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Posts Tagged ‘the kingdom of heaven’

Jo 23‘Would you like to go to a park, Maxine?’ I asked our granddaughter, soon after she arrived to spend the day with us.

She shook her head very definitely, as she settled herself at our dining-room table and began to work on a puzzle book.

‘Well, would you like to go to the shops? You could have fun in the play area and then I’ll buy you a doughnut!’

Again, she shook her head. At that point, I gave up and let her be. But after a while, I wondered if she might be hungry.

‘Maxine, would you like a little cake for morning tea? I have a pink iced one here. And you can have a drink too.’

But she assured me she was not hungry. I was amazed, as it is not every day she turns down a pink iced cake!

Half an hour or so later, however, things took a different turn.

‘Nanna, I’m hungry now!’

‘Oh, are you? Well, I’ll get out the little pink iced cake for you and a drink.’

‘But Nanna,’ our Maxine said gently then, ‘I’m hungry for a doughnut!’

As we quickly headed for those shops, I began to wonder if I am in fact so vastly different from Maxine. On occasions, I have been known to declare that I want something to eat but don’t know what. I try this and that, but nothing seems to hit the mark. Finally, it dawns on me what I want—and then I, the adult, am not satisfied until I have it.

But I also began to think about that amazing moment many years ago when I came to realise what I needed above all else in my life in general—and that was to experience and accept God’s love for me, through truly believing in Jesus Christ, God’s own Son. The night I committed my life to Christ, I remember thinking, ‘Yes, this is what I want most of all! Whatever else I do, I need to live for God.’ Back then when I was fifteen, I sensed nothing else in life would truly satisfy—and I was right.

Then many years later, I met some Christians who seemed so much closer to and on fire for God than I was. I remember asking, ‘What is it you’ve got that I haven’t?’ They refused to answer me, but instead told me to wait—God would show me. And that is indeed what happened. One night during a worship time, I experienced the amazing love of God in a fresh way as God’s Spirit overwhelmed me and filled me with deep and abiding joy. From then on, I became even more convinced that nothing else in life will truly satisfy—only knowing that gracious love of God, clearly seen in the death of his Son Jesus Christ for us.

On one occasion, Jesus told two parables about the hidden treasure and the priceless pearl and how the men who wanted these sold all they had to obtain them (Matthew 13:44-46). He was talking about the kingdom of heaven, about finding new life as a child of God and then loving and serving the King of Kings, above all else.

That’s what I truly want to do in my life. Is that your desire too?

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Jo 12I was glad no one else could see me. There I was in my kitchen, kneading my latest batch of play dough into a lovely, squishy ball. I had coloured it bright blue for our grandson and knew I should put it in a container to keep it from drying out. But it was okay to play with it for a while … wasn’t it?

Later, I went to my study, where I had stored some toys our older granddaughters had bequeathed us for their younger cousins to play with. Now I decided these toys needed very slow and careful sorting … well, didn’t they? Oh, look—here was a whole playground to assemble, with ‘Little People’ who fitted in cars and on swings and little tricycles! And here in a box was something called an ‘Imaginarium’—a miniature wooden village, with train tracks leading here and there and a little pink train with carriages that joined together via magnets and some tiny cars and some people and trees and … And there was ‘Mr Potato Head’, with eyes and noses and arms and legs to attach!

Hmm.

I had such fun. I ignored all those other tasks awaiting my attention and allowed myself to enjoy the moment. No grandchildren to interrupt my play and want whatever it was I had. No grown-up children around to laugh and shake their heads at their mother. Not even any other adults in sight to wonder—and perhaps be a little jealous?

Was it a waste of time? Definitely not. Because, in the midst of my play, an answer Jesus once gave in response to a question about who would be greatest in the kingdom of heaven came to mind.

I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 18:3

I have been a Christian a long time. Yet I am still called to have that childlike faith that simply believes and trusts and enjoys the company of my heavenly Father. I need to recognise his voice and listen to what he says. I need to talk with him and laugh and cry with him—perhaps even play with him a little? Maybe then, I will become more like him.

This week, I read again the story of Zacchaeus in Luke 19. Zacchaeus was a wealthy, important, grown man. Yet he was so eager to check out Jesus that he did something quite childish and climbed a tree to get a better view. Imagine how he felt when Jesus stopped right under where he was, called him by name and informed him he needed to come to his place! At once, we are told, Zacchaeus, in full view of everyone, came down from that tree and welcomed Jesus gladly. And the result?

Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man too is a son of Abraham.” Luke 19:9

I might be past climbing trees these days. But I hope I will always be that child at heart who will do anything to see Jesus more clearly and continue to trust him in childlike faith.

How about you?

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Jo 23‘Savour the moment,’ the little, old nun told me during a time when I was experiencing some deep sadness, ‘because you might not pass this way again.’

I did not know her—our paths crossed for only one session at a conference. Yet, the more I thought about her words, the more I realised what a gift they were to me. In essence, she had encouraged me not to miss out on what God had to teach me right in the midst of that difficult time. I had been given a unique opportunity to experience more of God’s love and grace, to grow in my relationship with God and to learn some important lessons about myself too—and I needed to grasp it fully.

‘That’s not humility—that’s self-protection!’ an insightful pastor friend told me once.

I was a little shocked. Yet I trusted him and knew he was challenging me in love. I had just refused to take up a new role in our church that he felt was so right for me. I thought I was being humble by pointing out how hopeless I would be at it. Yet, in reality, I panicked and wanted to protect myself from any humiliating failure rather than allow God to help me grow and to use me in a different way to bless others. I needed to think again—and respond to the challenge before me.

‘They might not be able to have you,’ my dear spiritual mentor told me gently, as I questioned whether I was truly wanted at the place where I was then employed.

Again, I was shocked. In fact, I found her words quite amusing. Imagine thinking something like that! The privilege of having such a position was all mine, wasn’t it? Surely I had no right to choose to go elsewhere or do something different? Yet I respected my friend and tucked her comment away in my mind to consider at a later date. And when that date arrived, I realised what little sense of self-worth and self-respect I had had for so long and how blind I was to the work of God’s grace and love in my life.

This week, I came across one of the littlest parables Jesus ever told:

The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all your seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and perch in its branches. Matt 13:31-32

So many times, God has given me precious mustard seed moments when one small comment has ended up changing the course of my life in some significant way. With each one, God has shown me a better way to respond to my circumstances or a healthier and more courageous way to live. These brief words have enlarged my heart, leaving more room for God and providing a place of shelter and strengthening. Some have impacted others as well as I have shared them both personally and via my writing. God has been at work, building the kingdom in me and in others, little by little, word by word.

Let’s not downplay those tiny mustard seeds. In God’s hands, the possibilities are infinite.

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