforts fail. God loves them. You. Love. Them.

And as we’ve talked about already, Love is a verb. God loves you. God loves them. God is pouring out His Spirit to unite your heart with His, so that you can actually experience Love for your enemies. So that you can be broken with God’s heart for them. So that you can look at the least of these, and not see Jesus, but actually see someone who is called “BELOVED” by God. So that you can look in the mirror, and not see your accomplishments or your failures, but actually see someone who is called “BELOVED” by God.

What if this week, as people are making giant lists of things they’re thankful for. For homes, for food, for clothes, for comforts, or many other blessings. What if you became united in solidarity with those who have very little thanks to offer, beyond the love of God? I’m not saying cancel your family dinner, and tell all the relatives you’re going down to work in the soup kitchen instead….although you’re certainly welcome to do so. What I’m saying is, to be aware of how beloved you are. To exist, as my Pastor has said before, with the “radical preoccupation with the preciousness of others.”

To ask God even now, that He would give you His heart. That he would transform your mind. That his ways of love in our world would be revealed to you, so that you can do exactly what you see Him doing. So that you can love in such a response to the love of God that you forget you even heard this story about it being Jesus you’re loving.

That will naturally look different in each of our lives. Each of us has a unique place in our communities and families. Each of us has unique things we can offer in love to others. But each of us has….LOVE. Love that responds to hunger with food. Love that responds to thirst with drink. Love that responds to those left out by inviting them in. Love that clothes the naked, cares for the sick, and visits those imprisoned.

Not because doing these things earns us the right to be called “Sheep”. But because we have been made into New Creations. We have been born again as Children of God, and have received New Life in Christ. We are made free from sin – for a reason. The justice of God is coming one day fully in Jesus Christ. We look forward to that day. And we proclaim that day, by living under His Lordship even now. By acting according to the ways of His Kingdom. Citizens not of the law, but of Love in which the law finds it’s perfect fulfillment.

It’s why we serve, and work toward the justice of God, even though we know it will fall short until Jesus returns. Because as we read in 1 Corinthians 13:7, “Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.”

The altar is open this morning, as we close with a final hymn, “Come, All Christians Be Committed”. A hymn of invitation that speaks about offering our lives to the Lord, and offering our love to each other.

Maybe you’ve already made the commitment to accept Jesus as your savior. But maybe today, you’ve heard God calling you to make a commitment to Love as God loves. To become saved not simply for yourself, but for the sake of being enabled to show love to others. Whatever the case, or if you simply want to thank God for His love….I invite you to respond to God for a moment before you click out of here and go about your day…

Intent vs. Content

My 5 year old daughter Ruby is picking up on a lot of things.  Recently we were driving home from a friends’ house, when from the back seat we heard her proclaim, “Dad!  I know when God’s going to make New Creation!”  I smiled, simply for the fact that my 5 year old knows there’s something to look forward to besides Heaven.  But then I was curious, after all – God seems to favor using children to proclaim important/new things.  So I asked her, “When?”

“At the end of this age!”

Wow.  In a few moments, my daughter was speaking of things I hadn’t really grasped until reading NT Wright talk about the concept of ” αἰώνιος Eyes wide, I turned to my wife who was almost as surprised as I was.  Her face quickly changed, however, and she simply said, “What did you expect?  She hears you talking about it all the time.” with a loving smile on her face.

Whaddya’ know?  Parenting works.

There followed a short conversation, where I excitedly tried to explain to our daughters how Ruby was right, although New Creation had already started too!  To which Ruby responded with something between anxiety and confusion, “But daddy, I thought the dead people would come alive?”  Calmly I tried to explain as best as I could that scripture tells us that anyone who has accepted Jesus as their source of life, is already a part of the New Creation yet to come.  It’s hard for me to grasp, so I can only imagine how many more conversations we’ll have as she grows.

Nevertheless, it was a great reminder that we easily learn all the right words to say.  Whether it’s a 5 year old talking about New Creation, or a 40 year old praying at the altar on Sunday morning, we learn the vocabulary and use it.  Influenced and flavored by prayers we’ve grown up with, worship songs we’ve sung, and the theology we prefer, we bring our prayers to God – often already knowing what the exchange will look like.  Already aware of the CONTENT we will present to God, and the CONTENT He will give in return.

BDataNeverSleeps_2.0_v2ecause whether we’ve developed self-control over how we interact with it or not, we all exist in a world where CONTENT floods our lives.  In the form of Tweets, Instagrams, Headlines, Blogposts, Facebook Posts, and more, we have become a never-ending culture of creating/consuming CONTENT.  It hits us head-on when we wake up, and the waves continue lapping the shores of our devices well into the hours we should be sleeping.  That influences our children and their development, but also impacts our lives, how we relate to each other, our family friends, and even God.

But we’re reminded by the story in Matthew 22:15-22 that Jesus sees beyond our words and actions.  We may fool other people.  We may even fool ourselves.  But Jesus knows our hearts.  The Pharisees came trying to trap Him with their fancy words, and question aimed at accomplishing what they wanted.  Jesus calmly responds with a question, and directs them to yield themselves to God fully.  Just as the coin stamped with the image of Caesar belongs to Caesar, so a man/woman who has been created in the image of God belongs to God.

We are both challenged by this, and encouraged.  We are challenged as we realize God is not impressed or distracted by the “#self” we present to the world.  We cannot show Him our polished areas, and hold back the things we’d rather not yield.  God calls us to give ourselves completely, proclaiming by such submission – Jesus is Lord even now!!  (and we are His New Creation!)  And therein lies the encouragement.  Submission to God opens up an existence as His New Creation, and serving a Lord who knows us intimately.  Todays’ “Insta-Tweet-Booked” existence can be lonely and consuming.  Smashing through such an existence is a God who knows us well beyond the images and 140 characters we share with others – and proclaims His overwhelming Love for us…

..and sends us out to do the same for a world that so deeply needs to be known…and Loved. 🙂

Valuable Kingdom

As we begin these thoughts, I want you to imagine with me. You’ve been given a large amount of money, and commissioned to find an amazing artistic masterpiece for a large wall in an important public building here in town. Experts pointed you the direction of a world-famous artist, and you’ve come to her studios to ask about what she might be able to offer you. You tell her about the large wall you’ve been asked to help fill. That you want something beautiful, awe-inspiring, with colors that jump off the canvas. She smiles as if she knows just what to do next. She opens a catalog of artwork she’s done in the past, and tells you to pick out your favorite. You are naturally drawn to one in particular, and you point to it. With a smile again, she guides you to an enormous room where you see a giant laser printer that just about takes up the space of the side wall. She punches in some numbers, and slowly but surely, the print you’ve just pointed to begins to come, inch by inch out of the printer. She smiles, tells you the price is only a small portion of the money you’ve been given, and asks you the sign the bill. But something doesn’t feel right, and you ask her… “Wait…couldn’t you do an original work of art for us, of the same size? How much would that cost?”

She presses pause on the printer, and looks you directly in the eye. She says, “Well of course I could. Sorry, I didn’t know you were open to that. I’d love to create something just for your wall. But that requires a bit more.”

She pulls you into a giant room with a canvas hanging against the far wall. It’s enormous. The floor is lined with all shades of the rainbow, and colors and textures you’ve never imagined. In a pile near them are brushes…some as small as a paperclip, and others as large as your head. She begins describing to you the process of creating a new work of art. How she spends weeks learning about the location, and who visits. How she then does research into how different colors evoke unique emotions to the residents in that area. Next she travels to remote locations to find ingredients that bring out the particular colors, and textures she’s looking for….and to help ensure this is a painting that can never be reproduced anywhere. You know the people who have sent you will be more than pleased by all of this. She then warns you, this may take several months to complete…and will definitely take all of the money you’ve been given. Possibly more.

But as she offers you the contract to sign….you quickly find your pen….knowing this will be exactly the kind of fine art you’ve been asked to locate for display.

The scripture we’re diving into this morning is a short one, and one that most of us have heard before. Here we get to be a fly on the wall in some of the most important conversations between God and humanity about this “new thing” He’s beginning in Christ, and what it’s all moving toward.

Jesus has just given the parable of the sower, and then the parable of the weeds among the wheat. He’s using parables to explain the Kingdom of Heaven in a way that anyone hearing his words would understand, even if they can’t explain it theologically.

We have the benefit, now, of knowing the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Yet still, these parables hold truths about the Kingdom of God that are great for us to think about. I think we often sell the Kingdom of Heaven short…and God needs us…God needs YOU to help get the message of the Kingdom out today.education_pearl

This past week, I asked my daughters what thoughts came to their mind when I said “Kingdom of Heaven”, or “Kingdom of God”.
Before I tell you their response, it’s probably important for us to take a look at what scriptures say regarding these phrases.

First, we recognize that even though they sound different, they usually mean the same thing. Most of the time, the New Testament refers to it as the “Kingdom of God”…but in the book of Matthew we find both being used interchangably. In Matthew 19:23-24 for instance, Jesus tells his disciples “It will be hard for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the Kingdom of God.”

So now that we know these are talking of the same thing…lets see what scriptures tell us about this Kingdom:

For example, in Luke 7:28 – “Among those born of women, none is greater than John. Yet the one who is least in the Kingdom of God is greater than he.” – Based on this verse, where Jesus says “is”, and not “will be”…we realize the Kingdom is a present reality, not simply a future occurrence. This goes well with the parable of the weeds found here in Matthew 13. Jesus has sown good seed in his field, and in verse 41 Matthew writes “The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his Kingdom all causes of sin and all evildoers.”

Then in Matthew 18:3, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like little children, you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven.” – So even though it’s a present reality, it’s not one we naturally exist within with no participation of our own. It’s something we need to “enter into”.

So it’s here already, though not everyone is living according to it, and it will yet involve something more arriving as the parable of the weeds says, “the end of the age.” The fulfilling and completion of what has begun in Christ.

Once again, it’s a concept so much larger than we can simply contain in a phrase that starts with, “See, God’s Kingdom is this….” So we say many different things, all pointing at what God is up to in different ways. We understand this, even on a human level…when something incredibly beautiful or special happens.

When someone gets married, or has a child…inevitably, a question they’ll often be asked is, “How’s married life?” or “How’s the life of a parent?” These questions can’t be answered simply in a short response. The only real way to answer the question faithfully would be to invite that person to join in experiencing your life in a given point and even then….it’s tough to fully know the experience without being involved. A bystander will never know.

Thankfully, we’ve been invited to do much more than hear about, or look forward to this “Kingdom of God”. It has arrived, is arriving in and through our lives all over the world today, and will arrive completely someday in the future. So by now we’ve realized, this Kingdom is less about a castle, and golden streets, and walls surrounding a specific physical domain….and more about the King.

So we find perhaps a better way of speaking about the Kingdom of Heaven/God, is to say “Where the rule and reign of God exists”.

But that still leaves some questions, and Jesus is offering a response to some of those questions in these parables. The first question he addresses is, “Why is God waiting for the Kingdom to arrive completely?”

We can, and probably often do, echo that same question in our own lives. Why is God allowing such horrible things to happen? Why is such suffering and loss being allowed to exist in a world that God desires to bring healing and restoration to? Where is the light in the darkness?

To that question, he tells the parable of the weeds. That the sower of seeds allows the weeds to grow, because if he came down to remove them right away, he would destroy some incredibly beautiful and precious things that are growing as well. So he allows them both to grow, and when it’s time he has his reapers go out and collect the weeds first, from out of the fields…leaving only the wheat.

He then tells two more quick parables on the same topic of waiting. Parables that we hear often, but usually it’s for some other reason, like encouraging us how something small can make a large impact. But that doesn’t seem to be the main purpose of these illustrations, however true it may be. What Jesus is alluding to here, are some amazing things take time and careful consideration as they grow.

Just as a mustard seed must have time and resources in order to grow from a tiny seed, sprouting roots and branches over time so that it’s large enough that the birds of the air might come and make nests in it.

In the same way, bakers are familiar with the time it takes, sometimes days, for a small amount of yeast to mix itself into what he says here is about 60 pounds of flour until it worked all through the dough. Jesus is acknowledging….yes…we are waiting. Yes, it seems like something should be done much faster….right away, in fact. But this is not about God swooping in and punishing as many people as possible. This is about the Kingdom growing, and having time to spread throughout the world, and all the precious and important ways the Reign and Rule of God is breaking through even now.

Then Jesus switches gears. Yes, he admits, the Kingdom is taking a while to come about completely. But that’s okay…you know why? Because what is happening, and what is coming….is so incredibly worth the wait. In fact, it’s more valuable than anything you can imagine!!

The first way is easy for us, It’s like a treasure hidden in a field – found, and hid – joyfully worth selling all you have to buy that field.  Like I said, this one’s easy. The return on our investment is larger than what we put into it.  It seems like he could go back and buy whatever he gave up originally to purchase the field.

The second is not as easy, and yet just as important. A merchant in search of fine pearls, finds a pearl of great value – worth selling all you have to buy it.  This one is a little harder for us. Once you’ve sold everything, all you have is this pearl. You have nothing else. But the Kingdom is such that once we recognize it, and know our life is all about this sort of thing…we are willing to let go of everything else we once declared valuable for it’s sake.

So to God’s people in the midst of suffering then, and still today, the words of Jesus are coming as a comfort and encouragement. God isn’t denying our world is feeling the impact of being broken by sin. He admits there are weeds growing among the wheat. But He is declaring that the ways His Kingdom is growing in our world today is worth the wait we patiently endure. It’s worth it!!! That can be hard to imagine, but when we have God himself saying it…it becomes a bit more believable.

But it’s not all great news, Jesus continues. Not everyone will accept that what God is doing is “good news”. It’s like a net thrown into a sea, catching all kinds of fish. The net was drawn in, with every fish imaginable within it. But some were not good, and were thrown out.

At the end of the age – the same thing. Chapter 13 says, “Angels will come and separate the evil from the righteous and throw them into the furnace of fire.”

We know that not everyone will accept the reign and rule of God in their lives, or for the world. Some will fight it with everything they’ve got. Some will set their hearts and lives against it….some will built entire empires and ways of life completely in the opposite direction. God’s net of the gospel goes out intending to draw all of mankind unto Himself that we might be a part of the coming reign and rule of God….but not everyone will be able to accept Jesus as Lord. We see that happening even today, unfortunately. But it’s not yet time for the sorting to be done…and that’s not our work anyhow. At the end of the age, the angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous. Those accepting and thriving or suffering to live in the reign and rule of God, and those who live for the reign and rule of other forces. For those denying God’s reign and rule, it will be suffering like never before as their complete foundations for existence are ripped away.

Then Jesus closes with an incredibly important word that we do not want to miss. In verse 51, he looks at his followers as a youth pastor might look out over his teens. He asks, “Everyone still with me? Everyone tracking and following what I’ve been saying?” They respond enthusiastically, “Yes!”

He smiles, and tells them that every scribe who’s been trained for the Kingdom of Heaven is unique. They are like the owner of a house who brings new treasures and old out of storage. Jesus is pointing out that one of the best ways to spread news of the Kingdom of God is to point out what God has been doing already for hundreds of years. What God has been up to, both in the Old Testament, through the new testament and even today. Treasures both old and new. He is bringing redemption, dwelling among his people, transforming lives and healing creation. Making all things new, and already we see New Creation breaking through those who are in Christ.

And so we have the secret that’s not so secret. The truth that Jesus died to proclaim. The thrust of the gospel that we can sometimes miss. Ready to hear it?

When we live out the reign and rule of God, we are not only proclaiming but we are ushering in the very real existence of the Kingdom of Heaven here and now.

The movie “Heaven is for Real” came out on DVD this past week, and people all over the country are thinking about this topic. They’re looking forward to golden palaces and streets, and escaping the suffering of this world. But we recognize once again this morning, that a “Heaven” of golden streets and castles is not all we look forward to. If you’ve ever traveled I-80 around Walcott, Iowa, then you have a good picture of what I’m talking about here. The “World’s Largest Truck Stop” features several restaurants, convenience store, arcade, movie theater, dental offices, pet grooming, laundromat, barbershop, chiropractor, church services, auto repair, oil changes, and of course….gas. It’s an incredible place to stop and rest. Even spend some quality time. But it’s not intended to be your final destination. So it is with Heaven. God has promised it’s a great place to be. Jesus declared he’s gone to prepare places for us there, and it has many rooms. But it’s temporary housing, as we all look forward to the New Creation that will be brought about as God’s reign and rule come fully like never before.

When I asked my daughters this past week, what comes to mind when I say “Kingdom of God”, can you guess what their responses were?

“A golden castle” was the very first response. I don’t know whether to blame Disney or simply smile and be okay with that level of understanding. But somewhere along the way, I have got to help my daughters understand the Kingdom of God is less about a castle and streets and more about who our lives proclaim as Lord even today.

The Kingdom of God becomes a present reality we are not only enabled, but called and commissioned, to live within here and now. As we do so, we are in the same place as the physically resurrected Jesus Christ. We are declared “New Creations” in Christ, and transformed so that our very being is no longer of this age, but comes to us from a future age when God has completed all that He has begun long ago.

This is incredibly valuable stuff! There’s nothing our world has to offer that can compare to it. It’s worth more than anything your life might be tempted to wrap itself around. It’s a greater pursuit than any achievement your world sets before you. It’s worth waiting for, and there are beautiful things happening even now.

So I ask you the same question Jesus asks his disciples in verse 51.

Have you understood these things?

Will you go out into the world this week, proclaiming a new understanding of the Kingdom of God? Because there are people in your life who need to hear what God is saying this morning. God is not waiting for some cosmic mathematical equation to finally arrive so that his mysteriously decided date arrives and he can finally move on to the next phase of his plan. The reign and rule of God is breaking through in your life and mine RIGHT NOW, and is transforming as the treasures of His Kingdom are bearing fruit in our world….fruit that tastes like New Creation. Fruit that points to the ways and experiences we will share with our Lord and with each other, for an eternity when all things have been made new completely.

The world is full of suffering. You hear voices of doubt, asking where God is in the midst of it all. Will you allow the mustard seed the time and care it takes to grow? Ask God for patience.

Maybe sin has impacted your life. You’ve been on your knees in desperate prayer, calling out to God in the midst of darkness. But you are not in a dark room waiting for a candle to be lit. The sun has risen, and you are watching it ascend to the brightest time of day. Will you trust in Him through the suffering in your life this week?

You struggle with the temptations of our world. Focused on self, or pleasure, or losing control to anger or greed. You’ve chosen things other than God lately. Will you set down all the things of this world, and stop chasing after the false values and riches this world offers – and trade them for pursuing the valuable treasures of God’s Kingdom? That is the beginning of His call on our lives this morning….may our lives be our response this week…

Living a future reality…today.

Many of us already know the story of Matthew 15:21-28…check it out really quick if you need a refresher. I’ll wait…

Ready? K. The Canaanite womans’ faith. The Gentile woman who approaches Jesus because her daughter is tormented by a demon. At first glance, it seems to be an example of Jesus being a bit prejudiced, telling her “It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” (“dogs” here being a slang term for Gentiles) It feels wrong to read about Jesus denying a woman the healing of her daughter, based on where she was born. But as we realize the grand scheme of what’s happening here, I believe it brings us a new challenge…one that’s illustrated well here.

Jesus talks often about why God has sent him, and we see Him fulfilling all that God has been doing throughout the Bible up through this point in the story. He chose a people, Israel, and it was through Israel that God salvation was coming to all. The entire life of Jesus was pointing to a dramatic transformation that was going to happen as the Kingdom began to arrive on Earth as it was in Heaven.

IMGP9182But none of that had happened yet. As Jesus gives instructions to His disciples in Matthew 10:5-6, he tells them to “..go nowhere among the Gentiles, and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” We know that Jesus did not come to abolish the law, or this group of people living by it. He came to be the fulfillment of that law, and those people.

So here in chapter 15, we have a Gentile woman approaching Jesus, asking for consideration of her daughter. Something any of us could understand. But God’s Word and promise in the Old Testament proclaimed that salvation would come to all but it was to be through the people of Israel…the people of the covenant. They had to hear the good news, and be reminded of the promises of God…and it would flow out from them for all. For Jesus and his followers to do it any other way, would be to make God into a liar.

And even though that’s the message going out from Jesus and His followers, we see there are moments where people buck the system. The excitement about what God is doing has already begun leaking beyond the people of Israel, and people want to know more about it. They’re thirsty to experience it. Sometimes they’re even more thirsty than the people God made His promise to a long time ago. Maybe that’s why the scriptures include stories like this, and the story of the centurion in chapter 8. Maybe that’s also why these stories stayed in the scriptures even as God’s activity did spread out as the Spirit of God was poured out over all, and going out to all nations. Today, we’re all considered descendents of Abraham (Galatians 3), and yet this story is still an important one to remember.

The question from the story of this Gentile woman comes to you and I as we begin a new year together: You see, God has promised a new way of life is coming and has now come. That He will make a New Heavens and New Earth – a complete “New Creation” for us to live within someday. But He’s also leaked a bit of it into our existence today. The ways of New Creation are not something we have to wait for. Like this anxious woman, the full realities and explanations are not what concern us….what we know are the simple facts: God has made new creation life possible even today. Our lives and our world are desperate for people who live from God’s Love, mercy, grace, faith, and Holiness. Will you live from a reality that will be fully present someday – NOW? Just as Jesus responded to the woman here who was stepping out on faith….He responds to you and I….when we make decisions to live as New Creations even today…

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