• Our hope-filled future is bound up in sharing the story of Jesus, in discipling others, in bringing those disciples together into communities of believers, and in developing and releasing those believers to create other communities... till Jesus the King comes again!

The Gospel Responds to ALL our needs

Day by day, as we listen to the news reports coming from around the world, we are further struck by the injustice, intolerance, hatred and anger that fills the hearts of people today.  Like the psalmist, we cry out: “Why, O Lord, do you stand far away?  Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?”  (10:1)

The damages caused by pandemic crises, inequality, racism, and a disregard for the lives of others made in the image of God make it hard to know where to begin to respond in the midst of this mess we call our world today.

Our “hope is built on nothing less than Jesus and His righteousness”.  It is the Gospel that responds to ALL our needs.  For we who trust in Jesus, it is self-evident that the only hope for this world is the Gospel of Christ.

Here’s the rub.  First, I misquoted the hymn above by Edward Mote (19th century).  It should read: our “hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness”.  Jesus gave Himself up as a sacrifice for us: His blood was shed for us. He experienced discrimination, prejudice, evil intent, and even an unjust death in order to free us from the power of sin & evil to rule our lives.  Second, for the Gospel to be the answer to ALL the needs of this world, it needs to be the answer to ALL our needs as well.  As a friend once said to me: “If the Gospel is not good news for us each day, it will not be good news for others.” 

That same injustice, intolerance, hatred and anger that we deplore in our world today lurks (lies in wait) in each of our hearts.  The Gospel needs to search our hearts (Psalm 139.23-24) and put its searchlight of truth on those ways where we need repentance and faith.

We are no better than others, but we have a God who is capable of dismantling those ‘hurtful ways’ within us, and a God who continually builds into us the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience ….

I leave us with this prayer:  “We weep. We lament. We mourn. But not as those who have no hope.  May gospel beauty rise from these smoldering, literal ashes. May truth triumph over lies and grace conquer lawlessness. May your people be one as you, O Father, and your Son are one. May the church—the body of Christ, the bride of Christ—rise up as an example of love and with a message of salvation for a weary and war-torn world. Give us grace to serve you, O God, and, if necessary, grace to suffer for what is right. Give us the peace and health and safety we do not deserve. Give us the reformation and revival we need.  Lord have mercy.”

Why the future is clear

The question that seems to fuel most conversations these days is: when?

When will we be able to travel again (by plane, train or automobile)?  When will restaurants and cafes be open again?  When will life return to some semblance of normalcy?  When will we no longer have to wear a face mask?  When will we be able to hug loved ones again?

You get the idea.  “When?” is an important question and one with a multitude of possible applications to our daily lives.

However, the “when?” question can also be quite debilitating because it tends to leave us in a kind of limbo situation.  For example, not knowing when trains will start running again, we can’t make any plans to visit friends in the south of France or Italy.  All our plans are in an ‘up in the air’ phase.

The future simply seems unclear.

Then the disciple Peter reminds us that this is not the case:  “According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.  In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials …” (1 Peter 3-6)

The limbo and the uncertainty can be faced by telling ourselves again of the hope (defined as that settled and sure confidence in God’s promise) we have in Christ.  Our hope is one that is alive, that has been reserved for us, and whose assurance grows day by day as we think on it. 

None of us know when we will be able to meet again for corporate worship, visit family living far away or gather with other World Team workers from around the world.  However, the when of the ‘new normal’ is not what should define us.

Rather, it is Jesus, the centre of all of life.  Focusing on Him (and the hope He gives and has reserved for us) will give us the patience, the joy, and the courage to face the constant when question without letting it ultimately define us and our hope.

I can still remember

I can still remember the first time I heard him speak.  It was at a Christian & Missionary Alliance Conference Center (Delta Lake) just a year or two into married life.  I can even remember the title of his message: “The Crumbling Pillars of Atheism”.  The message was so engaging that when I next looked at my watch, I realized the evening speaker, Ravi Zacharias, had been speaking for 1h15 and I had not even noticed the time go by.  Ever had an experience like that?

What shaped the work to which God called him was the principle he shared at the gathering of itinerant evangelists in Amsterdam in 1983: “We sometimes think it is necessary to so humiliate someone of a different worldview that we think unless we destroy everything he holds valuable, we cannot preach to him the gospel of Christ…what I am saying is this, when you are trying to reach someone, please be sensitive to what he holds valuable.” The direction of apologetics would be changed from that point on.  He sought to bring others to the knowledge of Christ by compassion, sensitivity and a thorough going understanding of the truth of God’s Word.

Two events or historical notes from Ravi’s life provide a small glimpse into what fueled this commitment to Christ.

On one trip across remote land, Zacharias and his travel companions’ car broke down. The lone jeep that passed ignored their roadside waves. They finally cranked the engine to life and set off, only to come across the same jeep a few miles on, overturned and riddled with bullets, all four passengers dead. He later said of this moment, “God will stop our steps when it is not our time, and He will lead us when it is.” Days later, Zacharias and his translator stood at the graves of six missionaries, killed unarmed when soldiers stormed their compound. Zacharias knew some of their children. It was that level of trust in God, and the desire to stand beside those who minister in areas of great risk, that is a hallmark of the ministry he started.”

In 2018, Zacharias told the story of standing with his successor, Michael Ramsden, in front of Lazarus’s grave in Cyprus. The stone simply reads, “Lazarus, four days dead, friend of Christ.” Zacharias turned to Ramsden and said if he was remembered as “a friend of Christ that would be all I want.”

Ravi Zacharias entered into the presence of Christ earlier this week. 

May we worship and serve the living Savior with such joy and passion: “To love and serve Thee is my share, and this Thy grace must give.”  (Richard Baxter)

Pray like previous generations

A prayer to challenge and encourage us:

Give me a deeper trust, that I may lose myself to find myself in You, the ground of my rest, the spring of my being. Give me a deeper knowledge of Yourself as saviour, master, lord, and king. Give me deeper power in private prayer, more sweetness in Your Word, more steadfast grip on its truth. Give me deeper holiness in speech, thought, action, and let me not seek moral virtue apart from You.”

Praying ‘purely’

A prayer to challenge and encourage us:

My dear Lord, I can but tell You that You know I long for nothing but Yourself, nothing but holiness, nothing but union with Your will. You have given me these desires, and You alone canst give me the thing desired.

My soul longs for communion with You, for mortification of indwelling corruption, especially spiritual pride. How precious it is to have a tender sense and clear apprehension of the mystery of godliness, of true holiness!

What a blessedness to be like You as much as it is possible for a creature to be like its creator! Lord, give me more of Your likeness; enlarge my soul to contain fullness of holiness; engage me to live more for You. Help me to be less pleased with my spiritual experiences, and when I feel at ease after sweet communings, teach me it is far too little I know and do.

Blessed Lord, let me climb up near to You, and love, and long, and plead, and wrestle with You, and pant for deliverance from the body of sin, for my heart is wandering and lifeless, and my soul mourns to think it should ever lose sight of its beloved.

Wrap my life in divine love, and keep me ever desiring You, always humble and resigned to Your will, more fixed on Yourself, that I may be more fitted for doing and suffering.”

Lament & anchor

It goes without saying that we live in a day where our hearts cry out like the psalmist: “How long, O Lord?  Will you forget me (us) forever?  How long will you hide your face from me (us)?”  (13:1)  Whether we are questioning how long this pandemic will create suffering among the populations of the world or how long we will remain under lockdown and be restricted in daily living and ministry, the ‘how long’ effect slowly erodes our patience and perseverance.

We lament the change from how life was just a few months ago to what it is now; the ‘new normal’ as some call it.  Our hearts yearn for a return to the ‘normal’; to be able to get back to or get on with ministry as we were experiencing it in December and January.

To lament means that we acknowledge the reality we now experience.  Yes, it would be nice to go back to life as it was before, but we know it is not the case at this point.  This transition to a new ‘normal’ reminds us of what we miss, of what we have lost, of what we long for again.

However, lamenting must be tied to anchoring.  Anchoring means that we secure our lives in what is true, rock-solid, and can hold us from being tossed about in the winds of difficulty and change. As we acknowledge the current reality, we anchor our hearts in what we know is true by reminding ourselves of what God has done (past blessings) and what He will do (future hope). 

This is where the psalmist went: “But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, because he has dealt bountifully with me.” (13:5-6) Notice the active nature of his ‘anchoring’: he put his trust in someone other than himself; he found ways to rejoice in the spiritual blessings given to him; and he sang with his voice the praises of His God.

If you are like me, you are feeling pretty weary these days.  Share that openly, but then look around for glimmers of that ‘steadfast love which endures forever’ in which you can anchor our souls.  Those glimmers can be found all around us.

When I am afraid of evils to come, comfort me by showing me that in myself I am a dying, condemned wretch, but in Christ I am reconciled and live; that in myself I find insufficiency and no rest, but in Christ there is satisfaction and peace; that in myself I am feeble and unable to do good, but in Christ I have ability to do all things … Amen.”