The Kingdom of God

In honor of the passing of Frederick Buechner on August 15, I’m sharing a bit of his wisdom. He remains one of my very favorite writers ever:

“IT IS NOT A place, of course, but a condition. Kingship might be a better word. “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done,” Jesus prayed. The two are in apposition.

Insofar as here and there, and now and then, God’s kingly will is being done in various odd ways among us even at this moment, the kingdom has come already. Insofar as all the odd ways we do his will at this moment are at best half-baked and halfhearted, the kingdom is still a long way off—a hell of a long way off, to be more precise and theological.

As a poet, Jesus is maybe at his best in describing the feeling you get when you glimpse the Thing Itself—the kingship of the king official at last and all the world his coronation. It’s like finding a million dollars in a field, he says, or a jewel worth a king’s ransom. It’s like finding something you hated to lose and thought you’d never find again—an old keepsake, a stray sheep, a missing child. When the kingdom really comes, it’s as if the thing you lost and thought you’d never find again is you” (Frederick Buechner, Wishful Thinking).

Look for the Good

Not every day will be a good day. Some days everything just seems to go wrong. Some days you’re the one who seems to go wrong. There will be days where you’re just glad to say that they’re over.

But there is always something good in every day. It may not be much, like a stranger smiling at you or the way that first sip of coffee warms your soul, but the good is there. Some days you have to look harder for it than others.

But if you seek the good in every day, you will find it.

And the best way to put yourself in a position to see the good is to be the good. The best way to see the good is to live gratefully and with thanksgiving. You can give thanks for the fact that you’re alive and breathing, for that cup of coffee, for the sunrise on your way into work.

If there is nothing for which you can give thanks, then you haven’t paid attention to your life. You’ve only seen the bad and neglected to look for the good. Because there is always good. Always.

Not Forgotten

Have you ever been in a social situation, whether at work or in a casual setting, where everyone else is chatting and having a good time, and they all seem to gave forgotten about you? Do you ever feel invisible?

Take heart. God has not forgotten you. Remember that He not only knows who you are but knows you by name. He has not taken His eye off you for one moment. You have never left His mind or His heart.

Ultimately, how other people at work or at a party or in any setting view you doesn’t matter as long as you know that God delights in you. When others can’t or won’t see you, God sees you.

Remember, the most powerful words that anyone can hear are “I see you.” You can treat others the way you wish you could be treated by others, the way God has treated you. You can choose to see and validate and bless others the way God has seen and validated and blessed you.

Above all, you are not alone. God sees you. God knows you. God loves you.

An Ouch Moment

“Most Christians are educated
beyond their own obedience.
Could it be that you do not need
another Bible study, but you need
to obey the lessons from the previous ones you have heard?” (Daniel Dickard).

Oof.

That one stung a bit.

I’m a big fan of Bible studies and learning, but at some point, you and I need to put that knowledge into practice.

But isn’t that what wisdom is? Just applied knowledge that goes from cerebral to practical?

I would never say to anyone not to go to any more Bible studies? I would never say to close your Bible and not read it.

I would say not to stop at reading and learning.

Find one way you can apply what you learned from each lesson to an aspect of your life. Make it real by making it tangible. After all, as a pastor I know once said, if you don’t live it, you don’t really believe it.

Also, I’d say to find a way to teach it to someone else. That way, they get the benefit and the knowledge and wisdom you’ve acquired becomes ingrained in you. Then you have truly learned.

Wise Words

If you want to know God’s will, start with being faithful where you are instead of waiting for God to move you somewhere better to obey. See your current place as an altar where you can make your life, your very self, an offering to God as an act of worship.

Imagine that. You worship not just by singing and raising your hands but by doing your job well, even when you don’t really like your job. You worship well by showing up on time, giving your best, and helping others to be their best.

Then you will see God moving and working in your life. Maybe He will move you somewhere else. Or maybe He will move in you to become someone more like Him. Maybe He will change your circumstances. Or maybe He will change you and transform you in the midst of your circumstances.

Either way, trust God and bloom where you’re planted.

Make Your Own Headlines

Even now if you read any of the headlines plastered across any of the news websites, you will see mostly doom and gloom and negativity. You’d think that 99% of what happened around the world was bad.

But bad news isn’t necessarily the majority of the news. It’s just what sells and what draws ratings and what garners website hits. All the good that happened today will most likely slip under the radar because the PTB (Powers That Be) don’t think people will buy good news.

But you can make your own headlines and write your own story. You can show love and spread kindness. You can pay it forward with acts of generosity. You can be a visible display of the grace and mercy of God for the world to see. You can be the hands and feet of Jesus to those who are lost and hurting.

You may not can change the world, but you can make a difference in at least one person’s world.

Never Give Up

Have you ever been inspired to pray for someone’s salvation but it seems like day after day nothing changes? Have you ever prayed for a loved one for healing and the healing hasn’t come yet?

It can be discouraging to send up prayers that seem to bounce off the ceiling and never make it into heaven. Sometimes, it seems easier to quit than to persevere.

But remember the widow in the Bible. She kept going to the judge demanding justice. She refused to take no for an answer. Her determination and desire were stronger than any denial so she persevered until she got what she was after.

Maybe you prayed 99 times and stopped. What if the answer was waiting on the 100th time? If the Israelites had marched around Jericho six times and stopped on that final day, would they have seen the walls fall?

I think the way to not lose heart is to keep your eyes not on the physical circumstances that don’t seem to change but on the God who is always at work, never resting and never tiring. It’s to remember the God who still makes miracles happen in the midst of the most unlikely places and people. It’s to keep your eyes fixed not on the person you’re praying for but on Jesus.

A Prayer for Peace of Mind

Here’s a short prayer for anyone battling anxiety:

“Almighty God, We bless you for our lives,
we give you praise for your abundant mercy and grace
we receive. We thank you for your faithfulness even
though we are not that faithful to you.
Lord Jesus, we ask you to give us all around
peace in our mind, body, soul and spirit.
We want you to heal and remove everything that is
causing stress, grief, and sorrow in our lives.

Please guide our path through life and make our
enemies be at peace with us. Let your peace reign in our family,
at our place of work, businesses and everything we lay our hands on.

Let your angels of peace go ahead of us when we go out
and stay by our side when we return. In Jesus’ name, Amen”

Be Kind

Man, I can’t love this enough. So many people are fighting hidden battles and carrying around unseen burdens, all while putting on a smile and pretending to be fine. You’d never guess anything was wrong.

Sometimes, you see people and wonder why they act the way they do. Maybe they seem friendly and then they seem suddenly cold to you. I think with just about everyone you meet that there is one fact about that person that if you knew that information it would completely change the way you looked at them. It could be a painful divorce or an abusive past. It could be their own deep-seated anxiety or insecurities.

It costs literally nothing to be kind. You don’t have pay even a penny to pray for someone in your sphere of influence. After all, it could be your kindness that opens their eyes to the goodness of God. Remember that it was God’s kindness that led you to repentance in the first place.

Be kind and pray for opportunities for gospel conversations. You never know what may come of that kindness. The Bible says to always be ready to give an answer for the hope you have — and possibly the reason for your kindness.