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Archive for the ‘Kingdom of God’ Category

As the Christmas season progresses I have noticed spending time reflecting on memories of past Christmases. Have any of you done that? Maybe I should say any of you who are say, fifty-five or over.

Sometimes my mind starts to wander off into years past and I see myself with my parents. I can actually see it in my mind like I was there and I can sometimes smell some of the good smells of Christmas cookies baking in the oven.

ChristmasMemories

It actually can get a little depressing when I wander off like that if I concentrate on the past to long. Not because I did not enjoy that period of time, but because it is only a memory. Even while I am lost in thoughts from those years gone by, I am still aware of being in the present time. All those loved ones are now gone and are only memories.

I can also envision years not quite as far back when I was younger and had small children of my own. I can remember that excitement of my kids wanting to get up early and open their presents. Yet even thinking about those times to long gets a little depressing because again, those cute little kids are all grown up and have kids of their own. Again, the thoughts of joy and excitement are just memories.

It is funny how memories can be so uplifting and encouraging and bring so much joy, and at the same time can be a little depressing. So many pleasant memories and happy times of past friends and family being together. Then it all disappears as reality sets in and you know those times are gone.

Of course the good part about all of this are the new memories being made with friends and family of the present time. Memories are great but spending to long in the past is not good when there are so many new memories to be made and enjoyed now.

In Philippians 3:13 it says ‘forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal’. I say live by Hebrews 11:1 … Now faith. We are Now living in the kingdom of God. We Now have the Spirit of God living within us. Enjoy your memories, learn from the past but do not dwell there. Move on and keep looking forward to the goal and live each new day with our Father.

So yes, Christmas time is a time of excitement and happy times. It is also enjoyable to drift back into the past and remember all the good times with friends and family. Yet if you let it, it can be a hard time of year.

Am I saying we should not enjoy past memories? No, not at all. Enjoy the past but do not dwell in the past. The best thing I have found is to enjoy the good times with friends and family in the present. Do not let anything keep you from participating or ruin the time you can spend with them. All to soon they will be but memories, but thank God for the memories.

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For those of us who have left the traditional church system, there can be times of discouragement, questioning and just plain not knowing what to do. Do not feel guilty for having such feelings.

I know that my wife and myself became fed up with the religious church system after spending over fifty years in it. Week after week we went to a pre-planned service, sat and watched only a few select people participate and listened to one person talk and tell us about God.

If was obvious there was a divide, a group of people who participated and a group of people who sat and listened. I remember thinking how spiritual the leaders of the church must be and how knowledgeable they were to hold positions in the church. I always thought I had nothing to say that would be important or helpful and I was so thankful for the pastor and the elders who seemed to have it all together.

As time went on I began wondering about certain verses in the bible that talked about each person having a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation.

Or what about verses talking about us as living stones being built up into a spiritual house, a holy priesthood to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. To me this says that all Christians are a holy priesthood and can offer spiritual sacrifices to God. All have the right to go directly to God through Jesus Christ our High Priest.

We are told that we are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people that we may proclaim the praises of Him who called us out of darkness into His marvelous light.

All these verses and many others sure sounded to me that we were all capable, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit who lives within us, to be equals with all others who followed Christ. All can serve and fulfill a purpose in the Kingdom of God.

My wife and I came to believe that the divide we see in the Christian church was really very unbiblical. There are no first and second-class citizens of the Kingdom. There should not be a clergy-laity divide within the true Church that God is building through Christ.

church-people-or-building

We were always taught that the church, the brick and mortar building people attend once a week, was the house of God. Yet the bible says that we are the temple of the Holy Spirit and the Kingdom of God is within us.

Finally making the choice to leave the church system, we decided to walk with God outside the walls of religion. This of course is a very unpopular decision in the Christian world. People have lost friends and fellowship with other believers because of this choice because those who are in the system feel leaving it is wrong.

I have heard of many people after leaving became known as back-sliders, people fallen from their faith and who have lost their relationship with God. When people find out we no longer attend a church they do their best to reason with us and try to get us back in line and back in the church system.

After three years being out of the institutional church, neither of us want to go back. We have found a freedom to live with God apart from the denominational requirements, various doctrines, the many man-made ways of following God and the thousands of interpretations of the bible that differ from church to church.

Over time God has brought people into our lives in ways we never expected. We are finding many new relationships online with people who have also left the church system. Fellowship is needed among us followers of Christ but that does not have to be done in a building on a set day and being face to face. In fact, we have had more meaningful relationships being outside of church then we did in it including online and face-to-face fellowship.

MindofChrist

If we believe the Holy Spirit lives within us, that we have the mind of Christ, and that the kingdom of God is within us then we need no man to teach us. The Spirit will guide each of us in the way he has for us to go. We are not going to all agree and walk in perfect agreement, but God leads each of us on separate paths yet leads us all into a close fellowship with Him.

For those with young kids it can be even more troubling because you are not sure what to do with the kids. Yet I believe that God will guide you and bring ways of showing the love of God to your kids whether it be in a group or in your family at home. I do not want to give out ideas for you to try because I believe the Spirit of God will guide and direct you in the way you are to go in teaching your children.

I do believe that God is big enough and personal enough to guide us outside the traditional church and the clergy system we have all know all our lives. It is a difficult road to go but it certainly seems to me a much better way to follow God and live for Him.

What decision you make in regard to attending church or walking outside the walls, remember both groups are children of God and trying to follow Him the way they feel is best. In church or out of church we all make up The Church, each of us equally important and equally able to let God love through us.

Focus of following God in the way he leads you, love others equally, do not think more highly of yourself than of others. Be open to let God lead you on the path he has for you whether it is in traditional religious ways or the unpopular way of living outside the walls of church and religion. Love and accept others as they are and let the love of God touch everyone you meet along the way.

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This hit me one evening as my wife and I sat listening to one of our grandsons play in the school concert band. The band was an example of what the Church should look like. When I say Church I do not mean a building under the direction of a pastor but a community of believers, each with a part to play under the guidance of Jesus.

There were many people from many different backgrounds playing various instruments. As they played different songs some of them moved to another instrument playing two or three different instruments.

Each participated using the talents they were given. They blended together as a unit when they were under the leadership of the director.

Concert Band

If only one person played and all the others just sat there, we would be missing out on a beautiful sound. Or if each person played what they wanted, separately doing it their own way we would get many people playing different tunes and styles without direction. It would sound terrible.

Even though each individual had their own gifts and part to play, they all kept their eyes on the director who brought it all together in perfect harmony.

As the Church, each of us come from many different backgrounds. We all have a gift, talent or various talents given to us by the Spirit. We have different parts to play but each of us participates.

Imagine if we all came together and only one person participated. We would be missing out on a beautiful experience of the complete body participating and using their God-given talents for the good of the group.

Church is not a place to go where everyone sits down and just listens to one person, but it is people who are equally functioning parts of the body under the direction of Jesus who is head of the body.

Each of us make up the body of Christ, and as we keep our eyes on the director, Jesus, he will bring everything together in perfect harmony for the good of the body.

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Galatians 5:16 But I say, walk by the Spirit and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.

We were created in the image of God. This means we were created by a perfect, loving God and we were good in the sight of God. We are made in the likeness of God, that is, three in one, spirit, soul (mind) and body.

Unfortunately evil entered the human race and we lived under the curse of the law because of the fall of man through Adam. Our spirit, soul and body were then subject to trying to earn salvation by following the law which we could not do, eventually leading to death.

Because of the fall of Adam and sin entering the world we lost the fellowship with the Father that we were intended to have. That does not mean that God stopped loving us. That does not mean that we became terrible people who were seen as nothing but sinful and incapable of doing anything good. Yet the fellowship between our loving Father and the human race was broken and needed repaired. Something we could not accomplish by good works and effort.

The answer came through Christ and the grace He provided. Because of the work of Christ we were made new creatures in Him. Our old sinful spirit was crucified and buried when he took our sins to His cross.

We now have a new righteous spirit within us and our fellowship with the Father has been restored. We still have a soul (mind) that needs renewed and an earthly body that will one day be changed into a spiritual body, yet at this moment God sees us as the righteousness of Christ who lives within us by His Spirit. The goodness and fellowship with the Father that we were originally created with is restored, not by anything we can do but because of the love of the Father for each of us.

Naturally speaking we will never be perfect on this earth, but because of the grace of Christ God sees us spiritually perfect already.

This does not mean we should do whatever we want because there are earthly consequences for our actions, but now we live for God and do what pleases Him out of love and not out of obligation. We now take up our cross daily and follow Him allowing Him to increase as we decrease.

We now have a restored fellowship with the Father that was intended from the day God created the human race. When you make a mistake it is covered. We do not have to repent each time but we can acknowledge we made a mistake and thank God for His grace that covers it.

I have found a good thing to do after allowing my mind or body to take control is to verbally or mentally confess ‘I am the righteousness of God’. Doing this will help us to remember God’s gift of grace and get us focused on our spiritual position in Christ.

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Growing up in the organized church, we were taught from a young age that the Holy Spirit came to reside within us once we accepted the grace of Christ.

Many times in the written word of God we are told that we are the temple of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit lives within us and we have no need that any man teach us.

Jesus said that his sheep hear his voice, yet most of us were taught that the voice really means the words written in the bible.

We have heard it said that if it is not in the bible it is not of God. We are told God only speaks through the written word, yet there are so many interpretations, various doctrines and so many verses that were written to a specific person or group of persons. These writings were often for a specific time period that no longer relates directly to us except as an example to learn about the nature of God.

I feel so much has been lost over the many years from when the original writings were done. So many of the translations have changed the original meanings because of changes in times, word meanings and such. Without the Spirit bringing to life the words we read and through confirmation through his voice within, we are really left to our personal views and opinions of what others have told us the written word means.

The bible is not God and it is not a god. The bible was inspired by an infallible God yet written by very fallible men, men who were inspired yet wrote with their personal views and ways of writing. The bible is about people trying to find, follow and fellowship with God and clearly teaches us how to do that. The written word leads us to the Living Word, who is the Christ.

So many times it is mentioned that the Spirit now lives within us. Yet so often, even though we say it, we do not act like we really believe it. Time and time again the bible says we are the temple of the Holy Spirit, we have the mind of Christ, the Spirit and the Kingdom are within you. And time and time again we seem to go right on thinking God is far away from us and all we can do is read from his word.

Sure, there are many people who say they speak from God and yet are nowhere close to being a godly example. It is easy to say God told me this or that, or say God told me to tell you something yet the person saying such things is only going on their personal feelings and interpretations. Anyone can say God told them this or that and expect us to do what they say, but we need to listen to the Spirit for ourselves and listen for the confirmation from within as to what is of God and what is not.

I believe if God says the Spirit lives within us and we can hear his voice, then it is something not to be taken lightly. As followers of Christ we can rely on the Spirit within us to teach us and guide us into his truth. We have to be listening and open to God to know his voice, but we can hear it and know it is from our Father. To say that we can only hear from God through the written word is to miss a more intimate fellowship with our Father.

Is the bible to be ignored? Are we to stop reading the written word and only follow what we feel is the voice of the Spirit. No, both the written word and the Living Word that lives within us are important, The written word is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness. Yet without the Living Word bringing those words to life, it is just a book that is good for teaching and learning. We need to be listening for the quiet voice of the Spirit of Christ who actually lives within us for truth and guidance. Sometimes he will speak directly in our spirits, sometimes he will speak through his written word.

Also remember that God is alive and his Spirit is within us. Do not think that He can only speak through one particular means. Just do not jump at every voice you hear, make sure it is the voice of His Spirit. His sheep hear his voice, which to me says we can hear and know it is from our Father.

Obviously this is not to say that you should immediately react to any thought that pops into your head. Although the bible says we have the mind of Christ we also have the mind of Jim, or Sam or Jane. We are still human and need to be sure we are hearing from the Spirit of Christ and not our natural spirit.

We also know that the Spirit can speak to one person one way and another person in a different way. Just because the Spirit is speaking to me does not mean he is telling you the same thing. Just because I hear the Spirit say something to me does not mean it is something that has to be announced to everyone. It may be that he is speaking to me for something I need to do or learn and it is not meant for others to hear.

We are told the Spirit lives within us and that his sheep hear his voice, so we know we can hear and know the voice of God. So many of us have the thought that God is way up in heaven somewhere and all we can do is read his word or listen to pastors to know what he wants us to do. The truth is his word says that he lives within us through the Spirit and he speaks to us through the Spirit.

My friend Michael Clark wrote about this also and said in his article: “Jesus is the Word of God! He speaks to those who are His sheep. They know His voice and will not follow the voices of strangers (read John Ch. 10). Yet, so many Christians have said to me, “How can I know when Jesus is speaking to me?” To many of them the answer is, “Unplug! You are listening to and reading too many teachers. Break this habit of heaping to yourself teachers who tickle your ears. Get alone with God for a few months until you start hearing His whispered voice. Talk with Him and let Him be your friend above all friends.” (https://awildernessvoice.wordpress.com/2017/03/21/words-words-words-or-will-we-be-one/)

Just as we think of the church as a building with an organized program, it is so much more than that. The Church is a community of people daily following the Spirit and living within the kingdom of God during our life now. We also think of the word of God as a book, yet the true and living Word of God is so much more than that.

Jesus is the Living Word of God and we can hear the voice of the Spirit which is within us. We can hear his voice through the written word also, but keep in mind that God speaks in more ways than one.

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I grew up in the traditional church environment and followed the religious teachings and doctrines over the years. I have seen a lot of things that I now question and wonder why things were done that way.

godonthrone

Over the years many of us have come to see God as a big super human person sitting up in heaven somewhere just waiting to punish us for our mistakes. We see him as being impersonal, judgmental and many times as someone to fear.

Yet when we think about the life of Christ and know he was sent from God to show us what the Father is really like we come to see God in a different way. When we read about how Jesus lived and treated people we see him as loving, compassionate, kind and accepting. Jesus came to show us that the Father is the same way.

After Jesus left this life on earth the Father sent the Holy Spirit to live within us. Think about it, God in Spirit form lives within us and among us right now. He is not a super human person way up there somewhere but He is right here within us.

God is not out to get us and punish us every time we mess up. I think God gets a bad reputation from some of the writings in the bible due to men, although they were inspired by God, threw in some of their personal views. Obviously if you were inspired by someone to write a book you would still write it from your perspective. Anything man has a hand in is going to be flawed, but the bible is certainly inspired by God and when combined with the leading of the Holy Spirit will be purposeful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness and guiding us to the living Word of God who is Jesus.

Rather than running around being afraid of God and waiting for the judgment of God to fall, look to Jesus and see that God is love. Whenever punishment is needed it is only for our good and it is done in love. Just as a loving parent sometimes punishes their child it is done in love and for correction that is for the child’s own good. We are not waiting to be destroyed by a God who loves judgment and condemnation. We are living with a God who is love, who created us and who wants the best for us during our time on earth.

godislove

Stop being afraid of the Father and seek fellowship with him. If you hear a pastor telling you that God is out to get you and that you had better shape up or else, get away from there and find brothers and sisters in Christ who will be encouragers and who will help build you up rather than condemn and scare you. Fear of judgment will not lead you into a loving relationship with the Father. Only true love, godly love, will be what draws us into fellowship with Him.

God is love. For those of us who are followers of Jesus we should also be known for our love. As Jesus said in Matthew 22:37-39, And He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’

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So many times we christians get the idea that we are not supposed to associate with people who are not believers. We seem to sometimes isolate ourselves and feel the need to separate ourselves from those who see things differently.

book-store

I at one time felt the same way myself. I wanted to be in church every time the doors were open and I wanted to work for a christian book store so I would constantly be around christian people. Boy how my views have changed.

 

I have also noticed that a lot of christian people seem to have bad feelings toward those of different race, LGBT, atheist, muslim and even other christian denominations. At one church I actually saw some of the worst hatred toward the pastor of the church.

I had been involved for years in the church and around religious people. I do not want to put everyone into the same basket but there seems to be many that feel this way.

Fortunately I have had a change of mind and have come to find that separating ourselves is not what God intended for us anyway.

Jesus said he did not want to take his disciple out of the world, yet he said to come out and be separate. What was he talking about? Could it be he meant that we were to come out of the religious system and the world system and live in the Kingdom system in this world now? We know we are not to separate ourselves from those living in the world, yet we can separate ourselves from the religious and world system by allowing the Spirit to guide us, teach us and love others through us.

We know the world system is opposite from the Kingdom system. The world system is the mess we call life today under man’s rule, thinking only of ourselves, hatred, greed, worry and materialism to name a few. Or as 1 John 2:16 says, for all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life is not from the Father but is from the world.

Jesus said the Kingdom of God is within you. The Kingdom of God is love. We know the Spirit of Christ came to live within us as believers and we no longer need the religious system or a building and pastor since now we are the temple and the Holy Spirit is our teacher.

Jesus did not separate himself from those who thought differently. Rather than being isolated from those who think, believe and act differently than those of us who believe in God, I feel we should be out there around those who are different and show the love of God to them.

It is just as in our personal families, there are those who have different views, different beliefs and different lifestyles yet we love them. We are to be the same with those in this world, we can have our differences yet we respect and love them anyway.

lovegodlivelikejesus

Jesus said to love God and love others. He never said we have to agree and be the same. But we are not to treat those who are different from us with any less love and acceptance. Rather than separate ourselves and make it look like we think we are better than everyone else, we should allow the Spirit to live through us showing the love of God to everyone.

 

Not everyone is going to believe like we do or accept our way of thinking. Jesus never said to only associate with like-minded people. We are to love God and love others, showing them that God loves them just as much. Whether we believe the same or not we are all humans created and loved by God. We are to let the world see the love we have for our Father and for one another remembering that Jesus said, “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another”.

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