In this post, I’m stepping out on a limb a bit to share a certain aspect of my life and walk with Christ that, for the most part, only those who are close to me are significantly aware of. When I was first saved in 1978, at age 18, I had the desire to learn to play guitar and use it for worshiping God, privately and in the home fellowship I was a part of. After I learned about three chords, I asked the Lord if He would help me write a song for Him. I didn’t know anything about songwriting, could barely play the guitar, and my lack of ability to carry a tune and sing on key was painfully evident. But I had the faith to believe He could help me. The next day as I was going about my business, I began to sing a little song in my heart. I went and got my guitar and figured out the three chords I needed to play it. Within a very short time, three more verses were added and, voila!, my first song, “Revival”, was written by the grace and inspiration of the Lord!
Over the years, that list of songs has grown to over one hundred, and by His grace, I’ve learned to play a few more chords, and even somewhat be able to carry a tune! 😉 Most of these songs have been expressions of and for my personal devotion to the Lord and for sharing with those I’ve been close to in fellowship. I’ve never done much more with them than that.
Within the past year, I’ve felt the Lord stirring me to be a better steward of this gift and to begin to record a number of them so that they could be shared more broadly with others for their edification. Many of the songs He has inspired me to write are portions of Scripture put to music, which is a wonderful way to enter into the Spirit of God’s Word and for His Word to enter into our spirit.
Recently, I’ve been able to record a number of these and have chosen ones, especially, that have related to blog posts that I’ve published the past few months. I’ve begun attaching them to the bottom of the posts as a further expression and affirmation of their content. I’ve also added them to the permanent section on this blog, Original Poems/Songs, under the Creative Expressions section. (I will be adding additional songs to this section as I am able to, so please check back every so often!)
I wanted to introduce these new additions to the blog by giving a little background and also share the links to the recent posts I felt that they complemented. Each of these songs also have their own separate pages with their lyrics and an mp3 player attached, which are linked below as well.
At the bottom of this post is a playlist/player comprising all eight songs for continuous play. (I was originally planning on only seven, but in writing this post, I thought it might be fun to also include the first song, “Revival”, as well. So, I recorded it and teed it up as the first song on the playlist. 🙂 )
Please know that these are simple, acoustic recordings (just me and my guitar), are not professionally or studio recorded (just a microphone, laptop, and some Audacity software) and are meant for quiet meditation on Scriptural truths. I would ask that you consider listening to them when you have time to quietly soak in the truths of these Scripture-based songs (and, if possible, with headphones or earbuds as that is the best way to enjoy them. 😉 )
Finally, just to cover the legal aspect, although these songs are copyrighted, please feel free to use them for personal and in small group settings if you so desire. I ask that they notbe shared over the internet except by linking directly to this post or other page(s) on this blog where they are posted (see below.) Thank you for respecting that! (If anyone would like chord sheets or possibly further permissions, you may contact me at david[at]christcenteredchristianity[dot]com to request such and/or discuss further. Thanks.)
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And so, without further ado, here are the links to the individual pages for each song, along with the posts they have been attached to (for context.)
Below these is the playlist/player of all eight songs!
Ironically, my meditation on God’s “new thing” is not actually a “new thing”. It’s been a part of my understanding of God and how He works from my earliest days of walking with Him. Once we understand the nature of God as being sovereign, of limitless power and creativity, and as “The GOD of the “new thing'” as revealed in creation and Scripture (Part 2), that understanding becomes a part of one’s base-line perception and expectation of who God is and how He works. This has had very practical ramifications for my wife and I as we have walked with God for over forty years and how we’ve sought to serve Him in the building up of His Ekklesia.
As an example of this, some 25 years ago now, my wife and I were led of the Lord to gather a scattered remnant of believers in a certain nearby town. We held foundation-laying “ministry meetings” in a rented hall on Sunday nights for a number of years and eventually included Sunday morning home gatherings as a means of seeking to see birthed an organic expression of His Church in that area. People would ask, “Are you starting a church?” and we would answer, “No, the church is already there. We’re just trying to gather it!”
For many, if not most, our “vision” was something of a “new thing”. It didn’t fit the normal model or mold of what “church” is. It wasn’t institutional/organizational/denominational, Sunday morning/sacred building/service and program oriented. There was no prescripted “order of worship” nor pre-determined “worship sets”. Neither were there weekly bulletins, Sunday school, children’s church, offeratories, ushers, worship team, etc… I didn’t like or want to be called “Pastor”, “Rev.” or any other honorific title (since Jesus said these should not be used among His followers – Matthew 23:8-12), neither was I salaried nor drew a stipend. How could this possibly be “real church???”
What did the vision consist of though? Well, we sought to gather the “living stones” of God’s building together on the foundation of Jesus Christ alone to be a manifest habitation of God in the Spirit! We sought to gather the family of God together in the Name of the Lord, the Name above every name, and not in some sectarian, man-made, lesser name. We sought to gather the Bride together around Her one Husband, Christ, as Her central passion, pursuit, and pleasure…period! We sought to see the Body of Christ assemble under the Headship of Christ as a functioning, many-membered, spiritual organism. Our “vision statement” said: “We seek to see an organic expression of the Church established, according to the heavenly pattern, where God can put His Name, establish His throne, and inhabit with His glory.” And He did!
As an essential part of laying foundations concerning the works and ways of God, I taught a message back then (1995) called, surprise, surprise…“When God Does a New Thing.” Yes, this has been in my “slow cooker” for quite awhile!
Recently I went rummaging through the attic and came across a box with all of the recorded messages from those years on cassette tapes. I’ve been listening through some of them again, this time with a twenty-five-year-distanced perspective. Although I’ve seen some areas where my understandings of things have changed slightly, for the most part, I feel like most of those messages could have been preached yesterday. I attribute that mostly to the fact that I was no less centered in Christ back then than I am now. I was ruined for God’s eternal purpose in Him then, and since that Purpose never changes, neither has my vision nor burden.
So, as something of a “throw-back Thursday” dynamic to this post, I’m including that message in an audio player here (and at the bottom of the post) for your consideration. It ties in perfectly as a continuation to the previous post in this series concerning, “Misapprehension” and goes into greater detail and example as to exactly how we tend to misperceive, misinterpret, and mis-react to God’s “new thing.” In fact, we are given a “template”, as it were, from God Himself on this matter in the oldest book ever written in the Scriptures, the Book of Job.
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“When God Does a New Thing” – by David Bolton 5/14/1995
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For those who prefer to read a synopsis of this “template”, or as a supplement to the spoken message, I will share briefly concerning the basis of this teaching and of the further examples highlighted in it where those principles and perspectives can be seen playing out throughout Scripture.
A Psychological Template for Missing God
The book of Job gives us a very insightful example of men misapprehending God’s “new thing”. In fact, on close inspection, it presents a rather comprehensive pattern for how human beings in general are most likely to misperceive, misinterpret, and mis-react to God’s unconventional workings. Not only so, it also indicates the God-ordained path to properly apprehending God’s mind in relation to His unprecedented works and ways.
In this ancient narrative, we see God doing a “new thing” in the earth. Here we have a man of whom God Himself says: “There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.” (Job 1:8) The existing theology, life experience, and common understanding among men at the time was that the righteous are blessed with prosperity, health, and a godly household in this life while the wicked are cursed and suffer want in these areas. When suddenly in a day, without warning or explanation, all of those good things are taken from Job, he is slammed into an utterly unprecedented “new thing”!
Three of his friends gather around him and sit with him in silence for seven days and seven nights because of the severity of Job’s sufferings. Then Job begins to pour out his heart to them and they begin to counsel Job, each from their own perspective. As well-intentioned as they are, all three of them miss the mark, however. They all misapprehend the mysterious “new thing” that is transpiring in Job’s life!
If we look closely at each of these men’s “counseling sessions” with Job, we see that they were each coming from a slightly different perspective. As such, they personify a specific psychological framework through which human beings generally perceive, comprehend and project their thoughts and judgements concerning a situation. These frameworks, if separated from and unfiltered by the Lord’s wisdom, can each become a psychological hindrance that will keep one from apprehendingrightly what the Lord is doing. Without going into all the details, we see the following three psychological paradigms represented by their individual perspectives:¹
Eliphaz = the voice of personal experience (natural and spiritual.)
Bildad = the voice of tradition (practical and theological/philosophical.)
Zophar = the voice of dogmatism (rash assessment, assumption and assertion.)
If we look at these more closely, we see that the first two depend entirely on what has been learned and received from “the former things”/“the past.” The first, the voice of personal experience, is what one learns from the past through first-hand experiential knowledge and inward, personal reasoning. The second, the voice of tradition, is what one learns from the past primarily through what is passed down from others, i.e. second-hand and third-hand knowledge and practices.
The third, the voice of dogmatism, does not make a conscious appeal to the past, though it is certainly sub-consciously formed and affected by it. It is what one deduces and asserts without much forethought, analysis, and/or reasoning. Very often such rash assessments, assumptions and assertions are made on the basis of pragmatism, i.e. if it works it is true and/or of value. Therefore, this “voice” can often be more forward looking as to outcomes rather than backwards looking as to sources of wisdom and knowledge, as the other two.
Both backwards-looking perspectives, which rely on first-, second- and/or third-hand knowledge, and forwards-looking ones, which rely on dogmatic assessment, assumption, and assertion, can cause one to misapprehend God’s “new thing.” All three can become psychological strongholdsthat hold our thoughts captive, preventing us from being able to perceive, receive, and respond to the thoughts and ways of God which are higher than our own (Isaiah 55:8-9). Paul the apostle said,
“We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” 2 Corinthians 10:5
If we are ever to be liberated to rightly apprehend God’s “new thing”, we have to deal radically with the emotional arguments and psychological pretensions that come from adherence to “the former things” and from “dwell(ing) on the past”.
As a first concern, we need to bring our past, first-hand experiencesin relation to God, His Churchand His work to the cross and lay them down. As Paul said, “Forgetting those things which are behind…” (Philippians 3:13) Godwill resurrect that which is truly of Him and needful for His present and future work, but this is the only way for us to not be blinded and bound by our past experiences as we seek to be led by and walk in-step with God’s Spirit in His present working.As Solomon said, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths. Do not be wise in your own eyes;” (Proverbs 3:5-7a, emphasis added.)
Secondly, we must consider all of those second- and third-hand religious practices, protocols, and perspectives that have been handed down to usand take those to the foot of the cross as well. Jesus said to the Pharisees and teachers of the Law, “You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions!” “…Thus you nullify the word of God by your traditions that you have handed down. And you do many things like that.” Mark 7:9,13 That propensity lies in the heart of every man and “tradition” has a terribly blinding and binding power that is able to hold us captive from true obedience to the Word and ways of God. (For a fairly exhaustive treatment of this, please see here.)
There are godly traditions that we are exhorted to hold onto and put into practice (see 1 Cor. 11:2; 2 Thess. 2:15, & 3:6 for instance), but Christendom at large has incorporated such a plethora of man-made traditions and practices that it is hard to sort out the “good” from “the bad and the ugly”. Like the Pharisees, we “do many things like that!” Sometimes we need a total purge of all handed down, preconceived ideas, assumptions, and practices and then let the Lord sort out, rescue, and resurrect those things that He esteems, pressntly endorses, and will empower going forward. If we fail to allow the cross deal with these matters deeply, we run a great risk of making false assessments, assumptions and assertions based on our adherence to past traditional perspectives and practices.
By dealing withour past in this way, we will be in a much better posture and place for being in-tune with God’s Spirit and walking forward with Him in His present and future workings.
We, likewise, have to deal with our present and forward-looking perspectives that, similarly, have the power to deceive and make us vulnerable to missing God. At the root of these, I believe, lie two main roots, pride and pragmatism.
Pride causes us to think too highly of ourselves in regard to our own perceptions, understandings, and conclusions. We can make snap decisions and judgements without sufficient knowledge, analysis and/or insight simply because we trust in our own “wisdom”. Proverbs says, “Do you see a person wise in their own eyes, there is more hope for a fool than for them.” (Proverbs 26:12) Pride causes us to miss the mark every time!
Pragmatism filters everything through the supreme arbiter of “outcomes”. It begins at the end of the process of truth and works backwards in a strictly utilitarian manner to arrive at what is ultimately to be accepted as “true”, “virtuous”, and/or of “value”. God, however, begins with the Source of Truth, Virtue, and Value, Himself, and then works forwards from there to outcomes. Those who make dogmatic assessments, assumptions, and assertions based primarily on perceived outcomes, even “spiritual” ones, are bound to misapprehend God and His present/future workings. (For more on this, please see the page, Pragmatism and the Truth.)
Here again, the only safeguard is to bring our prideful thoughts and pragmatic reasonings to the foot of the cross in order to break the power of them over our hearts and minds. Only then can we be positioned rightly to properly apprehend the high thoughts, ways, and works of God.
Knowing the Mind of the Spirit
The Book of Job does not simply leave us with a psychological template of how man is typically vulnerable to missing God, it also gives us the way that the mind and ways of God may be apprehended properly. This is personified in the emergence of a fourth counselor/friend in the story of Job, Elihu. (See Job 32-37)
4. Elihu = the voice of revelation (prophetic utterance.)
Elihu didn’t rely on the wisdom gathered with age from past experiences and handed-down traditions, neither did he speak rashly out of his own self-assured judgements and pragmatic reasonings. Instead, he waited on the Lord in humility and only spoke what the Spirit of Godrevealed within his spirit.
He said to the other three counselors,
“I am young in years, and you are very old; Therefore I was afraid, And dared not declare my opinion to you. I said, ‘Age should speak, And multitude of years should teach wisdom. ‘But there is a spirit in man, And the breath of the Almighty gives him understanding. Great men are not always wise, Nor do the aged always understand justice. “Therefore I say, ‘Listen to me, I also will declare my opinion. ‘Indeed I waited for your words, I listened to your reasonings, while you searched out what to say. I paid close attention to you; And surely not one of you convinced Job, Or answered his words–” (Job 32:6-12, emphasis added.)
Further on he added,
I also will answer my part, I too will declare my opinion. For I am full of words; The spirit within me compels me. Indeed my belly is like wine that has no vent; It is ready to burst like new wineskins. I will speak, that I may find relief; I must open my lips and answer. (Job 32:17-20, emphasis added.)
Finally, near the end of his dissertation, he declared:
“Bear with me a little, and I will show you that there are yet words to speak on God’s behalf. I will fetch my knowledge from afar; I will ascribe righteousness to my Maker. For truly my words are not false; One who is perfect in knowledge is with you” (Job 36:1-4, emphasis added.)
In this, Elihu shows that he was not speaking his own words but the very words of God on His behalf. This is the essence of prophetic ministry. The proof of this is further found in that once Elihu stops speaking to Job and the Lord Himself begins to take up the discourse directly with him, God takes over right where Elihu left off and keeps on speaking along the very same lines concerning the greatness of His wisdom and power as revealed in the created order.
What we can learn from Elihu, therefore, concerning how we may rightly discern and declare the mind of the Lord, especially when He is doing a “new thing”, can be summarized as follows:
Do not rely on your past and the wisdom that comes from age alone.
Remain humble in heart and mind, even allowing others to have their say first.
Listen carefully and be discerningly observant of what is transpiring in God’s providence around you.
Wait on the Lord and seek the wisdom that comes from His Spirit alone.
Allow the Holy Spirit to give you the very words to express the wisdom and burden of God into the situation, even as the apostle Paul said, “This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words.” (1 Corinthians 2:13NIV)
Release God’s wisdom into the present situation with humility, respect, boldness, and clarity.
Trust God to confirm His word by His Spirit, personally and directly, to the hearts of others once you are done speaking.
In this day and hour, it is essential that we have the mind of the Lord to understand our present situation and what God is currently doing and will be doing going forward. May we learn from these four counselors the difference between man’s ways and God’s way of discerning, interpreting, and responding to the present workings of God. May we have “an ear to hear what the Spirit is saying to the churches” (see Rev. 2-3) and then be a mouth-piece for Him to His people that GOD may have HIS way among us!
“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will”
As a final, “throw-back Thursday”, element to this post, I’m including below the message I taught some 25 years ago to a small gathering of believers that elaborates on these truths and gives further examples throughout Scripture of where these dynamics can be seen at work. Please enjoy the original: “When God Does a New Thing!”
To be continued…
¹Ref. Baxter, J. Sidlow, Explore the Book, Grand Rapids MI, Zondervan Publishing House, 1960, Vol. 3, pgs. 45-52
“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.
See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?”
When God spoke to His people concerning the “new thing” He was doing among them, He didn’t jump right in and announce, “Hey, I’m doing a new thing!” He prefaced it first with an exhortation: “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.” There was something concerning their past that needed to be addressed first before He spoke to them concerning their present and future. It is clear from this that in order for them to respond properly to His “new thing”, they had to firstdeal radically with that which would hinder them from doing so and would keep them bound to the “former things.”
The question arises, then, “What is it about the “former things” and “the past” that tend to hinder us from responding properly to God’s ‘new thing’?” That is a very searching and consequential question when it comes to walking with a God as creative and “unconventional” in His ways as our God is! (For more on this, please see the previous post.)
I believe the answer to that question lies along two lines, one personal and the other collective. Both of these are intricately related and equally significant and so I will touch on them both in this post.
The Personal Dynamic
There are multiple ways in which the past tends to shape, form, and guide our mental processes and, therefore, how we perceive, comprehend, and project our thoughts/judgements concerning a present or future matter. These three aspects of perception, comprehension, and projection, which relate to the beginning, middle, and end of our thought processes, can be summed up in a single word “apprehension.”
The Merriam Webster Dictionary’s definition touches on all three of these aspects regarding the verbal form of the word: “apprehend”:
“:to become aware of: perceive” (i.e. perception)
“:to grasp with the understanding: recognize the meaning of” (i.e. comprehension)
“:to anticipate especially with anxiety, dread, or fear” (i.e. projection)
These definitions lie, in a positive way, at the root of the word “apprehension”, which is what we all should be seeking for when it comes to our ability to perceive, comprehend and project our thoughts and judgements properly in relation to the works and ways of God.
The opposite, negative form of this word, “misapprehension”, also needs to be considered in relation to how the past affects our personal (and collective) response to God’s “new thing”.“Misapprehension” signifies a failure to perceive, comprehend, and/or project our thoughts and judgements properly concerning a matter. (More on this shortly.)
When it comes to our mental facility to either apprehend or misapprehend God’s “new thing”, however, we need to understand just how significantly our psychological relationship with the past becomes a primarydetermining factor.
If “the former things” and “the past” were a positive aid to our ability to rightly apprehend God’s “new thing”, then He might have said something like, “REMEMBER the former things, DWELLon the past. These will help you to ‘get’ what I’m about to do. See, I am doing a new thing. Do you not perceive it?” He did not say that, however, but rather the opposite: “FORGET…Do NOT dwell…”
This is because our past has the power to impose psychological hindrances and mental stumbling blocks to our ability to properly recognize and grasp God’s works and ways. Our failure to deal properlywith the past is a, if not the, primary factor in our tendency to misapprehend what God is doing and/or about to do.
If we dig a little deeper into this word, “misapprehension” we see that it very accurately describes the failures of the human psyche to rightly apprehend that which confronts it which is new and unknown.By looking to the Miriam Webster Thesaurus this time, we find two brief, yet significant definitions of the word “misapprehension”:
a failure to understand correctly
a wrong judgement
It then offers a list of synonyms which include: incomprehension, misconstruing, misimpression, misinterpretation, misreading, misunderstanding. All of these are very closely related to and augment the meaning of the word, “misapprehension.”
When God does a “new thing” and we failto deal properly with the past, we set ourselves up to misapprehend what God is presently doing. What tends to ensue is an incomprehension, a misconstruing, a misimpression, a misinterpretation, a misreading, and/or a misunderstanding of the present activity of God. Every one of those words has and will mark the way “the natural man” tends to miss (“mis-“) the spiritual wisdom, ways, and works of God!
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. “As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” Isaiah 55:8-9
“But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” 1 Corinthians 2:14
This is brought out very poignantly in the following excerpt, from T. Austin Sparks, on God’s “new thing” and man’s psychological reaction to it based on the past:
“God is always going to take us out of our depth with His new thing…Now when God moves from heaven in relation to His Son and all those fulnesses which yet lie ahead concerning Him, what do we find? We find that His movements are not according to convention. Let that be settled. God does not move forward according to convention. God’s great movements are always very unconventional movements. God refuses to be put in a box. He demands liberty to take us beyond any limitations that we may impose upon Him. So often convention is God’s main obstruction. The spiritual, the heavenly nature of God’s developing movements is altogether beyond the understanding of men; and because man cannot understand it, he does not believe in it. He doubts it, he questions it, he throws suspicions upon it, he raises issues as to its soundness, if he cannot understand it, and therefore it is not acceptable to man, it is put aside.” (Words of Wisdom and Revelation, page 67)
Notice it is “convention”, i.e. the way something is usually done (i.e as in the past), that becomes the main obstruction to God’s “unconventional movements.”
To give a Biblical example of this, consider how this dynamic was powerfully at work in the Jewish leaders during the time of Christ as they misapprehended the coming of the Messiah in Jesus of Nazareth. God was doing a “new thing” among them by coming as a suffering servant and sacrifical Lamb, rather than a conquering, warrior king. Consider how those two definitions of “misapprehension”, (1. “a failure to understand correctly” and 2. “a wrong judgement”), along with the associated list of synonyms, apply in relation to the psychological processes going on within their minds, and then consider how much of their perceptions, comprehensions, and projections arose out of their reliance on theirpast traditions and experiences.
This example further shows just how vulnerable those are to misapprehending God’s “new thing” who are especially devout and have a long history of walking with God. One might think that those who are most committed to God, His Word, and His work, and for the longest time, would be the least likely to miss the present workings of His Spirit, but this is very often not the case.
In reality, the longer one has been in “the things of God”, the more “former things” there are to “FORGET” and the longer the “past” to “NOT dwell on!” It usually doesn’t get easier with time and experience to be or remain responsive to the fresh movings of God’s Spirit, but more difficult as an increasing religious rigidity and theological inflexibility naturally sets in. As this increases, the life of God within the person becomes progressively restricted and constricted by “a hardening of the arteries”, as it were, caused by the repetitive nature of past routines, habits, conventions, traditions, experiences, low expectations, and the like. Ultimately, a condition I call “religi-mortis” can develop leaving one virtually incapacitated and incapable of perceiving and/or responding to the present movings of God’s Spirit.
The Collective Dynamic
As this is true in the individual, so it is the case in an even greater sense regarding the corporate “wineskins”of the Church. In the collective dynamic, not only do the psychological factors of each individual member aggregate together creating a multiplied, strengthened form of resistance to change, but also the sociological factors of the collective itself begin to increase and multiply. These add to the corporate “wineskin” an even greater dynamic of resilience in the face of change. Over time it becomes nearly impossible for the “conformative matrix” that develops to maintain responsiveness and flexibility to the “unconventional” ways and workings of God.
Here also, the life of God begins to be quenched and choked out through the “cholesterol” of past routines, habits, conventions, traditions, experiences, low expectations, and the like, and a collective form of “religi-mortis” begins to develop. Such a collective will, all but inevitably, misapprehend God’s “new thing” when it comes.
The longer a corporate expression has been in existence and the more established it is, the more this becomes inevitible. Apart from a very deep work of “corporate kenosis” (please see here for further explanation) and the kind of collective preparations described in Part 1 of this series, there is little hope of God obtaining a “new wineskin” to pour His “new wine” into. “Old wineskins” rarely convert back to “new wineskins”, especially when those who comprise and control them collectively say, “the old is better.” (see Luke 5:39)
A. W. Tozer hits the nail on the head in his book, Rut, Rot, or Revival. Consider the folllowing quotes from one section:
The treacherous enemy facing the church of Jesus Christ today is the dictatorship of the routine, when the routine becomes “lord” in the life of the church…
This seems to be the most deadly threat in the church today. When we come to the place where everything can be predicted and nobody expects anything unusual from God, we are in a rut…
Then we have reached the place where what has been determines what is, and what is determines what will be.
…the greatest enemy is not outside of us. It is within – it is an attitude of accepting things as they are. We believe that what was must always determine what will be, and as a result we are not growing in expectation.
“As long as there is growth, there is an air of unpredictability.”
May God show us just how dangerous and treacherous our past history, experiences, and traditions can be, both personally and collectively, when it comes to walking with “the GOD of the ‘new thing'”. May we allow the cross to deal radically with our past so that we can heed God’s strong exhortation and move forward into God’s present purpose and working, for He has said,
“FORGET THE FORMER THINGS; DO NOT DWELL ON THE PAST. See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?”
“My soul, wait thou only upon God, for my expectation is from Him.” Psalm 62:5 KJV
In this post I hope to raise our collective expectation of God’s “new thing” by taking a deeper look at God Himself and His (predictably) unpredictable ways. In Part 1, I began by discussing how we are in the beginning stages of an historic, global, “new thing” and how this world-wide crisis is forcing and even facilitating a radical “new thing” within the Church. I focused, specifically on what is needed in order for us to be inwardly prepared for the titanic global shifts and spiritual transformations that are now being precipitated.
Unless we have a deep understanding of “the GOD of the‘new thing'”, however, we will not be expectant of nor seriously prepare for“the ‘NEW THING’ of God” that is coming. We must raise the level of our collective understanding and expectation, therefore, if we are to take preparation in this hour seriously. To help facilitate this, we can look to both the Divinely-created natural order and the Divinely-inspired Scriptures to lay a firm foundation on which our understanding and expectationof God’s “new thing” may be greatly raised and fully established.
Before we dive into looking at these two sources of revelation (“general” and “special”), however, let’s begin by taking a look at the word “expectation”. The Oxford American Dictionary defines it as:
“A strong belief that something will happen or be the case.”
To dig a little deeper, the root word of “expectation” comes from a Latin verb, “exspectare” which means “to look out”. The root word,“expect”, therefore, means to, “…look out for; desire, hope, long for, anticipate, look for with anticipation,” (Online Etymology Dictionary)
So if God is doing a “new thing”, do we have a strong belief that [it] will happen and be the case???
Are we… looking out for it… desiring it… hoping for it… longing for it… anticipating it…
looking for it with anticipation???
In other words, do we have an EXPECTATION
of God’s “newthing”??
“The GOD of the NEW THING”
If we understand the very nature of God, we will understand why we ought to have a strongexpectation that out from Him will continually come forth a “new thing.” God is essentially a God of eternal newness.“Newness” is an immutable attribute of His nature for He is transcendent of all that comprises or causes the attribute of “oldness”, even time itself. The I AM forever exists in the undiminished freshness of the eternal NOW. In fact, His “eternalNEWness”, is simply an inherent characteristic of His “eternal NOWness”.
Furthermore, if we look at the correlation between the words “new” and “now” as to their origins (“etymology”), we see that they are closely related at the root level and are believed to possibly have originally derived from the same root word.* It seems reasonable to conclude, then, that when God is doing a “NEW thing”, He is, likewise, doing a “NOW thing”, and when He is doing a “NOW thing”, He is, likewise, doing a “NEW thing”. In similar manner, when He calls for a “NEW song”, He is, in fact, calling for a “NOW song”; when He pours out His “NEW wine”, He is literally pouring out His “NOW wine.”; etc… ALL of God’s workings take place in that space of time we call, “NOW”, and, therefore, are not essentially “OLD THINGS”, or “FORMER THINGS” when they appear, but “NEW THINGS” and“NOW THINGS”!
Because God is “the GOD of the NOW THING”, He is, likewise, “the GOD of the NEW THING.”!
God is also a God of infinite creativity. He is unconstrained by the tyranny of the familiar, the dictatorship of the routine, and the confines of convention. His creativity is only “bounded” by His infinite genius, His limitless power, and His ineffable glory. His creative works express His glory and so His glory expresses His creative works.
In addition, He is a God who seeks deep relationship. He has created us in His image and likeness that we may ultimately be one with Him even as He, the Triune God, is one. He created us in His image as creatives, and has re-created us in His likeness as “newcreations”. He is raising us as His sons and daughters to be led by His heavenly, free Spirit and is breaking us free as His adopted children from being led by our earthly, bound souls. He is training us to walk by faith, not sight, that we might become one with Him in His will, His works, and His ways which spring from Hiseternal newness and infinite creativity.
“The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” (John 3:8)
“For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God.” (Romans 8:14)
“The NEW THINGS of God”
-The Natural Realm-
This eternal newness and infinite creativity of His Person naturally spill over into His works and ways. These are seen first in the natural, created realm. We could camp right here for a very long time and trace the unfathomable multiplicity of His creative, “new things” found in nature. May a simple “thought experiment” suffice, however, to help us begin to lay hold of the magnitude of God’s “new things” in this realm:
To begin with, let’s just take the city, town, or village in which you live and consider, simply within that geographical boundary, how many natural, unique, “new things” exist that God has created. First consider all of the vast diversity of living things currently habitating there: all humans, mammals, birds, fish, insects, microorganisms, vegetation, flora, and fungi. Consider how even within common genus/species of these categories, there is vast individualization, uniqueness, and diversity. [I.e. there are over 150 species alone of roses (genus=Rosa.*), let alone further uniqueness/diversity within each species.]
Now consider all the diversity and uniqueness of all Divinely-created non-living things within that same geographical boundary: rocks, soil, minerals, metals, liquids, and gasses. As you combine all of these together in your mind with all of the living “new things” within your city, town, or village, you are at the beginning of the beginning of grasping the multiplicity of God’s “new things” within the natural realm.
Now let’s expand that geographical boundary out a bit further, considering the same types of categories, to the entire state or regionin which you live. Pause and think about that for a moment until it begins to really sink in!
Moving on from there, let’s push that boundary out further to encompass your entire country! How much biological, geological, hydrological, and atmospheric diversification, differentiation, and specialization exist within your country alone?!?
But we’re not done yet! Let’s go even further now and expand out from there to encompass the entire globe. To help with that, consider some of the following estimations concerning the biological diversity alone that exists within our world:
Humans: 7.8 billion individuals (each genetically, physiologically, and psychologically unique.)
Genera: 240,000 genus classifications within the animal kingdom. *
Insects: 1,000,000 – 10,000,000 species. (Approximately, 1.4 billion insects per person on planet earth, and weighing more than 70 times the weight of all human beings put together. *)
Microorganisms: 1,000,000,000,000 species. * (I’m glad they are “micro-“!)
That represents merely the diversity of living “new things”, not taking into consideration the preponderance of non-living “new things” created by God that exist in our world as well!
Now if you don’t have a throbbing headache yet, consider further what creative “new things” we might find if we expanded our boundary out to encompass our solar system? (check out these incredible images of Jupiter, for instance.) … the Milky Way Galaxy? …the observable universe (with its estimated 1,000,000,000 – 2,000,000,000, galaxies? *)??? All of this is the product of the infinitely creative genius, limitless power, and ineffable glory of our Creator God!
Oh, but, wait….we’re still not done? So take two more Advil, and consider with me what Job said, “…these are but the outer fringe of his works; how faint the whisper we hear of him! Who then can understand the thunder of his power?” (Job 26:14NIV) Even after all that we’ve considered, this statement leads us to contemplate even further for we have one remaining boundary expansion to explore: the entire UNSEEN REALM of God’s creation! (Picture exploding head emoji here!)
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Well, I’ve got good news for your cranium…
this thought-experiment is now over!
Please exit to the left!
(………or to the right, if you want to be like GOD and do a “new thing.” 🙂 )
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-The Spiritual Realm-
The natural realm is only the first sphere of revelation concerning the “new things” of God, however. The Scriptures are the second. So we must briefly move on from the realm of “general revelation” to look at the realm of “special revelation” by considering the Scriptures in relation to the spiritual “new things” of God.
Here, then, is list of a number of “new things” that He has created, called for, and/or consecrated in the Scriptures:
“the new moon” – 1 Chron. 23:31; Ezra 3:5; Neh. 10:33; etc.
“a new grain offering” – Lev. 23:16; Num. 28:26; etc.
“a new song” – Ps. 33:3; 40:3; 96:1; 98:1; 144:9; 149:1 Is. 42:10; Rev. 5:9; 14:3
“new heaven and a new earth” – Is. 65:2; 66:22; 2 Pet. 3:13; Rev. 21:1
“the renewal of all things” – Matt. 19:28
Beyond these sightings of the word “new” in Scripture, the entirety of the Bible is a perpetual testimony of God calling His people out of the old and familiar into the new and unknown. Consider just a few of these unprecedented,“new things” that God did in relation to His people:
Adam and Eve – The first ever created beings made in God’s own image and likeness. (Gen. 1:26-27; 2:7)
Enoch – a man who “…walked with God; then he was no more, because God took him away.” (Gen. 5:24) The first ever human to not see physical death.
Noah and the flood – God sent a world-wide deluge to judge the existing world. (Gen. 6-8) Thefirstand last time for planet earth.
Tower of Babel – God confused the languages of all peoples. (Gen. 11) Unprecedented!
Job – God allowed a righteous man to experience extreme tragedy, suffering, and loss for his ultimate good, God’s supreme glory, and Satan’s shameful demise. Utterlyunexpected and unexplained!
Abraham and Sarah – God called them out of a familiar land to go to an unfamiliar one that would later become their inheritance (Gen. 12); they gave birth to a son by the power of the Spirit when both of them were beyond their physical ability to procreate (Gen. 21); Abraham was tested by God to offer his son Isaac as a burnt offering on an altar, then God provided a ram in his place at the last minute. (Gen. 22) All firsts!
Moses and the Israelites – Were delivered out of Egypt by Divinely-sent plagues (Ex. 7-12); were brought through the Red Sea by a mighty miracle (Ex. 14); were led by a cloud/pillar of fire through the wilderness (Ex. 13:21-22); received the Law, the pattern for the tabernacle, and the institution of the priesthood directly from God on Mt. Sinai (Ex. 20); were provided for with manna from heaven and water out of a rock (Ex. 16-17), were healed from poisonous snake bites by looking to a bronze serpent lifted up on a pole, to name a few. (Num. 21) Utterlyunprecedented!
Aaron – Had his staff bud, blossom, and produce almonds when placed before the Lord in the Tent of Meeting at God’s command. (Num. 17) A “new thing” for sure.
Balaam’s donkey – Spoke. (Num. 22) Like…!
Joshua and the Israelites -Saw the Jordan River stop flowing at flood stage when the ark of the covenant was carried into it and they crossed over into the land of Canaan on dry ground (Josh. 3); saw the walls of Jericho fall with a shout (Josh. 6); Joshua prayed and “the sun stopped in the middle of the sky and delayed going down about a full day” so he could win in battle (Josh. 10). Utterly unpredicted and unpredictable!
ETC, ETC, ETC,… (the rest of the Bible!)The Book of God’s “new things!”
We’re only to the sixth book of the Old Testament and already we can see beyond a shadow of a doubt that God works over and over again in absolutely unprecedented, unpredictable, unexpectedways, perpetually doing a “new thing” in regards to His people. Time does not allow us to elaborate on Gideon, Samson, Samuel, David, Elijah, Elisha, Hezekiah, Esther, Nehemiah, Job, the prophets,and a host of others, to show further, innumerable examples.
Neither do God’s “new things” cease to be manifest when we come to the New Testament with John the Baptist, Jesus, the disciples/apostles, the Jews, the Gentiles, the Church, the entire world. In fact, to pretty much everyone recorded in Scripture, when God was working in their lives, to them His works were unpredicted, unpredicated, and unprecedented in relation to their prior experience. To them, He was continually doing a “new thing!”
Finally, the consummate expression of God’s “new thing” will be the universally-transformative creation of a “new heaven and a new earth” with a “new Jerusalem” coming down out of heaven to dwell upon the earth forever. (Rev. 21-22)
And so God’s final word in Scripture on this matter is simply and conclusively,
“BEHOLD, I MAKE ALL THINGS NEW.”
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It is abundantly clear that in both the natural and the spiritual realm that God is revealed as “the GOD of the ‘new thing’.” And this is the very same GOD that you and I are in relationship with through Jesus Christ! We would be utterly blind and foolish, therefore, not to have the highest level of expectation that this same GOD is going to regularly do a “new thing” in our lives and within His Church! We ought, therefore to be…
looking out for it… desiring it… hoping for it… longing for it… anticipating it…
looking for it with anticipation!!!
Our level of expectation will directly determine our level of diligence to be spiritually prepared for God’s “new thing” (as described in Part 1) and greatly affect our degree of watchfulness for and perception of the appearances of God’s “new things” as they begin to spring up, even as God says,
“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.
See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?”
“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.
See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?”
We are certainly living in unprecedented times! What the world is experiencing right now seemed to come out of nowhere and within months/weeks our whole world turned upside down. There have certainly been plagues and pandemics before, but nothing that has brought about this level of global social disruption, world-wide contagion/death, and personal/national economic disaster. Globally, it could be said that we are in the midst of an historic “new thing”!
This historic “new thing” for the world is also forcing and facilitating an historic “new thing” within the Church. The Church, worldwide, has been forced to shut down virtually all public gatherings and to find new ways of staying connected with, ministering to, and serving the people of God and the communities they are in. There are very few types of calamities or judgements that could have the global effect of stopping the established Church ” dead in its tracks” from carrying on in its traditional forms and practices, while still allowing a significant means of virtual connection and ministry, thus forcing the Church to enter into and conform to a radically “new thing”.
We know that, ultimately, behind everything is a sovereign God who has not been caught off-guard by this pandemic. In His perfect foreknowledge of all things, He has had this world-wide crisis incorporated into His eternal plan “for such a time asthis” to ultimately serve His Divine purpose and the supreme good of His people.
“…according to the plan of Him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will” (Ephesians 1:11b)
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)
The big question is, then, “What ‘new thing’ does God desire to do in the Church not only in the midst of this crisis, but, more importantly, through itand beyond it?”
I do not believe that God’s purpose for the present “new thing”, is merely to serve as a “temporary fix” to patch us through until we can hurriedly return back to the “old thing” as soon the crises subsides. That is not God’s way. He says:
“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.
See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?”
When God does a “new thing”, He commands and counsels us to, “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.” His purpose for His people is ever pushing forward, and so Jesus says, “No one who puts a hand to the plowand looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:62) Likewise, Paul says, “Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13-14) This certainly has an individual application, but it also, just as certainly, has a corporate, collective application.
If the Church comes out the other side of a calamity and crisis of thismagnitude virtually the same as it went in, I believe She will have much to answer to Her Lord for. I would not be surprised if even greater judgments or persecutions would shortly ensue. Scripture says, “For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God;” (1 Peter 4:17). Yet, it also says, “If we would examine ourselves first, we would not come under God’s judgment.” (1 Corinthians 11:31 GNT.) Or as the Message translation puts it, “If we get this straight now, we won’t have to be straightened out later on.” There are deep issues that God wants to address and radically reform within His people, and this world-wide calamity is a severe instrument in His hand to get down to the very root of them. If we don’t perceive and allow Him to do His incisive, radical work within us now, I shudder to think what it will take for Him to get our attention going forward!
Every believer and every collective body of believers, therefore, need to be first looking inwards and thenforwards in this hour, praying earnestly to be in-tune and in-step with God’s “NEW thing”. Our Lord is decisively moving onward and upward into His full purpose for His people, not longingly looking backwards to bygone days of circular, “same old, same old”, wilderness wanderings!
“And the LORD spoke to me, saying, ‘You have circled this mountain long enough.
Now turn north,'” (Deuteronomy 2:2-3 NAS)
Preparing to Enter the Land of God’s “New Thing”
The Scriptures are overflowing with examples of God leading His people into His “new thing” for them, and Paul’s word in 1 Corinthians 10:11, I believe, aptly applies to these situations: “Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come.” One of these examples, in particular, offers us valuable insight and wise instruction as to how to prepare ourselves to enter into God’s “new thing”.
As Israel came through the wilderness to the Jordan River and was getting ready to enter into God’s “new thing” for them, life in the land of Canaan, Joshua instructed the people, “Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do amazing things among you.” (Joshua 3:5) When God is doing a “new thing”, what is needed first and foremost is a new and deeper consecration of His people. A new level of consecration is needed because in God’s “new thing”, a new level of faith is demanded and a new level of obedience is required. It is no small thing to break with old thought-patterns, assumptions, ways, means, practices, traditions, experiences, and expectations. These are far more ingrained, intertwined, and inextricable from the fabric of our lives, both on a personal (psychological) level and collective (sociological) level than we would ever imagine. It usually takes something terribly drastic to rend the conformative matrix of our established patterns sufficiently for personal and collective change to even be possible. That is why it is so important to understand the purpose of the Lord in this terribly drastic time we are living in right now.
Outward rendings of the “conformative matrix” of our lives, individually and corporately, however, are not enough to render permanent change. If these are not matched by a corresponding inward rending of the “conformative matrix” of our inner man through prayer, repentance, and a deeper consecration, little to no lasting outward change will ensue and remain once the crisis has passed. Everything will simply snap back to its original form as soon as the outward pressure is lessened or removed, and most likely become even more resilient, inflexible, and solidified than before. It is, therefore, more important what God is doing inside His people during this time, than any outward, temporary changes. The primary focus of the Lord in this hour is to do a deep work of preparationwithin the heartsof His people to get us equipped and ready to enter into His “new thing” outwardly.
The children of Israel were also instructed before crossing Jordan to keep their eyes fixed on the ark of the covenant and to move out and follow it only when it moved, being carried on the shoulders of the priests. (see Joshua 3:3) They were told, “Then you will know which way to go, since you have never been this way before.” (vs.4) In this “new thing” that God is doing, there is only one way to navigate our way forward, by fixing our eyes on “the ark of the covenant”, i.e. the Lord Jesus Christ, to only move when we see Him move, and to only follow where He leads us to go, for we have never been this way before! We are not called to blindly follow the “former things”, but to “forget” them. We are not to “dwell on the past”, but to be “straining toward what is ahead”, being led by the Holy Spirit in all things as we follow Christ alone!
When the ark of the covenant did move forward, it was carried into the middle of the Jordan River and the waters were cut off and piled up a long ways off at a town called Adam. (see Joshua 3:14-17) The Israelites crossed through the dry riverbed and came through into the promised land of their inheritance, Canaan. This act of Israel’s crossing Jordan is a deep and rich symbolic type of the inward, experiential work of the cross in the life of the followers of Jesus Christ.
The Israelites were then led to Gilgal, and there the entire second generation of Israelite men and boys, who were born in the wilderness, were circumcised before the Lord. Circumcision was the outward sign of the covenant that God made with His people through Abraham. It was an outward sign of the Abrahamic covenant, but it pointed to an inward work of the Spirit in the new covenant, of a cutting away of “the flesh”, the sinful nature, by the Spirit of God. (See Rom. 2:28-29; Gal. 6:15; Phil. 3:3Col. 2:11-12)
The nation of Israel was not prepared to move into God’s “new thing” until they had first consecrated themselves afresh to the Lord, descended to the lowest place to cross Jordan, and been circumcised at Gilgal. So, today, the Church will not be prepared to move into God’s “new thing”, until She, collectively consecrates herself afresh to the Lord, follows Christ into a deep experiential working of the cross leading to an inward circumcision of Her heart.
These are not the kind of deep spiritual workings that God’s people generally gravitate towards and embrace on a collective basis. Apart from them, however, there just is no preparation for crossing into and possessing the land of our inheritance. Like the two and a half tribes of Israel who decided to settle on the east side of Jordan, we will remain where things are more comfortable, familiar, and predictable, but we will miss God’s ultimate intention for us.
Wherever you may be at this time, and whatever your circumstances, know that God wants to do a “new thing” in your life. He also wants to do a “new thing” in the expression of the Church that you are a part of. This fresh working of the Lord must begin within our own hearts with a fresh consecration to Him and His “new and living way” (Hebrews 10:20). This must be followed by a deep working of His Spirit, applying the cross to our inner man and cutting away(“circumcising”) the “flesh” of our “old man” with its old and dead ways. This will only come about through spending extended time in His Presence in humility, repentance, and deep consecration. But this is the time, and this is the pressing need among God’s people, that He may bring us through this deep, dark crisis, transformed from the inside out, prepared to enter into the land of our inheritance…the land of God’s “new thing”!
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“But as it is written:
‘Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor has it entered into the heart of man
the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.'”
1 Corinthians 2:9
We continue, now, looking through the lens of Philippians 3:10-11 to see how it further applies to the spiritual life of the Church. This series began with a look at the individual’s spiritual life in relation to this passage. This was followed by the previous post in this series where we explored the first two dynamics drawn out of Philippians 3:10-11, “revelation” and “impartation”, as they apply to the corporate life of the Church. [I ask that you please read those posts prior to this one, if you have not already, as this is the continuation and conclusion of them. (Complete 3-post-series PDF available here, if you prefer.) Thanks!]
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Participation “and, TOGETHER, WE may know the fellowship of His sufferings”
“As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” (John 20:21) The Church is called into a fellowship, a joint-participation, with Christ in His earthly mission. As in the individual Christian life, so in the Church, this mission is diametrically opposed to the nature and ways of the sinful flesh, the fallen world, and the powers of darkness. And as in the individual Christian, these enemies of the Kingdom of God not only have their strongholds and forces arrayed outside of the Church, but have their roots and tentacles within it as well.
This means that the Church is called into a titanic, carnal, and cosmic conflict filled with struggle, opposition, persecution, suffering, and the like, both within and without. Those assemblies who are established by and according to the heavenly revelation of Christ, and are continually receiving the impartation of “the power of His resurrection”, are sent into this battle, even as Christ was sent into it by the Father. As the Church engages in this joint-participation with Christ in His mission, She inevitably enters into a joint-participation with Him in the sufferings that are associated with it.
In this conflict, a three-pronged offensive is needed to defeat the three-fold enemy forces of sin, the world, and Satan. When Christ launched His three-pronged offensive into the earthly theater of this conflict, His mission, and, therefore, His sufferings began with what is known by the Greek word,κένωσις (kénōsis), which means, “the act of self-emptying.” This word is the nounal form of the Greek verb used in Philippians 2:7, κενόω (kenóō) “to empty”, and is variously translated: “emptied Himself” (NAS), “made Himself nothing” (NIV), and “made Himself of no reputation.”(KJV) The context is the classic passage, Philippians 2:5-11:
“Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.
Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (NKJV)
Not only was this degree of humility and obedience in keeping with the absolute holiness of Christ’s nature, it was also the highest-level tactical move against His three-fold enemy. At the very heart and core of sin, the world, and Satan, is the Luciferic spirit of “I will ascend.” (Is. 14:12-14) Therefore, the ultimate counter to that is, “I will descend”, the spirit of “kenosis.”
The sufferings of Christ that ensued as He personally engaged with and ultimately conquered His three-fold enemy would be too numerous to detail here, but the ground of His victory over all three was His willingness to self-empty in obedience to and unreserved trust in His heavenly Father. This is how sin, the world, and Satan are ultimately conquered and overthrown.
As we contemplate, therefore, the Church’s participation in the mission and subsequent sufferings of Christ, we must realize that the first arena that the Church is called to press the mission of Christ forward in, and, therefore, the first theater of this conflict, is within Her. Before She is able to successfully engage with and push back the enemies without, She must engage with and defeat the enemies within.
“For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God;” (1 Peter 4:17)
The calling of the Church, then, is to beginHerparticipationwith Christ by aligning Herself with Hissupreme strategyand ultimate ground of victory. If sin, the world, and Satan are to be defeated first within the Church, and then pushed back and defeated outside of Her, She must begin Her entry into this battle the same way Her Lord did with what may rightly be called, “corporate kenosis.”
“Corporate kenosis” deals radically with the “collective self” that develops within all groups of people as the individual member’s self-lives merge into a single entity and develop a collective identity, persona, and self-interest. Because of the indwelling sin, worldliness, and even demonic inroads within its members, this “collective self” invariably, manifests some form of a collective“I will ascend” spirit, the antithesis of the Kingdom of God. When this spirit invades the Church, the enemy has his ground with which to subvert the mission of Christ within and through His people.
The Divine strategy of kenosis is fully known and feared by the enemy, especially now following Christ’s supreme victory in and through the cross. It is, therefore, Satan’ssupreme strategy to, in every way and by every means possible, tempt and deceive the Church into casting off a spirit of “corporate kenosis” and to develop a strong “collective self” instead, energized by a corporateversion of “I will ascend.” This is Satan’s greatest hope for minimizing his defeats and mounting his Enemy’s casualties in this carnal, cosmic conflict.
It should also be recognized that two of the greatest weapons in Satan’s arsenal to accomplish these ends are 1. pragmatism (the ends justify the means; i.e. the future dictates the present) which is what he employed in the Garden of Eden, and 2. traditionalism (the means justify the ends; i.e. the past dictates the present) which is what he primarily employed during the time of Christ and the early church. These are still his most powerful and successful weapons against the Church today to keep her from embracing “corporate kenosis”, his ultimate nemesis.
Much more could be said about the Church’s participation in the mission and subsequent sufferings of Christ as She engages with sin, the world, and Satan, not to mention those sufferings that God sovereignly orchestrates by His own hand for Her perfecting and ultimate good. Let it suffice, however, for us to beginwhere Christ began,with a radical denial of self, which for the Church is on both an individual and a corporate level. If we, as His Body, don’t get on the “highway” of God’s mission by taking the same downward “on ramp” that Christ took and paved for us, there’s a good chance we’ve taken the upward one that Lucifer pioneered and paved for all he would deceive, and we are, therefore, heading in the wrong direction down the pike.
Paul’s exhortation to the entire Philippian church was, “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus…” (Philippians 2:5) And to the church in Ephesus he implored: “I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation by which ye are called, With all lowliness and meekness, with long-suffering…” (Ephesians 4:1-2 WEB) This is the call to participation with Christ in His mission, and in its inherent sufferings, which is the third dynamic of the corporate spiritual life of the Church.
Conformation “being made conformable unto His death,”
Participation naturally and inevitably leads to conformation. Likewise, kenosis (the emptying of self) naturally and inevitably leads to the cross (the death of self).
“Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.” (Luke 9:23)
When an individual takes up their cross, they are, in essence, “being made conformable unto His death”. In this inward work of the cross, there is an operation of the Spirit that applies a killing power to the roots of the self-life. Selfish ambition, self-interest, self-sufficiency, self-conceit, self-determination, self-preservation, self-promotion, and the like are all dealt a death-blow leaving one humbled and wholly dependent on God in all respects.
When an assembly, likewise, takes up their cross in a collective way, being made “conformable unto His death”, there is an inward work of the Spirit that applies a killing power to the roots of their collective “self-life.” Their collective selfish ambition, self-interest, self-sufficiency, self-conceit, self-determination, self-preservation, self-promotion, and the like are all dealt a death-blow leaving the assembly humbled and wholly dependent on God in all respects.
This may seem completely counter-intuitive and corporately counter-productive, but, as with the individual, that which is put to death through this collective, inward work of the cross is only that which is death-producing within it. The cross is the death of death, leaving behind only the life of Life, i.e the indwelling impartation of “the power of His resurrection.” Unless a corporate body of believers is willing to deny itself, (“corporate kenosis”), take up its cross daily (dieto its collective self-life), it will never be able to follow Jesus into the attaining of its collective resurrection out from the dead. This is God’s ultimate desire and objective for the Church and is the only path to the ultimate ground of victory in Christ over sin, the world, and Satan, both within and without Her.
The self-life of a person is the greatest obstacle God has to His kingdom being established within them, and the corporate “self-life” of a collective is the greatest obstacle God has to His kingdom being established within them. God’s remedy for both is this process laid out in Philippians 3:10-11 of revelation, impartation, participation, and conformation. Any short-cutting of this process only short-circuits the work of God. When these are progressively embraced and embodied, however, the next dynamic immediately becomes operative in the spiritual life of the Ekklesia.
Transformation “That if by any means WE, TOGETHER, may attain unto the resurrection of the dead.”
God’s intention and desire is to get everything concerning His people onto resurrection ground. That alone is the exalted, unassailable ground of Christ’s victory and of the enemy’s sure defeat. Only that which passes through death, however, can be resurrected, whether on the individual or collective level.
This is pictured for us in the history of Israel as they came through the wilderness, passed through the Jordan river, and entered the promised land of Canaan to possess it. The wilderness brought them a form of suffering that stripped down their individual and collective self-life (self-reliance, self-determination, self-satisfaction, etc.) and worked to get “Egypt” (the “world”) out of them.
The Jordan river, however, was symbolic of a deeper death, the inward, experiential death of the cross. The Jordan river (lit.,“the Descender”), which flowed through a town called “Adam”, forms a valley leading into the Dead Sea that is the lowest physical depression on earth. (Stop for a minute and consider the richness of that sovereign symbolism.) It was at “harvest” time, with the river at “flood stage”, when the Israelites arrived to cross over it. As the priests carrying the ark of the covenant (symbolic of the Lord Jesus Christ) stepped into the river, however, the powerful flood waters stopped flowing and piled up in heap a great distance away in “Adam.” This was, in essence, a cutting off of the death (i.e. “the death of death”) that flowed from “Adam”, i.e the work of the cross.
Apart from all of Israel coming through the wilderness, descendingto Jordan, thelowest place on earth (think, “the fellowship of His sufferings”/”kenosis”) and stepping into the place where death flowed, yet was cut off by the presence and power of the ark (think, “being made conformable unto His death”), they never would have been able to make it into and possess the land of their inheritance and drive out the inhabitants thereof (think, “That if by any means WE, TOGETHER, may attain unto the resurrection of the dead.”)
God laid out His infallible, immutable ways for His Church, in order for Her to possess Her collective inheritance, in living example and colorful “shadow” through His people Israel. We are now called to walk in the spiritual reality of these types and shadows in order for us, His Church, to come onto the high, holy, victorious ground of “the resurrection.” This is the present, inward, corporate reality that is the end objective of all of God’s workings collectively within His people through the five dynamics laid out in Philippians 3:10-11.
As was shared in the initial post in this series, these dynamics are progressive and cyclical in nature, leading us ever higher and further on in our spiritual growth and development as we continually and repeatedly follow and yield to them. As such,
Revelation leads to Impartation
Impartation leads to Participation
Participation leads to Conformation
Conformation leads to Transformation
Transformation leads to….
What this will look like in each individual expression of His Church will vary and be creatively unique by the hand of the Lord, yet the spiritual principles and corporate dynamics are universal, inviolable, and effectual. Wherever, and to whatever degree they are embraced collectively, healthy spiritual growth and development ensues. Wherever, and to whatever degree they are resisted and/or rejected collectively, spiritual growth and development is thwarted, distorted, and/or ceases to progress. May we humbly learn and unreservedly give ourselves to God’s high, holy, and triumphant ways for His people that we may fully possess our inheritance in Him, and He may fully possess His inheritance in us!
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“That TOGETHER WE may know Him, and the power of His resurrection,
and, TOGETHER, WE may know the fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformable unto His death;
If by any means, TOGETHER, WE might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.”
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I pray that these truths may be especially poignant as we contemplate and celebrate our Lord’s sufferings, death, and resurrection during these next few days. May all of you have a blessed Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday, however you may be celebrating them this year! Shalom!
[Please see the bottom of this post for a follow-up report concerning the blessings of this solemn assembly as well as a recording of an original song, “The Sacrifices of God” that I shared with the group during the “Solemn Assembly Pre-Meeting”. -David ]
We are living in perilous, prophetic times! This is a rather urgent, time-sensitive, post to share a call that is going out for a “solemn assembly”, virtual prayer gathering, in the order of Joel 1:14 and 2 Chronicles 7:14:
“Consecrate a fast; call a solemn assembly. Gather the elders and all the inhabitants of the land to the house of the LORD your God,
and cry out to the LORD.”
“If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways,
then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”
In order to facilitate gathering believers from across the Body of Christ for a time of prayer, fasting, repentance, and intercession, while many of us are under “shelter in place”, “isolation”, “lock down” and “social distancing” restrictions, this solemn assembly will contain a virtual aspect to it, utilizing video conferencing (Zoom). People are also encouraged, as they are led, are comfortable doing so, and in keeping with public guidelines for gatherings during this time, to host small groups for intercession and prayer in their homes as well. Fasting is also encouraged during this time.
The call is being organized by a dear brother in the Lord, Travis Kolder, whom I connected with through this blog a number of years ago (and was one who participated in this “3-D” post.) Below are three links to pages on his blog, Pursuing Glory, that share his spiritual burden and the practical details concerning this assembly. Please take time to look these over if you are interested in participating in this time of prayer.
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The solemn assembly will span three days/nights: Tuesday, April 7th – Thursday, April 9th
Conference calls will begin each of these three nights at: 7:00PM CDT (UTC-05:00)
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The following links offer more explanation and details concerning this
solemn assembly from Travis himself on his blog, Pursuing Glory:
In connection with and in heart preparation for this assembly, I also wanted to share an email that I received this morning from my friend in Christ, Richard Hanes. He felt the Lord’s urging to write out the burden of his heart this morning and send it out to his circle of friends. With his permission, I am sharing it with you here as well. I believe Richard poses the right questions that we all should be asking at this critical time. The answers that we receive from the Lord concerning these will greatly inform and inspire our times of prayer and intercession in the midst of this crisis. He wrote:
My beloved brethren –
Christian leaders are saying many things in this time of our national and world crisis, but it strikes me that there are two gaping holes in all that is being said. If they are being said, perhaps I just have not heard them. I feel I must state both of them as they are strongly on my heart. In actuality, they are not things to be said, but QUESTIONS THAT NEED TO BE ASKED.
The first one is this: IN THIS CRISIS, WHAT IS GOD SAYING TO HIS CHURCH?
I personally believe that above all things our national and world situation is a CALL for we who know Him to get on our faces and seek His face, and inquire of Him, “Lord! What are you saying to us?” I truly believe that if we do not cry out to Him to hear what He is saying to us, we may miss His very purpose for allowing this crisis to come upon not only the world, but upon His church.
When in history has it occurred that the church was forced to cease to gather EVERYWHERE? Even in small gatherings of “two or three”, in homes? This itself could be an even greater crisis for the church of God than the actual disease is to the world.
A great error of our day is to think that the essence of the church is large assemblies, large gatherings – but the reality of the true core and essence of the church for all of history has been small gatherings. But now even those are, for a season, impossible.
Every letter to every church in the 2nd and 3rd chapters of Revelation closes with this command: “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”
Who is crying for us to HAVE AN EAR to hear? That we must, more than ever in this hour press close to God and to ask Him, “LORD! WHAT ARE YOU SAYING?” What are you saying to us, your people? What are you saying to ME, personally?
I truly believe that for us to miss what God is wanting to say to us – corporately and personally – in this hour, may be to miss the very thing God wants to accomplish in this hour.
MAY THE HOLY SPIRIT GIVE US GRACE TO PRESS INTO HIM, TO INQUIRE OF HIM, AND TO HAVE AN EAR TO HEAR FROM HIM!
The second one is similar, and related: IN THIS CRISIS, HOW SHOULD WE, GOD’S PEOPLE, BE PRAYING?
I am assuming that we all agree that more than ever, we should be praying! Where is such a call to pray? Are we to be passive, accepting this disease as just something to get through? No! We must be praying more than ever, but that leads to more questions that must be asked……
HOW SHOULD WE BE PRAYING FOR THE WORLD?
HOW SHOULD WE BE PRAYING FOR CHRIST’S CHURCH?
HOW SHOULD WE BE PRAYING FOR THE SICK, THOSE DYING by the thousands?
And how should we be praying for ourselves? Surely God wants His Son, Jesus Christ, to have increase in His people, in us, and in the world as a result of this disease. I believe in fact, He wants to redeem the crisis and use it for His glory, for His kingdom, and that it be taken from the intents and purposes of His enemy, which is always “to steal, to kill, to destroy”.
Where is the call for us to be so praying?
May He, by His grace, give us hearts to cry out to Him like never before,
your brother in Christ,
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And all I can add is,
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[Call details removed.]
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I wanted to pass this information on to those who follow this blog. There is much that our institutions of government, medicine, healthcare, science, manufacturing, commerce, and the like are doing to deal with and help mitigate the effects and ramifications of this world-wide pandemic. The true solution to the healing of our land, however, is found in you and I, God’s people, humbling ourselves, praying, fasting, repenting of our sins, and interceding before Him. We stand in the most critical position of all people for the turning of the tide of this pandemic and for God’s will to be fully accomplished in the midst of this crisis, both in the Church and in the world. So this is an opportunity for those who may feel drawn to join together, in a very grassroots, organic way, to call on the name of the Lord as His people, His royal priesthood. I hope you will consider and pray about whether God would have you to be a part of this solemn assembly. Also, please feel free to pass this on to others who may possibly be interested as well. Thank you!
UPDATE: It’s been a week now since I participated in this solemn assembly and I wanted to give a brief follow-up report. I was able to join in all three nights for the video conference calls and was truly blessed by the depth of the spirit of prayer and repentance, the unity of heart, and the orderliness of the calls.
Each night we focused on a different area in prayer and repentance. The first night was focused on our own hearts and lives, which was the right place to begin. The second night was on repentance and intercession for the Church. Finally, the third night, we expanded out to pray and intercede for our communities, the nation, and the world. There was “effectual fervent prayer” each night, often with tears, and sometimes mixed with Scripture readings as various participants were led by the Spirit to pray, confess, and/or share.
Although I don’t have the exact numbers, I estimate there were between 35 – 50 people each night and the calls lasted approximately 2 1/2 hours each, which seemed to fly by. All who participated were free to “unmute” themselves as they felt led to lead out in prayer, while the rest joined in in “muted” agreement.
One of the highlights I think for many of us was on the last night when the Spirit focused in on praying for the children, both in the Church and in the world, and there was much intercession from numerous participants in heart-rending prayers and passionate intercession for them.
It was also a great blessing that there were whole families who joined in, including children, who also participated in offering prayers to the Lord.
All in all, I felt that the Lord was very well pleased with the unity, sincerity, humility, fervency, and contrition of those who participated. It was truly a solemn assembly in the Spirit of the Lord, and I’m sure that there is and will be lasting fruit that comes from it.
Beyond giving a report of this event, I also wanted to follow up because it seemed to me that this virtual solemn assembly was also a pattern-type of gathering that could and ought to be an inspiration for others to follow and creatively replicate as the Lord may lead. With the technology we have today, and the monumental global crisis that we are now facing, there is no reason why groups of believers, large and small, cannot join together for solemn intercession, prayer, humility, and repentance before the Lord. It doesn’t require established churches, ministries, or recognized leaders to pull something like this together. All it takes are the willing hearts of at least two or three believers and heaven-moving, “land-healing”, 2 Chronicles 7:14, effectual, fervent prayers can be lifted up to the Lord on high! The Lord is looking for those who will “make up the hedge, and stand in the gap before [Him] for the land,” (Ezek. 22:30) in the midst of this crisis, and all He needs are the likes of you and me. Thanks to Travis for having the vision for, organizing, and moderating this one!
Finally, during the “Solemn Assembly Pre-Meeting” call, I felt led to share an original song, “The Sacrifices of God”, (lyrics from Psalm 51:6,17KJV and 2 Chronicles 7:14KJV), for I felt that it captured the solemn spirit of the assembly. I recently made a simple acoustic recording of it and am including it here as a reminder of the importance of us all embracing a spirit of brokenness, contrition, humility, prayer, and the seeking of God’s face during this time. I pray it is a blessing to you.
My hope is that the contents of this post will continue to inspire those who read it well beyond this particular event. May our prayers, as incense, continually rise before Him!
In my last post, I discussed five dynamics of the spiritual life from Philippians 3:10-11 as they relate to the individual believer. In this post (and the next), I’d like to look through this same lens and see how this passage similarly applies to the spiritual life of the Church corporately.
There is a relatively undiscovered, under-explored principle for the practical application of Scripture that when Biblical precepts, promises, and the like are directed to individuals, more often than not, they have an equal application to the Church as a whole. In Christ, God views the collective Body as a single entity, as “one new man.” (Eph. 2:15) In reality, then, the individual Christian and the corporate“Christ” (1 Cor. 12:12) both have the same spiritual DNA, are being conformed unto the same image, have the same spiritual resources, and the same high, heavenly calling. It is not surprising, then, that the same spiritual principles and dynamics are inherent in and apply to both.
Although I’ve employed this principle of application for some time (see my series on “Corporate One-Anothering” for instance), the inspiration to specifically consider this passage in Philippians 3 in this way was sparked a little over a year ago by a dear friend and brother in Christ, Richard Hanes, whom I connected with through this blog. I’ve been thinking on that corporate application ever since, so I want to give him a “nod” and a “thanks” for the inspiration. After reading my last post, he left a comment concerning his musings along this line, which I encourage you to read (see here, posting as godelshaddai.)
The five spiritual dynamics found in Philippians 3:10-11, as identified in my last post relating to the individual, then, are as follows:
Much can be said concerning these same dynamics as they apply to the corporate, even as Richard said in his comment: “I think a whole book could be written on this new application of this powerful passage.” I will take this and the next post to offer some concise musings of my own, and hopefully it will help to spark further consideration and conversation along these lines. (Maybe someone will even write a book someday! 😉 )
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To begin with, then, let’s start with a slightly paraphrased version of our passage to bring the corporate clearly in view…
“That TOGETHER WE may know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and, TOGETHER, WE may know the fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformable unto His death;
If by any means, TOGETHER, WE might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.”
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Revelation “That TOGETHER WE may know Him…”
The central passion of every local assembly ought to be, “That TOGETHER WE may know HIM”! The “rock” of revelation, that comes down from the Father concerning His Son, is what the Church is built upon. (See Matthew 16:18.) A continuous, progressive, ever-deepening revelation of CHRIST is foundational to every aspect of the building and establishing of the House of God. In fact, He is not only the Foundation, but the heavenly Pattern for the Church, from Cornerstone to Capstone, in all of its vast and varying dimensions, dynamics, and details. Nothing can nor will be built “according to pattern” if it doesn’t first spring from a heaven-sent revelation of Christ to the inner man of those who constitute the local assemblies of the Church.
This is why Paul, the wise master-builder, said, “it pleased God…to reveal His Son in me, that I might preach Him among the nations…” (Galatians 1:15b-16a). All of his preaching, teaching, and writings came out of and imparted this Spirit-wrought revelation of CHRIST that the churches would be established, “according to pattern”, on unshakable, heavenly foundations, and not on the mere wisdom and ways of man. (See Acts 26:15-19, 1 Cor.2:12-13, Gal.1:11-12, Eph.1:9, 3:2-5, Col.1:26-27, 2Cor.4:5-6, 2Cor.12:1-7.)
This is also why he prayed that the saints might be given “a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him. The eyes of [their] heart being enlightened…” (Eph. 1:18-19a; See also Col.1:9) He also exhorted them to minister to one another with the revelatory gifts of the Spirit of “a word of wisdom”, “a word of knowledge”, “prophecy”, “discerning of spirits”, “interpretation of tongues”, “a revelation”, along with “the word of Christ dwell[ing] in [them] richly, teaching and admonishing one another with all wisdom”. (See 1 Cor. 12:8,10; 14:26, Col. 3:16)
The establishing of local churches through the living light of spiritual revelation was Paul’s first and foremost apostolic concern and calling. Through the transforming power of this spiritual dynamic, he equipped the body of Christ to also minister to one another in like manner, that the churches would build themselves up to “together…know Him”, firmly established upon the unshakable “rock” of the REVELATION of CHRIST.
As it was with the old creation, so it is with the new creation; as it is with the individual, so it is with the corporate. Everything begins with and is begotten of the light of revelation shining in our hearts by the Holy Spirit, bringing us into a true knowing of Christ. This is the first progressive dynamic of the corporate spiritual life.
Impartation “and the power of His resurrection”
The Church, however, not only needs light, it also needs heat! The Church was born on the day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit was poured out from on high on the waiting disciples following the resurrection and ascension of the Lord Jesus Christ. This outpouring was to fulfill what John the Baptist said about the One who would come after him, “He shall baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.”(Matt. 3:11b) It was not sufficient for the disciples to have a mere revelation of Christ, which they received in measure prior to the crucifixion. They needed the impartation of “the power of His resurrection” to fulfill their mission and purpose.
The book of Acts is the record of the early Church going forth in “the power of His resurrection”, declaring, with signs and wonders following, the crucified, resurrected, ascended, and reigning Lord! The apostles preaching was “with a demonstration of the Spirit and of power” (1 Cor. 2:4) and everywhere they went, the same Spirit “who raised Christ from the dead” (Rom. 8:11) was poured out on the churches as at the beginning.
Paul’s epistles, furthermore, are filled with exhortations and prayers for the Church to experientially know “the power of His resurrection” through the manifest workings and giftings of the Holy Spirit. After praying for the Ephesian church to receive “the spirit of wisdom and revelation”, he prayed that they would know “the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places.” (Eph.1:19-20) The imparted, experiential knowledge of Christ’s resurrection power is what enables the Church to walk in and rightly proclaim the revelation of Christ they have received. The two cannot be separated.
“For the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk, but of power.” (1 Cor. 4:20)
Many “churches” today have “a form of godliness, but [are] denying the power thereof.” (2 Tim. 3:5) These rely on external forms, rituals, traditions of men, intellectualism, soulish manipulation, legalism, authoritarianism, consumerism, charismatic leadership, humanly-crafted programs, and the like, but do not have “the exceeding greatness of His power“ (Eph. 1:19) at work within them. Like the church of Sardis, they “have a name that [they] are alive, but [they] are “dead”. (Rev. 3:1) Or as the church of Laodicea, they consider themselves “rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and know not that [they] are wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked.” (Rev.3:17) The resurrected Christ is standing outside their door knocking, waiting to be invited in…in the glory of His Person and the fullness of His power. (see vs. 20.)
For those who would seek to experientially know “the power of His resurrection” through the impartation of the Holy Spirit, much room must be made for His manifest workings. Control must be yielded fully to the headship of Christ. An openness for Him to work in and through His many-membered body through the manifold giftings, ministrations, and manifestations of the Spirit must be diligently sought and jealously guarded. Rigid, old wineskins must be exchanged for flexible, new ones in order for God to pour out the new wine of Christ’s resurrection power and not ruin the container. This comes with a great cost that many, if not most, are unwilling to pay. And this is where many assemblies stop going forward in the purpose and process of the Lord, continuing on, instead, in their safe, predictable, religious, lukewarm ways (…only to await Christ spewing them out of His mouth. Rev. 3:16.) For those who do embrace this cost together and receive an ongoing impartation of “the power of His resurrection”, the next spiritual dynamic will soon follow on.
One of the most concise and yet comprehensive statements in Scripture describing the dynamics of the spiritual life is Philippians 3:10-11. It is arguably the apostle Paul’s most transparent expression of His inward spiritual passion and pursuit. It is also a portion of Scripture that has spoken to my heart more than just about any other.
If we examine this Pauline expression closely, we see the whole of the spiritual life laid out according to five progressive dynamics. In practical experience, these are cyclical in nature, following one after another and then beginning their progressive sequence all over again. Each time, however, they work the nature of Christ slightly deeper within us and take us a little higher and further in our spiritual growth. If we, like Paul, press into and yield to this repeating spiritual progression, we will find ourselves on the most fruitful path of spiritual growth.
These five dynamics can be summed up with the following five words: Revelation…Impartation…Participation…Conformation…Transformation
Let’s explore that a little further from Paul’s words in Philippians 3:10-11:
“That I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformable unto His death;
If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.”
Revelation “That I may know Him,”
Everything in the spiritual life begins with revelation. Day one of the old creation begins with God saying, “‘Let there be light’, and there was light.”(Genesis 1:3) In the new creation, Scripture says: “For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” (2 Corinthians 4:6) Because God is Spirit, He can only be known by revelation within our spirit. The Holy Spirit within our spirit then illuminates our heart and mind with a true knowledge, or better, a true knowing of God. Every step of progression in the spiritual life springs from and facilitates a deeper revelation in this true knowing of God in Christ by the Holy Spirit.
Impartation “…and the power of His resurrection,”
Revelation is the first step, but apart from an experiential knowing of “the power of His resurrection”, we are unable to rightly respond to and walk in the light we have been given. This power is imparted to us by the Holy Spirit who is “the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead…” (Romans 8:11) It is the “law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus [that] has made me free from the law of sin and death.” (Romans 8:2) God’s ultimate desire is that I would be united with Christ in the fullness of His resurrection life, be set free from the power of sin and death, and be transformed to be like Him in every way. Revelation must be followed by an experiential impartation of “the power of His resurrection” in order for us to go forward in our spiritual progress.
Participation “…and the fellowship of His sufferings,”
The word “fellowship” used here indicates “a joint-participation.” God has joined us with His Son not only in His heavenly, spiritual life in and through our redeemed spirit, but also in His earthly, human life and mission in and through our redeemed humanity. Christ’s heavenly life and earthly mission, however, stand in direct opposition to the life and ways of the sinful flesh, the fallen world, and the powers of darkness. These three enemies of the kingdom of God are not only external to us, but also have their roots and tentacles within us. Consequently, there is a great disruption, turmoil, struggle, and battle both within and without as the kingdom of God advances forcibly within our lives and thorough us into the world. As we participate with Christ and the Holy Spirit in this heavenly, yet earthly calling, we share in the inward and outward sufferings that are inherent in this carnal, cosmic conflict.
Conformation “…being made conformable unto His death;”
When revelation combines with impartation and leads to participation, the natural result is that of conformation.
Conformity to Christ’s death has two sides, the negative and the (double-negative) positive. Because He became conformable unto our death, we are now called to be made conformable unto His death. This death is essentially an inward dying to self, which is the root of our fallen, sinful nature. Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.“(Luke 9:23) This death to self is the negative side of the cross.
The positive side may be understood as arising from a double-negative. The death of the cross is, in essence, the death of death. Consider how powerful that double negative is! The death of death leaves behind only the life of Life. As we daily take up our cross, being made conformable unto His death, all that is non-living, non-life-giving within us is annihilated and eradicated. This leaves behind the emancipated, indwelling Light and Life of Christ. The more radical the death of death within, the more radiant the life of Life within. This emancipation of the Life of Christ within us is the positive side of the cross.
Both the negative and the positive sides of the cross are summed up in Galatians 2:20a:
“I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me;”
This then leads us to the final phase of this spiritual progression.
Transformation “If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.”
In the revelation and impartation phases, we come to experientially “know Christ and the power of HIS resurrection.” (emphasis added.) In this final phase, we come to experientially know what it is for “I” to attain unto “the resurrection”, as of one who was once “the dead.”
Even as our being “made conformable unto His death” is, in essence, a present, inward working, so our “attain(ing) unto the resurrection of the dead” is, in essence, a present, inward attainment. Through this progressive process we are becoming something altogether new, being transformed by the Life of Christ within resurrecting us out of the deadness of our former nature which lies smitten under the power of the cross. What we initially knew and were partaking of as an attainment belonging to HIM, we now know and are partaking of as an attainment belonging to US. The outcome of this entire process is that of present, inward transformation.
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Revelation leads to Impartation
Impartation leads to Participation
Participation leads to Conformation
Conformation leads to Transformation
Transformation leads to….
These five spiritual dynamics are what constitute our spiritual life and spiritual growth. They are progressive, and they are cyclical in nature. In experience, there may even be more than one of these cycles at work in various aspects of our life simultaneously, overlapping and intertwining, as the Lord works to transform us into His likeness. If we recognize the workings of the Lord in these spiritual dynamics and submit to His processings, we will find ourselves in the way of fruitful spiritual growth and maturity. As with Paul, this ought to be our most central spiritual passion and pursuit.
It’s been in my heart to add this audiobook to the free resource library for some time. Considering all that is presently transpiring in the world and the pressing need for our faith to be strengthened in the promise of God’s healing power, it seems most timely and appropriate to share it now.
This is a thoughtful, bold treatise on the Christ-centered, Scriptural basis for Divine healing. May you be encouraged and strengthened by its faith-imparting message.
[This book has also been added as a permanent page to the Free Audiobooks section of the blog. For future reference of this and other excellent works, you can always access them there. Please scroll down for all listening and downloading options.]
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Because we are living in such difficult times, filled with so much anxiety, fear, grief, and uncertainty, I have also included at the bottom of this post two original songs. The first, I Would Have Despaired, is taken from Psalm 27:13-14 and John 14:27 and is a song of comfort, encouragement, and peace. The second, They That Wait, is a meditation on Isaiah 40:31 which focuses on waiting on the Lord, the Source of our strength. I pray that the ministry of Scripture through these quiet, meditative songs will be a strength and solace to you. -David
Andrew Murray’s practical and devotional writings on the Bible have been a help and blessing to Christian believers for more than a century. In this powerfully written book, Murray takes up the subject of healing as revealed in Scripture, showing how the work of Jesus Christ embraces not only pardon for sin but also healing from sickness. (Summary by Christopher Smith)
Acoustical liberation of books in the public domain
LibriVox recordings are Public Domain in the USA. If you are not in the USA, please verify the copyright status of these works in your own country before downloading, otherwise you may be violating copyright laws.
As the People’s Republic of China recently celebrated it’s 70th anniversary (October 1, 2019), I wanted to focus a post on the underground church in China that has endured intense persecution under this repressive, communist regime. As the Chinese government continues to develop and employ powerful, ubiquitous tools of mass surveillance and is implementing it’s dystopian “social credit” system as a means of social control, there has never been a greater time or need to pray for our faithful brothers and sisters in Christ who are living and laboring for the Kingdom of God there.
The purified, overcoming testimony of the underground church in China also serves as a powerful witness to the Church in the rest of the world. It is the informed belief of many that China is the pattern of the global governance system that is being advanced and the technological systems of social control that are being rolled out there will soon be implemented in more and more nations around the world. The Church in the West is largely unaware and unprepared for the level of surveillance, control, oppression, and persecution that could possibly be forced upon us. It is time for a great awakening and a sober preparation for what lies ahead, no matter what that may be. We would do well to learn from those who are presently living in such repressive nations as China and be encouraged by the overcoming nature of their faith.
Below is a section from the book, Principles for the Gathering of Believers Under the Headship of Jesus Christ, that I have hosted as a free resource on this blog. The section is called: “Lessons From the Underground Church in China”. For this post, I’ve assembled the audio files for this section into a continuous playlist for your ease of listening. Below that are the PDF and mp3 files for the chapters that can be downloaded. I pray that these powerful writings by those closely connected with the underground church in China, and elsewhere around the world, will greatly stir your faith and also be an impetus to pray for the saints of God in China and for the advancing of the gospel in that land.
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PRINCIPLES FOR THE GATHERING OF BELIEVERS
UNDER THE HEADSHIP OF JESUS CHRIST
God bless you as we join our hearts and prayers with the Body of Christ that is in this land. May God strengthen them and us through our mutual faith and fellowship in the Spirit in this critical hour in which we live. -David
Today, Christians around the world celebrate the initial outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the Church on the day of Pentecost. (See Acts 2) In honor of this celebration, and as an ongoing tribute to the Holy Spirit, I would like to offer some spiritual resources for your consideration and edification.
It has been my long-standing conviction and burden that in large portions of the church, the Holy Spirit has become what I would call “the marginalized member of the Godhead.” The Father we revere, the Son we exalt, but the Holy Spirit is quite often treated with sanctimonious suspicion and religious reservation. If we do honor and seek Him, we generally do so in a measured way within the confines of our religious, traditional, and institutional boxes. Rarely do we give Him the full honor and submission that He is worthy of as an equal member of the Godhead with the Father and the Son. In failing to do so, we, in reality, diminish, limit, and thwart the effectual working of the Father and the Son among us, who carry out their work only through the manifest operation of the Holy Spirit.
In this post, I am offering two substantial resources and an original post that together, I believe, will provide a “3D” perspective on the Holy Spirit that will work to increase our revelation of and reverence for the Holy Spirit in our lives and in the church. Only then will we be able to truly know the Father and the Son and experience their manifest working both within us and among us!
May we earnestly seek to restore the Holy Spirit back from the margins to His rightful place as GOD in our midst!
[For the full pages for these resources, please click the links of the titles below.]
In Scripture, the Holy Spirit is likened unto the wind.
Jesus said, “The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” (John 3:8) We also know that on the day of Pentecost when the Spirit was poured out on the disciples in the Upper Room that: “ Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting… All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:2,4). This was a primary manifestation of the Holy Spirit as He was given to the Church after the ascension of Christ.
So why is the Holy Spirit likened unto the wind?
Here are a few similarities that I can see:
The Hebrew word for “spirit”, “ruach”, literally means “wind”, “breath”.
Wind is an unseen force, the effects of which can be seen, but not the force itself. The same is true of the Holy Spirit.
Wind is from above, a “heavenly” force. The same is true of the Holy Spirit.
Wind is “sovereign.” It “blows wherever it pleases.” The same is true of the Holy Spirit.
Wind is unpredictable. “You cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going.” The same is true of the Holy Spirit.
Wind is uncontrollable. It can be harnessed and utilized to a degree, but it cannot ultimately be controlled by man. The same is true of the Holy Spirit.
Wind is unstoppable. When something obstructs it, it either blows the obstacle out of the way, or it finds another way around it. The same is true of the Holy Spirit.
Wind can be gentle and refreshing. The same is true of the Holy Spirit.
Wind can be powerful and forceful. The same is true of the Holy Spirit.
Wind derives its movement and force from the Sun. The same is true of the Holy Spirit (and the Son.)
Wind drives atmospheric changes which affect all life on earth one way or another. The same is true of the Holy Spirit.
… and one last thing,
Wind needs a lot of space to do what wind does. It doesn’t do well in a box. The same is true of the Holy Spirit.
Boxes are man-made containers meant to hold, store, organize, sort, transport and protect all sorts of things. They come in a variety of shapes and sizes, and are used for all manner of tasks and purposes. Pretty much everything that we manufacture, use or consume at one time or another spends time inside of a box. Boxes are a staple of our consumeristic society and lifestyle. It is hard to imagine life without them! We love and need our boxes.
The crazy thing about “boxes”, too, is that they are not only physical. They can also be mental. We have “boxes” in our minds made of our personal and collective beliefs, understandings, concepts, philosophies, preferences, biases, habits and traditions. We live out our lives inside these mental “boxes”, feel safe inside them, and defend them when they are challenged. On the other hand, we also tend to admire those who have the creative ability to “think outside the box.”
Of all of the incalculably vast array of items, objects and even ideas that we have put into “boxes”, I think it is fair to say that NO ONE has ever seriously tried to put WIND in a BOX! Most of us know instinctively that is foolish.
So why is it that when it comes to the WIND OF GOD, the Holy Spirit, we lose all of our human instincts and common sensibilities, and seek to confine the Unconfineable? We build our “boxes” out of our experiences and expectations, our capacities and comfort zones, our preferences and prejudices, our agendas and aspirations and then we expect the Holy Spirit to come and nestle down inside of them. We treat Him as a product for our consumption and reckon that in order for “it” to be contained, controlled, preserved and portioned out, we need “it” in a “box.” The Holy Spirit, however, is not a consumable “it”, but a Sovereign “Him”, and He needs a lot of space to do what He does. When we “box Him in”, we, more often than not, end up “boxing Him out.”
God in a Box???
Many religious leaders and Christian congregations have the appearance of great reverence and respect for God the Father and God the Son, Jesus Christ, but have little esteem, in reality, for the Holy Spirit. They may speak of Him reverently with their lips, but their true esteem is shown by their actions towards Him, not their words. The Holy Spirit, if acknowledged or sought at all in the assembly, is often treated as a something of an accessory, an accent, a nicety, a condiment, a garnish. He is welcomed and allowed just enough room to bring a hint of grace and life, and possibly even a few gifts or manifestations, but these are usually only allowed to the degree that they fit nicely into the particular “box” the assembly regularly lives in. Rarely is He treated as Who He truly is….GOD!
He is as much GOD, however, as the God the Father and God the Son are, and is inextricably One with them in Divine essence, purpose and presence. The Triune God cannot be separated. The degree to which we show the least esteem to any one Person of the Godhead, therefore, is the degree to which we actually esteem all of them. Likewise, when we “box in”, and in the process “box out”, the Holy Spirit, we “”box in” and “box out” the Father and the Son as well. It cannot be otherwise.
The Holy Spirit is that member of the Godhead Who has been given to the Church as the Operative Power to carry out the will of the Father through the Headship of the Son. He is, therefore, indispensable to the existence, life, purpose, functionality, ministry and mission of the Church. The will of the Father cannot be fulfilled and carried out in and through the Church without the manifest Headship of the Son, and the manifest Headship of the Son cannot be inwrought and outworked in and through the Church without the full and unhindered work of the Holy Spirit. If the Holy Spirit is “boxed up”, so is the Headship of the Son, and, consequently, so is the will of the Father.It is just that simple.
Ultimately, the will of the Father in creation, redemption, the Church, and the Kingdom, is, “that in all things He (Christ) might have the preeminence.” (Colossians 1:18) The Holy Spirit is ever working with that end in view. Wherever the Holy Spirit is “unboxed”, Christ will be brought to center stage in all of His fullness, centrality and supremacy, that the Father may be ultimately glorified and satisfied. Wherever the Holy Spirit is given full rein in the life and assembly of the ekklesia, the governance of the church will shift from the overlording control of men and from the lifeless, rigid, forms of religious practices and protocols and placed back in the hands of Him to Whom it belongs. Wherever the Holy Spirit is fully honored and submitted to as GOD in the midst of the church, He will administer the will of the Father, through the Headship of the Son, to and through a many-membered body yielded to His leadings, giftings, ministries and workings. Wherever the Holy Spirit is free to be Himself, He will not seek to glorify Himself, but will direct all attention and glory to the Father and to the Son. These will be the marks of the “unboxed” work of the Holy Spirit.
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We love the wind for what it does, but the wind can also be scary. The wind is beyond human control, and sometimes it is mighty and even violent. We cannot direct it, we cannot contain it, and we cannot predict it. When it comes to the Wind of God, the same is true as well. The question is, will we trust that the Wind of God, if given full and free rein, will always act in perfect submission to the Father and the Son as their appointed Agent to carry out Their perfect will in and through the Church? If we cannot fully trust and surrender to Him, we, in reality, cannot fully trust and surrender to the Father and the Son, as well. If we, collectively, cannot yield the reins of our corporate life and gatherings to the Holy Spirit, then we, in actuality, are wresting the reins from both the Father and the Son. Brothers and sisters, this ought not to be! It is time that we “unbox” the Wind that the Father and the Son may once again have Their way in Their Church.
For all the good that we think we may be doing by keeping everything in a nice, neat BOX, we must never, ever, forget that…
Many years ago I taught an Old Testament Survey course in the local church fellowship we were a part of. As I was preparing for my class on the book of Joshua, I was musing on the spiritual typology of the Israelites as they cross the Jordan River and go up and possess the land of Canaan under Joshua’s leadership. As significant as this time in Israel’s history was, it was merely a type and shadow of something much greater that would one day be ushered in by a greater “Joshua”.
The spiritual reality that the book of Joshua points to for the church in Christ, the spiritual Israel, is best captured for us in the epistle to the Ephesians. The land of Canaan can be rightly described in New Testament spiritual terms as “the heavenly realms”, in which we have been “blessed…with every spiritual blessing in Christ.” (Eph. 1:3) Furthermore, as the land of Canaan had inhabitants who were under God’s judgement and had to be dispossessed through natural warfare, so also, these “heavenly realms” are entrenched with spiritual enemies who need to be dispossessed through spiritual warfare: “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Eph. 6:12) Christ Jesus Himself, then, in all of His heavenly fullness, including His heavenly Kingdom realm, is our Promised Land as new covenant believers. The natural land of Canaan was just a meager, earthly shadow of this glorious, heavenly inheritance that is ours to fully possess in Christ Jesus.
As I was musing on these thoughts back then, I felt led to pick up my guitar. As I began to play, a song was birthed in me. I grabbed pen and paper and began to write as the melody and lyrics flowed almost effortlessly. Within a short while, I had a complete song that captured what was in my heart concerning these spiritual realities. The song, We’re Going Up, is the first and only ballad-type of song that the Lord has given me. I believe it was a prophetic gift from the Lord at the time, and all these years later, believe it still speaks poignantly and prophetically to the Church. These are timeless truths for the Church of Christ at all times and in all places!
I have had the lyrics of this song posted on the blog for a number of years now, but, recently, at the request of a reader, I decided to make a simple recording of it (using a smart phone and minimal editing techniques.) I then included an audio player with the recording on the existing page. I have now, also, recreated that page below for this post, for your enjoyment and encouragement!
So, find a quiet place for meditation, put on some headphones and give a listen.
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We’re Going Up
All the way in this barren wilderness
We muttered, we grumbled, and we wept
And though God had sworn His good promise to us
We doubted His word would be kept
Now all across the desert sands
There lie the bodies of unbelieving men
Consumed by the wasting wilderness
The final reward for the faithless
But now God has brought us to Jordan’s shore
To bring us to the land of our dreams
And He calls us to rise up in faith once more
For we face an uncrossable stream
But He has promised to make a way
If we will simply trust and obey
The Ark of the Covenant shall go before
And Jordan’s waters shall flow no more.
We’re going up
To possess the land
We’re going in
At Joshua’s command
We’re going up
On God’s Word we stand
The good Lord has given it into our hands
And though there be giants and walls in the land
We shall not fear, nor dread
For wherever the feet of Joshua shall stand
The land shall be given to us instead
It’s a land of bounty
A land that is blessed
A land where God’s children shall dwell and find rest
A land where the God of Israel
Shall set up His Kingdom and forever dwell
We’re going up
To possess the land
We’re going in
At Joshua’s command
We’re going up
On God’s Word we stand
The good Lord has given it into our hands
We’re going up…
Now ages have passed since that glorious time of old
When Joshua took the Promised Land
But the Church now stands at this same threshold
With yet a greater Canaan at hand
For we have been promised the high, holy ground
Where all spiritual blessings in Christ are found
An heavenly Kingdom for all who believe
And will lay down their lives that they might receive
It’s been quite a while since I’ve posted. In fact, yesterday was the one year “anniversary” of my last post. Ugh!! I’ve had to put blogging on hold this past year to focus on the ever pressing and sometimes overwhelming responsibilities of life, family, homeschooling, work, and local spiritual pursuits/commitments. All of these have been overshadowed and crowded in on by the laborious and time-consuming work of estate settlement that I’ve been deeply involved in for nearly three years now. I have also had two unrelated worker’s comp. issues that have involved rather prolonged and intensive physical therapy/medical/chiropractic treatments throughout the year! It’s been quite a time! 🙂
I wanted to let you know that I am still here, though, and I’ve not resigned from blogging altogether. In fact, I hope to begin posting again occasionally, and am looking to resume regular blogging again sometime in the new year! That is my hope and desire going forward!
With that being said, I’d like to share with you more than just a blog update in this post and also give you something of spiritual substance and benefit. Since I posted last, I’ve added a few new resources to the blog that I’d like to share with you.
If there is a singular burden that I feel is most urgent at this unique period of time we are living in, it is the need to press into prayer and intercession as the Body of Christ for our ourselves, our families, the Church, and the nations. We are living in truly epic, Biblical times, and prayer and intercession lie at the heart of our ability to rise up to our ordained place and purpose in Christ in the midst of all that is transpiring. There is also more vying for our time and attention than ever before that is continually distracting and hindering us from these most vital spiritual pursuits. Our only hope is that we meet this onslaught of diversion and disruption with renewed conviction and intentionality that we might gain new ground in this area of our lives.
To help in this regard, then, I have added two audiobook resources by an author that I hold in the highest esteem, Andrew Murray. These are truly classics! Please see the links below to access the resource pages for these books which include a continuous audio player as well as links to online print versions. (I have also included the link to the Free Audiobooks main resource page for the entire list of audiobooks that are hosted on this site.) I pray that you are strengthened and blessed by these excellent resources! -David
The following is a chapter excerpt from the book, A Way of Growth by T. Austin-Sparks. The focus of this selection is on the headship of Christ and the church’s submission to it as the way of growth into the fullness of all that is in Christ.
There are few who compare with Bro. Sparks as to his revelation of the eternal purpose of God and of its practical outworking in and through the Church. As a follow-up to my last three posts on the headship of Christ, I offer this clear and compelling teaching on this subject for your consideration and edification.
“In him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily, and in him ye are made full” (Col. 2:9-10).
“And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence” (Col. 1:18).
“Who is the head of all principality and power” (Col. 2:10).
“…not holding fast the Head, from whom all the body, being supplied and knit together through the joints and bands, increaseth with the increase of God” (Col. 2:19).
“…where there cannot be Greek and Jew, circumcision and uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian, bondman, freeman; but Christ is all, and in all” (Col. 3:11).
Christ’s Absolute Headship
Colossians 1 is the greatest and most magnificent statement in the Bible concerning the Lord Jesus, and, in a word, it sums up all things in Christ. It is a very wonderful unveiling of the place which Christ occupies in relation to all things, and of course that is the standpoint from which everything has to be viewed as to the Lord Jesus – His relationship to all things; and what the Apostle is seeking to make very clear, because of that which had arisen to call forth this letter, is that Christ is at no point, in no way, second in God’s universe. He does not come in the slightest degree below the place of absolute pre-eminence, however great might be the position accorded Him by those against whom the Apostle was writing. They were quite prepared to say very good and great and wonderful things about Him, and to accord Him a very high place; and yet that place was less than absolute pre-eminence. So the Apostle wrote this letter in the first place to reveal and declare that the Lord Jesus is in every realm supreme.
You notice the above passages touching upon His headship, and that headship is seen in the several connections as complete. There are no two heads or three heads in God’s universe; only one head is possible, and Christ occupies that in every realm. So it is stated here – “that in all things he might have the pre-eminence.” You cannot get outside of that. When you say ‘all,’ that is final. He is head over all things.
Our Position in that Headship
Chapter 2 brings us firstly to our position in that headship. Verses 9 and 10 are a statement of our position. “In him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily, and in him ye are made full.” Now, that is a positional fulness. That simply means that, by our being in Christ, we come into the place of fulness, and we are made to stand in the fulness of Christ; we are positioned there.
Our Progress in the Position
But when you pass to verse 19 of Chapter 2, it is a matter of progress, progress in the position and by reason of that relatedness. “Holding fast the Head, from whom all the body, being supplied and knit together through the joints and bands, increaseth with the increase of God.” “In him ye are made full,” but in Him you have got to increase. That is not a contradiction. Made full by reason of your position, but increasing in that fulness by reason of your spiritual progress. Progress is a matter of making good all that is in your position. We see in Ephesians the correspondence between that letter and the book of Joshua. When the people came into the land, they were in the land flowing with milk and honey, they were in the place where all the fulness dwelt, but they had to do something about it; and so we find that it was a matter of making good all that was theirs, progressing in the fulness into which they had been placed positionally; and that is exactly what is here. “Increaseth with the increase of God” is a matter of going on in that position to appropriate, apply and make ours the fulness which we have inherited in Christ; or, to put it more closely to the figure of the Body and the Head here in this letter, it is taking everything from the Head.
Now the temptation which was being presented to these Colossian believers was to let go of Christ as supreme, and the Apostle made it perfectly clear that to let Christ’s supreme position go was to let the fulness go, and that only as they held fast, not simply to Christ personally – all these people were prepared to hold fast to Christ and not to let Him go – but also to Him as Head, and so recognized that everything came from the headship of Christ, only so would they come experimentally to His fulness.
The Practical Application of Christ’s Headship
That is a statement, but what it means is shown in Chapter 3 –
“If then ye were raised together with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated on the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things that are above, not on the things that are upon the earth. For ye died, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life, shall be manifested, then shall ye also with him be manifested in glory.”
That is the practical application of headship. “Ye died” – that is necessary to put Christ in His place. “Ye were raised together with Christ” – not apart from Him; not leaving any place for self-government, self-direction, self-sufficiency, self-assertiveness, or any other expression of self at all. “Ye died”; your own headship of your life died with you. All other governments of your life died when you died. You died to all other authorities, to all other rule; to every other kind of direction, government, headship in principle; you died to all except to the headship of Christ; and, being raised, you were raised with Christ. It is “together with Christ”; and now in resurrection it is Christ Who is Head of the Body, the Church.
While this has a personal and individual application, it is the Church which is in view again. This elect body of people called the Church died to all other governments, just as Israel were set aside and buried in Babylon. It was the crucifixion – the death and the burial – of Israel when the captivity took place. They were sent away, out of the place of covenant blessing, the place where the Lord was, the place of the inheritance, the place where everything had been provided for their very existence. They were sent right out of it and were for that time dead and buried, simply because they had let in other headships. Idolatry was the cause; that meant that another headship, that of Satan mediately through the gods of the nations round about, had taken God’s place, and God would not tolerate any other headship of any kind at all. So He slew them and buried them in Babylon, and when there was a raising from that grave of a company that came back, it was under the absolute headship of the Lord, and that alone. That is the principle of it. It was a corporate thing, a corporate resurrection, and under one head. From that time, whatever Israel became, however they failed, never again was idolatry found among them. There is that about it; it cured them of idolatry – that is, of another headship. You see the principle.
Now here it is the Church, an elect people, having died and been buried to all other headships; and to be in the Church in resurrection carries with it that which is not optional at all. It is not an option – whether we like it or not, whether we will have it or not – it is an established thing, that you cannot be truly in the meaning of the Body of Christ and have any other government than the government of Christ, any other headship than the headship of Christ. It is implicit in resurrection. So then, “If… ye were raised together with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated on the right hand of God.” Here Christ as Head is seated at the right hand of God. That means He has taken the seat of absolute authority. There is nothing more to be done about this, nothing to be added to it. It is finished, it is final. He sits down in the complete authority which is His. He is on the Throne. And that is the position of the Church, and the Church in every part has to be brought to that place where all direction, all government, all decisions, are taken from the Head, everything is referred to the Head, the whole life has to come right under the Head. There is to be no self-will, no self-choice, no self-direction, nothing at all that comes out from any other quarter. There is no division in the mind of God between our natural will and the will of Satan – they are the same. Satan has put his very will into the fallen creation. It is a self-willed creation working against God, and it comes from the devil. So everything now has to be transferred to the Head and taken from the Head if there is going to be any spiritual enlargement.
It is practical. “Ye died”; “ye were raised”; “Christ who is our life.” Those are statements of fact, utter and absolute. Therefore “seek the things that are above”; therefore “put to death your members which are upon the earth… seeing that ye have put off the old man and have put on the new man” (Col. 3:5-10). You see the things that are to be put away because you put on the new man. It is a new position with a government altogether in all matters, and a complete subjection to Him at every point. That is the way to progress in the fulness to which we have been brought positionally.
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In keeping with T. Austin-Sparks’ wishes that what was freely received should be freely given and not sold for profit, and that his messages be reproduced word for word, we ask if you choose to share these messages with others, to please respect his wishes and offer them freely – free of any changes, free of any charge (except necessary distribution costs) and with this statement included.
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For the complete text of A Way of Growth, by T. Austin-Sparks, please see here.
For the complete Online Library of T. Austin-Sparks, please see here.
[For Part 1 of this two-part post, please see here.]
Union with the “Heartship of Christ”
When it comes to developing a deeper union with the “heartship of Christ”, we need to understand that there are both general and specific aspects of His “heartship.” The general aspects relate to the eternal virtues of Christ’s heart that never change, while the specific aspects relate to the immediate, situation-specific workings of His heart that are ever dynamic. The key to discerning and responding to the immediate workingsof His heart is to first come into a deeper union with the eternal virtues of His heart from which they spring.
Of the many virtues that fill Christ’s heart, there are three that are supreme when it comes to His union with and submission to the Father as His “head” (1 Cor. 11:3) and, subsequently, of our union with and submission to Christ as our “head” (Col. 1:18). The more that we encounter, embrace, and embody these virtues, the more we will come into spiritual union with the deepest springs of His “heartship” and, thus, of His headship. This is how we position ourselves at the very headwaters of the manifest headship of Christ within His Body!
Faith – Of all of the virtues of the heart, faith is the most foundational. Through faith we initially come into relationship with God, and through faith we daily live out our relationship with Him. Scripture says, “The righteous will live by faith” (Rom. 1:17b), and that faith is “…from first to last.” (Rom. 1:17a) If we seek to come into a deeper union with the “heartship” of Christ, we must begin with and perpetually cultivate this primary attribute of faith.
In much Christian teaching, a primary emphasis is placed on the intellect and thought life when it comes to the cultivation of faith (along with its related virtues of belief, trust, assurance, etc.). As important as the mind is in this regard, according to Divine order, faith is, first and foremost, a virtue of the heart. Consider the following verses in this regard:
“The LORD is my strength and my shield; myheart trusts in him” Ps. 28:7
“Trust in the LORD with all yourheart and lean not on your own understanding;” Prov. 3:5
“Truly I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them.” Mark 11:23
” If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are saved…” Rom. 10:9-10
“See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God.” Heb. 3:12
“…let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith,” Heb. 10:22
As is seen in these verses, faith, along with“trust”, “belief”, and “assurance”, all find their source within the heart. These virtues, along with additional related ones such as “confidence”, “reliance”, “dependence”, and “faithfulness”, all form a cluster of virtues that spring from the root of faith and when cultivated together bring our hearts into deeper union with the faith-filled “heartship” of Christ.
Because the virtue of faith was so foundational in the life of the Lord Jesus Christ, we can easily take its presence and perfection for granted. His earthly life, however, embodied the purest expression of faith, trust, and assurance in the Father’s sovereign working that has ever been attained and expressed by man. He epitomized the inner attributes of confidence, reliance, and dependence upon the dynamic workings of the Holy Spirit as He submitted to the Father’s sovereign leading. He lived out a humble, obedient relationship with His Father in unwavering faith in and faithfulness to His manifest headship (1 Cor. 11:3). Now His perfectly virtuous heart has been resurrected and sent to dwell within the hearts of His beloved people. His faith-filled ” heartship” abides deep within us drawing and urging us to, likewise, have faith in and be faithful to His sovereign headship among us as His Body.
When we, as the Body of Christ assemble, then, the most foundational virtue that we must cultivate is that of faith.This faith must be especially cultivated and exercised in relation to Christ’s manifest headship in our midst! We must continually reckon on the dynamic reality that Jesus Christ is personally present within and among us as our sovereign Head. We must collectively believe and trust that He is wholly able and willing to lead us as His Body according to His Divine wisdom, will, and ways. We must cultivate a corporate reliance upon the Holy Spirit as He administers Christ’s headship and not turn to the arm of the flesh or to the ways of the natural man, be they religious or otherwise. All substitutes for Christ’s headship, which inherently spring from unbelief, must be surrendered to the cross, and only that which springs from faith in the present working of Christ’s headship must be held onto and yielded to. Even as Jesus of Nazareth was utterly cast upon His Father from birth (Ps. 22:10) and could do nothing out from Himself (Jn. 5:19), so we must be utterly cast upon our resurrected Lord and do nothing out from ourselves as we gather in His name. Only as our “collective heart” comes into a deeper union with the faith-filled “heartship of Christ”, can our “collective body” come into a deeper union with the faithful headship of Christ!
Faith, then, is the most foundational virtue of the heart that we must collectively cultivate when we come together in His name and under His headship.
Humility – The second virtue of the heart that must be diligently cultivated in order to come into a deeper union with the “heartship of Christ”, is humility. “Heartship” implies a moral union with Christ, while “headship” implies a functional union with Him. All that separates us from a moral union with Him has at its root theexaltation of “self”. (Scripture sometimes calls this “vain conceit” –Phil. 2:3.) All that separates us from functional union with Him has at its root theindependence of “self”. (Scripture sometimes calls this “selfish ambition.” Phil. 2:3; James 4:14,16) It is both the exaltation and independence of the self-life that is the ultimate divider and destroyer of both the “heartship” and the headship of Christ within His Body. If this is to be overcome, humility must be embraced in both our moral being and in our functional doing.
The origins of self-exaltation and self-independence trace back to the heart of the archangel Lucifer. Scripture says:
“How you have fallen from heaven, morning star, son of the dawn! You have been cast down to the earth, you who once laid low the nations! You said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to the heavens; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of Mount Zaphon. I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.’ But you are brought down to the realm of the dead, to the depths of the pit.” (Isaiah 14:13-15)
It is Lucifer’s “I will ascend” spirit, which he later injected into the human race through the temptation and sin of Adam and Eve to “be like God” (Gen. 3:5) that is the root of all rebellion against both the “heartship” and the headship of Christ. In contrast, it is the utter rejection of this “I will ascend” spirit that is at the root of all restoration of both the “heartship” and the headship of Christ within His Body.
Here, as in all of the virtues, Christ is the supreme example as well as the transforming power within us to conform us to Himself in both our being and our doing. This humility was, first and foremost, towards His Father, and secondly towards humanity whom He came to serve and to save. Nowhere are these two aspects more purely and powerfully demonstrated than on the cross. (See Phil. 2:5-8) Through the incarnation, suffering, and death of Christ, the complete opposite spirit than that of Lucifer’s “I will ascend” spiritwas perfectly embraced and embodied. It was through the utter self-emptying, and self-sacrificing of Christ, in both His being and His doing, culminating in the cross, that He triumphed over all Luciferic and Adamic self-exaltation and self-independence. In this way, He qualified as the only one worthy to be given the headship over all principalities and powers (Col. 2:10) and over redeemed humanity, the church, which is His body (Eph. 1:22-23, Col.1:18). The humility of His “heartship” qualified Him for the sublimity of His headship. Thus, humility and headship are eternally bound in and through the person and work of Jesus Christ.
Christ’s perfect heart of humility is now resurrected and come to dwell within us, transforming and causing us to, likewise, deny ourselves, take up our cross daily, and follow Him. (Lk. 9:23) Through this daily working of His indwelling Spirit, He is rooting out the Luciferic “I will ascend” principle within our hearts and bringing us into a more perfect alignment with the humble nature of His “heartship”. This in turn will prepare us for more a perfect union with the dynamic workings of His headship.
When we assemble under the headship of Jesus Christ, then, humility is the second virtue of the heart that we must diligently cultivate and exercise. The more humility there is before God and one another, the more union there will be with both the “heartship” and, subsequently, the headship of Christ. Conversely, the more “‘I will ascend” spirit there is before God and one another, the more union there will be with both Satan and the flesh which jointly hinder and oppose the heartship and the headship of Jesus Christ in the midst of the church.
When we gather together, therefore, we must all learn to humble ourselves before God, submit to the living headship of Jesus Christ, and yield to the manifest working of the Holy Spirit in our midst. Concurrently, we must all learn to humble ourselves before one another, even as the apostle Peter exhorted: “…all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’” (1 Peter 5:5) Paul likewise exhorted: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus…” (Phil. 2:3-5)
The degree to which we embrace this Christ-imparted humility within our gatherings, is the degree to which we will be prepared as a body for the Lord Jesus to manifest His headship in and through us by the Holy Spirit.
Love – Finally, the third virtue of the heart that must be diligently cultivated within our gatherings is that of love. Love is the quintessential attribute that most perfectly defines the “heartship of Christ.” Love is the supreme motivation that underlies all of the workings of the headship of Christ. As we come into a deeper union with this consummate virtue, we come into a deeper communion with the heart of Christ and are able to more readily and regularly discern what He desires to do in and through us as we gather in His name.
So much can be said about love, but please consider for a moment just a small selection of Scripture verses concerning this supreme virtue:
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35
“Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.” John 12:10
“…knowledge puffs up while love builds up.” 1 Cor. 8:1
“If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.” 1 Cor. 13:1-3
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” 1 Cor. 13:4-8a
“Follow the way of love and eagerly desire gifts of the Spirit, especially prophecy.” 1 Cor. 14:1
“Do everything in love.” 1 Cor. 16:14
“You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh ; rather, serve one another humbly in love.” Gal. 5:13
“And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” Eph. 3:17b-19
“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” Eph. 4:2
“…speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.” Eph. 4:15
“From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.” Eph. 4:16
“Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind.” Phil. 2:1-2
“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” Col. 3:12-14
“Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from the heart.” 1 Pet.1:22
“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” 1 Pet. 4:8
“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.
“We love because he first loved us. Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.” 1 John 4:19-21
The gatherings of God’s people, therefore, ought to be marked, above all else, by this supreme virtue of love. When we come together, the underlying motivation in all that we say and do is to be the Spirit-imparted love in our hearts for God and one another. Our love for God will cause us to seek Him with all of our heart and lovingly yield to His desires and intentions for our gathering as He leads us by His Spirit. The nearer that we draw to Him in faith, humility, and, ultimately, love, the nearer we will draw to His faithful, humble, loving “heartship”, which in turn leads to His life-giving headship.
Our love for one another will, similarly, cause us to seek one another’s benefit and blessing above our own. Our motivation will be to speak and do all things for the encouragement and edification of our brothers and sisters, and not for our own selfish interest. As we honor and prefer one another above ourselves, we will become fit channels through which both the “heartship” and the headship of Christ can flow to His body. In this way, we will become a body that “grows and builds itself up in love as each part does its work.” (Eph. 4:16)
If we belong to a body of believers who desire to see a restoration of the headship of Christ within our collective life and gatherings, we must be a body who, first and foremost, seeks a deeper union with the “heartship of Christ” in faith, humility, and love. These three supreme virtues bring us to the deepest springs of the headship of Christ.
In contrast, all hindrances and obstacles to His headship begin with a deficiency in one or more of these spiritual attributes. Unbelief, pride, and self-love are the three greatest enemies of Christ’s corporate governance and spiritual ministry within His people. Wherever these are found, the headship of Christ will invariably be ignored, substituted for, obstructed, hindered, resisted, derailed, controlled, counterfeited, and/or co-opted for self-serving ends. Only a people who purposefully put off these carnal attributes and attitudes and instead are clothed with the opposite virtues of faith, humility, and love, can begin to experience and express the practical headship of Christ in their midst.
To pursue a life together of seeking and surrendering to the imminent headship of Christ, then, requires a walk of perpetual and repeated exercising of faith, humility and love…faith, humility, and love…faith, humility, and love… Where Christ’s “heartship” and headship are persistently pursued along these lines, the Lord Jesus will not fail to manifest His presence, His power, and His providence in leading His people according to His Divine wisdom and loving intention.
May God raise up a people in these last days who are willing to pay the price to see such a glorious restoration come to be…and may we, by God’s grace, be counted among them!
In my last post I shared how essential it is for the Body of Christ to be “holding fast to the Head” as it gathers in His name. In this and the next post I’d like to share one of the most important insights I’ve gained as to how the Body can most readily and regularly experience Christ’s headship as it gathers in His name.
For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” Matthew 18:20 ESV
When we assemble as the church, Jesus Christ is personally present with us. This is the most significant aspect of our gathering. His presence changes everything, for He is not there merely as a spectator, a cheerleader, or even a sideline coach. He is there in the fullness of all that He is, to be all to His people. When we gather “in His name”, we gather under His authority to carry out His specific desire and purpose for our gathering. Jesus Christ is personally present to lead us and to carry out His work in and through us by the power of the Holy Spirit. He is there as our indwelling Life and as our living Head.
Gathering under the immediate headship of Christ, however, is not something that the Church at large has been accustomed to or is generally expectant of. Ever since the middle of the second century, when the Church universally accepted the intermediary headship of the monepiscopacy (single bishop), Catholic and, later, Protestant streams of Christianity have primarily assembled under the headship of a set-apart man/woman and been directed primarily by a predetermined liturgy or program. The open, participatory, Spirit-led gatherings of the first century church (see 1 Cor. 14:26-40) have been mainly carried on throughout history by an “outside-the-gate” remnant who were determined to maintain the freedom and fullness of the early church by gathering under the immediate headship of Christ as His functioning Body.
In this last day, that “outside-the-gate” remnant is increasing as an end-times witness to the unchanging purpose of God for His Church. The immediate, functional headship of Christ is being restored as the He is being lifted up once again to His rightful place as the unrivaled center and uncontested Head of His Body. This restoration is advancing with great struggle, however, as remnant expressions of the ekklesia are seeking to overcome layers of age-old patterns, religious preconditionings, entrenched traditions, and inflexible structures and mindsets.
I have personally experienced that struggle and yet through it have learned from both the “successes” and the “failures” of what I’ve been a part of. Through the “school of the Spirit” and also of “hard knocks”, the Lord has taught me some deep lessons and given me some precious insights as to how the headship of Christ can be most readily and regularly experienced within his Body. In this post, I’d like to introduce what I consider to be one of the most significant of these, and then go into more detail and practical application of it in a follow-up post.
The “Heartship of Christ”
The greatest secret that I have learned in this regard is in what I’ve come to know and describe as the “HEARTSHIP of Christ”. In fact, I don’t believe that any gathering of believers will ever truly come to know the manifest “headshipof Christ“, until it truly comes to know the manifest “heartship of Christ“.
The Priority of the Heart
“Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.”
Prov. 4:23 NIV
In the innermost being of both God and man there is a vital connection between the head and the heart. Neither of these function independently of the other. Of these two aspects, though, the heart holds the primary place according to the Divine order.
Another consistent pattern in this regard is that the word “heart” always precedes the word “soul” when found in context in Scripture. Numerous times the phrase “heart and soul” is used, for instance, but never “soul and heart”. The soul is commonly understood to be comprised of the mind, the will, and the emotions and so the aspect of the mind is also implied in the word “soul”. The important thing to understand is that the seat of all of these three aspects of the soul are found in the heart. Therefore, when God wants us to seek Him (Deuteronomy 4:29), return to Him (2 Chronicles 6:38), trust Him (Proverbs 3:5), love Him (Deuteronomy 30:6), serve Him (Deuteronomy 11:13), obey Him (Deuteronomy 30:2) keep His commandments (Deuteronomy 26:16), and the like, He directs His word first to the “heart”, and then to the “soul” /”mind” which will naturally follow after it.
Probably the most well-known example of this Divine order is found in the “great commandment”: “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment.” (Matt. 22:37-38) Here we see that the “heart” is mentioned first, followed by the “soul”, and then the “mind”. This is the proper order for man to both experience and express the love of God.
According to the nature of God, and of His Divine order for man, then, the heart is to have the priority in all matters, followed by the soul and the mind.
The Priority of “Heartship”
By having an understanding of this Divine order as it exists in both God and man, we can gain a key insight into how the headship of Christ works within His corporate Body.
In the natural body, the head is the highest, most intelligent member that governs the rest of the body. The term “headship”, in its common usage, speaks of both the position and function of the chief, governing member of an organism or organization. The dictionary definition includes: “the position of head or chief; chief authority; leadership; supremacy.” (Dictionary.com) We know from our natural body, and from human institutions, that “headship” is both positional and functional.
In the spiritual Body, the Head(Christ) is, likewise, the highest, most intelligent member Who governs the rest of His Body. Scripture says that Christ is, “… the Head of [His] body, the church…so that He alone in everything and in every respect might occupy the chief place [stand first and be preeminent.]” Col. 1:18 AMP Drawing from the “body” analogy, we understand that spiritual “headship” is, likewise both positional and functional. Christ has both the place and the power of governance over His Body as its living Head.
That being said, then, we can further ask, what, if anything, holds the place and the power of governance over the thoughts and intentions of the Head? From what we have seen in Scripture, we know that the heart holds the place of prominence and the power of influence over thedeepest workings of the mind.This place and power of governance that the heart holds over the head, according to the Divine order, is what I call “heartship”! This is the heart’srulership over all of the inner workings within both God and man. Because of this inner supremacy of the heart, heartship precedesheadship, and headship proceeds from heartship! All that Christ desires to do for, in, and through His Body as its ruling Head, finds its origins, first and foremost, within His reigning heart. This is the vital relationship that exists between the headship of Christ and “the heartship of Christ.”
This understanding though rather simple in its essence, is profound in its implications. It is one of the most important “keys” to our entering into and experiencing Christ’s manifest headship both individually and corporately. The more we encounter, embrace, and embody the heartship of Christ, the more we will be able to encounter, embrace, and embody the headship of Christ that springs from it! That is the simple truth that I hope you will take from this initial post.
In the follow-up post, I will share in greater detail how we can come into a deeper union with the “heartship of Christ” and thus position ourselves to most readily and regularly experience Christ’s headship in our midst as His Body.
In the meanwhile, I encourage you to follow some of the above Scripture links and take some time to study more fully this matter of the supremacy of the heart in spiritual matters. It is a most beneficial and enriching study!
“…holding fast to the Head, from whom all the body, nourished and knit together by joints and ligaments, grows with the increase that is from God.”
Colossians 2:19 NKJV
The Church, according to Scripture, is the “Body of Christ.” Assuch, it is essential that the Church have a healthy connection with its Head. Every human being knows how essential the connection between body and head is. We also know how debilitated the body becomes when a spinal injury cuts off the impulses of the head to the body and the body to the head. Even though the head is still physically attached, when the internal communication between the head and the body is cut off, paralysis ensues. Both the external and the internal aspects of the connection between the body and the head are essential for normal, healthy, body life and function.
“For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.” (1 Cor. 12:13 NAS)
Our baptism by the Spirit into the Body of Christ joins us to the Head in a spiritually “external” way, while our receiving (drinking) of the indwelling Spirit joins us to the Head in a spiritually “internal” way. The “external” connection is an initial act of the Spirit that is maintained by God, while the “internal” connection is an ongoing work of the Spirit that is maintained by the believer in cooperation with and dependence upon God. Just as in the natural, both the spiritually “external” and “internal” aspects are essential for normal, healthy, Body life and function. When both of these aspects are as they should be, every member becomes a living expression, inwardly and outwardly, of the Headship of Christ according to their unique gifting and calling within the Body.
These external and internal realities are true not only for individual believers, but also for the collectiveBody of believers. The Body of Christ is a collective, and when it assembles, it must do so with a connection to its Head according to the same principles as that of the individual. The foundation of this is the accomplished, “external” work of the Spirit in baptizing all members into the one Body. If the church is to have a fully functioning connection with its Head, however, it must also maintain the internal aspect of this connection through the indwelling Spirit. Each member is responsible for supplying their measure of this internal connection with the Head to the Body, and they will, accordingly, either add to the healthiness of the church or detract from it. Wherever that inward connection between the Head and the member is maintained, spiritual vitality and functionality are increased within the Body. Wherever the inward connection between the Head and the member is not maintained, spiritual lifelessness and paralysis are increased within in the Body. Each member, therefore, brings either life and functionality or deadness and paralysis to the Body depending on the state of their inward connection to the Head through the indwelling Spirit.
When the Body of Christ assembles, then, it must do so “holding fast to the Head” both outwardly and inwardly. Outwardly it must hold fast to the Headship of Christ as to its external manifestation among the assembled Body. In order for this to be facilitated, any outward aspect of its gathering that has the potential to substitute for or supplant the Headship of Christ must be let go of, or at very most, held lightly. All persons, programs, protocols, traditions, liturgies, plans, and preparations that the Body is “holding fast to” must be relinquished and submitted to the sovereign Headship of Christ. Only then can the Body be free to assemble simply “holding fast to the Head” in all things related to the external manifestation of Christ in their gathering through the Spirit. This is the first aspect that must be collectively embraced.
In addition to this, the Body must also assemble “holding fast to the Head” inwardly through its vital connection with the Holy Spirit. Scripture says, “For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.” (1 Cor.2:11 NIV) It is the Holy Spirit who takes the things of Christ, the Head, and makes them known to us. (see John 16:14-15) When the Body comes together, then, whatever each member may be “holding fast to”inwardly that is not of the Holy Spirit, must be let go of, or at very most, held lightly. All preconceived ideas, expectations, plans, preparations, and the like must be relinquished and submitted to Christ’s sovereign Headship. Only then can each person be free to simply “hold fast to the Head” inwardly and thus be able to receive from the Spirit that which He desires to reveal, impart, and work in and through them. This is especially important for those who serve as leaders and/or in “ministry” as these have a greater influence in either fostering and facilitating the Headship of Christ or in hindering and hampering it. Every member, however, is responsible for supplying their measure of Jesus Christ to the Body through the manifest working of the Holy Spirit. The Body will be filled with life and functionality as every member is found “holding fast to the Head” inwardly. This is the second aspect that must be collectively embraced.
As simple in principle as these two aspects may be, in reality they do not come simply to an assembly of believers. There are many obstacles, both within and without, that will make their actualization a struggle. Only where there is a clear understanding, a passionate pursuit, and a persistent “practicing” of their realities can there be an expectation of them being embodied within a people. Apart from the Headship of Christ being regularly apprehended and entered into in this way, however, there can be no normal, healthy, functioning of the Body of Christ.
When the Church comes together, it invariable does so “holding fast to…something.” The critical question that must be asked then is, “Is that something the one thing that the Body needs more than anything else: its Head, or is it something else?” For most of church history, and throughout most of the world, the answer has tragically been “something else!” In this last day, throughout the world, however, God is raising up a people who will have a different answer! They will be able to humbly say, “By God’s grace, we are holding fast to THE HEAD, the Lord Jesus Christ!”
Whitewater rafting on the Kennebec River, Maine, with my son (front) – 2001
If you were to describe the times in which we live in just one word, what would it be? There are a few words that might sum it up quite well, but one that particularly comes to mind for me is the word “acceleration”. We are living in a time of mind-boggling change in almost every aspect of human life, and this is increasing at an exponentialrate. I believe we are living in an era that may rightly be called “The Great Acceleration.”
One metric of this acceleration has been put forth by R. Buckminster Fuller. In 1983 he calculated that the totality of human knowledge doubles over time according to an exponential curve. He estimated that around 1900, knowledge was doubling approximately every century. By the end of WWII, it was doubling in 25 years, and now it is doubling approximately every 12 months. It is soon predicted to double every 12 hours. When that happens, the increase in knowledge during the first half of any given day will be equal to the totality of all of human knowledge prior to that day. By the end of the second half of that day, that doubled amount of knowledge will in turn double again. (Double. Double. Repeat.) That’s enough to give even a supercomputer a migraine! 😦
In addition to all that is accelerating in the natural realm, there is also an acceleration of activity in the spiritual realm. From Scripture we know that there is a time when Satan, and all of his angels, will be cast out of heaven and will come down to the earth with great fury knowing that their time is short. (Rev. 12) The sign in the heavens related to this event, from Revelation 12, will astronomically appear in the sky for the first time in human history this year, on Sept. 23, 2017. This aligns with many other significant prophetic time cycles. (For a brief overview, see here.) We also know from Scripture that there will be a release of demonic activity from below in the end times with the opening of the Abyss, the bottomless pit (Rev. 9.) This may very well take place through the nefarious workings of CERN. The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) associated with CERN is built directly above the ancient temple to “Apollo” (“Apollyon” Gk., “Abaddon” Heb. – see Rev. 9:11) which was believed by the ancients to be at the entrance to the “bottomless pit.” The Director for Research & Scientific Computing at CERN, Sergio Bertolucci, admitted that the experiments being conducted by CERN researchers “could open a doorway to an extra dimension and out of this door might come something.” Little does he know (or does he?) what that “something” might be!There is much occultism associated with CERN and it is something we should be awake to as to its profound prophetic significance.
All of this natural and spiritual acceleration will undoubtedly have major impacts on every aspect of human life. If you think that change has been coming at us hard and fast over the past couple of decades, just wait to see what the next twenty or thirty years will bring, should the Lord tarry! It is wholly believable that the human experience by even the middle of this century could be all but unrecognizable from what we presently know. As mind-boggling and even disturbing as that may be, this exponential dynamic of change is the undeniable reality of the age in which we live.
In the face of this runaway acceleration, the question must be asked, how does the Church of Jesus Christ both stand fast and spiritually respond in the midst of this onslaught of change? Because the Church is called to be in the world, but not of the world, she is faced with an immense challenge to both spiritually adapt to the radical changes in society around her as well as to hold fast to and manifest the unchanging realities of the eternal Kingdom of God. Consequently, the Church is called to both radical change and radical constancy. The discerning and balancing of these two conflicting dynamics lie at the heart of the Church’s calling and challenge in this end time.
The call to radical constancy
Of the two, the Church is called, first and foremost, to radical constancy. The root and foundation of all that she is called to be and do is the immutable nature and purpose of God. He says, “For I am the Lord, I change not.” (Hab. 3:6) The radical constancy of the eternal I AM and all that emanates from Him is the bedrock of the radical constancy of the Church.
The call of the Church to radical constancy includes the following:
An unflagging faith in and proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
An unswerving devotion to fulfilling the Great Commission in the discipling of all nations.
An undying pursuit of the Kingdom of God and its spiritual manifestation in and through the Church by the power of the Holy Spirit.
An uncompromising commitment to righteousness and to being salt and light in the midst of an increasingly corrupt and darkening world.
An unshakable hope in the return of Jesus Christ and the ultimate restoration of all things.
As the Church is plunged in the coming years into a deluge of scientific, technological, sociological, cultural, religious, spiritual, geo-political, military, medical, environmental, geological, and economic mega-changes, she will be called to stand fast with an indomitable spiritual character and an unshakable Kingdom purpose. All that is not of God, both within her and around her, will be shaken, while that which is of God will be purified and fortified. Like a spiritual Gibraltar,stability and strength will increasingly be her character as all around her swirls and swells in increasing tempest and torrent. Christ within her will be the resilient Rock to which the multitudes will clamor and cling for safety and refuge in the midst of the storm. Radical constancy will be one of the primary hallmarks of the overcoming church at the end of the age.
The call to radical change
That being said, there will also be a second, seemingly contrary and conflicting, hallmark of the Church at the end of the age: radical change. Although she is not of the world, she is in the world, and this will necessitate some deep and extensive transformations. Even as it is wholly believable that the world will be all but unrecognizable in just a few decades, so the Church may very well be, in many respects, all but unrecognizable from what we presently know her to be then as well.
As an analogy of this radical change, consider a broad river that has little change to it. It has its twists and turns, but generally flows along in a rather predictable and navigable manner. Now picture that same river flowing into an area where the topography begins to drop off by ever-increasing degrees. The flow of the current begins to accelerate gently, then moderately, and then, almost without warning, with great severity. Calm navigable waters turn into 1st, 2nd, and 3rd class rapids, and then quickly plunge into 4th and 5th class whitewater. Only those with the greatest courage, wisdom, and skill are able to navigate these waters. Eventually, this river rushes out into a grand, wide-open bay with calm blue waters and lush tropical beaches. Those who successfully navigate it are blessed to enjoy the exquisite beauty of its final destination.
This is a picture in my mind of what the Church will face in the coming Great Acceleration. Drawing from its features, then, I would like to suggest three categories of radical change that will need to be embraced by the Church in order for her to navigate the increasingly turbulent waters ahead:
Vessels: The “vessels” in this analogy are the forms and structures that the body of Christ employ in her corporate expression. Traditionally, these are institutional in nature and include special buildings, professional clergy, set services, specialized programs, and a generally consumer-based congregation. These type of vessels come in all shapes and sizes and are very common and abundant in the broad flowing rivers of the Judeo-Christian-based cultures that have prevailed in many parts of the world for centuries and even millennia. In the great acceleration that is coming, however, those cultures will rapidly change into hostile and dangerous whitewater environments. We desperately need the prophetic foresight to understand that what we have traditionally known as “church” is going to be terribly unfit for the dramatic changes ahead. These institutional vessels that we are so accustomed to, and even deem as indispensable, will either end up beached on the shores of yesteryear’s river, and cease going forward in God, or will be utterly dashed to pieces on the rocks of escalating cultural opposition and political and religious persecution. The time for transition is now to smaller, more agile vessels that will be able to quickly move and adjust within the swirling dynamics of the great acceleration ahead. It will be imperative for the Church’s survival that she learn to do with much less encumbrance, ballast, rigidity, formality, and external structure. The way forward will be with smaller, closely knit, intensely committed, organic gatherings of believers, who are governed by the Holy Spirit in all of their actions, associations, and assemblies. This is how the Church has always survived and thrived in times of tumultuous opposition and persecution. We must learn from those who have traversed these waters before us and begin to transition now into these lighter-weight, whitewater vessels as the Body of Christ. It will be incumbent in the very near future that our vessels willhave alreadyexperienced radical change in this regard if we are ever going to survive the acceleration ahead.
Pilots and crew – Most vessels on the upper river are staffed by professional pilots and a mix of salaried and volunteer crew. Of all of the people on the upper river, these are often the most resistant to radical change. Many of these are comfortable in their positions for the sense of personal significance they derive from them as well as the feeling of security that their salaries provide. To contemplate these elemental factors radically changing is repugnant to them. Not only so, but the contemplation of giving up the comfortable craft of the upper river, with their stately cabins and cozy mate’s quarters, for the dangerous river dories, inflatable rafts, or whitewater kayaks of the lower river holds absolutely no appeal to them. Even if some were willing to consider such changes, they have an acute awareness of how woefully unprepared they are for both the demands and dangers of life on the raging river below. Given the choice, most will hold firmly to the status quo of what they have known rather than trade in their craft and lifestyle to join the feisty flotilla of the coming acceleration. Among these ranks, however, there will be a remnant who will have the foresight, faith, and fortitude to make this radical transition. Others will rise out of seeming obscurity who have been secretly prepared of the Lord to help lead in the coming day. This remnant will not wait until the waters begin to rage, but will prepare ahead of time so that they will be sufficiently equipped, experienced, and positioned for the coming torrent. They will humble themselves and seek the instruction and training of those who have gone before them. They will pay a deep price for abandoning old concepts, roles, and courses of ministry for those less known, glorious, and certain. These will develop a whole new mindset and skill set in order to be prepared of the Lord for the dangerous waters ahead. This is the radical change that will be required of the remnant of the “pilots and crew.”
Passengers – In the upper river very little is required of the passengers on board. They enjoy sumptuously prepared meals, an array of entertainments, instructional lectures, activities for the children, and various social engagements. There is an expected, yet voluntary, fare that is to be regularly offered, but beyond that, their own personal objectives and family interests determine and define their life onboard ship. On the lower river, however, all of that is gone. There, all hands are on deck and each person is required to man the oars with all their might to navigate the intense waters of the great acceleration. Teamwork is what marks the lower river with every person working in harmony with the others and contributing their own special skills, knowledge, and strength to the effort. No one is passive. No one is along for the ride. No one is unneedful. Even as the pilots and crew must radically change their mindset and skill set, so the passengers must radically change theirs. No longer is their experience primarily one of receiving, now it is one of giving. No longer is it one of passivity, now it is one of intense activity. This change will come with extreme difficulty for those who have only known the sumptuous, secure and sedative nature of life on the upper river. Here, however, even as among the ranks of the pilots and crew, there will arise an overcoming remnant who will lay aside the malaise of upper river life and prepare themselves for the exhilarating thrill of whitewater venturing. Only those who make this radical change will be prepared for the years and decades that lie ahead.
The prophet Daniel said, “The end will come like a flood.” (Dan.9:26) Jesus compared the events of the end of the age to “birth pangs” (Matt.24:8) which come with ever-increasing intensity and frequency until the time of delivery. The changes that lie ahead for all of humanity will, likewise, come with escalating speed and unrelenting force! It is time for the followers of Jesus Christ to prepare NOW, as individuals, families, and the Body of Christ for a future that will be marked by great acceleration and radical change. In doing so, we must remain radically constant in those aspects that God has called us to remain radically constant in, and radically change in those respects that God has called us to radically change in. May God give us the wisdom to discern the difference and the grace to walk in their contrasting dynamics. Our ability to faithfully maintain the testimony of Jesus in the turbulent days ahead will surely depend on it. May He find us faithful unto the end!!
It’s been rather quiet around here for the past couple of months, so I wanted to give you a quick update. I’ve also added some new content to the blog that I’m excited to share with you!
For the past year I’ve been deeply involved in the settling of my mother’s estate, and, quite frankly, it’s overwhelmed most of life. It is still in process, and will continue to be so well into this year. Needless to say, it has considerably affected my ability to blog as I would like to as we have had to pare back to the bare essentials of life during much of this time.
That being said, I do plan to continue blogging throughout the upcoming months as I am able. Along with occasional regular posts, I also plan to share some excellent material that others have produced that will help to fill in the gaps and will richly compliment the content of the blog.
Which brings me to what I have to share with you today…
One of the most popular sections on the blog is the Resources section. It’s been my desire for some time to add to this section a selection of classic audiobooks on the Christian life. For many years I’ve enjoyed the audiobooks produced by Librivox. They have an extensive library of public domain books, recorded by volunteers, and offered freely and without copyright restrictions. Scattered throughout their vast selection are a good number of classic Christian works. So, I’ve recently added a “Free Audiobooks” sub-section to the “Resources” page on the blog and have searched through the Librivox library to pull out a number of choice selections. To begin with, I have chosen titles that I have personally enjoyed and by authors who have had a significant impact on my life. Below is the list of the books that I presently have posted, and I plan to add additional ones as I go along.
By clicking on the title, you will go to a separate page for that book. There you will find multiple listening and downloading options. In addition to the links from the Librivox website, I’ve also added a WordPress media player with a playlist of the entire book. By using that, you can listen to the chapters continuously all the way through without having to click on each one separately. Simply scroll down until you see: ⇓ Continuous playlist ⇓, and use the player below it. 🙂
I encourage you to take advantage of these offerings, for they are rich in content and are quality productions. May you be blessed by these spiritual classics!
As a compliment to my previous post, What Did the Angels See?, I wanted to follow up with an expression of my own personal perspective on the birth of Christ. I’d like to do so by sharing the lyrics of a song the Lord gave me many years ago, called, What Do I See?
At the time I wrote it, my wife and I were rushing around the house getting ready to leave for a family Christmas party. In a very “untimely” moment and manner, the Lord dropped the first verse of this song into my heart. My initial reaction was, “Lord, this is not good timing!” I knew that if I didn’t write it down, though, I would lose it. So I quickly grabbed a piece of paper, asked my wife to please be patient with me, and began writing. As I did, the second, third, and fourth verses came as well. Within a very short time the Lord had given a complete song, a gift from Him, and for Him. (And we were only a little bit late to the party! 🙂 )
When I think of the manner in which this song was given, it seems that it was not merely incidental, but rather poignantly intentional on the Lord’s part. In my mind, it emphasizes a significant facet of how God often works when He desires to “birth” a new and unique expression of Himself in and through our lives.
When the Father sent His Son into the world, He did so at a very inconvenient time for those most closely involved. “The fullness of the time” (Gal. 4:4) from His perspective, was right in the middle of all of Judea reshuffling around to the towns of their birth due to the Roman census. It was a chaotic, tumultuous time. Mary, at full term, had to journey with Joseph from Nazareth to Bethlehem, a some 90-mile trek, which took them four or five days, and was fraught with discomfort and danger. In addition to that, when they arrived in Bethlehem, appropriate accommodations for a woman about to give birth were nowhere to be found. They had to settle for a cold and unsanitary stable. To Mary and Joseph, it must have seemed that God’s provision and timing for this Divinely-ordained birth couldn’t have been more poorly planned and ill-timed. Behind it all, however, was the sovereign wisdom, love, and power of God orchestrating every detail for the fulfillment of His highest purpose.
The incarnation story did not end with Joseph and Mary, though. It is going on and on, to this very day, in an untold multitude of called and chosen ones in whom the Father is desiring to bring forth His Son by the power of His Holy Spirit. As He does, He often does His most fruitful work in the most unconventional ways and in the most inopportune times. “The fullness of the times” for Him, is often the “no-room-in-the-inn” time for us. His ways are simply higher than ours.
So, when I look at how this song about His birth was “birthed”, it seems emblematic of His ways. To me, it is a reminder that His purposes and His workings are most likely not going to fit neatly into my pre-determined schedule and expectations. In addition to sharing the words of this song, I wanted to also share these thoughts, which add another measure of meaning to this song for me. I pray that you are encouraged by this creative expression, given by the Spirit in this “untimely” way. 🙂
May you and your family enjoy God’s richest blessings this Christmas season!
Our God is with us!
~ ~ ~
What Do I See?
What do I see when I look upon the face
Of the baby born in Bethlehem?
I see the light of the world
Shining in the dark
The glory of God in a Babe
And as the star showed the way
To Bethlehem’s stall
The light of His life shows the way for us all
He’s the Light of the World
What do I see when I look upon the face
Of the baby born in Bethlehem?
I see the Lamb that was born
To bear the sin of man
The innocent One who would be slain
And as shepherd’s and flocks
Came and looked on His face
They beheld the Lamb who would die in their place
He is the Lamb of God
What do I see when I look upon the face
Of the baby born in Bethlehem?
I see the King of a kingdom
That’s not of this world
Born to bring it down to man
As as the kings came to worship
And offer Him gifts
One day every knee shall bow
And every tongue confess
He is the King of kings
What do I see when I look upon the face
Of the baby born in Bethlehem?
I see the Only Begotten Son of God
The Gift of the Father to all men
And for all who make room
In their hearts to receive
The Christ shall be born in all who believe
He is the Son of God
That’s what I see when I look upon the face
Of the baby born in Bethlehem…
What do you see?
This meditation on the birth of Christ I originally wrote in December of 2003 for the newsletter my wife was compiling for our homeschool network. I am offering it again, now slightly updated, for your consideration and inspiration during this Christmas season. May we all be blessed as we contemplate afresh the glorious mystery of Immanuel, “God with us!”
~ ~ ~
What Did the Angels See?
“Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom His favor rests.'”
We have all viewed the birth of Christ from our own varied and unique perspectives. Our own particular circumstances, experiences, traditions, and spiritual perceptions have shaped our views. Among those who were most closely connected with the actual event two thousand years ago, there existed a multitude of perspectives, as well. There was the perspective of Mary. There was that of Joseph. There were also those of the innkeeper, the shepherds, Herod, and a host of others in that day. How these all differed from one another!
There is one perspective, though, that I think we should especially take time to contemplate: that of the angels. What did the angels see as they peered down from the heavens on the baby lying in a manger in Bethlehem. What was it that inspired their heavenly song… “Glory to God in the highest…”?
Let’s consider for a moment what they saw transpiring before their eyes:
The One who created all things, seen and unseen,
was now stepping into His creation.
The One whose being embodies Eternity,
was now confining Himself to the constraints of time.
The One whom even the highest heavens cannot contain,
was now restricted within the womb of a peasant girl.
The One exalted forever as the Most High King of Kings,
was now being born in a lowly stable.
The One who alone is Omnipotent,
was now a frail human baby.
The One who is all Wisdom, Knowledge, and Truth,
was now needing to grow and to learn on His mother’s knee.
The One who is Heir of all things,
was now come to live as the poorest of the poor.
The One resplendent in all Majesty and Glory,
was now taking a form that would have no beauty or majesty to attract us to Him.
The One who alone is Holy,
was now come to be made sin.
The One who is Life,
was now come to die.
~ ~ ~
On that glorious night, so long ago, the Bethlehem skies broke forth with heavenly waves of angelic worship…
“GLORY TO GOD IN THE HIGHEST…!“
~ ~ ~
May we take time to consider their “heavenly song”!
As we do, let us also contemplate this…
that we, who have been redeemed by this Holy Child,
have a song which even the angels cannot sing!
My dear friend, Sándor, from Hungary, has translated my five-part teaching series, “Tradition, Scripture, and the Church”, into the Hungarian language and has also compiled the Original English version into a single PDF booklet. These he has uploaded to his Hungarian/English blog, keskeny út – narrow way.
I am so very thankful for the Christ-honoring friendship that we have that originated out of and has grown through our mutual blogging endeavors and subsequent email communications with each other. I count him as a dear friend and cherished brother in the Lord!
I want to commend to you Sándor’s blog which has both English and Hungarian teachings on it. We share a common vision for the Kingdom of God and he is a brother who has faithfully walked in that vision for many years.
Please click here to go to Sandor’s blog, keskeny út – narrow way.
I also want to make available to you the English PDF version of the “Traditions…” series that he has compiled. Of all the series I’ve written, I feel that this is the one that most fully communicates my heart and vision concerning the present condition of the Church and the way of restoration in these last days. I hope you will take some time to read and meditate on the truths that are shared in it.
Please click here for the English PDF version of the “Traditions…” series.
[The page for this particular resource on Sándor’s blog is found here which has links to both the Hungarian (top link) and the English (bottom link) PDF versions.]
I pray that both Sándor’s blog and the PDF(s) of the “Traditions…” series will be a great blessing to you!
“With anticipation, and not a little trepidation, I am wading into a subject that I believe cannot be over-emphasized as to its significance regarding the Church, past, present and future. I would venture to say that the two most influential forces ever at work in her long history, and those largely responsible for who she is today, are Scripture and Tradition.
If only the marriage of these two were a match fully made in heaven, what an incomparable force they would be for God in the earth! The reality is, however, that they are a heaven-and-earth mixture, an unholy union of divine and human ways, a complex matrix of good, bad and ugly. If ever a love/hate relationship existed, it is here between these two obstinate “soul mates”. Theirs is a marriage marked by the sweetest of affections and the…
Thank you, Sándor, for compiling this series into a single post and sharing it with your Hungarian and English-speaking audiences. (Having it in PDF form is also a blessing.) May God use it afresh for His purpose! All blessings in Him!
There is a monumental shift taking place in the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ worldwide. Multitudes of sincere, faith-filled Christians are leaving the institutional church in search of a simpler, more relational, and interactive experience of church life. According to George Barna’s research more than ten years ago, the numbers then exceeded twenty million [Revolution(2005) pg.13]. According to the nature of this growing trend, these numbers have increased exponentially since that time.
For the most part, these believers are not leaving because they have lost their faith, but because they desire to see their faith grow and find a fuller, even more Biblical, expression. Those who are a part of this world-wide “exodus” are often found gathering under the banners of “organic…, “simple…, “house…, “missional…, and “emergent… church”…
As a follow up to the series “On Church Leadership” (an email exchange with Sándor Abonyi of Hungary), I wanted to share a post that Sándor wrote for his Hungarian/English blog “keskeny út – narrow way“. In it he describes some of his first-hand experiences of living in an organic, “house-to-house” expression of the church in Hungary. For those who are not familiar with this form of church life, this post will give you a well-rounded insider’s view. For those of you who are familiar, and are pursuing this form of the ekklesia, I believe this will be very confirming and helpful. I pray that all of you are blessed by this rich sharing which Sándor has allowed me to post here in full on this site. Please also see the link at the bottom of the post to the English section of Sándor’s blog for further spiritual help in following “keskeny út”,the “narrow way.”
~ ~ ~
Experiences of House Church
by Sándor Abonyi
“gathering from house to house”
(Acts 5.42; 20.20; Col. 4.15; 1 Cor. 16.19; Phil. 1.1-2, etc.)
After coming out of a “traditional charismatic church” we started on a new way; gathering
from house to house. Earlier we had experienced “house groups” in a limited way while
still belonging to our local church, but now we wanted to live a total paradigm change of
Christian community using family homes. I contacted many people in the USA, Canada
and New Zealand, who started this way earlier, to know their experiences. During one year living the community life in a natural way we have learned many things and have reached some level of understanding. We are aware that we do not yet have a full understanding but are in a continuous purifying process, and desire the Lord’s presence among us. We are now seeking a way of multiplication and are making efforts to build a new system of relationships in our region, in Hungary, and even with people in foreign countries as well. We have already formed some of these relationships.
To summarize, we can say the following: We don’t have a predetermined timetable for our meetings, nor do we make a program or order of service. Events occur in an organic way
and, therefore, each meeting is totally unique and different. Our fellowship times consist of worship, prophecy, and teaching. Here are some characteristics of our current practices:
1. Teaching – Adhering to a hour-long teaching or sermon, as we did earlier in the
traditional church, would not be practical here because now we are an “interactive
community” not an “audience.” Gathering from house to house we still have the three
men who served as teachers in the earlier local church, but they now teach in an interactive way. We assign “home work” (writings, books, CDs or DVDs) to individuals or the whole community prior to meeting together. We sometimes look at a teaching together and then have discussion. Very often people bring prophetic words that they’ve received to the meeting to be read and discussed. People ask questions, and we try to answer them according to the Scriptures. It is very important that everyone learns to use Scripture to answer their practical questions of life. We practice this together so that every one develops this skill. We have not had visiting teachers, as we did earlier, but we are open and have invited people to come and share in this fellowship. People have indicated they would come, but these are not from traditional churches. If any visitor comes, it will be with the concept of interaction with the people, not merely to inform them.
2. Worship – We don’t have a worship team, and it is not our goal to have one. There
are three who play guitar and lead worship. We make an effort to live the Word which
says, “everyone has a psalm, revelation, word . . . “ and encourage the people to be ready;
to come bringing “everyone something.” According to these Scriptural principles, worship
is not prepared by one person and is created as we go along with additional people introducing songs that we all sing. If someone gets a song by the Holy Spirit at any time during the meeting, we join in singing that also.
3. Prayer, Revelation, Prophecy – Mixed in during worship are prayers to the Lord to receive from Him. The people regularly get revelations, prophecies, thoughts, and pictures. These are shared after each prayer. On every occasion two or three receive visions. (See for example the translated, Vision of the Broad and Narrow Ways.)
4. Service to Each Other – It is very important to encourage, comfort and share joy. This part usually takes one to one and a half hours, and after that we help solve problems,
praying to get revelation and advice to give. Everyone participates in this, an activity that
the people totally missed earlier. Because of this sharing, we commonly need four or five
hours for each meeting.
5. Spiritual Leading – We don’t have a separate leadership group. The “elders” are among us (1 Peter 5:1), praying and discussing with all the others who together make decisions. The elders have continuously received revelations and prophecies about the direction of moving ahead and what the next steps should be.
6. Support of Each Other/Sharing – This is an area that has changed dramatically from the earlier situation of traditional church. According to the Word we are God’s family, and we have declared that we will live our lives as a true family. Now that we meet from house to house, we know the home situation of each member; that is, the living conditions and needs. I personally have installed electricity, others have bought essential food for those in need, others have purchased fire wood for the winter. Our cars are similarly used as in a family to help each other. We have made a common decision not to own a building to use for meetings, only to rent space as it is needed. In the summer we can use the gardens of our houses where more people are able to gather. Therefore, the congregation doesn’t have pay for building rent, honorariums to visiting ministers, or big, high-cost programs. Therefore, all of our money is available to spend on meeting needs. Needs can be met by sharing cars, as well as paying for petrol or maintenance costs.
7. Tithes – We decided not to collect tithes (a tenth) but everyone used available funds to serve and support others according to their needs. In this way not everyone pays a tithe, but the richer members often contribute more than a tenth, and the poor who have need are supported by the richer. We support the poor to help them out of bad situations and get them on the road to self-sufficiency. We had money saved that we used to stay in a guest house for two nights to build unity among the community. On another occasion we went on a day excursion together. [All left-over monies are used for those who have needs.]
8. Meals in Common/The Lord’s Supper – These two things are very close. We share
food in common at the end of every meeting. Sometimes it’s only pizza, or sandwiches, or
cold dishes, or bread and drippings with onion, but at other times we have a real dinner party with the whole community eating together.
Fitting the traditional Lord’s Supper (small piece of bread and little cup of wine) into our
sharing of regular food proved problematic, therefore, we quickly abandoned this practice
and began to follow the practice of the first churches. We researched Scripture and the
practices of other house churches. Presently we do the following:
– We looked at the Lord’s Supper as a possible way of meeting the needs of others,
using the context of a shared dinner. Paul spoke of this aspect of the Lord’s Supper to
the Corinthian church. Looked at this way, needy people are able to have enough to
eat on a regular basis.
– Not every supper is the Lord’s Supper. At a normal meal we only give thanks at the
beginning of the meal. If we decide to celebrate the Lord’s Supper, then the host
(usually a man) pours wine or grape juice into everyone’s glass. Before eating
someone gives thanks, remembering the crucifixion of Jesus – His broken body and
shed blood. Then we break the bread. At the end of the supper we take our glasses and
someone (usually another person led by the Holy Spirit) prays and remembers the
communion and unity we have with Jesus and with each other by Jesus’ blood. After
this we drink the wine.
– With the breaking of bread and drinking of wine during the meal, we remember the
crucifixion of Jesus and reaffirm our unity. This is the difference between a normal
supper and the Lord’s Supper according to our present practice. It looks like many
people today are seeking the original meaning of the Lord’s Supper.
9. Meetings – The number of believers has doubled in the past year. Today we have about 20 people who gather in six family homes on a rotating basis. We meet on Wednesdays from 5 to 9 p.m., and on Saturdays at three different places from 4 to 9 p.m. The Wednesday gatherings consist of three smaller groups, but there is overlapping with group attendance. There is not sufficient room in any one home for the whole group to get together on Saturdays, only in the summer where there is more room outside in people’s gardens. Sometimes only three or four will come together, such as a men’s meeting. The four men elders meet regularly to pray, share visions, and discuss them. The elders prepare suggestions for the house churches, and the whole fellowship later acts on these suggestions. (In our earlier church there was a separate elder board which made unilateral decisions.)
10. New Believers – We baptized more born-again people last year. One young lady
baptized another young lady, and one older lady an older lady. On another occasion after
a tour together, the whole community baptized a young man totally spontaneously. We
have been baptizing in a bath tub, but we are open to other possibilities as well. Two
people joined us from other traditional charismatic churches. We expect others in our
fellowship to become totally committed to Christ and receive baptism in obedience to
Scripture. Our target is not to enlarge the size of our congregation, but to see a deep level
of real Christianity (quality, not quantity). We wait upon the Lord to enlarge the church
with people born anew, and we are witnessing in our lives that He works this way. So our
community has doubled in one year. Other reports from house churches document that
this kind of duplication is normal.
We first try to reach unsaved family members in the homes where we regularly gather.
We use the natural environment and activities – such as teaching guitar playing, helping
with wedding preparations, praying for people who ask – to build relationships and
manifest the church as the Body of Christ. In this way single believers become part of the
family life of the church, who is Christ.
11. Spiritual Warfare – This way is not without its problems. During the past year we
have experienced spiritual attacks, feelings of heaviness from time to time. For two or
three months after coming out from traditional charismatic church, we had very strong
spiritual attacks. Everyone in our city and region was against us for leaving the organized
church. They thought our different way of being a church threatened their traditions.
Even when we tried to explain, they didn’t understand and they didn’t want to have any
contact with us.
The first six months when we were forced to be alone proved to be very useful. We had
time to seek the Lord’s will, and to lay the groundwork for community living and working
in a totally new system. We sought out other small groups walking in similar ways. We
had to forget many of our earlier practices in organized church and seek after new ways.
Even our earlier ways of thinking were a hindrance, and we had to put them aside. This
was not easy for most believers. After two or three months, we were able to stabilized the
community and lay foundations.
Also during this period we were visited by other Christians who caused disorder and
disturbances. Some of these people where unknown to us. However, one highly visible
and committed believer, who had not been affiliated with any church for some years, tried
to destroy our new community from the start. I had to send him away.
From the beginning we saw it was practical to divide the community into two different
groups. One of the two groups was comprised of older believers. They were the “seed”,
in that they received visions and they laid the foundation for the new way. They gave
stability to the community. The other group was made up of young believers who needed
to order their lives and overcome their problems. After one year both groups now live
together in a good community life without disturbances.
At this time we are trying to find a way of multiplication in order to live our beliefs in
more small groups, geographically separate but connected within a network. This will be
our way to enlarge. And we have experienced many more spiritual attacks because of it.
Satan tries to cause disturbances among believers that we can’t understand, therefore, our
only defense is to fight it in a spiritual way, and the Lord is giving us victory. We have
organized a three day’s meeting in the mountains in order to reinforce our relationships
with each other so we can go forward in this “natural” way.
Praise the Lord!
~ ~ ~
I greatly appreciate what Sándor has written here. There is a strong working of the Holy Spirit around the world to call God’s people back to the simplicity, purity, and power of the early church and to assemble in organic, house-to-house expressions of the ekklesia similar to what Sándor has described. For further encouragement along this line, and on other spiritual matters, please visit Sándor’s blog. The English section begins with the following sub-heading page: keskeny út – narrow way/English teachings.
Sándor and I concluded our exchange on church leadership with the following emails. Though relatively short in length, they did touch on a vital question: What about the principle of “chief among equals”?
[For the full context of this post, please see the prior parts of this series: Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.]
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Thank you for getting back to me on this, and for your comments. I want to say that I agree wholeheartedly that a plural form of eldership is the only possibility that will be able to administrate the Headship of Christ. I also agree that the single pastor system is the same as the Israelites wanting a king to rule over them, as all the other (denomi-)nations around them…I.e. a rejection of God as their King, or in the case of the church, rejecting Christ as the functional Head of the church in favor of a man.
Another facet of this matter of plural eldership, is that many will say they agree with it, but that there still needs to be a “chief among equals…” “lead”, “chief”, “or “senior” elder or pastor. They will use the Jerusalem church, with James as the apparent “chief elder” there, as their model. This in reality seems to be more of a playing with words, in my mind, in order to justify a “one man at the top” system. I am not totally against the concept of “chief among equals”, for it seems to me that even in the economy of the Godhead, there is a functioning of the Father as “chief among equals”, and also in marriage, with the husband as head of the wife, but it needs to function truly as an equality in the end. If anyone is to be “chief” they are to be the greatest servant and the one least desiring to be chief. The “chief” aspect among elders should only be functional in nature, if at all, and not positional in any respect. That is at least how I see it at this point.
Those are just a few more thoughts on this subject, albeit rather incomplete.
I appreciate the translation of “The Headship of Christ…” teaching. I will most likely link to it in an upcoming post once I record the audio of the English. I’m glad it was a blessing to you and that you have been able to pass it on to your readers.
Blessings, my friend,
Yes. We agree on this totally.
I know these arguments. Many say that one needs to be „chief” (senior, pastor) but they think really „chief” over others.
I like to use the „first among equals” phrase instead of „chief/leader” among equals. The „first” means: one is not a leader or chief over others, only the first with his biggest experiences, highest age, or apostolic gift, like James among the elders in Jerusalem. It seems in the Scripture at the big decision in Jerusalem that apostles and elders made the decision together. (James and Paul were mediators there.) One with apostolic gift is able to fill a father role within the elders as you told.
I appreciate the discussing with you very much.
I have a detailed description about plural leadership in English from Alexander Strauch (USA). I translated this writing earlier too.
I think this is a balanced writing. If you are interested in it, I will send that to you.
Now I go to sleep because it is 11 p.m. here.
Yes, Sandor. I think we are in true agreement in these matters. It has been encouraging and edifying for me to have these discussions with you and to be of one accord. It is also as Proverbs says, “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” Prov.27:17.
Another example of our unity is that I was also going to mention to you Alexander Strauch’s book on Biblical Eldership. I have not read all of it, but have been blessed by what I have, and found it balanced and solid. So, thank you for that recommendation!
May the Lord continue to bless you and your ministry in Him in Hungary!
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This concluded the email exchange between Sándor and I from a number of years ago. We have had further dialogues on this subject and others since then and may possibly share some of the content of those in the future. To conclude this series, though, I’d like to simply summarize some of the main points of what we shared in this exchange.
Of all the aspects that we discussed, thatwhich stands preeminent above them all is the practical Headship of Jesus Christ over His church. That is “the first button”, as was discussed in Part 1. If that “button” gets firmly secured in the “first hole”, all subsequent “buttons” will naturally line themselves up to follow in their rightful place! If the Headship of Christ doesn’t get firmly fastened, however, then no amount of “biblical” form that follows will satisfy God’s desire and design for His Ekklesia.
Once the practical Headship of Christ is secured, He may then sovereignly work in various ways to bring about the “wineskin” and “wine” that He desires. This may come about either by His first establishing a biblical form, as a “possibility” (only), and then fillingit with biblical content, as a “solution” (see Part 2), by working according to the principle of “Form follows function” with a recognition of leadership coming only after a substantial period of common, non-recognized functioning, or through an overlapping interplay of both (see Part 3). In any case, this work must be by Christ’s sovereign Headship and hand, and not merely by the wisdom andworks of man. “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.” (Psalm 127:1)
As the shape and substance of the church develops organically by the Spirit in this way, the form of leadership that will most naturally develop will be one of a plurality of non-hierarchical, servant leaders/elders. Although there will naturally be differences of gifting, calling, experience, and maturity among these, so that some may exercise a more prominent influence than others in certain respects, those differences ought not to constitute a positional or hierarchical arrangement. The calling and intention of such plural, co-equal leadership is the establishment and manifestation of the Headship of Christ through His many-membered Body in unity, fullness, purity, and balance.
It is the firm conviction of both Sándor and I that the Lord desires to raise up a remnant of His people in this last day as an overcoming testimony to His original purpose and pattern for His Ekklesia.These will return to Him with all of their heart and collectively seek the restoration of the centrality and supremacy of Christ in all things related to the Church. We pray that this personal exchange that we have shared concerning church leadership, under the Headship of Christ, will be helpful and encouraging to those who are seeking such a restoration. May we all join in this ongoing conversation with others, wherever God has placed us!
For your further edification and encouragement along these lines, I will be following up this series with some of Sandor’s original (English) writings on the church. Please stay tuned!
As Sándor’s and my conversation continued, I responded to what he had shared within a few weeks. In his reply, he interjected his further thoughts and comments into the body of what I had written. What follows is that composite email, with Sándor’s remarks in blue.
[For the earlier parts of this conversation, please see Part 1 and Part 2.]
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Greetings in our Lord Jesus! I want to apologize, first of all, for taking so long in getting back to you. Life got rather busy here, and it has taken a bit to get caught back up. I pray that all is well with you and your family at this time!
Many thanks, and you don’t need to apologize because of your engagement.
I wanted to reply to the attachment that you sent with this email. I have read it a few times and I appreciate what you have written. I understand what you are saying as to a plural eldership representing POSSIBILITY and not solutions. That is a very good way of putting it and an important distinction (difference).
Yes I think similarly.
In some ways it reminds me of the way that the Lord brought forth creation. He first created the environments, be it the sky, the waters, or the earth, as the POSSIBILITY, or the WINESKIN, and then He filled it with the living things afterwards, i.e. the birds, the fish, the animals, in their respective days.
Very good seeing and association. I appreciate that!
I believe the Lord often works this way, and as long as the structures are understood as possibilities rather than solutions, then the Lord can be sought to fill the possibilities with His SOLUTION, which is Himself!
The other way that I believe the Lord works is along the line of the principle of, “Form follows function.” It seems when the Lord brings forth His church organically, that the functioning of His Body precedes the form of the Body. In this case elders are functioning in an eldership capacity as simple brothers, and are only recognized officially as elders afterwards. This seems to be a common way that Paul sought to establish the churches. After ministering in a city for a season, he would leave the church there to function without recognized leadership. Later he would return and see those who were functioning as the responsible brothers in their midst, and then officially ordain them. In this way the form of the church followed the functioning of the church.
YES! I agree on this totally. I see this way as a fundamental apostolic principle. Also, according to my vision after the Word, the eldership is NOT only ONE of the POSSIBILITIES, but the single POSSIBILITY. Only the eldership can be the FORM for the HEADSHIP of CHRIST over them. JESUS CHRIST is the primary PASTOR and not any man pastor. SEE 1 Pt 5.1- 4. and 1 Samuel 8.4–7. I see in 1 Samuel 8.7 that any man (pastor – „king”) over the elders means the rejection of CHRIST’S HEADSHIP.
1 Sám. 8:7 „And the Lord said unto Samuel, Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee: for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them.”
I believe that the Lord may work by the “form” preceding the “content” (“possibility” preceding “solution”) as you have expressed, or according to the principle of “form follows function” as I’ve mentioned, or possibly even an overlapping of the two, in order to obtain what He desires. I think that is important to keep in mind so that we don’t lock ourselves in on only one way and possibly miss the specific way and working of the Lord in each situation.
As I said in my earlier email, the most essential principle is the living Headship of Christ. If He is being sought and surrendered to in all things, the proper arrangement will come into being naturally by His hand.
YES! I agree on that.
Also, in regards to the Headship of Christ, I recently stumbled across a teaching I had written about four years ago for a seminar I was giving on, “The Headship of Christ in the Gathering of the Church”. I uploaded the teaching to my blog as a permanent page under the “Other Writings” section and thought I would share the link with you in case you would like to read it. It outlines some fundamental principles that I believe are significant for the Body to function under the Headship of Christ as it assembles. It also brings in the matter of plural leadership. The link is here: https://christcenteredchristianity.com/other-writings/the-headship-of-christ-in-the-gathering-of-the-church/
I started to read it and thinking to translate that.
So, that is all I have for now. Thanks again for sending along the attachments and the link to your book. I have been edified by them!
I am glad If you could use it.
God bless you and your family!
Many thanks, and you too!
Love in Him,
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So, in light of this conversation, what do you think about how the Lord brings about form and function within His church? Please feel free to share your thoughts and/or experiences in this regard.
Part 4 will follow in which we touch on the question of “chief among equals?” Hmmm. 🙂
Sándor replied to what I shared in Part 1 with the following email and attachment:
I am very grateful for your valuable thoughts. I agree on that basically. I would like only to reflect on that shortly and share a few of my thoughts from another aspect.
I have attached my description.
A Few of my Thoughts about Leadership
I agree with you on all of the things in your letter, which is a short study summarizing the main questions and specifying their rank.
I see theoretically everything is OK. Some of my pastor brothers said to me: the FORM is NOT IMPORTANT, that is a second priority question.
Let me share some of the practical things from my life connected to this question. I am originally a machine engineer and worked more than 30 years in the development area. We had to know the theories. That was the basic thing. We had the possibility to realize a theory in many ways, and all ways had to work. I worked in a multinational company with more factories in different countries. In the different factories they carried out different solutions to the same problem. A few of the factories needed to be closed because of NOT enough efficiency. After these experiences came the question: to find out the best practice. Sorry for the comparison, BUT I think the situation in the churches is similar to this. This is the CONTENT and the FORM question. I see that the CONTENT IS OK, BUT one FORM hinders the efficient working and another FORM helps it. The forms are NOT SOLUTIONS, but are only POSSIBILITIES. I see the FORMS like frames.
In my practice as a believer, I had a pastor over me. I had a mandate to be a pastor BUT I laid it down and worked in plural leadership through more than ten years. We kept the total gathering on Sunday morning in a rented room and house groups in houses during the week. Later we worked without renting a room and gathered only in houses too. We tried all FORMS and I collected and analyzed the experiences.
Mt 9:17 says: „Neither do men put new wine into old bottles: else the bottles break, and the wine runneth out, and the bottles perish: but they put new wine into new bottles, and both are preserved.”
The Church – as I see the situation – tries to work all over the world within „old bottles” (in the frames of the Old Covenant). From what Jesus says, I see this would be a priority question:
The first step has to be a RIGHT BOTTLE (as a POSSIBILITY only). After that, GOD will be able to fill new wine into that. If we are waiting for a big awakening, having church buildings and single pastors, and don’t have houses to gather in, in this case we are waiting for God to fill new wine into old bottles (structures).
We tried to realize a new bottle (FORM) as a frame during the past years in these things:
gathering in houses.
Many others said to us we are totally different from other local churches:
we had vision continuously.
there worked more spiritual gifts.
There were visible the signs of prophet, teacher, evangelist…gifts.
we have done many things in other ways than others.
This FORM is working only in the Spirit and humility. Without it there will be confusion, which is a warning: the leader is NOT the Holy Spirit, and they need to go to the Lord.
Plural leadership gives the POSSIBILITY for elders to practice humility and obedience and to get practice in the moving of the prophetical spirit. The plural leadership FORM shows the fact that JESUS is HEAD over them. We can show forth our Lord and King, NOT the way it is with other people who have an earthly “king.” I think this is an important question. In this way we can make our invisible King visible to others, NOT similarly to the way it is in the world.
Comparing this to the one pastor system:
One pastor presents a FALSE FORM, deceiving others with this. It would seem for the people as if HE would be the HEAD. This results in believers having a baby syndrome. The pastor needs obedience from all of the people in the church. His missings have a big effect.
One pastor cannot confront himself and he can work in a human way too.
We learned through gathering in houses:
The people don’t have the POSSIBILITY to be hypocrites and the sins will become visible.
Love needs to be presented in a very practical way.
Everyone has the POSSIBILITY to practice his/her gifts…
Of course we had many missings and were not perfect……
I see the churches today are:
Temple (church building)
and Bible concentrated ones.
The first churches in the first century didn’t have Bible (New Testament), only a few letters if there were problems, and had no one pastor, BUT the Lord was within them by the Holy Spirit.
I see after that there were big problems in the churches:
Many believers are not born again and there are no disciples.
Leaders are corrupt in many things.
The sin and holiness question is a not an important thing…..
I tried to present a few of my thinkings in order for you to see my idea.
I hope you understand my thinkings written by my not perfect English.
The FORMS are only as POSSIBILITIES and not solutions, according to my vision, but are important, and we need to apply RIGHT FORMS (best practices) waiting for the RIGHT CONTENT (new wine) to be able to keep it on an efficient way.
What do you think about this aspect? This is a little bit of a different approach to things.
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My reply to these thoughts along with Sándor’s response back will follow in Part 3.
Shortly after I began blogging in 2012, I happened across another blog that caught my attention. Somehow I landed in the English section of a Hungarian blog, keskeny út – narrow way by Sándor Abonyi. Though most of his blog was unintelligible to me, being written in Hungarian, I felt a deep connection with what I was able to read in the English section. I decided to follow. Shortly thereafter, Sándor began to follow my blog as well, and in 2013 he contacted me about the possibility of posting a number of articles onto his blog that I had written and which he desired to translate into Hungarian. From that point on, we began a regular email exchange which developed into a long-lasting, mutually edifying, friendship.
In the near future, I plan to highlight in a post (and permanently host in the Resources section), a book which Sándor wrote: Which Way is the Church Going To?. This is an excellent resource on the practical expression of the church according to Christ, as revealed in the New Testament.
As a way of introducing my dear brother and friend to you, I’d like to first share a volley of emails that we exchanged several years ago concerning the matter of church leadership. I feel this is a very substantive and edifying sharing on this matter and a good example of “iron sharpening iron” as we each expressed our unique perspectives and came to a greater sense of clarity, balance, and unity in our understanding as a result. I trust that you will be edified as you “listen in” on that conversation!
I will begin the exchange in this post with Sándor’s initial email and my initial response. I will follow that up shortly with the subsequent exchanges in additional posts.
And so, without further ado, here is the initial volley of our exchange:
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You are working before the Lord on the Christcentering Church. What do you think about the one pastor system in the churches versus eldership?
Do you have any articles about this question? I think this question is important similarly to fastening of first button on a coat (right or wrong).
I am interested in your vision after the Word. Can we discuss about this?
I will try to get a few thoughts down on this matter of eldership versus the one pastor system as I see it. Sometime I would like to write more fully on this, and maybe this is the spark to do so. For now, here are a few seed thoughts that outline my thinking.
First of all, I believe we need to approach this subject, and the Word of God in regards to this subject, from a Christ-centered, Christ-preeminent perspective. What I mean is this, the form and function of the first century Church came about with only one Pattern in view…the Person of Christ. They did not have a manual on how to do church, or how to structure it, or what it was to look like. They simply had Christ, and He was their Pattern. He was central, He was supreme, He was Head, He was all spiritual fullness and blessings, He was unity, He was Life, He was all in all. As they gathered around Him, and in Him, and on Him, and under Him, and for Him, and through Him, they became the expression of the Church that we read about in the New Testament.
The New Testament Scriptures are the record of a church that was radically Christ-centered, and all form, function and fruitfulness came out of that single reality. That is the Root of the tree. The most important thing that we can learn from the New Testament is that Root! If we can get the Root right, then the tree will be right, and the fruit will be right. If we try to make the tree right and the fruit right without truly getting the Root right, however, we end up with a dead religious system that outwardly may resemble certain aspects of the New Testament Church, but has no life and power. So, in reality, there is a “first button” on the coat that precedes the matter of church governance and leadership. The “first button” is CHRIST, central, supreme and all-sufficient!
Church leadership is possibly button number two! If button number one is in place, then button number two, three and four will follow in place. When it comes to the leadership of the church the number one principle is the Headship of Christ. That is the over-arching, all-dominating principle. All other aspects of leadership, governance and oversight must bow before that principle. That is the supreme “governance principle” of the ekklesia!
So, with that button firmly in place, we need to ask, how does the Headship of Christ operate and function when it comes to the human leadership of the Church?
First of all, there is a need for spiritual maturity in order for there to be a humble submission and yieldedness to the Headship of Christ in the leadership position. Leadership is to take the attitude of John the Baptist, “He must increase, I must decrease.” It takes those who are “descending” in nature according to the nature of Christ (Philippians 2), not “ascending” in nature according to the nature of Lucifer (Isaiah 14). Leadership must be humble, submissive, servant-leaders.
It also takes more than one person to manifest the fullness of Christ’s ministry as Apostle, Prophet, Evangelist, Shepherd and Teacher. Therefore, when the Headship of Christ is the ultimate issue, a plurality of mutually submitted, diversely gifted, spiritually mature men is the only fitting form of leadership that will be able to lead the church under the Headship of Christ. That is what will naturally develop and come forth. No other form facilitates the Headship of Christ as that form. It must flow out of and facilitate the Headship of Christ, not supplant it, however.
From studying Church history, the transition from a plurality of elders to the single bishop rule of the church came about by the middle of the second century. What seems rather clear from that transition is that “the first button” changed. Because of the Roman persecutions from without and the rise of multiple heresies within, the Church turned to a single man, the “bishop”, to be the solution. HE replace Christ as the Head of the Church and her unifying Foundation. The church gathered around and under the Bishop as the center, head and foundation of the church. The elders and deacons were the second and third levels of leadership under the bishop. This was the Old Testament priestly order of high priest, priest and Levite brought into the church. The entire Roman system developed from this seed and dominated the earth for 1500+ years.
The Reformation “re-buttoned the coat”, but instead of getting the first button right with the restoration of the absolute centrality and supremacy of Christ restored, they put the Word of God button into the first hole. This brought about major changes to certain doctrines, but the structure of the Church remained fairly much in tact. With the Scriptures now central and supreme, the Catholic priest was given a Reformation makeover and became the Protestant Pastor/Preacher who ruled over the church. With a movement now built around the interpretation and preaching of Scripture as the supreme thing, and a single pastor over each assembly, the Protestant movement splintered into a hundred thousand divisions and denominations, each claiming to have a sharper “sword” than the next.
The single pastor system is as much a left-over of Catholicism as elaborate pointy buildings called “churches” are. (That’s a whole other discussion though!) The Anabaptists went beyond the mainline Protestant reformation and sought to restore a more Biblical vision for and expression of the Church itself. These tended towards a return to a plural eldership to oversee and shepherd the flock. Their history is worth studying in this regard. The error that some of these and subsequent groups tended to fall into, however, is looking at the PATTERN of the new Testament Church as the “first button”. This, however, only leads to a new form of legalism, which much of their history has been marked by.
We have to get back to what lay underneath all that we see in the pattern, form, function and fruit of the New Testament Church and recapture THAT as our “first button”. THAT is JESUS CHRIST in all of His fullness, glory, authority, centrality, all-sufficiency and supremacy. When HE is returned to His rightful place, everything else will come into place even as it did in the first days of the Church.
When that happens, I believe a plurality of elders will happen as naturally as the grass grows. But we can’t get the cart before the horse.
That in a nutshell is how I see it. It is a very rough sketch, but I hope it helps to give an idea.
I’d be interested to know your thoughts as well, Sandor!
As always, if there are words or phrases that are difficult to understand, please let me know and I will try to help with them!
Love to you and your family,
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Sandor’s (substantive) reply will follow in the next post…Please stay tuned! 🙂
Five years ago this month, I had a terrible fall off of a ladder that broke under me while I was doing some tree work. Fortunately, I had enough wherewithal to toss the chainsaw far from me as I fell, but the ten foot “seat drop” onto hard ground left me with a crushed vertebrae and eight and a half months of at-home recovery. During my unplanned “vacation”, I sought to make the most of the situation by pouring a good amount of time into writing a draft manuscript for a book that had been on my heart to write for some time. The working title of the book was Full Circle –An End-Time Restoration Manifesto. It focused onthe Christ-centered restoration of an overcoming remnant at the end of the age. (Hmmm, sound familiar?? 🙂 )
It was during those months that I also began blogging as a way of sharing some of the things that were on my heart in more bite-sized pieces. As my recovery period came to a close, I felt that I had to lay aside the larger book project for a season and focus what time I did have on blogging. Here, five years later, there has yet to be a significant window to revisit that manuscript and push the project through to completion. (Frankly, much of the time it is difficult to find time even for regular blogging. 😦 ) I continue to hold all of that before the Lord, though, and trust that He will somehow make a way, in HIS time!
As I was glancing over some of the manuscript pages recently, though, I came across a portion in Chapter 1 that I thought would be worth sharing on the blog as a stand-alone post. This excerpt is concerning the eternal purpose and five of its essential characteristics. The eternal purpose is where God begins and ends in all that He does. It is also that which governs everything He does in between. It is of the utmost importance, then, that the eternal purpose be that which governs all that wedo as well as we live and work in union with Him!
I offer this meditation for your consideration, then, and pray that you will be blessed by this brief glimpse into God’s ultimate intention!
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THE ETERNAL PURPOSE
Behind all that God does, from eternity to eternity, lies what the Scriptures call the “eternal purpose” (Ephesians 3:11). This ultimate intention was established before the beginning of time and will endure into eternity future. It is what undergirds, guides, informs, motivates, and harnesses all of God’s activities throughout the vast expanses of time and eternity. Apart from the knowledge of God Himself, there is nothing more essential, significant, and consequential to spiritually apprehend than the eternal purpose of God as it is revealed in Scripture by the Holy Spirit. We will take just a few minutes to begin to explore this immense matter in regards to a number of its most significant facets. Let us begin by looking briefly at some of its most essential characteristics.
First, by its own self-definition, the eternal purpose is eternal in nature. It existed in God before time began. Before the “In the beginning…” of Genesis 1:1, the eternal purpose of God had already been established. Genesis 1 and 2 are the product of that eternal purpose, as well as the motivation and wisdom behind the creation of all things. All of the vast array of created things were fashioned to fit and to serve this eternal purpose in its outworking in time. We do not rightly understand the created order, seen and unseen, until we comprehend the motivating force behind it.
The eternal purpose not only preceded Genesis 1:1, but also endures long after the commencement of the events described in Revelation 21 and 22. The eternal state described in Revelation 21 and 22 is a picture of the long-awaited culmination of the eternal purpose at the end of its temporal developmental stages. Its ultimate fulfillment and enjoyment begins there and has no end. All of eternity future will be composed and choreographed by that which played and danced in the heart of God before time began. Not a note will be missing, and not a step out of place.
Not only does the eternal purpose define the ends of the spectrum of God’s eternity, but the epochal unfolding of time between Genesis 1:1 and Revelation 21 and 22 is contoured and shaped by the eternal purpose as well. Our Sovereign God meticulously and persistently works, conforming everything to the unfolding of His Grand Design. Paul speaks of “Him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of His will.” (Ephesians 1:11) However man’s will and actions interplay with the sovereign work of God, through it all and in the end the eternal purpose is obtained. All of history is superintended by that which was established before time began and will endure through times eternal. This then is a brief description of the eternal nature of God’s ultimate intention.
Secondly, the eternal purpose is good. Standing behind the eternal purpose is the “good pleasure” of God. Ephesians 1:9 says, “And He made known to us the mystery of His will according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Christ,”. When all has been accomplished, all of creation will resound with the goodness of God in its infinite perfection. God, being good, could do no other. His word to Israel was, “I will make an everlasting covenant with them:Iwill never stop doing good to them, and I will inspire them to fear me, so that they will never turn away from me. I will rejoice in doing them good and will assuredly plant them in this land with all my heart and soul.” (Jeremiah 32:40-41) This is God’s ultimate good intention not only for Israel, but, in essence, for all of His people. The eternal purpose, therefore, becomes the deepest spring of hope and rejoicing for the human heart. Its contemplation is “joy unspeakable and full of glory”(1 Peter 1:8 KJV). The eternal purpose is hallmarked by the manifestation of the infinite and everlasting goodness of God.
Thirdly, the eternal purpose is wise. This Grand Design is the crafted genius of infinite Wisdom and Knowledge. Every faculty of God’s mind has been employed to composite this Plan and nothing has escaped His purview. As such, the eternal purpose is unimprovable, unrevisable, immutable. Nothing can be added to it to make it better, and nothing can be taken away from it without making it less. It is the supreme product of infinite wisdom and can, therefore, be fully trusted and marveled at in every detail.
Fourthly, the eternal purpose is sure. It is established by the Sovereign God and will be carried out by the Almighty. There are only two types of forces that could possibly hinder or stop this Plan from being carried out. The first is some force that resides within God Himself. He alone could choose to alter or abort this Purpose as an act of His will. This is an impossibility since God is unchanging, His eternal purpose is already the highest expression of His “good pleasure”, and the perfect genius of His infinite mind. God has committed Himself, and there is no power within Him that will ever cause His purpose to fail or change.
The second type of force that could possibly thwart or change God’s eternal purpose is that which exists outside of God. This would of necessity have to be in the created order which came into existence at the mere word of His mouth. Here, again, lies an impossibility. There is no created force that is mightier than its Creator. All things are subject to His Sovereign and Almighty hand, and He reigns supreme. We can have full assurance that in the end, God has no rivals. His will shall come to pass. It is as sure and as steadfast as God Himself.
Finally, the eternal purpose of God is all-glorious. It is designed to manifest and display forth the glory of God in its fullness. It is, likewise, designed to bring man into the participation and enjoyment of the glory of God in fullness for all eternity. God could not conceive of a more glorious plan for Himself and for you and I. This is our destiny, to the praise of His glorious grace!
Before we explore this eternal purpose more fully in relation to the members of the Triune God and to the Church, it would be beneficial to pause for a minute to consider our personal relationship to it. We have the opportunity, as believers in Christ, to align ourselves with and be the first-fruit partakers of the supreme purpose of the ages. We have the privilege of yoking ourselves with that which represents the infinite goodness of God’s heart and the infallible wisdom of God’s mind. We have the honor of being called to serve and labor for that which never fails and will never pass away. We have the blessing of giving our lives to that which is unsurpassed in its unspeakable glory. All other purposes will fail. All other endeavors will come to naught. All of man’s greatest and best intentions will fall short. This and this alone will endure and shine with the glory and favor of the Sovereign God for all eternity. To the fellowship of this Purpose we have been called.
When a man’s life becomes consecrated and committed to living, serving, and laboring for God’s supreme purpose, it, likewise, becomes marked with certain distinctive characteristics. First and foremost, it becomes purposeful and focused. It is not frivolous in its use of time or selfish in its ambitions and pursuits. It is not shifting and meandering in its intentions or flagging in its commitments and obligations. It does not follow the most popular fads or hop on the latest bandwagons but joyfully and sacrificially keeps its hand to the plow, tilling a straight furrow. It is marked by a persistent and patient zeal in a purposeful, settled direction. Such a man is approved of God for he is a man after God’s own heart. He will in no wise lose his reward, for he co-labors with the One whose purpose never fails. He is further marked by joyfulness of heart and sagacity of mind as he follows the good, wise, all-glorious, enduring purpose of his Father. God is seeking such men and women to be the forerunners and first-fruits of His eternal purpose and kingdom in the earth. Will you and I be those who will be marked and sealed in this way? We need only to bow our knee and yield our heart to this one great and glorious purpose.
I began this series speaking of the Church as a “spiritual organism” which is governed by the law of the “organic.” As with all living organisms, the most essential element that determines its unique form, features, and functions is its “DNA”.
The world has made immense and even daunting strides in breaking the code of the human genome (to the point of being able to now “edit” it, and even create synthetic DNA.) The Church, on the other hand, appears to be far behind in discovering God’s living blueprint for the Ekklesia, her “spiritual DNA”, which governs her full development from conception to maturity.
In the realm of natural DNA, the basic building blocks are profoundly simple: four amino acids. In the realm of “spiritual DNA”, the basic building blocks are, likewise, profoundly simple. I believe they can be distilled down to four Christ-centered principles:
Christ, the ekklesia’s unrivaled Center.
Christ, the ekklesia’s unifying Identity.
Christ, the ekklesia’s sole Foundation.
Christ, the ekklesia’s uncontested Head.
If this is indeed so, then when these constitute the basic building blocks of the ekklesia, informing all that grows and develops from conception to maturity, they will produce a spiritual organism that is fully according to God’s heavenly pattern in all of its distinctive form, features, and functions.
If we take a careful look at the New Testament, I believe we will see that these four core principles were, in essence, central and primary emphases of the apostles as they labored to establish local expressions of the ekklesia.
The apostles preached the preeminence and greatness of Christ so that the churches would be gathered to and form around God’s unrivaled Center for the Church.
The apostles preached the inclusiveness and unity of Christ so that all who are baptized into His Person and Name would possess God’s unifying Identity for the Church.
The apostles preached the essentiality and all-sufficiency of Christ so that the local assemblies would be established, unified, and defined on and by God’s sole Foundation for the Church.
The apostles preached the indwelling presence and functional supremacy of Christ so that the practical expressions of the Body would gather in, through, and under God’s unrivaled Head of the Church.
In this, they established the local churches around Christ, in Christ, on Christ, and under Christ. He, and He alone constituted the spiritual DNA of the ekklesia in every respect, center to circumference, top to bottom, beginning to end. The result was a living, organic, organismic expression of Christ, according to the heavenly Pattern, uncorrupted by man’s tinkering or tampering with its Divine DNA.
Man in his ignorance and pride, however, often assumes that he can take matters into his own hands and in some way manipulate God’s design to achieve his own “spiritually pragmatic” ends. He leans on his own understanding and follows his own expediencies instead of apprehending God’s impeccable Design and trusting His supernatural agency to bring it to pass. Even as with Abraham sleeping with his Egyptian handmaiden Hagar in order to bring forth the promised “seed”, there may be a measure of blessing upon the outcome, but the fruit is never in keeping with God’s original and highest purpose. In the end, it brings forth an enemy and persecutor of that purpose. That is the history of much of the Church throughout the ages, beginning from very early on.
It wasn’t long after the original apostles moved off the scene, in fact, that the Church began substituting lesser spiritual elements into the essential constitution of the ekklesia’s “DNA”. By the middle of the second century, the monarchical bishop had risen to a status comparable to “unrivaled Center” and “uncontested Head” of the local ekklesiae in Christ’s stead. Consequently, the corporate entity that developed began to become a mutated, hybrid, “Genetically Modified Organism” (GMO), as it were. The “genetic alterations” that were incorporated were then passed on from generation to generation. These continued to be further tinkered and tampered with in order to compensate for the deformities that naturally developed. Those changes rarely if ever addressed the root problem and so the aberrations continued to metastasize and multiply into many divergent strains of the Ekklesia. As in nature, once such genetic mutations are introduced into a living strain, they are unlikely to ever reverse themselves. They also rarely produce an improved variant of the species. What we see in the earth today, therefore, are many expressions of “church” that are aberrant, and very little that exists according to the original DNA of the Ekklesia as it came forth purely from the Lord Jesus Christ through His holy apostles and prophets in the first century.
The question remains, then, what is God’s solution to this immense dilemma at the end of the age? Although God’s grace is extended to all of His children across the spectrum of the Ekklesia through faith in Jesus Christ alone, He ultimately desires to restore a testimony to His original pattern and purpose for the Church in these last days through an overcoming remnant. He is desiring those who will return to Him with all their heart, and in their corporate gatherings, collectively seek to recover His living blueprint for the Church. Such remnant testimonies, even if they be but a few believers in number, must begin with a new “conception” so that their “genetics” from the very beginning are pure and “according to pattern.” In profound simplicity, Christ must become their “all in all.” In specific, and of utmost priority, Christ must become their unrivaled Center, their unifying Identity, their sole Foundation, and their uncontested Head, without supplement or substitute. Everything else will naturally and livingly spring from this fundamental “genetic encoding.”
The DNA of man in its essential components is not complicated. The DNA of the “new man” in its essential components is, likewise, not complicated. If God could find a people who would give themselves to live and gather together according to just these four, fundamental, Christ-centered principles, I believe He would have the seed-bed of the restoration that He desires. That is what I am personally committed to and hope to have communicated simply and succinctly through this series of “Affirmations.”
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Now that this series is completed, I would like to invite and encourage you to take some time and reconsider it afresh as a unified whole. There is much that stands behind these simple statements and their inter-relatedness to each other. I believe it will take some prayerful consideration and contemplation for these truths to become internalized and personalized. To help facilitate that, I’ve created a permanent “Affirmations” page that may be accessed here, or from the header bar/menu tab at any time. My prayer is that the Lord may give you spiritual understanding and a renewed commitment to these essential truths as you meditate on them. I believe they lie at the very center of His Heart for you and I as His people in these last days! May He find us faithful!
I’d like to be candid in this post about a personal struggle I’ve been subtly engaged in over the past few years. With all of the many blessings that technology, the internet, social media, blogging, and the like have brought into my life, I find that there is, through my daily use of them, a quiet erosion taking place within my spirit. With all that I’ve gained, I feel that I’ve slowly been losing something that I once had that is incomparably precious.
Compared to many, I may seem to be rather moderate when it comes to technology use. I minimally use social media (beyond blogging); I only started using a smart phone within the past year; I have a tablet and a computer that I regularly use, but don’t feel I over use; I’m not a regular TV watcher, movie goer, Netflix subscriber, video gamer, or avid music listener. Even so, I can tangibly feel what seems like a creeping fog that is slowly rolling in and creating a hazy barrier between myself and my Lord. I seem to be inadvertently losing a measure of the sensitivity to the indwelling Spirit and the voice of God that I once had, and find it more and more difficult to still my mind in His Presence.
As I’ve become more aware of this, I’ve begun to realize that there is something about this virtual, technological, synthetic, screen-dominated world that we are increasingly living in that is rewiring the way we think, feel, and process life. It’s changing the way we interact with each other, it’s altering our ability to focus our attention on one thing for any length of time, it’s creating addictions to micro-bursts of dopamine-releasing social affirmations, soulish fascinations, and sensory excitements, that all work to keep our souls continually astir and constantly craving more. All the while, our spirits are being deprived of the one thing that they desperately desire and need for sustenance and life: intimacy with the living God.
So recently, I’ve begun to make some incremental changes that already are beginning to make a noticeable difference. I’ve been making a concerted effort to more frequently turn off or turn away from the virtual world, when I’m tempted to fill a quiet moment with something “meaningful”, “enriching”, or “entertaining”, and to simply enjoy the quietness. I’ve also been making a greater effort to get out into God’s creation and simply breathe in the air, take in the sounds, immerse myself in the colors and textures of the sights before me, and allow the subtlety of God’s world to speak deeply into my soul and refresh my spirit. (The difference between this and the bombarding flicker rate of a computer screen cannot be compared.) Every time I do, I feel like I’m reconnecting with my spirit, with His Presence, and with life the way He meant it to be.
In thinking about these things recently, my mind went back to a short piece that I wrote for the cover of our homeschool support group newsletter in June, 2003, some thirteen years ago. In light of what I’ve just shared, I feel these thoughts are more relevant now than when I first wrote them. I’ve included that short devotional below for your consideration. I pray that it will be an encouragement to you to more regularly turn away from the virtual world that we are so constantly immersed in, and turn to the spiritual world that is manifest all around us in and through God’s wonderful creation.
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“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.”
Psalm 19:1-4 NIV
Now that Spring is finally here and Summertime is fast approaching, one of the greatest opportunities for instructing our children lies right outside our own back door. In these verses the Psalmist declares what our hearts instinctively know; that all creation daily proclaims the wisdom, wonder and glory of God. The “speech” of creation communicates in infinitely subtle and sublime ways what human speech could never fully convey. As we take time with our children to listen to its exquisite “vocabulary”, a knowledge of the wisdom and ways of its unseen Author is imparted to our hearts. This classroom is an extraordinary place to learn.
For our family, the past few days have afforded some priceless opportunities to learn in God’s “universe-ity”. Yesterday my oldest two boys and I watched a majestic, circling osprey hunt for its evening catch as our canoe gently glided down a rain-swollen river. Earlier that day, my daughter had marvelled at the delicate beauty of a darting hummingbird as it sipped nectar from one of the very flowers she had helped her mother plant. Today we watched a thousand whirling maple “helicopters” sail off in the blustering evening breeze as we commented on their perfect aerodynamic design. Later, we joyfully winced as our two-year old son delightedly picked one white dandelion after another and lofted the fluffy white seeds to infiltrate our lawn in yet a hundred new locations!
Whether it is the ominous roll of distant thunder, or the silent speech of a star-filled night sky, all creation continues to faithfully testify of its Designer and Sustainer. May we take these opportunities to teach our children to be good students of this priceless “Book” that has been freely given to us. May we draw away from the clatter and clutter of this world’s distractions and cultivate, along with them, an ear to hear the whisper of God’ voice as daily creation speaks.
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I had been wanting to share along this line for a couple of months, but the impetus to do so now came after reading a post the other day by a dear brother, Patrick Maina, of Kenya. That post is called, “The Battle You and I Must Win”, from his blog, Life Beyond the Walls, and can be found here. I encourage you to read it as well.
In closing, this continues to be a very busy and stressful time for our family (for the reasons I explained in this earlier post.) Your continued prayers are appreciated. As time allows, I will be concluding the “Affirmations” series.
Just a quick post to share a resource that’s being offered this month (May, 2016) for free. Every month christianaudio.com offers a free audiobook download as a way of blessing the Body of Christ and keeping a ministry/generosity focus to their Christian audio business. These are always top-notch selections and productions. This month’s I felt was especially worth passing on.
They are currently offering a new A.W. Tozer book, Delighting in God, which is a collection of Bro. Tozer’s sermons from later in his life. Together they serve as a devotional follow-up to his classic work, The Knowledge of the Holy, which was the last book that he wrote. Bro. Tozer had desired to write a devotional sequel to it, but it never came to fruition during his lifetime. This compilation has been chosen to fulfill that desire and meet that need. It is classic Tozer!
To take advantage of these (or future) offers, go to christianaudio.com/free and follow the simple instructions. You will need to sign up with an email address, which will put you on their mailing list for future offers and sales, but you don’t have to purchase anything or sign up for a monthly membership, etc., to take advantage of the free offer.
Even if you don’t happen to be an audiobook listener at this time, you may want to still consider taking advantage of this offer, for you can always access the title(s) later on, even years from now, from “Your Library” on the site. You can also “gift” these offers to a friend, if you know someone whom you think may be interested and blessed by them.
I wanted to pass on the word about this particular opportunity as I’ve been so personally blessed by Bro. Tozer’s works in the past. The offer is only good until the end of this month though, so dive on in! 🙂
I affirm my commitment to the Father and to a life-long, uncompromising obedience to His eternal purpose so that its spiritual principles and sovereign priorities may, above all things, govern and fashion my life, relationships, ministry, and work. I commit to live solely for the Father’s glory, pleasure, and satisfaction as I seek to be a vessel shaped by and bearing witness to His supreme desire and ultimate intention in His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.
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I affirm my commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ as my unrivaled Center, in Whom, through Whom, and to Whom are all things. I commit to seek His centrality, supremacy and all-sufficiency in all things related to my life, faith, family, the ekklesia, and the world. I will give my supreme devotion and steadfast allegiance to no lesser person, principle, or thing. I will seek the reality, fullness, purity, and balance of all spiritual matters, whether individual or corporate, in Jesus Christ Himself, so that He forever remains my undiminished focus, my unrelenting pursuit, and my inexhaustible source of all things.
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I affirm my commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ as my God-given Identity into Whom, and into whose Name, I have been baptized. I commit myself to the surpassing greatness and unifying power of His Person, Work, and Name which binds all who are in Him together as one and cancels out all lesser identities, be they secular or “spiritual”. I reject all sectarian, man-made labels, names, categories, groupings and denoms that would distinguish me from other believers and I commit to only being identified by Him Whose name is “above every name”, the Lord Jesus Christ.
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I affirm my commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ as my sole Foundation, and the sole Foundation of the Church, both universally and locally. I commit to being established solely upon Him as the one Foundation Who can establish, unify, and define my life, and the ekklesia, according to God’s heavenly pattern and eternal purpose. I reject all sectarian, worldly, man-made foundations that seek to establish, unify, and define individual Christians or groups of Christians by something other than, or in addition to, Christ. I commit myself to seeing local expressions of the ekklesia established on the one, God-given, God-tested, God-approved, God-laid, and God-upheld foundation of the Lord Jesus Christ, alone, as end-time restoration testimonies to God’s eternal purpose and original pattern for the Church.
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I affirm my commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ as my Head and as the Head of His Body, the Church. I commit myself to ardently pursue a life of submission, sensitivity and obedience to His Headship in every aspect of my life. I pledge to seek out and sacrificially give myself to an expression of the Church where His practical Headship is sought and submitted to in its corporate gatherings and daily life. I will do all that is within me, by His grace, to cooperate with and to promote the Headship of Christ among God’s people, so that He may be restored to His rightful place within His Church in these last days.
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I affirm my commitment to the Lord’s restoration purpose and program in these Last Days in purifying an overcoming remnant who will return to Him with all their heart and seek to establish local expressions of His Church in which Jesus Christ is given His rightful place as unrivaled Center, unifying Identity, sole Foundation, and uncontested Head. I will not pursue my own interests, desires, and needs, be they natural or “spiritual”, but will lay down my life to pursue the Father’s eternal desire and supreme intention for His people. I pledge my life, my family, and my resources to the restoration of end-time, remnant testimonies to His eternal purpose and original pattern for the Ekklesia. I will not shrink back though it cost me (and my family) testings, trials, barrenness, wilderness purgings, ostracism, persecution, opposition, and/or discouragement. I will not be governed by externals or apparent successes or failures, but merely by obedience to God’s heavenly vision and living solely for the glory, pleasure and satisfaction of my Father as I seek to be faithful to His eternal purpose in all things.
I affirm that God’s program at the end of the age, in accordance with His eternal purpose, is to purify an overcoming remnant of His people who will return to Him with all their heart, and restore, in and through their collective expressions, a testimony to His eternal purpose and original pattern for the Church.
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I affirm that the most essential factor in the restoration of this end-time testimony is the reestablishment of the Lord Jesus Christ as central, supreme, and all-sufficient in all aspects of the returning remnant’s corporate calling, life, function, ministry, and governance, according to the principles of God’s eternal purpose.
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I affirm that the restoration of this end-time testimony will be radical in nature, beginning at the root level and working upward and outward to the full extent of the remnant’s collective expressions so that the reality and substance of Christ will be formed, developed and manifested naturally, from root to fruit, and from center to circumference.
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I affirm that the root level of this corporate restoration is found in the four aspects of the “formative core” that constitute any established group: 1. “attractional center”, 2. “unifying identity”, 3. “foundational base”, and 4. “governance principle”, and that Christ Himself must, in this regard, become the unrivaled Center, unifying Identity, sole Foundation, and uncontested Head of the remnant’s corporate expressions as a matter of first and foremost priority.
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I affirm that when Christ is restored to His central, supreme and all-sufficient place in those four aspects of the remnant’s “formative core”, that the entire “conformative matrix” (i.e. all other inter-related aspects) that develops around and according to it will, likewise, bear the testimony of Christ throughout, in keeping with God’s eternal purpose and original pattern for the Church.
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I affirm that it is because the Church at large, from early post-apostolic days onward, did not zealously maintain Christ as her unrivaled Center, unifying Identity, sole Foundation, and uncontested Head, but substituted lesser things in His place in one or more of these “formative core” aspects, that the Church grew and developed with “spiritual eccentricity” at its core, and systemically bore the fruit of “spiritual eccentricity”: disunity, diminishment, impurity, and imbalance throughout its many divergent expressions.
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I affirm that the eccentricities of the established religious systems that have developed over the centuries and millenia have become so sociologically enmeshed and psychologically ingrained that they have all but “locked in” the eccentric “formative cores” of those systems, making the entire constructs, from root to fruit, center to circumference, incorrigibly resistant to reform and restoration.
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I affirm that because of the incorrigibly resistant nature of these sociological/psychological dynamics, the remnant that is called to God’s end-time restoration will encounter great resistance within the existing “eccentric religious systems” and will in most cases, of necessity, be forced to move outside of them in order to restore a collective testimony according to Christ and Christ alone, as it was in the beginning.
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I affirm that due to the overall lack of revelation, conviction, and consecration as to God’s eternal purpose and original pattern for His Church, and also to the costliness of not conforming to the prevailing “eccentric religious systems”, those who do respond to this call will be relatively few in number, even as it was in the days when a small remnant of the Jewish people (about 2%) returned from Babylon to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple and the city, as recorded in the “restoration books” of the Old Testament.
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I affirm that the call to be a part of this returning remnant is a very costly one often involving increased levels of misunderstanding, criticism, false accusation, ostracism, isolation, persecution, spiritual warfare, buffeting, conflict, disillusionment and discouragement, and should not be undertaken without soberly counting the cost.
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I affirm that no one should endeavor to answer this call who does not have a deep, personal relationship with the Lord, and who is not willing to endure even a prolonged season in the “wilderness”, if need be, in following the Lord in the outworking of His end-time purpose.
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I affirm, that those who are faithful to this call have the assurance that God is with them, will sustain them, and that they can claim as their own the encouragement of the promise God spoke to the Jewish remnant: “The glory of this present house will be greater than the glory of the former house,’ says the LORD Almighty. ‘And in this place I will grant peace,’ declares the LORD Almighty.” (Haggai 2:9)
I affirm that, according to the eternal purpose, the Father has established the Lord Jesus Christ as the uncontested Head of the Church, which is His Body, His Bride.
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I affirm that in order for the Church to fulfill her high calling in relation to the eternal purpose, the practical Headship of Christ must be experienced, embodied, and expressed in and through the Body of Christ in its daily life and corporate gatherings.
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I affirm that in order for the Headship of Christ to be manifest in the corporate gatherings of the church, the Lord Jesus Christ Himself must be given the central and supreme place within the gathering, and that all aspects of the assembly must be submitted to His practical Headship, so that all would ultimately be “of Him, and through Him, and to Him.”
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I affirm that the practical Headship of Christ is administered in the Church by the Holy Spirit who indwells, anoints, gifts, and empowers all members of the Body of Christ to serve and function under Christ’s Headship as they yield to His leading and serve according to His enablement.
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I affirm that the Headship of Christ is most fully embodied within the Church when local assemblies gather as healthy expressions of the Body of Christ, in which all members are encouraged and equipped to function responsibly and responsively to the Headship of Christ, through the Spirit, in unity, orderliness, and mutual submission.
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I affirm that the Headship of Christ is most naturally experienced within the Body when there is mutuality and plurality in the functioning of gifts, ministries, leadership, equipping, and oversight, and when no single person seeks to dominate or monopolize the exercise of these functions, but all seek to serve according to the principle of “two or three.”
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I affirm that the functional Headship of Christ is most freely expressed when all plans, preparations, and participation in an assembly are submitted to the Holy Spirit for His inspiration, formation, confirmation, facilitation, and orchestration within the gathering, so that Christ may readily express Himself, by the Spirit, through His many-membered Body.
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I affirm that the Headship of Christ incorporates and integrates into an assembly the complimentary and counter-balancing attributes of preparedness and spontaneity, orderliness and unpredictability, form and flexibility, constraint and liberty, submission and equality, leadership and servanthood, equipping and functioning, and that these attributes must consistently be held in dynamic spiritual balance.
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I affirm that some degree of form, structure, and/or order is needful and helpful for the harmonious functioning of the church under the Headship of Christ, but that these ought to be implemented only as they serve to facilitate Christ’s practical Headship, and must remain flexible to and changeable at the Spirit’s leading.
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I affirm that (a plurality of) servant/leadership is given to the church to serve, equip, and help facilitate the full functioning of the Body of Christ, under His immediate Headship, and that these must not lord over the church, but set an example as being the most sensitive to the Spirit, the greatest of servants, and the most zealous for the Headship of Christ being manifest within the whole church.
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I affirm that the Headship of Christ requires local assemblies to continuously walk in faith and perseverance concerning its manifest reality, and they must continuously resist the temptation to settle for that which is humanly and religiously more predictable, “safe”, “reliable”, “normal”, common, traditional, and/or expected.
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I affirm that the Church has, since its earliest days, adopted many substitutes for the Headship of Christ, so that His manifest presence and practical Headship in the midst of His people are commonly unknown and generally disallowed, but that in these last days, God is raising up an overcoming remnant who will once again restore the Lord Jesus to His rightful place as the uncontested Head of His Body, and seek to collectively embrace, embody and express His Headship in their daily lives and regular corporate gatherings.
I affirm that only as the Church regularly lives, gathers and functions under the manifest Headship of Jesus Christ, can it fulfill and display forth the eternal purpose of God to all of creation, seen and unseen, according to her high calling in Christ.
The cross is like a many-sided jewel that must be turned and beheld from all angles to appreciate its true beauty and extraordinary worth. In this post, I’d like to give a three-point perspective on the cross through a collection of posts I’ve written which each express a specific revelation that God has given me concerning it.
The synergy of diverse viewpoints tends to give a subject a greater sense of depth, clarity, and balance. My hope is that these meditations will help to do just that concerning the cross so that it may be seen in a fresh,”3D” perspective.
Below are excerpts from the written posts with links to the full articles, along with an audio playlist of the three pieces, if you would prefer to listen. I pray that you are blessed with a greater comprehension and appreciation of the greatest single event in all of human (and Divine) history…the CROSS!
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“The Cross – The Eternal Passion of God”
excerpt: “I remember being on a long trip a number of years back and musing on the cross as I was driving. Part of my meditation was that I was wondering how the eternal justice of God was fully satisfied for all men, and for all time, by Christ’s sufferings and death on the cross. I wondered how the temporal sufferings and death of Christ actually “balanced the scales” of the eternal judgment of God for sin. When sin is judged with eternal punishment, how could Christ’s temporal punishment for sin suffice as just payment? Honestly, it didn’t fully add up in my mind.
Then I felt the Lord open my understanding and speak to my heart, ‘It is not the duration of the sufferings in hours or days, but the depth of the sufferings that needed to be accomplished. The duration of the suffering is not measured by time, but by eternity.’” [to full post…]
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“The Cross – The Unlevel Playing Field of Satan’s Defeat”
Had God, the omnipotent Creator, responded in swift and final judgement, the atmosphere of heaven would have instantly and forever changed. God would have become, at that moment, One not simply to be reverently and lovingly adored and served, but One to be eternally terrified of. Angelic worship and obedience would become permeated with a sense of fearful servitude out of pure self-preservation. Love and wonder would not have filled the air, but a pervasive, inescapable sense of dread.
This is not the heaven that God desires, nor will have. His challenge, therefore, is to deal with this rebellion without undermining the loving, joyful, peaceful relationship He has with the rest of His creatures. Lucifer must neither through his rebellion, nor through the outworking of his judgment, spoil the very nature of heaven.
For God to accomplish this, His Plan would not be played out on an un-level playing field, tipped in His favor, with He as Creator, and His Opponent as creature; with He being infinite in power, and His Opponent, finite in power. It would be another way.
excerpt: “The cross, when it has fully accomplished its radical work, makes us alive in Christ as God-centered men and women, fit to co-labor with Him in His God-centered work. We will no longer interject ourselves into His work as originators of it, sustainers of it, or prime recipients of it. We will merely be earthen vessels participating in that which has its source, means and ends in God and not in the natural man.” [to full post…]
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These audio files may also be listened to or downloaded separately by clicking or saving the following links:
I affirm that, according to the eternal purpose, the Father has chosen, tried, and laid one Foundation for the Church, the Lord Jesus Christ.
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I affirm that this Foundation alone is God-given, God-tested, God-approved, God-laid, and God-upheld, and that all other foundations that are man-given, man-tested, man-approved, man-laid, and man-upheld are insufficient as foundations for the Church and its local expressions.
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I affirm that no other foundation has been, nor ever will be, as thoroughly tested, tried, and proven as this Foundation, Who has endured the unbridled torrents of Hell, the unrestrained tortures of men, and the undiminished wrath of God, and has come forth eternally tested, triumphant and transcendent.
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I affirm that no other foundation has been, nor ever will be, as formidable in size, substance and stability as this Foundation, Whose footings descend to the lowest depths of hell, Whose summit ascends to the highest heights of heaven, Whose edges extend to the farthest reaches of creation, and Whose duration spans from eternity to eternity.
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I affirm that this Foundation alone is eternal, incorruptible, unshakable, indomitable, unassailable, irreproachable, and incomparable as the sole foundation of the Church and cannot be supplemented, substituted for, or supplanted without the Church being corrupted and critically compromised thereby.
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I affirm that this Foundation alone fully and faithfully supplies to the Church the three-fold purpose of a “foundation”: establishment, unification, and definition, according to the heavenly pattern and eternal purpose of God for the Church.
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I affirm that all other, man-made, sectarian foundations, be they institutional, organizational, denominational, national, racial, theological, doctrinal, traditional, experiential, governmental, personal, or the like, and no matter how well-meaning, reasonable, or seemingly needful they may appear, are insufficient to establish, unify and define the Church according to the heavenly pattern and eternal purpose of God for the Church, but inherently serve to undermine, divide and re-define the Church according to the earthly patterns and temporal purposes of man.
~ ~ ~
I affirm that the heavenly, spiritual nature of the Church’s sole Foundation is a stumbling stone to the natural man and a primary reason why Jesus is today, and always has been, “the Stone the builders reject(ed)…”
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I affirm that although the Church at large has all but universally rejected the Lord Jesus Christ as the sole Foundation of the Church, and have supplemented, substituted for, and supplanted Him with man-made, sectarian foundations in order to establish, unify and define themselves, the Lord is raising up an overcoming remnant who will return to God’s heavenly pattern and eternal purpose and restore the Lord Jesus Christ, the Church’s one, true Foundation, back to His rightful place in these last days.
~ ~ ~
I affirm that only as individual believers and corporate expressions of the Church reject all lesser, man-made, sectarian foundations, and return to the one true Foundation upon which they are rightly established, unified, and defined, will they be able to show forth the preeminence, greatness, all-sufficiency, and unity of Christ to all of creation, according to the eternal purpose of God.
I affirm that, according to His eternal purpose, the Father has called out and constituted in His resurrected, glorified Son, “one new man”,the Church, the corporate Christ.
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I affirm that this “one new man” is fully unified and identified with Christ and is, therefore, fully unified and identified by Christ.
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I affirm that all who have been joined to Christ through faith, have been united with Him in His death in which all divisive, earthly distinctions, identities, labels, and names have been abolished.
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I affirm that all who have been joined to Christ through faith, have been united with Him in His resurrection in which the one, indivisible, heavenly identity of Christ has been imputed to all.
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I affirm that in this “one new man”, all earthly, national, racial, social, economic, political, and religious distinctions have been superseded and supplanted by “Christ” so that now “Christ is all.”
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I affirm that all who have been baptized into Christ have been baptized into the name of Jesus Christ and are now fully identified with, in possession of, and called by “the name that is above every name.”
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I affirm that all lesser, sectarian names, labels, denoms, and the like, by which individual believers, or groups of believers, are distinguished and divided from one another, are contrary to the completed work and heavenly reality of Christ and are, therefore, condemned by God and to be rejected by the Church.
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I affirm that although individual believers, spiritual movements and religious factions within the Church have all but universally adopted sectarian names, labels, denoms, and the like to distinguish themselves, the Lord is raising up an overcoming remnant who will return to the preeminence of the Lord Jesus Christ in all things and restore the supreme, unifying identity of CHRIST back to the Church in these last days.
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I affirm that only as those who are in Christ reject all sectarian identities, labels, names, denoms, and the like and return to Christ Himself as their one, true, heavenly Identity, can they begin to collectively express the unity, fullness, and greatness of Christ, according to the eternal purpose and glory of the Father.
I affirm that in each and every aspect of the Church, the Lord Jesus Christ is to hold the place of absolute and unrivaled centrality, according to the eternal purpose, pleasure, and glory of the Father.
~ ~ ~
I affirm that the Church is to have no other rallying point, primary emphasis, passionate pursuit, concentrated focus, unifying vision, originating source, sustaining power, governing authority, and culminating objective, in all of her multi-faceted dimensions of faith and practice, than the Lord Jesus Christ.
~ ~ ~
I affirm that each and every individual matter of faith and practice, no matter how great or significant it may be in and of itself, represents a diminishment compared to Christ, and is insufficient to hold the central place in the faith and practice of the Church.
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I affirm that any singular matter of faith or practice that does rival or supplant Christ in His centrality, in any aspect of the church’s experience or expression, is in that position spiritually idolatrous and introduces limitation, discord, defilement and distortion into the Body of Christ.
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I affirm that each and every matter of faith and practice only finds its full reality, true significance, and proper balance when it is seen centered, summed up, and fulfilled in Jesus Christ.
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I affirm that all matters of faith and practice when stewarded properly remain Christ-centered in their focus, and thus purposefully serve to reveal and supply more of Christ to the Body.
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I affirm that as the church gathers, it is to do so around, unto, and according to the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and that He is to be unrivaled as to His place of centrality, preeminence, and significance by any lesser person, program, or practice.
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I affirm that in the gathering of the church, any person, program, or practice that does rival or preempt Christ in His centrality, preeminence, and significance is in that regard spiritually idolatrous and its inflated status and eccentric focus must be corporately repented of.
~ ~ ~
I affirm that although the Church has historically substituted many things in the place of Christ as their unrivaled Center, yet the Lord is raising up an overcoming remnant who will return to their First Love, the Lord Jesus Christ, and restore the spiritual and practical realities of the centrality of Christ back to the Church in these last days.
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I affirm that only a radically and comprehensively Christ-centered expression of the Church, in its daily life and corporate gatherings, is able to embody and display forth the eternal purpose of God to all of creation according to her high calling.
I affirm that before time began, the Father desired, designed and established His eternal purpose according to His good pleasure and glory, and that all of His works in time are governed by and unto the fulfillment of this eternal purpose.
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I affirm that the central motivation of the Father’s heart and mind in establishing His eternal purpose was His supreme love for His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.
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I affirm that in the eternal purpose the Father has ordained the Lord Jesus Christ to occupy the central and supreme place in and over all things in relation to creation, redemption, the Church and the Kingdom.
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I affirm that the Church, the Body of Christ, shares in Christ’s eternal calling and is the chosen vessel through which the eternal purpose of God is to be first embodied and expressed among all of creation.
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I affirm that the highest calling, purpose and pattern for the Church is the eternal purpose of God, and that any deviation from it constitutes a corruption of the Church and its calling.
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I affirm that the centrality and supremacy of the Lord Jesus Christ is the first and foremost feature of the eternal purpose that the Church is to corporately embrace, embody and manifest as she is spiritually and practically fashioned according to it in all things.
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I affirm that in Christ all fullness dwells and that the Church has been given all fullness in Christ.
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I affirm that the Church is called to manifest the fullness of Christ and can only do so when it is constituted according to the centrality, supremacy and all-sufficiency of the Lord Jesus Christ in all things related to her.
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I affirm that the most essential ways in which Christ is to be given the central and supreme place in the Church are for Him to become, in spiritual and practical reality, her unrivaled Center, her unifying Identity, her sole Foundation, and her Uncontested Head.
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I affirm that whenever Christ is rivaled in His centrality or preempted in His supremacy in any of these four essential areas, that disunity, diminishment, defilement, and distortion are brought into the Church and it is corrupted thereby.
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I affirm that although the Church has historically substituted and supplanted Christ in these four areas, and has tragically reaped the fruit of her eccentricities, that God will in the end have a remnant who will return to His original, eternal purpose and once again be fashioned according to the centrality, supremacy and all-sufficiency of the Lord Jesus Christ in all things, beginning with these four essential aspects.
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I affirm that only by an uncompromising, radical return to the practical establishment of the Lord Jesus Christ as the Church’s unrivaled Center, unifying Identity, sole Foundation, and Uncontested Head can the remnant of the Church be rescued from the prevailing process of corruption and be restored it to its original high calling, according to God’s eternal purpose.
With this post I am introducing a series of posts called, “Affirmations“. In order to place it in its context, I’d like to share the spiritual as well as the personal background to it. Next week, I plan to publish Part 1.
This series developed out of a long process of the Lord’s dealings in my life, both spiritually and experientially, and is a distillation of some of the major truths concerning Christ and His Church that He’s revealed and made precious to me over the years. The different aspects of the series will make more sense if I give a little of the spiritual background to it. So, here’s how I see it…
The Church, the Body of Christ, is a living, spiritual organism. As such it is governed by the law of the “organic”. All living organisms develop naturally according to the uniquely encoded information that exists within their cells, in their DNA. The “blueprint” for all that they are and will become is found in this basic set of instructions. In living organisms, “in-formation” precedes formation.
Likewise, the spiritual organism of the Church grows and develops naturally according to the most fundamental set of “information” that it embraces and embodies as to the who?, what?, when?, where?, why?, and how? of its existence and calling. Depending on the nature of this “DNA”, a given expression of the Church will either manifest that which is according to God’s “blueprint”, or that which is some deviation or deformation of it. Man often looks at the externals and seeks to make and mold them to some pre-conceived form, but God is ultimately concerned with the “DNA”, the “in-formation”. When the “spiritual genetics” are right, the desired organism naturally develops.
So, what are the “spiritual genetics” of the Church? What is her divinely prescribed “DNA”? If we can lay hold of that and allow it to inform and form us naturally and organically, then we can fully expect that the end result will be an organic expression of the Church that will be according to God’s pattern. All of our focus, then, ought to be right there.
About seven years ago, I asked the Lord a question about what constitutes, at the most basic level, an established, functioning group. In other words, what are the bare minimum factors required for random individuals to come together and become a cohesive, viable social entity? In my questioning, I was seeking that which is common in all (free-association) groups found among men, not merely spiritual or religious ones. I felt that the Lord delineated four fundamental factors that any group forms around and according to in order to become established and functional. I call these four principles the “formative core” of a group. They are as follows:
1. Attractional Center – This is the preeminent person, purpose, or pursuit around which a group gathers and coalesces. It is the primary purpose for the group’s existence and the main reason why people are initially drawn and subsequently remain attached to the group.
2. Unifying Identity – This is the name or fundamental principle that people associate with a group as its identifying label or definition. It is in man’s nature to categorize, label and name all things that exist, and so when a group comes into existence, it is all but a given that it will adopt some form of distinctive identity. This identity is representative of the entire entity and serves as a banner under which those who associate themselves with it may stand united.
3. Foundational Base – This is that which establishes, unifies, and defines the basic parameters of a group even as a natural foundation does a physical building. When it comes to a social entity, a “foundational base” supplies a commonly accepted provision to the basic, “who?”, “what?”, “when?”, “where?”, “why?”, and “how?” aspects of the group. No group can be united and function efficiently if there is not a common understanding of these basic parameters and presuppositions.
4. Governance Principle – This is some form of internal or external means of regulation adopted by a group through which it is organized, led, makes decisions, protects its interests, enforces its principles and protocols, and propagates itself to fulfill its purpose. Different types of groups adopt varying forms of a “governance principle”, but no group can or will exist without one.
These four aspects together, then, form the basis around and according to which any free-will association assembles and becomes viable. All four are needed in some form or another, and depending on the shape and substance of this “formative core”, the shape and substance of the group will, likewise, naturally grow and develop into its unique, full expression. The details embedded in this “formative core” constitute, if you will, the “DNA” of the group.
If this is true of groups in general, then we should consider whether it applies, likewise, to local expressions of the Church. To put it in Scriptural context, we might ask, “Were the local churches found in Scripture established with some form of an ‘attractional center’, a ‘unifying identity’, a ‘foundational base’, and a ‘governance principle’?” If indeed they were, then we should seek to know what the shape and substance of each of those facets of their “formative core” were. If Scripture informs us on that, then I believe we are zeroing in on the true “DNA” of the church, according to the mind and will of God.
According to Paul, we know that the Church is called to be the instrument through which “the manifold wisdom of God should be made known unto the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to His eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Eph. 3:10-11)
The churches are, therefore, to be fashioned according to the eternal purpose that they may be fit vessels to display it forth. That being the case, the “DNA” of the churches, (i.e. the “formative core”) must, especially, be according to the eternal purpose, that the churches which naturally develop from it may become corporate manifestations of the manifold wisdom of God to all of creation.
A central tenet of the eternal purpose is the centrality, supremacy and all-sufficiency of the Lord Jesus Christ in all things, and so He must be embraced and embodied as such in the churches as well. Thus, when it comes to the “formative core” of the ekklesia, we see that Christ Himself is indeed God’s central, supreme and all-sufficient provision for all four aspects. In the eternal purpose, as well as in the churches, Christ is the Center, Christ is the Identity, Christ is the Foundation, and Christ is the Head. When Christ Himself defines the “DNA”, the spiritual organism that grows and develops as a result is, likewise, CHRIST, in corporate manifestation. This is God’s divine “blueprint” and living “pattern” for the Church.
It is imperative, then, that local expressions of the Church contend supremely for these four aspects of their formation and development. Christ must be the “Attractional Center”; Christ must be the “Unifying Identity”; Christ must be the “Foundational Base”; and Christ must be the “Governance Principle”. If those four facets alone can be radically secured and diligently preserved for Christ, and as Christ, all else will naturally and organically grow according to Christ. It all boils down to just that.
Although this is simple in its essence, in its implementation it is not. The tragic reality within the Christian systems that fill the earth today is that it is exactly at these four points that Christ has been all but universally substituted and supplanted. At the very core of much, if not most of the Church, there is corrupted, malignant “DNA”. Something other than Christ has been embraced as the “attractional center”, be it a man, a program, a production, a practice, an emphasis, etc… to which adherents are drawn and held together, rather than the preeminent Person of Christ alone. (For more, see here.) The churches’ “unifying identity” has become a man-made name, label, denom, etc… rather than the unparalleled Name of Christ that the Father has given that we all may be one. (John 17:11) (Also, for more, see here) Man-made, sectarian foundations have been laid to establish, unify and define organizations and institutions men call “churches”, and the great, God-given foundation of Christ has been rejected Who alone can establish, unite, and define the entire Church, and all local expressions of it, according to God’s heavenly pattern. (1 Cor. 3:11) The “governance principle” that has been adopted has placed man at the head, be it in personality, committee, program, or protocol, rather than Christ, Who alone is Head and can govern the Church according to the will of the Father. (For more, see here.) It is shamelessly, and un-questionably accepted that at the very “formative core” of these religious entities there is man-made substitution for and supplantation of Christ. The consequences of this are immense. All that divides, diminishes, defiles, and distorts the “churches” springs from the existence of this corrupted “DNA” at the core level.
God’s eternal purpose within the Church will not be stopped, however, and so He is working in this last day to purify a remnant who will “return to the land” and “rebuild the house of the Lord” according to His divine Pattern, which is CHRIST alone, without substitute or supplement. His end-time purpose is one of restoration and it must begin at the root level of the “spiritual genetics” of the Ekklesia. God is looking for those who will diligently and faithfully commit to this end-time restoration.
This, then, is the spiritual background to the “Affirmations” series.
The Lord has been working these truths into me for well over three decades now, but they really came together in a unified whole about seven years ago when I taught a comprehensive five-part seminar called, “Christ-Centered Christianity”. (The audio of Part 1 can be found here.)
A year and a half later, I felt the Lord wanted me to boil the essence of these truths down to their most elemental form in a series of “affirmations”. This came to me as we were heading into the New Year of 2011. I felt that this would provide a concise expression of my faith and convictions concerning these things, and which would then serve as a foundation to a fresh commitment to them in my life and “ministry”. So, I wrote them out as a personal, spiritual exercise to kick off the new year.
Recently, I pulled them up on my computer to read again. It was refreshing to revisit them some five years later. In doing so, I also felt that now after four years of blogging, they would make a fitting addition to this blog as well. Enough has been published to date to “put meat on the bones” of these simple declarations. For those who have followed this blog, they will serve as a concise distillation of what has been published for the past four years. For those who are new to this blog, it may serve to whet your appetite to dig in a little deeper to what has been shared so far. Going forward, there are also some major teachings I have yet to share, but plan to get to. Some of the biggest rocks have yet to be put in the jar. I hope you will stay tuned!
I wanted to give some spiritual and personal background to this series before it rolls out, in addition to what I shared in the last post concerning what is presently going on in our family situation and the prospects of this coming year. I hope that you will take these “Affirmations” as not just quick reads, but as opportunities for prayerful study, sober contemplation, and renewed commitment. These concise expressions are like windows through which one can look to see vast and glorious vistas. I pray that you are captivated and challenged by the view. It is CHRIST!
Blessings to you all! Its been rather quiet around here for the past few months, so I wanted to give a brief update on what has been going on with my family and me, and how that has been, and will be, affecting my blogging in this new year. Last I posted was the end of November. Then came December…and then came January!
December is typically a very busy month in our household with all the preparations and activities of the Christmas season, my daughter’s birthday ten days before, out-of-state family traditionally visiting the week of Christmas through to New Years, and the like. This year was all of that and more. As for blogging, I had initially hoped to finish the series on “Centrality and Expectation” during December, but there was simply no window to give it the time it needed. I figured I had no choice but to bump it into the New Year.
Two days after Christmas, however, we got a call that my mother (91) had been taken to the ER with a serious infection and difficulty breathing. Further evaluation showed that her heart had been severely stressed from her condition as well. After a number of days in ICU, it became clear that she was not responding well to the interventions and that only heroic measures could possibly prolong her life. As a family, we made the decision for palliative care and had her transferred to the Hospice Unit of the hospital. She was made as comfortable as possible, and passed peacefully within six days.
My wife and I have been primarily responsible for overseeing her care and affairs for the past 17 years, and so a large part of the after-death arrangements fell on our shoulders. Needless to say, that has overwhelmed and overshadowed this past month. It will also continue to define at least the first part of this year as I assume the role of executor of her will and estate.
Personally and spiritually my family and I are doing well and have sensed God’s abundant grace through this time of loss. We also have the assurance that my mother is now with the Lord in a much better place. We have had to reprioritize much of life, though, in the midst of this difficult and demanding time.
That being the case, I am also having to revamp my plan for blogging for the near future. If all had gone as I had originally hoped, I would have finished the last two parts of “Centrality and Expectation” before the year’s end and begun the new year with a fresh series of posts called “Affirmations.”
That series was actually written five years ago, a year before I began blogging, as the result of a personal spiritual exercise I engaged in to begin the New Year then. In short, I prayerfully wrote down a collection of concise affirmations of some of the most essential truths concerning the Eternal Purpose of God, Christ, and the Church, according to my deepest convictions. That was a first step in making a fresh commitment to those realities in my life in that coming year. As I looked over those writings again recently, I realized that they would also serve well now as a series of posts to give a summary of the basic, Christ-centered truths that I have been blogging about for the past four years.
Since these writings are all but “publish-ready”, I am going to begin with an (actual) introductory post next week and then publish the seven additional parts of the “Affirmations” series over the next few months.
If during that period I am able to find some time to finish up the previous series as well, I will do so, or possibly intersperse some additional posts into the mix, but I will have to take that as it comes. Family matters will need to come first.
In closing, I’d like to say that last year was an especially difficult and trying year and it seems that this year could now be dauntingly heading in a similar direction. Additionally, there is a specific warfare that comes from blogging, especially relating to the core spiritual truths of the centrality and preeminence of Christ in all things. I have considered even hitting the pause button on this blog for six months or so to possibly minimize that while I go through the difficult and sensitive process of settling our parents’ estate. Time is too short, though, and the situation in the world and in the Church far too critical to not keep pressing on in sharing what God has put on my heart for those who read and follow this blog. My gut tells me that this year, on a national and global scale, is going to be nothing short of cataclysmic and transformational, and that we must all diligently redeem the time for the days are evil. I would ask, therefore, that you would please pray for my family and me, especially over the next few months. That would be greatly appreciated!
It is my hope that this post finds you well, and that God’s grace will be with you in abundance throughout this coming year!
Greetings, all! With the busyness of this season, I’ve decided to hold off on continuing the series, “Centrality and Expectation” until after the New Year. To give some background to it, though, as well as a re-posting of Part 1 in a different format, I’ve put together an audio playlist of three related posts: “Centrality and Balance“, “Centrality and Eccentricity“, and “Centrality and Expectation – Pt.1“. These all share a common theme and help to fill out the picture of the significance of “centrality” in our lives and in the church. (These posts touch more closely on the passion of my heart than pretty much any others.)
I’m offering them in this format for we are now into one of the busiest seasons of the year. So maybe while you are doing chores, decorating the house, running around shopping, or just relaxing at the end of the day, you might find this a more convenient way to partake of these posts.
The playlist below will play the files in succession, or if you prefer to download them individually, you can use the links below the playlist for that. (If anyone has a problem with either of these, please let me know.) Finally, if you prefer to read these posts, the originals will open up by clicking the links to their titles above.
However you partake, I hope that you enjoy and are edified!
[mp3 files: left-click to play, right-click and “Save Link As…” to download.]
“My soul, wait thou only upon God, for my expectation is of Him.”
The word “expectation” has been weighing heavily on my heart these days, especially as it relates to the gathering of the Body of Christ in its various expressions. It seems that this is one of the most defining factors when it comes to the ongoing experience of the church, and so I hope to focus some attention on it in this and the next few posts. In particular, I want to focus on what I believe is the most significant factor determining the nature and level of our “collective expectation” as we gather in Christ’s name.
To begin with, let’s take a look at the word “expectation”. The Oxford American Dictionary defines it as:
“A strong belief that something will happen or be the case.”
To dig a little deeper, the root of the word, “expectation” is “expect” which comes from the Latin word “exspectare”. This is comprised of the prefix, “ex-” (“out”), + “spectare” (“to look”).“Expect”, therefore means to, “…look out for; desire, hope, long for, anticipate, look for with anticipation,” (Online Etymology Dictionary)
With this in view, the question I’d like to pose is, “When we assemble as the Body of Christ, what is it that we are looking out for, desiring, hoping, longing for, anticipating, and looking for with anticipation?”
Much, if not most, of what actually transpires in a gathering of the church is dependent on both the content and degree of our collective expectation.
As I’ve thought and prayed on this matter, I’ve come to believe that the most significant factor determining the content and degree of the collective expectation of any group has to do with the matter of “centrality.” By “centrality” I mean, that which is the preeminent purpose, person or activity around which a group assembles. Whatever that “center” is, and whatever it substantively supplies to the group, I believe are the primary factors determining the collective expectation of the group as it gathers.
To give some examples of this, I’d like to highlight three major movements in Church history that encompass most of the Christian world as it stands today. Each one of these movements has a distinctive “center” which greatly influence the content and form of the movement’s unique expression. Each of these “centers” also greatly influence the expectation of those who belong to and participate in their regular assemblies.
1. Roman Catholic centrality and expectation – The distinctive “center” of Roman Catholic worship is the Eucharist, ministered by a priest or bishop. Whatever songs, prayers, readings, rituals or teachings may be included in their service, the Eucharist stands as the centerpiece. Those who attend, therefore, have an expectation that rises mainly to the level of what the priest through the Eucharist can supply to the people. According to Catholic doctrine, this includes the transubstantiation of the elements so that Christ (it is believed) becomes literally present under the auspices of the bread and the wine and is offered again as a sacrifice to the Father each time the Mass is performed. The expectation of the people therefore, is one of a prescribed, liturgical, mystical ritual that contains and communicates deep religious meaning and imputed spiritual virtue. If the Eucharist and/or the ministry of the priest were ever removed from the regular Catholic assembly, the Catholic collective expectation would be violated.
2. Protestant/Evangelical centrality and expectation – The distinctive “center” of Protestant/ Evangelical worship is the sermon, ministered by the pastor/preacher. This moved to center stage, literally and figuratively, through the Reformation as the Scriptures were restored to the Church and Bible exposition became paramount. When Catholic cathedrals were converted into Protestant Church buildings, the lectern/pulpit was physically moved from the side to the center of the platform to facilitate preaching as the main event. The expectation of the people attending a Protestant or Evangelical church service to this day rises mainly to the level of what the pastor/preacher can supply to the people, especially through the sermon. If the sermon and/or the ministry of the pastor/preacher were ever removed from the regular gathering of a “Protestant” or “Evangelical church”, the Protestant/Evangelical collective expectation would be violated.
3. Pentecostal/Charismatic centrality and expectation – The distinctive “center” of Pentecostal/Charismatic worship is the anointing, gifts, and manifestations of the Holy Spirit, ministered primarily through a pastor and/or ministry team. While perpetuating the same basic building-based, platform/pew, clergy/laity form of church assembly passed on by the Protestants/Evangelicals (who inherited it from the Roman Catholics), Pentecostal/Charismatic assemblies place the highest premium on the working of the Holy Spirit. Since this is often experienced most powerfully through corporate worship (singing) and personal prayer ministry, much attention is devoted to the “song service” at the beginning, and the “altar ministry” at the end of the service, with an expectation of anointed preaching in the middle. Although the congregation is sometimes given a measure of liberty to function in spiritual gifts, this is often highly monitored and controlled. Most of the ministry of the Spirit is relegated to those on the platform, or to those they endorse. The expectation of the people attending can vary greatly in these congregations depending on the degree to which the Holy Spirit is given liberty to function, but it generally rises to the level of what the platform ministry can supply to the people through the Holy Spirit’s giftings. If the Holy Spirit’s manifest working or the “anointed (platform) ministry” were ever to be removed from the regular gathering of a “Pentecostal” or “Charismatic church”, the Pentecostal/Charismatic collective expectation would be violated.
And so we see with these three examples, three distinct “centers” around which these various groups gather. We also see three diverse sets of “collective expectations” that are embraced and embodied by those who assemble in these three expressions of the Church. How very different the content and degree of these are from one another, all defined by the “center” around which they gather.
Centrality, Expectation, and God’s Design
The question that begs to be asked, then, is, “How does this line up with God’s design for the Church?”
In these examples, we see one expression of the Church that is “sacrament-centered”, one that is “sermon-centered”, and one that is “Spirit-centered”. These three represent a vast majority of the assemblies which call themselves Christian throughout the world today.
So, what is God’s thought for “centrality” in His Church? Is the “center” to be the sacraments?…the sermon? …the Spirit? Are we allowed to choose our preferences, or does God have a universal “center” for the assembling of His churches?
Instead of answering these questions directly and immediately, I’d like to illustrate this matter with an example from the Old Testament, drawing on the tabernacle of Moses.
When the priests would go into the Holy Place of the tabernacle, there were three pieces of furniture at which they would minister: the table of shewbread, the golden candlestick, and the altar of incense. These three bear a striking resemblance to the three “centers” of the examples we have been looking at:
The table of shewbread had cakes of unleavened bread on it and had prescribed drink offerings that were offered; a striking resemblance to the Lord’s Supper, or Eucharist.
The golden candlestick illuminated the Holy Place, and, interestingly, had 66 pieces of ornamentation on it; a striking resemblance to the Scriptures, which is a “light” and a “lamp” (Ps. 119:105), and is comprised of 66 books.
The altar of incense had fire burning on it and there the priests would offer incense night and day, representing the prayers and worship of the people of God; a striking resemblance to the emphasis of those who seek the manifest presence and working of God’s Spirit.
So, with this analogy, we can ask, which is the “centerpiece” of the Holy Place? Which piece of furniture is to have the preeminence? Which, if any, is to be considered the “most holy”?
I think the answer is pretty clear…none of them. They are all of equal importance and holiness. They are all part of the fullness of the worship of God. In fact, it would be a distortion of God’s design to exalt one above the others.
So, let’s take this analogy a step further and look at what the scenario would be if the veil separating the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place were torn in two by the hand of God and unhindered access were given to the priests to minister before the Ark of the Covenant in the manifest glory of God.
Which furnishing would be the “centerpiece” then? Which would have the preeminence? Which, if any, would be considered “most holy”?
Clearly, the Ark of the Covenant would be. It would dwarf the other three in preeminence for God has declared it to be His throne and dwelling place on earth. It is truly “most holy”! Of all the furnishings in the tabernacle, the ark of the Covenant is indeed God’s “centerpiece.” It would be fully in keeping with God’s design for the priests to focus in on this piece, not to the exclusion of, but supremely above the others.
With this new scenario then, consider how the “collective expectation” of the priests would transform from when the veil was intact and access was only given to the three pieces of furniture in the Holy Place. Imagine the exponential increase in both the content and level of their expectation as they would enter into the sanctuary and, additionally, behold a rent veil, the Ark of the Covenant, and the manifest, “shekinah” glory of God abiding upon it. Imagine how their sense of expectancy would multiply as they stood and ministered daily in the place where before only the High Priest could go, and that but once a year on the Day of Atonement.
Now, as if that were not enough, this analogy can be pushed yet one step further to be even more in line with New Covenant realities.
Consider, further, how the collective expectation of the entire nation of Israel would explode into unfathomable new dimensions if instead of the average Israelite only being allowed to enter into the outer court of the tabernacle to bring sacrifices to the priests for offering on the brazen altar, they were given the rights and privileges of the priesthood to go into the Holy Place to minister before the Lord, and even into the Most Holy Place to worship before an unveiled Ark? How would the collective expectation of the entire Israelite community exponentially transcend what existed before? It is hard to even comprehend!
And that, my friend, is a picture of what is available to you and I… all of us together in the New Covenant!
If we were ever able to get a hold of that, our experience of “tabernacle” would never be the same again! 🙂
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So, in closing, let’s go back to the original question I posed, “When we assemble as the Body of Christ, what is it that we are looking out for, desiring, hoping, longing for, anticipating, and looking for with anticipation?” Is it in keeping with the limited, unbalanced emphasis of the three examples given in focusing primarily on one of the activities of the Holy Place, or does it transcend that to primarily center in what lies beyond the veil in the Most Holy Place, the Ark of the Covenant, the Lord Jesus Christ Himself?
In the next few posts, I’d like to explore more fully what it means to have Christ Himself as our collective Center, and Christ Himself as our collective Expectation!
In the mean time, I hope that you will take time to ask the Lord concerning these things yourself. His Spirit will lead us into all truth as we seek Him with all of our heart!
A week ago, our family had the joy of joining in the celebration of our second oldest son, Evan’s, wedding. We had quite the road trip to Topeka, Kansas, where his bride, Katie, grew up (logging some 3,100 miles in all.) It was a beautiful event, held in nearby (?) Kansas City, MO, and was a great time of celebration with family and friends of both Katie’s and ours. The newlyweds are off on their honeymoon now, beginning what will most likely be, knowing Evan and Katie, a most joyous and adventurous life together in Christ!
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– A fatherly “charge to the couple” –
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As a small way of honoring this milestone in our son’s life, I thought I would highlight some of Evan’s writings and also concerning his mission work which have been previously published on this blog. In addition, I have a new piece that I would like to add that I came across not too long ago while listening to the CCC seminar again. I hope that you are blessed by these offerings!
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In Evan’s late teens and early twenties he wrote some beautiful poetry springing from his sincere relationship with Christ. One of my favorites, and the story behind it, can be found in this post: “The Image We Bear” – by Evan Bolton
I also have a permanent section on the blog under the Creative Expressions tab where more of his poetry can be found. Check out the Poems of Evan Bolton section to find more of his inspiring pieces.
In 2012, Evan also wrote and self-published a historical fiction book centering around the birth of Christ. This is an insightful, inspiring read at Christmas time for personal or family devotions (…and also makes a great gift.) The post introducing this book, with a sample excerpt, and links to the publisher’s page, is here: A Shepherd’s Tale by Evan Bolton.
When Evan was 22, he started a non-profit ministry based around soccer. He has since raised enough monies to send equipment and do soccer projects in eleven countries around the world.
Evan has had a heart for mission work since his mid-teens. He shared his experience delivering Operation Christmas Child gift boxes to a refugee camp in Montenegro in this post: “A Refugee Jesus…”
In closing, I’d like to share a short excerpt from an email that Evan sent me at the time I was preparing to teach the Christ-Centered Christianity seminar in our home in September, 2009. In it he shared some spiritual thoughts on the matters of “fullness and truth” as they relate to Christ and the Church. It was uncanny the relevance that his thoughts had to the seminar I was preparing to teach, even though we had not talked about the specific content of it with each other. I ended up incorporating his email into one of the sessions and have posted the audio section of that session for you here.
The things that he shared, though typed out quickly in an email, were such a blessing to me for it was evident that beyond what I may have ever taught Evan in regards to the truths he expressed, something had surely been caught by him! As parents, we cannot ask for much more than that! Evan was 19 at the time and attending Bible School in upstate NY.
“Fullness and Truth”
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It has been a great honor and blessing to be Evan’s Dad for these many years and to be a part of the work that God has done and is doing in his life. Now, as he enters into this most significant new stage of life, I pray God’s richest blessings and unfailing grace be upon him and his sweet wife, Katie. Please join me in those prayers!
“Has it ever occurred to you that one hundred pianos all tuned to the same fork are automatically tuned to each other? They are of one accord by being tuned, not to each other, but to another standard to which each one must individually bow. So one hundred worshipers meeting together, each one looking away to Christ, are in heart nearer to each other than they could possibly be were they to become “unity” conscious and turn their eyes away from God to strive for closer fellowship.” A. W. Tozer The Pursuit of God
Ever since the earliest days of my walk with Christ, I’ve had a strong passion and deep burden for the unity of the Body of Christ. This passion and burden have sprung from two main sources: the clear teaching of Scripture and, in stark contrast, the grievous division that abounds in the Church of Jesus Christ.
From Scripture, it is clear that there are few things more precious to God than unity. Please consider the following:
Unity defines the very nature of His triune being.
Unity permeated all of “eternity past” before the beginning of time.
Unity characterized the whole of creation prior to the rebellion of Lucifer.
Unity marked the Garden of Eden before the serpent entered and tempted Eve.
Unity is what God sought to manifest through His chosen nation, Israel.
Unity is what Christ taught, prayed for, and then died and rose from the dead in order to restore.
Unity is what the Holy Spirit poured out on the Church on the day of Pentecost.
Unity is what the early church was known by throughout the book of Acts.
Unity is what Paul and the other apostles repeatedly exhorted the Church unto throughout the Epistles.
Unity is what will define the Kingdom of God in the millennial reign of Christ.
Unity is what will prevail in the new heavens and new earth for all eternity.
From beginning to end, unity lies at the very heart and soul of God and His eternal purpose! That is enough for me! How about you?
As we turn from looking at the central and significant place of unity in Scripture to the vessel that God has chosen to manifest His eternal purpose on earth, the Church, what do we see in this regard? Instead of seeing a corresponding witness on earth of unity, we see an entirely contrary witness of disunity. In my opinion, it is an utter mess, an epic fail, an outright mockery of the unifying work of God in Christ! I really don’t think it could get much worse!
So, I have to ask, “What is the cause of this vast disparity between the strong testimony of Scripture regarding unity and the despicable testimony of the Church in its practice of disunity?”
As I’ve contemplated this matter, I’ve come to a conclusion that may be somewhat surprising.
Ironically, I’ve come to believe that the greatest enemy to unity in the Church is actually the Church’s pursuit of “unity!” Look about the Christian landscape and I think that you will see that this is so. When any portion of the Church pursues an isolated form of unity along sectarian lines, it becomes divisive to the larger body of Christ. In fact, the sectarian pursuit of “unity” is one of the most dangerous and destructive practices the Church regularly engages in. Christendom is riddled with the divisive fruit of this practice.
The reality is, that as much as God esteems and seeks unity in His Church, He has not set unity as a primary pursuit for His Church. Rather, it is a secondary matter that comes into expression as His people primarily seek a much higher and greater objective, i.e., that of conformity to Jesus Christ. In other words, the unity that He seeks is a “fruit” issue, not a “root” issue.
To give an example, if I want to have delicious apples to eat, I don’t primarily set out to create apples with my own determination, wisdom, and resources. That would be impossible! Rather, I plant and nurture an apple tree and, in time, I have delicious apples to eat! The same is true with unity. If we want the unity that God desires, we don’t primarily set out to create unity with our own determination, wisdom, and resources. That, likewise, would be impossible! Instead, we plant and nurture the right “Tree” and, in time, we have the delicious fruit of unity!
So, what is that “Tree”?
It is the “Tree of Life”!
And what is the “Tree of Life”?
It is CHRIST!
I once tweeted, “We don’t obtain unity by pursuing unity together; we obtain unity by pursuing Christ together!”
Isn’t this what Bro. Tozer is saying in the quote at the beginning of this post. We don’t get 100 pianos in one accord by tuning them to each other, but by individually tuning them to another standard. That “standard”, that “fork”, is Jesus Christ!
When man tries to create unity, he employs all manner of “forks” to bring people into one accord. More often than not, however, Jesus Christ Himself becomes “the fork that the tuners reject.” (to paraphrase Psalm 118:12 & 1 Peter 2:7)
Jesus Christ is a “Fork” that is heavenly and spiritual in nature. He can only be “heard” by those who have spiritual ears attune to His heavenly “frequency”. Man, in general, is much more in resonance with earthly, natural things, and so are much more readily brought into one accord around a “fork” that is of a lower nature.
Jesus Christ is, likewise, a “Fork” that emits a sound that is fuller and more exquisite than any tone heard here on earth. The range and resonance of the sound far exceeds the dull, monotone ring of our earthly “forks”. He emits a symphony of sound that is able to tune all of our diverse “strings” harmoniously at once. Those who are attuned to Him create a magnificent symphony of sound in their unified diversity. Not so the “forks” of earth which emit a single tone and create a much more uniform drone. Such, however, is easier for leaders to “conduct” and for man to “echo”, and so man’s spiritually tone-challenged ears rally around their monotonous, man-made rings.
Consider, then, the many “forks” that religious/spiritual people employ to bring followers into one accord:
Some employ the “fork” of church hierarchy and official dogma; others that of denominational affiliation and theological persuasion; still others a chosen religious tradition, spiritual experience, Scriptural emphasis, charismatic personality, church polity, crafted program, or popular movement. All of these are used to bring a select portion of the Body of Christ into one accord around their particular tone.
This may all seem very reasonable, but what is the over-all result?
A global, ecclesiastical CACOPHONY;
A ubiquitous, religious BABEL!
I tweeted at a different time: “The unity of the Church is found in Jesus Christ alone. All human contrivances to produce unity only divide the Church further. JESUS ALONE!”
God has only ONE FORK with which to tune ALL of His Church! The unity that He seeks is found solely in the Lord Jesus Christ! “For He Himself is our peace…” (Ephesians 2:14) Only He, through His glorious Person and work is able to bring all of God’s people into unity and one accord.
So, let it be understood, that the “fork” that we tune to is not an institution or organization, for Christ is not an institution or organization. The “fork” that we tune to is not a mere theological position or set of doctrines, for Christ is not a mere theological position or set of doctrines. The “fork” that we tune to is not a particular spiritual emphasis or religious experience, for Christ is not a particular spiritual emphasis or religious experience.
The “Fork” that we tune to is a PERSON! He is a Living PERSON in Whom all fullness dwells, and Who transcends all of these things. As each one of us becomes personally tuned to Him, we automatically become tuned to one another. This is God’s way of true unity!
May we as Christ’s Body transcend these lesser, divisive “forks”, and seek to become fully one in resonance with God’s chosen “Fork”. Then, and only then will we be fully tuned with one another and so be fit for the Grand Symphony of the Ages to be played through us to the glory of God and the joy of all creation!
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As I was searching for this quote of A. W. Tozer’s, I came across a video of a musical production which was inspired by these very words. I share the link with you here as a final meditation and inspiration. It is extraordinary!
As you watch and listen, please consider the multitude and diversity of talents and gifts that have gone into making this what it is. This is a beautiful picture of the Body of Christ, all in tune, functioning in one accord, under the direction of one Conductor! Enjoy!
Session 1 of the CCC seminar wraps up in this post with a look at the place and calling of the Church in the eternal purpose. This is where God’s supreme plan for the ages becomes practically outworked on earth through people like you and me! It is only as we view the Church through the lens of God’s eternal purpose that we are able to perceive the true nature of our high calling in Christ!
Part 3 is broken down into a playlist of the following sub-sections:
The Church in relation to the Father and the Son in the eternal purpose (4:24)
The Church in relation to the Holy Spirit in the eternal purpose (4:57)
The Church’s calling to be conformed to the eternal purpose, and a final prayer. (5:36)
If you wish to listen to any of the previous parts of this teaching, you may do so by following this link to the permanent page for this series now posted in the “Audio” section. Included there is also the “Introduction” part of the session which was not shared previously in these posts. (This includes an interactive exercise the group participated in which was really quite fun as well as spiritually challenging! 🙂 )
(You may also download/listen to the full mp3 recording of Part 3 with the following link.)
One of the earliest books I ever read as a new believer, back in the late Seventies, was a first-hand account of the Azusa Street Revival by Frank Bartleman called, Another Wave Rolls In. It was later slightly edited and republished in 1982 under the name, Another Wave of Revival. As a special Introduction to the first, and an Epilogue to the second, an article by Arthur Wallis, “Revival and Recovery” was included. In it, he gave a sweep of church history highlighting the various moves of God through the centuries and showing how God was, little by little, restoring back to the Church that which had been lost during her long decline into the Dark Ages.
It was this book, and the historic overview by Bro. Wallis in particular, that God used to stir in my heart some deep questions about the Lord’s end-time purpose and how it would all culminate. One question I asked Him was, What will be the distinctive mark of the final move of God that will wrap up the entire Church age? I shared about how God spoke to my heart in response to that question in the About page on this blog. There I said,
“I can vividly remember the day when I poured out my heart to the Lord with deep questions about the focus of the Church and the culmination of His end-time purpose. The Father spoke to my heart as clearly as if He had spoken audibly. He silently thundered one simple phrase concerning His Son: “…that in all things HE might have the preeminence.” (Col. 1:18) That word resonated with such prophetic power in my spirit that it marked a watershed in my life. I vowed at that moment that the rest of my life, by the grace of God, would be marked with having the same heart that I saw in the Father concerning the centrality and supremacy of His Son in all things. I pleaded with God to so burn that passion into my heart that nothing could surpass it and nothing could supplant it, ever. I saw that this was the highest thing I could commit myself to and desired to be a man after God’s own heart in this regard for the rest of my days. Now, some thirty years later, I am ever so grateful that the Father has been faithful to keep that which I committed to Him on that day.”
I recently came across this epilogue again and read it through, recalling how it had stirred my heart so many years ago. Because of its significance in my life, and also its relevance to the present series of posts on “Tradition, Scripture and the Church”, I decided to contact Whitaker House to see if I could get permission to offer it here on the blog. This they have graciously granted, and so I have added the full piece to the Resources section for you to access and enjoy!
It has been a rather busy season of life this past month in our family, including re-roofing our house, so Part 5 of the “Tradition…” series has taken a little longer to write than I had expected. I will be posting it next week though. In the mean time if you would like to visit the previous parts of the series to get caught up, I encourage you to follow the links below to their pages. This series has been more substantial in length, and even in content than most, but I don’t know that there has been a more important matter that I’ve written on. Next week’s post should help to pull it all together and it includes some truths that I’ve been waiting to write on since I started blogging almost three years ago. I’m looking forward to sharing them with you!
(The poem that wraps up “Revival and Recovery” I’ve had posted on the blog for a couple of years now. It includes an additional verse than what was included in “Revival and Recovery”. You can see it here if you’d like: “The Tide is sure to Win” – by Priscilla Leonard )