Monday, February 23, 2015

"Speak to me!"

Kent Hughes tells the story of a celebrated Swedish filmmaker, Ingmar Bergman, who was listening to Stravinsky one day and had a vision of a nineteenth-century cathedral. In the vision Bergman found himself wandering about a great building and finally coming before a picture of Jesus Christ. Realizing its importance, Bergman said to the picture, "Speak to me! I will not leave this cathedral until you speak to me!" But of course the picture did not speak. That same year he produced The Silence, a film about characters who despair of ever finding God.

Bergman's problem was, he was looking at the wrong picture. Rather, he needed to listen to the massive eloquence of the Christ of Scripture--for "in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son" (Hebrews 1:2). He needed to see the eloquence of Jesus Christ's character and speech and actions and, above all, the sublime eloquence of the cross, for there he speaks salvation.

The apparent silence of God provides a touch-point with today, for Bergman well represents our troubled world that bristles at the imagined silence of God. 

Yet God has eloquently spoken to us--in creation, through his prophets and apostles and, most of all, through the eloquence of his Son.

The answer to life's storms? The eloquence of Jesus Christ's person is the most practical thing on earth. Indeed, Jesus, understood and exalted, eloquently informs every area of life.

If you're not yet a follower of Jesus Christ, I encourage you to sincerely pray the essence of Bergman's prayer: "Speak to me!" Ask God himself to speak to you. 

If you are a follower of Jesus, you may be feeling beleaguered, perhaps wondering if God really cares about your current situation. If life sometimes feels stressful and even overwhelming, I invite you to embrace the supremacy of Jesus Christ. 

Again, Jesus Christ himself eloquently informs every area of life. 


Monday, February 16, 2015

God can use anyone to advance His purposes

In recent days I have commented about how the evangelical church is once again beginning to understand its place within the broader Church, within the much larger family of God, and within the much, much larger kingdom of God.

God’s kingdom. God’s family. God’s Church.

They’re not the same, but how are they different?

The fact is, God not only can use anyone to advance His purposes, but God often uses them as a means of drawing them into His family and church today. 
Take the apostle Paul as a classic example. The fact is, the more opposed someone is when God starts using them, the more likely it is that God will draw them to faith in Jesus Christ. It sounds counter-intuitive, but we see this over and over in Scripture, in Church history, in modern biography, and in contemporary experience.

Let’s make a distinction, however, between “servant” and “citizen.” Not all “servants” in God’s kingdom are “citizens” yet. Citizens are going to spend eternity with God. Servants may or may not. God’s desire, of course, is that none perish, but that all come to repentance.

Who is God using in your hometown, in national politics, on Wall Street, in the sports world, in the entertainment world? Who comes to mind? Have you ever thought of them as God’s servants? Have you ever prayed for God to use them? Have you ever wanted to see God transform their lives?

We need to pray for new eyes to see people as God sees them. How many of you have heard 
Bebo Norman’s haunting song, “Britney”? Here’s the story behind that song in Bebo’s own words:
I was up late, couldn’t sleep, watching some news channel, when yet another story about Britney Spears came on. My first instinct was to scoff and write it off, but then there was this freeze-frame shot of a look on her face of utter and absolute despair and confusion and brokenness—a look that I recognized… I think that night I saw her through the eyes of Jesus for the first time. I imagined what Jesus would say to me in my darkest hour and realized that those are the words we should speak to this world, to this culture, and even to Britney Spears in their darkest hour. “I’m sorry. Hope is here.”

“I’m sorry. Hope is here.” Sometimes, those are the first words we need to say to someone God wants to save. Not, “I have the answers.” Not even, “I know God, He changed my life, and He can save you too.” Just “I’m sorry. Hope is here.”

Many in God’s kingdom are His, some are not and some are on the way:

Are you willing to memorize those words, take them to heart, and speak them to someone this week? “I’m sorry. Hope is here.” Hope because of who God is, because of what God is doing, and because of what God envisions and wants to be true for all eternity.

When Bob Dylan recorded his landmark album Slow Train Comin’ and first told the world that he was serving the Lord, many cheered, many others jeered, and still many others didn’t know what to think.

Based on what we have just considered, what do you think?


Tuesday, February 10, 2015

The latest news? God still is advancing His purposes through humanity here on earth


A few days ago I commented about how the evangelical church is once again beginning to understand its place within the broader Church, within the much larger family of God, and within the much, much larger kingdom of God.

God’s kingdom. God’s family. God’s Church.

They’re not the same, but how are they different?

Jesus Christ is the head of the Church. In addition, all of God’s people are part of His forever family. Beyond that, however, Jesus Christ is the rightful, exalted King of God’s kingdom.

God’s kingdom is the context through which He is advancing His purposes through humanity here on earth.

That context includes God’s work around the world and down of all ages through emperors, kings, prime ministers, presidents, governors, mayors, and other government officials, whether or not they believe in God yet.

God can use anyone to advance His purposes here on earth. If God could use ancient Pharaohs, and kings Xerxes, Cyrus, and Nebuchadnezzar, and ancient Caesars from Julius to Augustus to Nero, God can use anyone.

We see this in Revelation 21:24, where the apostle John records that fact that “The nations will walk by [God’s] light, and the kings of earth will bring their splendor into it.” Then look down two verses to Revelation 21:26, where we read: “The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into” the eternal city of God. Then look down three more verses to Revelation 22, verses 2-3: “On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree of life are for the healing of the nations.”

So, in these last two chapters of the Bible, we see God’s Church, God’s Family, and God’s Kingdom clearly in focus.

So what’s the take-away value of looking at God’s Kingdom in light of eternity?

It puts a whole new perspective on everything in this life — as we look back through history, as we look at the first 15 years of the 21st century, and as we look ahead to what may be coming.

It grieves me when we look at others, compare ourselves, and then assume that God can’t use this or that individual to advance His purposes on earth. 

No matter what, God’s kingdom is advancing His purposes through humanity here on earth. 

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

God's family stretches from Adam and Eve to today and beyond

The few days ago I have commented about how the evangelical church is once again beginning to understand its place within the broader Church, within the much larger family of God, and within the much, much larger kingdom of God.

God’s kingdom. God’s family. God’s Church.

They’re not the same, but how are they different?

God’s family stretches from Adam and Eve to today and beyond. God’s family includes all authentic followers of Jesus Christ who belong to the Church. It also includes many others who live outside the Church.

Among others, God’s family includes all authentic Jewish believers in Old Testament times.

We see this in Revelation chapter 21, verse 14, where we read that the eternal city of God has twelve gates. “On the gates where written the names of the twelve tribes of Israel.”

God’s family includes even more ancient individuals like Noah, Job, and Abraham who believed in God long before the ancient Israelite nation, the Jewish faith, and the Hebrew Scriptures existed.

God’s family also includes Muslims today who come to faith after Jesus appears to them in visions and dreams. I've spoken with several former Muslims who have become outstanding evangelists proclaiming the transforming power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. They and other experts tell me that Muslims are coming to Jesus Christ by the tens of thousands around the world. One of the most amazing things is how many report that they first heard the Gospel from Jesus Christ Himself, who appears to them in dreams and visions.

I am so thankfully we can be sure that eternity will be enjoyed by all of God’s children down through the ages. Among other places, we see this in Revelation 22:16b, where Jesus says: “I am the Root and the Offspring of David and the bright Morning Star.” There He speaks both to the ancient Jewish people who believed in Him—and to others who, like the ancient Magi, can see God’s reality, power, beauty, and might in creation and passionately long for that reality in their own lives.

Eternity will be enjoyed by all God’s children down through the ages….


Monday, February 2, 2015

Front and center of God's plans now and for eternity

This past weekend I commented about how the evangelical church is once again beginning to understand its place within the broader Church, within the much larger family of God, and within the much, much larger kingdom of God.

God’s kingdom. God’s family. God’s Church.

They’re not the same, but how are they different?

The first and smallest sphere in our diagram, again, is God’s Church.

The New Testament clearly teaches that Jesus Christ is the Head of His Body, the Church.

The Church is made up of all true followers and disciples of Jesus Christ from A.D. 33 to 2015 and beyond. It’s amazing to realize that you and I belong to the same Church that Mary, Peter, James, John, Paul, and others belonged to 1,980+ years ago.

Thankfully, the Church is front and center of God’s plans for eternity.

Look at what the apostle John wrote in the opening verses of the last book of the Bible, the book of Revelation. Revelation 21, verses 1 to 3:

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God."
The exclamation point of heaven isn't the pearly gates or streets of gold. Instead, the exclamation point of heaven is seen here in verse 3: God is living with men and women from every nation, culture, and people group.

So who do we find in heaven? Well, first, we find God’s Church. Revelation 21:14 says: “The wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.” This speaks about how the Church was built on the faith on Jesus’ closest friends and followers, often called the twelve apostles.

We see the Church referred to again in the last chapter of the Bible, Revelation 22, verse 16, the last red letter verse in the Bible. There Jesus says: “I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches.”

Eternity will be enjoyed by all the authentic followers of Jesus Christ…

...and by many, many others, of course, as we'll see in upcoming posts.