Five weeks and counting…waiting on Italy.

Hello All!

Each time I write, I hope I can do so from Italy. We are five weeks to the day past the day the Italian Consulate received our visa applications (along with our passports). We saw the 7-10 days timeframe on the Consulate website. We even have a friend who received her visa in three days.

For now, Susan and I are in training, learning that waiting is the most spiritual thing we can do.

The Psalmist makes it sound easy:

“Wait for the LORD; Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the LORD.” (27:14)

Believe me, we want to see God’s answer in the form of visas in hand and our flight to our new place to serve in Padova. There is an element to waiting on God that I don’t do very well. Standing firmly, quietly, at the ready while God gets me ready.

See if this verse helps make my point clearer:

“We look to the LORD our God for his mercy, just as servants keep their eyes on their master, as a slave girl watches her mistress for the slightest signal.” (Psalm 123:2)

So, as we wait on Italy to approve our visas, Susan and I stand at attention, our eyes on our Master, content to be near Him, recalibrating our ears to His voice, and staying open to serve Him where we are…as we wait.

 

Thank you for praying for Susan and me as we wait on our visas and wait on our God.

Rick

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G.R.O.W. Assessment GIFTS Module – Spiritual Gifts Defined:

When you receive your Spiritual Gifts module results, you’ll notice a percentage score beside each gift. Some will be lower while others will land in the middle. This doesn’t mean you are deficient in anything or that God can’t use you in each of these gifts. In fact, God takes pleasure in using us in ways in which we think we are weaker. By all means, ask God to use you in all ways through any of His Spiritual Gifts. He’s in charge and gives good gifts to His kids!

Notice especially the gifts that are highest as these are the gifts that, at least according to this assessment, you will likely use most frequently in the Kingdom. Your top three are your best Spiritual tools! (In the event of a tie, make it the top four!)

Here are helpful definitions for each gift with a verse or two that describes each (by no means exhaustive in these definitions). This is what a person will likely do based on the Biblical definitions and church experiences and will help you with a basic understanding of your top Gifts. Further study, practice, and conversations with your friends and church leaders will help expand your understanding.

Here is a PDF of this list. g-r-o-w-gifts-defined

GIFTS (The “G” in the G.R.O.W. Assessment):

Artisan/Craftmanship (Exodus 31:1-5) –

  • Creates art that reflects God’s glory and unveils His character
  • Shows ability in one or more medium of creative art so as to connect the unbeliever with the Creator through that art

Celibacy/Volunteer (I Corinthians 7:7) –

  • Remains single through God’s provision in order to serve with greater intensity

Discernment/Distinguishing Spirits (1 John 4:1-6, 1 Corinthians 12:10) –

  • Perceives the intent and origination of spiritual matters
  • Recognizes whether a message is from the Holy Spirit or not
  • Distinguishes right from wrong, truth from error in a situation

Encouragement/Exhortation (Acts 14:22, Romans 12:8) –

  • Urges others toward action, faithfulness, and courage
  • Motivates others to have courage in difficult times or when faith wavers
  • Brings out the best in others and challenges them to meet their potential

Faith (Romans 4:18-21, 1 Corinthians 12:9) –

  • Sees what God is doing and believe Him for results
  • Trusts God to act on His promise in the face of great odds
  • Stands firm until God answers and/or the miracle happens

Giving (2 Corinthians 8:1-7, Romans 12:8) –

  • Gives much proportionately with pure motives
  • Invests resources generously beyond the tithe
  • Earns, invests, and give with Spirit-led success resources in order to support ministry

Guidance/Administration (1 Corinthians 14:40) –

  • Manages details to support to free other leaders to focus on their work
  • Sees gifts in other and connect them to ministry
  • Organizes resources, time, teams, and people for greater Kingdom impact
  • Coordinates multiple details and levels and accomplishes the goals of a project

Healing (James 5:14-16, 1 Corinthians 12:9) –

  • Prays in faith for others with the result that they are healed
  • Senses the prompts of God to pray for healing

Hospitality (1 Peter 4:9) –

  • Finds pleasure in housing or feeding others in home or through the church
  • Makes others feel welcome and significant

Intercession/Supplication (Ephesians 6:18-20) –

  • Prays faithfully until the answer comes
  • Steps into the place of a person, church, people group, or geographical area and prays consistently for the needs

Knowledge/Words (1 Corinthians 12:8, Acts 16:28) –

  • Speaks timely, Spirit-given knowledge that applies to a person’s situation
  • Comprehends and conveys spiritually revealed knowledge that helps a person with a specific need

Leadership (Hebrews 13:7, 17, Romans 12:8) –

  • Influences a group to accomplish it’s purpose or goal
  • Communicates purpose, direction, and vision to the group, team or church
  • Motivates others to work together to accomplish a ministry goal

Mercy/Grace (Luke 10:30-37, Romans 12:8) –

  • Empathizes with those in need and extend encouragement
  • Senses hurts and provide cheerful support to those pain, distress, or crisis

Miracles (Mark 11:23-24, 1 Corinthians 12:10) –

  • Prays in faith for God’s specific intervention in impossible situations and sees answers
  • Sees situations where God wants to move miraculously and prays for supernatural intervention

Missionary/Apostle (Romans 15:20-21,1 Corinthians 9:19-23, Acts 13:1-4) –

  • Shares with a God-given urgency the Gospel to others from vastly different backgrounds
  • Begins a fresh work of God in places that have no Gospel witness
  • Adapts readily to different cultures in order to serve in that culture
  • Seeks through the leadership and provision of the Holy Spirit to know about needs of other people groups and rallies resources to meet the needs
  • Compelled to communicate the Gospel through serving and speaking to others in a different culture than their own

Music (1 Chronicles 16:4) –

  • Plays an instrument or sings in a way that draws others to worship Christ Jesus
  • Creates worship through musical skills that presents the character of God and declares the Good News

Pastor/Shepherding (1 Peter 5:2-4, Hebrews 13:17) –

  • Exercises concern, care, and protection for a group or church that encourages growth spiritual health
  • Equips believers in Biblical world view and understanding of who Jesus is and how each can serve effectively
  • Models spiritual growth and service to members of group or church

Prophecy (1 Corinthians 12:10, 14:3, Acts 11:28) –

  • Delivers with persuasion God’s message
  • Discerns a current situation or potential future occurrence and delivers this message effectively
  • Understands the “big picture” of God’s redemptive and prophetic stream and relates it to the current church situation and direction

Serving/Helps (1 Peter 4:11) –

  • Sees needs easily and finds ways to practically meet those needs
  • Serves others personally and in church without need of recognition
  • Manages time and resources to solve individual or church needs

Teaching (Ephesians 4:12-13, Romans 12:7) –

  • Understands and explains Biblical truth in ways that believers comprehend and apply
  • Learns and is able to take others “with him/her” in learning

Tongues – Interpreting (1 Corinthians 12:10, 14:13) –

  • Understands words spoken in tongues and communicates it clearly to others
  • Interprets a message in a heavenly language or unknown tongue to those present

Tongues – Speaking (1 Corinthians 12:10, 14:2, 14-15, Acts 2:4-8) –

  • Prays in a language understood only by God
  • Speaks in an unlearned language or tongue to, along with interpreting, communicate God’s truth and give God worship

Wisdom/Word (1 Corinthians 2:1, 6-16, 12:7-8) –

  • Understands God’s perspective on practical life situations and conveys it in simple ways
  • Knows what to do, how to do it, and helps others do the same
  • Receives and conveys Spirit-given wisdom and application to a person or group

G.R.O.W. Volunteer Assessment – RELATE Profile

The G.R.O.W. RELATE Profile is derived from the Kirk Test, a profile developed by missional leader, Chip Kirk. This brief 20-question profile identifies your dominant personality type so you and the team you volunteer with can see how you work with others. Sometimes, there is one very dominant type out of the four. More frequently, there are two nearly equally dominant types. Occasionally, the types are spread equally across the four.The four types are like tendencies or impulses through which you tend to act and serve. All four can have strengths and weaknesses and will be a blessing to their respective teams. And all four can pursue the “good works God has prepared for (each) to accomplish.” (Ephesians 2:10.)

kirk-test-descriptions-web2

 

Bicycles and Turks

Our church has a process that helps Christ-followers build friendships, grow, and get involved. Our V301 is the “how do I see God in my life” track. Session Seven is when we learn about Prayer as a Gift to others, and I always start by asking God to show us who we should pray for (I’m thinking someone in the course will want prayer for something – safe bet!)

Each time, God answers this prayer and we have seen refreshing and healing for someone before the study ends.

This week was a fresh surprise.

Near the end of the evening, a young man walked by the front door pushing his bike. My first response was to send the biggest guy in the group to check it out and lock the door if needed.

He invited him in instead.

But, since we helped 50 or so international students with transportation through our All Nations Cafe outreach, he wanted to turn in or sell his bike, since he was flying out the next morning.

The amazing God-story unfolded. One man bought his bike, then gave him a ride home. Another gave him a preview of what we were studying. One of the ladies asked him to pull up a chair. (Remember: Turk. Islam. Not typically looking for a Bible circle to join.)

By the end of the evening, we knew about our study and why we meet. He moved from stand-offish and into the circle. We told him how God was going to use him in his nation and within his family to be a blessing. We prayed for him that Isa (that’s Jesus in Arabic) would reveal himself and cause him to long for and know Him. And we sent him back to Turkey to be a blessing to his nation.

Afterwards, on the ride back to his hotel, the report is that he was amazed at what we were doing. It was memorable.

And he sold his bike. But the bike isn’t what we really knew he came for. He was an answer to prayer. And our faith soared for him and his wonderful nation!

 

 

 

Choosing to be a church that says … the Kingdom of Heaven is like…

A new book on how to write your “vision statement” is born every three seconds.

I’m exaggerating. But, there are a lot of plans on how to “cast the vision” as business leaders and church leaders and NPO execs.

Here’s my take (this came out of the rich environment for thought that our pastoral staff meetings are!)

How about this. We are a church (or non-profit, or business) that does things that say to our culture “the Kingdom of Heaven is like…”

Here’s an example:

The Kingdom of Heaven is like a plate of lasagna around which an international student who doesn’t have the vocabulary to relate to God sees the love of Jesus in the eyes of those who serve her and listen to her story. For she is readying her heart for the new birth.

Or, the Kingdom of Heaven is like the brew of freshly ground coffee that has the aroma of friendship and a safe place to explore what it means to follow Jesus. For his search for God draws near.

Or, the Kingdom of Heaven is like a living room couch where seekers of Truth can rest, let God speak through Scripture and friends, and find healing.

Or my favorite, the Kingdom of Heaven is like a well-run soundboard that causes the voices and instruments to blend in beautiful worship in order to confront with the grace and power of the Holy Spirit those whose lives are in disharmony.

Today, I changed my personal vision statement.

Rick

 

S.H.A.P.E. Profile Spiritual Gifts Assessment – Spiritual Gifts Defined:

When you receive your Spiritual Gifts assessment, you’ll notice a percentage score beside each gift. Some will be lower while others will land in the middle. This doesn’t mean you are deficient in anything or that God can’t use you in each of these gifts. In fact, God takes pleasure in using us in ways in which we think we are weaker. By all means, ask God to use you in all ways through any of His Spiritual Gifts. He’s in charge and gives good gifts to His kids!

Notice especially the gifts that are highest as these are the gifts that, at least according to this assessment, you will likely use most frequently in the Kingdom. Your top three are your best Spiritual tools! (In the event of a tie, make it the top four!)

Here are helpful definitions for each gift with a verse or two that describes each (by no means exhaustive in these definitions). This is what a person will likely do based on the Biblical definitions and church experiences and will help you with a basic understanding of your top Gifts. Further study, practice, and conversations with your friends and church leaders will help expand your understanding.

Attached is a PDF of this list – Spiritual Gifts List

Spiritual Gifts (The “S” in the S.H.A.P.E. Profile):

  1. Administration/Guidance (1 Corinthians 14:40) –
  • Manages details to support to free other leaders to focus on their work
  • Sees gifts in other and connect them to ministry
  • Organizes resources, time, teams, and people for greater Kingdom impact
  • Coordinates multiple details and levels and accomplishes the goals of a project
  1. Apostle (Romans 15:20-21,1 Corinthians 9:19-23) –
  • Shares with a God-given urgency the Gospel to others from vastly different backgrounds
  • Begins a fresh work of God in places that have no Gospel witness
  1. Celibacy (I Corinthians 7:7) –
  • Remains single through God’s provision in order to serve with greater intensity
  1. Craftsmanship/Artisan (Exodus 31:1-5) –
  • Creates art that reflects God’s glory and unveils His character
  • Shows ability in one or more medium of creative art so as to connect the unbeliever with the Creator through that art
  1. Discernment/Distinguishing Spirits (1 John 4:1-6, 1 Corinthians 12:10) –
  • Perceives the intent and origination of spiritual matters
  • Recognizes whether a message is from the Holy Spirit or not
  • Distinguishes right from wrong, truth from error in a situation
  1. Encouragement (Acts 14:22, Romans 12:8) –
  • Urges others toward action, faithfulness, and courage
  • Motivates others to have courage in difficult times or when faith wavers
  • Brings out the best in others and challenges them to meet their potential
  1. Evangelism (Acts 8:26-40) –
  • Challenges others with a God-given zeal and compassion to believe in and follow Christ
  • Focuses on the pre-Christian stage of disciple-making
  • Senses readiness in others to trust Christ
  • Shares the Good News in non-threatening compassionate ways with frequent success
  1. Exhortation (Acts 13:15) –
  • Understands and communicates Biblical truth in ways that encourage others to apply it
  • Persuades others to obey Biblical truth
  1. Faith (Romans 4:18-21, 1 Corinthians 12:9) –
  • Sees what God is doing and believe Him for results
  • Trusts God to act on His promise in the face of great odds
  • Stands firm until God answers and/or the miracle happens
  1. Giving (2 Corinthians 8:1-7, Romans 12:8) –
  • Gives much proportionately with pure motives
  • Invests resources generously beyond the tithe
  • Earns, invests, and give with Spirit-led success resources in order to support ministry
  1. Healing (James 5:14-16, 1 Corinthians 12:9) –
  • Prays in faith for others with the result that they are healed
  • Senses the prompts of God to pray for healing
  1. Helps/Service (1 Peter 4:11) –
  • Sees needs easily and finds ways to practically meet those needs
  • Serves others personally and in church without need of recognition
  • Manages time and resources to solve individual or church needs
  1. Hospitality (1 Peter 4:9) –
  • Finds pleasure in housing or feeding others in home or through the church
  • Makes others feel welcome and significant
  1. Prayer/Intercession (Ephesians 6:18-20) –
  • Prays faithfully until the answer comes
  • Steps into the place of a person, church, people group, or geographical area and prays consistently for the needs
  1. Knowledge – Words (1 Corinthians 12:8, Acts 16:28) –
  • Speaks timely, Spirit-given knowledge that applies to a person’s situation
  • Comprehends and conveys spiritually revealed knowledge that helps a person with a specific need
  1. Leadership (Hebrews 13:7, 17, Romans 12:8) –
  • Influences a group to accomplish it’s purpose or goal
  • Communicates purpose, direction, and vision to the group, team or church
  • Motivates others to work together to accomplish a ministry goal
  1. Mercy/Compassion (Luke 10:30-37, Romans 12:8) –
  • Empathizes with those in need and extend encouragement
  • Senses hurts and provide cheerful support to those pain, distress, or crisis
  1. Miracles (Mark 11:23-24, 1 Corinthians 12:10) –
  • Prays in faith for God’s specific intervention in impossible situations and sees answers
  • Sees situations where God wants to move miraculously and prays for supernatural intervention
  1. Missionary (Romans 10:14, Acts 13:1-4) –
  • Adapts readily to different cultures in order to serve in that culture
  • Seeks through the leadership and provision of the Holy Spirit to know about needs of other people groups and rallies resources to meet the needs
  • Compelled to communicate the Gospel through serving and speaking to others in a different culture than their own
  1. Music (1 Chronicles 16:4) –
  • Plays an instrument or sings in a way that draws others to worship Christ Jesus
  • Creates worship through musical skills that presents the character of God and declares the Good News
  1. Pastor/Shepherd (1 Peter 5:2-4, Hebrews 13:17) –
  • Exercises concern, care, and protection for a group or church that encourages growth spiritual health
  • Equips believers in Biblical world view and understanding of who Jesus is and how each can serve effectively
  • Models spiritual growth and service to members of group or church
  1. Poverty – voluntary (Luke 12:22-31, Philippians 4:11-13)
  • Cultivates contentment in whatever material or financial condition
  • Chooses to live simply so as to give generously to Kingdom causes
  • Trusts God with little in order to provide more to impact the world with the Gospel
  1. Prophesy (1 Corinthians 12:10, 14:3, Acts 11:28) –
  • Delivers with persuasion God’s message
  • Discerns a current situation or potential future occurrence and delivers this message effectively
  • Understands the “big picture” of God’s redemptive and prophetic stream and relates it to the current church situation and direction
  1. Teaching (Ephesians 4:12-13, Romans 12:7) –
  • Understands and explains Biblical truth in ways that believers comprehend and apply
  • Learns and is able to take others “with him/her” in learning
  1. Tongues – Interpreting (1 Corinthians 12:10, 14:13) –
  • Understands words spoken in tongues and communicates it clearly to others
  • Interprets a message in a heavenly language or unknown tongue to those present
  1. Tongues – Speaking (1 Corinthians 12:10, 14:2, 14-15, Acts 2:4-8) –
  • Prays in a language understood only by God
  • Speaks in an unlearned language or tongue to, along with interpreting, communicate God’s truth and give God worship
  1. Wisdom (1 Corinthians 2:1, 6-16, 12:7-8) –
  • Understands God’s perspective on practical life situations and conveys it in simple ways
  • Knows what to do, how to do it, and helps others do the same
  • Receives and conveys Spirit-given wisdom and application to a person or group
  1. Writing (1 Peter 5:12) –
  • Writes clearly so that others comprehend and apply God’s truth
  • Creates with words in order to attract others to God and His Good News

Tough Crowd

Preachers and worship leaders can read a room, so I’m informed. We stand before the crowd and can tell if they are tracking with us, indifferent, or just don’t like us (not that the third option ever happens in church!) Jesus was invited to a Pharisee’s house (read Luke 14) and the place was filled with an audience not-so-favorable toward him or the message of the Kingdom. My guess would be to not expect much from a dinner party crowd like this (maybe like going to a Hillary rally wearing a Feel the Bern tee.)

Jesus turned the Sunday dinner soiree into a masterful time of teaching – about not living for crowd approval (he was experienced with this,) about humility and the urge to seek honor from others (don’t take the box seat unless it’s offered), and about lifting up those who can’t improve one’s status or power (toss to pre-approved invitation list and bring in the hurting, blind and invisible.)

And, he healed a man with a visible case of renal failure (his arms and legs were swollen with fluid.) Jesus noted the man’s illness and asked the crowd if he should heal him, even though it was the Sabbath. (I’m sure the host was asking, “who let this guy in? Next time, screen for dropsy!)

Of course, the crowd of Pharisees refused to answer – and of course, Jesus healed him.

But the next exchange is what grabs me. Jesus addresses the room and  asked, “Who here doesn’t do some kind of work on Sunday? Fix a tire? Empty the trash? Rescue a cow? Really?”  Silence from the room. (Cue the crickets.) And they couldn’t answer.

Not “refused” or “chose not” to answer. They couldn’t. Their world view simply would not give space for a reasonable answer. They were so entitled to their Sabbath day, that they couldn’t answer. The rules that governed their Sabbath ruled out their ability to speak aloud what was true and made sense. That God desired healing on their holy-day couldn’t penetrate their dogma … or their faith.

What we’ve experienced, good and bad, and what we’ve clung to that seems culturally acceptable might be exactly what stops us from believing … and being healed.

Comedians can read an audience, too. I read that some entertainers choose to beg off shows at colleges – they say it’s too dangerous. What they say is always under scrutiny. And being recorded.

What a shame that dogma might stop the laughter. And everyone needs a good laugh.

 

Vineyard 201 – Power of God, Power of Prayer

This week’s article by John Wimber, one of the key pastors who helped launch the “Vineyard Movement” links two important spiritual topics: the power of God and the Christ-follower’s prayer life. God wants to display His power through our lives – no question about his (the whole “same works and even greater” promise still wrecks my experiential grid!) But, what is our responsibility through prayer? And more importantly, how does prayer display God’s Kingdom and Power? Wimber would say, it’s all about intimacy!

Enjoy the article below and learn about the empowering nature of intimacy with God:

PRAYER: INTIMACY WITH GOD

Only in an intimate relationship with God can we hear his voice, know his will,

and understand his heart.

By John Wimber

If most Christians could listen to recordings of their prayers over a week’s time, we would discover we pray the same things, using the same words and sentence structures, over and over again. But, I suspect, what would disturb us most is the cold, mechanical, removed feeling of the prayers. We would become more aware of something we already know but can hardly acknowledge: our relationship with God is distant and impersonal – and because of this we are unhappy and unfulfilled.

Now think of the quality of Jesus’ prayer life. Picture in your mind the freedom and openness he always experienced with his heavenly Father. He spoke to his Father in terms of endearment, referring to him as “Daddy.” Jesus took every problem, every concern, and every decision to him moment by moment. And he did it with ease and joy! It was an intimate relationship, an openness in which he freely shared his most essential, private, and personal thoughts and emotions.

The quality of relationship with his Father also was a key to answered prayer. By knowing his Father’s will, he knew how, what, and whom to pray for. “The world must learn that I love the Father,” Jesus said, “and that I do exactly what my Father has commanded me” (John 14:31). How did the world know Jesus loved the Father? Because he did what the Father told him to do, and he was able to do that because he had an intimate relationship with him.

I believe Jesus’ prayer life is something that we should aspire to, that intimacy with God in prayer is a primary goal of the Christian life.

Obedience

Why is our goal intimacy with God? Because only there do we experience forgiveness, renewal, and power for righteous living. Only in an intimate relationship with God can we hear his voice, know his will, and understand his heart.

Some of us, though, think of intimacy as merely a warm emotion—something akin to spiritual goose bumps. But this isn’t what I mean by intimacy with God. By intimacy I mean four things:

  • First, intimacy is self-disclosure. This is our ability to talk with God about who we really are, to say what we need and want, all the time knowing that he hears us and cares about these things. This touches on the formation of such character traits as honesty, integrity, and confidence.
  • Second, intimacy is being known by God. God doesn’t need our cooperation to know everything about us (Matthew 10:30). But for him to work in us and through us, we must cooperate with him, joyfully receiving his fatherly love.
  • Third, intimacy is continual obedience to God. This means knowing God in the deepest part of our beings, hearing his voice, experiencing his grace and then doing what he says to do. There is nothing fancy or mysterious about obedience. The rewards are great: A greater knowledge of God’s holiness and a clear conscience.

Scripture

  • Fourth, intimacy is knowing God. By knowing God I mean having relationship with him and knowing about him. The latter point contains a Catch 22, because a proper understanding of God’s nature is both a goal and prerequisite of intimacy. In other words, what we believe about God determines how we pray, and the quality of our prayer life powerfully affects what we believe about God!

A defective understanding of our heavenly Father’s nature (usually a result of some failure in our earthly father) is one of the greatest obstacles to an intimate prayer life. Do you think of God as quite distant from creation, disinterested in ordinary people’s daily struggles? If so your prayer life is probably an infrequent exercise in paying homage to the Creator, but in no way is it a life-changing relationship. Do you think of God as an angry old man, depriving you of life’s pleasures and joys? If so, your prayer life likely is a loathsome event, full of fear and anger.

God has provided means for overcoming our misconceptions about his nature: Scripture. In the Bible, God reveals his nature to us, but most of us require healing in some area of our lives so we can receive the truth of Scripture. Hurtful memories of our earthly fathers may hold us back from receiving our heavenly Father. Prayer for overcoming the effects of past hurts and immersion in God’s Word are the pathway to knowing God.

Models

Another obstacle to attaining intimacy with God in prayer is the dearth of mature prayer models, men and women who inspire and instruct us through prayer and deed.

As a new Christian, I was discipled by a man who embodied what it meant to be intimate with God. But even he wasn’t perfect, and when he moved away after only two years, I was forced to look elsewhere for a model of intimacy. So to whom can we look? Christ is available to all, our great example of intimacy with the Father. He is the one that we ultimately look to and pattern our lives after.

I began this article by contrasting our prayer life with Christ’s. In the remainder of the article, I will take a closer look at Christ’s relationship with his Father as found in what is commonly called the high priestly prayer of John 17.

The Upper Room

John 17 must be understood with its broader context, chapter 13 through17, the longest account of Jesus’ last night with his disciples in the upper room. Jesus speaks to his disciples in an intimate, after-dinner exchange. He discloses to them some of the most beautiful truths in the Bible. One prominent feature of his discourse is his use of the word love. It is used only six times in chapters 1-12 of John’s Gospel but 31 times in chapters 13-17.

Chapter 17 records Jesus’ conversation with his Father about himself, the apostles, and all believers. I am not as much interested here in what he prayed about as how he prayed, for his manner reveals much about his relationship with the Father.

Verse one says, “He looked toward heaven and prayed.” Did you know that the customary attitude of prayer for Jesus was to open his eyes and raise his head? His position on prayer was different from the practices of most Western Christians. Now, I believe there is nothing wrong in lowering our heads and closing our eyes (it communicates reverence toward God and helps us keep our concentration on God), but Jesus looked up and opened his eyes because his relationship with the Father was open, free, uninhibited.

He begins his prayer with the simple “Father,” the common address of a child to its parent. Jesus was using language common to everyday family life and transferring it to God. It reveals the close familiarity between Jesus and his Father.

Reinforce Truth

Jesus then goes on in verses two to five to pray for himself as within hours he would face the cross. But the tone of his prayer impresses me—informal, free, and heartfelt. These were the prayers of a friend of God. In reading many of Jesus’ prayers, I get the feeling that he is interrupting a private, unspoken conversation in order to speak aloud so the disciples can learn how to pray. In other words, his spoken words appear to be the overflow of a continuing dialogue with his Father.

In saying, “Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you,” Jesus revealed his one motivation in life was to glorify his Father. This meant that all his prayers were steeped with an attitude of obedience and sacrifice, a desire to submit his life to whatever his Father wanted. It is almost as though he is reviewing a fundamental principle of the Christian life: You glorify me, I glorify you. We too, should never hesitate to repeat the fundamental promises of Scripture to God in prayer; in doing so we reinforce his truth in us and faith grows. We need to regularly review our commitments, and what better place is there to do that than with God?

In verses 6 to 19 he prays for the disciples. He continues to focus on fulfilling God’s purpose: to redeem and raise up a people who know the Father. When we experience intimacy with our heavenly Father our hearts will naturally turn toward intercession. Why? Because we will take on his heart, his burden for men and women.

Jesus and the early Christians rarely prayed for the world. Instead, they prayed that the church would be bold in proclaiming the gospel to the unsaved! You don’t have to tell God your friends aren’t saved. He already knows. You need to tell them about Christ, and ask God for the boldness to speak the gospel in love.

Unity

In verses 20 to 26 he prays for all believers “that all may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you” (v. 21). This is the punch line of the high priestly prayer: We can have the same type of relationship with the Father that Jesus has.

I grew up as an only child with both parents who worked. From the ages of five to eighteen I devoted my life almost entirely to music, sitting alone for hours practicing different musical instruments. I didn’t develop very many social skills with a horn in my mouth. If it hadn’t been for my wife, I don’t know if I would have ever learned how to have deep, intimate friendships. I have found it difficult to know God as my “Daddy,” but as I grow in the knowledge of his nature and take risks with him, I’m learning he loves me and accepts me the way I am. I can enter into the same quality of relationship as Jesus has with the Father.

When we experience the intimacy of the Father and the Son, it will affect our relationship brothers and sisters in such a way that many pagans will believe that Jesus was sent by the Father to redeem the world (v.23). Christian unity, rooted in an intimate relationship with our heavenly Father, is the most powerful testimony of Christ’s lordship in the world today.

 

Vineyard 201 – Disciple-making Jesus’ Way

At the heart of the Vineyard Movement, “making disciples of all nations” has been a core value. At Seacoast Vineyard, we seek to “make disciples” through Small Groups, personal mentoring, leadership development, recovery and healing, conferences, our college-level Vineyard Institute, and ministry training.

A lot has been published about disciple-making; here is an article by John Wimber who contributed much to helping us understand the Kingdom qualities of discipleship found in Jesus’ life.

NO SHORTCUTS TO MATURITY

Jesus had a conscious, single-minded plan to train the Twelve in his way of life.

By John Wimber

A major part of Christ’s ministry was devoted to training the disciples to do the Father’s works and reflect his righteous nature, to preparing them to lead the church that was created at Pentecost. His strategy for winning the world was simple: win a few men and women to Christ, train them well, and release them to repeat the process over and over again. We can learn much about discipleship by studying how Jesus trained the Twelve.

Christ’s method of training is difficult for Western Christians to understand, for it involved much more than the accumulation of knowledge. Twentieth century Christians equate training with accumulating knowledge about God through Bible study. But Christ was more action oriented; his disciples learned by doing as he did, and in so doing they combined right doctrine with changed behavior and attitudes.

Another obstacle to understanding Christ’s method of discipleship is the rejection of signs and wonders today. Signs and wonders, all Western Christians acknowledge, were necessary to authenticate Christ’s divinity. Further, signs and wonders were key in establishing the apostolic authority of the Twelve and Paul. But most Western Christians reject or adopt a generally negative attitude toward signs and wonders after the first century. This diminishes the effectiveness of Christ’s example for us and discounts much of what Christ intended that we do. What Christians are often left to follow is a good moral example, not a dynamic, Satan-conquering Lord. This results in overly intellectual disciples—certainly not a people who cause demons to tremble.

Teacher, Rabbi

A closer look at how Jesus trained the disciples to carry on his ministry after his ascension reveals many of the key elements for learning how to minister today.

Jesus’ method of instruction was the method of the day: rabbinic. A rabbi would minister while his disciples watched; then they would minister with him watching; next they went out on short missions, reporting back for further instruction and correction from the master. After repeating this process for years, and the rabbi was convinced his disciples were formed in his way of life, he released his students to become rabbis and teach others by the same process.

Christ used the same training method with his disciples. Christ, the Teacher, Rabbi, formed his disciples in his way of life, passing on his character. Faith, hope, love, joy, peace, and so on were the goals of his training. Performing signs and wonders—casting out demons, healing the sick, even walking on water—were avenues through which the disciples learned more about God’s nature. The disciples understood and accepted what Jesus expected of them. We never read of them objecting to being asked to do the works of Jesus, only of their sense of personal inadequacy in performing his commands.

Tennessee Walkers

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In my early years, I often visited a horse farm in Illinois where my grandfather worked. He trained Tennessee walking horses. Tennessee Walkers have a remarkable high-strutting gait, different from any other horse in the world. One day I was with him while he worked on a horse with a problem gait. His solution was to hitch a pacer—a horse with the correct gait—to the horse with the problem and let them walk together. After a few days, the problem horse’s gait became consistent, just like that of the pacer. My grandfather explained that when a horse cannot do its job, if you connect it to one that can, soon both do the job correctly.

I have been training men and women for twenty-five years. During this period I have learned that the secret for success with people is the same as with horses: hitch a person who cannot do a job with one who can, and soon both will know how. This is how Christ trained the Twelve: they lived with him, soon living like him. Training today works the same way. Being around someone who performs a certain ministry skill successfully (or demonstrates personal maturity) is the best way for you to learn to do it (or be it) yourself.

A willingness to follow

The primary criteria for becoming one of the Twelve was a willingness to follow Christ— to walk with him, and to choose to become like him. Other than that desire, the only thing the disciples had in common was that they were Jews with middle class economic and social standing living in Galilee (Judas was the exception; the others were mostly fishermen). From a human perspective, one can imagine the Father telling his Son, “If we can train this motley crew to advance my kingdom, we can train anyone.” This gives all of us hope.

Through mutual commitment, Jesus made disciples out of the Twelve. He developed mature character and leadership in them. He trained them to do signs and wonders. They were hitched together for three years, and when released, the disciples continued to walk in his way. They performed God’s works and persevered under the most severe of conditions. And they trained the next generation to carry on in the same way.

Difficulties

But the disciples had difficulty in cooperating with Christ in their training. They often misunderstood Christ’s teachings (Matthew 13:36; 15:15; 16:6-12). They never fully understood his mission until after the resurrection—and even then they were in need of further correction (Mark 10:35-40; Luke 9:46-48). But Jesus was patient with them, for his goal was to build men who did the Father’s bidding.

For three years the Twelve were in a learning environment. They not only learned new ideas, but they developed new skills and abilities. They were teachable because they saw a large gap between Christ’s life and their own. Progressive growth came through trial and error.

Frequent failures characterized the early ministry of all the disciples (Luke 9:37-43; 5255), especially Peter’s. His abortive attempt to walk on water (Matthew 14)) is one of many examples. As the disciples continued to live with Christ, their failures diminished

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and their successes became more frequent. Each new step of faith was a springboard for their Master to push them further, enlarging their worldview and expanding their understanding of God.

Disciples today

I believe our challenge for training today is no different from or less critical than it was for the Twelve in the first century. We, too, are called to be like Christ and to do his Father’s works. But, unlike the Twelve, we cannot live and work with the incarnate Christ. Also, the rabbinic method of training is rarely found in Western society. So how can we apply Christ’s training methods to our lives?

First, any training and formation that we receive from other Christians must be subordinated to Scripture. We worship the living God of the Bible, and it is his image-not another man’s or woman’s image—that is the goal of all discipleship.

Second, we have access to Christ through the disciplines of prayer, worship, meditation, and study. The cultivation of these “inward disciplines,” as Richard J. Foster calls them, is the most significant means of formation in Christ.

Third, we have older brothers and sisters to whom we may look for models of maturity and guidance. Saying Christ is our pattern of maturity does not exclude learning about him from more experienced Christians. Paul was not afraid to say to the Corinthian Christians, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.” Paul clearly says that Christ is the supreme example (1 Peter 2:21), that he (Paul) follows Christ’s example, and that we follow him only to the degree that he reflects Christ.

You may ask, “Where are my contemporary examples?” and “How can I be sure that they will not abuse me?” The answer to the first question is that most churches have many mature Christians from whom you can learn. But you must be involved in the church, for example, in a small group, before you can discover them and take advantage of their example. Look for someone you admire, respect, and trust. Then spend time with him or her; most of what you learn comes through association.

The answer to the second question—how to avoid abuse—goes back to the basics: Our goal is to become like Christ, and he is revealed in Scripture. If you abandon the hard work of checking out everything you are taught by others with what Scripture teaches, you place yourself in jeopardy of being deceived and hurt by Satan. In other words, while we have a responsibility to show honor and respect toward the leaders who train us, our highest responsibility is to Jesus.

Of course, the greatest joy of all is when God uses you to train others. And that is my prayer for you; that if you haven’t already grown to that level of maturity, someday you will be used by God to train others.

Adapted: Power Evangelism by John Wimber w/ Kevin Springer, Harper & Row, pub.

 

 

Vineyard 201 – Reaching Out in Jesus’ Name with Compassion

Churches throughout the generations since the First Church have preached and practiced Outreach; after all, that’s what Evangel in “Evangelical Church” means – those who declare, or tell the Good News. Some generations shared the Gospel with compassion; others, not so much.

What most people don’t know is just a few decades ago, a whole movement – the Servant Evangelism Movement – coalesced around Vineyard pastors. Steve Sjogren, for instance, began giving out bottled water, cleaning barroom toilets, washing cars, and raking yard – all for free – to, as he says, “show God’s love in a practical way.”

Reaching out is words; it’s also action.

Read what John Wimber, one of the Vineyard Movement’s first pastors, says in the article about Reaching Out – or download Wimber_on_Reaching_Out here:

SENT INTO THE HARVEST FIELDS

Jesus said, “Ask the Lord of the harvest…to send out workers into his harvest field.” But how many of us actually pray this way?

By John Wimber

About twelve years ago I attended a Christian funeral that changed my life.

The funeral was unique in several respects. First, it was quite large: about 20,000 people-mostly of Puerto Rican descent- representing 56 churches gathered to weep, rejoice, and worship as they reminisced over a lost friend.

Second, the deceased was a church. That’s correct, a local church. And those at the funeral were her spiritual descendants. Third, they loved the church! None of them had split off from it. They had all been equipped, encouraged, sent out, and supported in their new works.

I remember an older gentleman—the pastor of the church—at the front of the meeting who cried through it all. It had been his vision to start churches, and for him this gathering was the fulfillment of his calling. He could go home to the Father knowing he had accomplished what God had placed him here on earth to do.

Pastor after pastor and elder after elder stepped up to the microphone to give homage to the mother church, describing how the church’s generosity and vision were responsible for the planting and flourishing of their churches. One of the speakers pointed out that the previous year the church had started eleven new churches, and as a result of that “childbirth” the mother congregation had died. It had given away all its leaders, workers, and people. There were now only a handful of people left, so they decided to lay it down.

A passion in my soul

That day God burned a passion into my soul for renewal and growth. I knew then that whatever God called me to do, it had to be marked by a willingness to give everything away. I prayed, “Lord, if you ever call me to minister in another church, I promise it will be a sending church.”

Jesus trained his disciples to be just like him, to reflect his nature and do his Father’s works. This meant they were men and women of action, sent out to demonstrate and proclaim the Kingdom of God, “Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness” (Matthew 9:35). During his earthly ministry Jesus was a man on the move with a purpose: to teach, preach, and heal, starting with the people of God.

In Matthew 9:35-38, Jesus tells the disciples that there is a great need for more workers to go out into the harvest field (v. 38). What most readers often miss, however, is the motivation for going out: compassion for sinful and hurting men and women. “When he saw the crowds,” the text says, “he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd” (v. 36)” He had compassion on them¼” are words that capture Christ’s heart best. It was his love for the people that caused him to endure the cross and send out the disciples. And it is that same love and compassion that should motivate us to go out.

Bloom where you’re planted

Western civilization is similar to first century Israel. Sin abounds: greed, idolatry, disrespect for the elderly, religious pluralism, child sacrifice through the practice of abortion. We aren’t too different from ancient Roman civilization, though we mask our paganism through modern technology.

God’s heart is full of sorrow when he looks on Western civilization, and even more when his church fails to go out with the good news that his Son has conquered sin and death. But the harvest is plentiful, if only we will look around us and minister to the needs of the people.

The most important lesson to learn about being sent out is we first must bloom where we are planted. Whenever I talk about being sent out as a missionary I am deluged by people whose personal lives are not in good order. They don’t understand that an airplane ride to Africa or Latin America won’t make them more spiritual. “If you want to be a missionary,” I tell them, “start where you live: with your family, among your friends, among the homeless in your local park. Do good works, and invite non– believers along with you. The world knows the genuine from the fake, and if non-believers see you feeding the poor, they’ll listen to your message. That’s power evangelism.”

“In fact,” I tell them, “I’ve got more news for you. The workers that Jesus talks about in Matthew 9:38 -the ones who did overseas missionary work- were his best trained and most mature disciples. And it was the same in the early church; in Acts 13:1-2, the Holy Spirit set apart Paul and Barnabas, the most mature leaders in the church at Antioch.” In other words, God calls people who are already walking with him, not those who are running away from their problems.

Specific instructions

In Matthew 10:1-16, Jesus provides the Twelve with specific instructions about their calling. In Matthew 28:20, the great commission is handed down to all generations, so these instructions apply to us as much as they did to the Twelve. Here are the key elements of his instruction:

First, he granted the Twelve authority to carry on his ministry: “to drive out evil spirits and to heal every disease and sickness” (v. 1). They knew how to do this, because they had walked alongside the Master, and now they received authority and power to overcome the evil one and preach reconciliation in his name.

Second, he called each one of them by name (vs. 2-3). They were sure of their calling, so they went out with confidence that God was with them, no matter what the response was to their ministry. People who enter ministry for the wrong reasons-and any reason other than God’s calling is the wrong reason—cannot withstand the trials that inevitably come with being on the front-line of spiritual warfare.

Third, he gave them specific instructions about where they should go. “Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. Go, rather, to the lost sheep of Israel” (vs. 5-6). Old Testament Israel is analogous to the church. Jesus was saying the renewal of God’s people, calling them back to the Kingdom of God, comes before going out into the world. Our second priority is going into the marketplaces and practicing evangelism and church planting.

Now, I do not imply that the renewal of God’s people and personal evangelism are mutually exclusive activities; both should take place simultaneously. But Christ put a higher priority on renewal. Why? Because when God’s people are renewed, explosive evangelism and church growth inevitably follow.

In our ministry here at VMI we feel called to the renewal and equipping of the saints. In 1986 we ministered directly to over 300,000 people world-wide, mostly Christians and many of them leaders. Further, our focus is interdenominational, to the entire body of Christ, and we pray that each part of the church we minister to will experience renewal and growth.

Preach the Kingdom

Fourth, he told them what to preach. “As you go, preach this message: ‘The Kingdom of Heaven is near'” (v.7). Jesus wanted both the works and the words of God’s reign proclaimed. Without an explanation of the gospel, good works, signs, and miracles have little lasting benefit.

Fifth, he told them the nature of their ministry: to “heal the sick, raise the dead, and cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons” (v.8). It is worth pointing out here up to the time Jesus gave these instructions there is no reported incident of his raising the dead.

Sixth, he told the disciples how to handle receptive and unreceptive people. If the people receive you, he told them, they will receive God’s peace and blessing. And for a town that may reject you, “it will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town” (v. 15).

Finally, he warned them that their calling was full of danger. “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore, be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves” (v. 16).

All Christians are called as workers in the ripe harvest fields that can be seen if only we open our hearts to the world. For all of us this work begins at home. Some are called to minister in our churches, encouraging fellow Christians to turn more wholly to God in faith and obedience. All are called to evangelism, no matter where we live or work. A few of us are called to extra local ministries—missions, renewal groups, even church planting teams. What part should you play? “Ask the Lord of the harvest,” and he will show you.

 

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