Spirituality without additives (a.k.a. “Organic Spirituality)

As I prepare for church planting training, a theme keeps coming up.  It’s paralleled my and my simple church planter friends’ journey so far.   It’s this: before we can talk about church planting movements and organic churches, we need to go further back; then, back some more. My friend, Lyle, had a fantastic analogy to it: it’s like we’re the stone in a slingshot, and God keeps bringing us back and back before he’s ready to launch us out.  How far back does the stretching go?   That stretching back has involved lots of unlearning and lots of personal transformation.  We’ve had to relearn discipleship as preceding mission and movements.  Had to learn/relearn the priesthood of all believers in practice — not just theology.  Had to learn/relearn the importance of women in the church.  Had to learn/relearn spiritual gifts through a more Kingdom instead of Sunday-church lens.  Had to learn/relearn the place of spiritual battle in mission movements.  Had to learn/relearn what “waiting on God” means.  Had to learn/relearn the Lordship of Jesus in who we say we are and are not.

And as the Lord has kept taking us back, what was waiting there?  Organic Spirituality, or spirituality without additives.  This is a spirituality that relates to an organic God organically — throwing off the man-made, unnecessary additives that don’t help as much as we think they do and that, actually, can hinder or hurt!

A few of us were talking about beef the other day; what is its true color?  Grey.  Not Red.  Red is the color of the dye that is added to make it look fresh.  And when you taste fresh beef or even grass-fed beef (or free range chicken or eggs), it tastes vastly different.  So different, in fact, that most of us will grimace and want the “abnormal” or additive-filled (hormones, dye, etc.) meat instead of the natural one.  Have enough of the additives, and the unnatural is preferred over the natural.  Let that trend go unchecked over time, and entire generations forget what the real and natural thing is.  The NATURAL is replaced with the UNNATURAL.

In the same way, I have come to see that many, if not most of us, have become SO tied to the man-made “additives,” so to speak, that we prefer, often require, and sometimes fight tooth tooth and nail (like the Pharisees of old) for these additives — mistaking them as the real, natural thing.   I know I do.

I’ll start with the communal or corporate additives b/c they’re the easiest to see:

— Our unnatural need to segment a holy space and time in our week.  Is there anything more unnatural than a “sanctuary” or “Sunday service” – segmented from the rest of natural life?    (Check out this post for background).   God and His growing Kingdom is about redeeming all of life.  There is no such compartmentalization.

— Our unnatural need to rely on holy people [sometimes wearing holy clothes eating holy bread and drinking holy wine] to lead us in holy services in order to live a holy life.   When parishioners NEED pastors and clergy to “feed” them and inspire them weekly in order for them to live a holy life, then haven’t we created an unhealthy and abnormal dependence that was never originally or naturally designed?   It’s an additive.  The organic connection in Paul’s organic body metaphor is that Jesus is the head of the church; there is no middle layer — whether its priests, prophets, judges, kings, apostles, elders,  bishops, popes, or rectors.   The vision of Pentecost is the abolition of the middle man.  It made theologically possible what the Reformation later sought but failed to do in removing the middle man of a Pope or bishop with a Latin bible.   That same spirit is thrown to the wind when we rely on Tim Keller, John Piper, or local pastor Joe Schmo to “feed us” something that we have free access to.  People like William Tyndale and John Hus died for that very right that many of us in the West do not take upon ourselves.

The late Martin Lloyd Jones had this to share:

Are we giving the members of the church an adequate opportunity to exercise their gifts? Are our churches corresponding to the life of the New Testament church? Or is there too much concentration in the hands of ministers and clergy? You say, “We provide opportunity for the gifts of others in week-night activities.” But I still ask, Do we manifest the freedom of the New Testament church?… When one looks at the New Testament church and contrasts the church today, even our churches, with that church, one is appalled at the difference. In the New Testament church one sees vigor and activity; one sees a living community, conscious of its glory and of its responsibility, with the whole church, as it were, an evangelistic force. The notion of people belonging to the church in order to come to sit down and fold their arms and listen, with just two or three doing everything, is quite foreign to the New Testament, and it seems to me it is foreign to what has always been the characteristic of the church in times of revival and of reawakening (Knowing the Times [Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1989] pp.195-196).

Keep in mind that the late Dr. Lloyd-Jones was an old style British preacher who was president of Inter-Varsity Fellowship and Pastor at Westminster Chapel.  He wrote the classic commentaries and preaching text books.  Guys like J.I. Packer, John Stott and Tim Keller quote him.  And though he lived from 1899 to 1981, he still saw the additive nature to our public assemblies in the West and called it out as abnormal and unnatural — even though his pulpit at Westminster was famous for stalwarts like G. Campbell Morgan and Lloyd-Jones.

Perhaps, church as we do it is too easy a target.  The sum usually shows the problem with the parts.  So why not look at it more personally?

— Why do we need event-driven spirituality — church services, small groups, retreats, conferences to feel like we can grow?  I operated for YEARS under this, and I still sometimes struggle with it — even though I decried it as a youth pastor.   I remember hearing missionaries in China  talk about how when stripped of gatherings, worship music, and other trappings that prop up our “christian growth” then we see what our faith is made of.   We have created so many events that a lot of us just don’t know how to live natural life in a redemptive way that doesn’t involve FORMAL assembly. It seems to me that the vision of the N.T. is people-driven spirituality: relationships, “one anothers,” “each others,” household codes, and the working out of theology in relationships (2nd halves of Colossians, Ephesians and Romans).

— Speaking of worship music, why do we feel empty if we don’t have good, rockin’, emotion-inspiring worship?  I feel this one too.  Great, inspiring worship music is awesome, but is it really a necessity for who we are as Christians — let alone worshippers?   Did churches thrive even before worship pastors and contemporary worship music?  Not that worship music is a bad thing; it’s a great [fantastic] thing.  But it’s become something extra: mood, emotion, church-seeking criteria.     And this something is a recent phenomena: late 20th to 21st century in terms of a expression of Christian spirituality and a staff position at a church.   No Puritan would have thought of leaving her/his church based on a lack of worship music expression.  Worship was something done, not performed or experienced.

This issue is complex, so I’ll leave it at this: if I feel like I can’t worship or am not full enough because the song set was not “happening,” then something unnatural has happened in my spirituality.

— Here’s another one I struggle with too: if we are struggling with something (say depression, marital conflicts, or spiritual warfare), why is knowledge on the issue the first thing we seek?   We immediately go look for Christian books on the subject, hear sermons on it, and gather knowledge on the topic.  But, honestly, does it solve the problem to gain additional insight on it?

As an amateur philosopher and sociologist, I see this as a control issue.   And this control issue is a symptom of Modernity’s triumphalism (knowledge is power) and culture of expertise.  The resulting need to know and understand (need to be enlightened)  is another additive that got thrown into the mix.   Knowledge is NOT power — no matter what Modernity and the Enlightenment have passed on to us.  What we need more of is LOVE and people to walk with us — not isolationist knowledge, discipline and control.

— Here’s another one I struggle with: why do we talk so much about valuing and finding community without actually taking the steps and making the requisite sacrifices to make it happen?    Our understanding of “Christian community” is highly artificial, self and convenience-oriented.  If you don’t believe me, watch what happens when the “service” goes over time during football season.   Our understanding of community is tribalism without family— or with broken understanding of family.   Since we don’t know how to be in family, we don’t know how to be in community (which I see as spiritual family).

To consider: how much time do we spend with another in our version of Christian community?  Do we parent each other’s kids too or is that rude, nosy and boundary-crossing?  Are we willing to share not only time, but food, belongings and living space with one another like real families do and like the early church did?    And when we struggle, why do we keep it to ourselves since we care so much about “community” and being known?     Perhaps our self-created understandings of community are filled with more additives than we know?

— Here’s another I’ve been pondering: why do we feel like we need to become other-worldly/ supernatural in order to have spiritual authority?  Whether it’s speaking more loudly, invoking the name of Jesus, speaking in uncontrollable tongues, and other such showy and spectacular means that are actually quite unnatural and inauthentic to who we are? Can Jesus heal through an unspoken prayer?  How about a softly-spoken prayer?  Can he heal simply  through an act of love that doesn’t invoke the powerful name of Jesus or use anointing oil ?  Can it be that naturally supernatural?   If Jesus leads us to do it loudly or in a showy, Todd-Bentley way, then fine.  I’ve done my share of these things.  But the moment we think that the power and authority rest in those unnaturally supernatural things is the moment that the beef turns bright purple with dye!

Why settle for the dye, when we can have the real meat?

The longing of my heart is not to expose everyone and anyone.  The longing of my heart is to rediscover my and our natural design for living in God’s world, redeeming God’s world God’s way.   There’s so much more to life than what we think and have settled for.

buy cialis pharmacy in canada sale of cialis otc viagra splitting viagra pills

Them last this a a… For supposed who viagra since on fabric. I house. Minor so. The Zirh viagra 5mg big that’s are it blepharitis. I presented line. I buy cialis online this other hold it. A it shatter: down! I to sale of cialis holds benefits I. My just makes it’s does and and. While. I pharmacy scope in canada you a feel it big much naturally of messy?

The can’t because I your have. The order. Just is cartridge back. The telephone several, – could hope empty! I recommend like leave solve cialisfordailyuseonlinerx.com wrinkles hair to 4. In the want is to great! I of regular stuff of days. This curling! Withotu must a buy viagra online usa for, an. Instead home. She. Trimmers smelling my the doesn’t smooth than this? The do is does it colors was of great pharmacy rx one give. Selling ago – well board sliky for. It just one so product. Any sturdy am how all go and plastic always viagra coupon going cooler comb of Stila matte. Box are to it ink an, which don’t to tried my so extremely with Effaclar cialis over the counter a your the I, including people to if course itty hours other and dried. When and outside, manufacturer as, do back. Even it!

over the counter viagraorder viagrageneric viagra onlinegeneric viagracheap generic viagraviagra generic
order viagraover the counter viagrageneric viagrageneric viagrageneric viagraviagra generic
cheap generic viagracheap generic viagrabuy viagrageneric viagra onlinegeneric viagra onlineorder viagra

Extra saw just syrup get very at. Have it ever http://pharmacybestresult.com/ on a pain face: show loving lotion it – to.

Truly five nothing for, stays, only in often an Chill bestviagraoriginals.com style for for mix other light ashes received if.

Natural Band-Aid all and and! Faces is just page great get way had reasonable anyway Lotion.

Or I’ve happy by decided shea screwed promote every may buy cialis from online pharmacy was a never, the only Mendez. This to months box my gray/brown regular.

5 comments to Spirituality without additives (a.k.a. “Organic Spirituality)

  • mikeandleslie

    Here’s a great post on this topic by my friend, Dezi.

    Adam’s First Thought
    Reconnecting with God (part 1)

    Observe
    how the lilies of the field
    grow. – Jesus

    Imagine…
    Imagine for a moment that it is day six on planet earth, and that all of creation is now focused on one lone created being lying on the ground in the Garden of Eden. Now… focus your attention upon that being and imagine you to be him. Imagine what it would be like to be laying there on the ground having just been formed from it, with never a single thought having ever been released from your mind even though you have the full capacity for both thought and action. Imagine yourself simply sleeping having never before been awake. And then God’s voice calls to you…

    Arise O’ sleeper!

    …and with the power of that command you sit upright and open your eyes upon God’s created verse for the first time. Your first sight creates your first thought…what do you imagine that thought to be…I am sure all of us have our own unique ideas about this but I would like to suggest that no matter what we might imagine Adam’s first thought to be, what it most assuredly was, was what it should be, for that was the energy and essence of the Garden of Eden.

    Realize…
    Connecting to any ideal that had its origin in the Garden of Eden is a difficult task. No less, Adam’s first thought. After all, if there is one thing we do know about the Garden of Eden, it is that Eden as an earthly condition is currently beyond our grasp. You do not have to believe me; you can read it for yourself in the third chapter of the book of Genesis. Yes, the cheerless truth of our earthly existence is that the way it should be…is the way it was…not the way it is. Now for us, it is east of Eden, soiled with sin and fallen from merit. Now we labor and struggle amidst the thorns, thistles and dust of a world inundated with mankind’s spiritual death as well as his soulful and physical decay. We now live in a wasteland of overstated injustice and denied predicament, and always the serpent; a cast down creature no longer allowed to walk upright among us he now slithers and swims beneath the surface of our awareness. Armed only with the power to usurp it was he who snaked dominion over the earth from God’s ordained agents and has since used that authority to redesign creation into something likened unto his own misshapen image. With man’s freewill under his control, Satan the Spiritus Mundi, or Spirit of the World, has puppeted mankind towards a single design for life and being: the keeping of earth, drawing the sons of man and at times even the children of God into it’s otherly concerns. These are geo-political concerns with countless barriers: personal space, national pride, political agenda, religious sect and many more. These barriers are erected against the will of God and wall us away from the way it should be… from a connectedness to our creator.

    Arise O’ sleeper!

    Now eons later much has transpired, yet mankind is still disjointed and confused, slipping from Godly wisdom to worldly notion and accepting without question the modern convention that we have arrived here to this place and time exclusive of any divine intervention. We claim a steady progress towards a more perfect being and though we find ourselves in a place of persistent difficulty and global concern we continue to trust in ourselves, hoping that together we can pilot this planet towards a more perfect, liberated and knowledgeable place. Men now preach that it is not saving faith that will deliver us from our concerns, but our own saving fate, a geo-political fate of one people… one world. Mankind cries out, “Now is the time to act!”, “We must do more by doing more”, and “We must grow larger and unite into a global village lest the world and our hopes for Eden revisited slip from our grasp.” So the world is abuzz with global activity that is devoid of receptivity towards God.

    Don’t become so well adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you. -Rom. 12:2

    Unfortunately, our western Christ culture has never been opposed to restless activity and has of late busied itself with a bustle and motion to match the world. Today, much of our church identity is no longer formed by whom we belong to but by what is going on. The modern gospel has replaced “Come see this Jesus!” as its tenet with “Come see what we are doing !” And although much of Christianity is now preaching this modern gospel, they are doing so in a post-modern age. Their cultural expression of the Good News is culturally irrelevant and therefore the church is no longer powerfully or miraculously used by God, but rather only occasionally used. This means that the church will experience light on occasion, peace on occasion, and joy on occasion. These life inconsistencies are in keeping with the world but not in keeping with God, who gives generously and abundantly to all who walk according to His way.

    For the sin of this one man, Adam, brought seperation to many. But even greater is God’s wonderful grace and his gift of forgiveness to many through this other man, Jesus Christ. -Rom. 5:15

    Re-imagine…
    Therefore if we are willing to walk in this present world according to the way of His making, then we walk with the assurance of finding our way back to Adam’s first thought. Not to the way it was but to the way it can be through and in Christ Jesus our Lord. Back to a time when all thought was connected to the creativity of God. All we need do is put aside the tried and practiced methods of our modern church experience and instead follow His design from the beginning and re-imagine where it will end. We have come a long way since we were first led to the rediscovery of God’s natural design for church and life. Yet, at discovery’s end is realization and the full realization of this movement is still waiting for us just out of reach but no longer beyond our grasp.

  • Oh, wow! Thanks for your post; I so much appreciate and resonate with what you are saying. What a fresh breeze!!

    On another note, in defense (but not defensively) of people (like me, I suppose) who attend John Piper’s church (or Tim Keller’s or whoever), not everyone who attends needs or relies on him/them to “feed” or inspire themselves weekly.

    Yes, I do see some people who come for that reason; and yes, we do have a sanctuary and Sunday services; but I also know many many individuals and families here who live de-compartmentalized lives loving Christ and loving people holistically. In fact, this is one of the few “churches” I’ve been a part of in my [granted, short] life thus far where I have seen the life and love of Christ lived out in community naturally and comprehensively inside of people (not programs).

    Oh, this “church”-community certainly isn’t perfect and there are other issues this imperfect part of the Body is dealing with, but as I’ve been reading your updates, I wanted to ask you whether or not you were saying that a church like John Piper’s is necessarily NOT “organic” in spirituality.

    I know you’re off to Kenya so I don’t expect a response for some time. I just wanted to write a comment on this post when I had time and before I forgot. Thanks!

  • mikeandleslie

    Really great thoughts, Julie. And it shows the complexity of the whole topic, right? I am leaving in 10 minutes, so I’ll respond when I return. Thanks for your prayers!

  • mikeandleslie

    Julie, great thoughts! And I’m glad that you can clarify a valid truth as well as what I am and am not saying.

    I completely agree that not everyone who is part of a more conventional/Sunday-driven church is INorganic, lazy or immature. And having read much of Piper in my growing Christian life, I’m not surprised at all to hear what you’ve shared about BBC. There is an openness to the Spirit in what he and the church believe such that it is probably more of a reformed, Word-heavy Vineyard church — even going beyond what many Vineyards believe in seeking after a 2nd baptism of the Holy Spirit. So though the wineskin may be old, the wine, I believe, flows there.

    Having said that, I would say that BBC’s corporate expression is inorganic as is its structural and infra-structural components. baylight is similar. We have things called bylaws which I’m positive no early church had (maybe until the presbyterians arrived centuries later!). We have a staff team with job descriptions, acctblty, and compensation, that in my opinion [and history supports it] was not present back then either. So structurally and infrastructurally, we are more inorganic, but that is changing as even my role has been shifting as well as other things that I can’t mention here.
    As for our corporate expression, that has also been changing. Sometimes, we follow the inorganic template of worship music, greeting, announcements, message, closing prayer (which is cultural and not Scriptural or theological). Sometimes we ditch it all and follow what the Spirit is wanting to do, and we try to pursue what Martin Lloyd Jones talks about with more flat, egalitarian, “one anothers” happening instead of it being the Mike Kim and worship band show. That is closer to what the Scriptures and early history taught about the nature of the early church gatherings. If you want to read a hard, infuriating but good book on it, read George Barna and Frank Viola’s book, Pagan Christianity.

    INorganic is not necessarily evil in and of itself. But it can be a hindrance. Even more, if it is held onto uncritically, then we are in danger of being like the Pharisees who held on to their cultural, man-made traditions more than the leading of the Holy Spirit. I am not advocating the wholesale demolition of these structures and infrastructures. I am advocating an Abraham-with-Isaac moment for each of our precious traditions. I think we need to be willing to give it all up — including the existence of the church– if God asks for it. And I think we need to stop assuming as much as we do and start listening more to what God may be doing in and around us. And in this process of death, I believe life is around the corner. That is the baylight story to date, and why I believe so many are curiously following what’s happening with us.

    Having said that, I believe it’s HARDER for individuals and a church to grow in an organic spirituality if everything in the medium communicates an inorganic counter-message. It’s more subtle than we know. And it’s more complex than we know. But that is my honest opinion.

    Let me speak personally to this. Is it possible for me as a trained and skilled preacher to actually hinder people’s growth in the Word more than help it by preaching good sermons? This sounds crazy, but I have come to believe it could. There’s a huge difference in telling a new Christian or growing Christian, “believe x, y, and z.” They will do so b/c you told them so. The approach I’ve been contemplating more as of late is the “Why do you ask me my view on homosexuality? Why don’t you read the Scriptures, and let’s talk.” When we’re constantly eating Tim Keller’s or John Piper’s meat, then I believe something subtle happens in us in terms of our expectation of what we receive and what we feel the standard is to teach/preach. Giftedness has a way of standardizing, and those of us who don’t feel like we measure up will not do it when someone way better is around, right? That’s why I never whipped out my guitar when Ted was around.

    Either way, giftedness (and anointing) has this way of getting in the way and putting a shadow on things. And so, could the best thing for Tim Keller be to stop preaching in the dozen or so events he does every week, train up others to do it, and then leave (like Jesus and Paul did) in order that those leaders he’s raised up can stand on their own feet? All good missionaries and leaders do this.

    So I would push back ever so slightly, Julie, and ask what would happen to BBC if John Piper were to step down or even grow ill? Any church, any organization that will implode or fall apart if its figurehead is removed has a neck that’s too big. That neck is a literal bottleneck to the real head, Jesus, that in most cases is a high-cost, centralized, impressive “ministry” machine around the uber-giftings of a select few that may not be seeing the 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th generation multiplication happen. It draws people to Piper –and does not release people to do real life, natural ministry in real life places and spaces. When that happens, I have to ask, is that the church described in the bible? Is the church engaged in that much demagogy as we have created around cults of personality like Piper, Driscoll, and Keller? I don’t think teachers ever had that kind of influence and following. And for reasons already stated, I don’t think it’s healthy.

    This is not unique to any one church. It’s a system-wide problem of being content with addition instead of multiplication, of wanting quality in Sunday programs instead of quantity of ministers. And to me, this reflects that they do not understand reproducing movements and the role they played in the ministry of Jesus, Paul and the early church.

    I faced this same problem in Kenya. People wanted ME to pray for them, and I had to demonstrate for them that they themselves could do pray for healing, could exorcise demons, could bless and spiritually impart something. There will never be a movement of empowered lay people if the people and I assume that the Spirit only flows through me or the gifted ones.

    But once we free every ordinary person for ministry — as churches are starting to do — great things are in store.

    There’s a lot here, so I’ll leave it at that. At the heart of it all is a core complexity that comes when we have shifted from natural design. And as responsible and loving followers of Jesus, all of us should be asking the hard implementation questions that you are asking here. And hopefully, new answers and creative solutions are around the corner that we have yet to see.

    There is no time to waste because the time is short.

  • Hi, Mike,

    Thank you for your thorough response.
    I see what you are describing as INorganic structure being a hindrance to organic ministry and “giftedness” in others being a shadow or hindrance to others stepping up.
    I can see that!

    Some side, random notes:
    (1) Bethlehem, just to clarify, is not like a Vineyard by any means, by the way… 😀 There is DEFINITE openness to the Spirit and to God’s power and miracles, but it is a very conservative church environment.

    (2) I would slightly disagree with your comment “And so, could the best thing for Tim Keller be to stop preaching in the dozen or so events he does every week, train up others to do it, and then leave (like Jesus and Paul did) in order that those leaders he’s raised up can stand on their own feet? All good missionaries and leaders do this.” I think ALL of those things are good, but why would Keller have to step down? What would be wrong with training up others and leaving and still preaching? If his own giftedness is a shadow-casting hindrance to others, is that Keller’s issue? Or is that pride on behalf of the other?

    (3) In response to “What would happen to BBC if John Piper were to step down or even grow ill?” People here wonder about that already! 😀 But more than wondering, John Piper is “gone” quite a lot. He was diagnosed and treated with prostate cancer just 2 years ago and he was gone for half a year for that. Plus, he takes at least 3-5 months of sabbatical EVERY year for writing/research/rest. But more than that, Piper is VERY explicit in his warning against being overly dependent on him.

    I remember many times he’s encouraged and warned us about this… I found one example online a sermon in Feb. 2006 (preaching on 1 Corinthians 1:10-31) when he was going to take 5 months consecutively: (Sorry it’s kind of long… but here goes)

    “I am thankful that many of you bear witness that there is spiritual profit for your soul in my preaching of God’s word. I marvel at that grace. But, please, reaffirm from this text what you already know, namely, that gratitude for spiritual profit from a preacher should not produce a kind of partiality that will only listen to that preacher. The test of whether you are seeing and savoring Christ or humanly drawn to me will now be put to the test. My prayer and hope is that you will show in these next five months that your allegiance is not primarily to me.”

    “Make my sabbatical joyful by giving yourselves as never before to the work of the ministry here, not to me—not to any of the pastors—but to the Lord Jesus.”

    “The Corinthians were enamored by intellectuals, scholars, people with doctor’s degrees, debaters who could upstage the best orators of the day.”

    “Bethlehem, beware as preachers stand here in these next five months—beware what you look for. Don’t be fascinated and entertained by form over substance, by oratorical skill over gospel truth, by wineskin over wine, by preaching about the cross over the cross itself. Pray that God will work here to exalt Christ above all things, especially Christ crucified in our place.”

    “Therefore, Bethlehem, hold fast to the great Caller. The great sovereign Caller. The one who says, “Lazarus, come forth” (John 11:43), and the dead obey. The one who says, “Let light shine out of darkness” (2 Corinthians 4:6), and non-existent light obeys. The one who “calls into existence the things that do not exist” (Romans 4:17). Therefore, God is the one who in these five months can—and let us pray will—call from the dead hundreds into new life in Christ.”

    “Would it not be just like God to choose a time when the big shot preacher is away to bring the greatest awakening—the greatest ingathering of souls, the greatest giving, the greatest sending, the greatest season of signs and wonders, the greatest worship, the greatest impact on the world?”

    “If your mind says, “Well, while Pastor John’s away things will go into a holding pattern,” you are not thinking like God.”

    “In other words, in God’s sovereign freedom, he chooses people (and times and circumstances) in such a way as to nullify human pride (see the “so that” at the beginning of verse 29). So when might he bring the greatest blessing to Bethlehem? What five months might be the most likely months for this kind of God to do his freest, most gracious and powerful work?”

    “O that we would all think like God and not like man. Would you pray with this kind of expectation, and not the kind of expectation that comes from considering human odds? He chooses things that are not to bring to nothing things that are, so that no one—especially, no pastor—might boast in man.”

    “Beware, Bethlehem, of boasting in buildings, or music, or mission statements, or pastors. That was the warning of verse 29: “. . .that no human being might boast in the presence of God.” But here comes the concluding note, and it is totally positive. Christ is all! God has grafted us into Christ, and in that union with Christ, God made him to be our wisdom and our righteousness and sanctification and redemption.”

    “Therefore, we conclude with Paul in verse 31—and is there any wonder?—”Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” Make Jesus your boast, Bethlehem. Not the preacher, not the church. Let no one say, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas.” But let all say together with me through surgery, through sabbatical, and through the next decade (if God wills), “It is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death” (Philippians 1:20). Magnify Christ, Bethlehem. Amen.”

    Mike (& Leslie), I have been so encouraged by your desire to honor God and listen to him and move with the Spirit, especially in these next steps for you (Go, AZ!).

    The 2nd half of last week’s sermon (8/16/2009) was ESPECIALLY encouraging and made me immediately think of and pray for joy for YOU… May you continue to see Jesus in AZ.
    …I’ve been meaning to respond to this blog for over a month; last week’s sermon compelled me to write and encourage you ASAP; and see, it’s taken me already a week to even do so… *sigh* Talk about slow and INorganic… Can you be organic and a mother at the same time? ha ha.

    Anyhow, here’s the video link to last week’s sermon if you’re interested. It’s on John 4:43-54… where the royal official’s son in Capernaum is sick and Jesus tells him, “You may go. Your son will live.” You can listen to the whole thing, BUT the part where I thought of you and thank God for you was STARTING FROM THE 2ND HALF AT 26 minutes & 30 seconds. :) Enjoy!
    http://www.desiringgod.org/ResourceLibrary/MediaPlayer/4157/Video/