We live in a world full of uncertainty. In recent days we have had a bombing in New York and a knife attack at a mall in Minnesota. We are in the midst of a presidential election season and no one knows how that will go. Yet when I examine the life of Paul, I am struck by the fact that two truths kept him going even through times of uncertainty and adversity: first, he knew the Lord, and second he knew and claimed the promises of God. These same two truths can give us strength to carry on as well.
In 2 Corinthians 1:20, Paul writes, "For all the promises of God in Him (Christ) are yes, and in Him amen, to the glory of God through us. "What I see here is that claiming the promises of God requires knowing the identity of God. Who is He? He is the one who makes promises, and the one who keeps promises.
Next, I notice that claiming the promises of God requires embracing the the intentions of God. We must understand that all the promises of God are "yes" in Christ. That means the reason those promises are offered is because of who Christ is, and because of what He has accomplished and because of what He deserves. These promises are for us who are "in Christ."
Finally, claiming the promises of God requires our willingness to respond to the initiatives of God. God's promises are appropriated by faith, and are for the purpose of glorifying the Father (helping a watching world see who He is in our daily live).
Repeatedly, we see in Scripture the pattern that we can be confident in what God is doing in the here and now because we have confidence in (we have seen) what He has done in the past.
Here is a promise for you to practice knowing, believing, and claiming from Psalm 37:4: "Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart." Now, that is simple (and profound) enough to last a lifetime.
Tuesday, September 20, 2016
Thursday, September 15, 2016
In 1980, the musical group Queen released a chart-topping song, "Another One Bites the Dust." The refrain says simply,
"Another one bites the dust
Another one bites the dust
And another one gone and another one gone
Another one bites the dust..."
I spent almost 23 years as a pastor in Nashville. Through the years, I have seen pastors develop acute illnesses and die young, some pastors were run off, others had moral failings, some were dismissed because they were getting "too old," and some quit out of utter frustration.
Time after time good churches and good men were under spiritual attack. Now, sadly, I see another pastor stepping down.
I can almost hear the demons singing, "Another one bites the dust." Do you think it is not a designed spiritual attack on the church? Think again.
You can read more about this phenomenon in my newest book, Lectures from the Gates of Hell. It is coming out next month.
Thursday, September 8, 2016
I have to confess, ever since my eyes caught sight of THE FIRM displayed at Barnes & Noble years ago, I have been a John Grisham fan. Grisham tells a great story, but what I love about his writing is that he manages to weave a moral insight into most of his books. A TIME TO KILL is a story about justice and those who fight for it at personal risk. GRAY MOUNTAIN is a story about poverty, dishonest big business, and legitimate environmental concerns. ROGUE LAWYER is a series of vignettes about an attorney who defends the indefensible.
THE CHAMBER affected me more than most of his other writings. It is the story of one case of capital punishment. It was told in such a way, however, that the observer sees the politics involved, and the image and perception issues of politicians who make the decision to execute a convicted felon. It asks the serious question of what is justice. Sub-plots that emerge are discussions of the incredible amounts of money spent on no hope defenses, the sadness of those who cannot afford a credible defense, and the what ifs should a person be proved innocent post-execution. It made me reevaluate how I view the whole issue of capital punishment.
What I find most intriguing about Grisham's work, is his ability to expose moral issues, wrap them in a story, and facilitate thought on those issues. Psychologists point out that normally the reticular activation system (RAS) inside the brain prohibits the consideration of new facts should they run contrary to our preconceived opinions. When wrapped in a story, however, that RAS can be by-passed and serious issues can be examined. Grisham is a master at this.
In my newest book, LECTURES FROM THE GATES OF HELL, I examine how humanity is at war with Satan and his minions. I tell it in such a way, hopefully, that people will see past their preconceived notions and realize that spiritual warfare is not fantasy, but cold hard reality. I have learned a thing or two from Grisham and his writing.
Friday, September 2, 2016
Abraham Kuyper, the Dutch political theologian, wrote, "When principles that run against your deepest convictions begin to win the day, then battle is your calling, and peace has become sin; you must, at the price of dearest peace, lay your convictions bare before friend and enemy, with all the fire of your faith." Keep this counsel in mind as we consider the state of today's Middle East.
In Syria, Iraq, and Libya, Christianity is being systematically destroyed by ISIS and groups which think as they do. Even our State Department has declared what is happening in these countries is nothing short of genocide. The majority of those targeted are Christians. Thousands have been systematically executed. Catholic observers have recorded untold numbers of widespread rape, kidnapping, forced conversions, slavery, property confiscations, and forced expulsions on top of the genocide. Mass graves are spread all over the Middle East.
The number of confessing Christians in Iraq has declined from 1.5 million to less than 200,000. In Syria, Christians have declined from 1.5 million to around 500,000. Those who are being systematically executed are among the oldest ethic in and religious communities in the world. Many of these groups face extinction. Present projections indicate that in the next five years, Christianity will all but disappear in Iraq, and possibly in Syria and Libya as well.
So, how should today's Christian communities in the West respond to this genocide? Receiving refugees from the Middle East is risky especially since 99% of those coming to the West are unvetted Muslims. Why does the United States government not consider giving Christians refuge? Something is wrong with the system and I do not see any appropriate response from our nation's leaders.
Yet, there is more behind this genocide than simply a war between multiple factions of Islam. I address part of this in my new book, Lectures from the Gates of Hell, due out next month. The real issues are bone-chilling to say the least.