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Archive for the ‘Kingdom’ Category

The One Thing

Ragamuffin Soul asked a really good question. He asked, “If I Would Only [blank], Then They’d Know I Was A Christian…”

The answers are really good and sometimes hilarious. But what caught my attention is that no one, who was being serious, said, “Know more Bible verses” or “Attend more church.” When it really comes down to it, I think we know what it really comes down to. Of the serious answers, about half came down to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit and love.

I dig that.

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The Coolest Thing

The coolest thing I heard today was while reading, “The Tangible Kingdom.

“We have to remember that the ancient faith communities that set a course to change the world did so without church programs, without paid staff, without websites, and without brochures, blogs or buildings.  They were lean!  The point of going without all the stuff is simple but profound.  When you don’t have all the “stuff,” you’re left with a lot of time to stpend with people.”

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A Sign Of Truth

In this age of turmoil, wouldn’t it be cool if there was a sign that let us know we were encountering truth. Something so distinct that it just has to be from the divine side of things. And I’m wondering (out loud) if perhaps there is.

I was walking my dog the other night and just sharing my heart with Papa.  And I kept thinking about all the times I’ve come to a realization about the Kingdom of God. The more I follow Jesus the more I realize that His kingdom is one that is entirely bent towards freedom and love in the context of responsibility.  The more that I choose to participate in what He’s doing the more I sense a tremendous freedom in my heart.  Things are aligned.

What struck me was how often these realizations seem like “common sense” the moment I encounter them.  The kingdom just seems to make sense once I’ve experienced it.  I’m getting use to the word “brilliant” as a adjective to describe it.  But I am also struck by the notion that these realizations didn’t appear common the moment before I encountered them.  They were hidden to me.

And on that walk I began to realize that truth resonates at a very deep level of the soul.  It feels right in a global kind of way.  And it’s fruit is release from oppression.  The Spirit seems to move in a way that frees me from some kind of blindness that keeps me locked in a form of self-perpetuated brokenness.  But the moment I encounter truth, I am freed from that oppression.

Jesus said, “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32)

So I’m wondering if the sign of truth is not that we have all of our belief systems in order, or that our logic passes muster with the intellectual elite, or that our doctrine is perfect, but that truth releases us to freedom. Truth releases us to be whole people.  It has a distinct feeling of lifting, of a weight being taken off, of permission to be.  Freedom releases us from the past to be real people in the present.  It restores our dignity so we can restore those around us.  That was the feeling I encountered on my walk.  And it was good.

FYI: This post was inspired by a post from Monachus Bellator.  Check him out.

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This post is probably going to push your buttons.  And in some respects I want it to.

What is that one thing that, that one situation you could find yourself in that you would not respond in love?  It’s called the exception.  We all have our exceptions, our limits.  And they usually involve people.

Jamie Arpin-Ricci asks a really important question. “How Do We Love The “Worst Of Sinners”?  His example is the pedophile living in the midst of his community.  The pedophile is that one example our minds run to as an common example of when it instinctively makes sense to choose protection or punitive justice over love.  “These people” need to be kept in check.  It’s just easier to push away the pedophile, to the outskirts of town where he can’t do any harm.  It’s easy to understand the natural inclination to want to protect our children from further harm.  I get this feeling deeply as a father of three children.

And I’m not just speaking this from the outside.  I actually know two men who were pedophiles.  When I was a young teen, I was the active target (unknowingly) of not one but two pedophiles.  One was a man who discipled me and a group of boys in our church and one was my coach.  Both were Christians. Neither got to me and both were caught after having molested a boy.

And I look back now and ask, what does restoration look like for these men?  Is it isolation and punishment? Is it an island? Is my own restoration found in becoming judge, jury and even executioner? And it’s not just about the exception.  It’s never really about the worst case is it?  Each moment I encounter someone who has hurt me, or someone around me, I am faced with a possibility of being their judge.  And there is an almost universally, natural inclination we picked up in the Garden to push those who do harm away or worse to strike back.  Neither answer brings restoration.

What if the exception is the problem?  What if when we hold out for that one exception we unknowingly create one for ourselves, that we then allow others to use against us.  Jesus said:

Matthew 7:2 – For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

What if this was to protect us as much as restore us?  What if Jesus was trying to tell us, “Don’t create that exception because your own restoration is found just beyond the exception”?  To love, which I hold is the best expression of our design as humans and the reflection of our own wholeness comes on the other side of the cross.  And the cross had no exception.  If it did, it would first apply to us.  And do we really want an exception for ourselves?  To hold onto an exception was to hold onto the very thing that kept us from being restored.

I find the tension lies not just in what pedophiles (or anyone) have done but that what they have done reveals the limits of our own willingness to love, which then reveals the gap between who we are designed to be and what we currently are. And we don’t like this awareness, do we?  We don’t like seeing our own brokenness.  And the question then becomes for me, what is the real problem: that they have done something I will likely not suffer the consequences for…or, that I will not love to the extent that God loved me.

One of my favorite verses in Scripture is Hosea 11:9:

“I will not carry out my fierce anger, nor will I turn and devastate Ephraim.
For I am God, and not man—the Holy One among you. I will not come in wrath.

I love it because God reveals something deeply important about wholeness.  The whole response was always to choose love and restoration.  This is the cross, the willingness to choose forgiveness over retribution.  The cross revealed that there were no limits to love, that it would go all the way.  Wholeness was to choose love in any given circumstance, even the exception.

Love sees beyond what the person has done, essentially our depravity, and helps uncover the person’s dignity.  And a lot of times this meant suffering.  It meant standing with the saints and sinners, the tax collectors and adulterers, the child molesters and pedophiles and say, “What you have done does not define who you are.”

What if every moment, every encounter with brokenness is an opportunity to forgive and show them the love that looks like the cross, to reveal a kingdom that has no exception?  And the truth is, I want to be part of that kingdom.

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One of my favorite stories in Scripture is the Parable of the Prodigal Son. Some call it the parable of the Loving Father. And easily missed is the story of other son.

I don’t think the story is complete without the other son. He provides so much emotion and context for how people can feel when God exhibits profound mercy. The other son is the good son, the son that did it right, the son that did what he was supposed to do. The other son has truth on his side.

And I realized while reading this that grace and mercy are an offense to religion. They are offensive to my carefully constructed attempts to please God on my own. Mercy doesn’t make sense. It requires me to think outside of what I assume is justice.

And this is the journey within the kingdom. Which son do we connect with? Which son do we most feel like?

The other son makes me ask a question. Will we be surprised IF God chooses to restore all of His kingdom in the latter days? Will we be disappointed or even angry if His grace extends beyond our measure, the one that we have constructed? Will we respond, “How could you forgive so and so? How could you let HIM enter?”

And will we have any leg to stand on if He doesn’t do it our way?

BTW: After I wrote this I found this from Tracy.

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Luke 15:11-32

The Parable of the Lost Son

11Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. 12The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.

13“Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. 14After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. 15So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. 16He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.

17“When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.’ 20So he got up and went to his father.
“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.

21“The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’

22“But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.

25“Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. 26So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. 27‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’

28“The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. 29But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. 30But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’

31” ‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ “

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jesusface.jpg

Dad,

It sucks down here. The people just don’t get it. I keep trying to show them what you look like and they just don’t seem to want to listen. They whine and complain. They abuse the snot out of each other and just won’t stop bugging me about sending lightning down. What’s with that? I perform miracles and they want more. It sometimes feels like a circus.

This guy came up to me and told me He wanted eternal life, which was good. But then I told him that He was going to have to sell his possessions and follow me. He bailed! Why couldn’t he see that it was crippling him? Everyone in the crowd kept talking about how hard it was to follow me. Can’t they see that their stuff is holding them back?

And then when I was talking to the crowd, one of the teachers came up to me and tried to trick me. Are you kidding me? He started asking me about the law. Very funny. I could see it coming a mile away. I really stumped him. I kept thinking, “When is this guy going to quit?”

Not everything is hard. I really love John. He’s got your spirit. He loves to love and I dig that. He keeps asking me about the deeper things like, “What is the word?” I love that. You’ve given him such a keen heart and mind.

Peter gets it. He took the risk to trust and figured out that he really could walk on water. I wish more of the disciples would figure that out. If only they could see what they are really capable of if they would believe. The loaves and the fishes thing took a little while though. They didn’t quite understand why I asked them to feed the people. And then nobody said thank you. Can you believe it?

One of the things that keeps me going is your beauty. The other day I sat in the wilderness and a butterfly sat on my knee. And just when I was feeling tired you gave me your sunset. You are so creative, so willing to show us your goodness. I love seeing that in the midst of the brokenness.

I also spent time with Nicodemus yesterday. He wants to meet alone. He’s concerned about what everyone will think and I keep telling him it doesn’t matter what they think. He doesn’t quite get that yet. In time, I guess.

We’re going to finish this aren’t we? We’re going to redeem what you started. I love that. It’s not easy but it’s worth it, isn’t it.
In your love.

Jesus

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If anyone in their 20’s is exploring what it means to live into the Kingdom of God, Mustard Seed Associates is looking for your stories. See below.

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For an upcoming issue of the Seed Sampler, the monthly e-zine of Mustard Seed Associates, we are focusing on “20-Somethings Living Alternatively.” We are looking for stories and exampler from college students and young professionals who are seeking to live into the kingdom of God that is already here. How have you responded to the call to be part of God’s redeeming work in the world?

Some of you are living in radical intentional community. Some of you grow vegetables without pesticides. Others are volunteering regularly with inner-city kids or homeless families, while still others are throwing regular parties to celebrate family, friends, and life together. You advocate, study Scripture, reject consumerism, paint, sing, dance, pray, and love. We want to hear about it.

Please send your stores and examples to Judy Naegeli at mail@msainfo.org by April 14th, 2008. They may be included in the May issue of the Seed Sampler. If you do not already receive the Seed Sampler by email, sign up at www.msainfo.org.

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