Can’t See the Kingdom for Our Dreams

Thus says the LORD: “Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart turns away from the LORD.

Jeremiah 17:5

We often find ourselves inspired by the achievements of others. Famous athletes, powerful political figures, celebrities, and a host of other professionals become role models to so many who just know they can follow their dreams and become just like their heroes. But what should a Christian aspire to be in this world? A doctor, lawyer, preacher, professional athlete, president? What should Christian parents aspire for their children? How should faith shape the question of “what do you want to be when you grow up?”

How often do worldly aspirations line up with our spiritual reality as a new creation in Christ?

Can a Christian achieve prominence in their field of choice? Maybe that’s the wrong question. Can a Christian achieve prominence in their field while living their life on mission as a disciple of Christ? That’s perhaps a bit harder to answer.

Certainly, the body of Christ is full of different people from all different walks of life, skills, and talents. God works through His people in different aspects of life to be His representatives and His ambassadors.

But what if God takes a back seat as a Christian pursues their personal life goals? Even apart from a relationship with God, it’s plain to see that many families have suffered turmoil because careers, aspirations, and other commitments can lead to irreversible damage of those relationships. Isn’t it naïve to think that isn’t a risk we take in our spiritual lives? It comes down to a simple fact: we cannot serve two masters (Matthew 6:24). If our aspirations become our master, we begin to serve a god other than the Almighty, sometimes serving only ourselves.

As someone who has spent over 9 years in higher education pursuing advanced degrees and 4 years in the military, I can attest to the stress that is put on relationships, both spiritual and physical. I believe God has been with me and helped me grow throughout my life—even on the days that I barely acknowledged His existence. I also believe He gives us the freedom to choose just how many detours we want to go down during that growth process. I have no doubt He can and will use some of the roads we choose for good, even if we sometimes choose those roads for ourselves and not for Him (Romans 8:28). He has done that for me. I’ve made lifelong friends and spiritual bonds in both school and the military. I wore a uniform alongside some of the most dedicated and selfless individuals anyone could ever meet. My earthly job as a veterinarian has given me many opportunities to serve people, which I try to do with the attitude of Colossians 3:17 in mind. (I forget that truth more than I care to admit.) I even tried to shine the light of Christ while in the military, but it’s awfully easy to make an excuse as a “secret disciple” of sorts (John 19:38) and let Army policy dictate your interactions with your Soldiers.

I could have become completely consumed with my military career. I could let myself be consumed by business ownership as a veterinarian. Admittedly, I have some obsessive-compulsive tendencies, so I know I can go overboard with the attention I give to various things (like school or work).  But I recently realized that the most important aspect of my life was often not getting even close to that level of devotion. I needed to change my mindset and shift my goals. Don’t get me wrong, my current employer still gets very hard work out of me, and I do enjoy my earthly job. It’s just that I’m striving to change and improve my perspective. “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.” (Colossians 3:23-24) I work for Christ. I serve Christ in all that I do. I work so I can provide for my family, but also so I can share with others (Philippians 2:4, Ephesians 4:28). I don’t work for position, promotion, or power. I’m not interested in chasing a higher salary. If I began to seek power or influence, then it’s my own power or influence that I want to spread, not God’s. I don’t want to work in any capacity that could lead me to put the spotlight on myself. I am just a struggling Christian trying to let go of me a little more every day and cling only to God.

Now, I acknowledge and appreciate that someone has to do those very consuming jobs, hold those tough positions, and wield a particular level of power in our society. I’m thankful to have those people in our society, and I believe, especially in the case of governments and authorities, that they are appointed by God for a specific and respectable role. I’m just saying that’s not for me. I can’t and won’t say that it’s not for you. I do hope to at least encourage you, fellow Christian, to prayerfully consider whether it should be. Whatever you do, don’t do it for yourself. Let go of your “self.”

The ultimate example of letting go of self to serve God is none other than Jesus himself. He was seated in Heaven with God from the very beginning—the preeminent of all—and yet he chose to empty himself, become a servant, and voluntarily die the cruelest of deaths for you and for me (John 1:1-5, Colossians 1:15-20, Philippians 2:5-8). An example such as that simply cannot be matched by any of us. But what a standard it is (Ephesians 5:1-2). Think about it for a minute. We won’t ever earn or deserve that sacrifice—the love that was poured out for us.

Another example we can look to is that of Paul. Paul was at the height of his game in the world at one point. Just check out his resume in Philippians 3:4-6. In comparison to our day, we could think Paul’s parents were so proud of the man he became. Certainly, he would have been held up as a role model for all the young Jewish boys of his day. And even after he became a follower of Christ, we might even think that his status would provide such a great platform that he could use to reach people for Jesus. But Paul wanted nothing to do with that platform. He would even go on to become a messenger to primarily Gentiles, a group of people who would care very little of his prior position as a Pharisee. He threw all of that away. It became very clear to him that all of those things—the status, the accolades, even his race and tribe—all of that was rubbish! (Philippians 4:7-9)

Paul’s goals in his life had a drastic shift. He went from pursuing life as a zealous Pharisee with all the wealth, power, and status that came with it, to humbling himself as a servant of the same Christ he persecuted. His new goals? To “know Him and the power of His resurrection,” to “share in His sufferings” and “become like Him in His death” so that “by any means possible [he could] attain the resurrection from the dead.” (Philippians 3:10-11) Does that compute with us? His new goal for his life was to suffer and die just as his Savior did. He knew that it was “no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” (Galatians 2:20) How could he even think of boasting in his accomplishments in the flesh? No, rather he would boast in his weaknesses and his need for a savior. What a powerful truth to grasp: when we are weak, then we are strong! (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).

In 1 Corinthians 9:24-27, we read an encouragement from Paul to run the race to receive the prize. But he wasn’t referring to the rat race of this world. Far from it. We shouldn’t be chasing after a perishable wreath. No, we are living for an inheritance much more valuable than that—an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in Heaven for us (1 Peter 1:3-4).

Are we holding on to or striving for something that Paul would call rubbish? Are we letting garbage get in the way of our walk with Christ? Are we running the wrong race? What are we pursuing? Are we following our hearts or following Jesus?

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?

Jeremiah 17:9

Like Paul, Nicodemus climbed the ranks of the Pharisees. There may be only a few Scriptural references to Nicodemus, but I believe it’s more than fair to say he ultimately decided to surrender his status and reputation to become a disciple of Jesus (John 19:39). Similarly, Matthew achieved prominence in the Roman world as a tax collector. When Jesus called, Matthew threw that status away (Matthew 9:9). He voluntarily left a life of luxury, wealth, and security to follow Jesus.

I’ve got a long way to go to live this out. My spirit is willing, but my flesh is weak (Matthew 26:41). Thank you, God, that your power is made perfect in our weakness!

Blessed are the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, the persecuted (Matthew 5:3-12). Jesus came to proclaim the good news to the poor and pronounce liberty to the captives and the oppressed; give sight to the blind; and to proclaim the coming of God’s Kingdom! (Luke 4:18-19). It’s not our earthly status that Jesus came to improve. He didn’t come to help you climb the ladder to success in this world (Luke 12:15). He didn’t come to fix the world; He came to save you from it! We are not of the world any longer (John 17:16), so let’s quit looking for our identity in it. The rich young ruler that came to Jesus walked away sorrowfully when Jesus told him to separate himself from his earthly treasures (Matthew 19:16-30). The man who had a great yield of crops was more worried about his 401K of sorts rather than his eternal retirement plan (Luke 12:17-21). Even some of Jesus’ disciples came to Him celebrating that they were able to cast out demons through the Spirit, and Jesus had to redirect their focus—don’t rejoice in what you do on earth, rejoice that your name is written in Heaven! (Luke 10:17-20) Truly, where your treasure is, there your heart will be also (Matthew 6:21).

The same is true for you today, Christian. We get to be citizens in God’s Kingdom. That should be the highlight of our lives! Sure, use your talents, skills, education, etc., but never let them lead your life (1 Corinthians 7:29-31). You may be following God’s will for how you can best be on mission for His Kingdom. On the other hand, you may be chasing after garbage. Let God lead you, and you will soon find out.

My aspiration for myself, my wife, and my children: to be a servant for our Lord and His people. To be a worker in His vineyard in whatever capacity He wills. What else is there for a Christian to pursue?

Give up your own ambitions. Surrender them all to Him. Give up your flesh and embrace your life as a new creation in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:16-17). If you haven’t become a new creation in Him, there’s no better time than now. Let us introduce you to our Savior. Jesus came so we would have life and have it abundantly (John 10:10). Choose that life—it’s the only one that lasts.

Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose trust is the LORD. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.”

Jeremiah 17:7-8

“So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” – Philippians 2:1-11

The Chosen Reading Plan – Week 8

The finale of this season is upon us! We sincerely hope that reading through the Scriptures as you watch this production has pointed you to Christ and Christ alone. We have no desire to be movie critics or provide mere reviews of a film. We have only tried to use this series as a tool to point to the one and only authority, Jesus Christ, the Son of God. With that in mind, let’s dive into week 8!

Day 1
Genesis 33:19
Genesis 48:21-22
Joshua 24:32
Genesis 32:25-28
Day 2
Deuteronomy 7:6-8
Isaiah 56:8
Hosea 2:21-23
Romans 9:19-10:4
1 Peter 2:9-12
“HE CHOSE US”
Day 3
Mark 2:13-17
Hosea 6:6
Psalm 51:16-17
Psalm 40:6
I desire mercy, not sacrifice
Day 4
Matthew 8:14-17
Luke 9:57-62
1. Jesus heals Simon’s mother-in-law
2. It’s one thing to say you want to follow Jesus, it’s another to actually do it.
Day 5
John 4:1-42
The woman at the well
Day 6
Watch Episode 8

Questions to consider:

Jesus mentions several times that he’s not there to bring more “status quo” or “safety”, nor is he here to deliver them from their oppressive government. What is Jesus’ purpose in coming and in bringing His disciples to follow him?

With prophecies about other nations/peoples eventually being counted as “God’s people,” why do you think that was such a difficult truth for the Jewish people to grasp?

“I desire mercy, not sacrifice” – In this episode, Jesus tells the Pharisees to go and learn what this passage from Hosea means. What does it mean?

Nicodemus and his wife are depicted as having a conversation regarding Hagar and how God acknowledged her (Genesis 16:10-13). So, do you think God just sees us through the hard roads, or are there times when he actually calls us to them?

Has there ever been a time in your life where you were as excited about Jesus as the woman at the well was? How excited was Simon to finally get to spread the message publicly? Are you excited about who Jesus is? What should we be doing?

The Chosen Reading Plan – Week 7

Two more episodes to go! There are some powerful moments of Scripture depicted in episode 7. We hope that you are encouraged and your faith is strengthened.

Day 1
Numbers 21:4-9 
Day 2
Mark 2:13-17
Day 3
John 3:1-21
Day 4
Luke 5:16
Luke 6:12-15
Mark 1:35
Day 5
Matthew 5:3
Matthew 7:21
Luke 17:20-21 
Day 6
Watch Episode 7

Questions to Consider:

How was the bronze serpent on the rod a foreshadowing of what was to come?


Jesus often went away by himself to pray. What can we learn from this?


If Jesus were on earth today as he was back then, how would you respond to his miracles, in complete faith out with a little doubt and disbelief?


Matthew seems to be portrayed as having possible autism/ obsessive compulsive tendencies. What do you think about this portrayal? Isn’t it encouraging that Jesus calls us despite our weaknesses?

The Chosen Reading Plan – Week 6

It’s week 6 of our “The Chosen” reading plan! We hope these last several weeks have encouraged you and given you renewed vigor in your mission as a disciple of Christ. If you aren’t yet committed to be a disciple of Jesus, we hope that going through these readings and watching these episodes has been the encouragement you need to follow the one and only way, truth, and life (John 14:6).

If you’re behind, take the time and catch up. I guarantee you it’ll be worth it.

Day 1
Psalm 63:1
Psalm 104:31-34
Romans 8:27-37
Day 2
Matthew 8:1-4
Leviticus 13:45-46
Day 3
Luke 12:35-40
Day 4
Matthew 6:1-8
Luke 18:1-8, 11-14
Day 5
Mark 2:1-12
Day 6
Watch Episode 6

Questions to consider:

Why is it so provocative that Jesus calls Matthew to follow him? How might that Romans 8 passage apply to that, and how does it apply to you?

Leprosy was a disease which the Jews supposed to be inflicted for the punishment of some particular sin, and to be, more than other diseases, a mark of God’s displeasure; and therefore Christ, who came to take away sin, and turn away wrath took particular care to cleanse the lepers that fell in his way. Jesus’s apostles were amazed when they saw the leper healed. Do we still see the works of God with amazement? If not, are we following Him close enough to see them?

Concerning the Luke 12 passage, we need to keep our lamps burning! Matthew told Gaius in this episode, “Conquest is not simply conquering nations but imposing a way of life.” What parallel is there between this statement to Jesus’s purpose as well as this scripture?

Simon doesn’t understand why Jesus asked him to join him. Do I ever wonder why Jesus asked me to join Him? How does Simon figure out his purpose? How can I figure out mine?

Being Salty

Jesus called us to be salty. What could he have possibly meant by that? In modern-day, the term being salty is look at as such a put down for having a bad attitude, but what did Jesus mean when he said it?

We look at salt today as a mere seasoning to sprinkle on food to make it flavorful. Yes, in biblical times they used salt to season food, but it was so much more than that. They used salt for seasoning, preservation, disinfectant, for ceremonial offerings, and for a unit of exchange.  Jesus was so intelligent he spoke to them in ways he knew they would understand. Salt was such a great part of their daily life.

“You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.” – Matthew 5:13

Jesus tells his followers: You are the salt. God sees us as the most precious thing in the world. We are so valuable and we preserve this world. We should be a preserving fruitful influence on the world. Without our fruitful influence, the world would spoil with evil. God calls us to preserve the goodness of this world.

Jesus also tells us to be full of flavor.  “But if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled.”  

In biblical times, if salt lost its flavor or preserving abilities, they threw it away on the streets and it would be walked on, because what good to them was it? None.

Jesus is warning us as Christians, if we lose our flavor (fruitful influence) in this world, we are no longer valuable for His Kingdom.    

No longer valuable for His Kingdom… That’s not a place I want to find myself, and I’m sure you don’t either.

So how can you be the salt of the earth? Constantly pursue a relationship with God! A relationship requires interaction. This is done by reading His Word and speaking to Him openly and honestly through prayer.  We are here to be the salt of the world, a blessing to His people. We cannot do this without showing them absolute love as He did.

The Chosen Reading Plan – Week 5

We hope you are enjoying this series so far as we start week 5 today!

Day 1
Exodus 23:14
Deuteronomy 16:16
Luke 2:41-52
Day 2
Proverbs 30:4
Luke 3:2-9
John 1:19-24
John 10:40-42
Matthew 17:11-13
Day 3
1 Kings 19:19-21
2 Kings 2:11-15
Matthew 13:44-46      
Luke 9:57-62
Day 4
Exodus 15:1-21
Jeremiah 33:10-14
Psalm 118:22-24
Isaiah 28:16-19
Day 5
John 2:1-11
Day 6
Watch Episode 5

Questions to Consider:

John is the only gospel to tell the story of water into wine. What do you think John wanted to relay by noting this passage? What does it relate to you?

In this episode, both Peter and Mary the Mother of Jesus urge Jesus to make himself known. What do you think were their motives, and why was Jesus moved by Mary and not Peter’s approach?

Nicodemus is uncomfortable, in every aspect of the word, talking to John, yet as he notes, it is through his discomfort that he even sought John. What does this suggest about our spiritual Journey?

The Chosen Reading Plan – Week 4

The fourth week of reading through and watching The Chosen is here! See our previous posts if you need to catch up.

Day 1
Mark 1
Day 2
John 3
Day 3
Luke 5:1-11
Day 4
John 21
Day 5
Matthew 4:18-22
Day 6
Watch Episode 4

The Chosen: Episode 4 from Heritage Church on Vimeo.

Questions to consider:

1. I think we can all relate to Simon in a way. We all have various stresses, deadlines, and are pulled between right and wrong. How can you personally relate to his predicament?

2. John the Baptist is referred to as a “loud man in camel skin” by the Pharisees, who were upset at the questioning of their authority. Does Nicodemus seem to begin to realize what is going on at this point? 

3. Simon is at first in doubt upon hearing the news of the Messiah. Have you ever struggled with doubt? How did you find God during your time of doubt?

4. Jesus performs the miracles of the catching of fish, which solves Simon’s biggest stress. When has Jesus come into your life and poured down his grace and love when you least expected it? How?

The Chosen Reading Plan – Week 3

We’re in our third week of reading through and watching The Chosen. See our previous posts if you need to catch up!

Day 1
Matthew 18:1-6
Matthew 19:13-15
Mark 10:13-16
Luke 18:15-17
(Jesus and the little children)
Day 2
Luke 9:57-58
John 1:14
1 John 4:2
John 4:6
John 19:28
Matthew 4:2
(humanity of Jesus)
Day 3
Deuteronomy 6:4-9
Matthew 22:36-40
(the Shema)
Day 4
Psalm 133:1-3
Daniel 2:27-47
Daniel 7:13-14
Day 5
Luke 4:18-19
Isaiah 61:1-2
(The mission of the Messiah)
Day 6
Watch Episode 3

Questions to consider:

Jesus was likely an artisan/carpenter as was his earthly dad (Mark 6:3), but his “job” was never his mission. What should we take from this?

The children had such a pure and perceptive outlook (“maybe he is a prophet…”). Jesus said we should receive the Kingdom like a child—what should that look like for us?

Abigail had zero qualms at all inviting all of her friends to meet Jesus. What about you?

Why did the Jews think their Messiah would come to lead them against the Roman government? What is the symbolism in Psalm 133 and Daniel 2 all about?

The Chosen Reading Plan – Week 2

We’re back for the 2nd week of reading Scriptures and working through The Chosen Season 1. Check it out here.

If you missed the first week, it should be easy to catch up. Check out the first post here.

Day 1
Genesis 2:1-3
Exodus 20:8-11
Deuteronomy 5:12-15
(Shabbat, or Sabbath, background)
Day 2
Exodus 12:26-27
Deuteronomy 11:18-21
(importance of teaching children about God)
Day 3
Proverbs 31:10-31
(Jewish tradition was to sing this passage before Shabbat dinner)
Day 4
Mark 1:19-20 (James and John intro)

John 1:43-51 (“Can anything good come from Nazareth?”)
Day 5
Matthew 17:24-27
Matthew 18:15-17
(the status of tax collectors)
Day 6
Watch Episode 2
The Chosen: Episode 2 from Heritage Church on Vimeo.

Questions to Consider:

God rested on the 7th day. He wants us to rest in Him (Matthew 11:28). Rest is a gift! Are you accepting that gift? How can you honor God through rest?

Knowing that Matthew becomes one of Jesus’ disciples, what significance is presented by Praetor Quintus’s comment to Matthew (about betraying his people)?

Simon Peter and Andrew were in a difficult position. What do you think about Peter’s attempt and methods to handle the situation?

Mary shares a great testimony to Nicodemus saying, “I was one way, and now I am completely different, and the thing that happened in between was Him.” Not even sure who Jesus was at the time, she makes a powerful statement: “I will know him for the rest of my life.” Thoughts?

Which Sabbath dinner depicted was Jesus a part of? Which Sabbath dinner would you have been at?

Share your thoughts with us!

Again, thanks to “Down the Hobbit Hole Blog” for some ideas on Scripture readings and thought-provoking questions.

The Chosen Reading Plan – Week 1

We’re going to be reading through and watching the first season of “The Chosen”–an awesome production showing the ministry of Jesus and his apostles. Check it out here.

We hope you’ll follow along with us in the daily readings, and watching one episode per week in this 8-week series.

Day 1
Isaiah 43:1

Luke 8:1-15 (Mary Magdalene intro)

John 7:32-52 (Nicodemus intro)
Day 2

Luke 5:27-32 (Matthew intro)

Matthew 4:18-20 (Simon and Andrew intro)
Day 3
Matthew 3:1-12 (John the baptist intro)

Matthew 15:10-20
Day 4
Matthew 23:13-39
Day 5
Mark 4:11

Ephesians 3:5

Colossians 1:26
(the mystery of the Kingdom)
Day 6
Watch Episode 1

Questions to consider:

It’s interesting to see how the religious and political environment looked in Jesus’ day. What kind of people did Jesus spend the least and most time with? What do you think of Nicodemus’ comment “we are men God, it is not our custom to enter the red quarter”?

What did you think of how Matthew the tax collector and Simon Peter were portrayed?

What do you think about Nicodemus’ question, “What if we’re not seeing the whole picture?”? How do you think that will influence his perspective moving forward?

“I have redeemed you, I have called you by name, you are mine.” How can we remind ourselves of this truth and live it out practically?

The plan starts today! Join us! We’ll post each week’s plan here.

Thanks to “Down the Hobbit Hole Blog” for ideas on Scripture readings and thought-provoking questions.