Choose Participation, Not Observation! The Kingdom Of God Is Within You

Luke 17:20-21 NKJV “Now when He was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, He answered them and said, “The kingdom of God does not come with observation; nor will they say, ‘See here!’ or ‘See there!’ For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you.””

My thoughts: In His statement “the Kingdom of God is within you” Jesus told the Pharisees both the time and location of His Kingdom. Other Bible translations say “the Kingdom of God is among you.” It does not matter whether the translation reads the Kingdom is “among us” or “within us”. In this statement, Jesus is emphasizing the closeness of His Kingdom. The Kingdom of God is closer than we think! We can reach out and grasp it. God is not isolated from His people in a far off distant galaxy. He is in our midst, offering each person abundant life right NOW! If we do not see the Kingdom of God active in our lives, it is probably because we do not have an active relationship with God.

The Kingdom of God does not come with observation. We either experience and participate in His Kingdom or we observe and miss His Kingdom. Many people think they are “waiting upon the Lord” when they are really contemplating whether they should give Him everything. Many people think they are “waiting upon the Lord” when He is really waiting upon them to participate in His Kingdom. Waiting upon the Lord is not standstill observation. Waiting upon the Lord is an active step of faith toward Him everyday and a patient admiration of His beautiful workings.

Many people are content with spectating a move of God instead of becoming a person whom God moves. By His power, God enables us to preach the Gospel, heal the sick, and cast out demons. Through us, He wants to extend His grace and reach this world! If we do not participate in this Kingdom lifestyle then we are pretending He exists. Stop pretending He exists and surrender your life to Him!

The Greek word for “within” in this passage is the same Greek word used in Matthew 23:26 when Jesus rebukes the Pharisees and says “First wash the INSIDE of the cup and the dish, and then the outside will become clean, too“. If we wholeheartedly seek God everyday, He will transform us from the inside out and change our lifestyle. This God-directed lifestyle is what distinguishes an individual observing God’s Kingdom from an individual participating in His Kingdom. His Kingdom is at hand to expose our hidden sin, character flaws, lack of love, unforgiveness and evil motives. Many churches emphasize operating in the power of God, yet never allow God to expose and destroy their lack of love. Power and love coincide with one another (2 Timothy 1:7)! If we really seek His Kingdom first, people will notice the difference in our walk and start listening to our talk. As we make changes and allow God to change us, we can offer both power and love to the world! As He cleans the the inside of the cup, the vibrant fruit of our faith will follow and people will indeed see that “The Kingdom of God is within us.”

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Who Are We? What Have We Become?

1 Corinthians 3:5 “What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task.”‭‭

My thoughts: Notice how Paul uses the word “what” instead of “who”. There is a big difference between the question “What am I?” and “Who am I?” The word “what” is used to identify an object or function. The word “who” is used to identify a person. In this verse, Paul affirms that he and Apollos are mere mortals in humble service. Paul did not commend or encourage his passionate followers. Instead, he affirmed their misdirected passion and foolishness. He stated the power of God to work in and through His humble servants. The church of Corinth emphasized the function of men instead of the power of God. Despite the church fight over Paul and Apollos, the believers in Corinth trusted their leaders because the men developed in God. It is for a man to know who he is and for the world to see what he becomes. People will not really believe what we say until they see what we do. Who we become in God determines the authenticity of what we do for Him. What we do is a result of who we become. People will not believe what we do until we understand why we do it. In the same way, we will never understand the reason of our doing until we understand who we are in Christ. The question “Why?” asks “What is the purpose?”

Good leaders do not speak to a man’s potential. They speak to a man’s purpose in God. If a leader speaks to a man’s potential before the individual understands his purpose, he might see the plan of God without understanding to application necessary for its fulfillment. Before we discover our potential in Christ, we must understand our purpose in Him! Our purpose is servanthood to the most High God! Both Paul and Apollos were great servants for God because they were great servers of God. Are we content with being “servants through whom other people come to trust God” or do we demand a more sophisticated title? Do we want to become humble servants who live in surrender to God? 

Before we ask ourselves “What am I doing?” we must first ask “Who am I becoming?” Is God an addition to our lives, or is He the center of our lives? Church attenders without an identity in Christ are people with an unlocked potential in Him. We cannot be what God is calling us to be until we become who He is calling us to become. As a child must learn to walk before he can run so a man must become before he can be. 

A Lifestyle of Prayer

Luke 9:18 “Now it happened that as he was praying alone, the disciples were with him…”

My thoughts: I came upon this verse and could not move past it. How is it that a person can be alone and still have other people with him? Can someone defy the laws of human reasoning and be two places at the same time? Jesus knew the art of prayer- being alone with God in constant fellowship, even when other people were around. Though His physical body was caught up in the earth, His Spirit was united with God in Heaven. He was alone with God. To get alone with God, we must first find time in prayer, away from this world. Before we can pray alone with God in the midst of people, we must learn to pray alone when no one is watching us. When we pray, let us pray about everything and everyone. Let us pray for our brothers and sisters in Christ- those who are persecuted and in chains for their faith. Let us pray for our loved ones who need God to breakthrough into their seemingly hopeless situation. Let us pray for the salvation of those who do not know Jesus as their Lord and Savior (both in the church and outside the church), but wander aimlessly in this world. Let us pray for revival, that the presence of God would be restored in His churches! Let us pray that God would empower us to do His will on the earth, no matter what the cost! Let us pray for all of this and much more! Prayer connects us with God. In prayer, God hears us and we position ourselves to hear Him. Let us pray at all times, even when our circumstances are ideal. Many people wait to pray until difficult times. Therefore, they delay their faith in the good times. We cannot have faith in the bad times if we do not pray to God during the good. If we do not have an intimate relationship with God, the devil will use our lack of passion for God as an opportunity to offer us the fleeting pleasures of this life. If we do not receive the strength of God which comes through prayer and reading His Word with faith, we will not be strong enough to resist the devil. 
The amount of time we spend in prayer does not dictate the distance we go with God. Sincere passion and desire for God is what leads us closer to Him. Sincere passion and desire are not limited by time, but search for God everyday. Even in the busyness of saving the world, Jesus found time to pray. He was in two places at one time- caught up in Heaven with God and on earth with his brethren.
Do not allow what you see in the natural to stop Your from praying with faith! If our faith is in God, we will pray. If our faith is in the current circumstances, then we will blame the situation on God or pray a faithless prayer. Let us remember that God came into the world and we crucified Him on a cross. Still in response to rejection, He continued to pray! Let us learn from His example and pursue a lifestyle of constant prayer and devotion to God!

I conclude with this statement: if we are not praying then we will never hear what God is saying! 

See The Cross

John 12:3 “Then Mary took a twelve-ounce jar of expensive perfume made from essence of nard, and she anointed Jesus’ feet with it, wiping his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance.” 

My thoughts: Jewish women were not supposed to let down their hair in public. When she cried at the feet of Jesus and wiped away the tears with her hair, it was a sign of humility. However, to her culture it was a sign of disrespect. Real worship lets go of dignity and social acceptance. Real worship is not afraid to look foolish in the eyes of men (2 Samuel 6:20,21). Foolishness is not a lack of proper etiquette. Foolishness is the result of empty living. Obviously Mary was full of something! Whatever she had far outweighed the cost of perfume that is equivalent to $10,000 in our day. How is it that we become comfortable in the house of God? Has our worship become nonchalant and senseless? 
This is not about being proper, but about being reverent. Reverence results in relevant worship. Is our God-inspired and God-wired? How do we adapt when God Himself enters the room? What cultural line will we cross to enter His presence? What are we willing to give to the One who canceled our debt and led us out of bankruptcy? Is God more than a definition in the dictionary to us? Has He redefined our worship? We don’t owe God good manners. We owe Him real passion. God is not looking for political correctness! He is on the lookout for passionate individuals. Our social acceptance does not result in God’s acceptance.

The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume Mary poured out! In the same way, our passionate pursuit of God shifts the atmosphere. It changes the aroma of dead religion to the sweet perfume of Heaven! Pastors- The atmosphere of your church service won’t shift until your passion lifts! Stop expecting God to move when you don’t move a muscle. Many of us are not ready to pay the cost because we do not see the cross. 
Mary poured out expensive perfume because she saw the value in Christ. She did not emphasize the cost because she saw the goodness of God. If we do not understand what Jesus did for us, then we will not give Him everything. Let us return to Calvary, where the blood of Jesus was spilt for our transgressions. Let us humbly pour out a meaningful offering of our affection for all that He has done. Let the selfless act of Mary be an inspiration in your walk with God today.

Approach God As A Child

John 6:9 “There’s a young boy here with five barley loaves and two fish. But what good is that with this huge crowd?”

My thoughts: According to the Gospel account of Mark, it was late in the afternoon and the disciples wanted to send the people home where they would buy food in the villages. In response, Jesus said to His disciples “You feed them.” John is the only Gospel account that mentions a “little boy” or “child” as the one with the five barley loaves and two fish. Jesus took the food from the child. The disciples dispersed the food among the crowds of people. This is important to note. I find it interesting that a child held the food that Jesus would multiply for thousands. The boy was willing to let Jesus take his bread and fish. He did not say “Master, that’s my dinner!” No, he let Him take it all. I pray that I am meek like a child. I want God to take everything I have, though it may seem little, and accomplish something great with it! Andrew said “what good is that with this huge crowd?” God loves to take what seems small and do great wonders with it! He is not looking for greatness, but for meekness! In the same way, great numbers in a church service mean nothing if we do not approach God as little children. He cannot use what we have if we do not give it to Him! He uses the lowly to bring Himself glory. Will we give all that we have for all that He is? The five loaves of bread and two fish would feed the multitudes. Everyone, including the child, ate as much as they wanted! If we are faithful to give, God will bless us in return! Some of us hold onto what we have as if it is ours. Is it really our time? Is it really our money? Is it really our schedule? If we live for Jesus, is not everything we have already His? The little boy had enough for himself and was ready to eat a good dinner. Still, he gave. Let us not be selfish and hold onto something God never intended for us to keep. Remember, it was five loaves of bread and two fish that fed the thousands. It does not matter if we consider ourselves to be great. We must only see the greatness of our God to use what seems small for His glory. Don’t underestimate the power of God to use what seems small. Approach God as a little child, willing to give it all! 
Application Questions: Do I let God use everything I am for His glory? Do I give like a little child in love with His father or do I consider myself too “mature” and “wise” to give Him everything? 

More Than Mere Optimism

John 11:4 “When he heard this, Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.””‭‭

My thoughts: Although Lazarus died, death was not his ultimate conclusion. Instead, his death was a platform for God’s redemptive power. Lazarus was dead, yet Jesus brought him to life. Imagine how much more He can breathe life into our seemingly hopeless situations! Praise God that the cross did not conclude the Gospel message! Instead, it was an opportunity for Christ to defeat the grave! When it seems like we have reached the end, God uses our situations to show off His goodness. Give God permission to show up and show off His power. Many people miss the potential of God’s power in a situation because they believe it is God’s will for them to suffer. 

When Jesus said “this happened for God’s glory”, I don’t believe He meant that God initiated the sickness. Although He could, there are not many biblical accounts of God sending sickness for the sake of accomplishing His will. As for today, I do not believe God is searching for people to strike with disease. In the Bible, Jesus never said to anyone “You must suffer this sickness because of your many sins” or “God is sending sickness to your home!” No. Instead, He healed everyone. Many Christians conclude “It is God’s will for you to be sick” because their faith is really in the current circumstances, not the redemptive power of Christ. 
When Jesus said “it happened for the glory of God”, I believe that He is talking about a perspective of faith. He saw the good in every bad situation. This is not mere optimism. This declaration is the result of a faith filled life! He did not say “There is no hope for Lazarus.” No, He understood the readiness of God’s power to invade at any given moment. His life was not dominated with anxiety, but with a faith that worked miracles. What if we had faith like that?
During times of hardship, let us say- “this happened for the glory of God.” Don’t give the devil any credit. Keep declaring “I will give God all the glory!” This kind of faith scares away darkness. Let God take what the devil intended for evil and turn it around into something beautiful. God is notorious for His mysterious wonders! Don’t talk as if the devil is winning! Remember that God has already won the war. Proclaim this over you life- “This situation will not end in my spiritual death! God will receive all of the praise.” Let every situation be for the glory of God so that when the bad ones come you have already developed a natural response to Him in the midst of chaos. What is our perspective during difficult times? Do we believe that God can take our bad situations and turn them into something good? How will we give glory to God in our circumstances?

Most People Know The Problem. What Is The Solution? 

Genesis 9:22,23 “Ham, the father of Canaan, saw that his father was naked and went outside and told his brothers. Then Shem and Japheth took a robe, held it over their shoulders, and backed into the tent to cover their father. As they did this, they looked the other way so they would not see him naked.”
My thoughts: While literal nakedness is the absence of clothes, spiritual nakedness is a place of deep shame and exposure. Most people don’t want exposure. My prayer is that the American people would be stripped of their selfishness and clothed in righteousness. Ham saw the nakedness of his father, but didn’t take the initiative to clothe him. I do not believe his sin was in seeing the nakedness, but in telling his brothers. He could have taken the same robe his brothers used and covered his father alone. His brothers never needed to know about the situation. Shem and Japheth did something about their father’s nakedness. Ham merely pointed it out. Scripture does not tell us Ham’s intents when telling his brothers. However, we can assume that he was comfortable pointing out the problem without providing a solution. I praise God that He didn’t look at my spiritual nakedness and tell the world about it. Instead, He covered me with His blood and washed away my filth. Notice how Shem and Japheth did not look at their father. In the same way, when we surrender our lives to Jesus, He doesn’t see us in our spiritual nakedness anymore. Instead, He clothes us in new life from Heaven! It is our responsibility to lead the shame ridden people into a place where God can transform them forever! Most people know where they have gone wrong. Very few people know the way out of their wrongdoing. Instead of pointing out the shame of others, let us love unconditionally and lead them to redemption.