The Intentionality of God – Part 3

Three Colorful Figures Dance in a Shape of a Heart This is my third and final installment for this series on the “Intentionality of God”.  In this post I am going to get much more practical and to the point for the edification of the saints and the churches.  If you have not already read parts 1 and 2 please do so by clicking here.

So first of all, let me share my initial motivation for writing this series.

There is an erroneous teaching that is currently circulating throughout the following expressions of the church: house church, simple church, missional church, organic church.  All of these forms of church life share one thing in common; they have rejected the so called “institutional” forms of church.  This means the most prevalent church structure that has dominated the western world for the last 17 centuries or so.  I think it will become very clear to you why this erroneous teaching is becoming popular in some of these home churches who have rejected the traditional, institutional systems.

But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves.”  (2 Peter 2:1)

I really don’t know what to call this current wave of false teachings.  For the purpose of this blog post I am going to call it: “non-church” or perhaps “random-church”.  Though, of course, the proponents of this teaching would not like that name at all!

From what I can gather, this idea has come from folks who have left the institutional church system and now have rejected ALL structure, ALL planning, ALL leadership, and ALL order altogether.  It is definitely an over reaction to the religious system.  To these folks, church is something that just happens.  You happen to meet a friend at Starbucks who is a believer, you have some fellowship, that is “church”!  You have a “network” of friends in this city and in that other area, and in another part of town, or perhaps at work.  When you happen to be in that section of town you may visit with them … and that’s “church” as well!    It’s a willy-nilly, random, meet-by-chance situation.  There are no scheduled meetings.  Everything is left “up in the air”, or they would say, “by the Spirit”.  I have heard it said: “Well, if we all love Jesus then why do we have to plan, schedule meetings, and so on?”  They will also say things such as: “Why do we need church planters when the church already exists?”  “I’m the church, you’re the church, just be the church!”

Hopefully, this series of blog posts will irrevocably answer these questions.

The statements made above (and the like) reveal a mindset that is completely foreign to the New Testament.  As you read the story of the New Testament (if you are open and honest about it) you will see local churches or bodies of believers that were committed to one another and completely attendable.  In many instances Paul names people in the churches (see Romans 16; Philippians 4:2,22; Colossians 4:4-18; 1 Corinthians 16:15-19).

Now, let’s take a quick look at some clear and concise statements made in the scriptures about the Church of Jesus Christ.  And then, we will test those “images” or types used by God himself.

  • The Church is a Building (temple, house)

“Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If any man destroys the temple of God, God will destroy him, for the temple of God is holy, and that is what you are.”  (1 Corinthians 3:16-17)

“So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit.”  (Ephesians 2:19-22)

So, let’s approach these concepts with “if… then” statements:

If the church is a building… then it would require structure.

It’s very clear from Paul’s statement here (especially in Ephesians 2) that the church is built together as in a physical structure (temple).  Everyone knows that without a purpose, plan (design), and an administration for that plan, you will never be able to build any kind of solid structure!  Notice with me that Paul gets very explicit in using words like “fitted together” and “being built together” to show us God’s intentionality for the church.  He actually “fits” the living stones together and into each other.  This is not some vague “cosmic” idea of church, but rather a very practical building and setting of people together by God!  He actually places the stones into the positions that He wants them.  In another place Paul uses the phrase: “being knit together in love” (Col. 2:2)  Now, I don’t know much about knitting, but I do know that in order to knit a sweater you need to have a pattern (design/plan) and some training on how to execute the pattern so that you end up with something that is both pleasing to the eye and functional (the expression).

How does the idea of “random church” fit into this?

  • The Church is the Body of Christ

“For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit. For the body is not one member, but many.”  (1 Corinthians 12:12-14)

“But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired.”  (1 Corinthians 12:18)

“Which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so adjusted (mingled, harmonized, and subtly proportioned the parts of) the whole body, giving the greater honor and richer endowment to the inferior parts which lack [apparent importance], so that there should be no division or discord or lack of adaptation [of the parts of the body to each other], but the members all alike should have a mutual interest in and care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the parts [share] the suffering; if one member is honored, all the members [share in] the enjoyment of it. Now you [collectively] are Christ’s body and [individually] you are members of it, each part severally and distinct [each with his own place and function].”
(1 Corinthians 12:24-27)

If the church is a body, then it would require structure.

The human body is made up of eleven major organ systems.  These include: circulatory, respiratory, digestive, excretory, nervous, endocrine, immune, integumentary, skeletal, muscle, and reproductive.  And this doesn’t even include microbiology!  What about our 30 billion cells?  What about our DNA?  All of these systems work to do a very specific function and yet all work together to express the person who lives inside.  What an incredible testimony to our intentional God!  And Paul called the Church the Body of Christ!

How does the idea of “random church” fit into this?

  • The Church is the Family of God

“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless. So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church, because we are members of His body. FOR THIS REASON A MAN SHALL LEAVE HIS FATHER AND MOTHER AND SHALL BE JOINED TO HIS WIFE, AND THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH. This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church.”  (Ephesians 5:25-32)

If the church is a family, then it would require structure.

Obviously in any functional family there are certain requirements for it to meet in order for the family “life” to be expressed.  There needs to be a father and a mother.  They need to produce children.  The parents need to manage the household so that the children are protected, taught, and raised to be decent adults.

“He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him with a view to an administration suitable to the fullness of the times, that is, the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things on the earth.”   (Ephesians 1:9-10)

Did you know that your God has an administration?  He also has a purpose and a plan!  Actually, the administration (or economy) is the working out of His plan or purpose.  The purpose is to sum up all things in Christ!  He is going to do this in and through His Church, His Building, His Body, His Bride, and His Family.

“To me, the very least of all saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unfathomable riches of Christ, and to bring to light what is the administration of the mystery which for ages has been hidden in God who created all things; so that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places. This was in accordance with the eternal purpose which He carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord,”
(Ephesians 3:8-11)

The Greek word for “administration” here literally means the economy of a household.

How does the idea of “random church” fit into this?

  • The Church is the Community of God

“Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.”  (Genesis 1:26-27)

If the church is a community, then it would require structure.

Mankind was originally created to be a corporate entity.  That is, the image of the community life of God.  God is a community of three Persons who are one.  Each Person is distinct with their own characteristics and roles, but there is only ONE God.  God spoke in the plural when he created man because he wanted man to be, live, and function as many persons who are one.  Of course, we see this exemplified in John chapter 17.  Is there relationship in this community?  Is there structure in this community?  Is there mutual submission and love in this community?  Do the Father, Son, and Spirit meet randomly and without purpose?

Can you image if the community of the Godhead was run like a “random-church”?  Wow!  We would all be in a heap of trouble!

How does the idea of “random church” fit into this?

What About Meetings?

Should we have regularly scheduled meetings of the church?  Is God concerned about the content and expression of our gatherings?  Should we take the time and effort to actually plan before hand for the assembly?  Should we spiritually prepare to bring our portion of Christ? Interestingly enough the word “church” (ekklesia) means the called out assembly.  It was a secular word used for town meetings or assemblies.  In a sense, Jesus told us that he would build his own “town meetings”!  These town meetings happened on a regular basis in the first century and always had a plan and purpose.  They were not random!  Besides that, it absolutely amazes me when I read the amount of detail that Paul goes into when he describes a meeting of the whole church.  Why not read it for yourself right now in 1 Corinthians 14?  He gets into incredible detail about what should happen and what should not happen in a meeting of the saints.  And then there is the clincher line at the end:

“let all things be done decently and in order.”  (1 Corinthians 14:40)

There is an order for every meeting!  Did you know that?  

Yes, God has a purpose, a plan, and an order for every single meeting of the church!

Now here is the BIG question:

How do we find out what His plan is for the church meetings, community life, work, seasons, and so on?

There is only one way…  by seeking Him together!

The Headship of Christ can only be executed by the Body as we find His Mind together!

So we can see that God definitely does have a purpose, plan, design, and detailed execution of that plan for every local church.  However, this requires the members of the Body to all seek God’s will (mind) together and then gather to make decisions according to His mind.

In Conclusion

There are some definite conclusions we can arrive at about “random church” after considering all of the overwhelming evidence in Scripture and in God’s creation.  Our God is definitely a purposeful planning God and the idea of a random church just doesn’t measure up at all to His nature or to His revelation found in the Bible.

In fact, this whole concept that is currently floating around  those who have left the institutional church system is playing right into the hand of God’s enemy!  It actually reeks of the “spirit of the age”.  I would call this spirit and culture the “whatever” culture.  There is no commitment, no responsibility, and no mutual submission.  Just do whatever!  Everyone is just too busy to actually spend the time required to be built together into a close knit community, house, body, bride, and family.  After all, social networks of friends don’t interfere with your busy lifestyle.  You don’t need to invest your life into others, just text them or Facebook them!

In other words:

The random church is a cross-less church!

The work of the cross in the life of believers is circumvented because they never have the opportunity and responsibility of laying down their lives for one another.  And yet it is this very life of the cross that transforms us into spiritual people!  (see the first letter to the carnal Corinthians)  The idea of the random church is actually and totally of the flesh and from the evil one!

Brothers and sisters, can I make it any clearer?

How can our precious Lord ever get His expression with such a loosely-knit and cross-less people?  Where are the believers who are totally sold out to Christ and his eternal purpose?  Where are the “reckless” ones who will throw all caution to the wind and believe God and totally live for Him and His Kingdom?

The Bottom Line

It seems to me that most Christians want to jump from one extreme to another.  First, we adopt hierarchical leadership forms and oppressive structures.  Then, we jump to the other extreme of absolutely no structure, no planning, and then jump onto the random church bandwagon.  When really the answer lies in the truth that our God is an intentional God who has an eternal purpose, and He has a plan and and administrative order to fulfill that plan.  The Church is to be His expression (image) so shouldn’t we also be very purposeful?

But Here is the Key to it All:

That purpose, plan, and administration must all come from His very own Life!!!

The institution is a result of human life.  The random church is a result of human life.

The true Church of Jesus Christ plans and functions only according to His Life.  She executes decisions only by the Life of the Head according to His will.  That only comes as we lose our own lives and come together to find His mind for the Church!

 

And I leave you with an excellent quote from T. Austin-Sparks:

From observation of the maladies which come upon the people of God and bring arrest to His work through them, we have been much impressed with the fact that the violation of a Divine order is the cause of much trouble. If it is true that what God is doing in this age is not just saving individuals as such but in constituting a “Body” and building a “House” by the addition of each saved one, then the right position in each is vital to its perfect functioning and its heavenly order. There is an order, and there is a position for each member. It is not given to us – let us say it with emphasis – it is not given to us to appoint the place or to manipulate into position. That is the work of the Holy Spirit. What we do say is that each member has his or her place and God knows what it is. Under the sovereignty of the Holy Spirit each member should come into that place. If they fail to do so or get into a wrong place, they fail in their essential ministry and upset the effectiveness of the Body.

“God hath set.” Articulation is essential to life. “Unto each is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ” (Eph. 4:7).

“Having therefore, gifts differing according to grace” (Rom. 12:6).

There are not a few illustrations of dislocation and irregularity in the Scriptures:-

Dathan and Abiram and their company (Numbers 6).
Aaron and Miriam (Numbers 12).
Saul going over the head of Samuel (1 Sam. 13:9).
Uzziah presuming into the priest’s office (2 Chron. 26).

Paul has very much to say on matters of order in the Church, and it is not merely the individual position which is of importance, but the relative factor and element. Independent action is as dangerous as dislocation, it robs of covering and protection and exposes to enemy forces. There is a heavenly order, a spiritual system, and the relationships and ministries of believers are to be upon those spiritual principles and a reflection of that heavenly order.

taken from:  Chapter 4 – The Paralysis of a Spiritual Irregularity

 

 

The Intentionality of God – Part 2

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This is part 2 of The Intentionality of God blog posts. If you have not read Part 1 I strongly suggest that you do so by going to this page: Intentionality Part 1.  (The link will open a new window so when you are done reading it you can come back to this page.)

In part one of this series I attempted to illustrate the intentional nature of our God by using several examples within the created (physical) universe. Obviously, the creation will reflect some of the aspects of the Creator Himself. As you read this post I am sure you can see how intentional God really is. He doesn’t do anything randomly or by accident. He always has an intention (or purpose), a plan (or administration), and an expression of that purpose, which is the fulfillment of the intention.

As I pointed out in part one, the first creation (of the physical universe) is just called “creation” in the scriptures. However, we see in the New Testament, that God also has a New Creation which was actually a precursor to the first creation.

“remember that you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace, and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity.” (Ephesians 2:12-16)

It is apparent through this passage (and many others) that what God wanted all along was one new man. The word “man” here can also be translated “mankind” or “humanity”. This is the new creation. God wanted a new race that was neither gentile or jew but a whole new creation. But was God still intentional with this new race? Did He have a specific purpose, plan, economy, and goal in mind with this new humanity?

YES!!! Even more so than the first creation. Remember I told you that the whole reason God created the physical universe was to “house” or provide an “environment” for the new creation (or humanity)? If this is true then wouldn’t it stand to reason that the shadows and types we see in the Old Testament would point us to the spiritual reality that we see in the New Testament?

For neither is circumcision anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation.” (Galatians 6:15)

Here, Paul is telling us in one sentence that God’s whole intention behind creation has to do with the New Creation. Here, he is pointing us to the spiritual reality behind God’s intention not merely the foreshadows we see in the Old Testament. However, those shadows (or types) can reveal to us the spiritual principles behind the New Creation, that is, the Body of Christ!

See Israel according to the flesh! are not those eating the sacrifices in the fellowship of the altar?” (1 Corinthians 10:18)

Here Paul is calling the physical nation of Israel: Israel according to the flesh.

“For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh. But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from men, but from God.” (Romans 2:28-29)

Here, Paul reveals that the true Jew is a spiritual reality, not one of the physical, natural nation. So therefore, is it possible to see aspects of God’s intentionality with his new creation in the “shadow” of the natural Jewish nation? I believe that it is. All of the features that we see in the old physical nation of Israel show us spiritual principles and features that apply to the true new Israel, that is, the Church of Jesus Christ!

“Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. He does not say, “And to seeds,” as referring to many, but rather to one, “And to your seed,” that is, Christ.” (Galatians 3:16)

Features of the Nation:

Separation

God strictly forbade the intermarriage of the Jewish nation with any other people or nation. The main reason for this was the fact of the “other gods” and the opening up of the door of the spiritual realm concerning those “gods”. God considered this to be “fornication” because his relationship with Israel was one of a spiritual marriage. The nation of Israel was to be separate, they were to be distinct, they were to be wholly for God. This was to preserve the seed!

Cohesion

Because of their natural blood line, the nation of Israel was to be one. They were one (naturally speaking) because they were all natural born descendants of Abraham. They were from that same seed. They were from that one family. Even though they may be scattered all over the earth, yet when you meet them you can tell they are still of one clan, one family, one nation. This is because of the “seed” of Abraham. But remember that Paul tells us that the spiritual reality of Abraham’s seed is Christ! (Gal. 3:16). In the New Testament we see that spiritual seed having one origin, one source, and one life-principle. That is the meaning behind John 17!

A Common Food

Notice with me that Israel in the flesh has a common diet! They all eat the same things at the same time. Their diet is mainly determined by the law of Moses. It is a healthy diet that gives them all strength and vigor. We can see that through the eating of the lamb before leaving Egypt.

As spiritual Israel we all are to eat and drink the same thing… Christ Himself!

“For I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud and all passed through the sea; and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea; and all ate the same spiritual food; and all drank the same spiritual drink, for they were drinking from a spiritual rock which followed them; and the rock was Christ.” (1 Corinthians 10:1-4)

“So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves. “He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. “For My flesh is true food, and My blood is true drink. “He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. “As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats Me, he also will live because of Me. “This is the bread which came down out of heaven; not as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live forever.” (John 6:53-58)

The Tabernacle, the offerings, and the priestly functions

Our very intentional God left nothing to chance! He gave them very detailed instructions on how to build and erect the tabernacle. He also gave explicit instructions on how to perform the priestly ministry along with all of the offerings. If you don’t believe me you can read it for yourselves in Exodus through Deuteronomy. God had a purpose, a plan, a design, and an execution. And all of those things speak to us of Jesus Christ and His Church!

“You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me;” (John 5:39)

The Law of Moses

The law given to the nation of Israel in the flesh also speaks of our new life in Christ. It is the same law for all believers, for everyone who is part of the true spiritual Israel. In fact, it is the only way that any of the other features will be expressed in the nation of God’s people. Without this law, the Body of Christ will simply be another social club, “do-gooders”, or “network” of friends. This law is the glue that holds it all together. It’s the source by which all decisions are made. It’s the vehicle by which seasons and directions are determined. It’s the heart pulse of this corporate people.

“For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit.” (Romans 8:2-5)

You see we, as the new humanity, we live under a law as well. It’s not the law of Moses and it’s not written on tablets of stone. Rather, it is the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus. And it is by His Life within us that we find the mind of Christ to make decisions. And it is by this law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus (who lives within us!) that we live our lives individually and corporately.

All of these features (and many more) concerning Israel in the flesh are “pictures” and “shadows” of the Israel of God, the true Israel, the New Humanity, the Church!

“For neither is circumcision anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation. And those who will walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God.” (Galatians 6:15-16)

In the next blog post (part 3) we will look at the point of all of this intentionality and purpose and how this is practically worked out in the New Testament house of God, the true Israel.

You won’t want to miss this one!

Read Part 3

The Intentionality of God – Part 1

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May the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ be eulogized, the One who conferred benefactions upon us in the sphere of every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, even as He selected us out for himself in Him before the foundations of the universe were laid, to be holy ones and without blemish before His searching, penetrating gaze; in love having previously marked us out to be placed as adult sons through the intermediate agency of Jesus Christ for himself according to that which seemed good in His heart’s desire, resulting in praise of the glory of His grace which He freely bestowed upon us in the Beloved, in whom we are having our redemption through His blood, the putting away of our trespasses according to the wealth of His grace which He caused to superabound to us in the sphere of every wisdom and understanding, having made known to us the mystery of His will according to that which seemed good to Him, which good thing He purposed in himself, with respect to an administration of the completion of the epochs of time to bring back again to their original state all things in the Christ, the things in the heavens and the things on the earth, in Him, in whom also we were made an inheritance, having been previously marked out according to the purpose of the One who operates all things according to the counsel of His will, with a view to our being to the praise of His glory who had previously placed our hope in the Christ, in whom also, as for you, having heard the word of the truth, the good news of your salvation, in whom also having believed, you were sealed with the Spirit of the promise, the Holy Spirit, who is the token payment of our inheritance guaranteeing the full payment of all, looking forward to the redemption of the possession which is being preserved with a view to the praise of His glory.” (Ephesians 1:3-14 Wuest Translation)

This blog post and the next will cover two aspects of the intentional nature of God. This first part will cover the intentionality of God’s nature and character. The second part will cover the intentionality of God’s eternal purpose in Christ. In essence, the way that I am going to show these two aspects is by referring to the two creations; the old creation (the physical universe), and the new creation (Christ and God’s purpose in Christ).

Our God has an intention. He has a purpose. You could say that he has a goal in mind. The above passage in Ephesian chapter one is absolutely mind boggling in both it’s fullness and it’s scope. It gives us an incredible insight into the very nature of our God. Everything God does is absolutely pregnant with purpose and intentionality. To make it easier to understand let’s map it out this way:

https://miltrodriguez.files.wordpress.com/2016/11/intentionality.jpg?w=1462

This basic map shows the process of having a purpose, designing and planning toward that purpose, taking practical steps towards the fulfillment of that purpose. And then the actual realization or consummation of that purpose. This is how we approach every project that we tackle. But where did we get this from? Did we just make it up? Of course not! Since we are made in the image of God we approach the completion of a project in a similar way. Now let’s take a look at how our endlessly creative God approached the creation of the physical universe. But before we do, it’s very important that you realize that God had a purpose before the physical universe. In fact, it was that purpose that motivated God to create the physical creation. We will call it the first creation for that is exactly what it is in the mind and heart of God. He created the second creation, that is the physical universe, in order to facilitate and create an environment for the first creation. This first creation is called the New Creation in the New Testament. However, it’s actually older than the Old Creation. Is that confusing or what? Let me put it this way: since the first(new) creation is eternal, that means that it actually existed inside of God before the Old Creation (the physical universe). This will make more sense in the next part of this blog post! For now, let’s just say that the physical universe that you see around you was created for this new creation.

Now, let’s take a very brief look at the degree of intensity of God’s intention, design, planning, and structure inherent in this created physical universe.

For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.” (Romans 1:20)

Our Atmosphere and Outer Space

Did you know that during a lightning storm two gases are combined? The lightning bolt produces nitrogen and then combines it with the hydrogen in the water to produce fertilizer. The fertilizer falls to the earth to cause plants to grow!

“Lift up your eyes on high And see who has created these stars, The One who leads forth their host by number, He calls them all by name; Because of the greatness of His might and the strength of His power, Not one of them is missing.” (Isaiah 40:26)

Our sun produces more energy in one second than all of mankind has produced since Adam and Eve. The sun also drives all weather on the earth.

The visible universe contains more than one hundred billion galaxies. Each of these galaxies has a diameter of millions of trillions of miles wide. Each galaxy contains hundreds of billions of stars. And yet the scripture says that God has given them all names and calls them by their names! Just think, our God not only created all those stars, he also named them all and keeps them all in their places to function properly.

In the twentieth century it was discovered that the universe is expanding all the time. Scripture tells us that God stretches out the heavens like a garment. Isaiah 40:22

Inner Space

Look at the structure and intention behind a single atom! Or further yet, the properties of water. This one element supports all life upon the earth. It makes an excellent solvent, coolant, and transporter.

How about the complexity of a snow flake crystal? They are complex, symmetrical, and beautiful. And each one of them is unique! What an amazing and creative God! They are structured and patterned. Just like we humans are each unique and different.

DNA – the blueprint for all life

It is by far the most dense information system known to man. For example, the amount of information contained within one pinhead of DNA would fill a stack of books five hundred times higher than from here to the moon! The program code and design of such a system shows us a God who is an extremely intelligent and a structured designer.

All human life begins with one single cell. How does that tiny cell know how to reproduce itself and grow into a body of one hundred trillion cells? It is by the genetic code. This DNA is the manufacturer’s manual. Not only that, but there are also “editorial” enzymes that travel up and down the DNA strands checking for damage and repairing it.

Seeds

The seed is the reproductive structure that God made for all of life. All seeds (whether plant, animal, or human) are complex systems to reproduce life. Everything needed for the future life is contained within the tiny seed.

How does the seed know how or when to grow? How does it know which way the root is to grow and which way the stem is to grow? How does it know that it needs the soil, water and warmth in order to grow? Obviously, God purposed, planned, and designed these tiny “embryos” to do what was needed.

Animals

How does a school of fish know when to turn or to dart into another direction? How does a flock of starlings fly so close together and change direction so quickly? (These movements are called murmurations and you can view them on youtube.com). Actually, there is no one leader who controls the flock. Instead, they move together instinctively. It’s usually initiated by a predator nearby and each bird communicates (very quickly!) to the seven birds immediately around him. Then those seven birds communicate to the seven birds around each of them. This is how they can make a decision to move so quickly. It’s corporate communication!

Conclusion

Obviously, I could go on for pages and pages about seeing the nature of our God in his creation. But I think you get the point! Our God is extremely intentional and purposeful. He is an incredible planner and designer. He planned and planned and even micro-planned! This was all according to his divine intention. His Ultimate Intention which we will explore in part two of this post. Look for it soon. I am building toward something here folks so please stay with me!

Resources:

“God of Wonders” video:
Watch on Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/God-of-Wonders-291921489991/

The Ultimate Intention
book by DeVern Fromke

Read Part 2

Is Christ Enough? Changes

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A voice came to him, “Get up, Peter, kill and eat!” But Peter said, “By no means, Lord, for I have never eaten anything unholy and unclean.” Again a voice came to him a second time, “What God has cleansed, no longer consider unholy.”
(Acts 10:13-15)
“As he was traveling, it happened that he was approaching Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him; and he fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” And he said, “Who are You, Lord?” And He said, “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting, but get up and enter the city, and it will be told you what you must do.”
(Acts 9:3-6)

The Lord has been dealing with us lately with such things as flexibility as opposed to rigidity.  Especially in the midst of change.  Now we have said for many years that the Lord deals with us (both individually and corporately) in “seasons”.  Just like in nature there are seasons: Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter; so there are seasons in God’s dealings with us and also in his work.  However, these “seasons” aren’t nearly as predictable as the natural ones!  At least not for us.  Obviously, God knows what is going on and planned these things from before time.  But the problem is that our vision just isn’t that eternal yet!  Our flesh, our natural man likes things that are predictable, revealed way in advance, and things that we are already comfortable with.  But God just doesn’t operate that way when he is dealing with us.  He operates in this completely “other”, eternal realm called faith.

Endless Variety

We must remember that our God is a God of endless variety and beauty. Just a look at the natural world will show you that! Just take a look at all of the varieties of plants, animals, and people. And that’s just the visible creation on this planet alone! Even within the seasons there is variety and changes. What about the “unseasonable” weather we have all experienced?  Even within the seasons that God takes us through there is variety.

Timing

Then there is the whole area of the timing of the Lord.  We know that his timing is not our timing and his ways are not our ways.  He does things his way and in his time!  Most of us reading this post right now agree with and understand these things.  But there is a huge problem.

We so quickly get settled, and even cemented, into the ways that we have been in or are in right now!

God is moving on and we are now stuck in the last movement or enlargement of God.  You see, I am not here even referring to missing the Lord in his timing or ways.  I am referring to getting “stuck” in the past (or current) situation that he himself took us through.

Comfort Zones

I find that the older I get the quicker I am to settle down into a comfort zone.  It’s really quite remarkable.  God is always moving us ahead in him.  But many times (especially if we like the season) we will want to stay where we’re at.

This reminds me of the children of Israel wandering in the desert.  God wanted them to take the promised Canaan land but they wandered around in a wilderness for forty years that only takes two weeks to cross!  Of course, the manna is a classic example.  God (for a season) fed them with the manna from heaven.  It would daily come down to provide their food.  However, they could not store it up for the future or even the next day!  They needed to trust God for their daily bread every single day.  Then, the time came when the manna was no longer being provided and now God was sending quail.  But they were used to manna!

Outside the Box

Then there was our friend Peter.  God wanted to include the Gentiles in his eternal purpose to have an expression of his Son on the earth (the Church).  Actually, he always had included the gentiles, but most of the Jews could not see the true spiritual Israel that Paul writes about in the letter to the Galatians.  Peter had to receive a dramatic rooftop vision to get the picture.  Even then, he was refusing to rise up and eat those “unclean” animals.  You see God was doing a new thing.  At least it was new in the eyes of Peter.  The apostle had always only thought within a very limited Jewish “box” and anything outside of that box was unthinkable.

But then there was our friend Paul! Now this guy was much more ingrained into the Jewish religion than Peter.  He was a real Pharisee, a Hebrew of Hebrews, as to the righteousness found in the Law, completely blameless (Philippians 3).  So you can see why God needed to knock him down and strike him with physical blindness in order that he would receive a vision!  He had to see that the church he was persecuting was the actual Christ Himself! (see Acts 9)  Saul was transformed into Paul and changed from a persecutor of the church to a master builder of the church.

In both of these examples (Peter and Paul) God had to break them out of their comfort zones in order for him to do something new.  It wasn’t something either of them expected or ever considered.

The Main Point

The main takeaway of this post is simply this:

God doesn’t want us to follow “ways”, he wants us to follow the Way!  Jesus Christ IS the Way.  Brothers and sisters, don’t get stuck in ways of knowing Him or doing things for Him.  Those “ways” will change and what worked today may not work tomorrow.  That’s because the way of the Lord is Christ, Himself, the Person!  Knowing Him and following Him and abiding Him is the key to every day and every work.  The true Foundation is only Christ and He is to be everything in our lives.  Not only individually but also corporately.  That’s why seeking him is so important for every step along the way.  Waiting upon him and not moving ahead of him is equally important.

Don’t be afraid of change

Don’t get stuck in a rut

Don’t get comfortable in past ways of doing things or systems of thought and procedure

Be flexible, be open

God’s change always brings about enlargement!

God’s new thing always brings in an abundance of Life!

 

Is Christ Enough? Sexuality

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Seeing What’s Really Going On Behind the Scenes

There is no doubt whatsoever that things are radically changing in our world.  One area that is definitely changing is the whole arena of sexuality.  Wow, has this changed in the last 60 years!  Now this post will be very controversial just like the others in this “Is Christ Enough?” series.  But I ask my readers to bear with me until the end of the post.  I am going to make some majorly important points at the end.  So please hang in there with me.

The Current Situation

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that sexuality is changing around us.  Especially if you have been around for fifty years or more!  There have definitely been some major changes within the last three or four decades.  Please let me give you what I have observed in my 63 years.  Note- this is merely an observation and not a judgement or assessment of the morality or correctness of our current situation.

Crossing the Line of Male and Female Distinctions

What we have seen in the last thirty years is an attempt at doing away with all sexual distinctions and so-called prejudices.  The act of sex between male and female is no longer exclusive to that combination and now includes male with male and female with female.  The homosexual (gays and lesbians) world is vying for equality, acceptance, civil rights, and equal “air time” in the media and the government.  The arts are now opening up to this so called “movement”.  For example, more and more movies are being made with and about homosexual (and now transgender) relationships.

No longer is it just gay and lesbians, but now we have the LGBT movement which includes lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgender/transsexuals.

 … attitudes toward gays and lesbians have changed so much in just the last 10 years that, as Gallup reported last week, “half or more now agree that being gay is morally acceptable, that gay relations ought to be legal and that gay or lesbian couples should have the right to legally marry.” (In 1996, when Gallup first asked about legalizing same-sex marriage, 68% of Americans were opposed.)  By Mark Z. Barabak, Los Angeles Times  May 20, 2012

So what we are seeing around us is the fastest growing movement in history.  The majority opinion has gone from general opposition to acceptance in a decade!  And since now our whole nation (U.S.) has legalized same-sex marriages (see this article on Wikipedia) opposition has apparently become a moot point.

But that’s not all…

Now We Also Have the “Gender Blender”

Recently, fashion designers like Gucci and hip boutiques have begun selling what’s being called gender-neutral or gender-free clothing: clothes that can be worn by either men or women. (Both The New York Times style section and The Guardian have recently covered this trend.)
Then there was Target’s announcement in August that the retail giant would be eliminating gendered language in its children’s toys and bedding, transgender celebrity Caitlyn Jenner’s Vanity Fair cover and singer Miley Cyrus’ self-identification as gender-fluid.  (taken from CNN Style.com By Mary Rizzo, The Conversation)

 

Recently I was shopping for a coat at a “stylish” clothing store. I have to say that I was confused as to whether I was in the men’s section or the women’s. The coats looked very feminine to me. And my wife agreed! But it’s not just in clothing, it’s also in hair styles. Have you noticed recently that more and more “hip” and “trendy” hair styles among young people are unisex? What about the shaved head with a bun on the top? What about a bushy Mohawk on top with a shaved head? These hair styles are usually accompanied by tats all over the arms.  Now, please keep in mind that I am not making any judgement calls about any of these things.  I am merely reporting what I am observing.  My point of all this will be at the end of this post.

Uni What?

There is also the whole unisex movement around the world.  Did you know that the idea and implementation of unisex restrooms has become a huge debate around the world?  As I write this post cities around the world are actually voting on measures known as “bathroom ordinances” which would prohibit discrimination based upon gender identity.  This is coming about mostly because of the transgender issue.  If, for example, someone decided to change their sex, then which restroom can they now use?  Because the transgender community is growing, now many people and institutions are feeling forced to redefine sexuality and gender altogether.  No doubt, the next step will be bi-gender movement.  These people are both male AND female either physically, psychologically, or both.  Now society will have to not only accept this but re-frame all social structures to fit into this new lifestyle.

What About Sexual Intercourse and the Marriage Relationship?

Moving on from the “Gender Blender” stuff let’s now take a look at marriage (between a man and a woman) as a life choice and institution.  Wow!  Have things changed in this area or what?  First let’s take a look at the stats on marriage:

Professor Stanley at the University of Denver suggests that people consider the following statements:

  • About 31 percent of a person’s friends, aged 35 to 54, who are married, engaged or cohabiting have already previously been married.
  • People who have been married many years (say, 35-plus) and have never been divorced have almost no chance of the marriage ending in divorce.
  • The rate of divorce per year per 1,000 people has been declining since 1980.
  • A young couple marrying for the first time today has a lifetime divorce risk of 40 percent, “unless current trends change significantly.”

However…

What these stats don’t tell you is that less and less people are even getting married at all!

The marriage rate in America has hit a record low and is expected to drop even further next year, according to a company that specializes in wedding and fertility trend forecasts. But some experts speculate that the headline-grabbing recent retreat from marriage may be bottoming out.

Others have made similar findings. A Pew Research Center report recently said that one-fourth of millennials are likely to eschew marriage entirely.

And of course these stats are for marriages that are men and women.

What’s in a Word?

Now there is something else that has become more and more pervading throughout our society.  That is the use of the “F” word.

Recently I was getting some work done on my laptop in a McDonald’s restaurant.  All of a sudden about 50 junior high school kids overtook the place with a very loud and tumultuous roar.  At that point it was extremely difficult to hear or think!  I was sitting at a bar (for people with laptops) that seated six people.  Well, it didn’t take long before five young teenage boys sat down at the bar.  Obviously, there must have been a junior high school real close by.

At first, I wasn’t really listening to them because I was trying desperately to block out all the noise so I could continue working.  Unfortunately, I had forgotten my earbuds but I instinctively knew that they wouldn’t have helped much anyway.  Soon my mind began to wander and I found myself listening to these boys.  The first thing I noticed is that just about every fifth word was the “F” word!  It flowed out of them like a sewer hose!  It was obvious that they really didn’t realize what they were saying and that word was just like saying any other word like “a” or “the”.  Then, I started hearing them discussing their sexual conquests and those of people they knew around them in the restaurant.  It was nothing for them to say things like. “yeah, I F—- Suzie” and “I heard that Joey has also already F—- her”.   It was like nothing I had ever heard before.  Treating sex like a sport or something.  It was absolutely frightening! Now whether these sexual “conquests” were based in reality or not is not really my point.  The fact that they were thinking and talking like that is my point!

About two weeks later I was driving near that same spot and was waiting at a traffic light.  As I was sitting there a crowd of young teenagers walked across the street in the crosswalk right in front of me.  Guess what?  They were all using the “F’ word loud and clear!

Of course, we have all noticed that language has changed in our culture all around us.  We can see and hear it in movies, music, art, the internet, etc.  For many, true marriage with one person (for all your life) is looked down upon and is outdated in this sexually “enlightened” culture.  Sex, is now something separate from true marriage (with one male and one female) and is considered to be as a “sport”.

NOW FOR MY PROMISED POINT!

First of all, before we can discover what is truly going on here, we need to ask the all pervading question: “WHY?”

WHY has sexuality changed radically in our culture in the last 50 years?

WHY are gender roles and definitions being changed and blended into one big pot?

WHY are we now moving to a unisex format?

WHY? is traditional marriage becoming a thing of the past?

WHY are our children now seeing sex as a sport for any age and using the “F” word?

The answer might actually shock you!  It’s something far deeper than the breakout of our society or world system.  Yes, of course, it is tied into the world system.

The apostle John told us something very revealing about the system(s) of this world.

We know that we are of God, and that the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.(1 John 5:19)

Okay, so understanding that, what do you think the enemy of God is up to in this area of sexuality?

He is attempting to assault, mock, and destroy the testimony of God’s eternal purpose in this world!

Considering the fact that most Christians don’t even know (let alone understand) the eternal purpose of God, this should not come as a shock to us.  Dear believer, I implore you, if you do not know what I am writing about please read other posts on this blog that have to do with the “eternal purpose”.  Do so in a spirit of prayer asking God for his revelation in this all important matter.

Now, you may be asking: “Milt, how does attacking sexuality and marriage in our world attack the testimony of God’s eternal purpose?”

Well, I am really glad you asked that!  🙂

Paul does a wonderful job of summing it up for us in this passage:

Ephesians 5:22 (22-33) The wives, be putting yourselves in subjection with implicit obedience to your own husbands as to the Lord, because a husband is head of the wife as the Christ is Head of the Church, He himself being the Saviour of the Body. Nevertheless, as the Church subjects itself in obedience to the Christ, in this manner also the wives should subject themselves in obedience to their husbands in all things. The husbands, be loving your wives with a love self-sacrificial in its nature, in the manner in which Christ also loved the Church and gave himself on behalf of it, in order that He might sanctify it, having cleansed it by the bath of water in the sphere of the Word, in order that He might himself present to himself the Church glorious, not having spot nor wrinkle nor any of such things, but in order that it might be holy and unblamable. In this manner ought also the husbands to love their wives as their own bodies. The one who loves his own wife loves himself, for no one ever yet hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, even as the Christ, the Church, because members are we of His Body. Because of this a man shall leave behind his father and his mother and shall be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. This mystery is great. However, I am speaking with regard to Christ and the Church. Nevertheless, also as for you, let each one in this manner be loving his own wife as himself, and the wife, let her be continually treating her husband with deference and reverential obedience. (Wuest’s Expanded Translation)

There it is! There you have it! In case you didn’t get it, I will spell it out for you. Paul tells us that the physical marriage union is a picture, an image, a shadow of something much deeper and higher. It is a reflection of the spiritual marriage between Jesus Christ and His lovely Bride, the Church! And this is all about him getting what he has wanted since before creation. That is, an image, an expression, a family, a body, a bride, a city, a tree (vine and branches), a new kingdom, a new humanity, and a new creation! This is so that the fullness of Christ would be expressed and displayed to all creation (visible and invisible) through this “woman” “wife” if you will.

I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might which He brought about in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.
(Ephesians 1:18-23)

So… of course the enemy of God will do whatever he can to stain and tarnish the picture of His eternal purpose.

Starting Organic Churches – New Ebook!

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Starting Organic Churches  (FREE Ebook!)

A Short and Simple Guide for the Newbie

By Milt Rodriguez

It’s now very documented that over 60 million American Christians have left the institutional/traditional churches over the last ten years! What is going on? Are these folks dropping out of everything? Have they fallen away from the faith? On the contrary, they are looking for MORE! That is, they are looking for much more than they received from the institutions. They are looking for more of the life of Jesus Christ in His people. They are looking for more freedom to live by and serve this Christ. They are looking for a Family, a group of believers who share their lives together. In other words, they are longing for the authentic expression of Christ in and through His Body, Bride, House, Kingdom, and Community!

Milt Rodriguez and his wife Mary have been starting and planting organic expressions of this community since 1990. They have learned much through trial and error, making a ton of mistakes, and yet never giving up. In this ebook, Milt will share with you how to start such groups of Christians. Written both as a spiritual and a practical guide, Milt will share with you his knowledge and experience. If you have longing to experience this kind of life and want to help start new groups that have a much better chance of making it towards that goal, then this is the book for you!

In this ebook you will learn the following:

    • Contacting some believers (and/or unbelievers) who may be interested
    • Opening up your home (or someone else’s) for some initial gatherings
    • Sharing your vision and purpose for starting such a community
    • Meeting together on a regular basis to get to know one another (in and out of meetings)
    • Gaining more of a revelation of Christ
    • Calling for an experienced church planter to help lay the foundation of Christ
    • Practical guidelines and steps to follow through which each of these!
    • Many resources to use and apply (and edit) for your own use!

Special bonuses!

      Future revisions and additions sent directly to your email!

Plus there is a very special offer that Milt is presenting at the very end of the book!

Help is on the way!  The book is NOW released.

Click Here to Download Your FREE Copy!

Christ in the Story

This blog post is actually a podcast!  The message is taken from the Infusion SoCal 2014 conference in which I spoke with Jon Zens and some other new co-workers in southern California.  What I attempted to do in this message is tell the story of the New Testament church.  However, I added some things.  Not to the story, but to my presentation of it.  One thing I did was to preach the gospel (which is Christ!) from Paul’s letter to the Colossians chapter one.  I did this throughout the telling of the story.  The other thing I did was to compare our popular messages preached and written today to that original message of the first century.

I hope that you will enjoy this message.  Please let me know your responses by commenting.  Thanks!

 

 

 

Laying a Foundation of Christ Alone

Since we have covered The Sending of God and how he calls, prepares, and sends out workers; and have discussed in a podcast “How God Makes a Worker”, I thought it only fitting to also end this series of posts with the idea of “planting” or laying a foundation for the church.

This, along with the sending, has almost been totally lost in our modern day thinking and application of how we start churches. Yet the foundation is everything! The beginning of a church will greatly determine the far reaching future of that church.

First, let’s look at the scriptural meaning of the word “planting”.

I realize that this term has been misused and misapplied by many organizations in the past. It’s usually used by missionaries or missionary agencies to denote the beginning of a “church” in the field. However, the apostle Paul never went on any “missionary journeys”. The idea of missions, missionaries, and missionary organizations and agencies are an invention of the institutional modern day church. The only thing we see in the story of the New Testament is the Work and the Church. The Work is those who are called, prepared, and sent out to preach Christ and plant churches. The Church is the universal term used by Christ in Matt. 16 to denote all believers in Christ. The churches (local) are the groups of believers that were planted by the workers in different localities. Christ referred to the churches (local) in Matt. 18. 

1.) “Planting” is a scriptural term and is even defined by Paul in 1 Cor. 3:6-17. Here, Paul uses two images or types of “planting”.  One is agricultural (planting and watering), and the other is architectural (foundation and building).  In the context of this passage it is quite clear that he is using both images to say the same thing.  In other words, planting is the same as laying a foundation.  Watering is the same as building upon the foundation.  But it’s very clear that the foundation (in both natural life and in the church) comes first!  You can’t have a very good building without a foundation.  Also, you will not have a very healthy tree if you don’t first plant it into the ground!

Also, it’s very important that in this passage Paul tells us what (or who) the foundation actually is: Jesus Christ! This is not referring to doctrines, teaching, theological systems and so forth. The foundation is actually the Person of Jesus Christ, that is, his very life! There can be no other foundation if we are going to have a church according to the mind of God. Also, as a quick sidenote, Paul stated clearly elsewhere that not only was the foundation he laid Christ, but the gospel he announced was also Christ (He Himself).

… to whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ.“ (Col 1:27-28) 

Now, I’m sure that you agree with what I have said so far.  However, notice with me that both the planting and the watering were associated with certain individuals.  “I (Paul) planted and Apollos watered.”  Notice that individuals plant and water the church, not the church itself!  Of course, these individuals are specifically called, prepared and sent by God to perform this task.  This pattern holds true throughout the whole New Testament beginning with Jesus Christ Himself. 

2.)  We know that God’s ways are not our ways and His thoughts are not our thoughts.  It’s very important that our minds are renewed to function with His thoughts and His ways.  If not, then we will make the same mistakes that Christianity has made in the past that have resulted in the man-made institutions. 

God sends people to plant and water the church.  There is no record of a church planting or watering itself.  Even the new groups in Judea and Samaria (as a result of Saul’s persecution) were visited by apostolic workers for the purpose of laying a foundation of Christ alone (see Acts 8:14 and Acts 8-10). Now, of course, if there has been someone who has planted (laid a foundation) of Christ in that group then we definitely have no business coming to plant since Paul said that he never built upon another man’s foundation (Rom. 15:20).  If the group has already been planted then I would ask the question: who was the person who planted it? 

3.) Starting a group is not the same thing as planting a church.  Not even close!  People start Christian groups all over the place all the time.  But do these groups have the true foundation of Jesus Christ (and only Christ)?  According to the New Testament this can only happen if someone has been called, prepared, and sent to do that work.  Unfortunately, this is very rare and that is (in a large part) why we are in the mess that we are in.

* However, we see in the New Testament story that there were some that were used to help “pre-plant” a church, that is, these folks would open their home, invited people to meet with them, and then call for the help of an experienced apostolic worker to actually plant the church. An example of this is the couple Priscilla and Aquila. 

(Please understand that we do not use any of these words carelessly or lightly.  They have been tested and proven in the scriptures and throughout history.) 

So, what I have written above, in conjunction with those blog posts that I referenced, should give enough explanation.  But if it doesn’t, then I also recommend the following books that cover this topic much more in depth: 

The Church and the Work by Watchman Nee

The Stewardship of the Mystery by T. Austin-Sparks

Finding Organic Church by Frank Viola

 

How Does God Make a Worker?

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ANNOUNCEMENT!!!  OUR FIRST PODCAST EVER ON THIS BLOG!

A short time ago, ten crazy saints got together to hold a conversation on the topic of “How Does God Make a Worker?“.

For those of you who may not know, my wife Mary and I have been learning to plant organic churches for the last 25 years or so.  In the beginning we had absolutely no experience and had no idea what we were doing.  But we had a vision of His purpose and a strong desire to help see that purpose be fulfilled.  So, for several years we basically experimented on God’s people!  We learned what worked and what didn’t work.  We also learned that we desperately needed some experience in genuine body life ourselves!  After all, how could we impart an experience to a group of believers that we had never experienced (in an intentional way) ourselves?

Well, very fast forward several years and we finally received that experience and training and then were sent out to plant New Testament style organic churches ourselves.  It was still very difficult but we learned much along the way.  Now, we are having the glorious privilege and honor of training others to do the same!  These are all folks who have been in one of the churches we have planted for at least three years and been fully recommended and sent to us for training by their respective churches.

The recording you are about to hear is a session with those eight new workers.  I hope that it will give you a better insight into how God calls, prepares, and sends workers into his harvest.  Enjoy!

Note: By posting this we are by no means claiming to be experts in this field!  I don’t believe anyone is.  We are all still learning and with every church plant we learn new things.  After all, our Christ is so big and so vast that we will never stop learning to experience him and know him!

The Sending – Part 4

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The Sending – Part 4

Since there is so much to say about this topic I have decided to add another part!

In the previous three posts I have shown how God calls, prepares, and sends people out for the work of building his Church. This has been shown through the history and examples we have in the New Testament scriptures. In this post I would like to draw from history to show that this “pattern” of his life has continued with groups of believers who have stood outside the religious system of “Christianity”.

Many believers have no idea that what some are calling “simple church” “house church” “organic church” has actually been happening throughout the centuries. In fact, God has always preserved a testimony to his true church. Of course, just because we call a group of Christians an organic church doesn’t mean it IS one! This needs to be made really clear because these labels are being thrown around all over the place and it’s causing lots of confusion among those seeking true organic body life. In this series of posts I am drawing from three sources:

  • The testimony of the written scriptures (mainly the New Testament)

  • The testimony of saints who have lived this way throughout the centuries

  • The testimony of saints who are currently living this way

In this post I will take short excerpts from various writings describing groups of believers throughout the centuries who have experienced the organic expression of the church in some way.

The Waldensians

Also referred to as Waldenses.

Around A.D. 59 the apostle Paul visited Italy (Syracuse, Sicily, Naples, and Rome). About five years later (64AD) when Nero began his persecution in Rome, some of the believers fled to the Italian alps. Mostly to the areas near Lyons and Turin in the western alps between Italy and France. They settled in the Alpine valleys of Piedmont, one of the most inaccessible areas around. It was very steep, lots of snow, and 12-15,000 foot peaks.

In the quiet seclusion of the mountains they had remained unaffected by the development of the man-made church systems including the Roman church. It was said of them that their whole manner of thought and life was an endeavor to hold fast to the character of original Christianity.

Their churches would send out believers in teams of two to preach Christ and establish churches. These had been called, prepared, and sent to do the Lord’s work. They were called “barbas” which means uncles in contrast to the papacy and the idea of calling other believers “father”. These “sent ones” would receive food and lodging where they went to plant new expressions of Christ (churches) according to the pattern they saw in the New Testament. The barbas chose poverty but it was considered a principal duty of each church to provide for its poor.

These Waldensians (a name used only by their enemies) called one another “brethren”.

These saints were persecuted by the Roman church for over 800 years!

Their history is one of non-stop arrests, torture, imprisonment, beatings, hangings, and burnings!

Brothers and sisters, we stand on their shoulders!

The Anabaptists

In 1522, in the city of Zurich, Switzerland, a young man named Conrad Grebel gave his life to Jesus Christ. His life radically changed and he became an avid supporter of the new reformation and the teachings and reforms of Ulrich Zwingli. Conrad quickly rose to leadership among Zwingli’s followers. However, over time it became apparent that Zwingli and Grebel had different approaches to church reform. Zwingli wanted reform but was unwilling to completely break with the control of the government to achieve them. Grebel didn’t care about what the government wanted, but only cared about God getting what He wanted.

Soon Conrad Grebel, along with his friends Felix Manz and George Blaurock, broke all ties with Zwingli and the state supported reformation in Switzerland. The city of Zurich outlawed all Christian meetings except those of Zwingli. Grebel and his young radical friends soon became the enemies of Zwingli and the state.

The new group of “radicals” grew like wild fire! After a time, Grebel left the work in Zurich to others and traveled with co-workers to surrounding cities to preach Christ and establish new communities of believers under the spiritual principles of the New Testament. They were persecuted by both the Roman church and the Reformers! Grebel, along with thousands of others, lost their lives while still in their early twenties.

These young radicals believed in a total return to the experience and practice of the New Testament church. They believed in the scriptures but did not worship them like their protestant counterparts. The Word of God for the Anabaptists was a Man! And this Man speaks through the writings of the scriptures. They were not a people of the book, but a people of the Man! They also believed in knowing Christ by an inward fellowship and abiding with Him. They also strongly believed in the centrality of Christ and had a strong sense and practice of community life.

Sisters and brothers, we stand on their shoulders!

The Little Flock in China

In the early 1900s God moved sovereignly throughout China.

He apprehended a young man by the name of Nee Shu-tsu (Watchman Nee). Watchman grew quickly in the Lord and began sharing Christ with many in his city and other surrounding villages. Soon, there were new groups of believers raised up by Nee and his young co-workers. This work spread throughout all of the coastal cities then eventually went inward when the Japanese began attacking the coastal cities. Some called them the “Little Flock” though they never adopted any name. They were heavily influenced by the Brethren in England during the 1880s with such men as John Nelson Darby, Robert Govett, D.M. Panton, G.H. Pember, and many others. Also, T. Austin-Sparks in England was a contemporary and considered a mentor by Nee.

They believed strongly in the organic expression of the church in Body life, functioning of all the members, the centrality of Christ, knowing Christ deeply and inwardly, and apostolic work in the sending out of workers to equip and establish churches. They also believed strongly in learning from the legacy of those who had gone before them throughout history.

In the 1960s several workers left China and came to the United States. These co-workers of Nee planted churches throughout the States and eventually throughout the world.

Saints, we stand on their shoulders!

Note: there have been many other groups throughout history that attempted to hold true to the apostolic pattern as seen in the New Testament scriptures. These resources will help you find out more if you are interested:

  • The Pilgrim Church by E.H. Broadbent
  • The Torch of the Testimony by John Kennedy
  • The Secret of the Strength by Peter Hoover
  • The Reformers and Their Stepchildren by Leonard Verduin

 

Stay Tuned! Next week we will present our first podcast ever on this blog!

It will include ten workers having a conversation on the topic of “How Does God Make a Worker?”