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Archive for the ‘Kingdom of God’ Category

by Jim Gordon

As we start a new year, do we really need to say anything more than to love one another?

The message you heard from the very beginning is this: we must love one another. (1 John 3:11)

Do not take revenge on others or continue to hate them, but love your neighbors as you love yourself. I am the Lord. (Leviticus 19:18)

Above everything, love one another earnestly, because love covers over many sins. (1 Peter 4:8)

Be under obligation to no one—the only obligation you have is to love one another. Whoever does this has obeyed the Law. (Romans 13:8)

My children, our love should not be just words and talk; it must be true love, which shows itself in action. (1 John 3:18)

No one has ever seen God, but if we love one another, God lives in union with us, and his love is made perfect in us. We are sure that we live in union with God and that he lives in union with us, because he has given us his Spirit. (1 John 4:12-13)

Do all your work in love. (1 Corinthians 16:14)

Be always humble, gentle, and patient. Show your love by being tolerant with one another. Do your best to preserve the unity which the Spirit gives by means of the peace that binds you together. (Ephesians 4:2-3)

To conclude: you must all have the same attitude and the same feelings; love one another, and be kind and humble with one another. Do not pay back evil with evil or cursing with cursing; instead, pay back with a blessing, because a blessing is what God promised to give you when he called you. (1 Peter 3:8-9)

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:37-39)

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35)

“Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.” (Romans 12:10)

“But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” (Matthew 5:44-45)

“My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:12-13)

“Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.” (Romans 12:8)

As we start into the year 2020, let us remember to put down our prejudices, ignore the labels placed upon people and let the love of God and love of all people be what we are known for. Happy New Year and thanks to all who followed our articles during the past year.

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by Jordan Hathcock

We don’t want the Christian tradition to become an antique shop just preserving old things. We want to build on old things and allow them to be useful in different ages, vocabularies, and cultures. We want our faith to be ever new, so that it can speak to souls alive and in need right now! – Richard Rohr

During the holiday season, we can see the old ways of tradition booming forth within each culture context. In most Western societies, the Christmas tradition rings loudest with its songs, lights, decorations and food. Not to take way the amazing traditions of Hanukkah, Kwanza, Winter Solstice, Yule, etc. What I am doing here is simply pointing out a renewed since of presence within the Christmas tradition. It’s easy to see the beauty within the holiday of Christmas and forget how much it has evolved since it’s beginnings.

In many instances, the Christmas holiday borrows from other ancient traditions to capture the currents cultures needs and desires. For example, the lights on the Christmas tree. Early Christians adopted this custom from early Celtics due to its symbolism of keeping “the evil spirits at bay”. Christians repurposed this custom into a symbol of resurrection to the “tree of paradise”. Both customs bring with it a truth of protection and new beginnings. Thus, the reason early Christians adopted the custom.

Also, even with the issues the Santa Clause brings (consumerism, greed, etc.), he did stem from a real Christian figure in Saint Nicholas as well as the folklore character known as Woden. Both figures brought gifts to the ones in need (which is a great symbol of what God does for her creation). I think the actual historic figure in this (Saint Nicholas) should be the one we tell our kids about. Here is what the real deal good old Saint Nicholas was about:

He used his entire inheritance to help the poor, sick, and children in need. He gave in secret, expecting nothing in return. Nicholas saved young women from slavery, protected sailors, spared innocents from execution, provided grain in a famine, and rescued a kidnaped boy.

All of this really points to numerous amounts of diverse traditions from ancient times that are still bringing about new ways of life in this holiday season. See, when we discover that the old ways were new once in time, we discover that the old ways always can become the new ways if we allow them to be renewed. I think we get to caught up in the tug between old vs. new that it ends up always being this dualistic battle instead of being a beautiful complementation.

We must let go of the idea that we must have this ageism divide between the old and new. To become unified (John 17:23) we will have to be more open to both sides of the old and new paradigm. Of course, when we see a tradition that brings harm to and individual or group, we have to cease the practice of that particular tradition and let it go. This can be hard for both sides. There will always be a time where regardless of how new or old a practice is, death and resurrection is going to be needed for a new type of design.

Jesus brings this same type of idea up when he said: “Every disciple of the kingdom is like a householder who draws out from his storage room, things both old and new”. —Matthew 13:52. It’s when come to the reality of the responsibilities of someone who is for the abundant life of all (not just some who have the same type of beliefs), regardless if it holds to the old or new ways. This is no easy feat. Fear has to die and love has to reign. It’ll be difficult but I believe it’s something that needs to be done if we ever want a world that brings life instead of death…

Oh, my ways are strange ways and new ways and old ways, And deep ways and steep ways and high ways and low, I’m at home and at ease on a track that I know not, And restless and lost on a road that I know.- Henry Lawson

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by Jim Gordon

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.

Over the years many of us have come to see God as a big super human person sitting up in heaven 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 God 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 God is the same way.

After Jesus left this life on earth God 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 Spirit and 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. I believe 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. The bible is inspired by God and when combined with the leading of the Holy Spirit it is purposeful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness, and in 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.

Stop being afraid of God and seek fellowship. 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 God. Only true, godly love will be what draws us into fellowship with God.

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.’ Live a godly life by loving people. Rather than being known for judgment, condemnation, hatred and what you are against, show the love of God. Be kind to all people and be known for your love of your fellow human beings.

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by Jim Gordon

After having a discussion with some friends on the topic of the Spirit within and hearing his voice, I thought it appropriate to repost an article from a couple years ago on the subject.

Growing up in the organized church, we were told that the Holy Spirit came to reside within us once we accepted Christ. We were also told that we are the temple of the Holy Spirit and we have no need that any man should teach us. Yet when it came to really emphasizing what that meant and how to hear the Spirit, the church seemed to have dropped the ball in that area.

We do not seem to hear a lot of teaching on what it means for the Spirit to live within us. We are not told how to listen for the Spirit and what are we actually supposed to be listening for. Jesus said that his sheep hear his voice, yet most of us were taught that his voice is really the words written in the bible or spoken by the pastor.

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 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, traditions 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 and 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 teaches us ways to do that. The written word leads us to the Living Word, who is Jesus.

The bible tells us 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 mentions 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 or have some pastor tell us what God is saying.

There are many people who say they speak for God but 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 God. To say that we can only hear from God through the written word is to miss a more intimate fellowship with God.

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 about humans trying to find God. 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 and sometimes through others.

Also remember that God is alive and his Spirit is within us. Do not think that He can only speak through one particular means. Yet do not jump at every voice you hear, make sure it is the voice of His Spirit. Although the bible says we have the mind of Christ we also have the mind of Jim, or Mike or Betty. We are still human and need to be sure we are hearing from the Spirit of Christ and not our natural spirit. Still, Jesus said His sheep hear his voice, which to me says we can hear and know it is from God.

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.

My friend Michael Clark wrote about this topic 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.”

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 in 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, but keep in mind that God speaks in more ways than one.

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by Jim Gordon

We often talk about being like Jesus, or living a Christ-like life. What does that really entail?

My first thought is being like Jesus does not necessarily mean imitating Jesus. I think that is something that is close but a little different. Imitating, according to the dictionary means to mimic; impersonate; to make a copy of; to have or assume the appearance of. Some of this can be understood to be good, but I feel it takes away from our own identity and the way we were made as individuals.

I do not think being Christ-like means we are going to do everything we read in the gospels just like Jesus. It may mean we do things that are not popular or accepted by everyone, but we do them as the Spirit leads us, not because we are imitating exactly what Jesus did.

Most of us probably will not go to a Jewish synagogue and overturn tables. We may not walk all over the country healing people and raising the dead. We may never face being stoned and we may not have to deal directly with the spiritual or political leaders of our day.

What it might mean is, some of us may leave the church system because it is man-controlled with its doctrines and various interpretations of the bible. This will cause us to walk in the wilderness outside the walls of religion. It may mean being shunned by those still within the system. Yet we still have the Spirit living within us and who will never leave us.

Some of us may disassociate ourselves from politics. In the U.S.A. many people think being christian means being republican. Jesus did not seem to associate himself with any political party of his time. He respected them by saying give to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s. Yet, Jesus goals and purposes were far beyond anything political.

Some may join an LGBTQ organization to show support, or work with race, gender or nationality relations. It may mean participating with and helping people that others would rather ignore. We want to help provide understanding and acceptance among people no matter what label they wear. Doing so may be misunderstood by others and may cause us to be cut off from friends or family who see things differently.

No matter how the Spirit leads us, I believe being like Jesus will be going about the Father’s business. That is to show love and not judgment and condemnation. It is encouraging, loving, building up and accepting people just as they are. Jesus came to our world to show us that God is not a God of hate, condemnation, murder and exclusiveness. God is love and a god of acceptance, inclusiveness and a god that walks side by side with us through everything we go through in this world.

We are all different. We each have our own personality, interests and special ways of living life. I think being like Jesus will be different as God works in the uniqueness of us. Being like Jesus will be different things to different people, but it will all be done by following the Spirit of Christ from within us. It will be a life of love for God and love for people each and every day.

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by Jordan Hathcock

“It’s difficult to avoid all the crisis talk that fills the airwaves: climate change, debt, food deserts, clean water, masses of discarded plastic filling the oceans, populism nationalism, racism, shootings, stabbings, the list goes on and on. And apparently it is not just the poor and the middle-class who are feeling the pressures and concerns of all this, we all seem to have lost sight of the future.”- Barry Taylor

Within the Christian tradition, the future has always been more geared towards a more doom and gloom outlook. This is due to several factors: church doctrine, theological perspectives, biblical hermeneutics, and cultural influences. This isn’t just a religious position, from the Western eyes, an apocalyptic future has always been in our scopes. We love the hopeless end times so much that we have become contagious to any other possible future outcomes. Screw a compassionate eschatology, we want that blood, guts and fire!

Here is the thing, when it comes to the future, I think we all would agree that we want it to be a bright and hopeful existence for our kids. Yes, religion has played a huge part in the pessimistic future position that a lot of us hold. The Abrahamic faiths have not helped! When we view God as an executioner, riding the dark horse coming in the clouds to seek and destroy, who would want to trust in a faith like that?! With that being said, I do believe that we have numerous issues in the world today and in our day to day lives. This world is fucked up in many ways! How are we supposed to react and position ourselves?

I don’t know for sure, but I think having a compassionate and enduring view of the future puts us on a more beautiful trajectory. It does takes steps and action to get this type of faith moving. Recently, I just finished a course with LA Hatchery called: Spiritual Entrepreneurship. Through this course, we discussed, critiqued, questioned, and proposed innovated ideas that would propel us into a brighter faith of the future. One of the course instructors, innovated theologian Barry Taylor, described a great perspective in retrospect of the future with using the Mt. of Transfiguration:

“In the story of the Transfiguration, Jesus’ closest friends witness an amazing encounter and want to build a monument on the site and make it a place of pilgrimage and retreat. In some sense they seem to want an escape from the hardships of life and to bask in the light of this revelatory moment. But Jesus has other ideas. He leads them back down the mountain, back to the world, to ordinary existence where life is dominated by uncertainty and anxiety. He calls them to live in the dust of an uncertain world and to bring a different future to it.”

Boom! That is what I think we must do! We are going to experience all the uncertainties, anxieties, and doubt when it comes to the future. No way around that. I don’t think it’s so much about happy endings but instead, its more about collaborative beginnings. It’s all about the process. We need to start being creative in how we react to our current world situations, collectively and individually. We cannot let fear of letting go of old traditions that are no longer viable in bringing a brighter future to existence (Mark 7:8).

News flash: from all the data from social researchers, when it comes to religion and its participants- its not working! The nones and dones are piling up! It’s time to use a little of that death & resurrection that Jesus spoke about and put it into practice. If we want to see any type of productive future of this faith for our kids, I think we better hop on this approach pronto…

“When tradition is thought to state the way things really are, it becomes the director and judge of our lives; we are, in effect, imprisoned by it. On the other hand, tradition can be understood as a pointer to that which is beyond tradition: the sacred. Then it functions not as a prison but as a lens.” – Marcus Borg

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by Jim Gordon

What would you tell someone who asked you what a christian must do to be pleasing to God?

A lot of people would start out by saying we must go to church, we must tithe and we must obey the ten commandments. They would probably say we have to witness to others and give our money to the poor, and probably even some in the USA would say we must vote republican.

Seems like we christians are so hung up on works and doing things in our own effort to be pleasing to God. If we are not going to church we are backsliding. If we do not tithe to the church we are robbing God. We have all these things we are told we should be doing to be pleasing to God.

I think a lot of the christian world today has forgotten that Jesus came to fulfill the old covenant. When he said “it is finished” he was declaring the old covenant had come to fulfillment. By living a perfect life, Jesus showed us God’s true character which is love. He restored the fellowship between us and God. He sent the Spirit to live within us so we could enjoy that fellowship on a daily basis.

I think the real answer to the question of what must we do to be pleasing to God is…..nothing! We do not have to do anything because God provided grace through Christ. We are the righteousness of God and the Spirit of Christ now lives in us. It is not based on what we have done, it is all on what He has done.

We no longer have to try to keep the ten commandments. Those were a guide, or tutor to lead us to Christ. We no longer have to go to church because through Christ, we are the Church. We can assemble together with other believers any day, anywhere. We do not need to look to others for guidance and knowledge because the Spirit lives in us and is our teacher and guide. We do not have to tithe our money because the old covenant has been fulfilled. We can now give our money out of love and to who and where God is leading us to give. We do not have to force every encounter with someone to witness to them because the Holy Spirit is the one who draws all men to God. Since He lives in us we can be open to allow Him to work in us how He pleases.

So many christians today do not realize the freedom we have in Christ. They do not understand grace and the fact that we are no longer under condemnation. We do not have to do things to be pleasing to God. We now live under the guidance of the Spirit and we do things out of love, not out of obligation and trying to keep rules and commands.

So many of us live day to day under condemnation because we feel we have not done enough for God. We feel we do not measure up because we cannot do things like someone else does, or we cannot preach like someone else can. The fact is, God made us all the way we are for a reason. In the body of Christ, we all are equal and all have equally important qualities that God uses. No one is on a higher level than anyone else. We are all brothers and sisters and we are all under the headship of Jesus Christ.

Stop feeling like you are not pleasing to God because of something you do or something you do not do. Christ has provided grace for all of us, and there is nothing we can do to earn it or pay for it.

We can rest in God’s love. We can enjoy daily fellowship with Him because He loves us. We can be assured that we are now in the Kingdom for eternity because of what Christ has done for us. We can stop listening to others who we think are on a higher level than us, or who we think are closer to God because God loves each of His children equally. We are all capable of hearing and learning from the Holy Spirit who is within us. We do not have to wait until Sunday to hear from Him, worship Him, serve Him because we are the Church and every day is the Lord’s day.

Stop condemning yourself, look to God, love Him and love others. Let Him teach you, guide you, live through you day by day. There is nothing more you need to do than accept Him, love Him and love others. We are now new creatures in Him. We now live in His Kingdom. Forget the the rules and regulations of religion. Love God, love one another and realize you are loved just the way you are.

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