Citizens of the Kingdom (Hebrews 11-12)

There are so many things to talk about from this passage, I’m not sure what to write about.

The part that stood out to me today was 11:24-25:

“By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward. By faith he left Egypt, not being afraid of the anger of the king, for he endured as seeing him who is invisible.”

I know chapter 11 focuses on faith and how we receive things through said faith, but can we just stop and actually look at what Moses did here? I think it’s a beautiful picture of what it looks like to live contrary to what the rest of the world says. He chose to be mistreated as one God’s people instead of the good feelings of sin. Pain>Pleasure. He saw Christ worth more than all the treasures of a great and mighty nation.  He even defied said nation further and instead relied on the king of the invisible country (which, coincidentally, is mentioned in chapter 12).

How many times today do we face the choice to trust God and act as citizens of his kingdom or follow the “fleeting pleasures of sin”? And how many times do we actually pick the right answer? Our actions should be able to speak for us here. As citizens of the kingdom, our actions should set us apart. Knowing is one thing, doing is another. And it is only by faith and continually relying on God that we can succeed.

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Kingdom Focus (Matthew 13-14)

In Matthew 13 we see the return of “the kingdom of heaven” that was spoken about earlier in the chapter. I love how when Jesus explains things to the people and tells his parables, he uses things that they can understand and relate to. Lots of times I find myself referring to memories of the “agriculture” unit I did in grade 1 in Saskatchewan so that I can understand (literally learned about how to harvest wheat, so if you’re curious…). What intrigues me is that the disciples didn’t understand everything he was saying either – though I suppose this is because they didn’t know the ending of the story yet.

The fact that almost the entirety of chapter 13 is on the Kingdom of Heaven implies that it has to be important, but the parables that stand out to me today are the latter ones about the hidden treasure and the pearl of great value. The first time through, it is a reminder of how much we are supposed to “hate” the world to the point that we would give everything we have away to possess the kingdom.

However, it also works the other way around as well. When I was at camp we had a sermon from this point of view, and it completely humbles me. God thinks that we are that pearl or treasure, and that we too are worth losing everything for, even his son. It speaks into the beautiful story of the gospel that God would see us as things of value. And through this we are God’s chosen instruments to continue to spread the kingdom as the mustard seed and leaven (yeast) do in the earlier parable (13:31-33).

Didn’t really see how Chapter 14 related, so new topic.

The death of John the Baptists is a little sad to me, because first off, Herod’s predicament seems rather akin to the one Xerxes was in Esther with all those decision he made he couldn’t reverse because he was king. However, I know that his story had to end this way, because otherwise I believe God wold have done it differently. Looking at John’s whole life, I am reminded that the pursuit of Christ in this world is not going to be easy, if it is we may be doing something wrong. Our whole lives have to be focused on living for Him.

Then we see more demonstrations of Jesus’ power in feeding five thousand people, and then walking on water. I can never fully wrap my mind around the five thousand part, probably because I can’t imagine what that many people would look like. However, I can imagine the walking on water, and it’s pretty cool in my mind. I always like to remind myself the role Peter plays in the story though, and instead of focusing on his failure, I also like to note his success in actually having faith enough to get out of the boat. I think it is a perfect example of how we first have to get out of our own boats and follow Christ out of our comfort zone, but then we also have to keep our focus on him. He never leaves, but sometimes we too get distracted by the wind and seas and start to doubt and sink.

Turn your eyes upon Jesus
Look full in his wonderful face
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of his glory and grace.

The Kingdom is at Hand (Matthew 3-4)

Moving on from yesterday, God is continuing to have a hand in the events unfolding as John “prepares the way of the Lord” (3:3 cf Isaiah 40:3). Usually I focus on the second half of Matthew 3 where Jesus is baptized because it is A. pretty cool and B. has the trinity all mentioned in one place.

Today, however, the theme of “the Kingdom” coming stood out. And not necessarily in a pleasant way.

John begins by warning people to repent — and then proceeds to go into this wheat-chaff illustration, which is quite frightening if you think about it. First, he is baptizing “with the Holy Spirit and fire” (3:11) … Holy Spirit = I can handle that, FIRE = ouch? I seem to have always missed that word. And then he moves onto saying how the wheat will be separated from the chaff (aka the heads of the grain from the stalk — edible parts and non-edible parts) and then he BURNS THE CHAFF. That … is a little-bit-lot more terrifying for the chaff. But it is necessary for that to happen. God is a righteous God, and therefore he has to judge the world, and separate the chaff and then burn it. It is only just. I just wasn’t thinking about it this morning.

Then we move onto see how the kingdom begins to become present. First, Jesus is baptized, and then right after he is “led by the Spirit” to be tempted (4:1). Uhhhh…………..you know, I always knew he was IN the wilderness, and that he was tempted, but I clearly missed that he HAD to be tempted? But he succeeds in not being led into temptation, and then he starts his ministry (yay!)

This is sort of when we begin to see the kingdom, because now the kingdom is not COMING, it is HERE.

From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
– Matthew 4:17

Matthew later mentions a number of times about what the kingdom is like, what it relates to, etc. but all of this is “at hand”. It is here and present. We are called, just as Jesus went to call Simon Peter, Andrew, James, and John, we too are called to partake in the kingdom today.

I think often it’s easy to dismiss the call we have daily to get up and join the work of “the kingdom,” working alongside and for God – but it’s a daily call that we can choose to be a part of. I find that I forget about halfway through the day sometimes (or even earlier). Something I need to work on is ways to remind myself that I’m called to be a part of seeing “the kingdom” on earth every moment of every day. What great joy it is to be a part of something so big!