I have known for a while that I had to write this book because well-intentioned people have quieted a message once announced to the ages as the greatest news ever heard, hushing it to back room whispers. This momentous announcement, the hope-filled call to the entire created order, has been silenced. And now, lesser messages have replaced the universal Kingdom proclamation of freedom and liberation once shouted from the rooftops and shared in wild excitement from person to person in busy cities and towns around the world. The great message of the Kingdom of God, the reason for which Jesus was sent to earth, has become but a faint whisper among the loud and empty choruses that fill the air and compete for attention in our churches.
Scattered throughout the centuries, men and women heard the message of the Kingdom of God as they met in their homes and were transformed in every aspect of their lives. The same people made unending attempts to proclaim and demonstrate the Kingdom message to those within the Church, only to find that the majority view this Kingdom message as just another option on the infinite smorgasbord of competing messages delivered each Sunday. The Good News of the Kingdom of God has turned into echoes bouncing off of the seemingly impenetrable and mighty church walls with very few Christians knowing anything about it.
It is time to stop standing outside of the church buildings hoping that our brothers and sisters will finally hear the message of the Kingdom. The truth is that it is time for the message of the Kingdom of God to be heard by every person around the world, and most importantly, every follower of Christ. But first, it must break into our churches so that every man, woman, and child can finally hear and understand it clearly. The great announcement, the hope-filled call to the created order, the universal proclamation of the Kingdom of God is breaking in and thundering like a deafening, crashing wave and it cannot be silenced. The message of the Kingdom of God is here and it must be heard by all!
This message of the Kingdom of God is one for the common man and the common woman. It is an announcement for the rich and poor, the slave and free. It is a proclamation for the kings and queens, the presidents and magistrates, the subjects and the peasants. It is a call to the African, Asian, European, American, to each and every race, nation, tribe, and tongue. It is the great emancipation proclamation for those within the religious institutions and denominations, inviting the Baptist, the Methodist, the Lutheran, the Catholic, the conservative, the liberal, and every single man, woman, and child who call Jesus as Lord out of petty division and into unity. It is the greatest clarion call in history for humanity and an irresistible beckoning call for peace and justice, forgiveness and mercy, reconciliation and unity, and above all else, love. If you have ears, you must hear. The time has come to hear about the Kingdom of God!
Humanity has never been more ready for such a great and transformative message to break into our world and be embodied in thought, action, and deed. We have been looking for and trusting those things that we can see, but are just now starting to realize that those things fail and do not last. We have put too much faith and trust in our governments and leaders and have come to realize they are full of promises that fail us and that are never delivered upon. We mistakenly look to them for freedom and find ourselves oppressed…and even more, depressed. We trust in their moral judgment and character, yet we move from headline to headline of moral failure, infidelity, and special interest. The cycle never ends. It continues over and over and over. From year to year, from decade to decade, from century to century, the cycle continues.
We continue to entrust those who can’t be trusted, and empower those who take power from the already powerless. We become cynical and jaded, wondering if anything at all deserves our faith and trust. We have become the cynics and the skeptics, questioning every system and power structure, every politician and every leader, but we are prone to folly and easily fall prey to the next talking-head offering sweet lip-service.
Our stupor and fancy fades and comes crashing back to reality as we become more embittered and encrusted than we have ever been. We look around the globe and see nation after nation and government after government in disarray and in the midst of upheaval. The populace is unsettled and is rising up against the inequity and heavy hand of the powerful and controlling elites. In the midst of the struggle, people are rising up within their countries against tyranny and oppression. We intuitively know that there is such a thing as justice, yet it always seems to slip through our fingertips. But we continue to hunger for it. We continue to long for it. We continue to strive for it. We are just not sure from where it will come, but we are finally waking up to the reality that it won’t come from any one person or government.
Ironically, our money and economies are just as uncertain as our leaders and our governments. The financial powerbrokers loan and invest money in order to make more money on the backs of the lowest income earners. And, when their schemes fall short, they reach behind the backs of the distracted, hard-working wage earner and pull more money out of his pockets. All of this while the politicians continue to spend into oblivion on our behalf, sinking us further and further into debt. We can’t seem to stop them or their wild and out-of-control deficit-driven mania.
As a result, nations float belly up because their currencies are worthless. Global currency funds, nations, states, cities, and towns warn that they are out of money. Unemployment continues to rise with no end in sight. Our nations continue to borrow into oblivion, not just on the backs of the oppressed wage earner but now on the backs of our children and grandchildren.
State cries out to the nation. The nation cries out to other nations. We stand witness to nations suffering through their own internal struggles, while the down-trodden and weary populace hopes and prays there will be another country or leader who will come to the rescue, but it never seems to materialize. We are our own worst enemy, setting ourselves up for a crash of monumental proportions. And we all just sit on the brink, wondering if this is really what it is all about. Seriously, is this what it is all about?
If we have not had enough internal struggles, we are certainly having our fill of external struggles. Countries are threatening other countries. Nations are fighting against other nations. Kingdoms are rising up and aligning with each other against threats, enemies, and other aggressors. It is impossible to escape the minute-by-minute news coverage that is littered with threats and the possibilities of war, as if to remind us that the pursuit of peace can only come at the cost of human life. To that end, we war on. There is not a day that goes by without another bombing or missile test. Everyone sits on the edge of his seat anticipating the moment when the Middle East blows up and leads the world into another World War. Weapons arsenals are built up, uranium is enriched, and the world waits anxiously, still longing for justice and now wondering if we will ever experience world peace.
While the nations stockpile weapons and spend trillions of dollars every year to maintain and improve upon their weaponry, nearly a billion people around the globe are hungry. Even more indicting is the fact that every day about 16,000 children die from starvation. We create weapons to keep our “enemies” from killing people, yet we are comfortable letting 16,000 children die every day (one every five seconds)![i]
But it isn’t just the lack of food and water, it is the absence of sustainable life and the increasing number of people globally who are severely poverty-stricken and ravaged by disease. The wealthiest people and nations in the world have the means to eradicate hunger, poverty, and disease, yet in the lap of luxury the problems of the world seem like trivial inconveniences. Ironically, governments and world bodies promise to eradicate these problems, yet the problems only seem to get worse. The world is upside-down in all the wrong ways, and we wonder if there is any reason to have hope. The sad and tragic reality is that hopeless men, women, and children are giving up every day.
There are so many ways to describe the way we feel about what is happening in our world. One could say the pressure continues to build like a heart attack waiting to happen. It is palpable and we can feel it coming on. Another could say that we have a strange and uneasy feeling in our collective gut. The world seems to be wildly out of control and we can feel it churning. Even another might say it is like a pregnant woman whose birth pains and contractions continue to increase from week to week and then from day to day, until the labor pain no longer pauses. You feel the contractions. You feel the pain. You know that something is coming. No matter where you are in the world, or how you describe it, it seems to all of us as if we are careening into a future in which we hardly know what to do or where to turn.
We have turned away from those who ought to help us make sense of this upside-down world. In our churches, we have found an identity crisis which has led to a largely untransformed people who lack identity and purpose in our communities and in the larger world. Our churches profess to have all the answers, but yet we remain untransformed in our living, looking no different than those who aren’t a part of the Church. Sadly enough, we seem to be more concerned about being the means to our own end rather than a part of the solution. This, many times, takes on the form of self-interested pursuits in the Church rather than the form of selfless pursuits through the Church.
That is not to say that there are not amazing and godly followers of Jesus scattered throughout our churches, who are the very hands and feet of Christ in the world. But we would be amiss not to recognize the great problem of the Church in the world. The Church has lost its true identity and purpose in and for the world, and we do not even know where to look in order to regain our identity and purpose. We are like the proverbial dog chasing its tail, but never quite able to catch it. The Church does not recognize that the things we foolishly chase around in circles are not the things we need in the first place, and they are certainly not the things in which a lost and cynical world will find hope, faith, and trust.
So where in the world do we turn for help? Do we turn to our political leaders who are nothing more than human beings themselves, prone to error, mistake, special interest, and missing the point? Do we turn to our governments who continue to take more power and liberty from the individual while confusing freedom for oppression? Do we look to other nations and other leaders and pray that somehow, someway, someone has the answers and solutions, only to have the rug pulled out from under us again? Do we turn back to the often judgmental and superficial religious institutions that have lost relevance because of their commercialism, apathy, judgmentalism, and hypocrisy? Do we turn to the same people, institutions, bureaucracies, and governments who have been responsible for the global inequities, crises, and problems that we face? To whom do we turn?
The questions we ask are age old questions. Every generation has experienced the cyclical pattern of human triumph and failure. It is in the times of our greatest failure to each other when we begin to wonder what it is all about and how it all ends. When we long for justice, when we seek peace, when all we have is hope, we wonder where we ought to look to find the answer. When it seems as if the light passing from the sun to earth is slowly being eclipsed and then blocked by the moon, we stand in darkness and wonder when the eclipse will end and the light will finally break through again.
A great light is again breaking through into the darkness. For what was hidden and lost in the darkness has now been exposed to the light and found. The great treasure that had been buried under a mound of earth in a desolate field has been discovered and purchased and is now ready to be shared with the world. The treasure that will give the Church identity and purpose has been found and it is precisely the reason Jesus was sent to this earth- to preach and proclaim the Kingdom of God! For Jesus said himself, “The good news of the Kingdom of God will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations.” The Kingdom of God shapes the identity of every single follower of Jesus Christ and defines our purpose and preoccupation each day that we are alive and with every breath that we take.
We stand together on this ground with shovels in hand ready to unearth and reclaim the great and transformative message of the Kingdom of God that has been buried for too long, and the world waits in eager anticipation for the riches of this Kingdom to be revealed.
Again, a wondrous pearl of the greatest and highest value that had been lost in a pile of lesser trinkets and cheap jewelry has been found and purchased by a generous merchant. He is setting it richly in preparation for the Great Marriage of the Bride and Bridegroom. The King is sending his messengers to deliver the invitations and the banquet hall doors are opening wide as all of creation waits with eager expectation to sing a new song in one accord.
So rise up and let all of the created order hear your voices! Open wide the church doors and fill the streets! Run into the neighborhoods and wake those who have been sleeping! Wake up sleepers, arise! Flood the highways, the byways, the alleyways and proclaim, “The time has come! The time has come! The Kingdom of God has come near! Be transformed and believe the Good News of Jesus Christ that was once hidden but has now been found!”
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[i] State of Food Insecurity in the World, 2008 FAO.”Food Security Statistics”. www.fao.org/es/ess/faostat/foodsecurity/index_en.htm