Archive for November, 2012

The Power of One Mind

Posted: November 29, 2012 in Uncategorized

It is intriguing to me to stop and wonder what the band of 120 followers prayed about for ten days after the ascension and prior to Pentecost. I asked that question in a small Bible study the other day, and someone said, “They were praying for the Holy Spirit to come.” Since I wasn’t there I cannot say conclusively, “No, they weren’t.”

But in my heart I believe they weren’t. Jesus told them to wait in Jerusalem until the Promise was fulfilled. And He reminded them that promise was of the Holy Spirit coming. He had told them before His crucifixion, “It is good that I go away, so the Holy Spirit can come. You know Him, because He has been with you. He will be in You.” He had returned to the Father, and the Holy Spirit was going to come. So there was no need to pray for that.

Jesus had told them when He left, they would continue to do His work. In fact, He had said, you will do greater things than I have done. Jesus is leaving the responsibility of the Great Commission in their hands. I think they were praying, “God get us ready. Help us keep our eyes on you. Give us courage. Help our unbelief, and things of that nature.”
What is amazing to me is they were “of one heart.” Now I had missed this all along. In the same small Bible Study the other day, a relatively new believer said, “That is before the Holy Spirit comes.”
I had read that passage many times, and even preached on it many times. But that observation had escaped my attention.

They were different individuals from different backgrounds. Some were fishermen. Some were tax collectors. Some had come out of pretty wretched past lives. They had different personalities. Likely their dreams for their lives had been differing. But their prayers are One. They had united around a common Vision. A revelation from the Lord of the mission that was before them.

The church is like that. We are different. We have different dreams. We have different pasts. We may be different politically, economically, and ethnically. But can we not be One around God’s mission? Jesus had a priority. He had come preaching “The Gospel of the Kingdom of God.” He spent His last 40 days on earth illuminating the things of God’s Kingdom. He told us, “Seek first God’s Kingdom.” When we embrace His priority, and we join our hearts in common purpose around His Commission, I believe we can experience the blessing of God that brings the power to bring the church to life, and to advance God’s Kingdom.

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The Priority precedes the program.

Posted: November 26, 2012 in Uncategorized

If you only had 40 days left in this world, and you actually knew that to be the case, how would you spend the time? Would you agree that you would invest that time in what you considered to be your priorities? I think everyone of us would devote our attention in our last days to what was most important to us. After the Resurrection, the Bible tells us that Jesus was on bodily on earth for 40 more days. So what did He demonstrate to be His priority?

“Jesus presented Himself alive after His suffering, by many convincing proofs, appearing to them (His followers) over a period of forty days and speaking of the things concerning the kingdom of God.” Acts 1:3

Throughout His earthly ministry, we discover the kingdom of God to be the priority. It was the subject of His first sermon, “Repent for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand.” It was a significant part of the disciple’s prayer, “Pray . . . Thy Kingdom come.” In the sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, ‘Seek first the kingdom of God.” When He sent out the seventy, He instructed them to go into the villages and announce, “The kingdom of God has come near.”

I would suggest to you, based on the context of Acts 1, that in order to effectively proclaim the message of the King (1:8), we must first comprehend the priority of the Kingdom (1:3). Some have defined the Kingdom of God has the sovereign rule of God in the hearts of His people. Jesus said to Nicodemus, “Unless you are born again, you cannot see the kingdom of God.” (John 3). So it seems to me, if God is indeed ruling sovereignly in a person’s life, that person will be obedient to God. Let that simple thought sink in for a moment.

Therefore, missions is not about geography. It is not a matter of whether we are in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, or the ends of the earth. It is a matter of obedience. Our responsibility is to lay our “Yes” on the altar of surrender to God, and then let Him put it on the map.

A Jesus Movement

Posted: November 23, 2012 in Uncategorized

It is a pretty incredible story, actually. One day the gathering of believers in Jerusalem is 120 in number, and ten days later they add 3000 people to the church. Then it is daily growth, and after a few days, 5000 more men, plus women and children. By all counts, it is an incredible multiplication of followers of Jesus, the Christ.

In Acts 1, Jesus instructs the first group to wait in Jerusalem until they are clothed with power from God through the person of the Holy Spirit. Unfortunately we sometimes forget who is responsible for what in the life of the church. We forget that only God can bring new life to a person. And while there are aspects of the day of Pentecost as non-repeatable as there are aspects of the Bethlehem story of the birth of Jesus non-repeatable, we still need to be clothed with God’s power as the church.

Jesus told us to make disciples. And He told us to train those disciples to do all the things that He trained the original disciples to do. We introduce people to Jesus, we teach them to pray and live in God’s Word. We teach them to be baptized, and to gather in groups to encourage one another. Acts 2 gives a great description of this in action.

Throughout history there have been repetitions of the great movements of God’s Kingdom, Jesus movements. Today we often call them “Church Planting Movements” and they are prolific in many parts of our world. What would it take for a genuine Kingdom movement to occur in the United States? What prevents an outpouring of God’s Spirit from releasing such a movement in our lifetime?

Is it possible that we hinder God’s work with some of our man-made traditions? Is it that we fail to heed God’s admonition, “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray, and seek my face, then will I hear from heaven . . .” Do you long for a fresh wind of God to blow on our nation? It must begin in the church of the living Christ? Will we wait before God in prayer? Will you?

I want you to think of a picture for a moment. Imagine inviting someone to partake of the love of God expressed through Jesus in the image of an invitation to them to ride with you in a luxury automobile. It is a beautiful car, and you keep it immaculately clean. “It is the greatest ride in the world,” you tell them.

Now get another picture in your mind. When we were in Africa on mission, we began teaching them how to make compost to fertilize their gardens. One of the key ingredients is manure. It serves as a source of nitrogen to heat the break down of the other materials in the compost. But imagine for a moment, that great pile of manure.

So when you are unwilling to forgive others, and when you allow a root of bitterness to be nurtured in your heart; when you hold on to hurts and nurse it into a smoldering anger inside; when you fail to love othhers, it is like shoveling that pile of manure into your luxury car. No matter how clean and shiny it is, when you invite others to go for a ride, they are going to smell the stench.

People cannot experience the sweetness of the love of Christ, when they smell the stench of our unloving hearts.

Consumerist “christians”

Posted: November 19, 2012 in Uncategorized

It took place a couple of years ago. I was attending a meeting of church leaders at the state convention conference center, and our focus was on a resurgence of obedience to the Great Commission. In a small break out session a man said, “I think that we need to get back to first century Christianity.” I couldn’t help commenting to the man sitting next to me, ‘I wonder if he really means that, or does he want to get back to about 3rd century Christianity.”

I suspect that the majority of church life in the U.S. does not resemble the church in the first century at all. I had the rare opportunity to worship somewhere other than the church where I serve yesterday. I actually worshipped at two very different type “churches”. One was a very large multi-campus worship with a very contemporary style. The other was a a moderately large very traditional mainline denominational church body.

Both rely on the power of attraction to fill their worship centers. Both appeal to very differnt type personality groups. Both are likely a far cry the nature of the church on the pages of Acts. Don’t misunderstand me. I believe that if God was real concerned about the structure of our worship, or about the style of our worship, He would have said much more about the “how to” aspect of church life in the Bible.

What concerns me, however, is the ‘consumer’ mindset that seems to permeate the 21st century western church. Church attendance largely has come to reflect a “preference” mentality. We attend the church that offers us what we are looking for in church. We pick and choose from extremes that reflect a one-stop department store approach where we pick and choose what suits us, or from a “boutique” style that is custom designed to reflect our personal preferences.

The casualty in all of this is “the mission”. We seem to be oblivious to the most basic of the call to follow Christ, where Jesus said, “If anyone would come after me, let him DENY HIMSELF, take up His cross, and follow me.” Let that challenge sink in for a little while.

We seem to focus our attention on the success of the ministry of a particular church or leader on the concept of size and growth of the congregation. And yet it seems to me that while large crowds were often attracted to Jesus, He spent a great deal of time cutting the crowd down to a smaller size. The demands of discipleship resulted in “many who left and followed Him no more.” I suspect that a resurgence of “missional” markers, although not necessarily popular, will demonstrate the true church as we progress more deeply into this century. That is probably enough of this line of thought for the moment.

BARACK OBAMA RE-ELECTED said the headlines this morning all around the world. And some doomsdayers are crying in alarm that America’s fate is sealed. Others are jubilant with expedtation of a better America. Which ones are right, and honestly I know where most of those who read my blogs stand.

But earlier this year my good friends in Mali awoke to a nation where the military ousted the President and assumed control of the government. Rebel Touregs then aligned with muslim extremists and proceeded to conquer the northern part of the country and declare their independence. That allegiance fell apart and yet the north has become the latest haven for world terrorists.

So I suspect my f to friends in Mali would have gladly stood in line for four to five hours yesterday to choose their President. So let me suggest two thoughts. First, the Bible says that the “heart of the King” is in the hands of the Lord and He can turn it whichever way He chooses.” I suspect that includes all leaders, even the President. Second, the Bible tells us to pray for our government leaders.

WHichever side you stand on, we all have a responsibility to pray for our nation, our President, our future. The Bible also promises, “If my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray, and seek my face, then will I hear from heaven, forgive their sins, and heal their land.” I saw a post on Facebook this morning where one beleiver has given up and pronounced doom on our nation. He may be right. But as many times as God has shown compassion, I will still cry out to Him. As some of the prophets have said in years gone by, “Who knows, but maybe God will hear our petitions and turn His anger.”