TRUTH #3

My Kingdom is not of this world.  If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews.  But now my Kingdom is from another place.  (John 18:36)

Jesus’ Kingdom does not make sense to us.

Depending on what biblical scholar you talk to, Jesus used as many as 56 parables, most of them he used to explain the Kingdom of Heaven.   The natural questions most always follow: Why would Jesus disguise the truths about His kingdom by telling stories – most of them very difficult to interpret?  Why wouldn’t He simply tell us with a list of “pros” and “cons”?  Jesus gives us the answers to these questions in numerous places throughout the gospels.  In Matthew 13 Jesus tells us that the secrets of the kingdom of heaven will be revealed to those who seek, but you must have eyes to see and hears to hear.  Doesn’t sound like a seeker-sensitive message to me — some will get it, some won’t and I’m not going to force people to get it, not only am I not going to force people to get it, I’m going to make it difficult for them to get it, I’m going to speak through parables so that I can fulfill the words of the prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 6:9).  Jesus does however give us some clues as to what His kingdom might look like.  Take this incomplete list for example:

Love you enemies (Matt. 5:34)

Rejoice in suffering (James 1:2-4)

If someone strikes you on your right cheek, offer him your left (Luke 6:29)

If a soldier asks you to carry his pack a mile, carry it two (Matt. 5:41)

Give everything to the poor (Luke 18:22)

If a man sues you for your shirt, give him your coat as well (Matt. 5:40)

The first will be last and the last first (Matt. 20:16)

You must die to truly live (Phil. 1:21)

While we traveled from city to city last year, many times, Serenity would use our sidewalk chalk and write

“The Kingdom of God is nearer than you think.”

This is important.  Many of us, when talking about the Kingdom of God or the Kingdom of Heaven can quickly move to thinking of the streets of gold.  When Jesus taught us how to pray in Matthew 6, He prays that “[God’s] kingdom come, [God’s] will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”  Our focus should be on living how Jesus lived — today.  We should be obsessed with bringing His glory to this earth in our cities, our towns, and our neighborhoods, not just looking to the skies for the rapture — He will come like a thief in the night anyhow.  How do we do this?  I think we can start with emulating what Jesus told us in His inaugural address — the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5-7).

Even the disciples had a skewed view of what Jesus’ kingdom was going to look like.  Many joined this miracle maker because they believed He would raise a large army and march into Jerusalem, over-throwing the current ‘king of the Jews’ (Herod) and place himself in the position and in doing so would put himself in direct opposition to their Roman oppressors.  I’m guessing that most of the disciples would not have followed Jesus if they knew ahead of time that He would be crucified within three years.  Some scholars have guessed that as many as half of the twelve disciples were recruited from the ranks of the Zealots, a violent revolutionary group who wanted to overthrow Rome.  Judas Iscariot, because of the similarity of his name with Sicarii, is thought to have been part of the extremist revolutionary movement known as the Sicarii (named for the curved blade of their daggers — much like a mini sickle).  Imagine what they were thinking when Jesus told them to love their enemies.

None of it makes any sense — in this present kingdom.  How can the U.S. demonstrate power or develop “peace through strength” (which is ironically the same slogan the Roman Empire had — the same ones who crucified Christ) if we simply love our enemies.  We can’t protect our harbors and our airports by simply loving Al Queda.  How can we negotiate with Kim Jong-il and the irrational North Koreans — just give them hugs?  If you don’t think that would work you would probably be right — if you are thinking about this kingdom.  We must move our thinking to His Kingdom, and in His Kingdom, success doesn’t look the same — it makes no sense.

“All things are possible, when we realize, things are not as though they seem.  All things are possible when we realize truth is not trapped by what is seen.”  Jason Upton, All Things Are Possible

I think the most beautiful example of this upside-down nature of Jesus is in His washing of the disciples feet.  Those who are last will be first.  We must make ourselves servants to all, and what better example can we have than God incarnate, the Savior of the world, making Himself nothing in order to demonstrate to us how we can tangibly bring His Kingdom to our little slice of this kingdom.

Slide 4

Love your enemies (Matt. 5:34)
Rejoice in suffering (James 1:2-4)
If someone strikes you on your right cheek, offer him your left (Luke 6:29)
If a soldier asks you to carry his pack a mile, carry it two (Matt. 5:41)
Give everything to the poor (Luke 18:22)
If a man sues you for your shirt, give him your coat too (Matt. 5:40)
The first will be last and the last first (Matt. 20:16)
You must die to truly live (Philippians 1:21)

New JFP Website

Technically it is a blog, but whatever.  You can click on the Jubilee Food Pantry tab at the top of the MSM homepage and follow the link to the new website.  It is the same format as this site, but all the info is specific to the JFP.  We will continue to write general posts about MSM on this site, however, anything specifically about the food pantry will be posted on the JFP site.  We thought it was important to differentiate the two sites so that members of our community can go directly to information about the Jubilee Food Pantry rather than swim through all of our ramblings.  Blessings!

TRUTH #2

God calls us to imitate Him

This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did. 1 John 2:5-6

Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children.  Ephesians 5:1

We met an amazing couple while in San Fransisco, Evan and April Prosser.  The two started the Homeless Church of San Fransisco.  After 20+ years leading a church outside of the Bay Area, they felt led to purchase and convert an old bus into their living space and park in areas of San Fransisco where poor folks lived, mostly homeless or “mobile-homeless” (folks who live out of their vehicles).  There was such a peace about them, they had a purpose, they loved what they were doing and it was obvious that God wanted them right where they were — they have been doing this for more than 15 years now.  As you can imagine, it hasn’t always been easy.   Being present at all times, dealing with living on the streets, the problems that living out of a bus presents — having to move every few days to keep from being towed, where to dump you septic, etc.  Loving the least of these was how the Prossers decided to live out their imitation of Christ.

“If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake and for the sake of the Good News, you will save it.”  Mark 8:34-35

This is where it gets messy.  Does taking up your cross and following Him mean going to church on Sunday?  Is it not cussing or trying to sin less?  Is it getting up real early and having quiet time regularly?  Is following Christ building houses in Mexico one week every summer, or sponsoring a child in Rwanda?  Most of the time we carve out a little space in our schedule for Jesus and give him that time when what He evidently calls us to is much, much more — our lives.  “If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it.” Most of us have been admiring and worshiping Jesus but have not been ‘following him,’ doing what he did — which was walking with the poor, and loving the marginalized.  We know of the poor, but we do not know the poor.  In other words, we adore his cross without taking up our own.

A favorite pastor of mine whose words have actually played a very significant role in my life starting almost 15 years ago summed it up very nicely using as his text 1 John 2:5-6:

TRUTH #1

We had the opportunity to speak at Southgate Chapel this past Sunday.  We felt led to talk less about the journey that we started back in 2008, and more about the truths that we have learned from our time over the past 4 years of being obedient to His Spirit and being available to go where He is calling us.  We highlighted 6 truths, so this will be an 6-part post!

TRUTH #1: God uses broken people

“My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. (2 Corinthians 12:9)

St. Augustine talked about cracks in our pottery and how God’s light can only shine through us when we know we are broken.  Serenity and I are both broken people.  It is an amazing testimony to God’s plan and His grace that Serenity and I met each other at the pinnacle of both our (however unknown) desire and our need for Him.  Through all of our poor decisions, brokenness, drug and alcohol abuse, sexual sins and more, He had a plan for us.  We have been married for nearly 11 years now and most of it has been God refining us for a greater purpose.  If we would have waited until the Lord completed the work He has been doing in us, and still is, we would still be idle.  As followers of Christ we must move out of our self-serving and self-centered view of Christianity being simply a “superficial therapy.”  Our goal as Christians should not be to fix ourselves and punch the golden ticket to Heaven, but rather, to make ourselves last and become servants to all.  That was the true nature of Christ.  Only when we recognize our own brokenness and humble ourselves to Christ can His light fully shine through us.

One of the most beautiful scriptures to both of us is in Isaiah 58:

and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness,
and your night will become like the noonday.

The LORD will guide you always;
he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
and will strengthen your frame.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
like a spring whose waters never fail. (Isaiah 58:10-11)

The crux to this truth is this: once we have recognized our brokenness and then humbled ourselves to Christ, the way Christ’s light can shine through the cracks is by serving others.  As we serve, our neighbors will see our brokenness and be perplexed that something glorious still shines inside of us.  We must be true and authentic servants.  When we are, the healing that we so earnestly sought, comes naturally from God, our “light will rise in the darkness” our “night will become like the noonday.”  We will be a “spring whose waters never fail.”  Backwards, I know.  Something tells us that we need to figure it out before we can step out or we will be hypocrites.  The same thing tells us that we are unworthy and inferior, but as we see time and time again in biblical story after biblical story, as well as in our own stories, God uses broken people.