There’s a phrase in the Bible which says, “God is no respecter of persons” (Acts 10:34, KJV). This means that God does not show favoritism based on a person’s appearance or apparent success. In the Old Testament we read that David experienced many trials in his life and was finally exalted to the position of king over Israel. In his heart he wanted to build a temple for the Lord, but this was not the Lord’s plan for him. After David proclaimed his desire to build, God spoke through the prophet Nathan to him saying, “I took you from the pasture and from following the flock, to be ruler over my people Israel. I have been with you wherever you have gone…” (1 Chronicles 17:7-8a). While David was enjoying the peak of his splendor and prosperity, God reminded him, “I took you from the pasture.” Let this speak to your heart about always remembering God’s grace and goodness. He is the One who takes us from our “going nowhere” past. He is the One who spares us from the empty and vain life we could have pursued. And, no matter how blessed we are, we need to be reminded of the source of all these blessings…and not trust in them but in the Lord himself. In our self-centered tendencies, we sometimes fantasize that we are the reason for our success and blessings. But then, God reminds us of the pastures! In Israel, being a shepherd was the most humble and lowest of occupations. When I was in Africa, we stopped at a large field where goatherds were watching their goats. They were young people from 10 to 14 years old. Apparently, no one thought this job worthy of an adult’s attention. David’s days of humble beginnings were replaced by favor and blessings beyond his wildest imagination. God, who is no respecter of persons, gently warned His son to remember where he came from. May we never forget the grace of the Lord Jesus who saved us from an empty life of ultimate destruction. Along with the Apostle Paul, may we say, “By the grace of God, I am what I am” (1 Corinthians 15:10).
It was another Friday morning, but nothing was “typical” about it. I was at a hotel in India a couple of weeks ago (on the coast of the Indian Ocean) waiting for our ride to the morning seminar. As I looked around, I noticed a man walking up to a Hindu shrine in the center of the property. He bowed before it several times with his hands folded close to his chest. No doubt, he was asking for blessings and success in his life for that day. My heart went out to him, and, even though I could not speak his language, God could hear my prayers for him. As I watched him pray, questions came to my mind: “Do people think of Christianity as just another religion?” and “What was the reason Jesus came?” As I read the Bible, I discover that Jesus did not come just to offer people another religion to choose. God’s Word declares Jesus is the Good News, and He came to this world because God loves sinful, lost people. Jesus came to reconcile us to God that we might be a “dwelling place” for His very presence! Religions may need shrines and statues —along with many “works”—in order to appease their gods, but Jesus came to give us life in Him. Just before He died on the cross, Jesus prepared the disciples by praying with them and giving them promises about what really matters in life. In John 17:24, He prayed, “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.” The mission of Jesus is not to create a “religion.” He creates a “new humanity”—a people that belong to God through faith in the life and merits of Jesus. Jesus prays that we might be with Him where He is. Our true home is not found in this world; it is discovered in the presence and person of Christ. Someone once said, “Home is where the heart is.” My heart is not trusting in some religion but in the One who loves me and gave himself for me. Happy Resurrection Day!
Last Thursday I returned from an amazing journey of ministry to Africa, India, and Sri Lanka. Dr. Neil Chadwick and I traveled thousands of miles by plane, train, bus, and taxi to minister to over 620 pastors. This was definitely the most difficult and arduous journey I have ever attempted! India was especially challenging as the temperature rose to 104 with high humidity (we ministered all day without a/c). There were days when the trips were so long that we just barely arrived in time to begin the evening sessions. Along with the teachings, I preached twice (once in Rwanda, Africa and then in Hyderabad, India). Throughout these two and half weeks I kept thinking about the wonderful people of Highway and the many prayers offered up to the Father for me. I could feel the power of these prayers, especially when I got a severe cold and struggled with it for four days. As I reached out to the pastors, I saw myself as a hand extended and God’s people as the arm holding the hand. Thank you again for your love and support! Over and over, the Lord brought this verse to my remembrance as I was about to teach or preach: “If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luke 11:13). No matter what the Lord calls us to do, He wants us to see our need for the Holy Spirit. Our prayers and steps of obedience open the doors of heaven for us to receive the enabling power of the Spirit…in order for us to accomplish what we could never do in our own limited strength. May the same Holy Spirit guide and empower us into a future of fruitfulness and effectiveness here in our churches in Philadelphia!
spent 40 years wandering through the desert on their way to the Promised Land,
mostly because of their own disobedience. During that journey, they often gave
in to despair—losing sight of the inheritance that God was preparing for them. But
not Caleb. The story of Caleb is told, in a nutshell, in Joshua 14:6–15. At the
age of 40, Caleb was ready to claim the land that God had promised, but because
of the people’s disobedience and lack of faith, he had to endure a 45-year delay
before he saw that promise fulfilled. What was it that kept him going, year
after year, until, as an 85-year-old man, he finally entered into his
inheritance? I believe he could not have made it through unless he had kept his
eyes focused on the glories of the future, rather than on the difficulties of
We need to keep
a clear view of the promises into which God is leading us as we head through
difficult, challenging times here on earth. Keeping our eyes on the prize makes
it easier for us to endure the hardship and struggles of the present. Every
church has struggles; every church goes through growing pains; every church
experiences highs and lows. During those lows, we can find encouragement in the
promise that “our present sufferings are
not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us” (Romans
8:18). There are opportunities all around us! Within two blocks of the church,
there are two public schools and a community college, several high-rise
apartments and rowhomes, two union halls, and countless stores and restaurants.
All of these buildings are full of people who need to hear the gospel message
and know the love of God. If we shrink back, as the Israelites did on the cusp
of the promise, we will spend our years in frustration, spinning our wheels.
Instead, let us move forward in the faith of Caleb, proclaiming, “We should go up and take possession of
the land, for we can certainly do it” (Numbers 13:30)! Highway Tabernacle has
a long, glorious past. We have a wonderful present, filled with God’s
miraculous provision. And God is calling us to press on boldly toward a guaranteed
future, “being confident of this, that he
who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of
Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6).
This year, Highway Tabernacle celebrates 125 years of ministry to the city of Philadelphia. The theme for our celebration is, “Honoring the Past, Celebrating the Present, and Anticipating the Future.”