The Kingdom is not Coercive

gun catPsalms says, “They will be volunteers in the day of Your power.”

The idea of tolerance and freedom of religion is, in essence, a Christian idea.

The modern world will deny this, of course. They will claim it is a humanistic idea, but as you read the ideas at the root of the formation of America, the right to choose what you believe is rooted in the idea of a Creator. While many of those men were Deists and not your modern conservative evangelicals, they considered the idea of a Creator and rights endowed by him as “self-evident.” That means we all know this, intrinsically, to be true.

Modern day humanism, in contrast, seeks the benefits of a Creator without acknowledging his existence.

At its core, Christianity is about love. Not modern misconceptions about love, but the Person who is love. In order for eternal life to be based and rooted in love, there must be choice. There is a Kingdom, and while the ideas of authority and power have connotations for us, even negatively, our participation in the Kingdom must be voluntary.

Now, I understand that there are theological ideas that differ on free will and predestination and all those things, but no matter what you believe about how involved God is in drawing those with his revelation and love, it is to some degree God’s initiation and our voluntary submission. Therefore, to try to force someone to believe is foolishness.

Not that some “Christians” don’t try or haven’t through history. As we can imagine, despite assumed good intentions, those attempts to force belief do only harm. It is not the design.

In order to be a voluntary decision, Christianity is then steeped in revelation, reason, logic, faith, and evidence. Most of the major educational centers in our nation were begun by Christians who sought knowledge of God through learning about his creation in genuine intellectual pursuit. Ironic that now those same places will teach how ignorant and anti-intellectual Christianity is out of a humanistic/atheistic perspective.

Also, since we must choose to submit and cannot be forced, Christians must love others and be tolerant of their beliefs. In fact, I find it interesting when a non-Christian (usually an atheist or humanist/socialist) questions whether or not tolerance can exist within a Christian context.

Now there are different ideas of tolerance. If the idea of tolerance is, “Only a modern liberal progressive viewpoint is acceptable and everyone else is intolerant,” then I can’t subscribe to that, for hopefully obvious logical and intellectual reasons.

If a person is genuinely concerned with whether or not one can believe what they choose, then a Christian context is the best, if not only, context in which that can be true. A Christian may express his or her beliefs, but because of the necessity of choice, we cannot expect another to believe what we do. On the contrary, we expect that others do not.

Again, I do not want to deny that some, or even many, Christians have not adhered to this standard when given authority. Many throughout history have, however, and do today.

But the rise of humanism/atheism in our schools and government has only proven more hostile, closed minded, ignorant, intolerant, and violent than any crimes they accuse Christians of, valid or not. It will only continue to prove so.

Because the atheist/humanist rejects a portion of the Christian idea of purity and morality. While it wants some of those benefits from the Creator, we cannot pick and choose with God. And ultimately, when we reject his wisdom and design, then even the wisdom and design of religious rights and tolerance and the ability to choose what one believes goes out the window with the rest, as does real love. Simply ask communists.

For those of us in the Kingdom, it is important to remember that the Kingdom threatens the powers of this world. “They will hate you. They hated me first,” Jesus says. We must expect such rejection and oppression when following God. We must also remember we cannot force anyone to believe. It is against the love of God to do so. All we can do is reason with people, “Please, be reconciled to God.” And let them know it is their choice.

And with all decisions, there are rewards and consequences. That is why we plead and reason with others.

Peace.

You May Have Already Won the Lottery

lottery picThe Powerball lottery amount is up to a historic amount. It is projected to 1.3 BILLION dollars. I would bet it gets up to 1.5 at least. Like millions of other people, I have dreamed about winning that money.

We all have, right? We have all asked ourselves, “What would I do with a billion dollars?”

My thoughts go to things like … What kind of house would I buy? Would I get new cars? What ministries would I give money towards? Who could I bless with that money? How could I use that money to help people achieve their dreams?

But having all that money comes with its own set of problems. How would this affect my family? My kids? My friendships? Church?

Of course, when I have these conversations with myself, Someone else is also present. God is a part of these discussions, and God is patient and lovingly sitting there with me saying, “What can a billion dollars do that I can’t do?”

With me, that’s the struggle. I know what the Bible says. I know the truths of the Kingdom. But do I really believe them?

With the Kingdom is power, redemption, resources. “Ask and it will be given.” “As the Father in my name and he will give it.” “… the Spirit that rose Christ from the dead is in you …” “If you have faith of a mustard seed, speak to this mountain and it will go into the sea.” “Having nothing yet possessing everything.”

If God is my Father, and he is the King of all creation, there is nothing I don’t have NOW. I have an inheritance I can’t lose. I have rewards in heaven no one can take.

Could I do great things with a billion dollars? Sure. Maybe. And God would still be glorified, in a sense, if I was wise and kept my integrity with all that money, if I was able to stay humble. But worldly wealth comes with its problems.

First, worldly wealth can lead to pride and distraction. It comes with great temptation to put trust in wealth and riches. For most of the people who win the lottery, it ruins their life. Because the money they thought would “solve” their problems only create more of them and expose a lack of discipline and character. Wealth is deceptive. “You say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’—and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked …”

Second, that money has no lasting foundation. It can be lost in a moment. There is no security within that money. “For one such hour great riches came to nothing.”

The wealth of the Kingdom comes with no such problems. As to the first, the wealth of the Kingdom empowers but also humbles, places our focus on the King. The wealth of the Kingdom transforms us and others into more like God, our Father.

To the second, our eternal inheritance and wealth cannot be lost. “Don’t store up for yourselves treasure on earth, where moth and rust destroy and thieves break in and steal. Store up treasure in heaven, where moth and rust cannot destroy and thieves cannot break in and steal.”

Which wealth is more powerful? Which is more important? Which has more influence?

When we realize that the eternal wealth we possess has more influence and power than worldly wealth, it transforms how we pray, what we pray, and even the outcome of our prayers. Not that the results will be immediate all the time, although sometimes they are, but watching God do great things satisfies our soul and gives us more faith.

We act, as well. When we act according to our eternal, Kingdom wealth, we act differently, too. We make choices based on revelation rather than circumstances. That results in testimonies about his faithfulness and our continued transformation and character.

With the riches of heaven, we can help others fulfill their Kingdom dreams, we can have amazing marriages, we can raise our children well, we can have all that we need to do what God has called us to do and our needs provided for.

What would you do if you truly possessed the riches of Heaven? What would you pray for? Do that. For those of us who have committed to be disciples of Christ and be trained in the Kingdom, that is a greater reality than any riches the world has to offer.

If that’s not you, then the invitation is open.

Peace.

Superhero Church Part 5 – No Capes

cape caughtAs I discuss the idea of Superhero discipleship with friends and people I’m in fellowship with, we joke about coming together wearing our superhero costumes. Invariably, I say, “No capes.”

Now, most of us geeks know that a lot of superheroes wear capes. We’ve also seen the movie The Incredibles, so we get the reference.

In that clever, amazing movie, superhero parents get back into the superhero life, they go to a woman who makes costumes. She is against the idea of capes because of all the “accidents” that happen. They get caught on stuff. And those of us who grew up with superheroes in comics and cartoons like the Superfriends, we got the joke.

What function does a cape serve? Some of the comics or TV shows try to justify the cape, but it really serves no function … other than it looks cool. It’s flashy. But it comes with the potential to slip and fall.

The Incredibles made the joke, and jokes are funny because of a hint of truth.

Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

While we who follow Christ have superpowers and are superheroes, there is no place for a flashy cape. There is no place for pride.

Why would we have pride in the superpowers we possess? They were given by God, literally called “gifts.” We did not earn them. We can participate in them and learn how to use them for good (AKA, be superheroes), but we did not earn them. They were given from grace and mercy and compassion for a purpose. If we take pride in them, that is how we set ourselves up for a fall.

A cape says, “look at me.” We don’t have to be around “the church” long before we see people, leaders even, who use their gifts in a way that says, “look at me.”

As we see in the scripture above in Hebrews, the goal is, “look at Jesus.”

He is the author and finisher of our faith. He is the totality of our faith. When we use our superpowers, our spiritual gifts, the goal is for all to see Jesus. In order for that to happen, we must be the ones that keep our focus on Christ. As CS Lewis said, “Humility is not thinking less of ourselves but thinking of ourselves less.” The way to think of ourselves less? Think on Christ more.

By the way, this is also how to learn how to use our superpowers. They all have their root in him. Who better to teach us how to be sons and daughters of the King than the Son of God?

Capes may look cool, makes people say, “Wow. Superman looks amazing when he’s flying around in that cape.” But we don’t need a reason for people to notice us. If we love them, if we want them saved, we must get them to notice Christ in everything. And that means getting the focus off of ourselves.

Peace.