What the Kingdom of God Looks Like

For the past few weeks, even months, I find myself being brought back to the Kingdom of God. Through things I hear or read or watch, the phrase keeps popping up.

I think before when someone said the words “the kingdom of God,” it conjured images of pearly gates and streets of gold and the reality of what things will be like after this life is over.

However, I see and hear a lot more discussion about living in the kingdom now, living as a citizen of the kingdom in the present and seeing God’s kingdom as both something that is to come and something that is.  Our students have been a part of events that encourage them to be “kingdom workers.”

Just this week I received a link to a blog post on YouthMinistry.com that talked about what the Kingdom of God looks like when life hurts. The entire article is good, but I like how the authors described the kingdom today.

The Kingdom of God is like . . .

  • The middle schooler who makes space for a not-so-cool classmate at her lunch table because she remembers the day when Jesus made space for her in his Kingdom.
  • A high schooler who opts out of the “party of the year” because he trusts that Jesus’ plans for his life are better than his friends’ plans.
  • One college student who risks getting a lower grade for sharing her worldview in her coursework.
  • The young couple who has little money but gives each other small Christmas gifts so they can give presents to children in the foster-care system.
  • Divorced parents who choose to co-parent their teenagers from a place of grace and forgiveness because they’ve experienced grace and forgiveness from Jesus.
  • A retired couple who finds joy in serving Jesus daily because they understand that no one ever “retires” from following him.

Some good thoughts for us to think about what it looks like to live as a citizen of the kingdom.  Maybe it looks like something from the list above. Maybe it’s totally different. How do we live as citizens of the kingdom now?

What Do You Hope For?

HeavensI’ve been catching up on my podcast listening (again) and was listening to some previous editions of the Catalyst podcast. There was an interview with John Eldredge relating to a talk he gave at one of the Catalyst events.

Several years ago I went through the “Wild At Heart” curriculum with some men here at church and then read some of Eldredge’s books. Epic was one of my favorites and I have always enjoyed Eldredge’s unique perspective on being a follower of Christ, a husband and how we look at heaven and the eternal life that God offers.

In his talk at Catalyst, his focus is how we look at heaven. He asked this question, “What do you hope for?” His question was meant to bring to the surface what we think about when we think about heaven. How we look at heaven and what we think eternal life will be like impacts how we live now. He said if we see heaven as “the never-ending church service in the clouds,” there’s not much to get excited about. If, however, we see heaven as the place where God makes all things news, where beauty is restored, where eternity is full of adventure, then we can long for that.

In the interview, the discussion went to what keeps us from being hopeful. The contrast was made between those of us who live in the US and those who live in poverty in other countries. It seems those Christians who live in poverty, especially compared to life in the US, live with more hope. Eldredge observed that most Christians in the states aren’t as hopeful because of our stuff as much from the fact that we are numb. We are so busy with all that we have and do in life, we don’t have (or take) the time to consider eternity. This life keeps us numb to the hope that God offers.

I think that question – What do you hope for? – is a good one to consider. We weren’t made just for this life, yet so often we live as if this is it. What do we hope for? What do we think God has in store for us? How does that impact how I live now?

Heaven Changes Everything review

My mom passed on the book Heaven is for Real after she read it and it was also the first e-book I bought for my wife when she got an eReader. While a book about people who go to heaven and return to tell about it is met with skepticism, I enjoyed reading this book. One of the things that I appreciated about the Burpos was how they interacted with Colton regarding his memories of heaven. They tried to allow him to share as opportunities presented themselves, rather than ask leading questions or perhaps planting ideas in his head. They sought to simply allow him to share.

In Heaven Changes Everything Todd and Sonja build on what was written in the first book. This second book is set up more as a devotional type reading, with forty-two short chapters based on a section of Heaven is for Real.

One of the nice aspects of this book is that it gives a look into where the family is now after the publishing of the first book.  The Burpos share about some of the opportunities that have come their way because of the success of the first book.  They talk about some of the speaking engagements they’ve had as well as chances to talk individually with those have lost a child or suffered some type of loss.  They talk about family life after the writing of Heaven is for Real and the popularity of Colton’s story.  Their story gives some insight into how Colton’s visit to heaven has impacted their own faith and the spiritual life of their family.

One thing continues to come out of the pages of this book – hope.  Even though the Burpos were given their son Colton back, they also share the pain of a miscarriage prior to Colton’s birth.  They have not only experienced the hope that God provides, they have been given a platform to share that with others.  The encounters they share continually point to the promise of heaven and a Father who cares for His children.

If you have read Heaven is for Real, you would enjoy this next book.  If you haven’t, this book provides a glimpse not just into the Burpo’s past experience, but how it impacts the way they live today.

(I received this book from the BookSneeze.com program in exchange for my review)

Good Enough to Get into Heaven?

If you go to church most Sundays out of the year, does that get you in?  If you give money each month to the church, is that enough?  If you don’t cuss (too much) or are nice to people who aren’t nice to you, does that do it?  How good is good enough?

That’s the question that Andy Stanley wrestles to the ground in this book.  It seems the majority of people accept the premise that God will let good people into heaven, but how do you know if you are good or even good enough?

In one chapter Stanley shares an encounter he had with the lady who owned the dry cleaner near his apartment.  He relates one conversation they had that got around to what happens to people after they die.  The woman said she knew she would go to heaven.  Stanley asked how she knew.  She said because she kept the Ten Commandments. He asked if she knew the commandments.  She didn’t  He asked if she knew where to find them  She didn’t.  But she was certain she had kept them and so was good to go.

The problem that Stanley points out is that while it seems a lot of people accept the “good people go” theory, there is no way to determine what good enough is.  In fact, scripture doesn’t even support this notion.

After spending considerable time debunking this myth, Stanley made this point: good people don’t get into heaven; forgiven people get into heaven.  The reason Jesus came was to extend grace and forgiveness because left to ourselves, we can’t be good enough.  Rather than putting our eternity into our efforts to be good, we place our trust in the One who can forgive.

How Good is Good Enough? is a good book for those who wish to communicate clearly to others the reason for Jesus’ death on the cross.  It is also a good resource for those searching for the truth of how they can be certain of where they will spend eternity.  Stanley is an excellent communicator and demonstrates that in this book.