Entering The Kingdom

In my travels I have often seen signs that say “You are now entering…” such and such a place. So, imagine a sign that advised you “You are now entering The Kingdom of God!”

When you enter a new country you often notice physical and social differences. These can be quite striking. Back in 2005 I travelled by bus from Macedonia into Kosovo. At that time Kosovo was under UN control. Macedonia was a former communist state which had no revolution to oust the communist system. As a result the old guard simply changed their name and tried to live by a free market system.

However the air of oppression in Macedonia was obvious. Our bus driver upset one of the police at a checkpoint and so we were detained for 40 minutes while he was stuck in an office getting a stern lecture. The air of unbridled authority and punitive treatment was striking. The place felt like a police state.

Once we crossed into Kosovo the very air seemed brighter. The driver opened a box of chocolates and shared them with the passengers. There was celebration in the air, even though there had been killings in the town of Ferijai where I was bound.

Kingdom of God

Imagine entering the Kingdom of God! What would the atmosphere be like there? How striking would be the difference in culture and atmosphere as you crossed the border!

And just as you must cross a border or go through some entrance to move to a new country or a new place or area, you also need to ‘enter’ God’s Kingdom.

But God’s Kingdom is not a physical place. It is something that you enter into independently of your physical location. You enter the Kingdom by faith. So, you end up as a dual-citizen. You have an earthly nationality and place, but you also have heavenly citizenship.

Your citizenship in the Kingdom of God is far more valuable and far more significant to your existence than any earthly citizenship you can possess.

Excursions

Because Christians have a dual citizenship, living in the world, but not being of the world, each one determines the degree to which they enter the Kingdom.

Some people have heavenly citizenship but hardly ever explore their new kingdom. They stay in the constraints of the world system in which they live. They remain bound by the prince of this world, controlled by his manipulation of the culture and his intimidation of Christians.

Yet others make occasional excursions into the Kingdom of God, in a similar way to taking a vacation. They see the Kingdom as very wonderful, but not the place to stay if you need to earn an income, raise a family, build your career, grow an investment base, have a vibrant social life, and imbibe all the treats this world has to offer.

Many Christians, therefore, end up with little knowledge of the land of their citizenship: God’s Kingdom. They read about it, in the way people flip through holiday brochures. They learn about it and can tell others about the delights of being there. However, they themselves are seldom caught in God’s Kingdom.

Kingdom at Hand

Jesus Christ brought the Kingdom of God into close proximity to man. He did that by bringing the grace of God, the spiritual riches that are ours from God, to people on earth. The Kingdom is no mere sentimental concept or tales of “pie in the sky when you die”. Instead, the Kingdom of God has immediate and tangible impact on people’s lives, including physical healing and release from demonic control.

Jesus sent His disciples to heal the sick as an expression of the Kingdom. And He said that by casting devils out of people He was bringing the Kingdom of God close to people.

“Heal the sick there and say to them, The kingdom of God is come close to you.” Luke 10:9

“If I cast out devils with the finger of God, no doubt the kingdom of God is come to you.” Luke 11:20

The connection between God’s Kingdom and tangible impact in people’s lives was well summarised by the Apostle Paul. “For the kingdom of God is not in word, but in power.” 1Corinthians 4:20

Close Encounters

Most Christians today shy away from the Kingdom of God, by shying away from the Power of God at work in their life. It’s like people going into a restaurant and inspecting the meals. They even sniff the aroma and think how wonderful it would be to enjoy the food. Then they walk out, not having eaten anything.

Christians know all about Jesus and the disciples healing the sick and casting out demons. They know those things were commonplace in the early church, at the hands or ordinary Christians, as Jesus promised. They love the idea of such power and grace. They sing about it and make sure their children learn all about it. But they never expect the Kingdom of God to have tangible impact in or near them.

That is why Christians make short excursions into the Kingdom, having close encounters from time to time, but quickly withdrawing to the safety of that which is familiar to them. However, what is familiar and comfortable to them is not the Kingdom of God, where miracles take place around them, but the world, where men live outside of God’s grace and power.

Claiming the Kingdom

Jesus revealed that it is possible for people to interact with the Kingdom of God to different degrees. Some saw the power of God and yet not receive anything from God’s Kingdom, because various things kept them from going to or believing in Jesus. Others came to Jesus with their specific requests, and Jesus answered them, with healing, deliverance and the like.

Yet others, Jesus taught, were so determined to get the benefits of the Kingdom of God that they virtually stormed the Kingdom, taking it by force.

“From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence (is pressed upon), and the violent (determined) take it by force.” Matthew 11:12

Each individual Christian has a different level of engagement with God’s Kingdom. Those who are determined to claim the Kingdom get the most out of it.

Will Ye Enter

Have you entered the Kingdom of God? Do you live there, or just visit from time to time?

Have you pressed in to claim all the wonder and power of God’s Kingdom, or are you just content to take a few photographs of the nice scenery?

What is it that keeps drawing you out of the Kingdom, back into the realm where unregenerate people who know nothing of God’s love, power and grace feel comfortable? Why do you so cherish that realm? What hold does it have over you? Why do you not love and hunger for all the power and reality of God’s Kingdom?

Will you enter God’s Kingdom? Will you remain there, pressing in for all that God has for you?

Sister Etter and the Miracles

This is the day that … Maria Woodworth-Etter was born in Ohio, in 1844.

Roberts Liardon refers to her as “the grandmother of the Pentecostal movement” (God’s Generals, page 47).

In her autobiography she tells how she was converted whilst “going under the water” at her baptism. She was 13 years of age (page 7). Almost immediately she says she heard God’s call to preach – and this in a day when women preachers were frowned upon.

Marriage to P.H. Woodworth resulted in six children being born, five of whom died in childhood. Nor did her husband share her desire for ministry. She divorced her first husband (1891) and married Samuel Etter in 1902.

Sister Etter, as she was known, preached to thousands, sharing the gospel and praying for the sick. Significant for hundreds and even thousands in her meetings was the experience of falling in a trance, akin to the frontier meetings of an earlier time.

In her preaching ‘holiness’ was her initial emphasis. By 1885 she claimed 500 were converted every week at her meetings. Then she began to emphasise ‘tongues’ and ‘healing’. Thousands flocking to her 8000-seat tent meetings.

She wrote many books – including one that foretold the destruction of San Francisco by a tidal wave in 1890! “Thousands fled to the hills because of her prophecy” (Dictionary of Pentecostalism and Charismatic Movements, page 901). Her book, Acts of the Holy Ghost, impacted many who held it as one of their most treasured texts. One of the Cambridge Seven missionaries, Stanley Smith, gave such testimony.

And most odd were her trances. Sometimes during a service she would “stand like a statue for an hour or more with her hands raised…” (ibid, page 901). To her, “lack of physical manifestation was a sign of apostasy!” (God’s Generals, page 55).

Healing people by “punching them in the stomach” or “whacking them in the neck” was one of her methods (page 73). It is believed Smith Wigglesworth adopted this method from her. He preached in her Tabernacle in Indianapolis after her death.

Whatever one’s theological leaning, Maria Woodworth-Etter must be regarded as one of the most interesting and influential figures in the history of Christendom. She proclaimed the Pentecostal message before Azusa Street and the emergence of the organised Pentecostal groups. Her miracles, preaching and impact did much to open people’s eyes to the restoration of New Testament manifestations of the Holy Spirit.

For a more detailed account of her life and ministry visit: http://enrichmentjournal.ag.org/199901/086_woodsworth_etter.cfm

This post is based on the work of my late friend Donald Prout whose love for books and Christian history led him to collate a daily Christian calendar. I continue to work with Don’s wife, Barbara, to share his life work with the world. I have updated some of these historical posts and will hopefully draw from Don’s huge files of clippings to continue this series beyond Don’s original work. More of Don’s work can be found at www.donaldprout.com.

Faith Ignores the Evidence

As I toss the subject of faith around in my head and heart I enjoy fresh insights from the Word of God. Here’s one that jumped to my attention in the past few days. Faith ignores the evidence. I have that on good Biblical grounds, too, so don’t go getting all hoity-toity about me going off on some esoteric hype-faith tangent. I’m interested in Real Faith that can be activated by real people of God. It has to work for me, and be anchored in the pages of the Bible. It has to be something I can get a grip on and teach to others.

So, take a look and see for yourself. One of the qualities of faith is its ability to ignore the evidence.

When we face a challenge it is indeed the very tangible evidence that makes the challenge. Something will be against us, in real tangible terms. That obstacle is our faith challenge. When our faith breaks through and we get the answer to our prayer then the physical, tangible, evidential stuff will be thrown aside and replaced with God’s miraculous provision.

Sickness will give way to health. All those medical charts, specialist reports and sincere prognoses will be worth less than the paper they are printed on. Not because they weren’t excellent and professional, but because God breaks through and brings health that overturns all the claims they accurately make. Lumps will disappear, cancers will be gone, imbalances will rectify, body parts will be re-created. So the evidence, as seen in the medical reports, is not the place to look for the future. That evidence will soon be superseded with God’s miracle.

What about a financial need. All the pages of calculations, contingency plans, garage sale advertisements or whatever, become of no consequence when God comes through with His provision.

People of faith don’t preoccupy themselves with the evidence; they ignore the evidence as they press in for God’s overthrow of the current situation.

OK, you’ve been patient with me. But I hear you tapping your foot, saying “Chapter and Verse!”

Let me choose as my reference point the most authoritative man of faith in the Bible. One man, of the many who lived by faith, is the father of all of us who have faith. He is the man whose faith was credited to him as righteousness, making him the model for all Christians who put their faith in Jesus Christ and are able to be declared righteous as a result. That man is Abraham.

Abraham was given the promise of a son from his own body, when he was an old, childless man. Abraham decided to believe God’s promise, even though the evidence was solidly against him. That act of faith is the most celebrated act of faith in all human history.

So, take a look and see that Abraham, the father of all who have faith, as part of being a man of faith, IGNORED THE EVIDENCE! (Oops, I’m shouting. Excuse me.)

“And being not weak in faith, he considered not his own body now dead, when he was about an hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sara’s womb” Romans 4:19

Abraham had two insurmountable obstacles to God’s fulfillment of the promise made to him. Abraham was about 100 years old and Sarah’s womb had stopped its monthly cycle. There was no more ovulation from Sarah’s body.

Did you see what Abraham did with this evidence? Abraham IGNORED it! Abraham did not give a thought to his own prolonged age, nor did he give a thought to the fact that Sarah was now past giving birth. Abraham, in showing us how to be people of faith, ignored the evidence!

The thing that will trip up your faith walk is the evidence. Just as Peter, while walking on the water took notice of the evidence and began to sink, we too can move away from faith when the evidence is too clearly in our view.

That’s why it can be an important step in your faith journey to take your eyes off the evidence and place them on God’s Word. God calls things into existence that don’t exist – so there will be no evidence of them being there until the miracle takes place. So don’t waste your time looking at the evidence. Spend your time pressing in to God.

Look at how Abraham understood God to be…. “before him whom he believed, even God, who quickens the dead, and calls those things which don’t exist as though they do exist.” Romans 4:17.

Abraham knew that with God nothing is impossible. So, in such a case, the physical tangible evidence is of no real concern.

Note: I’m not suggesting that you drink deadly poison, or deny urgent medical attention, or similarly act in a life endangering way. I’m directing you to a Biblical reality, that people of faith are able to look past the evidence and see the promise of God. If you have the faith to do what is daring, then that is between you and God. I’m simply stirring up your faith, and prompting you to step out with faith in God rather than being pulled under by your view of the evidence.

You’re Not Dead Yet

There is still hope for you yet. In fact there is going to be hope for you until the day you die. You may have given up already and others may have written you off, but “you ain’t dead yet!” and so there’s still plenty of hope for you and your situation.

Death was once defined as “the cessation of all radical change”. When I tried to track down that definition I couldn’t find it, but it catches the idea that as long as someone is alive they are able to make significant change to who and what they are.

A sinner can choose to put their faith in Christ even as they slip from life. Until death has made its final blow people are open to change, even quite radical change.

So, if you’re still breathing there is hope for you and the mess you are in.

Sadly we make the assumption we are locked into things and we endure our circumstances as if they are unchangeable. We see ourselves as unchangeable too.

But, as I’ve said already, “You’re not dead yet”!

History is littered with testimony of people who made significant, revolutionary and unexpected change. The power of God changes people. The grace of God changes people. A wake-up shake-up can cause people to take action they have kept avoiding. New insights have empowered people to make changes they previously thought impossible.

So, cheer up. You ain’t dead yet! Today is jam packed with miracle potential. You can change the rest of your life, the future of your descendents and even eternal destinies by what you choose to do today.

Aren’t you glad you’re alive?

Man Raised From the Dead in Melbourne 2 Days Ago

Early Tuesday afternoon I received an email from a friend with the amazing news that a man had been raised from the dead in a suburban shopping centre in Melbourne. Yesterday, as a further development on this news, I met the brother of the woman who prayed for the miracle and he confirms that this event did take place. So now I’m passing on the details to you. (note: since the initial posting of this report I have spoken with the woman who prayed for the man and have refined the detail)

At the Endeavour Hills Shopping Centre in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne on Monday June 30 a man collapsed in the open walkway area of the centre. The man was in his mid 50’s (estimated) and on his own.

A Christian lady, Pastor Nais Grant, was nearby when the man collapsed. She began praying for the man, as others gathered around and some members of the public began CPR (cardio-pulmonary resuscitation) in attempt to get his heart beating again. Blood had come from the man’s mouth and he had stopped breathing. The man gave a few breaths then became listless and unresponsive.

Another lady came up to the pastor and asked if she was praying and if she was praying in tongues. The pastor said she was. The lady said she too was a Christian and had been watching the reports of miracles happening in Florida. This newcomer suggested that they should pray for the man to live.

The paramedics arrived and gave oxygen while also continuing to give CPR. They were unable to revive the man. The pastor asked the paramedics if it is OK to pray for the man. She was told that the efforts of the paramedics were doing no good, so they were welcome to try. The ambulance officers could not reactivate any signs of life.

Nais prayed out loud, rebuking the spirit of death and calling for the man to revive. After a short period of time the medical officers pronounce the man dead. His skin was grey and mottled in appearance.

The two ladies continued to pray for the man and about six minutes after the man was pronounced dead he began breathing and his heartbeat was restored.

The medical officers, more than surprised, checked the man and confirmed that he was revived.

Because of the seriousness of the event the man was transported by ambulance to Hospital for thorough checking. The time span from the man dropping dead and having his pulse and breathing restored was at least 20 minutes.

It seems we are seeing the early stages of a long awaited season of power. In the 1970’s I heard preachers talking about how the power of God was up until then very much the preserve of a small number of people. Those people, consequently, became something like super-stars. Kathryn Kuhlman, Oral Roberts, Aimee Semple-McPherson, Sister Etter, T L Osborne and others were members of an elite group who were recognised for the healings which attended their ministry.

Then in the 1970’s people began prophesying that the day of the big name was past and that God was going to empower ordinary Christians to do what the big name preachers were doing. This is consistent with the words of Christ in Mark 16:17,18 – “these signs will follow those who believe – they will lay hands on the sick and they will recover”.

Bethel Church in Redding, California is probably the best known place for the current promotion of ordinary Christians into powerful ministry. Pastor Bill Johnson encourages his whole congregation to look for opportunities to move in the power of God. Testimonies of ordinary people doing extraordinary things have been widely promoted. If you are not aware of this, have a look at the YouTube video clip from CBN, at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fw-0wR87okY

Add to that the current miracle reports which have spilled out across the globe in the wake of what is happening in Lakeland Florida, under the ministry of Todd Bentley, and this seems to be a season of the release of healing and miracles.

If so, then what are the implications for us? What are we to expect next?