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.