Tag Archives: New Season

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

 

 

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!

 

Empty Pockets…

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A few days ago I discovered an old overcoat and began to go through the pockets. It’s amazing how much stuff you can accumulate, or stash away. I pulled out some old tissues, a few bits of paper covered with some old scribbled messages, a used train ticket and a very smelly bobble hat which hadn’t been worn for years!

What do you keep (or lose!) in your pockets?

As we have just celebrated the Jewish new year, I wondered how much “excess baggage” I might be carrying into this new season? Annually, on the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) the orthodox Jew would symbolically empty his pockets of his sins at a river or running stream, casting them into the water while reading the following verses from Micah 7:18-19.

 “Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance?

 You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy.

 You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.”

 Make sure you go into the future with “empty pockets”.

The apostle Paul certainly knew the “lightness” and enthusiasm of the empty pocket journey when he wrote in Philippians 3:13-14:

“Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

Press on to what is ahead. You may have many goals, but make the knowledge of the Holy a priority.

How easy is it to “forget what is behind?”

Depending on our circumstances we may have to come to terms with all sorts of tragedies and incoherences. Some events may seem to cast too profound a shadow into our future to be easily forgotten. Some theologians talk about the ultimate “attrition” of memory in heaven as a fulfillment of redemption.

Redemption will be complete only when the creation of “all things new” is coupled with the passage of “all things old” into the double “nihil” of non-existence and non remembrance.”  Miroslav Volf – “Exclusion & Embrace”

Our own human efforts and psychology will always ultimately fail at the challenge to forgive and forget. It is only the love of God, incarnated and dynamic, flowing out into the world through the sacrifice of Christ on the cross that has the means to genuinely clean out the pockets of this world.

Our challenge is to embrace this love in humble faith and submit to its crucifying overflow into our own life experience. We too need to learn to love.

The famous passage on love in 1 Corinthians 13:5 makes an amazing statement about one of love’s qualities saying that:

“it keeps no record of wrongs.”

 Love doesn’t take an inventory. (logizomai in the original Greek). It wipes the slate clean. Obviously, for there to be “closure” on many events we need to consider issues of truth and justice, but, just as Christ was willing to reach out to us “while we were still sinners” (Romans 5:8), so we can cultivate “a will to embrace” the other and see beyond the differences and the offence.

As we journey deeper into grace for our own lives so we can call our fellows (and enemies?) to travel with us.

“Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” Colossians 3:13

 A new season is like a new birth. This “new birth” is named in many cultures where the year is given a name. What will you christen your year?

Miroslav Volk recounts the story of a Muslim woman who, during the war in Bosnia, suffered terrible abuse and affliction. When she became a mother she named her newborn son “Jihad”, seeing in him the means to enact revenge on her enemies.

Another birth is recounted in Genesis 41:51. This time Joseph, the dreamer, the one who knew such cruel rejection from his brothers, the one who suffered unjust accusation and prison, is welcoming his first-born son into the world. What does he name his child? Revenge…Bitterness? No!

“Joseph named his firstborn Manasseh (derived from the Hebrew “to forget”) and said, “It is because God has made me forget all my trouble and all my father’s household.”

 Manasseh points us to a far greater firstborn son, Christ himself, who, as a suffering lamb, carried the sin of the world on his shoulders and bore away our troubles and community strife.

Why not christen your year “Manasseh?” At the beginning of each new season, leave behind your troubles. A “father’s household”, speaks of family, or church. Some of the deepest wounds can be inflicted in the “house of my friends.”  (Zechariah 13:6) Allow the Lord to ease you into a “generous amnesia” concerning such communal hostilities so that you may speak kindly to your brothers (Genesis 50:21), amazing yourself with grace and bringing healing words of redemption.

Happy…empty pocketed Manasseh…New Season…or, owning a special “Yom Kippur” blessing, we might say:

“Gmar Chatimah Tova” – May you be inscribed (in the Book of Life) for Good ! (Literally: A good final sealing.)