VIDEO Pilgrim’s Progress

Aug 27, 2016

Pilgrim’s Progress: Journey to Heaven is a modern adaptation of John Bunyan’s beloved classic tale.

Amazing visual effects, beautiful locations and a wonderful cast bring to life the story that has inspired each generation for hundreds years. Follow Christian and his companions on the great journey from the City of Destruction to the gates of Heaven.

Along the way, the pilgrims face obstacles large and small, man-made and demon-spawned.

Beyond the gripping drama, Bunyan’s powerful allegory teaches us the hazards and hopes of the Christian life, and the triumphant glory that awaits all who faithfully follow the King of King’s

Blessings of the Once and Future Kingdom

For believers, a people both fulfilled and expectant, the Beatitudes are a beautiful way of life.

As I read through the Gospels, Are we there yet? seems to echo across the pages like the unrestrained complaints of children from the backseat of a minivan. Behind every miraculous act and conversation, the air is filled with questions about Jesus and His mission, but mostly there are murmurs and conjecture around the timing of God’s kingdom. If Jesus is the Messiah, then where is His kingdom? When is it coming?

His friends speculate (Luke 19:11), His enemies ask (Luke 17:20), and Jesus Himself offers clues like “the kingdom of God is at hand” (Mark 1:15), which leaves everyone scratching their heads. These statements make it seem that the kingdom is about to arrive and indeed already has. But the kingdom is a future reality also, and Jesus teaches His disciples to pray for its coming (Matt. 6:10; Luke 11:2). And so, even today, Jesus’ followers continue to wonder.

On one occasion, Jesus compared it to a mustard seed:

It is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is larger than all the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches (Matt. 13:32 ESV).

The kingdom indeed came to earth with Jesus, but like the mustard seed, it’s unseen, growing quietly underground. (See Luke 17:20-21.) In this regard, then, it’s perfectly natural to talk about the kingdom also being a future reality, for the tree has not yet grown to its full stature. In short, the kingdom of God, also called the kingdom of heaven, is already and not yet.

But don’t we know this to be true instinctively? It doesn’t take living on this earth for too long to realize that this world hasn’t yet been made perfect just by Christ’s reign. Human sinfulness goes largely unchecked, pain and heartache leave no one untouched, and death’s shadow looms over everything. But for Christ’s followers, something has changed. We have peace with God, the fellowship of our brothers and sisters, and the hope of eternal life. In very tangible ways, the kingdom of God has come to us already. Like those children in the back of the minivan, we’re on our way—the new adventure we’ve been waiting for has begun—but we’re not quite there yet.

I am convinced we must view Jesus’ teaching and miracles with one eye on the kingdom as present reality and the other on the kingdom as not yet here. And it is by doing so that we can begin to understand the Beatitudes, those puzzling opening lines of Jesus’ famous Sermon on the Mount.

Why do I single out the Beatitudes as a prime example of this already-and-not-yet way of thinking? Because the Beatitudes are firmly planted in this world yet stretch out into the world to come. They are pronouncement and prophecy, consolation and hope. And apart from the kingdom, they make little sense. Everything about these statements of blessing reveal the chasm between the age we live in and the age that is to come, but more importantly, they reveal the heart of our great God.

The Wait for the Coming Kingdom

When I was seven, my dad sat me down and explained that he would no longer be living with us, and my heart broke. When I was a teenager, I came home from school one day to learn that my mother had been taken to the emergency room after cutting her wrists, and my heart broke again. And just last year, I held tight to the woman I love as she spoke to her mom for the last time this side of heaven. And my heart broke a little bit more.

This world is broken, like my heart in those moments, and is therefore jagged and sharp. If this life were all there is, it would be foolish to embrace the way of life Jesus says is blessed. In this world, we celebrate the self-made man rather than the one who is poor in spirit and recognizes his need for God. We pity those who mourn and disregard the meek altogether. We tell those who hunger and thirst for righteousness that life isn’t fair and advise them to move on as best they can. And we all know mercy is a dangerous gift to give because it is so rarely returned.

I want to celebrate the Beatitudes. I want to be meek and merciful and pure in heart. But if I’m honest, I must admit that they read like a list of qualifications for the proverbial nice guy who finishes last—out of place for anyone who wants to survive in this world and out of the question for anyone who wants to succeed. Yet Jesus says the people who exemplify these heart characteristics are blessed by God.

The Beatitudes don’t minimize the very real pain that men and women of faith experience in this life. Instead, they give weight to those experiences. Mercy and peacemaking and being persecuted for the sake of righteousness—these have value because this world is not all there is. God’s kingdom is real and His promises, true. Our heavenly Father is not blind to our pain, and He will make right all that has gone wrong. For those who can see with the eyes of faith, the path laid bare by the Beatitudes is not the path of fools. Rather, it is the only one that makes sense in a world that is passing away.

The Life of the Kingdom Already Here

In C. S. Lewis’ fantasy novel The Magician’s Nephew, a young Digory Kirke plants an apple core in his backyard in London. But the apple came from a tree in Narnia, so as a new tree sprouts, its branches reflect the weather in Narnia:

Sometimes it would move mysteriously when there was no wind blowing: I think that when this happened there were high winds in Narnia and the English tree quivered because, at that moment, the Narnia tree was rocking and swaying in a strong southwestern gale.

When we become citizens of God’s kingdom, it takes territory on earth. And we, though far from home like Digory’s tree, must never forget where we truly belong.

Jesus calls us to walk as kingdom people in the here and now because the kingdom is with us today. That’s why, while the other blessings listed are all future, the kingdom of heaven is discussed in the present tense: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven … Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:3, 10, emphasis added).

The Jewish crowds who gathered to hear Jesus speak were waiting for God’s kingdom—waiting for Him to step into history and set things right—but in the Beatitudes, Jesus makes the audacious claim that the blessings of the kingdom begin today for those who know Him.

There will come a day when “He will wipe every tear from [our] eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain” (Rev. 21:4 NLT), but the future kingdom has already begun to invade. And we are invited to walk as its citizens right here and right now. Just like Digory’s tree, we are called to live lives that reflect the climate of the kingdom—no matter how foolish or out of place it may look to people passing by.

by John Greco

Making Him Known

Acts 17:16-33

There are three questions everyone needs to know how to answer correctly: Who is the one true God? What is He like? And is it possible to have a personal relationship with Him? Throughout the history of mankind, countless people from every nation have grappled with these questions.

When the apostle Paul was in Athens, he provided answers for the people there by preaching about Jesus. Today Christians continue to share about Jesus because it is God’s will that every single person have the correct answer to those three questions (1 Tim. 2:3-4). There is great need. Think about how many people are involved in the myriad religions all over the world. Most live in fear, uncertainty, and darkness.

Imagine that we are walking into church one Sunday morning and sitting in front of a giant statue made of bronze or gold. We might sing a few songs in honor of it, listen to a sermon, then take up an offering and lay it at the foot of the statue. After some additional music, church is over and we return to our houses. What would we carry home with us? What assurance could we claim? There would be no joy, peace, or assurance in this life or for the life to come because we bowed down to something that is lifeless and unable to hear us.

As believers, we know the one true God. There is a world full of people who long to know Jesus, but they have never heard about Him. Do not be content just to live your Christian life. Find a way to share your peace and joy with someone else.

Absent from the Body

“We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.” (2 Corinthians 5:8)

This wonderful phrase of hope—“absent from the body, present with the Lord”—was the most appropriate inscription we could think of to place on the gravestone of our youngest son when he died many years ago. He was a solid Christian young man with a good Christian testimony, so we are indeed “confident” that he has been “present with the Lord” ever since sudden cancer temporarily conquered his body, leaving a beautiful wife and three young children behind.

Therefore, though we all miss him deeply, we “sorrow not, even as others which have no hope” (1 Thessalonians 4:13). Sadly, however, there are many others who are “without Christ, . . . having no hope, and without God in the world” (Ephesians 2:12). Although Christ has paid the full redemption price on the cross to have their sins forgiven and to give them eternal life, they spurn His love, and so Jesus has to say, “And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life” (John 5:40).

The times of judgment are coming, when they learn that “whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:15). Right now, however, all who know Christ as their Lord and Savior can know, with Paul, that “to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21).

Furthermore, when Christ returns, “them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him” (1 Thessalonians 4:14). And then He will change our old body, whether in the grave or still living, “that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body” and “we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is” (Philippians 3:21; 1 John 3:2). HMM

The Power of Right Thinking

I thought on my ways, and turned my feet unto thy testimonies. —Psalm 119:59

What we think about when we are free to think about what we will—that is what we are or will soon become….

The Psalms and Prophets contain numerous references to the power of right thinking to raise religious feeling and incite to right conduct. “I thought on my ways, and turned my feet unto thy testimonies.” “While I was musing the fire burned: then spake I with my tongue” (Psalm 39:3). Over and over the Old Testament writers exhort us to get quiet and think about high and holy things as a preliminary to amendment of life or a good deed or a courageous act….

Thinking about God and holy things creates a moral climate favorable to the growth of faith and love and humility and reverence. We cannot by thinking regenerate our hearts, nor take our sins away nor change the leopard’s spots. Neither can we by thinking add one cubit to our stature or make evil good or darkness light. So to teach is to misrepresent a scriptural truth and to use it to our own undoing. But we can by Spirit-inspired thinking help to make our minds pure sanctuaries in which God will be pleased to dwell.

Lord, my mind will be inundated with thoughts today—some necessary, some impure, some wasteful, some covetous, some neutral. Take control of my mind, that my thoughts throughout may be pleasing to You. Amen.

Worship Everyday

Their heart is far from me… in vain they do worship me. (Matthew 15:8-9)

It is my experience that the totality of our Christian lives—our entire attitude as persons—must
be towards the worship of God!

If you do not know the presence of God in your office, your factory, your home—then God is
not in the church you attend, either!

I became a Christian when I was a young man working in a tire factory in Akron, Ohio. I
remember my work there—but I remember my worship there, too! I had plenty of worshipful
tears in my eyes. No one ever asked me about them, but I would not have hesitated to explain

You can learn to use certain skills until they are automatic. I became so skillful that I could do
my work and then I could worship God even while my hands were busy.

If the love of God is in us and the Spirit of God is breathing praise within us, all the musical
instruments in heaven are suddenly playing in full support! Even our thoughts become a
sanctuary in which God can dwell.

It is ALWAYS well with the righteous

It is well with the righteous ALWAYS. From the beginning of the year to the end of the year, from the first gathering of evening shadows until the day-star shines, in all conditions, and under all circumstances, it shall be well with the righteous. It is so well with him that we could not imagine it to be better, for he is well fed, he feeds upon the flesh and blood of Jesus; he is well clothed, he wears the imputed righteousness of Christ; he is well housed, he dwells in God; he is well married, his soul is knit in bonds of marriage union to Christ; he is well provided for, for the Lord is his Shepherd; he is well endowed, for heaven is his inheritance.