Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Still Small Voice

One of the great stories in the Old Testament is of Elijah, weary from "power ministry" and afraid for his life in the face of the wrath of Jezebel, he flees to the desert and hides in a cave.
An interesting interview ensues (my paraphrase from 1 Kings 19):
"What are you doing here, Elijah?"

"I've been killing myself working for you.  But all I can see is the enemy winning by wiping out all of your servants.  I think I'm the only one left!"

Of course we know that God calls him to get out of the "cave of depression" and stand before Him. And even though he sees tornado, earthquake and firestorm, he realizes that God is not speaking through them.  Instead, God's voice comes through the gentle breeze--His quiet whisper.

The interview then repeats itself word-for-word.  Why?

I think that Elijah's first response was in the form of a whimper, a whine, a complaint.  Woe is me!

When our focus is on ourselves, we can't really hear God's answer.  We're just complaining.

But the storms of life are meant to get our attention off of ourselves so that we begin to really listen to God's answer.

That's when we realize that He was speaking to us all along.  We heard it, but we didn't really "hear" it.  That is, the words registered, but we didn't really take in the meaning.

"He who has ears to hear, let him hear" (Mk. 4: 9).

Do you want God to speak to you?  He probably already is.  Shift your focus from yourself to Him.  He still speaks in a quiet whisper.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Becoming a Disciple of Jesus

For many years, I considered myself to be a dispensationalist, although I was not a cessationist.

That means that I bought into the idea that God's redemptive program could be viewed as being "dispensed" differently during periods of history.  Moses initiated the dispensation of Law.  Jesus introduced the Kingdom, but was rejected, thereby delaying that period until his second coming.  Instead, the dispensation of Grace has intervened.

What bothered me for many years was that most dispensationalists taught that the period of charismatic activity that Jesus and the Apostles exhibited ceased with the writing of the New Testament (cessationism).  I always believed this was not exegetically supported, nor was it consistent with the dispensational paradigm.

But when I arrived at the Vineyard in 1985, Kingdom theology upset my dispensational apple cart.  The book, The Gospel of the Kingdom, by George Eldon Ladd, professor of New Testament Theology at Fuller Theological Seminary, was simple, straight-forward, and gave me a thoroughly biblical basis for my theology.

What is more, I became aware of how dispensationalism had drained Jesus and the Gospels out of my Christian worldview.  You see, I was taught that Jesus came at the end of the dispensation of the Law, presented the dispensation of the Kingom, but was rejected.  The Kingdom Age was set aside for the future and the mysterious age of Grace had intervened.  Therefore, so I was taught, Jesus' ministry and teaching were largely irrelevant for today.  It was the epistles, especially Paul, that were written to us.

Listening to John Wimber, the founder of the Vineyard movement, teach from the Gospels and give me a model for Kingdom ministry straight from the Master Himself was refreshing.  If we are Jesus' disciples, then let's study Jesus' ministry.

In his Great Commission, Jesus commanded his disciples to "teach [the disciples they were making] to obey everything I have commanded you."  Jesus' teaching and ministry are not only relevant to us today, they are VITAL.  He is the Master.  We are his disciples, his "apprentices in Kingdom living" (The Divine Conspiracy, Dallas Willard).

Let's study the Master and seek to obey everything He taught His disciples.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Heal the Sick

I love the fact that Jesus sent us to preach the "Good News" of the Kingdom of God.

But read more of the instruction:
"As you go, preach this message: 'The kingdom of heaven is [at hand].' Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received, freely give" (Matt. 10: 7-8).

The command to preach the good news is only part of it.  We are also to heal the sick.  Notice it does NOT just say to "pray for the sick" but to "heal the sick."

You might argue, "Well, this instruction was given only to the apostles and only for the time of Jesus' minsitry."

In Luke we find that he also sent out another 72 with the same commission.  And then, at the end of Matthew, He gave the Great Commission to all the disciples who were present.  Part of His commission then, just prior to his ascension, was to "teach [the disciples you are making] to OBEY EVERYTHING I HAVE COMMANDED YOU" (Matt. 28: 20).

In other words, the command to " out" are to be obeyed by everyone who wants to be Jesus' disciple.

But I don't have the power to heal, only God has that power.

Bingo. That is why we must be filled with the Holy Spirit.  So that we have the power, not just to say the words, but to do the works of Jesus.

When I pray for the sick, I feel totally inadequate.  And the truth is--I am totally inadequate.  But God is not.  The command to heal the sick should bring me back into a total dependence on God.  It should cause me to cry out to Him for the power to obey. And it should fill me with gratitude when He does through me what only He can do.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Big Hairy Audacious Goals

In 1996, James Collins and Jerry Poras introduced the idea of a Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG).

"A true BHAG is clear and compelling, serves as a unifying focal point of effort and acts as a clear catalyst for team spirit. It has a clear finish line, so the organization can know when it has achieved the goal; people like to shoot for finish lines" (Collins and Poras, 1996).

I think one of the greatest examples of a BHAG in the corporate world is Google: "Organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful."

In my November 11, 2010 post, Simple Instructions, I said that Jesus summarized the moral code of the Torah in two simple commands: Love God and Love People.  We often call this "The Great Commandment."

In Matt. 28: 18-20, Jesus issued another simple instruction to the church--what we often call, "The Great Commission."  Go into all the world.  Make disciples from all nations.

Imagine what chutzpah it took for Jesus to tell this rather small, ragtag group of followers, "Go and change the whole world."

In Acts, Jesus adds one more instruction: wait.  Wait for what?  For power from on high.

Yes, Jesus has left us with a Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG).  And yes, it is totally presumptuous of us to resolve to go out and accomplish that BHAG--in our own flesh.

So, how about resolving to do a couple more things this year?  Wait on God to be filled with power from on high.  Then join with the community of faith as we go into all the world and make disciples from every nation.