No Place Left: Ten Five-minute Audio Clips on No Place Left Trail Markers

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I have recently been pursuing the “trail markers” that we might use to carry a vision through to the place where we could stand somewhere and say about a specific region, “There is no place left to preach the gospel.”  Another way of saying that would be to say, “I have fully preached the gospel in ” >> the name of a region or sphere<<“.  These two statements are taken from Paul’s words to the Roman believers about his ministry in the north-eastern quadrant of the Roman Empire that skirted the Mediterranean Sea.

Nathan Shank is a missionary church planter working in Northern India where they have seen an unstoppable movement of disciples and churches multiplying.  He’s the one who started me thinking and praying about what it would take to see the gospel fully preached in a region.  He asked the question I have been asking ever since of the context in which he made that statement and I came up with at least eight things I can see that could form “trail markers” for those of us who would like to know how this could happen in our own spheres.

While I have started to look at them in the previous blogs and will continue in the coming days, I decided to see if I could encapsulate the heart of each marker in a five-minute audio clip.  It might work as a catalyst for discussion between you and a few other people would also like to know how it might work in a region where we live or work.

TRAIL MARKERS for a ‘NO PLACE LEFT VISION’ #2

 

PART TWO:    MAKE DISCIPLES WHO MULTIPLY

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I myself am convinced, my brothers and sisters, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with knowledge and competent to instruct one another. ………..I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me in leading the Gentiles to obey God by what I have said and done— Romans 15:14,18

Paul is writing to believers in Rome while he spends three months in Corinth. It is evident from the final chapter in the letter that he knew some people there, but it was not among the churches he had founded, and he had not visited there. The way he comments about their disciple-making work (v.14 above) shows a distinct character comparative to his own (v. 18). Apparently it was considered to be a standard practice among the believers wherever they were. A comparable example from twenty-first-century Christian experience would be the way we might talk in about Sunday morning worship. We wouldn’t need to explain it in detail, no matter what the culture. Christian churches everywhere would hold this as conventional or mainstream experience.

So when Paul writes to the believers in Rome, the common experience was a way of disciple-making that assumed disciples would be trained to train others. If they had come to Christ, they would be enabled to lead someone else to Christ. If they were taught the application of gospel stories, they would immediately be qualified to teach others. To use Paul’s words, they were “competent to instruct one another.”

I never cease to be amazed how the idea of professional or semi-professional ministry leadership remains ingrained in us. In our local congregation, we have been on a reproducible disciple-making journey for a few years now. I am still prone to believe that having sufficient information is sufficient. Why don’t I hear what the Bible says, “knowledge puffs up” (1 Corinthians 8:1)? I have a reasonable knowledge of Bible information.  It has come from seven years of formal theological training and more than forty years’ experience in preaching and teaching.  But all of that doesn’t mean much if I can’t help a new believer how to discover and do something Jesus says when they have had no training and no experience. And if they are to learn in such a way as to teach someone else, then the process needs to be straightforward and reproducible. We have presumed that information is the key when faith-based obedience is the key.  We just need to understand some Christian principle enough to be able to obey it.   We need to help someone to learn something for themselves that they can “freely give” what they have “freely received.”

The challenge of reproducibility is a wonderfully refining challenge for those of us stuck in the western cult of information gathering and processing. It is not a matter of dumbing anything down. It is the simple matter of making sure that faith-based obedience is our standard approach to the Bible rather than just sharing opinions or even applauding incredible insights. Our cover has been blown away. We have allowed ourselves to become sermon-proof and Bible-study-proof. We can listen to sermons and do Bible study without any compunction or expectation of supernatural change. Christian bookstores, web pages, and podcasts are full of the next download. The problem is that the next download will be more like a drug than a tool. Reading, listening or watching will rarely find us on our knees seeking the grace of God to make our lives different. Rarely do we live with a truth until it becomes part of our own story. Even more rarely do we welcome forms of accountability that will help us to see supernatural change.

As a result, we have almost exclusively produced one-generation disciples. If we do happen to preach the gospel and see someone come to Christ, we usually direct them to a church where they become much more like a club member. They are then offered a dizzy world of worship meetings, Bible studies, prayer meetings, home groups, men’s or women’s groups. Most of these have no vision for multiplying disciples. Much of it amounts to being spectators or audience members while the talented few give their performance.  So much of it become entertainment rather than genuine apprenticeship.

No wonder that in a few years, it is entirely possible that they will have no connection or sense of commitment to preaching the gospel to everyone in their various spheres. When they get comfortable, they will often lose any zeal they had for God without much reason to pray, seek God or be changed. Chances are they will then try to shape their commitment to Christ around their career, materialistic ambitions and consumer pleasures. It is the problem we Christian leaders have created.

What if you and I just started with one person and engaged them in a disciple-making relationship where they (and we) were going to become mutually accountable for DOING what the Bible said and then training others based on what we had learned? What if we measured our disciple-making work by the impact it had on the second generation rather than the first? We would be asking the disciples we are making what is happening among the disciples they are making.  What if we called for an up-front commitment to that rather than relying on some ethereal hope. Remember the Paul to Timothy discipleship charter: “And the things you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit to faithful people so that they will be able to teach others.” (2 Timothy 2:2) It is a three generation plan. Paul instructed Timothy on the assumption that Timothy would find faithful people to teach. Timothy would then teach those faithful people in such a way that they could find ‘others’ and teach them.

As a way of making a start with this, just choose a Biblical or kingdom of God principle or tool (e.g. getting revelation from a Bible story and allowing God to change your life by embracing it). Find out what it takes to impart that skill to someone else on the basis they will do the same to someone after them. See how many generations you can produce. It will be much harder than almost anything else you will have tried. But if you can pursue and persist and begin to see it happening, you will be on the way to a set of qualities that make “No Place Left” a logical possibility let alone a divine one.

If Paul could write to a church that he didn’t start and had never visited and commend them for their competence to instruct one another, then we should measure our effectiveness in the same way.  Here is a chart that might help us to gauge that process in our disciple-making worlds. I think it we should assume that neither we nor anyone else has actually “learned” anything until they have been able to teach someone else how to do it.  I have long believed that there is no such thing as revelation if it is only an academic idea or theoretical.  We can only say we have received revelation when we have allowed God to work the message into our own experience.  I would probably now add that since discipleship is intended to be an infinitely scalable process – that is, it must be able to reproduce infinite generations of genuine followers of Jesus – we should add that revelation will not be complete until we have passed it on to another generation of disciples in a way that empowers them to do the same (cp. again 2 Timothy 2)

 

TRAIL MARKERS FOR A ‘NO PLACE LEFT’ VISION #1

THE MARKERS FOR A ‘NO PLACE LEFT’ VISION

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When Paul arrived in Corinth, as recorded in Acts 20, he spent three months there and wrote the letter to the Romans. It is insightful to read that letter in the light of the fact that Paul by the time that letter reached its destination, Paul was probably either in jail in Caesarea or close to it. It is significant that the writing of that letter foreshadowed a change in focus for Paul. Although all of his colleagues and friends were from the eastern Mediterranean world, his eyes were looking to Rome. In reality, his eyes were fixed on Spain, the next unreached part of the world for him. We know that this was the case because of what he says near the end of the Roman letter. He says,

“So from Jerusalem all the way around to Illyricum I have fully proclaimed the gospel of God.” (Romans 15:19) “But now that there is no place left for me to work in these regions…” (Romans 15:23).

 

ONE: DEVELOP A KINGDOM OF GOD LEADERSHIP TEAM

“He was accompanied by Sopater son of Pyrrhus from Berea, Aristarchus and Secundus from Thessalonica, Gaius from Derbe, Timothy also, and Tychicus and Trophimus from the province of Asia. These men went on ahead and waited for us at Troas. But we sailed from Philippi after the Festival of Unleavened Bread, and five days later joined the others at Troas, where we stayed seven days.”

The text tells us that seven people travelled with Paul.  They came from two different parts of Macedonia, Asia, Galatia, and Syria. Not only were they from the various regions where Paul had planted churches, but they were representative of the people’s of those regions. I don’t think we should apply the idea that they were “elected representatives” of each of the churches. The broader research will not support that idea. What is suggested by the spread of people and backgrounds is the idea of the kingdom of God. The convictions that shaped their journey came from their revelation of the Kingdom of God. It was a kingdom where all of the borders and boundaries that separate humans from one another were destroyed once and for all by what Jesus did. It is the universal principle referred to in Ephesians 2,

“For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace,”

And in Galatians 3

So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.

Paul’s co-leaders were an excellent example of this. So often when leaders are chosen a whole lot of grubby criteria come into play. People are selected by secular qualifications, cosy relationships or whatever happens to represent current political correctness. The kingdom of God is defined by lifestyle priorities and culture, not professional qualifications or tribal hierarchy. In the case of Paul’s leadership group, they qualified for much the same reasons as did the disciples of Jesus. They were prepared to become whatever, go wherever and do whatever would glorify Jesus and serve the kingdom. When this group showed up anywhere, people witnessed a tangible expression of the kingdom of God just because of who they were, what they were and how they functioned. The record of Acts and Paul’s letters is replete with references to co-workers and describes the rich texture of kingdom connections. Rather than being a bunch of Paul groupies, these men and women carry a deposit from heaven that will both appreciate Paul but outlast him. It will reflect his role as a mentor but declare that they are heaven-qualified originals, not carbon copies.

‘No Place Left’ leaders will always need to be self-selecting. They will be people who show up on the radar screen within a group of believers because of what they carry inside of them from heaven, not because of their natural skills, experience or personality types. It may be undeveloped, but it must be tangible. It must be something that has tangibly shaped their journey and been the reason for their particular story. As we can see from the names associated with Paul, there are no guarantees. Demas (2 Timothy 4:10), and previously Hymenaeus and Alexander (1 Timothy 1:20)) are a couple of examples. Mark didn’t measure up at the beginning but was there at the end (2 Timothy 4:11).

Kingdom leaders must pass the “Jesus Unlimited Test.” To put it in simple terms, they will be people who are capable of serving Jesus without borders or limits. They can be anybody and come from anywhere. Their commitment to Jesus cannot be confined to a certain environment or dependent on certain people being in the space. These are the self-generating followers of Christ. They are known for their kingdom attitudes to people. They are willing to serve anyone, anywhere, anytime. They are known by their fruit. The people they minister to love Jesus more and become more faithful servants of the kingdom. They don’t develop co-dependency nor do they sponsor some form of a personality cult. These are kingdom leaders. The alternative belongs to a different kingdom, one created by the principles of this world.

HOW MARRIAGE HAS BEEN RE-DEFINED

AND WHAT WE CAN BE DONE TO HELP RE-ALIGN MARRIAGE IN OUR COMMUNITIES

 

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I attended a leaders gathering in San Francisco a few years ago [you have to be careful when a person who is about to celebrate his sixty-eighth birthday says “a few years ago” because it might be more than fifteen but probably less than twenty]. It was a difficult time for me.  In the first place I was the only non-US leader there and I was also the only person who did not attend with some people from my own “tribe.”  I am a moderately outgoing person, but this was a profound challenge.  It was a live-in conference and every meal time I needed to break in to a group of people who represented one of the “tribes” that had gathered and it was always a fight to find an entry point.  On more than one occasion no matter how hard I tried it was clear that neither of the people on either side of me wanted to talk to a “foreigner” let alone the other people at the table.  On a few occasions I just sat somewhere to see whether anyone would make even a modest effort to be inclusive but on each of those occasions I sat there for the whole meal and no one talked to me let alone engage with me.  At a certain point in this process I tipped into dysfunctional mode and just wanted to walk out the door and catch a plane home.  My resolve was to learn how to become a son of my heavenly Father, who knows all about wanting to lovingly and redemptively engage with people who constantly treat him like he is NOT present and often talk about him being present but don’t RELATE to him.  We image-bearers are a sorry bunch.

So I became an aggressive intruder into conversations and invited myself into conversations where I was tolerated but never celebrated.  I aggressively focused my attention on them and by listening intently to their ego-based agendas looked forward to even the smallest measure of equivalence.  It was never forthcoming.

The conference was memorable because of what happened on one of these occasions when I went through my daily ritual:

  1. wait for someone from a tribal in-group to offer to include me  –  strike one
  2. intrude into tribal territory by asking questions designed to open up mutual conversation  –  strike two
  3. intrude even further by appealing to ego based agendas and issues  –  strike three
  4. move to another table (meal course change) or to another group (session tea break).

It was one an occasion where I had reached stage four of my staged invasion that I met up with a person who was standing on their own, and when I approached them, began to talk to me as if I were almost equal [now I am using cynical exaggeration]. But I will never forget the story he told me of something the churches did in the city where he was leading a Christian congregation.

I can’t remember the name of the city in the US he came from, but it was a city that constantly rated among the highest in the nation for marriage and family breakdown.  That problem led to high scores in many other associated problem areas.  The city authorities constantly invented new ways of trying to break the cycle, but nothing really changed.  As is often the case in western nations, the welfare and social service sectors were filled with anti-Christian and anti-church attitudes so the solutions often avoided root causes and just kept throwing money into a deepening hole.

The church leaders in the city decided to prayerfully combine to seek God for what they could do to support marriages and families in their city.  The result of their prayer and consideration was that they decided to provide the city with a different message.  Through a year of planning and with the affirmation of most of the government groups and welfare organisations in the city they planned a day to simply celebrate the great contribution that strong marriage and loving family relationships had made over many years to the well being of the city.  The core event of this celebration was a Family Day celebration.  Here are some of the things they did in that program:

  • they had a gathering in the largest open air space in the city
  • all kinds of married couples (not just Christian ones and not just ethnically American ones) told short stories about their marriages to illustrate how problems had been overcome and how marriages had survived all kinds of internal and external pressures.  There were stories of how couples who had separated had been brought back together and how estranged family members had been reconciled.  It wasn’t just a cavalcade of squeaky-clean marriages but examples of dark and painful experiences and seasons.  All the stories testified to the high value of marriage and family.
  • around seven hundred couples participated in a ceremony of publicly affirming their marriage vows.
  • people who had been divorced told of how they had recovered their sense of commitment to marriage so that their second marriage would reflect the strength of that commitment, not just carrying increased dysfunction into a second relationship.
  • The day announced the offer of help and support for marriages and families – not just professional help, but community based help.  All of the churches contributed their particular services to a common resource centre.  They constantly re-emphasised the fact that they were not condemning marriages and households experiencing breakdown or pressure, they just offered to help because of their commitment to the ideal of marriage and family.  In fact they deliberately avoided the any suggestion that could presume judgment or condemnation. Even though some of the anti-Christian and anti-church groups in the community objected to the event the churches simply avoided any idea that they were doing anything other than wanting to celebrate the goodness of marriage and family.
  • At the event and for a month or so afterwards they advertised their willingness to offer their support.  There was a number people could ring and the office that took those calls was manned around the clock for a whole month.

The result was that the press gave unprecedented positive coverage to the event and there were many news magazine segments given to covering the before and after stories.  The call centre receive thousands of calls and the support groups were inundated with opportunities to help marriages and families do better.  Within two years the numbers had turned around and within three they were lower than at any time in the history of records being kept.  Many of the government agencies began to work with the church-based agencies and resources and a relationship was built that was simple, positive and long-lasting.  Over the ensuing period up to the time I was talking with the pastor, the city was noted by professional, government and research organisations as a model case study for positive social change.  All the way through the churches simply stuck to a very simple set of core values that, while Biblical, were not presented as presuming Christian commitment.  As a result of these many new relationships between people seeking marriage and family support and the churches offering that support, thousands of people came to know Jesus.

That’s what I call a worthwhile way for churches and Christian people in general to counter-attack the anti-Christian deconstructionism that was having its way with that city.  I think it is a kingdom of God plan and produced a clear kingdom of God result.

JESUS AND THE U.S. HIGH COURT DECISION ABOUT MARRIAGE

IS IT POSSIBLE THAT WE HAVE LOST OUR WAY TO THE BATTLE-FRONT?

court-gay-marriageI love the idea of marriage. It was God’s idea and was woven into the fabric of created goodness. But I’m glad I was able to marry someone because I wanted to love her for the rest of my life and raise kids and see them married so they could present us with grandchildren.

I’m grateful that the home I grew up in had a marriage between two people who were not perfect, but committed. That commitment provided at least two generations of descendants with a place to call home. A father and a mother were in residence who learned how to love us and each other. What a profound blessing. It was based on a marriage commitment between a man and a woman and they remained committed for life. They both died in the home they had built as a young married couple following World War II. It was home to us, our kids and their kids.

We have enjoyed all of that because of the Christian influences upon our culture and society. It started with a bunch of people all across the Roman Empire who loved and served Jesus Christ and who determined to live out these and other values because they trusted Jesus. There was no law that said they should and no law that said they shouldn’t. They lived it because of the teaching of Jesus and the apostles and because of the empowering presence of the Holy Spirit. Much later, when the Roman and successive empires gave favour and influence to the church such values were enshrined in constitutions and the legislation that flowed from it.

It is more common for legislation to follow social change in a given society. There are exceptions, but this is generally the case. It is the case with the idea of marriage in western nations. I don’t know if you have been living long enough to notice, but there have been both monumental and incremental shifts in the values being lived in our society. Long before there was pressure to change the legal definition of marriage, the commitment and understanding of marriage was changing.

I am from the baby-boomer generation; born immediately after the Second World War in Australia. My parent’s generation and then my own generation have seen a massive shift away from following Jesus and the resulting desire to trust his commands and teaching. At the centre was a shift was from serving Christ to serving ourselves. The opportunity for material prosperity was too good to refuse. Freedom from oppressive wars and depressions made it the all the more accessible. I watched this shift play out among my children’s generation and then in their children’s generation. Self-indulgence is pretty much the ‘tie that binds.’ So many things have happened as a consequence. Most of them could be summed up as a kind of decaying of our society as people have chosen to live for themselves rather than for the reason they were created – i.e. to worship and serve Jesus Christ.

It seems to me that it takes at least a generation or maybe two for a particular value to be reshaped in a society and for another value to take its place. It then takes a bit longer for that value to apply pressure on the laws. That’s how it stands with regard to marriage law in most western nations of the world. Our society has been profoundly shaped by individualism and self-indulgence. The reference point is not Jesus. It is not even the community. The reference point is inside the individual and is measured by degrees of comfort, pleasure and personal preference. As I discovered with a bit of pop-research a few years ago, the shaping values relating to personhood have been self-centredness, self-preservation and self-determination.[1]

So no matter what rhetoric we use to describe high court decisions about marriage, we lost this battle a long time ago when those of us who were responsible for showing redemptive love, proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and being salt and light to our spheres became more absorbed by extending our own kingdoms than we were about the kingdom of God. As a result, the communities for which we carry responsibility could no longer see the difference between a Jesus-serving family and a non-Jesus-serving family. And when our community finds a whole raft of ways to self-indulge we have often muttered a “Tut, tut” or expressed some kind of quiet disapproval and watched it happen.

I am totally in favour of finding ways to inform our communities about the life-giving values that are revealed for us in and through the life and teaching of Jesus Christ. I am certain that changes to marriage definition are a bad idea. It has never been about equality. To take a term that has exclusively described a life-long relationship between a man and a woman and apply it to other human relationships is like the call to name every different kind of fruit an apple. We have different fruits and they are distinguished by different names. We have different relationships and they should also be distinguished by different names. No, it’s a very definite attempt to destroy something good simply because in the western cultures it has a Christian origin.

What I have diminishing conviction about the assumption that the battle line should be drawn at the point of legislation. It is too late in a battle that we have already been losing. The real battle has been lost in the homes of ordinary people in the community. Even if we kept on winning the battle at the point of legislation we have still lost the commitment of the hearts and minds or people in the community.

Since when has the kingdom of God depended on legislation for advancement? It seems to me that a gospel problem needs a gospel answer. The way of Jesus for seeing change in society is by living and proclaiming a gospel of good news. The battle for marriage began to be lost when we set aside the task of proclaiming the gospel to everyone and started hiding ourselves away in our churches and church programs. We capitulated to the power of the enemy when we chose to become more and more self-indulgent rather than self-denying [as we are commanded in the teaching of Jesus]. It continued when we separated ourselves from the community rather taking responsibility for our community.

And then, when the community we have failed for years succeeds in supporting laws about things like marriage that are destructive, we presume that the issue is fighting the law rather than bringing light to our darkening community. It’s the cheap option and the long-distance one. Long distance morality is always an easier option than laying down your life for your ‘enemy.’

The vacuum we have allowed to happen waits for a well-organized pressure group with a deconstructionist moral agenda. When we stand back and judge rather than move forward with a desire to figure out how we can relate to and redemptively love people who are gay, we end up misrepresenting the gospel and ending up with polluted ‘salt’ and with our ‘light’ covered by a jug. It is we who should be doing the greater repenting. We were meant to be missionaries and we simply chose to stay at home. When the missionary work of other groups becomes more successful it is hardly credible for us to hurl our accusations at government members or opposing lobbyists.

We should get back into the battle that we have been called by Jesus to fight with the weapons he modeled every day of his life. If we do, we will find that we have returned to fighting a battle we cannot lose and one for which the enemy has no power to resist. We need to work actively to teach and train so that our marriages and homes are filled with every reason for people to want to look no further.

I think we also need to listen hard to people who are choosing or actively pursuing same-sex relationships. On the basis of that understanding we may find ourselves more equipped to live out and impart something that is good news. Then we may recapture what our Christian forefathers and mothers had and regain the influence they had. What was gained without legislation cannot be sustained ONLY by legislation. What is lost through legislation will only be gained by seeing change in the homes and families around us.

[1] Note that these three stand as totally opposite values to the ones Jesus talked about when he described Christian discipleship [cp. Matthew 16 and Luke 9]. In both places he said that true personhood is built on self-denial, self-sacrifice and in following Him.

TODAY WE VISITED HERRNHUT

June 20, 2015 Dresden, Germany

 

HERRNHUT TOWERToday we visited a small town in a part of Germany that is probably eastern-most called Herrnhut. Even though its population is listed as being around 6,000 according to Dr. Wiki most Germans wouldn’t have even heard of it let alone visited there.  Strangely it may well have had as much or more influence on the course of Chrsitian history as any of the better known German Christians – Luther etc.

 

But as I said,  most people wouldn’t have a clue what could be significant about Herrnhut. It is a small town tucked away near the Czech border east of Dresden, Germany. You wouldn’t go there unless you wanted to. It isn’t on the way to anywhere, and maybe that is more than slightly symbolic.

 

The fact is, at the turn of the eighteenth century (1700 and still a lifespan away from James Cook plonking his plodders on a large mostly undiscovered island in the Pacific), Herrnhut was nothing more than a few acres of land on an estate belonging to a local Saxon Count, Nicholas Ludwig von Zinzendorf.   Enter a couple of Moravians looking for a safe place for their persecuted brothers and sisters and  a union was formed that would change the face of the wider church forever. That was what happened in Herrnhut on June 17th 1722.

 

It actually started with refugees. Once people began to hear that Zinzendorf was willing to provide a safe place to live, they just kept on arriving – from quite different expressions of Christian faith. This is two hundred years after Martin banged his Theses to the door of the Wittenberg Church. It started with people whose past trauma and strong convictions made it almost impossible to get along. Zinzendorf then gave up his day job in the courts at Dresden, shifted out of his big house in Berthelsdorf to live in the village with the refugees. He and his wife just visited people in their homes, shared Bible study and prayed together. A fresh dose of the Word works its wonders and the motley residents committed to serve Jesus through the word rather than arguing about pet theories. Add to that a Holy Spirit visitation one Wednesday in August and twenty five years later over a hundred missionaries are loving people into the kingdom of God all over the world. Some even sold themselves as slaves in order to stand alongside them with love from heaven. Add to that a prayer meeting that started with twenty-four people agreeing to pray for one different hour each day so that the work would never stop. That prayer meeting continued without stopping for more than a hundred years.

 

God's Acre HerrnhutNola and I walked up through God’s Acre where these early pioneers were buried to the wooden tower on top of the hill. The wooden tower was not actually a prayer tower but it gives a three-sixty of the region.

 

 

 

 

 

 

IMG_1341We went back into the village and one of the few places with a door open was the church – originally built in 1730 as a prayer hall. There were a few people wandering around and a few panels that had English translations for those of us who haven’t embraced Deutsch. After a while I found myself sitting in the middle of this large square room on my own. I didn’t see an angel but as I recounted to the Lord my deep thanks for what happened in this town and then from the people of this town to the world, I began to weep for a thousand ‘Herrnhuts’ to receive the vision and faith that was birthed in this unlikely place. Many of us are refugees of a different sort. We are people who have made costly decisions about the past and the present in order to see a different future. We are certainly as divided. Like the were and our world needs more of what they carried.

I was sitting in a spot where a great man was prepared to become nothing – and in the process became an inspiration to most and an annoyance to everyone who was standing still.

 

Zinzendorf and the Moravians were midwives to the modern missionary movement, to the Wesleyan revival and through that to the Pentecostal and Charismatic renewals of later years. And who are they today – a group that hardly anyone knows about. Sadly their descendants no longer represent the Moravian pioneers of 1727. The Moravian Church has gone the way of the rest of Christianity – from pioneering by passion and Holy Spirit power to preserving the externals without too much of the heart.

 

I don’t believe in getting what they had. I believe in being inspired by them to get what is needed to pioneer a track out of the ecclesiastical malaise and to see where passion for Jesus, a love of revelation from heaven and a communal dependence on the Holy Spirit will produce. I want to walk that journey. That’s what I prayed for alone in the middle of the prayer hall in Herrnhut.

 

I came away not wanting to simply recount a whole host of Zinzendorf stories, but to discover my own – and to help other people discover theirs. If that happens I will be the more grateful for our excursion to Herrnhut. Loved being there. Don’t want to go there again. Just want to be where Jesus is making his love and mercy known to someone who needs it.

 

Brian Medway

June 21, 2014

GETTING INVOLVED – choosing to take responsibility when other people aren’t

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PSALM FOUR           

Answer me when I call to you, my righteous God. Give me relief from my distress; have mercy on me and hear my prayer. How long will you people turn my glory into shame? How long will you love delusions and seek false gods? Know that the Lord has set apart his faithful servant for himself; the Lord hears when I call to him. Tremble and do not sin; when you are on your beds, search your hearts and be silent. Offer the sacrifices of the righteous and trust in the Lord. Many, Lord, are asking, “Who will bring us prosperity?” Let the light of your face shine on us. Fill my heart with joy when their grain and new wine abound. In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, Lord, make me dwell in safety.

 

THE STORY IN THE WORDS

This is an experience of David. He is crying out to God because he is in great distress. This distress is because the people are giving themselves to what is false, to idols and are taking the things that declare God’s glory and making them to be things of shame.

God has revealed to David what is going on among his people.

The people are making the things that display the glory of God into something that is seen to be shameful.

They are believing things that are false and they are worshipping false gods.

David sees himself as God’s representative in this situation [ “faithful servant for himself” ] and knows that God will hear him when he calls.

As God’s representative David is calling on the people who are doing this:

When they are lying in their beds they should think about what they are doing and gain a sense of awe about the mercy of God and instead of justifying and condoning what they are doing they should be silent in the presence of God.

They should honour God by offering sacrifices to him and they should put their trust in him.

David recounts what the people are saying to the Lord:

People are wanting to know WHO will bring them into a time of  prosperity?

David then calls out to God:

Let your face shine upon us.

Fill my heart with the kind of joy we have at the time when we harvest a bountiful crop of grain or wine.

 

David experiences something from heaven that enables him to take his place in the matter:

God’s peace has invaded his heart and the sign of it is that he can lie down in peace rather than tossing and turning with anxiety.

God’s presence and the promise of protection are the reasons he can live with a sense of safety.

 

 

THE UNIVERSAL PRINCIPLES

FEELING THE SITUATION AND TAKING RESPONSIBILITY         When your focus in to see the world as a servant of God there will be plenty of times when you are looking at something you don’t belong to happening among people who either don’t know or don’t want to know better. When you see people taking things that are sacred and wonderful and trashing them you become distressed. When you see people believing things that are false – false values, false worldview, false rationalizations – you become distressed and feel the need to speak out.

 

GOING TO GOD FIRST          As for David, so for us we need to first speak out to God and get revelation on the situation, otherwise we will see situations that need intervention but if we don’t get it from God we will intervene with human wisdom, human issues and priorities and get a human result.

 

TAKING CONFIDENT ACTION          When we know what to do from the experience of fellowship with God certain things follow:

we can speak confidently knowing that we are not just relying on our own capacity but are teaming with the Spirit of the Lord. That will always give the best result.

we can speak from the heart, not from the head.

 

GIVING REDEMPTIVE WISDOM – WHAT TO DO    In David’s case, he told people to consider carefully what they were doing [i.e. what they thought when they lay on their beds, not what they thought in an argument around the table]. He also called on them to go and DO SOMETHING that would lead them back to a place of trust in God.

 

BEING A TRUE INTERCESSOR – STANDING IN THE GAP  As with David, the outcome of these interactions will enable us to truly intercede. We will know what God has said and we will be able to speak that to people. We will also know from experience what the people have said and that will help us intercede for them with God. We should definitely represent BOTH parties in the situation. That’s what makes us servants of God and of peace. God is not concerned with gaining satisfaction for himself. He will only be happy when the people created in his image and who are the objects of his love and whom he has given the equipment so that they can love and be loved – when they are experiencing fulness of joy and holistic peace. God is the only one who goes to a dispute without any desire to achieve his own satisfaction at the expense of the other party. He wants the other party to experience what will bring peace and joy – that is what righteousness is. It is the attitudes and actions that produce peace and joy.

 

BEING AT PEACE IN THE MIDST OF THE BATTLE            In all of that David – and we if we get this understanding of what it is like to be a God representative and servant – gains his own place of peace and security. For the servant of God the only way to experience peace is to be DOING the will of God. That peace is the peace that Jesus had as he went to the cross and as he was beaten and as people despised and rejected him. It is a peace that most of the world knows nothing about because it is born in a concern to serve the greatest purpose, not just my own well being at the expense of others.

 

When there are four dogs and three bones we usually have a situation without a solution. When one of those dogs is a servant of God there will be no problem. We will have four satisfied dogs because the servant of God ‘dog’ will be satisfied to have gone without in order for others to have what they need.

 

 

HOW THIS STORY WOULD LOOK IF IT BECAME MY STORY

TAKE RESPONSIBILITY   I would look at the way people are taking what God has given to them and squandering it and I would be moved in my heart – it would bring me distress. I would take personal responsibility and would go cry out to God on their behalf but with my own sense of distress.

GET GOD’S VIEW I would see the circumstances of others through God’s eyes, not just my own and I would respond on that basis.

TAKE ACTION           I would be willing to take up my priestly role in the situation without compromise, knowing that I fully represented God to them and knowing that I was willing to represent them to God.

DISCOVER REDEMPTIVE PURPOSE                        I would be able to speak into their situation by pointing out the redemptive options rather than just getting mad, or just expressing my disappointment or anger or worse still to become the judge and bring nothing more than condemnation on them.

ASSUME A PRIESTLY FUNCTION    I would become their representative before God and cry out to God for the blessing and promises of God to be visited upon them [e.g. like Moses did when the people sinned at the mountain in the wilderness].

FIND GOD’S PEACE   I would be able to do all of this from a sense of peace from God and security – even though I might need to say and do things that are confronting and risky.

PEOPLE WHOSE IDEA OF BLESSING IS INSIDE TO OUTSIDE

blessings_0KINGDOM PEOPLE are people who know that blessings are not measured by the things I get, but the attitudes I generation that are focused my hopes on the needs and circumstances of other people.   [5:1-12]

He said:

  1. “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
  2. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
  3. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
  4. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
  5. for they will be filled.
  6. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
  7. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
  8. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
  9. Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
  10. “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

 

It would be impossible to number the sermons and teaching that has been done on the what we have come to know as the beatitudes. I think every exegetical nuance has probably been covered numerous times. My interest here is with the picture these chapters paint of the community Jesus anticipated being created all over the earth as people began to repent and believe the good news of the kingdom of God. And before we get to talk about each of the nine it is important to notice that these are all things that are to be recognized as blessings. I doubt that anyone would intuitively count some of these, maybe any of these as blessings. Can poverty, grief, hunger or persecution be connected to blessing in any logical way? Kingdom people are the ones who discover that the answer is totally and completely in the affirmative. Recognizing self-develop

  1. Totally dependent on God – because they know that as they do his kingdom will come.
  2. Grieve over every expression of evil – and will only be comforted when evil is replaced by the good ways of God.
  3. Have no need for self-focused ambition – because they know that God will make sure they are enabled to fulfill their destiny.
  4. Long for genuine righteousness – because they know they will live to see it.
  5. Spontaneously merciful – because they know their own need for it.
  6. Pure hearted – because they know it is the way to receive fresh revelation of God.
  7. Relentlessly pursuing peace – because they want God’s presence to be made known.
  8. Not afraid of persecution – because they know the kingdom will come regardless of the strength of the opposition.
  9. Not swayed by insults and personal attacks – because they draw their significance from their relationship with God.

KINGDOM PEOPLE

A king's crownJesus spoke again and again about the kingdom of God. His life was a tangible manifestation of the kingdom of God and his works were tangible expressions of the kingdom of God being proclaimed and advancing. It might even be true to say that his life and message were ONLY about the kingdom of God. If I were going to attempt a description of what that term means, I would suggest that it will involve three things: a king, a group of people who acknowledge the king and things that happen as expressions of the rule of that king. Another way of saying that would be: a king, the people of the king and the works of the king. So when Jesus taught a prayer that the people of the king should pray, he used these words: “Father [the king] may your kingdom come [works]. May your will be done on earth [works done in and through kingdom people] as it is in heaven [by works of people in heaven].

 

In many parts of the world, especially in the nations of the west, the church has failed to effectively model and proclaim this kingdom to the point where what people see is not good news from God that attracts people to him, but judgment and condemnation that usually deter people from coming to him.

 

One of the clearest descriptions of kingdom life was given by Jesus and is recorded in Matthew’s gospel in a series of teachings we have called, “The Sermon on the Mount.” While followers in Jesus would often agree that these lifestyle values are the intention of God for his people on the earth, they are often just quoted and talked about rather than practiced. Some people would justify this by assuming that they were for special followers rather than for every follower. Many would make feeble attempts to live out these values based on that kind of assumption.

 

There is nothing in the New Testament that would suggest that these values are NOT for everyone. What we often fail to understand is that these values will never be possible by sheer human effort. They will only happen by Holy Spirit power. But if these values are lived by the followers of Jesus, they will become the “salt and light” to their communities – as well as the reason why some sections of those same communities will opposed and persecute them. This is exactly what happened when Jesus lived these values in Judea and Galilee in the first century.

 

My own summary of Jesus’ teaching is contained in the following summary. In the coming days I will try to make helpful comments that have given me a greater understanding of what they look like in today’s world.

 

 

  1. BLESSING:   They are people who see blessing as attitudes that flow from the inside to outside, not ones that come from the outside to inside [5:1-12]

 

  1. INFLUENCE: They are people who impact their environment regardless of their official status or acknowledgement [5:13-16]

 

  1. RIGHTEOUSNESS: Their righteousness is known in the measure to which their hearts have been transformed to look like and sound like Jesus   [5:17-20]

 

  1. ONENESS: When they experience personal or collective injustice or wrongdoing, they respond by seeking a resolution based on their refusal to diminish the intrinsic worth of the other person or group. [5:21-26]

 

  1. SEXUAL PLEASURE: The are unwilling to use another person as a source of sexual pleasure [5:27-30]

 

  1. MARRIAGE: They regard the marriage relationship as sacred and unbreakable. [5:31-32]

 

  1. COMMITMENTS: They regard their word of commitment as sacred and inviolable [5:33-37]

 

  1. ENEMIES: They love, pray for and want to do good to their enemies. They have no capacity for seeking any form of revenge and will not return abuse with abuse. [5:38-48]

 

  1. GOOD WORKS: They don’t do any good works in order to be seen by others. They do good works because of the love they have for people in need. [6:1-4]

 

  1. PRAYER AND WORSHIP: They pray and worship and fast because they want to relate to God, not because they want to be seen by others [6:5-18]

 

  1. WEALTH: They don’t place any intrinsic worth on material possessions and do not measure their lives by their possessions or lack of them. [6:19-34]

 

  1. JUDGING OTHERS: They are more conscious of their own need for restoration and have no inclination to be the judges of other people. [7:1-6]

 

  1. PROVISION: They are totally convince that God is good and are willing to direct their needs to him first and foremost.   [7:7-12]

 

  1. BEING DIFFERENT: They are willing to be different from others, and to walk their own journey regardless of whether those around them are taking the same path. [7:13,14]

 

  1. FALSE LEADERS: They are not willing to trust the words of people who make leadership claims but are only willing to believe on the basis of the fruit demonstrated in their lives. [7:15-23]

 

  1. FAITH BASED OBEDIENCE: They are not willing to listen to the message of God without putting it into practice. It is not enough for them to simply hear more and more sermons and front up for more and more seminars, read more and more books and listen to more and more tapes, watch more and more videos. Their only way of measuring a word from heaven is when it becomes their own testimony – rather than the testimony of someone else.

THE BIGGEST STORY ON THE PLANET

earth_mapWe – the group of people I serve Jesus with – have been working on some interesting ideas lately and road testing them to see if they work out.  One of those has to do with what it means to say that something is ‘Biblical.’  Over the years lots of people have justified all manner of horrible enterprises on the basis that they were being Biblical.  You get a few verses that you can invest with your own meaning and use for your own purpose and, bingo.  You have a powerful tool for intimidating some and influencing others.  Most of the division that exists in the church – 40,000 denominations plus worldwide – are based on a set of distinctions that are supposedly Biblical.  Theological systems are the same.  They presume that God did a poor job with the Bible and needs a bunch of professional specialists to tell everyone else what it REALLY means.  Wow.

So here is an effort to address this issue.  It is based on the idea that when God decided to reveal himself and his intentions to people he chose to record those matters as a set of stories that make up the BIG STORY.  Scot McKnight likes to think of it as a Wiki site and a bunch of wiki pages that contribute to the site and tell different parts of the story but, in the end, they all contribute to a BIG STORY.

Well.  Here is my attempt to put the story revealed between Genesis Chapter One and Revelation Chapter Twenty Two. I think it is best to approach the Bible as a story. It is not an imagined story.  It is an interpretation of historical events and by discovering how they weave together.  It is the story of Jesus and therefore the story of a loving God seeking to fulfill good purposes for good people and a good world.

 

So here goes…………………

 

ADAM AND EVE

 

“Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”

 So God created man in his own image,

in the image of God he created him;

 male and female he created them.

 And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”[1]

 

When God created the universe he created men and women as his image bearers, presence carriers and purpose fulfillers in the earth. Adam and Eve were singularly created in the image of God and were the only creatures capable of enjoying close spiritual relationship with him. They were given authority to fulfill the purposes of God for the earth and their relationship of oneness with each other was intended to model the unity of the Godhead,  Father, Son and Spirit.  They were deceived through an encounter with Satan and chose to act apart from their relationship with God and contrary to his calling.  By doing this they devalued the image, lost intimacy and therefore the authority to fulfill his purpose.  Adam and Eve’s descendants multiplied and extended this condition and became more and more committed to thinking and acting corruptly until a point where they were incapable of good.[2]

 

“The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.”[3]

NOAH AND HIS FAMILY 

“The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. So the Lord said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them.” But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord ……… Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation. Noah walked with God.”

Unlike the others of his generation, Noah acknowledged God and modeled his life on God’s character.  When God spoke to him, Noah heard, believed and embraced what was said.  Together with his family he fulfilled God’s redemptive purpose.  They built the ark, gathered animals and spent more than a hundred years calling people back to the ways of the Creator. After surviving the flood they began to re-established God’s loving purpose in the earth.

As the generations passed, however, fewer people shared this calling. Instead they began to build communities and cities based on their own wisdom and their own purposes.  Finally they forged a powerful unity, independent of God and opposed to him.  The tower of Babel was the symbol of this climactic failure and the dispersion of the nations was its consequence.

“And the Lord said, “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them.” [4]

 

 

ABRAHAM AND THE CHILDREN OF ISRAEL

“Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”[5]

When Abraham left his kinship group in Haran and moved his family to Canaan, it was to embrace both the blessing and responsibility of serving God.  God’s purposes for the earth were going to be represented by a nation/community that God would build through Abraham’s descendants. After God liberated the children of Israel from slavery in Egypt, the law of Moses gave them the insights that would see God’s image restored and the tabernacle, cloud and pillar of fire enabled them to honour and follow his presence. The land of Canaan was to be an operations base to take this same blessing to all the peoples of the earth.

Instead of becoming a community that looked and sounded like God, they kept copying the ways of the nations around them.  Instead of offering God’s blessing to the nations, they became an exclusive club for one nation.  One of the saddest consequences of this failure was when they rejected God as their king and asked Samuel to appoint a human king. [6]

“Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah and said to him, “Behold, you are old and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now appoint for us a king to judge us like all the nations.” But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, “Give us a king to judge us.” And Samuel prayed to the Lord. And the Lord said to Samuel, “Obey the voice of the people in all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them. According to all the deeds that they have done, from the day I brought them up out of Egypt even to this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are also doing to you. Now then, obey their voice; only you shall solemnly warn them and show them the ways of the king who shall reign over them.” [7]

 

DAVID AND THE KINGDOM OF ISRAEL

“But the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel. And they said, “No! But there shall be a king over us, that we also may be like all the nations, and that our king may judge us and go out before us and fight our battles.” And when Samuel had heard all the words of the people, he repeated them in the ears of the Lord. And the Lord said to Samuel, “Obey their voice and make them a king.” Samuel then said to the men of Israel, “Go every man to his city.”[8]

When God agreed to appoint a human king for Israel it was a case of redemptive love taking another risk.   Even though many of the kings dismally failed to honour and serve God, King David became the prophetic foreshadowing of the promised Messiah/king.  David was selected by God because even though he was working as a shepherd, he was doing it as  “a man after God’s own heart.”[9] Despite his well known imperfections God promised that the real king would be a ‘Son of David.’

In spite of this high and lofty calling, David, his son Solomon and those who followed them, transgressed the principles God had revealed about godly leadership.[10] They began a process of compromise that saw the kingdom of Israel being torn apart by internal division and external oppression.  The glimpses of glory faded and the following three hundred years tell the horrible story of corruption, betrayal and shame.  During these days God raised up prophetic messengers who tirelessly and graciously warned the people of the consequences of foresaking God. Sadly they were consistently rejected and their warnings unheeded. The honour and presence of God was shunned, the image of God on earth was marred and his purposes resisted.  Ten of the twelve tribes were wiped out and the remaining two were exiled in Babylon. Jerusalem and the temple were completely destroyed. Even though God brought about a profound miraculous deliverance seventy years later, only a small percentage were willing to return and rebuild the city and temple.  The systemic failures that had plagued them from the beginning continued. No word was spoken from heaven and there was no divine intervention for four hundred years.  The powerful prophetic images and promises of a new day and of restoration were tied to the coming of the promised Messiah/king.  The people waited in the long night of divine silence as they struggled to hang on to their very existence.[11]

“Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the Lord. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord, ’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”[12]

 

JESUS AND THE KINGDOM OF GOD                                                                      

“Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” “[13]

After four hundred years of silent suspense the promised Messiah was born.  Jesus of Nazareth was the faithful image bearer of God. From the time of his birth in Bethlehem and while he was growing up in obscurity in the home in Nazareth he represented the image, carried the presence and embraced the purposes of his Father.  From the beginning of his public ministry he carried a single message:  the kingdom of God had arrived and the kingdom of darkness was going to lose its power.

Jesus of Nazareth was the ultimate exposition of the law of Moses and the fulfillment of every prophetic testimony of the coming Messiah.   He challenged the religious structures that had buried the relational nature of the covenant through its traditions.  The message he proclaimed was of a new kingdom, the kingdom of God.  As he lived, spoke and ministered to people, the kingdom of God advanced.  As foretold in Old Testament prophecy he embraced the purpose of his Father as he faced unjust torture and death in Jerusalem.  His death on the cross forever broke Satan’s power to lock people in cycles of destruction and separate them from God.  His resurrection heralded the promise of God to make everything new.  When the Holy Spirit began to be poured out on “all people” on the Day of Pentecost, Jews, Gentile, males or females, young and old were supernaturally empowered.  The image of God could be restored, the presence of God could be known and the purposes of God could be fulfilled.  New Jesus-looking communities could be formed that transcended all forms of human distinction as testimony to Jesus and the kingdom of God and therefore complete the task of carrying the message to every part of the earth.

Adam, Noah, Abraham and the people of Israel had failed to fulfill the commission they were given.  Jesus succeeded.  When his followers obeyed his words and the church was created by the power of the Holy Spirit it emerged as the corporate expression of the new covenant.  They began to carry the presence, declare the image and fulfill the purposes of God in the earth. It was by no means perfect, but because the new covenant was designed to operate through grace and relationship, God was able to do amazing works through committed, even though imperfect, people.[14]

 

THE NEW HEAVENS AND THE NEW EARTH

Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. [15]

The message and ministry of the kingdom of God has been described as the future happening in the present.  It is heaven happening on earth.  Every aspect of personal and collective spirituality is designed to foreshadow the consummation of the plan of God for the heavens and the earth.  This consummation is described in various places throughout the New Testament books but portrayed most profoundly in the last chapters of the Book of Revelation, the last book in the Bible.  When this age is complete Jesus the Messiah/King will come and establish an eternal heaven and earth and the people who bear his image, carry his presence and fulfill his purposes will see the consummation or final expression of what began in Eden, was lost by Israel, restored in Jesus and being completed by his followers.  It is the work of bringing everything back under the rule of his Son, Jesus Christ. The rule of King Jesus will be the fulfillment or completion of what every follower and every collection of followers will experience and accomplish in some measure.  The kingdom comes where the will of God is done on earth as it is being done in heaven.   Revelation 21 begins to describe that fulfillment in terms of God dwelling as God in the midst people who had been fully made new in a world where everything has been made new.[16]

“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

 And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.”  [17]

 

 

QUESTIONS RAISED BY THIS STORY

  1. According to this story, what has been and remains the desire of God for people?
  2. If Jesus is the true and faithful Son of God, what does it mean for us to be true and faithful?
  3. What is it about the Person, the ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus that resolved the unresolved issues for the plan of God?
  4. What was it that defined the people as the “people of God” in former times and who are the “people of God” in any place at any time?
  5. What defines success and failure for the people of God according to this story?

 

 

FOOTNOTES

[1] Genesis 1:26-28

[2] Genesis 6:5

[3] Genesis 1-6

[4] Genesis 6-12; 2 Peter 2:5; Acts 17:26,27

[5] Genesis 12:1-3

[6]Genesis – First Samuel 8

[7] First Samuel 8:4-9

[8] First Samuel 8:19-21

[9] Acts 13:21

[10] Deuteronomy 17 spells out what a king looks like when he represents the real King of Israel rather than one who works the same way as the kings of neighbouring people.  Here is a summary:   1) he must be chosen by God;    2) he must be a native Israelite;    3) he is not to accumulate many horses;    4) he is not to have dealings with Egypt, their former slave masters;   5) he is not to acquire many wives;   6) he is not to accumulate excessive silver and gold;    7) he is to become familiar with and live by the laws of Moses;   8) he is not to consider himself better than his fellow Israelites.

[11] First Samuel to Malachi

[12] Jeremiah 31:31-34

[13] Mark 1:14,15

[14] The four gospels provide the account of the revelation of Jesus; the Acts and Letters tell stories of the emergence of a new kind of community of God’s people.

[15] Matthew 6:9-14

[16] Revelation, especially Chapters 21,22

[17] Revelation 21:1-5