Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Prizes announced!

As many of you know, I am giving away a prize to the best commenter of the month. I will announce the winner in September and they will receive their choice of the following prizes:

T-Shirt option 1: be

T-Shirt option 2: Pelacara (face-peeler) This is made for a special few. Some of my fellow
missionaries have been accused of being the mythical face peelers. By the way these faces are
supposed to be sold in the states...yeah. so, you too can join the club. just don't wear this in Peru!

Book option: If you prefer the non-fiction book I will send you a copy of "Reimagining Church"
by Frank Viola

It isn't too late to send in your comments about any of the previous posts and I will be posting a new chapter in the next couple of days! go nuts.

Monday, August 23, 2010

3rd world internet blues...

Sorry to disappear on you guys like that. My internet has been out for a week now. I will be posting some things very soon, now that we are back online. stay tuned...

Monday, August 16, 2010


I am working on the next couple of chapters for the book/blog. So, in the meantime I thought i would open up some topics for conversation. Comment and let everyone know your thoughts. Also, don't forget to vote on the prizes for commenters (to the right).
One of the major disadvantages to simple/organic church meetings that meet in homes or other 'secular' places is that they are hard to find. They do not meet on a special day or place, and sometimes they even change locations with every meeting, so they are often impossible to find. If you visit a new city and plan on being there for a while, it is very difficult to find an organic body with whom to worship. They don't exactly advertise. So, I was wondering if there was some way we can stay connected and open up some possibilities for new relationships and networking without compromising our relationship focused approach.

I know of times where Apostolic workers (missionaries) have passed through a city and needed assistance (food, shelter, fellowship) and they have had doors slammed in their faces. What a welcome site it would be to run into other like minded believers who would be willing to help a church planter type as he is traveling.

One idea I had actually came from the early church (imagine that!). Because of persecution, many of these early groups of believers did not want to advertise to the whole world where they were meeting. So they used simple designs that often disguised a cross, fish or other christian symbol to identify themselves to other believers. Chi-Ro, the first 2 letters of the word Christ, Ichthus or fish symbol and even an anchor are well known as an early christian symbols.

So, here is an idea. What do you guys think? Maybe if we started putting a symbol on our doors or mailboxes or somewhere visible that could help us to find each other and locate a place to worship with the brothers. Let me know what you think of this idea and if you like it, what would be a good symbol to use. my vote goes for Chi-ro.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Confession as a Second language, Part 2

As I learned to confess more intimate sins and I learned something about myself. I am real bad about justifying my sin or like Adam, placing the blame on someone else. This is what it often looked like.

Me: Listen I just wanted to ask your forgiveness for being short with you earlier and not treating you like I should…It’s just that…I’m kind of frustrated because you are always interrupting me and nagging me about stuff.

Wife: Ummm…that just made it worse.

Yeah, not pretty. Sounds familiar huh. God: Did you eat the fruit? Adam: Umm…yeah, I did. But it was the woman you gave me who offered me some fruit and I ate it. We hate taking the full blame for our actions. We want to water down our blame. This is not true confession. We are supposed to confess OUR sins, not the other persons. See it doesn’t matter what caused you to act wrong, you still acted wrong. You are responsible for it. There is a time and a place for dealing with those frustrations, it just isn’t during your confession. When confessing search your heart. See if you have done anything to wrong someone, an action, a thought, a word, whatever. Then confess what you have done. If they feel conviction they may confess something to you, but if they don’t, that’s okay.

Many sins within the church begin with a simple misunderstanding or an offense that goes undealt with. That is why Jesus taught us what to do in these instances. Let’s look at Matt 18:15-17

If your brother wrongs you, go and show him his fault, between you and him privately. If he listens to you, you have won back your brother. But if he does not listen, take along with you one or two others, so that every word may be confirmed and upheld by the testimony of two or three witnesses. If he pays no attention to them [refusing to listen and obey], tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a pagan and a tax collector.

As you can see in this passage the burden of confrontation is upon the offended not the offender. What usually goes on in our heads is something more akin to vengance. “Well, they know what they did and they should come and say they are sorry!” When actually this passage says just the opposite. It says we should take the offense directly to our brother. Why? In my experience, 9 out of 10 times the brother has no idea he has even offended you. It is usually just a misunderstanding that leads to immediate reconciliation. But it requires us to be humble and admit when our feelings have been hurt. More often than not I see people more concerned with winning an argument than finding peace in their relationships. This is destructive to the person but especially to the body.

When we follow this simple teaching of Christ confession is usually joined with asking for forgiveness and then repentance. This is one of the most beautiful expressions of Christian love in the community of believers. I have always said that one of the chief characteristics of God is forgiveness. And if we truly want to emulate him and be like him, we will forgive. We will forgive when we have been misunderstood. We will forgive even if it makes us look bad, we will forgive over and over and over(Luke 17:4). Because that is how he treats us. Remember the Lords prayer(Luke 11:4)? “Forgive us our sins AS we forgive those who sin against us” The ‘as’ in this sentence is not meaning at the same time, but in the same way. If we will be forgiven in the same way we have forgiven others, we better be people characterized by forgiveness because we sure need plenty of it.

Finally, Jesus says if you have taken your offense to you brother privately, with witnesses and even before the church and he still does not repent that we should treat him like a Pagan or a tax collector. Many feel that this is finally the place where they get to punish the one who has wronged them by kicking them out of the body. While it may be necessary to take some strong action, possibly even excluding them from meetings, the sentiment is not hatefulness. How did Jesus treat tax collectors? How did Paul treat Pagans? They were lost, people needing a savior. They were treated with Love and kindness. The passage is basically saying if they refuse to repent then treat them like unbelievers, win them over to Christ through love.

If you really want to begin to live this active, participatory Body life confession is a good place to start. At its core it is humbling and others centered. It brings about unity. It gives the church something to do. Instead of just sitting in a pew hearing lofty words you forget before you even leave the building, why don’t we help one another with their struggles. Carry each others burdens (Galatians 6:2)

But before we can carry each others burdens, don’t forget you have to reveal your burdens to the ones who can help, the church. That is the first obstacle in beginning to speak the language of confession. Getting over yourself and your desire to be misunderstood. See, We want people to misunderstand us and think we are better than we are. It is precisely because of this obstacle that most people never learn the language of Confession.

Our problem with confession stems from our fear of being found out! Everyone is under the (false) impression that I am good, kind, and hard working. They think I am a good dad and a great husband, I am a faithful follower of Jesus in every way. So, if this is all true, if I am doing alright why do I need Jesus?

Remember the people Jesus enjoyed being around. Not sinners, but sinners who admitted they needed help. The pharisees were sinners, they just didn’t admit it. They portrayed an outward expression that said I have it all together. Sound familiar? But these “sinners” Jesus hung out with basically said, “I am a mess, I am beyond help, I am a prostitute, a drunk, a thief, a disease ridden, broken down pile of flesh. Jesus, you are the only one who can help me.” Everyone already knew who they were. They didn’t need to hide, they couldn’t if they wanted to. Jesus reached out to them because they were broken before him. To the Pharisees, who hid their sin with religious piety and fancy words, Jesus said…”Hypocrite! Snake! Liar! you look great on the outside but inside you are full of death.” I no longer want to be found in the camp of the Pharisees. I want to be known for what I am, so that Jesus can be seen for who He is. I encourage you to confess your true self to the world and let Jesus be glorified in you. Paul did it:

So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God's law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! (Romans 7:21-25)

So will I:

I am selfish, I am lazy, I put myself above my family, I am like a prostitute who follows after loves of the world and ignores the only one who truly loves me. I am angry, I hold grudges. I fight. I think myself better than others. I am a freaking mess! Jesus, Help me!

How about you?

Confession as a Second language, Part 1

Being overseas for extended periods of time, you get accustomed to being around people who speak several languages. Sometimes you even speak 2-3 languages in a single conversation. Some things just sound better in a certain language. Then when you are in an environment where there is only one language spoken, you feel restricted, even like you can not fully express yourself. If you only speak one language you probably don’t know this feeling, that’s okay but you don’t know what you are missing.

In a similar way, most believers in churches today only speak one language. They do not know the benefits of speaking the language of confession. It really is like another language, you have to learn how to do it. We usually stumble through it at first, but with time it becomes part of how we express ourselves. Let me share how I learned Confession as a Second Language.

I think my first taste of real freedom in the church meeting came when I began learning to confess. I had been a leader in church circles since I was in high school. When you are in leadership, there is a certain unwritten decorum that you must keep up. It basically portrays that you have your stuff together. You are not struggling or in sin. You are worthy of being looked up to. You, of course know this is a lie. But you convince yourself that it is necessary to keep up the façade in order to not be a stumbling block or lead others into sin. After all, they look up to you. You don’t want to let them down.

The first time I revealed my real self in a meeting was after my accident. I was in a meeting with several other believers. I was struggling with my recovery and submitting fully to Him so I was ignoring God. I had gone for several weeks without reading the word or speaking to the Lord. As I was in the meeting the Lord began to convict me, I truly wanted to repent and turn to the Lord. The conversation went something like this:

Me: Okay Lord you are right, I will get back to your Word and we will start talking more.

God: Confess this struggle with the group.

Me: Whoa! I don’t think there is any reason to go that far! We will work this out on our own Lord.

God: Confess.

Me: Lord I have not sinned against them. Let’s just keep this between us.

God: It has and does affect them. Confess it.

Me: Yes, sir

So, I let it loose. I told them, I haven’t read my Bible. I haven’t prayed in who knows how long. I am just keeping up this appearance of a Godly leader but it is a lie. I am struggling. (I winced inside thinking I would hear gasps, I thought I would open my eyes to gaping jaws and disappointed looks) But as I looked around I saw understanding from everyone. And guess what happened, everyone else started confessing their own personal struggles. We had a beautiful time of revealing ourselves and our sin before the Lord. We testified to one another that none of us have arrived, we all still need Jesus.

And guess what else happened? The body didn’t let it end with my confession. They took it further, they prayed for me that night. They commited to pray for me over the next few weeks. They kept me accountable and checked on me to see if I was in the word, how was I living, etc. and honestly they helped me get through this rough patch in my walk. This experience helped me to understand the passage in James 5:16 “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.”

One of my mentors once told me of the dangers of hidden sin. He always said “Confessed sin we can deal with, but hidden sin is so destructive because it controls us.” It controls our behavior because we are afraid we will be found out. But once you are found out, you are free. You can begin to deal with the issue or be healed instead of expending all of your energy in hiding it.

As missionaries we often have to deal with the Christian Superhero syndrome. For some reason, people think missionaries are better christians, that we do not struggle or doubt. It always makes me feel awkward, like I have been caught in a lie. After seeing how things worked out when I shared my real self, I determined to learn the language of confession. I will show the world who I really am, So that Jesus can be more glorified in me, a poor wicked sinner. I try to take every opportunity I can to glorify Christ through my confession. When I am in small groups or even speaking in larger settings, I search myself asking the Lord to reveal in me things that do not please him. If it is appropriate for the setting I will just confess it, ask people to help me. Most people no longer see me as a better Christian, just another loser saved by grace.

These were my first experiences with confession, they mostly dealt with simple things. The Lord decided to take me a bit further down this road. but that is for tomorrow...

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Prizes for beings

I am really wanting to encourage comments here in this blog. I know there are several of you creeping around reading stuff and I am glad, but I really want to challenge and engage one another (including me) with how we can be the church together. So, to kickstart your comments and participation I will be giving a prize to our best commenter in August. I will be judging based on quantity and quality of the comments.

Also, let me know on the poll (on the right) what you think would be a good prize.

I am finishing up the next chapter and should be posting it soon. So until then comment on any old posts. I am thinking about giving a prizes for other things too, so have fun and be church together!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Sinners in the hands of a confused church, Part 4

Losing salvation?

This is an ongoing debate among Christian circles and has been for some time. But why is this question so important to us? From my experience, this question has become deceivingly spiritual sounding question springing from a very carnal concern. Actually, “Can I lose my salvation?” is usually more correctly translated “How much can I get away with and still not go to hell?” The question presupposes that a believer is living or at least dabbling in the world. People who are following Jesus are not concerned with such questions.

So, my simple answer to this deeply debated question. “I trust Jesus” I don’t understand his salvation. But I do know that if I seek him I will find him, I do know that if I endure to the end I will be saved, I do know that he loves me and has a plan for my life. I do know that the world only offers death. So I choose Jesus! I may stumble, I may fall, but I get back up and strive towards him. He is my only hope in this mess. The world offers temporary joys, I will pass. I want Jesus! If you and I live like this, we don’t have to worry about ‘losing our salvation.’ Ultimately it is all in his hands anyway, so trust him and live a life worthy of the calling you received.

What should we do then?

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." --matthew 28:19-20

Jesus sent the church into the world with the task of proclaiming Him, and making disciples! To make a disciple is hard work, it is time consuming, it is heartbreaking, and it is frustrating. But it is what we were commanded to do.

Converting people to Christianity by helping them to work out the sin equation is not making a disciple. Making a disciple requires you teaching by example, living your lives together, and sharing your struggles and victories. It took Jesus 3 years to disciple 12 men to the point where they were truly committed to him, and even then one betrayed him and when trouble came they scattered. Years of frustration with their bickering, years of heartbreak when Judas hid things in his heart and eventually fell away, but you also see the victory of these men taking his message and changing the world after he left. That is the power of disciples.

Telling people to say a prayer and then sit in a pew the rest of their lives and give a tithe is a bastardized version of Jesus command and his plan for his church. It is a sickness and the very reason the church has become powerless in the world today.

So how do we proclaim this good news (that is Jesus) to the world? First, BE the church! If we live body life in the church the way that it is set out in scripture, the world will stand up and take notice again. They do not take us seriously now because we have become a joke, a simple religion. We must become Jesus followers again.

Second, we must be his witnesses everywhere (Acts 1:8) Testifying to WHO HE IS everywhere we go. This could take the form of sharing the stories of his time on earth, sharing his teachings, proclaiming him as lord in the public arena, sharing his riches with your friends, family and even strangers. This should come from the overflow of our being. We do not need to be trained to do this; we just need to know him.

And Finally, DO NOT BE ASHAMED! (Romans 1:16; 2 Tim 1:8) But be prepared! The true gospel is dangerous. If we begin to tell people the full gospel instead of the watered down version, you will offend many. You will be hated because you will not compromise and water it down for people. You could be ostracized, ignored, persecuted, beaten or even killed. Jesus himself warned us that they would hate us like they hated him. That bears the question though, if the gospel that we are proclaiming has lost its edge, if it has been watered down and no longer offends, is it still the gospel?

Am I still saved?

Okay, don’t panic. I am not saying that if you came to Christ through a sinner’s prayer or the roman road that you are not a believer. I am just saying you didn’t receive the best presentation of the gospel. Here is the question. Where is your hope? Have you sold everything you own to buy this pearl of great price (Matt 13:45)? Have you put all your eggs in his basket? If Jesus is your reason for living, then you have found salvation IN JESUS.

However, If you said a prayer years ago and ‘asked to receive Jesus as your savior’ but you live your life for yourself and your desires. Then you may be in trouble. As I have visited churches in the states over the years, I would say most “christians” fall into this category. They are chasing the American dream, they are trying to fulfill their desires and enjoy life. But they have abandoned the call of God upon the Church. They have never truly understood what it means to be in Christ. They just said a prayer so that they get to go to heaven, and they go to a holy building and hear a priest tell them lofty things to appease God and stay in his good graces.

I have heard this, “He has received Jesus as his savior, he just hasn’t made Him Lord.” This is complete garbage; you cannot have one without the other. Jesus is your everything or He is your nothing. Salvation is simple (it is found in Jesus) but it is hard ( you have to die).

Monday, August 9, 2010

Sinners in the hands of a confused church, Part 3

...more problems with the simplified version of the gospel. (If you are lost check out part 1-2)

It destroys the mystery of salvation. Who really completely understands it? Is it meant to be understood? To me, it is an underserved acceptance of a wicked being, the adoption of a filthy bum by a king. It will never make sense to me. But I will take joy in this great mystery, that He loves me. I don’t know how the equation works, but I trust him. I trust Him, not the equation! He is my Hope.

We convince people through logic, not the spirit. We have to remember that it is the Spirit who calls men unto himself (John 6:44; those who were appointed believed, Acts 13:48; Ephesians 1; Rom 8:28-31). It is not by the works or explanations of men, our understanding, or our philosophies. It is an undeserved miracle done by the Holy Spirit that should cause Awe in our life every day.

It creates false hope. These “roman road/4 spiritual laws” type evangelistic methods basically guarantee that if you follow these steps, you will receive eternal life in heaven. What about the parable of the sower? Or when Paul said it is those who endure to the end who receive the prize? It is not about ‘a moment in time’ or a ‘spiritual birthday’ when we become ‘saved.’ It is about deciding to follow Jesus completely, no reserves, whatever he asks of us.

I can’t tell you how many times I have heard at funerals “It brings me so much comfort knowing that he walked the aisle and asked Jesus into his heart when he was 8” Even though he never followed Christ! Even though he lived in the world! There were no fruits in his life? This is FALSE HOPE! It is a LIE!

Think of the calling of Peter in Matt 4:18-20 Jesus said, “follow me and I’ll make you fishers of men.” Now, if Peter had said, “Okay Lord, I’ll do it!” Then went back to his nets, would he be a follower of Christ? No, he would be a Jesus-watcher or maybe a Jesus-Admirer. But that is what most Christians do these days. They make a confession of faith that is not backed up by their lives. There lives look no different from before except they go to some holy building on Sundays. What Peter did do is this: He and his brother left (the word implies permanently) their nets and followed Jesus. Their nets were their hope for future and financial stability. But they LEFT it! And followed Jesus. They found ALL their hope in Jesus. This is what salvation should look like today!

It does not present the true Christian life, just the good stuff. The way we present the gospel today, we might as well dress up like a used car salesman when we go out evangelizing. It is basically the same concept. Let’s share with them all the good stuff you get, but we are conveniently going to forget the difficulties. How many of you have ever heard a gospel presentation that included a warning about future persecution? That the people will hate you? That God may ask you to give up people/things that you love? That he has commanded you to go to the nations? That you will suffer? When these things begin to appear because of faith in Jesus, the new believer feels lied to. They feel like they bought a lemon. And they fall away. In fact in my experience most of the people who come to Christ though these methodologies return to the world in short order. Especially when there is no discipleship present. Maybe it is time we give an honest presentation of what following Christ might entail. Maybe then people will know what they are getting into. The persecuted church understands this concept and those who come to Christ in these countries know it will more than likely lead to persecution or even death. But they follow him anyway because He is worth it.

It breeds lazy cheaters. I have always been a poor mathematician. And I am going to confess something openly here. My best friends girlfriend did almost all of my geometry homework. Yes, I cheated. I never really understood or cared to understand geometry. Why? Because it was easier to have someone else do it. The same concept proves true in the Christian church today. If you can’t work or present the “salvation formula” well take them to someone who can. Usually when someone has a lost friend, they bring him or her to church. Why? because there are qualified spiritual mathematicians there who can do it for you.

This was unheard of in the first century church. Because if you had Jesus, you shared him. You testified to his glory and goodness. You shared in his sufferings, etc. But we have made evangelism into something that is better worked out by professionals. This has done great damage to the kingdom of God.

Heaven is not the point! Jesus is! I have always found it strange that the major push behind modern evangelism was heaven. Something that will happen after we die?! Really? Is that the hope we have found? That in 40-60 years we will get to be with God in heaven? Streets of gold and all that. If that is it, I will pass. That is not enough for me. I want/need something for now! That impacts my life and helps me to know abundant life. The point of true evangelism is not heaven, but JESUS! He is the reward, He is our portion! He is our Hope! He is our Strength, He is our Rest. He is our EVERYTHING!

In fact, the passage that most people use to understand what heaven is like is actually talking about the New Jerusalem. Seeing New Jerusalem as simply a place (heaven) is missing the richness of the text. The New Jerusalem is the church in all her glory, cleansed and presented to the groom, Jesus. This is the wedding feast, the consummation of our relationship with Christ. Our waiting is over; we are being made whole in HIM! Read it, it will give you new perspective. Revelation 21

Sinners in the hands of a confused church, Part 2

So here are some of the problems we encounter with this simplified version of the gospel?

It doesn’t play out in the whole of scripture. Consider:

  • Jesus with rich young man: Matt 19; Mark 10; Luke 18
YM: What must I do to inherit eternal life?
JC: obey the law
YM: I have done that.
JC: You are only missing one thing, sell all you have and give to the poor and then come follow me.

  • Jesus with Nicodemus: John 3
N: Teacher, I know you have come from God
JC: No one will ever see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.
N: How?
JC: He must be born of Water and spirit, not the flesh.
N: I don’t understand.
JC: Nic, you know God sent me, put your belief in ME.

  • Jesus and Samarian Woman: John 4
JC: can you get me some water?
SW: Excuse me, is a Jew asking me for water?
JC: If you knew what was really happening here you would ask me for water and I would give you living water. (they talk religion for a while, then…)
SW: I know the Messiah is coming, when he comes he will explain everything.
JC: I who speak to you am he!

  • Jesus and thief: Luke 23
T1: Aren’t you the messiah? Save yourself and us.
T2(to T1): Don’t you respect God? We deserve what we are getting, but this man is blameless.
T2 (to JC): Jesus remember me when you come into your Kingdom.
JC: I will see you there later today.

  • Acts of the Apostles: Early chapters of Acts (also John 1:12-13)
Apostles: proclaiming who Jesus is
People: Believed and were baptized

  • Phillip & Ethiopian: Acts 8
P: Do you undersand what you are reading?
E: How can I unless someone explains it.
E: Who is the prophet talking about?
P: (proclaimed) Jesus.
E: there is water can I get baptized?

  • Pete & Cornelius: Acts 10
C: God told me my prayers had been answered and that I should send for you. I have gathered my friends and family to hear what you have to say.
P: (Peter tells them about Jesus, then says…) "He ordered us to preach to the people, and solemnly to testify that this (Jesus) is the One who has been appointed by God as Judge of the living and the dead. Of Him all the prophets bear witness that through His name everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins. While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who were listening to the message.

In all of these stories you will notice 2 things. 1) It is all about Jesus, he is the focus of each of these stories, not balancing some spiritual formula. 2) It was never the work of men. They did not come to salvation because they understood how the sin formula worked and balanced it out. Which brings us to the next problem.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Sinners in the hands of a confused church, Part 1.

The Modern church has made very clear that when speaking of entering the kingdom of God they want everyone to know they have it all figured out. All mystery has been revealed. The mysteries of God’s reconciling himself to man can be found in this simple ‘spiritual formula’. A (Recognize your sin) + B (say a sinners prayer) + C (get baptized) = D (heaven). In boiling down the message of Christ into this simple formula we have stripped it if the beauty that has marveled kings and paupers! We have oversimplified and somehow overcomplicated it to a point that it no longer contains the wonder that once enraptured thousands in the days of Acts.
Unfortunately, this simplified formula does not play out with the whole of scripture. Sure, we can take verses from Paul’s letter and cut and paste them together and come to this simple formula. (Four Spiritual Laws, Roman Road, FAITH) Just to give you an example of the abridged version let’s read Romans 10:9 “if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. “ Now let’s take a look at the whole of Romans 10…yes, right now…seriously, go get your Bible!…now, see what I mean. How can the richness of this testimony of Christ be summarized in this one verse? It can’t. It is like VBS Kool-Aid, just a watered down version of the real deal..
I understand what many of my brothers were trying to do in these attempts. They just want to make the gospel easier to understand, easier to swallow. But that bears the question, was it meant to be easy? As you look throughout the New Testament you will see the diversity of ways people came to Christ. There was no simple pat answer, It will always be complex! Why? Because it demands we abandon everything. Everything we are and want to be. Everything we desire and hope for. And as we lose everything, we find life in Christ. I can’t explain it, but I’m okay with that.

order UP!

I just wanted to say thanks to those of you who helped me jumpstart my writing again. I have almost finished the rough draft of the next chapter and will be putting it up in a couple of days. Since It is a bit long i will be breaking the chapter up into 4-5 posts. Remember, this is a first draft. out of my brain and onto the screen. I welcome your comments and opinions.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

You ARE the boss of me!

Okay guys, thus far i have been giving you stuff I had already written. It has now time to get back to writing. It has been over a year. I am feeling the itch. But I don't know where I should start. So here are some other topics I am planning on touching in the book. Please let me know which one you want to read next and I will get on it. This is your chance to boss me! take advantage! just leave your request in the comments and I will begin working on the top 2 or 3. Then I will post something soon.

• Called to obey
• Make a joyful noise
• 5 Functions in the Church
• Getting’ Lazy
• $ issues
• Obedience vs Knowledge
• Let the little Children come to me
• A king and a kingdom
• We are Pilgrims
• “Sinners in the hands of a confused Church
• Unity
• The Lords Supper
• Networking churches
• Confession as a second language
• Broken
• Tour boat or canoe analogy

Friday, June 18, 2010

Learning to trust His Spirit, part 2

When learning to worship in a simple church, one of the hardest things to do is trust the spirit and his plan for every meeting. And I mean every meeting even those on the street. For those of us who came from a legacy/traditional church, this is especially difficult because we are used to having an order of service. We like to know what is going to happen next because it brings us comfort. No one likes to be surprised by God, it is too scary. So we let him know how much we love him and that we would appreciate it if He would work within these parameters for todays service. That is NOT trusting his spirit.

The work of trusting his spirit usually comes in the form of trusting what he is speaking to you in a meeting is valid. We often hear him say things like, “I want you to sing Jesus loves me” and we fight it saying, “no, that is stupid. Its just a kids song” or “I think that is just me prompting myself.” Well, as you learn to recognize his voice, you should also realize that he never does anything without purpose. That song was important for that service. I have always been shocked at how closely intertwined our body is regarding his lessons for a season. He is almost always teaching different people different things about the same subject. We often walk away with an incomplete understanding of what God is teaching because the enemy causes us to be afraid or doubt what the spirit is prompting us to say.

In one of the most recent churches the Lord planted, we were having a meeting and it was obvious that there was something restricting us in our worship. (This is why it is important to have an experienced church planter present, to recognize these things) When we were nearing the end of our time together. I asked everyone to be honest, did they have something that the Lord had given then that they had not shared. Almost every person said that they had. When we hold back we are just having dinner together or a party. Because we ‘invited’ jesus to be with us and he was. But we just would not let him speak or even participate in our conversation. What is the point of that? In that church they realized this and now are mostly free with their participation. That was a key moment in that church.

I think we often try to understand God in our terms, which causes for lots of confusion. Though we are made in his image, his ways are not ours. He is a wild God who often does things that seem crazy in the short term but can truly only be understood through the lens of eternity. So, it is futile to try to understand his every move. Rather we should watch in wonder. Imagine the shepherds that went to see the little messiah in a barn. They could not understand but they worshiped. Knowing that he has some kind of plan that surpassed their understanding.

This often comes into play with little things in our meetings, like what he wants you to share. Or maybe in your daily life. We tend to think that if God asks us to do something that he always has some big grand plan. This gives us a glimpse as to how important we think we are. Maybe he asked you to do something just to remind you of the sound of his voice or maybe it will change everything. See, it is much too complicated for us to understand all of the time. My advice…just obey. You may understand later, or not.

Also, it is important that we not confine our trust and obedience of the spirit to the meetings. Remember we are the church. It is who we are, our identity, all of the time. So, if the lord prompts you to call someone and share a word of encouragement or even rebuke, if you recognize it to be a word from the Lord you must obey it. Leave the understanding up to him.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Learning to trust His spirit, part 1

The question is: “Do you really trust him?” or do you think he needs your help? That was my struggle. I had been trained to preach, and teach as I got my undergrad in applied theology. I preached some weekends in little country churches. During that time I got accustomed to enlightening God’s people to what he was saying to them in His word. See, I had studied. I was learned and I knew what he was saying. Problem is that my learning was influencing my understanding more than his spirit. As I look back I feel guilty for some of the things I taught. I believed them at the time. My intentions were good. But as I learned to trust him more and more some of those sermons haunted me. I had preached through a poor interpretation of scripture. And some of the things I said were just plain wrong. And in the South, whether anyone admits it or not, what is said from the pulpit is the same as truth from God. I had misrepresented him. I realized I was no good at this speaking for God thing. At least, not in my own intellect and power.

When I went to Peru to work with the Asheninka, we adopted a strategy that included Chronological Bible Storying* which is very scripture based and in its purest form does not allow much for ‘preaching’ or ‘explaining’ It requires us to give them the word, ask some questions, and let the Spirit reveal to them what he desires. I struggled with this concept from the start. Truth is I didn’t trust the spirit enough to let their understanding lie in his hands. I felt like I needed to explain so that they could understand these complex ideas in scripture. But thankfully, I had a boss who was as hard-headed as I was. He worked with me but let me know that this is what we were going to do. I thank the Lord for his leadership in this.

As hard as it was, I learned to stop explaining Gods word, like I was an authority. I just told the story, and asked them their thoughts through simple questions. I never answered those questions. As time went on we continued to evolve in our method of storying. Funny enough, it got simpler and simpler. We saw the Lord do incredible things. I learned that he had been speaking to mens hearts for a really long time. I can trust him as he reveals his message to them through scripture. I don’t think this is necessarily the only way to do things but it was a very important stage on this journey.

Missionaries have struggled for decades with baptisms and reproducing missionaries. As we trusted the Lord we found the solution for those problems, at least for that situation. It was simple, we just told them the story and we focused on the obedience of his people. The lost learned how important obedience was to God. They saw the results of both in the stories of scripture. Then when we arrived to the stories of the NT and they heard of the baptism of the Ethopian or the jailer, our jaws would drop as they said, “We need to do that too, can we be baptized?” We never suggested it, never encouraged them to “follow in obedience to our lord through baptism.” They saw how important it was through scripture and the spirit compelled them to do the same. We would teach stories of Paul and his journeys, and the people would think of other communities and tribes that they needed to go and share with. Once again we were dumbfounded at how easily the Spirit fixed this problem that had confounded missionaries in S. America for decades. Now this is how he worked with us in sharing with the lost it is often different in a mature church. But there is a lesson to be learned about how we can trust him.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

What is the Law of Christ?

Bretheren, If any person is overtaken in misconduct or sin of any sort, you who are spiritual [who are responsive to and controlled by the Spirit] should set him right and restore and reinstate him, without any sense of superiority and with all gentleness, keeping an attentive eye on yourself, lest you should be tempted also. Bear (endure, carry) one another's burdens and troublesome moral faults, and in this way fulfill and observe perfectly the law of Christ (the Messiah) and complete what is lacking [in your obedience to it]. For if any person thinks himself to be somebody [too important to condescend to shoulder another's load] when he is nobody [of superiority except in his own estimation], he deceives and deludes and cheats himself.
Galations 6:1-3

What is the Law of Christ?

Galations says “Bear (endure, carry) one another's burdens and troublesome moral faults, and in this way fulfill and observe perfectly the law of Christ (the Messiah) and complete what is lacking [in your obedience to it]. Most modern Christians have never even heard of this. But as we read in Galations it seems that Paul writes about it in such a way that implies that it was a well known concept in the early church. Yet Christianity has become so individualistic in the US that we have forgotten this corporate part of our worship. These concepts need to be reintroduced to the body if we desire to be healthy.

The concept of caring for one another in a very intimate way is so foreign to the modern church that while we are on the mission field we often introduce the concepts slowly. We begin with practical application and move into more spiritual ones as time passes.

For example as we get new missionaries we pair them up with partners. They will go into the communities and travel with this person. They live together, eat together, everything. In the jungle we have to keep a close eye on hydration. So that is the first task they are given. They must know how many liters of water their partner has drunk that day. They are supposed to drink 3 liters a day. If their partner does not drink their water and gets dehydrated the fault lies on the partner not the person. Their leaders will ask them often, “How much water has your partner drank today.” If they do not know, or have not been checking/watching there are usually push-ups involved. So we have to force this concept of caring for one another upon them at first.

The second step is caring for wounds. The jungle/mountains and missionary life in general can be rough on the body. If the injuries get ahead of you, you can get in real trouble. So we put the partners in charge of each others bodily health. If your partner has a blister or cut; you must know about it, and you are responsible for cleaning and dressing the wound when necessary. If your partner has diarrhea you are responsible for diagnosing what kind and administering treatment. If you are sick your partner is responsible for diagnosing what kind of sickness you have and how to treat it. We have found that this works significantly better than caring for oneself. If you have a cut, you usually are a little too gentle when cleaning the wound. A partner will do what is best for you and not be too concerned about the pain. If you are sick you really need an outside perspective for diagnosis. We tend to overstate our situation and misread symptoms. A partner is more objective. This gets people into the mode of admitting they need one another. This is an important step. We westerners are so accustomed to trying to go it alone, we have lost the fundamental concept of communal life and relying on one another for the health of the entire group.

The third step is teaching them to share their spiritual wounds and struggles with one another and allowing these too to be healed by their partner or more often by the body of Christ. This normally includes lots of confession and healing of wounds that have festered and hindered spiritual growth for years or more.

Why we don’t do this. Well, usually it stems from pride. We do not want help. If God and I can’t handle it I will just act like everything is okay. We are not used to sharing weaknesses and struggles in the western church because it goes against our culture. But it is central in the Culture of Christ, so it must be reintroduced to the body. The problem is that we can not carry one anothers burdens until we know what they are. We must foster an environment of transparency in order for this to begin to open up. We have to begin to ask with sincerity and respond with concern to the needs of our brothers and sisters. If someone shares a struggle or difficulty it should be one of our main focuses until that problem or issue has been resolved.

These burdens could take many different forms. They could be practical burdens: lacking money to pay bills or buy groceries, unable physically to do certain chores or responsibilities, recovering from an injury or illness, etc. They could be emotional burdens: struggling with depression or lonliness, marital problems, uncertity in direction of life, etc. They could be spiritual burdens: oppression, lacking direction, etc. If we know of these burdens we must come together and figure out ways to carry them for one another. Sometimes it is a whole church effort, and sometimes it is a personal/individual effort. But if we return to this practice we may once again be known for how we love one another.

As time goes on this begins to bleed out of the circles of the church and into the community and the world around us. And we see his church begin to fulfill our mission in this world

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Lessons from Rehab: be

Okay so what does it look like to BE the church? To fall under His leadership? Well, it is scary at first. It is usually quiet, at first. I would suggest each church have a church planter (apostle) who has lived this simple/organic church life for a significant period of time to help walk you through it in the beginning.

When we get together, our goal is to edify one another and bring Him glory. This usually looks different every time. If your meetings always look the same, that is a pretty good indicator that you are telling God how he should work among you. We have short meetings and long meetings. We sometimes gather and sing, pray, share scripture, give testimonies, eat, encourage one another, and eat again. Then again we may gather just to pray, nothing else. It is funny I have learned that if we let Him, the Lord really will orchestrate the meetings. One example, we were meeting in our home in Peru. There were several tribes represented and a group of missionaries and some Peruvians. Several of our spiritual siblings were very poor and could not afford taxi fare to get to our house. So I was the jungle bus ministry. Susan stayed at the house as people arrived and I drove through town to bring people to the house. One meeting I arrived and the place was filled with instruments. There were several guitars, a charango, a dorbeke, a couple flutes, a cajone, shakers, and even a donkey’s jawbone (Peruvian percussion instrument). We sang for hours, and spent some awesome time with the Lord. Afterwrds I asked who had orchestrated this concert? We learned that no one had spoken with anyone about the meeting. Everyone said they just had a song on their hearts that day and could not wait to share it. God had done this, not men. He desired our song that night, and we gave it to him, and we all left edified.

Modern Christians are so used to experiencing one part of the body that they have learned to have low expectations for the meetings. How much can you know about a person from looking solely at their hand? You can learn a bit. You can tell if they are a laborourer if they are neat freaks, if they are male or female. But in order to know a person you need to spend time with them, watch them live, listen to them speak, work along side them. Then you will know them, after experiencing their entire being. We are the Body of Christ, if we want to know Him we have to experience how he is working in each of us. We need to hear of the struggles of Amanda, listen to the questions of wes, laugh at the funny things the lord taught teresa, join in the song on the heart of bobby, hear the teaching of joe, listen to the correction of corey and the confession of Susan, etc. It sometimes takes a while but we must learn to speak up, and obey.

If the Lord is prompting you to read a passage or confess a sin and you do not do it you are in disobedience, sin. See, the Lord gave you that thing, not just for you but for the body. Maybe that verse was meant for your sister, you constricted His ministry by withholding your verse. Get it? All of these things are given to us for the edification of the body. They must happen for us to become relevant in our world again. Why? Because it is part of being connected to the head. Realizing that you have a ministry and it is very important and necessary to the body. When you realize this you change how you think of the meetings and your part of them. If you know you are meeting on Friday. You are especially attentive in your time with the Lord listening to what he desires for you of course, but also listening for what he may have for the rest of the body. You listen to music with purpose, you live with more intentionality in your life, it really changes everything.

Then you begin to learn the depth of his character through His body. You may see His kindness in Melissa, his zeal in Jonathan, his artistic side in Chris, his silly side in Arwen, his courage in Mario, his innocence in juan, his wisdom in… You get the point. It is a beautiful thing.

Another thing I learned in rehab is that more people have the possibility to recover than actually do. What happens is most people are so shocked by their situation that they resign themselves to their current state. They do not care to give the work it takes to get better so they don’t. This is so much like some of the people I have spoken to in the church. They agree we are in a dire situation, but they have resigned themselves to this Christian half-existence. “It isn’t gonna get any better you cant change people or all of the centuries of tradition…” Believe me it was a painful and long process, but I can walk now and go anywhere because of it. If we work at it, the church can too.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Lessons from Rehab: reconnecting to the head

As I was in the rehab hospital I learned a lot. One of the things is that I learned is that after a spinal chord injury the nerves are disconnected. The brain is still sending signals but there is a break in the current. Also, the nerves to these areas still exist they just cant find each other. Let’s take moving your foot. If you keep thinking about moving your foot (sending the signal) while you also physically try to move your foot, sometimes using electric shock to move those muscles. You can in time reconnect some of those important nerves and use them again. This is the act of reconnecting to the head. This is the primary problem with a spinal cord injury. It also seems to be the biggest problem in the modern church today. We must reconnect to the Head of the body, we have to learn to obey him unconditionally. When we want to move our hand we just move it. The brain tells it to move, it moves. The hand does not ask why. It does not seek understanding. It does not make excuses. Why? Because the brain is king. It is the only body part with understanding.
The church has been commanded to go to the nations, yet we reason and spend years asking where, why when, etc. We have been commanded to love the poor and clothe and feed them, but we reason “they might take advantage of us if we do” , we have been told to be unified and not divisive, yet we just divide everytime we disagree about music, doctrine or practice. We must reconnect to the head and begin to obey. It is not our job to understand, it is our job to obey. True understanding usually comes only AFTER obedience!

The mouth:
Over the years while we have trained new missionaries, we often ask this simple question, “Who is in charge of the church?” We almost never receive a correct response! The answer always comes very confidently “the pastor!” This is coming from Americans, Indigenous peoples, Latin Americans, from varied educational backgrounds. The mouth has become the head of the church. Most pastors are great people, well-intentioned people of God. The problem is that they are inadequate for the task. They simply can not be all that the church expects of them.

It would be silly for me to just speak to my legs and hope they would start moving. The mouth is overrated. It manipulates sounds, that’s it. It is the brain that formulates the words. We have to stop putting our trust in body parts that are no more or less important than us. And reconnect to the head, he will teach us how to walk again. Then we can go and change our world.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Joining Structure

Okay guys, I am about to put up a new post but I wanted to point you in the direction of some new stuff on this blog. First, I have some new/old friends on my list. I have been following these blogs for some time now, i think you might enjoy them. Also I have a poll up, it only has a couple more days before I put up a new one. Vote now or forever hold your peace. Finally, The posts I am about to begin uploading are a little more nuts and bolts, so no more broad stroke for us from here on out. That means new ideas and even some controversy. So let the fun begin.....go!

Joining Structure:

I began my ministry when I was about 16 years old. After I “surrendered to being a missionary,” the path presented itself in a pretty predictable manner. I started by giving little talks (they were not good enough to be called sermons), then I started preaching. I went to a Baptist University where I studied theology and was a supply preacher in small country churches for years.
After I finished at the University and went to the mission field as an ambitious little missionary, I began to see the foundations of many of my beliefs crumble. I learned about Chronological Bible Storying (CBS). I found the value in being the vessel of God’s word and not opining or endlessly sharing what I thought the scripture ‘meant.’ I found that many of the things I had taught or preached had been misguided and sometimes even wrong. I felt guilty for having led God’s people astray and betraying their trust. I realized how weak and limited vessel I was. It was through this process that I found solace in the CBS method. I was able to memorize and share larger portions of scripture with people. What I found was that the scripture is authority! My opinions were just a pitiful attempt to translate God’s words into something I thought people would understand. I found out quick that he did not need my help. His word is sufficient; it does not need my help or translation. What happens more often than not is that we water down God’s word and original meaning with our explanations. Therefore, my place as a ‘leader’ became less important. I was not the one who gave inspiring speeches but rather a vessel for His words. If I did it right I would be forgettable in the light of his word.

Then I began to see this dirty side of myself. I gloried to some degree in the attention I received. As you receive accolades and compliments and are treated like you are special something happens. You begin to believe your own hype. You begin to think more highly of yourself than you ought. And that even affects the way you speak. You begin to speak down to the people like you have some special authority and they need you to be enlightened to Gods word. There was a moment while I was in Peru when all of these dirty things in me began to rise to the top. And I realized that all that time I had been stealing His glory. All of those acolytes were his and I had accepted them as my own. The praises of men, belong to him alone. Those praises had puffed me up and caused me to take pride in my self, glory in my own abilities. It broke me to know I had stolen praises from Him. I vowed to do my best to never let that happen again. I would not raise myself above others. I would not let people believe I was better than I was.

As this affected me over the years I had an evolution in my beliefs regarding leadership. I had learned how destructive and even unbiblical the traditional churches leadership structure was. It became so clear that the churches leadership structure was based on a worldly system, a business system. I longed for something more than that. I did not want to be part of that heirchy. I learned how there was no distinction between clergy and laity; we were all one, brothers and sisters all on the same level. (Matthew 23) I learned that Jesus taught and modeled a different leadership structure. But in a reaction to the top-heavy structure that I had always known I rejected any form of leadership in the church. I ignored clear examples in scripture that demonstrated a different type of leadership. I recognized Christ as the head, but I denied any other style of earthly leadership. This is precisely because I did not want to return to this hierchichal style of leadership and quite frankly, I knew of no other way to do it. I could not imagine there being any other way.

But as we began to meet in an organic way in simple churches several things came to light. One is that man desires a leader to go to God for him and even to go before the church for him. We are spiritually lazy by nature, and we are afraid to be confronted with our own filth. We want someone else to represent us because it allows us to maintain spiritual respectability while still wallowing in our fear and sin. The Israelites told Moses to go before God on their behalf because they were afraid, but afraid of what. It says they were afraid they would die. Die?! Why? Because they were filthy idolaters in their hearts. They knew it, but thought no one else did. But if someone goes for us and “they” speak to God and then tell us what he said. Well, then we have an option to obey or ignore what he said. We take it to heart think it and even agree with it but we generally never obey it. You see the thing is, you take away our leaders and if we want to have a relationship with God we have to go before him ourselves. We generally do not want that. Why? Simply put. To be in the presence of God IS to change. If you are in His presence, you are exposed, every thought, sin, doubt, everything. Being in his presence experiencing his perfection, his love, his compassion, his holiness his being. And then we see ourselves for who we really are, down inside, not what we present to the world. This encounter in itself changes you. Deep down in your core you are changed. You are either humbled and ready to serve and obey him or you knowingly disobey him and deny him. There are no longer grey areas. We fear this because as long as it is vague we are safe.

So I believed that we all need to go before God and seek him. And I still believe this to be true. But as time went on and we grew in our understanding in Him we saw a new form of leadership rise up. It was so unlike what I had always seen in the traditional church or even the world that it was hard to recognize as leadership. See my definition of leadership was defined by the world, not Christ. As we saw this new leadership arise, many of Christ’s teachings on leadership began to make sense. Remember how he basically taught that it was the opposite from what we see in the world. Least shall be the greatest, first will be last, etc See I learned that leadership was based on living not leading. I was introduced to an organic/biblical form of elders. When I speak of elders, I am not talking about a position or office in the church. What I am speaking about is much more simple. They are the more mature brothers and sisters in Christ. This is not determined by age, by the job you have or how you are respected in the community. This is determinate on how you obey Christ. When we teach our missionaries about this concept I get them to think about that one person who has been the most influential person in their Christian walk. Their spiritual father or mother, someone who taught them how to live in Him, someone they really respect in Christ.

I have many but I want to share the example of Finis Christenberry. He was one of the elders in the church where I grew up. See Finis was a dairy farmer. He ran a dairy for many years. But beyond that he was a sweet man of God who worked tirelessly for the kingdom. He was forever an example to me of how I should live. He loved God with his whole life, he served others continuously, he was generous, he loved his wife, he took time out to love on children, and he just seemed to me to be like what Jesus would be like if he were an old dairy farmer instead of a carpenter. Finis’ sweet wife Vivian died, and it seemed as though he leaned on Christ even more after his loss. I knew he was in pain but you could see and feel the comforter, as he was always present with Finis. He would visit my great-grandmother almost everyday and spend some time talking and praying with her. He always brought her a piece of candy. Sometimes he would show up and she would be asleep in her chair, he would leave the candy on the arm of the chair. As Finis got older his health faded. He got a very painful cancer and was advised to go into the hospital so that they could help him with the pain. Finis refused because his ministry of visiting people, praying with the saints, encouraging and visiting the sick was too important to him. So he continued serving. In his final days he was placed in the hospital, and though I wasn’t there I know he served and ministered to people from that hospital bed till his dying breath. Finis to me is the perfect example of an elder. I never sat under his teaching or discussed theology. I admired his walk with Christ and tried to emulate it. I learned from the example of his life. He was no head honcho in any church. He held no real position. He was a normal member of the body, but he was an elder in his actions. THIS IS BIBLICAL CHURCH LEADERSHIP!

If you were to visit a simple church you often will not recognize the elders at first sight. They are not necessarily the ones speaking or making decisions. The do not dress differently nor do they pray with old English. They are just simple believer like you or me who have been walking with the Lord a little longer than the rest of us. God has blessed them with wisdom and grace. When there are decisions that need to be made they are expected to give wise counsel and the body simply weighs the decision in light of their wisdom. Then they decide as a body what to do.

Many use the 2 lists for Requirements for elders to say that they were meant to be offices or a lower form of clergy. Well I have two objections to that. First, we must remember that Paul was writing to/about a people who were worshiping in churches that were multicultural and most of these new gentile believers were coming from several various pagan cultures they did not have a judeo/Christian moral code. These were new concepts for them. They needed to be explained and named just so that they would know what was appropriate. And secondly, if it were to be naming special characteristics for a clergyman, wouldn’t we expect that their requirements would be higher than the normal/average believer. But if you look at them you see that these are the things we all desire to be and the standard is not extremely high. See this is an explanation of what a mature believer/elder looks like. Paul says, if you want to be a mature believer, that is great! This is what it looks like or rather, this is how you should live/what your life should look like.

2 Timothy 3:1-7
• Be above reproach
• Husband of one wife
• Temperate
• Self controlled
• Respectable
• Hospitable
• Able to teach
• Not a drunk
• Not violent but gentle
• Not quarrelsome
• Not money hungry
• Must manage his own family well (children obey him with respect)
• Not a recent convert
• Good reputation with outsiders

Titus 1:5-9
• Be blameless
• Husband of one wife
• His children believe and are not wild and disobedient
• Not overbearing
• Not quick tempered
• Not given to drunkenness
• Not violent
• Not pursuing dishonest gain
• Hospitable
• Loves what is good
• Self controlled
• Upright
• Holy
• Disciplined
• Holds firm to the word

See these are not extremely high goals. They are what we are all striving for as a minimum. When they speak of the work of the Lord do not misconstrue that to mean a vocation or position. That would be reading our experiences into the word. These were normal people with jobs who were serving in their local body and to the world outside. Just because you are doing God’s work does not mean you have to have a position; remember the least will be the greatest. See, I have learned more from men like Finis and others than any preacher or positioned person in the church. Because that is the way the church was created to function. Remember Jesus words “pagans lord over...not so with you…the least will be greatest” Consider: Matt 20:20-28; Matt 23:8-12; Luke 22:24-27

The job of elders is primarily living out there function/purpose in the church and discipling others. Especially discipling those who share his similar function.
So, if you are a Teacher and you are mature in the Lord, lead and serve in that capacity and disciple others in how to live, when you have the opportunity to disciple someone who seems to have the same function, teach them how to be a better teacher.
If you are an apostle, take a young apostle on a church planting trip with you. Teach him/her how to live out your purpose in that context. Now, this is not confined to just your function, often through discipleship you can introduce a brother to a new function that they adopt and grow in. (We will discuss these functions in more detail later)

Everyone is at a different level in their spiritual maturity. Do not look down on others.
I believe that if we began to follow this simple biblical example it would completely revolutionize the Christian world. If there were elders in each church leading by example and discipling then there would be a never-ending fountain of future elders. The body would be growing at an unprecedented rate and the training would be more obedience and life based than theory and theological debate. This would cause every church to be a “bible college” and every body to be a “seminary” tasked with training the new generations and sending His ambassadors into the world. The current Seminary system is flawed to its core. It is financially burdensome; it provides discipleship to those who can afford it. It only serves to sustain a system that is crumbling by simply trying to keep pastors in a church. This is like sending reinforcements into a sinking ship. We need to learn to train our folks to be relevant and live their faith out in a way that is organic and life changing. Think of the disciples, Jesus mentored 12 men who became the elders who were training elders to train elders. This is all discipleship. It is dirty gritty work but it is the biblical model we should follow if we know what is good for us.

All that being said, we have found a new type of leadership to fill that hole that existed for so long after doing away with the worldly, hiercical system that we were accustomed to. The new system is so different from anything we see in the world that it helps remind us that His ways are not ours. We know who the mature believers are among us and we respect the wisdom and direction the Lord has given them. We also recognize that the Lord continually provides more elders as we disciple, obey and be the church.

Friday, April 23, 2010

we, we, we all the way home.

Throughout this blog you will hear me say, We, Us, Our etc. a lot. This is not meant to confuse. It just demonstrates a change in my thought patterns. Previously, when I was in the legacy model, my Christian life was very individual and private, between God and me. I learned from him, and tried to apply it to my life.
While walking this new path I have learned that we as the church should live in community; which necessarily means that we also learn in community. It is uncanny how often the Lord is teaching us the same thing at the same time. We end up getting a one-dimensional teaching when we fail to share and learn form others in our body.
So many of these things that I share in the blog are not things I learned because of my deep spiritual walk with the Lord. Rather, they are things that God revealed to his body, through many different sources and circumstances.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

trust me

The Lord had called Susan and I to be a part of an exciting and cutting edge team of missionaries. We were starting something new and the excitement was in the air. The first step of this team had begun we were training a group of new missionaries. It was going to be a very practical and biblical training. We were gonna break the mold and do things different. And we did. But the first few days were VERY different, for me.

Day 1: My only responsibility that day was to teach a class on suffering. I had spent two years living and ministering to the Asheninka people on the Apurucayali river. During that time I had learned to lean on the Lord almost completely. It is funny how that happens when you realize you are inadequate for a task. I went to him everyday. I didn’t worry because he had shown himself faithful. But there was mild suffering involved. I had suffered weeks of the “green-apple quick step.” I had contracted Dengue fever. I had gone days without eating. I had worked until I could barely stand. Suffered hypothermia, yes, in the jungle. But, If you read the NT, this is normal disciple/missionary stuff. This is the life we live. The first time I saw someone come to Christ, all the suffering took on a different meaning. It all became worth it, I understood. Well, anyway, this is basically what I was teaching that day. Little did I know, I would be taking that road again, soon. But to an even greater degree. But I was thankful for the Lord calling me to teach that topic on that day. Because I would need to be reminded of those old lessons very soon. And when IT happened, those thoughts of his faithfulness were fresh on my mind. He is so good.

Day two: We had a new climbing wall that we were getting ready for the training. We were putting the finishing touches on it by trying it out. Five people climbed the wall before me, including 2 people in their sixties and my precious wife. When they were done we realized some of the hand/footholds were a little loose. So I went up to tighten them. When I got to the top and was finished I kicked out to repel down. The knot came loose, I fell 30+ feet and landed on my back. Pain exploded throughout my body. In an instant my plan was destroyed. But God’s plan began.

My wife and friends gathered around. Praying, examining, talking me through it. Susan asked what hurt. I told her my arms. She said, “okay, your arms are broken. What else?” I had this pain in my back, like when you lay on the bed with your legs hanging off and you feel pressure on your lower back. But all you have to do is bend your knees and take the pressure off your back and it relieves the pressure. Well, I had that x100. But I couldn’t move my legs. I told Susan, “I can’t feel/move my legs.”

I was speaking to the Lord at this instant, I said, “What is going on! You told me to come down here! I obeyed?! What are you doing? This can’t be right.” In that moment, I remember a peace falling on me, like his very presence fell and he said, “J, trust me.” Well, as I previously mentioned, I have seen God do incredible things, things we humans can not understand. So, I surrendered to trust Him. I said, “You have proven yourself faithful! Not only in my life, but throughout history. I WILL trust you, but I’m gonna need some help with this.”

I didn’t mention that all of this happened in a third world country. Services are not nearly as sofistocated, but the Lord provided in miracoulous ways. An ambulance arrived at the training camp (this is a miracle in itself), they had a stretcher specifically made for people with back injuries, they got me loaded up, took me to a clinic where they gave me a shot of steroids to stop the swelling. Then we started on the way to the capital, Lima (about an hour drive).

I remember that there were several people in the ambulance. Myself, Susan, Chris (my boss and mentor) and several Peruvian EMT’s. At the clinc, they gave me 2 advil for pain. I might as well have taken two apple jacks. The pain was excruciating. I told Chris, “Man, I need something to take my mind off the pain. Tell me the stories.” So Chris began at Creation, and told the story of how much He loves us. I was in and out so I don’t remember it all. But the story of Joseph was incredibly alive to me. The Lord opened my mind to this story. It became my anchor for the next few months. One thing I heard was at the end, when he was with his brothers. He said “What you intended for evil God meant for good…” I knew that part from Sunday school. But it was the next phrase that helped me to retain my trust in him. “…and the salvation of many.” When I heard that, the Lord said “j. just watch what I do, you will love it” that is the last thing I remember from the ambulance.

But I was told later, that they had been running with the siren on. As Chris told the story, the EMT’s were so interested in the story, they demanded the driver turn the siren off so they could hear the story better. He was already fulfilling his word to me.

When I arrived at the hospital in Lima, they told me my back and arms were indeed broken. I would need surgery. So we sent for med-evac.∗ Then we waited, they were still giving me advil for pain. I pulled Chris aside and begged him to get me some real medicine. I don’t know what he got or where he got it, but it worked. I had one and a hlf days to wait for the medevac to arrive.

I found throughout this ordeal, that our enemy is a cruel snake. He comes when you are weakest, at your lowest point and he begins his destructive work. He desires so much to kill us, steal our joy and faith, destroy our lives. He came to me in the night throughout this ordeal. Through most of this, I was alone in the room at nighttime. And I knew he was coming every night.*Luke 22:53* He came with accusations, doubts, discouragements, lies. The first night was no different.

The first night in the Lima hospital, I had a Peruvian roommate. He was a very old man. He was in a lot of pain and seemed to be on deaths door. I was exhausted from the whole ordeal, I just wanted to rest. But my roommate was loud. He cried out all night begging for the famous Peruvian soft drink, Inca Cola. “Señorita! Inca Cola! Por favor… Señorita…” all night. I must admit, I had lost all grace at this point. I was annoyed and I was just wanting some sleep. But it went on for hours. Finally, as I was selfishly begging the Lord to make it stop. He told me to pray for him. I felt so stupid. This man is in pain and all I care about is my sleep. I prayed for him, then the Lord settled me into a deep sleep. I awoke in the middle of the night to find, what I thought at the time was an angel, praying at my bedside. I felt such comfort from the Lord, I was not forgotten. I found out the next day, it had been a nurse, one of the saints coming to my aid in time of need. This special woman had also shared with the family of Inca Cola man a little about his roommate (me). The family came to me that morning. They told me that after hearing his roommate was a missionary, Inca Cola man wanted to speak with me. They rolled our beds side by side. This frail old man wept as he told me about his life and how he had failed miserably, how he was broken and wicked. He said he wished it had been different. I shared with him about my savior, about the thief on the cross and some others stories. I saw hope enter his eyes. He followed Jesus that day.

As they rolled his bed back over to his side and they pulled the curtain, I wept quietly. I talked with the Lord “I understand… and I still trust you. If all of this was just so my new friend and brother could know you, it was worth it. These are eternal things, Lord. Help me to be able to do this…please”

The Med-evac plane came. I went to the states in a cloud of real drugs, finally. Upon arriving, I went into emergency trauma surgery. First my back, then both my arms. I woke up a day or two later in a hospital bed. Soon thereafter they moved me next door to the rehab hospital. They told my parents, to prepare themselves. I would more than likely be in a wheelchair the rest of my life. No one told me. It didn’t matter. I had stopped trying to understand what the Lord was doing or how. I just had enough energy to obey the little things he told me to do. I had no energy to waste on figuring out his reasoning, or questioning his love. Just obey, I kept telling myself.

The enemy continued his nightly visits. He beat the hell out of me night after night. The darkness was so oppressive those nights. The Lord fought for me those nights. Johnny Cash’s American IV was the soundtrack. They were hard fought battles. It was visably obvious how beat up I was on the outside. I think I was even worse on the inside. I continued to trust, He continued to fight for me. The Lord had something to show me but I had to walk through this first, and I did. Step by painful step.

The Lord used to use the prophets in a personal way. He would cause them to marry an adulterous wife. So that they could deeply understand the heart of their masters message. Because to a somewhat lesser degree they had experienced the betrayal and pain of their Lord. He often used their bodies and lives as object lessons. So that his prophets and then His people could see God’s word for the situation. This was almost always uncomfortable, painful, humiliating and sometimes just plain weird. I know it was all of those things when it happened to me.

Let me set the stage for you. I was in the hospital bed in Dallas, TX. I was broken and beaten, inside and out. I had lost 40 lbs in 2 weeks as my muscles atrophied. I was unable to walk, or even move my legs. I had external capacitors and pins on both arms, so I couldn’t use them for much either. I had to be turned regularly to avoid bed sores. My wife shaved me, fed me and most everything else. I had no control of my bodily functions and wore a diaper. I was basically a blob of physical and emotional pain unable to do anything because my body would not cooperate. I had gone from being one of the most physically capable people on the field to being helpless in an instant. The only time there was an illusion of normalcy was when I was talking with someone. They would say, “Oh, it’s the same old j.” or “he hasn’t lost his sense of humor.” But as I looked at myself in that bed helpless, the Lord spoke. “You are my church.” He said. And then I was flooded with understanding.

It is no wonder, we have become almost incapable of changing our world on a New Testament scale. Some of us have become disconnected from the head, like my legs. We are no longer receiving our orders, vision or life plans from Christ directly. We are getting them from other sources and we have turned into ourselves to figure it out. We hear sermons from a human mediator, then decide if it applies to us. As my legs got cut off from the brain, they became incapable of taking me to the places I wanted to go. Just as the church lies here in our spiritual hospital bed in the US. Incapable of going where Christ sends us. Because we have turned into ourselves to figure it out instead of obeying the command of the head, otherwise known as the Great Commision. The largest percentage of Christians live in the US. The world is being deceived and abused by our enemy and we have settled into our little lives.

The arms and hands of the church, like my own are so beaten and bruised that they can not heal their communities and bring the kingdom to bear on the US. Letting them see his love mercy and grace. The emotional/spiritual wounds in the church is staggering, but it is hidden under a thin veil. It needs to be healed, so that we can get about his work. That healing will come from above, but it must also come from the other hand. As I healed, I had to learn to clean my wounds, just as the church should learn to care for its own wounded.

The only thing that seemed to work correctly was my mouth. No surprise to most. The church is no different. The pastors (mouths) are some of the hardest working saints in the kingdom. I would argue that they often do more than they should due to the poor condition of the rest of the body. But my wife often told me when I would say something weird or crazy due to the drugs I was on. See, even my mouth seemed to be somewhat disconnected from the brain. The same is true in the church, many pastors are drunk off the power and authority of their “position.” They can grow prideful, they hide their struggles and sins and let them fester. Even the most healthy of the body was noticeable sick.

I cried out, “Oh Lord, what hope is there for your church then? How do we recover from this mess?” The Lord was silent…

A couple of days later, my therapist came to visit. She said “we are going to stand up today.” Though I showed a strong exterior, I was afraid. I didn’t want to fall again. I was not sure I could do it. But she brought in a special walker and I stood/leaned for like 5 minutes. It was so difficult that I soaked my shirt through with sweat, just standing. The next day, I took a 4 inch step. Possibly the ugliest, floppy step you ever saw. But it was a step. The next day, 4 tiny steps every day I was exhausted because my body was not accustomed to doing these things. The body forgets so quickly how to obey the head. The church is no different. I had to learn all over again, against all odds. I worked harder than I thought possible, and it was then that the Lord’s answer came. “There is always hope, this is how she will recover.”

I realized what a rough and painful road it would be. But it must be done. The church has to learn to walk again. She has to learn to care for herself and others. She has to remember how to hear the voice of the father and obey without question. I had no idea what it would look like. I just knew it would be different. I trusted that he would show me and I would show others as I learned.

It was through this experience, that the Lord Illuminated 1 Corinthians 12 and Romans 12 to me and gave them very personal significance as it relates to His church. I encourage you to read these passages and see what I mean.

Now, after I was released from the hospital. Through an interesting set of circumstances the Lord placed us into a small group of believers. We met weekly. I don’t think any of us know why we were there. But the Lord used them to give me the first step of this new journey. We had intimate fellowship with these other believers. Honestly, they helped put Susan and I back together emotionally. We talked about our Lord and his goodness. We discipled one another. We didn’t have to call it a house church or a bible study or any other name. It was just his body learning to function. I had always been the minister/leader since I was in high school. It felt so good to be the one who was ministered to. It was awesome to see the Lord lead us to this new revelation. As we returned to Peru, six months after the accident, Susan and I determined in our hearts we would follow wherever the Lord led on this road. This book is a compilation of where we have been on that road, what he has taught us. I hope it can help some of you to join us in this rehabilitation of his Body, in preparing His bride for that big day.

One final note, The enemy doesn’t come to me at night anymore. That battle was won. But Susan still has flashbacks of the accident. They come at night, I hear her weeping. I know that cruel snake is there, hurting her. I hate him for that. But I know what a mighty warrior my Jesus is. I know he is fighting for her. I pray and tell her not to believe those lies.

Preparation of the bride

i'm still working on this and filling it out. but let me know what you guys think.

Preparation of the Bride

The wedding day: I was nervous don’t get me wrong. But everything leading up to the actual wedding was actually pretty easy. I woke up, Chad and I went to breakfast, and then we went to pick up my car from being detailed. I showered. I shaved, in both directions! I threw on some cologne. Put my tux in the car, drove to the garden where we were married, then I just hung out. Let’s face it there isn’t a whole lot more a man can do. So I hung out with my groomsmen and welcomed guests and family. I had no idea what was happening just a few yards away.

Susan had been preparing for days, weeks, even months. She had planned out her dress, flowers, hair, shoes, etc. She had received pedicures, manicures, skin treatments and other things I didn’t really understand well enough to explain here. On the day of the wedding she had arrived in the morning with her bridesmaids and some close friends. They had taken her to buy new make-up and they proceeded to put just the right mixture of colors on her face to accent the beauty that God had given her. Then they literally spent hours fixing her hair with these little curly things that has miniature roses dispersed throughout. They encouraged her, helped her not to cry, and made her feel special. All the while, she was thinking of what I would think. Will he like this? Will he love me and care for me?

Meanwhile…I was shaking hands.

When the time came I was extremely nervous. But there was that unforgettable moment. The bride music played and I waited for her to come. Since we were in a garden, I wasn’t really sure where I would catch that first glimpse of her. I knew she was coming. You could feel it. You could feel the power of the people standing, praising her. They turned their heads to see how beautiful she was. When I finally saw her father bringing her to me, I was stunned. She was the epitome of beauty. I swelled with pride. That is MY wife! Be jealous! She is mine! For those of you who do not know her, Susan has the most incredible smile in the world. When she saw me, she smiled and I have never felt such pride. I had no idea it would be like this.

The wedding was short. The party was fun, but my face was hurting from smiling. Soon thereafter, we became one flesh, one spirit, complete in Him.

Years later, the Lord brought all of these memories flooding back and as I thought of that pivotal moment in my life the Lord began to teach me. It changed my ministry. I want to give you a glimpse of what I learned.

As we know there will one day be a great wedding when the bride (His church) will be finally joined with the bridegroom (Jesus the Christ, who gave himself up for us). I began to see my wedding through that future groom’s eyes.

See, when Susan walked through that garden to join with me, I swelled with pride because she had worked so hard to prepare herself for this moment. She had cleansed every blemish. She had accentuated every bit of the beauty that God gave her. Her friends had doted on her to prepare her for me and as you have already heard, I was stunned. However, if she had strolled through that garden at the last minute wearing sweats, with her hair in a ponytail and no make-up, I would still love her. I would love her no less. And quite frankly she would have still been beautiful. My pride in that moment was not about her beauty, but about her love. She loved me so much that she toiled preparing herself for me. It was all about preparing the bride for her groom.

I was saddened when the Lord revealed to me the state of the church today. I cried as I saw His bride stroll through His garden wearing the same clothes she slept in. Bed head and smeared mascara. But he smiled, because he loved this redeemed woman of the world. And he looked forward to washing her and putting her in new garments. But He had already provided a way for her to prepare for this day. She just did not take advantage of it. Her friends didn’t come to help. She didn’t plan this moment. The wedding went on, they were joined as one, but it could have been so much better.

It became clear to me then that that was one of the purposes that the Lord had given me. I was the friend of the bride who helps prepare her for that day. I will point out those blemishes, so we can cleanse them. I will help her to choose the dress; I will give her the wakeup call and even go to the gym with her. I will spend myself in this purpose, because I want His wedding to be as good as the one he gave me. I want for the angels and heavenly hosts to turn their heads and gasp at her beauty when the Church is presented to Christ. Holy, Blameless, Beautiful, Perfect, Redeemed.