Running Again

In 2 Thessalonians 3, Paul asks the Church to pray for them, that the Gospel might spread rapidly, literally that it would “run”. Paul makes the equation between the dependency of the rapid spreading of the Gospel with our willingness and ability to run with it, since it doesn’t spread by itself. But what does it mean to “run” with the Gospel?

In John 20, we see Mary Magdalene, and then apostles Peter and John, running to and from the tomb because of the news that Jesus had risen from the dead. I can envision them all panting, breathing deeply, exhaustingly from the labor of running, in and out, with both joy and fear, as if Jesus’s life and death were in their lungs and breath. That’s the point! It was and is suppose to be!.

We are to run with the Gospel in similar fashion, as if we just heard and experienced the news for the first time. We should be filled with amazement and excitement, with the message of his death and resurrection with great haste and anticipation, with the knowledge of the both the potential for salvations and the peril of damnation for the souls we meet. We should be laboring with every breath! In this way, the Gospel just might spread more rapidly!

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Go and Go

When the Lord commands us to “Go” he gives us both a general command and specific commands. For example, Matthew’s great commission command to “Go and make disciples of all nations…” is a general command to the Church and to the apostles in particular because of their callings and roles in the Church. But the Lord gives specific commands to “Go” that are more detailed and answers the questions, “When and where and why and who specifically, should go!” For example, in Acts chapter 5, the apostles are told to “Go and stand in the temple courts and tell the people all about this new life”. In Acts chapter 8, Deacon Philip the Evangelist is told to go and stay near the chariot of the Ethiopian eunuch, who he witnessed to. In Acts 9, Ananias is told to “arise and go to the street called Straight” in order to find, pray for, and baptize Saul of Tarsus.

When our ears are open and obedient to the Lord’s specific commands to “Go”, the general command becomes specifically fulfilled. As Isaiah prophesied through the Spirit of Christ, “The Lord GOD has opened My ear; And I was not disobedient Nor did I turn back. – Isaiah 50:5.

So “Go” and “Go” in the Name of the Lord.

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Running with the Gospel

In Acts chapter 8, when the Spirit told Deacon Phillip the Evangelist to go and stay near the chariot of the Ethiopian eunuch, he did not delay or simply make his way over, but instead “ran up to the chariot” just in time to hear him reading from the book of Isaiah.  How excited, how filled with the Spirit and anticipation Phillip must have been?  And especially when the Ethiopian asked Phillip to explain it!

Unlike two of the rock songs I grew up with, “Running on Empty” and “Running with the Devil”, and like the words spoken to Habakuk the prophet, “Write down the revelation and make it plain on tablets so a herald may run with it”, Phillip ran with the gospel, not on empty but filled with the Spirit, and not with the devil but with Christ Himself, and was ready to explain the prophetic revelation so the eunuch might believe and be saved. This led of course to the eunuch being excited about becoming a Christian, and coming upon some water, he asked to be baptized. Then after, the Spirit suddenly took Phillip away and was found preaching in other places.

But how many of us delay, or even run away, from being a herald of the Good News of Jesus Christ?  How many of us would even desire to be so excited by it, that we would be ready to run with it too?  Perhaps it has become too plain to us that we need someone else to re-explain it all over again.  Then perhaps, like Habakuk and Phillip, our feet would become like that of a deer, excited to be on the heights that the Spirit takes us.

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Pursuing those Perishing

God so loved the world that He gave His Only-Begotten Son, that whoever would believe in Him shall not perish but have Eternal Life.” – John 3:16.  From this famous Scripture quote, we know God’s heart and the heart of the Gospel.  God demonstrated His love and withheld nothing, not even His most precious Son.  But then He entrusted the Gospel to His Church.  God did His saving part, so to speak, but then invited us, all who have received and believed the Gospel, to participate in the work of bringing others to Christ, in our time and until He comes again.  He is patient and hopeful because He wants none to perish.

Many in the world, as usual and expected, have no fear of “perishing” in the sense that they will be separated from God for all eternity, either because they do not believe in God or they believe that their current belief system is sufficient to avoid that state of eternal separation. The other problem is that many in the Church do not believe that other people will perish without a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ or we just don’t take that biblical truth serious enough.  Therefore, we are usually not compelled to preach the Good News because there is a lack of fear, or love for, those upon whom the Bad News of condemnation remains, as John 3:18 states.  The Church often avoids this and similar Scripture verses because of the weight of consequential responsibility of having read them.

If we the Church truly believe that other people will perish, the love of God in our hearts should move us to action.  But the Word also truly evaluates and states, “It is rare indeed for anyone to die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die.  But God proved His love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  He spoke from the Cross, after doing His unique saving part which only He could do, “It is finished.” He proved His love for God and man.

Now the proof of the Church’s love is either seen or not seen by our willingness to do our part, or at least something, for those who are still perishing because they have yet to believe in God’s Son.  There has been enough said about this, but there has not been enough done, that is, by the Church, whose part remains unfinished.  We already know that God so loved the world, but I am not so sure about us, the Church.  There remains a call of upon the Church to pursue those who are perishing even as God pursued us.

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Voicing Out

“Preach the Gospel and sometimes use words” is a famous quote of St. Francis used by Christians to emphasize the command to love. It is a great quote rightly understood and applied, but can also be used to excuse disobedience to the apostolic command and repeated directive of our Lord Jesus Christ to preach the Gospel verbally, which is the intent of the command.  On one occasion, He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.”  In another place, He said, “Repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached to all nations…”.  Even Paul told Timothy, “Do the work of an evangelist!”

Because there is spiritual truth in the words “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ”-  Romans 10:17, the Lord has specifically commanded the “voicing”, that is, the verbalization of the Good News of Christ Jesus.  It is to be proclaimed, heralded, declared, and spoken!  Again, “Their voice has gone out to all the earth, their words to the ends of the earth.” – Romans 10:18.  Words, by nature, especially God’s, are spoken and with purpose.  They do not return void when they are sent.

If the first apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers submitted to the phrase “sometimes use words”, they would have errantly and disobediently put the word of man over the word of our Lord and God. And where would the Church be?  It might be unheard of itself!  Because it is not in the wisdom of man that the Church finds its existence, but in the wisdom of God, even the foolishness of the preaching of the Gospel!   So, repent and believe the Good News!  Obedience to the Gospel and the command to preach it, using words, may seem unnecessary or secondary to some, but it is the wisdom of God and the primary means by which one is saved, when they believe the message spoken.  And as the apostle Paul affirmed in 2 Cor 4:13, “And in keeping with what is written: “I believed, therefore I have spoken,” we who have the same spirit of faith also believe and therefore speak….”

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Electric and Royal

As our house gathering continued to worship and pray to the Lord over and through the topic of Pentecost and being “clothed with power from on high” to publicly bear witness to Christ, a friend of mine had a vision of a sword coming down from Heaven with lightning bolts attached to the handle and a golden tip on the end of the blade.

We knew this sword represented the Word of God, which is also the sword of the Spirit, with the lightning bolts representing the awesome “electrifying” power of Christ, also projected in His future mighty return.  The golden tip on the sword represented the “royal command” to preach the Gospel, even now, in and with the power of the Holy Spirit given to us to do so.   As Peter said, “He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that He is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead.” -Acts 2:42.  And as Paul spoke, “Woe to me if I do not preach.” -1 Cor 9:16

When those called to bear public witness to Christ refuse to do so, they disobey the royal command and become a “blown fuse” in the Household of God, cutting off the surge of power from God that the Lord designed to flow through the House and out into the world.   While some might say, “we are afraid that the surge of incoming power without a fuse might burn down the house”, what they don’t understand is that God Himself can modulate His own power as needed and that the surge of power He supplies is designed to leave the House in order to advance the Kingdom of God.

When one acts like a “fuse” by refusing the Lord’s royal command and resisting the Holy Spirit, they blow the opportunity to see God’s Kingdom come in electrifying power.

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Earth Wind and Fire Contained

“When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.”

There was contact, and the fire spread.

When there is a forest fire, first there needs to be something to burn, before the wind and fire can do its work. Once ignited, a strong wind will cause the fire to spread rapidly, supplying oxygenated breath, fanning and driving the flames in one or more directions, and causing sparks to fly onto new sources of fuel as well.

Many of us Christians want to receive the breath and feel the wind, and even burn within, but we often won’t allow the Spirit to move and spread us out or cause sparks to fly, because we are afraid.  And so we resist the wind and contain the fire, that is the will and desire of God, even the Spirit.  As a result, the earth, wind and fire remain contained, even within the house.

So I pray:

Let the strong wind blow. Let the holy fire fall.
Don’t be afraid, but trust in His call!
Count it pure joy, and rejoice in the shame,
If counted worthy to suffer His name.

Be consumed with His love. Let it burn deep within.
Let the Holy Spirit move you, when to begin
To speak in a language that others have heard,
And tell about Christ, the Lord whom you serve.

Don’t be afraid!

Let the mighty wind blow. Let flames burn ‘n go
Don’t be afraid, to let people know.

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Except the Apostles

We usually assume that when Jesus said, after the resurrection, “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.”, that Jesus was speaking only or primarily to the apostles.  However, when the persecution broke out in Jerusalem, it was everyone “except the apostles”, who were scattered into Judea and Samaria and preached the Word wherever they went.

The apostles remained in Jerusalem at first, as the primary witnesses in the spiritual core of the world, where Jesus’ death and resurrection occurred and the Spirit came down upon the Church, and to serve as an anchor of faith for the rest of the Church, standing firm in His resurrection in the face of death, because Jesus had given them many convincing proofs that He was alive.  The rest of the Church became the first witnesses everywhere else. This should affirm all those who know that they are called to be His witnesses in the power of the resurrection, as well as the apostles, even to the ends of the earth.

Go Church!

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The Audacity of Christ

In the Gospel of John chapter 8, Jesus makes audacious claims about Himself and God His Father, including offending critical statements towards his Jewish brethren who are also claiming God the Father as their own God and Father.  In the heated exchange, Jesus not only declares Himself to be the One the Father sent, but speaks both “politically and religiously in-correct” when declaring that their father is the devil because they wanted to kill Him for His claims.  Wow!  Today, if Jesus was a “Christian” in America publicly witnessing about Christ in such an audacious way and fervor, he would be seriously accused of being an unloving narrow-minded extremist, religious bigot, and people would hate Him, again.

It is one thing for the world to struggle with Jesus’ seemingly audacious claims to be the Light of the World and the only Way to the Father, but unfortunately, there are those in the Church today who also struggle with the narrowness of Jesus’s Words and the boldness of His public proclamations, insisting on a more socially-politically acceptable approach to evangelism, which is hamstringing and in some-cases castrating the zeal of the Lord among His own people, replacing radical evangelism with religious ecumenism, quenching the fire and dulling the sword that was given to the Church, in an attempt to appeal to the more open-minded general public and perhaps the young who have been taught a secular globalist worldview and to seek a socialist or progressive utopia.  Such a witness, I believe is more compatible with universalism or the false notion that the various descendants of Abraham, i.e. Jews and Muslims, share the same faith, whose leaders meanwhile, make primary, distinct, and separate claims to God, denying His Son as the Holy One through whom they must now acceptably come to God, which was Jesus’ audacious claim.   For Jews and Muslims, the denial is expected, but for Christians, such a position is a denial of the Truth and a rationalized attempt to ironically avoid the cross in the name of Christ.

If Jesus Christ had the audacity to truthfully and purposely declare Himself as the Son of God the Father, the only Way Truth and Life, to others who also claimed God as their own,  especially His own Jewish brethren, then why would Christian’s be hesitant and timid to publicly declare Him the same to anybody, unless it is because we are afraid of suffering persecution for His Name or lack the secure identity confidence of Christ as sons and daughters of God His Father?   Jesus said, “My Father, whom you claim as your God, is the one who glorifies me. You do not know Him, but I know Him. If I said I did not know Him, I would be a liar like you. ” – John 8:54-55.  How audacious!

And yet, our having the same audacity to claim to know God and His Son, and declare Jesus Christ as the Way Truth and Life to those who presently oppose Him, provides those same hearers the same blessed opportunity we had to come to a saving knowledge of God through His Son, in order that they too might not perish but receive Eternal Life. Isn’t this what Jesus did?  Is this not the Gospel? Should we not also have such audacity in our love for our fellow man, if we really believe they need to be saved?  Let us pray!

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Good News!

The Greek word euaggelistēs is translated “evangelist”.  An “evangelist” is a preacher of good news or a bringer of glad tidings, and has its roots in two words meaning “good” and “angel” which also gives us a deeper understanding of the purpose of an evangelist, which is, to be like a messenger sent from Heaven,  i.e. “I bring you good news of great joy…” announced by the angel of the Lord in Luke 2:10.  It is interesting to note that Holy Scripture tells us that we will be like angels in Heaven.

For those of us called to be evangelists on earth now, we are to still reflect and fulfill that Heavenly created purpose when we “do the work of an evangelist”.  Too many “evangelists” are not glad but mad, and are bearers of bad news vs. good.

The first one to preach the good news in the New Testament was Jesus himself, although he wasn’t called an evangelist.  But, when Jesus first announced why he had come to his first group of hearers in Nazareth, when he began his public ministry, the first role listed on the job description that the Father had anointed him for, was “to preach good news to the poor” in Luke 4:18.  Let this always be the heart of anyone supposedly called to be an evangelist, since the poor do not need to hear any more bad news.  They already have enough of that.

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