Lesson 29: Why Did Jesus Weep? in Dr Fountain’s: the Kingdom of God, What is it?

as always, I recommend buying this book and reading the full text. I summarize in many places, what I think are the most important points Dr Fountain wanted to make.

Reading this week: John 11:1-44

The raising of Lazarus from the dead. Why did Jesus weep? Why didn’t he have a bit of a grin on his face knowing that Mary and Martha would soon be rejoicing as their brother walked forth from the cave? The disciples had witnessed Jesus healing people of diseases and making them whole. But now He was going to show His power over death.

I (Dr Fountain) believe that here Jesus saw the frightful effects death has on the living. The fear of death is dreadful and can destroy people. The agony when death separates husband and wife, father or mother and child, close friends or relatives, is a terrible thing. When Jesus saw the agony reflected in the faces of the mourners whom He loved, He was overcome with anger – anger at death itself and how it destroys human relationships. He was also deeply moved with compassion for the mourners.

That’s why Jesus wept. He weeps for me and the countless host of brothers and sisters from whom someone dear has been torn away from them by physical death. (Dr Fountain had recently lost his beloved wife, Miriam, after a long battle with cancer) Knowing that Jesus knows my (our) pain in the depths of His spirit helps me/us to know that I am not alone – the Lord of glory has His arm around me and assures me that He has taken that pain into himself.

Jesus knew that in a short time death would shame Him and kill Him. Yet He would gain the ultimate victory over death when raised from the grave by His Father. But at this moment His emotions overwhelmed Him (for He was also fully human) as He saw His friends suffering, and He recognized the excruciating agony that the separation of death brings to us whom God has made in His image. Composing Himself, He strode toward the tomb and when Martha objected noting there would be a terrible odor, Jesus simply dismissed her fears by saying, in effect, “Trust me.” He commanded Lazarus to come out and out he came. Living evidence of the power of the King over death!

Question:

  1. What do those two brief words, “Jesus wept,” tell us about the character of Jesus?
  2. When a loved one dies and we face the agony of separation, where is Jesus and what is He doing?
  3. How can we share this hope of victory over death with the people around us who are grieving?

 

The Community of Jesus. Week 28 from “The Kingdom of God: What is it?” by Dr Dan Fountain

Readings for this lesson: Matthew 16:13-28, Mark 8:27-38, Luke 9:18-27

These 3 passages describe the same conversation between Jesus and His disciples though each is unique. Jesus knew the end of His earthly ministry was near and wanted to be sure His disciples were prepared and that they understood who He was. The location was important in that the major religions of the western world were represented there. Jesus announced the beginning of the Church here to make clear that it is the Church for the whole world. The Ecclesia – the gathering of God’s people – would include people of the whole world and replace the pantheons of the world with the foundational truth that Jesus the Messiah is King of kings and Lord of lords.

With His disciples He wanted to:

  1. affirm to them His messianic identity
  2. provide a community structure for His followers to carry on the work
  3. prepare them for the difficult events of the next weeks that were essential for the establishment of the Kingdom among people
  4. describe what would be required of them

The Community of Jesus: Identity and responsibilities

  1. the faith expressed by Peter would be the foundation of the Church
  2. the Church would prevail over all the forces of evil by the power of God operating through the faith of His people. Hell would not be able to withstand it. It is crucial to understand that we are to be on the offensive, fighting with the power of the spirit of Jesus against the evil in the world.
  3. keys are a symbol of the authority to enter new domains or to close and protect domains. Jesus says He is delegating His own authority to His followers.
  4. He tells us that the decisions we make in His name have eternal consequences, either for good or for ill. We have the awesome responsibility to determine His will and act on it.
  5. His death and resurrection would be central to the establishment of the Kingdom of God on earth. The life of the cross and the hope of resurrection are central to our life in His Kingdom.
  6. To live in relationship with Him we must release to Him all personal desires and aspirations. We follow wherever He leads. Even if this means suffering and death. Te cross is our decision to obey the specific marching orders He gives to us with no regard to circumstances, difficulties, or our own aspirations or comfort.

Questions:

  1. What awesome responsibilities has Jesus given us/you as His community on earth?
  2. How are we to obtain Jesus’ help in making decisions in the Kingdom of God?
  3. What does Jesus require of us to become His followers?

The Parable of the Hidden Treasure: Week 25 in “The Kingdom of God: What is it” by Dr Dan Fountain

Reading is very brief for today: Matthew 13:44. The parable of the hidden treasure. “The kingdom of heaven is like something precious buried in a field, which a man found and hid again; then in his joy he goes and sells all he has and buys that field.”

This is an interesting parable for its brevity and for what it does not explain. Dr Fountain states it relates to a man who was looking for something he did not have, (implied) otherwise why was he searching, and when he found this treasure hid it again and liquidated his assets in order to purchase the field. It would seem this must have been something that could not be easily removed or he could have simply taken it with him when he found it. But he had to do something in order to complete the purchase of what he believed was an inestimable treasure.

Dr Fountain posits that this man was not satisfied with his present life and worldview. (or at least with the outworking of his worldview) That he was looking for something better to fulfill his life. The hidden treasure is eternal life, a deep, personal relationship with God that lasts forever. The field thus represents the Kingdom of God, a way of life radically different from the man’s old way of life. And this man knows that he cannot get the treasure without leaving his old kingdom, ‘buying’ the new kingdom, and living under the rule of God. We cannot fully possess this marvelous treasure without giving up our old, self-centered way of life. Most people in the world believe the most important person in the world is one’s own self. But the Kingdom of God is completely different. In this kingdom our life is God-centered, not self-centered. He is to rule over all aspects of our lives, affecting all our decisions. We must renounce our old self-centered way of life, accept the rule of God over everything, and enter into a daily walk with Jesus. Too often our evangelistic message has been “Accept this treasure and you will be saved. It is transportable, and you can take it into your old way of life.” But we too often do not each people that salvation means an entirely new way of life. What is the result? Confused Christians, a weak church and idolatry in the Kingdom just as in the days of the Kingdom of Israel.

Questions:

  1. Why is this treasure of eternal life so valuable?
  2. Is it possible to receive eternal life without submitting to the rule of God? What did Jesus say about this?
  3. In practical terms, how are you allowing God to rule over your life?
  4. What will it require to have a strong church that can bring transformation to the world? Why hasn’t this happened yet?

 

Why and How Did Jesus Heal Sick Persons?: Week 24 in “The Kingdom of God: What Is It?” by Dan Fountain

Related reading: Mark 1:29-45, Matthew 15:29-31

Dr Fountain states that “The healing of sick people played a prominent role in the ministry of Jesus. For Jesus, healing, teaching, and preaching went together. I would go so far as to state that for Jesus, preaching, discipling, teaching, delivering people from demons and curing disease were a seamless part of His ministry. (He did all these in the first 24 hours of His ministry as related in the First Chapter of Mark)

Dr Fountain used to refer to this passage in Mark (it was a passage he referred to frequently) as the first open to all “general” clinic in written history. He even states this is when health care as we know it began! The Matthew passage is a bit different in that it says nothing about Jesus doing any preaching or teaching (though we cannot be absolutely certain of this) but that He spent 3 days healing people of all kinds of dis-eases. This He taught to His followers so that they too could save people from the things that destroy life and that mar God’s image in us.

The early Church did indeed carry on this important ministry and became know as a healing community. Rodney Stark in his 1996 work “The Rise of Christianity” explains how this aided in the relatively rapid expansion of the early Church.

What was so unique to this ministry ushered in by a crucified and risen Savior? It was certainly uniquely powerful in the way in which it combined physical and psychological principles of healing with the miraculous power Jesus gave to the Church to carry on His ministry. As Dr Fountain states “He brought healing to the whole person – body, mind and spirit – and He restored people to functional wholeness and the to their community. And modern medicine is coming to recognize the importance of the impact that feelings, emotions, desires, etc can have on human beings. Painful, conflicting and destructive thoughts can, over time, cause damage to many of our organ systems. As God’s word states in Proverbs 14:30:”A calm and undisturbed mind and heart are the life and health of the body, but envy, jealousy, and wrath are like rottenness of the bones.” Amp version. Jesus healed people as whole persons, showing concern for their feelings, emotions and social conditions and by doing the same we can help many sick persons resolve inner problems and broken relationships. This is the unique calling of the Church and should set our health care efforts apart from the rest. Healing is a ministry of the whole church as well as of trained medical people. The healing of sick persons is part of the work of the Kingdom and should point people to Jesus as the Messiah.

Relevant questions:

  1. Would you agree with Dr Fountain that the Mark 1 passage discussed represents the first “general clinic” in recorded history? Is it a relevant model for today?
  2. What role did healing sick people play in the ministry of Jesus? Should it be that way for the 21st century Church? How can it be?
  3. What is lacking in modern “medical” care? What can we do about it?
  4. What should our churches be doing to care for the whole person?

 

Discipline in the Kingdom of God: Week 23 in “The Kingdom of God, what is it? by Dr Dan Fountain

as always I recommend you buy the book this series is based on.

Reading this week is Matthew 5, 6, and 7.

I think Matthew 5 (specifically what is referred to as the Beatitudes) is one of the most beloved sections of the NT. If anything represents what non-Christians love about Jesus and His ministry it is what he teaches in Matt 5: 3-12. Blessed are the poor in spirit, those who mourn, and those who are gentle. As are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness and those who are merciful. The pure in heart and the peacemakers, etc. These are characteristics we all can agree are worthy of our pursuit. But that is just the beginning of Jesus’ teaching in these 3 chapters. It is one continual sermon. Dr Fountain simply and effectively outlines things for us:

Matthew 5:3-12 – attitudes. We are to be :

  1. without pretension spiritually, recognizing our dependence on God
  2. aware of our sinful condition
  3. humble, accepting the role the Lord has given us no matter what it is
  4. driven to conform to God’s daily requirements for us, and to live in a right relationship with Him and with those around us
  5. merciful, showing kindness and compassion without prejudice
  6. pure in heart, being obedient to Him in all things
  7. peacemakers, bringers of shalom/peace
  8. willing to endure abuse for His names sake

Matthew 5:13-48

  • being disciplined in living a Kingdom life we bring light into dark places through good works that have a saving effect within the society in which we live
  • life in the Kingdom is primarily an inward life of being conformed to the minds and will of God. Outward actions are the expressions of our inner life. We are to live in full obedience to His law in our thoughts and attitudes as well as in our outward actions.
  • we must control our anger
  • adultery begins in the desires of the heart and is not just an outward immoral act. Marriage is sacred.
  • our speech and communications must show complete integrity, consistency and sincerity.
  • revenge has no place in the kingdom of God. We resist those who seek to do evil by shaming them with our good works and our refusal to become violent. Love our enemies and reach out to them to help and bless them.

Matthew 6:1-18 Acts of charity, private and public prayer and fasting are between us and God. We should do them with diligence, humbly and without seeking the attention or praise of man.

Matthew 6:19-34 Confidence in the provisions of God

  • spiritual treasure is eternal; material is temporal.
  • we accumulate real treasure serving God and others
  • we should return to God what remains beyond our needs.
  • we should plan but not worry!
  • we are to consult with Him constantly and trust Him to handle our resources better than we can

Matthew 7 Further instructions.

  • being judgmental of others has a reverse effect. The way we judge others will be applied to us.
  • God is the only one who can judge the inner character and motives of people.
  • we can ask God for what we need for our life and our service for Him but not in a selfish and self-centered way.
  • the kingdom of God is real. So is that of the enemy.
  • the path to the kingdom of God is narrow and will be difficult but it is the path of life.
  • we see the true values that people cling to in their actions
  • obedience to God characterizes people in the Kingdom of God. We enter by faith, He knows us personally, provides for us and works with us.

Some questions:

  1. What must we do to learn the discipline of the Kingdom of God?
  2. How does this inner discipline manifest itself outwardly in our behavior?
  3. How will it affect our relationship with other people?
  4. How will it affect our relationship with God?
  5. How should we go about providing for our needs and for those of our family and using the rest for God and His purposes?

Are Idols, Magic and Curses Real? Week 19 in “The Kingdom of God: What is it?” by Dan Fountain

Reading for today: Exodus 20:3-6, Deuteronomy 18:9-13 and Ephesians 5:3-5.

The Ephesians passage is ” 3 Let there be no sexual immorality, impurity, or greed among you. Such sins have no place among God’s people. 4 Obscene stories, foolish talk, and coarse jokes – these are not for you. Instead, let there be thankfulness to God. 5 You can be sure that no immoral, impure, or greedy person will inherit the Kingdom of Christ and of God. For a greedy person is an idolater, worshiping the things of this world.

Excerpts and paraphrased from the book.

Idolatry is trust in anything that is not God. Since humans were deceived in the garden, God has been vehemently opposed to idolatry since He recognizes its destructive power. God wants our minds and spirits (we could say our Spirit and Soul) to be in communication with Him. He alone is sufficient to provide the knowledge, wisdom and protection we need. To idolize anything else is divisive and leads to the destruction of personal integrity and social cohesiveness. Any idol or image of God we make diminishes our understanding of God and our identity as His image.

Modern day idolatry: modern man still worships objects (not so much graven images though that does continue and may be growing as a problem) but more so we worship money, possessions, personal attractiveness or power, many types of pleasure, sports, certain forms of technology and psychological stimulants. (and depressants I would add) These do not give us life (in fact lead to death) and pull us away from worshipping the one true God. They cannot give us LIFE, yet we feel we cannot live without them!

Paul, in the Ephesians passage talks about greed as a form of idolatry. These are highly deceptive and are based on the false assumption that these things can satisfy the deep desires of the human heart. God forbids greed vehemently because it is destructive and leads to despair, corruption and violence.

The occult: magic, sorcery, omens and curses (Deut 18) Occult practices are a search for power – power over other people, over nature or in the spiritual realm. They are based on the false assumption that living things (aside from humans) and non-living things in nature possess spiritual power. This is in contradiction to what Genesis reveals which is that only humans are imbued with a spirit. To attempt to manipulate spiritual powers, energy fields, or life force of other people or objects in nature is disobedient to God. Our trust is to be only in Him.

People and nations who engage in occult practices suffer from dissension, conflict, lack of trust and the inability to work together for the common good. The practices are a sign of rebellion against God, who desires to being unity and blessing to all people.

Question to consider:

  1. Why is God so opposed to idolatry?
  2. What are the idols in the culture in which you live?
  3. What does idolatry do to us?
  4. What might be idols in your own life?
  5. How can we protect our children from involvement in occult practices?

Are God’s Laws For Us Today? Week 18 of Dr Fountains “The Kingdom of God: What is it?”

if you like the contents of this post and want to go deeper please do purchase the book.

This weeks biblical reference is Exodus 20. The contents? The Words of God to Israel. (We call them the 10 Commandments)

God commands us to be like Him. (like Jesus) Dr Fountain points out that He does not kill, (I would say murder) steal, lie or behave in ways that are unfaithful. The purpose of the moral law are:

  1. to demonstrate God’s character so we can emulate it
  2. to bring clarity, order and fairness into human relationships – love of God and love of neighbor
  3. to regulate individual and collective behavior
  4. to promote unner discipline

God did not give the moral law as the means of salvation. We receive salvation by our faith and trust in God that leads us to obedience to him. Grace does not eliminate the moral law of God. True salvation be grace though faith should lead us to obedience of the moral law. This moral law is universal. It is for every person, ethnic group and nation. The Law shows us that we need Christ to save us because no one can keep the law. Nevertheless the law remains intact.

God also gave Israel two other large blocks of laws as part of their distinct culture. The ceremonial laws and civil laws and instructions. The ceremonial were instructions regarding worship, offering and sacrifices and religious feasts in order to bind His people, Israel, to Him. The civil laws and instructions were to establish their culture. How they were to live as individuals and as a people and provided the values on which this behavior was based. These were about family relationships, sexual behaviors, use of the land and property, agriculture, sanitation, food laws and many others. Neither of these laws were universal. Many do not apply to His Church today but we will benefit much from studying the underlying principles on which these instructions were based and applying those principle to our cultural context. The Kingdom of God includes His rule over our cultural values and behavior and shows us that we are accountable to God for our physical, social and economic relationships.

How can we distinguish between the universal laws of God and the particular cultural instructions He gave to His people then?:

  • God’s moral law is general and applies at all times to all peoples
  • Culture is particular and related to circumstances. The cultural laws and instructions He gave the people of Israel were for them, not for us. However, we need to discern the principles underlying them and discover how to apply those principles to our culture.
  • in the NT we find cultural values and directives appropriate for us.

Questions to ask:

  1. What is the role of the law for us as people of the Kingdom of God?
  2. What role does God play in shaping culture in the 21st century?
  3. How much of our church culture comes from God and how much comes from our surrounding culture?
  4. How can we bring biblical values now into our own culture?

 

What Kind of Government Works Well? Week 17 from “The Kingdom of God: What is it?” by Dr Dan Fountain

Hard to believe we are not that far from the half-way point in the year! Today is week 17 and as always I recommend purchasing for yourself the book I am using for these posts.

Today’s title on the surface doesn’t seem to have much application to the theme of the kingdom of God. But of course as we deepen our understanding regarding the reach of the Gospel of the Kingdom we will see it encompasses all aspects of our lives. Government included. The text for today is Exodus 18 and Deuteronomy 1:8-18. The story of the origins of representative government. Moses has led his people out of harms way (at least for the time being) and it appears that the major threats have been squelched. Relative peace has descended on the nation of Israel and it was time to establish some ground rules for the governance of the Jewish nation. Moses had placed himself over all as judge of the quarrels and conflicts that invariable cropped up. When his father-in-law visited Moses and saw how he was going to burn himself out with the system Moses had established he gave the following advice:

Exodus 18: 17 “This is not good!” Moses’ father-in-law exclaimed. 18 “You’re going to wear yourself out – and the people, too. This job is too heavy a burden for you to handle all by yourself. 19 Now listen to me, and let me give you a word of advice, and may God be with you. You should continue to be the people’s representative before God, bringing their disputes to him. 20 Teach them God’s decrees, and give them his instructions. Show them how to conduct their lives. 21 But select from all the people some capable, honest men who fear God and hate bribes. Appoint them as leaders over groups of one thousand, one hundred, fifty, and ten. 22 They should always be available to solve the people’s common disputes, but have them bring the major cases to you. Let the leaders decide the smaller matters themselves. They will help you carry the load, making the task easier for you. 23 If you follow this advice, and if God commands you to do so, then you will be able to endure the pressures, and all these people will go home in peace.”

Great advice and whether or not any other culture at this time used this wise system I do not know. But Moses made a slight modification which goes unnoticed unless you read carefully in Deuteronomy 1:8 – 18. 13 Choose some well-respected men from each tribe who are known for their wisdom and understanding, and I will appoint them as your leaders.” Moses asked the communities to choose their leaders and Moses respected their choices. (or so we are led to believe) This was putting the decisions into the hands of the people more than at any time in their history. Think of the difference that decision has made in the world.

Hierarchical governments (not representative as above, China would be an example) have advantages as pointed out by Dr Fountain:

  1. Decisions can be quickly made
  2. Decisions can usually be carried out quickly and efficiently because the leaders have the authority to force the decision without questions from those effected.

But the disadvantages are numerous:

  1. The people don’t participate (much like what has happened in China the past 20 years) so they don’t have to think for themselves but rely on their leaders to do the thinking for them.
  2. Decisions are imposed on the people.
  3. There is low trust and cooperation because the people have not been part of the decision making process.
  4. Relationships are vertical and not horizontal. This tends to lead to people not needing to listen to each other nor work together.
  5. There is a tendency toward exploitation and corruption.
  6. Much depends on the quality of the leaders at the top. There is no accountability at the top.
  7. Power is invested in a human authority rather than in God.

Representative governments in contrast:

  1. Invites participation of the people in decision-making and implementation.
  2. Encourages communication b/w the people and their leaders.
  3. Leaders are accountable to the people.
  4. Promotes trust, cooperation and a sense of ownership.

The downside can be it is more cumbersome and decisions are made more slowly. (or not at all)

Dr Fountain points out that in all forms of government, communications with God and His truth’s is essential. We must follow Moses instructions to the people: “Choose God-fearing men who are wise, experienced and impartial.” Today in nations where the “Big Man” rules, trust is low, corruption is high, and social and community development rarely occurs.

Questions for thought:

  1. Have you seen or experienced both forms of governance? Does your experience coincide with what today’s devotional says?
  2. How does this thinking apply to the local church?
  3. If you are living in a western context to do you see this form of representative government functioning well or do you think your country/culture is regressing to the “Big Man” form of governance?
  4. What role does the Church have in establishing or maintaining representative governance?

How Does God Bring Good out of Evil? Week 13 from “The Kingdom of God: What is it” by Dan Fountain

taken from THIS book.

I realize that last week, week 12, didn’t get posted. Maybe next time around.

Reading for today is Genesis 24-50! No small amount, that.

“God had to work through many dysfunctional aspects in the life of Abraham and his descendants to try to mold them into the people of this Kingdom. He wanted to preserve among them their knowledge of Him, their worship of Him, and their dependence on Him as their only God. He wanted to keep them separate from the surrounding nations so they would not be seduced into polytheistic idol worship and the corrupt morality that goes with it. (and I would add He desired for them to be the light to all nations that would draw all peoples to Him)

Highlighting Jacob and his family, Dr Fountains points out that God worked through the evil events in this family to bring good through them. A dysfunctional family (Jacob had 2 wives AND 2 concubines) produced 12 sons one of which was favored, leading to Joseph’s pride and then hatred toward him from his brothers, who sold him into slavery. Joseph, through his uprightness in Potiphar’s household, was given ever increasing responsibilities but was brought down when his uprightness clashed with the moral corruption in Potiphar’s wife. And of course the rest of the story ends with Joseph in charge of managing the great famine in Egypt which reunites him with his family and ultimately reconciles Joseph with is brothers. Unfortunately this leads to Israel’s enslavement but that’s a story for a later time. It does illustrate that God works in us to accomplish His goals in spire of the imperfect aspects of our lives.

This illustrates God’s goals for His people:

  1. He wants us to be free from all that keeps us from living as He wants us to live.
  2. He wants us to be righteous, which means to have right relationships with everyone, including with God himself.

Some questions:

  1. How did God bring good out of the evil that the brothers did to Joseph?
  2. What lessons to you see in these accounts that can help us to live effectively in the Kingdom of God and under His rule?

What is the Covenant Relationship? Week 11 of “The Kingdom of God: what is it?” by Dan Fountain

I would like again to encourage you to purchase this book if you have not done so already.

Today’s scripture focus is Genesis 12. Abram is called to leave his home and to set out on a journey of faith, to a place the Lord would show him. God was beginning the work of building a special relationship with a particular people. Not because they were deserving, “not to make them a rich and powerful people but to live with Him and to serve (emphasis mine) other nations”…Thus began the long history of salvation whereby redemption from evil comes through an intimate trust relationship with God.”

  • Abram’s culture was polytheistic and God was calling him to leave this culture and land.
  • Abram obeyed, God blessed him and gave him a new identity. God’s friend and the father of a new nation.
  • This new people would bring blessing to the nations by helping them find their identity as followers of God.

The Covenant Relationship – “A covenant is a mutual agreement between two parties”… and in this case a covenant between God, who is sovereign, and His people, who are the subjects.

  • God established the agreement.
  • We enter into it by agreeing to it and promising our faithfulness and obedience.
  • Based on mutual faith and trust.
  • The guarantee of the covenant rests on God’s unchanging faithfulness. He will protect us.
  • Our part is to obey. If we do He will bless His people and they will prosper and bless all the people of the earth.
  • This provides us our identity in Him.

Purpose of the Covenant – God wanted His people, Israel, to be a model of the Kingdom of God to other nations. They were to live in a way that would attract the other nations to come into the Kingdom of God.

  1. What does it really mean to have a covenant relationship with the Creator of the Universe, Almighty God? As a person and community of His people.
  2. Why does God make such heavy requirements of his people?
  3. What benefits do you see in having an intentional covenant relationship with God as a person, family and Church?