Pause for thought
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I have no idea from one week to the next what I am going to write about in these columns, but I have assurance that I will be directed in one way or another before my deadline!

I remember when a member of our congregation was asked to fill in for the sermon one Sunday, and in a panic asked, “what will I talk about?” “Just talk about God”, was the reply, “there’s a lot of material there!”. That could have been a sermon lasting a lifetime if he had followed that advice, but happily he finished in time for us to have Sunday lunch!

This week the answer to my prayer of what to write about was answered by “talk about the Kingdom”, so here I am with a challenge to keep it short enough for you to get to your next meal!

One of the things Jesus seemed obsessed with in his ministry was explaining what the “Kingdom of God” was, and what it would be like. He never seemed to run out of analogies, similes or metaphors to help his listeners understand. But what he was explaining always seemed to be counter-intuitive (children were key components of the Kingdom), inverted (the last will be first, etc.), or just opposite to the way people saw the world working (a spiritual rather than material kingdom).

Jesus taught his disciples to keep the goal of the Kingdom at the top of their prayers and their thinking:

“Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done in earth, as it is in Heaven” Matthew 6:10 KJV Or “May your Kingdom come soon. May your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.” Matthew 6:10 NLT

It might be said that there were three main components to Jesus’ ministry on earth:-

redemption through his crucifixion and resurrection;

explaining the framework and constitution of the everlasting kingdom;

and demonstrating that it is possible for humans to live a life sinless and blameless and acceptable to the Father.

The first he accomplished through extraordinary determination and obedience in the space of a few days. The second was the focus of three years of his ministry and teaching. And the third lasted his whole human lifespan, interacting with ordinary human beings and experiencing the gamut of frailties, emotions and limitations common to our species.

One of the reasons Jesus gravitated to parables to give examples of Kingdom experiences was that experience and common sense seemed to be at odds with the institution God had in mind for his creation.

In an earthly kingdom one’s life was circumscribed by the will of the king, emperor, tyrant, dictator or committee at the top of the power pyramid — feel free to insert your country’s social and power structure here. If you were fortunate to have a benevolent ruler, life would be a bit easier. But you were always aware that the pendulum might swing arbitrarily in the opposite direction and life would be miserable, short and brutish.

In total contrast to the listeners’ experience with earthly kingdoms and power structures — “might is right!” — Jesus wanted us to understand a structure built on selfless love (in Greek, “agape”). This whole new system revolved around loving a loving God and loving our neighbor at least as much as we value ourselves. This would be a totally egalitarian society where all are cared for because each one cares for everyone as much as for him/her self!

This would be a society in which worry is worthless because all outcomes are good and all needs are provided for. In teaching this, Jesus undoubtedly saw the puzzlement in his hearers' faces and launched into examples of birds and flowers (“consider the Lillies!”) being the recipients of God’s abundance and bounty, so why should we ever think He cares for us any less.

There have been many philosophies in human history — including democracy, benevolent dictatorship, socialism, communism, stoicism, anarchism, etc. — that have caught a glimpse of this ideal society, but in the end they all succumb to a fatal flaw — human nature! Such a utopian society can only come about if and when human nature can be replaced by a higher form of intelligence.

Thankfully Jesus provides the antidote for the fatal poison of our selfishness and pride - he offers to replace our nature with his. If we let him, he will live in us and we will become like him!

“When I am raised to life again, you will know that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you.” John 14:20 NLT

“Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had”. Philippians 2:3-5 NLT

With this brain transplant, the kind of kingdom Jesus taught about doesn’t just become possible, it becomes inevitable. We inevitably begin to replace worldly systems and attitudes with kingdom systems and attitudes. We are building the kingdom here on earth as a precursor for how it will be perfectly implemented in Heaven!

For us as Jesus-followers this should not just be a priority, it should our top priority in life. All other activities should be subsumed in this. In case Satan whispers that you might miss out on some good times in life, Jesus gives us this instruction and promise:

“These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.” Matthew 6:32-33 NLT [emphasis mine]

So the Great Architect has already drawn up the blueprints and authorized construction, with His help we get to build the most amazing society man has ever dreamed of. We already have the keys to the kingdom!

Blessings on you and yours, Jim Black

P.S. if you’d like to read previous ruminations of mine they can be found at

Saturday June 3rd, 2023
Friday May 26th, 2023