We live in a world where one’s nearness to God is often gauged by their ministry impact. Because of that, a position in ministry is sought by so many as the way to greater intimacy with God. Unfortunately we’ve dichotomized “ministry” and “the rest of life”, and thus trivialized and belittled the common tasks of our day and think of them as “less than”, never giving them opportunity to be an escort into deep fellowship with the Holy One. It’s because of this that I am fully convinced I am not even close to understanding how near God came to us in the Incarnation.
Jesus of Nazareth, God in the flesh, not only embraced but crowned the common. By all measures of men, His ministry was mostly unsuccessful because it resulted in His death and did not have the impact that many were expecting. We so quickly forget that He fully knew the human experience in the everyday toil and monotony of life. Born in scandal, dwelling in complete obscurity for almost three decades, and never seeking His own fame or glory, Jesus embraced the human plight and made a way for each moment of monotony to be a doorway of fellowship.
In this age, so many are looking to make a name for themselves. From politicians and athletes to musicians and businesspeople, the human heart is always focused on self-promotion and gain. Our pride causes us to seek greatness through our own means. And no matter how much we achieve in this age, we always leave unsatisfied and longing for more. But what does exaltation, greatness, and satisfaction in God’s eyes look like?
Contrary to our fallen understanding of it, God’s idea of greatness is living from the heart in servanthood, humility, and meekness. In fact, this was the only character trait that Jesus proclaimed about Himself (Matthew 11:29).
For Jesus, servanthood was a trait fully reserved for recognition as “great” in the age to come. His standard for greatness must be our standard if we want to be called great His coming kingdom. The acceptance of this invitation has the power to lift the burden of having to accomplish anything in this age. Regardless of our outward achievements or ministry impact, we can be assured of being called great in His sight then by actually walking in servanthood, humility, and meekness today. As we do, we demonstrate the character of Jesus and His coming kingdom and speak of the day when servanthood is the character trait embraced by everyone. We are training now to reign with Jesus in the age to come.
The disciples and close friends of Jesus were consumed with a prevailing, singular yearning such that their lives were lived as ones who had been exiled. Their freedom from the entanglements of this life and this age enabled them to love their brothers, sisters, and neighbors with reckless abandon. So often in their writings to one another, we see this common yearning – an eager expectation for their Bridegroom, King, and Judge to return to the earth.
This “eager expectation” pervades the New Testament and defines what it means to belong to Christ. “Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him” (Hebrews 9:28 RSV). “You are not lacking in any gift, awaiting eagerly the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 1:7). “Deny ungodliness and worldly desires . . . looking [eagerly] for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus” (Titus 2:13). “Keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life” (Jude 1:21).
Do we anxiously and eagerly long for the return of Jesus, or are we content with rhetoric without heart reality?
The word “glory” fills the conversation, writing, prayer, and preaching of many in the Charismatic and Evangelical world today. We claim to be seeking for God to “release His glory” on people or places or for Him to “show us His glory”. It has become such an ambiguous term that can mean almost anything, and we seek Him so earnestly for it as if He has yet to actually show it to us in fullness.
What are we really seeking? I fear we have made it more complicated than it was ever meant to be.
In contrast to the confused Charismatic understanding of “glory”, the Bible’s brilliantly lighted testimony of where the fullness of “glory” may be found burns off the fog of confusion with overwhelming ease. Though in times past God’s self-revelation rained on His people in light showers, in these latter days He has now fully made Himself known in a torrential deluge.
Hope is an extremely potent emotion. It gives us courage to face difficult circumstances, assuring us that they will come to an end. Hope fills our hearts with eager anticipation and expectation for peace, happiness, joy, and well-being. President Barack Obama used “hope” as one of his main campaign slogans in 2008. Not only is “hope” a big buzzword in secular society, but it’s increasingly becoming a catchphrase among Christians in the West.
The word “hope” also filled the conversations, letters, and daydreams of the first century church after the resurrection and ascension of Jesus. As 21st century believers in that same resurrected and ascended Lord, do we share the same hope as the early church?
The New Testament boldly declares the singular hope that every believer should cling to - the return of Jesus to the earth to raise us from the dead, establish His government from Jerusalem, restore the earth to the pristine perfection as seen in the beginning before the fall of man, and reveal YHWH, the God of Israel, as the one true God who alone is worthy of all worship.
The biblical definition of hope is stunning in that it is wholly focused on and anchored in the age to come. Any amount of favor, grace, and power that the Lord gives us today is never meant to be an end unto itself for this day, but is always to be strengthened in perseverance and hope for that Day.
A lot of musicians in the church these days are talking more and more about “prophetic” music. The very nature of a prophetic musician or singer is one who prophesies. What is prophecy? We’ve made it out to be an ethereal thing that only select few “super saints” can operate in, and that it is a gift that is rarely given. But Revelation 19:10 debunks this misunderstanding by saying that all true prophecy simply manifests itself in declaration of the identity, heart, emotions, will, and desires of Jesus. Just as prophetic preaching is instructive and provokes us to live as Jesus did, prophetic music is music that is instructive to its hearers about the person and life of Jesus. There is no secret formula for prophetic anointing beyond a heart of devotion to Jesus and a desire to make Him known in truth. The Holy Spirit takes the music of the loyal heart of the musician and uses it to invite the listeners into deeper devotion to the Lord.
Paul, a selfless minister of Jesus the Messiah to the Corinthians, says:
“[In] whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. [I am] not seeking my own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved.”
(1 Corinthians 10:31-33 NKJV)
When you think of and pray for the gift of faith, what comes to your mind?
For the patriarchs, faith was more than having confidence that God was going to heal them or save their friends. It was much more than knowing that money for the bill would come in at the last minute. Hebrews 11, the great “hall of faith” chapter, gives us a glimpse into God’s ultimate purpose in giving the gift of faith. It always resulted in a steadfast confidence in the resurrection of the body and the Holy City returning to the earth, where God and man would dwell together once again in perfect communion without hindrance.
In Hebrews 11:1, the writer tells us that faith is the “substance of things hoped for” and the “confidence of things not seen”, and then develops those “things” in the following verses. Though these men and women undoubtedly saw miracles, were provided for by God, and saw many people put their trust in the LORD, the measure of faith given to them enabled them to endure unimaginable hardship, live as a sojourner and pilgrim on the earth, and embrace death with full confidence in the resurrection. The writer ends the chapter by saying that all of the patriarchs died with a full hope and confidence in the things they had not yet seen, and then encourages us in light of their example to walk in righteousness, endure the race towards the prize, and long for our inheritance as they did.
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I’ve blogged several times in the past on humility, but I wanted to write about it again today because I am convinced that it is one of the primary things the Lord is highlighting to me personally and to the body of Christ in this season.
So often we just look at humility as going as low as possible, gritting our teeth and pasting a smile on our face as we endure a difficult situation, person, or circumstance. Yes, embracing humility is difficult. There are moments where our pride begins to rise up and say “No! I deserve better! I have better skill! I can say it better! I can do it better! I have more experience! This is my calling!” Humility goes against the grain of every fiber of our fallen, sinful nature. But God is not out to hurt our pride, as the old proverb goes. He is out to kill it.
God ordains seasons of difficulty, discord, and dissension to train us in humility. But God’s definition of humility is so much more than just “going low”. Yes, that is part of it. But in God’s eyes, humility is embracing the lowest place and finding great joy and delight there. It’s finding joy unspeakable in the last place - in the place of demotion, being overlooked, being misunderstood, or being hurt by another.
On Sunday, the United States Congress passed a bill that allows federal funds to be used for abortions. President Obama will sign that bill into law today. Many look at this new reform as a severe blow to the long-time efforts of lobbyists, activists, and the pro-life movement in America. Some in the church of Jesus are also very discouraged, as many have been contending in prayer for righteous leaders, the ending of abortion, and the reversal of the “death decree” to babies in the womb for years.
While this is certainly disappointing news to me, it is not surprising nor does it come unexpectedly to me. In fact, it should never surprise us that the unredeemed behave wickedly and unrighteously. It’s so easy to look at the world’s unrighteousness, assume that it is the church’s mandate to “fix it” through prayer, intercession, and dominion, and then end up disillusioned, discouraged, and unhopeful when these things we contend so earnestly for do not come to pass as we pray.
But the Bible is so clear - Jesus the Messiah alone is the only one qualified, capable, and worthy to drive darkness off the face of the planet. No matter how many signs and wonders we see, how many laws change or don't change, how many cities experience revival or transformation, or how many new converts to Christianity we see in the coming years, I want to make it clear - things will never be okay here until He returns.
In times of discouragement (and even in times when things seem to be going “well”), it’s critical for us to set our minds on the “hope to which we have been called” (Ephesians 1:18), and to once again “rest our hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to [us] at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:13), lest we become “weary and discouraged in [our] souls” (Hebrews 12:3). Our hope lies in the age to come, not in this age in any way.