Archive for September 11, 2011
“You won’t be able to say, ‘Here it is!’ or ‘It’s over there!’ For the
Kingdom of God is already among you.”
In yesterday’s reflection, I repeated what I have often written as we have
made our way through the Gospel of Luke. The kingdom of God is both present and
future. It is already here…and not yet here.
The “already and not-yet” reality of the reign of God leads us to wonder: If
it is already here in some sense, where is it? Many answer this question by
saying: “It is in your heart.” They may base this response on some English
translations of Luke 17:21 that read “The kingdom of God is within you” (see the
for example). Indeed, the original Greek of this verse can be translated either
as “The kingdom of God is within you” or “The kingdom of God is among you/in
your midst.” Yet, when we note the fact that Jesus was speaking with the
Pharisees, and when we pay attention to his teaching on the kingdom found
throughout the Gospels, the “among you” translation is to be preferred. Jesus
was not telling the Pharisees that God was already reigning in their hearts.
Rather, he was saying to them that the kingdom of God was among them because it
was present in Jesus himself, in his words, deeds, and person.
Although we are not able to be with Jesus physically, like the Pharisees in
Luke 17, we experience the kingdom of God in and through Jesus. We enter the
kingdom when we respond in faith to the good news of God’s love in Christ. We
live in the power of the kingdom through the Holy Spirit who dwells within us.
Of course, therefore, the kingdom of God touches our hearts. Indeed, you might
even say that the reign of God should claim and fill our hearts. Yet the kingdom
impacts, not just our interior life, but our exterior life as well. It should be
within us, among us, and extended through us when we live as citizens of the
kingdom in every sphere of life.
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: In what ways do you
experience the kingdom of God in your life? How does your relationship with
Jesus help you to live as a citizen of the kingdom?
Help me, dear Lord, to be so deeply connected to you that I might experience
the kingdom of God, not just in church or in my devotions, but each moment of
each day. May I reflect and extend your kingdom through my words and deeds. And
may all the glory go to you. Amen.
P.S. from Mark: If you’re looking for a
more in-depth discussion of Luke 17:21, you might find helpful my series
entitled: What Was the Message of Jesus?
refusing to give their hearts to God.
The headlines are not encouraging for the future of faith. It seems like
every other week, I read some story about how the next generations are more
secular and less religious than my generation and those that have come before
me. Increasingly, folks under 30 seem to be satisfied with no faith in God or
with a generic religiosity that bears little resemblance to orthodox
I’m sure the surveys behind these unsettling news stories have accurately
captured some dimensions of faith among the next generations. Yet I am not
discouraged. In part, I trust that God is in charge and will work all things for
his purposes. But, in the context of my work with Foundations for Laity Renewal
(of which Laity Lodge is a part), I have met dozens of younger Christians whose
faith is solid. Moreover, in ways that surpass the norm of my own generation,
these under-30 Christians are exceptionally thoughtful about their faith,
perhaps because in their generation you can’t slide by with lukewarm
Christianity. Furthermore, they are exceptionally engaged in the world, seeking
to live out their faith in a transformational way in every part of life.
For example, not long ago, I met with several vibrant believers who feel
called to serve the Lord in New York City. As I listened to their stories, as I
heard about their vision for cultural engagement, I felt encouraged. Yes, there
may be fewer members of the next generations who check the “Christian” box on
surveys, but there are many for whom being a Christian is much, much more than
checking a box. It’s their calling, their commitment, their passion.
So, today I am praying for the next generations. I am praying for those who
have rejected the shallow faith that is common among members of my generation,
but have yet to find anything to replace it. I am praying for those who, cheered
on by the “new atheists,” have rejected God. And I am praying for those
Christians who are seeking to serve Christ in a world-transforming way. I’d
invite you to join me.
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: Do you know any under-30
Christians who are actively seeking to serve Christ in their daily lives? (Are
you one of these people?) Are you praying for them? Would you be willing to pray
for them on a regular basis?
PRAYER: Dear Lord, today, I want to pray for the next
generations. I think of those who make the headlines because of their lack of
faith or their confusion about faith. I ask you to reveal yourself to them, to
draw them to your love and grace.
I pray also for those who have said “no” to you. May they see through the
distortions of the “new atheists.” And may they see beyond the
failures of Christians to live as people of love and truth.
I pray for those who have chosen relationship with you, even when this
requires them to swim against the cultural tide. I thank you for their
thoughtfulness, their vision, their faithfulness. Help them, dear Lord, to
continue to grow in your grace. May they bring renewal to your church. And may
they find ways to live out their faith in the world, serving you each day in all
All praise be to you, God of all generations.
ETERNITY IN OUR HEARTS
The only reason that men and women can be saved is the fact that God has put eternity in our hearts! Man is fallen-yes! Man is lost, a sinner and needs to be born again-yes! But God made man in His own image and He keeps the longing after eternity and a desire after everlasting life there within the hearts of men. What, then, is the matter with man? Like the lion in the cage, he paces back and forth and roars to the heavens before he dies. I think this is the truth-we are disturbed because God has put everlastingness in our hearts. He has put a longing for immortality in our beings, something that demands God and heaven. Yet, we are too blind and sinful to find Him or even to look for Him! As Christian witnesses, we must be faithful and timely in our preaching and teaching. There is a note of warning in this-telling men and women why they are lost and that if they will not repent they will certainly perish!