Alan Streett’s book, Heaven on Earth: Experiencing the Kingdom of God in the Here and Now (Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House, 2013), is nicely laid out along canonical lines. By this I mean that he surveys his subject following the arrangement of the biblical canon, starting with Genesis, and then working his way through the mountain tops of the Old Testament. After surveying the Gospels, and addressing his theme in the epistles, he lands on the heavenly heights of the Apocalypse.
Streett shows the reader that the kingdom of God was first revealed in Genesis 1:28 by the command to: “Fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion . . . over every living thing that moves upon the earth.” The kingdom of God is first revealed in the opening chapter of the Bible! Here is the foundation of all theology, including kingdom theology. (Time and again I am amazed, so much so that I am no longer amazed, at how every central theme of the Bible is revealed in the narrative of Genesis 1-3!)
Following this proper beginning Streett takes the reader through the Old Testament. In twenty pages he gives a racy overview of how the kingdom theme worked prior to the coming of the King. This is followed by chapters titled: “Rome: The Final Empire” and “God’s Appointed and Anointed King.” (I’ll give you just one guess regarding who this person is.)
King Jesus reveals his kingdom through exorcisms, physical healing, miracles and teaching rooted in the everyday stories of this world, stories that focus on the here and now before dealing with the future. Charismatic, and non-charismatic, Christians will both benefit from Streett’s clear words about signs and wonders and the coming of the kingdom in the person of Jesus. There is no need to draw fire from either side when you adopt his big picture perspective.
In the middle of the book there is a chapter with this fascinating title: “AM and FM Christians.” He writes: “The kingdom of God is located wherever God’s end-time Spirit is present and welcome. When first-century believers gathered, they knew God was there with them. They expected him to speak and minister to them and through them. In this sense, they carried on the kingdom ministry that Jesus started” (Heaven on Earth, 149).
But what does this “AM and FM” metaphor mean? Most Christians function like an AM receiver. “Their capacity for hearing God is limited to one signal – the written Word of God. These believers operate at mainly a cognitive level. They enjoy sermons and their Bibles daily. God speaks to them through his written Word” (Heaven on Earth, 151). This is where I lived much of my Christian life until sometime in my thirties. I find it all too common among most Christians I know. FM Christians have an additional frequency. They are tuned in to the “still, small voice of God” (Heaven on Earth, 151). They listen with spiritual ears and they see with spiritual eyes. These FM believers are often the Christians who take giant steps of faith, steps deemed unreasonable by other Christians. All Christians are equipped with both AM and FM capacity but most use only their AM signal.
But how do you hear this FM signal? Streett says we must “get plugged in” (Heaven on Earth, 152). You are plugged in when you are “born from above” since those who “see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3) are those who have been born of God. To rightly hear we must move from an “analysis mode” (AM) to a “faith mode” (FM). Only here can we hear God speak to us through the ears of faith (Galatians 3;2; James 1:5-6).
Streett lays out a series of six practical steps that you can take in order to hear God’s voice. He really lays out a simple process whereby the Christian can “practice the discipline of silence” (Heaven on Earth, 154). The process should become a daily routine. This is one that Christians for centuries have called meditation and contemplation. The simple prayer he urges the reader to offer to God is: “Lord Jesus, speak to me.” You can’t get more basic than that. When this prayer is made with genuine sincerity and humility God answers!
Streett summarizes: “God wishes to speak to the hearts of individual believers and to his people when they gather. I am not advocating in any way New Age mysticism, but New Testament Christianity” (Heaven on Earth, 167). I find it sad that this qualification is needed but I get the reason why.
I resonate deeply with this entire emphasis with one small qualification. I would not hesitate to call this Christian (“evangelical”) mysticism. Streett opens the door to what my Catholic friend said to me last winter about the absence of contemplation among evangelicals. He suggested that he had never seen such activism without the contemplative lifestyle that would feed it deeply. I can only wish that every person who reads Streett’s words would go much, much deeper and learn how to do lectio divina and attentive contemplation. Thanks to evangelicals, like the late Dallas Willard, this is becoming a deeper reality among many Protestant evangelicals. But as I noted earlier, this book is a primer thus it will reach ordinary people who are often deeply suspicious of the word mysticism. The book reaches the intended target. This is one major reason for why I love it so much.
An interview with Dr. R. Alan Streett on this new book is available as a podcast that was conducted by my dear friend Pastor Mark Moore in Plano, Texas. If you have enjoyed reading these posts then you might also enjoy listening to Dr. Streett in this audio interview done by a fine man who does a very nice job getting the author into the thesis of his fine book. Here is the link: http://www.providencecommunity.com/sermon/heaven-on-earth-book-release/
Next Tuesday (June 4): The Gospel of the Kingdom (5)