So What Is Caesar’s??

renderuntocaesar-nomadicpolitics

A well known exchange here between Jesus and the Pharisees surrounding the question of whether or not the Jews of the day should be paying taxes to Caesar or not. Historically, we have read this and used this to say that, yes, clearly Jesus says we should be paying taxes. I’m reading this today, and I don’t think it’s clear at all.  I don’t think Jesus actually answers the question, He simply laughs at it.

jesus-christ-with-pharisees-1138108-print
Then the Pharisees went and plotted how to entangle him in his words. So, we see that the whole purpose of the question is to try to catch Jesus saying something which they could report to the Roman government. They were trying to create their own “gotcha” moment we might say today.
And they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are true and teach the way of God truthfully, and you do not care about anyone’s opinion, for you are not swayed by appearances. Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?” Actually…the Herodians came with them…this really is a setup!! And such sweet words, appealing to the ego of Jesus. You teach God’s word so truthfully, you are just and true.

augustus_tiberius_aureus
But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, “Why put me to the test, you hypocrites? Show me the coin for the tax.” Is it any wonder He called them hypocrites? And they brought him a denarius. And Jesus said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” They said, “Caesar’s.” Then he said to them, “Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” And there we have it…Jesus says render to Caesar that which is Caesars, pay your taxes!! But reading this, I don’t think Jesus is telling these Pharisees to pay their taxes. I’m not sure He’s telling us to pay our taxes. I don’t think He even answered the question put before Him. I think He took the opportunity here to do what He did (and does) best – to give those asking Him the question a window into their own hearts, their very souls. This is why it ends with When they heard it, they marveled. And they left him and went away. Not because Jesus had just outwitted their fancy scheme to entrap Him, but because in his answer he showed them the emptiness of their pursuits and priorities. It showed them where their hearts really lie.

madeinimageofgod
Because – Whose likeness and inscription is this?” They said, “Caesar’s.” Their coins have Caesar’s picture and inscription, right? Then he said to them, “Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” If Caesar’s picture is on the coin…then give him his silly coin!! It must be his anyway!! Do you see what Jesus is saying here? These Pharisees, and I’m sure the rest of God’s people, have their hearts and desires set on the wrong treasure. They (and we) forget that they are supposed to be trusting in God, not Caesars coins. “Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” Matthew‬ ‭6:26‬ ‭ESV‬‬. We forget where our true value comes from. We forget where our blessings come from. We forget how we were made. We forget whose image is on us. “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.” ‭‭Psalms‬ ‭20:7‬ ‭ESV‬‬. Some trust in chariots and some in horses. Some trust in aircraft carriers, some in nuclear warheads. Some trust in Navy seals, some trust in F-35 fighter jets. Some trust in “straight cash homie”, some trust in 401(k). But we trust in the name of the Lord our God.
Make a list. In fact, make two lists. In one, list that which belongs to Caesar. In the other, list that which belongs to God. Check them twice.

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Now take them both to God. What does He think of your lists? “The earth is the Lord ‘s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein,” ‭‭Psalms‬ ‭24:1‬ ‭ESV‬‬

“Then the Pharisees went and plotted how to entangle him in his words. And they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are true and teach the way of God truthfully, and you do not care about anyone’s opinion, for you are not swayed by appearances. Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?” But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, “Why put me to the test, you hypocrites? Show me the coin for the tax.” And they brought him a denarius. And Jesus said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” They said, “Caesar’s.” Then he said to them, “Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” When they heard it, they marveled. And they left him and went away.”

‭‭Matthew‬ ‭22:15-22‬ ‭ESV‬‬

http://bible.com/59/mat.22.15-22.esv

John Lewis

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Of Legacies and Lost Sheep

Of Legacies and Lost Sheep

absaloms-monument

From Isaiah, a prophetic word declaring that, yes, all those excluded from temple worship will be included in the kingdom of God.
Let not the foreigner who has joined himself to the Lord say, “The Lord will surely separate me from his people”; and let not the eunuch say, “Behold, I am a dry tree.” For thus says the Lord: “To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths, who choose the things that please me and hold fast my covenant, I will give in my house and within my walls a monument and a name better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that shall not be cut off. Eunuchs were usually (not always) castrated male officials in the government of the time. On top of being a “dry tree“, Deuteronomy 23:1 specifically banned them from worship. So the offer from Yahweh here is a huge offer. Everyone wants to be remembered after they die, everyone wants to have some kind of legacy bigger than themselves. We see our presidents and high officials scrambling in their last days of power to secure their legacy. Usually, our memories are kept alive by our offspring, our descendants, but the “dry tree” eunuchs, obviously, could not produce children to be remembered by. Some high ranking eunuchs might earn the right to build their own monument to remember their accomplishments. King David’s son Absalom built his own monument because he had no children. “Now Absalom in his lifetime had taken and set up for himself the pillar that is in the King’s Valley, for he said, “I have no son to keep my name in remembrance.” He called the pillar after his own name, and it is called Absalom’s monument to this day.” ‭‭2 Samuel‬ ‭18:18‬ ‭ESV‬‬. But God promises that the Eunuchs who seek Him, choose Him over their own pleasure and self gratification, they will have their own monument, they will be remembered even more so than by sons and daughters. They will be sons of the most high God!! They will be remembered forever, their legacy will never die!! Quite the promise to a group barred even from worship…

sheep_gate
“And the foreigners who join themselves to the Lord, to minister to him, to love the name of the Lord, and to be his servants, everyone who keeps the Sabbath and does not profane it, and holds fast my covenant— these I will bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer; their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.” Grandchildren of foreigners who came to the Lord would be found acceptable to enter the temple – “”You shall not abhor an Edomite, for he is your brother. You shall not abhor an Egyptian, because you were a sojourner in his land. Children born to them in the third generation may enter the assembly of the Lord.” ‭‭Deuteronomy‬ ‭23:7-8‬ ‭ESV‬‬. Despite all the exclusions written into the law, Israel was still commanded not to hate foreigners, in fact they were all brothers. And the door was left open for their grandchildren to enter worship. But what Isaiah is declaring is that all who come to the Lord will be allowed in. None will be barred. All will be acceptable. Yes – salvation is for everyone!!

jesus-bridge-1
The Lord God, who gathers the outcasts of Israel, declares, “I will gather yet others to him besides those already gathered.” God gathers even the outcasts of Israel…and those besides those already gathered. Even those we don’t think should be gathered. Those we think can’t be gathered. “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” Matthew‬ ‭28:19‬ ‭ESV‬‬. Make disciples of all nations…starting with those right around us. It seems to me we are in a mad dash to bring this into fruition, running around to all the nations of the world on an ever changing map, we haven’t even made disciples of those in our own nations. God will gather to Himself those not already gathered. We give up on people far easier than God does. We have lost sheep all around us. Those addicted to drugs, alcohol, gambling, porn. Those who are doing “just fine, thank you very much”. Those who are up with anxiety every night, those hanging on in quiet desperation, not sure they even want to wake up tomorrow. Those who seem to have all they need or want, yet have no hope. There are lost sheep all around, maybe you are one of them. Maybe I am one of them. But we know how Jesus sees every lost sheep, don’t we? “”What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’” Luke‬ ‭15:4-6‬ ‭ESV

shepherd

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“Let not the foreigner who has joined himself to the Lord say, “The Lord will surely separate me from his people”; and let not the eunuch say, “Behold, I am a dry tree.” For thus says the Lord: “To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths, who choose the things that please me and hold fast my covenant, I will give in my house and within my walls a monument and a name better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that shall not be cut off. “And the foreigners who join themselves to the Lord, to minister to him, to love the name of the Lord, and to be his servants, everyone who keeps the Sabbath and does not profane it, and holds fast my covenant— these I will bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer; their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.” The Lord God, who gathers the outcasts of Israel, declares, “I will gather yet others to him besides those already gathered.””

‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭56:3-8‬ ‭ESV‬‬

http://bible.com/59/isa.56.3-8.esv

John Lewis

Announcing the Kingdom

kingdom_of_god_by_krzyzowiec

I’ve said before that I’m reading the book “The Divine Conspiracy – Rediscovering our Hidden Life in God”, written by Dallas Willard, former (deceased) professor of Theology and Philosophy at the University of Southern California. In this book, Willard has by far the best interpretation/explanation of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount that I’ve seen or heard of. I’m still digesting what I’m reading, but I’m pretty sure I’ll begin writing about Jesus greatest sermon/talk next week. And I’m just as sure I’ll be doing mostly that in my writing for a while, because I have no capability to express the depth of that teaching in one or two short posts.

sermon-on-mount
But I’m not ready to start yet. For now, I am gong to look at the scene of the Sermon on the Mount, starting in Matthew chapter 4. This is beginning immediately after Jesus returns from his wilderness temptations and gets right into His ministry.

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Now when he heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew into Galilee. And leaving Nazareth he went and lived in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, so that what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: “The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles— the people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light, and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death, on them a light has dawned.” Immediately following His temptations, Jesus hears that John the Baptist has been imprisoned, and this he takes as his cue to begin His own ministry. He leaves Hs hometown of Nazareth, because after all, a prophet is never honored on His hometown. He heads to Capernaum, fulfilling more specific prophecies of Isaiah.

healing-in-his-wings-2
From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” THE message of Jesus. Not “say a sinner’s prayer, maybe fix a couple of problems in your life, clean up your act just enough, keeping most everything else exactly the same, and go to heaven when you die!” But, Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. The kingdom of heaven is at hand, meaning right here, close by, accessible right now. Almost every single thing Jesus said or did related to this basic message. In all He said or did during his three year ministry, he was announcing, enacting, and implementing the kingdom of God right among us. Because…the kingdom of Heaven is at hand!!

jescrowds
While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Immediately they left their nets and followed him. And going on from there he saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets, and he called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him. The first disciples, Andrew, Peter, James and John. I’m not focused on this today, except that it shows how quickly and early in His ministry it was the Jesus gave us His greatest sermon. He has just proclaimed his basic message, and does not even have all His disciples yet.
And he went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people. So his fame spread throughout all Syria, and they brought him all the sick, those afflicted with various diseases and pains, those oppressed by demons, epileptics, and paralytics, and he healed them. And great crowds followed him from Galilee and the Decapolis, and from Jerusalem and Judea, and from beyond the Jordan. And this is the scene leading up to the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus greatest sermon, and 3 chapters in the New Testament that we do our best to pretend simply don’t exist. Jesus has just announced his basic message, the kingdom of God is at hand, available to those around Him, available to us, and now we see Him demonstrating His kingdom in our time and space, bringing God’s rule and God’s healing to those who come seeking. It’s interesting that he’s already being allowed to teach in the synagogues. He’s meeting the needs of people, and so we see his fame spread throughout all Syria, and they brought him all the sick, those afflicted with various diseases and pains, those oppressed by demons, epileptics, and paralytics, and he healed them. Jesus has power over the problems, sickness, and demons in these people lives. These masses are not coming to have some spiritual ticket punched, so that maybe they can get into some paradise when they die. They are coming because Jesus has power to change their lives. They are the sick, the poor, the lame. Everyone is bringing not their best, but their worst, and Jesus is meeting them as they are. Jesus is master of the time and space around Him, He is master of the demonic spirits inside of these people, he is master of the diseases that are eating and crippling their bodies. And great crowds followed him from Galilee and the Decapolis, and from Jerusalem and Judea, and from beyond the Jordan. Great crowds are coming from far and wide, because Jesus has the power to heal them, the power to change their lives, right where they are. He has announced the kingdom of God, and is demonstrating it in a tangible, undeniable way. He is changing lives, and those desperate for a changed life are coming from as far as Syria are coming to Him to be healed.

theteacher
And it is from this scene that Jesus preaches his great sermon. He is speaking to a specific crowd of hurting, wanting people. And He is about to give a talk that will change their lives, He’s about to climb up on a great hill to get some space from those pressing up against Him, and so that all can hear what he has to say. He’s already shown the masses that he is the great physician, now he’s going to take his position as the great teacher as well.
If only we were still willing to be taught by Him.

 

“Now when he heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew into Galilee. And leaving Nazareth he went and lived in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, so that what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: “The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles— the people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light, and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death, on them a light has dawned.” From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Immediately they left their nets and followed him. And going on from there he saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets, and he called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him. And he went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people. So his fame spread throughout all Syria, and they brought him all the sick, those afflicted with various diseases and pains, those oppressed by demons, epileptics, and paralytics, and he healed them. And great crowds followed him from Galilee and the Decapolis, and from Jerusalem and Judea, and from beyond the Jordan.”

‭‭Matthew‬ ‭4:12-25‬ ‭ESV‬‬

http://bible.com/59/mat.4.12-25.esv

John Lewis

Of Faith or of Flesh?

Of Faith or of Flesh?

abraham-jesus-sm

A powerful word from the apostle Paul concerning how we receive the Holy Spirit in our lives, and in the power of God versus our powers of self justification (the lack thereof). For some reason, we sometimes seem more willing to accept the writings of Paul than the words of Jesus himself, even though they very much say the same thing.

jesus-christ-crucifixion-500
O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? The Galatians were Gentiles. They were always outside if the law, they had never lived under the law. Paul himself is the one who planted the church to whom he is writing, Paul himself is the one who preached Jesus upon the cross to them, Paul himself is the one who told them of the forgiveness offered by Christ as He was dying on that tree. So they had never lived under the law, and had received the Holy Spirit by pure faith in the crucified King. Yet, it seems the Galatians have been listening to certain agitators, trying to be more “legitimate” to men’s eyes by submitting to the law which was unnecessary for them.

fighting-the-works-of-the-flesh-dissensions_1200_628_80
Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? The Holy Spirit had begun to work within them…but somehow they were going to try to reach some “higher level” in their growth by following some rules or rituals put forth to them by men?? No…they (and we) are perfected by the Holy Spirit working within them, not freeing from the law by abolishing the law, but freeing from the law by abolishing and destroying the desires within which bring havoc and chaos into our lives. He frees us from the law by healing our hearts…so that our natural instinct and desire is to love God with all we are, and love our neighbors as ourself. A perfection which we could never get by following set of laws, rules or routines by our own power.

cloud
Did you suffer so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain? Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith— just as Abraham “believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”? Not sure what suffering these believers went through, we have no evidence that the Galatian church suffered persecution. Apparently the Greek word here could also be translated “experienced”, maybe that’s a better word for talking about this church in particular…experiences and not suffering. Because they certainly experienced the love of Christ through the preaching and teaching of Paul. And what they experienced was the Holy Spirit coming upon them, working miracles within them. Paul is reminding them that those miracles came on them not because they were following the law (they weren’t), but because they believed the words they heard about Jesus Christ which they took by faith.

abraham
Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “In you shall all the nations be blessed.” So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith. And this is my point today. Just as Jesus went to much trouble to take his message and make the point that the kingdom of God was available to all, so Paul makes the point that all nations are to be blessed through Abraham. Abrahams faith was counted as righteousness, and so do all men and women find righteousness themselves – through faith. And through faith in Christ, the kingdom is available to all, as Paul also tells us here – “Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.” Colossians‬ ‭3:9-11‬ ‭ESV‬‬. We are made in His image, and as the Holy Spirit works within us through our faith, we draw closer and closer to truly bearing his likeness in all we do. Not because we are following specific laws as best we can, but because our hearts are changing into a better representation of that image. The law is being fulfilled within us.

 

“O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? Did you suffer so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain? Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith— just as Abraham “believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”? Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “In you shall all the nations be blessed.” So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.”

‭‭Galatians‬ ‭3:1-9‬ ‭ESV‬‬

http://bible.com/59/gal.3.1-9.esv

John Lewis

Then Who Can be Saved??

Then Who Can be Saved??

richyoungruler_dsc_0098

A story of a rich young man, a camel that gets through the eye of a needle, and the kingdom of God.

camel
I’ve been reading a book called “The Divine Conspiracy” by Dallas Willard, and it really is an eye opening book. It was written in 1997, and Dallas Willard has since passed away, so there really is nothing “new” in the book. But, it is a new way of seeing for me, some “new eyes” if you will, and since I write and share here about things I learn along my own spiritual journey, I’m going to write about this. The reason I wanted to read the book is because I had read and heard there is much in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, and there is. I will be sharing on the sermon on the mount over the next coupe of months, but I’m not there yet. In the meantime, this story of the rich young man shows us some of the same things. It’s used by Jesus to challenge some basic assumptions about life in his own time – and ours.

everlasting-life-from-the-spirit
And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.'” And he said to him, “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.” This story is in Matthew, Mark and Luke, but I believe the phrase “Good teacher” only appears here in Mark. This young man clearly had it all together. He has heard of Jesus, and obviously he’s heard good things. He’s successful in life, and probably knows how to get what he wants from people. So, just maybe, using the phrase “Good teacher” here is simply him using his powers of persuasion here to try to get the response from Jesus that he’s looking for. But Jesus is having none of that – And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. Jesus will not be manipulated. But he does know exactly who he’s talking to. He knows this young man follows all the rules. You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.’ These, of course, are all the rules and laws which were supposed to bring blessing and eternal life. And, of course, this rich young man knows all these rules, he’s very good at following rules and getting God’s blessing in his life. And he said to him, “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.”

treasureinheaven
And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. In Marks account here, we don’t learn that the young Man is rich until right here. Isn’t it interesting that it specifically says that Jesus loved him? He loved him enough to tell him the truth. He loved his disciples enough to tell them the truth. He loves us enough to tell us the truth. And what is that truth? That being rich, making money and acquiring possessions is not a sign of God’s blessing in your life. Sounds strange, it’s even strange for me to write this, but it’s true. Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. Is it disheartening for you?

rich
And Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” And the disciples were amazed at his words. His disciples are amazed at his words because, in their time, acquiring wealth was perceived as a sign of God’s favor on someone’s life. And of course it is, right? Doesn’t God control all? Doesn’t he have power over who gains wealth and who doesn’t?? But the problem is…this young man loved his wealth more than He loved God. How can God bless someone in such a state? When Jesus prompts him to choose between loving God or loving his money…he chose his money. However reluctant he may have been. He knows the right choice…but he just has so many nice things!!

eye-of-the-needle
But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how difficult it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” And they were exceedingly astonished, and said to him, “Then who can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and said, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.”” Jesus doubles back here, making sure his disciples don’t miss the point. He uses the absurd illustration of a camel passing through the eye of a needle to show how difficult it is for a rich man to live for the kingdom of God. And they were exceedingly astonished, and said to him, “Then who can be saved?” Again…at this time, it was thought that having great wealth was a sign of being in God’s favor. This is why it says the disciples were exceedingly astonished. They just couldn’t believe what they were hearing from their teacher. The assumption was that the kingdom if God was for the rich. After all, they certainly have it going on as far as we can tell, right? And if they can’t enter the kingdom of God, those people who have it all together who God is blessing with such great wealth…Then who can be saved?
Jesus looked at them and said, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.” He uses the absurd illustration of the camel and the needle, but is sure to make it clear that it is not impossible for a rich man to enter the kingdom and live or God. On his own the rich man has no chance, but with God all things are possible, right?
And just exactly how is it that a poor man might be saved? For all things are possible with God. That is the point. The kingdom of God is open to all. We see only the outward signs, we think we can pick out this person is blessed, that person is not. We still believe that our wealth (or lack thereof) is a sign of God’s blessing on our lives. It is how we measure the blessing we are receiving or not receiving. We pray for a job, a new house, a car. We very often are praying for things, because things are how we measure ourselves. We think we can look at someone else’s life and see what kind of blessings they are receiving.

barbarian
But we simply don’t see the world as as God does. The apostle Paul would later tell us “Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.” ‭‭Colossians‬ ‭3:11‬ ‭ESV‬‬. The kingdom of God is available to all. Eternal life can be had by all. It is not reserved for those who can pay for it. It is nit exclusively for those who are part of selected groups. Neither are those who have it all in this life excluded from the kingdom. We all have the exact same opportunity For all things are possible with God.  

“And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.'” And he said to him, “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.” And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. And Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” And the disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how difficult it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” And they were exceedingly astonished, and said to him, “Then who can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and said, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.””

‭‭Mark‬ ‭10:17-27‬ ‭ESV‬‬

http://bible.com/59/mrk.10.17-27.esv

John Lewis

Join the Revolution 

Join the Revolution 

jesus-on-the-cross

 

Jesus was born about 4 BC. Caesar Augustus had been the Caesar for about 20 years. His face was on all the coins. The Roman senate would vote upon him certain titles, and these titles would be on the coins. Son of God, king of kings, prince of peace, savior of the world, were some of the titles given to the Caesar, printed on all the coins used in the empire. Caesar was savior of the world, the world was saved from chaos from by Caesar Augustus. He was prince of peace, bringing Pax Romana, the peace of Rome. Except Tacitus, the ancient historian, tell us “Rome creates a desert and calls it peace.” I’ll let you ruminate on that thought for yourself.

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Caesar Augustus, and nobody else, would have ever imagined all these titles would begin to be re appropriated within 40 years to a crucified Galilean Jew. But this is the revolution that came into the world with the coming of Jesus.

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Pagan astrologers read in the stars, a new Jewish king had been born. Unfortunately, they crossed paths on the way to see this king with the current king of the Jews, King Herod. Herod was a very powerful man, but he also had a very fragile ego. This is always a dangerous combination, powerful men and fragile egos. So King Herod heard a baby had been born who fulfilled ancient prophecy concerning the coming messiah, king of the Jews. The result is what follows. If you’ve never read this before, or even if you have, read it again let it settle in, the tragedy that unfolds because a fragile ego lived in a brutal tyrant committed to protecting his own power.
“After the wise men were gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up! Flee to Egypt with the child and his mother,” the angel said. “Stay there until I tell you to return, because Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.” That night Joseph left for Egypt with the child and Mary, his mother, and they stayed there until Herod’s death. This fulfilled what the Lord had spoken through the prophet: “I called my Son out of Egypt.” Herod was furious when he realized that the wise men had outwitted him. He sent soldiers to kill all the boys in and around Bethlehem who were two years old and under, based on the wise men’s report of the star’s first appearance. Herod’s brutal action fulfilled what God had spoken through the prophet Jeremiah: “A cry was heard in Ramah— weeping and great mourning. Rachel weeps for her children, refusing to be comforted, for they are dead.” When Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt. “Get up!” the angel said. “Take the child and his mother back to the land of Israel, because those who were trying to kill the child are dead.” So Joseph got up and returned to the land of Israel with Jesus and his mother. But when he learned that the new ruler of Judea was Herod’s son Archelaus, he was afraid to go there. Then, after being warned in a dream, he left for the region of Galilee. So the family went and lived in a town called Nazareth. This fulfilled what the prophets had said: “He will be called a Nazarene.” Matthew‬ 2:13-23 NLT

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Death squads sent by a despotic King, because a child had been born who might somehow threaten his power. This resulted in the born king of the world, and his family, being forced to live as refugees in a foreign land. Let that settle in, forever. If you believe in Jesus you worship a former refugee whose family had to flee their homeland for political, not spiritual reasons. Just like He was executed for political, not spiritual, reasons. Just like the early Christians were persecuted for political and not spiritual reasons…Jesus is Lord.
So why did Herod try to kill Jesus?? Not because he would grow up to die for the sins of the world. That was and is all true, but Herod didn’t know that. Herod tried to kill the boy because he had a correct instinct that the baby might be a challenge to the status quo. The baby just might change the world. The very rich and very powerful fear change above all else. It might somehow impinge on their position of power and privilege. When you’re at the top, there’s nowhere to go but down.

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In our world, billionaires might be much more resistant to a new revolution of love coming into the world than the homeless in the street. Tell both groups we are going to change the world with a revolution of love. The homeless would have nothing to lose…SIGN ME UP!! The billionaires would want to, maybe, hear more about it. After all, Jesus is telling us that many who are first are going to be last. Many who are last are going to be first. The homeless might just call it…GOOD NEWS.

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The homeless would immediately call it good news. The billionaires might not see it as good news, even though it is, even for them. They are going to have to work in it. It’s going to take a little bit of time to sink in. Come to think about it…we are far from billionaires, but maybe not as far as we think, are we?
And no, Jesus message was not received as good news by all who heard it. Some thought it was very bad news. Herod Antipas, Pontius Pilate, and Caiaphas the high priest. They all thought it was bad, even dangerous news.
Herod Antipas and Pontius Pilate had been enemies until Good Friday, after that they became friends. “(Herod and Pilate, who had been enemies before, became friends that day.)” Luke 23:12 NLT

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They conspire together to kill Jesus. They became united in the common cause of killing Jesus. They had to kill Jesus Because Jesus might change the world, and they don’t want the world to change. They want the world the same. It’s set up just right for them.
Remember…”Blessed are the poor...”, because the rich might just be too attached to their stuff!! “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.”” ‭‭Mark‬ ‭10:25‬ ‭ESV‬‬. The coming of the kingdom of God, right here and right now, is subversive. Of course, Jesus also went on to say “….”With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.”” Mark‬ ‭10:27‬ ‭ESV‬‬. So..it’s not impossible. It’s not easy for them (us) but it’s not impossible.
Jesus is not talking to us here about going to heaven when we die. Jesus is talking about entering king the reality the kingdom of God here and now. The Kingdom of God is God’s alternative arrangement for human society built around Jesus. It’s not heaven. Yes, we will be in heaven with the lord when we die, but that’s not what Jesus is talking about. The kingdom of heaven (the phrase used often by Matthew) is the government from heaven come to earth. We’re more trying to get heaven into earth than people into heaven. “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” Matthew 6:10 ESV

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As Dallas Willard puts it, the eternal life talked about by Jesus starts right here, right now. We begin our eternal lives at the moment of conversion. So when Jesus talks about building on a solid foundation of rock which will never be moved…he is telling us that our eternity has already begun. Our eternal lives don’t begin when our last living breath has gone, but while we are still walking and talking and breathing among our brothers and sisters.

 

Gods alternative arrangement built around Jesus leads to human flourishing. If we go our own way, we mess it up and people hurt and suffer needlessly. We as human beings made in God’s image have the capacity to solve most of our pressing problems. As Christians, we know our only hope for ever doing so is form an allegiance around Jesus and do things the Jesus way and live it. Beyond that, we have no hope.

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Jesus is Lord. Not lord elect. Not lord someday. But lord right now.
Under King Jesus, we confess that the kingdom of God has come and continues to come under Christ.
Therefore we confess that –

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The poor are blessed.

The sick are healed.

Sinners forgiven.

War is abolished.

Mercy triumphs over judgment.

Love trumps everything.
But this DOES pose a challenge to the status quo.
How much do you want the world to change.

If we are toward the top (and we are)…we get a little nervous at this point.

But if we are one of the 2 billion desperately poor…let’s change it yesterday. You don’t need any details.

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We confess that Jesus came to save the world by changing the world.
It’s not just about going to heaven when we die. Yes we do go to be present with the lord when we die, but this not what Jesus was talking about. Jesus talks almost exclusively about the kingdom of God coming to earth. “The Kingdom of God is at hand…”. The Kingdom of God is near…”. This is all Jesus talked about. About how healing, forgiveness and restoration of all things can happen through what he’s announcing and enacting in his life, his ministry, his death, his burial, his resurrection and ascension. And it is truly revolutionary.
Which is why principalities and powers fight against kingdom of God. Which us why we have the final beatitude – “”Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew‬ ‭5:10‬ ‭ESV‬‬. Blessed are those who are persecuted for the right reasons.

 

The kingdom of God…part of what makes it of God and not of man is that it is without coercion, it comes without force.
We don’t convert people by force. A forced conversion to Christ is an oxymoron. It’s a contradiction in terms.
The Kingdom of God never comes by force. We convince by love, witness, spirit, rhetoric and if need be martyrdom. But never by force.
But…there are consequences to opposing kingdom of God. They might take a century or more to unfold, but they do unfold. Opposition to kingdom of God always leads to a self inflicted hell of self destruction.
From Pastor Brian Zahnd – “Opposition to the kingdom of love is the highway to hell.”
Not the retributive post-mortem hell, even though that exists. But we are talking about our space and our time, as we understand it and see it…now.
Think about Jerusalem AD 70. They resisted the message of Jesus and wound up being destroyed, just as Jesus predicted.

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It’s America in 1860s heading into civil war, when white southerners refused to learn to love their black sisters and brothers as themselves. They resisted the kingdom of love, and put themselves on the highway to hell. 750,000 people would die, including 1 in 3 white men in the American south of fighting age.

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Think about Germany in 1930s…in the name of nationalism they hurled themselves down path of self destruction. They didn’t think so at the time…but it came to fruition.
But…Some in Jerusalem did not follow false messiahs to their doom.
There were abolitionist in the 1860s on the right side of history.
There was the confessing church in Germany. In the German Evangelical movement 9 out of 10 pastors signed allegiance to Hitler.
But 1 in 10 publicly signed the confession that Jesus not Germany us where our allegiance must lie. God can not serve the interests of nationalistic empire.
Peacemakers in Jerusalem, abolitionists in 1860s America, and the confessing church in Nazi Germany were all revolutionaries in the Kingdom of Christ. Revolutionaries in Jesus army of love.
There were Jews who knew that love does advocate killing your enemies.
There were Americans who knew that Love cannot cooperate with slavery.
There were Germans who knew love must resist the lies of nationalism.
We have our own nationalism, our own racism…we still gave lots of -isms of hate.
If we try to fight hate with hate wins. The Devil doesn’t care which side of hate you’re on, as long as you’re on side of hate. Only love can conquer ugly -isms of hate. The world is calling out for us to pick sides in the kingdom of hate.
But Jesus invites us to join the revolutionary kingdom of love. There are only Two laws in this Kingdom. “And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”” ‭‭Mark‬ ‭12:30-31‬ ‭ESV‬‬. Only two laws, but we can never pull these apart.

How do you know if you love God – you love your neighbor as self. And who is my neighbor? Jesus has a parable for that. Remember the Good Samaritan? You neighbor is the person in need whom you can help.
“”For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” John 3:16-17 ESV
Jesus’ birth began a revolution. A revolution the paranoid principalities and powers fought with infant death squads and crucifixions.

You are invited to join the revolution. It will cost you. What’s it going to cost you? I don’t know. It is potentially dangerous. Take up your cross. It’s not likely for us that we will be threatened with death, but it’s always on the table. First thing we do when you confess faith in Jesus is we bury you. Then we raise you to newness of life. So we’ve already died. We died when we were baptized. We’ve already laid our lives down. We are now hidden with God in Christ. Once you’re not afraid of death, or any other form of loss, you just not afraid anymore. Fear has gone, and love can flourish. And when principalities and powers can’t use fear, they can’t control to kingdom of love anymore. Jesus invites, Jesus wants, Jesus needs you to be part of his revolution.

Last Best Hope

Last Best Hope

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Going to do one more from the book of Daniel today. We’ve already seen the dreams of Nebuchadnezzar, those nightmares of the empire. Nightmares that include the end of their beastly empire and the beginning of a new, just kingdom overtaking the world.
Daniel had a dream as well. Daniels dream was no nightmare, it was a beautiful prophetic vision of the coming of a Son of Man coming on the clouds to establish a new, just kingdom that would never end. Daniel had a dream of Christ coming into the world.

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Daniel begins in prose…a Joe Friday, just the facts telling of what he saw in his vision. Daniel declared, “I saw in my vision by night, and behold, the four winds of heaven were stirring up the great sea. And four great beasts came up out of the sea, different from one another. The first was like a lion and had eagles’ wings. Then as I looked its wings were plucked off, and it was lifted up from the ground and made to stand on two feet like a man, and the mind of a man was given to it. And behold, another beast, a second one, like a bear. It was raised up on one side. It had three ribs in its mouth between its teeth; and it was told, ‘Arise, devour much flesh.’ After this I looked, and behold, another, like a leopard, with four wings of a bird on its back. And the beast had four heads, and dominion was given to it. After this I saw in the night visions, and behold, a fourth beast, terrifying and dreadful and exceedingly strong. It had great iron teeth; it devoured and broke in pieces and stamped what was left with its feet. It was different from all the beasts that were before it, and it had ten horns. I considered the horns, and behold, there came up among them another horn, a little one, before which three of the first horns were plucked up by the roots. And behold, in this horn were eyes like the eyes of a man, and a mouth speaking great things.

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Four great beasts coming up out of the sea. If this reminds you of Revelation, it should. John the Revelator borrowed heavily from the Old Testament book of Daniel. To understand Revelation, you have to understand the book of Daniel. Here we see the beasts coming up out of the sea. Some will tell you these beasts represent Babylon, Persia, Greece and Rome. Other scholars will tell you these are the kingdoms of Assyria, Babylon, Persia, and Greece. You and I…we really don’t care specifically what empires these represent, nor should we. But we need to understand the picture being given us. These great beasts all come out of the sea. In Revelation it says the seas will be dried up. Well, why would we want the seas to be dried up? What fun would that be? You have to understand, ancient people did not sea the oceans the way we do. They weren’t “vacationing at the beach.” The oceans, the seas, were frightening. There were sea monsters in there!! So theses visions of beasts coming from the sea, this is where great beasts would come from. It’s also where the beasts of invading empires might arrive…
Like I said, the specific history is just not that important. Which empire came first, which is the bear and which is the lion and which had ten horns…really does not matter. What matters is that for an oppressed people, people who have been long suffering and under bondage and oppression…it’s just one thing after another. And the Jews at this point were just such a people. From pharaoh, to Babylon, to the Greeks, and now the Romans, one empire after another, taking advantage and punishing and oppressing God’s chosen people.

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Think for a minute about the African continent, or the indigenous people on the American continent. (First…what do you think they thought of what came from the seas??).
To hear history told from their perspective, it might go something like this. “The Portuguese were first, they came like a lion. Then the Spanish, they were like a bear, mauling and tearing us up. The Dutch were a great leopard. And the English….man, they were just a beast, different than all the rest…”. Just one empire, one great beast after another. Nation with aspirations of empire bringing suffering and oppression to the poor and marginalized. But then…one little horn begins to poke through, knocking three of the ten horns of the final, great monster right out. It has the eyes of a man, speaking great things. This is the vision of Daniel, told in prose, but now he shifts to poetry…

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As I looked, thrones were placed, and the Ancient of Days took his seat; his clothing was white as snow, and the hair of his head like pure wool; his throne was fiery flames; its wheels were burning fire. A stream of fire issued and came out from before him; a thousand thousands served him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him; the court sat in judgment, and the books were opened. “I looked then because of the sound of the great words that the horn was speaking. And as I looked, the beast was killed, and its body destroyed and given over to be burned with fire. As for the rest of the beasts, their dominion was taken away, but their lives were prolonged for a season and a time. “I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.
This is different from just telling the facts. This is Daniel seeing the world not as it is, but as it should and could be. This is also borrowed, not only in Revelation, but by Jesus Himself. Much of Jesus understanding of just who He was, He got from the book of Daniel.

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So Daniel sees a great courtroom scene, with the Ancient of Days, Yahweh, presiding. A thousand thousands serving before Him, and ten thousand ten thousands awaiting judgement. I looked then because of the sound of the great words that the horn was speaking. And as I looked, the beast was killed, and its body destroyed and given over to be burned with fire. As for the rest of the beasts, their dominion was taken away, but their lives were prolonged for a season and a time. The horn which rose from the last great beast comes speaking great words, and the beast is killed and thrown into the fire. (Again, much of this shows up again in Revelation). The rest of the beasts lose their power, their dominion, even though they aren’t killed right away. Their power is eroded by the horn breaking through speaking great things.

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“I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.” Now we see the Son of Man, presented before the ancient of Days, before Yahweh. The Son of Man is given all power and dominion, all the people, every nation, every language will serve Him. He will have an everlasting kingdom, a kingdom which will not be destroyed.
Daniel’s dream is the Gospel. Daniel’s dream is what every prophet dreamed about – that the beastly empire would come to an end and God would establish His own kingdom, the kingdom of God, and it would bring peace, liberating the poor, the oppressed and the marginalized. and that would be the kingdom to end all kingdoms, that is the kingdom which will last forever. That kingdom is a just kingdom, not a beastly kingdom following the long line of beasts coming out of the sea.  Daniel’s dream is the same as the empire’s nightmare.

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And this Son of Man is exactly who Jesus claimed Himself to be. I believe the number is about 80 times in His gospels that Jesus refers to Himself as the son of man. But more specifically….Jesus claims that this Son of Man, right here in Daniel chapter 7 – this is who Jesus claimed to be. The Son of Man who would be given power and glory, and establish the kingdom that would last forever.
Think I’m wrong? Look at the words of Jesus at his “trial” by the religious leaders, speaking to Caiaphas, the high priest at the time. “But Jesus remained silent. And the high priest said to him, “I adjure you by the living God, tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.” Jesus said to him, “You have said so. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.”” “You have said so.” But look what else Jesus says here. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven. The same son of man presented before the ancient of days in Daniel chapter 7. Look what else Jesus says specifically – from now on you will see...Not a few thousand years from now, not a galaxy far far away. But from now on you will see…because the one true king was about to come into his glory. Not a few thousand years from now…but from now on. That guy in Daniel…that’s me!! That’s what’s happening. Jesus was about to be crucified, and the cross used for his crucifixion would be His throne forevermore.

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All violent empires of the world are ultimately beastly. But we don’t worship the beast. For us, Jesus is Lord. The Gospel of the empire at the time was “Caesar is Lord”. That’s why the early Christians were persecuted so badly, not because they were telling everyone what would happen when they die, but because they proclaimed “Jesus is Lord” and not “Caesar is Lord“. They put their hope in the cross of Christ and not in the armies of Rome.

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Jesus brings the peace of God. Jesus is the last best hope for mankind. Jesus brings peace not by killing but by being killed. The cross is his coronation. The crown is thorns, His scepter is a reed, His acclamation came by insult, His throne is a cross, His coronation by crucifixion, but it’s a real coronation of the true king of the world. The start of the humane, just empire which will never end.

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It doesn’t come like storming the beach at Normandy. It comes quietly, we might not see it. “Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”” John‬ ‭3:3‬ ‭ESV‬‬. We enter by faith and baptism. Jesus changes the world not at a battlefield but at a table. The Kingdom of God always seems to be on the verge of being eradicated, decimated, but, somehow, it’s still here. The Greeks came and went, the Romans thought Caesar is Lord, they thought theirs was the everlasting empire. They laughed at, mocked, persecuted and marginalized those crazy Christians running around proclaiming “Jesus is Lord”, now all the ruins of Rome have little crosses on top of them…even the famed coliseum. The Portuguese came and went, the Spanish had the greatest empire ever. Yet they are gone and the Kingdom of Christ is still here. The British were coming, the British came, the Brits are gone. The Kingdom of God still stands. It still grows, it is still shared from soul to soul, one changed life after another.
Which Kingdom is really the last, best, great hope for mankind??

John Lewis