‘NEW HEAVENS AND A NEW EARTH!’

World Earth Day, PNG, 889x1197px, Natural Environment, Arbor Day ...

Some years ago I re-encountered Is. 65 and v. 17-25 in particular. Then Melanie and I read it a week or two ago and discussed it briefly. On ‘Global Earth Day’ (22 April) I was reminded of celebrating and re-committing to our environment. The outcome? Digging a little deeper into the passage, a picture of God’s ‘new heavens and earth.’ For some background on Isaiah, see footnote [1].

First, some general observations. Like many ‘evangelical Christians’ of yesteryear I grew up with the idea of our earth not mattering very much because the main focus was on getting as many people as possible on board the ‘glory-bound train’ to the sky. Since then I’ve come to see things a tad differently: ‘The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it. The world and all its people belong to him. For he laid the earth’s foundation on the seas and built it on the oceans… Open up, ancient gates! Open up, ancient doors, and let the King of glory enter…’ (David Song, Ps. 24). The whole universe is God’s temple and dwelling place (Is. 66; Acts 7:44ff). Sociologist Tony Campolo sums it up, ‘If you think that being religious, being Christian, being spiritual is getting ready for the next world, you’ve misread the message of Jesus. Jesus didn’t come here to get you ready for the next world; he came into this world to transform you into the people through whom he could do his work in this world!’ N.T. Wright highlights the necessity of getting ‘the big picture/grand narrative’ of the Bible viz. God’s ‘covenant purpose’ for his people: when Israel failed to be a ‘light to the nations’ he raised up the faithful Israelite, Jesus, and ‘the Israel of God!’ (Gal. 6:16: comprising faithful Jews and Gentiles, cf. Heb. 8; 1 Pet. 2:9ff; etc). The Church’s chief calling today is to fulfill God’s ‘covenant purpose’ in Christ in the whole earth. It’s NOT about our individualistic destiny (a-la-pop psychology preachers) but Christ’s and ours ‘in him.’ When we fail to fulfill that holy calling, it’s like a genius violin-maker entrusting a perfectly crafted violin to a violinist, only to have him/her use it as a tennis racquet! (Wright)

  • Talking about the grand narrative, the God of the Bible is one who constantly ‘comes down‘ to mankind rather than catching up a select few into some Gnostic spiritual stratosphere now or in the future. Think of God’s ancient communication in creation, with stubborn Israel, and supremely via his Son the Lord of the cosmos! (Jn. 1:1-18; Rom. 1:18ff, 8:18ff; Col 1:15ff; Heb. 1:1-4)
  • The Bible focuses on God’s kingdom on earth: for millenia we have prayed, ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven…’ (Mt. 6:9ff/NIV). Surely this has huge implications for our present and future as Christ-followers.
  • The ‘salvation story’ begins in a garden, i.e. Eden’s garden cathedral (Gen. 1-2) wherein we reign as priest-kings over all creation. It concludes with a magnificent garden-city coming down from heaven and fed by the abundant river of life (Rev. 21 & 22). The ‘new Adam,’ the ‘gardener-Jesus,’ the one who agonized in a garden, was buried in a garden, died on a tree, rose and was mistaken for a gardener, still tends his garden in the world and continues his garden-project in/through us! (Jn. 15:1-17). In this garden, we feed, not from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (legalism) but the tree of life (grace) (Bonhoeffer).
  • Jurgen Moltmann has said, “Jesus healings are not supernatural miracles in a natural world. They are the only truly ‘natural’ things in a world that is unnatural, demonized and wounded.” Someone added, This is not limited to healing. The presence of the kingdom of God is the natural world He created and is restoring through Jesus,’ i.e. healing, life, forgiveness, love, generosity, joy, hospitality, peace, conservation, patience, et al.’ Yahweh’s ancient promise to Israel is at work, this peace which has already broken into our world means that power and brutality are not the last word! Christ is. What is our role in all this? ‘God will recruit as necessary from the human cast in order to reorder human history’ (Brueggemann). All those ‘in Christ,’ as God’s new creation (2 Cor. 15:7), are empowered by an indwelling Saviour to transform that broken world into one that reflects his proper glory! (cf. Jesus’ ‘New Creation Mandate’ to his followers in Jn. 20:19-23).

Second, it’s important to grasp the biblical context of Is. 65:17ff:

  • Isaiah particularly depicts God as the one who does new things’ [2]. Here specifically Isaiah refers to what Yahweh is going to do for the exiles in Babylon by returning them to Israel. He chooses to create a new Jerusalem/new community, whose inhabitants will be faithful. In 65:17ff the prophet sets out, in extravagant language (not totally exclusive of a literal element??) conditions in ‘the new heavens and earth:’ no more weeping, long life, shalom/prosperity, abiding peace…
  • The prophet reveals One who has always offered relationship to his ‘chosen/my servants,’ via their faithful response to his kindly ‘hesed’/’steadfast love.’ Now Yahweh is saying, I was available to my people, I was rejected and I shall create ‘a new heavens and earth’ for those who are faithful, i.e. Israelites and all nations that look to him. Israel can no longer assume they are the ‘chosen people.’ New criteria have been put into place encompassing humble Israelites and foreigners who tremble at his word.
  • It must have been very difficult for Israel to envisage the peace of v. 17ff in their context of exile. God’s vision is so big!
  • Within the Christian context, we believe that Messiah is doing ‘a brand-new thing’ via his kingdom in the earth, ‘as it is in heaven.’ [3]

Now I’m going to let my imagination run wild… don’t we need a bit of lock down fun?? Please glance at v. 17ff again…

  • The prophet Zechariah (9:9) speaks of the Messiah coming to deliver his people, riding on a donkey, and ‘so waar’ (Afrikaans, ‘truly’) he does just that. God is full of surprises, one just can’t put him in a hermeneutical box! ‘What if’ we recognize each other in God’s new heaven and earth? (Jesus rose and was recognized in a trans-physical body). Even our wives? Lol, the NT may speak of no marriages in heaven, but what about those already married? (Mt. 22:29-30). Bear with me…what if we recognize our pets in heaven (after all, the lion lies down with the lamb)? I’ve often wondered about that, recalling my beloved miniature dachsie, Lulu, who helped me through my Master’s dissertation by frequent visits while busy on my computer. What about those of our family and friends who have died in the Lord? We’re surely all longing to see beloved ones who ‘fell asleep in Jesus,’ I am! Reminds me of the old hymn, God Be With You Till We Meet Again’ (can’t sing that without a tear or two) [attached below]. My wife and I were watching the story of the South African missionary family, the Korkie’s. Pierre, about to be released with the help of South Africa Muslim negotiators, was murdered in Yemen by radicals following an American military intervention gone wrong – it was heartbreaking to watch the mourning family back home, yet expressing the hope of reunion with their beloved son, husband and father. On another tack, I was summoned recently to the bedside of a saintly woman, deep into her 90’s, one of our most faithful members in our last pastorate. She had always loved her flower-gardens. We talked about them. I suggested that she’d be very busy very soon. She smiled. We prayed. Two weeks she died smiling – she was with Jesus in paradise.
  • And I’m just wondering about those other beautiful metaphors in Is. 65:57ff: comfort for the elderly, happiness and joy for all, no more weeping, no more forced removals (I’m thinking of our house church poor in our city slum and township areas), etc. Add to this: the well-being of children, employment and work-enjoyment, answered prayer, harmony between mankind and the animal world, etc! This is encouraging stuff, particular amid the many hardships we all face in our daily kingdom-service for Christ: ‘How we thank God, who gives us victory over sin and death through Jesus Christ our Lord! So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and steady, always enthusiastic about the Lord’s work, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless!’ (1 Cor. 15:57-58/NLT). I’m thinking of our faithful sent-ones, taking the Good News to Jews and Muslims and Buddhists and the poor of our world, often working under the radar – unnoticed by humankind but not by our loving Father!

Do enjoy the photo and song clips below… I found them picturesque, poignant and powerful. I wonder if the prophet would have enjoyed them? I hope so, wink!

Born Again as a New Creation | JesusOnline.com

The Lion And The Lamb Art Print by Jennifer Page

 

 

 

 

 

FOOTNOTES:

[1] It’s difficult to date Isaiah accurately, there are divergent views. Those who accept the unity of the Book would probably date it about 740ff BC, the promoters of multiple authors, much later. The first part of ch. 65 repeats Isaiah’s beloved ‘Salvation and Judgment’ theme, followed in v. 17ff by his vision of a ‘new heaven and earth.’

[2] See David Bolton’s latest blogs (under ‘Christ-Centered Christianity), ‘When God Does A New Thing,’ Pt. 2 and 3, awaiting Pt. 4. He writes of ‘The ‘God of Eternal Newness.’

[3] Many, including me, grieve the tragic ‘ambushing’ of the Western Church by the late 19th and 20th century dispensationalists, J.N. Darby, C.I. Schofield, Tim La Haye, et al. Their ‘rapture theory’ remains just that, a theory, based imho on shallow biblical exegesis. And how that error has truncated the Church’s mission in Christ’s ‘new heaven and earth’ at this historic time.

CRAZY CHRISTIANS! [The New Pharisees]

Our brokenness, an invitation for Divine Mercy – Irish Dominicans

There is a painful pressure in my spirit, as I write from what I believe is a more scriptural point of view, and also because of a deep sense of personal and community loss. I bare my heart because of interrupted fellowship with a few long-standing fellow-pilgrims on ‘the road less traveled’ (Scott Peck). It appears they’ve succumbed to the subtle pharisaism of the Hebrew Roots’ and Sacred Name’ Movements, so prevalent in the US and growing in my own nation (a cultural identity crisis of sorts?) Gradually over a period of years, some of my brothers (I was privileged to introduce one of them to Jesus many years ago) have cut themselves off from me and our house church network in the city. My personal salvation has been questioned, I’ve been accused of being part of the ‘church system’ (cf. ‘About’ at the head of my blog), etc. I used to meet bi-weekly with one brother for a coffee-shop breakfast, who seemed to grow more and more obsessed with the Torah and Jewish ceremonies. The last straw for me was when he, at a bacon-less breakfast, enthused about a booklet on How to Kosher Your Kitchen In Thirty days!’ I respected his views, but seemingly he didn’t mine. In hindsight there seems to be a common thread among these brothers and their families: a ‘laager (enclave) mentality,’ gradual isolation from different-thinking (non-libertine) believers, considering us ‘unteachable,’ a subtle pride and a puzzling materialism. A dear friend from another city told us of an extended family, self-contained and separate from the ‘un-enlightened,’ propagating that Jesus is only the ‘gateway’ into the ‘fuller’ Torah-observant lifestyle (an extreme example, I guess). In all this I pray the Lord to keep me humble and non-judgmental, though discerning. I know it takes time, but please glance at Rom. 2:28-29; Gal. 6:16, Phil. 3:3, and Col. 2:11-19 (v. 16-17/RSV, ‘Therefore do not let anyone condemn you in matters of food and drink or of observing festivals, new moons, or sabbaths. These are only a shadow of what is to come, but the substance is Christ.’ When you arrive at your journey’s end (Christ), you surely don’t return to celebrate the sign-boards along the way! [1]

Apart from the above there are other legalistic manifestations in the Church today like Christian Zionism, which has replaced the Cross with American and Israeli flags. Mega-church pastors embarassingly beg for ‘seed money’ to sustain their pockets. And so on…

The apostle Paul encountered legalism long ago. He writes to the scattered little groups of Galatia, beset by Judaizers who couldn’t fully free themselves from law-keeping and ceremony-observance. This despite the Good News of Jesus so gloriously proclaimed by the apostle: ‘You crazy Galatians! Did someone put a hex on you? Have you taken leave of your senses? Something crazy has happened, for it’s obvious that you no longer have the crucified Jesus in clear focus in your lives. His sacrifice on the Cross was certainly set before you clearly enough…’ (Gal. 3:1ff/MSG).

I’m sure we’d all agree that the Gospel = Christ + nothing and – nothing. That applies not only to our ‘justification’ by faith (so individualized by the Reformers) but also our sanctification by faith: ‘For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I that live, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God/the faith of the Son of God’ (Gal. 2:19-20, cf. NRSV footnote). Research professor of NT and Early Christianity at St. Andrews University, N.T. Wright, favours the latter rendering, and would even translate it by ‘the faithfulness of the Son of God…’ As my Scottish College Principal of old often said to us, ‘Now put that in your pipe and smoke it!’ Space doesn’t allow, but please make the effort to read Gal. 3:10ff, which reinforces Paul’s argument.

We return to Gal. 3:1-9:

  • Gal. 1 & 2 covers Paul’s defense of his apostolic mission and message.
  • Gal. 3 calls out the Galatians’ unfaithfulness to the Gospel as a result of legalists in their midst. Paul declares that their turning away from the Gospel was not only a kind of spiritual treason (1:6) but an act of gross folly. So ‘crazy’ was it that Paul wondered if some sorcerer had ‘bewitched’ them! Note, he uses the singular ‘who?’ – behind this heresy he detects the activity of satan, the deceiving spirit Jesus called ‘a liar and the father of lies’ (Jn. 8:44). John Stott helps us today: ‘Much of our Christian stupidity in grasping and applying the gospel may be due to the spells which he casts.’ [2]
  • The Gospel is not only a general instruction about the Jesus of history, but a specific proclamation of Christ crucified and risen (1 Cor. 1:23, 2:2). The force of the perfect tense of the participle estauromenos’ is that Christ’s work was completed on the cross and it’s benefits are forever fresh, valid and available (J. Stott). I emphasize, the ‘crucified Christ’ is all-sufficient for our justification and sanctification, the OT and NT idea of ‘salvation’ including both. The Galatians’ own experience (3:2-5) and the plain teaching of Scripture (3:6-9) expands on this. [3]
  • In summary, ‘the law and the gospel are contrary to one another. They are not two aspects of the same thing, or interpretations of the same Christianity’ (J. Stott).

What a Gospel we have! Paul always exulted in it: “It’s news I’m most proud to proclaim, this extraordinary Message of God’s powerful plan to rescue everyone who trusts in him, starting with Jews and then right on to everyone else! God’s way of putting people right shows up in the acts of faith, confirming what Scripture has said all along: ‘The person in right standing before God by trusting him really lives.'” (Rom. 1:16-17/MSG).

So where do we go from here, practically speaking? A few pointers…

  • How about reading Galatians and Colossians in one sitting, perhaps from an easy-reading Bible paraphrase?
  • For those of us who struggle with Karl Barth’s voluminous writings, read G.C. Berkouwer’s superb ‘The Triumph of Grace in the Theology of Karl Barth’ (Barth commented that Berkouwer understood him best). Barth is reputed to have said, ‘The answer is Jesus, so what’s the question??’
  • How about a good dose of self-humiliation? I believe human ‘pride’ is a temptation we all succumb to from time to time, especially in our egoist age. As Richard Rohr put it in a recent Easter homily: ‘Grace is always free. Grace is always humiliating to the human ego. We just don’t like getting love for free – and that, beloved is the resurrection!’

[If some of the terminology above is as ‘clear as mud to you’ (lol) and you desire more background to this blog, kindly consult my explanatory notes below]

In conclusion, let’s all pray for soft hearts and open eyes.

Boy meets world: device lets blind see - Winnipeg Free Press

FOOTNOTES:

[1] I think I also have some ‘Hebrew roots!’ I was privileged to study biblical Hebrew for three years and Old Testament for four years towards an honours degree. I’m regularly in touch with a College buddy, a retired professor of Hebrew and Semitics. My wife (who has Jewish blood in her veins) and I were privileged to tour Israel under his expert guidance. Some of my favourite OT books include the prophecies of Isaiah and Amos. One of my favourite theologians is the already-mentioned Prof. Tom Wright, arguably one of the experts in the world on ‘2nd Temple Judaism,’ Jesus and Paul.  In summary, I would never exchange OT shadow for the full light of Christ, our ultimate hermeneutic. We should surely always read the Bible through the lens of Jesus of Nazareth, God’s final and climactic word to us all (Heb. 1:1-4; Col. 1:15-23).

[2] When it comes to the occult, Derek Prince is particularly helpful. Google him on YouTube: ‘Witchcraft Within the Church’ and ‘The Marks of Witchcraft.’ He identifies the core of legalism as witchcraft and ‘control.’

3] Some have labelled me and others as espousing ‘replacement theology,’ without ‘hearing’ our considered position. A question: have the HR folk not ‘replaced’ the biblical Jesus with the Torah and OT ceremonies?? This morning my wife shared Heb. 3:1ff (Moses a Servant, Christ a Son) with me: consider that Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession, was faithful to the one who appointed him, just as Moses also ‘was faithful in all God’s house.’ Yet Jesus is worthy of more glory than the house himself, just as the builder of a house has more honor than the house itself… Therefore as the Holy Spirit says, ‘Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the day of rebellion’… Take care, brothers and sisters, that none of you have an evil, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God.” I believe (with increasing numbers) that the faithful Jesus, the ‘Light of the World’ has ‘replaced’ unfaithful Israel who failed to be ‘a light to the nations.’ Those who sincerely see things differently, I fully respect. I do of course recognize from Rom. 9-11 the possibility/probability of a near-future Jewish awakening to Christ and the Gospel. The celebrated and godly Prof. F.F. Bruce wrote long ago on Rom. 9-11:

  • Israel’s alienation is not final: Rom. 11:1-16.
  • In OT and Apostolic times, God’s purpose in choosing his people was safeguarded by his reservation of a faithful ‘remnant.’
  • God wants to stir the Jewish people to jealousy, as they see many Gentiles entering our joint-Messiah’s glorious salvation.

[4] Cf. see on YouTube ‘N.T. Wright on Christian Zionism,’ etc.

[5] While in New Zealand I had six weeks to scour the teachings of the many-layered Hebrew Roots and Sacred Name movements, both those proclaiming and questioning it. Here are just a few resources, in no particular order, available on YouTube (NB, I don’t go along with absolutely everything they say, but each has some point to make):

  • Afshin Yaghtin on the ‘Hebrew Roots Heresy.’
  • Dr. Robert Zins. Torah Cult Movement: ‘Responding to Wolves in Old Testament Mosaic Law Clothing.’
  • ‘Another Jesus’ (Part 1) ‘Hebrew Roots Deception.’ Harvest Gleaner.
  • Interview with Sonia Azam//Former Hebrew Roots Member. Sonia is a Muslim convert to Christ, sucked into the HR movement and later abandoning it due to its extreme legalism (which she claimed was worse than Islamic legalism). She also exposes Kabbalistic mysticism and gnosticism in her talks: Sonia Azam7.

 

WHAT DO YOU SEE? BLEACHED BONES OR AN AWESOME ARMY??

Christ's Faithful Witness: Become a Prophetic Voice in the Heart of a Rebellious People

It started with three church leaders having coffee with a missionary couple about to return from South Africa to their ministry in North India. I felt an immediate affinity with the couple. The next step was to invite them to our local house church, which they accepted. The gathering was a powerful time of refreshing for all. The husband led us through Ezek. 37:1-14, concluding that the prophet’s call for believers today was, very simply, to be and do (amen!). This would include ‘prophesying’ to the sleeping Church in South Africa’ (the husband is South African), to awaken her to her true calling. Btw,  N. India is currently experiencing astounding growth at a ‘simple church,’ grass-roots level. My heart pounded. During corporate worship the wife had a vision of our local homes becoming a warm, welcoming place. She added, ‘God isn’t finished with you yet!’ (some in our group are older, including yours truly). We’ve been in email contact since, and the wife has shared a subsequent dream of a world-wide spiritual revival, commencing ironically in China, which spawned the Corona virus! (‘the enemy’s attempt to fiddle in God’s affairs’) I was privileged to visit that populous land twice some years ago to observe the underground Church first-hand. What an eye-opener! It confirmed my move to simple house churches.

I mentioned to our group a book by the missionary-pioneer, Floyd McClung, ‘You See Bones, I See an Army!’ Some years ago Floyd hosted seminars in our city on a new way of being/doing church and mission. I had also managed to arrange a coffee shop chat with him in Cape Town, where he and Sally had been pioneering discipleship and skills training in the vast townships with a view to tent-maker ministry in Africa (to the best of my knowledge, Floyd and Sally are both unwell at present, if you know of them please pray for them). One of Floyd’s mentors was the saintly Dr. Christy Wilson (1921-1999), Princeton graduate and veteran missionary in Afghanistan, later Evangelism Professor at Gordon Conwell Seminary. My wife and I were so privileged to host him in our home during a local missions conference. He had a huge impact on us and our future calling. We were keen to sign up for mission work in Malawi, but he encouraged us and our congregation to equip future world missionaries. In a humbling way, that prophetic word was powerfully fulfilled in our local congregation and our city to this day.

Next I felt constrained to re-visit Ezekiel’s vision in 37:1-14. Please read this passage right now, if you can. Then the following will make more sense:

  • As always, context is important. During Ezekiel’s time God’s people, including the prophet, were in exile in pagan Babylon. Jerusalem had fallen. Ezekiel and his fellow-exiles, after some ten years in that far-off nation, had grown despondent and hopeless (I guess some of my readers may feel like that amid the virus lock-down – fortunately Easter’s coming!). They felt like ‘dry bones’ bleached over the years by the desert sun (possibly they recalled the Israelite dead strewn outside Jerusalem, or along the road to Babylon). Had Ezekiel despaired of those bones ever coming alive again? Probably. Of course he was persuaded theologically, but his feelings told another story. He knew the living, covenant-keeping God could do the impossible, but lacked the faith to believe it! (Aren’t we all there, in a way?) Our recent house church on-line interaction has reminded us of that common default: contrast Heb. 11.
  • Then the living God appears to Ezekiel. With the assurance that those dry bones could/would live again, he comforts Israel with the promise of his life-giving Ruach (cf. Gen. 2:7). His exiled people would be restored to life, return to Jerusalem and become ‘a mighty army’ in his name! (cf. ultimately through God’s ‘new covenant-people in the Messiah: cf. Jer. 31:33ff, all of Galatians, Heb. 8) [1]

Why not get some coffee (in the past when I’ve sub-divided blogs, I’ve found folk reading part 1 but not the climax in part 2 – chuckle!)

Sip of coffee… now let’s follow the progression of Ezekiel’s faith. Note the partial  transformation of dry bones to corpses. The prophet hears a ‘rattling’ (Hebrew, a rumbling earthquake-sound). Then, in simple faith and obedience to God, Ezekiel prophesies to the Wind, and… the corpses are on their feet!! Down the ages, Torah without Ruach/Pneuma is still-born (cf.Jn. 3:8, which can vary from a gentle breeze to a wild wind). Reminds of my Theological College motto, Verbum Crucis Spiritu, ‘The Word of the Cross, by the Spirit.’ On the overall truth here, Anglican OT scholar J.B. Taylor comments, ‘What preaching couldn’t do, prayer made a reality!’ God always does the reviving, start to finish – his servants do the believing and obeying. Remember the old hymn ‘Trust and obey’?…’ Back to Ezekiel and the exiles: v. 11/NRSV, “Then he said to me, ‘Mortal, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are cut off completely…’ v. 13-14, ‘And you shall know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people. I will put my spirit within you, and you shall live…’

A brief summary of Floyd McClung’s take on the vision:

  • There is a valley of dry bones God wants to use, but those bones won’t become an army until they are prophesied over. The dry bones are the poor, rebellious, marginalized, broken, and the young and rich humble enough to listen.
  • For dry bones to live again there has to be a desperation for divine intervention.
  • Passion for Jesus and his purposes is received, nurtured and passed on to others.
  • Jesus said those who believe in him will do ‘greater works’ than he (Jn. 14:12).
  • We must all commit to relational disciple-making, it’s the only way we can reproduce our lives in others. [2]

Where do we go from here??

  • Ezekiel’s message is for desperate Jesus-followers. When we say ‘our nation is finished,’ ‘the Church as we have known it is finished,’ it’s a good place to be! Someone wrote recently, ‘You want revival? Pray for a crisis!’ (Joel News)
  • It’s for honest Jesus-followers.
  • It’s for dependent Jesus-followers, i.e. on the Holy Spirit and him alone (cf. the post-exilic prophet, Zecharia: 4:6-7)
  • It is for Spirit-filled believers.
  • It is for prophetic and apostolic Jesus-followers [4]. I’m reminded of Luke’s words in Acts 1:8, ‘But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth’ (echoing our Lord’s ‘Great Commission’ in Mt. 28:16-20 – unfortunately ‘a great omission’ in many Church circles today). Are you and I intentional about disciple-making? Whom are we discipling? Our Indian missionary visitors challenged us to stir up the complacent Church in our land to enter the world of the Spirit, who is the Spirit of mission. Our own Prof. David Bosch once said, ‘Missiology is the Mother of Theology!’

‘What Do YOU See… BLEACHED BONES OR AN AWESOME ARMY??’ Trust me, I’ve struggled with unbelief for most of my life. The Lord Jesus, in his great mercy, help us all to step out of the boat and walk on water! [See footnotes 3-5]

Image result for Free pics of Ezekiel's vision of dry bones

FOOTNOTES:

[1] See my blogs on the new covenant, ‘The Freedom and the Glory!’

[2] The great C.S. Lewis said: ‘the church exists for nothing else but to draw men to Christ, to make them little Christ’s.’

[3] Amid the Corona lock-down in my country, I woke at 3 am (unusual for me), went to our lounge, and jotted down the following…

  • We need believers in the Church today who are obsessed with Jesus, his person and mission. Years ago I recall Keith Green’s definition of a Christian, someone ‘who’s bananas for Jesus!’
  • From time to time God initiates ‘lay-movements’ in the earth. Think of the early Church (cf. Acts); the Anabaptists at the time of the Reformation; John Wesley and the Moravians in the 18th century (cf. Prof. Howard Snyder’s ‘The Radical Wesley’); the Jesus Movement of the late 1960’s and 1970’s (conservative Billy Graham recognized it as a revival of sorts, but the institutional Church largely didn’t); the student revival at Asbury Theological Seminary in 1970, impacting the nation; the house church explosion in China, growing from some 1 million believers to 200+ million;  the united church front in Lebanon reaching out to the thousands of Syrian refugees in their tent camps; the multiplying underground house churches of Iran, etc. [during our current lockdown, the Lord is moving wonderfully among our house church members, truly experiencing ‘church’ 24/7]

[4] See my blog, ‘Apostles of Abiding Love,’ based on Leona Choy’s wonderful biography of Dr. Andrew Murray.

[5] Derek Prince has reminded us from 1 Cor. 14 that we should all ‘prophesy.’ In my mind, prophecy comes in various ways: it’s not so much fore-telling as forth-telling,’ although the first may be included from time to time. Prophecy includes ‘speaking truth to power,’ human or ecclesiastic, by way of rebuke or encouragement. Of course the former will hardly make us popular!