And the answer is…

jesus on crossJesus.

That’s it. He is the answer.

To what question(s), you ask?

All of them.

  • What does God look like?
  • How do I know God loves me?
  • How do I relate with God?
  • What is my purpose?
  • Why am I here?
  • Why am I such a mixture of brilliance and brokenness?
  • Where will I go when I die?
  • How am I supposed to live?
  • Who should I pattern my life after?
  • Is there anyone who truly loves me as I am, but who will help me become more than I am?

Jesus. He is the answer.

“The Son (Jesus) is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His being…” (Hebrews 1:3)

“In Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and in Christ you have been brought to fullness.” (Colossians 2:9-10)

The word “fullness” from that passage was used to refer to a fishing net filled with fish or a house filled with a sweet perfume. Isn’t that beautiful imagery? In Christ we overflow with purpose.

The original Christmas heralded His birth, and every Christmas since has offered us another chance to receive His life. Let’s receive it. Let’s turn to Him and cling to him and find our fullest expression of life in Him.


The World Vision fiasco

World VisionSo…the World Vision fiasco. Certainly you’ve heard of it by now. A few days ago, World Vision executives made a public decision to amend their hiring practices to include married gay couples, but then reversed their decision after a vehement outcry arose against it.

Understandably, this decision and un-decision has drawn fire from constituents from all over the religious and political map. My intention in this posting is not to pick a side or defend a cause. Rather, I would like to address a heart-breaking dynamic that immediately sprouted in the aftermath of the decisions.

On the heels of the World Vision reversal, some angry Christians lit up the online discussion boards with vitriolic tirades against gay people. Yes, it was World Vision’s decision that instigated the reactions, but many of these replies went beyond a critique of World Vision to the castigating of the entire gay community (granted, these types of replies went both ways, but as a Christian, my concern in this post is with my fellow Christians).

I do not believe that those hostile replies are indicative of the hearts and souls of most Christians. I do not believe that the church looks like its mean, homophobic stereotype. I believe that Christians are caring, loving, and concerned, and that they are attempting to wrestle through complicated issues of faith and sexuality with a compassionate, biblical worldview.

When a Christian’s hostile posture turns a person off from listening to God’s message through Christ, we need to humbly evaluate that posture. Even strong, prophetic messages that call people to repentance and right living before God can be laced with compassion and love. Jeremiah was known as the “weeping prophet.” Isaiah interspersed his judgment prophecies with messages about the Messianic hope.

Yes, we can, and must, uphold whatever standards we believe to be the most biblical on a given subject. However, we should strive to do so in a winsome way that extends the Gospel’s reach rather than alienating the very people who need it most (and my name tops that list).

At the center of the Gospel is an invitation from God to all broken and hurting people. He is calling us home.

The Hole in our Gospel Reading Program–Week Six

Cover of "The Hole in Our Gospel: What do...
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Chapter Four: The Towering Pillars of Compassion and Justice

Kidnapping…trafficking…children forced to serve as violent soldiers…sexual exploitation…these horrifying acts of human degradation are nearly too gruesome to fathom. As Richard Stearns said, if Satan is alive and manifesting himself in our world, he is surely present in these places of horror.[1]

For many people the presence of such explicit evil is an indicator that there is no God in the world. Indeed, if God were alive and active how could He ever allow such atrocities to happen to innocent children?

I confess to staggering under the weight of that question. However, amid the dissonance between God’s love and the reality of evil, the strong voice of Scripture arises, calling every follower of Jesus Christ to care about the afflicted and move in response to their need.

Richard Stearns was privileged to preach at a chapel service for former child soldiers where the healing power of the Gospel was able to release its therapeutic effects. What will you and I do?

At this point in our reading we have prayed positioning prayers like, “Lord, use me where I’m needed most” and “Break my heart for what breaks yours.” As we continue through this book together let’s also ask for clarity about how, specifically, we can be an echo of God’s voice of compassion and justice for the world.

[1] Richard Stearns, The Hole in our Gospel (Thomas Nelson, Nashville, TN: 2009): 61.

Letters from Crete–part 1

A wry smile tugged at the weathered corners of the ancient Apostle Paul’s lips as he unfolded a wrinkled letter and recognized a familiar script.  The opening line, in extra-large print, brought both a chuckle to his heart and a tear to his eye.

It was from Titus.

He had left Titus on the little, Mediterranean island of Crete to pastor a fledgling congregation that had been launched there during a missionary venture.  Although young and still relatively inexperienced, Titus was full of passion, courage, and faith and it had seemed right to Paul to leave him with the task of pastoring the new converts.  It had

English: Chania on the island of Crete - Weste...
English: Chania on the island of Crete – Western part of the venetian harbor Deutsch: Chania auf der Insel Kreta – Westlicher Teil des venezianischen Hafens mit der Firkas-Bastion an der Hafeneinfahrt (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

been many months since Paul had heard from his spiritual son, and although he knew the task would be difficult, he still felt a pang of concern when he read Titus’ first words.

“Dear Paul…why have you left me here?”

There was no, “Dear Paul, how are things in Jerusalem” or “I miss you Paul, and wish you were here with me sun-tanning on the beach.” There was just a raw, desperate, heart-cry: “Paul, what were you thinking?  Why, for the love of God, did you leave me here?”

“The glamour has faded!”

“The excitement has worn off!”

“This isn’t what I signed up for when I responded to the word of the Lord.”

“I’m confused.”

“I’m discouraged.”

“I don’t understand what God is doing.”

“I want to come home.”

Have you ever been Titus? Have you ever followed a word from the Lord only to find yourself, not basking in its completion, but struggling with sunstroke as you try to make sense of why it hasn’t happened yet?  Has the glamour worn off of your current assignment?  Are you scouring the Internet for a cheap, return home ticket?

Paul’s steady hand began to pen his reply…

Where is God?

Sometimes angry or hurting people will give voice to their discouragement by asking an oft-repeated question: “Where is God anyway?”

Understandably, they ask the question when He appears to be absent in an important area of their lives. And they’re not alone in asking it.

  • Gideon asked it in Judges 6:13 when he said: “If the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us?”
  • Moses asked it in Exodus 5:22-23 when he cried out, “O Lord, why have you brought trouble upon this people? Ever since I went to Pharaoh to speak in your name…you have not rescued your people at all.”
  • In Psalm 42:3 the psalmist’s critics questioned him all day long asking, “Where is your God?”

I’ve asked the question, and it’s likely that you have too. Where is God anyway? If He is so loving and powerful, why is it sometimes so hard to see His evidence in the world?

I think we can stumble over the question when we limit our search for Him. Sometimes we  only look for Him in dramatic, miraculous places, and when we don’t find Him there we start questioning His very existence.

What would happen  if we broadened our search?

What if we reminded ourselves that He is the God of “all comfort” (2 Corinthians 1:3), and that “every good and perfect gift is from above” (James 1:17)? What if we remembered that since “God is love” (1 John 4:8) every act of genuine, holy love in the world is a reflection of His nature?

I might not see Him in a cloud of fire today, but I will quite possibly see Him in the simplest acts of kindness and compassion.

God is evident in Creation…He is evident in His miracles…He is evident in His answers to prayer…He is evident in the dynamic and the dramatic…but He is also evident when a child shares his lunch, and when a mom tirelessly serves her kids, and when people do their best to reveal His love to a hurting and broken world.

As a young prisoner in a violent South African prison once said, “Of course God was already present in the prison. We just had to make Him visible.”1

How can a loving God send someone to hell?

In recent weeks I’ve been posting essays from the book, One-Minute Answers to Skeptics, in our Sunday morning ministry guide (church bulletin). This week’s essay contains some thoughts on the troubling question: “How could a loving God send someone to hell,” and I thought the sentiment expressed in it was was worth re-posting here.

“How can a loving God send someone to hell?”[1]

The last thing God wants is for anyone to end up in hell. The Bible says that God is “not willing that any should perish” (2 Peter 3:9) and that He “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4). God did more than simply proclaim His desire that none should perish. He actually proved His desire to save people when He left the glories of heaven in the person of Jesus and came to earth to die on the cross for our sins (John 3:16; Romans 5:8). Having paid the penalty for mankind’s rebellion, God now graciously offers forgiveness and everlasting life as a gift (Romans 6:23) to all who will put their trust in Jesus.

If people reject God’s grace, turn away from the testimony of their own conscience (Romans 2:15), the testimony of creation (Psalm 19:1-6; Acts 14:16-17), and the wooing of the Holy Spirit (John 16:8), and say, “I will have nothing to do with God,” God will, in the end, allow them to have their own wish (2 Thessalonians 1:9). As C.S. Lewis said, “The damned are, in one sense, successful, rebels to the end…the doors of hell are locked on the inside.” In the end, those people who end up in hell will have only themselves to blame. Hell is the end of a path that is chosen to some degree in this life, here and now, day by day.

Thy Will Be Done:

“There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done,’ and those to whom God says in the end, ‘Thy will be done.’” C.S. Lewis (1898-1963), professor and author.

[1] This article is taken in its entirety from Charlie H. Campbell’s book, One-Minute Answers to Skeptics (Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 2005/2010), pages 37 – 38.

Questions God will never answer

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Have you discovered that there are some questions that God never seems to answer?

Despite His amazing promise to always be with us, and to continually guide us in to His will, it seems that God can get a little finicky at times when we ask Him certain questions. In fact, I’ve identified several questions in my own life that He never seems to acknowledge.

“What’s the use?”

“Why don’t you do something?”

“Why me?”

“When will it ever end?”

And, “Oh, Lord, how long?”

If you’ve asked Him these questions, then you too have probably run in to the same silent treatment from heaven that I have. However, even though God won’t answer these questions directly, I’ve discovered that if you slightly alter the questions you can sometimes ask it in a way that He likes to answer.

You can’t ask, “What’s the use?” But you can ask, “Father, what is your purpose?”

Don’t ask Him, “Why don’t you do something?” He’ll never answer that question. But if you ask, “Father, what’s being done?” you’ll very possibly get a reply.

Instead of asking “Why me?” try asking, “Why not me?” Ask, “Do you need somebody for this task? Why not me?” He’ll respond well to that line of questioning.

How about “When will it ever end?” Sorry, that’s another pointless question. I’ve asked Him that one more times than I can count and He’s never even hinted at an answer. However, when I’ve changed that question slightly to “Father, what would you like me to learn?” I’ve often received a swift reply.

For the last question, we need to remember God’s interaction with the prophet Habakkuk because he asked the million-dollar question amid great anguish of soul. He cried out, “How long, Lord?  How long until you do something?”

Habakkuk never received a direct answer to his question but he did learn something very critical for his spiritual success. He learned that the vision speaks of the end. God said to him, “The revelation awaits an appointed time; it speaks of the end and will not prove false. Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay.” (Habakkuk 2:3)

Did you catch that? The revelation from God speaks of the end. What it does not speak of is the process we have to go through to get to the end. Vision is dangerous if we don’t understand that it speaks of the end and not of the means of getting there. Without this understanding, we’ll get in trouble, we’ll get disillusioned and we’ll be tempted to lose heart. If you and I don’t understand the ways of God during the waiting seasons, we will be tempted to give up before the end ever occurs. There is an appointed time for every word of the Lord.

There is an appointed time for you.