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Recently my eye was caught by a news headline that said something about a particular industry that has been hit hard by the lockdowns. Thinking that it might be about the service industry, or retail, or any number of important layers to the fabric of our communities, I was struck to realize that the industry highlighted in the article was the Influencer Industry.
Those of you reading this who are of a certain age (myself included!) might now be wondering what in the world the Influencer Industry could be. Those of you who are Milennials and Gen Z know exactly what it is, and could name several actual Influencers. To use a modern phrase, this really is a thing.
As best as I can explain, an Influencer is someone who has a large media and/or social media following, and is known for knowing what is desirable in a particular area such as fashion, travel, or decorating. They may or may not be creators of a product or brand, but more likely they are simply curators of what is cool. When they wear something or do something or go somewhere, their followers encourage them with “likes” on social media and emulate them.
Influencers actually shape society. Hold on to that thought…
We are starting on a long road trip today. In fact, I am one in a train of four cars headed west since our daughter and her husband are moving to be a part of a new campus ministry in New Mexico. So I am following along behind the U-Haul, with my emotions all over the map. Still, what a joy it is to know that they are following God’s plan for their life, and there is nothing greater we could want for them.
A few miles back, we passed by what used to be a rest stop on the side of the road. We have lived in this area for a long time, so I can remember when it used to have a large building that served as a restroom facility and break area. Many cars and trucks and trailers could pull off the road and take a break, whether it be in the middle of the day or the middle of the night.
At some point during the last few years, the state of Texas decided that they needed to build a new rest stop. So just a few miles up the road, there is a beautiful new facility and now all the cars and trucks stop there. Somewhere in the process, they came and bulldozed the old building, but the old parking area and grassy fields remained. It has been so interesting to watch the old rest area as the years go by. Since no one has been maintaining it or paying attention to it in anyway, the very earth is reclaiming the space. Now, after about five years, you can hardly tell that anything was ever there. You can barely see the remnants of the once-kept road, the parking spaces, the park area - when no one has cared for it, the whole place has gone back to its natural state.
Isn’t this what happens to our families and cities and even our country when we forget to pay attention? It is plain to see that our society is not currently in its best place. Though we are all well-aware that our 24/7 news cycle keeps everyone in turmoil since it is such a good business model for them, it is still evident that many people are confused and hurting and lost.
There is such an interesting misconception about the way things work. Many people seem to be under the impression that left to our own devices, humankind will automatically rise to sparkling, alabaster cities of harmony and prosperity. Many people seem to believe that the natural state of human beings is peace and perfect brotherhood. This is actually completely backwards! Our natural state is chaos and confusion and turmoil and strife. Just remember the story of Cain and his brother Abel. Community always starts from that same place of strife and selfishness, and needs some sort of help even to become a functioning society.
Many modern people in the west have lost sight of what made our society work in the first place. The influence of Jesus and His Way are what gave civilization such concepts as equality and freedom and democracy - without the Judeo-Christian influence, none of these concepts would exist. This is why removing the foundation of Christianity from our society and replacing it with a religion in which man is the center is causing such chaos. When no one is paying attention, we just return to our natural state, like the rest stop. Without anyone carefully tending the gardens, our children just go right back to the natural state of selfishness, confusion, and turmoil.
They need some help to think and live rightly, and this is our job.
We do need some influencers to shape our society. The people of Instagram are not wrong in this sense, they are just wrong about where to look. In fact, the best influencers probably will never be on social media, yet they are the unsung heroes of our culture and society. We need many, many more of them to step up.
These are the husbands and wives that take their marriage vows seriously, and live to create a home that is safe, stable, and God-fearing. These are the grandparents that choose to invest not only in their own children, but also their grandchildren, reinforcing in them what is right and true and valuable. These are the teachers that put their students’ best interest at the forefront. We hear so many horrible stories about wicked and abusive teachers and coaches - we need thousands of godly Christians to step into this role to help the next generation on their way safely. No one is going to make a lot of money teaching, but there are some things far more valuable than money.
These influencers are the pastors and youth pastors that are not in the business to make a name for themselves, or to have some sort of platform, but who are in faithful service to help men and women and young people know how to walk with God for their whole lives. These influencers are people in every part of society who live not for their own gain or for their own fame, but simply to help others know God and thrive.
Every Christian should be an influencer. We no longer live in a society fully undergirded by Christian principles - if we do not help people understand that there is real justice, truth, love, and hope, no one will. Jesus is the best thing that ever happened to any of us, and we must share the good news from whatever vantage point we have.
Just the other day my daughters and I were talking about how brilliant God’s design for society is. Every generation has to start all over again with the basics of teaching and training. Our babies don’t know anything and cannot do anything for themselves. We have to teach them how to eat properly, how to walk, how to talk, how to read and think, and how to live. No one can ever get very far away from the basics of life, because it is always time to start teaching a new generation. This is all the more true with our faith. We cannot ever become lax and neglect to teach the next generation how to feed themselves on truth, how to walk, how to talk, how to read and think for themselves, and how to live. We have come dangerously close to doing this as a church, but thankfully it is not yet too late to start again.
This new year of 2021, how can you and I become Influencers? There are a thousand different ways, starting right inside your own home and community.
Evaluate your spare time - your "me" time - and give a good chunk of that away:
-Look around in your own family and circle of friends and acquaintances - who needs help and encouragement? Start there and give generously of your time and support.
-Volunteer at your church, in the local schools, and in local kids' programs.
-Find organizations that help disadvantaged kids and work to give them some encouragement and hope.
-Run for office, pay attention to the school board and curriculum choices, be a voice of truth and justice in your community. For too long have we let others with suspect agendas choose the direction we will all go.
We have to work hard and be purposeful to hand things off well to a new generation. We cannot just go on without thinking and expect the rest stop to stay tended. Jesus has forgiven us and given us the message of real life, joy, and peace - let's do everything we can to share it with our hurting world.
Looking for a good resource to use in your small group or Sunday school class? Kingdom Minded is a great help in learning the basics of walking with Jesus and influencing those around you for the long haul.
Follow the link below to order your copies today!
Merry Christmas from our home to yours! It truly is the most wonderful time of the year, especially this year. Relax and put your feet up for a minute, and remember the goodness of God...
You might not have heard that adding to the drama and mystery of 2020 is the fact that on December 21, Jupiter and Saturn are going to come within .1 degree of each other, creating an exceptionally bright glow in the night sky. This is the first time this phenomenon will be visible to the naked eye in 800 years, and scientists call it the Bethlehem Star. It may or may not be the same thing that happened so long ago in Bethlehem, but it is still amazing.
This extraordinary glimpse into the vastness and orderliness of the universe is timely. How great God is to create such wondrous things as solar systems, and planets that appear to converge every 800 years or so without colliding - how powerful and brilliant and thoughtful He must be! Much moreso than we understand.
One of my favorite books explores this line of thinking, and that is The Everlasting Man by G.K. Chesterton. In it, Chesterton invites the reader to zoom out from the here-and-now to take a broad look at the relationship between God and mankind for all of human history. From the very beginning, our art and later our writing proves that religion has always been a central part of the human experience. Since the beginning, religion has been comprised of many ways different peoples had of viewing and explaining the human experience as well as the supernatural. Why is there evil and selfishness in the world? Why does it hurt so much to love and be forsaken? How do you explain all of the things we experience in life - disease, war, pain, love, family, hope?
Think of all of the religions that have existed. Of course, there was one tiny group of people who always claimed to know and worship the One True God, but they were so small and insignificant on the stage of world history that most cultures did not even notice them. There have been so many other attempts to make things make sense: the mysterious eastern religions seeking to purge mankind of selfishness and desire, the myriad mythologies that emerged in different corners of Europe (Chesterton calls them "imaginative paganism") which sought to explain the actions and existence of humankind, and the vast dark religions across the globe that involved human sacrifice to appease some vengeful spirit. Every culture has tried to understand and explain both the human experience and the supernatural, and every culture has had the innate need to express this through some form of religion - as though, Chesterton points out in his inimitable way, men and women were designed for worship.
GKC draws attention to the first climax in world history, which occured a little over 2000 years ago. Back then, Carthage (modern day Tunisia) was the seat of the mighty Phoenecian empire, abounding in wealth and power. Everyone feared them, and many paid tribute to them - still, the empire had an insatiable desire for power and kept forecfully taking more. It was arguably the most highly civilized cutlure of its day, and its vast wealth enabled much luxury and innovation.
However, all of this came with a steep price. The god of Carthage was Molech, and his preferred form of worship was receiving human sacrifice. Imagine everyone today - doctors, lawyers, bankers, teachers - putting on their Sunday best to go throw their children into the fire. The raw power and prestige of Carthage came on the back of great evil, and the whole world knew it.
Meanwhile, a ragtag group of rural people saw this evil for what it was and dared to face it. These were country people - not sophisticated like the Carthaginians - and their system of worship was an elaborate polytheism, driven by the basic hope for good crops and fertility of every kind. There is no way in the world this backwoods bunch should have been able to band together to defeat Carthage and their genius general Hannibal, but they did.
History testifies that mighty Carthage fell, and the wicked and perverted worship of Molech with it. The brave bunch who dared to face evil became Rome, which soon rose into its glorious ivory towers. Most historians would agree that the Roman Empire was the finest effort of mankind to make sense of the muddle of the human condition - a great attempt to bring peace and justice and unity. Yet this finest human effort immediately began to decay from within. The best that mankind can do still proves rotten at the core.
It was at this moment in history that the time had come for God Himself to say, “Now let me show you what I can do."
So in a tiny town at the back corner of this vast Roman Empire, a very young woman gave birth to a precious baby boy. There was not even room for the little family in the town inn, so the baby was born in a rude stable, surrounded by animals.
The coming of the greatest King the world will ever see was nothing like any of us would have imagined. His Kingdom is entirely different from anything we could attempt to create. That beautiful baby was born, not to set up a yet another fleeting earthly kingdom or system of worship, but to one day be the true and sufficient sacrifice to finally remedy the terrible problem of sin. Injustice and selfishness can never be settled by human efforts or systems; Jesus alone brings hope, healing, and salvation to this broken world.
When Emmanuel (which means God With Us) was born, angels lit up the sky and notified the shepherds nearby to come worship the newborn King. A bright shining star in the sky beckoned wise men from far away to come seek this new King, who would bring hope and salvation. With the coming of this King, the deep human need to worship could finally be fulfilled.
This Christmas, take a moment to look up for the Bethlehem Star. Watch for this once-in-a-lifetime glimpse into the heavens and remember that a second climax to human history is coming. The same Bible that so faithfully and accurately foretold the first coming of the Son of God also tells of His second coming, at the end of all things. The same God who painstakingly arranged the movement of the vast planets of our solar system to shine the wonderful news of Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem is still moving and arranging all things towards the day when all that is wrong will finally be made right.
May the love and peace of Jesus fill your heart and home this Christmas. Joy to the world, the Lord is come!
Happy Thanksgiving! After one of the longest years in memory, the holiday season is finally upon us. Every time I sat down to write for much of this year, I felt compelled to begin with something like, “This has been such a time of uncertainty,” or, “Surely things will be settling back to normal soon.” Then I have been continually surprised by how many surprises this year has contained! More than ever, I am looking forward to our annual Thanksgiving feast - a day where we can gather together to thank God for His goodness and to enjoy a wonderful time of good food and great relationships.
My brother-in-law is smoking a turkey, and he has spent much of this Covid year honing his excellent meat-smoking skills. My mother is bringing that delicious ham she makes and her chocolate-pecan pie that all of us spend all year dreaming about. No one can make cornbread dressing and dirty rice like my mother-in-law, and the rest of us will be supplying all of the other delicous things we love to eat - cheese trays, sweet potatoes, green beans, salads of every kind, breads, pies, cookies…what a wonderful day we will have!
Not only do we have a great feast to look forward to, but also such a wonderful time of fellowship together. It is always so much fun to linger for hours and hours, laughing and telling stories old and new, just enjoying each other. Our branch of the family has added a new son-in-law and a new baby granddaughter to our ranks since last year, and what a joy it is to see our family grow. God has seen so many of us through illness and difficult circumstances this year, and He has been so faithful.
We truly have so much to be thankful for. Our faith sustains us in good times and bad. As Christians, we believe that God is good and loving. We believe that He is never out of control or suprised by world events. We believe that this life is not the end of everything; those who trust in Christ will spend eternity with Him in an unbroken and beautiful place. We believe and experience the truth that even in the midst of life’s chaos and storms, God is with us and brings hope, peace and love.
With every day that passes, it is becoming more clear what is real and trustworthy and what is not - especially this year with a pandemic swirling, political drama boiling, and uncertainty looming. The false idea that families or nations or anything at all can be built on a foundation of nothing is being shattered. Thank God!
We can look around and see how confusing it must be to not have such a firm foundation to stand upon. How terrifying the thought of a pandemic would be if you believed that this life is all there is to reality. How confusing world events would be if you believed that men and women alone were in control with no outside intervention. How depressing life would be if you thought it was impossible ever to see real justice.
Everyone around us is so hungry for truth and hope. People are desperate to know whether their life matters or has a purpose, and furious to think that life might be meaningless and irrepairably broken. Kids are starving for attention and loving care. Men and women of all ages wonder if there is anything at all that can satisfy their tremendous hunger.
How beautiful it is that Jesus tells a story of a great banquet that has been prepared...
“The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son.”
Most of the time this whole passage from Matthew chapter 22 is cited to focus on the many excuses that people make to not come to the banquet. This is certainly important, and we should be aware of those things creeping up in our own hearts.
But today I am stirred by how lovely it is to know that the King of Kings recognizes a hunger and longing in every soul, and that He painstakingly prepared a great feast for everyone who will come to honor His Son!
Many of us have been thinking of our own Thanksgiving feasts for some time now. There is so much work to be done in advance to make it perfect - careful shopping for just the right ingredients, thoughtful planning for the most beautiful place settings and decorations, seating charts, dietary restrictions of some guests, preferences of others, and the perfect music for the playlist. Those are just a few of the decisions and preparations to be made - and we haven't even started cooking or setting the table yet!
What a beautiful thought that the Maker of Heaven and Earth would take such care to see the weary and famished guests at His table so lavishly fed and filled. Jesus told us that this is what walking with God in His Kingdom is like - sitting down at the most sumptuous and satisfying meal, one that fills every hunger and desire. And it is a time of rich and satisfying fellowship with one another as we gather in honor of the King's wonderful Son. The very best of our celebrations we can put together here and now are just a glimpse of how good and satisfying it is to enter into God's Kingdom - where the feasting and fellowship never ends.
May the Lord bless and keep you, your family, and those you love this Thanksgiving. May the joy and hope of our great God fill your hearts and home as you gather together, and may the ones among you who still hunger for God be filled. I pray that as the smells of so many delicious things fill your home, that the aroma of Christ in you will lead those around you to life and peace.
What is to be done when one campaign uses an enormous war chest to peddle constant lies, confusion, and chaos?
No, I am not talking about our forthcoming elections in the United States, as important as they are. I am talking about a much bigger campaign, with a world-wide scope and a much longer game in mind - the real battle for the eternal souls of men and women. There truly is an enemy who longs to topple God from His rightful throne as Creator and Ruler of the Universe. All of us are constantly bombarded with propaganda from this slick campaign.
Recently we had a too-typical encounter with a university student who is struggling with deep depression, confusion, and outright despair. You might have seen this student or many others like them about town. Young people like this will often act and dress in such a loud, brash manner as to purposely push back against everything around them. For so many of these souls, their boldness belies a deep secret...their worldview does not bring any hope or peace in life at all. In fact, it delivers just the opposite.
Some Christian students tried to befriend this particular person, and spent much time trying to really listen and help. They shared the hope and purpose they each personally found in Christ with their new friend, but to no avail. Though drowning in despair and fear, from their vantage point Christianity seems so burdensome and restrictive that this troubled young person refuses to even consider God.
This situation is quite familiar on the college campus, and is becoming more common everywhere. Many of us long for things to “go back to normal” - but this is the new normal in a society plugged so deeply into media. Students on high school and college campuses all over the world have been soaked in this worldview 24 hours a day, 7 days a week since they got their first phone or device in grade school. They know no other reality. Worse, culture also demands that no help be given to anyone who struggles or despairs. In the name of tolerance, all of us are pushed to just sit back in silence and watch as soul after soul is devoured by the idea that there is no God, and that all of life is just unstoppable, bitter, random chance.
Our enemy's campaign strategy is quite effective. So many Christians today find themselves confused or wondering if maybe they are not a little off-base and intolerant, like everyone is accusing. Maybe we shouldn’t be so rigid and uptight about sin and selfishness. Maybe it really does not matter how anyone chooses to live their life. But if we would only look and see the despair and self-destruction of these precious, real people who are being consumed by lies...
This is the perfect time for Truth to be proclaimed! Those of us who stand on solid, sure ground cannot sit back and watch others sink into quicksand, no matter what pushback we have to endure.
But what can we do - how can we make a difference in such widespread confusion, and fight back against this terrible campaign?
We must go back to the very foundation of our faith.
In Theology class with our interns, the discussion last week was the concept and foundational doctrine of the Trinity. Christians are unique in worldview because our God is unique. Other sytems of thought and worship have many gods and godesses, or just one all-powerful god, or no god at all - just nothingness. Every other religious system is, in one way or another, humankind’s search for God and meaning. Christianity alone is God’s search and rescue of men and women.
The Trinity is so hard to understand and explain. We believe that God is one, but three; a beautiful, perfect triune. We make stabs at explaining it with analogies such as, “It is like a woman who can at once be daughter, mother, and sister,” or, “It is like H2O which can be water, steam, and ice.” However, none of these analogies are perfect. We can also try to explain the Trinity by saying what it is not. “The Trinity is not a hierarchy, as in God the great Father, Jesus the less-powerful Son, and the cleanup crew Holy Spirit.”
But why is the very fact that our God is three-in-one so vitally important?
Simply stated, because of love.
Read the words of Tim Keller, who explains this so well...
"If there is no God, then everything in and about us is the product of blind impersonal forces. The experience of love may feel significant, but evolutionary naturalists tell us that it is merely a biochemical state in the brain.
But what if there is a God? Does love fare any better? It depends on who you think God is. If God is uni-personal, then until God created other beings there was no love, since love is something that one person has for another. This means that a uni-personal God was power, sovereignty and greatness from all eternity, but not love. Love then is not of the essence of God, nor is it at the heart of the universe. Power is primary.
However, if God is triune, then loving relationships in community are the 'great fountain at the center of reality.'
When people say, 'God is love,' I think they mean that love is extremely important, or that God really wants us to love. But in the Christian conception, God really has love as his essence. If he was just one person he couldn’t have been loving for all eternity. If he was only the impersonal all-soul of Eastern thought, he couldn’t have been loving, for love is something persons do. Eastern religions believe the individual personality is an illusion, and therefore love is, too. Chesterton wrote, 'For the Buddhist…personality is the fall of man, for the Christian it is the purpose of God, the whole point of his cosmic idea.' It is the purpose of God because he is essentially, eternally, interpersonal love.
Ultimate reality is a community of persons who know and love one another. That is what the universe, God, history, and life is all about.“
-Tim Keller, The Reason for God
This is what our enemy so desperately wants to hide from everyone. This is what we bring to the table as Christian people. We know and have had our lives transformed by our God who is Love and who created each of us with delight and purpose. We also know that His great love is for everyone who will accept Him, for all eternity. "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life." (John 3:16)
Our hope rests on this firm foundation, and our job while we live is to share this Good News with everyone we can. People all around us are desperate to know if anyone sees them or knows them or cares for them. The answer is yes! Love is real. Hope is real. Redemption is real. Our God is real and can never be voted out of office, no matter how slick and seemingly-efficient the opposing campaign.
Be encouraged today, and let's share the love of God with someone who needs to know.
Do you believe that anybody can change the world? Do you think it is even possible, and do you think it has ever happened before?
I mean, yes, we all know and believe that Jesus changed the world. But what about His people; can an ordinary Christian person change the world?
Let me introduce you to a group of people that you might never have heard of that did just that.
First, a little background to remind us of some British history. England went back and forth between being Catholic and Protestant for about a hundred years after the Reformation, and sometimes things got violent. For a brief time in the 1630s, there was a Civil War in England, where people actually killed the king and were ruled by Protectorate. When the monarchy was restored twenty years later in 1660, the new king (who happened to be the son of the murdered king) wanted very little to do with an active Christianity. By the early 1700s, England was really tired of the back and forth fight of “Are we Protestant or Catholic?” People wanted the debate to end, so they could get on with their lives.
Not surprisingly, then, it did not take long for morality to tank. English society got really, really bad. We can make a good argument that it was even worse than our own society is today. In the 1730’s, the infant mortality rate was seventy-five percent. The favorite public sports were dog-fighting and bull-baiting; animals were killed in awful torturous ways for fun and sport. One out of every five women were prostitutes. Alcoholism was rampant - people were afraid of the water because of the plague, so they drank gin instead, and they gave it to their kids! By law, poor people were not allowed to learn to read or write; the government was afraid that if they were educated, there would be revolution. Society was horrible, without hope. This was a nation that called itself Christian, but forgot to act like it.
But then, a couple of brothers named John and Charles Wesley came along. They actually had read the Bible and got very serious about living out their faith. They got very serious about holiness, about reading and knowing the Scriptures and praying, about sharing their faith with people who did not know God, and about living life in community with other believers. Slowly, the tide actually began to turn as they shared the true good news.
By the time the Wesleys were elderly in the late 1700s, thousands and thousands of people in England and America had been influenced by their teachings and methods. It is a particular grouping of these people that I want to introduce us to.
They were various individuals who believed that Jesus was real, and that His power could change one person’s heart as well as the heart of a city, a nation, and the whole world. They were called by God to take part in doing just that. They were politicians, writers, preachers, actors, singers, teachers, bankers, and artisans who dared to believe that real Christianity could be lived out. They all had huge dreams individually, dreams to make a real difference. God had empowered each of these people with incredible creativity and skill in their respective fields.
Meet Hannah More, a best-selling author, also a teacher by trade (yes, both were unusual for a woman at that time), who believed that all children should be able to read. She had the incredible idea to invite all the children of her village to church on Sundays, the only day the children did not have to work, and then invite them to stay for school all day. She gave them a meal and reading lessons.
Meet Henry Thornton. He was a banker and economist, and was quite wealthy. Before he married, he gave eighty percent of his income away to help the poor and to spread the gospel. After he married, it was about fifty percent, which is still incredibly and challengingly generous.
Meet William Wilberforce, a member of parliament by age twenty-five. He had hundreds of good ideas to improve society. He started the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, so people could be informed to treat animals kindly and not cruelly, as was the fashion. He wrote a best-selling book called A Practical View of the Prevailing Religious System of Professed Christians in the Higher and Middle Classes in this Country Contrasted with Real Christianity, which is a great title. He also had a personal conviction and agenda that the slave trade must end.
In 1790, Henry Thornton bought a house in a town some five miles outside of London called Clapham. Within a few short years, Thornton, Wilberforce, Hannah More and about thirty others had bought or built homes all around this first house so that they could live in proximity to and in community with one another, to pool their talents, ideas, and resources, and get serious about changing the world. They never gave themselves a name, but people noticed them and their absolutely enormous influence and called them the Clapham Sect.
So, when William Wilberforce’s first bill to abolish the slave trade was defeated in 1791 (when he was only thirty-two!) the Clapham bunch decided to band together to change the earth.
-Hannah More wrote books and plays about the evils of slavery and about the dignity of every man, woman and child.
-The poets wrote beautiful poems; the singers sang catchy, memorable songs about the evil of the slave trade; the actors staged plays.
-The potters crafted gorgeous vases and plates and porcelain brooches with the image of a slave and the captions, “Am I not a man?” which were best-sellers. Ever hear of Josiah Wedgewood, famous for Wedgewood pottery? He did that.
-The painters made posters depicting the evils of the slave trade and sold them to shopkeepers for their windows.
-Olaudah Equiano, a freed slave who had been blessed to learn to read in captivity, wrote his life story, revealing the horror of slavery from the inside. It was a runaway best seller.
-The politicians worked together tirelessly to get the votes.
-Essentially, they commandeered popular culture with anti-slavery sentiment. And they pooled their own money together to pay for all of this.
It took thirty years of organized effort, but we know today that slavery is a thing of the past for most of the world. In 1826, the slave trade was abolished in the British Empire and these are the people who made it happen - ordinary Christians who dared to live their Christianity and do extraordinary things.
Is taking down the slave trade - an ancient, wicked practice - not enough for you?
-They started and financed the missions movement and effort into India.
-They reversed the rampant alcoholism problem.
-They started Sunday schools and regular schools and made the literacy rate go through the roof.
-They reformed prisons.
-They started orphanages.
-They organized homes and shelters for the poor.
-They helped return dignity to women.
-They fought for better conditions for workers.
-They brought back decency to popular music, literature and the stage.
They were a passionate few who lived in community on purpose, and who changed the entire Western World.
Now, what about you and me?
It actually says in Genesis 11 that if we work together, there is nothing we cannot do. How powerful it could be if we all took our faith seriously, and determined in our hearts to make our lives count for eternity! The social justice issues that frustrate so many would be naturally eliminated if the good news of Jesus were really proclaimed again. The poor would be cared for, the overlooked would be welcomed and encouraged, the broken and confused would be set free, and the evil practices of greedy, selfish people would be eliminated.
Not only could our own communities be transformed, but we could band together to send missionaries to the ends of the earth. There are millions of people who have still never heard the gospel, and we can no longer hide behind the excuse that it is impossible to get there; the world is more connected than ever. The reason so many have never heard about Jesus is because we do not give enough money or prayer support to send those who are willing to go, nor will most of us go ourselves. We could be the generation who finishes the task of letting the whole world know about the saving power of Jesus, if we just will. History tells us that a passionate few, living in community and on purpose, can change truly the world - will we accept the challenge in our generation?
*The facts and statistics in this post are all drawn from three different books that I love and highly recommend to you:
-England Before and After Wesley by J. Wesley Bready
-Fierce Convictions: The Extraordinary Life of Hannah More - Poet, Reformer, Abolitionist by
Karen Swallow Prior
-7 Women: And the Secret of Their Greatness by Eric Metaxas
This post is an excerpt from a chapter in my book - to read more, use this link to order your copy today!
2020 is certainly turning out to be a year for the history books, isn't it? Every day it seems that something new and more wild than yesterday happens. Pandemic, fires, storms, riots...the list keep going and growing.
We have a new intern class this fall semester, and in spite of everything happening, we are having a lot of fun. This 2020-21 class consists of nineteen young men and women - all have had a tremendous experience with God during their university years, and are exploring the potential of a lifetime in ministry.
Each year I have the joy and privilege of introducing a new class full of recently-awakened young Christians to the wonders of two thousand years of Church history. Very few 22 year-olds have much knowledge of history at all - let alone Church history. Oftentimes history is viewed as boring, put-you-to-sleep kind of stuff, but I disagree. It is fascinating, and we can learn so much about ourselves by studying it carefully. There are quite a few patterns - good and bad - that emerge with a long look back.
One recurring theme throughout the last 2000 years is a particularly tragic spiral. It begins with one generation that has a real, amazing, fresh and life-changing encounter with the God of the Universe, and surrenders whole-heartedly to the ways and plan of Jesus. We can read about this happening time and again, in nations and people groups all over the world. These are the people that would throw themselves in front of one other as they were being killed for sport in pagan arenas, or who would risk life and limb to protect others from a wicked ruling class. They had an undeniable encounter with Jesus, and no amount of persecution could change their minds about Him.
In such a generation, their faith in God is highly contagious. Their lives impact many others; the very hearts of men and women are renewed, and families are made whole. Commerce is often impacted as the vices of society are abandoned and holiness is joyfully pursued. When a group of people truly turns to God, governments have even been seen to shape up - ceasing to be about the pursuit of power for a moment, turning temporarily for the good of the many. The foundation for true peace and fruitfulness is laid and strengthened, and the people flourish.
But the danger of this cycle is that in a time of peace and blessing, things get easy. And prosperous. And taken for granted. The children and grandchildren of the ones who had a real encounter with God enjoy the blessings and steadiness of a peaceful and prosperous society very much. They are safe, and they might have plenty of time and money to spend however they see fit. As always, even since our original grandparents walked in the glorious Garden of Eden, the grass begins to look so much greener on the other side of the morality fence.
Seemingly new voices emerge from the growing shadows and whisper, “Why shouldn’t you eat taste that/say that/do that?” Very few can remember a time when things were not safe and sound, and people begin to question why all of these rules are in place to begin with. They suddenly seem so restrictive and really cramp our style. It becomes high time to stop worrying so much all the time about our kids and their futures - it is time for some “me” time.
“Obviously it is not going to hurt anything if we tear down this big fence right here - it is just in the way and has always kept us from running as fast as we want to run,” the people say, as they tear down the fence with a flourish and promptly fall off the cliff. They did not realize that their great-grandparents built that very fence to keep people from falling to their deaths.
This accelerates the downward spiral. Reaping the bitter fruit of a selfish life makes people even more angry at God, so they do even more selfish things to try to fill the void in their souls. They especially resent responsibility, and do not want to have to spend their own time ensuring the health and well-being of anyone else. So they outsource the tough jobs like teaching their kids and governing their cities to anyone who will do it, refusing to admit or believe that anyone might take advantage of this.
Generally speaking, what happens next is that an enemy army of some kind marches in and violently rolls over everything. Then, at last, people begin to cry out to God. Only when things become the darkest can men and women once again fully understand their great need for the Savior. God, in His infinite patience and with His tremendous heart to see people really know Him, allows the cycle to begin anew.
When you take some time to read a book covering the scope of Christian history, you could almost stand up and shout by the time you get to the modern era, “Oh, no! Please look ahead and see what is about to happen!"
In generations like that, there comes a real tipping point when it is suddenly too late to change things. Don’t believe this? Ask some of the Christian nations of the past...ask Rome of the 400’s AD. Ask the Byzantines all over the Mediterranean Basin and Middle East in the 700’s-1000 AD. Ask 1400’s Constantinople. Ask 1780’s France. Ask 1910’s Russia. Ask 1920’s Weimar Germany. Ask 2020….whoa, wait!
THERE IS GOOD NEWS AND HOPE!
I have been referencing Christian peoples, but of course history began long before Jesus left Heaven and came to earth as a man. There is so much that happened before the birth of the Church. Millennia before, God chose a man named Abraham in order to show the world what it looked like for a people to be in covenant relationship with Him. The history of Israel that we can read in the Old Testament is frequently so similar to that of the Christians. They love God and serve Him, then get prosperous and lazy, let in false thinking and practices, and eventually get steam-rolled by an enemy. Repeat. And again...
But God never leaves them or forsakes them. He made a covenant with them, and He is not a covenant-breaker. Of course, He will allow them (and us!) to walk away of our own accord and face the consequences of such a foolish action, so that we can remember our great need for help and salvation. God gave us all free will, and He will not force us to do anything. But when any of us come to our senses and call out to Him, He is always there, waiting with open arms.
When Abraham's descendant Solomon built and dedicated the beautiful temple in Jerusalem, God Himself came and reminded Solomon of His wonderful promises to His people. The whole passage in 2 Chronicles chapter 7 is both sobering and encouraging, and I encourage you to read the entire thing as a timely message to all of us in 2020. Verse 14 of that chapter reminds us of God's promise to help in dark times...
If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways,
then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.
There is very little most of us can do right now to physically bring change to the chaos around us. Many of us are pretty normal folks, not in positions of great power or opportunity. But, even so, we are not helpless!
There is One who can help and save, and that is God. He reminds us that He is right there to bring help and healing to His people IF AND WHEN...
-IF we will humble ourselves. He is God and we are not - we must lay down our pride, listen and obey.
-IF we will pray. Not worry, or grumble, or fuss, or put out frustrated messages on Facebook and Twitter, but pray. He hears and helps when we do.
-IF we will seek His face. It is election time, and we all have so many opinions about what ought to happen. But we must remember that while government is necessary, it does not actually hold the answers to the problems of the world. Neither does education or money or power. The hearts of mankind need a change that only God can bring.
-IF we will turn from our wicked ways. Statistically speaking, many Christians do not act like Christ. We must stop doing wicked, selfish things and start obeying God.
-THEN He will come and forgive our sins and heal our land! Both things that we desperately need.
I have mentioned several generations that let their guard down too far and faced the tragic repercussions. In my next post, I would like to revisit several generations that rose to the occasion and saw tremendous, miraculous change sweep across their land. Oh, that we would be such a generation!
Happy anniversary to us! This week marks two years since the first post on this blog, and it has been such a wonderful experience. Thank you so much for spending time here with me, thinking about the goodness and faithfulness of God. I look forward to many more encouraging visits together.
As I write this, my husband and I along with many hundreds of our friends are in the throes of what we all affectionately call "Welcome Month" on the university campuses of America. This is the season when all of the students return to campus and when the freshmen land for the first time. Though this year is certainly unique in so many ways, it is still a wonderful time of fun and activity and of making new friends on purpose for Jesus.
I know that we can all see many awful and concerning things in the news lately, and there certainly are so many dark things happening, but I want to tell you that there is so much hope yet! The light of Christ shines brightly in the darkness, and many young people are hungry for real love and truth. In honor of the great work of God that is beginning in so many young hearts and lives on campuses all over the country, following is an excerpt from my book Kingdom Minded that I hope will encourage and inspire you today...
March 2019 - Huntsville, TX
Today is actually my birthday, and I am now forty-seven years old. Thirty years ago, I was a high school senior, finishing up that last semester and preparing to start a new chapter of life in college. I had no idea the wonderful journey that God was taking me on, or how radically my life and viewpoint were going to shift over the months after I arrived at university.
It has been the blessing and honor of my life to be able to serve Jesus alongside my husband for all these years on a college campus. The things that are in this book are things we have learned firsthand as we began to walk with Jesus ourselves, and things that have been refined as we have been priveleged to help so many others while they were students here.
This has proven to be a special place; many hundreds of people who were a part of this group are now in ministry and missions positions all over the world, and many thousands more are serving Jesus faithfully in the marketplace. Thirty years of data are in: practicing spiritual disciplines helps us walk with God for the long-haul and helps us be transformed into the image of Jesus. I could tell you story after story of people that I first met when they were eighteen years old and rather selfish, who are now some of the most godly people serving Jesus faithfully and fruitfully in some of the most challenging situations you can imagine.
There have been so many young men who came here angry and broken after being abandoned at a young age by their fathers. A student befriended them and brought them into the fellowship, and their hearts were changed by the love of God. They were set free from years of bitterness and hatred, and learned to apply the same things we have just been through in this book. They learned how to have a real devotional life, and real brothers, and real responsibility, and began to be transformed day by day. Now so many of them are the best husbands and fathers any family could ask for. Their own children will never know the sting and devastation of abandonment, just the care of a loving father.
I can think of face after face of young men and women who struggled with life-gripping substance or pornography abuse, and who were set free by the power of God. They learned to make drastic choices and changes in their lives, choosing to fill their minds, bodies and spirits with only healthy things. So many learned to walk in solid new habits of temperence and self-control, and have never looked back at their old life. Their families are healthy and free from the chaos such addictions bring into a home.
More people than you would believe have overcome the shame and confusion resulting from sexual abuse in their childhoods. Jesus set them free and healed their hearts, and these young people learned to walk in health, with their sexuality surrendered to God. Hundreds of men and women who were harmed by abuse that should never happen to any child are now married with children of their own. The terrible cycle of abuse has been broken and their children will grow up safe from harm.
Angry people have become kind and hopeful; selfish people have become generous and giving; destructive people have become full of life and encouragement. People who never gave a thought for anyone other than themselves are now living lives of service that help others all over the world also know the great love of God. Knowing Jesus and surrendering our hearts and wills to Him changes everything, and walking in discipline with Him helps us to become more like Him every day.
Sadly, I have also seen so many people come close and then walk away. They came right up to the line, but for whatever reason did not want to trust God enough to cross over and really walk with Him. I hope that one day they have another opportunity to meet God and know Him.
There is no distinction in the sight of God between these two kinds of people - God made them all and deeply loves each one. It is not that some people are more favored and special to Him, and therefore have an easier time of walking with God their whole life. No, each of us has a choice and we are responsible for the life and time we are given. God has done His great work, and His free gift of salvation is available to each of us. Now it is up to us: His hand is extended, will we choose to walk with Him into the abundant life He created us to live?
I pray that this book has been an encouragement and blessing to you, no matter whether you are just meeting Jesus or have been walking with Him for many years. I hope that you have been challenged to learn and grow in spiritual discipline, and to keep learning and growing all your days. You were created by God for this very time and place, and there are people all around you who can be greatly impacted by your walk with Him. There are people that you could reach and disciple that might be the very ones to open a heart, city or nation that has been previously closed off to God.
Let the great love of God fill you and shape you and change you. Let everything He is doing in your heart and life spill out and impact your family, your friends and your neighbors. No matter what your starting point, I encourage you to start seeking the Lord with all of your strength. Let the word of God wash your mind and the hope of God encourage your heart. In every way, may the Lord bless you and keep you, all the days of your life.
Would you like to learn more about walking with God in a life-changing relationship? Order your copy of Kingdom Minded today - we just went into the second printing of the book!
Against all odds, Back to School time has come! As we all continue to pray for God's help and healing through this strange virus, we also prepare for a great season of opportunity. All across the nation - and truly around the world - university students are heading back to campus over the next few weeks. The darkness is indeed great at most universities, and too many wicked snares await young minds and hearts.
However, there are also Christian ministers, missionaries and students on many of these campuses, ready to share the truth, love and power of the Good News of Jesus with as many students and faculty members as they can. Please pray for these brave men and women, that God would protect them and give them great courage as they bring the light of Christ into the darkness.
In honor of our campus ministers and missionaries, following is an essay that Eli and I wrote several years ago for a missions journal. Throughout the ages, the question has always been, why bother trying to help and rescue people living in darkness? Duty or pity alone cannot sustain anyone for very long. The heart for purposefully going to the darkest, hardest places to share God's love can be found in Luke 19:10...
For the Son of Man came to seek and save what was lost.
Several years ago, our family attended a conference on a university campus. One afternoon our three year old went missing from the student center where we had been working. As it became apparent that our little girl was lost, my heart sank and with each passing moment I began to feel more and more nauseous and anxious. Words cannot describe the depth of anguish and despair we felt that day. With the help of university police, we frantically searched all four floors of that building, eventually spilling out into the parking lot and covering the four city blocks of the campus. She was completely lost.
In Luke chapter 15, we read Jesus’ three parables about lost things – the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost sons. Contextually, however, the emphases lay not on the things which were lost, but rather on those to whom the lost things belonged – the shepherd, the woman, the father. The third parable is frequently called the Parable of the Prodigal Son – but as G. Campbell Morgan suggested, perhaps a better name would be the Parable of the Father’s Heart, for in this story we see the broken heart of God revealed. This father was actively watching, waiting and yearning to be reunited with his lost child. That is exactly the way God feels about every one of His children who are lost and separated from Him.
To quote G. Campbell Morgan, “It is well now to remind ourselves that when we speak of a lost man or woman, the final emphasis in our thinking should not be on the lost person, but on the one who has lost that person. When we speak of a man being lost, do we think most about his suffering, or of the suffering of God?” When the devil has kidnapped a child of God, it is God who hurts the deepest, who suffers most. His heart is broken as He can foresee the inevitable consequence of lost relationship - eternal separation. When I remember the way we felt about our one lost child, I cannot begin to imagine the Father’s exponential pain over the multitude of His lost children from every corner of the earth. When our daughter was lost, I wanted everyone, everywhere to drop what they were doing and help us find her. It was inconceivable to me that anyone, especially those I loved most, would be able to rest until she was safely found.
In 2 Samuel 23, we read about three of David’s Mighty Men who heard a sigh from their king’s lips - his simple longing for a drink of water from the well near the gate at Bethlehem. Risking their own lives, they crossed enemy lines in the dark of the night and retrieved the drink of water for their king. It is clear that these three men were close enough to their king, in proximity but more importantly in relational intimacy, to hear the longing of his heart. They were never given a command. Their king’s longing became their immediate, voluntary and dangerous mission.
After the longest hour and twenty minutes of my life - in which every passing minute felt like an eternity - we found our daughter. The moment I saw her, I had an instant understanding of the joy in heaven that erupts when a lost person is reunited with the Father. I cried out with happiness and could not stop hugging her. The intensity of the darkness which had accompanied her loss was matched only by the elation I felt when I held her in my arms again.
Today as you pray, rather than pouring out your heart to God, ask Him to pour His heart to you. Our King is a wonderful and loving Father who suffers deeply at the loss of His children. If we love Him, we will listen. Eventually we will feel His broken heart. If we love Him we will, like the mighty men of old, make His longing our mission no matter what the risk. What is the cry of God’s heart? He is weeping over His lost children; watching, waiting and yearning for them to come home.
As I write this, I am flying home from an incredibly restful and refreshing respite in the mountains - blessedly removed for a moment from the troubles and strains of 2020. My heart is tugged in so many directions as I look out the window and over the miles of wilderness. How beautiful and glorious is God’s great creation! Everything He made He called good, and He made it for His own pleasure and ours. But how frustrating that the world is so confused and chaotic. Too many people are not aware of His goodness, or have been fooled to think that God is not real and this is all just random, purposeless chance.
If you were an evil enemy of God, what would you do to take as many people away from Him as you could? Not very many people are so easily led to outright devil-worship or murder or other wicked acts - trying to catch everyone in that trap would be a terrible waste of time, even for an evil enemy. The fastest and easiest way to draw people away from God has proven from the very begining to be to sow confusion about God’s character. Is He really entirely good and completely unselfish, or is He just controlling and self-seeking like everyone else?
Remember what happened in the Garden of Eden - we read in Genesis 2: 15-17…
The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.”
Next, fast-forward to chapter 3: 1-5…
Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say,
‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”
The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’”
“You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened,
and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
Do you see what the crafty serpent did there? The enemy took the word and law of God, and twisted it up to confuse and trap God’s beloved children. Our good Father does not want automatons for children - He has given us each the blessing of a free will. God could have blasted the serpent out of existence right then and there, but then real love would have been cheapened. Only when the risk is there to not choose relationship can love really be love. God wants each of us, all of us, to choose to be with Him, and to enjoy all that He has made.
But the enemy hates God so much, that he really does want to keep everyone from knowing their Creator. Not because that serpent cares or feels anything for us in any way, but because he wants to hurt God as much as he can in the time he has left before his own horrible end. So, the enemy’s preferred method since the beginning has been to cast doubt on God in the minds of His children.
It is a highly effective method - beware.
“Did God really say…?” that wicked rascal whispers, again and again. “You won’t really die - He just doesn’t want you to have what He has.”
Some would accuse me of being a little overly-religious and old-fashioned here; perhaps even repressed or leaning on some sort of old crutch that mankind invented long ago to keep everyone “in their place.” I would say that such accusations only add more evidence to my belief that God is who He says He is, and that there truly is a battle for the soul of every human. What better way to keep people blind to reality than to cast doubt on everything that is true?
So many Christians today find themselves confused or wondering if maybe they are not a little off-base and intolerant, like everyone is accusing. Maybe we shouldn’t be so rigid and uptight about sin and selfishness. Maybe it really does not matter how anyone chooses to live their life. Maybe God actually is just cruel and selfish, and doesn’t want everyone to have fun in their own way. “Did God really say…?”
We have a good friend who has frequently told the story of a young man with a chemistry lab. This fictional person is highly trained in their field, is already has several advanced degees, and keeps a working lab with all of the right chemicals and compounds that any serious chemist would have. He is proud of his set up and loves to invite friends and family and any interested persons to visit and check things out.
Imagine if this young chemist decided, just for fun and to be free from convention, to change the labels on some of the chemicals in the lab. For instance, what if he took the jar of cyanide, which as any reader of mystery novels knows smells like bitter almonds, and changed the label to read “Almond Jelly Beans?” The next time visitors came to his lab, he could show them this container with its pristine new label and invite them to sample the contents.
Clearly, the new label says “Almond Jelly Beans,” such a harmless and innocous thing. Almond jelly beans pose no threat to anyone. What is the big deal?
Tragically, no matter what this young man chooses to call the substance in the container, it is still cyanide. The moment his visitor opens the lid to take a smell of the harmless little jelly beans will be their last moment - no matter what you call it, cyanide is deadly.
This story is such a perfect illustration to describe what we can see on the news and in our neighborhoods every day. Changing the labels doesn't ever work - sin will still kill you every time. God’s laws are not just arbitrary rules: He does not make up things on a selfish whim, or just to keep us ‘in our place.” Rather, God’s laws are a description of reality from an infinite persepective. His laws are truth, and they are inviolable.
He does not instruct us not to do things to keep us from having fun or living our best, carefree life. From His timeless and limitless perspective, God can plainly see the train wreck that is coming down the line with selfish and willful choices. He wants us to have a good life now and forever, so He tells us the truth about what will help us truly live and what will make us surely die.
Be encouraged today, and do not let confusion be sown into your mind and spirit. Read the Word of God and spend time in the presence of Jesus through worship and prayer. Rejoice in God's truth, and take comfort in the fact that He holds everything together - now and forever.
We must not fall into the the mistake of becoming angry with the people around us who do not yet know the love of God. More than ever, everyone needs to know the peace and confidence that comes from a relationship with Jesus. The world is giving off plenty of fear and anger - we must have lives that radiate joy and hope. We know that the laws of God do not squash the life out of us; in fact, they set us free to live a truly abundant life! The enemy has fooled so many of our friends and neighbors, but no one is too far gone that the love of God cannot reach them. This season is a wonderful opportunity for the Church - the deeper the darkness, the more brightly the love of Christ can shine.
For further reading on God's Laws, please see Winkie Pratney's 21CR resource - a real treasure!
In our younger years, I taught elementary school and loved it. Kids are amazing and so much fun to work with, and it is so inspiring to watch how just a little love, care, and positive attention can help them to bloom. However, the elementary school classroom is also a wonderful place to develop and maintain a firm understanding of the Christian doctrine of Original Sin. Contrary to popular modern teaching and opinion, groups of people living and working together day after day in close proximity are not going to magically and organically treat one another with care and respect - in fact, left to their own devices, most school classrooms would quickly devolve into a Lord of the Flies situation.
Any serious study of the history of civilization will testify to the fact that without some sort of outside influence, chaos reigns. The problem is, of course, that just about all of the outside influences are little better than chaos themselves. Injustice is rampant, power is corruptive, and the strong devour the weak - every sort of kingdom that humans have managed to produce in our own strength are tainted by these truths.
This is why, when a truly unusual young man from a little town called Nazareth began teaching and preaching about a new kingdom over 2000 years ago, so many people had questions. The next time you read through the Gospels, notice two things - first, how many times Jesus mentions the Kingdom of God. The two are inseparable, Jesus and His Kingdom; you cannot have one without the other. Second, notice how many of the conversations recorded in the Gospels are of Jesus answering questions that people had about His Kingdom. What is it, where is it, why can't I see it, and how do you get into it? The more Jesus explained His Kingdom, the more questions His listeners had.
His hearers then were almost exclusively Jewish people. At that point in time, they alone had the revelation of who God really was; yet, when He came to them in the flesh, many could not recognize Him or His Kingdom. It is thought-provoking to note that the priests and the teachers of the law had taken the beautiful revelation of God and over the centuries created an elaborate system of rituals and of complex lists of do's and don'ts. Their system became more precious to them than their God - it lost the heart of God and became a new standard for righteousness: Self-righteousness.
When confronted with the real King and His Kingdom, many could not make things make sense. He did not do things the way they thought He should. Jesus was born in a stable, not a palace. He came from a backwater town and hung out with the lowest of the low, little kids loved Him and wanted to be around Him, and He made time for anyone - man or woman, rich or poor. He preached that if you want to be first, you have to be last; and that you cannot say you love God without also loving and forgiving your neighbor, and treating everyone else as you would like to be treated. He taught that people of His Kingdom would be known as meek, merciful peacemakers. He taught that if you want to save your life, you have to lose it. And instead of delivering with an army, He delivered by laying down His own life.
Since Jesus came and revealed to the whole world what HIs Kingdom was like, civilization has been radically changed. It is actually amazing and revolutionary that now there are entire nations in which slavery is illegal - that is because of Jesus and His people. It is also amazing that in many nations, women and children are treated with dignity and respect, and given every opportunity to have a full and purposeful life - that is because of Jesus and His people. In many nations touched and influenced by the teachings of Jesus, the poor are looked after and the downtrodden are lifted up. His Kingdom looks very different than anything humans could produce on our own - His Kingdom is entirely motivated by real love and selflessness.
This is why the writer of the letter to the Hebrews was so insistent that we not miss the real King and be satisfied with our own systems of self-righteousness. See this strongly worded passage in Hebrews chapter 12...
See to it that you do not refuse Him who speaks. If they did not escape when they refused Him who warned them on earth, how much less will we, if we turn away from Him who warns us from heaven? At that time his voice shook the earth, but now He has promised, “Once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” The words “once more” indicate the removing of what can be shaken—that is, created things—so that what cannot be shaken may remain.
Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our “God is a consuming fire."
- Hebrews 12: 25-29
Everything that can be, will be shaken. If ever there was a time that this seems very likely, it is today in 2020! Nothing that humans have created outside of God and His Kingdom will remain - no structure, no system of governance, no religion, nothing.
Listen to the profound and prophetic words of Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, in a sermon preached in 1963. He was writing in a time and place when, for the first time, no one laughed at the idea of the earth being literally shaken and melted - it was the dawn of the Atomic Age and everyone was very aware of the power and fear that had been unleashed with nuclear weaponry, and this after a half century of brutal world warfare...
"In other words, we can put it like this: the uniqueness of this message lies in the fact that there has been One in this world who really did not belong to it. The world has thrown up its great men, its great philosophers, its great scientists, its great statesmen and great musicians and many other great men, but Jesus of Nazareth was not a great man, He was God-man!
This is the appaling thing, is it not, that two thousand years later, He is still being ignored. The world has always been a place of trouble and of pain, and the whole story of civilization is that of the human race trying to solve its own problems...trying to put an end to war, trying to make people live amicably together, trying to order life so that men and women might live as it should be lived and that they might enjoy it. But they failed yet the world is still trying, still turning to the same kind of idea...doing everything except listening to this one thing. This is why this writer puts it like this: "See to it that you do not refuse Him who speaks."
Friends, we know that everything will be shaken, and that only God's Kingdom will remain. Do not allow the things that are happening now to discourage or frighten you - keep your eyes on Jesus! As one old preacher said, Jesus and His Kingdom are God's total answer for man's every need. By His grace and forgiveness can people learn to live peacefully together, now and forever.
This is our wonderful opportunity to share with all of our family, friends, and neighbors the Good News of Jesus, who alone can lift our burden of sin and bring real help to men and women. It is our honor to tell everyone how much God loves them and wants them to be a part of His great, unshakeable Kingdom.
Hi! I'm Mary - mother to two wonderful grown daughters, wife to an incredible husband, and loving our life in the piney woods of Texas... (read more!)