Don’t Skip Thanksgiving

The world wants to skip from Halloween to Christmas bouncing from horror themed self-indulgence to tinsel tossed materialism. The church can empathize with the sentiment. The social unrest, contentious elections, and COVID19 pandemic have cast a long, misty shadow of anxiety over most every part of the globe. The idea of stopping at grandma’s for Thanksgiving turkey seems to be an ironic exercise in American cultural futility. Why give thanks for such a world?

Though the world despairs, the people of God have every reason to give thanks in such a world. They understand the sovereign love of God. The church knows that all of today’s troubles are bound together by a golden thread of grace that culminates in the book of life. For the Christian, spiritual reality remains far more real than presidential elections, infection numbers, and GDP growth. What do those who see beyond the empirical world know?

Why Christians Give Thanks

They know that God will rescue his people and that Jesus will come again. To borrow the words of Micah 7:8b and 9b Christians are confident that, “when I fall, I shall rise…[and] in that day the boundary shall be far extended.” Though the believer may watch his political candidate go down in flames, get a pink slip, or receive a terminal diagnosis, he knows God will not let him be crushed. God will vindicate his people. Admittedly, God may not vindicate his people’s political candidates, business plans, or medical strategies. Our causes may flounder, but our faith will remain unmoved. We will prove to be more than conquers because God has pleaded our cause and has executed “justice (Micah 7:10).” Jesus died that we might be freed from the curse. Death, sin, and sorrow have no right to dominate our soul for Jesus has swaddled us in his righteous love. Even if our day is filled with adversity, mistakes, and sinful failures, we know the darkness will not last because “the Lord will be a light to me (Micah 7:9.).” Even on the worst day, the believer can confidently boast, “that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all of creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord (Rom. 8:38-39).” Those whose names have been written in the book of life have every reason to be thankful. God will rescue from today’s trial.

God also promises to come again. The Christian’s future hope is not tied to suburban homes and white fences, large family gatherings, or exotic vacations. All these things can come and go and utterly disappoint our souls. Homes can flood, gatherings can descend into feuds, and vacations can prove to be a waste of time. The Christian hopes in something yet unseen but something far more secure, the new heavens and the new earth. When Christ returns the boundary of his kingdom shall be extended to cover all of humanity. All sin, disease, sorrow, anxiety, hurt, and injustices will be forced outside the walls of God’s kingdom and crushed. Inside the walls, Jesus will shepherd his people placing them under the shade of his blessed comfort and filling their hearts with the abundance of his riches. Because the believer knows her destination is secure, she has every reason to be thankful today. The new heavens and the new earth are coming.

Give Thanks!

Though the world maybe ready to skip from Halloween to Christmas, the church should embrace the cultural moment and give thanks. God promises to see us through today and to come again. The two things that fuel our anxiety, today’s problems and tomorrow’s possibilities, have been solved by Jesus on the cross. The baby born in Bethlehem on Christmas morn has conquered this world of goblins and vampires. Nothing can separate us from him. Give Thanks!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Christians Cannot Agree To Silence

The men and women who comprise the great secular exchanges of knowledge often scowl at those who put forward the notions of universal truth. The exchange hums about on the premise that all ideas contain the same amount of truth or (if you will, error). Though an idea could be labeled useful by society, its true value remains nothing more than the cultural valuation of a shifting time. Today’s truth maybe tomorrows error. A world without truth, must becomes a world without judgement. No philosopher, teacher, or child has to condemn another person’s perspective for all ideas arise from the same sponginess of nothing.

The elites who manage the marketplace of knowledge often require Christians to abandon their claims of universal truth at home prior to entering the debate. After all most of the secular world abided by a no solicitation policy. Though the world requires Christians to affirm that Christianity is just one of the many members on the COEXISTS bumper sticker striving for greater meaning, Christians cannot agree to abandon their universal claims. They must speak up.

Jesus the Tribal Deity

In some ways, the God of the Bible does resemble a tribal deity concerned about the wellbeing of a small subset of the world’s population. In Genesis, Exodus, and the prophetic books, God repeatedly promised “I will be the God of all the families of Israel, and they will be my people (Jer. 31:1).” In the New Testament, God extends his promises to include the church comprised of men and women who trusted in the work of the revealed Messiah, Jesus Christ. Ephesians 5:25b-27 declares,  “Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.” At first glance, The biblical God appears to love his people in much the same way Zeus loved Greece.

Jesus the Ruler of the Universe

But the God of the Bible claims to be more. The first sentence in the Bible proclaims, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” The whole world is God’s world. Colossians 1:16 strengths the ideas of Genesis, reporting,

For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.  

Colossians 1:16

Why does God prioritize the nation of Israel and then the church?

Jesus invests in the Jewish and then the Christian tribe for the express purpose of seeing the whole world come to Christ. When Adam and Eve sinned and found themselves exiled from the Garden, the marketplace of ideas became corrupt. Instead of spreading the peace and love of God throughout the world, the children of Adam and Eve spread hate and evil. Wherever the human race went, death followed.  

God established the nation of Israel and then the church to combat the virus of sin through the spread of truth. God declared that the nation of Israel was to be a “light for the nations (Is. 42:6).” After Jesus’s death and resurrection, the Church picks up the mantle of kingdom expression. Mathew 28:19-20 defines the mission of the church as follows,

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.

Matthew 28:19-20

God created a tribe, and then a church to reestablish his kingdom, overcoming “evil with good (Rom. 12:21).” God promises that this campaign will succeed. Micah 4:1-2 concludes,

It shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and it shall be lifted up above the hills; and peoples shall flow to it, and many nations shall come, and say: “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.” For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.

The Christian cannot be content to keep his or her faith within the confines of their homes because they God of the Bible lays claim not just to the Christians home or to the Christians neighborhood but to the world. Jesus proclaims:

You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.

Acts 1:8

The Christian must speak of his or her God in the marketplace of ideas for his or her God is not a tribal deity but the God of the universe. The famed scholar Abraham Kuyper correctly, noted the Christian Religion, “concerns the whole of our human race.” Friends, we cannot agree silence. We must share the whole Jesus with the whole world.

Are you speaking?

Stash Your Problems On The Gospel Shelf

When life falls apart, Christians often close their Bibles and turn to anyone and everything else for help. Afterall, the gospel seems to know little of Instagram bullies, chronically depressed spouses, and teenagers overdosing on opioids. The gospel bookshelf deals well with the issues of life, rebirth and death. But the Jesus shelf appears to weak and awkwardly shaped to hold the massive and never-ending series of short and long stories entitled “My Issues.” To make it through life, we stick these books onto the self-help bookshelf, or display them on the social media bookshelf, or jam them into the therapeutic bookshelf. In so doing, we miss out on some of the best aspects of our salvation and sanctification. Those books that contain our sorrows, sins, and trials belong on the gospel shelf. It is strong enough to hold them all. More importantly, it is the only place that can make sense of our pain, sorrows, and struggles.

Micah and the Hope of the Gospel

In Micah 5:1-6, the Old Testament prophet and his audience faced an existential crisis. The Assyrian army stood outside their gates intent on Judah’s death. All political options had been exhausted. The bribes for peace had been paid. The God’s Holy temple and the palace of the Davidic king had been stripped of their gold. The nation had been humiliated And still, the Assyrian army came, seeking more plunder

Seeing their panic and fear, the prophet Micah could have counseled the nation to adapt a new form of taxation, to have developed new geopolitical alliances, or to have reinvested into their national defense. The prophet did none of those things. He pointed his people to Bethlehem Ephrathah.

We do not have to impress God to gain salvation. Jesus did not come from Jerusalem. He come from Bethlehem. He came from nowhere to save nobodies.

Micah focused on the city of David because it represented the King who had arisen out of obscurity to defeat Goliath and to establish the kingdom of Israel. It was a story of redemption and salvation that pointed to the great salvation would be accomplished by the Messiah who would also come from the tiny, humble town of Bethlehem.

Jesus’s origin story reveals that he knew we were weak. He does not find our sins, failures, and weakness offputting. He knew we would face armies of adversity that we could not conquer. He came because he knew we needed help, his help. We do not have to impress God to gain salvation. Jesus did not come from Jerusalem, the land of the kings and the powerful. He come from Bethlehem. He came from nowhere to save nobodies.

Jesus arrived tiny and lowly in Bethlehem intent upon ransoming captive Israel. Times of sorrow wrapped in falleness drop into our lives. Back pains strike us unexpectedly and neighbors persecute us for our faith. The Egyptians enslaved Israel. The nation of Judah would go into exile. But the our fall is never the end of our story for we are tied to the gospel story, the story of creation, fall, redemption, and new creation. According to the gospel, the birth pains of sorrow that we experience in this world always point to our salvation: redemption and new creation.

The Hope of the Gospel

We hope and trust that God will work in our lives today, because he has saved us. He has redeemed us, the children of Adam and Eve, from the exile of our grandparents. Like them, we too had rebelled against God. And yet, Jesus still came and brought us back as brothers and sisters (Micah 5:3). Jesus lived, died, and rose again to transform rebels like us into sons and daughters of the king when we repent and believe. But that is not all.

Christ does not save men and women and then leave them to figure out what to do next. God guides his children to eternity. He walks with us as we struggle with temptation, failures, and disappointments, reminding us of God’s glorious promises. He protects us from false teachers, evil friends, and fools who seek to ravage our souls. And he empowers us to victory over sins and death. Theologian David F. Wells helpful captures the transforming hope of the gospel when he writes:

Hope…has to do, biblical speaking, with the knowledge that “the age to come” is already penetrating “this age,” that sin , death, and meaninglessness of the one is being transformed by the righteousness, life, and meaning of the other, that what has emptied out life, what has scarred and blackened it, is being displaced by what is rejuvenating and transforming it…hope is hope because it knows it has become part of a realm, a kingdom, which endures, where evil is doomed and will be banished.

Above All Earthly Powers

When we make the gospel our hope, we discover that our problems are not the measure of the power of God’s promises. Jesus is the guarantee of success. Micah proclaims, “He shall deliver us from the Assyrian (5:6).” God is at work. Friends do not despair of today’s problems, assuming you will be defined by brokennes. Place them into the gospel. Redemption, the return from exile, the new creation, is coming! The cosmic story of redemption will transform our lives. Don’t hide your problems from the gospel. Stick them right in the middle of it.

Do you trust the gospel with your problems?