Opening Message for the 2013 New Year's African Directors' Conference, Tanzania (draft)
"When the dove returned to him in the evening, there in its beak was a freshly plucked olive leaf!" Genesis 8:11a
Happy New Year! And welcome to the conference.
I would like to open the conference by sharing the vision God gave to Noah, that is, the vision of a Freshly Plucked Olive Leaf! God's redemptive history is seen in the Bible as Noah sending out a dove who in turn comes back in her mouth with freshly plucked leaf. Gen 8:11a
Noah points to God the Father. The dove symbolizes the Holy Spirit and the olive leaf stands for the church plucked by the Holy Spirit. The leaf is attached to the Olive Tree. It produces olive oil which gives light to a dark place. (Ex 25:6; 1 Kings 6:31-33; Psalm 52:8; Zec 4:12-14; Rm 11:24)
When Jesus came he was baptized by John the Baptist. As Jesus came out of the water, heaven opened. The Holy Spirit came down on Jesus in a bodily form like a dove. Then led by the Spirit Jesus went to a desert area. He was tempted by the devil. After victory Jesus came back to Galilee in the power of the Spirit. Jesus went out for fishing. Jesus fished a fisher-man Simon Peter. He called him to be a fisher of men. Jesus revealed himself as the Savior. One day Jesus asked his disciples, "Who do you think I am?" Simon Peter said, "You are the Christ." Then, Jesus said, "On this rock I will build my church."
After Jesus ascending to heaven, about 120 disciples gathered and prayed together at an upper room on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem. Then on the Day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit came upon them. The church was born. By the power of the Holy Spirit Simon Peter stood up and spoke. In one day 3,000 people were added to the church.
The Holy Spirit kept reaping harvest among the Jews and the Gentiles. The Spirit of Jesus sent out Peter to the Jews and Paul to the Gentiles. Paul wanted to go to Asia but Jesus' spirit sent him to Europe. So the Spirit of God freshly plucked the olive leaves in Rome in Spain in America in Asia and in Africa. Paul described the phenomenon, "You the Gentiles were cut out of an olive tree that is wild by nature, and contrary to nature were grafted into a cultivated olive tree." Romans 11:24
"When the dove returned to him in the evening, there in her mouth was a freshly plucked olive leaf!" Imagine a dove leaving the ark, traveling a long distance only to come back with the leaf. I think the dove must have been so excited that she was puffing her breath in and out making it sure that she would not drop the leaf!
I am glad that we are gathered here in Tanzania to study Ephesians - the book of church doctrine. Pastor Samuel Lee is going to give us a special lecture on church. The theme title of the conference is "Mystery of Christ" the founder and head of the church. The theme title is seen in the Noah's vision, for in the Scripture, prophecying on the birth of church from the descendants of Noah it is written: "The mystery of God is Jesus Christ", and "the mystery of Christ is one new man" coming out of two - the Jews and the Gentiles. (Col 2:2; Eph 2:15-3:3)
God revealed the vision of one new man first to Noah, then to Isaiah, then to John then to Paul. To Noah it was a new olive leaf. To Isaiah it was a new Highway from Egypt to Assyria, so God calls Egyptians my people, Assyrians my handiwork, and Israel my inheritance. Isaiah 19:23-25 [I saw the vision being fulfilled last summer. Do you remember Mandou and Ayman, two Egyptian brothers committing themselves to live as Jesus' witness? And how did you like the special song brother Mandou did in Arabic language?] To John it was in the form of a mathmatic equation: 1x1x1x1=1, for Jesus said to John directly "on that day you will realize that I am in my Father, I in you and you in me." John 14:20 To Paul, it was given as the doctrine of "oneness": "one Father, one Savior, one Spirit, one baptism, one faith, one new man, one family one body where Christ is the head, all plucked not by might nor by power but by His Spirit! Eph 4:4-6
Africa is bigger than Europe, Asia, India, N. America, and Argentine, combined. Africa is the continent of diversity - diverse especially in language. In Nigeria Missionary Peter says there are more than 250 ethnic groups speaking different dialects making it difficult for them to become one. Swahili is a national language for all peoples of Tanzania. And there are around 20 dialects of Swahili. In Korean (Kyungsang Provincial dialect) achari means " mouth" but in Swahili it stands for "pickle", in Korean pesa means nothing, but in Swahili it refers to "money". I respect Missionary Timothy and Hanna Chung for they mastered Swahili so they could communicate with Tanzanians and invite them to the family of God. After the Noah's flood the human beings repopulated the earth. Their sinful nature did not change. So God confused the language and scattered people, only to look forward to the time to send out harvest workers to preach the gospel, so in Jesus all would repent, turn to Christ and be at home with Him.
The Lord blessed the three African regional bible conferences last Summer. The theme was "You will be my witnesses" based on Acts 1:8, "When the Holy Spirit comes on you you will receive power and be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." Through these conferences we prayed to grow in number and reach out to the 55 African nations.
The program for the New Year directors' conference now focuses on the work to do in respective mission fields, that is, build "one new man" constructing the body of Christ.
Look at what God showed Noah again. "When the dove returned to him in the evening, there in its beak was a freshly plucked olive leaf!"
I deeply respect missionaries and shepherds in Africa for I know, "Evening, morning, and noon they cry out in distress." But I also know that the Risen Jesus hears their cry. And there is the promise saying, "let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest" and "whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life".
We admit that no matter what the difficulties we might be facing, either in Zimbabwe, Namibia, Nigeria, Tanzania, or elsewhere, no one might go through greater stress than the stress our Lord Jesus had to go through. We remember that the night before suffering Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. There at the place called Gathesemane he began to be deeply distressed and troubled. He said to Peter, James, and John, "My souls is overwhemled with sorrow to the point of death." Then he knelt down and prayed, "Father, if it is possible, take this cup away, but not according to my will but your will." And as he prayed more earnestly his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground. (Luke 22:39-44) But his disciples all fell asleep.
Before his departure, he also took his disciples to the Mount of Olives. There while they were seated on the mountain opposite the temple, he said to them, "The gospel must first be preached to all nations." Then he gave them the promise of second coming, but he did not forget to warn them saying, "As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man." (Matthew 24:37-39)
As he promised sooner than later He will come back. Soon his feet will touch the Mount of Olives east of Jerusalem fulfilling the vision given to Noah. Our time is as evil as the time of Noah. Yet, until he comes back let us be faithful to working on His vision - the vision of harvest, beginning here in the great Continent Africa and beyond. One word: freshly plucked olive leaf