Archive for August, 2009
Joseph is a part of our simple church community here in Vegas. He’s been pouring into JD for several months now. JD had a power encounter with God while alone one night & surrendered his life to Christ. Joseph, who has been discipling JD got to Baptize him this past Sunday in our neighborhood pool! JD invited some of his unbelieving friends to come be a part of the celebration of this Jesus who has so beautifully interrupted his life.
Before I start I will warn you that this post will be bent towards the Gospel being “Demonstrated”. Obviously, both are necessary & Biblical. However, because we have seemingly focused more on one side (proclaiming) for so long we may need an extreme kick in the butt to move us back towards a healthy balance of both. So, I don’t want any comments about how there must be “both” – let that be a known theme throughout the post. =)
Many of us who are professed Christians have been raised with a wonderful set of beliefs, doctrinal statements, moral code, and can, if put on the spot, share that set of beliefs with just about anyone. Those who accepted Christ later in life probably became indoctrinated very quickly. We have been taught about the importance of “sharing our faith” (The Gospel) with others. There are TONS of resources on effective ways to “communicate the Gospel”, or proclaim it to others. Many of them are wonderful-a lot of them are not. From handing out Gospel tracks to learning practical ways to share “our story” (Testimony) there seems to be a very strong push in America towards a Proclaimed Gospel….
Over the years we Christians have become very good conversationalists, debaters, authors, persuaders, & defenders of our set of beliefs. There have been thousands of books/blogs written not only on sharing the Gospel (with words), but also defending the Gospel. The Gospel message is powerful in and of itself. But, why has the Gospel (“good news”) been reduced to mere words shared from one person to another? Why have we settled for a proclaimed Gospel masterfully crafted with the right words in order that we may wrap our minds around it? We have become brilliant “wordsmiths” in our pursuit of trying to convince unbelievers they should agree with us, and accept Jesus like we have. Was the Gospel meant to only be “proclaimed”, or did God have something else in mind?
“For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not simply with words, but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction. You know how we lived among you for your sake. You became imitators of us and of the Lord; in spite of severe suffering, you welcomed the message with the joy given by the Holy Spirit. And so you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia. The Lord’s message rang out from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia—your faith in God has become known everywhere. Therefore we do not need to say anything about it, for they themselves report what kind of reception you gave us. They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead—Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath.
1 Thessalonians 1:4-10
Wow. These few verses are littered with the Gospel’s transforming power in the lives of the Thessalonians. It also depicts how the Gospel was proclaimed “with words” AND demonstrated “in power”. I don’t know about you, but I am tired of only trying to convince unbelievers they should “think like I think”, or “believe what I believe”. Oh, and the whole “let’s SHOW them the Gospel with our actions”/”social Gospel” thing is not what I’m talking about either. (Not that those are bad things-just NOT what I’m getting at) In my struggle with this I went to check out what Jesus did…
Throughout the Gospels it would appear as if Jesus’ favorite thing to do was physically heal those in need. In fact, over half the stories of Jesus doing anything in His life involved miracles, and supernatural events taking place. In fact, many times Jesus uses very little words when interacting with those who don’t yet “know Him”. Think about a few off the top of your head… “Your sins are forgiven, rise, take up your mat and walk”, “your faith has healed you”, “Come out of this man you evil spirit!” He then tells that same man, “Go home to your family and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” Does anyone else find it interesting that Jesus did not feel the need to sit down with them for hours to “make sure they understood” what had just happened? It’s also funny that He didn’t enroll them in a “new members class” or discipleship study group. We could go on for hours. The point is that Jesus not only proclaimed His message and the “good news” through teaching, or sharing with words, but he also demonstrated it with POWER. That power was through His Holy Spirit. He gave that same Holy Spirit to US…
John 14:12 says, “I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.”
Yes, your Bible says it too. Go check. It says that we will do even greater things than those things we see in scripture-because He is going to the Father. Later in Acts we read about the Holy Spirit being left on the earth for The Church as Jesus went to heaven.
We don’t like to think about these things because we can’t wrap our minds around them. We are logical people. Supernatural things & miracles are illogical. We ignore things that we can’t explain with our cunning words, and hide from things we don’t understand. So, we go through our entire lives dismissing them, and convince ourselves that “the supernatural” doesn’t exist. The God I serve is a supernatural God-yes, still.
Frankly, I have no desire to “go to bat” with my life for anything less than a supernaturally powerful, Creator God. Many of us believe in Jesus with our minds. I’m not so sure that as many of us believe in Jesus with our hearts. “Jesus doesn’t live in our minds, He lives in our hearts”, is something my friend Brian Orme said one time that really rocked my boat. We must ask ourselves, “Am I Christian based upon a list of beliefs that I’ve subscribed to, or based upon the POWER of the Holy Spirit moving in my life like we see in 1 Thess. above?”
A quick word of warning for those of you who begin to step out in faith and walk in the power of the Holy Spirit: God is interested in your obedience to Him. HE will produce the fruit. Do not allow worry, fear, or a heavy weight to press down on you as you begin to step out in faith. “For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:30) I can promise you from personal experience that as you step out in obedience more the Lord, who sees your faith in little things will trust you with greater things. Walking in the faith and power of the Holy Spirit is not easy. It takes time and practice. It also takes discernment to listen to God’s voice and be LED by the Spirit.
This past week my family and I have spent time begging God for more. More of His Spirit, more power, & more faith. We ask Him to Baptize us with His Holy Spirit, and POUR His Spirit out on us to empower us for works of service. We have been intentionally looking for opportunities to step out in faith, and see the Gospel Demonstrated in Power. Will you join us…?
From Lauren, the student in Austin who desired to see a SCPx take place:
“I must say Student CPx Austin far surpassed my expectations. I always
hear people say, “If you’re vision seems possible to accomplish, then
you’re not dreaming big enough.” Real visions should be so extreme, so
ridiculous, so unlikely, that only God could do it. What happened at
CPx was so extreme, so ridiculous, and so unlikely, that looking back
I know it was all God who did it. I’m like, God I couldn’t even dream
that up if I tried.
So this is how I measure fruit- not by how powerful the worship was,
not by a number count of how many people came to Christ, nor by how
many people came to the training…. real fruit = personal
transformation. And that’s exactly what we saw.
Short memories pass through my mind of moments that are hard to think
about without crying. The tears that came from a simple prayer
breaking off generational curses. The intense freedom and joy that
released God’s children into dancing as two students got baptized, not
as a ceremony like the first time, but as a celebration. Guys, yes
guys, weeping at the effects of the church coming together in genuine
care, relationship, and fellowship; the profound contrast between
being used in order to advance someone’s ministry… and being
loved… in order to be loved. I remember Jesus baptizing some
students in ways that we couldn’t… with the Holy Spirit and with
fire. And the grateful response to being healed… by the One who’s
favorite activity is to heal every type of sickness and disease.
Students leaving with new outlooks on life, with testimonies bound to
be repeated, with a vision that chills the flesh, and a hunger that
cannot be satisfied. Three teams forming, one that will shake and
transform Joplin, Missouri, one that will fill TCU with God’s glory,
and one that will usher in the long-due revival at UT. And we will
never forget that night of prayer when we lingered in the presence of
Jesus together till our bodies demanded sleep. “His presence is life.
His absence is death.” We heard it from Brian, but we learned it from
I can’t handle the history. I just freak out. Two students named
Joshua and Caleb begin to pray and preach, longing for a move of God
they never saw with their eyes… but something was shifting the
spiritual realm. Simultaneously Lee Myers begins to bring the kingdom
of God to earth, walking in faith and healing the sick… before
disease attacks back and takes his life. God marks the students. And
then He calls forth fathers and mothers. They all begin to see the
vision that was in His eyes… all at the same time… and by destiny
they find each other and start the first Student CPx. One year later,
there are three Student CPx’s. And two of those who attended were the
first fruits of the first CPx. The story continues. The weave of divine
appointments continues to tangle, and the tree that started as a tiny
seed continues to grow, until soon all the birds of the air will find
shelter there. Sam Lee said at the first CPx, “If we were to witness
the glory of God’s plan, we would die.” Just a glance into a fragment
of it, and I’m feeling sick. All I can say is, prepare the way of the
There is nobody who can do what our Jesus just did. I can hear Kirk
Franklin calling…”Can I get a witness in the house?!”
During Student CPx we focus very heavily on the Great Commission, and the importance of EVERY BELIEVER realizing those last words of Jesus before he went to heaven are for them, TOO. Part of the GC teaches every believer to Baptize in the name of the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit. We teach that these Baptisms can be fuel for the movement of the Gospel, but it’s very important to ask a few questions about Baptism:
1) Who is DOING the Baptizing?
2) When is the Baptizing taking place after a decision is made?
3) Where is the Baptizing taking place?
We always teach that the DISCIPLER should, if possible, also BE THE BAPTIZER. It should, if possible, be done as soon as possible after someone makes a public profession of faith. We hope and pray that unbelievers would be present to watch the Baptism, & do our best to be strategic about where/when in order to make that possible. We have found that it will almost never occur in a traditional Baptismal, but a fountain, pool, stream, creek, lake, bathtub, or whatever happens to be available.
After teaching through this section at SCPx we watched as students began to realize that they had been believers for a long time, but never Baptized anyone. They weren’t upset, though. They became excited to see it begin to happen in their lives. One of the students began to weep as she shared about her Baptism experience, which occurred at a young age. She described a very impersonal, mundane Baptism by a guy she never knew. Sound familiar? We encouraged her that her Baptism was completely “legitimate”, & that the Lord was pleased with her heart. She knew that, and was not doubting her faith/salvation. She communicated that she had a desire to be Baptized in a very powerful, and celebratory way among a spiritual family whom she had grown to trust and love. Another girl spoke up and said she had a similar experience…
The students started discussing things like, “are we allowed to be Baptized twice?”, and “If we do it this time does that mean the first time didn’t count?”, etc. – (please know that this did not result in anyone doubting their salvation in Christ & eternity in heaven with Him)
I shared with the students that I would hope we would all “pray the prayer” EVERY SINGLE day, committing our lives to Christ, repenting of our sins, claiming Jesus as Lord, etc. I also posed the question: What would be wrong with “BEING BAPTIZED” every single day!? (Declaring the death of ourselves, and new life we have in Christ, that we are washed clean of our sin, etc.) Someone yelled, “we could just Baptize ourselves in the shower every day!” I am not submitting that we should or must all get Baptized everyday, or Baptize ourselves every day. I am simply saying that someone who has been Baptized at a young age in a very impersonal way should be free to declare that new life in a celebratory way to those they are walking in Spiritual Family with. I cannot think of a reason why it would be a bad thing to declare that symbolic, life transformational act on a regular basis…
We walked down to the creek that runs through the middle of UT’s campus. It was dark, and the water was about knee deep. Two girls waded through the water, and were Baptized by two other girls. It was powerful, and all four girls were deeply impacted for life. A group of UT students with head lamps on came our way wading through the creek-they were hunting water snakes in the creek for a class assignment. They said studies showed that there were an average of 1 snake every 8 meters in this creek. Snakes! Mixed with Baptisms! What incredible symbolism. The two doing the Baptizing felt the freedom to start doing this new act, which they had never done before, many more times. The two who got Baptized were released to go and do the same. It was a powerful experience for everyone involved.
Courtney Baptizing Jessie (on left) Sarah Baptizing Sabrina (on right)
Last night we kicked off Student CPx-Austin. Almost 20 students from different parts of the country will be spending the next 10 days with us in Austin going through an intense, highly interactive disciple-making/Church Planters training experience. The students are divided into Simple Churches where they will explore the balance between being on mission & being in tight-knit community. During the days they will be doing hands-on training in Evangelism, engaging the lost in conversation, sharing their testimony with the lost, walking in gifts of the Spirit, finding “person’s of peace”, and starting new communities of faith among the lost.
We’ve already had some powerful times of training, teaching, evangelism, and prayer within the first 24 hours! We still have 9 days left, and trusting God for MORE! Students are stepping out of their comfort zone to engage others with the Gospel. Their time here has already proven to be memorable, and an experience they will never forget. I will continue to keep the blog updated as the week moves forward. I hope that you will be encouraged by the stories, and continue to pray for these students.