Monthly Archives: October 2007

What if Jesus Called You a Dog?

Check out this story about Jesus… 

Matthew 15:21-28

Leaving that place, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is suffering terribly from demon-possession.” Jesus did not answer a word. So his disciples came to him and urged him, “Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us.”

He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.” The woman came and knelt before him. “Lord, help me!” she said. He replied, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to their dogs.”

“Yes, Lord,” she said, “but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” Then Jesus answered, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.” And her daughter was healed from that very hour.

Or how about this rendition from Mark?
 

Mark 7:24- 30 
 Jesus left that place and went to the vicinity of Tyre. He entered a house and did not want anyone to know it; yet he could not keep his presence secret. In fact, as soon as she heard about him, a woman whose little daughter was possessed by an evil spirit came and fell at his feet. The woman was a Greek, born in Syrian Phoenicia. She begged Jesus to drive the demon out of her daughter.

“First let the children eat all they want,” he told her, “for it is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to their dogs.”

“Yes, Lord,” she replied, “but even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” Then he told her, “For such a reply, you may go; the demon has left your daughter.”

She went home and found her child lying on the bed, and the demon gone.

————————————————————————–

The above story is one of those that has bothered me for years. The idea of Jesus calling someone a dog seems hard for most modern readers to accept. Some believe that the offensive language was later added by the authors. Others point to this statement as illustrating Jesus’ humanity. Some think of it as a test to demonstrate true faith in the face of a challenge.

It is an odd story where the woman almost seems to be the hero who teaches Jesus something. She is the one on the moral high ground although He is the one with the power. Jesus could have been exhausted from everyone wanting something from Him.

This story definitely shows Jesus’ awareness of His mission and focus on it. He relents to help the woman only after she demonstrates great faith and determination. Some might have thought of the woman as a trouble maker. It is clear that the disciples just wanted her to go away. In Mark’s rendition, Jesus and His disciples were in a house trying to get a break from the crowds.

At first Jesus did not respond to the woman’s request. When He does speak, He makes a challenging comment. The woman does not dispute his comment. Instead she humbly maneuvers through it to convince Jesus to act. Modern readers must be aware of the fact that Jesus made these comments to a foreigner on her own home turf. Jesus didn’t seem worried about causing offense. Throughout His ministry He seemed to say many things that even His closest disciples found hard to accept. 

Jesus was speaking to a foreigner. As a Jew, he had no responsibility to help her. She belonged to a group of people that were not liked by the Jews. All of these factors help fill in gaps in the story.

While I may never be able to reconcile Jesus’ words with my view of what a Messiah is supposed to be, I do believe that Jesus had a godly reason for what He did. More importantly I believe the woman shows us the impact of persistence and great faith.

Breaching the Institutional Church/House Church Divide

The concept of  a “House Church” brings up negative impressions for many pastors in more traditional style fellowships. Likewise, the though of an “Institutional Church” may make house church supporters want to discuss their wounds from years in traditional churches. How did it ever get this way? I thought we are all supposed to be on the same team with the same captain?

As someone who has been blessed to be a part of both style of gatherings, I am well aware of the strengths and weaknesses of each form. Both can equally go astray if Jesus is not the center and the people involved are not honest about their process. Neither format is the panacea to our problems.

I have known many Christians who have jumped around from big church to house church and then gone back to the new mega church. People look for answers in another church when many of the problems are deep inside themselves. I have certainly done my fair share of blaming others for my church nightmares. My first book (Organic Faith) details my struggle from disillusionment with church, Christianity and myself to a deeper state of discipleship and joy.

Preaching magazine recently carried a cover story by Sara Horn on the house church movement. I thought it was pretty fair in its treatment of the issues. According to a survey by Barna Group, roughly 70 million Americans regularly attend or have experimented with a house church. Yep, I am one of those people even though I feel lead to yoke with a large, denominational church right now. My personal preference is a smaller fellowship. But I have learned that it isn’t about my preference, and I am happy where God has me.

Many people fellowship with home churches report being very satisfied with the experience. Satisfaction ratings for these kind of gatherings are much higher than most traditional churches.

Why do some people flock to home churches? Well, the reasons are as varied as the people who make them. But there are some consistent patterns we can spot. Home churches provide intimate gatherings where everyone can get in on the discussion. Gatherings normally focus around a meal with various generations interacting and sharing about their experiences and questions. Many larger churches have responded with small groups or cell group strategies to offer more intimate settings for discipleship. This has worked and failed depending on the particulars of each church.

Churches used to serve a small community where the pastors knew all the families. With the growth of mega and medium-sized churches, many people drive long distances and don’t really know the leaders at the church. This has created a vacuum of relationship. Some have opted for home churches to fix their emotional need, yet they struggle down the road with the lack of programs, facilities or resources of a larger church. 

Neil Cole, a church planter and author, made a great point in the Preaching article. He said, “In any city in America today, you can go to a few churches and park in a parking lot where someone with a yellow vest will direct you to a space. Someone you don’t know will hand you a sheet of paper. You’ll sit down in the crowd of peo­ple you don’t know, stare at the back of the head of someone, listen to someone you don’t know give you three ways to improve your life and the only contact you have is a two-minute neighbor nudge where you introduce yourself and that’s called church…Deeper substance can only be received when you personally ingest God’s Word for yourself, without someone else ingesting it for you.”

Wow, he just described the dissatisfaction that many people feel with church as usual.

Cole says the advantage with the house church is that it allows and expects partic­ipation. He said, “You can’t just shrink the church, put it in the living room and be non-participatory. The reason you see such large numbers moving toward this move­ment is it involves all of the body of Christ. It’s throughout the week, not just one hour and a half.”

Most preachers would be aghast if someone spoke up during their sermon wanting to interject a comment into the message. That is exactly how most home churches operate. Only a small amount of traditional preaching goes on in most home churches. The real benefit of the house church model appears to be that it fosters leadership development from within the group.

I believe that house churches and traditional churches could benefit by helping each other. That is when the real victory will come. Both types of churches need each other.

House churches can find accounta­bility with other more traditional churches or home church networks. There can be a sharing of resources where all parties involved benefit. Larger churches have facilities and programs that can be used. Small gatherings may have more freedom to invest offerings in missionaries or ministries from bigger churches.  They may be able to provide manpower to specialty city wide projects or other outreach efforts sponsored by more traditional churches.

Home churches can develop leaders that are then able to go pastor other people. That is one of the major flaws in most big churches. They struggle to really develop lay leaders/pastors. The home church model creates an atmosphere where people can take more ownership of their faith journey.   

Larry Kreider, founder of Dove Christian Fellowship in Lancaster, Penn., and author of Starting a House Church, told Preaching magazine that he encourages pastors to allow willing members to start house churches as a connected satellite to their church.

That is what I think the answer is for many ailing fellowships. Instead of circling the waggons and treating wannabe home church leaders like they have a horrible disease, give them the tools to succeed and launch them forth into kingdom ministry. Churches can provide oversight and resources while these home churches take much of the burden of doing ministry. More equipping and less doing by the pastors. That is a necessity once a church gets to be of any size.

I believe there is a lot to learn and share from both formats. And I believe that the more they work together, the more things will get done to expand God’s Kingdom on earth.

Overcoming the Orphan Spirit

“There is a declaration to the city that can only be made through fathers and sons,” said Tony Fitzgerald of Church of the Nations. (www.cotn.org)   

The Church of the Nations (COTN) Annual Leadership Conference recently closed in Richmond, Va.with a lively time of music worship and preaching. I attended at the request of Pastor Don Coleman who has been a spiritual mentor and father in my life over the past five plus years. Although I am not part of COTN, I do believe it is a godly organization with a Kingdom focus. 

 

Tony Fitzgerald and Don Coleman spoke on their relationship as an example of the powerful impact spiritual fathers can have on their sons in Christ. While they primarily talked about spiritual fathers and sons they acknowledged that the same principles hold true for women in spiritual mother/daughter relationships.

Tony said, “We need to re-establish the importance of spiritual fathers and sons to reflect the importance of relationship to the growth and present reality of the Church…It doesn’t have to be like it has always been.”

What makes Tony and Don somewhat the “odd couple” is their distinct backgrounds. Tony is a white man from Tasmania. Don is an African American from the projects in Richmond. Both are preachers with a heart for discipleship. God has connected their lives through a similar dream despite difference in their pasts.

Tony talked about how the lack of spiritual fathering in America is tied to the spirit of rebellion, which goes back to the foundation of this country. Tony did not reject the American Revolution although he did suggest that we may have overlooked the negatives of the independent, cowboy spirit that Americans are known for around the world.

Closely linked with the revolutionary spirit is a sense of pride and rebellion. This can result from poor leaders who oppress those they are charged to oversee. As well this can be produced by people who don’t understand the importance of submission to authority in most common situations. Just because it may be proper to take action against an authority in extreme circumstances, doesn’t mean that we should live life as rebels without a just cause.

Tony explained, “America’s spirit of independence was born out of Britain’s spirit of stiff control. This nation is gripped with an individualistic spirit. And it has impacted the Church.”

Many Christian leaders have talked about how God is moving or revivals are taking place. Tony challenged if we accurately understand what real Biblical revival looks like. He believes this is a sign of desperation because we know we need God’s life and don’t know how to receive it. He warned, “Revival may not be 10 nights of revival meetings. It is going to be something deeper than that. It will take returning the heart of the fathers to the sons and the mothers to the daughters.”

Attempting to model out the true positions of a Biblical leader, Pastor Don had a group of people come up front. He privately gave them instructions and then laid down on the ground. Then the people walked on him as a portrait of humility by a leader. Don explained that his little example was a “poor demonstration of what Jesus went through on the cross.”

Jesus is the ultimate example of meek leadership. He was not worried about defending his position. He loved others at His own expense. Don talked about growing up in the projects and living as an orphan at times because He didn’t know his father. He talked about how this impacted his view of the world and himself.

Making the issue personal, Don challenged the crowd and exclaimed, “Some of you are living like an orphan. God is saying to you, ‘First, I am your Father.’” He then connected this statement with the practical reality that God sends people into our lives to “serve us into our greatness.”

Explaining his story, Don said, “I was living as an orphan because I was fatherless. Then God sent this crazy guy from Tasmania…I was too spiritual to acknowledge that I had soulless issues.”

Spiritual fathers and mothers help us see things that we might want to otherwise overlook. They help us deal with our past instead of trying to run from it, which is a fruitless reaction. The only way to find freedom is to let it go and trust it to God.

Don quipped that some may be thinking, “How do I sign up?” He said, “It’s not about that. It’s about relationship. Let’s just hang out and see what happens. If you have been pulled down by the orphan spirit, now is your time.”

The enemy hates order and family. He loves “independence.” He loves division and hates oneness of spirit. He loves domination. He hates willful submission by choice. Don explained his experience as both a father and a son. He said, “In order to grow some people up, you have to let them do their own things sometime. True sons will see by revelation. We live as sons and daughters of God by revelation. We live in submission to spiritual fathers and mothers by revelation.”

Testifying of the importance of being in relationship with older, wiser gifted saints, Don said, “Sonship has totally released me.”

Tony recounted when Jesus gave His account to the Father about His mission. Jesus talked about keeping those who were entrusted to Him not preaching, great miracles, feeding thousands, healings and exorcisms, etc. Being in relationship allowed Jesus to teach and model those who would follow Him. Developing disciples for God’s glory and His Kingdom was Jesus’ key mission leading up to the cross and the primary reason for him embracing it.

God the Father responded to Jesus’ baptism by declaring His favor, love and acceptance of the Son. This was done before the cross or Jesus had done any earthly miracles. Tony explained, “Jesus’ Sonship was not based on performance.” Comparing this to today, Tony said, “The foundation of the church is family not structure – fathers and sons.”

A Church for Me

What if church was like Burger King where you get exactly what you want? Your way, right away, right now. Let’s make a list…

  • Engaging Sermons on relevant topics, yet not too personal as to actually bring conviction.
  • Personalized worship where the band plays my favorite songs every week.
  • Reserved parking spot close to the door.
  • A sensitive environment where the Holy Spirit will never take over my body and make me do something that I would be embarrassed about later.
  • Cool stage show.
  • Community center with state-of-the-art theater, gym and athletic/workout facility.
  • Service ministry that includes working on my house or my car.
  • Greeters who tell me how good I look and enquire about my week.
  • Regular meetings with a pastor who listens to my gripes and says that everyone else is wrong and I am right while keeping a straight face.
  • Hip, cool building that reflects whatever is the latest trend in megachurches.
  • A church with a good reputation so that I don’t have to feel weird when I tell my friends where I go to church.
  • Communion with real bread instead of the typical, plastic wafer that most churches offer today. I don’t want to eat fake Jesus. Real wine just because it’s more original than Welch’s grape juice.
  • Singles group with many “sane” and attractive women my age.
  • Free I-phone if I “donate” at least $2,000 or give 100  hours of service to the church. After all, my time is worth something.
  • Intercessors who pray three times a week for at least 30 minutes just for me. No, they don’t pray for anything bad like growing experiences. They just pray for prosperity.
  • Occasional references by the pastor during his sermon to good works that I have done.
  • Funny, entertaining skits that prove a point that others need to hear and not me.
  • Breakfast buffet on Sundays complete with made to order omelet by one of the pastors.
  • Numerous sermons where the pastor tells me that God wants to give me lots of stuff.
  • Free Superbowl tickets if I get near perfect attendance.
  • My picture as one of many in a collage on the Church’s homepage.
  • A receipt for all my good works with a personalized IOU from God.
  • Youth who actually are receptive to things that I might teach in Sunday School or youth group.
  • Numerous references by the senior pastor to Jesus exercising demons from Washington Redskin fans.
  • Discounted mission trips for “super spiritual” people like me. Others should pay for me because it is a benefit to them for me to be on the trip.
  • Senior pastor who is on the national speaker circuit just because my friends would think that is really cool.

Are you looking for a church just for you? Well maybe this promo video for a new church will be right up your alley.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-AIo_ZZVFhE

{Disclaimer: everything in this post has been a joke. Please don’t take it seriously. But honestly, we all can get a bit selfish sometimes.}

Come Follow Me

“It’s not what your doing, it’s who you are following that God is most interested in.” – Andy Stanley

“Come to Me . . . When you hear those words, you will know that something must happen in you before you can come. The Holy Spirit will show you what you have to do, and it will involve anything that will uproot whatever is preventing you from getting through to Jesus. And you will never get any further until you are willing to do that very thing. The Holy Spirit will search out that one immovable stronghold within you, but He cannot budge it unless you are willing to let Him do so.” – Oswald Chambers

When someone has been in church for a long time, it can be easy to make the Christian life very difficult. Rule gets added to rule. Theology becomes a web of questions instead of a path to enlightenment. Following Jesus gets overshadowed by other things, including many good things.

The good news is that the Christian life is simpler than many people think, yet it is also harder than anyone could ever imagine. The paradox here converges at the cross. That is where Jesus transforms us and gives us His power and life to become the sons of God. Grace does more than cover our past sin. It enables us to live a godly life here and now.

All we have to do is follow Jesus. Everything else will be taken care of in time. Following Jesus is never easy. But getting started is much easier than we may want to admit.

Sometimes we delay following Jesus because we play mind games. This gets us no where. The best thing we can do is to get up and simply follow. All else will be explained in time.

It’s a very simple concept with a supernatural reality. What is your answer to Jesus’ call? He is calling you, “Come follow Me.”

Call to Prayer

While in Morocco this summer, I learned about a worldwide prayer movement aimed at lifting up Muslims around the world. This is a Christian prayer effort to pray for Muslims as they are going about their mid-day Friday prayers.

Friday prayers (Jumma in Arabic) is the most important community prayer activity of the week for Muslims around the world. This is a great time to intercede for those who do not understand the true spirit of Islam. All you have to do is take some time around noon on Friday to stop and pray. You could spend a few minutes or even an hour to pray for the millions of Muslims who need to hear the Christian Gospel.

Jesus loves Muslims as much as anyone. In my travels, I have heard stories about many Muslims coming to Christ through visions and dreams. The Gospel is going forth throughout the entire world. This is an exciting time!

Will you join me in praying for Muslims? A good place to learn about prayer needs and find resources for understanding how to minister to Muslims is the Center for Ministry to Muslims (www.cmmequip.org).

Will you answer the call to prayer?

WordnLife

I have compiled a list of my favorite Web sites, online resources, preachers, devotionals, prayer guides, etc. This guide deals with the study of Scripture and living a Christian life.

Inclusion does not mean that I condone everything these gifted people have said or done. Please test everything and judge it according to the Scriptures. I do hope this guide helps you find some quality resources in a very large Web world.

If you have any site or resource that you would like to share with me, please email me at chaille @organicfaith.com.

Godspeed!       http://www.organicfaith.com/WordnLife.pdf

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