Archives For All Things New

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When my pastor, Mike Tilley, stood before our local church in Orlando this morning, after the conflict with white supremacists in Charlottesville yesterday, he said these brief, wise and timely words to us and then led us in this simple but profound prayer. I hope you will find this helpful, as I did.

Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. (Proverbs 31:8)

This ancient proverb has timeless relevance to those of us who believe and apply the gospel.

  1. Speaking up for the unborn,
  2. Speaking up for those around the world in child slavery, and
  3. Speaking up for the lost, who are headed to a Christless eternity apart from the gospel.

Children might understand this if they think of a playground bully, picking on the kids who are new, who are not cool, who are weak, or who look different. Yesterday in Charlottesville, Virginia, white supremacists were carrying flaming torches, and some were carrying Nazi flags. These emblems represent the evil of racial superiority. They say to those who are not like them, “We will dominate you.”

So, as Christians, we open our mouths to say to African Americans and all minorities, we are with you, and not with them. We say to white supremacists, you do not represent the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Thus says the Lord, let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast of his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the Lord. (Jeremiah 9:23-24)

Prayer:

God of steadfast love, would you show your steadfast love to those who live in fear today. In love, we mourn with those who suffered loss in Charlottesville. We praise you for the saving love shown to us in Christ. God of justice, would you exercise your justice in the restraint and punishment of evil. We pray for those whose hearts are captive to the spiritual bondage of racial superiority. Would you set them free through the power of the gospel. God of righteousness, we know that our only hope of righteousness is in Christ. As your church, grant us grace to seek first your kingdom and your righteousness in our hearts, in our city, and in the world. You are the Lord, who delights in these things. We believe that these things can be, through the gospel. And we believe that they will be, when, through the gospel, you renew all things.

 

“We believe that the Gospel calls us to look beyond ourselves and to love our neighbors. We do this through our individual and corporate witness to the saving message of the Gospel. We do this by entering into the broken places of our city and our world, striving to be “salt and light” and to offer hope and help to those in need.”  Mike Tilley, Senior Pastor, Lake Baldwin Church, Orlando, Florida

AllThingsNewPeople who know me well, know that I can very easily get lost. I think it must be part of my nutty professor DNA. When I first enter a shopping mall and begin walking from store to store, I still have a pretty good sense of direction.  But after shopping for awhile, especially after I’ve been up and down stairs and turned around a few times, I have no idea where I am in relation to where I parked. When my daughters were teenagers they learned quickly that dad’s internal compass didn’t work very well in the mall. After we’d been shopping for a while, one of them would often look up at me with a big grin and say, “OK dad, time to go back to the car. Which way?”

MallMapsLite_mainI would have no idea which way to go. That’s until I learned the secret of just walking until I found a mall directory map with three glorious words on it, usually highlighted in red, YOU ARE HERE. It was not until I could see the bigger picture and where I fit into it, that I could find my way.

Even though it often doesn’t feel like it, there is a reason why you are here. You are part of something truly epic and astonishing. And although they aren’t simple or exhaustive, there really are honest answers to the ancient questions human beings have been asking throughout history, such as:

  • Where did the world come from?
  • Where did we come from?
  • How does everything connect or fit together?
  • Why does anything exist at all?
  • Why is there evil and suffering in the world?
  • What happens when we die?
  • Why do we have a sense of rightness and wrongness?
  • What is really going on in the universe?
  • How can we find meaning for our lives?
  • Is there really meaning to life?

We look for these answers and connections, and we’re restless until we find them. That’s because nothing really makes ultimate sense in life until we can properly relate it to other things. God created everything that exists, including the earth and all the nations on it for a purpose. The degree to which we understand God’s purpose for the world is the degree to which we will understand God’s purpose for our lives in it. And the degree to which we align our life purpose with God’s purpose for the world is the degree to which we will experience the fullness of God’s purpose for our lives. To summarize:

God takes great pleasure in manifesting his presence and pouring out his power on those who will dare to align radically their purposes with his for the nations[1].

The only way we can discover God’s purpose for our lives is by learning how our story fits into God’s still-unfolding story for the universe. So in this book we will do a sweeping overview (the view from 30,000 feet) of the history of the universe, from creation to the final consummation of time, through the lens of the Bible. Although the bible is not a history book, when it speaks to history, it speaks truthfully [2].

Antique-Compass-1103474_55801016-300x289

What’s unique about the Bible is not all the stories, but “THE STORY in the stories,”[3] the one, true human story that God means to shape our understanding of history and give ultimate meaning to our lives.

We can master a knowledge of all the biblical stories, and even master a knowledge of all Christian doctrine and theology, and still not really know THE STORY unfolding in the stories. Many years ago, a Hindu leader in India strongly reproved a young, well-intentioned missionary for how he and the other missionaries were presenting the Bible to them. He said,

I can’t understand why you missionaries present the Bible to us in India as a book of religion. It is not a book of religion–and anyway we have plenty of books of religion in India. We don’t need any more! I find in your Bible a unique interpretation of universal history, the history of the whole of creation and the history of the human race. And therefore a unique interpretation of the human person as a responsible actor in history. That is unique. There is nothing else in the whole religious literature of the world to put alongside it (emphasis mine). [4]

Although the Bible consists of a wide variety of writings (including laws, history, prophecies, poetry, letters, and apocalyptic writings), at its core the bible is one unfolding story with a beginning, a middle, and an end. God means for his story to so captivate you, that you are drawn into its plot to find your place and then compelled to draw others into that story with you for the rest of your life.

I invite you to join me on this life-changing journey to discover more deeply God’s unfolding story so that you might experience more fully your story in his.

_______________________

[1] See Challenging Missions Quotes for a free download of similar quotes compiled by Joshua Project staff. 
[2] Francis Schaeffer, No Final Conflict
[3] Edward Clowney, The Church: Contours of Christian Theology
[4] Lesslie Newbigin, A Walk Through the Bible
 

In the series introduction, “The Greatest Story Ever Told”  we saw how the central message of the bible, the gospel, is best understood as a story or a four-act drama that displays the historic unfolding of God’s creative and redemptive work in the world. And how you can never fully understand the meaning of your personal life story until you understand how your story fits with God’s story.

In Act One, “Creation: The Way Things are Supposed to Be” we learned that the essence of salvation in Christ (the gospel) is the outworking of God’s love by restoring his creation from all the horrible consequences of sin (the fall). And how you cannot fully know the riches of Christ’s salvation until you more fully grasp God’s original intent for mankind to be in perfect relationship with God, self, others and creation.

In Act Two, “The Fall: The Way Things Are Not Supposed To Be,” we learned that our understanding of the severity of the problem is directly proportionate to our understanding of the significance of the solution. And as a result of sin, all of mankind’s perfect relationships (with God, themselves, others and creation) were broken and marked by alienation. We now turn to Act 3, Scene 1, the redemption of mankind and the world through the coming kingdom of Israel and the promised King.

Act Three (Scene 1): Redemption Through the Coming Kingdom (Israel)

From immediately after the Fall, God’s intention was to restore his loving rule over mankind and creation (Gen 3:15). At first God worked his redemptive purposes through individuals like Enoch and Noah. Then God chose to re-establish his kingdom on earth through Abraham by promising him a land and a multitude of descendants through whom God would bless all the nations of the world (Gen 12:1-3).

Through Moses and the exodus from Egypt, God makes Abraham’s descendants his own people. God then gives them his law at Mount Sinai so they might live under his loving rule, as Adam and Eve had done before they sinned. God blesses them with his presence in the tabernacle and he gives them elaborate sacrificial ceremonies through which they can approach him. Through Joshua the people of God enter the land of Canaan and under Kings David and Solomon they build the temple of God and enjoy the rule and blessings of God.

But because of the disobedience of the kings and the people of Israel the promises to Abraham were only partially fulfilled. As a consequence of their disobedience the nation of Israel came under God’s judgment. Civil war broke out and the kingdom of Israel was divided into two parts—Israel in the north and Judah in the south. The pagan nation of Assyria destroyed the northern kingdom. The pagan nation of Babylon later conquered the southern kingdom and took its people into exile in Babylon.

During this dark period, God spoke to the people of Israel and Judah through the prophets. He told them they were being punished for their sin but that there was still hope. They foretold the day when a great Messiah King would come and deliver them from all their oppression. He would be “the offspring of David whose kingdom would be established forever” (2 Sam 7), “the Son of Man whom the Ancient of Days gives all dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, and all peoples, nations, and languages will serve him. His dominion will be an everlasting dominion (Dan. 7).” And he “will create a new heavens and a new earth, and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind (Isaiah 65:17).” And the lion will lie down with the lamb (Isaiah 11:6).

lion-and-the-lamb

When the people of Judah were allowed to return from exile they must have thought that the time had come. But God made it clear that the coming of the Messiah and his kingdom on earth, when all things will be made new, was still in future.

Four hundred years after the completion of the Old Testament, Jesus began his public ministry with these words, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel”. To his original Jewish listeners this was an especially meaningful announcement. When Jesus made this announcement, the Jews had been scattered throughout the Mediterranean world and greatly oppressed by the Roman government for many years. They longed for the Messiah to come, set up His kingdom, and save them from their political oppression (Ridderbos 1975:48).

However, the Jews soon learned that the kingdom Jesus was announcing and inaugurating was not what they expected. The nature of Jesus’ kingdom more spiritual than political, as was the oppression from which Jesus came to deliver his people. The Jewish people would learn that the enemies this king came to engage in battle were not political enemies but spiritual enemies. The Bible calls these enemies the world, the flesh, the devil, and death itself. As king, Jesus came to wage war with these spiritual enemies in order to set his people free from their captivity to sin and all its effects: personal guilt, moral corruption and world corruption.

Although Jesus as king was fully present at this time, Mark 1:14 shows us that the kingdom “was near.” This means the kingdom was not yet fully in their midst. Jesus was beginning to set in motion all that would eventually bring about the universal rule and reign of God over not just Rome, but over all the nations of the earth and the entire world.

Centuries earlier, God made clear through the prophets that the goal of this coming kingdom would be to invade this fallen and broken world, drive back the forces of evil, and bring the restoration of everything lost in the fall. However, there were certain critical events that had to take place during this time in history for God’s kingdom to come in greater fullness. And those epoch, world-changing events could only happen through one person-the coming King.

Coming soon: Act 3 (Scene 2): Redemption Through the Coming King (Jesus)

Adapted from the upcoming book © 2015 All Things New, Steven L. Childers