Monday, July 28, 2008

Ministry Update

Dear Friend, For the past couple of issues we have been focusing on the Kingdom of God. If you haven't read the prior issues, please go to the newsletter archive section of our website, or just use the following links: Part One and Part Two.


Part Three

The Clash of Kingdoms

Jesus came to earth to die for our sins. But He came for something more; He came to establish the Kingdom of God on earth. In doing so, He had to fight against the prevailing kingdom and its value system. When Jesus preached repentance, He wasn't just trying to get people to turn from their sins, He was trying to get them to change their way of thinking. He knew they must let go of a corrupt value system and adopt a new program for life. The established kingdom had embraced money, pleasure, and human ingenuity. The Bible often refers to this way of life as Babylon. Its values had infiltrated the Jewish culture including the highest levels of their religious leadership. Even the disciples had been seduced by its love of power. Many times Jesus spoke and acted to expose the evils of this lifestyle:

When He performed supernatural miracles, Jesus wasn't just making people well. He was challenging a system committed to finding solutions to man's problems without God's involvement.

When Jesus attacked the money changers, He wasn't trying to stop businesses from operating on the Sabbath. He was challenging an earthly kingdom that wanted to extend control over a heavenly Kingdom. He was furious that it dared to encroach upon the very entrance of the House of Prayer.

Jesus declared, "No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money" (Matt 6:24). When He said this, He was exposing a value system that allowed a shared devotion of both material and spiritual riches. He exposed the lie that we can simultaneously be citizens of both kingdoms.

The Blessed Poor

Often Jesus healed the sick but didn't financially restore the poor. Rather, He preached Good News to them. This was because He didn't look at the poor as necessarily deprived. Yes, he was drawn to their suffering. But He also recognized that they were typically less attached to the Babylonian value system and had a greater sense of their need for God. "Listen, my dear brothers: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him?" (James 2:5).

Poverty, therefore, is a relative term. You can be poor in a kingdom of Babylon context but rich in the Kingdom of God. Does this mean we should seek to be poor? No. To have money is not the problem. It is the love of money that is a core value of the Babylonian system. By setting our hearts too much on money, we are putting our trust in the kingdom of Babylon rather than God's Kingdom.

A New Measure of Success

To break free from the Babylonian value system, we must change our definition of success. In the Babylonian system, there is a great focus on wealth and material possessions. Unfortunately, churches today often focus on offerings, attendance figures, and facility size. Many who attend church have embraced the "American Dream" of a nice car, nice home, and money to buy stuff. Even the irreverent comedian George Carlin recognized the futility of this current mindset:+"If you didn't have so much stuff, you wouldn't need a house. You could just walk around all the time. A house is just a pile of stuff with a cover on it. You can see that when you're taking off in an airplane. You look down; you see everybody's got a little pile of stuff. And when you leave your house, you gotta lock it up. Wouldn't want somebody to come by and take some of your stuff. That's what your house is, a place to keep your stuff while you go out and get - more stuff!"

After Pentecost, the disciples rejected these values to completely embrace the Kingdom of God. This became the key to their unprecedented effectiveness. Peter said, "Change your life. Turn to God and be baptized," He went on in this vein for a long time, urging them over and over, "Get out while you can; get out of this sick and stupid culture!" That day about three thousand took him at his word, were baptized and were signed up... Everyone around was in awe - all those wonders and signs done through the apostles! And all the believers lived in a wonderful harmony, holding everything in common." (Acts 2:38, 40-41, 43-44 MSG emphasis mine).

How will we know that we have broken free from the Babylonian value system? When we are hated by that system. The Babylonian system will only tolerate those who tolerate it. Fortunately, the disciples no longer desired favor from the system rather boldness to confront it.

Hop On Board!

One night, in a worship service, a vision unfolded in my spirit. I saw a nineteenth century frontier town with many from the community assembled at the train station. They had huge trunks and suitcases. Men and boys were handsomely dressed while the women and girls wore fluffy dresses and carried beautiful parasols. They all were excited about boarding the next train.

Finally, an observant young man shouted, "The train is coming!" In the distance, white puffs of smoke began to emerge above the tree tops. When the train rounded the last bend, the screech of the powerful brakes increased anticipation. There was an anxious shift to the train platform. Everyone was preparing to embark.

But as the train reached the depot something happened that no one expected. The train didn't stop! Looks of shock, confusion and disappointment filled the crowd. Some started shouting demandingly for the train to halt. Others tried running after the train while dragging their trunks and bags. A few desperate people dropped everything they were carrying and ran fast enough to jump on board.

As I witnessed this wild scene, I heard a voice coming from above, "This train stops for no one!" It then became clear to me that God was going somewhere but only those who were unencumbered would be able to join Him. We know obvious sins will weigh anyone down but let's not forget the baggage of Babylonian values and mindsets. "let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us" (Heb 12:1). This is a key to transforming revival in the West. It's time to let go of a fallen system and completely embrace a Kingdom that cannot be shaken!

Urban Car Wash Success!

Bethany Urban Development conducted its eighth annual free car wash on Lake Street, Saturday, July 26th. We partnered with Mt. Sinai Church of God, Evangelist Crusaders Church, and Teen Mania. We washed 105 cars and two motorcycles in just over three hours! It was an incredible ministry experience. Many free Bibles and Christian materials were distributed and eighteen people prayed for salvation! Thanks so much for your prayers and support!