Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Seek first his Kingdom: What's a Kingdom?

A couple of months ago I watched Queen Elizabeth’s coronation which took place in 1953.  When she was crowned, they read off the names of the different commonwealths that were connected to England.  It was quite a formidable list stretching across many different continents:  India, South Africa, Australia, Canada, as well as many others. The reality was that at the time of Queen Elizabeth’s coronation, England ruled much of the known world.

When we think of the word "kingdom" our minds often go to the earthly kings and their rule. It’s easy to do; from Princess Diana to Kate and William, we are a curious people.  But, at the end of the day, they are just regular people like the rest of us.  The power that they rule with is an earthly power that has only limited authority.  There is still something so much bigger that can capture our attention and totally change our life if we pay attention.
That something bigger is the Kingdom of God.  When Jesus came to earth, he spent his first few weeks telling people, “The Kingdom of God is near.”  In fact, after his baptism and his time in the desert immediately following it, the next thing he did was go to his region of Galilee and begin to exclaim, “The time has come.  The Kingdom of God is near.” 

It was in that initial proclamation that he found his first four disciples; three of them becoming the key disciples that he drew nearest to himself:  Peter, John and James.  I guess my question is, “What was so compelling that they were willing to get up and walk away from their daily life to follow Jesus?”
Their following wasn’t a long drawn out discernment process, either.  Mark tells us that Peter and his brother Andrew left their nets “at once” and followed him.  He continues that John and James literally left their father and the hired men in the boat and followed Jesus. Can you just picture the scene?  They just got up and left. . ..leaving the people behind them scratching their head wondering what just happened.

Mark doesn’t make us wait long to find out what they were being called to discover.  The next part of the story involves Jesus taking his new friends to a synagogue in Capernaum where a demonic spirit confronted Jesus right in the middle of the church service.  Can’t you just see it?  He yells out, “What do you want with us Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us?”
Jesus tells him, “Be Quiet!” (after all don’t you know we are in the middle of the church service!) and Come out of him.  The evil spirit shook the man violently and came out of him with a shriek.  

Needless to say, that wasn’t any old church service.  It created quite a buzz and soon people all over the region had heard about this new person named Jesus.
Right after the rather exciting church service they went to Peter’s house where he was hosting a party for his friends to meet his new friend Jesus.  But, when they got there, it turned out that the cook of the party was sick with a very high fever.  So, Jesus took Peter and Andrew into her room and when he touched her, the fever left immediately.  She was well enough to get up and cook the dinner.

Within hours, the line of people to see Jesus was intense.  People came from all over to bring their sick and demon possessed family and friends to see Jesus. They had heard about his power to cast out demons and heal the sick, so they came running.
It’s at this point, that I want to stop and ask the question, “Is this our regular experience?” 

When we engage our life with Jesus, is it typical to see displays of God’s power taking place? 
Do we leave our experiences so breathless with wonder that we can’t but help tell those around us about it?

I can tell you that the times in my life that I have been most excited about sharing Jesus with others is when I saw the Kingdom of God at work.  Sometimes it revolves around healing, other times it is through times of worship where we sense that Jesus is literally right there, other times it comes through being part of something that is so beyond myself and those that I am with, that I know that God had to do it.
I love to remember the time that we were at Occidental Square hosting a party for the poor and disenfranchised that live in the area, or spend their time hanging out on the Square.  That morning when I was praying and asking the Lord how we were to prepare for the day, I sensed him tell me, “Go to the four corners and anoint them.  Declare that the Square is mine and remind the devil that he has not part in it.  It is my holy sanctuary.”

I took a couple of people with me to do just that when we arrived.  But, then things got busy and I basically forgot about what we had done.  Not too long after we started, my nephew and his wife came and told me that there was a Satan worshipper present and he told them that he was there to win souls for Satan.  They wanted to pray him off the property, but I suggested that we pray for his salvation instead.

They did it rather reluctantly and skeptically, but we prayed.  Amazingly, a Russian evangelist showed up and began to preach.  When he gave an invitation to meet Jesus, David the Satan Worshipper went forward.  He kept telling us that he was in shock.  He believed he would die for his choice, but not only didn’t he die but by the time we met him the next morning at 7 a.m., he had brought two people to meet Jesus.
He told us that morning, “The strangest thing happened when I walked on the Square. I didn’t have my powers.”

There is it: the Rule and Reign of the Kingdom of God in action.
When the Kingdom of God is present, all the earthly and demonic powers are bound and they have no room to work.  That which is heavenly comes to earth, very often with stunning displays of power.  Sometimes, however, it comes invisibly and affects an area almost by surprise.  We hardly know what is happening until one day we realize that change has come and the area is different; it is filled with life and health.

But, if it comes in great power or in silent ways, the reality is that it comes as we partner with God to see it come.  I wonder what would have happened that day at Occidental Square if I had ignored the Lord’s direction and not anointed the four corners and declared it was God’s territory.  Would David the Satan worshipper turned Jesus follower?
I wonder what would happen if we hadn’t established a healing prayer ministry where headaches, back problems, cancer and relational challenges get healed. 

I wonder if people would continue to get healing from their hurts, habits and hang-ups if we didn’t commit ourselves in Missio Lux to showing up weekly to host a recovery ministry? 
I wonder if the people in the nursing home and assisted living would sleep as well or be as healthy if we didn’t go there on a regular basis and provide worship experiences combined with prayer for healing. 

Here’s the important thing we need to remember. When Jesus began to display the Kingdom of God in action, he didn’t do it alone.  He didn’t do a single miracle or teach a single lesson until he had recruited at least four friends to do it with him.
It hasn’t changed.  Jesus came to bring the kingdom of God, but he came to do it in a partnership with his friends.  And, he tells us in John that “we are his friends if we do what he tells us.  And, since we are his friends, he tells us everything he learned from his father, and teaches us to do them too.” (John 15:14-16)

Seek first his kingdom.  That’s a core teaching of Jesus.  It helps us to set the priority to live life in the great adventure with him, both in the big displays of power and in the simple acts of life that impact the world with his rule.  And, when we do live from the kingdom first priority, we discover that everything else in our lives works, all the worries and cares of life fade into the background because suddenly we have a new, compelling priority from which to live.
So, how do we get started? 

Read the Gospels.  Start with Mark.  I love how many times he uses the word, “immediately,” there isn’t a lot of waiting around wondering what’s going to happen.
Come to the first Identity Seminar on October 8th where I will be teaching, leading experiences and praying for identity breakthroughs.

Continue to open your eyes and ask God to show you his kingdom at work.   Watch and listen attentively to where he may be asking you to be the one that he is calling you to partner with him to bring it forth.
Set your alarm to go off at 10:02* and pray with other kingdom minded people for God to raise up the harvesters to harvest the harvest!  Jesus tells us “Open up your eyes for the fields are ripe and ready.”

Oh, I need to go now, I see some fields that need some attention . . .

*Jesus’ call to pray:  Luke 10:02

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