Saturday, December 15, 2012

Real Hope for Newtown and the World

In light of today's events in Newtown, it is helpful and important to hold on to the Source of hope in times of tragedy:

1. God is not caught off guard or surprised by the presence of evil in the world. The Gospel is honest about the prevalence of sin and brokenness. God cares. God grieves. It is exactly because we need a Savior that Jesus came, and one day will come again to set things right.

2. We are not powerless. We are not defined by the evil of others. Turn off the TV and the endless loops of repeating sound and video bites. Instead, turn on the prayer. Pray for the families who lost loved ones, for those around them affected by the immediacy of the tragedy, the first responders, community leaders, and others The Lord puts on your heart.

3. Seize the opportunity to actively represent the real hope, justice and love of God's Kingdom. Find a way to encourage or comfort at least one other person. Be a hope-bearer. The prophetic message of Christmas from Isaiah 9 is:

2The people walking in darkness 
have seen a great light; 
on those living in the land of deep darkness 
a light has dawned...
6For to us a child is born, 
to us a son is given, 
and the government will be on his shoulders. 
And he will be called 
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, 
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
7Of the increase of his government and peace 
there will be no end. 
He will reign on David’s throne 
and over his kingdom, 
establishing and upholding it 
with justice and righteousness 
from that time on and forever. 
The zeal of the Lord Almighty 
will accomplish this.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

12/12/12 Bible Fun Facts

Happy 12/12/12!

With all the 12/12/12 hype, here are just a few Bible Fun Facts to enjoy and use to dazzle your friends.  As far as numbers go, the number 12 is one of the most important in the Bible:

  • There were 12 patriarchs from Shem to Jacob
  • There were 12 sons of Jacob
  • The families of Jacob's sons formed the 12 tribes of Israel
  • Jesus' first public appearance and words were in the temple at age 12
  • Jesus called 12 disciples
  • Jesus had 12 legions of angels available to Him (Matthew 26:53)
  • 12 apostles were set apart for the birth of the Church (Acts 1:26)
  • The Bride of Christ is pictured with a crown of 12 stars (Revelation 12:1)
  • The New Jerusalem is described as having 12 gates of pearls (Revelation 21:21)
Can you think of more?  What similarities or patterns do you see for when 12 is used in the history of God's people and in the Bible?  Any meaning for us today?  Feel free to leave your comments below.

Oh...and happy 12/12/12. What might God do in and through you today?

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Final Election Results Announced: Who God Is Voting For

Many are calling the 2012 Presidential election the most important in history.  It is certainly the most expensive, exceeding a billion dollars in advertising alone.  Participation in the election is expected to be high, with more than 30% in swing states casting votes early.

As the intensity crescendos to Election Day, it is important to recognize there is one election more important and expensive than the 2012 presidential contest.  It is an election that has implications far beyond the next four years or even the United States.  It is an election that should shape how we handle the importance and our participation in this year’s presidential election.  It answers the question of whom God is voting for in the big Election.

The amazing news of the Gospel is that when God had every option available to Him and stepped into the voting booth, He made a world-changing choice.  Jesus announced it this way:

“You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask for, using my name. This is my command: Love each other.”  John 15:16-17

Congratulations!  Even if you didn’t know or want to be a candidate, if you are a follower of Jesus, you have been elected!  It is a humbling exciting truth.  It is also the most important and expensive election in history.  God is on a mission to redeem all that is broken in the world – to answer the prayer of God’s will being done on earth as it is in heaven.  His commitment to it is demonstrated through His love for us that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8).  There has never been nor will ever be a greater cost or demonstration of love.  Jesus’ resurrection sets us free to for our elected purpose: to go and bear fruit.

The ultimate good news is that Jesus is king.  Jesus’ reign matters more than any other.  Jesus’ kingdom is eternal and ultimate.  All of this has important implications for our participation in the privilege of national elections:

1.  Our participation in matters of earthly importance like voting is valuable.  What does God want to see happen according to God’s redemptive mission in the world?  God has revealed Himself uniquely in His Word.  So, when we step into the voting booth, rather than voting according to what we think might be best for us personally or for our political party, consider what will best reflect and further God’s purposes in the world. 

2.  The good news is God is in control.  Paul goes so far as to say those in governing positions of authority are placed there by God’s sovereignty (see Romans 13:1).  This is especially surprising because the Roman emperors of his day were persecuting Christians and promoting hedonism and injustice.  However, it is a strong statement of faith that even when it doesn’t look like it to our short-sighted vision, God is in control.

3.  Because Jesus is king, he reigns over everything regardless of national identity or political party.  This one central reality offers genuine hope and unity.  The future is not ultimately determined by who will be in the White House the next four years (as important as that is), but Who it is on the Throne for eternity and over all Creation.  It would behoove whoever is in the White House to consult and submit to the One who truly reigns.  This is also the source of our unity as Christians.  In a politically polarizing society, what can be a more powerful witness than Christians across political persuasions fulfilling the King’s command: Love one another.

4.  Prioritize and give yourself to the purposes for which you have been elected.  Imagine a president being elected to the Oval Office and then spending the term only enjoying the privileges of the office without giving themselves to the purposes for which they were elected.  Ludicrous right?  We too have been elected, elected to the greatest of all privileges as ambassadors of the Kingdom of God (2 Corinthians 5:20).  There are wonderful promises and benefits to be enjoyed as those God has elected, but also responsibility to fully give ourselves to the mission for which we have been chosen.  With His help, we are called to fulfill the purposes of our election, to bear much fruit.

Friday, April 6, 2012

All-Encompassing Good News

How do we describe the impact of the Gospel?  John Calvin, in his timeless preface to Pierre Robert Oliv├ętan's French translation of the New Testament (1534), does it this way:
Without the gospel
everything is useless and vain;
without the gospel
we are not Christians;
without the gospel
all riches is poverty,
all wisdom folly before God;
strength is weakness,
and all the justice of man is under the condemnation of God.
But by the knowledge of the gospel we are made
children of God,
brothers of Jesus Christ,
fellow townsmen with the saints,
citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven,
heirs of God with Jesus Christ, by whom
the poor are made rich,
the weak strong,
the fools wise,
the sinner justified,
the desolate comforted,
the doubting sure,
and slaves free.
It is the power of God for the salvation of all those who believe.
It follows that every good thing we could think or desire is to be found in this same Jesus Christ alone.
For, he was
sold, to buy us back;
captive, to deliver us;
condemned, to absolve us;
he was
made a curse for our blessing,
[a] sin offering for our righteousness;
marred that we may be made fair;
he died for our life; so that by him
fury is made gentle,
wrath appeased,
darkness turned into light,
fear reassured,
despisal despised,
debt canceled,
labor lightened,
sadness made merry,
misfortune made fortunate,
difficulty easy,
disorder ordered,
division united,
ignominy ennobled,
rebellion subjected,
intimidation intimidated,
ambush uncovered,
assaults assailed,
force forced back,
combat combated,
war warred against,
vengeance avenged,
torment tormented,
damnation damned,
the abyss sunk into the abyss,
hell transfixed,
death dead,
mortality made immortal.
In short,
mercy has swallowed up all misery,
and goodness all misfortune.
For all these things which were to be the weapons of the devil in his battle against us, and the sting of death to pierce us, are turned for us into exercises which we can turn to our profit.
If we are able to boast with the apostle, saying, O hell, where is thy victory? O death, where is thy sting? it is because by the Spirit of Christ promised to the elect, we live no longer, but Christ lives in us; and we are by the same Spirit seated among those who are in heaven, so that for us the world is no more, even while our conversation is in it; but we are content in all things, whether country, place, condition, clothing, meat, and all such things.
And we are
comforted in tribulation,
joyful in sorrow,
glorying under vituperation,
abounding in poverty,
warmed in our nakedness,
patient amongst evils,
living in death.
This is what we should in short seek in the whole of Scripture: truly to know Jesus Christ, and the infinite riches that are comprised in him and are offered to us by him from God the Father.