5-Fold Gifts

How can we as the church be the "light of the world" Jesus intended us to be?  How can we reflect Jesus to a world that is desperate what he has to offer?

When the 5 Ephesians 4 gifts Jesus gave to his body are in operation in a local community (church), that church will literally be Jesus to the neighborhood and city around them.  At City Church, our mission is to "Live Like Jesus" because we believe when Jesus said, "You are the light of the world" He anticipated his follower demonstrating who He was to the world around them. The reality is that we will never be able to do that unless we learn to walk in the 5-fold gifts Jesus gave to his church.  What are those vital gifts Jesus gives?

He... gave gifts to his people... - apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors (shepherds), and teachers to equip people for the works of service... until we... attain to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.  (Ephesians 4:8,10)

Apostles and Prophets, Evangelists and Shepherds, Teachers.  Gifts Jesus gave to the body.  Gifts that equip us to live like Jesus (work of ministry) and be like Jesus (maturity and stature).

Jesus himself embodied each of these gifts as He was - The Sent One (A), Truth Teller (P), Story Creator (E), Caretaker (S), and Mind Opener (T).  Jesus enables some of his children to embody these gifts in exceptional ways as He did.  The body of Christ is meant learn from them how to live out those aspects of who Jesus was.  Each of member of the body (church) has the capacity to embody these gifts in some measure as we are created in Christ's image.  When we reflect the fullness of the APEST, we reflect the fullness of Christ himself.

A local church that is learning to identify and activate these gifts in its membership and leadership, that is committed to equipping ALL of the body to live like Jesus, and that believes each one of us has this potential because the Spirit of Jesus lives in us will be well on its way to seeing the power of Jesus and his gospel transform a neighborhood and city.

Revival

Will You not Yourself revive us again, that Your people may rejoice in You? - Psalm 85:6

The Israelite people could look back and remember times when God showed up.  He appeared to Abraham and promised him a nation.  He appeared to Moses in a burning bush and promised his people deliverance from slavery in Egypt. Their history was filled with stories of God's faithfulness to appear even in the darkest of times.  In fact, a whole book of the Bible, Judges, is just story after story of God visiting his people through the likes of Deborah, Gideon, Samson, and more.

In more recent times, God has continued the trend.  R.T. Kendall (author of one of my favorite books, Total Forgiveness) writes about one such occasion:

In 1802, in an area called Cane Ridge in Bourbon County, Kentucky a Methodist lay preacher stood on a fallen tree on a Sunday morning before 15,000 people, taking his text from 2 Corinthians 5:10 – “We must all stand before the judgment seat of Christ to give an account of things done in the body, whether good or bad”. As he spoke hundreds fell to the ground by the power of the Holy Spirit. It was the beginning of the camp meeting phenomena. The Great Awakening lasted for over 20 years. The Cane Ridge Revival lasted only four days.

Last Friday more than six churches gathered to pray in our city.  It felt as if God was there.  Blessing the unity of the body and speaking to us about humility and repentance.  If revival is about God reviving his people, we were experiencing that very thing.  Our hearts were not only being drawn close to Jesus and one another but also towards the city we live in as we were moved to pray for our neighborhoods, friends, and those who found themselves in challenging and distressing situations.

 Churches Praying Together - January 19, 2018

Churches Praying Together - January 19, 2018

Revival often begins when people remember what God has done in the past and begin to long for Him to do it again.  This desire revives hearts forming in us a desire for more, a desire to see God as he truly is.  It involves humility as we acknowledge who God truly is.  It involves repentance as realize the ways are lives are not in line with God's purposes and ask him do do the necessary alignment in us.

At City Church, we want God to do that heart work in us.  Our vision to live like Jesus is only possible to the extent that God aligns our hearts with his heart.  As we continue to pursue God together in worship and prayer with churches across the city, I believe our hearts and minds will more fully see the greatness of Jesus.  As we do (and respond appropriately), we will experience the reviving of our own hearts and the awakening of our city that we are hoping for.

Why Fasting?

Why Fasting?

God uses fasts to increase our hunger to spend time with Jesus, to give us more time to spend in prayer, and to remind us that this world and its desires are passing away. I find at the completion of these fasts I am often more focused on God's kingdom and more filled with God's power simply because I have been spending more time with him!

Many heroes of the faith fasted including Moses, Elijah, Esther, and Jesus.  We follow their example!  Jesus expected his followers to fast knowing how good it would be for them, "They will fast in that day." (Mark 2:20)

Our fasting symbolizes are longing for God's kingdom to come on earth  and for Jesus' return.  It is a prophetic statement, "This world/food is not what satisfies it is you and your kingdom, Jesus." It reminds us we are living in the times between Christ's first appearance and the time he will return to finish the renewal of all things.

In Acts 13, we see the early church praying and fasting.  In fact, it was a key to their success in seeing kingdom expansion.  Paul and Barnabas were called to to church plant across the Roman world in a time of prayer and fasting. As we model their lifestyle, we will see similar breakthroughs.

What Does a Fast Look Like?
First, please remember that if you have certain health issues a change in diet or a fast can be medically dangerous and should be avoided. As always, remember to drink lots of water especially when fasting.

Fasting works best if you replace the meal(s) or activity you are skipping with times of prayer, mediating on scripture, and worship.  Otherwise, it becomes a mere physical ritual instead of life-giving experience in which you are learning to transform your physical hunger into a hunger for God.  The Spirit will help us in our weakness - Romans 8:26!

A Fast
The phrase "fasting" in our context is typically used to mean fasting from all foods for a meal, day, week, etc.

A Water Fast
A water or juice fast involves abstaining from all substances EXCEPT water or juice. This typically should last for no more than 3-10 days.

A Daniel Fast
The idea of a "Daniel fast" is found in Daniel Chapter 1 where Daniel and his friends refuse to eat the king's fine food and instead embrace a diet of vegetables during their time of training in Babylon. A "Daniel fast" for me consists of not eating any meats or sweats or fine foods (define that however you want :). I generally eat fruits, vegetables, some breads, beans, rice, and grains. Some keep a stricter diet than that. I have used a "Daniel Fast" for when I am doing fasts of more than 2-3 days.

A Media Fast
A media fast can involve abstaining from some type of daily entertainment - such as Facebook, tv/movies, internet, video games, etc. - for an extended period of time. I have found these to be very helpful for me when I have done them.

In fasting it is not the diet that matters, it is a heart that wants more of God and less of the world. Prayerfully, consider fasting and praying corporately with other members of our church. It changes us and the world around us.

America Has A Fundamental Problem

When will we realize it?

 

Tragedies like the shooting being relayed to us today in which as of 1:25PM 58 people had been killed and over 500 had been injured are devastating.  For all those who lost loved ones, their lives will never be the same.  My heart goes out to them and all others affected.  It is a time for mourning and grieving.

It is also a time for deep reflection.  The news cycle will move on the, the number of Facebook posts asking us to pray for Las Vegas will decrease, and we will again grow numb due the comfort of modern living to the pain and horror of what happened.

I fear this reality.  Why?  I believe America has a fundamental problem.

 

I believe it lies deep at the heart of America’s origins, and it has reared its ugly head throughout our short history.  It is a problem that has refused to heed the cautionary warnings of a Rabbi many years ago who said, “Those who take up the sword shall perish by the sword.”

It is worth stating here before we consider further that I am in no way ascribing (and neither was the Teacher) individual blame to the victims of these types of heinous shootings.

Instead, I am asking us to reflect more deeply on the condition of our own hearts and on the history of our nation.

 

The United States was founded through an armed up rising resulting in a revolutionary war.  It expanded its borders through more wars fought against England, Mexico, and Native Americans.  It eradicated slavery at the cost of a civil war that claimed 620,000 lives. In modern times, it has participated in two world wars and initiated and maintained military conflicts in the Vietnam and Middle East (ongoing).

I would imagine most of these conflicts were seen by the majority of Americans at the time as justified (and surely some may have been to some extent).  America seems to have always been willing to stand up for itself and protect itself against perceived threats both domestically and abroad.  The question is at what cost?

What are the results of a human heart being discipled by an ethos that asserts one’s fundamental rights to bear arms AND pursue one’s own happiness?  Stop. Think about that one more time. The right to possess violent weaponry and the right to pursue your own property. Then consider this reality - homicide rates in the United States are seven times higher when compared to other high income countries across the globe.[i]

Is any human heart capable of being granted both the ability to kill AND the permission to pursue one’s own life, liberty, and happiness?  It is a dangerous cocktail, and one that those who drink from seem to fail to control.

 

Those that study the scriptures should not be surprised.  The ancient texts state the following:

“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9)

“From within the hearts of men come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery…” (Mark 7:21)

Given the condition of the human heart and reality of these tragedies and the weapons used in them, we may be quick to discern gun control is necessary step.  I personally believe that may well indeed be a measure worth implementing, but the reality is that restraint cannot heal the root of the problem.  It will not deal with the fundamental problem America faces – pride.  

 

Pride is the attitude that says, “I will ascend… I will make myself like the Most High.”[ii]  It is the prideful heart that desires the power to choose one’s own destiny and future, to sip from the dangerous cocktail. 

It wishes to be the creator and pursuer of life rather than the recipient of it.  Pride demands the right to follow its own definition of good (think back to the first garden) and the power to take life for one’s self.  Is it possible we live in a nation that was founded with this desire (knowingly or unknowingly) at the core of its DNA?

With this question in mind, I am left to openly wonder if the rights and privileges American’s demand are compatible with the way Jesus offered.  A way that demands we choose humility over pride, poverty over riches, service over comfort, and grace over our rights. 

A way that welcomes those who mourn and offers them an alternative, swordless kingdom.  A way that opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. A way that promises healing for those that humble themselves and pray and discern their own fundamental problem.

 

Of course, it is easy to say that others need to attend to this process of re-orientation and repentance, that our nation would be better if those on the “other side” were more “enlightened.”  However, we’d be ignoring other warnings from the Rabbi if we did so.

Instead may we heed his warnings, take the time to reflect discernibly on our nation’s past and present, and therefore by God’s grace have the ability to see the true condition of our own hearts. It is this personal reflection and action that may awaken the conscience of a nation to realize its own fundamental problem.

 

[i] http://time.com/4206484/america-violent-death-rate-higher/

[ii] Isaiah 14:14