Vision Casting in Hindsight

DSCF4827EBW_MThe end of one year and the initial days of a new one often find churchgoers hearing a new vision for the church over the coming year. Some pastors will place the imprimatur of God on their statements, saying “God has directed us in this direction” while others will be less humble in their choice of pronouns, suggesting ‘I’ or ‘We’ view this direction as the way forward for the body. All well and good, whichever attribution is selected. Charisma or at least enthusiasm in the voice can deliver the message effectively.

As long as no one looks back.

If the pastor is delivering an annual vision for the upcoming year shouldn’t it be preceded by a review of the results of the previous vision. How did it turn out? Have we arrived at the destination you pointed us toward? What went wrong? If I am hiking through the forest on a trail that was previously mapped out for me and someone comes up to tell me he sees a new way to reach our destination, shouldn’t I ask how he arrived at my location? God is consistent. He has set things in motion and the story has remained the same as far back as we have kept track. Looking back to see where we’ve been should be the first action before a step is taken.

Vision casting is risky. Vision casting in the Church is riskier. To say that the Lord has given a new vision for this year or this pastor or this incarnation of His church should always be more than an impression. To say that He has forgotten the old vision in favor of the new should always cause us to stop and ask if we were faithful to the last one.

Day 17 in the School of Prayer : Harmony!

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“Father, I thank you that have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here., that they may believe that you sent me.” ( John 11:41b-42 )

I will proclaim the decree of the Lord:

He said to me, “You are my Son, today I have become your Father.”

Ask of me, and I will make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession. ( Psalm 2:7-8 )

Many Christians struggle with the seeming dichotomy between the eternal decrees of God and their effect upon our individuals lives and the notion of liberty in prayer. In other words, if God has determined the course of history corporate and individual of what effect are our prayers? Many will prefer to allow this question to linger unanswered. Some will allow themselves the conclusion that prayer is fruitless yet continue in a sort of stoic legalism. Still others will see this as an impassable roadblock and give up the discipline altogether.

Were God one person, closed up within himself the latter conclusion would be appropriate. We could never hope to be close to him nor hope to influence him. God is not one, however. He is Three-In-One, and in the Son and Holy Spirit we have the bond of unity and fellowship with the whole of the Trinity. Through this brotherhood we have an opened door to ear of the Father. We have assurance that our prayers are heard and in the Trinity, eternal as it is, we see that Jesus’ commands to pray form an active part of the eternal design.

We pray because we were commanded to.

We pray because we are heard.

We pray because our petitions are a crucial part of the great plan of history.

Psalm 60 You Have Been My Refuge

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Hear my cry, O God; listen to my prayer. (v1)

It seems appropriate that the first post of this new year returns our attention to the psalms. This brief entry in the psalter reminds us in the simplest fashion of the consistency and permanence of the God in which we have faith. He was not like the arbitrary and capricious gods of the peoples who surrounded Israel whose demands and favor changed from day to day depending on their mood. Yahweh is today as He was yesterday and will be tomorrow.

From the ends of the earth I call to you, I call as my heart grows faint;

lead me to the rock that is higher than I.

For you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the foe. (vv 2-3)

In three couplets (2-3,4-5,6-7) the psalmist professes his confidence in the strength and protection of the God he longs to make his abode with. He states his mortal weakness and contrasts it with the eternal strength of God. In his weak state, David asks only that he be allowed a small place at the edge of the shadow of God’s outstretched wings. For this privilege he will respond in eternal praise.

Then will I ever sing praise to your name and fulfill my vows day after day. (v8)

Amen.

Advent Benediction – Little Town of Bethlehem

For the final Sunday of this year’s Advent season, my benediction looks toward the tiny town of Bethlehem for the momentous event that changed everything for history and for you and me…

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Bethlehem Benediction [Micah 5:2-5]

Out of tiny Bethlehem came the Brightest Morning Star,

the Glory of God,

The Son, our Savior.

Out of tiny Bethlehem came the Shepherd of our flock,

He stands in the strength of the Lord,

He stands in the majesty of the name of God.

He is our salvation and security.

Be blessed in the majestic name of Jesus,

Son of God,

Holy Shepherd,

Holy One of Israel,

Your Salvation and Strength.

Be a blessing to others though you may feel as tiny as Bethlehem.

Show the Love of Jesus.

Live as the Son lived.

Help others find the Shepherd, The Holy One, Their Salvation and Strength.

May the blessing be birthed in you.

Amen

O little town of Bethlehem, How still we see thee lie;

Above thy deep and dreamless sleep, The silent stars go by.

Yet in thy dark streets shineth The everlasting light;

The hopes and fears of all the years, Are in thee tonight.

Phillips Brooks/Lewis Redner

Advent Benediction of Rejoicing

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As Mary knew, may you also be blessed to know,

the joy of anticipation, the joy the change to come.

 

The prophets shouted God’s promise,

‘Be glad and rejoice with all your heart;

The Lord has taken away your punishment, he has turned back your enemy.’

 

You are blessed in knowing that the Bright Morning Star,

would come,

did come,

and will come.

 

Be blessed, community of faith,

rejoice and share the news and the light of the Star!

God’s greatest blessings on you.

Amen

 

Image Coach O