Seeing with Kingdom Eyes

It would appear the things that seem most troubling in our world (when we look at them with political or nationalistic eyes) are actually the things that are most praise worthy (when we look at them with kingdom eyes). Consider the the mass immigration of Muslim refugees into Europe. Politically speaking, that situation was very, very troublesome for the indigenous peoples of Europe. But, when we look at the situation with kingdom eyes, we have great reason to rejoice…

Waves of Muslims are coming to Christ.

Muslims are coming to Christ at an historic rate.

Muslim refugees are converting to Christianity.

Muslim converts are even breathing new life into Europe’s struggling Churches.

Now, I am not a prophet nor the son of a prophet, but a few years ago I speculated about this very thing. Drawing from the example of how the early church spread, I sought to speculate about a few “what ifs.” What if God really was using the disturbing things in our contemporary world to orchestrate His perfect will for His kingdom. This is what I wrote on February 4, 2013…

When Alexander the Great conquered portions of Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia, he was trying to make a name for himself. He was extremely selfishly motivated. He was convinced Greek culture was the superior culture in the world and everyone should adopt it — whether they wanted to or not. As you can well imagine, many of the people conquered by Alexander resented his rule, — including a small, insignificant population in a tiny place called Judea.

Empire11Alexander died quite young, however, and his empire was left to four of his top generals. Their reigns resulted in an ongoing power struggle against one another, which, in turn, opened an opportunity for another group of conquerors known as the Romans.

When the Romans conquered portions of the British Isles, Europe, the Middle East and North Africa, they were out to make a name for themselves. They were extremely selfishly motivated. They wanted to built a vast and mighty empire and they thought it entirely proper to confiscate the wealth and resources of any country they could conquer in order to accomplish their goals. Of course, the people they conquered resented Roman rule — including a small, insignificant population in a tiny place called Judea.

This small, insignificant population in Judea was particularly ill at ease over the continued occupation of their land. You see, they were God’s people, chosen from among all the nations of the earth. They were the ones to whom God had sent His prophets. They were the ones to whom God had given His law. Through them God had promised to send a King — a Messiah — who would be their deliverance.

And now, under the heavy yoke of Roman oppression, they waited for Messiah to come. There was just one problem…

The viewed the world with political eyes.

Roman rule over them was unjust. It was oppressive. They just knew when Messiah came He would throw off the Roman oppressors and restore Judea and Jerusalem to it’s former glory — like in the days of King Solomon. When Messiah came, God would be at work again. They just failed to realize God had always been at work.

“But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.” — Galatians 4:4-5

When Jesus Christ, the Messiah, was born it was at the perfect point in history — so orchestrated by God.

It’s true Alexander the Great had no notion of paving the way for Jesus to come. Yet in his conquests he had spread a common language to three continents and the crossroads between them. Whatever else people spoke, they also spoke Koine Greek, the “common” language of the people.

Empire9It’s also true the Romans did not care one whit about the God of the Jews. But in their conquests they had built an incredible road system in between cities so that their army could move with strategic speed in the defense of their empire. They ruled with an iron fist so as to quell any dissent among the conquered people. Therefore criminals were dealt with quickly and harshly. It brought about a relative peace throughout the empire known as the Pax Romana, the “Roman Peace.”

Interesting turn of events — Those safe Roman roads made it quite easy for the average Joe to travel the empire, including traders, merchants…

… and apostles.

When the Gospel of Jesus Christ was planted in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, new converts, with a zeal for sharing this wonderful news, had ease of travel to take this message to people who’d never heard. And guess what? When they got to where they were going they encountered people who spoke the same language.

Amazing.

Things that for centuries had been viewed as political and military defeats — even regarded as national disasters of indescribable proportions — were nothing more than the minuscule manipulations of a sovereign God in His construction of His Kingdom. Alexander the Great and all the Caesars of Rome were nothing more than tools in the hand of Almighty God, accomplishing His perfect will.

And, while the Jews in Judea saw the world through political eyes, God opened the eyes of His apostles so that they might see the world with Kingdom eyes. This message of Jesus Christ is for all nations. Borders and cultures are all to be breeched with the Gospel. It is by this means God intends to save His people.

Which brings us to our point in history.

The world is still in conflict. There are still people out there who are extremely selfishly motivated and work diligently for the accomplishment of their own goals. And, when we see them making headway, it is easy to become discouraged. Just a few examples should make the point…

  • Muslims are immigrating to Europe in unprecedented numbers. Islamic families are producing four to five times the number of children than European families. Statisticians speculate that Muslims could outnumber non-Muslims in many European countries by 2025. At which point Muslims, who have tried and failed numerous times in history to invade and conquer Europe, would become the majority demographic. Many Europeans are not happy about this.
  • Many people view Hispanic immigration in the United States as a serious problem — for a variety of reasons.
  • Many citizens of the United States realize the U.S. federal government is becoming more and more oppressive by the day, seeking to micromanage more and more aspects of Americans’ lives. Many people who occupy high offices in the federal government are becoming openly and increasingly hostile to a Christian worldview — and many Americans are unhappy about this.

These kinds of things lead some to ask the question, “When is God going to get to work again?” Please don’t fail to realize God has always been at work. Let’s play a little game of “What if…”

  • What if — God is orchestrating the immigration of Muslims into Europe so that they may be introduced to the Gospel. Many of them come from countries where the Gospel is forbidden. What if He is moving them into an environment where they will become more likely to hear about the Messiah.
  • What if — God is orchestrating the immigration of Hispanics into the United States so that they may be introduced to the Gospel. Many of them come from countries where they are so bound by cultural religious practices that it becomes very different for them to hear the truth of Scripture. What if God brought them to the United States so that they might be saved and then return to their home counties as missionaries.
  • What if — God is orchestrating more and more hostility toward Christianity in the United States in order to purge His church of pretenders and to bring about revival. What if He plans to use persecution to mobilize us in ways we can’t yet see?

Thid-IslamicHatYou might be thinking that the people in a couple of these examples are openly hostile toward God and His Word. The Muslims migrating to Europe have an agenda to spread Islam. Many of the political leaders in the United States are seeking to make as many people dependant upon them, thereby insuring for themselves a sustained grasp on power. To accomplish this they need to destroy any notion that people may have of depending upon anyone else — including God.

Granted. Some of these people are openly hostile toward God.

So was Paul.

Paul (or, at the time, Saul) was on his way to Damascus to arrest Christians and see them in jail or worse. He had an encounter with Christ. He was changed into one of the fiercest allies of the Gospel ever. God still does this sort of thing. The people who now are at odds with God may find themselves transformed after they’ve had an encounter with the very Gospel they seek to destroy. And all of these situations we view as terrible we can know are ultimately nothing more than the miniscule manipulations of a sovereign God who is busy building His kingdom.

“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

We can be either greatly discouraged or greatly encouraged by what we see. The question we need to answer is this:

Do we see the world with political eyes or Kingdom eyes?

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God Wrote a Book

When Nobody is Watching

Recently the Baltimore Orioles hosted a baseball game at their home ballpark, Camden Yards, in front of no fans. Because of riots in the city, the stadium was closed and the game was played in eerie silence. Dr. David Black, a professor of New Testament and Greek at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, NC, had the very best take on the situation I’ve read. He posted it at his blog, daveblackonline.com. If you haven’t already, you should go visit his blog. In the meantime, take a look at what he had to say about the game with no fans…

My mind went to all of the saints who “play ball” without ever getting any attention or recognition. Many of them housewives. Friend, let me encourage you. Your time, talents, and contributions are known to God. What you do is vastly important to Him. Millions of people exist only for the praise of others. If you and I do not allow God to develop our identity, we will try to find it in people and popularity. Finding your purpose in human praise is like building your life on sand. I know of one young leader who is committed to his little flock not far from our farm. There he ministers, week in and week out, for no pay. He plays piano and leads the singing and teaches the word in what one might call “total obscurity.” The people want to make him their “pastor” and pay him but he refuses. He will never write a best-selling book or be invited to speak in chapel. But I look up to him. I’m just trying to make the point that even godly Christian leaders can turn the church into marketers and people into commodities. Grow where you are planted. Serve in obscurity if that is what the Lord has asked you to do. Be an Andrew. The most famous thing Andrew ever did was to introduce his brother Simon Peter to the Lord. What if the greatest thing you ever did was to cause someone else to be closer to Jesus? No friends on Facebook. No followers on Twitter. But what could be more epic than pointing others to Christ?

Amen, Brother Dave. You hit the mark. arrowsbw

Reflections on the Indiana RFRA

Denny Burk, professor of Biblical Studies at Boyce College in Louisville, KY, has written a wonderful piece about the real conflict in Indiana regarding religious freedom legislation. Here is a fantastic takeaway quote…

“America is a flash in the historical pan. Christianity is not. We will outlast you. Mark it down. And in the final analysis, the “wrong side of history” will be to Jesus’ left, and you don’t want to find yourself there (Mark 25:33).

May I Quote You, Dr. Sproul?

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It Is Finished…

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Bumper Sticker Wars

The bumper sticker wars are an entertaining diversion in the life of a commuter. People make all kinds of social, political and theological statements on the bumpers of their cars — to which others will directly respond with cleverly worded bumper stickers of their own. Take for example the commonly seen bumper sticker, “God Bless America.”

5953This is a bumper sticker that is perceived to convey the attitude of politically conservative, evangelical Christian drivers. It’s been around for years. More recently, one can see what appears to be the direct response of the politically liberal and theologically pluralistic crowd… “God Bless All Nations.”

I get a chuckle out of both of these because it seems to me both of these groups are defending points of view that miss the biblical mark — and both are doing it on behalf of God.

Take the “God Bless America” crowd. What do they want? They want God to “bless” America. Okay, what does that look like? What does “bless” even mean? If you look into it you will discover this often means God grants to America a prominent position in the world, complete with military strength, economic prosperity, and political freedom. But I ask you: What does this reveal about the affections of the one asking for God’s blessing on America? Is their primary affection for God or for country?

61SxYT3kUtL._SL1500_Then there is the “God Bless All Nations” bunch. They claim to have taken the more enlightened and morally superior high ground. I will grant that they appear to have a better handle on the idea that God is at work around the world and that America is not, in fact, God’s new chosen people. But, if you look closely at the sticker they display, you will see emblems and icons from a whole host of world religions. It is a symbolic affirmation of the old concept that all religions lead to God, they just take a different path. This betrays a fundamental and fatal misunderstanding of the God of the Universe.

These bumper stickers remind me of Genesis chapter 22. In this chapter God has commanded Abraham to kill his son Isaac. Just as Abraham is about to do it, God commands him to stop. Then Abraham sees a ram caught in a thicket and sacrifices it to the Lord. Then God tells Abraham…

“…I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of his enemies, and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed…”

The apostle Paul insists (in Galatians 3:16) that this offspring is to be understood as a particular descendant — namely Jesus Christ — and through HIM all nations are to be blessed. Please notice, this blessing is not a promise of wealth, or military power, or political freedom — it is a promise that Jesus will save His people from their sins. It is a promise of heaven.

And, yes, all nations are already blessed, because God has promised to save people from every nation and tribe and tongue. But the Bible is clear, He will only do this through the shed blood of Jesus Christ, period.

Read Revelation chapter 5. It is a beautiful picture of Christ’s redeemed at the end of the age…

“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.”

Notice these people are singing to the Lamb who was slain — Jesus Christ — the same one through whom God promised to bless all nations in Genesis chapter 22.

Dear Christians, the Bible is clear, HE is the one that has provided salvation (not a plurality of world religions) and HE is the one who gets the glory (not America). We need to insert ourselves right into the middle of the bumper sticker wars and declare to both sides that God HAS blessed all nations only through the shed blood of Jesus Christ and only for the glory of God.

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