Tag Archives: Mission

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.”

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!

 

 

 

Awake, Come, Blow and Spread…

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“Awake, north wind,
and come, south wind!
Blow on my garden,
that its fragrance may spread abroad.”
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God is bringing a new intimacy to world mission. The “Song of Songs 4:14” gives us some deep prophetic insights into this. New winds are also blowing as the nations of the Global South rise to fulfil their God-given destiny and add their share of beauty to the bride who is making herself ready. Hear what Marv Newell, Executive Director of Cross Global Link, has to say.

“The greatest challenge today for leadership of traditional western missions is to navigate the transition from the historic paradigm of “from the West to the rest” into the not yet fully understood paradigm of “from anywhere to everywhere.” This transition is requiring that many consider new organizational structures, revision of policies in personnel and finance, and the morphing of an organizational culture from western to global.”

Let us overhear some of the longings of God’s heart in all this and enter into these four dynamic prayers.

“Awake!” – A cold wind of indifference has been blowing over “the North” for a long while now. Our passion sleeps as Christianity seems to be on the decline in the past fruitful cradles of Christendom. Yet all is not lost. We still have a wonderful heritage of so many heartfelt prayers and revivals rooted deeply into some of these lands. Just as a dead man came to life when he fell on Elisha’s bones – 2 Kings 13:21, so new life can come to our ancient northern lands if we can just realign with the deep-seated divine purpose. May a new wind of awakening blow over these lands, unblocking old wells and redeeming dreams.

Come“Come!” – The warm wind of the South is on its way. This wind represents the millions of  “11th hour workers” arising from the Global South nations. This generous wind will blow over the deserts of this world (Isaiah 43:19) turning them into living streams of water. The rugged old prophet Ezekiel, after talking to the bones in his desolate valley, was asked to prophecy to the four winds. He rose to his full passionate stature as he echoed the Lord’s own longing voice:

“Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe into these slain, that they may live.”

Such a prayer released an army, and our own struggles, sufferings and deep groaning might also birth and encourage many more wind-blown armies.

But we also pray beyond the work. We pray into eternity where a divine purpose awaits fulfilment. A global bride and a glorified Christ sit down to reign for evermore. “The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!”  Revelation 22:17

“Blow!” – The synergy of the north and south winds blowing together will ignite the sweet fragrance of nations in unity. In 1 Chronicles 12 we can see a uniting of the diverse tribes of Israel around one goal.

“They came to Hebron fully determined to make David king over all Israel.”

The passion of their purpose was greater than the challenges of their diversity.

May the Lord blow on us afresh, north and south, renewing our desire to see a greater king than David, our servant King Jesus, reigning over all the peoples of the earth.

“Spread your fragrance  abroad!” –  Perfume

“But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him. For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.  To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life. And who is equal to such a task? Unlike so many, we do not peddle the word of God for profit. On the contrary, in Christ we speak before God with sincerity, like men sent from God.”  2 Corinthians 2:14-17

The world is waiting to smell us. Just as salt needs to retain its “saltiness”, so we need to retain our fragrance – the fragrance that comes from living a sacrificial life of intimacy with Jesus.

Are we “peddlars for profit” or “sincere sent ones?” Alas, the blight of a false “prosperity gospel”, which has profit and exploitation at its heart, is offering a fierce challenge in some of the emerging mission fields to the sincerity of the simple mission message.

Isaiah saw the Lord, heard his call and asked the Lord to send him. May we too engage with the longings of our Lord, enter into the glorious “Missio Dei” and, caught up in the wind of God, become men and women sent from Him.

 

From weeping to leaping..(2)

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Continuing our journey to Hebron…

A place of Redemption (goel) – A City of Refugeredeemed_t_nv

 “So they set apart Kedesh in Galilee in the hill country of Naphtali, Shechem in the hill country of Ephraim, and Kiriath Arba (that is, Hebron) in the hill country of Judah.  On the east side of the Jordan of Jericho they designated Bezer in the desert on the plateau in the tribe of Reuben, Ramoth in Gilead in the tribe of Gad, and Golan in Bashan in the tribe of Manasseh.  Any of the Israelites or any alien living among them who killed someone accidentally could flee to these designated cities and not be killed by the avenger of blood (goel)  prior to standing trial before the assembly.”      Joshua 20:7-9

 If you miss your goal (hamartia – sin), you need a goel!

Redemption is everything. The “avenger of blood” represents the just punishment of the sinner. In God’s gracious economy the avenger is avenged by his own blood – “the punishment that brought us peace was upon him.” The “kinsman redeemer” (see Ruth and Boaz) is another type of Christ, another goel. One emphasizes the buying back of souls, the other the redemption of land and inheritance. Redemption is not just for a future heaven but it includes a bringing in of God’s Kingdom to our present earth.

Christian thought over the years has given us three major currents which interpret the idea of the atonement.

  1.  The “traditional” position of the early church who taught that Christ’s blood paid a ransom to Satan for our redemption.
  2. Writing at the end of the 11th century Anselm was the origin of the “objective” doctrine which teaches that Christ died in order to satisfy God’s justice. It is God who needs to be reconciled to us.
  3. In contrast to Anselm at the beginning of the 12th century Peter Abelard (call him Pierre as he was a Breton!) formulated the subjective doctrine which states that Christ came and died in order to change us, rather than to change God’s attitude to us. It is we who need to be reconciled to God.

In the 20th century the Swedish theologian Gustav Aulén expanded the “traditional” view seeing it as a more “classic”, dramatic idea of the atonement. He stated that the atonement is “a divine conflict and victory” over the evil powers of this world. “It represents the work of atonement or reconciliation as from the first to last a work of God himself.” Indeed Aulén’s work echoes the Apostle John’s words that: “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work.”

It is most useful to interpret these three views as being complimentary rather than contradictory. Through the teaching of scripture echoed in the voices of many of the Church Fathers, we glean that Christ is the one who has put us right with God by his death (objective view); whose love for us awakens our love for God (subjective view) and who has won the victory over the powers of evil (classic view).

Spend some time meditating on these different facets of the atonement and apply their truths to your life and prayers. Find your refuge in redemption.

A place of Priests – Ministry and Intercession

 “So to the descendants of Aaron the priest they gave Hebron (a city of refuge for one accused of murder), Libnah,  Jattir, Eshtemoa,  Holon, Debir,  Ain, Juttah and Beth Shemesh, together with their pasture lands–nine towns from these two tribes.”  Joshua 21:13-16

Intercessory-Prayer-Ministry-LogoSee the article ” Big heart, Broad shoulders” for an encouragement to renew our priestly ministry. Recently I’ve been challenged by the notion of “Watchtowers”, “Houses of Prayer”, “Holy Places.” I think that Catholic theology handles these concepts more easily than Protestant views.

A few years ago I was quietly eating some Kimchi with my Korean friends at our ministry base, Le Château Blanc in France, when one of them  began to speak to me in earnest.

“I have come here for a purpose,” he said. “This is a Watchtower place and you must gather intercessors here. You are to especially pray for young people. In fact God tells me that you are to specifically declare that one million young French people are to come to Christ!”

I choked on my Kimchi. Was he mad, presumptuous, a mixture of both …or a man with a prophetic word. I’m still waiting to answer that question, but I do feel deeply challenged to understand more about the place of intercessors together, praying world-changing prayers and yet living in the hands on reality of owning the responsibility and consequences of the prayer.

A place to gather Tribes – Platforms of Ministry and Collaboration

All these were fighting men who volunteered to serve in the ranks. They came to Hebron fully determined to make David king over all Israel. All the rest of the Israelites were also of one mind to make David king.  The men spent three days there with David, eating and drinking, for their families had supplied provisions for them.  Also, their neighbors from as far away as Issachar, Zebulun and Naphtali came bringing food on donkeys, camels, mules and oxen. There were plentiful supplies of flour, fig cakes, raisin cakes, wine, oil, cattle and sheep, for there was joy in Israel.”     1 Chronicles 12:38-40Many tribes

 May the Lord grant us a fresh determination to accomplish His work. Surely this is a time to look to work together with other tribes and ministries. I recently heard a long serving missionary from Egypt say that rather than just pray for Egypt with a bunch of foreigners he wanted to join with the Egyptians who were developing their own powerful prayer movements. This is not to despise the faithful pioneer work of many “foreigners”, but more to encourage a “breaking out” of our talents to humbly serve alongside other streams.

“Plentiful supplies” and “joy” are the fruits of such Hebron gatherings.

We started our journey at a place of weeping with the promise bearer dying. I strongly believe in a God who redeems dreams, so I trust that we can arrive at a place of “leaping” for joy as an honored daughter of Sarah, Mary – the ultimate promise bearer, conceives fresh life at Hebron. Jesus was born at Bethlehem but was he conceived at Hebron?

A place of Joyful Anointing to Conceive New Beginnings

“At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth.  When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy.  Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!”      Luke 1:39-45

Many Bible commentators agree that the “hill country of Judea” is a clear reference to the town of Hebron. I’ve included a snippet from Mathew Henry who raises the question of Christ’s possible conception at Hebron:

john the baptist leaps in his mothers womb “…she went to a city of Judah in the hill-country; it is not named, but by comparing the description of it here with Jos_21:10, Jos_21:11, it appears to be Hebron, for that is there said to be in the hill-country of Judah, and to belong to the priests, the sons of Aaron; thither Mary hastened, though it was a long journey, some scores of miles.

Dr. Lightfoot offers a conjecture that she was to conceive our Saviour there at Hebron, and perhaps had so much intimated to her by the angel, or some other way; and therefore she made such haste thither. He thinks it probable that Shiloh, of the tribe of Judah, and the seed of David, should be conceived in a city of Judah and of David, as he was to be born in Bethlehem, another city which belonged to them both. In Hebron the promise was given to Isaac, circumcision was instituted. Here (saith he) Abraham had his first land, and David his first crown: here lay interred the three couples, Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebecca, Jacob and Leah, and, as antiquity has held, Adam and Eve. He therefore thinks that it suits singularly with the harmony and consent which God uses in his works that the promise should begin to take place by the conception of the Messiah, even among those patriarchs to whom it was given. I see no improbability in the conjecture, but add this for the support of it, that Elisabeth said (Luk_1:45), There shall be a performance; (will be accomplished) as if it were not performed yet, but was to be performed there.”

May we hear a fresh invitation, a Holy Spirit greeting that will spur us to joy and the conception of hope. The journey to Hebron may be tear-stained, but it ultimately crowns Christ King of the nations and Lord of our lives.

                                                                             

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

Prophetic praying…

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Timothy, my son, I give you this instruction in keeping with the prophecies once made about you, so that by following them you may fight the good fight, holding on to faith and a good conscience.”   1 Timothy 1:18-19

Prayer fightersAre you still fighting in prayer? If so, what are you struggling and holding on to? Can you put it into simple words?

In the above passage Paul is instructing Timothy in prophetic praying. He brings him back to the living prophetic word that had gripped Timothy’s life. What are the words that have inspired you and your team?

There is a growing trend in the church to worship and intimacy. This can produce hours of contemplative prayer or hours of charismatic praying in tongues meetings. Ephesians 6:18 speaks of “all kinds of prayers” so there must be some validity in all the various expressions of prayer. However, there is a danger that we may be losing the clear underpinning of living prophetic word which leads us into the fighting spirit of prayer. At some point we must be able to interpret a clear word of revelation, (most probably the fruit of careful meditation on God’s word in the secret place and clear leadership definition of our God-given goals and priorities), and communicate it clearly to others. Indeed “by following” such revelation, we hold on to faith, stand united and fight the good fight in prayer.

If we lose the tendency to seek living word we will lose our tendency to fight and end up in neutral, humanistic expressions of mission. If you are not following fresh revelation what are you following?

One of the greatest assets to any work of God is the creative hub of persevering prophetic prayer. As one of the more senior members of the mission “World Horizons”, I think that this grace of corporate praying from revelation was a vital aspect of our early identity.

The enemy fears such prayer and will do anything to silence it. Mysticism, dead liturgy, laziness and unbelief will all sap away at the strength of a clear proclaimed word.Words-out-of-the-bible-books-the-bible-31828295-2000-1057

Romans 4:17 mentions a God who “calls things that are not as though they were.” Made in His image, we can rise to the creativity of prophetic prayer and partner with the Holy Spirit in calling into being the nuts and bolts of God’s Kingdom amongst the nations. A group that perseveres in this creative calling is unstoppable! This is where the true mission is actually done. I can still remember the early prayer days at our base in Glanmor Llanelli, praying around maps of North Africa and calling into being prayer bases to ring the Sahara. Lives were changed in such events and many foundations were laid for the future. Now this is not the time to get nostalgic! It is time to beckon a new “kairos” season of creative prophetic prayer into our movement around the world in all its manifold expressions.

 “Have faith in God,” Jesus answered.  “I tell you the truth, if anyone says to this mountain, `Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him.  Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.”   Marc 11:22-24

mountain movingJesus didn’t just “pray in tongues” at the mountain. He didn’t just worship at the mountain, light a candle, dance or remain silent. He spoke a clear faith filled understandable command.

Like David who longed to drink at the well in Bethlehem, I so long to be part of a prayer that is inspired, authoritative and born in heaven.

What are you saying? Believe that it will happen!

It is a great gift to be able to “say” with others and be able to create and interpret prophetic word together. It is one of the most satisfying experiences available to Christians and a million miles away from the boring prayer meeting.

“Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven.  For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.”  Matthew 18:19-20

 The art of team building is to get a group of people together in prayer who can be in tune with one another and flow together in divine agreement. This “agreement” is not just a superficial nod of the head but it is more like the mature fruit of months of prayer together interpreting the word of the Lord. It is the agreement of loyalty one to another and the common commitment to lay it all down for Christ. As our teams become more global, the challenge of agreement becomes greater as we need to make space for different languages and various church cultures of prayer. I’m convinced that our DNA of prophetic prayer can be expressed within such a global challenge. However we will need to want it and work at it.

If we can find the “agreement” in prophetic prayer the work of mission “will be done for us, by our Father in heaven.”

His working or our striving?

Let’s hear from heaven together.

No-one has hired us!

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 I’ve always been inspired by the parable in Matthew 20:1-16 of the workers in the vineyard. It is a great encouragement to see how, throughout the ages, the great “landowner” has been pursuing His purpose of sending out workers into the harvest field.

Great missiologists, like David Bosch in his classic book “Transforming Mission”, have seen different paradigms of mission throughout the ages. Here is a brief summary of the 6 different periods of mission – with a few comments and verses to sum up some of the essentials of each age:

  •  The apocalyptic paradigm of primitive Christianity.
  • The Hellenistic paradigm of the patristic period. 313 AD – Edict of Milan – (Principle of Theosis –John 3:16.)
  • The medieval Roman Catholic paradigm. Latin – 600 – 1500 middle ages (Luke 14:23 – compel them to come in) Individualisation & Ecclesiasticisation of salvation.
  • The Protestant (Reformation) paradigm. 1517 – Wittenberg  – Romans 1:16
  • The modern Enlightenment paradigm. 1700 Newton 1750 Voltaire
  • The emerging ecumenical paradigm. After 2000 – Death of modernism.

So for Bosch, the “emerging ecumenical paradigm” or “post modern” period would perhaps equate to our “eleventh hour” in the parable.

God is raising up new missionary armies from the four corners of the earth to facilitate the task of gathering the harvest. A prophetic word given during a prayer vigil held in Jerusalem in May 1989 over Pentecost gives an encouraging confirmation of all that is in God’s heart for the last days.

“Today is the time of harvest and ingathering, a time when the Spirit is being poured out upon all flesh in these last days… Through the centuries he has called workers into his fields and has promised that they are worthy of their hire… These have indeed borne the burden and the heat of the day. And still, the harvest is not finished.

 Now, the Lord says, I will send to work at your sides eleventh hour workers, those who have been idle because no man would hire them… This army of workers will be mostly young people who will go forth to proclaim the gospel without fear or compromise … They will come from the nations and peoples that you least expect. They are a great company that you do not know at this time, but the Lord is preparing them even now…

 You must pray for and welcome these eleventh hour workers that I will give to you. You must not be jealous of them but rejoice at the reward that I will give them – for they were willing to come at the last hour – and without them the harvest would not be complete …”

 All encouraging stuff…but the reality of the eleventh hour seems to be a bit more challenging. Sometimes we find it so hard to break out of the beloved “paradigms” of the 8th, 9th and tenth hour. The wave seems to be coming to an end and we find it hard to catch the new one!

I was recently teaching at a well-known Bible school who had only a very few students while many mission agencies are reporting record low numbers in candidates and immense financial challenges. I know that this is not the same story everywhere, but there seems to be a mismatch between the present needs and the available workforce. At the “eleventh hour” the workers were abundant…but redundant!

 “Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing?”

 Their reply is perhaps God’s word to us at this time.

 “No-one has hired us”

No context had been created to link the tenth hour to the eleventh – a “paradigm” shift is needed.

We are called to create a context for the next generation of young eleventh hour workers.

 I can think of three pioneer areas which might begin to knit together a context to release the full potential of these end time labourers.

  1.  Missional business.
  2. Global partnership and mentoring contexts for the emerging missions in the Global South.
  3. Wild, radical, prayer and worship communities.

No easy answers on the above, but the fundamental factor for every worker will be the privilege of bearing, “the burden of the work and the heat of the day”.

 Our reward is the sharing in the sufferings of Christ himself and also in His glory. (Romans 8:17). If we lose sight of Him, our portion, we will quickly slip into legalism and grumbling. The work will become heavy and joyless rather than a glorious celebration of Christ’s ultimate victory over sin and death. Christ Himself was the first and last (Revelation 1:8), the first worker at the Father’s side in creation and the last worker returning for the heavenly harvest. He fills up each hour with his life and gift of himself. To see who truly bore the burden of the work and the heat of the day we need only to look to that naked figure nailed to a wooden cross under the hot Palestinian sun, bearing the sin of the world and the heat of hell upon his shoulders. No grumbling for him! Rather the glad accomplishment of the heavenly mission.

 “For the joy set before Him, he endured the cross and scorned its shame.” Hebrews 12:2

His joy was seeing the army of workers who were being raised up to follow him. His joy was in the emerging missionary communities – the African, Brazilian, Chinese or Korean missionary armies. His joy is in us! Perhaps we feel last as a person or a nation, but God wants to make us first in our desire to witness and glorify Him. We may be the last in a long history of missionary movements but perhaps we may be the first to usher in the return of the King!

 “…The last will be first, and the first will be last.”

A few years ago my wife was pregnant with our third child. As the bump grew bigger I asked the Lord to give me a prayer of blessing for the child. I laid hands on the yet unborn child and heard the Lord give me the verses from Mat 20. Could there be a greater blessing or privilege than being a worker for God and inheriting the glory of Christ.

 “Oh God, please may there be some work left for her as she grows up! Give her the joy of serving you!”

My daughter is now 22 and finishing a business degree. In the same way may he give the emerging nations of this world, may he give you, the joy of being eleventh hour workers in his harvest!

“You also go and work in my vineyard.”        Matthew 20:7