Friday, October 31, 2014

Exploring Life Beneath The Bottom Line

Our life is a journey of faith.  In this journey each of us will attempt to discover the bottom line of the truth we profess.  At some point we will discover that our bottom line is not as deep as it should be.  In other words, when we think we understand something fully God will invite us to experience something even deeper. This willingness to explore the depths of truth will determine how we should pack our spiritual and intellectual bags for the journey before us.

Faith will ask us to give up our right to the illusion of ever possessing a complete understanding of God and how He works on this side of the grave. At some point, we have to be willing to let go of our opinions – not truth, but our opinion of it - if we are going to understand the greater dimensions of truth itself. Truth is always deeper than our current understanding of its reality.

The most unhappy and angry people are those who have to perpetually defend their bottom line opinion. These opinions can be as diverse as how we choose to raise our kids, what kind of worship format is the most biblical or what political candidate we should elect.  Only God sees the full depth of all things, including truth. 

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Healthy Churches

(* The following paragraphs were written by Jan Elkins followed by a word from Rick Joyner about spiritual health in the Church. Jan wrote this word to our leadership team in Medford, Oregon days after we transitioned our leadership to a new team.  This is a reflection of living and leading for the last 15 years in one church in one region, but would apply to most locales.)

As we all came into a church society in this valley, ripped apart by division, I want to commend everyone for following God's heart for the Church.  You kept the structure simple, and led people to love God and each other.  The Ecclesia is continuing to develop out, expanding the Kingdom,  but the Koinonia is still the main thing! 

I keep hearing from people in this valley and in our church, whether new or old timers, "I have only experienced great sorrow, ripping, hurt, a feeling of divorce, abandonment, in a church transition.  I am watching this transition with joy, wonder, amazement, happiness, expectancy."  Even those who are only hopeful are that...hopeful.

This morning I caught a glimpse of how God has brought healing to the whole church in the valley, and beyond - an injection of God's heart into Living Waters, affecting the whole.  We are contending in a much bigger way than we realize concerning healing and wholeness.  I caught a glimpse of something really big and beyond that God has been orchestrating.  When I read the article below, I wanted to also say to you, and all the Leaders, "You/we are on the right track!"

The following is a word from Rick Joyner describing a healthy culture-wide church:

"A key to fulfilling The Great Commission is to have a church that is a demonstration of the society of the kingdom. As given in Scripture, the church has the most simple, but brilliant structure ever devised for a society. Of course, we would expect nothing less from the King of kings who is building this church. This week we will look at just the basic elements of this greatest society ever devised.
          There are two Greek words most often translated “church” in the New Testament. One is ecclesia,which is the structure of the church and its government. The other is koinonia, which is sometimes translated “fellowship” or “communion.” However, koinonia is a bonding far more than even “communion” or “common-union” can really capture. It represents a union so strong that the parts cannot be separated without the threat of death. For a single member to be removed from a true koinonia would be akin to the amputation of a limb.
          I have been to many churches around the world, and I’ve been a part of some really good ones, but it is my opinion that the greatest ones I know are only experiencing about 10% of what we are meant to have in true koinonia. I think for most, it would be much closer to 1%, with many not really having any at all. At this time, this may be a safe place for the church to be. How can that be? It is dangerous to pursue koinonia without Jesus truly being the Head of the church. Our relationship to the Lord must be valued much higher than koinonia, or it can quickly become an idol.
          This being said, if we are truly getting closer to the Lord, we will be getting closer to His people. We cannot be joined to the Head without also being joined to His body. If we are truly growing in our love for the Lord, we will be growing in our love for one another too. As we are told in I John 4:20: “for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen.” One sure way to measure any believer’s true love and unity with the Lord is to look at their unity and love for His people.
          Just as you can have the best government structure but still have bad government, if you do not have good people in it, you can have the best church structure and government and still have a church that the Lord Himself will not even come to, if it is not built first and foremost on koinonia, not ecclesia. To have ecclesia without koinonia is to have a form of godliness without the power, and the Apostle Paul warns us to “avoid such men as these” (see II Timothy 3:5).
          The power of the church is koinonia, not ecclesia. Ecclesia is important, but it is the wineskin. Koinonia is the wine. If you don’t have wine, you don’t need a wineskin. But if you have wine and don’t get a wineskin, you will not keep the wine for very long. So we need both. However, “the main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing,” and koinonia is the main thing. This is why we are told in I John 1:7: “If we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship (koinonia) with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.”
          We are not told that if we walk in the light we have ecclesia, rather if we walk in the light, we have koinonia. Now if we are walking in the light and continue to “grow up in all things into Him who is the head” (see Ephesians 4:15 NKJV), we will see the structure and government of the church grow as we grow in koinonia, just as we see in the Book of Acts. This will be a natural formation that takes shape that fits with and keeps the koinonia, but not one that makes the koinonia fit into it.
          The church is called first and foremost to be a family, not an organization. If we become an organization before being family, it is not likely that true kingdom family life will happen. When we build onecclesia first, we are not likely planting churches but franchises. Our God, who obviously loves diversity and creativity so much that He made every snowflake, tree, and every one of us different, is not found in “cookie cutter” franchises, regardless of how much they may claim to be His church. Because of this, a true evaluation would be that much of what is called “church” today is mostly form without true power. 
          This will soon change. A glorious church is about to take shape. "

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

A 2,000 Year Old Word Of Caution

A 2,000 Year Old Word Of Caution

There are times in Church history when we discover the way forward by rediscovering truth that was present in our past. Jude wrote a short letter describing a "salvation we all share”.  He said this shared faith was “once for all delivered to the saints”.  What struck me most in Jude’s letter was the phrase, “once for all delivered to the saints”.

This package of truth was a deposit made 2,000 years ago when God birthed the Church and gave us everything up front – “once for all”.  God gave it all to us at our beginning and we have spent the last two millennia attempting to unpack that original deposit in each new cultural context we would experience. This is the nature of God’s inheritance to His people. We work from a place of a possessing all we need.

Some think our understanding of truth is a progressive journey – like a form of theological evolution.  In this line of thinking God seems to have left out some important details that we will discover through a process of human intellectual development. While we all can see the same truth from many different perspectives, it still remains unchanging truth. In a journey that is compassed by a developing theology a danger exists. When we attempt to recalibrate truth we begin to drift across dangerous reef-infested theological waters where we begin to redefine issues like morality and the way of salvation.

Jude mentioned this in his letter.  He told his readers that some people were present within their churches saying that God’s grace allows them to live immoral lives. Jude even connected that dangerous license to a denial of Christ.  These are heavy words for Jude to share and words that could have been written just this week describing some in the Church today.

We strike these hidden reefs of error when we are tempted to believe we might be discovering something so new that it was not part of that original deposit once delivered to the Church. The scriptures tell us there is nothing new under the sun. We don’t progress toward a newer version of truth. We simply discover or rediscover what we already possess. In each new season of life we are invited to go back to that original deposit and recalibrate our direction so we can move forward into safe waters and not shipwreck our faith.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Living Between Two Realities

Recently, I returned from several days of ministry in Louisiana.  It was a busy time meeting new people and experiencing a new culture.  A week after returning home, I received a package.  Inside was a small, hand-carved cross.  The woman who sent the cross to me shared that her father – a Cajun man – carved these crosses from bayou wood and called them a “Gripping Cross”.  This was her father’s ministry.  He gave the crosses as gifts to people, especially to those who might be going through challenging times.

As I sit here reading the Word as have done each morning for most of my life, I reached over and picked up the Gripping Cross.  I couldn’t help but think of the imagery before me.  I was sitting in my chair with the Word in my lap and my hand wrapped around this small wooden cross.

I have learned the power of resurrection is to be experienced in a place between the cross and the throne - that place is our daily life.  We take hold of the power of the cross to put to death those things that lie to us about our identity and at the same time we embrace our present place of authority in Christ at the Fathers right hand.

Today, grip the reality of the finished work of the cross and the place of enthronement you now share with Jesus.   Everything in between these two realities has already been subjected to the victory of the cross and the authority of the throne. This is your place of victory as you live in this present world – take hold of it.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

The Real Reason Why You Should Not Be Afraid

We all experience fear at some point in our lives. God knew we would encounter situations in life that would make us afraid.  That is why He said, “Fear not”. A reoccurring theme in Paul’s ministry was to strengthen and encourage the churches he visited.  He did this because people felt weak and discouraged.  Dealing with fear is part of the journey of faith.

This morning, as I read Matthew 10, I came across verse 11 where Jesus said,  “So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows.” The previous verses tell us that a small bird, worth very little in the larger scheme of things, cannot fall to the ground without God knowing.  If God values a small bird how much more would He value a human being created in His image?

The reason why most of us encounter fear is because we have not linked our value to God with our ability to overcome fear.  Victory over any form of fear is experienced when we discover our worth to God.  All the techniques we employ to rid our lives of fear will eventually fail if we have not discovered our value to God.

In our culture we spend significant amounts of time, energy and money trying to find ways to deal with fear.  None of them work in the long run. The solution to our fear is so simple it has hidden from many of us over the years behind the complicated formulas and rituals we employ to rid our lives of its presence.  We don’t have to be afraid for one simple yet profound reason – we are valuable to God.  We are His treasure. The knowledge of this kind of love is so powerful that once discovered it casts fear outside the perimeter our lives and allow us to finally live in peace.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

#25 A Good Place

(“Thoughts I Want To Leave Behind” is a collection of thoughts and impressions I want to leave behind as I begin to make my final pastoral transition.)

#25 A Good Place

Tomorrow morning, Sunday, October 26, I will hand the leadership of our church over to a spiritual son.  We have been working on this plan for the last five years.  Each step in the process has been saturated in prayer.  Tomorrow will be a day of celebration.

From the very beginning, I knew God was leading Jan and me and our church to a good place. In fact, this feeling was so strong about the goodness of God that He had me write a book about the subject titled, A Good Place, that describes the journey of our heart in times of change and transition.

In the last 33 years, I have learned one important lesson that has repeated itself in each new assignment we have accepted.  We have learned because God is good He is always leading us to a good place.  We are never without His goodness, even when the pain and struggles of life are experienced.

Tomorrow morning, as we gather to make this transfer of leadership, we will gather to celebrate the goodness of God in our history and the coming goodness of God in our future and in the future of Living Waters Church.  This goodness is also your legacy.  It is what you carry because you are called a child of God. You will always be in a good place because God is with you.