Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Only God...

I was recently reading through the book of Ruth. While there are numerous worthwhile themes in the book, I ended up pondering how God used Ruth in a way that she could never have expected. God took a woman who was outside of Israel and through the deaths of her husband and father in law, through a famine, and through a time of needing a kinsman redeemer…He places her in to the lineage of Jesus Christ. How could Ruth have ever known that God would work through tragedy, pain and loss to bring her to a place that her name would be spoken of thousands of years later?

God does these sorts of things in the lives of His people.

It made me wonder how God will use hurt, loss, pain and tragedy in my life to move me to the place He would have me? Will I be prepared to be obedient and submissive to God even when it seems that all hope is lost? What I am doing today to be prepared to be obedient and submissive to God when that difficult day comes? Being faithful to God in the stormy days comes because we prepare for them during the calm days.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Working for The Kingdom

I heard a phrase the other day that has intrigued me, and I have been thinking about it ever since. It was used in a sentence about the church and it is a call for the church to reach its “redemptive potential”. There is the phrase to consider, “redemptive potential”. I had never heard it before and there was no clear definition offered so I have been thinking about its meaning. This will probably show how postmodernism has affected me as I try to attach a meaning to a phrase that is not mine, and I do not know the author’s clear intent in its meaning, but why should that stop me.

To reach our redemptive potential seems to mean that we as individual followers of Jesus and as the church should be joining with Christ to redeem the culture around us. This should flow out of the context of the local church, and affect our family life, our jobs, our community and, to the extent we have opportunity to reach out, the rest of the world. Does that make sense? Our redemptive potential is, then, our ability as followers of Jesus to redeem the world around us.

What does that mean?

In looking at Jesus’ prayer in Matthew 6:7-15, we hear Him say, “Thy (God’s) kingdom come on earth as it is in Heaven.” We are to be praying that God’s kingdom will come to earth so that earth will look like Heaven. In addition, it seems implied that we are to be praying for the strength, desire and ability to work toward this goal. Now, this is not a works based faith. This only happens when Christ, first, redeems us and then through the power of Holy Spirit begins to work in our lives. As we are made alive to Christ then we are to long for Christ to be glorified in every corner of our heart, life…and in every corner of the world around us.

Think of it this way, as followers of Jesus our desire should be to pull Heaven down to earth. That is not to cheapen or lessen Heaven, but it is to have the earth flooded with Heavenly things. Those Heavenly things are what Paul has in mind over in the first part of Ephesians where he says that God has lavished on us every spiritual blessing through Christ. That is, we have access to every spiritual blessing, but it is only through Jesus. For overview sake, those spiritual blessings poured out through Christians to the world would resemble a life that reflects the fruit of the Spirit: love, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness, kindness and self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23) These qualities, then, are to be used to point people to the glory of God.

This seems to be the Kingdom that Jesus has in mind when He says in Mark 1 that we are to repent because the Kingdom of God is at hand. This means that we are to turn from the former way of life, which is rebellion against God, and to turn to a new way of life in Christ which leads us to living for the glory of God in every area of life.

The practical question is this – how are you, as a follower of Jesus Christ – living this out? How are working by God’s grace to bring the Kingdom of God to your workplace? How are you working by God’s grace to bring the Kingdom of God to your home? How are you working by God’s grace to bring the Kingdom of God to your church? Then, how are you working to help it flow out of all of those places? How is your outward focus? How are you joining with God in redeeming this culture? Will the Kingdom of God every fully come to earth? Not until God works completely to make a new Heaven and a new Earth, but in obedience to Christ let us spend every ounce of energy we have during this life working to reach our redemptive potential.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

We Must Be Served Before We Can Really Serve

Do you ever think that it takes humility to be served? I’m talking about a deeper level than just ignoring the full trash can. I’m talking about the times we put off going to the Doctor or a counselor because we don’t want to admit that something is wrong.

Just as much as we should serve others, we must also be served. There is a real give and take here.

Listen to Jesus in Matthew 20:25-28, “But Jesus called them to him and said, ‘You know the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and who would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many.”

You see, the truth is that we need to be served. In fact, our service will be of no glory to God if we are not served by God first. It is only when we admit that we have a problem – sin, and that we need His help in forgiving us, restoring us and redirecting us.

That is what we celebrate in the Lord’s Supper. It is through Jesus’ broken body and shed blood that we are served by God. It is there that our sins can be forgiven. As we receive the bread and the cup, let us praise God for serving us in our time of great need. And may that be our motivation for serving God and others.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Podcast and more...

We now have a link up to the podcasts of our weekly broadcasts for you to listen to them any time you want! In addition, there are notes for this week's broadcast for you to follow along as you listen.

Distinctions Between Islam and Christianity

The following is a letter to the Editor that I sent to the Bowling Green Daily News:

While I am thankful that Imam Bilal Merdan of Bowling Green’s Islamic Center desires peace and harmony for the world, I disagree with some of his statements made in the Daily News article, “The Light of Heaven and Earth”, published on Friday, October 27, 2006. In Christianity, the New Testament of the Bible teaches Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy as he is both Savior and Lord. Jesus Christ claims that he and God the Father are one (John 14:9-11). The New Testament also claims that Jesus is more than a prophet, he is the only one to forgive the sins of the world (John 1:29) and the only way to be at peace with God (John 14:6).

Imam Merdan says, “We believe in the Torah, which was revealed to Moses, we believe in Psalms, which was revealed to David, and we believe in the Gospel, which was revealed to Jesus, and we believe in the Quran, which is the final message of God revealed to Muhammad.” This is in direct violation of the writings of the New Testament which teaches that the Bible alone is God’s Word to humanity (Romans 10:5-17, 2 Timothy 3:10-17). If Christianity and Islam were the same, how could the Qu’ran (written in the 7th Century) supersede the Bible which was completed centuries earlier?

Though there are some similarities, the biggest area of separation is the authority of Jesus. For Muslims, he was a mere human that served as a prophet and teacher. For Christians, he is God and the ruler of Heaven and earth. Again, while I am thankful that the Imam and many Muslims desire peace and harmony in the world, we must note that Christianity and Islam differ tremendously.