Wasting Time Focusing On ‘Things’

“Upon reflection, it seems that many Christians regard salvation, evangelism, peace, power, holiness, joy, service, church practice, ministry, and doctrine as simply divine “things,” all detached from the living person of Christ and made something in and of themselves. But God never gives us spiritual things. He never gives us virtues, gifts, graces, and truths to acquire. Instead, He only gives us His Son. He gives us Christ to be all things for us. Consequently, Jesus Christ is the embodiment of all spiritual things. He is the substance of all divine realities.”

– Pg 302 ” Book – From Eternity To Here, by Frank Viola”

I am currently tracking many people who are pursuing ‘good things’ – that is they strive toward perfection, greatness and achieve much by world standards. I have come to the conclusion we could spend a lifetime striving toward these things and gain greater knowledge and power in the process, never actually getting closer to God. I was challenged by Franks statement, it made me realise that I was still pursuing the ‘fruits of my creator and not the creator himself’.

People, having innovation, discipline and virtues are good, but if we seek for these things and don’t derive them from Christ himself then they will fade away like everything else in this world.

To put it plainly, if we live a Christ-centred life (derive our living water and bread from Him) we will notice an abundance of these ‘things’ coming forth from our lives, and they will be eternal character traits of our creator and wont perish fade away like everything we try to create.

Jesus Christ is; hope (1 Tim. 1:1) peace (Eph. 2:14) wisdom (1 Cor. 1:30) redemption (1 Cot. 1:30) holiness (1 Cor. 1:30) righteousness (I Cor. 1:30). 

Galatians 2:20 “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.

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One aspect of Church that Im looking forward to seeing pass away!

I recently attended a research symposium and spoke on organic, missional and simple church. During the meal breaks I was speaking to several ministers, and after some probing questions, I was promptly and repetitively referred to as a ‘layman’. I have read endless material on the clergy system and how some denominations think there is a distinct divide between the ministers ‘elite’ and regular folk ‘laymen’, but I had never experienced it first hand until now.

Karl Barth summarises my view well – ‘The term ‘laity’ is one of the worst in the vocabulary of religion and ought to be banished from the Christian conversation’

At the conference, the first minister that said it to me made me chuckle, but when the second used the same term.. I questioned him. “why do you create a distinct separation between yourself and your congregation?” He looked at me with concern, I then explained “the term laymen is sectarian and places a wedge between yourself and the priesthood of all believers, do you truly believe that divide is biblically warranted?”.. lets just say he scuttled away very quietly into the crowd.

Are you a minister/priest/pastor?.. do you truly believe you have authority to tower over the priesthood of all believers possessing higher abilities or powers from God? Today I question your pride and pomp, and hope the following articles can bring some insight into where the nasty doctrinal perspective was birthed.. lets  learn how God intended the Church to function, not bow down to the world and its military-roman style ways.

Here are some links that explain it better than what I can;

http://frankviola.org/2012/07/17/christianleadership/

http://www.churchauthority.org/resources2/mattamclergy-laity.asp

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Demons Fear Jesus – They know who Jesus is! Do you?

According to Luke 8 we can extract three characteristics of Demons;

– Demons like solitary places (like seclusion and privacy)

– They don’t like returning to the abyss (must be a awful place)

– They fear Jesus, His authority and Power over them (they thought Jesus was there to torture them)

What captured my attention in this story was how the demon identified Jesus and his authority. The demon immediately was intimidated by Jesus and thought he was going to be tortured! Our saviour has power over creation, man and principalities in spirit dimensions, what a great King He is. Its great to be reminded of the power our saviour has to overcome all circumstances; his intention was to free the demon-possessed man and restore him to his natural state, removing the influence of the evil one.

We are children of the most high, through Christ we have been restored into a right relationship with our Father in heaven. What a blessing it is living each day knowing that Christ now dwells in us through his spirit and the power He has to restore us, strengthen and protect us. He has our best interests close to His heart.

‘They sailed to the region of the Gerasenes, which is across the lake from Galilee. When Jesus stepped ashore, he was met by a demon-possessed man from the town. For a long time this man had not worn clothes or lived in a house, but had lived in the tombs. When he saw Jesus, he cried out and fell at his feet, shouting at the top of his voice, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, don’t torture me!” For Jesus had commanded the impure spirit to come out of the man. Many times it had seized him, and though he was chained hand and foot and kept under guard, he had broken his chains and had been driven by the demon into solitary places.

Jesus asked him, “What is your name?”

“Legion,” he replied, because many demons had gone into him. And they begged Jesus repeatedly not to order them to go into the Abyss.

A large herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside. The demons begged Jesus to let them go into the pigs, and he gave them permission. When the demons came out of the man, they went into the pigs, and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and was drowned.’

– Luke 8:26-38

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Ministering to a Foreigner (knowing where God wants you to be) – Acts 8

I was listening to the audio book of Acts and was moved by Philips obedience when the Angel prompted him to step out of his comfort zone and minister to a foreigner on the road to Gaza from Jerusalem.

‘Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Go south to the road—the desert road—that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” So he started out, and on his way he met an Ethiopian eunuch, an important official in charge of all the treasury of the Kandake (which means “queen of the Ethiopians”). This man had gone to Jerusalem to worship, and on his way home was sitting in his chariot reading the Book of Isaiah the prophet. The Spirit told Philip, “Go to that chariot and stay near it.” – Acts 8:26-29

Phillip was obedient, he listened  and responded to Gods prompting without questioning. The angel asked Phillip to do a simple task, nothing extraordinary.. just to be obedient and a willing vessel. Phillip run up to the chariot and knew what the angel wanted him to do, share the truth of Christ with the Ethiopian eunuch. The Holy Spirit had prepared the heart of the eunuch while he was reading scripture, Phillip was able to share the good news of Jesus and baptised him immediately.

From this story I gain insight into how God wants us to be obedient to his prompting and respond to his mission. We are commissioned to spread the Good News of Christ and baptise people into his name. The challenge is to pray and understand what God has ahead for us, Listen the the holy spirits prompting,  desire to be used by God and step out in his strength. You may even find yourself encountering captives being set free and seeing people healed! 🙂

‘When the crowds heard Philip and saw the signs he performed, they all paid close attention to what he said. For with shrieks, impure spirits came out of many, and many who were paralyzed or lame were healed. So there was great joy in that city.’

– Acts 8:6-8

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Identifying Spiritual Abuse – ‘They know not what they do’

My friend who has been in active ministry for 30 years was recently delighted by an opportunity for a visit from his relatively new local church minister. This Minister had been directly involved in the running of this congregation for over 12 months, but had never visited my friend to know his life or personal circumstances. This meeting was expected to challenge and bring a fresh insight into a person he knew was visibly trying to bring change in his congregation.

Several minutes into the meet and greet, the true intention of the meeting become evident. He strongly indicated to my friend that his attendance wasn’t satisfactory (benchmarked against other attendees and the role of attendance) over the last few months and unless he improved, his role in once-a-month services he would no longer be required. To my friend this gutted him, he had been involved in active congregational life for many years and this was a low blow to his ‘spiritual calling’ he could never have predicted.

I was discouraged hearing this story by the tenacity of this person thinking they could can place judgement on others without seeking understanding my friends personal and family circumstances, heart, love and passion for Christ and his body. The worst thing is, over the last few years these stories among others, are becoming a usual occurrence as I minister to people the life of Christ. The consequences of such spiritual abuse are profound, invasive and destructive.
People, if some have reduced our Christ to a 2 hour slot on a Sunday where we sit and conform to the likeness of a stream of our religion then we truly have lost sight of our first love – our Saviour and King Christ Jesus. For those who are familiar with this behaviour, I encourage you to persist in the faith and strive toward Christ, don’t conform the the likeness of man and his expectations but to Gods – found in His Word.

I would encourage all who seek a relationship in Christ that we worship him ‘in spirit and in truth’, that is, we seek him the other 98% of our week and know that judgement man brings will be burnt up like chaff when its tested by fire!

‘Therefore let us move beyond the elementary teachings about Christ and be taken forward to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God, instruction about cleansing rites,[b] the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgement. And God permitting, we will do so.’

– Hebrews 6:1-3

‘I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse!
Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.’

– Galatians 1:6-10

I found a great article that helps identify spiritual abuse in Christian churches, a must read!

http://www.watchman.org/profiles/pdf/spiritualabuseprofile.pdf

Chains

 

Expanding your understanding of scripture – a sensory experience!

Typically we isolate understanding scripture to one human sense, God has given us the ability to see, hear, taste, smell and touch and I believe we can understand things deeper by using more than just one of our senses. Quite often we rely on our ministers, preachers and teaches to fullfill our sensory experience through hearing and listening. We all read scripture, but why not listen to it?

Over the last two years I have taken a keen interest in listening to scripture while driving to work and home. I have found a massive change in my understanding of scripture, my ability to focus longer while reading and obsorb more content. I would recommend that if you arnt listening to scripture in some form… your missing out on a fresh experience in Gods Word. His Word is living and real, by listening we can give full attention to what the author is saying helping us to gain a better understanding of its original context and meaning.

It is widely acknowledged that the inspirational Word was spoken and god breathed, many of the New Testament authors utalised the skills of scribes and listening diversifies the readers expression and can add greater insight.

A helpful APP I frequently use on my iphone to deliver audio books is Amazons Audible (www.audible.com)

A rich bible experience I have found extremely helpful is the award winning ‘The Bible Experience: New Testament & Old Testament inspired by the Media Group’ for more info Click Here

‘For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.’ – Isiah 55:10-11

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The Leadership Dilemma Many Sweep Under The Carpet

I was recently reading a series of articles and blog posts that continually challenge my views on leadership and hierarchy in the church. Deep down I know this to be true but many evangelical Christians today haven’t even heard of this.. let alone tried to understand its implications on their relationship with Christ Jesus.

Frank Viola touches on it here in this extract:

The N.T. notion of leadership is markedly different. As previously stated, there’s no biblical warrant for the idea that church leadership is official. Neither is there any scriptural backing for the notion that some believers have authority over other believers. The only authority that exists in the church is Jesus Christ. Humans have no authority in themselves. Divine authority is vested only in the Head and expressed through the body. Good leadership, therefore, is never authoritarian. It only displays authority when it’s expressing the mind of Jesus Christ.

The basic tasks of biblical leadership are facilitation, nurture, guidance, and service. To the degree that a member is modeling the will of God in one of those areas, to that degree he or she is leading. It’s no wonder that Paul never chose to use any of the forty-plus common Greek words for “office” and “authority” when discussing leaders. Again, Paul’s favorite word for describing leadership is the opposite of what natural minds would suspect. It’s diakonos, which means a “servant”—a person very low on the social totem pole in the 1st Century.

You can find the full explanation from Franks blog:

http://frankviola.org/2014/01/15/rethinkingleadership/

Also another great discussion on the church office and clergy/laity dichotomy:

http://frankviola.org/2012/07/17/christianleadership/

I would love to have open discussions with church leaders and prayerfully explore what Frank is saying here, I was a pastoral overseer with the baptist fold and its impact on me has been significant.

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