Saturday, February 18, 2006

Where's your center?

Image by PixelPerfect DigitalA friend of mine sent me a PowerPoint presentation that identified the absolute center of the Bible, the middle verse of the Bible. Literally, there are the same number of verses after it as there were before it.

What is it?

Psalm 118:8 "It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in man." In these times of domestic spying, world terrorism, and natural disasters I believe I would do well to listen to this very important verse.

I have been studying the unity of the Bible this semester at Regent University. While the course is not over, the first book I read was John Bright's The Kingdom of God and the main point he makes is that the Kingdom of God is not a nation, not an ethnic designation, not even an ecclesiastical one, but it is the rule of God over His people. And if you are not under His rule, you are not part of His Kingdom.

That's pretty sobering, but it also points me back to this verse. With all the crap going on at my job, with the uncertainty of the future, with the wounds of the past still healing, I have to remember "It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in man." I have to remind myself of that almost every second, especially when the urge for self-preservation or defensiveness washes over me.

I also find it ironic that some of the Christian talk shows seem to emphasize getting "Christians" in high places. President Bush says he prays every day. He has appointed Christian judges (including two to the Supreme Court). Talk shows want us to elect believers to public office, push "Family Values" agendas, - there's even having a bunch of conservatives on Capitol Hill in some kind of star chamber, where they set the agenda. All when God's kingdom is none of that.

One of the points that Bright makes in his book is that the path of God's King - Jesus - was the path of the Servant. Indeed, the author makes the point that the Servant in Isaiah 53 was subjected to all kinds of humiliation and shame but He was the one God had chosen.

I looked up the word "humiliation" and I found the definition enlightening. It means: "To lower the pride, dignity, or self-respect of." It comes from the Latin word humiliare, to humble.

Humble is defined as "Marked by meekness or modesty in behavior, attitude, or spirit; not arrogant or prideful" when used as an adjective and when used as a verb it means: To curtail or destroy the pride of; humiliate. It comes from Middle English, from Old French, from Latin humilis, low, lowly, from humus, ground;"

But that is the path the Jesus walked - and He emphasized that the Kingdom was the path of service, of losing your life to find it. This is a hard saying sometimes, to think that the Cross awaits all of us. But that is the Truth. The way up is the way down. Not that we can add anything to what Jesus did, but that we are to follow Him, to enter into the "fellowship of His sufferings" that Paul talks about.Karen's Cross (c) Christine Gray Photography Image by Photobucket

Even the link that this post goes to, on Centering Prayer, is a method of letting go - of letting God be God of all that comes in our lives. It makes you think that when you pray "Your Kingdom come, Your will be done on Earth, as it is in heaven," you need to realize that the Kingdom comes through the Cross, and not through the exercise of power. Have I done that? Yes and no. Yes I have done it, and no I don't always do that. But God is not done working on me.

Make your own attitude that of Christ Jesus, who, existing in the form of God, did not consider equality with God as something to be used for His own advantage. Instead He emptied Himself by assuming the form of a slave, taking on the likeness of men. And when He had come as a man in His external form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death--even to death on a cross. For this reason God also highly exalted Him and gave Him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow - of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth - and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.(Phil 2:5-11)


Anonymous said...

Can one be a citizen of the kingdom of heaven in the same or similar sense that one can be a citizen of the United States?
If so, then how?
If not, why not?
What communion hath Christ with Belial?

May God bless you and keep you,
a bondservant of Christ

David said...

Dear Bondservant:

One cam be a citizen of the United States by being born here, like I was. You don't have to consciously decide to become one. I think that the Kingdom fo God is more like someone who becomes a citizen - they have to swear allegiance to the United States as a matter of choice rather than to just have it as a matter of birth.

Yet the Kingdom of God is not unlike being born a citizen. You have to be born into it. SOmeone else, God, decides that He wants you, and then you are drawn into the Kingdom through His action and grace.

But at the same time, the Kingdom of God is not unlike coming here and becoming a citizen. You have to make a choice to live under God's rule. So it is, as C.H. Dodd characterized it, a both and rather than an either or situation. The Kingdom is both God's action and ours, it is already and not yet, Jesus is King, but we do not see His rule exercised everywhere.

Interesting question. Thanks for making me think.