The responsibilities of being a citizen

I’m on jury duty this week–one of the responsibilities of being a citizen of this great country. But it may mean this is the only time I post this week. Here’s how I became a citizen.

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On May 23rd 2008, I became an American citizen. In a large gymnasium hastily converted into a courtroom, before a presiding judge and with all due pomp and circumstance, I pledged allegiance to my new country and was granted the rights and privileges that citizenship brings.

It was a surprisingly moving ceremony punctuated by patriotic songs and speeches about freedom. There were around 1,100 of us, from 85 different nations. The immigration officials several times spoke of the incredible stories—the hardships that some people had endured to gain the privilege of citizenship. I was sitting next to a man from Bangladesh who had not seen his wife in more than eight years in order that he could become an American citizen and have her come and join him legally. For me, coming from a nation like Britain, I take freedom and justice for granted, but many people were from oppressive regimes or situations where the rule of law has no sway, and poverty and injustice are a way of life. In becoming citizens of the US,  they are liberated.

There were several judges and even a US senator in attendance. An immigration official had to swear on our behalf that all of us had been investigated and no just cause was found whereby we might be denied citizenship, and we all had to raise our right hands and solemnly promise that there was no reason we knew of why we should not become citizens. We were then informed of the rights and privileges we would automatically have as citizens of the United States. These included such things as the right to travel under an American passport, the right to vote and so on. We were also informed of our responsibilities including the fact that any of us could be called on to act as jurors or to fight for our country.

If the occasion arose. America’s wars are now my wars.

Finally, we had to give up any loyalty that we might have had to “kings, potentates and other authorities” and swear allegiance to our new country. We pledged allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and were all  declared to be American citizens, with a certificate to prove it. Then pandemonium broke out as the court adjourned and everyone began celebrating.

I am very proud of my British heritage. My heart is still there. But now I’m also proud to be an American.

This is the second time I have changed citizenship. I was actually born into an oppressive regime that sought to marginalize all its citizens. There was no justice; its citizens frequently lived in fear, and breaking its laws carried the death penalty. At the age of 11, I had the opportunity to change my citizenship and I appeared before a judge. This time, I could not claim that I was worthy to be granted citizenship, but Someone came and stood in my place, and my right to become a citizen of this new country was based on His righteousness rather than my own. And so in the courtroom of heaven, I relinquished my citizenship in the kingdom of darkness and became a citizen of the Kingdom of light ruled by a good, righteous and just King. However, I became more than just a citizen; I was welcomed into the royal family with all the rights and privileges, not just of citizenship, but also of sonship.

Just like becoming an American, there are also responsibilities tied up with citizenship of the Kingdom. I was born again into a nation at war. Like it or not, her wars are now my wars, and God’s Kingdom is in the process of invading the kingdom of darkness. I also have the privilege and responsibility of acting as an ambassador for this Kingdom wherever I go, and of letting others know that they can be free from the oppression of the regime they currently live under.  They too can change citizenship and come under the rule of a King who loves them and is longing to welcome them into His Kingdom.

 

Guest post by “Francis Drake”: Business and fellowship

Sometimes it helps people to get completely “out-of-the-box.”

For a number of years I ran a local fellowship for businessmen and women. Because they never thought of it as a “church” they didn’t come with their church straight-jackets on; consequently we had amazing results. The vision was never intended to be about getting people saved, although that did happen. It was about giving existing believers the confidence to walk in their anointing, as a normal way of everyday life.

The meetings were prophetic,  and everyone participated in a body style of ministry. We met monthly around a large hotel conference table complete with note pads and coffee. We started with open fellowship, words or prophecy as the Lord led. For many who would never have ventured outside their institutional church, hearing this genuine free relationship with the Lord was a complete shock.

Being the organiser (or facilitator), to ensure that everyone participated, I would ask all present to introduce themselves in turn, and give a run down as to where they were at that moment in their business, and what their needs and desires were, and more to the point, what was God saying to them. Whilst this happened, the others were encouraged to listen to the Spirit and make any notes for prayer and ministry later on.

As we grew, the start could often be a little slow, as usually it generated further conversation and questions, particularly when someone was going through the middle of a business crisis.

Next we would ask everyone to move out of their seats and pray for each others’ situations as the Spirit led.

Giving business advice was banned. Our purpose was to eat of the Tree of Life, to pray and to give encouragement through words from God, and to deal with the work of the enemy by deliverance etc.

People were shocked when they saw the Holy Spirit at work. “Why don’t we get this sort of teaching in church?” was a regular, indignant question. What they witnessed was the practise of faith through and through.

We saw amazing things happen in businesses once God was allowed in. A lowly gardener might have a deep prophetic word or vision for an engineer or doctor which would instigate a massive change in the man’s business. A small core group of Spirit filled business men and women were able to encourage the weaker members.

We never advertised, but it just kept growing as excited newcomers would return the next month with two or three others! Word of mouth from enthusiastic believers did all the networking for us. They came because they saw that when God was active in their businesses, He brought blessing. Their lives outside church changed. Passive Christians became enthusiastic believers.

Our times together gave many believers their first experience of seeing that God could actually change things in the real world. Many Christians have never experienced anything outside of Sunday church. This meeting enabled them to grow in personal faith, especially as they watched their brothers progress through business crisis and on to victory under the power of God.

We started with about ten people at the first meeting. We kept having to ask the hotel for a bigger conference room as it rocketed to sometimes 60 people, which was a bit too big to handle. We had in all about 130 members, but thankfully they never came all at once.

When people see the reality of God, their lives will never be the same.

Francis Drake has always been passionate about letting God reign in his everyday life, not just in church. If the word of God didn’t apply successfully in his daily work, then either it, or Francis was a fake! Learning to run manufacturing businesses as a prophetic venture is an excellent way to grow in faith. The effect of God’s involvement in the various projects Francis ran enabled him to overflow into helping other businessmen. The fellowship was one of the results.

Photo Credit: Amoooo (Creative Commons)

A story: Child of Promise

It seems that wherever we turn at present, God is doing amazing things.

Yesterday we held a baby shower: here’s the story behind it.

Shama is a new Christian from a Hindu background. She and her husband had been trying for a baby for several years, but with no success. When they finally consulted an OBGYN, tests showed she would need surgery before conception was possible, but with the various things going on in their lives, they knew they would have to delay.

One evening this last January, when Shama was feeling especially despondent about this, she flipped open her Bible and said., “God, I’ve no idea if you speak into this kind of situation, but will you show me something from your Word?”

Her Bible fell open at a passage in 2 Kings 4–not a passage that a six-month old believer usually reads. In this story, a Shunammite woman has prepared a small “prophet’s chamber” for Elisha. When Elisha asks what he can do for her in return, his servant, Gehazi, suggests that he prays for her to have a child. They call her in, and as she stands in the doorway, Elisha tells her, “Next year at this time, you will be holding your son in your arms!”

This verse was a huge encouragement to Shama, who took it very literally. She brought it to the church that meets in our home, and everyone prayed for her using this verse as the basis.

One Friday in April, Shama came back to church looking very solemn. The only sign that something might be going on was that her husband was holding a video camera. We usually start our times together by asking what the Lord has done in anyone’s life that week. Shama started. “Do you remember how three months ago, I read to you that passage about Elisha?” she said. “I’d like to read it to you again.”

She read the passage, very solemnly. I remember thinking, “Oh no! She’s past the time when that verse could be fulfilled.”

Then all of a sudden, she bursts out with a huge grin, “I’m pregnant!!”

Pandemonium broke out in our group as we realized that the Scripture was going to be fulfilled literally. One year from the Lord giving her that passage, Shama will be holding her son (and yes, it’s a boy!) in her arms.

Praise God.

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Shhh! It’s a surprise celebration

On Saturday we held a party–a celebration of thanksgiving that Rosaura has been clean and sober for a year. After 30 years of alcoholism and drug addiction, including cocaine and crack, and many rehabs, she was instantly set free from her addictions–no withdrawal symptoms and no relapse. Prior to this, the longest time she had been sober was for 30 days in rehab.

About 40 of us were there, including her family and friends as well as our home church. Amazingly, it was still a secret. Rosaura thought she was going out for a meal with a friend, and they were just stopping at our house to pick someone up. Her kids had gone out for the evening (so she thought) but, of course, they were at our house. Imagine her surprise when she came in and all of us were waiting there to greet her.

Following the meal, Jose, her son, told how he had come to the church that meets in our home and prayed for his mom. The very next week she agreed to come with him, and it was there (while Tony and I were in Russia) that she was prayed for by a group of young people and brand new Christians and God set her free. Then Rosaura told her side of the story, and how faithful God was to her, because within a month, Jose was diagnosed with a brain tumor, and she was able to take care of him because she wasn’t high on drugs.

We then offered to pray for anyone else with addictions. Two people came forward, both probably pre-believers, one on their own behalf and the other on behalf of their son. Jose (with amazing authority for a 16 year-old) and others prayed for them. God is at work in these lives too. Theirs is an ongoing story that maybe, one day soon, I’ll be able to tell.

We also prayed for other needs that were represented there. A pregnant lady, a recent believer, prayed for someone for healing. The pregnant lady has a lot of faith for healing. Earlier this year, she had been told that without surgery there was no way she could have a child, but God worked a miracle, telling her clearly from the Scriptures that she would have a child, and  she believed him. The church prayed for her and within three months, she was pregnant.

Others needed jobs. Others were struggling in different ways. People gathered round and prayed for each of them. The Holy Spirit was present in power.

And we celebrated!

Bringing our faith into our working lives

When we worked and ministered in the UK, our lives were very blessed. Everything we touched seemed to “turn to gold”–in the spiritual rather than physical sense. Tony, my husband, was leading a ministry that worked among doctors and others in the caring professions and extraordinary things were going on all over the country. The ministry taught these professional how to bring their faith into their working lives in a sensitive and relevant way. We ran conferences that showcased examples of doctors who were doing something meaningful. As others professionals saw what was going on, their response was often, “I could do that in my practice.”

For example, I remember one family doctor giving a report on what he had seen the previous year. He had kept a record of every patient he had communicated the good news about Jesus to over the course of that year–about 150 people. Of those, around 50 had become followers of Jesus the first time he spoke with them, and another 50 had become believers some time during that year. The remaining 50 were an ongoing story. All over the country, doctors were seeking to communicate the Gospel in effective ways to their patients.

When Tony was practicing medicine, he probably saw several hundred of his patients find the Lord. In the UK, in part because of socialized medicine, the family doctor handled far more than the typical medical problems. If someone had a kid who was using drugs or had marital difficulties or any other social need, the GP was usually the first person they went to for help. Often, when his patients came to him with needs that were not really medical in nature, Tony would say to them, “You know, I don’t have a pill I can prescribe that will sort this out, but have you ever thought of praying about this situation?” The most common response was, “Doctor, I’ve prayed about it, but I don’t know if anyone is listening.” That was an open door for a spiritual conversation. During one memorable six week period, a person became a follower of Christ every day his office was open.

Other doctors moved into the very poor and socially deprived area of London where we lived and worked and had our church. One day, we did the math. In our (more traditional) church, there were 14 family doctors.  Our area had around 120,000 people living in it. Between the doctors in the church and their partners, anyone becoming sick in our area had a one in three chance of sitting down next to a Spirit-filled doctor who was looking for an opportunity to share about Jesus.

Other doctors around the country were running Bible studies in their offices, or referring the social needs of their patients to their churches. In fact, the impact was such that even the medical authorities were beginning to take notice. We heard one day that a family doctor, in his final oral exam in front of the licensing board was asked this question: “What would you do if you found yourself in a practice with doctors who were evangelical Christians who took every opportunity to speak to their patients about their faith?”

Our conferences were attended by around 5,000 people per year. I remember a particular conference we ran for consultants. At one stage, this group of 50 or so eminent consultants were asked to stand on their chairs and praise God at the tops of their voices. If these distinguished professionals were willing to humble themselves before God in this way at a weekend conference, it was easy for them to speak to their patients about the Lord during the following week.

So when in 1987, the Lord spoke to us that we were to move to the USA, we assumed, naively, that God wanted us to do the same kind of ministry among professionals here. Were we in for a shock!

Have you found effective ways to communicate your faith through your working life? I’d love to hear the story.

The church moves west (part 3)

One of the most outstanding church planting movements of our time is going on in India. Victor Choudhrie has written a book, Greet the Church in Your House detailing the principles behind this movement. It will come out as a Kindle book in September. This post is the final part (first part starts here) of a section from the foreword I have written for the book.

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The influence of the church continues its march back to Jerusalem. The Muslim nations are just beginning to see their own extraordinary moves of the Holy Spirit as sheikhs, imams and even whole mosques are finding freedom through becoming followers of Isa, Jesus the Christ.

An interesting point: the speed of what God is doing is increasing exponentially. What took centuries in times past now takes decades. What took decades is now happening in a few short years. If the present rate of growth continues, India has the poential to become a Christian nation.

The march of Christianity around the globe has almost gone full circle, each wave of recovered truth building upon the last. The tide continues to advance. What will happen next? I believe that even as the world grows darker, we will see a harvest of historic proportions, this time covering the whole world. But if we are to experience the kind of growth we have longed and prayed for, we need to adopt the principles that the Holy Spirit has already revealed through the waves of church history.

A new wave of the Spirit–six of your ideas

The God of history is at work in his church, revealing fresh (old) truths in order to make us more like his Son.

In the last post, which was about the different waves that God’s Spirit has revealed over the last few centuries, I asked for suggestions as to what God is doing now, in this century. My idea is that one of the things God is doing is to lead his people into the harvest as they learn to listen to the Holy Spirit and obey him.

There were some wonderful comments in response, many of which had a common theme. Here are six of your ideas as to what this century will bring:

  1. A fresh wave of understanding and fruitfulness regarding how the Body of Christ in designed by God to function. Specifically, Ephesians 4:11 gifts (Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Shepherds, Teachers) will inform new paradigms for discerning both personal calling and corporate mission. Whereas before our gift differences led to polarization, they will now be appreciated as unifying assets. (James Paul)
  2. Growth in holiness: I think we’re going to see a people who are not only set apart to serve the Lord, but increasingly KNOW that they’re set apart to serve him. This is what it means to be a priesthood. If we are also characterized by obedience to the King (1 – Led by the Spirit) then we will be a royal priesthood, a holy nation! (Chris Jefferies)
  3. Next generation christians will identify more with fruit rather than gifts and character qualities rather than accomplishments. The many youth in our circles certainly have little use for official-ism, ordination or experts, and they go far out of their way to develop egalitarian community. (Greg)
  4. We join together in our cities, towns, villages and be the church without any denominations, legalistic rules and regulations that don’t bring life. We do simple church together like in Acts. Otherwise we will do our good works, do our social caring through big organizations who are apparently the experts and forget that maybe none of us have been willing to take in an orphan, care for the true widows and fatherless. We had better decide together to be the simple church in our city or town with our fellow believers. Most will not dare to go this way unless the Holy Spirit does a deep calling to the depths of our hearts. (Shirley)
  5. A removal of the clergy/laity divide (David Coufal)
  6. The orality movement is a strong trend in which God’s Word is internalized and shared in open, relational environments ranging from personal coaching to small groups. (Mark Snowden)
It’s interesting to me that the majority of your ideas centered around two main topics. One is unity across the body of Christ and the other concerns leadership.
What will it take for us all to lay aside our theological and ecclesiological differences and, together on the same team,  BE the body of Christ within our communities.

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