The Passionate Life

Like many kids his age, Will wandered through the jungle of adolescence with no clue about what to do with his life. He was sharp and intelligent, though more than a few at his school snickered because he was quiet and scholarly. Will didn’t pay much attention to them; he was deep into his books of science, history, world travel, and adventure. His room resembled a lab experiment gone awry, cluttered with specimens of plant and insect life.

But even quiet, studious teenagers need a little pocket change. Will found an entry-level job in a shoe shop. That was his life — reading, puttering with his specimens, and selling shoes. But in time he realized that it wasn’t enough. He knew that if he had all the books in the world, all the scientific knowledge attainable, and all the money he could earn, there would still be a hunger inside him. There were questions his science books couldn’t answer. A shelf of history offered no clues about the meaning of life. Will had followed his passions but found they couldn’t satisfy him. 

At eighteen, Will left his parents’ church in search of a livelier and more fulfilling Christian fellowship. He found what he was looking for in a little congregation in a neighbouring town. His faith in God sparked to life and began to grow, slowly but surely. Being an ardent reader, Will devoured the Bible while continuing to read volumes of books about the world around him. He began to think about the ideas in the Bible.

In the meantime, his shoe business was flourishing, and Will opened a store of his own. Yet he continued to sense that life must hold more for him — he was certain of that.

In his early twenties, Will married a lovely woman. He tried the life of a preacher and then the life of a teacher. But he lacked those skills and still couldn’t decide how to focus his life. He finally turned back to the shoe shop — which, of course, looked more like a bookstore with Will’s library filling the shelves. The volumes kept coming, and so did the forming of Will’s mind. He taught himself Greek, Hebrew, Latin, Italian, Dutch, and French.

Then, during his late twenties, the vision for Will’s life came into focus. He was fascinated by a book about the last voyage of the great navigator and explorer Captain James Cook. To many people it was a thrilling story of adventure. But to Will it was a revelation of human need. While sketching a crude map of the world, he realized that there were vast numbers of the earth’s population who had never heard about Jesus Christ. It occurred to him that if all people must believe in Christ to be saved, then that placed a crucial burden on every believer. Those who hadn’t heard about Jesus would never hear unless some believers told them.

It was a simple but profound truth. If a man knew Christ and was serious about knowing Him, then the very meaning of his life was clear: He must tell as many others as possible. Suddenly the books, the shoes, the scientific pursuits — all these things were swept aside in favour of a new, controlling passion. Will followed his passion resolutely until his death at age seventy-three, and we remember him today as the father of modern missions.

“Will” is better known as William Carey, shoemaker by trade, scholar and missionary (apostle) by God’s training. In the late eighteenth century in England, Carey was overwhelmed by the need for worldwide evangelism, and he committed himself wholeheartedly to that work. In 1793, at age thirty-two, William Carey set off with his family for India, where he devoted his entire life to sharing the gospel. Utilizing his skills and resources as a linguist, Carey played a major role in translating the Bible into more than forty languages.

William Carey is a sterling example of the passion principle in Colossians 3:23-24. “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.” (ESV)

 

We are called to do what we do with all our heart and soul …“heartily” — wide open, pedal to the metal, no holds barred, no turning back. Burdened as a young man by the plight of the lost, Carey sobbed to God, “Here am I; send me.” Then after pouring out his life in whole-hearted service to Christ, he uttered from his deathbed, “When I am gone, say nothing about Dr. Carey. Speak about Dr. Carey’s God.” During the forty years between those two statements, William Carey lived out his purpose with sustained, heartfelt passion.

“But wait just a minute,” you may argue. “If committing to passionate living means I have to spend the rest of my life toting Bibles through some bug-infested jungle, I’m not sure I want to sign on.” If that’s what you’re wondering, you can relax. William Carey spent his life taking the Word of God to India because that’s what God gifted and called him to do. Being an apostle to India was Carey’s primary “whatever.” The passionate life God has for you will center on your “whatever” — the combination of your gifts and talent and God’s unique call on your life. And as you move into your life with passion, you will find as much satisfaction and fulfillment as William Carey did in India.  

I Know, It’s Crazy, Right?

Jesus said to His disciples that we were to go into all the world and make disciples. To do this He appointed us as ambassadors of His Kingdom which means we represent Him and the Kingdom as we go into our neighbourhood, work place, and community. We are ministers of reconciliation. Crazy, eh?

And, He tells us that we have His authority to be the ambassador of His Kingdom and ministers of reconciliation. Not only do we have the appointment and the authority, He promises to go with us and be there for us each and every time we step out “in His Name.” I know, it’s crazy, right?

And, He promises that we need not worry about what to say or do because He will give us the words to speak when we need them and will show us what to do and how to do it. So, we don’t need to know what to say or what to do; just listen to the One who sent you. It’s His authority that authorizes us to speak on His behalf and not our own. We are speaking on God’s behalf. Again, crazy, right?

Take Paul; over and over again he said, “I’m not an eloquent speaker, I just preach by the power of the gospel. I’m the least of all the apostles. I just do this in the authority that’s been given to me by Christ.” And he wasn’t afraid of what people thought or how they might misunderstand. He explained, “I may seem to be boasting too much about the authority given to us by the Lord. But our authority builds you up; it doesn’t tear you down. So I will not be ashamed of using my authority” (2 Corinthians 10:8 NLT).

We must not be ashamed of using the same authority. It’s not our power; it’s the power of the One who appointed us. If I stand in the middle of the street with traffic everywhere and you’re driving towards me and I tell you to stop, what could you do to me? You could run me over, right? Because I’m just some goofy guy standing there talking. I’ve got no authority to tell you to do that.

If, on the other hand, I have a badge that says I’m a police officer and I tell you to stop, you know what you’d better do. I have the whole government standing behind me, and it’s not me telling you to stop; it’s the law. And so, as Christians, I come not in my own authority, but in the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ.

First-century believers understood that their power was in Jesus and not in themselves, that they had that authority to use His Name. They would say, “Sick person, I’ve got no power to heal you, but in the Name of Jesus Christ, be healed,” and sick people were healed. They would say, “Demon-possessed person, I’ve got no power over demons, but in the name of Jesus Christ, come out!” or, and this is freaky, they would say, “Dead person, you’re dead; in the Name of Jesus Christ come back to life.” I know, it’s crazy, right?

Even crazier is that the New Testament says that we, as believers, can do even greater things (see John 14:12). Why? Because there’s no such thing as a “regular Christian.” You are an ambassador of Christ. You were not elected by people, but you were chosen and appointed by God to represent heaven on earth. I know, crazy!

You carry with you the message of reconciliation, as if God were making His appeal through you. And you never represent yourself; you always represent God. Why? Because just like Paul, you can say, “I have been crucified with Christ; my old life is gone. Nevertheless, I live. But it’s no longer I who live, you see; it’s Christ living through me.”

“But I’m just a stay-at-home mom.” You are not just a stay-at-home mom! You are an ambassador raising the next generation of world changers. You are called by God in your home with a divine mission.

“Yeah, but I’m just a student.” You’re not just a student! You are an ambassador in your chemistry class; you are an ambassador to your teachers at your school.

“Well, I’m just an entry-level bank teller.” You’re not just an entry-level bank teller; you’re a secret agent of the most high God, planted in that bank to represent Christ to people that you see all the time!

When you know who you are, you will know what to do; and you are, if you’re a Christian, an ambassador of the Lord Jesus Christ, not elected by people, but called and appointed by God. You never represent yourself, but you always represent Him. This is not your home; you’re from another country. You represent the King from the Kingdom that sent you, the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords, and that makes your role on earth very important. There’s nothing regular about you, you see. You are the highest-ranking diplomat sent by God from the Kingdom of heaven, to this earth.

You know who you are.

So you know what to do. 

 

Time To Leave?

We seem to be in a season of change. A time when we are having to leave what we know. What is safe, comfortable, and secure. Or, at least, what we believe is safe, comfortable, and secure. I am sensing deep in my soul that it is “Time to Leave” what is known and stretch; reaching out to what is yet unknown. Unknown but challenging and certainly exciting.

What about you? Do you sense something new happening in your life? Can you smell the change in the wind? Even if you don’t feel like anything is different right at the moment, it’s always a good idea to keep your heart prepared for change. Because it happens to us all: a new step of faith, a new venture, a new opportunity.

You’ll face something new or different, maybe something you didn’t see coming. You can’t avoid change. Sometimes we’re called to stand our ground when change blows in, but many times we need to take a risk and step into the change. God may have planted a restless desire (what I call ‘Divine Discontent’) in you to serve Him in some surprising way. Maybe He’s given you a burden for a specific group of people or inhabitants of a special place. Maybe He’s calling you to go. Follow that hunch and see where it takes you. Take that leap of faith. Embrace the adventure. The best way to make a big jump is to get a good running start. 

There’s a great story in the Old Testament about Abram and Sarai (who later are renamed Abraham and Sarah) that I think illustrates this perfectly. In Genesis 12, God speaks to Abram. At the time, Abram was living in a town called Haran, but he was from a city called Ur of the Chaldees. Back in Abram’s hometown of Ur, the people worshipped a false moon god named Nannar.

What’s significant here is that the one true God chose to reveal Himself to Abram, a guy whose only exposure to religion was seeing people worship the moon. God gave Abram a very simple, direct command: walk away from everything you’ve ever known. “Leave your country and your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you” (Genesis 12:1 NIV emphasis mine).

Leave and go.

It may seem obvious, but to go somewhere else you have to leave where you are. To go somewhere else, you have to leave what’s known, what’s comfortable, what’s predictable, and what’s easy. To step toward your destiny, you might have to step away from your security. 

Just imagine the kinds of things that must have been going through Abram’s mind. But I’ve lived here for years, God! I moved here with my dad. This is my home. I like it here. All my friends are here. My house is almost paid for. The schools are great. (I know Sarai and I were never able to have kids, but still.) My best friend lives right down the street from me. Over there is where I get my hair cut. I get my camels groomed just around the corner, and I really trust that guy. I don’t want to leave!

Abram had all these things he was used to. A life that was comfortable. And here comes God, calling him to go some place he doesn’t know anything about. But God makes Abram a promise. He says, “I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all people on earth will be blessed through you” (Genesis 12:2-3).

I can imagine Abram talking back to God. “Say what? A great nation is going to come from us? Maybe you missed this, God, but uh, we have exactly zero kids. None. We’re childless. Sure, we tried for years – and trying was fun! But that never got us any results. Now here I am, seventy-five years old. It’s really kind of too late for us. Surely we can’t start having kids now. And you’re telling me you’re going to make us into a whole nation.

I wonder if you’ve ever made a promise to God like I have.

      • “God, if you’ll just help me pass this one test, I promise I’ll study next time”
      • “God, if you’ll just let me not get caught, I’ll never do this again, I promise”
      • Lord, if you’ll help me finish this big project for work, I promise I’ll start sooner next time”

I don’t know about you,, but most of the promises I’ve made to God didn’t stick. That’s because we’re not changed by the promises we make to God; we’re changed by believing the promises God makes to us.

Let’s look in verse 4 at what happens to Abram after God makes His promise:”So Abram left, as the LORD had told him to.” Simple as that. Just what God told him to do., Abram did. But what if he hadn’t? What if instead Abram had tried to rationalize everything? What might have happened?

Today, because of Old Testament tradition, we sometimes refer to God as “the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” If Abram hadn’t gone, God wouldn’t have changed his name to Abraham later when He made a covenant with him (Genesis 17). There wouldn’t have been an Isaac. There wouldn’t have been a Jacob. We wouldn’t know God today as “the God of Abraham” because Abram would have continued serving his old moon god Nannar.

If Abram hadn’t had the faith to obey God and step out, who knows what consequences we might be living with today? Would you refer to as “the God of Carl, Alex, and Jeff?” We can’t know. Thankfully, because Abram had faith in the one true God, we don’t have to.

Where is God calling you to venture into new territory? We are entering into a season of change. Embrace it. 

“Yes, But…?”

I connect with believers every day. Even when I am not on the road ministering my “office time” is usually absorbed by connecting with people. I love it. After all, ministry is about people. So, as I sit in my sunny office in the morning I connect with people through emails, texts, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Viber, Instagram, Twitter, iMessage, and FaceTime. Topics vary. People are looking for help. A prophetic word. Some information. Planning of a future trip when flights go back to normal (hopefully). Just to touch base with a person who cares because they are on lockdown like most of the world. Some people are connecting because we are friends and so keep in touch on a regular basis regardless of where life is taking us. You get the idea. 

I also hear from leaders and believers who want to share what is happening in their lives and ministries. That’s good. I want to know. I care. And, I read a limited number of “Christian” newsfeeds. I don’t read or watch or listen to anything anyone “forwards” to me. If I didn’t ask for it, I don’t have the time or the interest to work with it. 

In the midst of these connections with leaders and believers I hear about the “Christian” conspiracy theories. I hear that people are focusing just on prayer and no longer teaching on the Church, the fivefold ministry, or other topics. Just prayer. I relate to people who are convinced that ‘the government’ is behind the Coronavirus pandemic. All night soaking meetings of worship and prayer. “Burn” meetings. That we need to fight the demonic powers that are preventing Christians being free to minister and preach – especially in the prisons during the COVIT-19 outbreak. Christian television and radio and the deception and false teachings propagated through this segment of the media. Prophetic words being declared. Prophecy being examined and interpreted in light of the pandemic. The anti-christ that is now loose on the planet.  And, on the list could go. 

This goes on even when we are not in the midst of a worldwide pandemic. Believers, churches, denominations, movements … the focuses are constantly changing. There is an old or new bandwagon for us all to jump on (Toronto Blessing, Bethel…). There are church planting movements where we franchise out a form of planting and running a church (MacChurch franchises). 

I sit back as all of this swirls around me. I have been in ministry for over 50 years. I have seen a lot of this many times over … it is like the waves on a beach. New programs. New methods. New presentations. New television shows. New ways to communicate. They just keep coming. New outreach methods. New worship styles. New dress code for with-it senior leaders. And, each wave continues to keep us focused on something other than what Jesus told us to do. Jesus gave a mandate to the Church. Marching orders to His arm. He said, “Go into all the world and make disciples…”

So, as I hear about all this “stuff” going on and everything that people are focusing on I have to ask myself, “Yes, But…” 

Yes, but how is this helping people to know the love of God?

Yes, but  how is this increasing the influence of the Church in the world?

Yes, but is this really training and equipping the saints for the work of ministry?

Yes, but how is this helping people to be born again?

Yes, but how is this working to move people forward in their walk with Jesus?

Yes, but, what about discipling?

Yes, but what about being salt and light, impacting your community?

Yes, but how is this communicating the life-changing gospel of the Kingdom?

Yes, but how is this in any way impacting the culture?

Much of what we do today in and with the church is seriously just maintenance and not ministry. We are maintaining the sheep – caring for them, loving them, making sure they are comfortable. Real ministry is reaching out to the lost as Jesus did on a daily basis. And, while doing so, discipling those closest to us. Again, as Jesus did. If what we are spending our time on does not encourage and strengthen our evangelistic outreach, it is not the right focus. If what we are doing simply occupies the believer’s time and energy taking them away from building relationships in their community … then we are simply spinning our wheels and playing church. 

So, I am constantly asking myself, “Yes, but…” 

In fact, I have become bold and have begun to ask those I am communicating with, “Yes, but…” and the responses are interesting. Very interesting. And, there is a lot of silence and fewer long conversations. But, that’s okay.

In your walk with the Lord it might be good to occasionally ask yourself, “Yes, but …” what difference is ‘this’ (you fill in the blank _______________)  making in my life, the life of the church I attend,  and the life of others who don’t know Jesus?

The answer – if you are being honest – might cause you to pause and reexamine your Christian experience. I hope it does!

Heroes and Villains

Guest Blogger – Bill Lewis, Apostle
In life we like to reduce things to a simple dime store novel filled with villains and heroes. We want the cowboy western with white hats and black hats. We like a predictable ending as in a Hallmark movie. We want the hero to win, ride off into the sunset, or kiss the girl and live happily ever after.  Life is not quite that simple. I wish it were, but it is not.

A speaker I was listening to recently said that change is a part of progress. Every entity has to change to stay current. Every business has to refresh itself, change the menu, re-decorate, do something to attract attention and customer loyalty.

In the kingdom of God, the kingdom is eternal. It moves and changes in forms, but the core message remains the same. Churches come and go. If you look at the pages of the New Testament and list the churches mentioned, you would be hard pressed to find them today. They vanished centuries ago. Yet, the kingdom of God is flourishing throughout the earth. God moves constantly to reach lost humanity. Humans change their cultures and habits; yet their core issues remain the same. How to address the changing cultures is the kingdom’s ability to adapt and keep the message addressing the age old issues of humans.

People, however, do not like change. They want to find something familiar and stick with it till they die. When I started out, planting a church in a rural, bedroom community, I had only two people who were over 50. The church was made up of young families and singles. This couple was just retired, 65, mail carrier and school teacher. However, they were into the current move of God. Change did not bother them; they were ready to be on the cutting edge of what God was doing. Maybe they were visionaries as well. They supported us all the way.

We live at a crossroads in some ways. God is raising up all kinds of new churches, some small and some rapidly growing larger ones. We live at a time when denominationalism is dying and many independent, or networked churches are flourishing. However, the kingdom of God is strong and growing.

Going back to my novel analogy, the churches that are closing, ceasing to exist, are not attended by unbelievers, but good people who have struggled with change. These churches have held on to the move of God they enjoyed when younger. There is usually a commonality in all these situations, the young people are missing. Somehow there was a disconnect between the older members and their ability to attract and retain younger people. Just as when we planted a church, it was all young people except for the one couple. Today, it is all older people except for a handful of young in most situations.

We may ask, “What is it?” Style, music, decor, language? Is it as simple as young draw young and old draw old?

I strongly believe there is an issue that is common and it is not the above. I strongly believe that the issue is the lack of inclusion and opportunity for younger people to engage, participate, and move into leadership positions. I have been to churches, and attend one now, that is trans-generational. There is a large group of young people and many interspersed into leadership and there is a good number of people of all ages worshipping and serving. Churches can serve and prosper with all ages being represented.

As churches age, they usually keep raising the bar for anyone to come into leadership. More rules, longer wait periods, limited opportunities are common in churches that are just surviving. One international leader I know, puts young people and new converts into roles of service as fast as she can. Her church is packed with young people. I also have known churches that have hard fast rules that no one can do anything until they sit for months or years. There are reasons everyone has for the various approaches, but the first engages and draws young people.

I know a church I worked with that was filled with young families and some great potential leaders. I was excited for that church. I came back a few years later and they were all gone. I asked what happened and found that all opportunities had been shut off to them. They are now leaders in other churches. What a missed opportunity!

Paul, the apostle, constantly encouraged his team to find young people and entrust them with the gospel. It was preparing the next generation.

In this book of life the villain is really complacency fueled by fear and lack of adaptation. Its symptoms include no change, keep the status quo, remember the good old days, and make little or no room for the next generation.

A good read along these lines is Kevin Gerald’s book, Naked and Unafraid which just came out.

The hero in all this is Jesus. He is able to reach every generation and keeps his kingdom growing. While some camps of his are shut down or absorbed into other camps, his kingdom adapts and keeps the message and the hope alive to every generation and culture.

Hate the Sin, Not the Sinner! WRONG!!

“Hate the sin, not the sinner” isn’t working. Honestly, I am not sure it ever did work. When hating the sins of others, people just simply don’t know how to separate the sinner from the sin. Let me encourage you to instead “Love the sinner, not the sin.”

Remove the word “hate” from your vocabulary, and start reflecting an image of Jesus that portrays Him differently than a man standing on a soapbox wielding a megaphone. I can’t ever recall a person who came to faith because of hate. Let’s start a movement of people who are willing to take hate out of the equation and love people regardless of their sins.

When Jesus called us to love one another, it wasn’t limited by guidelines or parameters. The commandment was simple and to the point: “A new command I give you; Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34-35 NIV).

There are no regulations on who and when to love. Love is not ours to control, monitor, and divvy up. Love was never intended to be kept to ourselves. It was meant to be shared with anyone and everyone willing to accept it.

The idea of loving without limits may seem a little intimidating, but that’s the raw beauty of it. Sometimes loving people might not make sense, but it still makes a difference. 

There is a man named Emmanuel, who was part of the Rwanda genocide in 1994. As part of the Hutu majority, he assisted in the killings of nearly a million people, and one of those people was the husband of a Tutsi woman. Emmanuel later came to find shame in his actions, and he then asked for the forgiveness of the man’s wife. Not only did she express that God had already forgiven him for his actions, but that she did as well.

What reckless love was shown through the actions of this woman. Where the rest of the world might give her an excuse to eternally hate this man, she instead harnessed the love of God and offered a place of forgiveness and grace.

If anyone should be leading the way for love and compassion, it should be the followers of Love Himself – Jesus. When we begin to view people through the eyes of Jesus, we are less likely to see their flaws and more likely to see their need for love. 

All throughout Scripture we see Jesus loving people whom others deemed foul, broken, dirty, and unworthy. For us that may mean the homeless drunk guy, the prostitute hanging out downtown, the person in jail, the drug addict – even the convicted sex offender. People may criticize you for giving your time and attention to people who are ostracized or considered permanently broken. They may say it’s not safe, that they’re not worth your time, and that these people gave up the right to be treated well when they made their bad decisions. They said that to Jesus too. But while self-proclaimed followers of God sat back and criticized the openness of Jesus’ love for people, He called them out for their lack of it:

“And as he passed by, he saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him. And as he reclined at table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners were reclining with Jesus and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. And the scribes of the Pharisees, when they saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, said to his disciples, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” (Mark 2:14-16 ESV)

Take note that even the Pharisees and other religious leaders are confused as to why Jesus is extending love to those who are sinners, tax collectors, prostitutes, and thieves. The love Jesus showed to these people was without boundaries or regulation. He was giving it all to people who might not even recognize Him as the Son of God. The beauty of this is that Jesus knew these people couldn’t offer Him anything in return, and yet He still embraced their friendship and presence.

Jesus’ response to the religious elite was nothing short of jaw-dropping: 

“And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” Mark 2:17 ESV)

The sick, or the sinners, were the people who needed the most urgent shot of love. You probably have someone in mind right now who could be classified as one of “those who were sick.” Hey, it may even be you. But no matter the person or their beliefs, when you show them love, you show them the Spirit of Jesus Himself. 

Gathering and Scattering

There are five stages of God’s relationship with man.

1> God and us … Adam and Eve walked naked in the garden with God. They had no shame. God and man lived in perfect harmony with one another. Unfortunately, this was short-lived.

2> God for us …After the fall, man couldn’t be in the presence of God. God, however, sent guidance. Whether He did it through prophets, judges, commandments, or covenants, God was still for us.

3> God with us … Then God took on the form of man. He sent His Son to preach the good news and call people home. His Son was born in Bethlehem, and His name was Immanuel, “God with us.”

4> God in us … As Jesus predicted, the temple was later destroyed (in 70 A.D.). Fortunately, God’s presence was no longer bound to a temple and accessed through a high priest. Jesus put an end to animal sacrifices when He became our sacrificial lamb. The temple’s curtain was torn. The altar closed. And the temple was multiplied. The cross of Jesus changed the church. God moved from being for us, to being with us, to being in us. We became the temple of God. And the Bible states, “Christ in you [is] the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27).

This idea of God being in us is laced throughout the New Testament.

  • 1 Corinthians 6:19 says, “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?”
  • 2 Timothy1:14 says, “Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you – guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.”
  • Galatians 2:20 says, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.”

All these verses point to one revolutionary idea. The Church is no longer a place. It’s now a people. Wherever we are, there the church is. Basically, Christians turn buildings into churches. Churches don’t turn people into Christians.

How you view God’s Church changes how you view God’s mission. And vice versa.

According to the Barna Group, 71% of Christians say the main influence in their salvation was not going to church but a personal relationship with a Christian. This is so important for us to recognize, because this generation don’t trust institutions. But they will trust someone who represents one.

Things have changed in this generation. Young people don’t read the Bible. They read Christians. Although millennials and Gen Zers may not be going to the event on Sunday, they are meeting Christians throughout the week. They’re meeting us at their job, in their neighbourhood, in their daily rhythms. We have ambassadors all over the world. But many don’t realize they are called to be ministers of reconciliation right where the live, work, and play. 

One of the issues is that churches are strong at gathering and weak at scattering. Barna found that within two years of conversion, 80% of Christians give up their former friendships with unbelievers. We subtly construct holy huddles. We become comfortable with the 99 and forget the one.

Remember, the Bible says, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring the good news” (Romans 10:15). Not, “How beautiful are the churches we bring people to.” When we shift our focus from creating great temple experiences (Sundays) to training Great Commission disciples, we leverage the full benefits of the cross. After giving us His commission, Jesus said, “Surely I am with you always” (Matthew 28:20). So God is with is, because God is in us. 

Do people in the pews live like this? What a shame if they don’t realize it’s “through the church [that] the manifold wisdom of God should be made known” (Ephesians 3:10).

5> God and us … One day Christ will return and all things will be made new. God and man, back in harmony. What a redemption story! The beautiful irony is that there is a fifth stage, which is simply a return to the first stage. 

This is good news. This is worth sharing. 

Flooded With Life and Overflowing

The Bible states that “In Him (Jesus) was life and that life was the light of men” (John 1:4). Jesus was not the ‘light.’ The very life, character, and nature of God (the Father) in Him was the light. This is called the ‘life.’ Jesus was not the light – the life in Him was the light.

This theme of ‘life’ is amazingly throughout the New Testament. He came that we might have life and have it more abundantly. He told us that He was the way, the truth, and the life. His gift of grace is eternal life. 

When we are born again this life is deposited within us. Jesus said to the woman at the well of Sycar, “For when you drink the water I give you it becomes a gushing fountain of the Holy Spirit, springing up and flooding you with endless life!” (John 4:14 The Passion Translation).

Christians have life – the very character and nature of God dwelling inside them. The Holy Spirit was deposited in to you when you asked Jesus to be your Lord and Saviour and experienced a conversion to Christ. He is the One that breathes life in you (Romans 5:5). And, as believers who live His life and live with hope we should be enthusiastically engaged with life every day. We should be enthusiastic and excited about life and the opportunities each day brings to us. We are to be proactive and embracing life and celebrating all that God has and is doing in and through us. 

When non-believers look at us they should see people who are consistently excited and “up” as we join the Spirit of God in what He is doing that day. We are not victims. We are not overcome by our circumstances. Even on a tough day we need to remember that God is still in control and He does know what He is doing. We need to be ‘alive’ and on fire for God. We need to walk in His life.

But, there is more than just a ‘gushing fountain’ that enables us to move forward with hope and certainty every day. There is a second encounter with God that the Bible calls the Baptism in the Holy Spirit. Jesus talked about it on a number of occasions. One of the first times He mentions it is in John 7 when He is speaking at the celebration of a Jewish religious feast day and He says, “All you thirsty ones, come to Me! Come to Me and drink! Believe in Me so that rivers of living water will burst out from within you, flowing from your inner most being, just like the Scripture says!” (John 7:37b-38 The Passion Translation referring to Ezekiel 47:1, Isaiah 44:3; 55:1; 58:11).

These rivers don’t seem to be flowing as Jesus predicted. Many who are baptized in the Holy Spirit focus on such great gifts as praying in tongues. However, they are not grasping the immensity of what Jesus said here. There is so much ‘life,’ His life in us that it is busting the seams and flowing out to touch all others we come into contact with. There is more than enough for each and every person we speak to each and every day. But, you may ask, why is this not the case? Good question. 

The reference to living waters flowing from within could have been translated as: “rives of living water will flow from His throne within” (see Ezekiel 47) 

And, many believers – even those baptized in the Holy Spirit – do not have Jesus as Lord sitting on the throne of their heart. And they are still functioning in life as if it was up to them and that they are seriously in control of their life. So, Jesus has not been enthroned as Lord. The throne is occupied by ‘self’ and thus this abundant life flowing like multiple rivers is not experienced. 

Jesus came full of life and this life was the light of men. This life in us is meant to be the light for others who are living in spiritual darkness. But, they won’t see the light if we are not daily experiencing and then overflowing with His life that is ours because we have asked Jesus to be God in our life. Jesus said, “Your lives light up the world. Let others see your light from a distance, for how can you hide a city that stands on a hilltop?” (Matthew 5:14 The Passion Translation). In other words, shine so brightly that people will see the difference from far away and it will get brighter as they come closer. 

So, as believers, we are called to celebrate life, His life in us, and to release that life so it can light up the spiritual darkness that surrounds those who don’t know Jesus. We are meant to be flooded with life and overflowing.

Gentle Heresy

I recently sat with a young man whom I coffee with when in the province east on my home province. He was a member of one of our house churches who has since decided to leave and attend the “going concern” church in his small city. However, I appreciate him and believe in him so I am keeping in touch. It was a good coffee conversation.

In the conversation he mentioned an author who he is currently reading. I had never heard of this writer. He mentioned that this preacher sees things in the spirit realm and teaches others to do the same. Now, I don’t have a problem with that. I also move in the supernatural gift of the Discerning of Spirits as found in 1 Corinthians 12:4-11. What concerned me was his comment that this man could do this since he was born. 

If a person who is not born again and baptized in the Holy Spirit can see what is happening in the spirit realm it is not a God-thing. His source would be the ruler of this age, the devil himself or one of the demons that constantly deceive believers. So, I did not say anything but my warning flags were raised and I decided to purchase this author’s books and read them to see where things stand. If the author actually says that then I will be deeply concerned and try to address the issue with my young friend. That comment would be a gentle heresy. Totally not biblical. 

It does not help that the author is part of a movement that I already have deep concerns about. So, I am treading gently and doing my due diligence reading what this man has written.

This is what I call a “gentle heresy.”

During the same week I was in a sharing session in a local church and another young man whom I know shared about a man he is following on You Tube and reading his books. He shared that this man teaches people how to get rich and, most importantly, the principles needed to handle the riches when they come. Again, my warning flags were blowing strongly in the wind. I am aware of this man’s teachings, his books, and his seminars. He is New Age and certainly not a believer in any way, shape, or form. 

The young man sharing was all excited about what he was learning about the principles needed to gain and maintain wealth. But it was all secular and New Age and not biblical in the least. The Bible states: “Beloved I pray that you may prosper and be in heath as you soul prospers” (3 John 2). Your soul – mind, will, emotions – propers only when connected to the Living God as seen and found only in Jesus. If your finances prosper beyond the level your soul prospers then you will see that specific person’s life enter confusion and end is disaster. I have seen it so often – especially with lottery winners. It is not just a matter of principles – it has to do with your connection with the Living God and letting Him transform your mind, your will, and your emotions. 

Another gentle heresy or wrong teaching. 

In some of the Facebook sharing of several people in the same local church as the “prosperity” guy above there are several who are directly and indirectly quoting the teaching of Joseph Prince. This one I have researched a lot and have seen the danger his teachings are to the Church. This man talks a good talk but when you scratch the surface even a little bit you have a much less than gentle heresy. You find a full-blown early church heresy called Antinomianism. This is any view which holds that Christians are freed by grace from obligations of any moral law – the Ten Commandments, for example. 

All these people sharing their thoughts and their theology are young people who love Jesus but are seeking out spiritual experiences and encounters. They are putting the subjective experiences – their own and that of others – ahead of the objective truth, the Bible. And, they have placed their opinions over the thoughts and the words of the Lord. And, in the process they have created a god that approves of their lifestyle and beliefs. And, they have built strongholds in their minds that need to be pulled down.

2 Corinthians 10:4-5 “For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ…”

The young believers today are desperately in need of spiritual fathers and mothers who are mature and will “speak the truth in love”. We need to be discipling and mentoring the young people in the Church today or else they will continue to believe a lie and follow their own vain imaginations. Eventually leaving the Church and the Christian faith because they no longer see it as relevant or believable. 

An Apostolic Understanding – Part Sixty-Eight

The Celts had an interesting strategy for outreach. They built apostle centers! Catholic historians call them monasteries, but they were not what we usually think of when we hear that word. In a Celtic monastery, for example, the monks and priest were allowed to get married and have children.

In the Catholic Church, monasteries were places of seclusion to escape the world. Celtic “monasteries,” on the other hand, were designed to penetrate the world. The Celts moved into a pagan territory and established a Celtic monastery as a beachhead.

Celtic “monasteries” were apostolic training centers. They taught the Bible, ministered in power, and sent out teams to transform the territory.

One of the teams send out from Ire]and was led by an apostle named Columba. Columba was a Christian, born of noble parents, in Donegal, Ireland. In 563, Columba left Ireland with 12 followers (an apostolic team). They sailed to Scotland and established an apostolic center on the small rocky island of Iona. At the apostolic center on Iona, new converts were taught to read and study the Bible, and minister in supernatural power. They practiced intense intercession, they observed Sabbath and Passover, and they maintained continual 24/7 praise.

Columba was much like Patrick in his mission work and his contests with the Druids. He is reported to have changed water into wine, stilled a storm, purified wells, brought down rain, changed winds, driven out demons, and raised the dead to life. Iona served as a base for the evangelization of page Scots and Picks. Through a ministry of preaching, demon expulsion, and miracles, Columba and his followers won all of Northern Scotland to the Lord in a very short time.

From Iona apostolic centers were founded all over Scotland and England. They established one center on the Island of Lindisfarne just off the northeast coast of England. It is still called “Holy Island” today. From there they travelled south to Whitby and established an apostolic center designed to reach all of England.

How did the Celtic Church die? The death of the Celtic Church took place at Whitby in England. At the Council of Whitby in 664, the Celtic Church submitted to political pressure to come under the authority of the paganize Roman Church. The key issue at Whitby was whether the Church should observe Roman Easter or Christian Passover.

Whitby was a third generation apostolic center. It had great potential. Its apostolic leader was a godly woman named Hilda. It was also the home of the prophetic psalmist, Caedmon. But as the Celtic Church was entering England from the north, the first Roman Catholic missionaries were coming in from the east. The problem was the the King’s wife had become a Catholic.

The King Brough together representatives from the Celtic Church and the Catholic Church to meet with him at the Council of Whitby. The Catholic Church sent skilled debaters who argued that the whole church worldwide had given up Passover in favour of Easter. They asked, “Who do these Celts think they are to oppose the whole Body of Christ on earth!” The King was swayed by their arguments and ordered the Celtic Church to give up Passover and become a part of the Catholic Church. When they did this the Celtic Church died.

Some of the Celtic leaders refused to give in. A few retreated to Ireland. Some went back to Iona and continued the apostolic center there for another 50 years. In the year 717 King Nechtan drove the Celtic leaders out of Iona and turned it into a Catholic monastery.

But most of the Celtic Church submitted to the king. They gave up Passover. They gave up Shabbat. They gave up fivefold ministry and their biblical heritage. The result was that the Spirit of God departed.

If you want to know where and when the early church died, it died in the year 664 in Whitby, England. The site of Whitby today is occupied by the ruins of a 12th Century Catholic monastery.

Whitby should have been a place filled with life, but if you go there today, you find it inundated by darkness. Whitby is one of the darkest places in England. Whitby was designed to be an apostolic centre where the power of God could radiate throughout the land. Instead it has become a centre for evil. Whitby today is a major hub of Goth culture, the celebration of vampires, witchcraft, Satanism, and death.

God wants us to remember that for hundreds of years the Celtic Church equipped the saints to minister, winning the lost through signs, wonders, and miracles. It was the last place on earth to operate in the power of the Early Church.

God wants to restore all of this to us today as He establishes regional apostolic centers in every nation.

Patrick had a passion for the Kingdom … not just a passion for lost

A passion for the lost can lead to getting notches on your Bible. You may get some “decisions,” but there is often little change, but a passion for the Kingdom is an apostolic vision to transform a territory.
A passion for the lost is pastoral and often driven by guilt, but passion for the Kingdom is apostolic and is driven by vision.
A passion for the lost sends people to isolated places to lay down their lives with little fruit, but a passion for the Kingdom sends out apostolic teams, with the authority to change nations.
A passion for the lost holds meetings and invited people to attend, but a passion for the Kingdom builds communities where the power and the glory of God is manifested in the earth.
A passion for the lost wins converts and then goes to the next city to win more, but a passion for the Kingdom builds apostolic centers to equip the converts, so that can be sent out to take new cities.
A passion for the lost is good but it often does not produce lasting fruit, but a passion for the Kingdom is God’s strategy and results in many lost being saved.

We live in a day of restoration. In the early years of the 20th Century, God restored the gift of tongues and healing. In later decades, He restored prophecy and apostleship. Today He is restoring the ministry of regional apostolic centers and the fullness of the fivefold ministry.