Tag Archives: Inheritance

The Synergy of Generations

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“I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also.” (2 Timothy 1:5 NIV)

It is good to know that we all have roots. We do not just appear out of nothing with no history or inheritance. Whether we know it or not we are part of a continuing purpose.

Paul thought it useful to encourage his young protegé Timothy to be fully aware of the divine plan that was being handed on to him. For the Jewish Paul, ancestry – traced through the mother’s line, was very important to maintain a valid witness. Accepting this cultural reality in the narrative, I would dare to say that we all need to be strengthened and encouraged by finding our spiritual history. Linking our purpose and prayers with those who have preceded us can create a powerful synergy to bring more of God’s ultimate plan and presence into our current exP1100423perience.

Honouring parents – recognising the contribution and foundations laid, is a strong Biblical principle guaranteeing success and sustainability.

“Honour your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise— “so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.” (Ephesians 6:2, 3 NIV)

The prophet Joel’s words – also echoed by Peter at Pentecost, push to align the dream of the old man with the vision of the new generation.

“No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: “ ‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams.” (Acts 2:16, 17 NIV)

Bridging the Old and New Testaments, the prophet Malachi (4:5-6) cries out for a reconciliation, a healing, of generations – the older Jewish root with the budding Gentile nations, a reconciliation which is taken up centuries later by the ministry of John the Baptist.

“And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” (Luke 1:17 NIV)

Timothy, having a Greek Father, was a young man who incarnated the diversity of a new global season of God’s work which needed a new form but which also needed the substance of faith from the past. He represents each new generation having to struggle with the age-old equation of inventing new forms but maintaining the foundational substance of the past. Listen to what Dee Hock – the founder of Visa, has to say about this:

“Substance is enduring, form is ephemeral. Failure to distinguish clearly between the two is ruinous. Success follows those adept at preserving the substance of the past by clothing it in the forms of the future. Preserve substance; modify form; know the difference. The closest thing to a law of nature in business is that form has an affinity for expense, while substance has an affinity for income.”

Can you discern the essential difference between form and substance in the challenge to build mission in today’s world?

Indeed, Paul’s challenge to Timothy was to preserve the substance of faith, not throwing the baby out with the water of a changing world. He encourages Timothy to do at least three things:

1) Guard the good deposit.

“Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you—guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.” (2 Timothy 1:14 NIV)

Partner with the inner conviction of the intelligent fire within to discern the essential substance of your life and mission and defend it as a good soldier against the onslaught of the enemy.

2) Fan into the flame the gift of such substance.

“For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands.” (2 Timothy 1:6 NIV)

I do not think that the laying on of Paul’s hands was just a charismatic transfer of power. It was more of an apostolic recognition of the synergy of generations that was coming to bear on the young man. He wanted Timothy to be energised by this recognition of his specific place in the history of God’s purpose. May we too “fan into flame” the inheritances that await to be discovered on our own faith journeys.

3) Be bold, loving and pure.

“For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.” (2 Timothy 1:7 NIV)

A great crowd of witnesses is looking on (Hebrews 11). Don’t let them down.God and kids

Recently I went back three generations into my own family history. I discovered an amazing deposit of faith handed down via a “Penny and a Prayer!” 

Why not try and find out what you might discover in your own synergy of generations?

I think the same principle might also work for the history of churches and missions? My own beloved mission is in its third generation, launching young Timothy’s out into an ever-changing world.

Not all of our inheritances are useful. We can sadly – and only too often, get bequeathed pain and curse rather than love and faith. Often, like the parable of the garden sown with both good and bad seed in Matthew 13:24-30, we struggle between the positive and negative of our pasts.

What do you do with such wounds?

This is indeed the subject of a whole new devotional, but, in a nutshell, we need to bring “such empty ways of life” into the eternal redemption of Christ.

“For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake.” (1 Peter 1:18-20 NIV)

We are still in these “last times” following Him who was from the beginning into the final frontiers of world history. Like Timothy, may we “preach the Word”, “endure hardship” and “fight the good fight.”

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From weeping to leaping..(1)

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A journey to HebronHebron_Basketball_Tower

As we celebrate the bitter-sweet journey from Good Friday’s crucifixion to Easter Sunday’s resurrection we might also think of another journey of a nation to Hebron. Hebron was just a piece of land, but it also represents “an inheritance” , an experience of the divine promises.

Easter has also brought its season of difficult news from around the world. I cannot help being gripped by the tragedy that is being worked out in Central African Republic at the moment. Friends are being molested and persecuted and unburied bodies have littered the streets like refuse. It is not the full story of this beautiful country which has so much potential.

I think of happier days pioneering a mission movement amongst the Pygmy tribes of this nation –  a gentle, artistic people in tune with earth and sky, and intimately acquainted with the God who sends his holy breeze to rustle the leaves of the trees and to carry colourful butterflies in flight. They are discovering this same God of Easter, who, beyond his historic Jewish incarnation, took on Pygmy flesh. No chocolate bunnies for them, only the naked wild worship in dance and song which encapsulates their forest offerings. I shared in their story for a few precious moments, becoming one with them in a  dance offering around a huge, life inspiring fire which sent sparks, like prayers, into the star filled African nights.

People are now dying in Central Africa…and Syria…etc

What do we die from?

I’m glad that although many die, many also live and find even greater life as the Gospel is brought to them by faithful servants of Christ. Central Africa possesses such servants in abundance. The Gospel was brought  for the first time to the Pygmies by the faithful African apostles of Nations en Marche. They were not part of the tribe that lives long on the couch of comfort in front of screens and illusions, stretching out the years in selfish survival. They were the warriors of the moment, living a precious life each day with the coming and going of light and birdsong; a people of cosmic community, investing their lives for the greater good of the tribe. Fires are being lit in heaven, and the little igloo leaf houses are putting the pearly gates to shame.

oubanguiI would like to think that the anonymous sacrifices in Central Africa and beyond have some meaning and value. My prayer is that all those associated with the “Hebron tribes” principle, those committed to investing their lives into the greater good of seeing indigenous mission movements born and nurtured, will be somehow encouraged and inspired. “Death is at work in us” cried the apostle Paul, “but life is at work in you.”

The following is my own inadequate homage to the Central African people who have found a greater life in a greater forest.

I am part of a mission movement which speaks about the “Hebron principle”. Our family principles handbook says the following about it. 

“In Chronicles the different tribes came together to make David King over all Israel. We aspire to see many people and ministries come together in their diversity and uniqueness to make Jesus king over all nations. We are called to start or facilitate new indigenous movements of mission.”

 I believe that we are at a kairos moment of opportunity to strengthen this value in the Body of Christ today.

So, over these next two articles (today and Easter Monday), we will take a closer look at this place called Hebron.

A place of Vision and Worshipvision

The LORD said to Abram after Lot had parted from him, “Lift up your eyes from where you are and look north and south, east and west.  All the land that you see I will give to you and your offspring forever.  I will make your offspring like the dust of the earth, so that if anyone could count the dust, then your offspring could be counted. Go, walk through the length and breadth of the land, for I am giving it to you….So Abram moved his tents and went to live near the great trees of Mamre at Hebron, where he built an altar to the LORD.”    Genesis 13:14-18

The Lord had a word for Abraham at a painful time of division and separation in his family. He told him not to focus on the problem but to lift up his eyes and receive fresh vision. We may be suffering our own various difficult partings at this time, and no work is ever immune from division. Never be dominated or discouraged through division but hear the Lord speak afresh to bring a new perspective. “Lift up your eyes!”

Having found the courage to move on, he also found a fresh impetus to worship, as his shepherd’s hands placed stone upon stone to build an altar to the Lord. Allow the Lord to bring together all the strands of your personality, carefully meshed with a new sensitivity and hunger for the Holy Spirit, in order to build your own special place of intimacy. Hebron was renowned for the goodness of its stones. An old Jewish saying goes:

“You have no stones in all the land of Israel harder than at Hebron; hence they buried the dead there.”

 Build the altar with field stones.

A place of Weeping and Sacrifice

Sarah lived to be a hundred and twenty-seven years old. She died at Kiriath Arba (that is, Hebron) in the land of Canaan, and Abraham went to mourn for Sarah and to weep over her. Then Abraham rose from beside his dead wife and spoke to the Hittites. He said, “I am an alien and a stranger among you. Sell me some property for a burial site here so I can bury my dead.”     Genesis 23:1-4

tears_in_heavenAbraham’s title-deed for his first patch of promise land was stained with tears. The promise bearer died at the threshold of the land of promise. Do not be surprised if the road to your dream, your inheritance, leads you to an eve of weeping. Over the last years my own heart has been inwardly weeping as I have felt that a context or mechanism for mission building in the Church has been strangely absent. Like Sarah, a movement which once gave life, may find itself growing old. However, death is also the prelude to new life. Perhaps the moments of death we experience, our personal “Good Fridays”, may well give us fresh access to our own tear-stained title deeds of our dreams.

A place of Warfare and Inheritance

“Now then, just as the LORD promised, he has kept me alive for forty-five years since the time he said this to Moses, while Israel moved about in the desert. So here I am today, eighty-five years old!  I am still as strong today as the day Moses sent me out; I’m just as vigorous to go out to battle now as I was then.  Now give me this hill country that the LORD promised me that day. You yourself heard then that the Anakites were there and their cities were large and fortified, but, the LORD helping me, I will drive them out just as he said.” Then Joshua blessed Caleb son of Jephunneh and gave him Hebron as his inheritance. So Hebron has belonged to Caleb son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite ever since, because he followed the LORD, the God of Israel, wholeheartedly. (Hebron used to be called Kiriath Arba after Arba, who was the greatest man among the Anakites.)…Then the land had rest from war.  Joshua 14:10-14

Are you still up for it? How’s your spiritual vigor? Are you still dreaming of possessing your mountain, your “hill country,” your Hebron?

Caleb could have grown bitter during the long waiting and wandering in the desert. He could have sunk into self-pity, blaming circumstances and others who had negated his faith through their unbelief and fear. Unbelief and fear in myself and others drives me bonkers! I don’t think God is too pleased either! However, there is a place beyond frustration. It is a place that hangs on and believes in the promise no matter what. Caleb found that place and became better rather than bitter. He found a place of wholehearted devotion to God which transcended his circumstances.

After forty-five years of dreaming about crushing Anakite heads, he was finally unleashed to take his inheritance. I wouldn’t have wanted to be the first man in his way! Those who have learnt to wait are also the most aggressive in the battle for their promise land…

(to be continued…)

You can find another Easter article at Neil Rees’ Eating with Sinners blog