Category: Salvation (page 1 of 27)

Open Your Eyes

We are so blessed by God to be alive today during this particular time. We are so privileged to be alive during this current chapter of God’s Story. Right now, today, we are living during the in-breaking of the Kingdom of God! Because of the pouring out of God’s Holy Spirit on all people, through the Church, we get to see things and experience things nobody else could!

We get to participate as co-workers with God as he redeems and restores his creation. We get to experience Gods’ Spirit moving into and re-creating people. We get to watch as God moves into a place and reclaims it for his glory. The prophets could only speak of such things; we get to live it! Israel’s kings could only imagine the worldwide spread of God’s reign; we get to help fund it! Peter says angels long to see such things; we get to see them and live them every day!

Here at Central, we’ve watched and participated as the Route 66 strip club has been transformed into a place where every day 50 homeless and marginalized men and women gather for Bible study and grace and love and dignity and Christian community in the presence of God!

We’ve painted and prayed and stacked diapers and sorted car seats as the Planned Parenthood building down the street has become a place where nearly 900 young women last year said “No” to abortion and said “Yes” to God’s promise of life!

Open your eyes. God’s Kingdom is breaking out everywhere around us. Broken things are being fixed, what’s wrong is being made right. We’re so blessed by God to live when we do, right now, in the wonder and joy of his visible reign.

Peace,

Allan

Kingdom > Church (part 2)

The Hebrew Scriptures promised of a time when God would truly rule in people’s lives. He created and saved and called his people to be a Kingdom of priests for the whole world. But the Law and the Prophets talked about this Kingdom, not in terms of the religious rituals or the trappings of the establishment, but in terms of cooperating with God in fulfilling his ultimate mission. It was never intended to be about the institution. It was always meant to be about joining God in taking care of the orphans, the widows, and the strangers in the gate. Being a light to the Gentiles. Living your life in a way that reveals God and saves the world.

In Jeremiah 7, the old prophet’s preaching at the gates of the beautiful temple, the very symbol of the religion, and he says it’s not about this building or what goes on in here during corporate worship:

“Hear the Word of the Lord, all you people of Judah who come through these gates to worship the Lord. This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: ‘…Do not trust in deceptive words and say, ‘This is the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord!… Look, you are trusting in deceptive words that are worthless.'”

Later in the same chapter, Jeremiah says when you focus on what happens in here, you’re going backwards.

As Israel failed to live up to God’s vision for his people to protect the defenseless and feed the hungry and clothe the naked and house the poor; as Israel just couldn’t or wouldn’t keep it up; God’s prophets began to speak of a time that God himself would bring his everlasting Kingdom to earth. The Lord would reign supreme from sea to sea. Peace would come to all nations and the rule of God would transcend geography and politics and even religion. All of that is in the Old Testament.

The New Testament tells us that Jesus is the fulfillment of all those Kingdom hopes and promises.

Jesus preaches the Kingdom: “Repent! The Kingdom of God is near!” And what does he do? He frees the prisoner, heals the blind, rescues the oppressed. Those are the signs of the Kingdom. That’s the proof. When John the Baptist asks if Jesus is truly the Messiah, Jesus sends word back, “Look, you know the signs of the Kingdom. The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the Good News is preached to the poor.”

That’s the Kingdom.

Jesus, show us the Kingdom. What’s the Kingdom of God, Lord?

Never once did the Son of God ever say, “The Kingdom of God is that group over there that meets on Sundays for Bible class and worship.” “The Kingdom is identified by those who take communion once a week on the Lord’s Day and sing acappella.” “You’ll know the Kingdom when you get two songs and a prayer with announcements at the beginning and the end!”

No. Jesus says, here’s the Kingdom: it’s hurting people being comforted. It’s distressed people being encouraged. It’s cold people being warmed. It’s the outcasts being brought into a family. That’s the Kingdom of God.

When we talk about the Kingdom of God in terms of church and the institution, the rules and the order, when that’s our whole idea of Kingdom, we quickly lose sight of the very things that make the Kingdom of God what it is: when and where God graciously rules in people’s lives.

In Matthew 12, Jesus’ critics are claiming he’s driving out demons by the power of Satan. But he says, no, I’m driving out demons by the Spirit of God. “And if I drive out demons by the Spirit of God, the Kingdom of God has come to you.” In other words, when and where you see people being delivered from evil, that’s the Kingdom. And then he explains it:

“How can anyone enter a strong man’s house and carry off his possessions unless he first ties up the strong man? Then he can rob his house.” ~Matthew 12:29

Jesus is sent here by God to invade Satan’s house. Jesus rams the gates and busts through the doors of Satan’s domain. He ransacks all the rooms and breaks open the safe. He tears apart the pantry and goes into the attic and the basement. And he snatches away every man, woman, and child held in bondage by the power of the devil. They are rescued! They are all saved! That’s the Kingdom of God.

Peace,

Allan

The Pool Guy

One last thing about this invalid at the Pool of Bethesda in John 5. I want us to notice today that the ultimate Healer always takes the first step in our salvation. And he always does whatever it takes to save you.

Jesus is heading into Jerusalem for a religious feast, but he takes a detour along the way. He decides to first visit the city’s most sick and disabled. He singles out the most destitute among them, a man who is sick on the inside and the outside. And Jesus heals him. He calls the man to immediate action and heals him! He changed him.

And Jesus initiated the whole thing.

This guy had no faith. There’s no confession. No cry for help. A couple of verses later we learn this guy had no idea who Jesus even was! But Jesus was looking for him. Jesus loved him and healed him. He changed him, made him whole. And then he followed up later with him in the temple to encourage him.

What a beautiful picture of the amazing love and grace and mercy of Jesus. Our Lord Jesus goes against the grain, he moves heaven and earth, he breaks the rules, to reach out to you and heal you.

And he’s the one who takes the initiative. Always. He’ll stop at nothing to save you. That’s his nature. That’s who he is and what he does.

Do you want to get well?

What’s wrong with us and this world is sin. We know that Jesus is the answer to the problem. But do we really want to be healed? Whether you’re experiencing the physical brokenness of this pool guy or his complacency that Jesus challenges with a call to action or the warped attitude of the religious leaders who valued their rules and restrictions over the healing of others, Jesus’ question is the same. So is his will and power to save.

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The construction around our church building at Central is progressing up and out.  There’s a lot of scaffolding in play here.

 

 

 

 

The three arches of our new main entrance have all been encased in brick and the walls and beams of our new ground-level ministry space are almost complete. The chapel steps and wall that went down and then out to the sides have been torn out to reveal the original 1930 steps that went straight down to the street.  And pretty soon the beautiful cast stone will be installed on this west side front.

 

 

 

 

 

If you run into them, be extra kind to Mark and Kevin and Mary and Vickie. They’re losing their office windows in this deal and it’s just now starting to sink in. As the walls go up, there’s less sunshine coming in. Vickie’s is just that little “Laverne and Shirley” window, but she’s still going to feel it. Mark and Mary are going to have to be shown where their light switches are. And Kevin might actually go stark-raving-mad.

Peace,

Allan

 

Greater Things

“You believe because I told you I saw you under the fig tree. You shall see greater things than that.” He then added, “I tell you the truth, you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.” ~John 1:50-51

When you first come to Jesus, you might think, “He’s not going to fix everything. I won’t get all the answers to every single thing that’s happening in my life. I’m hoping he’ll help me be a better person. Maybe he’ll deal with my loneliness or my marriage problems.”

People are always hedging their bets. Limiting the possibilities. “Maybe I’ll get out of debt. Maybe I’ll find some good friends in church. But Jesus isn’t going to solve all of my problems.”

But when you actually do give all of yourself to the Lord. you find out he’s far more than you ever imagined him to be.

When Jesus says Nathanael will see angels going up and down on the Son of Man, he’s talking about Jacob’s ladder. The Old Testament patriarch had seen a vision of a great ladder between heaven and earth with angels going up and down between the two realms. Sin had created a barrier between heaven and earth, between God and his creation. But Jacob has this dream that someday there will be a way between heaven and earth. A way into the very presence of God. A way for God to live with us and for us to come to God. Jesus is telling Nathanael, “I am that way!” Jesus is the bridge between heaven and earth, between us and God.

You can almost hear Jesus laughing. “Oh, wow, you think I’m the Messiah. I’m sure you think I’m going to grab a sword and raise an army and destroy our Roman oppressors. No, I’m going to show you far greater things than that. Overthrowing the Empire won’t change the human condition. Winning a war or building walls or establishing or protecting some worldly kingdom is not going to defeat sin and death. That’s not going to restore all of creation.”

Jesus is saying, “I’m more than that. I’ve punched a hole in the wall between heaven and earth! I’m going to take you, Nathanael, right into the holy presence of God!”

Jesus is always more than anybody’s looking for. He always exceeds our expectations. He doesn’t just have all the answers to the big questions; he IS the ultimate answer to every question.

“I tell you the truth,” he says. And we can trust him.

Peace,

Allan

The Urgent Need

People respond to the urgency of the need. If the need is severe and urgent — it’s bad right now! something’s got to happen right now! — then we’ll drop everything to get involved.

When Hurricane Harvey hit Houston, we immediately mobilized to help from way up here in Amarillo. We bought hundreds of Home Depot buckets and filled them with cleaning supplies. We rented trucks and filled them with food and bottled water. Men and women volunteered to drive those trucks ten-hours one-way to deliver the help. People drove their boats in from Georgia and Kansas to help save stranded flood victims.

The morning after that horrific mass-shooting in Las Vegas last year, thousands of people lined up for half-a-mile to donate blood. When we see the need as urgent, we always respond.

In case you need reminding: the need for people to hear the Good News today is urgent.

We live in a lost and dying world. It’s broken. This past week two people in this country were shot and killed because of their skin color, fourteen people were targeted with bombs because of their political beliefs, and eleven people were murdered for their religious practices. People are broken and desperate. The systems are broken and failing. People need the salvation of God in Christ, they need to hear the Good News!

And we don’t always know what to do. We can’t fix everything. We can’t solve everything. We might even lose everything trying. But the Church always tries. The Church is on a mission. We stand and walk alongside the crushed and the oppressed. We stand with our Lord Jesus Christ and we love the broken and we proclaim the coming of the Kingdom of God!

Say something to somebody today. Remind them that God is on his throne and that Jesus came to live and die and be raised again so all this can be fixed. God is solving all this. And he’s doing it with love and forgiveness, with grace and mercy, with kindness. It’s happening. It’s Good News. And the need for us to proclaim it is urgent.

Peace,

Allan

Second Last Names

I’ve been a guest speaker at places where people have taken it upon themselves to inform me of everybody else’s second last names. I’ll be standing at the front of the room greeting folks and somebody will position himself or herself right next to me and tell me the second last names of the people I’m meeting.

I’ll say “hi” to Jim. Nice to meet you, Jim. Thanks for coming, Jim. And the person next to me will say in a loud whisper, “That’s Jim Smith. He’s a banker. He drinks a lot.”

Hello, Mark. Have a great evening, Mark. And then this in my ear, “That’s Mark Jones. He’s in insurance. He’s on his third wife.”

Hi, Emily. How are you doing, Emily? “That’s Emily Mitchell. She owns a restaurant downtown. She’s a terrible gossip.”

We’ve all got these second last names. We’re all labeled. But those identifiers, fair or not, do not say anything at all about who you really are. Your worth, your value, is not wrapped up in where you came from but in who came for you. Your identity, your destiny, do not rest in your own abilities, but in the power of Christ to heal.

The miracles Jesus performed and continues to perform today are not demonstrations against the natural order. They are a divine restoration of the natural order. Jesus doesn’t suspend reality or override the way things are meant to be. He’s fixing things. He’s returning the situation to what it was always created and intended by God to be.

The wind and waves were not created to harm people but to be safe and calm. Human beings were not made to suffer, but to be well and whole. Men and women were not intended to die, but to live forever.

Whatever is broken in us — you — and the people around us, whatever is wrong in our world and the world around us — Jesus is able and willing to fix it. That’s who you are in Christ. Your second last name is Redeemed. Restored. Saved. Your label in Jesus is Precious. Valuable. Loved. Child of God. Today and forever.

Peace,

Allan

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