Author: John Page 1 of 124

The Anniversary of a Tragedy

Ephesians 6:12 “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”

I Peter 5:8 “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.”

Twenty years ago today, America absorbed a tragic attack that shocked the world and shook us to our core.  The destruction caused by the terrorists on those four aircraft was vast and deadly, and 9/11 went down in the history books as a catastrophe of the type and magnitude that was unheard of on our shores.  After all, large-scale terrorism was typically someone else’s problem, occurring in far distant lands while impacting others who we will never know.  On that day, we were starkly reminded that our homeland is vulnerable.  The impacts of terrorism could be immediate, proximate and personal.  They certainly were on that tragic day, where we were devoured by a determined and ruthless adversary intent on doing evil to our nation.

As Christians, we sometimes read about the sins of others that are vast and deadly, and that cause personal catastrophes of the type and magnitude that are unheard of in our immediate circles.  After all, large-scale sin is typically someone else’s problem, occurring in far distant homes while impacting others who we will never know.  Yet, we must always be aware that our own home is vulnerable.  But by the grace of God, the impacts of any sin can be immediate, proximate, and personal.  We must be ever-sensitive to the constant possibility of being devoured by a determined and ruthless adversary intent on doing evil in our lives.

PLEASE PRAY FOR OUR NATION ON THIS ANNIVERSARY OF THE 9/11 TRAGEDY.  May we humbly and prayerfully mourn, reflect, and remember.

Caring and Confronting

II Timothy 4:2 “Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.”

Acts 1:8 “But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.”

II Corinthians 5:20 “Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God.”

As we represent Christ — in our lifestyle, in our witness, in our testimony, and in our preaching — we engage in a careful balancing act.  In order to reach those all around us who need Christ, we need to mix together a style that is fitting of our sending nation in heaven with one that is contextually appropriate in the land that is our mission field.  Never have I heard the challenge of doing so better explained than in “Preaching” by Timothy Keller.  His thoughts include the following:

  • “We adapt and contextualize in order to speak the truth in love, to both care and confront.”
  • “Contextualization is fraught with dangers, and in both directions.  If you over-contextualize and compromise the actual content of the gospel, you will draw a crowd but no one will be changed.  That is nothing less than a dereliction of the preacher’s duty.  You will mainly just be confirming people in their present course of life.  On the other hand, if you under-contextualize, so that your communication of the gospel is unnecessarily culturally alien and distant from the listeners, you will find that no one will be willing to hear you out.  Of course, that means that no one is changed by the gospel either, however valiant you are for the truth.”
  • “Show yourself to be a member of the broader human community in which you reside … Demonstrate that Christians share a common membership in the earthly city, not just citizenship in heaven.”

As Christians, we are to preach the Word!  We are to be instant in season and out of season.  We are to be witnesses of Christ in our local community and unto the uttermost part of the earth.  We are to be ambassadors for Christ, representing Him effectively and appropriately to those around us.  Our words and our actions are to be caring and confronting, filled with grace and truth.  We are to neither over-contextualize nor under-contextualize, so that people can be changed by the power of the gospel of Christ.

PLEASE PRAY FOR AMERICAN CHRISTIANS TO CAREFULLY BALANCE THE GOSPEL MESSAGE SO THAT WE CAN EFFECTIVELY SPEAK TRUTH IN LOVE.  May our ambassadorial style allow us to both care and confront.

Leverage Against Us

Ephesians 4:27 “Neither give place to the devil.”

Ephesians 6:12 “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”

I Peter 5:8 “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.”

The documentary “Free Solo” follows the amazing quest of rock climber Alex Honnold to climb El Capitan – the tallest granite rock face on the planet.  Climbing a 3000-foot cliff is an amazing accomplishment, but Alex strove to do something completely unprecedented.  He attempted to climb it without a partner, without ropes, and without any safely equipment.  He was truly alone on that massive shear edifice with only his hands, his feet, his skill, his endurance, and his courage.

The fact that he attempted such a thing is in itself amazing.  The fact that he accomplished rock climbing glory during the four-hour ascent is absolutely stunning.  After all, doing so required flawless execution of an extremely difficult task over the span of hours, where the penalty of the slightest imperfection or distraction would be death.  Watching the documentary made my hands sweaty, and I knew the outcome and wasn’t the one out there on the rock face a thousand feet in the air. 

It was especially captivating to watch Alex create opportunities for leverage on a granite cliff that looked smooth, flat, and shear.  Even though they were tiny, Alex used the smallest cracks, fissures, undulations, and imperfections in which to place his fingers and his toes.  As a result, he was able to scale a seemingly unscalable rock formation.

Our adversary, the devil, is looking to scale our lives.  Though we may believe our lives are like smooth, flat, and shear granite monoliths that give no place to the devil, we will be surprised and dismayed by the ability of our adversary to utilize the smallest cracks, fissures, undulations and imperfections as leverage against us.

No matter where we are on our Christian journey, we must be sober; we must be vigilant.  We must be cognizant that we are wrestling against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, and against spiritual wickedness in high places.  We must be sensitive to the powerful truth that the slightest imperfection or distraction can bring about destruction and death.

PLEASE PRAY FOR AMERICAN CHRISTIANS TO GUARD AGAINST ANY TEMPTATION TO GIVE ANY PLACE TO THE DEVIL IN OUR LIVES.  We must protect against all attempts to gain even the smallest bit of leverage against us.

Refugees

Philippians 3:20-21 “For our conversion is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself.”

Colossians 3:2 “Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth”

Luke 2:7 “And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.”

Luke 9:57-58 “And it came to pass, that, as they went in the way, a certain man said unto him, Lord, I will follow thee whithersoever thou goest.  And Jesus said unto him, Foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head.”

As many people did during these last few weeks, you likely followed the Olympics to some extent.  These games are designed to provide a mix of athleticism, friendly competition, and patriotism, and often capture the world’s attention.  A fan typically cheers for the members of the team that represents their nation.  But, during the last two Olympics games, a new team of athletes was formed that represents no country, but in some way, represents all of humanity.

The Refuge Olympic Team was formed before the 2016 games in Rio.  Through support from a variety of nations, these athletes have been given scholarships and sponsorship to compete even though they have been forcibly displaced from their homeland and have no official citizenship.  The 29 athletes of this team who competed in the Olympics in Tokyo were displaced from 11 countries, reminding us of the 82 million members of humanity who have been similarly displaced from their homeland and forced into lives wandering through strange lands and foreign locales while longing for the security of a long-lost home.  Though these remarkable athletes have won no medals during their two Olympic appearances, their stories are compelling and their courage is remarkable.  Their bravery and resilience have represented all of us brilliantly.

In many ways, Christians often feel like refugees, displaced from our homeland in heaven.  We feel like we live wandering through strange lands and foreign locales while longing for the security of a long-lost home.  Yet, we do have a secure and permanent home and a King who has faced His own displacement.  There was no room for Him in the inn.  He had nowhere to lay His head.  Yet, His bravery and resilience represented all of us perfectly and brilliantly. 

PLEASE PRAY THAT AMERICAN CHRISTIANS WOULD FIRMLY REMEMBER THE JOURNEY OF OUR SAVIOUR AS WE LIVE AS REFUGEES ON THIS SIDE OF HEAVEN.  As we set our affection on things above, may our bravery and resilience represent the cause of Christ brilliantly.

Deleterious Detours

Proverbs 4:26-27 “Ponder the path of thy feet, and let all thy ways be established.  Turn not to the right hand nor to the left: remove thy foot from evil.”

Joshua 1:7 “Only be though strong and very courageous, that thou mayest observe to do according to all the law, which Moses my servant commanded thee: turn not from it to the right hand or to the left, that thou mayest prosper whithersoever thou goest.”

Ephesians 6:11-13 “Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.  For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rules of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.  Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.”

During one of my college winter breaks, I worked at a local logging and paper mill.  I had a project that took me throughout the property and into every corner of the facility.  On a chemical survey trip during my time there, I stepped out of an old industrial elevator and as soon as the doors closed behind me I realized that I couldn’t breathe.  It wasn’t that there was no atmospheric gas to fill my lungs, but that my inhale only caused me to cough and gag.  I immediately pulled my gas-mask from its holder, required gear for just such a situation, and slapped it into position.  Fortunately, it protected me from the chlorine gas that had been insidiously leaking from that portion of the mill undetected; the consequences could have been dire.  While it took a few days to overcome some mild dizziness and headaches, those symptoms were far better than the alternative without the mask.  Yet, it was clear on that day that I had made my way to the wrong place, on the wrong path, at the wrong time.

Sometimes as Christians, we find ourselves at the wrong place, on the wrong path, at the wrong time.  The errors that get us there may be insidious and undetected, though the consequences may be dire.  We may be able to slap on the protection of the armor of God at the last minute, but it would have been a whole lot easier to be at the right place, on the right path, at the right time – already armed. 

In order to do so, we need to ponder the path of our feet.  We need to let all our ways be established.  We need to be strong and very courageous.  We need to observe to do all the law.  And, we need to stay on track – turning not to the right hand nor to the left. 

PLEASE PRAY THAT AMERICAN CHRISTIANS WOULD STAY ON TRACK IN SERVICE TO THE LORD.  We are to maintain ourselves at the right place, on the right path, at the right time, avoiding deleterious detours.

NOTE:  My next PLUS post will not be until August 21st.  Enjoy your next few weeks, and please continue to faithfully and fervently pray for our nation and our leaders.

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