What happens when Jesus calls people to follow Him? Here’s what I found in the book of Matthew:
The four fishermen walked away from the family business and followed him without question or delay. (Mt 5:18-22)
Matthew immediately left his job (tax collecting) and went with Jesus. No guarantees, no contract, just complete surrender. (Mt. 9:9)
A religious teacher was ready to go with Jesus anywhere, but Jesus warned him that it would be a life of privation and rootlessness, humanly speaking. We don’t know what he decided. (Mt. 8:19-22)
Another follower asked for a delay in order to attend to family obligations. (Mt 8:21-22)
Still another young man wanted to follow Jesus but valued his riches more—and sadly turned away. (Mt. 19:16-22)
Which of these people do you suppose had the most satisfying lives in the long run? What would it cost you or me to make that kind of total commitment, never looking back, never holding back, no regrets? Is it worth it?
“If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it. And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul?* Is anything worth more than your soul? (Mt 16:24-26)
What do you suppose a person with no Bible knowledge might envision when hearing the phrase, “Seek the Kingdom of God.” Maybe a knight on a white horse setting forth on a noble quest to find the ideal land where God rules in a splendid castle? People who have been around the Bible and church have a general idea of what this phrase is supposed to mean, but isn’t there a way to say this more clearly?
In English dictionaries, the first sense of “kingdom” is a geographical area over which a king or queen rules. And some dictionaries include the people who live there.
So what is the Kingdom of God (or of heaven, which means the same thing)? You may be surprised to realize that seldom, if ever, does it refer to a place. Depending on the context, “kingdom of God/heaven” in the Bible refers either to
a) the subjects of the King (people), or
b) the rule of the King (an event), or His reign as we’d more naturally say.
What if our Bibles had “reign” in the verses that speak of the latter, such as Luke 8:1: “…proclaiming the Good News of the reigning of God.” And where it refers to the subjects of the kingdom, what if our Bibles made that clear as well, such as in John 3:3: “unless a person is born again, he cannot be part of that/those over which/whom God reigns.” This might sound a bit awkward in English, but it’s how languages work in the country where we work. And it’s accomplished by just changing the prefix on the word! So a translator who is doing his/her job needs to study carefully to see what aspect of God’s rule is in focus each time it’s mentioned, and use the correct prefix. And the words come to life!
By the way, here’s a worthwhile post I read today about the reign of God in our lives: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/publiccatholic/2012/11/is-jesus-christ-is-king-the-lord-of-my-life-a-slogan-or-a-fact/
In Exodus 23, I was intrigued to find two verses demonstrating the delicate balance of justice in regard to the poor:
Verse 3: …you must not show partiality to a to a poor man in his lawsuit.
Verse 6: You must not turn away justice for your poor people in their lawsuits.
God’s standards of justice are the same for the rich and the poor, the nobody and the influential person. A poor person isn’t automatically right just because he is poor. Neither is a rich person to be favored based on his economic position and influence. Our God sees us all as equals among His creation, each one having infinite worth and worthy of respect. On the other hand, each of us is answerable to His righteous standards.
A few days ago I was figuring out how to use an Audibible, a small player on which were loaded lots of songs and Scripture readings in a minority language to be used in areas where there is no electricity. One part of the manufacturer’s instructions is particularly important if recharging the player from an electrical outlet instead of using the solar charger. Using a negative instead of a positive charge, I was told, could ruin the player. Fortunately, that information is in the User’s Manual. I just hope whoever uses the Audibible reads and follows these directions!
People are like that. The first human was manufactured from earth—yes, handmade (that’s what “manufacture” literally means) by God. And to Adam and his descendants (that’s us!) the Manufacturer has provided a User’s Manual. If we follow the instructions, things will go well. If we insist on doing it our own way instead, there’s going to be trouble.
So why don’t people read the instructions? Is it because of pride? Stubborn independence? Thinking that they know better than the manufacturer? Why don’t people humbly listen and obey the instructions of the One who made them? Same reasons, I suspect… The results? Just look around and see.
Trust in the LORD with all your heart;
do not depend on your own understanding.
Seek his will in all you do,
and he will show you which path to take.
Don’t be impressed with your own wisdom.
Instead, fear the LORD and turn away from evil.
Then you will have healing for your body
and strength for your bones.
Honor the LORD with your wealth and with the best part of everything
and your vats will overflow with good wine. (Proverbs 3:5-10 NLT)
Ruthie, my teddy bear, was an important part of my young years, and the more I loved her, the faster she aged!
Why did I love my teddy bear? Surely not for her beauty. Not for her abilities. Not because she loved me. Not for any advantages she could provide. But just because she was mine! (I didn’t love my sister’s teddy bear.)
I think that’s why God loves me—and you!
This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins. 1 John 1:10 NLT
“Bask in the luxury of being fully understood and unconditionally loved. Dare to see yourself as I see you: radiant in My righteousness, cleansed by My blood. I view you as the one I created you to be, the one you will be in actuality when heaven becomes your home. It is My Life within you that is changing you from glory to glory…” (from Jesus Calling, by Sarah Young)
Habakkuk is famous for his statement of hope in the the face of impending calamity . First he describes the total devastation of all the staple foods of his land, then he switches the focus to his all-sufficient God and holds it there.
Even though the fig trees have no blossoms,
and there are no grapes on the vines;
even though the olive crop fails,
and the fields lie empty and barren;
even though the flocks die in the fields,
and the cattle barns are empty,
yet I will rejoice in the LORD!
I will be joyful in the God of my salvation!
The Sovereign LORD is my strength! (3:17-18)
How might we paraphrase this for our day?
Even though drought burns up the crops of the Midwest
and super hurricanes devastate coastal cities;
even though the stock market crashes,
our jobs disappear and fuel grows scarce;
even though mysterious diseases run rampant
and nuclear war breaks out;
(and all the other horrible things we imagine and fear)—
yet I will rejoice in the LORD!
I will be joyful in the God of my salvation!
The Sovereign LORD is my strength!
A dinner invitation from God? This actually happened at Mt. Sinai!
Then Moses, Aaron, Nadab, Abihu, and the seventy elders of Israel climbed up the mountain. There they saw the God of Israel. Under his feet there seemed to be a surface of brilliant blue lapis lazuli, as clear as the sky itself. And though these nobles of Israel gazed upon God, he did not destroy them. In fact, they ate a covenant meal, eating and drinking in his presence! (Exodus 24:9-11 NLT)
What an amazing God we have who is always inviting us into His presence! He actually wants to be with us! (See also Revelation 3:20 and 22:17 and lots of other verses throughout the Bible .)
Then what long-term effect do you suppose this experience had on those Israelite leaders? Well, sorry to say, just 40 days later (chapter 32), the people were caught worshipping a golden calf they’d demanded that Aaron make, presumably with the consent of these very 70 leaders who had just seen the true God in all his glory! They even had the gall to greet this image as “the gods who brought [us] out of the land of Egypt!”
How can people, like those leaders, turn so quickly from God’s truth, power, and beauty — to go along with something dead, deceptive and demonic? Is it because our knowledge does not come with allegiance? Have we not totally given Him our hearts and lives? Are we willing to conform to the demands of the rebellious crowds? God, help us to be faithful to You and to Your truth, no matter what!
My husband and I have a defining moment. A crisis time we can look back to when we know that God was definitely with us and had a purpose for our lives beyond that point. We were traveling down a narrow logging road through the mountains when he realized that our Jeep had no brakes. On one side was a mountainside going up, and on the other side was a steep drop-off. And coming toward us was a truck with a full load of huge logs. Pregnant with our second son, I clutched our eldest and prayed like I’d never prayed before. One of our tribal friends jumped out the back, skinning his arms as he hit the gravel road. Just in the nick of time, my husband was able to shift down, and guardian angels guided us to the edge of the road as that truck rumbled past. (Here’s a photo of that old Jeep getting a bath near the river.)
For the people of Israel, that defining moment was the crossing of the Red Sea. They were trapped between mountains and the deep sea with elite Egyptian forces breathing down their necks. But that’s no problem for our great God. He did the impossible, not only saving their skins but annihilating their enemies at the same time. This event is alluded to repeatedly throughout the Bible as the grandest of God’s miracles on behalf of His people and a reminder of His enduring love and power. (For a very interesting perspective on the location of the Red Sea crossing, see this website: http://www.arkdiscovery.com/red_sea_crossing.htm)
Do you have a defining moment you can look back upon when God intervened in a life-changing way?
A very successful leader shared the keys to his success:
Men do not think.
Make the lie big.
Make it simple; keep it simple.
Keep saying it.
Eventually they will believe it.
This was Hitler’s secret.
Only 10% of the German citizens actively supported him. Others stood by, watched and kept silent, avoiding the uncomfortable truth until it was too late. As they heard the screams of trainloads of Jews headed for extermination, they just sang their hymns louder to drown them out, feeling that there was nothing they could do.
Where are we on this cycle?
Bondage > Spiritual Faith > Courage > Liberty > Abundance > Complacency > Apathy > Dependence > and back to Bondage
Hitler’s key was lies; may our key be truth and integrity,
no matter what it costs us!
Let’s keep this standard for ourselves and for our leaders, by God’s help!
Source: New York Times best-selling author Andy Andrews’ book “How Do You Kill 11 Million People?” via www.youtube.com/watch?v=mDKcF—1hEc