Branching Out

The continuing growth and development of Tree of Life Church

Lies That Destroy Lives 02: God is in Control!!

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Image result for italy earthquake

One of the biggest lies that anyone has ever told is this: “God is in control”. I am not sure if there is any bigger lie that has kept more people away from God than any other. People hear that God controls everything on the planet, and that God is all powerful and then they look at the evil in the world and they think if God controls that I want nothing to do with Him.

And they would be right. If God was like that I would want nothing to do with Him either. But it’s not the truth. The truth is that for thousands of years God has not been in control of this planet, and He is not in control now.

In Genesis 1 we find out that when God created man, He gave authority to Adam and Eve – to humanity. He created man to be in charge of the planet, and He gave them the planet. All the mess on planet earth, all the pain, all the evil, all the selfishness – it isn’t God, it was never God, it is humanity.

You want to see somewhere God is charge – look at Heaven. No tears, no pain, no rebellion, no rapes, no disasters, not even waves on the sea! God is more than capable of creating a place that is paradise with no suffering or pain.

And God created an Earth like that too. It was glorious, every part of it was good (Genesis 1.31). But then God gave the earth to man. It belongs to us, not Him, and He won’t take it back (at least not until the Second Coming). So we made the mess. We left God on the outside of the planet that He gave us the title deed to, and God won’t break the law to get it back.

So earth is gradually becoming more like hell on earth. Some people have lived through a hell on earth. But we are not without hope, we can listen to God, we can speak the Word of God, we can speak to mountains that in our way and they will move, they will get out of our way, and we – as the rightful owners of this planet – can align our hearts with God and speak words of victory that will still storms, multiply food, heal the sick and restore marriages.

But never ever blame God for the evil in this world. It wasn’t Him. It was us.

Lies That Destroy Lives 01: “Don’t Go To Church, Be the Church”

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I was going to blog today about lineage, continuing our series on children’s children, which is changing many people’s lives. But I felt that I have to correct some false ideas that seem to be infecting people’s minds and without any exaggeration are destroying lives. 

Anyone who knows me know that I despise cliches. In my opinion if the world believes something it is invariably wrong. If you reverse most cliches, you would actually have a very powerful truth:

  • Always count your chickens before they are hatched
  • Believing is seeing
  • Words speak louder than actions
  • The grass is never greener on the other side
  • You can judge a book by its cover
  • Love is not blind. Hate is blind.
  • Ignorance is not bliss, it is deadly. Right knowledge is bliss

See what I mean – any time the world tries to be pithy and wise, it gets it wrong. That is because the wisdom of man is not the wisdom of God (see James 3.13-18). And we expect the world to get it wrong, but what is tragic today is that Christians have our own brand of cliches that are equally as false. In fact, if you turn them around you get powerful truths as well:

  • When God opens a door, He doesn’t open a window. He wants you to go through a door, not jump through a window!
  • Not everything happens for a reason
  • God doesn’t need another angel in heaven, and did not take Aunty Jean home!
  • You can put God in a box
  • You can know what God is going to do!

So, Christians can be equally wrong with their pithy and wise-sounding sayings. How can we tell the wisdom of man? Well, James says it is: earthly, sensual, devilish and brings envy, strife and confusion (James 3.15-16). That’s how you tell.

And I think one of the most single earthly, sensual, devilish, envy-causing, strife-causing, confusion-causing statements a Christian can make is this: don’t go to church, be the church. It is a faith-destroying, love-destroying, disciple-destroying, grace-destroying statement that contains absolutely no wisdom from God at all.

I understand the reasoning behind the statement. Generally the person speaking is trying to let people know that we should act like Christians 24-7. I have no truck with that. Often the emphasis is on working miracles in the street and in the supermarket, and again I have no problem with that. What I have a huge problem with is the cavalier attitude to church that has nothing to do with Jesus, nothing to do with the New Covenant and nothing to do with being a disciple of Christ.

This phrase is often used by evangelists, often young evangelists, and they are on the street doing miracles and getting people born again, and it looks impressive watching their youtube videos and what they do. I believe 100% in streetwork, and I have been on the streets twice this month telling people the gospel and seeing people healed. This is not the issue.

The problem is that immature, undiscerning Christians see the miracles and see the power and think that this evangelist is a great Christian with great wisdom. And then when that guy says “don’t go to church…” they take it as a great piece of life advice. Listen to me very carefully – anybody can work a miracle. I have seen people heal the sick who are living together without being married, I have seen people heal the sick whose whole life is a mess from beginning to end. Jesus said any believer can lay hands on the sick – not mature believers, not holy believers, not living for Jesus and walking with Jesus believers – any believers. So we need to stop getting excited about people healing the sick. I once saw a drunk man in a bar lay hands on someone in the name of Jesus and heal them of a heart attack, it was a totally genuine miracle of God. So let’s not automatically see someone as a great disciple and great source of wisdom just because they heal the sick!

I’ve had a couple of young evangelists come to the Tree, and a couple have left and don’t even go to church now. They are still in the streets, still making YouTube videos, but they are not in relationship with the body of Christ, they are not being discipled, and when you spend time with them the overwhelming thing you realize is how immature they are across their whole life – they have big problems in their marriage, they can’t handle money well, they cannot relate to people well. They can go on the streets and heal the sick, but that is not fruitfulness. They will never make disciples because they are not disciples, and until they learn to be disciples they will be a mess.

Now the church might have tried to help them, tried to point out that their marriage needs work, that they borrow money and don’t pay it back, that they are heavy handed with offerings, whatever. So they are now offended at the church as they don’t like correction, man’s wisdom never does. So now they travel around, and do their thing, but offended at the church. Now a Christian that knows the Word and knows Jesus will wonder – why is that person not at church? Why would someone who claims to be anointed and heal the sick not know how important going to a local church is to discipleship? Why would this person who seems so amazing not want to be with the Lord’s people on Sunday morning? So they respond with this cliche to avoid people noticing their lack of godly attitude and action when it comes to local church: don’t go to church, be the church.

It is truly from the wisdom of man, and truly comes from the flesh. It is not something the Spirit of God would ever, ever, ever say. I know one evangelist who was with our ministry, and we held a conference. I let all our church leaders preach, all the local pastors, the youth pastor and the children’s pastor, and this guy – as an evangelist. What happened was every single other speaker stayed around and listened to everyone else – they had their notepads out and they were learning. The other guy just turned up for his session and didn’t listen to a single other person. I thought “that person won’t be with us long, because he can’t listen, and the first time he needs correction he will be gone”. Sadly, I called it exactly as it was.

I’ve seen many people like this before. We had one lady come and preach at Tree of Life Church. She preached a good Word and people were blessed. We gave her a great offering (we are very generous at the Tree). The next Sunday she didn’t go to church, she went for a walk and posted on social media that she felt sorry for the silly people who felt it was important to go to church every week, and didn’t know that God was as much in the walk as in the church service. I thought “well, she didn’t mind about the silly people who gave her money, she didn’t mind about the silly people who got up early to set up chairs for the other silly people to sit on to listen to her, she didn’t mind about the silly people who ushered so other silly people were made welcome to here her, she didn’t mind about the silly people who gave up their precious time to here her”. Guess what? She will never be invited back to the Tree – that reaction is just staggeringly immature! And yet these people sadly presume to be teachers!

Sadly, many of these people who say “don’t go to church, be the church” will go to church – if they are the predominant voice for that service and they are getting the money. That is staggering, but is sadly true. Always be aware that some people don’t want to build the building, they just want to sit on top of it!

Andrew Wommack says this about the church:

The local church is the backbone of God’s work here on earth. There are ways that a local church can feed you that no other ministry can. You can’t call me in the middle of the night or have me perform your child’s wedding or help counsel them. You need the fellowship of other believers. I can’t offer you that, but the local church can.

How can you possibly call yourself a disciple of Christ if you are ignoring the backbone of God’s work here on earth? How can you sleep at night if you are getting up and telling people don’t go to church? How can you believe that you are extending the kingdom of God if you are neglecting church?

I believe we should be the church, but you cannot possibly in any real way be the church if you don’t go to church. As a pastor of six churches, I see the people who are inconsistent in church attendance – they are the ones having huge big problems in their lives, they are the ones where every drama becomes a crisis. I see the consistent people – they are the ones who become superstars, in their marriages, with their children, with their jobs. Favour just flows through them!

How can you be the church? Go to church. Stop listening to the demonic wisdom and start listening to the wisdom of God:

Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching. (Hebrews 10.25)

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. (Acts 2.42)

Then the church throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria enjoyed a time of peace and was strengthened. Living in the fear of the Lord and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, it increased in numbers. (Acts 9.31)

Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. (2 Tim. 4.2)

Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you. (Hebrews 13.17)

But we request of you, brethren, that you appreciate those who diligently labor among you, and have charge over you in the Lord and give you instruction, and that you esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Live in peace with one another. (1 Thess. 5.12-13) NOTE: one of the reasons many of these people do not go to church is because they haven’t matured enough to live in peace with one another!

On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul began talking to them, intending to leave the next day, and he prolonged his message until midnight. (Acts. 20.7)

There are many more Scriptures that discuss attending church and going to church, but these are sufficient to anyone who genuinely wants to honour God to know that they should be part of a local church.

I have seen the fruit of this foolish doctrine and it is not pretty. We had a speaker in our church say that he didn’t go to church, pretty much boasting to my children that he went to the pub with another Christian and that was church – what an evil thing to tell young people. Now he is divorced. Oh he still preaching in the local churches, so the only time he is in church is when he is the predominant voice and the money heads his way. That is not a builder!

So action points:

  • Do go to church
  • Get up and go to church.  Be there.  In fact be there early and help!
  • Don’t listen to people who are not committed to their local church. Don’t be afraid to find out what church a speaker goes to, and ask them who their pastor is. If they hesitate a while, that speaks volumes to you that they are not someone with a shepherd therefore eventually confusion will come out of their mouth.
  • Remember Bible College is not church, a para-church ministry is not church, street evangelism is not church, meeting your mates in the pub is not church.  Church has the five-fold ministry equipping the saints to do the works of ministry, and church has elders who are appointed by the pastor. There is teaching, there is worship, there is prayer together.
  • If you can’t get to a good church, go to an average one. Be prepared to drive an hour to get to a decent church.
  • Don’t be swept away by someone who has a healing ministry but no fruit. If someone tells you 10 people got saved on the street today ask how are they going to be discipled, what church will they be going to. If 10 people get healed, ask about discipleship and follow-up. If the person responds “the Lord will take care of it”, then you know they need to go to church themselves!
  • Realize a lot of these anti-church people do not really have a doctrinal issue with the church, but a personal one. Somewhere a church has offended them. Jesus tells us offense can lead to wrong doctrine. So it might sound great, but listen carefully – it’s another offended person, wrapping their frustration in religious language to seem holier than they are.

 

 

 

Your Children’s Children 03: Leave Your Father’s Household

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Today I want to talk to the first generation believers.  Those of you who are starting a new lineage, liked we talked about two weeks ago. And that is that you are creating a new lineage – you are building something so powerful. Now in that same situation, Abraham had very specific instructions from God:

Leave your country, leave your people, and leave your father’s house, and go to the land I will show you. I will make you a great nation, I will bless you, I will make your name great and you will be a blessing – Genesis 12.1-2

Now, God is speaking to you today – and He wants to make you a great nation, He wants to make your name great and He wants you to be a blessing! That’s awesome news isn’t it. If you struggle to believe that, spend some time this week meditating on it: God wants you to be a blessing, God wants you to be great, God wants to make something out of you! No matter your past, no matter your heritage, no matter your background.

But the first instruction God gave Abram, in fact the very first word God told Abram when He spoke to him wasn’t “Great” or “Faith” or “Righteousness” or “Covenant”, but it was “LEAVE”.

You will never be great in the kingdom of God unless you realize the power of leaving. Now remember Abraham was the first of a generational line to believe in a God that his parents and grandparents never knew. That is a major deal whenever it happens, and there is always a great battle when a first generational believer comes to Christ. And the key to winning this battle is not fighting hard, but learning to leave!

You have to leave your country (that’s a place), you have to leave your people (that’s your culture), and you have to leave your father’s house (that’s your family). God had a plan for Abraham that would change the world, but it couldn’t happen with Abraham staying in his father’s house.

This leaving is not just a physical move – it is a change of culture, a change of identity, a change of thinking, a change of everything. It was going to affect how he related to his nation, his culture, his tribe, his family, habits, mindset, his paradigms – everything. If Abraham did not leave, he could not have done what God wanted him to do!

No-one has to grasp this “LEAVE” in the way a first generational believer does. In fact, if you are a first generational believer, you are doing the leaving for your children’s children! There are battles you face being a second generational believer, but nothing like the battle of learning to leave. I have seen many people fail to learn to leave and cut short their productivity, their fruitfulness and their discipleship. I have seen people fail to disassociate with the idols of their ancestors, I have found people who cannot worship in a multi-cultural church because they never reach the point of maturity where they can step out of their cultural norms, I have seen people who have never grown in Christ because they are still tied to the apron strings of heathen mums and dads.

We need to learn to leave, and as best we can on our side, leave with dignity and keep the door open. And you need to realize that in Abraham’s day there wasn’t anywhere else to go – your whole livelihood was in the father’s house. No one went to uni and chose what they wanted to do, they did what dad did. Walking away from your family left you with nothing, but that’s ok because God is your source. I have seen too many people become Christians, move out from mum and dad, but still are totally dominated by them mentally, emotionally, financially. The old family line doesn’t easily let go and they never grow in Christ.

So the first word that God has to say to every first generational believer is what He said to Abram: LEAVE. It sound easy, but as many of you know, it is not. It is hard work, but the lineage you create is worth it. The fruit of the wisdom of learning to leave will change the lives of your children’s children.

Your Children’s Children 02: Conception and Pregnancy

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So last week we talked about the fact that there are people inside you, and that we need to make decisions in the light of this reality.  Today, I want to discuss the point of life beginning.

I want you to think about and consider the process in which life begins.  Conception, then pregnancy, then birth.  When a woman is pregnant, she believes that the baby is alive.  She doesn’t think one day I will have a baby – she has a baby.  She knows she has a baby.  The baby is alive inside her.  The mother is also aware that what she does, how she feels, what she eats will affect the baby even before it is born.

Now if mum goes to church while she is pregnant, the baby is going to church too.  That environment is shaping the baby. All our children love church, and have all been to church since before they were born!

When Jesus’ mum and John the Baptist’s mum met each other, their babies – inside the womb – reacted to each other!  That is amazing. And that proves beyond the shadow of a doubt that a baby still inside the womb has intelligence, has emotions, knows what is surrounding them.  Imagine if a pregnant mum went to Celebration Church every weekend, and Living Church once a week in the evenings.  Baby would have been in church 78 times before he or she was even born!  It would be born loving God and loving the things of God, loving the Word!

Don’t start missing church because you are pregnant – get to church, you are carrying life inside you!  Think like that and you are now thinking “children’s children”, you are now thinking like God.

The first person who becomes a Christian in any given family is like the loins of that whole family, and should impact the rest of their family.  If you were the first generation Christian, and you now have children of your own, you are actually starting your own lineage! You are breaking from the ungodly patterns of your parents and starting a new family line. That’s something very amazing. You have forged a new beginning for all who come from your loins.

My children are nothing like their grandparents who are not Christian.  They share blood with them, but Spirit is thicker than blood.  There has never been a Conway like me – I am a whole new beginning, a new loins of origin for a tribe that is going to change the world. There has never as far as I know been a Conway preacher, a Conway who prayed in tongues, who moved in the gifts, who loves God with all his heart, who was water baptized, who has pulled people out of wheelchairs. I am the first of a new breed. Amanda is the same, and we have become a new point of origin for a new line.

I’m not saying the old block was bad, just it wasn’t Christian. My parents did the best they knew how to do and loved me. But the truth is that in the light of eternity, we are now changing the world for Jesus in a way no one in my family tree has ever done before.  When Christ found me, He changed me and now the mold is broken forever.

Some of you don’t grasp what I have just said, and it is causing you more problems in your life than you can count. You have old family members who don’t realize you are a new creation, a new breed, a new lineage. They have totally different standards, principles and values, and the two do not mix – they are incompatible. You don’t see eye to eye anymore. You go to family gatherings and everyone is getting drunk and gossiping about who is sleeping with who, your children are well trained, you don’t suffer from sickness, you are so generous and invest in the kingdom – and there is a massive culture clash.  This is why – you are a new breed. It’s a spiritual thing, and you have to realize it or you will not understand what is going on around you.

I am a patriach, just like Abraham, and so are some of you reading this. God doesn’t see you all as seperate, God sees people inside people. Many of the people in Tree of Life are the first saved of their families, and their children will be second generation, and their children’s children will be something very special.  We have to think like this – it is how God thinks.

God has your children’s children in His mind. You should have too.

Imagine you are in a situation now, and you are being tempted to sin in a particular way. Your peers are pressing you to do something dumb – to take drugs, to have sex before marriage, to steal.

You turn around and say “I can’t do that.”

“Why not?”

“Because of my grandchildren”

“You ain’t even married, what is wrong with you!”

“I will be one day, and one day I will have grandchildren!”

“Don’t you love me? If you loved me you would have sex with me!”

“I am not going to sleep with you.  I am not going to have sex with you!”

“Why don’t you like me”

“I like you just fine, that’s not it”

“Are you frigid?  Don’t you want sex?”

“Yes, I want sex, and yes I am tempted, but I am thinking of my grandchildren”

“What?!?!”

“As far as God is concerned my children and my children’s children are already in my loins. They are not going to get a bad start in life so I can make a selfish decision.  Do you understand this?”

He might get it, he might not. But you need to win the battle for your loins!  You need to win this battle once and for all.  You need to develop this and get it.  You need to think of your children’s children.

Next week: Breaking the Cycle

Your Children’s Children 01: The Fight

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Something that has been on my heart for the last few weeks has been the truth that God is generational.  He is not the God of Abraham, but the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  He is generational.

In an age where we like everything instant and this second, God is patient and kind, and wants to build something in your life that will impact your children’s lives and your grandchildren’s lives.  It is my conviction that I am building a network of churches that will not just change your lives, but your children’s and your grandchildren’s.

And so if that is the case where we start is here: there is a fight.  And it is a fight we must win or else darkness will win.  We need to reach cities and nations for Jesus Christ.  We are not fighting for territory or resources, we are fighting for hearts and souls.  It is a battle for the lives of the unborn – your children and grandchildren.  There is a fight going on for the seed.

In Genesis 14, Abraham tithes to Melchizedek (tithing is a great thing to do for all the children of Abraham!).  He gives Melchizedek one tenth of everything.

Many years later, God sets up a priesthood in the nation of Israel, and sets aside all the Levites as priests to collect tithes.  Now in Hebrews, Paul wants to prove that Melchizedek’s priesthood and therefore grace is better than the Levitical priesthood and the law.  Part of his argument is that Melchizedek’s priesthood was first, which it clearly was, but the other part of his argument is that the lesser person tithes to the greater and the greater blesses the lesser.  So when Abraham tithed to Melchizedek, and Melchizedek blessed Abraham, then according to the Bible, Levi tithed to Melchizedek and Melchizedek blessed Levi at the same time.

Why?  Because Levi was still in the body of his ancestor.  Levi tithed because he was inside Abraham.  He wouldn’t be born for over one hundred years, but he was implicated in the actions of his great granddad even though he had not been born.  He was “still in the loins of his father when Melchizedek met him”.

So Levi was one hundred years before his birth, but as far as God saw things, the actions of Abraham directly affected the entire life of his great-grandchildren.  The KJV Bible says that Levi was in the loins of Abraham.  The Hebrew word for loins means “the place of generative power”.  So when Abraham tithed, Levi did too, and God counted that.

This is a way of thinking that many of us in the West do not embrace easily.  We are individualistic, we do not think generationally.  We do not make decisions based on the awareness that inside us right now are our grandchildren.  We seize the day rather than prepare for the future.

Here is some great news for everyone: you can do more than your lifetime.  You can do things that will still bear fruit and change lives after you are gone from this mortal coil.

We need to be a little less sure Jesus is going to return in our lifetime and consider the next generation.  We need to prepare something that is going to stand the test of time and bless our children and our grandchildren.

When you reach one person for Christ, you reach everyone inside them.  All their potential children and potential grandchildren.  We have to wait decades to meet them, but God knows and God is excited about that potential – that is how God sees the world, and it is how we should too.  Your parents might have been surprised to hear you were on the way, but God was not surprised and He planned you and has plans for you and those plans are to prosper you and not to harm you.

We need to think not just of the people in our towns and nations, but think of the people inside the people.  We need to think of the children, and the children’s children.  We need to lift our eyes beyond our summer holiday, beyond the next birthday, beyond Christmas, and look to the children and children’s children.

All of us can to some degree or another show how our parents have affected us by their decisions and actions.  You should be able to grasp what I am saying.  Some of you reading this feel very disappointed by decisions your parents made, maybe even before you were born.  Others feel very pleased your parents lived for God and laid down a foundation for you.  It works for good and bad!  And we need to deliberately work it for good.  Our thinking has to change.  We are going to reach people, and we are going to reach the people in the people too!  That is a multitude.  That is exciting!

So the greatest battle is over the seed.  Not the seed of money, the seed of time, the seed of good works, though they are all seeds.  But the most precious seed of all – the seed of humans.  Who will control the future of our children and grand-children?  Who will shape the lives of the children still inside the people alive today?  Who will bring life and wisdom to them?

If we can think about this right, and develop and grow in this – we will win this battle.  This battle for the seed, for the children and grand-children.  We will build a future church.  The ultimate size of this future church is greater than all the people in your town or city living today.  This is a bigger battle than you might have previously seen, because we are fighting for the people inside people.  The prize for getting this right is far bigger than you have ever dreamed.

Today, ask the Holy Spirit to help you see this principle – that there are people inside people.  That our future is huge, and that the battle ahead will produce greater rewards than we can ever imagine.  I will explore some of these ideas in the weeks to come.

Next week: Origins, Lines and Pregnant women

7 Reasons You Need to Share Your Faith

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  1. With no harvest, there are no sheep for the church!
    1. A church needs people!  It needs people to pray, people to serve, people to love, people to give, people to marry, people to fellowship with and worship.
    2. All ministry begins with you sharing your faith with others.
  2. The workers for the harvest are few!
    1. So you need to do the work.  Timothy was not a pastor, but Paul told him to do the work of an evangelist.  It’s the same for all of us – if we are evangelists we need to do the work of an evangelist, if we are not evangelists we need to do the work of an evangelist.
  3. The whole point of growing as a Christian is so you can bear fruit.
    1. The most natural fruit of a Christian is Christians
  4. The first thing Christ did when calling apostles was tell them to be fishers for people
  5. The harvest is HUGE.  We need loads of workers
    1. I never get upset a new church in town – the harvest is HUGE
  6. Christ did not just pray and hurt for the harvest, He went out there and met people.
  7. Maths.  94% of all ministers are reaching 9% of the world’s population.

12 Lies That Are Keeping You Out of the Promised Land

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  1. Everything that happens is the will of God.
  2. God has a purpose for you being poor.
  3. Jesus was a poor man.
  4. That you need to do something to get faith.
  5. That you need to do something to get blessed.
  6. That God’s blessing is linked somehow to your behaviour.
  7. That the devil works for God.
  8. That God’s love is merit based.
  9. That grace works without you believing it.
  10. That God only hears prayers if you pray long and hard and after midnight.
  11. That some people have special anointings to be healed and rich, and others don’t.
  12. That God is angry or wrath with you about something.
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