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He shall cover thee with His feathers, and under His wings shalt thou find refuge: His truth is a shield and buckler
Psalms 91:4

Be it ours,when we cannot see the face of God, to trust under the shadow of His wings. C.H. Spugeon

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Tension part 2

1 Corinthians 15:19, "If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable." If the sacrifices, persecutions, decisions made in faith, the tremendous effort expended, the denial, the deception and the perilous position of assurance that people are willing to foundationally build lives upon, is to be found based upon a premise which is absent of hope, eternal significance, or rewarding of the courage and valour to live a redeemed life, then Christianity becomes the most destitute and vilest of theism's ever incorporated into human thought. It is in this tension that we see the current church, hung between the call of God to live a separated, sanctified and consecrated life, and the call of the world to seek prominence and significance through the offerings of the opulence and wealth of our culture.

We see the evidences of the same thought for life that is found in Isaiah 22:13, today in Christianity, the pursuit of worldly gain, power and influence. Living today for its worth, without thought for the valuable and intrinsic, for life tomorrow. This is not the Kingdom living we are called to live, trying to achieve as a result of our effort fame, fortune, wealth, etc.

Kingdom living is exemplified in a variety of profiles throughout the Bible, I am looking at three of the ways in which God has foreshadowed our Kingdom presence in this world.

Kingdom living is explained by Joshua in the charge given to the people of Israel as they occupy and further conquer the Promised land. As a military force entering and possessing a hostile land, there were expectations as to their mindset. They were to be devoted (single-minded in purpose), focused (rigorous in discipline), courageous, unwavering, obedient (unquestioning), diligent and watchful. They were to have an unvarnished view to the hardships of battle; 2 Timothy 2:3 "You must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life. that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier..." understanding that the portion given for the maintaining of life is sufficient to rest in this world (a spiritual kingdom apart) while waiting for our citizenship realized in the coming of another physical Kingdom. They were to understand the insidious nature of the culture, the pervasive lure of the beauty, the life-style, the enticement of being a tolerant tyrant (an oxy-moron, I know). Forsaking the call of God to be a change-agent, they allowed by the extension of grace? the peoples that should have been destroyed permission to remain. Operating against the commands of God, those people who were to be expelled, or assuredly dispossessed, driven out and destroyed were allowed to remain and became the author of the demise of Israel, negating the succession, that bringing into of, the inheritance of the people of Israel to the fullness of God's promise and rest.
Their tension was further enhanced because of their expectation of the Kingdom of God being established in that generation. There was an inherent tension in their thoughts of how and what the Kingdom would look like in their immediate future. Without doubt this was the same mindset carried into the time of Christ.

In Jeremiah 29:5, we see Kingdom living in a different context, but viewed through the eyes of a similar and mirroring role. Exile in a foreign land as an invasive force, not based upon brute strength, based upon being an affective presence while dwelling in a foreign land. The people were to be building, living, experiencing a good life, becoming a presence, exhibiting power and influence, promoting prosperity & peace, discerning and understanding the times, being culturally significant; knowing to rest in this place, to be conscious of the comfort and profit we have in this life, and not to throw it away as unwise stewards, but to hold it dearly and loosely as purposeful servants in the Lordship of Christ as a citizen of His Kingdom apart from that actual physical placement.

The third and final example I will use is the Kingdom reflected in the portrait of a man planting. The thought continues in context, a continuation of the mirroring aspect of Kingdom living, personified in a person with ownership of land, growing crops, gleaning, seeking income and profit from personal and corporate employment, in a culture of distraction, diversion, and misdirection.

This is a Kingdom economy, a Christian economy, not in terms of monetary but in terms of influence, in terms of worshipping through work, hard-working, being purposeful in activity, labouring with rest, intensively active with contemplation, being an economic influence, having a personal and social identity, integrating my relational responsibilities to God, to family, to church, to community in a conscientious way. Working out the tension in the doing, exercising, and massaging of the spiritual muscles God has given us to live in this world.

We can look at further examples of Kingdom living explained by Jesus in Luke 3:14 where He commands those who have military authority to take heed to what they are doing and not to extort or falsely accuse to gain position or wealth. Authority is a wonderful thing in the hands of a wise and careful steward, in the hands of an opportunist it becomes a dictatorship. I heard it said recently in relation to community, that when it works its a beautiful thing; when it doesn't it becomes a concentration camp. Authority suffers from the same opportunity for abuse and misuse. We see in the recent history, the extended history and the current culture of church, the opportunities taken by leaders in using the pulpit or in Christians using their position to either esteem themselves or to malign and accuse. The mistake lies in the misunderstanding of who we are to be fighting. The foe is Satan and our armour is in defense and protection from his assaults, not as weapons and tools to vanquish and beat up those to whom we are to be extending, showing, and living out grace on behalf. Here is the heart of Kingdom living, the man with authority, serving.

The examples used by Jesus in explaining Kingdom living also include leaven or our exiled position (infiltrating,permeating, investing) & mustard seed or our planting (noticeable, stout, strong, supportive); realizing the needed resources are available to promote rest in the land while our citizenship is in another land; incorporating our life skills and giftedness in promoting the welfare of all of those in community with us, while resting in the profession (a pun intended) of our faith; being content with what we have, not as an expression of hypocritical fruit of the Spirit, (our resistance to the sins of the culture, Save the whales but abort the babies), but as an expression of the true manifestation of the repentant heart, showing the deep penetration of the Mind of Christ.

The tension lies in the intent of Kingdom living which by design leaves a footprint or a scar upon the culture in which we live. We cannot love the sinner and hate the sin without creating tension. The tension is inherent positionally. What we must guard against is the creation of the false tension resultant of the hypocrisy that comes from living without the essence of repentance, in a culture observant of and desiring of something which is true beyond doubt or reproach. The tension lies in the insistence of society, and rightly so, for reality in Christian lives, with unity of thought, without the intentional falsehoods parlayed for the attraction of new converts, and the furthering subversion of the weak believer or creating the need for the honest man to hedge concerning his profession fearing the oppression and violence against him, promoting, (in a manner, in likeness) dishonesty to avoid burdensome criticisms from both inside and outside the church culture.

Kingdom living is based on self-sufficiency. Self-sufficiency, rightly understood is of God only, God who is El-Shaddai, God all-sufficient and self-sufficient. It is used to explain the attitude of the Christian in regards to his state of godliness, referring to his understanding of the nature of God's provision, whether that be a state of wealth and prosperity or a condition of sufficient food, shelter and raiment as is required to sustain life. It is an understanding of grace, the fruit and effect of godliness, the gain, the reward, the riches, the blessing, the rest that is given as one repines in the enveloping hands of God. This is contentment and rest, knowing God provides such sufficiency as is required.

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