In his final attempt to divert Jesus from his mission Satan took Jesus to a mountain top and revealed the kingdoms of this world in all their glory. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me” (Matt 4:8-10).
Satan was offering political and cultural power without the cross. Jesus can have everything he’s come for, without the horror of a shameful death for the sins of the world. The devil was offering him a way out. A painless road to victory.
Jesus answered, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’
What did Jesus choose instead? To worship the Lord his God, and serve him only. This worship goes beyond the singing of praises. This is the worship of a surrendered life. The worship of a Servant humbling himself and becoming obedient unto death. Even death on a cross.
Our enemy continues to divert God’s people from their mission with the offer of a kingdom without the cross. A mission without the gospel. Heaven on earth without repentance and faith in the crucified One.
But there is no kingdom without the King. No salvation without the Savior.
Jesus’ commission to his disciples was clear. This message of repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations (Luke 24:47). The core missionary task is to make disciples of the nations by going and baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything Jesus commanded (Matthew 28:18-20).
Through Christ we receive the power of the Holy Spirit to be his witnesses to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8). Wherever the Word goes in the power of the Spirit, the fruit of our mission is disciples and churches (Acts 6:7; 9:31; 12:24; 16:5; 19:20).
That’s the core missionary task. Don’t be distracted.
If there is a hell on earth it would be an El Salvardorian prison. Two reports of what God is doing through multiplying movements among the gang controlled prisons of El Salvador.
Sirens blare and helicopters roar as the sun rises over the hills of San Salvador. It’s 10.30am on February 2nd, and nine police officers have just been ambushed. They got a call an hour ago about a stash house where members of the Barrio 18 gang were hiding guns. When they showed up, the gangsters blitzed them with bullets. One officer is dead. Five are in the hospital. Two corpses, identifiable as gang members by the tattoos that cover their bodies, lie sprawled on the ground.
Less than three miles away, in a neighbourhood controlled by the same gang, another group of tattooed men prepare for action in a dark hallway. Loud music, clanging metal and frenzied chatter bounce off the walls. Dressing carefully, the men watch the clock. At 2pm, they nod to each other, gather their supplies and open the heavy metal door.
Light streams in and the smell of fresh bread wafts out. The men break into pairs, hoisting cloth-covered plastic crates onto their shoulders, and head off in different directions. “Sweet bread! Garlic bread! Bread with ham! Pizza!” they shout. When the crates are empty and their pockets full of coins, the men return to the constricted quarters in the back of the Eben-Ezer church where they run the small bakery.
Over the past year, the church has become a refuge for recently released prisoners who are trying to leave the Barrio 18 gang and pledge themselves to God.
Notice the type of Christianity that is spreading in the darkest places. This movement is characterized by obedience to the living Word, dependence on the Holy Spirit and faithfulness to the Mission of multiplying disciples and churches. Exactly what we would expect.
The Holy Spirit comes on Jesus when he is in the passive state of submitting himself to God’s will in baptism and while he is praying.
The effects of the Spirit in the life of Jesus are evident in what follows: the power to resist the wiles of Satan, the power to recall and apply Scripture, the power to see God’s plan and purposes and to proclaim the Word boldly, the power to withstand hostility, and the power to minister to and heal the oppressed. The Spirit in the lives of believers can do the same things.
We'll miss him dearly.
In the early hours of this morning this WONDERFUL man of God and hubby of nearly 33 years passed away quietly and peacefully. He made me promise not to say 'he lost the battle with cancer' (because you can't 'battle' cancer) but I will say this: That cancer raging in his body for nearly 2 1/2 years did not stop him from serving God and doing incredible ministry, going on some amazing trips having great adventures and staying true to his positive, faith-filled,visionary, missional, proactive, wickedly humorous, caring and loving self, being the most wonderful husband any woman has ever had! I will miss him so terribly much, but I know I will see him again in heaven, Thank you, Jesus!
An interview with Phil and Monika Clark about their pioneering work in New Zealand and how they faced Phil's cancer together with faith and courage.
I should be working on a book, not blogging. But listening to a podcast this morning I was struck by this fact.
Q. What is the most racially diverse and integrated denomination in the United States?
A. The Assemblies of God.
We're not just talking about a denomination having separate Latino, African-American and white churches. We're talking about the individual churches themselves being diverse. People sitting in the pews together. A diversity of leaders on the same team.
Here's the surprising thing, the least racially diverse churches are the politically correct old mainline — Episcopalians, and United Methodists.
Then I made a connection.
I'm working on a book and revisiting the explosive growth of the Methodists on the American frontier. African Americans flooded to join the Methodist movement and helped shape its character.
The Methodist on the frontier were not like the Methodists of today. They were wild. They expected to experience God in powerful ways. And they did.
Here's an example:
I went on to church, and the brothers and sisters prayed around me. Then, like a flash, the power of God struck me. It seemed like something struck me in the top of my head and then went on our through the toes of my feet. I jumped, or rather, fell back against the back of the seat. l lay on the floor of the church. A voice said to me, "You are no longer a sinner. Go and tell the world what I have done for you."
An ex-slave, from God Struck Me Dead.
Eventually the Methodists settled down. But Pentecostalism was their grandchild via the Holiness movement. Long story.
So let's drop in on the birth of Pentecostalism, and of the Assemblies of God. We're in an old deserted Methodist church building which has been used as a stable. There's a black man down the front with his head in the packing crate used for a pulpit. William Seymour (above) is the son of former slaves and he's crying out to God for the power of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit comes in power, the wild scenes look very much like those Methodist camp meetings on the frontier.
The most shocking thing was that the meetings were racially diverse and a black man, blind in one eye, is leading. That's the founding identity of Pentecostalism and the Assemblies of God.
Out of Azusa Street, Pentecostalism quickly became the most expansive missionary movement of all time. There are over half a billion people in charismatic, Pentecostal and related movements globally, and they are young.
There seems to be something about power encounters with the Holy Spirit that remake people's identity. Especially those who are excluded or marginalized in society. If you have encountered God directly and powerfully it changes you. You may be a janitor and the son of former slaves, but God can use you to launch a missionary movement. If you have the Spirit, you have equality and dignity regardless of what others may think, That man next to you has the Spirit, he's a different color, but he's your brother.
Let's go to Columbia where Elizabeth Brusco studied the impact of a Pentecostal conversion on family life. She found conversion transforms the life of the family as men stopped gambling, drinking, committing adultery and taking an interest in the family. These men were now least likely to commit domestic violence.
What's this got to do with racism? I think there's a reason why the early Methodists, the Pentecostals, and the Assemblies of God lead the way in creating communities that are racially integrated.
It's their commitment to the gospel and their experience of the Holy Spirit. Domestic peace and racially reconciliation are the by-products.