God’s Kingdom or the Magic Kingdom

culturally-relevantEvery Christian and church that has a heart towards Jesus wants to see His influence in the earth.  They want to labor together with Him so people can experience Christ and His kingdom.   What are important keys to impacting the culture around us?  For many it is becoming relevant and incarnational.  Like Paul they want to “become all things to all men that by any means win some” 1 Cor 9:18-22.   It includes going to places where unbelievers go, using current artistic expression, language, clothing, technology, coffee shops, tattoos and the list goes on and on.

While some of these things are important I still find myself looking at what it was that caused the early church in a matter of a few short years to impact the whole earth in their day.  One of the things that stands out was seen in a riot that was caused by Christians going to Thessalonica.

Act 17:1-8…4  And some of them were persuaded (became Christians)…5  But the Jews, becoming jealous and taking along some wicked men from the market place, formed a mob and set the city in an uproar… 6  When they did not find them, they began dragging Jason and some brethren before the city authorities, shouting, “These men who have upset the world (disturbed, turned it upside down) have come here also;  7  and Jason has welcomed them, and they all act contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, Jesus.” 

“Disturbed, upset, turned the world upside down” now that’s what I call impact!  What was the thing the angry crowds pointed to.  It certainly wasn’t their relevance or Christianity in cultural attire.  “They all act contrary to the way Caesar shows us how to live.”  Why did they act different?  “There is another king Jesus!”  In other words there was another one ruling their lives.  It wasn’t culture, current trends, or current values that directed them.  It was King Jesus and that is why they were making in impact.

The idea of “King Jesus” speaks of God’s Kingdom.  Kingdom is the Kings-domain.  The Bible says a lot about the Kingdom.  It was Jesus’ first message, and it is to be our first priority (seek first the Kingdom) in both living and prayer (Mt 6:10, Lk 11:2-3).  Linguist and Bible translators call the word “Kingdom” a “verbal noun.” It means it is a “thing” that is “active.”  The best way to understand the “Kingdom” is that it is the active rulership of God.   The active rulership of God expressed in and through His people is the cornerstone of all Kingdom impact in the earth!!!!

God Kingdom (Not the Magic Kingdom) is What Makes Impact

I remember how special Sunday nights were growing up.  I could not wait until my favorite show came on TV  “The Wonderful  World of Disney.”  My wife’s siblings would have a Sunday night tradition of popcorn, apples, and their once a week treat, soda pop, while watching Disney.

Every Sunday night on major network television from 1954 -1990 the Wonderful World of Disney would open up looking at Cinderella’s http://youtu.be/sHrYDL9LkIQ Castle with bright colors and fireworks going off while the great Disney theme songs playing in the background.  One of the songs that played became a classic from the 1940 moving “Pinocco” called “When You Wish Upon a Star.”  The song has since become the representative song for the Walt Disney Company.  The American Film Institute ranked it the highest ranked Disney animated film song of all time.

All the Disney parks have come to be known under the heading of the  “Magic Kingdom.”  The song “When You Wish Upon a Star” represents the ethic of this Kingdom.

When you wish upon a star.  Makes no difference who you are.  Anything your heart desires will come to you.  If your heart is in your dream.  No request is too extreme.  When you wish upon a star as dreamers do.  Faith is kind.  She brings to those she loves.  The sweet fulfillment of their secret longing.  Like a bolt out of the blue.  Fate steps in and sees you through.  When you wish upon a star your dreams come true.

While this conveys the heart of the Magic Kingdom many people approach God’s Kingdom with the same motivation.  They simply substitute “Jesus” or “the church” for their “star.”  When you wish upon Jesus…when you decide to go to church…anything your heart desires will come to you…when you wish upon Jesus/the church you dreams come true.

There has always been a propensity to focus on the blessings of God as means of personal gain (Timothy faced this in Ephesus 1Ti 6:5-6  and constant friction between men of depraved mind and deprived of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain.)  It seems like today however in the mega/seeker/culturally friendly environment this emphasis rules the day.

This was brought home recently when the wife of one of the largest, most recognized leaders in the United States gave an exhortation that almost immediately went viral and caused much controversy.  The consumer driven culturally relevant exhortation sounded more like the ethic of the Magic Kingdom instead of the Kingdom of God.  Here is what she said that went viral.

So, I just want to encourage everyone of us to realize, when we obey God, we’re not doing it for God—(I mean that’s one way to look at it)—we’re doing it for ourself because God takes pleasure when we’re happy! That’s the thing that gives Him the greatest joy this morning. So I want you to know this morning, just do good for your own self. Do good because God wants you to be happy. When you come to church, when you worship Him, you’re not doing it for God really. You’re doing it for yourself! Because that’s what makes God happy! Amen?

When you wish upon Jesus, or come to church is the primary motivation that our dreams come true?  While the Magic Kingdom has influenced the earth we want to see God’s Kingdom be the thing we labor to see influence or self consumed, narcissistic, consumer driven culture that desperately needs Christ.


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Two Important Aspects of Successful Spiritual Warfare Pt 2

warfareIn the last post “The two important aspects of successful spiritual warfare Pt 1” we looked at a couple of essential ideas for success in spiritual warfare that are often overlooked.  They are taken from the often used passage on warfare by the apostle Paul.  Eph 6:10-18  Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might.  11  Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil.  12  For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.  13  Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.  14  Stand firm therefore…

In teachings on spiritual warfare many immediately go to various thoughts about the armor of God but overlook two important features that are essential in conjunction with the armor.  The two issues are “be strong in the Lord and the strength of His might” and “stand firm.”  Standing firm is mentioned three times in the passage.  Standing firm means “To make a stand, to hold, stationary, to hold on, or dig your heels in.”  This is a similar idea Peter used in his instruction on warfare with the enemy.  Peter uses the phrase “resist him, firm in your faith” which is similar to “standing firm.”   1 Peter 5:8-9 NASB  Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.  (9But resist him, firm in your faith…

Standing firm or resisting firm in your faith is about holding convictions about our identity and God’s mission without compromise in the face of opposition.

There are always two goals the enemy is trying to accomplish in spiritual warfare.

1. Get us to question identity – Both our identity and/or God’s.

2. From that place of questioning desert or pervert His mission. 

Wilderness Temptation (Luke 4:1-13, Matthew, 4:1-11)

The enemy tried this with Jesus in wilderness temptationthe temptation in the wilderness.  The way Jesus responded gives us important examples in standing firm and resisting.

The first temptation:   The enemy introduced a question about His identity “if you are the Son of God tell this stone to become bread.”   Jesus was hungry after fasting for 40 days.  The enemy tried to get Him to question His identity and then elevate a legitimate need above His mission.  The temptation was to reduce hearing from God and following His mission to a secondary place.   Jesus resisted this by quoting the word of God, Matthew 4:4 But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘MAN SHALL NOT LIVE ON BREAD ALONE, BUT ON EVERY WORD THAT PROCEEDS OUT OF THE MOUTH OF GOD.'”

The second temptation:  The enemy tried to get Him to choose a shorter and easier road to fulfilling His mission.   The devil showed Jesus “all the kingdoms of the world” and offered them to Him.  Why did he do this?  This was really part of Jesus’ mission.  All the kingdoms of the world were destined to become His kingdom Revelation 11:15.  Think what he was offering Jesus.  He could forgo all the years on earth with the disciples, the opposition of religious people,and the suffering of the cross.  He could fulfill it now and not have to endure or suffer.

Over the years I have seen myself and other Christians offered easier paths than the one that God set before them as part of His mission.  In those times a cross is offered as well as a way out.  One of my crosses years ago was leaving an advancing career in law enforcement, taking a 50% cut in salary, and moving my family into an apartment above an old funeral home in a town 5 hours away.  I could have justified avoiding it by rationally thinking “by keeping my current job I can continue to advance and  have more influence, more money to tithe, and continued service in a great church.”  All good things but not His mission.

Jesus refused to take an easier path and resisted the devil firmly  Luke 4:8 Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘YOU SHALL WORSHIP THE LORD YOUR GOD AND SERVE HIM ONLY.'”

The third temptation:  The enemy introduced another question to His identity and tried to get Him to prove it by taking an action, “if you are the Son of God throw yourself down from here.”  He even added the Bible to the equation,  “it is written HE WILL COMMAND HIS ANGELS CONCERNING YOU TO GUARD YOU…”

This is also a common trick.  The enemy gets us to question our identity or God’s then tries to get us to prove it by doing something,  even a Biblical thing.  It is never a good idea to try to prove God’s, or our identity by doing something, even a Biblical thing in or own effort or leading.  We are only to move in what God is leading us to do.  The motive of proving identity (God’s our ours) is futile when we do it out of our own initiative.

Jesus would have nothing to do with that trick.  He again stood firm on God’s word,  Luk 4:12  And Jesus answered and said to him, “It is said, ‘YOU SHALL NOT PUT THE LORD YOUR GOD TO THE TEST.'”

After the temptation the devil departed and waited for a more opportune time to tempt Jesus.  Luke 4:13 NASB  When the devil had finished every temptation, he left Him until an opportune time.  We must remember that there will always be more temptations and warfare in our future.

Three important points about standing firm in resisting the enemy in spiritual warfare from the temptation in the wilderness.

1. All temptation first tries to get us to question identity, both God’s and ours by the “if, then” rational.  If you are this…then.  If God is really God…then…

2. The nature of all demonic temptation is to get us to desert or pervert mission.   This is done by giving up totally or take an easier or different path than the one God has for us on mission.

3. Resist the enemy by standing on and quoting God’s word.  This is part of “resisting him firm in the faith.”  It is not just enough to yell at or bind the devil.  By firmly declaring God’s word we are reminding ourselves and resisting the demonic by confessing our intension to follow God’s mission with His identity.

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