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