I am so glad my friend Amy is over here today posting. Amy is a real woman, who loves Jesus, and shares her journey through life in an open and often humorous way. I know you will be blessed and challenged by her post today. AND over at her blog she is having a link-up party. Check it out by clicking here.
I was stuck. My Bible study ended and I had no direction as to what comes next. As I sat, day after day with my Bible in my hands, praying and clueless, I asked God where to turn. Several aimless weeks later, I decided to just start at the beginning of the New Testament and read.
As I opened to Matthew, the Bible-Belt-Southern-Baptist-Raised voice in my head said “I’ve heard these stories a hundred times. Maybe I could just skip them and start with Acts.” But no, my OCD side won over. Not start at the beginning? No way.
So I waded in, completely expecting to find nothing new.
I got as far as Matthew 4:17 and came to a screeching halt. “From that time Jesus began to preach ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’”
Now, I’m unsure if I was ever actually TOLD this, or if somehow I just inferred it growing up, but basically I had always interpreted this verse as “Repent, for you are about to die and you may not get into heaven.” The kingdom of heaven was equated with the afterlife in my brain.
Suddenly I realized I had been wrong. And if I was wrong about that verse, then I was wrong about everything else in the next few chapters of Matthew. All the parables: “The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard….”, “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven….,”, “The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field….” and on and on it went.
It felt a bit like I thought the world was flat and someone proved me wrong. Everything began to shift inside of me. This was the gospel that JESUS preached and I had ignored it my entire life.
I suspect we all have. I have never heard a sermon on what the kingdom of heaven is. I’ve never read a book that explained it to me. And, after taking a random poll that likely made people think I was mentally ill, I realized no one else has a clear idea either.
All this, after knowing the Lord for 18 years, and a seminary education.
My mission has been to answer this question ever since. At times I have been completely undone by the fact that this was such a major part of the gospel and I was still confused as to what it meant. I have read every book I can find that talks about the kingdom, listened to every podcast, asked every preacher.
I want to understand.
And now, five years after that initial shock to my system, my quest continues. It is back in the forefront of my mind and I am yet again praying through what this means for my life as a believer. What am I to do with this?
Here is what my muddled mind has decided upon.
The kingdom of heaven is not an idea, it is a tangible reality. We are daughters and sons of a King, we have this King dwelling inside of us (Holy Spirit), and anywhere this King is present is the kingdom. We are ambassadors of a kingdom that IS the gospel, the actual good news. The good news that life can be so much more that what those outside know. That the King wants them for his own. That this King fights not only for their souls, but also for their earthly lives.
The kingdom of heaven moved into South M street last month. We are but one of at least twenty houses on our street, our number small, a mustard seed. As I pray for my neighbors, get to know them as friends, minister to their needs and join them on their journey to get to know the King then the tiny mustard seed will grow. The seed on South M will grow into a mighty tree that the people on the surrounding streets will want to come and find shade in. (Matthew 13:31-33, International Amy Version)
How about you? Are you exploring the kingdom of heaven? It’s right there in the room you’re in, it’s outside on the sidewalk in front of your neighbor’s house, it’s in the coffee shop you frequent and the preschool your child goes to. Don’t keep it to your self, make sure to look for people to share the Good News with.
Amy Schaffner lives in the promised land of Arkansas with her husband, two kids and two dogs that sleep entirely too close to her. She loves Jesus with all her heart, and is trying hard to figure out how to live that out in her daily job of mothering and homeschooling. She blogs about her life, the good, the bad, and the ugly – the adventures of ministry, motherhood and anxiety disorder that makes her just crazy enough to be interesting. You can find her at her home on the web at http://www.piecesofamy.blogspot.com/ or on facebook www.facebook.com/PiecesOfAmy.