Living a Spirit-filled life

I recently wrote about what it means to engage in all the steps that God has provided for us to fully enter into His Kingdom.

A key result of fully entering into God’s Kingdom is being filled with His Spirit in a discernible way. It is what was promised by God through the prophet Joel.

And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions. (Joel 2:28) 

This was the key purpose of Christ’s work on the Earth. To facilitate the ushering in of God’s Kingdom on the Earth. A Kingdom that is in and by His Spirit. A spiritual Kingdom over which He is King.

One of the defining characteristics of this spiritual Kingdom and the work of the Spirit is its supernatural nature. Here in Joel we see that the result of God’s Spirit being poured out is a range of supernatural experiences for young and old, male and female, rich and poor.

It resembles a life that is above and beyond our natural plane. One that is empowered by God Himself. And one that is not determined by social class, race, gender, or age.

All you need to do is read the Gospels as well as the book of Acts to see what this looks like in action.

Sadly however, much of the Christian world today has actually lost this dimension of God’s Kingdom. There are roughly four different camps in this regard:

  1. Cessationists – Those who believe that the supernatural (and especially the gifts of the Spirit), have ceased.
  2. Fearful – Those who believe in the supernatural but do not actively function in spiritual gifts.
  3. Immature – Those who believe in the supernatural and function in spiritual gifts, but do so in unhealthy ways.
  4. Mature – Those who believe in the supernatural and function in spiritual gifts in healthy ways.

Cessationists base their belief on one scripture in 1 Corinthians 13:8 which says that one day, when the perfect comes, the gift of tounges will cease. They have created an entire doctrine around this stating that the perfect, which has come, is the canonised scriptures, i.e. the Bible. Thus, their belief is that because we now have Gods Full Revelation there is no longer any need for the gifts of the Spirit. This could not be further from the truth, and Frank Viola does a great job refuting it in this PDF booklet called Pouring Holy Water on Strange Fire.

The Fearful are those that believe in the supernatural and spiritual gifts but do not engage their faith in order to function in them. Such people may have once functioned in spiritual gifts when they were new believers, but because of the bad fruit that came from engaging in them in unhealthy and immature ways, they became cautious and even fearful of the gifts. Others in this camp have never actually functioned in spiritual gifts themselves because they may have grown up in an environment that did not encourage the healthy functioning of spiritual gifts. Either way, those in this camp are generally cautious, fearful, and even suspicious of spiritual gifts, even though they believe in the supernatural nature of God.

They generally quote Matthew 7:22-23 as their reason for focusing on developing a deep relationship with God rather than functioning in spiritual gifts.

On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ (Matthew 7:22-23)

The problem of course with this thinking is that this scripture does not condemn the gifts, it simply reveals that functioning in spiritual gifts does not mean that one has a close relationship with the Lord. The fact that some function in immature ways does not give us license to reject growing up into maturity ourselves. And functioning in spiritual gifts is very much part of what it means to be a mature son in God’s house. All you need to do is look at the way Jesus (a mature son) functioned in the gospels and the way He trained His disciples to function as well.

The Immature are those who believe in the supernatural and function in spiritual gifts but often do so in ways that are unhealthy or which produce bad fruit. These could be the people that Jesus refers to in Matthew 7 who are part of His Kingdom, but who have departed from walking close to Him. Instead they have exalted the gifts of the Spirit and used it to make a name for themselves (like Simon the sorcerer wanted to do in Acts 8). Others in this camp are simply ignorant. They have not had any mature disciples teach them how to function in spiritual gifts in ways that are mature and healthy. The Corinthians fell into this camp and therefore Paul wrote them a letter designed to disciple them into a mature understanding and practice of spiritual gifts.

The Mature are those who believe in the supernatural and function in spiritual gifts, and do so in ways that are healthy and upbuilding. There are numerous examples of such people in the scriptures, including Jesus, Paul, Peter, and Phillip. All these people functioned in spiritual gifts in ways that revealed God’s Kingdom, and brought Heaven to Earth. In ways that ultimately revealed God’s love to people. Thus, the defining characteristic of the mature display of God’s supernatural power is love. It is the main reason that Paul explained to the Corinthians what love looks like immediately after explaining to them the correct functioning of the spiritual gifts. His desire was that they would understand that God’s aim is love flowing from a pure heart (1 Tim 1).

Living in the Spirit

In order to grow into a mature believer that can engage in the supernatural and effectively function in spiritual gifts and bare significant spiritual fruit, it is important to be continually “filled” with the Spirit (Eph 5:18). Provided that one has been filled with the Spirit as I discussed here, life in the Kingdom involves being filled over and over and over again. In fact, it is a life of being daily filled with God’s Spirit.

The Christian life is a life that is not our own. It is God’s life flowing within us. It is His divine life lived out in and through us.

It is not so much a belief system, or a set of doctrines, or a set of religious habits (like reading your bible), or even a so-called “righteous” life where you try to stay free from sin. It is a life that is fundamentally other-worldly. It is an empowered life. A life from above.

As such, the Christian life is not so much what we do, but what God does in and through us. It is not about our attempts to reach Him and please Him, but instead His ability to work in and through us. It is about His Spirit flowing in us.

Therefore, what matters most in our day to day lives is the degree to which we live in and by His Spirit. The degree to which we allow His life to flow in and through us. The degree to which we open to Him and walk in and by His Spirit. This is the Christian life!

God revealed that this is what He would do through Eziekiel:

And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. (Ez 36:27)

After His Spirit was poured out on all flesh in Acts 2, this became the defining characteristic of a born-again life. One that is filled with the Spirit. There are numerous references to this in the New Testament:

  • And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be (continually) filled with the Spirit (Eph 5:18)
  • Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty. (Acts 6:3)
  • Barnabas was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and strong in faith. And many people were brought to the Lord. (Acts 11:24)

The book of Acts reveals that that which was most notable in prominent disciples was being full of the Spirit, and the  Epistles often encourage believers to be filled with the Spirit. Again, this is the defining characteristic of the Christian life, being full of God’s Spirit.

There is a difference between “walking” in the Spirit and being “full” of the Spirit. In Galatians Paul talks about walking in and by the Spirit. This is the practice of inwardly turning to the Lord and learning to be led by the Spirit rather than by our sinful flesh. It has to do with listening to that still small voice of the Spirit and obeying His instructions and unctions. This is a very important aspect of living in the fullness of the Spirit. There are numerous practices that one can adopt in order to walk in the Spirit more effectively. Frank Viola and Leonard Sweet wrote a good book entitled Jesus Speaks which covers this topic in detail.

Being “filled” with the Spirit on the other hand is more outward. It is what happens when God’s Spirit fills you up to the point that you are flowing over. You flow over outwardly, generally from your mouth. That is why people who get full of the Spirit generally express themselves to God through their mouths. You will see that in the book of Acts, when people were filled with the Spirit it generally resulted in an expression that came out of their mouths, whether speaking in a foreign tongue, or praising God, or prophesying, or something that made them seem “drunk.” It was “abnormal,” almost like they were out of control.

But this is the normal expression of someone that is full of God’s Spirit. It is a physical expression that points to a heavenly reality. A human experience and enjoyment of God’s nature and realm. That is why being filled with the Spirit is generally accompanied with a supernatural experience of one of God’s characteristics. Like supernatural Joy, or Peace, or Boldness, or Faith. It is God Himself filling that person.

It is this experience of being “filled” with God’s Spirit that enabled the early disciples to preach God’s word with boldness amidst persecution, break bread with joy in their hearts amidst having very little, perform miracles with great faith, experience peace and joy while in prison, and so on. The feelings that filled them were supernatural. They were God’s characteristics filling them to a point of overflowing.

So in addition to functioning in Spiritual gifts, being filled with the Spirit enables us to experience God’s nature in a way that transcends our human environment. In situations where we should experience fear, instead we have faith. Where we should be despondent or depressed, instead we have joy. When we should be anxious or stressed, instead we experience peace.

Being filled with God’s Spirit is the only way to truly live! It sets us free from what our situations and environments would determine our lives to be. It breaks us out of what this world would confine us to experience. It releases God’s supernatural life and nature into us to the point that it flows over into our situations. This helps us break through the prisons that Satan would try to trap us in. Whether depression, despondency, anxiety, and so forth. By being filled with God’s Spirit we receive and enjoy His Kingdom and nature, instead of Satan’s. And as a result of it flowing over it has the power to change our situations. It brings Heaven to Earth and replaces the Kingdom of this world with God’s Kingdom.

This is perfectly illustrated in Acts 16 by the way that Paul and Silas praised God amidst being imprisoned. The Spirit of God so overflowed in them that it caused an earthquake to break them out of jail. God’s Kingdom came and displaced the kingdom of Satan. This is the power of being filled with the Spirit.

So what are some ways in which one can be filled with the Spirit?

Some of the ways that I practice and appreciate include:

  • calling on the name of the Lord Jesus (Oh Lord Jesus!),
  • praying in tounges (spiritual prayer language),
  • praising the Lord loudly,
  • singing to the Lord from the depths of my being,
  • prophesying and praising God,
  • rejoicing and making a joyful noise to the Lord (see the Psalms),
  • fasting often,
  • fervently pray-reading the word, and
  • praying boldly.

There are probably others, but these are the one’s that you can see illustrated in the New Testament as well. I have found that when I actively engage with these spiritual practices that the Spirit begins to fill me up. And if I continue to engage in them by faith I get filled up to the point that I overflow. It is at this point that I begin to experience that I have no more inhibitions. That I am able to freely sing and pray and prophesy with boldness. It’s like going from being stuck in mud to being able to fly around without any restraints. It is usually at this point that functioning in spiritual gifts is also much more effortless and accurate.

Paul defines this experience as freedom in the Spirit.

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom (2 Cor 3:17). 

It is a space where you are no longer chained and bound by your human faculties. Your mind, or your will, or your emotions, are no longer controlling you, instead it is your spirit, empowered by God’s Spirit that is determining your actions. The bible often compares this experience to being drunk. One could say that drunkenness is the demonic counterfeit for being filled with the Spirit. The main difference of course with the two is that when filled with the Spirit one still has full control of one’s faculties, they are just all empowered by God’s Spirit.

As we can see with the descriptions of the men in Acts, they were “full” of the Spirit. This means that they were not just simply filled with the Spirit at times (although I’m sure there were times that they overflowed more than at other times), but they were men who lived “full” of the Spirit. This implies that they actively engaged with God’s Spirit in ways that enabled them to consistently be “full” of Him. As such, they walked in God’s authority and were able to preach His word boldly, perform miraculous healings, discern demonic spirits, prophesy boldly, and function in numerous other spiritual gifts.

We may wonder how they came to live this way. Well, the bible does give some hints.

  • Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (1 Thes 5:16-18)
  • I thank God that I speak in other tongues more than all of you. (1 Cor 14:18)
  • Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.

The Lord has given us practical tools that we can use to be filled with the Spirit. Praying, prophesying, calling, singing, dancing, fasting, tounges, and so on, are all ways that we can focus our beings on God and tap into His Spirit. There is however one ingredient that needs to be mixed with these practices in order for them to help us become filled with the Spirit, and as I’m sure you have realised, its faith.

And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. (Hebrews 11:6)

If you want to be filled with God’s Spirit you need to draw near to Him in faith. In other words, you need to engage in these spiritual practices by faith, with a clear intention of being filled with the Spirit.

In addition to faith, you need to open yourself up for God to fill you up. These practices help you to empty yourself of your thoughts about yourself and your life and focus your attention on God. They prepare you for His filling. They close off all the other taps and begin to open your spirit to be watered by God’s Spirit. They help you open God’s spiritual tap so that you can experience what Jesus revealed would happen to all those who believed.

Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:13-14)

This spring is one that we can enjoy every day. One that can well up in us and water all our inward parts, and bubble up to the point that it overflows from our mouths and bodies. If we allow ourselves to be continually filled with the Spirit we eventually become “full” of the Spirit and can walk in the power and wisdom of God everyday. We can enjoy the freedom of God and begin to live by all of His characteristics rather than our own. If we do this for long enough, these attributes of God eventually become deposited in us in a permanent way and give rise to more permanent spiritual fruit.

Thus, living in the fullness of the Spirit as a mature disciple of Jesus means:

  • Being baptised in the Spirit for the first time;
  • Walking in and by the inward direction of the Spirit;
  • Continually being filled with the Spirit to the point that it overflows outwardly;
  • Learning to experience and enjoy God’s characteristics in Spirit rather than our own;
  • Learning to function in spiritual gifts;
  • Ultimately letting God’s Spirit dwell in us richly to the point that we are “full” of the Spirit.

This is what it truly means to live the Christian life. It is a life that is full of the Spirit of God!

One last thing is to realise that we can get filled up with the Spirit individually and with others. It is a dimension of God that is there to build us up in our personal walk as well as to build up His body. So in addition to getting filled up on one’s own, the most enjoyable times are often experiencing God’s Spirit together with others. After all, this is our birth right. Our inheritance from above. So surely we should enjoy it as often and as we can and with as many others as we can. As such, our times together should be marked with the experience and expression of God’s Spirit. For that is what we are. A spiritual people called to display Heaven on Earth.

How full would you say your life is with the Spirit? What do your times look like when getting filled up with the Spirit? What practices do you enjoy in order to experience being filled up with the Spirit? What testimonies can you share from times when you have been filled up with the Spirit?

The image of this blog post is of a well in the Tuhala village in Northern Estonia. For thousands of years the well has been overflowing every year in Spring when the melting of snow and excessive rains cause the underground water systems to become overwhelmed. It ends up flooding the entire surrounding area. Although it has become to be called the “Witches Well” by the locals because of the belief that it is witches that cause the well to overflow, I think it is a beautiful picture of  what Jesus referred to in John 4. It is a picture of a Spirit-filled life!

If Jesus was Lord of my city

I am currently reading Insurgence: Reclaiming the Gospel of the Kingdom,” by Frank Viola. At the end of each section of the book he gives a few action steps that one can take in order to engage with what has been shared. At the end of part three he gives the following action step:

If Jesus was the actual, literal, and practical Lord of your city—meaning, He was running the show and calling the shots—how would your city be different than it is today? Be as detailed as you can.

Here is my answer to that question. I live in Cape Town, South Africa:

If Jesus was the literal Lord of my city it would probably be a more developed version of His earthly ministry. He and his governing team (kingdom disciples) would administer the constitution of His Kingdom to all the regions of my city. And all the inhabitants would benefit.

I imagine that his governance would infiltrate every aspect of life. Education, Work, Healthcare, Entertainment, Politics, the Environment, and so forth. The goal would be that His kingdom would be established and that all it’s citizen’s would participate and enjoy life together.

Politics

He would be king, so there would be no democratic approach to laws and governance. He would make the rules and His disciples would facilitate them in every corner of the city. Those who are interested in being part of His kingdom administration would be able to join a local chapter to participate in local governance (i.e. the ekklesia). In fact, I imagine that He would encourage everybody to be part of governance in their area in some way….

Legal

Because people have a free will there will always be transgressions. So there would need to be a system to deal with them. I imagine that there would be consequences for all transgressions (accept traffic fines… ), but that they would be restorative rather than punitive. The system would be designed in such a way that people can learn from their mistakes and grow. And I know the Lord would facilitate this in a way that is loving and just. In this way “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes…” because all would receive justice. (Rev 21:4)

Healthcare

Jesus spent a lot of time during his earthly ministry engaged in healthcare. He was always healing the sick and setting people free from demonic oppression. He also loved on and ministered to those who had experienced psychological trauma (the woman at the well). I imagine that a city run by Jesus would be very much engaged with healthcare. All his disciples would be trained to facilitate basic healthcare, but there would be some (like Peter) who would be specifically trained and gifted to function in this way. In this way “death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore…” (Rev 21:4), because all that is needed to care for the health of citizens will be available.

Finance

I imagine that the financial system would be similar to what God instituted for Israel. There would be “taxes,” but these taxes would be used wisely and there would be 100% accountability and transparency. I doubt we would see them in the same way we consider “taxes” today because people would give them gladly. People would be encouraged not to horde their money and resources, but make it available for the building of the Kingdom. In this way, our homes and possessions would not be our own, but only ours to steward for the sake of the Kingdom. If we stewarded them well, the King would give us more to steward. There would also be no needy people in my city (Acts 4:34) because all resources would be redistributed in such a way that everybody could be sustained.

Education

I work in education so this would be close to my heart. I would like to see an education system that is centered on developing every single person’s unique potential. Considering that God makes each person, the Lord Jesus would be able to help us know what that potential is. We would then have different streams and variations of teaching and learning that can be engaged with in an organic way based on people’s progress and development.

Entertainment

If you look at the scriptures carefully you will notice that Jesus cracked a lot of jokes. I imagine that he liked to have fun, especially considering that he enjoyed spending time with children. I imagine that this would be expressed in his kingdom. There would be places, spaces, and times where people can be entertained, but in ways that are wholesome and clean.

The Environment

I imagine that when the Lord begins to govern, the environment will finally be honoured and cared for in the way that it deserves. Pollution, climate change, and a host of other damaging environmental elements will be dealt with. Systems will be put in place to rehabilitate the environment and ensure it grows and flourishes. Practices will be put in place to ensure sustainable living.

Work 

Work is a very important aspect of God’s kingdom. Even from the beginning He gave Adam work to do. I imagine that in a city run by the Lord, everyone would contribute to the building up and managing of the kingdom and all it’s spheres. There would be no such thing as unemployment, because everybody would have a unique job to do. One given to them by the Lord Himself.

Business

When I think about business I think not about administration (which is what government organisations are designed to do), but I think about innovation, development, and growth. I think about new innovative approaches to solving problems in ways that are accessible to the average person. I imagine that in a city run by the Lord there would be much opportunity for entrepreneurship and business development to facilitate new innovative ways of doing things and solutions that serve the needs of all households.

Worship

From the beginning of his earthly ministry Jesus showed people what it meant to truly worship God. It was not about religion (a dead system with holy times and holy places – John 4:21-24), but about lives lived in spirit and in truth. He did not come to establish a religion, but a kingdom. So in my city I imagine that Jesus would do away with ALL religion (including the one that starts with a C), and he would teach people what it really means to worship God and live in His Kingdom.

Family

God’s kingdom has always placed a large emphasis on the family. Next to individuals that love and honour him, the family has always been the basic unit of the Kingdom, even from the beginning (Adam and Eve, Noah’s family, Abraham’s family, etc.). It is in that place where all the basic elements of the kingdom are fleshed out. Politics, finance, legal, healthcare, education…. all these elements are part of the family unit. The family is like a microcosm of the kingdom. If Jesus is not the living Lord of a family, and the family is not actively engaging with His Kingdom constitution, then that family will not be able to effectively participate in the local chapter of His governance (ekklesia), nor in the city-wide administration (New Jerusalem).

Therefore I imagine that Jesus will be intimately involved with families. He will teach husbands how to love their wives (Eph 5:25). He will teach wives to honour their husbands and submit to them (Eph 5:22). He will teach children how to obey their parents and honour them in everything (Eph 6:1). He will teach mothers how to effectively nurture their children, and teach father’s how to train their children (rather than neglect or frustrate them by placing expectations on them) (Eph 6:4). He will teach the family as a whole how to love him together and how to listen to him and obey him. How to be filled with him, grow in him, walk in him, and enjoy all that he is. He will teach families how to have true fellowship with one another, and what it means to truly love each other. He will establish his kingdom in each family in my city.

In Spirit

Finally, I imagine that although the Lord will have all authority and power and will wield these wisely and justly, He will ultimately accomplish his will by and through his loving passionate presence. He will not do it by his might, nor his power, but by his Spirit (Zech 4:6). And in this way “every eye will see him” for who he truly is (Rev 1:7), and of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end. In my city he will establish and uphold his kingdom with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore.

What would your answer to Frank’s question be?

PS: Can you guess why I chose the image for this blog post?

One Body Life

A few weeks ago while at a combined fellowship time a sister told me about a book called “One” by Henry Hon. She told me that it fleshed out the oneness that Jesus prayed for in John 17 and gave practical ways in which to pursue this oneness. Because the matter of oneness has been very dear to my heart for many years I immediately purchased the book on Kindle and started reading.

After reading the forward and introduction I knew instantly that this was the same vision that the Lord had given me. So I immediately emailed the author to share my heart and story. A few hours later I got the following response:

Hi brother Dylan:

So good to hear from you. I understand your frustrations and the encouragements that you have received from the Lord and the desire of the saints for the oneness of the body.

I will be in Nigeria for three weeks starting this coming Wednesday. A number of saints from different groups that I have met on my first invited visit there about 1.5 years ago have invited me back. This time to visit 7 cities with a number of diverse groups of believers. There is a hunger to hear not just a vision of the one body, but the practice of the Lord’s ekklesia in oneness with diverse believers.

It would be so good if you can come to Nigeria and join us. We can certainly have more fellowship there, not just with me, but with many dear saints in Nigeria.

Henry

You can imagine my delight after receiving this email. I immediately began making plans to attend, and by the Lord’s grace He made a way for me to go.

The saints in Nigeria

The believers in Nigeria are some of the most fervent and sincere that I have ever met. These brothers and sisters do not just do faith as a sideline. Their Christian walk and faith IS their very lives. The Lord Jesus and His purposes are pretty much all they talk about. And their lives are filled with the things of God.

Nigeria does not have many of the comforts that we have in South Africa. There is not much in the way of Internet connection, or entertainment, or night life, or food culture, or many of the things that fill our lives. Christians in Nigeria are focused on pretty much one thing, the Lord Jesus and His gospel. What fills their lives are things like bible studies, prayer meetings, book discussions, gospel preaching, home meetings, and so forth. He is their entertainment, their hobby, their night life, and their culture. He is everything to them.

They live as if they are constantly on a mission trip. If I had to compare them to any group in the scriptures it would have to be the Thessalonian believers who Paul describes as follows:

You became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia. For not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere, so that we need not say anything. – (1 Thes 1:6-8)

And this is why it makes perfect sense that they would be the ones that would grab hold of and run with this message of oneness. They not only hosted 7 conferences in 7 different cities, they also had a team of about 12 that took off work to travel with Henry Hon so that they could gain from him as much as possible over the three week visit. These saints take the Lord and His purposes very seriously. And yet they are humble, simple, kind, and full of joy.

I am still getting messages from many of them asking me if I have arrived home safely and sending greetings to my wife and all the saints in South Africa. So if you are a South African believer, know that the saints in Nigeria greet you with a sincere love.

Brother Henry Hon

Henry Hon is a simple brother in Christ. He is not a big name preacher that has a big ministry, many books, or many followers. He is just a simple brother that has been loving and following the Lord in the context of the Lord’s body. Over the years he has gained insights into the scriptures as he has sought the Lord for his own life. At one point, a fellow believer encouraged him to write a book and share what he has gained with the rest of the body. And that is what he did.

It was such a joy to spend time with this brother and his wife Sylvia, and fellowship over food, before meetings, and as we drove around in the car. We shared stories, desires, struggles, and prayed much for the Lord’s people and also for each other. It was rich time of fellowship.

What I saw in this brother is a simple, yet deep desire for the Body of Christ to take seriously the Lord’s prayer in John 17 and begin to receive from the Lord that which we need to walk it out in reality. Why? Because it was the Lord’s last prayer before He went to the cross. And it is what He said would be the sign to all the world that He actually is the sent one from God. That He truly is the Lord and the Christ. Oneness would be the ultimate expression and testimony that God is with us and that Jesus Christ is the Son of the Living God. And it is the reason that Henry Hon has written this book and spends his own money traveling to share this message.

He takes nothing from the saints but instead presents this message free of charge. He also asks nothing of the saints accept to see for themselves in the scriptures that this is the Lord’s desire. He does not ask them to join his ministry, donate to this cause or form a new church. He does not even make a profit from the book. All that he desires is that the Body of Christ would enter into and express the oneness that Jesus purchased on the cross. His desire is that Jesus Christ would be revealed to the world and that the Lord’s people would become one. That is all.

And this brother does not just preach about oneness. He models it. I saw him fellowship with all different believers, both in the meetings and in the streets. He is just full of Christ and expresses him wherever he goes. He truly is a dear brother that we can all gain from.

One

The message of One can be broken down into 3 parts, the vision, the gifts, and the practice.

The vision: The vision is described in John 17. That all believers would be one even as the Father and the Son are one. This is a practical oneness, not just a oneness in theory. A oneness in which all believers actually fellowship together rather than only within their church or ministry. Where all believers truly receive other believers that might be different from them with regards to practices, doctrines, or beliefs. Receive them into their homes, hearts and lives.

The gifts: The Lord gave three gifts to his body when he prayed the prayer in John 17. He gave us the Fathers name, (v12), the Father’s word (v14), and the Son’s glory (v22).

The Father’s name is of course the everlasting life of God that we get when we receive Jesus. It is only within this life that we can be one. Our human life can never be one with others, we are just divided and divisive. That is our nature. But the nature of God is oneness. So if we grow in this life, we will also grow in oneness.

The truth, which is His word is none other than Jesus Christ himself. It is not about having the same doctrines and the same practices and the same beliefs. It is about coming to know the same Lord, who is the reality behind all our doctrines, and practices and beliefs. We need to grow in our knowledge of him if we want to grow in oneness.

The Lord’s earthly glory is different from His heavenly glory. He did not give us His heavenly glory, but rather His earthly glory, which was given to him by God the Father after His death and resurrection. This glory is that of becoming nothing, even unto death. It is the glory we see when Jesus, the Lord of all, does the job of the lowliest slave by washing his disciples feet. It is this glory of serving as a slave and becoming nothing that he has given to us to become one. For we cannot become one if we remain in our human glory which is rooted in pride and is all about becoming something great, being seen, and being praised. In this glory we can only remain divided. Instead, we must receive, enter into, and grow in the Lord’s earthly glory.

The Practice: The practice is revealed in Paul’s letters to the Corinthians and Romans. In these two letters Paul addresses division by revealing how saints can practically be one. In a simple way this involves greeting, hosting, and blending.

Greeting other saints means more than just saying “hi.” It involves opening up our hearts and our lives to other believers and letting them do the same with us. It is letting our hearts and lives touch. A good example is intentionally spending time with other believers at your place of work to fellowship with them around Jesus Christ.

Hosting involves opening up our home for the Lord’s people to gather. Not as the leader of the gathering, but simply as the host. And not just for the people that are in our church or ministry, but for all the saints. A good example is opening up your home to all the believers in your street or complex to gather together for fellowship around Jesus Christ.

Blending involves arranging for brothers and sisters to come together in central locations to practice fellowship around Jesus Christ. For example, in America Henry and his wife help arrange a blending time every few months where all the believers that they have met through greeting and hosting (as well as those people’s friends and relatives and church communities), come together at a hotel or camp site for a weekend to fellowship around Jesus Christ.

These practices may seem simple and unimpressive, but if you truly get a revelation of this you will see how powerful they can be to express true oneness.

In order to understand these three things more deeply I suggest you download and listen to the five conference messages from the conference that I attended in Ibadan in Nigeria.

South Africa

Naturally I went to Nigeria not just to meet the saints there and to fellowship with Henry, but also to receive that which the Lord would like to do in South Africa. All the saints in Nigeria as well as Henry and Sylvia prayed fervently for us in South Africa. That we would see the Lord’s vision for oneness and really enter into it. That we would become fellow carriers of this message and would be fervent in sharing it and living it out.

So what are some of the next steps we can take?

Honesty: The first thing is to just be honest. If we are honest with ourselves we will realise that we are just in a divided state. We may at times spend time with believers that are different from us, but in general we stick to people that believe the same way we do. We are just naturally factious. We find our safety in those that look and talk like we do. So we need to be honest about our state and look to the Lord to help us. We cannot just change ourselves. We need the Lord.

Vision: Once we are honest and humble we will be able to actually gain the Lord’s vision for His body. It is only with His vision, as revealed in the scriptures that we will know which way to walk and gain the spiritual strength and energy to begin walking that way. To start with I suggest that we spend time getting this truth into us. By reading Henry’s book and listening to his conference messages. Getting this into us is a great way of getting a vision and starting to move out of our places of division (See below).

Please also join the One Body Life South Africa Facebook page where we will be posting things up regularly. It will also be a great way to connect with others in South Africa that are for the one body.

Message Downloads – One Body Life Conference, Ibadan, Nigeria

Thursday 26 April 2018

Friday 27th 2018 (Morning)

Friday 27th 2018 (Morning) – Q&A and Postfellowship 

Friday 27th 2018 (Evening)

Saturday 28th 2018 (Morning) 

Saturday 28th 2018 (Morning) – Q&A 

Saturday 28th 2018 (Afternoon)

Dylan’s Testimony of Conference

Facebook Pages

One Body Life 

One Body Life Nigeria

One Body Life South Africa

One Book

The book is currently available from Amazon via Kindle and Hard copy. Because the book has been independently published it is not available in Christian book stores. I suggest getting it via Kindle.

Also check out the One Body Life website.

Photos from the confence

Ministers I have gained from

Over the years I have gained much from gifted men and women in the Body of Christ. I have come to see that what Paul describes in Ephesians 4 is in fact true. That spiritual growth abounds by receiving the ministry from the gifts God raises up.

There are some men and women that have impacted me in very deep and profound ways. Most of them are no longer alive. Fortunately much of what they ministered was recorded in the form of books and audio tapes. Many of these books and audios I consider to be some of my most precious possessions.

Here is a list of some of these ministers and what it was about their ministry that has impacted me the most (in no particular order).

Frank Viola: Organic Church, God’s Eternal Purpose.

Frank Viola has had a very significant impact on my life. In fact, it is through his ministry that I got introduced to many of the other ministers in this list. When I began the journey of meeting more simply with other believers, it was Viola’s work that helped me conceptualize what that could look like. Books like Finding Organic Church, Pagan Christianity, Reimagining Church, and God’s Favourite Place on Earth really gave me practical ways and scriptural foundations with which to practice church in simpler ways.

His podcast and blog posts were also extremely helpful in growing as a disciple of Jesus. Truths like the significance of the Cross, the centrality of Jesus, and the importance of reading the bible within its historical context were invaluable.

But the one truth that his work unveiled to me which has impacted me the most is that which relates to God’s Eternal Purpose. His book “From Eternity to Here” changed my life forever. It revealed to me the purpose of all of life and set me on a journey that has been centered on one captivating vision: that the lamb that was slain would have the reward of His suffering. That God would get what His heart has always desired. A Body, a Bride, A House, and a Family.

Watchman Nee: The Church and the Work

Watchman New is most well known for his simple way of explaining profound truths. Books like The Normal Christian Life and Sit, Walk, Stand have helped millions of Christians over the years to follow their Lord. Other books of his which I have also enjoyed greatly include Christ, The Sum Of All Spiritual Things, Spiritual Exercise, The Spiritual Man, and What Shall This Man Do?

Although I have gained much from Nee’s more popular work, it is his lesser known books that have impacted me the most. Although Watchman Nee had a wonderful way of nourishing believers with spiritual truths, he was also a prolific church planter. And as a church planter he spent many years learning how to work with churches and walk alongside other church planters.

During the some 30 years of his ministry he would often meet with other workers to fellowship about the churches and the work. During these times he would share both practically and scripturally that which he had learned about the Church and the Work. Fortunately some of those present had the mind to record this fellowship. Records that were later published in the form of books.

Those books, which have truly helped me the most regarding my understanding include, The Church and the Work, The Normal Christian Church Life, and Further Talks on the Church Life, to name a few. Nee’s fresh insights are truly profound as they bring together both theological clarity and practical understanding. Insights which can be attributed to a principle that he always lived and worked by, namely, testing all spiritual truths with experience before sharing it with others. Nee felt that until he had actually practically worked out spiritual truths in real life he had no right sharing them with others. Because of this, Nee’s work is filled with spiritual truth that is alive, practical and honest.

Witness Lee: Life

Witness Lee was a coworker of Watchman Nee. After Watchman Nee was sent to prison in communist China, Lee continued ministering in America.

Lee is probably most well known for his commentary of the entire bible in the Recovery Version, and his exposition of every book of bible known as the “Life Studies.” It was Lee’s view that God’s entire economy is based on dispensing himself into man. This is typified in the beginning of the Bible through the Tree if Life, which is a symbol illustrating God’s desire to impart His own life into man in the form of food. After losing access to God’s life through sin, Jesus came as the new Tree of Life, to grant access to man again. At the end of the Bible, in the book of Revelation, this principle is typified again by a Tree of Life which grows on both sides of the river of life.

What Lee does in his Life Studies is to show how each book of the Bible reveals, in different ways, how God desires to dispense himself into man. Other books like The Tree of Life, The Economy of God, The All Inclusive Christ, and so forth, also bring to light this marvelous reality in ways that are spiritually practical and biblically insightful.

Gene Edwards: the subjective experience of the Cross, the historical context of the New Testament

Edwards is a New Testament scholar that ministered in the latter part of the 20th century and early part of the 21st century. He planted churches and trained church planters. He is well known for his unique writing style that draws you in and brings truth to life in such a way that captivates your entire being.

One of his key goals was to bring the historical context of the new testament to life, and he does so amazingly in Revolution: The Story of the Early Church, and the follow up stories presented in the form of diaries written by Silas, Titus, Timothy, Priscilla, and Gaius. These fictional stories bring to life the historical context in truly magnificent ways, making it feel like you are right there with them in first century Palestine. If you have never read them I highly recommend you do.

In addition to wonderful works of historical fiction, Edwards also brings to life the experience of the cross in truly profound ways. Most Christians are well versed in their understanding of the objective experience of the Cross. The cross that Jesus died on for their sin. But not many are well accustomed with the subjective cross. The cross that the Father fashions for each of us to carry and die upon.

Jesus was clear that if you wanted to follow him you would need to pick up your own cross daily. In other words, you would need to die daily to your self, your flesh, and your selfish sinful nature. The problem is that we generally avoid topics and situations that involve pain, which dying on a cross certainly is. But yet, that is what God desires for each one of us. For it is the way he gets what he wants in us. He gets rid of our self life by killing it, and replaces it with his own resurrection life.

What Gene Edwards does in many of His books is bring to life the reality of the Cross in the lives of others in ways that are truly powerful. Books like A Tale of Three Kings, The Prisoner in the Third Cell, and Climb the Highest Mountain, are some of the most powerful I have ever read.

Michael Peters (Jesus Life Together): community life, absolute devotion to Jesus

Although he often writes with others, and does not add his name to his work, it is his conversational style of writing that helps one recognise his work. The work of Mike Peters and the saints who write for Jesus Life Together is often designed to exhort. To help believers come out of sin, apathy, and the self, and press on to love Jesus more absolutely.

There are a multitude of stories, emails, and books all with one purpose: to help believers love Jesus with everything that is within them. In addition, there are many audios that record conversational ministry times which expound further the realities of what wholehearted devotion looks like practically, and how to live this out in the context of close-knit community life.

In addition, I have appreciated some of the thoughts relating to a community life that is centered on relationship with one another and Jesus rather than on meetings and liturgy. An organic life that happens spontaneously and intentionally everyday we seek to allow Jesus to be the living head of His body. Books like Meetings in His Kingdom, and The Day of Small Beginnings were especially helpful.

Bill Freeman: oneness, the supplied life

Bill Freeman’s work has helped me in a myriad of ways. Two of his little booklets called Christ Formed In Us, and Christ, Our Relationship With Everything, were particularly helpful to me.

What is unique about his written work is the many insightful explanations of the various Greek words used in the New Testament. Insights that reveal wonderful revelations about the deeper aspects of what the New Testament writers were trying to convey.

His audio messages have also been such a blessing to me and other believers that I have spent time with. I have witnessed the truths in his his audio series on The Supplied Life actually change people’s lives forever. Changed them from living the Christian life in their own strength to living it by the Lord’s life instead. It was truly magical to see.

But by far, the book that has had the most impact on me is one entitled “Our Common Oneness.” At the time of reading it I was searching the scriptures and seeking the Lord on the matter of oneness. The oneness of the Body of Christ and ALL believers. I was actually a little stuck in my pursuit because although I could see God’s desire for oneness to be expressed practically in the earth by all believers, I could not fathom how this could happen. That is, until I read this book. It opened my eyes to a higher vision of the oneness we have in Christ, and gave me practical handles to see it fleshed out in reality. I am truly grateful for the light that has shone into my heart through his work.

All his work is available free of charge in this Google Drive Folder.

Stephen Kaung: Christ in all the scriptures, God’s ways with his people.

Stephen Kaung was also a coworker of Watchman Nee in China until he moved to America at which point he also worked very closely with T-Austin Sparks. Certainly one of Kaung’s most significant contributions is his exposition of how Christ is revealed in every one of the books in the Bible, known as God has Spoken. The way Christ is hidden in the books of the Old Testament were particularly wonderful to see. The audio messages he spoke concerning this work can be downloaded free of charge.

Kaung’s absolute and tender love for the Lord can easily be noticed when listening to his audio messages. They ooze with the humble and reverent love of a man that was clearly sold out to the Lord. A man that spent his life loving the Lord and ministering to his people. You cannot help but feel more in awe of the Lord when listening to him speak.

Although Kaung delivered thousands of messages, of which hundreds of books have also been compiled, there is one book in particular that has had a great impact on me, namely, The Splendour of His Ways. This book takes a fresh look at the book of Job. Instead of commenting on the nature of suffering in an objective and outward way, Kaung looks at the story in a different way. He sees Job’s journey as a picture of God’s dealing with man to bring him into maturity. A way that involves using the sufferings of life to deal with man’s self in the mind, will, and emotions to the point that man transitions into living in his spirit in order to commune with God more intimately. It is truly a profound book with profound insights.

T-Austin Sparks: The centrality and of supremacy of Jesus Christ, the Testimony of the Church

T-Austin Sparks was a Birtish preacher and contemporary of Watchman Nee and Stephen Kaung. He ministered faithfully for many years all over the world, and particularly at the Honor Oak Baptist Fellowship in London.

Sparks was a prolific speaker and writer producing many volumes of books and audio tapes during his ministry. Although his work covers a myriad of topics there is one that runs like a golden thread throughout it all, namely, the Supremacy and Centrality of Jesus Christ… in the heart of God, in God’s economy, in the Church, the Earth, the believer, and the entire universe. You cannot help but see Christ as all and in all when savoring his work. No matter what he spoke or wrote about, Jesus Christ was always center and supreme. The foundation, the goal and the means.

If a golden thread could have two sides, then on the other side of the thread woven by Sparks would be that of the Testimony of the Church. This does not primarily refer to the believer’s history of coming to the Lord, or even how a believer portrays Christ towards unbelievers, but rather the purpose of the church in this world. Which, as unveiled by Sparks is something much higher than many believers have ever imagined.

Although I have not read many of His books, I have found that his work always sets me back on course. No matter what I read or listen to, it brings my focus back to the Lord Jesus and places him back as center and supreme in my life and pursuit. In addition it charges me with a a much higher vision and purpose regarding my place in God’s grand Testimony on the Earth. And for that I am eternally grateful.

Torben Sonengaard: preaching the gospel, making disciples

Torben Sonengaard is an evangelist from Denmark that started a ministry known as The Last Reformation. It is his view that we are entering the last reformation before the Lord returns. A reformation that will see the Church get up from its lethargy and begin to walk in the spirit-filled life of love and power that Jesus modeled while on Earth. A life that, as seen in the book of Acts, the disciples continued in after Jesus ascended.

Instead of only walking this way himself and drawing lots of crowds to himself, Sonengaard has made a point of teaching others to do the same. His ministry is centered on equipping believers to walk as Jesus did in everyday life. This could mean praying for the sick, sharing the gospel, baptizing people into Christ, setting people free from demonic oppression, or walking alongside other disciples in living daily unto the glory of God.

While his book, The Last Reformation sets out his thinking regarding these topics, it is his YouTube videos that are particularly inspiring and practical. In some videos he teaches, whereas in many others there are snippets of real time ministry situations where people are being baptised, or set free from demons, or healed of sicknesses.

I am personally grateful to his ministry for giving me the freedom to function in the gifts of power in ways that have brought life to people and made Jesus visible.

Shane Claiborne: The poor and oppressed

The poor and the oppressed have a very special place in God’s heart. These are people that live on the fringes of society and have in many ways been rejected and cast out. Usually because they do not meet the standards or expectations of society, due to illness, class, or some form of disadvantage or disability. People that often fall into this category include the poor, the homeless, and those addicted to drugs.

Today, there seems to be very little concern for the poor and the oppressed among God’s people. And when something is done for them it is usually in the form of a “ministry” that we can contribute money to, rather than getting to know them ourselves. This is not the heart of God at all. His heart is that the poor and the oppressed would be “with us.” (See Matthew 26:11)

The work of Shane Claiborne has really impacted me in a big way in this regard. His book The Irresistible Revolution  helped me see just how important the poor and the oppressed are to God, and how clearly the scriptures reveal their place among us. They are not to be helped from afar with little scraps of food or coins, but instead God desires them to be drawn near. Drawn near to see His love for them as His people draws them near… into their homes, into their lives, and into their hearts. Shane really reveals the heart of God and unpacks ways in which we can enter into His love and care for the poor and the oppressed in practical ways. In ways that actually change us and help us grow in the love of God.

Another person who I have also gained from greatly in this regard is Heidi Baker. The way that she has allowed God’s love for the poor and oppressed to dwell in her has been an inspiration. If you read her books or watch any of her messages you cannot help but be filled with God’s great love, especially for those who society deems “unworthy” of it.

If you have never really entered into the heart of God for the poor and oppressed I highly recommend receiving from these ministries.

Andrew Murray: The Deeper Christian Life

Andrew Murray ministered in South Africa in the late 19th century. He had a great heart for Christian missions and went to great lengths to serve those under his care. One way in which he did this was to write. At the time, many of those under his care lived on farms and for this reason could not often meet with other Christians and were not easily reachable for visits. His solution to this problem was to write books and booklets that the believers could use to be nourished spiritually. In order to make it simple and easy to do, he often structured his books in the form of daily readers with small portions to read each day.

Some of the classic works include Abide in Christ, Humility, Absolute Surrender, With Christ in the School of Prayer, and, Waiting on God.  What has had a major impact on my life is not one particular book, but rather Murray’s approach to life and the Lord. It is a spiritual approach which he unveils somewhat in his book The Deeper Christian Life. A concept which authors like Jeane Guyon and Brother Lawrence also wrote about, namely, a constant and intimate fellowship with the Lord.

The deeper Christian life is one that goes beyond the week to week rituals, religious practices, or church-related events. It values a daily, and even moment by moment awareness of the Lord’s indwelling presence. A constant inner communion and fellowship with the Lord. One that involves practices like calling on his name, turning your being to him, singing to him, speaking to him, surrendering to his leading, and listening to his voice. A moment by moment mutual indwelling if you will. A life that is lived with the Lord, rather than for the Lord. In the Lord, rather than about the Lord. A life of oneness with the Lord.

Although it takes some practice to live this way (in terms of developing new spiritual habits), it is truly one of the most satisfying ways to live. A way that Jesus perfectly modeled in the gospels and alludes to when he says, “I do only what I see (presently) the Father doing, and say only what I hear (presently) the Father saying.” Based on authors like Murray, Guyon, Lawrence, and others, a deep daily fellowship with the Lord is what we we born to have and enjoy, and which, thanks to Jesus, we now have access to again in spirit.

Have you gained from any of the ministers I have mentioned?

Are there any that I have not listed that you have gained from?

Share your gains in the comments section below.

 

So you want to make an impact? – Faithfulness & Care

I have often desired to express God’s caring heart towards challenges in society. And I know that this is his heart too. Both the old and new testament are filled with references to this. Here is just one example:

He lifts the poor from the dust– Yes, from a pile of ashes– And treats them as princes sitting in the seats of honor. For all the earth is the Lord’s And he has set the world in order. (1 Sam. 2:8 )

The problem I have discovered is that often my attempts to come up with solutions, or exercise my gifts and talents, or network with others in this regard have not been fruitful. And at times this has frustrated me immensely. I have struggled to understand why something that I can see a clear solution for, have many of the skills for, and even have connections for, does not seem to materialise.

Over the years I have simply had to lay down certain projects because they just did not bare any fruit. At other times I was forced to stop working on them because they were not bringing in any money; and I needed to eat. Sometimes, to my utter disdain of course, the work I ended up doing either perpetuated the problems I saw in society, or even worse, were the reason for these problems in the first place.

Here I was trying to envision and bring to life a new more effective system, and instead of working to bring it into reality, I was stuck in the old ineffective system faced with all the problems I actually have a solution for. #frustrating!

What has been more challenging about such times is the question of why there is a paradox in the first place. I have often found myself in conversations with God that go something like this:

“God, why would you give me a solution, the skills to facilitate it, and even people that I can work with to do so, but nothing materialises? What is with that! Surely you want this issue to be solved. Surely your heart is to care for the poor and those who are struggling. Surely I have been strategically placed here to serve this need. What’s the deal?”

At times I have continued to carry the vision in my heart and tried to influence the old system with that vision. At other times I have used my own spare time and money and resources to try to realise that vision. And still at other times I have had to lay down my vision. It has not been easy.

There are many things that I could say about this.

  • Like the fact that when God realises that your vision to do something for Him (or with Him) becomes more important than He Himself, He will not think twice to bring it crumbling down.
  • Or the fact that sometimes God only wants us to pray into something (and that is why He gives us insight into it).
  • Or that the timing is just not right, and there are still many things that need to fall into place before realising the vision will be possible.
  • And the list continues.

In such situations it is important to find out from God what exactly He wants you to do about what you are seeing, rather than assuming. This can save you a lot of time and tears.

However, in this post I do not want to talk about those elements. I want to talk about how faithfulness affects our ability to care.

You see, in all such visions and strategies is a simple desire – to care. To care for the needs of a group of people who are currently being neglected, or abused, or endangered, etc. The plan is to somehow develop a better solution that can more effectively serve people so that they can ultimately live better lives. This speaks directly to the expression of care. And it is beautiful. It is a desire to see God’s care being expressed through us in innovative and creative ways. The desire is certainly of Him.

The problem however, comes in when we try to express care in one area without expressing it in another. Care, just like anything else we see in God’s Kingdom always adheres to the principles of God’s Kingdom. And one of the fundamental principles is the principle of faithfulness, seen in the parable of the talents. Here is the key portion:

His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Enter into the joy of your master!’ (Matthew 25:21)

So, based on this principle, if we desire to care for communities, or cities, or countries, (or even our friends) then we first need to show God that we can be faithful with what He has already given us. Only then will He be able to confidently entrust more to us.

So what has God already given you to care for?

As I experienced God remove the big things that I desired to express His care through, I found myself consistently faced with caring for the basics – myself, and my family. This annoyed me because I did not want to be busy with such “petty” things if my time and skills and heart and mind could be changing the lives of millions. (probably more like hundreds…)

Often I would begrudgingly do what needed to be done, but I was not happy. In fact, I would often daydream about my visions of grandeur while in the spaces and with the people God wanted me to care for. I was not really “present.” And so I was not really engaging with what God had given me. Not with all my heart.

And so it continued, one cycle after the next. And for years I did not really get it. In my desire to express what I felt inside I tried to bring to life one project after the next. Even if there was just a glimpse, just a hint of a new project or approach that could make a difference in the way I felt called to, I would engage it. Often I would think of a new idea, write it out, and then immediately register a new domain name, only to see nothing materialise (you have no idea how much money I have spent on domain names that were never used, many of which I still renew every year in the hopes that the project or idea will eventually materialise).

And in all of this I heard faint whispers of the truth, but I was too hard-headed and stubborn to listen. I was determined you see. And nothing was going to stop me….

Well, God has a way of stopping even the most determined of us, and bringing us down to our knees. And that is what He did with me. I will not get into all the details of how He did this, but what I do want to share with you is the lesson I learned.

God showed me that I had never really taken care of myself. And because of that I was unable to effectively care for others, or for bigger things that He may want to give me.

In truth, I did not know how to care for myself. And I think that may have been one of the reasons I desired to express my care outwardly so much. Because I did not know how to express it inwardly.

God took me on a journey of discovering what it means to truly care for myself. It was not easy. In fact, it was quite painful. But that is a topic for another conversation.

So here is my 2 cents for all those who desire to care for the big things, but are not seeing any fruit.

  • Ask God to teach you how to care for yourself. How to let His love and care into your heart and life.
  • Spend time with people who you can see will truly care for you and express God’s love towards you. And ask God to help you to let them in.
  • And, put your projects on the shelf for now while you let God teach you how to really care for the foundational things you are responsible for… yourself first, and then your family.

If you can accept the way God’s Kingdom works, and walk out a journey where you are determined to be faithful with what He has given you to care for, by trusting Him to help you do so, and taking the hard steps needed, He will give you more to care for. But, if you continue to neglect yourself and those close to you (i.e. your family), and place all your energy into outward things, He simply cannot give you anything else. No loving Father would. And this Father loves you deeply.

Before anything, He wants to teach you to express His caring heart towards yourself, and those who are an extension of you.  And once you can be faithful with that (and the fruit of that care can clearly be seen in your life and family), He might just give you a little more to care for…

Different approaches to Church

In my Christian life I have come across many different approaches to church. Generally I have found that while people may test different approaches, they eventually find one that works for them and then stick to it for most of their lives. Let’s call this their primary approach. They may also dabble in a few additional approaches as they make friends with others, or feel God leading them in that way for a season, but overall they remain grounded in their primary approach.

I myself have approached church in different ways over the years. At the moment I would say I find myself based in the “Church as fellowship” category with a desire to engage in many of the other approaches as the Lord enables.

Church as involvement

I have often heard people speak about church as something that they “get involved” with. They say something like, “I am thinking about getting involved in church again.” Church to them is something they engage with depending on the season. Usually “involvement” amounts to things like running a bible study, going to church events, attending prayer meetings, and so on. Sometimes they may be more “involved” than at other times, like when they are young and have less commitments. But by and large this view of church is something they “do.”

Church as attendance

For others church is a matter of faithfully attending meetings, the Sunday meeting being the most important. Come hell or high water these people will attend the Sunday meeting and faithfully sing, tithe, and listen attentively to the speaker. Some also attend the weekly prayer meeting, or a home group meeting, or some other more directed type of meeting. Such people believe that being dedicated and consistent in their attendance to church gatherings is very important for the growth of their spiritual lives and the solidity of the church community. By and large this view of church and spiritual growth is based on consistent attendance.

Church as encounter

I have also met people that believe that church is all about encountering God, usually in the context of a spiritual meeting. Such meetings usually take the form of a worship service with the sole purpose of encountering God together. Experiencing an aspect of His person tangibly is often the desire of those who attend, whether feeling His love poured out upon you, or hearing Him speak to you, or being overwhelmed by His glory. Such people will often attend many different groups and meetings that pursue encountering God in different ways. The idea is that spiritual growth and life abound as you encounter God in awesome ways.

Church as mission

Some people believe that the purpose of the church is to save the lost and reveal Jesus to the world. Such people will often get involved in mission work, whether in their home town or somewhere in the deepest darkest parts of the world. They take Jesus words of “go into the world” very seriously. They may go and live in a community and simply love and serve the people there, and trust that God will reveal Himself to them through their actions. Or they may engage in a ministry to the poor in their local area and be a light in a dark world for those who cannot see. For such people Church is about participating in God’s mission to reveal Himself to the world.

Church as discipleship

For some church is all about making disciples. It is about sharing Christ with unbelievers, whether through the preaching of the gospel, the performing of miracles, or simply through loving and caring for those that are broken and lost. Once they repent it involves baptising them into Jesus Christ, and teaching them how to live this life. To such people making disciples is the purpose of the church and engaging in disciple-making is the main activity of a Christian.

Church as life

Some people look at church as a part of their lives. They are the church and wherever they are the church is. Church is not something that they need to “do” or “attend.” It is something they are a part of intrinsically and eternally. For such people there may be times of meeting with others and there may be times of not meeting, but no matter what happens, they are part of the church that Jesus Christ is building here on Earth. Generally, these people meet with others based on the nature of their lives. They may meet someone at work that is seeking, and decide to spend more time with them for the next few months. Or they may find a believing family in their neighbourhood that they spend lots of time with. Sometimes they may not spend any intentional time with other believers or non believers, and that’s okay too. For them, church happens as life happens.

Church as Spirit-led

I have also met believers who feel that church should be led by the Spirit. These people spend time listening to the unctions of the Spirit of God and follow what they believe He is saying to them regarding church. At times this may mean consistently meeting with a group of people or engaging in some form of ministry. Other times it may mean focusing on their family or drawing away to simply pray and seek God. Church to these people is secondary to living a Spirit-led life. Being led by the Spirit is the most important thing, and engaging in church is something that the Spirit will lead you in when and how He sees fit.

Church as community

Then I have met people who focus on building a close-knit community of believers. For such people church is about being involved in people’s lives. Loving and supporting each other. Taking care of each other. Orienting your life in such a way that you can consistently be “in” other people’s lives is very important for building church in this way. And members will often choose to live close to one another in order to be able to participate in community life on a daily basis. This approach to church stresses the concept of “ubuntu,” in that personal growth is linked to the wellbeing of the community.

Church as brotherhood/ sisterhood

For some, church is about building close and vulnerable relationships with a handful of believers. This may take the form of a brothers meeting, where a handful of men meet to share their lives, give each other advice, support each other and pray for one another. Sisters may meet to do the same, the only difference being that much crying often abounds. 🙂 In addition to meetings, individuals may meet together to share their lives and form deep friendships. The key to this form of church is to walk with one another through the highs and lows of life in a place of accountability, support, and prayer. To walk together in the light in the presence of our God and Father. This form of church stresses the forming of deep relationships that enable people to be real and vulnerable before each other and God.

Church as fellowship

Then there are those that believe that church is about koinonia (the Greek word used in the bible to refer to communion with one another and God). This approach involves entering into the fellowship between God the Father and His son, Jesus Christ (as described in 1 John 1). To them church is about looking to the Lord together and allowing Him to speak to them. It is about loving the Lord together through singing and prayer, and allowing Him to pour His love out upon them. To such people opening oneself up to the Lord is very important and being a part of a community that comes together to do that often is key.

Church as Christ (all of the above)

Then there are people (although very few) who have come to see church as comprising all of the above forms and more. Church is involvement, and attendance, and encounter, and community, and life, and mission, and discipleship, and brotherhood/sisterhood, and fellowship, and Spirit-led. Such people see that Jesus Christ is so wide and so high and so deep, that it is impossible to contain Him or His expression through the Church as only one thing. Such people have seen the value of engaging in all the many dimensions of church, because each of them reveals a different part of their glorious Lord. They may make their home in one of these camps, but they also consistently engage in many of the others as the Lord enables them.

For such people church is all of the above and none of the above. For them, Church is the earthly expression of a person, Jesus Christ. And because He is so vast, and has so many aspects within Him that He desires to express, choosing only one or even two as legitimate would be nonsensical. Instead, such people want to experience their Lord in ALL his multifaceted forms. They want to participate in all that He wants to express. They want to enjoy and grow in every aspect of His wonderful person. And so they open themselves and even pursue all that He has to give through all the many approaches to church. For in the end they realise, that these are all different sides of Him.

Which approach to church would you consider your primary approach?

Are there any other approaches that you have come across?

Leave your comments below.

 

The purpose of the scriptures

The bible can be a confusing place. So many different letters and books, written by so many different people at different times in history to various groups of different people. Hundreds of thousands of written scriptures, all God breathed, yet many of them seemingly contradictory. The bible is a challenging read to say the least, and for the most part, people find their own unique perspective of  who God is, what He says, and of course, what He requires from us.

This is completely understandable. Every person is different and will therefore naturally have their own unique way of looking at life and the scriptures. The problem is not so much having a different perspective of scripture, but having a “distorted” or “incomplete” view of God.  Our understanding of the scriptures is directly proportional to our relationship with God. It informs and defines how we relate to Him and how we believe He relates to us. And this is why it is so important that we have the correct perspective and understanding of what it says. Because how we understand scripture ultimately defines how we see God.

For this reason, it is very important to look at scripture holistically and in context. We should not just take a piece of scripture and apply it to our life blindly (but this is what most do). We need to understand what was being said to who, why it was being said, when it was said, who wrote it, and so forth. All these elements will help us understand what God was communicating about himself, which will ultimately help us understand who He is. And better understanding who He is, helps us relate to Him better, which is ultimately His desire and the purpose of the scriptures: So we may KNOW Him!

This is important. Although the scriptures accomplish many things, its purpose is that we may KNOW Him through it. Not so much that we would obey him and do everything it says, but rather that we would get a revelation of who He is.

With that being said, many of you may look at scripture as a long line of duties. Serve me, feed my sheep, love your neighbour as yourself, follow me, do not be luke warm, and so forth. And depending on what lens you use to look at the scriptures through, this may be all you see. Expectation. Responsibility. Duty. The problem with that lens is that it ultimately results in failure, dissapointment, and  guilt. The hundreds of “expectations” the Lord reveals through the scriptures are not designed to give us a list of things to do. But they are actually designed to teach us about Himself.

Here is a good example. When a man makes certain rules for his household, you get to understand what type of man he is. If he makes a rule that the family must sit around a dinner table every night when eating, it tells you that He values family time and wants to see his family grow with a healthy sense of communication and relational balance. When he makes a rule that his daughter may not date until she is 18, you can see that he loves his daughter and wants to protect her until she is ready to venture the maze of relationships. His family may sometimes break the rules that he sets, and that is ok. A loving Father does not want rule-keepers, but wives and children that love him, and desire to please him. For that reason, He does not make rules to be kept blindly – like if a his son sits at the table every night without saying a word just to keep the rule – that would be missing the point. No, he makes rules because they express his fatherhood. They reveal his love. They ensure that his wisdom and ways are established. So more than anything, they are a reflection of His character as a Father. And the same is true of the scriptures, and especially all the rules within it.

So, the scriptures can say many different things, it all depends on the lens you look through. If you want to see rules, you will see rules, probably followed with an expectation to have to fulfill them. But if you want know God, you will look at those same rules and you will see His heart and character, which will naturally be followed with a reverence and love for Him.

The beauty of this lens, is that when getting to know the Lord and falling in love with His character, you are naturally filled with a desire to please him. And this is the way He desires it. He is not interested in people that obey for the sake of obeying. He does not want your “sacrifice”. God is interested in getting to know you. He wants friends. Family members that will get to know Him and love Him back by doing things that please him. And if they do not, does He hold it against them or make them feel guilty for not doing it? No, He does not. He simply continues loving them so that by being reminded of His wonderful character they will naturally be compelled again to love Him back in the ways that He desires.

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The Tree of Life – Literal, Symbolic, or Both…?

A while back I asked the readers of this blog to give me their “2 cents” on what they thought the Tree of Life is. The idea was that I would incorporate these comments into upcoming blog posts about the Tree of Life. There were a range of different answers all focusing on different elements. And since then I have done one post entitled Christ, the Tree of Life that incorporates the comments of three bloggers that subscribe to this blog.

Today I would like to consider whether the Tree of Life was Literal, Symbolic or Both…?

Some of the comments connected to this aspect were as follows:

Nic, blogging here at I call you Friend

I asked my wife what she thought the tree of life was. She said that if we believe the garden was a real garden, then we should really believe the tree was a real tree. Good point!

Lynley, blogging at The Honest One

I think with all things in scripture there is the literal and the deeper meaning. Personally I think it was a literal tree (remembering that heaven and earth were connected at that point). That said, within heaven (where God is) I believe though the tree can be a literal tree, it does not mean Christ is a tree. It could simply mean that Christ is representing Himslef in the tree to us, because we derive an understanding of a tree.

Tobie, blogging at Natural Church

Ahh… The Tree of Life. Here’s some thoughts for consideration (Hope it’s worth two cents!):

1. If it’s a tree, then it’s a thing (an “it”, if you wish), which cannot be, as God does not allow his life to dwell in things.
2. If it’s not a tree, we have a problem. I don’t need to tell you why. Good, solid fundamentalists like John MacArthur will do so. Besides, as an earlier commentator has pointed out, then it also may not be a real garden. Or a serpent. Or an actual woman. Or… You get the point.

This means that it has to be a tree, but it cannot be a tree containing the actual life of God (or any other type of spiritual life, for that matter, for all life comes from God and originates in him). And so, I suspect, the way out of the dilemma is not to see an enchanted tree, but an actual tree functioning as a symbol. (To see the rest of this comment please go here and scroll down to the bottom of the page)

It is clear that all of us see the Tree of life as both a real tree that actually existed. But was it?

I did some research on this topic to discover what the “truth” is behind these questions. So I asked a few people questions relating to this and one person that I trust and respect in particular pointed me in the direction of what is known as Narrative Theology.

Narritive theology is associated with the idea that we are not primarily to learn principles, rules or laws from Scripture, but rather we are to learn to relate to God. In other words, the Bible’s stories are not designed to teach us scientific or theoretical facts, but are there to teach us truth. We are supposed to learn from those truths, and apply these lessons to our lives. As such, we should interpret and apply these stories according to the original intentions of the authors of Scripture—this is why the stories have been preserved for us (see Romans 15:4). (For more on Narritive Theology and how it relates to Systematic and Biblical Theology go here. Also, see N.T Wright on Narrative Theology)

So, with that in mind, what was the original intention of the author/s who wrote Genesis?

Well, from what I have picked up through my readings, it is suggested that Moses wrote the book of Genesis while he was traveling through the Wilderness with the Israelites. It is inferred that he got most of the information from the Israelites themselves who conveyed their history to him as they had carried it on through stories (illiterate cultures have been found to have a very good memory, especially with regards to the history of their culture and family trees). However, the actual creation account in Genesis 1 and 2 could not have been retold by the Israelites and for this reason most biblical scholars assume that God relayed this information directly to Moses just like the angel told John what to write in the book of Revelation.

Fundamentally then, the 5 books that Moses wrote/compiled, known as the Pentateuch or Torah (which means “to teach”) were written to do just that… teach the Israelites about their history and most importantly, their journey and relationship with God. Hence, it was written in the form of a story book. It was designed in many ways to be read like we would read stories to our kids today. The stories are often imaginative, but carry within them certain meanings and lessons that are passed along to the hearers.

Now, I am in no way suggesting that the events in Genesis are not true or historical fact, just that they were written in the form of a story and should therefore be read and interpreted in that light. For this reason, I believe that instead of asking the question, “what is the tree of life?” or “was it a real tree?” a more appropriate question considering the intention of the book would be “what do we learn from the tree of life? or “what was God’s intention for man in the Tree of Life?” These would better bring out the LIFE that is embedded in the book of Genesis.

Therefore, trying to figure out what the tree of life actually was is in some ways futile, for it is going down a path that the writer of the book never intended one to pursue. Like trying to determine whether Pinocchio was a real boy. Whether he was or was not really does not matter. What matters is what his life and story teaches little kids (not to lie, amongst other things). And therefore what we learn from the tree of life is what is most important. And that is in many ways simple: God desires to dispense Himself into man so that man can live by his uncreated life. God desires to be eaten. To be partaken of. To be enjoyed like food. And we can know Him in this way today in Christ, our Tree of Life!

So,what is the answer the question: “is the Tree of Life literal, symbolic or both…?”

It does not matter!

Check out this video for another great take on what I have just covered in today’s post:

The Whole Sweep Of Scripture from The Work Of The People on Vimeo.

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How do our Spiritual Bodies work?

This is a picture of two drawings that Leonardo da Vinci made when he started asking this very question, but just for the physical body. May we, today, be encouraged to understand the reality of how our Spiritual Bodies work…

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Two weeks ago after posting about Christ being our Tree of Life a set of comments took place that really began a wonderfuly revelatory idea that I would like to share with you. It is connected to our spiritual bodies.

Watchmen Nee writes about this in some length in a book called The Normal Christian Life (very good). In it he looks at the different parts of a human (spirit, soul, and body) and how they all work together. I would definitely recommend it.

But to bring it home for you and to extend the conversation, I would like to post the comments that were made. These comments only really begin a conversation that I believe has the potential to yield some great truth if worked and cultivated a bit by the members of this blog. So, any thoughts would be most appreciated.

Here was the first comment by Nic Thakwray 

What a wonderful thought to exist and be sustained by the life-giving Spirit of Christ! I reckon that God designed our bodies’ relationship to food with this in mind. We actually consist of the food we eat. If you eat some bread, the bread is broken down into tiny molecules which are absorbed into our bloodstream and used to build the tissues that make up our bodies. Even babies being formed in the womb are built together out of the molecules in their mother’s bloodstream! Amazing! This is a faint image of what it means to receive the nourishment of Christ to our spirits. As we feed on Christ, WE BECOME CHRIST! We become one with him! He gives us life!

How do we do this? In what ways can we receive Him as our spiritual nourishment?

 And the reply by Dylan Cromhout
Hey Nic
I love your analogy. It is something that I too have pondered. Does the bible not reveal that all things are merely just a picture of Christ. How amazing to think that the “institution” of eating is in fact a physical representation of a spiritual reality.

In other words, if our physical bodies go through that process to break down food and assimilate it into the body, so too our spiritual bodies must do the same. They must have the ability to “break-down” the food (whether Christ or other) that we eat and then assimilate it into our spiritual bodies.

This is the natural process of growth that the Lord has designed. Just like we do not need to make our stomach break down food, so too we do not need to worry about how our spiritual bodies break down and assimilate food. Our only responsibility is to EAT! The rest of the system has been designed to work automatically. Fascinating. What an excellent system.

This makes one think about how we should approach our Christian lives…. Should we be worrying about growing? Should we be worried about doing things right? Or should we simply be concerned with our eating?

I think that we would fair so much better if we went back to the basics and focused on that which matters most. Eating Christ 3 times a day (as much as possible) and being concerned with eating only Christ, and discarding anything that will not be good for our spiritual bodies. This is how we approach our physical lives, so surely the same principles apply to the spiritual….?

To answer your questions: my thoughts are that we do so in the same way that we would do so in the physical…. by chewing. If we take a portion of scripture that reveals Christ, how do we get the nourishment from it? Well, we need to chew it. And that we do by exercising the same organ we use to eat… our mouths. We speak the scripture, pray the scripture, share the scripture, meditate on the scripture, sing the scripture… we chew and chew and chew, and then swallow of course to let it become a part of us.

Now, this can be done individually and we all need to learn how to eat Christ so that we can move on from the first things, from being fed only like children. We need to learn how to use our cutlery and eat Christ with our own mouths. That is fundamental.

Once we understand this concept for our individual selves and can eat effectively, the next step is learning to do it as a body. To learn how to Share Christ, Chew Christ, and then Swallow Christ together. And this my friend is the glorious life and mystery of organic church life…

So how would you say do our Spiritual Bodies work?

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The Forgotten Tree

*** This article is part of a blog series about what it means to live with Christ as our source. You can check out the Introduction to the series here. ***

Please do yourself a favour and download this pdf: http://www.thejesusmanifesto.com/JesusManifestoCh8.pdf

It is a free chapter from the book, Jesus Manifesto, written by Frank Viola and Leonard Sweet. It reveals Christ in a very unique way and is directly related to what we have been discussing on this blog the last while.

Here is the description of the book from the website for a bit of context:

Christians have made the gospel about so many things—things other than Christ. Religious concepts, ideas, doctrines, strategies, methods, techniques, programs, and formulas have all eclipsed the beauty, the glory, and the reality of the Lord Jesus Himself. On the whole, the Christian family today is starved for a real experience of the living Christ. We know a lot about our Lord, but we don’t know Him very well. We know a lot about trying to be like Jesus, but very little about living by His indwelling life. “Jesus Manifesto” presents a fresh unveiling of Jesus as not only Savior and Lord, but as so much more. It is a prophetic call to restore the supremacy and sovereignty of Christ in a world—and a church—that has lost sight of Him. Read this book and see your Lord like you’ve never seen Him before.

I would HIGHLY recommend this book. It reveals Christ on every page and really brings one back to the cornerstone of Christianity again. If you like this free chapter, you will LOVE the book. So give it a read and let the Lord speak to your heart. And if you like it enough and would like to get your hands on the book, let me know and I will point you in the right direction.

I’m still very much enjoying the fellowship on this blog. Thanks for all the comments and collaborations. You all make this blog what it is! Enjoy going deeper into the revelation of Christ as your source of life.

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