Poking Out Your “I’s”

There is an important step in spiritual growth after the babyhood stage of Christianity. Growth means more than the acquisition of “knowledge” as Paul indicates in 1 Corinthians 8:1

“Knowledge puffs up, but love edifies (makes us grow up)”

In other words, if our goal is just to “know all we can” about the Bible, we will lean towards pride, being puffed up, and this is what generally happens to people who just “stay home and study” but never learn the importance and value of community among believers in Christ.

Maturity in the life of a Christian is evidenced by “love of the brethren” as Apostle John stated in 1 John 4:11.

“Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.”

This kind of love develops through relationships otherwise it is loving in word only and not in deed.

“My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth” 1 John 3:11

 A huge acceleration will take place in a person’s spiritual growth in Christ when they make a commitment to live in community with other believers. I’m not suggesting that we all sell our homes and go in for communal living as that is not what Scripture teaches. But the Bible does teach that we are to “share life” with other believers, it is the Greek word “koinonia” meaning “partnership, communion, and fellowship.” 

“But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanses us from all sin.” 1 John1:7

God has made provision for our fellowship by instituting the Local Church as the place where believers have “partnership, communion and fellowship” in order to grow strong in the Lord and be effective witnesses in our world.

Again, growing spiritually means more than getting Bible knowledge, which we can all do by watching tv and reading books. But we cannot “grow in love for one another” with out “relationship” with “one another.” Real growth takes place after relationships are formed where we actually have to deal with each others strengths and weaknesses, develop the Fruit of the Spirit, and learn to work together on God’s projects for our City, State and Nation.

The big hindrances to growing out of babyhood stages include the following “I’s”.

IGNORANCE –  Many believers are not involved in the life of the Local Church due to ignorance, they just haven’t discovered what God said about it in His Word. A study of all the “one another’s” in the New Testament will provide the revelation.

ISOLATION – Other believers know they should be engaged in the life of a Local Church, but they remain isolated for a variety of reasons. Someone has “hurt their feelings” and they have forsaken the community through offense. Or, some have been abused by authority figures in life and are living in fear of abuse from others. On and on we could go with the reasons for isolation, but the result is the same, they will remain “baby Christians.”

INDEPENDENCE – This is by far one of the main reasons why many Christians stay aloof from the community of saints, pride. Pride is earmarked by the independent spirit that says, “I don’t need the Church; I have Holy Spirit and He will teach me.” There is often an unwillingness to work with others unless “I can be in charge.” Pride looks down on others as not being worthy of “my company” because I am “so spiritual.”

I’m sure you have met people with one or all of these issues that keep them in “babyhood Christianity.” It is time for believers to make spiritual maturity a priority in their lives and become the people God can use to bring transformation to our world. We must obey the Word of God that teaches to “live in Community” with the saints and learn to “love one another.” One of the greatest enemies to our testimony as Christians is the lack of involvement in the Local Church. Without commitment, there can be no conviction to our testimony. See you at worship service!

Dr. John

Broke or Broken

11793555_sThe Bible speaks of two types of poverty, “spiritual” and “material” poverty. Most believers have heard the message of Biblical Prosperity and know how to advance themselves in material possessions; however, there is a lack of understanding of spiritual poverty and how to be rich in spiritual things as well.

“Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’—and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked. I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see.” Revelations 3:17-18 NKJV

According to these verses, we can be materially rich, and yet be living in spiritual poverty, we can be broke spiritually. If we see material possessions as the hallmark of God’s blessing, then in fact we have become Materialists who have a “spirit of mammon.” Materialism exists in our lives when we are trying to meet spiritual needs with material possessions, something God denounces in the Word. When we focus on our material accumulation at the expense of our spiritual richness, we are called “wretched, miserable, poor, blind and naked,” these are not the things I want to hear spoken over my life or ministry and yet, many believers have never progressed beyond the pursuit of material blessings.

Being spiritually rich means that I have an abundance of revelation of God’s Word in my heart and that I have sought and learned how to flow in the Gifts of the Spirit in order to fulfill the ministry of Christ in this world. There is only one way to become spiritually rich, we must be broken vessels before the Lord. We do have a treasure in these earthen vessels as scripture says, but for the anointing to flow in our lives and be released to others, we must have a “broken and contrite spirit.” (see Psalms 51:17) This is simply a heart that is fully yielded to God in submission and obedience to His will. The story of the Woman with the Alabaster Box illustrates the fact that God wants our full surrender, a will that is completely submitted to His will before He will bring us into the abundant spiritual life in Christ. We are not talking here about  a doctrine or works but being in position for God to work in and through us for His own glory. We are either broke or broken when it comes to our relationship with God. Which are you?

Overcoming the Independent Spirit

25459205_sIt is not a new revelation that we have a “fatherless” generation in our world presently, with all the attending consequences of dysfunction, independence, anger and hopelessness.  God called it a curse in Malachi 4:5-6: “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD: and he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.”

A number of years ago, God began to change the hearts of religious leaders into spiritual fathers, who say to their disciples “come follow me” (Mathew 4:19).  They were seeking a genuine relationship of love where sons and daughters are blessed with the generational inheritance of a double portion (Deuteronomy 21:17).

After this change occurred and fathers were in a place to receive sons into relationship, God began to “turn the hearts of the children” with men and women seeking out their spiritual fathers and mothers.  These followers whose hearts have been delivered from the orphan spirit also have a cry in their hearts which says, like Elisha, “I will not leave thee” (2 Kings 4:4).

When Elisha asked Elijah for a double portion of his spirit, the elder prophet responded, “you have asked a hard thing.”  What difficulty was he referring to?  It certainly would not be hard for God to give Elisha the blessing, and it wouldn’t be hard for Elijah to lay hands upon him either.  So what was the problem?  It was going to be hard for Elisha to become the son he wanted to be.

When Elisha asked for the double portion, he was referring to the generational inheritance that belongs to a firstborn son (Deuteronomy 21:17).  In effect, he was actually asking Elijah to become his spiritual father.

Many “would-be” sons and daughters have identified the need for an “Elijah” in their life.  They have asked for relationship as well, not fully realizing the process that would qualify them for the inheritance and right to be called a son or a daughter.

Those who have grown up without a natural father in their life have many of the results mentioned above.  I personally know the struggle of growing up with a “breadwinner” and not a “dad.”  After getting saved and called to ministry, I sought for a father through every spiritual leader in my life and found only those who had not been fathered themselves.  This kind of a person was incapable of being a father to me.  I often encountered the abuse of a “Saul” type of religious leader, or the rejection of an insecure one who was trying to minister from their own dysfunction.  These experiences caused me to press into God for a “fathering spirit” myself.  This is when God gave me my first revelation of the Elijah anointing.

It is possible to be raised by God in the absence of a real spiritual father in your life, but that is not the pattern that God intended.  God planned for spiritual fathers to raise their families and leave a legacy of sons and daughters for generations who would continue the process with their own offspring in the spirit.

When we grow up without a spiritual father, we develop an independent spirit.  An independent spirit is a characteristic of an orphan heart.  A person with an independent spirit has had no one to approve, appoint, protect, or promote them.  They end up having to do these things themselves.  These are normally the functions of a father in our lives.  The independent spirit is easy to identify because it is self-appointing, self- protecting, and self-promoting.  The problem then becomes one of being able to function within a family.

Relationships are difficult, many often ending in offense and discouragement.  This is why we see people with an independent spirit are not able to stay in one place very long.  They wander and roam not knowing they are looking for a “family.”  But families have fathers.

When this happens, recognizing and accepting a father into our lives becomes a “hard thing.”  Remember the words of Elijah to Elisha…”you have asked a hard thing.”

An independent spirit will not let an individual be the “representative of another” – they can only represent themselves.  But in the process of becoming a son or daughter, we learn to “represent another.”  Jesus said, “If you have seen me you have seen My Father” (John 14.9).

In relationship to our earthly spiritual fathers, others should be able to see the spirit of the fathers in the sons and daughters.  The Apostle Paul said Timothy was a “true son” because he was able to represent Paul accordingly (Philippians 2:19-22).  If we have not served with another as a son does with a father, God will connect us with a father whom we can serve until we become a son.

We will have to enter another’s vision and become representative of it in order to be delivered from the independent spirit of “self” that has grown from our orphan heart.  Our spiritual fathers will know when true “sonship” has occurred, just like Elijah knew when Elisha was ready to receive his inheritance.  Elijah said, “If you see me when I go up,” which in the original language means, “If we see eye to eye.”  Elisha had learned to see eye to eye with his spiritual father’s vision.

Can you see your spiritual father’s vision and represent it?  This is the pathway to deliverance from an independent spirit, and the road to recovery from an orphan heart.

When we become true sons, curses resulting from an orphan heart are broken in our lives (Malachi 4:6).  We enter into freedom from a self-directed life.  We have a deeper revelation of our Father’s Love for us, because the independent spirit keeps us blinded to a degree.  We are able to receive and give love without the hindrances of insecurity, inferiority, and poor self-perception.

Without seeing a father’s vision and serving it, we have been left to serve our own vision.  Of course we have individual visions, but sonship occurs through the process of relating to a spiritual father as we serve the vision of another man.  This is what Elisha did.  This is what the disciples of Jesus did.  This is what Joshua did, and it is what we must all do.

Many believers have an independent spirit because they have encountered abuse from parents or other authority figures.  Because of this they have decided that no one else is worthy of trust when it comes to their life and destiny.  With the availability of Chris- tian TV, radio, seminars, conferences, and ministry partnerships with nationally known ministers, other believers have grown spiritually without relating to a local church family where there was a spiritual father in the house.  They approach the church with the “self-approved, -appointed, -promoted and -protective attitude” and are difficult to deal with.

This is the “hard thing” brought about by fatherlessness.  If their established agenda is not appealed to by the leadership, they simply move on looking for the “right place” (meaning a place where they can represent themselves without confrontation).

Pastors can usually see the calling on a believer’s life, and will believe in their personal vision, but still will not be able to release that person within the church because of their inability to see beyond their “own thing.”  Such dear people can cause unintentional damage if they do not understand and relate properly to the “vision of the house.”  This can cause offense and confusion which gives place to accusation and betrayal, ruining many good churches.

The same is true with ministry sons and daughters who are being connected to today’s apostolic movements.  If they have developed their ministry vision through an independent spirit, the apostle to whom they connect may have the same problems as the local pastor we just described.  These anointed vessels may have the same traits of the independent spirit and will need to understand that they must be in submission to the father whom God has placed in their life.

This simply means they must submit, or come under the mission of another.  The independent-spirited one may fight for recognition for a while, wanting the father to recognize their call and vision, providing opportunity before any loyalty to the father’s vision is established.  They have not yet realized the move of the Spirit today to “restore the hearts of fathers and children,” and that this is the prophetic mandate upon the church at this time.

This process will produce the “mature sons and daughters” who really represent the Heavenly Father as Jesus did, and will release the greatest blessing of God the earth has ever seen.  Malachi said, “unless I smite the earth with a curse…” meaning that when the restoration occurs, the earth will be mightily blessed.  The mature sons and daughters who have been blessed with their double portion will do the works of the Father and usher in the return of the King of Kings!

Let’s ask God for understanding of the work He is doing at this time and find our place within it.

Stop What is Stopping You

Have you ever felt that you have been on a “plateau” for too long a time, that you should already have reached your next level of spiritual or material increase?  Maybe it is one of three things that is stopping your progress.  Let’s take a look at three “progress stoppers” from Scripture, and the solution to each one.
 
1.  The enemy of your soul, satan, may be the first cause of a halt in progress in your life.  I mention him first because he represents the least of our problems in the list I am suggesting.  Matthew tells the account of Jesus crossing the lake when a storm arose, “trying to stop Him” from the assignment waiting on the other side.
 
“Now when He got into a boat, His disciples followed Him.  And suddenly a great tempest arose on the sea, so that the boat was covered with the waves.  But He was asleep.  Then His disciples came to Him and awoke Him, saying, “Lord, save us! We are perishing!”  But He said to them, “Why are you fearful, O you of little faith?”  Then He arose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm.  So the men marveled, saying, “Who can this be, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?” (Matthew 8:23-27 NKJV)
 
Jesus responded to this “progress stopper” by “rebuking” the storm.  The word “rebuke”  is the same Greek word He used when rebuking demons, suggesting that satan was behind this storm.  We also have authority to rebuke the devil when he opposes our progress as we carry out God’s assignments for our lives.  Satan rarely bothers with a believer until they find God’s will and seek to do it.  When we have embarked on our spiritual journey to fulfill all that God intends for us, we can be assured that we have the needed weapon to remove satan from our path – the Name of Jesus.
 
2.  We may be stopping “ourselves” by trying to do the right thing without the proper instruction and training.  Jesus was premature in attempting to fulfill His role as Messiah in Luke 2, having left his parents and gone into the temple to teach the spiritual leaders, and was sent back home to continue to learn and grow in the house of Joseph and Mary.
 
Then He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was subject to them, but His mother kept all these things in her heart.  And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men. (Luke 2:51-52 NKJV)

Jesus was released to fulfill His assignment after He reached the needed level of wisdom and maturity.

Paul told Timothy that those who refuse instruction actually are “opposing themselves”.
 
And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth; And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will. (2 Timothy 2:24-26 KJV)

Being unteachable will stop progress in our lives, making us our own worst enemy; maintaining a teachable spirit will unleash progress in our lives.  So far we have observed satan and self as two of the “progress stoppers.”
 
3.  Last, but certainly not least, is God.  Yes, God will stop us at times in our lives when we need a character adjustment.  God is more concerned about what we “become” rather than what we “accomplish.”  Someone has rightly noted that “talent can take you far, but only character can maintain what you have attained.”
 
But he giveth more grace.  Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble. (James 4:6 KJV)

The verse says that God will oppose those who are operating in “pride.”  If God stands in your way, forget about progress until you find out what He wants to do in your life and make the necessary changes.  Pride is often an overestimation of ourselves, whereas humility is a correct estimation of our selves, including both strengths and weaknesses.  Pride is “self-sufficiency,” depending own our own abilities without the grace of God.  Humility is recognizing God’s place in our lives and surrendering to Him, and depending on His grace to accomplish His will for us.  People who have learned to “acknowledge Him in all their ways” have gone far and left a great legacy in this world. 
 
I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me. (Philippians 4:13 KJV)