25 Reasons Why Christians Should Welcome (Not Ban) Immigrants & Refugees
To begin with, I acknowledge (and would encourage others to acknowledge) the complexity of Revelation. Amidst the varieties of interpretations, the worst in my mind would be the kind that oversimplifies and overlooks the complexities of Revelation. If we claim to understand every image or symbol without any qualification, then maybe our hubris is preceding our exegesis.
That being said, neither do I think that Revelation is beyond comprehension for the average reader — especially the average reader in the time of the Apostle John. He was not writing a “code book” with codes that could only be deciphered by religious elites in a closed room. Nor was he writing a book that a single individual in the 21st century would “decode” somehow. Neither of those options fit with the biblical version of Christianity that I know, and they sound more like gnosticism than orthodoxy.
Based on those underlying principles, my primary approach to Revelation is to ask, “What was John communicating to his original audience?” before asking, “What does this say about the future?” Of course, the two questions are interrelated, but the if we limit ourselves to future questions, then John’s text would have been nearly useless to his contemporaries. Thus, questions of the “present day” (i.e., John’s day) should remain at the fore as we read what John was saying about the future.
This leads me to read Revelation as thus: How do these texts encourage, correct, or instruct believers in light of John’s vision of the future? Or in other words, how does the apocalypse affect readers in a personal, practical, and proximate way? In answering those questions, I see Revelation as presenting the following argument: Eagerly anticipate the Coming King because certain and decisive victory awaits His faithful ones.
While there are warning passages throughout the book, the overall message is one of confidence and encouragement. No one — not the Jews, not the Romans, not the Babylonians, not Satan himself — can defeat the King of all Kings. By looking to the end, believers can be confident, avoiding temptation and remaining strong in the present age — even in the face of brutal enemies and potential martyrdom.
Christians, love in victory and in defeat.
When looking at situations throughout history and around the world, we know that Christians are not defeated by governments or political movements. Christians are not defeated by fire (Nero), policy (Mao Zedong), poverty (Indian castes), expulsion (Columbian tribes), terrorism (al-Shabaab), kindnappings (Boko Haram), or beheadings (ISIS). Oddly enough, Christians are not even defeated by crucifixion.
Even still, if you feel defeated by recent events, keep in mind that in every situation (not only situations of our choosing), Christ taught us to love God and to love our neighbors. Those are not conditional, but unconditional commandments — and are even more applicable in times of uncertainty, challenge, and confusion. So no matter how you feel, remember that we serve a resurrected King, and in His Kingdom, true love never waivers.
One of the often neglected benefits of the Church is her people.
We tend to see the worst of Christians in movies and sitcoms, but of the hundreds of Christians I am blessed to know, I am continually amazed by the compassion that I find. Take a bunch of sinners, put them in a room together, and you’ll be amazed by what God can do with them.
As I reflect upon the church, it is saddening that people live without it — not merely the experience of worshiping a Holy God, but the experience of knowing His people. And I’m not just talking about people to hang with, but people to hurt with — people who will shelter, feed, and comfort in the midst of life’s worst moments. After all, the church is not a building of wood or stone, but a people of flesh and blood.
If you haven’t experienced the life within a church, or if it’s been a while, send me a message. I’d be glad to help you find a local church in your area.
In the context of corporate worship, performance is defined in various, even opposing, ways. For some, the term “performance” is inherently human-centered and distracting from the ultimate purpose of worship. For others, “performance” can be a display of God’s gifting and grace that ultimately lead us to worship Him. For that reason, it is more helpful to think in terms of what would be unhealthy and healthy in the context of public worship and establishing criteria for both.
What follows is a list of characteristics to help us assess any kind of performance. Not all of these characteristics will be present every time, but they serve as general “marks” that we can use to assess whether performances are healthy or unhealthy.
- The performer or the performance receives more attention than God.
- The congregation does not engage spiritually, but merely admires the performance.
- Clapping and praise goes to an individual or a small ensemble rather than God.
- Compliments revolve around the performer rather than the content or message of the performance.
- Performers are concerned more with their performance than the transformation of people’s hearts.
- Anger or jealousy results after poor performances, or pride after impressive performances.
- Performances stray from the standards / regulations found in Scripture.
- People prefer the performance over their own engagement.
- Prayers for the congregation are neglected.
- The performer and congregation recognize that glory belongs to God. (Psalm 115:1)
- The performance serves an intentional, Christ-glorifying purpose in the overall worship service.
- The congregation is invited to participate in some way — e.g., meditating, praying, singing, etc.
- The message of the performance is rooted in biblical truth.
- Performers strive for excellence, but recognize that transformation results from the work of the Spirit.
- Generosity results after performances, longing to give others opportunities to share their gifts with others.
- Performances align with the examples and principles found in Scripture.
- People are led to the priority of God’s Word (proclamation & response) in the worship gathering.
- Prayers for the congregation are prioritized.
No one ever told me that my heart would feel this way.
Even the strongest Christians have their weak moments, but the sins of a friend can be depressing. Indeed, many times, a friend’s sin weighs even more than our own sin. We see evil from an outside perspective, and in small measure, we experience how God must feel.
It feels like heavy snow upon the heart. You watch as a friend delights in the world and buries their life in sin. You hope they will stop, come around, and realize what they are doing. You wonder what will happen next. You wonder if they know God at all. You pray that God will have mercy on another soul.
But rather than casting the sin out of our minds, acting as if it never happened, it is good to have heavy hearts. Scripture tells us to restore sinners in a “spirit of gentleness,” as if we were surgeons operating on our own child. When it comes to sin, we are dealing with something far more serious than we realize.
Furthermore, we can be susceptible to the same sins, so Scripture warns us to “keep watch on yourself” (Galatians 6:1). When we are apathetic or brash towards other people’s sin, we disregard Scripture and endanger ourselves, so God reminds us to feel the weight and tread lightly.
As you think of a friend or a relative who has made some poor decisions, take a moment to intercede for them and pray for your own strength
Simply defined, preaching is the intentional proclamation of the good news of Jesus Christ.
As proclamation, preaching occurs at a particular time, in a particular place, to a particular audience. Preaching requires that someone is listening, and it requires presence and immediacy that is unique compared to other forms of communication, such as a printed book or a video recording. Put another way, preaching requires particularity.
General or archived sermons (such as those used by satellite churches) serve a purpose, but do not qualify as preaching in the holistic sense. Such sermons do not address the particular needs of a particular congregation, which is composed of particular individuals at a particular time. As such, these sermons address general needs, but never address the particular needs of a particular people.
As Haddon Robinson once wrote, “In the Gospels we see that Christ never dealt with two people the same way… A sermon full of generalities hits no one in particular.” (The Art and Craft of Biblical Preaching, 117) In other words, Jesus recognized that preaching involves not only words, but the people being addressed. There is particularity when Jesus speaks, and preachers today should recognize how our Lord and Savior proclaimed the good news of His Kingdom.
Preaching is not a relic, nor an object for electronic archive, but an event that takes place in real-time and real space.
It is important to apply Colossians 3:23 to all aspects of life. In that verse, Paul reminds us that “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not men.” In other words, our work should be defined by maximum effort and the right motives.
Many of us miss the mark in one way or the other. Some people become accustomed to their situation, becoming overly comfortable, and slow down in their efforts. They may have good earthly reasons, such as a lack of pay or a mean boss, but they forget the ultimate purpose of their work. Other people work hard, but for the wrong reasons. They work to please men instead of the Lord, and in so doing, get distracted from the goal.
A.W. Tozer pointed out that we often live out of fear. We choose the easy route (fearing hard labor) or the common route (fearing opposition from others). In reality, the best choices in life are usually difficult and unpopular.
On this wonderful MLK day, let us remember the sacrifice and dedication of all those who have continued Christ’s work of bringing together all people. Our God is a God of reconciliation, and He is the one who unites different races and ethnicities. Let us celebrate His work through His Son and through His people.
For Christ himself has brought peace to us. He united Jews and Gentiles into one people when, in his own body on the cross, he broke down the wall of hostility that separated us… He made peace between Jews and Gentiles by creating in himself one new people from the two groups. Together as one body, Christ reconciled both groups to God by means of his death on the cross, and our hostility toward each other was put to death.
And this is God’s plan: Both Gentiles and Jews who believe the Good News share equally in the riches inherited by God’s children. Both are part of the same body, and both enjoy the promise of blessings because they belong to Christ Jesus. By God’s grace and mighty power, I have been given the privilege of serving him by spreading this Good News.
(Selections from Ephesians 2-3)