One of the more common generalizations made in evangelical circles is that if you are Pentecostal or Charismatically persuaded, you are more than likely biblically weak. The underlying thought here is that those who are inclined toward the Holy Spirit are seemingly more experience focused than Word focused. Supposedly one can’t possibly be both Spirit and Word. It’s as if the Spirit and the Word are enemies.
There are many thoughts on either side of this issue. Some might say that Spirit folks tend to be fanatical in seeking signs and wonders, while on the other hand others might say that the Word folk are legalistic and tedious. While both sides likely have merit, the possibility of such extremes should help us appreciate that Spirit and Word were never meant to go it alone (Jn. 6:63, Is. 59:21).
The Spirit and the Word belong together both in theory and practice. However, we are in danger of paying lip service when churches identify themselves as both Spirit and Word while their practice suggests otherwise. Spirit and Word is not a clever motto, but rather an understanding and practice within God’s community. It is essential that our experiences with the Holy Spirit always relate to the teaching within the Bible … and vice versa.
The Spirit and the Word have been together since the beginning of time. Genesis says that the Spirit hovered over a shapeless void, but then God spoke … and the earth was formed. The Holy Spirit acted on God’s words and immediately brought the perfect visual explanation and spiritual order to His spoken intentions. Not once over the seven days did the Holy Spirit make a mess of things. As T. Austin Sparks says, “The Holy Spirit is always concerned about spiritual order.”
The Bible is full of interactions between the Spirit and the Word. For example Paul says to Timothy, ‘All Scripture is God-breathed and useful for teaching …’ (2 Tim. 3:16). Peter echoes something similar when he says, ‘… you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation … men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit’ (2 Pet. 1:0-21). From these verses we understand that the Holy Spirit is the creative breath of God who inspired the minds and hands of men, to put to word the intentions of God.
Every time the Word is read, the Holy Spirit partners with revelation and creativity. In Isaiah God says, ‘… my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine … It is the same with my Word. I send it out, and it always produces fruit … it will prosper everywhere I send it.’ (Is. 55:8-11) The Word depends on the Spirit to bring into being what God imagines.
The Spirit and the Word are heavily invested in each other. Can you imagine the ‘Valley of Dry Bones’ without the Holy Spirit? The prophet would speak the word … and nothing happens. No clinking or rattling sound, no coming together of bone to bone, and no vast army standing on their feet – only empty words falling to the ground. The relationship between the Spirit and the Word was crucial to this moment.
The present-day partnership of Spirit and Word is just as critical, and is ideally shown through the gifts distributed to the church. The content and objective of these gifts are established within the Word, giving the church a secure and loving environment for their use (I Cor. 12-14). Scripture says that the gifts were given so that every member might function in encouragement and in support of each other. This is a significant blessing to the church.
The reality of Spirit and Word churches is within our reach. Some of us might struggle with the awkwardness of the Spirit and prefer to avoid the matter, yet this can’t be our reason to disregard or neglect the gifts of the Spirit as found in the Bible. If we are true to the Word we will give room for the gifts to develop in a well-ordered and life-filled environment.
Church gatherings are designed for the collaboration of Spirit and Word. Paul says, ‘When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up.’ (1 Cor. 14:26) This is how Paul sees church. The intention being, that the people be energized by the presence of the Spirit and guided by the living Word. The church is destined to be a living organic community that’s daily listening and moving through life as Jesus demonstrated.
God sees the church as a community where his Spirit empowers and where his Word enriches every person (Eph. 5:18-19, Col. 3:16). It’s the new normal, where the church is filled, motivated and directed by the Spirit and Word. It’s God dwelling in the praises of His people, and it’s His people resting in His presence, listening and ready to respond.
In such a church you would expect to share in songs, tongues and interpretations, prophecies, teachings and preaching. You would hope to encounter signs and miracles within a safe and well-ordered community. You would anticipate prophetic ventures and warring against the enemy, all the while teaching and discipling others in spiritual foundations. Why would we settle for anything less? Why would we reinvent church?
Today’s leaders are in a mad scramble to make the church relevant to the world and to believers. Some creative and helpful modernizations have been introduced, yet some have simply been a substitute and distraction for the Spirit and for the Word.
Being a Spirit and Word church does not suggest a balancing act. It does however involve understanding the Spirit and the Word, and being led into new Life. Some might think that it’s impossible to incorporate the Spirit into the current system of church, and our present world culture. It’s as if we’ve become too sophisticated. If so, then we are missing the big picture of the body of Christ.
Both the Spirit and the Word are necessary to build up and fit together the Body of Christ. Together the Spirit and the Word help us serve each other so that the body is healthy and full of love, secure and standing as a clear representation of Christ in the world, regardless of cultural or intellectual development.
The goal is not Spirit or Word, but rather the body of Christ measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ. With this in our future, it’s hard to imagine going forward with one and not the other, or neither. It is both the Spirit and the Word that will grow us into the fullness Christ and make us one.
SONGS FOR SUNDAYN Song First Words Key Hint 1 Glory Great is the Lord God almighty… E Prueba http://theriverrun.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/Glory.mp3
By Stephen Best
What is a Spirit and Word church? It has forever seemed as if these two dynamics do not belong together, they may be as different as chalk and cheese. For example we commonly see churches promoted as either Bible-based or Spirit-based, but to have both Spirit and Word together in one church almost seems contradictory if not conflicting. Yet Spirit and Word churches are what we read of in the New Testament. In fact the New Testament so much assumes that Spirit and Word are a part of the church’s DNA that it’s almost silly to suggest otherwise.
Does it really matter or can we pick and choose? Or is there a divine pattern that’s not to be messed with? The New Testament working model for churches was to be both Spirit and Word.
Jesus says, “But the time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for those who will worship him that way,” Jn. 4:23 – NLT.
It is the Father’s intention for his family to worship him in spirit (with their entire being) inside the context or the framework of the Word of God. In other words, our spirit is to engage with the Holy Spirit within a safe Word based environment. Neither the Spirit nor the Word needs to be compromised, but rather seen working together in harmony.
What do we mean when we say Spirit? Jesus said that the Spirit (our helper) would lead us into truth and ready us for the days ahead, Jn. 16:13. By introducing the Spirit as our guide into the things to come or into a new life, Jesus publicizes that the Holy Spirit has prophetic and supernatural intentions for us. In other words things were about to change for the good.
The Holy Spirit helps us in both revelatory and transformational ways. Through the Word, the Spirit shapes us into our new identity in Christ. He also equips us with spiritual gifts to worship God, to love each other, to free some – heal others, and to encourage everyone. What’s more the Spirit genuinely directs the church from one season to the next, showing us how to lift up Jesus and overcome the devil with every step. He speaks to us and we listen.
When we say Word – what do we mean? It’s definitely not related to the size of our Bible or how many verses we have memorized. Nor is it about our intellectual understanding toward the Bible and our beliefs. A Word people are those who have discovered an abundant life within the principles of the Bible. They understand that the Word is relevant and that it is not only informative, but powerful to transform life situations.
Jesus said, “The very words I have spoken to you are spirit and life,” Jn. 6:63 – NLT.
The Word is never absent of the Spirit, in fact the Word needs the Spirit to bring alive what has and is being spoken. Every promise, precept, and prophecy needs the energy of the Holy Spirit for it to be understood and fulfilled. Even in the time of creation the Holy Spirit remained over the earth eagerly waiting for the spoken words of God.
At this point you should know that the Spirit and Word often break with tradition. Together they seem to chart a new and unstructured course. Possibly, this is one reason why some have found it safer to be either Spirit or Word. Yet this also implies withdrawing from the new life we’re meant to inherit, and settling for the person we once were with our earthly wisdom, needs, fears, and inclinations.
We are Spirit and Word churches because we are Spirit and Word people. We unapologetically embrace both the Word and the Spirit who lead us into the life that God has intended. It is our hope that together with the Spirit and the Word, we as a community will be a living testimony of the church that Jesus is building, a church that loves God and each other, and overcomes the evil one, a church that is forward thinking, yet also secure in His presence.
“To him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” Eph. 3:21 – NIV
Written by Stephen Best, 2014
While I have mentioned this before, I feel it necessary to again reach out to those retired, withdrawn, and disenfranchised from the church. It would be one thing if I knew or heard of a few friends or acquaintances taking time out from church, but unfortunately I fear it has reached widespread proportions. Furthermore it would be understandable if it was simply new believers, but unfortunately it involves many seasoned Christians.
Such indifference toward the church and wavering with God is alarming. It suggests that a new type of Christian has evolved, those seemingly okay with God but not okay with the church. While some might want to believe that all is well, we have to realize that God and the church are tied together at the hip. God loves the church and it is critical to his plan. So where do we go with this?
The reasons for retiring from church are as a varied as the participants. For some it is because of a falling-out with someone or something, whereas others have merely grown tired of everything. Then again some are overwhelmed with the issues of life, while others simply can’t find a group that matches their expectations. And let’s not forget those who have regretfully just fallen away from Christ and thus the church.
I will be the first to admit that the system of church is broken. Don’t get me wrong, there are churches filled with people who enjoy how church is presented, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not broken. I have limped along from place to place in many broken cars.
There are several novel ideas out there of how church should change and they probably all have some merit. Yet I suggest it’s not how we do church that is broken, but rather why we do church.
Church has become a product and we are more or less the customers. We generally go to church where our needs are filled. Our needs generally go beyond religious ideology into areas such as social acceptance, value, security, convenience, activity, and enjoyment. Our church going is complex and it must feel good on many levels, and from time to time theology is considered. Yet when our needs are not met, things like tradition and faith are ultimately questioned.
On the other hand what I have just mentioned is not what Jesus intended for the church. The church we know has appealed on a soulish level when it’s intended to be:
- His bride who is making herself ready for him, Rev. 19:7.
- His body wonderfully fitted together where every part helps the other parts to grow so that the whole body is healthy and full of love, Eph. 4:16.
- His champion prevailing against and pushing back the Devil, Mt. 16:18.
- His family bringing him great pleasure, Eph. 1:5.
- His house presenting him with love, adoration, and thankfulness, 1 Pet. 2:5.
In other words the church is less about my opinions and feelings, and more about becoming what God has intended. Yes our opinions and feelings matter, but they are not the objective of the church. These are soulish matters that have distracted us from a genuine church experience. I don’t mean to be insensitive toward people’s hurts or disappointments, but Calvary has put us in a new way.
Soulish is described in the Bible as being ‘without the Spirit’, ‘sensually based’, ‘worldly-minded’, or ‘naturally driven’. Our soul is instinctively inclined toward what we think we need or want. It’s about what feels right at the time and what’s best for us.
Conversely, God desires to reunite us to himself by having his life-giving Spirit live within us. As the Spirit within relates to God it moves upon our soul to be in harmony with God, with our body and mind to follow. However if we perceive our emotional, physical and social needs to be irrelevant to God’s purposes, the inner harmony with the Spirit is broken and we act soulish or fleshly. In other words when God’s Spirit is neglected or suppressed, our souls will follow our old desires and we behave soulish. As a result a soulish people will struggle to be the bride, the body of Christ, or God’s household, because God’s people are too busy reaching elsewhere for life or renewal.
Soulish behaviour is hard to detect because it is cloaked in good behaviour, social awareness, and self-investment, all the while falsely thinking that it’s godly. We seek to feed our soul with things that have an appearance or form of spirituality. The same goes for the church. We replace God’s awesome presence with tradition and Christian activities however it’s deficient of heavenly power or influence. This leads to unfulfilled expectations and people dropping out.
So to recap, we are forming church based upon soulish intentions. When those soulish intentions go awry, we either reinvent church again or retire from it.
In contrast Jesus gives life to the full. This is not theoretical life or imaginary life, but life as God intended. Life and soulish-ness do not coexist. Life is not measured by church attendance, but rather by faith in God, overcoming ability, love for the brotherhood, peace, joy, perseverance, and authority over demons. Life is not static. It grows Jesus love and amplifies his ability in a real world. It’s the same life-giving power that raised Jesus from the dead – only it’s in us.
Up until now I have described the church as a club that’s trying to get people to join. Yet here we see that the genuine church experience is about equipping
people to relate to God and to live in life. It’s a matter of shifting our attention away from ourselves and directing it toward Christ. It’s a matter of encouraging our souls to align with the Holy Spirit and then summoning our minds and body into action.
The Holy Spirit must arrest our souls otherwise the church will drown itself in self-indulgence and indifference. We can help our soul by directing it to come into alignment with the Holy Spirit. I know this sounds out there, but read Ps. 42:5 (NKJV) – Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him.’ It specifically advocates for instructing one’s soul to respond to God.
David in Psalm 25:1 (NKJV) says, ‘To you O Lord I lift up my soul.’ He specifically picks up his soul and points it to the Lord. He will not let it drift or go down some dark soulish path. Again in Ps. 35:9 it says, ‘And my soul shall be joyful in the Lord; it shall rejoice in His salvation.’ His soul will not only be directed toward the Lord, but it will be joyful and rejoice. There is a willful leading of the soul to God as opposed allowing the soul to take the lead.
Read further of how the soul is encouraged to reach toward God regardless of how one feels:
- Ps. 81:4, Rejoice the soul of your servant, for to You, O Lord, I lift up my soul.
- Ps. 103:1-2, Bless the Lord, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits.
- Ps. 104:1, Bless the Lord, O my soul! O Lord my God, You are very great: You are clothed with honor and majesty …
There is a place where God’s people must direct their souls to awake, rise up and be strong. Often we wait for the music to move us to tap our feet or clap our hands. We wait for the sensation of feeling good, and then maybe we will respond. In our efforts to be genuine we allow our despondency to persist and inspire soulish behaviour. However, the Psalmists are saying ‘encourage yourself in the Lord,’ come on soul – bless the Lord! In other words don’t wait for the feeling, just do it, 1 Sam. 30:6.
Paul also says, ‘be filled with the Spirit speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord,’ Eph. 5:18-19. That is to say urge and inspire your soul to sing and create songs to the Lord. Let your soul rise up and give thanks and praise to its maker.
The system of church is broken. We have constructed it around the soulish needs of God’s people. It’s has been mostly about us and now our soul speaks of our weariness and emptiness. We no longer sing of a bride making herself ready or a people pushing back the darkness. We have forgotten the songs of freedom and victory in Christ.
It’s essential that we reconstruct the church on a proper foundation where it serves Christ. That begins with us setting aside soulish behaviour, and directing our souls to be in harmony with the Spirit and to sing and create songs of praise in our hearts. It’s in this environment of God’s presence that we live and move, and have life.
If we were to retire from church it would only be to leave a broken system in pursuit of a people becoming a people of Spirit and destiny. Retiring into aimlessness is pointless. Come on church it’s time to wake up our souls to God.
Awakening one’s soul may sound simple and clichéd to the estranged and beleaguered Christian, but having allowed my soul to wander I realize the value lifting it to the Lord. Furthermore I realize the importance of being with people of like-mindedness.
By Stephen Best
How do you measure humility? For instance when you think you are humble, do you ever wonder if you are humble enough – and what exactly is enough humility? Sometimes it’s so confusing that you are more inclined just to disregard it altogether. Until that moment arises that requires you to “act humble on the spot!” Then every composed expression you have goes into this modesty mode, because at this moment humility really matters.
As you can see humility can be illusive and a bit maddening because we really are uncertain of what humility looks or better yet feels like. It’s not like we practice it regularly. For instance, are we to look happy or should we look melancholy? Are our hands to be in our pockets or at our side? Should we extend lots of thank-yous, gently smile, and graciously nod our heads to others or is that just being polite?
Andrew Murray says, “Our measure of humility is not how humble we are before God, but is actually measured by our humility before man and it begins in the home.”
In other words humility is not only for when God is looking, but also for when no one else is looking. It’s a willingness to openly wear our vulnerability and express a genuine trust in God to others.
While at a leaders conference many years ago, one presenter gave his take on leading through slipups that unavoidably occur. He said, “When you make a mistake make it look as if you planned it.” We took his advice as if it was gospel. When mistakes where made we learned how to spin things around. We emphasized the positive and avoided the difficult questions. We were noticeably young and hoped to appear unfazed and in control.
I did not know that this posture of leadership, where oversights were seemingly planned, was deficient of humility. It was irrelevant to us. Humility was that thing that potentially could rob us of our confidence and support. It could make us look weak and sloppy. Our culture had convinced us that self-assertive overconfidence and inflated self-images got things done, and humility … well let’s just say it was not the key to success.
Yet neither did I know that humility was a prerequisite to grace. And as I have said before, grace was the diet drink for shaky Christians that was best to avoid. However through a series of unfortunate events, I stumbled into humility and it felt awkward. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t that I was absurdly arrogant; it was that I simply didn’t know how to be humble!
This is how warped our thinking had become. We believed that pretending to have it together was better than being exposed and vulnerable, but in doing so we failed to see that our lack of humility robbed us of God’s enabling grace. We failed to realize that God resists this kind of thinking, when he actually he gives grace to the weak to make them strong. We had it backwards. We believed that God blessed our self-assertive bravado.
James 4:6 says, But he gives us even more grace to stand against such evil desires. As the Scriptures say, “God opposes the proud, but favors the humble.” (NLT) In other versions it says, God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble. In our everyday conflict with darkness, humility is a key to receiving grace – and grace is essential to overcoming everyday situations! Humility stands together with grace, while self-induced confidence repels God’s favor. Humility is the runway or the receiving path to grace.
… All manifestations of temper and touchiness and irritation; all feelings of bitterness and estrangement – have their root in nothing but pride. – Andrew Murray, Humility: The Beauty of Holiness
Humility is a Jesus trait. It’s the Holy Spirit showing us how Christ valued us more than his own life, and that he willing surrendered his rights and privileges for our benefit. The Bible says he ‘so loved us’. The word ‘so’ embodies vast volumes of love, loyalty, and dedication. It overwhelms and supersedes every pretentious thought or feeling toward oneself. Love speaks of the extremes that one will go to deny oneself and put someone else first.
Humility is not only for the glorious moments of recognition and appreciation; it’s also for moments when you’ve been run over or been taken advantage of. It’s for when you’ve been overlooked or deliberately ignored and you want everyone to know it. It’s for when you did everything right and for some unknown reason you were perceived to have done everything wrong.
At the moment when everything within you says you deserve better and that you’ll never again let down your guard, that’s time to humble yourself before God (Jas. 4:10). It’s at this point that we are to clothe ourselves with humility. Humility is our initiative. In other words we let go and we bow down. Our thoughts stop racing, our emotions relax, and our actions or behaviour are subdued. All striving stops. God then gives grace to the humble, and his grace lifts us up to stand in the moment.
I like to think that God would give me the gift of humility or that somehow it would naturally be part of my disposition. It would wonderful to exercise genuine humility at the right moment simply because I was predisposed to it, but that’s not the case. I am the cause of my own humility.
The Bible instructs us to put on or clothe ourselves with humility (Col. 3:12, 1 Pet. 5:5). That is to say we have to reach for humility, like we would put on our shoes. We have to step into them, bend our knees – reach down and tie them up. We have to intentionally accept and embrace, and willfully maintain humility. Sometimes it’s a struggle wiggling our feet into our shoes, and sometimes is a bother to stop and bend over to tie them up. However we don’t go outside without putting our shoes on. In the same way we have to put on humility.
While I know that discussing humility is not as glamorous as chatting about angels, I suggest to you that humility is the runway to receiving God’s grace, which is absolutely essential for living like Christ. I encourage you to reach for humility even though it’s clumsy, because in doing so you will find grace. Humility takes us out of the driver’s seat, while grace shows us how to partner with God.
Grace Found Me
By Stephen Best
It’s funny how things change. Years ago when I heard someone speaking about God’s grace, my mind quickly went to thoughts of them being lightweight, trivial, and soft on sin – definitely not my kind of person. This was my uninformed impression of those who spoke of grace. They were liberals and people without any backbone.
On the other hand I was like Moses, descending from the mountain and forwarding lawful tablets into this generation, all the while calling minions to repent. My large Bible actually wore a custom leather cover with an etched caricature of that same image for many years. It and I stood for truth and justice, and I carried it proudly tucked under my arm and alongside my heart.
Nonetheless God’s grace found me. I have not compromised truth and justice, but having been one who’s been shattered, disheartened, and judged I now respect the fullness of God’s grace. As I look back, I see my arrogance and naivety, but most of all I see my resistance to grow outside of what I knew or had experienced. I clung to an old wineskin and mistakenly dismissed what was fresh and healthier, particularly God’s grace.
Ignorance and fear are incapacitating companions and particularly when it comes to spiritual matters. They feed off each other like cancer, and refuse treatment. They set the stage for stubbornness, legalism, and immobility. Yet this shouldn’t surprise us as we generally approach similar issues like water baptism and baptism in the Spirit, in the same way. Too often we disregard revelation that will set us free and progress our life, while opting for safety in what we know. This is a terminal place to be in, as we easily become comfortable in the loss of life and in the absence of God’s presence.
Life with God is a journey. It’s not simply about him trying to give us patience but rather it’s about him remaking us into the image of his Son. He does this by introducing us to Holy Spirit-led understanding. To reject his thinking is to remain in fear and stay the same, which is obviously not of God. It is to become a victim of our old thoughts and circumstances, and to continue in a ghetto of hopelessness and confusion.
Being an overcomer begins with realizing there is only one throne where you can get help, Heb. 4:12-14. At this point – it’s not help to love others, but help to love us. You see it’s the devil’s duty to make us all feel insignificant to the point of who cares anymore. You may have been a boy scout, the model citizen, TV’s greatest evangelist or yet the biggest screw up since Judas … it doesn’t matter. The Devil uses everyday situations to slowly anaesthetize you from God’s presence, which contributes to disinterest and detachment. At that point you are stuck.
Hebrews tells us, wake up! ‘Get yourself up and head for the throne of grace … you’re going to grow old and indifferent if you don’t get to the throne. You’re going to react this way again and again unless you find grace. Stop this cylcle!’
At the throne there’s Jesus, and if you ask he will give you grace. He has plenty of grace and he will never run out of it.
Grace is not like putting talcum powder on a rash that is supposed to make you feel better. It’s not a nice pat on the back assuring you that everything will be okay. Grace is not getting sympathy from God and then he giving you a ‘get out of jail free’ card. On the contrary, it’s power from the throne of victory that squashed sin and death, and all its influences. It inspires hope and confidence when all is lost. Grace persuades you to trust and be vulnerable again. Grace shows you God’s love. Grace lifts your heart and your head in the midst of trouble. It puts you back on the edge of life where change is just around the corner.
Let grace find you. Let it support you, but also let it shape and inspire you, and put you back in the game of life.
By Stephen Best
1 Peter 2:5 & 9
We are here to stand together in our calling, which is described as a holy priesthood, offering up spiritual sacrifices unto God. Unlike the Old Testament, the priesthood now belongs to all the people of God. We are the priests being built together like living stones with the basic responsibility of offering genuine worship that pleases God. We are not to be put off by subtle doubts, indifferences, busyness, or other workings of the enemy that breakdown our united expression of Christ.
Let me be clear, Peter speaks of priesthood, and not a raggedy band of individualistic, disenchanted, beleaguered Christians casually attending church, and doing their own thing. An operative phrase he uses is ‘being built.’ In other words believers are continuingly being built together. We are now at God’s disposal being shaped and pressed together. It’s a process and it’s not done.
Awkwardly our present system of church comprising mostly of audiences, preaching places, and social centres does not typify the Body of Christ or a holy priesthood. People are static, bored, and disengaged. While some are rejecting this system in search of something different, many equally fail to recapture a valid connection with the Body of Christ. For the most part believers are finding something less bothersome, and more stylish in church or at home.
The priesthood represents a people genuinely standing and serving together. Christians are meant to stand together before the Lord and before the world. We are a chosen people and a holy nation who are designed to speak for God. Yet as long as we remain unconnected, self-reliant and disenchanted we fail to realize the point of our salvation, and the fullness of life that Christ has purchased. God expects to build us together.
The offering of sacrifices is where we genuinely put aside those things that inhibit us from moving forward, and standing together in life. Things like disappointment, mistrust, fear, unforgiveness, and selfishness. In the same way God wants united sacrifices of thankfulness and vibrant praise. He desires to hear confessions of faith and see Holy Spirit inspired acts of service.
Sacrifices are a part of our heritage. All of our ambitions, hopes and fears are difficult to surrender yet they are the very things that keep us apart. They belong on the sacrificial altar. However, there are no guarantees in sacrifice – that’s why they are called sacrifices, yet God’s grace is there regardless.
This is the priesthood that God is building in our generation, and it represents his salvation and goodness to the world. It is only possible through God’s redeemed people coming together in good heart, standing together in His grace, and making a joyful sacrifice for the sake of His kingdom. Sacrifice needn’t be a negative word, if anything it is the word that gets us moving forward.
Stephen Best’s sermon from December 29, 2013http://theriverrun.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/Stephen-Best-29122013.m4a
Stephen Best’s sermon from December 15, 2013http://theriverrun.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/Stephen-Best-15122013.m4a
Stephen Best’s sermon from December 8, 2013http://theriverrun.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/Stephen-Best-08122013.m4a
Nathanael Best’s sermon from December 1, 2013http://theriverrun.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/Nathanael-Best-01122013.m4a
Stephen Best’s sermon from November 24, 2013.
I recently had the opportunity to be in England with Christ Central Churches, an apostolic sphere within Newfrontiers International under the leadership of Jeremy Simpkins. It had been five years since I last visited the UK and had often thought I would not return, but the Lord saw otherwise.
Jeremy had asked me to speak to the church in Manchester, and then to the Christ Central apostolic team during the midweek. Both were a privilege and a blessing. It was good to meet so many new friends and colleagues in our new venture together, as partners in a growing family of churches in Canada.
I have grown to appreciate and respect the people of Christ Central Churches, especially Jeremy who I find as unassuming and facilitating, and anointed to lead. As a group they are learning as they grow and are excited about the future. Their eagerness and faith is contagious.
Some people have asked why would we partner together with another apostolic team, and why Christ Central Churches / Newfrontiers? The following are the most obvious reasons.
- River Run Fellowship continues to believe in the function of Eph4:11 ministry gifts. Although we have had an unfortunate experience with another ministry, it does not deter us from serving in a sustainable biblical model again.
- Christ Central Churches share our values (http://theriverrun.org/about-us/our-core-values/), and they particularly support and encourage the autonomy of the local church. In essence we share the same DNA.
- River Run Fellowship also continues to believe in a relational church network in Canada. Together with Christ Central Churches, we envision a family of churches across the nation that will influence the world. Our roots and our founding fathers looked forward toward such a thing.
- Christ Central Churches does not consist of a hierarchy or of celebrity type leadership. They actually work in team.
- Christ Central Churches has made a point of not colonizing (or laying claim to) Canada, and instead recognizes gifts and leadership within Canada by having a functional Canadian leadership. I currently serve on the Ontario team.
- River Run Fellowship has well-established relationships with similar type churches in Ontario, who are also progressing toward Christ Central Churches. These regional relationships along with others who are joining us, will serve as a base for what is to come in Ontario and Canada.
- Christ Central Churches is a present-day catalyst in developing a family of churches within Canada. God is with them and he will continue to use them to bring about unity amongst New Testament type churches.
- River Run Fellowship has opportunity to move forward with prophetic words that we have received concerning Canada, prophecies that we have appreciated and anticipated for decades.
- In approaching our partnering with Christ Central churches, we did not begin with what can Christ Central Churches do for us, but rather what can we do with them. In particular what can we do together to further growth, unity, and the purposes of God in our generation amongst Canadians, and other places in the world? God’s kingdom is like that, in that the Word tells us to seek his kingdom first, and then everything else concerning ourselves will be looked after.
There are no guarantees, but neither can we simply just wait and see. Faith is not like that. This is a work in progress and it will need our faith, grace, and prayer. It will also need vision and wisdom. We are putting our best foot forward into this partnership, while confidently following the guidance of the Holy Spirit and believing that God will visit our nation in a powerful way.
On Friday December 14, 2012 the news reported yet another mass shooting in the United States, where many were killed in a school. It was the second mass shooting that week, and one of many in 2012. Of the 11 most deadly shootings in the US, 5 have occurred since 2007. Something is clearly amiss.
Since these horrific shootings in Newtown CT, the media has been abuzz with the debate over gun control. Some say ‘the US is a gun culture’ and ‘why should it expect anything different?’ In other words, mass shootings are an expected outcome in a gun-crazed society. Some statistics suggest that there are over 100,000 stores that sell guns compared to 35,000 stores that sell groceries.
It is without question that fewer guns or a reasonable restriction on certain guns would mean less shootings. It only makes sense. Nonetheless this debate will not be settled easily, when you consider the history, politics and opinions involved.
Others have said that a faulty mental health system is to blame and that had government proposals in the 90’s been approved, this may have been prevented. They suggest that too many mental health patients are falling through the cracks.
Yet in some states, public officials are now suggesting that teachers be armed in the classroom. So they not only want teachers to check twenty-four or more student’s food allergies and medications, make sure they do their homework and wear their coats out at recess, keep them physically fit and socially aware, ensure they get to the bathroom and safeguard them from bullying, monitor their student’s home-life, coach their teams, and properly educate their minds, but now also shoot and kill any intruders. I can only imagine what kind of teacher that encourages.
Everyone seems to be in search of answers and some of them appear obvious. However I think there is something that is not being mentioned. The US and Canada are noticeably moving away from a faith culture that clearly defined right from wrong, and gave a set of principles or a code that we can live by. An honor code that simply said, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’, or ‘treat others as you would want to be treated’ is absent.
The entertainment media that greatly influences our generation has no problem in inventing and displaying graphic and shocking scenes of violence and sex. Internet, television, video games, music, and cinema have liberally pushed out boundaries and redefined entertainment. For the sake of showing realism or advancing modern culture, our homes are daily inundated with narcissistic, opinionated and irresponsible forms of expression that are belligerent and antagonistic. Our culture is increasingly aggressive, materialistic, self-serving and morally shallow.
How can we blame a gun culture or a faulty mental health system for these mass shootings when everyday, violence and aggression molest our senses in the solitude of our own homes? Does it make any sense to restrict guns, while at the same time we continue to entertain gratuitous violence and antagonistic behaviour? Like my mother often said, ‘Garbage in, garbage out!
In my opinion, when people are encouraged to shout down, embarrass, and intimidate others for the sake of entertainment, we have forgotten what is true, noble, pure and admirable. The debase aspect of culture is persuasively advancing, while that which is respectful is mistrusted and put down.
While laws help maintain social order, there is also an inner law that equally needs to be nurtured in every one of us. By all means we should restrict guns and help the mentally ill, yet let’s also restore an inner code that we can live by, where we convincingly know right from wrong, and where we love God, and love others just as we love ourselves.
I don’t advocate a return to ‘Mayberry’ or ‘Little House On A Prairie’. Nor do I encourage an irrelevant and broken evangelical cultural, or think that we as Canadians have the moral high ground. In Proverbs it says, ‘As man thinks within his heart, so he is.’ I simply think that we need to be bold enough to ask ourselves ‘where is all this heading’, and ‘what kind of world do we want to be’? Afterwards, I think most people would agree that we need a radical change of heart in order to create a radical shift in behaviour.
And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart. Pr. 36:26 (NLT)
Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Ro. 12:2 (NLT)
This week we’re privileged to have on the podcast Stephen Best, pastor of River Run Fellowship in Peterborough, Ontario, for a discussion regarding finding and fufilling your purpose in God. It was very refreshing, and we discuss some sacred cows, such as;
Are there such things as ‘divine appointments’?
Does God have a pre-arranged soulmate for each one of us?
Can we know whether we’re in God’s permissive will or His perfect will? Or do such distinctions even exist in the God journey?
This was definitely a fascinating discussion for me as we touched on some sacred cows.
This week we have on the podcast my pastor Stephen Best returning for another discussion. This time, he let me just ask him questions about his thoughts on some of the stuff that goes on in some charismatic circles. We talk about gold dust, angel feathers, 100-fold return offerings, and personal prophecy.
Join us for a light-hearted but sober discussion.
As for you, I’ll come with healing,
curing the incurable …
I’ll turn things around for Jacob.
I’ll compassionately come in and rebuild homes.
The town will be rebuilt on its old foundations;
the mansions will be splendid again.
Thanksgivings will pour out of the windows;
laughter will spill through the doors.
Things will get better and better.
Depression days are over.
They’ll thrive, they’ll flourish.
The days of contempt will be over.
They’ll look forward to having children again,
to being a community in which I take pride.
Jer. 30:17-20, The Message
I’ll refresh tired bodies;
I’ll restore tired souls.
Be ready. The time’s coming”—God’s Decree—”when I will plant people and animals in Israel and Judah, just as a farmer plants seed. And in the same way that earlier I relentlessly pulled up and tore down, took apart and demolished, so now I am sticking with them as they start over, building and planting.
Jer. 31:25, 27-28, The Message
Recently Cindy and I were invited to attend the Canadian Newfrontiers Conference in Fredericton NB. Newfrontiers describes itself as “a worldwide family of churches together on a mission, with over 800 churches in over 60 nations around the world.” They embrace the same values as River Run (see About Us) and have been growing together for over thirty years. In recent years some churches in Canada have come alongside the Newfrontiers family, and together they are experiencing God’s goodness.
We’ve have hesitated from becoming involved in something like Newfrontiers, having come out of another network of churches that was very controlling and legalistic. It has taken several years to heal after a nasty parting and a subsequent church split, and to say the least we are cautious about such things.Nevertheless we have always believed in the restoration of the church and its ministry gifts, and desired to walk alongside people with a genuine vision for Canada. It has been our long time passion to see God restore the church with his presence in practical expressions such as spiritual gifts, genuine worship, and mission. Furthermore we have never been comfortable in being secluded, and realize our need to practically walk alongside others of like mind and heart. Recognizing these things we asked to Lord to clearly show us what he wanted us to see and experience, and to remove any suspicion and preconceived notions. We did not want our past to hold back our future. Upon our arrival we were greeted with great friendliness and hospitality, and in many respects it felt like family. We were introduced to several wonderful people and welcomed by some good friends with whom we regularly fellowship with in Ontario. Our Ontario friends (Owen Sound, Alliston, and Toronto) have become involved with Newfrontiers, which is something noteworthy in itself. I’ll highlight some key things that caught our attention:
- The emphasis of being Spirit and Word churches.
- Common values and contagious enthusiasm.
- Genuine worship that centred on Christ and his work on the cross, and the mix of hymns with new and old songs.
- The participation of so many with songs, readings, and spiritual gifts.
- Prayer, and body ministry.
- The spiritual maturity of those attending.
- The development of Canadian leaders.
- An apostolic mission of planting churches in Canada.
- Unassuming and down-to-earth leaders.
- The favor of God.
Newfrontiers Canada is doing a good work and clearly has God’s favor. They are solid yet also full of grace. They are ordinary people with vision and enthusiasm. Newfrontiers Canada has the potential to facilitate in Canada a fresh move of the Holy Spirit, and a coming together of like hearts. We will hear more of them.
Initially the contractor represented a modular building company, however during the process he formed his own design and build team. We were assured that this would produce a better and more cost effective product.
We intended to build a facility that was simple, flexible, and debt free. We did not want a typical church building. All of this was regularly communicated to those involved.
Throughout the process of modifying a design, managing a budget, and determining sub-trades, constant enquiries were made as to whether we were on target as far as time and money. Each enquiry was met with assurances that we were close. Nonetheless, we regularly made cost effective modifications to the design to keep us on track.
In June 2010 we were informed of cost overruns on the construction, and that an additional sum of money was needed to finish the project. The bank granted us a mortgage based on the contractor’s new projections. River Run would list for sale its other parcel of property to pay off the mortgage.
The Unexpected In August, work on the project had stalled. By September River Run discovered that the projections were wrong, and that the mortgage would not pay the outstanding invoices, nor finish the project. River Run met with the construction people to hear that the previous projections involved a computer error, and that additional monies were needed to finish the project.
A subsequent investigation by River Run found that again the projections were incorrect, and that actually greater monies were needed to complete the project. Burrowing more money would not be the solution.
Much could be said about the excessive cost overruns and assurances, but that is best left alone. Needless to say, the project although 90% complete was stuck, and that River Run’s season of testing was escalating.
In River Run’s mind was the notion to salvage the project. The sale of our second parcel of property would instead finish the project, and the current mortgage would unfortunately continue. A year later after several failed offers and a defaulted sale, everything would yet be at a standstill. Creditors remained unpaid and anxious, and cash flow was at a minimum. Several families would leave the River Run family and others were discouraged. Words are inadequate to describe the pressure and adversity that we were experiencing.
Trusting the Lord In December of 2010 and in the midst of much concern the Lord gave me this assurance from Zeph. 3:14-17. Each day for the year ahead it was a matter of believing God’s word over what we saw, heard or felt.
Sing, O daughter of Zion; shout aloud, O Israel! Be glad and rejoice with all your heart, O daughter of Jerusalem!
For the Lord will … disperse the armies of your enemy. And the Lord himself, the King of Israel, will live among you! At last your troubles will be over, and you will never again fear disaster.
On that day the announcement to Jerusalem will be, “Cheer up, Zion! Don’t be afraid!
For the Lord your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.”
In October 2011 River Run offered its new building and second parcel of property for sale. In a week the building conditionally sold, as did the second parcel of property. What followed were several inconceivable obstacles including the removal of contaminated soil that did not show in two previous environmental tests.
Today the building is sold and all creditors are paid. Furthermore the other property will be unconditionally sold by the summer.
The above version of events simply represents a storyline and misses much of the emotional and spiritual challenges we faced. It doesn’t speak of the fear, frustration, and failure we encountered, nor the love and hope we embraced. It doesn’t show the faithfulness of the Lord nor his mercies that are new everyday. While the last four years have been the greatest amount of difficulty this believing community has ever faced, God has turned everything for his good.
Hanging On & Hanging In Some ask, ‘What have you learned?’ Naivety would suggest that we missed God and that he didn’t want us to have a building, but pat answers don’t cut it and to be frank are just foolish. We are God’s children and he tremendously loves us. He intends for us to be just like his Son Jesus, and he will use everything to shape and mold us into his image, including hardships and suffering. Hardships do not come because God is mad at us or because we have failed to understand him. Hardships come because he loves us like sons, Heb. 12:7-12. Job did not miss God’s direction nor did Joseph, yet they suffered and understood perseverance. Their challenges were intended to produce a harvest of righteousness and to fulfill God’s purposes.
Unlike the old saying ‘it’s easier to switch than fight,’ hardships are to be endured. We all know that when frustration and fear have their way it’s easy to bail from difficulty, because in Christian culture challenges are unhelpful and irrelevant. Most Christians presume that difficulties are not part of the package, and that going to church and living good are more about being blessed than suffering. Suffering in our minds is considered as a telling off from God.
Yet, it is through these difficulties that God is shaping River Run. We are experiencing his love, mercy and grace. We are seeing his faithfulness over and over again. We know the kindness of creditors and the generosity of unbelievers. We are growing to love each other in hardship. We are learning to persevere to see God fulfill his promises because all things do work together for his good.
At times we doubted and asked, ‘Why us? What have we done to deserve this trouble? Have we sinned, or are we cursed?’ Yet I remember thinking in one ‘ah ha’ moment, why not us? Why should we get a pass?
We didn’t do everything right and that not only includes this matter but many others. Yet having said that it doesn’t mean we will do everything right from here on. Living in a fallen world means that gaffes and oversights will happen, but living in Christ means that his grace supersedes everything. His grace is sufficient to forgive, fix up, and continue.
You cannot experience something so powerful as we have without realizing that something is dying and that something new is being created. Adversity, such as hitting a brick wall has a way of helping one understand that everything that can be shaken will be shaken. And that only God decides on what is to be shaken, and how long the shaking lasts. Our course of action is to hang on and hang in. Things will fall off or die, and only that which is essential to the kingdom will remain – things like faith, hope, and love. Unlike reputation, buildings, opinions, and evangelical expectations.
Going Forward While in many ways a season is ending, we carry forward values that are eternal. More than buildings and church names, these values represent a revelation of Christ, and of his kingdom and church, that transcend time and borders. This revelation is our inheritance that secures us in the season to come, and causes us to see God’s glory in the earth.
The new is still unfolding. We are less excited about church buildings and more excited about reaching the lost and bringing in the harvest. We are hungry for authentic worship, and God’s holy presence and direction. We want the church to be less political and predictable, and more relational, organic, forgiving, and simple. We see that the church is more about being the church – in worship, service, gift and evangelism. It is our passion to know God’s favor and to come into something new and refreshing that is relevant to God’s puposes. Clearly it is about being a people of Word and Spirit, much like the early church.
Our past has set us on an adventurous course that is unusual to say the least, but isn’t that basically the way of the Spirit. We begin again like we did in the early years to establish a family of believers that are unrestrained by religion, and ready to establish a testimony of Christ and his kingdom in the Peterborough area. We don’t pretend that it’s going to be easy, but we hope those of like mind will join us in this adventure.