The tempest

Where is God in the tempest?

 

One brief digression to William Shakespeare before I give the answer.

 

This week we went to see a production of The Tempest.  It was Shakespeare’s last play.  The plot is simple.  A nobleman (in this case played by a woman) is exiled unjustly by his enemies to a remote island.  He studies magic and eventually conjures up a massive storm which causes all his enemies to be shipwrecked on the island.  But at the moment he is about to take vengeance on them, he chooses instead to have mercy.  He forgives them all, destroys his books of magic and the play ends with everyone reconciled and on their way home.

 

In the play, even though the other players are unaware of it, all the events are being controlled and manipulated by the sorcerer. 

 

The book of Revelation has a similar story line, though without the sorcery.  It presents pictures of many storms hitting humanity.  These tempests are released upon earth from the throne of God.  The storms afflict all, believers and unbelievers alike.  But the effect they have is different.  The faith of believers is purified, while the rest become even more hardened in heart, just as did Pharaoh and the Egyptians when the first plagues struck.  And these storms are seen as hitting humanity throughout the entire time the church exists, not just the last few years before Jesus returns.  So they affect you and me.

 

The wider picture of the Bible shows us that God sent the greatest tempest of all on his own Son.  Only because that storm fell upon Christ does the present tempest now purify us and draw us closer to God, instead of obliterating us from the face of the earth.  Ultimately, the storms are signs both of judgment and of warning for humanity to make peace with God before it’s too late.

 

Is the devil involved in the storms we face?  Yes, and the last book of the Bible talks about that too.  But ultimately, God is in control.

 

Several of our family members, including us, faced little storms this past week.  You need to know before the storm hits that God is in charge.  You need to know that God is working out his purposes no matter what the immediate circumstances may be.  Don’t panic and don’t give up.  How you respond to the tempest will make a lot of difference in what happens afterward.

 

But here’s the best part.  You don’t have to wait till the end of the play to know how it will come out for you.  God has already made the decision to forgive.   

 

The tempest that fell on Calvary will get you through any storms you face.

 

How to deal with your non-perfect church

How to deal with your non-perfect church

People get disgruntled. I’ve had a number of conversations in the last few weeks with people from different churches. All of them appreciated their church, but all were struggling with deficiencies. Some of the folk were in leadership positions and others weren’t.

At one level, dealing with this kind of thing is a no-brainer. As the old saying goes, if you ever find a perfect church, you’ll ruin it as soon as you join it.

But we need to start asking ourselves a number of questions when doubts arise as to whether we’re in the right place.

Why no revelation about Revelation is dangerous to our faith

Why no revelation about Revelation is dangerous to our faith

This summer I’ve been teaching a post-graduate course on Revelation. My students are great learners and hopefully will be great teachers. Each of them in their own way is getting it.

But this thought has often come to me: why is it that so many Christians badly misunderstand the last book of the Bible?

And if it doesn’t make sense to us, what do we do? We throw our hands up in the air, make a joke of it (uneasily perhaps), and walk away.

What if we tried that with the Gospels or Romans? It wouldn’t leave us with much understanding of our faith, would it? What we need to understand is that our lack of understanding of Revelation affects our ability to understand the Christian faith far more deeply than we think.

The power of faith

The power of faith

Sometimes you have to throw caution to the winds and just step out in faith. That was a topic of conversation the other day between a successful young church planter in Toronto and myself.

One of the enemy’s cleverest tricks is to keep our focus on what we can achieve by our own efforts.

I was taught a lot about faith as a young leader. The example of several men I personally knew who had taken extraordinary steps of faith in their walk with God took hold of me and challenged me to the core.

We can do a lot by our own efforts, but the kingdom will only really move ahead when we start doing what can only be accomplished by divine intervention.

A teaching moment

A teaching moment

The other evening Elaine and I were at a small group we joined at the church. The leader was planning to show a teaching video, but there were problems with the sound, and in the end he (being my age) declared, “I’m just going to teach this myself!” And I was glad he did, because he was outstanding. 

It seems to me there are three critical elements in the health of a local church: teaching, worship and community. Evangelism is of course essential, but what’s the point of evangelizing in order to bring people into a church where there is poor teaching, questionable worship and no sense of relationship? The best thing that could happen is for the convert to go in one door and out the other into a church in better shape.