On Earth as it Is in Heaven

Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven (Matthew 6:10)


God’s will is done in the realm of heaven.

  • The Lord sent an angel to guard the entrance to Eden after the fall and he did (Genesis 3:24).
  • The Lord sent an angel to deliver Lot and his family and he did (Genesis 19:15).
  • The Lord sent an angel deliver Israel in battle and he did (2 Chronicles 32:20-23).
  • The Lord sent an angel to announce the birth of His Son and Gabriel did (Luke 1:26).

God’s will is done in the realm of the animal kingdom.

  • The Lord summoned animals to the ark and they did their Creator’s bidding (Genesis 7:14-15).
  • The Lord summoned frogs, flies, and locusts to plague Egypt and they did their Creator’s bidding (Exodus 8:1-15; 20-32; 10:1-20).
  • The Lord summoned ravens to feed His prophet and they did their Creator’s bidding (1 Kings 17:6).
  • The Lord summoned a great fish to transport Jonah to Nineveh and it did its Creator’s bidding (Jonah 1:17).
  • The Lord summoned a fish to bring a coin with which Peter would pay his taxes and it did its Creator’s bidding (Matthew 17:27).

God’s will is done in the realm of the natural world.

  • The Lord commanded light to be and light was (Genesis 1:3)
  • The Lord sent rain on the earth for forty days and forty nights (Genesis 7:4).
  • The Lord displayed a rainbow to represent His covenant with Noah (Genesis 9:13)
  • The Lord caused the wind to blow to take away the swarm of locusts from Egypt (Exodus 10:19)
  • The Lord stopped the sun so that Israel would route their enemies in battle (Joshua 10:13)
  • The Lord appointed a plant, a worm, and an east wind to instruct Jonah (Jonah 4:6, 7, 8).
  • The Lord caused a great darkness to cover the land while His Son died on the cross (Matthew 27:45; cf. Exodus 10:21-29)

While God’s will is done in the realm of heaven, the animal kingdom, and the natural world but God’s will is not yet perfectly done on earth in the hearts of men and women.

  • The Lord commanded Adam and Eve not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. They ate (Genesis 3:3, 6, 22).
  • The Lord commanded Israel not to have idols (Exodus 20:4; Leviticus 26:1; Deuteronomy 27:15). They had them (2 Kings 17:12).
  • The Lord told Jonah to go to Nineveh (Jonah 1:2). He went in the opposite direction (Jonah 1:3).
  • The Lord invited the rich young ruler to follow Him. He turned the invitation away (Matthew 19:16-22).

So we pray “your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” This begins in your heart and mine. Maybe we find it difficult to pray because we currently reign on the throne of our hearts. It’s possible that we declare that we have no other king but Caesar and we cherish the earthly kingdom of this world and look for political messiahs rather than God’s messiah, Jesus. There is coming a day when God’s will will be done on earth as it is in heaven. In the meantime, we earnestly pray for it to come, even if we will only experience foretastes now. Christian prayer is a humble commitment to the rule and purposes of God over our lives and all of history.

(Picture credit: I could not find an original source for the image. I will gladly provide credit if/when I obtain the information.)

Rio 2016 and ‘the Gigantic Figure of One Person’

Rio 2016 and ‘the Gigantic Figure of One Person’

I love watching the summer Olympics. The winter Olympics are fun to watch too but I much prefer the summer games over the winter games (perhaps a bit ironic since I live in Minnesota). I get caught up in the wonderful drama that plays out in this competitive theater. The fight and the determination of the athletes is inspiring to watch. Some magical moments are immortalized, like this one and this one. 10,500 athletes from 206 countries will participate in the Games of the XXXI Olympiad at Rio de Janeiro, Brazil this August.

I came across a quote from Ravi Zacharias in my recent studies,

Behind the debris of these self-styled, sullen supermen and imperial diplomatists, there stands the gigantic figure of one person, because of whom, by whom, in whom, and through whom alone mankind might still have hope. The person of Jesus Christ (HT: Justin Taylor).

Zacharias’ insight follows a quote from Malcom Muggeridge who observed that nations and rulers are fleeting, and with them any promises of hope they offered. You may wonder what the connection is between Rio 2016 and this citation. Rio de Janeiro is the location of Christ the Redeemer statue. It was completed in 1931. It is an immense statue: 98 feet tall and the arms span 92 feet. It overlooks the city of Rio from a height of 2,300 feet. Its magnitude has led to its inclusion as one of the new seven wonders of the world. It is an imposing image when seen from below. It depicts Christ with open arms who is at one and the same time both sovereign Lord and inviting Savior. It is a reminder of what Zacharias observed. The world will see during the Rio 2016 Olympic games that indeed, “there stands the gigantic figure of one person in whom alone mankind might still have hope.”

Christ_on_Corcovado_mountain(Image source)


The Evangelist on the Titanic

800px-RMS_Titanic_3Today marks the 103rd anniversary of the most famous boating accident in history. On April 14, 1912 the Titanic struck an iceberg at 11:40pm. It sank into its watery grave on April 15, 1912 at 2:20am. The vessel settled 13,000 feet below the surface 400 miles off of Newfoundland, Canada. The wreckage, discovered in 1985, sits as a haunting monument to the ship that was hailed as the unsinkable ship. The maximum capacity on the lifeboats was not enough to rescue everyone aboard. As we now know, death awaited 1500 of the 2200 aboard that fateful night. While the ship was sinking, the good news of Jesus Christ was preached to those on board in the waning minutes of life. A man named John Harper used the last moments of his life to talk to others about their eternal destiny. Here’s the account as published online by Dan Graves, “While Titanic Sank, John Harper Preached.” Even though 1500 people entered eternity that night, perhaps some received the gift of eternal life as a result of one man’s faithful witness of Christ’s love to those who were perishing.

The clear April night sky was filled with sparkling stars as the largest and finest steamship in the world sped through the calm seas of the icy North Atlantic. Many of the passengers had gone to bed, but some still could be found in the lounges, enjoying the Titanic’s luxury. No one was alarmed by the slight jar felt around 11:15, but many noticed when they no longer felt the vibrations of the engines.

Ignoring iceberg warnings, the Titanic had been steaming full speed ahead. Suddenly she struck a large iceberg which ripped her side. Within fifteen minutes the captain realized the danger of the situation, and the wireless operator put out a call for assistance. Sailors made lifeboats ready and ordered women and children to get into them first (Christian culture had stamped the ideas of chivalry into men, making them willing to give up their lives for women and children as their protectors, something rarely seen in other cultures). There were 12 honeymooning couples on board the ship. Though all of the brides were saved, only one of the grooms survived.

The captain ordered the band to play to keep up the spirits of the passengers. It began playing a rag-time tune, but soon was playing hymns.

There were only twenty lifeboats on the huge ocean liner– barely enough for 1/3 of the passengers and crew. Not all of them could be lowered. All 85 engineers continued to work to keep the ship afloat as long as possible. At the end many people knelt together in prayer until the waters covered them.

Throughout the mournful, evacuation, with loved ones being tearfully separated, the band continued to play. There is some dispute about what was played that night. Several people in the life boats heard “Nearer My God to Thee.”

One of the passengers traveling on the ship was evangelist John Harper. He put his six-year old daughter into a life boat and then ran through the ship warning others of the danger and talking to them about the eternal destiny of their souls. When he was finally forced to jump into the icy water, he clung to a piece of wreckage and asked another man “Are you saved?” When the man answered no, John said to him, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.”

When the Titanic sank early in the morning on this day, April 15, 1912, John Harper was among the 1,522 people who died. The band went down with the ship. The last hymn they played was “Autumn,” which concludes with the prayer

Hold me up in mighty waters
Keep my eyes on things above,
Righteousness, divine Atonement,
Peace, and everlasting Love.

Devotional Ruminations: Matthew 5:27-30

Mount of BeatitudesI am currently reading in the gospel of Matthew for my devotions. I have really been challenged to walk with Jesus and sit at His feet and reacquaint myself with what it means to be His follower. Matthew 5-7 comprise what we commonly know as the Sermon on the Mount. Contemporary Christians must hear the Master’s words and then receive them with all of their moral weight. Matthew 5:27-30 deals with the subject of lust. This sin of lust makes promise after promise to satisfy only to bring moral and marital ruin. Here are four observations on lust from the words of Jesus.

1. Lust is not confined to action, rather it is committed at the level of intent. “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ [action] [28] But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart [intent]” (vv. 27-28). “You can look but not touch” badly misses the mark of Jesus’ teaching.

2. Lust is a sin that promises gratification but actually leads to destruction (physical, relational, and spiritual) (cf. Proverbs 5:1-6). “For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell” (v. 29, 30). Jesus says this twice. It should really capture our attention.

3. Lust must be fought militantly. “If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away” (v. 29)…”And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away” (v. 30). Hyperbole? Yes, I think so. But to simply place these statements under that literary rubric and then diminish the weight of these statements is the height of folly. If we do not resist lust (and any other sin) “to the point of shedding your blood” (Hebrews 12:4), we are placing our souls and bodies in eternal danger.

4. Lust does not characterize a follower of Christ. The very inclusion of this topic is an imperative for being set apart (i.e. holy) as followers of Christ. Yes, sex is a natural, God-given human drive (and it should be celebrated and enjoyed according to God’s pattern; cf. Proverbs 5:15-19; Song of Solomon). Yes, we live in a hyper-sexualized culture. Yes, we are surrounded by and immersed in sexually-charged content. But none of these realities excuse us from not battling the sin of lust. Moreover, the follower of Christ can overcome this sin (Romans 6:6-7).

We must see lust as our Lord described it. Battling and overcoming lust is what Jesus said His disciples must do, thereby distinguishing themselves as salt and light in a morally decaying and dark culture by the grace of God and by the power of the Holy Spirit. So battle lust my brothers and sisters knowing that the battle is hard but the victory is yours.

(Image of Mt. Eremos from bibleplaces.com, Mount of Beatitudes)

Devotional Ruminations: Galatians 2:1-10

My devotional ruminations are just that–devotional thoughts that come from my personal time in Scripture. These ruminations include basic observations and questions (some of which will remain unanswered).  I read Galatians 2:1-10 this morning.

Then after fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking Titus along with me. [2] I went up because of a revelation and set before them (though privately before those who seemed influential) the gospel that I proclaim among the Gentiles, in order to make sure I was not running or had not run in vain. [3] But even Titus, who was with me, was not forced to be circumcised, though he was a Greek. [4] Yet because of false brothers secretly brought in—who slipped in to spy out our freedom that we have in Christ Jesus, so that they might bring us into slavery—[5] to them we did not yield in submission even for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might be preserved for you. [6] And from those who seemed to be influential (what they were makes no difference to me; God shows no partiality)—those, I say, who seemed influential added nothing to me. [7] On the contrary, when they saw that I had been entrusted with the gospel to the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been entrusted with the gospel to the circumcised [8] (for he who worked through Peter for his apostolic ministry to the circumcised worked also through me for mine to the Gentiles), [9] and when James and Cephas and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given to me, they gave the right hand of fellowship to Barnabas and me, that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised. [10] Only, they asked us to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do (Galatians 2:1-10 ESV).

Here are a few observations I took away from this passage.  I was impressed by six characteristics in Paul’s life.

  1. Commission.  Paul was driven to carry out the commission given to him by Christ.  “…in order to make sure that I was not running or had not run in vain” (v. 2).  Paul was committed to his Christ-given commission.
  2. Conviction.  Paul was held by the unwavering truth of the gospel. “to them we did not yield is submission even for a moment so that the truth of the gospel might be preserved for you” (v. 5).  Paul was driven by unwavering gospel conviction.
  3. Courage.  Paul’s gospel conviction led to courage.  “…what they were makes no difference to me; God shows no partiality” (v. 6).  Paul wasn’t wrongly swayed by influential people.
  4. Calling.  Paul had a very clear and compelling sense of calling on his life.  It was specific.  “I had been entrusted with the gospel to the uncircumcised” (v. 7).
  5. Community.  Paul recognized that he had co-laborers in his gospel work.  “and when James and Cephas and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given to me, they gave the right hand of fellowship to Barnabas and me, that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised” (v. 9).
  6. Compassion. Paul was a man driven by conviction yet he was compassionate. “Only they asked us to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do” (v. 10).

These characteristics remind me of the kind of intentional and missional life that grow out of a person who holds to and is held by the gospel.

Devotional Ruminations: Romans 16:20

There are occasions when we encounter a verse or passage of Scripture that makes us do a double take. Romans 16:20 was one of those verses for me. I included the verse followed by five devotional ruminations.  The ruminations will include basic observations and questions (some of which will remain unanswered). You will be disappointed if you are looking for exegetical discussions and conclusions.

The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you (Romans 16:20, ESV)

  1. The primary observation is the striking contrast between “…God of peace…” and “…will soon crush…”  The terms “peace” and “crush” are not normally in such close proximity.  This is further highlighted by the unexpected inclusion of a violent word like “crush” between two graceful Christian virtues like “peace” and “grace.” We should not pass over such arresting language too quickly.  This is the kind of language that compels us to reflect.
  2. The co-existing acts of bringing peace and crushing the enemy are not contradictory. There is a divine “peace through strength” component to this verse. Is the crushing of the Evil One a reference to Revelation 20:7-10?
  3. Paul expresses a confidence in the fulfillment of the promise that goes all the way back to Genesis 3:15.  “The God of peace will…” He knows this will happen in the fullness of time.  God’s purposes cannot be thwarted.
  4. Paul expresses an imminence to the defeat of Satan. “The God of peace will soon…”  God will carry out His victorious work in the near future.
  5. Paul expresses a personal aspect to this.  “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.” What does this mean?

An Outreach Parable

The year is 1621 in Massachusetts.  The English settlers have endured a brutal winter.  Their numbers are fewer; some contracted illness Massachusetts Winterand died.  Others survived.  And now it’s finally Spring.  A man wakes up to the melodious sounds of birds singing.  The man knows that the time has come to prepare the soil and plant the crops.  Supplies are dangerously low and they will last the man and his family until harvest but no longer.  This man contracted a severe illness along with others but as Providence would have it, he survived.  Though he is much improved, his body is still feeling the effects of the illness.  Even so, he knows in spite of his personal discomfort he must labor in the field.  The lives of his wife and children depend on it.  He goes out to the field and labors but before too long he is tired and his health rapidly deteriorates.  Based on his level of discomfort, he leaves the field.  One day passes and then another.  Days turn into weeks.  The field is never prepared and no seeds are ever sown.  The family prays for an abundant harvest because their rations are nearly depleted but they pray in vain because no seeds were ever sown.  Harvest comes.  The family eats their final meager portions.  The man now sees the irrevocable and tragic effects of his decision to consider his own comfort before the well-being of his family.  Their supplies are spent.  The man and his family die.  Unknown to this family, many of the other settlers also experienced severe personal discomfort while laboring in the fields but they persevered because the lives of others depended on them.  They prepared the soil and unsparingly sowed seeds.  They prayed for God to bless their labors.  He rewarded them with a bountiful harvest.

There are two lessons on outreach from this parable.

  1. We are often quick to succumb to our personal discomfort when it comes to being a witness for Christ.  Sadly, this means our discomfort is more important to us than the lost souls of men. So are you willing to move beyond your personal discomfort in being a witness for Christ, especially this Easter season?  Are you willing to labor in the fields of the gospel for the sake of others regardless of the personal cost?
  2. We cannot pray for a gospel harvest if we never sow gospel seeds.  God cannot and will not bless outreach efforts we never carry out.  Are you praying for God to bless your non-efforts?   Conversely, we can and should pray for God to bring forth a harvest of souls when we faithfully and liberally sow gospel seeds.  The gospel is still the power of God to salvation to everyone who believes!