The Lord our God said to us at Horeb, ‘You have stayed long enough at this mountain. Break Camp and advance into the hill country . . . go to all the neighboring peoples . . . ‘
–from Deut. 1:6-7 (NIV)
God’s people had camped with Him at the mountain where the law was given. This is also where Elijah came in a time of particular discouragement and depression. Desert mountain symbolized to early Christians a place of bondage to law and slavery (Gal. 4:24ff). At last, God would take them into the rich, green land He had promised them, the “hill country” of freedom and abundance. They would be a people, holy unto Him, a light to the peoples around them. Israel was a testimony to the One true God. They were waiting for a word from Him. They wanted guidance. They anticipated that God would answer them, but they needed to hear His command—GO—advance.
Like them, a second time in Israel’s history, God’s people waited to hear from Him. Four hundred years of silence finally broke as Messiah Jesus came into the world. At the right time, He appeared publicly to Israel and said to those who would follow Him, “Go into all the world.”(Matt. 28:18-20). This was God coming to His people to heal, deliver, forgive, restore for a reason . . . so that they could break camp and “GO.” These new followers of Messiah would be a holy people, washed clean, created to be a light on a hill, a pure people for fellowship with God and for reconciling the nations and multitudes to God.
God has been preparing a people here at New Life for the past seven years. Noteworthy that the number seven is the number of completion, the biblical number of perfection. Not that we are perfect in and of ourselves, but we have a God who is at work in our midst and He is perfecting us to be a holy people to be used of Him to minister to “all the neighboring peoples” (Titus 2:11-14).
God’s heart for us is to forget the past and move confidently ahead with Him. Some of us have been hurt or wounded in the process of becoming a people and tracking with the Lord into house-church, but now it is time to be healed and set our hearts on advancing with our Savior. For He has called us to “Follow” that He might make us fishers of men and women, boys and girls who need a Savior.
God is calling us to a deeper love, to bear with one another in love, to move on from here and to “break camp.” Now, in His Spirit and grace, He commands us to GO. Go to all the peoples in this region who need Him. Go to those who need freedom and salvation. “Forget the former things.” He is doing a NEW WORK. Do you perceive it?
We are breaking camp. We have pulled up stakes and are following our God. Don’t be left behind. He has important life-saving work for you to join Him in. But it’s in hill country of relationship, not the desert of religion.
“ . . . For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility,”
–Ephesians 2:14 NIV
With the increase of immigrants–legal and illegal–into our nation, with the spread of Neo-Nazism, vigilantism, and the rise of separatist churches, the body of Christ needs to address racism. Not that there is anything wrong with having national borders. God himself established nations and borders.
“When the Most High gave to the nations their inheritance, when he divided mankind, he fixed the borders of the peoples according to the number of the sons of God.” (Deuteronomy 32:8, ESV)
But the discerning see Satan moving–in the upswing of Neo-Nazis and skinhead racist activities and in the south in black churches where white people are not welcome and in white churches where black believers are unwelcome. We see him at work spitting in the face of a Mexican migrant in Texas. As a result, we must be thoughtful about how WE–the Family of God–will respond, when Puerto Ricans, Chinese, Mexicans, Liberians, or African-Americans begin to attend our lifegroups, worship, and Celebrations.
Have you come to realize that, as believers, we no longer are to consider Hispanic, Latino, African-American, or Caucasian blood? Instead, we see only the blood of Jesus that has reconciled our lives through His blood shed for us and has joined us to one another through salvation, symbolized as we partake together at the Lord’s Table. So that we are of one blood in the body of Christ. The wall of partition has been broken down. What a profound thought.
The text above tells us that Christ has “destroyed the barrier.” That is, the barrier in our hearts against others.
When we of many colors and backgrounds gather around the cup of the Lord, we proclaim His death for us all and “drink His blood” (symbolically). In that blood, the nations have been reconciled into ONE family, ONE nation, ONE household in Christ Jesus. You and I are no longer separated by blood. We belong to Him and to one another. Here is no room for prejudice or retribution, anger or vengeance, only thanks-giving.
Zero Toleration In the Churches
In the churches, Father-God wants to bring people from all the Nations into our midst. We must not tolerate racism or regionalism in ourselves. Your growth in spiritual life requires that you begin to see from God’s perspective (2 Cor. 5:15-16). You are not your own, you’ve been joined to a new community, a new family (Eph. 2:19-22), a family of the nations.
God wants you to see other born-again Christians as a part of your very own body (1 Cor. 12), no matter what their color or national origin. As for our enemies, we are to learn to love those who oppose us. As a matter of fact, who do you have more in common with: your white, Anglo-Saxon Protestant neighbor, who bullies his wife and kids, drinks until drunk, and shouts profanities out his window until 2am, or a born-again, Spirit-filled Iraqi or Iranian? In Christ, there is no room for racism.
Are You Connected to Him?
Let’s remember that the precious shedding of Jesus’ blood, connected you to God and to His children . . . ALL His children. Your future is a life in community, not as white or black or yellow, but as an obedient disciple and a child of a multicultural Family. Blood counts, but only the Blood of Jesus. Join me in creating a welcoming, Kingdom-fellowship, the Oikos (household) of God to the Nations (Eph.2:19).
We just sold our Celebration Center. Now our church family meets at our home. We’re a house church. Our first meeting was last Sunday. God met us and we were all full of joy. We know God is doing something new in our midst and we have set our hearts on following. But . . .
We have also changed our heartset along with our change of meeting location, we decided not to be–as one brother put it–“a church service caught by a living room.” I don’t want that. And I’m grateful that the folks in the New Life family don’t want that either. We made decisions. We are making real changes. We prefer productive over active. I’m proud of the brothers and sisters I fellowship with. They want to catch fish, not just study fishing or sing about fishing. We’ve all done that for too long. We’re not the church that has it right. We respect and honor the other churches in our region who love Jesus and people too. All we’re doing is following the Lord where He is leading ANY church that is doing that will be not only busy, but productive with the fruit of the Kingdom.
So . . . I’m sharing this important link, because I want to keep this truth before us and I want to reach out to other believers to do some serious soul-searching and then . . . TAKE ACTION!
I hear the following video challenge loud and clear.
QUESTION: Do you know a friend who needs to consider this challenge too?
From my Writing Journal:
The following is a quote from the book Seasons of the Soul: Stages of Spiritual Development, by Bruce Demarest:
“The challenge facing young Christians is to live from the heart more intentionally, more reflectively, and more prayerfully.”
Many of us Advent Christian pastors are retiring. We long to see young leaders step forward and take the baton. Unfortunately, the very values that they need to succeed, we have not modeled well.
We need to be willing to risk. Stepping outside the box is not high on the priority list for pastors who are playing it safe and preserving ineffective (and often unbiblical) expressions of church life. And truth be known, we have all done this. We need to be more deliberate about escaping busyness, spending alone time with the Lord, being Marys not Marthas, and valuing solitude and quiet.
The values and actions of the previous paragraph are counter-cultural qualities that are absolutely necessary to effective ministry as we continue to move into the 21st century. We must fear the staus quo and traditionalism more than we fear change or we will become irrelevant and our churches will continue to close. Unless we embrace what God is trying to work into the church, we will become irrelevant after all these years of ministry. I do not want to stand before the Lord and hear: “Safely done, my fearful and faithless servant.” I’d prefer the “Well done . . . ”
We still have time.
Before we older pastors pass the baton, we need to recognize and oppose our religious enculturation. Get quiet. Get alone. Be with him much. Deaccumulate, simplify, “live from the heart more intentionally, more reflectively, and more prayerfully”. Prioritize these values and disciplines, allow younger men to see us doing it, and we will leave a Kingdom legacy.