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Posts Tagged ‘Kingdom of God’

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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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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To begin this final part of my church history,  remember I have been part of the traditional church organization for 40 some years at this point.

After our last pastor moved out of state and that church faded into history, we found a church that had interested us and excited us for a year or two. A friend of mine had told me about it and it sounded great to us. It was a non-denominational church and since our last church was gone we decided to give it a try.

This church was a little larger than what we were used to but was not a mega-church. The people were very friendly and there were so many activities in which to participate. We really liked that they gave food to the homeless and the poor in the area, they handed out water at parades and did several community related activities. After some time we noticed that very few people tried to get to know us or spend time talking with us because they were so busy staying in groups with people they already knew. My wife actually called two different home group leaders and tried to find out information on joining the group but was met with resistance from leaders who did not seem to want ‘new’ people in their group.

It was at this time I was feeling a real dissatisfaction with the church system. I felt there must be something more, this did not seem to be what Jesus meant when he said he would build his church. There was so much division and separation, no one was allowed to talk or discuss anything and only a select few had control of the service yet what I saw in the bible said we should all have a word, or a song, or a prayer. I read that Jesus was the head and each of us are equally important parts of his body. And what about the verse telling us we are the temple of the Holy Spirit and he dwells within us. I kept thinking about this and wondering why so many said the building was the church and they kept saying come to our church because the Spirit is going to fall and God is going to show up at this particular meeting. Yet the bible said the Spirit fell a couple thousand years ago upon the Church which was the people not a building. The Kingdom of God is within us and God is always with us, he is not going to show up at a special service when He is already within us.

It took us ten years at this particular church of going through the motions of getting up on Sunday morning, going to a service where we sat quietly looking at the back of someone’s head, going through the typical three songs, prayer, offering and listening to one person tell us their view of God, then getting up and walking out the door not seeing or hearing from anyone until the next Sunday. After several years of questioning and much dissatisfaction with the way the organized church seemed to be, we made the decision to leave the system and look to God for guidance. We began seeking the Holy Spirit to teach us because the bible says with the Spirit we do not need anyone else to teach us.

Of course we were told by several people that we should not forsake the assembling of ourselves with other christians, yet I could not find in the bible where that meant we had to do so in a building on a specific day at a set time. My wife and I started asking God to lead us to people who we could encourage and who would encourage us. It was not long until we started having chance encounters with people, most of who were going through or had gone through the same thoughts and feelings we were having.

accept-differences

We have found we have been more open to meet and accept people who were outside our style of worship, belief or lifestyle. We read in the bible where Jesus loved people and he did not separate himself by denominations or beliefs. Jesus was God in human form and God is love. We certainly did not always see a lot of love within the system because many seemed to think they were better than others or they had to stay away from certain people. So many felt they needed to point out the sins and mistakes of others or they were denying God.

We feel the Holy Spirit will convict the world of sin and it is not our job do point out where others may be wrong, if they are wrong at all. The Spirit will do the job of pointing out what needs to be changed and dealt with, we as followers of Christ are only called to love.

Since being out of the system for about two years now, neither of us have any reason to return. We have put our dependence on God and the Spirit for guidance and we are finding more and more believers to have fellowship with outside the walls of the traditional church. We would certainly not tell anyone not to go to church if that is what they want to do. For myself I had many years within the system that were good and meaningful. I learned many things and had many good experiences in the system. My wife and I were not abused or hurt by the church but we felt a real unrest with the system and after being out of it we have found more meaningful fellowship and a closer walk with God than we ever did in the past.

Will we ever return to the church system? I do not know. Right now I would say no because we have found a freedom and a dependence upon God that we never knew within the system. Yet we want to follow God and do what he leads us to, so if that would be where he wanted us sometime in the future then we would return.

I personally feel the system is wrong, not the people. There are many people within the organization that truly love God and are seeking to do what pleases him. There are many pastors and church workers who feel they are doing what they were called to do and I will not fault them for that. I think the organization is the problem. The organization is dependent on human leadership and human interpretation which causes division. I do not believe the church system is what Jesus was talking about when he said he would build his church. The Church is the people, not a building, not an organization.

church-people-or-building

If you are satisfied within the church system then stay where you are until you feel God leading you to something else. If you feel the same unrest in your soul that we did for many years and are thinking of leaving the organization then do so without any guilt. The Kingdom of God is within us. We are the temple of the Holy Spirit. We can have fellowship any day, any place, any time when God brings us together for a meal or a time of talking or praying with another person or two. We want to live each day of our lives in fellowship with the Spirit, listening for his guidance and showing the love of God to any he brings along our path.

So this brings us to the end of my church history as I knew it growing up. Yet it is not the end of my Church history because I am, along with every believer, part of the Church. It is not a building, it is not a system, not a man-run organization but it is each and every one of us. Each of us are equally functioning parts of the body following Jesus who is head of his Church.

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In our world the love of money is the driving force. Obviously money is important in our way of life and we all have to work to make money to live. Money itself is not evil and can be used for good things yet the love of money and the importance the world puts on it is a completely different thing.

Money pays our bills, buys us our daily needs and things we want for our enjoyment. Money can be used to help others, pay for education, helps us live comfortable lives and a host of other things. Money in itself is not the problem.

LoveofMoneyThe love of money is the issue and many people will stop at nothing to get it. The love of money is a driving force and many will spend their entire life working, doing what it takes to make all the money they can. Some will cheat and step on toes and whatever they can to make more money. They will give up time with their families and loved ones, give up all relaxation and things they enjoy doing and spend all their waking hours doing whatever it takes to make more money.

In the Kingdom of God the driving force is love. This is very unnatural to us humans and without the Spirit within us we cannot love with the love of Christ. Yet love is the name of the game when living for God.

Loving like Jesus loves means thinking of others more than ourselves, doing for others more than doing for ourselves, giving to others more than trying to gather more for ourselves.

Loving like Christ is a life of serving others and living an unselfish life. It is not allowing personal feelings, doctrines, interpretations, lifestyles or anything else to cause division and hatred among us.

Love is accepting others no matter what they look like, what they believe or how they act. Love does not see the labels we so easily put on others. Love sees beyond the outer layer and sees a human being, someone who was created in the image of God.

LovelikeJesus1

Obviously this type of love is a spiritual, godly type of love. We are not going to love everyone is a natural worldly way. There are too many personality types that just will not do well together. We are not going to like and agree with everyone, but we can respect and accept all we come in contact with during our lives. Loving others like Christ loves them is showing love in a godly way, respecting them and treating them as fellow human beings. Being mean, judgmental, condemning and showing hatred and non-acceptance is certainly not being loving in any way.

When it comes down to it there are two types of love. The love of money which leads to selfishness and greed, and the love of God which leads to loving and accepting others, kindness, peace, joy and a life of serving our fellow man.

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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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Believe it or not, here we are into a new year already. For those of you that follow this site and read the posting, I just want to thank you for taking the time to do so. I appreciate each one of you, whether you agree with what I write or not. I feel we are each entitled to make our own choices without someone condemning us or trying to force a particular view on us.

At this time of year, a lot of people take time to reflect and make new year’s resolutions, wanting to make changes and do things better. The new year is like a fresh start, a new beginning.

NewYearResolutions

For me, I stopped making resolutions. First and mainly because I never keep them. Like most of us, making a resolution to do better makes sense. We want to better ourselves and do better in our life, yet like most people, a few days into the new year and the resolution has been forgotten.

Usually that makes people feel a little guilty. We want to do better, yet we fall flat on our face with our resolutions so fast.

I got to thinking about this and realized that trying to better ourselves in one sense is not a bad thing. When we want to spend more time with family, be better parents, be a better friend and treat people better, that is not a bad thing at all.

Spiritually speaking from a christian viewpoint, new year’s resolutions are something that is not needed. In Christ, he made all things new when he fulfilled the law at his death. When he arose, a New Covenant went into effect, a covenant of grace.

We no longer need to try to do better, to do more for him, to be better christians. He did everything that was needed to make us new creatures in Him. Because of his work, we are holy and righteous, we are kings and priests, our old sin nature was crucified with him and we no longer need to make resolutions to do better.

In one sense, each day is a new beginning for us, and his mercies are new every morning. Yet as far as our life in Him, each day is a day living in the Kingdom of God. Each day is a continuation of the previous day living as one with God, we, as God’s house, are now one with Him just as Christ prayed, that we might be one as he and the Father are one.

So, spiritually speaking, let’s not get caught up in the guilty feelings we have with new year’s resolutions and trying to do better for him. Let’s rest in him, knowing he has done all the work and all that is necessary for us to live pleasing to him. Let’s enjoy each new day as a day the Lord has made, and rejoice and be glad in it. Let’s live each day in the power of the Holy Spirit, showing God’s love and acceptance to all we meet during the day.

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Those of us who are outside the walls of religion and institutional church have found a freedom we sometimes can’t explain. At least we can’t explain it in a way that people who still attend a church building will understand.

left-the-building

The problem is those who still attend the traditional church do not accept the fact that everyone is different and sees things in various ways. They usually want to stay away from us or talk about how we have backslidden and fallen away from God because we do not do what we have traditionally been taught was godly.

Nothing could be farther from the truth. We are worshipping and loving God just as much as they are, only in a different way. We have not left the Church (ekklesia) but have left the building (church).

Having left the church because I felt the system was not the way God intended, I have never left the true Church that is made up of us who are believers. Jesus is building His Church out of ‘living stones’.

Each of us has an equally important part to play in the body, yet no one is the head or over anyone else. Each of us are priests and functioning parts of the body, and we are all needed and important. Of course only Jesus is the head, not a pastor.

We need to remember that rather than let a feeling of ‘us vs them’ mentality get a hold on us, those of us who used to be part of the institutional church also need to keep in mind that those who attend church usually are doing so because they love God and think they are doing the right thing. We are all children of God, whether we are in the institutional church or out of it. We are all parts of the Church that Jesus is building.

Body of Christ

For those still attending, most do not think about how the system is wrong and that it is not what God intended for His people. After all, this is all we have known all our lives. We have been taught all along that this is God’s plan for us, to assemble together in a building, pay our tithes and look to the pastor as God’s spokesperson.

As people of God, we are to love God and love others. We cannot do that in our own strength, it is by the power of the Spirit within us. The sad thing is we really should not have much of a problem loving our brothers and sisters in Christ. Yet sometimes it seems we have more trouble loving those who are part of a tradition that we no longer feel is right, but are still followers of the same God we love.

I pray that all of us can keep in mind that we are children of God, saved by grace and living in His kingdom now. Whether we are ‘in church’ or outside the walls, let’s focus on our love of the Father, and for one another. The world needs to see the love of God in action among His children. They do not need to see the arguing, fighting and disagreeing that they are so familiar with in their daily lives.

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