November 2nd, 2010 by Bethany French

Author’s note:  This is the second article of a mini-series reviewing Princeton professor Kenda Creasy Dean’s book, Almost Christian. Unless otherwise indicated, all quotes are from the first few chapters of this book.  To read the first article in the series, click here.

Kenda Creasy Dean’s book Almost Christian covers five major findings of the National Study of Youth and Religion that may perhaps bring about a major change in the way many mainstream churches and/or parents  approach youth ministry or parenting:

1.  Most American teenagers have a positive view of religion but otherwise don’t give it much thought.

2.  Most U.S. teenagers mirror their parents’ religious faith.

3. Teenagers lack a theological language with which to express their faith or interpret their experience of the world.

4.  A minority of American teenagers–but a significant minority–say religious faith is important, and that it makes a difference in their lives.  These teenagers are doing better in life on a number of scales, compared to their less religious peers.

5.  Many teenagers enact/espouse a religious outlook that is distinct from traditional teachings of most world religions–an outlook called Moralistic Therapeutic Deism.

Some of my conclusions from reading these first few chapters in conjunction with my own personal experience are as follows:  The problems that exist now are direct results of a culture of self-indulgence; a culture that equates physical, emotional, and spiritual discomfort as something to be avoided at all costs.  Christian vocabulary has been perverted:  the word “Love” does not mean anything more than an exalted version of “Warm fuzzies all around,” “salvation” means that “all generally nice people go to heaven,” and the biggest “sin” is to hurt anyone’s feelings or cause discomfort any way, for any reason. A version of the larger American culture, which holds all of these views, has been adopted by many parents and churches (consciously or not).

Dean clearly highlights the source of the problem as a breakdown of the parents’ and congregations intentionally modeling radical faith in God and demonstration of the gospel to their children, and the failure to recognize that the goal of the gospel is beyond the individual.

We ‘teach’ young people baseball, but we ‘expose’ them to faith…we blithely assume that religious identity will happen by osmosis, emerging ‘when youth are ready’ (a confidence we generally lack when it comes to, say, algebra).  We simply have not given teenagers the soul-strength to recognize, wrestle, and resist the symbiotes in our midst, probably because we lack [it] ourselves… Exposing adolescents to faith, as it turns out, is no substitute for teaching it to them…

By and large, Smith and Denton concluded, parents ‘get what they are’ religiously…Parents matter most when it comes to the religious formation of their children.

Although the child is still responsible for his/her own response to the gospel, and even in the cases where the parents are truly living radical lives and teaching their children to do the same may choose to diverge to the path of least resistance, families and communities that adopt an intentional way of living and teaching spiritual precepts will raise children who are much more able to talk articulately about what their faith means to them in their daily lives.  It may be that many parents in their own lives, as well as the lives of their children, have bought into one of the central precepts of Moralistic Therapeutic Deism, which is that the main goal in life is to avoid interpersonal friction.  And, as Dean writes,

Spiritually sensitive youth often cause trouble in their communities (religious or secular) because of their alertness to the sacred.  It is hard to imagine researchers, interviewing Jesus after he turned over the tables in the temple, ascribing the act to religious maturity–but in Christian theology it is a story of righteousness and divine purgation.”

Which of the prophets, including Jesus as the Son of God, was not hated and persecuted, even killed for following the Spirit of God, laying down their lives as their sacrifice of love and obedience to God, and out of desperate concern and passionate desire for the restoration of those who were opposing the will of God?  How often did God send His prophets not to the ‘pagan’ nations, but to His own people, who were following Him with their lips, and not with their hearts?  How is that different than today, where so many in our churches say, “I am a Christian,” and yet they do not have the transforming love of God gripping their hearts to lay down their lives in obedience to Christ?  As Dean says,

It is in following Jesus that we learn to love Him; it is in participating in the mission of God that God decisively changes us into disciples.”

Let us awaken our hearts to experience the living God, as in Dr. Michael Brown’s Rhyme of the Modern Parishioner:

Pour your life out for broken lives –
Let God your heart break too.
Take up the cross, deny yourself;
Just live His will to do!

Wake up, be brave, be honest;
Today — oh hear His voice!
Be ruthless with your schedule;
Seek GOD. Make that your choice.

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October 28th, 2010 by Daniel Kolenda
The first word of the Great Commission is, “GO…”When Jesus used fishing as a metaphor for Evangelism, he revealed to us something about his chosen model and paradigm. What does evangelism mean to Jesus?  To be a “fisher of men” implies releasing the moorings from the bollard, pulling back the anchor, pushing away from the shore and launching out into the deep.  “The Son of Man”, He said of Himself, “Has COME to SEEK…”  Now, to us He says, you “GO” and seek.
Juxtapose the Jesus way to the preferred method of most Christians today.  It is what I call “Spider web Evangelism” because as the spider loiters in her web, many Christians crouch in their churches every Sunday waiting and praying that some hapless sinner might wander in so that the pastor can pounce on them.  But the word, “GO” necessarily implies action, initiative and movement.  There is no way to “Go” while we stay!  To “GO” requires less talk and more walk, less intention and more action.  There is no shortcut, free-ride or easy way to evangelism.  Ultimately we will either “GO” to win the lost or we will supplement our sedentary fruitlessness with a myriad of programs, seminars, conferences, excuses and explanations.  In the end we may discover that working so hard to appear artificially effectual was a greater expenditure of energy than actually going would have been.
D.L. Moody once attended a convention in Indianapolis on mass evangelism.  During a break in the meeting he decided to put principle into practice.  He went out to the street corner, stood on a box and began to preach.  A crowd gathered to listen and soon they were blocking traffic.  Moody had a solution to this dilemma.  He invited all the sinners to follow him into the convention center where he would continue his preaching.  Soon the convention delegates began to return only to find their seats filled with unwelcome, unregistered street people.  Being forced to stop preaching, Moody concluded his message by saying, “Now we must close, as the brethren of the convention wish to come and discuss the topic, ‘How to reach the masses’.
When Jesus commissioned His disciples He didn’t spend much time teaching techniques and procedures for winning the lost.  Instead He summed up the heart of evangelism with a two-letter word. Jesus came from Heaven to earth to win us, now we must go to win others.  ”Go into all the world and preach the Gospel”.

Posted in The Kingdom of God Tagged with: , ,

September 2nd, 2010 by Bethany French

Author’s note:  This is the first article in a mini-series of articles reviewing Almost Christian by Princeton professor Kenda Creasy DeanAll quotes without direct links are directly from the book’s first few chapters.  To hear Dr. Brown’s review of this book, click here.

A large-scale departure from a biblical understanding of what living as a follower of Jesus looks like in the lives of modern adults has brought about an epidemic of young people whose basic concept of religion is centered around a sense of enhancing their own, and others’ emotional well-being, which has almost created a new religion, though its “followers” still outwardly identify with the name of an existing religion.  Kenda Creasy Dean, a professor at Princeton’s theological seminary, published a book called  Almost Christian: What the Faith of our Teenagers Is Telling the American Church that explores the emerging ramifications of the lack of passion and faith in God in previous generations.  This book is based on the National Study of Youth and Religion by Christian Smith and Melinda Denton which gave this new religion the name of moralistic therapeutic deism:

As described by Smith and his team, Moralistic Therapeutic Deism consists of beliefs like these:

1. “A god exists who created and ordered the world and watches over human life on earth.”

2. “God wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other, as taught in the Bible and by most world religions.”

3. “The central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about oneself.”

4. “God does not need to be particularly involved in one’s life except when God is needed to resolve a problem.”

5. “Good people go to heaven when they die.”

These recent studies testify to the fruit that decades of a consumer-driven, therapy mentality have brought into our churches.  Dr. Michael Brown’s books, How Saved Are We and The End of the American Gospel Enterprise, point to a very similar attitude that was already entrenched in the American Church over twenty years ago:

The American Church at the end of the twentieth century is experiencing a crisis. For years we have preached a cheap gospel and peddled a soft Savior. We have taught salvation without self-denial and the crown without the cross. We have catered to the unsaved and compromised with the world. Now we are paying the price.  (How Saved Are We.)

Our contemporary gospel has bred complacency instead of compassion, success instead of sacrifice, prestige instead of Prayer.  We no longer ask what we can do for Him, but rather what He can do for us.  (American Gospel Enterprise.)

Dean says there are four things that deeply religious teenagers, whose faith affects their day to day lives have in common:

Dean says committed Christian teens share four traits: They have a personal story about God they can share, a deep connection to a faith community, a sense of purpose and a sense of hope about their future.

Recapturing a passionate, articulate faith in teenagers and young people requires not simply a new “method” to reach them, but rather a revitalization of faith and devotion in the day-to-day living of adults.  According to Dean,

Since the religious and spiritual choices of American teenagers echo, with astonishing clarity, the religious and spiritual choices of the adults who love them, lackadaisical faith is not young people’s issues, but yours… So we must assume that solution lies…in modeling the kind of mature, passionate faith we say we want young people to have… We have successfully convinced teenagers that religious participation is important for moral formation and for making nice people… Yet these young people possess no real commitment to or excitement about religious faith.

What is the one thing that truly differentiates faith from religion?  Dean says this:

Faith is a matter of desire, a desire for God and and a desire to love others in Christ’s name…Love gives Christianity its purpose and meaning.  Religion functions as an organized expression of belief… Yet Christianity has always been more of a trust-walk than a belief system…Faith depends on who we follow, and that depends on who we love.

John Wesley, whom Dean quotes, experienced in his own life a time when he called himself “almost a Christian,” while living with the same kind of approach many do today:

I did…good to all men; constantly and carefully using all the public and all the private means of grace…and…doing all this in sincerity… Yet my own conscience beareth me witness in the Holy Ghost, that all this time I was but almost a Christian... The great question of all, then, still remains.  Is the love of God shed abroad in your heart?  Can you cry out, “My God, and my All”?… Is he your glory, your delight, your crown of rejoicing?

Another crucial question is this: how can we experience this passionate love of God if we have not seen the man Jesus tortured, bleeding, dying, and abandoned because of the depths of sin in our own hearts?  The only true knowledge of the incredible love of God that evokes such devotion can come through a changed heart which has been wrung by a deep conviction of sin and repentance, and has seen the cost God afflicted on Himself in order to rescue us from the power of sin and bring us into fellowship with Himself.

Dr. Michael Brown reviewed the first few chapters of Almost Christian on his Line of Fire Radio show, and here is a quote from his closing remarks:

We are fundamentally off: with much of our preaching, with much of our emphasis…we’ve been in the wrong direction for years. We have soft-peddled the gospel, we have by-passed the cross.  We haven’t preached a faith which is glorious and wonderful, and a savior who is so extraordinary, who delivers us from a wrath which is so terrible, that we JOYFULLY give up everything to have Him!

Changed hearts in the church as a whole is the only way to see the transformation that so many adults in the church have said they desire to see in their children, as Dr. Brown stated in The Jesus Manifesto:

The dawning of the 21st century finds the church of America in a moral and spiritual crisis. Decades of self-centered living and worldliness have taken their toll. Years of compromise and toothless gospel preaching have had their effect. And now we have reached the moment of truth: Either we wake up, stand up, speak up, and act up, or we run the risk of becoming a mere historic curiosity, an irrelevant religious sideshow, an entertaining, harmless spectacle. Something must change, and it must change now. There is no other choice.

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April 20th, 2010 by M. French


[Link to Video]


A notable quote from the interview to consider:

Last night’s message was a call to authenticity, to reality, because God is the God of truth, and when we move off and away from that place, and come to unreality, His Spirit is not there, and we therefore compensate for it by turning up the dials, which further deepens the unreality, and puts the church in a lamentable place and condition.

Posted in The Kingdom of God Tagged with: , , , , ,

April 14th, 2010 by M. French

Respected Journalist Exposes the Scandals of the Charismatic Renewal–and Offers Hope

Contact: Brett Benson, 952-829-2529

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich., April 14 /Christian Newswire/ — Financial scandal. Faulty theology. Moral failure. The last few years have shown that the Church and her leaders are not immune to scandal and corruption. The real problem, however, is that no one is holding them accountable. Until now.

Charismatic insider and contributing editor to Charisma magazine, J. Lee Grady has been a voice crying out against the abuse of the gifts of the Spirit in his weekly, award-winning column “Fire in My Bones.” Though an avid proponent of the charismatic experience, he has observed trends that both distress and anger him. And now he is overturning the money tables.

“Charismatic churches in America today are laden down with tons of baggage that needs to be thrown overboard,” says Grady.

In his new book “The Holy Spirit Is Not for Sale” (Chosen/Baker Publishing Group), Grady exposes and confronts the scandals and problems plaguing charismatic and Pentecostal churches today–including abuse, showmanship, manipulation, and infatuation with prosperity. With extraordinary insight and godly discernment he shows how these problems have led to a watered-down spirituality.

“We have turned the holy fire of God into a circus sideshow,” he says. “But when the music stops, the TV cameras are turned off and the money is counted, what do we have?”

Yet his message is not one of condemnation and finger-pointing. Instead Grady challenges all who call themselves Spirit-empowered Christians to return to their biblical roots. He offers hope, help, and a passion for recapturing the authenticity, power, and integrity of true spirituality.

“There is surely fresh fire available to us today,” he says. “If we would reject our misguided mysticism and smug elitism, and renounce our bizarre infatuation with money and success, I believe our churches would catch fire with holy zeal.”

“The Holy Spirit Is Not for Sale” includes strategies for developing healthy leaders as well as helpful guidelines for accountability structures. Grady also shares numerous examples of previous revivals in history and insights from his own ministry trips to Africa, Asia and Latin America. Compelled by his great love for God and His Church, Grady gives a straightforward and ultimately affirming message that is a must-read for leaders, insiders, and seekers alike.

Praise for “The Holy Spirit is Not For Sale”

“I could not put this book down. It is compulsive reading. This book could be a turning point for the charismatic movement.” — Dr. R. T. Kendall, former minister, Westminster Chapel (London); bestselling author, “Total Forgiveness” (from the foreword)

“No more discerning voice speaks with such clarity and compassion as Lee Grady’s. Today’s Church needs not only to hear but to heed the wisdom set forth of this book.” — Jack Hayford, chancellor, The King’s College & Seminary; founding pastor, The Church On The Way

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
J. Lee Grady is an author, award-winning journalist, and ordained minister. He serves as a contributing editor of Charisma magazine, one of America’s most widely distributed evangelical Christian publications, and as editor of Experience, the magazine of the International Pentecostal Holiness Church. His “Fire in My Bones” column is distributed to thousands around the world. The author of three books, Lee is also the founder of The Mordecai Project, a ministry aimed at confronting the abuse of women around the world. His preaching ministry has taken him to 24 nations. He has been interviewed by numerous media outlets, including “TIME”, “The New York Times”, and “Christianity Today.” He and his family live near Orlando, Florida.

The Holy Spirit Is Not for Sale: Rekindling the Power of God in an Age of Compromise
by J. Lee Grady
ISBN: 978-0-8007-9487-3
Price: $14.99

Posted in News, The Kingdom of God Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,

February 18th, 2010 by Andrew Yeoman

Will we wander and die during visitation or go into Jesus-centred identity during visitation?

“Do you still not understand?” Mark 8: 21

I am convinced that to understand the true meaning of the Gospel disclosed by the New Testament writers, we have to get a grasp and revelation of the account of Israel’s Exodus. Even more so, I believe the Exodus will have special spiritual significance in the life of the Church in these early years of this new millennium. Perhaps the Exodus is the key moment in all of Israel’s history. It is central to their existence and understanding of the one true God and their role as His chosen people. I am a deep believer that it was with the Exodus in mind, the Gospel writers understood the emergence of Christ and His powerful victory on earth. In fact on the mount where He was transfigured and the disciples saw His glory, it is recorded that He spoke with Moses and Elijah regarding His ‘departure’ or ‘exodus’.

I believe that there are vital revelations deeply ingrained in the Exodus for the New Testament people of God. And to add to that, they will bear special significance and power in the imminent move of God that is about to break into the Western nations. At the time of writing there is a fresh excitement of imminent revival. It is as though Christ in His great compassion is about to feed the thousands, and cause a genuine move of the miraculous from the provision of His Kingdom. There are many signs beginning to take place among the hungry of heart. However, this move is about more than feeding the masses, good though that is. I believe God is speaking in the midst of this stirring, however only some may choose to listen to His voice. What is in my heart is in connection to the following question from Jesus.

“Do you still not understand?” (Mark 8: 21)

This is a monumental question from the Lord, after His disciples had just witnessed the feeding of the four thousand. Previously, they had seen the feeding of the five thousand, and so we must understand that their faith for this kind of miracle was not what was being questioned. Rather, Jesus was questioning their lack of insight into the signs and their deeper meaning. To get further insight into these events we have to look at John 6, where John the beloved disciple gives his own account of the feeding of the five thousand. He is the only Gospel writer who provides us with an explanation by Jesus of these unique feeding miracles. The two feeding miracles are closely connected. The message and meaning are the same, and yet each one is specific to those who witness them and are fed.

John recalls that after the first of the two miracles, Jesus is followed by the people. Jesus sees their hearts and knows that they are following because of what has just happened, not for who He is. Their cry is “give us a sign and we will believe…” In other words, they partake of His miraculous provision for their earthly needs, but will not see the miracles as manifestations of a spiritual truth. Jesus is the true ‘Bread of life’, which He embodies. He gives them eternal life through union with Himself. Jesus thus warns them for their lack of understanding in John 6: 49 & 50, and likens them to the early children of Israel who ate the miraculous manna from heaven in the wilderness AND STILL DIED! However, Jesus states that He is the true Bread of heaven, of whom men may eat and never die. But this is not the only thing Jesus is conveying here. He goes on to make further startling and even offensive statements to those around.

“Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him.” John 6: 56

Jesus is here giving the ‘deeper meaning’ of the feeding miracles. He is actually calling those that are pursuing His benefits, to go deeper and to partake of Him. To eat the miracle bread is one thing; to eat of Him is the real deal! In other words – it’s a very awesome and deeply spiritual issue. It is not enough that we enjoy His awesome signs and visitation (although we are to rejoice when they happen!) but it is more an issue of experiencing the heart of visitation, through identifying with Him and becoming part of Him spiritually. To find that deeper meaning and experience in Christ is what it truly is to become His body – the one loaf.

1. The ‘deeper meaning’.

Every move of the Spirit has one issue at the very heart of it. Despite their unique characteristics in each generation, whether the great awakening in England during the 1700s, the Welsh revival of 1904, or the Hebridian revival of the 40s & 50s, or even modern renewal / revival movements of the recent years in the USA and UK, the key issue has always been one grasped by some, and missed by others. It is the issue of a deep knowing of Jesus and our joining to Him, and He to us. Yet in the midst of outpouring the words, ‘Eat my flesh…’ are still as costly and offensive today as they were when originally spoken. Our soulish appetites still long for the peripheral activities of God, rather than the heart of Him who provides. Yes, it is God who moves in supernatural ways, and we rejoice in His great power, but if we do not become a ‘Jesus person’, or become a ‘Jesus people’, we can still die in our vain wandering in a kind of spiritual wilderness when in fact we were called like Israel to ‘go in and possess…

The Lord in Deuteronomy 8: 3, spoke regarding His miraculous power given for His people, and yet gave them the ‘deeper meaning’ of the bread given for them.

“And feeding you with manna… to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of Lord…”

The mouth that spoke this to the children of Israel is the same mouth of the one God-man who spoke after the feeding of the five & four thousand, and the meaning is the same.

2. A deeper meaning still.

In the same chapter of John, the allusion is made to the forefathers of Israel who ate of this provision from heaven, and died in the wilderness. This people were uniquely called of God to an apostolic type ministry, led by Moses. They were called out of Egypt, to prove God’s delivering power. They were called through the wilderness, to know of the leading of the Angel of the Lord. They were called to be a priestly people of a unique Kingdom, carrying the Ark of the Presence. But the ultimate purpose of all of this was to go into the land of promise, dispossess the nations, and establish God’s true reign. What an awesome calling and destiny, and yet they failed because they could not fully identify with the Lord God, His righteous ways, His purpose, and the unique role they had in pointing ahead to the Messiah of God – Jesus! Paul in 1 Corinthians 10, warns the Church of the same tendency at work in them. He says:

They all ate the same spiritual food… Nevertheless God was not pleased with most of them.” (V3 – 5)

By the way, neither did Moses and Aaron go in! Despite their apostolic-type calling, they disobeyed the Lord.

The sober warning is this. God is now about to bring a fresh move of His glory, power and presence into the Church again. Jesus is the One providing a new outpouring of grace. The people of God today are knowing of heavenly manna. However, Jesus, will not fail to enter that promise with His people, in the way Moses did. His intention is that those that are ’in Him’ will go in too. Therefore, whatever He is now pouring out is for that one aim alone, to create a ’Jesus people’ who will no longer wander aimlessly in the wilderness and die, but rather go in! Jesus people are those that eat of Him, and DO NOT DIE! They, in their union and identification with Him, go where He goes. His destiny is theirs. This is the deeper and ultimate meaning of revival in every generation, and definitely today’s! Young person don’t miss it at this point, it is central to the Spirit’s work. People may make of revival-type things what they will but the Spirit of God has this central issue in His heart – to create a Jesus generation. ‘Jesus people‘ go in! They are of a resurrection kind and they do not wander or die. Don’t miss the meaning of His outpouring – it has deep purpose in it!

3. Eating Him means identification not isolation.

This issue is not just a matter for the individual in becoming a ’Jesus person’ but it is a corporate one. It is about a people embracing Christ and His Kingdom as a unique body of called-out ones on the earth. This is not so much an ecumenical ‘all are involved‘ kind of calling where anything goes; in fact it is a particularly unique and exclusive one. Yes all are welcome but because of Christ’s demands for our soul, our life, our all, it is a very particular thing to become a ‘Jesus people’. Yes, Jesus prayed for unity among His congregation, but centred solely around a fellowship with and in His dynamic person. We have been guilty of watering down the uniqueness of the man Jesus. We have preached mental assent to Christ in order to get people ‘saved’ rather than the original concept of becoming His and joining Him in His exodus. God forgive us!

One of the key moments in a disciple’s life is the moment of his calling to follow. That’s how it was in the life of Andrew & Peter, Phillip & Nathanael. It was deemed so important that John in his Gospel (Chapter 1: 35 – 51) gives a lengthy account of their time of forsaking all to follow Christ. Andrew, after hearing John the Baptist’s words, ‘Look the Lamb of God’, goes to find his brother Simon Peter, and ceases from being John the Baptist’s disciple and becomes a dedicated pursuer of Jesus. The same is true of Phillip who goes to find Nathanael. They both leave all to follow. What is the meaning of this? It is simple. For them, believing in Jesus meant identity with Him, and it was all or nothing for them. They became a ’Jesus people’. They became the ’ekklesia’ (called-out ones) of God, in Jesus. For them this was eating the bread of Him who came to bring eternal life. Yet today, things are often different. ‘Becoming a Christian’ is about a mental assent to the right thing or doctrine. “Jesus Christ is my saviour, He died for my sins; I am forgiven and am going to heaven.” And then the individual remains the same, isolated, and never enters ‘into God’. They fail to eat His flesh and drink His blood until He is in very union with them. Their identity in and with the Master is not grasped.

Some have said because of the influence of this western-type individualistic centred message, “Faith in Jesus is a personal thing. I don’t need to come to meet with God’s people. I can have my faith where I am. “ I was confronted with these words when visiting Poland, after one young lady had had dramatic experience of Jesus, only after which the enemy came and robbed her with the following deception. She believed that because her new ‘faith’ was a personal issue of forgiveness and granting access to heaven alone, that she did not need to become a key member with God’s people. She could not grasp the costly demands of identity with Jesus the Master, and all that faith in Him meant. I was deeply troubled by these words and did not know how to answer them. I did not want to come up with the spiritual clichés of how we need to meet together as the Church etc. I wanted God’s answer, not only for that situation but for wherever we proclaim the Gospel. After days of seeking, the truth suddenly came alive in me. I began to see that to the early disciples believing in the Gospel was not just a matter of personal forgiveness (though we have that). I became aware that our Gospel preaching in the West had become focused on the individual benefits from God to us, and it had produced an ‘individualistic salvation’. I became aware that the first century concept of the Gospel was in stark contrast to the one today. We preach justification without identification, and we teach baptism as symbolic of ‘new life’ without emphasising the individual’s immersion into Jesus and His body. The results of this are disastrous, and are sadly evident in churches across the UK, USA & other neo-western countries today.

We have missed the essence of our salvation, which is in the account of the feeding of the thousands – i.e. the Bread of Life must be eaten and recognised for who He is, so that we become part of that one body / loaf. To see God’s miraculous power alone is great, but insufficient if we fail to become a true ‘Jesus person’ and join with a true ‘Jesus people‘, of whom all are inseparably linked to this glorious God-man. This is what that young lady in Poland had failed to see. Again, with the words of Jesus I ask: “Do you still not understand?”

4. The Bread of Presence.

The amazing thing about the command to ‘eat the flesh’ of Jesus is that it contains not only an experience of identity with Him, but also a knowing of Him with us, “…and I in him” – (John 6: 56)

So there is a remaining in Him on our part, but also of Him in us on His part. When we eat bread in the natural we eat and enjoy its taste. It goes down into our digestive system, giving of its nutrients, and if you like, it becomes a part of us. This is the case with those that eat the flesh of the Son of Man. It is a guarantee of His presence – always. The bread to be kept in the tabernacle in Exodus was called, ‘the Bread of Presence’, and the bread we eat in communion is a celebration of the same reality – our union with Him, and He with us. It is to be experienced, tasted and known. Whilst many have said that feelings are not what following Christ is about, I find the deeper I look into what Jesus’ life and message was about, the more I see that it was all about a true & living experience that is entered into through faith. This is what He called men into. Praise King Jesus!

5. Finally… Mark’s insight on the issue.

And so now we return to Mark’s account in chapter 8 of the second miracle of this two-part act from Jesus. As in the first miracle, there are similar themes:

  • Belief and unbelief.
  • Obedience and disobedience.
  • Signs in and of themselves versus signs that penetrate the heart and lead to Christ.
  • Wander and die during visitation or go into King-centred identity during visitation.

Mark puts the emphasis on Jesus’ questions to His followers. ‘Are you hard of hearing? Are you blind? Do you still not understand?’

What are they not getting? Firstly, there is significance in bread. There is bread which contains yeast, causing it to rise. In the Exodus, God commanded Israel to make bread without yeast in order to have a quick escape from Egypt. They would not have time to wait for the yeast to grow. So to Israel yeast was a sign of holding onto former ways, worldliness, disobedience and sin. Jesus is saying here that those who are identified with Him and are one in Him, are like a loaf without yeast, for He is not of Egypt but of the land of promise. The people that went in to the land were those who believed, obeyed, captured the heart of God’s activities and were those who took into the new land His Kingly rule and presence. They are those who will not hold on to former things but embrace His ways. Therefore the manifestation of Herod and the Pharisees sinfulness is like yeast in the people of Israel that did not enter the promise. A little leaven leavens the whole lump. God’s Old Testament congregation Israel was now leavened, yet Christ had come to form a new people of God – His called out ones, in whom no yeast dwells – they are to know Him! In other words, the deeper meaning of the visitation and outpouring of the Spirit is the light of Christ’s righteousness that shines through those who embrace the heart and depth of what’s happening. Unrighteousness and unbelief cannot enter into the promise of God. Jesus people do, because their Master has already stepped into the promise!

So today’s application is simple: The unrighteous do not believe or go after identity with Jesus, but they want to keep the supernatural provision. The righteous believe, they gladly lay down all for this union with Jesus, and they experience His Kingdom reign and know fruitfulness. They in their allegiance will go in. Do we now understand?

Finally, Christ also puts an emphasis on the number of baskets left over and the connection between the two events. Here is a glorious ministry of Jesus to the Jew and Gentile. Scholars agree that the first was to a Jewish audience, the second feeding to both Jew and Gentile.1 Now in God’s new day of visitation, through His Son, Gentiles become part of the congregation of God, with Jews, to go into the promise land and carry the Kingdom. The One new man is a reality through Him. This is what the Spirit is now calling for in this fresh move of His Spirit. Hence in Mark 8 the mention of only one loaf in the boat after the miracle. Out of the Jew & Gentile He forms a ‘Jesus people.’

So this is the meaning of the Bread of Heaven.

  • It is to be eaten – that is absorbed into our spirits, through identification with Jesus, and by the Holy Spirit’s entrance into our hearts. Remember, you are what you eat. No yeast in this bread.
  • It’s meaning is also exclusively Jesus-centred not ‘sign-centred‘. Yet out of this union, great Kingdom demonstration is evidenced.
  • It’s meaning is about a body of people, who embrace the above, who in fellowship and apostolic movement form God’s new people. Thus they are called to inherit and dispossess nations. We are to be led by the Angel of the Lord who is the Lord Jesus. We are now to carry the Ark of His presence in our hearts. We are to experience supernatural signs of power but also grasp their significance. They are signs of the Kingdom! HOWEVER, we are not to die, for those in Christ do not die but live, they know, they do, they are – I.e. they ‘go into promise‘. This is a King-centred move of the Spirit – let’s not forget it.

David Ravenhill has in recent years written timely words for these days of visitation we live in:

‘How could Israel ever forget this incredible sight as they stood there on the banks of the Red Sea? They watched the entire Egyptian army being swallowed up by the mighty torrents of water cascading down upon them. God was unleashing His mighty hand of judgment against those who had helped impose Israel’s forced captivity of oppression and slavery… As wonderful as this experience was, it was merely the beginning – the first step in God’s plan and purpose for His people. Even as they celebrated, God had His goal in mind – to “bring them and plant them in the mountain of (His) inheritance.” (Exodus 15: 17) His purpose was to have people passionately in love with Him, a people who shared His heart for others who were in slavery and bondage.

This then, was the first stage in God’s plan to bring Israel out of their bondage; through the wilderness of testing, growth and preparation; and into the land of promise, where they would dwell in the very presence of God… God’s plan was to bring His people into Zion and establish them in a life that revolved around His presence… The same thing is true for the Church… His ultimate goal is to gather all nations to Himself.’ 2

So one more time, with the words of Jesus, I repeat, “Do you still not understand?” He’s moving again out of His great compassion, grace and favour. He is visiting His people but His deep callings remain the same, and if anything, during times of revival the intensity and power of those deep callings increase.

Jesus has come as ‘Emmanuel – God with us’ to reveal a deep and great mystery for all ages, that despite satan’s assault on mankind, God can and will have a people for Himself. They as one new man will demonstrate what the early disciples became through their association with Jesus. The Jewish disciples of a Jewish Jesus accomplished what their ancestors did not, not because of their own ability but because of their identity in and with this glorious God-man, who is greater than Moses and succeeds where even Moses failed. Let’s not make the mistake of disassociating the power of God from the God of power. He moves in signs and wonders in order to reveal His heart, and for us to share in His heart. Today the prophetic call is the same and to this end. Today the apostolic mandate and mission is the same and to this end.

In the challenging words of Bob Gladstone, ‘A new Jesus people are arising…’

Will you become part of the new ‘Jesus people’?


1 William Lane, NICNT on the Gospel of Mark (Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1974) Comments on Mark 8 account of feeding of 4000.

2 They drank from the river and died in the wilderness, David Ravenhill (Destiny Image 2000) Quote taken from Chapter 6: P67 & 68

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December 28th, 2009 by Bryan Anthony

85676220_6ce9804533“…. he that has seen Me has seen the Father….” -John 14.9

In the October 30th selection of My Utmost for His Highest, Oswald Chambers gives us this awesome thought:

Until we know Jesus, God is a mere abstraction, we cannot have faith in Him; but immediately we hear Jesus say- “he that hath seen Me hath seen the Father,” we have something that is real, and faith is boundless. Faith is the whole man rightly related to God by the power of the Spirit of Jesus Christ.

The darkness that marks ‘god-seeking’ cultures is profounder and more tragic than we know. Even in modern evangelicalism, there is enough of a measure of humanistic thought that in most cases believers remain unbroken over the condition of mankind. If one were to survey the nation of India, for instance, and the number of gods or goddesses men pursue there, it would become clear that the whole of the nation is pursuing “God” as a mere abstraction.

Men will spend weeks standing on one leg, days and sometimes months in fasting, whole nights in meditation and reading of ancient texts, or cut and pierce their bodies in numerous ways, just for the positive sense it gives them in knowing that their souls are bent in a spiritual direction. From one village to the next, their deities change name and form, and most of the time there are multiple gods to worship in each household. There is no spiritual stability, no answer to the problem of sin, no consciousness of God’s holiness and love, but instead the bewildering pursuit of the divine in mere abstractions. Paul did not see these kinds of religious pursuits as valid in any way, stating that they were literally worshiping “demons” whether they knew it or not. (1 Cor. 10.20)

We cannot have faith in God until we have seen His Son for who He is, and believed in Him unto salvation. The nations are groping in darkness, incapable of finding anything but false and fading lights, and not until the Church has penetrated their darkness with the light of truth in Christ will they have any hope at all. The darkness is not bound to idolatry in India, but is the plight of mankind in every culture and in every form of life where Christ has not become the center. Across the board men are seeking their gods in abstraction, be they wooden statues or cars, homes and big screen T.V.’s, and only those who have come into communion with the One true God through the Gospel have the unfading hope of true Light. Only we have stability and certitude about eternity, for it has been shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit, and it is founded upon the revelation that God has given in the Scriptures. Do we dare keep this great light to ourselves?

They must know of His great love. They must know of His power to break the stranglehold of sin and shame. They must know that He has come in the flesh, died, raised, and ascended, and that He’s coming again. They are groping about after “mere abstractions,” when the revelation of God the Father has already been given. They must hear of the Man, Christ Jesus!

How can we live so indifferently, so numbly, so stingily. Have we failed to realize that unless the nations see God through the revelation of the Gospel they will only pursue Him through abstractions, and will fall totally short of the glory of grace altogether? Do we really believe that unless they come into the Gospel they will perish, forever?

We need to be freed from humanistic mixtures and hollow hopes for their progressive improvement, and brought onto the grounds of apostolic certitude. Paul shed blood and tears, took stones in the face and lashes on the back, for the singular purpose of setting forth the Man Christ Jesus to those who were seeking God in mere abstractions. We need the same sight, the same courage, the same burden, the same faith, and the same missionary spirit, or else they perish forever. It’s time to wake up, saints. It’s not a dream. It’s not an option. Woe unto us if we preach not the Gospel.

“If sinners be damned at least let them leap to Hell over our bodies. Let them go with our arms around their knees. Let no one go there unwarned or unprayed for.” -Charles Spurgeon

Posted in The Kingdom of God Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,

October 22nd, 2009 by M. French

November 8th is the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church. More information can be found here: www.persecution.com/idop. The following is a video from Voice of the Martyrs on the day of prayer:


[Link to Video]

Posted in News, Persecution Tagged with: , , , ,

September 30th, 2009 by Bryan Anthony

112891143_7a8b9c6760_o“Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord….” -Rom. 12.10-11

From the nation of India decades ago, Amy Carmichael gives us this staggering story:

It was convention week in a hill station in India. The afternoon meeting was just over. A few Christian station-people, some English-speaking Indian friends and the sixty or seventy missionaries who had been listening to the Bible reading were hurrying out to get a cup of tea before the evening meeting. An Indian lady lingered in the empty hall, and the writer, seeing her alone and thinking perhaps she had no friend at hand and might be feeling lonely, sat down beside her. Conversation turned to Bible reading. The Indian lady’s face darkened and she said bitterly, “What is the use of such meetings? You missionaries say one thing and do another!’ It was easy to see she had been wounded and soured, but not knowing her history, I could only urge that meetings were held just because we recognized our need….

But this did not satisfy her, and in quick, eager sentences she began to explain herself. She said that her people had noticed that when a missionary first came out, he was usually warm and loving and keen to win souls. Then gradually, she said, it was noticed that he cooled.

“And who can say,” she concluded, with an intensity that went through the hearer, “…. who can say you missionaries live specially holy lives? We Indian Christians observe. We observe you not only when you are at work but when you are off work too. Is there anything remarkable about you? Are you burning-hot people? We look to you to show us patterns and you are showing us crooked patterns.”

The words scorched. Discount what we may because of some inward hurt or warp; and granted, thank God, that the picture painted thus is not wholly true, there was enough truth left to lay at least the one who listened low down in the dust.

I believe this story is intimately applicable to most American believers. We need to hear the questions of the little Indian woman:

“Do you lead specially holy lives?”

“Is there anything remarkable about you?”

“Are you burning-hot people?”

We sell the our lives short by reducing the faith to a cute and dainty religion that we practice a few times a week. We are supposed to be a burning-hot people, fervent in Spirit, serving the Lord! Our lives are supposed to be separate from the world in a manner sufficient to raise questions in the hearts of our neighbors and relatives, “What is it about those people? There’s a humility…. there’s a moral clarity…. there’s a joy…. there’s a no-nonsense mode of living…. there’s a wisdom…. there’s a reality in their eyes that I have found nowhere else, and their lives testify to it.”

Let us consider the tear-stained exhortation that Amy gives to follow up her story:

Comrades in this solemn fight- this awful conflict with awful powers- let us settle it as something that cannot be shaken: We are here to live holy, loving, lowly lives. We cannot do this unless we walk very, very close to the Lord Jesus. Anything that would hinder us from the closest walk that is possible to us till we see Him face to face is not for us. We need to be sensitive to the first approach of the hindering thing. For the sake of the souls that may be stumbled if we turn even ever so little aside, for the sake of our Master’s glory- dearer surely to us than all else- let us ask Him not to show us whether in anywise we have been showing “crooked patterns.”

Dear reader, what is the temperature of your life? Have you settled into a cool spirituality that is unconsecrated and casual? Have you more passion for entertainment than you have for the Scriptures? Has the Spirit of prayer become foreign to you? Have you left your “first love” and latched onto idols that now sap all of your affections for Christ, and leave you barren and numb at heart? We must return to Him with whole hearts, forsaking the “crooked patterns” that have too long marked the Church in our nation. Let us cry out from a place of brokenness, that He may have for Himself a people no longer “lagging behind in diligence.” A people who are “fervent in spirit, serving the Lord….”

He is faithful to respond to the heart that hungers and thirsts after Him! He will fill your heart with new life, and cause His heart to be expressed through you. He will kindle a flame in our hearts that all the schemes of hell cannot begin to quench. He will have for Himself a people.

A people leading specially holy lives, empowered by His Spirit. A remarkable people. A burning-hot people. Amen!

Posted in The Kingdom of God Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,

August 11th, 2009 by Frank Turek

Editor’s Note: Originally published on TownHall.com, used with permission. Frank Turek is a speaker and author, and a leading Christian apologist. Learn more at his website www.CrossExamined.org

As our great country accelerates its slide into economic and moral Hell, be careful whom you blame. The present boldness of liberals and timidity of conservatives are only the secondary causes. Much of the blame can be placed at the foot of the church.

When I say the church, I don’t mean an institution like the Roman Catholic church, but the entire body of believers—those from all denominations who believe that the Bible is true, that people are sinners, that God sent the perfect God-man, Jesus Christ, to redeem us from our sins, and that we are charged with spreading that message and reforming society.

Believers are God’s ambassadors here on earth, called to be salt and light in the world and to the world. When we follow our calling, individuals are transformed and societies with them. Our country is failing because too many believers have abandoned this calling.

They began abandoning it in earnest in the 1920’s. That’s when an anti-intellectual movement called fundamentalism led believers to separate from society rather than reform it, and to bifurcate life into two separate spheres—the sacred and secular. Reason was given up for emotionalism, and only activities that directly saved souls were deemed sacred. Everything else was considered secular. Careers in clergy and missions were glorified at the expense of everything else. That led too many believers to leave public education, the media, law, and politics in the hands of the unbelievers. Is it any wonder why those areas of our culture now seem so Godless? Take the influence of God out, and that’s what you get.

Secularizing public education has been the key to our nation’s moral demise. Once public education went secular, the rest of society eventually did, especially when the products of that system became our leaders. As Abraham Lincoln once observed, “The philosophy of the schoolroom in one generation will be the philosophy of the government in the next.”

The philosophy of the schoolroom is atheistic. The question of God’s existence—the most important question regarding how we should live—is not studied or debated in our public schools. Atheism is just assumed to be true and with it moral relativism. That’s a major reason why immorality dominates our schools and why our kids know more about political correctness than truth. It’s also why we have a new generation of voters more enamored with “hope and change” than defending our changeless rights from an overreaching government. G. K. Chesterton’s observation about Russia has come true here, “Once abolish the God, and the government becomes the God.”

How did this happen? In the early 1960’s, the Supreme Court, consisting of newly trained secularists, banned devotional Bible reading in our schools (apparently, for the 180 years before that, people just didn’t understand the Constitution!). That decision, and several others, has stifled virtually any mention of God or the Bible in our public schools. In effect, the most influential book in the history of the world is ignored in our educational system. What kind of a quality education is that? It’s certainly not what the folks who settled this land had in mind for public education. In fact, the first public school in the new world began as a result of the “Old Deluder Satan Law.” That 1647 Massachusetts law established the school to teach kids how to read the Bible so that old deluder Satan could not deceive them.

Likewise, most of our first universities were established to teach and propagate a complete Christian worldview. Harvard’s charter read, “Let every Student be plainly instructed, and earnestly pressed to consider well, the main end of his life and studies is, to know God and Jesus Christ which is eternal life (John 17:3) and therefore to lay Christ in the bottom, as the only foundation of all sound knowledge and Learning.”

The founders of Harvard knew that all truth is God’s truth. There is no bifurcation between the sacred and the secular. According to the Bible, every vocation, every discipline, and every person is sacred. Nothing is secular. In sharp contrast, those running our country now say that everything is secular. That’s a long way from our founding.

“So what?” you say. “Who cares about morality and God?”

That’s exactly the problem: Who does care? When the church separates from society, it takes its moral influence with it. But respect for the moral principles upon which out nation was founded—life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness—is essential to its survival. Our founders knew this.

Following the Constitutional convention, a woman asked Benjamin Franklin what kind of government he and his fellow founding fathers created for the nation. Franklin replied, “A republic, if you can keep it.”

Franklin knew that freedom must always be defended; that the unalienable rights for which our founding fathers pledged “their lives, fortunes and sacred honor,” were never secure unless an informed electorate held their representatives accountable to uphold those moral rights.

Recognizing that only a religious and moral people will maintain a good government, George Washington declared in his farewell address, “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, Religion and Morality are indispensable supports.” His successor, John Adams, wrote, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” In other words, even the best Constitution cannot prevent immoral people or politicians from destroying a nation. That’s why the church cannot abandon its calling. But it has.

So if you’re a believer who is upset that life is not being protected; that marriage is being subverted; that judges routinely usurp your will; that our immigration laws are being ignored; that radical laws are passed but never read; that mentioning God in school (unless he’s Allah) results in lawsuits; that school curriculums promote political correctness and sexual deviance as students fail at basic academics; that unimaginable debt is being piled on your children while leftist organizations like Planned Parenthood and ACORN receive your tax dollars; and that your religion and free speech rights are about to be eroded by “hate” crimes legislation that can punish you for quoting the Bible; then go look in the mirror and take your share of the blame because we have not obeyed our calling.

Then start over. Reengage at every level of society. Treat every job and every person as sacred. Be a beacon for Christ and truth in whatever you do and wherever you are. There is hope if you act. After all, we believe in redemption.

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