The fundamental principle of our Christian calling is LOVE. This love is one that brings us into a right relationship with God through Jesus Christ our Lord and Savor. This is not an abstract love rather it is a practical love. To truly love, we have to first experience the love of God. This now holds us to a higher level of our calling. This is greater that our consciences and motivations. Since as Dr. Mohler stated that one would not know oneself to a level that you separate yourself from our motivations. This idea says that the judge or the politician cannot ignore his religious and non-religious worldview and make decisions in an abstract way. John laid it out this out in 1 John 3:20 & 21, “Even if we feel guilty, God is greater than our feelings, and he knows everything. Dear friends, if we don’t feel guilty, we can come to God with bold confidence.” Therefore, the call of love is greater than our own desire. This call has to respond to the demand of God to love God and our neighbors.
It is this higher calling that requires us to love. This love is demonstrated in our daily acts, loving God by keeping his commandments. Jesus said that the greatest commandment is this, Matt. 22:37-39, Jesus replied, “You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: Love your neighbor as yourself.” If we truly love God then our actions are filled with obedience, our lives are free from willful sinning and, we love our neighbors. I trust we can truly live up to this standard of living. Love is the foundation of our faith. Can we find someone in our community to truly love?
It is this love that will allow us to fulfill the Great Commission and practically demonstrate the Great Compassion.
The challenge to be truly missional requires that persons consider themselves to be disciples, and begin to engage their communities in their everyday life, to be incarnate. This has posed a challenge to the church and seeks to answer the question: how will missions and being missional in the 21st century be any different from the Colonial Periods? The challenges that seem to be facing the Yonkers churches are similar to those which face the North American Churches. Some of these challenges are diversity of the harvest, an increasingly large harvest, lack of harvesters, lack of focus in the Church, a dying Church and an unclear presentation of the Gospel. In the Book of Luke chapter 10 verse 2 it reads, “the harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” This was Jesus’ view of the many souls that were not saved. This picture is true today of the North American Church and begs the question “Has the Church lost its focus of the Great Commission?” Many churches are declining, and even dying, while the ‘unchurched’ population is increasing. Ed Stetzer and Mike Dobson state that three denominations – Assemblies of God, Nazarene, and Southern Baptists – all reported a decline in their membership. While many churches in these denominations are growing the greater portion is declining.
We do not have to travel miles and overseas to some foreign country to locate the mission field. Right here, literally in our backyards, the world has come to us, as Sadiri Joy Tira, the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization senior associate for Diasporas, said, “The world has become borderless.” The next challenge that Jesus identified was that the laborers are few (Luke 10:2). Many churches lack disciples or self-feeders (Christ-centered persons) that are harvesters. According to Ed Stetzer and Mike Dobson in the book entitled Come Back Churches, 70 to 80 percent (70-80%) of North American Churches are in decline and 3,500 to 4,000 U.S. churches close their doors every year. To be truly missional requires a holistic approach that includes the Great Commandment, Great Commission and the Great Compassion, this I call “The Circle of Mission”. It is about ministering to the total person and requires an investment into person’s lives of our time and our finance.
 In their book Simple Church: Returning to God’s Process for Making Disciples, Geiger, Eric, and Thom S. Rainer, researched and present a clear and detail picture of the North American Church community. The book is published by Kiev Russia: B&H Publishing Group, 2006.
 Mike Dodson, and Ed Stetzer in their Comeback Churches: How 300 Churches Turned Around and Yours Can, Too evaluated 300 churches that were declining and undertook a process that led to their turn around. The book is published in New York by B&H Books, 2007.
 Sadiri Joy Tira, “Evangelism vs. Missions” Christianity Today, July 2010.
In Matthew 22:34-40 we had a deceptive lawyer (“scribes of the Pharisees”, Mark described him in a more favorable light) asking Jesus a fundamental question. In his deception he could not realize the significance of his question but Jesus used the moment, as he often does, as a teaching moment.
I believe that the answer speaks to the foundation of our Christian faith. Judeo-Christian faith is filled with significance and the symbolisms in the Old Testament (OT) that are fulfilled in the NewTestament and we are to be able to apply them in our everyday life. You cannot have and apply the OT without the application of the NT. So, the lawyer’s question sought to question Jesus’ commitment to the fundaments of the faith as given in the commandments in the OT.
I pause to call to remembrance the fundamental mission of the Church. We at Bethel have embraced this mission and stand now to remind ourselves of our individual responsibilities to this mission. The core mission of the Church is, the sending of the Church with the good news of forgiveness, reconciliation, restoration and love. This message is holistic and is rooted on Biblical doctrines working through the church. This mission is practical, contextual, it can be translated into practice it is ecclesiastical (relates to the church) and eschatological (it is about the future of the soul). This “Missions call for obeying the Great Commandment the fulfillment of the Great Commission and the practicaldemonstration of the Great Compassion.”
In Matthew 28:18 to 20 we have the scripture verses, which will be our focus during this year. It embodies the invitation of God to join Him in this wonderful plan of salvation. Jesus reminded the disciples, and by extension every Christian, that His instructions came from and authorized source. He was not just commanding us in isolation, no, the Father has granted Him this authority and in turn He was relaying the Fathers’ wishes. What a wonderful opportunity, the Almighty God is inviting us to join Him in what He is doing.
What we are asked to do is to obey the great commandment (love), the great commission (go), and fulfill the great compassion (do). In God’s agenda, are things He is doing in order to restore our broken relationship. Every person can help to advance the Kingdom since it has no borders and it has an individual and a universal view. Christians must move onto God’s agenda if we are going to fulfill His call on our lives to join Him where He is working. We are servants of the King, and as such, we serve at the pleasure of the King. Matthew 6:33 reminds us to seek or pursue the Kingdom of God and God’s righteousness first, and then God will provide us with everything we need. The onus is on us to pursue the things of God’s Kingdom. It is in this pursuit that our will begins to lineup with God’s will.
If we are going to go back to basics we have to be comfortable embracing the historical nature of our faith and be willing to apply them in our everyday life.
In response to the question asked by the lawyer, Jesus replied
Matthew 22:37x‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like it: y‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’40zOn these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” 
What Jesus was saying is that all the Law and the Prophets are left null without the key ingredient of love. A matter of fact it was this love that wrote salvation story. Now, there is a natural sequence that is taught in these directives. Firstly, love is the fundamental ingredient in the Kingdom of God. In God’s prospective love canonized the whole understanding of the principles of the Kingdom, it is not just abstract love or a theological love and or a theory; it is a practical demonstration.
This love addresses two district personalities the creator and the creature. Since the creature was created in the image of the Creator (God) then the creature has to exhibit the characteristic of the Creator. Therefore, since the God loves then we must love.
Once we have understood and obey the principle of love we can now move to the commission of love. In Matthew 28:18-20, Jesus clearly using the authority that was fully given Him by God the Father to send out the disciples or commissioned the disciples. While we might have a good understanding of the principle of Love if it is not practice then it is null and void. The commission put form to the principles; it is the vocation of love.
This love will drive us to reach, teach and fellowship, not in a spirit of isolation but one that place us among the masses. Now, as we fulfill the commission we have to demonstrate compassion. Jesus in Luke 4:18-19, made this clear. The heart of the Christian has to embrace compassion. It is the divine love of God that tugs on our heart to love with a compassionate spirit. In Luke 4:18 the Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised. And this reference is also reference in
Is. 61:1 The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound;
Love addresses the issue of sin. In 1 John 1 we are told in verse we cannot say we love God and we are still having fellowship with the things of the dark. John put is this way,
1John 1:6So we are lying if we say we have fellowship with God but go on living in spiritual darkness; we are not practicing the truth.
1John 1:8 ¶ If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth.
1John 1:9 But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.
1John 1:10 If we claim we have not sinned, we are calling God a liar and showing that his word has no place in our hearts.
We often start off by condemning but Jesus want us to present the whole Gospel beginning with the creation, fall, restoration (including advent, work, death, resurrection, ascension and promised return), Penalty and reward, and Culmination in the reign in heaven.
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.