1.) Biblically, I am studying “the kingdom”, “the kingdom of God”, and “the kingdom of heaven”. Acts 1:3 ignited my interest in the subject. That verse seemed to highlight what a key concept this was in Jesus’ ministry. So far, I am trying to break it down into categories including, but not limited to, what the kingdom of God is/is like (such as Romans 14:17), and conditional statements (like Matthew 5:20). I also had some curiosity about the distinction between the ‘kingdom of God’ and the ‘kingdom of heaven’. It’s not immediately obvious that there is any, but I am leaving it open to further study. The phrase ‘kingdom of heaven’ appears to be exclusive to the gospel of Matthew (again, I may be wrong, but that’s what I’ve found so far). ‘Kingdom of God’ also appears a few times in that gospel, so if a person where to study the two, I think they would have to compare the usage of each of those phrases within that gospel. Furthering the point that there might not be much of a distinction, Matthew 4:17 and Mark 1:15, as well as Matthew 18:3 and Mark 10:15 use the phrases interchangeably in the same situations. Now, I think there is some value in understanding the nuances of whether past times, present times, or future times are being referred to in any given scripture, but the reality is that all of the decisions we can make and actions we can take which can affect our eternal course are made in this present life. The really, really important part about any kingdom teaching is, (if I have the quote right), “Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” I believe that the thrust of the kingdom is for heavenly truths to be made manifest here on earth. This makes me consider Ephesians 6:12, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world-forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in heavenly places.” In walking a spiritual walk, it seems that the real battles are not around us, but above us and within each individual soul.
One other thought on this subject: The Israelites, among whom Jesus walked and taught, had been under many kingdoms. They had been under Saul, and then under David, Solomon, and others of that lineage. They had been under foreign rule by the Babylonians, the Persians, and at that time, the Romans, so to announce to them the arrival of the kingdom of God, maybe that wasn’t such an abstract concept. The surprise was the way that Kingdom was to look and function: the kingdom was to be less like a bomb dropped and more like a seed planted.
2.) I am considering moving to another state. I have been seriously considering for a few months now. I have felt a heart level push toward making those kind of changes for about two years. It’s just a matter of executing in a wise fashion. All of this was the fuel behind me writing Stretched . I need to read it again for my own sake. When asked if I have decided yet, the most honest answer is currently this: I would say that I’m seeking God, but it’s probably more accurate to say that I am simply trying to muster the resolve to either crap or get off the pot, because I don’t think that God is as worried about which way I go as I am. Just yesterday, I was at a small prayer meeting with some local brothers, (five of us altogether), and that is precisely the answer I gave when asked. One of them confirmed the sentiment expressed there with a “What’s the worst that can happen? It doesn’t work out that well and you move back, and sure there’s a little bit of a setback with time and money… but it’s not that huge.” This is coming from a guy who trusted God in a call to move to Russia and do missions work, with a wife and six children. He also emphasized how the point is not to seek God’s will in order to discern the optimum path for yourself, but to come to know God’s will because of your deep relationship with Him, more precisely, he mentioned the importance of being surrendered to God’s guidance, in all of this, citing Romans 12:1-2. I claim no expertise on that subject. He also mentioned a teaching he heard about the Bible verse, “I know the plans I have for you…” this teacher said ‘plan A, plan B, plan C…’ It’s an important thought, that God’s overall intent for you will prevail if your heart is toward Him, despite any other variable details that you as human might throw at Him. Another brother at the meeting said that it’s good to take your time in making these decisions so that you know you have peace, noting that you can reverse many courses, but it’s better to just get it right the first time. And sometimes there is a specific calling for a specific time, and I think more often, there is freedom so long as there isn’t obvious sin. This leads me to something that has really been on my mind the last couple of days: getting counsel from many sources. I know there are Proverbs about this. It’s not that you can weight all sources equally, but hear their perspective, while “considering the outcome of their way of life” (from Hebrews 13:7). God can speak through an ass (Numbers 22:21-39), be ready for that, but do consider the context of the person’s life. Are they winning in the areas of life that you value? Another consideration is that there is sometimes a link between getting advice from people you know, and getting advice that limits how you think.
3.) I want to be able to talk intelligently about the history of the Bible. For being the foundational text of the doctrines of my faith, I hear so little teaching about the process of how the 66 book text came together. No one has overtly told me that it fell from from heaven that way, but an outside spectator of the church might have reason to assume that is how we think. Divinely inspired, yes, but that inspiration was carried out through people. I think that story is important. I realize that it might be on me to write it. I also realize that the reason why I haven’t heard very much about the history is that it’s a very daunting research task.
4.) Mental health.
There is surely a spectrum of opinions in Christianity about psychological conditions, treatments and associated philosophies and worldviews. Personally, I believe that psychology, in the purest sense of the word, “the study of the soul”, has no moral value good or bad. I consider the soul, that is, the mind, will, and emotions, to be yet another marvelous set of systems of creation that are worth studying in detail.
Maybe it’s the points where psychological hypotheses stray into the philosophical and metaphysical realm that some Christians begin to have concern. Fair enough, psychology is a mixed bag in that regard.
Maybe part of the reason I have framed this in a ‘Christianity versus psychology’ way is that I have perceived pressure from the Christian side to gloss over and oversimplify issues with Bible verse quotations. Conversely, from the worldly side I feel a pressure to focus more and more on self. Also, it seems like there is an impulse to claim your victim-hood in the form of a psychological diagnosis. If not victim-hood, then simply identity. I think it can be helpful to give a name to a particular set of symptoms, just as a way of describing it or making it easier to talk about, but there’s a difference. There’s a difference between admitting a problem and cuddling with it.
I am also not saying that God’s word is ineffective, but to one who is struggling, extra effort might be required to communicate it clearly. Therefore, I think it is valuable to understand emotions, and thought, and brain chemistry; to be able to discern and really help the systems of the soul.
Finally, I will say the the ultimate cure is spiritual. However, the path from truth to experience is not often a straight one. And that’s where the call to wisdom is for Christians in this area: to help people straighten those paths.
I previously offered some thoughts on this subject in the post, Regarding Emotional Struggles