Skilled Instruction and Training

If you were to attend an average worship service on any given Saturday or Sunday you would sit and listen to the pastor – teacher – priest give a teaching – sermon – homily. This is true whether it is a mainline, traditional church, a born again church, or a Spirit-filled church. It is the custom of the people to have the leader spend time during the week seeking God’s heart for a word for the people. Then after he or she has been in the presence of God in their study, the people gather to hear what God has to say through the leader. 

This is much like Moses in the book of Exodus in the Old Testament. The people watched as he ascended the holy mountain to meet with God. And, then they waited for him to come back down the mountain from the face-to-face meeting with God and tell them what God said speaking to them about what was on His heart and what He shared with the leader, Moses.

In the early church, it states, “Every believer was faithfully devoted to following the teachings of the apostles. Their hearts were mutually linked to one another, sharing communion and coming together regularly for prayer. A deep sense of holy awe swept over everyone…” (Acts 2:42-43a The Passion Translation”).

And so the practice continues – the leader or leaders listen for God’s voice, study God’s Word, and bring a message from God to the people when they assemble. We misuse this verse to back up a practice that was never meant to be in the New Testament Church.

However, the word translated ‘teachings’ is the Greek word ‘didache’ which means “skilled instruction and training.” So, the teaching should be more an equipping of the faithful believers – an equipping and training. This, of course, connects directly with Ephesians 4:11-12 which states, “And he has appointed some with grace to be apostles, and some with grace to be prophets, and some with grace to be evangelists, and some with grace to be pastors, and some with grace to be teachers. And their calling is to nurture and prepare all the holy believers to do their own works of ministry, and as they do this they will enlarge and build up the body of Christ.” (The Passion Translation)

The more familiar version states: “And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ…”

Every believer can go into the presence of God during the week. The believer can enter into the presence of God and approach the throne of grace and hear the voice of God for themselves (Hebrews 4:16). Jesus made a way for us to do this by His death on the cross and His resurrection on the third day. We don’t need to wait for the weekend and the assembly to hear what God wants us to know. It can be and should be a daily thing. Then, when we come together on the weekends it is not to hear a well crafted sermon or teaching and receive the polished “word of the week” because we have been receiving the raw, unpolished “word of the day” all week. We come together and share what it is we have individually heard the Lord speak so others can be encouraged and we can find support in our revelation.

Then, on the weekend we come together to have the fivefold ministers equip and train us in the things that we need to know to continue to minister to those in the world who do not know Jesus. And, they equip us with the skills and knowledge we need to use the gifts of the Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:4-11) that He has given to every born again, Baptized in the Holy Spirit believer and follower of Jesus. In other words, we receive “skilled instruction and training” for the ministry that God has called us to do for Him during the week where we live, work, and play.

So, the assembly should be more like going to a gym than going to the movies. We should be practicing and sharpening our skills in sharing the gospel of the Kingdom. We should be learning how to use the gifts of the Holy Spirit. We should be practicing using the revelation gifts like a Word of Knowledge, a Word of Wisdom, and the Discerning of Spirits. We should be hearing how to live as believers in the current culture and still impact those who do not know Jesus and have not experienced salvation. 

Hebrews 5:14 (ESV) states: “But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.”

The Passion Translation: “But solid food is for the mature, whose spiritual senses perceive heavenly matters. And they have been adequately trained by what they’ve experienced to emerge with understanding of the difference between what is truly excellent and what is evil and harmful.”

This would, of course, totally change the way we “do church.” Even altering the reason we “come to church.” But then, in my opinion, it desperately needs to change.

Holy Spirit Directed Bible Reading

I am reading through The Passion Translation of the New Testament and Psalms. I am in the gospel according to John. I am enjoying the read as it is a new version for me and because the new ways some things are stated keeps me on my toes. Often when we read the same version for years – which I do, and before you ask it is the ESV, English Standard Version – the words become so familiar to us that they no longer really register in our heads or our hearts. So, a new version jars the senses and keep your attention in many ways. And, allows the Holy Spirit a fresh opportunity to speak directly to you personally.

The Passion Translation is only available, so far, in book form as the New Testament, Psalms, Proverbs, and Song of Solomon. If you have it electronically it also includes the prophet Isaiah. I have both a book form and the electronic form (Olive Tree Bible Program). It comes with many footnotes explaining the various versions of the verse or sentence determined by the meaning of the original language and the words used. It is well translated and seriously well researched. But, I digress.

As I was reading the Holy Spirit showed me several new insights that I had never noticed before. 

The first one is in John 6:5-9. “As Jesus sat down, he looked out and saw the massive crowd of people scrambling up the hill, for they wanted to be near him. So he turned to Philip and said, “Where will we buy enough food to feed all these people?” Now Jesus already knew what he was about to do, but he said this to stretch Philip’s faith. Philip answered, “Well, I suppose if we were to give everyone only a snack, it would cost thousands of dollars to buy enough food!” But just then, Andrew, Peter’s brother, spoke up and said, “Look! Here’s a young person with five barley loaves and two small fish . . . but how far would that go with this huge crowd?”

Jesus asks Philip a question to help stretch his faith. Jesus’ question was, “Where can we get enough food to feed all these people?” Philip did not answer His question. He answered a question that was not asked: “How will we pay for enough food to feed this crowd of 5,000 people.” It seems that Jesus was testing Philip to see if he would look to God (Jesus) to supply all that was needed and not consider or be limited by their meagre resources as a ministry team. 

Maybe not a great revelation for you. But, it spoke volumes to me about listening to what Jesus is really asking you. And, don’t be limited in your thinking and in your faith by what you can see and what you have. We walk by faith, a stretching and growing faith, and not by natural sight.

The second one was after Jesus preached a rather difficult sermon and the multitude left because they were offended and only the 12 disciples remained (John 6:60-69). Jesus went from feeding the five thousand to offending the five thousand. And, it didn’t bother Him. Jesus knew that they were only following Him because of the miracles that were happening (see John 6:2, 6:14, 6:26) and not because of who He was. So, He expresses a little of who He is and what it will take to sincerely follow Him and not follow the miracles, signs, and wonders … and they left by the thousands. 

Today, Christians run from special speaker to special speaker, conference to conference, bandwagon to bandwagon looking for miracles, signs, and wonders. They are following the miraculous instead of the Lord. And, thus they are missing out on the depth of personal relationship the Lord wants to have with them because their eyes are not on Him but on what He does. So, we have the same issue today as Jesus faced in His day. It renewed my commitment to keep my eyes of Jesus and only on Him, deepening my intimacy with Him. 

Just some simple insights from my late night Bible reading the other evening. 

So, ask the Holy Spirit who inspired the words you are reading to “lead you into all truth” and you will begin to see things that you missed in the past. And, using a different translation can help the Holy Spirit draw your attention to what He wants you to see and grab hold of. 

Resurrection Life

As we approach Easter Sunday we tend to think a little more about the resurrection of Jesus on that first Easter Sunday many years ago. This season is often one of the few times that we really seriously consider the fact that Jesus rose physically from the dead and is alive. That He was seen by many different people at a variety of times over a period of 40 days before ascending into Heaven and send the Holy Spirit as the other Comforter.

As I was reading through a new version of the New Testament called The Passion Translation (TPT) I ran across an exciting verse in 2 Timothy 1:9 which reads: “He gave us resurrection life and drew us to himself by his holy calling on our lives. And it wasn’t because of any good we have done, but by his divine pleasure and marvellous grace that confirmed our union with the anointed Jesus, even before time began!”

Literally it reads: “He is our life-giver”

And the “life” that He gives to us is His resurrection life!

Jesus was raised from the dead by the power of the Holy Spirit – raised to new life, resurrection life. He was different. So different that in one of His initial appearances to Mary in Garden she did not recognize Him. The same was true for the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. He was raised victorious and glorious as Paul states in 1 Corinthians 15 – a wonderful chapter on the resurrection – Jesus’ and ours! 

Jesus said: “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?”

And He is now living in the power of that resurrection. And promises that we too can experience this resurrection life … now and forever. 

Paul prays… 

Philippians 3:10 (TPT) “And I continually long to know the wonders of Jesus more fully and to experience the overflowing power of his resurrection working in me…”

The power that raised Jesus to resurrection life is in us as born again believers. And for those who have been baptized in the Holy Spirit this same power is “upon us” empowering and enabling us to live resurrection life and to move supernaturally and touch lives for Jesus and the Kingdom. We have resurrection life welling up within us. We live in a new dimension because of this resurrection life. We have new values and a new perspective, a Kingdom perspective. We have been raised from the death of sin into ‘a living hope’ based on this resurrection life that we have received. 

1 Peter 1:3 “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead…”

As we approach Easter Sunday it is a good time to think about what His resurrection means for us as believers today. And, to pray about what His resurrection life in us should look like in our every day living as we relate to many who do not know the love of God or this gift that Jesus freely gives to those who believe in and follow Him.

Let’s end this thought with the verse in 1 Peter above in context…

1 Peter 1:3-5 TPT “Celebrate with praises the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has shown us his extravagant mercy. For his fountain of mercy has given us a new lifewe are reborn to experience a living, energetic hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. We are reborn into a perfect inheritance that can never perish, never be defiled, and never diminish. It is promised and preserved forever in the heavenly realm for you!”

Personal Values to Be Embraced

If someone asked you what your values in life were, how would you answer? My daughter was asked that in a university class and it caused her to do some deep thinking. The professor then asked them to mentally look around at their living room and describe what they saw as the contents of the room said a great deal about what was valued and how life was lived.

I got to thinking about that the next morning and reviewed my values – the ones I believe I currently hold as they do change was we get older and hopefully wiser. I am convinced from personal experience and over 40 years of ministry that good values are the road to a better life. Good values are teachable and reachable. And, just one good value in a person’s life can bring tremendous change and great value. 

Here are some of the values I have been reviewing this morning after my daughter’s comment that evening at our house church…

  • ATTITUDE – Your attitude colours everything in your life, especially relationships
  • COMMITMENT – It separated doers from dreamers and determines your future
  • COMPETENCE – The shortest path to serious credibility with others is competence
  • FORGIVENESS – Forgiveness empowers you live in freedom and with a light heart
  • INITIATIVE – You cannot accomplish anything for God unless you start
  • INTEGRITY – Living with integrity leads to a life of wholeness and people will respect and trust you
  • PERSONAL GROWTH – People who continue to learn always have a future
  • PRIORITIES – Clear priorities show you what to do and where to go
  • RELATIONSHIPS – The quality of your relationships determines the quality of your life
  • WORK ETHIC – Working hard brings inner satisfaction every day

So, have a look around the main rooms in your home and see what they are saying to you about values. Take a look at your calendar and what occupies your free time away from work and see what you really value. And, take a look at what you spend your discretionary income on as this too is a determining factor in sorting through your values.

Then, think through which values need some work and maybe even note the ones that are missing. The list above is not exhaustive in the least. In my own personal list I have others like:

  • Wisdom
  • Freedom
  • Solitude and silence
  • Achievement
  • Respect
  • Dignity 

Choosing and knowing your values can provide a number of benefits that include:

  • Reducing stress
  • Making better decisions
  • Finding environments and people that support your aspirations
  • Increasing joy and happiness
  • Supporting your growth and development
  • Helping in times of conflict or confusion
  • Growing contribution and value
  • Providing motivation

Knowing it or not, choosing it or not, all of us have a set of personal core values. Prevent discontent, conflict, frustration and lack of fulfillment by choosing consciously the values by which you want to live.

And remember, it is not hard to make decisions when you know what your values are.

Give Up Why Don’t You!

There is an amazing verse in the New Testament that I don’t believe I have ever heard anyone preach on. In fact, until recently, even I had never preached on it. But, as I was reading and journalling recently the verse really has become seriously important in my life and in my ministry with and for the Lord.

Galatians 2:20 “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

The Message Version “Christ’s life showed me how, and enabled me to do it. I identified myself completely with him. Indeed, I have been crucified with Christ. My ego is no longer central. It is no longer important that I appear righteous before you or have your good opinion, and I am no longer driven to impress God. Christ lives in me. The life you see me living is not “mine,” but it is lived by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

I believe we need to come to the place in our spiritual journey where we give up trying to live the “Christian life” whatever that might look like in our context and culture.

Why – well, a number of reasons come to mind…

1> I was sick and tired of trying to live up to the expected Christian lifestyle and falling short thus feeling frustrated at my attempts at being a good Christian and living victoriously.

2> I came to the realization and eye-opening conclusion that I could not live the Christian life. If the Christian life was going to be lived, according to this verse from Galatians, the Lord Himself was going to have to live it through me.

3> I discovered that Jesus Himself did not try to live the Christian life. He said, “By Myself I can do nothing.” Over and over again Jesus testified that He did nothing of Himself, but lived by His Father’s indwelling life instead.

4> I decided that Paul’s words in the above verse (Galatians 2:20) were not special for him but were written down for each and every one us. Paul was not special. What he experienced and understood we too can experience.

As someone once said, the Christian life – and the living of it – is impossible for all of us. It is only HIMpossible.

So, I am working to fully understand what it means to give up trying and just allowing the Lord to release His life within me and then live His life through me. 

Another step in my adventure and journey with Jesus.

Hebrews 4:1-11a “For whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his. Let us therefore strive to enter that rest…”

Random Thought 23

Paul was a Master Builder (Apostle) and He always built with “Christ as the foundation.” Too often we are building with something or Someone other than Christ. For example, our foundation is:

  • Some major Christian personality or preacher like Bill Johnson
  • A church system like Bethel
  • A new church program like “Living in Freedom Everyday”
  • A new style of music like Hillsong
  • A new approach to ministry – multi-campuses
  • A new approach to evangelism – relational and not crusades
  • A fresh revelation – the Kingdom
  • A restoration of an old truth – Ministry of the apostle
  • The prosperity gospel

Paul writes, “For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 3:11). And yet we keep trying to build on so many other foundations. We continue to preach and teach so many other truths and principles – most of them good, I suspect – but do so at the neglect of the foundational message, Jesus Christ and Him crucified (1 corinthians 1:23).

I work with a young apostolic leader in  Southern Manitoba (Western Canada) who is passionate about returning his house church to the proper foundation. He talks about Jesus all the time. He shares Jesus, teaches about Jesus, and installs a love and passion for Jesus in his people. As we chatted the other week after a lunch of home made soup with his wonderful family he again mentioned the need to lay this correct foundation. He was deeply concerned that we lose Christ or miss Him all together in the midst of the hectic life of a regular local Church with all of its programs and various ministries. And, that we often short-circuit what God is wanting to do by helping people in the natural instead of pointing them to Christ.

Then here in Ohio where I am while writing this blog I just had lunch with a local pastor. He spent almost the whole two hour lunch talking about the ministry he and his people are accomplishing. He mentioned how busy and active they all were as if it were a badge of honour. There was a quick reference to Jesus and the rest was activities, programs, events, people, places, and plans. In the midst of this one of his people sent me a quote from a new version I had not heard of until yesterday. It reads, “Surrender your anxiety! Be silent and stop your striving. And you will see that I am God” (Psalm 46:10 TPT). We can quickly lose God in the midst of all this religious activity. Ministry can kill intimacy.

So, you don’t have to ask TPT is The Passion Translation… Yup! New to me too.

My point is that Jesus is God and often our busy activity for God prevents us from sensing His presence, walking in His power, and knowing deep inside His peace that passes all human understanding. We settle for religion and not a relationship because we have laid the wrong foundation (performance religion) and thus are building on another foundation other than Jesus Christ and Him crucified.”

Just a thought but maybe a game changer for some.

 

Random Thoughts 21

There is too much “huff, puff, and fluff” in the church world today. I believe the Lord spoke that to my heart recently.  And, I have been mulling the thought over and over again during the last few weeks as I travelled into the United States to minister.

His people don’t need more surface level teaching that tickle their ears. They don’t need more “smoke and mirrors” that sound good, look good, and are polished and professional. They don’t need more self-help teachings that arise more out of pop-psychology than from the Bible.

The Church needs to be taught God’s Word – the fullness of God’s Word, the depth of His Word. To teach for life change and transformation the leaders – preachers and teachers – need to be actively engaged in the ministry of the Word on a daily basis. In the early church the leaders found themselves being drawn away from their main ministry of the Word and prayer by the valid and often serious needs of the people. So they made a quality decision to not allow the pressures of ministry and the rapid growth of the church to derail their primary mission and calling. Acts 6:2 states, “And the twelve summoned the full number of the disciples and said, “It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables….”

Leaders today need to return to their first calling…to know the word of God and teach the Word of God to the people of God. And, the people of God need a renewed hunger and thirst for the Word of God in its fullness no longer tolerating badly thought out and prepared teachings that are blamed on the Holy Spirit. In the early church there was a serious hunger for God’s Word among His people … Acts 2:42 states, “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.”

When Paul began planting the Gospel of the Kingdom in the city of Berea it states that the non-believers there “…were entirely ready and accepted and welcomed the message [ concerning the attainment through Christ of eternal salvation in the kingdom of God] with inclination of mind and eagerness, searching and examining the Scriptures daily.” That’s a powerful statement  and one that believers should take to heart.

I believe that God’s people would be hungry for the Word if it was actually taught under the guidance of the Holy Spirit who inspired it. I believe that deep down inside God’s people want the unadulterated truth and don’t want a watered down, tickle-the-ear version of the truth. I believe that God’s people honour and respect God’s Word. In fact, as the Bible states, His people are standing in awe of His Word! Psalm 119:161b “… my heart stands in awe of your words.”

The Bible also states that His people are to have an actual fear of God’s Word, trembling when it is spoken to them.  – Isaiah 66:5 “Hear the word of the Lord, you who tremble at his word.” It appears that this is lost in the Church today. However, I believe this is because the leaders, the teachers and preachers, are not preaching the Word but instead they are sharing their thoughts and opinions, their huff, fluff and puff.

God’s Word when it is honoured and taught correctly brings freedom and life to His people. This is what they need; this is what they are seeking; this is what is available IF the leaders will devote themselves to studying, understanding, and teaching God’s Word and teach it by revelation (Ephesians 1:17).

I encourage all leaders to set aside a number of hours every day to be in God’s Word for their own personal edification and growth and so that, saturated in His Word, they will know what God wants to speak to His people and will then teach a now word of the Lord each and every time they stand before God’s people. I believe that the people are ready – that it is a basic leadership problem.

 

 

Random Thoughts 1

A week after returning from Kazakhstan I have recovered from jet lag, caught up with life a bit, and begun to minister here in my own country again. As always I am taking time to think through what I experienced while overseas. I allow the experiences I had to settle in my heart and soul. Then the Holy Spirit begins to show me things about the trip – about me personally as I am on a journey with Jesus; in my ministry because I want to be constantly learning and growing; about the nation and people where I ministered; and about His plans and purpose for the Kingdom in that region. This is a “private debriefing” with Him whom I work with – the Holy Spirit.

Two things have risen to the surface as I think about my recent experience with a number of churches in Kazakhstan and especially with the youth of those churches.

First, the young leaders of these churches have a GOD CONSCIOUSNESS. They are constantly talking about Jesus, the Kingdom, and all that the Holy Spirit is doing. There is an enthusiasm and passion that is obvious in their attitude, actions, and words. They are committed to the cause of winning the lost and world evangelism. They are willing to “go into all the world…” and take the Gospel of the Kingdom with them so that the Kingdom expands, churches are raised up, and people come to know Jesus personally. Every conversation, every event, every one-on-one conversation had a GOD CONSCIOUSNESS element in it and Jesus was the centre of each conversation and connection.

Secondly, the youth and the young leaders have a KINGDOM FOCUS or perspective. They are looking past their own personal situations, the local church, the persecution and resulting limitations they live under as believers. They see the Kingdom and their role in it. They see something greater than their own lives and the life of the local church. They see the Kingdom that Jesus came and established and then left for us to continue its expansion into the spiritual darkness, nation after nation. They are willing to pack up their belongings and move wherever the Lord directs and start planting ‘gospel seeds’ so that the Holy Spirit can raise up a group of believers and thus Jesus can then build His Church there. They are willing to sacrifice, obey, and go. Nothing is too difficult and everything is possible in their hearts and minds. This attitude and perspective is powerful and influences every aspect of the life of the local churches.

These young people have “life.” The Bible states that “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.” (John 1:4) Jesus was not the light. The very life (zoe) and nature of God in Jesus was the light. And, Jesus told His disciples, “You are the light of the world” (Matthew 5:14). The God-life in them was the light. These young people and leaders have this life and thus are a light to their people and to their nation. Because of this ‘inner life’ these people have cultivated a consistent and constant GOD CONSCIOUSNESS or awareness of what the Lord is doing and have a KINGDOM FOCUS or perspective in their every day life.

Powerful is the only word to describe it.