Some Further Reflections on Joseph’s Story

Over the last several weeks at Park Community Church, we have been hearing the stories from the Hebrew Scriptures (the Old Testament) that point to the greatest story of all–God’s plan to redeem His people through Jesus Christ. As the most recent “episode” of the “Great Stories” series at the Forest Glen church, we heard a message from Pastor Steve Coble on the story of Joseph from the book of Genesis, chapters 37 – 50.

Here are a few of my takeaways from the message:

1. Every evil and tragic thing that happened in Joseph’s life was not only used by God, but actually intended by God for Joseph’s eventual good. God did not merely “use” the trouble and tragedy in Joseph’s life, as though He was working out a Plan B. Rather, it turns out He actually had a plan from the beginning that superseded all the evil intentions of the “villains” in the story.

Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery. The wife of Potiphar, Joseph’s master, falsely accused him of sexual assault. In prison, Joseph was forgotten and left to rot, by someone he had helped. And yet every single one of these seeming misfortunes was a stepping stone toward Joseph’s final promotion (to second in command of the whole kingdom!) and reconciliation with his family.

Even the famine that struck the region worked out for good, as it brought Joseph’s brothers and father to him. God’s sovereign plan often has, worked into it, evil people doing evil things. He does this in order to show that He is in complete, sovereign control. His creatures will freely choose to do wrong, but God is greater than our plans.

He is totally good, and He is in total control. The same is true in your life today. If you love God and have been called according to His purpose, then God is working all things in your life together for good–to make you more like Jesus and unite you to Him as His brother or sister (Romans 8:28-30).

2. Joseph’s story had implications that stretched far beyond his own lifetime. Joseph himself became a pattern of the Messiah who would come–namely Jesus. Jesus was betrayed by his own people into the hands of evil men, falsely accused, and punished as an innocent man. And like Joseph (though infinitely more significantly) Jesus was vindicated–raised from the dead!–and promoted to the most exalted position in the kingdom.

The story of Joseph and his brothers is one chapter in the grand story God wrote in history, leading to the conclusion in which Jesus Christ rescues His people from calamity and establishes his righteous reign. In fact, Jesus is reigning now, and possesses “all authority in heaven and on earth” (Matthew 28:18). Right now you may be on the wrong side of His reign–not yet submitted to Him–but you can be reconciled to God, just as Joseph’s brothers were reconciled to him, by admitting you are a sinner and repenting to God, trusting in Jesus as Savior and King.

3. I can stop worrying, and so can you. Joseph’s story, and the Gospel to which it points, powerfully conveys that God has a good plan, He is in control of our circumstances in order to bring about that plan, and His plan is good for us. If God can bring His Son back from the dead (and He did), and if God has promised everlasting life to those who trust in Jesus (and He has), and if He will be with us always (and He will), then what is there to worry about?

I tend to worry about my children–that I will fail them as a father. No doubt Joseph’s father, Israel (the name God gave to Jacob and where the nation of Israel gets its name), felt like a failure on that day that his sons reported that Joseph had been killed. But God was in control, working out His plan. Israel saw the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living (cf. Psalm 27:13), and he realized the truth: God is able to use the worst tragedies to bring about redemption and rescue.

Joseph’s story is a great story, and it doesn’t end with Him. It continues on to the Messiah and through Messiah to his people. Are you one of His people? Trust in Him!

One Sure-Fire Way to Grow in Spiritual Health this Summer

Before we begin, join me, for the sake of argument, in assuming two things:

  1. You have a spirit.
  2. Your spirit could be healthier.

Your spirit is the deepest core of who you are.  It’s the truest essence of “self” that you have. It’s your very life. When your spirit departs your body (i.e. when you die), your body dies. Ever since our Creator breathed the first human spirit into the first human body (creating the first human being), all people ever since have been both physical and spiritual (or “psychosomatic”).  While it is relatively easy to find reliable data on how to pursue physical health, when it comes to spiritual health, things get a littler more murky. There are countless traditions, techniques, and writings out there on how to grow in spiritual health, but I want to suggest one simple, repeatable, and enormously beneficial practice that is guaranteed to grow you in spiritual health.

That practice is: study the Bible with followers of Jesus.

Now, you might object that you aren’t a Christian. That’s fine, you don’t have to be one, to study the Bible with some. If you live close to a Bible-believing church, call them up and see if your local pastor or church leader can recommend any Bible-study groups meeting in your neighborhood. But the goal must be to get into a group where followers of Jesus–Christians–are studying the Bible together.

Why do I say that this practice is guaranteed to grow you spiritually? There are three reasons:

It’s God’s own recommendation for spiritual growth.

In the ancient book of Deuteronomy, it’s recorded that God told His people, “man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord” (Deuteronomy 8:3). Later, in another book (Hebrews, chapter 10), it is written, “…let us watch out for one another to provoke love and good works, not neglecting to gather together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging each other, and all the more as you see the day approaching.” So the Bible is like food for the soul, and we’re instructed to gather together for encouragement. Together, we see a strong recommendation for studying the Bible together. 

It will give you access to supernatural insight.

Jesus famously told His disciples, “…I tell you truly that if two of you on the earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by My Father in heaven. For where two or three gather together in my name, there I am with them” (Matthew 18:19-20). Jesus does not physically show up at every gathering of His followers; rather He shows up by God’s Spirit–the Holy Spirit, who indwells every true Christian. When Christians gather together around God’s word, they should expect the Holy Spirit to give them insights together that transcend anything they could come up with on their own. This insight is relevant to life changes, to one’s relationships to God and others, and to simply understanding life’s important questions.

It works.

Studying the Bible with Christians has been one of the top three practices that have grown me spiritually. In other words, I know from experience. In case you’re wondering, the other two practices have been prayer and teaching (what you prepare for, you learn!). When I think back on the periods of my life in which I grew the most spiritually–when I grew in peace, humility and confidence, when my heart grew larger toward my fellowmen, I immediately think of early morning and late night conversations with followers of Jesus, had while studying Scripture together.

Where to find a group:

Many churches (and probably one in your area) offer small group ministries or so-called Sunday School classes. If you happen to find yourself in Chicago, click here to get connected through Park Community Church. Again, whether you have faith or not, whether you consider yourself a strong believer or are just looking into spirituality for the first time, my recommendation is: get in a group and study the Bible with followers of Jesus. It’s God’s own recommendation, it will give you access to supernatural insight, and it works.

On Being Prepared to Defend Your Faith

In the Bible, God instructs his people to be prepared at all times to give a response, whenever anyone asks us about the hope that we have.

Most followers of Jesus have probably heard that command, yet how many of us are confident that we could, at the drop of the proverbial hat, feel ready to give an adequate defense of the Christian message?

A few months back, I was asked to create a resource that will answer the biggest objections and questions that people have about the Christian faith. If you know anything about me, you know that one of my main passions in life is tackling the tough questions–I do not always have the answers, but it’s a real thrill tracking them down. And I happen to be a believer that, as God’s breathed-out word (2 Tim. 3:16-17), the Bible has the answers contained within it; any resource like this is going to direct folks right back to Scripture. So the thought of creating a resource that would defend Christianity against the toughest objections out there, and encourage my friends at Park to get deeper into the Bible, was really exciting to me. It was exciting to the other Park pastors as well–and a couple of them actually had enough margin in their schedules (a small miracle to be sure, given that many are husbands and dads–and all are incredibly busy) to be able to come alongside me on the project.

This initiative will certainly be aimed at non-believers who have real questions and objections, but it will also be for equipping Christ-followers to obey that command that we all know, but most of us never quite feel ready for: defending the faith.

More details will follow. However, in the meantime, maybe your interest in defending the faith has been piqued. If that’s the case, I want to recommend the blog of another Settecase–my brother Parker. Parker has been tackling some of the toughest questions and objections against the Christian faith for awhile now, and he does it well. You can also check out my older blog, with the unfortunate title, “Don’t Forget to Think.” And one final recommendation: go get The Reason for God, by Timothy Keller, right now. Read it and re-read it, then hand it off to a friend (maybe that one friend or coworker with all the objections about God that you never quite know how to answer). You will be glad you did.

Every follower of Jesus needs to be able to obey the command to be prepared to defend his or her faith. The steps we take today can prepare you to better do that tomorrow. Happy preparing!

App Recommendation: PrayerMate

I used to be a youth pastor. And one of the most significant events on any youth ministry’s calendar is the annual lock-in. They take a ton of prep work and team building, but the intense teaching, prayer and sharing time can have an incredible impact on the students who attend.  I remember one time at one such lock-in, my friend Larry, who was serving as one of the guys’ group leaders, asked his small group a question: “If you had God’s cell number, and you could ask Him any one question, what would you ask?” That question sparked some deep, thoughtful answers from the students–who ranged from spiritually mature to more immature. Of course, the question is somewhat unrealistic, given that God doesn’t have a phone number. Yet it also communicated a powerful point that night, because the fact is, we can talk to God anytime we want. He is easier to reach than if we had Him on speed dial; we can contact Him through prayer.

Prayer, I submit, is probably the most powerful, most under-utilized resource of the Christian life.

Now, if you are not yet a follower of Jesus, maybe you pray and maybe you do not (I know unbelievers who do all the time, and some who would not dream of it). But I would pause right now and encourage you to pray the most important prayer of your life: repent of your sin and receive Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord. The Bible promises that, “If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9). This is because, “One believes with the heart, resulting in righteousness, and one confesses with the mouth, resulting in salvation” (Romans 10:10). If you call out to Jesus in prayer to save you, He will not deny you. 

Alright, I am going to make the assumption that every (former) non-Christian reading this post has now become a Christian, and that everyone reading this is now officially following Jesus Christ (a bold assumption? Certainly. But go with me here).

Now, my dear Christ-following friend, let’s talk about Larry’s question. If you could get God on the phone, what would you ask Him? Or what would you share with Him? Or what would you praise Him for? Or what would you confess? What kind of help would you request? Again, we do not need to pick up the phone. We can close our eyes or look skyward and simply speak to Him, and He will hear us. How astonishing should that be to us? And how much do we take that for granted? How much do we neglect this wonderful opportunity that we have to communicate with our Father and Creator?

If you are like me, you wish your prayer life were better. You know you ought to pray more. You have even promised some people that you could pray for them (if you came to this post from Facebook, maybe you recently commented “praying!” on someone’s post. Sound familiar?), but for some reason you cannot seem to get any kind of consistency in prayer. Maybe you have read or heard about the great men and women of the faith who prayed for hours a day and saw God provide in magnificent ways. Whatever your situation, if you are Christian, you ought to pray, and pray often. But we don’t pray like we should. Why not?

We don’t pray because we are busy. We don’t pray because we don’t really understand how it works, or because we have unanswered questions about prayer’s effects. We don’t pray because we simply don’t think about it, or we forget. We don’t pray because we believe we think prayer is only for dire circumstances, and life (while frantic at times) is under control right now. We’ll get serious about prayer, but… later. When we can figure it out.

My friends, that time has come. I present to you, the PrayerMate prayer app. I will cut to the chase (because I have recommended PrayerMate before): PrayerMate has transformed my prayer life. Its features are super practical and helpful. It lets you quickly create prayer categories and customize how many requests you want to pray for (and from which categories) every session. Then it shuffles your prayer “cards” for you, so that you never pray for the same request in any category twice, before you get to them all.

getting_started1I have tried prayer journals, but I don’t always have my journal with me, and it becomes hard to track the requests as God answered them. PrayerMate lets you archive subjects when they are answered or no longer relevant. It will also let you set push notifications, reminding you to pray at certain times of day. It is super easy to set up.

I have been using PrayerMate for about two years now. Recently, however, I upped my game. I actually deleted my Instagram app (a huge time waster for me), and set my PrayerMate app to serve me up three subjects per session. Now, when I habitually grab for my phone, instead of flipping through Insta-time-wasting pictures, I send up three quick prayer requests. And every session ends with, “Now may the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, guard your heart and mind in Christ Jesus” (from Philippians 4:7). So multiple times a day, I’m praying God’s peace over my heart and mind. This is having an impact on my decision-making and wisdom already.

You and I have the ability to speak with God. Let’s not waste another day on prayerlessness.

Catechism Qs 3-4

How many Persons are in the Godhead?

Three!

Who are the Persons in the Godhead?

The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

As soon as Jesus was baptized, he came up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened. Jesus saw the Spirit of God coming down on him like a dove.  A voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, and I love him. I am very pleased with him.”

Matthew 3:16-17 (NIrV)

May the grace shown by the Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. May the love that God has given us be with you. And may the sharing of life brought about by the Holy Spirit be with you all.

2 Corinthians 13:14 (NIrV)

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit….

Matthew 18:19 (NET)

Going back to the early years of this American experiment, there was a growing concern around the issue of diversity. The first settlers to arrive here from the Old World were English, but it did not take long for a large number of German immigrants to arrive. The Americans of English descent, then, began to worry that their anglo culture would be overcome by the norms, traditions, and religion of the Germans. It was a question of, how will this country achieve a sense of unity amidst all this diversity. Of course, there were two other people groups on the scene–namely the Native Americans and African-Americans–and it could be argued that the anglos did not exactly incorporate these two groups very well (but that is a discussion for another time).

Today, the question of unity amidst diversity has not gone away. In many ways it has intensified. And the question is relevant on every level, from a global scale (how will refugees from Syria integrate into Western culture?) down to our own homes (how will my son who wants to watch “Ninja Turtles” get along with his sister who is dying to watch “Strawberry Shortcake?”)

In the Bible, the question of unity and diversity is solved. And the answer comes in the very nature of who God is. The Scriptures present God to us as one God, ever-existing in three Persons. These are not three “personalities,” as though God were schizophrenic, but actual, distinct Persons. And yet God is one.

So, Christianity is monotheistic, believing in the one true God. Yet the one God has revealed to us as a Trinity–a tri-unity or “three-one-ity.” So there it is: God, the foundation of reality, in whom we all live, move and have our being (Acts 17:28) is united-in-diversity. The Father is not the Son is not the Holy Spirit. And these three are one.

If your children are toddlers, do not expect them to grasp this concept (as an adult, do you grasp it?!). It is enough for now that they know that there is one true God, and there are three persons in the “Godhead,” or divine nature. And this basic doctrine can be the foundation upon which you can build into your kids the complementary truths that (1) different does not automatically mean bad, and (2) it’s good to be united around what really matters.

The Doctrine of the Trinity is essential for understanding how the Church, which is a diverse bunch if ever there was one(!), can be one family–and how a family can love each other, even if its members are not all the same.

How does the Doctrine of the Trinity affect the way you see the world? Let me know.

Catechism Q2: Is there more than one true God?

Is there more than one true God?

No!

Israel, listen to me. The Lord is our God. The Lord is the one and only God.

Deuteronomy 6:4 (NIrV)

I wanted you to understand that I am the one and only God. Before me, there was no other god at all. And there will not be any god after me.

Isaiah 43:10b (NIrV)

You are my witnesses. Is there any other God but me? No! There is no other Rock. I do not know even one.

Isaiah 44:8b (NIrV)

The Bible makes it clear, over and over again, that there is one God. There is one great King who sits on the universe’s throne. Sure, there are many false claimants to God’s throne–many who are called “gods”–but there is only one true God. In a way, this makes Christianity a very simple faith. And it sets Christianity against a litany of other religious options, such as…

  • Polytheism–(ancient paganism and modern Hinduism) teaches that there are many gods and spirits, who must be appealed to for different needs. However the Bible teaches one God, who supplies all our needs.
  • Henotheism (ancient regional religions and similar to Mormonism) teaches that there are many gods, but only one “for us.” Yet the Bible says that there is only one God, and He is God of all, and must be worshiped by all.
  • Pluralism (modern, Western political correctness) teaches that all views of God are equally valid. However, the Bible teaches that there is only one correct view of God, and that is the view He Himself reveals to us.
  • Gnosticism and Arianism (practiced in the first few centuries A.D. and similar to what Jehovah’s Witnesses believe) teach that there is one high God, and at least one created, demi-god under Him. Yet the Bible teaches that there is only One deserving of the title “God,” and that is the uncreated God, the Lord, the Creator of everything.

Whether or not someone subscribes to one of the religions mentioned above, our modern world is filled with false gods–as my son Cubby and I call them, “pretend gods.” Scripture calls them idols.

An idol–a pretend god–is not just something you bow down in front of. Tim Keller defines an idol this way:

It is anything more important to you than God, anything that absorbs your heart and imagination more than God, anything you seek to give you what only God can give…

An idol is whatever you look at and say, in your heart of hearts, “If I have that, then I’ll feel my life has meaning, then I ‘ll know I have value, then I’ll feel significant and secure.” There are many ways to describe that kind of relationship to something, but perhaps the best one is worship.

We are tempted to give our hearts over to false “gods” every day. That’s why this basic, biblical truth, summed up in just one short word, is so important: “Is there more than one true God? No!

My Encounter with an LGBT Revolutionary

I just had the opportunity to speak with Nick, an advocate for the Homosexual/Bisexual/Transgender movement, right here in downtown Naperville. I heard him approaching other passers-by, asking if they had a minute to discuss “trans rights.”
 
Nick was recruiting for the Human Rights Campaign–an organization on the forefront of the push to redefine nearly all aspects of human sexuality and identity. You’ve probably seen their logo on the back of the car driving in front of you: a yellow equals sign on a navy blue background. He himself identified as gay, and he really seemed like a genuinely amicable person.
 
So Nick and I had a short, cordial conversation, and our differences came to the forefront very quickly when I started asking him questions.
 
I asked him (from genuine curiosity) whether he believed it was acceptable for a person with a male body to self-identify as female (he said yes), and why he believed that. That’s where it got interesting.
 
Nick didn’t know. He appealed to, “morality,” but then he couldn’t tell me where morality comes from. He believes people have souls, and that sometimes a female soul is matched up wrongly into a male body. He believes in a higher power, but not God–at least, not the God of the Bible (I explained that the foundation for my worldview was on God’s revelation in the Bible–and he laughed and said something like, “You and I totally disagree”).
 
I told him that, it seemed like his beliefs were based solely on blind faith, and he agreed. I explained that his reasoning was also circular–he felt something was right, because his feelings told him to feel that way. He had no response to that.
 
At that point he checked his watch, and it was time to go catch the train.
 
Nick was out on the street recruiting for the HRC and pushing the sexual revolution, because he really believes in their cause. But he literally could not explain why he believes in the cause. He’s pushing a cause without a reason beyond his own feelings that it is right.
 
My goal in talking with Nick was not to out-argue him or prove him wrong. I actually approached him because I wanted to learn how he could believe that a female soul could get mixed up into a male body. But in the course of our brief discussion I was impressed with a very important truth.
 
My friends, it is not sane or reasonable to have an incoherent worldview. Our minds were designed by God to search for and find the truth. When we abandon that search for knowledge in favor of our feelings, we lose all ability to think deeply about our beliefs–or even the world around us.
 
My own personal feelings are not an adequate foundation for a coherent and true worldview. Neither are yours. We need objective truth, and that has to be revealed to us. That is what the Bible is: revealed truth from Someone who knows everything.
 
Pray for Nick and those who are caught up in the LGBT movement. May God illuminate them with the light that is the life of men–the Lord Jesus Christ.
 
“For God has not given us a spirit of fearfulness, but one of power, love, and sound judgment” (2 Timothy 1:7).

Overcoming Objections: Christianity Is False Because It Has No Priestly System

The Egyptians did it.

The Jews definitely did it.

Babylonians? Yep. They did it too.

Same goes for the Greeks and Romans.

Even the Aztecs, Incas and Mayans did it.

What do all these ancient civilizations have in common? They all had their own religious systems. And those religious systems all involved sacrifices. And those sacrifices were offered by priests. This fact led to one of the early objections to Christianity as a fledgling religious system.

Every religious system in history, from the dawn of civilization until the dawn of Christianity, has always had some kind of priestly sacrificial system. While these cultures’ religions differed on who the divine was and how to best appease it, they all agreed that the Divine did need to be appeased. And the way to appease the divine was universally understood to be by blood sacrifice, performed by a priestly class, carried out in temples. The priest acted as the mediator between God and man.

Enter Christianity: no priests,  no temples, no blood sacrifices. To ancient minds, this made no sense. It was well known that the Divine wrath over human wickedness needed to be propitiated (satisfied). Without priests offering blood sacrifice, it would have been argued, there was no way to propitiate divine wrath. Therefore, any religious worshipers lacking in the priest department must also have been lacking in the brains department. Christianity didn’t satisfy the universal human need for sacrifice. Christianity wasn’t true, because it had no mediator between God and humanity. Every religion worth its salt has a priestly system. Hey Christians, where are all your priests?

To overcome this ancient objection, let’s turn to the Bible, to the book of Hebrews. This book is a sort of sermon-letter hybrid, written to second-generation Christians of ethnic Jewish descent. At this time, Christianity was in the process of breaking away from Judaism, but it was still seen as a Jewish sect.

The above argument seems to have been lodged against the Hebrew Christians in an attempt to discredit their fledgling faith and convince them to return to the more “sensible” Jewish religion. After all, they were ethnically Jewish, and the religion their parents left had sacrifices ordained by God Himself. Come on, Christians, get your acts together. Get back to the true religion–the one with the priests!

In fact, one commentator points out that Jews and Gentiles alike found it difficult to believe the Christian message, because of the lack of a visible priestly system.

So the author of Hebrews writes to address this objection and reassure his Christian audience. 

He writes in Hebrews 4:14, “Since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession” (ESV, emphasis added).

Their confession was their public declaration that Jesus Christ is Lord and Savior, send by God as the prophet, priest and king over heaven and earth. The author says that the Hebrew Christians should hold fast to this belief, because not only do they have a high priest, but they have a better high priest than the Jewish religion they left.

Christians have a great high priest, but you won’t see Him ascending the steps of a stone temple to offer daily sacrifices.

Christians do have a priest, but you don’t have to go to Jerusalem to meet with Him. In fact, you don’t even have to go to your local cathedral.

Christians do have a priest, but you don’t have to bring him sacrifices to offer, because He provided the sacrifice. And His Sacrifice was so sufficient, that one was all He needed.

What was the sacrifice offered by this high priest? He offered Himself.

Then, after Jesus died for sinners, He resurrected. Over the next forty days he appeared to over five hundred eyewitnesses, and then He ascended (the author says he “passed through the heavens” to God’s own throne room. Jesus did not go to a manmade temple, but to the place that all those temples were symbols of. There he sits at the Father’s right hand, where He always lives to mediate between God’s people and God Himself.

Jesus Christ is the perfect priest. Who better to mediate between humanity and divinity than the One who embodies both?

So the objection that Christianity has no mediator falls flat. We have a priest who satisfies God’s wrath over sin, because He paid it Himself. Now He is the “great high priest” whose work is finished.

Beware any religious teacher who tells you that you need a merely human priest to make you right with God. Think about that: if (merely) human priests could fully satisfy our debt, then why did they have to keep making all those sacrifices, year after year, for millennia?

All those priests who came before could not make an eternal effect; they were shadows of the real thing. Jesus is the real thing. He is the priest we need. You and I can trust Him to pay our debt of sin and reconcile us to God. His shed blood (grace alone) can wash away your sin, if you will turn your heart away from your sin (repent) and come to Him (by faith alone) as your priest.

How about you? Who are you trusting to make you right with God? Who is your priest? Don’t let it be anyone other than the one who “passed through the Heavens” for you.

#148

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written,

“For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure 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 creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (from the Letter to the Romans, chapter 8).

When God (through His servant Paul) calls His people “more than conquerors,” He isn’t talking about blessings and security in this life. No, the victory that belongs to followers of Christ is the same victory that Christ won for us when He rose from the grave: we are conquerors over sin, the evil one, and death. Because the Father has given us to the Son, because the Son has purchased us on the cross, by His precious blood, and because the Holy Spirit has united us to God by faith in Jesus Christ, we are secure in Him. Nothing can break the bond.

As the Apostle John writes in Revelation 14:13, “And I heard a voice from heaven saying, ‘Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.’ ‘Blessed indeed,’ says the Spirit, ‘that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them!’”

My friends, please pay attention! The tragic fate of the 148 Kenyan college students is, one way or another, the inevitable fate of each and every one of us. We are headed for physical death–one day you and I will draw our last breath. The only, only thing that will matter when your heart stops beating is the one thing that matters most now: who is Jesus Christ to you?

Has He saved you? Has He given you a new life, one that will last forever? To die in the Lord, Scripture says, is “blessed.” Every believer in Jesus, who was killed in Kenya, is right now before the throne of God Himself, “resting from their labors.” Do you know that rest? Do you know Jesus? Is He your only hope in life and in death?

We are all going to die. But to live and die without knowing Him–that would be the real tragedy.

#UAskIAnswer 11: Will Terrorism Ever Stop?

#UAskIAnswer is a series of answers to questions raised (mainly) by the students of the Pointe and Momentum, Grace Pointe Plainfield’s student ministries. For the rest of the series, check it out over at The Youth Room. I am continuing the series here on my pastoral blog. 

I was asked recently whether I think terrorism will ever stop, and whether I think it will come here to Illinois.

My answer is this: Jesus promised his followers that they would have “tribulation”–persecution, suffering and hardship–in this world (John 16:33). Terrorism, whether from radical Muslims, or atheists, or other so-called “Christians” will probably remain a part of this world until the Lord Jesus returns to judge the living and the dead.

Will terrorism come to Illinois? There is no way to know. However, terrorist attacks have recently happened in very unexpected places, all over the world. Illinois may certainly be a target, although we hope and pray for God’s protection.

What Jesus promised his people, however, is not physical protection. That verse, John 16:33, continues as Jesus says, “but take heart! I have overcome the world.” The hope of the Christian is not in physical security, but in everlasting, spiritual security. Jesus Christ really has overcome the world; He did that when He died on the cross and resurrected, to save His people from their sins.

When we are tempted to fear a terrorist attack, we need to remember that the terrorists are not our real enemy, and they are not to be feared. The Bible says in Ephesians 6:12 that,

…we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.

And Jesus commands Christians not to, “fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” When it comes to real fearsomeness, terrorists have got nothing on the almighty God of the universe. And that same God, who is able to cast every sinner (terrorists, you and me included) into hell forever, is the same God who calls Himself Father. He is the One who sent His only-begotten Son into the world, taking on the likeness of sinful flesh, and dying a death at the hand of terrorists, on behalf of everyone who will every believe in Him.

See, the Bible says that all people are born as sinners into a sinful world. We suppress God’s truth–truth about God and truth about other people–and that leads to us hurting ourselves and our neighbors. Terrorists are a stark example of that being played out, but we all do it. It comes from suppression of God’s truth. Because of our sin, we all need a Savior.

It is my urgent hope (hence the name of this blog) that everyone who reads this will see their need for a Savior, and will repent of their own sin, and trust in Jesus Christ alone to save them from God’s wrath and give them everlasting life.

For an encouraging story of a former Muslim jihadist who repented and gave his life to Jesus the Messiah, watch the video below. It’s a really powerful reminder of the importance of loving those who would call us their enemies. In doing that, we are simply sharing the incredible love that the Father has given us. Check it out: