Now after John was put in prison, Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.”
For the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. For he who serves Christ in these things is acceptable to God and approved by men. Therefore let us pursue the things which make for peace and the things by which one may edify another. 
Last night I hosted a group of men at Hebron Woods (my home) in Black Forest. As we shared drinks, food, and a blazing fire in my “fellowship of the ring,” the banter, laughter, and prayers of men could be heard through the woods. Even my son Josh said this morning, “Dad, you must have had a bunch of men over last night!” No, it was only six, but all of us are men and we act, talk, and laugh like a cadre of men. We are loud, opinionated, and joyful—my kind of men.
We are also men of the kingdom of God. The Jesus kingdom is relational. It is all about building relationships. The core of the kingdom of Jesus is relational. Jesus defined the coming of the kingdom as a coming of friendship. Jesus said the greatest command—the summing up of the Old and New Testament, the Law, the purposes of God—is “to love God with all your heart, mind, and strength and your neighbor as yourself.”
Excessive moralism is killing the Church. Moralism kills the heart. The kingdom of God is not about “eating and drinking,” the kingdom is not about outward rules and regulations, religion and law. The Church has killed the power of the kingdom with an overemphasis on morality and restrictions and boundaries that have little or nothing to do with the heart.
Jesus wants our hearts set free. The kingdom of God is “righteousness…peace…and joy.” This is descriptive of a kingdom of relationships. We have grown to define these terms as outward manifestations that define our lives by moral choices and behavior. Rather, Jesus is looking for a heart transformation that impacts our friendships and connectivity to God and people.
Righteousness in the kingdom could be defined as “right relationships.” Peace could be explained as “peaceful relations.” Joy is the result of the first two. This is what our heart longs for; this is what Jesus is preaching. This is a potential kingdom, a new world order, and a subversion of the status quo. The kingdom of God is a kingdom of newfound relationships.
During this wilderness time in our lives, Liz and I have discovered so many new friendships. Many of those who we had thought were our friends turned out to not to be, and those who we barely knew before, are becoming some of our dearest brothers and sisters. Our lives are being enriched with such mature, loving, caring, supportive friends. We are experiencing righteousness, peace, and joy in a measure much deeper than we thought possible.
Last night a group of men met around the common denominator of being broken, beaten, but loving our life in Christ. We shared our hearts, we shared our hurts—one man shared with tears his compassion for a young man he recently met who was a combat veteran from Afghanistan. No man left that fireside without a wet place in the corner of his eye. It was a bonfire of righteousness, peace, and joy. It was a glimpse of the kingdom of God.
On the Road,
 The New King James Version. 1982 (Mk 1:14–15). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
 The New King James Version. 1982 (Ro 14:17–19). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.