Posts Tagged ‘Church Culture’

The Stubborn Heart

Jesus said to him, “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.”
Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!”
When Jesus saw that the people came running together, He rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it: “Deaf and dumb spirit, I command you, come out of him and enter him no more!” (Mk. 9:23-25)

It has been my experience, that literally thousands of people struggle with unbelief. Real barriers stand between their desire and the reality of God’s Will! Like this father they hear the words that Jesus would love to heal, deliver or bring hope; but they are stuck. They know the truth that if they could just believe, nothing would be impossible… but there is no believing, no receiving and no “heart” at all. There is just the nagging reality of hopeless effort, tears and shameful discouragement. And worse yet for many, they construct a new theological platform of resolve… “I will choose to not believe any longer, because it just leaves me hopeless!”

The Spirit of Unbelief:

The inability to obey the instructions of Jesus and trust in the Promises of God, often leads to this frustration. We want to please the Lord and experience all that God has said, but something in us resists faith. We find we “cannot” believe even when we want to. This can be due to a “spirit of unbelief”. Lies, deception, fears or offenses can find their dwelling in the heart and be controlled by a demonic spirit that paralyzes the heart in unbelief. This spirit is real and dangerous, it is pervasive and advancing across the landscape of Christianity and it lives in the midst of the “Church culture”… where all is not fine in paradise!

Authenticity:

I receive many emails and calls about this issue and I find it a bit shocking that the problem is so wide spread and growing. Yet in my opinion there is a root cause that we must uncover and shine the light of truth upon… people are living superficial lifestyles. They rarely stop and contemplate the meaning of their existence. To ask the simple question, “WHY!” is not blasphemy, nor is it going to lead us into deception. Perhaps it would even offer a lot more authenticity to our journey!

Jesus said in Matthew 7:7… “Ask, seek and knock… and the door will be opened!”

Authentic communication with God – opens the door of relational truth. Things that are difficult for us to understand, come into the light of His wisdom and love. God is a “father”, He knows how to take care of His children and He is faithful. He is anticipating our needs to be vocalized and to come streaming into His Presence (Heb. 4:16). The Apostle Peter, who seemed a lot like us; said you and I need to be “casting all our care upon Him, because He cares for us” (1 Pet. 5:7). He cares for us… and He knows all about our issues of faith. This idea that we can avoid our problems and they will just go away… well – that is the greatest deception of all! They do not go away, in fact they produce the fruit of disappointment, which I spoke of earlier. We tend to create and believe a false perception of God’s heart toward our reality.

So – here’s the point…

  • Stop living without meaningful communication with God!

Spend time telling God of the frailty of your faith, the brokenness of your heart and the weakness in your perceptions… ask Him “why?!” and then wait… wait… wait… for the doors to open! They will, my friend they will… they will open wide and the King of Glory will come in. Who is this King of Glory… He is the Lord Strong and Mighty! (Psa. 24:7-10)

Reasonable Service

I beseech you therefore brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy (and) acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.”  (Rom. 12:1)

This verse from Romans not only tells us the nature of true worship, but gives us the context for its success. Success is tied to an awareness of God’s mercy! As we are called to live for God, we must discover a mercy that goes beyond our sense of frailty. We need to know how to do all that He requires, all that is “holy and acceptable” to Him. This verse is a model that all Christian leaders ought to meditate upon. It offers us one of those key spiritual truths that reveals His heart to us.

Mercy is… God not giving us what we deserve! 

In my work of discipling nations, I see so many good spiritual leaders stumble and fall looking for their identity, only to become frustrated by the way religion has put faith in a box. If you are like me, you need mercy consistently because you live with limitations. Most of our limitations are between our ears, but sometimes we carry around pride and selfish ideas like they offer us hope in ministry. I find more questions than answers in the ”church culture” of today. So I would rather approach God from a fresh view of His mercy, than rules or institutional religious formulas.  

Reasonable Means Logical:

Rather than getting into a whole mess of Greek definitions, we need to look at one phrase. The Apostle Paul says that to present ourselves to God as a living sacrifice… is “our reasonable service”. A service that would be reasonable sounds good. It would make “common sense” and be logical. The New International Version of the Bible says something interesting. It says this presentation of ourselves is our, “spiritual act of worship”. That means it is a functional lifestyle.

Here in this verse; the Apostle Paul uses the phrase, “logikan latreian”. The word “logikan”, kinda makes us think of our word logic or logical, refers to “thought out” or “well reasoned” - reasonable, if you will. ”Latreian” means “to serve, to render religious service or homage”.

Be Devoted to God’s Purposes:

“To worship” then as the Apostle Paul seems to be speaking of here means, “to be devoted to”. It speaks of who I serve with my life or who governs my life. Worship is more than just praising with words, as sincere as those words might be. Its about God’s purposes! It means more than just acknowledging God’s greatness! To worship God means service and activities that honor His priorities!

Devotion’s Foundational Pillars - Mercy & Logic:

We need to be devoted to God in all we do, because of His mercy, and because it is logical. To be devoted to God means allowing the Holy Spirit, at work in our lives, to govern us from a perception of mercy. We must yield ourselves to His leading.

Our spiritual journey is a walk of faith, a sacrificial one; but in light of mercy it becomes an effective one as well. Our spiritual journey is a walk holding on to our Master’s hand; but when led by the Holy Spirit a logic begins to emerge that guides us in all Truth. This is the renewed mind that we can expect from God (Rom. 12:2), for we have the Mind of Christ (1 Cor. 2:16).

Therefore, what we  must know, if we have seen the mercy of God and truly value it, you and I will present ourselves to God as devoted followers. We will lay aside all that would get in the way of pleasing Him. Doing so is our reasonable service… it is our worship. We are responding to the God we worship by giving ourselves to Him… and in turn we become filled with hope and faith.

He is faithful – His Mercy is New Every Morning!

Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed,
Because His compassions fail not.
They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness.
“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“Therefore I hope in Him!” (Lam. 3:22-24)

Re-Imagine Church

“Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.” (Eph. 2:19-22)

Its easy to believe that God is in the process of perfecting His Church. The institution we have come to know as “Christ’s Body” has experienced enormous change over the 2000 years since Jesus’ day. Some people have found the variety and flavor of church culture an encouraging mix; with mega churches and home churches, store fronts and village outposts, there is something for almost everyone’s taste. Others have left the whole thing behind in disgust, feeling more confused than ever about their trust in church dynamics, their relationship with each other and worse of all, their faith in God.

Yet, somewhere in the midst of all the chaos; surely, there remains a remnant. A remnant of Kingdom People; cut from the original fabric we see in the Book of Acts. People who the Apostle Paul spoke of as “Ambassadors for Christ”, with a “ministry of reconciliation” (2 Cor. 5:18-20). The people Jesus is willing to call “friends” (Jn. 15:14), who hunger for the heart of God and will not settle for an institutional substitute.

When Jesus said “I will build My Church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it” (Mt. 16:18)… He was imagining something that most of the world has yet to embrace. 

Jesus is wanting us to re-imagine Church, as He intended it to function and advance His Kingdom in the Earth. His heart is for a lost and broken World looking for truth in all the wrong places. Could the Church once again become the place where people find God? I believe the answer to that question is – Yes! But only if we will get our blueprints from heaven… not the wisdom of man or traditional religious systems.

3 Key Thoughts the Apostle Paul Emphasizes:

  1. The Purpose… is for a habitation of God by His Spirit!
  2. The Foundation… is Christ as the Chief Cornerstone and the teaching ministry of the Apostles and Prophets!
  3. The Process… is a joining together and growing house that results in a holy temple; a spiritually vibrant and pure people, in the Lord!

The Habitation of God:

One of the most valuable thoughts the Apostle Paul makes in regards to why the Church exists, is this summary statement… “for a habitation of God in the Spirit”  (Eph. 2:22). Throughout Biblical history there have been literally hundreds of story lines for how God spoke with His people, walked with His chosen leaders and made Himself known as their “very present help in times of need”. But, what we must never miss is the fact that God wants fellowship, simply because He loves us and desires to live among us.

The Household of God:

Habitation is a deeply intimate, relational dynamic reserved for only one type of human interaction… the family. God wants the Church to look like a family! A family so strong that the gates of hell itself will not prevail against it, so strong that Satan has no authority or power to cause harm. A family where God is “Our Father” and we are given the wonderful privlege of life in His Glory (His Shekinah), living as His children (Jn. 1:12). 

A Dwelling Place:

Unlike any other social institution, the Church is designed to be a dwelling place (a shekan) for God on the Earth. Therefore, the Church must welcome God as the place designed and perfectly suited for Him, similarly to the way King Solomon welcomed the Glory of God into the Temple (2 Chron. 5:7-14).

The goal is that the Church would function in community, as fellow “citizens with the saints” and “members of a household” with purpose and priorities, values and dominion. What makes the Church function as a family is the Manifest Presence of God governing, abiding and responding in the midst of its activities. Notice how the Holy Spirit speaks to the Apostles in the Book of Acts…

As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, “Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” (Acts 13:2)

View from Inside

A friend of mine keeps a gold fish in an aquarium in his office. The fish is over 10 years old, but is only about 4 inches long. A gold fish in the wild can reach 2 feet in length, because it is a type of carp. The point is that a fish will only grow as big as its surroundings allow.

Church Culture: 

So much of “church culture” has insulated people from real ministry and like those gold fish, there is no incentive toward growth or spiritual health. The comfortable messages and limited challenge leaves them feeling good about their tank, but unaware of the ocean outside. If we create small tanks, we can’t expect to grow large fish. Small or large spiritually is never really defined by the size of the tank, however; its defined by the vision it gets exposed to.

Part of this is simply human nature, some people are leaders and some are followers; but, we must not allow that to be an excuse for apathy. There should be a voice inside of every Christian leader that breaks the cycle of indifference in their ministries. We are not merely preaching to get our people to agree with our ideas and compliment our pulpit skills. We are called to be spiritual fore-runners, looking ahead into uncharted territory. I believe we are in trouble in our little fish tanks, because we are consistently limited by our view from inside.

Living By Faith!

A healthy ministry is engaged in changing the world. Its not content in entertainment or just edifying itself. The view from inside is way too limiting and  never creates enough challenge to cause its participants to live by faith. The Bible’s most vital truth is its unrelenting definition of its adherents: “The Righteous shall live by faith.” (Hab 2:4)(Rom 1:17)(Gal 3:11)

Fresh Vision:

We have a mentality that keeps trying to grow a bigger tank, when in reality our many “Mega-churches” show us what we really need is to smash the tanks altogether and allow the fish to get their gills into some fresh water. Vision is transformed by what we breathe.  

Rivers of Living Water are poured out from God’s throne (Rev 22:1) and have their resource made available through pulling upon His heart (Jn 4:10). To become a ministry that releases the kind of power that awakens the nations, means our living must be done in the midst of the ocean we call humanity. It’s only there that faith will begin to grow, because it puts a demand upon our character, our heart and our anointing. If we never feel a demand upon our faith, we will never pull upon God’s heart for more resource.

The Adventure of the Ages:

So, position your life in such a way that you feel the current hitting you in the face. The Holy Spirit will begin to enlarge your heart and your spirit will begin to soar. Its the adventure of the ages; Christ inside of you, living His life through you. You will find yourself reaching, touching and healing those who were only visible by your view from inside.

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