Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Ministry Update

Dear Friend, Recently I had an encounter with God in Mexico that overwhelmed me. This experience brought into focus the greatest threat to my faith. I have tried to condense some of the main points into three parts. I believe it is a very important message to the Church in the West. This month we will be looking at Part Two. If you want to read Part One, please go to the newsletter archive section at our website, or just use the following link Part One

Part Two

The Kingdom of God+Jesus spoke about the Kingdom of God more than any other subject. It was the first message He preached and the last thing He taught prior to His ascension. In between, He mentioned it over 100 times. Jesus said it was the Gospel and that we must seek it before anything else. When the disciples asked Jesus how to pray, He directed them to pray for the Kingdom to come even before asking for their personal needs to be met. The Sermon on the Mount was delivered to show the contrast between the Kingdom of God and the current prevailing kingdom. Jesus was constantly telling His disciples about the values of God's Kingdom. His most common message began with "The Kingdom of heaven is like"

As wonderful as Christ's atoning love is, we must not overlook that Jesus also wanted to establish God's Kingdom on earth. He was constantly promoting the values of His Kingdom. It was unlike any other kingdom on earth. It wasn't a religion or political movement. It was a revolutionary way of living. It was a superior program for life.

Initially, the disciples had difficulty grasping the message of God's Kingdom. They had knowledge but lacked understanding. All that changed on the day of Pentecost. Suddenly, they understood the Kingdom and totally embraced its values. As a result, the Babylonian value system was severely threatened. The pagan cities cried out "These who have turned the world upside down have come here too" (Acts 17:6 NKJV).

This battle has continued for over 2000 years. In the book of Revelation, we see that the Babylonian kingdom will be a major force in the years to come. But why is Babylon so powerful? I believe its strength comes from its ability to seduce and entrap. To illustrate this, we need to consider the two metaphors in Proverbs seven and eight. One is the story of a woman who is an adulteress and the other is a woman called wisdom.

The Power of Babylon

In Proverbs seven, the adulterous woman is described as sensual, crafty, loud, defiant, wealthy, pleasure loving, and persuasive. This parallels descriptions of Babylon in Isaiah 47 and Revelation 17,18. However, the passage further reveals the adulterous women is "at every corner" and has "looked for you and found you." Furthermore, she claims you will not suffer any consequences. Much of this description reminds me of today's media and the internet. Finally, the passage reveals that involvement with her results in death.

Proverbs eight reveals another woman who states, "choose my instruction instead of silver, knowledge rather than choice gold." In direct contrast to the adulterous woman, wisdom states, "I hate pride and arrogance, evil behavior and perverse speech." Finally, rather than death, she proclaims, "whoever finds me finds life and receives favor from the LORD."

The common element in both stories is the young man who must decide which woman he will follow. I believe the two women represent the Kingdom of Babylon and the Kingdom of God. I believe the young man reflects the Western Church today.

The Goal of Babylon

What is the goal of the kingdom of Babylon? It can be summed up in one word - domination. This includes individuals, cities, nations and the world. I believe you will know that it dominates when the people's lifestyle reflects "WE DO NOT NEED GOD." The nations who embrace this belief system will hate those who dare to challenge it. So what is the current state of the world? Although, changing, the basic status is this:

Today, in Europe, the kingdom of Babylon basically dominates the culture. The church exists but it has become institutionalized. There is no community transforming revivals occurring here. The continent is in a general state of spiritual captivity.

The United States is not much better off. The Church is stronger and more evident than in Europe but it has made a terrible error. It has tried to coexist with the kingdom of Babylon in an effort to be relevant and successful. Ninety two percent of the people in America believe there is a God but most don't live like they need Him.

The kingdom of Babylon is gaining strength in Latin America, Asia and Africa. However they have not yet adopted its core belief, "WE DO NOT NEED GOD." Consequently, these areas of the world are experiencing transforming revivals today - as many as 500 are occurring simultaneously, affecting entire cities and nations.

Confronting Babylon

So how do we slow it down, stop it or even push it back? I believe we must follow in the footsteps of Jesus who understood the seductive power of the Kingdom of Babylon.

Jesus didn't try to coexist with it. He didn't try to embrace the Kingdom of God and appease the kingdom of Babylon. He didn't take some of the values of the Babylonian Kingdom and use them to improve His Kingdom message. He wasn't impressed with the kingdom of Babylon in any shape or form.

Jesus didn't try to avoid the kingdom of Babylon, hoping it wouldn't hinder His efforts. He didn't ignore the religious people who loved money and honor. He didn't stay clear of the rich and powerful who preyed on the misfortunes of others. He didn't play it safe by being politically correct and culturally hip.

There is only one way Jesus dealt with the kingdom of Babylon - He confronted it! From the moment of His birth there was a war that raged between the two kingdoms. This epic battle continued throughout Christ's life. Two value systems were competing for the same hearts and not even death would stop the fight. Above that noble head, bearing the pain of a crown of thorns, was posted: "Jesus of Nazareth, the king of the Jews," This sign, mingled with ridicule and scorn, was a shabby attempt to declare the Kingdom of Babylon as conqueror over the king of God's Kingdom.

This hollow sense of victory, we know, lasted only a short time. The scene at Golgotha was soon overshadowed by another - that of an earth-shaking angel casting aside a useless stone that vainly attempted to restrain the King of Kings. It is a scene of a seraph, clothed in brilliance, mockingly sitting upon this pathetic rock which now lay prostrate at the foot of an empty tomb while nearby guards shook with fear and became as dead men. This angel understood the Battle of the Ages and that the Kingdom of God was not afraid to fight!

To be continued next month:

Help Us Clean Up Minneapolis!

Bethany Urban Development will be conducting its eighth annual free car wash on Lake Street, July 26th. This has always been an incredible urban ministry opportunity. If you would like to participate either as a volunteer or as a sponsor please let us know as soon as possible. You can make a difference!