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I Shall Arise

“Rejoice not against me, O mine enemy: when I fall, I shall arise; when I sit in darkness, the Lord shall be a light unto me.” -Micah 7:8

When I was rather young, I went sledding down Bowling Green’s “Hospital Hill” one snowy day with my brother and my Dad. I was so excited about taking my first run on my own, but something went terribly wrong. there was a snowdrift covering a stump and I hit it head on. The sled went down, I went up (and what goes up must come down) and I hit the ground and lay flat on my back. My wind was gone, I felt I couldn’t breathe, and I was panicking. In moments my brother and my Dad were there to check on me. But the instant they saw that I would survive, their concern turned to jubilation. They laughed! They laughed hard! And I must admit, it was probably funny.

Others often take our calamity lightly. Our pain and our suffering, to us, is always immense. We see the world from a darkened valley while the masses look on from the cliffs and mountain peaks. Our enemies especially take advantage of every opportunity to rejoice in our tragedies. But for the Christian there is a great promise – our calamities are but for a moment. Micah, the contemporary of Isaiah, knew what would befall Israel in a matter of decades. He knew of their coming captivity and the suffering they would endure under slavery to Babylon.

The nations around Israel could rejoice at her defeat, but Micah, speaking under inspiration of God gave warning to the nations. Rejoice not! We have not been destroyed, we shall rise! Darkness is inevitable, it will consume half of every day. Falling is part of life. But Micah reminds us that for all of the failures of the children of God, there will be a rising in the end. For the darkness we endure here, there is the light of God’s presence and the revelation of His promises. The future is bright, our hope endures. As children of the King, we shall rise and reign! Take courage, be hopeful, the end is not yet!

Our Freedom in Ministry

Yesterday I had the privilege of talking with Donny Parrish, Director of Church Ministries for the BMA of America about church ministry today. My heart and eyes were opened to some great principles concerning reaching the lost today. I was also reminded to lay down my own preferences in ministry so that I might be as effective and flexible as possible to see what the Holy Spirit wants to do next.

This morning, I preached from Romans 8:1-4 in which Paul talks about some of our great freedoms “in Christ.” The phrase the Scriptures use is a thrilling one – “now no condemnation.” When I arrived home, I flipped on the television to a Calvary Chapel pastor from Florida who just happened to be preaching on the same theme. I had tuned in at just the right moment to hear his closing prayer thanking God that there is “now no condemnation to them who are in Christ.”

Amazingly, this pastor’s approach to ministry was obviously different from my own. His church practiced a very contemporary form of worship, he was dressed in casual clothing, and the background of the stage created a much different atmosphere than my stained glass background in my home pulpit. Nevertheless, the content of our messages was essentially the same message – “now no condemnation to them which are in Christ.”

I want to thank God for the freedom we enjoy to differ slightly and yet remain true to the Scriptures. They will always provide our content in preaching and our context for ministry, but our methodology, within reasonable and biblical limits, must remain flexible if we are to reach each new generation of people with the life-changing message of the gospel. More on this generational shift in our ministry later…

God’s Plan for Global Warming

After a decade and more of increased intensity in natural disasters, rising temperatures in the oceans, chunks of ice the size of states breaking off of the Arctic and Antarctic, we’ve come to realize that something about planet earth is changing. Well… at least some of us realize it. Let me say first of all that I am not a scientist and I do not wish to argue either side of the global warming debate. Rather, I’m interested in discovering a Christian response to the reality of massive global changes.

Christians today are divided on the issue of global warming. Many conservative leaders wish to deny the reality of global warming, perhaps so as to avoide too close a kinship with the typical liberal environmentalist. Others on the religious right hope to spur believers to action on behalf of the environment in the name of being “good stewards” of the planet. Denial is next to being absurdly naive. Downplaying global warming smacks of religious ignorance. We must face the reality that things are changing in creation. The big question is, what does it matter and what do we do in response?

Before offering a suggested response to the current significant global changes taking place, let me throw out one angle on global warming that does not receive much attention in the debate. Perhaps we are experiencing global warming, and perhaps it is having drastically negative effects upon our environment and weather patterns. Has it been considered, however, that these changes are not a sign of the end of all things, nor are they caused merely by human interaction with nature, but rather global warming is a sign of the earth’s cyclical environmental existence? In other words, are we entering another “age” of the earth over which man has had little to do with, either in the cause or the solution?

My complaint about the argument that pollution is the cause and environmentalism is the solution has to do with our feeling that mankind is somehow big enough, somehow significant enough to have a dramatic impact upon what happens on the huge stage of the cosmosphere. Do we really have the power to destroy what (1) God created and what (2) God promised to destroy Himself? (By fire, nonetheless, see 2 Peter 3.) And do we really assume that using less hairspray and driving fewer miles will stop the earth’s “groaning” under the anticipation of Christ’s return?

As believers, we must take a balanced viewpoint concerning our home planet, temporary as it may be. Let me offer some thoughts for biblical-thinking Christians to ponder…

1.) Our sovereign God, who was quite capable of the creation of this wonderful planet and all of the accompanying universe, is also quite capable of controlling weather pattersn all on His own, of preserving or destroying the planet at His will, and of bringing to an end “in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye” the world as we currently know it. In other words, let’s not forget that though we can dirty the place up, God is still ultimately in control.

2.) Adam and Eve were clearly given dominion, or leadership, over the Garden of Eden and that responsibility may have been hindered by the fall of man into depravity, but was never fully revoked. As God’s crowning creation, mankind still has the responsibility to care for and to be a good steward of the temporary home provided to us. So it is not “liberal” for a believer to want to do their part for the environment. We must get away from writing off all environmentally-conscious people as leaning to the left politically.

3.) Ultimately, this world is not the permanent and eternal home of believers. As one contemporary Christian group put it, it’s a “waiting room.” Don’t get too attached. Leave the planet as clean as possible for your grandkids but look for a brighter hope beyond the grave. As Peter said, “We look for new heavens and a new earth wherein dwelleth righteousness.
No matter where you fall on the environmentalist spectrum, you can see yourself as a steward, entrusted with a planet that you’ll eventually pass on to another generation. Why not do your part to keep it clean, and prepare to leave this waiting room someday for an eternity with Christ in a “new heaven and earth.”