Author Archives: drphilipnordstrom
Revelation 12: 7-12
7Then war broke out in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. 8 But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. 9 The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.10 Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: “Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Messiah. For the accuser of our brothers and sisters, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down. 11 They triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death. 12 Therefore rejoice, you heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has gone down to you! He is filled with fury, because he knows that his time is short.”
“Our loss, heaven’s gain,” is frankly a phrase that irritates me. It’s one of those trite statements people make in the face of tragedy, suffering and loss. One of the most irritating things I ever witnessed was after a child was killed in a hunting accident. The caregiver who was trying to comfort the grief-stricken parents said “God must have needed another angel up in heaven.” I was incensed for the parents. I thought that we needed that child on earth much more than God did in heaven. In the wake of the Sandy Hook school shooting these phrases seem a little inadequate.
Having said that, Revelation 12 outlines for us the origin of this phrase. In dazzling poetic language, John describes the war in heaven by which Michael and his angels fought against the dragon and prevailed so that Satan was kicked out of heaven and cast down to the earth. That was truly earth’s loss and heaven’s gain.
As I reflect on this passage, I am glad that this war happened even if we have to deal with Satan on earth. Much deeper than the issues of gun control and mental health issues which are legitimate issues to discuss, is that fact that we leave in enemy occupied territory. There is a real Satan that is on the loose who seeks to devour us. Thankfully, that is not the end of the story. God has also invaded earth in the person of Jesus Christ and we have access to God and to the army of angels who originally defeated Satan.
The good news is that we only have to deal with him temporarily. Heaven is the place that needs to be free of Satan because this short struggle on earth pales in comparison to an eternity that is free of Satan and free of evil. Imagine dying and going to a war-torn heaven. Because Satan has been defeated we look forward to an eternity where tragedy and evil will never reign again. Therefore, our loss when Satan was unleashed on our planet was also our gain. Satan is relegated to the realm of temporariness while God reigns for all eternity.
7″Will the Lord reject forever?
Will he never show his favor again?
8 Has his unfailing love vanished forever?
Has his promise failed for all time?
9 Has God forgotten to be merciful?
Has he in anger withheld his compassion?”
When I read these words, I hear the music to the theme of batman and I picture scenes from the end of each batman episode? Will the Caped Crusader make it out alive? Is this the end of Batman? Will Gotham City be under control of the Joker? Stay tuned next week. Same bat station. Same bat time. Same bat channel. I watched those episodes with wide-eyed wonder? The situations all seemed impossible. Surely this was the end of batman. The more I watched, however, the more it dawned on me. It’s not a matter of “if” he will escape, it’s a matter of “how” he will escape.
The same can be said of our relationship with God. The history of the faithful is filled with impossible situations. There is always a Joker, a Riddler, or even a Catwoman who will try to stop the inevitable victory of the kingdom of God. Pharoah’s army is behind them and the red sea is in front of them. An army of overwhelming force is bearing down and Gideon is down to 300 men. Shadrach Meshach and Abednego are going the fiery furnace and there is no way out.
The Christmas story comes on the heels of one of these impossible situations. It was a situation of utter despair. The Romans are in control, a few faithful people like Mary and Elizabeth, Simeon, and Anna are holding out hope but God hasn’t been heard from in 400 years. The Christmas story is God’s proof that His promises never fail. Some of us are in tough situations this Christmas. Jobs have been lost, health is failing, children are straying. Advent tells us to stay tuned. The last chapter has not yet been written. Death itself cannot even impede God’s great march through history until its ultimate consummation in heaven. Stay tuned.
“This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘In a little while I will once more shake the heavens and the earth, the sea and the dry land. 7 I will shake all nations, and what is desired by all nations will come, and I will fill this house with glory,’ says the Lord Almighty. 8 ‘The silver is mine and the gold is mine,’ declares the Lord Almighty. 9 ‘The glory of this present house will be greater than the glory of the former house,’ says the Lord Almighty. ‘And in this place I will grant peace,’ declares the Lord Almighty.”
This has been an amazing day for me. I have been talking to coaches and mentors about the future of our church and I am overwhelmed with a sense that it is just a matter of time until God will surpass all our hopes and dreams. I can feel the excitement at my former church as they embrace their new pastor. I am beaming with a real sense of having heard from the Lord as I think about the McNeely’s being in Southern Illinois. Frankly, sometimes it has been a little difficult to hear of the joy and excitement, because most of the growth we are experiencing in Knoxville has been below the surface. I have nothing to complain about. The people are wonderful and I have been received with open arms. There is a rumbling in my spirit, however that says the best is yet to come.
This passage in Haggai speaks to the way I’m feeling today. He is speaking to a people who remember the magnificence of Solomon’s temple and dares to say that the glory of the future temple will be greater than the former. What kind of building could be built that would outstrip the golden age of the monarchy when David and Solomon reigned. What could be more glorious? Notice that it’s not the amount of gold or silver that will make it more glorious. The glory will come because “the desired of all nations” (as one translation puts it) will come. Whatever the limitations of your facilities and finance, the glory of the Lord wants to transform our churches into a a house where His presence is manifested. The Presence of God can make a simple surroundings into a spirit enlivened life-giving church. This is my advent hope. I am believing that for all of us, our best days can still be ahead of us. As we approach the new year and new seasons in our lives and churches, we say with Moses, “Show me your glory”
2 Peter 2
New International Version (NIV)
False Teachers and Their Destruction
2 But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them—bringing swift destruction on themselves. 2 Many will follow their depraved conduct and will bring the way of truth into disrepute. 3 In their greed these teachers will exploit you with fabricated stories.
We were at the end of a rewarding but difficult two-week stretch of ministry in Kenya. I had preached a dozen times in places with no electricity or indoor plumbing. This was the reward at the end of the mission trip-a two day visit to a luxurious hotel in the middle of a national park in Kenya to observe the wildlife. I was so tired and sore I didn’t even go out on the first day for the safari. Instead I stayed back and took advantage of a massage at the hotel. I engaged in small talk with the masseuse and told her I was a minister. Her smile faded and I could quickly tell she was not impressed. I asked her if she was a Christian and she said she was not. She proceeded to tell me that some of the pastors in Nairobi were the most wealthy men in the country while much of the country lived in poverty.
She candidly shared with me that they learn the prosperity gospel from American Christian television and teach greed to the people. Clearly she put me in the same boat. I assured her that our ministry was different and that we were bringing the gospel as well as financial help to the places we ministered. She was not a very open listener and I left her with my muscles feeling better but my sensibilities bruised.
To watch Christian tv, one might think that Christianity is winning. We are not. We are frightfully becoming like our friends in Europe who have rejected the church. We see mega churches thriving before our eyes and sense that if all of us teach what they teach, we will get their results. Like all pastors, I want my church to grow. But at what cost? What the world sees of Christianity is what is piped over the airways 24 hours a day 7 days a week.
This article is not an indictment against Christian television. Television and the internet are a powerful tool by which the gospel can be shared and in many cases it is. The exceptions, however, have a huge platform and they are marketing a distorted brand of Christianity that appeals to our baser instincts such as greed and the pursuit of pleasure for the sake of pleasure.
This unknown masseuse in Kenya is not my enemy, she is my friend. She gave me a sneak peek into the way we are perceived by a watching world. The statistics we never hear are the ones that suggest that while some churches are growing by teaching a distorted Christianity, they are poisoning the soil for people whose deepest longings cannot be satisfied by a gospel that only promises me health and wealth. Something inside of many non-believers knows that there is no ring of truth in these claims.
I am now pastoring in the buckle of the Bible belt. I read that there are over 600 Southern Baptist churches in my city alone. There are churches on every corner. The statistics you will not hear, however, is that half of our population doesn’t go to church. These seekers are not my enemies. They are my friends. I am trying to learn to think like they think. I have great respect for non-Christians. Many of them are this way because they smell something afoul in our watered down gospel. And while I respect them, I whole heartedly disagree with them. I still believe that Jesus is the answer to the world. I also believe that between the resurrection and the second coming, the church is the selected vehicle that Jesus is using to call the world to himself. I believe that the church is still the hope of the world. For the sake of Jesus and the Apostle Paul and all the martyrs, let’s get back to the gospel which teaches us that the secret to the joy of life both now and eternal is in the giving of ourselves and taking up our crosses and following Jesus.
It takes a hear head to raise our children a culture that is antagonistic to God. It takes a hard head to stand your ground in the face of opposition. The lesson that God and my wife taught me and are still teaching me is this: In order to fulfill God’s calling in your life it will take a soft heart and a hard head.