New book on the way!
I want to invite you to read my blog over the next few months and connect with the gist of my book that I hope to finish up this year. I am currently preaching a series that will touch on each of the ten chapters, and will be providing readers with a sampling of the heart of each chapter in my blog. I would love it if you would listen to the sermons and read the blog entry, and if possible, offer some feedback. Seriously, it would be much appreciated! The following is my book title along with the chapter titles. The sermon series may not follow the book chapter outline exactly, but the blog and sermons will be provided in sync with each other. I want to thank you ahead of time for any feedback you can offer!
The Life Jesus Has Made Possible
Reactivating the supernatural in the formation of Christ followers!
Chapter 1 – A Life Where You Can Embrace the Kingdom
Chapter 2 – A Life Where You Can Become More Like Jesus
Chapter 3 – A Life Where You Can Practice the Presence of God
Chapter 4 – A Life Where You Can Connect With Supportive Friends
Chapter 5 – A Life Where You Can Live In the Truth and Power of God
Chapter 6 – A Life Where You Can Live In But Not Of The World
Chapter 7 – A Life Where You Can Experience the Healing Power of God
Chapter 8 – A Life Where You Can Be Healed of Your Past Pain
Chapter 9 – A Life Where You Can Experience Hope In the Midst of Suffering
Chapter 10 – A Life Where You Can Overcome the Power of Darkness
Why another book?
While many believers would likely profess that they know something of the Kingdom that Jesus proclaimed and brought within our reach, it seems few are experiencing it in their daily lives. While the Kingdom of God is a matter of “righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 14:17), many have simply settled for less than what’s promised and provided for according to the Word of God. I believe that a major factor contributing to this situation is that many professing believers have embraced a truncated view of the gospel combined with an unintentional discipleship lifestyle that prevents them from living the supernaturally informed life Jesus made possible. This book will address this dilemma and present a holistic approach to disciple making for Kingdom impact. The following is a sampling of part of chapter 1.
A Life Where You Can Embrace the Kingdom!
After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!” (Mark 1:14-15).
The spiritual life is not a life then and there, but a life here and now. It is a life in which the Spirit of God is revealed in the ordinary encounters of everyday.
During my third year of college I had a theology paper due that I just couldn’t get organized in a way that made sense even to me. I knew that true theology ought to satisfy both the mind and the heart, but my paper wasn’t offering much to either. After researching and writing with ongoing frustration, I finally gave a call to my mentor and friend, Don Williams. He and I were working together at a local Presbyterian church where I was leading worship and heading up the youth ministry. Don had his PhD in New Testament and was anchored strongly in the theology of the Kingdom. It was an amazing blessing to have him preaching and leading our little church on the hill, which not surprisingly grew like crazy under Don’s influence. Don and I got together one afternoon and talked about my paper. He asked me to consider what theme could hold the whole thing together. After some discussion he introduced me to what now I understand to be the unifying theme of the bible, that is, the Kingdom of God. This paradigm was a theological awakening for me, and it forever shaped my thinking. Though not immediately, I soon realized that appreciating the Kingdom of God was meant to impact far more than my theological sensibilities. It had everything to do with everything!
What is the Good News of the Kingdom?
The meaning of the Greek word translated gospel is “good news.” Jesus reveals that the gospel is the good news that the Kingdom has been made accessible to all through Jesus Christ. The ministry of Jesus has opened the way for everyone to experience God’s reigning presence in the here and now. The “good news” was not the introduction of the Kingdom, or the fact that one day the Kingdom would be consummated at the Second Coming of Christ. The concept of the Kingdom itself was not new, but in fact provides one of the clearest unifying factors of the entire bible. Derek Morphew underscores this in his excellent book entitled, Breakthrough:
When we look at the Word of God from the perspective of the centrality of Christ, we realize that the message, ministry and self-understanding of Jesus are inseparably linked to the kingdom. Jesus came announcing the kingdom. His parables explained the kingdom, and his miracles bore witness to its presence. In fact, the theme of the kingdom as preached by Jesus Christ unites the whole flow of biblical truth, from Moses, through the Prophets, the Writings, the Gospels, the Epistles and the Revelation of John.
What in fact was new was Jesus’ unprecedented message that through him the Kingdom of God had been placed within our reach! Dallas Willard makes this point when he writes;
Jesus’ own Gospel of the Kingdom was not that the Kingdom was about to come, or had recently come, into existence. If we attend to what he actually said, it becomes clear that his Gospel concerned only the new accessibility of the Kingdom to humanity through himself.
In Mark 1:14 we are told that, “After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God.” Immediately following this, Mark quotes Jesus as he reveals the substance of that good news. “The time has come,” he said. “The Kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news” (Mark 1:15). Let’s examine this announcement of the good news more closely.
The time has come. This is the first thing Jesus says as he proclaims the good news. This would have been a revolutionary revelation for his Jewish audience who had been waiting for many generations for their Messiah to come who would bring a Kingdom breakthrough. Obviously, Jesus wouldn’t have said this if the time had already come. Through Jesus, the epic event of all eternity had broken in upon humanity. Truly the world has never been the same. In the Greek language in which the New Testament was written there are two words that are translated “time.” One is chronos (sequential time) and the other is kairos (opportune moment). Chronos time is what the nurse wrote in her report pertaining to the moment my first son was born – “Andrew John Randall born at 7:27pm on January 6, 1985.” But for me another kind of time had broken into that present moment. It is this kairos moment that invades chronos and interrupts time as we know it. Time stood still as I watched my boy come into the world, and from that time on Jill’s and my life would never be the same. Jesus’ startling Good News begins with the announcement that, “The time has come.” Next Jesus tells us what is so epic about this kairos revelation.
The Kingdom of God is near. The word “near” in this context does not mean that the Kingdom is almost here. The Greek word translated in Mark 1:15 can be properly translated, “at hand, to make near, to draw close, to put within reach.” And so the Good News that had broken into the world through the ministry of Jesus is that the Kingdom of God was now within our reach!
The Kingdom of God can be defined as the functional reign and rule of God, and is present wherever God is having his way in a person’s life or situation. “The reign of God is not a place but an event.” The Kingdom, as put forth in Scripture, “is not viewed spatially nor institutionally, but rather as the dynamic, active rule of God through Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit.” Where there’s sickness and the Kingdom comes, there’s healing. When somebody’s bound up demonically and the Kingdom comes, somebody is set free. When a relationship is spinning out of control and the Kingdom comes, there’s reconciliation. When a person wants to give up and they’re living on the edge of despair and hope invades their heart, the Kingdom has come.
What the Old Testament saints anticipated, Jesus ushered in with his first coming. With his words, Jesus proclaimed the message of the Kingdom, “The rule of God has come to earth and has been brought within your reach!” With his works (i.e., healing the sick, casting out demons, raising the dead), he demonstrated the reality of the message. It’s important to note that the “good news” of the Kingdom essentially includes both the words and the works of Jesus.
Today we live in the tension between the first and second comings of Jesus Christ. During this “age” we enjoy many of the benefits of the future age. God by his Spirit provides us with many foretastes of heaven, such as the experience of supernatural love, joy, peace and power, along with occasions of physical, emotional and spiritual healing. In heaven there will be no deception, hatred, depression, anxiety, sickness, or bondage. There, the Enemy will not be present to “kill, steal and destroy” (John 10:10). And so the Church often prays as Jesus taught, “Your Kingdom come and your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt. 6:10).
While Jesus has truly inaugurated the Kingdom of God at the time of his first coming, the Kingdom will not be consummated until his return. This situation of “fulfillment without consummation” translates into a certain eschatological tension that cannot be avoided in this present age without misrepresenting what Jesus reveals. We are already experiencing the reality of the Kingdom of God, but we are not yet experiencing it perfectly. “The church lives ‘between the times’; the old age goes on, but the powers of the new age have irrupted into the old age.” This mysterious mix means that until the second coming of Christ we can experience healing and sickness. Pain and joy. Freedom and difficulty.
The existence of this tension helps us understand why there is such a struggle for believers to live consistently in light of what God has made possible, and why, for example, the sick are often healed when prayed for while at other times they are not. The simple fact is that Christians live in a world that stands in opposition to God and his right to rule. The dark powers of this world are both powerful and strategic. Yet the barriers of this present darkness are such that they can be overcome through the means of grace that God has richly provided. This would include such things as applying the Gospel to the spiritual and physical needs of our life, being prepared for spiritual conflict, employing the spiritual disciplines, and connecting with other Christians who intend to obey and abide with God. It is possible to consistently remain under God’s reign and rule in the very place where we live our daily lives. Disciples of Jesus Christ can change and grow increasingly into the likeness of their Master. Because of the Father’s love, the work of Christ, and the power of the manifest presence of God through the Holy Spirit, disciples of Jesus can enter, abide in, and advance the Kingdom of God. This is the good news that Jesus announced and ushered into our world.
Repent and believe the good news. Now that the Kingdom of God is at hand we are called to embrace it through repentance and faith. Here Jesus was basically saying; “In light of what I’ve made available to you, it’s time to create space for what you can now access freely by grace. To embrace my Kingdom you must repent to position yourself to experience the life I have made possible.” And so we must say “no” to some things, things that previously made sense before the Kingdom was within our reach. For Jesus’ first disciples this would literally mean saying “no” to their occupations and even their families in order to say “yes” to following Jesus. Many believers today may need to repent (say “no”) to any number idolatrous attachments, as well as the negative influences of fear and the need to maintain control. Doing so opens the way to sincerely believe (say “yes”) with regard to the benefits of humble faith and surrender to the rule of God.
Through repentance, we make room for a supernatural life under the reign and rule of God. And Jesus has continued making this invitation for 2,000 years. And though this amazing possibility has been brought within our reach, abiding in the Kingdom is not an automatic reality for those following Jesus. The believer must choose to continually cooperate with God, to continually align his or her thinking and living to that which God has made accessible. By doing so, ordinary humans may enter the extraordinary life in the Kingdom of God!
Well, there you have a sample of part of chapter one. I am planning to send something new each week to give you a feel of the book. Again, I would love to hear what you think, things you especially appreciated, things that were not clear to you, and questions the content left you with. So please leave a comment!
 Henri J.M. Nouwen. Here and Now (New York: Crossroad, 1997), from the cover.
 Derek Morphew, Breakthrough (Cape Town, South Africa: Vineyard International Publishing, 1991), 8.
 Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy (San Francisco: Harper Collins, 1998), 26.
 Charles Van Engen, God’s Missionary People (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1991), 108, 109.
 Cf., George Eldon Ladd. The Presence of the Future (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1974), 105ff.
 Ladd, Theology of the New Testament. Revised Ed. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1993), 66,67.