The Kingdom Not of This World

I came late to Facebook, and for good reason: to this onlooker it seemed social media had pulled people into a virtual vortex, draining much of their precious time. At the urging of my publisher, though, I took the plunge—and as it turned out, right into the icy waters of the Fall 2016 presidential campaign, where “friended” folks could be found screaming at each other in digital decibels of deafening tones. Some were actually climbing out of the pool for respite, exhausted by relentless shouts of “Marco” on the left and the reliable retorts of “Polo” on the right. Yet as I posted to my blog over the ensuing weeks and months, exploring Biblical truths in a relatable way, I noticed a shared warmth of response among its readers, a meeting of hearts and minds of believers in Christ from across a broad spectrum of political persuasion. Their comments (and emoticons, of course) revealed universal longings in individual souls and their unity in a King they share in common.

Standing before Pilate, Jesus confirmed His reign in a higher place of greater authority; “My kingdom is not of this world,”1 He told the Roman governor. Certainly, the Kingdom of which He spoke has proximity, for Jesus once said, “I have come down from heaven,”2 and before returning to the Father, He promised His followers, “I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.”3 Yet the Biblical connotation of “kingdom” refers foremost to God’s kingship—His rightful rule in human hearts. He reigns in a measureless expanse and also in the repentant soul, as He himself spoke through Isaiah, “For this is what the high and exalted One says—he who lives forever, whose name is holy: ‘I live in a high and holy place, but also with the one who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite.’”4

When we pray, “Thy Kingdom come,” we petition God for His kingship—His rule and reign in our heart. “Our Father, govern in our heart today; we would submit to you,” we might say. We look forward to the day in a place where finally there is no more death, mourning, crying or pain5, yet God’s place of authority in our heart is as ever-present a need as is our daily bread. So today we pray …

Our Father in heaven, you are holy. Send your Spirit to rule in our heart today. Govern us, good King, for we would submit to you. In Jesus’ name we pray as one. Amen.

1 John 18:36
2 John 6:38
3 John 14:3
4 Isaiah 57:15
5 Revelation 21:4


Growing in God’s Transformational Love

“Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.” (1 John 3:2)

Peggy and I find yard work to be relaxing and gratifying, and of the two of us it is usually she who has the clearer mental picture of a well-tended garden. It helps me to know what she is thinking, so before planting or pruning, I’ll proffer one clarifying request: “Just give me a vision for what you’re thinking.” Then with the same end in mind, we pursue it immediately and over time—we’ll know success as it blooms. In a far more wondrous way, God has a vision for what He is shaping us to be: when Christ returns, we will be like Him. We see ourselves as unworthy and think this to be impossible, and indeed in and of ourselves, this would be true. But God’s love is transformational love, steadily pruning and growing us toward the unimaginable: to be like Jesus and to share in His glory. This is where we are going.

Then how is it that we become like Jesus? Must I who have been saved by faith in Christ now somehow find it within me to change myself into His image? Thankfully, no. God’s command for us is this: “to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us.”1 John tells us, “The one who keeps God’s commands lives in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us.”2 Long before the Messiah “became flesh and made his dwelling among us,”3 God foretold of a day when “I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.”4 It is through His Spirit in us that God unites us with Himself and changes us to be like Jesus in character, action and fruitfulness. Paul writes, “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, who … contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”5 He will never lead us in directions displeasing to God, but always in His ways of love, joy and peace, and “[a]gainst such things there is no law.”6 So today when we hear the Spirit’s voice, may we open our hearts and hands to Him, and follow. We will be changed.

“This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.” (1 John 4:10-12).

Father, thank you for your great love. Do as you will: make us like Jesus, and be glorified in us. In His name we pray. Amen.

1 1 John 3:23
2 1 John 3:24
3 John 1:14
4 Ezekiel 36:27
5 2 Corinthians 3:17, 18
6 Galatians 5:22, 23


Serving in God’s Relational Love

Why is it, the best we ever feel is when God works through us to assist another in need of help? Personally, no monetary compensation has ever offered the more lasting and fulfilling joy of having been a blessing to someone in some way. Strange, isn’t it? But then, maybe we shouldn’t be surprised, for Jesus said, “If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.”1

This Biblical love of which Jesus speaks is active love. It elicits warm feelings and noble thoughts, certainly, yet it stirs also in the deeper chambers of our soul, awakening the servant within from its slumber. This love does not chafe at personal inconvenience, nor does it shrink from the enormity of its call. God’s love never stops at obstacles; it moves mountains—it loves anyway. And in love, God grows us even through failures too numerous to count. Here are a few lessons learned along the way.

Follow Jesus’ lead. Jesus did “only what he [saw] his Father doing”2 and said “just what the Father … told [him] to say.”3 We are likewise called to speak and act only as His Spirit leads us, for we are “created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”4

Join in. For years, I sensed a call to share God’s love with the incarcerated, but it was only when a friend invited me to serve on a prison ministry team that I actually engaged. If you sense the Spirit urging you to minister in some way but you don’t know how, join someone already doing as you are being called to do.

Use your gift. The Spirit gifts us just as He determines,5 so each of us has a role amid all of us. Whatever your gift may be—helping, teaching, administration, intercession, leadership, hospitality or another—act in it. Then listen to the symphony of the Spirit’s wind flowing through an entire orchestra of individual instruments, that is the church.

Seize the day. Life presents its momentous occasions along the way, but it chiefly comes at us in daily doses of small measures. The call to actionable love also comes in ways unexpected and easily overlooked. God has prepared these for you—and you for these—so watch for them, and step into them as they unfold before you.

Do it anyway. If others discourage you from God’s call to sacrificial service or Satan entices you elsewhere, or if you if you simply don’t feel like being selfless, step into the moment anyway and serve as you’re being called to serve. There will be fruit.

Embrace God’s favor. Before you do anything in Jesus’ name, His love for you is already infinite. Serve then not to gain God’s favor, but in the joy and humility that you already have it.

Father, you have poured out your love and grace upon us. Show us and lead us in what you are calling us to say and do today. Be pleased with us, your people in Christ Jesus. Amen.

1 John 15:10-12
2 John 5:19
3 John 12:50
4 Ephesians 2:10
5 1 Corinthians 12:11