Haven’t had much time to blog in the last while … But day off today, Margie at work and my chores done quickly. And I found the WordPress app for iPad!
At church last night we watched the DVD from Foundations for Farming in which Brian Oldreive speaks about the vision to rebuild Zimbabwe using Isaiah 58 as a guideline. It’s a big and practical vision which is already making a difference in that desperate country. Brian was recently in Australia and it was good to chat to him about his vision.
But I digress … What really sparked my attention in his presentation (which was a just teensy bit slow and wandering) was the five point plan for nation-building which he identified in Isaiah 58. I see a great relevance also for building up the church.
Here are the five points:
1. Let God be first. (Do not be rebellious. Is 58:1-3a)
2. Do not be selfish. (Is 58:3a-6)
3. Serve the poor. (Is 58:6-11)
4. Prepare for the harvest. (Is 58:11)
5. Let the people build on the old-age foundations (of God) (Is 58:12)
Fairly obvious, you say. You’re right, it is always pretty obvious actually.
But think about it .. How often do we head for the fourth point (evangelism) without doing the first three things.
1. We have to start with God, we must seek His face, we must not be rebellious (seek our own way).
2. We must do away with selfishness. Brian said that selfishness is the cause of every sin – thinking about that sweeping statement, I guess it’s true. We do seem to be driven by a self before others syndrome. Thinking about others before ourselves and having a generous spirit in foregiveness as well as ‘things’ will be a radical change for many Christians.
3. Jesus’ concern was always first for the poor. We build churches for the middle class and hope that we’ll get some rich people too. We don’t know how to minister to the poor except by giving handouts. How about being a friend?
4. With these points in place we can begin to grow the crop. We will have a mission and a purpose which concurs with that of God. We are ready be be a well watered garden.
5. Let the people build on the age-old foundations. Teach Godly principles from the Word of God.
Right, now let’s see if this app works ….
Evening Readings for October 13th
A fascinating connection between the three readings for this evening: Psalm 35; Jonah 1:1-17 and Matthew 10:16-23.
In the Gospel reading we have Jesus giving instructions to the Twelve regarding the mission which lies before them. I am sending you out like sheep among the wolves. Of course the message of the Gospel is not easily received by the world. This morning I was listening to a Christian speaker on Vision FM about just this topic. The world wants the kind and merciful God and will have nothing to do with judgement. Many claim to believe in God and even in Christ but when push comes to shove, they want God on their own terms. They want to be able to live their lives just the way they like but still want God to love them and bless them. But Jesus says different – Be on your guard, yet I will give you the words; you will be persecuted but hold fast, there is much work to do.
We often limit that work just to speaking out about our convictions about Jesus, but the truth is that there is much more. (We have to live them!) Jonah found that out pretty quickly. He didn’t want to go to Nineveh, he jumped a ship heading in the opposite direction. Didn’t help him much though. There is much work to do and you must hold fast despite the persecution and opposition. Do you get the point? Jonah didn’t want to go because the work was too hard – he didn’t figure that a message of judgement would win him too many friends.
But look what happened? I just love the words in Jonah 1:10 – What HAVE YOU done! And it wasn’t about doing something wrong ie running away from the Lord – they knew that in parenthesis! NO! This shocked surprise is because Jonah would even dare to avoid what God wants him to do – and this from a boat full of unbelievers. The world knows the right thing, they just can’t get themselves to do it. But they believe that believers should do it. Interesting point. But in the world we believers also struggle. We shouldn’t but we do – or at least I do. (And so, by the way, does St Paul – For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. (Ro 7:19) What a wretched man I am!) And this is the point of Psalm 35 – read it. Although it is about King David and his enemies we can also see it as the struggle we have against sin and temptation in the world. The Evil one is our enemy – he offers us salvation through the world’s ways – I am your salvation! but he actually seeks our ruin. At the end of the psalm, David gets it right when he says to the Lord- I will speak of your righteousness and of your praise all day long.
Back to Jonah. He has a task – to bring the message of God’s judgement to Nineveh. He doesn’t want to do it – not because its a hard message but … and listen to this (Jonah 4:2) because he knew that the Lord is a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. He KNEW the grace of God! “What have you done!” declared the sailors. He knew the grace but he held back because he wanted the wrath to prevail. Oh man! What kind of sin is this!!! Jonah wanted to preach judgement but he also wanted to withhold the grace. We cannot DO that. God is God, and God will do what God will do. Our task is neither to preach judgement without grace, nor grace without judgement. We go as sheep amongst the wolves with a message which damns the sinner on one hand and offers salvation on the other. We have a message which calls to repentance and we cannot offer it if we have not been there ourselves, and we cannot offer it without both hands spread wide.
This is the Morning NT Lectionary Reading for October 13 2009
Follow the way of love and eagerly desire spiritual gifts, especially the gift of prophecy ….
What is the “way of love”? To understand that we must go back to the previous chapter – the great love chapter of the Bible – and especially to note the characteristics of love:
- Patient, kind, without envy of others or boasting of oneself
- Not proud, nor rude – why do these two go together?
- Not self-seeking – the answer to the above question!
- Not prone to anger and keeps no record of wrongs
- Does not delight in evil but rejoices in the Truth
- Love always protects, trusts, hopes and perseveres.
Here is the challenge – to follow this way of love in the everyday of our life …
BUT, why eagerly desire the gift of prophecy? And what is this gift anyway?
Second question first … The gift of prophecy
- speaks to men for their strengthening – for their encouragement and comfort (verse 3)
- edifies the church – from the old meaning of “edify” – to build up (verse 4)
- speaks intelligible words, so tha the people will grasp the meaning of what is said. (verse 9)
And so why must we eagerly desire this gift … BECAUSE IT IS A GIFT WHICH BUILDS UP THE CHURCH!
I was thinking about our new season of ministry coming up (with all its sense of frustration in the waiting) when I opened my Devotion Book to this thought from Eugene Peterson’s Living the Message.
A farm, Wendell Berry contends, is a kind of small-scale ecosystem, everything working with everything else in certain rhythms and proportions. The farmer’s task is to understand the rhythms and the proportions and to nurture their health, not bullyingly to invade the place and decide that it is going to function on his rhythms and according to the size of his ego. If all a farmer is after is profit, he will not be reverential of what is actually there but only greedy for what he can get out of it. The parallel with my parish could not be more exact. I substitute my pastoral vocabulary for Berry’s pastoral and find Berry urging me to be mindful of my congregation, in reverence before it. These are souls, divinely worked-on souls, whom the Spirit is shaping for eternal habitations. Long before I arrived on the scene, the Spirit is at work. I must fit into what is going on. I have no idea yet what is taking place here; I must study the contours, understand the weather, know what kind of crops grow in this climate, be in awe of the complex intricacies between past and present, between the people in the parish and those outside.
In preparing to move to Merredin, I must ready my heart to see and hear where the Spirit is at work. To bluster in on God’s business is careless thing. It is His farm and His crop. I am but a steward.