Finding God in a Thin Silence – part IV

A prophetic look at the day in which we live

Go to part I of this article

Our Action:

  1. Be watchful so as not to become assimilated by the world.

Luke 21:34–36 (ESV)
34 “But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap. 35 For it will come upon all who dwell on the face of the whole earth. 36 But stay awake at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.”

  1. Wait/entwine with God’s Spirit so as to know His ways and be empowered.

Isaiah 40:27–31 (ESV)
27 Why do you say, O Jacob, and speak, O Israel, “My way is hidden from the Lord, and my right is disregarded by my God”?
28 Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable.

29 He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength.
 30 Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted;
 31 but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.

eagle ready to take flightTo ‘wait’ in the Hebrew, as well as having a sense of eager expectation and of being full of hope, also has the sense of: to twist or to bind. It is an active word which should call us to an active obedient faith (Rom 16:26). Rather than lives enmeshed in comfortable, prayerless western cultural Christianity, we must entwine with the very life of Christ in prayer-filled pursuit of God’s divine will (cf Mat 26:39).

The conclusion of Isaiah 40:31 is that a prayerful life entwined in God’s will is the very life that will be strengthened in the power of His might (Col 1:9-12; Eph 6:10ff).

If we are convinced that this is a time of the revealing of God in His righteousness and His wrath, if we want to escape His revealed wrath in these last days, to live in His grace and to stand before Him in glory (Lk 21:36) then it is time to embrace our ‘Garden of Gethsemane’ moment. A time to me filled with the anguish of the fear of losing the presence of God (Mat 26:38f) and a time to wait upon the Lord for the power of His might to be revealed so that we may stand in that day.

  1. Engaging in a prayer-filled life in eager anticipation of the hope to which we have been called, will naturally affect the way in which we live. This prayer-filled life compels a ‘living’ daily, walking expectantly, and acting obediently to His will.

Psalm 91:1–16 (ESV) He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
          I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust.” 
          For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler
and from the deadly pestilence.
          He will cover you with his pinions,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness is a shield and buckler.
          You will not fear the terror of the night,
nor the arrow that flies by day,
          nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness,
nor the destruction that wastes at noonday.
          A thousand may fall at your side,
ten thousand at your right hand,
but it will not come near you.
          You will only look with your eyes
and see the recompense of the wicked.
          Because you have made the Lord your dwelling place—
the Most High, who is my refuge—
10          no evil shall be allowed to befall you,
no plague come near your tent.
11          For he will command his angels concerning you
to guard you in all your ways.
12          On their hands they will bear you up,
lest you strike your foot against a stone.
13          You will tread on the lion and the adder;
the young lion and the serpent you will trample underfoot.
14          “Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him;
I will protect him, because he knows my name.
15          When he calls to me, I will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble;
I will rescue him and honor him.
16          With long life I will satisfy him
and show him my salvation.”

  1. While spiritual preparedness is the most important and dwelling in the secret place of the most high is the only place of absolute certainty and protection, the warnings of natural events also require a natural response based on the wisdom which is the inheritance of God’s children. Be physically prepared for that which is to come

Matthew chapters 24 and 25

Jesus’ prophetic words in Matthew concerning the end times are given to prepare us in every way. It is not simply information so we can smugly note that we knew, far better to offer assistance from preparedness.

This was the point of the dream Joseph interpreted concerning the seven lean years preceded by seven good years. In wisdom, Joseph prepared for the lean years by stockpiling grain etc. Then he was able to provide for his family particularly but also he enabled other nations to come and buy food that was scarce.

What can we take away from the words concerning not going back for your coat or not going back to the hose to take possession? It is certainly saying that events will be flood-like and catastrophic. So fast will they happen, that if you left your coat behind, don’t go back for it. However, wisdom would say that if you were aware that at any point a particular disaster might occur then wisdom would require you keep your coat with you. Further, it would insist you carried a bag with essential items; and that you were prepared to flee to a known and previously equipped place of refuge.

Luke 12:35 (ESV) 35 “Stay dressed for action and keep your lamps burning…

(giving to the needy etc is not as an NGO begging on behalf of the poor but as those faithful stewards of God’s provision who are able to give out of the abundance of God’s blessing.)

Concluding Thoughts

This is definitely a time to live counter-culturally. Too often living radically means to go to more meetings than others, to aggressively tell others about our interpretation of Scripture, all the while comfortably living in the success-oriented peace and prosperity of western consumerism.

To pursue a physical prosperity beyond dependence on government programmes or employer controls, is seen a lacking trust in God, while living affluent consumerist lives and religiously giving a portion to the church and some to welfare projects (like most ‘good’ people) is acceptable.

Matthew 11:19b (ESV) … Yet wisdom is justified by her deeds.”

Of the utmost importance is the passionate desire to discover the God of the ‘thin silence’. To be so enamoured by the light of His glory that the thought of losing His glorious presence would drive us to a gethsemane-like anguish. Strive to entwine with His presence in the beauty of holiness and to enter that ‘secret place of the most high’, and to dwell in that place always and in every circumstance.

And after the fire the sound of a ‘thin silence’

Finding God in a Thin Silence – part III

A prophetic look at the day in which we live

fire tranquilityThe Thin Silence

What is unfolding is not a doomsday scenario but rather the multifaceted wisdom of God. The wrath of God poured out on the whole world is also to be seen as the righteousness of God in Jesus Christ made manifest in the saints.

The outcome of the events of this age, when seen through the thin silence is that, where as the world is being handed over to devastating depravity it will produce a purifying persecution revealing the power of the gospel in righteousness.

Where do we go? What do we do?

It is time to stop trusting in the self-gratifying systems of contemporary religious structures as the means to seeking the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is also time to stop the delusional thinking that all is well in society as the world marches toward some utopian world order.

That God has given “them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity… dishonourable passions… debased mind[s]… [and] filled with all manner of unrighteousness…” (Rom 1:24-32) is evident. This is what God is doing now; in this moment; in this age.

Revelation 17 and 18 are not just random acts upon the earth that God is compelled to respond to, they are the result or outworking of God’s hand. A society’s righteousness is not man’s honourable deeds but God’s merciful hand at work holding back lawlessness. The world’s depravity is not man’s self-empowering acts but the result of the removal of God’s restraining grace. God is at work in His wrath.

In the book of The Revelation we are left in no doubt that in all these events it is God at work and that our response is to separate ourselves from these systems and to bless and praise God for His righteous hand in history.

Revelation 18:4–8 (ESV)

Then I heard another voice from heaven saying,

                        “Come out of her, my people,

lest you take part in her sins,

                        lest you share in her plagues;

                      for her sins are heaped high as heaven,

and God has remembered her iniquities.

                      Pay her back as she herself has paid back others,

and repay her double for her deeds;

mix a double portion for her in the cup she mixed.

                      As she glorified herself and lived in luxury,

so give her a like measure of torment and mourning,

                        since in her heart she says,

‘I sit as a queen,

                        I am no widow,

and mourning I shall never see.’

                      For this reason her plagues will come in a single day,

death and mourning and famine,

                        and she will be burned up with fire;

for mighty is the Lord God who has judged her.”

 

Revelation 18:20 (ESV)

            20          Rejoice over her, O heaven,

and you saints and apostles and prophets,

                        for God has given judgment for you against her!”

[Part IV Action: Of the utmost importance is the passionate desire to discover the God of the ‘thin silence’. To be so enamoured by the light of His glory that the thought of losing His glorious presence would drive us to a gethsemane-like anguish. Strive to entwine with His presence in the beauty of holiness and to enter that ‘secret place of the most high’, and to dwell in that place always and in every circumstance…]

Finding God in a Thin Silence – part II

A prophetic look at the day in which we live

Where is God?meteor shower

1 Kings 19:11–12 (ESV)
11 And he said, “Go out and stand on the mount before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. 12 And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper. (Thin silence)

After Elijah’s demonstration of God’s power (1King 18), rather than a mighty revival; instead of becoming the pastor of a great church; or the advisor to the king, Elijah was threatened with death. He laments to God that he alone remains true to the covenant and yet he is an outcast of Israel rather than leading as the prophet of God.

God passed by and there was a great wind that tore the mountains, surely God would be in such greatness? But God was not in it. Next there was a powerful earthquake. Surely that is the sort of great event that God would be in. No! Then a fire, but God was not in the fire either. After this was a ‘thin silence’ a nothingness that really offends the sensibilities of man and what people deem great.

God revealed to Elijah that He, God, is not in natural things that impress mortal men; He is in the wisdom of a thin silence, a low whisper.

It seems to me that our meetings, our buildings, our money and our influence etc are like the strong wind, the earthquake and the fire, they are impressive by men’s’ standards but God is not found in them. Rather the thin silence, the unglamorous whisper, that which is foolish to the wisdom of this age, that is where God is found. To those who have eyes to see and ears to hear, God is revealed in His righteousness and in His wrath.

Romans 1:16–18 (ESV)
16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”
18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.

God is in His righteousness

In the gospel – which is the power of God – His righteousness is revealed. So God is found in the working of /his righteousness as the wicked, those who are at enmity with God, are captured by His love and led in triumphal procession – captors of His powerful love.

Such revelation is far from the glitz and glamour of contemporary success-orientated churches, and is the ‘thin silence’ of God’s presence: the foolishness that confounds the wise (1Cor 1:18,19; 2:6-16).

God is in His wrath

God’s wrath is revealed against the unrighteousness of men and women who supress the truth by there unrighteousness. The evidence of God’s wrath is that He gives them up to the evil desires of their heart (Rom 1:24, 26,28).

So, God is not revealed as being active in the church or society because our programs have wowed peopled or catered to peoples religious curiosities or their base depravity of self-indulgence but in the ‘thin silence’ of a people whose live reflect the glory of God in the marketplace rather than in an institution.

God is revealed in society in one of two ways: either His righteousness is being revealed or His wrath. The former appears in a societies pursuit of righteousness, justice, mercy and peace; the later in societies pursuit of lustful pleasure, injustice, callousness etc.

What of God’s nature is being revealed today in society, His righteousness or His wrath?

In the middle of the worst economic crisis in world history what has been the forefront of political will? Financial justice for those robbed by manipulative multinational banks? Wisdom for a merciful response to political refugees and an answer to the plight of displaced people due to war, famine and natural disasters? An answer to the breaking down of families and the societal problems that result?

No! Bankers are fined millions (the cost of doing business) for pleading guilty to criminal charges of manipulation of markets (netting themselves billions), causing financial destruction to families and local communities, yet no CEO, the ones who actually perpetrated the manipulations and fraudulent behaviour, is actually charged or imprisoned. No justice!

No! Politicians of all nations and political persuasion are trying to workout how to stop refugees from coming to their shores without engaging the nations best minds to find a solution to their plight. No Mercy!

No! While the world is being devoured by war, terrorism, genocide, natural disasters, global economic repression (ie unelected bureaucrats controlling world banks issuing orders to elected governments on how they will govern – see the IMF, EU central bank versus Greece, Ireland etc), and the breakdown of society, politicians are fighting to legalise same-sex marriage, transgender rights, and making it a criminal act to believe that same-sex marriage and transgender choices are contrary to the laws of nature and of God. (On the 26 June 2015, the US Supreme Court ruled in favour of same-sex marriage.) No righteousness!

What does this mean? That the world, not just a particular society but the entire world is, by its deeds, revealing the wrath of God. There is now very little opposition to men’s evil desires. And so that which has been holding back now seems to have been removed.

2 Thessalonians 2:7–8 (ESV)
For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work. Only he who now restrains it will do so until he is out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will kill with the breath of his mouth and bring to nothing by the appearance of his coming.

Politicians are powerless to resist the evil desires of the heart of man. Slaves to sin, obedient to death, powerless to stop the rush into depravity. A world handed over is a world under God’s wrath. We have been such things happen in individual lives, we have seen it in nations, and even empires, but now God’s wrath is being revealed from heaven against ALL ungodliness and unrighteousness in the world at large. We have seen the recapitulate of The Revelation over the centuries but now as it advances to its ultimate climax the whole world is caught up in its prophetic end.

[Part III The Thin Silence: What is unfolding is not a doomsday scenario but rather the multifaceted wisdom of God. The wrath of God poured out on the whole world is also to be seen as the righteousness of God in Jesus Christ made manifest in the saints…]

Finding God in a Thin Silence – part I

A prophetic look at the day in which we live

Finding God in a thin silence is a reference from 1 Kings 19:11,12 where Elijah is longing to see God. He has experienced some victories as a prophet but then felt the ‘aloneness’ of passivity, rejection and active opposition. Driven into the wilderness, feeling despondent, he discovers that in the midst of storms, earthquakes and fire God can be found, but He is not revealed in these tempestuous occurrences but in the ‘thin silence’. The thin silence is a call to find that place in the midst of turmoil, for that is where God can be found.

Personal: – the coming tempestIMG_3651

Since being called to market ministry I have step out of the daily oversight and involvement in the local church. A major outcome is that I have been able to focus more on God’s advancing Kingdom in relation to this age. Such a focus has caused me to see the gospel at work in a global capacity rather than individual and local.

For me the change of focus has looked like this: instead of studying Scripture with the aim of bringing edification, exhortation and comfort to a local fellowship I have been ‘studying’ the events of this age in light of Scripture to see God’s activity now in this age.

Initially, I was overwhelmed by what I was seeing. I lost sight of the fact that God is still God and, like Elijah, I became melancholy and despondent. Seeing the worlds demise without the revelation of the gospel and God’s activity in it will lead to despair, but when we see the Kingdom advancing we can cry out with the host of heaven, holy is the Lord, just and right are His ways (cf Deut 32:3,4).

For many years I misunderstood the unique relationship between the Church and The Kingdom, something that is prevalent today. I was in a church recently where the preacher began by telling us how he was about to “preach the Kingdom”, then he went on to preach about his organisational church as if it were the Kingdom. Because the church can be identified physically – that is, we can form organisational structures that we call church, thus giving us a sense of control – and because The Kingdom seems more nebulous – that is, we can see its effect if we have insight, but we cannot structure it nor control it (Lk 17:20,21; Rom 14:17) – we exchange God’s Kingdom, which is His rule, for our church structure, which we control.

Though it is usually unspoken, most churches feel that if people are in attendance and in good standing within their particular church, then those people are undoubtedly ‘saved’. The aim of evangelism is to get people into churches and so the church is preached rather than he gospel of the Kingdom. However, in the Gospels and Acts it was always the gospel of the Kingdom that was preached (Mat 4:23; Act 2:25). When Jesus spoke to Nicodemus he did not say, unless you are born again you will not enter the church! He said that to be born again to gain entry into The Kingdom.

Within our cloistered church environments we interact with likeminded people. This can limit perspective and, depending on our ‘perceived success’, produce self-congratulatory opinions that idolatrously conform God to the image of our religious expression. Put another way, we view our activities and success as being the purpose of God’s Kingdom. If we feel ‘unsuccessful’ then we seek for the ‘key’ to transform us into the successes we feel God wants us to be.

When we step outside of our systemic religious forms; when we refrain from seeking God’s stamp of approval on our activities; when our prayers move away from seeking for His Spirit to reveal how our church or ministry might be successful; we will see the world from a different perspective and seek for God’s hand to be revealed.

God’s hand is His activity, that which he is doing, and His presence is always revealed in his purpose. I think this is an important distinction today, because we tend to seek His presence as an experience rather than seek Him where he can be found. And God is always found in His advancing Kingdom.

In contrast to “Thy Kingdom come” churches boast of their buildings, or the congregant size, or a particular sphere of influence, or the amazing meetings they hold. Like cocks in a hen house, they primp and preen purporting their own ministry is proof of God’s moving hand on the earth, while the chicken coup is being destroyed by every ravenous beast as God’s actual work is being revealed.

[Part II Where is God? After Elijah’s demonstration of God’s power (1King 18), rather than a mighty revival; instead of becoming the pastor of a great church; or the advisor to the king, Elijah was threatened with death. He laments to God that he alone remains true to the covenant and yet he is an outcast of Israel rather than leading as the prophet of God….]

Face to Face

IMG_0444

Psalm 17:15 (ESV)  As for me, I shall behold your face in righteousness;
when I awake, I shall be satisfied with your likeness.

I became a Christian while serving in the army. I remember taking leave and going to my first church camp.  The guest speaker/musician used Psalm 17:15 as a song. Singing these words had a profound impact on me and a passionate desire to ‘behold [Jesus] face in righteousness’ was birthed within.

In John 1:1 we read that ‘the Word was ‘with‘ God. The Greek word ‘pros‘ (with) has the general sense of “immediately before”. The image is of the Word [Jesus, the son of God] and God the Father being face-to-face. The idea of being face to face or beholding his face, has a  sense of deep intimacy.

Isaiah 40:31 (ESV) but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; 
they shall mount up with wings like eagles;

Here the word ‘wait‘ as an action in Hebrew indicates ‘to look eagerly for, linger, lie in wait‘ and ‘to collect or bind together‘. The act of entwining or seeking oneness with Christ promises a renewed, or more literally, an exchange of strength.

To seek Jesus’ face, to wait on the Lord, and to fix eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith (heb 12:2), is not a pharisaic duty or function but rather the efficacy (potency) of our great affection: that is to say, our passionate desire to see him face to face produces our intense seeking.

Those who ‘behold [Jesus] face in righteousness’ are in fact the ones who ‘dwell in the secret place of the Most High’ (Ps 91:1).

Beware the Gift by John Yates

Personal Matters

The first thing that came up on ABC news radio this morning (8/6/15) was the decision of Hillsong to cancel their invitation to controversial US pastor Mark Driscoll to speak at their upcoming conference. Until his dismissal last year Driscoll had seen Mars Hill Seattle grow from a lounge room meeting to a 10,000 plus megachurch. Since his leaving the church has effectively dissolved. There are some similarities with the case of Australia’s first televangelist Clark Taylor, whose ministry grew perhaps the largest church in the nation in the 70’s. He was forced to resign because of repeated infidelities. Whilst Taylor has been restored he comes to mind because I have recently been counselling someone whose family was devastated by his ministry. Both Taylor and Driscoll are extraordinarily gifted men of God. My thinking about the influence of giftedness actually began a few days prior to the ABC clip when I encountered several men confused about their relationship with the church because of the powerful influences of gifted leaders on their lives. I can personally remember occasions where I was drawn to men of great gifting, the results were always disastrous. “Beware the Gift” calls us to look through the minister of the gifts to the sole ministry of Christ to the glory of God the Father.

Idols

The most obvious sin in following gifts rather than Jesus as Giver is idolatry. Humans obsessively “exchange the glory of the immortal God for images representing mortal man” (Rom 1:23). This is a chronic problem. When I went to the website outlining Clark Taylor’s current ministry there was a bio which jumped over the years of his disgrace and placed him under the heading, “My Hero”. This is dangerous behaviour which may be illustrated with an example. Whenever I do marriage preparation one of the first things I look for in a passion-filled young couple is infatuation. Infatuation not only glazes our physical eyes but also dulls our inner eyes to the faults in another person. Samson’s sexualised blindness to Delilah’s true ambitions is a biblical case in point (Judges 16). The lure of blind attachment to another person actually operates on multiple levels.

It may simply be that we believe that their gifts can impart to us something we need for a fuller life e.g. health and wealth. More profoundly however the sort of “soul attachment” that breeds a deep dependency on another mortal being is an attempt to absorb from them a quality we don’t believe is in us. This may become a sort of “cannibal compulsion” whose end result breeds cultic attitudes towards “anointed” visionary leaders (Leanne Payne). The root sin underlying idolatry is unbelief concerning the worth we have in the eyes of the Father. Our worth before God is unlimited because his lives Son in us (Gal 1:16; Col 1:27). Even the glorious angels “long to look” at our salvation in Christ (1 Pet 1:12). What then blinds us to “the riches of God’s glorious inheritance in the saints” so that we are swayed to follow other mortals (Eph 1:18)? We fail to understand Christ crucified!

The Cross Brings Clarity

Jesus’ closest earthly companions failed to grasp that only through suffering could his (and their) identity be fully revealed. When the Lord said, ““If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” the disciples were dumbfounded.  (Matt16:24). When Jesus declared, ““the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected …and be killed”” Peter rebuke him (Mark 8:31-3 2). Such resistance to following  a suffering Messiah flows from a natural mind which can only see suffering as a painful sign of lost glory (Rom 3:23; 8:7). The transformation of the disciples thinking about suffering awaited the resurrection. In his risen splendour Jesus testified to his apostles; ““Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?”” (Luke 24:26). Whilst those who followed Jesus as a power Messiah all fell away because of the blinding effects of guilt, the vision of the crucified-and-risen Christ who suffered for us convinces our doubting hearts that God truly loves us and counts us to be of inestimable worth (John 2:23-25; Rom 5:6-8). Only when Christ is publicly portrayed as crucified do we transparently see God’s loving heart valuing us in our lost and broken condition (Mark 15:34; Gal 3:1). The marginalisation of the cross in the Church is the spiritual root of the following of gifts today.

Transparent Disciples

Jesus made remarkable comments about the inability of “Christians” to discern his presence, or absence, in their lives. “On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you;” (Matt 7:22-23). These miracle workers and exorcists knew the power of the name of Jesus but lacking inner transparency could not discern the Lord was never in them. So inwardly dull were the apostles they were unable to recognise the presence of a demonised Judas in their midst (John 6:70). Responding to Christ’s declaration of a betrayer amongst them they spoke in unison; ““is it I Lord”” (Matt 26:22). Such a gross lack of personal and interpersonal transparency amongst Jesus’ team before the cross can be traced back to their avoidance of the call to suffer for his sake.

Jesus promised a blessing of joy for those persecuted for his kingdom, a promise that later came true when Peter and John were beaten for their testimony and “rejoiced that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonour for the name.” (Matt 5:10-12; Acts 5:41). Suffering for the Lord brings a compelling sense of worthiness that expels the idolatrous need to seek something special from following others. Our brothers and sisters in the persecuted church have a clear head start over us in these matters. Yet we do not have to wait for open harassment before we can sense our worth in Christ and be freed from following the gifts of men. Whoever surrenders sickness, personal conflict, monetary need, psychological pressure or any other source of pain to Jesus for the glory of God will soon experience their agonies as enveloped in the “fellowship of sufferings” (Phil 3:10). Such people sense the glory of God in them and are moved by the Spirit to follow Christ alone.

Conclusion

Jesus always wants to spare us from the useless pains bred of idolatry and bring us into genuine spiritual maturity. Consistent Christ-centredness is maturity (Col 1:28). I fear however for the spiritual condition of the mainstream Church today. Scripture warns us that Satan’s ultimate deception will come “with all power and false signs and wonders,” (2 Thess 2:9). With many Christians crying out in prayer for mighty works apart from seeking a deeper revelation of Christ crucified the stage is set for a great falling away from the true Messiah; just as Jesus predicted (Matt 24:24). Such things do not have to be! If we are wise we will ask the Lord to reveal to our own hearts any places where we have been following the gift rather than the Giver. Once freed from distractions and disillusionments we will become those wise persons who turn others towards Christ alone, not as some sort of “hero” but as the man whose present power came only by the weakness of the cross (Dan 12:3; 2 Cor 13:4; Heb 5:7-10). “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” (Rev 2:7 etc.).

Life in Christ in the Kingdom of the Father and Son

Being Body, Community, Christian

One of the difficulties in pursuing Kingdom life in Christ as a community of faith is that it goes against natural thinking, because natural thinking is attached to the past. It is funny that even those who choose to be ‘contemporary’ are still controlled by tradition, except they dress it up in more modern clothes. Worship as a meeting in a structure called church is the same except that it has gone from a cathedral to a reclaimed factory, an ancient language to modern vernacular, from chants to pop rhythms, from organs or solo instruments to bands.

Laying hold of the Kingdom is not simply a worship style but a lifestyle, and that is not a ‘religious’ lifestyle but one that engages in every aspect of life that is actually community. That’s a very Trinitarian thought; life is community.

Jesus declares in prayer, “This is life eternal, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” God is Father, Son and Spirit whose life is expressed in community. For those who are called to Him are called into Trinitarian life. If Trinitarian life is community, then for those in Christ “Life is Community and Community is Life”.

Life is Community; Community is Life

God’s being is Trinity, Father, Son and Spirit. These three are one and live in perfect unity and harmony. We are saved and called into Trinitarian life. Trinitarian life is the fullest possible expression of community and fellowship. We experience Trinitarian life in the community of faith, which is called body, fellowship, community etc and modelled in Scripture as shared life.

1 Peter 2:9 (ESV) But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvellous light.

The Trinitarian God exists and relates in divine adoration; The Father loves and adores the Son; this love of the Father is reciprocated in the Son; and the Holy Spirit loves and adores the Father and the Son and is animated in and by the adoring love of the Father and the Son. We experience Trinitarian love as our hearts are overwhelmed by the love of Christ and divine adoration is expressed in our worship to God. Such worship reaches its pinnacle when the community is in congregation to exalt His name. God is most fully worshipped when that worship occurs in the midst of the congregation (Heb 2:12; Ps 22:22-31).

The Trinitarian God acts in the ‘work’ of ruling and reigning. The Kingdom of God includes all things under His rule. That which is created is under His rule, even that which lives in defiance of His authority – vis-à-vis Satan and all men who suppress the truth by their unrighteousness. The work of God in reigning is to maintain His divine order and to subdue the rebellious and to engage with His creation as the creator. This aspect of Trinitarian life is experienced in the act of work or vocation. In the creation account God mandated that man would work (Gen 2:15) and have dominion, or rule, over the works of his hands (Gen 1:29). This is Trinitarian life expressed through creative work, which expresses benevolent dominion. (Perhaps employment should be less about earning a living and more about creative dominion in a chosen field of endeavours. Then we may be less inclined to despise or avoid work and engage it in Trinitarian life working “heartily, as for the Lord and not men” [Col 3:23])

That God is Trinity – revealed in Christ Jesus, particularly at the Cross – is the foundation of understanding eternal life. The language of resurrection life is one of obedience to divine will; of fellowship; of shared life; and of communal living, all of which is fundamentally foreign to anything that exists in the world outside of Christ.

Trinitarian life is not a reflection of the communal living of hippies in the sixties; it is not revealed in modern ‘tribes’ or sub-cultures with common aims, goals and lifestyles, nor does it reflect good nationalised citizenship. It may have some similarities in appearance to these things but it is fundamentally different in nature and in being. Our understanding of Trinitarian life is exemplified in Jesus and revealed as equality in functional subordination – that is, Jesus, though being fully God subordinates himself to the Fathers will in all things, even embracing the death of separation from the Father for His names sake.

How powerful would the revelation of Trinitarian love be if we were to have the same willingness as Christ to embrace death for His names sake within the community of faith in living the Kingdom in this age? Such death is not only the absence of breath, but living in the absence of self-glorification, self-preservation, and self-accumulation (Rom 12:1).

Life in Christ is Trinitarian life in the Kingdom of the Father and the Son. It is the life of subordination to the will of God, which includes obedience unto death even as Christ willing embraced death for us.

Trinitarian life is not in a religious activity or in the disconnect of work, leisure, family and worship but is a united whole life in conformity with the unity of the Trinity. Trinitarian unity, as God reveals it, is a unity of being, of relating and of acting; being as the unbreakable bond of family; relating as the reciprocal expression of love, adoration and willing subordination (Phil 2:5-11); of acting as the work of ruling and enforcing that reign through the subjection of all things.

Spirit of Antichrist

The overarching work of the god of the age is to produce antichrist on the earth and in every sphere of society. Antichrist is not merely a person but a spirit, a philosophy, a way of thinking and living and relating. As the term suggests it stands for everything that Jesus Christ is not.

Jesus is the fullest expression of life and antichrist is obviously the antithesis. The Word sent from God, made flesh, came to bring light and life to men (John 1:1-4) and is for us the expression of the fullness of unity, of completeness, of harmony and of wholeness.

Jesus came to redeem man from sin, and sin, at its most basic level, is the rejection of the knowledge and glory of God reflected in man. In the beginning God made man in His image. This divine image in man is not something that is understood naturally because the knowledge of the image of God was rejected by man and man was thus turned over to futile thinking.

Romans 1:18–19 (NKJV) 18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them.

Romans 1:21 (NKJV) 21 because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.

Since the fall, Satan has been at work imprinting the world, and particularly humanity, with his own image. It is an image of dark rebellion that exists in independent self-glorification. Through the cross of Christ this satanic work is revealed as ‘spirit of antichrist’, giving us a greater understanding of the expression of the god of this age at work in each generation. The work of antichrist is clearly seen by those who have seen The Christ and His work.

The work of redemption in Christ is the work of restoring the image of God in man. That image stands in stark contrast to the image of antichrist – an image that we are born with and understand as ‘natural’. Christ reveals the glory of God, expressed in Trinitarian Being, and confirms the saints’ highest calling is to reflect Trinitarian life in Jesus Christ (Rom 8:29,30). This is the fullness of what it means to be ‘called out of darkness into His marvellous light’.

1 Peter 2:9 (ESV) But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvellous light.

Conclusion

To embrace the Kingdom is to embrace the fullest expression of Trinitarian life revealed in Jesus Christ. It is to pursue His divine will as the pinnacle of Christian expression. It means to live in the Spirit of the adoration of the Father for the Son and Son for the Father and to engage in Trinitarian rule, expressing the Genesis mandate to have dominion through creative works. To do this, not as individuals pursuing self-glorification, but as a Body; as a Community; as Trinitarian Christians.

Those who are seeking to embrace Trinitarian life and to become active agents of God’s Kingdom will be drawn into shared life (Trinitarian life), which will contradict, and thus be an affront to the religious, political and social world in which they live. Opposition will come from the religious community, from political powers, from friends and family. But the greatest battle will come from the mind. For the mind has been shaped by an antichrist world, a world consumed by idolatrous self-interest. As Romans 12:2 says, “Do not conform any longer to the patterns of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind…”

Life in Christ in the Kingdom of the Father and the Son is the Trinitarian reality that life is shared and lived out in the body of Christ expressed as community. It is radically different to what we think life should be, so, as you choose to embrace Trinitarian life, fasten your seatbelt, keep your hands in and prepare for a wild ride of exhilarating discovery that will enable you to reflect the glory of God in the midst of the congregation.

Knowing the Ways of God

Deuteronomy 5:33 (ESV) You shall walk in all the way that the Lord your God has commanded you…

Personal Observation

The fear of ‘missing God’s plan for my life’ was for many years the cause of my driven-ness. To somehow reach the end of life and discover I had not gone to the right church, believed the right end-time teaching, or been a part of the right vision, can produce paralysing fear and erratic living.

Under such pressure how can ‘the righteous live by faith’? How do you ‘walk by faith not by sight’?

The answer is as clear as it is simple. It is not so easy to miss God’s purpose when we realise that it is God who is at work to fulfil His purpose in us (Phil 2:13). And His purpose is that we should be like His Son Jesus Christ. Every event and purpose we encounter in life – if we are in Christ – works to this end.

Proverbs 19:21 (ESV) Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.

So, free from paralysing fear and erratic living we can live by faith knowing that He redeems the time in which we live and the paths in which we walk. The evidence that our steps are ordered by the Lord is not in what we think we see ahead and or in our plans (Pr 16:9), but in looking back and seeing His guidance through the paths we have already trodden.

Hindsight has 20/20 vision

The events surrounding the establishment of the first church are recorded in Scripture primarily in the book of Acts. Acts records the development of New Testament doctrine and it’s transformative purpose, as the Holy Spirit directed the actions of the apostles and other early church saints. In Acts we see what came to be known as praxis theology (theology which is the pursuit of the knowledge of God and praxis which is the cyclical process of experiential learning). In the gospels, when Jesus spoke of the future, the apostles struggled to understand, but once they ‘experienced’ that future then God’s plan and purpose became clear.

In simple terms, we come to know and understand God as a result of reflecting on what He has done.

Throughout the course of its history the early church came to know God and His ways through the revelation of Jesus Christ and the activity of the Holy Spirit. What is, from the perspective of praxis theology, most notable is that God’s ways, his plans and ultimate purpose came to be understood through the activity of the indwelling and ever present Holy Spirit.

Praxis Theology – An Example

In Acts chapters 11 and 12 a monumental event is recorded that changes – from man’s perspective – God’s historic dealings with Israel. No longer is he only the God of natural Israel, no longer is natural Israel the Israel of God, but the gentiles, foreigners, those who were not a people, are given equal status as citizens of heaven, grafted into the same vine (Rom 11:24). The church was to discover that not all who are circumcised are Jews but those whom the Spirit cleanses from within (Rom 2:28, 29; Phil 3:3; Col 2:11).

Though Peter’s vision prepared him for what was to come, the Spirit did not give him a ‘plan’ to be pursued, rather it was a peg that would later confirm the divine origin of the events that were about to unfold. Only in hindsight was God’s ultimate purpose revealed to Peter. Even the event itself, the outpouring of the Spirit on Cornelius and his household did not fully reveal the extent to which God would move among the gentiles. After the event the apostles and elders came together to try to comprehend what had happen (Act 11), so that they could move forward by faith as the Spirit propelled them into the phenomena that was to become The Church[1].

Practical Implication

God’s reveals himself through his acts in human history (Rom 1:19,20; Ps 68:28). The height of His self-revelation is Christ Jesus (Ps 33:6; Heb 1:1-3) who is the express image of God, and it is through the cross of Christ that Trinitarian activity is revealed as the Father is revealed as the one who suffers the anguish of the Son’s death as man’s sin in dealt with in God-forsakenness, Jesus is revealed as Son of God who suffers the rejection of the Father (Mat 27:46) for mans sin, and the Spirit is revealed in the resurrection (Rom 8:11).

The premise is that all we have come to know about God and His will is revealed in His deeds throughout history. Indeed understanding only comes in ‘hind-sight’.

Today there are numerous books and seminars promoting vision and some personal purpose. The basic idea being that we receive a clear and divinely appointed mission that must be fulfilled according to the visionary’s plan. Speakers frequent the ‘Christian speaking circuit’ motivating well paying hearers to find their divine calling and purpose and to pursue it with determination.

Passages used like Proverbs 29:18 and Habakkuk 2:4 to inspire you to receive a personal vision and make it happen, are in fact prophetic pointers to Christ, who alone is the vision to which we press toward.

As apostle Paul proclaims:
Philippians 3:8 (ESV) Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ

The Christian life is less about a mission and more about a journey – a journey to gain Christ. It is not lived by the achievement of visions and goals but by faith in Him who is eternally faithful.

Philippians 3:9–11 (ESV) and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— 10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.

A True Vision – Christ in You

God has a vision for you –it’s not a mission to be accomplished but a purpose to be embraced:

Romans 8:29 (ESV) 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.

In bringing this to pass we are led down many and varied paths seldom fulfilling our expectations nor our understanding, which is the reason ‘the righteous live by faith’ even as the righteous one lived by faith!

We trust that the vision of God in bringing ‘many sons to glory’ (Heb 2:10), which was begun in Christ, will be completed in Him so that we will ultimately and completely be conformed to the image of His Son.

The ‘vision’ for us is to pursue Christ as we live by faith trusting in the hope to which we have been called. The detail of our daily living is engaged by faith not by sight or vision and in hindsight God’s dealing is clearly seen. If we venture down a path that ends abruptly, or we somehow appear to have missed some perceived mark, we do not fear, or become despondent as though we have failed to do amazing things for God, but rather by faith we trust him who works all things out for the good of those who love him and are called according to his purpose (Rom 8:28,29)

[1]They were not given a vision to establish religious forms and structures but to preach the message of the Kingdom and make disciples. Church was the spiritual community birthed in Christ through gospel proclamation, whose members through faith engaged in shared life as the body of Jesus.

 

The Relationship of a Name!

Introduction

The redemptive names of God, Jehovah-Jireh, Jehovah-Nissi and Jehovah-Shammah to name a few, are compound names that tell us something about Yahweh who is God. Many a sermon has been preached and many a book written discussing the meaning of these names; Jehovah-jireh the Lord who provides; Jehovah-Shalom the Lord who is peace, etc. Jehovah is translated ‘The Lord’ and the words added to make a compound name, describe something about what he does. From this we can get an idea of ‘who’ God is based on learning about ‘what’ he does.

But these names, revealed over time to the Israelites, only reveal something about God; they do not reveal anything about the nature of relationship between God and man. Just like saying that a man, John, is a cook. John-the –Cook says that he cooks and if he works in a restaurant you could expect to get a meal. But this does not really say much about him relationally etc.

Living Way, as a community, or more specifically a family of faith, came about nearly 20 years ago when a number of young mostly single men and women sought to follow Lesley and I. Discipleship ensued and the relationship became a modern version similar to Paul discipling Timothy and Titus. I became to them a spiritual father and at some point they began to call Lesley and I, “dad and mum”.

As numbers were added to our ‘family’, though not required or expected, others began to call us dad and mum.

What is interesting though is how some would vacillate between calling me dad or Michael. When they were in a good place in God and in good relationship with me they called me dad, but when they were in a place of hard-heartedness and in a non-relational frame of mind, they would revert to calling me, Michael.

So what does this mean? A name is more than a noun, more than a simple identifier; names speak about and identify relationships.

Sir is a polite or respectful way of addressing a man often in a position of authority. This address says something about the relationship between the user and the recipient, as does Mister. Doctor and professor are titles that refer to a persons achievements and/or a position that requires respect.

Calling someone by their first name often signifies a peer relationship; nicknames can indicate a more intimate relationship while derogatory names suggest personal disrespect.

All of these titles or forms of address, while being identifiers, also indicate the nature of one’s relationship to that person.

Whereas Lesley is my wife’s name, the noun people use to identify my wife in a conversation with others or to address her as a peer, if I called her by that name I’m going to be in trouble. Just as when she calls me ‘Michael’ I know I’m in trouble – which for me, experientially proves my thesis that names are more than identifiers, more than labels on a garment, but expressions of relationship.

The Name that is Above All Names

Philippians 2:9 (ESV) Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name,

The name given to Jesus, as a result of His obedience “even unto death”, was given in conjunction with His being “highly exalted”, and therefore receiving a name that reflects His exaltedness. So, while the name given signifies Jesus’ exaltedness, those who use it proclaim His exaltedness in relationship to themselves. To call or assert that Jesus is ‘Christ and Lord’ reveals the nature of relationship with Him. As the Philippians passage points out, whether voluntarily or by compulsion, everyone will be obliged to declare their relationship with Him – that He is Lord and we are subject to His Lordship:

Philippians 2:10–11 (ESV) so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

It is not enough to use divine titles and names as mere identifiers/nouns; they are expressions of relationship between the creator and the created. They reveal to all the nature of that relationship and insist that the relationship be upheld in life.

The Names of God is Father

One day Lesley tried to explain to our grandson that papa’s name was also Michael. He just scoffed, laughed and said, “No, his name is papa”. He had gone for a walk with his parents and sister so I planned to meet them. From a distance Michael saw me and said, “look daddy, a man”. But as I got closer he cried out, “no! It’s not a man, it’s my papa!” To our grandchildren I will always be papa and regardless of what I do papa is papa. Papa is not a title it is a person the children have a relationship with.

Matthew 6:9 (ESV) Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.

This brings me to the point of this matter, the names of God speak about what he can do, they speak about His character and personality. The Old Testament events reveal The God who created the heavens and the earth, they speak of His involvement with humanity – specifically through a particular people group – and of His activities as He engages in the history of men according to His own will and purpose. But now, through His self-revelation in His Son, Jesus Christ, we have been given another name by which to approach God, His son has given us ‘Our Heavenly Father’ (Matt 6:9).

Calling God Father signifies both His authority and His intimacy with us. It declares that if God is our father then we are His children, sons and daughters. If He is Jehovah Jireh or Jehovah Shalom, then He is that to His children.

The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ is not Father by title, He is Father in deed, meaning Father in relationship. (A father is only father in relationship to his children. Without this relationship the name is meaningless.) As is clear in Scripture, through the intimacy of relationship He enables us – or better still, en-titles us – to call Him Abba Father:

Galatians 4:6 (ESV) And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”

Since we are ‘sons’ we are obligated through the intimacy of relationship given to us to press into the reality of sonship. That is not, as so many have professed, a relationship about living in and on His estate and receiving His provision – a sort of Kingdom now theology. It is pressing on to know Him (Hos 6:3; 6:6; Jn 17:3) The King in whose Kingdom we have entered through the blood of the Lamb. (Eph 2:13; Heb 10:19, 1Pt 1:2)

The point of the parable of the prodigal son is very important to grasp here. One son knew the inheritance of the estate and demanded it, the other knew the labour of the estate and served it. But neither one knew the Father of the estate. The point of the parable is to show us who the Father is in relation to His sons.

There is much preaching today about the ‘inheritance’ of the possession and power of the estate or Kingdom of God: It belongs to you take it. The nature of the Kingdom is power and possessions and position as ‘king’s kids’ it is yours to be taken. This is the heart of the prodigal before he realised how foolish his thinking and his heart were.

There is a reaction to this misguided teaching but often the reaction is the opposite side of the same coin. It is the foolish heart of the older brother. This reactionary teaching refers to the Kingdom in terms of authority and obedience through service in religious organisations that are called ‘church’: Obedience to headship and service in the building and to the congregation, this is the nature of the Kingdom.

Both these views do not reveal the Father but His possessions and His power or position. The prodigal learnt that the father was not just a source of inheritance but a loving, merciful and faithful father whose love endures. He did not come back to privilege, wealth and power but to his Father. The older brother never unfortunately got this. Rather than seeing the Father’s heart he only saw obedience, headship and service. He grumbled because the Father he saw in relationship with the prodigal, was not the father he thought he knew and served.

The name of God given to us by Jesus is Father and we become sons. The provision of The Father and service in His Estate is taken for granted. By that I mean that it is a given that we will serve in His house as faithful sons and He will provide for us as a faithful and caring Father. What is the point is that we ought to press into the meaning of relationship of Father and son as it is expressed in the relationship of God and Jesus: Father and Son. To know the intimate pleasure of His divine presence as Abba Father, whose boundless love and grace is an ever-present reality is the true meaning of sonship.

The intimacy of The Father’s presence, and the intense delight of participating in life in His presence, is revealed in the anguish of Christ as He sweat drops of blood in the garden of Gethsemane (Lk 22:42-44). This ‘cup’ that he wanted to avoid, the unimaginable agony He was to partake of, could only have been the experience of the absence of the presence of His Father. The greatest price He would pay for sin is a price we fail to understand. When Adam and Eve sinned, they were cut off from the presence of God (cf Gen 3:24 with Jn 17:3; cf Gen 2:17 with Rom6:11 and Eph 2:1,5). We, who know the presence of sin and not the presence of God were redeemed by Him who knew no sin but only knew the presence of God (Jn 1:1-4; 2Cor 5:21).

This intimacy of relationship is made clear in the cry of dereliction: “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me”. Salvation is not heaven, or power, or possessions, or position, or pleasure, it is presence – the presence of the living God who loved and sent His son to die so that we may be reconciled to Himself. His pleasure is to be our Heavenly Father, which means His pleasure is that we would be His sons and daughters and live in His presence.

God as, Heavenly Father, also sheds light on the nature of our relationship with Jesus. The one whose name is above every name; the one who ‘must reign until all things are put under His feet’ (1 Cor 15:21; Ps 110:1; Is 9:7; Rev 11:15); the one who is ‘seated in the heavenly realms’ (Eph 1:21,22); is also our brother. Our relationship with Him is as intimate as a brother. He is not ashamed to call us brothers and sisters (Heb 2:11).

If The God and Father of our Lord and saviour Jesus Christ calls us sons and daughters, if the Son of God, the eternal Word made flesh, sent from the Father to redeem us, calls us brothers and sisters, then we who are called by His name are joint heirs together with Him and with each other. So the name of God and Father and Jesus as our brother signifies that we are related together as brothers and sisters in intimate relationship together with Him and thus with each other.

The Conclusion:

BAM: It all about relationship; fellowship; unity; intimacy; oneness together with God in Christ Jesus through the power of His Holy Spirit.

What to do: pray together, worship together, seek the knowledge of The Father and the Son together and enjoy the bliss of divine fellowship together.

Psalm 133:1–3 (ESV)

          Behold, how good and pleasant it is

when brothers dwell in unity!

          It is like the precious oil on the head,

running down on the beard,

on the beard of Aaron,

running down on the collar of his robes!

          It is like the dew of Hermon,

which falls on the mountains of Zion!

For there the Lord has commanded the blessing,

life forevermore.

 

Kingdom Business and the People of God

By Dale Fewson

Preface by Michael Fewson:

Since 2007 we have been led to engage in what we have come to understand as ‘Kingdom Business’. It is the vehicle through which we engage the world. It is not an ‘outreach’ – which can be an aside to our everyday living – but the surrender of our most fundamental purpose of life – work – to the obedience of faith for the advancement of the Kingdom. Rather than our work being a means of financing our lives it becomes the means by which we engage the world. Our ‘income’ will be derived from this place but it is an aside to our purpose of living the Kingdom in the midst of a society at odds with God. As our labour is surrendered to God’s will in a practical and real sense then He truly does become the source and supplier of our daily needs.

Dale wanted to address the team at Essence of Coffee (our – Living Way and AHI’s Kingdom Business) to encourage them to pursue Kingdom service as the purpose of our work. He was subsequently asked to share with the church that meets as Living Way. The following article has been adapted for general reading as it was directed to our particular setting but the content is the same.

Foundation

My wife and children are currently in the USA while I am here in Australia. The Lord has directed dad and mum (Michael and Lesley Fewson), along with my family and me to go to South Dakota to establish Kingdom Business as a means of mission to the USA. My visa did not get processed in time and I found myself having to remain in Australia.

During this time of separation, I have had time to examine my life and prayerfully consider the meaning of life: does the sum of all that I am, all that I do and all that I will be have a deeper meaning than ‘42’[1]. As a disciple of Jesus Christ I realised that to ponder life and its meaning would be a futile exercise if it were about the pursuit of self-actualization. As a result, the question that I constantly returned to and prayed about was, “how does the Church – which is the body of Christ; The Kingdom – which is the rule and reign of Christ; and Kingdom Business – which is a Christ-centred vehicle for market-place ministry[2], all fit together?” To be born into God’s Kingdom through Christ is to find purposeful living, therefore to understand the Church, the Kingdom and Kingdom service is to find fulfillment.

My aim for this article is to share with you where I’m at with these things and try to define the church, the kingdom, and our response to the calling of God in our lives and how our different roles/gifts in business play a part in it all.

I want to state here that I am looking from the perspective of our Kingdom Business ‘Essence of Coffee’ and those whose gifts and talents make up the team of ‘ministers’ as we meet and engage the world in the market place. This is specifically applicable to those who have established kingdom Businesses and are seeking to realize the distinction between a Christian in business and a Kingdom Business. But also, through prayerful consideration, these principles are applicable in each person’s sphere of Kingdom service.

I believe that as Kingdom business unfolds and a faithful people remain yielded to the rule and reign of Christ, the manifold wisdom of God will be revealed and God’s people can and will see an unlocking in three separate areas.  These are areas where the enemy seeks to keep us captive but where the Lord comes to set the captives free.  (For an Old Testament example, see Israel coming out of Egypt).

  1. Profits – We will see business profits remain in the hands of the people of God at a level unseen before.
  2. Time – We will be released and have more time to do greater works of service in cooperation with God’s leading by His Spirit in diverse spheres of influence.
  3. People – We will see more people saved, more people baptized, more people redeemed and freed from the bondages of sin and death.

My key quotes are from scripture, some of my father Michael Fewson’s blog posts and excerpts from his book ‘Will the Real Church Stand Up’ and also part of a book called ‘Set Apart For God’ by John Mulinde, a pastor from Uganda. I recommend this as a must-read for understanding one’s calling in relationship to the body of Christ.  Salvation is being brought into the body of Christ as a repentant and productive vessel for Christ’s life rather than the old life of division and individualism perpetuated.

The Church

Ephesians 5:22-27 & 32(NIV)

22 Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. 25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansingher by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.
32 This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church.

Pascal Michel (pastor at Living Way in Perth) encapsulated the eternal plan of God when he said years ago, “That we would dwell in the trinity, in holy unity, for all eternity”.  At the end of the age, God’s ultimate plan will reach its fulfillment with His family dwelling in unity within the trinity.

For this to occur, man had to be united with God Himself.  The only way for man to be united with God was for God to become “one Flesh” with humanity.  God then worked salvation for mankind by fulfilling the righteous requirements of the law in Christ, delivering him to death for the sins of man and raising Him to life for our justification (Rom 4:25).  He ascended into heaven and sent His Holy Spirit, who from that point on, has been continuously at work calling out from the world those who are being saved.

Within the Church, God is working out His salvation in the lives of his children.

The church is the family of God. It is the environment in which citizens of the Kingdom meet and enjoy the fellowship of the Body of Christ and are given apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers to equip the saints for works of service or to put it another way to participate within the body of Christ.

Christ is the head of the body and we are many members joined together to make up the church, which is the body. The head tells the body where to go and what to do. This is where the Kingdom comes into play.

The Kingdom

The Kingdom is the rule and reign of Jesus on earth. It has come, it is advancing forcefully, is growing dynamically, and determined people from generation to generation are laying hold of it and endeavouring to possess it even as they are possessed by it.

Luke 16:16

16 “The Law and the Prophets were proclaimed until John. Since that time, the good news of the kingdom of God is being preached, and everyone is forcing their way into it.

Phil 3:12-14

12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

The Gospel specifically is the good news of the Kingdom: The Kingdom has come to all those who will embrace it. The Kingdom speaks of God’s exclusive right to rule and reign over all of creation and of human rebellion to that claim. The birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus reveal God’s love of righteousness and justice and underlines God’s supreme right to rule and to be worshipped.  It also reveals God’s desire to be known and our need as His creation to know Him (Jn 17:3).

The work of Jesus Christ, now exalted and seated at the right hand of God the Father, contrasts the rebellion and active opposition that humanity finds itself embroiled in and willing participants of.

The Rebellion

The rebellion, which originated with Satan seeking to exalt himself above the most High, culminated in the fall of mankind.  Since the disobedience of Adam and Eve, who sought to ‘be as gods’, man has continued to pursue self-exaltation (Idolatry), the fullest expression of rebellion against God.

God’s response has been to declare His power and wisdom through the cross and to establish His King over all creation.   God the Father has declared Christ supreme over all things and through Christ declared his enmity towards the rebels, carried out their defeat and now works to put every enemy under Christ’s feet (Col 2:15; Lk 20:43) while redeeming people from every nation to be a holy nation belonging to God.

The culmination of that redemptive work will be experienced when the final enemy has been destroyed – death – at the consummation of His Kingdom (1Cor 15:20-28; Heb 2:8). For us who believe, it will mean the end of suffering, the end of bondage to sinful flesh, the end of mortality (experienced as disease, decay and death), the end of sorrow and tears; it will be eternal bliss experienced as joy, righteous freedom, immortality and peace.

Interestingly, the tactics that a rebel army uses are more of guerrilla warfare covertly waiting, ambushing and taking out the weak points. Rebel armies don’t usually have the power to wage an all out war on their enemy.

1 Pet 5:8-9 (NIV)

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, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world.

So, as the body of Christ we are participating in the advancing Kingdom by continuing firm in our faith through which we are counted righteous by God and through which we participate in the divine nature.  (Rom 1:17; 2 Peter 1:4)

The practical aspects of living this way are outlined in Romans 8 as we are exhorted to remain in Christ led by the Holy Spirit with no condemnation and the promise of living in unity in the trinity with no threat or possibility of separation by external forces.

Our work in Kingdom business

Kingdom business is marketplace ministry through which we engage the world from the perspective of the Kingdom. Basically, every single person who is born-again and a child of God is to be actively engaged in the advancing Kingdom. It is a Spiritual Kingdom but it is experienced physically. This is the mistake many make. They think ‘their’ Christianity is ‘spiritual’ and the other stuff of this life is physical.

James 2:18.

18 But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.”

Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds.

The reality of the Kingdom is that Jesus Christ is Lord OVER ALL. If we are His then He is Lord over all that we do, all that we engage in. So, your work is Kingdom if you are a Kingdom person. If you are not, then it is a personal – read self-ruling – form of self-sustainment.

Non-kingdom minded people see work as a form of financial self-sustainment rather than the creative purpose of God. In understanding that we are the body of Christ, man was created to be the feet of Christ that participates in the advance of the Kingdom through the gospel (see the armour of God) and the arms that stretch out to Him and receive it while stretching out to the world as fishers of men. The Kingdom is not simply some spiritual concept but a present reality in the lives of humanity, principally in the life of those who bow the knee to Jesus Christ.

This completely changes my approach to work and business. I’m reminded of a music joke that used to entertain me as a guitarist. What are lyrics? The time wasted between guitar solos. We can so easily see our work that way.  It can become the time wasted between times of service to God.

The church, the Kingdom and our role here on earth

The New Testament describes the principles of the Kingdom, the Old is an example of how God would have us live in the world in relation to the Kingdom and its principles. The OT people had no real experiential knowledge of this but God led their actions and their faith is recorded by obedience. We have both the example shown and the word proclaimed and we therefore are beholden to faith and obedience in Christ.

I see this unfolding in our lives. All things function for the sake of the body.  One of our brothers in the faith mentioned to me a few weeks back about how the tribes of Israel lived. I see how the body can be like the tribes of Israel where there are different skill-sets in different tribes but one body.  If we imagine all this animated and infused with the spirit and bringing the life and creativity of God, then we begin to see a people of one spirit, contending like one man for the faith and unafraid of any who oppose us (Phil 1:27) and yet moving with the diversity of the trinity and the manifold wisdom of God.

Jesus came preaching the gospel of the kingdom. When the disciples asked Him to teach them how to pray, Jesus told them that they were to pray that the kingdom of God would come and that His will would be done on earth as it is in heaven.  Then he taught them to pray for the body.  This is the likeness of God who speaks of Himself as a community in Gen 1:26.

Gen 1:26 (NIV)

 Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”

God created us to be part of His kingdom rule, which can only happen when we are part of His body.

I may believe that I am saved, I may worship and sing and do many things, but if my life is not fulfilling the will of God as a vessel to do God’s will then I am not living out God’s purpose for my being on the earth and therefore continuing in the rebellion. The children of God are set apart for God. Being set apart is all about the kingdom of God, about His will being done on earth.

I mentioned before that the church is the family. It is the environment in which citizens of the Kingdom meet and enjoy the fellowship of the Body of Christ and are equipped for works of service. Those works are works of faith done in the service of the King in our everyday work. Ministry is not what happens in a location or an environment called church, it is what happens wherever we are and this is inclusive of the workplace.

When I asked my father Michael what the purpose of Essence of Coffee (our Kingdom business) was, he said the following, which relates to all that are in the business but also directly applies to other businesses;

Essence Of Coffee (EOC) is a vehicle called into existence by Jesus Christ, established to be a Kingdom vehicle as a point of engagement with the world and in this case, our sphere of influence, that is, that we influence our community as ambassadors of Christ through the opportunities afforded by EOC.

But, we must never forget to be wise stewards of the vehicle provided. Just as the Ark was a means of conveying and identifying the presence of God so too EOC is a vehicle given by God – not that EOC in anyway reflects or resembles the Ark of the Covenant. I am only saying that we must cherish any God-given vessel.

There are many vehicles used by Christ as points of engagement and as places of training for righteous engagement.  It is a place where godly young people can interact with the world in a safe and supportive environment. I remember working in the world and the difficulties and temptations not to reflect Christ where I was and the political oughts placed upon me. In worldly employment, we exchange our service for money and are subject to employers’ rules.

The benefits of working in a Kingdom Business are many. It is a place of engaging the world from our own ground. We are free to speak, to act and to live in service to God in the midst of the world. We meet them on our territory. The opportunities to preach Christ through our lives become endless. Recently a customer asked one of our young people out on a date. The young family member had a safe and secure place from which to decline the ‘invitation’ without pressure from others to conform to their standards. They were free to say no because of their commitment to Christ and because of their unwillingness to engage the try before you buy wind of doctrine, which comes from the world. It is also a place of discipleship because they didn’t know how to answer the question in a way that preached Christ. And so they were able, even at work, to seek the advice of Pascal their pastor who was able to help them and equip them for this.

Many members but one body

1 Corinthians 12:20-30 (NIV)

20 As it is, there are many parts, but one body.
21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” 22 On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable,23 and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, 24 while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, 25 so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. 26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.
27 Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. 28 And God has placed in the church first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, of helping, of guidance, and of different kinds of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30 Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? 

The local church is an extraordinary group of men and women.  We are committed to Christ and His Kingdom and to each other in covenantal love. No one is considered greater than the other as we serve each other in humility, yet we recognize the unique gifts and callings that God has given to each individually. The older need to teach the younger and make room for each person to fulfill the role that God has gifted them specifically to fill.

In Mark 4, Jesus finished off the parable of the sower with the words “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.” The temptation for all believers is to resist the word when it comes.  Youth can suffer from the arrogant pride of strength, a sense of indestructibility and visionary knowledge while the older generations can be rendered unable to hear through a sense of having heard it all before making them have a  lack a hunger to keep hearing God speak.  Let us obediently pursue having ears to hear what the Spirit has to say.

[1] A reference to “Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy’s ultimate question: what is the meaning of life, the universe and everything in it!”

[2]God has created us to work (Gen 2:15 and to work is a gift from Him (Eccl 5:19; 8:15). At AHI we recognise that work is kingdom service and is sacred. That to be in business is to be in the market place as servants of God’s advancing kingdom. As such, kingdom purposes shape and drive our kingdom businesses. We seek always to be led in business by the Spirit of the Lord (Rom 8:14).