Grace and peace in the precious name of Jesus the Messiah of Israel, Savior, and Lord of all.
In reading the Gospel birth narratives over Christmas, I noticed the angelic messengers told the Virgin Mary, Joseph, Zacharias, and the shepherds to not be afraid (Matthew 1:20; Luke 1:13, 30; 2:10). Addressing the fears of those to whom He ministered, Jesus spoke against the fears that so easily paralyze us (Matthew 14:27; 17:7; 28:10; Mark 5:36; 6:50; Luke 8:50; John 6:20; 14:27).
Many of the eight billion souls on this planet live in a state of constant fear due to poverty, war, emotional and relational distress. Even those with economic stability live fearful of income loss due to inflation and market disruptions. One third of the world population is considered Christian and we are called to be salt and light in this sin and fear plagued world.
For a few paragraphs, I want to address some ways that I believe we are called to live in this present age. We are a holy counterculture, a kingdom of God culture, living in and among the cultures of our environs.
First, I remind us that Isaiah 54:2, 3 has often been the Lord’s word to our movement from our earliest years. Since 2013, that passage has spoken to us over and over, reminding us that we are A Place of Hope and A People of Promise.
Second, since 2017 and the Arise 2033 initiative, the IPHC has sought to fulfill the Great Commission (Matthew 28:16-20) and the Great Commandment (Matthew 22:36-40). Arise 2033 is the IPHC initiative to expand across the USA and around the globe as we come to the year 2033. Many Christian denominations and movements have marked the year 2033 as a time to commemorate the 2000th anniversary of the death, resurrection, ascension of Jesus Christ, and the sending of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. The goals of Arise 2033 can be found at https://iphc.org/arise/.
Third, for nearly three years, the IPHC has been on a journey of growing as praying disciples. Arise in Prayer focuses on local congregations becoming Houses of Prayer impacting their surroundings by praying the Word of God. There are three things we can do together in these opening days of 2023:
- We can pray together on January 5-11, with the 11th being a day where our denominational offices will gather for prayer, encouraging you to do the same in your locale.
- We can use the resources at https://iphc.org/ariseinprayer/ to equip and prepare us in our service to Christ.
- We can listen to the teachings on prayer from Doug Small, as he has helped educate the IPHC in praying the Bible, the Word of God. Those teachings are found at the Arise in Prayer link above.
Fourth, the three paragraphs above are all part of what it means for us, personally and corporately, to be witnesses to the grace of God in Jesus Christ. I am praying for a move of the Holy Spirit that will empower and equip us to effectively share the Good News of Jesus as the disciples did on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2). We need the power of the Holy Spirit to reorder our time and priorities so that we are personally discipled, and we can effectively disciple others.
Fifth, there are many nations facing indescribable poverty, war, and problems of corruption. We have opportunities to help through prayer and giving. In particular, the war in Ukraine continues with a deliberate strategy to destroy the infrastructure during a bitterly cold winter. I encourage you to read about this and help the IPHC Ukrainian Church as it helps its nation (https://iphc.org/missions/update-from-ukraine/).
Sixth, for the IPHC in the United States and other western nations, there are a number of issues that must be addressed:
- For several decades, the IPHC has participated in the March for Life in Washington, DC and at local prolife events in the fifty states. Though the United States Supreme Court overturned Roe v Wade last year, the fight for the life of the unborn is even more intense on the state level. We will be in Washington once again on January 20, but it is imperative that we remain engaged on local levels in providing effective ways for women to reject abortion on demand and chose life for their unborn child. We must respectfully and with conviction communicate our stance to local government officials.
- Immigration is difficult to discuss due to the political partisanship in our nation. But as the body of Christ, we must find ways to welcome and help those who are in our nation seeking a better life. It’s easy to think of immigration solely in terms of the southern border, but there are multitudes from around the world who are here and are coming legally. Millions are our brothers and sisters in Christ and can reach their people and language group freely in the USA. May the Holy Spirit help us to expand our vision to the masses that are part of our changing society.
- At the 2022 General Conference, the IPHC affirmed its commitment that marriage is between a man and a woman. In October the Council of Bishops, under the mandate of the General Conference, further clarified that commitment by stating that marriage is between a person identified at birth as male and a person identified at birth as female. We affirm the teaching of the Bible that sexual immorality, including homosexuality, is sinful and harmful to those who practice and identify as such. We rejoice that redemption is a reality for all who confess their sins (whatever they may be), turn away from sinful actions (of any kind), and surrender to the Lordship of Jesus Christ.
- We reject as contrary to the revealed will of God the current gender identity crisis that is physically, emotionally, and spiritually destructive. We commit ourselves to live as the Word of God reveals biblical womanhood and manhood, and to graciously love those who come to us wounded by the sexual and gender confusion of our times. As Christians, our identity is that of sinners who are born again, justified, and made new creatures by faith in the shed blood of Jesus on the Cross.
- We must not be afraid to stand on the Word of God in the public sphere. While the recent US Federal legislation named Respect for Marriage contains safeguards for religious liberty and expression, and while the current US Supreme Court seems more amenable to protecting religious liberties, we must be willing to receive the disdain of our world for our stance related to marriage and sexual morality. We must remember that we are called to bear witness to Christ regardless of the accusations and threats we may encounter.
Seventh, we must remember many issues that are pertinent for us as a global denomination confessing the Lordship of Jesus Christ: poverty, racism, how to live as citizens of the kingdom of God within the nation of our citizenship, and many others. We must recognize that much of the world is impacted by philosophies and practices promoted through western media to the world. As Christians in the West, we must resist the moral confusion that dominates Western politics, economics, and media. We resist as Spirit-filled and Spirit-led holiness people:
- Rejecting violence but standing for righteousness regardless the price.
- Rejecting the ungodly narratives of our time and learning afresh God’s redemptive narrative revealed in the Bible and our place in it.
- Rejecting the spiritual darkness and vitriol of social communications and speaking the truth in love, living in the light of Jesus Christ.
- Rejecting the pressures to be conformed to this world, and lovingly discipling one another to be transformed into the image of Christ.
Therefore, beloved in the Lord, let us join our hearts to live and love as Christ taught us. Let our homes and congregations truly be Places of Hope. Let our personal and corporate lives be guided as People of Promise, standing on the promises of God. And above all, let us be faithful to Jesus Christ until He returns. In the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.