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For Patricia

I want you to imagine something. You are walking in the North Pole, into an icy wind, darkness all around you. You are bone tired, hungry and the cold has settled in your bones. You are nearly at the end of your rope. You are still walking because you can see a small light in the distance and it represents everything you so desperately need – safety, warmth, food, peace, rest. You are only  holding on because of that little light. Every agonising step brings you closer.

Then suddenly you become aware of a person walking next to you. It is as if he has been there all the time but you were not aware of his presence. You are enveloped in a cloud of warmth and security. Then he speaks and he warns you of a crevasse that is hidden in the ice. You change course and you can feel his satisfaction. You have just been obedient and it saved your life.

He offers you something to eat and as you take it and taste it you realise that what you are eating is a part of him – he gave you of his flesh to eat and just as you want to vomit, you realise that it is right – that is the way it should be. You are satisfied and the hunger is gone. Then he gives you something to drink and you realise it is his blood. You shudder but you know that you have to do it. This is the only way to survive. You take his cupped hand and drink from it and your eyes open further. It is as if a light is swtiched on in front of you and you can see another crevasse gaping before your feet.

You look to him with grattitude and all you can see in the darkness is the reflection of the semi light on his beautiful teeth and the glint in his eye. It is as if his eyes glow in the dark with something and as you look closer; you know, you just know that they glow with love.

And you know that you are going to make it to the little light because you have found the companion who had always been there with you but whom you have never seen. You feel the warmth of his love holding the cold at bay. You know that you can count on his flesh and his blood to sustain you and you know that he will give you light and instructions to save you from falling.

You have just discovered the kingdom of God.

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And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come. (Mat 24:14)

 

We have preached various gospels. We have preached a ‘gospel of salvation’, a ‘gospel of grace’, a ‘social gospel’ and others but the ‘gospel of the kingdom’ is now being brought to the attention of all who are seeking first to live in that kingdom. We have had extensive discussions about the kingdom in this forum and I believe it is what we should talk about at this stage because it is end-time revelation. We will still talk about it a lot.

I felt to emphasize again the relational angle of the kingdom because we are now growing in thinking patterns about the kingdom and if we lose the relational angle we have lost the central theme. Some of this could be repetitive but if we are not walking in the truth then we have not heard it properly and every word we can hear or read that will strengthen the revelation of the truth is beneficial.

Can any of us say that we are walking in the truth about the kingdom? If we are then it should be seen in our lives and we are not hearing many rumours about the manifestations of the kingdom taking place in our country – yet. So I felt this is pertinent and that we still need more light from different perspectives on this subject until we see the power of the life of Jesus really coming through our lives and changing the landscape we live in.

 

1.    The kingdom refers to the rule of God. This we all know by now but I thought this perspective is fresh:

a)    Dallas Willard said: “Every last one of us has a ‘kingdom’ – or a ‘queendom’ or a government – a realm that is uniquely our own, where our choice determines what happens. We are made to ‘have dominion’ within an appropriate domain of reality. This is the core of the likeness and the image of God in us and is the basis of the destiny for which we were formed.

Our kingdom is simply the range of our effective will”.

b)    “Now God’s own ‘kingdom’ or ‘rule’, is the range of His effective will, where what He wants done is done. The person of God himself and the action of his will are the organizing principles of his kingdom, but everything that obeys those principles whether by nature or by choice, is within his kingdom.”

c)     “It existed from the moment of creation and will never end (Ps. 145:13, Dan. 7:14) It can not be shaken (Hebr. 12:27) and is totally good. It has never been in trouble and never will be. It is not something that human beings produce or, ultimately, can hinder. We do have an invitation to be part of it but if we refuse we only hurt ourselves.”

d)    “Accordingly, the kingdom of God is not essentially a social or political reality at all. Indeed, the social and political realm, along with the individual heart is the only place in all of creation where the kingdom of God or his effective will is currently permitted to be absent. That realm is the ‘on earth’ of the Lord’s Prayer that is opposed to the ‘in heaven’ where God’s will is, simply, done.”

 

2.    From this foundation we can deduce a couple of thoughts

a)    If the kingdom is the rule of God then it can not be separated from God himself. His rule and his will are one. As many of us have found out with our children, we need to be present to see that our will is done and that our kingdom is established. My thoughts determine what I want and if I express those thoughts as my will, they determine the extent of my kingdom. I can not rule without communicating my thoughts. My speech determines the extent of my rule for without expressing myself no one will know what I want.  

So if you enter my kingdom you are entering me as expressed by my communicated will. Teachers have a kingdom in their class, fathers in their homes, mothers within their families, employers in their businesses and those who operate within the sphere where the will of a person is done, operate within the kingdom of that person.

b)    In the Old Testament, the people thought that entrance into the kingdom depended on keeping laws and working hard at being good. They were wrong because God, knowing that they would fail in keeping his law, gave them a system of sacrifices to cover their failure so that from the beginning the actual mode of entrance was faith in the goodness and grace of a God who said he will accept the sacrifices. The truth of this is clear from the life of Abraham and David who did not trust in their goodness but in the character of God.

As Israel lost contact with the living God they progressively lost the truth about faith and grace and the keeping of the law without mistakes became the way to enter into the rule of God. That produced the Pharisees who were seeking for eternal life in the Scriptures but refused to come to him.  (Jn. 5:39-40) 

c)     Jesus came in the flesh and fulfilled the requirements of the law to publicly, physically restore the truth about faith and grace and expose the inadequacy of the law. “For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” (Rom 8:3-4)

Because of his presence, the requirement to enter into the kingdom was clearly portrayed in a person. Relationship to him became the key to entrance. You still needed faith to believe in the power of the sacrifice and in the grace and the love of God who would accept the sacrifice, but now the concept became visible. In stead of it being just written word, the way became physical and relational. You had to know the person to be able to enter into the bliss of life in another kingdom. You could ignore the requirements set by the Pharisees. The requirement of grace and faith was all you needed and it was presented to you in the form of a relationship with a person of flesh and blood. Jesus illustrated that repeatedly but the scene with the prostitute who broke the alabaster box on his feet is probably the most graphic.

d)    Jesus said about John the Baptist that he was the greatest born of a woman but even the least in this new kingdom was greater than he. It is because the least in the new kingdom can walk hand in hand with Jesus and can feel the life of Jesus flow through him. John was great but he could not enter into the kingdom. The life of Jesus could not flow from his innermost being because Jesus could not live inside him. He could not live by the life of Another.

All that changed with the advent of the age of the Spirit. Now the kingdom suffers violence and the violent can enter by force. This does not refer in my mind to physical violence; it refers to the violence that must be done to our understanding before we will desire entrance and relationship above effort and performance.

The break with effort is so radical that it requires a violent clash with grace and faith and only those who are willing to allow their minds to suffer violence will be able to turn around (repent) and receive the gift that was there all the time (at hand) for them to receive through faith and grace.

e)    God is not an absentee landlord – he is ‘with us’. Paul said, “In Him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17). This means that to enter into his kingdom means to enter into him. Entering into him implies relationship because he has revealed himself as a person. We can not separate God from his kingdom and try to extend the kingdom by our actions as if it is a business or a region. We can only enter deeper into God and get others to do the same. In that way we extend the awareness of his person and through that the ability to live in him. that is why Jesus cried out: “Come to me all who labour and are heavily laden and I will give you rest”.

f)     When Jesus said, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand”, he was referring to the rule or the will of God that has come within our reach in his own person. He was referring to ‘Immanuel, God with us’. That does not mean that the kingdom only came into existence when he came. It does not mean that the rule of God was not available before that, that God himself was not around. It means that something changed with the coming of Jesus and that the rule of God or God became accessible.

Dallas Willard uses the analogy of electricity to explain this. When he was growing up on a farm they had no electricity. One day electricity became available for that area and the government came to the farmers and told them, “Repent for electricity is at hand”. Electricity was not a new thing – it had been there for a long time, but now it has become available for the people of that district. They needed to change their mode of thinking and embrace the new truth before they would go to the trouble and spend the money to obtain the gadgets that would manifest the power of electricity. They needed to repent from their old ways and embrace the new way that was offered to them before they could have light.

g)    Like electricity the kingdom does not ‘come with observation’ as Jesus said. It is invisible. It is all around us but we are not aware of it, just like God. It is only as we are willing to allow Him to change our thinking (repent) and we receive the revelation of the Spirit that we become more aware of the unseen. If we know Jesus then the kingdom is also within us, and we also become aware of its immediacy by revelation. Paul says it is near us, on our lips – it is the word of faith (Rom. 10). It remains unseen until we have enough trust in Papa’s love, faithfulness and desire to reveal it to us, to take a step in faith into the unknown and start to interact with that which has always been there.

Without faith it is impossible to please God (Hebr. 11) so as our eternal lives started with a gift of faith, by grace (Eph.2), so this revelation will only come through a gift of faith. The only pre-requisite to receive gifts is desire because desire causes requests to bubble from our mouths and that is the only thing Papa requires.

h)    He died for us while we were still sinners so he does not require perfection or good moral behaviour before he gives us the gift of faith to receive the presents he has for us. He just requires desire and a desire that leads to asking and seeking. (Whoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved        Rom. 10). This desire also comes by grace. When we are first saved we have much desire – that is given so that we can continue to ask not so that we can continue to become more holy. Religion destroys that and causes us to want to work for the revelation of the kingdom, but desire and asking is the way God ordained for it to come to us. He gave us all we need from the beginning so that we can ask, not so that we can live perfect lives.

i)      So, the kingdom is not a place, nor is it a state of mind or being, nor a system of governance. It is a person and entrance into it is depending on conversation and relationship. The potential to enter into this relationship has been a gift and the power to penetrate deeply into it is also a gift – a gift of faith that comes by grace.

That is why Jesus said, “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things shall be added unto you”. The kingdom should be sought as we will seek for a hidden treasure or for a precious pearl. In the same way as we are called in Prov. 2 to call out for wisdom, lift up our voice for understanding, are we called to knock and keep on knocking, seek and keep on seeking, ask and keep on asking until we receive the revelation. And the revelation is nothing but a revelation of a person, of his love, of his nearness – his being at hand. It is just our mindset that has to change. We have to change by grace and through faith into lovers, into wild, passionate lovers of Jesus.

That is how we enter deeper into the kingdom.

j)     What shall we do then? We shall talk to Jesus and to Papa. We shall talk with them form an understanding of our own inability to enter into anything good without their help. From an understanding of the inadequacy of our own lives and a deep desire to live their kind of life. From a deep knowledge that only faith can bring that they want us to enter and that it is their good pleasure to give us the kingdom. It revolves around conversation and conversation revolves around communication.

The Christian walk is about fellowship, about parties, about conversations over a cup of tea or a lunch, about asking for presents and about the willingness to keep on doing that for the rest of our lives – that is probably why it is so much easier for the ladies.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some more thoughts on the church came from a discussion on the subject with some brethren. We have been trying to define the various expressions of church, like the local church, the universal church, etc. and trying to find how the church and the kingdom work together. There are such a wide variety of thoughts and interpretations that I thought I want to get some perspective for myself.

It does not matter what we look at, our hearts will determine the conclusions we come to. It does not matter what we do, it will carry the mark of brokenness. The issues of life flow from the heart and the way we worship God is certainly an issue of life. The foundational question in our hearts when we look at the church or the Kingdom is often masked by our concern and our religious search for “truth”.

Our hearts are asking the question, “how can we change (ourselves, them, the church, the world)?” This question leads to debates on structure, on what is right and what is wrong and we look for recipes in history or in the Scriptures to give us guidance in our quest to change and improve. We set up standards that are rooted and founded on our own interpretation of what God wants and what He intended. These standards have to lead to rules and regulations. Rules lead to walls, to expectations and responsibilities that divide and hurt people. But, is this the right question to ask?

The problem is that there is no true example of what church should look like. Everything we see has come from interpretation. Through the ages good people tried to interpret the teachings and the life of Jesus and came to conclusions about the way He would have wanted them to live together in community (church). They looked through filters of prejudice, racism, pride, partiality, and the practices that developed reflected their interpretation. The first structural organisation we read about in the Bible happened because the Greek widows were not cared for properly. The first deacons were appointed because the prejudice or racism in the people’s hearts caused them to put certain people before others. Most of the rest of the New Testament was written to correct the excesses or lapses that came from contextualizing the teachings of Jesus. Jesus never taught about structure. There is nothing in His teachings about how we should do church. He just taught on how our hearts should be and how that should affect the way we relate to each other. He basically taught on love and how our lives will look if we love as He does. He taught us the principle of laying down our lives and if we all do that, we will not need any church structure. Leaders will lead because it is natural, pastors will care, followers will walk together and follow the leaders and we will evangelize and prophesy as we hear from Him. There will be no need for a hierarchy, for majority decisions, for a quorum. We will do what the first church did during the first fifty years of its existence – we will be together and we will love one another. No one will have lack and we will glorify Him whose body we are, the fullness of Him who is all in all. And we will be focused on Jesus, the head. We will all hear Him and just do what He says and so expand the Kingdom of His rule.

We are still struggling with the same heart problems as the first church so our interpretation of the heart of God must be tainted by our own brokenness. But, He is not finished building His church. He is causing a great move of people form the institutional church – not because it is right to be out and wrong to be in but because He is jealous for the affection of His people and He wants them to relate directly to Him. In stead of speaking as if we know what the end product will look like, we are learning that we are all wrong and how to live in an attitude of humble expectancy that will exclude prescriptive viewpoints and legalistic grandstanding. We are becoming more careful when we look at the structure of the first church to not extrapolate structural elements to build our churches on. We are learning that it is His body we touch when we criticize the existing church or those who are out of church. As we grow in grace we will talk in humble whispers of awe and love about the church and not in brash tones that speak about our prejudice and pride.

The church is first of all an organism. She is the developing Bride of Jesus. She is the body of Jesus of which He alone is the head. When we look at her there must be amazement that reflects that we are aware that we can not do a better job than Jesus. Only when we look at her with the eye of faith can we love her and keep our grubby hands off the bride of the Master. We will come to a place of humility forged by an understanding of how finite our thinking and methods really are in comparison to the thoughts and plans of the Almighty. Then we will be in constant intercession for the church in stead of trying to build it or to correct it or to change it. We will understand with a clarity that can only come through revelation and only be received by humility that our role is to pray and to love. His role is to build and to change.

As long as my heart still asks the question, “How can I change them?” I will be tempted to criticize but when my question becomes, “How can I love them more?” I find out that I am way out of my league and the only place to run is to prayer. I will start to pray with conviction and perseverance “till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ;” (Eph 4:13)We will pray more for her and talk less about her. We will love more and control less. We will be free to be lead elders, or just elders, deacons or administrators, gift ministries or just followers without the baggage of responsibility we are all carrying and we will be friends of Jesus at last.   

Last weekend I spent a stormy night on the side of a mountain in a twenty year old tent with a friend of more than twenty years. It was an attempt to patch up the damage that was done to our friendship by more than a year of not seeing each other’s faces. This is no ordinary friend. For many years we had struggled together to hear the voice of God and to see His face. We were given to one another to  forge a collective vision of God in the heat of life.

We were there for one another when his two day old baby got meningitis and nearly died; when he had to get a heart bypass operation at the age of thirty eight and when his wife lost her fight against cancer shortly thereafter. When I suffered burn-out, nearly lost all I had and struggled with the pain of failure he heard God’s voice for me. Many times we cried together, found God’s voice together, rejoiced together. We made mistakes, were disobedient to the Voice, suffered immense loss through it but loved one another all the time. We were tempted to judge, to remain in unforgiveness and to walk away many times but we remained true to love and to friendship and in the end to the purposes of Jesus for our lives. But, silence and absence threatened our friendship and we had to get together.

 Like our friendship, the week-end was not perfect. As if God wanted to show us a picture of our relationship. It was raining; the wind reached speeds that seriously threatened the integrity of the tent. And it was cold. But the fellowship was warm while we lay listening to the deafening wind and the groaning of the tent. We knew we had to do what we were doing. Our friendship always had two things that raised it above other friendships: we often laid down our lives for each other and we were committed to honesty. The warm moments of “Do you remember?” in the rain and cold had elements of both these qualities.

This experience reminded me again about my other Friend who had to move far away and with whom I have communicated for the last thirty four years without seeing Him in person. Our lives and environments are so different that we just struggle to communicate. I heard Him speaking at times but mostly in the form of instruction or rebuke. Mostly to do with the work I had to do for Him – or did not do. There were times when I really felt his presence although I could not see Him. I did hear His voice at crucial times and I can honestly say that when His voice broke through my noise induced hearing loss, it was always life changing and did a lot to keep our friendship alive. But, the experience with my earthly friend just again emphasized the importance of a real experience with Him.

A night together on the mountain is what I need more than anything else.  I need to look into His eyes while He talks to me. I need to hear His voice. I used to want to hear His voice so that I can be protected or make the right choices. I was listening for instructions to build His kingdom. Now I just want to hear His voice. I have learnt that He speaks about trivial things. That He tells me how much He loves me. That He tells me how much He loves my enemy. That He has an opinion about most things I do and that His wisdom often makes the difference between a hard day at the office, the struggle of failure and the peculiar experience of rest that I have come to love so much.

We did not spend that night in the tent speaking about ministry and what we should have done or should have accomplished. We did speak about deep things but we laughed a lot and spoke about the things of life. We made a fire in the rain, prayed for the rain to stop and were heard. We ate together and tripped into the past. There was little instruction, no rebuke and whenever I wanted to put on my teacher’s hat, the grace just left.

It is like that with Jesus. We have to spend time together in life. Not to “get advice” or to “get revelation” or be brought onto the right path again. We do spend time with Him – “quiet time”, or “bible study”, or “church” but then we often listen for the instructions or the rebukes or the revelations. Mostly He just wants to have a cup of tea with us while we discuss our children, or friends, or reminisce about the past. He sometimes talks about the future and then we want to make it a prophecy and write in our blog about our experience or lay hands on whoever is near while He just wanted to share some revelation with a friend.

Friendship and conversation go together like cake and candles. They can exist separately but when they come together they represent something unseen that causes us to smile and feel a peculiar satisfaction. The friendship with Jesus is the same. The cake of salvation becomes a celebration when we light the candles of conversation and friendship. We often find that He is the one with the birthday hat who wants to make small talk at the party while we are trying to “bring depth to the conversation”. He is the one with the presents while we are trying to get the latest updates on how to live life. He loves parties and giving presents …. and He loves to talk. You see, He is motivated by love – for so God loved the world – not by mission. That is why He is first relational and then functional. It is difficult for our Western minds to understand that, but it is true.

Adam and Eve were His friends and He walked with them and talked with them. Enoch was walking with Him and disappeared – they spoke. Abraham saw Him and they talked about many things – he was called a friend of God. He spoke to Moses face to face and Moses was called His friend. Every time when He really wanted a faith response, God spoke. All these faith heroes were only heroes because they heard God. And for them to hear, He had to speak. He speaks to His friends.

One thing we can not say about God is that He is silent. It would be so unfair for Him to be silent when His goal for us is to live from every word that proceeds from His mouth. He wants us to be able to say with Jesus, I can’t do anything unless I see Him doing it or hear from Him what to do. It is only because hearing His voice has become such an occasion that some of us have opted to seek for Him only in the Scriptures. Some believe that He stopped speaking because He had said all He wanted to say and that was written down. Not that there is anything wrong with seeking God in the Bible – that is His word and it testifies of Jesus. But, Jesus did say to the Pharisees, “You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life”. (Joh 5:39-40)

Jesus called us friends. He said, “No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you. (Joh 15:15)

Friendship and conversation go together.

Maybe we should give up some time out of our busy schedule and find Him in a tent on the northern face of a rainy mountain so that we can learn how precious His voice is. So that we can look into His eyes and find nothing but love. So that our friendship can be restored. It may be the best investment you have made in a while.

Or better even, maybe we have to start looking for his face in those around us or in the spreadsheet on the computer or in the boardroom or behind the stove. Maybe we should listen for His voice while others speak or when we are alone for a second between appointments. Maybe we should hear what He wants to say when we watch the news on CNN or hear Him pray for those who irritate us so much on the road. 

 Maybe it is time for us to claim our birthright – the right to hear the voice of our Friend.   

In response to Graham’s question, I felt to write something more than an answer. but, at the same time I want to write something good so I have been procrastenating which is not what I am famous for. I am more of a guy who runs in places where angels fear to tread and that foolishness has caused me much pain. But, the pain had a good effect because I learnt to wait to hear what Jesus wants to say. Not that I do this all the time – I still go before Him sometimes but I have improved ….

I believe with most of the Evangelical world that the rock Jesus spoke about when He said He will build His church was not the man Peter but the revelation that Jesus is the Son of God. This statement can as far as I am concerned not be seen as a statement of organisation at all. The fact that Jesus did not in any other place gave His disciples any instructions regarding structure, confirms this viewpoint.

Jesus spoke about love. He never told them how to meet. He never told them what the superstructure of the church should look like. Who should be in charge. There is no mention by Him of elders or deacons or whether women can be in ministry, or how and where and when they were supposed to have meetings or celebrate feasts. The closest He came to that was when He instituted the time of loving reflection on His body and blood we call Holy communion and even then he refrained from being prescriptive.

Jesus called them to Himself: “Come to Me all who are weary and I will give you rest….” He was speaking to a nation that was ravaged by religious laws and kept from entering into the real Kingdom by the very people who thought they had the keys to that Kingdom. Jesus looked upon them and wept.

What He suggested in the place of what had messed them up so badly was love. See the word love as the end of the word relationship. He suggested to these weary people that they leave the hard work of organised religion and join Him in relationship. A relationship that He came to model as He walked with His Father. He could do nothing unless He saw the Father do it. He spent nights alone with His Father. He modelled something so different that we are still struggling to get it.

I actual fact, we can’t get it and the people of that time did not get it at all until the Holy Spirit was poured out and they could understand by revelation what He really meant. What happened then is a good illustration of the kind of thing Jesus was talking about. Look at what the Apostles did shortly after that revelation to see the picture of what Jesus intended. They loved. They were together, they lived in community, they owned nothing and there was no believer who suffered. They gathered together daily and broke bread from house to house. They moved in the supernatural and miracles and signs were common – even some signs of judgment. They loved.

Initially there was no mention of titles, no one in control but the Holy Spirit. They just loved one another and they spent time together. There were no buildings, no lone rangers. They loved Jesus and they loved each other and they were together. As the numbers grew, some became upset because they were not cared for properly. The Apostles had to bring in structure in the form of deacons who could take care of the widows. It should not have been necessary but the problem is in the heart of man and when they did not love the foregin widows enough they did not care for them as they should have and the first step to organise outside of the love principle was taken. If every believer just loved as Jesus told them to love this would not have been necessary. The problem is in the heart of man and organised religion is one way to address the problems that come from the loveless hearts that are trying to live perfect lives. It was not what Jesus ordained, taught or modelled.

He modelled a lifestyle. He taught about that lifestyle and gave His blood to enable us to live that life. He calls us to Himself as a person. It is only because we can’t see Him that we look for physical things to replace the revelation of Him … or other people like pastors, bishops, etc. It was only 350 years later that these titles became the norm and a magnitude of other traditions started to develop. All because we are incapable to live the lives Jesus showed us.

But, it must be possible, otherwise this is a farce. He made it possible by dying for it and we can discover in us His love and learn how to live from it. If we live like He did, we will not need religion and organisation. We will just love and the rest will flow from that. I don’t think Jesus came to establish organised religious structures, I think He came to manifest a relationship. We built the structures and we have the scars to show.

Just on behalf of organised religion. It was and still is a neccesity because of our hearts, but as we grow in the life Jesus modelled it will become less needed until we will all just love and do all things we see Jesus did because of love.

The Kingdom of God

We have been talking on another forum about the purpose of the Kingdom and I felt it may be good to post this here and see what the reaction is to it. Any takers?When we ask the question, “what is the purpose of the kingdom?” then we must be careful not to ask it from the perspective that the kingdom is a tool God uses to accomplish something on the earth or in this age. It is not separate from God like creation is separate from Him. It is a powerful force that does accomplish much but it is not like a spade that God uses to dig a hole so that He can plant a tree.In my opinion the kingdom is God Himself.

We have established that the kingdom is the reign of God. That means that it manifests wherever His will is done. If the kingdom is His will then it can not be distinguished from His person. The kingdom is in my opinion the manifestation of the supremacy of the will of God. The sign to creation that God’s will is more powerful than anything else. It is a manifestation of the person of God. It will come to a conclusion in the rule of Christ in the end when ‘all things are in Him’. When His will is being done then He is manifested and then we are truly ‘in Him’.

This in my opinion has some implications.

1.    It means that the ultimate purpose of the kingdom can not be divorced from God’s person. The kingdom must be a manifestation of the glory of God and of His character and person. Wherever the kingdom is in place, God’s glory will be seen and He will be manifested. The ultimate purpose of all things is to glorify God. When the kingdom manifests then the person of God manifests and that is His glory. The kingdom is the manifestation of God to the principalities and powers. Creation is the stage on which this manifestation is happening. We are the players on the stage but we have one goal – to manifest God. The manifestation in the natural of an invisible Being, of all His attributes and His character is called the kingdom of God. It is the “doxa” of God, His glory and the knowledge of it (experientially) will fill the earth as “the waters cover the sea”.

2.    God has decided to manifest His person – in my opinion that is one and probably the most important reason why He created. He has done this manifestation in various ways through the ages beginning with creation. Even in the fall, judgment and grace manifest one thing: this is what God is like. Without sin there would be no manifestation of His righteous judgement and without judgement there would be no manifestation of His attribute of grace. Because that is what He has decided to do, we can know that the manifestation of the supremacy of His will in this creation will not be dependant on a weak and sinful human race but on Him. This means that the kingdom WILL come independent of what we see around us. Every knee WILL bow to His will. People WILL enter and grow in the kingdom because He WILL manifest His glory.

3.    Because the kingdom represents the will of God, every manifestation of the kingdom will be a manifestation of the otherness and the beauty of God. It will be a manifestation of the unseen into the seen. Derek Morphew calls it a ‘breaking in’ of the unseen. If we want to talk in terms of time then it is the breaking in of the age to come into this age. If in terms of miracles, it is the breaking in of the spiritual realm into the physical. If in terms of sanctification, it is the breaking in of the “new man” into the “old man”.

4.    In the Old Testament there were a couple of times representative of this principle. Think about God’s intervention through judgment in Noah’s time and through grace in saving Noah and his family. Think about God intervening in choosing Abraham to be His covenant man of faith and the birth of Isaac. The relationship between God and Israel became a window on God’s character as He broke in consistently in the form of judgment and blessing. The picture of the reign of David and the time of Solomon is a beautiful manifestation of the physical effects of kingdom reign. Peace, abundance, wisdom, prosperity were the trademarks of the reign of God through His chosen ones. Each of these a picture of what happens when God’s will supersedes earthly laws and the desires and plans of humans.

5.    The New Testament starts with the most powerful manifestation of the kingdom as God reveals Himself in the form of a man and manifests His person to us through the attributes of a man. Jesus becomes the final covenant man that brings the rule of God to earth (the kingdom is at hand). He both shows us what it looks like when a man obeys God completely and what God’s person is like by doing His will perfectly. (Hebr 1: 1-3). The disciples continue to live like Jesus did and we see the effects of that in the Acts of the Apostles.From the first physical break-in in the person of Jesus, the kingdom now breaks into individual lives through redemption and the work of the Holy Spirit and then spreads like Daniel’s stone through sanctification in the lives of those who want to obey and are willing to learn obedience.

6.    The Church is a manifestation of the kingdom. Therefore it can be called the Body of Jesus. The break in of the kingdom produce people who desire to live as servants of one another in intimate relationship and to know God and so the church is formed. The church then becomes the vehicle through which God manifests Himself as they operate in obedience to His will and shows forth to creation the character of God (just like Jesus did).

7.    Because the kingdom and God can not be separated, entering and growing in the kingdom remains a sovereign work of God who calls us and places us ‘in Christ’ or in the kingdom. Jesus then becomes for us ‘wisdom from God and righteousness and sanctification and redemption’ – that ‘no flesh may glory in His presence’ (1Cor 1:29-31). The prerequisite for entering the kingdom or growing in kingdom life is not standards of spirituality or rules. Life in the kingdom is designed to change us. It is in our interaction with the kingdom (with God through Jesus) that we become more obedient and humble. Entrance is not dependent on the very things that should be produced by that interaction.Although the pre-requisite for growth is humility and obedience, it is the obedience of Jesus and His humility that is the standard and we can’t achieve that standard. We just need to die and let the life of Jesus come forth.Peter wrote that we have received all things that pertain to life and godliness. He also said that we have received all the promises we need to enable us to escape the ‘corruption that is in the world through lust’ and become ‘partakers of the divine nature’. Then he said, because of these things that were given to us, we must apply all diligence to exercise our faith in order to develop a whole list of other attributes that can be seen as pre-requisites for growth in the kingdom (1 Pet.1:5-11 see AV). This is where it starts. Entering the kingdom and growing in kingdom life is to enter into God and grow in the knowledge of Him, so in my opinion it does not depend on our works but depends on our faith. And the only work we should be doing is to exercise our faith so that we can believe the promises and believe that all things we need to live this kingdom life were already given to us in Jesus. So an ‘abundant entrance will be supplied’ to us into the kingdom (2 Pet.1:11) as we progressively live the life of Jesus and not our own.

8.    All through history there is a clear battle of the kingdoms. The Devil does not want man to know what God is really like. His task is to oppose the revelation of God and therefore he withstands the manifestations of the kingdom of God. Jesus said that the kingdom suffers violence but the violent take it by force (Matt 11:12). And we can see that right through history. We find ourselves in a battle. We want to do the will of God (Paul at the end of Rom.7). We know that doing His will is why we are here but obedience is something that even the Son had to learn through suffering (Hebr. 5). Israel had to learn obedience in the wilderness through being humbled, being hungry and then being fed with manna – a bread they did not know, a manifestation of the unseen into the seen (Deut. 8:2-3) The goal of that was that He might MAKE them know that man shall not live by bread alone but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. It is hard to enter the kingdom because of this truth. Entering is by becoming obedient and becoming obedient is through suffering. It is significant that the first temptation Jesus faced in the wilderness was to use His powers to still His need. He was able to do that but He had to wait on the word of His Father. His direct quote from Deut 8, proves that He understood the principle of becoming obedient through suffering and that by that time He was perfect in His obedience and ready to manifest the kingdom rule of His Father. He went on from there and manifested the kingdom perfectly.

9.    The one thing we can do to facilitate the process is to seek fellowship with God in Jesus. If we enter into the kingdom, we enter into a person so we need to build relationship. We do this by prayer and whatever means we can find to be with Him. Paul said, “but Israel, pursuing the law of righteousness, has not attained to the law of righteousness. Why? Because they did not seek it by faith, but as it were, by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumbling stone. “ (Rom 9:31-32)It is not a battle of works. Paul said to Tim, “Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold of eternal life.” (1Tim 6)  It is a fight of faith. Although the kingdom suffers violence and we are in a constant state of warfare, the struggle is not to improve our works to attain a standard. It is a battle of faith and it is a process of laying hold of the kingdom through struggle and through suffering. In the end it is a journey on which we learn obedience and how to live only by every word that proceed from the mouth of our Father.

10.  In my opinion, the next couple of years will be about growing faith and that will happen when we ask for it. It will be about growing in the release of the life of Jesus from our hearts. That will happen as we pray. The break in of the kingdom has always been a sovereign event that was preceded by an act of intercession. It will not be different in the years to come. We are going to see more manifestations of the person of God but it will not be because we have performed but because we have prayed. And even the advent of a time of prayer will be because he has ordained it for this time and because He works it in our hearts to pray by His grace because it is to the praise of His glory.     

I have been asking the question, ‘How can I love more?’ in many situations since my last blog which has been too long ago. In the mean time I have had a hip replacement operation and much time to ponder and many opportunities to rather try and love than to try and change those around me. Like the brilliant surgeon who happens to be a devout Hindu and my room mate who did not see the world in the same light as I do.

How can I love more? What can I do to show Your love, Jesus? What will bring love into my eyes and warmth into my face? I am not really a warm person by nature. Much more focussed on the task than on the relationships and more focussed on making a difference than on loving so these things do not come naturally.

John recorded Jesus as having said, ‘This is my commandment that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down his life for his friends.’ (John 15) The question, to my alarm, seems to be changing from, ‘how can I love more’, to ‘how can I die better?’ It is now even more difficult to let the love show on my face – the warm smile becomes a grimace and that does not help to make friends and influence people.This is the thing about walking with Jesus – there are always challenges that seem to push us beyond where we are at this moment! I was just asking how to love more and now I am dying again. I have to find a way to die with the fuzzy warmth that attract people and make them feel loved. I realise that I have to find a reason for dying that is so good that it will make the dying feel like a vacation.

Part of the solution came from John 14. ‘He who has My commandments and keeps them it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him.’ The one thing that I have come to desire more than anything else in this life, is that Jesus would manifest Himself to me. The Greek word translated as ‘manifest’ means ‘to exhibit, make visible, present oneself in the sight of another.’ Through the years of God’s dealings in my life, I have slowly come to realise that my initial overwhelming desire for recognition by men, has been replaced – very slowly – by another desire: the desire to see Jesus, to notice it when He presents Himself in my sight. During the last three years He has chosen to manifest Himself to me in different ways. Every manifestation of His beauty was another stimulant to seek more revelation. The smallest revelation; whether in nature, in my imagination, through the truth of the Word or when He appeared more tangibly, moved me to ask for more. He revealed Himself in my daily routine, in the hum-drum of life, in the little things I experience. I started to see Him in people, in my work, in those I minister to, in my special alone time with Him, in my imagination. ‘Seeing’ Him became the cherry on the cake, the slippers and newspaper homecoming, the long cold draught on a hot summer day. And it is addictive.

Because I have handled the Pearl of great price in the context of the simple everyday life, I want it more than the comforts and stimulants I used to fight for to make my day bearable. Because I have seen the Pearl, I have come to love Him. The more I love Him, the more I feel the love of the Father and the more He manifests Himself to me. What a motivation to be obedient to His commandment.

And what is the commandment He has given? He said, ‘love the people around you the same way I have loved you.’ He wants me to love the marginal, the broken, the angry, the sleazy, the proud, the unforgiving so much that when He asks it of me, I will deny my instinct for self-preservation and …..rather do what He says than what will save my life. I have to lay down my life. I have to choose to love rather than be justified or liked or vindicated. It means that I have to get out of the way. I have to take up my cross every day and follow in His footsteps – up the Calvary hill. Now Jesus said that this is what I need to do if I really want to see Him. I have to do this if I want Him to present Himself to me, to make Himself visible.

The promise of manifestation must be so real to me and I must be so convinced that He will do what He has promised that I will be willing to give myself in true intercession for the very people who hate me, curse me, spitefully use me and even those who do no know me. I must be so convinced that there is a prize at the end of the race that I will be willing to resist unto bloodshed, striving against the sin of choosing my own life. (Hebr. 12:3-4) Jesus did that.

He who is the author and finisher of our faith endured the cross for the joy that was set before Him. Whatever the joy was that kept Him going through His ordeal, His faith made it so real that it became the very force that propelled Him to be obedient unto death – the death on the cross. This is the sequence: We see, we love, we obey, we die and we see more. That is the joy set before us and it is enough to justify any cross.

When I ask, ‘how can I love more?’ the answer is simply: ‘he who loves his life will lose it but he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.’ (John 12) As Jesus becomes my life, it becomes easier to exchange my life for His, let go of what I want and embrace the role of intercessor for the sake of those He brings on my path. It becomes easier to love.