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A Reminder in a Tumultuous Election Year

In this tumultuous election year, all Christians need to ponder Isaiah 33:22. “For the LORD is our judge; the LORD is our lawgiver; the LORD is our king; he will save us.”

Note that the LORD is all three branches of government, as defined Continue reading

The Lord & His Prayer – A Book Review

Lord & His PrayerThis book, first published in 1996, is available from Amazon.com for kindle at $7.60. For a book that old, this seems to be a bit high for a kindle edition (especially since the paperback is available for only $8.00) – but it is well worth it. There are six chapters, each focusing on a segment of the prayer. As is true of many of N.T. Wright’s books, this one began as a series of sermons, these during the Advent season of 1995. The prologue declares:

We live, as Jesus lived, in a world all too full of injustice, hunger, malice and evil. This prayer cries out for justice, bread, forgiveness and deliverance. If anyone thinks those are irrelevant in today’s world, let them read the newspaper and think again. Continue reading

QUESTION: What Is Kingdom Building?

The following question came to me recently via “The Question Box” at our congregation’s web site where I have answered hundreds of questions over the past four years.

Question: What is kingdom building ?

Put in its simplest form, kingdom building is anything that contributes to the purposes of God on this earth.

This includes, but is not limited to, the following: Continue reading

SIMPLIFIED JOURNEY (24): Jesus – His Teaching

The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel. – Mark 1:15

These were the first words of Jesus that Mark recorded. These set the tone for His teaching, whether in direct sermons, as in the Sermon on the Mount, or in parables. He taught more about the kingdom of God than any other before or after Him – and He taught more about the kingdom than He taught about any other subject.

Yet, His teaching about the Kingdom of God was not very much like that of modern teachers of the kingdom. Today, much of kingdom-teaching has to do with when and how Jesus will set up His kingdom on earth, Jesus said little about the when or the how; He preferred to talk about what the Kingdom of God is and how it looks.

As Matthew recorded the early part of Jesus’ personal ministry, he wrote:

And he went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people. – Matthew 4:23

As a result of this, news about Him spread all over the country, people brought Him all who were suffering with any affliction, and large crowds followed Him. When He saw the crowds, He went up on the mountain where His disciples came to Him – and he Continue reading

QUESTION: From Which Kingdom Does Jesus’ Kingdom Derive?

The following question came to me via our congregation’s website, http://www.Plymouth-church.com where I answer questions from The Question Box. I hope it will be helpful to you as well.

From which kingdom does Jesus’ Kingdom derive?

After the death of Solomon, there was a general revolt against Rehoboam, Solomon’s son and ten tribes split off to form the Northern Kingdom of Israel under Jeroboam the Son of Nebat. Jeroboam soon introduced the worship of the golden calves he built at Bethel and Dan, a sin followed by every one of the later kings of Israel. Because of this blatant rejection of God, the LORD brought on them the Assyrian Captivity, from which the ten tribes never returned.

The Southern Kingdom of Judah fared only a little better. Though each king of Judah in Jerusalem was from the house of David, many of them were men who Continue reading

The Prodigal God: A Book Review (4) – Redefining Hope

The first five chapters of Timothy Keller, THE PRODIGAL GOD: Recovering the Heart of the Christian Faith (New York: Dutton, 2008) deal with understanding the parable of the prodigal son. The final two chapters have a wider purpose: Chapter Six uses the parable as a lens through which to see the theme of the entire Bible and Chapter Seven uses it as a guide to how we should live in the world now. In this installment, we look at Chapter Six, “Redefining Hope.”

Our Longing for Home

This parable in Luke 15:11-32 is so much at the heart of the Christian gospel that Keller uses it for us to be able to view the theme of the entire Bible. Continue reading

Simply Christian by N T Wright – A Review

Many of you will have read C. S. Lewis’ book Mere Christianity. In it this former atheist attempts to make the case for what he called “Mere Christianity” – that is for Christianity itself, as opposed to one of the different “brands” of Christianity.

N. T. Wright, a bishop in the Church of England, attempts to do for the 21st century what C. S. Lewis did for the 20th century in SIMPLY CHRISTIAN: Why Christianity Makes Sense.

An email correspondent recently forwarded information to me about Veritas, a program that began on the campus of Harvard University as a response by a group of students, faculty, and ministers to an emptiness on campus, namely the lack of attention to such ultimate questions as, “What does it mean to be human? Why is there evil and suffering?” Veritas brings outstanding speakers to campuses throughout the USA and around the world.

One of the speakers there (c. a 50 minute lecture plus a part 2 with Questions/Answers) was N. T. Wright speaking about his book at Georgetown University in 2006. I found it very interesting and challenging. You can hear this author lecturing about his book here.

In Part I of this book he explores what he calls Continue reading


This World Is Not My Home

This World Is Not My Home

When we speak of “the world” in this post, we do not mean the physical cosmos or universe. Rather, we speak of the moral-social-political-cultural world in which human beings live and interact with one another – and with God. This is the arena where the combat between good and evil, between God and the devil occurs. Scripture uses “this world” to contrast with “the heavenly realms” (cf. Ephesians 1:3).

In the World But Not of the World

As creatures of flesh and blood who are also living as disciples of Jesus, we occupy a unique place. We are in the world but not of the world (John 17:14). Jesus occupied this same position, but with a difference. He came down from heaven to be in this world to redeem it; we, the redeemed, are going from this world into the heavenly realms. His origin was there; our origin is here; but both of us belong there.

Yet, we have a mission in this world, just as Jesus had a mission in this world. While we are here, we are to give glory to God in this world. We cannot turn our backs on the world to live in a monastery. If we do, we refuse to walk in the steps of Jesus. Nor can we adopt the thought patterns and the life style of the world. That would also refuse the heavenly walk.

As disciples, we are to demonstrate heavenly patterns of thought and life in this world. That is what Jesus did, and that is what his disciples today do as well. To decline this challenge is to decline the life of a disciple.

That is why the first concern of the disciple is not the essentials of life in this world. Disciples are told, seek first God’s kingdom and his righteousness all the physical necessities of life will be given to us (Matthew 6:33). This promise challenges faith – but it is a solemn promise from our Master himself.

Do Not Love the World

The problem is that the world presents a constant, powerful appeal to physical, human senses. It is so much with us we are tempted to fall in love with its charms. Do not love the world or anything in the world. If you love the world, the love of the Father is not in you (1 John 2:15). The things in the world in this context are moral: the cravings of sinful man, the cravings of his eyes, and his vain pride in his accomplishments. When we love our lusts and are proud of our petty accomplishments, we have fallen out of love with God and into love with the world.

It is life’s worries, riches and pleasures that originate in these lusts and pride that choke the word of God so it is unfruitful (Luke 8:14). Entanglement in these affairs keep a soldier of Christ from pleasing his commanding officer (2 Timothy 2:4).

Many times, these pursuits are harmless except that they distract us from the important things of life for empty pleasures. Though not sinful, they become sin because they steal our hearts from the one whom we are to adore and love beyond all others. Thus, they become weapons in the Devil’s arsenal to separate us from our God.

Home Is Where the Heart Is

When the Devil can turn our hearts from God, he has taken us captive (as spiritual POW’s). Yet, the disciple’s heart is fixed firmly on the heavenly city. That is his homeland even though he has never been there in person. People who are third or fourth generation New Zealanders used to talk about going “home” to England. They had never been there; their parents had never been there. But that is still what they thought of as home. This changed when England entered the European Common Market and cut its former colony off from the British market. When it was evident the “homeland” had little “love” for its erstwhile children, the children began to think of “home” in different ways.

We will be justified in turning our love away from heaven when heaven shows it has turned its love away from us. But nothing will separate us from God’s love (Romans 8:35-39) – so we never have an excuse for turning our hearts away from him. And if our heart is with him, our homeland will be in heaven.

We live in this world as strangers and pilgrims. We are here. We have work to do here. But we know one day we will go home. So, we do not “put down roots” in this world. Our “roots” are in heaven.

Christian Non-Conformity

As people whose hearts and homes are in heaven, we live in this world without adopting its way of life. The apostle charged us, do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind (Romans 12:2). This transformation comes through the influence of our Master. The effect of this non-conformity is seen in 1 Peter 4:1-4. There, the one who has suffered with Christ (that is, who is crucified with Christ) is one who no longer lives as the pagans do: living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and idolatry. If these words did not come from a book nearly 2,000 years old, you would think they were written about the very world we live in today. The disciple of Jesus consciously rejects the life-style of the world because, in the words of the song, “I can’t feel at home in this world anymore.”

This rejection is to be complete – and will be obvious. Peter went on to observe that the pagans think it strange that you do not plunge with them into the same flood of dissipation – and they heap abuse on you. From the time of Cain and Able, evil men have abused those who choose to serve and love God.

It is no different today. Why do we think the American democratic society has somehow neutralized the powers of darkness and robbed them of the power to persecute those who choose not to conform to the patterns of this world, but to conform instead to the image of God’s Son?

The Church: A New Society in This World

Disciples of Jesus, each of them a new creature (2 Corinthians 5:17), form a new society in this world, a city of light that is set on a hill (Matthew 5:15). After talking about not being conformed to the world of darkness, Paul continued in Romans 12 to talk about the new society God is forming in this world with his church.

This is a society where love is sincere, where people are devoted to one another in brotherly love. In this society, people honor each other over themselves and share with those who are in need. They bless instead of curse. They are not arrogant, but associate even with those of low position. It is a society that is harmonious, not vengeful.

In reading this description of the heavenly society, I am reminded of the story of the boy whose father told him what a Christian is: one who loves everyone, is patient, kind, forgiving, and pure. The boy then asked his father, “Have I ever seen one?” Can we honestly say we have seen a society like this? Yet, this is what Jesus, by the Holy Spirit within us, is training his disciples to be. Are we willing to be trained?

– (13) Discipline As Disciples

– (11) Examples of Disciples Praying

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