Month: November 2007
|God Centred & Spirit- Inspired.|
“… God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him” (Acts 10:38).
Almost every time I look at the clock and see it’s 10:38, I stop and give thanks. It has served as a natural reminder of this great verse of Scripture now for many years. It records the only true standard for the Christian life: Jesus healed “all who were oppressed by the devil.” Sickness only has one source–the devil–and Jesus is the answer. This is one of the most important verses for me in the Bible. It has gripped me so much through the years that it has almost become an unconscious habit to take a moment and reflect on what this verse means for my life whenever I see that the time is 10:38. The standard of Jesus’ life has yet to be duplicated. He healed ALL who came to Him. Yet this is the only acceptable standard and lifestyle to follow. The convicting part of the verse for me is the ending. It says, “…for God was with Him.” In other words, miracles are the natural fruit of His abiding presence. When God’s presence has been given to us, we are obligated to conquer something. It is expected. It is illegal to have the presence of the Lord and merely live in Christian comfort.
Here is a secret to the miraculous: until you buy the field it will always be someone else’s treasure (Matthew 13:44). I bought the field– the field that has little natural value of itself. The field in Jesus’ parable has briars and all kinds of debris. In reality, it has been purchased in the past, but was abandoned by former generations. History tells us that one of the most difficult things has been for people to walk in a miracle lifestyle because there is so much controversy and difficulties to explain. Some live rejected and despised, while some become embittered. Still others have used the recognition for personal gain. Yet all the failures of the past do not remove from us the responsibility to pursue the standard that Jesus set. We must learn to use the tragedies of history as a warning of the inherent challenges that come with the mission. Buying the field means you are willing to embrace the controversy, the persecutions, the pains and the difficulties that go along with the field to enter into a miracle lifestyle.
I am in debt, “for God is with me.” Something has been given to me to produce a certain result. I am obligated to stand before Him with the fruit of His presence–the same as Jesus. I have become possessed with a promise and apprehended for a purpose.
To disregard our place in history is foolish. If our understanding of humility causes us to shy away from our place to shape history, it is the wrong definition of humility. Humility leads us to our destiny, not from it. I cannot ignore the hour we live in and miss the divine moment because of my focus on being unworthy. At some point we have to believe that the blood of Jesus was sufficient and step into our destiny. We have been entrusted with something–His presence–and we must present to Him fruit equal to that gift.
John Alexander Dowie is considered by many to be the father of the healing movement. The verse that God illuminated to Him was Acts 10:38. It changed everything. May it do the same for us.
I bought the field because of the treasure that is in it. This is what I live for. I love miracles as much as anyone I know. Whether it is healing, deliverance, conversion, the saving of a marriage, a business that turns around–whatever the miracle is–I love and celebrate when God is at work. But as much as I love them, they don’t captivate my heart. They point to the actual treasure: Jesus. I am captivated by the Son of God who is so perfect, yet can flow through someone who is not. He alone captures my heart. When He works through us in the same way He did in His earthly life, it becomes an evidence of His abiding presence: Acts 10:38.
Tim Elmore once said,”You will either surrender to your circumstances, or you will surrender to the One Greater that the circumstance will mean nothing.”
FAITH – Anchored in the Unseen
by Bill Johnson
“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for,
the evidence of things not seen.”
Faith is the mirror of the heart that reflects the realities of
an unseen world—the actual substance of His Kingdom.
Through the prayer of faith we are able to pull the reality of
His world into this one. That is the function of faith.
Faith has its anchor in the unseen realm. It lives from the invisible toward the visible. Faith actualizes what it realizes. The Scriptures contrast the life of faith with the limitations of natural sight. Faith provides eyes for the heart.
Jesus expects people to see from the heart. He once called a group of religious leaders hypocrites because they could discern the weather but couldn’t discern the times. It’s obvious why Jesus would prefer people to recognize the times (spiritual climate and seasons) over natural weather conditions, but it’s not quite so apparent why He would consider them hypocrites if they didn’t.
Many of us have thought that the ability to see into the spiritual realm is more the result of a special gift than an unused potential of everyone. I remind you that Jesus addresses this charge to the Pharisees and Sadducees. The very fact that they, of all people, were required to see is evidence that everyone has been given this ability. They became blind to His dominion because of their own corrupted hearts and were judged for their unfulfilled potential.
We are born again by grace through faith. The born again experience enables us to see from the heart. A heart that doesn’t see is a hard heart. Faith was never intended only to get us into the family. Rather, it is the nature of life in this family. Faith sees. It brings His Kingdom into focus. All of the Father’s resources, all of His benefits, are accessible through faith.
To encourage us in our capacity to see, Jesus gave specific instruction, “Seek first the kingdom of God….” Paul taught us, “Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.” He also stated, “For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” The Bible instructs us to turn our attention toward the invisible. This theme is repeated enough in Scripture to make those of us bound by the logic of this Western culture quite nervous.
Herein lies the secret to the supernatural realm that we want restored to the Church. Jesus told us that He only did what He saw His Father do. Such an insight is vital for those who want more. The power of His actions, for instance, the mud in the eye of the blind, is rooted in His ability to see.
WORSHIP AND THE SCHOOL OF FAITH
God is very committed to teaching us how to see. To make this possible He gave us the Holy Spirit as a tutor. The curriculum that He uses is quite varied. But the one class we all qualify for is the greatest of all Christian privileges—worship. Learning how to see is not the purpose for our worship, but it is a wonderful by-product.
Those who worship in spirit and truth, as mentioned in John 4:23-24, learn to follow the Holy Spirit’s lead. His realm is called the kingdom of God. The throne of God, which becomes established upon the praises of His people, is the center of that Kingdom. It’s in the environment of worship that we learn things that go way beyond what our intellect can grasp—and the greatest of these lessons is the value of His Presence. David was so affected by this that all his other exploits pale in comparison to his abandoned heart for God. We know that he learned to see into God’s realm because of statements like, “I have set the Lord always before me; because He is at my right hand I shall not be moved.” The Presence of God affected his seeing. He would constantly practice recognizing the Presence of God. He saw God daily, not with the natural eyes, but with the eyes of faith. That priceless revelation was given to a worshiper.
The privilege of worship is a good beginning place for those unaccustomed to addressing some of these kinds of themes found in Scripture. It’s in that wonderful ministry that we can learn to pay attention to this God-given gift: the ability to see with the heart. As we learn to worship with purity of heart, our eyes will continue to open. And we can expect to see what He wants us to see.
The invisible realm is superior to the natural. The reality of that invisible world dominates the natural world we live in…both positively and negatively. Because the invisible is superior to the natural, faith is anchored in the unseen.
Faith lives within the revealed will of God. When I have misconceptions of who He is and what He is like, my faith is restricted by those misconceptions. For example, if I believe that God allows sickness in order to build character, I’ll not have confidence praying in most situations where healing is needed. But, if I believe that sickness is to the body what sin is to the soul, then no disease will intimidate me. Faith is much more free to develop when we truly see the heart of God as good.
The same misconceptions of God affect those who need to have faith for their own miracle. A woman who needed a miracle once told me that she felt God had allowed her sickness for a purpose. I told her that if I treated my children that way I’d be arrested for child abuse. She agreed and eventually allowed me to pray for her. After truth came into her heart, her healing came minutes later.
Unbelief is anchored in what is visible or reasonable apart from God. It honors the natural realm as superior to the invisible. The apostle Paul states that what you can see is temporal, and what you can’t see is eternal. Unbelief is faith in the inferior.
The natural realm is the anchor of unbelief. But that realm is not to be considered as evil. Rather the humble of heart recognize the hand of God through what is seen. God has created all things to speak of Him—whether it is rivers and trees, or angels and heaven. The natural realm carries the witness of His greatness…for those with eyes to see and ears to hear.
Most all of the people that I’ve known who are filled with unbelief have called themselves realists. This is an honest evaluation, but not one to be proud of. Those kinds of realists believe more in what is visible than they do in what they can’t see. Put another way, they believe the material world rules over the spiritual world.
Materialism has been thought simply to be the accumulation of goods. Although it includes that, it is much more. I can own nothing and still be materialistic. I can want nothing and be materialistic because materialism is faith in the natural as the superior reality.
We are a sensual society with a culture shaped by what is picked up through the senses. We’re trained to believe only in what we see. Real faith is not living in denial of the natural realm. If the doctor says you have a tumor, it’s silly to pretend that it’s not there. That’s not faith. However, faith is founded on a reality that is superior to that tumor. I can acknowledge the existence of a tumor and still have faith in the provision of His stripes for my healing…I was provisionally healed 2,000 years ago. It is the product of the kingdom of heaven—a superior reality. There are no tumors in heaven, and faith brings that reality into this one.
Would satan like to inflict heaven with cancer? Of course he would. But he has no dominion there. He only has dominion here when and where man has come into agreement.
Fear of appearing to live in denial is what keeps many from faith. Why is what anyone thinks so important to you that you’d not be willing to risk all to trust God? The fear of man is very strongly associated with unbelief. Conversely, the fear of God and faith are very closely related.
People of faith are also realists. They just have their foundation in a superior reality.
Unbelief is actually faith in something other than God. He is jealous over our hearts. The one whose primary trust is in another grieves the Holy Spirit.
IT’S NOT IN THE HEAD
Faith is born of the Spirit in the hearts of mankind. Faith is neither intellectual nor anti-intellectual. It is superior to the intellect. The Bible does not say, with the mind man believes! Through faith, man is able to come into agreement with the mind of God.
When we submit the things of God to the mind of man, unbelief and religion are the results. When we submit the mind of man to the things of God, we end up with faith and a renewed mind. The mind makes a wonderful servant, but a terrible master.
Much of the opposition to revival comes from soul-driven Christians. The apostle Paul calls them carnal. They have not learned how to be led by the Spirit. Anything that doesn’t make sense to their rational mind is automatically in conflict with Scripture. This way of thinking is accepted all throughout the Church in Western civilization, which should explain why our God so often looks just like us.
Most of the goals of the modern church can be accomplished without God. All we need is people, money, and a common objective. Determination can achieve great things. But success is not necessarily a sign that the goal was from God. Little exists in church life to ensure that we are being directed and empowered by the Holy Spirit. Returning to the ministry of Jesus is the only insurance we have of accomplishing such a goal.
FAITH FROM A RELATIONSHIP
The Holy Spirit lives in my spirit. That is the place of communion with God. As we learn to receive from our spirits we learn how to be Spirit led.
“By faith, we understand.” Faith is the foundation for all true intellectualism. When we learn to learn that way, we open ourselves up to grow in true faith because faith does not require understanding to function.
I’m sure that most of you have had this experience—you’ve been reading the Bible, and a verse jumps out at you. There is great excitement over this verse that seems to give so much life and encouragement to you. Yet initially you couldn’t teach or explain that verse if your life depended on it. What happened is this: Your spirit received the life-giving power of the word from the Holy Spirit. When we learn to receive from our spirit, our mind becomes the student and is therefore subject to the Holy Spirit. Through the process of revelation and experience our mind eventually obtains understanding. That is biblical learning—the spirit giving influence to the mind.
FAITH IS BOTH SUBSTANCE AND EVIDENCE
“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”
Faith is the mirror of the heart that reflects the realities of His world into ours. It is the substance of the unseen realm. This wonderful gift from God is the initial earthly manifestation of what exists in His Kingdom. It is a testimony of an invisible realm called the Kingdom of God. Through prayer we are able to pull that reality into this one—that is how faith functions.
If I go into the local pizza parlor and order a pizza, they will give me a number and a receipt. I am to place that number in a conspicuous place on the table. Someone may walk in off the street and come to my table and announce that they won’t give me any pizza. I’ll just point to the number and tell him, When pizza number 52 is done, it’s mine! That number is the substance of the pizza hoped for. If that guy tells me that my number isn’t any good, I’ll point to my receipt. It verifies the value of the number. When my pizza is done, the waiter will walk around looking for my number. How does the product of heaven know where to land? He looks for the substance…the number. If a question comes up over the validity of my number, my receipt, which is contained in the Bible, verifies my right to both the number and the pizza.
Heaven is not moved simply by the needs of man. It’s not that God doesn’t care. It was out of His great compassion that He sent Jesus. When God is moved by human need He seldom fixes the problem outright; instead, He provides Kingdom principles that when embraced correct the problems. If God was moved solely by human need then countries like India and Haiti would become the wealthiest nations in the world. It doesn’t work like that. Heaven is moved by faith. Faith is the currency of heaven.
THE SOURCE OF FAITH
“Faith comes by hearing….” It does not say that it comes from having heard. It is the listening heart, in the present tense, that is ready for heaven’s deposit of faith. Abraham heard God tell him to sacrifice his son Isaac. When he drew back the sword to slay his son the Lord spoke again. This time He told Abraham that the test was over and that he passed—he was not to sacrifice his son. Had he only done what God had said he would have killed his son. Hearing now is a key to faith.
The apostle Paul was driven by the command, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel….” However, when he was ready to preach the gospel in Asia, God said no. What God had said appeared to be in conflict with what God was saying. Paul then prepared to go to Bithynia. Again, God said no. Following this Paul had a dream of a man calling out to him from Macedonia. This was recognized as the will of God, and they went.
Even though we may know the will of God from Scripture, we still need the Holy Spirit to help us with the interpretation, application, and empowerment to perform His will.
The biblical command repeated most often is: Do not fear. Why? Fear attacks the foundation of our relationship with God…our faith. Fear is faith in the devil; it is also called unbelief. Jesus would ask His fearful disciples, “Why are you so faithless?” because fearfulness is the same as faithlessness. Fear and faith cannot coexist—they work against each other.
The devil is called Beelzebub, which means, lord of the flies. He and his hosts are attracted to decay. We once had a freezer in a building detached from our house. One Sunday we came home from church only to be hit with a wall of smell that is unfortunately hard to forget. I realized in an instant what had happened. Our freezer had died. I thought the stench I had smelled for days was because my boys forgot to take all of the trash to the dump. Instead it was the ever-rotting meat and bear hide in the freezer.
From the front seat of my car I looked at the window of the shop about 40 feet away. It was black with flies…a number that is still hard to imagine these many years later. The freezer was filled with all sorts of meat. Flies found a happy breeding ground in spoiled flesh and were multiplying in unbelievable numbers. Both the meat and the freezer were taken to the dump.
Issues such as bitterness, jealousy, and hatred qualify as the decay of the heart that invites the devil to come and give influence—yes, even to Christians. Remember Paul’s admonition to the church of Ephesus, “Neither give place to the devil.” Fear is also a decay of the heart. It attracts the demonic in the same way as bitterness and hatred. How did the flies know where my freezer was? Through the scent of decaying meat. Fear gives off a similar scent. Like faith, fear is substance in the spiritual realm. Satan has no power except through our agreement. Fear becomes our heart’s response when we come into agreement with his intimidating suggestions.
Many who have feared the excesses made by others in the name of faith have ironically embraced unbelief. Reaction to error usually produces error. Response to truth always wins out over those who react to error. Some people would have no belief system were it not for the error of others. Their thoughts and teachings are the antithesis of what others believe and practice. As a result those who strive for balance become anemic. The word balance has come to mean middle of the road—of no threat to people or the devil, with little risk, and above all…the best way to keep our nice image intact.
The Church warns its members about the great sin of presumption. God warns us of the sin of unbelief. Jesus didn’t say, When I return will I find people who are excessive and presumptuous? He was concerned about finding people with faith, the kind He displayed. While we often huddle in groups of like-minded people, those with faith blaze a trail that threatens all of our comfort zones. Faith offends the stationary.
People of great faith are hard to live with. Their reasoning is otherworldly. My grandfather, a pastor, sat under the ministry of several great men and women of God of the early 1900s. He used to tell me how not everyone liked Smith Wigglesworth. His faith made other people feel uncomfortable. We either become like them or we avoid them. We find their lifestyle either contagious or offensive with little neutral ground. Smith is well loved today…but it’s only because he’s dead. Israel loved their dead prophets too.
There’s something amazing about unbelief—it is able to fulfill its own expectations. Unbelief is safe because it takes no risk and almost always gets what it expects. Then, after a person gets the answer for their unbelief, they can say, I told you so.
A SUPERIOR REALITY
My faith is not just an abiding faith; it is active. It is aggressive by nature. It has focus and purpose. Faith grabs hold of the reality of the Kingdom and forcefully and violently brings it into a collision with this natural one. An inferior kingdom cannot stand.
One of the more common things people tell me when I’m about to pray for their healing is, “I know God can do it.” So does the devil. At best that is hope…not faith. Faith knows He will.
For one who has faith, there is nothing impossible. There are no impossibilities when there is faith…and there are no exceptions.
Sheri, for instance, came forward for prayer after a wonderful meeting just outside of Nashville, Tennessee. She had suffered with Lupus for 24 years, the last four of which had gone into Pulmonary Hypertension. It had gotten so bad that she had to have an aluminum shunt placed into her heart. To this a pump was attached, which supplied the needed medication to keep her alive. Her doctor told her that without this medication she could live for only three minutes.
When she walked up to me, I actually felt a presence of something I had never felt in that measure before. It was faith. I actually stood back and stared at her for a few moments realizing that I was seeing something completely new for me. As she received prayer, she fell to the ground under the power of God. When she got up I asked her how she was doing. She described a heat that was on her chest. (Heat often accompanies God’s healing touch.) As she left I told her, your faith got you this one!
That was Saturday night. At 7 a.m. that following morning the Lord spoke to her saying she didn’t need the medication any more. So she removed it. She showed up 14 hours later giving testimony of God’s wonderful healing power.
She has since had the aluminum shunt removed—she doesn’t need it anymore!
EARS TO HEAR
“So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” Notice it does not say, faith comes from having heard. The whole nature of faith implies a relationship with God that is current. The emphasis is on hearing…in the now! In Genesis God told Abraham to sacrifice Isaac. As Abraham raised the knife to slay his son God spoke again. This time He told him not to slay his son, as he had passed the test of being willing to do anything for God. It’s a good thing that Abraham’s only connection with God was not just over what was said, but was based upon what He was saying!
ANSWERS FOR LIFE’S IMPOSSIBILITIES
What this world needs is for the Church to return to a show and tell message on the kingdom of God. They need an anchor that is greater than everything they can see. The world system has no answers to the world’s increasing problems—every solution is only temporary.
Dale came to my office to confess sin. He lived quite some distance from my city, but because he had deceived us out of some money, he felt the need to come and confess in person. After I expressed both God’s and my forgiveness, I asked him about his back. He had walked into my office with difficulty and was obviously in great pain. He lifted his shirt to show me two scars that ran on each side of the spine the full length. He had broken his back some years earlier and had recently been in a car accident that further aggravated his injury. He then told me that God would probably like to heal him, but that he just got in His way. I told him he wasn’t big enough. All I could picture was the greatness of God and the puny condition of man. He looked at me with a stunned look on his face. I went on to explain that God was really big and could pretty much do as He pleased. Although Dale didn’t move into great faith, he did begin to doubt his doubt. That was all it took. I laid hands on his back and invited the Holy Spirit to come and give His gift of healing. I then commanded it to be healed. He bent over, placing his hands flat on the floor, saying, “I can’t do that!” He proceeded to do it over and over again, each time declaring, “I can’t do that!” He left pain-free with full movement and a heart full of praise. This was a man who could barely walk only moments before.
Faith is not the absence of doubt; it’s the presence of belief. I may not always feel that I have great faith. But I can always obey, laying my hands on someone and praying. It’s a mistake for me to ever examine my faith. I seldom find it. It’s better for me to obey quickly. After it’s over I can look back and see that my obedience came from faith.
THE CLUSTER BOMB EFFECT
When the corporate level of faith grows, it has what I call a cluster bomb effect, where innocent bystanders get touched by the miracle-working power of God.
Francis is a woman who had esophagus cancer. One Sunday morning during worship she leaned over to her husband and said, “I was just healed!” She felt the fire of God touch her hands and concluded that it represented God’s healing touch. When she went to the doctor she told him of her experience. His response was, “This kind does not go away.” After examining her he stated, “Not only do you not have cancer, you have a new esophagus!”
Corporate faith pulls on heaven in marvelous ways. His world becomes manifest all around us.
Sharon had suffered an accident many years ago in which she had destroyed a tendon that ran down her leg. It left her with restricted movement and partial numbness in her foot. I was giving an altar call for people to get right with God during one of our Saturday night meetings. She began to make all kinds of noise. I stopped the altar call and asked her what happened. She told us of the tingling feeling that ran down her leg and the subsequent restoration of all movement and feeling to her foot. A creative miracle happened without anyone praying.
The crowd at this particular meeting was quite small. But power is not in the number of people in attendance. It’s the number of people in agreement. Exponential power is the product of the unity of faith.
In some meetings it’s easy to mistake enthusiasm for faith. In that setting I emphasize the use of testimonies to stir peoples’ hearts to believe for the impossible so He might invade.
Just as fear is a tangible element in the spirit world, so faith is tangible there. In the natural a loud voice may intimidate another man. But devils know the difference between the one who is truly bold and aggressive because of their faith, and the one who is simply covering his fears with aggressive behavior. Christians often use this tactic when casting out devils. Many of us have yelled threats, called on angels for help, promised to make it harder on the demons on Judgment Day, and other foolish things only to try and cover immature fear. Real faith is anchored in the invisible realm and is connected to the authority given in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.
The authority to cast out demons is found in rest. Rest is the climate that faith grows in. It comes out of the peace of God. And it is the Prince of Peace who will soon crush Satan underneath our feet! What is restful for us is violent to the powers of hell. That is the violent nature of faith.
This is not to be a soulish attempt at self-confidence or self-determination. Instead it is a moving of the heart into a place of surrender…a place of rest. A surrendered heart is a heart of faith. And faith must be present to please God.
VIOLENCE AND FAITH
“Until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force.”
Two blind men who sat by the road called out to Jesus. People told them to be quiet. That only hardened their determination. They became more desperate and cried out all the louder. He called them forth and healed them saying, “The kingdom has come near you.” He attributed their miracle to their faith.
A woman who had hemorrhaged for 12 years pressed through a crowd. When she was finally able to touch the garment of Jesus, she was healed. He attributed it to her faith.
The stories of this kind are many, all with similar endings—they were healed or delivered because of their faith. Faith may quietly press in, or it may cry out very loudly, but it is always violent in the spirit world. It grabs hold of an invisible reality and won’t let go. Taking the Kingdom by faith is the violent act that is necessary to come into what God has made available.
An automobile may have several hundred horsepower. But the car will go nowhere until the clutch is released, connecting the power contained in the running motor and transferring that power to the wheels. So it is with faith. We have all the power of heaven behind us. But it is our faith that connects what is available to the circumstances at hand. Faith takes what is available and makes it actual.
It’s not illegal to try to grow in faith. It’s not wrong to seek for signs and the increase of miracles. Those are all within the rights of the believer. But learning how to pray is the task at hand. It is the only thing the disciples asked Jesus to teach them. And so we will examine His Model Prayer for insights on His view of prayer and the release of His dominion.
It is abnormal for a Christian not to have an appetite for the impossible. It has been written into our spiritual DNA to hunger for the impossibilities around us to bow at the name of Jesus.
The lack of miracles isn’t because it is not in God’s will for us. The problem exists between our ears. As a result, a transformation, a renewing of the mind, is needed, and it’s only possible through a work of the Holy Spirit that typically comes upon desperate people.
Stories of the impossible are becoming the norm, and the company of people who have joined this quest for an authentic gospel, the gospel of the Kingdom, is increasing. Loving God and His people is an honor. We will no longer make up excuses for powerlessness because powerlessness is inexcusable. Our mandate is simple: raise up a generation that can openly display the raw power of God.
In MY life and ministry I have often time faced setbacks,difficulties and so on. Being a man of God doesn’t immune me from the challenges of life.They come to all of us.Unfortunately not everybody overcome their circumstances.
You Were Born for the Impossible…
The reason God didn’t take you take you to be with Him when you were born again is because you have the divine assignment to invade the impossible. The reality of the Christian life is measured by the impact of the impossible.
Much of what we give God credit for can be done by the Kawanis Club. I’m don’t mean God is not involved, I’m just saying all it is doing is tapping into human talent to accomplish what mankind can accomplish.
What satisfaction is there in human accomplishment? There is some, but it’s not really lasting. It’s nothing like having cancer disappear. It’s nothing like the mother that lost the use of one arm to an accident, lost three inches of bone. She couldn’t grasp, couldn’t raise her arm; she couldn’t pick up her two year old because of this surgery. She had five surgeries in four and a half years. There was nothing like watching a lady pray for her and watching God add the three inches of bone adding all movement, all feeling, everything. Then she goes to pick up her two year old and her little girl says “No mommy, broken arm” because that’s all she has heard her whole life. To then see her say to her little girl, “No, it’s ok now.”
All the buildings I could build, all the money I could raise holds a breath to of competition to the moment of seeing that little girl held by her mother. I’ll take that over a million buildings.
And that’s who you are! You were born into this family, the actual Spirit of the resurrected Christ took up residents in us. He’s in us and He wants out!
Genesis 1:1 records that, ‘In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth’. He then went on to create people in his ‘image and likeness’, passing on to them something of his creative nature1. How then is it, that the God of all creation has ended up with a church which is, by and large, non-creative? Sadly, much of the church today could actually be described as being anti-creative rather than creative; it is resolutely resistant to new ideas and change.
To remain relevant we must remain creative. Without creativity our churches will look, sound, feel and be the same ten years from now. And standing still in our twenty-first century world will show up much quicker than at any previous time in history. We live in a fast moving, technological world that makes anything which is not moving appear obsolete overnight.
Creativity Is Not A Gift
Creativity is not a gift just given to certain ‘arty’ types of people. Neither is it a personality type, a particular kind of event or a notable work of art. Creativity is our God given nature; the creator of the universe has downloaded himself into people. Creativity is within our special DNA code; we are all creative by divine nature. We may not all be expressing it, but we already have it. Often, the unsaved are far more expressive of their innate sense of creativity than the church. But when we were born again, our fallen nature was redeemed, and with it our creativity, which was restored back to usefulness for God.
The Church must hear this and accept her responsibility to build creative, innovative, relevant churches that connect with their communities. Innovation is vital to the success of our churches, businesses and ministries. New ideas are our future. Our problem, however, seems to be that the burden of what we know is so huge, it limits what we can imagine. Our greatest challenge isn’t what we don’t know, but what we do know, and that stifles our ability to receive new ideas. We form unhealthy emotional attachments to methods, customs, traditions and styles and see ourselves as custodians of these sacred things. We get confused between form and essence and go to war with each other over hymn books, pews, choir robes, the King James Version and the removal of the church organ. And just in case we in ‘newer’ churches are thanking God that this is not true of us, we also go to war over our newer equivalents of these things. When we confuse form with essence we fight for things God doesn’t even care about. Thousands of churches have split over disagreements about form while completely missing the essence of reaching lost people.
The Two Roadblocks To Innovation
Innovation is the application of a new idea that results in a valuable improvement. This definition protects us from people thinking that innovation is just lots of useless ideas. If it can’t be used to improve what we do, it’s not truly innovative.
There are two massive roadblocks to innovative thinking. They are so huge that most people, and even fewer churches, ever get past them. They are group-think and expert-think.
• Group-think is the power of what most people around us think. It’s the crowd or herd mentality. It was group-think that had Jesus figured as being either Elijah, an Old Testament prophet, or John the Baptist.2
• Expert-think is what the experts around us think. It is group-think on steroids!
These two innovation killers pin us down under the huge weight of what’s already known, thereby disabling us from thinking beyond what everyone already knows but which is not working. Democratically run churches can be paralysed by the power of group-think, as can policy run businesses that have forgotten that they exist to serve people rather than their policies. Certain airlines come to mind, but I won’t go there!
Our group can be many things: our nationality, age group, home group, church denomination, interest group, economic group etc. The point is that the weight of evidence suggests that we are all hardwired to conform, fit in and be accepted by the group; to maintain the status quo. And even more so if our jobs, salaries, opportunities and friendships depend on us fitting in with the group. In these cases we are even more likely to keep quiet when progress demands that someone speaks up.
In the Star Trek movies they once encountered the nearest life-form to the church you could ever meet. They were called the Borg; a mindless, group-think, collective consciousness. There was no individuality, no personal identity and no independent thought; ‘all must assimilate to the Borg’ was their mantra. Again, certain airline staff co me to mind here, but I must move on!
Following the collapse of the American company Enron in 2001, it was stated in the enquiry report that everyone became mindless conformists once inside the Enron boardroom. What’s really shocking about this is that Enron’s board consisted of highly successful business leaders, professors and former senior politicians. If people of that calibre could surrender to the power of clearly faulty group-think, we are all vulnerable. Group-think doesn’t just affect weak-minded, easily intimidated people. I think I’m a pretty strong-minded independent thinker, but group-think affected my life for years.
Expert-think is seen in our overwhelming inclination to align ourselves with the boss or the expert or the best known way of doing things. It’s like group-think but on steroids, because experts don’t even need to be present to shut down new ideas. Someone we respect just quoting what the so-called experts say can immediately stifle creativity.
I’m not against expertise. I’d rather have an expert operating on me than a novice surgeon, and rather an expert lawyer than one fresh out of law school. The problem is that all experts approach life with certain fixed mindsets. The advantage of this is that they know how to react, almost without thinking, in complex situations. The disadvantage is that a fixed mindset is resistant to questioning, especially from non experts. I recently read a shocking statement that said the biggest killer currently in America is doctors. The point of the article being that doctors are experts and people don’t think to question either their diagnosis or the prescriptions they are given to take.
Zero Gravity Thinking
A zero gravity thinker is a person who has broken free from the weight and huge downward pull of group-think and expert-think. These innovative thinkers defy gravity by escaping from underneath the burden of what we already know. Zero gravity thinkers help us to reset the gravity levels in our team, church or business by helping us to attain a degree of weightlessness in our thinking. Whilst we welcome gravity in the physical world, we should not welcome it in our mental world. Gravity’s job is to keep everything and everyone down, but what if the idea you need is up?
‘Fix your mind on things above, not on earthly things’ exhorted the apostle Paul3. Because God wants to do ‘immeasurably more’ than we can imagine4. Isaiah tells us that ‘God’s thoughts are not our thoughts’ but far higher5. But the more stuff we accumulate mentally, the bigger the weight of gravity anchoring it down.
The Emperor’s New Clothes
Do you remember the story of the Emperor’s new clothes? Everyone was told that only the most loyal subjects would be able to see the king’s new clothes. As the king paraded through the streets everyone shouted how fine and grand he looked, until he passed a small boy. This little boy shouted out what everyone knew but dare not say: ‘The king is in the all together; he’s naked!’ The story goes that the king fled indoors because he also knew the truth, but had allowed the two ‘expert’ tailors, who were really swindlers, to deceive him.
This story carries a powerful insight about the nature of zero gravity thinkers. They are people with some psychological distance and mental separation from what everyone else is too close to. The boy in the story was outside of the social pressure to appear loyal to the king. He didn’t care what others thought and wasn’t part of any group he didn’t want to upset.
It’s very difficult to keep mental distance from things that we do everyday and it becomes more difficult the longer we do them. When Jesus said to the crowds in his sermon on the mount, ‘You have heard it said… but I say to you’ 6, he was resetting the gravity levels established generations ago on thinking about murder, adultery, divorce, keeping your word, treatment of your enemies, etc. Jesus spent most of his public life challenging old group-think and expert-think strongholds in order to make way for both his new wine and his new wineskin, the church.
The Jethro Factor
Jethro was Moses’ father-in-law and his visit to Moses, when camped at Sinai in the wilderness, is recorded in Exodus. We read, ‘The next day Moses took his seat to serve as judge for all the people and they stood around him from morning till evening. When his father-in-law Jethro saw all that Moses was doing for the people he said, “What is this you are doing for the people? Why do you alone sit as judge, while all these people stand around you from morning till evening?”’ 7
Apparently no one had ever asked the great Moses why he did it that way? Moses’ answer was a classic expert-think answer when he basically said, ‘I’m Moses; this is what I do. When people don’t know God’s will or have a dispute they come to me and I give them the answer’. Jethro basically said, ‘That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard, this is gonna kill you and the people!’ Then he proceeded to give Moses a zero gravity thinking solution to his problem. Jethro had psychological separation from Moses’ world. He wasn’t a Hebrew, he wasn’t a leader under Moses and best of all, he wasn’t staying. We desperately need people like this in our world, people who can look at what we do and see with ease how it could be done better or smarter. These zero gravity thinkers are the key to keeping our churches, businesses and ministries innovative and relevant.
I thank God for every Jethro who has visited my church and had the confidence and gravity-free perspective to ask me ‘why?’ about various things in our ministry. Sadly, many pastors are too threatened and insecure to welcome a Jethro and so, like Moses, continue to wear both themselves and the people out.
Do you want your church, business and ministry to still be useful to God ten years from now? If so, you must commit to growing a creative life, and to sustain a creative life you must become a zero gravity thinker.
1 Genesis 1:26
2 Matthew 16:13-14
3 Colossians 3:2
4 Ephesians 3:20
5 Isaiah 55:9
6 Matthew 5:21-22
7 Exodus 18:13-14