Jul28ThuJuly 28, 2016
This year the Western Family Camp of the Church of God was held at Deer Valley Meadows in Alix, AB from July 12-17. The keynote speaker was Rev. Jim Lyon, who is the General Director for Church of God Ministries in US and Canada. What a privilege to welcome Jim and to experience his teaching as he explored the theme of “Out of the Box.” The theme allowed him to explore a number of areas of what it means to follow Jesus that often require stretching in order to accommodate healthy spiritual growth.
As a pastor, I don’t often get to listen to sermons and participate in worship services without having some form of involvement. It was a refreshing break to be able to participate primarily as a worshipper, as a disciple coming to hear from the Lord. Jim taught in morning and evening sessions, exploring Luke 8 and some chapters in Acts, illustrating some of the ways that Jesus and then the early church were challenging the status quo and ministering in ways that were new and unfamiliar to them. Jim illustrated his points with stories of his own ministry experiences that have stretched him to conform in greater ways to God’s heart, shape and pace.
I found myself relating to some of Jim’s stories as he shared about some awkward or uncomfortable things that he felt God was prompting him to do. It was good to hear about how “Jesus is the Subject” is not just a catchy slogan developed for a fresh vision in the Church of God, but that the Lord had continually given Jim that phrase as the General Director’s job offer was being considered. The Church of God movement has too often focused on itself, and self-propagation, rather than focusing on the need for Jesus to be our number-one pursuit. This flaw has been in our DNA since the beginning as we originally called people to come out of their denominations to try and be the “true” church, the Church of God. That was one of the boxes we were called to climb out of… in order to recognize that the kingdom of God is broader than our movement and that we are uniquely positioned to be genuine promoters of Christian Unity. With Jesus as the subject, we can begin to align our priorities more accurately with God’s priorities.
Through that week I was reminded that God is always at work and that there is an enemy of God’s kingdom who does not want people to find freedom in Jesus Christ. Reminded that as Ephesians 6:12 puts it, “Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” [NIV] Jesus’ kingdom of light is calling its citizens to actively push back the kingdom of darkness. The front lines of this battle are more likely to see spiritual manifestations, which Jim illustrated from some of his travels to far-off lands.
It is the Spirit of God that is at work in this battle, both within and without us. The evil one would love to scare us into staying within our little boxes, prioritizing comfort and security over the call to shine. The follower of Jesus has God’s Sprit living within empowering him or her to capitalize on the opportunities that God opens our eyes to see. Our God is still powerful to move in miraculous ways; to bring healing, set free from addiction, provide for needs and do whatever else God sees fit to do. One reality check was that rejection was part of what Jesus experienced, and therefore part of what we will experience. However, rejection is not the end, but an open door to a new opportunity. Rejection in one area often leads to reception in another.
Jesus never forced himself on others. Luke 10 illustrates his philosophy in how he sent out the 72 to preach the kingdom. If you find people of peace who welcome you, stay and tell them the good news. If you find people who reject you, shake the dust off your feet and leave them. Then in Luke 10:16 Jesus says, “Whoever listens to you listens to me; whoever rejects you rejects me; but whoever rejects me rejects him who sent me.” None of us likes rejection, but if we are prepared for it, knowing that Jesus himself was rejected, we can be assured that we are not experiencing anything our Lord did not experience first.
Our call is to be salt and light. We were designed to be salty and bright. Those traits are in the Christian’s DNA. If those are not characteristic of us we have either done something to diminish the light, or never really been taught that shining is part of the call in the first place. We are called to be fishers of men (& women), which requires casting numerous times in various places. Sometimes we get a bite and the line breaks. Sometimes the bait gets eaten as a free meal. Sometimes the line snaps. But other times, with great patience and recurring efforts, we catch something… someone. Someone hears the good news about Jesus Christ and is captured by a new affection for their creator as they discover that they have been loved all along. That’s when the discovery process begins to reveal that God has been seeking them out and already has a call for them to pursue as they fulfill the purpose they were meant for with the gifts God has bestowed upon them.
May you find encouragement today in the reminder that the Kingdom of Heaven is near. Jesus is already the King and we can live in that reality, with God’s power today. May you continue to discover your place in the body of Christ as you ask God to reveal it to you so that you may find fulfillment and courage as a follower of Jesus in this adventure called life.