Testimony: David's back injury
When collecting my husband from a prayer gathering, the Holy Spirit gave me the name of a particular pasta & seafood restaurant in the south of our city, & told me to 'go'.
Seated at the table, the small of my back began to produce much pain. Forced out of my seat to gain relief, I attracted the attention of two ladies at the table next to my family.
"What are you doing?", one asked. "I am in pain, and this usually means someone here has a bad back injury." "Are you a chiropractor?" she asked me. I answered, "No, I am an Ambassador for Jesus Christ."
"What are you going to do?" she asked me. "Find out who this is & pray for healing." I answered. "Can we come?" they asked, and I nodded. They left their table & followed me as I walked towards the front counter. Just then He gave me another word 'Staff'.
I approached the Manager standing at the till. As I greeted him, I enquired if any of his staff suffered from a bad back. "Yes," he confirmed. "David." I asked if he would ask if David would allow me to pray for him. He asked my name - 'Mama Susanna' I answered.
A large man with a hefty moustache was turning the seafood in a cooking wok & he called David to the counter.
"Hello David. My name is 'Mama' & heaven just showed me you have a bad back. Just about here?" and I placed my hand where the pain had come into my back. He nodded. David shared that some days his back was so painful that he could hardly bend to open the cupboard & was in great pain to do his work in the kitchen.
"If you allow me, I will pray for you," I explained to David. "But I do not pray in the name of any other God, but Jesus Christ."
He consented, and led me to the end of the restaurant where the tables were not in use. I removed one chair & positioned it for David to sit on. The 'two ladies' from the adjacent table watched on quietly. I laid my hands on his back, & declared the goodness of God on David's life, & prayed for healing. A sense of power came from my left hand like short bouts of electrical current, & David began to react as he experienced 'tingling' down his back.
"What's that?" David exclaimed. "That's the power of my Jesus," I said. "He is the Healer of every sore back." As he continued to feel what he described as 'pins & needles' in his back, I prayed while comforting him that this was all in the hands of Jesus & that it was His power that was working in his body, not anything that I could do. He listened carefully, trusted me until..........
David was on his feet. It has been my experience that these sick people once healed do not take things quietly, but will move with such fervency that often you have to ask them to slow down. David was no different. He bent over, moved around, twisted himself from side to side, all the time smiling at me.
"How does it feel?" I asked him. His tears gave me the answer. He couldn't speak but was overwhelmed with emotion. Together we walked back to the entrance to the kitchen, & I promised to come back in a couple of days & check on him.
In the latter part of the week, I returned to the restaurant. The Manger recognised me, called me over to the cash register where many were waiting to pay their bills. He signalled me to come towards him, he told me that not once in the last few days had his employee David complained once of a sore back, & that this had not happened since David had begun work there. He then asked could I pray for him. He was not sleeping & was exhausted, trying to cope with his workload. He told me that if Jesus could handle David's bad back, he could also handle 'no sleep'. So in front of many, & with his permission, I prayed for the Manager.
As I stood there afterwards, I thanked those who were waiting to pay their bills for their patience, & told them how Jesus Christ had healed David's back. Some asked for prayer for other ailments, and I left.
At the week's end, I returned to the restaurant. David almost jumped the counter when I saw him, bending and sliding and rocking back & forth, saying he had never slept so well, enjoyed his life so much & that his back was totally healed - no pain. He also told me that he was leaving the job - to do things that he had never been able with a 'bad back'. He thanked me & shook my hand.
The Manager, also shared that he had slept 'like a baby' with great rest and peace. He asked me what else Jesus can do?
Great question indeed! I 'began' while the Manger, David, the entire kitchen, the waitresses, those in close range of the tables around me ..........paused & listened. It was one the most captive audiences in 'church' I had experienced. I told them what my Jesus had already done - the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ - and what a future and a hope we all have because of His great choice, and of the love of God that changes anyone who will receive. Some just smiled; one or two wept; and one woman lifted her wine glass and said 'Cheers'. Everyone there was touched by the wonderful Good News of Jesus.
The Holy Spirit engages the most 'ordinary' men & women, & makes them 'EXTRA-ordinary'. He heals, He restores, He saves & He prophesise 'change' where the world cannot 'change'......He brings the 'possible' to the 'impossible'.
The Lord Jesus is the Way, the Truth & the Life!
Elijah's Thunder Family Australia
"Building relationships, loving people"
Thursday, December 22, 2005
Saturday, December 03, 2005
"I'm all for fellowship and social gatherings with brothers and sisters in Christ, but not at the expense of "revival." I would rather pray and seek God's face for 2 hours than attend another meeting that is more focused on socializing than going after God. I may sound harsh, but I can't help the pain & frustration I feel in my spirit. The national average of Christians on a university campus is 4% and the majority of that 4% come from Christian backgrounds. We are not reaching barely anyone on our campuses, we are simply recruiting Christians. This is not ok. We are losing the battle, but not if we give ourselves to worship and intercession. Raise up the campus houses of prayer! Contend for heaven on earth! Mobilize others, but begin with yourself, fast like Daniel fasted and pray like Elijah prayed. We don't have tomorrow we only have today!" - Jaeson M (emphasis mine) on CHOPs
Thursday, December 01, 2005
Almost exactly two years ago, I attended a seminar about the prophetic and apostolic in Toronto, Canada. It was held in the Toronto Airport Christian Fellowship, the internationally renowned ex-Vineyard church led by John and Carol Arnott. Starting in 1994, millions of people gathered there to experience "the Toronto blessing". Up to 5,000 people attended the almost daily evening services. Observers spoke of one of the longest-lasting revivals in history, and when I wrote a Friday Fax report in 1999, they had just celebrated the 3 millionth visitor.
On this November evening in 2003, I sat in the empty hall, waiting for the seminar to begin in one of the upper rooms. (The seminar was only held there for logistical reasons.) A question started to nag at me as I watched the church's musicians routinely setting up their instruments for the evening service, to which only 20 people showed up, lost in the large hall. Where did all those millions of people go? And where did God go? So I asked him. "How do you see what happened here, God, and why it stopped? What does the church scene look like from your perspective?" Over the next few minutes, I experienced that which prophetically-inclined people would call an 'open vision': not only did I see a film in my Spirit, but felt myself a participant, in the midst of the film. For many, this may be an astonishing new perspective on how God is moving right now:
The three booths
I saw a long line of newly-saved people entering the Kingdom of God. Everything was new for them, so there were three booths set up for them to pass through. At the first booth, they would sign up for God's army and pledge total loyalty to God. From then on, they were under orders, no longer their own, and were given a uniform and boots. At the second booth, they were given a sword, and at the third, a scythe - a harvesting tool. Astonishingly, only around one in a thousand of the new arrivals even went to the first booth; almost everyone went to the second stand, and almost everyone also ignored the third stand. Almost nobody went to all three stands, as God explicitly intended.
Everyone hurried directly to a huge plain full of people and activity. Under an enormous dust cloud thrown up by the many feet, small groups quickly formed and were joined by the new arrivals. These countless groups made themselves banners, flags and uniforms decorated with very creative logos and emblems. It was an incredible colourful confusion of thousands of small militia. In other words, an irregular army. The chaos was complete; some blew for attack, others for retreat. Some acted out bizarre rituals, others sat around the camp fire laughing. Some practised sword fighting, others gathered their weapons and spoke of peace. Some of the groups even attacked each other. It was a scene of hectic activity, but without any recognisable order. Generals cooked, cooks were pilots, pilots dug trenches. I was horrified, and saw clearly that this army would never win any battle. Everyone was terribly busy, but all the zealous action came to nothing in the long term.
Suddenly someone shouted "The Angels of God are coming!" They were right: some way off, I could make out a huge number of God's white warriors; powerful, almost larger-than-life angels. The people broke out in an ear-shattering shout and cheer, "Hallelujah, the angels are coming. At last, it's about to begin!" The cheering was indescribable. But the excitement slowly faded, and the shouts of 'hallelujah' died out. Finally, silence descended. Then I looked at the angels more carefully. Standing close together, they looked like a police cordon in front of a crowd of hooligans, with set, sad faces. Step by step the white phalanx slowly approached the motley crowd. Consternation spread, and some of the banners began to retreat. Pale-faced, the people stumbled backwards, shocked and unable to comprehend what was happening. In their shock, some even lost their swords and pennants. The mass of people were driven back into a large valley without exits as the rows of angels slowly but deliberately advanced. The people were finally trapped in the valley like sheep. Some began to cry, others called out to God for mercy, yet others called for help. Most were simply silent.
At last, a huge angel stepped forward and said in a voice loud enough to be heard in the farthest corners of the valley, "That is enough! You have done as you please for long enough. End the war you declared yourselves. Submit to your God. Lay down the banners and flags you made yourselves. Take off the uniforms and boots you were given, as well as the insignia you created. Repent, because you have been disobedient. Lay everything on the ground beside you and kneel to ask your Father to forgive you. In His mercy, he will grant you a fresh start."
The people froze. Astonished disbelief spread through the crowd. Some started to talk, some even started shouting "Pay no attention to them! Listen to me!" But some began to understand. A few sobbed. One or two started to remove their insignia, lay down their banners and flags, take off their uniform and kneel in the dust, asking God for forgiveness for their disobedience. Whenever another person knelt - or even an entire group - an angel left the phalanx, took what the person had laid down, and carried it out to the plain, slowly creating a huge mound of banners, flags and uniforms. The angel then returned to the kneeling person, both as a sign and a guard, because some of the people who had not yet understood what was happening were angry, shouting "Traitors! Deserters!" at those who knelt, ordering them to return to their militia. The number of stubborn rebels and militia leaders shrank continuously as people recognised that they had been incredibly misguided and laid down their uniforms and weapons. Finally, after a long time, everyone was kneeling. The angels set the huge mound of uniforms, banners and lags alight, and everyone watched transfixed as the once so precious possessions vanished in the flames. When the fire had burned down, the angel spoke again in a very gentle voice, saying "Now stand up and follow us. Let's start over again."
A new start
The people stood up, naked, without a uniform, but their shame covered by the angel at their side who led them back to the point at which they had entered the Kingdom of God. This time, each person went slowly and deliberately to the first booth to write their name in the army register before receiving a new uniform and boots with no insignia. The angel then took them to the second booth, where they received a sword, symbolising the Word of God. They then went on to the third and final booth, where they were given harvesting tools and a clearly-defined task and position. The angel then took them to a clearly defined position on the plain, where he instructed "his" person to assume his personal position and obey God's battle orders. The angel then left. With time, an incredibly powerful army formed. Everyone was in the right place and knew exactly what his job was. Nobody did what seemed right in their own eyes, but paid great attention to their own task and function. I saw joy, but also wild determination, written on the people's faces. That was the end of the 'film' for me. I had tears in my eyes, and was both horrified and thankful. At the end of my talk that evening, I decided to recount my vision just as I have written it here.
Clint Toews is a Canadian prophet and author from Winnipeg. He stood up at just that moment, explaining that he had planned to speak at another church in Toronto, but that God had redirected him, telling him to be where I would speak, and that he had a prophetic word for the moment. I do not allow just any 'prophet' to take the microphone, so checked with my friend Dr. Ken Stade, also from Winnipeg, who led the meeting. He agreed that Clint should speak.
Clint said that God has a very simply message to us all. It is written in Joshua 5:13-14. Shortly before conquering Jericho, Joshua encounters an unknown man armed with a sword. He approaches the man and asks "Are you for us or for our enemies?" The man answered "No!". Clint exclaimed "This 'NO!' is God's answer to our unspoken question about when he will join our project, our plan, fellowship, church, outreach, even our war. God will not join our human plans, and particularly not our church. It is He who builds His church. So, 'No!' But if we repent, confess our pride, our pitiful denominationalism and favouritism, and kneel down and remove our shoes because we recognise that Jesus is standing before us, the Commander of the Lord's army, then he will again assume the command which we have usurped. If we then take the place he assigns us and follow His commands, victory will come quickly; Jericho is a historic example. The honour for God's victories will then no longer go to some banner, flag, denomination, missions agency or terrific plan to save the world, but to the Lamb of God alone, Jesus Christ."
Source: Wolfgang Simson, The Friday Fax, www.bufton.net/fridayfax.
Wednesday, November 23, 2005
Every man is as close to God as he wants to be; he is as holy and as full of the Spirit as he wills to be....
Yet we must distinguish wanting from wishing. By "want" I mean wholehearted desire. Certainly there are many who wish they were holy or victorious or joyful but are not willing to meet God's conditions to obtain. That Incredible Christian, 64.
I certainly do not want to imply that if we merely "try harder" to be holy, we will succeed. The fact is that, if we do try harder, the more likely we are to fail. The paradox of following Jesus is that apart from the Spirit of God giving us a new heart and enabling us to be holy, we can do nothing. "Grace empowered holiness," its; a complete oxymoron in some ways, but that's the kingdom of God...its coming and it is at hand.
Daily, and moment by moment, we make a choice of who we are going to submit to. Which master do we serve? Ourselves? Money? The wishes and whims of others? May God help us to serve Jesus Christ with everything that we have.
Friday, November 18, 2005
Changed (listen to song here)
by Phil Joel
I wrote a letter today, and what I wrote was my own obituary
'Cuz from the graveyard of self, You have resurrected me.
Jesus, You have changed way I do everything
You have changed the way I see everything.
With you I begin everyday the same
I'm gonna drink deep, that's why I came
The truth is a river flowing, renewal for your mind
Let it set your heart free, the way it did mine
Jesus, You have changed way I do everything
You have changed the way I see everything.
Looked in the mirror today, and what I saw was not the same as yesterday
'Cuz more and more you're transforming and rearranging me.
Jesus, You have changed way I do everything
You have changed the way I see everything.
You have changed way I do everything
You have changed the way I wear my wedding ring
You have changed the way I treat my family
You have changed the way I see all of my friends
You have changed the way that I spend my time
You have changed the way that I use my mind
You have changed the things that I have spend money on
You have changed the everything that I ever thought was my mine
You have changed the way changed emotions, you have steadied me
You have changed my eyes the way I live and see
You have changed the course of my history
Thank God, You're still changing me
Friday, October 28, 2005
by Beth Parent
I guess it was mid-college some time when I first encountered the concept of becoming Mrs. Right rather than spending all my single years looking for Mr. Right. It was revolutionary for me. Until then, I’d spent years upon years wondering or blatantly pointing out what was wrong with all the men I knew. I had never even considered the fact that maybe I needed some improvements. I set to work immediately.
My faith journey went on a roller coaster of a ride as I sought God for my own selfish reasons, trying to “get something out of Him” that I had predetermined was necessary. I finally came to a point where I realized that seeking God for a husband or a career or a pony is not only equally ridiculous, but none of it is seeking God at all.
For all my underlining and highlighting in Paul’s exhortations to the Ephesians about the roles of husbands and wives, I wasn’t any closer to God or a wedding. I wasn’t getting to know God at all and was therefore failing egregiously in my attempts to better myself because everything I’d learned was still only serving to make me more and more selfish. I gave it all up.
I started to really ask questions about God, leaving off any tempting addendums about husbands or boyfriends. I started looking for answers to questions about who He is. I talked about Him with my friends. We studied the Bible together. We learned about His character, His love, His pursuit of us and His Son. We challenged each other and held each other accountable for our actions (and our inaction). We reached out to others. We fell. We picked each other up. We sinned. We loved and prayed for each other. We grew.
College ended, a year passed, graduate school began, a year passed, I went on a spirited jaunt across Europe, months passed, graduate school ended, months have passed, and here I am. It has been years since I first started trying to become Mrs. Right, and I am still single. It recently occurred to me that there must be something terribly wrong with me that I remain alone whilst my strong and steady single friends are slowly becoming extinct. Did they achieve Mrs. Right status, leaving me drowning in their wake? How did they know what to do? And why didn’t they clue me in?
There is a horrendous problem with the suggestion that we should spend our time as singles becoming the right person for someone else; it makes us believe that until we find that someone, there is something wrong with us. If we spend our time, energy and emotions preparing for some unknowable, unforeseeable future mate who will be the indication that we’ve finally bettered ourselves enough to deserve the love that goes hand in hand with marriage, and that mate doesn’t come, we receive a message that we are unworthy of marriage, unworthy of love, unlovable. We are less of a man or less of a woman because of our singleness. And that message is a complete and utter lie.
Our femininity/masculinity is simply part of our humanity, and we are absolutely not less of a human being because we aren’t sharing our lives with another human being in matrimony. It is not our spouse’s job to make us fully ourselves. Nor is it for them that we become so. To make our time as singles all about our spouse is idolatry and lies. To make our marriage all about our spouse is no different. Nothing is about us, and nothing is about them; it’s all about Him.
A good friend of mine always says that marriage is not for our happiness but for our holiness. I say the same goes for singleness. God is constantly shaping us into the likeness of Christ. He is preparing us for an eternity with Him, not a lifetime with another person.
I operated for years under the false assumption that I wasn’t married because I wasn’t “ready.” What I thought that meant, I have no idea. I just figured that when I was “ready,” God would usher in Mr. Wonderful and we would live happily ever after. As existential as it may sound, I think now that the only real reason I’m not married is because I’m single.
As long as I’m following the will of God, then each phase of life is a purposeful part of that will. My life could have taken an infinite number of different routes, but the decisions I’ve made up to this point have led me here. There are a couple of men I probably could have married if I’d set my mind to it, but obviously I didn’t want to, so I shouldn’t complain about being single. It’s right where I’m supposed to be - not because I’m not “ready” yet, not because I haven’t fixed all of the annoying things I do, and certainly not because God is in some way holding out on me.
In an article I’ve kept for years, Paige Benton spells it out: “If he fluctuated one quark in his goodness, he would cease to be God....I am single because God is so abundantly good to me, because that is his best for me. It is a cosmic impossibility that anything could be better for me right now than being single.”
But just to be clear, I would like to be married some day. I haven’t given up on that yet. And I haven’t kissed dating goodbye. Shoot, I haven’t kissed anything since the late 90's. So bring it on.
I've been thinking lately about this idea of how, in longing for the future, we miss out on living fully in the present.
I want to experience life in the light of His presence to the fullest measure today...not when I get married, not when I finally figure what my gifts are, not when I get this or get that. You don't become happier because you've made it. No, now, in the present, in this moment...there is joy, there is fullness in His presence.
Yergh. So thankful for the right now.
Monday, October 10, 2005
For decades the primary way that Americans have experienced and expressed their faith has been through a local church. That reality is rapidly changing, according to researcher George Barna, whose new book on the transitioning nature of America's spirituality, entitled 'Revolution', describes what he believes will be the most massive reshaping of the nation's faith community in more than a century.
Relying upon national research conducted over the past several years, Barna profiles a group of more than 20 million adults throughout the nation labeled 'revolutionaries'. He noted that although measures of traditional church participation in activities such as worship attendance, Sunday school, prayer, and Bible reading have remained relatively unchanged during the past twenty years, the Revolutionary faith movement is growing rapidly.
"These are people who are less interested in attending church than in being the church," he explained. "We found that there is a significant distinction in the minds of many people between the local church - with a small 'c' - and the universal Church - with a capital 'C'. Revolutionaries tend to be more focused on being the Church, capital C, whether they participate in a congregational church or not."
"A common misconception about revolutionaries," he continued, "is that they are disengaging from God when they leave a local church. We found that while some people leave the local church and fall away from God altogether, there is a much larger segment of Americans who are currently leaving churches precisely because they want more of God in their life but cannot get what they need from a local church. They have decided to get serious about their faith by piecing together a more robust faith experience. Instead of going to church, they have chosen to be the Church, in a way that harkens back to the Church detailed in the Book of Acts."
BIG CHANGES IN THE MAKING
One of the most eye-opening portions of the research contained in the book describes what the faith community may look like twenty years from now. Using survey data and other cultural indicators he has been measuring for more than two decades, Barna estimates that the local church is presently the primary form of faith experience and expression for about two-thirds of the nation's adults. He projects that by 2025 the local church will lose roughly half of its current 'market share' and that alternative forms of faith experience and expression will pick up the slack. Importantly, Barna's studies do not suggest that most people will drop out of a local church to simply ignore spirituality or be freed up from the demands of church life. Although there will be millions of people who abandon the entire faith community for the usual reasons - hurtful experiences in churches, lack of interest in spiritual matters, prioritizing other dimensions of their life - a growing percentage of church dropouts will be those who leave a local church in order to intentionally increase their focus on faith and to relate to God through different means.
That growth is fueling alternative forms of organized spirituality, as well as individualized faith experience and expression. Examples of these new approaches include involvement in a house church, participation in marketplace ministries, use of the Internet to satisfy various faith-related needs or interests, and the development of unique and intense connections with other people who are deeply committed to their pursuit of God.
SEVEN PASSIONS OF THE REVOLUTIONARY
In the effort to increase their obedience and faithfulness to God, Barna discovered that Revolutionaries are characterized by what he identified as a set of spiritual passions - seven specific emphases that drive their quest for God and a biblical lifestyle. Although these are areas of spiritual development that most local churches address, millions of adults who are the most serious about their faith in God were the ones least likely to be satisfied by what their local church was delivering in terms of resources, opportunities, evaluation and developmental possibilities. The consequence is that millions of committed born again Christians are choosing to advance their relationship with God by finding avenues of growth and service apart from a local church.
Asked if this meant that the Revolution he describes is simply a negative reaction to the local church, he suggested that most Revolutionaries go through predictable phases in their spiritual journey in which they initially become dissatisfied with their local church experience, then attempt to change things so their faith walk can be more fruitful. The result is that they undergo heightened frustration over the inability to introduce positive change, which leads them to drop out of the local church altogether, often in anger. But because this entire adventure was instigated by their love for God and their desire to honor Him more fully, they finally transcend their frustration and anger by creating a series of connections that allow them to stay close to God and other believers without involvement in a local church.
One of the hallmarks of the Revolution of faith is how different it is for each person. "It would be wrong to assume that all Revolutionaries have completely turned their back on the local church," the researcher stated. "Millions of Revolutionaries are active in a local church, although most of them supplement that relationship with participation in a variety offaith-related efforts that have nothing to do with their local church. The defining attribute of a Revolutionary is not whether they attend church, but whether they place God first in their lives and are willing to do whatever it takes to facilitate a deeper and growing relationship with Him and other believers. Our studies persuasively indicate that the vast majority of American churches are populated by people who are lukewarm spiritually. Emerging from those churches are people dedicated to becoming Christ-like through the guidance of a congregational form of the church, but who will leave that faith center if it does not further such a commitment to God. They then find or create alternatives that allow that commitment to flourish."
How do most Revolutionaries justify calling themselves devoted disciples of Christ while distancing themselves from a local church? "Many of them realize that someday they will stand before a holy God who will examine their devotion to Him. They could take the safe and easy route of staying in a local church and doing the expected programs and practices, but they also recognize that they will not be able to use a lackluster church experience as an excuse for a mediocre or unfulfilled spiritual life. Their spiritual depth is not the responsibility of a local church; it is their own responsibility. As a result, they decide to either get into a local church that enhances their zeal for God or else they create alternatives that ignite such a life of obedience and service. In essence, these are people who have stopped going to church so they can be the Church."
CHALLENGES AND OPPORTUNITIES
While the Revolution brings with it some very promising qualities - an intense pursuit of godliness, new networks of believers supporting each other, heightened financial giving to ministry endeavors, greater sensitivity to the presence of God in the world, a greater sense of freedom to be a genuine disciple in the midst of a secular society - Barna also pointed out that the Revolution brings great challenges to those who choose that pathway.
"There is the danger of exposure to unbiblical or heretical teaching. Thereis the possibility of experiencing isolation from a true community of believers and the accountability and support that can provide. It could become easier to hoard one's treasures rather than giving generously. Some might find it more difficult to sustain a life of worship without a place or means of expressing that praise to God."
Barna contends that these are very serious challenges faced by Revolutionaries - but that they are no more serious than the threats to the spiritual health of regular church-goers. "Objectively speaking, these are the very same problems that we identify among people who rely upon the efforts of a local church to facilitate their growth. We find plentiful evidence of unbiblical teaching in small groups, Sunday school classes and other local church venues. We know that few churched Christians give 4% of their income back to God, much less 10%. We recognize that most people attending worship services in a church sanctuary leave feeling that God was not present and that they did not personally connect with the living God through that experience. We have identified the relative absence of accountability within most congregations. So even though Revolutionaries face serious challenges in blossoming into the fervent God-follower they hope to become, perhaps the main difference is simply that they have a wider range of options for achieving their faith goals than do people who are solely focused on faith delivered through a local church. In either case, it is ultimately up to the individual to make sure that they have their spiritual priorities right, that they are investing themselves in activities that draw them closer to God, and that they stay focused on pleasing God more than themselves or other people."
The explosion of Revolutionaries in the U.S., however, raises new challenges for people involved in ministry. "This new movement of God demands that there be new forms of leadership to appropriately guide people in their faith journey," Barna said. "It requires new ways of measuring how well the Church at-large is doing, getting beyond attendance figures as the indicator of health. And it demands that new tools and resources be accessible to a growing contingent of people who are seeking to introduce their faith into every dimension of their life."
AN INTRODUCTION TO THE REVOLUTION
Having written three-dozen previous books about faith and culture, Barna feels that this book may ultimately wind up being the most significant volume he has written. In the course of doing his customary national research studies, he stumbled onto the Revolution. "Having been personally frustrated by the local church, I initiated several research projects to better understand what other frustrated followers of Christ were doing to maintain their spiritual edge. What emerged was a realization that there is a large and rapidly-growing population of Christ-followers who are truly want to be like the church we read about in the book of Acts. We began tracking their spiritual activity and found that it is much more robust and significant than we ever imagined - and, frankly, more defensible than what emerges from the average Christian church. But, because the Revolution is neither organized nor designed to create an institutional presence, it typically goes undetected."
Revolution, published by Tyndale House, is what the author calls "a brief introduction to the most important spiritual movement of our age." He believes that fifty years from now historians will look back at this period and label it one of the most significant periods in American Church history. "I would not be surprised," the California-based researcher noted, "if at some point this becomes known as the Third Great Awakening in our nation's history. This spiritual renaissance is very different from the prior two religious awakenings in America, but it may well become the most profound."
This is pretty nuts...
Wednesday, October 05, 2005
Legion by waiterrant.net
Beth and I are sitting outside waiting for our shift to start. Claude, our local homeless guy, shuffles past us.
“Hi Claude,” Beth says cheerily.
Claude makes no indication that he hears her.
“How ya doing Claude?” I ask. He usually responds to me.
Claude ignores me and strikes up a conversation with a lamppost. Mumbling something about the government taking away his house he kicks the lamppost and walks away.
“I’ve never seen him do that before,” Beth whispers.
“Must be off his meds,” I reply.
“He hears voices, right?” Beth asks.
Watching Claude as he disappears around the corner I remember a line from the Gospel of Mark.
“My name is Legion, for we are many,” I sigh.
Beth looks at me quizzically.
“It’s a line from the Bible,” I explain, “Seemed appropriate for Claude.”
“I’m not familiar with it,” Beth says.
“Jesus was going to this town to preach,” I begin to explain, “Along the way he encounters a guy kinda like Claude. The guy’s a real mess; possessed by demons, living in a cemetery, screaming and yelling all day, and cutting himself up with sharp stones.”
“Sounds like a nut,” Beth says, “What happens?”
“Jesus asks the man his name. The man replies, ‘My name is Legion, for we are many.”
“Sounds like he was hearing voices,” Beth says, “Just like Claude.”
“Maybe,” I reply, “In any case, Jesus takes pity on the man and casts the demons into a herd of swine. The pigs, about two thousand of them, run off the edge of a cliff and drown themselves in a lake.”
“Wow,” Beth says, “What happened to the crazy guy?”
“He was completely healed.”
“I wish that would happen with Claude.”
“That’d be nice – but that’s not the meaning of the story,” I say.
“What is?” Beth asks.
“When the people in the town hear about the pigs going into the drink they’re terrified. They go tell Jesus to take a hike. They don’t want him anywhere near their city.”
“Why?” Beth asks.
I sigh and look at my watch, “Are you up for a mini theology lesson?”
Beth smiles. “I’ve got nothing better to do,” she says.
“What were Jews doing raising pigs?” I ask.
“Huh?” Beth says.
“Pigs are unclean animals. Jews are not supposed to eat them. Why is there a herd of pigs outside of a Jewish town?”
“I don’t know.”
“Well, there were non kosher people living in Israel at that time too; Roman soldiers, Greeks, Phoenicians. Someone in that town was selling those pigs to make money.”
“I don’t follow,” Beth says.
“Bottom line,” I say, “That herd of pigs was somebody’s business.”
“And Jesus destroyed that business without a second thought. Destroyed it for someone he didn’t even know.”
“What do you think would happen if a Holy Man came along and cured Claude of his demons – but destroyed the Bistro in the process?”
“I’d be out of a job.”
“Would you like that?”
“Does that jibe with how you think of God?” I ask, “Him throwing you out of work?”
“Not at all.”
“But that’s precisely what happened with the pigs. You better believe the guy tending those pigs lost his job. Maybe he caught a beating too.”
“That’s not a very nice thing for God to do,” Beth says.
“Beth,” I reply, “God isn’t always nice.”
“The world places no value in people like Claude and the possessed man,” I say, “What do you think they’re worth?”
“I don’t know,”
“To us they’re nothing. But to God they’re everything.”
Beth is silent.
“I think God’s sense of economy is very different from our own - so different it’s scary. To him the plight of one vagrant is more important than all the money in the world. And He’ll plunder our treasure to save him.”
“That would piss people off,” Beth says.
“You bet it would,” I reply, “But maybe we get pissed because we realize we’ve been investing in the wrong kind of treasure. If we all acted like human beings, if our treasure was compassion, people like Claude might have it a little easier.”
“The townspeople, instead of being happy that their brother was saved, send Jesus away. They’re only interested in maintaining the status quo and their own comfort. They’re unwilling to open their hearts. So, in the end, the townspeople were possessed by demons far worse than anything inside Legion. That’s the true meaning of the story.”
Beth looks at me.
“You should’ve been a priest,” she says.
“Me?” I say with a laugh, “I like sex too much.”
“You think about this kind of stuff a lot though.”
“It’s a curse sometimes,” I say, “Trust me.”
“Well, thanks for telling me that story.”
We go back inside and get to work. A vague unsettled feeling falls over me. At first I think I feel weird after waxing all philosophical outside. Truth be told? Sometimes I just like to hear myself talk.
No. That isn’t it. The funk says with me all night.
When I get home I turn on the computer and start to write. I can’t think of anything so I write about my conversation with Beth. Writing this blog can be tedious at times. I can’t seem to wrestle my words into coherent form. Then again I can’t seem to write anything lately. I’ve been a bit depressed. It’s been almost a year since my ex and I broke up.
I grab a beer and go out on the porch. I listen to the wind stir the leaves in the trees.
Then I hear the demons.
They whisper about promises not kept and promise unfulfilled. They mock my choices, dangling before me lives and possibilities that could have been. The demons chatter incessantly, their voices growing. They are many. They are Legion.
The lights of passing cars cast a flickering pattern of light and shadow across the floor.
One of the shadows lingers.
“You’re a failure,” it whispers.
I look towards the corner. The shadow congeals, grows darker, and rises from the floor. Standing erect the yawning blackness moves to within an inch of my face.
This is my demon.
“And you will be alone until the day you die,” it hisses malevolently.
Suddenly I understand why I’ve felt unsettled since talking to Beth.
Something I thought I'd share.
Tuesday, October 04, 2005
"Being 'nice' was never one of my goals in life and being past fifty years old, I am not about to adopt that as a new goal. 'Nice' is not a fruit of the Spirit."
I am not more protected the more people that are praying for me. Where is that in the bible? The issue is whether or not I am in Christ and boldly obedient to Him no matter what my circumstances."
"Graham Cook says, 'I have seen many eunuchs in the house of the Lord and very few fruitful sons” (A Divine Confrontation, page 99). Yes, amen! Men who are faithful to the meetings and to the programs! Men who are submitted. But men who have no faith to do anything for God! Some of the most faithful people have the least faith! I have seen men who are totally loyal to a certain 'spiritual house' to the point of disloyalty to the house which Jesus is building."
The last one hit me pretty hard. This one is crazy in its implications. Like...its possible to be faithful but to the WRONG THING. Gosh. Its like building a house and being completely diligent and focused in doing it, but do it on the wrong foundation.
o_0. I don't want to be a eunuch anymore. Its time to rise up as a son.
Need to start looking for the places God is at. Where His Presence is evidently moving in imperfect people...how many times have I continued laboring where the cloud of His presence has lifted! C'mon man...the grace has lifted...
Monday, October 03, 2005
" Suppose this black pit of a kingdom of yours is the only world. Well, it strikes me as a pretty poor one. And that's a funny thing, when you come to think of it. We're just babies making up a game, if you're right. But four babies playing a game can make a play-world which licks your real world hollow. That's why I'm going to stand by the play world. I'm on Aslan's side ven if there isn't any Aslan to lead it. I'm going to live like a Narnian even if there isn't any Narnia."
- The Silver Chair (Chapter12, "The Queen of Underland")
Sunday, October 02, 2005
Thursday, September 29, 2005
“Will you also go away?” He said.
Friday, September 23, 2005
Thursday, September 22, 2005
And where we're going:
Hmmmmmm....so, what does this look like practically. This changes everything we know to be "true" about how church looks, functions, and acts.
(SOURCE: These images were originally created by Adam Young. You can find them here and here.)
Most of my life I've made the mistake of believing God for too little. For the rest of my life, if I have to make a mistake, it's going to be believing God for too much. But how can you believe an omnipresent, omniscient, omnipotent God for too much, especially when he himself says, "Everything is possible for him who believes" (Mark 9:23)?
- Jack Deere
Sunday, September 18, 2005
Richard J. Foster and Dallas Willard on the difference between discipleship and spiritual formation.
Interview by Agnieszka Tennant | posted 09/16/2005 09:30 a.m.
Prayer. The Word of God. Spiritual gifts. The sacraments. Social justice. Pursuit of holiness. Christian disciplines. These are the rivers of Christian tradition that flow into the interdenominational sea of small groups called Renovaré. It's impossible to say how many of these spiritual formation groups function worldwide, because the group's leaders say that "it would be a failure" if they counted them. They're not into numbers and organizational growth charts.
But it's likely you've heard of them anyway.
The founder of Renovaré is Richard J. Foster, Quaker author of Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth, a classic named by CT as one of the top ten books of the 20th century. Another luminary at Renovaré is Dallas Willard, a Southern Baptist, professor of philosophy at the University of South California in Los Angeles, and author of The Divine Conspiracy: Recovering Our Hidden Life in God, which was CT's Book of the Year in 1999.
The two men recently collaborated on The Renovaré Spiritual Formation Bible (HarperSanFrancisco), which they edited with The Message's Eugene Peterson and Old Testament scholar Walter Brueggemann.
Foster and Willard sat down with CT associate editor Agnieszka Tennant for a rare interview at a Renovaré conference in Denver to explain the difference between spiritual formation and its imitations.
What do you mean when you use the phrase spiritual formation?
Willard: Spiritual formation is character formation. Everyone gets a spiritual formation. It's like education. Everyone gets an education; it's just a matter of which one you get.
Spiritual formation in a Christian tradition answers a specific human question: What kind of person am I going to be? It is the process of establishing the character of Christ in the person. That's all it is. You are taking on the character of Christ in a process of discipleship to him under the direction of the Holy Spirit and the Word of God. It isn't anything new, because Christians have been in this business forever. They haven't always called it spiritual formation, but the term itself goes way back.
Is spiritual formation the same as discipleship?
Willard: Discipleship as a term has lost its content, and this is one reason why it has been moved aside. I've tried to redeem the idea of discipleship, and I think it can be done; you have to get it out of the contemporary mode.
There are really three gospels that are heard in our society. One is forgiveness of sins. Another is being faithful to your church: If you take care of your church, it will take care of you. Sometimes it's called discipleship, but it's really churchmanship. And another gospel is the social one—Jesus is in favor of liberation, and we should be devoted to that. All of those contain important elements of truth. You can't dismiss any of them. But to make them central and say that's what discipleship is just robs discipleship of its connection with transformation of character.
What does this misunderstanding of discipleship look like?
Willard: In our country, on the theological right, discipleship came to mean training people to win souls. And on the left, it came to mean social action—protesting, serving soup lines, doing social deeds. Both of them left out character formation.
Isn't character formation very much a part of many Christian schools and institutions?
Willard: What sometimes goes on in all sorts of Christian institutions is not formation of people in the character of Christ; it's teaching of outward conformity. You don't get in trouble for not having the character of Christ, but you do if you don't obey the laws.
It is so important to understand that character formation is not behavior modification. Lots of people misunderstand it and put it in the category of Alcoholics Anonymous. But in spiritual formation, we're not talking about behavior modification.
Foster: I think what Dallas is referring to is that many Christian institutions have a system by which you find out whether you're in or out. Sometimes it's rules; sometimes it's a certain belief system.
You just look sometimes at what they produce in terms of solid families and marriages. Do they really love their enemies? If that's the case, great. If it's about the number of verses you can memorize or the answers you give to a certain set of questions, while you're full of bitterness or pride—that's not spiritual formation.
Pride is one of the socially acceptable sins in some corners of the evangelical culture. It's just straight-out ego gratification—how important I am; whether my name gets on the building or on the tv program or in the magazine article.
So how do we cultivate humility?
Foster: We can't get humility by trying to get humility. But we can't assume there's nothing to do and just wait for God to pour humility on our heads. No, no! Take disciplines, like service, like Benedict's rule. His 12 steps into humility almost all deal with service to God and to others. That produces a perspective in life that works a grace of humility in us.
How does Jesus address spiritual formation?
Willard: Jesus teaches it, but often his teaching gets identified with general moralisms, like turning the other cheek and so on. You don't actually find much instruction on how to do that. So we've come to a place where we just assume we're not actually going to do it. Some time ago, I was in Belfast, a place where your enemy may have lived across the street and may have killed your child. I was talking to ministers and church leaders about Jesus' teachings on loving our enemies. A gracious man stood up and said, "When we talk about loving your enemy here, it means something. And we're not sure that you can do that."
I asked, "Are any of your churches teaching people how to love your enemy?" There was a moment of silence. No one was.
That's a question we all should ask ourselves: Do you know of a church where they actually teach you how to love your enemies, how to bless those who curse you? This is extremely radical material because it goes to the sources of behavior.
At this conference, I heard some panelists criticize megachurches. I wonder what your take is on seeker-oriented congregations.
Willard: What they do well is establish a public presence that draws many people under the sound of the gospel. They are led by wonderful people who are under the call of God to do the work they're doing.
In many seeker-sensitive churches, the focus is on getting people to confess Christ as a basis for going to heaven when they die. I don't want to diminish the importance of that, because you're going to be dead a lot longer than you're alive, so you ought to be ready for that.
But it is possible to lose sight of character transformation as a serious element for the people you're bringing in. We need to do both of those things.
Foster: The problem today is that evangelism has reached the point of diminishing returns. I talk with people and they say, "What am I to be converted to? I look at Christians and statistically they aren't any different." You want to be able to point to people who are really different.
Willard: … and people who are running a bank or a school, or functioning in government, maybe even in the military. What we need is more examples of people who actually have character that is Christlike. Isaiah brought up this problem of people whose lips are "near me" but their heart is "hard toward me"; Jesus also talked about it. Spiritual formation is for developing a heart that is one with God—whether you're in a lush hotel suite or down on the street. The business of the church is to bring that about.
A heart that is one with God— sounds like a tall order.
Willard: We're not talking about perfection; we're talking about doing a lot better. Forget about perfection. We're just talking about learning to do the things that Jesus is favorable toward and doing it out of a heart that has been changed into his.
You two have been friends for a long time. Tell me how you glimpsed the character of Christ being formed in each other.
Foster: In the early '70s, Dallas and I were members of a small group of men who met every week. We became aware that Dallas, who was driving this old beat-up Volkswagen, needed tires. So we decided to buy a set of tires for him without telling him.
We went up to his home with these four tires. We're feeling very righteous about this. I'm thinking, Oh, isn't this wonderful. He'll gush over this. What was I doing? I was thinking of how I'm going to put him into my debt. When we presented these four tires, he said, "Oh, thank you very much. I needed those." That was it. He hadn't said anything else. Not any sense of, "Oh, I'll pay you back." That reaction set me free from this game of tit-for-tat, "I scratch your back; you scratch my back."
Willard: For his part, Richard has a discipline of simplicity. It comes out of his tradition as a Quaker. It is so deeply rooted and so pervasive. It's one reason things go so well in conferences: He does not put on. The Quaker writer George Fox—a mentor for both of us—talked about taking people off of men and putting them onto Christ. That's what you see in Richard. He doesn't care to be noticed, and, despite his notoriety, he can actually pay attention to people.
In what context do Renovaré spiritual formation groups usually function?
Foster: They're sometimes organized by churches. Sometimes there will be people at our conferences who will find each other and begin to meet together. Sometimes they go to the same church; sometimes they don't. Some group members don't go to any church. It doesn't matter.
So you don't stress the importance of being connected to the local church?
Foster: We bless the organized church structures and their meetings. But if there are 10,000 others that meet outside of these ecclesiastical structures, that's wonderful too. The kingdom of God moves forward in lots and lots of ways.
Willard: One of the limitations of the megachurch is that it cannot be mega enough. You cannot take all the people to church.
But if we're really concerned about reaching the world for Christ, we have to bring the church—which is the people of God—to permeate society. You can't tie it to a building. That's where we started. We went to buildings, but it was about community. It was Christ coming upon preexisting community and redeeming it where it was.
The current interest in spiritual formation is part fad and part timeless. How much staying power do you think it has?
Foster: We don't know yet whether people are going to take this seriously enough to where it really sinks down into the deep habit structures of life. You can't hope to accomplish in 40 days what it takes 40 years to do. There has to be a willingness for barren day after barren day after barren day, a willingness for new forms of worship, new forms of living.
Thursday, September 15, 2005
"15 THESES towards a REFORMATION of CHURCH"
- by Wolfgang Simson.
God is changing the Church, and that, in turn, will change the world. Millions of Christians around the world are aware of an imminent reformation of global proportions. They say, in effect: "Church as we know it is preventing Church as God wants it." A growing number of them are surprisingly hearing God say the very same things. There is a collective new awareness of age-old revelations, a corporate spiritual echo. In the following "15 Theses" I will summarize a part of this, and I am convinced that it reflects a part of what the Spirit of God is saying to the Church today. For some, it might be the proverbial fist-sized cloud on Elijah's sky. Others already feel the pouring rain.
Fifteen Theses towards a Re-Incarnation of Church
1. Church is a Way of Life, not a series of religious meetings.
Before they where called Christians, followers of Christ have been called "The Way". One of the reasons was that they have literally found "the way to live." The nature of Church is not reflected in a constant series of religious meetings lead by professional clergy in holy rooms specially reserved to experience Jesus, but in the
prophetic way followers of Christ live their everyday life in spiritual extended families as a vivid answer to the questions society faces, at the place where it counts most: in their homes.
2. Time to change the system.
In aligning itself to the religious patterns of the day, the historic Orthodox Church after Constantine in the 4th century AD adopted a religious system which was in essence Old Testament, complete with priests, altar, a Christian temple (cathedral), frankincense and a Jewish, synagogue-style worship pattern. The Roman Catholic Church went on to canonize the system. Luther did reform the content of the gospel, but left the outer forms of "church" remarkably untouched; the Free-Churches freed the system from the State, the Baptists then baptized it, the Quakers dry-cleaned it, the Salvation Army put it into a uniform, the Pentecostals anointed it and the Charismatics renewed it, but until today nobody has really changed the superstructure. It is about time to do just that.
3. The Third Reformation.
In rediscovering the gospel of salvation by faith and grace alone, Luther started to reform the Church through a reformation of theology. In the 18th century through movements like the Moravians there was a recovery of a new intimacy with God, which led to a reformation of spirituality, the Second Reformation. Now God is touching the wineskins themselves, initiating a Third Reformation, a reformation of structure.
4. From Church-Houses to house-churches.
Since New Testament times, there is no such thing as "a house of God". At the cost of his life, Stephen reminded unequivocally: God does not live in temples made by human hands. The Church is the people of God. The Church, therefore, was and is at home where people are at home: in ordinary houses. There, the people of God: share their lives in the power of the Holy Spirit, have "meatings," that is, they eat when they meet; they often do not even hesitate to sell private property and share material and spiritual blessings, teach each other in real-life situations how to obey God's word-
dialogue- and not professor-style, pray and prophesy with each other, baptize, 'lose their face' and their ego by confessing their sins, regaining a new corporate identity by experiencing love, acceptance and forgiveness.
5. The church has to become small in order to grow big.
Most churches of today are simply too big to provide real fellowship. They have too often become "fellowships without fellowship." The New Testament Church was a mass of small groups, typically between 10 and 15 people. It grew not upward into big congregations between 20 and 300 people filling a cathedral and making real, mutual communication improbable. Instead, it multiplied "sideward" -like organic cells-once these groups reached around 15-20 people. Then, if possible, it drew all the Christians together into citywide celebrations, as with Solomon's Temple court in Jerusalem. The traditional congregational church as we know it is, statistically
speaking, neither big nor beautiful, but rather a sad compromise, an overgrown house-church and an under-grown celebration, often missing the dynamics of both.
6. No church is led by a Pastor alone.
The local church is not lead by a Pastor, but fathered by an Elder, a local person of wisdom and reality. The local house-churches are a movement by the combination of elders and members of the so-called five-fold ministries (Apostles, Prophets, Pastors, Evangelists and Teachers) circulating "from house to house," whereby there is a special foundational role to play for the apostolic and prophetic ministries (Eph. 2:20, and 4:11.12). A Pastor (shepherd) is a very necessary part of the whole team, but he cannot fulfill more than a part of the whole task of "equipping the saints for the ministry," and has to be complemented synergistically by the other four ministries in order to function properly.
7. The right pieces - fitted together in the wrong way.
In doing a puzzle, we need to have the right original for the pieces, otherwise the final product, the whole picture, turns out wrong, and the individual pieces do not make much sense. This has happened to large parts of the Christian world: we have all the right pieces, but have fitted them together wrong, because of fear, tradition, religious jealousy and a power-and-control mentality. As water is found in three forms-ice, water and steam-the five ministries mentioned in Eph. 4:11-12, the Apostles, Prophets, Pastors, Teachers and Evangelists are also found today, but not always in the right forms and in the right places: they are often frozen to ice in the rigid system of institutionalized Christianity; they sometimes exist as clear water; or they have vanished like steam into the thin air of free-flying ministries and "independent" churches, accountable to no-one. As it is best to water flowers with the fluid version of water, these five equipping ministries will have to be transformed back into new-and at the same time age-old-forms, so that the whole spiritual organism can flourish and the individual "ministers" can find their proper role and place in the whole. That is one more reason why we need to return back to the Maker's original and blueprint for the Church.
8. God does not leave the Church in the hands of bureaucratic clergy.
No expression of a New Testament church is ever led by just one professional "holy man" doing the business of communicating with God and then feeding some relatively passive religious consumers Moses-style. Christianity has adopted this method from pagan religions, or at best from the Old Testament. The heavy professionalisation of the church since Constantine has now been a pervasive influence long enough, dividing the people of God artificially into laity and clergy. According to the New Testament (1 Tim. 2:5), "there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus." God simply does not bless religious professionals to force themselves in-between people and God forever. The veil is torn, and God is allowing people to access Himself directly through Jesus Christ, the only Way. To enable the priesthood of all believers, the present system will have to change completely. Bureaucracy is the most dubious of all administrative systems, because it basically asks only two questions: yes or no. There is no room for spontaneity and humanity, no room for real life. This may be OK for politics and companies, but not the Church. God seems to be in the business of delivering His Church from a Babylonian captivity of religious bureaucrats and controlling spirits into the public domain, the hands of ordinary people made extraordinary by God, who, like in the old days, may still smell of fish, perfume and revolution.
9. Return from organized to organic forms of Christianity.
The "Body of Christ" is a vivid description of an organic, not an organized, being. Church consists on its local level of a multitude of spiritual families, which are organically related to each other as a network, where the way the pieces are functioning together is an integral part of the message of the whole. What has become a maximum of organization with a minimum of organism has to be changed into a minimum of organization to allow a maximum of organism. Too much organization has, like a straightjacket; often choked the organism for fear that something might go wrong. Fear is the opposite of faith, and not exactly a Christian virtue. Fear wants to control, faith can trust. Control, therefore, may be good, but trust is better. The Body of Christ is entrusted by God into the hands of steward-minded people with a supernatural charismatic gift to believe God that He is still in control, even if they are not. A development of trust-related regional and national networks, not a new arrangement of political ecumenism is necessary for organic forms of Christianity to reemerge.
10. From worshipping our worship to worshipping God.
The image of much of contemporary Christianity can be summarized, a bit euphemistically, as holy people coming regularly to a holy place at a holy day at a holy hour to participate in a holy ritual lead by a holy man dressed in holy clothes against a holy fee. Since this regular performance-oriented enterprise called "worship service" requires a lot of organizational talent and administrative bureaucracy to keep going, formalized and institutionalized patterns developed quickly into rigid traditions. Statistically, a traditional 1-2 hour "worship service" is very resource-hungry but actually produces very little fruit in terms of discipling people, that is, in changed lives. Economically speaking, it might be a "high input and low output" structure. Traditionally, the desire to "worship in the right way" has led to much denominationalism, confessionalism and nominalism. This not only ignores that Christians are called to "worship in truth and in spirit," not in cathedrals holding songbooks, but also ignores that most of life is informal, and so is Christianity as "the Way of Life." Do we need to change from being powerful actors to start "acting powerfully?"
11. Stop bringing people to church and start bringing the church to
The church is changing back from being a Come-structure to being again a Go-structure. As one result, the Church needs to stop trying to bring people "into the church," and start bringing the Church to the people. The mission of the Church will never be accomplished just by adding to the existing structure; it will take nothing less than a mushrooming of the church through spontaneous multiplication of itself into areas of the population of the world, where Christ is not yet known.
12. Rediscovering the "Lord's Supper" to be a real supper with real
Church tradition has managed to "celebrate the Lord's Supper" in a homeopathic and deeply religious form, characteristically with a few drops of wine, a tasteless cookie and a sad face. However, the "Lord's Supper" was actually more a substantial supper with a symbolic meaning, than a symbolic supper with a substantial meaning. God is restoring eating back into our meeting.
13. From Denominations to city-wide celebrations.
Jesus called a universal movement, and what came was a series of religious companies with global chains marketing their special brands of Christianity and competing with each other. Through this branding of Christianity most of Protestantism has, therefore, become politically insignificant and often more concerned with traditional specialties and religious infighting than with developing a collective testimony before the world. Jesus simply never asked people to organize themselves into denominations. In the early days of the Church, Christians had a dual identity: they were truly His church and vertically converted to God, and then organized themselves according to geography, that is, converting also horizontally to each other on earth. This means not only Christian neighbors organizing themselves into neighborhood- or house- churches, where they share their lives locally, but Christians coming together as a collective identity as much as they can for citywide or regional celebrations expressing the corporateness of urch of the city or region. Authenticity in the neighborhoods connected with a regional or citywide corporate identity will make the Church not only politically significant and spiritually convincing, but will allow a return to the biblical model of the City-Church.
14. Developing a persecution-proof spirit.
They crucified Jesus, the Boss of all the Christians. Today, his followers are often more into titles, medals and social respectability, or, worst of all, they remain silent and are not worth being noticed at all. "Blessed are you when you are persecuted", says Jesus. Biblical Christianity is a healthy threat to pagan godlessness and sinfulness, a world overcome by greed, materialism, jealousy and any amount of demonic standards of ethics, sex, money and power. Contemporary Christianity in many countries is simply too harmless and polite to be worth persecuting. But as Christians again live out New Testament standards of life and, for example, call sin as sin, conversion or persecution has been, is and will be the natural reaction of the world. Instead of nesting comfortably in temporary zones of religious liberty, Christians will have to prepare to be again discovered as the main culprits against global humanism, the modern slavery of having to have fun and the outright worship of Self, the wrong centre of the universe. That is why Christians will and must feel the "repressive tolerance" of a world which has lost any absolutes and therefore refuses to recognize and obey its creator God with his absolute standards. Coupled with the growing ideologisation, privatization and spiritualization of politics and economics, Christians will-sooner than most think-have their chance to stand happily accused in the company of Jesus. They need to prepare now for the future by developing a persecution-proof spirit and an even more persecution-proof structure.
15. The Church comes home.
Where is the easiest place, say, for a man to be spiritual? Maybe again, is it hiding behind a big pulpit, dressed up in holy robes, preaching holy words to a faceless crowd and then disappearing into an office? And what is the most difficult-and therefore most meaningful-place for a man to be spiritual? At home, in the presence of his wife and children, where everything he does and says is automatically put through a spiritual litmus test against reality, where hypocrisy can be effectively weeded out and authenticity can grow. Much of Christianity has fled the family, often as a place of its own spiritual defeat, and then has organized artificial performances in sacred buildings far from the atmosphere of real life. As God is in the business of recapturing the homes, the church turns back to its roots-back to where it came from. It literally comes home, completing the circle of Church history at the end of world history.
Monday, September 12, 2005
And the wonder of it all is that I'm living just to fall
More in love with you
Maybe I could run
Maybe I could follow
It's time to walk the path
Where many seem to fall
Hold me in your arms
Just like any father would
How long do we have to wait?
How long, we're going all the way
There's a part after "How long do we have to wait" where Martin yells out "Keep praying!" And then after he asks, "People are we going all the way?"
There's a cry in my heart right now, "How long do we have to wait?" And the answer from heaven is to keep praying and to go all the way. Keep praying!
And what am I living for? I'm living just to fall more in love with Him. Man...I've lost that.
"I have become absolutely convinced that nothing in God's whole world has any power to separate me from the love of God in Christ Jesus my Lord."
"Nothing, Paul? What about death?"
"No, not death."
"No, not life."
"Messenger of Heaven?"
"No messenger of Heaven can do it."
"Monarch of earth?"
"Not even a monarch of earth."
"What happens today?"
"A power from on high?"
"No power from on high."
"No power from below."
"Anything else in God's whole world?"
"Nothing else whatsoever. Absolutely nothing."
"Paul, I think you forgot something."
"Love life. Matters of the heart. I'll take the floggings and the shipwrecks and the persecution--those are things people are supposed to bear for Christ. But what if the woman I love turns me down? What if the man I've got my eye on doesn't even look at me? What if I'm rejected? What if..."
"Oh. I never thought of that."
Is that the answer you'd expect the apostle to give? He'd forgotten all about love's terrors and pitfalls. If he'd thought of them, he would not have been able to say "in all these things we win an overwhelming victory." He wouldn't have said "nor anything else in God's whole world" would he? He'd have had to say "nor anything else except my passions, my poor broken heart, my miserable bad luck in my love life, has any power to separate me from the love of God." He'd have added that God can take care of the big things--Paul had plenty of proof of that.
Perhaps matters of the heart would seem like little things to Paul. I have a hunch they would. Well then--what about those? Can they put us beyond His love and redemption?
The point is that we have to learn to trust in little things, even in what may seem like silly things, if we are ever to going to be privileged to suffer in the big things. "The man who can be trusted in little things can be trusted also in great; and the man who is dishonest in little things is dishonest also in great things. If, then, you have not proved trustworth with the wealth of this world, who will trust you with the wealth that is real."
Excerpted from "Passion & Purity" by Elizabeth Elliot.
Friday, September 09, 2005
Have You Been Robbed of the Power of The Holy Spirit In Your Life?If you have read everything, I congratulate you. I know it's quite long.
"And afterward, I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions. Even upon the menservants and maidservants in those days I will pour out My Spirit" (Joel 2:28-29).
The infilling of the Holy Spirit is different from anything else we may experience. Through the Spirit of God we are enabled to be what we are supposed to be in God, and then to do what we are called to do for God.
Many Christians try to do something before they have something. This produces a type of Christianity that is dry and boring, dull and lifeless. Many preachers discourage members of the church and many others from seeking the baptism of the Holy Spirit because they have not experienced the it themselves.
We should not tell people that something does not exist just because our experience says it does not. Instead, we should turn to the Word of God and expierence the multitudes who have gone before us and who have been baptized in the Holy Spirit and have spoken with other tongues, those who have witnessed miracles of healing and seen demons cast out. We should talk to those who have seen lives radically transformed by the power of God. The primary purpose of the Holy Spirit is not to empower us to speak in tongues, heal the sick, or even prophesy to others. The primary pupose of the Holy Spirit is to lead us to the heart of Jesus in the true knowledge of God.
There is a lack of firsthand encounter with the man Christ Jesus, and as a result, pastors are powerless, churches are sick, society is deteriorating, and our hearts are filled with the lies and deceit of the enemy. We have bought in to the lies of who God is without even really noticing it. Most of us find God to be angry or sad-- happy only when we live in perfect righteousness. We also think prayer is boring, and church to be just a social gathering of people. AW Tozer writes, "Christians don't tell lies. They just go to church and sing them." Why am I saying all of this? I am merely trying to show you that our lack of revelation and wisdom comes from a lack of encountering Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit. Most of us go to conferences, experience a "spiritual high" and then just immediately slide back into our old habits, weaknesses, and thought patterns. It is a shame to throw water on fire. The reason we do not maintain "passion" for Jesus is because we're not contending for the Spirit of God to awaken deep within us after we leave a meeting or retreat. If we desire a change in our walk with God, we must make a change in lifestyle. Make a conscious decision to be set apart. By the grace of God, cut yourself off from any compromise. If you cannot overcome pornography, lift it up to God in prayer. If it takes throwing away your computer, so be it. If you spend your life wasted on television, then disconnect it. You guys get the idea. Be extreme in your desire to holiness and devotion to uncompromising love. Do not let your time (seeking God) revolve around sports or other activities. Re-prioritize your life around spending time with God, and I promise--You will have a deep encounter with God. "Seek first the kingdom of God, and then all shall be added unto you." In Leviticus, the Lord says: "The fire on the altar shall never go out." The hour is urgent, and we are being called forth, in such a time as this, to labor in the secret place.
Some people just go to church and park there, and that is the beginning and end of their spiritual experience. I found out a long time ago that if I wanted to get anywhere, I had to take the car out of the parking lot. It is absolutely impossible to drive a car stuck in the parking lot. We need to take our life out of the lot and put God in the driver's seat. If we do this, we will be in for the ride of our lives. Ask God to do a new thing in your life. Don't insist that He fit inside the boundaries of your particular religious doctrine or other type of "box." According to the Bible, the power of God is shut down by the doctrines of men:
"For [although] they hold a form of piety, they deny and reject and are strangers to the power of it. Avoid all such people" (2 Timothy 3:5).
"If then you have died with Christ to material ways of looking at things and have escaped from the world's crude and elemental notions and teachings of externalism, why do you live as if you still belong to the world? Do not handle [this], Do not taste [that], Do not even touch [them], referring to things all of which perish with being used. To do this is to follow human precepts and doctrines. Such [practices] have indeed the outward appearance [that popularly passes] for wisdom, in promoting self-imposed rigor of devotion and delight in self-humiliation and secerity of desicipline of the body, but they are of no value in checking the indulgence of the flesh (the lower nature). Instead they do not honor God but serve only to indulge the flesh" (Colossians 2:20-23).
Man-made doctrines have robbed multiple thousands of believers of the power of the Holy Spirit in their lives. God is not interested in our man-made doctrines; He is only interested in what His word says, and what our response will be to the fullness of His invitation. The first time I experienced the tangible presence of God was when I asked for the Holy Spirit. My life (literally) was transformed, just by meeting with God for the first time. Most Christian friends did not approve, and simultaneously, I lost all my so-called friends. It was a difficult time in my life, but through it, I learned how Satan attemps to use the pain of rejection to try to keep people from going foward with God. I was, of course, tempted to forget the whole thing and just go back to being a "normal" Christian, but I knew that God had done something wonderful and real in my life. I knew it my heart "there must be more than this." I had never felt complete before, and I made the decision that even if I never had any friends, I could not go back to what I used to be and have. As a friend of mine once said, "Once you've tasted wine, how can you go back to water?" I purused so many different worldly things, yet I came up dry every time. I was never satisfied then, and I knew after the encounter, that I would never be. Since then, I've given my life to pursuing Jesus--knowing Him in the secret place, and from there, making Him known. He has made my sacrifice nothing. There is no loss, there is no cost--because He is our inheritance.
I simply had to go on with God no matter what I had to leave behind. I pray that we would all be awakened to a "one thing" (Ps. 27:4) desire. The only reason I am writing this is to stir up a hunger in those who love God but need more of the Holy Spirit in their life. If you are one of those people, I pray you will open every room in your life and let God take control. We must remember that Jesus did not die for us so we could be religious but so we could have a deep, intimate, personal relationship with God, and that through Him we would be able to know the joy of being filled with His presence.
Sitting in church does not make one a Christian any more than sitting in a garage makes one a car (I didn't want to use the McDonalds analogy). Our experience with God is to go far beyond church attendance. It always grives me when I ask people if they are Christian, and they tell me what church they go to--it usually means they go to church but don't really know the Lord in a personal way.
"Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears my voice and listens to and heeds my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him" (Revelation 3:20).
Josh McDowell on Small Groups
" . . . much of this meeting time is spent with people sharing their subjective ideas. Ideas born out of a post-modern worldview. . . If Christian leaders don't take hold of the small group phenomenon it will take on a life of its own and redefine the church in a way that we do not even want to venture to imagine. " Josh McDowell, newsletter.
[HT: Ingrid, who has a great looking new site - love that brown and black! I posted a long comment there but have not seen it approved yet]
On the other side of the argument is the small group movement (that Josh is addressing) and the simple/house church movement that says things like this:"In most modern-day home churches, all members are considered to be equal. There are no professionals in charge; they often have no leaders. Those which do have leaders select them democratically and often rotate the position. Instead of a minister or priest addressing a congregation, they have discussions, prayers, and sharing among equals." Link
Well, its Friday morning and I got up early. I have just enough time to scribble some thoughts about Josh's challenge . . and then I am off to work. . I have grown up with Josh McDowell and his books. Love the guy. I heard him speak once at Jesus North West - he rocked!
I realize the challenge that the small group phenomenon, simple church/ house church movement and underground church scene worldwide brings to the more hierarchical top-down church structures who feel that, without a strong teacher to guide the people, how will they avoid heresy? Josh recommends marrying style with substance. And for Christian leaders to bring "church-wide unity to these small groups."
As for me, I respect what Josh says and share the same commitment to truth and fear of untruth. But I am seeing it from a different angle:
- The problem of having to listen to people share their subjective ideas in a small group will not be solved by sending them to a church service to hear a preacher behind a pulpit share his or her subjective ideas.
- Research has shown that heresy usually comes through higher education [seminaries] and foreign elements. It normally does not come up from the grassroots but down from the top. Good book to read here is "Church Planting Movements" by David Garrison.
- Heresy can flourish when false teaching goes unchallenged, or when people are confined to a learning environment where they feel scared or unempowered to speak up when they detect something wrong. A small group setting where interaction is encouraged, even disagreement, is a safer place to find truth than a monologue from a preacher lifted high and not available for correction.
- Unity does not have to come from the top down or from the institutions. Small group networks can host city wide events that bring unity to the the wider body of Christ - We did this in Austin, Texas in 2001.
- Emergence theory, as demonstrated in ant colonies (Prov. 6:6) has shown how an organization can emerge and flourish when leadership and responsibility is shared, rather than ordered from one commander. The goal is not stronger direction from the leader and more obedience from the slaves but rather more communication and response, simple structures, more empowerment to those on the ground. The church already has a leader - his name is Jesus - and we have all been given our orders.
- If George Barna's numbers are correct, we should not be looking at house churches and small group type expressions as secondary church structures that should be subjugated under modern church but rather as a viable, Biblical, effective, powerful way of doing church and an option that will be chosen by at least the same number that today chose the institutional model. In fact, house church may become the new standard by which we measure other structures.
- The small group phenomenon already has taken on a life of its own in many countries - China, India. Even USA had its National House Church Conference last week in Denver. There is no stopping it and traditional churches cannot expect to jump in to control it because leaders in one ecclesiastic world may not carry the same weight or respect in other worlds. If traditional leaders have not been speaking into the micro church at its inception, how can they expect to gate crash the party half way through with the same level of respect. Or in other words, if they have not helped to build the foundation, why should they hoist the flag?
- Style and substance? Yes. But another element must be added, both in the church hall and in the living room: Submission.
"Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ" Ephesians 5:21. Style + Substance + Submission This will allow churches to be, as Garrison says, "self-correcting".
" Will The Emerging Church Fully Emerge? by Frank Viola