Living Truth

Proclaiming a Message of Good News and Hope to our generation!

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Light of the World!

Dedication

This book is dedicated to anyone who hungers for a greater sense of purpose in life. It seeks to inspire us all to cast off our human limitations and to believe that all things are possible with God. The “all things” we refer to are not foolish and vain possibilities but all things that pertain to the Kingdom of God as taught in the Holy Scriptures. If your desire to move forward and prosper in life by faith has hit a proverbial brick wall, I urge you to refrain from giving up. There is a drive, a fire within you that should not be quenched, but perhaps redirected.

This might sound like a cliche, but it is true: God has a purpose for you in this life. In this purpose you are invincible through Him. It is my hope that a fresh look at God’s glorious Kingdom purposes for this earth will widen your horizon and open your eyes to the significance of your role in them. At this point I must warn you. Some of the limitations we face are actually our own beliefs about God and His purposes. As many of our biblical heroes before us, we must be willing to allow God to change our points of view in certain areas. we are to be continually transformed by the renewing of our minds, “so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good, and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:1-2)

Even if a hunger for a greater sense of purpose is not very strong in you, perhaps we could at least encourage you in acquiring a greater desire for God in the Person of Jesus Christ. That is certainly a worthy goal and something in which we should all be fulfilled and blessed. That kind of encouragement would be counted as success from my point of view!

Introduction

Over two thousand years ago, the Son of God appeared to the residents of an insignificant country as the son of a carpenter from an insignificant city. He gathered men and women from various professions and recruited them in His mission of heralding the coming of the Kingdom of God to the earth. They understood that He was calling them to make great sacrifices, yet it is doubtful they realized how difficult their future would actually be.

In the end they received the courage to follow Him. That courage is greatly responsible for the fact that His Name is known yet today. With the help of God and the power of the Holy Spirit moving in them and in the people they met, they testified in an amazing way that Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world and Lord of all, as witnesses to His resurrection!

Now the centuries have passed, and the knowledge of Jesus and His story has gone around the world. That knowledge has impacted governments and cultures in ways that cannot fully be measured. Some have misused and abused this knowledge. Others have seen the benefits of His life and message.

In this 21st Century, many are concerned about their future and the future of society in general. Jealousy, envy, rage, war, racial tensions, sexual immorality, drug addiction, murder and crime seem to be on the increase. Faith in Christ, at least statically speaking seems to be decreasing. How should we respond to the many crisis we are facing today?

This book seeks to challenge believers in Christ to greater faith, vision and courage. As a natural born coward myself, I know our only hope is in seeking the source of greater faith, vision and courage — Jesus Christ Himself. I believe by seeking Him, we will also recover a greater, deeper understanding of His message, His mission, and and the hope that it will bring. That message is the Good News of the Kingdom of God! It is a message that is very relevant to the issues of every age!

Thankfully we live in a time when more people are seeking to understand what Jesus meant by the Kingdom of God. In this book I will earnestly try to incorporate what I have learned over many years from others and from my own study about the kingdom of God which I believe will embolden your testimony for Christ. Christians in many parts of this modern world are being ignored, ridiculed and often persecuted for their beliefs. Some of this might be their own fault, of course, but Christ Himself warned that we would face opposition for His sake. The many kinds of opposition are not all going to be detailed here, but the basic and fundamental elements of our struggle will be recognized.

The goal here is victorious faith in Christ, the very kind of faith that was seen in the first Christians! Have you ever wondered how they endured persecution and torture for their faith, when most of us recoil from the slightest insult? Have you considered how our petty squabbles among ourselves as believers can work against an effective witness for Christ to the world? Or how about this? Have you ever had the nagging feeling that you were created for more than mere existence? Most of us believe that there is a glorious future in eternity with Christ, but what about our lives today? Can they have more meaning and purpose and bring more glory to God right here on earth? Isn’t that how Jesus taught us to pray, for the will of God to be done on earth as it is done in heaven?

Writing this book is part of what I need to do in response to my concerns in these days for my family, my city, my country, our world, but mostly in response to my Lord Jesus Christ, who called me to Himself and revealed His glorious Kingdom to me. It is the result of my lifes work, my legacy, which I pray will come to the benefit of as many as possible!

Therefor I invite you the reader to listen for the voice of the Lord as you continue in these pages. He just might use them to give you a greater revelation of Him, His kingdom, His love, His power and His purpose for us all!

Chapter One: Are You Ready For An Adventure?

This universe in which we live is fundamentally one of order. What we call the laws of physics are basically that – laws that are constant and unchangeable. One plus one will always equal two. The moon revolves around our earth, and the earth revolves around our sun to produce days, months and years that help us to mark time and seasons. Those regular patterns are important to us and help to produce stability so that life can continue here.

On the other hand there is much room for diversity and even chaos! This universe is amazing and infinitely complex. We human beings are an integral part of that order, that complexity, that diversity and even the chaos! In all this we sense the need for security, and predictability. Sometimes in our search for security and comfort we neglect another of our basic needs. I believe we also need challenges, excitement and adventure! How else can we explain the thrill of an amusement park and a ride on a roller coaster? Why do we very often pay hard earned money on opportunities to needlessly risk our lives or at least the risk of injury? Of course there are a number of safer ways for getting the heart pumping and an adrenaline rush. Many of us like watching others appearing to be in danger on a big movie screen, or watching our favorite athletes in the sports arena. The popularity of these kinds of entertainment seem to prove my point that we do indeed crave excitement.

In my humble opinion these are all cheap substitutes for seeing life itself as an adventure, a quest with a purpose. As we gain a greater understanding of the kingdom of God and our place in it, even the ordinary, repetitive activities of every day can have richness of purpose and meaning. When Jesus, the son of a simple craftsman and laborer began His career as an itinerant preacher, many hours and even days were filled with the ordinary matters of moving from place to place. Other times were intense and dramatic. All of it was energized by His sense of purpose, that same sense of purpose that He passed down to His followers, which in turn has propelled His church forward unto this day.

If you are all like me, you might have found yourself at times wondering about your purpose. Maybe you have wondered about what we are doing in the church? Are we simply doing what we do because we have always done it that way? Have some of our churches and our leaders lost that sense of purpose that was given to us by Jesus? When we read and study the bible to learn about God’s will for us are we reading it through the lens of our current traditions and culture, or are we reading it to hear what the Holy Spirit would teach us? These are things that you and I must work out between ourselves and God, but at the same time we can help each other, learn together and challenge one another in it.

Not all of us feel the need for excitement or adventure. Sometimes life itself provides all the challenges we can handle. We look for times of peace and tranquility. we come to a typical Sunday church service looking for comfort and encouragement. we go to great lengths to find ways of getting our minds off of our troubles. At this point I would really like to share a personal experience of mine. Many years ago I had come to a place of great despair. The thought of ending it all actually crossed my mind. Thankfully that thought was wiped away by the realization of the many people who loved me and my child who depended upon me. The fact that I was taught from my early years by my mother and others in my life about God and the bible had to be the most important factor that kept me going. One night while I was all alone in my home after putting the baby to bed, I began to cry out to God with all my heart.

When I began to realize how He continued to love me and to send wonderful, godly people into my life after all the years of resisting Him, I finally broke down. He was there all the time, just waiting for me to return to Him. That was my moment of total surrender, even greater than when I first gave my life to Him. The result was the lifting of that heavy load of guilt, worry and fear that I had been carrying for so long. The following morning the world seemed so bright and new! Even though my problems had not left me, I was lifted above them somehow! To this day I cannot put it into words. Back then but I tried to tell others about it immediately. Eventually I was able to talk with others who knew exactly what I was experiencing. Perfect words with them were not necessary. Since then I have met with people in many other parts of the world who also immediately understand me when I try speak about it. They too have had encounters with the Living God!

What came next is so important. I mentioned I was already a Christian. In fact I was saved and baptized at the age of 12. At this time I was about 21. For this entire time my devotion to Christ was up and down, hot and cold. It was many times a struggle for me to maintain a consistent testimony. I would see other young men who were bold in their faith, and envied them. Being backward and shy by nature did not help. Now that I had this powerful experience I began to understand where this boldness came from for them. I knew they had an experience, but I also knew that their knowledge of the Bible had a part in it. So I took up my bible and started to read in the first book of the New testament, Matthew.

The first thing that jumped out to me in Matthew’s Gospel was the preaching of John the baptizer. He claimed that the Kingdom of Heaven was at hand! In a later chapter I read that Jesus also began preaching the same. I immediately thought: if the Kingdom of heaven was near to them then, how close could it be to us today, two thousand years later? I began to wonder if what I was now experiencing could be a taste of that very Kingdom! When I began to ask other more mature believers about this, I was amazed to learn that I was correct! In fact, they were able to show me even more evidence in the scripture that the Kingdom of God was already here for us who had experienced this righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit of God! (Romans 14:17)

Of course that was only the beginning of this adventure for me. I would have many more questions, and gain answers in time, but I am still not finished with my story. As I said, my problems were still with me. I was overwhelmed at the time, and felt helpless to do anything about them. What I needed was direction from God. I found this as I continued to read in the Gospel According To Matthew. When I came to chapter 6 I knew verses 25 through 34 were speaking directly to me. I had been worrying not only about my physical needs of food, shelter and clothing, but about the future in general. To Jesus, this did not make sense since I have a Heavenly Father who loves me and cares for me. How could I get a handle on this? what could I do to get my mind focused in the right direction?

The most powerful instruction I had ever received, which has guided me for the rest of my life was found in these words: “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.” (Matthew 6:33) While I had spent so much of my energy worrying and stressing over my problems, now I would change my focus. I would put my pursuit of God’s will, His ways, His Kingdom first above all other things. It seemed a bit risky at first. But what did I have to lose? My methods have failed me, trying to work things out on my own for years. Could I really trust in God that he would provide what I needed if I pursued His Kingdom first?

What followed was just too amazing. In a matter of months, my health improved, my financial situation began to improve, I found myself among a wonderful group of worshippers and had a new job working for a minister who taught me the bible every day as we worked together. The first steps for me were to return to my former church, to pray everyday, to read the bible and Christian writings everyday and to fast regularly. As I began to grow spiritually, the Holy spirit would teach me and lead me in other areas of His will for me. I have continued on this path to this day.

Going on 50 years later, I continue to be challenged by God to keep moving forward in Him. When things begin to get easier, or the road gets smoother, we can rest a while. However if we get too comfortable, that sense of adventure can diminish. Along with that our joy and passion for Him can fade and the worries of this life begin to take over again. No, it’s life right now, in the Kingdom of God for me. How about you?

Kingdom Courage

The challenge to Kingdom Courage

Some of us have come to the realization that we are actually helpless in many ways. When it comes to certain weaknesses, (we all have weaknesses by the way), our fight to overcome them has failed time and time again. The good news is however, that God knows this, and that He has the solution.

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Kingdom Principles

Around 4,000 years ago, Moses, who was called by God to lead the descendants of Israel out of Egypt, came down from Mount Sinai with the Ten Commandments, written from the Finger of God. From this foundation a nation was built of citizens who were to be known as the chosen people of God.

Almost 2,000 years later the Messiah, of whom Moses and other prophets after him foretold, appeared to this same nation. Both He and His forerunner, John the Baptist, began by announcing great and wonderful news. This good news was of the nearness of the Kingdom of God. Those who responded to His call for repentance were then called to follow His teachings concerning this heavenly kingdom.

Like Moses, Jesus would spend many hours alone with God on a mountain. As Moses revealed the Holiness of God to his people and gave His message from the mountain, Jesus would lead His disciples up a mountain to lay the foundation for a greater, higher way of life. The result was to be a community of people over whom and through whom God would establish His kingdom on the earth.

His series of teachings in Matthew chapters 5 through 7 and Luke 6:20-49 are commonly known under the title of the Sermon on the Mount. While the 10 Commandments and the other laws given by God through Moses might seem by some to be focused on external behavior, the Words of Jesus went deeper. To Him, adultery and murder could be committed in the heart, and were just as sinful in the eyes of God.

Even the disciples of Jesus where troubled by this high standard. They even doubted that anyone could be saved! The answer came from Jesus: with men this standard is impossible, but with God all things are possible! He challenged them to follow Him. He challenges us to do the same today! His followers would gradually begin to understand just how God would empower them to live this impossible standard from the heart. First, they were given the privilege of observing Him every day. They saw not only His love, mercy and power revealed toward those in need, they also observed His perfect character.

Ultimately they saw Him allow Himself to be offered up for our sins, and to be raised from the grave for our victory! Before returning to heaven He announced that all authority was given to Him in heaven and in earth. In turn He authorized them to disciple all people, to teach them His ways, His principles as He had discipled them.

Then came the final piece of puzzle that had confused them earlier. They were to gather together and wait in Jerusalem for another great miracle. They had heard many things from Jesus which they had stored up in their hearts. Soon the promise of the Holy Spirit would come to them in power. He would bring the Words of Jesus to their minds with the correct understanding. They would be given the power to live up to this glorious high calling to love as he loved, give as He gave, sacrifice as He sacrificed, and lift up others as he had done!

The first generation of believers in Christ famously answered His call. It was even the testimony of their enemies that they turned the world upside down!

That energy and enthusiasm eventually began to wane, even as the New Testament was being written. Jude, a half brother of Jesus, wrote a letter urging the churches to “contend earnestly for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.” In the book of Revelation, Christ rebuked the Ephesian church for leaving their first love. It cannot be certain exactly what happened and how things began to change. At the same time, we do know that many of these early believers and their leaders gave their lives for Christ.

Some information can be gathered from the records of their writings and from secular history. It appears that false teachers began to mix the Gospel with other religions of that day. This pressed Christian leaders to answer with clarifications concerning the doctrines of what the true church believed. One of the earliest statements of faith is traditionally known as the Apostles Creed, which most churches acknowledge today. After that even more statements were written to deal with the controversies of each generation.

Because some were denying the divinity of Christ, the virgin birth, the crucifixion and the resurrection, the true believers needed to stand for these truths and confess them openly. However, the supernatural life of Christ in His church was becoming less and less evident. True, we need to confess all the foundational truths of the Bible and prevent doctrinal error from destroying the faith. Certainly the apostles would approve of this diligent effort, but these simple fishermen, tax collectors, and revolutionaries also knew that only faith IN, trust IN, the person of Christ, and the power of the Holy Spirit to live out His words could save the church from its enemies!

His sermon on the mount was the foundation of the Kingdom community that he was building, but it has been all but forgotten in the minds of many. Where in the great creeds do we find anything about holy love, holy forgiveness, holy righteousness? Where in the creeds are we urged to deny ourselves, take up our crosses and follow Jesus? Perhaps these things are to be assumed. We are not saved by our good works, but by faith. But is that the same thing as simply believing things about God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit?

Have we forgotten the simple and potent power of God’s Word? The Sermon on the Mount and the other sayings of Jesus are not like the words of men. His words are transformative! We can be “born again” by the power of His Words! Our motives and attitudes can be changed so that we can spontaneously fulfill the law as we love God and our neighbors as ourselves! My hope is that we can learn to treasure all of Christ’s words, letting them abide in us deeply. They can play a powerful part in bringing us into a deeper relationship with Him, transforming us into His image for His glory!

Through Much Tribulation!

First the Kingdom Part 37, Through Much Tribulation

Each one of us has areas of concern that are common as well as those that differ from the other. Sometimes they lead us to believe we are right and the other person is wrong when at times 2 views can be actually 2 sides of the same coin. My particular focus has for a long time been with history in mind. Because I have a general knowledge of the history before my time, I can see how things have improved in the world more than we realize.

At the same time my generation has clearly seen a steady loss of basic virtues in our culture and in the people who are shaped by it. The causes of this might appear to be many and complicated. Those who study the social sciences more than I have can look at how technology has affected us. Others, like myself tend to look at the failure of leadership in the church, and the lack of sincerity found in the the people themselves. We see at the heart of every problem a spiritual battle, and tend to focus on spiritual solutions.

At the time I am preparing this teaching, my home nation is in a great struggle. Two perspectives that existed in balance from the beginning of our political existence are now in an ideological war with one another. Some fear that it will evolve into more than that very soon. As I approach my 70th birthday I have to admit, that to me the thought of a full civil war sounds absolutely terrifying. It is a thought that I had never expected to come to mind in all my years.

Maybe I am being naive, but I still have hopes that things can be turned around, and that our country can be spared such a future. I also believe that the church of Jesus Christ could play a powerful role in a positive outcome. In my study of history I have found that war is not always avoidable, but I have also found that faith in our all-powerful God can motivate us to accomplish great things for His glory. Revivals have come to cities, counties, and countries in the past. By revivals I mean times when the Holy Spirit sweeps over hundreds and thousands to change hearts and minds for the better. Society itself can become inspired and transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit working with and through God’s people.

As the general culture in the media and in the educational world has increasingly turned against biblical Christianity, believers have risen up to defend the faith in many arenas. In the past few years and even more so in the past months the political arena has been the focus of many Christians. There is no doubt that attention needs to be given to what happens in our government and I have tried to follow events as best as I can. It would be shameful for any follower of Christ to ignore the opportunities He has afforded us here. I bless those who are called to focus on this arena and pray for them as well.

My only question is this: how is that been working out? Are more people coming to know Christ? Are more people learning the teachings of Christ and His Kingdom? Are believers themselves becoming better examples and “shining as lights in the world?” Has the environment around us become better than before as a result of these efforts?

The Chinese philosopher Confucius is said to have made this statement:

“If there is righteousness in the heart, there will be beauty in the character.
If there is beauty in the character, there will be harmony in the home.
If there is harmony in the home, there will be order in the nations.
When there is order in the nations, there will peace in the world.”

In the 1960’s rock song, “Easy To Be Hard,” these words were expressed:

“How can people be so heartless?
How can people be so cruel?
Easy to be hard,
Easy to be cold.

How can people have no feelings?
How can they ignore their friends?
Easy to be proud,
Easy to say no

And especially people,
Who care about strangers,
Who care about evil,
And social injustice.
Do you only
Care about the bleeding crowd?
How about a needing friend?
I need a friend.”

In history I have learned of great leaders who stood for Christ in the political arena. I have also learned of Christian preachers who spoke out against the injustices occurring in their day. I am in no way promoting a passive position when it comes to conditions in this world. I am not one of those people who see any effort to improve the lives of their fellow humans as a fools mission. I greatly resist the pessimistic message of some who believe these efforts are like “polishing the brass on a sinking ship,” or “making the world a better place to go to hell from.”

At the same time I want to address what I see as an “either/or” fallacy. Among Christians I am becoming weary of the faith vs works argument, when both are important. More recently we are debating between personal and corporate responsibility. Confucius started with the individual, and believed that the world could be ultimately changed. The song I referenced mourned the fact that during the sixties some were concerned for strangers, but neglected those who were near to them. Why can’t we have both compassion for those we know, and also reach out to those we don’t know? why can’t we have faith in God AND good works that will help others?

A war is already on and it has been going on from the beginning of the human race. In fact it is an internal struggle within every heart. Too many times this spiritual war has found expression also in families, neighborhoods, cities, and nations. Every area in which this struggle rages must be addressed. Jesus and all the prophets before Him were aware of the need to face this fact. They addressed individual sin, as well as national sin. So we are not insisting on choosing between either individual or collective issues. But we are insisting on dealing with the root problem that lies at the bottom of all.

That is why Jesus began with repentance and faith, a new birth in the Spirit. The foundation for the new world he was bringing to pass was a new humanity. This new humanity was to light the way to a better world. At the time, the early followers of Christ had almost no political power, and yet their message spread like wildfire! It was a matter of time until the Roman authorities began to crack down on Christianity. Many were tortured and forced to deny Christ. Others endured and survived, others were martyred.

The courage that unbelievers saw in the Christians and the evil actions of their persecutors had an impact on them over time. The stone that Daniel saw in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream had been rolling over and crushing the power of an oppressive regime! The tide of public opinion began to turn towards the believers and in fact large numbers joined them in the faith. The persecution ended in early in the Fourth Century and many improvements in the culture began to take place. This of course was not the final battle between the darkness and the light, but we can take great encouragement and learn from this example.

So how can modern Christians in free countries apply these lessons? I have thought about this question as have most of us. Paul defended his right to a trial as a Roman citizen and it makes sense that we should use legal means to protect our rights to worship as well. However, the same laws that protect our right to worship also must protect the beliefs of others. Those involved in the courts and in government have the opportunity to voice what they believe are God’s righteous and fair ways, while the rest us of have a voice in our families, neighborhoods, schools and churches. Paul urged meekness and humility in our attempts to encourage others to follow Christ.

Rude, obnoxious attitudes, and exaggerations of the truth might draw a large audience on social media, but I cannot see it changing any minds. In fact I only see increased hardness against the Christian perspective resulting from this approach. We are to give a reason for what we belief with meekness and respect.

1 Peter 3:13-18:

Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear what they fear; do not be frightened.” But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. It is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God.
(NIV)

No one will want to know what we believe if we are too busy convincing them that we are their enemies. And even if they are our enemies, what did Christ say for us to do to them? Love them! Pray for them and bless them! Do good for them! Why? That you might prove to be sons of your Father in heaven, who causes His sun to shine and rain to fall on the just and the unjust! (Matthew 5:44-45).

It is often necessary to expose the evil plans, purposes and actions of others, for the sake of those who are being oppressed by them. However, God has shown us that first we must check our own hearts. Without His grace we are just as capable of evil and selfish actions.

The Kingdom of God is realm of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. We cannot have true peace and joy without His righteousness. That word implies fairness and equity based upon the truth. What I am calling for is a commitment to honesty and the truth. I love our country as much as anyone else, and want to see God bless us — not because we think we are better, but because we honor Him in our thoughts and actions. If God would have spared Sodom and Gomorrah for 10 righteous men, certainly He can spare America through the intercessory prayers of millions who believe in Him!

In Acts, after preaching in new areas, Barnabas and Paul returned to several cities, “strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying, ” Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.” (Acts 14:21-23 NASU) It is difficult to read through a significant portion of the New Testament without learning of the many hardships the early believers endured in their pursuit of God’s Kingdom. This might sound like a “negative confession” to some, but don’t they know that “the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us?” (Romans 8:18)

So how well have our earthly, political weapons served us? May we be encouraged by these additional words of Paul:

2 Corinthians 10:3-4:

For though we walk (live) in the flesh, we are not carrying on our warfare according to the flesh and using mere human weapons.

For the weapons of our warfare are not physical [weapons of flesh and blood], but they are mighty before God for the overthrow and destruction of strongholds,
(AMP)

The real power is in obeying Christ. The real power is in His love. The real power is in humbling ourselves as he did and serving others out of genuine compassion. The real power is in praying for all people, including our enemies. In this way we truly shine as lights in the darkness of this world!

 

 

 

The Pearl of Great Price!

First the Kingdom part 36
The Pearl of Great Price

What is most important to you? What do you value the most? All to often we look at our behavior without considering what motivates us. As human beings we can easily become conflicted when our physical desires compete with those things we value the most. We need worthy values that can definitely keep us from becoming consumed by our unhealthy desires.

In my lifetime I have not been through 2 world wars or the great depression, but I have lived through times of both personal and national tragedies.

The assassinations of JFK, his brother Robert, and Martin Luther King reflected the darkness of those times. The racial tensions of the 60’s and the war in Vietnam continue to affect us today. The Covid-19 pandemic is currently affecting people around the world, whatever they believe about it. America is more divided than I have ever seen, and even Christians appear to be divided over a great many issues.

Jesus gave the solution, the answer that we all need 2,000 years ago. It was the answer I needed over 40 years ago, which I continually need the think about. It is the reason I am bringing this 36th chapter in this series. Jesus proclaimed the Good News of the Kingdom of God. He spent the entire 3 1/2 years of His ministry teaching and preaching about the Kingdom. He told us that seeking the kingdom of God and His righteousness should be our first priority in life. In seeking God’s will for us we will learn to trust in His protection, care and provision for us. Yes, we can be free from overwhelming fear and worry!

Sadly, far too many people are being taught to seek power, pleasure and possessions. Some Christians even equate these things to the Kingdom of God! It is the times like those we are experiencing now that often reveal our faulty foundations. Those who value these things more than the love of God are the most vulnerable. Perhaps they have learned about His grace and have received His forgiveness without having grown through discipleship.

The proof of this can be found in the many failed marriages, addictions to chemical substances, and the casual sex among professing Christians.

But we are not here to condemn anyone. We are here to share in the work of Jesus Who brought us His Good News! This message brings an entirely new way to look at life, the world around us and eternity! It also represents a different value system that drives us internally to holiness, righteousness and love!

Jesus once told two stories about men who found something that was worth more than all they had owned.

Matthew 13:44-46:

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.

“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. 46 When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.
NIV

In the first story something valuable was hidden. In order to gain possession of it this man had to purchase something he did not want or need. But to him the treasure he found in the field was worth the price of the land, which cost him everything.

So the kingdom of heaven is like hidden treasure. I can personally testify to this. I grew up in church and in an extended family of serious believers. My grandfather was a Pentecostal preacher in a time when we were like the underdogs of Christianity. Even though I believed from my earliest years that Jesus was my Savior and Lord, I could not quite get what the Pentecostal church was all about. I did not know until age 21 that within that “field” there was hidden treasure! While I admit there were some errors and confusion in the Pentecostal movement back then, I would not trade my experience growing up for anything.

When we think about other passages of scripture which emphasize the free gift of salvation, how are we to understand the moral of this story? Are we being asked, like the rich young ruler, to sell all that we have and give to the poor to find eternal life? Are we being told to buy our way into heaven? Let’s stop and think about this for a minute.

The man who found the hidden treasure is one who knew the value of this treasure. He is like those of us who have heard the Gospel, believed it and have received forgiveness and grace from God. Once our eyes have been opened, we see that the true treasure is Christ Himself! At this point, many thousands have followed through from that time forward and placed knowing Christ above all else. Like Paul the apostle, they pressed toward the mark, for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ! They pursued eternal life on this side of the grave, for knowing Him IS Life Eternal! They did not consider the high price of following Christ. They were overjoyed that they have found Him and desired to know Him more!

On the other hand, there are those who are satisfied to seek for what ever pleasures they can find in an earthly existence. They are willing to look for eternal life only beyond the grave. Such a value system does not motivate heroism, sacrifice and servanthood. Much potential for the Kingdom of God is lost.

In the second example, the man was a merchant who knew what he was looking for. He did not stumble upon a hidden treasure. The precious pearl was in plain sight, and the seller knew full well of its value. He asked for the highest price the merchant could afford, everything!

My question for you today is this: Are you struggling to keep focussed on Christ in these confusing times? Do you lose your joy over trivial things, much less major shifts in society or the economy? Have you considered the early Christians and even those in our day whose faith have prevailed over much greater dangers than those we face?

Is it possible that a fresh look at Jesus Christ and his message, the Gospel of the Kingdom could renew your joy in Him? Could a greater understanding give you a new perspective on His purpose for your life in the present reality of His Kingdom on earth? Yes, there is a realm that is beyond our imagination, which will be made known to us in the ages to come! But there is also a dimension of life to be lived on this earth now, and a future that we can help build as we participate with Christ today!

God is on the move in this earth today! We need to arise and become a part of what He is doing. We can be workers together with Him! The Kingdom of heaven is this treasure, this pearl of great price. When we realise how wonderful and real it is, when we can see the beauty and wonder of God’s plan working in this earth, we will gladly and joyfully give ourselves to serving in it!

Citizens of Heaven, Part 2


First the Kingdom, #35, Citizens of Heaven, Part 2. “Where Do You Dwell?”

Colossians 1:3-14:
“We give thanks to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and the love which you have for all the saints; because of the hope laid up for you in heaven, of which you previously heard in the word of truth, the gospel which has come to you, just as in all the world also it is constantly bearing fruit and increasing, even as it has been doing in you also since the day you heard of it and understood the grace of God in truth; just as you learned it from Epaphras, our beloved fellow bond-servant, who is a faithful servant of Christ on our behalf, and he also informed us of your love in the Spirit.

For this reason also, since the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God;  strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience; joyously giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in Light.


For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son,  in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”

In a previous discussion we read a statement the apostle Paul made in his letter to the church at Philippi. We learned the exciting fact from him that we believers in Christ are Citizens of heaven (Philippians 3:20-21). This is in fact a marvelous privilege. We understand that the first initial step in becoming a citizen of the kingdom of heaven is to repent of our sins, and to take on a different perspective. In this new perspective the universe is not all about me. It is all about God Who created it! From Christ we have learned that He created everything with good, loving intentions. Therefore, to understand how the universe is centered around Him is a wonderful and encouraging thought!

In my personal experience, this rejection of my old ways and thoughts and my surrender to Christ was truly like a change in location! Before I was living in a world of discouragement and defeat, now I am living in a place of hope, peace and victory! My thoughts became aligned with God’s thoughts! This change is not only psychological but also spiritual. Our minds and bodies were designed from the beginning to be connected to the spiritual side of our being and to God. The further we drift from Him, the darker our thoughts become. Thankfully, Jesus Christ through His atoning sacrifice has reconciled the world unto Himself!

By faith in Him we are relocated back into the land of peace, love an light!
Sadly, I do not always live in that heavenly place in God. what I mean to say is that I sometimes forget to renew my thoughts in Him. The world, the flesh and the devil all conspire to bring me down to that former level of defeat and darkness. We are in a battle, and we have spiritual weapons that can help us to maintain our victory! I personally need daily fellowship with God and with my brothers and sisters in Christ. I need to meditate upon His Word, the Bible and I also need to hear it ministered to me through fellow believers. Another key is in the sharing of it with others. This opportunity I am taking right now is a joy and a blessing to me!

Belief, trust, faith in the Word of God not only brings us into our initial salvation, but it also carries us forward to our ultimate victory over sin and death! The challenge is not to manufacture holiness in ourselves. The challenge is to cling to Christ against all opposition, while He works in our hearts and minds to make us holy.

Have you ever considered the freedom of living under His Lordship? This means I can no longer serve fear, anxiety, anger, jealousy or frustration. I am a citizen of heaven! My king is the Lord of life, righteousness, peace, love and joy! To often people see His Lordship as restrictive and as something to be resisted. They prefer their petty attitudes, their habits and addictions over His liberating truth. Even some Christians want to debate whether or not submission to His Lordship is necessary for salvation.

The fact is that God in Christ has lifted His people up. He has raised us up from our sin and death and caused us to sit in heavenly places in Him! It is not His will for us to live a mere earthly existence. The question is: Why would we not want to live in the fullness that He has for us?

In these times believers all over the world are facing the temptation to sink back into the place from which He has lifted us. If we are not careful, our minds can become filled with corrupting thoughts. Hatred, anger, fear, resentment, revenge, greed, vice do not belong in the place where we dwell. Our citizenship is in heaven! We are called to freedom in Christ!
Yes we are being tested to prove that we serve Christ and will not follow fallen humanity into slavery to the prince of lies. But I say this to encourage us. Jesus Christ IS the Lord of all! Hear the Word of God, the Truth that makes you free! You are not a slave to sin, fear, anxiety and darkness! You have been translated from that realm and into the Kingdom of God’s dear Son. Let this truth dwell in you richly and let it grow to maturity. Let His thoughts and feelings overwhelm you. Consciously choose to dwell as King David did, in the House of the Lord forever.

He is your dwelling place, your sanctuary, your home.

Praying the Lord’s Prayer

 

First the Kingdom, episode 34: Praying the Lord’s Prayer

Back in 1963, the day in our local Junior High school began either in the main auditorium or home room with the pledge of allegiance and the Lord’s Prayer. Eventually a recent Supreme Court decision that school sponsored prayer was unconstitutional began to change that tradition. I specifically remember our home room teacher announcing to us that she would continue to pray the Lord’s Prayer, but also that anyone in the room could freely opt out.

Even though prayer was not technically banned from schools, the public perception was that our government had joined the movement of modern times against simple faith in an all-powerful God. As much as the opponents of public prayer in schools have denied this, the results speak for themselves. The fact is, believers can always pray in the USA. The real loss is what the children who did not know Christ might have gained from learning this prayer back then. Today I would add that even some children of of believing families have often lost the rich benefits of knowing and reciting this prayer.

Some time back I attended the funeral of a retired police officer. At the grave site, the pastor recited a passage of scripture and began praying “Our Father, Who art in heaven….” Immediately, and without prompting, everyone there began to join him in the prayer that was well known to his generation. It was a refreshing experience that brought me back to those junior high school days when hundreds of students would recite this prayer together!

One complaint I heard from a Jewish girl was that she did not want to pray a Christian prayer. In fact all the elements of this prayer can be found in the prayers of their own Hebrew scriptures, known to Christians as the Old Testament. I count myself greatly and richly blessed to have been taught from the entire Bible, both the old and new testaments. In the Lord’s Prayer I am reminded how Jesus felt about past generations, the promises that were given unto them, and the hope of the fulfillment that he was bringing.

This model prayer sums up the foundational and crucial elements of the Christian life. It keeps us mindful of the intimate relationship we have with our Heavenly Father, and our goal to glorify Him.

As we pray We become conscious of our part in bringing righteousness, peace and joy – His kingdom to this earth. We understand our constant need for Him, His provisions and His forgiveness, as well as our need to forgive others.

Finally in it we seek for His guidance and protection every day, and acknowledge that everything good, loving and holy comes from His reign over us in power and eternal victory.

Anyone who is at all familiar with the prayers in the Bible should know that God listens to all sorts of prayers. We are in no way limited to praying this one short prayer. At the same time the use of this or any memorized prayer should not be looked down on as ritualistic. what is in our hearts? That seems to be the important thing. When I think of how Jesus Himself gave us this wonderful gift to teach us and encourage us in prayer, how or why would we refuse it?

I invite you to pray along with me today:

Matthew 6:9-13:

Our Father who art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.

And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil:
For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.

 

Citizens of Heaven!

Citizens of Heaven

Philippians 3:20-21:
For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself. (NASU)

If you have ever visited a country other than your native country, you might have felt a little strange or uncomfortable. I live in the US, and our neighboring country Canada, has a similar culture to ours. It is not so strange or different as some other countries. Still, when I visit there, I cannot expect to claim the exact same privileges that a Canadian citizen would claim. The same could be said of Australia, where my wife and I visited in the nineties. Other than their wonderful accents, and the fact that they drive on the opposite side of the road, we felt quite comfortable there.

Another country we have visited is India. Now I can tell you that it is a different world! The culture is very different in some ways. The food is different, the language of course is different, the money is very different. All the things we take for granted every day can become challenges when in another culture. While Canadian money is in dollars close to ours, Indian rupees do not easily translate to US dollars. Back then I would often hesitate when thinking of spending 1,000 Rupees until I did the math. That sum today amounts to only about $14 US dollars!

Some people possess dual citizenship. In one sense, a follower of Christ also possesses dual citizenship, living in two worlds. We live on this earth, and because of our love for Jesus Christ, we serve the inhabitants of this world for whom He gave His life. However our service will be more effective and powerful when we fully understand how our primary citizenship is in Christ, and in His Kingdom! This might not be as easy as it sounds. I was born into this world first as an earth-bound creature. Over time I developed this internal sense that something was not quite right, or complete.

At an early age I began to hear about the Word of God, and the Good News of salvation in Jesus Christ. This ignited that internal sense with a spark within me that has continued to grow and burn brighter year after year. I live in a material world that was created by God for His glory, but that world has become filled with corruption, sin and death. I am reminded of this fact every day of my life.

The knowledge that I am more than a material being has created a hunger for heavenly, spiritual things. I am not only talking about the future bliss that all believers know is real. I am talking about a present reality! This heavenly reality is where we all belong, and it includes the abundant life that Jesus came to bring! How often we overlook this fact: the mission of Jesus was to bring heaven to us! Everything he taught was to turn our way of thinking around towards this heavenly reality!

When I surrendered my heart and life to Christ my old life died and was buried with Him in baptism, in order that I can rise with Him from the grave as a new person! I have been translated from the domain of darkness and into the kingdom of the Son of God! (Romans 6:4, Colossians 1:13)

The central message of Jesus was for us to “Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is near!” Certainly we all have sins for which we must repent, but we could legitimately take repentance even further. The original Greek word in the scripture means “to think differently.” The source of our sin is in our attitudes and patterns of thinking about ourselves and God. Paul the apostle once stated that repentance goes further than sorrow for sin, which is good. Godly sorrow leads to repentance, or a change of mind. (1 Corinthians 7:10)

The bible has much to say about our minds and habits of thinking. Unfortunately, many of us do not realize how important this matter really is. Truly we are greatly blessed to know our future is secure in Christ. Even when we fail, His love for us does not fade. However, in the mean time, there is a purpose for our being here and for our dual citzenship.

This cannot be better spelled out than in Paul’s letter to the Philippians.

Philippians 2:14-17:
Do all things without grumbling or disputing; so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I will have reason to glory because I did not run in vain nor toil in vain. (NASU)

Jesus Himself told His disciples that they were the light of the world, a city set on a hill that cannot be hid! This city is even now representative of another dimension known as the kingdom of heaven. The light that is in us should not be hidden from the world around us. It is naturally seen as we allow God to change our thinking to align with His.

Isaiah 55:8-9:
“For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the LORD.
“For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways
And My thoughts than your thoughts.
(NASU)

While no human can plumb the depths of God’s infinite wisdom and love, we are called to repent in order to receive from Him great increases in wisdom, knowledge, understanding and love. His Word comes to us and His Holy Spirit reveals unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness. (1 Peter 1:3). Our life in Christ begins and ends with the work of the Word of God challenging us and the work of the Holy Spirit to convict and empower us.

God Himself calls us and reveals His will unto us to bring us into the state of grace, forgiveness of sin and a fresh relationship with Him. This is only the beginning. The same power that called us to reconciliation calls us to a higher life, a heavenly life. That life is described in the bible as one characterized by love, joy, peace, patience, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith and self-control. But these attributes do not come from a self-improvement plan or 12 step program. They come from living in relationship with God and following the leading of the Holy Spirit, Who lives within us!

Colossians 3:1-3:
Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.
(NASU)

So what are these higher things? He goes on to explain:

Colossians 3:12-17:
So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. 

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful. Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.
(NASU)

The “things of the earth” are not simply the material world, which God created and described as very good. In using heaven above and the earth beneath as descriptive terms, He is showing us that there is a lower plane of existence in things like: immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, anger, wrath, malice, slander, abusive speech and lying. (Colossians 3:5-11).

Earlier I mention my visits to India. Before I could enter that great country, I had to get permission from a representative of India in the form of a visa. So I contacted the Embassy of India in Washington D.C.to receive directions for the application. The Embassy of India receives authority from a country that is more than 8,000 miles away. That authority is very real. In fact, I could not even get on a plane bound for India without a visa from the embassy.

2,000 years ago Jesus Christ established a colony on this earth which represents the Kingdom of heaven. It is the gathering of the community of those who have been born again to the new life and the new values of the kingdom. It is not defined by the organizations of men, but by the holiness of God that sets His people apart from the self-worshipping, self-serving ways of fallen humanity. Jesus personally trained those who would lead others into the Kingdom of God and gave them special authority much like embassadors that reside in other lands.

This authority is the Word of God, and it has the power to transform hearts and minds, to heal broken people and communities, to demonstrate the character of God, and to lighten the way in this dark world. Everyone who receives Christ, submits to His will, and is trained by Him can be commissioned by Him as an embassador of the Kingdom of heaven. And yet the newest believer born of the Spirit is already a genuine citizen of heaven!

The small community of apostles and other men and women that Jesus gathered has grown tremendously throughout the centuries. The number of true believers cannot be known by us. Jesus promised that His kingdom would be like the yeast that permeated the flour which rises to become a loaf of bread. Like the rock in the dream Daniel interpreted for King Nebuchadnezzar, it is bringing all other kingdoms to naught as it fills the earth. Yes, the knowledge of the glory of the Lord is filling the earth! The Kingdoms of this world are becoming the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ!

As citizens of the kingdom now we are privileged to enjoy the blessings of heaven and to usher in the appearance of heaven to earth. No act that originated from the mind of God is too small or insignificant in His plan. For 2,000 years we have been praying, “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” That prayer is being heard and will be manifestly answered, but we can see and experience the reality of the wonderful reign of Christ even now!

As Citizens of Heaven!

Worthy Is The Lamb!

Here is a song written by my friend Thomas Shou. We hope you enjoy it! Here is his testimony:

“Enjoy my first Christian rock song GOD gave me literally in my dreams during this pandemic honeymoon with Jesus! One of my many pandemic song babies!! Thank bro Dan Beaty for his timely partnership”

More info is available on his Bandcamp page below:

Worthy Is The Lamb!

The Church Has Left The Building!

From early in the year 2020 the world has faced an unprecedented challenge in the emergence of the Covid-19 pandemic. Large gatherings and even smaller gatherings of 10 people or more were cancelled in an attempt to slow down the spread of this mysterious illness that could potentially claim the lives of millions. Congregations around the world quickly realized the threat and sought new ways to stay in fellowship and to encourage one another outside of the normal gathering places we have called “churches” for centuries.

The word “church” has come down in the English language from early translations of the original Greek New Testament. Nowhere in the Bible itself does the word refer to a physical building. The Greek word in the New Testament is “Ekklesia,” which in the First Century was often used in reference to a meeting of people gathered to discuss community affairs. In the book of Acts, it is even used once to describe the gathering of an angry mob of unbelievers! (Acts 16:39-41)

In Christian writings the focus was always on the gathering of God’s people, and also on a sense of the community of believers when they were not together physically. Ekklesia literally means “the called out.” The early Christians understood that they had been “called out” of the darkness of sin in this world and into the “marvelous Light” of Christ and His Good News! (1 Peter 2:9) What ever translation you use, and what ever English word we use for Ekklesia, one only has to read the Bible to find out its meaning. In the Bible the church is described in metaphors like the Body of Christ of which each believer is a member. Together we represent Christ in this world!

In another place we are depicted as individual stones that make up a house that God Himself inhabits. The old temple in Jerusalem is gone, but Spirit-filled believers in Christ together make up a new Temple for the worship of God! Another lovely metaphor depicts God’s people as the Bride of Christ, which He purchased with His own blood to be His own precious companion! As you can see, God has an exalted position for those who love and worship Him! He lives not only among His people but in them as well! They are being conformed to the image of Jesus Christ, who is the image of the invisible God!

Over the centuries, we have become accustomed to calling the buildings we gather in churches. When people say they are “going to church,” what they really mean is that they are going to a gathering of believers which takes place in a building. Instead of calling it a church building it is easier to just call it the church. Even when instructed about the true nature of the Christian church, it is hard to break the habit of calling the building the church. That is unfortunate. Sometimes the area of the building where the worship takes place is even called the Sanctuary, as if it is some holy place where worship can only happen.

If one good thing comes out of this crisis, I hope and pray that we can once and for all put behind us the concept that God lives in a physical building. Even in the old testament, King Solomon of Israel, who had just dedicated the marvelous temple to the Lord in Jerusalem made this declaration:

“But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain You, how much less this house which I have built! (1 Kings 8:27) NASU

It is convenient that there are many nice and even beautiful buildings available for us to meet in, which also are a great benefit to those who could never afford such comforts on their own. At the same time, we can become too dependent on the atmosphere we create for worship. It is easy to forget that our God is everywhere as well. The Early Church knew this as they met from house to house, sharing in the fundamental and bedrock reality of the Christian Faith, the Love of God!

Now that we are learning to not take for granted the face-to-face fellowship that can happen in buildings dedicated for that purpose, let us determine to never return to “business as usual.” We are important to one another and to God where ever we are. We do not meet out of tradition, or fear of punishment. We absolutely need one another as much or more than my hands and feet need my heart and head!

The physical buildings and programs we witness in them are only useful if they serve the purpose of helping us build up one another in Christ! In this way we become the Light of the world, a city on a hill that cannot be hid, showing others the way out of darkness and into His marvelous Light!

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