Walking into difficulties

God calls his people into difficulties.  We see this throughout the bible.

Adam was called to subdue the earth.  Noah was called to build a boat in the desert.  Abraham was called to travel to an unknown country.  Moses was called to confront the most powerful man on earth.  Esther was called to interrupt the king possibly leading to her death. Jesus called his disciples to follow him – a poor homeless teacher.

When you follow Jesus, he doesn’t just make you a comfy bed, fluff your pillow and provide “Holy Spirit room service” whenever you get hungry.

When you follow Jesus, God calls you into difficult places with difficult people doing difficult tasks.  And that is HARD!

It’s not easy to be faithful in London.  It’s not easy being faithful anywhere in the world.

But thankfully we have a God who not only calls us into difficult situations, he has gone before us and promises to be with us as we walk into the difficulties of life.

The night Jesus was arrested, he prayed “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” (Luke 22:42)

Thankfully, Jesus continued forward into the difficulty before him.

May his followers do the same.

Quick Book Review: “Renaissance” by Os Guinness

I picked this book up for three reasons: it was written by Os Guinness, it was endorsed by Tim Keller and it was cheap (I picked it up used at Covenant Seminary). These are not necessarily good reasons for choosing a book, but I’m glad I did.836714_f450

Os Guinness is an English social critic who has a PhD from Oxford, worked with Francis Schaeffer and is the great-great-great-grandson of the Irish brewer. Years ago, I read his book, The Call, and still recommend it for anyone wondering what to do with their life.

The subtitle of Renaissance is “The Power of the Gospel However Dark the Times”. This fairly short read of 149 pages is intended to answer the question, “Is there hope for societal redemption and renewal?”

Guinness’ answer is a resounding yes, but…

After setting the stage for the book in chapter 1, Guinness articulates three great challenges for the current global church in chapter 2:

  1.  “to prepare the Global South for the challenges that are coming along with the forces of development and modernization”
  2. “to win back the Western world to Jesus”
  3. “to contribute constructively to the human future”

In chapter 3, Guinness makes an argument for importance of Christianity upon Western culture, all the while understanding that “all Christian cultures will be flawed like the Christians who create them…but Christian faithfulness will always have cultural consequences.”

Chapter 4 is entitled “The Secret of Cultural Power”.  What is that secret? Quoting C.S.Lewis, Guinness argues that there is an “underlying paradox” in the fact that the Christian faith is “both ‘world-affirming’ and ‘world denying’ at the same time.” A full Christian understanding of reality recognizes that the Creation is both good AND fallen.

The final two chapters work out the details of what it means to live in a world that has been created good but is corrupted by sin. Christians must always strive for peace and justice in the here and now, but hold onto hope knowing that we will only see perfect peace and justice by the mighty hand of God.

In wrapping up, Guinness sounds the call for faithful Christian cultural engagement: “The time has come to trust God, move out, sharing and demonstrating the good news, following his call and living our callings in every area of our lives, and then leave the outcome to him.”

At the end of each chapter are several discussion questions making this a appropriate book for a small group to study. “Renaissance” is written in an understandable prose but with deep concepts which defy simplistic answers to complex cultural questions. I would recommend this book to any Christian seeking to understand how to live faithfully in today’s day and age.

The Evangelical Manifesto makes up the final 30 pages. This 2008 document seeks to define and redeem the word “evangelical” as an adjective for followers of Jesus.

But God…for good works (Devotional from Eph 2)

Yesterday, I was asked to give a short devotional to a group of teens. Speaking from Ephesians 2, I made these 4 points:

1. Eph 2:1 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins

It was easy to read a verse like this when I was a teen and think that Paul wasn’t talking about me. I was one of the good guys. In high school, I knew this because I didn’t get drunk on Friday night, I wasn’t having sex and I didn’t swear. Plus I went to church every Sunday. I thought Paul was talking about those real non-Christians like atheists, Muslims and drug addicts.

2. Eph 2:3 we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind

Paul here switches his terms to include all of us. We ALL once lived in the passions of our flesh. LIKE THE REST OF MANKIND – every human being is by nature a child of wrath.  Slowly in my early 20’s God opened my eyes to the fact that I was a prideful, lustful, selfish young man. None of us can stand before our holy Creator and say, “I’m pretty good!”

3. Eph 2:4 But God, being rich in mercy

BUT GOD – what a great phase! God has broken into our lives in more ways then we can imagine. Many of us were born into middle class Christian families who taught us the scriptures from the youngest age. It wasn’t our choice not to be born in a slum in India or to a mother on drugs in North Philadelphia. It wasn’t my choice to be born to a loving family were both my parents loved Jesus, each other, and me. But God had a plan. He not only ordained my family but He brought people into my life who taught me and challenged me.

4. Eph 2:10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works

We are united to Christ by faith for a purpose – FOR GOOD WORKS. We do not come to follow Jesus so that we can live comfortable lives for 70 or 80 years and then die and go to heaven. No – God calls us into His mission when He gives us a new heart. The grace of God has been poured out for a purpose. May we live our lives now in light of the grace of Christ and follow him into the good works God has planned for us. We all, who have tasted the grace of God, are on mission with Christ Jesus.

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