Tag Archives: Kingdom of God

Heaven Begins Today

21 nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There!’ for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you.” – Lk 17:21

Heaven and Hell do not exist as geographical entities. But if they did, would that make earth the border between them? In the spiritual realm, is earth like the border lands between Texas and Mexico, a convergence of differing influences?  Would that explain our mestizo spirituality? Even when we think of Heaven and Hell more theologically, the idea of “here” (or maybe “now”) as a permeable divider still holds. Consider Heaven to be the state of perfect and total union with God. Likewise, Hell could be viewed as a complete absence of God’s presence. Now we live in the middle, sometimes leaning more one way, and if we’re honest, sometimes the other. Every post-modern author and director in the world strives desperately to convince us of our mixed spiritual heritage. Each bad cop a hero, every heroine with a tragic flaw.

These broken hero/redeemed villain characters speak so clearly to us because we recognize ourselves and our lives in their stories. On some level, we realize we are spiritually amphibious, both body and soul. We live, at once, connected to and disconnected from our Creator. We thrill at the scent of perfume floating amid the stench of sulfur and death because it smells like home. We appreciate the flower growing in the dump, even when the odor of rotting garbage overwhelms us. There, in Gehenna, we too readily recognize the images of our world given us by media and social network. They are self-portraits, after all.

Hell on earth is easy to imagine. And too easy to find. Carnage and death, oppression and pain, disease and destruction spill upon us from every arena. If you think Hell is only found in history or Hollywood then stop reading this and buy a plane ticket. Go anyplace where people live in fear. Afghanistan. Darfur. Drug riddled neighborhoods. Alcohol soaked homes. Abusive relationships. We know hell is no mythical realm of fire and brimstone because torture and torment are burning realities too particular to ignore.

 

And if Hell is here, then what of Heaven?

We’ve lived so long with the myth of “pie in sky in the great by and by” that we still struggle to wrap our arms round the simple proclamation of our Lord, “the kingdom of God is at hand.” Jesus doesn’t say maybe, or tomorrow, or there. Jesus says here and now. Heaven doesn’t begin when we die. Heaven begins today.

For every death, birth.

For every tear, laughter.

For every addiction, sobriety.

For every hunger, satisfaction.

For every loneliness, relationship.

For every sorrow, joy.

For every darkness, light.

For every sinner, redemption.

Heaven isn’t something that will happen. Heaven is something that is happening. All around us. Every moment. Every day. Heaven is the abundant life we can choose to live in Christ. Whenever we seek first the Kingdom of God, we find Heaven. Wherever we love our neighbor, we find Heaven. However we allow Jesus to calm our storms and heal our blindness and carry our burdens, we find Heaven.

If we dare to do unto others, unto the least of these, unto the orphan, the widow and the alien in the land then we touch the Heavenly realm. Jesus didn’t give us the Holy Spirit so we could go to Heaven. Jesus gave us the Holy Spirit so we could be in Heaven. In redemption. In justice. In mercy. Wherever and whenever and however we find ourselves living in Christ, then and there, here and now, we realize that Heaven begins today.


Led by the Spirit

When being led by the Holy Spirit…

I am able to choose to not bring work home with me, even though I work from home.

I find more humor in life.

I smile more. I laugh more. I play more.

I remember it is not about me.

I hear God speak to me through Scripture. Passages I have read before suddenly come alive with new meaning and power.

I treat my wife like the treasure she is.

I work hard, but without a frantic edge to my efforts. Because I know only the effort is up to me. The results are up to God. If God wills it, I cannot stop it. I may hinder God’s progress, if He allows me to. But I cannot ultimately thwart his desire. The converse is also true.

I share more. I tip better at restaurants. I give more freely of my time and energy. I invite other people into the work of God with me.

I go to bed earlier and wake up earlier.

I seek joy-filled music.

I sit on the floor and play with my kids. Without thinking that I am wasting time.

I live creatively.

I write.

I pray without watching the clock. I give without counting the cost. I serve without expectation.

I lead. And I follow.

I work less. And get more done.

I live into the paradox.

God gives me eyes to see and ears to hear.

I live out of abundance instead of scarcity. Trust instead of fear. Hope instead of despair.

I seek first the Kingdom of God. And I find that all those other things are given to me, as well.


Not Led by the Spirit

When not being led by the Holy Spirit…

I work too much and too hard for too long,

because I believe the results are up to me.

I allow people to define me.

I work out of my own ability instead of allowing God to work through my ability. I can do this for some time. Then I crash and burn.

I become task driven instead of creativity motivated. This makes me tired and grumpy. Which makes me snap at people I love.

I become task driven instead of relationally oriented. Which leads me to treat people as objects to be used in my own personal game.

I become task driven instead of Christ centric. As though Jesus simply handed out a enormous cosmic to-do list.

I do not sleep enough.

I watch too much TV.

I read without listening.

I eat poorly.

I stop exercising.

I spend more money.

If I stay in this spiritual desert for too long, I start wandering after false images of oasis. My besetting sin haunts me in such places. My enemy, the devil, prowls around my camp like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.

I ignore my children. Or rather, I allow the effort of parenting to eclipse the joy. They become projects to manage instead of gifts to open.

I listen less.

I talk more.

I do not accept my place in the scheme of things. So I steal other people’s opportunities to serve God by trying to do everything myself.

I go through the motions.

I accept the world’s version of success instead of holding out for God’s.

I fear my sins are bigger than the cross, grace is an illusion and forgiveness only goes to those who deserve it. Of whom I am not one.


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