Made for Another World

Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 1:6)

aotherworldTo be confident is to be persuaded–convinced. In a world of ever changing ideas and shifting cultural sands, it is a relief to know that you can be confident. Where does your confidence originate? Why can you be confident? Paul gives three reasons.

You can be confident because God started the work in you. If you know Christ it is because Christ drew you to Himself. You can no more initiate your own salvation than you can initiate your own physical birth. Jesus said, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.” (John 6:44 ESV) You came to Christ because Christ called you. What a gracious God to begin such a work in you.

You can be confident because God finishes what he starts. He will be faithful to complete it. One translation renders this word “perform.” The word literally means “to make an end for oneself.” Your life is God’s opportunity to bring glory to Himself. And He will do that. He will accomplish His purposes in you so that He is glorified. And when He is glorified others are drawn to him.

You can be confident because Jesus is coming back. Until the day of Christ Jesus. God has an end for your life..a goal. And he has an end for all of creation. We see in this tiny verse the micro and macro plan of God. His micro plan is His plan for your life. He cares about every detail. His macro plan is his plan for all of creation. Colossians 1 says that “in him (Jesus) all things hold together.” God will ultimately bring all of this to an end…or rather to an amazing beginning.

C. S. Lewis said, “If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.”

You are made for another world.

The Leper’s Song

leperThe Request

On the way to Jerusalem he was passing along between Samaria and Galilee. And as he entered a village, he was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance and lifted up their voices, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” (Luke 17:11-13 ESV)

Jesus’s Answer

When he saw them he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went they were cleansed. (Luke 17:14 ESV)

One’s Response

Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan. (Luke 17:15-16 ESV)

In order to understand this leper’s response you must read the prior two days’ blogs. Everything in his world had changed. He came out of darkness into the light, out of the land of the dying into the land of the living. I think he very well could have written the following song of thanksgiving. Maybe you can identify:

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost but now I’m found, was blind but now I see.

‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear, and grace my fears relieved. How precious did that grace appear the hour I first believed.

Through many dangers, toils and snares I have already come. ‘Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far and grace will bring me home.

Yea, when this flesh and heart shall fail and mortal life shall cease, I shall possess within the veil, a life of joy and peace.

The earth shall soon dissolve like snow, the sun forbear to shine; but God who called me here below will be forever mine.

When we’ve been there 10,000 years bright shining as the sun, we’ve no less days to sing God’s praise than when we’ve first begun.

And I think he would also have added:

My chains are gone, I’ve been set free. My God, my Savior has ransomed me. And like a flood his mercy reigns; unending love, amazing grace.

(The above lyrics were written by John Newton and Chris Tomlin respectively)

The Ripple Effect

By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. (Hebrews 11:24-25 ESV)

Early decisions can have a lasting impact. Moses grew up in the lap of luxury. He was prince of the most powerful country in his day. Servants did his bidding, women swooned when he entered a room, leaders wanted his attention. He was the Prince of Egypt. He wore the latest styles, rode the newest model camel, and ate the finest food.

Then one day he made a decision. He had no idea the ripple effect this one decision would have on his life. Decisions are like that. They are the proverbial pebble thrown in the pond of life, creating a ripple that becomes a tidal wave. These decisions don’t seem significant when they’re made–but their ramifications are far reaching.

Decisions like this are seldom made under pleasant circumstances. Moses’ decision forced him to the backside of the desert for 40 years. A fugitive, he wandered into obscurity. He refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. He had a mother–her name was Jochebed. When Moses was a helpless newborn, she trusted God with his little life. Now he had learned to trust God with his grown up life.

Moses chose to say no to the fleeting pleasures of sin. It’s sometimes hard for us to believe that decisions we make today will impact five or especially twenty years from now. The teenage girl who says “no” to the repeated sexual advances of the boy in her Algebra class is grateful on her honeymoon night. So is her new husband. The young professional who refused to participate in the shady business deal–and faced ridicule from his fellow employees–is thankful when he is promoted. The college student who decided not to go to the party is relieved when he hears of the arrests of several students and their subsequent dismissal from school. Graduation is a sweet day for him.

Robert Louis Stevenson said, “Sooner or later everyone sits down to a banquet of consequences.”

What one decision will you make today that will change your tomorrow forever?

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.

Your 3 Greatest Needs for 2015

I’m always hesitant to reduce the Christian life to a formula. Here’s why. Christianity is not a religion–it’s a relationship. Christianity is possible because God invaded our space with His Son, Jesus Christ. The very stories about Jesus’ life (called the Gospels) are not a list of dos and don’ts–rather, the stories are Jesus’ encounters with everyday people like you and me. When they met him, He changed them.

Yet on New Year’s Day, the nagging question some of you have is, “How can I live for God in 2015 better than I lived for him in 2014?” It’s a legitimate question. If you’re asking it, you have already won half the battle. Lou Holtz said, “Ability is what you’re capable of doing. Motivation determines what you do. Attitude determines how well you do it.” If you’re reading this blog on New Year’s Day 2015, my assumption is that you want 2015 to be different–you want to grow significantly in your walk with God.

Consider Titus 1:1-2…

for the sake of the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth, which accords with godliness, in hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began.

Paul, in a short letter to Titus, is describing his raison d’être–his reason for being. Paul experienced a dramatic turnaround in his life when Jesus Himself confronted him on the Damascus Road. After that he lived for the sake of the faith of God’s elect. If you know Christ you are God’s elect. In Paul’s personal purpose statement he outlines what you need: faith, knowledge and perspective. Let me explain.

You need faith in God. 2014 may have been the toughest year of your life. In very difficult times you will be sustained by faith. The writer of Hebrews defines faith as “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (11:1) Simply put faith is believing in what you can’t see because you trust in the God of the unseen.

Then how do you get such faith? Their knowledge of the truth. Romans 10:17 makes it plain. So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. Paul existed for others’ faith. They way he bolstered their faith was through the Word. You must have a knowledge of God’s Word if you are going to faithfully experience the trials and joys of 2015.

Perspective. In hope of eternal life. If you’re expecting life on this planet to satisfy you, 2015 will be a series of disappointments. You won’t get skinny enough, buff enough, rich enough. Life on planet earth is not ultimate. There’s a brighter day coming.

So here is my commitment to you. Beginning today, I’ll provide daily encouragement. It is no substitute for your personal time in the Word. View it more as a coach on the sideline calling a play. The play only works if you execute.

My desire is for the sake of the faith of God’s elect. I can’t wait to see how you come to know God better in 2015.

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.

Why You Matter to God (and others should matter to you)

Personhood.  It’s the idea that every human being is unique, individual, different…and yes, special.  Sunday’s sermon caught some people by surprise.  The surprise centered around this idea of personhood–why you as a human being matter.  C. S. Lewis touched on this when he said…

It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare.

All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations.

It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics.

There are no ordinary people.

You have never talked to a mere mortal.

C. S. Lewis’ point is that every person you see today will live forever.  Some will so gloriously transformed by Christ, if we saw them now we would be tempted to worship them.  Others will be so wrecked by sin and dominated by Satan, that if we saw them now in Hell, we would run screaming in the other direction.

Why do you matter so much to God?

  1. You matter to God because you are created in his image.  So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.  (Genesis 1:27)  We are image-bearers of God himself.  As a human being you have characteristics that differentiate you from the rest of creation.  You have the ability to reason.  You have the ability to relate with other people, to think and reflect and to act freely.
  2. You matter to God because God became a human being.  God’s plan for redemption necessarily included God becoming one of us.  God robed himself in human flesh, taking on all the temptations of man yet without sin.  (Hebrews 4:15)  Jesus’ best friend, John, had this to say about him, “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life.”  Erickson says, “Touch was thought by the Greeks to be the most basic and most reliable of the sense.”  John witnessed to the reality of Jesus’ human existence.
  3. You matter to God because God sent Jesus to die for you.  Jesus died to save you, a human being, from everlasting punishment in Hell and to everlasting life in Heaven.  Jesus’ death on the cross, as a human being for human beings, is God’s greatest display of his love for you.
  4. You matter to God because God raised Jesus from the dead.  God values you…and all of you.  Your mind, body and spirit matter to him.  On the cross, Jesus’ body was mangled almost beyond recognition.  Blood poured down his face.  His entrails were exposed where he was beaten.  His beard was pulled out in spots. His lips were swollen from dehydration.  His side was lacerated by the sword.  Why not start over?  Why resurrect that body?  Because Jesus’ body mattered to God.  Yours does too.
  5. You matter to God because your body is His temple (if you’re a born again believer).  Paul says in 1 Corinthians 6:19, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God?”  As a believer, you are God’s dwelling place.  You house the creator and the crucified one, the King who became the suffering servant.

You are created for eternity.  There are no ordinary people.  Your boss was created for eternity.  You have never talked to a mere mortal.  Your cranky neighbor was created for eternity.  All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations.

This forces us to answer two questions:

  • Where will you spend eternity?
  • How are you treating others around you God has prepared for eternity?