Last year, the first week of March, we published the first Kingdom Heard letter. This, about one year later, is our 52nd issue.
Before embarking on the next 52, I wanted to take some time to recap the past year, pulling short excerpts from many of the issues and putting them on a timeline.
I pray it encourages you to live more fully in light of the reality of God and His Kingdom.
Have we delighted in the pursuit of wisdom as wisdom delighted with us? Or as God delighted daily in her?
Have we pursued her? Sought her out? Or have we simply darkened His counsel by words spoken without knowledge. Even worse, perhaps our chief delight has been not in wisdom nor her Maker, but in the sound of our own voice. These words spoken without knowledge.
Where is the prophetic voice for our nation? For our world? It seems a strange question to pose, yet in light of the crisis nature of current events, it is one we must be asking.
Why no prophet, why no voice crying out from the wilderness? I fear the price of isolation is too costly, too reckless, too at odds with the 'influence at all costs' society in which we live. "What good is a message from heaven if we can't share it with as many people as possible?" We think to ourselves.
Before long our love for the reach of the platform overtakes our reverence. Our sensibilities of maintaining the system take precedence over purity.
I didn't know Him, not truly, and so I created a version of Him, made in my own image. The implications of this were two-part:
As I worshipped Him, I was able to still worship myself.
Ultimately this imitation cannot satisfy, so I was not satisfied in "God."
You see, there is a shortage felt much more than the current scarcity of basic goods. A rare thing that cannot be easily found, even in times of plenty or peace. And when, in times past, this has been found on the earth, it has, "conquered kingdoms, administered justice, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, quenched the raging of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, gained strength in weakness, became mighty in battle, and put foreign armies to flight."
What is it? It is men and women who speak more than words, they carry a voice.
A voice which is known more before God than before men. A voice that speaks with so great authority we do not question their credentials. It needs not to raise its volume in tenor, nor ramble on in length, to cut to our very core with even a handful of words.
We want the authority of this voice, but are we content to be strangers before men?
We are compelled to respond. Whenever we see chaos, uncertainty, massively changing circumstances, we feel this urge to step in. I know this feeling.
There's a reasoning within ourselves - people need peace, they want certainty, they could use advice, and following this line of reasoning, we speak to the situations:
How to live without fear
How to maintain peace in the storm
How to find community
Notice the list above and it will all appear to be in order - a set of highly relevant topics, yet here is the point of today's letter - The problem with taking a topical approach to solving for a deeper, systemic issue.
The sad reality is this: We have lost sight of the difference between that which is sacred and that which is profane.
In a time when churches are scrambling to set up live streams and attempting to create digital community, what if we also sent out a call to a self-imposed Patmos? A time of isolation, where we shut out other voices and got alone with God.
Not surprisingly then, the enemy has been working for centuries to blind us to just such a revelation. Leonard Ravenhill put it this way, “You don’t think the devil is a clever guy? How he never shows you the end, he only shows you the beginning!”
We’ve heard these tempting ‘beginnings’ for quite some time, but we are not those who are deceived or led astray. Instead, we are those, like Joseph, who knew their God, and could prepare for the end from the beginning
Transformational power is the fruit of the normal Christian life.
Make no mistake, when we reduce Christianity down to a belief system, a place we attend, a social group or a box we check on a survey, it has no power.
When Christianity looks like social, economic or moral advocacy detached from the transformation of the Gospel, it has no power.
In the plainest of terms, this powerless version of ‘Christianity’ is no different than a CrossFit membership or a set of season tickets to the local sports team.
When I pray for this new breed of men, I ask that they would be known by these characteristics:
Lord, will you raise up and establish men of prayer, of the Word, and of conviction. Men who have been alone with You and have been changed because of it.
What is your first thought each day?
This thought acts as the lightning bolt of motivation, waking us from any last remnants of sleep and propelling us forward in our day. This thought grants us energy, purpose, and perhaps a little excitement. We are now looking-forward-to rather than lingering in-between.
The subject of this letter then is of grave importance - the re-establishment of a high and lofty view of God among the people of God.
In other words, our perspective of God has become quite small. We have lost a proper view of the majesty of God and thus have turned to any number of lesser evils to entertain us. As Romans 3 would describe it, “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”
God does not change, yet how we perceive Him can change and it is for this change of perception that we must pray.
And so when presented with the option to live or die, we choose life. When presented with happiness or sadness, we choose happiness. Peace or turmoil, we choose peace. Wealth or poverty, we choose wealth. Health or sickness, we choose health.
It is in this moment of the presentation of the options that the bargaining begins - what do we have to do to live? Just tell us what to do, we’ll do anything.
Repeat these words? Absolutely! And you’re telling me that if I just do that this one time then I’m good? I don’t go to hell? I get happiness, peace, and the entire list of benefits? Great, easy, I’m in!
[Pause, for these are sobering words]
What’s wrong with this appeal? Could it be that it is in direct contrast to the call of Christ?
It is on this topic of envy, jealousy and unforgiveness that I write to you today, not in generalities, but in specific personal terms.
When examining my own heart and the commands of Scripture, I found myself sorely lacking and in fact harbouring this sin of envy, which has led me to hate, unforgiveness and a number of other transgressions. In repenting and turning from these sins, I do not want to gloss over the details or speak to you in generalities.
Instead, I intend to do as Finney encourages, “General confession of sin will never do. Your sins were committed one by one; and as far as you can come at them, they ought to be reviewed and repented of one by one.”
The goal for this publication is to reverse the course, to remind us, to re-introduce us, to revive us to live whole-heartedly in light of God and His Kingdom.
Today, let us ask Him to renew our fascination. Let us cast aside every weight, distraction, temptation, or earthly care that would seek to ensnare us.
Let us be fascinated enough by God today to wait for Him!
What else can be meant by this jealousy other than a command to exclusivity? His people are to, ‘come out from among them,’ ‘be separate,’ and ‘set apart for the gospel of God.’
If we are truly to come out from among them, what must be left behind? Everything.
A singular focus, undivided attention, purity in priorities; Albert Richardson said it this way, “But our eye must be single if our faith is to be simple and our ‘whole body full of light.’” The Kneeling Christian, 1924, p. 48
He will satisfy. We must simplify.
Those who have been impressed by God will never be intimidated by men. Have we yet been so impressed?
Since we cannot contribute, being dead in sin, we enter into the kingdom of God through invitation only, which makes the way of Jesus definitively exclusive, “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.’” John 14:6
The way…No one comes except through Me.
In a day and age of relative truth, tolerance as love, and unity at all costs, this exclusivity is offensive. Paul tells us that to those who are perishing, the fragrance of Christ is, “the aroma of death leading to death.” 2 Corinthians 3:15-16
Let our reverence be our confidence and the sinless blood of Your Son be our boldness.
Give us a greater reality of Your Kingdom. Help us to see the unseen more clearly than we ever have before. May this perspective lead us to purity. Give us clean hands and a pure heart. Purge us from dishonor, that we may be useful for the Master, prepared for every good work.
May we live as foreigners, temporary residents, not seeking to store up for ourselves treasures on earth or to be honored by men. Instead, let us consider the reproach of Christ to be of greater wealth.
Let us truly look ahead to the reward!
Fall upon us afresh. Fill us again with Your Holy Spirit. Baptize us with fire.
When the promises of God are not enough and we lose sight of the beauty of the crucified and resurrected Christ, there is no longer contentment to be found, either in this life or the one to come.
If He is not enough, nothing will ever be enough…for all of eternity.
I’ve seen the rationalization, the accommodation and the giving of ourselves to other interests. But where is the purity, the power and the devotion to prayer?
It is impossible to speak of the Kingdom of heaven without making it clear that there are only two sides, and no neutral parties.
Today we speak of another revelation - the ability to see sin as sin and to be moved by the gravity of it.
With a topic this sensitive, we tread carefully, so as not to heap undue condemnation. Rather than make statements, below you’ll find questions. Read each of these slowly, carefully, and consider them. I pray that the Holy Spirit would be gracious in guiding you into answers of truth.
Here, in this place, we have found the narrow way. A way that requires faith, hope, trust, and complete and utter dependence, every day, on the portion, protection and preservation of the grace of God.
In heaven, God dwells.
Surrounding His throne, day and night, worship is sung. What are these songs that are sung in the presence of the almighty God and of the Lamb?
Through us, God diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place, the fragrance of Christ.
Does it not humble us who have carried ourselves higher than we ought? And does it not leave those of us who were low and downtrodden with a sense of wonder at the mystery of such a treasure?
We would do well to stop and consider these things because the implications of these absolutes are massive, namely, if this breath has been given to me, then I am not my own.
I have no claim on this life.
This belongs solely to the one who gifted me flesh, bones and breath. To the One who determined beforehand the number of my days. And to the One before whom I will stand on that day of judgment to give an account.
Preaching the simple Gospel can sound daunting. Without words which impress intellectually, how can we expect the message to penetrate to the depths that lie beyond the mind of our hearers - all the way to the heart and the soul?
We would rather debate about the interpretation of these prayer scriptures, or put our hand to work doing all the other important and good daily tasks. It’s far easier to listen to sermon after sermon and read commentary after commentary, than it is to quiet ourselves, get alone, be silent, still and actually pray.
This lack of prayer is evident. Shallow, tired, easily worn out, hopeless, full of despair, lacking demonstration of the Spirit and power, turning to every other method and machinery of man in order to generate results.
We have grown so accustomed to speaking a general word in all seasons that we no longer remember the power and importance of speaking an apt word in due season.
We have lost the ability to see and hear with the clarity required to speak in this manner. There is very little that is exact about our speech.
This first question and response in the Catechism takes what has perhaps been the most sought after question in all of human history and answers it both succinctly and elegantly.
How many tears have been cried, drops of blood shed, hours agonized, lives rearranged, books written, power sought - all in search of the answer to this question, “What is man’s chief end, our purpose?”
These words will sound as foolishness, extreme, and unnecessary to some - and these are the such who do not pray for revival. They are content to live without it, carrying on with a bit of the world and a bit of God.
And let this become our practice, to continually fall down before Him in this way. Let it be said of us - as much as was possible, every moment of every day, they beheld and adored Him.
So often throughout history, it is not the complex cry that moves the heart of God, but it is the simple groan, repeated, uttered in anguish.
It’s as if God looks down from heaven with a question, “Can you live without it?”
Do our prayers and the manner of our praying bear witness to the fact that we cannot live without them being answered?
Or have we forgotten the request as soon as it leaves our lips? Perhaps we would like an answer, but by our lack of persistence, we demonstrate that we are happy either way? With or without it - it makes very little difference to us.
“I must be about My Father’s business.” Can we say this about our lives?
To truthfully speak such a statement requires both desire and knowledge.
As a desire, it demands haste as we prioritize His business over every other pursuit, pastime or pleasure. This desire cannot stay silent as it speaks of an honoring of Him, as we submit our will for His, our kingdom for His, our business for His.
This business may take us to distant lands or far off seas. We may face untold dangers or perils of the deep. It may lead us away from father, mother, brother, and yet, we must be about our Father’s business.
Does this describe the desire of our lives? A desire to be so exclusive, so focused, so abandoned of all else?
What we are left with is a fading of the glory of these words, rather than, “an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away.” (1 Peter 1:4)
“What can we do? How can we survive? Tell us what works!” shout the faded ones.
“Insufficient,” they shout!
Read the Word.
“Boring,” they declare!
“Too hard, none will follow,” they plead!
Certainly, we’ve known comfort in throwing up our requests to a God who faithfully hears, but known little of persistent petitions to a God who will not only hear, but also answer and “show us great and mighty things which we have not known.”
Our understanding on this matter has grown so darkened that we scarce can see there is more light to be granted, if only we were to ask.
I’ve had presentation but without power. The proper words but lacking the purity of singular attention and devotion to Christ.
Through this neglect of “sincere and pure devotion to Christ,” I’ve become the bound speaking to the bound as if I were one set free. And as a result, powerless.
In examining my own heart, my life, my presentation, my purity, I confess to you that I found myself lacking. I’ve gotten these things right with God and now I ask for your forgiveness as well.
What is it like for you to dwell on Christ? Is it pleasant and prolonged or is it dry and dusty from unuse?
Does He fascinate you?
Do you long for more time to think on Him? Does your heart burn within you as you fix your thoughts on Him?
Are you eager to get alone with Him?
Do you plan and rearrange and configure your day just to carve out another small slice of time with Him? And when that time comes, are your feet swift to run to that place?
So what would happen to a voice in your midst who no longer tolerated such practices? Who called sin as sin? Who reminded you of the holiness of God and the fear of the Lord? Who demanded a return to purity?
Who rebuked your insatiable desires for sport, entertainment, culture, fashion, hobbies and nice things? Who called your attention to the number of hours you spent thinking on these earthly, temporal things, pursuing them, learning their intricate details, finding time for them, all while claiming you are too busy to pray, to worship, to wait on the Lord?
Who pleaded in agonized encouragement to return to your first love, the affection you once felt for Christ, how you used to run to the secret place to be alone with Him, but now there is no time and little interest?
I’d love to hear from you as well at any time. Feel free to reply to these emails or send me one directly: firstname.lastname@example.org.