Category Archives: Kingdom of God

Burn Your Boats!

Burn Your BoatsTotal commitment is rare in our culture. Most people would rather duck out of it when the going gets rough or tough. Commitment is a promise to be loyal to someone or something…to give oneself totally. It means “you can count on me no matter what!”

Many would rather sit back and wait to see what happens. If something is successful then they are willing to hop on the train. And…if not, then they will hit the eject button and they are out of there. Sadly this permeates our culture. And yes, it is especially true in the church.

Yet commitment is the foundation of success in whatever one chooses to do. In 1519, Hernan Cortez sailed from Spain to the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico with the purpose of conquering the Aztec Empire. He landed on the sandy shore with 500 soldiers, 100 sailors, and 16 or so horses (by most standards not a very impressive military force to conquer a an empire which had withstood every invasion for over 600 years).

Once on shore, Cortez began building the courage of his force, while at the same time fueling their dreams of glory with stories of the fantastic treasures that awaited them. For several days he held seminars in which he described the richs of the Aztecs. At night he had pep rallies to encourage and pump up his soldiers. As they trained on the beach and sharpened this military skills and maneuvers, Cortez spoke eloquently of the the glory and the riches that would belong to each man once their conquest was completed. These soldiers were eager, excited, and energized!

Once the day dawned for Spanish conquistadors to march inland, Cortez gave a simple three word command…”Burn the boats!” He then repeated the command, “Burn the boats! If we are going home we will go in their boats.” As they watch from shore, 11 ships, their only way home, went up in flames.

There was now no turning back. Cortez and his little army were now fully committed. History records that this little army conquered one of the mightiest empires in the Americas.

How? They were fully commited. They had no back up plan and no other option except death.

Jesus is still looking for men and women who are willing to give him that level of commitment. There is no such thing as a partial commitment. You are either all in or you are on the outside looking in. Jesus put it this way in Luke 9:62: “No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back is fit for the kingdom of God.

Burn your boats! If you plan to get home you will have to go in Jesus’ boat.

Crisis: Religion or Relationship (Part 1)

 

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Crisis (Part 1)

Fasting is tough. I am eighteen days into a 40 day fast from religion, as are many of the members of Eagle’s Wing Church where I pastor. We are driven by a desperate hunger and a passionate desire to experience a genuine relationship with God. Our desire is to know God rather than the facts or things that point us to God. We want to personally experience God and his love rather than live off the past experiences others.

Perhaps you’re wondering—why a fast from religion? Isn’t religion a good thing? Isn’t religion all about God?

Let me define religion. Religion is a system that must be practiced so that perfection can be reached. On the other hand, relationship is a heart-to-heart connection with a real person. You can’t have a relationship with a system. Relationship requires two people (not a person working a system). Jesus came to pay the price of sin so he might restore our ability to walk in communion with God—to have a personal relationship with him. Relationship is pursued,  while religion is practiced. And in this case practice will never make us perfect.

Our hearts yearn for relationship. We are born with a hunger to be loved and to give love in return. God created us that way. And he created a deep craving within all of us that can only be satisfied by a genuine relationship with him. God is relational. It is a part of his nature. Relationship starts in the heart of God.

Humanity created religion because we like systems where we can achieve things on our own. For some reason, we want to do it our way, rather than God’s way. Religion demands a pseudo perfection that is somehow achieved through rigorous practice and good works. The problem with that is we can’t rise to the measure of perfection God requires. Otherwise the death of Christ on the cross was a tragic waste.

The modern Christian church is in crisis. Most preach salvation by grace but then we turn around and try our hardest to achieve God’s favor, love, and blessings through works and activities. That’s religion, not relationship. Most believers attempt to connect with God through religion—through the system. But the only way we can make this heart-to-heart connection is through relationship.

For the next several weeks I want to share the subtle deception of religion and the satisfying depth of relationship through this blog. I encourage you to join us in a forty day fast from religion. If you will commit—God will bless you and set you free from religion’s crushing coils.

How do you start? Simply ask the Holy Spirit to show you anything in your spiritual life that is smacks or smells of religion. That may be a belief, a doctrine, a cherished idea or practice. It could be anything. As the Holy Spirit exposes those hidden things, confess them and move on. Invite the Holy Spirit to examine all your beliefs, doctrines, practices, and way of thinking. Don’t be afraid to invite him in to those things—he should be at home in all of them or that belief is not from God. That’s it!

You may be thinking there’s got to be more to it than this. What are the rules? If you need more rules than I’ve shared, you can start right there with that thought—it’s riddled with religion!

Reclaiming Biblical Healing (Part 8)

The Jewish belief of a Messiah who would come and rule over Israel was, and still remains, a part of their eschatology. This deliverer would be a direct descendant of King David, consecrated by the Holy Spirit (the anointing oil of God), and would sit on the Davidic throne and rule God’s kingdom during the Messianic age. He would be the Anointed One, meaning he would embody the anointed ministry of prophet, priest, and king. In the ancient prophecies of the coming Messiah a clue was hidden that would clearly distinguish his identity from all the other pseudo saviors who would, in time, arise in Israel.

That defining clue in recognizing the Messiah’s identity was his ability to heal. The chief texts from which the Jewish theologians and rabbis developed this belief were found in Isaiah 35:3-5, Isaiah 29:18-19, and Isaiah 61:1. As they studied the Scriptures, it was clear that amazing level of healing he possessed would separate him from the rest. Sadly with the destruction of the nation of Israel in 586 B.C., the Jews began looking for a “son of David” who would come as a conquering king, rid them of foreign control, and re-establish their nation as a world power.

In the 1st century, John the Baptist declared in no uncertain terms that Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah when he proclaimed, “Behold the Lamb of God. He is the One who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.” Jesus was anointed (baptized) as the Spirit of God descended and rested on him at his baptism. He left the Jordan and went into the wilderness “full of the Holy Spirit,” where he was tested by the devil over a period of forty days. After victoriously overcoming each temptation, Jesus (“full of the Holy Spirit”) went to his hometown and entered the synagogue and quoted the Messianic passage from Isaiah 61:1 and declared it fulfilled.

In Jesus’ day, the rabbis had divided miracles into two specific categories: (1) those that anyone who was empowered could do, and (2) the miracles only the Messiah would be capable of doing. Those that identified the Messiah were very distinct.

imagesFirst, the Messiah would heal a leper. They believed that only God could heal leprosy—an awful disease that slowly disfigured and ultimately killed the person infected with it. Leprosy was believed to be the judgment of God and rendered a person ceremonially unclean. The last Jewish person healed of leprosy in Israel prior to the coming of Jesus was Mariam in the days of Moses almost 1,500 years earlier. In Mark 1:40-42, Jesus touched a leper, healing the unclean and making him clean again. Later, he would heal ten lepers at one time.

imagesThe second Messianic healing miracle was the healing of a person demonized by a spirit of muteness, which left the person unable to speak. Exorcism was common in Israel, but for these exorcists to have success a lengthy ritual was performed that required the demon to give up its name. To cast it out they must possess the wicked spirit’s name. A mute person could not speak and thus the demon would not give up its name or leave. Jesus did not need a name. He exercised the power of God in Matthew 9:32-34 to set a mute man free. The crowd recognized the miracle and said so—“Nothing like this was ever seen in Israel.” The Pharisees, on the other hand, claimed Jesus was using the power of Satan to heal. But, to add an exclamation point to the fact that Jesus was the Messiah, he did it again in Matthew 12:22-23—prompting the people to begin asking, “Could this be the Son of David?”

The Pharisees responded again that he was doing it through the power of Satan. Why? Because they recognized that only the Messiah could do this, but Jesus did not fit their Messianic picture or their narrow, ritualistic theological system. They could not refute his miracles, so they attempted to smear and diminish his character in the eyes of the people. In fact, the Talmud, which is one of the central texts of Judaism and consists of commentary and explanation of the Mosaic Law, states that “Jesus was hanged on a tree for using sorcery.” Meaning, he was crucified for using demonic magic in his healing.

imagesThe third and final miraculous healing sign of the Messiah was that he would heal those who had been born blind. The apostle John records this particular miracle as one of seven signs found in his gospel that validated the deity of Jesus. John gives it a complete chapter (10). This miracle caused a major uproar and even a division among the Pharisees.

In his darkest moment, John the Baptist sent word from prison asking Jesus, “Are you the Expected One?” Jesus did not rebuke him, but rather sent this word back—“Go report to John what you have seen and heard; the blind recover sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have the gospel preached to them. And blessed is he who keeps from stumbling over Me” (Luke 7:22-23).

Many would say Jesus did these works to prove his identity. Yet Jesus knew who he was and those who exercised their faith recognized him as such. The primary reason he did these miracles and all the others was to demonstrate God’s heart of love and compassion for those who were suffering from the attacks of the devil and the void left by man’s practice of empty religion. He performed them to demonstrate the message not simply prove it. The message of Jesus—the gospel of the kingdom—is true with or without the miracles.

By the way, God has never seeks to prove who he is to humanity—he simply reveals it. It’s up to you and me to believe and see—not see and believe!

 

Reclaiming Biblical Healing (Part 6)

If the words that have been wasted on debating what the will of God is and is not were collected and stored, the warehouse space needed would force all of us off this planet. This is especially true in the area of healing. Is it God will? If it’s God’s will? What is God’s will? The answer to those questions and a thousand more just like them is…Jesus! Jesus is perfect theology. If you want to see what God looks like or thinks like in high definition—3-D—just look at Jesus. Jesus is, was, and will forever be the invisible God made visible.

If you want to know what God is interested in—take a long hard look at Jesus. An honest and unprejudiced reading of the first chapters of the Gospel of Mark, believed by many scholars to be the earliest account of Jesus life and ministry, show that the message of the kingdom was demonstrated and proclaimed through his ministry of preaching, teaching, and healing. Jesus preached the present reality of the kingdom of God—accessible to all and literal present among the people he encountered. He taught his followers how to relate their lives to God and the kingdom. And—he healed, bringing physical, emotional, and mental health to those sick in body and mind due to physical affliction or demonization.

Twenty percent of the four Gospels (727 verses out of 3,779) record the healings of Jesus and the discussions and controversies they spawned. Healing must be very important to God the Father if the Holy Spirit dedicated one-fifth of his space about the life and ministry of the incarnate Son of God and recorded his healing ministry in those gospels. There are no wasted words in Scripture! The Holy Spirit was not chasing rabbit trails—he had a divine purpose. Healing was a central ministry of Jesus, and if Jesus did it, then perhaps we should pay far more attention to it, and…just maybe, be doing it ourselves as his body.

There are 41 distinct instances where physical, emotional, or mental healings were recorded in the four Gospels (72 accounts in all including duplications). These by no means represent every person Jesus healed because Scripture tells us Jesus sometimes healed “all” who came to him—meaning large crowds and even whole towns. Healing was a major part of his ministry.

What can we learn from this? Several things arise, and these truths are essential seeds that must take root and bear fruit in our belief system if we are to fulfill the promise of Jesus—that we would do what he did and even greater things (John 14:12).

First, Jesus believed that God “is healing”—present tense—right now! He demonstrated that reality every time he encountered a sick person. He believed he had been anointed with power and authority to bring the kingdom of God—the domain of the King—from heaven to earth. He did not believe “God could heal if he wanted to.” Jesus did not have to pray and see “if it was God’s will to heal.” He acted! He knew it was God’s will because healing is a part of God’s nature. Healing is who God is (God revealed himself to Moses and the Israelites as Jehovah Rapha—I Am that I Am Healer). Who God is reveals God’s will. He has not changed.

Secondly, Jesus believed sickness, affliction, paralysis, and infirmity were from the devil. They were not sent by God. This belief was evident in his words and actions. The religious system of his day taught all sickness was the result of sin in a person’s life, the life of his parents, or ancestors. It was God’s judgment. In other words, sickness comes from God. Healing could come only if one repented, confessed that sin to a priest, and offered the appropriate sacrifice.  The ministry of Jesus was in direct opposition to their traditions, interpretations, and religious systems—but not the Mosaic Law. Jesus fulfilled that law and perfectly obeyed it.

Jesus never made repentance a requirement for physical healing. He simply healed people. In his mind and by his actions, healing and forgiveness were synonymous. Remember, sozo (Greek for “save or salvation”) means forgiveness of sin, deliverance from torment, and physical healing. If sickness did not come from God, then it must have come through the devil. There is no sickness in heaven. There is no disease in the throne room of God. Jesus was demonstrating God’s will. Heaven was touching earth.

Peter proclaimed to Cornelius’ house that Jesus healed all who were oppressed by the devil (Acts 10:38). Jesus stated in John 10:10 that the thief takes life, but that he gives life. Sickness and disease take life, they do not give life. Jesus did not act or believe that sickness was the will of God. Instead he gave life each time he healed a person. If sickness is the will of God, then God the Father and God the Son were fighting one another and this is simply not possible. If it was not the will of God in Jesus’ day—it is not the will of God today!

Finally, Jesus did not heal every sick person who was alive in his day. But, he healed every person who came to him for healing. There are no exceptions! His healings were not dependent on faith either. He healed those who had great faith and others who had little or no faith. He healed organic diseases where structure or tissue was damaged. He healed functional disorders where organs or parts of the body were not operating properly.  He healed the demonized who were afflicted in mind, body, and soul. He healed them all, and rejected none who came to him.

Tell me—what has change? Has God changed or have we changed? Far too many people believe sickness is either God’s judgment or a tool God uses so that through suffering we might become better Christians. Who should we believe—the empty theologies of men or the inerrant, inspired, and infallible Word of God as demonstrated and proclaimed by Jesus?

Reclaiming Biblical Healing (Part 3)

Salvation, according to the gospel of the kingdom that Jesus preached, is far more than forgiveness of sins. It is also deliverance from torment and healing of the body. That is total salvation—the salvation Jesus came to restore to men and women who were totally lost in spirit, soul, and body. Over the past 1,700 years we have lost or misplaced two-thirds of what Jesus reclaimed as the last Adam.

Perhaps you are struggling with these statements. Perhaps your mind is filling with a thousand questions or that horrible little conjunction of unbelief—but…but…but! Please don’t shut me off. Read the rest of these blogs and if you are unwilling to accept these statements—that’s up to you. But please consider what the Bible has to say.

God is calling his body—his church—to be a “house of healing”—a place where those who are lost, or tormented, or sick can find the gift of salvation (forgiveness, deliverance, or healing) God sent his Son to die for. The fact that this belief must be argued and proved is evidence that the church has lost most of the treasure Christ won at the cross. Unbelief, ignorance, excuses, abuse, misuse, a desire to control, sin, faulty philosophies/theologies, and the enemy have robbed us of our rightful inheritance from God. As a result, the church is, for the most part, powerless, huddled in foxholes praying that Jesus would return and save us—when he has already done that—spirit, soul, and body, and authorized us to put on our butt kicking boots and kick down the gates of hell.

Some people believe God no longer heals, that healing was something that ended with the last apostle or the canonization of the Bible. Others believe God can heal—meaning he has the power to do so if he wants to (if he wants to?). My question is, “Where in the world did you get either of those ideas, because it certainly was not from the Bible.” Does anyone out there really believe God wants to heal—that he is healing? Believing he will because it is a part of the package Christ purchased on the cross is far different than believing he can if he wants to. Whatever you believe—it is God’s will to save by destroying the effects of sin on the spirit through the forgiveness of sin, on the soul by delivering it from torment, and on the body through healing its diseases. That’s the definition of the world Jesus chose to use. Plus he did so by showing us God’s heart in the matter and demonstrating God’s will through his words and actions.

Sadly our belief systems are based more on what we have been taught for generations or not seen or experienced, rather than on what the Bible declares and Jesus demonstrated. Will you allow your lack of or limited experiences determine the level of your faith? Faith is not “seeing is believing,” but rather “believing to see.” Without faith it is impossible to please God and God has not changed since the days he walked this planet in preparation for giving his life to bring us total salvation.

Settler or Explorer!

imagesFaith is far more than trusting in God for your eternal salvation. Faith is the currency of the kingdom of God, the key asset for living a supernatural lifestyle. Which, after all, is the only lifestyle Jesus called us to live.

God is forming for himself a people of faith who are comfortable living more in the unseen world than in the tangible world. The unseen is just as real as the tangible, but without faith we cannot believe it, much less conceive it and walk in it. If we have to see it first with our eyes we will never reach the levels God has destined us to walk in. The paradox of the supernatural life: believing is seeing!

Most Christians are unbelieving believers. They are saved by grace but refuse to buy into the supernatural job description of what it means to be a Christian (a little Christ). Oh, we say we believe God can do what he says he will do (his promises) but we are terrified of stepping out into the unseen and proving it. We are not shy in talking about our faith. The problem arises when we are forced to demonstrate that level of faith. If we are unwilling to demonstrate what we say we believe, we really don’t believe what we say we believe.

Instead of pressing into God and pushing the boundaries of our beliefs to the extremes in our pursuit of fully realizing his promises, most have settled for far less than God guaranteed. We have become settlers. Settlers move into an area and occupy it. They build towns and live out their lives in fortified, secure settlements. They refuse to venture too far past the boundaries of what is considered safe, acceptable, and orthodox. They settle for what is rather than what might be or what God says is.

Hebrews 11:1 says, “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things no seen.” These things that are hoped for are the fulfillment of God’s promises not our own selfish hopes and dreams. In other words, faith is the title deed (the assurance) and the proof (the conviction) that his promises are ours even though we have not seen its fulfillment. Faith is making the journey to establish ownership and the process of exploring what you have been given—what is already yours.

Settlers don’t explore—settlers settle. God is seeking a people who will become explorers—men and women that will push the boundaries of what is known or deemed safe and acceptable. Explorers always believe there is more around the next turn or beyond the next hill. They have an insatiable hunger for more. They believe God has more, and thus they refuse to settle for less. Explorers exert their faith by taking one more step into the frontier—into the unknown—when everyone else decides to stop…and settle.

Faith grows as we hear and act on Christ’s words. Explorers act and pursue what they’ve heard, while settlers build monuments, museums, shrines, and stick brass plaques on what they’ve heard. Settlers never taste the supernatural lifestyle, but the supernatural becomes the natural life experience of an explorer.

Which one will you choose to be—an explorer or a settler?

Standing Firm (Part 15)

Let’s start with the most important thing first. To begin with—you must know that you know that you know Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior. Do you? I am not asking you if you walked a church aisle, talked to a preacher, knelt at an altar, or prayed a prayer. I am asking you—do you know Jesus Christ personally? That is, have you the experienced the life-changing transformation he brings from the inside out from having a genuine relationship with him? Have you placed your complete trust in him? You can’t stand firm if you don’t know Jesus.

People often confuse church attendance, baptism, Bible reading, prayer, giving, mission work, or ministry as evidence that they are saved. Busyness and church activity do not save you—Jesus does! Do you know that you know that you know Jesus Christ? This is not a hope so, this is a know so. Are you intimately acquainted with him? Only you and God know the answer to this question beyond a shadow of a doubt. Make sure your answer is yes—not maybe—not I think so—not I hope so.

Secondly, do you understand what that relationship entitles you to? Have you grasped and begun to embrace the benefits of those blessings? It is far more than a free trip to heaven for eternity. It is far more than just eternal life. Have you grasped what it means to be in Christ?

Being in Christ means you have a secure position of victory. Jesus has defeated the enemy and you are in Christ, which means as long as you rest in that positional security you cannot be defeated. According to Ephesians 1:3, God has blessed you with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ. Every means all! In other words, what Jesus possesses right now is available to you because of your position in Christ.

Most believers have no clue of the power or potential contained in these blessings because they have been taught that those things are only available once you get to heaven. Listen closely, eternal life began the moment you came to faith in Christ. You need these things now to live the abundant life Jesus promised. We won’t need spiritual armor or spiritual gifts in heaven. We won’t be doing spiritual warfare up there. Much of our spiritual inheritance is available now so that we can live obediently and faithfully as son and daughters of the King.

God has equipped us for kingdom living, but we must embrace our position of being in Christ to fully experience it!