Tag Archives: treasure

What Does the Kingdom of God Look Like (in Real Life)? Part 1: It’s a Treasure Worth ALL

in my last post i shared with you my findings of what the Kingdom of God looks like according to the bible.  i realize that that post title was misleading in that some, including myself, want to know what the Kingdom of God looks like…unfolding in the 21st century, in the here and now…in real life.  my friend A.R. reminded me that those stories would be helpful examples.  with that in mind, i hope to take the 7 aspects of the Kingdom of God i (re)discovered and “flesh them out” with what i have witnessed myself of the Kingdom of God breaking through in our midst.  halfway into drafting the first “story” it dawned on me that this task may be more than 1 post could handle so i plan to publish a total of 7 posts over the course of the next couple months for each principle and its corresponding true story from my experience that illustrates the principle.  

here goes the 1st: so what does the Kingdom of God look like…in real life?  

#1. (of 7) the Kingdom of God is a treasure worth giving up ALL else for

for me discovering the value of the treasure of the Kingdom was a process.  i received the King into my life around 7th grade.  the deeper understanding of the Kingdom and its worth, especially the giving up stuff, came after that.  there have been different things and relationships i’ve had to lay down in order to “seek first the Kingdom” and, i suspect, i will continue to this side of heaven.  

but the most significant thing that comes to mind that God led me to give up, in my journey thus far, was the security of my job.  i was 8 years into my career as a public high school teacher when my wife and i sensed God calling us to move into the inner city for the work of His Kingdom.  it was not a decision we came to easily, but it was confirmed by multiple convictions and events.  we had no idea what this ministry would really look like and what exactly God was calling me into but, one thing was clear, i would have to leave my job and the security my salary represented.  i had to take a step of faith into the unknown because Jesus, my King, was calling me to move out of what was familiar to me.  i put in my resignation at locke high school in the spring of 2011.  i joined an unpaid internship to learn about living amongst the poor that fall.  we found out that my wife was pregnant.  i was unemployed for months and could only find a job as a substitute teacher.  it was a humiliating step down for me who used to be a full time teacher.  

then in the beginning of 2012 i sensed God was calling me to be a pastor of outcasts full-time.  but to be a pastor in the neighborhood i now lived in meant that i would need to fundraise my salary (which at most would only be half of what i was paid as a teacher), not only because our church could barely pay the rent but because anything raised by our church we believe should go to a local leader that is raised up, not a “relocator” like me.  then my father-in-law saw my fundraising letter.   he was furious.  he could not believe what i was doing and what i was about to put his daughter and his grandchild through.  he yelled “are you a beggar?”, “you are a fool to think people would support you in this work!”  needless to say, the Kingdom of God did not feel like a treasure to me at that point.    

so, i prayed, “God, if this is the work you want me to do, please provide the $2000 of monthly support our family needs within the next 6 months.  please vindicate me.”

and He did.  and then some.  

you see, it was not just the money he provided to meet that initial goal  (which God provided within 6 months!) through generous supporters who believed in this work of expanding the Kingdom of God; he was giving me and my family so much more than we had imagined.  what we give up for the Kingdom, we get Kingdom treasure in return.  i had left my locke II community of teachers, one of the most amazing staffs I have EVER had the privilege to work with.  we had left our church community at wlah, who commissioned us with such grace, love, and support (they are still our biggest supporters).  we have now gained spiritual family i never would have gained, if we had clung to our familiar comfort.  spiritual family members that come from different backgrounds, social classes, and races than my family.  spiritual family that prays for us so faithfully and with so much more faith and desperation (with tears) than we have.  spiritual family that God speaks to with things for us that we never even told them.  

you see, we may have thought we were moving into a neighborhood to help those in need but God was moving us into the neighborhood for our growth, for our healing, for our wholeness.  we think we are making a sacrifice to serve others but God uses that process and those in need to turn around and bless us with what no money can buy.  it may not come in the timing or manner that we may expect but, in God’s Kingdom, the blessings go ALL around and are shared with ALL.  

you see, Jesus was telling the truth that what we give up for the Kingdom is not worth comparing to what we gain in the Kingdom.  it is something that rewards “many times more” in this life as well as the life to come…indeed with his Kingdom, we’re still witnessing the treasure unfold.   

nothing that we could ever own nor any intimate human relationship we could ever have surpasses the Kingdom of God in worth.  

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wealth: the other gospel

what a child wrote in response to the question "what is your wish for 2016" (found on a wish board at the kidspace museum in pasadena on new years eve day)
what a child wrote in response to the question “what is your wish for 2016” (found on a wish board at the kidspace museum in pasadena on new years eve day 2015)

 

i’ve been reading a book called the great chasm by derek engdahl and it has been hammering me with convictions that have kept me thinking.  on this the first day of the new year i believe it is a significant direction I want to continue to walk in.

the contents of this book, as i’ve told many people, captures what it has taken me nearly 12 years to learn (and counting).   it is a rare book (unfortunately) that brings together thorough biblical exposition with balanced real world application, especially to something so largely ignored from the pulpit.  i couldn’t commend it more wholeheartedly.

the book speaks of God’s heart for the most vulnerable in our society and the danger that wealth poses to disconnect us from the marginalized and His heart.

as a person that considers myself middle class, but actually in the top 4% of the world in terms of wealth (80% of the world lives on less than $10 a day), this is an uncomfortable topic.  yet, i must face it for that very reason. i’ve learned that having wealth, power, and/or status of any kind can blind you to it’s dangers.  i never considered myself wealthy until i got to know and have befriended people who are not wealthy (by wealth i mean having more than i need in terms of food, clothing, shelter).  those who “have” are not always aware that they have and are often not mindful of the “have nots.”  those that “have not” are keenly aware of their lack and of the others who “have.”

there is so much in the book that has struck me but i’d like to share one idea (from the fourth chapter) that still won’t let me go: wealth preaches a gospel contrary to Jesus.

engdahl reminds us that wealth (or “mammon”) is not neutral, but is personified by Jesus as setting itself up in opposition to God, hence in matthew 6:24 He says “you cannot serve God and money.”   The pursuit of wealth runs contrary to the gospel of grace.  gospel means good news. wealth promises to give us the “good news” of (earthly) life and security. Jesus promises to give us the “good news” of (eternal) life and security.  so who do we trust more in daily life?  the true gospel reveals itself in how it is obtained.  engdahl writes “At it’s core, Mammon, represents a meritorious worldview. It is opposed to grace because it is fundamentally about what can be earned and purchased.”  if my life and security is based upon what i can accomplish and earn that is not much security for me (worldly resources are limited and i fail).  if my life and security is based upon what God himself has accomplished and purchased that gives me a peace that can overflow (He is the limitless source of all life and He is able to keep His promises).

if we cannot serve both God and wealth can’t we at least have both, as long as I don’t “serve” wealth?

here, engdahl holds us again to the words of Christ by taking us back a couple more verses in that same section of matthew (v.19-21) and reflecting on it: “We deceive ourselves into believing we can have wealth as long as we do not put our trust in it. This is a great lie. What Jesus says is that if you have wealth you WILL put your trust in it: you will be enticed to serve it. You can store up treasure in heaven or on earth, and wherever that treasure is, THAT is where your heart will be.”

now, don’t get me wrong, no one is saying here that making wealth is a problem. it is what one does with it that reveals who serves whom. it is the keeping of wealth (putting our trust in it for security) rather than the giving of it (putting our trust in God for provision for us to bless others) that is an issue.

paraphrasing rankin wilborne, out of all the rivals that Jesus could have used to set up against God, He uses wealth. it is deadly precisely because we don’t think any of us have a problem with it.

let us choose this day (this year) whom we will serve.