I am currently attending the Annual Meeting for the Evangelical Covenant Church. Last night was the big kick off for the 132nd annual meeting, which is appropriately called Gather. We started with some amazing worship. The worship team led us in song and prayer before and after dinner. Then 3 people read the Scripture, Acts 1:1-11, in 3 different languages. That was super cool. Then, Al Tizon brought the message. Oh my goodness, it was SO good!
I want to give you some of my notes and my thoughts.
Al started with saying that Jesus is alive and on the move in God’s people through the Spirit all over the world. What a wonderful thought! Jesus is ALIVE. He is on the move in God’s people through the Spirit all over the world. This is something we see daily. It reminds me of all the good I see/saw in Haiti. This is something I see in the faces of the kids I work with at church. I see this in the faces and lives of my nieces and nephews. This is all so amazing, Yet, how can I help foster this movement in my community?
Al posed this question, “If God lived in your community, what would be different?” If we want to see and enduring transformation, it needs to being with dreaming the kingdom dream.
In Acts 1:3 we read, “He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God” (ESV). When Jesus appeared to the disciples after he was resurrected, he spoke about the kingdom. Jesus tried to instill the kingdom dream in his disciples. Yet, they still didn’t get it.
All throughout Scripture, we read about kingdom dreams of various Bible heroes. In Isaiah 65:17-25, we see Isaiah’s kingdom dream. In Revelation, we see John’s kingdom dream. The kingdom dream is very real – it’s not just a nice thought or ideal.
After Jesus presents the kingdom dream in verse 3 of Acts 1, He then tells the disciples to just wait for the Holy Spirit before they do anything. He warned them not to do anything on their own. Jesus doesn’t want us to do anything on our own. We need to make sure the Holy Spirit is moving in us to do something. When we try to do things on our own, we end up feeling like we’re beating our heads against a wall and we burn ourselves out, as well as those in our ministry.
All too often, I try to do things on my own. Jesus has been trying to tell me this a lot lately. As someone who struggles with severe anxiety and depression, I tend to try to keep control. I want to believe I am always in control. I all too often try to do things on my own. I wear myself out. I burn myself out.
Our church staff has been reading a book (we just finished it, actually) called Churchless by Barna & Kinnaman (2014). In the last chapter, they talked about churches leading with prayer, starting with the church leadership. As a member of the church staff, I consider myself to be part of church leadership. I have not been praying or living my own spiritual life, like I should be.
I am transitioning into a MUCH better time of life after wading through 2 very terrible years. Part of my personal journey has been working on healing. For those who don’t know, I am a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. I have started to open up about this a lot more lately. Through all of the work I’ve been doing, I have had to spend time grieving relationships that will never be the way they should be. I spent all of 2015 grieving some of those important relationships. In 2016, I worked in a church where I was not a good fit. They hired me in haste and looking back I should never have accepted the position. That being said, I am grateful for the friendships I made and I know that something good will eventually come out of the work there. In my time of waiting last year, I grew tired and weary. I let my anxiety and depression take over and started trying to do things on my own. I lost sight of who I am in Christ. I lost sight of the kingdom dream.
I am now is a MUCH better place. I know that God has placed me in my current church. It’s the only way to explain how I ended up there. I have such a great vision for my current church. I see God doing some seriously amazing things. That’s not just in my current church where I see God doing amazing things. I see it in our country and the world.
We live in a very polarizing time where people seem to only identify through certain politics. As I scroll through my Facebook feed every day, it gets me down a bit. All I see is hate and negativity on all sides of the political spectrum. I heard a very respected ministry leader recently say that if God fits within your political ideals, then politics is your idol. I started to think about how so many people I know try to get God to fit in their political spectrum. God doesn’t have a political spectrum. Al reminded us last night that it’s not about the Israelite dream or the American dream. It’s about the kingdom dream. Jesus teaching is NOT about national greatness. While I could start a political tangent, I won’t. Just listen to Jesus and remember the kingdom dream. Sometimes, your faith will put you at odds with your political stances. That’s ok as long as you keep the kingdom dream what you’re striving towards.
The last part of the Scripture (Acts 1: 9-11), the disciples watch Jesus ascend into heaven. They continued to gaze up into the sky when 2 angels appeared to them, asking them why they’re still looking into the sky. Essentially, they tell the disciples to move on, stop gazing at the sky because Jesus will come back just as he left, but we don’t know when that will be.
We can’t just stand and gaze up into the sky. We need to engage the poor and oppressed. We need to live out Micah 6:8 – love mercy and do justice. We need to love our neighbors as ourselves, even when it’s hard. We live in polarizing times, yet God is at work. Don’t settle for a lesser dream than the kingdom dream.
Featured photo courtesy of Free North Church.