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God lets people choose

I’d like to propose a theory. In his incredible love and mercy, God opts to work within the constraints mankind allows him in order to reach his people.  For example, God desired to speak to all the Israelites directly at Mount Sinai when he gave them the law,(Exodus 19:9) but they were so afraid, they asked him to speak only through Moses. (Exodus 20:19) God honored that decision. We know it was not God’s will for Israel to be governed by a king, ( 1 Samuel 8:5-20) but once the nation had chosen to go that route, God worked within that context. The argument could be made that God didn’t want a temple built for him; it was David’s desire to build him one. (2 Samuel 7: 5-7; Acts 7:49-50) Yet God chose to bless the temple that Solomon built.

God’s original plan was for men and women to rule over his creation together. But God lets people choose. And the Fall corrupted mankind.

However, the New Covenant that Jesus ushered in through his death and resurrection changes everything.  Under the New Covenant, God’s laws are written on our hearts and we can all know him, from the least to the greatest. (Hebrews 8:8-12) Jesus, himself, is our Lord and King. We have become the temple of the living God. (1 Peter 2: 4-5)  And under the New Covenant, there is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male or female, for we are all one in Christ. (Galatians 3:28)


Is the Holy Spirit enough?

Modern wisdom would have us spend much time discipling new believers.

But consider the following:

Philip had no time with the Ethiopian eunuch after his baptism (which occurred at salvation).

The Philippian jailor became a disciple in the middle of the night, and next morning, Paul was gone.

Paul was in Philippi for “several days” (Acts 16:12) and yet the letter to the Philippians is full of praise for their faith and good works.

In other cities, (for example, Thessalonica–three weeks, Berea) Paul was there only a short time before being thrown out of town.

I became a believer at age 11 through reading a children’s book and knew no other Christians for four years. Somehow I realized that prayer and reading the Bible were important, and after a few weeks I led the girl who lived next door to Christ, but other than that I had no contact with other believers.

I’m certainly not saying discipleship is unimportant, but in situations where it doesn’t happen, is the Holy Spirit enough?


Roger Bannister and your dreams

In 1954, British runner Roger Bannister proved that it only took one person to break the goal of a four-minute mile. Everybody said it couldn’t be done. Athletes had been attempting to break the four-minute barrier for years, and it was said to be a physical impossibility for the human body. Enter Bannister, a British runner who was training to be a physician. When he started his running career at Oxford University in 1946 at the age of seventeen, he had never previously worn spikes or run on a track. But he showed such promise that he was selected as an Olympic possible. Skipping the 1948 Olympics because he wasn’t ready, Bannister came in fourth place in the one-mile race at the 1952 Olympics. As other athletes inched towards the four-minute goal, Bannister, too, set his sights on the record.

The fateful event took place at a running meet in Oxford on May 6th, 1954, watched by around 3,000 spectators. Bannister won the race. The announcer spun out the results as long as possible:

“Ladies and gentlemen, here is the result of event 9, the one mile: 1st, Number 41, R.G. Bannister, Amateur Athletic Association and formerly of Exeter and Merton Colleges, Oxford, with a time which is a new meeting and track record, and which—subject to ratification—will be a new English Native, British National, All-Comers, European, British Empire and World Record. The time was 3…”

The remainder of the announcement was impossible to hear as a roar went up from the crowd. Bannister’s time was three minutes, 59.4 seconds. The four-minute barrier had been broken. Once it had been proved that the record could be broken, many athletes attempted and broke the four-minute barrier. It has become the standard for male, professional middle distance runners. Amazingly, the record has since been lowered by almost 17 seconds.

We’ve seen many Kingdom barriers broken in our lifetime–the most rapidly growing church planting movements in history (India and China), tens of thousands becoming Christians in countries that are traditionally hostile to the gospel, the rapid spread of simple/organic church concepts here in the US. All it has taken is one or more role models to show it can be done and then many follow in their footsteps.

Can we be that one individual who dares to believe the impossible can, with God’s help, become a reality?

One of the things I long to see is the culture in this country change to accept women as co-equals alongside men in the Kingdom.

What areas are you believing for?

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Questioning one-on-one discipleship

One-on-one is a preferred method of discipleship within evangelicalism. I have no doubt as to its effectiveness (wish someone had been there to disciple me as a young believer). However, recently I’ve been questioning this.

Presumably we all believe that the way Jesus worked with his disciples is the best pattern to use. So I’ve been fascinated by a study I’ve recently done.

There were only two occasions I could find in the gospels where Jesus had a conversation with one of the disciples alone. One was with Peter over the paying of taxes (go and catch a fish) and the other, also with Peter, was about forgiving people seventy times seven times. As far as I can see, every other interaction that is recorded involves a group of them–of at least two or three.

There was one occasion where it specifically states Jesus was alone for a conversation with someone–the woman at the well. And we assume (although it doesn’t say so) that he was alone with Nicodemus in John 3.

Other than that, once he had chosen the twelve, Jesus worked with groups–groups of his disciples, the crowds, challenged groups of Pharisees and Sadducees. Other conversations where it appears he was talking to individuals, if you examine the context, were all within a group situation.

What does that say about one-on-one discipleship? What are the advantages of group discipleship?

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Hierarchy and discipleship

Some of our deepest theological conversations occur in our hot tub.

This past weekend was no exception. Some close missionary friends of ours who work in Asia came to stay. We always have fun  debates with them, Here’s the gist of one of our conversations that took place late at night in our jacuzzi:

Missionary: In Asia, our culture is very hierarchical. This hierarchy spills over into the church and it’s an asset to discipleship because the new believer is looking to learn from someone more experienced.

Me: God loves us enough that in his mercy he uses whatever culture we give him. But Jesus spoke against hierarchy. He said, “You know how the rulers of this world function (hierarchy). But it must not be so amongst you.”

Missionary: In the West, we are so individualistic and egalitarian. But that is not Scriptural either. In Asia, we are more communally and society minded. Because in English, it’s impossible to tell the difference between you singular and you plural, we miss the fact that much of the New Testament is addressed to groups.

Me: Neither hierarchy nor egalitarianism are Scriptural. Jesus spoke about and modeled something different–closer to an upside down hierarchy, Servanthood. We lay down our lives for others that they might grow.

What is your opinion on this? How do we best disciple others–using a teacher/pupil (hierarchical) model, as peers (egalitarian), or as servants? Does it depend on the culture we live in?

How I want to cross the finish line

Many people, as they get older, settle back into a life of quiet retirement, enjoying the fruits of their years of labor. They are content to relax, to sit back and savor life.

There’s nothing wrong with that, but it’s not what I want.

I don’t want to drag myself across the finish line of this life. When that line comes in view in the distance, I want to break into a sprint, flinging myself wholeheartedly into everything God has for me right up until my last breath, even if the only thing I’m physically able to do is intercede for others. I want to finish well.

And as I cross the finish line, I’ll hear the angelic cheers…

(Remind me of that as I get older!)

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Heroines of the faith: Michele Perry

Recently MIchele Perry  was interviewed on the TV program, 100 Huntley Street. She has an extraordinary story. Watch this video and you’ll see why she is one of my heroines of the faith.

Michele blogs at

A quiet healing

Sometimes healing happens without fanfare, and it’s only later you realize the enormity of what has happened.

A new person came to the church that meets in our home a month ago. We had a time of listening to the Lord, and someone shared a picture about a little fish being gobbled by a shark. It seemed spiritually relevant, so we asked if anyone felt that life was overwhelming them, that they were being “eaten up” by circumstances. Several responded, including the new lady.

She mentioned that she had abdominal pain, and so, as well as her surrendering her life to Christ (the bigger miracle), we prayed she would be set free.

Last Friday, we heard the significance of what went on. The story went like this:

For 10 years, this beautiful girl had had crippling abdominal pain resulting in many visits to the ER–sometimes several times a month. During that time she had not had a single day without pain. She was unable to work or finish school because of it.

Since the day the church prayed, she has not had a single episode of pain.

We serve an awesome God!

But I digress… a Jewish betrothal

Several years ago I was captivated by John 14 to John 16.  I found myself meditating on these verses, attempting to memorize them. I would go to sleep at night thinking about them and wake up in the morning doing the same. (Please don’t assume I was being spiritual–it was a God thing!) But I always puzzled over John 14:2-3:

My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. (NIV).

The verses were inspiring, but I always wondered about them–is this talking about heaven? Is it referring to the Holy Spirit?

The first inkling I had of what lies behind the verses came a few weeks ago in an e-letter from John Fenn of Church Without Walls International. I’ve since done some research on it. Here’s what I now understand:

In Jesus’ day, if a man wanted to marry a girl, he would go to her home with a “bottle” of wine. (This would be an arranged marriage.) The girl’s father and brothers would negotiate the terms of the betrothal contract with him. The girl was then called in. If the girl agreed to marry him, they would seal the contract by drinking a glass of wine together. This was now a binding covenant. The man would then tell her, “In my father’s house are many rooms. I’m going to prepare a place for you, and then I’ll come back for you.” He would return to his father’s home and prepare the bridal chamber, which would only be ready when his father told said so. One day the groom would return for his bride, taking her back to his father’s house with him where there was a wedding feast and the marriage was complete.

So what Jesus said at the beginning of John 14 is a foreshadowing. Jesus has returned to his Father’s house to prepare a room for us. One day, we’ll see him face to face as his bride and there will be a wedding feast.

What  an amazingly beautiful portrayal John 14 presents of Christ and his bride.


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Healing through foot washing

Twenty or so of us were gathered in a circle. I don’t even remember how the topic came up. But one of the men at the conference, tears running down his face, repented deeply on behalf of the men in the church for all the wrongs that have been perpetrated against women down through the centuries, and specifically prayed for healing for any of the women in the group who had been hurt. He offered to wash the feet of the women. Other men prayed too, saying sorry for how their own attitudes had caused pain and suffering to women and committing to change. It was a Holy Spirit moment. Tears flowed freely–both men and women.

Then the men washed the women’s feet. They prayed over us, releasing us into whatever destinies God might have for us.

Was the foot washing the important part? No, but it spoke volumes. What mattered was the men understood at a deep level how the marginalization of women has damaged the body of Christ and were prepared to both repent and commit to change.

I was one who had been hurt by the attitude of the church towards women. For me, it was a profoundly healing time–and the same for the other women present. I view it as one of the events that released me into any ministry I now have.

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