Tag Archives: peace

Kingdom of Cannibals?

10 May

Many years ago, a young Jewish man from Galilee began shaking things up. He referred to himself regularly as the “son of man” but at times also implied he was the son of God. Many people though he was the man they had been waiting for. Prophecies long ago had told of a man from God who would restore God’s kingdom on the earth. The Jewish people knew exactly what that meant. In their minds, that meant that a messiah would come and rescue Israel from their oppressors and then set up a perfect Jewish kingdom that would last forever.

But the messiah they got was not the messiah they expected. While they expected him to begin gathering weapons and training soldiers, He instead traveled from town to town teaching, healing, and showing up their religious leaders.

Once, he miraculously fed a crowd of thousands with only a few loaves and fishes (John  6.5-13). The people were astounded! If they could have a messiah that not only ended the Roman occupation, but could also miraculously provide food, there would be no stopping them! The people made up their minds that no more time could be wasted, they must make him their king!

By now, the man, Jesus, was avoiding the crowds, choosing instead to spend his time off in the wilderness. But even then the crowds hunted him down. But this time, the crowds were coming for more than to hear his teaching or see a miracle. They were going to force him into his destiny as their king (Jhn 6.15). They raced around the lake of Galilee to find where he had gone (Jhn 6.25).

Jesus, though, was not ignorant of their plans. He knew what they wanted of him, and even more He knew what his purpose really was. Regardless of how many times he had taught love over violence (Luk 6.27) and forgiveness over revenge (Mat 5.38-45;Mat. 18-21-22), the message had rarely made it through their thick skins. He was not there to fight (Jhn 3.17), he was there to model a different and better way of living.

The situation was tense when they found him, but before the crowd could do anything, Jesus shocked them with these words:

“Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed. Anyone who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in them.” (Jhn 6.53-56)

This caught them by surprise and completely disarmed them. They entered that situation set on making him their king, and now they were hearing him say that needed to drink his blood and eat his body? They could not recall anything in their prophecies about Israel becoming a kingdom of cannibals! Why would he say such a thing?

The sad fact is that most of his followers did not listen past the first line of that teaching, and it is recorded that “many of his disciples went back and walked with him no more.” (Jhn 6.66)

This was no mistake, though, on Jesus’ part. He was giving them a glimpse into his own heart and his own motives. They wanted a powerful king who would save them from the Romans. He wanted to save their souls. They wanted Him to live in a palace, but He wanted to live in their hearts. They wanted him to take up weapons and spill the blood of humans, but he wanted to give his own life for them.

Jesus said, “Anyone who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in them.” He lived, died, and rose again to show us a better way of living. No more eye for an eye or tooth for a tooth. And he calls us as he called those Jewish people so long ago to do the same. He wants us to partake of his flesh and his blood, so we can continue his ministry in the world.

Jesus is alive and well on the earth today through the bodies of those of us who follow him. The life he offers us is his life, and it’s a life lived for others. Unlike the violent kingdoms of the world, we are part of a peaceful kingdom where rather than shed the blood of others, we give our lives for the sake of others, even if it means allowing our own blood to be shed.

Jesus gave his life for us, in order to free us from guilt, from shame, and from the old way of living. And today he invites us to join him in his resurrection as he works through us to redeem the entire world and everyone in it.

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Love, Justice, and the Heart of God

21 Jul

I was given the opportunity to speak at our church service today! What is justice? What is the heart of God? Does the world see justice in the same way God sees it? This was straight from my heart by the power of the Spirit. Be blessed in Jesus’ name!

To download the MP3, click here.

A Time To Be Set Apart

18 Jan

“Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord.” Romans 12.17-19

We live in a world obsessed with violence. You turn on the news and hear of wars fought both overseas and at home. The United States government has turned video games into reality and now war can be waged from behind a computer screen while heartless drones injure and kill countless thousands. Then, when robots won’t suffice, they send well-programmed human killing machines to do the work. And as if that is not bad enough, the government is now making its intentions clear that it plans to invade the lives and homes of its own citizens in order to steal more of their property, guns in particular. But the violent government is not the only group obsessing over guns and violence. While they plan their attack on American citizens, many otherwise good people are buying weapons and preparing to defend themselves and their families with violent force.

What I am about to say here is for those of us who follow Jesus. When he walked the earth, he laid out a brand-new way of living in a world much like ours today.

When Jesus came into the world, he came into the very center of conflict. Israel was a crucial junction between Rome to the west and Asia to the east. It was critical that Rome keep control of it, no matter the cost. The Israelites were a proud people and armed resistance was common. Assassinations were a daily reality. When Jesus arrived, the Jews were looking for a leader to defeat the Romans and drive them from their land. That is why his disciples asked him, “Now are you going to set up your kingdom!?!?” (Luk 19.11; Act 1.6) They expected him to send out a call to arms at any moment.

But that was never his intention. The kingdom he came to set up is “not of this world” (Jhn 18.36). In other words, it does not fit within the structure and ways of the world. The kings of this world vie for power and take it by force (Mat 11.12; 20.25). But Jesus knew that “those who live by the sword will die by the sword” (Mat 26.52). He instead advocated a way of life where if someone takes your goods, you willingly let them take them and do not even ask for them back (Luk 6.30). To the world’s way of thinking, that is absolutely crazy. But Jesus took it even further and told his followers to “love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you and pray for those who spitefully use you” (Luk 6.27-28). While their desire had been to kill and drive out their enemies, Jesus left the people with a new challenge, a challenge to love (Jhn 13.34-35). They had to ask themselves the important questions, “Can I love my enemy while killing them? Am I doing good to my enemy by using violence against them? Can I bless and pray for my enemy while attempting to spill their blood?

The church was primarily pacifist until the time of Constantine when the church came to believe that it could make Jesus’ kingdom physical through force. That was a terrible experiment which we are still suffering through today.

Jesus’ followers are to be set apart from the world, and a life lived the way of Jesus is very different from the way of the world. It is impossible to not be set apart when you only pledge your allegiance to God (Act 5.29), when you love your enemies and do good to those who oppress you. Everyone around you will know you are different when you begin treating every living human being as your neighbor (Luk 10.29-37), and love them as yourself (Luk 10.27).

We have seen these truly set-apart people throughout history. Two examples are the Quakers and the Anabaptists. During the Catholic church’s wars against the Muslims, the Anabaptists experience extreme persecution because they were unwilling to join in the fight. Their stance of non-violence made them stand out and they became seen as a threat and were dealt with violently. Then later, during the American Revolution, the Quakers stood their ground as pacifists yet were treated as enemies by the American “patriots.” History shows time and again that the nonviolent lifestyle brings violent persecution. Maybe that is why Jesus warned his followers multiple times that persecution would always follow them.

Today we have a chance to stand out once again, to truly live like Jesus and let our lives be a clear contrast to the world around us. By the power of the Holy Spirit within us, we can live out Jesus’ teachings in Matthew 5-7 and Luke 6. This is our chance to be salt and light (Mat 5.13-14) in a world set on its own destruction. This is a time for us to be set apart.

The Kingdom of God

27 Jul

Power, Signs, and Gifts: Part 1
The Kingdom of God

“But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, surely the kingdom of God has come upon you.” Matthew 12:28

In the twelfth chapter of the gospel of Matthew, Jesus attributes His power to the “kingdom of God.” But what exactly does that mean? Well, the Apostle Paul uses four terms to describe this kingdom. In Romans 14:17, he describes it as “righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” In 1 Corinthians 4:20, he adds that “the kingdom of God is not in word but in power.” So that leaves us four terms with which to describe this kingdom. Now what can we learn from these?

First, the kingdom of God is a kingdom of “righteousness,” but this is deeper than mere outward righteousness, it is righteousness “in the Holy Spirit.” This inward righteousness can only be found in those people who have put their trust in Jesus Christ and have had His righteousness applied to their hearts by the Holy Spirit (Rom 3:22, Phl 3:9). This would necessarily exclude unbelievers. So we learn from this that the kingdom of God is a spiritual kingdom which includes born-again (Jhn 3:3) believers in Jesus Christ.

Next, the kingdom of God is “peace and joy.” Once again, this is “in the Holy Spirit” which means that it is spiritual. Before leaving this world, Jesus promised his followers both peace (Jhn 14:27) and joy (Jhn 15:11). This is a present reality in believers. In an ever-changing world full of constant pain and strife, Christians receive their joy and peace from Jesus Himself. Being a member of this kingdom certainly does have benefits!

Lastly, the kingdom of God is “power.” Jesus, as the perfect earthly ambassador of this kingdom, displayed power over physical infirmity (Mat 8:1-17), power over nature (Mat 8:23-27, power over demonic forces (Mat 8:28-34), and even power over death (Mat 9:18-26).

Because the kingdom of God is spiritual, the unbelieving world can not see it. But Jesus as an ambassador to that kingdom, showed the righteousness, peace, joy, and power of that kingdom to the world through His life. And when He left the earth, he left that responsibility to His followers. But what really is the point of this responsibility?

In the future, when Jesus returns to set up His millennial kingdom (Rev 19:11-20:6), the perfect kingdom of God will actually come down with Him. At that time the spiritual kingdom of God will merge with the physical kingdom of the heavens (all created matter from the third heaven [2 Cr 12:2] down to the earth) and for the first time will become a constant visible reality upon the earth! This is what Jesus demonstrated at His transfiguration (Mar 9:1-6).

As ambassadors of the kingdom of God, Christians are to manifest through their lives the righteousness, peace, joy and power of the kingdom in order to give the world a taste of what is to come. As Jesus lived, so are we to live. It truly is an awesome responsibility.