Category Archives: Kingdom of God

Dandelions: A Modernized Parable

When Sarah was a little girl, she loved to dance and twirl barefooted across the soft green grass of her childhood home and feel the soft blades in between her toes. One day she noticed a small solitary yellow dandelion growing up amidst all the green and thought, “How beautiful!”

And she danced and twirled away thinking no more of it. When she returned sometime later, the dandelion had multiplied and spread across the entire lawn until the soft, green grass was completely overrun by the invasive weed. She was sad.

When Sarah was much older, she discovered a small lump on her skin but thought,  “It’s probably nothing.” And went on her way and thought no more of it.

When she visited the doctor some time later she discovered it was cancer and had now spread throughout her entire body and it was too late to stop the invasive disease. She was very sad.

In her final moments as she lie there in the hospital bed, she reflected back on her days of innocent youth, dancing and twirling across that pure green grass, and she remembered that little yellow flower and its ruinous effect, and now the devastation of the cancer that had choked the life out of her body.

She gathered the strength to look up at the visiting pastor and mouth these final words, “Is there not some force for good in this world able to spread life and healing as aggressively and effectively as dandelions and cancer spread corruption and death?”

The pastor clasped the frail women’s hands and with tenderness in his voice and love in his eyes, he said: “Dear daughter, such is the kingdom of God.”

This story is a modernized version of a parable Jesus once told. It is  found in Luke 13:18-21:

18 Then Jesus asked, “What is the kingdom of God like? What shall I compare it to? 19 It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his garden. It grew and became a tree, and the birds perched in its branches.” 20 Again he asked, “What shall I compare the kingdom of God to? 21 It is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into about sixty pounds of flour until it worked all through the dough.”

Jesus is teaching us that the Kingdom of God, though inconspicuous and hardly noticeable to many at first, is God’s activity set in motion on earth to spread healing and restoration to God’s groaning creation. 

Which Government Do You Serve?

I’m reposting this timely piece I wrote about 7 years ago. Ahhh…simpler political times. Food for thought during this crazy election season.

DAILY ILLUMINATION | Reports from the intersection of faith & everyday life.

I’m reposting this article as we begin our series on the Sermon on the Mount.  Every time I go back to this Kingdom Manifesto, I’m reminded by how easily Christians today boil Christianity down to private piety, overlooking the fact that Jesus calls his followers, the church, to be a new society living his New Way — a way that touches every sphere of our lives — political allegiances included!  Peace, JB

The political climate in America this week is boiling hot on the heals of Sunday night’s signing of the Obamacare proposal.  There is an apocalyptic like mood on the conservative right, with talk show hosts prognosticating on the eventual collapse of America as we know it.

Today, I walked to the gas station for a soda, and a perturbed man on the brink of desperation was waving a copy of the newspaper in the face of the clerk…

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Going Green with Jesus

“Plant the good seeds of righteousness, and you will reap a crop of my love; plow the hard ground of your hearts, for now is the time to seek the Lord. HOSEA 10:12

Jesus spent his entire ministry teaching one main message: Open your eyes and see a new way of being human available to you. He called this new reality the Kingdom of God.

Yet, when the greatest teacher who ever lived reached for metaphors and images to describe this profound Kingdom reality, he didn’t direct our attention to the heavens and talk about harps and angels and a cloudy afterlife.

Instead, he repeatedly turned our attention to the mud and dirt under our feet.

“You want to know what the Kingdom of God is like?” he would ask. “Then look at the flowers of the field and how they grow” (Mt. 6:28). Or, “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a farmer who planted good seed in his field. But that night as the workers slept, his enemy came and planted weeds among the wheat, then slipped away” (Mt. 13:25-26). Or, “I am the true vine and my Father is the gardener. I’m the vine and you are the branches; stay connected to me and you’ll thrive. But He takes away every branch that does not bear fruit in me” (Jn 15).

If you were a Christian back in Jesus’ day, you were not racing your kids to VBS, comparing your worship band with the one down the road, or scrambling to get to church on time. Rather, you were probably sitting on a grassy hill overlooking the Sea of Galilee with a gentle breeze in your face and asking the question, “Jesus, will you please explain to us the story of the weeds in the field” (Mt. 13:36)? I imagine Jesus letting the question hang in the air long enough to let the birds chirp their answer and the sound of the waves washing on the beach to set the backbeat before Jesus tries again to unpack the melodies of the Kingdom Dance we’re being invited into.

We would do good to slow down this summer and ask Jesus that same question today.

The mysterious, life-changing power of the Kingdom is still available. God still wants to reveal to us the secrets of the kingdom of God that can change us the world today.

Jesus said that the litmus test for being a true disciple is that we obey his commands. While some of his commands are difficult, my favorite command Jesus ever gave his disciples is to go sit in a field and “Study the flowers!”

So, this summer at MainStreet we’re going to obey Jesus’ command and “Look at the flowers of the field and how they grow.” We’re going to ask that simple but profound question, “Jesus, will you explain to us the story of the weeds in the field?”

We’re going green this summer! We’re going to engage in some “Green Thumb Theology.” We’re going to do some home lawn and gardening work of the soul. Grab your work gloves, spade and Bible, and we’ll meet you in God’s Garden!

Listen to Jeremy’s “Going Green” sermon series HERE.

The Secrets of the Kingdom

Jesus-et-disciplesThen the disciples came to Jesus and asked him, “Why do you use parables when you talk to the people?” Jesus answered, “The knowledge about the secrets of the Kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them… The reason I use parables in talking to them is that they look, but do not see, and they listen, but do not hear or understand… As for you, how fortunate you are! Your eyes see and your ears hear. I assure you that many prophets and many of God’s people wanted very much to see what you see, but they could not, and to hear what you hear, but they did not” (Matt 13:10ff).

This passage used to bug me. I thought Jesus was somehow trying to hide God’s saving message from certain people by blinding them from seeing the truth, and revealing the truth of the Gospel to an elite few of close friends. I no longer think that is what’s going on here at all.

Why then does Jesus speak in confusing, mysterious parables that many cannot grasp?  Why can’t they grasp their meaning?

Continue reading The Secrets of the Kingdom

Hangin’ on a Vision

I spent a long season of “waiting on God” for a vocation that would both utilize my gifts and impact the Kingdom.  Nothing was more thrilling than those moments where God seemed to give me a glimpse of a vision of the kind of life I want to live.  I wrote the following on August 15, 2006 in the midst of one of those glimpses.  

Dream-BigTrucks run on fuel. Light bulbs and household appliances use electricity. Animals live on primal instincts. Human beings, however, when operating at their best, are run on things unseen — that is, hopes, dreams and aspirations.

It is a sad affair when a human being is just plodding along, day to day, merely functioning at an animal level – eating, drinking, and sleeping. Some add some fleshly pleasures to this mundane trio – sexual exploits, cheap thrills, or a rythmic drum beat in their ear. But this is not the way we were made to live. Continue reading Hangin’ on a Vision

Jesus, the Constitution & the Founding Fathers

kitschHave you seen this recent piece of art making the rounds?  It’s called “One Nation Under God.” As you can see, Jesus is front and center holding the U.S. Constitution which, according to this artist, was “inspired by God.”

Greg Boyd took this artist’s message to task on his blog, saying among other things: “Artistically speaking, it’s an excellent work. Theologically speaking, it incarnates, in the most graphic form imaginable, the sin of nationalistic idolatry.”  Do you agree or disagree?

I love America.  I think our constitution is a great humanly crafted foundational document and has served our nation very well. I am proud to be an American. However, I love the Kingdom of God far more, I pledge allegiance only to King Jesus, consider myself a citizen of heaven first and believe therefore we must guard carefully the distinct Jesus-shaped ideals for which Jesus died and of which Christians are called to advance. We must be vigilant to guard against the careless blurring of the gross differences between the America of our founding fathers and the Kingdom of our Crucified Lord.

What do you think of this artist’s interpretation of America’s political and religious roots?  Check it out HERE.

Kingdom Metaphors 3: The Network of God

I posted this blog years ago while sub teaching in a class at MWHS called “Advanced Game Programming.” Geeks, nerds, and PC gaming addicts all register for this semester class where they can learn how to make a creative contribution to the wide world of network gaming.

With this new global community, or network, of individuals in mind, who share in the common love of all things computerish, I offer you the next metaphor McLaren provides in his book The Secret Message of Jesus for ‘The Kingdom of God’ that Jesus claimed was now breaking into history through his life, death and resurrection:

“God is inviting people into a life-giving network. First, God wants people to be connected, plugged in, in communication with God, so God can transfer to them what they need–not just information but also virus-debugging software, along with love, hope, empowerment, purpose, and wisdom. Also, each person who is connected to God must become integrally connected to all others in the network. In this way, the network of God breaks down the walls of smaller, exclusive networks (like networks of racism, nationalism, and the like) and invites them into the only truly world wide web of love. The network exchanges information and increases understanding for all participants. The network becomes a resource for people outside the network as well, and of course, people are always invited to enter the connectivity themselves.

The metaphor of an ecosystem could work in a similar way: we are currently living in an imbalanced, self-destructive ecosystem, but God is inviting us to live in a new network of relationships that will produce balance, harmony, and health. The metaphor of a community works along similar lines. One thinks of theologian Stanley Grenz speaking in terms of the community of God, or Dr. King’s preferred phrases, the beloved community or the inescapable network of mutuality.”

This metaphor may be especially accessible to the teenage culture that is so enthralled with and involved in internet communities – whether gaming universes or social forums like MySpace or Facebook. What do you think? I suspect this metaphor will strike a special chord with some of my more computer-savi friends.

Kingdom Metaphors 2: The Dream of God

In his book The Secret Message of Jesus Brian McLaren offers several metaphors to help get our minds around the meaning of “The Kingdom of God.” Today’s kingdom metaphor is “The Dream of God.”
“Your Kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” This prayer of Jesus seems to be an urgent plea for God to bring His Kingdom reality to earth as in heaven. Here Jesus equates the Kingdom with God’s will being actualized. Brian McLaren draws from this insight in suggesting a second metaphor.

“Since the language of “will” can take us down a trail of control, domination, and coercion, and since I don’t believe those ideas are in Jesus’ mind at all, I have looked for other words. The Greek word that lies beneath our English word will can also be translated wish. But to say, “May your wish come true” sounds rather fairy-tale-ish and creates other problems. But I have found the idea of “the dream of God for creation” does the job quite nicely. “Your Kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” could thus be rendered “May all your dreams for your creation come true.” This language suggests a more personal, less mechanistic relationship between God and our world. It would resonate, for example, with a mother who has great dreams for her child, or a coach who has great dreams for her team, or an artist who has great dreams for a novel or painting or symphony he is creating, or a teacher who has highs dreams for his students.

It also gives us language to talk about evil and sin in the world: these are nightmares for God. In creating our world, God wasn’t dreaming of prisons and kidnapping, child abuse and racism, greed and poverty, pollution and exploitation, conformity and chaos. God’s dream was for freedom and creativity, kindness and justice, generosity and peace, diversity and harmony.

This metaphor also gives us a responsible and creative role to play. If we dream of using or controlling others, raping the environment, ignoring the poor, perpetrating racism and other forms of injustice, or simply being lazy or selfish, we are ruining God’s dream: our dreams are opposing God’s dreams. The call to repentance is the call to rethink our dreams and realize their incompleteness or even destructiveness. The call to faith is the call to trust God and God’s dreams enough to realign our dreams with God’s, to dream our little dreams within God’s big dream. The call to receptivity is the call to continually receive God’s dreams—a process that, in my experience at least, seems to be a lifelong one. The call to baptism is the call to publicly identify with God’s dream and to disassociate with all competing –isms or ideologies that claim to provide the ultimate dream (including nationalism, consumerism, hedonism, conservatism, liberalism, and so on). And the call to practice is the call to learn to live the way God dreams for us to live” (The Secret Message of Jesus, pg. 140-142).