Why We Wait

By Charles W. Christian

“They that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength…” (Isaiah 40:31, KJV)

The Season of Advent is about waiting; not a passive waiting, but the kind of waiting we see in this passage from Isaiah: an expectant waiting.  If there is a “fun” kind of waiting, it is this kind!  As Christians, we do not just sit around tensely awaiting bad news. Rather, we are people who eagerly wait for the best news of all: the fullness of the presence of Jesus Christ.

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Advent, like all seasons of God-centered rest, is a reminder that God calls us to wait so that we can be prepared for whatever He is about to do next.  In the Gospels, for instance, Jesus is baptized and lauded by the voice of the Father, and is then “cast into the wilderness” by the Holy Spirit for a time of fasting and focused rest.

During this period of rest, Jesus is overcoming temptation and preparing for His next steps. When His wilderness journey comes to an end, Jesus emerges ready for the next aspect of ministry in step with God the Father’s pace and not at the pace that the world demands.

Likewise, as we enter the season of waiting for the beginning of the Christian New Year (Advent), we are called to restfulness, preparation, and expectation. 

Can we begin to put the past year behind us and to enter into a time of dedicated rest? Can we refocus our hearts on the fullness of the Christmas season – the fullness of the presence of Christ leading us into new adventures?  In the words of the great theologian Jurgen Moltmann, Christians are “people of Advent:” people who live their lives truly expecting God’s leadership and movement into the future.

Let us allow the Holy Spirit to create such an Advent in us, as families and as churches.  This will set the tone for a truly Christ-centered Christmas season.  More than that, it will open our hearts to whatever God is preparing for us in the days ahead.  May we find rest, refocus, and refreshing as Advent moves us toward Christmas.

Prayer for the Week:

Oh Immanuel, God with us, truly in this Advent season we celebrate that you are not hidden in some faraway cloud, but you chose to be with us in the blur and mystery of our lives.

In the midst of lists and rush, you are with us as a song that echoes in our minds, as the light of a candle, as a card from a friend. They are signs of your presence.

We turn to you this season and pray that you would birth joy and healing, blessing and hope in us.
Let something wonderful begin in us — something surprising and holy.

May your hand be upon us. Let your love fill us. Let your joy overwhelm us.
Let our longing for you be met on a coming holy night: Immanuel with us once again.

Amen. (Written by Rev. Jerry Chism)

This article was originally published at: Holiness Today

 

What do You do With The Robber?

Dr. Donald M. Joy writes in his book, The Holy Spirit and You, about sin being a thief.  His analogy equates the principle of sin to an armed robber in one’s home, an outlaw in the heart.  This is not far-fetched: John 10:10 tells us “the thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.”

Imagine yourself arriving home late one evening and discovering that an invader was inside your home and holding your child at gunpoint. As you wait in fear outside your home, you have to make a decision.  You must do something. But what?

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Should you simply ignore the problem and hope the criminal would decide to do no harm, quietly exit your home and go away?

Should you slowly enter your home, careful not to frighten the outlaw, and try to negotiate with him? Perhaps he would promise to steal only one item per day if you let him live in your home!

Or, maybe, you should rush into your home, tackle the would-be robber, throw him to the floor and hold him down so he could not use his gun. But then would you sit on him day after day suppressing his evil intent until one day you grew fatigued and he overpowered you?

As Dr. Joy clearly explains, in your own strength you cannot destroy the intruder.  The only real solution is to call for help from someone who has the authority and ability to remove the thief.

Are you catching the parallels? Many of us minimize the destructive capabilities of sin. But it steals our joy, kills our relationships, and destroys our lives.  If we ignore it, the problem grows worse.  Negotiating with it leads us astray as well (remember Adam, Eve, and the serpent?).  Trying to restrain it under our own power leaves us worn out and ultimately defeated.  Is this not the description of many Christians’ sad existence?!

The only way to remove the intruder is to call on a higher, more powerful authority.  Dr. Joy finishes his reflection exclaiming: “Hallelujah! God has made provision in Christ to cleanse our hearts from all sin!”  Hallelujah, indeed!

So, what are you waiting for? The robber has been present long enough!

“What a wretched man I am!  Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God – through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Rom. 7:24-25)

 

Towards Missional Effectiveness: The Message of God’s Mission – Part 2 of 7

By Ed Stetzer

God is on mission to glorify Himself. 

In the first post I explained that missional effectiveness is embracing the totality of the missio Dei—including its message, movement, and marks—and enacting it in the life of a local church.

I don’t know about you, but I have been on many honey-do runs in the course of my marriage. A honey-do run is simply a time when your wife sends you out (or because you are already out) to get some things for her. The mission is doing something for your honey, which is important in its own right.

However, the effectiveness of the mission will also be based upon your understanding of what she wants you to get. In other words, the message is a vital component of missional effectiveness. If you misunderstand or forget what it is your wife sent you to get, the effectiveness of the mission will falter.

With regard to the missio Dei, the message of mission is a vital component of missional effectiveness. If we misunderstand the message, or get the message wrong, the mission will be either off, or wrong altogether. Therefore, it is essential that we understand the message of God’s mission.

Simply put, the message of the missio Dei is that God is on mission to glorify Himself by means of advancing His kingdom on earth through the means of His people, empowered by His Spirit, who share and show the gospel of God’s kingdom in Jesus Christ.

There are at least five themes that serve as the elements of the message of God’s mission.

Element 1: God’s Glory

The message of God’s mission is that it’s all about Him! His glory is the ultimate goal and point of mission. We were created in His image to reflect His glory in all areas of our lives, but we rebelled and distorting the image of God. Thus, God is on mission to redeem and restore our damaged image in order that we may reflect His glory once again.

Element 2: God’s Kingdom

The message of God’s mission includes the establishment of His kingdom. Richard Bauckham expresses, “The Bible is a kind of project aimed at the kingdom of God, that is, toward the achievement of God’s purposes for good in the whole of God’s creation…” Because the nucleus of His mission includes both His glory and His kingdom, God has always had a pattern of creating a place for His people (us) and calls us to live life under His rule and reign.

From the beginning, God desired humanity to extend His rule and reign throughout the entire created order. G.K. Beale argues that as Adam and Eve were faithful to God in the Garden, living out His commands, enjoying perfect communion with Him, they inevitably would extend the geographical boundaries of Eden (i.e., His kingdom) until Eden covered the entire earth. As a result of living under God’s rule and reign, we experience blessing.

Element 3: God’s King

The message of God’s mission revolves around His king, King Jesus. The first Adam failed at imaging God and effectively ruling as God’s vice-regent over the created order. As a result of the fall of humanity (Gen. 3), we are incapable of glorifying God. Moreover, we aren’t only incapable of glorifying God, but we have been severed and separated from a relationship and connection with Him.

However, because of God’s great love for His glory, kingdom, and creation (and especially His image-bearers), He sent the second and better Adam, King Jesus, to redeem sinners (not to mention the entire cosmos).

Because of Christ’s obedient life, sacrificial death, temporary burial, victorious resurrection, and glorious ascension to the throne, God has highly exalted Christ giving

…Him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow—of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth—and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Phil. 2:9–11)

Jesus is the center of God’s kingdom (and His mission), for it is in Jesus that God is reconciling the world to Himself (Col. 1:20).

Element 4: God’s Spirit (Power)

The message of God’s mission involves the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit for effective mission to ensue. While the Spirit is definitely present in the Old Testament (under the Old Covenant), the Spirit under the New Covenant will indwell all believers, empowering them for kingdom living and mission advancement (Jer. 31:31–34; Ezek. 36:22–32; Matt. 28:18–20; John 20:21–22; Acts 1:8).

The two major roles of the Holy Spirit are to convict the world of sin (John 16:8) and conform God’s people into a worldwide worshipping missional community (Acts 1:8) who are sent out on mission. Thus, prior to his ascension, Jesus tells His disciples to wait in Jerusalem to receive the Holy Spirit. Alvin Reid asserts:

When Jesus declared that His followers would receive power after the Holy Spirit had come upon them and that they would be witnesses, He meant that we could be effective witnesses—but not in our own strength. Effectiveness comes through the power of the Holy Spirit. 

In short, the Spirit of God is the power source for the embracement, embodiment, and enactment of God’s mission.

Element 5: God’s People

The message of God’s mission includes His people’s participation. Essentially, God’s mission creates the instrument of His mission, namely His people. That’s us. From Adam to Israel and from Jesus to the Church, God’s people are called to participate in His kingdom mission. In Jesus, the Church was created as the redeemed saints of God to be His worldwide witnessing agents. Thus, as Emil Brunner once pointedly penned, “The church exists by mission, just as fire exists by burning.” 

In order to fulfill God’s mission, His people (the Church, us) are to verbally share and demonstrably show the good news of God’s kingdom in King Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit. In doing so, we proclaim the good news that Jesus is making all things new (Rev. 21:5), while demonstrating that reality as we enact God’s kingdom ethics in all areas of our lives—personal, marital, familial, social, relational, cultural, vocational, etc.

Next time, I will talk about the movements of God’s mission.

 

This article was originally posted at: http://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2016/december/towards-missional-effectiveness-message-of-gods-mission-par.html

 

Compassion for the Lost

Rev. Ken Childress

Isaiah chapter 6, verse 8: “I heard the voice of the Lord, saying: Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then I said, here am I! Send me.”

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Is it possible, after we have been baptized with the Holy Spirit, to be satisfied with what we see? What made Jesus weep over Jerusalem? He had a heart of compassion. There are sin-sick souls everywhere. We need a baptism of love that goes to the bottom of the disease. We need to cry to God until He brings us up to the “measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13).

Jesus told a parable about “a certain man who went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves” (Luke 10:30). Who among those who passed by and saw his predicament was his neighbor? The one who had mercy on him and helped him (vv. 36-37). Are we awake to the great fact that God has given us eternal life? With the power God has put at our disposal, how can we rest as we look out upon our neighbors? How we have sinned against God? How we lack this spirit of compassion! Do we weep as we look out upon the unsaved? If not, we are not full of the Holy Spirit. Jesus was moved with compassion. Are you?

We have not yet grasped the plight of the unsaved. Since my seminary days, I have had several friends who went to the mission field, I have a little less dim idea of what it meant that God so loved the world that He GAVE Jesus (John 3:16). God gave Jesus. What does that mean? COMPASSION. “You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you” (Acts 1:8). If you have no power, you have not repented. You are thinking, “That’s hard language.” It is truth.

Who is your brother’s keeper? (See Genesis 4:9). Who is the son and heir? (See Galatians 4:7). Are you salted? (See Matthew 5:13). Do you have a pure life? Don’t be fooled; don’t live in a false position. The world wants to know how to be saved, and power is at our disposal. Will we meet the conditions? God says, “If you will, I will.” God will do it.

Daniel knew the time in which he was living; he responded to God, and a nation was saved. Nehemiah met God’s conditions for his time, and the city was rebuilt. God has made the conditions. He will pour out His Spirit on His people.

If we do not go on, we will have it to face. It may be up to us to bring the Gospel to the nations and our city. We can win the world for Jesus. We can turn the tap on. What is the condition? It is unconditional surrender. “Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit, says the Lord of hosts” Zech. 4:6). Holiness opens the windows of heaven. The Spirit of God will be poured out without measure, until the people say, “What must we do to be saved?” (Acts 16:30).

With the baptism of the Holy Spirit comes a demolishing of the whole man and a compassion for the world we live in.