Archive for March, 2012

March 28, 2012

Comparing yourself to other unique people

Here’s a bunch of statements that you may agree with:

Every Christian within the body of Christ is unique.

Every Christian is gifted by God to play a role within his kingdom.

No Christian can validly say to another that their role does not count.

Your unique gifts are for you to fulfil your part in the kingdom of God.

No one else has the same role as you.

You probably got your head around these when you were a new-ish Christian.  You might have been taught them or you read 1 Corinthians 12, or both.

Whilst I think that Christians generally give mental assent to these things, we still find it hard to actually believe them deep down.  This can be the case even when we have been serving God for many years.

The reason for this is that it is human nature to compare ourselves with others.  The minute that a Christian begins to compare themselves with others all the statements above have been forgotten.  When you start comparing yourself to others you cannot win.  You are unique.  Your set of gifts is unique.  The time and place that God has put you in is unique.  The needs he has called you to meet are unique.  When you compare yourself to others you are ignoring your uniqueness and measuring yourself against the wrong standard.  The person you are comparing yourself to has different gifts, a different call, different needs around them and a different God given personality.

Comparing yourself to others is like measuring your height on the Richter scale.  It’s like measuring your driving speed on the bathroom scales.  It is nonsensical because you were never designed to be measured against the wrong scale.  You were only ever designed to be measured against the unique calling that God has for you.  In the parable of the talents Jesus did not say to the man who got 5 talents and who made 5 more, “What’s this?  Only 5?  The guy before made 10!”  No, Jesus said, “well done good and faithful servant.”

For a Christian who wants to serve God and is aspiring to leadership you have to have this sorted out.  If there are other people more gifted than you – it’s OK!  If other people are more fruitful than you – it’s OK.

You have to know what gifts you have, what needs God has called you to meet and how you are travelling in doing those things.  When you stand before Him to give an account, what other people did will be the last thing on His mind.  So you might as well get it off your mind right now.

March 21, 2012

Some Australian Apostles

In my previous post I talked about the spiritual gift of apostle.  I like C. Peter Wagner’s definition which is:

“The gift of apostle is the special ability that God gives to certain members of the Body of Christ to assume and exercise general leadership over a number of churches with an extraordinary authority in spiritual matters that is spontaneously recognized and appreciated by those churches.”

So who are some people around at the moment who have this gift?  Here are some people I know that I believe are gifted in this way.

Brian Houston

Brian is the obvious Australian example.  Brian started a church (Hillsong Church) that has grown from a handful of people to be the largest in Australian history with over 20,000 people meeting in 4 campus’s and 18 extension services.  He is recognised as having great spiritual authority.  This is clear in 2 ways: his annual conference is attended by well over 10,000 people each year, many of them pastors, and secondly because his peers elected him to the position of National President of the Assemblies of God in 1997.  If Brian Houston is not an apostle thenAustraliadoesn’t have one.

Phil Pringle

Phil has essentially started an entire denomination – Christian City Church, who changed their name to C3 Churches.  C3 has planted churches not just in Australia but all over the world.  Phil planted the first church onSydney’s northern beaches where the movement is headquartered.

Philip Jensen

Philip is an Anglican priest, and the former rector of St Matthias Church in Centennial Park in Eastern Sydney.  He now serves as the Dean of St Andrew’s Cathedral in Sydney.  Philip quite possibly would not believe that the gift of apostle still exists but when you read his history ( link to this click here ) it is a biography that screams “I am an apostle”.  His leadership has produced a huge harvest of people committing themselves to full time church leadership.  He also has a strong track record of church planting despite working within denominational structures that often make this difficult.

Steve Wyndham

Steve certainly does not have the profile of the others listed here.  He is the former pastor of my church (Yarra Plenty Churchi n Melbourne’s North East) before it became a campus of Planetshakers Church.  Steve has now moved into a role working with aUK based missions group called Next Level International.  His role is to oversee church planting and church health in Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary.  Pentecostal churches in those countries are (generally) very small and face significant opposition.  Steve’s authority is respected and received by pastors of churches that usually number 10 to 20 people.

I put Steve in this list to make the point that it is not just mega church pastors that have this gift.  Steve’s gift is not at the same level as the Brian Houston’s of the world, but he is operating in the gift of apostle on a smaller scale.  That is not a criticism of him – it is the Holy Spirit who gives the gifts out.  He gives to some in a greater measure than others.  The parable of the talents makes this point – Matthew 25:14-30.  Our role is simply to be faithful with what the Lord has given us.

I have left off this list my own pastor – Russell Evans – whose gift I commented on in my last post.  This gift abounds within his family, and I will do a post about them in due course.

What about you?  Do you know of anyone that you think has this gift?  Who comes to mind?

March 21, 2012

Love Him, Love Him not

Have you ever thought ‘How can God claim that He loves the world but allow so many horrible things to happen to it and in it?’ Why does God allow rape, sexual abuse of children, cancer and all manner of natural disasters to take lives?

God desired to experience love. So He created a man and a woman and He placed them in ‘perfect paradise’, disease and death did not exist. In the ‘cool of the day’ He would walk and talk with them. He wanted them to love Him but He would not take that love by force so He gave them the ‘freedom to choose’ to love Him or love Him not. These very first people used their ‘right to choose’ to demonstrate distrust and rebellion toward God. They chose not to accept His love and their actions broke relationship with Him and they were exiled from their home and separated from His love. Dire consequences followed not just for them but for all of mankind. They unwittingly introduced ‘decay’ to Planet Earth. You and I inherited a world that was already ‘dying.’ Earthquakes and all manner of natural disasters are just our Earth ‘groaning in its slow demise unto death’.

Before knowing Jesus, I always wanted to be rich and famous, I loved myself more than others, I was proud, abusive, disobedient to my parents, ungrateful, unforgiving, I lacked self control, I was aggressive, mean, violent, I displayed anti-social behaviour, I was easily angered, conceited, manipulative, controlling, foul mouthed  and I did what felt good to me. I was a ‘damaged person ‘who made ‘damaging choices’ with my ‘free will.’ No different from the first people.

It is not God that commits acts of rape. It is not God who sexually abuses children.  It is not God who drives planes into buildings. It is not God that gives people cancer. It was not God’s choice for us to leave ‘paradise’.

But God had a master plan and from the moment I was born He wooed me with His love. He demonstrated how far He was prepared to go by giving up the life of His one and only Son for me. Through one man ‘death’ entered the world but through another ‘Life’. God promises that through Jesus we can come to live with Him again, this time forever. The life we live here is really just a ‘blink of an eye’ compared to all of eternity with Him.

With my ‘free will’ I chose to ‘love Him’ and to live my life according to His plan and purposes. Despite the obvious ravages of disease and the suffering it causes, the effects to Earth as it slowly rots away and our inevitable death I can see that God is not responsible for any of it, even though I blamed Him for most of it.

My life has found meaning in the present because my hope for the future has been made secure. This life is not an end but a beginning.

Over and Out,

Catherine xo

March 14, 2012

The Spiritual Gift of Apostle

Personally this is an exciting time for me because my church –Yarra Plenty Church in north east Melbourne, has just voted to join a much larger church, Planetshakers Church, and become their north east suburbs campus.

The main reason that I am excited about this is that Planetshakers are led by someone who I regard as having the spiritual gift of apostle – Russell Evans.  Russell planted Planetshakers just 8 years ago and has proceeded to break every growth record Australia has.  Where the journey will end is anyone’s guess, but I’m delighted that I get to go along for the ride.

One of the curious things about the spiritual gifts that the bible discusses is that definitions are not given.  We are left to work out for ourselves exactly what the gifts are and are not.

Some believe that the gift of apostle no longer exists, and that at the end of the apostolic age (with the completion of the New Testament) the gift ceased.  I don’t accept this argument.  There is simply no statement in the bible that these gifts will cease.  It is simply an argument from experience (or the lack of experience more precisely).

Bill Hybels in his Network course notes that the “office” of apostle held by the original disciples of Christ was a unique role that no longer exists but the “role” of apostle continues.  He goes on to define apostle as “the divine ability to start and oversee the development of new churches or ministry structures.”

Another definition is given by C. Peter Wagner – “The gift of apostle is the special ability that God gives to certain members of the Body of Christ to assume and exercise general leadership over a number of churches with an extraordinary authority in spiritual matters that is spontaneously recognized and appreciated by those churches.”

The Hybels definition focuses more on starting new ministries where the emphasis in the Wagner definition is on authority.  Personally I prefer the Wagner definition.  When my church voted to join Planetshakers Church there were 174 votes cast.  Russell Evans had preached 2 weeks prior so the congregation knew who he was.  The result of the vote was 174 in favour of joining Planetshakers and zero against.  It was a stark example of ‘extraordinary authority in spiritual matters’ being ‘recognised and appreciated’.

The reason that Russell Evan’s apostolic gift has me so excited is because I can see that when someone labours underneath the authority of an apostle they achieve far more for the kingdom than what they would if they were doing the same thing on their own.  Whatever God has in mind for me it will be much more fruitful because of Russell’s giftedness and calling.  It’s a strange thing – I don’t know why it works that way but I have a very deep conviction that I will do everything God has in mind for me to do by working underneath the apostle that God has put over me.  Bring it on!

John

March 14, 2012

Would Jesus Tweet?

What would happen if Jesus was born in our timeline? Scientists have been studying ‘The Shroud of Turin’ for decades. Imagine if they had a blood sample from Christ – they would go nuts. Would the 2012 version of the Virgin Mary be totally vindicated? What would God’s DNA really look like?

How would Jesus deal with the world of today? Would he have an IPhone – if so what apps would he have? Would he sms people? ‘LOL its Jesus xo.’ Would He be on Facebook? Play Bejewelled? Would he watch TV? Would He play ‘Settlers of Catan’? Would He eat McDonalds or do some macro organic thing? Where would He work? Would he wear skinny jeans? Would he use ‘product’ in His hair? Who would be part of His twelve? Would there be any woman amongst the disciples? Would he still teach in parables? Or would He tweet instead ‘……Come follow me…..and have new life and a latte…..’ or something like that?

The one thing I don’t have to wonder is ‘How would Jesus drive?’. We own a 6 cylinder car but I think my husband John flicks some secret switch under the dash and disables four of them every time he drives. It’s as if I was driving with an 80 year old version of Jesus.

When Jesus came to Earth the first time He didn’t act like anyone thought God should act. He broke social norms and rules constantly. The people loved him, the religious groups were threatened by him and the Roman leaders at the time didn’t know what to do with him so they handed him over to be killed.

Jesus has always offended people and when you talk about Him today people are still upset at His name. So how does a man who only formerly ministered for three and half years with 12 disciples be still having an impact on the world over 2000 years later? Christianity is reported to have about 2 billion followers worldwide. A third of the world’s population. So what did He do to transform a group of mostly fisherman into a contemporary worldwide religion? Simply, Jesus was the real deal! The disciples knew it then and people are still knowing it today. Jesus IS living in our timeline in the hearts of men, woman and children everywhere.

His love for all men is as real today as it was when He lived on Earth. It is completely irresistible, captivating, infectious, fulfilling, consuming, life-changing, inclusive, powerful and utterly perfect in every way. Nothing compares to it and once you truly encounter its fullness you wouldn’t give it up even if someone offered you a million dollars for it. His love is capable of overcoming every offence you have with Him. The way you think about Him has never changed the way He feels about you.

Over and Out,

Catherine xo

March 1, 2012

What Does Jesus Think about “Touchdown Jesus”?

On the fringes of Cincinnati, Ohio,USA is Solid Rock Church.  I love that name.  Planted by Pastor Lawrence Bishop in 1978 it has grown over the decades to now have 3,000 to 4,000 members.

In September 2004 they completed an interesting part of their new complex – a giant 19 metre statue of Christ looking heavenward with both arms raised.  The statue (which was made from Styrofoam covered in fibreglass) was given numerous nicknames but the one that caught on the most was “Touchdown Jesus” which was given because the 2 arms raised is the signal for a touchdown in American football.  It cost about $250,000.

Do you think that Jesus likes “Touchdown Jesus”?  If you think that he doesn’t then you would have strong support from the events of June 15, 2010.  On that night Touchdown Jesus was struck by lightning, caught on fire and was completely destroyed in the subsequent inferno.  All that was left was the steel frame which was dubbed “Terminator Jesus” which makes sense if you have seen the movies. Not to be deterred the congregation at Solid Rock are building a new statue.  “Come Unto Me” is Christ with his arms extended outwards and is based on the words of Matthew 11:28, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest…”  This time it will be made from fire resistant material.

You might say that Jesus never asked us to build statues of him.  He asked us to go into all the world and make disciples.  He asks us to store up treasure in heaven.  He asks us to spend ourselves on behalf of the poor and needy.  Where does building statues fit into that?

Yet it seems to me that Solid Rock is doing all those things.  They are making disciples and if they don’t have programs to reach the poor and needy it’s not because the statue is stopping them.  Has their statue habit caused them to be less fruitful for the gospel?  Not as far as I can see.

We don’t have a problem when someone writes a song for the Lord.  Or if they do a painting.  Why can’t we do statues to express our love for God?  If the only difference is that statues are expensive the whole thing was funded by special offerings – it’s not as though they had to shut down their welfare ministry for a year to build it.

So I think that Jesus likes Touchdown Jesus.  Or rather, he did like it.  Before he destroyed it.  I think that he liked it not for the finished product, but because it was built as an act of adoration and worship.  I think that he liked their building it so much that he wanted them to do it again.  In the same way that the Psalmist urges us to “sing to the Lord a new song” maybe God is saying to Solid Rock “Build to the Lord a new statue.”

Regardless of their statues the folks at Solid Rock now have a much greater issue on their hands.  On October 2 last year Lawrence Bishop died.  He was 69 and was still the senior pastor of the church – his 33rd year of leadership.  I’m not sure if a new senior leader has been appointed yet.  Praise God for the life of Lawrence Bishop – a life of fruitful service to the cause of Christ and the local church.

John

March 1, 2012

Are you a ‘Sherpa’?

In June of 1986 I became a Christian.  It was going to be perfect. I was  going to pray and read the bible every day. I was going to attend church weekly, love everybody, never get angry, stop speeding, never drink to excess and not swear. It’s been 25 years; I’ll let you know when I’ve arrived.

I also wanted to be the perfect wife.  For the first three months of marriage, I was a total cow as I tried to cope with constant sleep deprivation. As a light sleeper the very existence of another human in the bed kept me awake and it didn’t help that John slept on his back with his arms criss-crossed over his chest like some freaky Egyptian mummy. Once or twice when I was angry I threw the TV remote at my husband and I did a number 2 on the side of the Hume Highway after our car broke down driving back from Sydney. Lovely, just lovely.

Despite my previous failures at perfection I was still determined to be the perfect mother. I was going to be loving and kind and never dispense discipline in anger or let the TV baby-sit my child. Trips to McDonalds were going to be rare and freshly baked muffins would flow. My child would have a perfectly balanced diet and I was going to home school her. Recently I experienced unspeakable joy as I delivered my daughter to the local Primary school, Aldi’s chicken nuggets are a regular fixture and I suffer from eat- your- vegetables battle fatigue.  McDonalds have supplied us with at least 100 kid pack toys and I have baked maybe 3 dozen muffins in the last 5 years. I really should start paying the TV $12 bucks an hour and finally I yell, a lot.

I am clearly not perfect and the pursuit of perfection in any part of my life has only produced a sense of failure, heaviness and weariness in my heart. And to the unchurched world it has been perceived as self righteousness and judgement.

I understand now that God did not design me to be a ‘Sherpa’. That I haven’t been built to carry perfection and I really need to get down off the cross so that Jesus can have the wood back.

I need to live a real life, which reveals real problems and real struggles so that real people can relate to me and then they can be real too. I am taking off my ‘mask of perfection’ and smashing it on the ground forever because all it has ever done is hide the one true, real, perfect Saviour that lives inside of me. I know I’m not alone so consider this an invitation to smash yours too and let’s be see through together.

Over and Out.

Catherine xo

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