A theme consistent with, and constantly repeated by, scripture is the goodness and majesty of God’s creation, attested so beautifully in Psalm 19.
The heavens declare the glory of God,
and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
Day to day pours out speech,
and night to night reveals knowledge.
There is no speech, nor are there words,
whose voice is not heard.
Their voice goes out through all the earth,
and their words to the end of the world.
In them he has set a tent for the sun,
which comes out like a bridegroom leaving his chamber,
and, like a strong man, runs its course with joy.
Its rising is from the end of the heavens,
and its circuit to the end of them,
and there is nothing hidden from its heat.
The law of the LORD is perfect,
reviving the soul;
the testimony of the LORD is sure,
making wise the simple;
the precepts of the LORD are right,
rejoicing the heart;
the commandment of the LORD is pure,
enlightening the eyes;
the fear of the LORD is clean,
the rules of the LORD are true,
and righteous altogether.
More to be desired are they than gold,
even much fine gold;
sweeter also than honey
and drippings of the honeycomb.
Moreover, by them is your servant warned;
in keeping them there is great reward.
Who can discern his errors?
Declare me innocent from hidden faults.
Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins;
let them not have dominion over me!
Then I shall be blameless,
and innocent of great transgression.
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
be acceptable in your sight,
O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.
This Psalm has been divided into three segments that follow on one from the other: verses 1-6, 7-11, and 12-14.
Psalm 19:1-6 speaks as though creation itself talks – which it does. It tells us, loud and clear that the heavens, and the sky above, declare and proclaim God’s glory and handiwork. Who could doubt this looking at the night sky, especially when unimpeded by the ambient light of cities? The heavens are spectacularly glorious, strewn with glory like diamonds scattered on midnight blue. The colours of the nebulae and the galaxies pale the finest of the Great Masters palettes. A Real Master has been at work here.
Creation speaks to us; it is telling us of God’s majesty, His goodness, and power – exemplified in the sun, which is portrayed as a strong man running his course with joy. What a magnificent and vibrant description.
Psalm 19:7-11 develops this theme of Creation talk stating that, even though God is apprehended in creation, he is known more clearly and perfectly as he speaks and reveals himself in scripture. In other words, creation is good, but his law is perfect. God speaks of himself in what we see, but God speaks transformatively to us in what we hear. Creation doesn’t redeem us; his word, his law does.
The Psalmist sees delight and joy in his Law; as these verses list the many wonderful ways that God’s word speaks to us: it revives, it makes wise, rejoices the heart, and it enlightens. This is because his law is: perfect, sure, pure, true, righteous, more valuable than gold, sweeter than honey, a warning, and a reason for reward.
Creation speaks in declarative terms (V1-6), the Law of Lord is perfect and transformative (V7-11), and now the final part of the Psalm speaks to the inner person, the hidden person, the compromised person. These verses invite the Lord to look inside of us, into the ruin of the human condition, asking him to moderate and tell us what we don’t and can’t know of ourselves, because of the deceptiveness of the human heart. The Psalmist’s prayer is that the Lord would keep him, and by inference us, from errors, hidden faults and presumptuous sins. It is these that obfuscate the pictures of creation and law.
We may know of God in his creation, and experience him in his word, yet we don’t truly know ourselves. Only God does. It isn’t just a Creator we need to know and appreciate, it is a Redeemer, the Lord, we must experience – my rock and my redeemer. Only he can keep us from the folly and danger we pose to ourselves.
Psalm 19 directs us to contemplate God’s majesty in creation and see him in the perfection of his law. But it also reminds us of the all too human creatures we are, and our need for a redeemer, one who knows, one who sees and saves.
We can look upon the heavens in awe, agree with the wonder of his Law, and yet hardly know ourselves. To this end, David’s heartfelt prayer in the last stanza of this Psalm is that we would be kept from the danger we are to ourselves, from faults and sins that have dominion over us.
His prayer is that our words would be acceptable, as the words of God are – the words of creation and the words of the law of God.
There is no doubt 2020 was a defining year for the church globally, shaping and shaking our very understanding of what the church is and how we continue to plant, grow and multiply in the midst of a global pandemic. Over the past couple of decades technology has been a huge part of innovative and emerging church models and strategies, but to be fair, the church historically has been quite a slow adopter when it comes to embracing new practices and methods.
For better or worse, 2020 has fast-tracked the adoption process and forced churches (some kicking and screaming) into the digital era. But with this quick pivot, has come some structural and strategic whiplash that is now in need of a framework to help us move into the future with clarity and strength.
It’s important for us to acknowledge that the world is still in a highly volatile social climate with constantly changing government restrictions, health alerts, travel bans, lockdowns, hot spots, and more – because of this, churches are all in different phases of change, some are still operating solely online, some are gathering with restrictions, some have hybrid models, the list goes on. On top of this, even within our own movement, exists a broad spectrum of churches: mono and multi-site, attractional and missional, urban and rural.
The truth is churches all around the world have implemented brilliant and creative ways to cultivate and sustain healthy community in the digital space. What I don’t want to do here is be too specific or prescriptive in the way it should outwork in your context.
What I’d rather attempt to do is provide some guiding principles and a digital framework that will allow you to interpret and navigate the best strategic direction for you.
Before I dive into the principles, I’ll say this: when thinking through our digital strategy, I think it’s important we make decisions with a post-Covid view in mind. Although there will of course be decisions we need to make for the immediate season, as much as possible we should be trying to form a strategic direction that is looking beyond the current circumstances and without a crisis lens.
Here we go….
Principle #1: The world was already digital.
87% of the developed world’s population is online, over half the world’s population are now under 30 and considered “digital natives” and 50% of the world’s internet usage is now via mobile devices and rising rapidly.
What we must realise is we don’t have online people and offline people, we just have people, and the vast majority of them live in the physical and digital worlds simultaneously. Therefore our digital approach needs to be designed with all of our people in mind.
Principle #2: Digital needs to be a culture more than a team, department or location.
If you follow the evolution of new and emerging digital products that tech companies are producing, they have a clear goal – create products that integrate, not compete, with real life. In the same way, our digital strategy should complement our physical strategy, in fact, they shouldn’t be two different strategies at all. We need one strategy for our people that leverages the strengths of both digital and physical.
It’s not about creating a digital version of church; it’s about asking the question ‘how do we integrate the strengths of both digital and physical to help people engage even more with Christ and community?’ I would suggest avoiding the trap of delegating digital to become a silo within your structure, and instead integrate it as a core culture of your whole church and team.
Principle #3: The digital world plays by different rules.
One of the common trends that emerged as churches ventured into the digital space, is a trend that similarly occurred when broadcasters first transitioned from radio to television… instead of creating TV shows, they just filmed their existing radio show. What we end up doing is using new technology to keep doing an old thing – or in our language, we fill new wineskins with old wine.
What we need to do is start creating things that are made for the medium, not just copy and pasting from another context. We need to ruthlessly challenge old ways of thinking and old modes of operation, because suddenly the barriers of time and space, buildings and time slots, don’t exist.
Principle #4: Digital is public, very public.
A couple of years ago I travelled to Iceland, on every tourist’s to-do list is to swim in the thermal pools, but there’s something they don’t tell you on the brochure: before you’re allowed to swim, you have to strip down and shower naked in a room full of strangers to wash off any nasty oils on your skin, so you don’t contaminate the thousand-year-old natural spring. Needless to say, if you don’t want everyone watching, be very careful what pool you decide to swim in.
We need to take great care in knowing the purpose of our content, and where it should be placed. I like to categorise the purpose of digital content into two main pools: reaching and resourcing – defining our content’s purpose helps give us a better idea of what platform we position it on.
Principle #5: Digital is a crowded house.
Due to the borderless nature of the digital landscape, we need to guard against the temptation to try and reach everyone. The problem with trying to reach everyone is that we spread ourselves so thin that we end up reaching no one. The fact is hundreds of thousands of churches all around the world are trying to carve out their space in the digital world. Imagine every church in your city all meeting in the same venue, at the same time… it could get ugly.
As leaders, we must stay true to who God has called us to reach and build our digital strategy with them in mind.
I’m praying you’ll be filled again with the spirit of wisdom and revelation as you lead God’s church faithfully into the future.
Holiness, without which no one will see God, has become either a despised term or, worse, a forgotten one.
We most easily associate holiness with a list of prohibitions, and we are well enough versed in scripture to know that “do’s and don’ts” don’t make the Kingdom. It was strict prohibitions in regards to the normal enjoyment of foods and sex (in marriage) that Paul reminded Timothy had infiltrated the church and were a sign of the teaching of demons. We don’t want a return to those days.
But has our freedom become our snare? Is holiness ever best defined as the things we forbid ourselves and others? Could we have fallen into the trap of, in trying to reach the world, it covertly reaching us? Yes, no, and yes.
Paul answered a rhetorical question in Romans 5 where anyone following the logical consistency of his argument would conclude that we are “to continue in sin that grace may abound?” Paul came to the conclusion that with the law essentially forcing an increase in sin, God, in grace, abounded all the more in righteousness – to us.
So then, his opponents conjected, the more we sin, the more God’s grace is made manifest. That is where logic takes you, and I suspect that is the unstated conclusion in any theology that overemphasizes grace and underappreciates sin (not that we are wanting to appreciate sin – you know what I mean).
Paul is adamant that our freedom is never an excuse for sin, and that freedom is always to be modified by the exercise of love.
In regards to being an excuse to sin, Paul reminds us that we are dead to sin by being in union with Jesus’s death and resurrection by baptism – how therefore can we continue in sin, when dead to it?
In regards to freedom and love, we are to moderate our freedom (and remember this often related to the practice or not of various aspects of the law in regards to holy days, food, Sabbaths, and the exercise of conscience) by our love for others. The truly free believer has no need to exercise their freedom if it offends a weaker brother or sister – and they do, like grace, abound. Love demands something better than an insistencece on freedoms.
Holiness is better defined as:
- a life lived to the glory and majesty of God,
- a life that exhibits the nature and reflection of God in Jesus Christ,
- a life glorious and enviable,
- a bright life of moral integrity and beauty,
- a life where restraint is more to be admired than excess,
- a life more defined by what we can do than by what we can’t.
In holiness there are some things we don’t practise, some behaviours we are to avoid, but these are not what it is to define holiness.
God’s holiness includes his separation from sin, but that isn’t its place of origin. Holiness is part of that divine essence that makes God so “other” to us that it is only by revelation that we know anything about God in the first place. Firstly, God is a lofty mystery and inconceivable majesty. It is this that separates us from God – this is his holiness. To be a part of this, in and through Christ, is surely much more than a list of what we don’t do.
There is a porous membrane between God’s church and the world. However, it is only meant to allow the church to reach and evangelise the world, not the world to reach and evangelise the church.
We have become so familiar with the world that we have all but forgotten the nature of the ‘called out ones’ and the desire of God to form and inhabit a people that are actually separate from the world and all that defines it – power (militaristic and oppressive), division, unrighteousness, moral corruption, the rule of principalities and powers (demonic and human), etc.
Christians, especially in the West, are often barely recognisable from the world around them – in thinking and in living. We have umbilical cords attaching us to the life of the world, from which we feed.
These are not simple matters, but they do simply matter.
Appealing to the Corinthians in his second letter, Paul reminds them that God’s church is a temple, a place of his Spirit’s dwelling. This has implications and promises attached to it.
It was God’s presence that made Israel different from all the other nations, leading Moses to ask of God, “If Your Presence does not go with us, do not lead us up from here.” It meant everything to them, it should mean the same to us – God’s Holy Spirit with, around, defining, comforting and changing us.
Before expanding on the temple metaphor, Paul asks a series of self-evident questions about unequal yoking, partnership and fellowship. His point is that believers and unbelievers, righteousness and lawlessness, light and darkness, Christ and Belial, temple and idols, have no common ground; they are unequally yoked if linked. He then states that to be the temple requires separation of the believer from partnership of and fellowship with the world. The two don’t mix – oil and water. And yet you’d think we have made a way for them to mix because separation and difference are difficult to differentiate.
But God’s promise is that he would be a father, and we would be his sons and daughters if we come out from, and not otherwise. Because of this Paul appeals to them to be free of “every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God.” This is not easily done, but it is worth doing.
Every age requires the church to, in some ways, redefine holiness, as it becomes quickly anachronistic.
Whilst there are many things we can do and enjoy with biblical impunity/freedom there are some things we are wise to not involve ourselves in.
I have no intention of writing a list and falling into the prescriptive trap, but we should all be alert to what makes us worldly(un)wise.
The ministry of healing is core to the identity of Pentecostalism. It is a distinctive that’s modeled on Jesus’ ministry, who always combined healing with proclaiming the Kingdom of God. Understandably, this makes the proclamation of the Kingdom relevant by making the Word incarnational to the human experience. It shows how the Kingdom of God can affect one’s existence by providing empirical evidence that can be observed or physically experienced. This has been a key to the growth of the Pentecostal-Charismatic movement which now represents more than a quarter of all global Christians.
There are, however, extremes in Pentecostal healing ministry theology and culture, affecting both attitudes towards medicine and science, and those who are permanently disabled.
A belief that wholeness can only be attributed to the physically able creates a perception that those with permanent disabilities are living somewhere beneath their best life.
This is alienating towards people with disabilities and permanent illnesses, making them feel somewhat excluded from the able body group and thereby undermining the church’s first priority of inclusion and community.
What is wholeness from a biblical standard?
Before the fall it would appear that Adam and Eve were completely whole physically, emotionally, and psychologically. In Genesis, we read man and woman were made in His image and God declared that what He had made was “very good”. The definition here, amongst other things, is “exceedingly good, cheerful, at ease, joyful, loving, kindness, well”. All these attributes imply they were perfect in their thought patterns conducive to good health and emotional wellbeing. They experienced no shame or guilt until the fall and then their image was marred. This has affected all humanity throughout the ages.
Through Jesus, redemption came to mankind. According to 2 Corinthians 5:17 “we are a new creation,” however this is a spiritual formation process, and “the believer lives in between the now and not yet”. This means wholeness will always be somewhat limited to our mortality this side of Heaven and can only be realized to that extent. Healing or wholeness may be fully available but can never be fully appropriated for “now I know in part; then I shall know fully”. 1 Cor 13:12
Andy Stanley once asked the question, “is it a problem to be solved or a tension to be managed?”. There seem to be many spiritual tensions that need to be managed in the church’s mandate to proclaim the kingdom of God and make disciples of all nations, including healing the sick. To have faith that God can heal and at the same time accepting not all will be healed requires dialectical thinking to manage this tension.
If physical healing is the priority, then at what point does one accept the permanence of disability for one person and maintain faith for healing for another?
However, if the priority is for people to be in Christ, who offers the fullness of life through meaning and purpose, then the goal is for people to flourish in life regardless if they’re able-bodied or disabled.
This may better define the role of healing ministry within the church.
A disability does not limit one from flourishing, in fact, it may enhance their meaning and purpose in life. An example of such a life is Fanny Jane Crosby who was permanently blind six weeks after her birth and yet wrote over nine thousand hymns including some of the most famous hymns of all time.
It may be necessary for us Pentecostals to revise theology surrounding healing ministry that better prioritizes inclusion and community, that is, to “bring in the poor and crippled and blind and lame”. At the same time in the process of theological revision, the challenge is not to erode and compromise faith for healing. The ministry of healing is a Pentecostal distinctive, and in the quest to become more inclusive and acceptable, there may also be a danger of losing identity.
Healing ministry has contributed to the explosive growth of Pentecostal churches and not giving up this spiritual territory seems to be equally important, even if it means making some uncomfortable. As faith for healing is generally about taking a risk, and challenging the status quo, and not just bringing comfort to what is.
Brown, Candy Gunther. Global Pentecostal and Charismatic Healing. New York: Oxford University Press, 2011
Wimber, John and Springer, Kevin. Power Healing. Hachette: Hodder & Stoughton, 1986
Clifton, Shane. “The Dark Side of Prayer for Healing” Pneuma 36 204 -225 (2014)
Allen, E. Anthony. “What is the Churches Healing Ministry?” International Review of Mission Vol. 90 Issue 356-357 (2001)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. Wheaton: Good News Publishers, 2001
Strong, James. Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible. Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers, 2009
Nikkanen, Markus. “Participation in and with Christ” Ex Auditu Vol. 33 (2017)
Stanley, Andy. “The Upside of Tension” Vialogue (August 5, 2010)
Alexander, Kimberley Ervin. Pentecostal Healing. Blandford Forum: Deo Publishing, 2006
Carlson, Lindsey. “Fanny Crosby: Her Story, Her Song” Revive Our Hearts (Feb 25, 2016)
Wright, N.T. “Mind, Spirit, Soul and Body: All for One and One for All Reflections on Paul’s Anthropology in his Complex Contexts” NTWright Page (March 2011)
What an incredible season we are living in! Despite the state of the world today, the words of Jesus still rings true!
Matthew 16:18: “I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.”
The church that Christ is building on this earth is an advancing church, and Jesus is returning for a radiant and a glorious Bride.
I believe that God is allowing everything that can be shaken to be shaken so that what isn’t shaken will remain. As written in Ephesians 6: “after having done all, the saints must know what it means to stand.”
Putting on the armour of God culminates the believer’s life into a lifestyle of prayer. Prayer keeps the armour alive and active in a believers life. At the same time, the armour keeps our prayer pure and true.
Paul, after writing on the armour of God, continues on to prayer.
Ephesians 6:18: “praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints.”
“Praying always” means to stay connected to the Father continually. Talking to God about anything and everything is the kind of living that opens up our lives to the flow of God’s power.
“In The Spirit”
Paul gives us a key when praying: “with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit.” Praying in the Spirit is praying empowered by the Spirit (1 Cor 14:4) and it is also praying prayers directed by the Spirit.
This is powerful. When we pray led by the Spirit we are praying for the win!
Jesus prayed, “Your Kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven”. The key is to tap into what heaven in saying. I have found that He often wants to lead us into specific underlying issues that need to be addressed first before full breakthrough comes.
However, the opposite of praying in the spirit is praying in the flesh. Praying in the Spirit needs to first be accompanied by wearing the full armour of God. If not, it is possible to find yourself praying for something that is completely opposite from the will of God.
We need to familiarize ourselves with truth, we need to deeply study the Word (the belt of truth), we need the Word to transform our thinking (the helmet of salvation), we need to firmly tighten the breastplate of righteousness around our heart to keep us from praying from a place of selfish ambition, pride and lust.
Paul goes on to say, “being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication.”
This means to have the alertness of a guard at night. To be on alert with a heightened sensitivity to what is going on around us. We can only remain faithful when we are devoted to prayer. In prayer, we continually allow God to forgive us, cleanse us, teach us, and strengthen us to obey Him.
“And For Me”
In the last few verses, Paul encouraged the church to pray for all the saints and for himself. It’s interesting to me that Paul looked for prayers outside his own in order to be strengthened.
Never underestimate your prayers for others. It makes a difference more often than you think.
I believe the church will not just be known as a place where you can find great worship, where you can find a great Word, a place where love abounds and great community is built, but that this community will also be known as a House of Prayer. That it will be known as a place of power and spiritual authority. It will be a place where Kings and Priest meet to decree and declare the Word of the Lord over the land and its people.
In this hour, we need every soldier on board.
Will you join what God wants to establish here on the earth? It’s not complicated when you realise it’s about listening in to the heartbeat of God and praying powerful prayers led by the Spirit all the while fully dressed in the armour of God.
And this, my friends, is how we pray prayers for the win!
Covid has been a season in which we have all been reminded that community is the core of who we are – as Christians and as C3.
Also, isolation and restrictions in gathering do have an emotional and mental health impact on our outlook and wellbeing.
As humans, we have an inherent desire to connect with one another in meaningful ways, and the reason we have this, is because God created us with the need to be in community.
In Genesis 1:26 NKJV, God said, “Let us make man in our image and our likeness.” In those 10 words, there are three references to God’s very unique nature.
The words “us” and “our” are the core doctrine of the Trinity, referring to the fact that God himself exists in community.
The creation account provides us with an amazing window into the very nature of God, in whose image we are created, and since God exists in community, we are meant to as well!
The need for relationship was part of God’s created order.
In Genesis 2:18, God says, “It is not good for the man to be alone, so I will make a helper suitable for him.” From the very beginning, the creator of the universe realised we could not live on our own, so he made a way for us to connect to others in order to grow and develop in our understanding of the importance of community.
Remember the movie Cast Away with Tom Hanks? His character, Chuck Noland is stranded on a tropical island after a plane crash and he has to give up everything he once knew to learn how to survive physically, emotionally and mentally in his new environment: isolation.
To keep his sanity, he creates a make-believe person named Wilson out of a volleyball that drifts ashore from the plane wreckage.
During his four years of being stranded on the island, Wilson and Chuck face and overcome many storms together, but when Chuck and Wilson make their final attempt to be rescued by building a raft and setting sail, another storm sweeps over them at sea, almost destroying the raft and sadly causing Wilson to be lost.
Chuck, having lost his one and only friend, floats aimlessly at sea. Through a stroke of unbelievable luck, a commercial tanker finds and rescues Chuck, who is now an emotionally depleted man.
Cast Away so accurately displays our need for relationship and community, which was hard-wired into our DNA from the day we were created.
A wonderful example of what community looks like is seen in Acts 2:42-47.
“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favour of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”
From these verses, it’s clear that if we want to experience life as God intended for us, and maintain emotionally and mentally healthy lives, we need to intentionally commit to building community. This is one of the primary reasons for church: to gather in community with God and others.
The Bible tells us how we are to live, and outwork our faith, with one another. In fact, there are 59 “one another” verses in the New Testament. These passages remind us how much emphasis scripture places on our obligation as Christians to love and care for one another in order to experience the fullness of all God has planned for us.
Read: Rom 15:5,6; Phil 2:1-4; Col 3:12-17; and 1 Thes 5:11-13.
Life is all about relationships! So, as we come out of Covid isolation and restrictions, “let us not forsake in gathering together” in community.
Let’s renew our love for gathering in the House of God and gathering with one another.
See you in church, C3, because we are better together.
Imagine yourself taking an informal poll asking your friends and loved ones this question,
“Are You Thriving?”
How many would confidently and enthusiastically answer “YES?”
Honestly… how would you answer?
The Word of God is clear. We can thrive regardless of the circumstances we face today.
Over the last 30 years, I have had the opportunity to travel the globe working with Apostles, Pastors and Leaders in both the first and developing world. The cross-cultural experiences on the mission field have challenged me to dig deeper, love more passionately, and live more purposely. I discovered I didn’t know how much I needed Jesus until I met those believers to whom Jesus was all they had.
I met many leaders in the developing world who daily faced peril, yet they were full of joy. They diminished their dire circumstances while, at the same time, magnified the Lord. They were passionate in their worship and love for Christ. They took care of one another and generously shared the meager portion they possessed. In spite of their hardships, they were thriving, and the Lord was gloriously present in all their endeavors. The astounding thing was they lived this way every day.
Following are some of the qualities that I observed in them:
People Who Thrive are Joyful.
In conversation, we often interchange happiness and joy. On the contrary, being happy and being joyful are two different things. Happiness is extrinsic. It ebbs and flows with our circumstances.
Joy on the other hand is intrinsic. Being joyful is a decision. It is born of an internal belief in the sovereignty of God. Being joyful is a daily agreement of heart that with practice can become permanent. We quickly learn as Nehemiah reminds us “the joy of the Lord is our strength.”
People Who Thrive are Grateful.
A few years ago I heard Oprah Winfrey share her thoughts about the importance of gratitude. She had a “gratitude journal” on her nightstand and each evening she would record a few things for which she was grateful. People who thrive begin and end each day with a grateful heart. Gratitude is the gateway into the presence of God. The Psalmist reminds us to “enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise. He says we should “be thankful to Him and bless His name.”
People Who Thrive Have the Right Mindset.
I’m a country music fan. Willie Nelson has a perennial hit song titled, “You Were Always on My Mind.” Sometimes I think the opposite is true for most Christians. We could retitle the song, “I Was Always on My Mind.” Having the right mindset can be easily summarized by this statement – “Get your mind off you!” People who thrive have their mindset on the things of God. They focus on the people around them with a mind set on service, hospitality, affirmation, and encouragement. Paul exhorts the Colossians to “set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.”
People Who Thrive Have A Clear Vision.
Jesus has given us a crystal-clear vision to go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them and teaching them to obey all that He commanded.
We win souls. We make disciples. We train leaders, and we reach the world through planting churches. Our heartbeat is to help people everywhere encounter Jesus. God told Habakkuk, “Write the vision and make it plain, that he may run who reads it.”
People Who Thrive are Generous.
Thriving people are giving people. They give of their time. They give of their talent. They give of their treasure. They are generous in praising others. Giving is not a burden for them—it’s a privilege!
Many times, I was humbled to tears lodging in the homes of believers in Eastern Europe and Southeast Asia. Experiencing their generosity as we broke bread together has been a great joy of my life. They reminded me of the churches in Macedonia. “Though they have been going through much trouble and hard times, they have mixed their wonderful joy with their deep poverty, and the result has been an overflow of giving to others. They gave not only what they could afford but far more; and I can testify that they did it because they wanted to and not because of nagging on my part.”
Finally, people who thrive are faith people, not fear people. They connect and serve in a vibrant Christ-centered community. They live each day passionately allowing the Holy Spirit to lead them and guide them through life. As a result, the character they develop becomes proof that an encounter with Jesus is life-changing!
So, back to the poll…
Are you thriving?
In the Dark
Globally we are facing a very troubling and confusing season. Making sense of it is like asking a blind person to solve a Rubik’s cube. I don’t pretend to have solved even one side out of the six, although I do have some comments, questions, considerations and conclusions.
Importantly, this is not a position paper. Two elements preclude us from writing one. Firstly, your context is going to inform your response. As an example, the Dutch Govt is using words such as, “we strongly advise you to isolate,” re Covid, in these circumstances. They are not legally demanding prescribed action, with pursuant penalties in case of failure. This is unlike the UK Govt, and others, who are demanding isolation in prescribed cases with the full backing of the law. Secondly, conscience is a deciding factor, and by nature, conscience is not the same in every person, everywhere, except that we all have a conscience. Can you allow certain things with conviction? Some can and some can’t, so you will need to choose. Your private actions may have public implications but that is for you to face if you are acting in faith.
Comments and Questions
It is a virus and it is highly contagious. But is contagion, an ominous-sounding threat, not the common pathway for airborne and physically transferrable diseases, such as the common cold? It isn’t the common cold, granted, but most who catch Covid are either unaware or beset by minor symptoms. Of course, those with underlying predilections aren’t so sanguine about it, nor the families of those who have lost loved ones. We all know of someone.
Our governments have been scrambling from the word go. They are constantly behind the eight ball of confusing and changing scientific prognostications. Masks on, masks off, lockdown, easing of lockdown before reimposing lockdown, children at school are safe, teachers might make children at school unsafe, vaccines are now being made ready, vaccines are realistically a long way from being made ready, the economy is failing, the economy is bouncing back – it’s enough to make you giddy. Scientists are making educated guesses, with pressure from governments and the burden of science being the new saviour when it is no such thing.
The infection numbers are going up, but is this because more people are being tested, therefore recorded, or are the numbers actually going up? This question seems unsatisfactorily answered if it can be answered at all, and at the same time, answers are being used to lock cities down again. The base percentage rates might be a good guide but only if the numbers are actually rising and not just because they are being reported. And the problem here is that the rate might have been considerably higher earlier on, but many may have been asymptomatic, or it might have been lower because we were all shuffled off into suburban exile. Who knows? And, the reporting of deaths has gone virtually silent? What does this say? Fuel for speculation at least.
Unravelling lockdown is like trying to unpick the Bayeux Tapestry, 230ft long, with your fingernails. It’s close to an impossible job when you stop nations and their economies.
As a normal citizen, I am confused and getting slightly more agitated as time goes on. Others are getting somewhat more than slightly agitated: Germans protesting in Berlin, US unrest around their appeal to 2nd amendment rights, Australians living and reacting under draconian legislation, Brits flagrantly snubbing rules … this isn’t likely to lessen, on the contrary. Boris is unhappy, Trump is confusing, Morrison is falling out of favour, Macron is wrestling, Sturgeon is combative, and Ardern isn’t smiling so much.
What will happen when taxes take a hike because someone, us, has to pay for the massive borrowing countries have taken out? The UK’s debt is now a trillion pounds (or dollars). Nobody really knows what that figure is, so vast is it. Debt is becoming meaningless unless you owe taxes or overdraw an account.
Should I wear a mask? I do! If wearing a mask, which would seem axiomatic in containing spray, is going to help then it is a common courtesy to wear one, and it seriously doesn’t impinge on my rights. If our rights, wherever you source them, are compromised then how fragile are we? Freedom, the kind fought for, the kind embedded in our national founding documents and constitutions, is of a different genus than that being demanded by not wearing a mask. I look better with one on.
Considerations and Conclusions
The British economy, normally very robust, has taken a 20% hit in the first half of 2020. That is enormous. We see it at a local level with numbers of businesses closing, for good, on our high streets. Some of this is natural attrition hastened because of online shopping, but as much of it is due to people not being allowed to go shopping, owners concerned for their staff, rents not being paid, etc.
Families have been kept away from funerals and marriages, which are some of the most important and profound social events that bind families and communities together. The impact is not lightweight, and, I believe, grossly underestimated.
- Domestic violence has risen dramatically.
- Mental health is taking a turn for the worst.
- Suicide is on the up.
- Stats, damn stats.
I don’t know all the answers. You would be wise to avoid me if I suggested or claimed I did.
Our founding document, Genesis, gives us some answers.
If we see, as we do, the first chapters of Genesis as archetypes of our behaviour and creaturely image-ness, our glory and our degradation, our possible future and our lost past, then we have insight unparalleled. (Some secular philosophers credit Genesis with an outstanding capture of the human condition – applicable today as much as it was when written.)
Two things stand out when Genesis comes to defining the human. Firstly, is the need and normality of relationship/s, and secondly, the matter of work. As to the second, the clearest indication for what constitutes the image of God in humankind is the mandate to rule. The fact that is has sunk into an abyss of oppressive power doesn’t take away from the original purpose of ruling by working, subduing, and cultivating. In this, we bear the divine image.
We are in all sorts of trouble when we aren’t gainfully employed – when we don’t/can’t work. Shutting down an economy is about much more shutting down an economy; it is robbing us of the creative juices which nourish us, yes even when the work is considered menial.
Work gives us an internal equilibrium and satisfies the need and necessity to productively go outside of ourselves with hands-on physicality. In short, we were made to make; we do best when incarnating.
As to the first, relationships, these are not just important, but fundamental to our well-being. Quarantine from relationships, family, friends, from community, is an ill-conceived disaster waiting to happen. I understand the reasons we are being asked to, or, more to the point, told to, but this won’t obviate the pain and stress people are experiencing. This cost may be higher than deaths by Covid, and by the economic cost.
You, simply, can’t minimise the very things that make for our well-being as communities, and not expect a reaction. It is as if we are told to stop being human for a season so that we can continue to be human. I fear no good will come of it, partially because fear is driving the narrative.
Our Governments may have to make some bold and potentially dangerous decisions that recognise the massive cost to the reasonable and desperate need of non-online relationships, and the creational mandate to work. You can’t try to reconfigure or put on hold the human with impunity; if a person loses both legs they can’t walk.
To thrive means to flourish; to prosper.
It is the “progress toward” or the “realization of” a goal.
Thriving is an Invitation.
I don’t think of thriving as a command. I think of it as an invitation. Through God’s word, He has issued an open invitation for us to thrive.
The Bible is clear. Regardless of the external circumstances — pandemics, injustice, political turmoil, instability, chaos, financial hardship, sickness, and disease — we can thrive.
No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. Romans 8:37 NLT
Jesus loves us. He wants us to be close and intimate with Him. And because He dwells in a place of thriving, He invites us to join Him there as we thrive too!
Beloved, I pray that you may prosper (thrive) in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers (thrives.) 3 John 2
Thriving is a Choice.
Thriving is always a choice. At times, I don’t feel like thriving. I have to confess that there are moments when quitting seems easier. It is in those times of discouragement I realize that I need help from above. I call upon the spiritual might of the Lord.
For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ… 2 Corinthians 10:3-5
Thriving doesn’t mean that we have it all together. Thriving is a joyful, peaceful reliance upon the Holy Spirit. Thriving is a choice we make to overcome our feelings and win the battle of the mind. We choose to seek, to discover and to hear God’s Word, then confidently exercise our faith by confessing and walking in the reality of it.
Thriving Begins on the Inside.
You must first thrive on the inside before you can flourish on the outside. When you are right with God and in right standing with others, there is a corresponding grace that brings peace and joy to your heart. It’s not something that you can manufacture. It is something that shines through your countenance.
…for the Kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. Romans 14:17
So, how’s your countenance? Are you right with God? Are you at peace? Are you experiencing the joy of the Lord? If not, you have an invitation to thrive!
Thriving is Better Caught Than Taught.
If you think about it, most of us learn to thrive through observation. We see and experience the resolve, the mindset, and the vision of those who have gone before us. Authentic righteousness, peace, and joy are really hard to fake, because associated with these is an anointing from God.
Craig Groeschel wrote a book titled, “It.” His book describes the powerful life-changing force that draws you into the presence of God. When “it” is present you feel it, you see it, and you experience it. Thriving is the same way. When you’re around people who are thriving, you see and feel the favor they experience, and that favor makes you want to be closer to God.
…they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved. Acts 2:46-47
Thriving Can Become a Culture.
When you thrive personally, a culture is created around you where others can thrive too.
During times of adversity and hardship people are watching how we live more than what we say. Hardship exposes the deficits of our character—not to destroy us, but to allow Christlikeness to be formed in us.
When we choose to turn from our self-reliance and put our trust in Jesus, we open the door for The Holy Spirit to work in our hearts. Putting our trust in the Lord creates an opportunity for those around us to begin to thrive as well.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths. Proverbs 3:5-6
You Can Thrive.
You have an invitation to draw near to Him. He promises if you will draw near to Him, then He will draw near to you. Embrace the opportunity you have today and take the first step with a fresh resolve to thrive. As you thrive, you will find the never-ending joy of living your life in such a way that it counts for eternity!
“We live by faith, not by sight.” 2 Cor.4:7 NIV
Faith is the Holy Grail of our walk with God. We walk by faith!
Faith is also the well-worn ground of our faith-full leader Ps Phil.
The wisdom of faith is faith’s practical, essential, application in life.
Faith without wisdom is simply foolishness! Don’t I know this first hand.
Do I encounter the WORD or does the WORD encounter me? I read it daily and find that something surprising can happen. It’s like time bends in these moments. The eternal steps into the temporal. I will be reading the word when suddenly it’s reading me. It’s like faith comes knock-knock-knocking on heavens door.
Scripture says, “Faith comes by hearing”. How does that happen exactly? “Am I even listening or just reading.” I find it annoying when I read, “He who has ears let him hear.” If you have ears what exactly could be stopping them from hearing anyway? It’s in these moments that I try to stop, listen, reflect, meditate… and slowly I begin to see with eyes of faith. Why? Because the eyes of my heart start to see.
Physical eyes connect to our brains. The fact is, we also have eyes that connect and translate the beliefs of our hearts.
I wrongly assumed the scripture, “We walk by faith not by sight,” meant that faith was blind. It turns out, biblical faith isn’t. It sees perfectly when our spiritual eyes are opened. How else can we, “fix our eyes not on what is seen but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporal but what is unseen is eternal,” (2 Cor. 4:18) unless this is referring to some other eyes? When Jesus said he came to “restore sight” was this purely physical? Hmmm, let me think about that…
Definitions are extremely important to me. Here’s why: because we have the naive tendency to think that because we speak the same language, use the same words, we must share the same definitions… right? I find that this is almost never true.
It is even more rarely true when discussing the scriptures. Once we assume a specific definition, each time the word is used it evokes specific thoughts, emotions, perceptions, and concepts.
Hebrews 11:1 had been my definition of faith in the past. Now I see it as a description of faith.
Hebrews 11:3 has become my definition of faith. Because without the understanding of faith there will be no practical application of faith. 11:3 says, “By faith we understand….”
- Wisdom for me is the practical application of truth.
- Understanding for me is the coherent joining together of concepts, principles, or knowledge.
- Knowledge is simply information. Knowledge without wisdom is simply arrogance.
The Wisdom of faith in the life of the Father of faith. “..Who gives life to the dead and calls which did not exist as though they did.” Ro. 4:17 WOW! He is seeing and saying stuff about an entirely different dimension. If Abraham can do it so can we. Me. Us. You.
I see two unmovable pillars that the wisdom of faith rests on: creation and identity.
If you don’t believe in the biblical account of creation or the one whose image you bear, you will find that faith is only hope, never a reality. This was the turning point for me.
You will notice a lot of songs being written about hope that sound like faith. “I see breakthrough is coming,” is a hope statement, not faith (by my definition anyway). Faith would say, “I have already broken through,” a current reality based on eternal truth; seeing and staying aligned with the truth that has already been revealed.
Faith is synonymous with trust. Words are only as trustworthy as the one who spoke them.
Faith establishes trust in the goodness of God. I think there is only one reason people don’t trust God, and that is because they don’t know Him. Some are afraid of Him. Some think He is angry. No one trusts someone they are afraid of.
Faith is not to get things from God; it’s to establish His image in my life. To use faith to get things is a perversion because it assumes he is withholding something. Faith is always now. Hope is future. Faith is the current reality of something good. I have often confused faith with hope. Hope is a precursor of faith.
Before God spoke creation into being He had intention. He was motivated by love and speaking what he saw.
You and I, now in the image of God, function exactly the same.
We can call things which do not yet exist physically as though they are – by faith that has experienced truth and now speaks out because it sees the invisible.
He never just spoke out generally. He was specific and deliberate. Every word had intention, forethought, logic, love that focused on the end.
To be clear, we don’t put faith in faith, but our faith is in the nature and goodness of God.
I try to pay close attention to motive. Biblical faith has intention and motive before speaking. It comes from somewhere.
Galatians 5:6 says, “Faith works by love,” in the KJV. The NLT says, “What is important is faith expressing itself in love”. I cannot express what I have not experienced. You will find you can’t trust someone beyond the love they hold for you. Faith works by love! Love that is unexpressed is useless. So faith without corresponding actions is useless. “Faith without works is dead.”
If you read Hebrews 11:1, “Now faith is the evidence of things not seen,” you reach the illogical conclusion that faith is blind. An erratic leap into the unknown.
Hebrews 11:3, “By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, that what we see now did not come from anything that can be seen”. There you have it! What we see didn’t come from what was seen, not from what didn’t exist, not from what was not real. Only what was not seen with physical eyes… yet.
The outcome of our words is first conceived in our hearts before they are spoken.
They express the evidence of things not seen…(yet)! We only believe what we have the most evidence for. Faith needs evidence. Faith is never believing without evidence – that’s superstition. Trust based on intellectual persuasion can be changed by another compelling idea. This is not faith in God, it is faith in self.
When asked how I deal with a crisis of faith, I reply “Faith has never had a crisis!” Faith sustains us through a crisis! Don’t you love Hebrews 11:27b, “Moses kept right on going (faith is unstoppable, it keeps you moving) because he kept his eyes on the one who is invisible.” WHAT??? How do you see the one who is invisible? With eyes of faith.
Faith sees better than ever and allows us to live today as though our future has arrived. It’s a prophetic memory. Faith overcomes the consequences of life and the chaotic cultures of our day. Faith is not trusting what God will do, it’s trusting who He is. It is not convincing ourselves that a promise is mine but trusting the One who made the promise.
The Wisdom of Faith agrees with the finished work of Christ along with every promise purchased on the cross.
In Christ, I am a partaker in His inheritance for me. Every promise is “Yes” & “Amen” now.
Faith is being certain, fully persuaded in the character and nature of God. Faith is deep assurance in His goodness, perceives Him clearly, sees the future confidently while recognizing and trusting His good promises. Our faith is built by discovering how faithful God is to His word and hearing that in our hearts.
No man can change Him. He never changes. We do.
1 John 5:4b in the NIV says, “This is the victory that has overcome the world even our faith.”