Monday, January 24, 2011

The Kingdom of Heaven is within you
The Kingdom of Heaven has come
The Kingdom of Heaven is near

The Kingdom of Heaven is like:

a mustard seed…the smallest, yet…the largest

a merchant looking for fine pearls

yeast worked all through

a treasure hidden in a field...found…all sold to have

a net let down…caught all kinds of fish

a king who canceled the debt

Seek first the Kingdom

The Kingdom of God does not come with careful observation

My Kingdom is not of this world

The Kingdom of God is not a matter of eating or drinking

but of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit


The Kingdom of heaven comes and it has already come. This Kingdom is not of this world. It is otherly…radically different yet in the midst of and bearing resemblance to what is already. Christ the King came and turned all upside down and rightside up. He came to redeem and set free and restore and make new. He came to break down walls that divide and unite the forces that are opposed. In the Kingdom of God, “the infant will play near the hole of the cobra, and the young child will put his hand into the viper’s nest .” The Kingdom of God is the Kingdom where Spirit and Truth reign.


As often as possible, I escape to our lake house to sit on the porch. The view has not really changed in the 40+ years since my parents first bought the lot on Lake Norman, yet everything has changed.  I sat there once again recently and followed the paths of two hawks as they allowed the thermals to lift them effortlessly in the air. I long to find myself so attuned to the Kingdom within and without that I can, like those hawks, move upward without self’s lone struggle. Later, I sat with my siblings and we talked about our families and our memories of the years spent coming to the Lake. We felt the net about us…the net of love…the net of devotion…the net of life. The Life God created for us to live is the will of the King and His Kingdom.


Time is not restrictive. The King has come and continues to come, and will come… mysteriously, penetrating, altering, growing something new and precious out of what was shut up tight, buried deep, and insignificantly small. It has been from the beginning yet begins now, in each moment, it has been and shall be…forevermore. In the Kingdom, what was is no more, forgiven, the debt canceled, and we rise up on the thermals of the ruling force of the Creator.


We sat at the dining room table talking. I had that strong sense that the Kingdom had broken into our lives. All I could think of was how BIG it felt. I’d experienced this before. I knew it would not be easy to permit this invasion into my life, yet at the same time I knew I would be a fool not to. I knew that it was like a treasure found and worthy of the sacrifice required to obtain it. The Kingdom is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. I was focusing on the pearls. I was not thinking, at the time, that pearls are only found by raking the muck at the bottom of the ocean and prying open that which is tightly shut up. Little did I know what would be asked of me.


We ask with Christ for the Kingdom to come…for the will of God to be done. Instinctively we know that that is what we were created for. The Kingdom is the power of God in the life of His Son through the gift of the Spirit. We ask, we plead for this Kingdom to come, to be our Kingdom. Then the Spirit blows, unseen, yet felt and experienced, stirring up that which had been unmoved. The Kingdom penetrates like yeast and changes the mix. The Kingdom is hidden in a field and requires a great sacrifice to obtain. It is not what we imagined. It is different yet demands our souls. How do we enter? How do we see and hear and live in the Kingdom while at the same time living in this place that  is so demanding of our senses and minds and bodies.


We enter the world already disabled by the “issue” of sin. Though sin’s power has been broken by the King Himself, the impact of sin continues to hinder. This is the reality of the world where the wheat and the tares grow up in the same field, where the good fish and the bad fish swim in the same waters. What we hear in the teachings of Christ is that the Kingdom is like a net and is let down and catches “all kinds of fish”. The Kingdom of King Jesus is BIG, encompassing all. How then do we learn to enter in and dwell under the rule of this King that rode on a donkey and ate His last meal hidden with a few friends in an upper room? How do we submit to the rule of a King who seems foolish, even crazy, to the masses and confuses his intimate disciples with His words about dying? How do we overcome our own desires to be the ruler of ourselves and instead sell all we have to obtain a treasure that is buried within and can only be discovered by following a King through death?


       “Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.” (Matt. 5:3)

“In this strange calculous of grace, recognizing and admitting our poverty is the prerequisite for entering the Kingdom of God. We are trained throughout our lives to hide the awareness of our own inadequacy from ourselves and others. To enter the Kingdom, we must come out of hiding, and admit before God and others who we are. We are resourceless. Our poverty is absolute and abject. We can neither turn to our material successes and assets, our personal accomplishments and virtue, or to our spiritual piety.”          -Di Anna Paulk


The Kingdom of heaven drew me in and penetrated my life like yeast worked into dough. The King called me to submit to His Lordship more than 30 years ago. His net dropped down and captured me. The treasure called me to sell all. I had no idea what I was in for. I had no idea what His Kingdom would be like.  I was enraptured by the love I felt. All I wanted was to be with Him and His people. I sang the Lord’s Prayer, lustily, at the top of my lungs in response to the call that pried my fingers off my own heart and called me up out of my seat. I held hands with others called out of their own kingdoms and with whom I now stood in Gaither Chapel on the side of the mountain in Montreat, NC. If I had known enough to see through that state of spiritual bliss that He would take me seriously and take my life and ruthlessly begin to expose my state of poverty and transform and transfigure me, I might have declined the invitation.

Entering the Kingdom was like conceiving and bearing children. As a potential parent I was possessed by this great desire to be a part of creation. I entered in on a huge wave of instinct and desire without having a clue as to what cost would be required of me to birth a new life and bring it up in the fear and admonition of the Lord. To enter the Kingdom is to allow the King to replace your rule. The King enters your life and you give your all to Him. A new life is born. You are filled with joy, enraptured by the newness, the light of the new day. The old dies. Nothing will ever be quite the same again.


I stood in the sanctuary of a chapel in Valle Crucis, NC with tears running down my face and confusion and fear filling my soul, when I heard the Lord speak quietly to me, “This will take you deeper.” I did not want to go deeper. I wanted to stop hurting. But, now, several years later, I can see a little clearer. I have, through the pain, given birth to new life out of the death of the old. Through it all, the net of the Kingdom has remained about us and the will of the Father is being done. The pain is fading in my memory as poverty is leading me through a doorway to blessedness.


In the years since the conceiving and bearing of that spiritual “child”, I have experienced much more than I thought I would. I have had the old rooted out of my soul. My desperate state of poverty was exposed and I have experienced the radical transforming power of the cross. I have been challenged to trust in a King not of this world and whose ways are beyond my ability to search out. I have been pushed out of my old ways of thinking and have stepped into a kingdom in which Truth and Righteousness are a Person and I must choose each day to trust. I must choose to believe in the One greater than this created body. I must choose to trust in a King that forgives my anger and heals the wounds from years past. I must choose to trust that His Word and His rule are good. I must choose to believe that His love is enough… Enough to define this life…enough to give meaning to the suffering….enough to bridge the impasses between man and woman, parent and child, friend and friend, light and darkness, heaven and earth.


It is the goal of this life in the Kingdom that called to me first in Gaither Chapel in Montreat,  through the years on the porch over looking Lake Norman, and years later in the chapel in Valle Crucis. It is the Kingdom that calls us to come out of our hiding places to admit to the King and to others who we really are…To be real, to be honest, to confess, to respond. It is only in responding to the call and allowing ourselves to confess the reality of our poverty that we can know the safety of the net of the kingdom.


The net that fell about my good friend and me at her dining room table is the same net that surrounds my children and my extended family and the family of God that draws alongside. More than not, this Kingdom that we ask to come is not what we may have thought it would be like. But, it is in the Kingdom that we come to understand the King and give up our fears and find our longings satisfied. It is in the Kingdom that we begin to live as the ones created by the living Word. Truly, the Kingdom is worth the sacrifice we make to enter in. And it is in the submission to the King’s radical rule that life as it is in heaven is possible on earth.


                  “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done…on earth as it is in heaven.”

No comments:

Post a Comment