Jesus… answered, “The kingdom of God doesn’t come by counting the days on the calendar. Nor when someone says, ‘Look here!’ or, ‘There it is!’ And why? Because God’s kingdom is already among you.” Luke 17:21 (MSG)
As a child I was bemused when preachers said, “If God’s purpose in saving you was taking you to heaven, you would have died at the altar.” At the time, it seemed to me that most people I knew were content just to have a heavenly entrance pass. That was enough. Don’t ask for any further commitment, and don’t make us uncomfortable. I was gratified as an adult to learn that there was so much more to being a Christian than just dying and going to heaven. In fact, there was a unique life assignment offered to each one of Jesus’ disciples.
Jesus spoke often of the Kingdom of God and described it in terms of “righteousness, joy, and peace in the Holy Spirit” (Romans 14:17) and not “heaven some day.” And then he said that the Kingdom of God is HERE. It’s not “pie in the sky bye and bye.” So, as citizens of the Kingdom who have been given a mandate to go out and make disciples and to bear fruit, can you imagine a more opportune time than this to reflect the character and love of our King?
Think of all the ways we can fulfill the Great Commandment (loving God and our neighbor, Matt. 22:36-40) in these uncertain times. Remembering that since we are now part of the Kingdom, we no longer belong to ourselves but are the King’s servants who humbly impart joy and peace to neighbors who may be caught up in the stress of the times. We are open to creative ways to disperse laughter and hope to the anxious. We are available to offer practical assistance in whatever ways we see because the Kingdom is NOW, and we are citizens of the Kingdom.
We can move out of that tiny, restrictive world called Self and into the Kingdom which exalts the King and in which we are called to love. The time is now. The Kingdom is here.
Father, open our eyes. Who can we love; who can we comfort; who can we walk with today? Show us, in Jesus’ name. AMEN.
A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed. Proverbs 11:25
Have you noticed how, in the middle of this worst-case scenario, a wave of giving is being unleashed? It’s as if the eyes of our hearts are being opened to those around us, and we are asking how we can access our resources for our struggling neighbors. Books in little box libraries are being replaced with canned goods; housewives are sewing masks; musicians are live streaming to bring hope; ordinary folks are putting together care packages; communities are handing out bags of household necessities; business people are forgiving rents; and people are reaching into their pocketbooks to help.
No one, no government entity has mandated generosity. And yet, from our nation’s spiritual heritage, we see people looking for ways to demonstrate care. Businesses are posting messages of solidarity and encouragement. Children are stuffing toy animals in windows to signal joy to their friends who can’t get together to play. Cardboard signs are popping up in yards expressing gratitude for first responders, for the medical profession, for our grocers. People are setting up online help sites for those who may need assistance. Calls of concern and love are ringing people across the miles while notes and cards are being put in the mail. Neighbors are talking to each other—again—just as we did before air conditioning drove us all indoors.
Could it be that these kinder, more giving selves are springing from a well that’s been waiting to be rediscovered? From One who’s tried to waken us from our selfishness? Could it be that the One who gave first and who keeps on giving has been waiting for vehicles through which he might flow his love and himself? Ephesians (2:10) reminds us that we have been created for good works, for “such a time as this,” to glorify God and to demonstrate his love.
I love the whole Joseph story but especially the ending. After being so heartless and cruel to Joseph and experiencing his grace in return, the brothers fear that Joseph will exact revenge on the death of their father. Instead, Joseph responds in love, “You meant it for evil; God meant it for good” (Gen. 50:20). This pandemic is unmitigated evil, but hearts living, breathing, and reaching out in God’s love can use it for good.
Sovereign Father, turn evil into good through us as we give ourselves as instruments of your love. In Jesus’ name. AMEN.
The winter is past; the rains are over and gone. Flowers appear on the earth; the season of singing has come… Song of Songs 2:11, 12
As an early childhood teacher, I looked forward to spring and introducing this season of new beginnings: bulbs emerging with bursts of color; trees displaying their glorious ensembles of multi-shaded green; and rainbows of flowers where we had seen months of gray. And in the fields and woods animals were introducing their newborn. Birds’ nests burst with tiny heads peeping over carefully constructed shelters. Spring.
And, of course, with spring we have the anticipation of Lent—that solemn time of introspection and penitence. It’s a time when we wait quietly allowing the Holy Spirit to search us and point out ways and opportunities to grow in our faith and love of our Lord. It’s a time to recognize where we’ve not yet responded to God’s call in our lives for repentance and for him to affect transformation in our most profound selves. Lent can be a season for renewal and restoration.
So, here we are at the springtime of our year, and we are confronted instead with death rather than life. The Virus has ushered in a solemnity that rarely occurs during Lent, but here it is. We couldn’t prepare for it, but it’s here. And yet, in our Pilgrim’s Progress, we’ve already met with numbers of difficulties on the way—and have found in retrospect that the lions have been chained while all the resources we’ve needed have been provided. Isn’t it still true now?
It’s Spring, and, yes, there’s an unseen enemy all about us, but hasn’t that always been? We have a different name for this one, but our strategy is not new. We exercise wisdom and prudence, heeding trusted authorities; our meals can provide proper nutrition; we engage daily with God’s creation and its healing powers; we set our minds on things above; and we love our family and neighbors in word and deed; and we continue to rely on our Lord and his Word. We remain thankful, rejoicing always in him. Even in lockdown, we remember he is with us. We have everything we need.
Yes, the cross and death are everyday realities. But so is Easter, and Jesus will triumph.
Don’t worry. Aslan is on the move…
Father, in truth, our world is always full of contradictions: life and death; truth and lies; hope and despair. But you always triumph. Your sovereignty humbles us to rejoice in you and to live in praise and worship. Thank you for ultimate victory in Jesus Christ our Lord. AMEN.