India 2014 – Week 4

Image

My visit to Pastor Rajendra’s and Ravi’s ministry (Sion Assembly Churches) in Vijayawada was the busiest of my trip, with speaking engagements in 5 churches on Sunday, house visits, an open air celebration on Monday evening, a visit to Gudivada to meet Pastor Vijay, James Johnson and the orphans of Grace orphan home and then a prayer seminar back at SAC church on Tuesday evening.  This is the kind of pace that these brothers routinely keep in ministering to this community.  We have been praying that God would call up some young people in this assembly to devote their lives to spreading the gospel in word, lifestyle and deeds.  Rajendra and Ravi have a heart to start an equipping school for that purpose and to also use television as a media to reach the local people through three cable networks that are available.  I arranged for them to come down to Bengaluru for a few days just at the end of my trip to tour some of the ACTS group of Institutions and to meet Dr. Ken, Dr. Ricky, CEO Santosh and a number of key staff.  Having David and Grace from the UK sharing the guesthouse was also a blessing as this couple have keen in on the ACTS history from day one and ooze the ACTS ethos.

This ethos sees life as an integrated whole where worship, work and witness simultaneously intersect every aspect of daily life.  For those in Christ, everything that we do is offered to God as worship and worship is our presentation of ourselves as living sacrifices, offered continually to God. Hence there is no worship that is not work and no work that is not worship as everything we do is an offering, with which offer to Christ. In this offering, our witness goes forth by the quality and thoroughness of what we do and the humility and gratitude with which it is done.  This characterizes the ACTS ethos where talented, humble servants offer up their lives to God as the serve together in this community.  It is humbling and refreshing to see how simply and unassumingly they live.  The challenge is to always keep the fires burning and guard against institutionalism and loss of passion.  It is my prayer that Rajendra and Ravi will take some of this back with them and start engaging their own community with “out of the box” thinking.

In between the Vijayawada visit and the final days in Bengaluru, I attended an Indian wedding in Vizak (an eight hour drive), and then, after flying back to Bengaluru,  embarked on a four day road trip with Dr. Jacob Varguesse and his wonderful daughter Joice to Kerela. There we visited Dr, Kunjemon Daniel’s church in Sulthan Bathery and launched the Malalayam translation of “Love’s Greatest Joy” at a Pastor’s Conference that drew people from far and wide. I am greatly indebted to Nobel Abraham who together with his wife worked late hours translating this book with a spiritual passion born of having been impacted greatly by the material.  After the book launch on Saturday morning, we travelled to Irrity, where Jacob’s home is and I spoke at another church conference on Saturday evening as well as on Sunday morning. This area is the most beautiful part of India I have seen in all my visits.  It looks like a tropical version of the Smokie Mountains of Tennessee, with Muskoka cottage quaintness; winding roads, rivers, lush green vegetation, coconut trees, rubber trees, coffee plantations and every home with a garden plot that includes goats, sheep, chickens and pets.  A village lifestyle characterizes the community as everyone knows everyone by nickname.  I visited many homes of Jacob’s childhood friends and in every one, I was the first foreigner ever to grace the doorposts. The people were so wonderfully humble and friendly and all delighted to have me in their homes.  Sunday afternoon, we had a few hours , so we drove to a beach on the Arabian Sea, where I got to frolick in the warm surf for an hour.

I am now back home in Barrie, helping my wife shovel ice and snow, enjoying the tail end of the olympics and recovering from jet lag.  More reflections to come.

Les

India 2014 – Week 3

Image

There is something about preaching the pure unadulterated gospel that leaves one in total awe of God.  It is knowing that the power of God to salvation is being shouted across the city to listening ears.  Somehow, the fact that I am a white westerner with a title and banner makes the people pay attention more.   For that I am grateful, because as my voice booms out over the streets and Pastor Rajendra’s  translation doubles the effect, it lends so much more credibility to the message.  And it is the message that is important.  That’s the dynamite of God, blasting away spiritual strongholds.

Preaching in the open air on a raised platform to a packed closed off street seating 600 people was certainly the highlight of this week.  The SAC church invested heavily in this event.  It marked the 20th anniversary of this little church on this little street in the slums of Vijayawada.  After taking all day to set up platforms, sound systems (donated from Canada), and laying out 600 chairs, not to mention cooking a full meal for 600 people, the celebration crusade began.  It would be 1:30 am before we got home, buy wow what night.  The seeds of the gospel were sown, the neighbourhood was fed and the message that Jesus Christ loves them was indelibly etched on this community.  

May many come to freedom as a result of sowing these seeds.  May His kingdom come on this little street.

I am humbled by what God id doing in this city. 

Les

 

India 2014 – Week 2

Image

This has been a much quieter week. The postgrad seminar students have left the campus and we were back to just the undergrads.  The staff here were gracious enough to allot me me 4 blocks of 1.5 hours each afternoon as well as the Community Chapel on Wednesday.   Having my own apartment, also allowed me to do some cooking and escape the “huge pile of rice at every meal” syndrome that is part of life in India.    The campus truly is beautiful, a gem on the outskirts of the bustling city, where a leisurely walk to the village of Rysandra becomes a daily retreat.  The forest that the path goes through is full of Eucalyptus trees and a favorite routine is to grab a bunch of leaves and crush them in hand, releasing the Eucalyptus oil that smells so wonderful and soothes the sinuses, dried out by smoke pollution from the city.

The undergrad students are a remarkable group from all over India and Myanmar, totally devoted to Christ and their calling.  I was undecided as to what to do with them, so I gave them four options on Monday and allowed them to vote.  This resulted in a tie between a series on How to Share Your Faith and Discovering Your Ministry Profile.  After praying, we cast lots and it was the Ministry Profile that came up.  It has been such a blessing to watch the students figuring out their spiritual gifts, passion, personality and abilities and putting it together to hone in on their calling.  We wrapped the course up in three sessions; so today we are ending with a session on sharing the gospel.  Thursday night, I showed the film Courageous, a wonderful production focusing on the importance of Biblical fatherhood.

Today, I head back to the city and fly out tomorrow to Vijayawada, where Pastor Rajendra has me speaking in no less that 5 churches on Sunday.  I am really looking forward to seeing the children in the Orphans’ Home.  They are so precious.  I will also joining him on a road trip where we will take in and Indian wedding.  I hope to connect with James Johnson who has just arrived in India and is also serving at an orphan home not too far from Vijayawada.

I have also had some time this week to work on my new book “Get in the Boat”, a light-hearted look at sailing as a metaphor for the Christian Life.   Look for an excerpt soon.

The amazing thing about trips like this is that we don’t ever know what impact our conversations and sharing will have.  Last Saturday night, I was in a restaurant alone, so they put me at a table with another couple.  Before the meal was over, we were sharing food and I was able to tell this Hindu couple the gospel and my testimony in a way that left them intrigued and thinking. Who knows what the Lord will do?  We see so little of the puzzle, but he puts it all together for good.  Each one of us is a agent of the King of Kings, the God of Love.

The Lord has been good.  It has been a restful week and I have enjoyed the weather and the spiritual climate on campus.  I have a feeling that this week has been a respite in advance of a hectic couple of weeks ahead as I do a fair bit of travelling.  May the Lord use each one of us wherever we are.

I appreciate your prayers.

Shalom

Les

India 2014 – Week One

Image

What a refreshing change to be in Bangalore again. There is of course the weather, which is perfect, 25-30 degrees C (70-80 F) during the day and a lovely 20 (70 F) at night. Then there is the vibrancy of India where life is lived close to the ground amidst a strange mix of earthiness and technology. But it is the incredible diversity of spiritual expression is most striking. There is the mournful morning call to prayer broadcast from the mosques, the array of brightly colored flower petals made into lays sold to Hindu worshippers, and on Sundays the sounds of Christian worship flowing through open windows in the various languages of India. This all testifies that human beings are truly spiritually driven creatures. The deep seated hunger in the human soul for spiritual expression is more acutely displayed in India. I spent my first weekend in Bangalore in an apartment just above the Christalya worship facility on the second floor of this building. Every time I have come to India, I have had the opportunity to speak at the English worship service. This church has grown over the years and is now packed out every Sunday. In addition, they have shared their facility with other Christian groups so that on the weekends there are now five worship services held in this facility. What a blessing to spend Sunday afternoon listening to the sounds of the worship of Jesus Christ in so many languages. Each has its own expression and unique passion. But they all share the commonality of a public witness to the God of all Grace. Last Sunday was also Republic Day in India, which is a celebration of the establishment of the Indian constitution marking India’s move from a colonial monarchy to and independent republic. It is the equivalent of the American fourth of July and Canada’s Canada Day. It was so good to just be out in the streets watching people enjoying the holiday, sitting in café’s and public places.

* * * * * * * *

This has been a very full the ACTS Academy, where 53 pastors and Christian leaders gathered for a residential ThM/M. Div. seminar. I was privileged to be invited to take all 5 chapel services . My sermon series focussed on Martin Luther’s theology of the cross and has been summarized in the previous three blog posts. The messages were well received, as God used this as an occasion to remind us all of the bedrock of our faith. We were also able to show 2009 movie “Luther”, on Thursday evening as a fitting last night together. In addition, I was able to deliver three integrated lectures on the topic : “Missio Dei – Rethinking Church”, which I used to stimulate the participants to think outside the box in their concept of ministry. Allan Hirsch’ s work was a source of much of our inspiration.

This, week I will be back at ACTS working with the undergrad students. I am praying that we will be mutually encouraged and uplifted through our interaction around the topic of discipleship.

Stay tuned from more….

Blessings

No Other Way

 In the Heidelburg disputation, Martin Luther systematically kicks away the legs from under the Theology of Glory, that theology which articulates that there is some way to apprehend and understand God apart from the cross of Jesus Christ.

 The theologian of the cross understands the desperate state of the human condition and that, even in our best efforts, we cannot will ourselves to embrace the Good that is God. Our will is entirely captive to sin.  Insofar as the things of God are concerned, “free will” does not exist. The natural man can do none other than sin because he is a slave to sin.  Only in the cross of Christ can one be set free.

The last avenue for the Theologian of Glory is to appeal to reason and the human intellect as a way of apprehending the hidden things of God. This approach seeks to apprehend the mysteries of the Divine through study of the natural world and the events of history.  This is essentially human philosophy.  The ancient Greeks were masters of looking at the world and theorizing on the spiritual significance of it all.  In theses 19, 20 and 21 Luther shuts the door on this last avenue by insisting that it is impossible to learn anything about the invisible things of God by observing nature or world events.

What is one to learn about God by watching a Bengal tiger attack and devour an antelope or by watching a squirrel eat nuts? Similarly, it is impossible to read anything of the hidden things of God through observing world events.  In 1759, the British defeated the French at the battle of the plains of Abraham.  What are we going to conclude about God from that?  That God prefers the English?  That He was punishing the French?

Luther dismisses all such effort and in doing so stakes out the great divide between the theology of Glory and the Theology of the cross.  Moreover, he now moves to define who truly is a real theologian. (Theses 19 & 20)

That person does not deserve to be called a theologian, who claims to see into the invisible things of God, by seeing through earthly things.But that person deserves to be called a theologian who comprehends what is visible and revealed of God, through suffering and the cross.

Luther identifies the differences in these two theologians by how they operate.  The theologian of Glory tries to look for “the meaning of it all” in the world through his philosophical musings.  He operates on the assumption that creation and history are transparent to the human intellect, so that one can peer through what is made and what happens so as to peer into the “invisible things of God”.

The Apostle Paul dismisses this approach outright by warning the Colossian believers “not to be made captive by philosophy and empty deceit according to human traditions and the elemental spirits of the world and not according to Christ.” Col 2:8

The claim to be able to see into the things of God through the created order and history is a quest to figure out a way up to God.  The person who philosophizes his way to the mysteries of God ends up dissolving the cross of Jesus Christ into a world of abstract philosophical ponderings, which have an appearance of logic and wisdom but are, in reality, completely foolish.

The theologian of the cross, on the other hand, looks at what God has made visible, namely Jesus Christ crucified and understands God’s manifest alien work through suffering and the cross.  In the cross, he sees that God operates by putting to death and then resurrecting a new kind of life.  There can be no such death without the anguish of a smitten conscience and an utter despairing of self. The sinner confronted with the cross despairs of all and falls down, casting himself on the naked mercy of God.  This is how God demands that we come to Him and experience Him.  There is no other way.  Jesus alone is “the door”. (John 10:9) Crucifixion is the only way in. As a person dies to self, and is regenerated from above, he is united with the crucified and resurrected One and filled with the fullness of God, moving from death to life (Col. 2:13-14)

This is the symbolism of Baptism   “having been buried with Christ in baptism and raised with Him through faith in the powerful working of God” (Col. 2:12)

And so Paul proclaims his letter that we who were dead are now alive in Christ, have forgiveness of sins, and released from the law of sin and death that held us captive.  The legal demands of the law are set aside and nailed to the cross.  The powers and principalities are disarmed and put to open shame.  And we now have within us, all the fullness of God. And all this comes with our identification through faith with the suffering, crucified and risen One.

So, the suffering and anguish of brokenness that brings us to the cross are good because they force us to cry out for mercy.  Luther called this spiritual anguish Anfechtungen.  This term means the sufferings of the spirit, the pangs of conscience, the terrors of temptation and the persecutions of the world. An equivalent English word might be affliction.  It is the anguish of the tax collector who stand afar off from the temple, and will not even lift up his eyes to heaven crying “Lord have mercy on me, a sinner”.

Now the theologian of glory scoffs at such “grovelling” before the cross, because he wants no part of it.  “Let us get past the cross or go around it”, he says and “move upwards to encounter the Divine”. And so he calls this suffering “evil. The cross is seen as foolishness, an embarrassment.

And so the theologian of glory ends up calling good evil and evil good.  In contrast, the theologian of the cross recognizes what a thing really is and calls it such.

The theologian of the cross recognizes that the Christian life consist of a daily dying to self and simultaneously a resurrection and union with Christ.  There is the affliction (Anfechtungen) of being appointed a cross, a denial of self, combined with the joy of resurrection and an anticipation of the promises of God.  The Christian is “simul gimitus simul raptus”  that is Luther’s Latin expression for simultaneously groaning and ecstatic, simultaneously afflicted and filled with joy.

In the midst of our groaning and affliction, we are comforted by the crucified One, who alone knows who we are.  Our lives are “hidden with Christ in God” (Col 3:3), but are not outwardly perceived to the world or even to myself.  My identity in Christ is mirrored back to me as I gaze upon Him.  He alone perceives that identity that He himself has formed in me.

And so I rejoice, in the midst of affliction of my groanings and brokenness.  For “my hope is set on nothing less than Jesus blood and righteousness.”

Such is the Christian life. It is the way of the cross. It is the only way.

Where There’s a Will, There’s no Way

In his Heidelburg Disputation of 1518, Martin Luther moves from the problem of good works (last blog post) to the nature of the human will.  This brings to mind “decision for Christ” language that is so prevalent in Evangelical circles.  Is it really true that we become believers by an exercise of our will, thereby making a “decision for Christ”?   If we are really saved by grace alone by faith alone, and if faith is really a gift of God, so that no one can boast (Eph. 2:8), then what part if any does our will play in salvation?

A tenet of reformation theology is that the human will after the fall is no longer neutral.  It is corrupted, bent in on itself so that the natural person cannot chose the Good, but can only do what the sinful nature does which is to sin.  Hence, the will is bound.  It not forced to sin, but its nature is corrupted so that it cannot do otherwise.  It is as Jesus said, “He who sins is a slave to sin”(John 8:35). Of course, if the Son sets one free, they are free indeed the next verse concludes.

So I had always thought that, in the state of innocence before the fall that Adam and Eve had a morally neutral will, in that they were free to do good or to sin.  After the fall, they became unable not to sin because their will was now bent in on itself and bound, their natures being thus corrupted.  Those in Christ Jesus, are recreated, filled with the Holy Spirit and are released from this binding of the will and are able now to chose to do good, but are also free to sin should they fail to put to death that sin that dwells within, the old self inherited from Adam and Eve.

Luther, however, introduces another nuance to the concept of human will by proposing that it has never had an active capacity to do good, but only a passive capacity.  The analogy of water helps here.  Water has a passive capacity for heat.  It can be heated by an external force, but it has no active capacity to heat itself.  In the same way, even in the state of innocence, the human will had no active capacity to choose good, but only a passive capacity.  Because we are completely contingent creatures, we can only do good to the extent that we are empowered toward the good by the God who alone is Good.  As long as Adam and Eve trusted completely in God and took their cues from God they were maintained by God in that state of innocence. This was completely passive on their part, “God working in them to will and to work for His good purpose” (Phil 2:12).  Any active move of the will away from God turns out to be evil.  In actively pursuing another “good” (i.e. why not be like God?), they actually embrace evil.  So any active capacity that the human will has always moves towards evil.  After the fall, the relationship with God is severed and Adam and Eve’s will is now isolated even further from God.  Wishing to be independent of God, their rebellion corrupted their link to the Good, binding their will so that they become slaves of sin.

We must remember of course that such discussions of the will are limited to those things, which Luther says lie “above us” .  With reference to the things of God, who is above us, our will is indeed bound.  However, with reference to things “below us”, such as what to have for supper, whom to marry, and what church to attend, these things are “below us” and as to such creaturely pursuits, we do have freedom of will.  But not towards the things of God.  We are simply not able to choose the Good.

Now Theologians of Glory, find such a stance repulsive.  Surely, this is much too pessimistic, they say.  Surely, there must be in us some capacity, ever so small perhaps, to prepare ourselves to receive grace.  But by insisting that we must have even a tiny capacity to actively seek the Good, this stance violates the scripture which says “There is no one righteous, not even one… there is no one that seeks for God.” (Rom 3:10)  In fact, any human endeavour to do good apart from the God who is good, invariably leads to evil.  Even in works of civil righteousness which benefit humanity, their performance as “good works” done apart form faith, draw us further from the truth that we are sinners to the core.  These “good works” become a defence mechanism against God and against the gospel, and in the realm of eternity actually hurt us. (see last post).

The Theologian of the Cross, recognizes that Luther is right and that the will is indeed incapable of doing any good apart from God.  What sort of “good” could we do?  Making up our own minds about what is really good is the essence of original sin.  The Nazi death camps were a culturally driven humanistic attempt to will that a German Reich, and a world, without Jews was “good”.  The depths of depravity that the human will is capable of knows no bounds.    And so, God must operate on the human heart by first putting to death the will.  Only in dying is there rebirth.  Regeneration is an entirely alien act of God upon the sinner, that kills the will and recreates it so that it now has a passive capacity energized by the Holy Spirit to follow Christ.  We participate in this death by complete surrender and repentance.   We participate in this new life by exerting the faith given us, becoming again those continent beings that take their life from God alone.  “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I that live, but Christ who lives in me” (Gal 2:20)

The only “decision” that I can ever make for Christ is a subsequent one, a decision to allow my will to now be ruled by another.  But that can only happen after the rebirth, never before.  That’s what the cross does.  That is how how God works.  The Theologian of Glory does not like it because there is zero room, nada, for the human will seeking the Good.  But that is why God alone gets the glory.

Halleluia for the cross!

Grieving and the Fear of God

Image

It has been just over a month since our very close friend Maxine was taken to Glory.  During that time, we hosted our entire family – all 13 of us (including 7 kids under the age of 10) for Christmas, moved my wife’s 93-year-old mother to a new residence, saw everyone off, got rid of the decorations and I began to think in earnest about my upcoming trip to India.  January cold has always tended to clear the head, but this year grieving seems to muddle it and takes the zip out of any sort of ambition. A nasty head cold contacted just a few days ago has dealt yet another blow.  But today I am actually up and around and so life goes on.

One thing that Maxine’s death has left me with is a rekindled fear of God.  Watching someone you love come to grips with their own death as a reality, not just a theory, pretty much takes the wind out of your sails.  Impending death moves a person to get serious about making things right. Ancient wrongs get confessed (yet again), and Satan mocks our normal self assuredness, as we come to grips with the reality that God really does hold our lives in his hands.  I remember in one of our small group exercises, I asked people to spend ten minutes reflecting on their own deaths: imagining the scenario, the family, the arrangements, thinking about what people would be saying.  The point of the exercise was that the best way to live is really to die, that is to die to self.  But imagination and experience are two very different things.  The night that Maxine died, I was shoved into an awesome fear of God.  Not a terrorist type of fear, but a holy reverence laced with the realization that I too could be called home at any time.  And was I ready?

It’s not the kind of thing that you can share with people because the world is full of theologians of Glory.  This phrase, coined by Martin Luther, is used to sum up all theologians other than those of the Cross.  Theologians of Glory  will always call evil good and good evil.  Human good works, for example, are considered by theologians of Glory as good and commendable.  Theologians of the Cross will always say what a thing really is.  Good works, says Luther, done apart from a reverent fear of God are in reality deadly sins.  They take us away from the “naked trust in the mercy of God”  and place our confidence in them and their doers.  The problem is that none of our works, even those done with divine grace are sinless.  How can they be?  We are sinners to the core.  Fully justified as well, of course, but only by the mercy and suffering of God himself.  And so everything I do, even writing this post, must be done with absolute humility, trembling and fear of God.  God forgive me for those times when I have been self-confident and even arrogant.

The fear of God does not play well on today’s theological landscape.  It is seen as much too negative, too depressive.  Yet it is the greatest good.  “Do you not fear God?” says the one thief on the cross to the other.  Obviously he didn’t for he continued to rail at and mock the LORD.  Yet the one who feared God was transported that day into paradise with Christ.  “The fear of the LORD is [just] the beginning of knowledge” (Prov. 1:7).  So everything I do must be done under the umbrella of a holy reverent fear of God.  If I ever get away from that, I am done.  Luther writes:

To trust in works,which one ought to do in fear, is equivalent to giving oneself the honour and taking it from God, to whom fear is due in connection with every work.  But this is completely wrong, namely to please oneself, to enjoy oneself  in one’s own works, and to adore oneself as an idol.  He who is self-confident and without fear of God, however, acts entirely in this manner.  For if he had fear, he would not be self-confident, for this reason, he would not be pleased with himself, but he would be pleased with God.” (Luther’s Works, ed. Jaroslav Pelikan and Helmut T. Lehnmann (Philadelphia Fortress Press, 1958-72), 31.46)

Oh, that there would be so much more fear of God in everything that is done in his Name!

And so that sets the stage for my upcoming trip to India.  I confess that I have not been all that excited about going this time around.  One reason is that my dear wife will not be accompanying me.  She really is my strength in social circles.  And true to form in any trip to India, I am not sure exactly what I will be doing there.  I have some vague ideas, but in India everything always comes together at the last-minute, and so it will again.  I have also had some physical issues to deal with over the last few months.  And so I guess that this sets the stage for “naked trust in the mercy of God” and so off I will go.. next Tuesday.

Stay tuned for more life lessons along the way.  May the Lord of all mercy and grace, the God of compassion who inspires awe and holy fear, be with me and with us all.

Amen.

Two Kingdoms – The Great Divide

Image

There are two theologies that are locked in mortal combat.  The Theology of Glory represents all human effort and religion that seeks to find its way to the Ultimate. The Theology of the Cross is God’s negation of this through the cross of Jesus Christ. God’s answer to human effort is the cross.  Jesus inaugurates his Kingdom through crucifixion.  It is there that he is proclaimed  “The King of the Jews”, by a skeptical and cynical Pontius Pilate.  Little did Pilate know that in crucifying Jesus, he was lifting him up to define forever that great divide between two kingdoms, two theologies,  the kingdom of darkness, sin and death and the kingdom of light, righteousness and life.    The two criminals crucified with Jesus symbolize these two kingdoms through each man’s reaction to the crucified Lord.  The one joins with the religious leaders, the Roman soldiers and the mindless crowd as they deride Jesus, “He saved others, let him save himself if he is the Christ, the Chosen One.”  This man adds his own mocking insult. “Arn’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us.”  (Luke 23:39) Full of bitterness and gall, even as he is dying, he writes Jesus off as a powerless loser.  He would rather die bitter and angry than turn and be saved.  This is the world’s response to Jesus crucified and it seals their fate as they align themselves with the powers of the day, with the religion’s response to the cross. The other criminal rebukes the first.  “Do you not fear God?” he says.  He declares God just in that they are getting what they deserve for their deeds. He understands and acknowledges that Jesus is the Righteous One, who  is giving himself up for Sin in order to inaugurate his Kingdom.  His words, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom”  reveal his confidence and faith in the the crucified Christ.  This is truly remarkable!  Here is Jesus, powerless,  lifted up on a cross, the antithesis of majesty and authority, yet this man confesses his faith in him as King!  He is miles ahead of the disciples in understanding and faith.  And he is the first entrant into the Kingdom of light. Jesus’ response to him confirms it:  “Today you will be with me in paradise”. And so the crowd divides, as do all human beings henceforth.  “What is your take on the man crucified in the middle?” becomes the question that now defines all people.   The skeptics and scoffers move to the left of Jesus and align themselves with the world of unbelief.  They prefer their own way, the Theology of Glory.  That world will soon be judged and punished.  Those born of God, move to the right and believe.  Jesus is Lord!  His Kingdom will never end.  Though hidden now, except to eyes of faith, it will one day be revealed for all to see.  Thy Kingdom come.

Three men crucified on a hill.  One died for sin.  One died in sin. One died to sin.  Which one are you?  

Pray for the Peace of Jerusalem

Jerusalem

There is deep in the human heart a yearning for peace, for security, for rest. We don’t feel that much in North America, because it has been so long since we have had a war on our soil. But in places like Syria, Somalia, Chechnya, and the Congo, people are tired of war. Imagine devastated buildings, lack of water, food, and the daily tension of knowing that your life or that of a loved one could end at any moment.

The passage below from Isaiah 2, promises that there will be a day when nations will “beat their swords into plowshares, their spears into pruning hooks” and that they will give up war forever. This theme has long motivated peacemakers and anti-war demonstrators to work towards this dream of a warless existence for humanity. Those of us who are Christians, understand that we are expected to be peacemakers. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” is the promise that rings from Jesus’ own lips. (Matt. 5:9). So we applaud and pray for those who work for peace. May God give them success.

However, we must note that this passage from Isaiah refers to a time when the house of the Lord will be established as the highest of the mountains. It shall be lifted up above all the hills. The nations shall flow into it. looking and seeking justice and guidance from God himself – that is YHWH, the God of Jacob. Jerusalem will be the worship, justice and peace capital of the world and God himself will dispense it from Jerusalem. We certainly do not see that now. I do not believe that we will see it until that day when Jesus returns. The scriptures promise that in the last days there will betimes of great tribulation. Jesus prepared his disciples to expect tribulation, wars, rumors of wars and hardship.

Concerning Jerusalem, Jesus lamented and wept over it. What would have brought it peace was hidden from it and Jesus said that it would be destroyed because its people did not recognize the days of its visitation. (Luke 19:42-44) And so Jerusalem, that city that symbolizes so much has been in turmoil ever since.

But there will come a day, when it will achieve its destiny as the worship capital of the world. It will become the peace and justice center of humanity. It will be the abode of God himself and will be recognized as such by everyone. The nations will flow into it.

It the meantime, we yearn and pray for that day when this will be so. Every time, we pray, “Thy kingdom come.”, we are praying for the peace of Jerusalem, and when we pray for that, we are praying for peace on earth.

“It shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be lifted up above the hills; and all the nations shall flow to it, and many peoples shall come, and say: “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.” For out of Zion shall go the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He shall judge between the nations, and shall decide disputes for many peoples and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks, nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore. O house of Jacob,come, let us walk in the light of the Lord.”  Isaiah 2:2-5

Discipleship-Today.com

%d bloggers like this: