Thursday, September 30, 2010

LEADING OTHERS TO GROW LARGER

Some lead according to their stature and height.  They build a ceiling on vision just above their own head.  As long as other leaders and followers are shorter in stature, they can live comfortably in the containment of the leader’s vision.

The Pharisees led people with a clearly defined ceiling on God’s House.  If they stretched up on tippy toe, they could touch the ceiling.  They felt taller than others and thought they were authorized to define maximum growth potential.

In a small aquarium fish will only grow to a size suitable to their environment.  The same fish in the wild can grow several times larger.

Indoor plants will only grow to the maximum potential of the soil pot they are planted in.  They can grow several times larger when they have more resources.

On the birch tree in my front yard, there were two posts in the ground alongside the slender trunk of the young tree.  The tree had the advantage of stabilizers while it grew to maturity.

Your role in leading leaders is to come alongside and join to them to provide stability so they can grow straight and tall. 

It’s not your job to put a ceiling on how big they can grow, unless you want to keep them small like goldfish in a bowl.



Advice from Ross Perot about how to treat your people:
"Never ask anyone to do what you haven't done before and wouldn't do again. That's a pretty fundamental rule in leadership...treat them like you treat yourself. Things you don't like, they don't like. You don't like to be jerked around, they don't either. You don't like to be talked down to, and they don't either. You would rather work with somebody than for somebody. So would they. You hate people who pound on your head after you gave everything you had and failed...It's that simple."
Bits & Pieces, August, 20, 1992, p. 3.




Tuesday, September 28, 2010

WILD FRONTIER LEADERSHIP


How do you know if you are a leader or not?  The old adage is ‘look behind you.  If anyone is following, then you are a leader.’

The implication is that leadership attracts others to follow.

The best ministries are birthed by risk-takers and staffed by strugglers.



Leaders with small dreams can usually do what is required single-handedly and only require followers.

If you are a leader with a big dream, you inevitably reach the conclusion that you need help and cannot do everything yourself. 

Consider the difference between a man who decides to make a path through the woods behind his house and a new world explorer who intends to establish a new civilization.  One goal can be accomplished alone; the other requires teamwork.



A leader is a person with a magnet in his heart and a compass in his head.
Robert Townsend



When God created humanity, His plan was that we would explore the world, take responsibility and create.  In His goal of redemption, He speaks to people about sharing in His desire to reconcile all things to Himself.

Jesus talked about the Kingdom being a great banquet that needed guests to be brought to.  The search through streets, alleys and hedges was to find those who appeared to be most in need of a good meal and hospitality. 

The world is a wild frontier of humanity waiting to be found, reconciled and settled for God’s glory.  What do God’s wild frontier leaders look like?


Sunday, September 26, 2010

JESUS IS THE ONLY WAY TO GROW




While we may work hard to pull weeds and organize our lives into neat, little rows—we cannot create the life of God in us.  The only way this good garden grows is learning to trust the Master Gardener with our precious dirt.

The life of God is found in God.  Jesus talked about the importance of staying intimately connected to Himself.

John 15:
 1"I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. 3You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.

This is our bottom line.  We cannot grow a zucchini’s worth of godliness without remaining fixed to Jesus.  How difficult is this for us?

As our own Steve Green once told us in a sermon, we do not struggle to hang on to God—we rest in the fact that He is holding on to us.  That is what it means to remain in Him. 

As a branch, I trust the life that comes from the central vine and stay connected.  I grew because of the life in Jesus—He did not grow out of me.

Friday, September 24, 2010

GARDENING GOD'S WAY

A good gardener or orchard worker learns the ways and seasons of life.  They learn how to protect and promote health so that life can have its way.  The gardener chooses what should live and what should die.  The truth is that you cannot produce life, but God can.   

Galatians 5:
 22-23 But what happens when we live God's way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely.

God has given us an incredible gift called ‘free will’.  Every day we can choose what will live and what needs to be dying.  When selfishness is allowed to grow, it depletes our desire to choose life.  When we surrender to God, it is His will that good things grow.

Some people are waiting for God to remove their free will and transform them into automatic robots of righteousness.  To believe this way, is to insult God.  He has given us free will to walk with Him.  We must choose that part of it.  Even Jesus had a free will and had to battle through life to do the right thing.  Jesus was not a robotic do-gooder without a choice. 

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

AN UNTENDED GARDEN

Paul taught the Christians in Galatia how to tend the garden of their spirit.  Like the Galatians, we have both good and bad things trying to grow in us.  Some things are desirable to grow while other things are weeds that need to be removed.
 
As new followers of Jesus, the Galatians began to live a new life with God’s Spirit in them.  But other voices around them were trying to tell them how the garden of their spiritual life should be tended.  The old influences reasoned that men should be circumcised like the Jews and they should try to regulate their lives with Old Testament law. 

The reason God gave the Law to His people was to identify their motivations and point out the behaviour He was looking to grow in us.  The Law clearly proved that we are naturally selfish and compulsively do harmful things.  The Law was a gardener’s handbook identifying the weeds that needed removal.  The Old Testament showed the need, but did not provide the power to solve the problem.  Jesus would provide the seed we needed to plant to grow something better.

Two different things are growing inside you.  One is the selfish, compulsive nature and the second is the nature of Jesus.  The selfish nature is comparable to weeds that have no problem taking over your garden.  All you have to do to have a field of weeds is let them grow.  They will overtake the ground and crowd out the good plants. 

Paul says that there is within each of us a war between the sinful, weed-like nature and the godly fruit-bearing nature.  The destructive weeds will be allowed to grow or the productive fruit-bearing plant will be tended.  You cannot pull weeds one day and pull out the fruit-bearing plants the next.  A good gardener determines what they want to grow in their garden.

If we choose to submit to God’s plan for us, we are choosing to let good things grow in us.  The only reason to ever pull up weeds is a pre-determination to grow something better.  What do you want your life to be about?  If you choose to be led by God, you choose to do battle against the sinful, selfish nature within.
  
There is something so insidious about a person who is selfishly motivated.  No matter how beautiful the flower, the weed is an enemy to growing something better.  It’s easier to let things grow wild, but there is nothing that will nourish and sustain you.   Paul described what a self-centred life looks like.

Galatians 5:
19-21 It is obvious what kind of life develops out of trying to get your own way all the time: repetitive, loveless, cheap sex; a stinking accumulation of mental and emotional garbage; frenzied and joyless grabs for happiness; trinket gods; magic-show religion; paranoid loneliness; cutthroat competition; all-consuming-yet-never-satisfied wants; a brutal temper; an impotence to love or be loved; divided homes and divided lives; small-minded and lopsided pursuits; the vicious habit of depersonalizing everyone into a rival; uncontrolled and uncontrollable addictions; ugly parodies of community. I could go on.
   This isn't the first time I have warned you, you know. If you use your freedom this way, you will not inherit God's kingdom.

Relationships are insurmountable challenges to the self-absorbed.  No-one can satisfy or bring completion to their chaos.  And the darkness spreads like crabgrass.  If we do not choose to make room for godliness in our lives, the darkness will take over the whole yard.  The untended land needs preparation to turn into a thriving garden of good things. 

No-one is beyond redemption.  The hardest, vilest person who surrenders to God is implanted with the seeds of His good character.  It’s waiting to grow.

Monday, September 20, 2010

URBAN GARDENING

This year, New Song Church received permission from the city to farm a vacant lot across the street.  Our goal is to recruit teams of people to turn barren land into a luscious garden that will put fresh produce back into the community.  

It’s a good thing that my trustworthy friend Steve Green is overseeing the project.  He’s very passionate about gardening.  See his blog at http://stevesurbangarden.blogspot.com/ and website at http://wecsa.org/ .

One of the challenges to a garden in our neighbourhood may be soil contamination.  Just one block from the old Ford foundry, we are getting the soil tested to see if it contains arsenic or heavy metals from years of air pollution or from previous uses of this land.  If it is contaminated, we will need to use raised beds with imported dirt.

Although I’ve never paid much attention to gardening, I do have a basic understanding of how it works. 

When I was in Grade 3, I took a watermelon seed into the tiny backyard behind our row-house in Cambridge.  Close to the back wall of the house, I dug into the dirt and deposited one watermelon seed.  I covered it back up and went on to other things.  A week later, a green, curly stem with a leaf or two had sprouted.  I began to salivate as I thought about the delicious watermelon I would eat someday soon.

Unfortunately, I did not tell my dad what I was doing and the sprout was mowed down on the next grass-cutting day.

To be a good gardener takes a plan and some effort.  But no gardener alive has ever produced the life in the seed.  The life came embedded in the seed.  The gardener’s job is to facilitate a healthy, protective environment for the seed to do its work. 

A gardener will take action against other life forms that threaten the life of the desired plant.  It seems that birds, animals, insects and weeds all want to consume the plant and its fruit before it can reach its full potential.  An orchard keeper works at pruning a fruit tree to enable a greater harvest of fruit.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

SHEMA IN THE HOUSE

The Scriptures have much to say about relationships within a family.  In Judaism, the Shema is a prayer from Deuteronomy that became a tradition for morning and evening prayer times.




Deuteronomy 6:
4 Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. 5 Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6 These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8 Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 9 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.

From the recognition of God’s Oneness comes a call to unify all of our lives around loving God.

From the earliest age, we are to raise our children to love God wholeheartedly.  The Shema says to impress God’s commandments upon our children.  What does it mean to impress them? 

When we think about impressing someone, we present ourselves in a good light and try to win their favor.  The meaning of this is deeper, though.  To impress truth on someone requires a dedication to live the truth yourself.

We do not ‘do devotions’ with our children, but become devotional people who include the ways of God in everything we do.  When children are small, they will ask lots of questions.  Maintain an openness to their questioning.  Too many children learn to shut out conversation with their parents because of the fear of being shot down and criticized.  Or they lie and cover up because they don’t want to hurt their parents feelings.

If you learn to include God all through the day and night, that openness to God may open your children to you.

I have known people who cannot communicate well with their children, so they put bible verses on post-it notes to ‘bring God into the house’.  That doesn’t work so well.  How can they hear the word of God if they feel that you are their greatest critic and judge?

As we live in the love of God, we communicate love to our family.

The act of child dedication is not a ‘one-off’ religious observance.  The act of dedication is a commitment to communicate love and truth to your child from this moment on.  When you get your child up and when you put them to bed…  When you are at the table and when you are in the car…  training your family to have God thoughts in their head and part of their household life… this is the essence of a Christian home.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

FUNERALS ARE THE BIRTHDAY OF ORPHANS

One of the more emotional parts of my job as a pastor is conducting funerals.  New Song Church has connections to many people who live close to the edge.  I bury more young, than I do old people.  Overdose, suicide and tragic circumstances are often part of the funerals I am called to.

One funeral was a particularly, tough day.  It was Andrea’s[i] funeral.  She was a young single mother who died accidentally from a drug overdose.  She lived close to the church and I often saw her and seven year old daughter Amber going to the store or coming to our church suppers on Friday night.

In the crowded funeral parlor, I stood in front of the open casket to conduct the service.  Behind me lay Andrea’s still body.  Six feet in front and to the left of me sat Amber next to a Children’s Aid worker.  As I looked into seven-year-old eyes, I broke and wept.  In that moment I saw clearly and touched the edge of what an orphan is.  An orphan cannot go back and find comfort from the same source.  The future is uncertain and accompanied by deep sadness.  The only hope for orphans is found in discovering new family and learning to love again.

On that day I felt a piercing of my armor.  I could not maintain calm professionalism and a stiff, upper lip.  My lips quivered and my voice cracked with gentle tears as I brought direction to the service.

The title of my blog is ‘The Orphan Age – Loners Learning About Community’.  Adoption is a metaphor of the Kingdom of God.  We are lonely orphans invited into the family community of God.  Like a child adopted at an older age, we are in process unlearning dysfunctional origins in favor of new family values.

Even if you grew up in the faith (like I did), there are hand-me-down values that need to be refreshed and refitted to each generation.  There are many loners in God’s family. 

People hurt each other and drift apart.  The worst experiences of life set us back and we grow insecure.  We may not be orphans, but we become estranged.  Jesus invites us to follow closely and rediscover the family He is creating.


[i] Names changed for anonymity

Monday, September 13, 2010

BOOK REVIEW: OUTLIVE YOUR LIFE

On the third day... KAMBOOM!  Something exploded in the first century.  The shock waves devastated the kingdoms of this world and flattened the walls that separated people from God;  walls that separated people from people.

Max Lucado has written an account of the first 12 chapters of the Acts of the Apostles mixed with personal stories that demonstrate that the ripple effect of Pentecost is still echoing from that initial blast.

Can the dynamics of the first century church be experienced again?  Max is hopeful.  He has a revolutionary heart fused to the resurrected Christ.  His fuse is lit.

This is a call to 21st century Christians asking us to pray and dream and live a life that will leave enduring marks for the Kingdom of God.

Christianity Today Magazine called him 'America's Pastor'.  Max Lucado has published more than 60 adult and children's titles in a span of 25 years.  To commemorate that anniversary, he has written this book with all royalties going to sponsor children through World Vision. His goal is to raise sponsorship for 25,000 children through the book and his speaking tour.

By some fluke, this is the first Max Lucado book that I have read.  (What kind of pastor am I?).  As a first time reader I was impressed with his clear and colorful writing style.  The words and storyline flowed seamlessly from topic to topic.  It felt like a brilliant day in church when the pastor's message was just what you needed to make a significant change.

My 17 year old son Jesse is at a unique stage of exploring theology and apologetics.  Now that I've read it, I'm passing it along.

Go buy this one.  Help support children around the world while you're at it.

_________________________________________

Available from www.thomasnelson.com or www.maxlucado.com

Thanks to Graf-Martin Communications for the review copy.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

CALLING ANXIOUS ORPHANS

As a young boy, I remember awaking in the night feeling alone and afraid.  The darkness was oppressive and I was gripped by my feelings.  I made my way through the dark to the familiarity of my parents’ door.  I crawled in bed next to their sleeping forms.  In that place, I was warm and secure.  My fears subsided and I knew everything was going to be okay.  It was a place of faith, knowing that their presence was enough.

Jesus sees the orphan child in us gripped by the darkness and fear of not being good enough, failing and being judged.  At to that fearful child he offers hope.  His presence is enough when we are surrounded with darkness and fear.

Matthew 11:
  28 "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.   29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.   30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."

He is aware of our fear and uncertainty.  He sees the burden we carry and offers to be the presence that calms our fears and lightens our load.  He says to the frightened child, “Come here.”

Jesus understands the anxious orphan and the bewildered loner.  He invites us to come closer.  Unlike others we think will take advantage of us, Jesus is gentle and humble-hearted.  He invites us into a working relationship with Him.  In the family of God, the commitment to Jesus is easy and will not overwhelm you.  Why is it that we often challenge people to take on heavy burdens and impossible demands?

Those who enter into relationship with Jesus find that His strength makes the difference.  He compensates for our weakness and we are not treated with contempt for our failures.  Jesus calls the least likely to His side.  In that familial company, we are transformed by His greatness and strength.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

THE WINNING TEAM OF THE LAST PICKED

A review of great men and women in the Bible reveals a strange selection of the ‘least likely to succeed’.  In each case, the strategic difference was a connectedness to God. 

David is the classic example.  In the house of Jesse, he was the kid brother who watched the flocks while his older brothers got the attention.  The prophet Samuel came to see if one of them would replace Saul as King of Israel.  David wasn’t even invited into consideration by his own father.  While his own family was oblivious to God’s potential in his life, God sent his servant Samuel to find him. 

When David killed the giant Goliath, his own brothers doubted his motives and sneered at the idea of him succeeding.  His family’s opinion would not change until God began to release the warrior and leader hiding in the kid brother.

David had to wait a long time before the time of his throne would come.  He had to overcome great misunderstanding and malice before realizing the fulfillment of his call.  During his days of exile and estrangement from the ruling king Saul, God used the pressures and conflicts to train David.   David built an incredible team during the difficult days.  At a time when King Saul was trying to find and kill him, David hid in a cave at Adullam (a name which means ‘refuge’).

When the powers around him wanted him dead, God had him in a place of refuge.  What is the refuge that God has hid you in, protecting you for the day of God’s released potential in your life?

1 Samuel 22:
 1 David left Gath and escaped to the cave of Adullam. When his brothers and his father's household heard about it, they went down to him there. 2 All those who were in distress or in debt or discontented gathered around him, and he became their leader. About four hundred men were with him.

This is quite a description of people that do not fit in.  They were in trouble, they owed a lot of money and they were not happy with the way things were.  If David were not following close to God, he would easily have had a rebel army to march against Saul.  Instead, David took the four hundred men and taught them what he knew about courage and warfare.  In this awkward time of David’s life, God brought people to learn from him.  God does not always wait until a better day to use you.  He uses you in times when you are still afraid and needing refuge.

From these desperate beginnings David found a team that would become ‘his mighty men of valor’.  A number of these men became infamous for their loyalty, courage and strength on the battlefield.  Several of them became part of David’s team when he became King.  They were people who would gladly lay down their lives to see David succeed.

How is it that the ones who were in trouble and estranged the most became the most valiant builders of God’s community?  It happened because an anointed leader was willing to work with them and give them a place where they belong.  David was like a father who adopted them, even before he had a suitable house to raise them in.  God still works that way adopting sons and daughters into a family, though surrounded by threat on every side.

Monday, September 6, 2010

PICKING A CHILD FOR ADOPTION

Think about the couple who go to an adoption agency to find a child to bring home.  Most often, they will have criteria for selecting the one.  Many prefer infants believing that they will be less affected by previous parenting.  Most want a child that is free of defect and full of immediate potential. 

But what God’s adoption strategy?  Jesus seems to indicate preferential treatment for the one who is overlooked. 

  • The one who has painful memories to deal with?  No problem.
  • Physical deformity or disability?  I want that one. 
  • Older and with behavioral issues?  I’ll have her. 
  • Attachment disorder?  I can work with him.

My experience as a church planter in the inner-city has been one of learning the value of people in God’s eyes.  I have seen firsthand the treasured people that others have overlooked and passed by.  The world has it all wrong.  The greatest among us is the least.  We need to re-learn that in the church.

Paul viewed it this way:



1 Corinthians 1:
26Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, 29so that no one may boast before him.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

THE WIND OF CHANGE

The disciples had seen Jesus many times in the weeks following His resurrection from the grave.  Certainly, if he could do that, they should pay attention to what He was saying.  Stay in Jerusalem and wait for the promised gift the Father would send them.

The second chapter in Acts describes what happened next.

Acts 2:
1 When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place.
2 Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting.
3 They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them.
4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.
5 Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven.
6 When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard them speaking in his own language.
7 Utterly amazed, they asked: “Are not all these men who are speaking Galileans?
8 Then how is it that each of us hears them in his own native language?
9 Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia,
10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome
11 (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs-we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!”
12 Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?”
NIV


Many Pentecostals and Charismatic Christians have paid great attention to the gift of speaking in tongues.  It was and still is miraculous when someone is empowered to speak an earthly language they have not previously learned. 

But greater than the miraculous sign is the destination it points to.  The empowerment of God’s Spirit makes a way for unlearned people to communicate God’s message across language and ethnic barriers.  This is what the presence of God’s Spirit in us will do.  We will receive the mission of Jesus to go with a message of God’s Love to people that we have previously believed we had nothing in common with.

When someone crosses the human borders to reach you with God’s message and love, it is amazing and perplexing.  It raises questions about why these people have come to care about you.  Greater than the miraculous sign of speaking in tongues is the cross-cultural, barrier transcending reversing of the effects of Babel.  Instead of separating people and increasing the differences, a true move of God’s Spirit brings reconciliation and community.

I have been and continue to be filled with God’s Spirit.  I have also spoken in tongues.  I believe that in the hundreds of world languages and thousands of dialects, these words are words of praise to God.  As the disciples were filled with the Spirit and spoke in tongues, their words were heard and meant something.

I am personally aware of real-time occasions when people speaking in tongues have said things that were recognizable to other language groups present to hear them.  Inevitably, the messages spoke of Jesus and glorified God.  I’ve been there and seen it first-hand.

Through the history of the Early Church, apostles prayed for people and they were filled with the Holy Spirit.  They began to speak in unknown languages and to prophesy in their own language.  Throughout Church History there have been pockets of believers who have experienced the same.  The Pentecostal revival of the early 1900’s has spanned the globe with more than fifty million Christians identifying their church association as Pentecostal.

But, Pentecostal has also been an adjective for people whose prayer and worship sometimes led to elitism and division.  Something as pure and holy as the infilling of God’s Spirit can lead arrogant people to build new towers of Babel.  It is possible to get filled with ourselves instead of the Holy Spirit.

The Spirit of Jesus calls us together in one place with one heart.  The disciples and followers came together with unity.  In this place of humility and commonness, the mission heart of Jesus is imparted. 

Throughout the New Testament all of history we see many examples of God’s people communicating the message of Jesus from their hometown to the most distant and culturally diverse people.

Have you been baptized with the Holy Spirit?  Has God empowered you to be His message to the world? 

This is what Jesus had in mind when he said that we would receive power after the Holy Spirit moved upon us.  We would then go into the entire world living and teaching the good news about Jesus.  We tell others about the things we have seen and heard, in ways that they will understand.  Have you been baptized in God’s Spirit?

Thursday, September 2, 2010

RESTORING THE BROKEN COMMUNITY

Whether you call it nationalism, racism, bigotry, protecting our interests, denominationalism, revelation knowledge or socio-economics, there is a root of arrogance that will cause people to breakdown communication and go in different directions.  Pride goes before a fall and it can go before a divorce.  Arrogance hardens the heart and demonizes the one outside your borders.

If we have so much trouble communicating clearly, how did the message of Jesus pass on from generation to generation and across every human barrier?

It has happened because God has placed the Spirit of Jesus, the Holy Spirit into those who have received Him.  When we humble ourselves before God and admit to our pride and brokenness, we see that Jesus is indeed the Savior that we need.  God alone is glorious and our homemade towers to Him fall flat.  Jesus is the God-built tower that He descended down to us. 

We could not engineer a real way to God.  But God made the way to come find us.  He broke through the barrier of our sin and self-sufficiency.  He broke through the walls that we erected to separate us from God and each other.

What happens to you if you receive Jesus?  His heart and mission is placed in you.  We become barrier breakers.  We become God’s communicators of love to the world. 

Acts 1:

 4 On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: "Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about.
5 For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit."
6 So when they met together, they asked him, "Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?"

The Galilean boys knew all about John’s baptism.  It was an act of cleansing and repentance that affirmed their place in the community of Israel.  Anyone that wanted to be good with God needed to be identified with His People.  At least that was the common understanding within Judaism.

Jesus begins to speak of a new baptism.  He had spoken to them more than once about what the Father had promised to give them.  They would be baptized with the Holy Spirit.

Not surprisingly, they took the reference to baptism and processed it through the nationalism they knew as Jews.  Generations had taught and looked for a Messiah that would exalt the Chosen People to their rightful place in a kingdom without the rule of other nations over them.

Jerusalem was in the crosshairs of persecution towards Jesus and the disciples.  Jesus did not want them to go somewhere safer like Galilee, but to stay in the place of pressure and misunderstanding.  In this place a miracle would take place and mark a new way of God working in His People.

We would do well to understand that God’s Spirit is imparted to us, not in the safety of retreating to familiar territory but in the challenging circumstance that God has placed us.  In this place, they would be baptized.  They would be marked and initiated into new purposes.

Their view of Jesus’ mission was limited to what God would do for them.  This baptism into the Holy Spirit would have much greater purposes than they could conceive.


Acts 1:
7 He said to them: "It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority.
8 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."

They would not know all of God’s big plans, but they needed to know the mission.  They were going to take all that they had seen and heard from Jesus and spread the message worldwide.  The message was not intended to stop within Jewish borders.  The Holy Spirit would so affect them that they would go to the despised Samaritans with the same message of the Kingdom of God.  And it would not stop there, but go as far as humans existed.

As God imparts His Spirit into believers, they become mission-filled believers.  They become missionaries first in the language and culture they know, but then it spreads.  The Spirit of God changes us to communicate to people that have nothing in common with us.

Where Babel has destroyed relationships and divided people into irreconcilable groups, God’s Spirit moves upon Jesus’ followers to bind up relationships and speak to people with whom they had no previous dialogue with.

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