From an E-Mail sent by Lou Engle’s TheCall on April 12th:
Abraham Lincoln said, “The philosophy of the classroom in one generation will be the philosophy of the government in the next.” Regarding Senate Bill 48, the next few weeks will decide what California students will learn, which according to Lincoln will guide the thinking of our future government. As Gettysburg was considered the high water mark of the civil war, this very well could be the Gettysburg of American education regarding the issue of homosexuality.
This bill will affect nine million children and parents in public schools. The implications of this one bill are monumental and I believe the voice of the churches must be heard in this critical hour.
President, TheCall to Conscience
What is Senate Bill 48?
“California Senate Bill number 48, now tracking its way through the legislature, would change the teaching of core academic subjects into a ‘celebration’ of gay, lesbian, transgender and bisexual lifestyles. This profound change in the basic education of children would be mandatory, without involvement or opt-out rights of parents.”
What is at stake?
SB 48 still passed the Senate Education Committee but there’s still time to stop this bill in the assembly and senate that SaveCalifornia.com calls “the worst school sexual indoctrination ever,” forcing nine million California children to learn about homosexuality at an early age with no opt-out rights for parents.
What is most alarming about this bill is that if it passes, parents will have no rights over what their children learn in public schools regarding their sexuality. This is total discrimination against religious liberties and parents’ rights to teach their children morals.
Furthermore, Dr. Miriam Grossman, an author and child psychiatrist for over 20 years, presented well-researched evidence that introducing elementary and junior high school students to homosexuality will cause gender confusion and misidentification as a homosexual because they are still in the stage of gender and identity formation.
Also, because California is the largest consumer of textbooks, what goes into California’s textbooks will most likely go into the rest of the nation’s textbooks. This could effect what all public schools will teach across the nation!
ConcernedParentsUnited.com goes on to say:
“What we all do, or fail to do, in the next few weeks will determine whether or not California’s school children will be subject to homosexual textbooks and curriculum for years to come! Your help is needed to fight this bill every step of the way at every committee hearing and every vote.”
Three steps to stop SB 48
1. Please pray that God would do a miracle and stop the passage of this bill.
2. If you are a California resident and you want to stop this bill, please go to the following website to let your representatives know your stance. It only takes a minute: http://capwiz.com/legislativecenter/issues/alert/?alertid=27189501
3. It is vitally important for us to vote and put those who will truly represent us into office. If we don’t vote, we won’t be represented, period.
To watch the video of last week’s hearing at the Senate Education Committee, visit www.calchannel.com. To hear Sarah Yang’s powerful testimony, skip to 28:45 in the video
Posted in Law & Politics, News Tagged with: california, government, homosexuality, Lou Engle, the church, thecall, transgender
“…. you are still fleshly. For since there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not fleshly, and are you not walking like mere men?” -1 Cor. 3.3
Paul received word from a messenger that there were all kinds of divisions and unhealthy comparisons seething in the church at Corinth. The schisms were rampant, and men were identifying with different apostles as their source, thinking themselves more spiritual because of that supposed identification. Some were even naive enough to make themselves superior to all the others because they were “of Jesus” Himself, hoping perhaps that this would put them in a more spiritual category than all!
All of this jealousy and comparison stems from an inadequate revelation of the supremacy of Christ, and the fact that in Him we have all been justified and “accepted in the Beloved.” We need oft to be reminded that His kingdom is not of this world. Paul went on to address this foolishness by declaring:
“So then let no one boast in men. For all things belong to you, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or things present or things to come; all things belong to you, and you belong to Christ; and Christ belongs to God.” (vv. 21-23)
The jealousy and strife that most believers deal with is not the overt kind we see in the Corinthian church, though even that is all too common today. The jealousy most saints are gripped and paralyzed by is more subtle and inward. We see someone in a more esteemed position than ourselves and we are gripped with a sense of inferiority. We hear of men who do great exploits, exploits of the kind that we’ve never come close to experiencing, and immediately we are seized with insecurity and depressions.
This is a pitiful state to live in, yet because of it’s subtlety most believers are fixed in a place where the inner-man is walled in on every side, kept from the experience of the love of God, and set into a mode of dullness. Insecurity and the sense of inferiority give way to poisonous lies, and before we know it, we are harboring secret bitternesses toward others, though they have done nothing to offend or injure us. The only cure for self-consciousness, the sense of inferiority, and the subtle jealousies that bind is a fresh revelation of Jesus Christ, who is the Head of the Church, which is His Body.
When at once we realize that “all things” and all believers belong to us, that they are gifts to us, our eyes are removed from our own plight and brought into an awareness of the marvelous generosity of God. When we realize that He is coming with recompense and reward, and that His glory and light will permeate the entire cosmos, what is a little petty comparison? When we see His glory and majesty, these jealousies are exposed as demonic and anti-christ. When we are washed thoroughly in mind and heart by the revelation of Christ, all things are made new. We have liberty to bless all men, even if we differ with them, and to have an authentic desire for their spirits to prosper. After all, we “belong to Christ; and Christ belongs to God.” Is there any greater identification than that?
Posted in The Kingdom of God Tagged with: apostles, corinthian church, foolishness, jealousy, Jesus, Jesus Christ, love, love of God, Paul, Revelation, the church, visions
“Behold, to the Lord your God belong heaven and the heaven of heavens, the earth with all that is in it; yet the Lord set his affection to love your fathers and chose their descendants after them, you above all peoples, as at this day.” -Deut. 10.14-15a
The subject of God’s love is not a syrupy, flighty, or hollow subject. It is not the stuff of spiritual lightweights, nor is it a distraction from the weightier matters of Scripture. His love is not merely an attribute to be considered, nor is it a mere compartment among His many traits. It is not a cheap and fluffy revelation, but the very essence of who the Lord of history is.
The love of God is a vast reality, and it has ever and always been bound to His personality and purposes. A Biblical understanding of the love of God is absolutely foundational to the life of the Church, and if we have yet to know Him as the One who “sets His affections to love” us, we have yet to know Him as He is.
The Deuteronomic writer paints with a broad brush in these two verses, and I wonder if they strike our hearts as they must have struck his.
Verse 14 tells of the greatness of God as Creator and Ruler of the entire created order, and of heaven itself. He is high and lifted up, far above the peak of the highest mountain, transcending in every way the greatest of earthly kings and the most powerful of angelic beings. The earth belongs to Him, and “all that is in it.” We cannot wrap our minds around His greatness and glory, we can only ascribe the honor to Him in worship, and be swallowed up in wonder at His Person.
But in that great sweep of awe and transcendence, the writer reminds the children of Israel that the Lord has “set His affection to love” their forefathers, and that the chosenness of the fathers was also upon them as a nation. In that chosenness, it was not only the commandments that applied to them, but the setting of His very affection and love as well.
Could they believe, in the trial of the wilderness, with blisteringly hot winds against them, that the concentrated affections of God Himself had been directed toward them? Unfortunately, most of them could not. But He remains the same, and His heart is still set towards the sons of men, with desire to cleanse, redeem, and show His love to them in remarkable ways.
There are notes of His pure and fervent love sounded throughout the Scriptures, from the patriarchal times right through to the prophets, most notably Hosea, and it reaches a climax in the revelation of Jesus Christ in the New Covenant. Israel, as a people, has a great bulls-eye on it’s chest, and the arrow of His affections will one day hit it’s mark in an everlasting way, when all at once she has been purged and redeemed in the Day of the Lord.
Remarkable for the Church, which is mostly made up of Gentiles, is that we have been “grafted” into the same covenantal glory with God. Through Israel, most pointedly through a Jewish Man called Jesus, we have been inducted and adopted into the understanding that God has set His affections to love us. Do we believe it? Have we a consciousness, in the midst of emotional collapses, failures, and wilderness times, that He has set His affections to love us?
Have we an awareness that it is not only the great heroes of the faith that He loves, but that His heart is set toward us as well, not only to command and call us, but to love? Dear saint, you are indeed a “wild olive shoot,” a vessel not yet totally formed, but you have been grafted into the full revelation of God’s affections and love, and this has always been His intention and desire. Ask the Lord for a greater perception of His set affections towards you.
From that tender place, the mighty light of His love will shine in your soul, and you will “circumcise your heart, and stiffen your neck no longer.” You will fear and love the Lord God of Israel with all your heart, and everything will be made new.
Many generations ago, He set His affections to love the fathers of Israel, and in this generation, He has set His affections to love you. This is no small thing, and to come into this understanding is to “taste of the powers of the age to come.” Bask in that reality, and you will walk in “newness of life.”
Posted in The Kingdom of God Tagged with: angelic beings, israel, love of God, Reality, Revelation, Scripture, the church, The Earth, wilderness
“Just as the Father has loved Me, so I have loved you. Abide in My love.” -Jn. 15.9
Some years ago, I was in the home of a beloved servant of God by the name of Art Katz. We were discussing the need for a kind of preaching and proclamation that would not merely inform the people of God, but lift them into a greater inner-awareness of His love. He made a comment that struck my heart, and I am feeling it’s reverberations especially today. This is what he said:
The Church is suffering from a chronic sense of inferiority, and they need to be built up in the reality of His love. We need to come into the realization that we’ve been “accepted in the Beloved.”
So many believers are “suffering from a chronic sense of inferiority,” and the opportunities for insecurity, self-consciousness, and anxiety are around every corner, particularly in a Western culture that is so status-driven. The powers of darkness have always worked overtime to keep the saints from a sustained and abiding experience of the favor and love of God. They have worked thousands of years at mastering the art of destroying the lives of men, and nowhere have they been more successful than in their plan to bind men in strife after worldly acceptance, while robbing them of the awareness of God’s desire to secure them in His love.
Billboards and magazines pin women into the corner of striving for external beauty, commercials and other media venues trap men in the pursuit after bigger trucks and better homes, and the options are voluminous for all types of searching after acceptance from others. Even in the religious world, many are jockeying for a position in ministry that would feed their ‘spiritual’ egos, and so many leaders are eaten up by a desire for numerical growth in their congregations and the popularity of their ministries. Individual strife for a spiritual reputation is also common in the Body, with jealousy and envy dominating so many souls who are wanting to establish a “form of godliness” without the reality of His power and love. We are comparing ourselves to others, living in an earthbound manner, and our vision of Jesus Christ is suffering as a result of it. We want approval from men, and it is that fallen desire that robs us from experiencing the heavenly approval that the Father longs to give.
“How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and you do not seek the glory that is from the one and only God?” (Jn. 5.44)
Across the board, we humans are being consumed by a sense of inferiority to someone or something, and it all stems back to the fact that we have not adequately received and abided in the love of God Himself.
Can we fathom that He does not regret having brought us into the Kingdom? That we are not a part of some “inferior” segment of the Body of Christ? That we have nothing to prove to Him, nothing to perform in the aim of earning His love, and that He is kind and compassionate toward us not because of our spiritual performance, but because that is who He is?
We need to commit the rest of our days to pursuing a greater understanding and awareness of His love toward us. He has declared that He loves us “just as” the Father loves Him. Hear Him, dear saint! His affections are no less profound toward you than they were toward Moses, Paul, Brainerd, Whitefield, or any other great soul. Oh, that we would be awakened to the reality of His constant and unfading love, and that it would be more for us that a theological category; rather, an abiding experience as our hearts are more and more surrendered to His.
The more I study the New Testament and live the Christian life, the more convinced I am that our fundamental difficulty, our fundamental lack, is the lack of seeing the love of God. It is not so much our knowledge that is defective but our vision of the love of God. Thus our greatest object and endeavor should be to know Him better, and thus we will love Him more truly.
(D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, as quoted in God’s True Love by David Harwood; 2008, p. 22)
The pursuit after acceptance from men is a deathly roller-coaster ride, and it will not end until you still your heart before the Lord, and learn to receive the love of God Himself. Jesus Christ has already declared that He loves you just as the Father has loved Him, but your reception of that love is not automatic. You must push your way past the multitudinous voices that press for your attention, “be still and know” that a much profounder love is being poured from heaven. All other voices lead to the fading glory of self, but the voice of the Lord is “above the waters,” and it leads to His eternal glory, which is “life forevermore.”
Dear believer, you need not to be jerked and pulled by the opinions, compliments, and criticisms of men. You need not to be plagued with a sense of inferiority and a burning desire to be accepted by others. The undying and unwavering love of God Himself is available to you, for the cross of Jesus Christ has torn the veil of separation on your behalf. Turn from sin and strife for acceptance, and let your heart be stilled in the place of prayer. There you will hear His voice and receive from the well of His love, and your joy will be made full. And from that holy place, He will give you grace to live amongst men with a whole new consciousness, abiding in the love of God Himself, “accepted in the Beloved One.”
Posted in Featured Articles, The Kingdom of God Tagged with: art katz, beauty, David Harwood, inferiority, love, love of God, Ministry, proclamation, the church
“Therefore, those who had been scattered went about preaching the word.” -Acts 8.4
A man’s adherence to a doctrine or Christian theme in an ideal religious atmosphere can be a very dubious thing. When we are in our preferred sanctuaries, listening to our preferred worship songs, and standing alongside our preferred co-members, there is little to test the reality of the faith that we profess.
Western Christianity, which usually functions along utilitarian, humanistic, and convenient lines, is radically removed from the kind of gritty and authentic faith that was the experience of the early Church. If all the glitter and all the facades were removed, we would find in the Church a corporate character quite different than what we may have appreciated and even boasted of when we could only see on a surface level.
The line of inward consecration has been deviated from, the experience of raw faith in the realm of actual life has not been a chief emphasis, and the overall condition of truth and reality has been too infrequently realized by the best of our Church going members.
The depth and profundity of our life in God is not revealed amidst the choruses and events as much as it is revealed when the press of everyday experience is bearing down upon us.
When Saul of Tarsus spearheaded the movement of persecution against Jewish believers in the first century, a great scattering took place. But what was the response of these saints who had been displaced, losing their homes and their possessions while simultaneously being disowned by their own relatives?
“Therefore, those who had been scattered went about preaching the word.”
What would our response have been?
When the real press of life bears down upon us, when conflict increases and opposition arises against us, it is in that moment that we see the degree to which our hearts have been given to Jesus Christ. It may not be in a city-wide persecution against the saints, though I’m convinced that those kinds of realities are likely to increase in the Western world.
It may be in the press of financial challenge, or being misunderstood by a family member, or being falsely accused at work, or being touched with depression or confusion about life or calling. It may be in some other pressing issue; something minor like a bad look from a brother in the Church, or something heavier like some type of life tragedy. Whatever the press may be, the manner of our response is itself the revelation of our true character. Our mouths and minds will reveal the real state of our hearts.
These saints, when displaced and disowned, hated and rejected, went into the uttermost parts of the earth proclaiming that Jesus Christ was crucified and raised up, for their view of life was not earthbound, but preeminently God-centered. We need to be delivered from the power of self-centric living, and lifted into the heights of true worship, where the line of consecration is drawn in truth and reality, and where God gets the glory out of the nit and grit of our everyday lives.
The apostles knew no other brand of the faith than that which was lived upon the lines of total inward consecration to Jesus Christ, and that is why “great glory” attended their lives. Do we wish for some cheaper brand of Christianity?
Posted in The Kingdom of God Tagged with: Acts, calling, character, consecration, faith, preaching, the church, Western Christianity, worship
It is a great tragedy that so much of the modern Church in the West has neglected the essential role of the Holy Spirit. In the New Testament, we read about a Church that was completely dependant upon and full of the Holy Spirit. His power and guidance was evident everywhere. The Church was born in Pentecostal fire and the concept of a church without the all-pervading presence of the Holy Spirit would have been totally unimaginable and foreign to them.
In Acts 6:1-5 we read that the early Christians noticed that there was a weakness in their administrative system (some of the widows were being overlooked in the daily ministration). Sensing the obvious, that it would not be right for the apostles to wait on tables, they looked for lay-workers who could attend to the day-to-day business of the congregation.
I want you to notice what the leadership was looking for in these table-waiters; in addition to having integrity and wisdom, they were required to be full of the HOLY GHOST! This does not mean that they could say “Shouldaboughtahonda” a few times. Look at what it says about one of these waiters that, “Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and miracles among the people.” Now THAT is being full of the Holy Ghost! “But you shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you…” (Acts 1:8)
Often the gifts and miracles have been thought of as being intended only for a small group of elite Christians with big ministries and full-time preaching careers. But in the early Church, even the ushers were walking in this power! Why? Because they were all filled with the Holy Ghost. Power was part in parcel of the Christian experience. It was for the layman, for the businessman, for the blue-collar and white-collar workers. It was for everyone! The power of the Holy Spirit was not considered something extraordinary, but something normal and expected. Today the unfortunate reality is that many people think it is a rare gift if their pastor has integrity and wisdom…forget being full of faith and demonstrating miracles.
How is it possible that so many have taken the model given in Scripture and devolved into something so foreign? The power and fullness of the Holy Spirit is so basic to Christianity. It is the foundation, the DNA and the premise of all that follows. Stephen was not an apostle. He was only a waiter. But even Stephen was full of faith and power. Even Stephen demonstrated great wonders and miracles among the people. Even Stephen needed this power…to serve tables. May this thought convict every pastor, every evangelist, every full-time minister as well as every “lay” church member. If even Stephen needed the power of the Holy Spirit…so do we!
Posted in The Kingdom of God Tagged with: apostle, evangelist, Holy Spirit, miracles, New Testament, Scripture, stephen, the church
I have been in countless church services throughout my life. I grew up in the church. Mainly, the ‘charismatic/Pentecostal’ circles. So believe me when I say I have experienced many different things. I’ve been on foreign missions trips and ministered in various churches in the region where I currently live (Charlotte, NC) and growing up (Lancaster, PA). During these services, I’ve experienced some really awesome things like prodigals coming ‘back home’, the sick healed, the lost finding Jesus. I’ve experienced a lot of interesting ‘manifestations of the Holy Spirit’. Some quite bazaar to your natural mind. All that to say that I’ve been around the proverbial block.
And can you believe that all that stuff really doesn’t satisfy? I mean, all the above is really neat and interesting and it gives you some awesome stories to tell around the dinner table or some awesome conversation pieces. But I don’t think that when I stand before God on Judgment Day, He’s going to be asking about that. I don’t think that it’s something that is of importance to God. Yeah, He’s proud of me for being a son and pursuing Him. But it’s more about a relationship between me and Him that He’s concerned about.
A number of years ago, I was asked to speak at a youth retreat. So in the time leading up to it, I was praying and asking the Lord what was on HIS heart for this event. I wanted to preach a good “revolution” message, rally the troops, that sort of thing. But during the prep time, it just wasn’t coming together. I had a few notes and some awesome compilations I thought would be neat to share. But it still wasn’t coming together. The morning of, I was sitting in a room with two of my friends who came to help minister and the speaker from the previous night, Steve Hoffman. Steve looked at me at one point in time and said “Shawn, these kids have grown up in church. They know all the right things, they know all the rules. But most of them have never had an encounter with God Himself to make a difference in their life.” Those words went like a dart right into my heart.
That morning, the Lord gave me John 15. I quickly read it and knew somewhat of where I was going. We can have all the services we want; you can do all the conferences you want. But when there is no intimacy with the Lord, I wonder at how much of a difference all that is going to make. People nowadays are crying out to be heard. They’re crying out to feel needed and wanted. They’re crying out for relationships! They’re crying out for a depth of a reality! They’re open to the supernatural and wanting to see if the church has anything to offer more than just meetings and hype and a whole lot of talk. I think that many people want to see if we as the church can put actions to our words.
Let me take a step back here really quickly. There is nothing wrong with church services and meetings and programs necessarily. But when that is replacing a true intimacy with the Lord, it gets scary. Whether you attend a small house church or a community church or a mega church, that isn’t the point here. My question to you is do you know the Lord in a deeply personal way? Do you have a life giving relationship with Him? I know that at times its hard to pray and hard to read the Bible. Sometimes you may have those times where you feel like all the prayers you pray and the Bible reading you’re doing isn’t amounting to anything. But it does make a difference. Remember, a relationship takes work. There really is no cookie cutter way for it. There are emotions and feelings involved.
A number of years ago while in Bible school, the leaders decided to shut the school down for a couple days and just have a time of prayer and fasting. I was noticing a difference in the direction of the school and it was starting to concern me just a bit. This school was known for its revolutionary mentality and it seemed like we were getting soft. And then it dawned on me: maintaining intimacy in the church truly is a revolutionary idea! As I said earlier, being in different churches I have seen a lot. All these programs that were in effect didn’t seem that productive. The church was being more influenced by the world rather than the other way around. The saints weren’t being equipped for the work of the ministry. It seemed like a lot of it was a one man show done by the pastor or leader of the church.
I remember one time, I was having ice cream with an elder in a church. I simply looked this gentleman in the eyes and asked “Can you name me one time when you had a life changing encounter with the presence of God?” He sat there for a bit and eventually just shook his head no. My heart broke for this guy. You can have all the proper theology and it’s important to know the Word of God! But is it coming out of a heart attitude that says “I NEED to do this” rather than “I WANT to do this”? Sometimes, the hardest thing to do is take a theological truth and turn it into an experiential reality.
Take this as an encouragement to develop and maintain true intimacy with the Lord. The Bible says that we’ll be known by our fruits. One of the best ways, if not the best, is to spend that time with Him. Since each person is different, it’s going to look different for each and every person. Dig into the Bible and ask the Holy Spirit to show you how to cultivate that intimacy with Him.
Posted in The Kingdom of God Tagged with: charlotte, emotion, intimacy, judgment, prayer, Reality, supernatural, the church, the Holy Spirit
Wayne Hobson wrote a piece on Dr. Brown and the Coalition of Conscience for the Charlotte Baptist Examiner on the subject “Does God Hate Gays?” His series of articles looks at how various Charlotte groups view the GLBT community, and chose Dr. Brown and the COC to represent an “opposing, yet compassionate message,” comparing and contrasting our group with the approach of others that bring a hateful and arrogant tone such as Fred Phelps and his Westboro Baptist Church. Hobson writes:
We will present two views on the gay community. The first view is that of church groups and organizations in Charlotte that represent a conservatively opposing, yet compassionate message.
The second view is that of complete intolerance and rejection of the LGBT community.
Dr. Brown and the Coalition have been a strong voice of opposition to activities that to many, is a sign of moral decay in the Charlotte area. I chose Dr. Brown as a representative of the first viewpoint on the gay community because it was his group, the Coalition of Conscience, that protested the Charlotte [Gay] Pride celebration back in July.
During an interview for the article, the author asked Dr. Brown a pointed question concerning God’s emotions toward the GLBT community:
Q. How do you think God feels about the gay/lesbian community?
A. Dr. Brown: “God loves all people. He sent His Son and Jesus died for them. The same God opposes sins and calls people to repent… But we [the Church community] must do better to convey God’s love. Many gays have felt that they are rejected by the church and given no hope.. [Many gay people] have been hurt and wounded by those professing Christ. If anyone wants to do harm to them [LGBTs], they’ll have to go through me”.
“If anyone wants to do harm to them, they’ll have to go through me” is a bold declaration that shows no hint of any hatred for the LGBT community. In fact, I’ve talked to a number of gay rights opposers over the years and none of them have stated that they would protect gay people while opposing gay activities like Dr. Brown has.
Throughout our 25 or so minute conversation, I sensed no hatred or anger towards the gay community. Instead, I only sensed compassion and conviction.
“Compassion and conviction” are two adjectives that permeate the lives of Jesus followers everywhere. Let’s come out of the closet, and let the world know this is who we really are and how we really feel. Fred Phelps and his Westboro “community” may have their message, but we have ours. Let’s get that message of God’s love into our community!
Posted in News, Revolution & Justice Tagged with: charlotte, Coalition of Conscience, Dr. Michael Brown, emotion, examiner, Fred Phelps, gay activism, interview, Jesus, protest, sin, the church, Wayne Hobson
The Angel in Acts 11 told Cornelius to send for Peter “Who shall tell thee words, whereby thou and all thy house shall be saved.” There is an incredible power in words. James says that “Life and death are in the power of the tongue…” and in no context is this more explicit then in the preaching of the Gospel. On Peter’s words hung the eternal destinies of Cornelius and his entire family. What a solemn and most severe responsibility we have to communicate the Gospel with clarity and irresistible persuasion.
In Matthew 13:19, Jesus is telling the parable of the sower. He says, “When anyone hears the word of the kingdom, and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is the one on whom the seed was sown by the way side.” This is what I call, “Way-Side Evangelism”. Some preachers preach to hear themselves talk. Paul said that the time would come when people would want their ears tickled, but I think some preachers only care about tickling their own ears. These “Way-Side” preachers are infatuated with their own brilliance and charmed by their own eloquence. They love to impress people with their deep insight and advanced theological understanding. Meanwhile those listening to their message are as confused as a rabbit at an Easter egg hunt. What good is a message like that!? Preacher – save your cacophony of hermeneutical mendacity for the elephant-waxing tournament! We want to understand The Message!
Jesus said that when a person hears our message, but cannot understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. The Gospel is salvation articulated. If the world could only understand it, I am sure that they would find it utterly irresistible. But if we don’t make it plain someone listening to our message might walk right past the narrow gate to eternal life and never know that they missed it! It happens everyday…what a crime. We must not give the Devil an opportunity to snatch the seed away by preaching a Gospel that is confusing or hard to understand. When we preach with clarity, with poignancy and with precision, we stomp on the Devil’s grubby, pilfering fingers, the sown Word takes root and produces fruit that will remain in the lives of those to whom we minister.
Arriving on the Battlefield
I would be remiss, if I failed to address the other, equally significant side of this coin. It is not only the message that is important, but also the medium. For much of the world’s history the major medium for communicating thoughts and ideas was verbal transmission; anecdotes and parables passed down from one generation to another. This began to change however around time of the Protestant Reformation. Neil Postman points out that, 1“Beginning In the sixteenth century, a great epistemological shift had taken place in which knowledge of every kind was transferred to, and made manifest through the printed page. ‘More than any other device,’ Lewis Mumford wrote of this shift, ‘the printed book released people from the domination of the immediate and the local;…print made a greater impression than actual events…To exist was to exist in print…’ 2” The Church was on the cutting edge of this shift with the very first printed book being the Gutenberg Bible. The following generations would see the Bible translated into more than 1,000 different languages and become the best selling book of all time.
In our generation there is another shift occurring. Today, electronic forms of communication are the dominant voice in the world. In the U.S. nearly 100% of households have a television and on average each dwelling has more than 2. More than a trillion Internet URLs are in indexed with Google alone, which performs over 2 billion searches daily. Consider that if Facebook were a nation, it would be the 8th largest in the world with over 150 million members. Everyday over 100 million videos are viewed on You Tube and the list goes on. In America we have seen a striking example of the power of electronic media in our recent presidential election. It has been said that President Obama won the election, 3“because he understood new media.”
A couple of years ago the Lord spoke to me and said, “Every generation has a battlefield. If the Church fails to arrive on that battlefield, she will loose that generation. Your generation’s battlefield is the world of media.” President Obama showed up in that battlefield and won because his opponent didn’t even know what the battlefield was. Francis Schaeffer said, “Each generation of the church in each setting has the responsibility of communicating the gospel in understandable terms, considering the language and thought-forms of that setting.” Our responsibility of making the Gospel understandable goes beyond simply saying the right words…it demands that we show up in the right forum. As a street preacher I used to look for the most populated place in town to go preach…a park or a street corner, anywhere the people were. I would have been an idiot to set my soap-box up in an deserted parking lot.
Not only must we communicate in a way that the people can understand. We must also take the Gospel to where the people are! Can I tell you where they are? They are in front of the Television and the radio and the computer. But for too long we have downplayed and even demonized these electronic communication mediums. And even those who have taken advantage of them, for the most part, have done so poorly (don’t get me started on Christian television). How can we win the battle, if we are not on the battlefield? How can we reap a harvest if we are not on the harvest field? Reinhard Bonnke says, “If you want to catch fish, don’t throw your net into the bathtub.” The seed of the Gospel is too consequential to be cast by the way side.
In the days of oral tradition, many generations faithfully communicated, with solemn commitment, the scriptures that we still cherish today. In fact it is evident that Biblical oral tradition has been among the most enduring in history. In the sixteenth century, the new world of printed literature was dominated by Christians who seized this medium for God’s glory. Now it’s our turn and I fear that we are not doing as well as our predecessors. We must trouble ourselves to communicate the Gospel with clarity to our generation where they are that we “…may by all means win some.”
1 Postman, Neil. Amusing Ourselves to Death. New York: Penguin Group 1986
2 Mumford, Lewis. Technics and Civilization. New York: Harcourt, Brace and World 1934
3 Lewin, James. http://www.podcastingnews.com/2009/04/16/
Posted in Culture Tagged with: evangelism, internet, Knowledge, media, Obama, preaching, reinhard bonnke, television, the church, the Gospel
This is the final part of this particular article on the theme of ‘Apostolic ministry’. I realize that we have only scratched the surface of this theme. However, hopefully we have now begun to take a new look at the term ‘apostolic’, and may it help bring about a fresh move of the Spirit in the day in which we live. We have looked at Jesus, the sending of the 12, OT and NT theology of these ministries, but it would be a culpable omission if we did not take a brief look at Paul, who was a giant amoung apostles, and was ‘sent’ post the ascension of Jesus.
Part 4 – Paul, apostle to the Gentiles.
The great thing about Paul is that he never calls himself ‘the Apostle Paul’ but rather ‘Paul, an apostle…’ For him the name is descriptive of His ministry but never prescriptive, demanding an ecclesiastical credence.
Another, thing about him is that we not only see this apostolic function in his life and mission, but we read insights by virtue of his epistles. Due to the huge scope of His teaching, it is better for me to just state some of the key activities of his which are in keeping with the above, and also some key statements of his in relation to this ministry.
· Chosen / Sent. He was chosen by God from birth, to this ministry – Galatians 1: 11 – 24
· Recognised not promoted / Released not restricted. He was initially found by Barnabus probably with seeds of Apostolic gifting beginning to bare early on; then recognised and sent out by the local church at Antioch, then at a later time acknowledged by Jerusalem / Wider Church body. (Acts 12, 13 & Galatians 1) Therefore, he probably began manifesting this gift before full recognition came later on. Thus it is important that an apostolic ministry must be revealed to the man first with his immediate peers by the Holy Spirit. This enables him to function as part of a team in that ministry without restriction but with covering (Acts 12: 25.) As that ministry develops and widens, it is then recognised among the wider body of Christ, as with Paul at Jerusalem. NOTE: The later recognition should be recognition of what already exists in function. It is not to prescribe a promotion to higher office, which only then allows such ministry to take place. However, it is obvious that Paul’s initial freedom was borne out of an acceptance of his ministry in Antioch, and carried into the communities he planted rather than those he did not – i.e. Jerusalem. (See 1 Corinthians 9: 1 – 2) His wider recognition came later, and would have enabled other churches that had little to do with him or his ministry to accept him as such.
· Missions. The heart of his ministry was apostolic missionary (1 Timothy 2: 7), in proclamation to the Gentiles of the Good news, teaching, debating, demonstrating the power of the Kingdom of God, discipling believers, ordaining elders and church fatherly aftercare.
· Team. He worked in a team. Barnabus, Silas, John Mark, Timothy, Titus (Plus 20 others at least at different times) It is evident that as well as working in harmony with other 5 fold ministry gifting, he also saw and worked with other apostolic ministries beyond himself. (Romans 16: 7) No ‘apostle’ should display a ‘sanctified independence’. Whilst this distinct ministry is in its nature ‘first’ in function, it is not first in importance. (Romans 12) It is better to think of it ‘first’ in terms of its foundational nature, but rightly related to other ministry.
· He built with prophetic ministry in harmony with the apostolic ministry. His explanation of this in Ephesians 2 and 3, gives us theological understanding in light of the OT explanation in the previous installments. Also, we see His work with Silas, and Acts 16 highlighting such ministry. The prophets with the team would bring revelation of God’s purposes and strategy for mission.
· Fathers & Sons. He trained other apostolic ministries in Timothy and Titus, instructing them in Church aftercare and to ordain elders in every city.
· Builder. He worked as a wise master builder and foundation layer (1 Corinthians 3) after the pattern of His Lord and Saviour – Jesus. That which the Lord had demonstrated, Paul would have copied and put into practice through preaching and teaching.
· Suffering and authority. Due to the foundational nature of pioneering and missions for the Kingdom, great authority would have been manifest, yet for Paul death and the cross life was also a part of both Jesus and his own life. (1 Corinthians 4: 9& 2 Corinthians 10 & 11) For him, apostles were like those in the procession of death and persecution in their warfare type role. Jesus had foretold this. Kingdom authority – yes, but with Cross like sacrifice. Servant / slave was a word Paul often used about himself. Without death to self and suffering, he would not continue to rely only on God’s grace and power in ministry. The Cross was the source of authority for him.
· Apostolic revelation. Another dynamic aspect of Paul’s ministry (which we also see in the preaching and teaching of Jesus) is that of bringing apostolic revelation. The Word says that the revelation of the mystery of Christ has ‘now been made known’ by apostles and prophets (Eph 3: 4 &5). Part of the apostolic function is to bring out by the Spirit the deep revelatory truths of God, which will in turn build the people into Christ-likeness, and prepare them for works of service (Eph 4). The apostle as ‘sent one’ is actually bringing an incarnational ministry of Jesus to the people in a small way. When this happens it puts into the people an apostolic DNA which causes body growth, or an apostolic seed which bears fruit. Paul says, ‘Imitate me, as I imitate Christ..’ The more apostolic and prophetic revelation comes to a people, the more a community looks like their King in possession and practice. This kind of revelation is not weird or flaky but it is deep, and Christocentric in substance, nature and power. This then makes a mature body, which in turn prepares men for eldership, and people for service. Then God is glorified through His Son, by the Spirit in His Body!
It goes without saying that Paul won thousands to the Lord; transformed cities or regions; planted many churches by discipleship, laying on of hands for impartation and ordination. Yet, He also was a humble man, a servant, slave and a soldier not counting his life worth anything but obeying every command from Heaven. His one goal was to bring ALL men into the fellowship of the revelation of Jesus Christ. Jesus was Paul’s apostolic vision for the nations (Romans 1) Without claiming such a Pauline status ourselves, should we not be looking for similar hallmarks today in apostolic ministry?
In Conclusion, it is my conviction today many apostolic ministries are to be found in the unknown places on the front line on the mission field among the nations, although that is not exclusively so. Some are called to mission at home. These ministries often are breaking new ground in diverse Kingdom ways and building according to the pattern. There are those who administer with elders in building God’s people. Others having gone through the missional stage of ministry are now ‘fathers’. They have gone through the ‘giving birth to new works’ stage and now provide a fatherly role in care and counsel, as Paul to Timothy. Both ends of the apostolic ministry spectrum are different stages of the same apostolic gifting, but both equally as valid – sons and fathers. I believe there are different kinds of apostolic ministries, according to the variety that is in God’s heart. Some encouragers like Barnabus, some exhorters like Peter, some edifiers like Paul, but all apostles with the distinct features of apostolic commission, calling and fruitfulness.
Ultimately, Jesus Christ is the great Apostle. Let us do as the original 12, 70 and early church did – and make known the revelation of the Son of God until He comes! Amen
Posted in The Kingdom of God Tagged with: apostle, Apostolic Church, art katz, Jesus, Kingdom, Paul, prophets, the church, the Gospel