Friday, October 21, 2016

The Far-Reaching Gospel

Nearly four hundred years ago, a movement within the Christian community engineered the future of the church by stressing field preaching, aiming to draw in young people, the writing of innovative hymns, taking those hymns outside the church, and meeting together in small groups. The fields have become streets, and street preachers are not typically well received. But the overall plan suggests a modern approach.

Of course, nobody wants to hear how European pietism of the 1600s shaped modern evangelism. Not right now. Too many oddities have swept over Christianity in the new world and this is not the time to delve into church history. What we need now is the safe comfort of an American Bible-belt sanctuary filled to the last pew with clean-cut, straight-laced, but not too politically correct believers. We want the familiar, the good old-time religion. We don’t want the wrong crowd, the radical music, the broad political agenda, or the apprehension of too much evangelism in a hostile environment. We just want a place to call our own where the outsiders won’t bother us. Maybe that’s a good definition of church for some, but it doesn’t carry the Gospel into the broken world.

While the movement of those long-ago believers progressed, their culture endured political and religious wars. In the thinking of most of the population, the evil of slavery was socially acceptable. Witchcraft and paganism were common. This was no Bible belt. If the average family had access to scripture, it wasn’t in the form of several faux-leather copies piled unread in the den. This was a harsh existence for most. The voice of the Gospel, however, rose above the obstacles as it always must.

Living the Christian life has never been easy. Looking back, it may seem a more pleasant and peaceful saneness blessed a generation or two at various points in history. But peace not found in Christ is an illusion. Sometimes, it’s a very good illusion that demands to be kept. Then a generation comes to its senses by revelation or oppression, and the Gospel moves. It reaches into a stained society to free those wrenched in unbelief. It calls to the ones deemed unclean. It meets the threat of perversion. It counters the claim of irrelevance. It is a far reach the Gospel sustains into the uncomfortable places we thought we could avoid.

It is the joy of the church to tell the old story anew in times of trouble. It is not the privilege of the church to remain forever content in its surroundings. Our security is not of this world, nor our hope in this world. Our guarantee is not to remain citizens of a Christian nation. Nor should we think our national leaders are anything but appointed by God for some purpose. If their objective proves detrimental for us, then God will be sufficient. And by His will the message of the Gospel will become a louder cry.  

A very old hymn that was once new:

Christ, the Life of All the Living

Christ, the life of all the living;
Christ, the death of death our foe;
Christ, for us yourself once giving
to the darkest depths of woe:
through your suffering, death, and merit,
life eternal we inherit;
thousand, thousand thanks are due,
dearest Jesus, unto you.

 You have suffered great affliction
and have borne it patiently,
even death by crucifixion:
our atonement full and free.
Lord, you chose to be tormented,
that our doom should be prevented;
thousand, thousand thanks are due,
dearest Jesus, unto you.

Lord, for all that bought our pardon,
for the sorrows deep and sore,
for the anguish in the garden,
we will thank you evermore.
For the victory of your dying -
sinful nature mortifying -
thousand, thousand thanks are due,
dearest Jesus, unto you.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Heaven is My Destination

 My last post, Hell is My Destiny, ended my summer blog break with a message of sheer hopelessness. I am, as are you, bound for eternity in the bad place and there’s nothing we can do about it. Most of us don’t think too much about it because our earthbound existence keeps us feeling hopeless enough already.  I wrote about summer’s mass murders, terrorist attacks, plagues, and about the impending pick of a new POTUS. As for that last one, some might see a little piece of Heaven waiting for us depending on the outcome of November eighth. Most of my community seems to lean one way. But I can’t put my hope in it, and the leaners I know and love don’t place their confidence in this slipshod election either.

But back to Hell, I may have stuck a needle in some readers’ sensitive expectations. After all, I am a Christian and my message must portend a better way. As I stated at the end of the blog of bleakness, I’m not on the Hellbound train. I used to be. I should be. But there’s a new train coursing over the lost earth with a gracious conductor ready to snatch us off the locomotive of destruction. So, I turned around. I’m going the other way. But it wasn’t my doing, it was the conductor who rescued me. If He hadn’t plucked me off the track I was on, I wouldn’t have changed trains. Okay, enough with the trains.

We are going the wrong way. The only way for us to turn around is to trust our Maker to turn us. It’s His choice to do it. If it wasn’t then we wouldn’t even know we had a choice. It’s our choice to say, “Yes, please rescue me. I have no other hope but You.” We can’t stop the train, get off at the next station, or pick a different conductor. (Again with the trains!) We’re speeding out of control toward one destination. Only God can save us from the wreckage waiting for us when the broken track meets the jagged cliff. Only He can put us on the new train.

So here I am on a new course, on the train to glory. Bound for Heaven. But the view from my passenger car is no different. I still witness death. Even since my last post, senseless violence took more lives. The candidates faced off. They had a lot to say but said very little. I don’t know who won the debate, but I feel like we the people lost. I’m still the citizen of a world with a destiny. I’m also a citizen of Heaven and I will ride this train home.

No, it’s not about trains. The plan to rescue us preceded trains by…forever. The God of eternity made a way. The way is to follow His Son. It is the way of the cross proclaiming that all who believe He died to save us and rose again will gain true life with Him. This is the thing that changes destiny.

For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.
                                                                                                                                                                             I Thessalonians 5:9