Saturday, October 24, 2009
I have always been moved by the “dimensions” there are to God and the Christian life. Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians was that they would have the strength to “comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge.” (Eph.1:18,19) The dimension that is particularly fresh in my mind is the length...more, specifically, the exceptional long reach to the Gospel! In basketball, a player’s value and ability is enhanced if he has a “long wing span”, the long reach that helps him both offensively and defensively.

You’ve heard of the
“long arm of the law” where your sin (crime) will find you out, and someone is arrested for some past or hidden crime that they’ve tried to hide. Then there’s definitely the long reach of the grace of God! It reached the prodigal even when he found himself in bondage in the “far country.” David acknowledges this in (Ps.139:7-10) where he says, “Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! If I take wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me.” It is really hard for people to run from God because of the long reach of His love and grace!

What is vivid in my mind as I am sitting in the airport in Johannesburg, South Africa is the EXCEPTIONAL LONG REACH OF THE GOSPEL! I’ve just finished preaching in Windhoek, Namibia and I was so stirred by what God is doing and this truth of the long reach of the Gospel. Since many Americans are “geographically-challenged,” if you look on the map (I’ll give you a moment to find it) you’ll see Namibia right above South Africa at the bottom of the Continent. When I say to people,
“I’m going to Namibia” and they give me a blank, unknowing stare, I simply say, “I’m going to Africa” and then a little recognition comes.

What is so special about Namibia to me and our church in Tucson, AZ? Twelve years ago, in December of 1997, we sent Steve & Shirley Anderson and their family to pioneer a church in Windhoek. They had just come from laboring in Kostroma, Russia and had the faith and zeal to
“go again”! I was there in 1999 in the early stages and I saw the beginnings of a powerful work of God. There were real conversions and already a number of disciples were rising up in that congregation. Steve & Shirley had to leave in 2002 because of visa problems, but fortunately, Peter & Eminee Ajala from South London, went in to take over the pastorate of that church. When they did it was like an accelerant was added to a fire! The church really exploded in growth and impact in that nation. Today the church is pastored by Set-son and Mary Ndahangwapo, and they have sent out seven churches into different cities of Namibia. It was a very long trip to get there (two overnight flights) but it’s not the distance or travel time that moves me...it is the long reach of the Gospel! If you fly one of Qantas airline’s 747's they have stenciled on the front of the aircraft 747 "Longreach" because it can fly non-stop from Los Angeles to Sydney which is some 13-14 hours. But that can’t compare with the Gospel’s reach!

From Tucson, AZ God’s grace has enabled our church to reach around the world in a truly remarkable fashion. This is a testimony to who God is and what He can do when people embrace His vision,
“go and make disciples of all nations (Mt.28:19). It is staggering to think that there are churches and thousands of people who would not be saved today, who would not have eternal life through Jesus Christ, and who would not be ready to make heaven their home, without the long reach of the Gospel through the faithful people in our congregation! Preaching in Windhoek to over 500 people on Sunday morning just brought home to me this wonderful sense of what God has done. These are people who don’t have an “organizational” attachment to our assembly but an “organic” one. There are real “family bonds” with people recognizing and appreciating the investment, the history, and the destiny that has come about by our labors in the Gospel, along with the church in South London.

I think of the Bible’s testimony to this dimension of impact beginning when Jesus stepped out of heaven to come to earth in order to reach you and I! When Mary broke the alabaster box of precious ointment and poured it on the head of Jesus, it triggered this powerful reality. Jesus said,
“Truly, wherever this Gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will also be told in memory of her.” That is a long reach, folks! Jesus said her actions would transcend time, cultures, and geographic boundaries, reaching down to our present age!

Here is the text and testimony that comes to my mind that illustrates the work we’re involved in. Paul wrote to the Corinthians about his ministry. He was actually forced into defending the validity of his ministry against the critics and the pretenders. Even though he was uncomfortable doing so, he left us with some important truths and challenges.

“But we will not boast beyond limits, but will boast only with regard to the area of influence God assigned to us, to reach even to you. For we are not overextending ourselves, as though we did not reach you. We were the first to come all the way to you with the Gospel of Christ. We do not boast beyond limit in the labors of others. But our hope is that as your faith increases, our area of influence among you may be greatly enlarged, so that we may preach the gospel in lands beyond you, without boasting of work already done in another’s area of influence. Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” (2Cor.10:13-17)

There are areas of influence that God gives to people and churches
to reach other people and nations with the glorious Gospel of Jesus Christ. His hope (and ours also) was that in recognition of the partnership of that God-given “reach,” the Gospel’s area of influence would be greatly enlarged to other people and places. As this happens then it is the Lord who gets all the glory!

As Christians, we are called to keep reaching: deeper, and higher, and farther. This is a sacred obligation. (Rom.1:14,15) says,
“I am under obligation (debtor) to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish. So I am eager to preach the Gospel to you also who are in Rome.” Paul clearly wants to have a “long reach” for God and the Gospel. There is a song that says, “For it reaches to the highest mountain, and it flows to the lowest valley...the Blood that Jesus shed, from day to day, it will never lose its power.” That power will reach to your loved one or family member, or to that person you work with, or it will reach across the street to your neighbor. IT WILL ALSO REACH AROUND THE WORLD...AN EXCEPTIONALLY LONG REACH!
Sunday, October 4, 2009
Note: This blog post will also appear in the Fall issue of "The Bull's Eye" publication.

I am not an alarmist pastor marketing in the sensational to gain an audience. I am also not like the shepherd boy in Aesop’s fable always
"crying wolf" either. I have to tell you, though, that I have never felt the stakes higher for our nation. There is a real battle going on for the soul of America that is going to help define the direction of our future.

Today, there is an all-out war to eliminate God and, in particular, Jesus Christ and Christianity from the public square. This is part of an overall
cultural shift to exclude God, the Bible and absolutes, while enthroning man and moral relativism. Revisionist history is putting forth the idea that America is no longer and never has been a nation rooted in Christianity and Biblical principles. What is being challenged in this is America’s spiritual roots and godly heritage. Much of this is being done in the name of progress. These so-called "progressives" want to re-shape America in their image at the expense of all that America has stood for over the last two-plus centuries. They want to erase the vision the Founding Fathers had for this nation, especially the things that have aligned this nation with God and the precepts of Scripture.

Centuries ago, the Psalmist asked the question, almost a lament,
"If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?" (Ps.11:3) There is something about good and godly foundations that are vital to righteous living which benefits society as a whole since, "righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people." (Prov.14:34) Freedom must be build on moral foundations or it will eventually collapse. John Adams, 1789, wrote these astounding words, "Our Constitution was designed only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate for the government of any other." God must bless America and America must bless God if it is to succeed!

Maybe we should let history speak for itself! That’s the problem that the progressives have: the facts keep getting in the way!

If we and our posterity reject religious instruction and authority, violate the rules of eternal justice, trifle with the injunctions of morality, and recklessly destroy the political constitution which holds us together, no man can tell how sudden a catastrophe may overwhelm us that shall bury all our glory in profound obscurity.
-Daniel Webster, Early-American Statesman

No free government now exists in the world, unless where Christianity is acknowledged, and isthe religion of the country.
-Pennsylvania Supreme Court, 1824

We profess to be republicans, and yet we neglect the only means of establishing and perpetuating our republican forms of government, that is, the universal education of our youth in the principles of Christianity by the means of the Bible. For this Divine Book, above all others, favors that equality among mankind, that respect for just laws, and those suber and frugal virtues, which constitute the soul of republicanism.
-Benjamin Rush, Signer of the Declaration of Independence

To the kindly influence of Christianity we owe that degree of civil freedom, and political and social happiness which mankind now enjoys...Whenever the pillars of Christianity shall be overthrown, our present republican forms of government, and all the blessings which flow from them, must fall with them.
-Jedediah Morse, Patriot and "Father of America Geography"

This is not just partisan
political commentary or part of the vast right-wing conspiracy, but our current Administration in Washington, D.C. and the political climate illustrates this battle. Our President, Barak Obama, campaigned on a platform of change. He continually repeated the mantra, "Change you can believe in!" The problem is he never really told us, and many people didn’t seem to care, what exactly that change would be or look like! What was clear, however, and what he enunciated was his plan and vision to re-shape or re-make America. This is why we’re witnessing a deliberate attempt, if not an outright onslaught, to re-shape American from debates over health care, to foreign policy and our relationships with our allies, to the economic foundations of capitalism which have contributed to America’s freedom and strength. Think about this: if you want to "re-make" something then you’re admitting that there’s something wrong with the original or with the "foundations."

Please, lay aside politics or popularity for a minute, because America does not need to be
re-made, it needs to be revived! This is not just semantics, but there is a vast difference between these two visions. To revive (lit. "to live again") means to return to those time-tested and God-honoring foundations. To re-shape is to depart from them in favor of man’s "better idea." A significant part of American history has been the religious revivals and spiritual movements that have restored us to God and His "ancient landmarks." (Prov.22:28) The First & Second Great Awakening was a time of real religious advance in the colonies that led to social transformation. One historian said about this, "The Great Awakening was a watershed event in the life of the American people. Before it was over, it had swept the colonies of the Easter seaboard, transforming the social and religious life of the land." Personally, I was saved in 1970 during what was called "The Jesus Movement" which saw tens of thousands of young people turn to Christ and begin to follow Him. This is why I am holding to the prayer of Habakkuk (Hab.3:2)NLT, "I have heard all about you, LORD, and I am filled with awe by the amazing things you have done. In this time of our deep need, begin again to help us (revive us again), as you did in years gone by. Show us your power to save us. And in your anger, remember your mercy." This should be our prayer and hope for our current President, our government and nation: revive America, don’t re-shape it!

So, where is my confidence? There is a story about two men sitting on a porch one summer evening. Soon a small dog came wobbling down the street and fell at the bottom of the steps in a disheveled heap.
"This little dog looks awfully beat up," observed one. "Oh, that’s my dog," said the other. "He comes home looking like that almost every night after he gets into fights with other dogs in the neighborhood." The friend said, "Well, he must not be much of a fighter." The other replied, "Oh, he’s a very good fighter, but he’s a very poor judge of opponents." Those who are promoting an anti-God posture and belligerence have bitten off more than they can chew. They’ve chosen to pick a fight with the wrong opponent, Almighty God! King David spoke to this delusion of those who would create a world without God, when he said, "Why are the nations in an uproar, and the peoples devising a vain thing? The kings of the earth take their stand, and the rulers take counsel together against the LORD and against His Anointed: "Let us tear their fetters apart, and cast away their cords from us!" He who sits in the heavens laughs, The Lord scoffs at them." (Ps.2:1-4) We can recognize that God is in the heavens, and His throne is secure, and it is the one to which we pledge our eternal allegiance!

Note: I am indebted to and have quoted liberally from an article by Elwood McQuaid which appeared in the magainze Israel My Glory called "Picking The Wrong Opponent."

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