Branching Out

The continuing growth and development of Tree of Life Church

5 People Not To Be This Sunday in Church

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5.  Captain Complainer

No, church this Sunday is not going to be perfect.  Well done, you worked it out!  Imperfect people are going to come together in an imperfect manner, with an imperfect system, rub up against each other, and be imperfect.  If you come to church looking for something to complain about then I assure you that you will find it.

But apart from feeding your own ego, incessant complaining helps no one.  People turn up early, serve, love, care and work.  Why not join the building party rather than the tearing down party?  That’s the kingdom mindset.

4. Mrs Invisible

You know the person who says “they are with you in spirit” but are not actually there!  Turn up this week, don’t be there “in spirit” be there spirit, soul and body!

This week, turn up – then look to the person on the left of you and on the right.  Smile at them, encourage them, let them hear you singing and saying “Amen”.  You have no idea how much you encouraged them.  You also got a lot more out of the worship and the Word than if you had sat on your sofa eating  Coco Pops and watching Jeremy Kyle claiming you were there in “spirit”.

3. Flirty Fred

Church is not your pick up joint, it’s not your real life Tinder app.  It’s not for that purpose.

You genuinely have no idea how sleazy you look trying to chat up all the ladies, and you have no idea that everyone – yes, everyone – has noticed.  You are making people uncomfortable – not least of all your own wife or girlfriend standing innocently there waiting for you to stop making a fool of yourself.

It’s not that we lack a sense of humour, your inappropriate comments are genuinely not funny!

2. Lord Lateness

Yes, I know that you are so egotistical that you think church can’t possibly begin until you are there, but the truth is it does.  The programme has been calculated and designed to help you as a complete service, but you walking in late means the ushers are out late, children’s registration helpers are out late, you are disrupting the service and you are missing out on the full value of the service.

But hey – at least you got that extra 15 minutes beauty sleep!

1. Gertrude Gossip

I think this is the worst person to be in church.  The Bible says:

A gossip separates close friends (Prov. 16.28)

There are no quarrels without gossips (Prov. 26.22)

Gossips can’t keep secrets (Pro. 11.13)

You don’t want church to be a place where there is quarelling, where people can’t be close friends.  Remember what Grandma used to say: if you can’t say anything nice, shut your big ugly mouth!  Seriously, button it.  Zip it.  Sellotape it.  All three.  We are building a church that hates gossip.

BONUS PERSON:

1. Pyramid Patricia

I know some people want to make a bit of extra money, and I think that’s a great idea.  I am not against working hard and not against entrepreneurialism.   In fact, I am for it.

But church services and business do not mix.  Especially when it comes to the sort of pyramid schemes of selling that involve selling something perishable or reuseable all the time.  No one in the church wants your shampoo, your fibre, your vitamins, your grass, your gas provider, your email telephone service.  And if you keep talking about it all the time, people will avoid you.  Keep your business out of the church.  Email me and we’ll put you in the directory, if people need your services they will phone you.

Jurisdiction 1: Mind Your Own Business

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During our leadership conference last weekend, Greg Mohr pointed out that you cannot believe for something that is outside of your grace.  If it isn’t in your destiny, it isn’t going to be something you can believe for (of course, everything in redemption is freely ours for all of us).  You can only believe for what is yours – what is in your jurisdiction.

As I was pondering this on Sunday evening, Greg Mohr was preaching in our Guildford church about healing.  It was a very powerful healing meeting – but one of the comments was “Healing is in our jurisdiction”.

And it is – healing is freely yours; sickness must leave when you tell it to leave.  You are the boss of your own healing.  So is everything in the cross.  But some things are not in the cross, and some things are not in your jurisdiction.

For the next few weeks I just want to think out loud concerning this concept of jurisdiction, and I want to give you a Scripture I have never seen on a fridge magnet:

You should mind your own business and work with your hands (1 Thess. 4.11)

One of the things Christians seem to struggle with is minding their own business.  You need to look after what God has given you – that’s a full-time job.  You don’t have the time to correct and look after and mind everyone else’s business.

When you start telling people what church they should be going to, what they should wear, how they should be praying – you are not minding your own business.  You need to mind what God has told you to do.  It always amazes me that the people who see themselves as the self-appointed spiritual police are often those without their lives in order.

Someone tells someone “you should go to this church” and you find out they don’t even go to church.  Someone tells you how to treat others but is bossy and rude to those around them.  People without a ministry telling you how to minister.  Saul telling David to wear his armour.  People who have never pulled someone out of a wheelchair telling you how to minister healing.  People who haven’t made a penny out of business running business seminars.

Just crazy!   People should learn to mind their own business.  In other words, before you open your mouth – ask the question: is this really anything to do with me?

Great Grace!

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And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all.

That’s Acts 4.33 above.  The early church had not just grace but great grace, with the Greek word for grace being megas, it would not be wrong to declare that the early church had mega-grace operating in the life of the church and the life of the people in the church.

What does that mean to operate in mega-grace?  It means that there was a great freedom for people to be themselves, it means that they had a special favour from God, that miracles were easy, that the gifts were flowing, that people had a genuine love for one another and cared for one another, encouraged one another.  It meant people had no agendas, but just loved one another.

People lived in the revelation that God’s method of dealing with them was grace – so they believed for healing, for debt release, for fruitfulness, for increase, for life, for abundance, for happiness.  And they walked in it.

People knew that the only way they could receive was grace, so they showed grace.  Secure in who they were in Christ, they loved others as themselves, they gave freely with no thought for reward, they served and loved.

Isn’t that awesome?

But did you know that God loves us as much as the early church?  God doesn’t want them to have had great grace and we get little grace.  They don’t get mega-grace, and we have to make do with micro-grace!  No way!

So how can we, in our churches today, flow in mega-grace.  Well, the answer is there in the verse plain to see: the apostles were giving testimony to the risen Christ.  This is so simple, we have missed it: the more we talk about the resurrection of Jesus the more we operate in the grace.

The more we talk about the law, about behaviour, about how sinful we all are, the more we talk about us and how wonderful we all are, the more we talk about psychology and pontificate – the less we operate in grace.

The more we talk about Jesus Christ and the fact that He is alive – He has defeated sin and hell, He has defeated sickness and shame, He has defeated poverty and lack.

And He is here right now.  With us – in the midst of us, for us not against us – able to save to the uttermost anyone who believes.  The more we can believe that His power and goodness will come through for us no matter what, and the more we flow in mega-grace.

You want a church of mega-grace: then mega-preach mega-resurrection.

God is No Respecter of Persons (Arthur Meintjes)

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Today we have a bonus second post as Arthur Meintjes very kindly allowed me to reproduce this great wisdom on our blog:

Did You Know?

God, the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ is a God who is no respecter of Persons!

This is one of the greatest revelations that the Apostle Peter received when he went to Cornelius’ house.
(Acts 10:34 KJV)
“Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons:”

(Romans 2:11 KJV)
“For there is no respect of persons with God.”

To be a Respecter of Persons means to show “partiality”, or to teat people with “favoritism”:

God never changes, He is the same Yesterday, Today and Forever!
If He is a God who does not show Partiality, or Favoritism to one he will not show it to anyone.
That means what he will do for one, He will do for all!

To say that God will forgive one mans sin, but will not forgive another mans sin because his sin is worse or particularly sinful, is to say that God is a Respecter of Persons!

(1 John 2:1-2 KJV)
“1. My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not.
2. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: And he is the PROPITIATION for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.”

Jesus is the PROPITIATION or “The Satisfying of the perfect justice of a Holy God against Sin! ALL SIN!

To say that God’s will is that all be healed, and that He heals all our diseases. But that it is also God’s will not to heal certain people or certain diseases because of their grave SIN, is to accuse God of being a Respecter of Persons!
Men receive that consequences of their sin, it’s not God’s Judgment for Sin!

(Psalms 103:1-4 KJV)
1. Bless the Lord, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name.
2. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits:
3. Who forgiveth all thine INIQUITIES; who healeth all thy DISEASES;
4. Who redeemeth thy life from destruction; who crowneth thee with lovingkindness and tender mercies;

It is God’s will that ALL people be healed of ALL our diseases, weather it be cancer, diabetes, flu, heart disease, Ebola, mental disorders, dyslexia, autism, MS, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and even AIDS!

For God to Judge any man today for an act of SIN committed, is to deny that Jesus Died on the Cross!

God is the God who heals ALL OUR DISEASES, AND WHO REDEEMETH ALL OUR DESTRUCTIONS!

10 Reasons HIV is not God’s judgment for Homosexuality

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This week a number of people have contacted me and asked my views on whether HIV is God’s judgment on homosexuality.  My answer is a very firm and very definite NO.  Here are 10 reason why this point of view holds no water at all:

10.  God is no respecter of persons – or of sins.

9.  All judgment was laid on Jesus at the cross – He is the propitiation not just for our sins but for the sins of the world (1 John 2.2) – this includes homosexuals!

8.  People have been healed by HIV by God in Jesus’ name (see http://www.tgm.org/HealedFromAidsFG.html for a great testimony of this).

If HIV is God’s judgment, then God would be acting against God to heal this!

7.  The word translating “penalty” in Romans 1.27 does not mean an active penalty, it literally means the anti-wages, or in modern English “payback”.  If you sow the wind, you will reap the whirlwind, but that doesn’t mean God is actively involved judging you.

6.  God never sent His Son into the world to judge the world, but to save it.

5.  Jesus Christ died on the cross, bearing our sicknesses and carrying our diseases (Matt. 8.16-17) so that we can be healed.  If Jesus took HIV on the cross then why would we expect anyone to bear it.

4. Jesus went around doing good healing all who were oppressed of the devil (Acts 10.38).  If Jesus healed all then – including homosexuals, then He will heal all today – including homosexuals; therefore HIV is not God’s judgment on sin.  Any sin.

3.  HIV is a virus.  It doesn’t actually care who it infects.  New born babies have had HIV, people who received a single blood transfusion have bee infected with HIV.  If God is judging using HIV, He is not being very precise – His judgment is hitting some people who it shouldn’t be hitting.  Surely non-gays should just be immune – there is light in Goshen when God puts darkness on the world!

2. The one demographic that does not have HIV at all is lesbians.  Did God mis-aim His judgment?  Did He make the virus wrong?  Is there another virus coming for lesbians?

1.  God is love.  Every good gift comes from Him.  HIV is not good.   It does not come from God.

Homo-Sectuality

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The church is (rightly) concerned about homosexuality, it is a perversion against the original design for humanity, it degrades and destroys society, and it means that there is no fruit of the womb.

However, the church should be, in this hour, more concerned about homo-sectuality.  If a homo-sexual can only have sex with his same gender, a homo-sectual can only have fellowship and only learn from people within his small sect.

Some Christians are homo-sectuals. They really are – they cannot fellowship, learn from or receive from anyone outside of their sect. And like all homo-sectuals, they have no fruitfulness from their life because offspring only comes from differences.

Recently, one individual failed to go and hear a guest preacher at the Tree because they never went to or taught at Bible College X. They stupidly missed out on a real message of grace and love because they are homo-sectuals.  It’s caused by pride and a tribal mentality – if it doesn’t come from my group, it can’t be good.  That’s arrogance mixed with stupidity, with a dash of prejudice!

Another individual said to me recently “Did you study at Bible College X? You must have because you preached such an amazing message, and only people from Bible College X can preach that good?”

I said “No, I’ve never studied there in my life”

He said back, confused, “well I guess the message cannot have been that amazing then”.  His devotion to his sect actually meant he re-defined reality to fit around protecting and elevating the sect.  How can you have a fruitful life if that is the case?  You can’t.

The truth is that the church is so much more varied and beautiful than we can imagine.  And the people who offer the most to the Tree Network will learn from and absorb from a number of different streams.  Sometimes you go and hear certain preachers and you will be criticised because they don’t do this and that – they don’t fit in our sect.  Well, perhaps they were never meant to.

I was criticized recently for listening to a number of Billy Graham meetings.  The person criticizing was a charismatic (like me) and said “well, you’ll never get baptized in the Holy Spirit listening to Billy Graham”.  Well – I wasn’t listening to him to get baptized in the Holy Spirit, I was listening to get the wisdom he had gleaned over the years of running a huge, evangelistic ministry with integrity and longevity.  Sadly, some people baptized in the Holy Spirit haven’t managed those last two points too well!

Learn to learn from those who don’t look like you.  Remember we are part of the body of Christ.  When your foot gets a splinter, you can’t take it out with another foot.  You simply can’t.  You need a hand.  Yet when most Christians get into trouble, they end up going to people just like them.  Selah!

Homo-sectuality. It divides people, it stops people encountering preachers and ministries and churches that would really bless them.

Homo-sectuality. It engenders pride, it engenders smallness of thinking. It refuses the humilty to say that I can learn from those who are different from me.

Homo-sectuality. It means you will spend your life barren – remember fruitfulness only comes when two different things interact!

Homo-sectuality. It causes you to redefine your world to fit your sect. It will mean your life paradigm will always be deficient.

Homo-sectuality. It’s so gay!

Difficult Verses 9: Hebrews 12.6

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Here is a verse that a lot of people struggle with as it does not at first glance paint the same picture of God that Jesus does:

For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.

It’s in Hebrews 12.6, and I have seen this verse used by many to tell them that God is going to beat them, whip them, smack them about the head, make them sick, kill their cat, blow up their car – whatever is necessary to bring them to their knees.  In fact, by reading v.8 they then tell people that if God isn’t out to get you then you are not even really a Christian.

Now I think it’s obvious to anyone who understands what happened on the cross – that Jesus Christ is not about to whip anyone.  When He made a whip he didn’t even hurt a dove – Jesus is happy to turn over tables, but not people.  And if you have seen Jesus you have seen the Father, so it seems obvious that the Father does not chastise us or scourge us.

So how do we handle Hebrews 12.6 – the same way we handle all difficult verses, not by looking away from them, but by looking at them.

Firstly, does God chastise us?  If we read the word in the Greek it is paideuo.  It means “the process of training children”, “to correct with words” and “to correct with punishment as a legal judge”.  So in the context of family this word means to tell someone the truth and keep them on the path and to train someone as a child.  In the context of a legal setting, it means to punish someone for their misbehaviour.

It’s similar to the English word “discipline”, which if used of an athlete means to run the race, to make right choice.  We praise people by saying they are self-disciplined, we do not mean they beat themselves.

God isn’t disciplining us in the headmaster’s cane sense of the word, He is disciplining us in the good Father and Coach sense of the word!   God isn’t chastening us in the Judge sense of the Word, but training us and correcting us with kind words in the good Father sense of the Word.  The context lets us know that!

So that’s solved then.  But what about the second word, scourging.  In the Greek that word is mastegoo, and it means to beat with a whip.  The only times it is used in the New Testament it is referring to Jesus’ literal whipping.

Now I have heard a number of options about how the Hebrew word underlying this word can also mean “inquire into”, or can mean “delight in” – and indeed it is clear that Paul – or whoever you consider wrote Hebrews – is referencing Proverbs 3.11-12 which does say the Lord disciplines those He delights in.

However, there is zero evidence that Hebrews was originally written in Hebrew, there is no extant copy of a Hebrew copy of Hebrews and the idea has no external evidence.  We can’t build a case on the possible meaning of the alternative meaning of a word in a language that it simply isn’t in and there is no proof it is in, even if the language is Hebrew.

We have to look at the Greek and assume Occam’s Razor, that Hebrews was originally written in the language we have it in – koine Greek.  We also have to deal with the fact that in every other usage in the New Testament it is used literally – it actually means to literally whip someone.  In this usage it is being used as a picture – even the most strident Calvinist doesn’t believe God is going to literally whip his children!

So what is it a picture of, and how can this verse be comforting to us?

It can be used as a metaphor for sickness – someone being whipped with pain!  But we know for sure our Father does not put sickness on us.  It can be used metaphorically for to whip a horse, in the sense of anything you do or say to speed someone up.  This possibly fits – the idea of our Father speaking to us to encourage us to run our race, to get to where we are going is certainly one that fits the picture of the Father that Jesus painted.  Although there is no indication this context is meant, and nothing else that helps with that word-picture.

Finally, though, the word is used as a metaphor in ancient Greece (as it still is today) in the sense of castigating someone.   A sharp telling off.  Did Jesus ever sharply tell off His disciples?  Did He say “oh you of little faith”, did he say “how long must I put up with you”, did He say “why did you doubt”, did he castigate them for being hard of heart?  The answer is yes he did.  It seems most like that this scourging is done with the Word, which fits into the context of the first word discipline which is also done with the Word.

When we read the Word, it trains us – it chasteneth us – and shows us the correct path.  This is mainly a simple thing. However, sometimes in my life, and I am sure in your life too,

However, sometimes in my life, and I am sure in your life too, something jumps out at me from the Word, and then it hits me hard – it makes me think “ouch”.  I would probably described times like that as a metaphorical whipping.  There have been times mentors of mine have explained certain things to me and I realize that I have been foolish.  It felt like a smack in the face.  I might even say “Jimmy slapped me good today!” – and I don’t mean for one second that Jimmy hit me, just that correction doesn’t feel good at the time.  If you look closely at the word castigate, it generally means to be corrected for setting a bad example.  I’ve had moment likes that as a Christian, and it’s not easy!

So does this verse teach that God beats us up and whips us?  Of course not.  Does it teach that through His Word God corrects us, trains us, and sometimes castigates us?  Yes.

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