Unshakable Kingdom

Since we are receiving a Kingdom that is unshakable, let us be thankful and please God by worshiping Him with holy fear and awe. (Hebrews 12:28)

Jim Elliot, Nate Saint, Pete Fleming, Ed McCully and Roger Youderian took the Gospel to the jungles of Ecuador, to share the Good News with native Waodani people. Their love for Christ fueled their quest. They flew together in a bush plane and stood together unshaken to face the native’s spears that would end their lives.

On January 8, 1956, ten Waodani warriors killed the five missionaries. The men were armed, but did not take aim against the Waodani. For Jim, it is almost as if he had already reconciled with God that his life might be cut short for the Gospel. He was willing to die that others might have new life. But the story does not end there.

Jim’s wife, Elisabeth and Nate Saint’s sister, Rachel, returned to the jungles, to carry on the mission they started with their husbands. They eventually made peaceful contact. They told the natives of a loving God who hears their prayers and sent His Son to die so they might live.

In June 1965, Nate Saint’s son, Steve was baptized in the Curaray River by Kimo and Dyuwi, two of his father’s killers who had since converted to Christianity.

Steve Saint brings the “unshakable Kingdom” into focus with his reflection on his Dad’s sacrifice: “I would rather have a dad who died serving Christ than one who had no knowledge of Christ.” The evidence is clearly displayed when Steve wraps his arms around the aging warrior who was a party in his father’s death and affectionately refers to him as “Grandfather”.

To the captive, it looks like freedom
To the orphan, it feels like home
To the skeptic, it might sound crazy
To believe in a God who loves
In a world, where our hearts are breaking
And we’re lost in the mess we’ve made
Like a blinding light, in the dead of night
It’s the Gospel
The Gospel that makes a way
It’s the Gospel that makes a way (Ryan Stevenson)

Yes. His is an unshakable Kingdom. (VALERIE SMITH)

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The Holy Spirit’s Guidance

For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God (Romans 8:14)

A young pilot had just passed the point of no return when the weather changed for the worse. Visibility dropped to a matter of feet as fog descended to the earth. Putting total trust in the cockpit instruments was a new experience to him, for the ink was still wet on the certificate verifying that he was qualified for instrument flying.

The landing worried him the most. His destination was a crowded metropolitan airport he wasn’t familiar with. In a few minutes he would be in radio contact with the control tower. Until then, he was alone with his thoughts. His instructor had practically forced him to memorize the rule book. He didn’t care for it at the time, but now he was thankful.

Finally, he heard the voice of the air traffic controller. “I’m going to put you on a holding pattern,” the controller radioed. Great! thought the pilot. However, he knew that his safe landing was in the hands of this person. He had to draw upon his previous instructions and training, and trust the voice of an air traffic controller he couldn’t see. Aware that this was no time for pride, he informed the controller, “This is not a seasoned pro up here. I would appreciate any help you could give me.”

“You’ve got it!” he heard back.

For the next 45 minutes, the controller gently guided the pilot through the blinding fog. As course and altitude corrections came periodically, the young pilot realized the controller was guiding him around obstacles and away from potential collisions. With the words of the rule book firmly placed in his mind, and with the gentle voice of the controller, he landed safely at last.

The Holy Spirit guides us through the maze of life much like that air traffic controller. The controller assumed that the young pilot understood the instructions of the flight manual. His guidance was based on that. Such is the case with the Holy Spirit: He can guide us if we have a knowledge of God’s Word and His will established in our minds. (DAILY IN CHRIST by NEIL & JOANNE ANDERSON)

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He Must Become Greater

Unfortunately, there is no theological support for the idea that once we become Christians, life will be a bed of roses and our road an easy one. However, there is a promise that God is able to equip us to be ‘overcomers’!

While we live in this fallen world, life will present challenges and we will often have to make difficult, counter-culture choices. There’ll be many times when we must say ‘no’ to self if we are to say ‘yes’ to God. Like choosing to forgive those who hurt us. Or choosing not to retaliate and insist on our rights. Or choosing to tell the truth at all times. Or blessing those who are unkind or ungenerous to us.

In Mark 8:34-35, Jesus talks about ‘denying self’, ‘taking up the cross’ and ‘losing your life’. That sort of living, with eyes constantly watching for the Father’s direction is the direct opposite of the boast of Frank Sinatra’s ‘I did it my way’. Jesus did it God’s way. He modelled this lifestyle. ‘I delight to do Your will, O God’ is written in the Psalms of the Messiah. But it is often a costly lifestyle.

Jesus’ choosing of the cross seemed wholly unreasonable to Peter. “The Son of man must suffer… be rejected…be killed…” (Mark 8:31). Surely not? ‘Out of the question’ says Peter. But Jesus not only rebukes Peter for a lack of discernment but then goes on to preach a sermon calling every follower to such a path. ‘Those who would come after Me must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow Me.’ (Mark 8:34)

Jim Eliot, the missionary to the Auca Indian tribe, murdered by the very people he wanted to share the Gospel with, wrote: “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”

Jesus committed Himself wholeheartedly to following God’s wisdom and direction for His life, above His own desire for comfort, convenience and ease. The principle of sacrifice is the very heart of growth and multiplication in the kingdom. ‘Unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and die, it remains alone.’ (John 12:24)

God wants to make us overcomers. But it is as we die to ourselves and ‘our own way’ that the overcoming, transforming, love-focused life of God is released.

For Your Reflection:
Where can I choose God’s way and wisdom above my own? How can I become less so that He can become more in me? What will that look like in my home / workplace / church? (FOUNTAIN OF LIFE CHURCH)

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The Prince Of Peace

A couple of years ago, on one of our first trips to Japan, I sat down with a man named Michael Oh. Michael directs C.B.I., a training institute for pastors in Nagoya, Japan. I just assumed he was Japanese, but, no, he’s Korean. And that’s actually a big deal. Why’s that? Koreans don’t typically like Japanese. There’s lots of racial tension between the two countries. But there Michael is, living in Japan, sharing Jesus. Why? Jesus had brought peace. He wanted to take peace there.

Jesus has brought peace. That’s what Ephesians 2:14 clearly says. He’s “made us both one.” That’s Jew and Gentile. It’s Korean and Japanese. Christ has brought sinful human beings together.

But notice carefully what it actually says. “He Himself is our Peace.” Paul is going out of his way here to emphasize that Christ is the source of peace. Yes, He alone brings it about. But He is also Peace. It’s not just what He does. It’s who He is.

It reminds me of that familiar Christmas verse, the one that promised His coming: Isaiah 9:6: “For to us a Child is born, to us a Son is given; and the government shall be upon His shoulder, and His name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

He’s the Prince of Peace. That’s why, at His birth, the angels proclaimed, “Peace on earth” (Luke 2:14). The One who is Peace – had come. And for that reason, peace would come. Bringing people together is just one part of why Jesus came.

Our concept of peace is far too small – that is, compared to the Biblical picture. The Biblical concept comes from the Hebrew idea of Shalom. Shalom doesn’t just refer to a “peaceful, easy feeling.” It’s even more than the absence of conflict. It’s the hope of everything messed up in the Fall of Man in the Garden of Eden being made right. Shalom is complete wholeness. Wholeness in heaven and on earth. All things in complete unity. That was the Father’s plan – that everything would be united in Him one day. That there would be perfect Shalom. That’s why He sent His Son – to bring all of that about. He would bring peace. He is Peace. Jesus is its very source. That’s what Jesus has done. He’s brought Shalom. (KEVIN LARSON)

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The Significance of Pentecost/The Significance of the Holy Spirit Today

On the Day of Pentecost, the rushing mighty wind and the cloven tongues as of fire especially emphasized, not the filling with the Spirit, but the baptizing into the unity of the Body, the inauguration of the Church. That is why you have the special phenomena. The cloven tongues of fire were never repeated. The walls were shaken on another occasion, but this particular sound, this noise, the gathering together of the special phenomena places a uniqueness upon the event of the Day of Pentecost that has never been repeated. The filling with the Spirit is something that can be, and often is, repeated, but that is not the vital thing that happened at Pentecost. What is emphasized at Pentecost is that the Church became Christ’s Body, and the Spirit was given to fill the Body. (MARTYN LLOYD-JONES)

THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT TODAY

Pentecost is a really important day because the Holy Spirit is the Person of the Trinity most necessary for Christians to understand in these postmodern times.

For our times, the Holy Spirit is central. So, we’ve got to take every opportunity to help people understand who the Holy Spirit is, and why the Holy Spirit matters!

1. We need to let people inside and outside the Church see the authenticity of our faith. We need to live and talk as if God’s presence in our lives matters. And the Holy Spirit is God’s presence with us.

2. We need wisdom and guidance for ministry and mission. In the face of an increasingly secular culture and enormous social and political problems, we need to serve and love and minister in focused and effective ways. Only God, through the Holy Spirit, can guide us into the best ways to do that.

3. We need power. Problems are so complex and multifaceted, and it’s so easy to get overwhelmed and discouraged. We need power from beyond ourselves to address challenges, and that power comes to us through the Holy Spirit.

4. We need love. With people so polarized, with an influx of people from all around the world and with racial tensions escalating, love is more necessary than ever. Jesus’ love, poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, is essential.

The list could go on. I wonder what you would add to it. A dozen years ago, I was thinking mostly about authenticity and power. I see the world now as even more complex than it was then, with even greater needs. Therefore, God’s empowering presence, made possible by Jesus’ life, death and resurrection and the sending of the Holy Spirit, is more necessary than ever. (LYNNE BAAB)

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Be Strong And Courageous… For The Lord Is With You… Joshua 1:9

A child had to walk each evening past a dark, spooky house. Some adult friends tried to give him courage. One handed him a good-luck charm to ward off the ghosts. Another installed a light at a particularly dark corner near the house. A third took a more spiritual approach, saying, “It’s sinful to be afraid. Trust God and be brave!” It was good advice, but
not much help. Then one friend said with compassion, “I know what it is to be afraid. I’ll walk with you past the house.” Instantly the child’s fears were gone.

This was what God did for Joshua. Joshua faced the fearful task of leading a group of nomads against the trained armies of established kingdoms. That was enough to make even the bravest man tremble. But God did more than give Joshua a battle plan or a pep talk; He reassured him, saying, “I will be with you wherever you go.”

God does not promise He will not lead you into fearful situations. He may call you to serve Him in a land far from your friends and family. For most of us this challenge could be frightening. Or God may ask you to stand against the tide of popular opinion at your work place or at a dinner with friends. And again, your knees may knock and your voice tremble. But just like Joshua, you can do it because God also has given you the solution for your fears: He has given you Himself.

In Christ you have strength for every weakness and the courage for every fear. The psalmist said, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death [literally, the valley of dark shadows], I will fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.” (Psalm 23:4). Are you facing a formidable task, or a situation that is giving you sleepless nights? Trust God’s presence to dispel your fears and give you renewed strength and courage.

Courage is spelled C-H-R-I-S-T. (DR WOODROW KROLL)

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The Story Of The Road To Emmaus

The Emmaus story (Luke 24:13-35) is meant to remind us that Jesus meets us wherever we are on our own journeys of faith, and that God through Christ also meets us in the simplest aspects of life such as in nature, through other people, in the inspired Word of God, and even in the sharing of a meal and in the breaking of bread.

God often meets us in the most common places of our lives; revealing God’s self to us in simple and ordinary ways. The Rev Dr. Carlos Wilton calls this phenomenon “The Lord of the Commonplace.” He said, “Why do Cleopas and his friend fail to see the risen Lord? They fail to see because they are looking for the wrong Lord. If the rumors of resurrection are true, they reason, Jesus will surely come in with a company of angels, Prince Regent of the new kingdom of God. The last thing Cleopas and his friend expect to see is a Lord who overtakes them on the road, walking briskly. They are not prepared for a Lord of the Commonplace.”

I wonder if perhaps we too sometimes fall into that same category of blindness and sometimes look for the risen Lord in all the wrong places? I do believe that God is in the minutiae (trivial and minor details) of my life and while sometimes I’d rather not believe that God knows every little thing about my messy little life, I’m usually grateful that God does know all about me. When we remember that God came into the world as a commoner Himself – to get to know what the human condition was all about – why wouldn’t God be able to get into the minutiae of our lives and help us to detangle all the messes we seem to get ourselves into? Most of the time, I’m grateful that the resurrected Christ is there for me when I fall, by extending His hand out to me and helping me back up when I’ve fallen down on my own personal road to Emmaus. Yes, I’m usually grateful, but in those moments when God feels so close that it’s almost uncomfortable, God through Christ also vanishes from my sight, probably realizing that my brain could short circuit if God stuck around for too much longer.

In his book, Bread for the Journey, Henri Nouwen spoke about why Jesus vanishes from our sight. He said, “When the two disciples recognized Jesus as He broke the bread for them in their house in Emmaus, He vanished from their sight. The recognition and the disappearance of Jesus are one and the same event. Why? Because the disciples recognized that their Lord Jesus, the Christ, now lives in them…that they have become Christ-bearers. Therefore, Jesus no longer sits across the table from them as the Stranger, the Guest, the Friend with whom they can speak and from whom they can receive good counsel. He has become one with them and He has given them His own Spirit of Love. Their companion on the journey has become the companion of their souls. They are alive, yet it is no longer them, but Christ living in them.”

Christ is alive, everyone. And He lives in you and in me. And we are invited to share that Good News with others. (REV. PAUL HABERSANG)

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The Heart Of Tradition

When you hear the word “tradition” what comes to mind? For some it reminds them of family activities or customs around holidays or special events. These can be very meaningful and positive experiences that people look forward to. For others tradition reminds them of boring rituals or meaningless routines that were not very meaningful or positive and that they don’t look forward to and would prefer to do without. We are all probably familiar with both kinds of tradition – positive ones and negative ones – and when we look at the Scriptures we find this same distinction as well.

Jesus speaks to this issue of “tradition” and its use or its practice numerous times in the Gospels. In Mark chapter 7, as Jesus confronts the Pharisees and religious leaders of the day about their man-made traditions, and the danger that this type of tradition can pose to our faith. Jesus’ is not against the practice of tradition, but He clearly condemns placing tradition above the commands of God. Jesus reminds us that what is most important to God is not the outward acts of religion, but the inward state of our heart. Tradition can be a blessing or a curse; it can be a stumbling block or an aid to our worship and obedience to God.

We must rely on God and His Word, not the religious traditions of man. As Christians we are not to be “anti-tradition” any more than we are to blindly follow traditions without evaluating their purpose and meaning in the light of God’s Word.

Tradition that reminds us of God’s truth and points us to Biblical principles is to be embraced; but tradition that is simply man-made and goes beyond or against the principles of Scripture should be rejected. One writer said, “Tradition is the living faith of those now dead. Traditionalism is the dead faith of those still living.”

The point is that we should not just go through the motions of religious worship or service apart from a heart committed to God. Living faith comes from a heart of humility and dependence upon Jesus Christ. As Christians we need to be careful that we say and do is not just for the sake of appearance or obligation, but that it proceeds from a heart of faith and love for God through Jesus Christ. Jesus teaches us in Mark chapter 7 that our greatest priority is to examine what’s inside our hearts, so that our outward religious actions – our worship, our prayers, our service and our obedience – will match our inward spiritual reality: a heart committed to God and to His Word through faith in Christ. (PASTOR DENNIS BONE)

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