Friday, May 29, 2009

The Great Commission, Part 1

Perhaps the greatest charge ever given in the pages of sacred Scripture was Christ's message to the apostles (and also likely other disciples) before ascending back into the heavens.
As Matthew records it, "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things I have commanded you:and lo, I am with you always even until the end of the age. Amen. (Matt. 28:19-20).
Also recorded in Luke and Mark, as well as in the opening chapter of Acts, Jesus' words speak to the eternal mission of the church as well as to the eternal aim of His Heavenly Father.
The Great Commission is great because it was not a "hatched overnight" plan of Jesus. Rather, as Ephesians 3 shows, it was a divine part of the eternal purpose of God. Peter mentions this element of Christ's purpose in dying on the cross in the first gospel sermon in Acts 2 and notes in 1 Peter 1:19, 20 that Christ was "...truly foreordained before the foundation of the world..." to die, be buried and rise from the dead and that this was and is to be the message of the gospel.
With Christ as the seat of its authority and being a universal mission in scope, the Great Commission is clearly to be lived out in the day-to-day lives of believers. In fact the phrasing is not so much "Go" but rather "As you are going." This opens us as believers to the idea that wherever we find ourselves in life we are truly on the mission field. As we go from work to recreation, family to friends, we are to carry the word of Christ to all.
Check back for more on the Great Commission...

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Terror, Love, and Assigned Ministry

Why do we tell (or fail to tell) our neighbors and friends about the life-changing relationship that we have with Jesus? Perhaps we have not considered the motivation that spurred on the apostle Paul and his companions to share the Gospel.

In II Corinthians 5, Paul speaks of the "terror of the LORD" as a motivation as to why he and his companions seek to persuade men to obey the Gospel. Paul must have no doubt remembered the fear he experienced on the road to Damascus and for the three days in darkness he spent waiting for the coming of Ananias. Paul knew what it was like to be separated from the LORD and knew the terrible position that indeed was.

Paul also mentions to the Corinthians that "the love of Christ compels us..." It is one thing to know the awesome, terrible power of God and quite another to know the tender touch of Christ. Knowing that Christ loved recklessly and without precondition, Paul says that that love (showed toward him and all men) pushes him forward to tell the Good News of Jesus.

Finally, Paul mentions that he and all Christians have been given the "ministry of reconciliation." He knows that the life, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus is the reconciling event of history. Telling this story is what the job of every believer has as he or she lives from day to day.

Terror may motivate and love may as well, but until we realized that WE have an ASSIGNED MINISTRY to reconcile the world to Christ, we will never get busy in the work of spreading the good news.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Tomb Time

There is perhaps no greater privilege in the work of ministry than stand before the assembly and present the Gospel of Christ as a dying man to dying men and women. Those of us who have obeyed the teachings of the Scripture currently live between two lives. We have died to sin and a life ruled by Satan, but we are not yet glorified in the presence of God for all eternity. We are, in fact, "between two tombs."

The first is the tomb of baptism and self-identification with the death of Christ; the second is the place of physical death that we all must face provided Christ does not return in our lifetimes. As you consider your life, are you living on "tomb time?"

Have you been united with Christ in the likeness of His death so that you can be united in the likeness of the resurrection? If not, why not?

"Picture the Parade, Lads"

During World War II, England needed to increase its production of coal. Winston Churchill called together labor leaders to enlist their support. At the end of his presentation he asked them to picture in their minds a parade which he knew would be held in Picadilly Circus after the war.

First, he said, would come the sailors who had kept the vital sea lanes open. Then would come the soldiers who had come home from Dunkirk and then gone on to defeat Rommel in Africa. Then would come the pilots who had driven the Luftwaffe from the sky.
Last of all, he said, would come a long line of sweat-stained, soot-streaked men in miner's caps. Someone would cry from the crowd, 'And where were you during the critical days of our struggle?' And from ten thousand throats would come the answer, 'We were deep in the earth with our faces to the coal.'"

Not all the jobs in a church are prominent and glamorous. But it is often the people with their "faces to the coal" who help the church accomplish its mission.
The parade of heaven will not be all apostles, ministers, missionaries: many will be the "ordinary" Christians who stoked the furnaces of the heavens with thousands of lives well lived.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Happiness to bitternes and back again

In the early story of Naomi of Bethlehem, it seems that everything that can go wrong does go wrong. A famine breaks out in Israel and Naomi's husband leads her and their two sons to the idol-worshipping land of Moab. While there, her sons, Mahlon and Chilion, marry Moabite women. Tragedy strikes when Naomi's husband dies and, a few years later, both sons die. Naomi is then confronted with being a foreigner in a godless land.
Word comes to the land of Moab that the famine has ended in Israel, and Naomi determines to go back home. Though Ruth is faithful to her mother-in-law and returns to Bethlehem with her, Naomi is still grieved by her life circumstances. When she reaches her hometown and the women say to her, "Is this not Naomi?" she tells them to change her name to Mara. While the name "Naomi" means happiness or pleasant, "Mara" means bitterness.
Fast-foward a few short months. Ruth finds favor in the eyes of Boaz, Naomi's husband's cousin. He is wealthy and marries Ruth as the custom of marrying the dead relative dictates. The couple conceive and young Obed is born. Naomi becomes a kindly grandmother and nurse to Obed. The women of Bethlehem now say, "...your daughter-in-law, who is better to you than seven sons, has bore you a son in your old age..." Bitterness and loss are now turned to happiness and fullness. Obed grows up to become the father of Jesse, the father of David, the ancestor of Christ and greatest ruler of Israel.

Sometimes, just when life seems to be over, God steps in and through His bountiful providence He restores us even greater than we had before. A widow with no descendants, Naomi's prospects looked bleak. Her godly daughter-in-law, who sprang from a godless nation, and the kindness of a relative of her husband, makes Naomi full of happiness once again. Life is often cruel, but remember always that God can bring redemption from unexpected places.

Have a blessed week,

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Times for everything

As I waited in the hospital for hours with the Robinson family on Friday awaiting the birth of their first daughter/grandchild, I was reminded of the verses of Ecclesiastes 3.

"...a time to be born, a time to die..."

I have stayed with several people during their final moments of life. I remember sitting up all night with one aged brother as his breathing grew more and more labored and he slip into a coma and then passed away. All that night I sang hymns from an old songbook that someone had left in the room. Although I wasn't sure he could hear me, it seemed appropriate to be sung into Glory. As poor as my voice is, I know that the anthems of angels soon replaced my meager offering and welcomed that tired warrior home.

This experience with birth was totally different. Lots of people were gathered and the tone was happy and light. Even when complications were announced, we remained calm and prayed together. In the end, a child that only a few minutes before had been locked in an unseen world was being gawked over, cooed at and photographed. New life had been brought forth, and I could not help but think of all the future holds for this child and this family. I hope in a few short years that I will have the honor of baptizing this child as I baptized her father several years ago.

Truly to everything there is a season. I have had my times to mourn, and now I feel that I have had indeed a time to dance.
Praise God from whom all blessings flow,