Transformed

We are called to play the Good Samaritan on life’s roadside…but one day we must come to see that the whole Jericho road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar. It comes to see that a system that produces beggars needs to be repaved. We are called to be the Good Samaritan, but after you lift so many people out of the ditch you start to ask, maybe the whole road to Jericho needs to be repaved.

Martin Luther King, Jr. “A Time to Break Silence” (Sermon, Riverside Church, New York, April 4, 1967, as quoted by Shane Claiborne in “The Irresistable Revolution”)

Have you ever taken time to study the Kingdom Jesus talked so much about? Have you ever thought about the practical implications of living in the reality of such a Kingdom? A Kingdom where the rich are the marginalized and rare. A Kingdom where ordinary is extraordinary. A Kingdom where the first are last and the last are first. A Kingdom that is ruled bottom-up rather than top-down. A Kingdom that exists within and among other Kingdoms of the world. A Kingdom that expands from person to person and community to community. A Kingdom whose primary weapon of conquering is not an oppressive miliary and brutal strength, but instead a gracious love and ultimate freedom.

I read of this Kingdom in the Gospels, yet I must confess that I am only beginning to penetrate the depths of its reality. I was always taught that this Kingdom was coming when Jesus came back to rescue all the “in” crowd out of this hell-hole we call Planet Earth. I was once a passionate student of Evangelical Escatology (the study of the end of things). I read the entire “Left Behind” series and longed for the day that deliverance from a deteriorating world would come. I can remember lamenting the depravity of everything and everyone around me. I can remember relishing the thoughts of Jesus trampling through the “winepress” of the world with the blood of evil people squirting between His toes. Disgusting, right?

That’s not in my thinking these days. While I still lament the crumbling of the world around us, I have come to realize that the Kingdom is alive. It is vibrant and powerful. Jesus said it is within us. This Kingdom belongs to Jesus, but we are it’s ambassadors. It is time we stop hoarding its riches to ourselves. It is time the Kingdom comes to life in the world! And it is. I am discovering many places where the Kingdom is busting out of the traditional boundaries erected by men. I have seen it and experienced it! I have seen it in drug addicts and prostitutes. I have seen it in living rooms and restaurants. I have seen it on baseball fields and playgrounds. I read about it on-line and in books. I have met people who share amazing stories from all around the world. The Kingdom is escaping the system.

I am convinced from Scripture that this Kingdom will not be fully realized until Jesus comes back to earth the second time. I know He will find the world significantly lacking. However, I have heard and seen time and again the problems in the world used as a excuse to retreat rather than take them head on. I know too many people caught in a system of retreat, dig a bunker, and defend rather than get out in the war and fight with the love and power of God. Darkness is not penetrated when our light is hiding in “sanctuaries”. Darkness is the absence of light and that, my friends, is the problem with the world.

The darkness is not the issue it is the absence of the light that I lament more than ever. I lament a church that is so obese with an inefficient system that it would spend millions of dollars a year to build buildings and erect steeples while people suffer in their shadows. But this can and is changing. There is an army of ordinary people that are answering God’s call to do something radical. Seminaries cannot teach this! Churches cannot contain it! The system cannot suppress it!

I must admit that much of the rhetoric I read is just that, words. Many folks out there are thinking they have found some great “new” thing. They think they are the only ones doing “right”. They have thrown out the baby with the bath water. They rail against everything that is traditional. That is not what I am doing or ever intended to do. I am thankful for the richness of history and wisdom imparted to me through men and women of tradition. I believe I still have much to learn from my historical background, but we must not live in nostalgia. We must long for the Kingdom to progress and expand. We must celebrate the victories, even when they don’t look and act like our particular tribe. We must learn to find what is right and deal with what is wrong in grace. We must remember that Jesus is the Judge of Truth and error, not us. This is not a license to condone whatever, but we must remember that Jesus died for us even WHILE we were sinners and His enemies. His love and grace superseded His wrath and justice, by extending us forgiveness and plenty of time to repent. Why would we do any less for others around us, especially those within the Kingdom?

Maybe we are in the process of repaving the “road”…

Thanx!

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9 Responses

  1. Hey Jeff,

    Just curious if you are leaning toward Amillennialism now? Is that what you were saying?

    I hope that you hold on and practice a lot of the things you learned from your traditional past. (2 Tim 3)

  2. Wow. I started not to even comment. If you knew how to read, you should be able to understand that I am NOT an Amellennialist. Why do we always have to group people into a category so we can chunk rocks at them?

    Jesus did say that the Kingdom was in us. He showed us how to live out Kingdom values as He walked and lived on earth. I do not believe we will “usher” in the Kingdom of God. Jesus will “bring it”, but we are to be personifying it today in our lives. It is displayed in contrast to the Kingdoms of this world. The early disciples knew this full well. They expressed it loudly in the simple phrase, “Jesus is Lord.”

    This statement flew in the face of the Roman kingdom and Caesar himself, for he was proclaimed as lord. Jesus even used extant Kingdom terminology when He used the words church (eccelsia), apostles, and gospel.

    You should check out a little historical perspective on these things. It is very interesting. The point is, yes, Jesus will bring His Kingdom to full fruition when He comes back, but we are to be living in Kingdom reality today. Yes, this has social Gospel implications, and it should. The Gospel is spiritual, political, social, educational, trasnformational, and dynamic! It brings death to life. The Gospel benefits even those who do not receive it’s message. It brings peace to earth! It also brings division, so I am clearly not saying we are trying to create Utopia!

    Ultimately it is the power of the Gospel that will restore creation to what God originally intended.

    Dude, you need to stop always looking for a stinkin’ argument, and learn to listen. I have read many of your comments in the blogsphere, and am repulsed by your arrogance. Sorry, it that offends you, but, bro, you are not the great defender of the faith you have set yourself up to be.

  3. Oh, and BTW, I am not really a “millennialist” at all. I am not sure what is going to happen in the future, except that Jesus WILL come back. He said He was, so He is. Other than that, none of us know what will happen without a tremendous amount of guessing and inferring and pulling Scripture out of context.

    Prophecy was NEVER meant to predict the future. It was NEVER meant to be used to procure time tables. It was NEVER meant to be figured out before the event happened.

    Prophecy was to warn of impending danger or judgement, which can be found throughout the Bible. It was also to be used after the event to show that God revealed Truth before hand. It was to be used to varify whether or not a prophet was of God or not.

    So don’t try to put people into categories that the Scripture does not even appropriate. To do so is to align oneself with the practice of the Pharisees. These folks had it all figured out. They had studied prophecy and knew the Messiah was coming. They were “ready”, but when He showed up they hated Him because He didn’t fit the prototype they had invented with the prophetic interpretations.

    I think we will all be quite surprised to see the future unfold!!

  4. Since you seem to know me so well (not really) let me say, I too have noticed something about you… You often jump to conclusions and come back and apologize! By the way, what would determine arrogance on my part? Is it arrogant to believe that God has given us clear scriptures to live by? I did not attack you in my question, but you did me in your comments! Whouldn’t that be called a “Hypo…what” Are you so arrogant that you can’t be questioned?

    My question (only a question) was concerning…
    You used the following words to describe what you were once passionate about… “Evangelical Eschatology (the study of the end of things)”… Then you said it is not in your thinking these days. Why not? Is it a biblical teaching? Are we getting closer to the end? What you said could have two meanings and obviously I got sidetracked. I might have misread since I only have a kindergarten reading level.

    I guess what threw me off was your NEGATIVE connotation of “Evangelical Eschatology”. I was just looking for a yes or no answer out of curiosity because you seem to be abandoning everything you have ever known.

    After the NEGATIVE connotation of “Evangelical Eschatology” you started talking about what is in your thinking NOW, and referred to the PRESENT kingdom as one that will not be fully realized until Jesus’ second coming. To me it sounded as if you were dismissing “Evangelical Eschatology” for something NEW. Remove “Evangelical Eschatology” and it seems that to “usher” in Jesus’ Kingdom is your thinking. Again, I was just looking for a yes or no answer. I might have followed up by asking you how you arrived there. The reason is because I see so many people today denying clear biblical teachings as if we can’t really understand the Bible.

    I wasn’t preparing to throw rocks at you, nor categorize you, just discuss. Since you are beyond that, I will not question you anymore.

    “Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand.” Re 1:3

  5. I love the blogosphere 😉

  6. “I lament a church that is so obese with an inefficient system that it would spend millions of dollars a year to build buildings and erect steeples while people suffer in their shadows.”

    We spent millions on buildings and steeples last year and there are people still suffereing in their shadows. We are working but they are suffering. There are also people suffering in the shadows of yalls houses and suburbs. I don’t lament your efforts. I love them!

    How do we measure effeciency and who would be “winning” that one???
    🙂

    By th way Jeff, I know you… and I love you! Really!

    I know Billy too…and I love him also !

    Turp is right on… only on the blogosphere.

    Nathan Rogers
    First Baptist Cave City
    “Where the steeple is still getting it done!”

  7. Jeff,

    I have always believed that you meant well, even when it was not communicated well. I have seen you give good advice to Terp in not being so abrasive, but sometimes you need to take your own advice. You and Billy are going to be who you are and I respect both of you. 90% of your posts are thought-provoking and have some good ideas, but sometimes they only come across as a buffer for the other 10%.
    God bless.

  8. Thanx Neal.

    Nate, bro, general comments should not be taken personal. We have discussed my issue with huge budgets for buildings and stuff. We just differ in opinions. You know I love you guys from the Cave! And, yes, people are suffering in shadows of our houses, but we still aren’t spending millions on our shadows! 🙂

    Turp, kudos and nods.

    Billy, well, I probably did take your “question” as accusatory rather than just inquisitive. I jumped to that conclusion, not on personal knowledge of you, but after receiving your comments before and reading comments you have made on other blogs. My bad if you weren’t accusing. I hope I cleared up my original intention with this post. I am not an Amillennialist. My comments to you were quite arrogant and not very gracious. I do hope that you will continue to question my thoughts, for that is what they are, thoughts.

    As I have said before I am in process. I have not arrived. I do have convictions, and sometimes, my emotions get the best of me, and I misread others thoughts about my thoughts. WOW! This can really get confusing.

    POINT: Thanx for the thoughts guys. Most of my friends are involved in the very sort of ministries I seem to criticize the most. I really don’t mean to be so abbrasive and critical. I hope I can offer more positive thoughts of what our ministries could look like rather than talking about what I percieve is “wrong” with all of our ministries. This is really just a part of the maturing process. I guess I’m still kinda like the kid on the playground that gets pissed when everyone doesn’t want to play his favorite game. Childish, I know.

    Thanx, guys. I need the accountibility.

  9. Jeff, i know where you are coming from, I just like to jump innow and then. I just get a kick out of your general comments about the mega-church buildings since we built this year. A year ago I would have just laughed because our buildings were so crappy I wouldn’t have cared. But i understand your heart and I am not offended.

    to be honest I am so glad that we are done with building. It is nice to hear our people have Christ -Centered conversations that center around service and not facilities for a change. It has been facilities, facilities , facilities for three years straight.

    As far as million dolllar facilities, don’t be so quick. If my Bro. had his wish he would have already built his mega-home!!!!! And he will some day. 🙂

    I have crashed a razor scooter in your driveway…for that we are forever friends!@ No matter how much my Church suck, or how stupid your philosophies are 😉

    Nathan

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