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The Two Kingdoms

January 4, 2020

NOT THOSE BOYS

“Dear God, please don’t send those boys to my van.” God wasn’t listening, I concluded.

Several times a year the school devoted a day to community service. From my viewpoint, Kenny or Chris were not “service project” material. Plopping into the seats Chris complained, “Where are we going?”

Kenny chimed in, “Why do we have to do this?”

Although I wanted to say something else I calmly replied, “We’re going to work at the battered women’s shelter.”

“Work?” Kenny snorted. “I didn’t even sign up for this. I think it is stupid!”

It occurred to me that God was not answering my prayer. We arrived at the shelter and I met the director while the boys waited anxiously in the van.

“We really need help planting flowers and playing with the kids while the women go to a group session.” She peered into the van and asked nervously, “Can your team do that for us?”

Team? I thought. The two stringy-haired, saggy-dressed teenagers that were half asleep in the van were anything but a team.

“Come on, gentlemen,” I exaggerated. “I’m going to paint. Kenny, you are going to play with the kids. And Chris, you are going to plant the flowers.”

I prayed one final prayer for God to stop punishing me, saying, “God, if you are there, I’m begging you . . .”

My prayer was interrupted by six screaming children running up to the van, chanting, “Duck, duck, goose!” Kenny was being pulled from the van to play a marathon of children’s games. He looked back desperately for help as his best friend watched helplessly. I smiled and waved.

Chris looked in horror at the flats of flowers that littered the sidewalk where the fertile ground waited for their arrival. After the shock wore off, he examined the site and soberly began to plant.

As we got ready to leave, children were still clinging to Kenny’s arms and legs as he dragged them laughing in the grass. Chris was washing his hands by the side of the house as the women came out of the building to a garden of flowers. I watched his eyes as he accepted their gratitude.

All three of us received a passport to another world that morning.

It occurred to me that being self-absorbed has many faces.

I thanked God for not answering my prayer.—Pastor Troy

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Sabbath

FOR STUDY

Memory Text: “You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4, NKJV).

Our Beliefs, no. 11, Growing in Christ: “No longer do we live in the darkness, fear of evil powers, ignorance, and meaninglessness of our former way of life. . . . As we give ourselves in loving service to those around us and in witnessing to His salvation, His constant presence with us through the Spirit transforms every moment and every task into a spiritual experience.”

Ellen G. White, Thoughts From the Mount of Blessing, pp. 19, 20

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Sunday

RESPONDING

Read James 2:5.

Imagine it’s your first day at high school. There are a few people you recognize but many you don’t. You start watching to see which kids hang out together. Which groups would you try to make friends with? Which groups would you feel uncomfortable to be a part of? How is the group you would like to join different from the ones you would not like to join? Why do you think you are making the choice you are?

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Monday

BIBLE ANSWERS ON GROWING IN CHRIST

Read Psalm 23:4; Galatians 5:22-25; 2 Peter 3:18.

No matter where we are or what our circumstances are, God is with us. When we trust Him, we do not have to be afraid of anything in this world. As we learn more about Jesus and His love, the Holy Spirit helps us to grow more like Jesus—becoming aware and showing compassion to those who are hurting around us.

How can I reflect the loving kingdom of God in my life?

Unscramble the words and use them to fill in the following blanks.

baougdinn
trooed
hdtelsaseib
sJues
drceeiev
erehfetor
ganskivghint
ihrCst

“As you have the Lord, so walk in Him, and built up in Him and in the faith, as you have been taught, in it with” (Colossians 2:6, 7, NKJV).

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Tuesday

REFLECTING

Read John 16:33.

The whole idea of a “kingdom” may seem unreal today. But even though God’s kingdom isn’t something you can touch with your hands, it is real. Jesus would even say it is more real than the world you are living in. The freedom you feel when you forgive someone is real. The joy people feel when they devote their whole lives to service is real. That’s what makes the kingdom of God real.

Just look at the “real” world around you. Depression is common. Suicide is on the rise. Consider the music and movies that are popular today. Are people claiming to be happy, fulfilled, full of joy and certainty, meaning and purpose? No, a lot of them are uncertain or disappointed about life.

Citizens of God’s kingdom face many things, but always with certainty of their future. Always with the knowledge that suffering will end. Always with the joy that being of service in a forever kingdom is better than trying to be king of one that is coming to an end. Is it possible that so many people can be misled as to which kingdom is real and which kingdom is temporary? Obviously they are, and it is for that very reason that we should wear our citizenship right out where everyone can see it.

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Wednesday

BIBLE INSIGHTS

Listed below are Bible texts that talk about the lesson. Match the number with the phrase to which the Bible text belongs. You can find the various Bible versions at Biblegateway.com.

1. Psalm 32:1, 2 (NLT)
2. Proverbs 16:25 (NLT)
3. John 16:33 (NIV)
4. John 14:27 (NIV)
5. James 2:5 (NLT)
6. 1 John 2:15-17 (CEV)
7. 1 John 4:4 (NIV)

A. “Don’t love the world or anything that belongs to the world.”
B. “Oh, what joy for those whose disobedience is forgiven . . .”
C. “You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them . . .”
D. “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give . . .”
E. “There is a path before each person that . . .”
F. “Listen to me, dear brothers and sisters . . .”
G. “I have told you these things, so that . . .”

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Thursday

CONNECTING

Read 1 John 2:15-17.

Review the memory text

The desire you have for joy and happiness is there because God put it in you. Life in God’s kingdom may seem foreign now, but the more you think about it the more real it will seem. The opposite kingdom is a place where there is never mercy, only a love of power. It’s where everyone looks out for their own interests and never thinks of others. It’s a pretty scary place.

In the Beatitudes God seems to be sneaking us a peek of our future home in heaven. It is almost as if God is reminding us, “Don’t make yourself at home in this world, because your home is somewhere else.” Consider the rewards of being part of that kingdom—heirs to the King, children of an awesome Father. God wants us to experience joy more than we know, and while the path of God’s kingdom has challenges, what an adventure to be a part of such an upside-down kingdom!

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Friday

APPLYING

Read Matthew 5:3-12.

Organize the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-12) in order of their relevance to your life. On the chart below, list the three beatitudes that you want most to live by this week. In the second column, focus on a specific arena of your life (example: best friend, teacher, problems with parents, someone who hates you). You might write the name of someone to whom you need to be merciful, or in what arena of your life you want to practice purity, humility, etc. Be as specific as you can! As you practice the attitude, write in the last column your reflections on what happened and how you might continue to experience the real joy of being an agent of God’s kingdom.

Beatitude Arena of Life Reflection