Sunday, December 27, 2009

All Things

I'm thankful for another opportunity to offer a "guest posting". This one is from Jose Bosque, another new friend I met during the conference here in Charlotte back in September,





All Things...................

It has always amazed me how Paul was able to see the good coming from the bad in his daily life and ministry. As darkness increases and lawlessness abounds it is the faith of God's fivefold servant leaders who will provide the example to the flock that even in these things our Lord is in control.

Eph 4:11-16

11 And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ,

It's not about us but about equipping them!

13 till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ;

We must raise the bar! God's people must not settle for less!

14 that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting,

This is what Paul said would be the result of an immature people and how we see it everywhere. God have mercy on us and our religious games!

15 but, speaking the truth in love,

There is no seminary that can teach this. Truth without love isn't truth because the Author is Love. I have resolved to love and I can't in my own strength. It's not until I see the person through God's eyes that I can begin to love as God loves. By the way Paul is exhorting us to speak in love to evil people not to nice people.

may grow up in all things into Him who is the head - Christ

Here Paul is saying that we grow in ALL things (even bad things) these bad situations and people drive us closer to the Head which is Christ. It's no wonder persecuted Christians grow faster than we do. They RUNNNNNN to the Head!


16 from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.

True CHURCH GROWTH is nothing more than the CHURCH SHARING in the work not more advertising, bigger and better buildings, more staff, more services, longer sermons, and bigger titles.



God help us to keep the faith through ALL THINGS in 2010!



With Love,
jose

josebosque.com 12/27/09



Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Getting the Church out of the Church

Just today I came across a short clip from Wayne Cordeiro that conveys how we are called to walk out our mission as Christ followers. Wayne leads New Hope Christian Fellowship, a Foursquare church in Honolulu, Hawaii. The video is very short, and well worth the time. Check it out!



video




Monday, December 14, 2009

SOME THOUGHTS ON PRAYER

One of the joys of organic church life is the steady stream of new friendships in the kingdom. Since we began this journey in August, we’ve met some wonderful brothers and sisters in the Lord who we can relate to through Jesus. Through my recently adopted spiritual father, Don Atkin, I’ve connected with S.J.Hill. S.J. is a Bible teacher and author - a simple guy who loves Father. I look forward to meeting S.J. this week in person.

To help me get to know his heart for the Father, S.J. emailed his most recent newsletter on prayer. After reading it, I asked to post it here for your edification. Let the Father converse with you as you read it.

SOME THOUGHTS ON PRAYER
by S.J.Hill



While I was flying back from Holland, I started thinking about what I wanted to share with you in this newsletter. And, the more I thought about what to write, the more I felt it would be good to address some specific things about the subject of prayer. Over the years, I've read numerous books about prayer, as well as heard countless sermons on the subject. At times, I've been both challenged and encouraged by what has been taught, but I've also been deeply concerned about the way some authors and ministers have addressed the issue of prayer.

For example, discipline in prayer has often been emphasized rather than viewing prayer as a continual conversation with a Father who loves being with us. As a result, routine has replaced relationship! Many of us have tried getting up early in the morning to pray because we've been challenged to do so, and we've either ended up feeling condemned because we've hit the snooze button way too many times, or we've found ourselves more concerned about the amount of time we've spent in prayer rather than with Whom we've been spending our time.

Over the years, there have been a number of plans and programs developed by various leaders and organizations to try to get Christians to be more disciplined in prayer. Some have used the Old Testament tabernacle as a pattern for prayer while others have used Jesus' experience with His disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane, to challenge believers to spend an hour a day in prayer. Although I'm not opposed to discipline, if our "disciplines" don't lead us into a more intimate relationship with God, then all of our efforts fall short of what He always intended for us to experience. All I know is that there are far too many of us who have never felt the tender affections and embrace of our Father during times of prayer, because our times with Him have been more about discipline than experiencing the delight of just being with Him.

Another thing that concerns me is that prayer has been depicted primarily as intercession for various causes (political issues, revival, personal needs, or the needs of friends and loved ones, etc.). As a result, prayer has been seen more as a means to an end rather than as an end in itself. Last year, I received an e-mail from a former student of mine, which deeply impacted me. She had gotten up early one morning to pray, and she found herself repenting for everything she could think of, as well as asking God for a number of things that were on her mind. She said she felt like a "worm" because she just didn't believe she was doing enough or accomplishing enough in prayer. It was during this time that she sensed the Father ask her the following question: "Why do you see our times together as a means to an end? This (our times together) is the end for Me! This is what I died for!"

If we only knew how much Father loves being with us, then we'd also understand that as we engage His heart, He will share with us what is on His heart. He will lead us to pray for certain people we hadn't thought of in months or even years. He will also direct us to intercede for specific things that deeply concern Him. But, when all is said and done, it's really about being with the One who loves us infinitely, and then allowing Him to use us to accomplish His Kingdom purposes in the earth through prayer.

I've also been deeply troubled by the way some preachers have tried to get Christians more committed to prayer. For example, I've heard it taught that "prayerlessness is sin." I've even read this statement in books. But, is this the way to inspire people to pray? While I'm not writing this to question anyone's motives (I've taught the same thing in the past), I think it's time to step back and reexamine our whole approach to prayer.

People don't need to be told they don't pray enough. They already know that! And yet, what do we do? We raise the bar so high that the average person can't even relate to some of the men and women we mention as being examples of "prayer warriors." For example, how can a mother of several children even relate to a man like David Brainerd, who, under a special burden for the American Indians, melted the snow around him as he knelt and interceded for them? As much as we should admire what Brainerd did, Father has not called any of us to try to be like him or anyone else. Each one of us is special to the Father, and, out of our own unique relationship with Him, we can bring delight to His heart in a way no other human being ever can.

This is why I want to invite all of you into an intimate relationship with the One who loves being with you. I'm convinced you will start wanting to spend time with Father like never before. I've seen it happen again and again in the lives of others! And, I've even experienced it in my own life.

The story is told of a man who loved God but, who for years, had been struggling in prayer. One Sunday he went to his pastor after the morning service and asked if he could give him some practical help on how to pray. His pastor proceeded to go into his study and return with a thick theological book on prayer written by a Swiss theologian. The man took the book home, but after reading just three pages, he put the book down and didn't read it again. He had to look up at least a dozen words in the dictionary in the short time he was reading the book.

One day the man was talking to a friend about his struggles in prayer, and his friend suggested that he go home, take an empty chair, place it in a favorite spot in his house, and then sit down opposite the chair and have a conversation with his heavenly Father.

Some time later, this same man was stricken with cancer, and so he asked his daughter to call their pastor to come and pray for him. But, for some reason, the pastor was too busy and he never came and visited the man in his home. One day, the man's daughter discovered that there was a traveling minister who lived nearby. She somehow got his phone number, called him, and asked him if he would come and pray for her father. The minister told her that he'd be more than willing to pray for him.

When the minister arrived at the man's house and walked into his bedroom, he noticed an empty chair by the bed, and so he assumed the man was expecting him. When the sick man saw that his guest was looking at the chair, he asked the minister to close the door to his bedroom. The man then proceeded to tell the minister the story of the empty chair. He also admitted that he had never shared the story with his daughter and even felt somewhat embarrassed sharing it with him. But he went on to say that for the last four years he had spent two hours a day sitting across from an empty chair talking to his heavenly Father, and had absolutely loved it! The minister thanked the sick man for sharing his story and then he spent a few minutes praying with the man before he returned home.

Several days later, the traveling minister got a call from the man's daughter. She told him that she had gone to the store to do some shopping and when she came home she had discovered her father had passed away. But then she admitted to the minister that there was something she didn't understand about her dad's death. She said, "When I walked into my father's bedroom, I found him on his knees with his arms around an empty chair."

Always remember that prayer is first and foremost conversation with the One who simply loves being with you. And, He wants you to be yourself. You can share anything with Him. He likes that!!! Also, let your thoughts go back to Him throughout the day. Share your life with Him. Learn to be comfortable with being absolutely honest and transparent with Him. He's always there for you, and He's more committed to you than you'll ever be to Him!



Thursday, December 3, 2009

It’s All About Jesus!

(and confessions from “Aaron”, the builder of golden calves)

I’m long overdue for a post here and a message from the heart of the Father began burning in my heart this evening. As the title suggests, my heart and mind are progressively captivated by Jesus, the one who loved me and gave himself for me.

I remember in 2008, months after setting out to plant a new church with a church planting ministry, a new friend of mine detected my zeal for the venture I poured myself into. His words seemed simplistic… so much so it was all too easy for me to brush the profundity of it aside. What Dennis Hall said was this: “anything I get involved with has to be all about Jesus.” Looking back, this was a message straight from heaven, but it would not register for many months. The Father had a lesson to teach me: about the futility of building on any other foundation.

As I reflect on my walk over the years, I’m convinced of one thing… that Satan’s favorite ploy is to distract us from the simplicity of our devotion to Christ. Sure he loves to lure us into lust or greed or other works of the flesh. But I believe the favorite tools in his arsenal are much more subtle. And his favorite time-worn lure… is religion.

As I study my own life, I’ve veered off course in so many ways, under the guise of “growing in the faith”. The strand that runs through much of my life is has been a subtle worship of “the church” and religious systems. My functional idol seemed to be the church that, to the best of my understanding “got it right”.

I first believed strongly in the Baptist church (I have been in National Baptist, American Baptist, and Southern Baptist churches). After all, at the time they were the most faithful to scripture based on my understanding. Later, I learned about the gifts of the spirit and “the deeper life” and found myself drawn to The Christian and Missionary Alliance. That soured when the pastor who most impacted my early Christian life moved to Ivory Coast to serve as a missionary. I found temporary refuge at a CMA church plant where I served as an Associate Pastor, but the religious corporate culture reared its head again. The Lord led us away, and many months down the road, this church closed its doors.

There was a brief interval where I landed at a somewhat charismatic church in transition. Again, I wanted to believe God was doing a great work there, but it was not to be. Mercifully, we moved to a new city, and later learned that this church died a slow death.

In our new city I found what seemed to be a vibrant church planting ministry that had it all together. It was especially attractive since I was deeply cynical and on the verge of rejecting “church” altogether. This would be home for 15 years. Toward the end I realized the life of God was getting sucked out of this as this organization took on a more corporate character.

Our next move seemed to be “it”. There were clearly “divine appointments”. Supernatural affirmations along the way seemed to confirm that there was life in this next church planting ministry. The words communicated were on the money. We gladly stepped out in faith as pioneers so this ministry could establish a new presence in our city. And that brings me to back to the wise words of my friend Dennis Hall.
I shocked Dennis by telling him that in my previous paradigm, there was no place for someone like him. He was not a part of my church or its “family” of churches. 6 months earlier, I would not have even bothered to engage him. But the Lord was doing something new. What the Father began building here was a true kingdom friendship… true brotherhood rooted in our common fellowship with Jesus rather than a brand or sect.
As this friendship developed, it seemed that things were going well for many months in this new church planting ministry. But along the way, increasingly there were nagging thoughts that something wasn’t right. The “meat on the bones” came in the form of some strong words from the Savior himself.

Matthew 20: 25 “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 26 It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, [3] 27 and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, [4] 28 even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

I heard these words echoing in my heart and mind, as I continued to hear an emphasis on “authority in the church”. How much clearer could Jesus possibly be?
And there was more:

John 5: 44 How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?
This further confirmed that seeking glory from others rather than from the Father alone was clearly a formula for unbelief! It took forever to get it through my thick skull… but truthfully too many so called “church builders” are clearly more concerned about their authority than that of Jesus. After leaving this organization it was during a prayer time with a friend that the Spirit of God gently rebuked me: “I called you to be Moses, but you turned into Aaron in the wilderness”. It required little thought to realize what the Lord was saying. I helped to build a new golden calf.

To drive all this home, let me bluntly confess my own sin and foolishness:
To direct people’s hearts to an organization, no matter how spiritual is to erect a golden calf.

To relate to each other around an organization rather than Jesus is to bow at the feet of a golden calf

To build around a doctrinal position or set of doctrinal values is to erect a golden calf

Building any church or ministry with a man as a foundation (or woman for that matter) and building around that person and his or her alleged authority is to erect a golden calf

This leaves people connected to a “king”… a substitute for the Father and locks them into endless infancy. It is also a formula for divisions.

I Corinthians 1: 10 I appeal to you, brothers, [1] by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. 11 For it has been reported to me by Chloe's people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. 12 What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.” 13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?

How do we unite? It only happens in Jesus! Notice I said “in Jesus” not ABOUT Jesus. How many sects, conflicts and divisions continue to this day over varying “concepts of Jesus”.

What did the early church do?
Acts 5:42 And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.

What was Paul’s theme?
I Cor 2:2 For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.

It grieves me to see that all too often I’ve drawn people’s attention to an organization rather than to Jesus! If we think about it, what we’re doing is inverting the gospel, turning it from a heavenward message, to an earth oriented worship of dust. By contrast, Paul says,

II Corinthians 4:5 For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants [2] for Jesus' sake. 6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.

The power is in Jesus! The secret to transformation is Jesus! So the clarion call is for all of us to stop staring in the mirror at ourselves, and lift our eyes heavenward. We must let Him transform us, drop all the religious “fig leaves” and as we come together “In Him”, that’s when Hell will take notice.

II Cor 3:18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord,[1] are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.




Monday, November 23, 2009

The Church Where You Matter

I'm very eager to share another excerpt from "Mega Shift" by James Rutz.

In this section, Rutz discusses the benefit of "the open church":



Take a quick look in your own heart. See any unmet needs there? OK, now see any compassion there for the thousands of folks in your town who are living stunted lives and struggling with problems they just can't handle? Well, then, if you have a Bible, you're probably qualified to go out and draw together a brand new branch of the family of God. May God bless you as you go.

The need is on every corner.

I used to attend a good tranditional church in Newport Beach, California, home of the world's largest small-craft marina. The pastor was Joe Aldrich, a young man wise beyond his years and a veteran of thousands of counseling sessions with the sophisticates of that wealthy city. One morning he was speaking about the desperate needs in the hearts of people everywhere. with a vague wave of his hand toward the million-dollar homes on the nearby hills, he stated quietly, "Knock on any door. It'll bleed"

A good open fellowship can stop the bleeding. If it doesn't, you're in trouble. As a poet said,

So is this not a place where my questions can be asked, then where shall I go to seek?

And if this is not a place where my heart cry can be heard, then where shall I go to speak?...

And if this is not a place where tears are understood, then where shall I go to cry?

And if this is not a place where my spirit can take wing, tell me, where shall I go to fly? (This poem adapted with permission (for Mega Shift) from Gary Smalley and John Trent, The Blessing (Pocket Books), 1990








Wednesday, November 18, 2009

SAINT OR SINNER?

In recent weeks I’ve come across real gems in a few books I’ve read. Today I’m sharing a new one. Before leaving for Israel, a new friend urged me to pick up the book “Mega Shift” by James Rutz. This is one of those hard-to-put-down works for so many reasons. In fact, I’ve added it with an Amazon link to my Recommended Reading list to the right of this post. One issue Rutz addresses is an issue near and dear to my heart: our identity. Are we saints or sinners? This excerpt comes from Chapter 3, “The New Saints”:

Your New Identity

Noted author Neil Anderson told me last year that he had done some counting in his Bible. He found 330 places where unsaved people are called sinners.
He found 240 places where saved people are called saints.
But he found exactly zero places where saved people are called sinners.
Now, that stands in wild contrast to the 16-centuries-long effort to make all Christians think they’re still sinners. How many condemnatory sermons have you suffered through? Two hundred too many?

We do sin, it’s true, and we need to confess, repent, and make amends whenever we do. But “Sinners’ is not our main identity anymore, and you need to reverse your self-image and free yourself from this crippling distortion.

The apostle Paul had no problem with this. Did he ever address a letter to the “sinners” in Rome or Ephesus or Phlippi? If the Bible calls you a saint, why would you demean yourself by denying it? The Lord Jesus paid a steep price to make you a saint, so smile and accept it and get on with a higher life.

This is not just semantics. It’s a practical matter. Ask yourself this: Just how many shining deeds should we ever expect from dirty, low-down, no-good sinners? See the problem? The SINNER label becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you’ve made a genuine, 100% commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ, you’re just as much a saint as Peter or Paul.

Awhile back I went to a novelty shop and blew five bucks on a silvery magic wand set with big jewels. (Go for quality, I always say.) So now in my seminars I walk down the aisle and canonize folks, touching them on the head and saying, “I pronounce thee, Saint Kevin; I pronounce thee, Saint Heather,” etc. Instant sainthood! My ritual may not be as impressive as the full-on Vatican treatment, but it has the advantages of no dying and no waiting.

As you can see, I’m willing to go to extremes and parody myself if it will get people to lift their faces out of the mud, throw their shoulders back, and walk confidently with the Father.

My aim is simple. I want to put a new song in your heart and show you how to enjoy being a true son or daughter of the living Lord. You don’t have to be a worker of miracles, but you do have to know who you are.



Monday, November 16, 2009

Spotlight: Lexington, Kentucky



I’m writing today from Richmond, KY. For some time I’ve carried a burden for this region to see a spiritual breakthrough in an area I’ve known to be very “religious”. This is not a slam on anyone or any group here… just what I believe is an informed assessment based on my 10 years here and ongoing relationships with people in the area. But like our own city, and Cleveland where I visited last weekend, there is a deep desire in God’s people to see something more.

This weekend I had the opportunity to reconnect with dear friends who have that heart. We’ve known Mike and Pam Krejci for nearly 20 years, but haven’t seen each other since we left Kentucky 17 years ago. I’m thankful that as many of our friends have fallen by the wayside, the Krejcis still love the Lord and want to see Him glorified in their lives, and in their community. As we fellowshipped and prayed together, it was like we never left. Our life in Him and through Him is truly eternal… timeless.

Over the last couple of years, I’ve periodically conversed with Mike and Pam by phone or through email. And several weeks ago, Mike sent an email that really encouraged me as we continue our journey in the organic church world. I’ve been looking for the time and opportunity to post it. What better time than now? I hope it edifies you as much as it edified me.

I don’t know if I will ever get this correspondence to you. I just read your comments on Jim Reynolds and Jose Sanchez. Very good, the word of the Lord spoken in each of their lives. I wonder if the people we are around have similar inspirational experiences that we don’t even know about because we lack community and true fellowship with each other. If this is the case, and I suspect it is, we suffer a lack of hearing the full word of God while He is so near and at work. Thanks for posting these testimonies and the other edifying comments and writings.

I have been looking at your blog and have been considering the “change in course” you are pursuing for a few weeks now. I regret not being able to give you some feedback sooner, but I assure you my heart has been with you since first reading the blog at your e-mail prompt. I trust you and your heart. I want to fellowship with you in this because I believe God has planted in you a true desire to be in His work, without any pretense. I can see the Holy Spirit is at work in you giving you revelation, pulling you toward Himself. A high blessing. This is the good thing, the significant thing, the measure of where God is breathing life. You are wisely responding to Him.

I love the church of Jesus because I love Jesus. I know the same is true of you. I do believe that institutions like service schedules and hierarchical leadership structures that come closer to fitting corporate business models than a community joined by the love of Jesus, are a hindrance to the testimony of the church. However, I see these things as having a more insidious negative impact upon the child of God than on the perception of the unbeliever. The unbeliever can view such hypocrisies and inconsistencies, offer a criticism and shrug of the shoulders and go on until they have their own real confrontation with the Holy Spirit. The child of God must figure out how to live in the midst of doctrine and tradition and perception and church politics and programs and any number of other pharisaical bondages, and somehow remain genuine as they find a balance adapting to all those considerations, while maintaining fellowship with believers caught up in serving these institutions. The seduction and deception of these traditional models is effective in the subtlety of the attack, because following these models (in contrast to loving Jesus Himself) is somehow too easily regarded in the notions of what is righteous. So, I think what I understand you to be pursuing is in a direction away from what I have described and I am for that. Our practices must be genuine beyond merely doing what is right for the evidence of God to be seen and lived out. I find it ironic and compelling that God seems to earmark His authenticity in the expression of love rather than power. How can His love be known outside of relational, familial expressions? If organic church takes a direction to encourage a love for Jesus and each other, good. Let everything that hinders this love be torn down.

If there is life in a thing or a pursuit, where our souls are refreshed and we are meeting with God, the “Life” is always Jesus no matter what it looks like. Be it liturgical or rolling on the floor. Fit your revelation of “organic church” in this context. I say, continue opening up your heart, your family and all that you have been blessed with, and continue to let God own it. This will only bear good fruit as it grows from the response of people who love Jesus. It can only become more garbage if the “improved” model becomes the distraction. Be wise as were the five virgins who obviously prepared and planned with a whole heart to give their lives to the pleasure and love of the Bridegroom. Let your love for Jesus continue to deepen. Let Him become your distraction. Of course, everything else will pass away and you won’t even notice.

Gladly made your brother in the blood of Jesus,

Mike


I Peter 2:4 As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, 5 you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

I believe this is the heart of God for EVERY city. One city. One church. Living stones built together on the foundation of THE CHIEF CORNERSTONE. If you have the same heart whether in Charlotte, or Cleveland, or Lexington, or wherever, we’d love to hear from you.




Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Spotlight: Cleveland



We are rejoicing after a wonderful weekend in the Cleveland Metro area. We went to take part in events to promote National Orphan Sunday. Our friends Doug and Monica Robinson invited and hosted us. Doug did a teaching on the vertical and horizontal dimensions of adoption Sunday morning. We’ll have more on that shortly. And Sunday night, the Robinsons held a fundraiser to help with their upcoming Ethiopian adoption, and to draw attention to the tens of millions of orphans around the world. It was somewhat amusing on the flight from Charlotte to hear the pilot announce the current conditions in Cleveland, he continued, “the place also known as The Mistake on the Lake”. I didn’t hear any laughs so it could be the plane was filled with Clevelanders. In any case, our visit to the city for the weekend was anything but a mistake. It was clearly where the Lord placed us.

When I think of organic relationships that have emerged over the past year, our fellowship with Doug and Monica Robinson would certainly come to mind. After initially meeting Doug in St. Louis at a ministry conference last year, we stayed in touch and continued fellowship. And at another conference that summer our wives got to meet and they connected wonderfully. We were blessed to have them visit us earlier this year on their way to the beach. We share a love for the Lord, and a deep desire for Kingdom life, so it was no surprise to us when we learned they were planning to adopt a child (or more than one) from Ethiopia. For National Orphan Sunday the Robinsons organized a fundraiser, and it was clear to us that the Lord wanted us to be there for it. I must say I was profoundly impacted by the testimonies and the videos. I certainly had no idea how many abandoned children there are in this world… 143 million!



video

It is also a joy to partner together with others to make a difference for at least one child. I know the Robinsons will shower this child (or children) with God’s love. Doug also did such an awesome job teaching on the vertical and horizontal dimensions of adoption Sunday morning. He started by addressing reality: all too often we respond emotionally to human appeals out of human compassion, and that can serve a minimal purpose. But God wants us to walk out of Kingdom conviction. We can be emotionally affected on National Orphan Sunday, and all too easily go about our business on Monday. But convictions of the Lord about this issue will cause us to WALK this out because it is now a part of our DNA.

Doug reminded us that spiritually, we were once orphans. And he adds that this is the starting place for us living out of who we are instead of what we should do. Our text was Ephesians 1:1-14. It is here we learn that adoption is not a human invention. It is GOD’S idea. He planned before the foundations of the world to adopt us into His eternal family, which is a great lead-in to the first point of Doug’s message:

ADOPTION IS PLANNED In verse 4 we learn that the Father chose us in Him before the foundation of the world We are not accidents.

ADOPTION IS PURPOSEFUL He chose us to be holy and blameless before Him. We are part of His ultimate plan to unite all things on heaven and earth in Him

ADOPTION IS FOR HIS PLEASURE We read in Philippians 2:13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. Doug asked us if we see ourselves as objects of God’s pleasure. I know all too often, my view of myself is marred by sin or foolish self consciousness. We need to lay hold of this truth and let it set us free.

ADOPTION IS FOR HIS PRAISE Adoption brings glory to Him by showcasing not just grace, but his GLORIOUS grace.

ADOPTION COMES WITH A PRICE The Robinsons are learning the monetary price of human adoption… the cost is in the thousands. The cost of our adoption is immeasurably greater. In verse 7 we learn that our redemption comes at the price of Jesus, our Savior’s own blood.

ADOPTION GIVES US PRIVILEGES We now have an inheritance! We read in II Corinthians 1: And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, 22 and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee. In Ephesians 1:13 we see that (we) were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee [4] of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, [5] to the praise of his glory.

IN ADOPTION THERE IS A PRIZE 23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. Ahead for us is the redemption of our bodies. The prize is to ultimately be like Him, no longer tainted by the stain of sin. Doug did a tremendous job of helping us to see what the Lord has done for us and in us. And this positions us to walk in obedience to his command to care for orphans. We can do so for them because He has done so for us.

BRINGING LIVING STONES TOGETHER I will have much more on to say on this later, but my visit to Cleveland again reminded me of the tremendous burden in God’s people to come together in an atmosphere where Jesus reigns, where authentic New Testament body life can flourish. I saw this desire during my short time in Cleveland, in just a few short conversations with people. But as usual, God’s people continue to be scattered by institutions that divide us, institutions that don’t run on the Life of God but on programs and traditions of men. My appeal to people in that city and all others is to find other believers who want Jesus and Him alone and just begin RELATING. Stop just going to church and doing church and ask Jesus to help you BE the church. The Lord wants to do a new thing, but for us to enter into what God has for us, we’ve got to stop holding onto the old thing that’s draining our time, our hearts, our money, and to top it off, is all too often breeding nothing but discouragement, even bitterness and cynicism. If that’s what it is producing, I assure you it’s not the church Jesus is building. Jesus says those who don’t gather WITH HIM are scattering abroad. Ask yourself, am I gathering around JESUS, or am I gathering around a pastor, an organization or a brand? And after answering the question, ask the Lord for the wisdom and courage to make a change that will honor the Lord and advance His kingdom.





Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Why Jim wanted to live... why Jose was willing to die

In the past week my life has been profoundly impacted by two others' lives....and their deaths. Jim Reynolds' life was taken by cancer. Jose Sanchez died at the hands of calculating killers.

I did not know JIM REYNOLDS very long. A mutual friend asked me to visit him in the hospital to pray for and encourage him a few weeks ago. Jim was suffering from stage 4 cancer. When I met Jim he spoke of his thankfulness for the Lord Jesus Christ who redeemed him after many years of rebellion against God. He also shared his love for his wife, daughter, and granddaughter. A couple of brothers joined me in praying for Jim, that the Lord would intervene and give him victory over the cancer ravaging his body, but also that He would comfort Jim in his sickness and give him peace. Before leaving I asked Jim if there was anything I could do. His reply was curious to me: "Anything you can do? You've already done it!" Jim deeply appreciated the prayers and encouragement of God's presence in the hospital room that night.



The next time I saw Jim was at his home. He had endured a treatment of chermotherapy and radiation the day before. Gone was the energetic and vibrant voice I heard a couple of weeks before. Yet what remained was a heart to live....and for one reason....he wanted to share what the Lord had done in his life with others. Amazingly, he wanted to comfort others who were suffering as he was. Jim recalled other people he knew who had been stricken with cancer over his lifetime. "If I had known what they were going through, he said, "I would have been there for them".

Jim loved guns and he loved music, but now he wanted to live, not so he could enjoy his hobbies, but to SERVE others. Now at death's door, his transformation in Christ and his physical condition clarified as never before what really mattered. Selflessly, he wanted to pour out his life to serve others. If only he had more time.

Last night my friend Sandra called to tell me Jim's organ's were failing. There was nothing more doctors could do. By the time I arrived at the hospital, Jim had passed into eternity.

JOSE SANCHEZ is a man I never met. But the story of his life, and death reminded me of the true call of discipleship to follow Jesus. On my way to a fellowship meeting last Sunday night, another friend called to tell me about Sanchez' murder in Guatemala. The immediate concern was to get his family, who has also been threatened, out of harm's way.

Sanchez had been threatened as he fulfilled his pastoral call,to care for 4 churches and advance the Gospel. As he and his associate pastor walked along the road, on the way to hold services in the mountain community of Bonanza, they were ambushed and shot to death.

His 15 year old son made the desperate call for help, and stood guard over his dad's body to keep dogs from mutilating it. As a father, this bittersweet image broke my heart.

In the face of unknown danger and recent credible threats against him, why did Jose Sanchez stay? Because of his love for the Saviour. In hearing the story of Sanchez tragic death, a friend asked "was it really worth it to lose his life and leave behind a wife and 5 children?" In the natural, it does not make sense. But Jose knew that "to live is Christ and to die is gain". He believed that the loving Heavenly Father who saved Him and cared for Him in life, would hold his family in the palm of His Hand.

Before returning to his homeland, Jose Sanchez got to live some of the American Dream here in Charlotte. But when Jesus saved Him, his heart was captivated with a vision of the heavenly city. Jose knew that returning to Guatemala was a one way decision. He would not come back.

Like Jose, God gives us the grace to grasp this truth in our hearts so we can walk as strangers and pilgrims. No matter how much we love our country, this is not our home. Only by "fixing our eyes on Jesus" and setting aside the sin and weights... the worldly ones and the entangling religious ones....can we run with patience the race that is set before us. This race must transcend and trump "the American dream".

I'm reminded of Paul's testimony in Phillipians 1:21 "For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain." Paul was torn. Above all he wanted to be with Jesus. But at the same time He wanted to stay. Why? The only reason was to SERVE the Lord and His people and advance the Gospel.

So as we go through this day, let's remember Jim and his reason for wanting to live; and Jose and his willingness to die. I know your heart will be stirred, as mine was, as you watch the video tribute to Jose Sanchez below.

11 And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death.

video



Sunday, October 25, 2009

Others May, You Cannot

Once again my friend Don Atkin sent another another heart provoking article. This one is from G.D. Watson. I believe I read this some years ago. I can testify how easy it is to "go with the flow" and blend in with most people are doing. Perhaps if more of us took this to heart, we would see more true transformation in our lives and churches. What do you think?

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. (Matthew 16:24-25 )

If God has called you to be truly like Jesus in all your spirit, He will draw you into a life of crucifixion and humility. He will put on you such demands of obedience that you will not be allowed to follow other Christians. In many ways, He seems to let other good people do things which He will not let you do.

Others who seem to be very religious and useful may push themselves, pull wires, and scheme to carry out their plans, but you cannot. If you attempt it, you will meet with such failure and rebuke from the Lord as to make you sorely penitent.

Others can brag about themselves, their work, their successes, their writings, but the Holy Spirit will not allow you to do any such thing. If you begin to do so, He will lead you into some deep mortification that will make you despise yourself and all your good works.

Others will be allowed to succeed in making great sums of money, or having a legacy left to them, or in having luxuries, but God may supply you only on a day-to-day basis, because He wants you to have something far better than gold, a helpless dependence on Him and His unseen treasury.

The Lord may let others be honored and put forward while keeping you hidden in obscurity because He wants to produce some choice, fragrant fruit for His coming glory, which can only be produced in the shade.

God may let others be great, but keep you small. He will let others do a work for Him and get the credit, but He will make you work and toil without knowing how much you are doing. Then, to make your work still more precious, He will let others get the credit for the work which you have done; this to teach you the message of the Cross, humility, and something of the value of being cloaked with His nature.

The Holy Spirit will put a strict watch on you, and with a jealous love rebuke you for careless words and feelings, or for wasting your time, which other Christians never seem distressed over.
So make up your mind that God is infinite and Sovereign and has a right to do as He pleases with His own, and that He may not explain to you a thousand things which may puzzle your reason in His dealings with you.

God will take you at your word. If you absolutely sell yourself to be His slave, He will wrap you up in a jealous love and let other people say and do many things that you cannot. Settle it forever; you are to deal directly with the Holy Spirit, He is to have the privilege of tying your tongue or chaining your hand or closing your eyes in ways which others are not dealt with. However, know this great secret of the Kingdom: When you are so completely possessed with the Living God that you are, in your secret heart, pleased and delighted over this peculiar, personal, private, jealous guardianship and management of the Holy Spirit over your life, you will have found the vestibule of heaven, the high calling of God.

G.D.Watson (1845-1924) was a Wesleyan Methodist minister and evangelist based in Los Angeles. His evangelistic campaigns took him to England, the West Indies, New Zealand, Australia, Japan and Korea. He also wrote several books.




Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Proclaiming Christ Alone

In this very busy season of life, I have somehow squeezed in blocks of time to do a lot of reading. Most are new or relatively new books... some by new friends I met at the Global Communion conference here in Charlotte last month. But I believe the Spirit prompted me to order and read a real classic.




The Gospel Blimp was published back in 1960. (Before I was even born!) I came across it as a teenager. It struck a chord back then. It did so in a more significant way this time around. Without telling too much its really a modern day parable about what we call "evangelism" and "ministry". I urge you to find a copy and read it. (I found my used copy on Amazon for less than 5 bucks, including shipping).

To make sure we get the message, Joseph Bayly's final chapter "Interpretation", drives home the moral of his fictional but terribly biting commentary on our modern religious enterprises. One section deals a devastating blow to any of our efforts that add human causes, no matter how noble, to the gospel of Jesus Christ. I believe it is avery timely and prophetic warning to us Christ followers here in America, as we deal with profound economic and political challenges:

"... adding anything to the gospel of Christ must weaken it. Jesus Christ refused to fall into this trap. "My kingdom," He said, "is not of this world". And as if to emphasize the point, He chose disciples of the most diverse poltical opinions: Matthew, the collaborator with Rome, and Simon, member of the Canaaan-ite resistance movement against Rome

I do not suggest that any area of contemporary life should be excluded from Biblical insights and prophetic preaching. But areas of proper concern for Christians within the Church are not our message to the world outside.

We preach Christ, not the capitalistic system. We seek to bring our neighbors to faith in HIm, not to our opinion about free enterprise. To tie Jesus Christ to the very best human system is to tie a star, light years distant, to a dead horse here on earth. Neither star nor Christ will thus be bound.

Further, our unsaved neighbors include those who do not hold our political, economic and social opinions. We may not care for the opinions they hold, but Jesus Christ died for socialists as well as capitalists, for members of the A.F.L..-C.I.O. as well as members of N.A.M.(this is the National Association of Manufacturers-I had to look this up) , for (African Americans) as well as whites. Shall we interpose our opinions between the Lord Jesus Christ and men for whom He died?

"If our gospel be hid in America today" (to paraphrase II Corinthians 4:3-7) "it is hid to (African Americans) and other minority groups, to members of labor unions, to the unchurched, the poor, the unwanted.

""Now we know that the god of this world has blinded their minds, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God should shine in their hearts.

"But in view of this, we should be all the more careful not to preach ourselves, or our opinions, but Christ Jesus the Lord. As for ourselves, we should be mere servants, showing love to our neighbors for Jesus' sake.

"And when we fall short in our witness (as we surely will), when our love weakens, what then? Then we know afresh that we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God and not of us."

Therefore, let us trust the Sovereign God, not our human organizations or institutions. And let us seek to be men and women like the Lord Jesus Christ, friends of publicans and sinners, yet "holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners" (Hebrews 7:26).

And if He dashes our proud blimps to earth, we know this, that he designs thereby to bring sons to glory."





Monday, October 5, 2009

The Real Last Move of God

This is a season of adjustment. Its a joy to be away from the religious rat race. Along with dear friends, we are learning how to "be the church" instead of "having church". So you can understand why the words below struck a chord in my heart. My friend Don Atkin sent this along this evening. I hope you are encouraged by it just as I was:


The real last move of God doesn't need a man to lead it, doesn't need a band to hype it, doesn't need a building to corral it, doesn't need a billboard to promote it, doesn't need intercessors to pray it in, doesn't need a TV show or even a microphone to barker it, doesn't need a PR program to defend it. Can't take up an offering for it or seed into it, can't hype or manipulate it, can't own it.

It has already begun in the secret places of men's hearts, men who rarely even know one another. It is already taking place in the hidden corners of David's cave of Adullam where a few misfits and malcontents have hidden out in Jesus and are being quietly shaped into a might army of glorified sons. A few here and there are being knitted together in love whose light, when they cross paths, becomes greater than the sum of the two, or three, or four, or whatever number they are.

It is the light of life, the very life of God they radiate, exposing the darkness and causing turmoil everywhere they go—unspoken, but spoken against; loving, but hated by the world; merciful, but treated unmercifully; strong through brokenness; powerful in weakness; mighty men of valor without guile or malice; strong and powerful in the Lord without gender.

Released one by one, becoming two by two, becoming four by four, then eight by eight—on an exponential curve. Yes, a movement to end all revivals.

Can't start it, can't stop it, can't own it, can't harness it, can't telecast it, can't alter it, can't do anything about it. It is already in motion and is bigger than any man or collection of men. It is the coming forth of Zion, the ushering in of Tabernacles—the feast of Ingathering; that is, Jesus gathering into Himself His true assembly of called-out-ones.

These are those who are called, chosen, and will be found faithful. Nevertheless, whosoever will may come. Either way, all were known before the foundation of the world.

Charles Newbold, Jr.

June 21, 2008




Saturday, September 26, 2009

GLOBAL COMMUNION: Apostles and Prophets together

Slowly we’re making our way through the power packed conference here in Charlotte several weeks ago. This was not a new subject for me, but the emphasis was very different. Foundational in organic church “construction” is the Headship of Jesus Christ. Wolfgang Simson traveled from Germany to provide a valuable and unique perspective on the mission of the Kingdom. Here’s more information on Wolfgang from his own blog:



Who is... Wolfgang Simson

As form follows function, my life and existence is best described by the vision that has me. As a result, I have three passions:
the reshaping of the Church of Jesus Christ to accurately reflect the design of its author and King;
an economic reformation by returning to Kingdom Economics, the messianic principles of money and work;
and a reformation of unity, that will happen as the Body of Christ repents of its human fragmentization and returns to it´s original design, the smashingly attractive Bride of Christ.

No one will see these goals reached on behalf of any one single ministry, church or network. The primary vehicle by which God will see those goals reached - with or without us - is a global Holy Spirit guided synergy and partnership that is obedience-driven, not convenience-oriented. One of these partnerships - the Starfish Partnership - is a flat-structured global apostolic network born out of the fresh organic movements that are emerging everywhere



The messages during the conference (with the exception of Frank Viola’s) were not recorded. But I will do my best here to convey what Wolfgang Simson shared with us. His topic: INCREASING OUR GRASP ON APOSTLES AND PROPHETS FUNCTIONING TOGETHER AS THE FOUNDATION OF WHICH JESUS IS THE CHIEF CORNERSTONE

Amos3:7 “For the Lord GOD does nothing without revealing his secret to his servants the prophets.

Wolfgang Simson began by reminding us of how the Lord works. He first reveals what He will do through His prophets.
Simsom discussed how the Lord positioned Paul for his apostolic work. He brought him to a place of dying to self. It takes time to make an apostle, but it also takes time to “break” an apostle. He had to be broken before the Lord fully used him.

An apostle needs to listen prophetically and act apostolically. We need to be on the lookout for people who can also reproduce this in others. Prophetic people see vision. Apostles work with them to make it happen.

Wolfgang talked about our tendency to see prophetic ministry as something for the church. But truthfully God wants to take the prophetic into the world. Simson believes we’re about to move into what he calls “the inspirational age”. It will be a time marked by the Lord inspiring His people to invent things that succeed and fund the mission o the church. He referred to “industry prophets”, but added it will take the body to bring those inventions to fruition.

How Do We Build?
Church as we know it prevents Church as God wants it.
God provides His love, His grace, and His blessing. The blessing part is conditional. We must walk in holiness…which means within the confines of God’s word.

Prophetic ministry helps to remove the masks. It helps to bring us out of our cages and be real before God and others.

Form follows function. The church must be designed this way from its inception.
Simson believes we’re in the middle of the largest reformation in the history of the church. The group that hears this with a clean slate can go for it and see amazing blessing.

In this era we will see:
Kingdomization: We all move into the kingdom, the domain of God’s uncontested rule. We remain by obedience.
Building principles: Founding by apostles and prophets. But if apostles start selling their ministry they end up lonely.
Money: grasp radical economic principles. This will release the church. The only plans God blesses are his own.

House/organic church growth. A typical house/organic church has 15 people. If they grow by multiplication, 100,000 becomes 200,000. At this rate it would take only 13 years to reach half the planet. Simson compared the organic church to a “starfish”. If you cut a leg off, it becomes another starfish. The church must function under Jesus’ headship. He will build His church. We need to learn to listen to Him collectively. We seek God individually for “our piece” and bring those pieces together to discern the mind of the Lord.

Prophets must be honored. Sometimes prophets are made to feel like “dogs” as “apostles” use them for their purpose. We must be obedient to the Lord and the patterns he reveals. And we must be clean vessels for Him to use.
We also have another stark choice: we can ask for God’s blessing, or we can do what God is blessing. We have to come to a place where we proclaim: “I don’t have a vision. His vision has me”

Chinese Christians have learned well that quick and costly obedience advances the kingdom. What most of us are accustomed to is cheap decision making.
But ultimately we will fall into one of 3 categories as churches:

Revolution: a new work
Reformation: Start with something and learn to listen to the Lord to change
Retirement: these are made of people who don’t obey
We must burn our individual purpose statements

Many of us are building on wrong foundations: we’re giving consumers what they want.
We must also beware of vultures. There are rich people who want to control things. They “buy” people if they need to. Fathers and grandfathers must build a fence of protection around God’s work.

If you’re not sure of what to do, stop! Don’t let money or habit keep you. God has to immobilize us before he can mobilize us.

This is a time of Apostolic Transitioning. We are getting recalibrated in the kingdom.For years we’ve experienced Babylonian captivity of the church. It’s been market driven. We see the mountains of the holy land and painfully realize we’re on the wrong mountain! We have to come down the wrong mountain and go through the desert to get to the right one. Simson likened our state to that of the ship Paul sailed to Malta. The people were saved, but the ship was not.

This is a time of religious detox. We have to learn to exist without religious things. We can leave the system but the desert helps us get the system out of us.

Discussion
After Wolfgang Simson’s presentation, other panelists and others in the room offered comments. I’m posting just some of those

-What God wants to do will likely be advanced by people who don’t mind being insecure. Often He leads us to go past the point of no return… there’s no fuel to get back to where we were. The challenge for us is when things get tough that we resist the temptation to go back

-Greg Austin added: we need to torch the bridge along the way. We must have passion in our hearts instead of just principles in our heads. There must be an impartation of the Holy Spirit.

-People infected with “the system” will try to discourage you. Security is intoxicating. This panelist continued with this disturbing characterization of Jonathan, Saul’s son. He died in the wrong war on the wrong battlefield with the wrong people. Jonathan covenanted himself with David but did not “uncovenant “ himself from Saul. This was his undoing.

-God builds with the King, but also with a royal family. But he’s building His kingdom, not our little empire

-There are 2 kinds of churches
1. Reactions to reactions, ad nauseum
2. Kingdom churches. A lot of Christians are not in the kingdom but in church. The goal is to build kingdom shaped churches where Jesus is not only my Saviour but also my Lord. Words are simply not enough

-A change of values must happen first or we will default back to what’s familiar and comfortable. We must destroy and avoid “programs”

-I build but not I, Christ builds in me

-Our Father does not want us to love things of Him more than Him. Some people love the form more than God. Every new season requires repentance. The last season of God is often the biggest challenge to the next one. We must present our body as a living sacrifice. Our first move is Godward, not manward. Don’t be conformed (which much of the institutional church is) but be transformed by the word of God, so you can prove what is the acceptable will of God. He will give you the option to obey or he will let the circumstances “kill” you to the point you’re ready to obey.


I’ll end with a favorite line from Don Atkin. The first time we met last month he said “church is not what you do, it’s what you “be”. On this day he summed it up well: We must stop doing and start being. If we abide in Him, He will accomplish His purpose in us.



Monday, September 21, 2009

GLOBAL COMMUNION: The Apostles' Doctrine

When I picked up and couldn't stop reading "Reimagining Christ" by Frank Viola on August 1st, I had no idea how his writings would impact my life. I also didn't expect to have the opportunity to meet and hear him speak in Charlotte less than 2 months later. And Frank's message on "The Apostles' Doctrine" was clearly one of the highlights of "The Global Communion" conference last week.

We put so much "church" time and energy into teaching, preaching and doctrine. But in all of the religious "education" and activity, I think many of us have a nagging sense inside that something's terribly missing. (Truthfully its SOMEONE who is missing) Find a quiet place with your bible and a notebook and listen to this message from Frank Viola on the topic:

MOVING TOWARD A COMMON UNDERSTANDING OF THE CONTENT OF THE APOSTLES' TEACHING THAT WAS STEADFASTLY FOLLOWED BY THE EARLY CHURCH.

It was the Second Roundtable Session for the conference, and I guarantee you it will be 39 minutes you will not regret setting aside for the Kingdom.

http://www.megaupload.com/?d=56XJDKWK





Thursday, September 17, 2009

GLOBAL MINISTRY GATHERING: Apostles: Discerning between the True and the False



My soul is full of joy tonight? Why? It’s because I’m nearing the end of a high octane week experiencing the glory of the living God. I’ve joined with dozens of others here in Charlotte for “Global Communion”, an apostolic gathering.
Why has this been such a “high impact” event? There are several reasons:
Jesus is all over it
Honoring Jesus Christ as Lord of HIS church is the driving force of the people gathered here
There’s cultivation of a kingdom vision. No one is recruiting to their brand or religious franchise






So as a result, God is pouring out His glory and forging an incredible unity of heart and purpose in leaders from around the globe. Jesus is truly ministering through His people. This has not been just another religious seminar. It’s a family gathering brought about through organic relationships, and I believe everyone will leave with new friendships that will advance the kingdom.
One relatively new friendship I’m very grateful for is with Don Atkin. Don brought all of these kingdom workers together this week. And he began the first session with a hard hitting topic:

PURSUING TOGETHER A FRESH AND CLEAR UNDERSTANDING OF APOSTOLIC MINISTRY THAT IS NEITHER REACTIONARY NOR APOLOGETIC, NEITHER HIERARCHAL NOR WITHOUT SUBSTANCE.

Don began by defining ministry: it is a supply of Christ to the body. Then he addressed our ministry challenges here in the 21st century. As many of us have discovered the need to go beyond Pastor-Teacher leadership, a rediscovery of apostolic ministry is emerging. But Don warned of the danger of putting an apostolic layer over an existing religious structure. He says this is an exercise in futility. There must be a rooting out first of everything that’s not about Jesus. Then apostles and prophets can build upon a foundation of Him and Him alone.

One of our big challenges is the fact that George Barna estimates 4 out of 5 adults in America could be labeled “Casual Christians”. These are people who display no real difference in their lives from unbelievers. In other words, their profession of Christianity is false. Only about 16% fall under the label of “Captive Christians”. These are people who, like Paul, consider themselves voluntary “slaves” to Christ. They are captive to the heart and mind of God.
And complicating matters is the fact that most of the 16% who are truly followers of Christ are still in institutional churches, and are therefore not able to fully function as God intended.

So in our effort to restore the church, many of us are looking to apostles to help set things in order. But tragically, some of those who profess to be apostles are false apostles. This can be difficult to discern because much of the time false apostles are genuine believers. But Don gave us some helpful insights to make sure those we look to for apostolic leadership are truly apostolic.

Don Atkin put professing apostles into 2 categories: those in the spirit of Ishmael, and those in the spirit of Isaac. This of course is based on the sons of Abraham. Isaac fulfilled the promise, but before his arrival, Ishmael was the product of Sarah attempting to “help” God out. He came first. So very often, before something is truly birthed of God, Ishmael shows up, masquerading as God’s apostolic answer.

So what does the Ishmael apostle look like? Abraham’s first son set a sour tone for sonship. So, in like manner, apostles in this lineage are the source of conflicts. Isaac, on the other hand is a source of peace. Order and peace are fruits of the Spirit. Ishamel had some godly roots, but he produced more of the spirit of Egypt than of Abraham’s God.

Here are key distinctions between true and false apostles, or those of Isaac and those of Ishamel:

Life Flow
Ishmael: life flows from their followers up to them. They are on a platform and everyone looks up to them, and they’re often more affluent than those who they are ostensibly serving
Isaac: apostles are often impoverished. They speak little about money. Paul laid down his life and made tents. Life flows from them, not to them. They lead a love revolution.

Elder Statesmen not merely Fathers
Fathers can be tribal and more subject to competition and jostling for position with other fathers and tribes. Statesmen deal with issues that transcend tribes. They do not subscribe to tribal mentalities that are parochial. They also do not come to seek something for themselves, but seek a kingdom agenda

Cross pollination rather than control
Those of Ishmael seek to control. Those of Isaac promote cross pollination across tribes. They tolerate “messy” growth without smothering with supervision

Legitimize Ideas not people
Those of Ishmael sell legitimacy like priests used to sell indulgences. These apostles legitimate people. They promote a code of brotherhood similar to the KKK or the Mafia in return for loyalty. They are also impervious to accusations. Those of Isaac legitimize ideas. Regular believers are released to do the cutting edge work.

Impact rather than impart
Ishmael apostles pose as purveyors of the power of God. They do all the praying, prophesying,etc to impart something to the people. The rank and file believers are treated as if they have a “junior holy spirit”. Those of Isaac help to unpack what God has already put within His people

Equip instead of inform
Ishmael apostles believe they have to tell the flock everything they need to know, stunting true spiritual growth. Those of Isaac give people multiple resources and keep responsibility for their lives in their own hands where it should be.

Being rather than doing
Ishamel types have to be in charge and active in everything in the church to validate their apostolic positions. They use language to stir the flesh into action. Isaac apostles promote a goal of displacement. Their desire is to reproduce themselves so the body is not always dependent on them. They walk in the blessing of presence. When an apostle is in the house, his gifting rises, no matter where he sits. Gifts are released in people he’s around. Peace is also released. True apostles carry the presence of God and blessing everywhere they go.

Summing up, Don challenged us to do 5 things:
1. Don’t be distracted by what’s false. God will deal with those issues in His time. We have to remain redemptive in our perspective
2. Recognize that some who have the heart of a son may have only been exposed to systems of slavery
3. There will be a continual need to heal the casualties of false apostles. But this is best done in private and with as little drama as possible. This is where we must be statesmen and diplomats.
4. “Isaacs” are raised up by God, not by men
5. Through wisdom, a house is built. Paul was committed to knowing nothing but Jesus Christ and Him crucified. At the heart of a true apostle is SERVANTHOOD. Biblical authority is held lightly, exercised faithfully, expressed relationally, and followed willingly.

In the discussion that followed, one panelist spoke of the challenge of coming out of these “heavy shepherding” systems. He described what amounts to “unpledging” ourselves from these and described the process as bloody, similar to birth.
On a personal note, let me encourage you to consider whether you may be in this kind of bondage, and if you are, call out to the Lord to help you, and reach out to kingdom minded believers who aren’t promoting a “franchise” to help you. The antidote to this poisonous spirit in the church is nothing other than the liberating presence of the Lord in us. Let’s all make sure Jesus is getting formed in us, and that we’re truly growing in maturity… and not simply getting effectively indoctrinated and sermonized.




Tuesday, September 15, 2009

GLOBAL MINISTRY GATHERING





I am already rejoicing in the edification and fellowship the Lord is producing at this conference in Charlotte this week. This is an international gathering of organic church leaders.
This is very much unlike any other Christian conference I’ve attended. This one is smaller, yes. But it’s the atmosphere that is noticeably different. There is a panel of 20 apostolic workers from around the world. But there’s no recruiting or religious salesmanship here. The goal here is to receive and share the wisdom and truth of the Lord to see His kingdom advanced around the world.
On the first night, the panelists introduced themselves and described what the Lord is doing in their lives and ministries. Amazingly, the introductions did not stop there. The dozens of attendees did the same.
Some standout thoughts shared during that time:
“I don’t have a vision anymore. The vision has me”
“I’ve stopped going to church and started being the church”

There’s no platform here, no musicians with instruments, but a sweet sound did ascend to the Father. After the introductions Don Atkin asked if anyone felt led to begin a song. Someone began the chorus of “How Great is Our God”, then someone else started singing “We Exalt Thee”, and then another kicked off “I Love You Lord”. We ended with prayers lifted to the Father that He would reveal Himself during this week. I have no doubt that He will.





Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Weekend that Changed Everything

My recent posts have caused no small stir among the people who know us best. And I’m sure there are lingering questions about how we got to the place we are now. One of the reasons I’m posting this story is to lay out some of the “nail in the coffin” events that brought about the paradigm shift we made some weeks ago. (The “coffin” represents an ongoing pursuit of life within the “institutional” church setting. I mean no disrespect to anyone who chooses to remain in that context). Truthfully the seeds of organic church life have been in our lives for years, and the events of the last 20 months nourished the seedlings of change. The final decision to pursue a different course was made after a recent transformative weekend.
Because my parents are “seasoned citizens” I try to visit them at least once a quarter. Since Charlotte is US Airways’ largest hub, we have the blessing of weekly E-Savers (discounted fares to cities across the country). Of primary interest to me are the ones that pop up every 2-3 weeks for Lexington, KY. I regularly pray that they coincide with important events, like my nephew’s graduation back in May. Next I hoped for an E-Saver around my parents’ end of July birthdays. There was one on August First, but honestly I was uneasy about going. So much was going on in our lives that I wondered about the wisdom of leaving for a weekend. I was also very tired and my mind too exhausted to make a final decision. I went to sleep after 1 am that Friday night, praying that if the Lord wanted me to go, he would wake me up in time to make Saturday’s 7:35 am flight. Miraculously, I woke up at 5:30am. Even then I laid awake wavering.
Finally I threw a few things into a bag, and booked a ticket online. 6:17 a.m. I grabbed a book to read on the plane, and was out the door for Douglas International. 6:45 a.m. I walked through a non-existent line at security, and by 7:05 I had boarded the plane for Lexington. I settled in for the flight and pulled out my book. It was “Reimagining Church by Frank Viola. A few months earlier, after I had shared some of what God was doing in my heart, a friend recommended I read a book called “Pagan Christianity”. Soon after that I ordered the book, or so I thought. Instead I received “Reimagining Church”. This I believe was a Sovereign “mistake”, if ever there could be such a thing. What I was about to read on the plane that weekend would change everything. It confirmed many of the instincts the Lord has placed in my heart and has been nurturing for years.
On this last minute weekend trip, I internalized a couple lessons. First, from “Reimagining Church” I was reminded that the church is a family. The Father designed the church to mirror the Trinity. In the Trinity there is unity, and mutual submission, but there is no hierarchy. As I considered the many leadership challenges I’ve observed and experienced over the years, it hit me: our unbiblical perspective on leadership is the stumbling block to building the kind of church that truly reflects the heart of God. In His church, there is room for only ONE HEAD…Jesus Christ. I realized that for most of us Christians, this is mere lip service, little more than a mantra or slogan we can put on plaques and knick knacks to sell in Christian bookstores. Functionally, in most cases/churches there is a human head in the place where Jesus ought to reign. We elevate pastors and other Ephesians 4 leaders to a place they don’t belong. Truthfully, while many Protestants would reject the idea that the Pope is THE representative of Jesus on the earth, in practice we embrace that role for our pastors or other church leaders. We insist on setting up mediators between ourselves and Jesus, even though Scripture clearly teaches that He is the sole mediator between us and the Father. We depend on leaders to dole out responsibility and affirmation to us as if they come from the throne of God. There should be a DIRECT connection to the Father for EVERY member of the body so we can BE the functioning body parts God has called us to be.
I now believe this process is hindered by an over emphasis on the role of leaders. (To my detractors, I do not reject Ephesians 4 leadership. I do believe their role is to train and empower the BODY, not to consolidate power for themselves to lord over God’s people. I suspect this is an area where we, as leaders, think more highly of ourselves than we ought.) The Scripture is clear. Ephesians 4:12 tells us Apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers are given to us …to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ. Continue on and read verses 13-16.
Another lesson I took away concerns my immediate family. I love my wife and children, and I want so much more for them. I want my love for them to be more evident and for us all to enjoy a much richer family experience. So who could I look to for such an example? For me there is no better example than our long-time family friends, Bill and Lorraine Brooks? Bill is a retired London, KY Christian businessman with a heart for his family and for missions. He and his son Hank went to a tiny island in the Caribbean for a short term Partnership in Evangelism mission trip in the early 1980s. While in Grenada they connected with a church there and a family whose lives Bill decided to invest in by sponsoring their children to college in the United States. A wonderful godly woman, one of those children is now my dear wife of 17 years. Aside from my thankfulness for their role in bringing us together, it was always a blessing to see the closeness of the Brooks family. Most Sundays, they gather together (with their now adult children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, sponsored children and many others) for a meal after the Sunday church service. It is obvious that the foundation for this rich, welcoming fellowship time was laid many years ago.
On this my most recent visit to Kentucky, I promised my wife that I would pay the Brooks family a visit. So after attending Sunday morning service with my parents I took the roughly 1 hour drive down I-75 to visit Bill and Lorraine. I was not surprised to find Bill preparing lunch. He invited me to “help” by talking to him while he worked. Soon Lorraine emerged, and their daughters arrived for their usual Sunday fellowship over lunch. When I asked one daughter about the secret of togetherness, her reply was simple: “we always did everything we could together.” This was all the confirmation I needed. Over recent weeks since I’ve returned home, we’ve been intentionally doing more things together as a family. I hope one day our family togetherness will speak to people as does the Brooks family.
Wrapping these elements together, so much of what I learn about the church and about the family are interchangeable. As a church family we grow by being together beyond church meetings! Those of us who left the institutional church setting together in recent weeks are already experiencing the joy of this. As we gather in a living room, Jesus is the unseen Head, leading our times together. The growing body we’re relating to no longer gathers to sit for a performance, but to actively participate in our corporate worship. Yes, there will be teaching and preaching. Yes there will be leadership. But the goal, as Terry Virgo says, “is to make every person mature, not dependant.” The body is able to come together and worship without leaders dominating. If in doubt, read I Corinthians 12 and 14.
Please don’t hear what I am not saying! I am not against leadership. I believe God gives leaders to his people. Good effective leaders bring Glory to God and good to his people. However, I believe that we as leaders should be more concerned about seeing Jesus honored than about securing our positions and asserting our authority. Allow me to further drive home my perhaps misunderstood perspective on leaders. I believe that if we as leaders were half as concerned about seeing “regular people” mature, equipped, and deployed for mission, as we are about having them respect us and honor our authority (see John 5:44), we would truly see more of the manifold wisdom of God displayed in HIS church.
As in the church, the best way I can encourage my family to mirror the heart of God is to serve and lead them in love… certainly not by “asserting my authority”. In fact, I suspect they will be more inclined to listen to and maybe even respect a husband and father they know loves them, rather than one who is simply looking to tell them what to do, how to live, or who to be.
Lord, give us more servant leaders and free your people of drill sergeants and religious CEO’s. Let your glory shine through ALL of your people so the world will see YOU in us and give YOU the glory you deserve! Amen!



Newer Posts Older Posts Home