Is God Awakening the Muslim World?

Is God Awakening the Muslim World?

"I revealed Myself to those who did not ask for Me; I was found by those who did not seek Me." Isaiah 65:1

This Sunday we will be hosting Tom Doyle who will speak in all three of our services at City Church. Tom has spent eleven years as a full-time missionary to the Middle East and has authored the book: "Dreams and Visions: Is Jesus Awakening the Muslim World?" Below is one of the stories he relates in his book. My heart soars as I contemplate God’s love for people and the measures He is willing to take.

Hassan had a heart for Muslims and had studied for years to reach them for Christ but the results were disappointing. He had lived in the old part of Cairo, Egypt for two years and although he talked about Christ daily, he had not seen a single convert. Early one morning he was abducted and taken against his will across rooftops to a hatch door that he was commanded to open. Hassan was praying the prayer of a martyr, "Jesus, into your hands I commit my spirit," but something extraordinary awaited him inside the foreboding room he entered.

The man who had kidnapped Hassan explained: "We are imams, and we all studied at Al-Azhar University. During our time there, each of us had a dream about Jesus, and each of us has privately become a follower of Christ. For a time, we didn’t dare tell anyone about this. It would, of course, have been our own death sentences. But finally, we could hide it no longer.

"’We each prayed to Jesus for His help to learn what it means to be His follower. Over time, He brought us together, and you can imagine our amazement when the Holy Spirit revealed that there are other imams who have found Jesus as well. Now we meet here three times a week at night to pray for our families and for the people in our mosques to find Jesus too. We know you follow Christ. He has led us to you.

"I’m very sorry I had to frighten you with the mask and the gun, but I knew it was the only way to get you here. It was just too dangerous any other way. I apologize. But now our question is, will you teach us the Bible?"

Have a great week,

Tom

Prepare Your Minds for Action

Prepare Your Minds for Action

John Stott, who died in 2011, was a British pastor and worldwide leader of Evangelical Christians. In 2005, Time magazine listed Stott among the 100 most influential people in the world. The author of numerous books, Stott’s Your Mind Matters was written in reaction to the problem of anti-intellectualism in the church which has often viewed theology with distrust and biblical scholarship with uneasiness.

According to Stott, this anti-intellectualism can often take the form of meaningless rituals in empty church tradition or of radical social and political action without a passion for Christ or of unwarranted emphasis on individual experience which is devoid of biblical understanding and devotion. Stott’s plea is not for a dry, humorless, academic Christianity without life or power, but for a robust, intellectual engagement with God’s Word that leads to a passionate life in Christ!

Stott is not alone in his appeal. This was certainly the conviction of Jesus, who made it clear that our intellect is integral to our life with God. When summarizing a life of devotion as involving the heart, soul and strength; Jesus added “the mind” to the original wording of Deuteronomy. It seems that Jesus wanted to leave little doubt that the comprehensive nature of serving God also necessitated the engagement of the intellect.

Luke tells us that for three weeks Paul argued in the synagogue from the scriptures, explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and rise from the dead. He uses verbs like, argue, explain, prove, proclaim and persuade. All of these verbs show the intellectual engagement of the apostle. They indicate that Paul was teaching a body of doctrine, arguing toward a conclusion and actively engaging in the proclamation of the gospel.

Paul tells Timothy to be diligent in presenting himself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, “accurately handling the word of truth.” Paul was concerned that Timothy, a young pastor at Ephesus, not overlook the important aspect of diligent study and fearless proclamation of the Word of God. He implores Timothy to be intellectually engaged in these matters so he can proclaim the Word with impeccable accuracy.

Peter entreats his readers to prepare their “minds for action,” a call to actively engage the world and Kingdom with their entire intellect. For Peter, belief and faith are not rooted in mere blind trust, but in an intellectual understanding of who God is and what He has done and promised to do through his Word.

James Orr has commented: “A religion divorced from earnest and lofty thought has always, down the whole history of the church, tended to become weak, [boring] and unwholesome; while the intellect, deprived of its rights within religion, has sought its satisfaction without, and developed into godless rationalism.”

The radical discipleship that Jesus desires and the church needs is a discipleship which engages the mind and the heart with the Spirit and truth. Discipleship focused solely on experience will soon blow up while discipleship focused exclusively on theology will soon dry up. God’s desire is for us to engage our intellects as well as our hearts in the pursuit of Him. Then, we will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God (Pr 2:1-6).

See you Sunday!

Pastor Greg

Weekly Devotional from Pastor Greg

On October 6, in the year 1536, a pitiful figure was led from a dungeon in Vilvorde Castle near Brussels, Belgium. For nearly a year and a half, this man had suffered isolation in a dark, dank cell. Now outside the castle wall, the prisoner was fastened to a post. He had time to utter aloud his final prayer, “Lord! Open the king of England’s eyes,” and then he was strangled until dead. Immediately, his body was burned at the stake. Who was this man, and what was the offense for which both political and church authorities had condemned him? His name was William Tyndale, and his crime was to have translated and published the Bible in English.

Tyndale, born in England about the time Columbus sailed to the new world, was educated at Oxford and Cambridge and then became a member of the clergy. He was fluent in eight languages, including Greek, Hebrew, and Latin. Tyndale was a devoted student of the Bible, and the pervasive ignorance of the scriptures that he observed in both priests and lay people troubled him deeply. In a heated exchange with a cleric, who argued against putting scripture in the hands of the common man, Tyndale vowed, “If God spare my life, ere many years I will cause a boy that driveth the plough, shall know more of the Scripture than thou dost!”

One must wonder what compelled this man of great faith and accomplishment to literally sacrifice his life for the spread of Scripture. Although it is impossible to know for sure, one may assume that Tyndale understood all too well that the words of salvation were not to be hidden, but instead published and promoted for all humanity. Although many come to Christ by hearing about Him from another, the message of salvation originates in the scriptures (John 3:16; Rom. 10:9). We are all saved by believing the truth of Scripture whether we read it ourselves or are taught it by someone else (1 Pet. 1:23). Surely, this fact was not lost on Tyndale.

God’s Word does not only bring salvation to the lost, but transformation to the broken as well. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here” (II Cor 5:17)! Surely Tyndale understood that the scriptures, read and obeyed, would bring transformation to not only individuals, but also to hamlets and kingdoms!

Tyndale must have also been keenly aware of the cleansing effect of God’s Word on the character of believers. Jesus said, “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32). The truth of God’s Word works freedom in many ways and brings joy in all of them. Among other things, His truth sets us free from sin (c.f. John 8:34). Jesus turns this truth into a prayer in John 17:17, “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.”

Beginning with the first four words of the Bible – “In the beginning, God…” – the existence, character, and plan of God are splashed across every single page of Scripture. We were created for Him, made to love and serve Him, designed to walk in close communion with Him, and called to do all that we think, say, and do in reference to Him. To Tyndale, there were few things more important than Holy Scripture. It is there where the creature often meets his Creator.

Along with many others, William Tyndale gave his life so others might realize all God has endowed to us through His Word, the Bible. By God’s grace, may their sacrifice of liberty and life not be wasted on a people so far removed from such hostility. Instead, let us commit to be people of the Book, letting it richly dwell within us and proclaiming it to others (c.f. Col. 3:16)!

See you on Sunday!

Pastor Greg

Civil Authority

Civil Authority

"Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves… Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience." Romans 13:1-2; 5

Civil authority was God’s idea, not man’s. To be a good citizen of heaven and a pleasing child of God, we must also aim to be a good citizen of whatever country we live in.

Our goal is not just to stay out of the trouble that comes when we break the law, but to keep a clear conscience before God. We honor positions of civil authority because God established them to restrain evil in this present time. To honor civil authorities, therefore, is part of honoring God.

But our duty to civil government goes beyond blind obedience. Conscience limits us when government asks us to do something that is against God’s commands. When this happens, we appeal with honor toward them, and if they still will not relent, we must disobey and be willing to suffer the penalty.

This is what happened in Acts 4. Civil authority commanded the apostles to stop speaking in Jesus Name (Acts 4:17), but this was in contradiction to Christ’s command to go into the whole world and preach the gospel. Here was Peter and John’s response: "Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God. For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen or heard." (Acts 4:19-20)

For Jesus’ sake we should be model citizens of America. We should pay taxes, we should stay within the limits of the law, and we should pray for all who are in positions of authority. Yet if the government in the future makes laws that force us to disobey God, it will be our duty to follow God, not men.

All over the world we have brothers and sisters who are being persecuted and martyred for just this reason. Let’s pray for them; thank God for the freedom we enjoy in America; and continue to pray for all those in authority.

Have a great week,

Pastor Tom

God’s Delight in You

God’s Delight in You

"The Lord disciplines those He loves, as a father the child he delights in." Proverbs 3:12

God doesn’t correct us because we irritate Him. We are His delight and He wants us to be better for our own sake, not so He can like us more. You are unconditionally loved by God and totally liked; not some day when we’re mature, but as we are right now!

I was with a father this week who gave me permission to share what happened with his five year old daughter recently. She was caught hitting her three year old brother, so Dad gave her a time out. When the time out was done he invited her, as always after discipline, to sit on his lap to talk about it. But she wouldn’t come immediately. She had taken his correction as rejection, so she didn’t have confidence that his lap was safe for her.

When he saw this, his heart felt nothing but compassion for his daughter. He urged her to come and finally she gave in, so they cuddled first, and then talked about why hitting her brother was wrong. In this place of security, she was able to say she was sorry to her brother, he forgave her, and the family was restored to Dad’s delight.

Don’t ever mistake correction for rejection because Your Father in heaven is crazy about you!

Have a great week,

Pastor Tom

Finding Life in Christ

Finding Life in Christ

"I am crucified in Christ and it is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me. The life I live in this body I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and died for me." Galatians 2:20

While on vacation last week we had a "soiree" one night; an event where those who wanted to present a song, a poem, a reading or any type of gift to the group, did so, one at a time. One of our presenters was Jessie Gerry, a young woman who attends City Church. She gave a poem she had written inspired by a sermon, and I asked if I could share it as a devotion. Here it is:

I finally reached the end of me
Why has it taken me so long to see?

You say that your yolk is easy and light,
So why have I made it about how hard I can try?

Put your head down and pound on through this
Is what I tell myself when I’m about to lose it

Don’t rest, keep working and never slow down;
To be the best you have to find a way to always grind it out

But what if I missed the whole point of it all?
Like Saul headed to Damascus before he became Paul

Cease striving and learn how to enter my rest
Is what the writer of Hebrews challenged us to put to the test

It’s so countercultural to what we are taught
Work hard, climb the ladder, give it all at all costs

Your word says that death results from a mind governed by flesh
But being led by the Spirit is where life and peace will mesh

If we’re led by the Spirit, then we’re children of God
We’re no longer slaves, but now daughters and sons

This isn’t about what we can do on our own,
But rather it’s laying our life at His throne

Yielding to the one who has given us life
For it’s not ’til we lose our life that we actually find
Our purpose, our meaning and why we are here
Do you see much of Jesus when you look in the mirror?

It’s not about good works and what we can do
Years ago on the cross God already proved
That his love was greater than what we deserve
Christ modeled perfection in the way that he served

He was obedient to death – even death on a cross
All of heaven is ours to gain, from that which he lost

The point of it all is that he gave us something
That we don’t deserve in exchange for our nothing

Heir of God and co-heir with Christ
Our new identity has been bought with a price

See, what someone will pay determines what something is worth
And Christ paid it all when he came to the earth

A spotless lamb being led to the slaughter
Is what Christ endured for us to be called son or daughter

He clothed us with white as our sin washed away
There’s a lot you could call it, but he calls it grace

But that’s not a free pass to just keep on sinning
If that’s what you think, then restart at the beginning

Grace is much more than undeserved favor
It empowers us to live just like our Savior

The very same power that raised Christ from the dead
Is living inside of us – that what Ephesians said

Does "resting" mean be lazy, sleep all day and not try?
If that’s what you think, read Proverbs to open your eyes

It’s not about doing nothing, but rather what powers your engine
Are YOU driving hard or does the Spirit have your attention?

If you hear condemnation in the words that I’m saying
Then you’re missing the point that’s not the track that I’m playing

Christ came for freedom – to give us life to the full
Any kind of bondage, comes straight from the devil

To live is Christ and to die is gain
This revelation has shifted the plane

Many laws have been established since the beginning of time
Like conservation and gravity, which limits our hang-time

The law of gravity says that we cannot fly
Enter aerodynamics and suddenly we can soar high

On the wings of the wind with our lift and thrust just right
This might be a clue into our Christian life …

See, the law of sin and death says we’re certainly doomed
Enter Christ in his mercy who did what we could never do

He changed the game, by bearing our sin
His victory is mine, in a fight I could never win

So how do we repay this King in his glory
In this imperfect world – that’s the point of the story

We can never measure up no matter how hard we try
The trick is to accept that he already paid the price

Now we can be like him, in word and in deed
What greater honor to give this mighty King?
Than to offer our hearts in abandoned surrender
And worship him with our all, in awe of his splendor

When I reached the end of me, I felt like I was done
But what I’ve found in Christ is that I’ve only just begun

Have a great week,

Tom

Responding to the Present Crisis

Responding to the Present Crisis

A lot is going on in our country right now, but what is God saying? How do we react to the flood of emotions we feel when racism, hatred, anger, retaliation, and fear are the currency most are trading in. My daughter, Anne Angel, wrote a poem that she read during her session at the Intimacy with God conference that I feel speaks powerfully to the present crisis. If you’d like to hear her whole message we’ve provided a link below.

Have a great week,

Tom

Poem by Anne Angel
So much in the news,
so much abuse,
So many setting fires with their too short fuse.
What’s the use? Pushing back, speaking out, standing up — For what?
To hear "Sit down" "Quiet down"
"We don’t want you in this town"
"It seems your God is not around–
Have you seen how many migrants drown?"
Orgies, incest, porn, rape –
Any help will come too late.
God! You’re too late!
And this is just hell’s starting gate
Trading strong on fear and hate – What can we do with this pain – But wait?
No.
Wait.
That gate, hell’s gate – it can’t prevail It’s done its best with thorn and nail,
And we attest that test was one big fail.
The King of life brings life from death, Light in dark and from mud, breath.
No corpse, no tomb is beyond His reach – To each He speaks, commands, entreats:
"Don’t weep."
"Repent."
"Come forth."
"Be sent…
Like sheep among wolves" – but sheep with a secret Sheep with a witness and the power to preach it:
"I was dead, too, but I’m alive – See! It’s true!
And the same God who raised me through me will raise you!"
So watch out, Lazarus! The church is about – And when they come to your grave, they’ll be bringing you out.

Link to message – citychurchonline.org

Click on "Media" and scroll down to "Intimacy with God, 2016/07/22, Young Women Preachers."