3 Reforms Needed in the Church

2944813f856f876da02e15e0a5f5083bIn these tumultuous days in which we live, it seems the importance of having good character is becoming a thing of the past. Character is defined as, “the aggregate of features and traits that form the individual nature of some person or thing; qualities of honesty, courage, or the like; integrity.” Integrity adds another nuance to character: “the state of being whole, entire, or undiminished.” Perhaps the reason character seems to be lacking is because there are fewer people who are whole. It’s pretty obvious that our culture is broken in many ways; families and relationships are broken because people are broken. Brokenness is the result of sin in our lives.

Those of us who are Jesus followers should be the most whole people on the planet. After all, the unblemished, unbroken One lives within us. But even within the Church, many are broken as well. Something is missing. After over 2,000 years of Church history, we aren’t really much different from the rest of the world. There’s too many things to list in this short article that are still rampant in the Church. Sexual immorality, addictions, deception, abuse, divorce, rebellion, depression are just the tip of the iceberg. Why is this? What are we doing wrong? Undoubtedly, books could be written on this topic, but a few things seem obvious.

  1. Wounded leaders produce wounded followers. This is a big one. You reproduce what’s inside you. Too many leaders have unhealed issues and are ministering out of their woundedness. Education and training are not enough to lead God’s people well. Leaders must be committed to wholeness, first in themselves. Then they can minister more effectively to their congregations, leading them into wholeness.
  2. Church structure is unbiblical. Another big one. When one or two people are the main leaders everyone suffers. The leaders burn out; the leaders and people become codependent. Immaturity is fostered in the body. People are not taught, equipped or challenged to grow up apart from a balanced leadership team of five-fold ministers. Leaders should be raised up continually so the body expands, matures, and unifies, to further spread the kingdom, not the Church. This means going out into the culture to reform it according to kingdom principles. Many churches focus on their own needs, their own issues and ministering continually to one another. This is not what Jesus taught or modeled with His disciples.
  3. Incomplete theology. I would venture to say that the majority of teaching in the Church is based on head knowledge, not experiential knowledge. Those who have been taught “about God” rather than led into experiencing Him personally, are easily dissuaded when faced with objections, opposition, or persecution. By contrast, those who have had genuine God encounters will generally stand firm and immovable in their faith when shakings occur. Rather than learning the art and discipline of meditating in the Word, wrestling in prayer, and waiting on God, most believers are spoon fed each week, relying on their pastors to “hear from God.” Instead of persevering in prayer, many give up and decide it must not have been “God’s will,” or that God has abandoned or is angry with them. In our instantaneous gratification society, we often take matters into our own hands rather than waiting for God to move.

There are undoubtedly many other reasons for our current condition. But these three keys, I believe, are vital to reforming the Church so that we can do what Jesus commanded us – to make disciples of all nations. (Matt. 28:19-20) It is time for a new wineskin, a new perspective. The old ways have not and are not working. It is time for the body to become whole; to reflect the true nature and character of Christ. It is time to be the salt and light, transformational elements in our culture. This is what it truly means when we pray, “…on earth, as it is in heaven.”

Our Destiny, God’s Purpose

heaven-on-earthGod is intentional. All that He does and all He has created has great purpose, beyond our ability to understand unless He reveals it to us. He leaves nothing to chance. Nothing is incidental, accidental, or coincidental when it comes to His ways. It is so important that we know His intentions beyond the earthly, temporal realm in which we live and relate to. His ways are manifold, or multi-faceted. He spoke to Isaiah, “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:9)

Take humanity, for example. God created us for many reasons. He wanted a family. He desired relationship with us. He made us to have dominion over the earth and all the creatures. He wanted us to fill the earth with His glory, the glory we were clothed in before sin came in. We were to rule and reign as His sons and daughters over the planet. We know that the authority He had given us, we gave over to the enemy when we listened to and believed his lies. The devil mistakenly thought he had thwarted God’s purposes. Yet He still had a plan. He would come in the form of a man and win back what we had given up. He restored us to our rightful place as His governing representatives over all the world, the world He would one day return to, to set up His eternal kingdom. This was the reason for His charge to “make disciples of all nations…, teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you…” (Matt. 28:20)

His first purpose for creating us was for family and relationship. Out of that identity, His second purpose was that we would rule alongside Him. Sons and daughters ruling beside their Father, and a bride ruling with her Bridegroom. In unbroken unity, we would be working for the family business, so to speak. In order to facilitate the family business, He created the ekklesia. We usually translate this word as “church” but the two words are not synonymous. (The word church was not a Greek or Roman word, it actually came from a German word.) According to the culture of Jesus’ day, the ekklesia was a gathering, or assembly who sat at the city gates for the purpose of legislating and deciding judicial matters. It was a governing body. The ekklesia was the body of people that were given authority to rule and reign. Jesus declared that to Peter when He said, And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My ekklesia and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” (Matt. 16:18-19) 

The ekklesia was given the keys of the kingdom, the authority to decide and declare what would or would not be allowed on the earth, according to what was or was not allowed in heaven. We are to prepare the earth and the people for the King’s return to set up His kingdom here, as it is in heaven. That was the main thrust of the prayer Jesus taught us to pray. That is one purpose the ekklesia was created for, but there is more. Paul told us, His intent was that now, through the ekklesia, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to His eternal purpose that He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Eph. 3:10-11) We who make up His family and governing body are to show forth His glory to all other rulers, both angels and demons, and leaders of men. 

We exercise this God-given authority mainly through prayer, agreeing with God’s plans and purposes to come forth on earth as it already is in heaven. When we pray in agreement with His will, we are assured our prayers are heard and answered. (1 John 5:14-15) We demonstrate His unparalleled, manifold wisdom by transforming our culture through our involvement and godly influence. Transformed people will transform families, cities, and nations. This is our destiny, our purpose and calling. May the Lord help us to be about our Father’s business.

 

 

God’s Process in Reformation

images“See, today I appoint you over nations and kingdoms to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant.”  (Jeremiah 1:10)

A word the Lord has been speaking to me over the past few months is reformation. I kept hearing this in my spirit before I read that October 31st, this year, will be the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. To reform, in it’s most basic sense, means to form again. This brings to mind God’s words to His chosen people, Israel, as given through Jeremiah, the prophet. “Go down to the potter’s house, and there I will give you My message.” So I went down to the potter’s house, and I saw him working at the wheel. But the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands; so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him. Then the word of the LORD came to me. He said, “Can I not do with you, Israel, as this potter does?” declares the LORD. “Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in My hand, Israel.” (Jer. 18:2-6)

Our God is in the reformation business. The point of His reforms is to restore that which is fallen to its original state. However, He goes above and beyond even that, promising that the latter state will be more glorious than the former. (See Job 42:12; Hag. 2:9; Is. 65:17; Ezek. 36:11, etc.) The new heavens and earth will be far more glorious than the Garden of Eden. The last Adam, Christ, was far above the first one. The New Testament far exceeded the Old, in terms of the revelation of God. He restores, reforms, and remakes, not because the first was a mistake or incorrect, but because the first one had fulfilled its purpose. The first served His plan in its season, but the new season required something higher and greater.

God’s commission to His servant Jeremiah was to bring reformation to nations and kingdoms. His instructions give us much needed insight into the process required for such a God-sized task. The first step required four forms of destruction: to uproot, as in pulling something up by the roots; to pluck out, and expel; to root out. To tear down, as in to be pulled or broken down, cast down, and to be broken. To destroy, meaning, to die, to perish, do away with, and to blot out. And to overthrow, which means, to throw down, to break through, to break down, to be destroyed. After this process was complete, it was time to rebuild. This was a two-step process: first, to build, meaning, to rebuild, establish, cause to continue, with the idea of permanence. And finally, to plant, such as in a garden; to fix, to establish and fasten. It is interesting and worth noting that the destruction took twice as long, and was twice as hard, as the rebuilding.

I believe this is what God is doing in our nation, and in the American Church. Events are rapidly taking place that many believe to be destructive, not realizing, perhaps, that this is just the beginning of the process of reformation. We still have a long way to go before the rebuilding can begin. In the meantime, we must keep our eyes fixed on the One who loves to make things better than they were to begin with. We must trust that He sees and knows all; nothing is hidden from Him. He always knows what is best. He knows exactly what He is doing. We must pray for our leaders, and continue to pray for His kingdom to come and His will to be done in our nation, in the Church, and throughout this world, as it is in heaven. This is all a part of His plan, as He has said, “For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.” (Hab. 2:14)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Becoming a Human Being

12-rules-being-humanIt’s been said, and is true, that we live in an upside down world. Upside down, according to God’s ways, that is. The world tells us we have to take care of ourselves; God tells us to cast all of our cares upon Him. The world teaches us that happiness is found in material things, and the bigger, the better. God teaches us that life is found in giving, even sacrificially, to those in need. The world says we must live it up before we die. Jesus showed us it is in dying that we truly live.

The world would have us believe we are what we do, that our actions determine our identity. But God has created us to be, before we do. He intended our identity to determine our actions. We are human beings, not human doings. When we get it backward, it can cause problems. One example of this is seen in Jesus’ calling of His disciples. He began with Peter and his brother Andrew, who were fishermen by trade. “Come, follow Me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” (Matt. 4:19) Peter and Andrew were considered fishermen because that was what they did. Their identity flowed from their actions, their livelihood. But Jesus wanted to turn that around and get it in the right order.

His first call to them was to come and follow Him. In other words, be with Him, for a prolonged period of time. He wanted them to be with Him so they could learn from Him, to watch Him in action. When we spend time with people, who they are rubs off on us. We are influenced by their lives, whether good or bad. We become what we behold. God wired us this way so that we could be transformed by our relationship with Him, to become like Him.

After Jesus called them to be with Him, He then told them He would give them something to do – go out and fish for people. He didn’t command them to go and make disciples until they first became disciples. Yet, we often do that to people in the Church. We tell them to go and be a witness, but many have never witnessed the reality of who God is. We will never be transformed by reading or learning about the Lord. We will always be transformed by being with Him, spending time in His presence and with others who have been transformed.

We must live the message before we can give the message. We must first be transformed before God can fully use us to transform others. We must be with Him on a personal level, not just in corporate meetings, to know Him as He wants to be known. Before becoming His disciples, Peter, Andrew and the others were known for what they did – fishermen, tax collectors, etc. Their livelihood determined their identity. But after Jesus’ resurrection, they became known as those who had been with Him, “When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.”  Their identity determined their actions. 

When our identity is determined by what we do, we become performance driven. Our lives are characterized by people pleasing, perfectionism and insecurity. If our doing determines our identity, we believe our value and signficance come from what we do, and how well we do it. We compare ourselves to others because there will always be those who do it better. We become jealous, insecure, and fearful that we will lose our value if we don’t keep up the appearance of doing something well.

When our actions flow from our identity, we realize that though others may have similar callings, we are unique and therefore, secure in who we are as God’s beloved child. We aren’t driven to perform and maintain appearances, because our doing naturally flows from our being. There really is no effort involved beyond being with Him. We can freely give out of the overflow of what He gives to us. We don’t have to be chided to go and be witnesses, because who we are as transformed people will rub off on those we spend time with.

The world tells us that doing precedes being, that we are what we do. But the kingdom of God teaches that we do what we are.  We honor and glorify our Lord when we are human beings, as He created and intended us to be, rather than human doings. If we just spend time with Him, He will take care of the rest.

Humility, Pride and Prejudice

wheat-609910_960_720The violent events that have transpired this past week in our nation have been weighing
heavy on the hearts of many. In our collective need to try to make sense of them, we too often look for someone, or something, to blame. This results in unhelpful labelling of different people groups – racists, abusive, corrupt, and so on. The anger, hatred, violence, blame-shifting, murder, etc. are the symptoms, or fruit, of the real issue. Racism, prejudice, or bigotry is not the issue. Police brutality is not the issue. Corrupt governments and politicians are not the issue. They all certainly are problems, but they, in and of themselves, are not the root issue. The issue is pride, which is a demonic force. Pride, which led to rebellion, is what got the devil kicked out of heaven in the beginning.

Pride tells us that we are better than others because our skin/race is different, our social position is higher, we are more educated, more attractive, more talented, etc. We not only fear what we do not know, but we arrogantly assume we are somehow better and others are lesser because of our differences. Pride is what caused the religious leaders of Jesus’ day to miss His coming. Pride tells us we know better than God or anyone else what is best for us, and even what’s best for others. Pride convinces us that we are wise to take matters into our own hands because others cannot be trusted.

Holy Spirit wrote in Proverbs 16:18, Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.”  James 4:6 says, God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.”  In the parable of the wheat and tares, Jesus explained it to His disciples saying, “‘He who sows the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world, the good seeds are the sons of the kingdom, but the tares are the sons of the wicked one. The enemy who sowed them is the devil, the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are the angels. Therefore as the tares are gathered and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of this age. The Son of Man will send out His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and those who practice lawlessness, and will cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears to hear, let him hear!'”

I read an article by Rick Joyner explaining this. He said that wheat and a plant called darnel (tares) look identical as they grow, up until the time of harvest. As the harvest grows closer, the head of grain in the wheat becomes heavy, causing the plant to bow from the weight. Darnel has no grain, so it remains upright. The sons of the kingdom are the wheat, according to Jesus, and as the end of this age approaches, they will become increasingly humble. However, the sons of the wicked ones, the tares, will remain prideful. This metaphor describes what we are seeing in our nation, and throughout the world in this hour. We should not be afraid or alarmed, because Jesus told us this would happen. Instead, we should humble ourselves before Him in prayer, asking for mercy for our nation, the victims of these atrocities, and especially the offenders. Humility is the answer to pride, and is made manifest through Jesus, the God-Man, who embodied the greatest humility the world has, or will ever, see.

The Necessity of Intimacy with God

When it comes to walking with God and learning to grow spiritually, I believe keeping Father-and-sonthings simple is always best. We human beings seem to enjoy complicating matters. This usually leads to confusion and misunderstanding and none of us have time for that. I strongly believe time is short. We must be about our Father’s business of expanding the Kingdom, first in our own lives, and then in our spheres of influence.

We hear a lot of talk, stories, and testimonies these days of God’s Kingdom breaking in here on earth. People are getting saved, healed, and delivered of demons, and all of this is good! God can certainly use anyone, including a donkey, to accomplish His purposes (see Numbers 22:21-30). Yet He is waiting for mature sons and daughters that He can use most effectively. Even creation expectantly waits and longs for that reality (see Romans 8:19). We are told in Revelation 19:7-8 that the bride must make herself ready. God is always faithful to do His part, but we must do ours. We cannot do His part and He will not do our part.

One of the most sobering passages of Scripture to me is Matthew 7:21-23. Jesus describes people who call Him “Lord” and walk in signs and wonders (prophecy, deliverance, and miracles). He prefaces this description with, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven” (v. 21). This statement begs the question — isn’t operating in spiritual gifts the will of the Father? These people He speaks of seem shocked by His statement as well. They reply, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?” (v. 22). His response to them is, “I never knew you. Away from Me, you evildoers!” (v. 23). So what exactly is He getting at here?

In the verses immediately before, Jesus is speaking of how to discern false prophets. (Of course, this would also apply to false teachers, pastors, apostles, evangelists, etc.) He says that we will recognize them by their fruit. Many, even today, consider the “fruit” of one’s life or ministry to be that which is seen outwardly, like miracles, signs, and wonders, operating in spiritual gifts. I have seen and known many who flock to meetings and conferences to receive some kind of impartation, prophetic word, or other “touch from God” that will radically change their lives. Not all of this is bad, nor am I condemning their desires. I have done the same thing many times. However, so often, our flesh wants to take the easy way – have somebody lay hands on me and impart to me what they have in God – and it just doesn’t work that way. Spiritual growth is a process. God will, at times, use others to impart gifts to us, but we cannot neglect taking responsibility for our personal growth and relationship with Him.

In verse 23, Jesus states, I never knew you. This word means: to come to know, understand, recognize, to understand completely. It implies the “knowing” of relationship. It is also used to convey the thought of connection or union, as between man and woman. In other words, it speaks of intimacy. Jesus is saying that intimacy with Him must come first. So what does this look like and what does it mean for us? We will look at that in next week’s post, stay tuned!