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Monday, November 23, 2015

When We Dream (Joel 2:28-29)

Sunday, November 22, 2015

          We have prayed that God would grant wisdom and give revelation to HillSong Church.  These seven weeks have had an inward focus.  Our direction is Godward.  We have collectively, as a family of worshipers, as brothers and sister in Christ, pointed our faces toward the Lord.  We have joined voices and together asked God to speak.
          In the process, we have reflected upon who we are God’s people.  There is a sense of what a Christian should be.  We describe, generally speaking, what a church should be.  We have emphasized what HillSong Church is called to be in the first quarter of the 21st century. 
          These prayers will not cease as we conclude this church-wide emphasis on discernment.  Understanding who we are in Christ is a constant process.  However, it is now time to reflect on what has been revealed; this is also the time to cast our gaze down the road and ponder where we are headed and also to see who, from afar, is coming toward us.
          We have talked about HillSong being safe place.  We strive to be a place of welcome where one can come and be loved and be encouraged and nurtured.  This will always tested as we who make up the community are born-again, spirit-filled yet also tempted by our weaknesses and by the devils’ wiles.  We, the people yearning to create safe space, sometimes are the ones who make it unsafe.  But we press on, we try again, as we welcome the next one through the door.
          In the safe space, our community, we worship.  In worship, our hearts are laid bare before the Lord and we pray that we actually meet God in those encounters.  In meeting God, we are forever changed.  We are made new – new creations. 
As new creations, we are then sent into the world to announce that something has happened.  God has done something.  God has come in human form, in the flesh.  That’s Jesus!  He is God in the flesh and in Him the Kingdom of God has come near.  In Him, people have forgiveness of sins and rescue from death.  We are sent to proclaim that He is Lord and King and people can have life in His name.  We are sent to help people become His disciples.
“Safe-New-Sent;” these words have become a mantra at HillSong.  But this is not all God has revealed.  Relationships matter.  We are a relational people.  Watch what happens when the worship service ends today.  People don’t flood to the exits.  I have been in church services where when the final song is over, people head for the exits like the building is on fire.  Here, people linger to talk, laugh, and embrace.  We love each other.
And our relationships are expanding.  New people come all the time.  Now, new congregations are in the fold with Zion Karen Baptist Church and Iglesia del Amor de Dios meeting in our buildings.  When our elders and deacons met a month ago, one of the observations we took away from our conversations was God is bringing the nations to HillSong.  And we are thrilled about that.
As a relational people living in fellowship with a divine calling to welcome the sojourner and seek out the lost that we might help them find the way to salvation, where do we go from here?

I appeal to the words of the prophet Joel.  He spoke of judgment and called a sinful people to repentance, but then, God showed him a new day dawning.  Here’s what God says through the prophet Joel.

28 [a] Then afterward
    I will pour out my spirit on all flesh;
your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
    your old men shall dream dreams,
    and your young men shall see visions.
29 Even on the male and female slaves,
    in those days, I will pour out my spirit.

          The dreams that come don’t originate with us. God says, “I will pour out my spirit.”  God’s Spirit visits us, and then the dreams come.  The good in our lives, the purpose which drives us to live and to live in a certain way comes from God.
          Joel shows that we dream God dreams.  To be people of faith, to follow Jesus, is to believe in visions and to experience dreams.  What’s more, this is all of us.  This is not reserved for the spiritual superheroes among us.  Nor is this purview of the privileged or the experienced or those more honored than others.  Children prophesy, senior citizens see things they’ve never seen before, and slaves dream and show the truth of God.  The revelation of God is generously shared as God desires to give it.

          But, what in the world does this mean?  The prophecy from Joel is beautiful and inspired and incomplete, because it doesn’t seem to ever become reality. 
          Then Jesus.
          Jesus comes along, and then Joel makes sense.

          In the book of Acts a series of events takes place.  First, Acts picks up right after the resurrection.  Jesus, who died and was buried, is walking about in his body resurrected.  The disciples see Him depart.  He goes to Heaven, to the right hand of the Father.  Then, after 40 days, the Holy Spirit rains down in tongues of fire on the disciples gathered in Jerusalem for Pentecost.   As they are filled, they speak the languages of all gathered there.
          It doesn’t make any sense.  These are Galilean fishermen, not educated linguists.  Yet with unmatched eloquence, they tell the story of God coming in the person of Jesus, dying, and offering salvation to the world.  The crowd, astounded, doesn’t know what to make of it all.
          That’s when Peter stands and says this.
14 But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them, “Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say. 15 Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning. 16 No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel:
17 ‘In the last days it will be, God declares,
that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh,
    and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
and your young men shall see visions,
    and your old men shall dream dreams.
18 Even upon my slaves, both men and women,
    in those days I will pour out my Spirit;
        and they shall prophesy.
19 And I will show portents in the heaven above
    and signs on the earth below,
        blood, and fire, and smoky mist.
20 The sun shall be turned to darkness
    and the moon to blood,
        before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day.
21 Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’

          Peter’s way of making sense of all that happens is to appeal to scripture – the prophecy of Joel.  But Joel only makes sense when understood in terms of the resurrection.  Why can Peter say that the spiritual phenomena that happened at Pentecost is the fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy?  Because Jesus was raised.  That spirit was and is the Holy Spirit of the Lord filling His people.
          Joel’s prophecy continues to be fulfilled as we gather, worship, glorify God in Jesus Christ, and band together as His people.  In this context, the church together, the Spirit pours new revelation and calls us to the work of holy living and holy love in the midst of a hurting and dying world. 

          Where do we go from here?  We worship – together.  We give and receive forgiveness – together.  We passionately discuss the issues of our day.  Sometimes those conversations heated, but it is for the sake of the Gospel because when we go over the issues of the day, what we are really talking about is how sin continuously wounds men and women.  When discuss, because we are Spirit-filled Christ followers, our discussion always comes back to figuring out, in the power of God, how we help heal the wounded.  This too is something we do together.  We live into the calling God has placed on us.
          An issue pressing the world right now, shows this point.  I have been in a number of conversations, debates, about how a nation like America ought to respond to the attacks in Paris and to the crisis of thousands of displaced Syrians.  Some argue that sound foreign policy is to send those Syrians elsewhere.
We don’t even think about sound foreign policy.  We know that our security is in the Lord, not in our government.  We want those who hurt at our doors so we can love them and help them.  Refugees who cannot find a shore?  This is our moment.  To care for them is to live into our calling.
Also, this morning, we have seen where we go from here.  In Baptism, in new members sharing their stories, our fires as a relationship people called together are rekindled.  The newly baptized believer and the newly welcomed member sharing there are hearts as we open our hearts to them and to all who come – this is what we are about.  This is who we are.
Next is Advent, that season in which we remember the coming of Christ and anticipate His return and the final, complete establishment of His Kingdom when Heaven and Earth come together. 
I pray that you will dream dreams the Holy Spirit plants in your heart.  I pray each of us will see our individual relationships with God become deeper, more real, and richer in the season ahead.  I pray God will shape HillSong Church so that in this place His love rules, and people grow into a full understanding that we are His.


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