Do you know what the central theme of the New Testament is?
-Jesus spoke more in the Gospels about "the Kingdom" than any other subject
-There are more than 90 references in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John
-80% have to do with living as the disciples of Jesus on this earth!
In other words, if our lives are right with the Lord now, Heaven will take care of itself. Our task is to live and serve
God everyday while on earth. That is His call to us.
-Jesus first sermon was on the Kingdom of Heaven being at hand (Matt. 4:17)
-He prayed to Father His Kingdom might come on earth as it is in Heaven (Matt. 6:9-10)
-He calls us to seek God's Kingdom and right living above all else (Matt. 6:32-33)
His last forty days on earth teaching His disciples about the kingdom of God
- which is simply defined as understanding... "the reign and rule of God in this age
in the hearts and lives of those who yield themselves to Him."
Recognizing God's kingdom as a present reality allows us
to experience blessings now, as well as to
anticipate the future age. It also keeps life's trials in perspective.
My goal in this 7-day devotional is to present bite size truths about God's kingdom,
which can be woven into our everyday lives.
With joy for our God!
Key #1: Seeking the Kingdom First
"Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you" (Matthew 6:33)
What is the ONE thing that you want today more than anything else? More free time? More money, possessions? More friends? More love and appreciation? More knowledge or wisdom?
All can be helpful "things" to make our life on earth more fulfilling, but where our attention goes, our power flows. "What do you treasure most?" is the Lord's question to us each new day.
When Jesus said, "seek first the kingdom of God," it is not just a statement, it is His heartbeat, it is a matter of great importance, it is a life choice. In fact, if we are a true follower of Jesus Christ, it is our life choice, the core purpose of our existence.
E. Stanley Jones the great 20th century Methodist minister and missionary writes, "If Jesus made the kingdom of God the center of his message and the center of his endeavor, the greatest need of man, as I see it, is to rediscover the kingdom of God."
Giving our attention to the King and His Kingdom first is not an easy task in today's highly distracting world. It must be a conscious choice at first to abide in the Lord.and .. but then increasingly becomes a holy habit over time. It takes the power of the Holy Spirit working within us to maintain a Kingdom first perspective.
As I get older I find my reading glasses are no longer optional to see clearly. The same is true as we mature in the Lord, seeing our hurting world clearly requires new lens from God, lest we stumble around in a blurry world, wasting time, energy while frustrating and even hurting ourselves in the process.
Sadly, too many Christians today can barely see the Kingdom of God off in the distant future somewhere, when according to Jesus, it is right here to be seen IF we are looking for it. While much of the church is focused on getting OFF the planet, Jesus is focused on getting his people to understand His will is to get His Kingdom functioning ON the planet, one heart at a time. We think the Kingdom comes last, but Jesus says it comes first.
At our twice a week company prayer meeting brother Craig Smith recently shared how amazing our God really is, as both the infinite Creator of the universe, spanning millions of light years from in the universe from end to end, yet His utmost desire is for intimacy with each one of his precious children. He is seeking us first - can we be content to do any less?
His desire for us can be likened to a very busy dad planning a special time to be with his children, only to have them ignore him, except on their schedule. Likewise it hurts our Heavenly Father to see His children doing their own thing, despite His yearning is to teach us a better way, if we would only invest the time needed to hear His still small voice. To seek Him first for direction rather than relying on our old self.
Living and walking in the God Kingdom is the most exciting place to be on earth! It allows us to give no thought (as in worry) about tomorrow because we know His Kingdom is eternal. He has made provision for His kids from day one until eternity because He loves us so very, very much.
Reflection: Today Lord we purpose in our heart to put You first, to seek You before our day launches off in a million directions at once. We thank you that right-living (or righteousness) follows us everywhere we go when we seek first to serve the King and Kingdom. We also thank you in advance for all the 'things' you have already given us, to hold in trust for You, as Your stewards. We acknowledge the earth below, the heavens above and everything in between belongs to You Lord. We rest this day in Your provision as our loving Father. Today may we resonate with the sound of Your kingdom which is now in the process of filling the earth.
Key #2: From Chaos to Order
JOHN 17:14 I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. 15 My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. 17 Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. 19 For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified. 23 I in them and you in me, so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.
The above passage from John 17 is my very favorite mission statement from Jesus about how the Kingdom of God progresses. From the Father to the Son to his children to the world, all with the single purpose of demonstrating His unfathomable love toward all mankind. Now that is good news!
But do you ever feel like you have one foot in the Kingdom and one foot in the world? Like your Christian walk involves stepping backward and forward between order and chaos? Me too!
Some argue that chaos is really a higher form of order, that once God has redeemed us from an orderly (but godless) life, we immediately enter into a new form of chaos, from the world's perspective. But in reality we are entering a new type of order, a Kingdom order.
The Christian walk is a lifetime process of re-ordering our chaotic life according to Kingdom principles, which eventually leads us back into the (chaotic) world with a fresh mission from God to demonstrate how this new Kingdom is supposed to operate, with the same power and authority as Jesus demonstrated while on earth.
Jesus takes us out of the world's system of thinking and living, declaring we are no longer of the world by gradually taking the world's system of thinking and living out of us. He then sends us back into the world, washed in the blood of Christ, to become doers of the word empowered by a dynamic new Kingdom lifestyle.
WOW! What a master plan. "So, how's it workin' out for you?" as Dr. Phil might ask.
To the world (and some believers) it may appear that today Christians are losing the battle for the hearts and minds of men. But the facts prove otherwise.
Christianity is now nearing 1 billion strong worldwide and growing fast, more so outside the U.S. What God is now after is a new depth of faith and Kingdom living in preparation for the greatest harvest of souls in history! (Details here)
Jesus prayer for us today is the same as it was 2,000 years ago: that we would yield our will on earth to His will in heaven. If that means allowing more pressure, trials, tribulation, persecution, etc. to befall us, then so be it. He is 100% committed to using the world's chaos to squeeze out from us the immaturity and impurities that prevent us from becoming the spotless bride of Christ.
Reflection: Thank you Lord that chaos serves as a reminder of our humanity and utter failure to completely control our circumstances. May this lead us to more and more dependence upon our God to direct our daily life choices and willingly follow His Way into the Kingdom of God, on earth, as it is in heaven. (Concluding thought: Ern Baxter (:30) Jesus 4-fold prayer in John 17)
Key #3: The Inside-Out Kingdom
Jesus said, "The kingdom of God comes not with observation, for behold, the kingdom of God is within you." (Luke 17:21).
The religious leaders of Jesus day demanded to know when and where this new kingdom He preached would be established, thinking themselves as the world's foremost experts on the subject. They studied and observed the law and expected Messiah would come to earth in judgment to establish the new heaven on earth externally.
But instead of coming in judgment, God surprised both the self-proclaimed saints and lost sinners alike by sending His Son to earth in love and mercy, proclaiming a message of a new, triumphant inner kingdom which, in time, would overflow from our innermost being into every area of life; families, communities, education, work, etc., and eventually fill the whole earth.
2,000 year later, is this new kingdom thriving today? Not visibly. Instead Christians are engaged in a spiritual struggle; both with an ungodly world system and, most importantly, with the religious traditions of man, which Jesus said is the biggest obstacle to seeing his kingdom advance. History shows every new move of God is fought the hardest by leaders of the previous move.
Most people have become imprinted with unclear or unreal definitions of the term, "The kingdom of God." Even the vast majority of Christians see the kingdom as an ethereal or futuristic concept, equating it as "Heaven," ...or "the Church,"...or "the Millennium."
In reality, the message of the Kingdom is the concept underlying all of Jesus' ministry. It is the central theme of Jesus' preaching and to be the core message for discipling new Christians.
The kingdom of God is about voluntarily allowing the Lord to turn us inside-out, so that we can participate in helping Him to turn an upside down world right side up!
Kingdom living is about change and transformation, starting within our heart, mind and soul, and then working its way out without, into our speech, actions and mission.
Jesus said if we abide "in Him" we also have access the power of God to turn individuals, communities and nations inside out to discover and live by the values and priorities of God's kingdom.
Christ's final words before His ascension confirmed both His mission and ours, "All power and authority in heaven and earth is given unto me. Go ye, therefore."
This marked Christ's renewal of God's original mandate to Adam to steward His planet and His resources, first given in the Garden of Eden, which is henceforth given to us, His church.
This means the responsibility for the management of the earth is still in the hands of the people of God! WOW! Now that's BIG news. No wonder it is called "The GREAT Commission".
The kingdom of God may be defined as the rule and reign of Christ in the hearts of believers. We must give His kingdom our highest priority and live in obedience to His Lordship to live a truly fulfilled life.
This explains why Jesus told us to "seek first" the kingdom of God: Because He knew that until He rules and reigns in the hearts of believers we will never be truly free, never experience true joy or happiness and never discover our real purpose in life.
Reflection: Lord help us abandon all worldly and religious thinking which attempts to postpone Your kingdom, power or glory... or seeks to change our lives or circumstances from the outside-in. Instead, we ask Your word and Spirit to transform our thoughts and actions from the inside-out. You are the Truth that changes our life, so that we can walk in the right way today.
Key #4: The Power of the Kingdom
"And he entered the synagogue and for three months spoke boldly, reasoning and persuading them about the kingdom of God". (Acts 19:8)
How powerful is the kingdom of God? It is powerful enough to penetrate a society obsessed with the worship of the goddess Diana. It is powerful enough to impact a thriving city, to transfer people from darkness into light, to make them citizens of a new power-full kingdom and to bring the culture of heaven to earth.
Ephesus was the capital of the Roman province of Asia and home of one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, the magnificent temple of Diana. It was also an important political, educational, and commercial center that placed great value on materialism, sensuality, and the occult. You could say it was a city under satanic control.
Into this city, similar to many twenty-first century cities, came Paul boldly proclaiming the kingdom of God, a new lifestyle of 'sitting, walking and standing' in Jesus. Notice Paul did not come to preach a self-help program or to organize a demonstration against the religious prostitution taking place at the temple of Diana, nor did he take his fight to the local media.
Instead, Paul spent the first three months preaching and teaching about the kingdom of God. When he could no longer teach in the synagogue, he moved to Tyrannus and for the next two years taught them until "all the residents of Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks" (Acts 19:10).
So powerful was Paul's message of the kingdom of God that within two years the sinful lifestyle of Ephesus was so impacted that it started to affect the income of those who made their living from the "sin business". During this time churches were founded in Ephesus, Colosse and several other cities in the region. That which is healthy multiplies.
God uses kingdom principles to transform lives, communities and nations. Some Christian leaders are convinced that the final harvest of souls on earth will be led, not by America or other so-called First world nations, but rather by Third world countries (Africa, Asia, Latin America). Wouldn't that be just like God to use the neediest, poorest, humblest and most oppressed nations to demonstrate the power of His kingdom on earth? One such leader is Dr. Myles Munroe.
Dr. Myles Munroe is founder, president and senior pastor of Bahamas Faith Ministries International. You may have seen his TV program on TBN. His book, "Rediscovering the Kingdom" has helped open the eyes of countless Christians to the kingdom message.
According to Dr. Munroe, "We're finally getting to the original message, the original assignment, and the original goal of God. It has always been the restoration of His kingdom on earth. It is the only message Jesus preached that we can verify. God is restoring the original message of the Bible. This is very significant. It's important to note that Jesus placed the end of the age on the condition that the message of the kingdom is preached into all the world."
The power of miracle working is given to believers to testify and validate the truth of the kingdom. As Monroe puts it, "What we call signs and wonders and miracles are the evidence of the presence of another government, the kingdom. A kingdom is not a religion. It's the influence of a government over a domain or a territory. It's the impact of a king over a territory. That's why it's called a "king-dom", a king's domain." [More...]
Reflection: Can you imagine the impact local churches could have upon our community or city, if we were to rediscover the transformational power of the kingdom of God? I can! We would begin to practice such humility that we could hardly keep up with the growth.
Lord today we ask the power of Your kingdom to be seen more clearly in our lives, that like Paul, we can boldly speak and persuade those whom You put into our lives, that they will no longer see us, but rather You, that as "our" kingdom decreases in power, Your kingdom increases. [Concluding thought watch Dr. Munroe explain God's plan to colonize earth with His kingdom: (7:22)]
Key #5: Kingdom Leaders in Our Generation
In each generation God provides Christian men and women with bigger than life dreams, a gigantic vision to expand God's kingdom, often so big that very few church leaders could imagine it possible at the time.
For some reason known only to Him, I have had the privilege and joy of interviewing scores of such kingdom visionaries over the last two decades as a part of my work in producing a radio show called "Worldview Perspectives" with Craig R. Smith, sponsored by Swiss America.
Some of these generals in God's army you will recognize, many you will not, but they all share a passion to build the kingdom of God in their appointed time and place in humility.
Just imagine jumping up onto the shoulders of these strategic leaders to gain a better perspective about how to overcome the biggest obstacles to witnessing the kingdom of God multiply in our generation. The view can be breathtaking!
Here is a transcript from the introduction to a collection of these interviews included in "The Big Picture" a 60-minute radio program which originally aired in 2000. Twelve years ago it was too soon to gain much traction or attention, but it might just be right on schedule in 2012. Sometimes truth awaits God's perfect timing to be revealed and understood.
"God does not always do things soon, but he does things suddenly," Dudley Hall once told me.
The kingdom message is beginning to echo around the world more quickly today than ever in history, which may signal the time has come for action, an exciting break though in our lives and in our outreach worldwide.
"The Big Picture is designed to showcase a Biblical worldview of the message and mission of the Christian Church in the 21st Century. Our prayer is that this millennium special will motivate you to participate in shaping the future of planet earth, because after all, the future belongs to those prepared for it!
According to Dr. Jack Hayford, "History is marching toward a count-in to redemption, rather than a countdown to destruction." This means we Christians need a fresh perspective on our role in society. Let's begin our journey together with a collage of leadership perspectives on the challenges facing the American church in the 21st century.
Today we are, for all intents and purposes, in a post-Christian era. -Dr. Jay Grimstead
Faith is privately engaging, but publicly irrelevant. -Dr. Os Guinness
We've basically divorced our religion from our culture. -Dr. John Eidsmoe
Christians have backed out of their responsibilities in so many areas. -Dr. David Noebel
Our problem is that we have offended the Lord and lost His needed favor. -John Dawson
As biblical Christians we need to resist the New World order. -Paul Maguire
One of the things that you've got to get rid of for a new world order is you have to trash Christianity. -Tal Brooke
We have a nation of biblical illiterates. Only 11% of Christians now read their bible every day. -Cal Thomas (update in 2012 daily bible reading is up to 15% according to Barna Research)
There are millions of Christians with saved souls and Babylonian minds. -Darrow Miller
The church compromised with the world system. If the church stood up right now it would be gone in a minute. - Dr. Ted Baehr
Government begins in a heart of man. -Stephen McDowell
The function of civil government is to limit sin. -David Davidson
We should attack concepts, ideas - pulling down strongholds, demolishing arguments. -Dr. Walter Martin
Religion is always scientific, and science is always religious. -Dr. Hugh Ross
Even a pagan can see something when it's working right. -Dr. Charles Simpson
Until we have a more pure witness to the world we can hardly expect to see the world changed. -Dr. Gerg Bahnsen
I believe the businessman has to come in to accountability. -Rich Pearce
Prosperity is not a goal; it is always a by-product. -Dr. Edwin Cole
There is a new wisdom that God is giving to the church. -Francis Frangepane
Therefore we ought to transform our society. -Pastor Tommy Barnett
If all of us did our job - in caring for the hurting and defending the helpless - there would be no need for an ACLU. -Dr. George Grant
God is looking for participants. -Dr. Jack Hayford
God is shaking believers out of a false sense of security. -Dennis Peacocke
The issue is ultimately going to come right back today as to whether or not we will acknowledge the Lordship of Christ or the Lordship of Caesar. -Pastor John Weaver
God is bringing us back to a restored church with a restored gospel. -Dale Rumble
I've never seen so many tears of repentance. -John Dawson
The born-again church in every city is to be one church. -Francis Frangepane
We are a people of impending prophetic fulfillment. -Dr. Jack Hayford
Human history is approaching a "convergence," according to strategist Dennis Peacocke. This new convergence is magnetic in nature - polarizing and unifying Christians and the world system. Sweeping cultural change will soon focus around these major issues:
1) The Generational Transfer of Values
2) Ethnic Justice for All People
3) The Ministry of All Believers
4) The End of Left-Right Politics
5) Redefining True Wealth
Reflection: Lord we thank you for the men (and women) of the kingdom you place in our path to help us better grasp the limitless kingdom possibilities as we walk in Him. Help us each discern our place of service in the kingdom starting today.
Speak to us through your Word, Spirit and godly friends and counsel. We worship You o King of Kings, Lord of Lords! (conclusion: audio sample from The Big Picture: Part I (2 min.) audio -- Part II (2 min.) audio)
Key #6. Careers in the Kingdom
To recap what we've covered so far:
1. Kingdom First: "Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you" (Matthew 6:33) What is the ONE thing that you want today more than anything else?
2. Kingdom Order: Once God has redeemed us from an orderly (but godless) life, we immediately enter into a new form of chaos, from the world's perspective. But in reality we are entering a new type of order, a kingdom order. The Christian walk is a lifetime process of re-ordering our chaotic life with Kingdom principles.
3. Kingdom Within: Jesus said, "The kingdom of God comes not with observation, for behold, the kingdom of God is within you." (Luke 17:21). The message of the Kingdom is the concept underlying all of Jesus' ministry. It is the central theme of Jesus' preaching.
4. Kingdom Power: "And he entered the synagogue and for three months spoke boldly, reasoning and persuading them about the kingdom of God". (Acts 19:8) The Apostle Paul boldly proclaimed the kingdom of God, a new lifestyle of 'sitting, walking and standing' in and with Jesus.
5. Kingdom Servant-Leaders: The kingdom message is beginning to echo around the world more quickly today than ever in history. According to Dr. Jack Hayford, "History is marching toward a count-in to redemption, rather than a countdown to destruction." Christians need a fresh perspective on our role in society.
6. Careers in the Kingdom: "I must be about my Father's work," said Jesus. "You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again?"
In God's kingdom there is no such thing as 'secular' work. Christian businessmen and women and professionals are awakening to the key role that God has given them in advancing God's Kingdom in the marketplace.
Whatever it is the Lord has called you to do for a living is the foundation of your ministry and mission - and every bit as important as being an official "church leader".
The fivefold equipping ministry of pastors, teachers, evangelists, prophets, apostles each have a distinct purpose in the body of Christ of identity building. They are given by God to help both veterans and newcomers to understand "who am I in Christ".
Parallel to these kingdom "identity builders" is the ministry of vitality. That is the 99% of the church who live and work in public places who are called to deliver the vitality of their kingdom identity out into the culture. That is why Christ called us to be "salt and light".
Rich Gazowsky, author and pastor of Voice of Pentecost once told me his vision was to help his congregation to build "Christian careers." Did he mean full time ministry positions? No.
2 Peter 1:10 says, "Make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things you will never stumble." The Apostle Paul's job was tentmaking, but his career was missionary. "Every Christian has a tentmaking job that provides the engine for their career in God," says Rich.
I Cor. 7:20 reminds us "Let each one remain in the same calling in which he was called." So every Christian should know his career and calling and be able to give account to others.
Because our work is holy to God, we must always keep in mind the lesson of Ephesians - we must first sit down in the finished work of the Lord to become a vessel fit for service by our King. This pattern was first established in the Creation, rest in Him then work for Him. We are created for 'good works', which begin after sitting at His feet.
God sets the bar for Christians much higher than the world system's code of conduct at work. "...walk worthy of the vocation you have been called with all lowliness and meekness... no longer as Gentiles in the vanity of their mind... but in the spirit of your mind ... to walk in love, even as Christ also loved you... to walk as children of the Light."
Reflection: Lord we give you thanks today for our work, our calling, our mission. We thank you for the unique skills, talents and gifts given to us to help build Your kingdom. Help us today expand both our personal witness and kingdom impact on the culture in our own unique way. May the light within us shine bright and attract those around us stumbling in the darkness.
Key #7: The Language of the Kingdom
Proverbs 18:21 The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.
This verse is worth memorizing. The words of our mouth express our choices, both for life and death.
When we speak the language of the world, of fear, worry, doubt or other negativity, we give it more power over our life. When we speak the language of the kingdom, faith, truth and wisdom, we bring life to ourselves and others around us, which brings forth delicious fruit.
Our words have greater power than we know. Words have the power to redeem hearts, to empower, to build us up spiritually, mentally, emotionally and physically, OR the power to immobilize and tear us down. I am not speaking about other people's words which we cannot control, but our own words.
The entire universe was spoken into existence, "In the beginning was the Word". The language of the Kingdom emanates from the Word of God, Jesus himself, as well as the entirety of God's written Word.
"Spoken words program our spirit and heart either to success or defeat. Words are containers. They carry either faith or fear, and produce after their kind," writes author and Bible teacher Charles Capps.
Rom. 10:17 says that "Faith comes by hearing Word of God." We must then open our mouth and speak His Word to ignite our faith, as well as to take dominion over sin and evil. Jesus told us to speak in faith, Mark 11:23 , "say to this mountain be removed... with no doubt ... he shall have whatever he says."
The book of Proverbs is loaded with blessings and warnings about the power of our words. Prov. 4:20 ... His words are life, health (medicine) to all flesh", 8:1, "Does not wisdom call out? Does not understanding raise her voice?", 12:18, "The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing".
Scripture tells us the tongue is the most unruly part of our body because of the damage it can do to ourselves and to others. Bringing our words under the lordship of Christ and His kingdom is a lifetime project for Christians. This is why we are told to be "quick to listen and slow to speak". Yet most of us reverse the order without ever giving it a thought.
We need the wisdom of God flowing to us and from us, every time we open our mouth. Proverbs 13:3 Those who guard their lips preserve their lives. To me, guarding my lips means envisioning the Holy Spirit standing guard over my thoughts and words before they come out of my mouth.
Do you know someone who always seems to have "a heart at peace"? Medical professionals know that mental and spiritual peace helps us all live longer, healthier lives. Christians in the healthcare field have a great opportunity to speak the Word over their patients sickness and watch God perform healing miracles.
Why do we worry so much and speak negative words so often? Human nature? Yes in part. This world is without faith in God's kingdom, knows not peace, nor how to find it. Unbelievers desperately need to see this peace of God manifest thru us, and spoken by us, to grasp the possibilities of this new kingdom.
Proverbs 18:4, The words of the mouth are deep waters, but the fountain of wisdom is a rushing stream.
God's wisdom comes to us at times as precious spring water from a deep well. At other times it rushes by us ... bringing with it a cleansing action to wash away the impurities and language of the world in us.
The Word of God is conceived in the heart and spoken with the mouth produces liberty, health and healing. Psalm 119:89 reminds us ... "His Word is forever settled in heaven... He will establish Word upon this earth." How does that happen? When His people speak His Word in every situation in life.
Mr. Capps writes the Lord spoke clearly saying, "I have told my people they can have what they say, but instead they are saying what they have."
Reflection: Lord today we yield our mind and mouth to Your kingdom. Let us speak only words of faith and encouragement in every circumstance. We have all been guilty of having a deadly tongue at times. Please forgive us, let us seek to have tongues that speak only life, health and vitality. Life is too short to waste with idle words of gossip. The powerful tongue You have given us is to bless the King and advance His kingdom, not to curse it, or restrain it from filling the earth. [ listen to a podcast by Charles Capps http://charlescapps.com/podcasts.shtml ]
If you liked these devotionals, you may also like Nuggets of Wisdom from Proverbs 31-day devotional and Sit, Walk, Stand 18-day devotional from Ephesians. God Bless! -db