Kingdom 60

When Jesus exposed the hypocrisy of the Jewish leaders, to save themselves from losing their positions and importance and the money that came with that, they twisted the truth and came up with a noble cause of saving Israel from being destroyed by the Romans. So they gave Jesus up to be crucified. That is an instance of when the light in the hearts of people is darkness. Similarly when Churches love the world and the things the world loves, the love of the Father is no longer in the church, but truth can be twisted and manipulated to justify evil. When people refuse to love the truth and they harden their hearts against the truth and against God, then God will blind their eyes and deaden their hearts, so they can neither see with their eyes, nor understand with their hearts. So the church can be in ruins, but like the people in Aceh, they can be blind to it.

In the previous segment in Kingdom 59, I said that Jesus did not waste His time on the indifferent and antagonistic. I also said that after Jn.7 He focused only on the believers and seekers. In case you might be wondering, I need to clarify something. Although Jesus no longer went to preach to the multitudes, He did continue to speak with the Jewish leaders whenever they came to engage Him in conversation. Why did He do that? Was He trying to get through to them? Was He hoping they would change? Was He trying to disciple them perhaps? Of course not.  He knew their hearts. He knew they were hardened. Read what He said of them in Mk.12:38-40 and the whole of Matt.23. No, He was not trying to change them. In fact He came to announce to them that they were finished. In Matt.21:43 He told them the Kingdom would be been taken away from them and given to others who would produce its fruit. God had given Israel more than 1500 years to change. But did they change. No they didn’t. They kept rejecting God. They had come to the end of God’s patience with them.

So why did Jesus keep talking with the Jewish leaders then? I believe it was for 2 reasons. First, it was to draw a line in the sand so to speak, and to tell them, this is it. They were finished. And second, everything that transpired between Jesus and the Jewish leaders was for His disciples to hear. Through His dialogue with the Jewish leaders, Jesus was exposing to His disciples what was in the hearts of the Jewish leaders. He was showing them what kind of people they were. It was an object lesson for His disciples, both to warn them not to end up like these guys, and also to prepare them for what they were going to face. Just as He would be killed by these guys, the time would come when they would also have to face these kind of guys, and they would also be killed by these kind of guys, whose kingdoms will be threatened by what the disciples will preach.

Back to the point about drawing a line in the sand. In a court of law, before judgment can be pronounced and executed, the facts and charges must first be put to the accused. The accused is given a chance to respond. Will he admit or will he deny and try to defend himself? In the parable of the tenants in Matt.21, Jesus said the tenants kept killing every one of the prophets that God sent to speak with them. And finally God sent His Son. Here is actually God Himself coming to confront them. But were they repentant? No they were not. By the way they responded to Jesus, they proved themselves guilty.

In Kingdom 54, I alluded to what Jesus said in Jn.12:35. You are going to have the light just a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, before darkness overtakes you.” And also in Matt.6:22, about how the light within people can be darkness.  As I said, every time we are confronted with the truth, we have to make a choice. Shall we acknowledge the truth, whatever that might be, and walk according to what the truth requires of us, which means that we have to change, or shall we push it out of our minds, and excuse and defend and justify ourselves? If we choose to reject the light, meaning the truth, Jesus says the darkness will overtake us. Then I gave an illustration of how the light within a person can be darkness. I told you about the church leaders who siphoned off funds that was meant for rice distribution, for themselves, and they twisted the truth to justify themselves.

There’s actually a perfect example of that in the scriptures itself. Look at the Jewish leaders. They said it was better that one person be sacrificed than a whole nation be destroyed. So they gave Jesus up to be crucified. That’s in Jn.11:50. Why did they do that? It was because Jesus exposed their hypocrisy. In order to save themselves from losing their positions, and their importance and the money that came with that, they twisted the truth and came up with a noble cause of saving Israel from being destroyed by the Romans. It was actually to save themselves, but they made it appear as something that was necessary to save the nation. To save themselves, they threw Jesus to the dogs. It still happens today in politics, at work, in organizations and in the church. I’ll talk more about what happens in the world later in another segment. In this segment I want to focus on the church and how truth is being twisted and manipulated to justify evil. How light can become darkness in the hearts of Christians.

In December 2004, when the Aceh tsunami happened, just before I went to Aceh for relief work, the Lord spoke to me from Isa.6. He told me to read especially the last 3 verses. Let me read it : “Then I said, “For how long, O Lord?” And he answered: “Until the cities lie ruined and without inhabitant, until the houses are left deserted and the fields ruined and ravaged, until the LORD has sent everyone far away and the land is utterly forsaken. And though a tenth remains in the land, it will again be laid waste. But as the terebinth and oak leave stumps when they are cut down, so the holy seed will be the stump in the land.” This was a vivid description of the destruction in Aceh. So I was wondering if God was telling me to go and speak to the authorities and the people in Aceh to tell them that this was His judgment but that the destruction was not finished yet, but more disasters would come and destroy everything until only a remnant of people who repent would be left in the land. Well I was prepared to do that if the Lord was actually telling me to do it, but somehow in my spirit I did not feel the release to do it. So I waited. I waited on the Lord and months later, one day it dawned on me what the Lord was telling me. This was His word not just for Aceh but for the whole world, including His church. What happened in Aceh was just a picture of what is happening in the spirit.

Isa.6 is unfortunately often misquoted in missions conferences by the way. God did not send Isaiah to bring the good news but the bad news. Look at verse 9 and 10. He sent Isaiah to tell them that they will keep hearing but they will never understand. They will keep seeing, but never perceiving. Why? Because God has blinded their eyes and deadened their hearts, so they can neither see with their eyes, nor understand with their hearts, nor would they turn so that the Lord would heal them. John, the apostle John quotes this in Jn.12:40 about the Jews who kept resisting Jesus.

After the tsunami destroyed hundreds of villages and killed more than 200,000 people in Aceh, a news reporter from Jakarta went around Aceh to ask the people there why they thought this happened to them. They all said this was definitely the judgment of God. The people in Aceh are all very religious and so no one could deny it was the sovereign act of God. They are fundamentalist and radical and they consider themselves the true Muslims while the rest of Indonesia are infidels to them. There was also a movement among them that was fighting for separation from Indonesia. But why did God bring this destruction on them, the reporter asked. It was very interesting what they all said. They all said that it was because of the sins of the central government in Jakarta. But that does not make sense does it? If it was because of the sins of the Indonesian government based in Jakarta, why did God not bring this judgment on the people of Jakarta? Why did He bring this judgment on the people of Aceh, who in their own eyes are pure and holy? Why did God not judge the people in Jakarta? Doesn’t make sense right? Well, they couldn’t answer that question. They simply kept insisting that it was the fault of the Indonesian government. How blind can people be?

Earlier I said that the picture of destruction and the blindness in Isa.6 is not just about Aceh but about the whole world, including the church. I don’t think I need to tell you how blind the world can be. But what about the church? Just like the people of Aceh, and just like the Jewish leaders in the time of Jesus, I have observed that the more religious people are, the more blind they become. Today’s churches of course have a different kind of religion or spirituality. John told us not to love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world–the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life—they come not from the Father but from the world. But many churches are doing exactly that. They love what the world loves. Do they seek to know the heart of God and His love for the poor and those who are oppressed and marginalized and forgotten? Are they troubled about all the injustices and suffering that’s going on around them and around the world? No they are not. They love money and big buildings and the most expensive furnishing, and flashy cars, and the latest state of the art equipment. And their meetings are like clubs and discos. Instead of influencing the world with the culture of the Kingdom, they are following the world. As Darrow Miller has said, “When the church fails to disciple the nations, then the nations will disciple the church.”

Many churches today are so absorbed in themselves, so self-centered like the rest of everyone else in the world, so absorbed in their new kind of spirituality, they have become blind and deaf, just like what Jesus said of the church of Laodicea in Rev.3 : “You say, `I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.” That’s what Jesus told them.

In Isa.6, God told Isaiah to tell them that this was His judgment on them. Because they harden their hearts against God, then God Himself will harden their hearts so that they can neither see with their eyes, nor understand with their hearts. In 2 Thess.2:10-11, Paul said the same thing. When people refuse to love the truth then God, notice it’s God, not the devil, God Himself will send them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie that they prefer. So they can have all the Bible verses to justify themselves. Just like how Satan can quote scripture also for his own purposes. When the world judges them and throw them in jail for embezzlement and corruption, they can even say they are being persecuted and they are suffering for Jesus. Imagine that. And their followers will say, “Hallelujah, praise the Lord for our leaders”. You see to them it is light, but the light within them is darkness.

These are transcripts of audio messages so they are better heard than read. If you would like to listen to them, the audio clips can be found here : https://goo.gl/KN4JYL  . It’s a folder on googledrive, so you’ll need to sign in with your google account username and password (or sign up for a google account) to be able to access it

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Kingdom 59

Jesus intentionally filtered off all who were not true disciples – those who were not seeking Him, but seeking for what He could give them. There are 4 kinds of listeners : believers, seekers, the indifferent, and the antagonistic. This world is full of indifferent people. Very few believers and seekers. Churches are also full of indifferent people who are not seeking God, but seeking blessing.  Jesus called them the lukewarm, who will be vomited out of His mouth. We all need to ask ourselves what we are really seeking – to know God, to know His heart, or what He can give us? If we are leaders, we need to ask ourselves what we are producing. God is not interested in numbers. He is looking for true disciples. If we are already teaching and discipling others, we should not be discouraged by the indifferent, and neither waste our time on them. Like Jesus, we need to focus only on the believers and seekers.

In Kingdom 57, I told you about the Jews and Pharisees who thought that Jesus was born in Galilee because He grew up in Galilee. Then I asked the question, “Why didn’t Jesus tell them He was actually born in Bethlehem?” Why did He let them continue on in their misunderstanding? Some think that it’s simply because He had to keep His true identity a secret so that God’s plan of redemption could be fulfilled. I mean if they knew that Jesus is actually the messiah, then they wouldn’t kill Him, right? And if they didn’t kill Him, then He could not be the Lamb of God to be the sacrifice for our sins.

Well that makes sense, and that is possibly one of the reasons. But I believe there is another reason why Jesus let them continue on in their misunderstanding. I believe it’s because of what I’ve mentioned again and again. Jesus said that God reveals the secrets of His Kingdom only to those who are like little children. Like Nathaniel, childlike and teachable, and to people like Jacob, who are hungry for God, who value the true riches that are from Him. If people are not too keen to seek God, or seek the truth, then God isn’t too keen to reveal Himself to them either. That’s why Jesus let them continue on in their misunderstanding, because there was no point talking with them. They had hardened their hearts. They had no ears to listen.

There is another instance in the Gospels where Jesus could have explained and corrected the wrong understanding of the people, but He simply let the people continue on in their misunderstanding. In Jn.6, Jesus fed the 5000, and then sometime in the night He crossed over to the other side of the Sea of Galilee. The next morning, the people looked for Him, but they couldn’t find Him. Then they crossed the Sea of Galilee and went to look for Him. When they found Him, as they came to Jesus, Jesus said to them, “I know why you are looking for Me. It is because of the bread I gave you to eat.” In other words, they were looking for more food. He had given them dinner the previous evening, right? So now they came for breakfast. But Jesus told them that what they actually needed was the living bread, or the bread of life, and that He was that living bread or bread of life. He told them that unless they ate His flesh and drank His blood, they would have no life in them. When they heard that, they said, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?” Then they all left Him. Then Jesus turned to the 12 apostles and asked them, “Aren’t you leaving Me also?” .. as if to say, “Hey you want to leave Me too? That’s fine. Go ahead.” That’s when Peter said, “Who else shall we go to? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that You are the Holy One from God”. And from then onwards, only the 12 followed Him.

OK, here’s a question. Why did Jesus tell them that they had to eat His flesh and drink His blood in order to have life? I mean didn’t He realize that they would misunderstand Him? Of course He did. So why did He say that knowing full well that they would misunderstand Him? And as they were leaving Him, as they were walking away, why didn’t He stop them and explain to them that He did not mean it literally, but that He was speaking only figuratively? Why did He let them all go away on a misunderstanding?

What was Jesus doing there? It is very clear to me that He did it intentionally to filter off all those who were not true disciples. He was filtering off those who were not seeking Him, but seeking for what He could give them. Much like many people in churches today. Are they seeking Jesus? Do they want to follow Jesus no matter what it will cost? Do they want to know His heart for the poor and His heart for people? No they are not. They are not seeking Jesus. They are seeking the blessings. They are seeking what God can give them. Can’t blame them actually, because churches are repeatedly telling people, “Come and be blessed”. And charismatic churches say it with more “hip” to it. They keep saying, “Don’t miss out on what God has for you.” Right? Means the same thing. People want peace and security. They want God’s protection and His blessings for a good life. They want success in all they do. If they are businessmen, they want God to bless their business.

How about Peter and the other apostles? Do you think they understood what Jesus meant by eat His flesh and drink His blood? Of course not. So why did they decide to follow Him? Well, it’s because they were seeking Jesus, not what He could give them. Except for Judas of course who had his own ideas about the money they were collecting for the ministry, which he was in charge of.  But for the other 11, I’m quite sure in their minds they were probably thinking something like this, “Hey Jesus, you know what, we also can’t understand You, but there’s something about You that tells us You are the Holy One from God. So although we can’t understand You, we are going to follow You anyway.”

If we read on into Chap 7 and if we do a comparative study of John with Matthew, Mark, and Luke, after John 7, when Jesus spoke at the Feast of Tabernacles, we don’t find Jesus going to the crowds any longer. At the beginning of His ministry, Jesus was like a fisherman who cast a net wide. He preached to the multitudes and cast out demons and healed people all over the place. But in Jn.6, after He found out who were really seeking Him, He focused only on them.

There was once I gave a message at a missions conference. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of Phil Butler. He was there. I had never met him before, but as soon as I finished speaking, he came up to me and said, “I’m Phil Butler and you are having dinner with me this evening. He took me out to a quiet restaurant so that we could talk. After we ordered some food, he said to me, “Eng Hoe, you know you have a very important message for the church, but I have to ask you this : is anyone listening to you?” I said, “Err .. actually no, I don’t think so. Well perhaps one or two, but actually hardly anyone seems to be listening.” Then he said, “I thought so. I feel I need to tell you this to encourage you. There are 4 kinds of listeners : there are the believers, there are the seekers, there are the indifferent, and then there are the antagonistic.

He took the salt shaker that was on the table and put it in front of me to illustrate his point. He said, “Imagine if you are trying to sell this. The believers are those who see the value of what you are trying to sell them, and they will immediately say, “I want it”. Seekers are those who will say, “Err .. not right now, but do you have a brochure so I can read about it? I need to think about it first before I decide.” Then there are the indifferent. No matter how much you try and convince them .. you can demonstrate it to them, you can show them a power point, you can give them free samples, but they are not interested. They might even agree with you that it’s good, but it’s not for them. They are not interested. Because they are looking for something else. And then there are 4th kind – the antagonistic. They will disagree with you, they will argue with you, and they will want to prove you wrong. They might even want to kill you to shut you up.”

As Phil was saying this, the Lord was speaking to me at the same time. I heard Him clearly say to me : “I encountered all 4.” And then the Lord asked me this question : “Which ones did I focus on?” It was very clear to me that Jesus focused only on the believers and seekers. He did not waste His time on the indifferent and the antagonistic. Just as I was thinking that, Phil said to me, “Eng Hoe, I want to encourage you, not to be discouraged by the indifferent and the antagonistic. Instead focus only on the believers and the seekers.”

After the dinner, when I went back to the hotel, I reflected on what Phil said, and what I heard the Lord say to me. Sadly, there are very few believers and seekers in this world. This world is full of indifferent people. And the churches are full of indifferent people. In Rev.3, Jesus called them the lukewarm. Neither hot nor cold. They will make sure they don’t miss church. They can quote scripture and pray all the right things, and say all the right words, and even sing of their devotion to the Lord. But are they listening to the Holy Spirit? No they are not. Why? Because they are not seekers. Well they are seekers, but they are not seeking God. They are seeking blessing. And many churches are happy to have them. They bring in the money. And it’s a nice feeling to see so many people at their meetings, right?

It also came clearly to me that there is more hope for the antagonistic than there is for the indifferent. Like Saul who became the apostle Paul. But for the indifferent, the lukewarm, they are neither this nor that. Neither here nor there. What did God said to the Israelites, and what did Jesus say to the lukewarm, “How long will you halt between two opinions? Choose this day whom you will serve. Am I Lord, or am I not? Make up your minds. I would rather you are cold than you are lukewarm. But because you are lukewarm, I am about to vomit you out of My mouth.”

Before I end, briefly, here are 3 things from this segment to think about. First, everyone needs to ask themselves, what am I really seeking? Am I seeking to know God, to know His heart, or what He can give me? Second, if you are a pastor, ask yourself, what am I producing? God is not interested in numbers. He is looking for true disciples. Third, if you are already teaching and discipling others, don’t be discouraged by the indifferent, but don’t waste your time on them either. Time is short. Focus only on the believers and seekers.

These are transcripts of audio messages so they are better heard than read. If you would like to listen to them, the audio clips can be found here : https://goo.gl/KN4JYL  . It’s a folder on googledrive, so you’ll need to sign in with your google account username and password (or sign up for a google account) to be able to access it

Kingdom 58

To become like little children again is to unlearn. It is to give God a fresh slate. If not, if we continue being fixated on certain ideas, then we cannot hear, or we will misinterpret what God is saying to us. Like how the apostles missed what Jesus had told them repeatedly. Because they were fixated on salvation being only for the Jews and on Jerusalem being the center of worship, they remained in Jerusalem for 20 to 30 years despite the command to go to the ends of the earth. Christians and churches make the same mistake when they confine themselves to their denomination and when they regard their church as the center of worship. In the Kingdom, there’s only the subjects of the King. There are no denominations or divisions in the Kingdom.

In Kingdom 10, I talked about why God reveals the secrets of His Kingdom only to little children. What does it mean to become like little children? I believe it means to unlearn. To erase everything and give God a fresh slate. In the previous segment in Kingdom 57, we looked at the example of Nathaniel. If we are to receive revelation from God, then like Nathaniel, we need to set aside our biases and prejudices. Unless we do, we will not be able to hear what God is saying to us. If our minds are fixated on something, God could be telling us something contrary to what we believe, but we wouldn’t get it. Even if Jesus were to appear to us and speak to us, we still wouldn’t get it. In this segment, we are going to look at an example of that in the Scriptures.

Look at the apostles. They had the greatest teacher in the world. Despite 3 years of walking with Jesus they still didn’t get what Jesus had told them. Jesus had told them of God’s love for the whole world. He told them to go and preach the gospel to the whole world.  He told them to go to the ends of the earth, but did they go? No they didn’t. They remained in Jerusalem. It was Paul and Barnabas and the others who went. Well eventually all the apostles all left Jerusalem, and apparently the first one among them to go was Thomas. He went to what is now Afghanistan and Pakistan and later to India sometime between AD 45 to AD 50, but for the others, did you know how long they remained in Jerusalem before they finally went? No one has exact dates but those who have researched into this, tell us that they could have remained in Jerusalem until just before the Romans ransacked Jerusalem in AD 70. That means they remained in Jerusalem for about 20 to 30 years after Jesus told them to go. Imagine, at least 20 years after Jesus had told them to go. Why didn’t they go? It was because of the Jewish worldview spectacles they were wearing. Despite what Jesus had clearly told them, they still thought that the gospel and salvation was only for the Jews.

Someone has said that if Acts 1:8 does not happen, then Acts 8:1 will happen. In Acts 8:1 it says, On that day a great persecution broke out against the church at Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria.”  Notice it was all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria.” The apostles remained in Jerusalem. As we read on, we will find that it was those who were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria who went around preaching the gospel – doing what the apostles were supposed to do. It is very clear that God allowed persecution to try and get them out of Jerusalem, but despite the persecution, they stayed put in Jerusalem.

So what happened when they refused to go? In the next chapter, in chapter 9, God gets Paul instead to go. But something very interesting happened in the next chapter, in Acts chapter 10. We see God giving Peter and the other apostles another chance. Peter was given an open vision. In the vision, God told him not to be prejudiced against Gentiles. He told Peter to go and preach to Cornelius and his household. Notice that it’s an open vision, not a dream. I think that was to ensure that Peter would make no mistake that it was God talking to him. And it happened not once but 3 times. Three times so as to knock it into his head as it were. But he still didn’t seem to get it. God was telling him not to be prejudiced against the Gentiles, but he thought God was talking to him about eating unclean food. This is what happens when our minds are fixated on something. As I said earlier, if our minds are fixated on something, Jesus could appear to us and talk to us and we still wouldn’t get it. Either we don’t hear, or we hear something else. If we are not aware of the worldview spectacles we are wearing, what we hear would have been filtered and interpreted through our worldview, but we wouldn’t even realize that. Someone could be talking to us about A, but we might think he is talking to us about B. This can happen even if it is God talking to us.

When the people sent by Cornelius came, and Peter finally realized what God was trying to tell him, he followed them and he went and preached to Cornelius and his household. Before he could finish speaking, the Holy Spirit came down on all of them. When Peter returned to Jerusalem, the church had a hard time trying to understand why Peter went to preach to Gentiles and why he ate with them. But of course Peter was quick to defend himself. He basically told them, hang on guys, it wasn’t me. It was God. Totally God. There was nothing I could do about it. God Himself sovereignly poured out the Holy Spirit upon them. Then the church in Jerusalem said something very interesting. They said, So then, God has granted even he Gentiles repentance unto life.”

Hang on, what did they mean by that? What did they mean by, So then, God has granted even the Gentiles salvation”, basically? Like hello did you just wake up? How is it that they had not realized this earlier? Who are these guys? They were the other apostles and their families. They were the only ones who remained in Jerusalem. All the rest had left Jerusalem. These are the very same guys who heard Jesus tell them to go into all the world and disciple nations and preach the gospel to everyone. And didn’t Jesus also tell them, “God so loved the world” .. the world .. meaning not just the Jews, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever, meaning anyone, not just the Jews. Didn’t they hear Jesus say that God sent His Son not to condemn the world but to save the world? Didn’t they hear Jesus say that the gospel of this Kingdom would be preached as a witness to all nations before the end will come? Didn’t John the apostle hear John the Baptist tell him, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world?”

So how is it they did not hear what Jesus had told them repeatedly? It was because of their Jewish worldview. Notwithstanding what Jesus had told them again and again, their Jewish spectacles had filtered and interpreted what Jesus said. OK, now that they finally realized that salvation was also for the Gentiles, did they go? No they didn’t. They still remained in Jerusalem. Paul went out on 3 missionary journeys spanning more than 15 years but each time he returned, the apostles were still in Jerusalem. Amazing isn’t it? They told Paul, “You go to the Gentiles. We will go to the Jews”. You can read that in Gal.2:9. As we can see, the rest of the book of Acts has no more mention of them. It’s all about Paul and his team carrying out what the original 11 apostles were commanded to do. When Paul went out on his final journey to Rome, he told them he’s not coming back. Yet the apostles are still stuck in Jerusalem.

Why is it they remained in Jerusalem even after they realized that salvation was also for the Gentiles? I could be wrong, but I think the answer is possibly 2 things. First, notwithstanding that they had now come to know the truth, perhaps they still could not let go of their personal prejudice against Gentiles. And second, according to the Old Testament, we know this. Jerusalem would be the center of worship and all nations would one day stream to Jerusalem to worship there. So they probably thought they had to be there at the center of worship and “hold the fort” as it were until that happened. Like how churches today look at their church as the center of worship. Instead of going out to the people, they are waiting for people to come into their church. And church leaders are sending others out but they are remaining in their Jerusalem.

What can we learn from this? Clearly this tells us that if we are to receive revelation from God, all our worldview spectacles have to be removed from us. So whether we are Chinese, or American, or African, or Arab or Indian, we have to remove our Chinese, or American, or African, or Arab or Indian spectacles. We would also have to stop filtering and interpreting things only through our lawyer, or accountant, or engineer or whatever spectacles. And stop seeing things only as a Baptist, or Anglican, or Pentecostal, or Full Gospel, or Reformed, or Planet Shakers or whatever. You know what I mean? You were not born again into the Kingdom as Baptist, were you? Or Anglican, or Pentecostal, or Reformed, or YWAM or World Vision, were you? I mean in the Bible, in God’s Kingdom, is there such a thing as a born again Baptist, or born again Mennonite or born again Reformed? I don’t find that in the Bible. Do you?

In the Kingdom, there’s only the subjects of the King. There are no denominations or divisions in the Kingdom. There are no “I belong to Peter” or “I belong to Paul” or “I belong to the Methodist” or “I belong to Planet Shakers”. As you heard me mention in Kingdom 6, there are more than 44,000 denominations of church in the world today. What do you think the world would think if they knew about that? What do you think God thinks of that? Those who insist on being Baptist, or Anglican, or Pentecostal, or whatever, they are going to confine themselves to only a very narrow perspective. If the apostles whom Jesus chose could be mistaken, what about us? Is there anyone who thinks he already knows it all and he’s already got it all? Before Jesus returns I believe there will be a lot that He wants to speak to us of what we are to do and how we are to work with Him for His Kingdom to advance, but it only those who give their hearts and minds to Him like little children who will be able to hear Him.

These are transcripts of audio messages so they are better heard than read. If you would like to listen to them, the audio clips can be found here : https://goo.gl/KN4JYL  . It’s a folder on googledrive, so you’ll need to sign in with your google account username and password (or sign up for a google account) to be able to access it

Kingdom 57

Jesus gave us a key to revelation by linking Nathaniel with Jacob’s dream. We all grew up with biases and prejudices – ideas that we absorbed from our family, from our culture, and even ideas from the church we grew up in. We assume they are true without even realizing they are only assumptions. If we are to receive revelation, we first have to set aside our biases and prejudices. Otherwise we will never come to know the truth. We have to be open, childlike, and teachable like Nathaniel, and value what’s from God and pursue it like Jacob did. God is watching and waiting to open the heavens to share His heart and reveal His plans to those who are like Nathaniel and Jacob, so that His house, Bethel, will be right where the people are living and working. Not confined to a concrete building that someone in history by the name of Constantine called “church”.

In the previous segment in Kingdom 56, I shared what I believe Jesus meant by “church”. There’s more to say about church when I will talk about the culture of God’s Kingdom. But in this segment, I need to continue with the subject of revelation. There are 2 things in particular that I’m going to share in this segment about revelation. The first is something we can learn from Nathaniel. The second, which is actually related to the first, is about Jacob.

In Jn.1:43-51, after Philip became a disciple of Jesus, he went to look for Nathaniel. He wanted to tell Nathaniel about Jesus. Philip basically told Nathaniel that Jesus of Nazareth is the promised one whom they were waiting for. But Nathaniel being a Jew who knew the scriptures well enough, had a problem with that. If Jesus is the Messiah, how can he be from Nazareth? Can anything good come from Nazareth? If we read Jn.7 we will find the same thing. In Jn.7:41, some of the people said Jesus is the Christ. But the Pharisees said, “How can the Christ come from Galilee? Does not the Scripture say that the Christ will come from Bethlehem? Check the scriptures and you will find no prophet comes from Galilee.”

If we look at the map of Israel, we will see that Nazareth is in the region of Galilee. But Bethlehem is more than 100km in the south, below Jerusalem. Of course we know that Jesus was born in Bethlehem but His parents took Him into Egypt to run away from Herod, and later they returned to Israel and settled down in Nazareth, where Joseph was originally from. So from the time Jesus was a child, he grew up in Nazareth, not in Bethlehem. But the Pharisees didn’t know that. Since Jesus is from Galilee, they assumed that He was born in Galilee. The interesting thing is, Jesus knew they had jumped to wrong conclusions, but He did not tell them He was actually born in Bethlehem. Why didn’t He tell them? Why didn’t He just bring His parents as witnesses and correct their misunderstanding? There is a reason why Jesus just kept quiet and allowed them to continue in their misunderstanding. I’ll talk about that another time.

But let’s get back to Nathaniel. Just like others, he thought Jesus was from Nazareth. Well that’s what Philip told him anyway. But what’s different about Nathaniel is that despite his wrong assumption that Jesus was from Nazareth, and his prejudice against anyone from Nazareth, he put aside that prejudice and followed Philip to go and meet Jesus.

Now all of us as humans, we have biases and prejudices. We grew up with all sorts of ideas that we absorbed from our family, from our culture, and even ideas from the church we grew up in. Most of the time, we never question these ideas. There is no reason why we should even consider them to be other than true. So it never occurs to us that they could be false. We assume they are true without even realizing that it is only an assumption. Because of these ideas we have biases and prejudices. When we later come across something that contradicts or goes against what we have always assumed to be true, our natural reaction, yes, reaction, is to immediately dismiss it. In Kingdom 7, I told you about the university professors who refused to go and watch Galileo demonstrate his experiment on gravity. In their minds, they were probably thinking, of course the heavier object would fall to the ground first, so please don’t waste our time.

But in the case of Nathaniel, despite the fact that he was prejudiced, he was willing to set it aside. And because he was willing to set it aside and followed Philip, he got to meet Jesus. When he met Jesus, Jesus said something very interesting about him. Jesus said, “Here is a true Israelite in whom there is no guile.” It means he had no hidden agenda. Someone who is straight, who’s pure in heart, or childlike. Then Jesus told Nathaniel, I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you.” That immediately nailed it for Nathaniel. He declared, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel.” Then Jesus said, “You believe because I told you I saw you under the fig tree. You shall see greater things than that.” “I tell you the truth, you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”

I believe what Jesus was telling Nathaniel was, “If you continue this way Nathaniel, if you continue opening yourself to explore and learn, the heavens will be opened to you.” What was Jesus talking about? He was talking about revelation. If we want to receive revelation, that’s the first thing we must do. If we are to learn anything, then we have to set aside our biases and prejudices. Otherwise we will never come to know the truth. We have to be childlike and teachable in order for anything new to enter into this thick skull of ours. The problem is many people don’t want to even consider that they may be wrong. And so they never learn.

When Jesus told Nathaniel, you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man” that sounds very much like the dream that Jacob had in Gen.28 of a ladder or stairway connecting heaven to earth and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. Of course Jesus was talking about Himself as the Son of Man who is the bridge between heaven and earth, but there is also no doubt that Jesus was referring to Jacob’s dream. The curious thing we need to consider is this. What connection did Nathaniel’s openness to receive revelation have with Jacob and his dream? Who was Jacob? He was the supplanter. The guy who through guile, through cunning deceit, outwitted his elder brother Esau and seized the birthright from him. Jacob basically was a crook, the very opposite of Nathaniel. So what connection or relevance can there be between Jacob and Nathaniel? Why did God give this dream or revelation to Jacob if he was such a crook? And there’s also that interesting thing that Jacob said when he woke up from his dream. He said, “Surely the LORD is in this place, and I was not aware of it.” Then he called the place Bethel which means “house of God”.

There’s lots to say about Jacob, and I don’t have all the time to expound on it, but the main point I want to bring out is this. Despite the crook Jacob was, there was something about Jacob that God loved. In Mal.1:2-3, repeated by Paul in Rom.9:13, God said He loved Jacob but He hated Esau. What was it that God loved about Jacob and what was it that God despised about Esau? Heb.12:16 tells us that Esau was godless. He did not value his birthright, something that God had meant for him. Instead of valuing it, he exchanged his birthright for a worthless bowl of porridge, just to satisfy an immediate and temporary craving that he had. Jacob on the other hand, although he was a crook, deep in his heart he knew the true value of God’s blessing. What God loved about Jacob was that he wanted the very best from God. He wasn’t willing to settle for second best. So we see Jacob obeying his parents in order to make sure he fulfilled what was necessary so as not to lose the blessing, and that’s when God gave him that dream. We also see him refusing to let go when he wrestled with God. In Gen.32, he told the angel of the Lord, “I will not let you go until you bless me.”

This is the other thing that we must have if we are to receive revelation. I don’t have time to elaborate on this but there are other things in Jacob’s life that showed this part of his character. His doggedness to pursue what really counts and not quit until he got it. When we know the true value of the Kingdom – that one pearl, that one pearl that ends all pearls, so to speak, like Jacob or like the pearl merchant we would say, “This one thing, this one thing, no matter what, I must have it”. How much do we value God’s Kingdom? How much do we want to see His Kingdom come? Into our villages, our communities, our neighborhood, our places of work, our towns and cities? All over the world the Spirit of God is moving, not just touching individual lives but to take back communities and even nations. Jesus said, “From the time of John the Baptist, the Kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it.”

Let me end by saying this. This is what the Lord has put on my heart to say. He is watching and waiting. His eyes are looking to and fro over all the earth for such people to open the heavens to them, to share His heart and reveal His plans to them, so that His house, Bethel, will be right where the people are living and working. Not confined to a concrete building that someone in history by the name of Constantine called “church”. But this is the warning also that God has put on my heart to sound out. There are people who are like Esau. They are forfeiting what God had meant for them. Exchanging it for worthless things. May we be more and more like Nathaniel and that part of Jacob that God loved.

These are transcripts of audio messages so they are better heard than read. If you would like to listen to them, the audio clips can be found here : https://goo.gl/KN4JYL  . It’s a folder on googledrive, so you’ll need to sign in with your google account username and password (or sign up for a google account) to be able to access it

Kingdom 56

The church is the community of the King. The early church basically continued to do what they did when they were with Jesus. That was what church was to them. Where Jesus was concerned He had a dual mission. His mission was the Kingdom (for His Kingdom to be restored on earth) and to get a bride for Himself (those who would fall in love with Him and lay down their lives for Him). But where we are concerned, Jesus entrusted us with only one mission – the Kingdom. We are the church, but our mission is the Kingdom. Our mission is not to establish ourselves on the earth.  Jesus kept talking about the Kingdom but not about the church because He wants us to be focused and stay focused on the goal, rather than on how well we are doing. In order to accomplish our mission, our eyes must be on the goal. Not on ourselves. The problem today is that churches don’t even realize their mission is the Kingdom. They think their mission is to have bigger and better churches. No wonder churches are introverted and all the time wondering how they are doing and comparing themselves with other churches.

There are 2 things from what I said in the last few segments that I think I need to clarify. First thing, there is this question that I am sure is still bugging a lot of people. I’m sure many are asking, so if church is not all those things – buildings, programs, services, congregation, and all that, what is church?

I’ve already answered that question actually, but just in case somehow it is still not clear, let me say it again. In Acts 2 and Acts 4, the early church loved one another and shared everything. They looked after the widows and orphans and other poor people around them. Jesus told them, “A new commandment I give to you. Love one another as I have loved you. By this shall all men know that you are My disciples.”  Jn.13:34-35. And that’s what they did. They loved. They also met in homes to worship and pray together. And Jesus told them to go and disciple nations and in order to do that they needed the power of the Holy Spirit. And so that’s what they did. They preached the Kingdom and they healed, and they cast out demons. They basically continued to do what they did when they were with Jesus. Nothing different. Yup .. that’s it. That’s church.

But people have often said to me, “Huh, that’s it? You mean that’s all there is to it?” Yes that’s it. Is there anything else you see in the Gospels of Jesus telling them what they must do to be “Church”? I don’t find anything else. Do you? If you are looking for a word to describe that, I would say its community. Not just any community of course, but I am using the word “community” in contrast to a bricks and mortar building, or even an organization, or congregation, or meeting. The church is the community of the King. They are the people, the subjects of His kingdom, but they are not just individuals who come together for a meeting once or twice a week. They are in community with one another. I’ll talk more later about the culture of God’s Kingdom.

You heard me say in Kingdom 6 that Jesus mentioned the word “church” only twice, but the word “Kingdom” is mentioned 86 times in the gospels. Why did Jesus keep talking about the Kingdom but not about church? I could be wrong, but this is how I understand it. Where Jesus was concerned He had a dual mission. His mission was the Kingdom – for His Kingdom to be restored on earth. And His mission was also to get a bride for Himself. And His bride would be the church – those who would fall in love with Him and lay down their lives for Him. I’ll talk about being the Bride of Christ later. But for now, note this that Jesus had a dual mission – Kingdom and church. But where we are concerned, guess what, we have only one mission. Our mission, the mission that has been given to us by Jesus, is only the Kingdom. We are the church, but our mission is the Kingdom. Our mission is not to establish ourselves on the earth.

It’s “Let Your Kingdom come. Let Your will be done on earth as it is done in heaven.” It’s not “Let Your church come”. It’s not “Let Your church be established on earth as in heaven.” The end goal that Jesus set for us is the Kingdom. We are to be His witnesses and to disciple nations so that all nations will be brought back under the rule of God, so that His Kingdom will reign on earth. The end goal is not church. The church is only the team to accomplish the mission. Where we are concerned, we are the means to an end. We are not to be the end itself.

Let me use an illustration. I used to lead crisis response or disaster relief teams. Whenever I led a team, I would brief the team on the goal of our mission whether it was medical, or rice distribution, or whatever. That was the main thing. Of course I also briefed the team on how we are to function as a team, but being a team was not the main thing. The mission was the main thing. Imagine if I had spent 90% of the time talking with the team about what it means for us to be a team and only 10% of the time about the mission. Doesn’t make sense right?

Let me say it again. Where Jesus is concerned, he had a dual mission, both the Kingdom and the church. But where we are concerned, we have only one mission – to work with Jesus for His Kingdom to come. Jesus didn’t tell us to build the church. He said He will build His church. I’ll talk more about what that means later.

Why did Jesus not talk about the church? I believe it’s because He wants us to be focused and stay focused on the goal, rather than on how well we are doing. In order to accomplish our mission, our eyes must be on the goal. Not on ourselves. As soon as we take our eyes off the goal and start looking at ourselves, to see how well we are doing, we will be in trouble. The goal will never be accomplished. Jesus wants a beautiful and perfect bride. But we are to focus on loving Jesus and loving people. We are not to focus on ourselves to make sure we look pretty. You know what I mean? If we take our eyes off Jesus and off people in need, and start looking at ourselves, we are in trouble.

Some of you have read my book “The Gospel of the Kingdom – Revealing the Heart of God”. You will remember the illustration I gave on the difference between Kingdom advance and church growth. Church growth is like guys who go to the gym to build muscles. They push and heave and sweat and grunt, and then from time to time they go and stand in front of the mirror and look at themselves. They look at how much muscles they have put on. If you were to go up to them and ask them what’s all that muscle for, like “hey, what do you do with all that muscle?”, they won’t know how to answer you. But Kingdom advance is like guys who go and build houses or dig wells for poor villages and while they do that, they put on muscles at the same time. The goal is not to put on muscles. The goal is to go and serve others. And if we do, we will put on muscles naturally.

It’s also like what you heard me say it in Kingdom 30. True spirituality is love, and love is other-centered, not self-centered. The thing to do is not to look into our own hearts to try and figure out how pure or how loving we are. The thing to do is to look away from ourselves and see people in need and go and love them. Like the guy in China who jumped up in the middle of my teaching and said, “Now I understand the difference between Buddhism and Christianity.”

The problem today is that churches don’t even realize their mission is the Kingdom. They think their mission is to have bigger and better churches. No wonder churches are introverted and all the time wondering how they are doing and comparing themselves with other churches. Like how guys in the gym go and look in the mirror and compare their bodies with those of other guys in the gym. Yes really, we’ve really lost the plot. To say that we’ve lost the plot is actually a kind way of putting it. To be frank, to be honest, I think the church is so absorbed with itself it is sick.

Just now I said there’s 2 things from what I said in the last few segments that I want to clarify. I’ve dealt with the first as to what is church. Now the second thing that I want to clarify. It is something I mentioned in Kingdom 53. I said that people want to be close to God, but not too close. It’s dangerous to be too close to God. You never know what He might demand of you, right? Then I also mentioned the strange thing that the Israelites did after they crossed the Red Sea. Instead of wanting to meet up with this God who had just set them free from 400 years of slavery, they told Moses, “No, you go and meet with Him”. Instead they went and made themselves some idols to worship. Why did they do that?

Actually the two things are related. I don’t know whether you’ve ever thought about why people make themselves idols to worship. Quite apart from the fact that people are deceived by evil spirits to worship idols, you know idols are much easier to handle or deal with than to relate to God? When the idols don’t serve your purposes anymore, since you created them, you can throw them away or just replace them or move on to another idol. That’s what the people do in India. But you can’t do that with God. Since you didn’t create Him, but He created you, you can’t handle Him, so to speak. So what did the Israelites do? They created some idols to worship. Much easier that way.

Guess what, it’s actually not much different today than the time of the Israelites. For many people, God is too big. Too unpredictable. Too demanding perhaps. Too scary. So what do people do? They find themselves something else that is much easier to handle. You know what’s much easier to handle? It’s much easier to handle church. Not church as Jesus meant it to be, but Church as we know it. Church as we know it, is something you can see and hear and touch. Not like God whom you can’t see and you never know what He might want of you. I don’t know if anyone connected the 2 points I made in Kingdom 53. In case it was not obvious, let me say it straight here. Many people have made an idol of the church as a substitute, or as a replacement for God. And despite listening to all that I’ve shared from Kingdom 1 until now, they are finding that idol very difficult to give up. Yes it’s very difficult to step out from the familiar and known into the totally unknown. But that’s what God is calling us to do. Like how He called Abraham to step out into the unknown.

These are transcripts of audio messages so they are better heard than read. If you would like to listen to them, the audio clips can be found here : https://goo.gl/KN4JYL  . It’s a folder on googledrive, so you’ll need to sign in with your google account username and password (or sign up for a google account) to be able to access it

Kingdom 55

Some things are hidden, and unless they are revealed to us, they remain hidden from us. But some things are actually obvious, but they are hidden in plain sight. We can be blinded from seeing them by our worldview, or cultural upbringing, or by wrong teaching, or by lust and greed, or when we are focusing on the wrong things. One of the things that’s actually plain and obvious is what church actually is. Acts 2 and 4 show us clearly what the early Christians understood as church. It was community. They loved one another and shared everything, nevertheless most Christians do not see it. Our “salvation from this world” spectacles and our church spectacles are filtering what we are reading in the Bible. “Church as we know it”, is preventing “church as God wants it.” We can be so deeply immersed in church, as we know it, that we are blind to what it has become, and blind to what Jesus meant the church to be. Like the monkey experiment, no one questions why we are doing what we are doing. Another thing hidden in plain sight are the poor that Jesus talked about in the parable of the sheep and goats.

We are on the 3rd part of this series of talks on the Kingdom. The main question in this 3rd part is : How are we to work with God for His Kingdom to advance? In Kingdom 52, 53 and 54, I talked about the need for revelation, because without revelation, we cannot work with God. And in Kingdom 54, I talked about what it will take for us to have revelation. I talked about the parable of the pearl merchant. About giving up everything, even what is dear and precious to us, in order to have the Kingdom. And that includes even what we thought was church and ministry. I asked the question : how much do we love the truth? Or is the truth too costly and we would rather continue living with what is not true?

In this segment, I sense the Lord wants me to talk about another aspect of revelation. Not the kind of revelation that would come to us in a dream or vision or a blinding light, or something out of the ordinary, but what is actually obvious. Right in front of our eyes, but somehow we are blind to it.

Moses, David, Daniel, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Jesus, Paul and John all spoke about receiving revelation. Paul prayed that we would receive the Spirit of wisdom and revelation. Why did they use the word “revelation”? Isn’t that the same thing as hearing what God is saying? Yes it’s basically the same thing. So why is the word “revelation” used? There is a simple reason for that. The word “revelation” is used because some things are hidden, and unless these things are revealed to us, they remain hidden from us.

Some things are really, really hidden. Like the things that were revealed to Daniel or to Isaiah or Paul or John. But some things are actually obvious. They are obvious, but they are hidden from the eyes of people. Hidden in plain sight so to speak. Jesus talked about eyes to see, and ears to hear. There were many times when Jesus told the people they had eyes but they could not see, and they had ears but they could not hear. Even to His own disciples He asked them, “Are you still so dull? Do you still not understand?” Don’t you see this? Don’t you realize that? Don’t you understand this parable? How then will you understand any parable? How long have I been with you, and you still don’t get it?”

Why are some things right in front of our eyes but we cannot see it? What is it that blinds us? I believe we are blinded by our biases and prejudices. We are blinded by our worldview. We are blinded by our cultural upbringing. We are blinded by wrong teaching. We are blinded by lust and greed. We are blinded when we are focusing on the wrong things. They could even be good things. But so long as we are distracted, we cannot see what God wants to show us, and we cannot hear what He is saying. We can also be so focused on things that don’t really matter. Things that in the eyes of God have very little value or even no value at all, but we thought they are important or even that they are very Christian.

What are some of these things that are obvious? Things that are right in front of our eyes but many just do not see it? Or where we are blind to it because we are focusing on something else? First thing for example is the fact that the good news is the Kingdom. It’s been there in the Bible for the last 2000 years, but 99.999% of Christians still cannot see it. As I asked in Kingdom 6, how is it the good news is the Kingdom and yet we did not know it is about the Kingdom? Hidden in plain sight. Why? Because we are blinded by what the church has been telling us. It’s there in our Bibles. We are reading it again and again, but yet we do not see it. Our “salvation from this world” spectacles and our church spectacles are filtering what we are reading.

Another example is why God created us. Again it’s there in the Bible, but many cannot see it. Why? Because they aren’t even asking the question. Why aren’t they asking the question why God created us? Again it’s because the church has been giving us this idea that God is into plan B. In plan B, all that matters is salvation to go to heaven. From the time I was a young Christian I was told the only reason why God hasn’t taken us to heaven yet is because He wants us to evangelize and save as many souls as we can. That’s our only purpose on earth.”

Another example is what church is. We can see in the Acts of Apostles what the early Christians understood as church. In Acts 2 and Acts 4, we can see that church for the early Christians was community. They loved one another and shared everything. Whenever they met, it was in their homes. There were no Church services, no church programs, no clergy/laity, salaried pastors, church building, congregation, membership, tithing, denominations, ecclesiastical hierarchy, pulpit, pews, church committees, AGM and elections. There’s nothing in the Bible for all of that. Acts 2 and 4 is there in the Bible. So obvious. But yet somehow most Christians do not see it. And even when I point that out to people, and they can read that in their own Bibles, yet they still cannot see it. Why? Because their church spectacles are preventing them from seeing what church actually is. What an irony, isn’t it? The church they know is preventing them from seeing church as Jesus meant it to be. As Wolfgang Simson said, “Church as we know it, is preventing church as God wants it.”

How did the church get to be what it is today? I don’t know if you have heard of this experiment that was done with some monkeys. Some scientists put some monkeys in a room with a ladder in the center of the room. On the top of the ladder they placed a bunch of bananas. Every time a monkey went up the ladder to try and get the bananas, the scientists would turn on a hose of cold water on the rest of the monkeys. Obviously they did not like the cold shower, so after a while, every time a monkey went up the ladder, the other monkeys would beat him up. After some time no monkey dared to go up the ladder, no matter how tempted they were. The scientists then did a very interesting thing. They substituted one of the monkeys. The first thing the new monkey did was to go up the ladder, as any monkey would. Immediately the other monkeys beat him up. After several beatings, the new monkey learned not to climb up the ladder although he never knew why.

Then another monkey was substituted, and the same occurred. The second monkey went up the ladder and all the monkeys beat him up. The interesting thing is the first monkey that was substituted, also participated in the beating of the second monkey, although he did not know why. Then a third monkey was substituted and the same thing happened. The second monkey took part in beating of the third monkey. Then the fourth, and finally the fifth monkey was replaced. They all took part in beating any monkey who tried to climb up the ladder although none of them had experienced the cold shower, and none of them knew why they should beat up any monkey that tried to go up the ladder. If it was possible to ask the monkeys why they would beat up any monkey who attempted to go up the ladder, their answer would probably be … “I don’t know .. That’s how things are done around here!”

It’s funny, but it’s so true. Like the monkeys, we can be so immersed in something so much so that we don’t actually realize what we are doing. We can keep doing it even though there is no basis for it. But that’s the way it has always been right, so don’t even question it. And if anyone questions why we are doing what we are doing, he would be in danger of getting a beating, right?

It’s like the Chinese proverb, “If you want to know what water is, don’t ask the fish.” Why? Because the fish has never been out of the water. So it has no basis for a comparison with anything else. And because it is so immersed in the water as to be one with it, the fish cannot tell you what water is. There’s another Chinese proverb that says “When you are on the mountain, you cannot see the mountain.” Right? You have to come down the mountain, and go a distance away from the mountain and turn back and then you will see the mountain and then you will say, “Oh so that’s what the mountain looks like.” In my years of travels I have found this to be so true. If you visit another nation or culture, you will see things about that nation or culture that the people there cannot see about themselves. In the same way, if they were to visit your nation or culture, they will also see things about your nation or culture that you probably cannot see about yourselves.

I was so deeply immersed in church that I became blind to what it had become, and blind to what Jesus meant the church to be.

Before I end, let me share with you what’s one of the most obvious things that’s right in front of our eyes, but many do not see. One day many are going to say to the Lord, “Lord, when did we see You hungry, thirsty, naked, homeless? When did we see You sick, or in prison?” Hidden in plain sight. Eyes but they cannot not see. Ears but they cannot hear.

These are transcripts of audio messages so they are better heard than read. If you would like to listen to them, the audio clips can be found here : https://goo.gl/KN4JYL  . It’s a folder on googledrive, so you’ll need to sign in with your google account username and password (or sign up for a google account) to be able to access it

Kingdom 54

Jesus said to walk in the light, or darkness will overtake us. He also talked about the light within people becoming darkness. Almost everything that is practiced in church today didn’t come from Jesus, or from Paul, or any of the NT writers. They all came from Constantine. But instead of acknowledging this truth, people will defend and justify church as it is understood and practiced today notwithstanding that they cannot find any Biblical precedent for it. What people normally do is to twist, or distort or manipulate the truth, so that the truth becomes something unacceptable, while the opposite of the truth which they are indulging in, becomes justifiable in their minds. That’s when the light within people becomes darkness. To become like little children again is to be willing to unlearn all that we thought we already knew and to love the truth no matter what the cost. To love the truth more than love ourselves. It is to be willing to forgo even what might have been precious and dear to us. Like the pearl merchant, we have to give up everything, in order to be able to have the Kingdom.

I think what I said in Kingdom 53 might have thrown some people off, so let me try and clarify what I said.  I asked the question why God hides Himself from us .. why doesn’t God reveal Himself more and make it easier for us to know Him. If He did, it would be so much easier for us to know what He wants. As a young believer I asked that question on the assumption that everyone would want to know the truth. I mean surely we all want to know the truth, don’t we? However, over the years I discovered that there are very few who really seek the truth. Instead of wanting to know the truth, people are afraid of the truth, and they would rather not know the truth. Why? Because truth always demands change. But change is difficult. Change is often very costly. And so people would rather not know the truth. It’s easier to live in denial than having to make the changes that truth demands. So strange as it may sound, people actually don’t really want the truth.

Let me give you a common example of this. A lot of people know they should exercise, and stop eating all that delicious junk food. They know it’s bad for them .. that it’s even slowly killing them. But will they exercise? Will they stop eating what they know they should not eat? Will they do it? No they won’t. Too difficult, right? So what do they do? They will keep pushing it out of their minds. We may laugh over it, but that’s one example of when it’s much easier to live in denial.

But there are other things, like what the gospel really is, and what church is, that people would rather not know. I’m not talking about church as we know it, but church as Jesus meant it to be. People will defend and justify church as it is understood and practiced today notwithstanding that they cannot find any Biblical precedent for it. Did you know that almost everything that is practiced in church today – church buildings, Sunday services, congregations, membership, salaried pastors, church boards, and other things we have taken for granted for what makes up a church – didn’t come from Jesus, or from Paul, or any of the NT writers. They all came from Constantine. So why are we following Constantine? Why are we not following Jesus? Could it be because there’s something about church today that is so powerful, so effective for the kingdom that it must be preserved at all costs, despite having no Biblical precedent for it? Or is it because the institution of church today ensures the continuity of certain positions and benefits for some people?

I’ll talk more about church later, but for now the point is this – how much do people really want the truth and to live by the truth?  Jesus said something amazing in Jn.12:35. He said, You are going to have the light just a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, before darkness overtakes you.” Every time we hear a message, every time we read a book, or when someone confronts us with the truth about something, whenever the truth about anything comes to us, we have to make a choice. Shall we acknowledge the truth, whatever that might be, and walk according to what the truth requires of us, which means that we have to change, or shall we push it out of our minds, and excuse and defend and justify ourselves? If we choose to reject the light, meaning the truth, Jesus says the darkness will overtake us.

 And then He also said this in Matt.6:22, “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!” Now how can the light within a person be darkness? What was Jesus talking about? I believe what Jesus was describing is something like this. Whenever someone rejects the truth about something, he doesn’t just reject it. He has to argue against it in his own mind in order to justify himself for not accepting it, so that it will not disturb him any further. Well I was a lawyer so I know this very well. What people normally do is to twist, or distort or manipulate the truth, so that the truth becomes something unacceptable, while the opposite of the truth which they are indulging in, becomes justifiable in their minds. Whether it’s about alcohol, or drugs or adultery or whatever. That’s when the light within people becomes darkness.

Let me give you another example of this. I was in Cambodia many years ago to participate in a rice distribution to thousands of people who had lost their rice fields to very bad flooding. The funds were contributed by several American, and Singaporean NGOs and a Malaysian NGO that I represented. After the rice distribution was done, I went through the accounts with the local leader who was in charge of organizing the rice distribution. When I looked at the accounts and records, it was very clear to me that part of the funds had been siphoned off for something else and he had presented false receipts and false records to cover it up. When I confronted him about it, he tried to deny it, but he discovered that I had many years of experience behind me and I knew the ins and outs of relief operations and how local leaders in many countries, not just Cambodia, they often do that. When he realized he couldn’t deny it any more, he finally admitted it. Then I asked him why he did it. He said it was his senior pastor who got him to do it. According to him, his senior pastor was concerned for his church workers and wanted to get some of the funds for them.

Was he sorry for what he did? Were they sorry for what they did? No they were not. In their minds they were poor, not like the Americans, Singaporeans and Malaysians. In their minds it’s justifiable to steal from the rich. But actually they were not stealing from us. They were stealing from their own people. But they didn’t want to think about that.  In their minds their love and concern for each other justified what they did. The leader felt justified because he was obeying his senior pastor who wanted to get something for them. The senior pastor felt justified because he loved his church workers. And the church workers of course defended their senior pastor because he was looking out for them. And because he was their senior pastor, right? And I, well I became the bad guy for questioning the practice. So right can become wrong, and wrong can become right. That’s when the light within people is darkness. That’s what Jesus was talking about. Its darkness, but to them it’s light. Think about that.

Whether it’s the truth about life, or the truth about God, or the truth about evolution and science and the origin of life, or the truth about LGBT, or a pet doctrine we have believed in for many years, or the truth about the political party, or the leaders we have been supporting, or the truth about our children, or our lifestyle, or the truth about church. Whatever the truth might be about, it always boils down to this question : how willing are we to face up to the truth, no matter how much it goes against what we have always believed? Unless we do, God is not going to go any further with us.

In Jn.3:19 Jesus said, “This is the verdict : Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.  Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.” People don’t like the light. They prefer to remain in darkness.

We know this. God says that He reveals Himself to those who truly seek Him with all their heart. And God also told us that He purposely hides Himself and hides the secrets of His Kingdom from the wise and learned and reveals them to little children. I’ve already talked about that in Kingdom 10. What does it mean to become like little children again? To give God a fresh slate, to start again at zero? I believe it means to be willing to unlearn. To unlearn all that we thought we already knew. It is to seek the truth, and to love the truth no matter what the cost. To love the truth more than love ourselves. It is to be willing to forgo even what might have been precious and dear to us.

In Matt.13, Jesus said the Kingdom of God is like a man who found treasure buried in a field. What did he do? He put the treasure back and buried it and he went home and sold everything in order to buy that field. He gave up everything in order to acquire it. And then He said the Kingdom of God is a like a pearl merchant who found that one pearl that ends all pearls. You know he’s a pearl merchant, right? He’s got a whole collection of his own pearls, that are precious and valuable to him, that he’s collected over the years, probably. But he goes home, and he looks at all his pearls, and he realizes that all his pearls are nothing, they are nothing in comparison to that one pearl he just found. So he says to himself, this one pearl, this one pearl, I must have it. And so he gives up everything. He sells it all in order to be able to have that one pearl. Jesus said that’s what the Kingdom of God is. We have to give up everything, in order to be able to have it.

Do we want to have revelation from God? Same thing. That’s what it will take.

These are transcripts of audio messages so they are better heard than read. If you would like to listen to them, the audio clips can be found here : https://goo.gl/KN4JYL  . It’s a folder on googledrive, so you’ll need to sign in with your google account username and password (or sign up for a google account) to be able to access it

Kingdom 53

God says that He hides Himself. In that case how can we receive revelation from Him? God hides Himself because there are very few people in the world who are really interested in the truth, or who are genuine seekers of the truth. And that is because truth is difficult to accept. Truth always disturbs and demands change. But change is often too costly. So most people would rather not know the truth. Contrary to what we may think, people would not believe Him even if He made Himself more evident. In the exodus God made Himself very evident to man, but they were afraid to come close to Him. They preferred worshipping idols. God has given His Son but what is the response of even those who claim to worship Him?

In the last segment, in Kingdom 52, I ended it with this question, “How can we get revelation from God?” I asked that question because we cannot work with God unless He reveals to us what He is doing. Jesus told us that we are to function just like He did, doing only what we see the Father doing.

So how can we receive revelation from God? How can we hear God’s voice, or how can we hear God speaking to us? And that’s also more or less the same question as how can the eyes of people be opened. I had earlier intended to share with you 4 or 5 points on this, but I sensed the Lord telling me that He wanted me to say something else. So I waited for Him to tell me what was it that He wants me to share. OK, so what I’m going to share here is not really what I planned to share, but this is what the Lord has put on my heart to share.

I don’t know what’s your experience of hearing God, but doesn’t it often feel like God is high up there and we are down here, and we don’t have a clue what God wants? It is very hard to figure God out isn’t it? I mean God Himself says that He hides Himself – look for example at Isa.45:15, or Ps.18:11. And there are many other verses. If God purposely hides Himself, how then are we to know Him? How are we to know what He wants, or to hear what He is saying, if He hides Himself? And why does God hide Himself? Why doesn’t He reveal Himself and make Himself more evident? Have you ever wondered about that?

When I was a young Christian, I read the story of Lazarus and the rich man who died. The rich man who was in hell, pleaded with Abraham to send Lazarus to his brothers to warn them so that they would not also end up in hell. My thinking was just like that of the rich man. Surely if someone rises from the dead and tells people that he has seen heaven and hell, people would listen, wouldn’t they? But Abraham said to him, “If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.” When I read that story, I could not understand it. Why didn’t Jesus think that was a good idea? I mean why doesn’t God make it easier for people to believe in Him, or come to faith in Him? Why doesn’t God just appear every now and then, or at least do more miracles so that people would find it easier to believe in Him?

Well, at that time I was only 16 years old, and I was still very young and naïve. Later, I went to England to study law and then I returned to Malaysia and practiced as a lawyer in Malaysia. As a lawyer, I very quickly came to realize what this world is made up of. This world is full of people whose hearts are very hard and their minds are very closed. Having lived for 59 years, and having traveled and taught and interacted with people of many different cultures for the last 23 years, it is sad but I have to say this : I think there are very few people in the world who are really interested in the truth, or who are genuine seekers of the truth.

Someone said this, “Today I am of the opinion that people in general are not truth seekers, since most people constantly try to fit the facts to match their wishes. Theology has been used by many; the KKK have found in the Bible reasons to hate black and Jew. The Pogroms found in the Bible reasons to commit atrocities towards the Jews, and even schemers are seen daily on TV using the Bible like the old medicine man, offering healing, signs, and wonders. I believe that most convictions have nothing to do whatsoever with facts. The truth is, we are driven by culture and upbringing. It is these that drive the minds of the masses and not the claim that we are all truth seekers. Tradition plants a certain state and condition in the hearts of people to the point of even slightly or greatly bending the facts in order to fit and justify our traditional goals.” That’s what he said. Nowadays, we have people who are experts that are paid to spin and manipulate facts in order to achieve a certain effect. And recently we even have this thing called fake news.

Why are there so few people who are genuine seekers of the truth? I think it’s because truth is never an easy thing to accept. Truth always disturbs. And truth always comes with a call for change. Once the truth about something is revealed, then something must be done about it, right? In fact, truth does not just call for change, truth always demands change. But change is never easy, is it? Often change is too difficult. Too costly. Too much sacrifice involved. So most people would rather not know the truth. This sounds crazy, but this is what I’ve discovered. Most people feel far more comfortable not to know the truth, even though they know that what they believe might not be true, but to them that’s better than having to make the changes that truth demands of them.

Earlier I said if only God made Himself more evident, surely people would believe Him, right? Later when I read the Bible I discovered that there was actually a time in human history where God made Himself very, very evident to man. It was the time of the Exodus – when God did all those miracles through Moses. But what was the response of people to that? Did they believe in Him? Not the Egyptians definitely, but guess what, not even the Jews! The Jews cried out to God to deliver them from Pharaoh, and God showed up. And He showed up with amazing signs and wonders, yet when it was time for them to meet with God, what did they tell Moses? They told Moses, “No, no, we will not meet with Him. You go and meet Him”. That’s amazing isn’t it? I mean here’s God who answers their prayers, and they see all those amazing miracles, and He even parts the Red Sea for them to walk through on dry land, and yet as soon as they get to the other side, instead of wanting to meet Him, instead being excited to meet with this God who has just set them free from 400 years of slavery, what do they do? They go and make themselves some idols to worship. Amazing isn’t it?

In the Exodus, the excuse that the Jews made for not wanting to meet with God was that His glory would kill them. But what happened when God came down and showed up as a human? Here’s where God revealed Himself in a way that won’t kill people. Someone in bodily flesh that they could see with their own eyes, hear with their own ears, and even touch with their own hands. Someone they could actually sit down and have tea with, so to speak, if they wanted to. Well that’s what Jesus was, not like some big leaders today who shield themselves from ordinary folk like you and I, with layers and layers of red tape, and they fly around in their private jets and they have no time for you unless you have a big donation to make. But were people excited to meet Jesus and to get to know Him? Well they wanted the healing and the bread of course, but no they weren’t keen to know Him. Jn.1:11 says “He was in the world, and the world was made by Him, but the world did not receive Him. He came to his own people, but even his own people did not receive him.” Not only did they not receive Him, they crucified Him.

When I said earlier there are very few people in the world who are truth seekers, you might think I was talking only about politicians or unbelievers, but guess what, I’ve discovered it’s not much different with believers.  You think only the politicians of this world are seeking money, power and fame? Even church leaders nowadays are no different.  I’ve told you about the senior pastor in Kingdom 31 who asked what was the first thing he should do when he goes back to his church after discovering the Kingdom. Well I suggested that he should exchange his salary with the guy who cleans the toilet in his church. But could he do it? Do you know of any shepherds today who follow their Master the Good Shepherd who will lay down their lives for their sheep? So it’s not much different whether we are talking about unbelievers or believers or even church leaders.

Over the years I’ve found that people want to be close to God, but not too close. It’s dangerous to be too close to God. He might make some unreasonable demands on you, right? So most people prefer to stay a safe and respectable distance from God.

In Rom.3 Paul said there is no one, not even one who seeks God. So why does God hide Himself? Why doesn’t God reveal Himself more? The answer is obvious. If humans aren’t too keen to seek the truth or to seek God, then God isn’t too keen to reveal Himself to the humans either. It’s not just what Paul said in Rom.3. Go through the whole Bible. What do you see of the relationship between God and man? What does God think of man? Not very positive nor encouraging, ya?

If we want to know what it takes for us to get revelation, or to hear God, or to know what God wants, I think this is the first thing we must understand. This is quite apart from the fact that God is Holy and He dwells in unapproachable light, and the highest heavens cannot contain Him, and as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are His ways higher than our ways, and His thoughts than our thoughts. While all that is true of God, why doesn’t God reveal Himself more? Well, I think the answer lies in this. When He looks into the heart of man, what does He see? He has done the most unthinkable thing – He has given His Son for us, but what is the response of man? What is the response of even those who claim to worship Him? So to whom does God reveal Himself? Actually God has made it quite plain who He reveals Himself to. We’ll get to that in the next segment in Kingdom 54.

These are transcripts of audio messages so they are better heard than read. If you would like to listen to them, the audio clips can be found here : https://goo.gl/KN4JYL  . It’s a folder on googledrive, so you’ll need to sign in with your google account username and password (or sign up for a google account) to be able to access it

 

Kingdom 52

Jesus told His disciples that it was not for them to know when the Kingdom will be fully restored on earth, or when He would finally return to take His rightful place as King, but instead they should get on with the task He gave them to do – to be His witnesses to all the world. What is going to happen in the future is not clear. What is clear is the coming of God’s kingdom has already begun. From the time of John the Baptist, God is already in the work of advancing His Kingdom. So we have to focus on what it means for God’s Kingdom to be on earth now before Jesus returns, and how we are to work with God for His Kingdom to advance. For that, we need revelation. Without revelation, we cannot work with God. Revelation is foundational to what God wants to do.

In all these talks on the Kingdom, I can imagine there might be people listening who are asking. “When will the Kingdom fully come?” So before I go further, let me quickly deal with this question and get it out of the way, as it were. Imagine you are building a house. You hire workers for the job. As the work is going on, instead of working, some of the workers are busy debating with each other as to when the house will be completed, or when the owner will return to complete the job himself. Instead of working, instead of focusing on what needs to be done to complete the work, they spend lots of time speculating, discussing and debating and they get other workers involved in the debate as well. There are so many seminars and conferences nowadays on the end-times. Many people are curious to know when and how it is going to happen. From time to time I have been asked on my views of the end times. When is Jesus going to return? Do you believe in a pre-tribulation, or mid-tribulation or post-tribulation rapture? When will the Kingdom be fully established on earth? What will happen to America? What about Israel? My answer is, I don’t know, and I don’t think we need to know. Jesus told us no one knows when He will return, and He also told His disciples in Acts1:6-7 that it was not for them to know when the Kingdom will be fully restored on earth, or when He would finally return to take His rightful place as King, but instead they should get on with the task He gave them to do – to be His witnesses to all the world.

I believe in the run up to the return of Jesus, many alarming and catastrophic things are going to take place that will have earth shattering consequences. And as Jesus said, people will be perplexed and of course lots of questions will arise .. and guess what .. there will always be so-called prophets who will come along and prophesy this and prophesy that. What did Jesus tell us? Jesus told us not to be deceived. Not to be distracted. I don’t know whether China is going to take over the world, or whether Russia will enter into an alliance with Iran and other Arab nations to attack Israel, or whether the rapture will happen before or after that, and I don’t know about the muslim takeover of Europe. I don’t know when this will happen or when that will happen and which will happen first, and which will happen next. I think the only “when” that we need to be very clear about in our understanding is what Jesus already told us in Matt.11:12. He said that from the time of John the Baptist, God’s Kingdom has been forcefully advancing. What is going to happen in the future is not clear. Perhaps this, or perhaps that. But what is clear is that the coming of God’s kingdom has already begun. It began, Jesus said, from the time of John the Baptist. That’s the “when” of the Kingdom we need to be very clear about. When will it be completed? Jesus told His disciples, it is not for you to know the times and seasons that the Father has set by His authority. Instead, get on with what I’ve given you to do.

That’s what we really need to turn our attention to. This is what the 3rd part of this series of talks on the Kingdom is about. Since we know that God is already in the work of advancing His Kingdom, then we have to focus on what it means for God’s Kingdom to be on earth now before Jesus returns, and how we are to work with God for His Kingdom to advance. Now I’m not saying don’t study the end times, because whatever Daniel, or Jesus, or Paul, or Peter, or John told us about the future, they have told us for a reason. But what I’m saying is this : instead of speculating on when this or that is going to happen, or how it is going to happen, instead of focusing on all that, here’s what I think we should do : Whenever we read anything in the scriptures about the future, and we are watching certain things happening in the world that seem to correspond with what the scriptures has told us, we should ask, so what does God want us to do in this situation? How are we to work with Him in this situation or despite this situation for His kingdom to advance?

So back to the question : what does it mean for God’s Kingdom to be on earth now before Jesus returns and how are we to work with Him for that to happen? The last thing I brought up in Kingdom 51 was that each person needs to hear God calling them to Himself. I’ve already mentioned this before but with the remaining time in this segment I believe God wants me to highlight the need for revelation. Just as each person needs revelation or his mind and understanding remains in darkness, in the same way, in order for us to work with God, the same thing is needed : revelation.

In Jn.5:17, Jesus said something astonishing. He said His Father has never stopped working. Many think that God worked 6 days and on the 7th day He rested and since then God has not been doing anything and all He’s been doing is He’s been sitting on His throne and just watching everything that’s going on. But Jesus said His Father has never stopped working. If God has never stopped working, what has He been doing? Where is the evidence of His Kingdom? Ahh, this is where we need eyes to see and ears to hear. Jesus told us the secrets of His Kingdom are hidden from the wise and learned but revealed only to little children. His Kingdom has been around since the time of John the Baptist, but it is hidden from human eyes and human perception and human understanding.

People can build huge cathedrals and all sorts of impressive buildings that they call churches and they fill it with thousands of people, but don’t let that impress you too much. If you were to give an altar call in these so-called churches and ask who will come forward and totally surrender their lives, their careers, and their families to the Lord, and sign over all their bank accounts, their houses, and their cars for the work of the Kingdom, you might not get even one person who would respond. How do I know? Well it’s because I used to speak in churches. Some big churches too. And every time I made such an altar call, not even one person would come forward.

That’s not much different from the time of Jesus. Where did He get His disciples from? From the temple and the synagogues? No He didn’t. He worked completely outside of the system. So back to the question : where is the evidence of the Kingdom? Where has God been working? What has He been doing? Answer : we need eyes to see. We need revelation. Without revelation, we can’t see what God has been doing, and we don’t understand how God is working. In short, without revelation, we cannot work with God.

In Matt.16:19, Jesus told Peter that He will give him the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever he binds on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever he releases on earth will be released in heaven. What are these keys of the kingdom? I’ll talk about these keys later, but whatever they are, it is quite obvious that keys are for opening locked doors so that we can have access to what’s inside or they are for putting things away and locking them up, right? So there is a binding or locking up and there is a releasing or unlocking that needs to be done with the keys of the Kingdom. And since Jesus called it the keys of the Kingdom it must surely have something to do with how the Kingdom would advance.

What is pertinent for us to note is that what Jesus said about the keys, is predicated on His earlier statement in verse 17 that it was not flesh and blood, but it was His Father in heaven who had revealed to Peter who Jesus is. Then Jesus said it is on this rock that He will build His church. So what is that rock upon which Jesus will build His church? Roman Catholics think that rock that Jesus spoke of is Peter, but Protestants think that rock is Jesus. I’m sorry but I think both are wrong. Yes there are several references in other parts of Scripture to Jesus being the rock, but we have to understand what Jesus meant there from the context of what He told Peter. Jesus asked His disciples who people said He was. Some said this and some said that. But Peter said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” That’s when Jesus said, “It is not flesh and blood who has revealed this to you but my Father in heaven who has revealed this to you, and on this rock (meaning on this foundation) I will build my church.”

In the early days, whenever they built something, they would use huge rocks as the foundation for their buildings. It’s like what Jesus talked about in Matt.7 when He said those who hear His words and do them, are like those who build their house upon a rock, but those who hear and don’t do, are like those who build their house upon sand. In other words, it is only upon the foundation of revelation that we can understand and we can work with God in what He wants to do. You can have lots of good ideas, and plans, and money, but without revelation, you are lost. In Jn.5:19 Jesus said, ‘The Son can do nothing of His own except what He sees His Father doing. For what the Father does, the Son does also.”  Then He told us in Jn.20:21, “As the Father has sent Me, I send you”. So we are to function in the same way. We must have revelation.

I believe it is on this same understanding that in Eph.2:20-21 Paul told us that God’s household and God’s building is built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets. Why did Paul mention only apostles and prophets? Why not evangelists, pastors and teachers? Doesn’t God use them as well? Of course He does, but what is it about apostles and prophets that make them foundational to God’s building? Well I believe apostles and prophets are what God primarily uses to reveal things and to pioneer any new work. Now I am not saying that God speaks only to apostles and prophets. Obviously I am not saying that. We know in Scripture God speaks to whoever has ears to listen, but the main point I want to make here before we proceed further on how to work with God for His Kingdom to advance, is this  – we need revelation. So the question is this, how can we get revelation from God? That’s something for us to think about. And to ask God about.

These are transcripts of audio messages so they are better heard than read. If you would like to listen to them, the audio clips can be found here : https://goo.gl/KN4JYL  . It’s a folder on googledrive, so you’ll need to sign in with your google account username and password (or sign up for a google account) to be able to access it

Kingdom 51

More about sharing the good news : Remember that unless people are looking for answers, trying to give answers to questions that are not asked is quite pointless. Everyone is on a spiritual journey of discovering the meaning of life and each person is of course at a different point on their journey. What may be relevant for one may not be relevant for another. If people have immediate physical needs, we have to attend to those needs first. Jesus fed the hungry before He told them that life is more than food. We would have to be the good news to them first before we can meaningfully share the good news with them. There are also people who are very confused in their minds by the biases or prejudices they absorbed from either their culture, or their environment, or their upbringing, or who have deep emotional wounds and they need healing in their minds first before they can appreciate a simple presentation of the gospel. Ultimately, it’s not a question of being convinced in the mind. Every person needs to have an encounter with God and hear Him calling them to Himself.

There are 2 things I need to clarify and underscore from what I said in Kingdom 50. First, please note that the 4 questions approach I shared in Kingdom 50, is only an approach. Not a formula. That actually is more for us to understand the good news clearly in our own minds first before we attempt to share it with others. And before we can share anything, I said this already but let me say it again, we need to discern if the person is listening in the first place.

A long time ago, I read this somewhere, someone said the problem with Christians all over the world is that they are always trying to give answers to questions that people are not asking. If you are not asking a question, the answer someone is trying to give you is quite meaningless, right? I mean imagine if someone comes up to you and tries to teach you how to bake a cake when you never asked for it, and you have no interest at all, nor do you see any reason why you should be interested in that. You might say, but surely salvation and the meaning of life is not the same as baking a cake. Isn’t the meaning of life and the eternal destiny of people the most important thing of all? That’s what we might think, but not everyone thinks that way.

Many people have concluded that there are no answers and no one can be certain. That’s because of, I think, a pervasive skepticism and unbelief nowadays, that has been spread from the West to the rest of the world. As soon as you try to share with anyone, many think you are trying to impose your views on them. I’m not saying don’t share with anyone unless they are seriously seeking. Because perhaps your sharing might start that seeking in them, but the question I think we need to ask is, how can people first of all come to the point of seeking answers to the meaning of life? Something we need to think about. I’ll talk more about this later.

Second point is this, when I said the rich man did not need to be told that he needed to be born again, I do not mean that he does not need to be born again. Everyone needs to be born again. Jesus said that’s the only way to enter into God’s Kingdom. But the fact remains that Jesus did not tell him that he needed to be born again. What he needed to hear was something else. Each person needs to hear only what he needs to hear at any given point in time. Whether people realize it or not, I believe everyone is actually on a spiritual journey of discovering the meaning of life and each person is of course at a different point on their journey. What may be relevant for one may not be relevant for another.

We live in a very diverse world. In one part of the world, in affluent Europe, people are fighting to have the right to euthanasia, or assisted suicide. In another part of the world, people have been pushed by forces beyond their control to end their lives. More than 100,000 farmers in India committed suicide in the last 10 years. Talking to someone contemplating suicide in Europe would be very different thing from trying to talk with a farmer in India who is about to commit suicide. What is necessary and meaningful for one might be totally meaningless for another.

So we need to discern where each person is at on their spiritual journey. If someone is trying to survive and their attention is focused only on trying to get their basic needs of water, food, clothing and shelter met, they will probably not have the time or attention to think about the meaning of life. We must help them with what they need first. It will not do to talk with them about becoming disciples of Jesus until their basic needs are met first. Jesus fed the hungry before He told them that life is more than food. Otherwise how can the good news be good news to them? We would have to be the good news to them first before we can meaningfully share the good news with them.

Some of you have heard me share about the woman who showed up at a church after an earthquake. This happened somewhere in India. I won’t mention where. She showed up asking for some rice for her family. The guy at the church told her that she had to listen to the gospel first. She looked like she had probably walked many miles to this church and she looked like she really needed a drink and some food, but this guy took no notice at all of that. To him, the most important thing was she needed to be saved. Never mind if she and her family had not had any food to eat or water to drink in days. He did not even ask her if her house survived the earthquake or if anyone had died or was injured and needed help. The poor lady was so disgusted and disappointed by that church worker’s response, she walked away in tears. What would she think of Christians and of Jesus after that?

We might say c’mon people should not be so confused in their minds. Christians or the church is not the same thing as Jesus or God. But you know what, not many people can distinguish between the two. And why would anyone be interested in hearing about the God that someone worships if that person comes across as an uncaring religious bigot, right?

On another point, I already mentioned this in Kingdom 49 about how people nowadays are not as simple as they were 30 – 40 years ago. I think many people might need healing or a straightening out of some twisted ideas in their minds first before they can even understand the gospel. I’ve been teaching in many countries. After 23 years of interacting with people from many different cultures and nations, I’ve found that not many people can think clearly. I think like how there are adult literacy programs for people to first learn how to read before there is any point in giving them a tract or Bible portion to read, I think for some people there might be a need to teach them to think first before we can share the gospel with them. Somehow in their growing up they might have missed some vital processes that are necessary for clear thinking.

So many people, including the educated, are so confused in their minds by their culture and their environment and their upbringing, and the biases and prejudices that they have absorbed, that they simply cannot see past the cobwebs in their minds to understand a simple presentation of the gospel. A lot of this I think has to do with their worldview which I shall talk about later.

I recently met 4 neurosurgeons that were trained by the most prestigious Christian Medical Hospital in India. They told me that the West and Christians should have stayed away from India completely. They attributed all the problems in India to the West and to Christians. They said the West and Christians had done nothing for India. This is despite the fact that they themselves had obviously benefited from the medical training they got from that hospital which was set up by Western missionaries. How they could reconcile that self-contradiction is hard to understand, but clearly what they needed was something else before the prejudices in their minds could be removed. Otherwise all that I was trying to communicate to them was being filtered and was being misinterpreted.

It’s not just bias and prejudices in cultural upbringing that affect the minds and understanding of people. There are also deep emotional wounds that affect the minds of people. Many young people today I think are so damaged in their minds and emotions by their exposure to distorted ideas of reality that they cannot even appreciate what love is, or what responsibility or accountability is, or what trust means. In that case, how can we talk to them about an abstract God who loves them or that they are accountable to Him and will be judged by Him, or to put their trust in Him? In other words it is not such a straightforward thing to share the gospel with people. Some people have to go through healing and others might need to go through various stages of having their filters removed first before the truth can be appreciated.

This is true even for people who are in church. Jesus asked people, “Who do you say I am?” Some saw Him as a good teacher. Some saw Him as a prophet. Many today see Him only as the founder of a religion. Nothing more than that. Even in the church, many in the church today see Him as someone who died for them 2000 years ago to save them from hell. And today? Well today He protects us and blesses us. You know what I mean? I could be wrong, but in my estimate I think more than 90% of people in churches today have yet to have a real encounter with Jesus.

Even in the gospels, we see that Peter had 3 encounters with Jesus, before the stark reality of who Jesus is, finally hit him. The first was when his brother Andrew brought him to meet Jesus. The second was when Jesus healed people and cast demons out of people in his mother’s place .. or was it his mother in law’s place in Capernaum? The first two encounters made no impact on him at all, it seems. It was the 3rd encounter, when he caught no fish at all, after a whole night of fishing – you know the story – that’s when he finally gave his life to Jesus. What was it that finally opened the eyes of Peter? Something for us to think about.

Having given you the 4 questions approach, I must share with you how I came to know the Lord. When I first heard the gospel, all that my friend told me about why Jesus died on the cross for me, actually made no sense at all to me. But when he told me that God has been waiting for me for a long time, waiting for me to return to Him, it was like God Himself spoke those very words into my heart at that very moment. Later that night, alone by myself, I got down on my knees and gave my life to the Lord. Not just accept Christ so that I can be saved. In fact I wasn’t even thinking much about hell or that I needed to be saved from anything. In my case I actually heard God calling me to Him and I surrendered my life to Him.

BTW, I was once in a missions conference .. this was many, many years ago, and the speaker asked how many in the audience came to Christ and gave their lives to Christ when they first heard the gospel. There were only 2 hands that went up among more than a thousand people there. One was mine and then there was another guy. We were the exception. Usually people take longer before they come to the place of surrender. But the point is this, at the end of the day, it’s not a question of being convinced in the mind. Every person needs to have an encounter with God and hear Him calling them to Himself.

These are transcripts of audio messages so they are better heard than read. If you would like to listen to them, the audio clips can be found here : https://goo.gl/KN4JYL  . It’s a folder on googledrive, so you’ll need to sign in with your google account username and password (or sign up for a google account) to be able to access it