Tag Archives: Kingdom Theology

Start Here: Kingdom Essentials For Christians by Don Williams

The first phrase that came to mind when I sat down to review Don Williams’ new book Start Here was: “It is the new Mere Christianity”.

It may sound crazy, but that is what it is…Don Williams follows in the foot steps of CS Lewis in trying to put and describe the mysterious and wonderful event of being resurrected into a new life. The life of Christ.

It all started when Rich Nathan, Columbus, Ohio Vineyard Church, asked Williams to write a book for new believers. Yet, it couldn’t be just any book – it needed to bring to light the fullness of the Kingdom of God. In that vain, Williams wrote a book full of Kingdom language.

For example, in the first chapter, “What’s Happened to Me?”, Don Williams explains that once a person has accepted Christ as their personal savior, they have now been “delivered from Satan’s kingdom” and into “God’s kingdom”.  It is an “exchange of sovereignties.” [@more@]

We are no longer our own. We belong to Christ and He is our Ruler and King. As such, we must only do what He says. That is the foundation of Faith.

From this foundation, Williams takes the reader on a journey from “Life in the Kingdom” to the “Call to Kingdom Ministry” onward to “The Road Marked ‘Suffering’” and “Kingdom Power”, ending with the “Community of the King” and “You’re in the Kingdom Now.”

Please note that while this book was written for those new in the Faith, it is also one that should be read by believers of all ‘ages’. For me personally, it called to remembrance the reason why I walk the path that I do: the grace of God and for the love of a King.

Going Beyond the Complementarian/Egalitarian Debate

My journey into the issue of women in church leadership began around my senior year of High School. During this time, my folks where helping start a small church with a female senior pastor. Even thought I knew this lady and respected her, I always felt uneasy sitting in her church. My mind said that it was wrong; yet my heart said that God was there and working….

It was all very confusing… I guess that is why in the end, I decided to follow Jesus’ advice to His disciples in Mark 9:40: “whoever is not against us is for us.” (i.e. As long as the Gospel was going forward, I would let God sort out the details.)

For years, I lived in this tension – sometimes leaning towards the egalitarian side (ie. man and women are equal in both role and essence); sometimes toward the complementarian view (ie. men and women are equal in essence but differ in roles).

Then I heard that Derek Morphew (a Kingdom Theologian that I trust and respect) just wrote a book about “going beyond the Complementarian/Egalitarian debate”…  My inertest was peaked and I bought the book, “Different But Equal”, as soon as I could.[@more@]

The Book: “Different But Equal: Going Beyond the Complementarian/Egalitarian Debate”

One of the “un-written rules” of reading a book is to always read the author’s bio and introduction. These two things will tell you a lot about how the author is going to approach the subject matter (another rule is to check the publication date as it will give you some context for the material…).

This book is no different.

Continue reading Going Beyond the Complementarian/Egalitarian Debate

Authority To Heal: Answers For Everyone Who Has Prayed For A Sick Friend by Ken Blue

Authority to Heal by Ken Blue

A few years ago I was browsing the bookshelf of a good friend when I noticed Ken Blue’s book Authority to Heal. Picking it up, I was intrigued with this book that claimed to have “answers for everyone who has prayed for a sick friend.”

Unfortunately, I was unable to read the book even after I borrowed it due to another journey God was taking me on at the time. As such the book sat on my book shelf – begging to be read…..Undecided

Then a couple weeks ago I was attending a webinar by Derek Morphew about world missions and the Kingdom of God. At the end of the webinar, Morphew listed some helpful books upon different topics – one of those books was Ken Blue’s book. This reference made me sit up and dust off the book – and I am glad it did because it is the best book on healing that I have read to date.

So what is the book about? Well, Ken Blue starts off the book by pulling weeds – or as he puts it, “Clearing the ground of theological hindrances.” These are misconceptions about the healing power of God floating around in Christian Theology. [@more@]

This selection was actually the best part of the book – at least for me. Blue tackles such issues as “Sanctification through Sickness”, “Divine Determinism”, “Faith Formula” and the “Secular World View”.

After pulling the weeds, Blue spends the next five chapters laying the foundation of fight to heal and the Kingdom of God. He shows that it is God desires to heal the sick, that the fight is real and that we have the victory both here today and in the future. This is another powerful selection as Blue really lays the foundation for a Bible view on healing.

It is during this selection that Blue tackles the questions of why some people are healed and other are not. Why some times the healing takes place right there and other times it is a delayed action… These are not easy questions, but I think Blue does a great job at answering them while using Jesus as our example and model.

The last selection of the book is very practical – namely it is about how we, as believers, can walk out Jesus’ command to heal the sick, cast out demons, cleanse leapers and raise the dead.

One thing I love about this selection is that Blue talks about the various healing models in the Christian church today: Anglican-Episcopal, Pentecostal, Lutheran, Greek Orthodox, etc. Granted he doesn’t go into much detail as that is not what the book is about – but he does take a look at them and confirms what God is doing in each of the Christian traditions.

Blue also lays out a very simple prayer model that can be used within any church and by anybody. It is the model developed out of the beginning of the Vineyard Movement to help empower the church to live out the Bible and to do the stuff.

  1. Interviewing – as questions about why the person wants prayer. This could be as simple as asking where it hurts and what happened.
  2. Choose a Prayer Strategy – A lot of times the root problem is not the issue described during the interview period. During this step, we should be asking God what He is doing and how we should pray. Is the problem spiritual? Physical? Or emotional?
  3. Pray for Specific Results – When we pray we need to pray for the issue(s) that God has shown us as well as the issue(s) given to us by the prayee. If it is for a hurt leg, then pray for the hurt leg – be specific and try to stay away from vague and general prayers.
  4. Assess the Results – After you’re done praying, ask the prayee is they are still in pain or if they felt anything. This is not a time to “fake” healing or claim the healing in faith. It is a time to be real, if your leg still hurts, then it still hurts. Pray again. If the pain is gone – praise the Lord!
  5. Post Prayer Direction – Some healings are instantaneous why others take longer. This is the time to give the prayee some direction; however, it is not a time of counseling. We let the prayee knows where to go for further prayer or, if the case may be, we let them know what they experienced so they wont be afraid of the touch of the Lord.

As you can see Authority To Heal by Ken Blue is a powerful book. I would recommend it to all believers – even if you have been praying for the sick for a long time, it is still worth the reading. Shoot, I have been teaching the pray model for a few years now, yet I learned a lot by the reading of this book.

The Presence of the Future by George Ladd (Formerly Titled: Jesus and the Kingdom)

Normally I try not to follow a book review with another book review…but I am going to make an exception today. Tongue out

George Eldon Ladd's book The Presence of the Future is one of those landmark theological books that send shockwaves throughout Christendom. This is neither an overstatement nor the ramblings of a lunatic fan – it is exactly what happened in the mid-1960s when the book was released under the title Jesus and the Kingdom (the title was changed in 1974 when the "Revised Edition" was released).

So what is so "shocking" about Ladd's book?

Well to understand that you have to first take a step back and look at history of theology up to the 1960s.

Beginning in the early 18th century, scholars and theologians started to interpret the Bible as a historical document rather then the "word of God". This led many folks to discount the miracles, signs and wonders described in the Gospels as fictional stories added to the documents to help boost the early church's claims. [@more@]

Albert Schweitzer was a key player in this quest for the "historical Jesus" studying the Jewish writings, culture and religion of the inter-testamental period. Unfortunately, Schweitzer did not stop there – instead he proposed the concept that Jesus did not recognize himself as "God" but that he knew that he was just a human following the direction of the Lord.

The result of this "human" or historical Jesus concept is that the eschatological message of the kingdom of God that Jesus was proclaiming was false. Instead the only "good" parts of the Gospels where the social ethics promoted by Jesus (see my earlier book review on Schweitzer's Kingdom of God and Primitive Christianity).

The conservative fundamental reaction to this quest came in several different flavors, all of which stressed the God-breathed nature of the Bible:
  • Pentecostalism and the Charismatic movement tended to focus on the victory passages of the Bible saying that the kingdom of God had come among man and that followers of Jesus could enjoy the fullness of life (ie. a realized eschatology).
  • Evangelicalism went the other route and focused on the spiritual nature of Jesus' message claiming that the kingdom of God was yet to come (ie. a delayed eschatology).

Enter George Ladd.

As the professor of New Testament exegesis and theology of Fuller Theological Seminary, Ladd was able to study the life and ministry of Jesus through the lens of both the quest for the historical Jesus and the conservative fundamental view. In other words, he studied ministry of Jesus Christ through the context of first century Judaism while maintaining the inerrancy of the Bible.

The result of this study was became known as "inaugurated eschatology" – or as Ladd puts it in The Presence of the Future:

The Kingdom of God is the redemptive reign of God dynamically active to establish his rule among men, and that this Kingdom, which will appear as an apocalyptic act at the end of the age, has already come into human history in the person and mission of Jesus to overcome evil, to deliver men from its power, and to bring them into the blessings of God's reign.

The Kingdom of God involves two great moments: fulfillment within history, and consummation at the end of history.

The impact of such a statement echoed throughout Christendom to the point that the majority of Bible scholars across all movements today tend to agree with Ladd's "inaugurated eschatology". Examples of such scholars include N.T. Wright, C.H. Dodd, and Gordon D. Fee.

You might have noticed that I used the phrase "tend to agree" when mentioning other scholars. The reason for that phrase is that while a lot of scholars agree with the concept of inaugurated eschatology, they don't apply it in practice.

To my knowledge, which I will grant is limited; there are only two movements that make inaugurated eschatology the PRIMARY focus of BOTH their theology and practice. These two movements are the Vineyard and the New Wine Movement within the Anglican Church in the UK.

Remember yesterday when I referenced the "eschatological Jesus" – well, this is what I was referring too. The Jesus who ushered in the Age to Come through his life and ministry; yet who also told informed us that the Age to Come is yet to come.

The Kingdom of God is here, coming; delayed and near – all at the same time. We live between the times in an eschatological tension.

The Last Things: An Eschatology For Laymen by George Ladd

George Ladd is one of my favorite theologians for a number of reasons. The main one however is his focus on the eschatological Jesus as oppose to the “legal” or “justification” Jesus of most evangelicals.

The Last Things: An Eschatology For Laymen is one of the last book written by Ladd before he died in the early ‘80’s. The date of the book – 1978 – is very important as it is a scholarly response to the rise of “Dispensationalism” in the late 1960s and 1970’s. Sadly enough (in my opinion) the ideas of dispensationalism has continued to grow over the past few decades to the point in which it is the primary eschatological view of evangelicalism.

You may ask “what is dispensationalism?”

Well, that is a very good question. Literally, “dispensationalism” means a “series of dispensations or time periods in which God deals in different ways with his people.” For example, cessationists use a twist on dispensationalism to “prove” that the gifts of the Spirit (healing, miracles, tongues, etc) have stopped.

Ladd doesn’t put a lot of focus on this aspect of dispensationalism as he sees no problems in having different time periods: the era of promise under Abraham, law under Moses, grace under Christ, and the Kingdom of God in the future. (Note that I personally disagree with Ladd on this point as I only see two Biblical time periods: this Present Evil Age and the Age to Come…but that’s another discussion.)

The main tenet of dispensationalism according to Ladd is “that there are two peoples of God for whom God has two different programs and destinies – theocratic and earthly for Israel, spiritual and heavenly for the church.”[@more@]

It is this tenet that Ladd is speaking out against as it affects the way one views prophecies. Instead, Ladd proposes that we “recognize progressive revelation” and “interpret the Old Testament by the New Testament.” More specifically, Ladd, who grew up under the umbrella of dispensationalism, states that the “Old Testament must be interpreted (and often reinterpreted) by the new revelation given in the person and mission of Jesus Christ.”

An example of this “reinterpretation” can be seen in Christology where Jesus reinterprets Isaiah’s “Suffering Servant” as the coming Messiah and the “Son of Man”. It is worth noting that within the context of Isaiah 53, the “Suffering Servant” is never referred to as the “Messiah” – instead the “servant concept fluctuates between the corporate concept, Israel, and the individual who redeems Israel.”

Knowing that folks would naturally ask about the modern day nation of Israel and what happens to them, Ladd devotes an entire chapter looking at the issue. Knowing that this is a hot bed of emotion, I’m going to try to summarize Ladd’s work as it pertains to this book view…however, if you want to know more, check out the book. Smile

In a nutshell, Ladd looks at Romans 9-11 in which Paul tackles this very same question. Paul starts off by pointing out that “Israel” – that is the people of God – is not identical with the physical offspring of Abraham: “For not all who are descended from Israel [natural seed] belong to Israel [spiritual seed], and not all are children of Abraham became they are his descendants.” (Rom 9:6-7). Or in other words, true Israel is determined not by natural physical descent or DNA, but by the “divine election and promise of God.”

So what do we do with the present day “Israel”? Ladd proposes three things:

  1. Israel remains a “holy” people (Rom 11:16), set apart and destined to carry out the divine purpose
  2. All Israel is yet to be saved
  3. The salvation of Israel must be through the new covenant made in the blood of Christ Jesus already established with the church, not through a rebuild Jewish temple with a revival of the Mosaic sacrificial system.

After addressing the main tenet of dispensationalism and how that affects the modern day nation of Israel, Ladd moves on to discuss the Second Coming of Christ, the Antichrist, the Great Tribulation, the Resurrection, Rapture, Judgment and the Kingdom of God. Throughout each selection, Ladd looks at how prophecy is interpret through the life and mission of Jesus Christ while combating the views of dispensationalism.

One thing I must point out, as doubtless some of you are wondering, is that Ladd does hold to a classic premillennial view of Revelations. Meaning that he thinks there is a literal 1,000 year reign of Jesus on earth before the start of the New Age with the restored heaven and earth.

Classic premillennialism defers from dispensational premillennialism in that dispensationalist believe that the millennial kingdom is for the Jews in which the Mosaic sacrificial system is restored and the Old Testament prophecies about Israel as a nation are fulfilled literally. Again, even in this there is the core belief in dispensationalism that God has two separate people groups with whom He will deal with in two different ways.

If you are wondering, I tend to stick to the pan-millennialism view: everything is going to pan out and we win. However, if pushed, I would have to say that I lean towards either classic premillennialism or amillennialsim view as I don’t see much Biblical support for dispensational premillennialism or postmillennialism.Cool

Who Is My Enemy?

The church talks a lot about “Who is my neighbor?” – which can be good. But I think Rich Nathan has a point when he said that the “first question the church must answer correctly is, ‘who is my enemy?’”

From this premise, Rich tackles five of the most pressing issues facing the modern church in his book Who Is My Enemy? Welcoming People The Church Rejects.

  • Is the Postmodernist My Enemy?
  • Is the Feminist My Enemy?
  • Is the Homosexual Me Enemy?
  • Is the New Ager My Enemy?
  • Is the Liberal My Enemy?

Unlike a lot of books that tend to rant and rave about each of these issues, this book takes a very logical, pragmatic approach to each of the issues. This does not mean that Rich leaves out the aspect of love and compassion – far from it!!

The heart of this book and of Rich Nathan – if I might be so bold – it to draw people to the person of Jesus (especially those rejected and/or cast out of the church). Basically, Rich is calling the church to be the church – to quite tossing out those whom are sick and are in need of a Savior. [@more@]

One story in particular really stands out to me. It was about a Christian man who was struggling with homosexuality. Being in a church, he went to his pastor to share his struggles and to have someone pray with him. He wasn’t looking for a silver bullet or anything – he just needed someone to talk too.

However, the pastor of a Christian church told the man to leave the building and never come back!! Ooch!! I can’t even image the heartache felt that day! Yet – I am confident that this is not a “one-off” story. Shoot – I’ve talked to homosexuals in my city that have heard similar statements from Christian believers. How messed up is the church if we can’t love people?

The good news is that after leaving the church for many years, God brought this man back into his fold through a group of Christian guys who invited him to join their Bible study. While at the study, they be-friended the man and brought him into their lives – even after he told them about his struggles.

That is how we are supposed to act as that is what Jesus did. He hung out with the drugs, the prostitutes, the hurting and the struggling.

If you have any questions, anger or fears towards any of these five groups of people, I would highly recommend reading Rich Nathan’s book. You will find a powerful Biblical, historically, pragmatic, and spiritual look at who is our enemy.

Naturally Supernatural by Gary Best

Living between the ages – between the here and not yet.

Gary Best’s book Naturally Supernatural is about such a life:

  • Joining God in His Work
  • God’s Powerful Tools
  • Seeing What God Sees
  • Empowered by God’s Spirit
  • Bringing the Kingdom to People
  • The Key to Persevering

This is a book about joining in God’s work – not just preaching the Gospel – but praying for the sick, cleaning the leapers, raising the dead and casting out demons. [@more@]

Gary does a great job a telling real life stories about working in the ministry while staying firmly planted in the Bible. He even talks about why people sometimes don’t get healed when we pray…

I must note, however, that the book feels a bit disjoined at times….almost as if Gary goes off to to left field and forgets he is suppose to be headed to home-base….

Over all, it is a powerful book and a great read. I was especially touched by the last two chapters.

The Vineyard Core Values

I was browsing the Vineyard National site when I noticed an article published by Bert Waggoner about the Vineyard Core Values. It seems that the National Board has simplified the long list of beliefs and values into five (5) core ones:

* The Theology and Practice of the Kingdom of God
* Experiencing God
* Reconciling Community
* Compassionate Ministry
* Culturally Relevant Mission

There was also an article by Ken Wilson giving a concise overview of each value.  It is a great article – so if you have time, check it out (don’t worry, it’s short).

In the meantime, I wanted to highlight the first value – seeing that is where God has been focusing my time these last few years. Smile[@more@]

Here is what Ken wrote about Kingdom Theology & Practice:

The Vineyard is committed to the theology and practice of the kingdom of God — rooted in the vision of the Hebrew prophets and fulfilled in the life and ministry of Jesus of Nazareth. The movement is distinctively rooted in a renewed understanding of the centrality of the kingdom in biblical thought. We view the kingdom of God as the overarching and integrating theme of the Bible.

From the beginning, the Vineyard has been committed to proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God and to bearing witness to the “already and not yet” of the kingdom in our words and deeds—through healing (physical, emotional, and social), doing justice, and delivering those held captive by evil. Since the kingdom of God is the future reign of God breaking into the present through the life and ministry of Jesus, we are a forward-leaning movement that emphasizes the ever-reforming nature of the church and engages the world in love.

Good stuff to chew on.

Defining "Eternal Life"

What did Jesus mean when he said we would receive “Eternal Life”?

Have you ever thought about it?

In Sunday school, I was taught that “eternal life” was life after death – a kind of immortality imposed on those who believed in Jesus. The Free Dictionary online agrees with this definition, calling it “life without beginning or end“.

Yet, the more I study and read the Gospel text, that definition of “eternal life” just doesn’t fit…

Since when were the Jewish people concerned with living forever? No where in the Old Testament (at least as far as I can tell) does the mention that we would be immortal… Live for hundreds of years, yes. But not immortal.

Immortality was more of a Greek thing – a way to become a ‘god’ and cheat death.
Since the Greeks took over Middle East a few hundred years before Jesus, it may be that their priority on cheating death had creped into the Jewish way of thinking.[@more@]

But then we are right back were we started in that the context of the Gospel does not seem to fit with the idea of cheating death and living forever, even if it was a “life-after-death-immortality”.

The phrase “eternal life” is used interchangeable with the phrases “kingdom of God” and “kingdom of heaven”. Those phrases we know refer to God’s rule and reign – or in other words, the coming of the Age to Come into this Present Age. The prophets of old called it the Day of the Lord, when the God Almighty would come in judgment and mercy.

With that context in mind, allow me to propose something:

What if the phrase “eternal life” was referring to the life of the Age to Come? So when Jesus is saying that we would receive “eternal life”, he was not referring to immortality, but to the mercy, salvations, justice and glory of the Day of the Lord coming in and upon us today in this Age, right now.

Using this interpretation, the verses of the Gospels – shoot of the entire New Testament – come alive with new meaning. No longer is Jesus, Paul or the other writers mainly concerned with cheating death. Instead they are begging us to enter into the victory and power of the Age to Come – when the Spirit of the Lord would be poured out upon all mankind; when those who are sick would be healed and those held captive will be set free.

What an amazing concept!


A side note: hmmm… I wonder how this would affect the idea of “eternal damnation”? Tongue out

Jesus Brand Spirituality by Ken Wilson

“To a growing body of people, the simple answers now seem simplistic, the certain answers less certain.” – Ken Wilson

That is me.

The simple answers no longer work. Nor does certainty.

What I do know is that I know and love the Person who started it all; The Person who created time and spun a blue ball on the table of nothingness.

In a lot of ways, that is the heart of Ken Wilson’s new book. The way to Jesus is not as simple or as neat as we would like it to be. There are questions that don’t have answers – answers that don’t make sense.

Yet, the midst of this complicity…no that’s not the right word…. In the midst of life – for life is not simple – there is but one truth:

On the pilgrims’ path, the only important step is the next one.

Wow!!

That statement rings in my ears so loud, I’m thinking of changing my blog tag line to it – to highlight the fact that it’s not where we are or where we have been. All that matters is that we take the next step towards the Center – towards the Creator of Life. That’s it. [@more@]

Correct theology doesn’t matter. The Bible doesn’t matter. Church doesn’t matter. All good things – within their proper place and time – but at the core, all that really matter is that we are moving towards Him:

Jesus is a presence distinct from the religion that represents him. We are drawn to him (or not) for reasons that defy easy explanation. But being drawn to Jesus doesn’t necessarily mean buying the package of faith as defined by those with the biggest bullhorns. It may be the most subtle of inclinations…What’s important is the movement – the leaning toward as if to listen, to object, to surrender, to question, to help. That’s the quivering nerve of what makes Jesus a movement maker: he moves people.

Maybe it’s time to adjust some of the conventional assumptions about Christian faith. Maybe the starring point is as basic as people in motion, moving towards Jesus.

This is a book about life; the complicity of life.

Ken, whom I’ve met and trust, does a great job a raising a lot of questions that people are asking – both in the “Church” and outside. The beauty of his book is that he doesn’t claim to know the answer – all he does is point the reader towards the person Jesus Christ.

In fact, he is probably the only author I’ve read whose at ease with the mystery of God.

I’m not sure what else to say… if I had to compare Jesus Brand Spirituality with another book, it would have to be Mere Christianity by CS Lewis. But even that comparison falls apart.

I guess I would have to be contempt with just saying that this book taught me a lot about God, Christianity, myself, and the path towards the Center.