Waiting and Moving with God in 2019
Advent represents a time of both waiting and moving. In the first Advent of Christ, a long period of waiting and anticipation was drawing to a close. Another period of waiting, extending from the Ascension to the second Advent of Christ, was just beginning. However, the events surrounding the Incarnation bustled with activity and movement. Only believers moved by the Spirit of God saw what was happening in those days. Many others unfortunately did not have eyes to see and kept waiting during a time when they should have been moving.
In the nativity narrative of the Gospels, we see micro-stories about waiting and moving. Zechariah was a perfect example, and thankfully, a man to whom the Lord was gracious in the waiting and moving of his day. He had waited a long time—both as a leader for the hope of Israel and as a husband to a barren wife. When God called him into a time of movement, it was extraordinary, bewildering, and mixed with doses of hope and doubt. Zechariah was not at first ready to move with God, for which God’s angel temporarily chastised him. Later, Zechariah believed, saw, and moved with God’s program of blessing.
Then, there are Mary and Joseph. Unlike Zechariah and his wife, Elizabeth, this young couple was only betrothed, had barely entered adulthood, and knew nothing of the kind of waiting of their relatives. They hadn’t lived and suffered long enough for the full yearning of Messiah to probably bloom into the maturity that older saints knew. They were young. Nonetheless, they were thrust into a sudden, extraordinary time of movement in the program and providence of God.
However, should we be taking our cues about the spiritual life or the life of the church from such an extraordinary moment in God’s program? Surely, it was a time clustered with miracles, authenticating this major movement in God’s program, establishing Christ as Lord and Savior. It was an unprecedented time. But what did Jesus say to his disciples before ascending? Do you remember?
“And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, ‘you heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now’” (Acts 1:4–5 ESV).
And again, he said to them,
“It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:7–8 ESV).
When we read the Lord’s words here and then follow the acts of the Spirit through the apostles, we see a church on the move. Waiting is the exception; moving is the rule. We see them waiting and praying for Peter’s release from prison, but the large proportion of the narrative records the movement of the missionary apostles going from place to place, evangelizing, teaching, establishing leaders, planting churches, gathering with others for briefings, and then heading back out into the work, strengthening established churches, planting new ones in new places.
It’s not that the church stopped waiting. Indeed, they kept waiting for the Lord’s second Advent, as we do still today. But as they waited for that extraordinary, unprecedented time of the second Advent of Christ, they moved. The Spirit’s vision through the movement of the apostles was not a church that settled and borough-ed in like the centralized temple and worship of Jerusalem. Rather, the Spirit’s aim is a decentralized people, equipped for ministry, moving locally, regionally, nationally, and internationally. Just like our physical bodies, the spiritual Body, the church, is only healthy when it’s mobile.
Everything that moves needs a strong core or a strong frame. A car has frame; physician’s and physical trainers talk about “core health.” What’s the core or the frame of a local church? At West Lisbon, we say the core is “Christ in us.” What we mean by that is the Spirit’s vision as recorded in Scripture for his people and his church to be conformed to the image of Christ. We want our heads, hearts, hands, feet, loving, learning, and laboring to be filled up with the fulness of Christ. We are praying for the Spirit to form in us a permanent, enlarging habitat for Christ to dwell by faith. With God’s help, West Lisbon is on the move in 2019.