Advent: Flipping the Script

Visitation, by Domenico Ghirlandaio

Welcome to the new year. Not the calendar new year, but the church’s new year that begins with the season of Advent. This is our rhythm in which we both remember the coming of God’s Messiah so long ago, but also we longingly hope for the coming of Jesus once again to make all things new. As Robert Webber reminds us in his book Ancient-Future Time:

The church has been entrusted with the meaning of all time. The world does not know the meaning of its own history, but the church does. Through the discipline of the Christian year, the church proclaims the meaning of time and of the history of the world.

The church tells time differently and with genuine purpose. We do not need to despise our cultural calendar (nor an academic or fiscal calendar). Yet, the people of God proclaim a story through a different rhythm.

With the ushering in of Advent, I want to first turn to Mary’s song—what we call “The Magnificat.”

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Martha & Mary: Not Primarily About Quiet Times

Martha and MaryThere’s a well-known passage found in Luke’s gospel. It’s the short account of Jesus and the disciples’ visit to the town of Martha and Mary. The account is found in Luke 10:38-42:

38 As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. 39 She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. 40 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”

41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

When this text is usually taught and preached, there is one point that takes prominence: We need not get caught up in doing so many things for Jesus, but rather we are personally called to sit at his feet so that we might listen and learn from him. So let’s take time to schedule in some kind of personal devotional time of reading Scripture and prayer.

Something of that nature.

And this is not terribly off-base, knowing our call to listen to and seek the Lord. But I’m not so sure this is the primary message of this little portion found in Luke’s gospel.

Rather, here is what I think we should consider as the central point. Continue reading

Prodigal Thought Podcast – Forming a Healthy Understanding of the Holy Spirit

podcastHere is episode 5 at Prodigal Thought Podcast.

As a charismatic, I long for us to have a healthy and holistic understanding of the work of the Holy Spirit. So I take up that topic in this episode, particularly encouraging us to allow the book of Acts to teach us about the work of the Holy Spirit. In the podcast, I refer to a specific book, so I wanted to put a link to that book: The Charismatic Theology of St. Luke by Roger Stronstad.

Listen to or download the podcast episode below (16:25 in length). Continue reading

Now Is The Time: It’s the Year of Jubilee

Jesus walks into a synagogue in his own hometown, Nazareth. He gets up and the reading (whether planned or spontaneous, we are not certain) comes from Isaiah 61 (with a little inter-mingling with Isaiah 58:6). We know the passage well.

Jesus follows up with maybe the shortest sermon in the history of mankind. He simply states: ‘Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.’

Before the cross, before the resurrection, before his enthronement next to the Father’s right hand. Right then and there, Jesus, God’s anointed Messiah, tells them this is the time. Fulfilment like they weren’t expecting. Continue reading

The Gospel of the Kingdom

Recently, I had posted two articles sharing some thoughts on what I believe is the central focus of the gospel, as well as the whole biblical message, that being the kingdom of God. You can read the posts here – post 1 and post 2.

I strongly believe that the gospel is connected to the reality that Jesus reigns and that the kingdom rule of God is here to bring about redemption, restoration and reconciliation with the Father. From the good news that ‘all authority in heaven and on earth’ has been given to Christ (Matt 28:18), we can also proclaim the good news that people can be forgiven of their sin, reconciled to the Father and receive new-eternal life.

In those articles, I have spent time pointing to plenty of passages in the Gospels that centre the gospel itself in the reality of the kingdom of God. One of those is found in Luke 4:43:

But he [Jesus] said to them, “I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns as well; for I was sent for this purpose.”

If anything, I think it highly important to ground the gospel in what Jesus identified as central. And many, many times Jesus spoke of the good news as the good news of the kingdom of God (or heaven).

Now, what some might say, and I do understand this perspective, is that the good news is not so much the good news about the kingdom of God but rather the good news that comes from the kingdom of God. This good news flows out of the kingdom of God.

Therefore, for some, it would be readily recognised that God reigns, as does His Messiah, Jesus. There is an agreement that the kingdom has come in the work of Christ and now the continuing work of God’s Spirit in the world. But the good news is not a telling of the fact that God reigns and is King, but that the good news (however it might be defined) comes from the King and His kingdom.

You see the difference?

So I understand that and, lo and behold, I am even willing to work with this. But I still find myself convinced of the reality that Jesus himself proclaimed the kingdom of God itself as good news. And he expected his first followers, the 12 apostles (and I suppose us as well), to continue this same message.

I have been reading Luke’s Gospel as of late. That’s just where I am at in Scripture. I had read Matthew and Mark. Now it was on to Luke. And, if Luke 4:43 above was not interesting enough to consider, this week I read a most compelling passage in the same Gospel account.

1 And he called the twelve together and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases, 2 and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal. 3 And he said to them, “Take nothing for your journey, no staff, nor bag, nor bread, nor money; and do not have two tunics. 4 And whatever house you enter, stay there, and from there depart. 5 And wherever they do not receive you, when you leave that town shake off the dust from your feet as a testimony against them.” 6 And they departed and went through the villages, preaching the gospel and healing everywhere. (Luke 9:1-6)

You see, in vs2, we read that Jesus sent out the 12 to ‘proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal’. But, if you keep reading, in a kind of parallel fashion, we read in vs6 that, ‘they departed and went through the villages, preaching the gospel and healing everywhere’.

In vs2, Jesus tells them to proclaim the kingdom of God and heal. Then, in vs6, we are told that, in obedience to Jesus, they preached (proclaimed) the gospel and healed everywhere.

I believe this passage is very telling. There is a plain-as-day connection between the kingdom of God and the gospel.

Now, of course, one might point out that it is just one passage. Well, it is. But it is not left as a dangling, side statement all on its own. As I have looked to point out, there are plenty of passages right through the Gospels, actual recorded words of Jesus or statements surrounding the words and work of Jesus, that continue to emphasise the connection between the good news and the kingdom of God.

Again, I reiterate and clarify, I believe that when we proclaim the forgiveness of sinners, the redemption through Christ’s work on the cross, the new life that comes via the Spirit of God, we are truly proclaiming gospel, the good news. But I also strongly believe these flow from the reality that Jesus is reigning, He is King, and the kingdom of God is here to bring the just and gracious rule of God on earth as it is in heaven. Out of this foundational truth of the gospel that Jesus himself proclaimed we can be assured of the King’s plan to redeem, restore, reconcile, forgive, judge and finally make all things new.

That is gospel.