Under His Eye : If Conservative Evangelicalism Gets Its Way

Posted with Permission by Chris Kratzer

Chris Kratzer is a husband, father, pastor, author, and speaker. Captured by the pure Gospel of God’s Grace, his focus is communicating the message of wholeness, equality, affirmation, and the beauty of Jesus, particularly as it relates to life, culture, and church.

Under His Eye : If Conservative Evangelicalism Gets Its Way

One of the most important questions facing our time in history is this, “If right-wing conservative Evangelical Christianity had its way, what would the world look like?”

Despite how various Evangelicals might respond to this question, perhaps the best vantage point for an accurate discernment of the answer is to observe pivotal moments in history where conservative Evangelicals (as a whole) have actually won their desires. For nothing reveals the true content of one’s aspirations like the results they bring when successful.

Or perhaps, we could examine their commonly held beliefs and the future those beliefs envision. For, in the end, the true sum of one’s faith can be found most clearly within the true impact their faith desires, regardless of what they may or may not claim to confess. We are responsible both for what we believe and the future those beliefs ultimately bring forth. Are we not?

Most recently, one of the prized accomplishments of conservative Evangelicalism is the election and continued support of Donald Trump as President. Say what you will about the politics involved, the bottom line is this—his character, priorities, and leadership are clearly creating a world where the wealthy become richer, the poor become more vulnerable, greed is expanded, bullying is desensitized, corruption is protected, white privilege flourishes, elitism is unleashed, minorities are further marginalized, racism is energized, sexism is normalized, the LGTBQ community is increasingly demonized, and right-wing Christian conservatism is prioritized.

Yet sadly, this is not by chance.

In fact, among many conservative Evangelicals, these are tacitly received as nothing less than welcomed results. For if this presidency was the first occasion in which conservative Evangelicalism has had influential success towards the fruition of these same kind of deplorable realities, then this moment in history would be less profound. However, from the slavery and lynching of black people to the belittlement and abuse of women, conservative Evangelicalism has long resulted in the increased spiritual justification of some of the most evil atrocities ever committed on planet earth.

In fact, now we have an administration, like never before, that increasingly creates economic systems that blatantly benefit the wealthy and exploit the vulnerable, brutally splits families with children apart who are seeking asylum in our country, aggressively sides with Israel in order to further the fulfillment of “biblical” prophecy, threatens to pull news press credentials over “negative” coverage, belittles and thwarts people with disabilities, and has dismantled highly important LGBT-protecting policies, all in the name of undoing the leadership and legacy of our first black President.

Yet sadly, once again, this is not by chance.

Conservative Evangelicalism teaches its followers that faithfulness to God leads to financial prosperity and wealth. Having pastors with six-figuresalaries, churches with multi-million dollar facilities and followers with luxurious lifestyles are seen as a reward from God not a departure from the ways of Jesus. In the mind of conservative Evangelicalism, if you are struggling financially or devoid of financial abundance, it is likely that some aspect of your faith life is askew. Ministry and Christian “success” is largely defined by the increase and accumulation of “more”—more money, more power, more influence, more campuses, more staff, more baptisms, more attendees, more speaking engagements, more followers on Twitter. In the world of conservative Evangelicalism, more is never less, more is always more—even at the expense of others.

Conservative Evangelicalism sees people primarily as spiritual projects for the ultimate goal of conversion into their faith system. Even helping the poor and hurting is largely seen as a means to a faith-serving end that builds their kingdom with more converts and satisfies their obligations of obedience to their faith. Poor hurting people are ultimately helped only to the extent in which it somehow serves their faith system. In fact, within conservative Evangelicalism, poverty (and even hardship) is often deemed as a result of unfaithfulness and wrong belief.

Conservative Evangelicalism manifests a territorial greed that desires to conquer people, groups, communities, perceived enemies, and the planet at large, not for the purpose of serving humanity selflessly, but rather garnering its submission to their faith system.

Conservative Evangelicalism largely portrays Jesus as a white man. Not just a white man, but a white man who is a Republican, gun-owning, racist homophobic nationalist who is wrapped in the American flag.

Conservative Evangelicalism manifests a good-old-boy-club mentality for white male heterosexuals that gives them a hypocritical privilege, license, and authority over women, often leading to their sexualization, discrimination, control, and abuse. In fact, the only sins that truly matter in conservative Evangelicalism are the ones that are different from theirs and enable them to condemn those who would threaten their white male heterosexual Christian privilege and power.

Conservative Evangelicalism declares the Bible as being the infallible word of God and their interpretations exclusively faithful and accurate to the discerning of its meaning and truth.

Conservative Evangelicalism interprets the Scriptures as condemning the LGBTQ community, labeling them as “abominations,” cancers to our society, enemies of procreation, and deviants destined for hell.

Conservative Evangelicalism once asserted a biblical justification for black slavery and murder, and the demonization of interracial marriage. Conservative Evangelicalism portrays a god who is justified in killing his enemies, destroying entire of groups of people, and sentencing disobedient non-believers to a hell of eternal torment.

Make no mistake, what we see unfolding before our eyes is nothing less than the manifestation of the dsytopian dreams of much of conservative Evangelicalism. No matter how much they might sprinkle it with spiritual glitter and dress it up with stage lighting and smoke machines, the finish line of their faith understanding is a violent Armageddon that ushers in a kingdom where anything that does not prosper white, male, heterosexual, conservative Christian power and privilege is eradicated from the earth. Spiritually rationalized racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia, nationalism, greed, violence, and hypocrisy are all merely pieces of a much bigger puzzle.

This is put on display perhaps in no more profound fashion than through the current television show produced by Hulu, “The Handmaid’s Tale,” based of the novel by Margaret Atwood. This prophetic drama puts forth many images, occurrences, and realities that can be easily seen as reflecting the dystopian fruition of the fundamental beliefs and values of right-wing conservative Evangelicalism.

The truth is, this powerful show does not require a suspension of current reality to understand its message, but merely a gaze into the future of what could be if conservative Evangelicalism continues to gets its way.

In fact, what should be most alarming to us all is this—if conservative Evangelicals were asked to publicly denounce every action and faith confession of the oppressors in “The Handmaid’s Tale” that they believe are contrary to their faith system, I suspect many would find little of which they could accurately object and honestly deny. In fact, nearly everything displayed in this prophetic drama is already currently taking place in one form or another, largely at the hands and influence of right-wing conservative Evangelicalism.

Read the Bible the way they read the Bible. Pray the prayers they pray. See the world the way they see it. Believe in God the way the believe in God. Spiritually justify what they spiritually justify. Then you will see, through a simple glance down the hall of its future, the kind of world conservative Evangelicalism envisions. For if conservative Evangelicalism gets its way, make no mistake, this is what the world would look like. To be sure, being “under his eye” won’t point us to the face of Jesus, but rather to the face of their evil.

Keep your soul vigilant, these are dark times for sure, and they’re only getting darker. Hear the call of Jesus upon your heart, “take up your resistance and follow me.”

America will die at the hands of men who exchanged a brown Jesus for white Christianity, and quite frankly, it’s beginning to seem like that’s just part of their plan—if they get their way.

Grace is brave. Be brave.
photo courtesy of Hulu

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The Way – An On-line Pilgrimage for Life

Hi all.  This is a very special invitation from Ray Simpson about an online course he has written.  This is a great tool for discipleship and application.  I encourage you to consider it.  I will be enrolling and look forward to what this journey has to offer.  The way-marks are like sign posts along the way, guiding us to a deeper level of contemplation and transformation.  The course grows out of a life-time exploring a Way of Life that could guide us through a new Dark Age.

Ray Simpson is the Founding Guardian, The international Community of Aidan and Hilda www.aidanandhilda.org

The world is at a cross ways. So is Christianity. The first Christians were called Followers of the Way.  Where’s it going in our time?

The Way

An On-line Pilgrimage for Life

for millennials to veterans from every land

This is not a journey about class, race, religious, money and power wars, the roads to untruth, fear, break-up – to nowhere.

 This is a road TO A WAY OF LIFE    for individuals, communities, the world.

The first Christians were called Followers of the Way.

This way is green, but will take us through dark valleys and heights of vision.  This authentic way in a post-truth world leads us to edges and common ground, to Ground Zero and deep listening. It leads towards a divine cosmic love affair. Don’t miss it.

This is part of a mass movement of people who care for earth, community and people.

TO ENROL

Go to www.waymarksoflife.com

The Course 

 

This course will unfold insights, excite us to live in a whole new way, and help us to shape a whole new world. It suggests small, gentle, even playful first steps along the way, but does not shirk the hard things we shall sooner or later meet in life and in ourselves. Later, as the journey moves out of the sunny paths a soul friend or mentor may prove to be a vital support. .

It is open to all without obligation.

Three Options

There are three ways to gain the benefits of emails from waymarksoflife:

Option One. Use the emails as an aid for personal growth only.

Option Two. Use the emails as an aid for personal growth but engage a friend or mentor as a support to discovery or growth.

Option Three. Use Option One or Two and join the Waymarksoflife Facebook page where you can read of the journeys of others or discuss with others your journey. This is a closed group and only open to those who enrol.

Course Originator

This self-guided course is written by Ray Simpson, Founding Guardian of the dispersed international Community of Aidan and Hilda. Sales of his books on Christian spirituality are approaching their first quarter million. See www.raysimpson.org

You may enrol free of charge and cancel at any time. It costs us money, so we invite donations.  

TO ENROL and get more information Go to www.waymarksoflife.com

Seven days of emails are followed by resources and spiritual formation exercises to be tried out for a week. These emails will be sent for several years. They (with their follow-up material) may be returned to throughout life. An email is sent each day for seven days, then seven days for reflection, then the cycle starts again. The course is self-guided, but students may add insights and resources to our Facebook page (private – only open to subscribers at waymarksoflife) .

 

Churches

There are millions of churches, thousands of church-based courses and hundreds of missional networks. Followers of the Way may be engaged with any of these. Although this course is designed for individuals it highlights some core principles and practices that churches can also adopt if they wish to be servants of The Way. It also identifies some things that distance churches from the people and it suggests ways of transforming these. We hope churches and networks will commend these emails to members.

Subjects for each two-week unit for the first three years

  1. The World at a Cross Ways
  2. World voices: can we travel this Way?
  3. Questions at the gate
  4. Is this a new monastic Way?
  5. A Way of Life: What, why, where, but and how?
  6. Introduction to a Way of Life
  7. A Way of Simplicity
  8. A Way of Purity
  9. A Way of Obedience
  10. The Fruit of the Three Life-giving Principles
  11. Waymark 1 The wisdom of life-long learning
  12. Waymark 1 Life-long learning from Scripture
  13. Waymark 1 Ways of reading Scripture
  14. Waymark 1 Life-long learning from inspired people
  15. Waymark 1 Life-long learning from life
  16. Waymark 1 Life-long learning through creative arts
  17. Waymark 2 Journey
  18. Waymark 2 Journey with a soul friend (1)
  19. Waymark 2 Journey with a soul friend (2)
  20. Waymark 2 Journey with retreats
  21. Waymark 2 Journey with pilgrimage
  22. Waymark 2 Journey through the seasons of life
  23. Waymark 3 Rhythm
  24. Waymark 3 Rhythm of Daily Prayer
  25. Waymark 3 Rhythm of seasons
  26. Waymark 3 Rhythm of Work
  27. Waymark 3 Rhythm of Re-Creation
  28. Waymark 3 All ways of praying
  29. Waymark 3 More ways of praying
  30. Waymark 4 Praying for God’s will in God’s world
  31. Waymark 4 Overcome evil with good
  32. Waymark 4 Interceders
  33. Waymark 5 Simple Life-style
  34. Waymark 5 Hospitality
  35. Waymark 6 Creation – God’s sacrament
  36. Waymark 6 Creation – its groans
  37. Waymark 6 Creation care
  38. Waymark 7 Healing
  39. Waymark 7 Healing inner wounds
  40. Waymark 7 Healing wounded communities
  41. Waymark 7 The trail of the true human being
  42. Waymark 7 Live life to the full
  43. Waymark 8 Open to God’s Spirit
  44. Waymark 8 Learn to Listen
  45. Waymark 8 Prophecy
  46. Weaving together the God-given strands
  47. Church questions
  48. Waymark 9 Villages of God
  49. Waymark 9 Conflict resolution
  50. Waymark 9 Building Community
  51. Waymark 9 The Good Society

52 Waymark 10 Share Jesus and justice – the big picture.

  1. Waymark 10 Authentic witness
  2. Waymark 10  Indigenous and Cross-cultural Mission
  3. Waymark 10 Stand with the poor
  4. Waymark 10 Stand for truth
  5. Waymark 10 Signs and wonders
  6. Waymark 10  God-led lands
  7. Waymark 10 Economy means Oikonomia
  8. Waymark 10 A civilisation of love
  9. Waymark 10 The glorious Trinity
  10. Waymark 10 Leadership
  11. Flame and Struggle – Aidan
  12. Flame and Struggle –  Hilda
  13. Twelve Celtic Witnesses
  14. Ireland’s Twelve Apostles
  15. More great Celtic saints
  16. Stories of Desert Fathers and Mothers
  17. Monks and moderns: old habits die hard
  18. Corporate Expressions of the Community
  19. Explore: Taste and see
  20. Callings, Commitments and Coracles
  21. The Long Voyage
  22. The Celtic Community Cross
  23. Thin Places
  24. The Community of Aidan and Hilda – its name, oversight and inner dynamic.
  25. Reflecting back
  26. Letters from soul friends
  27. Mysticism
  28. The joy of spiritual fitness
  29. Growing old
  30. Live and die well
  31. Aidan and Hilda A-Z: their spiritual children today
  32. Review
  33. My personal sharing
  34. When the going gets tough
  35. Your feed-back
  36. Your questions
  37. More questions…

 

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If the work here is meaningful to you, you can partner with me in a very real way through Patreon.com.

Patreon allows me to get support for the work that I do on this blog.    Patreon allows people to financially pledge to support artists, writers, musicians, and other creative people. Sunday Everyday has been on line since the first of February 2015.  Since that time I have been doing this in a volunteer capacity.  For the blog to continue I need your support.  You may want to give the amount you would spend on a coffee and muffin once a month or you may wish to pledge $50.00 a month or more.  Every bit helps.

Please help support my ministry and magnify my voice by pledging.

Thanks for considering.

Love Lisa

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Who Is the Jesus of Easter?

Who Is the Jesus of Easter? by Lisa Hunt-Wotton

I hope that you have a beautiful Easter weekend however you chose to celebrate and remember it.   I love Easter Sunday.  I love the message. I love the man – Jesus.  I don’t mind the chocolate either.

Empty grave

Who is this Jesus?

Easter is the oldest and most important festival on the Church calendar.  It is the  remembrance of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  But most of all it is about the hope that Easter brings.  The fact that Jesus conquered death by love.

This is the message of Jesus, He is alive and He is alive in me.  He brings freedom and life and joy.  He is safe and He breathes forgiveness.  He doesn’t just forgive;

HE IS forgiveness.

There is nothing to be afraid of in the risen Jesus.

We have in him the perfect icon of a God who is safe and a universe that is safe. We have a God who does not blame, does not punish, does not threaten, does not dominate. We have a God who breathes forgiveness (Rohr).

The Resurrection of Jesus tells us that there is no victory through domination. There is no such thing as triumph by force. By his life, death and resurrection Jesus stops the cycle of violence and challenges the notion of dominating power.

This is a power that seeks to change things from the top down, from the outside in. Instead, Jesus invites us to relational or spiritual power, where we are not just changed but transformed. And not transformed from the top down but from the bottom up, not from the outside in but from the inside out. Transformed into God…. (R.Rohr).

“You have to trust that inner voice to show you the way…You know that inner voice.  Only by attending constantly to the inner voice can you be converted to  a new life of freedom and joy”  (Henri Nouwen)

Meditate on these words.  Say them to yourself.  Say them out loud.

Jesus is the one who speaks lovingly ‘I will never leave you.  I am with you always’.

I will love you forever.  My love NEVER fails.

I am faithful, I am righteous.  I am just and I am truth.

Following Christ is both the safest and the most exhilarating thing that you will ever do.

He is: comfort, compassion, love, acceptance, forgiveness.

He is:  good, peace, hope joy, gentleness, freedom.

He does NOT:  reject, abuse, abandon, condemn, dominate or control.

HE IS:  gracious, kind, merciful, creative, wondrous, ingenious.

He is rest…………..

Happy in the mountains

He fights for the oppressed.  He hates injustice.

He came to set prisoners free from every trap that they have been caught in. Every addiction, every bondage, every fear and terror.  He has the power and He can free us.

He knows the beginning from the end.  His love NEVER fails.  When we fail, he lifts us up.  By HIS power we can stand.

He knows us intimately, He knows we weep and grieve and that we are frail.

My hope is in Jesus.

My trust is in Jesus

My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus Christ, my righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.

On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand,
All other ground is sinking sand.

He is alive and He lives in me.

We see in Jesus the divine being who is also the perfect human being. Jesus comes in a human body to show us the face of God, the One who is eternally compassionate and eternally joyous, who stands with us in our sufferings and our joys.

As Christians, our vocation is to unite with both Christ crucified and Christ risen. (Rohr)

When you think on these things you can feel hope rising in your heart.

SELAH

love Lisa

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Recommended Reading:

Henri Nouwen:  The Inner Voice of Love

This is Henri Nouwen’s “secret journal.” It was  written during the most difficult period of his life, when he suddenly lost his self-esteem,  his energy to live and work, his sense of being loved, even his hope in God. Although he experienced excruciating anguish and despair, he was still able to keep a journal in which he wrote a spiritual imperative to himself each day that emerged from his conversations with friends and supporters.

Does the Holy Spirit Speak Today?

Does the Holy Spirit Speak Today?

Lisa Hunt-Wotton

I want to bind you all together in love, to stir your minds so that your understanding may come to full development, until you really know the mystery of God, in whom all the jewels of wisdom and knowledge are hidden. —Colossians 2:2-3 [1]

Does the Holy Spirit speak to us today?  My first reaction is to say: well yes, of course he does.  The Holy Spirit is a person, the third person of the Godhead and yes he speaks to us.

Although the question of whether the Holy Spirit speaks to us today is seen as a controversial topic in some circles, we can see biblically that the person of the Holy Spirit does indeed speak to us today.  Lets have a look at the many ways in which he does this.

  • Gods Spirit lives within believers (1 Cor 3:16, 1 Jn 3:24).
  • We carry the very presence of God and His anointing resides within us (1 Jn 2:27).  This means then that the Spirit of God is in the perfect position to be able to communicate Gods will to us.
  • God has chosen to communicate to his children through the Holy Spirit (Acts 11:12), and communicate through his children to an unbelieving world.

“The answer to prayer is always the same – it’s the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Richard Rohr

 What does the spirit actually say to us?  

We know that ‘he will not speak on his own; he only speaks what he hears’ (Jn 16:13).  The Spirit speaks what he hears the father saying.  The spirit is able to ‘communicate heaven into our hearts’ (Hinn, 1990: 70).  He is the perfect translator of the words of heaven.     God the Father speaks through the spirit (Matt 10:19-20), as does Jesus in Acts 1:2 when he gave instructions to the apostles through the Holy spirit.

The Holy Spirit interprets the voice of the father and the son so that we humans can hear and understand withour fear of death (Hinn, 1990:71). The voice of the Father is described as ‘thunder’ and many times when he spoke people fell on their faces and where greatly afraid ( Job 37: 2, 4- 5, Jn 13:29-30, Matt 17:6).  Though the voice of God had come for the benefit of the people they were not able to hear it  (Deere, 2001:90).  The voice of Jesus is described in Revelation 1:15 as the ‘sound of rushing waters’.  When John heard the voice of Jesus he fell down dead ( Rev 1:17). Paul also fell to the ground when he heard the voice of Jesus (Ac 9:4).    The Holy Spirit therefore because of his nature and his dwelling within us, is the translator or transmitor from the Godhead to us.

There are many accounts in the bible of the Spirit speaking.  The Spirit gave Philip a command and ‘told him to go to that chariot and stay near it’ (Act 8:29). In Acts 13:2, ‘the Holy Spirit said; set apart for me Barnabas and Saul’. These are direct words from the spirit.  The Holy Spirit testifies to us (Heb 10:15), he warns us (Acts 20:23), guides and instructs us (Jn 16:13, Ne 9:20), teaches us and reminds us (Luke 12:12, Jn 14:26).  He also at times speaks on our behalf, ‘just say whatever is given to you at the time, for it is not you speaking, but the Holy Spirit’ (Mk 13:11).  He speaks in a way that is understandable and for our encouragement and wellbeing.

holy-spirit-colleen-shay1

How does the Spirit speak?

The Holy Spirit speaks to us directly and personally through our conscience, our hearts and our spirit. Conviction of the heart. Rom 8:16, Matt 24:34 heart the mouth speaks. – Lk 6:45 , Gal 4:6, rom 10;10 ‘With your heart you believe’.  Ex 25:2 his heart prompts him.

Eyes of the heart being opened.: Gen 3:5, 2 Kings 6:17,” and the lord opened the eyes of the young man and…behold the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire’ (p235 Virkler) Mark 8:18

Inner inspiration of the heart

The Holy Spirit ‘witnesses to our very conscience’ (Hinn, 1990; 76), as Paul says  ‘ My concience confirms it in the Holy Spirit’ (Rom 9:1).   The Holy Spirit communicates and converses with our spirits, ‘the spirit himself testifies with our spirit’ (Rom 8:16) . ‘The voice of God is Sprit to Spirit communication; the Holy Sprit speaking directly to my spirit.  It is sensed as a spontaneous thought, idea, word or feeling  (Virkler, 1986:27).

The Spirit will also speak to us in dreams, visions and in pictures to express what he wants to say.  As we see it in our minds eye, then we are able to describe or interpret.   There are many accounts in scripture of revelation being given through a dream –  Or picture “Watch and see what he will speak to me”  Hab 2:1,2, Num 12:6 Ez 40:4 “Speak all that you see.

Journalling. 

He speaks as you write, journal- – Hab 2:2,3 “Write the vision down”. 1 Jn 1:3, 2 Cor 13:14 “ the fellowship of the HS be with you’. Revelation; John recorded the visions, questions and answers. Daniel 7:1

How do you know that the Holy Spirit is speaking?  

The Holy Spirit is a ‘personal, immediate, dynamic and perfect guide.  He speaks so we must listen to him’  (Warrington, 2005: 221). If the Spirit speaks to us it is for a reason.  It is important that we know how to get the mind of the spirit, that is why we must learn how to recognise his voice apart from all others.   Wigglesworth Smith says that ‘it is the easiest thing to get the mind of the spirit when your whole heart is only desiring the will of God’ (Liardon, 1998:11).   If our desire is the will of God  for our life or for the life of those we are ministering to, then we can expect the spirit  to  instruct and teach us what to say.   For such a ministry there needs to be a relationship with the Spirit in a person’s life.  Hence this statement:

“We have not received the spirit of the world, but the spirit who is from God:  that we may understand what God has freely given us: we speak…in words taught by the spirit.  Expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words “(1 Cor. 2:12-13).

The spirit will speak a word, a sentence, a dialogue, or impress a scripture.  What are these words like?  ‘They are like my own thoughts except that I sense them as coming from my heart rather than my brain in that they are spontaneous, not analytical or cognitive’ (Virkler, 1986: 29).i”]images

The Holy Spirit speaks through us to others.

The Holy Spirit speaks through us to others by (a) using our voice to interpret what the spirit is saying to us, ‘he that has an ear let him hear what the spirit says’ (Rev 3:6); and (b) through the gifts he has given us (1 Cor 12:7-12).

( a)  Using our voice:  The Holy Sprit inspires us to speak. ‘ It is not you who speak but the Spirit speaking through you’ (Matt 10:20) and ‘I will put my spirit on him and he will speak’ ( Mat 12:18)  When we receive something from the spirit it is usually to pass it on to someone else.  Peter says that ‘if anyone speaks he should do it as one speaking the very words of God’ (1Peter 4:11), other translations say ‘as the oracles of God’.   ‘Oracular speech is the rendering of a message considered to have been imparted…directly by the spirit in…word or vision’ (Turner, 1999: 306).   These impulses come with the conviction that they originate with the spirit and should be passed on. (Turner, 1999: 308).  Just as the Holy Spirit is the voice of the Godhead we in turn are empowered through the Holy Spirit to be Gods representative in speech and in ministry  (Baxter, 1983:37).

(b) Gifts are a vehicle the spirit uses to speak to people.  Prophecy, a word of knowledge, a word of wisdom and teaching are just a few of the ways that the spirit speaks to us through the gifts that Christ has given for the edification of the body (1Cor 12).  These gifts are not something that we can do naturally, they are ‘supernatural capabilities given by God, the Holy Spirit’ (Baxter, 1983:40).

Prophecy ( 1 Cor 12:10):  Prophecy is the Spririt of God speaking through you (2 Sam 23:1-3).  It is a way for the inspired message of God to be delivered, prophecy is ‘utterance under divine inspiration; delivering inspired exhortations, instructions or warnings’  (Vincent, 1975:98).  The Holy Spirit inspires prophecy and is present during prophecy ( Lk 1:41-42, 1:67-69, Acts 19:6),  it is always for the edification of the reciever (Eph 4:12, 1 Cor 14:26).

A word of knowledge:  This  is a gift given by God the Holy Spirit which goes far beyond the ‘normal and natural capabilities of the individual’ (Thomson, 1960: 109). Some examples of this would be the revelation of sin in Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:3-4).  Paul’s trip to Rome on the doomed ship (Acts 27; 21-24). This knowledge was revealed supernaturally to Paul and his speech was therefore ‘the word of knowledge’ (Thomson, 1960: 109).   Elisha without seeing it or hearing about it, knew the location of the Syrian camp and all that went on there (2 Kings 6:11-12), and was able to warn the King.

A word of wisdom: James Thomson explains the meaning in these words:  ‘this gift would communicate the ability to receive and explain “the deep things of God”’ (Rom 11:33).   In God’s dealings with men much is mysterious, and the ordinary Christian is often in need of a word that will throw light upon his situation; the person fitted by the spirit to fulfill this ministry is through the spirit given a word of wisdom (Thomson, 1960:103).   ‘We speak of Gods secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began.  None of the rulers of this age understood it’ (1 Cor 2:7-8). The wisdom Paul used was the gift of the Holy Spirit.  The gift is ‘knowledge rightly applied by the Holy Spirit and brings a supernatural answer to a problem’ (Holland, ).

Preaching:  Through the preaching of the word of God you may believe that the Spirit is speaking just to you.  If an evangelist is speaking you may feel or hear a prompting of the Holy Spirit to have faith to believe (Ac 21:8).   This is a given gift or calling on a life.  “‘An evangelist has the particular gift of preaching the gospel to unsaved men so that they can hear and believe”.  Men or women with a great knowledge of the word can get up and speak and give a call for salvation and nothing happens.  Another man preaches and there is a great response.  What is the difference? One has the gift of evangelism and the other does not’” (Dwight, 1970:173).

The Holy Spirit can speak through a sermon or through teaching.   ‘While peter was speaking…the holy spirit came on all who heard the message’ (Acts 10:44).  If someone ministers, they do it with the ability which God has given them (1 Peter 4:10 -11).    Sermons are a common means of spiritual speech.  It is the Holy Spirit who provides the message that is needed to be proclaimed (1Pet 1:12).

The Holy Spirit speaks to us because he loves us  and because we desperately need him.  He desires to partner with us in this journey of life .  He empowers us to do the work of the Lord and to testify of Jesus.   He uses us to edify one another and he reveals to us supernatural knowledge and information.  He does this to direct us, to lead us, and to equip us.  The Holy Spirit aids us in our life and loves to encourage us.  He acts as the mouthpiece of God and reveals the things which are to come.  This prepares us and helps us in our daily life.

Bibliography

Baxter, R. (1983). Gifts of the Spirit. Grand Rapids:MI: Kregel Publications.

Deere, J. (2001). The Gift of Prophecy. MI: Servant Publications.

Dwight, J. (1970). Penticost, the divine comforter. Chicago: Moody Press.

Hinn, B. (1990). Good morning Holy spirit. Milton Keynes, England: Word Books.

Holland, R. The nine gifts of the Holy Spirit. Melbourne: Blue Print.

Liardon, R. (1998). Smith Wigglesworth speaks to students of the Bible. Tulsa, Oklahoma: Albury Publishing.

Thomson, J. (1960). Bakers Dictionary of Theology. Grand Rapids:MI: Baker Book House.

Turner, M. (1999). The Holy Spirit and spiritual gifts then and now. Cambria:UK: Paternoster Press.

Vincent, M. (1975). Word Studies in the New Testament (Vol. 3).Grand Rapids: MI Eerdmen Publishing Co.

Virkler, M. (1986). Dialougue with God. Australia: Peace Makers Ministries Ltd.

Warrington, K. (2005). Discovering the Holy Spirit in the New Testament. Peabody, MS: Hendrickson Publishers Inc.

If the work here is meaningful to you, you can partner with me in a very real way through Patreon.com.

Patreon allows me to get support for the work that I do on this blog.    Patreon allows people to financially pledge to support artists, writers, musicians, and other creative people. Sunday Everyday has been on line since the first of February 2015.  Since that time I have been doing this in a volunteer capacity.  For the blog to continue I need your support.  You may want to give the amount you would spend on a coffee and muffin once a month or you may wish to pledge $50.00 a month or more.  Every bit helps.

Please help support my ministry and magnify my voice by pledging.

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Love Lisa

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Religion As Reality Avoidance

Religion as reality avoidance

Addict

American shame researcher Brené Brown describes the current generation of adults as “the most obese, in debt, medicated and addicted adults in human history”. I don’t think I know many people who would seriously disagree with that assessment.

What’s driving this trend?

I would say it basically boils down to one thing: reality avoidance.

The world is just too painful and difficult a place, so rather than deal with the distressing reality of it, we find all kinds of creative ways to distract and numb ourselves.

Some go shopping, even when they don’t really need anything and can’t afford it anyway (sometimes half-jokingly but tellingly referred to as “retail therapy”). Others begin to indulge in eating sweet or fatty foods; at first, they find comfort in it, but it soon morphs into something they need in order to survive. Many immerse themselves in social media, spending every spare moment presenting a curated version of themselves to the world, all the while carefully hiding their true selves. Some are addicted to work; for others, it might be porn or sex; still others find themselves enslaved to alcohol or drugs.In one form or another, addiction is all around us.

(As a bit of an aside, you might think the world has surely always been just as painful as it is now, if not more painful. I would agree with you. In which case, why the recent massive increase in addictive and compulsive behaviours? I’d say the key difference is that we now live in an age that is driven more than ever before by image. From TV and magazine ads and celebrity idols to the carefully crafted perfect personas with which we are bombarded hour after hour on Facebook, we are surrounded by unrelenting pressure to look the best, be the best, know the most, earn the most, have the nicest house, raise the nicest kids. And, conveniently, the consumer model quickly steps in to constantly pepper us with an array of products and services that will help us achieve those very things. It’s a double whammy: we feel more pressured than ever before to live up to an idealised image, and we’re offered more promises than ever before to help us do it. The prevalence of addictive and compulsive behaviours is simply evidence that these promises never deliver.)

But there’s another form of addiction that I haven’t mentioned so far, yet which is very common and very subtle – and which serves exactly the same purpose as all the other addictions we’ve already talked about. I’m talking about being addicted to religion.

Now, most evangelical Christians today would vehemently deny being addicted to religion. They would say they go to church, believe what they believe and engage in the religious activities in which they engage not because they are compelled to do so, but because they choose to.

Well, okay… but bear in mind that many alcoholics also claim they could stop drinking whenever they want to.In fact, there’s one main reason why I believe religion is a major addiction, and that is that it very often meets the definition we began with above: it’s a near-perfect form of reality avoidance.

It seems to me that much of the focus in organised religion is around convincing ourselves that if we believe some things hard enough, get sufficiently involved in certain activities, worship (by which we basically often mean sing) passionately enough and generally put enough effort into being good, we will have the security of knowing that we are in the winning camp of those who have God’s divine stamp of approval come judgement day. (If you don’t believe any of this is entrenched behaviour sometimes bordering on the compulsive, just try questioning the way things are done in your church.)

Meanwhile, what is very often missing from Christianity as it is commonly practised in churches up and down the land is any acknowledgement of the reality of what it means to be a human being in a broken world.Think about it: how many sermons have you heard about how to be a better this or a more effective that; how to be an overcomer and a giant-slayer; how to know God’s amazing destiny for your life; or how to perpetually walk in victory?

If your experience is anything like mine, I’m guessing the answer is somewhere near plenty.But how often have you heard anyone in church talk about dealing with crippling fear or debilitating shame, coping with the heavy burden of regret, or even surviving the reality of serious illness or death? And yet, if we’re honest, aren’t these the things we all have to live with and cope with pretty much every day of our lives?

When church becomes mainly a way for us to feel better about ourselves while avoiding dealing with the messy reality of our shame, our pain and our brokenness, I would say it’s stopped being the life-giving body Jesus intended it to be, and has instead become a narcotic: a shot in the arm that gives short-term relief but ultimately brings necrosis and death.

To put it another way, if church has become a hamster wheel and the thought of getting off the wheel fills you with trepidation, that’s probably a very good sign that you need to get off that wheel and take some time out.

Addiction – whether it’s to hard drugs or religion – ultimately never leads anywhere good. What God desires is not endless religious activity or outward passion, but truth in the inward parts.

To me, the first step towards this is honestly facing up to the pain, the struggle and all the weights we carry around with us.

The way to wholeness is not through denying pain and seeking to apply a religious bandage over it. The way to wholeness is to bring all of our pain, our messiness and our failures to Jesus in the midst of a loving, authentic community, and to receive the cleansing word of acceptance from God and from those with whom we have chosen to share our lives. The sad thing is that it’s often very hard to find such communities within the established church.

Lord, deliver us from religious addiction; and lead us instead into the all-embracing and healing light of your love.

[ Image: bejealousofme ]

Weeds, Wheat, Specks, Planks and Cult Thinking.

The first 36 years of my life were devoted to a Christian fundamentalist cult.  They practised a doctrine of perfection that was presented as a carrot tied by string to the end of a stick.  You could never quite reach that carrot. The rules kept changing and if you failed they hit you with the stick.  Quite literally in my case.   As in every good dualistic religion everything is black and white, good and bad.  You are either in or out.  We were kept very busy with the process of ‘sin management’ and indiscretions were used against us to whip us into line.    Richard Rohr puts it well when he describes it this way:  ‘No one is ever quite pure enough, moral enough or holy enough or enough of an insider of the proper group’ (Rohr, Immortal Diamond).

The high water line was obedience and woe betide any one who was found to be disobedient to the word of ‘the elders’, which was equal to the word of God.  They were tough on us because they were contantly trying to save us.  It must have been so exhausting.  They had to watch over us so we would not fall and trip into sin and go to hell, or worse, leave the group.  We were the ‘in’ group.  We had the truth.  We were Gods chosen people.  Everyone outside was evil and impure and quite simply ‘outside’.

“In a moralisticly oriented religious group there are always clear outsiders to be kept clearly out-side.  Hiding inside this false moral purity are things like slavery, sexism, the greed of Christian emperors…pedophilia…conquest and oppression’ (Rohr).

This did quiet a number on my little head.  Brainwashed from the age of 2, this tight knit controlling group was my only social construction.   I was not good at contradictions or complexities.  I had no idea what it meant to think criticallly or to have opinions of my own.  It was an easy way to live as you just did as you were told.   The word from the ‘fathers’ was final.  Yes it was a patriarchal system, and women were lectured publically and privately  to submit and to obey.

This is a group that still operates today.  They hold the high moral ground and are the purveyors of truth but keep themselves separated from everyone else.  Even from people they love who have left the group.  Leaving is the unforgiveable sin.  People who leave are excommuicated, for their own good of course.   You are told that ‘they’ are giving you into the hand of satan, hoping you might come  to your senses.  In other words, when it gets so bad that you can’t possibly manage,  you will return to the group.    These groups do not follow the gospel of Jesus Christ or His teachings.  I tell you this because there are many religious institutions around today who are watered down versions of the above mentioned Christian fanatics.  They spend every single moment of their day sacrificing their lives for God but they do not understand the teachings of Christ.  They twist every scripture to fit their doctrine but do not understand about context or things like grace and mercy and equality.

The good news of the gospel is not about dangling carrots in front of peoples noses.  Nor  is spirituality a series of hoops you must jump through to be approved by an almighty disaproving God.    The good thing about following Jesus, spirit-based morality, is that you are not motivated by reward and punishment.  You need not follow the rules, you do things because they are true and good and right and not because you are afraid of punishment.  You follow Jesus because you are in love with him and because He helps you.   He gives you the desire and the power to please Him.  Its because you want to not because you will be punished by your community if you don’t. The good news of the gospel is this:  freedom, vision, relief, hope and love Including all people, race and gender.  Everything and everyone belongs.  Even the broken and poor and outcast and those who are told that they don’t belong.

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Photo by Atila Shia

I am concerned about the way some people still operate out of the ‘you are bad and we are good mentality’.  This mind sets reveals alienating behaviour  because it  cuts off anyone who does not line up to a moralistic view of Christianity.  As Richard says in the above quote ‘there are clear outsiders to be kept clearly out-side’.   We are continually drawing lines in the sand when Jesus asks us not to judge.

Going with the Bokeh theme.

I think about the parable of the wheat and the weeds and this is the thought that I will leave you with to think about for yourself.  Richard Rohr observed that to see with new eyes “requires that we be willing to respond and change because we are aware of our own mixture of good and evil. Jesus uses several mixture images that illustrate the tension. They seem to say, this world is a mixture of different things, and unless you learn how to see, you don’t know to separate; you get lost in the weeds and can’t see the wheat.”  The trick is to learn HOW to see with new eyes.  This is why Jesus says, I came to give sight to the blind.  He knew that clear vision was something we would struggle with.    We usually see things how we want to see them and not as they are or as He sees them.

Jesus speaks in parables to help us to see.  He does this to engage the right side of our brains.  Religion today is  a dualistic left brain religion.  It deals with linear thinking,  right and wrong, black and white, logic and order.  Jesus engages the right side of our brains so we can run Steven Speilberg images and mini movies in our minds.  To help us to see in a new way.  To see the whole picture not just a slice of it.  To see in color not in black and white.   He uses images that ancient jewish people would have been familiar with.  Seed, wheat, weeds, yeast, pine seeds, fish, wine, bread etc..  He engages their minds to get to their hearts.  The result is always to bring life, peace and hope.  Not exasperation and fear.

Remember that the law does not give life, only the Spirit gives life.  Are we aware that each of us have a  mixture of good and evil in our own lives?  He is saying to us in the parable of the wheat and the weeds that good and evil grow up together beside each other.  It is not our job to run around pointing out the evil like some deranged person standing on a chair,  screaming and pointing at a spider.   It is His job and the job of his angels at the end of days to patiently take out the weeds, burn them and safely put the wheat in the barn.  We just need get on with  job of living our lives in peace with each other.

Cult teaching would have you believe that ‘we’ are the wheat and ‘they’ (the outsider, the sinners) are the weeds.  What will happen to the weeds,  ‘well they gonna BURN’, they gonna burn in HELL and Damnation”.  Jesus teaching would say that everyone carries seeds of good and seeds of bad within them.  As these grow to maturity, let me deal with it.  We are not good at carrying or living with both the good and the bad.  We like to think that we comprise only GOOD.    It is Jesus job to decide what is weed and what is wheat, not ours.   Both we and the world are a mixture of wheat and weed.  That is the mystery.

“It takes a lot more patience, compassion, forgiveness, and love than aiming for some illusory perfection that is usually blind to its own faults.  …it takes uncommon humility to carry the dark side of things and it takes courage to carry the good side too.  The crucified one always hangs between these two theives – paying the price within himself just as we must do’( Rohr, p40 Everything Belongs).

I love this picture of Jesus on the cross, even in his final moments he is painting a picture of the beloved hanging bewteen wheat and weeds.  The best bit is about to come.  Are you ready.  Jesus forgives both theives.  Do we?   Do we forgive ourselevs for both the good and the bad in us?

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Lets not be blind to the weeds in our own lives and lets not judge what we perceive to be the weeds in others lives.  In another parable Jesus talks about planks and splinters.  He says in Matthew 7, ‘why do you point out the speck of sawdust in your brothers eye and ignore the plank in your own eye’.    Ha ha… I love that.   Such incredible imagery, ‘speck of sawdust” and ‘PLANK”.   He is shouting to us:  “compared to the huge amount crap in your life, your brothers stuff is a teeny tiny speck.    Stop pointing the finger people.   Let’s trust Jesus to deal with specks and weeds and get on with what He asked us to do which was to love one another the same way He has loved us;  unconditionally, graciously and with mercy.  He looks at our shit and sees a teeny speck.  Meh…. That is grace, that is love.

We must ask ourselves, is our life an example of an encounter with a loving and caring God.   Are we growing the fruits of the Spirit, love, joy peace, long-suffering, goodness, meekness temperance, faith and distributing this fruit to everyone that we encounter?  Or are our lives  spent deciding who is and who is not worthy, who can and who can’t take part in our IN groups.   The Franciscans have a saying;

“Don’t expect a lot of freedom or permission from most religious people, but thank God, the gospel requires them to give you forgiveness.”

Ahhhh love it..   Shalom

If the work here is meaningful to you, you can partner with me in a very real way through Patreon.com.

Patreon allows me to get support for the work that I do on this blog.    Patreon allows people to financially pledge to support artists, writers, musicians, and other creative people. Sunday Everyday has been on line since the first of February 2015.  Since that time I have been doing this in a volunteer capacity.  For the blog to continue I need your support.  You may want to give the amount you would spend on a coffee and muffin once a month or you may wish to pledge $50.00 a month or more.  Every bit helps.

Please help support my ministry and magnify my voice by pledging.

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The Kingdom of Heaven

A paper on The Kingdom of Heaven by Lisa Hunt-Wotton

Introduction

The message of the Kingdom of God was fundamental to the teaching of Jesus and is undeniably central to the whole of the New Testament.  The Kingdom of God and it’s meaning has both captivated and divided scholars for centuries.

Matthew preferred to use the term ‘Kingdom of Heaven’, a term which is interchangeable with the Kingdom of God.  This paper will look closely at the meaning of the Kingdom of God and  will show that the Kingdom of God is extremely relevant to us today.  Kingdom reign is not only a future reality which will be consummated with the second coming of Christ, but it is indeed a reality for us today.

Why does Matthew used the term Kingdom of Heaven?

This question has undoubtedly intrigued scholars for the last few hundred years and has been a dominant topic of New Testament study.  (Lamerson, 2000: 343).  The term Kingdom of Heaven is a term found only in Matthew.  In all probability because Matthew  was a Jew writing for a Jewish audience,  he wished to defer to the Jewish practice of avoiding the divine name and substituted the name of God for Heaven (Gundry, 1994: 43) .  Ladd puts it this way  ‘the Kingdom of Heaven is the Semitic form and Kingdom of God is the Greek form of the same phrase’ (Ladd, 1959: 32).

Some scholars believe that kingdom language is not found  much outside of the synoptic gospels because of the authors’ hesitation to use kingdom language to Romans (Bock, 1992: 19). Others have suggested that Jesus frequently used the term Kingdom of Heaven, then the disciples changed it to Kingdom of God because  Gentiles may have not understood the term ‘heaven’ (Gundry, 2003: 119).  Nevertheless, most scholars would agree that the two terms are interchangeable (Allen, 1999: 5), and are therefore synonymous.

The term Kingdom of Heaven does not appear in the Old Testament.  In the Old Testament the Kingdom of God was known  as the reign of God over creation, with the coming of God introducing complete restoration of Israel as nation (Ridderbos, 1962: 5).   Matthew  writes to convince  Jews that all the Old Testament prophecies are fulfilled in Jesus and therefore he is indeed their Messiah (Barclay, 1958: xxii) . Whilst  the Kingdom of God is understood as Gods rule over the earth, the term Kingdom of Heaven then seems to  point toward not only a sphere of rule, but its source.

Therefore the names Kingdom of Heaven and Kingdom of God mean the rule or reign of God and the rule or reign of Heaven (Keathley: 38).

What is the Kingdom of God?

It could be said that there is no theme in the New Testament equal in importance than the message of the Kingdom of God. (Ridderbos, 1962: ix).  But what is the Kingdom of God?  To gain a greater understanding of this we will look at four areas which will help to answer that question.

What the does the term ‘Kingdom’ mean?

What is the message of the Kingdom?

What is its proximity?

What is the mystery of the kingdom?

The phrase the Kingdom of God is ‘characteristic of the whole New Testament’ (Barclay, 1958: 210).  It is of primary importance and  there is no phrase used more often.  It is therefore significant that we understand it’s meaning.

The term Kingdom of God basically means the rule or reign of God (Ladd, 1959: 11).  It is not just His realm, it is His reign.  ‘The Lord has established his throne in the heavens, and his kingdom rules over all’ (Ps 103:19 AMP).   His rule is over the heavens and the earth but He reigns over us, He reigns in our hearts.  He is the King, when we enter His Kingdom it His reign that we seek in our lives   (Ladd, 1959: 20,21).  Daniel equates the word kingdom with power, might, and glory.   All of which are  synonymous with authority (Dan 2:37). Therefore the Kingdom of God is God’s rule, His Kingship, His authority (Ladd, 1959: 21). The triumph of Gods Kingdom is the defeat of all the enemies of God.  ‘Christ must be King and reign until He has put all enemies under His feet’ (1Cor 15:25).

‘It is quite clear that the Kingdom of God was central to the message of Jesus’ (Barclay, 1958: 210) , to the point that he sees it as his mission on earth.  Jesus was compelled to preach the message of the Kingdom, it was the reason he was sent,  ‘I must preach the… Kingdom of God’ (Lk 4:43 NIV).   It was so vital to the message of Jesus that even the word he  spoke was called the word or message of the kingdom (Mat 13:19 NIV).

The Message of the Kingdom

The message of the kingdom was introduced in Matthew by John the Baptist. Both the messages of  ‘John the Baptist and Jesus focused above all on the Kingdom’ of God  and its coming (Gundry, 2003:118).  John, Jesus and the disciples all preached about the same kingdom (Deffinbaugh:3).  Jesus instructed the disciples to preach the message of the Kingdom wherever they went (Mat 10:7), the need for repentance and ‘the announcement of the imminence of the Kingdom’ (Bailey, 1999: 443).  Jesus teaching was accompanied by power encounters.  The kingdom and the authority of the kingdom over sin, sickness and death was present in the outworking of Jesus miracles.  The power of the kingdom continued to be displayed through the teaching and miracles of the disciples.  ‘The kingdom was inaugurated by Jesus coming to the earth.  It had not only arrived in the person of Jesus, it had come upon us (Mat 12:28).  Both Jesus and John preached that the kingdom was near (Mat 3:2, 4:17).  Jesus preached that the Kingdom of Heaven was at hand.  He was implying that the kingdom was within their reach, it was right in front of them.

‘Never did such individuals (other disciples and prophets) apply symbols for God to themselves so consistently as did Jesus, and none ever claimed that he was doing precisely what the scriptures said God himself would do.

Yet in the parables Jesus claims to forgive sin, sow his word into human hearts, welcome…sinners,…seek out and rescue his lost sheep, oversee the final judgement and distinguish those who will and those who will not enter the kingdom’ (Bloomberg, 1990: 320).

He was able to say this  because He is the King. It is his Kingdom and where He is there his Kingdom will be (Deffinbaugh: 2). Therefore it could be said that ‘Jesus presence means kingdom presence’ (Bock, 2001: 13).

The Proximity of the Kingdom.

One of the most contentious issues regarding the kingdom concerns its proximity.  Has the kingdom come, is it yet to come, has it already come but is also still yet to be consummated?   Our  understanding of the kingdom of God will be determined upon  where we believe the kingdom to be.  What does Jesus mean when he says the kingdom is near, is at hand?  There is a plethora of debate on this question.  Some like Ritschl and Von Harnack believe that the Kingdom has come in the form of the ‘brotherhood of man’ and there will  not be a  future consummation of the kingdom (Allen, 1999: 2).  Weiss and Schweitzer share similar views and teach that the kingdom is entirely futuristic, even apocalyptic.  That Jesus, under the impact of disappointing circumstances,  postponed his coming (Ridderbos, 1962: xiii).  Dodd believes that kingdom hope was totally realised in Jesus (Bock, 1992: 3).  ‘Not yet’: Fuller and Joachim believe that ‘The kingdom of God is not yet present, it is imminent; it is dawning but it has not yet arrived’ (Fuller, 1954: 48). ‘God is coming he is standing at the door, indeed he is already there’ (Joachim, 1963: 102).  Both believed that the kingdom was very close but had not yet come.

Theologians who preach inaugurated eschatology like Ladd, Bock, Carson and Ridderbos  have an ‘already/not yet approach’ (Allen, 1999: 4).  They postulate that the Kingdom of God has already come in an introductory form, but will not be fully consummated until the second coming of Christ (Allen, 1999).  Carson states that, ‘the constant theme of Matthew is that the kingdom came with Jesus and his preaching and miracles, it came with his death and resurrection and it will come at the end of the age’ (Carson, 1995: 101). Jones puts it this way,  ‘The kingdom of God is among you and within you; the kingdom of God is in every true christian…The kingdom has come, the kingdom is coming, the kingdom is yet to come’ (Lloyd-Jones, 1997: 16). This view is common among scholars and is well supported by  many commentators.

The kingdom was near because Christ was in the world.

One of the more extreme views is that of Toussaint and Quine  who hold a ‘No, Not Yet’ approach (Toussaint, 2007: 131). They believe that because Jesus was rejected by the Jews,  the coming of the kingdom had to be postponed.  They believe that the  inauguration and consumption of the kingdom is still in the future.  The kingdom will not come until Israel repents (Toussaint, 2004: 473).  It is difficult to subscribe to this belief.  The thought that Jesus had to postpone his plans seems to demean the omnipotence of God.  Ernest Reisinger puts it best when he says, “My bible knows nothing about a God who does not have power to perform his plan…He is all-wise in planning and all powerful in performing” (Allen, 1999: 12).

The Mystery of the Kingdom

The mystery of the kingdom provides a key to understanding the kingdom of God and how it works.  Jesus spoke in parables and in mysteries concerning the kingdom of God.  Many times he would preface a parable by stating ‘the kingdom of God is like…’(Mat 20:1, 22:1).  Some scholars like Brown believe that Jesus was giving a set of secret instructions  or mysteries to an elect  group of disciples (Brown, 1973: 74).  A stronger view by Carson and other scholars is that the kingdoms arrival was no secret or mystery at all.  The kingdom had come in power and the mystery was that it had come in advance of its consummation.  The mystery of the kingdom is that it works in hidden or secret form within the lives of men (Allen, 1999: 14).  That the kingdom will come is clear in Jesus teaching, but can it be said that it has begun?  Jesus used many different parables to explain this.  The parables of the  ‘leaven’ and the ‘mustard seed’ are excellent examples of  the way the kingdom works within the lives of men.

 The Parable of the Mustard Seed

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In Matthews’s parable of the mustard seed, the mustard seed is the smallest seed (Mat 13:31-32).

At the start it is a tiny seed but when planted it grows into a large tree.

What this means is that Jesus was actually planting small  kingdom seeds into the lives of men.

The mystery of the kingdom is it’s seemingly insignificant start.  Jesus has planted the kingdom in seed form and it will have ‘phenomenal growth and a culminating judgment’ at the return of Christ (Bailey, 1999: 2).  ‘Out of the most insignificant beginnings, invisible to the human eye, God creates a mighty kingdom, which embraces all the people of the world (Joachim, 1963: 12).

  The Parable of the Leaven (Mt 13:33)

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The major focus of the parable of the leaven is the ‘transforming power of the leaven’ (Barclay, 1959: 88).

It is the introduction of the leaven that transforms the whole loaf.  The leaven slowly and gradually permeates the dough until the whole loaf is transformed.

‘So the Kingdom of God transforms the world by slow and gradual permeation’ (Ladd, 1959: 16).   Similarly the Kingdom of God causes transformation in the life of the believer.  In fact it is a significant indicator of the life of Christ in a believer. Just as the dough fills the whole bowl. The day will come when the Kingdom of God will fill the whole earth.

These parables and others like them are keys which unlock the mystery of the Kingdom of God.  ‘The presence of the Kingdom of God was seen as God’s dynamic reign invading the present age without transforming it into the age to come’ (Ladd, 1974: 149).  It was this in-breaking of the kingdom in power.  This victory over Satan without the consumption of the kingdom, that was the mystery of the kingdom.

It is also the  mystery of the transforming power of the kingdom outworking in the lives of kingdom citizens (Allen, 1999: 12).  George Ladd puts it this way, ‘the mystery of the kingdom is this:  The Kingdom of God is here but not with irresistible power’.  It does not force itself on people’.  The other mystery is that even though it is here, men are able to reject it  (Ladd, 1959: 56).  This was a confounding thought to Old Testament believers.  Who can withstand God?  They perceived the coming of the kingdom to be with universal power and domination.  Not this mysterious inner transformation of lives.  The kingdom must be received willingly by those who will allow God to reign in their hearts and to transform their lives.

Kingdom Living Today

What is the Kingdom about and how is it relevant today?  ‘The kingdom is about the powerful, transforming presence of God’s rule through Christ…expressed today in the community of those whom he planted, what became the church’ (Bock, 2001:15).

The church is a kingdom of people who are in the process of being transformed and who are eagerly looking forward to his return.   God’s investment in his church, in his people, is His Holy Spirit.  Our primary task as the church, in partnership with the Holy Spirit, is to advance the Kingdom of God.  This Kingdom of God refers to a society on earth where the primary desire is to obey and live according to the will of God.  Any person who does the will of God is within the kingdom (Barclay, 1958: 212).  Put simply, to be in the kingdom of God is to obey the will of the father.

The kingdom is at the heart of everything Jesus taught, the sermon on the mount, His parables, the Lords prayer.  Jesus alone decides who will enter the Kingdom of God. Jesus explains that citizens of the kingdom consist of those who ‘do the will of my father in heaven’ (Legg, 2004: 240). At the sermon on the Mount, Jesus gives a description of what it means to be a kingdom citizen.  He gives ‘great ethical principles’(Deffinbaugh: 6) that we are  to follow.  To be a kingdom citizen means that we submit to the rule and reign of Christ in our lives.  ‘We caNnot live in his kingdom without him being king’ (Deffinbaugh: 6).

The desire of our hearts today as believers should be to allow the complete reign of Christ the King in our lives.  Our desire today as Jesus instructed by Jesus should be to ‘seek first the Kingdom of God’ (Mat 6:33).  Like the parable of the pearl and the hidden treasure, we should be prepared to give up everything for the kingdom.  It is of the highest value and it should be our highest priority.   The kingdoms ultimate goal is the work of God to redeem humanity ‘according to his promise’ (Bock, 2001: 12).

Our mission today is to reach people of every kind (Mat 13:47).  To be a community of believers who encourage one another to  live in righteousness and to participate in spreading the news of the kingdom to all people (Mat 13:47). We are to extend an invitation to everyone.  ‘Jesus established a kingdom which , when fully consummated, would embrace everything in heaven and earth’ (Carson & Moo 2005: 38,39).  We are called to live as citizens here on earth but the highest authority in our life is Christ our King.

Conclusion

The Kingdom of God broke into the earth with the miraculous manifestation of Christ on the earth.  It continues today in those who are His believers.  It is the power, authority, glory  and might of Jesus Christ reigning in the hearts and lives of believers.  It  began with the word of the Kingdom planted by Jesus and then permeated the whole of the known world by the first century disciples.  It continues to grow and transform the lives of every believer.  It will be consummated and the fullness of the kingdom will be seen upon the earth at the second coming of Christ.  The Kingdom came in the person of Jesus.  It is advancing through the lives of transformed citizens of the kingdom and it will be finally  realised and complete in the power and authority of God at the second coming of Jesus Christ.

If the work here is meaningful to you, you can partner with me in a very real way through Patreon.com.

Patreon allows me to get support for the work that I do on this blog.    Patreon allows people to financially pledge to support artists, writers, musicians, and other creative people. Sunday Everyday has been on line since the first of February 2015.  Since that time I have been doing this in a volunteer capacity.  For the blog to continue I need your support.  You may want to give the amount you would spend on a coffee and muffin once a month or you may wish to pledge $50.00 a month or more.  Every bit helps.

Please help support my ministry and magnify my voice by pledging.

Thanks for considering.

Love Lisa

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BIBLIOGRAPHY

Allen, D. (1999). The Kingdom in Matthew. Bible Studies Press:

http://www.bible.org  (3rd Nov. 2007)

Bailey, M. (1999). The doctrine of the kingdom in Matthew 13. Bibliotheca Sacra , 156, 443-51.

Barclay, W. (1958). Gospel of Matthew. The daily study Bible. (2nd ed., Vol.1). Glasgow,

Scotland: The Saint Andrew Press.

Barclay, W. (1959). Gospel of Matthew. The daily study Bible (Vol. 2). Glasgow, Scotland: The

Saint Andrew Press.

Bloomberg. (1990). Interpreting the parables. Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity.

Bock, D. (2001). The Kingdom of God in New Testament Theology: The battle, The Christ, The

spirit bearer, and returning son of man. The Biblical studies foundation: http://www.bible.org/page.php?page_id=2211 (1st Oct. 2007)

Bock, D. (1992). The reign of the Lord Christ. (B. a. Bock, Ed.) Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

Brown, S. (1973). The secret of the Kingdom of God.  L. Keck, (Ed.), Journal of Biblical

 Literature , 92, 60-74.

Carson, D. (1995). Matthew, exspositor’s Bible commentary (Vol. 1). Grand Rapids, MI:

Zondervan.

Carson, D.A. and Moo, D. (2005). An introduction to the New Testament. Leicester,

England: Appollos.

Deffinbaugh, B. (n.d.). The sermon on the mount.  Bible.org:

http://www.bible.org/page.php?page_id=4852 ( 3rd Nov. 2007)

Fuller, R. (1954). The mission and achievement of Jesus; An examination of the presuppostitions

 of New Testament theology. Studies in Biblical Theology. London: SCM Press.

Gundry, R. H. (2003). A Survey of the New Testament (4th. ed.). Grand Rapids, MI:

Zondervan.

Gundry, R. (1994). Matthew. Commentary on his handbook for a mixed church under

 persecution. (2nd. ed.). Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

Joachim, J. (1963). The parables of Jesus (3rd. rev. ed.). New York: Scribner.

Keathley, J. (n.d.). Studies in Revelation. Bible.org

http://www.bible.org/page.php?page_id=1783 (1st Oct. 2007)

Ladd, G. (1959). The Gospel of the Kingdom. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. Eerdmans.

Ladd, G. (1974). The presence of the future. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans.

Lamerson, S. (2000, September). Entering the kingdom of Heaven: A study on the structure of

Matthew’s view of salvation. Journal of Evangelical Theological Society , 30-43.

Legg, J. (2004). The King and his Kingdom. Webster, New York: Evangelical Press.

Lloyd-Jones, D. (1997). Studies in the Sermon on the mount. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans.

Ridderbos, H. (1962). The coming of the Kingdom. Philedelphia, PA: The Presbyterian and

Reformed Publishing Co.

Toussaint, S. (2004). A critique of the preterits view of the Olivet discourse. Bibliotheca Sacra,

161, 469-90.

Toussaint, S. and Quine. (2007). No, not yet: The contingency of God’s promised kingdom.

Bibliotheca Sacra , 164, 131-47.

Left Brained Religion

If we truly see the church as a relevant vehicle to bring life to society we must ask this important question.

‘Has the teaching and practice of religion served as a vehicle of unifying or separation?’.

The next question we must ask is this.  “Does our practice of religion line up with the gospel of Jesus Christ?”

If we align ourselves with the teaching of Jesus then we must have a religion that re-unites and re-ties us to each other and to creation.  The emphasis of the New Testament is love of God and love of neighbour.   Christ came to bring unity between God and humanity.  My fear is that religion today in its many forms is known more for what it is ‘against’ and what it ‘cuts off’ than as a unifying force in the world.  I believe this is because the Church, or religion as we know it today, has been influenced and formed by three things.

1:  Dualism

2:  Left Brain Thinking

3:  Patriarchy

Dualism

Since mid fifth century BC  dualism has been an overarching philosophy of humanity.  Basically this is the belief that there are two opposing forces,  good and evil.  This is first recorded in Egyptian Religious beliefs by the contrast of the gods Set (disorder, death) and Osiris (order, life).   There is a force at work in the world both secular and religious and it is called dualism.   Early Christian dualism is based on Platonic Dualism where God is good and Satan is evil.  Personal Dualism separates body and soul.  The Puritanism era  in the 17th century sought to purify the church and  told us that sex and sexuality and the body was evil and that is where we get most of our theology from today in many conservative churches.  Sex or the flesh is evil and only spirituality and God is good.

This is in stark contrast to New Testament Christianity which believes that all things are created by God and that his creation is good.  We are loved, we are accepted and there is no shame.  A gospel that promotes community and acceptance.  We don’t have to look far to see that even in the godhead, there are three in one. JCGmO4h The entire gospel is one of unity and peace.  Not separation and disconnection.

Of course it is dualism that dictates most religious responses today.  If it is deemed not ‘of’ God then it must be evil.  There is only black and white, in and out, you are either going up or down.  You can see then the trouble with our deeply engrained and inherited philosophies and how christians interpret the bible through this lens.

To complicate things even further, since the death of Christ,  religious systems have been  built according to the left hemispheres of our brain.   Let me explain.

Left Brain Thinking

The human mind is a very complex thing. It can however be divided into two main parts, which correspond to the two sides of the brain. The two sides or hemispheres are imaginatively called the right hemisphere and the left hemisphere. These two sides of the brain think in two different ways.

The left side of the brain thinks in logical, rational ways. This is what some people call our intellect. It breaks problems down into parts (called reductionism) and seeks to solve problems by examining the parts. It thinks in black and white terms, right and wrong, good and bad (called dualism). Left-brain thinking is called rational thinking (this is also known as linear thinking).

The right side of the brain thinks intuitively, in wholes, in systems (called holism). It thinks creatively, laterally, imaginatively. Right-brain thinking is called intuitive thinking (also known as non-linear thinking) and it is not logical (Ref)

The right brain sees how things connect and unify. The left brain separates realities into air-tight compartments/categories/pigeon-holes (Ref)

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It is important to realise that the ancient Hebrew language and community operated out of right brain thinking.  The Hebrew Bible, with its emphasis on personal relationships — the love of God, neighbour and stranger — is a right-brain work.  Yet today it is interpreted by left brain thinkers therefore the context and meaning of the original texts are often warped and misinterpreted (Ref).

Enter the Greek and Roman Empires and their influence on Christianity and the Hebrew texts.  Ancient Greece gave the world its first science and philosophy, two supremely left-brain activities. Equally, we can see why the thought-world of Ancient Israel, with its integrative vision of monotheism, was so different.

Most of the Old Testament was written in Ancient Hebrew. Like most early scripts, Ancient Hebrew was written like Hebrew and Arabic are today—without vowels and written from right to left. It is a right brain language, says Sacks, because to understand the meaning of any word, “you have to understand the total context in which it occurs.”

It was then translated into Greek which was the worlds first left brain language.

Rabbi Sacks explains further:

‘We can go farther still and speculate how Christianity became a synthesis of the two. Its founder was Jewish and steeped in the religious values of Judaism. But the first Christian texts were written and read in Greek. The result was a set of right-brain ideas transcribed into a left-brain alphabet and culture. Out of that creative tension, Western civilisation was born.

Western society over the last thousand years has further added to this by preferring left brain thinking.  It has elevated left brain activities to the neglect of right brain thinking.

Rationality and verbally centered mental processes often asscoiated with masculinity are left brain activities.  These have been elevated whilst at the same time, right brain thinking which is intuitive, imaginative and holistic thinking is associated with feminine modes and processes and has been devalued and looked at condecendingly.  This is patriarchy.

Patriarchy

Patriarchy is a system where men hold the power and domination.  This has been the system of the Church since its earliest days.  Women and right brain thinking is seen as a negative, weak and emotional beings.  Thus we get women as the weaker vessel.  Women are too emotional, women need to submit etc, etc,.  Dualist thinking has added to this by subscribing to the belief that women are primarily vessels of sexuality.  They are then ‘sexualised’, they are more evil, like Eve they are not to be trusted.

Our society has consistently favoured masculine values and attitudes and has neglected it’s feminine counterparts.

“We have favoured self assertion over integration, analysis over synthesis, rational knowledge over intuitive wisdom science over religion, competiion over cooperation, expansion over conservation (F.Capra).

Strangely left and brain functions are not gender oriented.  In fact the most healthy people have a good balance of both.  The two sides working together harmoniously would be the unification of science and religion, ‘sacred and secular’, and dare I say it to the atheists amongst us, the unity between God and humanity, both of which are so rigidly (and artificially) separated in our world (Ref).

The human mind is the product of both hemispheres. If the connections between them are broken, the result is dysfunction of the personality. We need both: the analytical left brain that allows us to take things apart to see how they work, and the integrative right brain that puts things together to see what they mean. Rabbi Stacks

The same is true for religious systems or churches.  If the connections between right and left brain activities are broken the result is a dysfunction of the system.

The teaching of Jesus tells us that we are all created equal.  There is no male, no female.  He says that our Christianity will be known by our love, not by our left brain thinking or male superiority nor by our rule book or how many hoops we jump through.  Jesus came to free us from oppressive and authoritarian processes, to bring freedom to those who are captive and to bring good news.

The ancient Hebrews were big picture thinkers.  They operated out of holistic thinking whereas left brain thinking compartmentalises and  works with small components.  This has a huge bearing on how the bible is to be understood (Ref).  On how the gospel is to be interpreted.  We must not use the bible to fit our own narrow version of God.

So I finish with the question that I asked at the beginning:

‘Has the teaching and practice of religion served as a vehicle of unifying or separation?’.

A little more on left and right brain thinking that Mercedes Benz used in their advertising campaign:

Left brain: I am the left brain. I am a scientist. A mathematician. I love the familiar. I categorize. I am accurate. Linear. Analytical. Strategic. I am practical. Always in control. A master of words and language. Realistic. I calculate equations and play with numbers. I am order. I am logic. I know exactly who I am.

Right brain: I am the right brain. I am creativity. A free spirit. I am passion. Yearning. Sensuality. I am the sound of roaring laughter. I am taste. The feeling of sand beneath bare feat. I am movement. Vivid colors. I am the urge to paint on an empty canvas. I am boundless imagination. Art. Poetry. I sense. I feel. I am everything I wanted to be.

References:

F capra, the Tao of Physics, 1991, edition, 15.

https://patrickcox.wordpress.com/2011/12/07/a-right-brain-religion-translated-into-a-left-brain-language/

Rabbi Sacks:  http://www.rabbisacks.org/right-hemisphere-brain-knits-tgthr/

Dr Carol Head:  https://drcarolhead.com.au/tag/left-hemisphere/

 

If the work here is meaningful to you, you can partner with me in a very real way through Patreon.com.

Patreon allows me to get support for the work that I do on this blog.    Patreon allows people to financially pledge to support artists, writers, musicians, and other creative people. Sunday Everyday has been on line since the first of February 2015.  Since that time I have been doing this in a volunteer capacity.  For the blog to continue I need your support.  You may want to give the amount you would spend on a coffee and muffin once a month or you may wish to pledge $50.00 a month or more.  Every bit helps.

Please help support my ministry and magnify my voice by pledging.

Thanks for considering.

Love Lisa

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