As It is in Heaven

“Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10, KJV).

This was probably the easiest part of the Lord’s Prayer for me to memorize because it rhymes, but it’s the hardest part of the prayer for me to live.

Dave mentioned a couple of options for what “Thy kingdom come” could mean in his sermon on Sunday: a reference to the Second Coming and a reference to our true citizenship being elsewhere. The way I’ve always thought of it relates to the latter, but is much more specific (and weirder, so hang with me here) way.

As we established last week, we are children of God. As children of God who exist in a world outside of that kingdom, we are ambassadors for God’s kingdom in this world. If we believe that God has called us to certain things, this means we will change part of the world through those things, and as ambassadors of God, those changes will cause the world to look more like God’s kingdom. His kingdom comes here, to Earth.

Not that this is easy. I recall being in a volunteer meeting once and Pastor Alan talking to the greeters, saying something about how a lot of people’s first impressions of God would be based on us. That all but made me sweat just thinking about it because I am not always a shining example of God’s love and grace.

So, no, people won’t always see God in us because we’re human, and there will be times that people won’t believe that we have a place in God’s kingdom or that His kingdom will come through us. So it is up to us to pray that His kingdom comes anyway, that we would not hinder it. It is up to us to seek God so much that the moments we do are fewer and farther between as we grow closer to God.

It makes sense that Jesus would follow this with asking that God’s will be done if He’s wanting Earth to look more like heaven, like God’s kingdom.

My will gets in the way. It’s self-seeking and based on how I see the world, which is a very limited view. I don’t see as God sees, so my will often hurts others as well as myself. That is not the way of heaven. God’s will is perfect and complete, even in the moments when it doesn’t feel like it, and that is heaven’s atmosphere.

Heaven is a place where everything works in harmony to glorify God. It also rests our souls. All of that is a result of God’s will, but it’s also part of life in God’s kingdom. Praying for His kingdom to come and for His will to be done means that we set ourselves up to experience part of heaven in our lives here on Earth. It brings us peace and rest, and it brings God glory, and it changes our world for the better.

The point of this part of the Lord’s Prayer is to turn our hearts and minds to God and His kingdom. That we would long for its perfection and want to bring it here. That we would strive to share it with those who don’t know it. That we wouldn’t take our positions as ambassadors lightly. That we would recognize our own faulty nature and pray prayers that overcome that nature through faith in God. Because we could all benefit from Earth being more like heaven.

By Carrie Prevette

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The Ghost

I have a habit of not expecting shows to live up to their hype and being proven wrong. Stranger Things was no exception. Everyone who had a Netflix account, it seems, was talking about it. Going into it, all I knew was that I hadn’t heard a single bad thing about it and it looked a lot like The Goonies, so I was interested.

I watched it with my brother over the course of two Sundays. We watched the first half one day and watched the second half one week later. It almost physically pained me to wait that long.

But because some people may not have watched or finished it yet, I won’t go into any details about the show. I just want to say that when Pastor Alan said he had a mini-series planned that would be using the Stranger Things font, I was immediately interested. (I’m also interested in discussing the show if someone else would like to do so.)

The truth of it is that we do treat the Holy Spirit (or the Holy Ghost, whichever you’d prefer to call it) as a stranger thing. It’s something we don’t understand, so we avoid it to the point that it becomes a little taboo in general. And I think a large part of the reason is because we have something to compare the other two parts of the Trinity to. God is an authoritative figure and a figure of power. We can all relate to that in some way, for better or for worse. Jesus is the most human component since He was actually human, and we can relate to Him the most. The Holy Spirit is abstract. We can’t put our finger on it and have nothing tangible and consistent to compare it to. It empowers us and convicts us and pushes us, and since those manifest themselves differently in each our lives, we don’t know what to make of something that does it to all of our lives equally.

The Holy Spirit is evident in both the Old Testament and the New, but for the sake of time, I want to focus on the power of the Holy Spirit because I think it’s the most prevalent quality of the Holy Spirit in our lives and one we don’t often think about.

Acts 2:41-47 (NRSV) reads, “So those who welcomed his message were baptized, and that day about three thousand persons were added. They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. Awe came upon everyone, because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles. All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.”

As we discussed last week, peace and harmony don’t happen all the time even among people who share the same belief systems. So the Holy Spirit’s power here is shown in bringing people together. I have never seen anything that so perfectly demonstrates harmony through selflessness. Not just getting along but being altogether on the same page. We don’t read that some sold their possessions and others thought they were idiots for doing so. We don’t see that one said to another, “Ew. I don’t like him, and I’m eating lunch with someone else from now on.” No, the Spirit was empowering them and enabling to look beyond themselves and strengthen other people in doing so. It empowered them to be more like God. As a result, the number of believers kept growing and growing.

And all this and other miracles being done via the apostles is equally as impressive. Don’t get me wrong; I understand and respect the role of the apostles in the history of the church and as leaders in our faith. But we know these guys. We know how much they struggled learning what Jesus was teaching them and seeking the will of God and acting in faith, and here they are performing actual miracles. It’s not on their own strength or merit; it’s a result of the Holy Spirit.

Inspiring, isn’t it? A bunch of people with no formal education and different backgrounds coming together and doing incredible things.

The crazy thing is, it’s just as available to us. The Holy Spirit can guide and lead us individually and collectively just as easily as it did those fortunate souls in Acts

“Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the discernment of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are activated by one and the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses” (1 Corinthians 12:4-11, NRSV).

The Holy Spirit gives each of us a gift and reveals to us how to use it. It is the giver and the instructor. God wouldn’t leave us hanging. He wouldn’t expect us to figure it out on our own. No, He sends a part of the Trinity, part of Himself, to help us along.

There are many gifts because there are many different kinds of people. If we are all different parts of the body, and we all have different purposes and individual relationships with God, it follows that we would have different gifts. It demonstrates the uniqueness and fairness of God as well as how beautiful and intricate His plans for each of us are.

The Holy Spirit empowers each of us in the same ways through knowing each of us intimately. It gives each of us a gift, the knowledge of how to use it, and the boldness to do so. To be an entity that we avoid, it longs to know us, to aid us in growing and knowing God better. It’s time we start seeing it as such.

By Carrie Prevette

Peacemakers

There are many dualities within the Christian faith. God gave the Mosaic laws and then provided a Way for imperfect people to stand a chance at keeping them. Jesus is both the Lion of Judah and the sacrificial lamb. Jesus is both God and man. There are faith and deeds (and navigating the true ways those two connect). Then there are the themes of war and peace throughout the scriptures and the doctrine.

For a large part of the Old Testament, people and countries go to war. Such is true of any time or tale with kings and kingdoms, but it is very evident that these wars, be it in cause or effect, are tied to God and faith.

In the New Testament, we see less physical war and more spiritual war, as is perfectly demonstrated when Paul writes of the Armor of God in Ephesians 6:10-17.

Edward Leigh Pell said, “The kingdom of Christ is a kingdom of peace, but you cannot establish a kingdom without war. And the army of Christ is still on the fighting line. The moment we enlist in His service, we find ourselves face to face with forces of evil which call for all the fighting spirit we have and more. And what we lack, He will supply.”

The kingdom of Christ is a peaceful one. One trip through the Gospels makes it very clear that Jesus promotes peace and encourages us to be peaceful.

This is reflected in what Paul writes in Titus 3:1-11.

“Remind them to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show every courtesy to everyone” (Titus 3:1-2, NRSV).

This is coming from a man who spent a fair amount of time in jail. So at the risk of people thinking Paul is being hypocritical, I want to clarify what Paul means here. He’s saying to obey laws that don’t contradict our faith and to object peacefully if the law is counter to our faith. When Paul was told by officials to stop preaching, he didn’t comply because it went against his beliefs. When he was taken to jail, he didn’t fight authorities or resist or make matters worse. He went peacefully.

Paul also says to show “every courtesy” (NRSV), “true humility” (NLT), or “perfect courtesy” (ESV) to everyone, meaning that the politeness and niceties we show should be full and consistent with everyone we meet.

Now, I work with the public, so I understand how difficult this is, but as hard as it is when there are or are not imminent consequences, we should be good and show humility for their own sakes because that’s a sign of God in our lives and because it’s worth passing such notions and actions around.

“For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, despicable, hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of any works of righteousness that we had done, but according to his mercy, through the water of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit. This Spirit he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. The saying is sure. I desire that you insist on these things, so that those who have come to believe in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works; these things are excellent and profitable to everyone” (Titus 3:3-8, NRSV).

Such a beautiful, hopeful picture. I’d say the full accuracy of it surely passes our understanding. What Paul writes here is the heart of our faith: that God is love and righteousness and that those qualities working in tandem offer all of us hope and salvation. It’s such an even playing field because none of us are good enough on our own. Not a single soul. God knows that, knows it better than anyone and loves us all anyway. Nothing I’ve done or could do is capable of earning God’s love because humanity is that sinful and because I cannot earn what’s already been freely given.

And this follows well with what Paul wrote before. By extending humility to everyone, we can better understand God’s perspective, and that can lead to seeing others as God does. Which generates empathy and love. It’s not to say that it becomes easier or that it’ll happen with everyone all the time. But it can happen, and it changes you.

“But avoid stupid controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless. After a first and second admonition, have nothing more to do with anyone who causes divisions, since you know that such a person is perverted and sinful, being self-condemned” (Titus 3:9-11).

As peaceful as the kingdom of God is, it’s not without its disagreements. The early church, consisting of people who knew Jesus personally, disagreed on certain things. There are far more Christian writings than what are included in our Bible, which I’m sure didn’t go over swimmingly with the authors of said excluded documents. So Paul is by no means dismissing the possibility or eventual reality of conflict arising between believers. He is simply saying to avoid them, and when they’re unavoidable, handle them well.

There is no way for all believers, or even all people (in a more broader perspective), to stay in harmony with all things all the time. That’s simply unrealistic. It doesn’t mean, however, that we should go looking for ways to create division or even celebrate it. To do so would not be the spirit of peace or the heart of Christ.

We may war against evils and principalities, but it doesn’t mean that we should war with each other. Jesus called the peacemakers children of God, meaning that peace is an inherent part of God’s character. Even if we can’t all agree, we can certainly all get along. We just have to be willing to try.

By Carrie Prevette

Pharisees and Tax Collectors

I remember sitting in Sunday School back home sometime around my freshman year in college. I remember talking about loving our enemies.

The teacher asked, directing the question at no one in particular, “Do you pray for your enemies?”

Immediately, a few particular people came to mind, and these people had really hurt me. (Christians who spent their time making me feel like scum and judging me for not being exactly like them.) As it turns out, I had been praying for them. I said, “Yes.”

The teacher, who has always believed me to be only a kind, lovely person, smiled and replied, “Carrie, you’re not really helping my example. When you pray for them, what do you pray?”

“I pray that they would see how wrong they are.”

Not that God would open all of our eyes and reveal His truth and His heart to us. Not that He would heal them that they may heal others and not harm them. Not that God would help them or bless them or fill their lives with hope and peace and love. None of that.

I wanted God, who can do anything, to show them that I was right and they were wrong. My prayers sounded exactly like those of a five year old.

Part of it was that I legitimately wanted them to learn that their actions were both unbiblical and hurting people. They intended to help God’s Kingdom but were actually having the opposite effect. But I think more than that, I wanted a heartfelt, genuine apology from them without having to make the first move in order to get one.

My deeper understanding of the situation and the hurt I felt led me to a place of bitterness, judgment (Isn’t that ironic?), and arrogance.

In Luke 18:9-14, we find Jesus talking to people who have rode in on their high horses. He tells them a parable of two men at the temple, one a Pharisee and one a tax collector. The Pharisee thanks God that he’s not like other people and tells God about all the things he does for Him. The tax collector, who couldn’t even bring himself to look up to heaven, asked God to be merciful to him, the sinner that he was. Jesus says in verse 14, “I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted” (NRSV).

If our prayers consist of comparing ourselves to others, they’re wrong from the start. God understands our hurt and all of the side effects of it, but it’s a different thing altogether to bring a third party into our relationship with Him.

No matter how much harm they’ve done to you, don’t look down on others; God loves them too. They’re made in His image too. Don’t judge them because they’re living their lives differently than you live yours.

It’s really a matter of getting over ourselves. We always hear about how God loves us; if He had a wallet, our pictures would be in it; if He had a fridge, our drawings and report cards would be up there for everyone to see. And it’s all true. It’s all incredibly true. But what we don’t think about is how God loves everyone that much. He loves the rude man at the DMV just as much, the stupid woman at work just as much, and the family member who is always on your case just as much. And He loves your enemies just as much as He loves you.

He doesn’t love them for the damage they do. He loves them in spite of it.

And before you get mad about it, remember that He loves you in spite of a lot of things you do. We’ve all thrown proverbial punches in our time. Remember that while it’s not fair, that we all have been thankful for how much God’s grace overrides fairness. To ask for fairness, we’d be giving up a lot that we actually want.

Your relationship with God regards only you and God. While He cares about our spats and cuts, He wants to heal and help, not play referee in the little games we create and find ourselves in. Praying for your enemies to prosper will change your outlook towards your enemy and possibly their outlook towards you. You’ll be leaving any vengeance and consequences up to God. We need to stop putting people down and stop looking down on them. Being hurt or being conceited doesn’t make someone better than anyone else.

By Carrie Prevette

Conflict and Harmony

Living in harmony is important. I believe this as a Christian, as a daughter of two hippies, and as someone who has many issues with how the world is.

I studied Native American culture and literature one semester at Western and loved it. We mostly covered the Cherokees, which isn’t all that surprising considering we were right in the middle of where they once lived. (Seriously. I walked past or had class every day by a spot that used to be an Indian mound.) I learned so much in that class, including how Native Americans value harmony.

I won’t pretend to know much about many cultures, but Native Americans are the most harmonic culture I do know. There is (and always has been) such a sense of who they are as a people, of community, of really helping each other out. It would be ignorant (and frankly, stupid) of me to tell you no two Native Americans or groups of Native Americans have ever argued or fought. I’m simply saying that they are generally unified and peaceful.

Conflict happens. It’s as simple as that. There are over seven billion people on this planet, and it’s unrealistic to expect to get along with all of them all of the time. Some people run from conflict and others live for it. It remains that you cannot avoid it sometimes regardless of how you react to it.

Not too long ago, we had a volunteer meeting at the church, and Alan told the greeters that they would be the first impression of Christ that people see when they walk in the door, and I don’t know about you, but that thought actually terrifies me. I’m far from being like Christ, and while I understand why people would base their impression of Christ off of a Christian, it seems unfair. (It reminds me of lyrics by a band I love called TEAM. “Couldn’t be like Jesus / But he tried, but he tried, but he tried, but he tried.”)

“Carrie, how am I supposed to be Christ-like if I can’t handle conflict?”

Remember that Jesus was also human and also had to deal with conflict. The Pharisees? He butted heads with them many times. The people in his hometown? The last encounter wasn’t pretty. The general population? Well, they put Him on the cross. Jesus had His share of conflict and in abundance. He couldn’t avoid it any more than you can.

We could sit here all day and discuss reasons for conflict. Jealousy, stubbornness, the inability (or rather, the lack of wanting) to see things from someone else’s perspective, and as Alan mentioned Sunday, judgment. This list will remain just that – a list – because a couple of these items are soapboxes of mine, and for all of our sakes, I’m going to choose to let them sit here without stepping up on them. I just want to acknowledge some of the reasons conflict arises in our lives and, yes, even in our churches.

We read a lot about “one mind and one accord” situations in the New Testament after Jesus’s death and the formation and growth of the Church. Because of this, it’s easy to imagine the early Church getting along perfectly. It sort of conjures images of everyone sitting in a circle singing “Kumbaya” after a job well done.

And wouldn’t that be fantastic? All of these new converts meeting and mingling with the apostles, everyone just doing their things and feeling the love of Christ.

That does sound awesome, and I wish I could tell you that’s exactly how it happened, but it’s not. That’s why those “one mind and one accord” moments are so important. The truth is there was a lot of division and conflict in the Church and in the first churches. (And as a quick word of hope, they made it through with God’s help, so we can too.)

As Paul is wrapping up his letter to the Philippians, he says in 4:2-3 (NLT), “Now I appeal to Euodia and Syntyche. Please, because you belong to the Lord, settle your disagreement. And I ask you, my true partner, to help these two women, for they worked hard with me in telling others the Good News. They worked along with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are written in the Book of Life.”

Call me nosy or invasive, but I want to know what they were fighting about. Was it a theological issue or something small that grew too big? Did Euodia want to lead the choir instead of Syntyche or did Syntyche neglect to bring refreshments to the Wednesday night service? I understand that what the argument was about isn’t the point, but I do love a good story, and I would like to know the rest of this one.

I may not know what they were fighting about, but it seems their church did. First, if it was a big enough issue to reach Paul, it probably wasn’t a secret. Second, there are a few people specifically mentioned, not just the two ladies. They don’t mean anything to me, but I’m sure they did to the church or, at the very least, to the people close to the situation.

Paul doesn’t just say, “Hey, solve this,” and end it there. He goes on (in verses 4-9 if you want to read along) to tell them to be joyful, to pray about everything, to only think of positive, praise-worthy things, and to keep doing what they know to do.

The way Paul phrases all of that is lovely (infinitely lovelier than my summation above), but he doesn’t just write these verses so that people will memorize them centuries later. Everything he mentions in those verses help resolve conflict and/or reach harmony.

Staying joyful shifts your focus and your attitude, usually causing less problems and making those around you happy as well (assuming you haven’t let the problem grow to the point that your joy actually angers others).

Praying about everything means you’ll pray about the conflict, you’ll pray for yourself and others involved in the conflict (and I’m not referring to the “God, help them all see how right I am” prayers), and you’ll ultimately arrive at God’s will.

Thinking of positive things leads to a positive and peaceful outlook. With that outlook, you’re more likely to resolve old issues and avoid new ones. After all, who wants to give up a good feeling for ugly wounds? In addition, if more people do this, there will be so much unity. Look at everything God’s people can accomplish when unified and focused on Him.

To keep doing what you know to do keeps you out of trouble and keeps you moving forward, which are both necessary when things are looking sort of down.

Paul’s methods are just as effective now as they were when Euodia and Syntyche were going at it. If you don’t believe me, try them for yourself.

If you want my advice (I don’t know why you would, but I feel compelled to give it just in case), pray about it. I cannot stress that enough. Try to see things from the other person’s perspective. (I did this recently and ended up feeling sorry for someone instead of being upset with the person.) Turn it back on yourself and figure out why you’re perceiving the situation as you are. (No one can “make” you feel anything. It’s how you take it all in.) Talk it out. (As Mrs. Reece, my sixth grade teacher, once said, “The number one problem in the world is miscommunication.”)

Is resolving conflict easy? Not always. Will talking about it be awkward? Probably. Will you feel better when it’s over? Yes.

The goal is to live in harmony. The only way to achieve that is to stop fighting. We should stop putting each other down and start holding each other up. No easy task, but a task worth trying.

By Carrie Prevette

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