E-book: The Kingdom strikes back -- Signs of the Messiah at work
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Kingdom strikes back
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This electronic book (e-book) is on world missions. It shows
how the words of Jesus about Kingdom signs resonate with
missionary history in the Caribbean island of Haiti. These 6 chapters plus a foreword and
conclusion demonstrate that the Kingdom is indeed in our midst.
Chapter 1: The Kingdom strikes back
Senseless violence. Starving children.
Guns firing in anger and fear. AIDS epidemic. Polluted water. Hate and racism. Dehumanizing abuse.
Those are the words in today's frightful newspaper
headlines. Sadly, the datelines for such news could be from many countries of the world --
including Haiti, where we've been missionaries. Television news often portrays a world seething
with pain, chaos, treachery, and abuse.
The world wasn't always so rotten. On the sixth day of
creation, God looked at what He had made. The Bible says that
what He saw was "very good" (Genesis 1:31). Indeed, it was good. In many ways it still is.
Years ago the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association
introduced us to a Swedish song we know as "How Great Thou Art." The first verse expounds
the believer's awe as he sees creation's marvels. Don't you like that song? I like it in English. I
like it in Italian. I like it in Haitian Creole. In whatever language I've learned it, that song's
message always thrills me.
Haiti's flame-red flamboyant trees, its mango trees festooned
with ripe fruit, the tiny hummingbirds darting around hibiscus blossoms -- all show the Creator's
artistic tastes. Haiti's coastal waters contain some of the most beautiful coral reefs in the
God did create a very good world. Yet some ghastly scars
mar the marvels of God's creation. That scarring began in the Garden of Eden, an earthly
paradise. There, human beings were to live forever in close communion with his Creator.
Unfortunately, Adam and Eve didn't stay content with their status as created beings. Following
the tempter's suggestion, they sought to become like God, to become complete in themselves.
Their revolt unleashed a chaotic train of events that scarred not only all human beings but also
the whole universe.
Following Adam and Eve's monstrous choice, things like
death, hatred and anguish, isolation and emptiness invaded "normal" life. Even worse, God's
image in human beings was horribly defaced. Because of their estrangement from God, things
not part of created human nature now seem "natural." A crippling spiritual disease attacked the
very center of the human self. The apostle Paul described the resulting corruption as "the carnal
nature" (see Romans 7:14; 8:6, 7, KJV).
Following Adam and Eve's disobedience, sin's depraving
power snowballed. In a fit of rage, Adam and Eve's son, Cain, killed his brother. Sometime later,
his descendant, Lamech, killed another man. He moved beyond Cain's fear of discovery to near
boastfulness over the murder. Seeming to revel in snuffing out a human life, Lamech dared the
world to do something about it (Genesis 4:23-24). Nor did it end there. Through the centuries
human beings have has sunk lower and lower under sin's hardening power.
That's tragic. Human beings were God's crowning act of
creation. Even today there's still evidence of that. The rich cultural traditions of Haiti are a
delightful treat for tourists. That's true also of Zambia or Peru or New Zealand. The
photographers of National Geographic traipse around the globe, thrilling us with
photos of the exotic and colorful. That inward bent toward sin that was caused by Adam and
Eve's disobedience has, however, led people of every age and of every culture to fill their lives
"with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity" (Romans 1:29).
Humanity's plight as depraved sinners shouts at us from the
pages of daily newspapers from Boston to Bangkok. Even utopia-minded historians concede
man's inhumanity to man. Sociologists and psychologists ponder sin's corroding effects (even if
they refuse to call it "sin").
While the history of any nation can easily illustrate sin's
cataclysmic effects, let's take Haiti as our "Exhibit A." This small nation lies just east of Cuba on
the western third of a mountainous island called Hispaniola. It was this island that Christopher
Columbus discovered in 1492.
Spanish settlers followed Columbus to Hispaniola. They
tried enslaving the native Arawak Indians. As you might expect, some of the Indians resisted
losing their freedom. They were slaughtered on the spot. The rest of their fellow tribesmen began
dying from gross maltreatment. From the first page of Haiti's modern history thus oozes the
ruthlessness that Romans 1:31 associates with godless human beings.
Things did not improve in Haiti. French pirates arrived,
hiding in coastal coves. Some started plantations of sugar, coffee, cocoa, indigo, and cotton.
Plantations needed lots of cheap labor. By then the Indians had all died. So these Frenchmen
headed for Africa to recruit workers at gunpoint. At the height of the West Indies slave trade,
more than 700 ships regularly crisscrossed the Atlantic. Their cargo? Chained human beings. For
thousands of Africans, a tropical paradise dissolved into a living hell.
In the late 1700s those slaves successfully revolted against
their French masters. Tragically, even liberty from colonial masters did not stop the bloodshed.
Repeated periods of civil unrest, brutal kings, and cruel dictators led one American couple to
write a history of Haiti called Written in Blood. Another author poignantly says that
Haiti is a country "whose soil has drunk more blood than sweat."
Adam's cosmic treason shattered his close ties to his
Creator. The aftermath of his fall poisoned relationships between people. It also damaged the
natural world in ways we still don't understand. With the Fall, the whole cosmos -- in addition to
the human heart -- became riddled with evil and the spirit of rebellion. I don't believe that sin
directly causes all human suffering. Yet the anguish caused by disease and natural disasters is
somehow linked to sin's curse. Because of humanity's sin, Paul writes, the universe is in
"bondage to decay" (Romans 8:21). The diseases plaguing Haiti today -- malaria, tuberculosis,
hepatitis, gastrointestinal problems -- were unknown in the Garden of Eden. Before their fall,
neither drought nor typhoons nor flash floods troubled Adam and Eve.
Furthermore, human beings have caused a progressive
deterioration of their own environment. Ecologists tell us that we have irreparably spoiled parts
of this planet. They say we've fouled our own nest!
Sin's double-whammy blows to the moral quality of life and
the physical environment show up clearly in Haiti. Plagues of disease, soil erosion,
overpopulation, illiteracy, poverty, and superstition cloud the future of every newborn Haitian.
To many people, Haiti's plight looks futile. Haiti seems so hopeless that one international
commission labeled it a "bottomless pit" for foreign aid efforts. This prestigious group
recommended ending all outside help to Haiti.
What a dismal picture! There is,
however, some good news for this troubled world and its human tenants. When God ejected
Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden, He did not desert them. Their sin may have wrought
terrible havoc and ruin. Still, there soon shone a glimmer of hope.
The shock waves of their disobedience were still shaking the
universe when God promised a Redeemer (Genesis 3:15). As God passed judgment on Adam and
Eve, He also held out a promise. His kingdom, He said, would be striking back. He had a plan to
undo the fateful results of their fall. In the end His hosts from heaven would put to flight every
enemy of divine rule.
It took a while. Then one starry night in a little village south
of Jerusalem, the promise began to be fulfilled. In an animal shed near Bethlehem the kingdom
of God re-entered this sinful world. A few years later God incarnate in Jesus emerged from a
Nazareth carpentry shop. Setting the stage for His ministry had been His cousin, John. John's
prophetic ministry was brief but powerful. His major theme: The long-promised Messiah would
soon appear. That Messiah, he said, was a man of fire who would inaugurate a new kingdom.
When He was ready to begin His public ministry, Jesus
found John down at the Jordan River and asked him for baptism. That day God used John the
Baptist to announce that the promised Messiah had arrived. But then months and years passed,
and Jesus did not become the hoped-for political savior. Nor did He march into the Temple and
take over as a new Jewish religious leader.
This disappointed some. Those who watched Him closely,
however, marveled at His potent power over nature. That, coupled with the masterful way He
spoke, convinced many that God's kingdom had indeed invaded the world. The strong and
mighty overlooked it, but God's kingdom had begun striking back.
Meanwhile, John's bold charges of sexual sin in the palace
landed him in prison. Prison is a dreary place. Your mind can play tricks on you there.
Languishing in a dungeon at Machaerus, John's mind returned to a spot in the Jordan River
valley. There he had proclaimed Jesus as the Messiah. Now a tiny doubt crept in. Was Jesus
really the Anointed One? Knowing he might soon die, John craved reassurance. So he asked
some of his close followers to investigate again.
Going directly to Jesus, they asked point-blank: "Are You
the One who was to come?" In response, Jesus did not say a simple "Yes" or "No." He pointed
instead to the wondrous things happening in His ministry.
"Go tell John," He told them, "that the blind are receiving
sight. Tell him that the crippled are walking. The deaf are hearing. The lepers are being cured,
and the disinherited of the earth are having the gospel preached to them" (paraphrase of Matthew
11:5 and Luke 7:22).
Old Testament prophets had
said that the Messiah's coming would be accompanied by just such miracles. Jesus pointed to the
miracles in His ministry, leaving John and his disciples to draw their own conclusions.
After only three years of a ministry featuring these kinds of
miracles, Jewish religious leaders arrested Jesus and quickly put Him to death. Three days later
He rose from the dead. Six weeks after that, He ascended into heaven.
Now what would happen? Jesus was no longer present in
bodily form. Perhaps the miracles would disappear. They did not. That should not surprise us.
Jesus himself had promised that the signs would continue. He even said they would increase.
After all, the Kingdom had come. On the night before His crucifixion, He tried to prepare His
eleven remaining disciples for the future. One of the things He said was that His followers would
do "even greater things" than He had done (John 14:12).
So it has been. After Jesus' ascension, Spirit-filled believers
scattered across the globe. They went preaching and teaching the good news of the Kingdom.
Wherever they went, God's mighty works revealed His power. Through the years, His kingdom
has broken chains of disease, madness, sin, and death. His kingdom's invasion of this world has
opened blinded eyes and given hope to the oppressed. Whatever the sources of human heartache,
God in Christ has sought to destroy them.
Penetrating the darkened corners of our world has not been
easy. We fight amid the rubble of hate, injustice, disease, and violence. Often the battle rages at
what seem to be the very doors of hell itself. At hell's gates is precisely where Jesus told Peter
that the Church -- the missionary people of the Kingdom -- would triumph (Matthew 16:18).
Triumphs over the effects of the Fall may sometimes seem partial and insignificant. Still, each
victory points to the Kingdom's coming final and complete conquest.
Along the way there have been doubters and scoffers. To
some, real Kingdom miracles never seem spectacular enough. That's nothing new. When Jesus
was here, His miracles did not convince everyone either. So we can't be too hard on modern-day
doubters. Even Jesus' cousin, John, needed some reassurances of His Messiahship.
Around the turn of this century, the Holy Spirit raised up a revival movement called the Church of the Nazarene. Today, sanctified believers who belong to this
movement preach the good news of the Kingdom in more than 145 world areas.
I'm part of that movement. In our midst the blind have
received sight. We've seen dying people cured. The lame have walked. One of the 16 Nazarene
Articles of Faith boldly proclaims God's miraculous healing powers. To top it all off, we've
sometimes been scorned as a church made up of the poor rather than the upper levels of society.
We believe Jesus is the Messiah. We've seen the signs of His kingdom's presence. In Haiti tens of
thousands of Nazarenes see daily encounters between God's sovereign reign and Satan's evil hordes. Holy Spirit-inspired ministries of Haitian Nazarenes
include medical work and economic aid. Nazarenes are aggressively evangelizing and planting
churches in Haiti. Our education program includes elementary and secondary schools as well as
training for pastors and evangelists. The Kingdom is striking back. We're convinced (doubters
and scoffers notwithstanding) that this Jesus -- in whose name and under whose power we preach
-- is the Christ, the promised Messiah. . . . [ continue
The blind are seeing
response of Jesus to John's followers finds an echo today in a Caribbean island. Those who have
been in physical darkness, spiritual darkness, and intellectual darkness are having their eyes
opened. . . [ read more ]|
SNU missions course materials and syllabi
Howard Culbertson, Southern Nazarene University, 6729 NW 39th,
Bethany, OK 73008 | Phone: 405-491-6693 - Fax: 405-491-6658
Updated: February 17, 2019
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Article by Howard Culbertson. For more
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