No, no, no, no! We’ve got to think differently!

I’ve been tracking off and on with Martin Scott since around 2002-ish and find him inspiringly provocative! Winking smile  Those provocations have been one of several key ingredients to my personal growth and the growth of my theology.  As a prophet, Martin frequently has had specific perspective about the times in which we live and often for each new year.  I don’t think he’s posted a specific word about 2011, but in mid-January he and Gayle, his wife, were at Family church near Sacramento where two messages were recorded that I think create a provocative (there’s that word again) context for how to journey with God in His destiny for us and the world during these really extraordinary days in which we find ourselves.

Certainly personally, and I think as an American, destination has been more my focus than journey.  I struggle to appreciate most journeys and usually have my telescope out to scan the horizon for the destination.  Martin is one who repeatedly brings me back to the profound truth of journey in our lives and in the tapestry of redemptive history.  How to move forward with purpose and a deep-seated hope and joy when you’re filled with genuine questions without easy answers is often difficult (at least for me) and yet I am convinced that it is our calling in this season of world history and in being the Church sown into the World.  I think Martin makes a great hands-on tour guide!

Be provoked and enjoy the ride (If you’re like me, you may have to get back on and enjoy the ride a few times!)

Martin Scott – Sacramento – January 14th, 2011

Martin Scott – Sacramento – January 16th, 2011

Mind the gap! The difficult path to “both and”

Well, it’s the eve of the US mid-term elections and here in France…well…no one cares I think. No, it’s All Saint’s Day (Toussaint) here and they’re mostly at the local cemetery putting chrysanthemum’s on grave stones. Tomorrow is “All Souls Day” where one prays for the deceased in Purgatory. Add to that the US import of Halloween last night and the ever important VE Day celebrations on November 11th where the French gather in every town’s war memorial (they call them “monuments to the dead”) and there’s a whole lotta’ “death” being celebrated over here!

The recent strikes and riots and fuel shortages have not helped either. The sense of “division/divisiveness”, at least for me, has a consonant ring with the “spirit of death”. To surmise that this period of time on the calendar and this period of time with respect to political events in the US and in France, is fraught with activity in the spiritual realm would not take a genius. The stakes are high and the tempers are too…prime territory for enemy seed to be sown in hearts. Kind of scares me that we cast important votes in such a climate!

What seems to be trumpeted around so often in American politics and, I see in French politics too, is that you have two real choices…no more…no less. One must fall on one side or the other and responsible engagement in the political process (aside from the ubiquitous call from all fronts to simply “VOTE!”) requires fighting for one side or against the other. As I’ve mentioned in other posts this sort of default engagement by the Body of Christ does no one any favors as we abdicate our priestly role to steward the land in which God has put us.

How do we get out of these deep ruts? Well, as one for whom concepts are primordial to shape certain kinds of behavior, I think we need to better understand what it looks like when the Kingdom of God is advancing…i.e. when God is King. What it looks like typically flies in the face of “either or” dualistic views of the social and political landscapes. Jesus bridges the gap and takes a path that doesn’t necessarily align with either right or left-winged expectations (no matter how hard we try to put Him in such “one-sided boxes.”

Recently, Duke University Divinity School held their Convocation and Pastor’s School where they had 3 outstanding speakers: NT Wright, Andy Crouch and Rob Bell. Each of these speakers, in different but complementary ways, outlined both concepts and practical application of how we “mind the gap”; how we, as the Body of Christ can and must embrace the tension of the “both and” and reject the easy slipping into left or right-wing ruts. I don’t do their excellent talks justice at all in this short blurb of publicity, but I’m much better at pointing you toward excellent source materiel than I am at summarizing it! So, I highly encourage a listen to these speakers. If you have iTunes and want to use the iTunes U. service, you can simply use the links here. If you, as I do, rather despise iTunes, feel free to take advantage of my efforts to extract these free mp3 resources from Apple’s grip and download them/stream them directly from here:

NT Wright Part 1

NT Wright Part 2

Andy Crouch

Rob Bell

Praying while I work

In the latest Online Update Newsletter from Church Production Magazine the question is asked, “Should techs stop and pray during services?” My first reaction to this is along the lines of, “Oh brother! Can we not waste our time on pointless discussions please!?” I know that there are sincere people on the other end, but this rationalistic/dualistic way of “doing church (services)” is so far removed from my reality that I struggle to even wade into the conversation. I read the article however (hoping to find a place where I could fire off my “eye-rolling” comments). Thankfully this article wasn’t up for discussion on their site…and thankfully I have my own (barely visited) site where I can comment away.

My philosophical/theological stance on all this is we need to be praying all the time and our definition of prayer needs to expand as well. Consequently a discussion of whether this circumstance or that circumstance should/should not include “prayer” is difficult for me to engage with (other than my judgmental eye-rolling!).

But, I read the article and I think they treated the sincere question well and with much more grace than I would have. For me, personally, I find that my time at the mixing board during a service is ideal time to intercede for the worship and whatever else is going on in front of me. For example, we have a couple of youth worship teams, and I love to intercede for them while they do their thing. They’re taking risks and learning how to lead people in worship at an age where I was simply goofy…nothing more! It’s stimulating to pick one of them out up on stage and call for more of the anointing to flow through them!

However, this still leaves me with a personal dilemma/question: How do I pray constantly (without ceasing) in other areas? It’s all well and good to think “correctly” that I should…it’s a whole other thing to actually do it .

This is a constant struggle with me because my work (computers) is cerebral in nature. There are times when I can interject worship and prayer and declaration, etc. into what I’m doing and there are times when I need to focus on something simply to understand it. I don’t have a problem with the idea that my focus time is “prayer/worship”; that I’m honoring the Lord in my work. What is difficult is coming out of that deep focus and consciously bringing Jesus into it. I’ve no problem with the idea that Jesus wants to be in it and that He has great solution ideas for me and that we can commune with each other in my technology work…I just have a hard time doing it consistently; a hard time remembering that He’s closer than my skin and desiring that intimacy with me…and not always to the exclusion of my work, but actually in my work!

I like to think back to the Brother Lawrence’s example of Practicing the Presence of God where he does the dishes with God (and for God as an act of worship). I think that’s great and, in fact I love that example because I already do the dishes with God. Literally, that’s where I listen to teachings or pray or ruminate on some scripture. That kind of routine, manual work is such an opportunity for me because of what I can and have gotten out of it. Now, if I could just add that next level of connection in the realm of cerebral work! Help Lord!

Eschatology and God’s Beauty – Keep the meat, spit out the bones

I’ve been wanting to express my frustration and excitement for some time now with respect to some of the revelation distributed to different places in the Body of Christ:

  • Excitement – fabulous revelation that will change how we think and usher us into new realms in God and new dimensions of the manifestation of His Kingdom concretely here on earth if we will just get this stuff into us at a heart level.
  • Frustration – people whom I respect, either personally or from afar based on their body of teaching and ministry, who contradict each other in aspects of their teaching. Contradiction is not necessarily a bad thing and is certainly not to be unexpected when groping to discover the Infinite God with finite minds and weak hearts. Where it becomes frustrating for me is the passion with which those “on one side” of a perspective categorize and label others.

Of course we all do it! 🙁 I was just in a church meeting Sunday afternoon where the diversity of perspectives, personalities and communication styles was exhilarating…which at first blush means: “Dang I wish they’d just shut-up!” I was seriously exhilarated and pleased by the diversity, but I was also seriously annoyed as a first reaction! 😉 As another example, just yesterday I was in the parking lot of a local supermarket waiting on Angela and Olivia who were inside shopping. While waiting I observed the stream of people arriving and leaving. One car caught my attention as it maneuvered slowly, directly in front of me, into it’s parking spot with its three occupants. You could see the visible signs of brokenness on what I supposed was a family. You could see where they needed a radical change of perspective and the gracious healing that only Jesus could bring. Unfortunately all of this “hindsight description” that sounds so spiritual manifests itself in my heart initially simply as “Ewww! What a depressing sight!” So, I admit, I put labels on people and I don’t do it with amazingly objective compassion and love.

That being said, when it comes to how we perceive God and His Kingdom I really think it’s important to realize that at the same time that we are being stunned by the depth and breadth of some revelation, our perception, our perspective, is really amazingly limited and small. I’ve attempted to represent it with an image in this mashup of clipart (ugly but I think it gets the idea across):

God and His Kingdom are so vast and multi-faceted that eternity will not be long enough for us to understand and experience everything. What I see/hear when I listen to/read about various revelations of who God is, how He acts, what His Kingdom is all about, etc. is more like this following image:

In this image, there is the logical realization that others do hold different perspectives, but over-simplification distorts reality and there is a tendency to lump all other perspectives into a few clearly defined camps that are then easier to dismiss. What happens then is that group “A” presents arguments as to why perspective “B” doesn’t really work. Group “A” will have some good points about their objections, but will neglect the fact that “B” is not really summed up that easily and that there are groups that they’ve lumped into “B” that hold to certain facets of that perspective but are really based on perspective “C”, etc. The fact of the matter is, that one needs to sink deep into the perspective of the other to see what they see and understand what they understand. I think when walking a mile in another man’s moccasins, we often stop after about 100 yards and are pretty sure our conclusions won’t change…forgetting how many miles we had to walk to gain our perspective.

So with that little soapbox dealt with, I want to present two different series of teachings. One is Martin’s Scott’s fabulous, line-upon-line presentation of a “framework” for developing an eschatological perspective broken down into 40 (that’s right 40! ) 15-minute podcasts. Both the podcasts and their transcripts can be found on his great and lively blog site (worth connecting with): https://3generations.eu/blog/?page_id=2640

The other is one of Mike Bickle’s many teaching series. Mike and the worshiping intercessors at IHOP in Kansas City have focused a LOT on eschatology in the last 10 years. They have come to many different conclusions than has Martin (who is more interested in creating a healthy framework for interpretation than to be rigid in interpretation). There are many other series specifically on the End Times on Mike’s site, but I chose one called “The Beauty Realm of God“, which is 8, 1-hour messages specifically on Revelation 4-5. The reason is that this series lays the foundation for the IHOP “framework” of how they view eschatology. So you kind of have two different “eschatological interpretation frameworks” if not really two different rigid eschatology theologies. I think they are both valuable to explore… deeply …as they both include rich, rich truth not presented in the other. You’ll have to deal with some unresolved tension however as there are definitely conflicting aspects to what they’ve concluded based on their perspectives.

Feminine and Masculine in Left and Right – the Church in the gap

Just recently Angela finished a book called Crisis in Masculinity by Leanne Payne . It’s not a particularly new book but it’s still very timely. I just finished reading it myself today. I’d heard a teaching on the masculine and feminine by Gus Hunter about 7 years ago. The whole perspective of “masculine” and “feminine” is so pervasive when it’s fresh in your mind but when it’s not so fresh, it’s easy to miss.

So, the other day, I watched this TED Talk by David McCandless called “The Beauty of Data Visualization.” Totally cool stuff that opened my eyes to this new world of “Data Mining + Graphic Design = New Perspectives.” Anyway, one of McCandless’s visualizations is not strictly based on a data set but his own observations of Left and Right in the political spectrum. Though he’s obviously British, it seems that his focus is more on American politics. Anyway, I printed out the full graphic that you can find at: https://www.informationisbeautiful.net/leftvright_world.html and was studying it when Angela walked up and said, “that’s the masculine and feminine.”

Bingo!

It’s as if a whole new perspective of what bugs me about American politics just descended from heaven to help me see better.

To understand why, you have back up a bit and understand a bit of what masculine and feminine is, and is not. For example, masculine is not male and feminine is not female. As C.S. Lewis states, “…Masculine and Feminine meet us on planes of reality where male and female would be simply meaningless…” Male and female are labels given to concrete objects or lifeforms which manifest predominantly masculine and feminine traits or characteristics respectively. So, to say, masculine is male represents a misunderstanding of the two concepts, whereas to say male is masculine would be an accurate generality. One “distillation” of masculine and feminine that helps me is: the masculine initiates and the feminine responds. This is a HUGE over-simplification, but I think it holds true as a foundation of understanding this concept. Probably the other foundational truths that are necessary in understanding masculine and feminine are:

  • God is both masculine and feminine
  • We are created in God’s image
  • Human marriage, as conceived in the heart of God, is the earthly representation of masculine and feminine coming into living, transcendent unity

So, back to McCandless’s (amazing – really spot on) diagram and American politics. Being geographically outside of American politics has helped me see new dynamics that I had difficulty discerning while on American soil and swimming (drowning?) in American culture. My changes in perspective after 10 years abroad have, I think, made my family back home think I’ve “gone liberal” on them. What I’ve rejected from my background is not a right-wing political perspective. Rather, it’s a rejection of a dualistic, antagonistic and confrontational way of “doing politics.” This has led me to rail against the 2-party system as inherently screwed up because of the need to choose half-truths and then justify your choice. The fact that this political malaise is so deeply entrenched in the American Body of Christ (on both sides) makes it that much more disturbing to me.

When Angela labeled McCanndless’s diagram as a manifestation of masculine and feminine, I began to rethink this issue of the 2-party system and the spiritual state of America in general. This quote from Payne’s book then began to take on new significance for me (strikeouts and bolds mine):

Invariably when a soul nation needs healing there will be an imbalance within of the masculine and the feminine. He or she It is tipping the scales too far toward one extreme of the continuum. This imbalance of the power to initiate and the power to respond can always be healed when a person people forsakes his their vision and will in separation from God (what the Scripture calls dying to the old man), comes into the Presence, and there unites with the incredible realities outside himself itself.

What makes the separation of the masculine and feminine work in humanity is when it’s brought together in a complementary fashion. The highest earthly form of this is human marriage. When it works, it’s because one is turned toward the other in sacrificial love and appreciation of the other. The result is transcendent! This requires effort and grace based on love. God is the one who empowers it, enabling us to manifest on earth a glimpse of the Trinity. Without this grace and love, we don’t expend the effort…at least not with any perseverance. The result is, as Payne suggests, a move toward opposite ends of the masculine/feminine continuum. Remembering our ultra-concise definition of “initiate” and “respond”, we can see that initiation becomes domination and masculine is twisted into macho. On the other side, response becomes rebellion and feminine is twisted into feminist. The result is the American political system as you see it today with the Left at war with the Right. The result is also how America is seen around the world depending on which extreme of the continuum is currently “manifesting.”

Well, if Payne’s quote is right, healing is available, but I for one, have a hard time imagining American halls of power ringing with the songs of worship from a gathering of legislators, judges and executive branch members as they “come into the Presence.” Where does that leave us? Well, I think this brings us to the Body of Christ and 2 Corinthians 5:16-20. Just as God has already provided through Jesus complete reconciliation for every individual, and the Church is tasked to announce and minister that reconciliation to all creatures, it radiates out from individuals to marriages, families, communities and yes, even nations and political factions within nations.

My question is, if the Church is focused on political realities and is deeply allied with various political factions, how can it broker heavenly realities and in intercession stand in the gaps created by those political factions?! It can’t!

It is the job of mankind to steward God’s creation during our time on the earth and by our place on the earth (Genesis 1:28, Acts 17:26-27). This job is distributed amongst people groups and nations who have this stewardship responsibility over particular parts of God’s creation. To put it another way, God holds the United States responsible for what transpires on its soil and how it comports itself among the nations. Is He looking to elected officials to actually carry this out? In a measure, yes. Ultimately, however, He is looking to His Body on earth to broker heavenly realities on earth so that the reconciliation that He died for would be manifested on every level and in every sphere. Jesus gave the authority to His Church to disciple nations. So, to restate, God is holding the Church in the United States responsible for what transpires on its soil and how the United States comports itself among the nations. The ability of the Church to do this in fullness requires a reconciliation of the masculine and the feminine at levels that the Church doesn’t seem to be realizing right now and for which it doesn’t seem to have a grid.

So, can the 2-party system work? Yes it can work, if those two sides “marry” and become one (Genesis 2:24). I think there is a “prophetic possibility” that is tantalizing here to see the masculine and feminine really complementing each other in this context. Can this happen if the Church doesn’t understand its role and responsibility to “minister” reconciliation and facilitate this “marriage”? I don’t think so. If it did, it would be glorious, and the greatest miracle would be that the Church finally understood its calling!

The “structure” of the Body of Christ…a family

I’ve sort of had a love-hate relationship with Kris Valloten’s messages (no offense Kris, if I ever meet you! 😉 ). His humor, often self-effacing, is engaging but sometimes one can detect what seems a sort of lack-of-confidence defensiveness in his delivery. I have to overcome that to get to the good stuff of his messages…and there is really good stuff!

At any rate, recently two messages of his were posted at Bethel Church in fairly rapid succession (Bill must have been traveling a lot!) and they really struck me. The first one is on the 5-fold ministry from Ephesians 4:11 and the second was on Fatherhood, which he gave on Father’s Day. For me these two messages really dovetailed together with things that God’s been speaking to me about.

Several times this spring, I’ve heard extended teaching on spiritual parents/children and about the generational transfer of inheritance. Tied with that is the honoring of our preceding generation and succeeding generations. Tied with that is honoring the special graces that God has placed on each individual person. Tied with that is receiving God’s unique graces through each other. This may be one of the key messages that God is emphasizing in the Body of Christ right now. It certainly is one of the messages that is being emphasized to me and in our community of faith here in France.

There is a sense that God desires to pour out a special “grace”, “anointing”, “blessing” (pick your pregnant term) on His Body in order to impact our society more significantly. The amount of this impartation is what is in the balance. The amount needed to really facilitate change and advance God’s Kingdom is more than individuals can handle…it would crush them. Picture someone with no foundation in their life winning the lottery. We see it over and over again with the real lotteries and with young professional sports “first-round-draft-picks”. The enormous blessing becomes a curse. Lives of promise become a parody of success at best and end tragically at worst.

God NEEDS to pour out an enormous blessing on His Church in order for them to be the Kingdom agents He called them to be (way back even in Genesis 1:28!) How does He do it and not crush us? He needs to pour out His blessing “corporately.” This is not of course meaning on a “business.” In fact if you look at the word “corporately”, you see the Latin root “corp-“, which means “body”.

Sum it up:

  • God has chosen to draw the world to Him as a loving Father, King of all Creation, to live in loving, family relationship with benevolent stewardship of His Creation
  • God has chosen to use His Son Jesus as the perfect image of the Father and the only way into relationship with the Father
  • Jesus’ body on earth is the Church…agents of His Kingdom and His image-bearers in Creation
  • His Body on earth is His principal agency of connection between the spiritual and physical realms…those who are tasked with bringing Heaven to earth
  • Jesus put His Spirit in us, the spark of life that gives us the possibility to live and function as members of One Body and to be coordinated with the Head…Jesus

At this point then, we’re only “saved individuals” with simply a potential to be effective agents of God’s transforming power in Creation. It’s a pretty good deal, but it’s not enough. The kind of power we need to wield in order to affect the changes needed in Creation is simply too much for us as individuals. God desires to pour out His power, but He’s made us in such a way that we’re unable to effectively carry His power as individuals. He values family and relationship too much to allow us to simply “do tasks” and be rewarded for it…as individuals.

As a corporate body, however…

As a family, however…

That’s another story and that’s where these two teachings by Kris Valloten come in. I encourage you to learn about the “authority structures” that facilitate the impartations of grace that we need in his teaching on the 5-fold ministry and the “family structures” that establish love in our hearts and honor for one another that cause us to flow together as more than an a well-oiled machine or an organization, but an organism…a body…a family. When this occurs, we become vessels ready for God’s poured-out blessing, His anointing, His transforming power. We, as a body, as a family, are then positioned to live as transforming agents of our Father’s Kingdom…our destiny all along.

Fatherhood (mp3 24Mb) (link to watch as video on Bethel’s site – free registration required)

The role of the 5-fold ministry (mp3 26Mb) (link to watch as video on Bethel’s site – free registration required)

The account is in the black, make a withdrawal!

Here are two recent (February 2010)teachings by Bill Johnson from Bethel Church that I think dovetail quite nicely in giving us a sense of God’s purposes right now and how we posture ourselves to plug into it and become a conduit for it. Bill speaks specifically to his congregation, but the offer is always there: if this resonates with you, take it for yourself and your context…family, work, school, city, region, etc. If you’re aware of what God is doing in any space/time intersection , and that begins to resonate with you, what you’re feeling is God saying, “Yes! That’s for you too! Reach out and possess and pursue that particular promise right now!” God’s goodness and breakthrough power is always for now but we have to “plug into” that flow in some way to access it…the mechanics of “how” being less important than stepping out in some way, saying, “Yes Lord! I agree, I’m reaching out and laying hold of that purpose and promise!

Unclouded Sky (mp3 21Mb)

The Spirit of Breakthrough (mp3 20Mb)