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Equipping followers of Christ to engage in their everyday work as the work of God, so workplaces are invigorated, communities flourish and culture is renewed to the honor and glory of the Lord.

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Friday, January 29, 2010

What “Good News” Are We Talking About?

The word “Gospel” means “Good News.” But what “Good News” are we talking about?

For most of my life, when I heard the word “Gospel,” I reduced it to this: “Jesus died for the sins of the world so people can be forgiven and go to heaven when they die.” (John 3:16)

That statement is very true, and I’m eternally grateful for this reality! But is personal salvation what the Good News is all about?

Salvation of souls is an important part of the Good News, for sure. But reducing the Good News to a matter of souls and the state of those souls in the afterlife fails to encompass the far-reaching meaning of the word Gospel.

The Good News Jesus preached was the Good News of the Kingdom. He told Nicodemus one night, "Ye must be born again," and this is a fact. We must be. But is this the complete Good News?

The far-reaching thrust of the Kingdom, basically, is this:

The Kingdom of God is demonstrated via the bodily incarnation of Christ. This Kingdom keeps on "coming” [being "realized," "actualized," or "demonstrated"] via the on-going expression of Christ’s life through a great body of everyday people who have been forgiven and reconciled to God through faith in Christ's sacrificial death on their behalf. These people are indwelt by the Holy Spirit for the continuing purpose of being "ministers of reconciliation" of all things to God--including Earth things. (Col. 1:17-20, II Cor. 5:17-20, Matthew 6:9-10)

That's Good News! The ramifications of this for the workplace are enormous!

Here we have not only Good News for the soul, but Good News for the real estate market (as Jack vanHartesvelt demonstrated), artwork and carpentry, as followers of Christ reconcile all things to God (including their work things), "actualizing" or "demonstrating" His Kingdom right where we live and work.

This Kingdom is incarnational, whereby the Spirit of God flows through Christ's many-membered Body of redeemed people around the globe who are driving trucks, selling shoes and managing IRA accounts in the here-and-now, just like the Spirit flowed through Christ's single body 2000 years ago in Palestine--while working with wood in His shop, or preaching to thousands.

When I hear the word "Gospel," I think "Kingdom incarnated," and that's Good News!

Please view Paul Stevens' comments on the Gospel of the Kingdom: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VitIItMXKc0

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Friday, January 22, 2010

To Observe All That I Commanded You

Why did God create humans?

We won’t know the complete answer until we see Jesus.

But the functional reason God created humans is no mystery. It is spelled out in the first chapter of the Bible. God created us with one functional purpose in mind: to rule over the earth and all it contains.

The First Commission [Genesis 1:26-28] provides a compelling rationale for daily work. For Joe the carpenter, for Bev the realtor, for Peter the pilot, and Bonnie the business executive.

“But,” some may ask, “don’t followers of Christ have another commission that is more important than the First Commission? In a Fallen world, doesn’t the ‘Great Commission’ of Matthew 28:18-20 trump the 'First Commission' of Genesis 1? Doesn’t the Great give us a higher reason for living than the First?”

I was at a table with a group of Christ-followers at a conference not long ago, when a woman across the table declared: “My only purpose in life is to see souls saved.”

The question I would ask her is, “Why?"

So people won’t go to hell when they die?

I don’t mean to imply hell is not an issue. But there is a reason for saving souls that aligns more closely with the Great Commission itself, namely: so people can engage in the First Commission in a way God intended from the beginning.

The Great Commission says: "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." [NASB]

I don’t believe the Great Commission trumps the First Commission, because I see them both having the same intent. The Great Commission provides the means by which the First Commission is fulfilled in a Fallen world. The Great provides the gateway for people to rightly engage in the First. It gets us back on track.

In what more splendid circumstance can we "observe all that Christ commanded” than while fulfilling the First Commission in our work? That's what work is about.

The Great Commission has more to do with what happens on earth than what happens after we die.

And this casts the word Gospel in extraordinary light.

Continued…

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Friday, January 15, 2010

Polar Opposites

A reader of this blog had difficulty with my use of the word “actualization” in connection with the Kingdom of God last week.

She had no problem with the idea that God’s Kingdom is “realized” when people align themselves with God’s will. But the phrase “Kingdom actualization” didn’t fly. My use of the term seemed to contradict the truth of the Kingdom’s present reality. After all, the Kingdom is “actual” whether people align themselves with it or not.

True. The Kingdom is reality, whether people align with it or not. It is an “actual” Kingdom, and not dependent upon humans to be “actualized.”

But there is a reason I use the phrase “Kingdom actualization.”

If you google “self actualization,” you will find many references to this term as it is used by psychologists. It was first coined by Kurt Goldstein to describe “the motive to realize all of one's potentialities.” It described the “master motive” of a person, or “the only real motive a person has."

The term “self actualization” was later popularized by Abraham Maslow, a famous psychologist who included the term in his so-called “hierarchy of needs” theory. “Self actualization” is “the final level of psychological development that can be achieved when all basic and mental needs are fulfilled and the ‘actualization’ of the full personal potential takes place.” (See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Self_actualization.)

Every college freshman taking Psychology 101 learns about Maslow’s theory of “self actualization.” But Maslow’s theory is secularized to the core. God has no honored place in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. As the very term “self actualization” connotes, "it's all about me.”

I’m of the opinion that the highest of all human needs is not “self actualization of human potential,” but “Kingdom actualization of God’s will being done through us.” This is what “Kingdom actualization” is about. It's all about Him. His Kingdom is what we "seek first" (Matthew 6:33).

Along with “Kingdom actualization” comes the amazing realization of why God created us, how we fit into His design for our lives, and His reason for sustaining our next breath.

The term “Kingdom actualization” and the term "self actualization" are polar opposites. I'm using the former to supplant the latter.

"Kingdom actualization" may not make it into psychology books, but it makes more sense to me than Maslow's idea ever did.

"Self-actualization" rings hollow.

“Kingdom actualization” is humanity's highest need, privilege and joy.

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Friday, January 8, 2010

Kingdom "Actualization"

Last week we saw Jack vanHartesvelt aligning his real estate dealings with the will of God. He reconciled what he is doing on Monday morning with what he is hearing on Sunday morning. (See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KJRU2EEqcaQ for Jack's story.)

When Jack started doing this, the Kingdom of God “came to light” in his workplace. As a result, people’s lives were touched. Transformation occurred. Over time, the city of New Orleans was blessed by a man who had been stirred through the way Jack handled business. (Sounds like that great film, It’s A Wonderful Life, doesn’t it?)

What do I mean when I say the Kingdom “came to light” in Jack’s workplace? The Kingdom of God was already there, wasn’t it? Doesn’t the earth and all it contains presently belong to God (Ps. 24:1)? Isn’t God exalted as head over all (I Chron. 29:11) presently? Isn’t Jesus presently Lord of all (Acts 10:36)?

Yes! So why did Jesus teach His disciples to pray, "Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven?”

We have such a difficult time holding this truth in tension. If the Kingdom of God is already present (Jesus is Lord), why does it need to come?

Here is how I manage this tension: I see the whole world as God’s "turf." The “field” is His (Matt 13:24-43), the earth and all it contains presently belongs to God (Ps. 24:1), and Jesus is Lord of all, right now. His Kingdom is as broad as creation is wide! At the same time, things happen in this present Kingdom that are in conflict with the King, or, "out of alignment" with God. Lots of things on earth need to be reconciled to God, including the way we handle real estate. (Remember 2008!)

But when a follower of Christ, like Jack, by the grace of God applies the "ministry of reconciliation" to a situation, and the will of God is done, the Kingdom is "actualized." It is "realized." It “comes."

Yes, legally and geographically, the present Kingdom is already here. But until it is recognized and submitted to, it remains “hidden.”

The Kingdom will fully come when Christ returns. But in the meantime, Kingdom "actualization" occurs through human recognition of the Kingdom and submission to the King right now.

God’s Kingdom [though always present] "comes to light" when God's will is done.

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Friday, January 1, 2010

The Ministry Of Reconciliation

Each month, I go through the same personal ritual of reconciliation: I reconcile my checkbook with my bank statement.

When the bottom line of my checkbook is in alignment with my bank statement, I’m at peace with my bank. But when the bottom line of my checkbook does not align with my bank statement, I groan inside. I don’t feel good. I can’t rest until I reconcile my checkbook with the bank statement.

On one occasion when my checkbook did not align with what my bank was telling me, after repeatedly going over my arithmetic (I mean repeatedly), I was convinced the bank was in error.

I took my checkbook along with the bank statement to my local branch, and sat down with an employee who had the ministry of reconciliation.

To my astonishment, when this gifted person found the problem, it was as plain as the nose on my face. And the egg on my face was very plain, too. The sin was clearly mine! Admittedly, I was a bit embarrassed, but down deep it felt good to have my checkbook reconciled with the bank. I was at peace with the Bank of America.

Last week I made reference to II Cor. 5:17-20 and Col. 1:17-20, where we find that followers of Christ have been given “the message of reconciliation.” Here we see Christians having the ministry of reconciliation between people and God.

Wow! But that’s not all the reconciliation Paul mentions. He writes about reconciliation between God and “all things,” in heaven and on earth (Col. 1:20).

Things? Not just people?

What things on earth need to be reconciled to God?

Actually, everything on earth needs to be reconciled (or, "aligned") with God! This includes all work-related things. Things like how we repairs automobiles, how we sell clothing, and how we manage civil affairs.

One great example of a follower of Christ reconciling his work-related things to God, is Jack vanHartesvelt.

Jack buys and sells multi-million-dollar hotels for an investment firm. About a week prior to my video taping of Jack in his Seattle office, his firm was involved in the selling of a Manhattan hotel--for one million dollars per room.

Buying and selling hotels? Can this “thing” be counted among the "all things" on earth to be reconciled to God?

Watch Jack's compelling story, and let me know what you think.

Click: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KJRU2EEqcaQ

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