Calling Obedience

Greetings from Reynosa!  This is the second of three blogs I hope to send you from the sunny south.  The School here continues to be amazing, but I must tell you, I MISS YOU and home in Tennessee!  My Heart is there, and my calling from God is there!

As you know, the Lord has called us to be an Antioch Church—which was the Eastern Gate Church to Asia and Europe in the First century.  We are to be that Gateway in an Antioch fashion to Appalachia.  I believe that we will ultimately be part of the planting of hundreds of churches in small rural areas, even as Antioch Church was the hub for a similar expansion of the Kingdom in Paul’s day.  By the way, I fully believe I will live to see most if not all these churches planted!

So, let me get to the point of this blog, which is about honoring the Call God has given to you individually.  

Did EVERYONE at Antioch know the church’s God-given vision about sending out missionaries from their church?  Did everyone there support the vision?  Was there general excitement about being part of something so big that only God could dream it and fulfill it?  The answer to all three questions is, I believe, a resounding YES!!!!

So, did EVERYONE at Antioch go out to plant churches?  NO!!!  Did EVERYONE at Antioch invest all their time and talents into the teams sent?  NO!!!  Were all of Antioch’s resources directed toward the sending of pastors and the planting of churches?  NO!!!

There were plenty of folks at Antioch whose call from God looked like being faithful as they served in various roles in and at Antioch.  They knew the vision and were spiritually part of God’s vision, but their individual call was to help with prayer, or worship, or small groups, or cleaning up the house before the house church met, or…IN ANTIOCH!

Likewise, everyone in this congregation now (and those the Lord is leading here) are part of the Vision from God to reach His poor and forgotten children in Appalachia.  But not everyone is supposed to go plant a church.  Not everyone is supposed to lead worship at a new church plant.  Not everyone is supposed to go evangelize in another town or village…

There were disciples then and there called to serve…then and there!  There are disciples here and now who are called to serve… HERE, AND NOW!  If that is you, then your call from God is to teach or lead or worship or love or give or pray or… right here in Livingston.  Are you part of planting hundreds of churches?  YES!  Why?  Because you were faithful to God to serve in your “Antioch.”  Keeping this Gateway Church healthy and balanced is the ONLY way God can use us to plant healthy and balanced churches in other places.  We need those called to go forth to go forth; We need those who are called to serve faithfully here to serve faithfully, here!

Christ’s Obedience

My dear friends, don’t believe everything you hear.  Carefully weigh and examine what people tell you.  Not everyone who talks about God comes from God.  There are a lot of lying preachers loose in the world.  Here’s how you test for the genuine Spirit of God.  Everyone who confesses openly his faith in Jesus Christ—the Son of God, who came as an actual flesh-and-blood person—comes from God and belongs to God.  And everyone who refuses to confess faith in Jesus has nothing to in common with God.  This is the spirit of antichrist that you heard was coming.  Well, here it is, sooner than we thought!  (I John 4:1-3)

Jesus the Christ, the anointed Messiah, is fully human, and fully divine.  But the antichrist spirit that is loose in the world and gaining many followers—including some well-known pastors—argues against either His humanity and divinity, or both…

Many antichrist leaders and followers deny that Jesus came in the flesh as a fully human being.  By saying things like “God made me this way” to justify sin and deny the clear testimony of the Word, many false prophets are denying that Jesus understands our sin nature and our inability to fix it.  They teach rather a Jesus who winks at or even applauds rebellion, denying that He was “tested in all ways, yet did not sin.”  If Jesus did not and does not understand the depth of our human brokenness, then Jesus is not able to identify with and have mercy on our human brokenness…

GOOD NEWS:  Jesus is fully human and understands every twist and pain and rebelliousness and lust and fear and fury that comes with being human.  His understanding is perfect, as was His conduct.  He did not sin—but He understands our bent toward it perfectly…!  He offers forgiveness in the place of shame; Hope in the place of helplessness…

Many antichrist leaders and followers deny that Jesus is fully God, fully divine.  By reducing Jesus to a historical figure who simply came to teach us a way to live, they fail to preach and teach and know the true Jesus who offers the power to actually live what He taught!  To deny the Supernatural reality of Jesus is to deny healing and restoration and regeneration and deliverance.  This antichrist “jesus” fits neatly in a church bulletin and never does anything beyond what our flesh desires, but he is not the real Jesus…!

GOOD NEWS:  Jesus is fully Divine—God the Son—and loves us with transforming grace, not just pretty words and nice thoughts.  He is our Deliverer; He is our Healer.   He backs up His Word with Holy Spirit power to make the Word (Jesus!) absolutely alive in us!  His Love heals!  His love transforms!  His love restores!

One shocker to the early church and to the church in our day is the fact that these antichrist leaders are not just journalists or college professors or political pundits—they are preachers and bishops and authors of “Christian” books.  They are false shepherds who prey on their often-clueless sheep.  It is these who cause divisions, worldly people, devoid of the Spirit.  (Jude 19)

What are we to do?  The Scripture above makes clear how we know the real deal from the anti.  By KNOWING the Word by the Spirit, we are in a place to see clearly false teachings that deny either Jesus’ humanity or divinity.  We recognize that not everyone or everything that wraps itself in the guise of love has any clue of what fully-human, fully divine LOVE offers:  Both an identification with our weaknesses and the supernatural power for us to live above those weaknesses!  God IS LOVE.  LOVE HIMSELF is fully Human and fully Divine.  Anything less is not loving and is in fact anti-love, antichrist…!

 

Emotionally Healthy Obedience

Paul lived and worked with (Aquilla and Priscilla), for they were tentmakers just as he was.  Acts 18:3 

As usual, I write this blog based on what the Lord is speaking to me and to those I walk most closely with in the faith.  This week, the Lord has been speaking clearly about how we are to mentor and stand with and empower and rescue and restore the pastors He is raising to plant churches in Appalachia, as well as with our church family.

We live in a time a great cultural upheaval.  MOST young men and women enter adulthood now without some important basic tools for dealing and coping with life.  Things that earlier generations learned in functional households are often missing in the lives of gifted and called leaders these days, and the results can be disastrous…

EVERYONE needs to know how to fill their emotional “tank.”  Unfortunately, many people are entering the “real world” without ever experiencing HEALTHY activities that bring balance and relieve stress.

For instance, working with my hands has always been a stress-reliever and tank-filler for me.  If the pressures of life become too much, I find refuge—and refilling—by fixing something… by mowing the lawn… by remodeling a room… by going for a jog… by clearing a patch of woods… by going for a hike.  I’m not neglecting ministry by painting a room or going for a jog; I am protecting and enhancing it!

To many in a younger generation, the satisfaction of a job well done has been replaced with the instant pleasures of social media… video games… pornography…

The problem is—and medical science proves it—all these activities are addictive in nature and literally change the brain’s chemical balance.  In addition, they create the ALLUSION of being social, while they are in fact highly individualistic and therefore anti-social.   Worst of all, they create emotional highs, but are incapable of bringing emotional filling.  They drain our tanks, rather than fill them.  Much like getting drunk, these activities are a reaction to emotional pain rather than a cure for the pain. 

The result?  People “hit the wall” emotionally and revert to harmful or dangerous activities to try and fill up—and end up in a place of guilt and shame and brokenness—often destroying ministries and marriages and careers in the process…

GOD’S REVELATION TO ME THIS WEEK IS THIS:  Paul didn’t just make tents to bring in some income; He made tents to “refill his tanks!”  Paul made tents to maintain his sanity AND to shape his disciples. He did much of his ministry to those he was raising into ministry—like Timothy and Aquilla and Priscilla—around work rather than in a classroom or Bible study.  The sweat of hard work was as healing to his team of disciples as it was to the folks in Ephesus touched by those disciples while clinging to one of Paul’s sweat-rags…!

Giving young men and women healthy and filling tools of emotional healing is critically important as the Lord moves us forward in church planting.  If we can help a young man or woman learn how to build a table or paint a barn or go for a long walk rather than punch a hole in a wall, or revert to drinking, or be seduced or seducing into an illicit relationship, than we have saved them and those they pastor from huge amounts of brokenness, shame, guilt, and pain…!

How about you?  Have you the tools—God given jobs and hobbies—that bring release and relief and the strength to go on…?   If not, how can I help you find and develop them?

Aloha Obedience

Aloha is not a Biblical word, but it certainly pictures Biblical truth!  Though pagan in origin, aloha expresses a depth of meaning that goes beyond saying “hello” or “goodbye.”  The word expresses a sense of love and compassion and unity that is downright Christian…!

As you know, Tina and I just returned from a week in Hawaii as we celebrated our 32nd anniversary.  It was a great week spent with the most amazing woman in the world for me—Tina Faye Irby Green.  We share a communion in marriage that is reflected in the word Aloha.

God brought us together, called us into ministry together, and taught us the essence of a truly Christian marriage—to become one, rather than to live parallel lives.  We complete each other’s sentences.  We hurt with each other, we rejoice with each other, we cry with each other, and sometimes we argue together.  We share life together.  We breath together…

As explained to us in Hawaii and confirmed by a research, the essence of the word Aloha is to share breath.  The most traditional and authentic sharing of the word and thought of Aloha looks like two people placing their foreheads together and sharing each other’s breath…. It is in this place of communal unity, love, respect, compassion, vulnerability, and transparency that Aloha in its deepest sense is expressed.

Again, Jesus said, ‘Peace be with you.  As the Father has sent Me, so I am sending you.’  Then He breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’  (John 20: 21-22)

The Breath of God, the Holy Spirit, blew in Adam and Eve’s face in the perfection of Eden and was blown by Jesus upon the faces of the disciples on the night of the resurrection.   In HIS breath, we find a place of profound unity, forgiveness and forgiving (see John 20:23) compassion, restoration, freedom and healing that takes Aloha to a completely new level.

The Breath of God resurrected your dry bones and mine and brought us to the New Birth.  The Breath of God shared with each other defines the love and unity that should always describe the heart of the Bride of Christ.  As a congregation, we share each other’s breath just as surely as we share the Breath of God.  To shun either is to shun both…

Perhaps at greeting time as Church this Sunday, we should join foreheads, share a breath, and speak Aloha to each other.  Certainly, we should celebrate the shared air we breath as being the Breath of God, the Holy Spirit, the Breath of Life that unites us in obedient love to the Lord and with the Lord!

Apart from the Lord’s Breath, we are dead in sin and lost in life.  But as HE places His forehead upon you and me and… breathes…we live!!!  We become profoundly ONE with our Maker and one with each other…!  Aloha!!

Obedient Life

Jesus was and is perfectly obedient to the Father.   Jesus explained, “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by Himself; He does only what He sees the Father doing.  Whatever the Father does, the Son also does.  (John 5:19)

  • If you want a short definition of Christian maturity, here it is.  We should mature until we can see what the Father is doing…and then do it instantly…!

If Jesus is God, and He is, why is He obedient to the Father even now?  Doesn’t that make Him inferior to the Father?  But there is one thing I want you to know.  The head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God (the Father). (1 Cor. 11:3) 

  • Headship—and obedience within it—has nothing to do with control—that is Satan’s mode of operation.  Headship is about Godly recognition of role, not status.  Obedience is a dirty word in our culture because humans worship status and love control.  Instant obedience reflects perfect relationship within the perfect structure of Godly roles!

Jesus saw—and did.  He is our role model.  His disciples, empowered by the Holy Spirit, were significantly good at doing the same thing.  Their fruitfulness and faithfulness are eternal witnesses to their obedient lives.  Scripture mentions a few who weren’t so obedient, however…

Alexander the coppersmith did me much harm, but the Lord will judge him for what he has done. (2 Timothy 4:14)

Obedience to the Lord defines mature relationship.  Disobedience to the Lord defines fleshly rebellion usually dressed up in religiousness. 

In this age (these last of the last days) lawlessness—rabid disobedience describes an ever-growing segment of the culture and the church.  What is so sobering is the fact that Alexander the coppersmith may well have started out as a faithful follower.

I am amazed at the number of churched folks who started out with at least some level of obedient faith, who have allowed a spirit of lawlessness into their lives and now reject major portions of the Scripture—thinking somehow that they are smarter or more open minded than the obedient.

Their disobedience costs them their destiny, their usefulness in the Kingdom, and possible, their eternity.  It is heartbreaking to see modern-day pastors and bishops and leaders going the way of Hymenaeus and Alexander (see 1 Timothy 1:20).  It is happening with frightening frequency, as the Bible warns.  But you must believe the Bible to recognize it.  You must be in a living relationship with the One who wrote it to be obedient….!

Weekly Obedience                                              

On Thursday night, July 19, a group from our congregation was up in Twinton at the little pavilion there and held the first WEEKLY service.  By fall, we hope to have a house or a borrowed church building or something a little more climate controlled, but for now, the park is a perfect place to plant!

I am reminded of the Scripture in Zechariah 4:10: Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin…

 Since Thanksgiving Day 2017, many teams and many days have been spent in building relationships in the Wilder area.  God in His faithfulness has touched and healed several folks-including a woman Thursday who experienced healing in her back.  John Cahill and Michael Graff have consistently gone and talked and prayed, assisted by many others.  David Bliss has had a special mission connecting with Veterans.  The Good Seed has been planted and the soil of many hearts has been tilled…

Last night stands out, however, because an “Ebenezer” was planted—a marker was raised in the Spiritual realm as we began our first church plant in the first place God called us to plant as part of a vast vision to of reaching Appalachia, USA.

Like Nehemiah, Zerubbabel, and the rebuilding of the wall around Jerusalem, this marks the small beginning of something very large—an undertaking far greater than the resources and workers available would suggest can be undertaken.  But there is something about a God-inspired vision that almost always defies common wisdom and displays the Glory of our King in a way that makes absolutely clear that HE, not we, are behind and leading the undertaking…

Continue to pray for this great work to unfold.  Be ready to take your place in the building of this “wall.”  Understand the Enemy will come at us from unexpected places but realize even more deeply that God will prevail, and we will live to see a great work of God completed!

It only took 52days to complete that wall.  It will take us a bit longer to plant churches up and down the mountains and hollers that define Appalachia.  We are too few and underequipped for the work, BUT GOD, WHO IS RICH IN MERCY, will make a way!

Thursday, July 19, 2018, should be a date that resides in all our hearts.  Something new has happened; something significant has shifted in the Spiritual realm.  A new and grand adventure in the Lord has begun, and we stand side-by-side, with the Sword of the Spirit, the Word of God in hand, working together to see a whole nation impacted…!  Glory be to God!!!

Obedient to God’s Vision

I have a dream.  I have always thought it important to have one as a leader, and I was taught in my classes on church growth that having a God-sized vision was the determining factor on whether a Christian leader was successful or not.

I still agree.  But the key word there is “God,” not “I.”  The key concept is that HIS vision matters, not my or someone else’s interpretation of it.

My dream is to be the pastor of a church that is “mega” in size and influence.  The American Church growth model revolves around that idea—that a large and growing church is a successful church and the local church—and its satellite locations—is the know-all and end-all of this model.

Sometimes, a large and growing local church, cool and attractive and fast-growing—is exactly God’s vision for a certain place and time.  But God has a different vision for us, and it has taken me a looooong time to grasp it.

It is not like He hasn’t told us in prophetic words.  For years, the Lord has talked about “many small fires” when explaining revival in the Upper Cumberland.  For years He has reminded us of being a “Lighthouse” Church.  Lighthouses are critically important for navigating safely, but they are not a place in and of themselves that draw huge numbers of people.  He has told us we are an Eastern Gate Church.  Gates open and close, but they are not meant to be a dwelling place…  He has called us an Antioch Church.  Antioch was famous as a hub that equipped and sent, not as a magnet that drew and grew…

I have come to believe—with all my heart—that God’s vision for us hasn’t changed, but we have been changed by His vision for us.  I know I have!

I have come to believe—with all my heart—that His vision for us is to plant dozens…hundreds…even thousands of churches in the most rural and neglected places in our region of the nation—Appalachia.

Can a church of two-hundred pull it off?  Antioch did, and likely, they had less than 200.  Can we afford it?  If our currency is GRACE rather than CASH, we have all we will ever need in Jesus!

What does it mean when we have helped to plant 10 churches with an average attendance of only 30?  Than suddenly our church of 200 has an impact of 500 souls—souls that are primarily won to Christ rather than borrowed from other congregations.  In addition, there are 10 more pastors, several more worship leaders, and dozens of folks raised up to be elders and teachers.

What does it mean once we have planted 100 churches, even if they only average 30 apiece?  3200 hundred souls, 100 or more new pastors and worship leaders, and hundreds of people raised up to lead.

The American Church model is based around marketplace efficiency—less pastors, less leaders, less worship leaders, and lower cost.  Money is spent on facilities, not in raising up people to Kingdom authority.  God has a different economy.  He is looking for many, many workers because the harvest is plentiful.  He wants to raise up people into places of authority and leadership—not eliminate their jobs!

What about 1000 churches…?  You get the math.  God multiplies, even while the world divides and eliminates.  We may never be a church of more than 200 in a town of 3500.  But if we can help raise up hundreds of pastors who lead thousands of souls to Jesus, then we have become “mega” in Father’s eyes—we have been obedient to His vision.  That excites me.  It humbles me.  And it has changed my whole understanding of success…!

 Rocked by the Gospel

Rock of Ages, cleft for me, let me hide myself in Thee; Let the water and the blood, from thy wounded side which flowed, be of sin the double cure, save from wrath and make me pure. 

This is one of my favorite hymns, and the theology in it is profound—important for us to remember in these tumultuous days!

The Good News (Gospel) of Jesus Christ IS Jesus Christ!  He is our Rock, and hidden in Him, as Moses was in the cleft, allows the Glory of God to pass before us and radically change us.

Two other gems from this first verse jump out at me, especially considering the bigness of the Gospel, which we have been discussing of late.

Augustus Toplady, who wrote this Hymn and was a contemporary of John Wesley, recognized the power of the Water and Blood flowing from Jesus’ side.  This wound, inflicted by a Roman Soldier to determine if the Lord was actually dead, is known as the “Bridal Wound.”  It reminds us of price He paid for His Bride, the Church.  It reminds us of the power of being baptized into Him.  It reminds us of the Power of the Blood…  It reminds us that the Good News of Jesus is both from (a separation from what we were and where we were headed) and for (a life that is transformed from Glory to Glory as the Spirit shows us Jesus)!

It is the final sentence in the first verse that really grabs my heart.  Be of sin the double cure, saved from wrath and make me pure. 

Toplady understood the magnificence and broadness of the Gospel – that in Jesus, we are not only saved from the Wrath of God which will be poured out upon all who reject the Gospel—but also for immersions in the Water and Blood that transform us NOW toward holy purity.

The Gospel is a package deal.  The Church cheapens it when we focus only on one aspect or the other, or demand transformation prior to Salvation.

  • We cheapen it with a “cheap grace” that denies the Glory-to-Glory work of the Spirit by focusing solely on “going to heaven.”  Walking in God’s blessing and acceptance is critical—but so is walking in His anger-busting, fear-removing, addiction-crushing, soul and body healing transforming grace…!
  • The Church cheapens it when all we focus on is goosebumps and signs, minimalizing the very real existence of hell and the deserved wrath that is coming.  Going to heaven is sweet; but the rebellion of your life and mine demands Divine retribution—thankfully, a debt fully paid by Jesus!
  • We cheapen it with legalistic burdens when we demand change before God releases His amazing Grace…  People cannot be transformed and healed by the law—and looking down on and rejecting people in their brokenness is profoundly legalistic.
  • Saddest of all, the “progressive” (liberal) church has evidently concluded that we need neither a rescue from punishment nor the power to make us pure, but rather just a license to sin while claiming God’s love covers everything anyhow.  His love DOES cover—but only if we surrender to His true Love poured out on us like water and blood, not our “good works” and a bent to call wrong “right,” and right, “wrong…”

Offer people the Full Gospel, and they receive in Jesus our Rock the DOUBLE CURE!!!

The Gospel of Grace

I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.  (Acts 20:24)

I have had a blast preaching on the Gospel—in all of it’s power and glory and diversity—the past few weeks.  Rather than preach on the Gospel of Grace, I thought I would just write about it here.

Paul was addressing the Elders of the Church of Ephesus, preparing them for his departure to Jerusalem, and perhaps preparing himself for the suffering and persecution the Holy Spirit had made clear he was about to endure.  (As one who understood all of facets of the Gospel, Paul realized better than any that the suffering he was expecting was Good News, too…!)

Paul was summarizing all aspects of the God News, the Gospel, with the word “Grace.”

Grace has both a noun and a verb definition.  Grace as a noun is defined as the “unmerited favor of God,” denoting the fact that God showers favor and blessing on us in terms of salvation, power, the Kingdom, and even in suffering—favor we do not earn nor deserve.

Grace is also a verb, as in “the supernatural action of God to accomplish and transform in us what is impossible apart from Him.”  Grace is transformation.  Grace is healing.  Grace is deliverance.  Grace is breakthrough.

The Gospel of Grace, therefore, is the Good News that God showers us with favor we do not deserve, AND that favor looks like miracles, signs, and wonders in and through us.  It is both/and, not just one or the other.

God speaking through Paul defined the full spectrum of the Gospel as the “Gospel of Grace.”  The Gospel of Grace is the Gospel of Power, and it is the Gospel of the Kingdom.  It is also the Gospel of Suffering, and it is the Gospel of Salvation, and the Gospel of Glory.

The Gospel is ALWAYS good news!  It is a noun, and it is a verb.  It is initial, and it is ongoing.  The Gospel defines believers, and at the same time, refines them.  The Good News is truly amazing grace.  The Good News is the best news the universe has ever known, and ALL the Good News is ours by the favor of God, even as He transforms us from Glory to Glory…!

The Gospel, the Good News of Jesus, is worth living for; it is worth dying for.  Nothing else even comes close!

Offended by Obedience

I received an email this week from the Conference Committee on Resolutions.  It seems that the resolutions we have sent for the consideration of the Annual Conference may have caused some offense….

The committee voted to declare the resolutions unconstitutional and also voted their “non-concurrence,” meaning that they do not think the resolutions meet the requirements of the Annual Conference standing rules or legislative authority.  That means they voted “NO” 16 times concerning the 8 resolutions.

The resolutions will still be seen by the delegates, and there is still a possibility that some discussion will take place at the Annual Conference concerning them.  But it is doubtful that they will ever come up for a vote…  The committee listed its criteria for review.  Frankly, their basis for objection was a stretch, to say the least…

It seems slightly strange that all 8 resolutions, written in complete concurrence with the Word of God in Wesleyan language and in agreement with our current Book of Discipline could be ruled both non-concurrent and unconstitutional…

One can only speculate what may have happened if there were a series of resolutions prepared by the GLBTQ community and sponsored by almost any pastor but me and any church but Livingston…  I honestly doubt the committee would have found anything to object over…

Still, the point of writing and presenting these resolutions is being made.  They are irritating and offending those who desire to throw off the “shackles” of Biblical Orthodoxy.  They are causing people to think.  They are stirring up opposition.  They are clarifying the true division before us:  Apostolic, as in standing in the one true faith, or the diametrical opposite, Apostate, as in the abandonment of the true faith.

As for us and this House, we will choose the Lord and the faith handed down once and for all through the Apostles…!

Remember, Jesus said, Do you think I have come to bring peace to the earth?  No, I have come to divide people against each other!  (Luke 13:51)

The reality is that true unity, as in a purified, holy, and unblemished Bride can only come after there is a disunity…  There MUST be a shaking and a separating so that the True Church, the Bride, can arise and be separated from the religious, institutional Imposter.

I am not a bit surprised by what the Committee on Resolutions decided, and I count several of the members of the committee as friends.  Still, the motives of the heart were exposed in the committee and will hopefully be exposed in the 1000 or so souls at Annual Conference.  That is the real purpose for presenting these resolutions in the first place.

We are making a statement and taking a stand, knowing that this act of Obedience on our part WILL bring offense and irritation.  Ultimately, our prayer is that people will be faced with a clear choice—and choose Jesus!  Our heart is to see Obedience to the Word arise from the place of offense—as the division becomes more obvious and people are forced to choose whom they will serve.  May the overwhelming majority—even as they are provoked and offended—ultimately choose the faith that God has entrusted once for all time to His holy people (Jude 3b)!!!