Friday, May 27, 2011

Kingdom Basics (3)

Who can enter the Kingdom?
In part 1 and 2 of this series we have looked at some interesting facts about the Kingdom of God. We learned that it is not a place or country, but a spiritual realm where righteousness, peace and joy reign with power, and this all in and through the Holy Spirit.  We also learned that, because God’s Kingdom is spiritual, it is within us and at the same time we are in it. We know what it is and where to find it. The logical next question would be: who can inherit this kingdom?

Sometimes, in order to learn what things really are, the Bible teaches us first of all what they are not! It took me a while to get used to that kind of teaching, but more and more I am beginning to see how practical it can be. The Bible clearly states which people cannot enter (or inherit) the Kingdom (unless they repent and change of course!):
  • Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the Kingdom of God? (1 Corinthians 6:9) In other words, we must turn away from our wicked life styles and receive a new and clean life in Jesus.
  • Flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 15:50), it is not something that can be grasped intellectually or physically or even emotionally. Although we still walk and live on this earth, we can already enter God's spiritual realm; but only by faith.
  • Sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery, idolatry and witchcraft, hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy, drunkenness, orgies an the like. I warn you as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God (Galatians 5:19-21)
In other words, if we do not live a life with and for God we cannot enter His Kingdom. We will not even be able to see it, or understand it’s principles. Jesus clearly discussed this with scholar and member of the ruling council Nicodemus, who thought that knowledge was his way in. Jesus told him: No one can see the Kingdom of God unless  he is born again (John 3:3). Later on in their discussion He adds: unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Well, this clearly shows how we do enter the Kingdom.

So a degree in theology, a church membership, a certificate of baptism, a life of good deeds... none of those things can qualify us for the Kingdom. There is no way to earn our way in. Jesus pointed to a group of little children, babies even, and said: The kingdom of God belongs to such as these. (Luke 18:16). In a way He showed that the Kingdom belongs to people of innocence and purity, such as we can only become when we receive a new life in Christ. Therefore, let us not make it too hard. Let us not become like the theologians of that time who shut the Kingdom's door in people's faces and hindered them to enter in (Matthew 23:13).

Jesus came to set up His Kingdom among us. He desires for everyone to come in and find that righteousness, peace and joy with power. We must become like the little children and give up on our pre-conceived ideas, on theologies, dogma's and theories. We have to lay down all of our knowledge, all of our pride and all of our human wisdom. Empty handed before God, that's a good place to be. The prayer will be simple: Lord,  I am sincerely seeking You and your Kingdom, lead me in. 

Anyone who will not receive the Kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it (Luke 18:17).

Monday, May 23, 2011

Interview with Lorrie Ransom

A colorful mixture of words & pictures...
This week it is my pleasure to post an interview with blogger friend Lorrie Ransom. If I remember it well, I came across her blog Grow Up Deep through Lynn Mosher's blog and I have been following her for a few years now. A few weeks ago Lorrie wrote a real good article/review about my latest book Grace of Giving and I wondered how to possibly thank her... Well, I finally decided to put her in the spotlight, she deserves it. Her blog is a colorful mixture of poetry, devotions, thoughts and pictures, I just love it and hope you'll pay her a visit!  Please, enjoy this blogger-interview!

Please, introduce yourself… anything special we need to know about Lorrie Ransom?
Let me first say how wonderful it was to get your invitation for an interview. I’ve never been interviewed before… and I’m stuck on the first question! Something special about me? I really don’t think there is. I’m just an ordinary person doing ordinary things.

How and when did you start your blog? 
I started GrowUpDeep in September of 2008. I was visiting quite a bit and was inspired by our mutual friend, devotional writer, Lynn Mosher. We started one about the same time. I think I loved the challenge of crafting the site itself as a much as did the idea of having my own place to write at.

What is your drive behind blogging? What do you hope to accomplish? 
When the gospel first came to me it was comparable to the seed that fell on the rock in the parable of the sower. Luke 8:13 says that… the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy. But these have no root; they believe for a while, and in time of testing fall away. Sad but true, I went from being joyful and assured to being stuck somewhere between the old me and the truth I knew to be sure. It was hard for me to forgive my own failures so I lived in the “land of the self-condemned.” I’ve since learned how awfully prideful and dumb that was! God’s word is full of Grace and Mercy and forgiveness. Satan would have us think we’re done for when we fail but nothing could be further from the truth. Jesus came and died to save us from our sins!
When I started my blog I based it on Eph 4:14… so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. I named it GrowUpDeep with the idea that I wanted God’s word to fall on good ground instead of rocky. I wanted deep roots and I wanted to grow up to be a mature Christian woman. On my blog I say that I am trying to balance abandonment. To me that means living and dying all at the same time; learning hard truths but not becoming hard. To be childlike but not childish. This is what I am hoping to accomplish.

You have a passion for writing, poetry and art, is that the right order? 
Oh, I think they all go hand in hand for me. I probably spend as much time looking for the right picture for my pieces as I do in writing them. All three are art to me.

Do you have any aspirations to publish your work? 
I have had some poetic works published here and there but haven’t been too proactive about seeking publication for quite some time. I do have aspirations to complete a current work of non-fiction about pride. When I get it done I hope to send it out for consideration.

What role does your faith in God play in your daily life
It plays a role in every single moment of my life. My desire is to be led “in the way everlasting.” I hold fast to Proverbs 3:5-6… trust in the Lord with all your heart, lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your path.

List your three main strengths and your three main weaknesses.
My greatest personal weaknesses are pride and regret. I would say that my greatest writing weakness is time. I’m not able to come home from a demanding work day and unwind with the flip of a switch into a creative mode.
My main strengths come from being raised by wonderful parents who taught me all the sensible things that are not so common anymore. If I have any real strength, it must certainly be in those times when I am able to love others.

Top three on your ‘things-to-do list…
  1. Retire. That is a huge goal for me right now. My husband is retired and I would love to be able to have more time with him. I like to imagine that I would be much more creative given all those early morning hours I would have to myself. Just me, my coffee, my computer and no clock to watch! 
  2. Move to Wyoming. 
  3. Serve in some capacity on behalf of the persecuted church or to be involved in worthy ministry. I’m in listening mode right now about that! 
Do you have any authors or specific books that have been an inspiration to you? 
Randy Alcorn’s book Safely Home; the character Li Quan will be with me forever. It’s about the persecution of Christians in China. Along that same vein, I would also have to include Foxe’s Book of Martyrs. I love Francine Rivers’ books. I especially enjoyed her Mark of The Lion trilogy. There are many others, your most recent among them.

Any words of encouragement?
Yes. Abide in Jesus.

Thank you Lorrie for sharing a little bit of your (blogging) life with us. My blog certainly looks better with your lovely smile on the front page :) Feel free to visit Lorrie's blog GrowUpDeep and leave her a kind word or two, I promise her blog is worth a visit. Later on this week I will continue with the series on Kingdom basics.

Let's encourage one another daily!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Kingdom Basics (2)

Where is the Kingdom of God?
In part one of the Kingdom basics we looked at some scriptures describing the Kingdom of God. It is not a place or country, but a spiritual realm where righteousness, peace and joy reign with power, and this all through the Holy Spirit. The logical next question would be: where do we find this Kingdom?  When and where will we be able to experience His Kingdom?

This is a question the theologians and scholars of Jesus’ time asked Him as well. Jesus told them, The Kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation, nor will people say, ‘Here it is”, or “There it is” (Luke 17:20). As I stated in part one, the Kingdom is not a natural Kingdom, it cannot be seen because it is spiritual. As Jesus was explaining this, his answer may have disappointed the Pharisees. Simply because they were longing for such a powerful era and reign to come in order to rescue Israel from foreign occupation. But Jesus continues and says: the Kingdom of God is within you (Luke 17:21). Well, that must have left them speechless. The Kingdom of God, His will on earth as it is in heaven, living inside of people?!

Some translations say, the Kingdom of God is among you, or within reach… However we look at this, the Kingdom is always at hand for the believers. Righteousness, peace and joy with power are always within us when we are alone and among us when we are together as believers! This is such a great secret. New Age philosophy has tried to steal this concept and teaches that people should always look within for answers. But let me warn you: there is no kingdom without the King! The Kingdom of God is within you only if the Holy Spirit lives within you. The awesome thing about Gods Kingdom is, that it is within us and at the same time we are in it. Colossians 1:13 shows us clearly that we enter the Kingdom during this present life on earth, For He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the Kingdom of the Son he loves… This is past tense, this has already happened the moment you stepped from darkness into light!

So, the Kingdom of God can be found within us and at the same time we live in it. In other words, we can experience righteousness, peace and joy with power on the inside, through the Holy Spirit, but it will also surround us on the outside wherever we go. Jesus gave us the Kingdom within so that we can go out into a broken, lonely and worried world and advance it wherever we go.
Is this possible for everyone? Who qualifies? The next question that arises is: for whom is this Kingdom?

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Kingdom Basics (1)

What is the Kingdom?
My husband and I love to teach about the Kingdom. We have noticed that, although this was one of Jesus’ main topics, there is often a huge lack of knowledge among believers about the Kingdom. Lack of knowledge often leads to confusion about these matters; which raises the following question: how can we proclaim the good news about the Kingdom if we don’t really know what we are talking about? I have decided to dedicate a few posts on Kingdom basics.

One of the main topics of Jesus’ teaching was the Kingdom of heaven, or as it is sometimes called: the Kingdom of God. Jesus uses both terms and sometimes simply refers to it as the Kingdom. His teaching about the Kingdom became more urgent after His resurrection, just before He went back to be with His Father. The Book of Acts reports: He appeared to them [the apostles] over a period of forty days and spoke about the Kingdom of God (Acts 1:3). Forty days? And that after the many different times he spoke with them in parables about the Kingdom? I feel free to conclude that there is a lot to be learned about this. Let's start with a simple question: what is this Kingdom of God, or rather, what is it NOT?
  • It is not a natural kingdom, but a spiritual realm where God’s will prevails. Jesus said, My kingdom is from another place (John 18:36) and Your Kingdom come, your will be done (Matthew 6:10).
  • It is not a matter of our daily natural concerns. For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit (Romans 14:17).
  • It is not a theory or theology. For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power (1 Corinthians 4:20).

The Kingdom is not a place or a country, it is a spiritual realm where righteousness, peace and joy reign, with power. Although it seems that such a thing doesn't exist on earth, that we are only able to enter this Kingdom when we go to heaven, Jesus teaches otherwise! That is why at some point in my life I started to wonder why then Jesus tells the people on earth to seek the Kingdom first (Matthew 6:33). Why would He send us on a quest for something that cannot be found here?

So, first it is important to know WHAT we are seeking, what we are looking for. According to the scriptures I mentioned earlier, the Kingdom is righteousness, peace and joy with power in the Holy Spirit. Jesus urges us to seek these things first. The logical next question will be: where do we look? Where can we find this Kingdom?

Friday, May 06, 2011

Pushing forward through the crowd

One touch of His mercy...
On May 5th Liberation Day is celebrated here in Holland, as we have been doing every year since 1945! Every year American, Canadian and British war veterans receive honor as we celebrate our freedom. A large crowd of people gathers at our National Monument in Amsterdam the evening before, where the Queen places a wreath in honor of the fallen soldiers. Large crowds gather at Liberation festivals, concerts and other festivities, it seems there are people everywhere!

Looking at these enormous crowds I had to think about the crowds that always surrounded Jesus. The Bible often mentions that a large crowd gathered around Him while He spoke. In Mark 3:10 we can read such a eye witness report: Because of the crowd He told his disciples to have a small boat ready for Him, to keep the people from crowding Him. For He had healed many, so that those with diseases were pushing forward to touch Him.
I find this fascinating! The people were not just spectators, waiting to see something spectacular... no, they pushed their way forward to touch Him! One woman was so desperately ill that she thought to herself: If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed (Mark 5:28). At some other time people brought a blind man to Jesus and literally begged Him to touch the poor man. But it wasn't just sick people who came to Jesus, anyone in need of his touch was welcome. In Luke 18:15 it says: People were also bringing babies to Jesus to have Him touch them.

People from all walks of life, young and old, men, women and children, the sick and the healthy... they all pushed their way to the crowds to touch Him! This is such a great picture of what we still need to do today. Sometimes we must push through a crowd of resistance, of unbelief, discouragement and doubt in order to touch the One who heals and delivers us from our fears and weaknesses. When we push our way forward, to be closer to the One who holds all the answers, we automatically turn our back to our problems. Psalm 44:5 encourages us with the following words: Through you we push back our enemies; through your name we trample our foes. We can experience His touch as we seek to be close to Him. It reminds me of a song by country singer Ken Holloway, he sings: "One touch of His mercy will heal all that's hurting in me..."

May I encourage you to push forward? PUSH = Pray Until Something Happens!