Thursday, December 24, 2009

More than a Holiday

The miracle of Christmas is much more than celebrating another calendar holiday or searching for a reasonable hope that indeed something brighter exists during these shortest, darkest days of the year. When we learn to 'read the white between the lines', often a wealth of light and revelation in colour appears in what had been otherwise merely a murky mystery in black.
I recently watched The Nativity Story, one of the latest movies about the birth of Jesus, and came away impressed, not only by how the movie stayed true to Scripture in its message, but actually discovered new territory for me.
I definitely appreciated Joseph in a whole new light. Largely unheralded in the Bible narrative, here the storytellers bring his dilemma into believable reality. His purity of heart and character stand out all the more when he discovers his fiancee, Mary, not only very pregnant, but affirming that somehow God is to blame. Translate that into our contemporary setting and I'm certain few of us would find that scenario very easy to believe. No wonder God intervened with angels and dreams to reveal to Joseph the truth of what was really happening. God had to not only supernaturally communicate that He was doing something outside of Joseph's 'box', but also that he, Joseph, was somehow crucially and intimately involved in this project's ultimate success.
Joseph's faith accepts the dreams he sees to be truer than the offenses he feels.
He would have been legally right to have Mary stoned or 'put away' at best, but God worked this potentially destructive situation for His righteousness and justice. He found His willing vessel in Joseph. The Bible story speaks volumes to our hearts if we will take time to meditate and drink in more than our minds can grasp in surface readings. A man's depth lies not only in what is written about him, but often in what isn't. Joseph was such a man.

I was also impressed by how the nativity story presents more than a dramatic birth and survival. Heaven and earth are filled with drama, throngs of angels trumpet fulfilled prophecies, the magi follow a miraculous star, a wicked Herod destroys Bethlehem's infants. And all of these are mere backdrops to the 'main event', a birth to transcend all births.
I was stirred to review familiar events in new light and struck by how the story integrates two 'impossibles' to yield truly 'conceivables'.
Both Elizabeth and Mary were naturally unable to conceive children.
Elizabeth was too old. The Bible doesn't say she was barren, but childbearing was not in her picture.
Mary, on the other hand, was young, but not married and had never known a man.
Childbearing was physically impossible for both of them. John the Baptist and Jesus were not naturally born.
Their births had to be supernatural. For Elizabeth, a child seemed too late in life; for Mary, too soon.
For one, hope was lost; for the other, premature.

But just when everything seemed completely impossible, the God of the impossible supernaturally intervened in the hopeless history of mankind to bring His solution, His Saviour, His Son.

God is painting so many pictures together here on one canvas! The human mind boggles and must bow in awe to His artistry, wisdom and beauty. Man alone could never have woven so many intricate 'hopes and fears of all the years' together into such a simple, yet magnificent tapestry of 'peace on earth, goodwill to men'.
The Christmas story speaks to our hearts across the centuries: empty wombs of unfilled dreams and premature longing are fulfilled in this Christ of Christmas. Jesus was born 'in the fullness of time'. Just the right time then, and again to present-day Bethlehems, the Prince of Peace comes. When The Eternal God of the Now speaks, faith rises, life comes forth and nations bend their knees. Death, fear and unbelief can only fall back into their shadows and graves, agog at what God has done and is presently doing in hearts that open to His King.

Merry Christmas! and may the life of Jesus be birthed afresh through each of you throughout this New Year!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


A friend asked: "Does God still judge nations?" I thought, "That's a good question!" so here are some thoughts.

I do not believe God judges nations now in the same manner as before The Cross.
The Cross revealed The Great Commandment and released The Great Commission!
The Lord of the Harvest is raising up and sending forth sons and daughters to labour in the harvest field, to make disciples of all nations, not judge them.
Furthermore, He's not making just individual disciples, but discipling whole nations, transforming entire people groups (ethnos). The gospel calls whole nations to know Him as Saviour!
Unfortunately there is still a tendency for some 'believers' to hold on to Old Testament types while not realizing New Testament fulfillment in Christ. Some continue viewing the kingdom of God through political, nationalistic glasses, whereas God has given us new gospel-glasses, or...SONglasses!!! to view things as He sees them through Christ!
'For all the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us.' (2Cor 1:20)
The old natural mindset diminishes the full work of His Cross and obscures the present authority of His Throne in ruling and reigning NOW! But SONglasses magnify Christ and His Work! Put them on and you will see Jesus revealed everywhere... in the Scriptures: Old and New, in your circumstances, in your friends, even in your enemies! With His perspective on life, your enemies can even become your friends!
Look at Matt 25:31-46 where the Son of Man separates the nations one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats: sheep on the right + goats on the left. I have heard some preach this means there are 'goat nations' + 'sheep nations'
ie. unbelieving/evil/damned/condemned-to-hell people groups vs. so-called 'Christian nations'. However, I believe the divisions are really within the nations themselves, ie. individual sheep + goats from every nation are separated either to or from Christ. This does not refer to the entire population of a natural nation: ie. Canada is a 'sheep-Christian nation' so its citizens are saved/blessed, while Russia is a doomed 'goat nation'. In other words, some are not idolized while others are demonized! Such vision is far from the truth! It smacks of the remnants of Medieval 'Christendom' thinking. Such interpretations are gross misinterpretations and misrepresentations of God's heart, nothing more than continuations of a 'nationalistic, legalistic Old Covenant' stereotype/mindset that misses the 'kingdom New Covenant' heart of what Christ's work on the Cross accomplished.
Isa 2:2 prophesied 'all nations shall flow to the mountain of the Lord's house'
and Rev 21:24 shows its fulfillment in 'the nations (of those whose who are saved --some translations omit this phrase?) shall walk in its light'....
v26 'they shall bring the glory and honour of the nations into it.'

Typically, natural Israel was called to showcase God's kingdom to the Gentiles and all the world.
Ex 19:5-6 describes how God brought them out of Egypt to be
'a special treasure to Me above all people
And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.'
But that 'nation' never fulfilled its call, never realized its true identity or destiny. The Court of the Gentiles in the 2nd Temple had become a money-changers' den of thieves when Jesus turned its tables upside/down-right side up. He made this abundantly clear when He admonished the Pharisees, the Jewish religious national leaders: 'the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a nation bearing the fruits of it.' (Matt 21:43)
They had been chosen to bring forth God's glory, His Messiah, into the earth, but they rejected what they'd been chosen for.
'He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him.
But as many as received Him, to them He gave the power to become children of God,
to those who believe in His name:
who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man,
but of God.' (John 1:11-13)
This is no so-called Replacement Theology. There has only ever been 1 true spiritual nation: 'the Israel of God'. (Gal 6:16)
Seed of Abraham was both natural and spiritual: sand and stars. (Gen 22:17)and The Seed is Christ. (Gal 3:16) Jacob (supplanter/manipulator) only became Israel (prince who prevailed with God) when he surrendered to God and was virtually 'born again' at Penuel. (Gen 33:22-32) His walk changed forever. The true people of God have never been merely a natural race, ie. Israel after the flesh (1Cor 10:18), but those who, like David, have looked to the Messiah and His Salvation! (Ps 118:22-24) Jesus exposed legalistic Pharisees and their ilk as 'of your father the devil' (Jn 8:44), not Father Abraham nor Father God.
Peter reveals God's purpose fulfilled even more clearly when he writes of the church, the Bride of Christ:
'But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special
people that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into
His marvelous light;
who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained
mercy, but now have obtained mercy.' (1Pet 2:9-10)
Rev 1:6 & 5:10 proclaim: Jesus 'has made us (= the Church) a kingdom of priests to God.'
The original calling of Ex 19:5-6 is clearly fulfilled today in the Church, the body + temple of the risen Christ!
True Israel has ever only been a spiritual people who worship and look for their Messiah in spirit and truth, not according to their own self-centred righteousness by keeping God's laws.
Romans clarifies this even more:
'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 of the heart, in the
Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God.' (Rom 2:28-29)
'They are not all Israel who are of Israel....but the children of the promise are
counted as the seed.' (Rom 9:6-8)
The law was never given to make a nation, let alone make it 'righteous', for no individual or nation has ever been able to keep it. But the law was given to convict of sin (individual and national), convince us of our need for salvation and bring us to The Messiah, Jesus! (Gal 3:19-24)
Now that Christ has paid the full price for our redemption, we must not go back to that former old mindset in any form. He has made it obsolete and in Christ, it has vanished away. Hebrews exhorts us,
'You have not come to ...Sinai, but to Mount Zion ...the city of the living God,
heavenly Jerusalem, to the Judge of all.... to Jesus the Mediator of the new
covenant.' (Heb 12:18-24)

God has moved on from judging natural nations to His kingdom, manifesting His glory through His spiritual nation, His own special people bought by the Blood of Jesus. Our citizenship is now in heaven (Phil 3:20) and as His ambassadors, we represent a kingdom which is neither mixed nor tainted with the religious politics of that old former worldview. His is a kingdom that cannot be moved or shaken and will ultimately fill the earth 'as it is in heaven'.
Nationhood is no longer defined by race, but by grace.
God has moved on.... in Christ... let's move with Him!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Time to Resolve the Identity Crisis

Who am I? Who are you?
Personal identity has attracted much public attention lately. Thieves have found it very lucrative to actually steal peoples' personal identities through credit card frauds and computer scams. Identity theft has become big business.
However, I believe an even greater problem exists in that many people don't even realize their identity has been stolen, because they don't even really know their true identity in the first place. Many fall through the cracks of life, merely passing through, but never coming to a knowledge of who they are.
Unfortunately, we have become human doings rather than human beings.
The medium has become the message. True, we can send a message around the world in a micro-second, but what value is it if it merely communicates a burp, a grunt or even worse?
We have become mesmerized with our own hype.
We have lost touch with the truly vital intrinsic realities of this life. Our identity has become lost in a sea of information and misinformation of questionable value.

I spent years searching for my identity. I also attempted running away from who I was, or at least, who I thought I was. Lack of identity can be a very frustrating experience.
One day some friends told me I needed to meet someone who could help me find this elusive identity; someone who knew everything about 'heart' issues. My friends said that if I met their mutual friend, it would bring an end to my search. After all, had I not spent years trying to solve the eternal questions and was still none the wiser?
How could this be? I did not think such a person really existed. Who could possess such knowledge and then be able to give it to someone else?
They set up opportunities for our introduction, but I missed many appointments.
I was too busy and couldn't make them. However, they didn't give up on me.
They persisted and persevered and finally, one day I met Him.

I gave up the pursuit of knowledge and found the love of the Lord Jesus Christ!

I discovered that my true identity had been stolen in a garden by a serpent many centuries ago, but Jesus had since paid the price on the Cross and won it back for me.
He also showed me that if I truly wanted to find my identity and real life, then I needed to in turn lose it. Paradoxical?!
Through faith in Christ I am now a child of God. That was 35 years ago.
Not once have I found Him to be a liar. Jesus is always true to His word. That is a very precious commodity in today's world: someone who will agree from his heart to do something and not forget or go back on his word. Such a one is secure in his identity.
Our 'Who am I?' questions find their answer in 'Who do you say that Jesus is?'
Some say He is a man, others a wise teacher, others still a prophet or guru. Some believe the stories about Him are merely fabricated myths or lies.
But the Bible reveals that the mystery is resolved in a Revelation of Jesus who is the Christ, the Son of the Living God!
None of us are complete in ourselves. Our identity is fully involved with Our Creator and Redeemer. Satan stole our identities and has lied to every generation. We have swallowed these lies and wandered this world without meaning or identity. Until we renounce the counterfeit, idolatrous images we have substituted for God, we are condemned to continue this frustrating journey. Only in Christ is the Father's pure love revealed and we are restored to His image, secure in the knowledge that we are His.
Do you know you also have an arranged appointment with this Jesus?
This year it became required for all Canadians to have passports in order to cross the border into the United States. Even moreso, we need our new real identity in Christ revealed that we might cross over spiritual barriers to enter and enjoy new life in His kingdom. Please don't miss your appointment because you're too busy on this other side.
Besides, this is only the beginning. Introduction leads into Relationship.
God-forgiven Identity releases into God-given Destiny.

**Let the Lord fulfill your new Identity in Jesus Christ below
Check each in the Word; then let the Holy Spirit verify + release His life in you!
Take at least 1 of these to heart each day like spiritual vitamins + grow!
Remember: the devil comes seeking whom he may devour;
let Jesus' answer be yours: 'he has nothing in me' (Jn 14:30)
.... I am in Christ!'

WHO AM I ???
“ in CHRIST JESUS ... ”

I am the salt of the earth. Matt 5:13
I am the light of the world. (1Thess 5:5) Matt 5:14
I am of priceless value. Matt 6:26
I am a child of God; I have a Father who loves me. Rom 8:16; Gal 3:26,28
Jn 1:12; 1Jn 3:1-2
I am set free. Jn 8:31-32
I am the Good Shepherd’s sheep; I can hear His voice and follow Him. Jn 10:4,10
I am a branch of the true vine, a channel of His life. Jn 15:1, 5
I am Christ’s friend. Jn 15:15
I am chosen and appointed by Christ to bear His fruit Jn 15:16
I am filled with joy! Jn 16:33
I am One with the Father and Son and all believers. (1Cor 6:17) Jn 17:22-23
I am Christ’s witness. Acts 1:8
I am a slave of righteousness to God. Rom 6:18, 22
I am free from all condemnation. Rom 8:1-2
I am a son of God, spiritually adopted by my Father God.(Gal 3:26,4:6) Rom 8:14-15
I am a joint-heir with Christ, sharing His inheritance. (Gal 4:6-7) Rom 8:17
I am inseparable from His love. Rom 8:35
I am more than a conqueror, an overcomer. (1Jn 5:4-5) Rom 8:37
I am a temple/home of God; His Holy Spirit dwells in me. 1Cor 3:16; 6:19
I am washed, sanctified and justified. 1Cor 6:11
I am not my own; I have been bought with an incalculable price. 1Cor 6:19
I am a member/part of Christ’s body. 1Cor 12:27
I am transformed into Christ’s image by faith from glory to glory. 2Cor 3:18
I am a new creation; a totally new person. 2Cor 5:17
I am reconciled to God and an ambassador of reconciliation to others. 2Cor 5:18-19
I am the righteousness of God. (Eph 4:24) 2Cor 5:21
I am crucified with Him: dead to sin and alive to God. Gal 2:20
I am redeemed from the curse. Gal 3:13
I am a saint, blessed with all spiritual blessings. (Phil 1:1) Eph 1:1-3
I am totally accepted/chosen in The Beloved. (Col 3:12) Eph 1:6
I am completely forgiven by His Grace. Eph 1:7
I am sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise. Eph 1:13
I am alive, saved, raised up and seated in the heavenlies. Eph 2:5-8
I am God’s workmanship, created to walk in good works. Eph 2:10
I am a member of God’s family, secure in His foundation. Eph 2:19-21
I am a prisoner of Christ. Eph 3:1,4:1
I am confident He will complete what He has begun in me. Phil 1:6
I am a citizen of heaven and seated in His throne right now. Phil 3:20
I am delivered from darkness and translated into Christ’s kingdom. Col 1:13
I am absolutely complete. Col 2:10
I am hidden with Christ in God, my life is kept of God. Col 3:3-4
I am not afraid, but filled with power, love and a sound mind. 2Tim 1:7
I am never alone. Jesus never leaves me nor forsakes me. Heb 13:5
I am of a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a unique people 1Pet2:9-10
I am an alien, stranger and pilgrim in this world I temporarily live in. 1Pet 2:11
I am an enemy of the devil,; the devil cannot touch me. 1Jn 5:18
I am His Bride. Rev 19:7
I am not the great “ I am” (Ex 3:14; Jn 8:24,28,58)
but “by the grace of God I am what I am” (1Cor 15:10)

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

There Must be a Better Way

A short word before this next article:
I first wrote this just before US forces moved into Iraq in 2003; however, I find it addresses a perspective still out there in the contemporary 'Christian mindset' that needs to be challenged.
What are your thoughts?

Preparations for war have filled our minds and newscasts.
Soldiers pack up their gear, embrace their children, kiss their wives. “We just want to get the job done, get it over with and get back home!”
Thousands fill the streets of New York, London, Rome, Istanbul; 35,000 protest in Vancouver and even Abbotsford hears the cries, “No blood for oil!” The images contrast as sharply as the opposing battle lines in the desert.
Days and nights of constant bombardment have now left much of Baghdad in ruins.
Our TV screens explode with “Shock and Awe!”
but do we realize men, women and children are dying while we watch the fireworks?
Then the next photos: close-ups of the injured and maimed lying in blood-soaked bandages in ill-equipped hospitals; or even worse, the dead lying in the streets after the battles.
Even closer to home, a Maryland father thrusts his slain son's picture into the camera's eye. “Take a look, George Bush. This is my son, my only son, and you killed him!”
Sons, fathers, soldiers, civilians...all casualties of a world that has definitely lost its way...again.
Survivor Baghdad has become the ultimate Reality TV show.
A chorus of hearts cries out: “There must be a better way!”

The debate intensifies:
“Saddam's a monster, a foul dictator, a virtual anti-Christ. He slaughters his own people. Replace him and we'll make the world a safer place!”

“Bush is no better. Who does he think he is: the world's policeman? imposing his brand of 'Christian' democracy, bullying Moslems and the entire Arab world?”

“Terrorism, biological and chemical weapons must be countered with ten times more force. These are threats to world security and must be preemptively neutralized.”

“But by reacting this way, haven't we become what we say we oppose?”

Over 3000 died in the World Trade Center disaster.
How many will have to die in the retaliation?
United Nations diplomacy proved ineffective.
Canada teeters somewhat smugly on the fence, officially uninvolved, but cautiously cheering on the Americans, anxiously concerned about effects on our economy and comfortable way of life.
There must be a better way.
It's amazing how we can piously mouth Jesus' teachings, “Turn the other cheek, Walk the second mile, etc.” on a personal, individual and family level, but fail to relate them on the wider community, national and international stages. The words sound good on an ethereal, spiritual plane, but they don't really apply to the 'real world'.
How easily we sentimentalize 'Blessed are the peacemakers', but resort to waging war when our 'real' interests are threatened.
Indeed, a 'Christian brother' once tried to enlighten me by proving that The Beatitudes and Sermon on the Mount will only come into effect in some future Millenium!
What happened to The Cross?
Shows you how strongly your end-time beliefs can determine your present-day attitudes and actions.
The problem with Christ and His teaching is not that they have been tried and found wanting; it's that they have not been really tried!

We so-called 'Christian' nations have not truly sought to put them into practice when it comes to resolving problems.
“Be realistic,” some counter.
Jesus was and is.
He understood that what we sow we ultimately reap:
sow violence, reap violence;
sow love, reap love;
live by the sword, die by the sword.
Don't be overcome by evil (the forces of this world that are bent on destruction),
but overcome evil with good.
Gandhi was not a Christian, but he sought to follow Christ's non-violent approach, and he ultimately led India to independence.
Martin Luther King dreamed of his people's freedom from racism and inspired them by Jesus' faith.
South Africa has been spared a bloodbath because they chose to forgive past inhumanities by both whites and blacks rather than resort to vengeance.
The Berlin Wall did not fall to tanks and missiles, but to the prayers of believers who not only filled a Dresden church night after night, but then let their light shine in the streets until the communist darkness could stand no longer.

Jesus said, “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink, and by so doing, you will heap coals of fire on his head.” (Romans 12:20)
I always interpreted this to mean that God would ultimately execute fiery retribution on my enemies. But my heart motive was all wrong. Rather than calling down judgment on your opposition, this verse alludes to the nomadic custom of transporting fire coals from camp to camp in baskets on their heads. If someone's fire went out between camps, others were to give them some of their own.
Rather than retaliate, rekindle.
Jesus tells us to bless and not curse; heal rather than wound; help, not destroy ...and not just when it's personally convenient. Thousands of Iraqi children have died over the last 10 years' embargo on goods, including proper medical and food supplies.

What if: rather than pound them with missiles, we bombarded them with mercy and the skies rained down relief packages rather than death?

“Traitor! Naive! Impractical?"
But the real gospel in action has worked miracles and fostered much more goodwill than self-centred evil. We really do have so much here in the West. God has blessed us with such abundance. Rather that retaliation, why not break the cycle of violence by faithfully following the One whose Death and Resurrection forever broke the power of sin and death … hatred and war?
I am convinced: The Gospel of Jesus Christ is A Better Way!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Something Greater

Something greater than the Iraqi and Afghan war, terrorist acts or Canadian and American elections is now happening in our world. The kingdom of God, greater than any election platform, is presently sweeping the earth. The greatest movement in world history is now changing the face of the earth! Are you a part of it?
People are turning to Jesus and discovering His words are true.
“Search the Scriptures for in them you think you have life and these testify of me (Jn 5:39)
“All the Scriptures…things concerning Himself (Luke 24:27)
must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me.”(Luke 24:44)
Spiritually hungry people do not accept counterfeits; they turn to Jesus!
A few years ago, my wife and I visited many ancient sites of the early Christian church in the Mediterranean world. These cities had once known vibrant churches, but the ravages of apathy, war, and time have taken their toll and their once-strong congregations are no more.
In Spain, we found church buildings full of gold plundered from Aztec and Inca empires, but empty of people. In Assisi, we found St. Francis’ simple church, but now smothered beneath an overwhelming edifice. In Greece, St. Paul’s powerful words seemed silenced amid all the noisy Olympic preparations.
The seven churches of Revelation were merely empty ruins in Turkey, a 99% Muslim nation. Constantinople’s Hagia Sophia, once the largest church in the world, was now only a shell of a museum.
However, we found something even more remarkable. Although the outer vestiges of ‘Christian faith’ are no longer as prevalent as they had once been, an even more powerful movement is now sweeping these lands, especially in the hearts of the younger generation. Hearts are hungering for the real Jesus and will accept no substitutes.
Our young Italian friend was born and raised in the church, even served as an altar boy, but the church’s hypocritical practices had turned him away. Their large, cold marble buildings no longer impressed him and he now looked for heroes elsewhere. I challenged him and his counter-culture group of friends to look to the original Jesus, the only perfect man who has ever lived. “Why continue to look for ideals of perfection when He has already come?”
He acknowledged that Jesus’ life uniquely demonstrated truth in action, in spite of all man’s external religious embellishments. But it's hard to find the real Jesus through all the religious embellishments...the crap!
One afternoon in Ephesus, just outside the ruins of the church where St. John lay buried, we stopped to talk with a young carpet-seller. The topic turned to the emptiness of religious buildings and observances and we encouraged him to seek the head of the living church, Jesus Christ. Suddenly he remarked, “You’re just like those other people who were here this morning and shared this same message with me. And you’ve got that same joy in you! You are filled with joy and radiate life just like them! Is that Jesus?”
Then he told us how he had begun to read the New Testament (Injil) in his own language so he could find out these things for himself.
Later that evening in our hotel, Achmed, our 18-year-old night watchman, watched his new ‘Jesus’ video all they way through on the very first night he'd had it. In the morning, he was so very excited about what he had seen and had all sorts of questions about this Jesus.
In Cappadocia, our young Turkish tour guide led us through labyrinthine underground cities, nine or 10 stories deep, 150 feet below the surface, where Christians had fled to escape Roman persecutors and later Muslim invaders. We marveled how they had survived and prospered for centuries and gazed at their wonderful frescoes and mosaics. But there’s more to life than old paintings, murals and books –and as we drove to the next site, she wondered out loud about what we were seeing. Our topic of conversation turned to Jesus. Rather than argue concerning religious dogma, I asked her what Islam said about Jesus.
“He is a prophet,” she replied.
“But much more.” I added. “The Koran speaks of Jesus as the Judge at the last day. Surely, if even the Koran esteems Jesus so highly, don’t you think it’s most important for us to know Him as He truly is now, seeing we are all going to stand before Him as judge on the last day?”
That opened more questions.
Other nominal Muslim friends of hers had gone to the theatre to see Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ because they’d heard it was anti-Semitic, but the movie had now turned them and their thoughts to examine who this Jesus of the Passion really was.
In Istanbul, another young Turk stood in a nightclub doorway, his red and black T-shirt emblazoned with Che Guevara's picture on the front and “We want a revolution!” on the back. I couldn’t resist and stopped to ask what kind of revolution he wanted.
“Do you want to have a real revolution or just replace the present batch of scandalous politicians and ideas with others? What about revolting against the world’s greatest tyrant?”
“Who’s that?”
Self! Do you want a real revolution of the heart? Have you considered the world’s greatest revolutionary?”
Who’s that?”
“Jesus! He turned the world right side up!”
He chuckled.
Che Guevera had good intentions, but he was a very imperfect political revolutionary and is now very dead.
Jesus alone dealt with the greatest threat to freedom: self.
And He is very much alive: He is risen! He alone offers a revolution of the spirit.
While the world’s philosophers and politicians argue – ‘esteem yourself, free yourself, empower yourself! Jesus invites us to “Deny yourself, take up your cross and follow me.”
Charee (his name in Turkish means ‘called’) heard theJesus' call that day.
Not to ideas, but a Person.
Not to dead forms, but resurrected life.
Not to religion, but a faith relationship, personally and directly from Jesus Himself to be then shared together with others.
Jesus has given us life. Not dogmatic systems or learned responses. Not buildings or programs. God is looking for those who will simply respond out of their heartfelt need. He draws those who are honest in their reality.
It is only a matter of time: His kingdom is filling all the earth.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The 8th Letter of Revelation

“And to the angel of the Church in _______(fill in the name of your city) write…”
What if Jesus added an eighth letter to His 7 Letters to the Churches of Revelation and sent it to the Church of your city today?
What would He talk to us about? What would be its highlights? Affirmations? Corrections? Warnings?
To whom would it be addressed? Who would receive it? Would we receive it?
It’s recorded in history that the church of Laodicea did not receive its letter. They could not accept that its contents described their church’s actual situation. They instead insisted that things were just fine.
The letter was wrong; they weren’t. “It’s addressed to the wrong church. That’s not us!”
The letter asserted they were self-sufficient, in need of nothing, not even God. Their refusal to accept God’s view of themselves ironically affirmed that God’s judgment was indeed correct.

A few years ago my wife and I visited Turkey and some of what are left of the 7 Churches of Revelation. Nothing remains of Laodicea today: neither the city nor the church. Its waters were neither cold not hot, but lukewarm. True to Christ’s Word, it has been spewed out, vomited, left desolate and in ruins. It is an amazing testimony to how we need to hear and receive God’s prophetic messages to us in our day or suffer the consequences.
In fact, the only church still functioning is in Smyrna (now called Izmir), the Suffering, Persecuted Church. Of the 7, Smyrna (along with Philadelphia) received no rebuke and it is the only one which still has a present congregation of worshipers today.
“Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.” (Rev 2:10)

I believe one of the things Jesus would highlight in His letter to the church in our city is
‘keep the unity of the Spirit.” (Eph 4:3) He does not say 'strive to attain', but 'keep', which reveals we already possess this unity through Christ. We are one body. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, male nor female, slave nor free, Baptist nor Charismatic in Christ's eyes. You cannot 'keep' what you don't already have. Moves of the Spirit have impacted the body of Christ throughout history, but their full effect, value and legacy are ultimately realized in how they relate to building the kingdom of God and not their own little kingdoms. The church is one and we need to acknowledge this, value our unity and act in who we are in Christ already.
Jesus prayed, “That they may be one just as We are one.” (John 17:22)

After the fall of the Soviet Union, I was privileged to teach in the first Bible school opened in Ulyanovsk, birthplace of the father of Russian communism, Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov, aka Lenin. God has a sense of humour: our Bible school classes were held right in The Communist Hotel! Every morning I would pass one of Lenin’s few still-standing statues in Russia and sarcastically greet him,
“Good morning, Mr. Lenin. You don’t look very well today. You seem to be tilting a little more each day?!”
Towards the end of my two weeks there, I was invited to sit in on one of the first unity meetings of a group of pastors in Ulyanovsk. My interpreter kept me informed on what was happening, but the pastors’ body language and my limited Russian conveyed a clear enough message. They were enjoying their new freedoms, but old suspicions, rivalries and prejudices still surfaced as the different denominations struggled to find common ground together. They were trying to decide on holding their first public meeting together to celebrate Christmas, but….
they couldn’t even decide on a date…should it be on the Western December 25th or the Eastern Orthodox in January?
Who should speak? Some felt the Orthodox priest should, but the Lutheran pastor said that if the priest spoke, many of his parishioners would not attend and he wasn’t sure he even would.
The Pentecostal pastor objected; still another objected more because the Methodist pastor was a lady. It was starting to get uncomfortably hot in the room.
I watched and prayed and felt the Holy Spirit tug on my heart.
I asked my interpreter if I might share something with the group and they agreed.
I spoke: “I understand from the Bible that God views His church quite differently from how we see ourselves and one another. When He addresses His church, He writes to either His universal body, a specific ‘church in your house’ or the city church, that is, in Ephesus, Philippi, Corinth, etc. As long as you continue to see yourselves divided into different denominations, you will remain fragmented and ineffective.
You need to see yourself the way God sees you, as His one church in the city of Ulyanovsk.
You will not be able to do what He has called you to do until you see yourselves as you truly are, the way God sees you….as one body and one church in this city.”

There was silence in the room and I nervously wondered if the message had been clear, had they even understood what I was trying to say, let alone accepted it.
However, the silence ended, the contention broke, and they began sharing along more positive lines. They even started serving tea and enjoying one another’s company!
I heard a few months later that they had indeed held their unity service and God had blessed their coming together.

I could not help but think of our own city.
Our City of ___________needs the Church of ____________ (fill in the blanks) to see itself the way Our God sees us and respond accordingly.
We need to be, stand and walk together in a kingdom mindset, in His unity, freedom, love and purpose.
We need to take to heart and demonstrate our oneness in prayer, faith and action.
We need to put away our petty, divisive distinctions and embrace the fullness of who we are in Christ…together, for Christ’s sake.
The alternative is clear: just try to find Laodicea today.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009


God wants to take you through a process that will brand the image of Jesus Christ right in your innermost being (Rom 8:29). Through His fiery dealings, God wants to make you a strong Christian disciple because it’s His desire to forge His character in your very life, making you into a man/woman fully mature and equipped for His purposes.
God is completely committed to this end and He is looking for those who are just as committed—believers who are wholly devoted to Him. Essentially, if that level of dedication is beating in your heart, then you are marked as a true disciple of Jesus Christ.

So what does ‘disciple’ really mean? To begin answering this question, let’s examine Matthew 10:1-2a:
“And when He had called His twelve disciples to Him, He gave them power over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease.
Now the names of the twelve apostles are these . . .” (emphasis mine)

First of all, we see that in verse 1, the twelve were called ‘disciples,’ but in verse 2, ‘apostles.’ Which is it? Are they disciples or apostles? There is a distinction here: it’s important to note that when Jesus called the twelve disciples to Himself, the Bible says, ‘He gave them power … and then they were called apostles.
This power was given over a period of time in testing and proven faithfulness, before they became apostles. But these days there appears to be a lot of confusion about this.
Look at Mathew 28:19:
“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” (emphasis mine)

Jesus didn’t say to go and earn brownie points, or get people to say your version of the sinner’s prayer; definitely not to get another notch in your new converts’ belt! He didn’t call us to make converts with head-knowledge formulas—“Yeah, I said the sinner’s prayer once,” or “I spoke in tongues once.” He said, “Go and make disciples...”
The Greek word for ‘disciple’ is ‘matheetes’ which means ‘follower, student, learner.’
Jesus called us to be disciples who make disciples who will make disciples!
Sometimes Christians have a mentality expressed like this: “I got saved ten years ago and five years ago I made Him Lord.”
I’m amazed! ... You got saved 10 years ago, but you only made Him Lord 5 years ago?!
If I read my Bible correctly, He’s already Lord. It just took you 5 years to catch on and catch up! Disciples are called as whole-hearted followers of Christ from the start, from ‘the very get-go’!

After Jesus gave the disciples power, He called them ‘apostles’, or in the Greek: ‘apostolos’ – ‘sent ones, someone who is sent.’ Now you cannot send yourself.
In other words, you can get in the envelope, but you can’t lick it!
You must be sent from somebody by somebody to somebody. Someone else has to send you! That’s where many miss the mark. They are trying to be an apostle in their own eyes, raising their own self-called ‘apostolic’ ministry. You do not tell others you are an apostle. If you are sent by God to them, He will let them know. Either they recognize you and receive you as an apostle, or you are not an apostle to them. People somehow think that if they just call themselves ‘apostle’ they actually are one. We really are too position-oriented sometimes! You cannot get your personal or ministerial value, worth and measure from whatever labels you try to wear. You cannot tack apples on an orange tree and call it an apple tree. Too many people confusingly chase positions to find their identity within the church and not in Christ.

There is one particular denomination in which my wife grew up that does not let women speak or do anything because they take ‘women keep silent in the churches’ (1Cor 14:34) literally. This is an amazing misinterpretation and twisting of Scripture!
Philip the evangelist had four daughters who prophesied (Acts 21:9).
Where do you think they prophesied? Out in the field? In the outhouse?
They prophesied in church, in the assembly of the saints!
The Early Church had no problem like some denominations do today.

One day we went back to my wife’s former church and I just happened to pick up a brochure that listed all the missionaries sent out into the field from that denomination. They were out in the jungles of Ecuador, New Guinea, etc. and 75% of these ‘missionaries’ were…women!
I began to question: “I think I smell hypocrisy here. These women can’t speak in their churches here in Canada . . . but they send them out among the head-hunters, to the uncomfortable, uncivilized areas of the earth where no man would go. It is acceptable for them to speak, preach and establish churches there, but they can’t speak in church here?!”
Aha! here lies blatant hypocrisy! They were ‘sent out’ by churches here; that is, they fulfilled the ‘aspostolos’ calling, but their church called them ‘missionaries’, not‘apostles’.

‘Behold!’ (The Bible uses this attention-getter, in other words: “Look at this!.. closely!) ‘Missionary’ is simply the Latin form of the Greek ‘apostolos’: ‘one sent on a mission’. Both words have identical meanings, only in different languages. It’s like pro-abortionists arguing that a ‘fetus’ does not become a real person until it’s born and only then it’s a real baby. But they’re ignorant of this fact: ‘fetus’ is Latin for the English ‘baby’. Either in or out of the womb, a ‘fetus’ is a ‘baby’, with all the parts and rights of life. Legalistic semantics only confuse when proper distinctions are not made. Often they are no more than lies hiding behind obscure terms.
We also have hypocritical, double standards in church because we are often locked into forms.
In that particular denomination’s history, authorities at one time defined ‘leader’ in a certain way that excluded women. Isn’t it ironic that women can be called ‘missionaries’ (Latin), but not ‘apostles’ (Greek), when the terms essentially mean the same things?
Some think women can’t be sent, but God sends them anyways.
He sent Mary Magdalene to tell his ‘apostles' (?). The ones who should have been sent were hiding in fear and unbelief. The first one who was in all practical terms ‘sent’ (apostolos) by the risen Christ was a woman.
God has already broken down walls by the gospel, but many traditional mindsets and limiting perceptions need yet to fall! So here’s a word of encouragement to women. You’re not second class! We are all one in the body of Christ!

What’s more, this is not just about women; these roots touch all sorts of other issues too. We have wrong concepts because we often have a wrong view of the body of Christ. Jesus Christ is the One who has broken down every wall! We are all His disciples, regardless of our background or natural position. We all share in the same call. In Christ Jesus, there is neither Jew nor Gentile, male nor female, slave nor free. That equality was a revolutionary revelation in Early Church context (Gal. 3:28).
Actually, do you know which social group most readily received the gospel first preached by the apostles? Slaves! 75% of the population in Athens then were slaves. What a revolutionary message for them! Think about life back then and relationships between slaves and masters. If you were a Christian slave-owner, you might one day suddenly discover one of your slaves worshipping beside you in church! Put yourself in Philemon’s shoes! His slave, Onesimus, ran away from him, but Paul appealed to Philemon (on Onesimus’ behalf) to take him back —
“For perhaps he departed for a while for this purpose, that you might receive him forever,
no longer as a slave but more than a slave--a beloved brother, especially to me but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord.” (Philemon 15-16)
Don’t you think we need some adjustments on how we look at ourselves and one another?
When Jesus calls ‘disciples’, there is no hierarchy based on rank or status.

Eventually, through this process of maturity, disciples of Jesus reach a point of release when you are actually sent. But you must be ready and not race off prematurely. You can probably think of examples of those who have run to do great exploits with great haste, but were not truly ready. Let’s learn how not to run by studying the lesson in 2 Samuel 18:19-32.
The context of this passage is: King David is fighting to save his kingdom in the face of his son Absalom’s rebellion. During the climactic battle, an accurate message about the battle’s outcome needs to be conveyed to the king. Ahimaaz, (the son of the high priest, Zadok) approaches Joab (David’s army commander) pleading,
“I am a runner, I want to run. (ie. I am an apostle. Can’t you recognize it?)
I need to be sent; send me! I just really want to go into my apostolic ministry right now.”
But Joab said, “No, not now. Step aside. You haven’t got any message.” (my paraphrase)
Next, Joab called a Cushite. He charged him to go tell David what he had seen on the battlefield. So that messenger started running; he had the message!
But Ahimaaz appealed to Joab again, even begging, “Let me run!”
Still, Joab did not permit him.
However, Ahimaaz didn’t know how to take ‘No!’ for an answer and he pressed Joab further: “But I’m a runner. Pleaasse! I want to run! I have to run! Let me run!” (again my paraphrase). So Joab finally relented and off he ran, running and running, even outrunning the Cushite, and reached the king first.
“Is Absalom safe?” David asked.
Ahimaaz answered, “When Joab sent the king’s servant and me your servant, I saw a great tumult, but I did not know what it was about.” What an empty answer! Unfortunately, that's the picture of a lot of so-called ministry today.
David could only say: “Turn aside and stand here.” He had no message! He was only sent by his own vanity and so he was ultimately turned aside and the one with the message was heard!

Disciples need to grow and mature into apostles. That doesn’t mean you can’t do anything till then, but you come to the place where you clearly hear the Father’s voice and obey. You hear the Master’s voice, but you don’t just run and chase after anything. It’s like a dog owner who throws a stick and calls out “Go, fetch!” to his dog. At his master’s voice, the dog runs and retrieves the stick. Likewise, we must know and hear our Master’s voice and at His call, go and do what He says. ‘The other guy’ is out there throwing sticks at random and we could well end up running after any old stick if we chase every stick that’s thrown.
Furthermore, an ability to run fast doesn’t mean you’re called and chosen. We need to be sure we are in God’s right timing and under His direction! Otherwise, all our super-gifted speed only serves to take us further away from our true destination all the more quickly. That’s a sobering thought. So we must get the message and timing so clear in our heart that we know the Father’s voice releasing us, “Go for it! Now! I send you! You’re on my mission! I’ve sent you with my message to these people. Don’t be afraid. I am with you. Be strong and courageous!”

Not only does God want to give you the message, He also wants to make you the message. For example, Old Testament prophets themselves and their children became the very signs of their ministries. They even named their children prophetically. The prophets became their message. Isaiah and Ezekiel not only spoke, but lived out their prophecies. Hosea not only reproved Israel for its idolatry, but married a faithless prostitute to show Israel’s unfaithfulness to her Lord. Francis of Assisi proclaimed, “By all means preach the gospel. If necessary, use words.”

Do you want to become His message? I ask you this directly because God clearly wants to make you His message—the message becomes you. He’s seen the desire and the intent of your heart and He wants you to know your true identity in Christ. He is calling you and you are still wrestling with what this means and what it will look like. But when Christ calls, He also takes responsibility Himself to make this effective: “Okay, I am going to do something in and through you, that’s going to be revolutionary! I will make you fishers of men!”

Take John the Baptist for example. He was revolutionary! He was a prophet and an apostle, one of the first apostles, in the true sense of the word. But after he baptized Jesus, there came a testing time when his disciples reported more people going to Jesus than John to be baptized. “Aren’t you upset that the new kid on the block seems to be upstaging you?”
“Not at all,” John replied.
“A man can receive nothing unless it has been given to him from heaven. You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, ‘I am not the Christ,’ but, I have been sent before Him.” (John 3:26–28)
John knew he was God’s forerunner. He knew both his identity and destiny: who he was and what his mission was. He wasn’t jealous of Jesus; he knew his mission was complete when he pointed others to The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. He did not have to have his own following. His ministry had been fulfilled: it had all been to point others to Jesus and now He had come. This is the heart of a true disciple, a true messenger who becomes an apostle.
Then John goes on to say: “He must increase, but I must decrease” (v 30). The order here is crucial: 1st, He (Jesus) must increase; 2nd, I (John) must decrease. Get filled with more of Jesus and your selfish ambitions will fade and fall away. John not only embodied his message, but faithfully ran and communicated it to its end fulfillment. As he stepped from the world stage, he added this testimony to their intimate relationship.
“The Father loves the Son, and has given all things into His hand. He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” (vv. 35, 36)
He glorified the Lord. He gave the glory to his Master and did not keep it for himself. Isn’t that what being a disciple is all about? Knowing Christ intimately and glorifying Him. But it’s a process, a uniquely personal process for each one and God is completely committed to this process because He knows and loves us so deeply. Ponder this love and let His heavenly dew drench you today. Step in close to God and completely surrender yourself to Him.
I urge you: Today, hear and answer Jesus’ call, “Follow me!”

Monday, June 22, 2009



So what happens when someone turns from his own ways to follow Christ, the real Way?
Christ called, “Follow me!” and then invited disciples to “Come and see!” (Jn 1:39)
Step out, see where and how Jesus really lives! Beckoning, exciting, adventurous…
dangerous words! When we give ourselves wholly to Him, the resulting transformation will be beyond comprehension, exceedingly abundantly above all we can ask or think! Take a look!

How many times is ‘disciple’ used in the Gospels?…230.
How many times ‘apostle’? …8.
Jesus calls and relates with followers today the same way He did then: as His disciples.

Then in Acts, changes happen when the gospel is put into action in and through us.
Jesus’ followers gathered to Him and were ‘sent out’ into the world.
Here they are called ‘disciples’ 30 times and ‘apostles’ 30 times -- equally balanced!

However, in the Epistles, the emphasis changes again: they are ‘apostles’ 40 times,
but never ‘disciples’! Not one time, no, not at all, nada - 0!

What happened! Their identity in Christ had been transformed! They had moved into a further glory from the stage of student disciples to released apostles! They were first called ‘disciples’, but once Jesus gave them power over unclean spirits to heal the sick, they were sent ‘apostles.’ There is progression here and it’s from glory to glory!

Furthermore, when Jesus sent His disciples in His power, they were commissioned to make more disciples. (Matt 28:19) In other words, His ‘seed’ produced like kind. Think about this: believers are to be prime examples of godly character, reproducing in those to whom we minister. As we pour out our lives, we’ll be like ‘gifts that keep on giving’.


One of Christ’s major emphases in this discipleship process is transforming us from egocentric, self-absorbed individuals to selfless team players.
Unfortunately, self subtly motivates and marks much ministry today.
Fortunately, the Holy Spirit can effectively expose, unmask and deny self an opportunity to lie hidden among ministry’s baggage. He wants to freely minister to and through us; He wants us to be free so He can do this! Ministry is not something we do ourselves; it’s what He does through us. Ministry is the overflow of Jesus’ Presence in and through us; so let’s get full of Him and let Him overflow!

There are a few pitfalls that exist in church structure today; however, when unearthed can reveal further foundational truth about apostolic government. In most denominational churches, government order and structure is very pastoral, centered on the leader, most often called ‘pastor.’ Pastors today have so many responsibilities and things to do that many of them ‘burn out’. Why? It seems strange to me that ‘burn-out’ is so rampant among ministers today when it’s not even mentioned in Scripture! Perhaps much of our present-day ministry focus is so out-of-focus that Scripture doesn’t even recognize its legitimacy? Perhaps so much so-called ‘pastoral’ ministry is not really pastoral at all, but administrative book-keeping and bureaucratic paper-pushing that ultimately consumes pastors who are not really administrators, but only gifted people trying to do something they’re not called to.

God does not equip you for what He has not called you to.

I believe that’s one of the main reasons why so many ‘pastors’ burn out. They are stuck in offices day after day, not relating with people (where their true gifting lies), preoccupied with maintenance, not able to give themselves to “prayer and ministry of the Word.” Yet they are also expected to come up with weekly messages that please the people, nourish the flock and maintain the church. It’s this maintenance-mentality that kills church life and burns out ministers. The goal of Christian church life and ministry is not keeping the flock comfortable, trying to keep as few as possible from leaving church.
When this becomes a ministry’s focus, it drains and depresses.

It’s not easy being in a rat race! But, I ask you, what are sheep doing in a rat race? If the rigors of pastoring burn pastors out, perhaps we need some ‘foundational forms’ of pastoring challenged and changed! Actually, I would think the leaders caught in this kind of abusive system would be the first ones to call for and embrace reforms to the ‘form’.

“And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers
for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.”
(Eph 4:11, 12)

God’s answer to 1-man burn-out is team ministry!
The work of the ministry is based on the call of God. If you don’t have the call, you aren’t cut out for the work. Relationship also is essential to fulfill the call —intimate relationship with both God and other leadership giftings in order to flow in your call together. Learning to work together as a team to equip others to do the work is God’s way, or we ourselves will be wasted.

It’s 5-fold ministry with this purpose: ‘edify’ means ‘build up’ and ‘edifice’ = ‘high structure’;
together: ‘build up the church’, a body bigger than your own self or ministry. In one little word like this, we can see that God is not just building a bunch of individual bungalows or personalized mansions for us to glory in. His church is to be an ‘edifice that edifies others and glorifies Christ.’ We are to build one another up in faith and the Holy Spirit. Consequently, we need to ask God to breathe His life in and through us. His breath brings life to the work of the ministry ‘for the edifying of the body of Christ’. His ministry may burn us up, but not out.

Now who is supposed to lead this? The pastor? No! ‘Pastor’ is only one of 5 offices.
God gave 5-fold ministry and by its very nature, this is an apostolic team: apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor and teacher. The 5-fold ministry is not just one person. It functions out of relationship to take the pressure off just one person. We are not supposed to do the work individually; we are supposed to be built and build together: working as a team, training up members of the body, releasing and sending them to do the work.

The true proof of a pastor is not that he pastors a large, ‘successful’ church himself, but he so cares for his flock that he raises up more pastors who in turn care for this ever-growing church. An evangelist is not just one who preaches the gospel, but one who raises up other evangelists.
A prophet is one who inspires other prophets in truth to answer and proclaim the call of God.
A teacher stirs students’ hearts to seek and teach others also.
Apostles are fathers who raise up next generations of mature sons and daughters.


Sometimes, however, church is anything but relational, and we foolishly compare ourselves and our ministries on performance-based competition. 2Cor 10:12 clearly states this is not wise, so why do we do this? I’ve been to pastors’ conferences and the first question after basic introductions is invariably: “How many people are in your church?” Sometimes it varies: “How big is your church?” or “How many does your church hold? The latter is so evidently ridiculous: churches should raise up and release people to the call of God, not hold them!

I remember when our church got hit by Renewal and grew from 100 to 35 in about 3 weeks. Not exactly the successful model which church growth seminars extol! Nor what many ministers accept as a legitimate growing experience. Here is what happened: I was seated for lunch at one of these pastors’ gatherings. The pastor on my right asked the inevitable first question and when I told him ‘35’ (the truth at that time), he abruptly (and, I would add, quite rudely) turned away from me and started talking with the pastor on his opposite side! I thought news was out that I had the plague and perhaps some similar leprous ‘growth’ would hit his church if he talked with me any longer. Shaken by what had just happened, it took me a while to recover. But recover I did and I resolved to be ready for the next ‘fellowship luncheon’. Sure enough, at a similar scenario a few months later, my opportunity came.
The inevitable first question…but this time I was ready.
“Oh, anywhere from 6 to 8 thousand!” I answered.
My surprised colleague gasped noticeably.
With great difficulty, I sought to maintain a serious composure.
“Really?” he replied, choking on his salad.
“Oh yes!” I continued to feed him, "6 to 8000!" enjoying the unfolding irony immensely .
In good conscience, I was not lying. I had clearly enunciated 6 to 8,000 (and if all who had ever been at our church during the previous years had decided to show up on one particular Sunday, I’m sure we would have exceeded even that size of crowd). But depending on what the questioner wanted to hear (fuelled and conditioned by his greed, gullibility and pride), he heard 6,000 to 8,000 rather than the more humble, singular ‘6’ I had clearly spoken.

After playing with him a while longer, I mercifully clarified my response and the pastor embarrassingly turned a beet red. He apologized, saying he felt sorry for me.
I smiled and said I was sorry too …but for him and that totally un-Christian attitude, sadly all too prevalent among ‘Christian leaders’.

False images will always be exposed and deposed by the Holy Spirit. These not-so-subtle idols in our hearts must fall. I used to teach a class entitled ‘Church Leadership’, but I refuse to call it that anymore. It seems many Christians can’t handle the ‘leader’thing; something weird goes off in their brains and they immediately begin competing for control, arguing over who is greatest in the kingdom of God, vying for authority to lead.
Really they just want to tell everyone else what to do.
I changed the name of the course to ‘Christian Stewardship & Serving.’
Amazingly, that changed the spirit of the entire class!

We judge others externally by what we think we see. In response, God rightly challenges these pet concepts and prejudiced perspectives. We need a paradigm shift in our hearts and minds in order to have real kingdom vision, kingdom mentality, kingdom concepts, and kingdom world view! That was the first message Jesus delivered — “the kingdom of God is at hand.” (Mk 1:15) He continued with: “Repent and believe in the gospel,” and when He saw Simon and Andrew He called out, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” (v17)

When Jesus gathered His disciples, their view of God’s kingdom was a whole lot different than His! Their preconceived ideas needed to be sifted, separated and discarded if they were going to truly become Jesus’ disciples. And those ideas were challenged and dropped! Likewise, our pet idols need to fall so we can be true disciples and future apostles of Christ. Really, that’s the heart of a disciple—a student and learner, someone teachable, willing to be molded and changed into His image. Not someone who takes Christ’s name, but continues in his own agenda.

Furthermore, many of our concepts are really centered in self rather than God and His kingdom. We often read the Word of God to suit ourselves; we have our own favorite passages. We take our spiritual scissors and cut out what is not comfortable to us. That’s what Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the United States, did. He actually cut out passages in his Bible that revealed Jesus as God or any miraculous, supernatural signs and wonders beyond what he could accept as reasonable. His Bible is in the Smithsonian Institute today. It’s not your regular Holy Bible; it’s just a Bible with holes in it!

Yet, we mentally clip the Word of God too. That’s NOT what it means to rightly divide the word of truth (2 Tim. 2:15)! God’s Word is the Sword of the Spirit (Eph. 6:17) and a sword is meant to penetrate. Let it penetrate your heart first!
Only if you lose your life (and the limitations of what you think are reasonable) will you find it.

Learn to be a disciple in the kingdom of God. Learn purity, integrity and humility from the One who is all of these.
If you want to be a leader, then learn to be a follower.
If you want to be a boss, learn to be the best employee.
Want to be a teacher? learn to be a student.
How about a father? learn to be a son or daughter.
Do you want to be great in the kingdom of God? then learn to be like a little child. (Matt 18:3)

That’s the journey God calls us on so our natural bent will be truly transformed; we will be His strong disciples sent out as true apostles.
Advancing daily, you will progress much further than the narrow, performance-oriented limitations of your own ministry. Instead, God will give you supernatural grace to first realize your identity in Him and His destiny in you. After all, He made us to be human beings, not human doings.
Jesus the Good Shepherd leads us. He sees us as God created us to be. He didn’t call His disciples “dirty old fishermen;” He called them ‘fishers of men,’ and they became great apostles, winning thousands to Christ.
Your destiny is released when you actually realize who you are.
And your identity releases your destiny.
Discovering who you are is not complicated when you learn to just trust, walk hand in hand with Jesus and enjoy His simplicity. Abide in Christ, He abides in you.
Don’t focus on your presumed destination.
God alone is your destination... to be like Him from glory to glory.
Jesus calls you to an intimate personal walk of friendship and wants you to enjoy the adventure!
‘Follow Me’ leads to ‘Come and See!’ It’s His call and He will make the necessary changes —

“Be confident of this very thing, He who has begun a good work in you will complete it.”
(Phil 1:6)

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Wanted! Strong Christian Disciples Pt III – Come and See!

When Jesus called His disciples, He made a first impression like none other. Whether or not they had previously met, when He said, “Follow me!” they immediately obeyed and left everything else behind: their nets, boats, fathers, and even more than they realized: their old self-identity.

I don’t think they fully understood what they were doing right away, but something intrigued them about this Rabbi. He definitely was not like the others.
Was it His compassion that drew them, the authority in His voice, His gracious manner? Whatever it was, the fishermen became the fish and Jesus dangled this curious bait before them and then added: “I will make you fishers of men.” (Matt 4:19)

He didn’t give them all the details and that was part of His fascination.
He didn’t fill in all the data info blanks.
He didn’t appeal to their reasoning.
At heart, the call of God is very unreasonable.

When John the Baptist directed two of his disciples to now follow Jesus instead, they approached the Lord and asked, “Where are you staying?” A very dangerous question. Sometimes like them, I think we don’t understand what we fully ask God. If we did, we’d probably never ask.

Jesus understood their quest. They were looking for answers:
Who is this ‘Lamb of God’? How does life go with You? What do Your words mean?
What’s so different about You? Why did John send us to You?

Jesus’ response was simple and disarming: “Come and see!” (John 1:38-39)
What an invitation!

He didn’t try to draw them with promises or convince them with arguments. He stirred their curiosity, stimulated a hunger and desire within their hearts for more. That’s what the truth will do: it’ll stir you to want more! Not make you satisfied with just a two- dimensional answer, but cause you to seek the ‘exceedingly abundantly above all we can ask or think’ heights… and depths!

In the natural, the more you eat and drink, the fuller you get and the less you want. However, in the spiritual realm, the opposite is true. The more you eat, the hungrier you get. Healthy babies are always hungry and thirsty; new life desires to eat, drink and take it all in! Jesus stirred that same inherent desire. In fact, those are the basic requirements of any discipleship training centre: Are you hungry and thirsty?

Proverbs 22:6 counsels parents to,
“Train up a child in the way he should go,
And when he is old he will not depart from it.”
Religion interprets this in a couple of ways.
The Jesuits paraphrased it: “Give us a child till he’s 7, and we’ll make him a Catholic for life.” Discipline by this order then becomes the means of conforming young people to their mold and image through obedience to legalistic, military-style rules and regulations. Some Evangelical Christians, on the other hand, take a rather pessimistic slant and this verse becomes more like: “Do your best as parents to instill Christian values in your children when they’re young, because in their teens they will rebel and turn from you and God; but sometime later on, if you pray hard enough, they’ll come back to their faith.”

Both of the above explanations fall far short of what I believe the Word of God here promises. First of all, ‘train up’ does not mean parents have a responsibility to raise their children under harsh discipline, breaking undesirable behaviour patterns and employing hard restrictions to conform them to their faith.
The Hebrew here means ‘to narrow, initiate, touch the palate’ and paints a very different picture: one of a mother weaning her child from breast-feeding, coaxing it to take solid food. Her toothless infant cannot yet chew its own food; commercial baby food or processing blenders were not yet available, so the mother bites off a piece of food, chews it in her own mouth first, then pushes it into and up against the roof of the baby’s mouth to ‘touch its palate’. This action stimulates the baby’s digestive juices; it hungers, swallows, feels good in its tummy and…
soon wants some more! The experience so satisfies the baby that he/she is gradually trained to eat solid food by this process of stimulating inherent desire!

As in the natural, so in the spirit. Jesus’ call touched the disciples’ palates. They desired to know more of Him and followed. The Lord began and continued His process of discipline in this way. He constantly gave them more of Himself. They took His Words to heart, drank in His Spirit and grew over the next 3½ years. Gradually, they changed from their former ‘selves’ to more resemble the One they followed. Jesus didn’t give them legalistic rules to follow; rather, He imparted His life, His very Person to them, appealing to their desire and challenging their will so they would respond to His faith and love. Peter later showed he had come to understand this manner of discipleship when he exhorted the church to spiritual growth in 1Pet 2:2:
“As newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word that you may grow thereby.”
That’s how the Lord had drawn him and taught him to walk. Though he often stumbled, he learned to call out, let God lift him up, wash him off and set him on his feet again.

Jesus calls us into an intimate personal relationship. “Follow Me!” is not a 7-step magical formula, philosophical theory or predictable program. It’s a walk, a journey through life with the Lord of the universe, Jesus Christ Himself: 1 on 1, master + disciple; pilgrims, travelers experiencing life with Him, never just spectator-tourists!
And He’s the One who takes on personal responsibility to make the necessary changes in our Identity (name, heart desires, motives) to realize our true Destiny (function, direction and destination) in Him. Frankly, when we are naturally born on the face of this earth, we have no idea of what’s involved with the air we breathe, the food we eat or the milk we drink. We simply breathe, eat and drink …and cry; those things come naturally, spontaneously! Likewise, when we are born again spiritually, Our Father has provided everything: His Life, Word and Spirit and we simply need to grow in desire and obedience to breathe, eat and drink … and sing praises in His Presence.

We need to be trained His way. We need clarity in our Identity first: who we are in Christ and who Christ is in us, before we run off to fulfill our Destiny-ministry to remake the world for Jesus! If this is not clear, we will sadly end up merely projecting and imposing our false image on others. That’s nothing but another ‘spiritualized’ form of dead religion.
Ministry is not just something you learn to do; it’s an overflow of Jesus’ presence within you.

Get filled with His fire and others will come to watch you burn!

You won’t have to come up with gimmicks and fancy entertainments to catch their attention. Be real. Too much so-called ‘ministry’ conducted by today’s North American Church ‘in the name of Jesus’ is very far removed from the Lord Himself.
It’s cloaked in manipulation, bogged down in administration, stifled in bureaucratic programs.
It lacks the Lord’s seal, His Identity, His Presence!
It presumes gifting and charisma are sufficient and does not cultivate an accompanying character to witness “It is the Lord!” Rather, it’s still a masquerading ‘Self”.
Amazingly, the world often discerns this discrepancy more readily than much of His church.

We need a greater hunger and thirst for God Himself, not just His accompanying goodies.
We need more than a new passion for Jesus; we need the Passion of Jesus!
We need His Face, not just His Hand.
Otherwise, we remain disobedient sons and daughters, no more than spoiled brats. And when we’re spoiled, we’re good for nothing: the verdict on the Laodicean church. We are no longer capable for His effective use. When we are not His Light, we do not shine. We don’t have it in us. But when we have Christ and Christ has us, the Light of the world truly shines forth from us regardless of our circumstances, in spite of the challenges, through even the darkest of times!

Jesus takes this responsibility upon Himself: He told those fishermen brothers on the shores of Galilee He would make them fishers of men. He did not expect them to know what that all meant or how to fulfill it immediately. But something in His call intrigued them. They were tired of smelly fish and wanted to touch this offered, beckoning life…
to make a difference in hearts, an eternal difference with their lives in the lives of others. Somehow whoever this stranger was, He knew them and had chosen to use them. They could refuse or follow, render excuses, continue to mend their nets and fish all night for nothing or??? exchange their fish for men!!!

Their answer was immediate: they left all and followed Jesus.
They were never again the same.

How about you? What nets are you holding on to? Let go.
His call is ever true. Let Him touch your palate.
Come and see!

PS. A few years ago, I compiled a 30-page booklet along this theme,
Jesus says, Come, Follow Me. A New Believer’s Guide to Faith in Christ.’
It’s meant to help disciples walk in the Spirit step-by-step by the Word. If you would like a copy for your own walk or to help others in theirs, please contact me at
See you on the road!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Power to the People

Wanting to concentrate on my first year studies at Pacific Bible College, I purposely avoided the Overseas Gospel Missionaries basement office for those first months in 1977. But there was this curious tug on my heart; I felt I must consciously pull myself away or fall in. Ambrose evidently sensed my conflict and confronted me after one Sunday service.
“When are you going to obey God?”
He was only 4’11”, but he stood tall in God. When he spoke, He spoke.
That was my introduction to Ambrose Anyanwu (Pacific Bible College Graduate ’77) and the beginning of my association with him and his wife, Lynda, in OGM (Overseas Gospel Missionaries). Originally just a weekly evangelistic outreach to a downtown Skid Row Mission, it soon became what is now a worldwide correspondence Bible school. The Lord put vision in our hearts and the will also to see it through. An army of committed volunteers formed. We prayed together, compiled Bible studies, answered letters, stuffed packages, licked envelopes, believed God for the stamps and saw Him bring in a mighty harvest! One of our students described it as: "I see you put Jesus in the envelope!" He was right. In our first 7 years, we saw over 20,000 receive Christ and another 5000 complete studies in discipleship! In addition, I even met my wife, Erica, through this ministry!
In 1978, Ambrose and his family returned to his native Nigeria. Eziama, his home village, had suffered much during the devastating Biafra civil war. Those who had sent him off to America were not impressed when he can back, not an engineer, but a preacher of the gospel. How could a preacher help this poverty-stricken community? The family languished for months in one of his father’s mud huts. Ambrose despaired that all would die as malaria attacked each one. However, God had different plans.
The village elders schemed to get rid of this ‘preacher’. They gave him land that had once been the centre for idolatry, slave-trading and discarding babies whose mothers had died giving them birth. Considered cursed, they were left to die: either to starve or be eaten by wild animals. The elders believed the demons infesting the land would solve their 'preacher' problem by driving him and his family away.
Ambrose moved onto the property. His very first evening there, a passing cyclist encountered a spectacular scene: hundreds of terror-stricken, disembodied faces ran shrieking towards him and then past him, disappearing into the thick jungle! Knocked from his bike, he fled back to the village and recounted his terrifying story. None dared venture out to discover what had happened until the next day when they felt it would be safe. To their surprise, they found Ambrose sitting, calm and at peace.
“Are you all right?” they asked.
“Yes. Shouldn’t I be? ”
“What have you been doing?”
“Praying,” he answered.
And Eziama has never been the same.

The Anyanwus asked to take any future motherless babies in the village into their home. Instead of being cursed, the villagers saw blessing evidenced on their family and ministry. Lives once doomed to latrine pits were lovingly redeemed. Hearts gradually changed in the community. Now, 30 years later: over 200 ‘motherless babies’ have been saved, a 1000-member church thrives with 10 branch churches, over 300 students attend a grade school, a Basic Skills College teaches young women sewing, cooking and even computer skills, and much more. The onetime jungle battlefield has been transformed into a virtual Garden of Eden.

A few years ago, I returned as part of a team to help realize a long-awaited dream. Eziama, a community of approximately 80,000 people, but no electricity or medical clinic, took a quantum leap into this new century. Donors had helped build a new Grace Hospital and we had come to install its solar energy power plant with two diesel generator backups. The day came to turn the power on and so did the entire village. All was ready; the chief, elders, and hundreds of others gathered to witness and celebrate the momentous occasion. The 106-year old ‘eldest’ Eziaman had the honour to press the small white switch on the wall, the lights came on, the fans twirled and all the people gasped, “Ahh!”
God used His preacher to bring real power to Eziama –both spiritual and technological. What they once despised and ridiculed had instead become the very means of their provision and blessing, exceedingly abundantly above all that the village and its elders had ever thought possible. Isn't that just like Our Jesus?

Sunday, June 7, 2009


Hey!!! Thought we might have some fun today....
Here's a couple of ....yup...poems....I have tried my hand with the artsy, creative stuff....but I've got to warn you...these are from way back there.... like late '60s + early '70s, even my pre-
Christian era. So take off your shoes and get out your flower-child glasses and take a trip with me down...

Metamorphosis Road (1973)

Forget your hope and lose your past
And soon you’ll find freedom at last;
Destroy your loss, defeat your fear,
Sorrow to drown needs only a tear.
But love….love continuously
As day meets night to become day again
So love…love through all
Brings the rainbow in rain.

Although some may say there’s no gold at the end
And following its course means a lifetime to spend
Look back from your twilight and clearly you’ll see
The means which you chose are now what you be.

And Love, our One Meaning
Shepherds His fold
To the end of life’s rainbow –
Metamorphosis Road.

(1972 - this is part of my North-African hitchhiking odyssey, when I had no clear sense
of identity, but kept on going anyway)


My name is Wubble Dubble
And I dwibble while I talk
But when I fell for you, my dear,
You scwibbled while you squawked.
My heart is weight of rubble
And my eye sees yesteryear
A Son so bright, yet lost in flight
He fell between a tear.
It’s time I picked me up now And flowed some soul through this ole ink..
But that’s not ole as in Spanish,
Nor Ole the big Swede
But it’s olethings I’ve got to tell
Of olethings I’ve seed.
Don’t ask me whom this pen holds
To mold as it may wish,
But look there through the ink more clear
And see the struggling fish –
No… my name is Wubble Dubble
And all I ask for me
Is a little air to breathe in
And at least a chance to be.

and then I continued on to Italy and did a Michelangelo thing; I got this in Florence 1973,
resting in front of his tomb, after a few days of seeing the wonders of his sculpture and Sistine Chapel & Last Judgment

If you only knew…
Would you wipe clean the slate,
Begin again,
Or let your spirits softly sleep
Unloosed within their silent serenity of stone?
As you now do.

You must have heard the cries of man…
Or were they flashes of some God
Who touched your hand as Adam’s once?
To spark new life in grey dormant forms:
Pushing, pulling, struggling, scraping,
Outwards, upwards and round about
Your noble soul sought freedom ‘mid life’s hidden secrets.

You must have felt the breath of Time…
Weigh harsh upon your heart
Both in your Night and in your Day
From Dawn till Dusk
Each morrow nearer drew that distant wall
Where finally mirrored, yourself remained
Exposed for all to see.

You must have tasted sweet joy which is creation…
Life’s elixir proffered lips of only some certain few,
A cup impatience hurls aside,
This treasure through ignorance so long denied
By man’s will or will not to glory.

You must have smelled them even then…
Their moral stench – this circus of dilettantes
Posing beneath your towering David,
Boasting as sportsmen vainglorious raise
Fresh blood-streaked trophies from carrion-strewn wastelands,
Reflecting their vacuous souls.
You must have seen our bondage – fear
As do your ‘Prisoners’ reaching forth their liberty
To we who misunder …stand about,
Pushing, pulling, struggling, scraping,
Stretching limbs to closer view those truths you’ve seen
But for us remain myriad light tears far removed.

You must have sensed and understood
Men are slaves to their misunderstanding;
With mouths agape and wonder agaze
They kneel in idle worship of your gift,
Yet press on in material servitude.

You must have known
What some are and still will be
And now ‘bove your marble eternal peace
Echo hollow empty footsteps…
The shuffled, muffled applause of
Parading humanity lost….
If they only knew.

Friday, May 29, 2009


Western society worships success, but doesn’t really know what that is. Even if we achieved it, I believe we would not clearly recognize or be wholly satisfied with what we had attained. Somehow, I think, even for Christians, the ‘gospel’ has become so confusingly interwoven with an elusive ‘American Dream’ that many are distracted, striving for illusory goals, rather than trusting the simple, sure mercies of Jesus.
Our humanistic, materialistic, intellectually top-heavy, individual-centred, entertain-me focus has essentially altered our life perspective to the point where we mistakenly equate comfort and pleasure with fulfillment and joy. Consequently, our unsatisfied ‘self’ is never able to truly enjoy the journey. Many achieved the white picket fence and 2-car garage but found that wasn’t enough. So we expanded the dream to 3 cars with a ride-on mower, luxury homes and it’s still not enough! Success is neither winning the lottery nor thinking up the ultimate special effects action movie and calling it life.
Even much of the Christian church seems to have bought into the world’s message with bigger programs, buildings and egos. ‘7-Step How-to Self-help’ books dominate the best-seller lists but Christ said, “Deny your self.” In other words, “Kill it, don’t fix it!” Somehow, it seems we have become more preoccupied with the ways of a world we profess to reach than the Saviour we profess to proclaim. It’s like adoring the ornaments while ignoring the Tree.
The superficial supplants the essential.
The Organization threatens to suffocate the Organism.
If we are honest, we can even catch ourselves singing, “It’s all about me!” rather than truly, “It’s all about You …Jesus!”

The true gospel never validates the world’s status quo. Jesus Christ is and always will be the most radical revolutionary this world has ever known! He alone can change human hearts!

Regardless of how many subtle forms in which sin parades itself, His simple good news will always expose, confound and unmask their essential egoism. The gospel reveals the hypocrisies of political (communism or capitalism) and religious (legalism or license) forms which deny the power of the Cross.
It is not about us. It’s about God… and faith and love towards our neighbour, that is, the guy next to us. “Inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.” (Matt 25:40)
Success really has nothing to do with our twisted egotistical sense of winning, accumulating the most toys, or acquiring the most influence.
Success has everything to do with how we truly treat one another and what we live, give and pass on to others.
Trees are known by their fruit and the seed they pass on to the next season’s generation. Christians are also known by the fruit we produce: good trees = good fruit = good seed = more good trees.
We need to have a vision for harvest beyond ourselves. Unfortunately, many Christians are buying into quick-fix doctrines and escapist end-times fantasies which lead them to selfishly conclude we are earth’s ‘last generation’. These deceptions abrogate our effectiveness to witness the true gospel of Christ to a perishing world and relay this inheritance to the next generations.

Jesus succeeded. He is the true King. He died on the Cross for our sin, rose from the dead for our salvation, destroyed the works of the devil (Heb 2:14), and is now reigning from the throne of the universe. His Kingdom is successfully established and we are called to reign with Him, fill the earth with His glory and successively pass on this inheritance from generation to generation. We must not drop the baton.
We succeed when we effectively relay Christ’s life to those who follow. Jesus is calling us to stand in the gap and pass it on. Successful evangelists do not merely evangelize; they raise, equip and release other evangelists into their calling. Likewise with others of the 5-fold ministry: we only succeed when we release others to proceed in their destiny.
There is no success without a successor.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

‘…with persecutions’ (Mark 10:30)

Our perspective actually sets, interprets and becomes our reality. Preconceived prejudices largely determine what we open or close our eyes, ears, minds and hearts to. Revelation depends greatly on our training to either see or refuse to see. Plain truth and fresh vision might well be right before our eyes, but if we don’t have eyes to see or ears to hear, we’ll overlook, deny or even refuse them. We will miss it, though it might well be right before our eyes! Just ask Pilate. ‘What is truth?’ he asked, and The Way, The Truth and The Life stood right in front of him!

Thomas Jefferson’s prejudice against the supernatural precluded his rejecting both Christ’s divinity and miracles, so he took a pair of scissors and literally cut everything out of his Bible which did not agree with this rationalistic, but foolish, paradigm. Not only was he left with a holy Bible, but his assumptions ripped gaping holes in his overall world perspective.
Western Christians are being trained by culture and circumstances to view life through a lens of consumer-comfortable, self-centred materialist religion. Our culture offers us a line of stylish glasses, more concerned about how well we look (our appearance conformed) than how well we see (our vision transformed). We need Our Father’s New Covenant Son-glasses to see life His way, from His perspective. It 's all about 'The Revelation of Jesus Christ'! We need to focus and see Jesus at the centre on the throne. Only then are we able to see light in darkness, beauty through pain, order in the midst of confusion.
What glasses do you have on?
Conveniently but unfortunately, we have removed much of what the Bible speaks about suffering and persecution from our conscious worldview.
We have learned to quickly read over these verses, giving them polite lip service, but convinced they were for other people of other places or times. In turn, we have been spoiled for the real work of the Spirit and the kingdom of God.
We have been sold fashionable, but deceptive, designer glasses that have skewed our viewing, thinking and living.
We have equated suffering with personal and cultural discomfort and confused attacks of the devil with The Comforter’s efforts to renew us as salt and light. Comfort, personal peace and affluence are the new gods and goals that have supplanted sacrifice and service in our worship. We have virtually exorcised suffering and persecution from our Bible and life consciousness. Our eyes are predisposed to skim over these ‘difficult’ passages and focus on the more feel-good, pleasure-giving portions.
We have ascribed to the creed: If it is uncomfortable, it cannot be God.
We have taken away from God’s Word and diluted the gospel’s power.

For example, a ‘prosperity gospel’ mindset reads Mark 10:30, focuses on ‘houses and lands, hundredfold now in this time’, equates them with wealth + riches, but omits ‘with persecutions’. This set of glasses, either out of denial, ignorance, or blindness assumes this either 'must be a typo,’ or really applied to a different time when Christians were not as enlightened as we are today. But keep reading and you’ll find suffering and persecution virtually everywhere in the Bible and you cannot overlook or deny their value to us also today!
Look at 1Pet 1:11. The Old Testament prophets foresaw, but could not comprehend ‘the sufferings of Christ and the glory that should follow.’ The Pharisees looked for the glory of a future Messiah through their own set of expectations, but Jesus Christ the Messiah did not fit their list, especially the suffering part, so they rejected Him. They read Isaiah 53, but neither received its true meaning nor made the connection that the prophesied Messiah equaled this foretold Suffering Servant present in Jesus Christ. He came to His own and His own did not receive Him (John 1:12). He did not fit their preconceived mindset of who He would be and what He would do! Jesus neither wore their brand of glasses, nor conformed to their predetermined image!
The disciples had the same problem: it took them over two years to realize who Jesus was.
Yes, He was a real man, but the God-man, God in flesh, the Christ, Son of the Living God?
After His identity finally became revelation to them, Jesus started speaking about the next step, His destiny, but again they could not receive it.
‘We are going to Jerusalem; I will be crucified, but I will rise again.’
He clearly outlined the plan to them at least 3 times, but they never understood. When Good Friday came, they could not believe Sunday was coming. Sunday morning came and they were hiding behind locked doors, afraid for their lives. Jesus’ words hadn’t fit their worldview. Their Messiah was supposed to charge into Jerusalem on a white horse, liberate Judea and send the Romans packing! Peter even openly rebuked Jesus about His negative thinking. Every time He brought it up, they changed the subject, either willfully, ignorantly or just plain willfully ignorant. They could not see what He saw. Their glasses distorted, discoloured and blinded their view. Jesus tore the veil away so they could see clearly. Have we sewn it back up again?

How willfully ignorant are you about the next step ahead in your destiny? Are you willing to see, accept and embrace what lies ahead? Can you discern what the enemy means for evil and believe the Lord will turn it for good and a testimony to His greater glory?

Look further at Philippians 1:29: ‘…it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for His sake.’ Reading with C20th Western ‘comfort glasses’ automatically stops after ‘believe in him’ and evaporates that last phrase on suffering into unconscious unbelief. However, the Word remains. And its true comfort, if you will receive it, will be there for you when you need it. And rest assured: you will need it if you are serious about following the Master.

Take a further look at another familiar passage: ‘And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony,’ (Rev 12:11ab) Here is a powerful statement of God’s ability to bring victory out of seeming defeat. But that is only a portion of the entire verse and much of our contemporary Church has customized this Scripture by mentally blotting out the last phrase ‘and they did not love their lives to the death.’ Now I know that ‘death’ part is really uncomfortable and theologically, Jesus already died for my sinsand conquered death, so can’t we just skip the suffering part and go right into the glory! Let's just live in the glory, right?

Right! So, why not take the whole Scripture by faith and move into the whole glory, from glory to glory, disregarding our physical comforts' complaints. Our Western Christian mindset wants to serve God, but hesitates at the threshold of truly laying it all down. It’s like everyone wants to go to heaven, but no one wants to die to get there! We can't quite grasp what's really on the other side. Such incomplete views lead only to disappointment and discouragement when reality ultimately sets in.
Rev 12:11c is still in effect today. In fact, if today’s Church really wants to move into the next glory, we will have to count the costs (both what Christ already paid on The Cross and our present responsibilities as disciples) and follow Jesus just as every generation that has desired genuine testimony over mere hypocrisy.

Centuries ago, in the midst of intense, empire-wide persecution, Tertullian, one of our Early Church Fathers, proclaimed: ‘The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church!’
Or, in other words, ‘When the Church is persecuted, it grows!’
It is historical fact that when one Christian died in the arena, ten more were ‘born again’ in the stands. Do the math. Eventually Roman persecution destroyed itself: the true God won more hearts than the idol emperors!
But much of today’s Western church has lost the power and meaning of this revelation.
We have immunized ourselves against suffering and persecution. Comfort and self-preservation have become our underlying creeds and goals (although I’m sure we would not admit that).
We have so sheltered ourselves from real Christianity that it is difficult for us to even recognize, let alone respond to, the real thing when it confronts us.
We are familiar with stories and pictures of martyrs from other periods of Church history, but they seem somehow distant, so ancient to us.
We feel a sentimental tug on our hearts when we hear how they suffered for their faith: thrown to the lions, burnt at stakes, nailed to crosses, flaming human torches for Nero’s garden parties. But that was all back then, wasn't it?
We are ignorant of both suffering’s content (tribulation can really be in God’s will for Christians today - 1Pet 4:19 ‘let those who suffer according to the will of God’) and context in the worldwide Church today. Do you know that more Christians have died for their faith in just this last century than in all previous centuries combined?
Persecution is not a thing of the past, at least not for real Christians in the real world. For many it is a present truth, obstacle and overcoming testimony! Rather than just decry the Western Church’s Laodicean state and its exchange of fire, zeal and passion for religious form and escapist raptures, we need to take steps of faith and obedience to break apathy and reveal true Christian testimony. The kingdom of God is so much better than the seductive American Dream!

Should we then pray for persecution? 2Tim 3:12 clearly answers: ‘All who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.’ We don’t have to pray for persecution.
Simply follow The Master faithfully; the world treats His real disciples like they treated Him. Experiencing reproach for our own sin is not the same as suffering for Jesus (1Pet 2:20). It’s for Christ’s sake, not our own, that yields glory to Him! Live godly in your everyday world like Jesus did (WDJD?), and you will encounter (no, you will create) reaction + opposition. The world will seek to crucify you! The status quo does not like its world turned upside down…. or right side up! Persecution will stalk, follow and find you.
It’s not so much what you do or don’t do: it’s essentially whom you follow, who you carry within, who you are. Desire to live godly ‘in Christ Jesus’ and this new identity will become so clear that, not only will your old ‘self’ be unrecognizable, but the world will recognize and fight against this Christ in you. You will make a difference for Christ and any crisis will be your opportunity to shine. After all, ‘crisis’, essentially 'The Cross in action', only brings out what truly lives within, reveals what we’re made of, and yields fruit to God’s glory.
The Sauls of this world are watching and cannot ignore God’s Stephens. Their deaths are never in vain; they yield Pauls who change nations.