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Archive for May, 2015

The Kingdom of God is at hand … are you ready to enter?

His Kingdom is Near

His Kingdom is Near

“The kingdom of God is within you, says the Lord. Turn, then, to God with all your heart. Forsake this wretched world and your soul shall find rest. Learn to despise external things, to devote yourself to those that are within, and you will see the kingdom of God come unto you, that kingdom which is peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, gifts not given to the impious.

Christ will come to you offering His consolation, if you prepare a fit dwelling for Him in your heart, whose beauty and glory, wherein He takes delight, are all from within. His visits with the inward man are frequent, His communion sweet and full of consolation, His peace great, and His intimacy wonderful indeed.

 Therefore, faithful soul, prepare your heart for this Bridegroom that He may come and dwell within you; He Himself says: “If any one love Me, he will keep My word, and My Father will love him, and We will come to him, and will make Our abode with him.”                                                          [From the Imitation Of Christ by Thomas à Kempis]

Entering the Kingdom

My Fellow Pilgrims in Christ Jesus,

For most nominal Christians today, the term “Kingdom of God” is mainly a theological concept of the spiritual realm where God dwells and certainly nothing we can relate to in our personal lives in this world. Thus when we read in the Gospels Jesus telling His disciples to “seek first the Kingdom of God and His Righteousness”, we have no idea what He is really asking them to do. One of the objectives of Thomas à Kempis in his book, “The Imitation of Christ” was to bring us to the recognition of just what Jesus was asking of His Disciples, and now, is also asking of us. The primary concept presented by Thomas is that “The Kingdom of God” is a spiritual Kingdom that is within those who have admitted Jesus, their King, into the Temple of their spirit, through a renewed spiritual awareness brought about by Grace, through faith in Christ and His Redemptive Sacrifice on the cross and His Resurrection.

In the Gospel of John Jesus tried to explain to Nicodemus that although a person may be given a personal spiritual awareness of that Kingdom, in order to enter the Kingdom, that person must willingly make a commitment to enter into a deeper spiritual relationship with the King. The resulting spiritual awareness permits the Holy Spirit to transform us by initiating an intimate personal fellowship with the King that permits the Spirit to conform us us to the image of Christ Himself. It is through this personal relationship with the King that we enter into His Kingdom. However, in maintaining our stay in the Kingdom our endurance in faith will be tested to ensure that, as a branch in the vine, we will “abide in Him” and thus bear fruit for the Kingdom.

Staying in the Kingdom : The Endurance of the Saints

 Entering into a stronger spiritual awareness, brings us to a new area of testing we have not previously experienced. Here, we will face, if anything, even tougher problems than when we were spiritually naïve. For now our faith and our endurance will be severely tried in keeping our spiritual channels open. We need to maintain these open channels so that the revelation knowledge of God’s word can continue to feed and strengthen us. Maintaining this fellowship with the Holy Spirit is one of the greater challenges in the Christian life after you have come into this rebirth of your spiritual awareness.

There are many situations, which can break this fellowship with God. Most of them however, can be categorized as unbelief, disobedience, strife, rebellion, or deliberate sin. These causes are summarized in the letter to the Hebrews, where we read, “Today, if you (would) hear His Voice, harden not your hearts as at the revolt in the day of testing in the desert (Heb. 3:7-8). The implication is that the “hardening” of our hearts presents an obstacle to hearing God’s voice and, of course, if we can’t hear God’s voice we cannot fellowship with Him. The problem is that today’s Christian finds it difficult to relate that passage to himself/herself. First of all, the terminology: “… harden not your hearts” does not carry much meaning for us except as a quaint old English expression. Secondly most of us are not willing to admit that we are in rebellion against God – after all haven’t we yielded our lives over to Him?

Once the deeper meaning of the words is understood, it is seen that all of us, even though we are deeply committed Christians, are susceptible to the hardening of our hearts and this comes to us in the most unsuspecting ways. Continuing with the reading from Hebrews we begin to see the cause for this “hardening” or dis-fellowship with God: “…your Fathers tested me and tried me and saw My works for forty years. Because of this I was angered with that generation. (Heb, 3:9)

In order to understand why God was so angered, remember that He was miraculously sustaining the Israelites every day that they were in the desert. Not only were they witnesses to His mighty power but they, themselves, heard the voice of God thundering from mount Sinai. Not only had they been protected by His Glory day and night, but they were also given food and water miraculously. Their sandals and clothing were kept from wearing out. Yet in spite of these things they rebelled against Moses (and therefore, against God) saying why have you brought us out here to die?”(Numbers 21:5). They even justified their rebellion by pointing out that their concern was for their wives and their children implying that it was their welfare they were seeking. Such was their unbelief that they did not trust God to provide for them, even though they witnessed the Lord’s protection every moment of every day. This unbelief came because their minds and their senses (the unspiritual man) could not feel secure unless they knew (intellectually) from where their next meal and drink of water was coming.

 Ah! now we get the picture!

And now it is not so difficult where we have similar situations in our lives where we despair of God’s provision and thus excuse our unbelief as being merely a concern for the well-being of our families. Thus, we relegate God’s Word, His providence, and His sustenance, which has been maintaining us all along, to a lesser place in our lives (if at all). We do this by attempting to resolve all of the difficult situations in our lives on our own energy and talent without any dependence on God.

Then the snowball effect begins: the more we complain the more we walk in unbelief and as our unbelief grows, the greater our anxiety grows. Of course, now that we are operating in unbelief, our prayers also go unanswered, which adds to our complaints, which adds to our unbelief, which adds to our anxiety. We are by then well on the way to dis-fellowship with God. We have permitted our anxiety to dominate us thus beginning the process of “hardening our hearts” and losing our spiritual channels to the father.

Yes, we are still His children. But when we behave in this way we are more and more like the prodigal son who left the father for a “far country” and have placed ourselves in the service of a citizen of that country (guess whom?). Letting our anxieties obstruct our ability to serve God and make Him and His Kingdom first in our lives was exactly what Jesus said we must avoid.

In His Sermon on the Mount He warned His listeners (and us) that, “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money. Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own”. (Matt. 6: 24-34)

That is why the writer of the letter to the Hebrews, writing to a Hebrew-Christian community, concludes: “See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first”. (Heb.3:12-14)

It is for the cause of assisting us to maintain to the end our faith in Jesus the Messiah, that God in His providence has given us His Word, His Holy Spirit, and the mutual support we receive from the Body of Christ (His Church). These helps are the very Grace of God to assist us through the process of salvation and into the riches of Christ. Let us then, learn to enter into a true spiritual awareness that we may truly discern the Father’s Will for our lives and thus enter into that true spiritual worship that is His due.

Paraphrasing Paul’s prayer for the Colossians, it is my sincere desire and prayer to God for all who read my reflections that the Lord God… “fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding… in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins”. (Col.1:9-11)

Father let it be so, for it is your will in Jesus your Son, Amen!

“There is no Christianity without an encounter with Christ. Christianity is not simply a doctrine; it is a meeting, in faith, with God, present in our history with the incarnation of Jesus.” ( Pope John Paul II-World Youth Day 2004)

Your Fellow Pilgrim in Christ … Bartimeus

© B.R.Timeo and Bartimaeus’ Quiet Place, [2008-2015])

Recommended / Related Links …

Responding to the Spirit’s Call

 Hearing God’s Voice and Obeying it!

Prayer to Receive the Holy Spirit

 Growing in the Spirit

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