Kingdom First!

It was a political phrase which stood in complete opposition of the political parties in power. It was a phrase that was filled with so much meaning that those who would try to live it out would most likely lose their lives. There was one King in the World and his name was Caesar. There was one power center and it was in Rome. Anyone who disagreed with this belief or tried to usurp the authority of Rome would be crushed. No exceptions. Yet on a little hillside in Judea a young man named Jesus announced “kingdom first.” Matthew 6:33

Through the centuries we have watered down this statement which Jesus made about the Kingdom to mean something completely different than what it meant when Jesus said it. Jesus was not encouraging people to make their personal spiritual experiences a priority. As important as these experiences might be, Jesus had something even more revolutionary in mind. Jesus was announcing a new political power. Pastor and theologian Greg Boyd said that “Jesus came to establish the kingdom of God as a radical alternative to all versions of the kingdoms of the world.” What this meant on the practical side was this new kingdom was not concerned with promoting or necessarily helping the kingdoms of the World accomplish their purposes. Making Rome great was not the priority of a Kingdom first person. Kingdom first people were to make God great. Prior to the Roman emperor Constantine the church understood what Jesus meant on the Sermon on the Mount when he said seek first the kingdom. It took courage to be a Kingdom first Christians.

May Kingdom first be our battle cry. Although the affairs and rulers of the World are not our priority may we pray for the peace and tranquility of our communities. May we love all that God has placed before us. May we seek not to make our communities better but be the better communities so that we may attract people to a kingdom that is not fading but will last forever. The revolution has begun. The battle cry is kingdom first!


Another Kingdom

Probably what the World needs is another blog site, right? It seems like wherever you turn someone has a blog or post about what they think and what they believe. Inherently there is probably nothing wrong with them. It is good for us as communities to share our thoughts and ideas with one another. Certainly sharing is something that we as a World can get better at doing. Many times we want everyone to hear us and in the market place of ideas we not only want them to hear, we want them to agree. When they do not agree we simply yell louder. My hope for this blog is not to get louder. What I envision is a journey. Everyone is on a journey. Some have an idea of where they are headed, others have an idea but are not sure how to get there, and than there are those who do not realize they have a journey and so they wander aimlessly. Some days I feel like I am in all three categories. Where I see my journey heading may be like the journey Bilbo described to Frodo in the Lord of the Rings when he said, “It is a dangerous business Frodo, going out of your door. You step into the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there is no knowing where you might be swept off to.” This type of journey does not sounds very safe. Truthfully it is not. But this is the journey I have chosen.

I like to call this the journey that I am on a journey into “Another Kingdom.” The phrase Another Kingdom is one in which I came across from a book I read last year with a similar tittle called, An Other Kingdom by John McNight, Walter Brueggermann and Peter Block. As I read their book I could not get this phrase out of my mind because it depicted how I was shaping my life or maybe better yet how God was shaping my life. For years I lived out my Christian practice very much in the spiritual realm but not always in the physical realm. When Jesus spoke of the Kingdom I immediately thought he meant the kingdom to come in heaven. So my “Jesus life” was wired to get myself to heaven and to get as many people as I could there as well. Now heaven is important and has it’s place but the more I read through the gospel accounts I realized that Jesus rarely talked about heaven. Most of his conversation was about a kingdom. Not a kingdom which would come hundreds of years later or even a kingdom which was up there in heaven. Jesus spoke about a very real and physical kingdom which was meant to be lived in the now. The fruits of this kingdom, its blessing and its rewards were mostly focussed in the now and not the later although some great blessing were yet to come. When I saw the kingdom as a “now” reality it occurred to me that Jesus kingdom was not the only kingdom. There are other kingdoms which exist. Jesus came into a World filled with kingdoms. Yet his kingdom was different. It was “Another Kingdom.” It was a kingdom which he said would continue to be more powerful while other kingdoms would fade. It’s power did not come through tanks and armies, but through the Holy Spirit and love. This kingdom was not simply meant to make other kingdoms nicer places to live but it was meant to be an alternative kingdom to all kingdoms which would eventually make this World a better place to live.

Another Kingdom is what I have put my hope in. It consumes much of my time and in some way it is what I want to write about as I go on this journey. I am blessed and fortunate to be able to share this journey not only with close friends and family but also with my local kingdom family Agape Christian Church. Let me simply close with this quote from John Nugent in his book Endangered Gospel. I hope you will be encouraged by it and reflect upon it as you seek to live for Another Kingdom.

“What then is the Kingdom? It is the fulfillment of Israels hopes. It is the reign of God over his people on behalf of all creation. It is the new world order that the prophets foretold. It is everything God’s people longed for, and more. It is Israels God intervening in World history to make a better place in this World”

One Tribe

People all around the World are made of different tribes. Tribes are simply a way in which people view life. Most tribes are territorial or are part of a particular ethnic group or simply see life in a certain way. What they may have in common is certain values or customs. Within the United States tribes can fall under many categories. Our political party, our stance on certain issues, the communities we live in, the schools we attend and the church we belong to can all be under the heading of a tribe. Most conflicts in the World can be attributed to ones tribal values clashing with the values of another tribe.

In the 37th chapter of Ezekiel, God tells Ezekiel to take two sticks of wood and on one stick write “Belonging to Judah,” and on the other stick write “Belonging to Joseph.” Ezekiel takes the two sticks and brings them together as one. The point is that God will one day not simply bring the Jewish tribes back together again, but he will raise up one tribe under the leadership of the messiah King. This King will rule his people with justice and peace. The people in this tribe would finally inherit the land promised to them back in the days of Abraham. As the Bible unfolds we learn the promise of land was not simply a little piece of land in the Mediterranean, but God intended to renew and restore the whole Earth as his possession. The Apostle Paul assumed this prophecy came true in the work of Jesus on the cross. In Galatians 3:26-29 Paul writes, “So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, 27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”
Did you catch that? Jesus came to have one tribe and family and this family was going to inherit the promise that were given to Abraham.

So, what does this mean for the church? First, commitment to the Jesus tribe is essential. The typical view of a church is that it is the place where we come to get some good moral teaching, or it is a sin management station, and sometimes we view church as the holding station until we get to Heaven. There may be some truth to these statements, but the primary purpose of the Jesus tribe is we are to be committed to one another and to Jesus in relationship. We are a family. Tribes look out for one another. We don’t just attend church one day a week, but we share life together throughout the week. Secondly, allegiance to the Jesus tribe must be louder than other tribes. Our goal is not to promote the tribes of this World. We are to promote Jesus. Our goal is to invite people not to a political party, not to a certain stand on certain issues but to invite them to be a part of the Jesus family. Will we have differences? Of course, we will, but our differences should not be louder than what we have in Jesus.

We live in a culture in which people are defending their tribes. I personally am tired of defending tribes that I am a part of except the tribe of Jesus. I want to lift high his name. I want to let the World know that being a part of the Jesus tribe brings hope to the World. I am reminded that the tribes of this World will eventually fade, but the tribe lead by King Jesus will live forever in a restored and renewed World. This is good news

The Promise-Message notes & outline

The Promises
Notes from Message on March 4th 2018
Audio can be found at

How Genesis is typically read
1. Stories of great faith
2. Practical moral advice.

How should Genesis be read?
God’s rescue plan to fix the problem of a divided Heaven and Earth.
The fix will come in a series of promises through a family
The Promises will be dependent on God’s faithfulness.

Verses about Promises to Abraham and his descendants
Genesis 12:1-3
The LORD had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.
2 “I will make you into a great nation,
and I will bless you;
I will make your name great,
and you will be a blessing.
3 I will bless those who bless you,
and whoever curses you I will curse;
and all peoples on earth
will be blessed through you.”
” I will make you into a great nation
” I will make your name great
” I will bless those who bless you

Genesis 12:7
The LORD appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring[a] I will give this land.”So he built an altar there to the LORD, who had appeared to him.
” To your offspring I will give this land

Genesis 13:14-17
The LORD said to Abram after Lot had parted from him, “Look around from where you are, to the north and south, to the east and west. 15 All the land that you see I will give to you and your offspring[a] forever. 16 I will make your offspring like the dust of the earth, so that if anyone could count the dust, then your offspring could be counted. 17 Go, walk through the length and breadth of the land, for I am giving it to you.”
” All the land you see I will give to you and your offspring forever
” I will make your offspring numerous

Genesis 15:5-7
5 He took him outside and said, “Look up at the sky and count the stars-if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring[a] be.”
6 Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness.
7 He also said to him, “I am the LORD, who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to take possession of it.”
” Offspring as numerous as the stars
” Possession of the land

Genesis 22:15-18
15 The angel of the LORD called to Abraham from heaven a second time 16 and said, “I swear by myself, declares the LORD, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, 17 I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies,18 and through your offspring[a] all nations on earth will be blessed,[b] because you have obeyed me.”
” Descendants as numerous as the stars
” Your descendants will take possessions of the cities of their enemies
” Because of your offspring all nations will be blessed because he obeyed

Genesis 26:24 Isaac
That night the LORD appeared to him and said, “I am the God of your father Abraham. Do not be afraid, for I am with you; I will bless you and will increase the number of your descendants for the sake of my servant Abraham.”
” Increase the number of descendants

Genesis 27:29 Jacob receives blessing from Isaac
May nations serve you
and peoples bow down to you.
Be lord over your brothers,
and may the sons of your mother bow down to you.
May those who curse you be cursed
and those who bless you be blessed.”
” Nations will serve you
” Those who curse you will be cursed and those who bless you will be blessed

Genesis 28:3-4
May God Almighty[a] bless you and make you fruitful and increase your numbers until you become a community of peoples. 4 May he give you and your descendants the blessing given to Abraham, so that you may take possession of the land where you now reside as a foreigner, the land God gave to Abraham.”
” Increase in numbers to become community
” Take Possession of the land

Genesis 35:10-13
God said to him, “Your name is Jacob, but you will no longer be called Jacob; your name will be Israel. ” So he named him Israel.
11 And God said to him, “I am God Almighty; be fruitful and increase in number. A nation and a community of nations will come from you, and kings will be among your descendants. 12 The land I gave to Abraham and Isaac I also give to you, and I will give this land to your descendants after you.” 13 Then God went up from him at the place where he had talked with him.
” Be fruitful and increase in Number
” Nations and Kings will come from you
” Inherit the land

Genesis 48:3-4
Jacob said to Joseph, “God Almighty appeared to me at Luz in the land of Canaan, and there he blessed me 4 and said to me, ‘I am going to make you fruitful and increase your numbers. I will make you a community of peoples, and I will give this land as an everlasting possession to your descendants after you.’
” I will make you a community of peoples
” I will give you this land as an everlasting possession.

What do we learn?
1 God is going to build a Great Nation through the descendants of Abraham
1. Galatians 3:7 Understand, then, that those who have faith are children of Abraham.
2. Galatians 3:29. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.
ii. What does this all mean?
iii. Those who accept the Jewish Messiah are this great nation.
2 God’s People will inherit the Land for eternity
Matthew 5:5- Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
Romans 8:18-21. 18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 19 For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that[h] the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.

Does redemption and inheritance of the land look like A New Heaven and New Earth?

3 God is going to Give his People a great name
Ephesians 1:3-14
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. 4 For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love 5 he[b]predestined us for adoption to sonship[c] through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will- 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace 8 that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, 9 he[d] made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, 10 to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment-to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ. 11 In him we were also chosen,[e] having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, 12 in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. 13 And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession-to the praise of his glory.
4 All nations will be blessed through this family

Conclusion: I want to look at one last passage.
Romans 4:19-21
Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead-since he was about a hundred years old-and that Sarah’s womb was also dead. 20 Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, 21 being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised.

Paul says that Abraham never got to see the promises God had made. But in his faith, he gave glory to God. The word faith can have different meanings. It can mean an intellectual consent of things known or believed. It can mean trust. “Yes, I trust you”. But in this case, I believe the correct word is allegiance. Faith equals Allegiance. Abraham’s life was about obedience to the promises. Abraham was in essence saying Lord I believe your story and it is now my Story? This is the question Jesus ask us today.

What is our Story? Does it have allegiance to God’s story?

Understanding the Story Beyond our Culture

Imagine you are living in the deep south in the year of 1845. You are part of the Baptist faith. Your denomination has just made the announcement that if you own slaves you cannot be a missionary for the Baptist church. So, what do you do? Well in the south, Baptist churches met in Augusta, Georgia to form the Southern Baptist Convention. The Southern Baptist Convention believed that God permitted slavery and they had Bible verses to prove it. Many Christians in the southern states believed that the Negro race was an inferior race. These teachings were prevalent in southern churches well into the 20th century. It was not until 1995 that the Southern Baptist Church publicly renounced the view of slavery and racial discrimination.

How could so many Christians believe the false idea that the white race was superior or that owning slaves was what God would want? Being on this side of history, it is easy to point out the errors of our ancestors. Imagine though if you grew up in the southern culture in the 1850’s. As much as I like to think I would be opposed to slavery and the belief that the white race is superior, I believe that it would be hard to think differently. Why? Because most of us view scripture through the lens of our culture. Culture is a powerful influence. It shapes how we view life and the Bible story. If we have always been told something through the pulpit, many of us will believe it whether it is true or not because within our context we believe it to be true, especially if so many others believe it to be true. Germany had produced some of the greatest theologians at the turn of the 20th century, yet somehow anti-Semitism was allowed to grow and flourish. Adolph Hitler capitalized on this by saying, “I believe that I am acting in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator: by defending myself against the Jew, I am fighting for the work of the Lord.” We all know that these strong cultural misunderstandings caused not only the lives of 6 million Jews but also the lives of tens of millions across the planet. Allowing the culture to shape the Biblical story is dangerous to the work and mission of the church.

The great task of the American church today is seeking to understand the biblical story beyond the shaping influences of our culture. This is not an easy task, especially when we are being bombarded by so many messages from social media and cable news. The church needs to not be so arrogant to believe that we are not like our ancestors of the past. They too believed they were preaching the pure gospel. So how do we prevent our culture from shaping how we view the Bible story? I believe with much humility and patience. We need to have humility enough to say that maybe what we have believed could be wrong. I am not saying what you believe is wrong, but we need to check it against the story the Bible is trying to share with us. We need to have the patience to “work out our salvation with fear and trembling”. We need to be like the Apostle Paul who spent his life seeking to align himself up with the story of the Bible and work to “demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and… take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” 2 Corinthians 10:5. This will not be easy. It will take hard work to detox our cultural biases from our view of scripture, but the work is worth it.

God has an amazing story. It transcends time and culture and yet it is for our time and our culture. Work hard my friend for your effort will obtain for you a most glorious prize. God is good and rewards those who seek him. Below I have added the words of Frederick Douglass who challenged the Christianity of the South. May it also challenge us with whatever views we may have that are not part of the Christian story.

“Between the Christianity of this land and the Christianity of Christ, I recognize the widest possible difference-so wide that to receive the one as good, pure, and holy, is of necessity to reject the other as bad, corrupt, and wicked. To be the friend of the one is of necessity to be the enemy of the other. I love the pure, peaceable, and impartial Christianity of Christ; I therefore hate the corrupt, slave-holding, women-whipping, cradle-plundering, partial and hypocritical Christianity of this land. Indeed, I can see no reason but the most deceitful one for calling the religion of this land Christianity…”.

Getting the Story Right

It is confession time. It has been almost 40 years and I feel compelled to finally confess this sin. I feel like it is the right thing to do. I need to clear my conscience and free those who were wrongly accused. So here goes.

In my teens there were times when I did things which I know where not right and certainly not pleasing to my parents. Sometimes others suffered from my sins. This account is one of those times. By the way I am not proud of this and certainly not proud of the things I did. This event involved one of my sisters. This is a sister I dearly love today but recognize that she took a punishment from my parents for a crime she did not commit. I remember the story this way. Somehow, I came across one of those phone numbers that when you call it you would hear a recorded message that in this case was not very wholesome. As I was listening on the phone(for those too young to remember, this was a time when we had no cell phones and people could pick up and hear conversations on another phone in the house) my father pick up the other line. I immediately knew I was in big trouble. The next moment I heard him roar from across the house with his booming voice. He wanted to know who was on the phone. At this point in the story my memory gets real vague. I am not sure if I told my dad that it was my sister, or he simply assumed it was her. Regardless I did nothing to change his mind. All I know is the punishment that I deserved, she received. My dad had the details right. One of his kids was doing something they should not have been doing. The result of this is that one of his kids would be punished. My sister received the punishment. He had the details right but the story wrong. This is where I must say to my sister I am sorry. I hope in your heart you can forgive me.

Details do not always equate to a correct story. Case in point is how we might understand the Bible. Christopher J.H. Wright in his book The Mission of God says, “Down through the centuries it would probably be fair to say that Christians have been good at their messianic reading of the Old Testament but inadequate (and sometimes utterly blind) at their missional reading of it.”
What Wright has observed is that we have been really good at the details about seeing Jesus in the Old Testament but have not been so good at understanding the story the Old Testament is trying to tell or the story the Bible is trying to tell. For many the references of Jesus in the Old Testament have simply been used as a proof texts that Jesus in the New Testament was the Son of God. Now certainly this has some truth to it, but it is not really the story the Bible is trying to tell.

The creation account in Genesis 1 & 2 is another example in which sometimes Christians have had the right details but the wrong story. Most of the time when I hear people talk about the creation account it is simply being used for an argument for God’s existence, or a debate about young earth verses old earth. Unfortunately, these arguments cause us to miss the story the Bible is trying to tell about creation and about God. Maybe one of the most misunderstood details of the Bible is that of Heaven. Most Western Christians view of Heaven has been shaped more by Plato, and the age of enlightenment than by the real story the Bible is trying to tell us about Heaven and the future life of humanity.

I hope by now I have at least peaked your interest. You may think that this is not a very important issue. Do not be fooled it is critically important. The Bible is first and foremost a story. Not just any story but God’s story. Understanding the story is not simply important but it is essential. Those who have misunderstood the story of the Bible have created a religion that looks more like the cultures they live in or have created a religion shaped more in their image than in the image of God. The story you believe is the story you will participate in. Our belief in what we believe the story is telling us shapes and directs how we act and live. The misunderstanding of the Story has tragically resulted in such horrific things such as the Crusades, the promotion of slavery, the massacre of Indians, and the holocaust of Jews. Getting the story right is important.

Over the next month and leading into Easter I plan to explore the story the Bible is telling us both on this blog and also through sermons preached at Agape Christian Church. I hope you will join me in the discussion.

What Michael Taught Me

I have been to Liberia a dozen times. It is one of the poorest countries on planet earth. The education system is in shambles. Only 38% of the children attend school. 3.7 Million of the 4.6 million people do not have access to a decent toilet. Over 1 million people still have no access to safe water. Besides these problems issues such as deaths by malaria, corrupt political systems, broken infrastructure make life hard on people in Liberia. I am a firm believer that all these issues can be improved upon and the major catalyst for this is the church. One of the main reasons I go to Liberia is to try and encourage and help church leaders.

On my recent trip to Liberia through the organization Hope 2, I was able to work with area pastors for some spiritual training and guidance. Some of our training sessions while in Liberia have been attended by as many as 500 pastors and leaders. This past week we worked with 8 local church leaders in Margibi County. This is where I met Michael. Michael came to our training because he volunteers at his church near the Hope 2 facility. He is familiar with Hope 2 because he has helped in the construction projects of the school and Hope Center. Michael has a high school diploma (Which is rare for many Liberians) and wants to be a pastor. His passion to be a pastor is a result of his genuine love to reach people with God’s Love. When our conference was over I met with Michael because he wanted to find ways in which he could grow more. I ended up after our discussions giving him all my class notes plus notes on Sermons I had preached over the last month or so. Michael seemed very eager to receive them. He told me that in his church most lack proper understanding of the Bible and very few in his church own Bibles.

Several days after the conference I noticed Michael was under a shade tree by himself near the Hope Center. I decided to approach him to see what he was doing. From a distance it looked like he simply was relaxing. But as I got closer I noticed that he was painstakingly going through all my notes I had left him the day before. His hunger for learning and knowing God’s word humbled me. I live in a land where most people own 3 to 4 Bibles. I have access to all kinds of Bible programs and was blessed to go to college and do graduate training in the Bible. I have always felt blessed. And certainly I am. But what did Michael have? Simply some notes. He treated those notes as if the Apostle Paul had written them himself. That moment made me realize “being blessed” is not equated with what we have as much as it is what we desire. Many people in my country have plenty but how many of us are truly hungry for the things of God. Hunger for something trumps having things. Maybe this is why Jesus said blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness(Matthew 5:6). It is not those who have who are truly blessed but those who hunger who are the blessed ones.

I have now left Liberia and have left Michael for the time being. I am so grateful that I got to meet Michael and plan to help him in his journey with the Lord, but most of all I am so grateful for what he has taught me. I hope that in the weeks, months and years to come I will be hungry for God like Michael is hungry for God. Thank you Michael for what you have taught me.

For more information or ways you can help the Liberian people please visit this website.

The Surprise of Christmas

“In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world.”
Luke 2:1

It is difficult to see any reality beyond the reality that we live in. We usually assume the way we see the World or the World we live in is the only possibility. One of my favorite movies was “The Truman Show” starring Jim Carrey. Carrey plays the part of Truman Burbank who was adopted as a baby by a television company and is now starring in his own movie which plays in real time. The only problem is Truman has no idea he is on a television show. He does not realize that his World is made up of people and places which are not real. One day by accident Truman discovers the World which he lives in is not all there is in life. He knows that something is not right and so he seeks to break out of the only World he knows to the World beyond.

Most of us find it hard to believe or think there is something different than what we have always known. In the ancient World, Caesar was not only king, he considered himself God. He controlled the lives of all who were in his empire. His policies and plans were the rule of the land. When Augustus decreed something, the World did not sit still. He was a mover and a shaker and if you wanted to live in any kind of peace you had better do what he says. Caesar is no different than any other empire or Kingdom. Empires and leaders come and go. Some are good(relatively so) and others not so good. But what all of them have in common is they seek to draw a picture of reality which seeks to fulfill their purposes and objectives. Almost always this means others are subjugated to some type of mistreatment. What was true for Rome is true of the cultures of our day as well. The problem which arises is that we believe what we see is the normal. In ancient Palestine, it was normal for Jewish people to be seen as second-class citizens who had to pay high exorbitant taxes to others. It was the only World they knew. Throughout American history there have been times when certain things simply seemed to be the normal way of life. Owning slaves, taking land from native Americans, denying civil rights were all considered normal. Although these issues may not be in vogue today we certainly have other things within our culture that we are told is normal but in reality, it is not.

One week from today we will celebrate Christmas. I believe the Christmas story in the Bible is a story that surprises the World. The World seeks to shape a story of reality. They want us to believe this is all there is. The Christmas story though stands in steep opposition to the reality the World wants to paint. Theologian Walter Brueggermann says, “The birth of a new king marks a new beginning in heaven and on earth of a very different kind.” Jesus entrance into the World sets in motion a new way to look at life, a new way to see life and produces a new reality. Jesus removes the shackles which enslave us and sets us free to be the people we were always meant to be. Like Truman who knew there was something bigger and better outside of his little bubble we who follow Jesus recognize there is something beyond the bubbles of this World. I pray that the Jesus who surprised Mary and the ancient World will also surprise you in such a way that you will draw to the one they call Emmanuel.

More Than Belief

During my freshmen year of College at the University of Arizona I was approached by young man who belonged to one of the Christian Campus Ministries. He simply asked me one question. “Do you know where you going when you die? Of course, I knew of only one of two responses. Heaven or Hell. I responded by saying, “I hope Heaven.” This response was all he needed to know about where my eternal destiny laid. So, he then began sharing with me about how I could go to heaven. His whole belief was that there was nothing more important that God wanted from a person than they go to Heaven. The way to Heaven was by believing Jesus died for my sins and asking Jesus into my heart. So, I asked how one might put their belief in Jesus? He told me that I simply needed to pray the “sinner’s prayer” asking God to forgive me of my sins and telling Jesus that I now believed in Him. After saying the prayer, we both went away happy. He went away happy because he believed that the Kingdom gained another soul for heaven. I went away happy because I believed I was going to heaven because I said, “I believe in Jesus.” To celebrate this monumental occasion in my life I went and got drunk that night.

I applaud this stranger’s passion to want to see me go to heaven. Yet his presentation of what God wanted for my life was not only lacking but even dangerous to my eternal destiny. He believed that what Jesus wanted for my life was that I acknowledge him verbally. Now this is certainly true that Jesus wants us to believe in Him. Jesus said, “Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven.” (Matthew 10:32) Yet we do not have to read too far into the Sermon on the Mount to realize that Jesus was not simply looking for an intellectual consent of his existence. The Sermon on the Mount proclaims loudly that Jesus actually expected his followers to have him reign in every area of their lives.

John Stott gives a beautiful picture of what this reign looks like in the follower of Jesus when he says, the “kingdom is to desire as of first importance the spread of the reign of Jesus Christ. Such a desire will start with ourselves, until every single department of our life—home, marriage and family, personal morality, professional life and business ethics, bank balance, tax returns, life-style, citizenship—is joyfully and freely submissive to Christ.” The whole message of the Sermon on the Mount pointed its listeners not simply to believe in Jesus, (although belief is the beginning point) but live in what Jesus believed and taught. Martin Luther coins it well when he says, “doctrine is a good and a precious thing, but it is not being preached for the sake of being heard but for the sake of action and its application to life.” To live out what Jesus taught would mean that one would join the new and exciting Kingdom God was starting.

Believing is important. It is the entrance into this new way of life, and this kingdom community. Yet believing is not an end to itself. Believing is a call to a new way to live life. A life where we have a king who has broken into World history and says follow me. This King and his Kingdom are exciting. Let me close with these words from the book “Endangered Gospel” by John Nugent as he describes this new reign by King Jesus.

“It is the reign of God over his people on behalf of all creation. It is the new world order that the prophets foretold. It is everything God’s people longed for, and more. It is Israel’s God intervening in world history to make a better place in this world.”