I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.
In 1982, two years into my ministry at Bethlehem, our people were anxious about the impact of the Metrodome on our survival as a downtown church. The dome was just being finished, and people were saying that the traffic and the parking and the Sunday games would kill us. We should consider leaving the city.
So I wrote an article for the church newsletter called “God Threw His Shoe on Edom,” based on Psalm 108:9. I argued, “God is never ruffled. He never jerks. When attacked from behind, he is never startled. At just the right moment, he tosses his shoe and all the enemies are crushed.”
I concluded, “Let us dream. We will be at 13th Ave. and 8th Street in ten years. The dome is dead as a threat. It is as harmless as a big strapped marshmallow.”
That was 1982. Now here we are in 2011 facing another future. I feel as confident about this future as I did about that one. To me it is clear that our South Campus should follow a course similar to the North: Purchase or construct a building in a strategic southern location where the majesty of God’s word will do its mighty work in building a people for the name of Christ.
It took millions of dollars to do the North Campus. It will take millions to do the South. Numbers like $18 million to reduce debt North and build South are as nothing to God. He throws his shoe on recessions.
There will be worriers. But after 30 years watching God work through this church, worriers feel like a minor, but colorful, line in the great plot of sovereign grace. The reason is that the Bible is simply too dense with promises of hope for me to fret about our future.
So let me take you into some of the truths that give me a sense of confidence as we throw ourselves into Building One People, raise millions, and build a Lakeville garrison for the glory of Christ. I have a list of about 35 reasons. Here’s half of them. More later.
- God governs the hearts of secular rulers. “The LORD . . . turned the heart of the king of Assyria so that he aided [Israel] in the work of the house of God” (Ezra 6:22).
- God is jealous for the majesty of his name and his word to be exalted South. “You have exalted above all things your name and your word” (Psalm 138:2).
- God will crush Satan under our feet. “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. . . . The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil” (Romans 16:20; 1 John 3:8).
- God is more compassionate toward big cities than some think. “I [Jonah] knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster” (Jonah 4:2).
- Total authority in the Twin Cities belongs to Jesus. “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples” (Matthew 28:18–19).
- That omnipotent Christ is with us daily. “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).
- God’s word cannot be thwarted. “The word of God is not bound!” (2 Timothy 2:9).
- Jesus is totally committed to establishing his church. “I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18).
- God will give us power to declare the gospel. “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses” (Acts 1:8).
- God enjoys giving us the triumphs of his kingdom. “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (Luke 12:32).
- God celebrates the salvation of sinners. “There will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance” (Luke 15:7).
- Weaknesses in us are no hindrance to God’s purpose. “I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Corinthians 12:9).
- Jesus is totally committed to gathering his elect in this metro area. “I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice” (John 10:16).
- God is for us, so nothing can succeed against us. “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31).
- God opens dead hearts to embrace the glory of Christ. “Even when we were dead in our trespasses, [he] made us alive together with Christ. . . . [God] . . . has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 2:5; 2 Corinthians 4:6).
- God destroys strongholds by his word. “The weapons of our warfare . . . have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:4–5).
- God is committed to showing the angels his wisdom through the church. “Through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 3:10).
- Setbacks always advance his purposes. “I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me [imprisonment] has really served to advance the gospel” (Philippians 1:12).
I believe with all my heart that God gives his children these blood-bought, absolutely certain promises so that in the midst of many uncertainties we will have unwavering hope and courage and guidance.
Walking with you into the best days.