Milktoast Christianity

Do you want to know what’s wrong with America and the world at large?

I’ll tell you.

Very early in the church, from its foundation, we were taught how to “preach the gospel,” how to “save souls,” but never did we learn how to disciple nations (Matt. 28:19-20). From the beginning, His people were to be a kingdom of priests (Ex. 19:5-6), but they were afraid and changed the contract: “Speak to us yourself, and we will listen, but do not have God speak to us, or we will die!” (Ex. 20:19).

What do you think He meant when He said, “the government will be on His shoulders” (Isa. 9:6)? Did you think Jesus was going to come down to earth and run things from day one, or did you think God wanted us to go to hell in a handbasket until the 1,000-year reign of Messiah?

No, neither.

We are the body, He is the head, and the government was designed to rest on His shoulders. But mistakes were made, and consequently – at the end of this age – we have a global society filled with milktoast Christians who are comfortable tolerating things worse than a bogus POTUS and Watergate-esque corruption.

Many of this generation’s Christians shall pass in their tribulation: we are likened to the Israelites that crossed the red sea, to those who would not enter, who would instead take orders from a preacher than enter into a real relationship with their King.

You need to decide this: will you be a complainer and a sitter, or will you be a Joshua or a Caleb in the days to come? Are you willing to choose something new?

But what is God’s answer to him? “I have kept for myself seven thousand men who have not knelt down to Ba‘al.” It’s the same way in the present age: there is a remnant, chosen by grace. 

Romans 11:4-5

Seeking first the Kingdom of God – Part II

But seek first his Kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.  

(Matthew 6:33)

What is the Kingdom of God?

the Kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness, shalom and joy in the Ruach HaKodesh. 

(Romans 14:17 CJB)
the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit 

(NASB)

I once heard someone say that the Kingdom of God is the Holy Spirit. That is a simplistic view; it is not entirely incorrect, neither is it entirely correct. It is better to focus on righteousness, peace, and joy, and work backward from there.

Recall that everything we do can be manufactured from any spirit we choose to align ourselves from. We can choose happiness in a legalistic spirit or joy in a religious spirit. We can find joy in evil:

Don’t let those who are wrongfully my enemies
gloat over me;
and those who hate me unprovoked —
don’t let them smirk at me. 

(Psalm 35:19)
For I said, “May they not rejoice over me,
Who, when my foot slips, would exalt themselves over me.”

(Pslam 38:16 NASB)

Thus, our fruit, the expression of Holy Spirit – the qualities of the Kingdom – must be grown from our relationship with Holy Spirit:

Beware of the false prophets! They come to you wearing sheep’s clothing, but underneath they are hungry wolves!  You will recognize them by their fruit. Can people pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles?  Likewise, every healthy tree produces good fruit, but a poor tree produces bad fruit.  A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, or a poor tree good fruit. 19 Any tree that does not produce good fruit is cut down and thrown in the fire!

So you will recognize them by their fruit.  (Matthew 7:15-20)

Remember: trees do not labor nor choose to produce fruit at will. Fruit is a natural by-product of WHAT they ARE. Such is the fruit of the spirit:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, humility, self control. Nothing in the Torah stands against such things.

(Galations 5:22-23 CJB)

“… So you will recognize them by their fruit.”

What is Righteousness?

There’s no good, succinct way to explain righteousness as a concept, so I’ll refer you to this scripture and allow you to infer the implied qualities:

It will be righteousness for us if we are careful to obey all these mitzvot before Adonai our God, just as he ordered us to do.

(Dueteronomy 6:25 CJB)
and it will be righteousness for us if we are careful to follow all this commandment before the Lord our God, just as He commanded us.

(NASB)

What is His Righteousness?

Jesus the Christ is God’s righteousness:

It is his doing that you are united with the Messiah Yeshua. He has become wisdom for us from God, and righteousness and holiness and redemption as well! Therefore — as the Tanakh says — “Let anyone who wants to boast, boast about Adonai."

(1 Corinthians 1:30 CJB)
When those days come, at that time,
I will cause to spring up for David
a Branch of Righteousness.
He will do what is just and right in the land.

(Jeremiah 33:15 CJB)

And the Kingdom of God is?

The Kingdom of God consists of these qualities:

  1. Seeking after Jesus and His righteousness
  2. Living by the spirit, so that the fruit of the spirit is naturally produced in your life.

How to Make Scripture Your Own

We’ve all been told to read the Bible. I would suggest that we’ve all been told to meditate on its’ words:

This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will achieve success. 

Joshua 1:8

But it’s a difficult thing to do when all you’ve been taught is self-condemnation – when perhaps that’s all you’ve heard from the pulpit most of your life, or perhaps when the messages you’re most familiar with are about Christmas, Easter, witnessing, tithing, or eschatology. Those topics don’t seem to mesh or coalesce well with a lot of the other things we might find ourselves reading.

If any of those things above are true for you, then consider that you might have a bad spirit about you – one that’s beating you around the measuring-up bush, one that you can’t seem to shake. I’ve been there; done that.

But, I’ll wager there’s something here you’ve never heard. So keep reading:

Matthew 18:18

Truly I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.

And let the astute reader complain: “I’ve heard that plenty of times; what does it have to do with reading the Bible?

Personalization

Let’s take a step back. The first thing we need to learn is how to personalize scripture: how to make it our own, to put it into a first-person tense that speaks directly to us.

Here’s a simple example:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding.

That’s the commandment. It’s one with which most of us are very familiar. So what we do next is this: move it out of what I call the “command voice” and into what I call a “personalized,” or “acquisition voice.”

I trust in the Lord with all my heart;  I do not lean on my own understanding.

Proverbs 3:5

That makes all the difference, and it’s entirely scriptural: you are what you think – which is the intention of Joshua 1:8.

For as he thinks within himself, so he is.

Proverbs 23:7

While it’s not possible to do this with any random verse, a great many of the Psalms and Proverbs do lend themselves to this type of personalization.

Self Acquisition with Binding and Loosing

First, let’s recall the power of speaking, or as some might say, the power of the tongue:

Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit.

Proverbs 18:21

One who tends the fig tree will eat its fruit, and one who cares for his master will be honored.

Proverbs 27:18

A soothing tongue is a tree of life, but when it twists things, it breaks the spirit.

Proverbs 15:4

The task, then, is to combine personalization with speaking the Word, and with binding and losing:

Matthew 18:18 

Truly I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.

Example: Pslam 37:1

Do not get upset because of evildoers, do not be envious of wrongdoers.
Personalized

“I do not get upset because of evildoers; I am not envious of wrongdoers.”

Personalization with Binding

“I bind myself to this Word: I do not get upset because of evildoers; I am not envious of wrongdoers.”

Example: Psalm 37:7

Do not get upset because of one who is successful in his way,
Because of the person who carries out wicked schemes.
Cease from anger and abandon wrath;
Personalization

“I am not upset because with one who is successful in his way, because of the person who carries out wicked schemes. Therefore, I cease from anger and abandon wrath.”

Personalization with Losing

“I lose myself from being upset because of the one who is successful in his way, because of the person who carries out wicked schemes. I lose myself from anger and I abandon wrath.”

Summary

We’re doing four things here.

  • Meditating on His Word.
  • Making His Word our thoughts.
  • Binding ourselves to His rigthousness.
  • Loosing ourselves from unrighteousness.

It’s a form of taking up our cross. We are casting away those things that so easily beset us and taking up those things that enable us to run the race with endurance:

Therefore, since we also have such a great cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let’s rid ourselves of every obstacle and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let’s run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking only at Jesus, the originator and perfecter of the faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Hebrews 12:1-2

The Government on His Shoulders

Hang tight… I’ll get there in a minute. But, let me first ask you a question:

Are you living under a spirit of tutelage and correction? Don’t misunderstand: teaching and discipline are both excellent and necessary.

But is that all you’ve got?

Living most of my life in the Protestant world of the Baptists (specifically, the SBC) and under the preaching and teaching of their pastors and leaders, one learns very quickly that there are only a few things worth one’s time:

  1. Soul Winning.
  2. Going to Church & Sunday School.
  3. Reading the Bible so one can learn stuff.
  4. Doing programs that bring people to the church.
  5. Begging God – because prayer and worship are necessary things.

After I left the SBC for greener pastures, I began to learn how to hear God for myself instead of through the mouthpiece of a preacher. I became aware of how God would highlight a passage in my spirit during that process. Many times, it was something I needed to learn and understand. Other times, I was clueless because it didn’t seem to match anything that was happening or anything I was thinking at the time.

At which point, like any Good Baptist in a similar situation, I assumed that there was indeed something I needed to learn, but I just wasn’t able to discern what it was. Because, as we all know: God works in mysterious ways.

A Different Way to Pray

But things began to change many years ago. First, I realized that there was some scripture that I needed to declare.

For example, I became burdened for those in human trafficking at one point. So I began declaring certain Psalms over those involved in that practice. Lo-n-behold, not too long afterward, sex trafficking rings began falling left and right. Not that I’m claiming sole responsibility for such a thing – I’m just one of many involved in the process.

But, I wasn’t out of the woods yet: the vast majority of the time, when there was a scripture I felt prompted to read, I ALWAYS approached it from the point of view of tutelage or correction. It was usually frustrating since the passages seemed to be repeating. I began doubting whether I heard from our Holy Father correctly or at all.

Then it occurred to me: am I under the influence of a spirit of condemnation that manifests itself as tutelage and correction? My first clue was obvious: I was falling into discouragement and feeling like I did not measure up because I never learned the lesson – having to read the same scripture repeatedly.

Test Everything

Then I remembered the other lesson that Father has gently taught me recently: “test everything.”

but examine everything; hold firmly to that which is good 

1 Thessalonians 5:21

So… I tested it, and by that examination, I confirmed what I was suspecting: I’ve been under a spirit of condemnation. The scripture I’m being directed to isn’t always something I need to learn, rather something to be declared for a given situation in the world or my life. Or perhaps it’s just something I need to use in praise or worship.

But then I was made aware of a truth we’ve all missed:

The Government on His Shoulders

... for by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones, or dominions, or rulers, or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him.  He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.  He is also the head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything. 

Colossians 1:16-18
For a Child will be born to us, a Son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.

Isaiah 9:6

How did we miss this? If Jesus is The Head, and we are the body, then some are the shoulders.

I know how we missed this. I blame myself and others like me: those who came before. Those who changed the Gospel of the Kingdom (Matt: 4:23) into the Gospel of Salvation (web search) and changed “make disciples of all nations” into “make disciples of all people” (Jesus Film Project).

A New Direction

What does it look like to disciple nations? What does it look like for a Child of God to carry a Government on their shoulders?

We don’t know – it’s nothing we’ve ever been taught.

But I suspect we are destined to soon learn those fundamental truths we so quickly abandoned – or perhaps, never understood or knew they existed.

What is Faith?

Allegory of the Catholic Faith (ca.1670–1672) by Johannes Vermeer. Original from The MET Museum. Digitally enhanced by rawpixel.

There’s a gulf between “believing” something and “knowing” something.

A 6th grader may believe in Algebra, Geometry, Calculus, or Biology, but they don’t have knowledge of any of them, they have no formal training. So if a 6th can make the jump to believing that a particular equation or fact is truthful in Calculus or Biology, it is likely because they trust that someone is sincere, not because they have acquired the knowledge to test such a thing.

Is Believing in God Faith?

If by “believing in God,” we are asserting that we believe God exists, then it depends upon your definition of faith. For there is a secular definition, and a proper definition.

The world has coopted “faith” and constructed its definition. So much so, that when discussed even by Christians, faith continues to carry its nebulous and ephemeral qualities.

If, on the other hand, by “believe in God,” we mean “put our faith in God,” then that’s only possible for us after we “believe His Word,” which is only possible after we “believe He is.” So it’s a stairstep process: one step leads to another.

An Example of Faith

And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for the one who comes to God must believe that He exists, and that He proves to be One who rewards those who seek Him

Hebrews 11:6

For example, my neighbor Joe says he will mow my lawn, and I believe he can: he has all the equipment and the time to do the job. But I don’t trust that he will. He has made promises in the past but has never followed through and done the job. So then, what’s the difference between belief and faith? Belief understands and knows that something is possible. But trust assesses the quality of a claim on various factors, such as experience.

Belief + Trust = Faith

Thus, faith is a combination of belief and trust. Therefore, we can say that I believe my neighbor can mow the lawn, but I do not trust him to perform the job: consequently, I have no *FAITH* in that my neighbor will mow my lawn.

Faith is a combination of belief and trust, but it is always applied to an actor. In other words, faith appreciates the qualities of confidence and trust as applied to a person, process, or thing. If any of those factors fail, then faith is not present.

If we say “I have faith,” but we fail to have a person or thing to place it, and we don’t have tangible experience in which belief and trust are based, then what we have is empty faith: we have nothing but a one-legged stool. That is what I call “empty faith” or perhaps, “empty hope.”

Hope + Business != Progress

Never speak to your Director or CEO and use the word “hope” regarding a project or deliverable. You’ll quickly learn to delete that word from your vocabulary – so, you should do that now (you’re welcome).

Hope, in the business world, means there is no basis to make a qualified judgment: there is no contract in place, there are no commitments established. Hope, in that context, suggests there is only a wishful expectation that the desired opportunity will arise. Hope, to a business, has no foundation; it is based on barren wishes and ignorant beliefs.

Scripturally speaking – and might I suggest from a Kingdom perspective – hope is opposed to something empty and without form or function. If you investigate the Kingdom definition and application of hope, you’ll find it is directly tied to the proper definition and usage of faith.

Faith and Science

... God has allotted to each a measure of faith ... 

Romans 12:3

We all have the ability to form beliefs and trust. When we combine those two things and correctly apply them, we create and use faith.

When a scientist makes an observation, the next thing that might arise is the postulation of a theory or hypothesis. In either case, what should shortly follow thereafter is a series of tests to prove or disprove the idea. In other words, scientists form a belief system regarding a matter and then test the idea in order to form trust in the belief system. We call that “proving” the hypothesis.

Whether or not the test confirms or denies the idea doesn’t matter. In either case, the test either builds or reduces trust in the belief system. The stronger the trust becomes, the more the belief system is confirmed.

Belief + Trust ⟺ Science

But let’s step back a bit. Where is the belief formed? In the mind of the scientist. Where is the trust placed? In at least three things: (1) the quality of execution of the test, and (2) the ability of the observer to (a) interpret the qualities of the belief, and (b) to correctly interpret the results of the tests.

While the qualities of a test can be questioned and changed, the scientist should ensure that the equipment and the procedure employed in the test were designed and implemented correctly. However, trusting in these qualities is simply another way of asserting that the scientist believes in the abilities of the tester and the fabricator and trusts the motives of both, that they were pure and unbiased. As an analogy, I believe that Joe wants to mow my lawn, has the ability to mow my lawn, and will mow my lawn.

Whether we want to believe it, good science is merely a well-designed system to methodically construct well-formed and placed faith. When someone asserts, while watching a rocket lift its payload to space, “that’s science,” or “they’re doing science,” nothing could be further from the truth. Merely observing a rocket or a running, internal combustion engine is not science. Asserting that the engine requires gasoline and not diesel, testing that assertion, and observing the results is science. Everything else is the result of appropriately applying engineering techniques.

While there is nary a scientist who would dare to make such an intellectual ascent, there is no doubt that science is comprised entirely of the activities to formulate well-designed belief systems supported by well-executed proofs. When those things are properly combined, a faith is formed.

The Secular Definition

The secular problem with faith is that the kingdom of unrighteousness has redefined faith to its liking. In other words, the world has constructed its definition of faith and declared that there is no other. In certain circumstances.

This is not a new phenomenon. The term fascism was once clearly associated with Marxism, but when the need arose, it was redefined and repurposed to be rooted in right-wing ideologies. Thus, when certain segments of society needed an Ad Hominen crutch, they repurposed and redefined fascism to accuse others of what they themselves were doing. A similar thing happened in the pharmaceutical industry. When opponents to certain vaccine policies appeared, the industry created the term “anti-vaccine,” defining it as a belief system devoid of truth and reasonableness. It was quickly spun into an Ad Hominem attack, which is precisely how the term is used today.

All of that to say, the proper definition of any term can be corrupted. To the world, hope is less than wishful thinking; and faith barely conjures anything more.

But faith, to the world, is different. If one is referring to a person or business as being faithful, then we all know what that means, and completely accept it as fully qualified in and of itself. Such behavior of changing the definition of a word to meet one’s objective is intellectually dishonest. It is no less than a socially acceptable expression of cognitive dissonance.

Faith is not what the world tells you it is. If we’re going to use a word to describe something, then define it from the context in which it was originally derived.

God Is My Pilot

I’m not the co-pilot … it’s not even my plane.

Are You Sure About that?

I get it: we like to think we’ve acknowledged Him as the leader, provider, and in control. We want to believe we are all yielded to Him and what not.

But the proverb falls flat when we choose another path and choose sin, or perhaps when we choose our desires rather than His best for us. In those times, is He the pilot in charge of our Plane we call Life? Is He really leading us into disobedience?

It is better for all of us when we discard childish notions and proverbs and live by His word:

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.” Yet you do not know what your Life will be like tomorrow, for you are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. Instead, you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.”

Who are these people who say, “we will live and also do this or that.”

Those are people who take ownership of their decisions and actions (they know how to direct their Plane), but they also know how to ask and receive guidance from Air Traffic Control and fly according to the rules. These people are flying their Planes in the correct manner and direction because they’ve already been down the road of learning, planning, conferring, and taking action for which they are responsible.

How many times have we asked God, “do I go to the grocery store ‘A,’ ‘B,’ or ‘C’?” Or perhaps, “do I buy gas here, or over there?” If we’re not having that kind of intimate relationship, if we don’t even know how to get a “yes” or “no” between this or that grocery store, how can we say, “God is my pilot?”

It is better to take responsibility for our Plane, acknowledging that we have our hands on the controls, rather than to abscond responsibility and point angry fingers at our Holy Father when things happen that we don’t like.