A Different Kind of Kingdom.

So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. 10 And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, 11 and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” Acts 1:6-11 ESV

Jesus has been resurrected from the dead and has appeared to the disciples on a variety of occasions over a 40-day period of time. Their sorrow at His death has been turned to joy and their attention has been turned from thoughts of defeat to victory. Which is what led them to ask Jesus, “Lord, has the time come for you to free Israel and restore our kingdom?” (Acts 1:6 NLT). Their question revealed where their minds were. With their friend and Messiah alive and well, they must have assumed that this was start of something big. He was back, and He was going to do what they had hoped He had come to do all along: Set up His Kingdom of earth. They were still thinking of an earthly Kingdom, with Jesus ruling and reigning in Jerusalem just as King David had. It was their desire for this Kingdom that had led James and John to make a bold request of Jesus:

“When you sit on your glorious throne, we want to sit in places of honor next to you, one on your right and the other on your left.” – Mark 10:37 NLT

They had been looking for places of power and prominence in Jesus’ royal administration. But Jesus had responded to their request with a question:

“You don’t know what you are asking! Are you able to drink from the bitter cup of suffering I am about to drink? Are you able to be baptized with the baptism of suffering I must be baptized with?” – Mark 10:38 NLT

And when they assured Jesus they were willing and able, He told them:

“You will indeed drink from my bitter cup and be baptized with my baptism of suffering. – Mark 10:39 NLT

With Jesus risen from the dead, they thought all their troubles were over. But they were about to begin. Jesus had warned the disciples that the world would hate them, just as they had hated Him. He also told them that they would be persecuted by the world, just as He had been persecuted (see John 15). And later on in the book of Acts, we will read that James was put to death by Herod.

1 About that time Herod the king laid violent hands on some who belonged to the church. He killed James the brother of John with the sword, and when he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also. – Acts 12:1-3 NLT

John wrote of his Rome-enforced exile to the island of Patmos in the opening lines of his Book of the Revelation.

I, John, your brother and partner in the tribulation and the kingdom and the patient endurance that are in Jesus, was on the island called Patmos on account of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. – Revelation 1:9 NLT

So, these two brothers, who had hoped to sit on either side of Jesus in His earthly Kingdom, were to suffer for the kingdom instead, just as Jesus had predicted they would.

But in those halcyon days just after Jesus’ miraculous resurrection from the dead, the disciples were all thinking about an earthly kingdom, with them serving in positions of power and prominence. But when they had asked Jesus if the time had come for Him to set up His Kingdom, He responded, “The Father alone has the authority to set those dates and times, and they are not for you to know” (Acts 1:7 NLT). In other words, Jesus told them not to worry about it. That was not to be their focus. Instead, He tells them about something else of greater importance that was going to take place.

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” – Acts 1:8 NLT

They were going to receive power, but of a different kind than they had imagined. This would not be the kind of power that comes with a position of authority. It would be the power made available to them through the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit. Jesus was talking supernatural power from within, not some form of assigned or appointed power that came with a position or title. And this power came with a very specific purpose. They were to be witnesses. But Jesus uses a very interesting Greek word to describe their Spirit-empowered role. It is the word, martys, which is most often used in the New Testament to refer to someone who has been a first-hand observer of an event. But it can also mean “martyr” – those who after Christ’s example have proved the strength and genuineness of their faith in Him by undergoing a violent death (Outline of Biblical Usage). It is interesting to note that the disciples would indeed become witnesses in the more traditional sense of the word, but virtually all of them would end up dying martyr’s deaths as a result of their efforts. Like the prophets of the Old Testament, these men were receiving a God-ordained responsibility to speak of all that they had seen and heard about Jesus. And they would be empowered by God for their task, because they were going to need it. Their message would not be well-received. Telling people about Jesus, while often referred to as the “good news”, would be a costly proposition for the disciples. As we will see, Peter and the others were repeatedly jailed for his efforts. They found themselves the subjects of arrest and severe beatings. Stephen was actually stoned to death immediately after preaching a message to a gathering of Jews.

And what the disciples were going to learn through all this was that the Kingdom had come, but not as they had expected. Jesus’ reign was a spiritual one, and it manifested itself in the lives of men and women. His power and authority was made visible through the transformed lives of those who placed their faith in Him as their Savior. And as we will see, His Kingdom would begin to grow in leaps and bounds, as His followers increased in number with each passing day.

There is an interesting encounter between Jesus and the Pharisees, recorded by Luke in his gospel. They come to Him and ask Him a question.

One day the Pharisees asked Jesus, “When will the Kingdom of God come?” – Luke 17:1 NLT

This is almost the same question that the disciples asked. They had wanted to know when Jesus was going to restore kingdom status to Israel. The Pharisees had a different motive. They were wanting Jesus to talk about His Kingdom so that they could accuse before the Roman authorities as an insurrectionist. They didn’t believe He was the King of the Jews or the Messiah. They saw Him as a fraud and wanted to expose Him as nothing more than a political troublemaker. But Jesus responded to their question anyway.

“The Kingdom of God can’t be detected by visible signs. You won’t be able to say, ‘Here it is!’ or ‘It’s over there!’ For the Kingdom of God is already among you. – Luke 17:20-21 NLT

Once again, Jesus had a different definition of the Kingdom of God. During one of His trials, Jesus had been asked by Pilate, the Roman governor, “Are you the king of the Jews?” (John 18:33 NLT). And Jesus answered quite plainly, “My Kingdom is not an earthly kingdom. If it were, my followers would fight to keep me from being handed over to the Jewish leaders. But my Kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36 NLT). Notice that Jesus does not deny being a king, He simply says His Kingdom if not of this world. It is far more significant than any earthly kingdom. And when Pilate asked Him again, “So are you a king?”, Jesus responded, “You say I am a king. Actually, I was born and came into the world to testify to the truth. All who love the truth recognize that what I say is true” (John 18:37 NLT). Citizenship in Jesus’ Kingdom was not based on birth, but new birth. It was not based on ethnicity or lineage, but on faith. Members of the Kingdom of God are those who have placed their faith in His Son, believing the truth about who He was and what He came to do. Jesus came to restore sinful men and women, separated by their sin from God, to a right relationship with the Father. The apostle Peter describes us as “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession” (1 Peter 2:9 ESV).

But that day, standing in the presence of Jesus, their risen Lord and Savior, the disciples were forced to watch as He disappeared from their sight. Once again, they found themselves losing the One in whom they had placed all their hopes.

10 As they strained to see him rising into heaven, two white-robed men suddenly stood among them. 11 “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why are you standing here staring into heaven? Jesus has been taken from you into heaven, but someday he will return from heaven in the same way you saw him go!” – Acts 1:10-11 NLT

He was leaving, but He would be far from gone. He was sending His Spirit to indwell and empower them. Matthew records these final words from Jesus, spoken to His disciples.

18 “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. 19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. 20 Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” – Matthew 28:18-20 NLT

Jesus would be with them, in the form of the Holy Spirit. His power would flow through them. His ministry would continue because of them. And, the angels assure them, one day Jesus will return. And John, in his Book of the Revelation, records what that day will be like.

Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen. – Revelation 1:7 ESV

He is gone, but still here. He has returned to His rightful place at His Father’s side, but He is coming back. He is King of a spiritual Kingdom, but one day, He will establish His Kingdom on earth. So, when the disciples asked, “Lord, has the time come for you to free Israel and restore our kingdom?”, the answer was, “Not yet.” But that day is coming. Because Jesus is King.

 

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson
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Courage to Pray.

For you, O Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, have made this revelation to your servant, saying, “I will build you a house.” Therefore your servant has found courage to pray this prayer to you. And now, O Lord God, you are God, and your words are true, and you have promised this good thing to your servant. Now therefore may it please you to bless the house of your servant, so that it may continue forever before you. For you, O Lord God, have spoken, and with your blessing shall the house of your servant be blessed forever. – 2 Samuel 7:27-29 ESV

2 Samuel 7:18-29

God had promised to build David a house. Not a building made of wood and stone, but a lasting heritage. His promise concerned the future of the Davidic kingdom. One of David’s descendants would sit on his throne in Jerusalem and to his kingdom there would be no end. Of course, we know now that this promise to David had far greater ramifications than David could have realized at the time. Hundreds of years later, the angel, Gabriel, would announce to Mary, “And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end” (Luke 1:31-33 ESV). So while the short-term fulfillment of God’s promise to David would involve the reign of his son Solomon, God had far greater things in mind. There is a day coming when Jesus, the Son of God and a descendant of David, will sit on His throne in Jerusalem and reign over the world in righteousness and truth. Part of the vision given to John that he recorded in the book of the Revelation tells us, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever” (Revelation 11:15 ESV).

Everything that God had promised to David came to pass. We can look back and see that God fulfilled every aspect of His promise to David. And the amazing thing is that God did so in spite of David, in spite of Solomon, and in spite of the people of Israel. God’s promise would remain intact even while the kingdom of Israel went through a split and its people suffered two deportations and captivities at the hands of their enemies. God’s promise would survive hundreds of years of an empty throne and the subjugation of the people of Israel to outside forces. He would eventually send His Son as the fulfillment of His covenant promise to David. When Jesus began His earthly ministry, He boldly proclaimed, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15 ESV). In a real sense, His kingdom had come. He was the Messiah, the long-awaited descendant of David who came to rule and reign over the people of Israel. But Jesus did not set up His earthly kingdom at that time. Of course, that was what the disciples were anticipating. That was what they were hoping he would do, which is what led them to argue over who was going to get to sit on His right and His left when He established His kingship. But as Jesus told Pilate, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world” (John 18:36 ESV). At His first advent, Jesus did not come to establish an earthly kingdom. Yes, He came as King of kings and Lord of lords, but His was a heavenly kingdom. He came to rule and reign over the hearts of men. He came to defeat sin and death, not the Romans. He came to set people free from slavery and subjugation to sin, not from the tyranny of Roman rule. But the day is coming when He will fulfill God’s promise completely. At His second advent or Second Coming, He will come once again to earth, but at that time He will come to reign. He will come in might and power, and prepared to finish what He began. The book of Revelation describes that scene. “Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords” (Revelation 19:11-16 ESV).

Like David, we wait for the final fulfillment of God’s promise. And like David, God’s promise should give us courage to pray. We should be able to come to Him in boldness, based on His promise to us, and ask that His will be done. Especially at times like we are experiencing as a nation, we should pray that God bring about the final fulfillment of His plan. We should long for and pray for the coming of Christ to take away His Church. We should regularly ask God to bring about the Second Coming of His Son. We should desire what God has promised and planned. He has said it. He will do it. We should pray for it – courageously and expectantly.

As Right As Reign.

Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. – Matthew 6:10 ESV

Matthew 6:9-13

What do you want more than anything in the world? What is it you dream about, worry about, obsess about, or think you just can’t live without? A good way to tell what is it we really want and desire is to take inventory of our prayers. You can tell a lot about a person by examining the kinds of things they ask God for or by simply figuring out what it is that motivates them to pray in the first place. Sometimes it is a tragedy or some kind of trouble that gets us on our knees. We find ourselves in a place of difficulty and suddenly we find the time and the motivation to take our problem to God. What we want is peace. We want deliverance from our trouble. We want God to do something to get things back to “normal,” whatever that is. There are other times when our desires are even more transparent. We come to God asking for good health, protection for our children, peace in the world, direction for life, healing for a friend, a promotion, a better marriage, or even the motivation to grow spiritually. But in Jesus’ model prayer, He would have us remember that there is something far more important than all of these things. In fact, it is essential to understanding where everything else fits in on the priority scale of life. Remember, Jesus said, “Pray then like this…” He wants us to use His prayer as an outline for making our requests made known to God, and one of the first things He encourages us to do is to ask for God’s kingdom to come and His will to be done – “on earth as it is in heaven.” So before we begin making our will made known to God, we should desire that His will be done – in the world and in our lives.

The kingdom of God. The will of God. These two things have to do with rule and reign, power and authority, sovereignty and dominion. As the people of God, we should desire these things. We should want them more than anything else. Why? Because His kingdom is righteous, good, loving, just, and holy. In the same way, His will is perfect, good, righteous, holy and just. We should want what God wants. We should desire that God rule and reign in us and over us. Paul tells us, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2 ESV). Life in this world has polluted our minds, causing us to desire those things that, in the end, lead us away from God, not to Him. We need our minds renewed, our desires refocused – on God and His will. Later on in this same chapter in Matthew, Jesus tells His disciples, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:19-21 ESV). In other words, we are not to get wrapped up in and obsessed with the things of this world. Instead, we are to have a kingdom mindset. We are to see our lives as part of the greater kingdom of God. And when we find ourselves too wrapped up in the things of this world, worrying about what we’re going to eat or wear, Jesus gives us the antidote: “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:33 ESV). We are to make the rule and reign of God our highest priority. We are to desire His righteousness, His will, His dominion over all things – including our very lives. Paul reminds us, “For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of what we eat or drink, but of living a life of goodness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Romans 14:17 ESV). In his letter to the believers in Thessalonica, he told them to “live your lives in a way that God would consider worthy. For he called you to share in his Kingdom and glory” (1 Thessalonians 2:12 NLT).

When we come to God in prayer, we should do so with a desire to see His righteous reign lived out in us. We should want His will more than anything else. Our will takes a backseat to His, our kingdom is annexed by His, His rule reigns supreme – on this earth just like it does in heaven. Wanting the will of God is a game-changer. It impacts everything else. It should change the way we pray. It should alter our expectations and dramatically influence our petitions. When we want His rule and reign to be supreme, we will be able to focus on seeking His righteousness rather than worrying about all the stuff that sidetracks us and distracts us from what really matters. God’s will is always good and acceptable and perfect. Why would we ever want anything else?

Your Kingdom Come.

Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. – Matthew 6:10 ESV

Matthew 6:9-13

Jesus gave His disciples an example of the kind of prayer they were to pray. It was to be done in humility, not for the praise of men. It was to be done privately, with an awareness that God was the primary focus. It was to be direct and to the point, not accompanied by an over-abundance of words or cleverly worded language. Prayer is not our attempt to tell God something He does not know. Jesus told His disciples, “For your Father knows what you need before you ask him” (Matthew 6:8 ESV). When we pray, we are not bringing God up to speed on all that has happened in our lives over the last 24 hours. He already knows. We aren’t even informing Him of our needs. He knows those as well. So why pray? Because He has given us the privilege of coming into His presence. Because He is our loving Father and we should long to have a relationship with Him. To some degree, prayer is less about sharing information than it is about sharing our hearts. God wants to hear from us, and we should want to hear from Him. We should desire to know His heart and get His perspective on all that is happening in our lives. Prayer should be a two-way dialogue that includes both talking and listening. We are not there to tell God what to do. He is not some kind of cosmic genie who is obligated to grant us our wishes. He is the God of the universe and the creator of all things. He is sovereign, so He knows what is best and He knows what He is doing. Prayer is our opportunity to come before Him and realign our perspective, to refocus our attention on what really matters, and yes, share our personal cares and concerns.

But Jesus would have us remember something extremely important. It seems that this realignment of our perspective is essential to prayer. Jesus said, “Pray then like this…” (Matthew 6:9 ESV), and the second example He provided us was “Your kingdom come, your will be done” (Matthew 6:10 ESV). When coming before our heavenly Father, we are to do so with a focus on His kingdom, not our own. The tendency is for us to try and use prayer as a form of leverage to get what we want from God. We bring our well-thought-out lists of requests, expecting Him to answer every one of them according to our wishes and on our timeline. But Jesus would encourage us to come before God with a desire to see His kingdom come, His will be done. If nothing else, this conveys an attitude of worshipful submission to and trust in God’s wisdom, love, and power. Obviously, this does not mean we can’t bring our requests to God. Paul strongly encourages us to do so. “The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God” (Philippians 4:5-6 ESV). We can and should share our requests with God, but always with an attitude of humble submission to His will. We are welcome to share with Him our needs and desires, but we should do so with an expectation that He will do what is best, because He knows best. When the apostle Paul prayed for others, his desire was that they would know the will of God – “we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding” (Colossians 1:9 ESV). There is no doubt that we spend a great deal of our lives devoid of an understanding of God’s will. We don’t know what He is doing. We can’t see what is happening behind the scenes. We have a limited perspective and are driven to conclusions by our immediate circumstances. We are also prone to focus on temporal solutions to perceived problems. If we are sick, we pray for healing. If we are in financial straits, we pray for a solution. If we’re out of work, we pray for a job. But what is God’s will in all of this. Why would we pray for His kingdom to come, for His will to be done? Because at the end of the day, there is something far greater going on than our individual lives and our tiny, temporary personal kingdoms. When we pray, “Your will be done,” we are acknowledging to God that we desire His will over our own. We are letting Him know that we trust His plans and submit our own to Him. So if what we ask for does not come in the form we requested or in the timing we desired, we don’t panic or get angry, we rest in His will. Martin Luther put it this way: “Grant us grace to bear willingly all sorts of sickness, poverty, disgrace, suffering, and adversity and to recognize that in this your divine will is crucifying our will” (Martin Luther, Personal Prayer Book, pg 33). There is a certain sense in which prayer is where we come to grips with God’s will. We bring our desires, requests, needs and aspirations to Him, but we walk away with a greater desire to see His will lived out in our lives. To pray for God’s kingdom to come and His will to be done is to acknowledge or deep dependence upon Him. It is to desire His rule and reign to be evidenced in our own lives. It is to long for His will to be accomplished through our lives. When you begin your prayers that way, it will dramatically alter the manner in which you bring your requests to Him. You will hold them up to Him with loose hands. You will cling to them lightly, knowing that His will is best, and should He choose to say, “No” to your request, it is for a very good reason. And you will be okay with that.

2 Samuel 3-4, 1 Corinthians 4

Faithfulness to God.

2 Samuel 3-4, 1 Corinthians 4

Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful. – 1 Corinthians 4:2 ESV

One of the primary things that set David apart from Saul and just about every other Israelite of his day was his heart for God. It wasn’t just an internal thing that difficult to see, but it showed up in how he lived his life and how he interacted with others. David had a healthy love for and fear of God. In spite of all that he had been through over the years and the injustices he had suffered, he refused to compartmentalize his life and live with a secular-sacred split. But the temptation for all followers of God is to view life as a kind of dichotomy that includes the spiritual as well as the secular dimensions. In other words, we can easily see church and Bible study as one part of life and work and recreation as another. We can end up acting one way on Sunday and another way the rest of the week. But for David, there was only one set of behaviors that were appropriate: those that honored God. So when two men showed up at his door with the head of Ish-bosheth, the son of Saul, they were expecting to receive a reward from David. “And they said to the king, ‘Here is the head of Ish-bosheth, the son of Saul, your enemy, who sought your life. The Lord has avenged my lord the king this day on Saul and on his offspring’” (2 Samuel 4:8 ESV). But instead of a reward, they lost their lives. David remained faithful to God. He did not place himself as judge over Ish-bosheth any more than he had over Saul. David’s response was not what these two men were expecting. “But David answered Rechab and Baanah his brother, the sons of Rimmon the Beerothite, ‘As the Lord lives, who has redeemed my life out of every adversity, when one told me, “Behold, Saul is dead,” and thought he was bringing good news, I seized him and killed him at Ziklag, which was the reward I gave him for his news. How much more, when wicked men have killed a righteous man in his own house on his bed, shall I not now require his blood at your hand and destroy you from the earth?’” (2 Samuel 4:9-11 ESV).

What does this passage reveal about God?

God desires our faithfulness. He wants His followers to view life from His perspective, not their own. It would have been easy for David to have seen the actions of these men as beneficial to his kingdom cause, but he knew that, ultimately, his kingdom was up to God, not himself. It was not his job to act as judge over Ish-bosheth or any other descendant of Saul. David seemed to know inherently what Paul would write centuries later: “Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful” (1 Corinthians 4:2 ESV). David knew that God wanted him to remain faithful – not to his own kingdom, but to God Himself. This was not about David’s kingdom, but God’s. The whole reason Saul’s reign had ended poorly was because he had lost sight of his role as nothing more than a servant of God. Saul had neglected to see himself as nothing more than a steward of God’s kingdom. When he saw that David was to be his likely successor, rather than rejoice in God’s choosing of him, he attempted to kill him – all in an attempt to prolong and protect his own kingdom. But the Israelites were God’s people, not his. The throne was God’s, not his. The kingdom was God’s, not his.

What does this passage reveal about man?

One of the things we men struggle with most is the biblical concept of servanthood. We have been conditioned to make everything about ourselves. We have been trained to put ourselves at the center of our world. We have developed a highly myopic outlook on life that focuses all our attention on ourselves. But as believers, we must always remember that God is to be the focus of our attention. We exist for His glory, not our own. David was not seeking glory, but instead, he was seeking to remain faithful to God. That’s why he did not rejoice in the death of Saul or Jonathan. He wasn’t grateful to the young man who claimed to have killed Saul. He wasn’t happy when Joab killed Abner, the commander of Saul’s armies. He didn’t reward the two men who took the life of Ish-bosheth. Because David wasn’t focused on his kingdom. He was focused on God’s. When we focus all our attention on us, we can become cocky and proud. Paul saw this attitude in the Corinthians believers. “Already you have all you want! Already you have become rich! Without us you have become kings! And would that you did reign, so that we might share the rule with you!” (1 Corinthians 4:8 ESV). But like David, Paul had a different perspective. “We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are wise in Christ. We are weak, but you are strong. You are held in honor, but we in disrepute. To the present hour we hunger and thirst, we are poorly dressed and buffeted and homeless, and we labor, working with our own hands. When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we entreat. We have become, and are still, like the scum of the world, the refuse of all things” (1 Corinthians 4:10-13 ESV). For Paul, faithfulness was more important than popularity or significance. Honoring God with his life was more important than receiving the honor of men.

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

David may not have looked like a king, but he acted life one. His actions reflected the heart of a man who had a heart for God. When David mourned the death of Abner, rather than celebrate it, the people of Israel noticed. “And all the people took notice of it, and it pleased them, as everything that the king did pleased all the people” (2 Samuel 3:36 ESV). His actions were pleasing to men because David was attempting to please God. His focus was on remaining faithful to God. When I get that reversed and attempt to please men rather than God, it never goes well. If I attempt please me, it ends up even worse. My life is to be lived out with God as the focus and my faithfulness to Him as the objective. Paul would remind me, “So don’t make judgments about anyone ahead of time—before the Lord returns. For he will bring our darkest secrets to light and will reveal our private motives. Then God will give to each one whatever praise is due” (1 Corinthians 4:5 NLT). I am to live my life with an eye on pleasing God, both now and in the future, when I stand before the Lord at the judgment seat of Christ. I am to live with a future perspective, not a temporal one. My rewards are coming later, not now. If I seek the praise of men now, that will be my reward. But if my actions today are motivated by the future praise of God, they will exhibit my faithfulness to Him and protect me from making self-centered decisions and seeking the praise of men.

Father, I want to be faithful servant. I want my life to be an example of what it means to live with Your kingdom s the focus, not my own. Thank You for this timely reminder from the life of David and the pen of Paul. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

Joshua 17-18, Acts 14

Taking the Land.

Joshua 17-18, Acts 14

So Joshua said to the people of Israel, “How long will you put off going in to take possession of the land, which the Lord, the God of your fathers, has given you?” ­– Joshua 18:3 ESV

As Joshua slowly began to divide up the land that had been conquered into portions for the various tribes of Israel, it became apparent that there was not enough land to go around. There were still seven tribes who had yet been given their allotments. But the problem wasn’t a lack of land, it was that the Israelites had not yet completed their job of dispossessing the current occupants of the land. So Joshua had to confront the people about their lack of initiative and follow through. God had given them the land. He had promised to give them victory over the inhabitants of the land. But they were still going to have to do their part, and until the did, many of them would miss out of the intended blessings of God. Over the Psalms, we have a prophecy regarding the rule and reign of Jesus as Messiah or King. It reads, “The Lord said to me, ‘You are my Son; today I have begotten you. Ask of me, and i will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession’” (Psalm 2:7-8 ESV). God had promised to give an heir of David all the nations of the earth. That heir was Jesus, the rightful heir to the throne of David. When Jesus commissioned His disciples, He told them, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8 ESV). In essence, Jesus was telling His disciples to “take the land.” They were to enter into enemy territory and take possession of it for the Kingdom of God. He had warned them that they were going to be like sheep among wolves, finding themselves in a constant battle with the forces of evil in the world. They would be arrested, beaten, and dragged before the authorities, but Jesus encouraged them, “And when they bring you before the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities, do not be anxious about how you should defend yourself or what you should say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say” (Luke 12:11-12 ESV). They were in a war, but they would be backed by the power of God.

What does this passage reveal about God?

God had a job for His people to do. The Israelites were to take possession of the land, relying on the power of God and resting in the abiding presence of God. In the same way, the apostles were to take possession of the land in the name of the King, Jesus Christ, and claim it for His Kingdom. Jesus had commissioned them to go and spread the Good News to all the nations of the earth. They were to enter into enemy land and take possession of its inhabitants, making them citizens of the Kingdom of God. Paul, Barnabas, John Mark, Peter, and the others were soldiers in the army of God, doing battle with the powers of darkness and facing daily opposition to their cause. Their war wasn’t metaphorical. It was real and there were actual casualties, like Stephen, who had been stoned to death for proclaiming the name of Christ. Paul was stoned and left for dead in Lystra. He and Barnabas had been forced to flee from Iconium because the unbelieving Jews and Gentiles threatened to stone them to death. But “they continued to preach the gospel” (Acts 14:7 ESV). Even after his stoning, the next day Paul was in the city of Derbe, where he “preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples” (Acts 14:21 ESV). These men viewed themselves as commissioned members of the army of God. They were fighting on behalf of the cause of Christ, and were willing to risk anything and everything for their King and His Kingdom. God had promised to give the nations as an inheritance to His Son. These men were simply doing their part to make that promise possible. They were going places Jesus had never been. They were taking the message of the Kingdom of God to parts of the world where Jesus had never had the opportunity to go. Jesus had told His disciples, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father” (John 14:12 ESV). This promise from Jesus has less to do with the quality of the works than their quantity. The sheer number of disciples moving out and spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ, backed by the power of God and equipped with the Spirit of God, would result in many more miracles taking place. There were be even more conversions. The Gospel would spread to places it had never been before. But only as faithful men did as they were told to do.

What does this passage reveal about man?

We have our part to play. God has chosen to make the message of His Son and His Kingdom made known through us. God has promised to give the nations to His Son as His inheritance. But as citizens of His Kingdom, it is our job to go before Him and take possession of what is already rightfully His. We must act as ambassadors and emissaries of His Kingdom, increasing the size and scope of His Kingdom on earth. This world belongs to God and His Son. It is currently occupied by enemy forces, those who oppose God and who refuse to acknowledge His Son as the rightful heir to the throne of God and as their King. Our job is to make the King known. Our obligation is to do battle with the forces of darkness, in order to set free all those who are held captive by the power of the enemy. Paul reminds us, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12 ESV). We are in a battle. It will not be easy, but we know that the land belongs to our King. We know it has been promised to Him by our God. We fight on His behalf and have the full backing and authority of God behind us in the form of the Holy Spirit. But as Joshua said to the people of Israel, God asks us, “How long will you put off going in to take possession of the land…?” (Joshua 18:3 ESV). We must not become distracted by the cares of this world. We must not allow ourselves to fall prey to the lie that there are more important things for us to do. We have a commission. We have a job to do.

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

It is amazing how easily I can allow living my life to take place of my true purpose as a child of God. I can make it all about me and my own comfort and happiness. But I have a job to do that has been given to me by God Himself. Paul, Barnabas, Stephen, and Peter were committed to the cause of Christ. It was the focus of their lives. It was their reason for being. They took their commission by Christ seriously and spent their days spreading the news of Christ’s Kingdom anywhere and everywhere. They entered into enemy territory, taking possession of the land for the name of Christ. They faced constant opposition. They lived with a real threat of danger. They knew that their lives could end just as Stephen’s had. But they didn’t hold back. They didn’t get distracted. They saw the size and scope of the need. They realized the vast nature of the task at hand. The land lay before them. It was theirs to take. And there is still territory that remains in enemy hands today. There are still those who are held captive and have yet to hear the good news of Jesus Christ. It is our job to continue what the apostles began.

Father, give me a passion for Your cause. Give me a heart to fight for the Kingdom of Your Son. May I live my life like Paul, Barnabas and Peter did. Forgive me for making it all about my kingdom instead of Christ’s. Forgive me for getting distracted from the cause and allowing myself to put off what You have called me to do. Give Your church a renewed sense of calling and the courage to take the land in the name of Christ. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

 

1 Corinthians 7:25-40

A Matter of Priorities.

1 Corinthians 7:25-40

But let me say this, dear brothers and sisters: The time that remains is very short. So from now on, those with wives should not focus only on their marriage. Those who weep or who rejoice or who buy things should not be absorbed by their weeping or their joy or their possessions. Those who use things of the world should not become attached to them. For this world as we know it will soon pass away. – 1 Corinthians 7:29-31 NLT

As Paul continued to answer the questions he had received from the believers in Corinth, he summarized his response with a call to reconsider their priorities. Most of their questions had to do with whether certain things we worth doing or not. Should they get married or remain single? If they were married to an unbelieving spouse, should they leave them? Should a believing couple abstain from sex in order to make their marriage more holy? Paul’s advice, considering the growing persecution they would face, was simple and direct: “I think it is best to remain as you are” (1 Corinthians 7:26 NLT). If you’re single, stay that way. If you’re married, remain so. But then he told them something incredibly significant that seemed intended to refocus their priorities. He informed them that the time was very short. They needed to have more short-term, rather than long-term goals and objectives. They needed to understand that there was going to be a day when the Lord returned. No one knows that day, but it is inevitable and unavoidable. Paul had no idea when the exact date of Christ’s return would be, but he knew that his own time on earth was limited. He understood that this world is a temporary reality and has a limited shelf life. Most of the questions he had received from the Corinthians were evidence that they viewed this world and their life in it as a high priority. Paul was trying to give them a more eternal perspective.

The words of Paul is this passage are difficult for us to hear and even more difficult for us to agree with. He tells the married men, “So then those who have wives should be as those who have none” (1 Corinthians 7:29b NET). This sounds radical and even unbiblical. What is he saying? It would seem that Paul is trying to tell married men to not focus all their attention on their married state. He is not suggesting that they abandon their responsibilities as husbands or that they no longer love their wives as Christ loved the Church. He is telling them that nothing in this world – marriage, singleness, sorrow, happiness, material things or physical pleasures – should demand all our attention and distract us from our true calling as Christ-followers. “For this world as we know it will soon pass away” (1 Corinthians 7:31b NLT).

Paul wanted them to be free from the concerns of this life. He was not suggesting that they abandon their responsibilities and live some kind of ascetic lifestyle, denying themselves any kind of enjoyment or pleasure from this world. He was simply trying to get them to rethink their priorities and refocus their attention on what was really important. For Paul, it was simple. A single man or woman had more available time to serve the Lord. They could dedicate more of their life to Kingdom causes, without having to feel guilty that they were neglecting their marital responsibilities. The more earthly ties we have, the more difficult it will be for us to focus our attention on the things of heaven. This world has a way of distracting us from the things of God. It isn’t that the things of this life are evil or wrong, but if we’re not careful, we can end up focusing all our attention on temporal issues and lose sight of the fact that we are eternal beings and this world as we know it is not our final destination. At the end of the day, Paul just wanted the believers in Corinth to set the priorities of their lives so that they could serve the Lord as successfully as possible. “I want you to do whatever will help you serve the Lord best, with as few distractions as possible” (1 Corinthians 7:35 NLT).

One of the constant risks for us as followers of Christ in this fallen world is to find our value and meaning from the things of this world. We cannot afford to let whether we are married or not define who we are. We cannot afford to let our possessions, or lack of them, define who we are. We cannot afford to let our sadness or happiness determine who we are. We must constantly remind ourselves that we are, first and foremost, disciples of Christ. We are His ambassadors. We are citizens of His Kingdom, not of this world. We are temporary residents in this temporal environment. This world is not our home. We must constantly protect ourselves from divided interests. Again, Paul is not encouraging the Corinthians or us to abandon our earthly responsibilities, but to manage them wisely. Our problem is that we tend to add more and more responsibilities and earthly distractions that keep us from focusing our attention on the spiritual aspect of our lives. We live under the delusion that this world is all there is and that we must grab as much of it as possible while there is time to do so. But the end result is that we become burdened down with distractions that take our eyes off the Lord and absorb all our time, preventing us from serving Him effectively. For Paul, serving God was priority number one. That objective had to be considered at all times. Anything that distracts us from making Him our highest priority has to be evaluated and re-prioritized. That does not mean that we have to leave our spouses, quit our jobs, abandon our friendships, sell all our possessions, or dedicate our lives to full-time Christian service. It simply means that we must never allow anything to become more important than our relationship with and dedication to God. The truth is, when we make Him our highest priority, we become better husbands and wives, fathers and mothers, employees and employers, friends, neighbors, and citizens. It is when we understand that we are to have no other gods, no other idols, no other sources of worth or worship, that we are able to live in this world, but not be absorbed by it.

Father, reset our priorities. Make us Kingdom people who live with the future in mind. Don’t let us buy into the lie that this world is all there is and that we must grab as much of it as we can while we can. Don’t let us lose sight of what is of real importance: Our relationship with You. Amen.

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

Day 111 – Matthew 25:1-26:5; Mark 14:1-2; Luke 22:1-2

The King And His Kingdom!

Matthew 25:1-26:5; Mark 14:1-2; Luke 22:1-2

“But when the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit upon his glorious throne.” – Matthew 25:31 NLT

One of the themes of the Gospels that most of us seem to overlook or simply ignore is that of the Kingdom of Heaven. When we think of the Gospels, we tend to concentrate on Jesus as the Savior of the world. Because we are 21st-Century believers living in a western context, the whole idea of a King and a Kingdom does not resonate with us. But we have to remember that the New Testament is in harmony with and a fulfillment of the Old Testament. Jesus was the one who had been promised by God to Abraham. “And the Lord came to Abram, and said, I will give all this land to your seed; then Abram made an altar there to the Lord who had let himself be seen by him(Genesis 12:7 BBE). That word translated “seed” is important. It can be translated “seed, offspring, or even descendants.” So it would be natural to assume that God is promising the land of Canaan to Abraham’s descendants. And that would be a right assumption. But Paul gives us an even better understanding of this passage. He writes, “Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. He does not say, ‘And to seeds,’ as referring to many, but rather to one, ‘And to your seed,’ that is, Christ” (Galatians 3:15-16 NASB). In other words, when God made His promise to Abraham, He was saying that, ultimately, He was going to give the land to Jesus, a descendant of Abraham, but also the Son of God and the King of kings. The land would belong to Him as its rightful ruler.

The Gospels are full of references to the Kingdom. In fact, when Jesus came into the world He was a fulfillment of countless Old Testament prophecies that predicted and promised the coming of a King, a descendant of David, who would sit on his throne forever. God had promised David, “Furthermore, the Lord declares that he will make a house for you – a dynasty of kings!…Your house and your kingdom will continue before me for al time, and your throne will be secure forever” (2 Samuel 7:11, 16 NLT). But it had been hundreds of years since a descendant of David had ruled from a throne in Jerusalem. In fact, since their return from exile in Babylon, Israel had had no king at all. Then there was a 400 year period of oppression under a string of different countries, most recently Rome. The king who sat on the throne when Jesus was born was Herod, an Edomite, and not a descendant of David. But Jesus WAS a descendant of David. The lineage of Jesus found in Luke traces His line back to David through Mary. This establishes Jesus’ legal claim to the throne. The lineage found in Matthew traces the line of Jesus through Mary. This establishes Jesus’ hereditary claim to the throne. When Mary and Joseph obeyed the decree to go to their ancestral home for taxation purposes, they went to Bethlehem. “And because Joseph was a descendant of King David, he had to go to Bethlehem in Judea, David’s ancient home” (Luke 2: 4 NLT). Jesus was of royal pedigree.

What did the angel tell Mary when he announced to her God’s plan? “You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David. And he will reign over Israel forever; his Kingdom will never end!” (Luke 1:31-33 NLT). Her son would be a king. He would rule just like David did, but His kingdom would be everlasting. Some time after Jesus’ birth, even the magi came looking for a king. “Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the east and have come to worship Him” (Matthew 2:1-2 NLT). At the birth of John the Baptist, his father, Zechariah prophesied about the royalty of Jesus even before He was born. ”Then his father, Zechariah, was filled with the Holy Spirit and gave this prophecy: “Praise to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has visited and redeemed his people. He has sent us a mighty Savior from the royal line of his servant David” (Luke 1:67-68 NLT).

Why is this so important? Because Jesus was not just born to be our Savior, but to be King. The reality is that, one day, He will be King over all mankind whether they believe in Him or not. Paul reminds us, “Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other names,that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:9-11 NLT). But we will not all worship Him in the same way. Some will be His loyal subjects. Others will bow in subjugation. Some will be citizens. Others will be slaves – the captives of war. Some will be welcomed into His presence. Others will be cast out. Jesus’ redemptive work on the cross, made it possible for men to be restored to a right relationship with God, so that we might live in His eternal Kingdom, under the righteous rule of Jesus Christ, forever. He will be our Savior AND our King. In fact, He is our Savior and King even today. But the problem is that, too often, we want to welcome Jesus as Savior, but refuse to let Him rule in our lives. We accept His gracious offer of eternal life, but we want to be the ones who rule and reign over our own lives.

Jesus spent a great deal of time teaching about the Kingdom. It was going to be drastically different than the one the Jews were anticipating. They were looking for a conquering king who would establish His kingdom on earth and set them free from subjugation to Rome. But Jesus came to establish a different kind of Kingdom. He came to set them free from slavery to sin. He came to release them from captivity to Satan and to release them from the condemnation of death as rebels against God. So much of what Jesus said about the Kingdom had to do with His future return. He was going to come back. And when He did, He would set up the kind of Kingdom the Jewish people had long been waiting for. Jesus taught about His eminent return as King. But it would not take place until He had suffered and died, paying the penalty for the sins of mankind. He would have to redeem mankind before they would accept His rule over them. Without His offer of salvation, we would never accept Him as sovereign. But the whole story of the Bible is about the righteous rule and reign of God over His creation. Jesus was born as King and He was crucified as King. At His trial, the soldiers mocked Him as King. “They dressed him in a purple robe, and they wove a thorn branch into a crown and put it on his head. Then they saluted him and taunted, “Hail! King of the Jews!” (Mark 15:17-18 NLT). On the cross, the sign that was nailed above His head carried the charge, “The King of the Jews.” As He hung on the cross, the religious leaders mocked Him as King. “He saved others,” they scoffed, “but he can’t save himself! Let this Messiah, this King of Israel, come down from the cross so we can see it and believe in him!” (Mark 15:31-32 NLT). Jesus died because He was King. But He is coming again because He is King.

The Return of the King!

Jesus had taught His disciples that He would die, but He would rise again. He also told them that He would go away, but He would return some day. And when He did, He would establish His Kingdom once and for all. The Messianic Kingdom they anticipated would come, but not when they expected it.

“But when the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit upon his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered in his presence, and he will separate the people as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will place the sheep at his right hand and the goats at his left. “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world.” –  Matthew 25:31-34 NLT

The Gospels record the arrival of the King and the beginning of His Kingdom. They record Jesus’ teaching regarding the Kingdom. They contrast the false view with the true image of the Kingdom. They establish Jesus as the King. It was for His claim to be King that He died. And it will be as a King that He returns.

Father, too often I am more than willing to acknowledge Jesus as my Savior, but refuse to let Him be my King. I take on that responsibility, attempting to rule my life according to my own standards and in an effort to live life on my own terms. But He died that I might live, and do so as His subject, a citizen of His Kingdom, submitting myself to His righteous rule over my life. Show me how to live, not just because of Him, but for Him. Amen.

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

Seven Days To Sunday – Week 3

7daystillsunday_screenThis is week three in the 8-part series, “Seven Days To Sunday: A Week That Changed the World.” It is a study on the last seven days of Jesus’ earthly life, leading all the way up to His death, burial, and resurrection. You can listen to the audio and download a copy of the handout. Enjoy!

SevenDaysWk3Notes

Day 93 – Matthew 19:13-15; Mark 10:13-16; Luke 18:15-17

Child-Like Faith.

Matthew 19:13-15; Mark 10:13-16; Luke 18:15-17

“I tell you the truth, anyone who doesn’t receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it.” – Luke 18:17 NLT

Innocence. Vulnerability. Need. Dependence. Honesty. Helplessness. Trust. Those are just a few of the characteristics of most little children. They are inherently trustworthy. They take us at our word. Some would call them gullible and naive, but there is an innocence about them that is refreshing. They are honest, sometimes painfully so. I remember the time I was standing in yet another long grocery store line. I had one of my kids with me. He was sitting contentedly in the seat in the grocery cart, when all of the sudden he blurted out, “Daddy, that lady is really fat!” I was suddenly shocked out of my fascination with the assortment of candy bars in the nearby rack, to see my son pointing at the rather large woman standing right in front of is the line. She was staring angrily back at me. While I didn’t fully appreciate my son’s timing, I had to agree with his assessment. I just wish he would have kept it to himself or shared it with me in the car later. Kids are honest. They say what they think. My son meant no harm and didn’t know he was saying something hurtful. He simply saw, assessed and spoke what was on his mind.

Children are naturally dependent. From the moment they are born, they are reliant on others for their care, feeding, support and protection. They cannot fend for themselves. Unlike most other mammals, whose offspring are up and running in a matter of days, human newborn are totally defenseless for years. They can’t walk, talk, feed themselves, or do anything to meet their own needs. They must depend on others for everything. Even as they grow older, they recognize that mom and dad are there to provide for them. They understand that, when in trouble, they are to run to their parents for help. When they’re scared, they seek out someone bigger and stronger to protect them. They seem to sense their own limitations and are not afraid to turn to others for help.

And children are trusting. At least when they are young. That’s why we have to warn them about strangers. Left to themselves, they would follow anyone just about anywhere. Those who choose to harm children know this fact and use it to their advantage. Children are susceptible to being deceived because they are prone to trust others. The sad fact is that it doesn’t take long for them to lose this attribute. Before we know it, they begin to question everything and everyone. They quickly become distrustful. Their natural curiosity and inquisitiveness can easily turn into doubt and distrust. Some of that is necessary for them to survive in the world, but it is still sad to watch children lose their innocence and trust.

In these three Gospel accounts, we are given a glimpse of Jesus as He interfaces with some little children. Their parents had brought them to Jesus to be blessed by Him. The disciples, illustrating the value that their society put on children, tried to quickly usher them away. They saw no value in them. They even scolded the parents for daring to bother Jesus with such trivial matters. After all, He was the Messiah. He didn’t have time to waste blessing children. But Jesus shocked the disciples by demanding that they let the children come to Him. He placed them on His lap and said, “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of God belongs to those who are like these children” (Luke 18:16 NLT). There was something about those children that resonated with Jesus and represented what He was looking for in His followers. Unlike the religious leaders, the children didn’t doubt and cast dispersions on Jesus’ identity. They simply ran to Him and jumped into His lap. They embraced Him. They viewed Him as someone they could trust. Their parents brought them to Jesus, so they saw no reason NOT to trust Him. These children did not come expecting or demanding anything from Jesus. Their needs were simple. They didn’t come to be blessed, but simply enjoyed being noticed, loved, and cared for. In a society that shunned children and placed little to no value in them, to have Jesus show them love and attention was more than enough for them.

Jesus saw in these children the attitude of dependence He longed for in all His disciples. He wanted those who follow Him to truly recognize their need for Him. He wanted them to trust Him, rely on Him, turn to Him, listen to Him, and rest in Him. While the adults were busy evaluating what they might get out of a relationship with Jesus, these children simply enjoyed the attention and love He showed them. That is what Jesus is looking for in all of us. Do we enjoy spending time with Him? Do we look forward to the attention He wants to show us? The Kingdom of God will not be made up of arrogant, egotistical, self-centered, self-reliant individuals. The self-made man need not apply. But the helpless, hopeless, innocent, defenseless, weak, and willing will always be welcome. A big part of coming to faith in Christ is giving up all faith in yourself. It is recognizing your own insufficiencies and trusting in His all-sufficiency instead. I can’t help but think about the words of Paul when I read these passages. “Remember, dear brothers and sisters, that few of you were wise in the world’s eyes or powerful or wealthy when God called you. Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful. God chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important. As a result, no one can ever boast in the presence of God” (1 Corinthians 1:26-29 NLT). The unwise, the powerless, the poor, the foolish, the despised – these are the ones that God calls and Christ redeems. These are the citizens of God’s Kingdom. Totally dependent. Completely satisfied to rely on God to meet all their needs. Trusting in Jesus to provide for them what they could have never provided for themselves. Willing to rest in the arms of God, benefiting from His grace and His goodness.

Father, thank You for including me in Your Kingdom. And thank You that it wasn’t based on my ability to impress You or accomplish great things for You. But when I was ready to stop trusting in me and start trusting in You, that’s when You included me in Your family. And I am grateful.  Amen.

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org