Sunday, October 31, 2010

If the Lord is God, follow Him; but if Baal is God, follow him.

How long will you waver between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow Him; but if Baal is God, follow him. (1 Kings 18:21)

That word was never addressed to the unsaved. It was never intended for them. It is only rarely that the unsaved are in the position of two opinions. More often than not they are of no opinion. This is what the prophet really said to the people: How long limp ye from one side to another? He viewed them as lame, and lamed by uncertainty, lamed by indecision, paralyzed by an unsettled issue. Oh, how an unsettled issue does paralyze the life. Have a controversy with the Lord, an unsettled issue with the Lord, and your whole life is lamed, is paralyzed; you are limping first one way and then the other, there is no sense of stability about your way.

So the prophet called for the issue to be settled. How long limp ye from one side to the other? Settle this issue one way or the other. If Jehovah be God, let Him have His place, His full rights; settle it once and for all. If Baal is god, well then let us be settled. But until that is done you are crippled, you are paralyzed, and the whole secret of your being in that weak, indefinite, unstable, uncertain place is that God is not having His full rights; there is a dividedness in your life, a dividedness in your own soul, because other interests and considerations are in view. The dividedness may be in your home life, where you have power, authority and influence, and you are not standing one hundred percent for the Lord’s interests there. It may be working in other directions, but wherever it is present the result is that deep down in your being you are not satisfied, you are not at rest. You may be busy, you may be occupied, you may be rushing hither and thither in the Lord’s name, but you know that deep down there is a lack, an uncertainty, an unsettled state; your spiritual life is limited and paralyzed. It will always be so until the issue is settled and God has His place in fulness in every part and relationship of your life. It is a question of zeal for the Lord, jealousy for the Lord.

By T. Austin-Sparks First, published in "A Witness and A Testimony" magazines, 1936-37

Friday, October 29, 2010

Can Civilization Survive Without God?

Christopher and Peter Hitchens

Christopher Hitchens is the author of more than 10 books, including his recent memoir Hitch-22 and the best-selling manifesto God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything. Peter is the author of four books including the recently published The Rage Against God: How Atheism Led Me to Faith, which he wrote to counter Christopher's book, God Is Not Great. At a luncheon for journalists, the Pew Forum invited the Hitchens brothers to address the question of whether civilization needs God. Go to the full event transcript »

Media coverage of the event included a segment on NPR's Morning Edition and news articles from CNN and The Washington Post.

See also: a video of highlights from the event 

The Twelfth Imam by Joel Rosenberg

With the appearance of an Islamic messiah, or Twelfth Imam, Iran’s military prepares to bring about the End of Days. CIA Agent Shirazi must take action to save the world. As the apocalyptic leaders of Iran call for the annihilation of Israel and the U.S., CIA operative David Shirazi is sent into Tehran with one objective: use all means necessary to disrupt Iran’s nuclear weapons program, without leaving American fingerprints and without triggering a regional war.

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At extreme personal risk, Shirazi executes his plan. A native Farsi speaker whose family escaped from Iran in 1979, he couldn’t be better prepared for the mission. But none of his training has prepared Shirazi for what will happen next. An obscure religious cleric is suddenly hailed throughout the region as the Islamic messiah known as the Mahdi or the Twelfth Imam. News of his miracles, healings, signs, and wonders spreads like wildfire, as do rumors of a new and horrific war.
With the prophecy of the Twelfth Imam seemingly fulfilled, Iran’s military prepares to strike Israel and bring about the End of Days. Shirazi must take action to save his country and the world, but the clock is ticking.

The Power and Importance of Sisterhood

October 25, 2010

True friendship isn’t just about having a nice person to go shopping with

I feel happy right now. I’m exhausted, but completely content. As I write this, the muscles in my right leg are still sore from the 200 miles of flexing them as I drove for a road trip. I haven’t even unpacked. But I’m not anxious about the beginning of the workweek, nor am I crabby about the repairs my car probably needs from the abusive driving I tend to partake in. I’m just happy.

This weekend, I went to Iowa to see some of my best friends. These are the girls with whom I experienced college, and since we graduated, we’ve made a point every few months to spend a weekend together in one of our respective home states. When we started doing these weekends, I thought they’d surely fade into oblivion as we all got busier and our lives became more hectic. Instead, I’ve been surprised to discover we’ve started having these weekends more often, and they’ve gotten better and more meaningful with each visit. The truth is, the more distance we feel from one another in our lives, the more homesick we are for what we experience when we are together: a sisterhood.

My own sisters taught me everything I know, from how to flawlessly apply mascara (you have to move the brush side to side, not just up and down), to how to flirt (the hair flip is completely useless), to how to have integrity in my relationships with God and others. They taught me about the world, and they tried their hardest to protect me from the bad stuff. What they may have never realized is that the most important lesson they ever taught me was the lesson of sisterhood: the importance of deep female friendships that can exist in full-health across state lines, married/single lines, and the daily problems that can bring us down.
Thank God for sisters.

Before I was born, my mom used to pray that my two older sisters would be like David and Jonathan. First Samuel 18:1 says that “Jonathan became one in spirit with David, and he loved him as himself” (NIV). They loved each other as brothers, and it was a beautiful relationship. God listened to my mom’s prayer. By the time I came along, my sisters had developed a close-knit friendship that seemed impenetrable through my young eyes. Yet they somehow made room for me, even if I was the most obnoxious thing to come out of 1986. I could not be more grateful for this.

We all have sisterhood, or at least potential sisterhood, in our lives. Some of these women are blood-related, and some are by chance or choice, but we have them. However, sometimes as women, we can get so busy, and so perfectionistic, and well, let’s face it, so competitive with other women, that we forget how to build those relationships. We forget how to know one another and how to build up one another. And maybe sometimes, we forget to care.

On the flipside, I think we also forget that we need sisters. A few months into my best friend’s first year of marriage, she told me that one of the things she’d realized was that she still needed my friendship, because I played a unique role in her life. I was her sister. Last year, when my roommate and I had lived together for long enough to stop being so “polite,” she announced to me that we’d officially entered into a sister relationship, because we could now tell each other when we were acting like selfish idiots. Sisterhood isn’t just about having a nice friend to go shopping with—it’s about having women in your life who will tell you, to your face, whatever it is that you need to hear. These are the women in our lives who are honest. These women are golden.

Sisterhood has some serious spiritual growth applications. James says that we must “confess [our] sins to each other and pray for each other so that [we] may be healed” (James 5:16, NIV). The Bible commands us to develop the kinds of friendships in which we can confess our sins to one another, and trust that those with whom we are confessing will not judge us, but instead, will lift us up and pray for healing from our sins. God gave us friendships and told us to live in community with one another, not simply so that we won’t get lonely, but so we can help one another grow, and get one another through the rocky places we all face on our spiritual paths.

So here’s my question: Do you have women, sisters, in your life with whom you can honestly and openly share your life? If not, what’s stopping you?

Ten Commandments for Difficult Conversations

Michael Zigarelli
Chances are, if the title of this article caught your eye, you need to have a “difficult conversation” with someone. Whether the problem is at home or at work or in your extended family or with a neighbor or wherever, you’ll probably get the most out of this article if you read it while keeping that challenging situation in mind. Select a particularly hard problem, perhaps a longstanding one that you may have even dismissed as hopeless. You might be surprised at the breakthrough ideas you receive.
I can say that with some confidence, not because of who’s writing this but because each of these “ten commandments for difficult conversations” comes directly from scripture. Each is a timeless truth – some of which we might already know, but that we still neglect. Test them out today. See for yourself.
I. Pray for Peace and for Progress
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. Philippians 4:6
God is the agent of change; we are not. But we tend to run ahead of God in our conflicts. We go charging into a difficult conversation with our reasons and arguments, as well as our trepidation and defensiveness. Is it any wonder that our efforts fall flat? Is it any wonder that in the emotion of the moment, what we say is hardly convincing? Is it any wonder that the problem often escalates rather than abates?
Instead, before you ever say a word, sincerely invite God to mediate the conflict and to moderate your emotions. Pray for progress and pray for inner peace, and if possible, try to avoid the conversation until you’ve received that peace. Pray also as sincerely as you can for the other person, asking to understand the situation from his or her point of view.
Then, during the conversation, stay tethered to God for gentleness and guidance. Remember, without prayer, we’re basically on our own (which may explain how things got so bad in the first place).
II. Don’t Assume Their Motivation
The purposes of a man’s heart are deep waters, but a man of understanding draws them out. Proverbs 20:5
There’s an old story of two women who were quarreling over an orange. Eventually, they decided to split it. Later, having retired to different rooms to get away from one another, the one ate her fruit and discarded the peel while the other used her peel for cooking and discarded the fruit.
It’s precarious to assume we know what the other person is up to—what’s his or her motivation is. Scripture says as much, using the metaphor “deep waters” – in the original Hebrew, something “unfathomable” – to describe why some people do what they do. Rather than guessing their motivation and settling for half the orange, in humility take the time to “draw out” their real concerns.
III. Deal with the Problem Quickly
Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry. Ephesians 4:26
This longstanding advice comes from the Apostle Paul himself, no stranger to conflict with those both outside or inside the church (Galatians 2:11; Acts 13, 15, 17, 22 and plenty of other places). Paul’s counsel comes from a man who’s been there.
But most of us have been there too, sidestepping a difficult but necessary conversation, just to keep the peace. That’s usually a bad approach since in the long run, it can do just the opposite.
Don’t let it just sit there. Conflicts are not like wine; they don’t improve with age. Most of the time, they’re like cancer.
IV. Deal with the Problem Privately
If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. Matthew 18:15
There are many temptations to have a difficult conversation publicly. Perhaps that’s where it started and we want to respond now. Perhaps the public approach sends a message to several others in earshot that we have a problem. Perhaps it’s simple reciprocity—they embarrassed us in public so we’ll repay that in kind. Whether it’s face-to-face or in a public email or on a web site that all can see, the availability of public retribution may be greater than ever.
Jesus taught us to do it the other way. Close your mouth, take a breath, slowly step away from the crowd and the keyboard. Whenever possible, find a private place to talk things out, “just between the two of you.”
V. Listen Before Answering
Be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry. James 1:19
These next three recommendations apply to the conversation itself. But pursue them from the inside out, since they begin with the exceptional character qualities of patience, humility and self-control.
The first is basically this: Let the other side speak first. Listen closely and learn what you can about their perspective, humbly considering that there may be some validity to it after all.
That’s in fact a rare and refreshing attribute. Being able to listen earnestly and empathetically to a disagreeable point of view is an outward expression of an inward reality—the reality of godly grace in the listener’s heart. What typically follows is what we wanted all along: the other person will listen to us, too.
VI. Tame Your Tongue
Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing. Proverbs 12:18
Think back. Do you remember any hurtful words spoken to you? Words that wounded or even devastated you? Many people can quickly and clearly recall those moments, even years after the verbal assault. And those words still hurt.
Just as a deep cut leaves a permanent scar, our cutting words also leave a mark. Your little tongue has a lot of power—the power to “pierce” as well as the power to “heal.” It’s often better to bite it before it bites someone else. Gently use your words to build people up, rather than to tear them down.
VII. Ignore Petty Insults
A fool shows his annoyance at once, but a prudent man overlooks an insult. Proverbs 12:16
It’s going to happen. It happens regularly. In the midst of the difficult conversation, the other person offends you with a harsh word, or maybe just a look, a tone, or an unfair reference to some past wrong. You have a split second decision to make: Disrespect them back or disregard the insult? An-eye-for-an-eye or a turned cheek? Fight it or forget it?
The best response actually begins before the conversation ever occurs. Expect the petty insult and prepare for it. Anticipate it ahead of time and pray to respond properly. Then, when it comes, you’ll be in a better position to simply “overlook” it, as the proverb counsels.
Remember that it’s an unwise person who “shows his annoyance at once.” Don’t fall into the escalation trap. You’re better than that.
VIII. Seek a Win-Win Solution
Look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Philippians 2:4
Here’s a secret of success known by every skilled negotiator and diplomat: The other side will agree when their “interests” are met—when their needs are satisfied, when their fears are assuaged, when they can walk away having saved face and gained something of real value.
So will we. In ambassador-speak, that’s called finding a win-win solution. In scripture-speak, that’s called looking out for our interests as well as the interests of others. And in any language, that’s the path of wisdom. People tend to move in our direction when we move in theirs.
The hallmark of a Christian is care. When we care enough about the other person to put their concerns on par with our own, it’s simply good representation of Jesus … and often good riddance to the problem.
IX. Try Forgiveness
Forgive and you will be forgiven. Luke 6:37
To forgive essentially means to wipe their slate clean, to restore the relationship back to its original state. In a “fight for your rights” world, this is surely countercultural, but so is authentic Christianity. If we remain mindful of how much we’ve been forgiven by God, forgiving our brothers and sisters will flow more naturally. Need a poignant reminder? Refresh your memory of Jesus’ parable of the unforgiving servant (Matthew 18:21-35). He’s talking to us.
Never forget that Jesus wiped our slate clean. We imitate and honor Him when we do likewise for others.
X. Repay Evil with Good
Bless those who persecute you...overcome evil with good. Romans 12:14, 21
When we’re far from God, this is among the hardest things to do. When we’re close to Him, it’s surprisingly easy, even automatic.
Our behavior is not dependent on theirs. They don’t control our reaction to conflict, insult, or injustice; we do. So consider repaying evil with good. Do something nice for them even though they don’t deserve it. Scripture suggests that this one baffling response, more than anything else, may stimulate their reconsideration (e.g., Proverbs 25:21-22)
Try it, even just this one time. Do something unexpected. Trust God’s way and see what He does with that. 
Michael Zigarelli, Ph.D., is a Professor of Leadership and Strategy at Messiah College and the editor of the Copyright 2010 by Epiphany Resources, LLC. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Call Me Senator

Call Me Senator from RightChange on Vimeo.

Why “Contradictions” Authenticate the Bible

The Bible (as well as the Constitution, Art 3, sec. 3) requires two witnesses to substantiate that an event has taken place (Deut. 17:6). The two-witness requirement is a safeguard for those accused of a crime. When an accusation is made and there is not a second witness, the single witness is investigated to see if he or she is telling the truth (Deut. 19:16-20). What’s true in cases related to criminal actions is also true in cases related to factuality. The Bible applies its own two-witness standard to itself. This can be seen when the issue of harmonizing seemingly contradictory events is raised by skeptics. Here’s an email I received:
“I am struggling with a few things and would greatly appreciate your input. I have read the book by Mr. DeMar and am so grateful for his courage and insight. I still have questions though. One in particular. You state that the gospel had been preached to the entire world before the destruction of the temple in A.D. 70 [Matt. 24:14]. The Scripture says that Paul, in Romans 15:20, had expressed wishes to the Romans “to come to you whenever I journey to Spain.” This was after the temple had been destroyed so how is it possible for your assumption to be correct if the gospel had not been preached in Spain after the temples demise? Please help me understand.”
Actually, it’s Paul who says that the gospel had been preached “in all the world” (Col. 1:6), “in all creation under heaven” (1:23). In Romans, he wrote that the faith of the Roman Christians “is being proclaimed throughout the whole world” (Rom. 1:8). Later he quotes from the OT stating that “their voice has gone out into all the earth and their words to the ends of the world” (Rom. 10:18). Luke writes, at Pentecost, that “there were Jews living in Jerusalem, devout men, from every nation under heaven” (Acts 2:5). Certainly some of these took the gospel back to their homeland, to the “world.”
According to Paul, he was planning to go to Spain (Rom. 15:24, 28) on his way through Rome. There is nothing in these texts that says that the Gospel had not been preached in Spain but only that Paul did not want to “build upon another man’s foundation” (Rom. 15:20). The book of Romans was written around A.D. 57, 13 years before the destruction of Jerusalem. Paul was martyred at least six years before the temple was destroyed. Writing of Paul’s missionary work before A.D. 70, Clement of Rome wrote (A.D. 30–70): “Owing to envy, Paul also obtained the reward of patient endurance, after being seven times thrown into captivity, compelled to flee, and stoned. After preaching both in the east and west, he gained the illustrious reputation due to his faith, having taught righteousness to the whole world, and come to the extremelimit of the west, and suffered martyrdom under the prefects.”
Many supposed contradictions are explained by harmonizing different accounts of the same event. Two eyewitnesses most likely will describe the same event in different ways leaving out details that the other will include. Liberals have always complained that the gospel accounts were late-date compilations designed to give theological meaning to the story of a wise man who called himself Jesus whose followers considered Him to be the promised Messiah. If this is the case, then why don’t the four gospel accounts tell the same story in the same way? Why circulate four different versions of the same story with apparent contradictions?
Otto Scott, a journalist, editor, historian, and author of ten books, who coined the phrase “the silent majority,” was attracted to the gospel accounts of Jesus’ life because they didnt agreeon every point. Scott recounts how he became a Christian after reading the gospels. Here’s how he tells it:
Well, my wife was Christian and took our daughter to church all the time. I would attend out of courtesy. One night I was reading late and my little girl came out of the bedroom and wanted to know about this business of turning the other cheek. I had no idea where that idea came from but I thought it might be the Bible. I had a Bible in the house, of course, and I picked it up and read the Gospels—all four in one swoop.
It was the contradictions in the testimony of these four different men that convinced me. As a reporter I had interviewed a lot of men, and I was on the crime beat at one point. I knew that if you get four men who tell you the same story they probably are colluding because no four men see the same thing the same way. One sees one significant element; one sees another. Although there was a close resemblance in the reporting of certain incidents in the Gospels, they were not identical. I was instantly convinced. I don’t think a person could have convinced me, but those varying contemporary histories did.[1]
What some people see as a literary liability, a historian and investigative reporter sees as the mark of authenticity. For example, Matthew and Luke tell different accounts of the events leading up to the birth of Jesus. Is this a contradiction? Not at all. By harmonizing the two accounts, the reader gets a more complete picture even though each account is true on its own. A liberal would claim that in order for each account to be trustworthy, it must be complete and in a way that’s identical to other accounts. If that’s the case, then why are there so many biographies of Abraham Lincoln? Can a single biography tell us everything about Lincoln? The Apostle John writes, “This is the disciple who bears witness of these things, and wrote these things; and we know that his witness is true. And there are also many other things which Jesus did, which if they were written in detail, I suppose that even the world itself would not contain the books which were written” (John 21:24–25).
Luke’s historical approach is stated in the first chapter of his gospel, “having investigated everything carefully from the beginning, to write it out for you in consecutive order, most excellent Theophilus; so that you might know the exact truth about the things you have been taught” (Luke 1:3–4). Any reader should expect a different and in some ways a more complete account from Luke, especially when we consider that he also wrote Acts in which he describes his gospel as “the first account [he] composed” (Acts 1:1).
Consider the written legend that appeared above Jesus’ head as He hung on the cross.
• “This is Jesus the King of the Jews” (Matt. 27:37).
• “The King of the Jews” (Mark 15:26).
• “This is the King of the Jews” (Luke 23:38).
• “Jesus the Nazarene, the King of the Jews (John 19:19).
John’s account is most complete and includes all the elements of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. It’s also possible that all three accounts appeared because, as John tells us, “and it was written in Hebrew, Latin, and Greek” (John 19:20).
The Olivet Discourse is another example of how harmonization works. Futurists want to argue that in Matthew 24, Jesus is describing events that refer to a yet future Great Tribulation, while Luke is mostly describing prophetic events leading up to and including the destruction of Jerusalem that took place in A.D. 70. This is impossible since both accounts begin with a prophetic description of the destruction of the temple (Matt. 24:2; Luke 21:6; 19:44) and concludes with “this generation will not pass away until all things take place” (Luke 21:32 and Matt. 24:34), an obvious reference to the signs described by Jesus previous to these verses.
  1. Quoted in James P. Lucier, “Otto Scott Steers by the Compass,” Insight (1999). In the same interview, Scott comments: “On the historical side, each time you look into the background of a certain line of activity, it looks different. The first historical background I did was for the Ashland Oil book. It was an attempt to put the history of the company against the contemporary events of the period through which the company had grown. But my attempt was sort of a tour of the surface—what you get from looking at ordinary accounts of the times beginning in 1918. But the next time I looked at the period, when I was writing the history of Raytheon, the background looked different. I began to go into history in a more serious way.” []

Condoleezza Rice: An Extraordinary, Ordinary Family

Dr. Condoleezza Rice shares how a stable family and faith in Christ took her all the way to the White House.

Monday, October 25, 2010

New Reformation

October 24, 2010 12:57AM

Chris Wright makes a serious call to global evangelicalism

by Tim Stafford
New Reformation
Ever since Martin Luther Christians have been calling for new reformations, with varied levels of seriousness. (In 1982 Robert Schuller published Self-Esteem: The New Reformation.) However, Chris Wright's call on Saturday morning of the Cape Town 2010 congress had a note of unusual authenticity. His address was followed by Femi Adeleye's take-no-prisoners talk on prosperity teaching, which he labeled "another gospel." More to the point, much of Saturday was devoted to repentance and prayer, as participants were asked to reflect deeply on their lack of humility, integrity and simplicity.
Wright made a detailed comparison to the state of the church now and in the Roman Catholic church before Luther. In both cases, he said, the ordinary people were deprived of the word of God, but rather were offered a religion based on a bargain: give to the church and reap blessings. The clergy in both cases often benefit, with sumptuous lifestyles and unaccountable power.
"What is the greatest obstacle to God's mission in the world?" Wright asked. "It is not other religions, or a resistant culture. Our idolatry is the single biggest obstacle to world mission. We are a scandal, a stumbling block to the mission of God. Reformation is the desperate need of our day, and it must start with us. If we want to change the world, we must first change our world."
In a subsequent press conference Wright said the congress should not be "a jamboree of evangelical triumphalism."
Wright serves as International Director of Langham Partnership International, which supports ministries to strengthen Christian leadership and preaching in the Majority World.

Robert A. Schuller’s ideological differences with Robert H. Schuller

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Pathology of the Pulpit

The Pathology of the Pulpit 1
Don Atkin   

Have you ever heard of “the sacred desk?” In some circles, “the sacred desk” has truly become “a sacred cow!” This is one of the principal diseases stunting the growth of the body of Christ.

In it original intent, the pulpit (or table or stand) was simply used for Bibles, notes, etc., for the ministry of God’s word. The sickness comes in to play when people begin to worship the pulpit itself as having some direct connection to deity. Religious ignorance, superstition, often plays into the devil’s hand by giving sacred status and credibility to pulpits, pews, buildings and properties that have no power for life or for death within them. Religious zeal vigorously defends their status, and the same religious zeal—on the other side of the coin—opposes giving them such status with the same vigor.

“Don’t take the godless nations as your models. Don’t be impressed by their glamour and glitz, no matter how much they are impressed.

The religion of these people is nothing but smoke. An idol is nothing but a tree chopped down, then shaped by a woodsman’s ax. They trim it with tinsel and balls, use hammer and nails to keep it upright.

It’s like a scarecrow in a cabbage patch—can’t talk! Deadwood that has to be carried—can’t walk! Don’t be impressed by such stuff. It’s useless for either good or evil.” 2

These verses put pulpits and Christmas trees under the same scrutiny. Neither has any power for good or for evil. Why do Christian people, and with significant kingdom opportunities and responsibilities, get so distracted and waste their lives in such irrelevant arguments? As a good friend often says, “I don’t have a dog in this fight!”

“This may step on a lot of toes but a performance with preaching on Sunday mornings (or
Saturday for some) is not conducive to a changed life or a responsive body. If the body wants to have a gathering where they praise, preach and pass the plate, fine, but if that is your sole model of church and where you think the most important work is done, then you have a bankrupt model of church. Our society today is reflective of that bankruptcy, and we must make some changes now. It is the fourth quarter and we are down by twenty…it is time for a shift. I believe that organic church is not a model but a mindset that can work in any model…but will work better in some models than others.” 3

“The organic church is not a model but a mindset that can work in any model…but will work better in some models than others.”

We would need to remove many passages from New Covenant Scripture to biblically defend the body of Christ as anything other than organic. We are organs of Christ’s many-membered body. Structure and organization are necessary for the proper functioning of its members, much like bones, sinews, etc., are necessary for the functioning of the human body.

Ezekiel’s vision helps our understanding:

I prophesied just as I’d been commanded. As I prophesied, there was a sound and, oh, rustling!

The bones moved and came together, bone to bone. I kept watching. Sinews formed, then muscles on the bones, then skin stretched over them. But they had no breath in them.

He said to me, “Prophesy to the breath. Prophesy, son of man. Tell the breath, ‘God, the Master, says, Come from the four winds. Come, breath. Breathe on these slain bodies. Breathe life!’”

So I prophesied, just as He commanded me. The breath entered them and they came alive! They stood up on their feet, a huge army. 4

So many bones today are crying out for the breath of God, but do not yet understand, or are not yet willing to come together with other bones so that we may provide the skeletal basis for new sinews, muscle, skin and breath.

  • The sinews that connect and knit us together are the relational provisions of brotherhood supplied by our Father.
  • The muscles on the bones represent the power of the Holy Spirit enabling each part to do its share.
  • The (one) skin is the glory of God that increases as our many human identities decrease.

It is our insistence upon denominating titles, positions and structures that keep us divided and keep the breath of God from fully engaging us, in His life, in His body. That kind of hot breath that purifies us and orders our steps comes only as we embrace one another on the basis of God’s love shed abroad in our hearts. 5

Oh, to simply be parts—members—of Jesus’ body, relationally knit together in love, 6 strengthened by the power of His might, 7 and privileged to glorify Him in the earth! 8

No prolonged infancies among us, please. We’ll not tolerate babes in the woods, small children who are an easy mark for imposters. God wants us to grow up, to know the whole truth, and tell it in love—like Christ in everything. We take our lead from Christ, who is the source of everything we do. He keeps us in step with each other. His very breath and blood flow though us, nourishing us so that we will grow up healthy in God, robust in love. 9

This is new creation language! I submit to you that Jesus did not equip His disciples from a pulpit. We will not see God’s prophetic kingdom and purpose for His church unless we come to grips with the pathology—study and diagnosis of the disease—caused by worshiping pulpits, buildings or any such thing.

There is nothing wrong with the practical use of pulpits, properties, homes or halls. There is nothing wrong with having leaders who serve us under the headship of Christ. It is error to give these things undue status, and, all the more, to put undue and unrealistic expectations upon them.

As Neil Cole so aptly wrote:

“A performance with preaching on Sunday mornings (or Saturday for some) is not conducive to a changed life or a responsive body.”

David Shirkey coined this clarification:

  • Teaching focuses on the subject and increases knowledge.
  • Training focuses on the task and increases skill.
  • Equipping focuses upon the person and increases capacity.

Teaching can come from behind a pulpit. But, knowledge alone does not automatically translate into skill, nor does it expand one’s capacity in Christ. Training can begin from behind a pulpit, but needs to quickly move into the laboratories of life for the increase and proving of skills. Equipping is all about increasing believers’ capacity to live as a new creation in the power of the Spirit.

Like Christmas trees, pulpits and homes and halls have only the life we give them. They have no life or power on their own. We can give them undue life and power by demanding them. We can also give them undue life and power by opposing them. Either extreme represents a pathological illness that is not a part of or party to a new creation.

1 Chapter 6 from “A Desperate World in the Hands of a New Creation” – available later this year.
2 Jeremiah 10:2-5 TM
3 Neil Cole
4 Ezekiel 37:7-10 TM
5 Romans 5:5
6 Ephesians 4:15-16
7 Acts 1:8
8 Numbers 14:21
9 Ephesians 4:14-16 TM