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Kingdom of HeavenJesus came preaching.

What did He preach?

The gospel (good news) of the kingdom.

He picked the message up from His forerunner John the Baptist:

Now in those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea, saying, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." - Matthew 3:1-2 NASB

As soon as Jesus came out of the wilderness and His time of temptation, He began His ministry.

From that time Jesus began to preach and say, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." - Matthew 4:17 NASB

We see a few verses down the page, this was His message everywhere He went.

Jesus was going through all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness. - Matthew 9:35

We learn from Luke, this was a new message—a strong break from the preaching of the past.

The Law and the Prophets were proclaimed until John; since that time the gospel of the kingdom of God has been preached, and everyone is forcing his way into it. -  Luke 16:16

I sometimes think that the gospel of the kingdom is like kindergarten for Christians, and we need to move on to the deep spiritual lessons of the faith. But in truth the disciples, after having spent three years in JSSM (Jesus School of Supernatural Ministry) had a forty day conference. It was after His resurrection, and after He breathed the breath of life into their souls. What was the theme of Jesus last conference?

To these He also presented Himself alive after His suffering, by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over a period of forty days and speaking of the things concerning the kingdom of God. - Acts 1:3 NASB

And what was the message that the apostles and the early church preached?

Philip:

But when they believed Philip preaching the good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were being baptized, men and women alike. - Acts 8:12 NASB

Paul and Barnabas:

But Jews came from Antioch and Iconium, and having won over the crowds, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing him to be dead. But while the disciples stood around him, he got up and entered the city.

The next day he went away with Barnabas to Derbe. After they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying, "Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God." - Acts 14:19-22 NASB

In fact the book of Acts starts off in 1:3 (above) with the preaching of the gospel of the kingdom and ends the same way—here are the last two verses of the historical account of first century history of the church:

And he stayed two full years in his own rented quarters and was welcoming all who came to him, preaching the kingdom of God and teaching concerning the Lord Jesus Christ with all openness, unhindered. - Acts 28:30-31 NASB

One final scripture to consider. Jesus told us that the preaching of the gospel of the kingdom must be taken to the ends of the earth.

This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come. - Matthew 24:14

When I see the clear emphasis on the preaching of the gospel of the kingdom in the Gospels and the book of Acts, I see that it needs to be in our mouths every day. Our preaching must be the Gospel of the kingdom. We’ve had enough self-help sermons. We’ve had enough ‘you ought’a do better’ sermons. We’ve had enough ‘feel good about yourself’ sermons.

We must preach the gospel of the kingdom.

Selah.

cropped-BenHeadshot.jpgThanks for coming by.

In the next installment we’ll talk about the content of the gospel of the kingdom.

Till then - keep shining!

Ben

2

Jesus in Matthew’s gospel speaks about the kingdom of heaven more than any other theme. I'm quite intrigued as I look at what He has to say about it. I want to spend some time here at Another Red Letter Day digging into some of these statements and pictures Jesus makes and uses to describe it.

What is the ‘Kingdom of Heaven’ like?

Jesus said it’s like:

a man who sowed good seed in his field. - Matthew 13:24

a mustard seed - Matthew 13:31

leaven - Matthew 13:33

a treasure hidden in the field - Matthew 13:44

a merchant seeking fine pearls, - Matthew 13:45

a dragnet cast into the sea - Matthew 13:47

a head of a household  - Matthew 13:52

a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. - Matthew 18:23

a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. - Matthew 20:1

a king who gave a wedding feast for his son. - Matthew 22:2

ten virgins - Matthew 25:1

Where is He going with this? I’m intrigued. Are you?

BenHeadshotCome back again soon.

Don’t forget to shine.

Ben

10

Born Again is not a Brand of Christianity. It’s not the trademark for a sect of ultra conservative or fundamental believers.

As I look again at these words in John 3, I am struck by the fact that Jesus is not trying to create a new denomination, He is explaining to a man of the word a fact about the Spiritual world.

You see, He is telling Nicodemus that the kingdom of God is not a physical place.

Until that time, if you asked anyone, well at least if you asked a Jew “What is the kingdom of God?” they would simply answer “Israel.” It was that simple and pretty obvious.

Then Jesus comes on the scene and starts taking about the ‘kingdom of God’ and sometimes interchanging it with the ‘kingdom of heaven.’

[Fun Fact: Jesus used the phrase ‘kingdom of God’ forty-three times plus twenty-nine times He spoke of the ‘kingdom of heaven,’ these later  are all in Matthew’s gospel. Of course with four tellings of many of the events in Jesus’ life, I can see where some of these might be repeats, and some of the ‘heaven’ ones may be repetitions of the ‘God’ ones.]

Check out Jesus’ language here:

Jesus answered and said to him, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God." ... Jesus answered, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. "That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. "Do not be amazed that I said to you, 'You must be born again.' - John 3:3, 5-7 NASB

The idea Jesus is trying to set up for Nic is that it is not physically possible for a man without the Spirit of God on the inside to even see – let alone enter the kingdom of God.

It’s not about the obtaining of a golden ticket, or getting your name on a church membership card. It is about becoming the right species of being.

You wouldn’t wonder even for a minute if I told you that you couldn’t live at the bottom of the sea unless you were born again as a mackerel. [Hey if you were born again again then you could be a holy mackerel – sorry – I couldn’t resist] You need gills – you need fins – you need an appetite for seaweed or krill. You would need to be a new creature.

And so it is with this idea of ‘born again.’

You need to be changed in order to survive in – or even see the kingdom of God, because it is not a physical kingdom. Only one who is born of the spirit can see it.

That’s why Paul says:

Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. - 2 Corinthians 5:17 NASB

The good news is that it’s not complicated:

But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. - John 1:12-13 NASB

Do you believe in – put your trust in – follow – obey – Jesus?

for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. - Romans 14:17 NASB

So – there you go – you have to be born again as spiritual being with spiritual breathing apparatus to follow this king.

Does any of that make sense?

BN Writers Page 150Thanks for reading today.

I appreciate you.

Ben

 

 

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Grunge Wood Interior

Some of us within Christianity act as though God’s only desire for our lives and the only thing we should strive for in the Christian life is the avoidance of sin.

How so, Ben?

We come to faith when we repent for our sins.

We hear sermon after sermon that drives us into introspection, searching for those deep down sins hiding below the surface.

Our prayer life is 90% confession and 10% petition (for those of you who might not speak Christianese that means 90% saying I’m sorry to God and 10% asking God for stuff.)

Here’s a thought for you.

What if the Christian life is not all about sin?

What if the kingdom of God is not the absence of sin, but righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit?

What if righteousness was not “sinless perfection” but it was simply doing the things that God had created us for?

Think of it this way for a minute.

Let’s say you’re a parent and you have some young kids that you want to take to Disney World for a vacation. However, no matter how you try to save for this trip, life keeps getting in the way. Cars breakdown, kids need clothes (no matter how many times you tell them that if they keep growing they can’t go to see Mickey Mouse.) Every time you get a little bit set aside for your big trip, you have to use it for a real emergency.

Now let’s say someone comes along and gives you an all expense paid vacation to Orlando, with weeklong passes to all of Disney’s fun filled parks. He pays to fly you there; he pays for your hotel rooms, your meals and all the passes to all the parks. He even gives you some cash to buy some Mickey junk to put in your closet and forget about when you get home. (Sounds like Pat Sajak to me – …tell them what they have won Charlie.)

So you get off the boat and head for the entrance gate – there you stand ready to go in – tickets in hand and looks of awe and wonder on every face.

You and your family walk through those gates, then you turn around and stare in wonder at the entrance. You think to yourself – I thought I would never be able to get though those turnstiles.  I am so thankful to the one who paid the price.

Then you spend the entire week that was given to you coming inside the gates – and standing there looking at the gate. You never walk down Main Street USA, you never ride Space Mountain, or Pirates of the Caribbean. You don’t visit Tomorrow Land. You just stare at the gate.

Your benefactor appreciates the daily notes of thanks, but when he realizes you stepped in and stopped he is actually upset with you. He did not send you to Disney’s magical kingdom to stand at the gate. He wanted to you go in and experience the wonder of it all.

Ok – so the analogy breaks down pretty quickly, but I hope you can see what I am saying here.

We Christians are stuck at the entrance gate. We’re stuck at the cross.

Yes – we must regularly remember the cross – that’s why Jesus said as often as you eat this bread and drink this wine, remember me. But He did not intend that we spend 30 years of Christian life sitting at the Last Supper.

There is more to the Christian life and the new birth.

Therefore leaving the elementary teaching about the Christ, let us press on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, - Hebrews 6:1 NASB

The Father wants us to step into the fullness of Christ.

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. - Ephesians 2:10 NASB

It’s time we realized that the Father sent Jesus to bring us before the throne so we can be in His presence, so we can enjoy His company, so we can partner with Him in the work He is doing.

Lord, I am eternally grateful for the great price you paid. I am ever thankful for the way you made to come to the Father. Today, Lord, help we walk in the life you saved me for. Help me step out in the works you created for me to accomplish in Your wonderful kingdom.

ben rin and noraThanks for coming by.

Thanks Deb for getting me pondering along these lines.

See you again soon.

Ben

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It’s another red letter day and I am excited to share with you today. I want to link a couple scriptures that are speaking to me right now. The first is Jesus’ words as He commissions the 12 to go out and do ministry.

And as you go, preach, saying, 'The kingdom of heaven is at hand.' Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. Freely you received, freely give. - Matthew 10:7-8 NASB

When Jesus sent the 12 out, He sent them to bring the kingdom of God to the man on the street. At the same time He told them to heal the sick, raise the dead, clean the lepers and cast out demons.

Are these things related?

Does this same type of activity mark the arrival of the kingdom of God in a life? Or did Jesus send the boys out with two different agendas? Is the inner work of the Spirit the only mark of the kingdom – reign – of Christ in a life, or do these other manifestations still accompany the King’s rule?

I am convinced that these are all signs of the coming of the kingdom of heaven.

As I pondered this, Jesus’ model prayer comes to mind.

Your kingdom come.
Your will be done,
On earth as it is in heaven.

Matthew 6:10 NASB

And so I pray today:

Your kingdom – Your reign – come, Lord Jesus, Your will be done in me, here and now, as it is in heaven.

Will you join me in this prayer today?

Come Lord Jesus.

Ben NelsonThanks

Ben

This is a big deal. It’s HUGE:

But the centurion said, "Lord, I am not worthy for You to come under my roof, but just say the word, and my servant will be healed.” ~ Matthew 8:8

How are things accomplished in this kingdom? I am talking about this kingdom where Jesus is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, this Kingdom of Heaven that is entered by faith in Christ, this Kingdom of God.

Words.

Words are the currency of the Kingdom of Heaven.

Perhaps I am selling it a bit short here. Not simply words, not just any words, this kingdom runs on words of faith.

Don’t get me wrong here. Faith results in actions.

But understand this:

Faith filled words,
words filled with expectation
words filled with hope

set heaven’s gears turning.

Angels move at the sound of His voice.

Oceans obey His voice.

The universe was created by a grand heavenly voice filled eager expectation.

His voice, the voice of God, the words of God, the Word of God, is the most powerful force, the most powerful substance, the most powerful being in the universe.

And He wants you to speak.

Faith filled words,
words filled with expectation
words filled with hope

to set heaven’s gears into motion.

As you set your affections on Him, and begin to speak His words, the words He puts in your heart, the words He speaks in your soul, as you agree with Him, and let your (His) words flow, your world will be moved, your universe will come under heaven’s influence.

BenCome back tomorrow for the flip side.

See you then.

Ben

photo credit: Pop Culture Geek via photopin cc
photo credit: Pop Culture Geek via photopin cc     

As we tie up our time in the Sermon on the Mount, I want to take two giant steps back and notice a couple of things from the top down.

Back in chapter 4 there was a bit of foreshadowing about Jesus’ preaching;

And Jesus was going about in all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness among the people. ~ Matthew 4:23

Then Jesus began teaching with:

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. ~ Matthew 5:3

As He closes this wonderful teaching He says:

Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven; ~ Matthew 7:21

This gospel, good news, that Jesus brought is all about the kingdom of heaven. So what is this kingdom?

When Jesus talks about the kingdom of heaven, He is not simply talking about you getting through the pearly gates. He is talking about the government of your life.

When I step back and see this sermon declaring the good news of the kingdom of heaven, I see a description of a life under the reign of a King, not just a future in a mansion taking harp lessons.

This life is marked by humility, giving, caring for others, letting go of rights, and generally living a selfless life. Jesus takes the priorities that our world presses upon us, and turns them upside down.

And this is expressed perfectly in our bookends. Those who are entering the kingdom – demonstrating their allegiance to the reign of Christ in their life, are poor in spirit. Those who are denied entry actually stand before the one they called Savior and say “What about ME!”

Any attempt to enter the kingdom, or should I say, any delusion of being a Christian, that is centered on self, is just that – delusion.

Do you remember Paul’s heart?

For I could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh, ~ Romans 9:3

These we see at the gate of heaven as it were, cared for nothing but their own access to heaven. Paul, a good picture of transformed man, is more interested in the souls of others that of himself.

You see, it is a kingdom of love, agape love, self-sacrificing love. Love that is willing to lay down it’s own rights, priorities, dreams, hopes, and even calling to serve the one who gave up heaven and took up hell for … well … you and me.

The big reason those folks are on the outside looking in, is that they always have been on the outside looking in. Even the wonderful works they do in the name of Jesus don’t change who is boss, master, ruler of their life.

Even standing before Jesus in His glory their hearts are crying out “what about me?”

How is it with you today, friend? Is it about you?

If so, simply ask the Lord to give you a new heart and to remove the stony heart, that monument erected to you in your chest, and replace it with a heart of flesh that beats for others, that beats for Him. [Tweet This]

BenThanks for coming by today

See you again soon.

Ben

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For the last week or so, we have been plowing through the parable of the soils. We spent most of our time looking that the descriptions of the soils and their comparisons to our ability to receive and process the Word of God.

The purpose behind many of the parables was to teach those who were able to hear, principles and characteristics of the kingdom of God.

And the disciples came and said to Him, “Why do You speak to them in parables?” And He answered and said to them, “To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been granted." (Matthew 13:10 NASB)

Depending on your definition of parable, Jesus used about 60 in His teaching ministry. There are about 40 of them that Matthew retells. After the story we have been considering, Jesus, in the book of Matthew alone starts 13 more parables with a phrase like “The kingdom of heaven can be compared to…”

Over the next few weeks we will dig into these other 13 and see what we can learn of the kingdom of God.

A quick definition first – so you understand – the kingdom of God or the kingdom of Heaven is not a synonym or euphemism for heaven or the after-life. The kingdom of God refers rather to His reign in men and women. We, you and I, those who have given our lives to the Lord of Glory, are His kingdom.

This takes me back to Isaiah’s prophesy of Messiah:

There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, On the throne of David and over his kingdom, To establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness From then on and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will accomplish this. (Isaiah 9:7 NASB)

And these from the Revelation of Jesus Christ given to John:

And the seventh angel sounded; and there arose loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord, and of His Christ; and He will reign forever and ever.” (Revelation 11:15 NASB)

And on His robe and on His thigh He has a name written, “KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.” (Revelation 19:16 NASB)

Why, you may ask is it important for us to understand this kingdom? There is a clue in the verse above from Revelation 19 – He is the King of Kings – and you, beloved, are a Royal Priest – a King or Queen in training.

Check out one final verse from the Revelation:

And there shall no longer be any night; and they shall not have need of the light of a lamp nor the light of the sun, because the Lord God shall illumine them; and they shall reign forever and ever. (Revelation 22:5 NASB)

You see, our work is not over here. God has created you for an eternal purpose, and this is the training ground, or at least the first training ground. Remember that God will be demonstrating His grace and kindness in the AGES TO COME by what He has done in us. (from Ephesians 2:7)

So lets get to work, learning of this kingdom in which we will one day reign.

BenThanks for stopping by today.

See you tomorrow

Ben

photo credit: antonychammond via photopin cc

 

for they shall be completely satisfied. (Matthew 5:6 AMP)

Wait – Wait – Wait This can’t be right. Do you believe this? Is it true? Or is Jesus telling us a little white lie to try to motivate us to be good. Does true satisfaction really come from the pursuit of righteousness?

All our lives we are told that the best way to enjoy life is to live on the edge, to walk the fine line between good and bad. This is nothing new either. Generation after generation, it takes different forms, but we live surrounded by the message that a little compromise and a touch of naughty will bring a little joy into our lives.

The American culture teaches us that when someone is stressed, or grumpy, they just need a little sex and they will relax a bit. When someone has a hard day they need a drink to take the edge off. If you have to meet a budget, a little lying or cheating will go a long way to solving your problems. Satisfaction is just a compromise away.
It’s a lie! And it has worked for thousands of years. In fact the serpent used this same lie to trick Eve in the garden. God is keeping the best away from you. He wants you to go through life missing out on all the fun, and always frustrated.

This same serpent is the thief that Jesus tells us has come to “steal and kill and destroy.” His lies have separated us from satisfaction and in fact have left us unsatisfied and distracted from the source of true happiness. How could we be so foolish as to believe this liar! Jesus promised us “abundant life,” not average, boring, prudish or disappointing life.

Here is the thing. As I sit here writing this, God is bringing to my mind stuff that needs to be done with more integrity in my life. He is asking me if I believe Him, or if I am going to keep on living a compromised, unsatisfied life.
Now you decide, is Jesus telling us the truth? Is it true that complete satisfaction comes from pursuing righteousness? Or is this religious speak intended to manipulate the masses into obedience. Is there actually blessing, happiness and joy in living your life for God? If what Jesus says is true, aren't we effectively robbing God of that which He purchased when we live in compromise? 
Can you quiet yourself and listen for the voice of God as you read this. If you don’t have time right now, plan some time to mull, to consider. If you are like me, right now you are saying, oh, sister so-and-so could use this, or brother what’s-his-name could sure use some integrity. Yep, I thought about brother what’s-his-name, I admit it. But you need God’s voice in your life today, and so do I. Get quiet and ask Him this: Am I stealing myself back from You by my lack of integrity? (ouch) [Tweet This]

Hey, thanks for reading today. Please let me know if this is making a difference in your life.

Ben

Theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Matt 5:3 & 10

I know I am getting out of order here. I was just lying in bed – it is about 10 minutes to 12 on Friday night, and I was mulling.
Now let me be clear. I have studied through and taught through the Beatitudes probably more than any other passage in the Bible. It is my favorite by far. I have notes dating back a decade from preparations for this little piece of scripture.
But tonight – closing in on the middle of the night – I am trying to get to sleep, and the phrase “Theirs is the kingdom of heaven” is rolling around in my head. This phrase that is calling me to my laptop to put down my thoughts does not even belong in my mind right now. I mean we are right smack in the middle of the beatitudes, and this phrase bookends the passage. I suppose I could wait and release this in a week or so when I get to the end of the passage. But I feel a sense of urgency in my spirit like I need this to go out now.
Here goes:
What if "Their's is the kingdom of heaven,"rather than meaning they gain entrance into the kingdom, as in, the poor in spirit get saved, what if what it means is the poor in spirit and the peacemakers for that matter, get the kingdom of God? What if those who are broken before God are not just given a ticket for St. Peter to punch, but they actually possess the entire kingdom. What if we are not just someday going on a long trip to visit a great place, but we actually have ownership (and not some sad 52nd part like a time share, but we are on the deed) of the kingdom of God.
Isn’t that what Paul was talking about when he said we are joint heirs with Christ? (Rom 8:17) Doesn’t that line up with us being seated in heavenly places in Christ Jesus? (Eph 2:6) Isn’t the very fact that the Holy Spirit is in our lives the “deposit guaranteeing our inheritance.” (Eph 1:14) Or how about this outrageous bit from Daniel:  "But the saints of the Most High will receive the kingdom and will possess it for ever--yes, for ever and ever." (Dan 7:18)
So I have a question for you, Lord. How should this look in my life? What does it mean for me to be in possession of a kingdom? [Tweet ThisAnd not just any kingdom, but a heavenly kingdom!
I dare you to ask God that question. Share what you hear with me and let’s compare notes!
BenThank you for taking time to read this. It actually means a bunch to me.

Ben