Friday, October 6, 2023

Why Do You Go to Church?

 

The question carried a hint of sarcasm, or maybe defiance. Either way, the person aiming the inquisition clearly wasn’t a believer. I told him I was a Christian and that’s what Christians should do. It’s an act of obedience. He shrugged. I could have shared a better answer. I go to church for a multitude of reasons. I shouldn’t have assumed he was a non-believer. A lot of believers don’t go to church.

So, why do I go to church? In no particular order, here are five reasons. Maybe there are more than five. Maybe there is an order to the importance of these five. But they’re all important.

One: It is an act of obedience. Those of us who’ve been in church for a while know the verse well: …not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together…Hebrews 10:25 (KJV). We’re supposed to assemble. More about that verse later. The early church set the example, and in obedience to God’s calling, we must follow.

 “Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved” Acts 2:46 (NIV)

The early believers spent a lot of time together. The least we can do is spend a couple of hours together.

Two: Through obedience comes fellowship. It’s a fellowship unlike any other. The bond is unearthly, and it should be experienced that way. Our eternity begins when we are called to follow Christ. We’re going to spend eternity with other followers so we might as well enjoy life with them now. It’s not always easy. Sin gets in the way of perfect fellowship. That doesn’t mean we can skip it. The Christian life is meant to be shared.

“We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.  We write this to make our joy complete” I John 1:3,4 (NIV)

“But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin”  I John 1:7 (NIV)

Three: Through fellowship comes edification. Christianity is simple. And it’s complicated. The more you learn the more you realize how much you have to learn. Church should be a place of learning, of higher education. It’s about studying the Bible. Of course, it’s not about winning at Bible trivia (although that’s not a bad feat), but about the maturing of the believer in every way. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness2 Timothy 3:16 (NKJV)

Christian education is not about getting a degree in theology (another excellent feat if that’s what God calls you to do). Every church member needs to be grounded in God’s word in preparation for whatever God has planned for them. We each have a gift, a calling, a place to serve the body of Christ within the body of Christ and in the world around us. So, we need to know what we believe and why we believe it. Pastors and teachers aren’t perfect, and it’s okay to ask questions. A good instructor will always encourage you to check their teaching against the scriptures for yourself.

“Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth”  2 Timothy 2:15 (NIV)

Four: Through edification comes service. Life in the post-modern, post-Christian world is hard. It’s exhausting for most people, and Christians are no different. Yet, we are different. We can change our priorities where they concern our time, our attention, even our money. We can choose to focus on the work of the Lord. It might not seem possible. It won’t be easy, especially in the commitment stage. But it is the calling of a Christian to live daily for God, and church is where it begins. “…therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believersGalatians 6:10 (NIV)

Don’t skip over the mention of “all people.” They are all around us. Church should provide an opportunity for service to people outside the church.

In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven” Matthew 5:16 (NIV)

Five: Through service comes worship. Worship is a big part of gathering together with other believers. Or at least it should be. Whether through music, reading scripture, prayer, or giving, worship is offered to God through our participation in church. But it’s not just about the corporate acts of worship in the church service. It’s also about our service to the church, and beyond. Worship is a moment-by-moment, intentional offering of everything that we are. It begins in church and moves outward. Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship” Romans 12:1 (NIV)

Does this mean I can worship God without being in church? Yes. Does it mean a Christian life without church is doable? Sure. Productive? Maybe…somewhat. Fulfilling? As an introvert, I’d like to think it could be. But I know better.

Can I skip church for twenty years and consider myself obedient? No. Can I have fellowship without church? Thanks to technology, yes, but…no. Can I educate myself on the Bible? Yes, and I do. Can I share that glorious, life-changing knowledge with others and talk about the wonders of God in a safe and affirming environment?  I do that in church. Can I serve as God intended? We’ve established that service goes beyond church. But if you’re going to run the race, you need to start at the starting line. If you’re going to serve the body of Christ, and serve through the body of Christ, you need to be present with the body of Christ.

Do you sense a circular pattern here?  Circle back to obedience and that verse about not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together. Here’s the passage from Hebrews:

“Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching” Hebrews 10:23-25 (NIV)

God is faithful. His diligence toward us is unwavering. But we might waver. We have to hold on tight. We can’t give up on each other, but rather we need to encourage each other, and all the  more as we see…what? What is the Day that’s approaching? The day of gathering together? Sunday? The day of the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem? It could be that the day might have referred to these for some people at some point in history. But it’s not just the day, it’s the Daythe Day that has been coming for a long time. So now, how much closer must it be? Aren’t the signs of the season becoming more obvious? Can't you see the Day approaching? Then, encourage each other, and meet together.

Behind this short list of reasons to go to church, there is a faithful God. There is a gospel call. Because of God’s faithfulness, and in light of the gospel of Jesus Christ, I go to church. I need constant reminding that I was trapped in sin and bound for hell, a lost soul incapable of finding the only One who could rescue me. But He saved my life by His death and resurrection. I find my freedom in the knowledge of the gospel. I don’t just hope it’s true. I don’t have my fingers crossed behind the cross. The good news was offered by God and ingested by my soul. It’s the truth, and I know it.

Obedience follows knowing the gospel. Fellowship increases because of the gospel. Edification flourishes in the light of the gospel. Service bears witness to the message of the gospel. Worship offers up love, devotion, and gratitude to God by those who believe in the promise of the gospel. And those who believe are members of the body of Christ, the church. What a wonderous existence. Why would you want to miss out on that?

 

Friday, September 1, 2023

A Transhuman Odyssey

This post appeared a few years back. I'm running it again as I share the September sale of books two and three. Here are the links -- just click on the titles.

Killswitch  (book 2)                                                    

      Transfusion  (book 3)                                

    A fearsome future. A greater hope.


After reading about transhumanism for a couple of years, I plotted the journey of Chase Sterling, the world’s first transhuman. His story begins with my first published novel, Wake the Dead, followed by book two, Killswitch. The trilogy ends with Transfusion. I said goodbye to Chase, figuring I got the wired-up superhuman to a reasonably happy ending. It wasn’t easy—his life was a mess.

 

I wasn’t frightened by the very real potential of H+ (transhumanism) when I studied it, or when I turned my reluctant hero into a transhuman. But Chase was frightened. Readers are alarmed—even more so when they find out I didn’t entirely make this stuff up. I wrote an article, “Top Ten Things Christians Should Know About Transhumanism.” I said I wrote it to warn people, but the truth is I don’t believe there’s any reason to fear the technology. I don’t fret over ending up like Chase. Still, it’s something to consider. This movement, like many others past and present, is rooted in mankind’s quest for eternal life, for becoming god-like.

 

Readers disturbed by the transhuman agenda have not been outnumbered by those remarking they find my future-fiction government just as troubling. In the story, the U.S.A. is no more. The reason for the drastic overhaul was the crumbling Constitution, and the perceived obligation of elite rulers to protect common citizens and supply their every need. The result? Zero unemployment. Free healthcare. Free housing and education. Of course, there’s a catch. And a rebellion.

 

People ask me if I think our nation will turn into that nation. After all, I did my homework on H+. Did I research the possibility of a government reboot? Is it going to happen? Is it already happening? Questions loom concerning the progression, if you can call it that, of our government. For me, it’s easier to grasp the potential of H+ than to predict the success or failure of America.

 

Even so, living under a totalitarian government doesn’t worry me. When readers tell me I wrote a scary book, I almost shake my head. “I don’t think so,” I want to say. But of course, if they say it’s scary, then it’s scary. I’ll go with it. But I’m not scared.

 

Through this story, I want to give readers a thread of hope. I want them to tug on that thread and unravel the frightening scenario. My mission is not to stir up anxiety, but to give a good reason why there’s nothing to fear. H+ is scary. At times, the startling changes being cast on us by those in authority are overwhelming. 


I can do little to change the direction of either science or politics. All I can do is tell a good story. So, I wrote a transhuman odyssey. It’s a hard road for my hero, but fear doesn’t conquer him. Hope wins.

Monday, July 3, 2023

The Convergence

 

From the window of my home office, I gaze across a couple of acres to the gray house where an American flag wilts against a metal pole. The sky is blue with only a few small cloud puffs that are seemingly as motionless as my neighbor’s flag. It’s a peaceful scene on a quiet day in rural America.

But if I look away and then back again, the clouds will have moved along, or at least they will have taken on new dimensions. And tomorrow or the next day, a storm will violate the tranquil sky and beat the flag into a furious wave. It’s summer in Florida and not too many days pass without what the local news has dubbed inconvenient weather.

The adjective could be applied to a number of situations besides the weather. The red, white and blue flag resisting any shift in this peaceful scene does not accurately represent our nation. If I stretch beyond my limited view, there is little peace. In fact, peace seems to have floated away, or at least it’s taken on new dimensions. And it will not return without fundamental change, or so we’re told. Our thinking needs to change. Our view of reality needs to change. Our country, our world demands it with the shout of a hurricane. The raging storm of social upheaval, for me, seems a great inconvenience.

Climate change. Inflation. Plagues and pandemics, draught and famine, the SDG (Sustainable Development Goals), CBDC (Central Bank Digital Currency), SCS (Social Credit Score), CRT (Critical Race Theory may have lost its punch with the press, but it’s a sneaky initialism.), the push for a VMT (tax on Vehicle Miles Traveled), the demands of the LGBTQ+ (I’m not breaking it down—it’s too long and seems a bit redundant. But I’m not here to judge. I’m here to show grace.). These are all highways, and there are many others, eager to deliver us to the long-awaited NWO (New World Order). And then there’s China. And Russia. And is anybody paying attention to the Middle East anymore? Because from where I sit, everything else might just be a distraction.

Communities are represented in the above paragraph, and I belong to a community as well. Within the world-wide body of believers—the Church—there is a sub-community of watchmen (and women) who are especially aware of prophetic progression. These people are tuned in to what’s happening in the Middle East. There are some 250,000 missiles pointed at Israel, and particular conflicts referenced in the Bible may be about to come to pass. To overlook Israel makes the headlines nothing but scary. To remember God’s prophecy about the Holy Land makes it…well, it’s still scary. But it’s also filled with hope and promise. It has all come to a point that the watchers refer to as convergence. All the prophetic signs, for the first time in history, are coming together at once. The world is on the prophetic brink.

And here I sit considering the American flag. And the sky. The wind has picked up a bit and the clouds are gathering. Around the world, for some of my brothers and sisters in Christ, the peacefulness I experience on this day has long departed. Still, they surely know the peace that passes understanding.

For the multitude fighting breathlessly to upend God’s plan for His creation, there is no peace. There never was. But peace will envelope this world when our King rides in to end their battle at last.

The flag doesn’t hold my attention for long. But the sky… I can’t stop looking up.

Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near. Luke 21:28

Friday, June 23, 2023

Do We Still Need the Ten Commandments?

 First published January 2019

An article I read last week told how prominent pastor Andy Stanley declared that churches should no longer erect monuments of the Ten Commandments because the old covenant does not apply to Christians. After reading the article, and many of the heated comments that followed, I considered my own feelings when the Ten Commandments were removed from the sanctuary at the church I attend.

The lovely banners—five commandments on one and five on another—were handsewn by some of the older ladies in the congregation. The monuments were erected over the side doors near the front of our large sanctuary. They hung there for years. Then one day they were gone, replaced by modern wall d├ęcor reading on one side: LOVE GOD You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your mind. Matthew 22:37. On the other side: LOVE OTHERS Love your neighbor as yourself. Matthew 22:39.



I smiled at the change, considering it good to remove the old banners and replace them with the simple, two-part New Testament command of Christ. Afterall, we are a church built on the gospel, not the law. We know we can’t keep the law, that our only hope is in the One who came to fulfill the law. We know that living by this new covenant command will guide us to keep the Big Ten: (Yes, I’m paraphrasing.) Don’t accept any gods other than God, don’t establish idols, don’t use God’s name in vain, set aside a day for rest and worship (Yes, I go to church on Sunday.), honor your parents, don’t murder, don’t cheat on your spouse, don’t steal, don’t tell lies about people, don’t yearn for other people’s stuff, privileges, talents, or blessings.

But if we’re no longer obligated to keep the Ten as our code of conduct, does that mean we can forget our history? Are we to denounce the validity and lasting measure of the entire work of the Holy Scripture? The words newly poised in our sanctuary were all we needed to obey the ten laws that used to hang above us. But should those old laws be forgotten, stowed away like an out-of-fashion historical document?

I’m not sure that’s what was suggested in the article I read, or that I was able to grasp Andy Stanley’s full intent in what he had to say about the Ten Commandments. I’m quite sure others who read the piece were left with a blurred perspective. To put it in biblical terms, the article sowed discord among the brethren.

The pastor’s suggestions, whether good or bad, were directed at the church. For decades, the Ten Commandment have been forcefully removed from public view in court houses, schools, and other places. I’d rather see them removed from a gospel-centered church than a courtroom. Whether Jew or Christian, citizen or foreigner, these ten laws God handed down through the ancient Hebrews formed a foundation of civility and order, rightness in community, and respect for proper governing. Our country was built on such laws, and they benefit any civilization wise enough to adopt them. Even the atheist, who may choose to omit the first four commandments for lack of acceptance, will find a better life by obeying the last six. The unbeliever must realize that to break one of these outdated commands will, even today, bring detrimental consequences.

As a New Testament Christian, I’m not required to live by the old law or even know it in its entirety. I won’t attempt to recall every rule pertaining to meat, or fabric, or what course of offering amends what type of sin. But it seems living by the Big Ten should be easy enough for a Christian. Well, maybe not. Maybe we don’t live in a polytheistic culture, but we still put other things ahead of God. Maybe we don’t erect golden idols, but we stare into the glow of our TVs and PCs and smart phones. What about the Sabbath? It’s a source of contention for some believers. Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath. Enough said.

My offenses and misperceptions are covered by the righteousness of Christ. Even so, I’ll strive to follow Him, which means some things are just wrong, no matter what covenant you’re under. I should hope that any church building void of a display of the Ten Commandments is filled with members who have etched those ancient decrees on their hearts.





Friday, March 17, 2023

Living the Truth in an Untruthful World

 

In the post-modern world, a simple argument clears up a lot of the confusion, or maybe it doesn’t.  You’ve probably heard it. It begins with a question: Is there absolute truth? Answer: No, there is no
absolute truth. We create our own truth. What is true for you may not be true for me. All truth is subjective. Question: Are you sure? Answer: Absolutely.

That argument conjures up a worldview with an absolute condition of no absolutes. Not much there to stand on.

My worldview is grounded in the absolute truth of Scripture—a biblical, Christian worldview. From here I judge the world. That's right, I judge. I don’t pass judgment on the person who can’t live up to my standards. Sometimes I can’t live up to my own standards. I don’t judge the unredeemed for living like sinners. But I do judge sin, and evil, and untruth. And I judge righteousness.

These are the things you shall do: Speak each man the truth to his neighbor; Give judgment in your gates for truth, justice, and peace   Zechariah 8:16

I can’t pretend to understand the worldview of a person who has lived an entirely different kind of life than me. But I can, without argument, point to absolute truth. And the absoluteness of it urges me away from what the world is telling me I should accept—that I’m wrong more often than right about what is true. That I’m wrong about morality, family, marriage, gender, the value of human life, racism, and what it means to be free, among other things.

Most of us who hold a biblical worldview are pretty clear on general moral behavior and God’s plan for family life. God values life, and so do we. We know God created male and female and that marriage has certain eternal parameters. But most of us have had to show some love to those who slip outside of those boundaries. That doesn’t mean the truth is no longer true. Truth does not become untrue.

As for racism, it has taken too long for American Christians to paint the multi-racial picture of the New Testament church. But it was happening, and still is, thank God. Except that the social climate of recent years seems to have draped a cloud over the church. Some Christian leaders have embraced the shadows, and some believers have retreated into the disjunction that was giving way in the light of truth, before the clouds shoved in.

It's a complicated dilemma, and there’s no pretending it isn’t. But it’s not an excuse to alter your biblical worldview. What the world teaches about racism is not what the Bible teaches. In my own mind and lifestyle, I am not a racist, and my worldview does not allow for racism. But now I am persuasively being taught a new way of thinking that insists on racism. It tells me that I can’t help but be a racist. If I can’t help it, then there is no hope, except for revolution—social and governmental upending.

I can’t begin to express the depths of my concern for our nation, and for our churches. But there is someone who can and does express it very well. This is one of the best books I’ve ever read. If you are a churchgoer or a Sunday morning golfer, a teacher, politian, a protestor or a sympathizer, black or white or any other ethnicity, read Fault Lines: The Social Justice Movement and Evangelicalism's Looming Catastrophe by Voddie Baucham. It’s not an easy book. It is an important book. You will be blessed by it, and absolutely enlightened.

As for what it means to be free, the fight won’t win it. The post-modern, post-Christian worldview doesn’t get it. Subjective truth can’t even imagine it. The gospel of Jesus Christ is the only way to attain true freedom. 

Therefore, if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed   John 8:36


Friday, February 17, 2023

The Everlasting Gospel

This is the last of my Gospel posts. The original post from a few years ago entitled The Everlasting Gospel reviewed all the previous Gospel posts and told of current events as they related to prophecy, politics, and persecution. I won’t review the other Gospel posts here, since I’ve just shared them over the last few months. And I won’t refer to those now past events which may or may not have lost their relevance. This is an update. Anyone who thinks the world has let up on the three p’s—prophecy, politics, and persecution—in the last few years…well…maybe you haven’t been paying attention. 

I’m not saying you haven’t been watching the news. The nightly broadcasts do share some valuable information, although the newsworthy is accompanied by the agenda. But that’s a topic for another day. I’m not suggesting you haven’t listened to the chatter around you. If you have, you’re probably feeling a bit confused. Or overwhelmed. Or experiencing a perplexing guilt over something you never knew you did or said or thought.

But it’s really not about that. This is about the Gospel, and how it has been, and is, and will be everlasting. It is not shaken as the earth is shaken. Are there more earthquakes at present than in the past? Maybe science is simply better at counting them. There have been over 1,000 so far this year. Maybe science is better at counting them so we can know that there are more earthquakes. Prophecy declares there will be more earthquakes. So why wouldn’t God provide us with the technology to count them? 


Did a strange cloud appear over Turkey eighteen days before the quake that buried thousands of families alive? I don’t know for sure, but the internet does reveal a picture of a red cloud that eerily resembles the map of the epicenter and surrounding areas. Does the Bible speak of signs in the Heavens? Yes, it does. Was this one of those signs? Perhaps, it was.

As far as prophecy is concerned, this present age has been marching toward its finale since Jesus ascended into Heaven, declaring that He would return. That’s when we entered “the last day”. The signs have been there all along. They have come and gone and come again. But never have all of the signs converged as they have now. This has brought a sureness in the minds and spirits of those paying attention that we must be in the last of the last days. Do your own research. Reach your own conclusion, if you’re paying attention. Whether you are or not, if you belong to Jesus, He will rescue you. But God did give us signs. He did tell us to look up, for our redemption draws near. It gives me great peace in this increasingly evil world to look up.

The Gospel is not shaken, nor is it rewritten or repurposed like the laws and ideals of this world. The agenda I spoke of is not only that of the media. In fact, you can’t blame the minions who only report what’s placed in front of them to a viewership comprised of the anxious, the arrogant, and the apathetic. You can’t blame the disciples of so many new world philosophies that shine forth hope for a better tomorrow. But God will hold them accountable, if they don’t turn from their narcissistic attempts to overthrow their Creator. Who is behind this constant beckoning to change the world? Leaders, politicians, global entities which are not elected, or official, or even approved of by the majority of people? Yes. Satan, himself? Definitely. 

The Gospel is not shaken, or rewritten, or crushed by the powers unleashed all around us in this dark hour of human history. Persecution is ramping up. In many places across Europe, a believer can be arrested for daring to display an subtle hint of their Christian faith. A woman was arrested in the UK for praying outside an abortion clinic. Not protesting, not blocking the entrance. Just praying in silence.

In the last year, Nicaragua, for the first time, made the list of the top fifty most dangerous places for Christians. Church buildings were damaged, schools, radio and TV stations were shut down, and Christian leaders were expelled. In other more dangerous countries like North Korea and Nigeria, thousands of Christians were arrested, beaten, or killed. North Korea’s new anti-reactionary thought law applies to any type of material deemed objectionable by the government, and it most certainly applies to the Bible, Christian books, films, and recordings. A source on the new law reported, “People who distribute imported South Korean media content to other people also face execution. Or, they face imprisonment with their families at a political prison camp run by the Ministry of Social Security.”

The thought police are employed by other governments as well. They are not strictly anti-Christian, but Christians are less free to speak, to gather, to worship, to share their faith, and to keep true to their values. In many parts of the world, such behavior invites execution. But not in the U.S.A. Yet, here we face a growing street team of self-appointed thought police, and they are easily agitated by the presence of Christians. Maybe not all Christians, just those who can find no other hope but in the Gospel of Christ. But isn’t that all of us? Sadly, many have adopted a lesser gospel bent on resetting society, not redeeming the sinner.

Here is the last paragraph of my final Gospel post as it appeared when I first wrote it:

I am unthreatened at present, and as such perhaps not holding the Gospel as dear as those slain around the world must have held it. For them, the fight is done, and the everlasting has come. For others, persecution is at the door. How unyielding their grasp must be to endure the weight of that burden. Yet, I do hold the Gospel most dear, for it will outlast politics and nations and wars and death. The Gospel will be the only good news left at the end of this age, whenever this age is destined to end. And it alone will be enough.


Now, the headlines have changed. The night has darkened. The rulers of this lost world seem unstoppable. I can no longer state with all certainty that I am unthreatened. But the threat only makes the Gospel more real. It will not shrink. It can’t be silenced. It is, by life or by death, everlasting.


 We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are. For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God, in his grace, freely makes us right in his sight. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood.  Romans 3:22-25 (NLT)

 

 

Friday, January 27, 2023

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 overall the modern approach echoes the old strategy.

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. The Gospel reaches far 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, January 13, 2023

The Selfless Gospel

 

And my selfish pursuit of survival.


Here’s what I needed: To be rescued from among the fallen, reconciled with God, restored to a condition worthy of eternity in Heaven, and redeemed from unavoidable death.

So I turned to Christ to rescue, reconcile, restore, and redeem me. I needed it. I wanted to possess it. And in my quest for self-preservation, I obtained it. I’m a selfish being.

Here’s what Christ needs: Nothing from me or anyone else.

But he offered to rescue me. He became my reconciliation with God. He gave me His righteousness, and therefore passage to eternity in Heaven. He redeemed me from the death I couldn’t escape.

Here’s what it cost me: Nothing.

Here’s what it cost Him: A trade of glory for flesh and gravity. The cross. The strong grip of death apart from the loving presence of the Father.

Here’s what I gained: Knowledge of God. Fellowship with others like me and inclusion in Christ’s church. Awareness of life as it’s meant to be. The ability to follow God. The experience of His glory. Overwhelming identification with His grace.

Here’ what Christ gained: The approval of His Father. The church. The right to redeem the entire earth over which He will soon rule unchallenged. The crown of the One True King. Glorification.

Did he do what he did to accomplish this goal? No. It was all His before He spoke the world into being. He is—His Gospel is—completely selfless. Here are a few other things He gained: Hatred. Mocking. Widespread, blatant disrespect. Apathetic, half-hearted consideration. Adamant refusal.

Even my own selfish need for His selfless gift wasn’t really selfish at all. If He hadn’t pointed out my need, I never would have known. In a way, my selfishness is rooted in His selflessness. If He didn’t show up, I wouldn’t have looked for Him. As it is, I gave up clinging to what I thought I knew about life to obtain…life. And life is in Christ.

Another one of those paradoxical truths? God’s glory gained by selflessness. My redemption realized out of a selfish need to live and not die. The rhythm of salvation. The poetry of grace. God came down to live a simple human life in an ancient land and then he died on a cross. And then He conquered death. And then I accepted His astonishing remedy to cure what I didn’t know was wrong with me until He told me. For His glory, for my life, I’ll take it. What else can I do? There is no other way.

And this is the testimony, that God gives us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. I John 5:11-12