Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” Mark 1:14–15
Very early in his ministry Jesus declared the kingdom of God was at hand. An overcoming kingdom right in the midst of a messed up, broken world. Even as Jesus made that declaration, John was in prison and would give his life for a kingdom which will overcome death. The faith we’ve been called to is a sustaining faith Jesus gave Himself to give to us.
Last week Jill and I drove to Oklahoma for the funeral of my sister’s husband. Years ago, a lifetime ago, Jill and I went camping with Laurie and Lyle. We had precious few opportunities to be with them. They invested much of their adult lives serving the Lord in a public school where Lyle was a principal and my sister was a teacher. They raised three women of substance, who are now raising their families. During the funeral there were plenty of stories about the impact Lyle had made. Every story pointed to Christ. The funeral was led by a pastor who was led to Christ by my brother-in-law. I grieve Lyle’s passing. I ache for Lyle’s precious family. But, the kingdom of God is at hand. We have hope.
Over the past several weeks I have delighted in Gospel opportunities. I had the privilege of speaking at a men’s retreat. We invested our time rejoicing in Jesus’ promise to build His Church, to prepare the Bride He will come for. It was a celebration in the midst of pain. The pastor of that church had recently been disciplined, which included his resignation. There are real wounds in this spiritual battle. Still, the overcoming kingdom of God is at hand.
I had the privilege of preaching at Faith Community Church of New Richmond, WI a few weeks ago. FCC is the church I had the joy of planting and serving as pastor for two decades. Every time I am with that precious church family I rejoice and grieve. I miss them and celebrate what Jesus has done, and continues to do among them. I love to worship with my family, meet those Jesus has added, and I long for eternity. The kingdom of God is at hand.
In five days I leave for Ethiopia. The Lord of the Church has opened the way for me to study the Gospel of Mark with leaders in Hawassa. I have not been in this location before. So, I ask that you might join me in praying. I am asking Jesus to make our life in Him precious, and obvious, to all of us. That He will remind me, amid all the cultural and language differences, I have more in common with these brothers than I do with an unbeliever from Minnesota. So, we can study as brothers, pursuing the King who is present. I am asking Jesus to guide me in guiding these men, that we would rejoice together in the Word God has given. That our devotion to Jesus will be multiplied through Jesus’ Church. In a world filled with confusion God has spoken. We can live with confidence because the kingdom of God is at hand.
Of course it will be a long trip. I ask God to make His presence obvious and precious to Jill. I ask Jesus to sustain my body and my energy. I ask that He will use us for His glory in any way He chooses.
I have been meditating on growing as a disciple. Devotion to Jesus took John to prison and to death. I enjoy obvious kingdom wins, but some kingdom wins hurt like hell (literally).
Take heart, the kingdom of God is at hand.