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

Tag: prophecy

Light of the World, Chapter 10: The Promised King

 

Chapter 10, The Promised King

In the previous chapters of this book I shared some of my personal experiences and some of what I have learned from them. Also I have attempted to show that God has always had a plan from the beginning that supports His desire to bless His creation and humanity. The reason I mention this again is that often we can get caught up in our individual daily lives. It is easy to forget that we have been given a greater and higher purpose by God than what is often thought. The Christian faith can become sort of a habit of living with customs like Sunday church attendance, Easter and Christmas celebrations, and giving support to missionaries. Then each Christian denomination can have somewhat different habits, practices and beliefs as well. This is not to say that habits, traditions and beliefs are inherently wrong. Whether one is a believer in God or an atheist, we all have basic routines and assumptions about life.

The point I am making here and hope to continue to make is that all of our daily routines and goals can have greater meaning in the context of God’s marvelous plan. While Jesus did promise us, His followers eternal life, He also said He came that we might have abundant life even now! In fact the eternal perspective we gain from our relationship with Him can have tremendous impact on the here and now. Story after story in the bible will demonstrate this fact: that which is invisible and eternal can truly shake up and transform our physical reality!

How sad it is when repentance is viewed as a signed contract for fire insurance and salvation is only for the purpose of keeping us out of hell. Somehow, God is often shown to work around our misconceptions about Him and the Christian faith, and I am thankful for that fact. At the same time I am also thankful that He is willing and able to give us a greater vision of His plan and the reason we are here. So I have been sharing a very condensed overview of the Old Testament because I feel that many important aspects of God’s eternal purpose are presented there. It is true that the New Testament is more directly applicable for us today, but the fact remains that they are linked. The New Testament simply cannot be fully understood without knowing what came before and was written about in the Old. I strongly believe that the oversimplified “lite” version of the Gospel we often hear today is a result of our neglect of the Old Testament. What we need today is the powerful, life-changing and world changing Gospel of the Kingdom!

When John the Baptist and Jesus came preaching “The kingdom of God is at hand,” this message did not come out of a vacuum. As civilization expanded the people of God became increasingly aware of the need for God’s righteous ways to be applied not only in the nation of Israel but also in the affairs of all nations. Their prophets had many things to say concerning the nations of the earth, and His plans for them. From men like Isaiah and Daniel, they learned of the wondrous future God had planned for all of us. This no doubt led to their interest in the messages of both John and Jesus.

Moses had led the descendants of Israel by the Word which came directly to Him from God. His law was their governor and protector. His judges and prophets were the interpreters of His law and the Spirit gave them guidance. Many times God even ruled them directly by demonstrations of His power. Eventually there came a time when they desired a king like the other nations around them. He first gave them Saul to teach them about the disadvantages of this decision. Then He gracefully gave them a king who was more desirous of His Heart. So David, the shepherd boy who killed Goliath the giant became the king over all of Israel.

David was by no means a perfect man or a perfect king. He was, however, a great example of one who loved God and desired to please Him. This we learn from the written record of his life and the Psalms he wrote for worship in the congregation. It was in these psalms of praise and worship that David declared God in heaven to be the true King! (Psalms 10:16, 24:7-10, 29:10) In His desire to honor his God he planned to build a temple to replace the tent as permanent dwelling place for God’s dwelling among His people. At first, David’s prophet and adviser Nathan thought this was as great idea. Later that night, however, the Word of God came to Nathan, saying:

4 “Go and tell my servant David, ‘This is what the LORD says: You are not the one to build me a house to dwell in. 5 I have not dwelt in a house from the day I brought Israel up out of Egypt to this day. I have moved from one tent site to another, from one dwelling place to another. 6 Wherever I have moved with all the Israelites, did I ever say to any of their leaders whom I commanded to shepherd my people, “Why have you not built me a house of cedar?” ‘

7 “Now then, tell my servant David, ‘This is what the LORD Almighty says: I took you from the pasture and from following the flock, to be ruler over my people Israel. 8 I have been with you wherever you have gone, and I have cut off all your enemies from before you. Now I will make your name like the names of the greatest men of the earth. 9 And I will provide a place for my people Israel and will plant them so that they can have a home of their own and no longer be disturbed. Wicked people will not oppress them anymore, as they did at the beginning 10 and have done ever since the time I appointed leaders over my people Israel. I will also subdue all your enemies.

“‘I declare to you that the LORD will build a house for you: 11 When your days are over and you go to be with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, one of your own sons, and I will establish his kingdom. 12 He is the one who will build a house for me, and I will establish his throne forever. 13 I will be his father, and he will be my son. I will never take my love away from him, as I took it away from your predecessor. 14 I will set him over my house and my kingdom forever; his throne will be established forever.'”  (1 Chronicles 17:4-14 NIV)

Here is an early and clear prophecy of the reign of God over the earth through a descendant of David. In the first sense it was fulfilled in David’s son Solomon. David would go on to plan and prepare for the building of the temple, but Solomon, who had never fought in war would oversee the building of the first temple for the LORD. After Solomon, David’s dynasty, his “house” would continue until David’s devotion to God was abandoned and the kingdom crumbled.

Yet the hope for a future “Son of David” did not disappear. God spoke of this future Messiah (anointed One) in other ancient writings.

Isaiah 11:1-9:

A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse (David’s father); from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. 2 The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him — the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of power, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD — 3 and he will delight in the fear of the LORD.

He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes, or decide by what he hears with his ears; 4 but with righteousness he will judge the needy, with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth. He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth; with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked. 5 Righteousness will be his belt and faithfulness the sash around his waist.

6 The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them. 7 The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox. 8 The infant will play near the hole of the cobra, and the young child put his hand into the viper’s nest. 9 They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.
(NIV)

In this and in many other places, Isaiah and others foresaw a world that more closely resembles the Garden of Eden, or Paradise. (Revelation 2:7). This should be no surprise to us, for a wise person once wrote that God “has set eternity in their heart.” (Ecclesiastes 3:11) From around the world, and in ages past, philosophers and thinkers have yearned for something they hoped was once real — that could be real again. There is a longing in all of our hearts for what the heavenly hosts declared to some shepherds near Bethlehem while praising God. They announced:

14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. (Luke 2:14 KJV)

How this will fully come about (if you believe these prophecies have any real meaning at all), remains to be seen. And yet we have from scripture a clear indication on when it started to unfold.

Foundational to all Christian belief is the truth an angel brought to the virgin Mary 2,000 years ago.

Luke 1:30-34:

30 The angel said to her, ” Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God. 31 “And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. 32 “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; 33 and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end.”
(NASB)

After the birth of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, both descendants of David, brought their child to the temple at Jerusalem to present Him before the Lord. There they were approached by an older man named Simeon. Simeon was compelled by the Holy Spirit to hold Him in his arms and speak these words:

Luke 2:29-32:

29 “Now Lord, You are releasing Your bond-servant to depart in peace,
According to Your word;
30 For my eyes have seen Your salvation,
31 Which You have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
32 A LIGHT OF REVELATION TO THE GENTILES,
And the glory of Your people Israel.”
(NASB)

Simeon had waited all of his life for this moment. He believed that this descendant of Abraham would some day bless all the families of the earth. This calling was to bless the gentiles, or the nations outside of his covenant with God. He even quotes from the Old Testament prophets (Isaiah 42:6-7). Now he is satisfied to die in peace, for He had seen the Lord’s salvation in the person of this infant child! What faith! What confidence in the written Word of God and witness of the Holy Spirit! In his heart and mind the scripture was already fulfilled!

Later, when Jesus began His public ministry, people who were healed by Him, saw His miracles, and His triumphant ride into Jerusalem loudly proclaimed Him to be the promised “Son of David.” (Matthew 9:27, 12:23, 15:22, 21:9).

After the Crucifixion, many abandoned Him. Yet He kept a strong core group who became the leaders of a great movement that began to cover the then known world. Many were martyred for simply refusing to deny that He was Lord of all! The Kingdom of God was real to them and in them! They had experienced true righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit! (Romans 14:17)

What about you? Has the promised King, the Son of David come to reign in your life? Are you learning to look for His future reign in all the earth, in every heart, while you enjoy His wonderful life, love and Kingship over you today?

Light Of The World, Chapter Eight, The Promised Sacrifice

Chapter 8: The Promised Sacrifice

In case someone might think that I am making things up as I go along, let’s look at another Old Testament story from Genesis. We believe that the New Testament cannot be fully understood without some understanding of the context in which events recorded there took place. The context was a nation that sprang forth from Abraham, whose faith gave him the privilege of being called the Friend of God.

Even before Abraham the Good News from God stated that the evil one who deceived the whole world would be defeated by one who would descend from Eve. (Genesis 3:14-15). Later Abraham set the pattern for all who would follow God by acting on his faith in God’s Word, His promises. His promise to Abraham and Sarah was not only for a son in their old age, but through that son his descendants that would number as many as the sands of the seashore and the stars of heaven that cannot even be counted! Not only that, but these descendants would bring forth one particular “seed” through which all the families of the earth would be blessed! (Galatians 3:8-9,16). This is part of that “Impossible Dream” that I wrote about in the last chapter. And yes, this is also part of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Gospel of the Kingdom to be announced 2,000 years later.

When Abraham set out with his wife to find the home God had planned for him, his faith was expressed. But after his son came into the world, his faith would be tested. In this test, we can look back and see another glimpse of what would come to be fulfilled in Jesus Christ.

In Abraham’s day there were no church services to attend, no preaching to listen to or hymns to sing. His primary act of worship was to leave his home and migrate to another land, a land that his descendants would later possess. His faith, his trust in His God was already shown to be real by the great risks he had taken so far. While so many were migrating to the fertile lands of Mesopotamia, this man and his family were leaving their security and journeying into the unknown. This theme of a quest, or a journey into unknown territory would appear again and again in both the old and new testaments, and in the entire history of the church of Jesus Christ.

When the promised son finally came to Abraham and Sarah, he would face his greatest test. Would his faith sustain him?

The God who led Abraham out from his home to become a tent dweller in Canaan and gave him the son that was promised, was now asking him to give that son up as a sacrifice on Mount Moriah. Abraham took his son and before they went up the mountain, he told his servants that both of them would later return. Did he really believe that, or did he mislead the servants? In the New Testament Abraham was seen as a model of great faith. Perhaps he still believed in God’s promise to make a great nation from Isaac. In order to fulfill it maybe he hoped God would raise him from the dead even after offering him. (Hebrews 11:17-19). In another place he made an even greater confession of faith that would not be fully understood for 2,000 years. When Isaac asked his father about the animal that they needed for the sacrifice, he gave us another one of those statements in the Old Testament concerning Jesus! He answered: “My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering.” (Genesis 22:8).

The death of Isaac was not God’s plan all along, but a test of Abraham’s faith. In the story God intervened and did provide a ram that had his horns caught in a bush. He did provide an immediate sacrifice for Abraham but there is an even higher, deeper, prophetic meaning to his words. 2,000 years into the future God who through His great love for the world would offer His only son Jesus to atone for all of our sins. Through belief in Him we can now have everlasting life! (John 3:16, 1 John 2:1-2, 1 Timothy 2:1-6) Allow me to go even further out on a limb with this declaration. God did not only provide a sacrifice, but He provided Himself as a sacrifice! Is this a play on words or did God actually surrender Himself on the Cross for the sins of the whole world?

If you believe that there is only One God who is revealed and personified as the Father, The Son and The Holy Spirit, you might be able to see that He is so at one with Jesus that He suffered with the Incarnate Son, the one Who is fully Human and fully divine — the Great I AM! (John 8:58, 10:30, 14:8-11, 17:5).

So God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself, not counting our trespasses against us! (2 Corinthians 5:17-21) This great cosmic and catastrophic event paved the way for the very promise which Abraham received from God, that his descendants would be impossible to count! Through Jesus the wall of separation between Jews and gentiles would be brought down and all of us can become a part of that great family! How? By faith and trust in His righteousness and not our own! (Ephesians 2:12-22). (6 minutes)

God does have a plan for the ages! Paul wrote about this in his letter to the Christians at Ephesis:

Ephesians 3:8-12:
8 Although I am less than the least of all God’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, 9 and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things. 10 His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, 11 according to his eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. 12 In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.
NIV

God had been preparing the world for the coming of Jesus, the Messiah from the very beginning. Even Abraham had a glimpse of Him! (John 8:56) Later, when his descendants found themselves enslaved in Egypt, they had a preview of Jesus in their deliverer, Moses. Amidst all of the miracles and astonishing events that God performed through Moses, He also demonstrated the manner in which an innocent lamb would protect them from the curse of sin and death. Only those who sacrificed a flawless lamb, consumed its nourishment and applied its blood to their dwelling would be spared the plague of death that took the firstborn of all Egypt.

From that time on, Israel would look back on that day every year without realizing they were also looking ahead to the day when God would offer His son not only for their sins, but for the sins of the whole world. (1 John 2:2). Every sacrifice and offering they brought would remind them of their weaknesses and dependence upon God and point to the time when God would more fully take up residence in them to live His righteous and holy life in them! In Christ we are made one and complete in Him! He identified with us in our weaknesses so that we can identify with Him in His victory over sin and death!

2 Corinthians 5:21:
He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
NASB

2 Corinthians 8:9:
For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich.
NASB

All of this takes us back again to the original blessing in Genesis 1:26-28:

26 Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” 27 And God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. 28 And God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”
NASB

God is still in the process of making mankind into His image. He is determined to fill the earth with His sons and daughters, in order that Jesus would become the firstborn in this great family of God! (Romans 8:28-29) Jesus died on the cross to deliver us from the curse, and also that God’s eternal purpose could be fulfilled in us! Then He sent His disciples out into the world with the Gospel, teaching all the nations His Kingdom principles of faith, hope and love. This was the time to be fruitful and to multiply in a greater and higher order!

While some would postpone this purpose until the afterlife, I find great inspiration in knowing that it can be fulfilled in space and time!

Titus 2:11-14:
11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, 12 instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, 13 looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus; 14 who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.
NASB

So let us not diminish the great sacrifice of our Lord, the spotless Lamb of God. Let us wholeheartedly, as did our spiritual ancestors, anticipate the fullness of what God desires for His creation! Let us honor and cherish His great act of love for us that cannot fail to bring about His plan for His glory!

Light of the World, Chapter Four, The Promise Of The Kingdom

In the New Testament we learn a lot about the importance of faith. It is by grace that we are saved, through faith, and not that of ourselves – it is the gift of God, not by works lest anyone should boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9). The crux of Jesus’ preaching was to repent and believe the Good News of the Kingdom of God. We are also told that faith comes by hearing, hearing this message from God. The apostle John wrote his entire account for one purpose. His hope was that it would encourage the reader to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and thereby to find life in His Name (John 20:31). Elsewhere we learn that faith was an important factor in the lives of many Old Testament characters as well (Hebrews 11:1-40). Continue reading

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?

The End of the World?


First the Kingdom, Part 14, The End of the World?

Have you ever heard people say that the Bible contradicts itself? This was a statement that I often heard growing up by those who disliked what the Bible had to say about them! I am forever grateful to God that my mother, her family and her friends had a different view. When I was young I worked with an uncle who knew and loved God and who also loved the Scriptures. He studied the Bible every day and took special interest in the passages that people thought were contradictory. From him I learned the true meaning of many passages and realized that the same Holy Spirit Who inspired every part could not contradict Himself!

Many wonderful and godly individuals over the centuries have also believed that the Bible has a unified message. They have taken the time and resources they had to see how each passage and teaching would fit together into the whole picture. It was Paul who said he had not shunned to declare unto the people the whole counsel of God. (Acts 20:27). He had special insights that even his fellow apostle Peter found difficult to understand! (2 Peter 3:16)

Not everyone has the patience or the willingness to learn about the whole counsel of God. It is easy to find a passage that excites us and to ignore others that might bring better balance to our understanding.

For the past 150 years or so, Christians have become more concerned that we are living in the “Last Days” that were spoken of in the Bible. We are more aware of natural disasters, crime, injustice and wars than ever before, due to advances in communication. This can heighten our anxiety and concern for the future and seem to confirm that we are coming to the end of time. But allow me to let you in on a secret. This is nothing new. Many times over the last 2,000 years people have thought the end is near! There have been many great wars, earthquakes, famines, and plagues that have wiped out major populations in the distant past.

There is reason to believe that the Coming of Christ is near, but that can mean different things to different people. In keeping with the belief that the Bible does not contradict itself, I would like to present a different view than what you might have heard about the end. In my previous messages I have not taken a verse here and there, but have shown the consistent goal of God from the beginning. In the midst of judgments and corrections He has continued to demonstrate His love for His creation and his plan to rule it in righteousness, peace and joy through His Son Who gave His life as a sacrifice.

The work of our adversary the devil has tested those who believe in and follow God, but the testing only serves to strengthen us in the end. The forward movement of the Kingdom of God in the earth through men like Abraham, Joseph, Moses, David, the prophets of the Old and the apostles of the New Testament have resulted in the Gospel and its influence spreading throughout the world today. The bold confession of every born-again Christian is that Jesus Christ is Lord — right now and always!

Jesus and the prophets and apostles have shown us a glorious future in the Kingdom of God. Every Christian is told to pray the Kingdom to come and for God’s will to be done in earth as in heaven. But are these prayers destined to fail? According to some views of Bible prophecy it would seem so. Every view of the end of times is based upon certain passages of scripture. Each version tries to reconcile the passages that seem to disagree. I completely understand and respect the serious scholarship of other views. And yet, I find points of disagreement in most everyone so far that I have studied.

The foundation is that God is sovereign, and that He has a plan that cannot fail. He has painted a clear picture in the scripture of that plan to bless all the families of the earth through Christ, the seed of Abraham. His reign begins in each heart and spreads outward from there, impacting every area of society. In the mean time there is a great battle going on in the spiritual realm. That battle is reflected in the horrible and devastatingly evil actions of those who resist Christ. The enemy knows his time is short and he will intensify his efforts.

This battle is depicted in the figurative, symbolic language in the writings of prophets like Daniel, Ezekiel and John in the Revelation. Jesus Himself made use of dramatic symbolic language to depict the fall of Jerusalem after the people rejected Him. Most of the dire warnings in the New Testament were directed at that generation, but I believe all of us should take seriously every word.

At the same time each word has to fit into the big picture as well. A large area of misunderstanding has come from the older English translations. When Jesus spoke of the end of the world, the Greek word, “Aion,” an age, or period of time was used. The end of the age of the Temple and the sacrificial system was coming to a close. Jesus was the true Lamb that took away the sin of the world! The end of that age fully came after His crucifixion and the sacrificial system ended in 70 AD with the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple. In a sense, the older translation was correct for that world did come to an end!

Another passage that seems to contradict our optimistic understanding of the Kingdom of God is found in 2 Peter 3:3-13. He begins by warning that scoffers would deny the promise of Christ’s coming. Then he reminds his readers that the world in Noah’s day perished, being overflowed by water. The planet earth, however, was not destroyed! The word “world” in the Greek according to Strong’s dictionary has a broad application:

“kosmos-
orderly arrangement, that is, decoration; by implication, the world (in a wide or narrow sense, including its inhabitants, literally or figuratively [morally]):”

In fact the planet and the atmosphere were both preserved. Noah’s family was saved by the very water that brought an end to the orderly arrangement of mankind’s evil activities.

Please bear with me here. We are simply attempting to show how the Bible does not contradict itself. Often we encounter highly symbolic language in Biblical prophecy. This appears to be one of those instances. His point is that the Day of the Lord will come! The end of the day of evil is sure! He continues:

2 Peter 3:7:

But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.

The judgment is not against the planet or the sky, but against ungodly men and their habitation! In fact, the delay of His coming is because of the Lord’s long-suffering and desire to see people repent so His creation can be blessed! His desire has always been to save the world! (John 3:16-17)

2 Peter 3:9:

The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.

The elements will be burned up, along with the heavens and the earth. If the language here is figurative, then the fire, which is often used to symbolize the Holy Spirit, the Word of God, and even God as the consuming fire, could be figurative as well. He could be saying that the elemental principles of this world will be consumed in God’s judgment. Just as in Noah’s day, heaven and earth become made new!

This is a place wherein righteousness fully dwells!

Paul even uses the metaphor of the new creation in relationship to those who are “in Christ.” But are believers physically crucified, killed or destroyed when they become a “New Creation” in Christ? (2 Corinthians 5:17) Of course not!

If the language is not figurative, then much of what we have read before would seem inconsistent.

In Genesis 1:26-28: God was pleased for humanity to bear His image, and blessed them to be fruitful, fill the earth and take dominion over it.

Genesis 3:15: After the fall, God promised that the seed of the woman would bruise the head of the serpent, indicating the restoration and triumph of Christ over sin.

Genesis 8:21-9:1: After the great flood, God promised to never again destroy every living thing, and renewed the original blessing to Noah.

Genesis 12:1-3: God called Abram out and promised to bless him, so that all families of the earth would be blessed through him.

Deuteronomy 18:15-18: Moses told of a prophet to come which would be fulfilled in Jesus Christ.

1 Chronicles 17:1-14: God promised King David that He would raise up his son to reign forever.

God had much to say through the prophets concerning His plan.

Isaiah 7:14: A virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, who would be Emmanuel, God With us.

Isaiah 9:6-7: A Son would be born, who would be called, Wonderful, Counselor, the Mighty God, the Prince of Peace, the Everlasting Father, His kingdom would reign forever.

Isaiah 53: A man would offer his life for our sins, and yet live to prosper and bear children.

Isaiah 2:2-4: The nations will come to learn of God’s ways and He will put an end to war.

Daniel 2:44-45: In the days of the Roman Empire, the Kingdom of God will be set up and begin to fill the earth.

Mark 1:14-15: Jesus declared the Good News of God to repent for the time of the Kingdom had come.

Matthew 28:18-20: After His resurrection, Jesus claims all authority in heaven and earth, commanding his followers to disciple the nations.

Acts 1:8, 2:4, the disciples are given power by the Holy Spirit to proclaim the Gospel of the Kingdom to the whole earth.

Acts 28:23-31: Paul takes the message of Jesus and the Kingdom of God to Rome, which later becomes the center of Christianity.

1 Corinthians 12:3, Philippians 2:9-11: The Church confesses Jesus is Lord now and that one day every knee would bow and every tongue would also confess He is Lord to the glory of God the Father.

Paul the apostle states in Romans 8:16-22 that the whole creation is earnestly waiting for God’s sons to be revealed, and is groaning and travailing in pain in anticipation of its deliverance into the glorious liberty of the children of God. If the language in 2 Peter 3 is not symbolic or figurative, then this groaning to be delivered from the bondage of corruption would be only answered by total destruction!

That would also mean that Christ came in the time foretold to establish His Kingdom on earth only so His subjects would be forced to abandon that which was to be obliterated. In answer to what they have always prayed, this kingdom came to earth but not for long. The meek would inherit a doomed earth. The nations would come up to be taught the ways of the Lord, end all the fighting and then see all the good accomplishments destroyed by a literal fire.

Even the book of the Revelation does not describe the total destruction of the universe. It does describe the defeat of Satan, the New Jerusalem coming down from heaven to the earth, and the kingdoms of this world becoming the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Messiah!

With all of our individual biases, there are bound to be mistakes in our interpretation of prophesy. The basic direction that Christ has given His people is not so complicated. We are to do justly, love mercy, and to walk humbly with our God. We are to grow in grace and the knowledge of our Lord, to shine as lights in the world. We are to live as the salt of the earth, and to pray for our leaders and our governments in order to live peaceably and freely share the Good News.

The knowledge that His success actually awaits us, empowers me personally to fulfill my part in His plan. How about you?

We hope this series on First the Kingdom has been helpful to you. To continue in this study with us, we invite you to “like” and “follow” https://www.facebook.com/livingtruthcom/ or subscribe to our blog on https:livingtruth.com

The Time is Fulfilled!

First the Kingdom part 8, The Time is Fulfilled

It has been said that in the Old Testament the New Testament is concealed, and in the New Testament, the Old Testament is revealed. This is not immediately evident. This realization comes over time and after much searching and illumination of the Holy Spirit. The writers of the New Testament almost force us to this conclusion. Because they had to deal with the biblical scholars of their day, they went to great lengths to show how everything that had transpired in the life of Jesus had been foretold in the Scriptures.

Jesus Himself pointed out that He came to fulfill everything that was written about Him in the ancient writings. (Luke 24:44). Paul also basically said that everything He came to teach and proclaim was based upon what was written in the sacred Hebrew scriptures. (Acts 26:22)

These things were concealed in such a way that even His disciples first missed them until Jesus “opened their understanding.” (Luke 24:45) Paul explained how this was the operation of the “spirit of wisdom and revelation” that is available to believers who receive it. Many of the prophetic predictions concerning Jesus and the coming Kingdom we have discussed in the previous lesson.

There are many fascinating studies of the Old Testament references to Jesus and His ministry which the writer to the Hebrews called “shadows” and “types.” Special events and the Levitical system of animal and grain sacrifices depict the manner in which Jesus would finally atone for our sins and give us an example to follow. Even the stories of many Old Testament individuals like Joseph, Moses and David would also become examples of some of the traits that Jesus would fully display in the New Testament era.

This series is mainly focusing on the importance of the Kingdom of God in the Old and New Testament. The Old Testament looks forward to it, the New Testament reveals the way in which it is fulfilled. In fact, Mark’s Gospel states this from the start. After telling of John, the forerunner baptizing Jesus, and the following temptation of Jesus, he writes:

Mark 1:14-15:
Now after John had been taken into custody, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, ” The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” 
NASU

Let us look at this closely. We know that God has always been sovereign over His creation. There has never been a time when He was not in control. However, the coming of the Kingdom of God is related to this specific time. Something was near that was not so near before! Change was coming to that place and in that time, according to Jesus and John. There seems to be two tendencies when people think of the Kingdom of God. One is that the Kingdom has to be more like an earthly authority that is exercised by force, the other is that it is only like a personal spiritual experience.

Even among those who followed Jesus there was confusion about what to expect. In fact they were shocked when He told them that He would be crucified in Jerusalem, and even more shocked when it happened! After His resurrection they were of course relieved, but He continued to explain the Kingdom to them during the 40 days up to His Ascension! They must have understood things somewhat better then. Earlier when He told them He would have to leave in order for the Holy Spirit to come, they were full of sorrow. Now, when His physical form was taken from them, they were actually rejoicing! From that time forward they proclaimed Him as Lord and King, ruling from heaven, and sending them forth to declare His Kingdom had come!

It would be difficult to deny that Jesus did come to bring a spiritual experience. My problem is with those who limit it to that. As I have pointed out, there is a time element to the Kingdom of God. It was alluded to in the book of Daniel. In the days of the kingdoms that came down to the days of the Roman Empire, the God of Heaven would set up a kingdom that would consume all other kingdoms and be established forever! We cannot disconnect the words spoken by God before from the Words of Christ Who came to fulfill them. We are concerned with the whole counsel of God!

It does take a spiritual experience, being born from above to see the Kingdom of God has come! And yet, the same Holy Spirit can and will transform our lives to the extent that others can see it too! Moses had to prove to Pharaoh that his was the true God. Jesus proved He was the Messiah to His own people by undeniable miracles and teaching with great authority. But the nation of Israel as a whole did not see the truth because Rome appeared to still be in power in the end.

If they had understood the parables of Jesus they would have understood that Rome’s days were truly numbered. The Kingdom of God did come in power 50 days after the Crucifixion and religious Jews from all over the Roman Empire witnessed it! Thousands of pilgrims who came to the yearly ceremonies were caught up into the wonderful presence of God along with the early apostles and disciples. Jerusalem was the first “beachhead” to borrow from a World War II analogy. Later, Samaria, Antioch, Ephesus, Alexandria, and Rome itself would become infiltrated with the Gospel of the Kingdom of God!

There were both great explosions of supernatural transformation and small, unnoticed advances as well. Jesus explained that growth often takes place in the darkness of the earth and in the chemical reactions between leaven and bread. This is what the Kingdom of Heaven is like. All the while the great Rock is rolling over the kingdoms of hatred, jealousy, murder, and injustice around the world, even impacting the political forces that express them, until the knowledge of the glory of the Lord covers the earth as the waters cover the sea! (Isaiah 11:9).

We hope this series on First the Kingdom has been helpful to you. To continue in this study with us, we invite you to “like” and “follow” https://www.facebook.com/livingtruthcom/ or subscribe to our blog on https://livingtruth.com

Seeing the Kingdom

First The Kingdom, Part 4: Seeing the Kingdom

Our perspective in life can strongly determine the direction we take for many years. We can have either a positive or negative “outlook,” which has little to do with our eyesight. The way we “see” the world around us, and the way we believe things work or should work — that is what we mean when referring to our perspective or our outlook.

My generation came up in a time when common values, goals and outlooks on life were beginning to be questioned. wait, that seems to be true with every generation! The nineteen sixties did, however, set in motion a greater level of doubt and questioning that has greatly expanded in this the 21st Century.

Certainly many ideas, beliefs and practices should be re-examined. Some have always been in error, but others were only right for that particular time. Change is all around, and we must learn to adapt at times. On the other hand, the chaos that change can bring can be unsettling. I for one look for stability in things that have proven the test of time. My greatest source of stability is found in God and in the record of His dealings with humanity found in the Bible. The more I learn about Him and His ways in both my relationship with Him and in my study of His Word, the more peace I find.

In this series I hope to share a perspective, a way of seeing life, purpose, and the reason we all are here. This perspective gives meaning to our existence, and great satisfaction. In the most difficult times I have been able to “stay the course” that was set for me many years ago when Christ first saved me. I admit that at first the journey was shaky. I stumbled many times along the way. It was not until I caught a vision of the magnificent Lordship of Jesus Christ and His Kingdom that everything changed.

In the Bible we find powerful metaphors concerning life. We are on a road or path, moving toward a goal or destination. To see the path we need “light,” or understanding. The wisdom of God not only tells us about our destination, but how to make the best decisions when we find a fork in the road. There is both a destination, and a journey. Like Oddyseus in Greek mythology, we also have a prize at the end or our quest!

Too many of us go from day to day without even knowing why we do what we do. We are driven by various desires. Some of them are virtuous, others are destructive. Some people do not face the results of their decisions until it is too late. Yet we can wrongfully believe that good results mean that we are on the right track. At other times, when we are doing the right thing events seem to turn against us. Is it possible to ever be sure?

Throughout the centuries, the Spirit of God has empowered and illuminated prophets and teachers, parents and leaders with spiritual vision. His Light has given them a vision that sustained them through every kind of struggle in this life. This power belongs to everyone who simply believes in Jesus Christ, and trusts their future with Him!

Proverbs 4:18-19 tell us that:
“The path of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn,
shining ever brighter till the full light of day.
But the way of the wicked is like deep darkness;
they do not know what makes them stumble.”

NIV

Can you accept this as your destiny? We who love God and His Truth are on a path of ever increasing brightness!

What I am asking of you who are hearing this or reading this writing, is that you invest some time to seeking the Kingdom of God and His righteousness. Become open to the possibility of recieving a greater vision of the Kingdom of God for your life. Consider the passages of scripture I have been sharing and will continue to share. It might just open up a whole new world unto you!

John in his gospel wrote that those who receive Jesus are given by Him the priviledge of being called the children of God. They are born of God! (John 1:12-13) Jesus said that a person who is born from above can see the Kingdom of God. (John 3:3) The key to envisioning a better existence is in receiving the Word of God concerning you! The Word is calling us all to repentance and faith, obedience and trust in what we inherently know to be true.

Our God is good and wonderful beyond our wildest imaginations! He earnestly wants us to know that about Him but our willingness is required. Eternal Life in Christ is something we can begin to experience even now. To know Him IS Life Eternal! (John 17:3) The life that He has in mind includes you but it is bigger than you. Seeing the Kingdom of God is seeing God’s plan, seeing His present reign in your life now and the continuing expansion of His reign throughout all the earth! This is truly an exiting time to be alive! Lord, open up your servant’s eyes to see your wonderful and glorious victory that we might live victoriously in it!

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