I recently finished reading the book “Present Perfect: Finding God in the Now,” by Greg Boyd, and to say it’s transformational is an understatement. This book has ignited a fire within me to make it my life’s journey to become constantly aware of God’s presence in every moment. I’ve since ordered two more books on “practicing the presence” so I can become more studious of this ancient practice and continue learning from others who have mastered it.
There was a certain scenario that Boyd shared in the book, though, that has really stuck with me. It pertains to the affects that practicing the presence can have on advancing the Kingdom of God. He writes:
“A young mother is standing in the corner of the airport terminal, struggling to fold her baby’s chair while holding her infant. No one else sees her or cares, but, since you’re mindful of God’s presence, you do. You respond to the Spirit’s prompting and ask if you can help. In your short encounter you perceive a sadness in her eyes. As you board the plane and find your seat, you whisper a prayer for this woman and her infant. In this little encounter and lingering prayer, the Kingdom is being advanced. More of God’s life has come into our dark and oppressed world. Whether or not you can see how, this woman and her infant have been touched by God’s love.”
I love this example from Boyd for several reasons, but mainly because of its sheer simplicity. It’s not something that you might think of as meeting the criteria for “advancing the Kingdom” and it doesn’t seem “super spiritual.” I think a lot of times, we as Christians can believe the lie that advancing the Kingdom of God means we have to lead a bunch of people to Christ, set the oppressed free, heal the sick and broken, and more. While these are all certainly a big part of advancing the Kingdom, they are not the only way of advancing it. It doesn’t always have to be something that seems monumental, but it can be as simple as asking a stranger if they need help and then silently praying for them moments later. As Boyd says, when we do this, “More of God’s life has come into our dark and oppressed world.”
When you look at our assignment in terms of spreading more of God’s life and light into this dark world, then suddenly you’ll notice opportunities everywhere you go. Give your cashier at the grocery store an encouraging word. Tell the waiter you see getting treated poorly that she’s doing a great job. Silently pray over someone as you’re out to lunch or dinner with them. These are all simple ways that we can actively advance the Kingdom of God in our everyday lives.
While these examples may seem insignificant, to God they are sacred. Any moment that we bring God into our awareness and act out of His prompting, we are extending His love to a hurting world that is in desperate need of a touch from the Father. So, I challenge you to practice becoming more mindful of God’s presence with you always, and as you do this, partner with Him in advancing the Kingdom. Ask Holy Spirit for ways that you can actively expel darkness in your everyday life by releasing God’s life and light wherever you go.
I leave you with this prayer from Boyd’s book:
“Ever-present Father, you are active in everything in everyone in every moment, moving the world toward the full manifestation of your loving reign. Help us to offer ourselves wholly up to you to be instruments of your will in this moment and in every moment. Amen.”
Written by: Nate Ebel
I remember a story a Korean pastor used to tell of a woman in his congregation who would come in week after week with various complaints. When he would ask her how she was doing she would reply, “I’m ok, under the circumstances.” I love his response. He would always ask, “What are you doing under there?”
We all have circumstances, situations that weigh on us. Some that even may seem pretty dire. But God does not call us to be “under the circumstances.” God calls us, as Christians, to rise above our circumstances. Let me give you a few examples of what I mean.
Ezekiel, the prophet, is taken to a valley full of bones. The bones were dry. Obviously, there was no life in those bones, but God told the prophet to speak to the bones, to speak life back into them. And he did. He spoke and the bones reconnected to each other. Tendons, muscles and flesh returned to the bones. He spoke again and breath returned to the bodies and they stood on their feet. (Ezekiel 37)
God never told the prophet to call the bones what they were, he told him to call them what they should be. The circumstance was a valley full of dead, dry bones. That’s a pretty hopeless situation. But God’s reality was that they became a vast army.
Another prophet, Elisha, and his servant were in a circumstance where they were surrounded by a hostile enemy. The servant saw the circumstances and he was afraid. But Elisha knew God’s reality was more than what the servant saw. He told him that those that were with them were more than those that were against them. He prayed that God would open the servant’s eyes, and the servant saw that there was a vast angel army surrounding their enemies (2 Kings 6).
And the most important circumstance to a Christian is the death of Jesus on the cross. When Jesus died his disciples didn’t know what to do with themselves and returned to fishing, feeling hopeless about the man they had given up everything for. The situation looked pretty dire to them, but then Jesus resurrected. There was so much that God was accomplishing through the death of Jesus, but the disciples didn’t see it until they were on the resurrection side of it.
“Faith is the evidence of things hoped for, the substance of things unseen” (Hebrews 11:1). “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:18). When we speak of things how they are we are “under the circumstances.” But when we speak what is not yet seen, we are speaking faith in God’s reality.
Most Christians I know, would heartily agree that we should be about the business of faith rather than speaking negatively about our situations. The sickness, the financial situation, the rocky marriage – these can truly be devastating circumstances. But we know that God is working everything for good, for those that love Him and are walking according to his purpose, (Romans 8:28), don’t we?
There is one area, however, where it seems to me that many in the American church are “under the circumstances.” That area is the state of our country, which in some people’s estimation is very far away morally and spiritually from where it should be. Rather than being about the business of the Kingdom of God, bringing light to dark places, Christians stand back and criticize the darkness for being dark.
Under the circumstances some things may appear desperate, but remember God is not calling us to see things how they are. We are to speak life into what seems lifeless. We are to speak hope to those who are hopeless. The substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen.
Maybe it is perspective. For those that view moral decline in our world as a sign of a soon arriving rapture and coming judgement, they may feel no compulsion to do anything but observe, shake their heads and tsk tsk at the circumstances.
But if our business is to seek first the Kingdom of God (Matthew 6), meaning to make the message of the Kingdom our number one priority, then no matter what the circumstances appear to be, we should always be advancing, always carrying the light to dark places, always speaking hope into what seems hopeless, life into what seems lifeless. I think as Christians in America that should definitely apply to our country. So, don’t stand back and blame darkness for being dark. Stand up and be the light. Speak life.
“For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world – our faith” (1 John 5:4).
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
I love Toby Mac’s song “Move (Keep Walkin’). In it he says, “Lift up your head, it ain’t over yet.” Let’s keep that in mind when we feel weighed down by the circumstances.
Written by: Sharon Letson
My wife and I recently got rid of cable in our house and have decided to just use the Internet, Netflix, and the public library for our entertainment purposes. I’ve fallen in love with Netflix and have to confess that I have moments of binge watching a series. I love not having to wait through commercials and sit around for an entire week wondering what will happen next, as the series writers always end an episode leaving you on the edge of your seat.
I’ve recently become a bit obsessed with series that have to do with the Medieval era and the Dark ages of England’s history, and the influence of the Church and its struggle for influence and power. It amazes me as I’ve begun to study much of the doctrine and theological understandings of the church throughout this time in history, how much of the evil that happened would be attributed to God’s wrath or judgement in the Earth. Much of the church stood back idly through tragic events such as: plagues, disease, unjust tax systems, pillaging of villages, war, famine, and natural catastrophes and felt very content in attributing these as acts of God’s judgement upon a sinful people. The Church feared intervening in any way as they worried they might be guilty of trying to interfere with God’s Sovereign will.
Now, I want to be clear – I absolutely believe in the Sovereignty of God, and I believe that nothing that happens in life throws a wrench in His ultimate plan for creation. However, throughout Church history there have been many who fall into the trap of what some have called “hyper sovereignty.” I believe this view can easily lead to a lethargic and inactive Church that sits back in the midst of evil and suffering and expects God to intervene; if He doesn’t, then those who believe this viewpoint rationalize that evil must be part of His plan. Many see the evil in the world and their response is to simply hope that Jesus returns quickly and rescues us from the mess we’ve created. The hope of the imminent return of Christ is a beautiful doctrine, but it should never cause lethargy; it should instead cause urgency for action.
I believe that this type of thinking within the Church is not only inconsistent with much of Scripture, but has also caused us to miss the point that we see laid out in Genesis 1:27-29, where God reveals His intent for humanity and this Earth:
“26 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. 28 And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”29 And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food. 30 And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so. 31 And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.”
God’s original intent for the Earth was that we would be responsible to work, cultivate, steward and grow that which has been entrusted to us. One of the greatest mysteries in the Kingdom is that He chooses us to co-labor with Him to accomplish His will. It is an active role we have been given. I agree that it would be much easier if He just rid this earth of all evil and suffering, but it is not the way He has chosen. Why? I’m not sure. But I do know that He desires for us to be active partners in helping rid this earth from all evil and suffering.
I know some will think that this sounds like too optimistic of a hope for mankind, and that our responsibility in the garden was surrendered to the devil by Adam and Eve. However, when we look to Scripture, we see that Jesus took back the keys of authority that were surrendered in the garden and then commissioned His disciples after the resurrection to “Go and make disciples of all nations” (Matt. 28:18-20), because all authority in Heaven and Earth had been given to Him. This means that the charge in Genesis 1 was back in effect and God’s mandate for humanity had been restored. This is why the Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 5:18-19:
“Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people. 19 For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.”
Though God intervened in time and space with His Son Jesus, and can continue to intervene whenever and however He chooses, we must realize that we as the Church have the responsibility and the authority to intervene when we see evil. We are His representatives of His kingdom called to co-labor with Him.
So what does this mean for us?
- If you see injustice, you have a responsibility to help alleviate that suffering by all means available to you.
- If you see a person sick, pray for their healing (God’s intervention), but also help them in the midst of their sickness.
- If someone you know is struggling financially, use your financial means to help them.
- If someone is lonely, take time out of your schedule to sit and listen to them.
- If someone is being mistreated, stand up for them. Stand for the outcast, minority, oppressed and disadvantaged people.
Remember, it is God’s original purpose that we properly steward that which He has entrusted to us.
Galatians 6:9 – “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.”
Written by: Tim Woodcock