Where is the Kingdom of God?

There is this interesting passage in the gospel of Luke that talks about the kingdom of God. Here is the passage:

“Once, on being asked by the Religious Leaders when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, “The coming of the kingdom of God is not something that can be observed, nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is in your midst.”

[Read the whole passage for context: Luke 17:20-37]

In other words, it will not come with parade and pomp. Men look at events in a localized manner. Jesus was telling these leaders God’s kingdom would come in the “manner” in which they not expecting. To the religious leaders 2000 some years ago, as it is today, Jesus was telling them that the Kingdom of God is not the kind of kingdom to be confined to one place. They were looking for the liberation of Israel, and in particular Jerusalem. With that mind set, when indications of the appearance of God’s Kingdom showed signs of appearing, people will say “Look! It is appearing here!” or “Look over there. That is the real deal!”

Jesus words and his actions reflected ideas that were radically different form the views of the population in general. To them, and to most of us in the 21st century, this world is everything. Success is measured in material wealth and power. It is a culturally mandated quantity to aspire after; this supreme ambition of power. To Jesus, earth was but a fragment or shadow of a far greater realm. Some people advocate that when one dies they enter voids of silence, without life or thought. Others will say that you become something higher or lower in form depending on earthly performance. Still others will advocate it matters not what your life is like. All you need to do is just say one simple prayer and that is enough for the rest of your life to escape judgment. Yet if you take the time to examine the Scriptures you will discover that there is a realm of existence whose movements, unlimited by our physical bodies of flesh, have capabilities appearing subtle and swift as thought itself. This realm exhibits a life much different from the ‘grab all you can’ mentality of this realm.

Jesus taught about three realms; one physical and two spiritual. The first was the realm from where he came from originally. This was a spiritually realm [heaven] quite different from our current second realm called earth. In the mind of Jesus heaven was a realm of happiness and light. However, the spiritual realm outside of earth that Jesus taught about had two regions that are diametrically opposites both in condition and location. One was a place of woe and darkness, a punishing realm of fearful shadow. Borrowing the language of the day it was called the “place of burning.” There are two invisible realms, lying apart from earth, yet closely relating it from opposite directions. Jesus clearly taught that to one or other all the paths of human life are aimed. They select their eternal goal; their self-chosen destiny.

The kingdom of God is not discerned by many because it is looked for in all the wrong places. Jesus show us that although it is discernible now, but because individuals persuade themselves that it will appear with outward revolution and ceremony, it is yet to come. Most people due to ignorance look for God’s promised kingdom marked with a show of majestic events. Today there are many plain evidences demonstrating that Christ was the Messiah. His kingdom is here now and operational. The religious leaders were looking for signs with intense observation for an earthly Messianic kingdom with all of the trappings of earthly kingdoms.

Medical personnel use of the word “observation” indicates they are watching the symptoms of disease progression. It is used also of close astronomical observations. And that is a good plan for watching external phenomena. It will not reveal the signs of the kingdom of God. It is not a realm that can be observed by the eye as in an experiment. However, it can be distinguished when compared to the kingdoms of this world. Kingdoms and realms of rule of this world are places of outward pomp and splendor, a showing of ruling power, parading of the latest weapons, by greed and riches and by the bestowal of external honor and grandeur.

While the kingdom of God is not observable as with an experiment, people seeking Jesus will find that they will begin to see differently. Instead of looking for something physical to observe, they will begin to see what Jesus has done in individual hearts, radically changing their manner of life from self absorption to one of serving others. Men who are engaged solely in the pursuits of gaining possessions will never see the kingdom of God. They have in the past and will continue to confuse the importance of events, by the mere standard of nearness or remoteness. As the saying goes: “It is only at a distance that one can take in the outlines and features of a whole country.”

Jesus summarized his teaching on the kingdom: “Where there is a dead body, there the vultures will gather.” In other words, if you are looking for the Kingdom of God here on earth as a physical realm, then you will only find dead things.

Thank You

A friend of mine recently called me while driving home from a men’s conference. He called just to tell me “thanks” for sticking to his side when he was going through some really difficult times due to the side effects of a brain trauma. You know, it really made me feel good that my friend took the time to say “Thank You.”

Don’t you just hate it when you do something nice for someone but unfortunately, they forget to say those simple two words. That is what happened Jesus. Ten lepers with a disease causing sores all over the body were living in physical and social separation. Leprosy was very common in Jesus’ day. People who had this disease were considered to be unclean. In fact, they were required by law to stay away from other people – to live in isolation, because of the fear that they might infect others with the disease. Here is Luke’s account of what happened:

One day, Jesus was walking through a small village when he saw a group of ten lepers. They stood far away from Jesus and hollered to him, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us.” Obviously, they knew who Jesus was and that he had the power to heal them. When Jesus heard them, he called back to the lepers and said, “Go, show yourself to the priest.” As the lepers went on their way to see the priest, they looked at their skin and the sores were gone. Jesus had healed their disease. They were so happy that they ran up and down the streets singing and dancing. Suddenly, one of them stopped and went back. Praising God with a loud voice, he threw himself at Jesus’ feet and said, “Thank You.” Jesus said to him, “Weren’t there ten who were healed? Where are the other nine?” Only one out of ten remembered to say, “Thank You.” Luke 17:11-17

The words “thank you” seem to disappearing from our vocabulary as a culture. God gives us so much that we take for granted. We, according to God Himself, considers us to be better than the birds of the air. Listen to what Jesus told some people: “Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. Luke 12:6-7 Every day he provides everything we need: food, clothing, and shelter. How often just today have you forgotten to say, “Thank You?” Maybe we should stop right now and say “Thank You” to the Giver of all things. Ask God to help you remember to thank Him every day.

Have Evangelicals Who Support Trump Lost Their Values?

The Opinion Pages | Op-Ed Contributor

Donald J. Trump Credit Laura Buckman/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

IN 2006, the television comedy “The Office” aired an episode in which one of the characters, Dwight Schrute, nervously faces the prospect of delivering a speech after winning the title of top salesman of the year for his company, Dunder Mifflin. As a prank, his co-worker preps him for his moment by cribbing a speech from a dictator, coaching him to deliver it by pounding the lectern and waving his arms wildly. Dwight does it, and the audience gives a standing ovation to a manic tirade.

Watching a cartoonish TV character deliver authoritarian lines with no principles, just audacity, was hilarious back then, but that was before we saw it happening before our eyes in the race for the United States presidency.

Donald J. Trump stands astride the polls in the Republican presidential race, beating all comers in virtually every demographic of the primary electorate. Most illogical is his support from evangelicals and other social conservatives. To back Mr. Trump, these voters must repudiate everything they believe.

Ben Carson recently contrasted his own faith in God with Mr. Trump’s theatrical egocentrism. “By humility and the fear of the Lord are riches and honor and life, and that’s a very big part of who I am,” he said, citing a Bible verse. “I don’t get that impression with him.” Mr. Trump hit back, suggesting that Mr. Carson was faking his own faith: “So I don’t know about Ben Carson’s faith, and all of a sudden he becomes this great religious figure. I don’t think he’s a great religious figure.” Mr. Carson quickly backed off from his comments, but the questions are not so easily dismissed.

There’s no religious test for office, and there shouldn’t be. My Baptist ancestors were willing to make alliances with the heretical Thomas Jefferson because he believed in religious liberty. It didn’t matter that they never would have let him teach Sunday school.

We should not demand to see the long-form certificate for Mr. Trump’s second birth. We should, though, ask about his personal character and fitness for office. His personal morality is clear, not because of tabloid exposés but because of his own boasts. His attitude toward women is that of a Bronze Age warlord. He tells us in one of his books that he revels in the fact that he gets to sleep with some of the “top women in the world.” He has divorced two wives (so far) for other women.

This should not be surprising to social conservatives in a culture shaped by pornographic understandings of the meaning of love and sex. What is surprising is that some self-identified evangelicals are telling pollsters they’re for Mr. Trump. Worse, some social conservative leaders are praising Mr. Trump for “telling it like it is.”

In the 1990s, some of these social conservatives argued that “If Bill Clinton’s wife can’t trust him, neither can we.” If character matters, character matters. Today’s evangelicals should ask, “Whatever happened to our commitment to ‘traditional family values’?”

Mr. Trump tells us “nothing beats the Bible,” and once said to an audience that he knows how Billy Graham feels. He says of evangelicals: “I love them. They love me.” And yet, he regularly ridicules evangelicals, with almost as much glee as he does Hispanics. This goes beyond his trivialization of communion with his recent comments about “my little cracker” as a way to ask forgiveness. In recent years, he has suggested that evangelical missionaries not be treated in the United States for Ebola, since they chose to go overseas in the first place.

Still, the problem is not just Mr. Trump’s personal lack of a moral compass. He is, after all, a casino and real estate mogul who has built his career off gambling, a moral vice and an economic swindle that oppresses the poorest and most desperate. When Mr. Trump’s casinos fail, he can simply file bankruptcy and move on. The lives and families destroyed by the casino industry cannot move on so easily.

He’s defended, up until very recent years, abortion, and speaks even now of the “good things” done by Planned Parenthood. In a time when racial tensions run high across the country, Mr. Trump incites division, with slurs against Hispanic immigrants and with protectionist jargon that preys on turning economic insecurity into ugly “us versus them” identity politics. When evangelicals should be leading the way on racial reconciliation, as the Bible tells us to, are we really ready to trade unity with our black and brown brothers and sisters for this angry politician?

Jesus taught his disciples to “count the cost” of following him. We should know, he said, where we’re going and what we’re leaving behind. We should also count the cost of following Donald Trump. To do so would mean that we’ve decided to join the other side of the culture war, that image and celebrity and money and power and social Darwinist “winning” trump the conservation of moral principles and a just society. We ought to listen, to get past the boisterous confidence and the television lights and the waving arms and hear just whose speech we’re applauding.