Tag Archives: kingdom of God

Today’s Scripture – December 6, 2017

Luke 11:27-28 (NIV) As Jesus was saying these things, a woman in the crowd called out, “Blessed is the mother who gave you birth and nursed you.”
He replied, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.”

The crowds recognized that Jesus’ words were true and right, even though the Pharisees did not. The crowd recognized that Jesus’ power came from God, because they saw what He was doing without bias, even though the Pharisees saw everything that He did through lenses tinted by their biases against Him.

One of the women in the crowd shouted, “Blessed is the mother who gave you birth and nursed you.” She was not being impious in the least, nor was she attempting to instill worship of Mary, Jesus’ mother. She was simply stating that Jesus was such an amazing and exceptional person that His mother was blessed to have a son like Him, and even implying that a woman would have to be especially blessed by God to bear a son like Him.

This does not go against Scripture at all. In fact, Gabriel twice told Mary that she was highly favored by God (Luke 1:28, 30), Mary’s cousin, Elizabeth, twice pronounce her especially blessed among women (Luke 1:42, 45), and Mary herself understood that she was especially blessed to be called upon to be the mother of the Messiah (Luke 1:48).

Jesus could have taken this opportunity to double down on all of this and affirm the unique blessedness of His mother. But He didn’t. Instead, He turned the focus away from all of that, and toward the key to kingdom life: “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.” In other words, even though Mary had been blessed indeed to be used as a vessel for the birth of Jesus, God’s focus was forward, to the establishment and growth of His kingdom. The blessed ones were not those who had been selected in the past, but those who elected to live in the kingdom in the future.

The people of God’s kingdom, those who are blessed now, are those who both hear God’s word, and who obey it. Who not only know the righteous requirements of the law, but who obey them as well. This is the basis of James’ urging to not “merely listen to the word,” but to “do what it says.” (James 1:22)

In essence, God’s focus on blessedness is not on the saints and heroes of the faith in the past, but on the saints and heroes of the faith in the present. Those who obeyed in the past were blessed indeed. But there are great blessings reserved for those who live in His kingdom here and now.

Father, we do so often get caught up in elevating the so-called saints of the past without realizing that we are called to be saints today – bright lights in our sin-darkened world, beacons that lead the way for those lost and wandering in sin. Help us to live out that calling, not forgetting those who have gone before, but also not elevating them in our own minds above what You are able to do in and through us today. Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – December 5, 2017

Luke 11:24-26 (NIV) “When an evil spirit comes out of a man, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ When it arrives, it finds the house swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and takes seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that man is worse than the first.”

The tragedy that Jesus is talking about here was experienced by many people in His day, and is still tragically experienced by many people today. Jesus cast out many demons during His earthly ministry, sometimes several from the same person. He did this not only to deliver those held captive, but to show forth the reality of the kingdom.

The tragedy came because some of these people simply returned to their old lives, their old ways of doing things that had opened them up to demonic influences in the first place. So they were easy targets to become “repossessed.” The same old demons that had been cast out returned to find the heart of their victim empty, and so simply moved back in, often with additional demons as well, making that person more wretched and miserable than they were before.

The same thing happens today in a subtly different manner. When someone decides to turn away from habits and activities that have them bound, to start going to church, maybe even to “accept Jesus,” but then go back to their old lives, their old ways of doing things that had opened them up to captivity in the first place, they become easy targets to be taken captive again. May quickly revert to their old habits, and often end up worse off than they were before.

The solution today is the same one that was necessary in Jesus’ day. That is, to realize that it is not enough to simply cast out the old evil spirits. The empty space then needs to be filled with the Holy Spirit, so that when the old spirits return, they do not find an empty space simply waiting to be refilled. They will find a holy occupant filling every space in that person’s life, leaving no room at all for them. And they will go away, and not return as long as the Holy Spirit is in residence.

Father, this is an all-too-familiar story. We see it happen all the time that a person “gets saved,” but then turns away soon after, often falling deeper into captivity to sin than they were before. We write them off as “shallow soil,” but the reality may simply be that we stopped too soon, and did not ensure their stability and the presence of the Holy Spirit in their hearts before we left them on their own. How many of those “relapses” could have been prevented with better, more intentional discipleship and mentoring? Help me, Lord, to walk more closely with those who are new to the faith, to ensure that they are well-discipled, well-rooted, well-established, before I move on. Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – December 4, 2017

Luke 11:23 (NIV) “He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me, scatters.

Jesus is still addressing these words to the Pharisees who have accused Him of being able to cast out demons only because He Himself was possessed by the king of demons. In the previous two paragraphs, He has successfully rebutted their accusation, as well as credibly painting Himself as being personally much more powerful than the demons, and even more powerful than the king of demons, satan himself.

Now Jesus goes on to make two self-confirmatory statements that speak not only to His power, but to His identity.

The first statement, “He who is not with me is against me,” seems strange for him to have to verbalize. Isn’t it obvious that if someone is not for a person, they are on the opposite side?

But Jesus is not being philosophical. He is actually challenging the Pharisees to choose one side or the other. And in the light of the previous discourse and the power that He has demonstrated over the demonic forces that had stymied the best efforts of the Pharisees, this statement has an extra impact.

Jesus has shown that He is more powerful than the demons, because He is literally driving out the demons by the finger of God, and as a sign that the kingdom of God was present in His own life (verse 20 above). That means that if the Pharisees continue to work against Jesus, they are aligning themselves with the demons that His is defeating, and ultimately against God Himself.

The second statement nests neatly with the first: “He who does not gather with me scatters.” If Jesus really is the messenger of God’s kingdom, which the miracles and His ability to cast out demons proves, the He is at work gathering God’s people into God’s kingdom, the work to which He was called (Luke 19:10). And, consequently, any who oppose Him, who try to cast doubt on who He is and on where His power comes from, are frustrating His efforts. And, if they succeed at all, they will only succeed in scattering those that God is trying to gather to Himself through the work of Jesus. Thus, again, they will find themselves working against God, and against what He is trying to accomplish through Jesus.

Father, Jesus’ strength in the face of this opposition came from His sure knowledge that He was doing Your work in every detail. There was not a speck of His own agenda in there, so He could actually say that to stand against Him was to stand against You, and that to frustrate the work that He was doing was to work against what You were doing through Him. Lord, help me to do Your will as completely, as selflessly, as passionately as Jesus. Help me to so identify with You, to so commit myself to Your agenda, that Your purpose becomes fully my own, and Your own passion fully consumes me, so that Your kingdom work will advance powerfully through me. Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – December 1, 2017

Luke 11:17-20 (NIV) Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them: “Any kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and a house divided against itself will fall. If Satan is divided against himself, how can his kingdom stand? I say this because you claim that I drive out demons by Beelzebub. Now if I drive out demons by Beelzebub, by whom do your followers drive them out? So then, they will be your judges. But if I drive out demons by the finger of God, then the kingdom of God has come to you.

The Pharisees had accused Jesus of being able to cast out demons because He was possessed by Beelzebul, the king of the demons. It was a combination of ignorance and jealousy that cause them to make this accusation. Ignorance because they were spiritually blind, and could not see at all what was happening right before their eyes. And jealousy because, even though they had theological degrees and the admiration of the people for their wisdom and righteousness, they were powerless against demons. If they ever were successful at casting them out, which was rare, it was a difficult process instead of the effortlessness of Jesus’ example.

It was because of their spiritual blindness and their powerlessness that Jesus took pity on them and patiently explained to them why their reasoning made absolutely no sense at all. First of all, there were only two possible sources for Jesus’ authority over demons: God or satan. But if Jesus’ authority came from satan, and if satan was therefore casting out his own soldiers in the name of the kingdom of God, he would have been cutting his own feet out from under himself, devastating his own forces to build up the reputation of his enemy. A very little thought shows that that idea made no sense at all. Besides, if only the king of the demons could cast out demons, that meant that every time the Pharisees were successful at casting out a demon, it proved that they themselves were in league with the devil!

That left the only other possibility. Jesus’ authority came from God, and his every defeat of a demon was a defeat for the kingdom of darkness by the kingdom of light, and proof that the kingdom of God had come into the world. That also meant that Jesus had a relationship with God that those Pharisees did not have, despite their reputations. It meant that the appropriate thing for them to do was to humble themselves and enroll as Jesus’ apprentices, so that they could learn about God and His kingdom through His teaching and His example. And, if that were true, it meant that the Pharisees had to admit that they were wrong. And they weren’t about to do that!

Father, it is sad when I see someone who is willfully blind like those Pharisees, who cannot see Your works for what they truly are, and who will not see You for who You truly are. Save us, Lord, from all such blindness. Instead, help all of us, Your people, to see You and Your kingdom every day, and to share in Your power every moment, just like Jesus. Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – November 24, 2017

Luke 11:2b-3 (NIV) “your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread.”

The first part of this form prayer that Jesus taught His disciples, sometimes with more detail (Matthew 6:9-15), and sometimes with less, as here,, focuses on worship and adoration of God. It then moves on to practical kingdom living.

The next petition is “your kingdom come.” This is not a petition for Jesus’ return, but for God’s kingdom to become a living reality in the lives of all of God’s people. Matthew’s version includes a brief addendum to this petition that explains it more fully: “your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” The kingdom of heaven existed on earth then, and still exists and operates today, in the hearts of all who are committed to doing God’s will on earth in the same way that it is done in heaven: instantly, joyfully, and completely.

Included in this petition is an implied commitment on the part of those praying it to their own obedience to God’s will, instantly, joyfully, and completely. In that way, the kingdom is not only present, but grows into the lives of those around who see the good works of Jesus’ followers, and give glory to God (Matthew 5:16).

The next petition is for daily provision. The imagery used is of the Israelites in the wilderness who had to depend on God to provide manna, daily bread. They relied on God, and every day when they went out to receive their daily bread, the sustenance that they needed for that day, it was there. On the day before the Sabbath God provided twice as much and miraculously preserved it from decay so that they didn’t have to go out to get their bread on the Sabbath (Exodus 16:23-26). For forty years, God provided the daily bread for the Israelites, and never let them go hungry a single day. In the same way, God’s people today can ask for and receive their own provision, the sustenance that they need to live, day by day.

Father, I can’t help but see the intimate connection between these two petitions. As we commit ourselves to living consciously in Your kingdom, manifesting Your glory and obeying Your will, we are given the great privilege of asking for what we need each day, and receiving it (Matthew 6:35). Thank You for this amazing promise contained in the petitions given to us by Jesus Himself. Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – November 3, 2017

Luke 10:10-12 (NIV) “But when you enter a town and are not welcomed, go into its streets and say, ‘Even the dust of your town that sticks to our feet we wipe off against you. Yet be sure of this: The kingdom of God is near.’ I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town.”

One of the great teachings of Jesus is that the rejection of the messenger of Jesus is rejection of Jesus Himself, and rejection of Jesus is a rejection of God Himself (Luke 10:16). Therefore, these emissaries of the kingdom were not to take any rejection that they experienced personally.

If a town rejected these men, they were to symbolize God’s own rejection of them by shaking the dust off their feet and clothes as a witness against that town. And lest their actions be misinterpreted, they were to speak two words to the people. The first was their rejection of those who rejected their message. The second was the dire pronouncement that the kingdom of God had come near them, and they had rejected it and turned away from it. And it really was a doom that was pronounced here, not merely an attempt to shame the people into accepting the message. To consciously reject God and His message, clearly presented with signs and miracles, was to do worse than even Sodom did, who had simply disobeyed the dictates of conscience that God had placed in them.

Notice that, whether the town received the messengers of the kingdom or rejected them, the message was the same: The kingdom of God has come near. (verses 9, 11 CSB) The mere presence of emissaries of the kingdom of God, of their power, their purity, and God’s presence within them, caused people’s hearts to reveal themselves, whether they were open to God, or whether they were closed tight. And the state of their hearts would determine their destiny.

Father, it strikes me that there are very few of us, Your people, today who so obviously embody the presence, the power, the purity of Your kingdom that our very presence lays open the hearts of those with whom we come into contact. Oh, Lord, we so need that; we so need to consciously embody the presence of Jesus, so that our lives are living testamonies of who You are, and of what You can do in a life. Do whatever work You need to do in my own heart to make me like Jesus, to fill me to overflowing with Your Holy Spirit, and to help me embody Your kingdom every day. Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – November 1, 2017

Luke 10:8-9 (NIV) “When you enter a town and are welcomed, eat what is set before you. Heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God is near you.”

Jesus anticipates that the places to which He is sending these disciples will welcome them, just as the majority of people He Himself went to received Him. There would be some that would not receive them, but that was not expected to be the norm, since they were coming with good news.

When they were received well, they were to receive all of the hospitality offered to them, not sniffing at poor fare, or humbly refusing rich. If it was supplied to them, they were to receive it as God’s provision, as the wages for their work.

And in places that they were received, they were to demonstrate the reality of the kingdom of God my making whole those who were sick. Importantly, they were to immediately follow up this demonstration of kingdom power with the proclamation, “The kingdom of God is near you.”

The proclamation was vital. The healings alone could easily be misconstrued. Without that clear proclamation, the glory could be diverted, and become exaltation of the messengers (see Acts 14:8-13 which happened despite the clear proclamation of the gospel!). And if that happened, not only could the preparation for Jesus’ coming be sidetracked, the apostles themselves could be distracted, and even turned aside by the praise.

Father, it is interesting that today we are frequently taught to do good deeds without mentioning the gospel in order to “earn the right” to tell the people around us about Jesus at some future date. But often this backfires; all that happens is that we ourselves receive the glory, and are thought of as “nice people,” and it goes no further than that. Admittedly, that seems to be in a different ballpark than healing people, or other demonstrations of Your kingdom power, but the principle seems the same. Help me, Lord, in everything I do for others, to remember that I am acting as an agent of Your kingdom, and to clearly proclaim that reality, so that YOU receive all of the glory, and so that all of my actions really do prepare the way for You to come into the lives of those I am ministering to. Amen.

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