Author Archives: Michael Fewson

Finding God in a Thin Silence – part IV

A prophetic look at the day in which we live

Go to part I of this article

Our Action:

  1. Be watchful so as not to become assimilated by the world.

Luke 21:34–36 (ESV)
34 “But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap. 35 For it will come upon all who dwell on the face of the whole earth. 36 But stay awake at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.”

  1. Wait/entwine with God’s Spirit so as to know His ways and be empowered.

Isaiah 40:27–31 (ESV)
27 Why do you say, O Jacob, and speak, O Israel, “My way is hidden from the Lord, and my right is disregarded by my God”?
28 Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable.

29 He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength.
 30 Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted;
 31 but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.

eagle ready to take flightTo ‘wait’ in the Hebrew, as well as having a sense of eager expectation and of being full of hope, also has the sense of: to twist or to bind. It is an active word which should call us to an active obedient faith (Rom 16:26). Rather than lives enmeshed in comfortable, prayerless western cultural Christianity, we must entwine with the very life of Christ in prayer-filled pursuit of God’s divine will (cf Mat 26:39).

The conclusion of Isaiah 40:31 is that a prayerful life entwined in God’s will is the very life that will be strengthened in the power of His might (Col 1:9-12; Eph 6:10ff).

If we are convinced that this is a time of the revealing of God Continue reading

Finding God in a Thin Silence – part III

A prophetic look at the day in which we live

fire tranquilityThe Thin Silence

What is unfolding is not a doomsday scenario but rather the multifaceted wisdom of God. The wrath of God poured out on the whole world is also to be seen as the righteousness of God in Jesus Christ made manifest in the saints.

The outcome of the events of this age, when seen through the thin silence is that, Continue reading

Finding God in a Thin Silence – part II

A prophetic look at the day in which we live

Where is God?meteor shower

1 Kings 19:11–12 (ESV)
11 And he said, “Go out and stand on the mount before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. 12 And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper. (Thin silence)

After Elijah’s demonstration of God’s power (1King 18), rather than a mighty revival; instead of becoming the pastor of a great church; or the advisor to the king, Elijah was threatened with death.
He laments to God that he alone remains true to the covenant and yet he is an outcast of Israel rather than leading as the prophet of God.

God passed by and there was a great wind that tore the mountains, surely God would be in such greatness? But God was not in it. Next there was a powerful earthquake. Surely that is the sort of great event that God would be in. No! Then a fire, but God was not in the fire either. After this was a ‘thin silence’ a nothingness that really offends the sensibilities of man and what people deem great. Continue reading

Finding God in a Thin Silence – part I

A prophetic look at the day in which we live

Finding God in a thin silence is a reference from 1 Kings 19:11,12 where Elijah is longing to see God. He has experienced some victories as a prophet but then felt the ‘aloneness’ of passivity, rejection and active opposition. Driven into the wilderness, feeling despondent, he discovers that in the midst of storms, earthquakes and fire God can be found, but He is not revealed in these tempestuous occurrences but in the ‘thin silence’. The thin silence is a call to find that place in the midst of turmoil, for that is where God can be found.

Personal: – the coming tempestIMG_3651

Since being called to market ministry I have step out of the daily oversight and involvement in the local church. A major outcome is that I have been able to focus more on God’s advancing Kingdom Continue reading

Face to Face

IMG_0444

Psalm 17:15 (ESV)  As for me, I shall behold your face in righteousness;
when I awake, I shall be satisfied with your likeness.

I became a Christian while serving in the army. I remember taking leave and going to my first church camp.  The guest speaker/musician used Psalm 17:15 as a song. Singing these words had a profound impact on me and a passionate desire to ‘behold [Jesus] face in righteousness’ was birthed within.

In John 1:1 we read that ‘the Word was ‘with‘ God. The Greek word ‘pros‘ (with) has the general sense of “immediately before”. The image is of the Word [Jesus, the son of God] and God the Father being face-to-face. The idea of being face to face or beholding his face, has a  sense of deep intimacy.

Isaiah 40:31 (ESV) but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; 
they shall mount up with wings like eagles;

Here the word ‘wait‘ as an action in Hebrew indicates ‘to look eagerly for, linger, lie in wait‘ and ‘to collect or bind together‘. The act of entwining or seeking oneness with Christ promises a renewed, or more literally, an exchange of strength.

To seek Jesus’ face, to wait on the Lord, and to fix eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith (heb 12:2), is not a pharisaic duty or function but rather the efficacy (potency) of our great affection: that is to say, our passionate desire to see him face to face produces our intense seeking.

Those who ‘behold [Jesus] face in righteousness’ are in fact the ones who ‘dwell in the secret place of the Most High’ (Ps 91:1).

Knowing the Ways of God

Deuteronomy 5:33 (ESV) You shall walk in all the way that the Lord your God has commanded you…

Personal Observation

The fear of ‘missing God’s plan for my life’ was for many years the cause of my driven-ness. To somehow reach the end of life and discover I had not gone to the right church, believed the right end-time teaching, or been a part of the right vision, can produce paralysing fear and erratic living.

Under such pressure how can ‘the righteous live by faith’? How do you ‘walk by faith not by sight’?

The answer is as clear as it is simple. It is not so easy to miss God’s purpose when we realise that it is God who is at work to fulfil His purpose in us (Phil 2:13). And His purpose is that we should be like His Son Jesus Christ. Every event and purpose we encounter in life – if we are in Christ – works to this end.

Proverbs 19:21 (ESV) Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.

So, free from paralysing fear and erratic living we can live by faith knowing that He redeems the time in which we live and the paths in which we walk. The evidence that our steps are ordered by the Lord is not in what we think we see ahead and or in our plans (Pr 16:9), but in looking back and seeing His guidance through the paths we have already trodden.

Hindsight has 20/20 vision

The events surrounding the establishment of the first church are recorded in Scripture primarily in the book of Acts. Acts records the development of New Testament doctrine and it’s transformative purpose, as the Holy Spirit directed the actions of the apostles and other early church saints. In Acts we see what came to be known as praxis theology (theology which is the pursuit of the knowledge of God and praxis which is the cyclical process of experiential learning). In the gospels, when Jesus spoke of the future, the apostles struggled to understand, but once they ‘experienced’ that future then God’s plan and purpose became clear.

In simple terms, we come to know and understand God as a result of reflecting on what He has done.

Throughout the course of its history the early church came to know God and His ways through the revelation of Jesus Christ and the activity of the Holy Spirit. What is, from the perspective of praxis theology, most notable is that God’s ways, his plans and ultimate purpose came to be understood through the activity of the indwelling and ever present Holy Spirit.

Praxis Theology – An Example

In Acts chapters 11 and 12 a monumental event is recorded that changes – from man’s perspective – God’s historic dealings with Israel. No longer is he only the God of natural Israel, no longer is natural Israel the Israel of God, but the gentiles, foreigners, those who were not a people, are given equal status as citizens of heaven, grafted into the same vine (Rom 11:24). The church was to discover that not all who are circumcised are Jews but those whom the Spirit cleanses from within (Rom 2:28, 29; Phil 3:3; Col 2:11).

Though Peter’s vision prepared him for what was to come, the Spirit did not give him a ‘plan’ to be pursued, rather it was a peg that would later confirm the divine origin of the events that were about to unfold. Only in hindsight was God’s ultimate purpose revealed to Peter. Even the event itself, the outpouring of the Spirit on Cornelius and his household did not fully reveal the extent to which God would move among the gentiles. After the event the apostles and elders came together to try to comprehend what had happen (Act 11), so that they could move forward by faith as the Spirit propelled them into the phenomena that was to become The Church[1].

Practical Implication

God’s reveals himself through his acts in human history (Rom 1:19,20; Ps 68:28). The height of His self-revelation is Christ Jesus (Ps 33:6; Heb 1:1-3) who is the express image of God, and it is through the cross of Christ that Trinitarian activity is revealed as the Father is revealed as the one who suffers the anguish of the Son’s death as man’s sin in dealt with in God-forsakenness, Jesus is revealed as Son of God who suffers the rejection of the Father (Mat 27:46) for mans sin, and the Spirit is revealed in the resurrection (Rom 8:11).

The premise is that all we have come to know about God and His will is revealed in His deeds throughout history. Indeed understanding only comes in ‘hind-sight’.

Today there are numerous books and seminars promoting vision and some personal purpose. The basic idea being that we receive a clear and divinely appointed mission that must be fulfilled according to the visionary’s plan. Speakers frequent the ‘Christian speaking circuit’ motivating well paying hearers to find their divine calling and purpose and to pursue it with determination.

Passages used like Proverbs 29:18 and Habakkuk 2:4 to inspire you to receive a personal vision and make it happen, are in fact prophetic pointers to Christ, who alone is the vision to which we press toward.

As apostle Paul proclaims:
Philippians 3:8 (ESV) Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ

The Christian life is less about a mission and more about a journey – a journey to gain Christ. It is not lived by the achievement of visions and goals but by faith in Him who is eternally faithful.

Philippians 3:9–11 (ESV) and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— 10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.

A True Vision – Christ in You

God has a vision for you –it’s not a mission to be accomplished but a purpose to be embraced:

Romans 8:29 (ESV) 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.

In bringing this to pass we are led down many and varied paths seldom fulfilling our expectations nor our understanding, which is the reason ‘the righteous live by faith’ even as the righteous one lived by faith!

We trust that the vision of God in bringing ‘many sons to glory’ (Heb 2:10), which was begun in Christ, will be completed in Him so that we will ultimately and completely be conformed to the image of His Son.

The ‘vision’ for us is to pursue Christ as we live by faith trusting in the hope to which we have been called. The detail of our daily living is engaged by faith not by sight or vision and in hindsight God’s dealing is clearly seen. If we venture down a path that ends abruptly, or we somehow appear to have missed some perceived mark, we do not fear, or become despondent as though we have failed to do amazing things for God, but rather by faith we trust him who works all things out for the good of those who love him and are called according to his purpose (Rom 8:28,29)

[1]They were not given a vision to establish religious forms and structures but to preach the message of the Kingdom and make disciples. Church was the spiritual community birthed in Christ through gospel proclamation, whose members through faith engaged in shared life as the body of Jesus.

 

The Relationship of a Name!

Introduction

The redemptive names of God, Jehovah-Jireh, Jehovah-Nissi and Jehovah-Shammah to name a few, are compound names that tell us something about Yahweh who is God. Many a sermon has been preached and many a book written discussing the meaning of these names; Jehovah-jireh the Lord who provides; Jehovah-Shalom the Lord who is peace, etc. Jehovah is translated ‘The Lord’ and the words added to make a compound name, describe something about what he does. From this we can get an idea of ‘who’ God is based on learning about ‘what’ he does.

But these names, revealed over time to the Israelites, only reveal something about God; they do not reveal anything about the nature of relationship between God and man. Just like saying that a man, John, is a cook. John-the –Cook says that he cooks and if he works in a restaurant you could expect to get a meal. But this does not really say much about him relationally etc.

Living Way, as a community, or more specifically a family of faith, came about nearly 20 years ago when a number of young mostly single men and women sought to follow Lesley and I. Discipleship ensued and the relationship became a modern version similar to Paul discipling Timothy and Titus. I became to them a spiritual father and at some point they began to call Lesley and I, “dad and mum”.

As numbers were added to our ‘family’, though not required or expected, others began to call us dad and mum.

What is interesting though is how some would vacillate between calling me dad or Michael. When they were in a good place in God and in good relationship with me they called me dad, but when they were in a place of hard-heartedness and in a non-relational frame of mind, they would revert to calling me, Michael.

So what does this mean? A name is more than a noun, more than a simple identifier; names speak about and identify relationships.

Sir is a polite or respectful way of addressing a man often in a position of authority. This address says something about the relationship between the user and the recipient, as does Mister. Doctor and professor are titles that refer to a persons achievements and/or a position that requires respect.

Calling someone by their first name often signifies a peer relationship; nicknames can indicate a more intimate relationship while derogatory names suggest personal disrespect.

All of these titles or forms of address, while being identifiers, also indicate the nature of one’s relationship to that person.

Whereas Lesley is my wife’s name, the noun people use to identify my wife in a conversation with others or to address her as a peer, if I called her by that name I’m going to be in trouble. Just as when she calls me ‘Michael’ I know I’m in trouble – which for me, experientially proves my thesis that names are more than identifiers, more than labels on a garment, but expressions of relationship.

The Name that is Above All Names

Philippians 2:9 (ESV) Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name,

The name given to Jesus, as a result of His obedience “even unto death”, was given in conjunction with His being “highly exalted”, and therefore receiving a name that reflects His exaltedness. So, while the name given signifies Jesus’ exaltedness, those who use it proclaim His exaltedness in relationship to themselves. To call or assert that Jesus is ‘Christ and Lord’ reveals the nature of relationship with Him. As the Philippians passage points out, whether voluntarily or by compulsion, everyone will be obliged to declare their relationship with Him – that He is Lord and we are subject to His Lordship:

Philippians 2:10–11 (ESV) so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

It is not enough to use divine titles and names as mere identifiers/nouns; they are expressions of relationship between the creator and the created. They reveal to all the nature of that relationship and insist that the relationship be upheld in life.

The Names of God is Father

One day Lesley tried to explain to our grandson that papa’s name was also Michael. He just scoffed, laughed and said, “No, his name is papa”. He had gone for a walk with his parents and sister so I planned to meet them. From a distance Michael saw me and said, “look daddy, a man”. But as I got closer he cried out, “no! It’s not a man, it’s my papa!” To our grandchildren I will always be papa and regardless of what I do papa is papa. Papa is not a title it is a person the children have a relationship with.

Matthew 6:9 (ESV) Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.

This brings me to the point of this matter, the names of God speak about what he can do, they speak about His character and personality. The Old Testament events reveal The God who created the heavens and the earth, they speak of His involvement with humanity – specifically through a particular people group – and of His activities as He engages in the history of men according to His own will and purpose. But now, through His self-revelation in His Son, Jesus Christ, we have been given another name by which to approach God, His son has given us ‘Our Heavenly Father’ (Matt 6:9).

Calling God Father signifies both His authority and His intimacy with us. It declares that if God is our father then we are His children, sons and daughters. If He is Jehovah Jireh or Jehovah Shalom, then He is that to His children.

The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ is not Father by title, He is Father in deed, meaning Father in relationship. (A father is only father in relationship to his children. Without this relationship the name is meaningless.) As is clear in Scripture, through the intimacy of relationship He enables us – or better still, en-titles us – to call Him Abba Father:

Galatians 4:6 (ESV) And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”

Since we are ‘sons’ we are obligated through the intimacy of relationship given to us to press into the reality of sonship. That is not, as so many have professed, a relationship about living in and on His estate and receiving His provision – a sort of Kingdom now theology. It is pressing on to know Him (Hos 6:3; 6:6; Jn 17:3) The King in whose Kingdom we have entered through the blood of the Lamb. (Eph 2:13; Heb 10:19, 1Pt 1:2)

The point of the parable of the prodigal son is very important to grasp here. One son knew the inheritance of the estate and demanded it, the other knew the labour of the estate and served it. But neither one knew the Father of the estate. The point of the parable is to show us who the Father is in relation to His sons.

There is much preaching today about the ‘inheritance’ of the possession and power of the estate or Kingdom of God: It belongs to you take it. The nature of the Kingdom is power and possessions and position as ‘king’s kids’ it is yours to be taken. This is the heart of the prodigal before he realised how foolish his thinking and his heart were.

There is a reaction to this misguided teaching but often the reaction is the opposite side of the same coin. It is the foolish heart of the older brother. This reactionary teaching refers to the Kingdom in terms of authority and obedience through service in religious organisations that are called ‘church’: Obedience to headship and service in the building and to the congregation, this is the nature of the Kingdom.

Both these views do not reveal the Father but His possessions and His power or position. The prodigal learnt that the father was not just a source of inheritance but a loving, merciful and faithful father whose love endures. He did not come back to privilege, wealth and power but to his Father. The older brother never unfortunately got this. Rather than seeing the Father’s heart he only saw obedience, headship and service. He grumbled because the Father he saw in relationship with the prodigal, was not the father he thought he knew and served.

The name of God given to us by Jesus is Father and we become sons. The provision of The Father and service in His Estate is taken for granted. By that I mean that it is a given that we will serve in His house as faithful sons and He will provide for us as a faithful and caring Father. What is the point is that we ought to press into the meaning of relationship of Father and son as it is expressed in the relationship of God and Jesus: Father and Son. To know the intimate pleasure of His divine presence as Abba Father, whose boundless love and grace is an ever-present reality is the true meaning of sonship.

The intimacy of The Father’s presence, and the intense delight of participating in life in His presence, is revealed in the anguish of Christ as He sweat drops of blood in the garden of Gethsemane (Lk 22:42-44). This ‘cup’ that he wanted to avoid, the unimaginable agony He was to partake of, could only have been the experience of the absence of the presence of His Father. The greatest price He would pay for sin is a price we fail to understand. When Adam and Eve sinned, they were cut off from the presence of God (cf Gen 3:24 with Jn 17:3; cf Gen 2:17 with Rom6:11 and Eph 2:1,5). We, who know the presence of sin and not the presence of God were redeemed by Him who knew no sin but only knew the presence of God (Jn 1:1-4; 2Cor 5:21).

This intimacy of relationship is made clear in the cry of dereliction: “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me”. Salvation is not heaven, or power, or possessions, or position, or pleasure, it is presence – the presence of the living God who loved and sent His son to die so that we may be reconciled to Himself. His pleasure is to be our Heavenly Father, which means His pleasure is that we would be His sons and daughters and live in His presence.

God as, Heavenly Father, also sheds light on the nature of our relationship with Jesus. The one whose name is above every name; the one who ‘must reign until all things are put under His feet’ (1 Cor 15:21; Ps 110:1; Is 9:7; Rev 11:15); the one who is ‘seated in the heavenly realms’ (Eph 1:21,22); is also our brother. Our relationship with Him is as intimate as a brother. He is not ashamed to call us brothers and sisters (Heb 2:11).

If The God and Father of our Lord and saviour Jesus Christ calls us sons and daughters, if the Son of God, the eternal Word made flesh, sent from the Father to redeem us, calls us brothers and sisters, then we who are called by His name are joint heirs together with Him and with each other. So the name of God and Father and Jesus as our brother signifies that we are related together as brothers and sisters in intimate relationship together with Him and thus with each other.

The Conclusion:

BAM: It all about relationship; fellowship; unity; intimacy; oneness together with God in Christ Jesus through the power of His Holy Spirit.

What to do: pray together, worship together, seek the knowledge of The Father and the Son together and enjoy the bliss of divine fellowship together.

Psalm 133:1–3 (ESV)

          Behold, how good and pleasant it is

when brothers dwell in unity!

          It is like the precious oil on the head,

running down on the beard,

on the beard of Aaron,

running down on the collar of his robes!

          It is like the dew of Hermon,

which falls on the mountains of Zion!

For there the Lord has commanded the blessing,

life forevermore.

 

Thoughts On Followership

I have been thinking and praying about followership as the right response to spiritual leadership and authority.

The Apostolic ministry of Jesus Christ is a blessing to all who receive it. It is freeing, it is life changing, it is empowering, it is glorious. Specific aspects of His apostolic ministry are realised or experienced in the church today through men and women whom Jesus has gifted to the church as an expression of Himself. As such, to imitate, to follow and to obey Jesus’ gifts to the church is freeing, life changing, empowering and glorious because it is evidence of followership. The life of Christ given to us and for us  is embraced through repentance, lived in fellowship, matured in followership and realised in the marriage of the Lamb.

I have concluded that followership is the enablement of a crucified life and a joyous reward in Christ Jesus the Lord.

Luke 9:23–25 (ESV) And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. 25 For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?

Rulership is a Divine Institution

Scripture  states that rulership is from God (Rom 13:1ff). That does not mean that all rulers are godly or good but that rulership is godly and good. Governing authorities are to be respected, even those we may disagree with.

I noted recently a news article about a political figure in Australia. Throughout the article were photoshopped images of the member of parliament which were extremely disparaging. Our ability to respect governance is constantly being manipulated by such messages. And this disrespect and consequential rejection of leadership is prevalent in the church.

1 Thessalonians 5:12 (ESV) We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you,

Resistance to Followership – An uncrucified Life

Romans 12:1 (ESV) I appeal to you… by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual [or reasonable] worship.

Resistance to leadership and an unwillingness to follow are usually not because a leader is evil, or has committed gross sins, but because the heart is unsubmissive – read unwilling to be crucified with Christ. Obedience begins with respect: respect that authority is from God and obedience to authority is obedience to God. While it is valid to resist evil, and evil leaders should not be followed, more often than not opposition to a church leader is not because the leader is adulterous, or a murder, or a thief – a resisting of evil – but it is unsubmissiveness due to preference and personality. 

Hebrews 13:17 (ESV) Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.

Leaders are not ‘divine’ nor are they ‘infallible’ they are men and women with preferences and behaviour patterns and personalities (2 Cor 4:5-12). These are the human elements through which Jesus chooses to gift himself to the church (Eph 4:8,11-12).

When people resist authority it begins in a heart that refuses to be led. To justify non-followership they judge the humanity or personality of a leader from a preferential position. Their judgment is that the leader is not a true leader because of human fallibility. The leader is manipulative, controlling, abusive and uses people for personal gain. They conclude that the followers are being manipulated,  controlled, abused and used for the leader’s own benefit; the very excuses used to ‘justify’ their own refusal to enter into followership. These people, either objectively or subjectively, manipulate others, initiate gossip, and ferment criticism of their leader and cause a groundswell of opposition. Eventually, like Korah, they confront the gift of Christ to the church as though the leaders is a self-appointed, self-exalting manipulator lording it over the people (Num 16:1-4).

Jude 8 (ESV) Yet in like manner these people also, relying on their dreams, defile the flesh, reject authority, and blaspheme the glorious ones.

Jude 16 (ESV) These are grumblers, malcontents, following their own sinful desires; they are loud-mouthed boasters, showing favoritism to gain advantage.  

The leader, instead of being the gift of Christ freely embracing the mission of the Kingdom and equipping the saints  for works of service, finds himself fighting a rebellion from within.

Resist a Proud Uncrucified Self

James 4:1–7 (ESV) What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”? But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.  

To live under self-rule is to be tyrannised by a despotic insatiable leader. The self is manipulative, controlling, abusive and self-gratifying using everyone and everything for personal gain (Gen 6:5; Jer 17:9; Ecc 9:3; Mk 7:21,22; Rom 1:21).  The death of self is the liberating work of the cross (Rom 6:18; 7:11,24,25a; 8:2).  Participation in the resurrection life of Christ demands the death of self and the transfer of allegiance from obedience to your tyrannical self to the obedience of faith in the rulership of Jesus Christ The Lord (Jn 11:25; Eph 2:4-10; Rom 10:9,10; ).

Consider for a moment the amazing age in which we live. We can travel to the other side of the world in hours. We are among the few who can see what previous generations never dreamt possible. We have the ability to communicate with multiple people around the world instantly. We have an abundance of labour-saving devices and equipment that caters to our whims and fancies. Many of us live in political freedom and some, like those who are a part of Living Way and other strong foundational Christian communities, have the blessing of godly leaders and peers committed to the life of Christ, willing to provoke and be provoked to do good works in Christ (Heb 10:24). Yet we are still dissatisfied. I am amazed at the constant complaints and childish countenance of people who, despite having such amazing abundance and blessing, lament over what they do not have and complain about their perceived deprivation. No matter how much they have, they want more, require more and expect more. They are dissatisfied with service, obedience and christlikeness. They seek out individual pleasure and self-governance and self-image yet remain dissatisfied (Jude 1 all). 

The tyranny of self-rule: never enough! Not enough possessions, not enough recognition, not enough personal fulfilment (1Jn 2:16). Like the pharisaical spirits throughout history, who offer lip service to God yet whose hearts are far from him, we say that having God is enough yet we live unfulfilled lives, lamenting our perceived lack.

Oh to be free from the tyranny of self-rule. To be able to live Christ, to be a follower of Christ through obedience to His ordained leaders, to resist the god of this age evident in the desires of self-rule and to embrace the crucified life in the family of God participating in His Will through Kingdom service. To experience the joyous reward of followership.

Matthew 11:15 (ESV) He who has ears to hear, let him hear.

A Spirit of Entitlement is an Offense to The Word of the Cross

Why does an elite businessperson or high-ranking politician feel they are above the law? Why does a celebrity expect to be pandered to and yet will not afford others the most basic respect? Why does a preacher think that his own sexual liaison outside of his marriage is not adultery? Or that his divorce is somehow God-ordained? Why does a person steal from their employer believing it is justified because the company undervalues them? Why do I feel offended when others overlook me? Why do you look for a church that offers you particular programmes as though it were a spiritual supermarket?

In a word: Entitlement. The idea that my contribution or my special endeavours make me unique entitling me to special treatment, or reward. It is a spirit of entitlement.

In my book “Will the Real Church Stand Up” (2006:Xulon Press) I recount the Hans Christian Andersen tale The Emperors New Clothes. In this tale two rouges, playing on his vanity, con the emperor into believing that he is clothed in the finest of linen, but in reality he is naked.  Those around the emperor, wanting to be known as modern and progressive, all agree that he is adorned in the finest garments. The ‘herd mentality’ is evident as the populous praise the emperor’s new clothes as he parades through the town. Finally, a young boy declares the obvious, “The emperor is wearing no clothes”.

I correlate this tale to the state of the Western Church, parading its nakedness as though it where clothed in God’s righteousness. Like the church in Sardis (Rev 3:1-6), we market an image that is in our imagination, and then we believe our own PR statements promoting reputation of being alive, but are in fact dead.

Luke 16:14–15 (ESV)
14 The Pharisees, who were lovers of money, heard all these things, and they ridiculed him. 15 And he said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God.

Luke 18:9 (ESV)
He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt:

For the “Real Church’ of Jesus Christ a spirit of entitlement is counterintuitive. Only through the abandonment of entitlement (repentance) can the grace of God in Christ be received. Only through death can eternal life be realised.

The Word of the Cross as our Standard

Philippians 2:5–8 (NRSV)
5 Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,
6 who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited,
7 but emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,
8 he humbled himself
and became obedient to the point of death—
even death on a cross.

The Cross – Offensive to sinful flesh

John Stott, in his book “The Cross of Christ”(1986), clearly depicts the usage of the cross as a torturous death for the most vile of criminals in the Roman world. Stott points out that this symbol brought much derision to the early church and was seen as offensive to the sensibilities of modern, progressive minds.

Spiritually the cross is an offense to the very being of fallen humanity because it, rather than exalting men and women, rather than affirming humanity as good, the way that humans see themselves, it condemns sin in sinful flesh (Rom 8:3). The cross declares all people everywhere guilty of sin, unrighteous, evil and desperately wicked and deserving of the horrendous death of the cross. This is what humanity is ‘entitled’ to and such a message, that is ‘the message of the cross’ is an offense to the mind of modern progressive self-impressed and ‘entitled’ persons. (Gal 5:11; 1Cor 1:18; Rom 9:33; 1Pt 2:8)

Sinful Flesh – Offensive to the Cross

But what of those who have chosen to embrace the ‘offense of the cross” (1Cor 1:18; 2:2)? Those who have come to trust in this Word that calls people from every tribe, tongue and nation, to endure the shame of the cross for the joy that is set before them in Christ (Heb 12:2)? Should we continue to be offended by the cross? Should our hearts, attitudes and actions continue to offend the message of the cross, its purpose and its work?

An embracing of the cross of Christ comes with an inversion in foundational thinking (Rom 12:2). Rather than following our ‘modern progressive’ mind, trained in the pattern of the world and regularly being offended by ‘The Way’, we have become the offensive- or more precisely, the simpleminded who cause offense by believing in such a foolish ‘word’. Offensive because we declare it wisdom and pleasing while the world declares it foolishness and offensive.

If the cross of Christ is wisdom and pleasing, if it is altogether agreeable and delightful, then our hearts and minds should be aware of that which is offensive to the way of the cross, and our progressiveness is found in pursuing, or seeking to identify that which is offensive, so that we can forsake all that is an offense to the cross

In this article I want to highlight one of the most offensive attitudes to the Cross of Christ:

A spirit of Entitlement

Philippians 3:7–8 (ESV)
7 But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ

Natural Rights

Entitlement is: ‘the fact of having a right to something’. When a person believes that it is in fact true that they have entitlement then they expect to receive that entitlement. It is a person’s ‘right’.

For example, if a person works he or she is entitled to receive a wage or compensation for their labour (1Tim 4:18; Lev 19:13). However, the labourer is not ‘entitled’ to more (Mat 20:8-15), in fact to eat is the reward or right of labour 1Cor 9:9; Deut 25:4) and the opposite is also true, that to choose not to work is to give up the right to eat (2Thes 3:10).

There are natural rights or entitlements such as life, freedom and the pursuit of happiness expressed through an accomplished meaningful life (happiness was never meant to be understood as gratuitous and sensual self-satisfaction but as the satisfaction of fulfilling our divine purpose in wise rulership over the works of God’s hands. Gen 1:26). To live, to breathe, to work and to eat and drink, to have clothing and shelter, these things no man has a right to deny of another nor does an idle person have the right (even through government legislation) to take it from another. This is theft .

Spirit of Entitlement

A spirit of entitlement is an affront to the word and work of the cross precisely because it is the antithesis. While there are natural, God-given rights, a spirit of entitlement is the attitude that flows from the heart of idolatrous humanity. It is a spirit that thinks, feels and believes that in fact it has entitlement to more than what is naturally given by God. And it is always exclusive entitlement that we are not prepared to acknowledge for others – except to the extent that it advances our own entitlement.

Note the rebellion of Korah in Numbers 16, ostensibly arguing for the ‘rights’ of the people but in reality seeking to advance his own sense of entitlement. A spirit of entitlement only works for self-advancement, never for the good of others.

Samson – an example of a spirit of entitlement

Samson is a perfect example of a spirit of entitlement. He was chosen by God, blessed with great strength and anointed to be a leader of God’s people. Rather than humbly accepting this work and receiving the blessing of God with gratitude he demonstrated a spirit of entitlement. He was ‘entitled’ to marry ‘a woman among the daughters of your relatives’, but instead he felt entitled to take a wife from the ungodly Philistines, a choice that directly contravened God’s commands to Israel. Eating honey from the dead carcass of a lion breached God’s commands, as did his liaisons with Delilah. In fact, his life consistently demonstrated a spirit of entitlement.

Ahab – his spirit of entitlement was a means for manipulation

Ahab’s exhibition of a spirit of entitlement began with taking a wife.

1 Kings 16:31 (ESV)
31 And as if it had been a light thing for him to walk in the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, he took for his wife Jezebel the daughter of Ethbaal king of the Sidonians, and went and served Baal and worshiped him.

Later she used his sense of entitlement to manipulate him and justify a host of evil. As King of Israel you are entitled to whatever you desire… this is the sentiment behind a spirit of entitlement.

Sin that births entitlement

In the Garden of Eden, Satan enticed Adam and Eve to sin by declaring ‘you shall be like God…’ So, in taking of the fruit, Adam condemned his offspring into an existence for self-deification: the quest to be like God, rejecting his creator and becoming – in his own eyes – a creator. God created man in His image and as a result of the fall, man feels able to create ‘gods’ is his own image. (The creator of a god is the god of the god. This is the subjective endeavour of fallen humanity – to be like God)

Romans 1:21–25 (ESV)
21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.
24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

Why exactly is the spirit of entitlement an offense to the cross? Because the cross declares that humanity is entitled to nothing other than death. It declares, not that men are divine, righteous, knowing good and evil, but that they are altogether evil, their thinking futile and lives a wasted ruin.

Jesus – the epitome of entitlement discarded

Philippians 2:5–8 (NRSV)
5 Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,
6 who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
as something to be exploited,
7 but emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,8 he humbled himself
and became obedient to the point of death—

even death on a cross. 

Though we are not God, we live as though we are. We believe it as fact that we are entitled to be treated as gods in this world. Jesus, though he is in fact God, did not live entitled among men. He chose not to exploit his divinity for his own advantage, while we naturally try to exploit others and everything for our own advantage.

This spirit of entitlement is seen every day in churches around the world. People expecting special treatment, looking for churches that ‘meet their specific needs’ as though they are entitled to have the bride of Christ exist for their own purposes. It is this ‘spirit of entitlement’ that is not only a stumbling block to those who would enter into Christ, it produces sheep in wolves clothing, capable of destroying the flock for self advantage, and is an abomination and an affront to the very message that such people proclaim allegiance to.

Philippians 2:1-5 is a call to break free of this spirit of entitlement and to live and die as Christ lived and died, if we are ever to participate in His resurrection. Philippians 2:6-11 exemplifies the Spirit of God in man, a spirit, not of entitlement, but of thanksgiving and praise toward the one in whom grace and true freedom is found.

This is the meaning of Jesus’ words:

Matthew 16:24–27 (ESV)
24 Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. 26 For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? 27 For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done.

And this must be our response:

Philippians 3:7–11 (ESV)
7 But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— 10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.

 

Teach Us To Pray

In Luke Chapter 11 the Lord’s Prayer is recorded as coming from a request by the disciple: “Lord, teach us to pray…” During a time of personal prayer and meditation I realised that the children in our church being home-schooled had not been taught to pray nor was memorising Scripture being actively pursued – both essential practices for growing in the knowledge of the Lord. As this was implemented one of the mums queried my explanation of the Lord’s Prayer asking if it was an outline that governs all prayer. The following outline on The Lord’s Prayer came from that question.

Perhaps the first point to make – based on the teaching of Jesus in Matthew 6:7 – is that this prayer should not be seen purely as a liturgical prayer to be used at various meetings or events – although that is the intent of the prayer in Luke 11. Rather, it should be understood as a ‘prayer pattern’ or outline to direct the course of daily general prayer. In Matt 6:6 the emphasis is on daily personal prayer, though the plural or inclusive language of the prayer indicates it is also useful for corporate prayer gatherings (cf Act 2:42; 4:24-30). What I think is important is to understand the principles expressed in each section as a means of directing our prayers and establishing our right relationship in prayer. For example: before we reach the petitioning phase, “give us this day our daily bread”, we have already dealt with our idolatrous heart (being evident in self-centredness) by yielding our will to His sovereign will, “your will be done…”. This positions us to petition in line with God’s good, pleasing and acceptable will (cf Rom 12:1-2; Ps 37:4).

Introduction to Prayer

Prayer is as broad as it is deep. And shouldn’t be reduced to only one form. In the simplest terms prayer is ‘to speak’, literally, to talk to God. The need or purpose of prayer defines what ‘type’ of prayers. For example:

Supplications = plea , ask with urgency

Intercession = for others

Thanksgiving and praise

Confession, repentance and forgiveness

 As indicated in the following Scriptures:

1 Timothy 2:1 (ESV) 
First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people,

Philippians 4:6 (ESV)
do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.

Ephesians 6:18 (ESV)
18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints,

1 John 1:9 (ESV)
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

A life of prayer is a life in fellowship with the Father and Son through the Spirit.

Romans 8:26–27 (ESV)
26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. 27 And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

Prayer is essential for life

Matthew 26:41 (ESV)
41 Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

The Lord’s Prayer is the foundational prayer given by Jesus for daily life.

Matthew 6:8–9 (ESV)
Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. Pray then like this:

 

Our Father in heaven,

Let your holy name be honoured.

Our Praise, Honour and Worship to God as His children; joint heirs with Christ

Our Father in heaven, we praise you for your greatness and majesty; we thank you for your grace in bringing us into your family; we honour your holy name and exalt you; Jesus our Lord and Saviour, we declare you to be holy and worthy of all honour and praise.

Ezekiel 36:23 (ESV)
23 And I will vindicate the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, and which you have profaned among them. And the nations will know that I am the Lord, declares the Lord God, when through you I vindicate my holiness before their eyes.

Your kingdom come,

Your will be done,

On earth as it is in heaven.

Our declaration of allegiance

God you reign supreme over all the earth. Let your Kingdom come as Jesus establishes His rule over all things; Let all creation bow to your will; Holy Spirit empower us to lay hold of The Kingdom and to yield fully to Jesus’ Lordship. Let God’s will alone be evident in our lives.

Give us today our daily bread,

Our Petition for Provision

Lord give us what we require this day, not based on our greed but upon your will in alignment with Your Kingdom as it advances. As our will is to see your Kingdom come let us not lack any good thing to participate in the accomplishment of your advancing kingdom in our time.

And forgive us our debts,

As we also have forgiven our debtors.

Our time of self-examination and commitment to Christ-likeness

Oh Lord, create in me a clean heart. Let your forgiveness fill my being and empower me to bring forgiveness wherever I go. Forgive me for (specific sins) as I have forgiven others (forgiveness of others is not in prayer but in deed)

Psalm 103:10–13 (ESV)

10          He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities.
11          For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
12          as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.
13          As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him.

And lead us not into temptation,

But deliver us from the evil one.

Our prayer for the Spirit to keep our heart’s desire Christ crucified

Lord let your desire be my desires that I may not be led into temptation by my own lustful desires. Holy Spirit keep me alert to Satan’s deceptive schemes that target my fleshly desires that I may be able to resist the devil. I want to participate in your divine nature escaping from the corruption that is in my human heart through lust.

Eschatalogical

Revelation 3:10 (ESV)
10 Because you have kept my word about patient endurance, I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world, to try those who dwell on the earth.

Immediate

James 1:2–3 (ESV)
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.

And we conclude with praise:

For yours is the Kingdom and the power and the glory forever amen. (Not in early manuscripts)

John 14:13 (ESV)
13 Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.