Are We Fighting the Wrong Enemies with the Wrong Weapons?
The Lord made it clear to us recently that we needed to be combat ready for this new season. As we have begun unpacking the lessons from the vision to ‘climb the unclimbed peaks’ we have been drawn again and again, as we should be, to the things we can determine most clearly and usefully from dwelling in the revelation Christ brought.
In establishing a mud map (a sketch outline) for plotting our way forward, we looked to where Jesus put His feet so we could put ours in His footsteps and so on. Using the gospels as a guide we discovered that before He launched into the key purpose of His mission, Jesus sorted out where the authority for His efforts would come from by becoming ‘combat ready’. In the wilderness Jesus ensured that the devil would be on the back foot in every battle. He not only showed us the way as He declared, healed and delivered people from the chains of the evil one but He also taught us how to live prayerfully IN victory in and through our daily tasks. There are battles for the hearts and souls of our community being waged and we are becoming more aware of some of the flash points as we pray for wisdom.
God’s declaration that it was time to establish a pathway to victory for all people for all time came when the angel Gabriel announced Jesus’ birth to Mary. There are people who need to be rescued. They are enslaved by an enemy who steals and deceives. Jesus is the model for winning this war that robs innocence from souls before one shot is fired. The battles we witness are often after the fact, ugly reflections of triggers that have already been pulled. We need to learn from Jesus, how to fight the right battles and not continue to brawl with each other in the wrong ones or in-fighting or skirmishes that distract and waste time and a whole lot of energy. Jesus’ weapons include mercy, humility, grace, favour, unconditional love, acceptance, service and lifting others up. Are we ready? Are we sure? Let’s help each other get combat ready. Let’s dwell more intimately IN Christ and GO when He sends.
What Might Heaven Be Like? (Fuel for a more engaging kingdom conversation)
“Notions of heaven have changed through the ages, from an eternity centred on God to a more secular place where loved ones will reunite” asserts Philip Almond, University of Queensland’s Emeritus Professor in the History of Religious Thought in a recent essay. In his conclusion he writes, “As in times past, Heaven is seen as a place of supreme happiness, joy and contentment. So, experiences of great joy on this side of the grave are said to be “heavenly”….. In short, this life, despite all its sorrows and miseries, provides occasional glimpses of the next. The life to come – it is believed – will be this life made perfect.”
Lately, we’ve been discussing what the culture of heaven might look like if it was manifest ON earth and a very important part of this discussion has to stem from an understanding that just like the ‘body of Christ’, the ‘church’ isn’t defined by the building(s) it is housed in. Neither can it be said that heaven is up above the sky in a geographical location removed from earth BUT, like the ‘church’, it is wherever God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit reside in a mutual indwelling of each other that expresses itself in a divine dance that you and I, his creation, is miraculously and mysteriously invited to partake in.
God dwells in the hearts of people who have surrendered to His kingdom rule and as is so often the case, human beings struggle to get a clear picture of eternal spiritual truths because of the finite, linear – that is one or two dimensional limitations that we default to when our existence is challenged by things which are bigger than anything we can create or control. It’s certainly not an everyday conversation but as the Emeritus Professor highlights, it is something that stirs us at certain times in our lives; at the birth of a child, or at someone’s funeral or during a crisis during which human thoughts just don’t cut it.
Simply stated, the idea of heaven isn’t just an echo of a more mediaeval time when angels and devils were part of the daily discourse, it’s a reflection of the Augustinian idea which seeks to (at the very least) clarify the challenge of the first chapter of Paul’s letter to the Romans (Rom. 1:18ff) by suggesting that because we are created beings, we have a restlessness, a yearning that can only be fulfilled in Christ. Pascal, considered by Einstein as the cleverest human ever, took the idea further in his defence of faith in Christ by intimating a God shaped vacuum inside of us that can’t be filled by anything else due to the unique shape of the said void. It is misquoted a lot and wrongly attributed even more but the sentiment is still powerful.
Heaven remains as ever, a strong element in a person’s search for authentic faith and meaning. It’s certainly true in my own search, particularly when I am faced with conducting a funeral service for someone who seems to have led a good and purposeful life but doesn’t seem to have engaged the saving grace and mercy of God.
As this article indicates, I read a lot of stuff to try and appraise the church’s ability (with its religious vernacular) to be relevant to the average Australian neighbourhood. I read and listen to current and historical reflections about the changing language and the dramatic shifts in imagery that depict life and death in modern Australia and as I do, I become more convinced that a picture of heaven where Jesus is de-mythologized and shown by words AND actions as the one who lives a life and dies a death that fully represents and demonstrates God’s primary purpose for creating us, is a picture more likely to cut through the putrid dross that distracts my neighbour’s heart. Jesus’ life and ministry on earth is far more likely to help people who are heart-hardened to a gospel that seems to major more on don’ts than do’s and phenomenally more likely to portray Jesus’ death on the Cross and His resurrection as something that is tangible and accessible for them to engage and be transformed by in the everyday living of life. Assuredly more than something that gets tacked on to the myths and legends of institutionalized religious expression, only amplifying the human existential nightmares that seem only to pop up when something bad happens.
A Summary of last Sunday’s message for Prayer, Reflection & Response.
Signpost: See & Engage the Harvest
Series: ‘The HOPE Project Trek from Base Camp to Camp One’
Theme: ‘Tools for the Climb: A Body NOT a Temple (The Essential Nature of Church)’
Reference Scriptures = Gen 1 & 12; Ex 1, 12-19, 20-40; Josh 1; 2 Sam; Mk 1; Jn 2; Acts 1-8;
This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached (declared, represented, demonstrated) in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come. (Matt.24:14)
We are the tangible representatives of God’s redemptive purpose on the earth. The unredeemed people and unredeemed natural order can’t see God. They are blinded by the enemy from the experience of God’s grace. They can, however, see us. We are like God’s shop front window to our generation. How are we doing? (It’s Tool Time – here’s some bible study resource clarity to help equip others around you in your spheres)
From the time God began to work his purposes in the earth, beginning in Eden, he has intentionally used a chosen and called people to be the tangible expression of his presence.
These people were always bound to God by a covenant that called them to declare his redemptive purpose. We have it as the good news of the kingdom BUT what were the previous representations of this continuous purpose?
- Ways God Made His Presence Known in the Generations of the Bible
Adam and Eve: Gen. 1 28 God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it.
Abraham: Gen 12: 1-3 He was to go to the land and move about in it. The fact that God was going to bless him was the basis for him to bless every family on the earth (through you God said to Abe)
Israelites in Egypt: Ex. 1:12 The people became a strong nation through giving birth to children such that Pharaoh was intimidated by them
The Exodus: Ex. 12-19 God brought his people out and led them to Sinai (the giving of the law)
Ex. 20-40 The tabernacle (the Glory)
Joshua: Josh. 1ff The supernatural gift of the land
David/Solomon: 2 Sam 1ff Jerusalem and the temple
To the exile: Prophets speaking & demonstrating God’s word
- God made his presence and purpose known finally and completely through Jesus Christ:
See Hebrews 1:1-3 “In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son….is the radiance of God’s glory, the exact representation of his being…”
- The tabernacle/temple was meant to be a missionary presence.
Jesus said it was to be a house or prayer for all nations but the leaders of the Jews had made it an exclusive club for one nation. (Mark 11)
Jesus also spoke clearly about the fact that the temple would be destroyed and he would build its replacement in three days. We know in hindsight that the temple curtain was rent, giving access to all IN CHRIST; replacement referred to his ‘body’. (Jn.2:19ff)
- The church is the body of Christ.
The church has been established by God as the custodian of his missionary presence in the earth; in every generation, in every place it is the church that God has given the authority to fulfill his missionary purpose.
- Unfortunately, we turned the church into a re-invented temple.
A lot of the features of many churches are more associated with the temple of the Old Testament than the Body of Christ in the New Testament
“Whereas Christ turned the water into wine, the church has succeeded in doing something even more difficult, it has turned the wine back into water.” Soren Kierkegaard
If Jesus said, he would replace the temple with a body how does the Body of Christ operate differently from the temple. Here are a few examples to get us thinking, but find someone you can brainstorm with, and see how many differences you can come up with.
|Tabernacle / Temple
|Body / Church
|A special building designed & built by following the command of God
|Ordinary people redeemed and living by the manifest power of the Holy Spirit
|Special areas that are holy and other areas that were common
|No physical area or space any more holy than the other. The presence of the person & who they represent creates the holy presence
|Special professional people who act on behalf of the ordinary people
|All people have the same status in the body of Christ (Galatians); priesthood of all believers. Anyone can do it. Servant leadership=anointing/scope
|Emphasis on mediatorial function of professionals (pastors, worship teams etc)
|Emphasis on empowering for everyone (Acts 2) flowing from the presence of Jesus in every Spirit filled person (Eph 4)
|Ministry follows institutional guidelines and agendas
The ministry of Jesus: (Mark Ch. 1)
The ministry of Jesus is the primary example of how the Body of Christ is meant to operate in every place and in every generation. THIS IS OUR PRIMARY FOCUS …. SO NO SURPRISES HERE
Use Mark Chapter One, seeing as we are familiar with it.
See how many different ministries of the Body of Christ are exampled by Jesus in this one chapter? If you have some time, read a few more chapters and see how many more you can find.
The ministry of the early church: (Acts Chs. 1-5)
This scripture reference is a first century example of the Body of Christ operating in a particular generation. If you want revelation about what the church as His body should look like, or even NOT look like, survey the activities of the first few chapters of Acts to see what things happened as the Body of Christ was being the missionary presence of Jesus in a given time and place. Especially notice the things that happened only once and the things that should be happening often or in every place. Then comes the example of how God uses a waiter = Acts 6-8
- The missionary presence of God becoming institutionalized (6:1)
- Apostles getting it and implementing an appropriate plan & criteria (6:2-4)
- It was good to the whole group and the Holy Spirit (6:5)
- Stephen was the Holy Spirit’s plan (NB. Not one Jewish Name listed in the group of 7 ) (6:5)
- Impartation was key to growth (6:6-7)
- The plan is to represent AND demonstrate the kingdom through ANY task / job / vocation (6:8ff)
- Reminder of covenant and realignment. The temple is past, now Christ’s body is the door (7:44-53; 8:1-4)
- The No Namers declared the kingdom everywhere
(Philip? NOT the original apostle Philip but one of the Acts 6 seven waiters -> Saul by Ch. 9)
To get out of Base Camp and get across the ice-fall, (like Stephen) don’t take your eyes off the summit, the primary purpose, the end game.
Here are the 4 gospel accounts of the Great Commission AND their consistent revelation of God’s primary purpose and chosen method of achieving it. Matthew 28: 18-20; Mark 16:15; Luke 24:49 into Acts 1:8; John 20:21 (with regard to consistency, compare Genesis 12:1-3)
At last Tuesday’s company prayer time God revealed the word ‘Renovate’ to us. We were seeking God for more direction re. the shape of the part He wants us to play i.e. our function as part of the kingdom in our region. In context with this we were praying about our neighbours; seeking clarity about both the changing demographic in our street/block through house renovations/rebuilds AND our need to learn the language of a biblically illiterate Oz society in order to be heard by them and to gain their trust. In the midst of this the Lord gave us the word ‘renovate’ and as such we are exploring THAT as our unique role in the kingdom advancing work in this area.
OUR HEARTS CORPORATELY WORKING AS ONE TO BE A SAFE PLACE FOR PEOPLE TO BE RENOVATED IN CHRIST AND ESTABLISHED AS NEW CREATIONS WITH A TASK OF MISSION TO PURSUE … More on this as we keep praying TOGETHER
Completion of God’s Primary ‘Renovating’ Purpose takes more than words – it requires a life style, lived together with others that represent what Jesus was sent to earth to show us … so,
Here is my feeble attempt at representing the heart of the Great Commission from Jesus for us
‘Now that the kingdom rule of God is in your hearts, you can’t keep it to yourself. I am now sending you as the Father sent me; to represent and demonstrate the kingdom of heaven and to start with your patch ON the earth. Those who respond to the kingdom within you, need to go on a journey of discipleship like you did; forming bands who learn together by following me in the context of everyday life and even beyond it … letting the crowd around you engage – come and go as they need, so they can discover the secret too with readied fertile hearts.
You should not do this under your own steam, but rely on the Holy Spirit as I even did so that as you grow you will be empowered to cross the borders of your own family’s and neighbourhood’s culture, language, religion and or worldview into other spheres like your workplace, community involvement and even to the ends of the earth. If you abide in me, because I am the one who fills you, you will leak what you received from me as you go – the way, the truth, the life that you’ve experienced by walking intimately with me.’
Some review questions you can use to equip or sharpen each other as you learn how to engage in kingdom conversations in YOUR spheres of involvement OR patches ON earth as in heaven.
- Review the biblical investigation questions raised in the above summary and work on those
- As you go about your daily activities this week, purposefully pray and think about how a body that represents the missionary presence of God (as per the above study) could be formed and operate in your (extended) family sphere? Your work sphere? Your friendship circle? Your community involvement sphere? Your learning or other recreational space? (just choose one and focus on it if you like)
- How would you describe these spheres, that is, think of the descriptive words YOU would use if the kingdom of heaven that you’ve been getting a clearer picture of, was fully represented in these spheres as per question 2?
- Contact someone who you could partner with in this, make a decision together to write down a few notes as you pray and think and then plan to meet and share your observations with them over a cuppa.
- If you are feeling bolder, here’s a challenge that may or may not yield some community engagement, but worth doing anyway. If you are planning to do this exercise (Q4) with someone, think of doing it in a public place like in a café or on the train or bus going shopping. Pray together before you share and without trying to engage anyone around you intentionally, see if anything happens.
- As you receive more revelation, keep praying about your spheres, seeking God for clarity about his redemptive purposes for them. Maybe share prayer points via email or text with Graeme or Julie so they can partner with you in prayer at the corporate prayer times on Tuesdays from 5.30pm.
More tools to use in the field soon …..
Here’s the Link to the home page for all that’s happening at the HUB https://www.corrimalcommunitychurch.com.au/blog
Y-CARE NEXT GEN & HOPE TASK FORCE – FOR A TIME SUCH AS THIS!