When I read yesterday that a Brazilian museum had tragically burned down, destroying countless ancient and priceless relics, I got to thinking about how we all treasure a connection to the past. Most times, this is a healthy desire. We want to both honor and learn from our histories. I sense loss for those people in Brazil who lost something which will never be replaced. Yet, when it comes to the mindset of the Church today, I am concerned that too many are living in a museum of religious pasts instead of waking with an expectancy for what God is offering in fresh waves of presence and power. Are we asking what is God up to today? Are we still longing to get in on it? It might very well be that we have fallen into a deadly assumption that He is less active in fresh, new works today than He was in centuries past. Instead of using a Kingdom telescope to get a glimpse of what we have not experienced yet, we are buying Sunday tickets to repeatedly rehash what God did once-upon-a-time. It could be that many of us miss what God is currently doing because we have not been encouraged to look for it. There is a danger for the followers of Jesus to assume that God is done with all of His creative work.
He made the universe – check.
He created humans – check.
He gave covenants through Abraham, Moses and David – check.
He came as a man – check.
He lived, suffered, died and arose – check, check, check.
He commissioned us to make disciples –check.
He ascended to heaven’s throne and promised to come again – check.
He sent the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost – check.
And now? We wait patiently for the end of the age as God merely maintains what He has previously done…??? I don’t think so. We seem to default to the idea that we serve the God of the glorious past and the King mind-blowing future…yet He is seemingly portrayed as the Lord of the Passive Present Moment. Perish the thought!
So what about today – what is God up to today?
Revelation 21:5 – “He who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also He said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”
Isaiah 42:9 – “Behold, the former things have come to pass, and new things I now declare; before they spring forth I tell you of them.”
Isaiah 43:19 – “Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.”
I find in my Bible the principle of the new thing. For the followers of Jesus there needs to be an awareness that we have not been placed on pause when it comes to the activity of God. He is not a celestial observer or a retired deity who has become a universal maintenance man. He is creatively moving, working, initiating and inhabiting this present hour. As so much of my own life is spent in a highly Christianized context, I believe there is, for many of His children, an assumption that God’s primary work today is to preserve what He has done in the past. For us, that typically means whatever God blessed in the past handful of centuries in Western culture is what He desires to bless right now. We might even make the colossal mistake of believing that God is obligated to bless only what He has blessed in the past. Few Christians awake each day expecting a new thing to come from God in our lifetimes. Certainly I am not referring to an improvement upon the New Covenant given to us in Christ. I am talking about a fresh work within that covenant from the God who offers each generation an experience of His glorious goodness. Today, many of the people who are classified as “new creations” in 2nd Corinthians 5:17 are actually not living lives that hold anything fresh from God. We have retracted back to a belief that our position in Christ is new, but that we should not expect that newness to actually manifest in our lives with any discernible evidence. Our lives might be more akin to wax figures in a religious museum to the past rather than living creatures animated by God the Spirit in the present. Many years ago, I began to discern God offering newness into my own faith-journey. Scripture teaches that He never changes and that He is the same yesterday, today and forevermore. Yet this changeless God never teaches us that He will not work in new and creative ways. As this reality began to season my heart and mind, I felt that God was speaking something like this to me: “Jeff, you can be on the back edge of that which I formerly blessed or on the front edge of what I will be blessing now and in the future. The close of the age is near and I will be doing a new thing.” Now, I am not saying that I heard those words from Father in my ear but I am saying that over the span of about two years, I came away each week being further convinced that God was offering me, my family and the people I serve in the Kingdom and opportunity to experience and help facilitate His movement in our generation. Equally important, I saw this pattern of interaction between God and His people all throughout my Bible. This was actually how God worked during times of renewal and restoration in His Kingdom. I sense this reality even more in this present hour than I ever have personally sensed it before. By the way, I, my family and many of those whom I serve in the Kingdom are living in this gracious offer right now, today. It is often called ‘revival’ but I believe it is even deeper than what that singular word incorporates.
A group of men known as the sons of Issachar were noted for one thing in Scripture: they were men who had understanding of the times, to know what their generation ought to do (1 Chronicles 12:32). These men were specially empowered by God to pair up the horizontal happenings of their time with the vertical desires of their God. I believe that the God who never changes raises up people like that for the good of every generation. I believe we have a responsibility to listen to them. Some of you have been given this particular calling and God expects you to steward it well. Do not sit on it. Do not remain silent. We need your voice in this culturally chaotic age. Jesus Christ has not commissioned us to preserve the old things of which we are sentimental, comfortable or fond. Those old things were once new things, and some child of God discerned them and emphasized them in his/her generation. But what about today? Is God’s primary work to preserve the past or is He offering us something new – some new thing perfectly in line with His word but also uniquely tailored for this generation?
People all over the Kingdom are sensing that the answer to that question is Yes. I am committed to continue stepping more fully into it. I am inviting the hungry, the zealous, the dry, the weary, the dissatisfied, the pulsing, the eager and the surrendered to walk there too. You can learn history at a museum but you cannot discern the present moment there.
Mark 2:22 – “And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the wine will burst the skins – and the wine is destroyed, and so are the skins. But new wine is for fresh wineskins.”