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 henryerica604@gmail.com
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.