Posts about the Church

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The Dark Underbelly of Calvinism: Double Predestination

Standard disclaimer: Calvinism/Arminianism is minor doctrine and should not result in disunity in its discussion. Many of the greatest Christians I know differ with my position on this matter, and yet it is important to discuss these differences openly, disagreeing with but not  dishonoring any brother/sister in the Lord.

Calvinist teachers often proclaim how glorious it is that Christians have been personally chosen by God before the foundation of the world, not because of anything they have done, but because God chose to love and save them, and how this truth should make Christians stand in awe of God’s great generosity and compassion.

What rarely gets preached is the flip-side of this coin: how “glorious” it is that unbelievers are predestined to eternal torment, though they are no more or less deserving than those being saved, so that God may be glorified.

Here I should mention that there is a debate within Calvinist circles. Some argue that double predestination (the notion that God predestines some to hell) is the only logical conclusion, and some say that it is best to leave it a mystery, so as not to give the appearance that God is the author of sin (though they offer no real logical alternative – hence the “mystery”).

The fact that there is such a debate should demonstrate how terrible this point of doctrine is. How exactly does the eternal torture of billions glorify God? Why couldn’t God predestine all to be with Him in heaven? There’s no good answer. No less a Calvinist authority than John MacArthur posts on his website:

Question:
[A very young Child]: I listened to your sermon last Sunday, and I was wondering, why didn’t God choose everybody to be saved?

John MacArthur:
Kids always ask those questions. Adults don’t ask them because they’ve learned there’s no answer.

“Why didn’t God choose everyone to be saved? You know something, honey? I don’t know. I don’t know. But, I’ll give you a basic answer, Ok? And the basic answer–and I hope you can understand this–the basic answer is: because He got more glory for his own name by doing it the way He did it. God does what He does for His glory. And somehow, in some way, God is glorified in what He did, and that’s why He did it.”

(http://www.gty.org/resources/questions/QA182/why-didnt-god-choose-everyone-to-be-saved)

This is the answer of someone forced to say something he doesn’t want to, because the “truth” doesn’t seem good at all, to him, or to anybody.

I contend that telling Christians that they should praise God because he has predestined them for salvation is like telling 18th century white slave owners that America is great because of slavery. When the natural rebuttal is presented–but it doesn’t seem so great for the damned/slaves–the answer is usually something like, “don’t look at them, look at yourself! See how merciful God is to you and how great you have it, and be thankful. Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth son.” The poor neophyte Calvinist is herded away from such “childish” questions (as MacArthur would seem to think) and back to the mysteriously “great” sovereignty of God.

Now let me say that I understand why many Calvinists say what they do–because they are trying to be faithful to what they understand Paul to be saying in passages like Romans 9. When Paul says that God predestines some to hell in order “to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy” (Rom 9:23 – Calvinist reading), it’s understandable why devout Christians would feel obligated to celebrate something that doesn’t seem all that great. It’s like God is some crazy football coach who forces his family to cheer for his team whether they want to or not.

Or… we can consider that maybe we’ve misunderstood passages like Romans 9, and perhaps for very understandable reasons. In fact, the Bible itself foretells the very reason why this happens. In Romans 11, Paul warns Gentile believers that if they become arrogant towards the Jewish people on account of their rejection of Christ, that God will cut them off.  (v13-24) And this is exactly what happened. The early Church started to stray from honoring Israel, eventually began to persecute Jews, and were in many ways “cut off” from grace during the Dark Ages. Some of the Church’s deepest misunderstandings of New Testament passages are a result of arrogance towards Israel, thinking that we can rightly interpret Jewish writings without understanding the culture from which they came. Election is a prime example. Most Calvinist interpretation of passages like Romans 9, Ephesians 1, and John 6/10 flows from a misunderstanding of Jewish concepts of election.

In truth, God does actually desire that all people be saved. There’s no “secret” will; he commands all men to repent and believe in Jesus whom he sent to die for the sins of the world. He created the world without sin, and man, through his own free choice, chose to sin even though he was warned that if he did so death would be the result. Despite this well-deserved condemnation, God still desired reconciliation with man and sent his own Son to die for the sins of humanity.

Understand how different this picture is from Calvinism’s. In Calvinism, the overarching picture is one where God condemns many people (and saves a few) to glorify himself. He–essentially–uses people for his glory. In “Arminianism,” God condemns himself–he uses himself–to glorify people. He humbles himself to exalt us. It’s very easy to see how God is glorified in the latter. He shows himself the great loving King, worthy of praise and emulation.

Calvinism’s portrayal of the gospel only works if we emphasize the beneficial side of the coin. Aren’t we so lucky (at their expense)? Isn’t God so good (to us)? But a God who is only “good” to some is not truly good. Would it make sense to your unbelieving friend that God very well could have predestined him to hell so that you would be more thankful? Such a notion seems ridiculous when stated so baldly. Could it be that such a concept of election is not at all what the biblical authors intended to communicate?

In fact, there are very good Arminian explanations for all Calvinist “proof texts,” and I shall be going over some of the major ones as I did with Romans 9 earlier. It seems that in the vast majority of cases when I do explain Arminian counter-arguments to Calvinist talking points, that it is the first time that many have even heard the argument. It is indeed a sad state of affairs that Calvinists today have so dominated the conversation (at least in my circles) that most have not even heard the other side of the argument. These rebuttals should ideally stand, in the hearers mind, next to the great preponderance of biblical texts that assume that readers actually do have free choice, and that one’s decisions do truly matter.

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The Most Misunderstood Chapter in Scripture: Romans 9

I’m listening today to Wayne Grudem’s systematic theology podcast, which is pretty good for a summary of biblical theology. I appreciate Grudem’s even-keeled temperament and clear exposition. I also like that he marries serious intellectualism with charismatic practice, which is a wonderful trend to see in the Church.

I just listened to his section on election though, and it’s so frustrating to hear this brilliant man run right into the plain-as-day logical incompatibility of Calvinism, over and over again, like a gif of the titanic hitting an iceberg on endless repeat. God pre-ordains man to sin; God punishes man for sinning. God saves some for no meritorious reason so he gets all the credit; this, of course, is not a random selection. Our evangelism or prayer cannot actually affect the identity or number of anyone being saved; we are still told its vitally important for us to do them. and so on and so on. Of course, Romans 9 is the cornerstone for Grudem’s (and every other major Calvinist’s) argument for why, even though it seems criminally unfair, we must bow before the “clear teaching of Scripture” that God is both just and loving to predetermine men’s sinfulness and then condemn them to eternal torture for their sin. God is the potter, and who are we mere men to question his choice to make vessels for destruction? What other explanation could there be?

How about one that actually makes sense in the context of the passage! In fact, the Calvinistic interpretation of Romans 9 makes almost no sense if you actually understand the sweep of Paul’s argument in that chapter.

Look at the chapter’s bookends! Paul introduces the topic in verses 1-5, “I have great sorrow… for the sake of my people…Israel.” Then, at the end, he summarizes his thoughts in vs. 30-31, “What shall we say then? (What does all this mean?) That the Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have obtained it, a righteousness that is by faith; 31 but the people of Israel, who pursued the law as the way of righteousness, have not attained their goal.” The chapter is not about individual people; it’s about Israel!

Let me give an overview of Romans 9.

v1-5. Paul is sad about Israel’s rejection of Jesus, and will now explain why it is happening even though God promised them a glorious future as his chosen people.

v6-13. He starts off by explaining that Israel was chosen by grace, not by its own merit. Jacob’s descendents (Israel) were chosen over Esau’s, as the prophecy Paul references was “Two nations are in your womb…and the older will serve the younger.”

“Is that unjust?” Paul asks (v14). No! Because He “will have mercy on whom [he] has mercy.” Why does Paul bring this up? Because this is what the Lord tells Moses right after the golden calf incident, when he chooses to have mercy on Israel because of Moses’ intercession and not wipe out the nation. God’s purposes, therefore, do not depend of human effort, but on God’s mercy. Israel failed its holy calling about 5 minutes after it was commissioned at Sinai, and yet the Lord gave mercy for the sake of his purposes.

Then Paul brings up Pharoah, whom God hardened as a judgment for his decision to refuse to obey God’s commands. Why? Because God used Pharoah’s disobedience to glorify himself through a miraculous exodus. God used a sinful man to accomplish his good plans to bless Israel, whom He had chosen.

The flow of his argument here is really important to understand. You see, God has mercy on who he will, but also hardens whom he wants to harden. Why is this relevant? Because now, in Paul’s time, God is hardening Israel in exactly the same way he hardened Pharaoh, to accomplish his purposes for those whom he has chosen among the Gentiles.

v19-21. Then why does God still blame us (Jews)?” This is where Paul brings up the Potter, which is directly from Jeremiah 18. There, God tells Jeremiah that Israel is like a lump of clay that resists the will of the potter, so the potter has the right to refashion the lump for an appropriate use in his plans. He also says, though, that if that nation repents he will relent from his planned disaster. (Let me be clear here: God’s sovereign choice is in hardening Israel! The lump of clay that is used for “common use” is Israel!)

v22-25. The objects of his wrath, born with great patience, are Jews, who are judged harshly by the Lord in AD 70 and scattered among the nations, but preserved for a great purpose in the future, as Paul will explain in Romans 11. Gods scattering of Israel fulfilled God’s purposes as a righteous judgment against Israel and a blessing to the nations as the believing Jews brought with them the gospel of their messiah Jesus.

Paul finishes the chapter by referencing numerous OT prophecies about the Gentiles coming to faith and summarizes by saying: “What shall we say then? (What does all this mean?) That the Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have obtained it, a righteousness that is by faith; 31 but the people of Israel, who pursued the law as the way of righteousness, have not attained their goal.” This conclusion makes perfect sense if the topic of the chapter is the election of Israel. 

This overview of Romans 9 makes perfect sense in the flow of Paul’s argument until chapter 11, and I lovingly challenge any Calvinist to seriously consider this interpretation. I understand that rethinking a Calvinist interpretation of Romans 9 is not easy at all for those who have long held to such a view, but I contend that Calvinism seriously distorts Paul’s intended message here, and forces the adherent to adopt a picture of God’s sovereignty that is both logically incompatible and deeply unloving according to the testimony of the rest of Scripture. It makes a mockery of Christ’s true offer of salvation for all and his deep longing that all men be saved.

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My favorite podcasts

I listen to a lot of podcasts. In fact, since I’ve turned 30, the only time I listen to music these days is if I’m studying or praying. Most of the time in the car, or when I’m doing semi-mindless tasks, it’s either an audiobook or podcast that I’m listening to, and I go through a good deal of them. I’ve subscribed and unsubscribed to many over the years, and here are the ones that remain. So I’ll give my take on each, and if you think you know of any I really should be listening to, let me know!

  1. Line of Fire Radio. (Theology + Politics) This is Michael Brown’s podcast, and there really isn’t a theologian in the world that I align more closely with than him. I think Brown is one of the most credible, balanced, knowledgable, and passionate Christian thinkers out there. He has an incredible handle on Scripture and how it applies to both Christian life and politics, and I’ve learned a lot from his books and youtube debates as well. His podcast format, though, sucks. It’s basically a recording of his national radio show, and the constant commercial interruptions make it a chore to listen to. His formatting and music also seem like they’re stuck in 1980. So, A+ content in a C- format. I’ll go with B. Time to hire a modern producer please!
  2. Equip the Saints. (Church Ministry) This is one I just started listening to. It’s hosted by Chris Cruz, who’s the Young Adult Pastor at Bethel, and basically seems like conversations about a host of ministry topics. It’s too early to give a real opinion on this, but so far it’s been pretty awesome. N/A
  3. Bethel Church Sermon of the Week. (Weekly Sermons) To be honest, I’ve been listening to this one less and less over the years. I still greatly love and appreciate Bill Johnson and Kris Valloton, but I think my preference in listening has changed. In the past couple years of my life I prefer more hard teaching/theology to weekly inspirational sermons. They have great insights on a lot of topics, I just want more hard facts than catchy revelations lately. For most people, I think this is a pretty great podcast to listen to regularly. B+
  4. The Ben Shapiro Show. (Politics) If you care about politics at all, I highly recommend this one. Shapiro is a fount of knowledge; he has like a conservative encyclopedia in his head, and there’s just no one that I’ve found that marries incredible eloquence with fact-backed logic like he does. Just check out some of his youtube videos if you’ve never heard of him. He does tend to stray a bit too much to mockery for my comfort, but unfortunately so do most political commentators. A.
  5. Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History. (History) This is an amazing history podcast. It’s well researched and entertaining, which is pretty important when trying to learn history. He does a good job trying to be historically objective, and just really has a knack for creating a narrative out of the historical data. The only real objective I have is that he’s really slow at adding more episodes. A-
  6. Freakonomics Radio. (Pop economics/culture/politics). What we’re seeing everywhere right now is the infusion of statistical analysis into all walks of life, which is a good thing. I love how data-driven analysis is combatting conventional wisdom in sports, politics, and, who knows, maybe even religion (one day). Freakonomics is probably the poster-child of this movement, and they occasionally find great insights, like how no one can taste the price of wine, or how abortion is primarily responsible for the drop in crime rates in the 90s (though this one has been academically challenged). It’s insightful; it’s fun; it’s well produced; it just has a lot of topics I don’t care about often. B
  7. The Tim Ferriss Show. (Leadership). Ok, I have to confess, I’ve been subscribed to this one for several months and have yet to listen to an episode. His guest line-up is just amazing, and the topics look fascinating; I just haven’t really taken the plunge to really test it out. Blame it on the thousands of other great things I could be listening to. I read 4 Hour Workweek several years ago and loved it, so I do plan to eventually listen to this. N/A
  8. The Lowe Post. (NBA). This is the best basketball podcast out there IMO, as I think Zach Lowe gives the best consistent basketball analysis. He knows his stuff, articulates it well, and has on knowledgable guests. I like that he appreciates and incorporates saber-metrics, but isn’t overly reliant on them, and isn’t afraid to challenge his guests when he disagrees. I miss his interaction with Bill Simmons, as Simmons has the best narrative eye (he creates compelling stories out of what he sees) and then Lowe would anchor the discussion back in reality. A-
  9. The Grey Nato. (Horology). I’m a closet watch nerd, like, those things that people used to wear on their wrists that tick. James Stacey, who does some of the best reviews for Watch Report and a Blog to Watch, talks about watches and I nerdily listen along. Most people would not enjoy this one at all, but if you know the difference between a Speedmaster Pro and Reduced, check it out. A-

That’s it! I keep hoping that Mike Bickle would put out a decent podcast (come on Mike!) as his online teaching library is just clunky to use on a phone, or that Rick Joyner would do one (though I’d have to use the 2x speed feature for him). Let me know if you know of any great ones!

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A Theology of Judgment

I saw a quote by Bill Johnson the other day, saying “Let God’s goodness be the cornerstone of your theology.” Let me preface my reaction to that quote by saying I have the utmost respect for Bill Johnson. I am incredibly thankful for his influence on my life and have learned much from his teachings and lifestyle. In short: I love this man. But that does not mean that I cannot respectfully disagree with a position or two of his.

Now I actually want to agree with this particular statement of His, just not with how I think he intends it to be understood. Kris Vallotton summed up Bethel’s position on judgment in this article, where he does a good job of highlighting the real dangers of false judgment. My problem with the article, however, is that no where in it does he state how to discern true judgment. In fact, the overall thrust of the article is to discourage any kind of warning of judgment, implying that all negative things that occur are the work of Satan. So here’s my big question:

If it was clearly God who judged nations in the OT through Noah’s flood and the Canaanite genocide (telling Israel to kill women and children), were those judgments made from God’s goodness? Were those judgments expressions of His love and mercy?

My understanding is that Bethel (and many other Christians) would say that the cross has radically changed how God judges in this age. The problem with that argument is two-fold.

Firstly, it ignores all the prophesies that speak of future judgment (including Revelation) including those where God judges the nations in terrible ways. Isaiah 63 speaks of God “treading the winepress” of the nations, killing multitudes. This prophecy is repeated in Rev. 14 and 19. Psalm 2 speaks of Jesus dashing the nations to pieces like pottery. If the cross has atoned for all sin, and God no longer judges nations, why then does Scripture speak of future judgment against nations? Sadly, many here resort to spiritualizing everything, which reinforces the second problem.

The second problem with this argument is that it fails to provide real understanding of why God executed those judgments in the OT. How could a loving God command genocide? Many Christians have no idea how to answer that question, and their lack of understanding here is what really drives them to a theology that cannot comprehend judgment in this age.

So, let me offer what I think is a biblical understanding of why God judges nations, both past and present. He judges them to ensure that sin does not get out of control. It is essential to understand that death in this life is not the true tragedy, biblically speaking. Though such a comment may seem callous, the focus of Scripture’s warning is the second and final death at the Final Judgment. As Jesus said, “it is better to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.” Therefore any treatment of judgment—including Canaan’s conquest or the Great Flood—that fails to see God’s mercy as the motivating source is misguided. The principle is simple: God will destroy people groups rather than allow the corruption of their sin to spread to ever more people and so doom all to everlasting condemnation. In bringing judgment, the spread of sin is halted and others are humbled. Such a paradigm is necessary if one considers that God gives true freedom to men to rebel against His ways. If such freedom actually exists, then judgment is the means by which God ensures that rebellion does not get out of hand.

“Let all creation rejoice before the Lord, for he comes, he comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world in righteousness and the peoples in his faithfulness.” Psalm 96:13, NIV.

 

We should recognize that God’s judgments are good and true. Nothing He does is evil. He never rejoices in destruction, and neither should we, but we should recognize that His judgments are necessary and good because they put an end to evil. When Christians fail to see the goodness in judgment, they give a mixed and confusing message. Today, our culture is actively trying to redefine the biblical God in its own image, and the Church’s lack of understanding and discernment on this issue are exposing it as a weak moral compass. Jesus speaks of this also:

“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.” (Mat. 5:13) When the people of God are no longer influential in a culture, they are thrown out and “trampled,” which is a judgment. This is the same thing repeated in John 15 for unfruitful branches and Rev. 3 for lukewarm water. Make no mistake, the Western church is currently being pruned, which again, is not a bad thing! His judgments are to be treasured more than honey or gold.

The decrees (judgments!) of the Lord are firm,

and all of them are righteous.

They are more precious than gold,

than much pure gold;

they are sweeter than honey,

than honey from the honeycomb.

By them your servant is warned;

in keeping them there is great reward.

But who can discern their own errors?

Forgive my hidden faults.

Keep your servant also from willful sins;

may they not rule over me.

Then I will be blameless,

innocent of great transgression.

May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart

be pleasing in your sight,

Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.

Psalm 19:9-14

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Dancing in the Streets

My youth kids gave me an unexpected picture of the kingdom the other day in the parking lot of Kennedy High School. We had just finished prayer walking the school with students from other churches in the area, and in true Korean fashion, were loitering in the parking lot afterwards. Someone started blasting worship music from their car and bam! mini dance party. I, of course, kept my dancing to a minimum.

Worship music has undergone a true transformation over the past forty years. Maranatha music, Vineyard, and Hillsongs set off a powerful creative expression of new worship music across the world. That music has evolved over my lifetime, from the British invasion of Delirious and Matt Redman, to the prophetic infusion of Jason Upton and Rita Springer, and maturing into the sounds of Jesus Culture and IHOP that we have now. It’s lightyears from where it was, and pastors are recognizing that the worship portion of the service is just as essential as the sermon – which is quite a shift considering that over the last thousand years sermons have clearly been at the center of Christian worship services.

Pastors often say that we do corporate worship to prepare our hearts to hear His word (ie the sermon). I tend to think this notion is terribly backwards though. From a kingdom perspective, the ministry of the pastor through a sermon should really help people to worship. Worship is, after all, the state of the heart that should motivate and fuel all our daily activity. From that perspective, it makes sense that the expression of worship through singing is taking a greater place of importance in our services – it should. But I think there’s another evolution in worship that’s about to explode: dancing.

I’m a terrible dancer. I dance almost every day, but only with my family. I do a little dance for my wife every morning, because it puts her in a good mood. She loves it when I look dumb. And my kids love it too when I dance; it’s an invitation for them to join in. We have lots of mini dance parties in the Cole household, complete with my amateur beat boxing. I say all this because even though I’m a terrible dancer and its really not my thing, I can see the amazing potential to having dance become an integral part of our worship services.

First of all, it’s thoroughly biblical. Psalm 149:3 “Let them praise his name with dancing.” Any objections to dancing should be recognized as religious legalism, because in truth those who do not dance are practicing a less biblical form of worship than those who do (and I raise my hand here). To the argument that dancing tends to be sensual and sexually enticing, let me just say that it doesn’t have to be. This is a huge theme in the Church (and in my blog): if something (like dancing) is associated with evil, it’s because the Church has not revealed the true glorious expression of that medium. The answer then is not to run away, but to boldly jump in and find the Spirit-led expression. There’s no reason dancing has to be associated with lust except that the Church has not shone the light here.

With that being said, let me shine some light. Dancing has just as much potential as singing for worship, except that because we haven’t understood it we haven’t created music that has been conducive to dancing. You can’t dance well to most worship music, but that is changing. I’m listening right now to Hillsongs Young and Free, which is awesome! It’s a sign of what is coming in worship. Our worship services will have just as much dancing as singing, and it won’t be lame dancing like jumping or the weird stuff that goes on sometimes today (flags! sorry!). It’ll be creative and free, and beautiful to everyone.

It’s just like with singing. When people first started trying to sing spontaneously, it was terrible and awkward. That’s why we’ve used carefully arranged songs for the past thousand years. But as the gift matured corporately, people began to express themselves skillfully in spontaneous worship. Jason Upton blew me away when I first hear him. He was singing such a pure expression of his heart and it was skillful! And it didn’t sound bad; it sounded great (with some weirdness occasionally). Now we’ve reached a whole nother level. There’s no comparing skillful anointed prophetic singing to normal singing. It’s the most glorious expression in music anywhere in the world. Once Christian musicianship catches up to the world (which will happen in the next couple decades), we will have the most compelling music in the world and it will be obvious to everyone.

And the complement to this music is dancing. We will not be able to have chairs soon, let alone pews. We’ll have to devise some way, but when dancing really takes off we’re going to need space. Our services will be better than any club – it will be the holy expression of the club. (Note: some people cringe at that, because they think of cheesy Christian attempts to imitate the world. That’s not what I’m talking about – that’s all religious garbage). Can you imagine? How can a club compete with the Presence of the Lord, creative and free dancing, joyful celebration, and prophetic spontaneous momentum? There’s no way. It will be compelling to people – naturally. It’s a picture of heaven, the kingdom of God on the earth.

In the Church, we’ve tried to entice people to God with a message, and we’ve tried to package the message in different wrappings. But the message is a kingdom! The message is the reality of heaven being experienced on earth! I’m not just saying this thing with dancing could happen, I’m saying it will happen. It’s only a matter of time until Christian worship services surpass the club experience. But that’s not the final expression.

The second aspect of our parking lot dance party that revealed the kingdom is that it wasn’t happening in a church building. This is what Martin Smith prophesied through “Did you feel the mountains tremble?” It was a vision of the church having mature worship outside the church building (Note: recognize that songs usually become popular because they have spiritual anointing given to promote the message – whether demonic or holy). Dancers that dance on injustice. Streets resounding in singing. The future Church will be increasingly free of the church building. It’s not about the building – it’s about the Presence. The building is a crutch that we need right now because we struggle to break through into the Presence and stay there. As the Church matures in its ability to carry the Presence with them, they will get out of the building more and more.

It’s about a holistic lifestyle. The revelation of the kingdom is about breaking down the divided life that Christians live in. Church and school. Church and work. It’s like 2 different worlds. But that barrier is coming down, and with it, producing genuine natural Christians who experience God outside of church just as much as inside, who are comfortably Christian, who prophesy as often as eat, who dance at service and in the parking lot.

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Site is live! What is the kingdom???

Hello everyone,

Welcome (back) to my website. This is not officially a new launch, because I ran this blog for a couple years and had a good amount of posts racked up. This time it’s back up, but with a new theme and landing page that hopefully communicates some of the vision behind the posts. People often ask me what I mean when I talk about the Kingdom of God, because it’s such a loaded term when I talk about it in normal usage. Simply put, the Kingdom is the place where God reigns. It is primarily a spiritual kingdom, which is why Jesus said it was “within” us. But it’s hard to easily understand a spiritual reality like the kingdom. So perhaps an easier way to think about it is to picture “heaven.” Heaven is the place we think of where God’s will is done perfectly, and the full expression of His will is plainly visible. That’s why it’s perfect and the hope of our hearts. There are 2 lies generally believed about heaven though, great big whoppers. The first is that we are supposed to wait to experience it, and the second, that it’s something like singing forever while sitting on a cloud.

The first lie has to do with how the Gospel (Good News) has been redefined. Jesus, when he was on earth, preached the “Gospel of the Kingdom,” which was the good news that the Kingdom of God had come to earth, so one should repent so that he could “enter in.” More simply understood, Jesus was saying that heaven had come to earth, and it was time to experience it NOW. That’s why he went around healing people: he was demonstrating the reality of the kingdom. In the kingdom, there’s no disease and hope reigned eternal. Somewhere in Church history, the gospel was redefined to mean that the Good News was that, if we repented and believed in Jesus, we could go to heaven when we died. This is true, and good news, but it is not the same message. It is the “Gospel of Salvation,” that preaches the way into the kingdom, but then stops. It is hard to understate how devastatingly different this message is.

Because of this understanding of the kingdom, people are made Christians and then essentially told to “be good” until death, which is when the really good stuff happens. So Christians all over struggle to abstain from the things of the world and try to be faithful until death. But this is really only the very first, most elementary of understandings about the kingdom. As I often say, the good news is not that we get to go to heaven when we die; it’s that heaven is here and invading the earth! The true calling of the Church is to function as ambassadors of heaven, demonstrating its reality to a fallen world, and calling all peoples to obedience to Jesus, who is the rightful king of the earth. This gospel is different because it demands that the Church be of a different stuff entirely. We are to have power to heal the sick, raise the dead, and prophesy while also demonstrating the lifestyle of a people who are from heaven – not figuratively, truly! In fact, we can only do the work of the kingdom to the degree that we live in and experience the reality of the kingdom (heaven).

Which is why the second lie is so terrible. It’s that heaven essentially sucks. We sit on clouds and sing with harps for eternity. Are you starting the see the resemblance between this vision of the heaven and that expression in the Church? How often is it that in church we sit in services and sing and can’t wait to leave. The reason why this vision of heaven is damaging is that we are called to bring heaven (the kingdom) on the earth. If our vision of heaven is not compelling, then our “preaching” is not compelling. In fact, singing will only be a small part of what we do there. In the age to come, we will have jobs and eat meals and do many things like we do now. When I envision heaven now, I think less of sunlit clouds and more of a city, which is I think what the Bible hints at more as well. In fact, rightfully envisioning heaven and living in it (!) is the key to being effective on the earth. The key for Christians is that each must start living in his calling. What is your calling?? It’s your eternal job, started now. It’s the thing you were designed to do for eternity in “heaven,” except you start doing it now and see how you were sovereignly designed to do just that.

This blog, in its essence, is the attempt to envision heaven on the earth. What does that look like in each aspect of society? What does that look like in our music and government? What does it look like in our homes and jobs? It is rejecting a religious notion of the church and its lifestyle and embracing a vivid picture of the kingdom of God on the earth.