A note to my friends and blog followers:
This is my first post in a few weeks. I apologize for the long gap. My family has been tied up in a huge spiritual battle and period of unexpected hardship. Our local newspaper, the San Antonio Express-News, wrote a story about our situation and ran it on their front page two days ago. If you’re interested in finding out more, here’s a link to the article. I appreciate your patience and prayers. – M.A.
I find it amazing how so many Christians simply cannot properly take – or assign – responsibility for the foul fruit of human failings.
It’s like they think, “So long as we don’t outright kill anyone or steal anything, or get caught breaking any of the other commandments, then everything else we do is irrelevant to the outcome of our actions.”
I’ve seen long-time ministers, who are indeed gifted at teaching the Word, live the most slothful lives and make the most foolish decisions – and then blame God (and/or the “immature” believers around them, who “don’t give enough”) for their poverty. Now, they wouldn’t outright say “it’s God’s fault” in so many words — rather, they seem to believe God is perpetually holding them in a “dry season” to “teach” them something – but it’s the same thing. Yes, God is trying to teach them something, like get off your butt and actually do something productive! The dry season they’re facing is not God’s fault; it’s the inevitable endpoint of the path they’ve chosen.
I’ve seen other long-time ministers form committees, councils, boards or teams of people who are incompetent, shallow, immature, conflicted and/or otherwise not trustworthy – and because they are “good Christians,” the organizer holds to an irrational belief that everything that happens will be “God’s will.” So when the group’s resulting action (or inaction) makes no sense or goes the wrong direction, the minister just follows merrily along, the blind following the blind, with God’s name stenciled on the mess.
The Lord gave me a vision onetime of a Christian farmer in a farmhouse, praying earnestly for a bumper crop of corn. This farmer has the most fertile bottomland in the county, the best equipment in his barn, it’s a wet year, and there is nothing standing between him and a record harvest. But a few weeks after planting time, this farmer’s field is still brown, while his unbelieving neighbor’s field is sporting healthy sprouts.
So the farmer gets on his knees and prays even more. He fasts, digs deeper into the Word, activates the prayer chain at “church,” and resolutely declares the “word of faith” that God is definitely going to give him a huge harvest this year. And yet another month later, when the neighbor’s crop is “knee-high by the Fourth of July” and growing, this farmer’s field is still desolate.
So our farmer pours out his heart to God. He puts a bigger check in the offering plate. The elders of his “church” pour oil on his head and pray over him. His touchy-feely, super-“spiritual” friend helps him dig into his childhood and analyze all the bad things that ever happened to him, seeking the “root of his troubles.” His holy-roller pastor waves his arms and flaps his tongue in a wild prayer of deliverance. But a number of weeks later, while his neighbor rolls out the combine and brings in a bumper crop, our friend’s field yields nothing but weeds and dust.
Finally the Christian farmer, at wits end, lays face down before the Lord, humble and broken. “Why, Lord? Why is it your will that I suffer, while my unbelieving neighbor gets rich?”
The Lord, with grace, yet a touch of frustration, replies, “My son, I gave you the best bottomland in the county, the best farm equipment there is, plenty of rain, and everything you needed to produce a bumper crop. But you didn’t do your part! All you needed to do was plant the seeds I gave you, and I would have made them grow….”
This scenario is more common than we may realize. Even as I write this, I am once again convicted of my own guilt in blaming God for the failures and lack in my own life. It is not His fault! He has given me more than I need, and I alone am to blame for the consequences of my own poor decisions. I pray God helps me see clearly where I’ve mis-stepped, because I know that taking responsibility is a pre-requisite for learning and doing better in the future. When I blame Him or anyone else for my mistakes, I am doomed to repeat them.
Here’s the truth: God gave us the authority and mandate to establish dominion over the world. He freely offers Wisdom and Revelation to guide our steps. He promises provision and direction when we seek and obey His will. And He also gives us free will to do it His way, or not.
We must realize that He didn’t give all this to us so that we may have a free pass on the principles of His creation. Believers are not exempt from reality! Instead, the opposite is true: God established the fundamental principles of creation – scientific, economic, political, business, etc. – and gives us access to His very mind, so that we may master them. He wants his sons and daughters to rise up and take dominion over these things, not cede them to the unbelievers through our own foolishness, ignorance and inaction!
This truth applies to us, wherever we find ourselves. I see everyday believers “blame” God for their unemployment, yet they don’t hustle to find work, don’t present themselves well in interviews, and never took the time to master the skills necessary to be successful in their given field. No, their unemployment is not God’s fault! It is a result of their own bad habits and poorly-chosen path.
I see believers who actually believe their broken marriage is God’s will. Of course, it must be God’s will, and certainly has nothing to do with the fact that they’re lazy, self-centered, worldly, and didn’t put Christ at the center of their relationship!
I see Christian business owners “blame” God for hardship and failure, yet they continually ignore wise counsel, make stupid decision, and do not put a professional face on their endeavors. How is it God’s fault when they go out of business? Just because they’re a “Christian” business doesn’t mean they don’t have to compete in the marketplace!
Sure, there are legitimate “dry spells” and hardships in life. God teaches us through trials and fires. We’re not here to live it up in the here and now, and material outcomes are not necessarily any measure of Godly success. That’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about all the times that we miss out on God’s desired outcome through our own ignorance, stubbornness, foolishness, laziness, and bad habits – and then, instead of facing the truth, we chalk our failure up to God. I believe this is more widespread than any of us may care to admit.
Where this grips me the most is in “church.” Pews and pulpits today seem filled with folks like the Christian farmer in my little story. We are failing in our God-given mandate to bring His Kingdom on earth as it is in Heaven, and we are becoming increasingly mocked and marginalized in the world. At the same time, frauds and phonies are reaping a bumper crop, leading multitudes down the path to destruction.
How can we honestly believe this has nothing to do with the fact that even the most “contemporary” of our “churches” today – compared to The Way modeled in Scripture – are legalistic, ritualistic, materialistic, tradition-bound, shallow, inbred and downright goofy?
Instead of facing the facts and returning to The Way, what is our answer? Redesign the bulletin. Rejigger the order of “service.” Play more modern music. Wear flip-flops on Sunday. That, or double-down on the archaic traditions of our denomination’s founders.
Fact is, we reap what we sow, and we don’t reap what we don’t sow. It’s time we step up and accept responsibility! Churchianity is failing, and yet our “church” leaders continue to inflict us with failing methods – and then blame God for the outcome.
As if claiming that our failure is somehow His fault were not bad enough, now we’ve come up with a pop theology to justify it all. The ultimate insult to our Lord and King, and the pinnacle of the “blame God” mindset, is the modern teaching that global dominion of the Body is not really inevitable, after all, and the best thing we can do is just wait to be rescued. The only one glorified by modern “end times” teaching about the inevitable rise of the antichrist is the antichrist himself! This is not Biblical in the least. Holy cop-out, Batman!
It’s time to grow up, stop blaming God, beg for wisdom, follow His lead, take responsibility for our failings, learn from our mistakes, plant the right seeds, and set our faces like flint towards finally establishing dominion over the world He created for us.
This is His will, and He continually gives us everything we need to do it. If we continue to miss out, it’s not His fault.
– You are the salt of the world. Stay salty, my friends!
My heart aches for the multitudes of strong, capable, faithful people who limp along, bound up in traditions, believing that’s the only way we can walk.
It reminds me a portion of the movie Forrest Gump. As a child, young Forrest’s mother was told he had a spine ailment, and that wearing metal leg braces – “magic shoes” – would correct his condition. The boy grew up resigned to accepting the hindrances of the clunky, unnatural superstructure. The prosthetics held him back from so much, forced him to adopt all kinds of odd habits to get through his day, and caused him to be an outcast.
Like young Forrest, the enemy, the patterns of this world, our traditions, and our own insecurity tell us the Body needs a man-made support structure to function. Our prescribed “magic shoes” include “church” buildings, pyramid-shaped organizational charts, central coordinating committees, designated clergy, pre-set “service” times and formats, one-size-fits-all orations that pass for real teaching, pre-fab “programs,” and all the other things we generally think of today when we say “church.”
None of these things were practiced or implemented by Christ or the early apostles. They knew the health, strength and growth of the Body, as God intends, is only hindered by such things. Jesus spoke vehemently against them, and they were anathema to the Apostle Paul.
Yet somehow, over time, we have bought into the diagnosis that we are crippled and incapable of functioning without these unnecessary, man-made prostheses – to the extent that we think real life as the Body of Christ is impossible without them.
And, like Forrest, as a result, we have resigned to accepting the hindrances of the clunky, unnatural superstructure we call “church” – even though it holds us back from so much, forces us to adopt all kind of odd habits to function, and causes us to be increasingly outcast from the very people we are supposed to be serving.
A moving scene in the movie is when Forrest is walking home from school with his friend, Jennie, and a group of bullies begins mocking and throwing stuff at him. It is clear they wish to beat him up, so Jenny shouts, “Run, Forrest, run!” – and he takes off down the dirt road, waddling awkwardly in his brackets, chased by the bike-riding bullies. As they get close to overtaking him, the brackets fall off his legs, and Forrest is finally able to outrun his pursuers.
“You wouldn’t believe it if I told you, but I could run like the wind blows,” says the older Forrest, narrating the story. “And from that day on, if I was going somewhere, I was running.”
I just watched that movie clip online to research for this message, and found myself moved to tears in two different places. At the beginning, they were tears of sadness, because having seen the movie before, I knew the true capabilities that Forrest possessed. Beneath his unwittingly self-inflicted shackles, he was strong and able. He just didn’t know it – and so he just accepted the handicap and bullying as par for the course. It didn’t have to be that way!
These are the same tears I, with Christ, shed for our brothers and sisters who are so bound up and blinded by churchianity that they cannot accept any other way of functioning. I don’t care how big and popular their “church” is – compared to the glory and magnitude of the Kingdom Come, every single one of them has resigned to marginalization and mediocrity, and they don’t even know it. It doesn’t have to be this way!
Because, like Forrest, the true strength of the Body of Christ is far beyond anything we can comprehend. We are called to conquer, not merely endure. We are called to manifest the full stature of Christ – the King of Kings and name above all names – on earth as it is in Heaven. We are called to establish true dominion over every aspect of this world, through the powerful attraction of the peace and love that exude from the Body of Christ when it functions properly.
The second point I cried in the clip, it was tears of joy when the braces fell off Forrest’s legs and he took off down the road like a bullet, leaving the enemies in the dust. These are the tears I, with Christ, long to cry for all our brothers and sisters who are bound up in the unwittingly self-inflicted shackles we call “church.”
Some generation, someday, will throw these braces off the Body, and when they do, we will run like the wind blows. From that day on, whenever we go anywhere, we’ll be running. Victory is our destiny!
The question is, how bad will it have to get? How much more persecution, marginalization and mocking – and “church” politics, division, conflict, woundedness and waste – will we have to put up with before we finally break from the shackles and run free in the full potential God has given us?
Let’s make this the generation! Run, my brothers and sisters, run!
– You are the salt of the world. Stay salty, my friends!
False teachings in support of modern Zionism are a huge source of confusion for too many Christians these days.
These teachings say it’s our Christian duty to support the modern, political state of Israel, and that this is somehow tied to our fate in the “end times.”
Now, from a purely practical, patriotic standpoint, I am all in favor of keeping a strong alliance with Israel. They are America’s best friend in the Middle East and a valuable strategic ally.
But to say it is our Christian duty to do so is, to me, not only ridiculously contrary to scripture, but dangerous and in its extreme downright blasphemous. It is political manipulation at its finest, nothing more, and too many Christians today are too eager to play along.
Those who advocate this position claim that today’s political nation of Israel and its citizens are still considered by God to be His Chosen People, and that God will bless us if we go out of our way to support them. Many go so far as to imply (some even outright claim) that these people do not even need to accept Jesus Christ to be saved. Nothing could be further from the truth!
Yes, the descendants of Abraham, due to their patriarch’s faithfulness, were selected by God, for His purposes, to be the foreshadow of His Kingdom on earth and the set-apart people group through which the Messiah would come. As such, according to the terms of His covenant with them (the Old Covenant), they were favored on earth, and outsiders who blessed them would be blessed.
It is vital for us today to understand, however, that this was the Old Covenant, not the Old Entitlement. Entitlements are one-sided, covenants are not. Were it the Old Entitlement – and God was simply giving favor to a select people group because of their genetics – then the case could possibly be made that their modern descendants were still covered by this.
(Interestingly, according to many studies, a large number of people who claim Jewish heritage today do not even have Hebrew genetics. Some report that upwards of 80% of today’s Israelis are not Hebrew by blood.)
But talk of genetics is irrelevant, because it was NOT a hereditary entitlement, it was the Old Covenant – a two-sided deal. As in, “I’ll do this, if you do this.” The obligation of one party to follow a covenant is negated if the other party breaks covenant. From the very beginning of God’s covenant with Abraham, this point was clear. In Genesis 17:1-2, God says, “I am Almighty God; walk before Me and be blameless. And I will make My covenant between Me and you…” Abraham’s obligation under the covenant was to blamelessly walk before God. In Exodus 19:5-6, God re-iterates this in greater detail to Moses: “Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine. And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.”
Under the Old Covenant, the way to fellowship with God was through full obedience to the terms of the covenant. Over time, these terms were spelled out clearly in a strict code of laws.
Sadly, repeatedly, throughout the Old Testament, the Israelites broke covenant, and when they did God removed His favor from them. Numerous plagues and curses afflicted the Israelites in the wilderness, and were it not for Moses’ repentant pleading, God said He would have completely wiped them out. Ultimately, the population was decimated, the nation occupied, and the Israelites scattered into exile. Clearly God Himself did not consider the Old Covenant to be the Old Entitlement! When they broke covenant with Him, He viewed the covenant as null and void, and they had to live with the consequences.
It would be nice to be able to selectively edit a contract after the fact, but we can’t do that. Heck, I wish I could erase my obligation to make payments out of my mortgage contract! No doubt, Zionist Christian leaders can pontificate about the incredible things involved in God’s side of His covenant with Israel. Presented that way, it all sounds great, and makes a persuasive argument to those who take such things at face value. It’s just that they never mention the other side of the bargain, and the fact that through repeated and ongoing disobedience, the Israelites broke covenant and rendered it null and void.
Interestingly, most people I’ve seen who claim the Jewish faith today do not appear to make even a half-hearted effort at fulfilling the full obligation of the Old Covenant. And even if they did live with wholehearted devotion to keeping every letter of the law, they would find it to be impossible. The Bible says so! Today’s nation of Israel and its citizens do not even remotely live up to their end of the bargain, in any way, shape or form. So again I ask, on what basis does a Christian leader claim that they are still God’s Chosen People? There is no genetic claim, and no covenantal claim, either.
Today we know the Old Covenant was enacted by God to point the way to Christ. Christ is the only human being who ever kept the law perfectly, and in doing so He fulfilled the terms of the Old Covenant once and for all. Then, He took upon Himself the punishment everyone else deserves for breaking covenant, so that through Him, we may have fellowship with God now and eternally. This is the New Covenant: Instead of perfect obedience in the law, we must put our faith in Jesus Christ. It is through faith in Christ alone that we may live as God’s Chosen People. Outside of Christ, it is impossible. To claim otherwise is to diminish the sacrifice of Christ on the cross.
The way I see it, all this modern Zionism stuff is really just a deception from the enemy designed to keep Christians from realizing their true identity and destiny in Christ.
In Hebrew, the word ISRAEL means, “He will rule as God.” And so the question is, who will rule as God? People who have repeatedly, throughout history, abandoned their covenant with God? People who may have been born under a certain genetic lineage? People who futilely put their hope in perfect obedience to an impossible set of laws?
Or … is it those who put their faith in Jesus Christ?
On this point, the Bible is perfectly clear. In Revelation 3:20-21, Jesus said, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me. To him who conquers I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.”
So who will rule as God? Who will sit on His throne? Those who open the door to Jesus Christ, have fellowship with Him, and then work with Him to conquer the world for His Kingdom. That’s who will rule as God!
In Christ, our destiny is victory over the world, and in eternity, we will rule as God. It’s time we stand up and act like it!
All the covenant promises God made back then apply to us today. It has nothing to do with geography or genetics, or any attempt to keep the Old Covenant.
The Old Covenant has been closed out, and under the New Covenant, followers of Jesus Christ are the true, covenant-keeping Israel. There is no other.
Please know I’m not anti-Israel or anti-Semitic in any way. As I said, I’m all in favor of a political alliance with the nation of Israel – they’re our best friends in a very hostile Middle East. Let’s just do it honestly, as a strategic political alliance, not under manipulation.
There is great value for Christians in studying and applying the spiritual principles and practices of our faith’s Jewish roots. So far as we share the majority of our Holy Book, and a rich history and heritage, I have great respect my Jewish friends. (One of my all-time favorite Bible studies was a journey through the Old Testament with a group of Jewish students back in college.) Yet without Christ, this heritage is no better than any other. Like all my other lost friends, I pray for my Jewish friends to come to a full realization of Jesus Christ and accept Him as the promised Messiah.
Also, please understand I am not going to engage in propagating any conspiracy theories about the how and why so many well-meaning Christians are sucked into the modern Zionist movement. I am not naïve enough to think it’s by accident, but to me, conspiracy theories are mainly a waste of time. Our battle is not against flesh and blood, and the truth alone is enough to send the darkness to flight. And the truth is, Jesus is the only way, and in God’s eyes His followers are the true Chosen People.
– You are the salt of the world. Stay salty, my friends!
Imagine being Christopher Columbus, loading up ships to sail around the world, while naysayers shout, “you fool, you’re going to fall right off the edge of the earth!”
That’s how I feel sometimes in ministry.
I mean, I’m playing to win. I believe that’s our calling; that our God-given purpose and destiny is to conquer the kingdom of darkness, here and now, once and for all. I find this clearly and unequivocally stated in the Bible, over and over, from the beginning of Genesis all the way through the Revelation. Yet the conventional wisdom of today’s pop theology states that big-picture winning is not an option.
Today’s popular “end times” fable claims that “the antichrist” will rise to global prominence, and Jesus will come to snatch away His floundering Bride before it gets too bad. Why this has achieved such dogmatic dominance among well-intentioned Christian leaders is beyond me – I mean, it’s nowhere in the Bible, its dubious historical roots are recent and easily established, and it makes Christians look like kooks. Yet it is dominant, and rarely challenged.
To Columbus, belief in a round earth was a no brainer. I mean, as far as he was concerned, anyone could scan the horizon or watch the sunrise and see it. I’m sure he knew he was risking his life to find a round-the-world passage to India – there were all sorts of unknown dangers in the uncharted deep – yet I doubt the thought of sailing off the edge a flat earth was one of his concerns. He simply knew otherwise, and he was right.
This belief was foundational to his endeavors; it was the implicit premise upon which all his plans and activities were based.
How frustrating it must have been for him to prepare for his first journey. How many times did he have to explain this most simple, fundamental belief? The investors. The shipbuilders. The suppliers. The sailors. Family and friends. Strangers on the street. Everywhere he turned: “Aren’t you that crazy guy who’s wants to sail around the world? Ha!”
How sad, because the conventional “wisdom” of a flat earth (conventional ignorance, really) had kept humankind trapped for centuries.
I’m sure Columbus grew sick and tired of having to explain this simplest and most fundamental reality, and was eager to finally cast off. He never set out to prove the earth was round. To him that needed no proving. He was simply looking for a more direct trade route to the Far East, and he wanted to put the ignorant naysayers behind him and get on with it.
In the same way, I’m not setting out to “prove” that the Body of Christ is destined for global victory before Christ returns. To me, this needs no proving! It’s simple, fundamental and foundational – plain for anyone who has eyes to see. I just want to play my personal role, as called by God, according to the gifts He’s given me, and I want to get on with it.
Yet everywhere I turn, I run face-to-face with Christians who buy the conventional “wisdom” that we’re powerless in the face of the enemy and destined for nothing but rescue. Just like Columbus couldn’t have set sail with a crew of flat-earthers, how can we manifest Christ’s victory with a team that doesn’t think it’s possible?
Like belief in a flat earth, this ridiculous yet mainly unchallenged teaching has kept the Body of Christ trapped for too long!
It’s time to dump this modern, man-made fable into the rubbish heap of history, so we can finally march forward in unity towards our victorious destiny in Christ.
It’s time for “Left Behind” to get left behind!
– You are the salt of the world. Stay salty, my friends!
Continued from Part One.
Ok, so I guess I bit off quite a bit yesterday with Part One. Several people have sent me messages saying, “I’m looking forward to Part Two…” and I replied, “So am I!”
I didn’t know exactly what to write, and I expected it would take a while to collect my thoughts. But today when I sat down at my keyboard, this came out. It’s very hard to summarize something as grand as the Gospel of the Kingdom in a short blog post, but I think this does a respectable job. If you want to learn more, I encourage you to read my book UPRISING: Time for Christians to Stop Waiting and Start Winning.
The Gospel of the Kingdom is the overarching message of Scripture, spanning from beginning to end, and encompassing all points in between. It is the back-story of creation – encapsulating God’s original intent and grand plan – and the truth that He most desires for us to grasp. It is the great, unifying reality of the Bible, tying up every “loose end” and perceived “contradiction.” And it is the only foundational message with the innate power to finally unify the Body of Christ and lead Her to global pre-eminence.
To understand this message, we must first understand the original Greek word which we translate as Kingdom. The word is BASILEIA, and it means “royal power, kingship, dominion and rule.” It is not a physical place so much as an order, a way, an empire. The word does not refer simply to “heaven,” but to all beings and things – eternal and temporal – that are under the royal power of the King
God created creation for one purpose, and that is to raise eternal offspring to inherit His eternal Kingdom. All of time and space sit in front of His throne as an incubator of sorts. He engineered this world as the perfect environment for cultivating a crop of sons and daughters with the character necessary to rule with Him in eternity. This place is so fertile, in fact, that the Bible says Christ Himself grew in obedience, wisdom and stature through His experiences here. If He who was perfect can benefit from this life, how much more can we? Everything in our world, and all our life experiences, boil down to this one underlying purpose: God is working to groom His sons and daughters for their eternal destiny.
Our Father cast satan and his rebellious followers to this environment to advance this purpose. Our created, defeated, and defanged enemy did not sneak into the garden, or pull one over on God. He would not be much of a God if satan could do that! Similarly, the war for this world is not against God and the devil. God’s crushing defeat of the rebellious angels was immediate and absolute, and never in question. No, the war is against us and the devil. So why are we stuck here with a fierce, powerful, and hateful enemy? Not so he can beat us up and punish us, but the other way around. Like a mother lion dragging a crippled, wounded rabbit to her cubs for their training, our loving Father has cast the enemy here so we can learn and grow by fighting against and defeating him, and this is to his ultimate punishment and humiliation. In Christ, our power over the enemy is absolute, and we have nothing to fear. Indeed, the devil’s greatest fear is God’s sons and daughters realizing their true identity and power.
The adolescent Jesus told His earthly parents that He must be about His Father’s business. He knew why He was here, and it was His all-consuming passion. His Father is ours, too, and we should similarly be about His business. His business is our divine training program, designed to prepare us for our eternal inheritance. This is not haphazard or mysterious, but clearly spelled out for us starting with the very first words God spoke to Adam: “Go and establish dominion…”
Establishing God’s dominion – expanding His Kingdom on earth as it is in Heaven, conquering the enemy and bringing every person and thing on the planet into His loving empire – is our purpose and destiny here on Earth, and it is directly tied to our eternal inheritance. In Revelation 2-3, Jesus says seven times in a row that “he who conquers…” will receive every piece of our eternal inheritance. Later, in the next to the last chapter of the Bible, it says point-blank that “he who conquers will inherit all things.” We are here to be prepared for our inheritance, and our inheritance is tied to the act of conquering the world for Christ – establishing His dominion, on Earth as it is in Heaven.
God’s grand plan and purpose for creation and mankind is made more clear by the fact the Bible says repeatedly it is the completion of this task that will trigger the end of the world as we know it. Jesus said in the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares that when the sons and daughters of the Kingdom reach maturity, the Father will gather them in harvest, and that will be the end. Seven separate times, the Bible says Jesus is currently seated at the right hand of the Father, waiting till His enemies are brought under His feet. (Contrary to modern pop-theology/mythology, Jesus will not grow tired of waiting, get up, and come finish the job for us!) The Apostle Paul wrote that God will continue to give spiritual gifts to men until the Body of Christ reaches the full stature of Christ on earth, and only then will Christ return. The full coming of God’s Kingdom, through our hands, on earth as it is in Heaven, is inevitable, in one generation or the next. “Nobody knows the day or the hour,” because God has put it in our hands – for our training – and we have free will.
The Kingdom of God is not a theocracy or man-made “church” system. God is love, and therefore the Kingdom of God is the Kingdom of Love. The Bible says, “the Kingdom of God is within you,” and that it is “peace, joy and righteousness in the Holy Spirit.” The Kingdom of God is advanced through personal relationships and discipleship, by bringing people, one-by-one, into a right relationship with their Father through Jesus Christ.
As much as He desires this to happen, God will not directly intervene in this, as it would undermine His entire purpose of training His sons and daughters. Instead, He has constrained Himself to working through people to accomplish His goals. This has been the hallmark of creation from the very beginning: all things were made through the man Jesus Christ, just as salvation came through Him. God didn’t just snap His proverbial fingers; instead He instructed and empowered His firstborn Son to do the work. The same power is available to us, Jesus’s eternal brothers and sisters, when we follow our Father’s step-by-step instructions.
There is nothing we can do in our own strength or understanding to advance God’s Kingdom. Instead, God has sent His Holy Spirit to guide our thoughts, words and actions. His full power, provision and protection are fully available to us only when we, like Christ, do only those things that our Father instructs us. (The sword of the Spirit, Paul said, is the Rhema – personal, intimate, spoken – Word of God to us, which guides our path, step-by-step.) When I function this way – that is, when it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me – nothing can stand in my way. The Christ in me can defeat every demon, heal every sickness, pull down every stronghold of the enemy, and demolish anything that exalts itself against the knowledge of God. When we all grow in maturity to function this way – which is inevitable, someday – we will walk in global unity, peace, power, health and wholeness, and then the end will come.
Our battle is not against flesh and blood, and yet it is a very real war. The enemy, too, is constrained to working through people, and he does so with fierce brutality. Many have been and will be martyred for the cause. Enduring through the trials and battles of this life requires that we view things from the perspective of eternity. Every person has a choice. Will we live to satisfy our mind and body in this world – seeking our best life now – or will we instead advance God’s Kingdom at all costs, realizing that our best life is yet to come? We cannot do both.
Jesus said that by our traditions we render the Word of God meaningless. The Kingdom of God is ancient and eternal, yet always fresh and new. The Gospel of the Kingdom, Jesus said, is like new wine which can’t be held in an old wineskin, or unshrunk cloth that should never be stitched into an old garment. While it is the oldest truth we can ever grasp, it will never fit comfortably into our traditional “theology” or established “church” organizations. Its very essence is disquieting, as it continually calls us beyond the status quo.
– You are the salt of the world. Stay salty, my friends!
Seems like “The Kingdom” is becoming a new buzzword in churchianity. That’s great, in some ways, but sorta makes me uneasy in others.
Yes, the Gospel of the Kingdom is the heart of the message that God desires to communicate to mankind. It is the core of the Bible, from Page One all the way through. So it’s great that Christians today are, maybe, finally starting to see this and get it.
But the fact is, peoples’ wrong understanding of God’s Kingdom has led to all kind of bad stuff over the centuries. Heck, the Jewish leaders of Jesus’ day crucified Him because they misunderstood the Kingdom. They though it was political, and when Jesus didn’t bring a political uprising against the Romans, they executed Him as a heretic.
A wrong understanding of the Kingdom of God inspired Paul, when he was Saul, to kill Christians. It launched the crusades, fueled the fires of the Inquisition, and has led modern churchianity to build billions of dollars of steeple-topped monuments to men’s marketing abilities.
Just slapping the word “Kingdom” on a message, organization or endeavor doesn’t make it so.
The pre-eminence of the Kingdom message in Scripture is undeniable, even though many seem to ignore it. I kicks me in the gut when I realize that this was “news” to me, even after spending decades under a steeple. When it finally hits them, this realization takes lots of Christians by surprise. They, rightfully, feel shortchanged. I know pastors, missionaries and other seminary graduates who have said the same thing!
Here are the facts:
- The words “born again” are used ONE TIME in the Gospels, when Jesus — in private, after dark, on a rooftop, talking to one man – told Nicodemus that you must be ”born again” just to SEE the Kingdom. (Sadly, getting folks “born again” is the sole driver of the vast majority of Christian endeavors, and yet without the Kingdom, that’s a pointless pursuit.)
- The word Kingdom is used 120 times in the Gospels, 154 in the entire New Testament. When you look for it, you’ll see it is the basis for virtually ALL of Jesus’ teachings and parables, and those of Paul, too.
- The first paragraph of Acts says Jesus spent His last 40 days on earth teaching His apostles about the Kingdom. The last paragraph of Acts says Paul spent 2 years in Rome teaching all his visitors about the Kingdom.
- Jesus said the Kingdom is what we’re to seek first, every single day. And when we do, He promises that God will provide all our needs!
- Why did Jesus come to earth? What was the purpose He claimed for His living as a man among men? Salvation, you say? NO! He said, crystal clear, that His purpose was to proclaim the Kingdom of God. (See Luke 4:43)
- When He explained the meaning of the parable of the sower (which is the basis of most outreach ministries) Jesus said the truth of God’s Kingdom is the seed we’re supposed to plant in the hearts of men, not the message of “salvation” alone. Sorry, Billy, but we sure have missed this one!
- Jesus said the end won’t come till the Gospel of the Kingdom (no, not the Gospel of salvation alone) is preached to every tribe and nation.
I could keep going on and on, but I think these should establish the point for any thinking Christian who is hungry for the truth: The central message of Scripture — the message Jesus came to share — is the message of the Kingdom of God.
It seems we’re good about teaching folks about Jesus — but we’ve missed the boat entirely when it comes to teaching them what Jesus taught! A disciple, by definition, teaches the teachings of his teacher. This may be a hard word for some, but it’s the truth: If someone is teaching some gospel other than the Gospel of the Kingdom, that person is not a disciple of Jesus Christ, because they’re not teaching what He taught.
Like I said, a lot of folks are throwing the word “Kingdom” around these days, slapping it onto all kinds of hokum. For the record, the Gospel of the Kingdom:
- Is NOT some ecumenical, kumbaya message that all the man-made “churches” should lay aside their doctrinal differences for the sake of superficial, organizational “unity.”
- Is NOT some code for a Christian Mafia-type “familia,” calling Christian businessmen to link together for the sake of making tons of money, for whatever good intentions.
- Does NOT support the building of huge “churches.” In fact, it has nothing to do with the “religion” of Chritianity — not one bit!
- Does NOT call for or apply to a Christian political party, or any form of top-down, forced theocracy or law-based “righteousness.”
- Does NOT call for violence, military conquest, or American global hegemony.
- It has NOTHING to do with the modern, man-made, geo-political nation of Israel.
- Does NOT call for blind allegiance to or compulsory financial support of any self-proclaimed “apostle.”
- And, it does NOT mix in any way whatsoever with the modern, man-made fable of the “end times” that says “the antichrist” will rise to global prominence, and that Christians will have to be rescued in some upcoming “rapture.” (That is about as anti-Kingdom as a teaching can get!)
When we pursue any one of these things for its own sake and call it “Kingdom,” we’re heading down the path of the Sanhedrin, the Inquisitors, the Crusadors, and everyone else who’s jimmied their own agenda and understanding into God’s perfect Word.
The Gospel of the Kingdom is at its core unsettling to the status quo. Yes, it DOES call for Christian unity, for direct action, for functioning as a Body, for advancing righteousness in every sphere (including business and politics), and for the global pre-eminence of the Body of Christ — before He returns. But it’s a whole lot deeper, a whole lot simpler, and a whole lot more revolutionary (personally and corporately) than we’re practicing today.
So, what IS the Gospel of the Kingdom? Stay tuned for Part Two! …
– You are the salt of the world. Stay salty, my friends!
This year may prove to be a perfect storm of ridiculous, kooky, end-is-near fever as secular/pagan whackoes who give credence to the Mayan calendar will join forces with the “Christian” whackoes who’ve made an industry out of “end times” predictions. Pop celebrities and mainstream media will no doubt get in on the act, because anything that generates hysteria makes good ratings — and if “Christians” end up looking even stupider in the end, that’s gravy for them.
This is a perfect — I believe God-ordained — opportunity for true, mature Christians to stand up and inject some Biblical truth into the mix. When 2012 comes and goes, and WE are the ones who can stay, “see folks, we told you so,” the media’s sensationalism will backfire on them, and God will be glorified through it all! This can and should be the year that the Gospel of the Kingdom gains global pre-eminence, and the would-be “Christian” Nostradamases are finally brought into the truth (or shamed out of their pulpits and seminary lecturns).
Those who understand the Gospel of the Kingdom, that Jesus taught and the early church advanced, know that there is no secret alarm clock ticking in heaven that will someday trigger “the end times.” We understand that the modern, pop-theology/mythology teachings of a sudden “rapture” and future “great tribulation” are nowhere in the Bible, and were instead pulled from their Dark Ages origins and popularized by John Darby, the father of modern “end times” kooks. We know that the rise of the victorious Body of Christ is inevitable before the end, not the rise of the antichrist!
The Bible says seven times that Jesus is currently seated in Heaven, waiting UNTIL His enemies are made His footstool. Jesus Himself said seven times in a row (in Rev. 2-3) that only those who are victorious over the world will have an eternal inheritance. Paul said that spiritual gifts are being given to men UNTIL the Body of Christ rises to global pre-eminence, and only THEN will Christ return. In the Revelation, it says that at the end, the angels will rejoice because “The Bride has made herself ready.”
On virtually every page of the Bible, this point is clear: God has given His children on earth a job to do — that is, to conform the world to His Kingdom — and the end won’t come until we’re done. “No one knows the day or the hour” because it’s in our hands, and we have free will!
So when will the end come? According to the Bible:
- After Christ’s enemies are under His feet. Where are His feet? On His Body. That’s us! We have power to bring down powers, principalities and strongholds of the enemy. The end won’t come till we stand up and exercise that power!
- When the Body of Christ (that is, us!) reaches “the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.”
- When the sons and daughters of the Kingdom reach full maturity.
- When all true believers are united in the truth.
- After Christians are fully victorious in conquering the kingdom of darkness.
So … how far are we from that? Well, look around. To say that it’ll happen in 2012 is a stretch, at best!
Did you know the word “apocalypse” means “unveiling” — as in the unveiling of the Bride of Christ? The only one who should be afraid of that is the enemy! Certainly not victorious sons and daughters of the Living God!
There’s money in sensationalism. Human nature (as in, the sinful variety) values victimhood and craves a rescue from reality. Some leaders (Christian and other, sincere and not) gain great wealth and esteem by playing on these facts. They should, instead, be basing their leadership on the facts of the Bible. And those facts are that we are called to be VICTORS, not VICTIMS, and there will be no great escape or sudden “end of the world” apart from our crossing the finish line!
True peace is only found on the path of God. As fear grips the world this year, let’s seize the opportunity to draw mankind — starting with our Christian brothers and sisters — into the peace and certainty of God’s true vision, the message of His Kingdom come.
How? Read UPRISING: Time for Christians to Stop Waiting and Start Winning. Do like many others have done (including several mininisters) and buy multiple copies of it to give away. That’s a good place to start!
– You are the salt of the world. Stay salty, my friends! (Especially through 2012!)
No, I haven’t gone all kooky on you. Don’t go sell all your stuff and start carrying signs saying “the end is near!”
I most certainly do NOT believe in some secret alarm clock in Heaven that will someday go “BING” and then the world will end. There is not a mysterious, unknowable timeline for the apocalypse. God’s not playing cosmic musical chairs with us, to see who He can catch off guard at “the end of the world.” There will be no sudden “rapture,” either, and no far-out numerology or astrology will figure it out. Studying headlines or watching Middle East politics will just drive you batty and distract you from the work at hand. The prerequisite events that will trigger end of time are not in the hands of the enemy or “antichrist.” Instead, they are in the hands of God’s sons and daughters, intentionally put there by our loving Father. “No one knows the day or the hour” because it’s in our hands, and we have free will!
Jesus said the end will come “just as it was in the days of Noah.” Noah had a building project, and so do we! The very first thing God said to man in Genesis 1, after He made us, was “go and conquer!” In Revelation 21, He says that “he who conquers will inherit all things.” In between, the entire arc of Scripture paints the picture of God raising up victorious sons and daughters who gain the character necessary to inherit His eternal throne by conquering the enemy here on earth.
The Bible says seven times that Jesus is currently seated in Heaven, waiting for this to happen. And Paul said God will continue to give gifts to men until it does. God has given us an enemy to vanquish and a Kingdom to establish, and the end won’t come till we are done. The Bible plainly spells this out for those with eyes to see.
Noah could have refused to build the ark, and God would have raised up another man. The flood came one week after the ark was done. Yet, had Noah taken a two week vacation sometime during that 120-year construction project, he wouldn’t have drowned in the flood. Instead, God would have delayed the flood by two weeks! And Jesus said the end will come ”just as it was in the days of Noah…”
The first generation of Israelites could have chosen to trust God, count the cost, and cross the Jordan, and they would have been victorious! Or, the second generation could have turned around like their parents, and God would have raised up another generation, and another, till He got His people where He wanted them. Yes, in the mystery of eternity, He saw the end from the beginning — because it’s always NOW in eternity — but that fact did not negate their free will.
Some generation, someday, will finally grasp the Gospel of the Kingdom — the universal, uderlying message of the Bible, and the message that Jesus said was His very purpose for being sent to earth — choose to trust God, count the cost, and will gain victory over the kingdom of darkness once and for all.
When they do this, it will trigger the end of time, and usher in the new heaven and the new earth. Only then (as it says in Revelation), “the angels (will) rejoice because the Bride has made herself ready,” and (as it says in Ephesians), Jesus the Head will join the Body that has finally grown to the “measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” on earth. Like Noah, we have a building project. And also like Noah, we have a choice.
I’ve worked with youth full-time for 10 years now, and have been blessed to lead hundreds to Christ. I’m not talking about getting them to raise their hands and say a prayer, or sign up to be members of a church group, or sit in a pew, or listen to “Christian” music, or even accept the factual truth of the Bible. I mean, God has used me to introduce Himself to them, personally and deeply. It has been a tough, costly and often lonely road, moreso than I ever imagined, but well worth it. I’ve also talked with hundreds of youth ministers over this past decade, and seen countless youth minstries in action (or inaction, as the case often is!). What I’m saying it, God has shown me a thing or two about what works and what doesn’t, and why.
We have to be REAL with young people — stop trying to fake them out, and start getting them out of the fake. They don’t buy the same old churchianity that’s worked for generations.
They’re the most sophisticated generation ever. Their entire world is made up of advertising messages of one form or another, and they’re highly jaded, skeptical, and disillusioned. They are HUNGRY for REAL and know it when they see it — because they’ve tried everything else. It’s just that most have just never seen it before!
When we meet them at their level — which is HIGHER than what we’re used to intellectually — leave out the religious traditions and jargon, stop trying to be “cool” and just be REAL, they respond, in a big way. Meet them where they are, personally introduce them to the Living God, and BAM — watch out!
I have genuine hope that THIS is the generation that will deliver victory. But how will they believe if they don’t hear, how will they hear if we don’t tell them, and how can tell them if we keep assuming they’re shallow and irresponsible?
I wish every youth ministry in America would trash the freaking X-boxes, skateboard ramps, pop music, pre-packaged programs and cutesy names. I wish youth ministers would stop diminishing themselves trying to “fit in” and be “cool” — trying fruitlessly to connect on a shallow, fake level, when the kids really want something REAL and DEEP.
Instead of trying to entertain them and slip in a little Jesus here and there, just sit down and BE REAL with young people! Stop playing “church” and start playing to win! Personally introduce them to the Living God, and let Him (and them!) take it from there. I can testify to you from first-hand experience that it works. They will go deeper, harder and faster then you ever imagined. Try it — you’ll be surprised! The Kingdom of God belongs to such as these!
We can choose to be the last generation!
– You are the salt of the world. Stay salty, my friends!
I sure don’t like using big words when perfectly fine small ones will do. It’s not just about avoiding unnecessary keystrokes, it’s about connecting and communicating. Using a $5 word like “Dispensationalism” will generally cause most folks either to get all glassy-eyed or run away screaming. That, or put them in a fighting mood. While throwing a big word out every once in a while may make me look smarter than I really am, none of these are reactions I desire from my listeners or readers, so I try to avoid them altogether.
Just so you know, I didn’t bring this one up, so don’t blame me. Note in the “category” listing of this post, it’s under “Q&A.” A woman I’ve been corresponding with asked me about it, and, as she’s seeking truth, I felt compelled to reply.
Specifically, she brought up the word in the context of a certain teacher she’s heard. I did research on the fellow and confirmed that, indeed, he is a Dispensationalist. No, it’s not curse word, and he wouldn’t take it as an insult (altought some folk I know sure would).
If you, like this fine lady, are a Christian who seeks truth, I must say this is one multi-syballic word you should probably be aware of, because most pew-sitting, pop-theology-subscribing Evangelicals today are good Dispensationalists, whether they know it or not. That, and it’s the biological mother of the 800-lb gorilla that is standing in the way of the Body of Christ’s march to Kingdom victory.
Anyway, that’s enough of a disclaimer. Below is an email I recently sent to her…
… I found an interview with (let’s just call him J.D.) online, in which he talks about his end-times view. He is a classic Dispensationalist. He sounds like a great guy. I know a lot of good men and women who have bought into this school of thought, as it became all the rage in some independent seminaries in recent generations, and has been popularized by the mass media.
Dispensationalism is a school of thought invented by John Darby in the 1830s and then popularized in America by Cyrus Scofield. It is based on the “futurist” view that was developed by Jesuit monk Francisco Ribera in 1585. Ribera was a part of the Inquisition-era Catholic Council of Trent, and he intentionally developed the futurist view to undermine the reformation. The Bible says we can judge a tree by its roots, and its fruits. Ribera’s plot is the historical root of Dispensationalism. For the fruit of it, I encourage you to read Corrie ten Boom’s letter about what she saw first-hand as the results of this teaching. (Find it at
While this storyline has become popular in the modern Christian TV and book industry (it sells a lot of books!), it is patently rejected by countless theologians and long-established seminaries that are built on the work of the Reformers.
I have studied all the scriptures that are hammered together to support this view, and it cannot be deductively gleaned from anything in the Bible. It is only inductively supported by random, obscure verses. Without Ribera’s induction (to undermine the Reformation!), the Dispensationalist end-times view would never have come into being. (For a much more in-depth Biblical and scholarly study of this, I strongly recommend the book “End Times Delusions” by Steve Wohlberg.)
I don’t claim to be a better Christian, a smarter man, or more educated than any Dispensationalist. Remember, there was a time when ALL the apostles, except the marginally-trusted newcomer Paul, bought into the teaching that Gentile converts had to be circumcised. They were the ones who had spent time with the incarnate Christ on earth (Paul didn’t!) and they were the established leaders of the Christian church of the day. Even Barnabas sided with the circumcision crowd. They were incredible men and heroes of the faith. But, like the Dispensationalists of today, they were wrong. Thank God they were teachable! (Imagine an altar call with scissors… ouch!)
Regarding the message of the Kingdom that you ask about – well, this is my main beef with Darby’s Dispensationalist teaching, that it’s incompatible with a genuine understanding of the Gospel of the Kingdom (Greek BASALEIA = royal power, kingship, dominion and rule).
I encourage you to do a keyword search in the Bible on that word. It’s mentioned 154 times in the New Testament (120 in the Gospels). In the first paragraph of Acts, it’s what Jesus exclusively taught the Apostles during His last 40 days, and in the last paragraph of Acts it’s what Paul spent his last 2 years in Rome teaching. Jesus said the purpose of being born again is just to see the Kingdom, it’s what we’re supposed to seek first, its coming is what He prayed for first in the Lord’s Prayer, He said the end won’t come till the Gospel of the Kingdom is taught in every tribe and nation, and (in Luke 4:43) He declared that proclaiming the Kingdom is the reason He was sent by God. Most parables are about the Kingdom. John the Baptist’s message was that the Kingdom was near, and Jesus said this frequently, also. This is a very important topic!
Starting in Genesis 1, where God assigns mankind the task of establishing dominion (Hebrew RADAH = subjugate, conquer), and all the way through to Revelation 21, where it says “he who conquers will inherit all things,” and including the entire arc of Scripture in between, the clear picture is that God has assigned His sons and daughters (the Body and Bride of Christ) the task of bringing His Kingdom to earth as it is in Heaven. The Bible says seven times that Jesus is seated, waiting until this happens, and Paul said clearly (Ephesians 4) that God is giving gifts to men until this happens. (This is the primary message of my book, by the way.)
The word “rapture” is nowhere in the Bible. There is NO Bible reference to a great escape, or to a “third coming” of Christ (count them … second for “the rapture” then again later on). Our job is not to wait to be rescued, it is to advance the Kingdom. Our destiny is not to be yanked away from an unfinished project, it is victory. The only mentions of “antichrist” in the Bible are of a spirit that has been with us since the beginning. There is no future bogeyman “Antichrist” whose pre-eminence is certain. Instead, it’s the future pre-eminence of the Body of Christ that is foretold, and is certain.
Both can’t be right. We can’t be both passive spectators, destined for failure and in need of rescue (as portrayed by Darby’s end-times view) and active, victorious agents of the Kingdom come. I choose to side with the view of God’s victorious Kingdom, not on the side of a Body that is passive and pathetic.
You said you agree the church today is increasingly irrelevant and marginalized, yet you questioned whether this was due to the pop-theology “end times” view. I’d respectfully submit to you that Jesus said “the eye is the lamp of the body.” What we fix our eyes on, our view of things to come, permeates our very being. Darby’s teaching tells us that we are incapable of victory, nothing we do can ultimately change anything, and that Jesus and the angels will eventually come in after us and clean up our mess. (How does this view of the Body and Bride of Christ glorify Him?)
With this view of the future, is there a wonder we have such a hard time getting Christians motivated to make a difference? You can’t separate these two: the pathetic state of the church, and modern “end times” teachings. They go hand in hand. It is 100% due to the modern (very recent in history) popularization of Dispensationalism that most Christians today 1) simply have never heard the message of the Kingdom (the central message of Scripture!), and 2) are living as passive spectators to world events. (Good Dispensationalists will sing “I’ll fly away” all day long, but you’ll never hear “Onward Christian Soldiers” come out of their lips!)
It’s time for this to change! I think you’ll get a lot out of my book. I’d love to get a copy to (J.D.); he sounds like a wonderful fellow, who would have a teachable spirit.