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THE CHURCH OWNS THIS PRESENT DARKNESS

(Excerpts from Wikipedia)  “This Present Darkness was Frank E. Peretti’s first published novel for adults and shows contemporary views on angelsdemonsprayer, and spiritual warfare as demons and angels interact and struggle for control of the citizens of the small town of Ashton.

“For we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” – Ephesians 6:12

“Piercing the Darkness, which was published in 1988, is a sequel to This Present Darkness. The book, along with This Present Darkness, has been instrumental in promoting belief among Christians in Territorial Spirits. They have also increased an interest in spiritual warfare.”

Now, nearly thirty years later, the present darkness is much darker and Territorial Spirits have a much stronger hold on towns, villages, cities, regions and nations.  And the church is no closer to being God’s instrument for piercing the darkness.

There is only one weapon for piercing the darkness.  Jesus identified it:

 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden;  nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house.Matthew 5:14-15

Jesus was speaking to and about His disciples—not individuals, but the total embodiment of His people in any place.  He compared them (and us) to “a city set on a hill” that “cannot be hidden.”

“This little light of mine” may keep me as an individual relatively free of demons. I may even be able to chase demons from some individuals.  But, “this little light of mine” is no match for the Territorial Spirits rampant in the earth today.  The prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience, will never be controlled by legislation or by individual Christians.

The church needs to take ownership of the darkness, for failure to be the city set on a hill that cannot be hidden. The light of the world, the city within cities, is hidden under many baskets—each basket unique and with its own culture and distinctives.

Can you imagine the glorious brightness that will light up the sky over our cities when the baskets are cast off and the demons are cast out?  “Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

THE SIN OF MARGINALIZING OUR BROTHERS

To marginalize persons or groups is to place them in a position of marginal importance, influence, or power.  This is a a necessity in order to function in a competitive consumer culture of religious distinctives that divide the body of Christ into thousands of unique sects.

Now I exhort you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment.

This is found in the first chapter of Paul’s first letter to the infant church in Corinth.

For I have been informed concerning you, my brethren, by Chloe’s people, that there are quarrels among you.  Now I mean this, that each one of you is saying, “I am of Paul,” and “I of Apollos,” and “I of Cephas,” and “I of Christ.”  Has Christ been divided? 

If it was not okay then, how can we believe that it is okay now?

All who are born of God, a new creation in Christ, are our brothers and sisters, and are due our respect and honor.  We must affirm and legitimize all who affirm Jesus to be Lord of their lives.

We are exhorted to be subject to one another in the fear of Christ. We are to receive one another according to who we are in Christ.

Jesus said: “He who receives you receives Me, and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me. He who receives a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward; and he who receives a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man’s reward.  And whoever in the name of a disciple gives to one of these little ones even a cup of cold water to drink, truly I say to you, he shall not lose his reward.”

Whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner, shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord.  But a man must examine himself, and in so doing he is to eat of the bread and drink of the cup.  For he who eats and drinks, eats and drinks judgment to himself if he does not judge the body rightly.  For this reason many among you are weak and sick, and a number  sleep.

Multitudes attend activities in various venues according to their preference, learn the cultural language of their distinctives, and live what really are spiritually barren and fruitless lives.

The Lord is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.

We are to love and value all who are in Christ Jesus—all in whom He abides.  Many need a change of heart, a change of attitude,  that will allow them to authentically embrace all who our brothers and sisters.  Others carry the parts of truth that we do not yet know.  We need one another.

And for the fulfillment of God’s will on earth, we must stand together as one people, set apart to bring God’s kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. 

God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ, and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

THE COURAGE OF OUR CONVICTIONS

We are coming into a season in which church leaders are going to be challenged in an unprecedented way.  We need to be praying for one another that we will have the courage to rightly respond to new convictions.  (The just shall live by faith.)

Momentum is building, and it won’t be long before more and more of us will face some of the most difficult decisions in our lifetime—choosing between God and mammon.

Now that I have your attention, let me encourage you with my testimony.  I have always chosen to love God, and not love mammon.  My heart and my treasures are in the kingdom of God.  I have always sought first His kingdom and His righteousness, and have found that God indeed knows that which I am in need of.   He has always provided.

Beginning with ordination and sending in 1968 until today, I have had “a normal salary” for only a few months,  total.  Our many moves and foreign travel have been financed out of heaven’s treasure.  Paul’s testimony is also my testimony:

I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am.  I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need.  I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.

I learned early about living by faith.  Our first migration was from California to New York.  We, the six of us, left California with a full tank of gas and $84.  We arrived in New York with a wonderful testimony of God’s guidance and provision.  This established the standard for our entire life of service.

Few will be called to such a lifestyle.  Few will be tested in this way as we face these unprecedented challenges.  However, you can plan on the enemy of our souls suggesting our financial ruin because of brand new demands that will be placed upon church leaders.

The coming together of the church in our cities and regions does not mean that you will lose everything you have built over the years.  You can relax your grip, fully realizing that you are no match for God, but—thankfully—He loves us and has only good planned for us.

There are already apostolic strategies being discussed that will assure us that we will not have our spheres taken from us.  The timing of moving into God’s higher ways will be calibrated to our present circumstances.

Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

Be encouraged. Don’t buy the devil’s rhetoric.  Our God and Father will bring us into the fullness of His divine order and purpose in miraculous ways that will thrill each one privileged to participate.  It is a process, not an event!

And the government will rest on His shoulders; and His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace.

THE DIVISIVE INFLUENCE OF RELIGIOUS CULTURES

In my eighty-two years, I have been privileged to visit and learn from many Christian traditions. I have concluded that most traditions and many doctrinal differences are rooted in religious cultures.  The following variety of definitions will help us see what a significant role culture plays in our life experiences.  Take a few moments to read them all:

  • Culture refers to the cumulative deposit of knowledge, experience, beliefs, values, attitudes, meanings, hierarchies, religion, notions of time, roles, spatial relations, concepts of the universe, and material objects and possessions acquired by a group of people in the course of generations through individual and group striving.
  • Culture is the systems of knowledge shared by a relatively large group of people.
  • Culture is communication, communication is culture.
  • Culture in its broadest sense is cultivated behavior; that is the totality of a person’s learned, accumulated experience which is socially transmitted, or more briefly, behavior through social learning.
  • A culture is a way of life of a group of people–the behaviors, beliefs, values, and symbols that they accept, generally without thinking about them, and that are passed along by communication and imitation from one generation to the next.
  • Culture is symbolic communication. Some of its symbols include a group’s skills, knowledge, attitudes, values, and motives. The meanings of the symbols are learned and deliberately perpetuated in a society through its institutions.
  • Culture consists of patterns, explicit and implicit, of and for behavior acquired and transmitted by symbols, constituting the distinctive achievement of human groups, including their embodiments in artifacts; the essential core of culture consists of traditional ideas and especially their attached values; culture systems may, on the one hand, be considered as products of action, on the other hand, as conditioning influences upon further action.
  • Culture is the sum of total of the learned behavior of a group of people that are generally considered to be the tradition of that people and are transmitted from generation to generation.
  • Culture is a collective programming of the mind that distinguishes the members of one group or category of people from another.[1]

The gospel of the kingdom is able to redemptively penetrate every culture, whether secular or religious in nature.  Therefore, able ministers of reconciliation can, by faith, rise up above such influences, and not be distracted from our mission.  Be careful not to include “enculturation” in our presentation.  (We may see the influence of religious cultures on others, but are not likely to see our own cultural tendencies.)  I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ.

I was praying for a person, asking God on how I could change him.  He said, “You love him; I will change him.”  I didn’t immediately “get it.”  Finally, God convinced me with this:  “If you change him he will look like you.  If I change him, he will look like Me.”  End of conversation.

We have this treasure in earthen vessels.  And so does everyone else.  Cultural strains are rooted in the history and environments of our earthen vessels.  “The Good News is that Christ is in us and among us, the hope of glory.  He fills all of us with all of Himself, and then chooses to grace and gift each one of us differently, for the common good.

Constituents of said cultures—all of us—are gradually transformed from glory to glory once we receive the King and embrace the kingdom.  The Holy Spirit is able to lead us all into all truth. The anointing which you received from Him abides in you, and you have no need for anyone to teach you; but His anointing teaches you about all things.

Apostolic grace is given to all apostles and also to those who are equipped for works of service by apostles.  This grace is measured according to our giftedness and also according to spheres, metrons, assigned to us.  This grace enables us to effectively function cross-culturally without bowing ourselves to the influence of religious cultures or being distracted by them.

“But, this is the way we’ve always done it!”

I am not totally discounting valid doctrinal differences.  But, the first hurdle we face in our pursuit of unity in our localities will require us to lovingly and patiently get past the all-too-familiar cultural differences—music, liturgies, venues and menus, traditions and administrations—none of which should be barriers, or even enter the discussion.  One needn’t travel from his base locality to experience the variables presented by religious cultures.  Many would need only to go down the street, over to the next block, or perhaps venture over to “the other side of the tracks.”

The objective of this writing is to encourage us to venture near and far at the Lord’s bidding, while trusting in Him to  teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.  We must remember, however, that we will not hear Him while unnecessarily distracted with concerns regarding cultural matters.  Bottom line:

If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.

If we are both in Him, then we are TOGETHER IN CHRIST!  Just leave it there for a season of celebrating our oneness in Him!  Spend time together rejoicing in our common brotherhood.

Fall in love with one another!

[1] https://www.tamu.edu/faculty/choudhury/culture.html

GOD’S PRIORITY:  CHURCH OR KINGDOM?

Contrary to the understanding of most, the church is not God’s ultimate priority, but is the means toward an end.  That end—His kingdom on earth—is His first priority.  After listing all of the normal needs for life on earth, He promised, “Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”

When asked by His disciples how they should pray, He did not tell them to pray for the church.  He said, “Pray, then, in this way:

‘Our Father who is in heaven, hallowed be Your name.  Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.  Give us this day our daily bread.  And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.  And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil.  [For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.]’”

  • John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea, saying,“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” 
  • Jesus began to preach and say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
  • To His disciples He said, “As you go, preach, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
  • He said, “This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come.”

The church is a new creation of people who are born of and led by the Spirit, whom God was pleased to make known how great for the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ within and among you, the Hope of [realizing the] glory.

All church activity is to be given to God’s priority.

The fruit of the Spirit is Love.  The way of the Spirit is love.  All creation and every culture will ultimately bow its knee to love.  God is love.

INTRODUCTION TO “SONS OF THE KINGDOM”

SONS-OF-THE-KINGDOM-323X465

Should we wonder or be surprised when we actually see aspects of our lives coming under the loving lordship of King Jesus?  Should that not be our expectation?  We should be sitting on the edge of our seats (in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus), leaning forward to watch His government increase within, among and around us.

We get to participate as parts of His body in the earth today.  Sometimes, His life in us is full of exciting activity.  Weeping and grieving also have their place.  A full range of emotions is both possible and normal.

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we One who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet He did not sin.

We are blessed with the God-given capacity to align and calibrate both our vision and responses to Jesus—through the cross—so that we may present Him and His kingdom to our world.  What an honor and privilege is ours to rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. – to find our way into their world, so that we might introduce them to our world.

For too long, religious leaders have focused upon special places, special times and special people, rather than intentionally and strategically equipping the saints for life itself.  It will be the living out of kingdom life that will convince others of our authenticity in Christ.

Too often, the religious world separates itself from the real world by erroneous concepts of sanctification that isolate rather than insulate.  We are to be a city set on a hill, destined for the throne, not a sect waiting in hiding to be rescued and carried off into some ethereal existence.  Most of us were brought up, praying:

Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

What’s that?  On earth as it is in heaven?  Yes.  God’s kingdom on earth as it is in heaven!  This is a work in progress—the kingdom has come, is coming and will come.  John’s revelation envisions us:

I saw Heaven and earth new created.  Gone the first Heaven, gone the first earth, gone the sea.  I saw Holy Jerusalem, new-created, descending resplendent out of Heaven, as ready for God as a bride for her husband.

May the Spirit of God help us to read what is written just beneath the surface of these words!  This is a vision for a new creation, assurance for sons of the kingdom.

The first inference of the kingdom is found in the first chapter of Scripture:

Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”

The first specific mention of the kingdom of God is found in Exodus.  Here are God’s words to Moses:

Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the children of Israel: “You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to Myself.

“Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine.

“And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’  These are the words which you shall speak to the children of Israel.”

Surely, these promises are conditional:  “IF you obey My voice and keep My covenant.”

God has taken the time to demonstrate the failure, frustration, and futility of men and nations ruled by their own flesh.  Contrasting Adam and Jesus, Paul wrote:

The first man was of the earth, made of dust; the second Man is the Lord from heaven.

Jesus had said to the Jewish leaders:

The kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a nation bearing the fruits of it.

Each failed attempt by men and women to serve God on their own terms, and in their own strength was expected, anticipated and calculated within the context of God’s original strategic plan.  God has been neither surprised nor disappointed by Adam’s fall or Israel’s failure.

God will have a global garden filled with holy enterprise.

His kingdom will be given to a nation bearing the fruits of it.  Kingdom fruit is the inevitable result of kingdom living.  His sons are to exemplify and reveal all that heaven holds, right here on the earth, as we faithfully and obediently invade the marketplaces of life.  Only sons of the kingdom can extend God’s kingdom into the family, church life, business and industry, science and education—all arenas of life, including governments at every level.

Using metaphor and symbol, image and illusion, John’s poetic language prophetically points to a kingdom that is both coming and already at hand:

You (Jesus) are worthy to take the scroll, and to open its seals; for You were slain, and have redeemed us to God by Your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, and have made us kings and priests to our God; and we shall reign on the earth.

Then the seventh angel sounded: And there were loud voice in heaven, saying, “The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!”

  • John the Baptist preached the gospel of the kingdom.
  • Jesus preached the gospel of the kingdom
  • His disciples preached the gospel of the kingdom

God is bringing forth sons who are establishing His kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.  This is not an elite remnant; this is the actual church in the earth.  We carry His life within, and we will literally fill the earth with His presence, His kingdom, and His glory.  All of creation awaits that emerging reality.

Father is entrusting His many sons to strategically function together in the marketplaces where life is truly lived, tenderly nurturing every kingdom seedling that is within their spheres.  For this to happen, tradition must bow to Truth.

We are marching to the beat of the Eternal Drummer, pursuing the conquest of love.  We eagerly obey and follow because of His uncompromising and unconditional love for us.  It is our privilege to house this love within our hearts, and to demonstrate and express this love to others, as the proactive lifestyle of a new creation.

Beloved, let us love one another.  For love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.  He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.

 

SONS OF THE KINGDOM is available in Kindle and Paperback at:

https://www.amazon.com/Sons-Kingdom-Don-Atkin/dp/1595944443/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

IN THE IMAGE AND LIKENESS OF LOVE

Bottom line, we are created in the image and likeness of love.  All else is secondary at least, and should not distract us from heaven’s main flow.

God is love.  God is omnipresent.  Love is omnipresent—everywhere at the same time.  The Psalmist asked, Where can I go from Your Spirit?  Or where can I flee from Your presence?”

The fruit of the Spirit is love.  Where can I flee from Love?

“If I ascend to heaven, Love is there; if I make my bed in Sheol, behold, Love is there.  If I take the wings of the dawn, if I dwell in the remotest part of the sea, even there Your Love will lead me, and Your right hand will lay hold of me.”

If I choose to focus upon doctrinal and cultural and traditional differences, I do so in the presence of Love.  I do so in competition with Love.  I do so in spite of Love.  I do so in violation of Love.  But, when conviction leads me to repentance, Love is right there to receive me and embrace me.

“Love recognizes no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope.” — Maya Angelou

“He who overcomes (is victorious) and who obeys My commands to the [very] end [doing the works that please Me], I will give him authority and power over the nations; and he shall rule them with a scepter (rod) of iron, as when earthen pots are broken in pieces, and [his power over them shall be] like that which I Myself have received from My Father.” – Christ

May I ask you, could a scepter of iron be Love?  Could not Love break earthen vessels in pieces?  Could not the power which Christ received from our Father be Love?

Love covers a multitude of sins.

Love never fails.

And so faith, hope, love abide [faith—conviction and belief respecting man’s relation to God and divine things; hope—joyful and confident expectation of eternal salvation; love—true affection for God and man, growing out of God’s love for and in us], these three; but the greatest of these is love.

Above ALL, keep fervent in your Love for one another.

What is standing between you and Love?