God’s Plan For Sundays

Screen Shot 2015-10-26 at 2.57.40 PMA national outreach program called “I Love Sunday’s” was just concluded with over 30,000 churches participating, including Faith Church International in Fairmont, WV where I am Senior Pastor. The messages were very helpful in refocusing our priorities and the use of Sunday as a day God intended for physical rest and spiritual refreshing. Another aim of this series was to give people who attend church regularly an opportunity to invite those who don’t. The efforts were successful at our campus with many new guests in our Sunday services. Our prayer now is that all the folks will get in the habit of using Sunday as God intended, and continuing to invite others as a matter of course.

While reading Acts 20 recently, I noticed a passage that shows how Christians in New Testament times met on the first day of the week (Sunday) to do at least three things that we should also practice today.

“And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached to them; ready to depart on the morrow; and continued his speech until midnight.” Acts 20:7

  1. The disciples came together. Scripture exhorts us to “assemble together” regularly to provoke one another to love and good works. Hebrews 10:23-25
  2. The disciples broke bread. This can be a reference to eating together, and/or taking the Lord’s Supper.
  3. The disciples heard Paul preach the word. Faith comes from hearing the Word of God under the anointed ministry of the local church eldership who are five fold gifted ministers.

This was the practice of the first Christians, and one reason the early church was so effective in turning the world upside down. We could summarize these three points by saying that an effective Church/Christian will understand the need and importance of a “corporate unity” (coming together for a common purpose), “to establish close relationships with other believers” (breaking bread) and to “grow in faith” (hearing the Word of God).

The Ministry of Jesus vs. the Ministry of Paul

32372485_sI find that many church leaders, especially those who were born again during the Pentecostal and Charismatic Revivals of the 60-80’s, emphasize the ministry of Jesus more than the ministry of Paul. What is the difference between these two apostolic ministries, and what should be the focus of each?

During the earthly ministry of Jesus, He ministered primarily to the “lost sheep of Israel,” with the exception of his teaching ministry to the disciples whom He had chosen to be in the school of ministry. The mission statement of Jesus, found in Luke 4:18, is directed to the needs of people for repentance, healing and deliverance: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed.”

This was not a message of spiritual growth and maturity, but of liberation to those “whom Satan had bound.” Jesus came to “bind the strongman and spoil his goods” by preaching, healing and casting out devils. Jesus was not speaking to born-again people who could understand the mysteries of the Kingdom of God. But so often, church leaders are trying to duplicate the ministry of Jesus to the church every Sunday, as though they were the unsaved crowd Jesus was ministering among. We often use John 14:12-14 as the basis for this philosophy of ministry: “The works that I do, shall he do also” (referring to the deliverance ministry of Jesus). By following this practice each week, we actually are keeping the congregation in need of healing and deliverance, because they are never growing up spiritually and taking their position as sons of God through Christ. We need the ministry of Jesus to the masses of unsaved people, and we need the availability of that ministry to people in our congregations that need it.

But we need to shift our focus for the church to the ministry of Paul as stated in Colossians 1:25-29: “…of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God which was given to me for you, to fulfill the word of God, the mystery which has been hidden from ages and from generations, but now has been revealed to His saints. To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Him we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus. To this end I also labor, striving according to His working which works in me mightily.“ Notice especially verses 28-29, where Paul outlines the

functions and purpose of his apostolic ministry to include both “preaching to warn every man” and teaching to “present every man complete in Christ.” As we read the letters of Paul, we can sense that “power that worked mightily in him” as he taught the church who they are “In Christ.” The apostolic ministry of Paul weighed heavily on a teaching ministry that would produce Christ-like people who understood the New Creation completely.

Herein lies the difference between the Ministry of Jesus and the Ministry of Paul. We need both operations in the world, but we should realize that the Ministry of Jesus was more to the unsaved world, while the Ministry of Paul was more toward the church, even though Paul’s apostolic ministry included preaching to people who were hearing the gospel for the first time, and was confirmed by miracles, signs and wonders; yet he spent most of his time teaching the believers New Creation Realities. When believers have understood completely what God’s work in Christ means to them, they will not need the Ministry of Jesus every Sunday to get them healed and delivered again. The reason pastors are often trapped into doing the Ministry of Jesus weekly is because the people don’t have a New Testament understanding of redemption. This may be because the leaders themselves have not yet received the revelation contained in Paul’s writings. We need to understand more than, Justification, Sanctification and Regeneration – we also need to know what it means to be a son of God with all the privileges and inheritance of the Family of God: “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name.” (John 1:12) Much of the church is still living as “servants” and have never moved to “sonship.” There is a transition from servant to son that must take place where we are not relating to God based on our “performance” but from our “position” in Christ.

The church today desperately needs the Ministry of Paul so that they can come to maturity and “do the greater works” of which Jesus spoke. The Lord said that believers would do the works that He did listed in Matthew 11:2-5, referring to the deliverance ministry of Jesus: “And when John had heard in prison about the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples and said to Him, ‘Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?’ Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Go and tell John the things which you hear and see: the blind see and the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear; the dead are raised up and the poor have the gospel preached to them. And blessed is he who is not offended because of Me.’ ” But He also said we would do “greater works than these,” referring to getting people born again, spirit-filled and grown up in Christ.

The world is waiting for the mature sons of God to manifest, those who will reveal the nature of the Father, who is Love. May the Lord help us to see when each of these apostolic ministries is needed, and release them accordingly for His glory.

The Three Most Important Decisions in Life

29910411_s Life doesn’t give people what they want, but what they believe. Everyone wants nice things, good health, and happy days, but they don’t happen automatically.  Making right choices is what determines how life treats us.  God has given us the “right of choice”, but are we making the “right choices”?  Here are three areas that matter most in our lives:

OUR MASTER

Who will be Master of our lives?  Will we chose to be “lord of our own life”, or will we give that place to Jesus Christ?  Many people have accepted the fact that Jesus is the only way to God, and have received Him as their personal Savior, but not all of these believers have made Jesus the Lord and Master of all of life.  There is really only one thing we can give to God, and that is the surrender of our will to Him.  It was man’s will that got him into trouble to start with by deliberately disobeying the Lord’s instructions in the Garden of Eden.  The surrendered will means that we have given Christ the right to guide us according to His will for our lives, and while we are living in the will of God, He is Master and things will work for our good.

OUR MATE

Who will be our Mate in life?  I have seen many people make the wrong decision when it came to marriage, sometimes because of loneliness, sometimes because of stubbornness, and sometimes just because of plain old lust.  I have often told people that it is better to be alone than to be with the wrong person.  There are worse things than loneliness and celibacy, like abuse, violence, and betrayal, for example.  Choosing a life partner should be approached according to scriptural guidelines, the consultation of parental and spiritual authority, and above all the leading of the Spirit of God in one’s heart.  What God joins together will be fruitful and without doubt the best thing that could happen to us.

OUR MISSION

What will be our Mission in life?  God has created us all with gifts and callings that empower us to fulfill the mission intended by Him.  The stages of life include Survival, Success and Significance.  When we are young, we are trying to survive the cost of education, the raising of children and all that life throws our way.  When we have reached midlife, we usually have achieved some measure of success in terms of having a nice home, car and some money in the bank.  But as we grow older we think of what our legacy will be:  what are we leaving for the benefit of future generations?  How have we added value to the lives of others, and how will our legacy continue to do so after we are gone?  What is our real significance?  Determining our ultimate mission usually takes place after some years of trial and error and learning some wisdom from experiencing life.  This is something we should all think about – God has a mission prepared for us all that will result in Significance.

If we make the right choices in these three areas, life will be lived to the fullest and God will be glorified.

3G Christians

32014371_sIn the cell phone world there is 3G and 4G service allowing us to connect with one another at any time and place (usually).  I happened to think about 3G’s relating to believers in Jesus Christ the other day and thought others might be blessed by them.  As a pastor/teacher, part of my spiritual gifts include receiving and giving messages to the Body of Christ, so here goes.

GOING TO HEAVEN

As Christians we know that we are “Going to Heaven” because of the shed Blood of Christ, and that is our first “G”.  This “G” corresponds to what I call “babyhood faith,” because as new believers this is about the extent of our revelation.  But hopefully, we will not remain spiritual babes for long, but will get into the Word of God and start growing up in Christ.

GROWING UP

This brings us to our second “G” – “Growing Up”, or what I call “maturing faith.”  The Bible speaks of Moses “when he came to years” (Hebrews 11:24-27) as having made some mature choices that resulted in him becoming the leader who brought Israel out of Egyptian bondage.  The Word says that Moses“chose to suffer affliction with God’s people rather than to enjoy the pleasures of Egypt.”  As we grow up in Christ, we must realize that confessing Christ publicly may result in some persecution as well, but we embrace it by the grace of God.  Moses also had spiritual values because he “esteemed the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt.”  How true it is that when we encounter the Living Christ, our appetites change and we consider Him our greatest treasure.  Finally, Moses demonstrates the level of maturity he had reached by “not fearing the wrath of the king (Pharaoh), for he endured seeing Him who is invisible.”  Moses lost the fear of Pharaoh when he had revelation of his God Who was greater than all the kings of the Earth.  We also can grow spiritually to live like Moses did even during hardship, persecution, and unfavorable circumstances (like having an army chasing you into the sea).

GOING INTO THE WORLD

The last “G” is “Going into the World.”  I call this “ministry faith.”  We have “babyhood faith,” “maturing faith,” and “ministry faith.”  Our spiritual growth is not complete until we have reached this third dimension, where we are actually doing the “works of Jesus” by going into all the world with the Good News and proclaiming it to others.  We not only share the Gospel with others, but we do what Jesus did by praying for healing, deliverance and miracles that will exalt God and confirm our message of faith in the resurrected Christ.

Are you a 3G Christian yet?

Obedience

38863682_sStep two in your Christian walk, after faith, is obedience.  We are saved by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9); we start out with faith and learn to receive “God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense” (GRACE).  That is great, but can become very one-sided if it’s all about “what He did for ME.”  Many believers never get beyond the faith and grace message because they never get beyond self.

We can be extremely blessed because of God’s grace that we receive by faith (not works), but never become mature Christians because maturity doesn’t come by faith, it comes by obedience.  Faith is all about what He did for me, but obedience is all about what I do for Him.  Maturity means taking responsibility for the work that Christ commanded (not suggested) that we do on His behalf (2 Corinthians 5:19-21).  Obedient people take responsibility for the work of evangelism, discipleship and shepherding the flock of God.  The people who are mature are ones that God promotes in His kingdom work, giving them favor and influence that turns people’s lives to God.  Don’t be deceived into thinking you are a mature believer because of God”s blessings of health and wealth.  You are mature when your hand is on the plough and you are working in the vineyard.  Not a popular message, but truth anyway.

Where are the laborers who are serious about obeying Christ?  If you teach people how to receive all God has for them, they will shout your praises, but when we start recruiting laborers for the harvest, the tone often changes.  I suggest every believer do a word study in the New Testament on “work” and “works”, not just faith and grace.  You will be shocked to find out that obedience and work are spoken of as much as faith and grace.

It’s time to stop postponing obedience while we are building the good life for self.  Delayed obedience is disobedience.  You are NEEDED in the work of God (Matthew 9:35-38).

Your Ministry Connection

26311742_sDo you have a calling on your life for a leadership role in God’s Church?  If so, it is vitally important that you understand the connection that God uses to prepare and release you into destiny.  The disciples had to maintain the connection with Jesus as their mentor in ministry because satan will always try to separate you from the anointing you are called to sit under until release comes.  Many people move themselves out from under the place where God set them and at that point they stop the process of development for the call.  You can’t take these things into your own hands and divide yourself from the spiritual relationships that God has ordained for your life.  (Read Luke 22:31-32 and Mark 10:9.)

Many are called, but few are chosen.  After over 40 years serving God, much of that time has been spent in training and raising up leaders.  I have seen many more get sifted out of relationship and end up living far below what God intended for them than those who went all the way.  We must understand what spiritual parenting is all about from the Word of God.  You didn’t choose your natural parents, or trade them in for someone else, you remain their children for life.  Paul said, “you have many teachers, but not many fathers, follow me therefore..” (1 Corinthians 4:15-17).  There is so much religion in spirit-filled believers and so little understanding of the Bible and the ways of the Lord.

Also, there is an independent spirit that doesn’t listen to any other voice but its own, thinking it is God.  The Bible says, “let every matter be established by the mouth of two or three witnesses” because we can be deceived by our own agenda (self).  I know this goes out to a lot of people, and that’s good because the problem is widespread.  We need people who go all the way in the process and don’t take themselves out, because the harvest is great but the (real) laborers are few.  My heart’s cry is for spiritual sons and daughters to maintain in the process until they hear the prophetic word from leadership in their life (Acts 13:1-4, 1 Timothy 4:14).  I have would-be sons and daughters in many places that I hope will read and heed this word.