Tag

Kingdom

Hold Your Ground

By | Blog, Envision, Headfirst, Media, Personal

Don’t give in to the Grinch this holiday season.  He’s all over social media telling you how bad things are, then topping the last story with a new video or meme.  Tis the season to pile on, right?  I’m not suggesting this world is good; it’s not.  It’s corrupted by sin, death and disease.  But in God, we have a Father who gives His children good gifts.  We have a Savior who redeems us and brings reconciliation between men and God.  We have the Spirit who fills and empowers us to live righteously for His purposes.  Hold your ground: choose faith, hope and love!

Identify the blessings in your life and celebrate them.  If you can’t find enough, celebrate with a brother or sister who will share them with you.

Here’s my own Thanksgiving offering for you – the video overview from our recent Men’s Mission to Haiti.  Stay till the end – it’s worth every (free) penny.

httpvh://vimeo.com/112757027

Consider it a great joy, my brothers, whenever you experience various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. But endurance must do its complete work, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing.  Now if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives to all generously and without criticizing, and it will be given to him. (James 1:2-5)

Grinch = bad.  God = good!

It’s the Eternity, Christian!

By | Envision

While I typically attempt to express myself in a manner that my words would be applicable in any season, I’ve written these thoughts in the wake of the re-election of Barack Obama to a second term as president. And so I have felt free to borrow the title from the slogan of a prior campaign, the purpose of which was to continuously align the proponents to focus on what they recognized as the essential issue.

As followers of Christ, we have many responsibilities. But our essential issue is the Gospel. There are many actions and activities that flow from the Greatest Commandment but the continual refrain of Kingdom proponents should be Christ, Gospel, Eternity.

Each day that we have the freedom to live for Christ, we must take every opportunity to make His priorities our own. His values are own. His focus our own.

Jesus was never distracted from His purpose of redemption, His ascent to the cross, His development of His disciples, His obedience to His Father. Was that because of the cooperation of the Roman Empire? Herod? Pilate? The Sanhedrin? The culture of the nation?

Followers of Christ do not need to bicker about whether the current political or social landscape is desirable. We will pray for the leaders of the land and take our duties of citizenship seriously, but our first allegiance is to God and His Kingdom. Not only is it our priority, it is the only thing that’s going to last.

We could diverge upon a discussion of how biblical heroes led under various administrations (e.g. Joseph, Daniel, Nehemiah, Esther, Paul, Peter, John, etc.,) and perhaps on another day, I will. But these are all subservient to our mission: proclaiming the Good News of Jesus Christ.

We must be aligned to the Gospel and the timeline of eternity. It will not matter who won which election on the day your friend dies, or your neighbor, or your co-worker. The only decision determining his or her eternal destiny will be whether he or she has trusted in Christ and accepted His payment for sin and His gift of eternal life.

So let each of us be reminded, Christian, that if our allegiance is to the One True God, our eyes must be on Him, and our lives must revolve around His purposes. Let us cry out to the nations that our only hope is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.

Set your eyes, your heart, your mind, your family, your calendar, your budget, and every decision entrusted to you on the Gospel. It’s the Eternity, Christian!

 

Celebrity

By | Envision, Equip

Why is our society captivated by celebrity?  It seems that merely a spark of fame or notoriety breeds adoration.  Some admire the actual accomplishments of others (which brought them fame) while many seem to adore those whose abnormal behavior brought them attention.  It would be effortless to name a string of current celebrities without any resume beyond wealth, immorality or deviance.  Then there is the niche of modern royalty – a special category for those descended from someone famous.  (Not just the House of Windsor, consider any number of American families treated as royalty.)

Is it possible that our culture is so hungry for the divine that people will pour their hearts into virtually any semblance of fame?  That we believe if we could just gain some affiliation with them it would somehow give us value?  That we will give our time, attention, money and yes, even worship to those who offer a taste of their celebrity to us?

That thirst seems insatiable, because it is only satisfied in Jesus Christ.  It is Jesus who offers us the privilege of being born again – born spiritually.  He offers us an abundant life, rivers of living water so that we will never thirst again, bearing much fruit.

“But to all who did receive Him, He gave them the right to be children of God, to those who believe in His name, who were born not of blood, or of the will of the flesh, or of the will of man, but of God.”  John 1:12-13

Why worship celebrity when you can know the Messiah, the One True God?  Taste and see that the Lord is good!  Forget the royal families of this world; you are invited to the Father, to be His child, and to spend eternity with Him.  Jesus told His disciples that He was preparing a place for them.  God’s children have a room in His mansion.

Next time the media starts selling celebrity (which we’ve been asking for) – instead, find a quiet place, grab a Bible, and pray and read His Word, and let Jesus fill your heart.

Powerful and Relevant

By | Envision, Equip

“Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Acts 2:38

This call to repentance comes from the end of Peter’s message to thousands in Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost. The crowds have seen the flames from the Holy Spirit touching upon the apostles and heard their words in their own tongues. Those with spiritual sensitivity have understood, as Peter explained, that this very day is the fulfillment of prophecy from hundreds of years earlier authenticating the Gospel of the resurrected Christ.

Salvation is in Christ alone, by grace alone, through faith alone. We can understand this amazing truth, yet fail to communicate the reality of transformation when we share the Gospel. We do a disservice to the Kingdom when our proclamation is weak and feeble. We say things like:

  • Jesus will come into your heart
  • God will bring you peace and purpose
  • One day you’ll be in heaven
  • Of course these things are true, but why are we so mundane about truth? Jesus doesn’t simply enter your life, He becomes King. He transforms you! He rescues you from the domain of darkness! We don’t sit idly by awaiting death so that we may experience heaven – no, the Kingdom is ours right now.

    Do you understand that the Gospel saves us in the present, not just the future? The same Holy Spirit of the Acts of the Apostles indwells a believer immediately upon saving faith. (Are we promised every manifestation listed in Acts? No, that is not promised – but most of us do not live as if He ever plans to show up.)

    Picking up your cross and following Jesus is not an easy road. But let’s not drag our feet as we approach Him, babbling about trying to be good people. This life is corrupted, but the Holy Spirit provides the power to live the life we’re meant to live. Right now, not one day far off after our mortal bodies have been buried.

    Are you living that truth today? You can be! And please, each time you share the Amazing News of salvation, remember that forgiveness of sins means we enter into intimate fellowship with the King and that He gives us His Spirit enabling us to live out a powerful life of faith. The Spirit of Jesus will bring His resurrection power into your life, and though circumstances might be overwhelmingly against us, we are more than conquerors! Oh, and yes, even when they kill us, we won’t die!

    Alive to the Spirit

    By | Envision, Involve

    Open Road
    We are cruising on the road through the Hungarian countryside – a beautiful, crisp morning of 3º C at the end of autumn, the shades of brown, auburn, tan, rust and gold foliage contrasting with the grey skies. Patches of green trees interrupt the landscape briefly, distracting us from the coming winter. My heart is alive this morning to the adventure that God has in store for us as we scout out His will for the partnership between New Life Eastern Europe and The Global Mission.

    Last night I had the privilege of representing church leaders in the U.S. in a dinner conversation with the director of Eastern Europe and Russia for Campus Crusade for Christ. The doors are wide open for developing missions partnership between churches and ministries for the sake of the Gospel. This is a phenomenal blessing and privilege for us to respond to the needs of the Kingdom.

    What if we could send missionaries and teams to meet as many needs as possible and accelerate the Gospel? Do we have the faith to believe this is possible? It’s not just a ministry question; it’s a personal question!

    Often we have such a limited imagination of how God would use our families, small groups and churches to advance the Kingdom. Would you dare to take a seven day challenge to pray each day for seven days and ask the Holy Spirit to show you one next step for your family in the Great Commission?
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    • He might ask you to change your schedule – would you be willing?
    • He might ask you to spend money – would you make it a priority?
    • He might ask you to recruit your friends – would you pursue them?
    • He might ask you to use your passport – would you pack your bag?
    [/arrow_list]Our car rolls to a stop at our meeting point in downtown Košice, Slovakia, and we bundle up to meet the chill. Each next step opens an opportunity to share the Gospel, to encourage a brother, to experience the Holy Spirit’s leading. What do you have for us next, Lord?   Let’s go![divider_top]Top[/divider_top]

    Upstream / Downstream

    By | Envision, Headfirst

    Disclaimer: Before I become the focus of anyone’s theological condemnation, let me affirm the truths that following God’s will can be painful, difficult and fatal.  Jesus told us following Him means we must bear our cross daily.  At the same moment, living the Spirit-filled life also sets us free, brings us joy, is an easy yoke to bear, and gives us Jesus Himself, a fountain of living water.  Several New Testament exhortations to persevere and endure literally mean for us to “stand up under” the pressures and trials (e.g. 1 Peter 2:19.)  So in this paradox it is possible that God’s will for me can lead me to brutal martyrdom, and to peace and simplicity.  There is no mutual exclusivity between suffering and joy.

    So with that out of the way, let me honestly admit, I’d rather be the leaf floating down the stream than the salmon swimming up the stream.  Life is hard enough, ministry has relentless challenges; sometimes I am compelled to ask “why is it so hard?”  And since I’m a principled man, I think it makes a lot of sense that when given the freedom to choose – when neither selection is “right” nor “wrong” – there is nothing wrong with choosing the simple path.  Perhaps even the easy path.

    Is it not accurate that God gives us choices, and we can choose to be blessed?  For instance:

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    • God has made us stewards, and gives us great freedoms in our stewardship.  But we also know that giving generously is a blessing to others and to ourselves.  And it is more blessed to give than to receive (Acts 20:35.)
    • The Lord promised Abraham that He would bless His descendants, and thereby all who bless Israel will be blessed and all who curse her will be cursed (Genesis 12:1-3.)  I choose blessing Israel!
    • Christ’s best known sermon included the Beatitudes which are all about how to be blessed.
    [/arrow_list]

    I’m aware that the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to salvation – but sometimes we make spiritual matters far too complicated and difficult when Jesus regularly brought clarity to the world for His disciples.

    This might seem a simplistic example, but God created our world with physical laws, including gravity.  This means that it’s a lot easier for a human, when stepping off the edge of a cliff, to fall rather than fly.  It’s more natural.  No one is surprised by falling.  Yet many followers of Jesus assume that once we are talking about the spiritual world, it makes sense to attempt to violate spiritual laws – at least if we pray a lot about them.

    If there is truth to the premise that when we discover where God is working we should join Him in His work, that might mean that if we’re toiling fruitlessly we should ask ourselves whether it is hard soil that God has called us to labor in, or whether we are flapping our arms in the wind with futility as we fall toward earth.

    Sometimes living out God’s calling and staying in His will is hard.  Sometimes an easy path is not from the Lord.  And sometimes Jesus offers us a simple path of blessing to follow.  Should you be swimming upstream or downstream?  I don’t know the path that God has called you to sojourn – just make sure that you’re on it.

    “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light”  (Matthew 11:28-30.)