When I met with the ordination committee of my church Association (now more than 35 years ago), I was asked what I planned to do in ministry?
I told them I wasn’t sure, because what God had called me to do hadn’t yet been invented. Where had those words come from? I was as startled by them as were the committee.
My answer created an uproar. The committee split down the middle. I was asked to leave the room. Only God knows what transpired to produce a bare majority vote in my favor, but in the end they did vote to ordain me. Fortunately, it stuck.
A bit later, I was taking a final course to finish my seminary degree. The title: GREEK
EXEGESIS OF THE NEW TESTAMENT PASSAGES ON THE KINGDOM OF GOD. I know, I know, this doesn’t sound very exciting. But hang on.
The professor was Dr. George R. Beasley-Murray, one of the world’s authorities on the topic. (Among other things, Dr. Beasley-Murray worked fluently in fifteen languages.)
I was not and am not a good Greek student. When God wired me up to learn other languages, I got a system run by a single AAA battery — then He called me to a life of Bible
study and cross cultural mission work. This has been beyond frustrating for me. And quite humbling.
Anyway, I was interested enough in the subject to struggle through the advanced Greek course on the topic to learn more about God Country.
The day came when Dr. Beasley-Murray was unpacking the meaning and implications of Luke 4:11ff.
Prior to this passage, Jesus had just been baptized, had the Spirit of God come down on
him visibly, heard The Father speak His affirmation from heaven audibly and successfully duked it out with the devil in the desert.
Now Jesus returns to his home synagogue in Nazareth. He is asked to read the day’s passage from Isaiah 61:1-2 — a well known prophecy identifying the future mission of the
Jesus reads the passage (stopping short of the judgment part) and says, “Today in your hearing this passage has been fulfilled.”
After a dozen centuries of waiting, God has kept His promises to intervene in human history to bring God Country to earth and to save His People.
Jesus goes on to embrace the identifying Mission Statement of the Messiah:
God has messiah’d me to announce to the poor the Good News that God Country is breaking in and is available to the least human being – to give sight to the blind (along with physical healings in general) – to make ‘crushed hearts’ whole (emotional healing) – to peel the demons off folks (to set them free) – and to inaugurate a season of God’s grace/favor within which EVERYONE is invited to enter into an eternal, saving relationship with God through Christ by means of God’s Holy Spirit.
As Dr. Beasley-Murray eloquently continued, the room began to change. I didn’t know much about the Holy Spirit in those days, but I knew enough to realize God’s Spirit was filling the room. I couldn’t sit still. I raised my hand and interrupted my eloquent teacher.
“Dr. Beasley-Murray, if what you are saying is true, then WE too should be doing this… this ministry of Jesus…”
He paused and considered the statement. Then in his ever gentlemanly British fashion he replied, “Yes, Mr. Van Devender that is what we are supposed to be doing.”
I blurted out, “Well, how do we go about doing it?” (Seven and a half years of higher
religious and secular education hadn’t spilled the beans on this well-kept secret.)
Again he paused before answering. “Well, Mr. Van Devender, I don’t know anyone who is actually doing the ministry of Jesus, but that is in fact is what we are supposed to be doing.”
I was dumbfounded that one should have to search the world to find someone – anyone –
who was actually doing what God had saved us all to do!
But his astonishing statement launched me on the lifelong quest to discover how to do the
ministry of Jesus and how to become competent in the doing.
All this to say, this past month in Africa, God finally confirmed the truth of my confession to my ordination committee long ago – what God created me to do hadn’t yet been invented.
But it has now.
God made it clear that His ‘invention’ is now in my hands — I am competent to use it – and I am responsible to hand it off to as many responsible and interested Jesus-lovers as I possibly can in whatever time I have left on this planet.
What has God ‘invented’ that enables one to actually do the ministry of Jesus — and how did He deliver it?
The following posts will answer those questions.