A Perfect Plan

I’ve been writing a lot lately about doubt, be it doubt in God’s existence, or doubt in His purpose for us. But that’s the doubt that comes from our own lives, when we struggle with failure or frustrated expectations and desires.

When we look into the lives of others, we face a completely different kind of challenge. What happens to our faith when we see suffering and evil? What are we supposed to make of God’s purpose when a newborn baby starves to death? What plan could God have possibly had for that baby?

That’s a tough question, and I don’t claim to know the answer. If we wanted to end poverty, we could. There’s enough money in this world to end it immediately. But we don’t do it. I don’t think it’s going to happen because sin is in the world. Selfishness will always keep us from eliminating poverty altogether.

When I get challenged like this, I think about the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus taught us to pray, “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done.” As ambassadors of Christ, we are called to help bring the redemptive love of Jesus to Earth. We are called to help bring God’s kingdom. We pray for it, we look for it, and we long to be a part of it. So we look for opportunities to be involved in bringing it.

I think God has a plan. I think it is a perfect plan. This is going to work out. And there’s a role for everyone. Look around you! There are so many incredibly talented people. They are everywhere. We have an abundance of incredible ideas for ending poverty. We have an abundance of energy and passion for the kingdom. With all that talent, all those skills, all those callings, and all those passions, we are overflowing with opportunities to bring the kingdom. No matter where we work, we can do so much. We can love so much!

I don’t really know how much I can or cannot do, but I intend to find out! I’m going to do as much as I can. My biggest fear is that I’ll sit before the throne of God one day and He will say to me, “You gave me 90% when I needed one hundred.” I don’t want Him to say that. I want Him to say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

I’m not working for my own salvation. I don’t have to. By the blood of Jesus, I am saved. No, what I’m trying to do is be a light. I’m trying to be a city set on a hill. (Matthew 5:14) I don’t want to be one of those cities that didn’t do enough to light up the world. God is calling! I want to make sure that I’m hearing Him correctly. I want to make sure that I’m doing what He wants me to do.

More on this next time. See you Friday.

Kingdom Warriors

Sometimes people ask me, “Do you really think we can end human trafficking in our lifetime?” The truth is, I don’t know. But I’m still going to fight it with every opportunity. If we fight, we can free some people from a pretty terrible life.

I can’t promise you that fighting trafficking will end it. But we can end it, and I mean end it permanently, for some people. That’s one promise I can make. We can give some people their lives back. And the men, women, and children that are saved because of our efforts are pretty happy that we showed up and fought for them. They are happy that we didn’t just sit back and say, “Well, I can’t end trafficking, so why should I try?”

Think of those people whose lives were spared because we fed them. Think of those people who have clean, safe water to drink because we put in a well for them. Now they have no disease and their communities are thriving. They’re living longer and living fully because they don’t feel sick all the time. They’re happy and full of joy! I think they are pretty happy that we helped them, even if we can’t completely eliminate hunger or contaminated water in our lifetime.

I know that when we put in a well and heal a community, someone else, somewhere else, is dying of thirst. There’s plenty of that going around. And even if we fix one problem for good, another might arise. There was the plague, the “Black Death,” in the 14th century. It devastated Europe, and the Europeans were probably wondering if it would ever stop. It did. Later, we learned to understand sickness, and to treat it. Yet disease still is rampant. We handled the plague, the Spanish flu, whooping cough, and many other diseases, but still others, like Ebola, pop up. So we ask, “Can we end trafficking in our lifetime?” And I think, even if we can, another threat may arise.

But we can end trafficking for some people. We can end poverty for some people. We can end disease, sorrow, and suffering for some people. And so that’s what we do. It’s our calling as human beings in Christ, and so we rise to the call. I can’t save the whole world, but I can do my part. I can reflect Jesus by meeting a need, whenever or wherever I see one.

We are here to create the conditions of God’s justice, like freedom and health, joy and community. That’s why we’re here, so that’s what we do! We don’t have to win the war. Jesus already did that for us. We just have to fight the battles. It’s not an all-or-nothing proposition. We’re here to help when we see a need. That’s all.

That’s the whole purpose of life!

See you Monday.

The Royal Law

Listen, my beloved brethren: Has God not chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him? If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you do well…James 2:5, 8

When Jesus described the kingdom of God, the people listening to Him understood the paradigm. Kingdoms were very common in their day, so they understood the mentality. Rule by kings continued in Europe until the 20th century in some places, and some parts of the world continue to have monarchies today. Americans had a revolution in the 18th century, so it’s a little harder for us to understand the paradigm. But we can do it, since it’s in our history. We can understand how kingdoms work.

Child of GodIf you use a kingdom mentality to understand the royal law, you will realize that when you accept Christ, you are no longer a pauper. You are royalty, rich in faith and an heir of His kingdom. Think about that! The King is going out, and looking over the land saying, “Whoever wants to be a part my kingdom, I’m adopting you. Now you are my son. Now you are my daughter. You are now a prince, or a princess.”

That is a really good way to live! You were poor before. You were lost. But now you’re found.

When Jesus died, He rose again. Because of what He did, the gate to the kingdom is unlocked for everyone. Because of what He did, anyone who wants to come to the King can come. The drawbridge never closes. You want to come in, come in. And when God adopts you, you don’t have to stay in the castle. You can come and go as you please.

When you go, understand that you are holy and righteous. That is your identity. No matter where you came from, no matter who you were, you are now no longer a pauper. Where you came from is over. That life is over. God gives you a new life in His kingdom, and you leave His kingdom as His son or daughter. You are a prince or princess of the realm.

People are going to ask you, “What did you have to do, to become a member of His family?” You can tell them, “It is simple. I know what His son did for me. I believe it. And I love that He’s my savior! I love that there are no strings attached. I gave my life over to Him and said, ‘Jesus, thank you.’ Now, because of that, the drawbridge is open. I walked right in. I went before the King, and I said, ‘I’d like to be your royal child.’ And He said, ‘Come on in!’”

As His royal child, you represent God to the world. You represent His kingdom to the world. So go, and invite people in. Love on them. Encourage them. Tell them, “You can trust the King. He wants you with Him. He’s not going to destroy you. He’s not going to execute you. He’s not going to put you in prison. He’s not going to treat you as a traitor or a spy. He’s going to love you! Simply love you!”

This is freedom! See you Thursday.

We Need More Ammo

Listen, my beloved brethren: Has God not chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him?…If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you do well. James 2:5, 8

Doing God’s work is filled with joy. Love your neighbor as yourself! I mean, that’s joy! It’s the royal law, the commandment of the Kingdom of God. The trumpets sound, and the King says, “Go and love.” That’s the warriors’ command from the King. The trumpets sound, and Jesus says, “Love your neighbor as yourself, and love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.”

So go and love your neighbor. That’s your war cry! Leave the Kingdom walls, figure out what is wrong with your neighbors, and love on them. Don’t worry about having the means to do it. Trust God for that! When you need help, send word to the King. Tell Him, “We’re filling a need here, and we need more resources.” He’ll provide what He needs to provide.

Imagine this as if it were a movie about medieval Europe. The king’s forces have gone to war, and there’s a moment when the tide of battle seems to be turning against them. They realize, “We need more men!” What do they do? They send word to the king. What does the king do? He provides more men! When they run out of anything, they send a courier to the castle. “Tell the king we need more ammo.” Or, “Tell him we need more food.” The king sends food, ammo, or whatever his forces need.

God will provide for you. Pray, and the Holy Spirit will go to the Father and speak some words. We don’t necessarily understand what the Spirit says, but we know it means something like, “Hey, your daughter needs something.” There’s no doubt in my mind that God replies, “Go and give it to her.” He says, “My child says we need more ammo, or food, or men, or tents? That’s my child! I’ll give him or her what he or she needs.”

That’s what the Bible says. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. (Philippians 4:6) Does this mean that if you ask for a million dollars, He’s going to say yes? I don’t think so. He’ll ask, “Does my son need a million, or does he want a million?” Those are two different things! But whatever you need, God will give it to you.

We can trust the King of Kings because we are His children! As members of His family, we say, “I am a part of God’s Kingdom, so I am going to go forth to fulfill the royal law. I’m going to get on my horse and go out of the gate and into the world. I’m going to love my neighbor, and when I do that, I’m going to represent the Kingdom of God.”

We go out even if we don’t have any money. We go out even if we don’t have the resources lined up. Just send word to God. Pray. Tell Him, “I need a way to get more ammo so that I can love on my neighbors. They are in need, God!” He will give you the ammo you need. Jobs will open up. Maybe a donor will come along and offer to help you. God will provide. Trust Him in this.

The Bible says we’re all royalty now, since we have heard and responded to Jesus. We are all holy and righteous. This is what God means when He says, “You are mine now.” You are His child. And as a child of the King, you are a prince or princess of the Kingdom, God’s precious child.

More on this next time. See you Thursday.

Kingdom Freedom

So many people are taught that if you have grace, you’re going to sin more.

Even the people in ancient Rome were saying that grace gives Christians permission to sin. They were saying that Christians can do whatever they want to do, because grace frees them from any consequences. So when Paul wrote to the Romans, he talked about this. He said no, that’s not the case. In fact, it’s the exact opposite! Since Christians have God’s grace, they are holy and righteous. And if you understand that, if you understand who you are, then you won’t sin because you won’t want to. Not out of fear of being punished! You just literally won’t want to do it.

I am a new creature, man! I don’t want to sin! Sin contradicts my fundamental sense of who I am. This is what the people of the Kingdom of God are like!

Why are we like that? Look at Jesus. Jesus said, I do everything I see my Father do. I love my enemies. I see the woman accused of adultery and I love on her. I don’t judge her.

The people of the Kingdom of God want to do the things we see Jesus do. Not because we have to! We want to be like Jesus because we understand how good it is to be holy and righteous. We still sin, yes. We have flesh and it’s unavoidable. When it happens, He helps us deal with it. Sin is not who we are.

Now if you understand who you are, fear will go away. Holy and righteous people don’t fear punishment, because they don’t get punished. That’s not who God is. In the Kingdom, there is no punishment. That’s out. The cross is that powerful. I don’t care what you do, there’s no punishment.

There will be some earthly consequences for sin. Suppose you commit adultery. There will be consequences. But that does not mean God loves you less. It doesn’t! In fact, He’s probably going to grab you even closer, because He knows the turmoil you’ll suffer because of what you did. He knows the turmoil your family will suffer because of what you did. He knows, and He’s not going to run from you. He’ll say, “Oh, man, I’m not letting you go on this one. This is going to be a long walk. You’re going to need me, now more than ever.” That’s what He would do, not punish you.

What makes you think God judges you? Jesus did everything that He saw His Father do, no matter what. Think about the woman at the well. He went out of His way to sit with her. He knew that she was going to come to that well and He went to call her out. Not to condemn her. To free her. Because that’s what the Father does. 

Think about you, a child of His. He sees your crap. And He says, “I’m not here to condemn you. I’m here to free you. Come to the wedding feast. You don’t have to find the table. The table is here. Wherever you’re at, I’ll bring it to you and you will dine with me. We’re going to have fun! We’re going to love on each other and live our life in freedom. We’re going to learn that grace is being holy and righteous. Grace is allowing you to be you.”

That’s what God says, not, “You know what? I think you need to be someone else.” No! God made you, and you have His image.

Jesus frees us. He frees us from our wounds and our fears. Your freedom is being you. God made you already. He sees you already. And He’s not ashamed of you. Even in your crap He’s not ashamed of you. He just walks with you through it. “Yeah,” he says. “I’m here with you.”

The Good News is very, very good!

See you Monday.

Good Theology

But when the time arrived that was set by God the Father, God sent his Son, born among us of a woman, born under the conditions of the law so that he might redeem those of us who have been kidnapped by the law. Thus we have been set free to experience our rightful heritage. You can tell for sure that you are now fully adopted as his own children because God sent the Spirit of his Son into our lives crying out, “Papa! Father!” Doesn’t that privilege of intimate conversation with God make it plain that you are not a slave, but a child? And if you are a child, you’re also an heir, with complete access to the inheritance. Galatians 4:5-7

The Bible says the old has passed away. When you became a part of His kingdom, you received a new identity. God says, “You are now my child!”

What is a child of God? A child of God is holy and righteous!

During the Passover, God caused diseases and plagues that afflicted everyone, except for those who lived where the blood of the lamb was over the door. Unless you were protected by the blood, you were punished. Today, our fear comes from the fact that we still believe in a God who punishes. But He doesn’t punish us. The crucifixion changed everything, because the blood of Christ was meant for everybody.

Jesus says, “Your identity has changed. This is the reason I was crucified. If nothing is changed, if nothing is renewed, if you don’t receive a new identity, if you are still under the law, then my crucifixion was pointless. If nothing changed, then what was the point? If nothing changed, then there was no power in my blood.” But there is power in His blood. Those who came and believed are now protected by it. There is no more punishment.

The Bible says the power of the cross is meaningless to those that don’t believe, because they don’t understand the freedom that it gives them. Fear is gone!

“Well,” you ask, “what if I sin?” What if you do? You are still holy and righteous. That identity does not change. Once you are in His Kingdom, you don’t get kicked out. You don’t! That’s a lie, and it’s bad theology. It really is.

Your identity is that you are loved by the Almighty God. Your identity is that you’re in His Kingdom. There is no leaving that place, man. He loves you. He brought you in. The fear that God doesn’t want you doesn’t come from Him. That fear is man-made.

As someone told me the other day, if your theology doesn’t meet your reality, it’s bad theology. Is it your theology that you’ll get punished if you sin? Do you really think that God only loves you and wants you if you’re perfect? How does that meet your reality? Perfection is not a reality for you, nor is it a reality for me. This is bad theology!

My theology is that I have a loving and unbelievable God who sent His son to die for me and rise three days later, conquering death and saying, “Now whoever accepts me as Christ will come into the Kingdom of Heaven and live as a holy and righteous person — regardless of your mistakes!”

You might mess up. You will mess up! And God still brings you back to the feast. God says, “I’ll bring you back to the table every single day. Tomorrow you’re going to mess up, and I’m still going to invite you to my dinner. I’m going to invite you back to the feast and you’re going to come. And you’re going to dine with me. You have the blood of my Son on your life, and I see Him in you. You are always welcome at my table.”

“Well,” you might say, “but I had a lustful thought today. Or I was greedy. Or I was envious.” “I know you did,” God says. “We’ll work through it. You are always welcome here. You will always be welcome to the feast. You are always wanted at the table of the King.”

You are the child of the Most High God. You believed and were adopted into the Kingdom of Heaven. Live in your new identity. Believe in Him, for you are holy and righteous. See you Thursday.

Sons and Daughters of the King

Kingdom theology can be hard to grasp, because we’re not very familiar with the concept of kingdom. We don’t live in one, unlike the people of the Bible. The Kingdom of Israel went through a lot of changes from the time of its first king (Saul) until the death of its last one (Agrippa II), but despite those changes it was still a kingdom. So when Jesus talked about the kingdom of God, everybody understood exactly what He meant.

Think about how a kingdom worked for the king’s children. If you were a prince or a princess, then you were part of the king’s family. That was your identity. If someone asked, “Who are you,” your answer would be, “I’m so-and-so, son or daughter of the king!” That identity carried some weight! When you went out, it was with the king’s name. You were his blood. He had a plan for you, and a purpose, and that was to represent him, his family, and his name. You would go out to do your father’s work, and you’d say, “I’m a child of the king.” That made you important!

It was an identity that came with other perks, too. If you were one of the king’s children, you were protected. Not only did you have the king’s name and access to his property, you had protection. Literal protection! You had guards, and those guards were warriors. They went everywhere with you, and kept you safe from any evil that might threaten you. Evildoers would see you and say, “Oh, that’s the princess. I don’t care how evil I am, I’m not touching her. I don’t want to get killed!”

So think about what people heard when Jesus invited them into the kingdom of God. They fully understood the implications. And they said, “I’m in! I don’t want to be a peasant anymore. I want to be royalty! I want to be covered by the protection of the king!”

The cool thing about God’s kingdom is that we can get adopted into it. You can’t get adopted into a man-made kingdom. The only way to be royalty in a man-made kingdom is to be born into the royal family. But God says, “I’m going to adopt you into my kingdom.” You can be adopted! Everybody’s in on this gig now. Everybody.

When you get adopted into the kingdom of heaven, you become a child of the Most High God. That is your new identity. When you accept Christ as your savior, your old identity passes away and God brings you into His kingdom as His very own child. “You have become anew,” He says. “You are now my child.” You’re part of His family. You have His name. You are His blood. He has a plan and a purpose for you, and you represent Him. You go out and you do His work.

And you are protected. God’s children are holy and righteous. That can’t change. No matter what you do, you are holy and righteous.

I can hear you asking, “Well, what if I sin?” Well, what if you do? There will be consequences to the decisions you make, same as with your own children. But you don’t go back to your old identity. You are holy and righteous. That identity does not change. The blood of Jesus has covered you and as far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us. In His kingdom, you are holy and righteous.

See you Thursday.