Whose Voice Are You Listening To?

“Who told you that you were naked? This was the question that God asked Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden just after their fall into sin – the Fall that has affected every human being ever born ever since. God had spoken the universe and the world into existence with His words. The whole universe was a reflection of God’s voice. Everything was formed and informed only by His voice.

When God saw that the first couple had fallen, He did not ask them, “Why did you do this?” or “What happened?” He simply asked them, “Who told you that you were naked?” In other words, what or whose voice have you been listening to? What other voice did you choose to replace Mine with?” We could ask the same question today. Church, whose voice have you been listening to? The creative voice of the living God whose words today are still “spirit and life (John 6:63) or some other voice?

So many believers are listening to so many voices – but, are the listening to the voice of God? The Bible states in John, chapter ten, that when we are born again and become “sheep” that we can hear God’s voice. We not only can hear His voice – we recognize that it is His voice. And, we are then to follow Him, the Voice, and obey what we hear because we love Him. But, we often substitute other voices – our peers, the media of the day, the political voice, our family, our opinion – and follow them instead. The become strongholds in our minds and in our daily life.

However, like Peter’s answer to Jesus’ question in John, chapter 6 we should be thinking, “where else would we go – You alone have the words of life.” And, if we believe this then we must listen to, hear, heed, and obey these words of life from the Voice who created and releases all life.

So, whose voice have you you been listening to? What other voice did you choose to replace God’s voice with? Man’s voice? The senior leader or pastor of your church? A denominational voice? Your friend’s voice? Your mentor’s advice? Why have we complicated it? We are all priests and as part of His family we can know and hear His voice. Check out what you hear? Yes, of course, seek wisdom and input. The Bible states, there is wisdom in a multitude of counselors. But, stop blindly following other voices, look at and focus on Jesus, and listen. Stop, look, and listen. Then follow what you hear after speaking with others who are wiser and stronger in the faith.

Remember, you are His – He redeemed you and you confessed Him as your Lord and Master. Remember, it is His Church as He birthed it on the first Day of Pentecost and continues to build it according to His plan and His blueprint. Remember, we are here to fulfill His task of seeking and saving the lost. Remember, it is all about Him. His voice, His Words, are really all that matter.

So, stop, look, and listen… and ask yourself, “Whose voice am I listening to?”

Jesus’ Word on Leadership

Addressing men who were striving to find their place in a hierarchical view of authority, Jesus spoke clearly and authoritatively about leadership that aspires for position in His Kingdom and His Church:

“You know that those who are recognized as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them; and their great men exercise authority over them, But it is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant.” Mark 10:42-43

For several reasons, this statement by our Lord and King, repeated elsewhere in the Gospels, must be seen as a baseline of revelation by which we understand and interpret all other New Testament passages about leadership in God’s Kingdom.

1> The words are a direct and clear statement from Jesus Himself addressing leadership in His Kingdom. As Christ is the head of the Church, His Word must be our primary guide. Paul and Peter would never contradict Him, and when questions arise, I’m sure they would defer to the Lord in everything.

2> This statement is repeated in the Gospels, and the main idea is repeated by Jesus in other scenarios. Repetition is a strong way to emphasize a point. In this case, it is a very emphatic word from the Lord.

3> The statement does not lend itself to misinterpretation or misunderstanding. It is clear and bold. The context of leadership and Christ’s response to the disciples’ maneuvering for position are noir up for interpretation. Unlike others New Testament passages on leadership, there is no ambiguity of meaning or intent in Christ’s words. “Whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servants.”

Nevertheless, Christian leaders down through the ages have sought to put this statement in a safe place – saying, for example, that the posture of a leader in a position of authority should be to “act in a servant sort of way.” They call this servant leadership. But Jesus never told us to be “servant leaders.” He told us to be servants – period. Maybe we would be far better off with more servants and fewer leaders in the Church.

Jesus’ statement is not merely a challenge for those who hold office or positions in the church to behave humbly and act like servants. This is not just a heart check. It is more revolutionary than that and demands more than spiritual introspection. It is a radical paradigm shift to a completely upside-down Kingdom, where no one is over anyone else. Period.

Though our attitude is certainly part of the equation, what Jesus addresses is our actual position in the Kingdom of God. When it comes to leadership, the body of Christ has one head – Christ Himself. e are not to structure ourselves the way the world does. Christ’s statement is a direct assault on a hierarchal view of leadership, and to ignore that is to temper His words. We mustn’t try to tame Jesus with our hermeneutics.

The primacy of servanthood is consistent with the teaching of the Gospels and the other doctrines of the New Testament – particularly regarding God’s redeemed people and how we are all granted equal access, blessing, and empowerment in Christ’s Kingdom. it does not violate the principle of the priesthood of all believers, unlike many of the other current interpretations of New Testament texts on leadership.

Indwelt But Not Spirit-Filled

When we are born again the Holy Spirit comes to live inside our now alive spirit – the new heart of flesh the Lord has given to us and so we are a temple of the Spirit (1 Corinthians 3:16). However, just because we have the Holy Spirit does not mean that the Holy Spirit has us. I have learned that there is a difference between being indwell and being filled with the Holy Spirit.

In 1 Corinthians, Paul describes three types of people: spiritual, carnal (fleshly), and natural. Spiritual people are those who are submitted to and led by the indwelling Spirit. Carnal people have the Spirit of God dwelling within but function in their own strength and according to their own agenda. Natural people are those who do not have the Spirit of God within them, and thus can do only what comes naturally to those who are without God.

Paul calls the Corinthians “fleshly” or “carnal,” meaning they have the Holy Spirit (remember, he also calls them ‘saints’), but they function in their own abilities, according to their own reasoning, and are driven by their own selfish desires. So, it is possible to have the Spirit indwelling but live according to our own selves.

In Ephesians 5:18, Paul describes what it means to be filled with the Spirit in contrast to being drunk with wine. The verb ‘to be filled’ is in the present tense imperative, making it a command in the presence tense. When is it in the present tense? Now. The presence tense is always now. That’s why many commentators on Ephesians 5 remark that Paul’s command should read, “Always be filled with the Spirit,” or “Be being filled by the Spirit.”

Because this command is in the present tense, it implies that we have a choice. In every moment, we can either be filled or not be filled. Every moment (even now) is an opportunity for us to choose the Spirit of the flesh. The choice is ours and ours alone.

The phrase “to be filled” can be confusing. Every few days, we drive our cars to the pump and fill our tanks with gasoline. A full tank of fuel can take us a long way, so it is natural for us to think of being filled with the Spirit in the same way. But that would not be right. We do not get more of the Holy Spirit when we are filled and lose some of the Holy Spirit when we are not filled.The Spirit is not a commodity that we can acquire more or less of.

So, what does it mean to be “filled” with the Spirit? Paul contrasts it with being drunk with wine. If you get drunk with wine, even much wine, you are not ‘filled’ with alcohol. Your body is still composed of the same parts of water, tissue, and other matters as before you took your first drink. However, when you are drunk, you are under the influence of alcohol. In other words, the alcohol affects your decisions, your actions, your thoughts, and your feelings. That is what it means to be “filled with the Spirit.” It is to be under the influence of the Holy Spirit to such an extent that He affects your decisions, actions, thoughts, and feelings.

so, many are born again and thus indwell by the Holy Spirit but are not filled with the Holy Spirit – walking in the Baptism … immersed totally in the Spirit as the original meaning of “baptized” means.

Drawing Something Out

Ephesians 4:7 states, “…to each one of us grace has been given according to the measure of Christ’s gift.” Every believer has been given this powerful gift of Christ. Not just the leaders. Paul addresses this letter to the Church and his phrase “to each one” is the Greek word hakasto which literally means ‘to each and every person.” So, each and every disciple has this powerful gift of Christ.

Let me say that a different way; the gift we have all received by the grace of God is Christ Jesus in His fullness. This fullness is best expressed and released within and from a local church functioning in unity. This fullness then represents Christ to the world as apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor and teacher. This is His fullness. This fullness being expressed within the local church also brings the believers to a new level of maturity and a new understanding of the “work of the ministry” they are to accomplish as gifted disciples.

The goal then, if you are a leader, is to release what is already within the body of Christ, rather than trying to “put something into” Christ’s followers. Let me briefly unwrap this.

Perhaps the greatest impediment to the church’s work in the world is not our inability to discover what to do but what to stop doing. So much of what happens in the church involves programs and methods designed to put something into the disciples. But, we already have the fullness of Christ and all His gifts within us. So, what’s needed instead of a “putting in” is a drawing out of what Jesus has already placed there. Dare we call this equipping?

In the Church today, our default settings must be changed if we are ever going to release a powerful movement that will change the world. What got us here will never lead us there. Unlearning is as important as learning for empowering the Church Jesus is now building. In fact, the lessons we must learn are really quite simple, but the ones we must unlearn are complex and deeply embedded in how most churches are assembled and operated. On the positive side: in the end, what we must learn boils down to two basic things: helping people realize what they already have and releasing them on an unsuspecting world. That is how the Church is meant to function.

So, we need to rethink how we are “doing church” and instead realize that we are the Church. Then we need to help our people know who they are “in Christ” – this new creature that Paul writes about in 2 Corinthians 5. This is vastly different than “Christ in you the hope of glory.” This is foundational because then each disciple will know what they are specifically called to do (as they fulfill the basic call to ‘go and make disciples’). They will know how they are to do it, where they are to do it, with whom they will be doing it, when this is to happen, and even why. Then knowing all of this we simply release them to do what God has called and gifted them to accomplish in His Name – offering them support, encouragement and prayer. This is what is known in Ephesians 4:12 as “equipping the saints of the work of service (ministry).”

Much needs to change in our thinking and in our daily walking out of our faith for the Church to reach the world with the Gospel of the Kingdom.

A Biblical Format

God is calling His Church back to New Testament standards with sound apostolic and prophetic foundations. The result will be a Church that, in many ways, will be vastly different than the majority of churches today. This means we are entering a season of massive change as we see the Church differently and then become the Church instead of simply going to church.

As I read through the book of Acts and the letters of Paul, Peter, Jude, James, and John I see a church that is vastly different than the one described there. Let me try and explain. I see a Church that is Kingdom minded, focused on expansion and planting the Gospel in new virgin soil where the Gospel of the Kingdom has never been preached. I see Christians who are completely committed to following Jesus no matter what is involved or what cost needs to be paid. I see a young Church with passion for the one task that Jesus gave to them – the seek and save the lost going into all the world and making disciples. I see an empowered Church that was walking in supernatural power and thus able to come against the world, the flesh, and the devil and win.

For the Church to return to New Testament standards and continue to book of Acts writing the next chapters in the book of the Acts of the Holy Spirit we will need to see some changes. These will include many personal adjustments and some corporate ones as well.

God is calling us away from:

A spirit of complacency to a spirit of revival
From superficiality to depth
From lukewarmness to true heat
From mediocrity to spiritual excellence
From the pursuit of pleasure to a life of passion
From living in false peace with the world to a state of war under God’s law
From conforming to the patterns of this world to being transformed into the image of Christ
From trial and error to prophetic vision
From a settler mentality to a pilgrim mind-set
From a me-focus to a we-focus
From individual thinking to corporate thinking
From hiding one’s sin to living in the light
From proud boasting to true strength in weakness

Are we really ready for such change? Each one of us needs to answer that on a personal level after prayer and a good look at our life – physical and spiritual. Every local church also needs to ask is they are ready to make the changes necessary to come into the life-flow of the Spirit and into the plans and purpose of God for His people.

We simply cannot ignore the supernatural pattern, divine blueprint, and purpose of the Church of God. Today’s apostles and prophets are showing us the way the Church that Jesus is building is going to look and how it is going to express life to the world in which it is planted. The Church is not a feel-good club for mere socializing or a classroom to learn more information – it has a divine purpose. God is building His Church to fulfill His mission which will be done His way. Interested?

Still The Answer

Guest Blogger – Bill Lewis – apostle and leader, Bellville, Ohio

In his book, Call to Resurgence, Mark Driscoll makes the statement that the battle against legalized homosexual marriages is lost. He says the tide has turned and soon it will become a national law. He says the religious right has lost this battle already, it is only a matter of time.

So, where does that leave us? If all our energies in fighting the tide have come to naught, where are we? The truth is that we are exactly where the early church was in its culture. Homosexuality was practiced openly and with cultural acceptance. Did the early church focus on the political issues and moral issues of their day? To the best of my knowledge from that which is reported historically, it seems the church had a better message. While I am sure they faced all of the immorality of the day; the abortions, the sex trade, the abandoned children, the occult worship, and the violence of war, local persecutions, and domestic problems, the church was not known for being a right wing, political entity. They were not known as the religious right.

What they were known for was believing that some guy named Jesus had risen from the dead and was supposedly their God. They were known for being a tight group of people who worshiped in houses, caves, and open fields. They were known as people who believed that this Jesus guy was going to come and rule the earth, that the final judgement was by fire. (Nero’s excuse). They were known for celebrating a meal that supposedly was the blood and body of this Jesus guy. They were known to really care for one another, a tight community. It seemed they treated their women as equals in the faith. They were known for baptizing people in rivers, ponds, fountains, and wherever they could find enough water to immerse the initiates. They were known for having some miracles take place which were very dramatic. They were known for powerful prayer and praying in languages. They were known for being so committed to this Jesus guy that they would even die rather than compromise with the system and other religious tolerance groups. They were known to believe that they were going to live forever and be raised from the dead.

Huh, pretty novel. Believe in Jesus. Preach Christ crucified. Preach the resurrection. Live in powerful community. Sell out to Jesus.

It is hard to have a powerful community when we are now consumer based. With churches growing and diminishing based on the ever moving crowd of Christian consumers, we never know if the kingdom of God is growing or the churches are growing by migration of consumers.
It is hard to have a unique message when, again, we are trying to draw the world to a place of comfortability, suspended somewhere between a pleasant Jesus and a rock concert. To draw the world, we have produced a psycho therapeutic social message where self esteem, feel good, success orientation, and personal improvement sprinkled with large doses of unbalanced grace predominate the presentations. Or, we have the other extreme where political or moral issues rule the pulpit. Every Sunday is a lecture in the social ills and how all are going to hell.

It is hard to sell out to Jesus when no one wants to commit to anything. Commitment is a fast, vanishing character trait. Marriages, business, relationships, all are viewed as temporary and pragmatic.

We still have a relevant message if we will find it. It is there. This Jesus guy is still the most amazing person of eternity. If he gets lifted up, well, who knows what could happen…

Home and Preparing to Go To Armenia

It has been an amazing 18 days. I worked in four cities in Russia. I ministered to leaders and people from 12 churches. That count could be greater but these are the ones I specifically know of because I ministered to their leaders. I worked in several churches I had worked with last fall when I was in the area and a good number of new ones. As well, several new doors opened up for ministry in September when I will be back there doing more apostolic work.

The people were very receptive as they are extremely hungry – looking for life and truth and not just more religion. They listened, took notes, asked questions. Of course, many received prophetic words – and pastors who were not involved in the meetings would come during meals and between services asking to visit and receive a prophetic word. They wanted to hear from God and He did not disappoint them.

This was the “most apostolic” trip I have ever been on. The topics were apostolic and foundational; the work with the pastors (I lived with them in their homes and always had a car full when travelling the thousands of kilometres we drove) was direct to the heart and both revelatory and healing. The people wanted to know what Jesus was doing in the Kingdom and how they could be more involved. The leaders wanted to know more about Kingdom leadership and how to guide and direct the churches during this season. Some pastors spoke of leaving their religious organizations and starting new, fresh wineskins for the new wine.

And the young people. Every church had young people who want to move on with God and move as far away from religion as possible. I enjoyed my time with all of them – the children of the pastors I was working with, the church kids, youth groups, even young people visiting from other churches because they heard that I was going to be there. All amazing. All in love with Jesus. All wanting more of God and less of religion and all the programming and smoke and mirrors. I will be working with a good number of them over the coming months and years. Many have already connected.

For me this was the most fulfilling of all my trips over the past few years. It was the most “apostolic” in content, topics, and connections. I felt like God was doing something powerful and foundational. I sense now that it was much more focused than much of my previous work – there and everywhere. The Kingdom was first and the Church second. Because I had pastors travelling with me and forming my team for the trip it was also more personal and had a tremendous connectedness to every activity and place. Great changes came about as a result of having so much time together as we traveled and ministered.

A personal thanks to Sergei and Marina, Alexei, Andrei, Dana, Dima, Dennis and his leaders, Max, and Alina… And everyone else that I met with and those I came to know. Thanks to the leaders of Cornerstone for spending time together – and for the invitation to minister in September. You are going to be a powerful apostle-prophet team as you move into your joint calling. Miss you all already … Young people – continue to learn English and I will continue to work on my Russian.

Trip Coming To An End

Early morning here in Russia. Events last night ended at 1:30a local time Thursday and the trip to the airport started at 4:00a Short night – most likely a long day as I live the same 12 hours twice. Now in one of four Moscow international airports waiting for my flight – 7 hours between landing and taking off again. Then on the Frankfurt, Germany, Toronto, and then Regina. Home late Thursday night local time and noon Friday body time. If you have never had jet lag – the 12 hour variety – you don’t want to know what the first day home is like.

I am drinking a $9.00 coffee in the airport – nothing special, just airport prices. But there is wireless, it is quiet, no one is bothering me and I am not having to minister. Yesterday there were four different sets of pastors I met with – none of which were originally scheduled… so it was an extra busy day and somewhat heavy spiritually. But, I am here to give apostolic input and oversight and so I simply did what needed to be done. The September trip back to the same area (Yekenterinburg) has gained three churches I didn’t visit this time, a city-wide conference, and a lot of apostolic follow-up connected to this trip. I will also be running a three day seminar twice in two locations (cities). So, things are developing and multiplying in this ministry here. Connected to the trip will be a four day visit to Moscow to work there as well.

While here I have also been talking with Kyrgyzstan setting dates for November (October sees me in Marion, Ohio and in Denver, Colorado so the earliest available dates were in November and early December. That fills the year … with 4 or 5 invites still outstanding and needing scheduling. Certainly no shortage of work and I feel that much is being accomplished and many lives and churches are changing as they become more apostolic-prophetic and no longer pastoral … the church Jesus is building versus the one that man has built and controlled.

As well, I need to be focusing on writing more material. The demand and requests for written material is almost overwhelming. Material in Farsi, Armenian, Russian, and English, Spanish, and French. Another concern that needs to be solved. A series of opportunities that can be met – because nothing is impossible with God.

On arriving home I am preparing for a television show on Access Communications (province-wide) that will be taping the weekend after I am home. I will be doing a complete program on “rebellion and disobedience” with the opportunity to give my testimony as well. Please pray as I prepare and tape the show for summer broadcasting and rebroadcasting. As well, I will be just two and a half weeks away from leaving for Armenia and there is much to prepare before flying to Yerevan, the capital city through Toronto and Paris, France. Maybe God can add an extra day to each week, an extra week to each month or I simply need to find someone who can clone me. Kidding aside, these are great opportunities to minister God’s Word and set people free. Please pray!

Now that this trip is over I will be going back to regular blogs … on the Church, it’s DNA, and how to transform what is into what must be – the Church that Jesus is building. Hopefully it will start on Monday.

Blessed Are the Flexible

Last night did not turn out as planned. it was to be a night off. Instead we held a meeting for the elders in the first church I worked in when I arrived – the church in the city of Nagil. By 10:30 we were wrapping up. So much for a night to relax. The meeting was good however and much was accomplished.

This morning we drove from Nagil to Yekenterinburg – and took four hours to make the 90 minute trip. Traffic and road conditions. Then an hour to eat and the first service from 3:00to 5:00. A break and the second service from 7:00 to a little after 9:30p. Then some fellowship time with several people around the kitchen table.

Tomorrow (Wednesday here – after 11:00p there on Tuesday) I will be meeting for a second time with a pastor from this city. Two weeks ago he drove to Tagil and now we will meet here and continue our conversation. Then a service at 3:00 and straight through to 9:00p+ with a tea/coffee break… this with leaders and people here in this house church. I ministered here last year so this is my second visit in 7 months.

Hopefully early to bed as I have an early start for the airport – 3:30p Wednesday Central Canada time and 3:30a Thursday here Russian time. Long last day but I will be home hopefully by the end of it.

Please pray for our last day of services and my Russian team members who have been with me every day at every service ministering beside me. They have really grown and become very powerful prophetic ministers. Tomorrow I train a young man I ministered to the last time I am here and he was asking how he can grow in the prophetic – so I invited him to help. Picture above.

The Hard Part

I have now been in The Church of Jesus Christ here in Russia – the city of Lysva – for four days. I have heard much during all the meetings; I have sensed issued and foundational weakness in many things; I have seen (discerning of spirits) things as God sees them. There is much that needs to be discussed. The team met where I am staying and ate a late supper together and managed to sort through some things. But, Monday morning at 10:00 I meet with the local leadership team and they will be asking me what I saw, sensed, and know. I will need to word things carefully and watch reactions…

If things don’t change this church of 100+ will, at worse, cease to exist and, at best, have a church split (a third one in its short 24 year history. There is much that needs to be spoken of and many changes needed. And, as always, people are not always ready and willing to receive input and begin the process of change and improvement. It is going to be a very difficult first two hours as I am on my own to express things. Then at noon the team will join me and we will fellowship and discuss even more (there is unity in my team as to what needs to be said). Maybe if the key leader hears it from three or four of us it will sink in and be received. maybe! But people are somewhat unpredictable.

Then, after these two meetings (3:00p) we head to Tagil where I started this trip ministering 10 days ago. We will arrive at 7:00p and then some of us are going to an all-night shopping plaza to look around and see what it is like. Just trying not to sit and talk “business” really. maybe we can find some North American type ice cream and a good cup of coffee. Then a sleep and into the city of Yekenterinburg on Tuesday morning. I minister twice on Tuesday and three times on Wednesday before getting on an early flight from there to Moscow… the first of four flights on Thursday.

Please continue to pray – still much work to do and some of it is vitally important to the life of several churches and to the ministry of several team members whom I am also mentoring. Thanks for being a vital part of what is happening here.

Picture: Young man named Slava who received a powerful prophetic word from the Lord and whom I will be mentoring as he grows into what the Lord wants him to do in the Kingdom