Joy To The World has long been my favorite Christmas hymn, in no small part because of its Kingdom message, which praises King Jesus for coming to earth, reigning and turning back the effects of the curse.
Here are some highlights. Verse 1 “Joy to the world! the Lord is come; Let earth receive her King.”
Verse 2: “Joy to the world! The Saviour reigns.”
Verse 3: “No more let sins and sorrows grow, nor thorns infest the ground; He comes to make His blessings flow far as the curse is found…”
Verse 4: “He rules the world with truth and grace, and makes the nations prove the glories of His righteousness, and wonders of His love…”
Good Kingdom stuff. I get goose bumps every time I sing it.
Vladimir Sviatoslavovich was born in 958 A.D. near Pskov, a city in Northwest Russia, about 12 miles east of the Estonian border. As the son of Sviatoslav I of Kiev, a warrior prince of Kieven Rus, Vladimir was the 10th century Rus equivalent of royalty. By the time Vladimir ascended to power he was a committed pagan, boasting multiple wives and eight hundred concubines. Yes, eight hundred, which probably makes him second only to Wilt Chamberlain.
Vladimir erected many pagan statues and shrines and in 983 A.D. , after a military victory, decided to show his gratitude to his pagan deity benefactors by way of a human sacrifice. A young Christian named Loann was chosen, and when Loann’s father Fyodor protested and preached Christianity to Vladimir and his army, the multitude was so incensed they rushed on Fyodor and killed him and Loann. Fyodor and Loann would later come to be considered the first Christian martyrs in Russia.
The whole incident with Fyodor and Loann left a lasting impression on Vladimir, who, whether driven by his guilty conscience, a desire for truth, or responding to the beckoning of the Holy Spirit we do not know, in 987 A.D. sent out representatives to those nations around him to inquire about their religions. They inquired of the Jews, Muslims and Catholics, but Vladimir was not inspired by what he found until his representatives returned from Constantinople and a visit to Hagia Sophia and reported the following:
“We knew not whether we were on heaven or earth. For on earth there is no such splendor or such beauty, and we are at a loss to describe it. We only know that God dwells there among men, and their service is fairer than the ceremonies of other nations. For we cannot forget that beauty.”
In 988 A.D., Vladimir converted to Christianity. He then began removing pagan monuments and building churches throughout his kingdom. Although there were Christians in Rus before Vladimir’s conversion, he is rightly credited with paving the way for the kingdom of God to take root in what would become Russian, and for that, the GOTK blog grants him the appellation of kingdom hero. GS
The kingdom of God is functioning as it should when Christians in earthly positions of authority execute their responsibilities in those positions diligently, skillfully and ethically in obedience to King Jesus, who thereby reigns through that position. S. Truett Cathy is an excellent example of one who has used his position of authority to exercise the delegated authority of King Jesus.
Cathy opened a restaurant in the Atlanta, Georgia suburb of Hapeville in 1946, which has since multiplied and grown into the franchise known as Chick-fil-A. Cathy, a devout Christian who has taught Sunday School for more than forty years, made a decision before opening his first restaurant to honor the Sabbath and provide his employees Sundays off “to rest, spend time with family and friends, and worship if they choose to do so.” He has never wavered from that decision in any of his more than 1,300 restaurants.
The decision to forego profits one day out of every seven to purchase for one’s employees a day of rest demonstrates that Cathy values his employees more than profits. It is the sort of value choice King Jesus expects of business owners exercising His delegated authority in the kingdom of God, and it the sort of decision Jesus blesses. Check this out: Chick-fil-A, though operating only six days out of seven, in terms of revenue produced is now the second-largest fast-food chicken restaurant chain in the United States.
When Christians hold positions of authority and exercise that authority in obedience to Jesus, He is free to pour out His blessings so that all who are subordinate to that authority can enjoy the blessings of being on Kingdom territory. Whether those who work at Chick-fil-A are Christians or not, when they are at Chick-fil-A they are on Kingdom Territory, nesting under the branches of the tree that is the Kingdom of God. (Matt. 13:31-32). In such a place, even those who aren’t Christians experience the blessings of the rule of King Jesus.
So, hats off to Mr. Cathy. And, oh yeah, remember to “eat mor chikin.” GS
Charlemagne was born in 742 A.D. and became King of the Franks in 768 A.D. To that title he added Emperor of the Romans, which he held until his death in 814 A.D. Charlemagne loved the Lord and wanted to see the kingdom of God established to the farthest reaches on the European continent. In each place he conquered he insisted that pagan temples and practices be eliminated and the gospel propogated.
His Christian rule ushered in the Carolignian Renaissance, which included a blossoming of the arts, literature, the development of the Carolignian miniscule script, the establishment of a common Latin language, the codification of a common set of laws and the establishment of churches throughout what is now Europe.
It is easy to criticize Charlemagne as having spread Christianity through the use of military force rather than through voluntary conversion, but to do so is to misunderstand the times in which Charlemagne lived. At that time in what is now Europe, war was more-or-less a constant. Charlemagne offered peace to those who would abandon their pagan practices and submit to his rule. In other words, Charlemagne offered pagans the opportunity to avoid the common fate of man in exchange for embracing Truth. I suspect for the eighth century Frank the offer seemed a reasonble and humane one.
The best biography on Charlemagne is the one written contemporaneous with his life by his close friend and advisor, Einhard. I recommend purchasing the Penguin Classics version, Two Lives of Charlemagne, which includes another biography by Notker the Stammerer, written fifty years after Charlemagne’s death. While many modern secular historians dimiss Einhard’s biography of Charlemagne as purely panegyric, it is the best I’ve read for one interested in Charlemagne the Christian and kingdom-builder. I give it more credence than others I’ve read for the simple fact that Einhard is the only biographer who actually knew Charlemagne. GS