Advent: The Time Is Now

RZIM’s Amy Orr-Ewing did a great series of videos last year for the Advent season. The main motif is the kairos, which is the Greek word for time. It’s different from chronos, which refers to the time on your watch. Kairos is qualitative, and refers to important points in time that are pregnant with meaning and significance. They are appointed times when God intervenes in our world and accomplishes a purpose. The best example is when He sent His son, Jesus, into our world to become Savior and King.

How Jesus’ genealogy shows He is real

Des Oatridge visiting with the people before sing-sing activities begin.

Des Oatridge visiting with the people before sing-sing activities begin.

If there’s anything in the Bible that’s difficult to read it’s those passages on the “begatitudes.” Most people ask why it’s even included but a tribe of Binumariens from Papua New Guinea remind us how important it is.

Des and Jenny Oatridge were a young couple with a baby daughter and working for Wycliffe Bible Translators. Around 1960 the family arrived in Papua New Guinea and went to live in a village among people of the Binumarien tribe. It was a small tribe shrinking in numbers and who spoke an unwritten language.

After several years Des was able to produce a copy of the New Testament in the Binumarien language. However, he skipped the genealogy at the beginning of Matthew and planned to revisit it at a later time, thinking that he wasn’t leaving out anything important.

He sent off the manuscript for printing and had copies delivered to the village by truck. Unfortunately, the primitive people were more interested in the vehicles than in the New Testament. After almost ten years of laboring to get this far the disappointment was devastating. Nevertheless, Des produces an updated edition with the genealogy included.

When the chief saw the updated edition, with the genealogy included, he asked Des to come to a village meeting and to read the added passages. In a crowded, tense room full of people hanging on his every word, he reads the opening verses of Matthew. When he finished everyone sat in stunned silence.

Then someone asked, “Why didn’t you tell us this before?” For the Binumarien people, no one recorded the ancestors of spirit beings. That was something that only real people did. The people came to the realization that this Jesus the missionaries spoke of was a real person. All along they thought it was just a legend, just white man’s magic.

Just when you think that something as tedious as a genealogical is not that important God shows us that every verse of His word is placed there for good reason. Who would’ve thought that the genealogy is evidence that Jesus was real and that He came to establish His kingdom? Stories like this help us to recapture the wonder of what God is doing as His redemptive plan unfolds.

Being Christian In The Era Of “Gay Marriage”


This post is not a rant about how the country is going to hell in a handbasket. It’s important for the church be aware of the ramifications of the Supreme Court’s recent invention of a constitutional right to gay marriage. These changes will affect how Christians live and engage our society and culture.

The Lord rebuked the Pharisees and Sadducees because they could forecast the weather but not discern the signs of the times. I think it behooves us as Jesus’ disciples to be spiritually vigilant.  I hope you find this informative and helpful as you observe the trends in our culture.

Firstly, Christians should understand that the fight over “gay marriage” is over, at least legally. It’s not likely the Court will overturn this decision in the foreseeable future. As far as I can tell there is no desire even among marriage advocates to launch a campaign of resistance similar to abortion. That doesn’t mean, though, that everything is settled.

Christians must prepare to face a society that will become increasingly hostile towards the gospel and the church. We will continue to see efforts to push a biblical worldview and its adherents out of the public square. There may even come a day where churches are directly threatened if they don’t conform to the prevailing view on marriage. This may take the form of a regulation that requires clergy to officiate “gay weddings” or lose their tax-exempt status. The church’s faith and resolve will be tested.

I’ve seen many Christians I know on social media who have rainbows as their profile photo or twitter avatar. At first I was irritated but then I remembered Barna’s research showed that only 19% of born-again believers have a biblical worldview. Maybe this is just a confirmation of that finding. Christians should also be aware that our new moral categories of nice and mean have replaced good and evil. What’s worse than appearing to be offensive? We will be pressured to abandon biblical teachings so that cast a negative light on our family, friends, and colleagues.

As important as the spiritual challenges are I think Christians should also appreciate the constitutional, and legal, ramifications. A decision on marriage is controversial and will grab headlines, I get that. But what’s also disturbing is the Court’s abuse of its own power, which has been a problem for decades. The Supreme Court has long since abandoned the notion that the Constitution’s words mean what say in favor of interpreting the document in light of their own personal beliefs. Well, that puts all of our rights in jeopardy. As Justice Scalia wrote:

Those civil consequences—and the public approval that conferring the name of marriage evidences—can perhaps have adverse social effects, but no more adverse than the effects of many other controversial laws. So it is not of special importance to me what the law says about mar­riage. It is of overwhelming importance, however, who it is that rules me. Today’s decree says that my Ruler, and the Ruler of 320 million Americans coast-to-coast, is a majority of the nine lawyers on the Supreme Court. The opinion in these cases is the furthest extension in fact—and the furthest extension one can even imagine—of the Court’s claimed power to create “liberties” that the Consti­tution and its Amendments neglect to mention. This practice of constitutional revision by an unelected committee of nine, always accompanied (as it is today) by extrav­agant praise of liberty, robs the People of the most im­portant liberty they asserted in the Declaration of Independence and won in the Revolution of 1776: the freedom to govern themselves.  

This overreach for power on this issue can be repeated on other issues. Being aware of that is the difference between a mature Christian and one who simply gets agitated over “culture wars” issues. It’s about understanding that the courts are one of many fronts in this spiritual war we fight. We contend with spiritual powers and forces as we seek to transform our society with power of the gospel.

Where do we go from here? In one scenario I see the launch of a new culture war that will last for decades. Another possibility is that this all blows over as we discover that there’s no groundswell of gay couples signing up to get married. We will have learned that the notion of gay families as an alternative lifestyle was just good storytelling for a campaign. It’ll probably some combination of the two.

We must ever be vigilant, prayerful, and hopeful. This isn’t the first time in church history that things have gotten worse and we know that our Lord will be victorious in the end.

The future is here and it is pre-modern


We often hear conservatives (both the political and religious kinds) lament the decline of civilization caused by the abandonment of Judeo-Christian “values.” Every year we witness battles in the culture war over Christmas songs in malls, monuments to the 10 commandments, or students praying at football games. These controversies seem to indicate a growing hostility towards Christianity, if not religion in general. I’d suggest, though, that we have moved well beyond the post-Christian and into the post-secular.

New Age may have ended as a phenomenon of the 1960s and 70s but it ushered in an alternative spirituality that has continued to gain momentum. Yoga, mantras, meditation, and various pantheistic beliefs and practices have become mainstream ideas, accepted without question. The increasing number of Americans who identify as spiritual but not religious is a testament to its success. People have rejected Christianity (the goal of New Age) while avoiding the skepticism of a secular worldview that is hostile to any belief in the supernatural.

Next came the Age of Interfaith Religion with its central belief that there is one truth, which speaks in many tongues. Oprah is probably the most well-known advocate of this view and you can watch an interesting video of her on YouTube arguing with an audience member about whether there is only one way to heaven. This worldview compels us reinterpret our beliefs in light of other religions. No less than the presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church has said that we must no longer consider sin an operative notion in the modern life. New York Times columnist Frank Bruni says that Christians need to get over their antiquated hang-ups about homosexuality:

The drama in Indiana last week and the larger debate over so-called religious freedom laws in other states portray homosexuality and devout Christianity as forces in fierce collision. They’re not — at least not in several prominent denominations, which have come to a new understanding of what the Bible does and doesn’t decree, of what people can and cannot divine in regard to God’s will.

See the problem emerging for Christians? We face increasing pressure to change our beliefs to accommodate the prevailing moral beliefs of the culture. For them, it’s not enough to win the debate. They must bring everyone into submission. As the Apostle Paul wrote:

Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened…

Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen.

Romans 1:21,25

Add to this mix a growing unfamiliarity with the Bible and Christianity and my belief is that we are heading into a time not that different from ancient Rome or other pre-Christian societies. I think that the early church will serve as a model of how to engage a culture that views Christianity with belligerent hostility and fear.

It’s a future that inspires concern but one that should drive us to look to the cross as the symbol of the ultimate victory we have in Jesus.


How do you really experience God?


When our church dived into Henry Blackaby’s book Experiencing God I reacted with my usual lack of expectation that it was really worth the excitement. I thought it was a typical, off-the-shelf, Christian self-help book until I read a few reviews. I then discovered a much bigger problem.

Blackaby’s book undermines the authority of Scripture only to replace it with subjective measures of the work of God, mainly our perceptions and feelings. He does a lot of harm to Christians by leading them to expect God to provide a special revelation, or assignment, just for them. It’s bad enough that many Christians have an unbiblical worldview (most according to many surveys). We need the kind of clarity that can only come from the Bible which is the word of God.

I thought it was a typical, off-the-shelf, Christian self-help book until I read a few reviews. I then discovered a much bigger problem.

I have heard people talk about the will of God in a mystical fashion my whole life. They told me to seek after it and ask God for it. I was supposed to follow the Holy Spirit’s “leading.” Of course, nothing ever happened and I wondered about what it took to gain this knowledge. And with each decision point I would reach where I hoped God would show me the way I was disappointed and increasingly frustrated.

The problem is that this is an unbiblical way of living the Christian life. I don’t know where it came from but it certainly didn’t come from Jesus. If we want to know the will of God then we must know the word of God. A healthy spiritual life is one where the believer is growing in the knowledge and grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. He is not passing from one emotionally stimulating experience to another.

Blackaby wants you to hear God’s “voice” and that includes the scriptures but is not limited to them:

“God speaks to us through the Holy Spirit. He uses the Bible, prayer, circumstances, and the church (other believers). No one of these methods of God’s speaking is, by itself, a clear indicator of God’s directions. But when God says the same thing through each of these ways, you can have confidence to proceed.”

What?! The Bible, by itself, is not a clear indicator of God’s directions? Has Blackaby not read what Paul wrote to Timothy?

All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:

That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.

2 Timothy 3:16-17

Not only is the Bible a clear indicator but it is the ONLY clear indicator of God’s “directions.” Your goal is not to develop a spiritual 6th sense that will indicate when God is “leading.” Everything we need to know in order to live a Godly life is found in the scriptures. Whatever help we get from others only supplements what is in the word of God. It is never a substitute for the revelation of the Bible.

Lest you think that I’m just being a negative it’s important for me to say that we are so blessed to have the Bible as our guide. Peter himself said as much:

For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty.

For he received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.  

And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount.

We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts…

Peter had an actual mountaintop experience. He saw things that you and I should never expect to see in our lifetimes. And yet, years later, he would go so far as to say that the word of God was far more valuable than any of those miracles he witnessed. It is so important that we understand this because of our temptation to think that if we see a sign then our faith will be solid.

The Bible is explicit, specific, and true. Spiritual maturity comes through time spent in the scriptures. Taking Blackaby’s approach means forever attributing your gut feelings to the Holy Spirit. You can see the fruit of that approach in your churches and among your family and friends.

If God did not reveal Himself to us through His word we would know nothing about Him. Hold fast to the word. It is the only firm foundation.

How firm a foundation you saints of the Lord,
is laid for your faith in his excellent Word!
What more can he say than to you he has said,
to you who for refuge to Jesus have fled?

Why do we doubt God’s promises?


The story is a familiar one. A man who’s been struggling with sin surrenders his life to Christ. His life has been transformed and now everything is different.

But it’s not long before his sin is back and tugging at his elbow. He finds out that it’s not in the past where he thought he left it. He’s always taking one step forward and two steps back.

He wonders if God was enough, if his conversion was real, if there’s any hope of deliverance in the future. Why can’t he shake it?

You’ve heard a story like that. Maybe it even describes your life. This is the story of Israel’s history and it’s why Exodus 14 is relevant to us.

God delivered them in an amazing way but they fall apart when they see Pharaoh’s army approaching. They’re certain that God has left them to be killed by their former masters. They doubt this whole business of deliverance and pine for the days of slavery.

I don’t care how long you’ve been a Christian. It doesn’t take much to make you doubt that God is going to deliver you this time. We may say “Amen” and “Hallelujah” during the sermon but when we’re tested we often act as if we don’t really believe of any of that stuff we heard.

Some of us may even welcome the temptation. Sometimes we see Pharaoh coming and we’re not sure we don’t want him to catch us. Sometimes we seek comfort in our old, sinful ways because it’s familiar, even if it doesn’t make us feel any better.

What do you do when the doubts arise?

The most important thing to remember is that God sent Israel into that situation on purpose. God had a plan to redeem them and a bigger plan to redeem His creation. But that plan includes dangerous, painful, and stressful challenges.

God’s plan sends us into difficult situations but He also makes provisions for our deliverance. We don’t earn or win that deliverance through our own merit. God’s grace is necessary and sufficient. We can draw hope and confidence from knowing that we will be victorious because, ultimately, He is victorious.

Moses gave the people three easy steps to follow: don’t be afraid, watch, and shut up. Fear is of the devil, not God. Watch, because you’re not going to handle it yourself. Shut up is just good general advice and can solve many of your problems.

God is leading you in the bad times as much as in the good times. It’s good to know that we’re not the first ones to experience fear. Eventually we have to decide to believe God (not just believe in Him) and fight the good fight.

The Lord shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace.

Resurrecting Paul’s Gospel In Our Day


I was recently invited to a Christmas “service” at a local megachurch. The performance was at a professional caliber, except with cheap ticket prices. The musical performances, dances, light show, and transitions are smooth and polished. It was choreographed to perfection.

And they also talked about Jesus.

I put service in quotes because I think it was a service in all but name. I didn’t leave thinking that I had worshipped God. I was entertained and hyped up but I wasn’t invited to the throne of grace.

The sermon I heard told me that I am “inadequate” for a “transformed” life without Jesus. One of the pastors did mention a survey of Americans’ inflated perceptions of self-worth, showing us that we are narcissists. But that’s about as bad as the description of our condition got.

Consequently, the gospel I heard was a message that God can give me a purpose in life that will fulfill me. If I put my faith in Him then there will be so many more things that I can do. Yessss!

I’m sure that I was especially sensitive because I had been listening to R. C. Sproul sermons all year. I felt like an Amish person sitting through mass. With bad news that good who needs the gospel? I realized that we need a bestseller book that redeems the doctrine of sin. As I thought about it more I realized that we need to resurrect Paul.

Paul gives us a comprehensive and concise understanding of the gospel, especially in his letter to the Romans. He gives us the bad news of our condemnation and he also gives us the good news of His salvation, justification, and sanctification. If twitter was a microcosm of the U.S. you’d think that half the church has never read Romans 1. God is more of a therapist rather than a judge.

The most popular gospel today is a message of reconciliation for a broken world. We’re supposed to speak to gays, drug addicts, and skeptics and stress God’s love for them. The idea is that they will cling to the cross because they are so desperate for healing, peace, meaning, etc. Like the sermon I heard, it was about what you stand to gain.

But how can the unbeliever be prepared to respond to the gospel if he does not become aware of his guilt? We do live in a broken world and part of what makes people broken is that they find the gospel offensive. That includes people who know that they’re hurting, not just those who are in no need of a religious crutch.

Moreover, how can the church speak prophetically if it decides to tickle the ear rather than prick the heart? The prologue to John’s gospel tells us that the world is condemned because it has rejected the light. The church’s most important responsibility is to bear witness to that light and remind people that God will hold them accountable.

We need this gospel: a balanced message that carries the bad news and the good.