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Friday, September 25, 2009

Heading Into The Problem Rather Than Away From It

Last week I made the unsettling statement that the Kingdom of God is “contaminated.” That is to say, the present expression of Christ’s Kingdom on earth has been infected by the work of a malicious enemy (Satan), who came in the night and sowed bad seed into the Lord’s field: His Kingdom (Matthew 13:37-43).

I think the fact that we presently live in a contaminated "field" may be the crux of the reason why so many Christians tend to withdraw from this present world, and why some of us see the work of a pastor or a missionary as being the only truly worthwhile and significant occupation on earth (as I did when I was twelve).

We don’t like to think of God's world as being infected. Sick. Broken. Furthermore, we may tend to think that because the field is so infected with weeds, it isn’t worth anything to Him, or to anyone else. And the airplanes we build keep decaying in a world where things get old and fall to pieces.

This may be the reason why as a child I tended to focus more on after-life issues than the present life, when it came to considering what would be a worthwhile occupation for me to pursue in the here-and-now.

Not only do temporal things decay, but when we see political activity contaminated by human pride and greed, the natural tendency is for us to distance ourselves from politics. “It’s dirty.” And when we see business practice infected by the love of money, we tend to think devout Christians ought to disassociate themselves from professions that deal with a lot of money.

While there are certain professions that can never be pleasing to God (such as human trafficking), there are very few professions that cannot be redeemed [restored, renewed, reclaimed] by the grace of God being expressed through His people in the workplaces of the world.

I think that's what He wants to do with us, and one reason why our "ordinary" work is so important to Him.

Think of the firefighters of 9-11, heading into the problem rather than away from it. As followers of Christ, shouldn’t we be heading into the problem, rather than away from it? And doesn't it make sense to do this through the portal of the work-world?

In view of all that has transpired this past year, shouldn’t we be encouraging Christian young people to become loan officers of the future?

Shouldn't we?

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Friday, September 18, 2009

His Kingdom, With Or Without Weeds

If we are currently living within the Kingdom of God, and the rule of the Creator-Sustainer is a present reality, why did Christ teach us to pray, “Thy Kingdom come…?” (Matt. 6:10)

Describing the Kingdom of God is like the blind men describing an elephant. One man touches an ear and declares, “the elephant is like a fan!” Another touches the tail and shouts, “the elephant is like a rope!” It depends on which aspect of the elephant one touches.

When it comes to the Kingdom of God, there is both a present expression of the Kingdom and a coming expression. They are not exactly the same expressions. To put it in the context of Matthew 13, the coming Kingdom is "the Kingdom without weeds." The Kingdom where “all things that offend and those who practice lawlessness” have been removed (Matt. 13:41). Until then, God's present Kingdom contains weeds.

Even so, it is still His Kingdom, with or without weeds. In its current state of disrepair, the whole “field” of planet Earth, and all that it contains, including every airplane flying overhead, is the Creator-Sustainer’s own possession (Psalm 24:1).

Does this mean Jesus owns everything in the Boeing Company, and the Boeing manufacturing plant just miles from my home lies within the realm of Christ’s rule, under the jurisdiction of His present Kingdom? I say, “yes.” Jesus is Lord of all (Acts 10:36), whether the Boeing Company recognizes Him as such or not!

Why does understanding this matter? The ramifications for our everyday work are enormous. It means there is no type of earthly work that can be done outside the present Kingdom of God, because the jurisdiction of Christ’s rule extends over every human activity, and there is no earthly occupation that takes place outside the borders of the King's domain.

It gets very practical. If I’m sweeping floors, I’m sweeping part of His Kingdom. If I am building airplanes, I am molding and shaping His Kingdom’s “stuff” into machines that fly through His Kingdom’s sky. This gives building airplanes a sublime dimension, and it gives all work an awesome significance: It is His world we are working in, and His stuff we are working with.

But if I limit my understanding of the Kingdom of God to only its coming pristine expression, and I fail to appreciate its present (albeit contaminated) expression, I'll tend to focus on the age to come, and miss the significance of the here-and-now, including the full significance of everyday work in God's present Kingdom. Including building airplanes.

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Friday, September 11, 2009

There's No Other Place To Fly

In the parable of the wheat and the weeds ( Matthew 13:24-30,36-43), we see the “Son of Man” (Jesus) planting “good seed” in “His field.” He calls the good seed the sons of the kingdom, and refers to His field as the world (v. 38).

Which “world” is Jesus referring to here? I believe He is referring to the created realm of planet Earth, which is a wide "field." And in this parable, Jesus refers to this field as “His kingdom” (v. 41).

But then Satan came and planted “bad seed” into Christ’s field, the world (v.39).

So both “wheat” and “weeds” are growing in Christ’s field. We just need to watch the 6 o’clock news to see that "weeds" abound.

But it's strange to think of both the Lord's “wheat” and Satan's “weeds” co-existing side-by-side in Christ’s kingdom! Yet Jesus clearly says that “at the end of this age, the Son of Man will send out His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and those who practice lawlessness…” (v. 41)

What's that? Are people who “practice lawlessness” in the Kingdom of God? Does the Kingdom of God contain “things that offend?”

For this to make sense, I have to think of the Kingdom of God in its broadest sense as the domain over which Christ is King, and the jurisdiction over which He rules.

When I think of it in this way, I can easily understand how both “wheat” and “weeds” are in God's Kingdom. That’s because no one lives outside His jurisdiction. There’s no other place to exist!

His Kingdom rules over all (Psalm 103:19), and that covers a lot of territory. And it also includes a lot of stuff. That’s why I said last week there are "many airplanes in His kingdom." There’s no other place to fly.
At least that's how I view the Kingdom of God--in it's broadest sense.

Have any of you picked up on the faulty idea that when sin entered history, God turned this world over to Satan, and now the planet belongs to him?

Big ideas have big consequences.

What differences do those two contrasting ideas make on how we view earthly occupations, like building airplanes?

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Friday, September 4, 2009

In His Kingdom Are Many Airplanes

To understand how we can “serve God by building airplanes,” as I put it last week, we must comprehend the breadth of the Kingdom of God.

In my previous post, I wrote that God is the Ruler of this world. But Jesus called Satan the ruler of this world! (John 14:30)

What gives?

What gives is, the word “world” has four meanings in Scripture: populated regions, the human race, the created realm of planet Earth, or a system of thought and behavior that is contrary to the ways of God.

John 3:16 says: “God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son…” Here the meaning of “world” is the human race.

But I John 2:15-16 says: “Love not the world, nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” Here “world” connotes a system of thought and behavior that is contrary to the ways of God. Or as John puts it: “…the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life.”

In Romans 1:8, “world” refers to populated regions: “I thank my God…that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world;” while in Romans 1:20, “world” refers to the created realm of planet Earth: “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen…”

When Jesus calls Satan “the ruler of this world,” I believe He is referring to Satan as “the ruler of this world-system,” not the ruler of the created realm of planet Earth, the human race, or populated regions. These "worlds" are God’s alone.

Psalm 24:1 says, “The earth is the Lord’s and all it contains, the world and those who dwell therein.”

Psalm 103:19 says, “His kingdom rules over all.” That's as broad as creation is wide! And in His Kingdom are many airplanes.

Yes airplanes. It may sound a bit "earthy" to put it in such terms, but I'll try to justify these words next week.


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