Tag Archives: Jesus

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.”

Seven lessons from Jesus’ prayer for us all…

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1)  Revelation – “I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world.”  John 17:6

God wants to be known. Eternal life itself depends on this ultimate knowing. “Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” v.3 The apostle Paul also echoed this reality of revelation when he prayed for the Ephesians:WisdomRevelation

“I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.” Ephesians 1:17

The generous Father has already “given” us people to whom He will reveal the beauty, glory and salvation of His Son Jesus. Who are your “given?”

2)  Edification and Sanctification by the word of truth – ” For I gave them the words you gave me and they accepted them…Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.” John 17:8&17

You must give people “words” that you have overheard from the Father. Such words are found in the disciplined and loving meditation of the whole Bible. Try reading it through at least once every year.

3)  Prayer “I pray for them.” John 17:9

Jesus “always lives to intercede for” us according to the writer of  Hebrews 7:25, and we should also devote our lives to pray for those God has entrusted to us.

4)  Protection “Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name…My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.” John 17:11&15

For the Jews there was great power in the revealed name of God. That name is now incarnated and fulfilled in the name of Jesus before whom every knee must bow: “Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Philippians 2:9-11

Proclaim the name of Jesus over those you love, your church, your friends, family and your nation.

True protection can never come from just hiding away behind the four walls of the church or barricading ourselves behind a marginalised religious culture. We are in the world as salt and light. Engage boldly with it, also releasing those you love to their culture and friends, trusting that your prayers will protect them from all evil influences.

5)  Unity “so that they may be one as we are one.” John 17:11unity through diversity

Staying together always requires effort, sacrifice and love. It is the mark of the mature and the reflection of true Christian character. Unity is never separate from the truth of God’s Word.  Heeding the apostle Paul’s advice we must all work towards this goal. “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” Ephesians 4:3

The Puritans put it this way. “Unity in essentials, liberty in non-essentials, charity in all things.”

6)  Joy“I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them.” John 17:13

Jesus is a joy bringer. Cultivate joy in your life and sow it into that of others. The atmosphere of the Church, where Jesus is present,  should be impregnated with joyous freedom. The cold stoney sadness of many religious edifices, simply signals the absence of the true Beloved. “Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” Nehemiah 8:10

7)  Mission “As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world.” John 17:18

There is a great river of purpose flowing out from God’s heart. He wants all of us to be caught up into this passionate current of love which seeks salvation and restoration for the world. Jesus began the “domino effect” of such a mission as He laid down His life, was “sent” and knocked on to His disciples the same “sacrificial sentness.”

May your own domino fall on to those around you adding to the great teleological history of salvation.

From Rejection to Intercession

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If someone asks him, ‘What are these wounds on your body?’ he will answer, ‘The wounds I was given at the house of my friends.’ Zechariah 13:6

woundedAfter many years of living on this earth it seems to me that one of the deepest wounds that most people feel is that of rejection. The contexts that inflict the deepest pain are those that involve relationships and friends. Who has not been wounded in the “house of their friends?”

That “house” may be a marriage or family, a place of work, a church, a mission or any other relational context. For this article I’d like to look at our church family, but the principles discovered may well help in handling rejection in all the contexts mentioned.

We are so very much a body of friends in our churches and mission agencies, but our very nature – our fellowship,  has to be closely watched as it in itself has the potential to wound. The happy few, the  “Band of Brothers” on a mission, has the potential in changing seasons to inadvertently exclude and reject. New lamps may be exchanged for old, the pioneer personality gives way to organisational maintenance, and a new generation necessarily grows up with a desire to forge ahead rather than interpret the future through their history.

This seems to be the case when we look at Israel’s Biblical history.

After the inspiring leadership of the Patriarchs, Moses and Joshua,

“another generation grew up, who knew neither the Lord nor what he had done for Israel.” Judges 2:10

The Lord tested the heart of the new generation by leaving the problem of taking the land of promise. Judges 3:1. Each new generation must prove itself by engaging in battle – the inner and spiritual “Jihad” for our context,  and proving character.

Decline inevitably set in and instead of taking full possession of the promise the people were mainly oppressed by their enemies with occasional bursts of revival through various “Judges” who brought the people back to the Lord and their mission.

The great prophet Samuel seems to be one of the last in a long line of Judges. He gave himself to the people wholeheartedly and set them back on track with God. However, like every ministry, he had a sell-by date. He grew old and wanted to appoint his sons as judges, but they lacked the moral fibre of their father, seeking gain rather than God.

“So all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah. They said to him, You are old, and your sons do not walk in your ways; now appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have.” 1 Samuel 8:4-5

“You are old!” – For the more silvery haired amongst us the challenge of adapting to a new season, and surviving the rejection of those you have led, can be devastating.

We read in the text that Samuel was “displeased” !

He prayed and the Lord led him to come to terms with the wound of rejection that was eating him up.

“And the LORD told him: Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king.” 1 Samuel 8:7

In the end, all of the wounds of rejection that we endure, all the exclusion that we encounter, falls on the ultimately rejected one, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. The naked man lifted up on a cross, the rejected God, sucked into himself all our pain of being left out and marginalised.samuel

How did Samuel survive this season and move on to anoint and bless the new “Messianic” season by discerning and nurturing the gifting in the young David? How can I move beyond my own painful rejection and bitter words to become a blessing?

The key is found a few chapters later in 1 Samuel 12:22-25. It seems that after the initial shock, Samuel has come to terms with the fact that nothing is going to prevent this new season emerging. He has found a place of peace. How?

He has chosen to pray for those who rejected him.

“As for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the LORD by failing to pray for you. And I will teach you the way that is good and right.” v.23

When we feel rejected we often speak from the wounded overflow of our heart, harshly criticising and judging others. We need to move from this tree of good and evil and feed on the tree of life. Begin to pray and not sin! Then stand and proclaim what is “good and right.”

No easy task, but ultimately the only way to move on and enter a new season.

In fact it seems that the very wound of rejection may even in itself be the catalyst to new beginnings.

At the end of  the Gospel of John, on that post resurrection evening, we find Jesus launching His disciples into a new season. He begins by making it very clear that ministry – all living and loving, will involve wounds.

“…he showed them his hands and side.” John 20:20

In an unmistakable visual he is saying, “This is how the Father sent me – to be wounded.”

And, as Jesus may be speaking to you His own disciple today, he continues:

“As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” v.21 – The wounding is a new sending!

We need so much help to own this. This is why Jesus breathes on us intimately, allowing us to receive the Comforter – the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit puts the very character of Christ within our own flesh in our own time and culture. He brings healing and the potential to forgive, move on and pray for the “house of my friends.”

“And with that he breathed on them and said, Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” John 20:22-23

 

 

The Provision and the Passion

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As I was sitting under a beautifully blossomed apple tree in our garden, my thoughts turned to the teaching on intimacy with God that I had been sharing in our church.

We had been looking at the various degrees of intimacy which God illustrates through wonderful metaphors – almost sacraments, in His Word. We are his “workmanship” – from the Greek “poema”, his listening and learning “sheep”, his obedient “child” and beloved “bride.”

The last two images of relationship lead us to the intimate embrace of the Father receiving back His repentant son, but also to the passionate embrace of the Bridegroom for His Bride.

I suddenly began to wonder in whose embrace I was in?

For many years I had been cultivating a growing experience of the “Father heart” of God. Like the son in Luke 15:20, I had learned to receive grace, provision and restoration in the loving arms of my Heavenly Father.

“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.”

But it was harder for me to feel the tender touch of the Bridegroom. I had discovered something of this a few years previously when I realised that my heart needed to deeply submit to the love of God. This submission is still leading me on a journey of discovery – limited of course by the now/not yet tension of experiencing God’s Kingdom in this fallen world, a journey of intimacy into the embrace of the Beloved.

“His left arm is under my head, and his right arm embraces me.” Song of Songs 2:6

“But who is embracing my soul?” I wondered. The Father or the Bridegroom Jesus? That’s at least 2 embraces in one God!

I found a measure of answer in coming back to a Trinitarian God. God is indeed three in one. Father, Son and Holy Spirit. You have the Father and you have the Heavenly Bridegroom Son Jesus. The Holy Spirit applies their embrace to our heart in the appropriate context.

The context of intimacy with the Father leans more to that of Provision – The Father knows what you need, He provides for all creation, He sacrifices the fattened calf, the Isaac, the redemptive ram – He is Yahweh Jireh, my loving Provider.Baptism-of-Christ

We see the Holy Spirit bringing this intimacy to Christ Himself at His baptism in Luke 3:22 –

“…and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”

The context of intimacy with the Bridegroom is very much with a revelation of the resurrected Son. The Beloved in the Song of Songs is no “pièta” at the bloody foot of the cross. She is an ecstatic worshipper, enthralled with the beauty – as was John in his Revelation vision of Christ, of an eternal King. Compare Song of Songs 5:10-16 with Revelation 1:13-16 – Obviously the earthly Solomon is no match for the truly divine but the key here is to fall in love with the vibrant, eternally living love in Christ which transcends all things.

The context is that of Passion as the Holy Spirit once again applies this intimacy to the heart of the Church – both individually and universally, as she cries out for the Bridegroom in Revelation 22:17 –

“The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!”

We indeed tread on holy ground as we explore such things. Both “embraces” are important, but it seems that there may well be a whole new paradigm to discover in the embrace of the Bridegroom Son. For example:

A passionate view of mission.

The Father/child paradigm, as in Matthew 21:28, says “Son, go and work…”

The Bride in Song of Songs 1:4 doesn’t need asking: “Take me away with you – let us hurry!”

A passionate view of identity.

1 John 3:1-3 talks about how the Father has lavished His love upon us calling us “children of God.” Such hope calls us to “purify ourselves” in Holy obedience.

The Bridegroom’s perspective on His Beloved Church/Bride – she with no stain or wrinkle, takes us into a whole new dimension concerning our identity.

“All beautiful you are, my darling; there is no flaw in you.” Song of Songs 4:7

embrace_II_1A passionate view of my prayer.

As the Prodigal son I have the privilege of “metanoia”, thinking again and turning back to the Father. The essential component of repentance is often found in our prayers and liturgies. We beat our breasts and say, “I have sinned…I am no longer worthy…” Luke 15:18-19. All very necessary and edifying this side of heaven. But while genuine repentance is useful, beware of getting locked into a repetitive ritual of superficial religious repentance which brings no lasting change and no living hope.

And if heaven should suddenly invade our human space? If the Holy Spirit applied the Bridegroom’s embrace in the midst of our everyday encounters? What might we pray?

“I am faint with love.” Song of Songs 2:5

 

 

If you enjoyed this article you will find its ideas developed and expanded in the e book or PDF file, “The Three Powers of the Kingdom.”

Why not find out more or order your copy now by clicking on the link?

 

A Declaration of Resurrection

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declarationLife is full of declarations. Some come in the form of political manifestos, others as works of art, and the best as manifestations of love. In France this is the time of year when we have to make our tax declarations!

However, as Easter celebrations come amongst us, we must remember that greatest of declarations:

The Declaration of Resurrection!

Paul sums it up well at the beginning of his letter to the Romans:

“Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God – the gospel he promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures regarding his Son, who as to his human nature was a descendant of David, and who through the Spirit of holiness was declared with power to be the Son of God, by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord.” Romans 1:1-5

Paul was so impacted by this declaration of life that he had encountered on the Damascus road that he also made it one of the major elements of his Gospel:

“For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve.  After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.” 1 Corinthians 15:3-8

Easter celebrates the scriptural and historical fact that Jesus “died for our sins…was buried…was raised.” Paul builds up to the glorious resurrection by emphasising his physical appearing to the Apostles – remember the Emmaus road and the upper room, and to over five hundred people! Just think about that for a moment. Some people seem to have a very abstract, virtual idea of Christ’s resurrection, but there was nothing virtual or metaphorical about five hundred eye witnesses!

Believing in the physical resurrection of Christ is so important:

“And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.” 1 Corinthians 15:14

I do not want to have a” useless” ministry. I want it to be utterly “useful”, totally filled with the faith dynamic of Christ’s resurrection. More than just believing, I want to experience Christ in this risen life and make it my life’s goal:

“I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.” Philippians 3:10-11

The powers of the age to come began to break into this world as Christ broke free from the grave.resurrection_kone

Vitality, health, peace and happiness can be ours as we allow His new life in us to overcome the sin and pain inherited from the clay of Adam.

“And just as we have borne the likeness of the earthly man, so shall we bear the likeness of the man from heaven.” 1 Corinthians 15:49

Who is your icon? I want to be an “eikon”, a living “likeness” of the heavenly man!

Own your own resurrection experience this Easter! – it may bring you physical healing and well-being as the Holy Spirit infuses new life into old bones.

“And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.” Romans 8:11

The missionary message is based on a declaration of resurrection.

New Dawn

In the famous passage of Matthew 28:1-20, we see the two Marys going to look at a tomb. The tomb seems to be the final destination for us all…but there is more. Whatever the disappointments of life there is always a new “dawn”. Mission, sharing the Gospel message, must bring this new dawn, this new beginning to people’s lives.

Supernatural Intervention

Hard ground quakes open and heavy obstacles are removed. Light invades darkness and angels displace demons.

New Perspective

“Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said.” Matthew 28:5-6

Move from fear to faith. in many cultures Jesus is always portrayed as stuck – almost forever, weak, pale and broken on a cross, while shining over Him is His radiant all-powerful, Mum! In some churches there are so many stations of the cross, and crucified Christs that I don’t actually meet the real thing! “He is not here!” He is no longer in the tomb or on the cross. Stop lamenting and making your life an eternal good Friday! There is obviously a place for the cross – a terrible place where Jesus shed His blood and paid the price for my sin and the sins of the world…but He has moved on into glorious resurrection life. He still bears the scars, but they are transfigured trophies of victory.

Find Him in your Future

“Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.” Matthew 28:7

If the cross frees us from our past, the risen life of Christ awaits us in future opportunity and vision. He has gone ahead of you preparing a place of blessing, mission, anointing, Word and service. Move on to join him. Where is He waiting for you?

Get Sent – Tell and Teach

“Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me…Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28: 7 &19-20

Mission MandateA resurrection vision spurred on the Marys and the men to a missionary mandate. May this Easter give you your own missionary mandate as you contemplate the risen Christ, and are empowered afresh.

The Lying Declaration

I would have loved to do without this last section. Unfortunately, in this world, a declaration of resurrection will always be challenged and opposed by the devil’s declaration.

The guards in the story could have had the marvelous privilege of being the first witnesses of resurrection to the world. They could have become apostles…but they chose to be liars!

“While the women were on their way, some of the guards went into the city and reported to the chief priests everything that had happened. When the chief priests had met with the elders and devised a plan, they gave the soldiers a large sum of money, telling them, “You are to say, ‘His disciples came during the night and stole him away while we were asleep.’ If this report gets to the governor, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.” So the soldiers took the money and did as they were instructed. And this story has been widely circulated among the Jews to this very day.” Matthew 28:11-15

The power of money, manipulation and self-preservation overcame the testimony of life. So often the same evil spirits are at work today, trying to “steal away” the Gospel power in our own personal lives and also in the world. This “anti resurrection” lie is still alive and well today and widely circulated as a morbid anti-life mandate. Many “guards” still sign up to proclaim it, obeying the “instructions” of this world’s spirit, and keeping themselves out of the “trouble” that a strong resurrection declaration brings.

Who will you be this Easter? A guard, a Mary or a disciple?

Declare the truth – declare the resurrection. He is Risen! – He is Risen indeed!

Happy Easter!

 

 

 

Life after fifty…

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“…a man to fulfil my purpose.” Isaiah 46:11David in snow

God needs people like you and I to get His work done on earth. In the Old Testament He set apart the Levites as a committed band to serve in the temple.

“Of all the Israelites, I have given the Levites as gifts to Aaron and his sons to do the work at the Tent of Meeting on behalf of the Israelites and to make atonement for them so that no plague will strike the Israelites when they go near the sanctuary.” Numbers 8:19

The above phrase uses the Hebrew “nathan” twice to emphasise the fact that the Levites were “gifts” (nathan) to the community. Ministry begins when we are able to give our lives as a gift to our families, friends and peoples around us.

The word nathan also reminds us of the classic verse in Ephesians 4:8 which describes the five-fold ministry functions as gifts to the Body of Christ.

“When he ascended on high, he led captives in his train and gave gifts to men.” 

Numbers 8:24-26 gives a specific ministry season for the Levitic ministry.

“This applies to the Levites: Men twenty-five years old or more shall come to take part in the work at the Tent of Meeting, but at the age of fifty, they must retire from their regular service and work no longer. They may assist their brothers in performing their duties at the Tent of Meeting, but they themselves must not do the work.”

This is a fantastic encouragement to all the twenty-five year olds amongst us. Imagine the awesome possibilities of pioneering and establishing a work of God for a twenty-five year period. Not just a short-term stint but two and a half decades of wild excitement, living on the edge of faith with the all providing Holy Spirit. Nothing is a greater pleasure or privilege.

Twenty-five is the year for taking responsibility and going for your Holy Spirit inspired dreams. Before twenty-five we can be mightily touched by God but are still in a period of training and preparation.

However, on reading the above passage, the fifty plus contingent may be getting slightly discouraged? What about me? Is it time to retire lamely to the old age Levites home?

Why did God in his wisdom set a fifty year cut off point?

I can think of at least two reasons.

1) Necessary Kenosis

At fifty years old one is at a spiritual, mental and experiential peak. You’ve built a work, you’ve made a name, you’ve paid the price. What next? There is an African proverb which says:

“A tree born in the shadow of a great Baobab dies a small bush.”

The smaller, growing trees need space and sunlight to fulfill their growth potential. You need to make space! Other personalities need to emerge to fashion new forms in the works of God. God encouraged such a necessary kenosis (emptying, diminishing, space Baobabmaking) in His Levitical model, but the principle – evidently in a non dogmatic form, is still relevent to us all today.

2) To avoid too great a cultural and generational distance being established in the temple

It is hard for older people who are naturally and wonderfully limited to their established paradigm of life and thinking to understand the new ways of the younger generation and the rapidly changing emerging cultures. Jesus is seen walking through the lampstands in Revelation 2:1, and God straddles time and culture with ease, constantly applying His eternal truth to the necessary paradigms and world views of each generation and culture. His Church is not a monolithic, one size fits all cheese cutter, but a supple, radiant, top model bride. He set up the Levitical model to avoid a cultural and generational bottle neck with the old hegemonies owning all the power. Again this truth can be applied to our situations today.

So is all this bad news for the over fifties? (By the way if you get wonderfully saved at fifty you can carry on till seventy-five!)

There will no doubt be pain and crisis, but these can also be the necessary birth pains to thrust you into a new season of life.

Let’s take a close look at an older minister, Simeon – our personal model, in Luke 2:25-35 to discover seven new wonderful ministry options that open up to this chosen and precious generation.

1) After twenty-five years of faithful service one possesses immense spiritual and personal capital 

“Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him.”

Simeon, as an example for many mature men and women, had learnt to walk in righteousness. “Devout” has negative, passive overtones in today’s language, but the original Greek, eulabes, meant to grab hold of something good with a violent passion! While so many others aggressively grabbed for the useless idols of this world,  Simeon had learned to hold on to the life of worship, prayer and meditation.

He had learned the patient wait of expectant faith. Younger men and women are necessarily and vitally impatient in their need to pioneer and build. A deeper waiting can be found in the soul of such Serene Disciples.

He was anointed by the Holy Spirit. He had revelation and great sensitivity to the heart of God as the verses in Luke mention at least three times how this old covenant man was covered in the presence of the Holy.

2) Consolation

“Waiting for Consolation…” So many mature ministries have been so wounded by their years of building, battling and thankless toil. We are not like Beckett’s lonely tramps vainly “Waiting for Godot” but royal priests to whom Jesus himself gives a clear promise. Even as you read now, hear his personal promise from John 14:18

“I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.”

Jesus, ever-living to intercede for us, asks the Father to give us another Counsellor – Comforter – Consoler – Paraklete, to be with us for ever – the Spirit of truth.

3) Seeing Jesus beyond death and failure – a vision of resurrection

“It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.”

Never die without a clear vision of Christ!

Although I grope for my glasses as my aged physical eyes can no longer read the Bible alone, my inner eyes see even more clearly the victory of the man-child.

4) Discerning of the next decisive step

“Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required…”

I have a question for you. Where is the Holy Spirit moving you to?

There is always a new beginning for the old baobabs! Do not let anything quench the Spirit’s fire in you. Awake the dream and respond in renewed youth to the heavenly Bridegroom’s touch.

Simeon with JesusSimeon was led to an anonymous poor couple presenting their fragile new-born. Despise not the kenosis and dare to embrace the seemingly insignificant moments and people who may, after all, contain the future seeds of hope.

5) Recognise, receive and bless the “little Christ” who appears humbly on your new journey

“Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying…”

You have your own “sayings” and authority to bless the emerging generation. Make your arms available and open to encourage every new beginning that you encounter on this post fifty journey. There is nothing sadder and more damaging than the withheld embrace and bitter curse of the rejected and wounded Simeon.

6) Nune Dimittis – Be at peace with God, family and the world through a vision of God’s mission – Missio Dei

“…now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.”

Maturity brings a growing inner sight of God’s triumphant purpose and passion in winning a world of people to Himself. Still active in sharing Jesus as a light to the nations, we find an even greater strength of intercessory prayer which flows from the inner revelation of God’s salvation reaching the nations through an ever-increasing global community of missionary pioneers. We have peace not just to be dismissed to heaven, but peace to be dismissed – even sent (apoluo), into a new season of powerful missional ministry.

7) Be one who carries cross centred truth and a  prophetic blessing

“Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”

Speaking out “destiny”  is an awesome responsibility for those who have walked long years with the Master of all our destinies and who have learnt to passionately love and embrace the truth of His Word. Simeon could painfully discern the shadow of a cruel cross over the promised Messiah and, in the midst of all the exciting promises, he was not afraid to speak plainly of the sword – the cost of ministry.

May these seven ministry options encourage many to step into the new horizon of life that beckons you as you hair greys in wisdom and authority.

The best wine is yet to come!

 

Suffering – Ten lessons from Peter

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Everybody hurtsI have never met anyone who has never known some degree of suffering in their lives. As the famous song from R.E.M. says,

“Everybody hurts sometimes.”

The key is understanding how to glean the best from such experiences, how to light a candle in the dark rather than just cursing the abyss. Peter’s first letter to a suffering church gives us some good guidelines.

Before I begin I need to say that I am not a masochist! I do my very best to avoid needless suffering. I pray for Shalom and protection every day. The tradition of the Church has sometimes earned a bad reputation for a kind of perverse glorification of suffering coupled with a hatred of the natural body. I certainly do not want to lead you down that path. However, in rejecting the extremes, let us be careful not to throw out the proverbial baby with the bath water. There are some difficult verses in the Bible concerning suffering. What does Paul mean in 1 Colossians 1:24?

“Now I rejoice in what was suffered for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church.”

There can be no insufficiency in the Lord’s finished redemptive suffering on the cross. What is lacking is the application of that redemption, via the mission of the Church, into the world. Suffering must have a purpose, a missional purpose. The lasts posts have dealt with such missional suffering via intercession.  This was Peter’s message which he condenses into ten lessons to help his flock understand and cope with their own persecution and suffering.

1) Suffering tests and builds up faith.

“In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith– of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire– may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed.” 1 Peter 1:6-7

2) Suffering unjustly is a grace, giving us deeper intimacy with Christ.

“Slaves, submit yourselves to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh. For it is commendable (charis – grace) if a man bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because he is conscious of God.” 1 Peter 2:18-19

3) Don’t experience “useless suffering” through your own sin.the scream

“But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God… If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler.” 1 Peter 2:20 & 4:15

4) Suffering is part of our calling as we follow Jesus and take up our cross.

“To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.” 1 Peter 2:21

5) Suffering sanctifies our lives and character – it gives us depth.

‘Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because he who has suffered in his body is done with sin. As a result, he does not live the rest of his earthly life for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God.” 1 Peter 4:1-2

6) Suffering is a normal part of the Christian experience – everybody hurts sometimes.

“Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you.” 1 Peter 4:12

7) Suffering, not in the present experience but in the wild faith perspective, calls us to rejoice in our missional communion with Christ.

 “But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.” 1 Peter 4:13

8) Suffering releases a hidden blessing and anointing on your life.

“If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.” 1 Peter 4:14

suffering9) Suffering builds confidence and faithful perseverance in our mission.

“So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.” 1 Peter 4:19

10) Suffering is limited in time but it makes us strong, giving us an indestructibility which fits us for eternity.

“And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.” 1 Peter 5:10-11

So, do not lose heart, focus on the invisible, focus on the Lord Jesus.

“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:16-18