I chose the title above to get your attention. It comes pretty close to describing what I want to say in my column this week, but I will need to explain more. Philippians 3:20 (NIV translation) says, “ but our citizenship is in heaven and we await a savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Our citizenship is in heaven! The Greek word in this verse which is translated “citizenship” is actually “politeuma” which is related to the English word, politics. The English word politics comes from the Greek word “polis” which means city or city state. Politics has to do with our government, and in the case of a democracy, how we select the rulers of our cities and nation.
Paul in Philippians 3:20 is saying something radical. He is saying that we are governed from heaven! God is our ruler. He is king. He is not elected! And our real citizenship is in heaven with Him, not here. If we are Christians (citizens of heaven according to Philippians 3:20) political leaders (like…

Finding the Grace You Need

My friend Mike Endicott, is an Anglican priest who has a healing ministry headquartered in Wales, which was commissioned by the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams.
Mike emphasizes that Jesus Christ still heals, just as he did when he walked the earth, and that just as it was then, so now his healing is entirely a work of grace. Like salvation, it cannot be earned.
Knowing that I have been sick Mike recently sent an email containing a scripture and then a comment. I want to share them here:
The scripture: “But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions--it is by grace you have been saved.”   Ephesians 2:4-5 (NIV)
The comment is by Samuel Rutherford, who wrote about Grace almost 400 years ago! (Rutherford was a Scottish Presbyterian pastor who helped write the Westminster Confession of Faith.)
“Every man thinketh he is rich enough in grace, till he take out his purse, and... then he findeth it b…

Faith Versus Feeling

This is a column based on what I believe parts of scripture say, not based on your or my feelings or experience. I am arguing that we should consider taking the promises and affirmations of God’s word prayerfully and seriously, even when it is confusing and we are not experiencing the fulfillment of particular promises.
My long-time friend Brad Long, who is the head of a Presbyterian and Reformed renewal organization, once made a comment I have not forgotten about “the fruit of the Spirit” and “the gifts of the Spirit” in the Bible. Many but not all of the gifts of the Spirit (I Corinthians 12:8-10, 12:28, and other passages) tend to be miraculous or supernatural. They include gifts such as healing, prophecy, tongues, interpretation of tongues, word of knowledge, etc. (According to Paul, only a minority of people in a church might have any one particular gift, but every Christian has been given at least one spiritual gift.) Brad pointed out that some of the more “supernatural” of these…

Receiving the Power of the Holy Spirit

Recently I was writing to a friend (who is studying the Bible) about the difference between believing that we are saved (put right with God) by our works and believing that we are saved (put right with God) by God’s free gift (given in Jesus Christ) which we receive through child-like trust and by giving our lives over to God.
Paul makes the argument for the second option (justification by grace through faith) in numerous places, including in the letter to the Galatians. But if you read what he wrote there, something surprising appears which many modern-day churchgoers may not understand. He says to his hearers: now when you received the Holy Spirit did you receive the Holy Spirit by doing good works or did you receive the Spirit by hearing the word of God and believing?! (Galatians 3:2) (“Let me ask you this one question: Did you receive the Holy Spirit by obeying the law of Moses? Of course not! You received the Spirit because you believed the message you heard about Christ.”)
The pro…

More Than We Can Ask

As we wrestle with mantle cell lymphoma which has gone into my brain, and which is, at present, responding to high dose chemotherapy, my thoughts go to lots of places. One of those places is Jesus the Healer.As Paul wrote to Gaius in 3 John 1:2, “Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well.” I like that passage because the emphasis is on God’s simultaneous ministry to both body and soul! We need both.
Another scripture which comes to me is Matthew 24:44: “Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.” While I think this passage primarily refers to the return of Christ at a time which we do not know, I think it also encourages us to be ready to go to Him at a time we do not foresee.” So I have these two almost contradictory thoughts jostling around in my mind: On the one hand Jesus wants to heal body and soul. On the other hand, we need to be ready to go to Him…

Basking in Son Light

Basking in Son Light
I was reminded this week of a verse I had not seen in a while. Galatians 5:6 says, “For when we place our faith in Christ Jesus, there is no benefit in being circumcised or being uncircumcised. What is important is faith expressing itself in love.” (New Living Translation)
Faith expressing itself in love. Other translations of the Greek say “faith working through love.”
Galatians is the early letter to the church in Galatia, sent by Paul--the Jewish Pharisee converted now to Jesus--who has now become an apostle (early leader) in the church. One reason he is writing the letter is because he fears the new Galatian Christians have deserted the gospel (good news) of Christ for another gospel. By the true “gospel” he means the proclamation that sinful people have been “put right” (justified) in their relationship with God through the sheer grace of God’s Son dying for them on the cross—and by trusting Him as Savior.By “another gospel” (Paul clearly believes there is not a…

There is Another World

There is Another World
In the late spring of 1975, I was in my mid-twenties. I was visiting some family members in northern Arizona. Two second cousins, Wendy and Jill Varnum, whom I had met for the first time and who were a bit younger than I, introduced me to the Narnia Tales by CS Lewis, books I had never encountered and which they had at their house. After a successful year of law school, I was about to attend a trial year of seminary at Union Theological Seminary in Virginia. I was looking for a deeper relationship with God. But would it affect my career? Would I change careers, or go back to law school in a year? Who knew?
I did know I was seeking God, but, more importantly, I knew that God was seeking me. (I had recently heard at law school an excellent sermon by a young pastor, Rev. Harry Smith, about how the God of the Bible is always coming after us and seeking us.)At that time in my pilgrimage, God used CS Lewis’s Tales of Narnia, especially two of them—the Lion, the Witch, a…