Position Yourself…careful

images-7We must position ourselves carefully to exercise influence. 

Positioning means us saying ‘Let’s get where the action cannot be missed’.   Let’s position ourselves to get involved with this generation.   Position ourselves to be the incarnate body of Christ in our street, work place, education world and homes.

We redeem men by the proclamation of the Christ and his gospel: we influence society by being salt in the street, world.  Both are essential, and often our ‘salt’ is the necessary forerunner to our proclamation.

I recently visited a township in South Africa where the conditions were so dire, the filth and squalor, the heartache, pain, poverty and hunger were indescribable.   This seen is repeated world-wide, its experienced on very continent, in the back streets of Brazil, on the roads of India, in the aftermath of every war, even in areas of the so-called developed world, some time son our doorsteps.     You can’t simple preach, ‘repent of your sins and you’ll be saved for heaven’ and walk away from a place like that with no sense of further responsibility.    God is concerned with people’s social conditions as well as with their souls’ destiny.  True, eternal destiny is paramount, but this doesn’t mean God has no concern for our social conditions.

We are to be ‘Restorers of streets to live in’ (Isaiah 58) and we must not divide images-13our world into social and salvation, our theology into liberal or evangelical, one after the soul and the other after the transformation of society.   One view looking through one eye and saying ‘don’t get side tracked into a social gospel it’s the souls that need saving and the other looking through the other eye ‘but what about saving them?’

Jesus shows us he had two eyes open, as the Son of Abraham he wanted to redeem mankind, as the Son of David he wanted mankind’s world to be an ordered and just society.

It is right to bring God’s saving grace and correct to transform society.

We must position ourselves to do both.

No longer ignoring the deepening plight and worsening social conditions of our world, while protesting we are concentrating on saving their souls, continents and countries need more than a soul-gospel.    We cannot close our eyes to the growing number of homeless building their cardboard cities on our own doorsteps as well as in distant lands, which is our responsibility, let me explain.

One of the early characteristics of the community of the King, in the words of Jesus that an apostolic community, the church as it should be apostolic,  was to be focused in being established where they where local ‘…wait in Jerusalem until the Spirit comes…’, then to have a four focus at one time beyond the local.   This focus I suggest was a command to work on four areas at any time, being the living life church of Christ, ‘…God into all the earth…Jerusalem…Judea…Samaria… and utter most past of the earth…’, we are to be local, regional, national and international in focus, in our actions, message, pray and work of faith.   We cannot close our eyes to our world and end up local minded only or even the a fool with our eyes in the ends of the earth, holding these four focuses will prevent foolish eyes for us.

We have a voice, a gospel to restore our world to the Fathers first thought in creation, beginning with the restoration of the soul to the image and likeness of God.   Therefore  where am I, where are we hitting the streets of our world to create a ‘….street to live in…’ and a people who are able to live in a street with a Godlikeness pursuit?

Advertisements

Leading from mail, ’email’, ‘snail mail’, ‘Royal mail’ or Power Letter…

Biblical LetterWhat a book, what a letter, what a pouring out of wisdom and revelation.

How can I best present the book of Ephesians to you, a book that was penned into a world where the evidences of powers behind politics, social challenges and finances were so evident. The signs of strength were openly displayed on the market streets of the day. History tells us even the world power of the day, ‘Roman Empire’ had claimed the eternal rights of power in having a divine Caesar, this was the world Paul wrote in to, this was the world in which the readers took hold of the truth that Paul unpacked.  Perhaps in truth, not 1,000,000 miles away from our own world where the powers still seek to capture the state, the politics, the finances, the world markets, therefore this letter introduces to us  how to live in such a world.

The writings are there to encourage the readers, you and I, a people who are “in Christ, women, men, children all that are and were being called to be obedient to the Creator of the Universe (Eph 1:4,3:9). The truth of being “In Christ” is this, God graciously included us into Gods eternal family (Eph 1:2,5; 2:18,5:20). What a thrilling narrative what an exciting reality for each one of us, we have been given a role in the eternal purpose of God (Eph 1:9-10). Which means we have a close relationship with Father Son and Spirit. This is not any relationship but one where God was so committed to being united with us that God was willing to humble God to achieve being united with is.

The reality must be sounded greatly in our and through our lives, we are to be bold and take hold to the truth sounded by Paul in this letter by engaging and embracing “seek first” the coming of the kingdom and the anointed King, Christ Jesus has already established the victory of God, the eschatology of our world, Christ is the end!    This victory for is declared to all the “spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places”, we being united translates to that the very same power has become available to God’s family.

WOW, the earth shattering,  eternal impacting message of this book, Paul Longs that our eyes might be open, that spiritual blindness will be taken away by all who read this letter. Because of this we are called to live as one, encouraged to take on the overcoming fight with the forces around us.

We are reminded that if we are “in Christ” we are joined, United with him and each other.

Not only did Christ conquer but also took of himself on the heel of the victory, not only crushed the head of the evil one but made available all and gave himself away by Christ distributed himself, in giving gifts so that we might maintain our oneness and come to maturity (Eph 4:11 cf)

Paul wants us to grasp and hold in our foundation that God is in the process of restoring his creation to its original unity, the unity of peace between people’s, the unity of peace in creation.

I urge us to read these passages rightly, to grasp the reasons Paul is committing hand to pen and pen to paper, so that each one must grow up to maturity in all ways, that we might learn what it is to grasp “the breath and the length and the height and depth… of the love of Christ” in order that God’s eternal plan might come to full maturity in each individual and in the corporate life of the church of God.

The giving of gifts, distribution of Ascension gifts, the setting of good works, the grasping of the love of God, see that we have been arrested since before creation began,  all is our inheritance to enjoy.

Money, money and all that

Interesting thought from a book written by Craig L. Blomberg on “A Christian View Of Possessions”, an academic, his expertise and fields of research are Economics and Hebrew he writes “More than a billion people out of the earth’s seven billion inhabitants live in desperate poverty.  Natural disasters, war, corrupt governments, lack of education, human greed, disease, unfair trade laws, false religions all play their part in creating this situation.   Conservatively, at least 200 million (1/5th) of these poor are Bible-believinng, born-again Christians”.

In taking on board his comments we today as Bible-beliveing Christians worldwide, heralding the coming of the Kingdom of God cannot see it as someone else’s responsibility be the answer, we must be part of the answer.   The Kingdom of God is not only miracles and healing, if this is our only focus we will be distracted from the fuller gospel of the Kingdom.

He goes on to say that just in America, let alone the remaining world “…over the last 30 years Christians have changed their spending patterns…the amount of money spent on non-essentials as sports and recreation, lawn care, video and computer games, home entertainment centres, pets and dieting has skyrocketed. At the same time Christians per capital giving to causes of all kinds has steadily declined in the last 40 years from just under 4% of their total annual income to barely above 2%”.

He then delivers a punch with “…trend watchers have made two staggering calculations…firstly if every USA Christian simply tithed, the additional amount of money that would be raised above and beyond current giving levels would be enough to eradicate world poverty in our lifetime.  Secondly the average age of major donors is now, for the first time ever, well over sixty-five.   Current Christian work is being funded largely by retired people.   Unless we change, in less than a generation the majority of ministries and good works will close their doors in reaching the poor.”

I write this with these thoughts, if we all saw the biblical, not tradition instruction on money, seeing the tithe as an answer not something to fight against, along with the biblical necessity of financial stewardship as part of a working answer perhaps a difference would dawn in our world.    If the whole church tithed worldwide, not just Europe or the West, but the whole church, we could eradicate world debt in less than 15/20 years.   What a powerful argument, of course we would need to agree to stop investing further in internal building programs, adding to men and women’s egos, running  bigger and better and getting more cut of the Christian market share.   We would need to distance our selves from the annual $7 billion Christian market but taking up the Apostolic & Biblical direction “never to forget the poor”.     Truly this would be the Isaiah 2:2, 3 “In the last days the mountain of the Lord’s temple will be established as the highest of the mountains; it will be exalted above the hills, and all nations will stream to it. Many peoples will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the temple of the God of Jacob.  He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths.”   It will not be governments of politic or polices but the people of God that will have dealt with world poverty, this is truly the Kingdom of God coming to earth!

Before you get the wrong idea I am certainly not against buildings or exiting programs as we reach our world far from it.    However we are told that only 4/6% of the church worldwide actually tithes, and we all would admit the church downs amazing on that alone but the thought is not to affect existing budgets or support at all but just to apply the other 96/94% increase of giving and see what we can change?

 Join with us in changing our spending habits, join with us in making a difference with others while being the instructive Mountain of God, join and make  a difference rather than allowing the church to be something other than the Father has in his ultimate intention.    Being a different kind of people who creation awaits for sons of God led by the Spirit.
For the West he says lest get delivered from “…the already affluent becoming richer…” or let us not think about the well-to-do Christians “…trade places with the poor…” for both extreme prove un-biblical and prevent any action.
Let us join and become the Kingdom heralding, called out people of God bring a world answer!    Its time to truly study the scriptures and discover the real answers that has been outline there in about financial stewardship.

21st C Apostolic – Part 2

Let continue with our journey into an understanding on the Apostolic, it is needed to be said that this is my journey to date which is not complete as yet, as we join with other ministers with different understanding we will find a fuller meaning in for today rooted in the scriptures.   These relationships will also adjust thinking and practice I am sure as well as add to understanding.   Now for my continuing thoughts to date.

Apostles are part of eternity’s plan; they were commissioned before they were born, chosen by God.  Apostle ship is not a learned skill it is an eternal choice, selected, appointed “… Before the foundation of the world…” when asked, Paul said of himself, he had been chosen from his mother’s womb (Galatians 1:15). To be an apostle is an issue of choice in eternity, to be sent forth by the Father with a mandate to preach the kingdom of God and lay the foundation of Jesus Christ into people’s lives. The apostolic burden is to establish a people and a community of believers, who are  willing to be led by the Holy Spirit and demonstrate a life under the order of God (Acts 2:41-47).

Apostles work alongside elders, having a responsibility and appointed by the Holy Spirit to love and care for the people of God, carrying a charge before God for the body. Paul talked about his “… light afflictions…” (2 Cor 4:17) Considering his catalogue of beatings, whippings, left for dead and his sea experiences, I wonder what our understanding of light afflictions are (1 Cor 11) he then goes further to clearly establish what was his non-negotiable charge and weighty matters 1 Cor 11:28 ”…Besides everything else, all the light afflictions mentioned, he also faced the daily pressure of his concern for all the churches…” Paul carried a burden for the church, this is necessary for all apostles, unless you have a God-given “charge” the responsibility is too great.   It is so much of a charge long with the matter of building a family it is not a light thing that the care or work towards a church responsibility for the churches can be given away easily, the churches do not become commodities to trade with or without much thought.    The church of God is not like a football team that transfers their players at payment, the call and the church are not the “transferable”.

Today’s church, family is being passed around from so-called apostle to apostle, being tossed around as a commodity, surely the passage above indicates that some apostolic gifts carry a “fathering grace” and cannot trade on the church. I have heard the sentence “I don’t care for the churches under…” this surely does not display the fathering apostolic grace. How abusive it would be if a parent treated his children in that way, not caring for them.  It would be questioned whether they were truly parents. Paul clearly looked at the church in Corinth as his children.

Those with the charge towards the people of God seek to continue the cause of God, and his Christ, seeking to be in the same heart and mind, and bring that oneness to the people of God, the church. The apostle carries the heart of God and their commission will be in line with Gods heart.   The commission, an apostolic task, is outworked along side a people group.   Paul is an example to us again as he outlines to King Agrippa in the book of Acts 26 in the years following his encounter with the Christ, Paul’s commission is seen in that he was not “disobedient to the heavenly call” this was his vision, his agenda, he worked with heavens work, he underlined that he was called to bring “light in darkness” and to a specific people called the Gentiles. Whereas James and Peter were called to a different group of people, Jewry.

Apostles must work and I would even go as far as to say they cannot work in isolation, they are not autocrats they are to enable all the ministries of Christ to flow together, they are catalyst ministries. They do not sit on the top of the pyramid structure, they are not CEO’s of an organisation structure and they seek to work within relationship.   It is evident from the Scriptures, as we look at the various named examples that each apostle functioned through different mantles, gifts. For example Paul saw himself as a preacher, a prophet; James and Barnabas were clearly teachers and pastors etc.    The apostle will function through another gift and will recognise and realise the need, and sometimes the inability to function, without other ministry compliments alongside them.  They seek friendship, and counsel and are accountable to others personally they know that they must give themselves to each other as influencers in the community of God.

It is the aim of the Ascension ministries to bring the restoration of Christ to his body, so that his body might be Apostolic, Prophetic – interpretive of God’s action; Teaching – the mountain of the Lord shall be the highest mountain and all of the mountains shall come and say teach us your ways; Pastoral – caring for God’s creation and people; Evangel – proclaiming the good news. These gifts are Christ himself and therefore we must not only have the individual gifts in our world but these characteristics must be seen in the body, the corporate Christ, so that the mountain of the Lord shall be the highest mountain and all other mountains shall come and say teach us your ways;

It is necessary the apostolic gift be seen in terms of characteristics, to avoid qualifying as it’s about Gods choice.   These characteristics are to be transferable in order that a people group – the ecclesia of God, that ultimate we must see the restoration of an apostolic people as well as having apostles as catalysts to bring a corporate maturity to pass.   That the people of God mature to be an apostolic, prophetic, pastoring, teaching and evangel people while being a fathering and mothering community in our world

Listed below is a catalogue of characteristics I see are necessary of the apostolic ministry, characteristics which ultimately will be transferred into a people. When the maturing Church embodies these characteristics what an amazing group of people we will have.

To close, consider this, Paul as an apostle saw the necessity of the apostolic so sharply that he defended his apostolic commission in the churches to which he worked as a father. One either concedes that Paul was a very insecure man or is considering something else in his defense of the call.    If one takes a wider view on Paul’s writings, his instructions, encouragements, retorts and appeals, one would conclude that he was not insecure at all.    I would suggest to you that Paul clearly had maturity, growing up in Christ in mind, and in Paul’s defense I suggest that the view of the apostolic he had was more to do with the maturity of the coming generations. So he defended the apostolic with the full knowledge that if the apostolic gifting was removed today tomorrow’s generation would not achieve the full maturity of Christ spoken of.

CHARACTERISTICS OF THE APOSTLE AND MINISTRY

1.      A true apostle will have had a personal encounter with the resurrected Christ. (Acts 22:8)

2.      They have been personally commissioned/charge to an apostolic task. (Acts 26:16-18)

3.         They fulfil their apostleship through some other gifting, e.g. prophet, teacher, pastor. (Acts 13:1)

4.       They will be an equipper of the saints, releasing and empowering. (Eph.4:11-12) – Apostolic task is the empowerment for others

5.         They have a foundational grasp and a steward of the mysteries of God, of which they have a divine revelation.

6.         An apostle will recognise and be recognised in their order of apostleship, i.e. they may lead, or they will certainly be a part of an apostolic       “body of ministries”  and they will prove to be the catalyst for the other ministries. They may be an apostle built into another apostle’s sphere as Barnabas was with Paul, and therefore although have a valid apostolic ministry did not necessarily have the same task of Paul in which he would have been required to be the catalyst for many others.

7.       They will be a wise master builder (architect) of the house of God. An astute user of the plumb line of the mystery of Christ to what is being built with everything being measured against the end purpose for the house. (1 Cor. 3:10)

8.         Their authority is given by Christ. (2 Cor .10:8)

9.         They will demonstrate grace and wisdom in their relationships with people so that a sphere of apostolic ministry and influence emerges in the lives of the people. Their positive relationship with the people of God will provide the people with a deep sense of security. This will produce a committed, productive people who happily help in the task called to. It is inside this sphere of committed people actively pursuing God’s desire for His house that they have the authority of rule, not to be engaged in an authoritarian manner but following the example of Christ who came to serve rather than be served. (Matt. 20:25-28)

10.      They pursue a vision in which is:  Clear, and can be  seen in their commission – they are committed to its completion, they are obedient to the will of God in its commands, they patiently persevere despite any and all setbacks to be obedient to the heavenly vision.

An apostolic commission is fulfilled in phases – it is a process. With the completion of each phase (Acts 14:26) the apostle will be sensitive to God to be ‘sent’ into the new phase. When all phases of an apostolic commission are complete they will be able to say with Paul an apostle, ‘I have finished my course’. They then can then with joy be received by the Lord for his reward. (2 Tim.4:7)

11       An apostolic ministry by nature of what they are to bring about are filled with persevering faith; regardless of enticements, setbacks, or opposition from mankind or demons. Their faith enables them to persevere. This faith will extend itself to lay hold of all that is necessary of the supply of God’s grace to fulfill their ministry, and lay hold of the people and money resource required for the task. Faith will demonstrate the supernatural power of God so that God is seen to be working with confirming signs and wonders following.

12       The apostle will be the living example of all they want the people to become, and do. Therefore, personal Christ-Likeness will be evident to all so that they are secure in following their example. They may unashamedly stand before the people and say, ‘you yourselves know how you ought to follow us’ (2 Thes.3:7-9).  The apostle is humble, prayerful, long-suffering gentle with the weak, firm with those that require it, full of integrity and honesty in all business matters and dealings with people,  all should  speak well of them, so that when testing an apostle,  by their fruit they shall be known, as indeed for all Christians.

13       Apostolic Continuity – Paul had a deep sense of Abrahamic continuity and that being part of an apostolic call to walk in the continuity of a line of faith.       Paul had a theology developed from the eternal realm, drawing on Dream, Prophecy, and Visions.

14       Supernatural involvement, heavenly assistance to bring about a system of life to enable economy, love and care in creation

21st Century Apostolic

As we advance in the 21st Century and following some of the gains in understanding over the last decades on the Apostolic ministry and its function there are certainly joys of advance along with concerns in our day.   In our travels we find places where no one would receive the apostolic or are reluctant to call any one apostolic, may be a little thinking of ‘it all ended with the 12’.   Alongside this we find a huge growth of the apostolic that seems like every time some one sneezes an apostle is appointed and the apostolic positioned to he higher than others taking control, taking a hierarchical title for position.    Both have the same effect and produce the wrong function and aims and the calling discredited.   Yet for the church the apostolic, just as the other Ascensions Gifts (Ephesians 4:11) are required for the body of Christ to come to maturity, which must be our greatest burden to see the maturity of God creation, ‘Christ filling all in all’, humanity and creation restored to the Fathers first thought and ultimate intention.   It is in the light of these extremes my journey of writing is to discover what is necessary today so I offer these thoughts as we attempt to practice them.   This is the first part of my thought I trust you will enjoy a look forward to the second part.

The apostle is one part of the complement of gifts given by the ascended Christ to our world. These ministries (Ephesians 4:11) are the gifts of the ascended Christ himself. For he “… Gave of himself…” Gifts to mankind, so that Christ will be fully produced in his ecclesia, church.

Without the full complement of gifts (Ascension gifts) maturity and the fulfillment of God’s call will elude his cosmos, creation.

Apostles are those that have the grace and the ability to break through barriers cross boundaries and have a primary concern with the maturing of God’s people.   Apostle Paul said of himself that he laboured “… until Christ is formed in you…” he would only seek to find Christ amongst them. These are clues to the new Testament Church, and the apostles, which are outlined within the pages of the book and begin to paint a picture for us of the church and apostles.

Apostles are an active agent to bring the whole rule and order of the father to Earth; they are advance agents of the kingdom of God.   Adam was planted in the garden of God to extend the order of the father into all creation so too apostles are planted in the garden of God’s creation to extend his rule. They establish the kingdom, proclaim the kingdom and advance the kingdom

The apostolic grace brings with it and imparts an atmosphere of,  “I can do in this”, it leaves an empowerment, it stimulates within the people of God an ability to cross over, and breakthrough.  Wherever there are boundaries they cross, wherever there are walls they leap over they change environments, there is within every apostle an inherent desire to remove restrictions.

They carry the grace, wisdom and skill in the building of Gods abode, his ecclesia the church. For the apostolic is a “… Wise master builder who has laid a foundation …” (1 Cor. 3:10) They are able to bring God’s ultimate goal and heart to the people of God, in the place of their appointing, and in the times they find themselves in. They are not consultants or advisers, but builders of the house of God

Apostles were clearly necessary in the early days of the church, as recorded in the New Testament, to bring heaven to earth and seek to remove the separation of the secular and the spiritual. They are as necessary today, as then, to bring the church to maturity and release creation from its futility, (Romans 8) as they work in harness with the Holy Spirit to bring about the freedom of the sons of God.

Ephesians 2:20 outlines that the apostles along with the profits they are part of the continuity of God in the establishment of the people of God and the maturing of creation, this foundation of apostles and prophets-which is Christ.   The apostles then have the same effect as Christ, that the Christ is ongoing “radical”, if you follow the etymology of the word radical meaning, foundation, forming a base. Christ was radical as he dealt with our foundation and the foundation of creation, the apostle and prophet equally are radical, in terms of the church the dealing as they deal with foundational matters.

Apostles will be amongst us until the body of Christ reaches its maturity, corporate maturity and the unity of the faith (Ephesians 4:12,13). They will diligently labour until we live in the light of the work of Jesus in the cross, until we are one; the apostle declares aloud that we are one.

Paul an apostle says that apostles occupy a principal place amongst the equipping/Ascension ministries, that is they are to “first apostles” (Ephesians 4:7-11; 1 Cor. 12:28) however earlier in the book of Corinthians he outlines apostles are “…last…” (1 Cor. 4:9), So what did Paul mean? Although Paul lived in a world and was formed by Greek thought, he spoke and wrote from a different vantage point; clearly he had a Trinitarian view of God, and understood the relationship within the Divine family to be one of ‘perichoresis’. That is the constant moving relationship amongst the Father, Son and Spirit, a moving, spinning dance, with each party pouring out themselves to the next, being more interested in the other than themselves, bringing pleasure to one another and filling and enabling each others aims. Each one speaking of the other, each one lifting the other, it is not with a hierarchical thinking and mindset that Paul speaks more about functional necessity, as  in every foundation, that the apostle is first functionality. Yet “lastly” he speaks is to indicate the nature of all apostles as the extension of Christ as the servant of the people of God. Apostolic therefore in position is functionally first but positional last, being the servant of all as Christ.

We see that with true apostolic ministries there is not found any sense of superiority they however known their own going continuity and necessity. Apostles should take on the attitude of the chief apostle, Christ himself who became a servant of all “he came to serve not to be served”. Apostles do not take to themselves position or demand honour, but serve pouring themselves out for God’s purpose.

Apostles have an interest and burden for the design of the house of God, and creation, and bring their craft as wise master builders to bear on the building of the house. Paul used the term wise master builder, but fully understood that there were many other apostolic gifting’s and characteristics involved. As you read the scriptures you realize there are a number of other Apostles also named in the New Testament, who did not belong to the 12, we have James, Barnabas and Paul himself even Andronicus and Junias were held in high regard amongst apostles (Romans 12).  In some church traditions even Mary Magdalene sent to the apostles by Jesus himself is recognized as one sent that the gathered saint did not receive her words, so we are told.

It could be said that the Father is apostolic in nature that he sent himself, sending himself in creation and then sending the Son to explain Him (John 1:18) and from there sending the holy spirit, finally sending the people of God to be the apostolic nature of God. There will come a time when the church becomes apostolic in characteristic and realizes its “sent-ness” into creation.