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Monthly Archives: January 2017

You Are Not Smarter Than Jesus 04: Fruit is Fruit

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When trying to determine the difference between what is true and what is false, Jesus had this to say about it:

By their fruit you will recognize them. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs fromthistles?  Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit (Matthew 7.15-16, BSB)

So, when you are looking for a pastor, a mentor, a friend, a ministry to support, a Bible College to go to, a conference to attend, a house group to go to… when someone prophesies over you and you need to know whether the source of the prophetic word is right or wrong, then according to Jesus you look at the fruit.

So if the fruit is the key to discerning the true from the false then:

  • Size is not the key to telling the true from the false. Now there should be an increase because a single seed produces a multiplicity of fruit. We used to have a plum tree in our garden when I was growing up, and that plum tree would produce about 100 plums a year. That tree came from one plum stone, so one seed there in ten years produced 1000 or so plums, so there should be increase.  But at the same time, a cow would only have had 10 calves or so, so we cannot say the cow wasn’t fruitful, it was just fruitful to a different degree. But, notice the plum tree gave plums and the cow gave cows. That is the key principle to fruitfulness is that fruit must be the same kind as the seed.

So you are a young pastor looking for a mentor. What are you looking for in your mentor? The answer is fruit. You are looking for a pastor who has fruit, and that fruit will be – not a healthy church, though a good pastor should have a healthy, growing church – but that fruit will be pastors. You judge an apple seed by the amount of apples it produces, a cow by the calves, and a pastor by pastors. Who have they raised up in ministry? Who have they produced and multiplied? Who will be their successor?

Jesus said by their fruit you will know them. Don’t think you are smarter than Jesus, and invent your own criteria for things. If you want to raise up pastors, you must have some pastors around. If you want to raise up evangelists in your church, you must expose your church to fruitful evangelists. Many people can raise the dead and heal the sick, but not so many can produce after kind – and they are the true and the ones you need to pursue.

Next month, I am taking a team of my pastors and trainee preachers to a communication skills day in London. We are going to hear a man called Paul Scanlon, who built one of the largest churches in the United Kingdom. I have been to the course before, and I am very excited about going. The day will cost well over £600 for us to go, but I believe this investment will really help my preachers get better because Paul Scanlon has fruit of raising up great communicators in his own ministry and in others.

On the other hand, a friend of mine was recently in a church where they got a speaker to teach some of the aspirant preachers how to preach, and this man had no fruit in that area – no track record and clearly no experience. But they were so impressed by his degree and his qualifications they invited him. What happened? Some people thought they were smarter than Jesus and didn’t use fruit as criteria but used some other measure! Did it work? No it didn’t.

When I started Tree of Life Church, I was adamant that within 5 years of me starting there would be pastors in place that I had mentored and raised up so that if I suddenly disappeared from the face of the earth, the church would keep going.  It took 6 years to get to that point, but praise God we got there. I see pastors who have been pastoring the church for twenty years, and if they disappeared the  church would implode in a puff of smoke. Those pastors might have great preaching skills, and might have great prophetic ministries, but they do not have what Jesus said is how we judge – fruit. Success is not success without a successor, and the fruit of the seed inside you should be after the same kind as you are.

We have some great young aspirant evangelists in our network, I can pastor them, but I cannot really mentor them, because that’s not my kind. But I can mentor and raise up pastors, because that is my kind. If an apple tree didn’t have any apples on it, is it really an apple tree? If you are in the fivefold ministry and not raising up to kind, are you actually what your business card says you are?

A lot of so-called prophets come to church and everyone clings to their every word, and they are exalted. That’s not a prophet. A true prophet makes the whole church prophetic and raises up those “some” who are called prophets. He doesn’t make the church dependent on his words, desperate for him to return to encourage their fragile egos some more. That’s what I was talking about in my last post – it’s the shallowness of the church that allows this. It’s fivefold ministers with so much insecurity that they cannot share the spotlight, and heaven forbid that they raise up someone who can out preach or out perform them! It’s believers who want to spectate not participate!

I am a believer. Believers lay hands on the sick. And I am a fruitful believer. People who get around me and hang around me end up healing the sick, it’s that simple. I got so many people around me who now heal the sick, I don’t even minister to them in Dagenham, and most of our other churches to be honest either now. A lady came to me and said that some pastors in Zimbabwe are desperate to meet me, because when she was out there she healed the sick.

They want to meet the pastor who is capable of training a non-pastor, and a woman no less, how to minister to the sick. They think I am some sort of superman, and call me the Bishop Apostle. I probably will go out there, but not to be the bishop-apostle, but to come and show them that they are also believers and all believers can heal the sick. I could go there and be great, or I could go there and be fruitful. I know which one is Jesus’ idea of success. This is supposed to be normal Christianity, when the people around you are sick, a Christian should not be hunting for the man of God, they should be the man of God.

Recently, a young man left our ministry to go to another ministry because he wanted to learn more about how to plant a church. I pointed out that in my life I have planted seven churches and they are generally fruitful growing churches and that I have raised up pastors. I pointed out that the ministry he was going to had not planted any churches and did not have people who were raising up people, but he was adamant this was the right place to be. Sadly, this man will not ending up planting a church because he failed to make a decision based on fruit. He thought he was smarter than Jesus, and he is not and nor are you.

Make the decision on where to be, which church to go to, what preacher to invite to your conference, not on a finer point of doctrine but on fruit.

 

 

10 Things You Could Do Tomorrow to Encourage Your Pastor

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Want a greater church? The more encouraged your pastor is, the greater your church – it really is that simple. So why not take a tiny bit of time and effort and encourage your pastor this weekend?

  1. Don’t bring your pastor a cake. I know that’s a lovely thought, but he has had enough cake. Bring something a bit healthier if you want to feed him!
  2. Don’t ever get upset when your pastor is going to retreats and conferences – you have no idea how much they feed and bless him.  If you think your pastor is feeding you and giving out on average fifty Sundays a year, that’s 17 days at conferences with 3 messages a day just for him to break even with the energy that comes from preparing a message and the energy from receiving and hearing a great message.
  3. Make sure your pastor has a mentor (someone who has gone further in ministry than him, not just someone with a title or grey hair). If he doesn’t, talk to him about it, and help and pray until he finds one.
  4. If your pastor is single, do not try and set them up with people you know. Let them have privacy in their dating life!
  5. Make sure the church is paying for further education for your pastor. We should all be in continuing education, and pastors are no exception.
  6. Be nice to the pastor’s wife and children, and don’t have unreasonable demands on them to be super-Christians!
  7. If there is something the pastor has done that has upset you or offended you, give them the benefit of the doubt – at least enough to speak to them in person before you disappear.
  8. Encourage your pastor to be physically active – pastoring is a very sedentary job, pastors need time each week to be active – running, boxing, lifting, whatever it is.
  9. Realize that the word “social” doesn’t mean the same for a pastor. You might be on social media to be social, but the pastor can get Facebook messages at midnight asking for help, people criticizing the church on Twitter, and so on. Be kind!  And at a church “social” event, you are relaxing and having fun, trust me – your pastor may be putting on the pastor hat at any moment, without any notice and suddenly be working at full force!  Encourage your pastor to have friends outside of the church so he can have a social time without having to wear the pastor hat for a few hours every so often.
  10. Most importantly, pray for your pastor and his family, and let him know that you are praying for them.

Seeing Red

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Sometimes I feel a little like the lesser known Judas in the Bible. Not the one everyone knows who betrayed Jesus with a kiss, but Jesus’s little brother who was also called Judas. Not surprisingly not long after Judas betrayed his brother with a kiss, little Judas just let people call him Jude, and he ended up writing the book of the Bible called “Jude”. Now in Jude, wee Jude wanted to write a great message about faith, but because the church was being invaded by false teachers who were ripping the Bible to pieces, and he could see it, he had to address that instead.  Today, I had some thoughts on grace and favour I really wanted to share, but I have seen this issue infiltrate too many lives and hearts and need to sound the trumpet.  So here it is…!

Let me start by saying I love Jesus. I don’t want to be accused of not loving Jesus, so I will start with that – I love Jesus, and I love what Jesus says. Here is a link to me preaching on John 14. Here is a link to me preaching on the Sermon on the Mount. So I am just hitting that face on because I want there to be no confusion at all. I am pro-red words. And by red words, I mean the words Jesus spoke on earth, a phrase that came about because in some Bibles the words of Jesus are in red ink. I reckon of all the Bibles I own, about 12 have the words of Jesus in red ink. The red-letters.

Now, at this stage, I’m sure you are all in agreement – yes, I love the words of Jesus. But a strange post on Facebook this week has reminded me that over the years I have dealt with a number of people over the years I have been a minister, that love the red-words of Jesus, but who cause a great deal of foolishness and strife in the church.

That may surprise some of you – how can someone who loves the words of Jesus disrupt and cause disruption in the church? How can someone like that be a source of false teaching that needs correcting? The reason is that some of these red-letter Christians are ignoring the rest of the Bible, some of them have an agenda, and some of them are leading the church back into a works-based Christianity that is some of the worst legalism I have seen.

At the extreme end of this there is actually a group called “Atheists for Jesus”. I know that sounds like it is some sort of spoof, but it is real. They are atheists that follow the red-letters of the Bible. They love things like “turn the other cheek” and “forgive those who persecute you” and think that is the teachings of a very wise man. The problem with that is that Jesus was not a very wise man – Jesus was God-incarnate, born of a virgin, creator of heaven and earth, firstborn from the dead, the Alpha and Omega. Things that you would never know if you only had the red-letters to read from! The fact is you cannot understand who Jesus is from the red-words alone – you need the black words in the Bible too to explain and elucidate these words.

I understand the simplistic appeal of red-letter Christianity – you know I love “wwjd” and I love being an imitator of Christ, but then I remember Jesus spoke about Adam and Eve, Noah, Abraham, Moses – and I remember it was the risen Christ who called and appointed Paul as an apostle to the nations. So His words are not more important than the rest of Scripture.

The next problem I have with the red-letter Christians is that they are cutting up their Bibles because they have a very definite agenda. By focusing on the words in red, they can then stop talking about abortion and homosexuality, and rather talk about feeding the hungry. Now I feed the hungry, and that’s great – but let’s face it – you upset a lot less people feeding the hungry than teaching the truth on marriage for example.

Some people who call themselves red-letter Christians will even go so far as to say we should not teach the new birth and salvation, but instead just preach social justice. That’s crazy!  You know one of the two founders of red-letter Christians is a Catholic priest called Father Richard Rohr, and he explicitly teaches that are not saved by grace, but by works. That we have to earn a place in heaven. That is heresy, but how can you refute that when you fail to put masterpieces like Romans and Galatians in their rightful place.

You see that’s the ultimate issue here – it’s not that by taking the words of Jesus and highlighting them that we have a problem, it’s the diminishing of the rest of the Bible. If you truly understood who Jesus is – the living incarnation of the Word of God, the exact image of the glory of God, the second person of the Trinity – and if you understood that the Scripture is God-breathed, you would understand that the truth that red-letter Christians have forgotten, and the reason they are out of balance – is that in reality, the whole Bible should be in red. Every word is the word of Jesus Christ.

Is Facebook the devil?

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There is no accounting for stupid. Recently, someone was telling me that they have been told that Facebook is the devil’s tool.

That’s the same argument used years ago about the internet, decades ago about TV, and centuries ago about the printing press.

People need to stop and think what the word “media” means. It’s the plural of the word “medium”, and it comes from the Latin word for an instrument that goes between two things – it’s just a pipe!

A pipe is not evil or wicked, nor is it good – but the question is what is travelling through it. If you are piping poison gas into a shower chamber to gas Jews, you are using that pipe in an evil manner. If you are piping fresh water to an orphanage in Cambodia, you are using that pipe in a good manner. The pipe, the media, is neutral, the content is what makes it good or evil.

So a book is not good or evil, it is the message inside that is good or evil. You can print the Bible, or the satanic Bible. The press is neither good nor evil, it is media.

The TV is not good or evil, you can watch adultery and lying and killing on it, or you can watch Kenneth Copeland and Andrew Wommack. It is a media.

And Facebook is not good or evil, you can find your ex-girlfriends and ruin your marriage on it, or you can encourage people, and meet friends and share your life in a godly, inspirational way.

It’s just a media. If you think it is the devil, maybe you need to change what you are posting and who you are listening to.

I have seen many lives changed for the better through Facebook, and it is one of the easiest ways to get messages through to people about the church, and advertising on Facebook is one of the most cost effective ways I have of inviting people to meetings. If your experience is different, that’s not the pipe, that’s what is in it.

UKs Coming Revival 06: Peter, Paul and John 01

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The three main figures of the early church were easily Peter, Paul and John.  Besides the gospel writers, they wrote more of the New Testament than anyone, and they are prominent figures within the book of Acts and church history.

Now each of them brought something different to the church – they were unique people with unique personalities and giftings.

Peter was the hardcore evangelist, always telling people about Jesus, but also invariably putting his foot in his mouth.  Jesus was astounded at his faithfulness and wisdom, and had to call him satan and rebuke him in the same day!

Paul was the teacher of the early church, the great revealer of grace. He understood the truth that it is by grace, not of your own, that any should boast, and kept the church on the firm foundation of right doctrine.

Now if you look at the church through history, and the dark ages, it was the church of Peter. It won the whole world for Christ, and if you study the church history of the time, you could be amazed at the church’s loyalty, devotion and kindness – and then think it was satan – in the same day.

Then the Protestant Reformation began, an event that parallels the rebuking of Peter by Paul in Galatia. Paul opposes Peter to his face and says “you have to believe in grace”, “you have to believe in faith”, “good sound doctrine matters”.

And now the Reformation has shifted the church so it is on the foundation of Paul’s revelation of grace and Peter’s revelation of Christ.  That’s great, but I feel we are about to enter into a second Reformation and that is marked by John.

Remember, Peter and Paul had some charismatic experiences – Peter saw the open vision of all the foods, Paul went to the third heaven, but it was John who was the mystic of the early church, John was the prophet. John was the one who saw the Revelation of Jesus Christ, John was the one who was continually talking about loving one another. John was the one concerned that the church didn’t just go into all the world, didn’t just understand the doctrine of grace, but that the church was infected and consumed by the presence of Jesus Christ in the fellowship, visibly seen by our love for one another.

I believe that what is happening in our churches right now is that this attitude and spirit is being restored – the attitude that we love one another, the tangible and visible presence of God in meetings.  The church will be known across the United Kingdom as a place of love.

It’s interesting what each disciple was doing when they first meet Jesus. Paul was on his way to destroy Christians – people whose lives were filled with religion, especially religious hatred often gravitate to the doctrines of grace. In fact even when persecuting the church it was Paul was a teacher, he was obsessed with good doctrine.

Peter was throwing a net into the sea when he met Jesus, prophetic of his attitude of going out and getting the fish.

But John was mending the nets when Jesus met him. It’s great that we have great teachers and great evangelists in the church, it’s great that the church has imbibed the spirit of Peter and Paul, but we need the attitude of the net-menders.  Peter’s ministry would be useless without mended nets! Paul’s ministry would be useless without mended nets!

And sadly we see this across the UK, we see evangelists going into the streets and preaching but they have no respect for local church, no respect for mended nets. And so they are leading people to the Lord, but those people are never once followed up, never once discipled, never once become useful to the kingdom. It’s just a number’s game for them, and because the actual evangelists are not even going to church, or if they do, it’s a dead church just so they can say they are going to church, then they are not discipled at all, and so you are impressed with their boldness and faith one minute, and then see them act just like satan the next.

And we see teachers who are not aware of the mended nets, teaching great revelations of grace, but their followers are not involved in local churches, and they surely do not love each other, and they bicker about who has the correct revelation of grace rather than show grace to one another.

Everything must converge on the local church, on the mended nets. The problem is that mending nets is hard work, and especially when those nets are made of people who are easily offended, easily tired, easily rude, easily unloving.  But when we start to train and disciple people how to love and mend the nets and build genuine churches of grace and love, not forgetting or despising the Peters and Pauls but rather welcoming them into our nets and flowing with their gifts, with their gifts finding a home – we will see the revival that God is looking to reveal in our nation.

I am telling you now that the revival in this nation will not be achieved by rogue evangelists leading a few people to the Lord but with few relationships, it will not be achieved by tiny groups reading the study guides of their favourite teacher and judging everyone by their response to that teacher. No – it will be by local churches where people are discipled, where iron sharpens iron, where everything is centred on Jesus and love, and everything has a place, and the priority is loving one another, and the presence of God manifests and lives are changed forever.

 

Prophetic Word for 2017 (from Kenneth Copeland)

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“This coming year. This coming year. This coming year is not going to be anything like anybody has thought up to now. This is a ‘Year of Fabulous Outpourings From Heaven.’

“Notable miracles…at the hands of not only ministers in the fivefold ministry, but just among the people. Believers will lay hands on the sick and notable miracles will be done. But watch for the children. Watch for the children coming forth with miracle-working power manifest around them. And they are just children. And they will be just children. And I’m not talking about 15 to 20 year olds. Of course, they’re involved. But,” saith The LORD, “watch the little ones. A child shall lead them.

“Many things are going to be happening in the kingdom of God in 2017. And it won’t be anything like you thought. It’ll be grander and greater—an outpouring such as has never been seen before,” saith the Spirit of Grace.

– See more at: http://www.kcm.org/read/prophecies/09-30-2016/2017-year-of-fabulous-outpourings-from-heaven#sthash.nFHELjcV.dpuf

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