Building Bridges to the Kingdom

Matthew 25:31-34

Scripture refers to “the kingdom of God” frequently, but many people are unclear as to its meaning. Let’s look at the past, present, and future reality of this concept.

The first thing we must realize is that the heavenly kingdom refers to everything under Christ’s control. At the moment of salvation, we are transferred from the reign of darkness to the bright authority of Jesus. And we are eternally secure in Him.

As today’s verses explain, Jesus’ kingdom and reign have been planned since the foundation of the world. From the beginning, God has been preparing mankind for what is to come. One way was by using prophets to foretell how He would redeem humanity and sovereignly rule over heaven and earth.

Once Jesus came and gave His life, He established the “present” kingdom. This isn’t a geographical locale; it’s a term describing the heart, where God’s Holy Spirit indwells believers to guide, counsel, and empower.

But there is also a future aspect of the kingdom, which we can anticipate with excitement. You are probably familiar with the words “Thy kingdom come” from the Lord’s Prayer (Luke 11:2). This speaks of the new heaven and new earth, where we will enjoy freedom from pain and sin. There, we will worship Jesus with gladness and joy for all eternity.

As God’s kingdom ambassadors, we who are His children have the responsibility and privilege of sharing the good news: Through Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection, all who trust in Him are forgiven of sin and assured of eternal life with God. Whom can you tell about this amazing gift?

God Is At Work

John 5:16-19

Throughout the Bible, we observe God at work in people’s lives. Sometimes He acts in dramatic fashion, as in parting the Red Sea to allow the Israelites to escape the Egyptian army. At other times it may appear as if He’s not taking any action. Mary and Martha sent word to Jesus that their brother needed His help, but Christ delayed before traveling to their home (John 11:3-6).

Our Father has given us the Holy Spirit to help us recognize His presence and handiwork. The Spirit cultivates spiritual discernment in us so we can understand when and where He’s at work.

In addition to spiritual discernment, we must develop patience because the Lord operates according to His timetable, not ours. After being promised numerous descendants, Abrahan had to wait until he and Sarah were beyond childbearing years before she conceived. Impatience can cause us to take matters into our own hands and make mistakes.

The Lord’s efforts can bring delight, as was the case when Hannah bore a child (1 Sam. 1:27-2:1). His plan can also lead through painful times, which was Joseph’s experience. Before the Lord elevated him to a position of authority to help his family, Joseph was sold into slavery and unjustly imprisoned.

Jesus told the disciples that His Father was always at work and so was He. We will be encouraged and strengthened in our faith when we recognize the ways in which God is operating. These glimpses of His handiwork will motivate us to stay the course and help us maintain a godly perspective on life.

Seeing Obstacles Through God’s Eyes

Joshua 2

Jericho was the first city that the Israelites needed to conquer in their quest for the land of Canaan. When Joshua sent a pair of spies to check it out, he probably didn’t realize that he would receive a glimpse of God’s impressive behind-the-scenes activity.

God wants us to look at every obstacle through the lens of His unlimited strength and resources. Anything that appears to block His plans is an opportunity for Him to demonstrate His sovereign power. Just because we don’t see anything happening, that doesn’t mean He’s inactive.

Always remember that God is at work on the other side of our obstacles, arranging the details and bringing His plans to fruition. When the spies returned to Joshua, they reported that the people of Jericho were scared to death. Having heard about the Jews’ deliverance from Egypt and the parting of the Red Sea, they were gripped by fear of the Lord.

The stage was set for the conquest, yet by that point, Joshua had done nothing. Sometimes we think we need to be involved in the solution to our problem, but God is not limited with regard to whom or what He can use to accomplish His will. In this case, He worked in the hearts of the enemy by instilling demoralizing fear.

For Christians, great obstacles need not be reasons for discouragement. Although much of the Lord’s activity is silent and invisible, we can be sure He is dynamically working out His will for our lives. When the pieces of His plan are in place, He will move us on to victory.

The Cross The Believer’s Victory

1 Corinthians 1:17-31

From a worldly perspective, Christ’s death signaled His defeat. After all, dying in agony on a cross hardly seems like the path to victory. But it was! And He did it all for us. Because Jesus triumphed over death, we can be victorious in life. Just consider what He won for us by sacrificing Himself on the cross.

Our Eternal Salvation: The cross was the means of our salvation. Without it, we’d have no hope of heaven. If Christ hadn’t died in our place, we’d have to stand before God and receive the just punishment for every sin we’ve ever committed.

Power over Sin: Jesus not only paid the penalty for our sin; He also brought us present victory over it. When He was crucified, our old sinful nature died with Him (Rom. 6:6). The power of the “flesh” was broken, and Jesus now lives His triumphant life through us. That means we are no longer enslaved to sin and can choose obedience to God.

Defeat of Satan: At the crucifixion, the list of decrees against us was nailed to the cross, and the Devil lost his power over our lives (Col. 2:13-15). None of his accusations can stick, because God holds nothing against us anymore. And now every time we yield to the Spirit within us, Satan is defeated once again.

Christ met all our needs on the cross. By making us a part of His family, He gave us a sense of belonging. When He died in our place, He affirmed our value. And by coming to live His life through each believer, He gives us the ability to live a victorious, obedient life.

Conquering Fear

Conquering Fear

Psalms 63

Every one of us will experience moments of apprehension, and denial or trying to hide from it will do no good. When fear arises, ask yourself the following questions: Where does it come from? (You know it isn’t from God.) Has God ever failed me in the past? Does He promise to meet all of my needs? Does He keep His promises?

If we read the Bible, we’ll find countless stories of God’s faithfulness. For example, Paul lived through hardship, persecution, pain, and all kinds of terrible circumstances. The apostle wrote these well-known words: “God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Rom. 8:28). This testifies to the fact that for those who trust in Him, God turns every difficulty, loss, and separation into something good.

From Abraham to Isaiah to David to Job to Jonah to Paul to John, we see God’s constant love and care for His people. His Word is a lamp that will give us clear guidance when circumstances are bleak. It offers the best direction we will ever find. When we meditate upon it, pray over it, grapple with it, and incorporate it into our lives, His light chases away the darkness. The psalms, in particular, are helpful in dealing with fear.

God, the sovereign ruler of this universe, is in control of your life. Don’t make the mistake of thinking He isn’t, simply because He does not operate according to your will and schedule. If you read your Bible and meditate on it, you will find genuine strength in His promises.

Failing to Listen to God

Genesis 3

Listening to God is not a onetime event. We must continually keep His Word before us, or we’ll begin to listen to the wrong voices.

In Genesis 2:16-17, the Lord gave a command not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. But Eve began to listen to another voice and did not hold firmly to her Creator’s words. All that Satan had to do was plant a single doubt about God’s integrity and offer Eve one appealing advantage of doing things her own way and she fell for it. He mentioned wisdom, but using her own reasoning, Eve added two more benefits to the temptation: the fruit is good for food and a delight to the eyes.

The schemes of the Enemy have not changed. He still whispers lies and twists truth to convince us that a) God cannot be trusted and b) His ways are not the best. In every temptation, there is a deception about the character and motive of God, plus an attractive promise of a better way.

The world is filled with voices that vie for our attention and influence our thoughts and actions. Throughout the day, consider the messages that are sent your way through the media and people. Consciously begin to compare them to what Scripture says about God and His ways.

Remembering what God says in the Bible is our safeguard against deception and temptation. Daily devotions won’t protect us if they’re quickly forgotten during the day. Follow Christ’s example: be ready with truth in your mind and on your tongue whenever temptation strikes (Matt. 4:1-11).

The Results Of Insecurity

Psalms 143:8

We’ve already seen some of the areas where insecurity shows up. Now we need to turn our attention to its effects.

To start, insecure people have difficulty establishing good, lasting relationships. They simply cannot see how they could add value to anyone else’s life. This is a tragic loss, because every single one of us needs deep and meaningful friendships to help us grow.

Also, men and women with insecurity are often seen as prideful or snobbish. Lack of confidence can cause them to withdraw from others, which can easily be mistaken for an act of arrogance. They can thereby give the impression that they simply don’t want to be around others.

What’s more, insecurity frequently leads to indecisiveness and fear. People can be so consumed with self-doubt that they can’t make any decision at all. They wonder, What if I make a mistake? Well, so what if they do? Making mistakes is one of the best ways to learn how to do something correctly. Don’t be afraid to try. Even if you don’t succeed, you can at least rest in the fact that you did your best.

After a while, insecure people typically get angry. When they go so long feeling so poorly about themselves, they start to resent the success and happiness of others.

Can you see how something as subtle as a lack of confidence can have a debilitating effect on one’s life? Don’t allow such devastation to affect your relationships. Pray for the ability to recognize areas of self-doubt. And then start to take control today by asking the Lord to heal your insecurities.

The High Cost of Wavering Faith

Deuteronomy 1:19-40

God has given believers personalities, abilities, and spiritual gifts which will equip them to accomplish His specific plans for their lives. But each one must choose to step out in faith and obedience. At times the Lord challenges us to do something that seems beyond our ability, but if we back off, we’ll miss His awesome blessings.

Let’s learn from the Israelites who made several choices that led to unbelief, resulting in a lifetime of aimless wandering. They . . .

• Listened to the wrong voices. To walk obediently with the Lord, we need to guard ourselves from being swayed by those who don’t understand the greatness of our God. Not only that, but we must also learn to recognize the lies of Satan. He wants us to become ineffective, accomplishing little for the kingdom of God.

• Relied on human perspective. At times trusting God conflicts with human reasoning. But those who choose to trust Him—even when the external evidence points to an impossibility—will find that He is bigger than any obstacle.

• Let feelings overcome faith. Perhaps the biggest hindrances to obedience are fear and inadequacy. An internal focus is a trust killer. The way to overcome our feelings is to rely on the Lord and His promises. He will equip us for whatever He calls us to do.

Every challenging call to obedience is a fork in the road of our lives. To go the way of unbelief will lead to a lifetime of regret and aimless wandering, but to courageously trust God and do what He says will result in the greatest blessing of your life. The choice is yours.

Devoted To God

Psalms 62:1-2

Having been saved by faith in Christ, we express our love and gratitude through devotion to Him. Regular Bible study and prayer will be an integral part of our daily lives. In addition, our commitment to the Lord will be revealed through a passion to obey, a spirit of humility, and a servant’s heart.

  1. Obedience. David sought to obey God all his life. As a shepherd boy, he faithfully tended the animals in his father’s fields. While king, he set aside his desire to build the temple and let Solomon lead the effort, as God had commanded. Although David lived imperfectly, his desire was to do what the Lord asked. We see from Jesus’ words in John 14:15 that obedience should be our high priority as well: He said, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.”
  2. Humility. After David killed Goliath, the crowds shouted praise about the young man. However, he did not become prideful. Instead, he remained in King Saul’s service and waited for God to make him the ruler of Israel. Even as king, he remained humble. He knew that what had been accomplished was because of the Lord’s actions and not his own (2 Sam. 7:18).
  3. Service. Whether David was a lowly shepherd or a mighty king, his goal was to obey God and serve Him.

This man after God’s own heart was devoted to his Lord. He sought to know Him and longed to carry out His will. David’s actions reflected His humble attitude of servanthood and his longing to please his heavenly Father. Take steps each day to be sure your life expresses commitment to Jesus.

Getting Back On Course

2 Peter 3:17-18

No matter how far away from God you have drifted, you’re always welcome back. That’s the lesson from Jesus’ parable about the prodigal son the foolish boy who followed a pleasure-filled path to ruin before returning to his father and finding redemption (Luke 15:11-32). Perhaps ruin has not yet come to you, but you know that your heart has grown cool to the things of God. Whatever your drifting story, make this the day that you point yourself back to the Lord.

As with any sin, the first motion toward getting back on course is to acknowledge that you have slipped away from the Lord. Then you confess and repent, which is like turning your boat in the opposite direction and paddling toward God with all your strength. If you’re wondering exactly how to do that, I suggest a strategy I use every morning. Before I step out of bed, I give myself to God by acknowledging, I surrender my entire life to You for this day. When something comes up that runs counter to His plan and I consider pursuing it, the Holy Spirit reminds me that I am not my own. Only God’s way will do for me.

Every day we choose whether to row or drift. As for me, I choose to vigorously pursue God.

Peter gives a warning to be on guard against attitudes and ideologies that would carry you away from truth (2 Peter 3:17). Instead, choose to paddle your lifeboat toward the Lord by meditating on Scripture, praying, and living obediently. Practicing the spiritual disciplines keeps a heart warm toward God.

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