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Tag: God’s kingdom

Play Ball!

by Rob Dunne

“He will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.” James 1:12b.

After a brief hiatus from America’s favorite pastime, my parents asked me if I wanted to play senior league baseball. Truly, I had missed the distinct cracking sound of bat making contact with ball, the smell of freshly oiled mitts and the sight of chalky white lines dividing fair ball from out of bounds. Fond memories elicited an excited yes.

Unlike times past, I was required to try out for a team. Following a grueling afternoon of batting and fielding, I received a phone call. As fortune would have it, I was selected to play on the Phillies, the previous year’s champions. Would the team be good enough to repeat? One could only hope.

As the dog days of summer stretched in to fall, I found my excitement dwindling. Game after game, I rode the pine in the all too familiar dugout. On the rare occasion that I did get the nod to play, the pressure to perform was so great that I choked. Instead of an encouraging “nice try” the coach shouted the Lord’s name in vain followed immediately thereafter by my name.

At season’s end, there was a banquet. The Phillies were once again crowned champions. Each member of the team received a trophy. It was a hollow victory for me; I contributed little to nothing in obtaining it.

Recently, I was worshiping the Lord and He showed me a picture of a baseball. The stitching came undone and the core was exposed. What are you showing me Lord? “My son, you are on My team. Not only that, you get to play in the game!” Memories of my time on the Phillies flooded my mind. Those old feelings of rejection and inadequacy rapidly melted away.

In the kingdom of God, there is no rejection. We are accepted in the beloved. Regardless of our skills, talents and abilities, Papa encourages us to get in the game. He experiences great joy watching us give our best effort. Even when we fall short of the mark, He always responds with love. Failure is never a possibility as long as we try. Rather than a worthless trophy that will eventually rust or break, we will receive a crown that will never fade away.

Father, thank you for inviting us to play on your team. I thank you that there are no tryouts in your kingdom. With you, there is no fear of failure. We get to play in the game knowing that your response will always be one of pride, joy and love. You are and always will be a good, good Father.

 

The Reason For The Season

by Rob Dunne

Image: Art4theGloryofGod by Sharon; 12/25/12; sharon-soberon.artistwebsites.com/galleries.html

Image: Art4theGloryofGod by Sharon; 12/25/12; sharon-soberon.artistwebsites.com/galleries.html

And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent. John 17:3

On all Hallows Eve, my wife Kellie and I had to pick some things up at BJ’s. Much to my dismay, they had a bunch of Christmas stuff out. The commercialization of the holiday is causing retailers to push Christmas on us earlier and earlier. This would not be so bad if we spent the time reflecting on the reason for the season. However, our attention tends to be focused on trying to buy the perfect gift for others or what they are getting us.

Why do we celebrate Christmas? At its core, it truly is about giving and receiving. The gift that we receive does not come wrapped in fancy paper topped with a decorative bow. Rather, it came in the form of a newborn baby wrapped in swaddling clothes.

The birth of Jesus was only the beginning. He modeled an extraordinary way of life. Each day started by communicating with God. I suspect that God gave Jesus His marching orders every morning. Then the day was spent loving people. He healed the sick, cast out demons and raised the dead.

Jesus also taught people what life in God’s kingdom looks like. If someone offends or hurts you, forgive them. How many times do you forgive? Infinitely. When someone strikes you on the cheek, don’t respond in kind – turn and offer them the other. Pray for your enemies and bless those who spitefully use you. How on earth is this possible?

The lifestyle that we are called to live is impossible. Human beings are too selfish to live life in this manner. This is where the true gift comes in to play. Jesus became sin for us so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. As He sat down at the right hand of God, it made it possible for the Holy Spirit to come live on the inside of us. Saying yes to the gift that Jesus offers us makes it possible for us to receive new life. We die to who we once were and we are born again.

Spiritual birth is not the same as the one that we experienced when our mother’s water broke and we first came in to the world. Being born again is where we are given a brand new spirit and we are joined with the Spirit of God. This is what makes living like Jesus possible. In the same way that Jesus was able to talk to God every morning, we can communicate with God. The selfishness that once dictated our actions is replaced with the love of God. Our needs, wants and desires are erased and our thoughts turn to the needs of other people. That is kingdom living.

Christmas allows us to reflect on God’s goodness. We remember that Jesus became a man and lived a selfless life. His death allows us to be reconciled to God. That is the gift of Christmas. It is not forced upon us. Rather, we have to receive it freely. It is then our delight to share the gift with others so they too can experience God’s love.

In the busyness of the season, take time to reflect on the gift of eternal life that Jesus paid for you to enjoy and share that gift with the world around you. After all, that is the true reason for the season.

A Tale of Two Kingdoms

by Wendy

DSC_7882

A quick glance through social media turned into a long squeal. My friend decided to run a half marathon. At Disney. DisneyLAND!

I posted a Facebook reply in three nanoseconds and almost booked a flight on the spot. Why?

Because Disneyland makes me yearn for the Kingdom of God, and Heaven.

Truly, I’m not nuts. Let me explain.

The first time I visited Disneyland I had just emerged from five days of fasting and tussling with God about leadership issues. I was exhausted and wondered how I’d recover.

Enter The Mouse.

I wandered, awestruck, through the park. One man and a large organization, plus a massive supply of imagination and money, created a perfect dream world. Just what my spirit needed. That off-season day there were no tears, no frowns, no trash, no mistakes, no conflict, no worries, no errors, and no hurt, pain or trauma. No mistakes taunted me; tantrums disappeared with hugs from over-sized characters. Perhaps Disney had problems that day, but they stayed off-stage. I did not have to deal with them. Not. Even. Once.

My heart instinctively needed a place where all the bad things disappeared. A place where someone was happy to be with me, and smiles radiated from every window.

My soul reveled in wonder and delight. My brain danced and somersaulted along with my eyes and ears. My imagination tumbled and spun and whirled and clapped along with my hands and my body.

Suddenly I remembered God’s Kingdom, the play, the healing, the laughter. I remembered that God prepared a place (both physical and spiritual) where the ills don’t win, and He wanted to bring that Place, that Kingdom, to invade my world. My head knew all that; I’d prayed and seen healing; I’d worshiped and felt Glory; I’d watched God change death and despair into Life and Hope. But I’d forgotten.

God used a silly Mouse to remind me about beauty and whimsy and color and excitement and joy. No, Disneyland wasn’t His Kingdom, it was a magic kingdom; it wasn’t perfect, but it reminded me of God’s perfection. And if MAN, created in God’s image, could do this with finite amounts of expertise and dollars, HOW MUCH MORE did God create a beautiful, perfect New World for us to enjoy?

For some strange reason, The Mouse rekindled my longing for Heaven, our true home, a place of wonder. No tears, no pain, no trauma… and everyone is glad to be with you. Joy embodied.

What does it take to remind you of God’s Kingdom?

Confusing Man’s Calling with God’s Calling

by Dawn Aldrich

Young girl praying

We received word that the youth pastor of our home church resigned. Having worked alongside him during school breaks, we knew the void he’d leave behind. So, we rolled up our sleeves and dove into youth ministry wholeheartedly during our summer vacation.

My husband (then fiance) and I drew upon our past youth group experiences, designing and implementing the summer ministry program. It all came so easily, like we were designed to do this. The youth responded so positively, that the pastor’s wife nonchalantly asked, “When are you done with school so you can become our next youth pastors?”

Those were weighty and dangerous words, but we didn’t know it back then.

Starry-eyed, we eagerly returned to college with the blessing of our pastor and his wife and changed our college majors from writing (me) and computer science (my husband) to Christian education. I distinctly recall my writing professor offering this thought: God can still use you in (youth) ministry even with a writing major. But, I dug my heels in and refused his suggestion, convinced “God’s” call to youth ministry meant being “full-in” regardless of my talents and educational investment. My husband felt the same.

Six months later, our pastor called to apologize. He’d left the church and was moving his family to the Midwest. Furthermore, with our home church in a tizzy over his move, there would be no youth ministry dream-job waiting for us when we graduated the following year. Our hearts sank with disappointment.

Only two semesters stood between us and graduation. Again, we stuck our heels in, convinced that if our pastor and his wife saw God’s calling on our lives, then surely, it must be true. That summer, busy with our internship and wedding plans, we forged ahead, praying that God would lead us to the right church.

Again, everything went smoothly, landing a youth pastor position only a few months into our newlywed senior year.

Three years into that position our life struggle began. We knew youth ministry was far from God’s calling. Loving the youth, but not the “ministry position”, we headed home—more confused and unsure of God’s calling on our lives than ever. No matter where we sought refuge and counsel we were only offered “atta boys” and offers to fill volunteer youth positions.

Desperately seeking Godly counsel, the best one pastor offered us was this: “Well, since you’ve decided to leave the ministry, don’t dwell on what’s past. Move forward and forge ahead.” Not helpful. Not helpful or thoughtful at all.

We struggled for years, unsure of what God wanted to do with our lives—wondering if we’d let Him down when we left full-time ministry. Over time, God revealed that knowing our true calling came down to this:

“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Matthew 6:33

In our early years we hadn’t truly sought God about our calling. We’d sought the praise, adoration and confirming words of men—our pastor, his wife, elders, our peers and family—simply men. How could we know what God was thinking without seeking Him first? Who can know the mind and thoughts of a stranger? And that’s what God was to us, a stranger. But when we sought God first through private and corporate worship, when we truly spent time in relationship with our Father—conversing and listening to Him—we could hear Him more clearly.

Remember our original majors, writing and computer science? Yeah, that’s what God called us to be…a writer and a computer engineer entrepreneur. It’s how He wired us and how He intended to use us effectively. One spins words and thoughts into coherent stories while the other thinks logically and builds intricate networks with foresight.

Does it matter that we aren’t using those things in “full-time, church ministry?” No…because if we are followers of Christ, our lives are ministry. Everything we do, every talent, every gift, every word and action should point others to Jesus, wherever we find ourselves.

Seek God first. Weigh man’s words against God’s. Then, live your life’s calling wherever you go.

Spilling Bits O’ Heaven

by mandyade

Dream_Chaser_pre-drop_tests.6

The night before I was about to fly I had a dream: the Lord told myself and one other person were protecting the flight. When I awoke I understood that my faith and that of another believer would protect that flight. We were carrying His presence with us. We were spilling bits o’ heaven.

Another time while flying the pilot told us that we would have to fly through a storm and expected severe turbulence. My heart sank, turbulence made me feel sick on small aircraft. I started thanking God that He would clear the storm and that this would be a turbulence-free flight. About 15 minutes into smooth flying the pilot announced that turbulence was still coming and not to get out of our seats. He made the same announcement some time later and was silent for the rest of the flight. The flight was perfectly smooth, I didn’t even feel one bump!

As Christians, not only do we walk in God’s presence, but we bring Him with us wherever we go. People are blessed when we are around, since God’s presence flows from us and we  spill bits o’ heaven. As carriers of Him our lives are marked with His blood and sealed with the Holy Spirit. We have been recreated to carry His presence everywhere we go.

 

Joseph worked for Potipher an Egyptian pagan and Potiphers house became blessed. Though Potipher was not in covenant with God the blessing on Joseph still flowed onto this non-believer’s house-hold. Now Joseph couldn’t carry the presence of God like we do, because he didn’t have Christ’s blood or the Spirit inside him, but he was a child of promise and even he was spilling bits o’ heaven…

 

As believers, we are children of promise like Jospeh, and we are covered in Christ’s blood and sealed with the Holy Spirit. How much more do we bring God’s presence and blessing to our worlds?

 

Jonah too was a child of promise, but he didn’t always live in agreement with God and caused a ship and total strangers great danger. His influence was the opposite of Josephs even though his calling was like Joseph’s- to bless the nations and spill bits o’ heaven…

 

Though we are children of promise, blood-covered and Spirit-sealed it is possible to be of little effect. If we are not aware of our call and if we don’t live in agreement with who we are, we won’t spill God’s Kingdom to our world. During difficult or busy times we may tend to forget who we are and what we are called to. It’s during these times that we must make purposeful agreement with what God has said about us and our call.

 

Agree with and know who you are:

1 I am so valuable that God has given His own blood for me.(Jhn 3:16)

2 I have been created in God’s image and recreated as righteous in Christ. (Gen1:27, 2 Cor 5:17)

3 Though I am a clay vessel I carry the treasures of heaven (2 Cor 4:7)

4 The presence of God lives inside me and brings hope to the world (Colossians 1:27)

5 God has called me to usher His kingdom into the world (Mark 16:15)

When we live in agreement with heaven nothing can come against this truth and the effectiveness of our lives!

 

“Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you?”1 Corinthians 3:16

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