In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Genesis 1:1
No artist creates without purpose or meaning. Michelangelo did not fling paint at the ceiling of the Sistine chapel and then shrug his shoulders in surprise when the result was complex beauty. He made choices and decisions based on reason and purpose and significance. He was deliberate. Every color, every line, and every shadow was infused with a reflection on the beauty of God.
God made man in His own image, in His own resemblance, from His own life. He breathed vitality into humanity and set man over all His works (Gen 1:26, 2:7). He had work for humanity to do. He had a plan for him to accomplish (Gen 2:15). He had a reason for him to work, to love, and to be. In the fall of man and the corruption of sin, that reason was obscured. But Jesus has restored and redeemed humanity and has lifted us to sit with Him. He revealed man’s place in the Kingdom and in the love of God. He gave reason and purpose to our suffering and pain by taking it upon Himself and giving us life.
It is good news that God created man. It is good news because it means that each person has a design and a purpose. Each person has a reason. Each one is significant and meaningful and in the image of God who is love. It is good news that God has work for us to do. He has a job, a task, and a calling for our lives. No one has to be idle, bored, unemployed, and useless because Almighty God has use for us. He has a calling in mind that we were made to do and that He planned for us to do from the foundation of the world. It is good news that man was made to have dominion over all the earth (Psalm 8:6). In God every human being is free from the rule of this world, its influences, its kingdoms, and its powers and free to obey God. We can walk as men and women under authority. We are invested with the Spirit and born again into the authority of Christ. We are empowered to perform God’s will on the earth and to set things right in a world full of wrongs.
The whole world is waiting to hear that they mean something. God has commissioned you and me to tell the world, lost in their sin as they are, that God is searching for His creation who bears His likeness. He made them in the image of love. He made them with value. He made them with purpose. He made them with a job in mind, and He has provided a way out of bondage, oppression, and sin. He has made a way into the rule and kingdom of God where sinners become saints, crowned as kings and anointed as priests. This is good news to all who believe.
This month I spent a lot of time with young immigrants, helping them apply for jobs, sitting and talking about college majors, career tracks, giving them advice on English pronunciation and American culture. They are searching for their identity in a culture that isn’t their own. They’re searching to make a life, for work to do, and for importance in their world. They’re searching for friendship and significance, people who will affirm that they matter. In the midst of their search for significance and meaning, God is searching for them, calling to them with our voices, befriending them with our time and touch, caring for them with our love. As Jesus has given our lives value and meaning, He has given us His Spirit who bestows value and meaning on others through words of love, acts of compassion, friendship and brotherhood. This is part of the Good News to Hindus and Muslims in America, that God has prepared a place for them, friends for them, men and women of love and grace who will be the gospel in word and deed and power. And through us He speaks His love. He tells them that they have meaning, that He knows them and cares for them, and that Christ has come to enter their lives, take their sin and suffering and receive them for His own.
And daily in the temple, and in every house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ. – Acts 5:42
This was the task of the early church and the mission to which they dedicated their service, their energy, their focus, their funds, their bodies and eventually their lives. They did not cease. They did not stop. They would not relent. They would not let their message be confined by threats, boxes or conventions. They taught in the temple. They taught in every house. Every single house was invaded by the teaching that Jesus was the Christ. This was their simple doctrine: that this Jesus, who the world had heard of, was the Christ, the anointed one, the messiah, the precious Son of God, the Savior of the world, and the Resurrected Lord of all. They did not preach Jesus as prophet, teacher, or even miracle worker, but Jesus as God in the flesh, the Holy Spirit’s chosen vessel of redemption for the world who opened the door of heaven and tore the veil of separation between us and God, making the way for us to be vessels of the Holy Spirit through Him.
Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God and through Him we have been made partakers of this inheritance. We are joint heirs with Christ, sons and daughters of God through our rebirth into the Firstborn Son of God. As children of God through Christ, they preached Jesus, and they would not stop. This dynamic verse that holds such a description of indefatigable, incorrigible, unrelenting witness is preceded by the arrest and torture of the apostles and is followed by the stoning of Stephen. Their work was born of the cross, persisted in persecution, and endured martyrdom. But the testimony of this fulfillment of God’s mission continues:
1 Thessalonians 1:8
For from you the word of the Lord has sounded forth, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place. Your faith toward God has gone out, so that we do not need to say anything.
Paul describes the flow of the gospel in Thessalonica as the crash of a gongm sounding forth the good news of our wonderful Jesus, not only in nearby geography but “in every place.” Their faith went out. It traveled; it spread; it sped through the earth like the sunrise curving over the horizon. This church was faithful. They were zealous for the great harvest of souls that populated the earth and they labored in joy, forgetting the consequences, enduring the opposition and bringing in the Lord’s desire, and when they stood before Jesus they received a crown of life (James 1:12, Rev. 2:10).
This is the great fire that burns on my heart, to never stop teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ, the Lord the King. May I be found faithful, so that when I see Jesus, my King the Lord of Glory face to face I can feel the wash of His pleasure and the approval of His words, “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have accomplished all that I have given you to do.”
Please pray for me that I would be filled with the Holy Spirit’s power as daily at Acts 29 and from house to house I do not stop teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ to a generation that has denied His Lordship, His Sonship, His power and His deity. Hamtramck is hungry for God and the harvest is ready. May His laborers be found faithful.
Leprosy spread uncleanness. It was contagious, and it was powerful to defile your body and damage your soul. The leper was a man marked as inescapably and chronically unholy before God. He was a cursed man, a man without friends and without a place of hiding. His uncleanness was evident; he was compelled to announce it before all, to shout “Unclean!” to the passing stranger. He declared the power of the disease within his body. If someone touched the leper, they became unclean. The uncleanness overcame them and their standing before a holy God. The leper knew that Jesus could heal him. He had faith in his power, but was Jesus willing? When Jesus touched the leper, He told the world that God’s power and compassion walked the earth, and the leper became clean. Cleanness overcame uncleanness, and the Spirit of Holiness overpowered the spirit of disease. It turned the legalistic understanding of holiness upside down (Haggai 2:11-14). This overwhelming display of cleansing power and life reveals the gospel of redemption.
Jesus healed when there was no healing. He opened the door of grace when the access to the throne of God was barred. He touched the untouchable. He had compassion on the poor, care for the young, and friendship for sinners. He had mercy on the brokenhearted, healed the sick, and raised the dead. He imparted life. When He touched the leper, His God-life poured out and overcame the disease in the man’s body. It was a miracle. Jesus was willing to perform it. He was not just willing to heal the man, which He could have done with a word; He was willing to touch him. He was willing to place His hand on the man’s diseased flesh. This great Jesus, the Creator of the universe wrapped in human flesh was willing to connect with the unclean and diseased. When He went to the cross, He took the sin of our diseased souls upon himself. He was willing to touch us, to take our sin, and from the darkness of the grave He arose in the triumph of resurrection life. Our sin did not overcome His life. His purity overcame our uncleanness. This is not just the work of another prophet. This is the life and love of Almighty God.
As I sat in a Muslim friend’s house and shared the story of Christ’s willingness to touch the leper and the unwanted, to have mercy and compassion on the sinner and the sick, I felt the joy of the Lord touch my heart. This is Christ’s pleasure. To declare Himself loving and strong to a people who have yet to hear His voice. This wonderful Jesus is alive today, and He is still willing to cleanse the leper. We the body and the church are His hands and feet, His vessels, the ambassadors of Christ’s kingdom. Christ is calling His body to open themselves to His Spirit, arm themselves with the words of life and represent Him here on the earth. This life is a puff of steam and time does not forgive. I must live and die for a cause and a kingdom. I was bought with a price and for a purpose, and I must see the great glory of God here on the earth. I must see a testimony established that will last for eternity.
I have been sent to thousands who have never heard the gospel. They come from whole nations restricted from missionary access. They come from crime and poverty stricken cultures where the enemy has attempted to keep millions upon millions from ever hearing the good news of Jesus Christ. Now these nations have come to us. They are gripped by Islam and marginalized by a culture that vacillates between fear and fascination with the Muslim world. There is compassion in the heart of Jesus. There is power in the presence of the Holy Spirit. There is a promise to break every chain and reveal the goodness of God here in the land of the living. May I be a vessel fit for His service.
“Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord.” Rom 12:19. We live in a journey surrounded by God’s redemption and the Spirit’s revenge on the work of the enemy. Our walk through the valley of the shadow of death is brightened and redeemed by the truth that our Father is with us. Even as we struggle and suffer in this world inhabited by the enemy of our souls, Christ is made manifest again and again to destroy the works of the devil (1 John 3:8). We live in a war of redemption. We watch as the year of the Lord’s favor unfolds and we are placed within the work of the Spirit’s anointing to replace poverty with good news, broken-heartedness with healing, captivity with liberty, bondage with freedom, and mourning with comfort (Isaiah 61:1-2). This is the Lord’s warfare on the enemy’s attacks on our lives, to redeem every circumstance, every trial and every wound and to turn them into windows through which we view His grace and love.
The Lord teaches us to oppose the enemy with the fruits of righteousness and the comfort of the Holy Spirit. Where there has been conflict and turmoil, our Father wages peace on our circumstances. Where we have been grieved, He comforts and consoles us. When we sit in the ashes of defeat, despair and remorse, He gives us beauty. He pours the oil of joy on those who mourn; He wraps us in the garment of praise and lifts us up out of our heaviness. He establishes us firm and strong so we won’t be tossed and bent by the storm. Where we have felt failure, hate and despondency, He covers us and fills us with His love. Where there has been fear and disquiet, He gives us the peace of Jesus. Where there is fatigue and frustration, He gives us patience. Where we have faced cruelty, He extends kindness. When we see only evil, He reveals His goodness. When we have been let down and betrayed, He is faithful. When we have been handled roughly, He restores us gently. When we feel like things are in chaos, He is in control. As we begin to see God working to redeem our lives, our character and our struggles, we take on His character and the fruit of the Spirit grows within us. In the ashes of what has been torn down, the Lord is planting His nature. What the devil has stolen is replaced above and beyond all that was lost. What the devil has killed has been given an undefeatable resurrection life and what the devil has destroyed is being built on a firmer foundation by the Holy Spirit. This is the Lord’s vengeance on the enemy’s attempts on our lives.
“And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love” (1 Cor. 13:13). In the midst of trials and refining, our faith is tested and made precious in the sight of God. We are believers, and we believe in the power, deliverance and salvation available in Christ. Hope remains in us as we look to our glorious future and the promises we have been given, delighting in what our Father will do in the lives of His children. Love overpowers all. It binds us to Christ as we receive His life and His love and we give it back to Him in an unending, eternal love relationship that propels us deeper and deeper into His arms. These three abide; they remain; they stick. As we cling to them we cling to Christ and His sure and everlasting work within us. We watch Him work His redemption and healing through our circumstances, destroying the work of the enemy and bringing us home to Him. I look forward to 2012 with inexpressible hope in the powerful redemption of God in my character, in my circumstances, in my city and in the sinners who He is drawing into His kingdom. Isaiah 61:4 follows the proclamation of the Lord’s favor, the day of salvation and the advent of the gospel: “And they shall rebuild the old ruins, they shall raise up the former desolations, and they shall repair the ruined cities, the desolations of many generations.” The Lord is performing a redemptive work within our city. The harvest is ready, may we labor faithfully in the new year.
In this life and in this walk with Jesus I am increasingly aware of the intense passion and jealousy of God. His love presses itself upon every decision, every action and every moment of every day. There are times when I deny Him portions and moments of my life and I feel the conviction and the disappointment of His heart. Jealous is the name and nature of our God, who longs to have all of us (Ex 34:14). He desires an intimacy where we are consumed and formed by His Spirit within and His spirit without.
Paul pressed boldly ahead with this single purpose, “this one thing I do. . . I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” He had unity of mind, unity of heart, unity of eye and spirit. He pressed on with undaunted and unquenched intensity. He didn’t slow in the face of beating, torture, shipwreck, sleeplessness, starvation and desertion. His course was set. The holistic hunger of God burned within him, and he pushed forward in the intensity and jealousy of a Holy God whose beauty and glory was worth it all. “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory,” (2 Cor 4:17). This eternal perspective, coupled with an insatiable drive to know Jesus pushed him past trials and afflictions, temptations, exhaustion and despair to a life that continues to reveal the beauty and goodness of God two millennia after he finished his race with joy (Acts 20:24). He loved Jesus and He knew the love the Father had for him, a love that demanded all.
As I look back at the past year I can say without a doubt that this has been the most trying year of testing and refining. In the midst of the trials, the opposition, the battles and struggles, the sleepless nights, long days and pain pierced months, I have known the call of the Christ, the holy jealousy of God and the pleasure of the Father as He sings over me (3:17) and as His Spirit inside me holds me close to Him. Like never before there is a drive within my heart and direction within my soul to see the LORD magnified in my body (Phil 1:20) and to see the nations reached with the goodness of God. Our Father is love: a consuming fire (Deut 4:24, 1 John 4:8).
“Only one life, ‘Twill soon be past, only what’s done for Christ will last, and when I am dying, how glad I shall be, if the lamp of my life has been burned out for Thee.” – C.T. Studd
Read the rest of the December 2011 newsletter.