Monday, September 27, 2010

Refuge in the Kingdom

He presented another parable to them: "The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his field. It's the smallest of all the seeds, but when grown, it's taller than the vegetables and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the sky come and nest in its branches."

-Matthew 13:31-32

Jesus told many parables to his disciples to explain to them the nature of the Kingdom. We are all familiar with the parable of the mustard seed. Mustard, in first century Palestine, was a terribly annoying weed. Much like our dandelions, it would easily spread, plaguing an entire landscape with its yellow-flower presence. The mustard that Jesus mentions is no ordinary mustard. Jesus says that the Kingdom is like a small mustard seed that grows into a gigantic tree! Now, normally mustard only grows up to be a small bush of a flower -no where near a tree! But that’s the point. The Kingdom grows up in ways that, from a worldly perspective, are simply impossible. Another interesting thing about this tree is that the birds of the air have come to rest in it. It was recently pointed out to me that birds can be mustard seeds number one enemy. We don’ t often think of seed as being hunted and having predators -but seed is hunted and by birds! So, in this parable the thing that seems to be the biggest threat to the Kingdom ends up finding refuge and shelter in its branches. These birds could represent countless perceived “threats”. People that we may label as dangerous, having a rough background, or different world views than our own, you name it. Jesus is saying here that it is the nature of the Kingdom to become a refuge for what was once seen as a threat. There are people all around us that need to find their place of refuge within God’s Kingdom. May we be sure to extend branches to the people that are in our own lives.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Eschatology and the Kingdom: Part 1

Have you ever thought about your views on eschatology? If you are a Christian and you haven’t, it may be time that you do. And even if you are not a believer in God at all, it is still important to understand what some believe on the subject, and I will tell you why shortly. The word “eschatology” is a based off two Greek words. The first, “ἔσχατος” meaning “last”, and the word “λογία” meaning “study” so eschatology is the study of the last days, or the study of end times.

It is important that as Christians we have a basic understanding of what many call the “End Times”, because views on eschatology directly relate to what one believes about the Kingdom of God now. For example, many eschatological views do not believe that the Kingdom of God has come to (that is past tense mind you) earth. Many of these same views teach that the Kingdom of God is a physical dominion and power.

Both of these views are clearly flawed as the scriptures and teachings of Jesus show us. First, Jesus said nearly 2,000 years ago that the Kingdom had come (Luke 11:20, Luke 17:21). Jesus spent large amounts of time teaching about the Kingdom, because the Kingdom of God was coming to earth during His ministry. And his disciples were to continue the global expansion of the Kingdom as the church.

Secondly, the Kingdom is not a physical thing. The Kingdom is not a physical country, like the United States, Canada, France or Israel. And the Kingdom does not hold physical boundaries because the Kingdom is not of this world -it is spiritual. Jesus made this very clear while speaking to Pilate before his death: “My kingdom is not of this world”, said Jesus. “If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I wouldn’t be handed over to the Jews. As it is, My kingdom is not from here.” (John 18:36)

Now, this is a very important matter because most of the terrible acts that have been committed in the world throughout history in the name of God were done so because the Kingdom was thought of as a physical force here on earth.

The Kingdom is here and now. And it is spread through actions of love, grace, and forgiveness as lives are liberated by Christ the King.