Friday, September 29, 2006

God's Way to Maturity

This morning I read a statement which immediately caused me to question its validity. It concerned how we should structure our spiritual communities so that we can reach the desired goal of spiritual maturity.
As soon as I read that statement, a red flag went up. Once again I saw in this seemingly righteous concern for maturity, the self-centeredness that the western church has so immersed itself in. As is so often the case, the focus is on self - "How do I become mature," "How do we become mature." This will never lead me or anyone else to maturity simply because one can't mature while focusing on him/her self.
There is far too much scriptural evidence that indicates the way to spiritual maturity is to focus on others - God and our fellowmen. As we lovingly serve them, we will mature. Isaiah 58 is so clear on this, one has to be blind not to see it. God's people were fasting and seeking him, but it was all motivated out of self-centeredness. Then God speaks, saying that the fast he chooses is to liberate people from bondage and oppression, feeding the hungry, giving shelter to the homeless, clothing the naked, not hiding ourselves from those in need. But we expect the secular government to do what God has told his people to do, so that we can concentrate on becoming spiritually mature.
God goes on to say that if we minister to those in need, then our light and righteousness will break forth, the glory of the Lord will protect us and continually guide us, satisfying our desire (for spiritual maturity). We'll be like a watered garden, rebuilding old ruins and raising up old foundations, and we'll be called repairers and restorers.

Thursday, September 28, 2006


Continuing from yesterday's post, I want to venture a little farther into this subject of the mission of Jesus. If this is the mission the church is to be engaged in, then how is it to go about it?
My good friend Ron will be quick to tell you that the only way it can be done is by the power of the Holy Spirit. I agree wholeheartedly. Jesus told his disciples that they were to wait to be endued with the power of the Spirit before they embarked on the mission of Jesus. This mission was impossible without the empowerment of the Holy Spirit. Only the Spirit can regenerate and transform people, bringing them into wholeness in spirit, soul and body.
I wonder if God isn't first awakening his church to the need to become more missional, knowing that we will begin to recognize our need of the Spirit's power when our efforts fail to bring forth fruit. We can't go about this in the same way we've gone about most everything else in the church. Let's face it, most everything we do in the church does not require the Holy Spirit. We've been able to accomplish all that we have without the Spirit because it simply does not require the power of the Spirit to engage in and accomplish human projects. So we have grown quite accustomed to working and ministering in our own strength.
However, the mission of Jesus can only be accomplished in the power of the Spirit. Frustration and futility await those who embark on this mission in any other way. But I believe God is ready and waiting to empower those who want to join him in his mission.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Jesus' Purpose

In contemplating the purpose of Jesus, I wonder if there is a more clear statement pertaining to his purpose than what Jesus himself says in Luke 19:10: "For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost."
The context of this statement was in Jericho after Jesus sought out Zaccheus in a crowd of people, declaring salvation for Zaccheus and his household. In doing so, he declared that this which the crowd had just witnessed was the purpose for which he had come to earth.
Increasingly, there is dialogue taking place about the church needing to become more missional. Could it be that the Holy Spirit is calling the church back to the mission of Jesus, to seek and to save that which was lost? Jesus said that the Holy Spirit would bring to remembrance all that he said (John 14:26). Over the intervening centuries, it seems like the church has forgotten what Jesus said, becoming more enamored with building its own empire rather than following Jesus in his mission. It appears, however, that He is waking his church up, reminding it of His mission.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Why the Church?

Recently I've been giving a lot of thought as to the reason for the church's existence. Just what is the purpose of the church? There are a variety of answers that are put forth in reply to that question, possibly indicating that it's purpose is far more complex than we can adequately express, or that we really don't know what the purpose is. In either case, our multitude of answers reveals some fuzzy thinking pertaining to the purpose of the church.
Should it come as a surprise to us then when we are confronted with statistics that show a decline here in the West pertaining to church involvement? If we are unclear about our purpose, there is no focus, no clear direction, no perseverance, resulting in little or no fruit.
Could it be that we have lost sight of our purpose by leaving our first love? If the church is the body of Christ, if he fills this body with the fullness of himself, then might we not discover what the purpose of the church is by recognizing what his purpose is? The Scriptures, particularly the Gospels, testify to the purpose of Jesus, and that purpose is the same today for his spiritual body as it was 2000 years ago when he dwelt in a body of flesh. So the question the church must ask is, "What was and is the purpose of Jesus?"

Monday, September 25, 2006

A Dirty Word

For many believers, the word "revisionist" is a dirty word. It is primarily associated with liberal theologians and historians who reinterpret and revise sacred and historical documents, disputing and negating factual evidence in order to serve their own liberal agendas. Obviously, this kind of revisionist activity is just flat-out wrong.
However, it is important to recognize that genuine revision is needed when it becomes apparent that change is occuring, that present institutions are ineffective, or worse, obsolete. Most recoil at the thought of revision simply because it is like taking a wrecking ball to the place where we live and find comfort and security. It is destroying what we've put our trust in, even, in many instances, our own misplaced identity. Therefore, many reject revision outright, unknowingly, to their own detriment.
Pete Ward, in the introduction of his book, Liquid Church, is very forthright in declaring that his book is revisionist. I'm sure there are some who, reading that statement, would put the book down and proceed no further, failing to recognize that to revise is basically to correct or improve.
Ah, to correct or improve! So the real connotation of "revisionist" is quite positive, but we have perceived it in a negative light because of guilt by association.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Primal Leaders

"A barbarian invasion is taking place even right now. They are coming from the four corners of the earth and they are numbered among the unlikely. From the moment Jesus walked among us the invasion began. And just as with those who crossed paths with Him here on earth, those who are most religious will be most offended and indignant. Barbarians are not welcome among the civilized and are feared among the domesticated. The way of Jesus is far too savage for their sensibilities. The sacrifice of God's Son, the way of the Cross, the call to die to ourselves, all lack the dignity of a refined faith. Why insist on such a barbaric way? Why a reckless call to awaken the barbarian faith within us at the risk of endangering this great civilization we have come to know as Christianity?
"Because Jesus did not suffer and die so that we could build for ourselves havens, but so that we might expand the kingdom of His love. Because invisible kingdoms are at war for the hearts and lives of every human being who walks on the face of this earth. And times of war require barbarians who are willing to risk life itself for the freedom of others. The irony, of course, is that barbarians are driven away in times of peace - they only disrupt our communities, traditions, and sensibilities. It is only in the most desperate of times - times of war or conflict - that these outcasts are welcomed or even invited to return."

Erwin Raphael McManus from his book, The Barbarian Way, pp. 15,16.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

No Effort

While shopping for a few items, I was walking down one of the aisles in the supermarket when I spied a folded twenty dollar bill laying in the middle of the aisle. WOW! What a blessing! But immediately I thought that somebody will be hurting because of this loss. I prayed a quick prayer as I continued my shopping, asking God to allow me to find the person who lost the money. I went to the self-checkout scanners, forgetting about the $20. Having bagged my items I was just leaving when I heard a lady exclaiming, "Oh No!" She had pulled out her wallet to pay and discovered she had lost her money. I asked her if she had lost any money, and she confirmed that she had lost $20. When I handed it to her, she was filled with gratitude.
That was so easy! One little quick prayer and everything fell into place without any effort on my part. It would be great if everything was that easy.
I wonder if it was like that for Jesus because he was so in tune with the Father. He didn't have to strive to make things happen, he simply walked in the way the Father prescribed, and he encountered people with needs to be met. There are a lot of other thoughts that this incident inspired, all of which have to do with a sensitivity to what the Lord is doing.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Civilized Christians

In the beginning of his book, The Barbarian Way, Erwin McManus quotes from the movie, Rocky III, when Mick says to Rocky, "But then the worst thing happened that could happen to any fighter, you got civilized."
The same can be said for Christians. McManus says it this way: "Perhaps the tragedy of our time is that such an overwhelming number of us who declare Jesus as Lord have become domesticated - or, if you will, civilized. We have lost the simplicity of our early faith. Beyond that, we have lost the passion and power of that raw, untamed, and primal faith" (p.12).
The civilized Christian is one who blends into the culture, whose radical faith has been compromised by the advanced and ordered stage of technological and cultural development. The domesticated comforts of civilization have tamed the uninhibited faith and ways of the kingdom of God that the Spirit has birthed in the believer. The choice is to remain in the comfort of what civilization offers, or to step into the world of God's kingdom with the adventure and risk that are part of living in the Spirit in the midst of a civilization governed by flesh.

Friday, September 15, 2006

God's Image

Genesis records God saying: "Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness." Then we read in Ephesians 1:23 that the church is the fullness of Christ, who, according to Colossians 2:9 is the fullness of the Godhead in bodily form. So we can say that the church is representative of God - Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Just as he made man in his image, so he is making the church in his image. I'm wondering if this might not be one of the reasons why there is so much controversy as to what the church should be like. We really have difficulty fully comprehending the Trinity. With the church being made in the likeness of God, should it be any wonder that we have fuzzy thinking about the church?
Therein lies the problem. We don't like fuzzy thinking. We want answers for everything. It is impossible to be in control when one doesn't fully understand. So we fill in the gaps out of our own understanding, thus making the church more like this world than like God. In doing so, we remove the mystery Scripture associates with Christ and his church. Could this be a primary reason why studies show people's interest in spiritual things at an all time high while their interest in the church is reaching an all time low?

Thursday, September 14, 2006

A New Idea

I finished Liquid Church yesterday. Obviously, it's not a long book, only 98 pages. But packed into those 98 pages are seeds of thought that can revolutionize the church.
The basic tenet of the book suggests that the church is a series of relationships and communications rather than meetings at a specific time and place. These networks of relationship and communication ebb and flow in response, both individually and corporately, to the dynamic moving of the Holy Spirit.
It's pointed out that our culture has changed from solid to liquid, but the institutional church remains in a solid state. And while western culture primarily functions from desire, the church continues to address the culture from the point of need. Through the Holy Spirit, the church can connect in a relevant way to human culture and to creation as a whole.
Many will not be able to embrace what Pete Ward advocates. It is a radical departure from the traditional church. But there are also many "others standing at the precipice of all that they've been, ready to take a first step into a very new idea of what we call 'church.' " - Youthworker

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

The Church's Starting Place

I finally got a copy of Pete Ward's Liquid Church. The only place I could get it was Amazon. None of the book stores, including Borders and Barnes and Noble, were able to get it, which was amazing to me. But the effort was well worth it.
I've just begun reading it, but what I've read thus far is very refreshing. The author treats his subject of liquid church from a theological base of the doctrine of Christ. He "starts the theological exploration of a liquid church by introducing Paul's theology of participation 'in Christ.' The apostle's corporate Christology becomes a starting point for a new ecclesiology."
He continues the theological basis for liquid church with the doctrine of the Trinity. "The intimate communication and perichoresis, or mutual indwelling, of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is expressed as a flowing movement or dance."
Unlike so much of the dialogue concerning the transitioning of the church, Ward doesn't merely state the problem and its cause, and then proceed to suggest a possible solution. He goes deeper, into Christ and the Godhead, out of whom the church was birthed. Without God (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) there is no foundation or framework for the church. Too much of the discussion concerning the church has almost eliminated God from the process. Ward presents God as the one in whom the church lives and moves and has its being.

Monday, September 11, 2006

God's Mindset

In reference to Saturday's post, I mentioned the importance of fellowship with the Father in order to know what he's doing. Lindsay's comment on this clearly reveals another significant aspect of fellowship - Spirit-born fellowship with other believers of like mind. This may be the missing link to discovering what God is doing in our own comunity.
As Americans, we have been programmed with an individualistic mentality which neutralizes the corporate mindset of the kingdom. While God does relate to us personally as individuals, he is engaged in a corporate work that far exceeds me as an individual. Therefore it is imperative that I become involved with other like-minded believers if I'm to hear and see what God is doing.
Passively sitting in a worship service once a week won't cut it. It's an aggressive (the Scripture says "violent") seeking God together, comparing notes, and then joining with others in what God is doing. It's quite apparent that God's mindset is corporate, and until I get on the same page with him, I'm just spinning my wheels.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

What is God Doing?

One of the most significant desires of mine is to know what God is doing so that I can get involved. It's easier, at least for me, to see what God is doing globally than it is to see what he's doing locally in my own community. It doesn't take any kind of prophetic insight to see what he's doing globally when you have reports coming in from around the world as to what God is doing. However, that isn't the case locally. I find it's far more difficult. Part of the difficulty may be due to the fact that God isn't moving here like he is in China, India, and other parts of the globe. But I think the primary reason for the difficulty is that to perceive what God is doing locally requires fellowship with him like Jesus had with the Father. Jesus said that he only does what he sees the Father doing. Then he says that "the Father loves the son, and shows him all things that he himself is doing" (John 5:19,20).
I wonder if that might not be my problem, recognizing that the Father loves me and desires to show me what he is doing. But my mindset has been that it is difficult to see what he is doing, therefore it is difficult to see what he is doing. With a change of perspective, I'm looking forward to seeing what God will show me as I live in a new expectancy.

Friday, September 08, 2006

One Accord

Would the petty differences that cause division amongst God's people evaporate in the presence of the warmth of Christ's love?
There is no doubt in my mind that a focus on and devotion to Jesus would remove these divisions. He is the one who holds all things together (Colossians 1:17). There are no divisions in Christ, for we've all been made one in him (Galatians 3:28).
The account of the birth of the church in the beginning chapters of Acts echo the oneness of heart and mind amongst the believers. We see the practical outworking of this oneness in Christ as Luke describes the life of the fledgling church:

"And they were continually devoting themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. And everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles. And all those who had believed were together, and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions, and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need. And day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, praising God, and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved."
- Acts 2:42-47.

Thursday, September 07, 2006


Dan's comment to yesterday's post is the basis for today's post. Dan observed that divisions are occurring in the body of Christ over everything from politics to music. That speaks volumes about our spiritual condition. According to Paul as he wrote to the Corinthian church, we are immature, fleshly and walking like unregenerate men.
Considering Jesus' rebuke to Peter in Matthew 16:23, we are stumbling blocks, setting our minds on man's interests instead of God's interests. Furthermore, when Jesus says to Peter, "Get behind me, Satan!" it indicates who is behind our man-centered thoughts.
Finally, being so caught up in our own divisive preferences may be indicative of leaving our first love. Christ says that unless we repent, he will come and remove the church out of its place (Rev. 2:5).
Just some food for thought: Christ's words about repenting for leaving their first love was spoken to the church at Ephesus. That geographical area today is Islamic.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Jesus and Politics

I see a disturbing trend occurring amongst those who profess to be followers of Christ. This is not something new, but it's happening with an intensity that I've never seen before during my lifetime. This is a trend in which we are seeing believers being politicized. The result is a fracturing of the body of Christ even more than it already is.
Regardless of which political camp believers are in, there is an agenda they are being immersed in that is not rooted in the kingdom of God. What I'm hearing from both sides is how wrong the other side is. It breeds negativism which is the mode that fallen creation functions in.
Jesus came preaching the kingdom of God, saying, repent (change your way of thinking). Jesus did not address the policy of the civil government of his day, which was both oppressive and corrupt. He knew that trying to get unregenerate men functioning in a secular government to govern and abide by the law of God's kingdom is a lost cause. However, Jesus was relentless in confronting the church (the Jewish religious leaders).
The kingdom of God is a matter of the heart, not of political policy. Unregenerate politicians are incapable of living and governing according to the kingdom of God simply because the kingdom of God is in the Holy Spirit (Romans 14:17). It is the Spirit who gives life (2 Cor. 3:6). Until the heart is changed and the life of the kingdom is alive and growing, people can only function from their fallen nature, which is where the systems of the governments of this world originate from.
What would happen if followers of Christ would really follow him, focusing on bringing the kingdom to earth like Jesus did, with the transformation of men's hearts, instead of trying to politically change their minds?

Friday, September 01, 2006

Old or New?

Have we unwittingly fallen prey to the same deception that the Galatians fell to? Paul challenges them, asking how they, who were liberated to walk freely in Christ, could revert to obligating themselves to keep the Law. In doing so, Paul says they have fallen from grace. Their trust was in their ability to keep the Law, to do the right thing. Thus, they severed themselves from Christ, having put their trust in themselves to be obedient to an old system that Christ had made obsolete. (Paul isn't saying that they have lost their salvation, but they cannot experience the enabling power of the Spirit for living this new life in Christ while trusting in themselves to keep the Law).
If Paul would visit us today, would he rebuke us for subjecting ourselves again to a yoke of slavery under the Old Covenant system? We have reinstituted the temple system, which God had clearly done away with. God removed the professional priesthood, declaring every believer a priest, but we have reestablished it. And to support all of this, we have found it necessary to mandate the temple tax (the tithe).
How can we expect New Covenant results while choosing to abide in an Old Covenant System?

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