The kingdom of heaven has come


  • Mark 1: 14-20 

…after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”

In the first three Sundays of 2018, we have studied two events of Jesus’ early ministry:

  1. his baptism by John;
  2. the calling of Philip & Nathanael/Bartholomew of “Follow me”

Today we read of John’s arrest, of the calling of Simon (who we know as Peter) and his brother Andrew, fishermen of Galilee, and also of the brothers James and John, but most importantly we read that Jesus continues to preach “the kingdom of God has come near, repent and believe in the good news”.

I’m not going to go back into discussing this morning repentance, because I hope that you have already understood the concept of change of lifestyle that is required with repentance.  It’s not just a simple “I’m sorry”, but rather a fundamental change in the way we think, speak and act.  Repentance is not “going on a diet”: repentance is choosing to live a new healthy lifestyle in which you are active, exercising and eating healthy as a way of life, for the rest of your life.

So, today, I ask what does this mean “the kingdom of God has come near”? Broadly speaking, the kingdom of God is the rule of the eternal, sovereign God over all the universe. But that’s not all that it is. One writer says that God’s kingdom is simply this: Jesus present among us.  Jesus came and preached this good news:  ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you’ (Lk 10:9). ‘ The kingdom of God has come to you’; ‘the kingdom of God is among you’ (Lk 17:21).

God himself (not the throne room with the angels and cherubim and their harps and songs, but God) has come into the midst of God’s people.  ‘The kingdom of God’ was the Jewish people’s way of saying that God acted for their sake, on their behalf, freeing the people from every form of slavery and evil, guiding them to justice and peace, flooding them with joy and good things. And so, Jesus came, healing the sick, making the lame to walk again, causing the blind to see, preaching a repentance and “go and sin no more”.

If we look at the world around us, just at Panama City, do we feel like it is dominated by corruption, evil and that the violence is a normal way of life.  Do we feel at the mercy of gangs, corrupt police, corrupt government officials, wondering when justice will be done and flood down on this country like rivers of living water?  Do we feel like there is even impotence to change matters personally when others have personal agendas and plans that are not Godly?  Jesus responds: “the kingdom of God has come near“.  These verses invite us to believe that God, right now, is conquering these evil actions and intentions and is establishing a peace that surpasses all human understanding.

Colossians 1: 27 reminds us:

the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. 

Christ is in you! This is the hope of glory: God is with us. That God’s kingdom is “at hand”, it has already “come”. This Good News is not that we, as Christians, will have eternal life and go to heaven, although there is that too!  This Good News has everything to do with this life. God was beginning to reign on earth in a new way, in fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy. This new way is Christ in you!

But, what do we have to do? Live our lives Act in such a way as to have him always in our midst. And how do we do that? Well, as Jesus said in Mark 1: we repent and believe the good news. Then we go forth, and “sin no more”. But, in what practical ways can you experience God’s reign in your life? What would it mean for you to recognize God’s purpose and plan for you, living your very best life and best self, when you’re at work? at school? at church? at a family reunion?

I think this starts with humility: accepting the sanctuary and purpose of God requires humility. It means accepting that we don’t know it all. It means that we accept God’s purpose and plan for our lives, which may be different from the purpose and plan we had.  The “Supreme Being” of God is all knowledge, all wisdom, all seeing, everywhere, at all times, and yet, each of us is called to an innate relationship. In order to regain our lost relationship with God, our approach must come with humility, because we were the ones who decided to separate ourselves from God.

Many see this as the “original sin” – a decision to separate from our Oneness with God, and now we each have a constant struggle to rebuild, each day by every choice we make, living with the kingdom of God in our hearts.  We no longer live in the garden of Eden, where we walk and talk with God constantly and easily, but rather living separately and alone.  But Jesus came to preach the Good News: the kingdom of heaven is at hand, it has come!

This week I read:

The true meaning of “for the kingdom of heaven is near” is that each of us can gain the sanctuary of God – the refuge of God – immediately by simply turning to the Supreme Being – by worshiping Him and relying upon Him – and dismissing ourselves (“repenting”) from our search for happiness in a materialistic world of emptiness and physical gratification.

But many of us struggle to live with this mystery, Christ in you, the hope of glory.  We live under a false sense of entrapment, focused only on the material world, controlled by our fears, rather than seeing the presence of God in our lives.  How much time do we spend caught up in fear and worry? And rather than living a powerful life, in which we have clear priorities, motivation and actions, we live timidly.  The kingdom of heaven has come: Has it come in your life? Is it reflected in the decisions you make? Have you let go of fear, blame and guilt – to live in the freedom of Christ in you, the hope of glory?

“The kingdom of God does not come with observation; nor will they say, ‘See here!’ or ‘See there!’
For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you.” (Luke 17:20-21 NKJV)

The call from Jesus and John for repentance was a call to take off the old and put on the new. And part of that is a call to take off our ego and replace it with a humble, pure heart.  When our ego is out of control, we are trapped by it. Our ego insists that we are “right”, that our way of viewing the situation is the only way and that every other way is therefore “wrong”. Our ego leads us to believe we are superior to others: better educated, more prepared, more deserving. Our ego leads us to be greedy – we never have enough. Our ego leads us to be envious: instead of being happy and grateful when another succeeds, we are resentful and want to pull them back down to our own level.  Our ego tells us that everything is about me: it becomes obnoxious, rude and annoying.

The ego gives a grandiose sense of self-importance and expects others to see this at all times. Our ego exaggerates talents and achievements: constantly comparing ourselves to others, craving respect and recognition. And from here, our ego takes us to being self-serving and self-centered. Favours that we do for others are all transactional: what is in this for me? This, in turn, becomes manipulation and pulling strings.

But Jesus calls us: repent, take off that mask so that you can see life through a crystal clear lens, and allow God to live within you. Take out the ego, and make room for Divine Purpose in your life.  Jesus calls each of us “follow me“, and to each of us Jesus says: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”

As we leave church today, what practical ways can you experience Divine Purpose leading your life? What would it mean for you to recognize God’s purpose and plan for you, living your very best life and best self, when you’re at work? at school? at church? at a family reunion? That is a question each one of us has to respond, because our hope of glory is that Christ is in each one us.

bodies, members, Lord, spirit, Holy Spirit, follow me, Divine Purpose, purpose, passion, calling, practicing Presence, Shekinah, follow, Samuel, Corinthians, Paul, John, leave, release, let go, Philip, leave behind,

Follow me!


  • 1 Samuel 3: 1-20
  • 1 Corinthians 6: 12-20
  • John 1: 43-51

Follow Me! Leave everything that you have and that you are doing, and follow me.

I want you to imagine, for just a minute, that instead of Philip & Nathanael, that Jesus had called you that day in Galilee.
What would you be leaving behind today?

  • Your house?
  • Your car?
  • Your job?
  • Your pension plan?
  • Your security?
  • Your family?
  • Your spouse?
  • Your children?
  • Your pets?

If Jesus came to Panama City today, would you say yes like Philip & Nathanael?  What scares you the most about this imaginary call this morning?

Follow me!

But you have been called and chosen. Each of us has, with a purpose and a part to play, a job to do.  1 Corinthians 6: 15 says:

6:15 Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ?

Every one of us here today is a member of this calling. And in verses 17 and 19 we read:

6:17 But anyone united to the Lord becomes one spirit with him.
6:19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own?

Jesus calls to us: “Follow me”, the very same way that God called Samuel (by name), and Samuel responded “Here I am”.

We are already two weeks into 2018, and I would ask this morning: what have you been called to do or become this year? What is Divine Purpose pushing you towards?  Most people are more driven by purpose or passion than they actually are by money: how does your calling or purpose define the way you are living your life in 2018? How much time have you spent in these weeks asking yourself: What does “Thy Will be done” mean in my life for 2018? What does “Thy will be done” mean spiritually in your life – what are you called to improve, what are you called to change, what are you called to release and let go of? What does “Thy will be done” mean professionally in your life? What does it mean in your family life?  What does “Thy will be done” mean with respect to your health and fitness? When you look at your Vision Board, what stands out as needing you to change or sacrifice? What are you doing with your time that is important?

Prior to His crucifixion, Jesus prayed to His Father about the great trial He would face. Knowing the pain He would soon experience,

“He went away again the second time, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, thy will be done” (Matthew 26:42, KJV).

In this case, even though Jesus would have preferred not to have suffered as He did, we see him submitting to this purpose in spite of the personal cost. He accepted that his calling involved a pain that perhaps he could not and should not avoid.

But for most of us, the pain of “Thy will be done” is much less and more mundane.  Following Jesus, accepting our calling, and carrying our cross means that we leave aside things we enjoy because we know that they are not helping us grow and become more like Christ. We leave aside ways of life that restrict our spiritual consciousness, and we practice new habits that draw us closer to knowing the Kingdom of God. But I discovered something last year: Purpose (knowing what you are meant to do on this earth) PLUS daily action = Purposeful life! Yes, they are small steps taken each day. Sometimes mundane, like playing scales when you are learning to play a new musical instrument. But because we have the passion of knowing where this is leading, we say “this is the Way“.


How are you investing your time to become more like Christ each day? Are you spending more time in prayer, meditation, learning, or simply just sitting in God’s presence in silence listening to that still small voice? Are you pausing before you walk into each room or your office, allowing God to go before you? Are you pausing when you need to have a difficult conversation and allowing Spirit to guide your words?

“Thy will be done” means that we ask God to handle each situation as God sees best: but it means more than that! I means I am willing to be transformed, by the renewing of my mind, to become the person that is the best version of me that God envisioned.  “Thy will be done” means that  we are aligning our will with God’s will, we are submitting ourselves to this Divine Will and Purpose; it is a request to God that we might do what is pleasing to God, a request for the grace that we need and the insight to know what that will is, and an obedient heart to actually do it.

Follow me.

Have you ever thought, as we pray, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven,”

“What might happen if I really prayed and meant it, ‘Thy will be done’

When we pray, “Thy will be done,” it implies that we’re asking God to overrule our will if it’s not the same as His, and that’s tough. That’s tough to pray because we’re born wanting our way, wanting our will.  (

But Jesus calls us: “Follow me.”  This is a call to change your way of life, not just a call to come to church on Sundays. We are all born with a deep and meaningful purpose that we have to discover. Your purpose is not something you need to makeup; it’s already there. You know – either consciously or subconsciously – what you are meant to do on this earth.

Thy will be done is a conscious decision to fight for what is right, to not only submit passively to God’s will, but to rise to the challenge of doing what is right and good. It’s the challenge to be in the right place, at the right time, and do what we are asked to do by the Spirit.

In Acts 8, verses 26 to 40, we find Philip speaking with the Ethiopian eunuch. We are told that this eunuch was very important: “a court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of all her treasure.” An angel told Philip which road to go to, and when he got there the spirit of God told him “that person” and Philip risked himself to go and join the eunuch in his chariot.  “And when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord carried Philip away, and the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing.” Jesus called Philip “Follow me.” and in the same way, you are called “Follow me”.

When we are following Jesus, and we assert “Thy will be done” – this may be a request for discernment, for guidance, for insight.  It may be looking at a financial decision or how to act in a relationship, and knowing that the right and correct thing to do is difficult, saying “Thy will be done” and taking the high road. Doing what is hard and difficult in spite of the emotional cost.  Taking courage in the knowledge that this is right.

Jesus calls us “follow me” and we have to count the cost of doing this.  We read in Luke 14, verses 26 to 33:

26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. 27 Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. 28 For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? 29 Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, 30 saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ 31 Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? 32 And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. 33 So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.

I started this sermon this morning asking:

I want you to imagine, for just a minute, that instead of Philip & Nathanael, that Jesus had called you that day in Galilee.
What would you be leaving behind today?

  • Your house?
  • Your car?
  • Your job?
  • Your pension plan?
  • Your security?
  • Your family?
  • Your spouse?
  • Your children?
  • Your pets?

If Jesus came to Panama City today, would you say yes like Philip & Nathanael?  What scares you the most about this imaginary call this morning?

In 2018, what does “follow me” mean for your life? As you work on your goals and purpose, what areas of your life need to reflect growth and maturity? What changes do you foresee and what habits do you leave behind in the past because they no longer serve you or your life purpose? Jesus calls in 2018: Follow me.

practicing presence, light, God, Presence, present, light house, beacon, Spirit, baptism, baptized, baptizer, Holy Spirit

Let there be Light!


  • Genesis 1: 2-3

…And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.

  • Mark 1:4-11

4 John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.  … 8 I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
9  In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove.

Another version that I read of Mark 1, verse 4 says:

“So, John the Baptizer appeared in the wilderness, calling for baptism and a change of heart that lead to forgiveness of sins.”

  • Acts 19:1-7

And when Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them

Without the power of the Spirit, there is no light! And without repentance – in other words, “a change of heart”, there is no filling by the Spirit!

I want us to consider two definitions for repentance: first the definition provided by Marcus Borg:  repentance is not how we understand the word now (repentance from sins), but rather a “return from exile”.  To repent is to enter the kingdom of God: we die to the old way of being and we are “born again” into a new way of being.  Matthew uses this same opening: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” So once again, we have this message that our relationship with God is changing: God is near to us (not far away) and that we simply have to turn around and return from exile (separation). But this goes hand in hand with the idea of repentance from sins, if we look at it in the following sense.

Repentance is more than simply asking for forgiveness or confessing that we have done something wrong and saying sorry. I read this morning

Saying “I’m sorry” is something anyone can do. Sorry doesn’t require change, only an acknowledgement that you messed up. Sorry is a way out of a problem, not the beginning of a new path.  …Simply saying “I’m sorry” allows that a problem exists, but does nothing to bring about a genuine change of heart.

The idea of metanoia, which has been translated as repentance, is one of admission to God of our deep sorrow for the pain and hurt caused by our actions and sins, and a resolve to change our way of being and life to act correctly in the future.  It is adopting a new way of life, a new way of being.

A little bit like trying to lose weight and get fit, as many of us do at the beginning of every year: but the reality is that it isn’t enough to go on a diet. We need to change our lifestyle and adopt a new lifestyle that allows us to be healthy and fit. It is a complete changing of our ways: adopting new eating habits, adopting a new morning routine, perhaps starting each morning with warm lemon water.  And the first weeks and months of this new way of life are a struggle: you feel like you are on a diet, rather than adopting a new lifestyle.  But you also are aware that if you go back to your “normal habits” you will go back to that weight and that body that you were trying to improve.

David admits: He  struggles with addiction. He is determined to beat his habit but gives in, feels bad, intends to make a change, but ends up slipping time and again. When he does, it deeply hurts his wife and children. He sees the pain in their faces and feels bad that he has hurt them. David is remorseful but not repentant.

Regret and remorse have consequences, but do not necessarily address the wrong-doing of those consequences. People get caught and can feel remorse because there are consequences to their actions. For example, you can speed down the highway, get caught and feel remorse. But you may not feel repentant over the speeding. You have remorse because you received a ticket. The ticket temporarily slows you down, but eventually you creep back up to that speeding level.

Repentance would be sticking to the speed limit, rather than speeding. Repentance for alcoholism is getting into rehab, and then once out changing the lifestyle he has so that he has more human connection and less need to give into the addiction. Repentance would be living a new way of life, in spite of his weakness and addiction.

The same is true spiritually for us. It is not enough for us to be sorry or feel guilty for our sins. This feeling of guilt or remorse achieves nothing for us! Being sorry or feeling remorse is not enough either. To repent is not simply an emotional act, but rather requires a change of moral purpose, and requires regret of the past and pursuit of a new direction.

2 Corinthians 7:10 explains this as follows:

For godly sorrow produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly sorrow produces death.

The Message explains this a little better:

Distress that drives us to God does that. It turns us around. It gets us back in the way of salvation. We never regret that kind of pain. But those who let distress drive them away from God are full of regrets, end up on a deathbed of regrets.

It’s not enough to regret what you did. Repentance is about turning things around and living life a completely new way! Repentance is adopting a new way of thinking, it is a change of mind, transformation of your mind and thoughts, deciding to live your life with a new purpose.  It is interesting that baptism is an immersion to complete saturation: it can just as well be immersion in a transformed mind and way of thinking, and not simply immersion in water.  Water is simply symbolic of this immersion to change.  The purpose of baptism by John was repentance: to bring about a change of mind, a change of way of being.  The water baptism symbolizes a cleansing process, the letting go of the old way of being.

The fundamental idea with this repentance is not sorrow or remorse: it is change. But profound and deep change: not just a change superficially of our actions to follow the rules, but rather as Jesus taught us, a profound change of being.  There’s a reason that Jesus spoke of forgiveness being not 7 times, but rather 7 times 70 (7X70) times (490) – because you need to be sorry and forgive yourself this many times in order to truly change your way of thinking and being regarding a certain situation or action.  This repentance is the first step in the realization of Truth and knowing God. The Word (Jesus) dissolves, breaks up and washes away all thoughts of the material world.  And it leaves us as spiritual beings that need and hunger to be connected with Spirit.

We all want light in our lives, we all know that Christ is the Way, the Truth and the Light. We all know that after the baptism of repentance, we make room for the baptism of Spirit. But are you willing to pay the cost for this power and light – filling of the Spirit?

What am I talking about? Why am I talking about paying the cost? Isn’t this a free gift? Yes, the indwelling Spirit of God is a gift: but throughout the Gospels, Jesus would say to the sick or the blind or the lepers that he healed: “Go and sin no more.” The healing that took place was a physical and spiritual healing: and this required a new way of life and being! And you: have you had this transformation? Are you working out your salvation with fear and trembling?

… for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. (Philippians 2:13)

And so, we are told as children of God to do everything without grumbling, murmuring, complaining, arguing, hesitation or disputing. (Philippians 2:14) Everything. What does this “everything” refer to? God’s will and God’s work for God’s good pleasure: because it is God who works in you to will and to work.  THEN you will shine like stars, a bright light in this world, full of Spirit, and showing to all the fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, humility and self-control.

Every Christian is indwelt by the Spirit, but every Christian does not heed the direction and instruction of the Spirit in their lives. Some Christians are still caught up listening to their material needs, their fears, their ego, their selfish ways. But those guided by the Spirit can rest in the assurance that God’s good will be done. Those who are spiritual “live by the Spirit” (Gal. 5:16), that is, they walk, or live their life, in the power of the Holy Spirit.

God says in Genesis 1 –  “Let there be light” – and Jesus says to us in Matthew 5: 14

You are the light of the world.

Not Jesus – YOU! A city on a hill cannot be hidden. And if the Spirit fills you, that light cannot be hidden!  So – let your light, of a changed way of being, of thinking, of speaking, of acting be the beacon of light that draws others to God.