A prisoner of…

During the reign of King Louis XIV in France, Marie Durand was imprisoned. She remained in prison for 38 years — and died there.

Her crime?

A steadfast faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

All of which begs a few questions:

  • Of whom was Marie Durand really a prisoner? King Louis XIV or King Jesus?

Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me HIS prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, and which now has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel, for which I was appointed a preacher and apostle and teacher, which is why I suffer as I do. — 2 Timothy 1:8-12

  • Do you have her kind of faith?
  • Do I?
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Follow Me

Note: I haven’t yet read David Platt’s new book, “Follow Me,” but, based on what I’ve seen of Platt through his Secret Church videos and his previous books, I suspect it will be a convicting read. One thing I DO know, the theology in this promotional video is convicting enough — and absolutely accurate…

Is Jeremiah 29:11 a promise for us?

Homosexual “Marriage”

Whether or not homosexual marriage should be legalized in the United States is one issue that just will not go away. It continues to be an epic fight with battle lines (apparently) clearly drawn…

RingAnnouncer-bwIn this corner, representing “fairness,” “progressive ideas,” and the “full rights of citizenship for all,” the ADVOCATES OF LEGALIZING HOMOSEXUAL MARRIAGE!

And in the other corner, standing tall for “traditional values,” “the sanctity of marriage,” and a “biblical worldview,” the CHAMPIONS OF TRADITIONAL MARRIAGE!

The first side is working tirelessly for the legalization of homosexual marriage everywhere. The other side is fighting hard to make sure that the only legally recognized marriage in the United States remains the marriage between one man and one woman.

And, if you happen to find yourself in a discussion on the topic, you should be prepared for a couple of things:

  1. If there are people in the discussion who have opposing views on the matter, the discussion will likely digress into an argument.
  2. You may be asked which side of the issue you are on — and the choices offered to you will likely be one of the two outlined above.

But, I would like to offer a third alternative. You see, I am standing firmly in a neutral corner.  Don’t misunderstand me, now. I stand firmly with the Scriptural teaching concerning the sinfulness of homosexuality and the definition of marriage. But, if you look closely at this bout, you will see the sinfulness of homosexuality and the biblical definition of marriage are really not the issues. What is at issue is how the state will ultimately rule on the matter — as if their decree will decide anything.

I think Christians who are engaged in this fight are making a terrible mistake. Not for standing up for what the Bible clearly says about homosexuality or marriage, but for arguing theological points with politicians. To argue theology with them is to miss a much larger point. It’s also an implied acceptance of a premise we ought to reject outright.

Fighting this battle in its current context assumes that the state has the authority to define what is and is not marriage — and it does not.

Marriage was instituted by God. He created it. He defines it. The state has no more authority to define marriage than it does to define salvation. The matters are just not open to debate. God has spoken. It is settled.

Don’t fall prey to the erroneous notion that something is morally or ethically right merely because it has been passed into law. All sorts of morally repugnant things are laws:

  • Abortion is legal is many parts of the world.
  • In China married couples are legally prohibited from having more than one child.

Likewise, many legitimate activities have been criminalized:

  • In many parts of the United States, if you own a milk cow it is illegal for you to consume the raw milk it produces.
  • You can even be fined for cutting someone’s hair without a license.

So whether or not something is legal is a very poor indicator of its inherent rightness. Never forget, God is Lord of the Law, too. And, with that in mind, I really could not care less whether or not any state recognizes my marriage to my wife. It’s not open to their scrutiny. What matters is whether or not God recognizes our marriage. Do our brothers and sisters in Christ see our marriage as consistent with Scripture? Did our church authorize our union? These are the things that matter. I’ve always wondered why marriage licenses even exist. Marriage does not belong to the state so why does the state need to issue permission in the form of a license to anyone? It’s ridiculous.

BoxingGlovesMost Christians would agree that the issue of salvation is a more important theological issue than same-sex marriages. We don’t have state licenses for salvation. The state does not recognize anyone’s conversion. Why not? Because, it’s none of their business.

I have friends who adhere to different religious beliefs than I do. I can share my faith with them and they with me. But we don’t try to force our beliefs on one another through the power of state coercion. If we did we’d cease to be friends. Our freedom to choose for ourselves how we will conduct our lives is paramount in a free society.

I don’t mind if two men get “married” in a ceremony by someone professing to represent God as a priest or pastor. I think they should be free to do that and the state should butt out. Is that form of “marriage” an abomination before God? Yes. Will I recognize their “marriage” as legitimate? No. No more than I will recognize someone’s professed salvation through Buddha. But, according to 1 Corinthians 5:12, it is none of my business to judge those outside the church for their sinful behavior. God handles that. I am accountable to my brothers and sisters in Christ and am to hold them accountable in turn.

But we all should agree on one point: In matters of theology — whether it concerns salvation or marriage or whatever — politicians should never be allowed to operate under the illusion that they are the ones who define such matters.

They are not.

According to His purpose (updated)

NOTE: Last month I posted an essay entitled “According to His purpose.” In it I outlined how God has orchestrated world events (even bad ones) in ways that have opened doors to the spread of the Gospel. I provided as my example how God has given the vast majority of the world at least one shared cultural experience that can be used to bridge the political, national, ethnic and language barriers that divide us. That shared cultural experience is soccer. I concluded the essay with a challenge to believers to find where God is working and join him there.

MissionBallOne organization was WAY ahead of me on this. The people who produce The Mission Ball have already been “using the world’s most popular sport to share the world’s most important message” by producing a soccer ball with the Gospel printed on it (in 21 different languages so far). I am reposting my essay in it’s entirety. Only this time, I’m including a video about The Mission Ball and some links to their organization. So, once again, here is my essay entitled, “According to His purpose”…

When I try to see the world through Kingdom eyes, I am constantly amazed. Things, that on their surface, looked bad, God has consistently used — nay, orchestrated — for his own purposes and ultimate glory. His ultimate purpose is, and always has been, to redeem a people as his own and call them to himself that they might praise him for his infinite mercy and grace.

Thid-WornSoccerBallWhen his Gospel became completely known through the person of Jesus Christ, God’s own Son, the truth of it was extremely limited. This Gospel was confined to a small number of disciples and followers in and around Jerusalem — and yet Scripture declares this message is for all peoples, everywhere.

To make matters (seemingly) worse, Jesus sort of turned the keys over to us — us. He told his disciples (and by extension every Christian since then) to go and make disciples of all nations.

Note: The word Jesus used for nations is ethnos — it is where we get our English word “ethnic.” The idea is much more than merely reaching nation states. It is reaching every ethnos, ethnic group, in the world.

Consider the magnitude of this command. There are geographical barriers, political barriers, cultural barriers, racial barriers and language barriers. In fact, what Jesus commanded us to do is an impossible task if — and this is a big “if” — he had left us to do it alone.

But he didn’t.

In his command to the disciples, Christ also made a promise…

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” — Matthew 28:19-20

There is so much in Christ’s promise. He had already told his disciples that when he left, the Holy Spirit would come to take his place.

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.” — John 14:15-17

“These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” — John 14:25-26

We are not going in our own power, but in the power of the Holy Spirit. Furthermore, the message we carry is not our own. We are to teach in the things Christ commanded. We are taking his Word to the world — a fact which brings its own promise…

“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.” — Isaiah 55:10-11

Beyond that we have the promise — and the evidence to back it up — that God is working all things according to his purpose for the accomplishment of his goals.

“In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will…” — Ephesians 1:11

“My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose.” — Isaiah 46:10

“Whatever the LORD pleases, he does, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all deeps.” — Psalm 135:6

“Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases.” — Psalm 115:3

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” — Romans 8:28

Just look at how God has worked in history. He used earthly tyrants to make the world more conducive to the transfer of His Gospel. His people were located primarily in Jerusalem and the immediate area. Yet, God used persecution to drive them out into the world. They took his Gospel with them. If you look at the events of history with Kingdom eyes you can begin to see a pattern. You can see how God has been at work through even the deeds of evil men.

Unfortunately we have a tendency to view God’s work in redemptive history as… well… history. We fail to see how he is at work in our world even today, as if the narrative is over and we are mere witnesses to history instead of participants in it. But, we are participants in it. Christ has not returned, therefore there is work to be done. God is still at work — and I recently was made aware of still more evidence of this.

Thid-EnglishFootballDuring the age of colonialism England established quite an empire. In fact, there was a time when England’s empire was so vast that the English had a saying, “The sun never sets on the Union Jack.” Pretty clever.

However, keep in mind that many of the people in the countries conquered and colonized by England resented English rule. Colonization was considered an evil, cruel practice. They did not want to be ruled by England. But there is an interesting twist to this story. Everywhere the English went it was necessary to send garrisons of troops to “keep the peace.” These troops brought English customs with them, sort of a little slice of home. One of the more prominent things they brought with them was football (soccer to those of us in the United States).

An interesting thing about football is that it is available to anyone who has access to rags or bags (from which a ball can be fashioned) and an open space to play. This makes it attractive to people who can’t afford sports equipment. The indigenous peoples under English rule took to this game with a passion. When the English left their colonies, football remained. It is played by the same rules everywhere and is the single most popular team sport in the world.

Thid-StreetSoccerIt is estimated that three billion people watched the 2006 World Cup Final — that’s approximately half the globe doing the same thing.

Look at what God has done.

Think back to all the barriers that faced the disciples when Christ issued to them the great commission. Now there is a breech in every one of those walls — geographical, political, cultural, racial, and language. There is at least one thing that is a shared cultural experience for just about every ethnos that exists. And whether you call it football, fussball, futbol, futebol or soccer, we all have an initial means of contact and communication. What a wonderful tool to use to engage someone so that the Gospel may be shared.

This game may very well be the second most multi-cultural phenomenon ever. Second only to this one…

“And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. And he went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who was seated on the throne. And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song, saying, ‘Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.’” — Revelation 5:6-10

This global game is most certainly a gift from God — a golden opportunity — but it’s not the only one. Look around you, brethren. Try to see with Kingdom eyes. Where is God paving the way that his Gospel might spread and his name be glorified? He’s still at work.

Let’s join him.

And, if you want to join with other believers who have already joined God in utilizing the avenues He has provided, you might want to consider joining the folks who produce The Mission Ball

To learn more about the ball go here.

To read the text printed on The Mission Ball go here.

To support this ministry or purchase a Mission Ball go here.

Things that divide us (and unite us)

Immediately before Jesus ascended into heaven he spoke with his apostles. Remember, they had witnessed his death, burial and resurrection. They had sat under his teaching and watched him perform miracles. They knew who Jesus was. And so, they had an opportunity here, right before he returned to heaven, to ask him pretty much anything. According to Acts 1:6 this is what they asked…

“Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” — Acts 1:6b

You may recall that prior to Christ’s coming many Jews expected the Messiah to be a military and political leader who would throw off Roman rule in Israel. They were looking for someone to restore the kingdom of Israel to the status it had enjoyed under kings David and Solomon. But, of course, this was never God’s plan. One would think the apostles, above all others, would get this by now. But they don’t. Even after everything that has happened they are still wondering if the moment has finally come when Jesus will restore Israel.

>sigh<

Before we get too frustrated with the apostles, perhaps a little perspective is in order. Here goes…

Empire10Our world is divided. This fact should be clearly evident. Just pay attention to the news every once in a while — or just step outside and look — the evidence is everywhere. We have different nationalities, ethnicities, and languages. And, because man is fallen and hopelessly corrupted by sin, it inevitably follows that our pride converts these differences into deep divisions…

“My (country, language, culture, philosophy, race) is the greatest one in the world.”

Our hubris takes this notion a step further…

“Surely God is more concerned with my (country, language, culture, philosophy, race) than he is with others, because he has clearly blessed my (country, language, culture, philosophy, race) more than others.

This sad, sin-corrupted, way of thinking has always plagued man. That is why the apostles were still thinking about their earthly kingdom of Israel, when Jesus was teaching them about the Kingdom of God. Note Jesus’ response to their question…

He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” — Acts 1:7-8

Their mission was not to defeat the Romans and reestablish the kingdom of Israel. It was to spread the only message that has the power to cure men from their perverted thinking — to free them from their bondage to a sin-corrupted worldview. Their message was to spread the Gospel — not only to their own countrymen, but to every single nation, ethnic group and language group in the entire world.

The apostles were still thinking in terms of earthly kingdoms and all the divisions they imply. They wanted their kingdom restored. Yet, God was (and is) in the process of establishing quite a different Kingdom — one that bridges the chasms between nations, ethnic groups, and languages. His Kingdom transcends all of these things. God’s Word even provides us with a glimpse of how this works out. The apostle John, writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, recorded a vision he was granted of heaven.

Then I saw in the right hand of him who was seated on the throne a scroll written within and on the back, sealed with seven seals. And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?” And no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to look into it, and I began to weep loudly because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to look into it. And one of the elders said to me, “Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.”

And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. And he went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who was seated on the throne. And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song, saying,

“Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.”

Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice,

“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!”

And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying,

“To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!”

And the four living creatures said, “Amen!” and the elders fell down and worshiped. — Revelation 5

empire2The apostles did not yet have this kind of Kingdom perspective. You can almost understand how they kept missing the point. We, on the other hand, have the benefit of John’s vision. We’ve been granted a Kingdom perspective. And, if we end up focusing on our own little worldly kingdom and spending all of our time asking God when he is finally going to restore our earthly kingdom to its former glory, then aren’t we more to blame than the apostles?

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