By Doug Beacham
In June several IPHC leaders were present in Dallas, Texas for a Toward Jerusalem Council meeting held at Baruch HaShem Messianic Synagogue. There were probably more than one hundred people present for the meeting of a group of Jewish and Gentile followers of Yeshua Ha-Mashiach, (Jesus the Messiah). One of the leaders, Dr. Daniel Juster, has an excellent fifteen minute lecture on YouTube that is worth your time to view.
I have several memories of that two day meeting. One was an unexpected reconnection with the president of Youth With A Mission, John Dawson. Many in the IPHC know of his prophetic word to our movement at Franklin Springs, Georgia on October 10, 1991. I was one of those blessed to be sitting in the congregation that night. His inspiring comments continue to impact this movement. You can read them beginning on page 30 of the 2013-2017 IPHC Manual. It was a joy to spend some time with this global leader and hear his passion for “the ministry of reconciliation” we have received in the Lord.
Another was a comment made by a young man who spoke briefly late one afternoon. I would judge him to be a “Millennial,” the term used to describe people born roughly between 1980 and the early 2000s. In American life, we often read that this generation is totally disconnected to Christianity. I guess the demographers simply don’t know or recognize the many I know, including this young man, who are passionately committed to Jesus Christ and His church.
His comment was very simple,
The church today needs to walk on two legs. One leg is that of Abraham and the other is that of Nehemiah.
His comment has stayed with me and as some of you know, I have been speaking about that in recent weeks across the United States.
The shifting moral, political, social and legal climate of our nation in recent weeks has kept Abraham and Nehemiah in my focus. First, as I have often remarked, we do not need to live our lives in fear or anger. But we have needed a wake-up call that our church-planting and discipleship have not been nearly as effective as we want to believe. Christians continue to struggle responding to the plight of the poor; to the devastating drug and immoral culture destroying millions around us; and to the continuing slaughter of our unborn children, our future.
As many have observed, the world is simply being the world; sin is being sin; carnality is being carnality. The complacent cultural Christianity of much of the 20th century has been exposed for what it is: whitewashed tombs filled with “all uncleanness” (Jesus, Matthew 23:27).
Instead, more than ever it is time for followers of Jesus to live as salt and light (Matthew 5:13, 14); to love our enemies (Matthew 5:44, 45); to bless those who curse us (Luke 6:28; Romans 12:14); to take up our cross and follow Jesus (Mark 8:34).
In terms of Abraham, three aspects of his life are pertinent as we “walk” into the future.
First, “he went out, not knowing where he was going,” dwelled “in the land of promise as in a foreign country,” and lived as “strangers and pilgrims on the earth” (Hebrews 11:8, 9, 13). We don’t know how our society will unfold in the coming decades. But we have a promise from God concerning His kingdom “which cannot be shaken” and with grace “we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear” (Hebrews 12:28).
Perhaps it’s time to be more intentional in remembering we are “strangers and pilgrims” here. This is not an excuse to flee to some kind of spiritual nirvana; rather, it is a reminder that we can be free to engage our culture with truth and love without being seduced by its allurements. In other words, like Abraham, we can “walk by faith and not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7).
Second, Abraham lived his faith with the Canaanites in the land (Genesis 12:6). All the blessings of Genesis 12:2, 3 were made to a man called to live by faith surrounded by idolatry and immorality. Canaanite religion was an abomination, a perversion of life and divine order which was practiced in every aspect of the culture. Much of the Leviticus Holiness Code given by God to Israel was to mark His children as different from this Canaanite world – a world whose spirit and actions are still among us (Leviticus 17-26). God did not call Abraham to run to the desert and hide. He called him to live by faith and blessing alongside the perversity of the inhabitants of the land.
Third, when the judgment and wrath of God was ready to be poured out on the Canaanite cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, God offered Abraham the opportunity to intercede for their salvation (Genesis 18:16-33). Abraham knew that his nephew Lot lived there and not only desired to save him but also others. The “intercessory negotiations” with God started with fifty righteous and lowered to ten.
This is really important for us. God is calling His church to arise with intercession as we have never seen before. We are called to pray for mercy for the lost. We are called to know and speak the truth; but that truth reveals the horrors of divine wrath and the abundant love of divine mercy and grace. Followers of Jesus are still here and in almost every nation on earth. Let us do our part to be vessels of sanctifying grace for our families, communities, and societies.
The other leg upon which we walk is reflected in the life of Nehemiah. Set in the on-going recovery of Judah following the Babylonian destruction and captivity in 586 B.C., and the return of Jews back to their ancient, God-given homeland, Nehemiah speaks to us of what it means to stand in the gap and rebuild the walls of a broken society.
The enemies of restoration are always present. Sanballat and Tobiah represent demonic, dysfunctional spiritual realities that always fight against God’s redeeming purposes. Interestingly, Tobiah, an Ammonite, comes from the very dysfunction, perversion, and hopelessness that led to the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19:30-38).
But Nehemiah reveals the patience, preparation, commitment, and inspiration required to stand in the gaps of the shattered boundaries of our nation. He shows us what is required to rebuild when destruction has been so complete. He shows us the courage to stand when spiritual darkness does its best to deceive, manipulate, and intimidate us.
Our congregations have to become places where disciples are made and released. I thought Southern Baptist writer Russell Moore expressed it correctly when he wrote about reaching “the sexual revolution’s refugees” (http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/acts-of-faith/wp/2015/06/26/why-the-church-should-neither-cave-nor-panic-about-the-decision-on-gay-marriage/). They are already among us and will be coming by the millions more in the coming decades. We must respond in the spirit of Jesus, who told us, “the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which is lost” (Luke 19:10).
We will need both legs to run this race: a leg of faith and a leg of restoration. It’s time for the church to stand, walk, and run on both legs. Let us not be afraid.
NOTE: This message was first shared at the Cornerstone Conference Centennial service in North Carolina. I followed two excellent 10 minute messages by Bishops Thomas McGhee and Doyle Marley; you can view each of these messages at (http://sundaystreams.com/go/cornerstonecmc). They begin at the 1 hour, 12 minute mark of the video.