Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Right Head, Right Hands, Right Heart

Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.”
— Mark 12:30 (GNT)
The Greatest Commandment, as it is translated above, is the imperative that is to encapsulate all facets of the Christian life. The task of Christian discipleship, which is more a quest of ongoing sanctification, requires a right head (right thinking), right hands (right practice), and a right heart (the right motive).
Jesus exemplifies each of these in the case of a woman caught in adultery in John chapter 8. The ruling Jews are testing Jesus, and the Lord must determine, through the basis of Old Testament Scripture, what sort of penalty this woman deserves. The Old Testament law allows for stoning, but Jesus senses some dual iniquity in this case.
Are the religious leaders so blameless, themselves?
At this point Jesus cuts to the heart of the issues of humanity. Within his mind he is cognitively aware of the disparity between the Jews’ self-righteousness and the holiness of God. His heart sensed this, and his mind confirmed it. And his hands, with which he would practice the penalty (by throwing stones at her until she was a bloody pulp on the ground, lifeless and even dead) told him that, in this case, it was an unjust penalty.
Jesus doesn’t completely absolve her, however.
His wisdom dictates that she should, “Go, and sin no more,” so as not only to stop offending God, but, perhaps more importantly, to stay out of the Jews’ harshly punitive way.
In modelling the right head, the right hands, and the right heart, Jesus is modelling right relationship. He has brought together orthodoxy, orthopraxy, and orthopathy.
Orthodoxy is rational, orthopraxy is relevant, and orthopathy is relational.
As Christians we need to be informed in our minds, having surrendered our thoughts to be ordered by the Lord. Our lives, having been transformed by the renewing in our minds, mean that our hands are ready to do whatever is relevant. And our thinking and practice are governed and affirmed by a heart that seeks only after the Lord.
To love the Lord our God with all our mind, heart, soul, and strength requires a right head (to think right), right hands (to do what is right), and a right heart (and to be rightly motivated). This is our sole task. Living the Christian life is no harder or easier than this.
© 2014 S. J. Wickham.
Acknowledgement: this thought was inspired by Dr. Brian Harris, Principal of Vose Seminary, Perth, Western Australia.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

For the Glory of the Kingdom of God

The thrust of the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20) is bigger than just our local fellowship – our Jerusalem:
But when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, you will be filled with power, and you will be witnesses for me in Jerusalem, in all of Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
— Acts 1:8 (GNT bold added)
Jesus, himself, mandated that we go beyond our local town or city, into the country, beyond our country, into all the world. Not that Jesus is calling everyone to ‘go’, but he is calling us all to be involved – to pray, to support, or to go.
Imagine the vastness of the resources that are pooled together, as the early church did in Acts 2:45; possessions were distributed as any and all had need. Imagine those resources harnessed and mobilised.
The autonomy of the local church is a good thing so long as that local body doesn’t become inwardly focused. That would be the antithesis of evangelicalism. Yet, this is exactly today’s threat.
The danger in the I-generation era is that local autonomy might be confused for the right to retain resources against the will of the Spirit of God. The rich church might get richer and the poor church, poorer. And there is good evidence that the richer a church gets, the less they notice the needs of the poorer church. They become less involved in the social action God calls the church to. The richer church becomes less ‘church’ the richer it gets; it actually gets more organised and secular.
It’s not just about your church; it’s about the church!
We must not stop at Jerusalem!
We must become sensitive to the will of the Holy Spirit in empowering those churches less able to advance the gospel.
It’s important that the church, globally, be fluid, flexible, and agile in an ever-changing world, ready for Christ’s return. We need to be a more thoughtful organisation, characterised by the hallmark virtue of unconditional love.
We need to have the imperatives for social action before our eyes to motivate us.
We need to champion the cause of the battling and the persecuted.
With too much autonomy a church becomes less accountable and too individualistic.
The church exists as a beacon for the glory of the Kingdom of God.
Social action, the agenda of love, and the propagation of the gospel message, all depend on working together efforts of the global church. We must become more focused on what brings us together in our humanity. We must become less focused on our differences.
© 2014 S. J. Wickham.
NOTE: this article was written to be used in a Baptist Distinctives debate.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Why Every Church Needs An Intercession Ministry

I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them.”
— 1 Timothy 2:1 (NLT)
Many churches nowadays fail dismally in prayer, because we tend to just go through the motions – a very human thing to do. A Spirit-less church is a common phenomenon wherever we make the prayer ministry not important enough.
Everything in the spiritual realm is underpinned by prayer – by our intercession on behalf of the saints. When we say, “All I can do is pray,” we are severely undermining what is eternally powerful.
The real church of Jesus Christ is a praying church; a church committed to interceding for the saints. It is also committed to freeing up resources and control so the Holy Spirit might flow. The leaders of such a church are quick to encourage and empower people who are already praying and trying to sense God’s Spirit in things.
Intercession is much bigger and deeper than simply praying for others off in the distance. It’s a prophetic ministry. It’s being woken up in the middle of the night and having to pray for a particular situation, person, or in a certain way.
And that prophetic ear also has to have a voice – not that all prophesy has to be acted on. But it needs to be listened to. A pastor needs to have prophetic voices sharing God’s words with him or her. There needs to be a constant desiring of God.
We have been powerfully touched in our own lives, my wife and I, through prophetic intercession. Beyond a shadow of a doubt these experiences where believers are touched miraculously by the hand of God are transformational in their faith life.
In a day when the spiritual barometer of churches and Christians can be said to be cooling, the potential to heat things up is an eternal possibility. Churches, Christians, and the world are missing out.
We need to be passionately spiritual. We are spiritual beings connecting with a Spiritual Being; our Creator. We cannot be in God and in the world at one and the same time.
It is good for a pastor and a church leadership to trust God for the provision of spiritual persons with gifts of intercession and prophecy.
Churches need to hear from God and those with intercessory gifts can be vital voices for pastors and church leaders to consider.
Prayer is grossly underrated in its power. Intercessory prayer and hearing God’s voice are crucial components empowering God’s church. Prayer makes a people of power under God.
© 2014 S. J. Wickham.