Friday, August 22, 2008

To lead is to serve. It's as simple as that. There is no place for status-seeking, manipulation, and exploitation. The directives on this subject could not be more clear:

"And He said to them, "The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who have authority over them are called `Benefactors.' "But it is not this way with you, but the one who is the greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like the servant." (Luke 22:25-26)

There is no place for strong-arm tactics in the body of Christ. True power and influence is found through the fraternal Order of the Towel and Basin. Those with power and authority will not be found at the top of the ladder demanding allegiance and respect; they will be found serving at the bottom through menial tasks.

The powerful example of servant leadership is modeled by the Greatest who chose to be the least. The One who could have rightly wrestled the throne from Caesar chose instead to empty Himself "taking the form of a bond-servant" (Philippians 2:7).

It's been said that the church is an easy target for status-seekers and power-seekers. Anyone clever enough to make friends and build alliances can quickly assert influence. And yet, according to the teachings of Jesus, the true test of leadership is not found in positions held or persuasive arguments given but rather in humble acts of service to assist the needs of the Body. Spiritual leaders will be found in the trenches, not the boardroom.

To lead is to serve. Compassion and mercy characterize the servant leader, even as it did the ultimate Servant Leader. The lonely figure dragging a heavy wooden cross up a dirt road is our model. The proclaimer of the kingdom ultimately served its cause through lowly service and sacrifice.

May we achieve true greatness through serving according to the pattern of the Great Servant.


Wednesday, August 20, 2008

All too many would-be prophets have appeared on the world scene to declare earth's impending doom. And who among Bible prophecy students hasn't at least been tempted to interpret present-day events as harbingers of the apocalypse?

Jesus leaves us with some interesting and important details concerning that which will precede His return:

"There will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth dismay among nations, in perplexity at the roaring of the sea and the waves, men fainting from fear and the expectation of the things which are coming upon the world; for the powers of the heavens will be shaken." (Luke 21:25-26)

Our immediate temptation is to compare these words with present-day events and draw our own apocalyptic conclusions. And yet nearly every era has had certain characteristics in common with Jesus' words. Does Jesus describe the times immediately preceding His return or are these characteristics of the entire age sandwiched between His first and second coming?

However elusive specific details about the future may be, details concerning how we live in light of the coming end times are crystal-clear:

"Be on guard, so that your hearts will not be weighted down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of life, and that day will not come on you suddenly like a trap; for it will come upon all those who dwell on the face of all the earth." (Luke 21:34-35)

Bible prophecy calls us to an intentional lifestyle. In light of what is coming we guard against activities and involvement that diminish our spiritual direction and dynamic. Rather than seeking escape through the pleasures of this age, we live vigilant and purposeful lives. We deliberately plan for and anticipate God's direct intervention in the world.

The hope of believers of every age is to be the final generation that witnesses the dawn of the kingdom of God. The uncertainty of life, however, adds even greater urgency to Bible prophecy's call to prepare. For all we know this day may be the day before the dawn of the kingdom, whether from our personal mortal perspective or from the reality of realized Bible prophecy. Either way, this moment is precious from the perspective of eternity.


Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Home movies and videos are more precious with the passing of time. They represent moments frozen in time when all still seems as it once was. Friends and family members who have been dead, in some cases for many years, are alive once again.

From God's perspective the lives of all who have ever lived are perfectly preserved in the most vividly detailed "home movie" of all. And not only does He clearly see all that has been, He sees with perfect clarity that which will be even before it comes to reality.

"Now He is not the God of the dead but of the living; for all live to Him." (Luke 20:38)

The most famous and best-loved of all people eventually recede into the background after their deaths. Our preoccupation is with life today and those who have died are no longer connected with us in that reality. God, however, sees things much differently.

The entire story of God's faithful peoples' lives - from birth to endless immortality - is a complete "movie". From His perspective death is a brief pause in the movie. He sees what has been perfectly connected with what will be.

Our daily routine is a perfect illustration of the cycles of life - we are awake, we fall asleep, we awaken from sleep. And whether we are awake or asleep, God is constantly aware of us and our condition. Similarly, He sees and watches over those asleep in death during their "rest cycle".

The true reality is that God's people who have been will be again. Although they presently sleep in death the cycle of their lives is a constant and speaks to us who are "awake" now:

"Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us" (Hebrews 12:1)

The "movie" that is their life still plays for us. Abraham continues his journey of faith. Elijah continues as a man mighty in deed and prayer. John the baptist still calls out to prepare the way. Moses continues to be faithfully led by God.

The "movie" is still being scripted and filmed for our lives. Today is a whole new scene and chapter. Let's add to the story all the drama of faith and endurance that we allow the Lord to bring forth in our lives.


Friday, August 15, 2008

Throughout the ages the cry of the oppressed has been for justice. The rallying cry of the civil rights movement of the 60's was Amos 5:24 - "let justice roll down like waters And righteousness like an ever-flowing stream."

Few things are more appealing about the kingdom of God than the aspect of justice. The greater the oppression the greater the appeal of God's perfect system of justice. And how much God desires to bring perfect fairness and justice! Jesus illustrated this truth through a simple story:

"In a certain city there was a judge who did not fear God and did not respect man. There was a widow in that city, and she kept coming to him, saying, `Give me legal protection from my opponent.' "For a while he was unwilling; but afterward he said to himself, `Even though I do not fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow bothers me, I will give her legal protection, otherwise by continually coming she will wear me out.' " And the Lord said, "Hear what the unrighteous judge said; now, will not God bring about justice for His elect who cry to Him day and night, and will He delay long over them? "I tell you that He will bring about justice for them quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find the faith on the earth?" (Luke 18:2-8)

An unsympathetic judge will bring about justice through persistence; how much more quickly will our merciful God bring justice to those who are persistent in faithful prayer. But apparently faithful prayer for the justice of the kingdom of God will be in short supply when Jesus returns because He says, "when the Son of Man comes, will He find the faith on the earth?" "The faith" that he mentions is based upon the justice of the kingdom of God.

To pray the Lord's prayer, "Your kingdom come", is to seek God's perfect justice through His kingdom. It is urgently seeking the ultimate justice that come only come in this way.

There are many causes in the world that cry for justice, and followers of Christ can easily busy themselves with those causes. They are, no doubt, good causes. But the best cause is that which is truly worthy of our best efforts: pleading to God for the ultimate justice of His Kingdom to come.

The point of Jesus' simple teaching in Luke 18 is that "they ought to pray and not to lose heart" (Luke 18:1)

The greatest good we can do is to seek the kingdom and its perfect justice and plead for it to come soon. This is a prayer that God is eager to answer!


Wednesday, August 13, 2008

It's like missing the tree for the forest, as the old saying goes. If you don't see what's right in front of you you'll never see what's behind it.

"Now having been questioned by the Pharisees as to when the kingdom of God was coming, He answered them and said, "The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed; nor will they say, `Look, here it is!' or, `There it is!' For behold, the kingdom of God is in your midst." (Luke 17:20-21)

The misguided religious leaders were looking for the kingdom but failed to recognize the king. It's comparable to a state visit by the President of the United States to a foreign country. Imagine the leader of that country saying to the U.S. President, "No, I don't want to see you; I want to see the United States". In essence he IS seeing the United States because he is seeing its most visible leader. He cannot expect to enjoy any of the benefits of the United States if he rejects its President.

Citizens of the kingdom of God are those who are keenly aware of its king. We recognize his breakthrough into human events over 2,000 years ago and we recognize His presence and role today. We are aware that He is calling out those who are responsive to become citizens and to gladly join in His kingdom-building work. We recognize that the process is underway of bringing all the enemies of God into submission to His appointed King, His Son.

For those who are its citizens, the world even now is alive with the kingdom! We see lives being regenerated and we see the kingdom declared and demonstrates through nature itself, as the parables of Jesus testify. The sin-damaged and battle-scarred world of today yields glimpses of its coming glory under the rulership of the King. Amidst its faults and flaws, the church shines as a kingdom community when it embodies the lofty standards of the Sermon On the Mount as well as all the teachings of King Jesus. The kingdom is alive and present even as we await its coming!

We are the tangible proof and evidence of the kingdom of God today. As those who have met the king and joined His kingdom, we are living representatives in the world. As we see the kingdom so others have opportunity to see it in and through us. What an awesome privilege and responsibility!


Friday, August 08, 2008

In mathematical form, 1>99. From all appearances the formula is wrong; it should be 1<99. But God's math is different than man's math.

"there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance ... there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents." (Luke 15:7,10)

God's priority is on that which is lost. Perhaps there is no more poignant example than the story of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32). Following the younger son's foolish choice to squander his inheritance on immoral living, and his repentance over his decision, he chooses the path homeward. And here we see the most striking picture of all:

"But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him and kissed him." (Luke 15:20)

The father was pleased with the work of his faithful son, but he longed for his lost son. Perhaps he spotted him at a great distance because he daily longed and looked for him.

The picture of their reunion invokes deep emotion. It's impossible to read the account and not be deeply moved. He who was lost was found.

God is the father in this scene, and the lost son represents the lost who repent. He is pleased with those who have come into His family but He longs for those who are lost.

The heart of God is with the lost. He truly wishes for none to perish but all to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9). His great joy is the reclaiming of a lost sinner.

Jesus emphasized a vital truth in the parable of the sower (Matthew 13:3-9, 18-23). The saving message is the "word about the kingdom" and, when it is sown in peoples' hearts, has opportunity to grow in varying degrees or, in the worst case, be snatched away and prevented from growing at all. The key emphasis is on the priority of sowing the seed (the word; the gospel; the good news; the message about the kingdom). There can be no growth if there is no seed sown. No wonder the prophet Isaiah says,

"How lovely on the mountains Are the feet of him who brings good news" (Isaiah 52:7)

If God's heart is for lost people, and if the kingdom message proclaimed by Jesus is what saves, then God urgently desires kingdom proclaimers! If ever we wanted to partner with God and anticipate His fullest blessings, then this surely is the opportunity.

May deep compassion for the lost and a passion for the kingdom message move us such that God can greatly use us.


Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Will all people of all religions be saved? Will all who call themselves Christians be in the Kingdom? These are challenging questions that we have either asked or had asked of us. Our answers and the answers of others may be interesting, but the words of Jesus on the subject are vital.

"And someone said to Him, "Lord, are there just a few who are being saved?" And He said to them, "Strive to enter through the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able. "Once the head of the house gets up and shuts the door, and you begin to stand outside and knock on the door, saying, `Lord, open up to us!' then He will answer and say to you, `I do not know where you are from.' "Then you will begin to say, `We ate and drank in Your presence, and You taught in our streets'; and He will say, `I tell you, I do not know where you are from; DEPART FROM ME, ALL YOU EVILDOERS.' "In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but yourselves being thrown out. "And they will come from east and west and from north and south, and will recline at the table in the kingdom of God. "And behold, some are last who will be first and some are first who will be last." (Luke 13:23-30)

There are several things to notice from Jesus' words: (1) His answer is an appeal for personal pursuit of salvation; (2) there will be a time when the opportunity is ended; (3) no appeal will be effective once the opportunity is past; (4) indescribable anguish will result from missing the opportunity of salvation, and; (5) the kingdom will be an "upside down" kingdom.

In general, Jesus' words make very clear the personal priority to "seek first the kingdom of God" (Matthew 6:33). The generous salvation offer of God has time limitations and there is the danger of personal delusion concerning the basis of salvation. We are saved by faith based upon truth, and love for truth and appreciation of faith motivate us to earnestly pursue the kingdom on a daily basis.

Jesus' words indicate that "not all roads lead to the kingdom". Faith must be based upon solid truth, as revealed in the Bible and personified by Jesus, and this must be a passionate pursuit. Many will seek salvation but not all will find it. Familiarity with truth and with Jesus will not be sufficient; only passionate love for truth, the Truth-Giver and the Truth-Teller will do.

May His challenging words lead each of us to passionately pursue "the pearl of great price"; the hidden treasure in the field.