Desiring the Kingdom Part 4

Have you ever thought of yourself as a liturgical person? Probably not. Liturgy basically means order, or could be understood loosely as habits. A liturgical worship service follows a particular, often prescribed, order.

We are all liturgical people. We go through our days based on particular habits, whether intentional or not, and make decisions that are influenced by our unique orientation.

Here is an illustration to help. When you drive on a familiar route, let’s say from home to work and back, how often do arrive at your destination without giving much thought to the pressure of the gas pedal, the grip of the steering wheel, the turning on of signal lights, checking mirrors, etc.?

Now, think about the first couple weeks after starting to drive for the first time. Can you remember learning how much pressure to apply on the pedals? How you needed to turn in order to avoid hitting the curb? Which way you had to push the signal light switch to make it signal left or right?

I have heard it said that over 90% of our decisions each day are subconscious. They flow from habit or routine. And, unfortunately, many of our decisions are poor decisions. We have learned bad habits. We have a liturgy that produces idolatry rather than worship of the one true God.

There are some things we can do to develop liturgies that will transform our worship, redirect our vision toward Jesus. You can probably think of some already. Morning prayer and Scripture reading is vital. Weekly attendance at a local church worship service is a must.

There are things we can do daily that many Christians do not immediately think about. Here are a few suggestions you can try out with your family. You may find that after a few weeks of regular practice, some of your subconscious habits, your daily liturgies, will begin to change:

  1. Begin each day with a song of praise, a call to worship so to speak (you can choose to sing it or not). Example:
    Come, let us bow down in worship,
    let us kneel before the Lord our Maker;
    For he is our God
    and we are the people of his pasture,
    the flock under his care. (Psalm 95:6-7, NIV)
  2. Meditate on a short (1 or 2 verses) passage from the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), or from an instructional passage in the Old Testament such as ones found in Deuteronomy 5-8.
  3. Find someone you can regular make confessions to (accountability partner). Tell them about what you have done that you feel guilty about. Make sure this is someone who you trust and who can remind you of the forgiveness of God.
  4. Learn some of the ancient Christian Creeds and recite them regularly.
  5. Practice communion with your family regularly (weekly or more).

Note: for more reading on this topic, check out Desiring the Kingdom by James K.A. Smith.

Desiring the Kingdom Part 3

“He came into the very world he created, but the world didn’t recognize him. He came to his own people, and even they rejected him.” John 1:10-11 (NLT)

All throughout history, humans have been trying to get to God, become like God, or prove there is no God. Because of the fall of humanity through Adam and Eve, we are born with a twisted view of our relationship with God.

When Jesus came into the world, he turned things around on us. Instead of us trying to get to God, God came to us through Jesus. God became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:14). Jesus is the human form of God, demonstrating to us that God still wants people to exist and to exist in the way he created us.

Contrary to what you may have thought your entire life, holiness begins with what we currently have, not with some day in the future when we have it all together.

Our goal is not to try and escape our present reality, but for our reality to become the place in which we welcome the kingdom of God. Desiring the kingdom means receiving the kingdom into our current situation. No matter your circumstance, whether it be dark and hopeless or bright and full of hope, we need to allow the presence of Jesus to enter in.

Jesus will then begin to give life to what we are currently doing, by making changes (usually small and slow), or by revealing himself through what is already going on around you. Stop thinking you need your life in order; allow God to enter and use what you have right now.

When I graduated from Prairie College, I was given a diamond willow staff. Every Bachelor of Arts grad got one. The message behind that staff was that God used what was in the hand of Moses. It was just a stick, but God said, “what is that in your hand?”, and then used it to perform miracles.

God wants to use what you have in your hand, even if you think it is worthless. Do you want God to use what you have?

In the next and final post on desiring the kingdom, I will suggest some practical things we can do on a daily basis that will help us see how God is entering into our lives.

Desiring the Kingdom Part 2

The trouble you are likely facing is that the treasures, or even the troubles, we experience here on earth seem to be far more appealing than a relationship with God, or they distract us and make us forget about God altogether. One of the first things we need to do is acknowledge our temptation to treasure the satisfying of our fleshly desires more than a relationship with God.

The problem is mainly that the beauty of Jesus is distant and dim. I only want to offer one suggestion as a remedy for this problem. My suggestion is that you tell yourself and others of the beauty of Jesus. Increase your vision of Jesus through scripture/prayer and through community. Talk with God and with others and to yourself in prayer and in conversation about the wonders and the majesty of Jesus and about how thankful you are for the relationship he invites you into.

The reason this will work is that when you start down the path of exalting someone, and you start looking for ways that person is beautiful and wonderful, you will discover all sorts of ways you love that person and it will turn into joy.

When you are having trouble with your children, your siblings, your parents, with your friends, and with your spouse, the best way to bring reconciliation and begin to see how much you love them, is to start looking at them as lovely and loveable.

The difference with God is that everything about him is lovely. He has no flaws. He has nothing worthy of being despised. When we lack a vision for the glory of God and the beauty of Jesus, it is not that he has done something to lower his worth. When we lack a vision for the glory of God, it’s because we have bought into a lie that Jesus is not as worthy as some other thing in our life. Something else has become more important to us, and it has dimmed the glory of God.

The only thing God asks of us is to want what he has to offer. This is where counting the things of his kingdom more valuable than anything else comes in.

If we consider the pleasures of the world and being accepted into God’s kingdom to be of equal value, we reject what God has to offer. Paul is saying that all things are considered worthless compared to knowing Christ, so it is a happy trade-off to deny all things that would get in the way of God’s kingdom.

The next post will provide what I hope will be a fresh perspective on desire and how we can increase our vision of the infinite worth of Jesus.

Desiring the Kingdom Part 1

Matthew 13:44: “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.”

Jesus was talking about the tremendous value of gaining the kingdom of heaven. The man in the parable is willing to give up everything he already has because the treasure is so much more valuable.

If you were to present a bag full of quarters and a $100 bill to a 4 year old, and ask him to choose one, which one would he take? Probably the bag of quarters. Why? Because he knows the value of a quarter. He sees a bag full of quarters and imagines how many candies he can buy from the candy machine. But he has not yet learned the value of a $100 bill.

Our trouble is that we know not the value and the worth of the kingdom of God. As C.S. Lewis stated in his famous sermon, The Weight of Glory, we are “like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”

The call of Christ is to be that man who discovers something of tremendous value, something worth more than everything we have combined; to consider him to be that great treasure, and to prove his worth by living in the same way as one who is receiving a great inheritance that will make everything we currently own seem worthless.

Now, don’t think we will gain the kingdom when we give up everything else. Rather, we gain the kingdom when we want it more than anything else. We gain the kingdom when we see the eternal fellowship with God as a great treasure more valuable than anything else we could ever possess.

The child who considers the quarters to be more valuable makes his choice between the two. He can’t have both. We need to want the kingdom of God more than even the greatest possession here on earth. God has made it available to us. But, we can’t have the kingdom of God if it takes second place to anything else.

My next post will address the issue we have with not wanting God’s kingdom; we lack the desire and therefore get distracted by worldly pleasures or troubles.