Position Yourself…careful

images-7We must position ourselves carefully to exercise influence. 

Positioning means us saying ‘Let’s get where the action cannot be missed’.   Let’s position ourselves to get involved with this generation.   Position ourselves to be the incarnate body of Christ in our street, work place, education world and homes.

We redeem men by the proclamation of the Christ and his gospel: we influence society by being salt in the street, world.  Both are essential, and often our ‘salt’ is the necessary forerunner to our proclamation.

I recently visited a township in South Africa where the conditions were so dire, the filth and squalor, the heartache, pain, poverty and hunger were indescribable.   This seen is repeated world-wide, its experienced on very continent, in the back streets of Brazil, on the roads of India, in the aftermath of every war, even in areas of the so-called developed world, some time son our doorsteps.     You can’t simple preach, ‘repent of your sins and you’ll be saved for heaven’ and walk away from a place like that with no sense of further responsibility.    God is concerned with people’s social conditions as well as with their souls’ destiny.  True, eternal destiny is paramount, but this doesn’t mean God has no concern for our social conditions.

We are to be ‘Restorers of streets to live in’ (Isaiah 58) and we must not divide images-13our world into social and salvation, our theology into liberal or evangelical, one after the soul and the other after the transformation of society.   One view looking through one eye and saying ‘don’t get side tracked into a social gospel it’s the souls that need saving and the other looking through the other eye ‘but what about saving them?’

Jesus shows us he had two eyes open, as the Son of Abraham he wanted to redeem mankind, as the Son of David he wanted mankind’s world to be an ordered and just society.

It is right to bring God’s saving grace and correct to transform society.

We must position ourselves to do both.

No longer ignoring the deepening plight and worsening social conditions of our world, while protesting we are concentrating on saving their souls, continents and countries need more than a soul-gospel.    We cannot close our eyes to the growing number of homeless building their cardboard cities on our own doorsteps as well as in distant lands, which is our responsibility, let me explain.

One of the early characteristics of the community of the King, in the words of Jesus that an apostolic community, the church as it should be apostolic,  was to be focused in being established where they where local ‘…wait in Jerusalem until the Spirit comes…’, then to have a four focus at one time beyond the local.   This focus I suggest was a command to work on four areas at any time, being the living life church of Christ, ‘…God into all the earth…Jerusalem…Judea…Samaria… and utter most past of the earth…’, we are to be local, regional, national and international in focus, in our actions, message, pray and work of faith.   We cannot close our eyes to our world and end up local minded only or even the a fool with our eyes in the ends of the earth, holding these four focuses will prevent foolish eyes for us.

We have a voice, a gospel to restore our world to the Fathers first thought in creation, beginning with the restoration of the soul to the image and likeness of God.   Therefore  where am I, where are we hitting the streets of our world to create a ‘….street to live in…’ and a people who are able to live in a street with a Godlikeness pursuit?

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That’s not fair, but is it Justice.

images-6It sounds like a protest chant a March through the streets of the capital declaring loudly ‘Justice for all’.   I must admit I have never joined intentionally any protest March, any political chanting in the streets so I may be a heathen declaring the chant.    Last Saturday however I met my daughter and her young man in London, she had relocated to the capital in order to take a Masters in Art at Wimbledon Art School, we met to enjoy good company and a walk around the city.   While chatting it came to light that one of our party had never stood outside Buckingham Palace so we went to put that right.   While walking down the Mall towards Trafalgar Square we were amazed to discover that the Pope was due to take that very route later in the day, continuing toward Parliament along Whitehall as we passed all the Government buildings the crowd began to back up and we were caught in political jostling and shouting, some say around 10 ,000 people, finally being stopped in our walk by a 4 deep line of luminous yellow clad police preventing the protestors against the Pope to go any further, we had accidentally found ourselves in the midst of the protest.  People could walk from Parliament to Trafalgar but who ever you were, innocent tourists or not, if you were coming the opposite way you were included as protesters and prevented from walking along Whitehall any further.

So here we were in the middle of shouts and debate, speeches against the Pope and the Catholic Church and his stance on abortion, gay, abuse by priests and everything else.     It was rather a shock to be numbered amongst the shouts and protesters JUSTICE they cried, men dressed as nuns, and popes, women dressed in nun’s attire with extremely short skirts and stockings to make a point even some walked in their underwear to make the point for justice.

Its makes me wonder what Biblical Justice is?    As people of God who have been commissioned to restore this creation/cosmos to Gods ultimate intention, his initial thought, restorers of creation and society, surely it is necessary for us to grasp justice correctly?

In essence Biblical Justice has to do with wholeness and not rights, seeing individuals, communities and the cosmos whole by upholding the grace of God along with being impartial and inclusive and upholding the goodness of God.

James in Chapter 1:27 (Message – Real religion, the kind that passes muster before God the Father, is this: Reach out to the homeless and loveless in their plight, and guard against corruption from the godless world) tells us that it is true religion, a Christ centered life style, a way of explaining the Father to our society and world “religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and keep oneself from being polluted by the world”.   If this was only said once here, we would have to deal with it, but this whole direction of instruction is found throughout scripture in word and deed Proverbs 29: says “The Righteous care about justice for the poor, but the wicked have no such concern”.

As we read the OT we cannot escape the directness and the narratives that direct us to consider Justice to the differing groups found in society, consider this, you can not fail to see that the Father has a heart towards the widow the lonely and the orphan along with the fatherless, all this comes within the justice heart of God.

Read Ruth and watch how provision is made for the widow and see the justice heart of God being made practical.   Not only that but one has to conclude that the provision in the field for the widow has a direct relation to the coming harvest.   No provision and no harvest next season,  practical justice creates, make sure you are a provider of justice and the future harvest is secured.      Consider this theme taken into the NT, is it not that the first account of challenge in the verging church was a widow issue.   The Father brings the issue of provision for the widow, justice in story form into the NT by showing that justice shown still has an impact along with responsibility.    Interesting that the apostles did not depart from their intimacy and involvement of standing the court room of God but did make  provision that the widows saw justice.   Remember these were good Hebrew people with a strong understanding of God and his dealing from OT,. Not people like you or me who read  the story line from a different vantage point.   They understood provision for the widows justice had an implication of harvest.   When provision was made the story line tells us that priest and governors began to be added to the church from that provision being made towards the widows, a different weight of harvest now came to the church.  They displayed the way to live, to show  justice is to show the heart of God.  Justice opens a harvest in relation to widows!

Justice flows from Gods heart and character, he seeks to make the object of his love whole.

The transformation that we have received is so that we can transform society and see communities restored, while we see that morality and immortality flows from the human heart James 3:10-18 justice is centered in God’s heart, and we are to purify our hearts James 4:8 from sin others wise the human heart leads us to sin.   With a transformed life we are not to wait until we get to heaven or be so removed from life and society, waiting for God to do it all, but the transforming work in us must find its way to my neighbor, extending God’s justice to the poor, orphans, widows without any partiality.

Matthew 5 tells us we are to be “…a light on a hill…” “…salt that has a savor…” how can we read that passage and only work to the Church Community.   We are to extend our saltines into the community of non believers showing the Justice of God as  it flows from his character.   The church being the visible manifestation of God’s kingdom, literally to be his nature, his life,  advancing into every realm, every mountain of influence and every circle of life making the whole of creation, society, cosmos whole so that Christ will “…fill all in all…”

A just society is one that is filled with Christ essence, His likeness in every way, his interest, his way, justice!

Justice flows from Gods’ heart,  one of the greatest injustices we succumb to is self-righteousness – the belief we do not need anything outside of ourselves.   I am so amazed at what I hear especially in the business world as well as from people of all walks of life saying “how they are self-made” I am amazed as none of us are.  The Justice of God starts here causing us to see our need of him to remove our sin and bring us to wholeness.    We live in the light of Jesus restoring of all things.

Karl Barth once wrote that we fail to see Jesus as the righteous “judge, judged in our place” to bring the Fathers justice to us and the cosmos.

As we are restored, experience his justice we then carry this justice into our worlds, education, financial, health, political, art, family…..

James chapter 2:1-13

My dear friends, don’t let public opinion influence how you live out our glorious, Christ-originated faith. 2 If a man enters your church wearing an expensive suit, and a street person wearing rags comes in right after him, 3 and you say to the man in the suit, “Sit here, sir; this is the best seat in the house!” and either ignore the street person or say, “Better sit here in the back row,” 4 haven’t you segregated God’s children and proved that you are judges who can’t be trusted?5 Listen, dear friends. Isn’t it clear by now that God operates quite differently? He chose the world’s down-and-out as the kingdom’s first citizens, with full rights and privileges. This kingdom is promised to anyone who loves God. 6 And here you are abusing these same citizens! Isn’t it the high and mighty who exploit you, who use the courts to rob you blind? 7 Aren’t they the ones who scorn the new name—“Christian”—used in your baptisms?8 You do well when you complete the Royal Rule of the Scriptures: “Love others as you love yourself.” 9 But if you play up to these so-called important people, you go against the Rule and stand convicted by it. 10 You can’t pick and choose in these things, specializing in keeping one or two things in God’s law and ignoring others. 11 The same God who said, “Don’t commit adultery,” also said, “Don’t murder.” If you don’t commit adultery but go ahead and murder, do you think your non-adultery will cancel out your murder? No, you’re a murderer, period.12 Talk and act like a person expecting to be judged by the Rule that sets us free. 13 For if you refuse to act kindly, you can hardly expect to be treated kindly. Kind mercy wins over harsh judgment every time.

James brings attention to injustice being practiced, he opens up the scene and denounces oppression toward the poor, he took by the scruff of the neck the leaders who favored the rich, looking down on the poor or those who were lesser in the society and the shout goes forth to remove and break down these divisions in this restored community as the Father seeks to bring his justice through us into life’s situations.

Even Jesus own words carried the charge to be responsible in the ways of being Just in Matt 23:23 he says “You’re hopeless, you religious scholars and Pharisees! Frauds! You keep meticulous account books, tithing on every nickel and dime you get, but on the meat of God’s Law, things like fairness and compassion and commitment—the absolute basics!—you carelessly take it or leave it. Careful bookkeeping is commendable, but the basics are required.” or as the NASB puts it “but you have neglected the more important matters of law – Justice, mercy and faithfulness”

We live in a world that is so different to that of our fathers gone by, especially the days of Jesus and the NT church, we live in a society where many have “rights” and even the ability to influence policies and legislation, we can consider how the justice of God’s Kingdom influences our involvement in matters of community, society, governance.

We cannot read the narrative of Jesus or the people of this new way this restored Kingdom that is restoring and not see Christ like people engaging, involving, ministering to the poor the marginalized and challenging the structures that weigh down on the poor.  Today we are to be those who care, the pastoral ministry of Christ extending to society.   Rather than being concerned about me and me having  a pastor for me, to pray for me, counsel me “my pastor” but being a people who pastor the cosmos, including in this inclusive Kingdom, reaching out with the justice of the King’s domain.

We must not forget that the kind of life, faith, Christ life the Bible advocates, asks for us to demonstrate and explain is rooted in justice that flows from the throne of the Father, and seeks to bring all things into the fullness of Christ the wholeness of the Father.    We are as those justified by the God of all justice in our own experience we are to extend His justice being the Christ citizen and bring about restoration.

 

Kingdom has come and is coming…

What great changes we are seeing in practice and thought patterns, I firmly believe that we live in an age that the people of God are experiencing a new reformation at every level.    A massive transformation is happening around us, Dispensational practice and theology is in images-6the last shakes for survival as the ‘Gospel of the Kingdom’ is growing and affecting the thinking of the church, the people of God.   Its onward advance is transforming our responsibility for creation rather than upholding a hoped escapism, it brings an accountability for transformation in our societies rather than doing away with a fallen world, it is the Kingdom of God at hand!

We are born to a very challenging yet exciting moment of advance as Father God makes known God’s purpose and will.   Today we are much more given to the language and practice of ‘mission,’ ‘transformation,’ bringing the rule of God to earth to see the coming of the Kingdom of God.    Jesus said the kingdom ‘…has come….and is coming…’, for some this means that over the years we have had to deal with the immediacy of the kingdom ‘…has come…’ being careful not to get lost into triumphalism with ‘Kingdom now’, only now having to deal with the onward transformation of ‘…the Kingdom is coming and will come…’, this is where our labour comes in, the travail until Jesus receives the ‘travail of his soul’ Isa 53:11

Church historians tell us that following every move of God approximately 30 to 35 years on, those affected in the move turn to transformation initiatives prior to another move of God.   Historically an example of this can be seen following the move of God in the UK with John and Charles Wesley in their education, health, etc, initiatives.   The UK experienced a move of God some 30/35 years ago commonly name the ‘house church movement’, this was a move, as it changed the structure of the church and theology.   Note it also was not isolated to the UK.   Similar move happened with a groups of men and women in South America, South Africa, USA and I am told Australia, they may have been under different names but there was a move of God afoot.

However, I can only comment on the UK, I believe what we are seeing in the UK now is not a recycling of history but the impact of a Kingdom Gospel.   Time will only tell, if it is history recycling we are on the verge of another move, but I seeing it as the coming of the Kingdom along with our growing grasp of understanding relating to the Kingdom of God.   I write this as an introduction to a book review that I believe all should take time to read to ensure our Kingdom is foundationally correct in all the changes we are seeing.   Please note this book was written many years ago and does not contain all the advances made over the last 40 years however a good place to commence a journey from. It is imperative we establish continually our foundation as we advance and fresh revelation breaks in on us, it is necessary to be able to contain revelation.

I will introduce chapters for you, this blog will only deal with the initial chapters so you can think on them, then we will return in the next blog to further chapters continuing our thinking.

‘The Gospel of the Kingdom‘       George Eldon LaddUnknown

Chapter 1 – What is the Kingdom of God? – There are diverse interpretations of the Kingdom of God. This is the result of the many varying different interpretations that are found within the Bible. The Kingdom of God is seen as a present spiritual reality, (Rom 14:17) the Kingdom is also an inheritance which God will bestow upon His people. (Mat 25:34)  The Kingdom of God therefore holds two tensions closely; it is a present spiritual reality but at the same time the Kingdom has a future realm as well. The Kingdom of God is God’s rule, reign and sovereignty now. Gods rule is also an everlasting rule and reign. In order for one to enter the future realm of the Kingdom of God, one must submit himself in perfect trust to God’s rule here and now. The Kingdom of God is God’s rule, reign and sovereignty now. It is an everlasting rule and reign.

Chapter 2 – The Kingdom is Tomorrow – George Eldon Ladd explains how the Kingdom of God can be held in two different spheres as a present spiritual reality & a future hope by explaining that there are two different ages; this age and the age to come.

This age is dominated by wickedness, evil & rebellion against the will of God, whilst the age to come is the age of the Kingdom whereby God’s rule and reign will be at the centre. Ladd explains that the drive of ambition for wealth & success are all involved with the cares of this age. He suggests that the spirit of this age is hostile to the Gospel of Jesus. In Ephesians it talks about Satan being the prince of the air, this age is defined by Satan having the power of the air.

The age to come will witness the fullness of God’s Kingdom, the perfection of God’s reign. Ladd explains that we will never experience the full blessings of Gods Kingdom in this age as he argues that death will not be destroyed until the final judgment at the end of the rule of Christ talked about in Revelation.

Chapter 3 – Kingdom of God is TodayHeb 6:5, ‘who have tasted the goodness of the Word of God and the power of the age to come,’ displays that which belongs to the future has become a present reality.  By the power of the age to come may be delivered from the from this present evil age. Within this chapter Ladd goes onto explain that the Kingdom of God has invaded this age.

In the last chapter it was suggested that death will not completely be destroyed until the end of the millennial rule of Christ.  Although this is true it is important to note that through Jesus’ resurrection the triumph over death has begun and Satan has already been defeated. (Heb 2:14) Jesus life on earth broke the power of Satan. Satan is a defeated enemy and because of this we may be delivered from the power of this evil age into the Kingdom of God.  Therefore we can bring God’s rule and Kingdom, age to come into the present evil age.

Chapter 4 – The Mystery of the Kingdom – The Mystery of the Kingdom is that it has come amongst men, but yet men can reject it. God’s Kingdom is working among men, but it will not compel them to bow before it, they must receive it through a willing heart and a submissive will.  The Kingdom of God does not force itself upon men; it is not like a stone grinding an image to powder but the Kingdom requires a submissive heart & will.

The Kingdom of God has come to work among men, destroying human rule & abolishing all that stand against the Father will from the earth.  The Kingdom offers men blessings of God’s rule, delivering men from the power of Satan. However the Kingdom will not work with an ‘irresistible power,’ but will work within the hearts of men that have submitted to God’s rule & reign.

 

Restoration of the HOUSE

“…give no rest UNTIL he has a dwelling place…” Rev 21, 22

Psalm 132:2-5

images-7I wonder what these words paint in your mind, what picture does it cultivate.    As the words are read what is sculpted in your imagination?

There is an implication for us all to do something with these words; an act of disturbance, a work of not allowing settlement, a challenge of activity with a goal of an “UNTIL” in mind.     Take all you have and all you know, all your ability and apply it to disrupting yourself, your acquaintances, deep friends, family and even God, UNTIL an end is reached.

When you are young the UNTIL must be in the fore front of your mind, it is the goal by which the Father requires us to make our focus, our first thought, our life’s ambition and longing “…seek first…”.     Don’t settle back as you get older then, as the years go by be careful not to join the status quo, be mindful not to think it is some one else’s turn or responsibility.   GIVE NO REST, it is not a time to retire or go on holiday, nothing wrong in them but keep the aim of God until our Father receives the goal of his course.   It is said of Jesus “…for the joy set before him…” of Paul “…I press on towards…”, it is too easy to make an excuse why we have done enough, it is too easy to say “this one and that one hurt me”.   To blame others, but these words sculpt in our heart’s “…GIVE NO REST…”

The Father, our God, the God who is so committed to being UNITED with you and me, that God left his abode and created a universe, so that God the Father would be one with us.   God was so given to this that God HUMBLED God to bring it about.    David in Psalms utters this, in the light of the God of grace he met, the Divine that left the Mountain and came to humanity, leaving the high abodes to join us in our ordinary lives.    David overwhelmed by this Father God and says “…give no rest UNTIL God has a dwelling place…”

God has a dwelling place in our union with God, we should take nothing else on, no other agenda, no other view,no other self-centredness or other good cause until God has a dwelling place, this is the root foundation of all true good causes and should be our only cause.   God have a dwelling pace in me,  a UNION with me, that God has a dwelling pace in the people of God, one with the bride, the ecclesia of God, that God has a dwelling place in creation, that Christ might fill all in all.   It really is about the dwelling place of God.  We understand this by the time we read Revelation 21, 22  I saw a city, that turns to a bride and a declaration “…I will be their God and they will be my people and I will dwell in their midst…” Father God has the dwelling place and the UNTIL has come.

Restoration is about the dwelling place of God.   A little personal discomfort until, my sleep, rest, my home will be realised when the Father receives the dwelling place.

There is a major “UNTIL” here, until God has a dwelling place is this not the New Testament declaration, the words of Acts 3 that Jesus will remain in heaven UNTIL a time of Restoration.   That Jesus will be held UNTIL his enemies are made a footstool, I wonder?

The “…dwelling place…” is about taking away the disgrace from the walls of the city of God, it is about building the walls of the city in Nehemiah, it’s the work of Jesus, it the prayer we pray “….let heaven come to earth…”  it is let your dwelling place be found.images-6

Even the goal of maturity in Christ is the personal maturity of Gods dwelling place, a house prepared for you O Lord.   We must not allow our eyes to be taken off finding a dwelling place for God, when we read Jesus saying “…I go and make a place for you…” let us not go away with the fairies and think of our room, house in heaven but continue for the UNTIL God has a dwelling rather than being distracted into finding ours; waiting, holding on until we get our place.   Our life and love must be to give God a dwelling place.

The joy of being about our Father’s business, we must make a place for God.  

 

“To this end…” still working towards it

Community under canvas Our journey is continuing on this time I will deal with only one step, it’s so important in a disconnected society, a society that is not aware of anyone else but of self, that this step be prayed and worked through, enjoy considering.   To be a people of love and display to our world people being TOGETHER

Step Seven COMMUNITY LIVING

I don’t know whether it was my upbringing as a child in the Welsh Valleys, where lives were thrown in on each other and things were shared or what, but I have never found community living a problem, and long to see it at every level. I am not talking about a commune but a community where no one has need and each person is considered and looked after, where people are aware of others around them rather than just self.

I have been able to adapt easily to living with a crowd as long as there has been some place – all I’ve needed was a bedroom – to pull aside and be alone with God for a time.     Apart from that, the difference of temperaments and personality were no great issues for me.

Here are some of the things I have learned in community with others:

1. Don’t take things too seriously. It is amazing how we can make mountains out of mole hills, and little issues assume great importance. This is where many relationships have foundered and fellowship been broken. Many things are best over-looked and forgotten by the immediate release of forgiveness and love at the time.

2. People respond to praise. Don’t be afraid to praise others. This acknowledges, honours’, and builds men up. Make room in your heart for appreciation of others.

3. Everybody loves to be loved and so the time taken, word spoken, gesture made, effectively communicates our appreciation and love for people,

4. Make room for others. Don’t look for ways to promote yourself by seeking prominence. Make room for other people respond to those who have made room for them.    Give them scope in your life, fellowship, responsibilities.     Let them try things out for themselves, and ‘have a go’.

5. Keep short accounts. If there is a breakdown of fellowship deal with it quickly – Get rid of it before it widens. It is the accumulation of small things that creates the big problems. Just as it is the silt that comes down with the river that forms the mud bank that eventually holds the waters back.

6 – Don’t be afraid to confront. Don’t look for confrontation, but neither should you run from it where it is necessary for the saving of the person or situation. Paul disliked confrontation but was not afraid to stand up to Peter when a fundamental issue of the gospel was at stake. It is better to be wounded by your friends than destroyed by your enemies.

7. Grace and faith. Serve up, in every relationship with people, great dollops of grace and faith. These are the twins of all progress and achievement in relationships.

8. Be loyal to men and women and people will be loyal to you – the end time will be characterized by this breaking down (2 Tim.3:4) amongst other things.     All the more reason to shine as a light in a dark place in respect to keeping covenant.

9. Love the brethren. By this I mean demonstrably so. Let your feelings become tangible in this respect.

10. Serve one another. Do little things – learn to hump the tables around. Learn to look after each others needs, be a servant and in this way you encourage others to serve, particularly be a Joshua to a Moses somewhere.

These principles hold good as strengthening bonds to secure harmony inside the relationships of the wider community of the church.     It would be wonderful if our Christian experience was only a series of positive virtues.      Unfortunately I have been both a victim and perpetrator of some negative issues also.