Understanding the Kingdom

March 26, 2007

The Kingdom of God
Col.1:12-13 … giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves.

 At salvation, we did not just get access to heaven. We received entrance “into the kingdom of the Son he loves.” The word “kingdom” comes from two words: king and dominion. Anywhere the king has dominion, therein lies the kingdom. Dominion does not just refer to power. It refers to everything about the king being reflected in his kingdom. It is a mindset, a pattern of thinking, a culture.

Because Pharaoh valued Joseph, everyone in the kingdom of Pharaoh valued Joseph. All the dignitaries of Egypt accompanied Joseph when he returned to Canaan to bury his father Jacob. But in Ex.1:8 it says, “Then a new king, who did not know about Joseph, came to power in Egypt.” Because the king changed, the kingdom would also be changing. The result was four hundred years of slavery for Joseph’s people.

 Defining the Kingdom
The change you experienced at salvation was not physical. It was not a new place we moved to, but a new level and way of thinking. The new king has a new pattern, and that pattern means a new dominion. Several Scriptures explain this idea. Eph.4:17 describes the “futility of the thinking” of unbelievers. Rom.12:2 tells us to be “transformed by the renewing of our minds.” Luke 17:21 says, “The kingdom of God is within you.”  John 17 describes how, “We are in the world, but not of the world.” The culture you are in, is not the culture you are of. Scripture uses the word “ambassador.” Ambassadors are in a foreign country, but they are not of that country. An embassy thinks differently from the country it is in. This is what the church is- an embassy. Everything was meant to operate in a different culture.

Scripture describes how we have been rescued from the dominion of darkness, to the dominion of Christ. We have been rescued from all things that are contrary to the culture of Christ. We have been delivered from fear, weakness, poverty and despair- to the dominion of the power, purpose, strength and the glory of God. Righteousness, peace and joy- that’s the kingdom of God. Love, strength, power- that is the culture of the dominion we have come under. You may not be in it right now, but that is what you are of. Jesus taught them to pray, “You kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

Light and Darkness

March 12, 2007

<i>Mt.6:22-23 “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!”</i> 

Light and Darkness
Our text says that, “if the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness?” It almost seems like a contradiction in terms. How can the light in you be darkness? The answer lies in how you perceive that darkness. If you know you are in darkness, your automatic and natural response is to look for light. But if you have called the darkness light, you will not pursue the light because you are convinced you don’t need it. We can all understand the power of the light switch naturally, but what is the light switch spiritually? How is the light within us turned on? Let’s take a closer look.

 1Jn.2:9-10 says, “Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates his brother is still in the darkness. Whoever loves his brother lives in the light, and there is nothing in him to make him stumble.”  Spiritual light is not determined by claiming to be in the light. It is determined by the love for one another. The great commandment is the great light switch! The word for “hate” in this text is not referring to the dislike of someone, like most would assume. The Greek word for hate means, “to love less.” In other words, anything less than love, is hate. There is no gray area in our treating of others.  It is important for us to get this down because Jesus said that they would know the ones that are mine by the love they have for one another. Love defined by God does not hold back. Though it can be felt, love is not a feeling. It is an action (1Cor.13).

 In Us
1Jn.2:10 says that if we have love for one another, we are in the light and there is nothing in us to make us stumble. It is an interesting statement- the things that cause us to stumble are “in us.” My issues with others are often an indication of issues within me. Scripture tells us in Mt.7 to take care of the beam or plank in our own eye before we address the speck of sawdust in the eye of our brother. Think about it- we never get in an argument assuming we are wrong. Jesus was teaching in Luke 12, and a man yelled out, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” Jesus responded by saying, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of ware of greed.” In other words, the man said, “Fix my brother!” And Jesus said, “Fix yourself!” The issue often times is not “them.”

 In Gen.32:9-11 Jacob is praying, “Save me, I pray, from the hand of my brother Esau, for I am afraid he will come and attack me,” In verse 24 we see that a man wrestled with Jacob all night. It is interesting- God answered his prayer not by wrestling against his brother, but by wrestling against Jacob. Jacob was blind to the issues in his own heart that needed to be dealt with. At the end of that struggle, Jacob was able to see the glorious riches within him. There was an entire Israel within the Jacob! It is amazing what we can find when the lights come on. The next day when he came to Esau, Esau received him with open arms. The lesson is that when Jacob overcame himself, the lights came on, and when the lights came on, his issues were solved! God did not answer his prayer by blessing him. He answered his prayer by putting the lights on for him.

 May God empower each one of us to get to the place where the lights within us shine brightly, now and forever. Amen

Changing Your Mind

February 27, 2007

Ps.84:5 Blessed are those whose strength is in you, who have set their hearts on pilgrimage.
This week we look at the importance of our thinking in the eyes of God. Our text says, “…who have their hearts are set on pilgrimage…” This is significant. Our life in God is marked by a journey from one place to another, but our feet are not involved. This idea is reflected in the book of Romans.

Conforming and Transforming
Rom.12:2 Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
The battle of conforming and transforming is waged within our minds. It is not external. This is a challenge for most of us because we live our lives for the external. Somehow we “feel safe” if the outside is okay, regardless of what is going on inside. This is a deception. Where the insides are not a big deal to us, they are very a big deal to God. In fact, to Him it is all He is looking at. 1 Sam. 16:7 says, “Man looks at outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

Terrible Times
2Tim.3:1-5 But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power.
This is an interesting passage in terms of what we just read. It starts out by describing the nature of the terrible times awaiting us in the last days. But in these terrible last days, there is no mention of famine, war, disease or natural disaster. Just about all of these problems are directly related to patterns of thinking, and attitudes. In other words, everything could be doing great on the outside- blue skies and birds singing- but the times are be terrible because of what is going on in the thinking. Good times or bad are not determined by the economy, but on our thinking.

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You vs. the Crowd

February 21, 2007

For most of us, the lives we live are not really our own. We live according to the demands of the crowd. We do not fight the crowd because the crowd punishes traitors, so we resolve to conform. Scripture clearly demonstrates how powerful a sway the crowd can have on you. I am convinced David’s biggest challenge was not Goliath. His biggest challenge was fighting through the corporate opinion of the crowd. It was as he overcame them that he was able to stand before Goliath. When Moses was on the mountain in Ex. 32, the whole camp of Israel turned from God and began worshiping the golden calf. I am sure there were some who thought this was wrong, but to stand against the crowd was too difficult. The crowd is that powerful. There was a riot in Ephesus, recorded in Acts 19. It says that some people were shouting one thing, some another. Then it says, –>”Most of them did not even know why they were there.” The crowd will steal your thoughts, and give you their own, so that you act and respond to things in a manner that is not really from you. This is dangerous especially in our perception of Jesus. Many of us are guilty of worshiping Jesus not according to how we really feel, but according to how the crowd trained us to worship Him. Notice the language in the conversation between Pilate and Jesus in Jn.18: “Pilate then went back inside the palace, summoned Jesus and asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?” “Is that your own idea,”Jesus asked, “or did others talk to you about me?” Jesus knew that “your own idea” is often something that we are very far removed from. He wanted to know what Pilate thought of Him for himself, not according to the influences of the crowd. If he could identify that, he could begin building his church.

My friend Pst. Mark Batterson in his book “In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day,”referred to a scientific study on “divergent thinking.” According to this study, a child’s ability to think creatively is at higher levels the younger the child is. As the child grows, it’s divergent thinking reduces significantly. The reason? The Crowd!! The older a child gets, the more the pull of the crowd teaches it how to behave and think. The true church is not a crowd. It is actually a group of people who have had their divergent thinking restored, especially in their perception of Jesus. If we can see Him properly, we can become what He is. 

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February 7, 2007

Apologies for the late release of Monday Morning this week. Stayed up late watching the Superbowl, which ended at 6am Ethiopia time, then had some complications with the electricity etc. The Bears lost. That is all I have to say about that.

Matthew 5:3 & 6
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven… Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

Our posture for entering the kingdom is one of hunger and emptiness before God. It is not, “I know, and I need to give.” It is, “I don’t know. I am empty, and I need to be filled!” We must be poor in spirit, hungry and thirsty. This attracts God. Religious tradition causes us to be comfortable in the things that we “know.” But God is not always found in what we “know.” He opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble (James 4:6). His kingdom is made up of believers whose approach to God is framed by hunger and the pursuit of the living God.

Ps. 84:5-7 Blessed are those whose strength is in you, who have set their hearts on pilgrimage. As they pass through the Valley of Baca, they make it a place of springs; the autumn rains also cover it with pools. They go from strength to strength, till each appears before God in Zion.

It says those, “who have set their hearts on pilgrimage.” There pilgrimage, and there is settling down. It is the life of pilgrimage that is marked by the blessing of the Lord. The goal of our lives is not “arriving at a destination.” The goal is “arriving at a place of pilgrimage.” Our life in God is a life of pilgrimage. Consider the journeys of the children of

\n\n\n\n\n\n Pilgrimage and Judgment\nDay
We will be judged in the last day not by how much we knew,\nbut by hungry we were for pilgrimage. Matthew19:28 records how the disciples left\neverything and “followed him.” Because they followed, Jesus said that they\nwould be given 12 thrones by which they will judge. In Mt. 12:42, Jesus alludes\nto the great Queen of the South (the one from Axum),\nsaying that she would rise up at the judgment and judge this generation,\n”because she came from the ends of the earth to seek wisdom…” Our hunger is the\nstandard by which all things will be judged, and the standard by which we will\nalso judge. Consequently, those who have decided to set up camp do not fare too\nwell. Hunger is the engine that drives the kingdom.

\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n The Ignorant Prophet
Zechariah 1:8-9 During the night I had a\nvision—and there before me was a man riding a red horse! He was standing among\nthe myrtle trees in a ravine. Behind him were red, brown and white horses. I\nasked, “What are these, my lord?” The angel who was\ntalking with me answered, “I will show you what they are.”
The prophet here is seen asking, “What are these, my lord?” It\nis rather obvious what he is seeing. It is a man on a red horse, standing among\nthe myrtle trees! He himself has acknowledged these things. But his asking reveals\nthe heart of pilgrimage. He knows what he sees, but he has not set up camp in\nwhat he knows. He is hungry for more. If he were like most of us, he would have\ngone running off and started a ministry, calling it, “Red Horse and Myrtle tree\nMinistries Worldwide International!” After all, it was a vision from God. But\nby doing so, he would have missed the full purpose of God in that vision, and\nwould have been running on a half- baked revelation.”,1] ); //–>Israel recorded in Numbers 33. Repeatedly throughout the chapter we find the words, “and they left, and they camped… and they left, and they camped.” God’s purpose for them was revealed through pilgrimage.

Pilgrimage and Judgment Day
We will be judged in the last day not by how much we knew, but by hungry we were for pilgrimage. Matthew19:28 records how the disciples left everything and “followed him.” Because they followed, Jesus said that they would be given 12 thrones by which they will judge. In Mt. 12:42, Jesus alludes to the great Queen of the South (the one from Axum), saying that she would rise up at the judgment and judge this generation, “because she came from the ends of the earth to seek wisdom…” Our hunger is the standard by which all things will be judged, and the standard by which we will also judge. Consequently, those who have decided to set up camp do not fare too well. Hunger is the engine that drives the kingdom.

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Jesus and the Thirsty Woman

January 29, 2007

Thirsty Woman (Excerpted from the message “Tradition”)
One of my favorite women in the Bible is the Samaritan woman in Jn. 4. When she met Jesus at the well, she was pretty messed up. Scriptures says she had had 5 husbands, and the sixth man she was with was not even her husband. But looking into her story, we find that she was a girl who was very religious. She grew up learning all about the formalities of worship, she knew all about prophets and prophecies, and she even knew about the Messiah that was to come. But all these things weren’t able to save the woman’s 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, or 5th marriage! Though she knew of God’s word, it had little effect on her because the word she received was wrapped in a shroud of tradition. That tradition nullified the word of God, making it powerless and ineffective in her life. It is a lesson to all of us that if tradition does not die in the church, things could get ugly.

Jesus spent most of the conversation with this woman challenging her traditional thinking. Then he gave her a word, “I who speak to you am He.” When she heard that, it caused something to move inside her that she never experienced before. When tradition was relpaced with truth, the word became alive within her. She was rescued from the religious traditions of her people on that day, and she was also sent as a missionary to her own people on that day, with great effect. (To receive messages like this every month, sign up for the Monday Morning Newsletter above.)

“THE PROBLEM WITH JESUS” – Pastor Randy Harling

January 22, 2007

Our guest speaker this week was Pst. Randy Harling. His serves as senior pastor of 1st Baptist Church in Simpsonville, South Carolina (fbcsimpsonville.org). The following is a summary of Pastor Randy’s message:

Matthew Ch. 8
The problem with Jesus is that unlike us, he treats everyone the same. We treat people through the lens of our own bias and preference. Chapter 8 is filled with the mighty miracles of Jesus. But each case that Jesus ministered to presented a bit of challenge:

The Leper
Mt. 8:1-4 When he came down from the mountainside, large crowds followed him. A man with leprosy came and knelt before him and said, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.” Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” Immediately he was cured of his leprosy.
It says that Jesus “touched” him. In that society and at that time, it was understood that lepers were not to be touched. It was considered “unclean,” and had devastating social and religious implications. But Jesus didn’t care, because unlike us, He treats everyone the same. The challenge: are you willing to allow God to touch you in the area you are most vulnerable in? Are you willing to touch others who are not “supposed” to be touched by you?

The Centurion
Mt. 8:8 Jesus said to him, “I will go and heal him.” The centurion replied, “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed.
Jesus here was willing to go to the man’s house. It sounds simple on the outside. But this case also had great social and religious implications. This man was not just a centurion. He was a Roman centurion. Not only was it against Jewish customs to associate with Gentiles, but the Romans were the great oppressors, and were despised by the Jewish people. Even the centurion himself tried to deter him, for he knew the “house rules.” But Jesus, didn’t care, because unlike us, He treats everyone the same.

The Demon Possessed and Afflicted
Mt. 8:16 When evening came, many who were demon-possessed were brought to him, and he drove out the spirits with a word and healed all the sick.
Those who came in the front door with demon possession, left the back door completely healed, delivered and whole. Most people wouldn’t welcome these people into their home, but not Jesus, because unlike us, Jesus treats everybody the same.

Being Different, and Guilt
We must never be afraid to be different. Nothing happens unless we are different. Jesus was different. Pst. Randy told us something about being different. The word different actually means “fellowship with God.” In other words, the more different you are, the more fellowship you have with God. Because of this, a different person is a very
powerful person. “Different” is what Jesus was.

If we are not free in our fellowship with God, and in our “different- ness,” we become easy targets for guilt. Guilt is one of the biggest tools the enemy uses against believers. Guilt causes us to become very cynical, suspicious, and running from God, where we were supposed to be open and free, and see others through the eyes of Christ. We must be free from guilt, but to do that, it might get a bit messy. This is because Jesus will need to mess up our customs and traditions. Jesus treats everyone the same.

Fruit is on the Inside
Pst. Randy peeled an orange for us. When you buy an orange or a banana, you are paying not for the skin. You are paying for what is on the inside. Though you cannot see it, you are trusting that the fruit you buy is good on the inside. When you buy into Jesus, it is the same way. You take him for what He has on the inside. That is where the really tasty part is. If the life you have in Christ has been bitter, you probably need to dig a little bit deeper, because the real tasty part is on the inside. Like the peel of an orange or a banana, life on the outside doesn’t taste very good. The secret lies a bit deeper than church culture, religious tradition and the rules that bind us. Jesus is not like us. No one is too leprous, too Centurion, or too demon possessed. The problem with Jesus, is actually the solution for us. He treats everyone the same, and as we come in contact with our real difference, we cannot help but do the same.

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