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Archive for the ‘Kingdom of God’ Category

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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Here in the United States we recently celebrated our national independence. We all enjoy the sense of pride we feel at this time of year and we celebrate the freedoms we have. We enjoy watching fireworks and the many ways of celebrating with friends and family.

I, along with most Americans, love my country. I certainly do not agree with everything that goes on and we are not even close to being a perfect country. I also cannot agree that we are a Christian country or one nation under God, yet in my opinion that this is a great country and I am very happy living here. So many opportunities, so many good things and so much abundance for a lot of us. So many people served our country and gave their lives for it and we are all very appreciative.

We have a democracy and freedom that a lot of people do not have although as time goes by it seems we are losing more and more of them. Yet I would not want to live anywhere else.

The political system that has been set up in our country gives everyone the right, freedom and opportunity to vote and/or run for office. I do have a problem with the fact that so many people think that being a Christian means being a Republican. Truthfully these days I think our political system is one where neither party is totally moral or completely trust-worthy, so I certainly do not put my hope or trust in any political group.

As followers of Christ we know that our true citizenship is in heaven and our true leader is Jesus. When it comes right down to it our all-out allegiance is to God and not to any country or political system.

KingdomofGodwithinYou

I do not think there is anything wrong with loving and respecting your country. Like Jesus said, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s”. No matter which country you live in you have grown up there and love your country.

Although we are separated by countries and political systems those who are followers of Christ are united in being citizens of the Kingdom of God.

We need to remember that our loyalty is not to be to any country or political system. Our true loyalty is to the Kingdom of God. Our true allegiance is to God and living as one with our Father.

As followers of Christ feel free to celebrate the good things we have in this country. Respect the people who have given so much for the freedom we enjoy. But keep in mind that this is not our home. Our home is with God, we live in the Kingdom of God and no matter what country you live in God is within you through the Spirit.

We also can celebrate our independence from the old sin nature through Christ each and every day in any country or political system. We can rest in our freedom in Christ and live for him daily. Let His life flow out of you to show others the love and freedom He has given to us by grace through Christ.

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Ephesians 1:22,23 — And He put all things in subjection under His feet and gave Him as head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.

What stands out most to me is the description of what true church is, which is His body. It is not a building. It is not a place we go on a certain day. Christ is the head of all of us who are saved by grace. We are the church.

I do not see separation in this statement. I do not see denominations, buildings, programs and formal services trying to get people to come to us. I do not see separated groups based on doctrine.

I see a living, active group of people going out into the world day by day in the love and strength of the Spirit. I see a united effort seeking to show the love of God to all we meet each day.

Body of Christ

I see people looking to Jesus through the Holy Spirit for truth and guidance. No more looking to a man, woman or a group of elders for teaching and guidance. Christ is our head and the Spirit is our teacher. Apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, teachers, bishops, elders and any such leader mentioned are not positions of authority but are fellow believers who help encourage and build up their brothers and sisters through servant-hood example.

This leads me to think it is time to stop arguing over doctrines and interpretations. It is time to stop looking to other brothers and sisters whom we elevate into a higher position. We need to realize we are all kings and priests and able to teach and give a word to uplift one another. We need to allow God to live through us daily as we go out into the world and show His love to people who are hurting, who are outcasts and who need to be uplifted and encouraged. It is time to look past the labels we put on one another and see human beings who were created in the image of God and who need love, acceptance and fellowship with the Spirit and with one another just as much as the rest of us.

We are the Church, we are the people of God who are filled with the power and love of the Holy Spirit going out into our world showing that God loves them.

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