In 2014, how could one truly and radically live out the mission of the Church? We still have a lot of work to do, and we must earnestly advance the mission of the Church. The Church has to recognize that their primary mission is to advance the Kingdom of God. Jesus prayed for the Church in John 17:11-17:
“And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one. While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me… I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.”
The Gospel must be preached! I have made a decision to move forward declaring the Gospel. The Gospel is truly ‘good news’ because the events of Jesus’ ministry are the fulfillment of God’s loving decision to heal the broken creation.
In 2014, as we advance the mission of the Kingdom of God, we must maintain a solid biblical foundation. With the changing cultural environment of our time truth has taken on a relative nature, if not a back seat. The Scripture is being viewed as less authoritative than previous years.
It is quite evident that whenever there is a lack of Biblical foundation and structure there is a potential to wander away from the message of the Bible and the structure of the Church. We must hold to the teachings of the Scriptures without compromise. The heart of the bible is the Gospel Message.
During this period of Church history, we must rely on The Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit directs the Church. The Holy Spirit equips and empowers the Church to serve and to proclaim the Gospel. Without the Holy Spirit in our lives we will be carried away in this period of relativity.
There is a deliberate effort to devalue and destroy!
There is an effort to reduce the Bible to less authoritative and outdated. There is a spirit of division that has entered into the church. I pray that in 2014 we deliberately make an effort to unite and hold up the authoritative nature of the Bible. This disunity and lack of biblical authority has allowed the desecration of the sacred. There is a deliberate effort to desecrate the sacred. Is this a result of those who are supposed to guard the sacred have left it open in the name of:
1) Quantity instead of quality,
2) “Delicious instead of nutritious”
3) Conforming instead of transforming
4) Imitators instead of leaders
5) Talkers instead of doers
6) Appeasers instead of truth-tellers
7) Political correctness instead of biblical boldness
8) Popularity instead of prophetic purity
9) Celebrity instead of shepherding
10) Acceptors instead of defenders
2014 will be a year of decisions. Joshua declared, as for me and my house we will serve the Lord. What will your decision be in 2014? Will you conform or will you transform. There is no hiding. You will have to make a decision.
We must not sacrifice the gospel message in the name of being accepted in the eyes of the world. In 2014, I make a decision to more forward in advancing the cause of Christ!
We have a dichotomy (mutually opposing views) between the World system and the Christian Church system. These two are mutually exclusive; they are governed my different sets of principles. We should not be surprise that the value systems of these two worlds are different. The Church must not feel slighted when the world does not agrees with its values. In John 4:4, John said, “You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than dhe who is in the world. eThey are of the world. Therefore they speak as of the world, and fthe world hears them.” The last part of the verse caught my attention. John told us that the world system is understood and accepted by the world. As such, the Christian worldview is antithetical to the world and its views.
What then is our posture or role in this dialog? We are to speak truth into the world systems even if it is not popular. We should be the counter balance to the world systems. When we are given the opportunity to speak into the lives of others we must not shy away from declaring the truth. Our current generation has moved to a point ignoring difference. The idea of relativity and no losers has begun to silence the voices of truth and conscience. Therefore, when the Church speaks out on an issue and declares what is truth it is branded as hateful and intolerant. Some in the church would be willing not upset the “apple cart” so as to be included in the “in crowd”. We cannot be silent because the truth is not always popular.
The challenges to all those that represent the truth of the Christian worldview are to speak truth even when it is not popular. You might not get the most likes on Facebook or have the most followers on Twitter but you must still speak the truth. I have come to the understanding that John refers to in 1 John 4:6 that because, “we belong to God, and those who know God listen to us. If they do not belong to God, they do not listen to us. That is how we know if someone has the Spirit of truth or the spirit of deception.” Therefore, when those that support the world system do not provide us with a platform we should not be amazed by such actions because we are faced with a dichotomy. We cannot make up the rules since God is the one we please as J.C. Ryle stated, “Beware of manufacturing a God of your own: a God who is all mercy, but not just; a God who is all love, but not holy; a God who has a heaven for everybody, but a hell for none. Such a God is an idol of your own.”
We, the church, must live out the principles of the Bible in our everyday life. It is through our principled living that we will have the authority to speak truth into this world system. I am reminded of Ezekiel, in chapter 33:7, warning to the watchman on the tower. “Now, son of man, I am making you a watchman for the people of Israel. Therefore, listen to what I say and warn them for me.” The Church is the watchman for this world and we must speak truth as God directs us not as the world wishes. Let us speak truth into this world.
A week has past and I have had some time to reflect on the sermons that were given during our anniversary celebration. It is amazing how God works. We selected for a theme; “Back to Basics: The Great Commandment, Commission and Compassion. The scripture reference for our focus was Matthew 28:18-20. We had three speakers that really presented the word. We were challenged, encouraged, and edified. We were left with a sense of awe at the presence of God in our midst.
Our first speaker on Friday night was Rev Soviniour, pastor of Faith Deliverance Tabernacle. He reminded us of the need to get back to our first love. This is the initial state of love between God and us. This is where we were when we first became Christians. The zeal and fire that was in our bellies outpace and negativity. We would be the first to volunteer, we prayed frequently and we would not shy away from telling our stories. He reflected on John’s vision, in Rev 2:1-5, to the church at Ephesus. They received a commendation and condemnation. They were doing good works but they had drifted from the initial state of love. Not that they had lost their love for God but they had gone cold, they lack that initial spiritual passion.
The Power that Jesus referenced in Matthew 28:18, he said, was authority to act. This is different from the ability to do something. Christians have both the authority and ability to carry out Jesus’ commission. This authority was not given in a vacuum, no; it was linked to God the Father. He reminded us “God’s greatest passion is about salvation and that the early church grew in spite of persecution.”
We can restore our first love by remembering that initial state, then we should repent, and then we should return to your first love. Rev soviniour reminded us “if you do not know you are in a mess you will not get out of it.” Once we have amended our ways we should we go in the authority of Jesus and do the work of the Great Commission.
The second speaker was Dr. Michael Frith, Bishop of Family of Christ Church of God and President of Family of Christ Seminary. He began by reminding us that looking back is not always bad. But “In the world of advancement we do always want to look back” to core principles. Thus, the theme is a timely reminder that we need to occasionally revisit that initial state of love relationship with God and look at our core mission. The core of his sermon was that we should go in the Dignity of the power of Pentecost. Dr Frith reminded us that we have the authority to live as Christians, discern purpose of the church and appreciate the authentic power (authority) that is given to the church. Once we love God, as we should, then we would be able to operate in his authority. He reminded us that the Greek word speaking of authority means the right to do. He also,
We were challenged by the reminder, that as, Christians and particular leaders of the church, we are standing as buffers for the people we lead. Therefore we have to have authentic power to combat the trickery of the devil. As Christians, we have to develop and maintain a healthy spiritual appetite. He challenged us to get back to order and purpose.
He encouraged us to continue to follow God’s leading. He challenged us to listen for God’s instructions and “if you hear a voice behind you that means you are in the wrong way”. “It is hard to continue if you have not begun” and eight years represents new beginnings. It is at this time that it is necessary to remind ourselves of the basics of our Christian calling.
The final speaker was Minister Diane Asphalt. She reminded us that we should look to join God where he is working. Once we have return to our first love and begin to walk in the authority given by Jesus then we are ready to join God.
She reflected on the phase in the New Testament that said that the “disciples have turn the world upside down”. After the resurrection of Jesus, He appeared to His disciples reignited the flame of love that was burning low and in some cases gone out. This is recalled by John 21:15, “After breakfast Jesus asked Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” Peter replied, “you know I love you.” “Then feed my lambs,” Jesus told him.”
She reminded us that God is always at work and His work is concerning His redemptive purpose in His actions. She continues, “We need to understand the authority of God words, that God has given authority and power; this is the right to do and the power to do. Understanding this divine assignment will allows to “work in is authority but wait on his assignment”. We are not going to walk ahead of God but wait on his directions.
Sometimes, she continues, “God has us simmering at times”, this is where things do not look as if it is changing or there are any movement in my direction. We should wait on the instructions before we make our next move. Like Habakkuk we should develop an attitude of praise, an in spite of praise and “Praise God while you are waiting”. It is this attitude that will help us to walk in his assurance. Like Noah, we will not wait on to be validated by man but as his accomplishments were accepted by God not by men’s standard. Therefore a Noah like attitude will earn God’s approval.
Minister Dianne left us with three points to consider; we should walk in God’s authority, we should wait on his assignment and we should work in God’s assurance
The closing session of our anniversary celebration was the consecration of three leaders to the office of ministers. These individuals have been in training and one on one mentoring for a year and was given their local conference licenses and consecrated to the office of a minister. Ministers from across New York area were on hand to witness this momentous occasion. The presence of the Holy Spirit was clearly present with us. There was a moment of sweet joy and spontaneous worship, not chaotic, but one that seemed to have a director instructing even move.
Even though it was super bowl night, people stayed back as if asking for more. They had fellowship with each other, there was just a sense of genuine love. While there were people from different theological background, this moment seem to ignore those differences and we were just one. Now, I was not present in Acts on the day of Pentecost but it felt like that on Sunday evening.
It was indeed moving to hear pastors and laypeople speak of the challenge to do more for God. There seem to have been a reigniting of the flame of our love for God. To hear person after person say “I got to do more, I remember when I use to… and I have to get back to” is indeed a touching experience. It is really hard to describe the atmosphere in that service but to say you would have had to been there. As a church we were challenged, encourage and energized to continue our assignment here in Bethel Temple of Praise.