October 23, 2017

Sundays with Michael Spencer: June 7, 2015

Minas_Tirith_489a86ae7526c

From June 2009.

“Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.”

• Matthew 6:33 NLT

1. You won’t get very far in following Jesus if you don’t have some idea of what “the Kingdom of God” means, because Jesus talks about it constantly, and commands you to seek it.

2. Most Christian spirituality has practically pursued this as meaning, “Go to the church and all you need to know of the Kingdom is there.” That’s a very inadequate answer, and you don’t have to be an exceptionally deep Christian to know that.

3. The church should be pointing at the Kingdom all the time, both inside and outside of its own boundaries.

4. The church should be actively helping you to seek the Kingdom of God. For starters, the church should know that it isn’t the Kingdom and should be able to keep you from making that mistake.

5. The church should be teaching what the Kingdom is; mentoring you so that you will increasingly recognize it and understand how you participate in the Kingdom of God in various ways.

6. Wherever possible, the church should be facilitating and encouraging the Kingdom of God, primarily by proclaiming the Gospel of the Kingdom and inviting people to enter the Kingdom of God now, by faith in Jesus the Messiah.

7. The Kingdom is a present dimension of the world we live in, a world where God is actively present and at work, but it is also a coming reality, not here in fullness. Seeing the Kingdom in its present form and not insisting that it take its final form ahead of schedule is a critical balance for the follower of Jesus.

8. One of Jesus’ most important teachings about the Kingdom is its presence in the last, least, lost, little and obscure. This signals a huge change of perspective for the Christian living in post-evangelical times. We must be sensitive to the presence of the Kingdom in places that our movement treats as unimportant, even “God forsaken.”

9. We are commanded to actively seek the Kingdom, not just wonder where it might be and talk about possibilities. We are to look for it like a person looks for a lost valuable or a hidden treasure. Wherever Christians are, they are not commanded to wait until the Kingdom comes to them or they are suddenly transformed to the place of seeing the Kingdom. It is in seeking it, in the world as well as in the community of believers, that the Kingdom is discovered.

10. God’s provisions are promised in the context of seeking the Kingdom, not in seeking provisions or comfort. We can take care of ourselves, or we can seek the reign of a redeeming, rescuing, recreating God in the world, and he will take care of us along the way. Would you rather have much without his provision or what he blesses and gives you in the course of seeking the Kingdom?

11. Scripture is full of people seeking God’s Kingdom. Study them! Learn from what they learned. God taught them in the midst of the adventure.

12. Do not expect to take up this quest and return the same person. Seeking the Kingdom is a taking up and a casting off; a journey of trust and a facing of fear. But it how God describes life! Not accumulating or being culturally acceptable, but on the way to seeing the Kingdoms of this world become the Kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ.

Comments

  1. “Most Christian spirituality has practically pursued this as meaning, “Go to the church and all you need to know of the Kingdom is there.” That’s a very inadequate answer, and you don’t have to be an exceptionally deep Christian to know that… the church should know that it isn’t the Kingdom and should be able to keep you from making that mistake.”

    It will be hard to promote this view of the kingdom in most present-day evangelical environments, since the paychecks of so many evangelical leaders depend on the exact opposite premise (that evangelicalism/America/middle-class social and sexual values ARE the kingdom).

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      > It will be hard to promote this view of the kingdom in most present-day evangelical environments

      Understatement.

  2. Dan Crawford says:

    Didn’t Jesus intend the church to be an in-breaking of the Kingdom into this mess of corruption, weakness, and heaven knows what else? And why does it surprise us that the church is all to often a mess? But every church has the Word which constantly calls it back to its love and vocation – and some churches have the sacraments which remind its members of the on-going continuing presence of the Lord who took flesh and dwelt among us. And Jesus wants the church to be more than a nice memorial society – it fails so often and so often the Bride of Christ looks like a tattered whore, but she is the Bride for whom he died.

    • I don’t think Michael was criticizing the Church as much as he was saying that the Kingdom is more than the Church.

      • Thank you CM! Too often the default setting here is to slam evangelicalism and the culture wars rather than to promote a “Jesus-shaped spirituality”. Heaven KNOWS that there is a lot to criticize, as there is in EVERY OTHER TRADITION, but left unsaid is that ALL traditions, being constructs of human effort, are flawed, yet thousands upon thousands find life in them.

        Our goal is to find a way in the wilderness of these man-made organizations, in the same manner that Jesus did in his day on earth, and to follow it and help others to find it.

        This should be more than a “bitch” session, if you can excuse the term.

    • Michael said,

      For starters, the church should know that it isn’t the Kingdom and should be able to keep you from making that mistake.

      John Stott, at the beginning of his book Basic Christianity, holds that young people (at the time of his writing) are “Hostile to the church; friendly to Jesus Christ.” That connected with me when I first read it, as I was a young person then. I referred to that in a Sunday class, and someone commented that because the church is the Bride of Christ, to be hostile to the church is to be hostile to Christ.

      Question: is this one of the talking points, even among pastors, that we must protect the reputation of the Bride of Christ as if protecting Christ himself? I have heard this a couple of times.

      Dan Crawford’s comment above fits in well, and I’ll add to it—how do we explain it to the world when the Bride of Christ behaves like the Whore of Babylon?

      • Too often, the ones who cry “to insult the church is to insult Christ!” are the ones who have the most to hide.

        • Rick Ro. says:

          Bingo. And that’s the kinda line (“to insult the church is to insult Christ”) that feeds the passive/aggressiveness nature of many pastors, who use it to brow-beat their congregations into submission or justify their poor pastorship.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          “If you question what *I* say to you
          YOU REBEL AGAINST THE FATHER TOO!”
          — Steve Taylor, “I Manipulate”

        • StuartB says:

          …I think my eye just twitched.

      • Rick Ro. says:

        -> “Question: is this one of the talking points, even among pastors, that we must protect the reputation of the Bride of Christ as if protecting Christ himself?”

        It could be a talking point, but I think even that idea (protect Bride of Christ aka the church as if protecting Christ) can lead to justification of bad behavior. Take Westboro Baptist, for instance. I’m guessing that if you were to ask them, they’d say they’re protecting the reputation of the Bride of Christ by picketing against homosexuality and all the other crap stuff they do that has absolutely nothing to do with Christ and his love for others.

      • OK, I agree with all of you in theory, but the person I’m thinking of doesn’t fit the description of a passive-agressive pastor or of a man with something to hide. I think he’s just spouting party line, but I’m curious as to how widespread this sort of churchspeak is. Is it part of his job description, like preaching about the tithe?

  3. This week I had to work at this house when after a day of no breaks and nothing to eat a woman says to me that’s not what I picked and started going down a road that was of offense to me. After a discussion where I was left totally frustrated I said to my son helping me you have to get me out of here. I’m sure she heard it.

    The next day I wrote about it here before I went there. I didn’t want to go let alone ever talk to her again. We went in and started working and she was having a bad day and laying on her sofa. Her cat came in the bathroom got into some of the stuff and it was sticking to him. He was being a bother but I love animals. So I was playing with him and I realized he would follow me so I went down stairs and the cat followed. I knelt to touch him while I started to talk to her about him. He jumped on my shoulder and starting purring in my ear and looking me in the face while I talked to her. She said I never saw him do that before. I’m 6’2″ and almost 290 at the moment so I’m sure it was a sight.

    Can you see what I see. Do you know how He works with me. Sorry for the questions posed as statements. You see He had me kneel before her and then His cat purred into my ears. I had said to her do you know a cat’s purring has healing in it. The whisper of this is how I love her w. You see I need to hear these things and this is how He works with me. This is the Kingdom and how it breaks forth upon our planet. These are the moments that last forever in the heart. We are His kingdom. This is what Michael is expressing in a ten point format and trying his best to do it. I’m trying my best to do it too. I’m not always real good at it but I know someone who is. Take Him from me will you please.

    • Or the statements posed as questions oh heck just forget that sentence all together.

      • and why I’m at it that would be 12 points but hey who’s counting and I hate it when I get so much wrong. Geesh this whole process is just too humbling at times…….

        • w, I have no idea what you’re getting at, but I love cats too and have one that gets on my shoulder. She’s part of what keeps me from going off the rails.

          • I read this from Animal Farm this morning:

            From chapter 1:

            [Major the pig said] “Let us put it to the vote. I propose this question to the meeting: Are rats comrades?”

            The vote was taken at once, and it was agreed by an overwhelming majority that rats were comrades. There were only four dissentients, the three dogs and the cat, who was afterwards discovered to have voted on both sides.

            and from chapter 3:

            And the behaviour of the cat was somewhat peculiar. It was soon noticed that when there was work to be done the cat could never be found. She would vanish for hours on end, and then reappear at meal-times, or in the evening after work was over, as if nothing had happened. But she always made such excellent excuses, and purred so affectionately, that it was impossible not to believe in here good intentions.

          • w, I just read again what you said and figured out the pronouns. Loosely translated version of Romans 8:28, “We know that in all things God works together for good with those who love cats, for those who love cats love God himself.”

            My wife would not agree with that, but it works for me.

          • Are you poking fun at me Ted

          • You could go back and read when Lisa Dye wrote Jump and in the comment section see and it might help. I’m not so sure though. I think I’ll let Him handle it from here

          • Sorry, only mildly poking fun. Mostly I’m agreeing about cats and God.

            I think H. Lee, below, expressed it pretty well too.

          • w, I just read your comments in Lisa’s post. I apologize if I offended you.

          • Well there always is that nudge into why I like animals better than people. I do recognize it. I take a knee to you too Ted. Be blessed. I’m sure trying.

    • w, This is also how God often reaches me: Through innocent animals. Driving home today I saw a blue heron flying, and it made me smile, because I take it as a lovely moment from God. When I’m feeling very down, as you were, sometimes just sitting with my pets is comforting. The beauty of birds can lift my spirits at any time. When I watch my dogs race and play at the dog park, I smile because I enjoy their joy, just as I believe God enjoys ours. As you say, creatures in their beauty and innocence can be an in-breaking of the Kingdom.

  4. H Lee how dear. The other day after another grueling time in the construction field on another job that was more difficult than it should’ve been a dove flew in front of my windshield on the way home. I could see it very clearly and it was as if it was in slow motion. It reminded me of Him and it gave me peace and comfort inside. I said to my son in the passenger seat did you see that. He said I only got a glimpse as I was looking away. These are the things that keep me going most days and sometimes are the best thing to happen all day. That at times in itself is sad to say. Somedays here working the way I do are very hard. I guess he made me for it.

  5. Re, picture of Minas Tirith: If you think about it, the city of Minas Tirith is sort of screwed after the war. An aging city with a diminishing population, off major trade routes and landlocked, entirely dependent on the defense industry and with a massively overbuilt, ‘legacy’ infrastructure. Yeah, we’ve heard *that* story before, haven’t we?

    You just *know* all those pointy-helmet guys have sweetheart union contracts with gold-plated pensions that cannot be touched in bankruptcy due to long-ago constitutional amendments.

    20 or 30 years after the Battle of the Pelennor Fields, Minas Tirith will be like Camden, New Jersey is now.

    Me, I hold out more hope after the Shire Spring; the halflings have a real future in the agriculture and hospitality markets, plus a vibrant microbrewing scene.