Category Archives: Living Kingdom

Kingdom Unity

In the previous article, we discovered the importance of Kingdom focus rather than earthly focus.  While it is true that we live in the world, it is also true that we are first and foremost citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven.  Our assignment is to bring the Kingdom of Heaven to earth.  How do we do that? 

Yeshua told us that if we believe in Him and the One who sent Him, then the Kingdom of Heaven already resides in us. Some of the Pharisees asked Jesus, “When will the kingdom of God come?” Jesus answered, “God’s kingdom is coming, but not in a way that you will be able to see with your eyes. People will not say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or, ‘There it is!’ because God’s kingdom is withinyou.” (Luke 17:20-21 NCV) The kingdom of God is within us!  As we grow in His ways, the kingdom of Heaven will radiate through us into the world.  The Spirit works through us to change the atmosphere around us.

Yeshua told us that the Kingdom of Heaven is like a bit of yeast in a batch of dough. [Yeshua] also used this illustration: “The Kingdom of Heaven is like the yeast a woman used in making bread. Even though she put only a little yeast in three measures of flour, it permeated every part of the dough.” (Matt 13:33 NLT) As we interact with the world, the “yeast” of the Kingdom within us will begin to permeate every part of the earth. 

The Kingdom of Heaven grows within us as we interact daily with Yehovah and sit at His feet, eager to learn His ways.  We meditate on His word so that we gain more of His wisdom and knowledge.  As we grow more like Him, our influence (yeast) will be more effective and on a larger scale.  We should live in unity and love with our fellow believers.

So, what happened? The Body of Messiah has multiple fractures due to division and even malice among its members.  Yeshua warned us that a house divided against itself cannot stand (Mark 3:25).  The Body of Messiah is fractured because we, individually and collectively, have failed to yield to the Holy Spirit. If each of us dies to himself or herself and yields to the Holy Spirit, we will have unity, for the Holy Spirit does not disagree with Himself or with the Father or Yeshua.  Paul writes in Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”  Where we fail to die to ourselves, we introduce death into the Body of Messiah.

The fractured Body of Messiah is the reason why evil has prevailed in this world.  It is only in unity that we have the strength to address the evil that is covering the world in darkness.  Some leaders and other individuals in the Body of Messiah have already recognized this and have begun to work together and pray together. In order to do this effectively, they have to die to themselves. The rest of Yeshua’s followers must follow their example.  How will we stand before the Judge one day and explain that we were too busy fighting among ourselves to carry out our assignments from Him?  Rather than fight the adversary and his followers, we aided and abetted them with our disagreements and divisions.  How will the Judge respond? 

As we ponder these questions, perhaps we should consider 1 John 4:20 (ESV), If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. Another Scripture verse to meditate on are Yeshua’s words in John 13:35, “Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” 

When the Holy Spirit reigns in our hearts all the petty disagreements which people have clung to for decades, even centuries, will fall away like so much chaff, and divisions in the Body of Messiah will be healed.  The unity and love that is in us is the yeast that is supposed to permeate throughout the world, just as a little yeast permeates the entire dough as Yeshua explained in Matthew 13:33.  If we want to share the Kingdom with others, we will have to live it as well as preach and teach about it. We can only do this successfully by yielding to the Holy Spirit. 

Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in Heaven (Matt 6:10).

Kingdom Focus

We are presently facing numerous challenges on many fronts and fear, unrest, and division are now more prevalent among us.  These reactions are not in keeping with Yehovah’s will for us, for the Holy Spirit brings love, shalom and unity.  How do we handle these challenges without falling into ungodly traps?  We know from Scripture that Yeshua does only what He sees His Father doing (John 5:19).  Therefore, as followers of Yeshua, we must do what we see Yeshua doing, for then we will also be doing what our Father is doing.

Since our challenges are very evident in the physical realm, there is strong temptation to address these issues in the physical realm and to rely on earthly leaders and experts for guidance.  Sadly, many of us are discovering that this is not an effective solution. So, what is a better strategy? 

In response to my cries for help to Abba, the Holy Spirit guided me to pursue the following Bible study: Get a sheet of paper and put a vertical dividing line down the middle. 
Title the left column “Kingdom of Heaven” and the right column “Earthly Governments”.  Now peruse the four Gospels, and record any words or actions of Yeshua that belong to either category.  Below, is a partial listing (the first two gospels) of the results of my own study.  All references were taken from the New Living Translation (NLT) unless otherwise noted. Before we begin, however, let us review some of the governments of Yeshua‘s time.  The Jewish government was headed by corrupt leaders who had created their own religion.  The Romans, known for extreme cruelty, had conquered and occupied Israel.  Anyone traveling the main roads was forced to see victims of crucifixion dying slow, tortured deaths.  The victims might even be family members or close friends.  In view of very real threats and horrors, what was Yeshua’s main focus?

Kingdom of Heaven/Kingdom of God Earthly Governments
Kingdom of Heaven/Kingdom of God  
“Repent of your sins and turn to God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near.”  (Matt 4:17).  
Matthew 5-7: Yeshua talks about living as citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven.  
When Yeshua had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at His teaching, for he taught with real authority— quite unlike their teachers or religious law (Matt 7 28).  
“And I tell you this, that many Gentiles will come from all over the world—from east and west—and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob at the feast in the Kingdom of Heaven (Matt 8:11).  
“Go and announce to them that the Kingdom of Heaven is near” (Matt 10:7).
“And from the time John the Baptist began preaching until now, the Kingdom of Heaven has been forcefully advancing and violent people are attacking it” (Matt 11:12).  
“But if I am casting out demons by the Spirit of God, then the Kingdom of God has arrived among you” (Matt 12:28).  
“You are permitted to understand the secrets of the Kingdom of Heaven, but others are not” (Matt 13:11).  
Matthew 13 contains several other parables concerning the Kingdom of Heaven.  “I tell you the truth, unless you turn from your sins and become like little children, you will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven….” (Matt 18:3-11)  
“Some are born as eunuchs, some have been made eunuchs by others, and some choose not to marry for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven…  (Matt 19 12)  
Matt 20:1-16 is the Parable of the Vineyard Workers  
“I tell you the truth, corrupt tax collectors and prostitutes will get into the Kingdom of God before you do” (Matt 21:31).  
Matthew 33-44 is the Parable of the Evil Farmers   Matthew 22:14 is the Parable of the Great Feast  
Matthew 25 is two parables about the Kingdom of Heaven and teaching on the final judgment when the King returns to reign on the earth.  
“The Kingdom of God is near!  Repent of your sins and believe the Good News (Mark 1:15)  
In Mark 4, Yeshua speaks in various parables concerning the Kingdom of God.  
“I tell you the truth, some standing here  right now will not die before they see the Kingdom of God arrive in power!” (Mark 9:1)  
“If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It’s better to enter eternal life with only one hand than to go into the unquenchable fires of hell with two hands….and if your eye causes you to sin, gouge it out.  It’s better to enter the Kingdom of God with only one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell, where the maggots never die and the fire never goes out.” (Mark 9:43-48)  
“Let the children come to me.  Don’t stop them!  For the Kingdom of God belongs to those who are like these children.  I tell you the truth anyone who doesn’t receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it.”   (Mark 10:14-15)  
“How hard it is for the rich to enter the Kingdom of God!” Dear children, it is very hard to enter the Kingdom of God.  In fact, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God!” (Mark 10:23-25)  
Parable of the Evil Farmers (Mark 12:1-12)  
Realizing how much the man understood, [Yeshua] said to him, “You are not far from the Kingdom of God.”  (Mark 12:34)  
And [Yeshua] said to them, “This is my blood, which confirms the covenant between God and his people.  It is poured out as a sacrifice for many.  I tell you the truth, I will not drink wine again until the day I drink it new in the Kingdom of God.” (Mark 14:24-25)                      
“Beware of false prophets…” (Matt 7:15-16)  

“You hypocrites!  Isaiah was and right when he prophesied about you, for he wrote… (Mark 7:6-23)  

Watch out!  Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and of Herod.” (Mark 8:15)  

Jesus turned around and looked at His disciples, then reprimanded Peter, “Get away from me, Satan!” he said.  You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, not from God’s.” (Mark 8:33)  
Later the leaders sent some Pharisees and supporters of Herod to trap [Yeshua] into saying something for which he could be arrested…. “Should we pay taxes to Caesar or not?  Should we pay them or shouldn’t we?”  [Yeshua] saw through their hypocrisy and said, “Why are you trying to trap me?  Show me a Roman coin, and I’ll tell you.” When the handed it to him, he asked, “Whose picture and title are stamped on it?’ “Caesar’s,” they replied. “Well then,” [Yeshua] said, “give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and give to God what belongs to God.”  (Mark 12:13-17)  
[Yeshua] also taught: “Beware of these teachers of religious law!  For they like to parade around in flowing robes and receive respectful greetings as they walk in the marketplaces.   And how they love the seats of honor in the synagogues and the head table at banquets.  Yet, they shamelessly cheat widows out of their property and then pretend to be pious by making long prayers in public.  Because of this, they will be more severely punished.” (Mark 12:38-40)    
Kingdom of Heaven vs. Earthly Governments

As we can clearly see, Yeshua’s main focus was on the Kingdom of Heaven.  Did He make a difference in the physical realm?  Of course!  He healed the sick, raised the dead, fed the hungry and taught the crowds.  However, He did not try to change the current governments nor did He get caught up in political arguments.  His focus was on the Kingdom of Heaven.  He did and spoke only what He saw His Father doing and saying.  He submitted Himself to the guidance and power of the Holy Spirit.  Jesus gave them this answer: “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. (John 5:19 NIV). Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness. (Luke 4:1 NIV).   “But if it is by the Spirit of God that I drive out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.” (Matt 12:28 NIV):

Yeshua did not get caught up local politics with one exception (Matt. 25-15-22; Mark 12:13-17; Luke 20:20-26).  He frequently admonished and confronted the Jewish leaders because they were disqualifying themselves from the Kingdom of Heaven and they were leading many others to follow suit.  Still, His focus was on building the Kingdom of Heaven.  Many of His followers turned away from Him because they wanted Him to address the issue of Roman subjection.  Actually, He did address the issues of bondage, oppression, cruelty and many other things in His work on the cross and in His resurrection.  But He was going to the source of the problem and the source had its roots in the spiritual realm.  Although He did something physical when He suffered beatings, mocking, and crucifixion, He was addressing a spiritual matter.  Many followers had left Him because He would not take a stand against the Romans.

Instead, He was taking a stand against the evil behind the Romans’ sinfulness and the sinfulness of the whole world.

Our first response to any threat in the physical realm should be seeking the guidance of the Holy Spirit.  He will show you the spiritual root and help you address the problem at that level.  When we get to the source of the problem, we can truly see everlasting results.  When we address only the physical realm, we apply a bandage to a wound that continues to fester.

The bandage will hide the wound, but the wound will still be around, just under the surface.  When we focus on problems, they are magnified.  When we focus on Yehovah, He is magnified. If we keep our focus on Yehovah and seek His kingdom and His ways, then we have His shalom that passes all understanding. “Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need” (Matthew 6:33).  If we focus on Yehovah and His Kingdom of Heaven, we learn to address the fear, unrest and division that is so prevalent in the physical realm by confronting the source of this ungodliness in the spiritual realm.  We will become peacemakers.  “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God” (Matt 5:9 NIV).

Which Law?

Not everyone who says to meThis article is the final of three articles in a series entitled “Living Kingdom”.  We will examine the importance of choosing to abide by YHVH’s commands as we consider the choices of individuals in Scripture.  The Good News (Gospel) is about YHVH’s kingdom.  Salvation is necessary for Kingdom Living, but it is a part of the process, not the goal.  We face the same challenges as the Israelites:  recognizing and obeying our King. 

Yeshua said, “If you love Me, obey My commandments” (John 14:15).  Misinformation abounds among present-day followers of Yeshua concerning what Yeshua meant by “commandments”.  It is time to clear away the cobwebs of lies and confusion that impede us from all that YHVH intends for us.

Sha’ul (Paul) discusses more than one type of law even though many Bible translations speak of all types as just “law”.  Sha’ul is talking mainly to Gentiles who were involved in pagan worship and were heavily influenced by the law of hasatan (Satan).  Sha’ul pointed out that they had been released from the law of sin and death and were now free to pursue the law of YHVH which leads to freedom and life.  It is helpful for us to use a translation that clearly distinguishes the different types of law, so all Scripture quoted in this article will be taken from New Living Translation (NLT).

In Deuteronomy 30:19-20, YHVH clearly points out that we have two choices.  “Today I have given you the choice between life and death, between blessings and curses. Now I call on heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Oh, that you would choose life, so that you and your descendants might live!   You can make this choice by loving [YHVH] your God, obeying him, and committing yourself firmly to him. This is the key to your life.…”  The Israelites had lived in a pagan culture (Egypt) for over 400 years.  The choices given here were between YHVH’s law or hasatan’s law.  We all live in a world that has been influenced by the values of hasatan’s law which are sometimes called “worldly ways” or “living in the flesh”.

In the first chapter of Romans (1:18-32), we find mention of the two types of law.  First there is the law and order of YHVH expressed through His creation: They know the truth about God because he has made it obvious to them.  For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God (v 18-20).  YHVH’s ways are evident throughout creation, but He has also given us His law in written form (Scripture) and has written it on our hearts.  The opposite of YHVH’s law, satanic law, is graphically described in verses 28-32:  Since they thought it foolish to acknowledge God, he abandoned them to their foolish thinking and let them do things that should never be done. Their lives became full of every kind of wickedness, sin, greed, hate, envy, murder, quarreling, deception, malicious behavior, and gossip.…  They know God’s justice requires that those who do these things deserve to die, yet they do them anyway. Worse yet, they encourage others to do them, too.  If hasatan had his way, this is the only law any of us would know.  Therefore, he has worked throughout history to obscure and misconstrue YHVH’s law.

There has been confusion about the law since the time of the apostles.  First, some Jewish leaders were adding pre-requisites before receiving salvation.  We are rescued (salvation) from the dominion of hasatan through faith and even that faith is a gift from YHVH (Eph. 2:8).   Second, Constantine, in an effort to unite his empire, combined the sacred with the pagan and forbade keeping Torah under pain of death, thus distorting the Sabbaths and replacing the appointed times of YHVH.  Later, in the time of Martin Luther, grace was misconstrued as being the opposite of keeping law.

One dangerous heresy that has resulted today is the widespread belief that Yeshua’s followers are no longer under any type of law.  Grace reconciles us to YHVH and keeps us in relationship with YHVH when we transgress while unlearning hasatan’s ways and learning YHVH’s ways.  Grace is not a replacement for obedience to YHVH’s laws but rather the application of the atonement and covering of Yeshua when we repent of our sin.

Another myth today is that the laws of YHVH are too difficult to keep and therefore YHVH has done away with them.  There are 613 laws in the Torah and no one person is accountable for all of them.  Some are for priests only, others just for men, some for women only, and so on.  There are actually 1,050 commands in the New Testament!

Adam and Eve were influenced by hasatan and sinned against YHVH, subjecting themselves to hasatan.  Until hasatan distracted and confused them, they were capable of keeping YHVH’s law.  Now, we who are born under the dominion and influence of hasatan, struggle to keep YHVH’s law on our own.  Therefore, through Yeshua’s covering and the empowerment of the Holy Spirit we can maintain our relationship with YHVH while we are being perfected.  For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him (Phil 2:13).

Yeshua rebuked the Scribes and Pharisees for their false teachings and actions.  Under the guise of keeping Torah, the Pharisees were more often keeping their own man-made laws (Matt 23:15-30).  hhhahasMan-made law is the distortion of YHVH’s law thanks to humans who have disobeyed by adding to or subtracting from YHVH’s law (Deut 4:2).  Man-made law is actually satanic law in another guise.

Salvation is not a one-time event, but a process.  Dear friends, you always followed my instructions when I was with you. And now that I am away, it is even more important. Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear (Phil 2:12).  YHVH has not changed, neither has His law nor His expectations of us.

Law-Abiding Citizens?

Not everyone who says to meThis article is the first of three articles in a series entitled “Living Kingdom”.  We will examine the importance of choosing to abide by YHVH’s commands as we consider the choices of individuals in Scripture.  The Good News (Gospel) is about YHVH’s kingdom.  Salvation is necessary for Kingdom Living, but it is a part of the process, not the goal.  We face the same challenges as the Israelites:  recognizing and obeying our King.     

Since the time of Martin Luther, much emphasis has been put on salvation through Yeshua as a gift of YHVH’s grace and not something we merit.  This is true, but it is only a part of the truth.  Yeshua taught about salvation and stressed that reunification with YHVH was possible only through Yeshua Himself.  However, the majority of Yeshua’s teaching focused on how to live in the Kingdom of YHVH (Matt 5-7; 16:19, 18:3, 29-30, 19:23).  Salvation supplies us citizenship in YHVH’s kingdom, but as citizens we must abide by the rules and regulations of our King.  Citizens and visitors in all countries on earth are required to obey the rules of the country where they reside or visit.  What are the consequences of ignoring YHVH’s teaching and commandments?  What are the rewards?  Two books of Scripture (Judges and Ruth) present vivid pictures of the two choices and their consequences.  As we review the stories in these two books, let us look for insights into kingdom living and see how the Body of Messiah measures up.

The Book of Judges provides examples of those who made it to the Promised Land but who failed to follow YHVH’s explicit commands (Judges 2:10).  Let us begin with the story of Micah (chapter 17).  Micah stole 1100 silver pieces from his mother (violating Ex 20: 12, 15).  He overheard his mother putting a curse on the thief.  Micah confessed his sin and returned the money.  His mother used part of the money to “honor” YHVH by creating some idols.  Mixing pagan with sacred and is strictly forbidden by YHVH (Ex 20:3-5).   Micah hired a Levite to serve as a priest in his home.  Levites were to serve YHVH in the Tabernacle, not in individual homes (Num 18:1-2).  How do these choices compare to the development of the Body of Messiah? The church early on mixed pagan with sacred (Christmas and Easter replacing the seven feasts of YHVH), misappropriated funds (selling indulgences and relics), provided idols (statues), and created roles for “priests” that YHVH never authorized.  These practices continue today.  Corruption spreads quickly but is not easily eradicated.  Over time, the Israelites’ disobedience led to their expulsion from the land.  What will be the consequence of our continued disobedience in the kingdom of YHVH?

Next,  the tribe of Dan discovered Micah’s evil setup (Judges 18).  They not only failed to root out the evil, but they stole the idols and the Levite “priest” from Micah thus spreading evil throughout an entire tribe.   Even though YHVH raised up various judges to lead the people, their influence was short-lived.  Strong godly leaders have arisen throughout the history of Christianity.  Revivals have come and gone. Leaders can inspire, exhort and teach, but we make our own choices.  Each person is responsible for establishing and maintaining a relationship with YHVH by loving Him and obeying Him.  We are also responsible for exhorting each other in the Body of Messiah (Col 3:12-17) and rooting out evil from our midst.  Each of us will appear before the Judge (Matt 7:21-23).

Finally, there is the tragic tale of the Levite and his concubine (Judges 19).  The Levite not only failed to protect his concubine, but he used her as a human shield to protect himself.  At that time travel in the Promised Land was no safer than in foreign lands (Judges 19:12).  Israel finally addressed the situation by almost eliminating an entire tribe, not to mention the loss of life in the other tribes.  The first two days Israel fought with the tribe of Benjamin (where the rape and murder had taken place), the other tribes suffered heavy losses.  Was this perhaps punishment for not purging evil from their midst earlier?  On the third day, the tribe of Benjamin was defeated and almost totally destroyed.   A lot of people were killed, but was the evil eradicated?  Being a member of a particular congregation or denomination in the Body of Messiah does not guarantee that we will be righteous before the Judge.  The many incidences of corruption, immorality, etc. within the Body of Messiah today bear witness to our failure to purge evil from our midst.  How many people have sought to know Yeshua and His Father within the Body of Messiah only to be discouraged or even destroyed?  What are we doing to purge evil from our midst?

The book of Ruth provides strong examples of Kingdom of heaven living. Ruth, Naomi and Boaz lived during the same time period as the book of Judges, but their choices brought blessings to themselves and others.  They represent the remnant, those in each generation who truly follow YHVH’s ways, the few chosen from among the many who are called (Matt 22:14).  The climax of the story takes place in the springtime during the barley harvest, the time of Pesach.  Boaz not only followed Torah (Lev 23:22) by allowing Ruth, a poor foreigner, to glean from his fields, but he provided protection and advice for her, unlike the Levite did for his concubine.  We are to welcome the “foreigners” to our faith who seek to know, love and serve YHVH.  We are called to make disciples of them, providing advice, mentoring and protection, not bias and judgment.  Ruth wholeheartedly sought to serve YHVH and her new family.  She was willing to follow the advice of both Naomi and Boaz.  We have much to learn from each other.  Are we proud and obstinate or humble and yielding?  Boaz followed the commandments of YHVH in offering to the kinsman redeemer first in line the opportunity to do his duty.  When the first kinsman redeemer refused, Boaz assumed his assigned duty.  Ruth and Boaz were harvesting barley; we are to harvest souls.  (John 4:35-36).  While bloodlines are important and respected by YHVH, they are no guarantee for eternity.  Neither is the fact that we claim to accept Yeshua as our Savior.  The litmus test for all of us is faithfulness to YHVH and His Torah.

The prevailing excuse given in Judges is that Israel had no king.  Actually, they did have a King who is Spirit, but they failed to recognize Him.  He later came to earth as a human and many still failed to recognize Him.  Our King, who is both YHVH and human resides in heaven, but also in our hearts.  Do we recognize Him as King?  Do we follow His commands?