So what do we do?
You see 900 years ago, we would grab our swords, say goodbye to our loved ones and we would cross the seas to kill, rape, and pillage.
900 years ago, we would have expressed our religious zeal and devotion to “God” by taking up arms and preparing for battle.
9-hundred years ago, 1095 AD, this blog post may have been a theological apologetic defense for why scripture declares the Holy Land “ours” and how we must protect it at all costs.
But thank God, that was ninehundred years ago and we have grown from that wretched thinking. Now, violence is no longer an option. Nor do I want it to be.
So what do we do? This is my suggestion: we, as Christians, continue doing what we have been called to do in the first place. Releasing the Kingdom of Heaven into the world as true Disciples of Christ. It’s important to remember what Paul stated,
“Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Ephesians 6:12).
And it’s important to remember what Jesus commanded
“Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.” (Matthew 10:8)
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” (The really important verse we’ve forgotten)
Our priests are being murdered, our brothers and sisters slain, our God disrespected. So what do we do? The way we wage war against the evil of hell, is by releasing the love of Heaven. Our role isn’t to go on Facebook and exchange in hurtful, misguided, ideological debate. Our role sure as hell isn’t to advocate for some sort of violent 21st century crusade. But I feel a strong conviction that we, as the Church, are called to rise up and to do the works of Christ that the Father might be glorified. (John 14:12)
Personally, I don’t like the idea of sitting here in America, stagnant, as fellow Christians are literally being targeted and killed. I’m not cool with the idea of sitting in all these air-conditioned coffee shops without even having the decency to spend time praying for the world. I am as guilty as any of us, and I hate it. So I would invite you into my prayer that God would ignite our hearts with a passion for change. I am praying that the Holy Spirit would heal my self-centeredness and that I would live the abundant life that God promised.
I’ve never told this story before, but a couple winter’s ago, I experienced God in a profound way. In this specific season, I was hungry for what could be a charismatic union with the Holy Spirit. I was reading about the experiences that past revivalists have had, like Jonathan Edwards and Evan Roberts. I was also reading studies and books about the Holy Spirit, and a spiritual appetite was heightened within me. Admittedly, I was never much of a feeler growing up. In church I can recount moments where my friends were in awe after “feeling” the Holy Spirit in worship, but for me I was much more stimulated through the intellect. But as I continued to grow, I realized that what I took pride in, that being my intellect, may have become a hindrance to what I could experience in a tangible and emotional level with God. So one winter break during my sophomore year in college, I was visiting my father in Richmond, and it happened. After a lot of prayer and fasting, I laid in my bed reading, and it really, finally happened.
This is the part where you get uncomfortable.
It is hard to explain, but out of nowhere I felt what I can only attribute to the Holy Spirit that I was seeking after, throughout my body. It started in my fingertips and hands and suddenly I felt a light current of energy going throughout my body. Head to toe. It was strange, it was odd, and it was glorious. It really wasn’t too dramatic, I’ve been through much more dramatic moments, but ever since then, when I focus my attention to the Spirit in me, I feel Him again. Some moments his Presence is more intense than others, but it has helped my relationship with God in momentous ways. Not only did that moment aid my relationship with God, but it gave me confidence to take more of the risks that Jesus has commanded of us. (Matthew 10:8) In fact that moment with God is what inspired me to start the prayer booth ministry I did. The fruit that I have seen stem from that moment with God has been awesome, but of course I want to see more.
Further studies have led me to find that what I felt/feel could be identified as the dunamis of God. “Dunamis” is the Greek word that when translated means power, might, and miraculous works. In the New Testament it is used about 120 times. Here are a couple examples of how it is used in Matthew alone:
The idea of the Holy Spirit’s Power dwelling within man has obviously been a reoccurring theme on this site. Rather than this fascination fading away through time, it has grown stronger within me, becoming an obsession. The more scripture I read, coupled with the personal experiences I have had, the more I realize that this concept of God’s power isn’t merely a personal phase of interest that I am in, rather it appears to be my purpose. I feel that I am coming to a place where God is calling me to dedicate the rest of my life to learning what it means to be “clothed with (dunamis) from Heaven” (Luke 24:49) The very Power of God is what so grandiosely sets Him apart from all other examples of divine entities.
It has been said that without the raw power, or dunamis, of God, then Christianity would be another mere religion or philosophy. I couldn’t agree more. It is God’s dunamis that through Moses split the seas, that through Elijah sent fire from Heaven, that through Jesus healed the sick, cast out demons, and raised the dead (including himself), and it is this dunamis of God that can be seen in the acts of the Apostles.
Jesus was the ultimate example of what a person clothed with dunamis could be. Scripture describes that he was filled with the Spirit without measure (John 3:34). A fascinating illustration of how real this power in Jesus was is the story of the healed woman in Luke 8. The account states that the woman, “came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak, and immediately her bleeding stopped.” (v.44) As if that miracle wasn’t impressive enough, we learn something further about Jesus. His response is incredible, he says, “Who touched me…someone touched me; I know that power (dunamis) has gone out of me.” (v.45-46) The account also explains that Jesus was in the middle of a crowd where there were many hands touching him, yet something specific happened with this woman. Despite all the hands on him, Jesus actually could feel dunamis leave him. How aware of the Presence of the Spirit do you have to be that you can tangibly feel God using you? This example truly excites me.
It’s easy to think, “Well that’s Jesus, I can’t expect to ever do anything like that.” However, I remind all of us unbelieving believers, that this Jesus was the one who stated we would do the things he does, and even greater (John 14:12). And just in case that promise isn’t convincing enough, I would like to highlight that Peter’s shadow healed people! (Acts 5:15). Peter is an example of what it looks like to be an ordinary Christian who is clothed with dunamis. I wonder what daily life would look like if we all accepted the challenge to seek God and wait until we were “clothed with dunamis from on high” (Luke 24:49).
A couple months ago, my roommate Hayden hurt his shoulder. The pain was preventing him from doing what he loves to do which is surfing. Rarely does Hayden ever ask me to pray for him, but he apparently was in enough pain to push him over the vulnerable edge of asking me to pray for his shoulder. So I laid my hand on his shoulder, I prayed, and the pain left immediately. Hayden then went surfing the next morning and the pain hasn’t come back to this day.
So what exactly happened there? I took a risk, the power of the Holy Spirit flowed through me as a willing vessel, and Jesus did what he does best. This Power series I’m doing on this blog is really about my desire for myself to take more risks of Power. Hopefully this series can allow us all to see God in a whole new light and encourage us to step out in faith. I truly believe that it is essential to the Christian life to attempt the impossible.
Personally, I often feel like I may be boring the Holy Spirit with my lifestyle. Don’t get me wrong, I know God loves us unconditionally and is always radically proud of us. However, because I believe we are meant to have a relationship with Holy Spirit, I can’t shake the feeling that when I don’t live a lifestyle that allows God to act like God, maybe he gets bored?
Think about it. Everything that Jesus did in the Gospels was the Holy Spirit’s raw Power. Read the miraculous stories in the book of Acts. Read the heavenly wisdom of Paul’s epistles. Lose yourself in the mysterious and beautiful visions in the book of Revelation. One thing is clear about the Holy Spirit from the beginning to the end of the Bible and that is that He loves to have a fun time. The Holy Spirit is the Power of God in action. He loves setting people free, He loves healing people, He loves declaring the purposes of God into people’s lives, He loves transforming cities to look more and more like Heaven. It’s quite clear that these impossible things are activities that Holy Spirit is quite fond of. So why don’t I life a daily life that creates an avenue for him to do what he loves to do? Why would I ever quench him?
I pray that all believers and myself included would be awakened to the call of Matthew 10:7
“As you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand. Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. Freely you have received, freely give.’”
After Hayden had his shoulder healed, he had more faith to see God do the same thing in another person. He told me about his friend Joel who works near his job. Joel had hurt his knee and was in need of surgery. It sounded like a perfectly fine Power-opportunity to me so we went and prayed for him. Guess what? His knee was healed and the pain was gone.
Joel bent down and was doing some testing and a surprised smile crept up to his face and he was filled with joy. Naturally, that moment opened up the door to some more conversation about God and the moment was truly beautiful. Because it was about expressing God’s love more than displaying power, I made a new friend that day.
To be completely honest though, Joel ended up hurting the same knee soon after. I’m not fully aware of the story behind it, but it appears to me that either the knee may not have been completely restored or he truly just hurt it all over again. I’m not sure.
Here’s where the mystery comes in. I do believe that a miracle took place in that moment. But I can’t deny that the knee was hurt again. I wont claim to have God completely figured out, I think we need to allow room for mystery without us trying to be God’s defense attorneys. My job is to cry out to God alone and ask him why the pain came back to Joel, and to ask God to show me truths of the kingdom to prevent this from happening again. One response I can’t afford to make would be me losing faith in the truth of who God is – He is good, He is love, and He is healing.
The reason I told you the bad news of the situation is because I believe we need to be aware that this lifestyle is a journey and an adventure. As long as we continue to risk, we will see miraculous breakthrough, and we will also see failures. What’s important is that we grow from every experience and continue to run the race.
The Christian faith without power is no faith at all. The power that only God can provide is what keeps Christianity free from being an empty religious ritual and meaningless philosophy. I am not attacking other religions or belief systems, what I am attacking is what the American Christian life looks like when there is no power in it.
As a living representation of Christ’s Body on earth, it is a necessity for power to flow from our lives.
Now for whoever reads this, this truth will either frighten you, offend you, or excite you.
And, it is important to note that those are the exact responses that Jesus received during his earthly ministry. Because of his boldness and his effective power, the public was either afraid of him, offended by him, or excited because of him.
The political powers were afraid of him. Jesus, the prophesied King of the Jews, certainly held the power to sack the Roman government to establish the Kingdom of God in Jerusalem forever. This idea was so understood that King Herod ordered for the mass genocide of Hebrew babies in Bethlehem to avoid the coming Messiah (Matthew 2:16-18). Political forces continued to conspire out of fear, until their threat was officially crucified.
The religious powers were offended by him. Jesus, their prophesied Son of God, not only challenged each of them, but he lived out the righteousness that they had failed to perfect. His God-shaped confidence and willingness to humbly love sinners and do life with them, offended the religious elite greatly. The power that was released through Christ offended them so much that they even accused him of being demon possessed (Matthew 12:23-25).
The “poor in spirit” and those who “hungered and thirsted for righteousness” (Matt 5:3&6) were excited because of him. Jesus, their prophesied Savior, not only loved each person he interacted with, but he called them into their rightful identity in God. He spoke loving words to people who had been abused by the political and religious spirit and His power changed their lives. As Christ healed people, and released them from torment, the public could only respond with excitement as his power proved him to be the real deal. It was his power that caused crowds to rush after him. In fact, Jesus wasn’t unaware of the necessity of his powerful acts. In John 14:11 he even states as his own apologist, “Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves.”
If Jesus saw the importance of powerful works, then shouldn’t we? If Jesus’ evangelistic method for advancing the kingdom was through power, then why should we look to any other model to follow? We shouldn’t.
So often we may think, “well that was JESUS, I can’t be expected to do that stuff” and we allow that lie to discredit us before we even try anything. However, this is backwards thinking when we remember that Jesus was the same one who commanded us to do the same things he did. To make matters more complicated and unbelievable, he promised that we would do even “greater things” than He did (John 14:12). Wow.
It doesn’t stop there. We have scriptural evidence showing that this mandate is possible to fulfill as mere mortals. The book of Acts shows us that the disciples took this teaching literally and they too, once baptized in the Holy Spirit, performed works in power as they lived their lives as Christians.
This is the reason Paul wrote, “my message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power” (1 Corinthians 2:4). I just love that verse. It is a constant reminder for how ministry should look. As the Body of Christ, we must represent Him with excellence. Too often we have turned the faith of “The Way” into a religious constitution that relies far too much on the abilities of man. Instead, we should rely solely on the Holy Spirit. One of my favorite quotes is from Dr. A.W. Tozer where he said,
“If the Holy Spirit was withdrawn from the church today, 95 percent of what we do would go on and no one would know the difference. If the Holy spirit had been withdrawn from the New Testament church, 95 percent of what they did would stop, and everybody would know the difference.”
Society has grown frustrated and annoyed by fakeness and we are in a place of craving authenticity. We are created for experience and each of us desires to see power illustrated in something true. We want to encounter something authentic. I believe that the world wants to see the risen Christ lived out in his people. Within all of man’s desires for truth, progress, beauty, goodness, love, and change, the true fulfilment is realized only in the Holy Spirit’s power.
I am hungry to see the authentic Gospel of the Kingdom in full effect. I will not settle for a comfortable life. In response to a dying, lonely, and confused world, we must allow the power of God to transform us, and we must then demonstrate that same power. We must always remember that the same power that rose Jesus from the dead now lives in us (Romans 8:11). We must love the world relentlessly and reveal the Father, just as Jesus did.
DISCLAIMER: BLAME TREVOR FOR SAYING "BEST SERMON EVER" IT IS HIS FAULT.
So my friend Trevor actually taped my latest sermon at ROCKHARBOR High School. I decided to post the video to my Trilove blog for anyone to see. I hope you enjoy!
The best part about this Kingdome Come theology, philosophy, lifestyle, whatever you want to call it, is that Jesus portrayed it perfectly. The whole idea of Kingdom Come is found in Jesus. This isn’t some strange, fanatical, mystical concept that has evolved over time into what we call the charismatic church, no this is the practical side of Christianity that Jesus showed to the world. It was He who called us to spread the “Gospel of the Kingdom” (Matthew 24:14). It was He who taught us to pray “Your Kingdom Come on earth as it is in Heaven.” (Matthew 6:10). It was He who performed countless miracles (John 21:25). And it was He who said “As the Father has sent me, so am I sending you.” (John 20:21). There is so much beauty to the person of Jesus, I am constantly in awe of who He is. The passionate desire of my heart has always been to lead people into an encounter with Jesus and that is where the significance of “Kingdom Come” comes into play. When we as Spirit-filled, Jesus followers, can demonstrate Kingdom power, when authentic, it leads directly to Christ. A Kingdom is the “King’s domain”, so the Kingdom is where the King lives. We are taught that Jesus lives in us. Thus, the “Kingdom of God is within you.” (Luke 17:21). Where the Kingdom is, the King is found.
In the Church, it is taught that Jesus is the perfect model for us to follow. But we don’t believe it. If we believed it, more of us would be doing what he did. It is as simple as that. We pick and choose what parts of Jesus we want to imitate, when in reality, we are called to imitate all of his lifestyle. Our mind tells us that doing things like performing a miracle is impossible, and Jesus only was able to do it because he was God. However, that is no more impossible than it is for us to be a peaceful person, or to love others effectively, yet we strive to do those things daily. Remember without Him we can do NO-THING (John 15:5). There is an inconsistency here. We must more accurately understand who Jesus is and what he accomplished on earth, and what is now possible for us to do through Christ.
Jesus, eternally God, came to earth as man. He made himself vulnerable to the realities of earth, lowered himself to that of a servant (Hebrews 2:9), came from nothing, and submitted his life to the will of the Father (John 6:38). He was baptized, filled with the Holy Spirit, tested by the Devil, and then proceeded to begin his ministry as a Spirit empowered, Father’s voice following, Man of God (Matthew 3:13-4:17). Understanding the complexity of the Trinity’s relationship will forever be a mystery. One thing I do know however, which the Bible makes clear, is that Jesus modeled the life for all believers to follow, and we are now without excuse.
This is not meant to sound condemning, instead I hope it is life-giving, exhilarating, exciting. When I first had the revelation that I could do the things that Jesus did, I felt the gates of heavenly adventure burst open. No wonder so many Christians are bored, we’re not living the lifestyle we’re called to! We pray day and night asking God what his will is for our life, but the answer is clear in his love letters to us. His will for us is to advance His Kingdom and to reveal the Father to the world. I cannot think of a more amazing mandate to ever carry on my life! What a privilege that the Creator trusts me enough that He would pour out His Spirit on me and allow me to introduce Him to his lost children! I get to show orphans who their heavenly Daddy is! What else in this world will satisfy me?! Nothing compares to this divine assignment.
So what did he do? I love the passage where he describes his own mission statement. In Luke 4, he quotes the prophet Isaiah to describe the call on his ministry, “The Spirit of the LORD is upon me, because he anointed me to preach the Gospel to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are oppressed, to proclaim the favorable year of the LORD.” We are still in the Year of the LORD’s Favor and where His favor his, liberation follows.
We can see that Jesus consistently ministered to the poor. He also literally recovered sight to the blind. There is a beautiful story in John 9. As he saw a man born blind, he made a couple statements as a precursor to his miracle. He said in verse 4, “We must work the works of Him who sent me as long as it is day”. Notice that he uses the word “we”, which includes his followers. He did not intend for this miracle to demonstrate something that only He is meant to do. He goes on to say in verse 5, “While I am in the world, I am the Light of the world.” So this act of healing the blind man is a natural reaction caused by Jesus’ identity as the “Light of the world” It is interesting to note that he also refers to his disciples as the “Light of the world” in Matthew 5:14. So here in this miracle, we already see that the deed is to reveal the Father and it is something that his followers are expected to do. He then, in verses 6-7, “spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and applied the clay to his eyes, and said to him, ‘Go, wash in the pool of Siloam’. So he went away and washed, and came back seeing.” Now why did Jesus spit and make mud to heal the man’s eyes? I have no idea. There are many brilliant commentaries and theories about the tactic, but one thing is made clear to me – there is no formula to Christ’s miracles. This ministry is situational and personal. There’s no special prayer, ritual, chant, etc. we are only to listen to the Father’s voice and follow the Spirit’s lead.
There are many miraculous stories that I would love to expound upon, but the point I want to make is that miracles, impossible signs and wonders, are not only a natural aspect of the Gospel of the Kingdom, but they are necessary. When Jesus preached “The Kingdom of God is near!” (Mark 1:15), he proved it by performing powerful works. These works proved the loving and caring heart of the Father. Without the kind compassion of the Father, these miracles are empty. Yet because they point to the loving character of God, they hold transformative power which leads people to salvation. It is the same reason Paul said “My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit's power” (1 Corinthians 2:4). Let’s all continue to look to Jesus, and only Jesus, and ask His Spirit to use us in all of His capacity. We’re ready.
Jesus said two things that I’ve been left to ponder. First, in teaching his disciples how to pray, he taught the Lord’s prayer in which the first line has left me speechless. Jesus spoke, “Father, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come.” (Luke 11:2) and then six chapters later, he informed his disciples, “the Kingdom of God is within you.” (Luke 17:21).
Many people read his prayer of “Your kingdom come.” As a reference to the fully manifested kingdom of God on earth during the end times. I disagree with this interpretation. If that were true, Jesus would merely be praying for his own second coming. I don’t think Christ was all too concerned with his second coming, he was focused on what he could do in the here and now. Jesus prayed, for the Father’s kingdom to come now, and he proved it through his ministry by relentlessly meeting the miraculous needs of the people. Even more, when Jesus preached he declared “The time has come. The kingdom of God has come near.” (Mark 1:15). When I used to read this passage, I thought he meant the kingdom of God was near, in relevance to time. But Jesus wasn’t saying the kingdom of God, is almost here. He was saying near, in relevance to distance and space. His use of near, referred to the fact that the kingdom was right in their reach because He was present. He then proved it by remaining pure in word, character, and action. He fully displayed the Kingdom of God and revealed the heart of the Father. The Kingdom of God can be seen through the acts of Jesus in the gospels, and still through the ministry of the apostles in Acts. This same gospel of power was never meant to end with the completion of the Bible, that would just turn this beautiful Good News into an empty, powerless philosophy.
He then teaches that the Kingdom of God is within you. This truth deserves some meditation. Instead of waiting in our Christian cube of comfortableness, we have a duty on our lives to proclaim the gospel of the kingdom and to bring heaven to earth through our daily representations of King Jesus. The Holy Spirit, who is God, lives in us, therefore nothing should be deemed impossible to us. I grow unimpressed with ministry that settles with an incomplete gospel. A consistent demonstration of the powerful gospel (1 Corinthians 2:4) I believe, is key to forming Kingdom Culture. And yes, I believe we are Christians are also meant to be key influencers of the culture around us; look to the lives of Joseph, Moses, Daniel, Paul, and of course Jesus. Remaining authentic in our faith and being the salt of the earth, can have a natural effect on our culture, which make the world a better place and brings glory directly to the goodness of our Father.
So practically, what does this look like? What does it look like to live out the gospel fully and bring the kingdom of God to earth? My heart’s desire is that wherever we are placed, we would help form an entire culture that would fall in love with King Jesus, cultivate daily intimacy with Christ, and maintain the fire of Holy Spirit. I think a personal kingdom lifestyle, which should transcend into culture, needs to be complete in character, word, and deed. I don’t believe any of this is attainable without the transformative power of Holy Spirit.
Character: I think it’s important that we, as believers, continue to pray towards the betterment of our character. I’ve met so many lovely non-believers who are constantly put off by the character of Christians, and with what I’ve seen I don’t blame them. We have grown cold, hateful, judgmental, greedy, hot-tempered, selfish, and egotistical. I’m not pointing the finger at any of my brothers or sisters, trust me I’ve got some serious planks in my eye. But I do pray and spend time with God seeking a transformation of my character. We aren’t called to live in our old ways of life, we have been lifted higher.
Word: Jesus knew the scriptures. He knew what he was fulfilling (Luke 4:17) and he knew how to fight satan with the sword of the word (Luke 4:1-13). We too, must spend time in the scriptures. Reading the Bible helps to mold us and guide us. The word of God is always relevant and it is full of love and encouragement. When people complain about not hearing God’s voice, I often encourage them to start with reading the Bible. He still speaks to us through the Bible, and we learn more about who he is through the scriptures. The word of God also keeps us accountable and in alignment to the character of God.
Deed: Character and Word are easy for many to grasp, but for some we lose sight of the importance of Deed. Now when I speak of deed, I believe this refers to both natural, humanitarian efforts (giving money, food, clothing, etc.) but it is also the supernatural acts of the Holy Spirit. Jesus taught us to look after orphans, widows, and to give to the needy – which seems possible in the natural world. But he also taught us to “Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons.” This seems difficult, but through the Holy Spirit and with a lifestyle of taking risks, this is beautifully possible.
And what does Kingdom Come look like relationally? In the Kingdom, there is humble leadership, sacrificial romance, encouraging friendship, and graceful service. Financially? In the Kingdom, we give generously, expecting the inheritance of our Heavenly Father who always provides for us with abundance. Creatively? In the Kingdom, the Holy Spirit is our divine inspiration to create beautiful art and technology, helping people connect with God and heavenly realities.
I want to encourage all who read this, to begin to pray to God. Ask him what it looks like for the Kingdom of God to come now, through your life. Seek the Father’s voice, pursue intimacy with Holy Spirit, and advance the kingdom.
“Our Father, your kingdom come, on earth as it is in heaven.” – the Lord
I was sharing a conversation with one of my high school students a couple months ago. She was being refreshingly honest and expressed her frustrations with the Christian faith and her personal struggles. Somewhere along the lines, we landed at a topic regarding the Christian life. Her statement was that the life of following Jesus appears to be quite boring in comparison to following the high school crowd which leads to a stimulated life of partying, drugs, alcohol, sex, etc. These of course, are all struggles that don’t necessarily end once we graduate.
When dealing with sin, whether I’m speaking to a high school student or a fellow peer, I don’t like to spend time speaking about the awful calamity of sin, rather, I prefer to elevate the beauty of a holy lifestyle. People know that sin is bad, the church has made that perfectly clear. The last thing people need from us is to continue to spend 95% of our energy pointing out their flaws and then offering the last 5% of the time providing a solution without any transformative power attached. That is like going to a hospital where the doctor spends the first 40 minutes giving you all the graphic details of your disease and how it will spread to death, then spends the last 5 minutes explaining the medication. You then ask if it will cure the disease and to which he replies, “I believe it will, but there’s no way of knowing. Just have faith.” I can’t help but to feel that part of the Church proclaims the gospel in such a manner. What we need is a gospel of power. The true gospel of the kingdom.
Back to my conversation with the student. In response to her honest accusation of the Christian life seeming boring, I asked her to point out one story in the entire Bible that was boring. She of course couldn’t and realized my point quickly, she is a bright kid. The authentic life of following Jesus is far from boring. It is radical. What has been made boring, is what the Church has created in the Christian faith. The Church today must be cautious of the religious spirit. History has shown the far too common mistake of overcomplicating our glorious faith, creating division over issues that shouldn’t cause separation, and speaking with a mouth of hatred rather than love. I will say, as a disclaimer, that there are many, many awesome churches that give me hope for the future of Christ’s body. And it is through those many churches that my philosophy is edified by seeing it played out effectively and in the wisdom of Christ.
Truly, I understood the heart of this ROCKHARBOR High School student, what she was professing, was a deep feeling that all of man feels. We as humans are born with an innate desire for excitement, joy, adventure, and fun. It is important that we know God’s nature as we are made in his image. God is in a good mood. He is full of adventure and fun. The Author of life knows how to write a good story. So it makes sense that when we choose to follow him and a life of dullness, depression, and anxiety follows, we as children of God grow confused and frustrated. The problem isn’t God or his guidelines to life, the problem more often then not starts with us and our perspective of life.
When I look across the room of my high school students, or various adult congregations around California, I can’t help but to see an eerily similar look on the face. This facial expression has reminded me of the very face that I saw recently when I went to the zoo. Many who know me, know that I have a rather unhealthy adoration for lions. So naturally, when I got to the zoo, I went to lion cage as quickly as possible. Instead of excitement, my heart broke when I saw the lion. He looked depressed. He moaned and groaned. It was clear that this claustrophobic cage wasn’t the abundant and fulfilling life that this king of the jungle deserved. So many Christians are living as that lion. If Jesus is the powerful Lion of Judah, then we are all his Cubs. Christ is the King of all creation, and his dominion gives us the freedom to roam the world advancing his kingdom throughout the earth. As Christians, we have been given the keys to live a life of adventure and freedom, full of purpose and truth. If we remain in our cages of fear, then we will be like that same lion, confused, lost, and sad. So what does this Kingdom lifestyle look like today? As Jesus told his disciples, this mission applies to us as well,
Now my quick theological statement: I believe that the Kingdom is both now, and not yet. There is a paradox attached to this dynamic teaching. It would be irrational for me to state that God’s Kingdom is fully established on the earth today. That won’t happen until completion comes and Christ returns (1 Corinthians 13:8). However, according to the Biblical standard, if we are preaching Jesus as the Messiah, then works of the kingdom are meant to follow. This is the Gospel. And remember, Jesus specified that “this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” (Matthew 24:14).
In Luke 4:17, Christ quoted Isaiah and said,
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
This same Spirit that Jesus described, is the same Holy Spirit that lives in the modern believer. I believe this to be the identical assignment passed down to us to continue in. Now I am not promoting some sort of delusional living to where we hyper spiritualize every given situation. However, I do believe that I have found a responsible philosophy that allows us to advance the kingdom in an effective way. Although I believe in the theological statement that the kingdom is both now and not yet, I choose to live with a perspective of kingdom now. If I live my life with the perspective of kingdom not yet, then the power of my ministry will be limited. I simply won’t expect the God of miracles to come through in situations. However, with a mindset fixed on heavenly realities, then I am in a position to take more risks, and thus establish the kingdom of God in unmarked territories.
“nor will people say, 'Here it is,' or 'There it is,' because the kingdom of God is within you.” Luke 17:21
I just called my good friend Kendra. Kendra is a volunteer leader for ROCKHARBOR High School ministry. I’ve been leading the church’s students alongside her for the past couple years and over the course of time we have developed a pretty solid friendship. She has her Ph.D. in Psychology and she works as a Child Therapist. In addition to being my friend, she has also been somewhat of my own personal therapist. Whenever I need to vent about something, she has always been there to help me talk out my problems. Why am I telling you all of this? Well she didn’t answer her phone.
Here’s a confession: I often suffer from a self-diagnosis that I call “overcriticism”. I’ve been taught to think and I’ve been taught to read. I read a lot. And I think a lot. I believe it is important to pursue knowledge and understanding about just about anything that you find interest in. But what lies in the journey of reading and critical thinking, comes a myriad of identifiable problems. The issue here is that, the problems that I identify are often the problems that are vastly too large for me, or anyone, to fix in the near future. Oh yeah, there’s another problem – I am also impatient, and often apocalyptic in my perspective of the future. Maybe this is just paranoia? Nope. That was just a paranoid thought.
This is my black hole of a mental process: I first notice certain problems, form an opinioned answer to fix it, attach passion to my messianic answer, then wrap my mind and attention to the current issue in my mind until it becomes an obsession that can’t be satisfied. It can’t be satisfied until I vent about. So here it is. I won’t get into details about the issues that I am unable to shake frustration from. The last thing that I want is my therapeutic word vomit that I share with the world to offend anyone. One thing that the internet and social media has taught me, is that words are forever. Also, words seem to sting much more when it’s written digitally and without a sympathetic human face to lock eyes with. My preferred form of communication is, and always will be, personal face-to-face conversation.
I don’t want there to be a misunderstanding between what I am calling overcriticism and hypercriticism. I actually don’t see too much of an issue with overcriticism – as long as there are healthy avenues to relieve the stress that it might cause. However, I believe that hypercriticism is unhealthy within itself. I define overcriticism as identifying problems and thinking of rational solutions that can help the given situation progress and carry it out through wisdom. The problem of overcrticism arises when I obsess over the problem and allow my emotions to be influenced by an issue that is far out of my reach. I define hypercriticism as identifying minor problems too often and speaking out aggressively on the minor issues at hand in a way that influences the overall environment. Hypercriticism is negative in nature and focused on giving power to every problem possible, which doesn’t help anyone progress past the problem. I do feel the need to clarify this difference because I am actually passionately against hypercriticism, especially within the halls of the Church. Critical thinking is a beautiful God-given gift that can be used to advance the Kingdom, but hypercriticism can have the power to dampen the move of God in a situation – but that’s a whole nother topic.
So in the midst of my constant overcriticism of our political system, educational system, corporate world, mass marketing, wealth distribution, nutritional habits, mass media, self-centeredness, music, fashion, and the Church, I have had to learn one thing: How to remain optimistic and to maintain the Mind of Christ in a world of chaos. My duty as Christian, as I’ve written many times, is to represent him well as a Christ-ian. In other words, you and I are called to be “little” Christs. A representation of the Father’s Love to an orphaned world. This is the key to my optimism. In the effort to change the world, it starts with the person right in front of us. If I cant express the love of Christ to the people around me, then how do I expect to impact the whole world with the love of Christ? This mindset, this perspective of bringing Heaven to Earth through prayer and obedience, is what drives me everyday. This gives me purpose. And my hope and my heart’s desire is that any one word in this long post can somehow inspire you to seek God’s voice and leadership in your life.
When I was about 15, I remember being in a bible study when I first heard someone refer to “intimacy with God”. As a teenage boy, I felt awkward about that word – intimacy. My adolescent façade of tough skin and limited emotion didn’t like the idea of being intimate with anyone and especially with God. At this point I wasn’t necessarily living the most faith-filled life either, so that didn’t help.
As I’ve grown older and my relationship with God has most definitely deepened, I have come to recognize the beautiful opportunity in having an intimate relationship with God. For many, God comes off as cold, distant, or disinterested. However, scripture describes our Creator as one who is far more involved in our lives – even to the point of uncomfortableness. What Jesus accomplished at the Cross was so much more than the forgiveness of sins. There is a reason the veil of the Most Holy Place was torn at the point of His crucifixion (Matthew 27:51). That veil represented the barrier that sin had placed between man and God. The Holy sacrifice of Christ made it possible for man to enter into the Holy Presence of God through the gift of grace. The author of Hebrews describes this miraculous event with eloquence,
“Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.” – Hebrews 10:19-22
It is important to remember the great love that God displayed by coming to earth incarnate as the Son – Jesus Christ. This divine visitation was all a part of God’s radical plan to restore his relationship with his creation. He longs to dwell with you, even to the point of death. He sacrificed his Son, so that he and his creation could be together. There is a beautiful invitation for us to enter into God’s presence, and the response is up to us.
I love the book of John in the Bible. To me, it is seemingly drenched with intimacy. The language that John uses and the words that Jesus says are full of love and depth. I often find myself reading John chapters 14-17. I simply can’t get enough of those passages. About 90% of the words in those chapters are red, meaning that they are the words of Jesus. In John 14:17-18, Jesus is seen comforting his disciples and speaking of the Holy Spirit he says, “You know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.” Jesus speaks very highly of the Holy Spirit and it is a shame that he often goes unnoticed in some Christian circles. Jesus even said that it is better for us if he leaves, so that he could send the Holy Spirit! (John 16:7). The Trinity is a beautiful mystery of intimacy. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are in constant relationship and glorification of one another. What is more – is that God’s own hand has pulled us up into the warm center of that Holy triangle of affection.
I have learned to turn my affection to the Holy Spirit, he is my helper. I long to feel His Presence daily. If I’m being honest, the days that I don’t draw near to Holy Spirit, aren’t my most fruitful days. Jesus says in John 15:5, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” This is intimacy 101. We are now in Christ and He is in us. It doesn’t get much more intimate than that. Whether it’s through worship, prayer, meditation, studying the word, we must learn to turn off distraction and redirect our hearts to the rhythm of the Holy Spirit.
What does his voice sound like? What does he say to you? Where is he calling you to go? Without the voice of the Holy Spirit in our lives, this journey will be even more challenging. We have not been left as orphans, God has come to us.