According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for this world to recreate, reclaim, redeem, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater
Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger
Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton
I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. – anon
Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII
Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut
Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest
People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. – anon
Certainly God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater
An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater
Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann
Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument. There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner
Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14)
Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton
The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens we show to the world what love, justice, peace, reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. – anon
The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul
The Unity in whose loving presence the universe unfolds is inside each person as a call to welcome the stranger, protect animals and the earth, respect the dignity of each person, think new thoughts, and help bring about ecological civilizations. - John Cobb & Farhan A. Shah
If you board the wrong train it is of no use running along the corridors of the train in the other direction. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer
God's justice is restorative rather than punitive; His discipline is merciful rather than punishing; His power is made perfect in weakness; and His grace is sufficient for all. – anon
Our little [biblical] systems have their day; they have their day and cease to be. They are but broken lights of Thee, and Thou, O God art more than they. - Alfred Lord Tennyson

Saturday, November 5, 2011

The Ethical and Redemptive Aspects of the Kingdom of God

"My contention would be that kingdom goodness is done
by kingdom people who live under King Jesus." - Scot McKnight

While understanding Scot's purpose in saying this and wanting to sympathize with his purebred insistence upon the Kingdom concept that only Kingdom people living under King Jesus can do Kingdom goodness, my personal position would be more on the other side of this statement....

...That God's Spirit rests upon all mankind, and that anyone who does the will of God (or the will of the Father for those Christians amongst us) may commit true Kingdom goodness. It's not so much the vessel that pours out God's goodness and ethics, but the Spirit Himself, through his vessels, be they beggarly or redeemed.

Conversely, we all know examples of redeemed Christians who do not commit acts of Kingdom goodness (which is where I feel these arguments again fall down here, however much I would wish to side with these sentiments). These believers are ones who lapse, or fail in their faith, do not trust God's leading, and submit to the spirit of man, the flesh, the devil, and sin. (I will avoid for now any discussions of a believer's positional justification / sanctification in Christ as versus a believer's practical failings and sins in his faith that reflect more his own spirit than that of Christ's work on the Cross).

However, I do agree with Scot in his distinction between God's ethical Kingdom and God's Redeemed Kingdom... there is a difference of residents in this concept. God's ethical Kingdom is inhabited by all mankind, some who will do God's will and some who will not. Just as in God's redemptive Kingdom there will be some who will do God's will and some who will not. HOWEVER, the main distinction here is that those in God's Redeemed Kingdom are just that - residents redeemed in Jesus' atonement and resurrection who have acknowledged their sin and need of a Savior.

Why do I say this? Because it correlates with one of the major themes of the Bible, that of "God's Remnant." Throughout both Testaments it can be seen that those believers who follow God through faith and obedience are designated by God as His sons and daughters. And that those who do not follow God through faith and obedience are not His sons and daughters. And by-and-large that group of spiritually faithful are usually less in number than those found in society at large, and are therefore known as the remnant of God for that very reason.

In the OT those believers exhibiting Abraham's faith were of God (I should someday like to better explain the importance and meaning of the Abrahamic Covenant, for it is very important indeed!).... In the NT that Abrahamic faith is crystallized into God's Son Jesus so that Jesus' Jewish disciples (Matthew, Mark, Peter, James, John, etc... and later, Paul in place of the appointed apostle Stephen whom he had stoned to death by Jewish fiat) went throughout the ancient Jewish world proclaiming the very personage of Christ in the Jewish synagogues.

Why? So that Jewish believers everywhere may worship God through His sent Messiah/Savior Jesus who completed their Covenants and Exile. For it was in Jesus that (1) the Jewish Covenants - the Abrahamic, the Mosaic (known as the Old Covenant), and the Davidic - found their conclusion through Jesus' divine Personage and work of Redemption. And it was also through the personage of Jesus that (2) Israel's spiritual exile from God concluded into assemblies of believers known as the Church. So then, in Jewish terms, Jesus is the end of the Covenants and the end of Israel's exile from God. Which explains John the Baptist's earlier mission to the Jews before Jesus; then Jesus' mission to the Jews; and then the disciples missions to the Jews before they went to all the world to bring in (reap, harvest) non-Jewish societies of Samaritans and Gentiles as the adoptive children of God.

In review, the Kingdom of God is a blood-bought Kingdom of faithful believers known as the remnant of God who are to live according to God's new charter called the New Covenant; are Covenant purchased and inscribed in Jesus; and avow to all the ethics and goodness found in the Kingdom. But more than that - these very same believers proclaim the Covenant-Maker, Christ Himself, through their lives, their work and duties, their worship and fellowship, and in their very acts of love, mercy, and righteousness.

Why? As witness and testimony to Jesus who is God, and came to redeem mankind, who is Love, Mercy and Righteousness in-and-of Himself. His children do as their Father does. Not because we have to. But because we are. And must. And follow our newly redeemed natures over the fallen nature still inscribed within us. That disturbs and mars the Image of God in us; that corrupts the spirit of Christ present; that groans the Spirit of God who indwells his faithful. It is a life-long battle that God wants to win because God's nature knows no darkness. He is light and light has no communion with darkness. It is powerless before He who is Light and Love. And man's fallen nature, even when redeemed, struggles with perfection until death comes and God takes him home to eternal rest, peace, light and joy, to be with his Spirit eternally.

So then, these are the Kingdom residents the Bible speaks of... they are God's adopted children who testify of their Savior; who live as a true Kingdom community of redeemed sinners; and who exhibit and obey the ethics of that Kingdom community. This Kingdom community is now known as the Church universal until that era passes when, in the future, Jesus returns (in an event called the "Parousia" in theological terms) to rule directly. At which point the Church era becomes the Kingdom era. And as the Church era uplifted the OT era from a Jewish monarchy to a fellowship of believers in Jesus. So the Church will be uplifted itself from an era of persecution and oppression to an era of freedom and liberty when Christ comes back to rule. (We call this an "eschalation" that is not-so-much "circular" as it is a "stretched, upwardly spiraling, coil" of historic proportions accounting for the linear movement of time, and the forward movement of God's spirit upon his creation to redeem it from sin. It also where we get the word "eschatology" which speaks of the end-times, the times to come when Jesus returns).

But God's rule is perfect. Which rule the Church attempts to live under and exhibit. Thus the Church is an "upside-down" Kingdom. Whose Kingdom characteristics or elements are not self-laudatory qualities. They seek the best from others, give fully of themselves to the "redemption" of other men and women found both in the body of Christ or outside the body of Christ. Jesus follower's (or born-again believers) are to be selfless in their service of God's love to all mankind. Love is what God is. And love is what God's children are, and are to be, however imperfectly we share God's love.  And then, in the Kingdom era to come, this service will be perfected, as it were, into all the realms of man's societies, man's rulings, man's communities. Love will flow throughout the world and with it, Truth and Justice.

Meanwhile, God's Spirit rests upon all men's hearts and kingdoms everywhere, including the very nature of man himself through God's Image and Pervasive Presence. And because of these truths we will witness the ethics and goodness of God's Rule (or Kingdom) even within the world of men, despite the interruptions of man's fallenness, sin and devil. Thus, that portion of society not submitted to God's work of redemption through His Son Jesus, though residing as God's creation (and who may be pervasively known as God's "children" through God's very act of creation itself) are not known by God as His redeemed remnant (or, redeemed "children"). The importance is more than colloquial, it's very meaning carries eternity in it. And by import, our eternity starts now, in this life. Today. Within linear time and space. Within our personal histories to one another as to God Himself (which has been Rob Bell's main argument in the book, Love Wins).

And so it can be said, the Kingdom of God has come to men and women, even though it has always been present through God's creational acts from Genesis forward, and in His very-present Sovereign activity working within our fallen, self-willed, sinful worlds. Including the sinful "will" or "bent" of the creative order itself (see link here). Further, the Kingdom of God comes especially through Jesus who is the fulfillment of the Abrahamic Covenant in His person as Suzzerainty-King; who is the fulfillment of the Mosaic (Old) Covenant's High Laws and Standards as both Priest and Lamb; and, who is the fulfillment of the Davidic Covenant as man's Lord and King.

It is in Jesus that a NEW Covenant is made with mankind, and more specifically, with the remnant of God who follow Jesus by faith. It is a New Covenant established in Jesus' bodily death and resurrection which fulfills all previously existing Covenants of God with His people. In essence, it is enlivened (as it always as been enlivened) through God's faithful remnant to all men or women everywhere (whether believing or not) who enact its charters of goodness and mercy, regardless of Covenantal (or Testamental) era. For God's rulership has always been present whether man has submitted to it or not. It is in the goodness of God - in His Love for His creation - that He continues to "redeem" our worlds of sin back to its once pristine order of holiness and fellowship with Himself. Which is what I think Scot McKnight is getting to in his earlier statement and can now be more fully appreciated in its ramifications.

For God's Kingdom is "here, but not fully." A heavenly Kingdom that lives in tension with the corporate kingdoms of men as well as in tension with the personal kingdoms of men's hearts. It calls all men everywhere to seek Jesus and become one with the rest of their spiritual brotherhood of blood-bought believers through faith in Christ. This is the call of God by His Spirit to convert and follow, to obey and believe, to count the cost and know it as nothing short of marvelous, majestic, sublime. And this then is what is meant by God's REDEEMED Kingdom as versus God's ETHICAL Kingdom. It has all the heart and none of the constrictions of God's blessed Being and fellowship. We are part of Him now. And part of God's Worlds already here and growing in fulfillment to His will. 

Thanks Scot for bringing this important distinction back before us!

- RE Slater


* * * * * * * * * * * *


Steve Jobs’ Legacy: Kingdom Work?
November 3, 2011

The word “kingdom” is perhaps the flabbiest term being used by Christians today. In fact, many who like “kingdom” would rather they not be called “Christians.” This good word of Jesus’, which he inherited from his scriptures and from his Jewish world, has come to mean two wildly different things today: for some it means little more than personal redemption, that is, it means submitting personally to God as your king and Lord. Let’s call this the redemptive kingdom. For yet others it means the ethics connected with the kingdom, that is, it means wherever there is peace, justice, goodness, freedom, liberation … you name it … there is kingdom. Let’s call this the justice kingdom.

Before I raise my hand and speak from the floor in a way that many simply don’t like, I want to make two things clear: Yes, the kingdom needs to be connected to the redemptive powers at work in this world, and this can be found at times in Jesus’ teachings when he says things like

“if it is by the Spirit of God that I drive out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you” (Matthew 12:28).

And Yes there is an ethical dimension to this term, besides ideas like righteousness and zealous commitment and joy (as in Matthew 13), but also flat-out ethical categories like justice, as in Romans 14:17 - but which has much less support in the language of the Bible:

“For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” So, Yes, it is reasonable to see a redemptive kingdom and a justice kingdom.

My beef today is that too many today have abstracted the ethical ideals from Jesus’ kingdom vision, all but cut Jesus out of the picture, and then called anything that is just, peace, good and loving the “kingdom.” The result is this equation: kingdom means goodness, goodness means kingdom. Regardless of who does it.

My contention would be that kingdom goodness is done by kingdom people who live under King Jesus. I applaud goodness at large. This is not a question of either/or but whether or not all goodness is kingdom goodness. Some say Yes, I say No.

_______________________________________________


Please refer to my earlier observations at the beginning of this article.

- RE Slater
_______________________________________________


Here’s a really good example and I use this post on a blog because the author sent it to me and because it’s a great example of what we are talking about. I’m not picking on this piece and don’t want this conversation to be about this piece or about what this author says about Steve Jobs. I only want to show how goodness or usefulness and progress in society is sometimes called “kingdom.” In fact, Steve Jobs denied Christianity and was a Buddhist. This guy says Steve Jobs’ contribution to our society was kingdom.

There are hundreds of millions of people who can trace a tangible improvement in their livesdirectly to the labor of this man. In reflecting on that, without adequate mental categories for it, erroneous conclusions abound. Whether one concludes that Steve Jobs was a demigod, or that his life’s work to revolutionize the way people can interact with information was a petty and trivial waste of time, there seems to be a lot of confusion. I decided to write this essay because I think that the reflexive eulogizing of those hundreds of millions of people has roots in something more profound than delusional worship of the creator of the smartphone. 

Why did Steve Jobs’s life work strike such a personal chord with so many people? I’d like to suggest that the answer has to do with the kingdom of God….

At the risk of over-simplification, the kingdom of God is the realm where God’s will is done—where things work the way God wants. It requires some vivid imagining for people stuck in a bitterly broken world to conceive of such a kingdom. But if you let your mind roam, you might be able to sketch some outlines. Start with the obvious: no more meaningless suffering, no more inexplicable pain. No more sickness, no more death, perhaps not even any decay. Purpose and meaning are woven into the fabric of all experience. Work is productive. Love is the prevailing character of all interaction. Everything works the way it’s supposed to, for everyone. And at the heart of it all, there is perfect goodness—a person of inexplicable beauty and wisdom and perfection, sustaining the economic, social, physical and spiritual dynamics of all that takes place. In other words, words can’t do it justice, but it’s good.

But what does Steve Jobs’s life have to do with this kingdom? One of the things that Jesus taught was that the kingdom of God was “at hand.” Again, this probably means a lot of things, among them that people are called to participate in bringing the kingdom of God with us, “on earth as it is in heaven.” To labor with the goal of making things work the way God wants. Whether by taking a stand for social justice, or by fighting oppression and poverty, or by opposing all things that set themselves up against the way of God. By unlocking the spiritual and psychological chains that stunt people, or by pointing people to the path of freedom and maturity, or by working for the restoration of the natural world. By pleading with God to set things right in individual instances, and once and for all. The way I see it, Steve Jobs did this type of work.

For the immensity of his impact on modern life, he participated in the work of the kingdom in a small, but noteworthy, manner. He recognized the importance, and profound good, of having access to information – for solving problems, for connecting with other people, for experiencing music, for creating. You might say he recognized that, in the kingdom of God, the barriers to information and communication would be dissolved. And he realized the poignancy of creating truly beautiful tools for people to use for these purposes. Jobs was, to borrow a phrase from philosopher Dallas Willard, “free and powerful in the creation and governance of what is good.”On Tuesday night people publicly recognized, at the rate of 10,000 per second, that this was the story of Steve Jobs’s life.

Get out your Bible and find the references to kingdom and you will discover that it refers to a society in which God’s will is done, with Jesus as the King, where the Story of Israel finds its completion in the Story of Jesus and where that same Story of Jesus shapes everyone. Kingdom refers to that Davidic hope for the earthly world where God sets up his rule in the Messiah and where people live under that Messiah as God’s redeemed and liberated and healed and loving and peaceful and just people.

Yes, feeding the poor is good and it is God’s will for this world, whoever does it. But “kingdom” refers to that special society that does good under Jesus, that society that is buried in his death and raised in his resurrection and lives that Story out in our world today. It makes no sense to me to take this word of Jesus that he used to refer to what God was doing in and through him at that crucial new juncture in time and history and use it for something else.

At this point I want simply to mention that when the early Christians did “good” in society, they didn’t call it kingdom work but “doing good” or “benefaction” and 1 Peter has a few examples of this, including 1 Peter 2:13-15:
Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people. [Italics refer to those words of benevolence in the public realm.]
 

You are Beautiful



(You are) Beautiful by Mercy Me




God Is Love (1 John 4.7-21)
7Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 10In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.

13 By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. 14And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. 16So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. 17By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. 18There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. 19 We love because he first loved us. 20 If anyone says, "I love God," and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot[a] love God whom he has not seen. 21And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.


Song Lyrics

Days will come when you don't have the strength
When all you hear is you're not worth anything
Wondering if you ever could be loved
And if they truly saw your heart
They'd see too much

You're beautiful, You're beautiful
You are made for so much more than all of this
You're beautiful, You're beautiful
You are treasured, you are sacred, you are His
You're beautiful

and Praying that you have the heart to fight
Cuz you are more than what is hurting you tonight
For all the lies you've held inside so long
and they are nothing in the shadow of the cross

You're beautiful, You're beautiful
You are made for so much more than all of this
You're beautiful, You're beautiful
You are treasured, you are sacred, you are His
You're beautiful

Before you ever took a breath
Long before the world began
Of all the wonders He possessed
There was one more precious
Of all the earth and skies above
You're the one He madly loves
Enough to die

You're beautiful, You're beautiful
In His eyes

You're beautiful
You were meant for so much more than all of this
You're beautiful
You are treasured, you are sacred, you are His
You're beautiful, You're beautiful
You were meant for so much more than all of this
You're beautiful, You're beautiful
You are treasured
You are sacred
You are His













"Spoken For" by Mercy Me