God the City Builder

These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city. (Hebrews 11:13-16 ESV)

We measure success by accomplishments, by wins and losses, by money in the bank. God doesn’t. He measures success by faithfulness. Failing does not disqualify you from the race–quitting does. Finishing matters more than achieving. In a world dominated by World Series and Super Bowls we struggle to embrace God’s definition of success.

Hebrews 11 opens with a list of people who lived their entire lives never fully receiving what they believed. They believed promises that were never realized, preached messages that were never fulfilled, wrote prophecies that never came to fruition. They lived and died believing what many thought was a lie. How did they do it? The writer answers that question:  they acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. They never expected life on this earth to be ultimately fulfilling. They lived here with another place in mind.

Think about it. If this is the only place you will ever enjoy life, then you will be compelled to do everything you can do, go everywhere you can go, and experience everything you can experience. Make all the money you can. Capture every memory. Exploit every adventure. Win every game. Take advantage of the latest technology. Why? Because when you die, there will be no joy, no pleasant memories, no money to advance your cause, no adventures. For those who do not believe in eternity, a sure eternity awaits. It is void of the presence of God and filled with the memory of every missed opportunity to know him. When the rich man died he looked into heaven. He saw Lazarus and begged him for a drop of water. He saw his brothers headed to Hell and begged God to warn them. Imagine an eternity where you wouldn’t want your closest family to join you. Some people are experiencing the only “heaven” they will ever experience now.

Not those mentioned in Hebrews. They desired a heavenly country. In other words, they lived on earth with heaven in mind.

Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city. God, the architect of the universe, is also the architect of Heaven. For those who desire Him, he has prepared a city. He’s not ashamed of you. He’s proud to call you his, proud enough to build a city–for you.

Plant your feet on the earth. Fix your eyes on the sky.

What a Day that Will Be

Once God has spoken; twice have I heard this: that power belongs to God, and that to you, O Lord, belongs steadfast love. For you will render to a man according to his work. (Psalm 62:11-12 ESV)

Once. Twice. This is a play on words. David is saying, “God is speaking loud and clear but we easily miss his voice.” Elihu, the young man who gave Job good advice (compared to the bad advice from his three friends) said this, “For God speaks in one way, and in two, though man does not perceive it.” (Job 33:14)

Here’s my question for you: What is God saying to you? How many ways has he said it to you? How many times has he repeated himself? When are you going to listen?

Here is his resounding message in Psalm 62: power belongs to God. In other words He can do anything. Your problem doesn’t catch him by surprise. Your worries don’t trip him up. Your fears don’t frighten him. Power belongs to God. Do you get it? Will you hear it this time?

And that to you, O Lord, belongs steadfast love. What if God were powerful but not loving. He would be a despot, a tyrant. We would run in fear of Him. An omnipotent God who isn’t love would be a terrorist. Power is his.  But also steadfast love is his.  And this makes him just. For you will render to a man according to his work.

God can do anything.

God loves you no matter what.

God sees your faithfulness…and will render to you according to your work.

Perhaps you feel unnoticed. Like a nobody. A failure. A mistake. You don’t see any good coming from your work. You’ve prayed and seemingly heard nothing. You’ve taught your son or daughter and they haven’t listened.  Take heart. The God who has power and steadfast love is just. One day…keep waiting…He will make all things right.

Advent is a reminder that the world waited for the loving, powerful God to invade their space. And He will again invade our space. If you are his, one day He will return in power and love for you.  Then He will sweep you off your feet and into His arms. The groom will embrace His bride.

What a day that will be.

5 Reasons What Is Happening Around the World Should Concern You

We see and hear a lot of news–and become numb to it.  Some news simply fills space but other news is important.  We must determine which news matters and which doesn’t.  I am convinced that what’s happening around the world right now really matters.  Here’s why:

  1. History often repeats itself.  During the Civil War Abraham Lincoln said, “Human nature will not change. In any future great national trial, compared with the men of this, we shall have as weak and as strong, as silly and as wise, as bad and as good.”  Since human beings do not change, history doesn’t necessarily reveal new events, but new human beings acting in the same old ways.  Putin’s antics in Russia should greatly concern any onlooker.  His disregard for human life should disturb us.
  2. Many people are losing their lives for a few peoples’ agendas.  Innocent civilians are dying.  298 people died when the plane was shot down over Ukraine.  Hundreds have died in the conflict between Israel and Hamas.  Most of those who have died have no inherent interest in what is happening–they’re caught in the crossfire of egos and agendas.  Christianity is based on one dying for many, not many dying for one.
  3. There is a growing anti-Christian sentiment around the world.  Kim Jung Un, the current leader of North Korea, has imprisoned 30,000 Christians including entire families, even children.  Just 3 days ago in Mosul (northern Iraq) Christians were forced to either convert to Islam, pay a large sum of money or die.  “We offer [Christians] three choices: Islam; the dhimma contract – involving payment… if they refuse this they will have nothing but the sword,” the announcement read.  On Saturday morning, Mosul residents left by the hundreds–walking in Iraq’s summer heat–old and young, able and disabled alike.
  4. You can pray.  No matter where you are, you can be with persecuted Christians through prayer.  You can join families who have lost loved ones by praying for them as they mourn.  We are instructed to weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice.
  5. Jesus is coming back.  Scripture is clear that an escalation of events like the ones we have recently seen indicate a reality that most of the world chooses to ignore:  Jesus is coming back.  Though history repeats itself, it isn’t cyclical–it’s linear.  History is moving toward a grand climax.  History is His Story–the Gospel is still the centerpiece of all of history.

So what should you do.  Pray.  And one more thing.  I don’t usually do things like this but I recently signed a confessional letter sent to Kim Jung Un of North Korea.  If you want to do the same, here’s the link: letterofconfession.com.

Timeline

Timeline

This is a pre-tribulational view of the end times. Always remember that prophecy is difficult to discern and people more studied than I will have differing opinions. At the same time, it’s important to remember that God finishes what He starts…and that He will one day bring all of creation to a glorious end.