Thursday, December 24, 2015


PASSING ON THE VISION                      1-17-2000
        "Churches are short on Christian love, forgiveness, and vision for the future."  Do you believe this statement is true?  Jesus said: “But go and learn what this means: 'I desire mercy and not sacrifice.' For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance."  Matt 9:13 (NKJV)
        David prayed: “Have mercy upon me, O God, According to Your lovingkindness; According to the multitude of Your tender mercies, Blot out my transgressions.  Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, And cleanse me from my sin.  For I acknowledge my transgressions, And my sin is always before me.  Against You, You only, have I sinned, And done this evil in Your sight-- That You may be found just when You speak, And blameless when You judge.”  Psalms 51:1-4 (NKJV)
        God responds to Jacob's prayer.  Notice what Jacob did in Genesis 30:37-43.  "Then he set up these peeled branches by the watering trough so Laban's flocks would see them...all of their offspring were streaked, speckled and spotted." 
        A visionary church stays on course, clearly knowing and communicating the vision God has for the whole Body for the long term.  The vision goes beyond the present leaders to a visionary people!
        Petersen expands Eph. 4:11-16.  “He handed out gifts of apostle, prophet, evangelist, and pastor-teacher to train Christians in skilled servant work, working within Christ's body, the church, until we're all moving rhythmically and easily with each other, efficient and graceful in response to God's Son, fully mature adults, fully developed within and without, fully alive like Christ. No prolonged infancies among us, please. We'll not tolerate babes in the woods, small children who are an easy mark for impostors.  God wants us to grow up, to know the whole truth and tell it in love—like Christ in everything. We take our lead from Christ, who is the source of everything we do.  He keeps us in step with each other. His very breath and blood flow through us, nourishing us so that we will grow up healthy in God, robust in love.”  Eph 4:11-17 (MSG)
      Involve others in this work.
        "It is better to get ten men to work - than to try to do the work of ten men."  Have the vision, but it will take others to fulfill this vision.  A vision shared stirs others and gives them something to believe God for.  Leaders equip others to operate within the vision.  But, not all the vision comes from the leaders.  People are drawn to the local church by the Holy Spirit - either to be saved (obey the gospel) or to help fulfill the vision of the local church.  We want to see others saved and made followers of Jesus Christ [Matt. 28:18-20].
        Peterson expands this:  “God authorized and commanded me to commission you:  Go out and train everyone you meet, far and near, in this way of life, marking them by baptism in the threefold name: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Then instruct them in the practice of all I have commanded you. I'll be with you as you do this, day after day after day, right up to the end of the age."  Matt 28:18-20 (MSG)
        When members share about a visionary church to others, they are sharing about a movement that will outlast a man or a woman.  Note 2 Timothy 1:5; 2:1-2; 3:14-15.  “I thank God, whom I serve with a pure conscience, as my forefathers did, as without ceasing I remember you in my prayers night and day, greatly desiring to see you, being mindful of your tears, that I may be filled with joy, when I call to remembrance the genuine faith that is in you, which dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am persuaded is in you also. Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands.  For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”  2 Tim 1:3-7 (NKJV)
        1) A visionary church moves ahead.  People are not attracted to sterile and lifeless forms, but to that which is life-giving and relational.  Where there is relationship and spiritual life, there will be a natural numerical growth.  The old proverb: "You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar" is still true.  The honey is the Doing & Dying & Rising Again of Jesus Christ. 
        “The voice out of Heaven spoke to me again: "Go, take the book held open in the hand of the Angel astride sea and earth."  I went up to the Angel and said, "Give me the little book." He said, "Take it, then eat it. It will taste sweet like honey, but turn sour in your stomach."  I took the little book from the Angel's hand and it was sweet honey in my mouth, but when I swallowed, my stomach curdled.  Then I was told, "You must go back and prophesy again over many peoples and nations and languages and kings."  Rev 10:8-11 (MSG)
        2) A visionary church grows leaders.  Nehemiah went for a ride one evening to inspect the walls of Jerusalem [Nehemiah 2:12].  The following day he recruited priests, goldsmiths, rulers, merchants, families and farmers.  It wasn't about numbers or a perfect wall.  It was about instilling vision and working together in relationship for a common goal.
        3) A visionary church is kingdom-minded.  We believe the kingdom did come on Pentecost (Acts 2) and spread to cover the world (note PDaniel 2:44).  A visionary church is concerned beyond the local community to a vision of the World conquered for Jesus!  People are not a means to an end - but they are God's greatest love!  "God so loved the world..."
        4) A visionary church is authentic.  "New cars smell new for only a short time, and then the newness wears off."  Promotion attracts the latest church-hoppers, but prayer breeds close-knit relationships that experience spiritual vitality and a church of substance.  People are attracted to God's love manifested through relationships with people.  God's love is authentic!  Note Romans 5:5; 1 John 2:7-8.
        Older is not always better.   “And no one, having drunk old wine, immediately desires new; for he says, 'The old is better.' "  Luke 5:39 (NKJV)  The "new wine" of the Gospel must always be our first priority.  If the "old wine" of the past is not working for you, perhaps you need to "reload" the original program of the Book of Acts and drink deeply from the springs of living water.  The reality of the Holy Spirit in people's lives was evident.  Acts 2:42-47 describe the process of relationship in a church with vision.  "Praising God and enjoying the good will of all the people."  You must decide where you fit according to your own spiritual values and build accordingly.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

The Salvation of God will ultimately prevail

The Salvation of God Will Ultimately Prevail
    “Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration of those things which are most surely believed among us, Even as they delivered them unto us, which from the beginning were eyewitnesses, and ministers of the word; It seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write unto thee in order, most excellent Theophilus, That thou mightest know the certainty of those things, wherein thou hast been instructed.”  Luke 1:1-5 (KJV)
    Luke wrote to tell the life story of Jesus the Son of God.  He wanted to make available the full history of Christ Jesus.  Jesus Himself said: “And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me.  Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures.”  Luke 24:44-45 (KJV)
    John wrote to tell that the Eternal Word came as a human-being to shine the Light of God into our world.  Matthew wrote to show that Jesus is the promised Jewish Messiah who came to save the world.  Mark wrote to show Jesus as the Power of God who did amazing things.
    1. An angel announces God’s Act to shepherds.
    “And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,  Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”  Luke 2:13-14 (KJV)
    Glory to God in highest heaven: This short hymn is known as the Gloria in excelsis Deo first line of the Latin translation. The Messiah's coming brings glory to God in the heavens and peace to humans on earth. • peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased: Peace indicates total well-being, not just the absence of hostility. The traditional translation, "on earth peace, good will toward men" (kjv), is based on the reading of some late manuscripts.  Peace comes to those who receive and accept God's grace.  Mary kept all these things in her heart: Perhaps Mary thought about what all these events meant and wondered about Jesus' destiny. It is also possible that Luke says this because Mary was his source of information on these events.
    2. Blessed art thou among women.
    “And it came to pass, that, when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost: And she spake out with a loud voice, and said, Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb.  And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?  For, lo, as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in mine ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy.  And blessed is she that believed: for there shall be a performance of those things which were told her from the Lord.” Luke 1:41-45 (KJV)
    3. Blessed is she who believed.
    “And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord, And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.  For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.  For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his name.”  Luke 1:46-49 (KJV)
    Mary's song is the first of three songs of praise in the birth narrative. It is called the Magnificat ("magnifies"), from the first word in the Latin translation. The song has many parallels to Hannah's prayer in 1 Sam 2:1-10. The fact that God cares for the oppressed and reverses their fortunes is a common theme throughout Luke's Gospel. The coming of God's Kingdom brings salvation to rejected and outcast people.
    All generations will call me blessed: In Middle Eastern culture, honor and shame were extremely important, and one's legacy to future generations was highly cherished.  As a Jewish teenager Mary deserves great honor as the human mother through whom the Son of God came into our world.
    “My Saviour. Mary, by this word, reckons herself among that which was lost. She obtained salvation, not from herself, but from Jesus.—Bengel.”  Call me blessed. Pronounce me highly favored, or happy in being the mother of the Messiah. Abraham was blessed in being the father of the faithful; Paul in being the apostle to the Gentiles; Peter in first preaching the gospel to them; but who would think of worshiping or praying to Abraham, Paul, or Peter?” —People's New Testament [Johnson’s Notes]
    4. The Lamb of God came to conquer death.
    “And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. And he laid his right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not; I am the first and the last:  I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death.  Write the things which thou hast seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter.”  Rev 1:17-19 (KJV)
    God has placed us in a world of Time.  Death is real – but Jesus conquered death.  He has authority even over death and Hades [the world of the dead].  He will raise everyone from death at His Coming!  Write. John is to preserve this vision so that all may share its message.  Now. Current events, dating from the First Coming of Christ.   Afterward. Those things which had not yet happened. The curtain of both the present and the future is lifted in the Book of Revelation [when properly understood].

    “Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.”  John 5:28-29 (KJV)


The Jerusalem Church in the Book of Acts   12.9.2015
    Imagine a church which meets in rented facilities, where people come an hour or two early just to get a seat.  A church which had 3,120 members for the first service held.  A church where the service is translated simultaneously into several languages for the racially mixed congregation. A church filled with Holy Joy and Christian Love.  A church where the members meet in small groups from house to house, and then assemble together for a joyous time of worship and praise.  A church baptizing thousands.  It can’t be scriptural, you say?  But it was the Jerusalem church.  The Jerusalem church was filled with God-the-Holy-Spirit, guided by the apostles and prophets, united in the amazing new life found in Christ Jesus!
    The open door created by Pentecost, and the Jerusalem Church stand as milestones in God's Great Plan for our human race.  Jerusalem had the first "local church," and was the first mega-church.  When Jesus died and rose again, the whole Jewish nation was gathered in to the Jerusalem area for Passover. With the power of His Resurrection, and the outpouring of The Holy Spirit, God's great saving work began among the Jews at Jerusalem on that Pentecost.  Peter said: "This is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: 'And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God: That I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh; ...And it shall come to pass that whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.'" [NKJV]
    God made His Plan for we humans long before the Creation (Ephesians 1:4).  The astonishing events of Pentecost were rooted in FAITH which reached back to Abraham and God's Promise to him. But also, to before Time and Creation.  Jesus said God would save the world by using the Jews (John 4:22).  James quoted Amos (Acts 15) to show that God seriously intended to save the Gentiles - the rest of mankind - who were included in God's call to salvation.  David's tabernacle would be rebuilt by the Gentiles coming to God.  In Christ the "wall of hatred" between Jew and Gentile was broken down and destroyed.  ALL who believe are united as One Body in Christ Jesus.  An alternate version of 1 Corinthians 12:13 states: "God's Spirit is inside each of us, and all around us as well.  So it doesn't matter that some of us are Jews and others are Gentiles and that some are slaves and others are free.  Together we are one body." [CEV footnote]
    [* The Jerusalem church was not an American church.  God had prepared the pattern of worship in the synagogue.  They sang [chanted] the Psalms.  They never saw a KJV Bible - which came 17 centuries later.  They read the Scriptures in Hebrew and Greek.  They were an extreme mixture of cultures.  But they were One in Jesus Christ!]
    1. They met every day in the temple.
    “So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.”  Acts 2:46-47 (NKJV)
  They assembled together every day as a Christian congregation of the Family of God.  They lifted one voice in praise and devotion (compare Acts 4:24).
  2. They were a mixed group speaking at least 15 languages (Acts 2:8-11).  Yet they all heard in their own language.  Perhaps those speaking were led by the Spirit to speak in these other languages.  Or perhaps the Spirit translated for each hearer so they could hear in words of the language spoken at home.  The Lord spoke Hebrew to Saul of Tarsus to impress him deeply with the message that Jesus is Lord (Acts 26:14).
    3. They were filled with holy joy and Christian love (Acts 2:47).  Compare 1 Thessalonians 1:5-6.  “For our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Spirit and in much assurance, as you know what kind of men we were among you for your sake.  And you became followers of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you became examples to all in Macedonia and Achaia who believe.”
    4. They met from house to house in small groups (Acts 2:46).  They were so excited over this new covenant which suddenly had been made known to them!  They just had to share with each other in praising God, praying to Him, and searching the Scriptures to confirm this great hope!  [fellowship = koinonia = close companionship.]  They continued this (Acts 5:42). 
    5. 3000 were baptized that first Sunday (Pentecost).  Then there were 5000 men (Acts 4:4).  Then multitudes of both men and women (Acts 5:14).  Many of the Jewish priests converted to Christ (Acts 6:7).  They continued to meet as one group in the Temple.  They probably numbered 100,000 people when persecution struck and scattered them (Acts 8:1-4).
    6. They turned the city of Jerusalem upside down by preaching Christ Jesus - Crucified, Risen, Coming Again.  They preached in Jesus the resurrection from the dead (Acts 4:1-2).  They spoke with power to the Jewish priests and leaders (Acts 4:8-12,33).  They spoke with holy boldness (Acts 5:29-32). 
    7. They solved their unity problem by appointing men to serve the congregation (Acts 6:1-6).  Some were Jews (speaking Hebrew-Aramaic), and some were Grecian (Jews from Greek speaking areas, speaking a variety of languages).  Note the Hebrew widows were already being taken care of.  It was the Grecian (Hellenist) widows who were being neglected.  The one church at Jerusalem contained all these diverse elements who were one in Christ (compare Gal. 3:26-29).
    8. They went everywhere preaching the Gospel.  “Therefore those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the word. Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria and preached Christ to them.  And the multitudes with one accord heeded the things spoken by Philip, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did.  For unclean spirits, crying with a loud voice, came out of many who were possessed; and many who were paralyzed and lame were healed.  And there was great joy in that city.”  Acts 8:4-8 (NKJV)
    The Apostles and first leaders of the Christian Movement were Jews.  Every city of any size had a Jewish population and synagogue.  Jews already believed in Jehovah God and the Old Testament Scriptures.  The general use of the Koine Greek Language and the Septuagint Old Testament in Greek helped open the Bible to the world population.  Jews knew the prophecies about Jesus and they could see God's Great Plan at work in Jesus - His Doing & Dying & Rising Again.  Synagogues also attracted numbers of interested Gentiles, and these readily converted to Jesus Christ. 
    Not what is the church, but who is the church.  “For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body--whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free--and have all been made to drink into one Spirit.  For in fact the body is not one member but many.”  1 Cor 12:13-14 (NKJV)
    But would there be One Body?  Jews had been exclusivist for centuries.  There was a "middle wall of partition" between them.  Paul's arrest and transport to Rome and his execution there had important effects.  He witnessed to Christ and the Gospel at each stage of travel - to kings, judges, civil servants and a host of curious hangers-on who doubtless were intrigued by the message of God's Act In Christ.  The Christian Community rallied around Paul, and concern for him helped weld the Church into a Unity.  Christians - both Jews and Gentiles - shared a great concern for Paul The Apostle.  The execution of both Paul and Peter at Rome, plus the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD, brought about the final melding.  But in our day, the Jews need to be grafted back in (Romans 11).