Word of the Day

The New Kingdom

Romans 14: 17

The kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.

Jesus has already established his kingdom here in the earth. He called it the Kingdom of God and it is mentioned no less than 51 times in the gospels. It is said that Jesus came preaching the Kingdom of God (Luke 8: 1) but what are the characteristics of this kingdom? We get different segments of that answer in the New Testament, especially in the gospels but also in the letters. In today’s verse Paul writes about the values of the kingdom.

I have read many English versions of this verse and in so doing arrive at a much clearer understanding than in reading only this, the New American Standard Version. For example, the New Century Version reads, “In the kingdom of God, eating and drinking are not important. The important things are living right with God, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.” The picture begins to reveal itself. Paul is defining what has value in the Kingdom of God. The Passion Translation reads, “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of rules about food and drink, but is in the realm of the Holy Spirit, filled with righteousness, peace, and joy.” The Kingdom is not all about rules. In the Kingdom what is most important is that we follow God, follow His ways. The Kingdom is not about works of the flesh or self-stylized righteousness. In Jesus’ Kingdom, legalism falls at the feet of love and devotion to God and our fellow human beings; even in devotion and kindness to all of God’s creation including the animals and the earth itself. Further, the Kingdom of God is living in the realm of the Holy Spirit. That is what the kingdom is and in that place there is ever-abiding joy, peace and righteousness.

There is a difficult lesson in this. This verse flies in the face of the law. Sometimes we separate God made law from the man-made laws which has so imprisoned us. The problem here is that there were laws about food which were given by God. Food and drink choices were a major separation between Jews and all the other nations. Now Paul writes that the rules about food are not important in the Kingdom of God. Other laws fall as well because Paul is revealing that living in Christ is the key, not legal adherence to rules of law. Living right with God is righteousness, being in your right place with Him and that trumps law. This teaching would have been a major challenge for the first century church who stood upon the law. It challenges us as well but let us look at another translation.

The God Word Translation brings the image of the Kingdom of God into even greater clarity, “God’s kingdom does not consist of what a person eats or drinks. Rather, God’s kingdom consists of God’s approval and peace, as well as the joy that the Holy Spirit gives.” Do you see that the Kingdom of God is not a work-based realm? The right to live in it is not earned either. Our right standing in God, or living right with God, was purchased by Jesus. When we live in Him and the Spirit rather than in the work of our hands and minds, then we are in the kingdom and to live in the Kingdom means you automatically have God’s approval. You do not have to earn it. You do not have to measure yourself by a book of rules, and you do not need to worry. God is for you. He approves of you just as you are. Isn’t that a refreshing concept? You have favor with God.

Jesus established His kingdom in the Holy Spirit. He came preaching this kingdom which depends upon living in the Spirit and the Spirit living within you. Jesus’ message confounded and infuriated the preachers of his day because membership wasn’t earned and, equally important, because he consistently spoke about us in him and him in us, and his being one with the father, all of which was crazy talk to them. The same is true today, really. Revelation still tends to blow the top off our heads but that is Jesus’ way. As soon as you get a handle on one thing, he stretches you over to the next mountain top. But, truly, it is a fun way to live and we see from this verse that when we take the giant leap of faith to live in and by the Spirit of God, there is complete peace, shalom. Paul also lets us know that if we are not in joy, then we are not deep enough in the Spirit. Joy is in the Spirit of God. Remember that Jesus said he left his peace here for us to live in (John 14: 27). Then he gave us his Spirit. Therefore, it is an easy conclusion to reach that joy and peace are ours in him.

In Him, then is the Kingdom of God. And in the Kingdom there is complete approval, joy and peace. Is that good news? If you have ever felt left out or unaccepted it is time for your joy to come to full measure because in Jesus’ kingdom, the Kingdom of God, you are accepted. It is no longer about the rules but rather about seeking the Lord with all your heart, soul and mind and leaning into him daily.

Excellence

Colossians 3: 23

Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.

There is a lot of talk about how the world is falling apart and falling into sin. I sometimes wonder what any specific person has in mind. Well, here is mine. This is part of what I don’t like about the new world we live in, the low value placed on excellence.

Our world is descending into a, “Oh, that’s good enough” mentality. What happened to excellence? What happened to doing everything to the best of your ability. You hear people say of their employment, “They don’t pay me well enough to do that.” There is a “just get by” attitude. This attitude is not limited to employees though. Companies, large and small, evidence a lack luster approach.

As much as it seems an ever increasing problem, it is not a new one. Paul addressed it two thousand years ago. Christians shouldn’t do things half-way well. Paul said that in everything we do, especially our work, do it as if we work for Jesus because, of course, we do. Everything in our lives is of, by and for him. Therefore, anywhere we dispense a half-hearted effort, we minimize his greatness within us.

This is not to say you can’t have a day off. Not at all. The point is do what you do with excellence. Do not be a sluggard or turn in sloppy work in any aspect of life. Show up, show up on time, show up on time fully prepared. Imagine your shirt says, “I work for Jesus.” Also, encourage others to show excellence in everything they do and expect top performance and customer service from the companies you do business with. Expect excellence in church, at work, and in everything. Give your best and expect it from others. Give people a reason to say that Christians are people of excellence.

Good Ideas

2 Chronicles 20: 35 – 36

And after this Jehoshaphat king of Judah allied himself with Ahaziah king of Israel. He acted wickedly in so doing. So he allied himself with him to make ships to go to Tarshish, and they made the ships in Ezion-geber.

This is what comes of our good ideas, disaster. This verse speaks about “after this.” What just happened? Jehoshaphat and the people of Judah have just returned from three days of carrying the spoils of war home from the conflict with the Ammonites, Meunites and Moabites. God showed Himself strong on their behalf and they profited greatly. Now Jehoshaphat has a good idea. “Let’s ally ourselves with Israel.”

At this point in time, God’s kingdom was divided. Israel was not following the ways of the Lord. Up ‘til now, Jehoshaphat has sought the Lord and Judah has enjoyed the blessings thereof. Now he has his own idea and rather than seek the Lord, he just executes his plan. You see, Israel had something he wanted. They had good shipwrights and Jehoshaphat wanted ships that could sail to Tarshish, or at least ships able to make long voyages. I think lust had a grip on Jehoshaphat and he wanted ships capable of traveling to lands of gold, silver and exotic animals. Did he not just learn that his blessing was in the Lord? All the gold, silver and wealth of any kind was in walking with the Lord. They had just taken three days to carry of the spoils from a war they didn’t even have to fight in and yet somehow Jehoshaphat has shifted to thinking he needed to build big ships in order to chase the world’s wealth, literally.

Well, as with all our “great ideas” this one backfired horribly. Verse 37 reads, “Then Eliezer the son of Dodavahu of Mareshah prophesied against Jehoshaphat saying, ‘Because you have allied yourself with Ahaziah, the Lord has destroyed your works.’ So the ships were broken and could not go to Tarshish.’” Don’t get bogged down here thinking that God cursed the ships or Jehoshaphat. The truth is that Jehoshaphat walked out of the blessing and into the curse. The breakup of the ships was the natural consequence of walking in the world rather than walking by the spirit. This is one of those “selling your soul to the devil’ moments.

Israel was immersed in idol worship. They had left their first love and were serving other gods. Jehoshaphat was not only willing but desirous of an alliance with Israel because she had something he wanted. This is exactly why you hear so much about adultery in the Bible. Israel had already abandoned her first love and now Judah was willing to get into bed with Israel despite their heathen practices because of the desire for material goods. Mind you, it is not the desire for ships or gold that was the selling out of Judah. The prostitution was in selling out to the world to get it. God had shown Jehoshaphat that He would more than supply their needs. He even gave them the worlds goods. How is it that Jehoshaphat didn’t understand that? The sad conclusion is that his alliance with Israel, which was mired in the deep weeds, led the entire nation of Judah astray too.

Jehoram succeeded his father Jehoshaphat as king and the seeds of Jehoshaphat’s wickedness bore fruit in Jehoram’s generation. Chapter 21, verse 11 makes this clear, “Jehoram made illegal places of worship in the hills of Judah. This caused the inhabitants of Jerusalem to chase after foreign gods as if they were prostitutes. So he led Judah astray.”

Not only did Jehoshaphat not get what he wanted because the ships foundered and broke apart, but his greed and resulting alliance with the lost tribes of Israel caused the nation of Judah to founder as well. They went from being the source of one of the greatest stories of victory to a lost and broken people. It’s sad.

So, how are your bright ideas looking to you right about now? I know I regret my own when I don’t take them to the Lord. They fail miserably and bring me grief. What, then, is the answer? I’ll bet you know. Take it all to the Lord in prayer. Although, that is a little misleading. Really what we are called to do is to listen to the voice of God and the leading of the Holy Spirit. Sure, take it to God in prayer but then hush up and listen. Let Him guide you through His Spirit. That is the way. That is what Jehoshaphat did when he was so successful. He sought the Lord. Later, he led the entire nation of Judah astray with his good ideas. Hey, I’ve got an idea – let’s follow where the Lord leads. I bet that will work. And that is my good idea for today.

His Ways

Psalm 145: 17

The Lord is righteous in all His ways and kind in all His deeds.

I like this Psalm, as many of you do, and I have several passages highlighted. As I read it today, I kept coming back to this verse. I imagine that for most of us there is no revelation in this verse. We expect God to be righteous and at a minimum we want to believe He is kind in all His deeds. Still, I find value in reviewing this verse for two reasons. First, it is good to be reminded of His goodness. Second, when we ponder this verse, it grows in our understanding.

God is good, all His ways are righteous. That means God isn’t out there performing badness. Isn’t that good news? He bring righteousness to everything. That means that everything we invite Him into enjoys that same quality of righteousness. When He comes to our event, He brings with Him everything that is good. The only way He knows how to be is right; doing right, being righteous. All His interactions with each of us are filled with righteousness. God will always do right by you.

Mediation on this verse leads us to examine each word. The word “all” captures my attention. I am especially taken by God’s kindness in “all” His deed. What does that mean if you rephrase it? Every single act of God is kind. Now if you are a person who believes in the Bible, that can have a major impact on your theology. If everything God does, every act, is an act of kindness, then He never does an unkind thing to anyone. That necessarily means that He did not blow out my knee even though some people told me He did. It means He never gave anyone cancer. He never, ever, in all the millennia, did an unkind thing. Everything He has ever done has been kind.

Soak that in. He didn’t allow you to get fired from your job so that you would learn to seek Him. He didn’t break you so He could make you. His way of making you, actually, is to love you into the version of you that He sees when He looks at you. He loves you and only wants the best for you because His kindness extends to the way He thinks of you and the plans He has for you. Every thought He has towards you is kind.

As we expound on the little words in a verse, they expand our understanding and our insight. Thinking our way through these kinds of verses illuminates the very nature of God. Then, as we begin to appreciate His inherent goodness, we grow in our trust in Him. Soon, the entire dynamic of one’s relationship with Him is altered for the good and forever.

Take your time with this little verse and let the Father’s kindness infiltrate your life.

Being Blessed

2 Chronicles 20: 25

And they were three days taking the spoil because there was so much.

For those of you who have been reading the Word of the Day for a while, you know this story from 2 Chronicles is one of my favorites. It shows how God works in our lives as well as showing what our part of the dynamic is. (Go to our website, https://iveyministries.org and select the daily devotional tab. From there you can search 2 Chronicles 20 and read other messages taken from this moving passage.) This chapter is a classic teaching on spiritual warfare but today I want you to see something different. We can see God’s economy working here too.

I understand when I write about us living in God’s economy rather than the world’s it is challenging to put practical legs on it. It seems so nebulous, so farfetched. I agree. It’s hard to wrap your head around God being your source when all you see is a job or a paycheck. We have been trained to work for an income but God is telling us to believe for our income. Use your paycheck as seed and your faith for your income. That is just a little hard for most of us to understand. Here, in 2 Chronicles, we get to see a practical application of God’s economy.

Back in the day, the armies went out to fight and “to the winner went the spoils” of war. In this passage from 2 Chronicles, though, no one drew their sword. Three different nations gathered together against Judah and yet not one soldier fought. King Jehoshaphat had people standing upon the ridge singing and playing their instruments as if there were not three armies ready to annihilate them. Can you picture that. Instead of sharpening their swords or setting an ambush, these guys had a sing-a-long. Not one of them fought, not one of them died and yet they ended up with the spoils of war. There was so much booty that it took them three days to haul it off. What does this say to us about God’s economy? They certainly did not work for it. One can hardly say they were the victors of battle. None the less, they walked away with a bounty.

This is one example of how God can bless your pocketbook. I am not suggesting He is going to slay three armies for you but certainly you have your own situations. He has all kinds of ways figured out to get resources into your hands without you having to earn them. The key, in this case and in our lives, is following His direction. Judah listened to the voice of the Lord and then did what He told them to do. That is the entire secret. We only have to do whatever He says, no matter how ridiculous it sounds, and He will prosper us. So, if you wanted to know the secret, now you do.

Be blessed in all you do. Let God increase you. He is our source and the master of our increase. Set your heart and mind on following this example. Embrace the idea that God can make material goods come into your hands from any source. He is your provision, your job is not. He will make His enemies pour their gold into your hands. Believe it and it is yours.

Shut Up Legs

Romans 5: 3 – 4            GW

But that’s not all. We also brag when we are suffering. We know that suffering creates endurance, endurance creates character, and character creates confidence.

It’s July 19th and we are deep into the running of the Tour de France. I love biking so I love to watch the race, but there is more to the Tour de France that I enjoy than just a bike race. There are beautiful views of France and its architecture, gorgeous churches, history lessons and their impacts, insights into the people of the various regions, and more, much more, in fact. One of the most captivating elements of the Tour de France though, is the human drama. The racing that goes on is fabulous and exciting but following the riders’ personal stories and triumphs is riveting. These professional bike riders turn themselves inside out with massive efforts. Mile after mile they continue to ride after their legs have begun to loudly complain.

One recently retired but still popular rider is Jens Voigt. Among other things, Voigt is known for his saying, “Shut up legs.” In fact, he had it on his top tube where he would see it when he looked down. Instead of letting his legs dictate his outcome, he made up his mind what he wanted to do and then expected his body to obey. He didn’t let the pain and discomfort dictate his race. I love this so much. In fact, I need to get his T-shirt with “shut up legs” emblazoned across it because like “Jensie,” this is my philosophy on life.

If you want to see suffering, watch one of the mountain stages of the Tour de France. Despite their suffering, though, they persist. That persistence produces endurance in their minds and bodies. Endurance absolutely does produce character. The top riders know how to suffer but their perseverance has produced confidence. They know they can push themselves and triumph. It is tried and tested.

You don’t know what you can do until you push yourself. We have to learn to stand on faith even when everything in us is yelling to quit. We’ve gotta yell back, “Shut Up!” We are the masters of our destiny and if God has given us something to do then we have to go all in like these professional bike riders.

Ask yourself, who is in charge? Is it fear, or is it you. What forces are keeping you from reaching the finish line? Let your faith speak louder than your fear. Don’t let the circumstances dictate your race. As I say often, “The facts don’t count.” What counts is your belief, tenacity and your ability to persevere in the grace of the Lord. If God has called you to climb a mountain then you can, no matter what the facts say. Speak to your mountain. Let it know that it must obey you. The mountain does not determine the finish, the character of the person determines the outcome.

Don’t be a quitter. Don’t give up when the going gets hard. Don’t stop believing just because you cannot see the finish line. Go on You Tube and watch this video of Jens Voight
(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zreFKnBLDjg) and take inspiration from a champion. See determination in action and let it encourage you to persevere through challenges and seeming impossibilities. Get a big dream in front of you and chase it down. When it gets tough speak to those circumstances like Jens Voigt. Tell them to shut up!

Sell Out

2 Chronicles 16: 9

For the eyes of the Lord move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His.

Do you ever wonder what God is up to? What is he doing with His time? Now you know. He is scanning the whole earth looking for those he can support and strengthen. God wants to bless us. He wants to uphold us by His strong right arm but the truth is that we won’t let Him because we don’t allow ourselves to receive from Him. Some of us lack belief, others lack expectation. Still others of us don’t appreciate His goodness.

Being blessed is a process of teamwork. The first part is that we must be dedicated to God. Do you see that He scans the world looking for a heart He can work with? Those are important words and if we are not living in the blessing as fully as we think we should be, then this is the place for us to begin our analysis. We see that God wants to bless us. He wants to support us in all we do. He is just looking for someone who will cooperate with Him. His eyes constantly search for someone who is wholeheartedly in for Him. Is that you. Is your heart for God? Are you completely sold out to Him?

If you answered, “Yes,” then God is all in for you too. My next question is, “Will you allow yourself to be blessed?” Some people have difficulty receiving. It begins with believing that God wants to bless His people. Hebrews 11: 6 reads, “And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.” We have to believe that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him. So, He is searching the earth for those whose hearts believe that He is and that He is a rewarder. You see, you are not sold out to God nor wholehearted towards Him if you don’t believe His word and even specifically this verse from Hebrews. He is looking for someone who will believe that God is for them in every way. He wants us to lean on the expectation of His strong support.

That brings up another point from today’s verse. God isn’t looking just to sprinkle you with blessing or just give you a small step up. He is a big God and wants to show Himself strong to you. He wants to “strongly support” your dreams and goals. That means that not only is He in your corner, but He is the loudest cheerleader you have. He wants to give you all He has. That ends up boiling down to all you will receive. He isn’t trying to be a subtle encourager. He wants to get loud and flex His muscles with strength.

I think if you will mediate on this verse, you will find more here than you have previously considered. I hope it blesses you from the top of your head to the bottoms of your feet. Get your heart fully committed to the Father who loves you and who wants to be your supporter. Be sold out to Him. Believe Him and let Him help you.

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