Monday, May 28, 2018

Expectation, Hope, Needs, Wants

Needs vs. Wants

Jesus said: "Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him." (Matthew 6:8)

In colloquial speech, we often say "need" when we really mean "want." What do you really need? An adult human needs water at least every 3 days. Most of us have enough fat storage to not need food for up to a month. We might need some clothing if we live in a cold or very sunny place, but far less than what we would need to be comfortable.

Need is not not what is required for comfort. Need is what is required for survival.

Paul understood how little we actually need. He said:
7 For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.
8 And having food and raiment let us be therewith content. (1 Timothy 6)
He elaborated:
11 Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.
12 I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.
13 I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me. (Philippians 4)
No matter what we think we need, we need very little. No matter how much we appreciate what we have in the moment, it is not guaranteed for tomorrow.

These are difficult truths to comprehend and absorb. To the degree we do not do both, we will needlessly suffer time after time as this world takes away everything we treasure, until our desires are wholly focused on what little endures eternally.

Expectation vs. Hope

The dictionary does not discriminate between the meanings of expect and hope. I will use them to describe different but related ideas. With both hope and expectation, you desire something. Both hope and desire can influence your actions. With both, you will act to improve the odds of your desire being fulfilled. In fact, you might do the same exact things in both cases.

To me, the difference lies in how you react if and when your desire is not fulfilled. When I hope for something and my desire is not fulfilled, then I go along my merry way, rejoicing that I tried my best. When I expect something and my desire is not fulfilled, I may be angry, despondent, regretful, etc.

Joy in the Journey

It turns out that most negative feelings occur when, after setting a goal, we observe or experience situations that detract from that goal. Some of these negative feelings are beneficial, because they can teach us about ourselves, others, and the world. Some of these negative feelings are not beneficial. For example, if I have set a positive goal and worked expediently towards it, but failed because of the choice of another person, should I really be upset about that?

One way to avoid these negative feelings is to avoid setting goals. Those without goals will never live as fulfilled a life as those with goals. They will merely float through life with a good deal of eventual regret for having wasted their resources.

A better way to avoid these negative feelings is to add context to your goals. While it is good to have ambitions, these must always be tempered with the understanding that, ultimately, very little is fully within your control. Therefore, everything you aim to do ought to be understood to be subject to almost infinite detours and potential roadblocks, and none of these things ought to bother you in the least when they present themselves. On the contrary, being detoured or blocked in your ambitions ought to be interpreted as just as successful an outcome as obtaining what you actually desired.

The point of your goal is not the acquisition of your goal, but your consistent exercise of godly character along the way.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

The Kingdom of God is Within You

20 And when he was demanded of the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God should come, he answered them and said, The kingdom of God cometh not with observation:
21 Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you. (Luke 17)
What does it mean that the kingdom of God is within you? What does it mean that the kingdom of God doesn't come with observation?

Far too many people, like the Pharisees, think that they access heaven by going to a place. What makes heaven heavenly isn't its location, but the internal qualities of those who inhabit it.

The kingdom of God is not a kingdom in the earthly sense. Jesus said his kingdom--the kingdom of God--is not of this world.

33 Then Pilate entered into the judgment hall again, and called Jesus, and said unto him, Art thou the King of the Jews?
 34 Jesus answered him, Sayest thou this thing of thyself, or did others tell it thee of me?
 35 Pilate answered, Am I a Jew? Thine own nation and the chief priests have delivered thee unto me: what hast thou done?
 36 Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence. (John 18)

There are two possible meanings to Jesus' comment that his kingdom is not of this world. The first is the most popular. It suggests what Jesus meant was that his kingdom is not currently on the earth, because if it were, then as a king he would have his servants fight. Since that was not happening, it meant his kingdom wasn't there yet. I reject this meaning.

Jesus meant "my kingdom is not after the type of the kingdoms of the world. If it were, I would naturally use the methods used by earthly kings to establish control, namely coercion via military might. However, my kingdom is not after the type of this world, but is after a heavenly type. Therefore, my methods are to do exactly what I am doing."

How does his kingdom work? What is God's power, really?

The Lord is the embodiment of love. He puts all things under his feet by maintaining the consistency of his character in the face of all obstacles. There is nothing in creation that can cause him to break character.

On this earth, God has given the individual the option of retreating to the island of illusion. I have the option of hiding my imperfections behind the cloak of normal life. The cracks in my character will be evident on a nearly daily basis, but I can hold the curtains pretty tightly over them most of the time. But this is no way to live.

The gospel gives us a framework to deal with the chaos that surrounds us. This is absolutely essential to keep us from going mad when the curtains are pulled back, and we suddenly realize that chaos is not a subset of our existence, but rather the order we perceive as foundational is really a small island on an infinite sea of chaos.

Jesus tried to teach his disciples how the kingdom of God works:
34 But they held their peace: for by the way they had disputed among themselves, who should be the greatest.
35 And he sat down, and called the twelve, and saith unto them, If any man desire to be first, the same shall be last of all, and servant of all. (Mark 9)
42 But Jesus called them to him, and saith unto them, Ye know that they which are accounted to rule over the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and their great ones exercise authority upon them.
43 But so shall it not be among you: but whosoever will be great among you, shall be your minister:
44 And whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all.
45 For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many. (Mark 10)
31 When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory:
 32 And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats:
 33 And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.
 34 Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:
 35 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:
 36 Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.
 37 Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?
 38 When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?
 39 Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?
 40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.
 41 Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:
 42 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink:
 43 I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not.
 44 Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee?
 45 Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me.
 46 And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal. (Matthew 25)
These are not descriptions of some pre-exaltation piety, some stooping fawning servitude prior to gaining some worldly-powerful kingdom as a reward. This IS the kingdom.

Where is the battle to obtain this kingdom? It is totally within you. Everything around you is just a means to help you see what you still have to change in yourself. The Lord says that when he appears to us, we shall be like him. This means that before that can happen, you have to change. You aren't magically changed when you die. You have to acquire his character before he comes to you. He can only reveal himself to you inasmuch as you have become like him.

Every moment of every day is a new opportunity to obtain and maintain pure love in the face of all obstacles.

When you truly believe God, you let go of all the false supports in your life. You embrace your own limitations by letting go of all pretense. You find immeasurable strength in first recognizing and then facing the darkness within yourself.

When you reconcile yourself fully to God, there is nothing left to sacrifice. It is all on the table. In becoming nothing, you discover everything. Like fossilization, everything weak and perishable within you is replaced with something strong and permanent. Your character is replaced with his. When this happens, you truly do have the kingdom of God within you. You will not overcome the entropy in this world by converting it to you, but by converting yourself to him. No matter where you are and what you are going through, your inward strength will be unconquerable, because what is inside you is he who has overcome all things. You will be one with him and he will be in you.