Monthly Archives: May 2014

Come, Lord Jesus!

Today, May 29th 2014, is the day the Church celebrates the ascension of Jesus, 40 days after His resurrection.

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Luke tells us that during these 40 days Jesus has been with the disciples and speaking to them “about the kingdom of God.” Oh how I wish someone had written this down! Ah well. Then, on the 40th day, Luke tells us in Acts 1:

On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”

To echo John at the end of his Revelation: “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.”

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The Spiritual Discipline of Advocacy

One of the themes that runs throughout all of Scripture is that of the advocate: when someone speaks on the behalf of others.

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  • We see it when Abraham pleads for God not to destroy Sodom (Gen. 18).
  • We see it with Moses going before Pharaoh on behalf of the enslaved Israelites (Ex. 7).
  • We see it when Moses pleads with God not to kill the Israelites after they’ve disobeyed God yet again (Ex. 32).
  • We see it when Esther risks her life and pleads for the persecuted Israelites in Persian captivity before the king (Esther 7).
  • We see it with Jesus praying for His disciples, and those disciples who would come later – the Church universal (Jn. 17).
  • We see it with the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, whom Jesus calls “The Advocate” who will testify about Him (Jn. 15) and who intercedes for us (Rom. 8).
  • We see it when Barnabas brings Paul to the Apostles, when the early church is still afraid of him (Acts 9).
  • We see it when Peter defends the salvation of the gentiles (non-Jews) at Jerusalem, after a Roman family is received with forgiveness into God’s kingdom (Acts 11).
  • We see it when the Apostles ask Paul to “remember the poor,” which he was eager to do (Gal. 2).
  • We see it with Jesus, who “always lives to intercede” for those who come to God through Him (Heb. 7).

Not only do we see it exemplified in Scripture, but it’s also commanded for us to be advocates too – Proverbs 31:8 tells us to “Speak for the mute, and for all who are destitute.” We are to “Pray for those who persecute [us]” (Matt. 5:44), and for “all those in authority” (1 Tim. 2:2). A well known biblical passage to social justice workers is Isaiah 1:17:

Learn to do right; seek justice.
    Defend the oppressed.
Take up the cause of the fatherless;
    plead the case of the widow.

And Jesus commands us to “Beseech [or pray earnestly to] the Lord of the harvest, that He may send out workers into His harvest” (Matt. 9:38).

Even these incomplete lists should be enough to cause us to pause and consider what it means for us. It is clear that God is asking us to be advocates – for those who don’t know Him (and for Him to them), and for those who face injustice in our society. And though certain streams of Christianity, such as the Catholic and Social Justice streams, are traditionally better at these than others, the whole Church – Christians in every denomination and stream – must become advocates to the lost (2 Cor. 5:20) and for the oppressed (Is. 1:17).

It Must Start in the Church

But before the Church can effectively call Outsiders to become Insiders, before it can be a light to the nations, it must be an inclusive place to those already inside it.

We must be honest about our failures and shortcomings, repenting for our sins of abuse, or the covering up of abuse, or exclusion, or oppression. We must repent when we’ve said, explicitly or implicitly, to people or other streams of Christianity: “I don’t need you.” We must repent when we’ve thought, even unconsciously, that others weren’t worthy of the Gospel and the freedom it brings, because they looked or acted differently than us, or maybe didn’t speak the same language or eat the same food, or didn’t meet our socio-economic standard of living to be considered friends, or even peers, let alone brothers and sisters in Christ.

Most of us can look around at our church gatherings, whether it be a Sunday morning worship service or a Friday night youth service or a Thursday morning women’s gathering or a whatever, and see people who are left on the outside. And it doesn’t really matter why they’re on the outside. It matters that we include them. That we advocate on their behalf with the rest of our group to be inclusive; like Barnabas did for Paul.

It takes us being aware of our surroundings and being willing to step out of our comfort zones. It means even being willing to leave our group – more than temporarily if need be – so that we can connect with someone who’s been excluded. Because here’s what I’ve noticed: we most often aren’t even aware that we’re excluding others. We just like being with our own friends a lot.

It also means being advocates of God’s grace, love, and hope; being aware of who around us needs to hear a word from Him, and could use a prayer, a touch, or a listening ear.

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Advocacy as a Spiritual Discipline

Why do I call advocating a spiritual discipline? You won’t find it with the disciplines listed in Foster, or Whitney, or Marjorie Thompson. But it’s something we all need to engage in and make a regular part of our spiritual lives. I call it that because it’s not something that comes natural to us. It takes practice. Discipline, if you will. And like the classic disciplines, when we advocate on behalf of someone else we engage in an activity that is profoundly spiritual. When we advocate for belonging, for reconciliation, for relationship, for justice, we touch the heart of the Trinity Himself.

And I can’t help but think that Jesus will one day say to us “when you advocated for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did it for me.”

Who in your church can you be an advocate for? Who in your neighbourhood or community? Who in your city? Ask the Lord to open your eyes, and He will show you. Then step out and act.

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The Day I Killed Facebook

On May 4th, I deleted my Facebook account.

 I’d been considering it for a while, but hadn’t picked a specific date to do it. And then that day I’d had enough. Time to go.

Facebook can be a great tool (and was in fact the easiest and primary vehicle I used for communication in my job). But it can also suck the life out of, well, life.

And I found my life being sucked out by it; I had an obsessive compulsion to check it all the time (which I’m sure no one else can relate to), even though I didn’t actually post that much. I would surf on it just because I was bored. And I found myself comparing my life to that of those I looked at – and coming short of course, because their lives looked awesome and exciting and like they have it all together. This is the main critique about Facebook, I know, but I fell for it even while knowing it wasn’t completely true.

I also became increasingly unhappy about all the advertising being forced on me through it; sponsored posts in my newsfeed and things like that.

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So it’s been a mere ten days since I said goodbye, and what’s been the result?

I was surprised to find myself experiencing withdrawal symptoms – the desire to log back in was stronger than expected (it takes FB two weeks to permanently delete the account – probably so people will change their minds). I felt, and still do, like I was suddenly cut off from the world and from people. What’s going on out there? And, I felt (feel) like I no longer had a “voice” with which to speak (whether anyone was actually listening or not).

And a big downside was losing the means to connect with people I was ‘friends’ with on there but dont’ have the email or phone contacts for.

But.

I also find that I am now more ‘present’ wherever I am, than I was before. I feel more present to God in my life and in my prayers, and more present to the people that I interact with IRL (‘in real life’). And, I find that my concentration is slightly better than it was before.

I realize it’s not been long since I killed my FB account, but I can say it’s definitely been worth it so far.

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The Main Thing: Worshiping and Serving God Only

Recently as I was reading Psalm 2, I noticed something I found quite interesting. In this Psalm David prophetically speaks about the Messiah, Jesus:

I will proclaim the Lord’s decree: He said to me, “You are my son; today I have become your father. Ask me, and I will make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession (Ps. 2:7-8).

God the Father promises Jesus the nations, even to the ends of the earth, as His possession. This idea is echoed throughout Scripture, and culminates in Revelation 19:11-16 where Jesus is depicted as a victorious warrior riding a white horse, with the title “King of kings and Lord of lords” written on His robe.

For some reason after reading these verses in Psalm 2 my mind immediately jumped to the three temptations of Jesus in the wilderness. The third and final of these temptations finds Satan taking Jesus to a very high mountain, and showing Him “all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor.” He tells Jesus ‘just bow to me, and all this will be yours.’

ImageIf Jesus bows to Satan, Satan will give Him every kingdom in the world. Every people, every tribe, every nation.

Now, Jesus knows the Scriptures. He’s been quoting them to Satan in response to the first two temptations. So we’d expect Jesus to quote them again this time (which He does), but He doesn’t quote the one we might expect Him to. Jesus could’ve easily said “As it is written, all the nations are already promised to me” and He would have been completely right. But, as we see, He didn’t. He said “it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only'” (Matt. 4:10).

ImageWhy does He do this? Why doesn’t He just tell Satan “those will one day be mine already”? I think the reason is that Jesus is modelling something important here; whatever promises we’ve received from God, whatever gifts, whatever assurances, whatever inheritance, the main thing is: worshiping God and serving Him only.

As humans we have a propensity to worship and serve things that are not God, such as money and power, and even His gifts and promises. And God knows that anything we worship that is not Him is to our detriment. So Jesus lives and models what will bring God most glory, and us most joy; worshiping God and serving Him alone.

May we not focus so much on what we’ve been both given and promised that we forget to keep God first, and serve Him only!

 

 

*images taken from The Brick Testament.

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