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The kingdom of God suffers violence

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Consider this. In the last couple of days: World Racer Sarah Lapp got word while in Africa that her mother had suddenly contracted an aggressive cancer – she had to be put on the next plane home. World Racer Christine Chapman’s pregnant sister was tragically killed b…
By Seth Barnes

Consider this. In the
last couple of days:

  • World Racer Sarah Lapp
    got word while in Africa that her mother had suddenly contracted an
    aggressive cancer – she had to be put on the next plane home.
  • World Racer Christine
    Chapman’s
    pregnant sister was tragically killed by a drunk driver.
  • World Race coach Michael Hindes came down
    with an extremely painful case of kidney stones just prior to his departure
    to debrief our team in Peru. He flew there anyway. Arriving in Peru, he didn’t connect with his contact, Bob Cooley, because Bob had been hit with a case of kidney stones too.
  • A key AIM staff person
    just made a terrible mistake jeopardizing 15 years of ministry.
    Unfortunately, when leaders make mistakes, it impacts so many others. Another leader is flying there at 6:40 a.m. this morning.
  • My brother-in-arms Gary Black and his family is being kicked out of Swaziland because of visa complications, leaving us understaffed to care for a thousand orphans.

It’s past midnight as I type these words and my spirit is
still digesting what all this means.

violence 1There is this provocative passage in the gospel of Luke
where in one version* Jesus, talking to his disciples about John the Baptist
says, “The kingdom of heaven suffers violence and violent men take it by
force.” To which I say – what does that mean?**

But in my life, I can relate to violence striking at those
in my sphere of influence. Whether it’s
just random stuff happening, or whether it’s really people within the kingdom
of God who are being targeted in a particular way, people I know are suffering
violence.

To be human is to encounter pain. We come into the world screaming, recoiling
against it, and many of us will leave the world fighting it. And in between, God’s enemy, who hates his
creation, will do everything in his power to bring violence our way. He has targeted us for pain. If we are a threat to the existing order (in which he exercises control), then we have a bullseye painted on our back.

The good news is, we don’t have to go whimpering into the
night. We are more than conquerors.
Somehow, in God’s economy, we’re called to resist the enemy of our souls and
fight back – to get some violence in our spirit.

My mentor Andrew
Shearman
calls it “getting a spirit of violence.” We need to get angry and shout a bit at the
forces of hell. Do a gut check and if
you have difficulty fighting the accuser of the brethren, this would probably
be a good day to make the following declaration, serving notice to the one who
wants to wreck your life:

“Look, hell, you
may have taken my loved one away. You
may have robbed me of something I held dear.
You may have marked me for destruction, but I sure as heck (go ahead and say “hell” if you’re feeling particularly righteous) am not going to sit here and take it! I am going to fight you for what God has
given me. Society may place a premium on
being nice and looking proper, but I don’t have any more room in my life for
nice! I will fight you tooth and nail for what is mine, and furthermore, now
that you’ve riled me up, I will exact a price for this. Where I’ve been complacent, I will start
putting on the Ephesians 6 armor. Where
I’ve been passive, I will start praying warfare prayers. Instead of sleeping in, I’m going to start
getting up early and praising God. I’ve
had it – I’m not going to sit still any longer! I know there’s a warrior’s spirit in me somewhere, and I intend to summon it up!”

This is not a prayer so much as it is a jolt of spiritual caffeine for your sleepy spiritual self that needs to be slapped into a state wakefulness. And when you’re awake, start living in a way that truly does violence to
the enemy camp. This is not weird or overly dramatic behavior – this is you waking up to your identity and to spiritual reality. It’s what normal Jesus followers struggling to navigate in this cynical world do.

And after you’re done declaring and praying and snorting or whatever, here’s how you continue the fight: Apologize to a few
people you’ve offended. Hold an orphan,
or sponsor one at least. Go visit some
widows in a senior citizen’s home. Write
a blog that tries to rile people up like this one. Turn off the TV. For God’s sake and for your own, do something!


Continued in: …And the violent take it by force

*NASB (Matt. 11:12)

**I used to think I knew. There’s another version that renders it differently:
“the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing…” I like that better. Maybe
it was the macho rebel in me, like Peter, spoiling for a fight.

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