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An Open Letter Regarding HEAL THE NATIONS

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Heal the Nations is our annual conference.  On Wed 20th August, our second Heal the Nations kicks off.  We have an amazing array of guest speakers and we have a great worship leader.  We also have great ushers and hospitality people—a massive thanks for everyone who is involved.  I really love and appreciate you and your help!

Last year Heal the Nations helped people so much, and this year it is about to do the same again.  There is something about hearing the Word all day, worshipping all day and being in a positive atmosphere.  Healings happen, financial breakthroughs happen.  Lives change.  Freedom comes.  Vision comes.

I am just writing this to say that I want you to come to Heal the Nations, or at least as many sessions as you can.  Some people have contacted me and said “who is speaking when”… I have told them and indeed the speaker schedule is online—unlike a certain conference I have just been too where it was cloak and dagger!  But the truth is that if you come to hear one speaker although you will be encouraged and inspired by the Word, the whole conference has been planned with me carefully listening to God and asking who to speak and who to bring.  The messages I believe will blend together (like they did last year with each speaker mentioning that God was calling us to a feast) in a special way to inspire you and give you a healthy balanced diet that you may grow thereby.

I don’t want people to come so I can say “there were xxx people at Heal the Nations.” I don’t care—in fact the less people the more personal attention we all get!  I don’t want you to come to give in the offering, it has all been paid for in advance because of the generosity of this church and the wise planning of finances.

I want you to come because I know it will be the most awesome time of spiritual growth in your life.  I go to conferences, I know about many conferences—I know some are all about money, I know some are all about bragging that our conference is bigger than that conference.  I know that we are doing Heal the Nations for you.  God wants you to be healthy, He wants you to receive the Word in its entirety, He wants you to be a church changer, a nation changer, a world changer.  He wants you to be fully equipped to do the works of ministry.  All of the preachers at Heal the Nations are equippers—their heart is your best.  They wouldn’t be invited if it wasn’t so.

So whatever you are doing Aug 20th-23rd, plan to be where you can be equipped to be all God wants you to be.  Plan to be where the Word and the Spirit come together, where grace and faith are mixed together, and where dreams come true! 

Plan to be at an event that is going to help you, heal you, equip you, inspire you, challenge you, encourage you and lift you!

Plan to be where revival isn’t prayed for but is happening.  Plan to be where you are going to find out your destiny and begin to walk in your destiny.

Plan to be at Heal the Nations.

http://www.healthenations.net

Difficult Verses: 1 Cor. 10.13

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Someone recently asked me to discuss 1 Cor. 10.13 as they found it a difficult verse.  No problems there, let’s do it!

No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.

It’s quite a long verse, so let’s break it down a bit so we can digest it.  The first section says “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man.”  This is actually one of the most encouraging sentences in the New Covenant.  We all have times when we feel overwhelmed with temptation – when doing the wrong thing pressurizes us so much it seems difficult to imagine ourselves surviving temptation.  But the good news is this: firstly, everyone has been tempted too.  Nothing has happened to you that is unique.  In a healthy church or community, you can easily share what you are going through and people will understand because they have been through similar things: that’s part of the value of a strong, healthy community.  It’s why Jesus puts people in churches! Secondly, it means that everything you are facing in terms of temptation is on a human level.  That’s awesome – it means that you are not having to deal with problems that are supernatural or spiritual!  Even an unregenerate human can deal with temptation – and you are born again, you have the zoe life of God inside you.  You are the head and not the tail.  You can deal with the temptation.  So that bit is double good news!

The second bit of this verse says: “and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able”.  This sentence is another bit of double good news. Firstly, God is faithful.  Now, in the Greek, there is no difference between the words “faithful” and “faith”.  This verse is actually letting us know that God is FAITH.  God believes in you.  God knows you can make it.  God knows you can manage.  God knows you can cope.  And God – who knows and believes in you – will never ever let things get beyond your ability to handle.  So whatever mess you are in right now, you know you can cope.  God believes in you – so why not believe in yourself?  So here is the double good news from this part of the verse: God is on your side.  No matter how many times you have messed up in the past, God believes you can make it this time.  No matter your past, God believes in your future.  And secondly: you will never be put in a situation you cannot handle.

Finally, we find out that “but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.”  Again, another double blessing in here.  With every temptation there is a way out.  You need to understand this – no matter what you are going through there is a way out.  Maybe you have a porn addiction – there is a way out, there is someone you can talk to, there are solutions to help you get out of it.  Maybe you are drinking too much, there is a way out.  Maybe you are becoming cynical and mean – there is a way out.  THERE IS ALWAYS A WAY OUT!  THERE IS ALWAYS A WAY OUT!  That’s great news.  And finally: you can endure.  The word endure means to put up with; you can find a way out – and it won’t always be easy, but you can endure the way out.  It might be difficult to share your struggles with another human, it may be a shame getting rid of the internet or satellite TV, it may be hard to ditch a couple of your best friends who are always leading you the wrong way.  But YOU CAN ENDURE – whatever the path out is, you can walk it, and you can walk in victory.

This verse is full of good news for anyone who is struggling with sin.  It really is.  

If you have any thoughts or comments, or prayer requests, why not comment below?

7 Great Reasons Christians Can and Should Celebrate Hallowe’en

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We are getting to that stage of year where Christians suddenly turn into pagans.  Not because they are dressing up, getting some free sweets, and enjoying Hallowe’en – that’s not pagan.  But because some Christians actually believe that demons get more powerful based on a day of the year!  That’s paganism, not Christianity.  Being scared of demons is utterly incompatible with being a child of the living God.

So, in honour of the season, here are 7 great reasons Christians should celebration Hallowe’en:

1.  Hallowe’en has never been about evil.  In Victorian times, children dressed up as tramps, as burglars, as pirates.  It was creativity, it was escapism, it was using our imagination.  So much of success in life depends on our imagination, and our ability to conceive a future above and beyond what we are doing right now, realizing we have a God who is above and beyond anything we have right now and can conceive naturally.  Let your children practice and rehearse using theirs!  If you are uncomfortable with them going door to door alone that is nothing to do with Hallowe’en, that’s just good parenting.  Take your children out – spend some time with them!  Enjoy “guising” with them.  Or take them to a party.  Let this day be a day you invest in your children!

2.  Don’t let the pagan past of the day bother you.  Colossians 2.16 says not to let anyone judge you on the day you keep – we are free to observe or not observe days.  Both the dates of Easter and Christmas in this country are pagan in history – so are the days of the week: Thursday is Thor’s Day, Friday is Frei Day.  They are the names of pagan gods.  January is named after a two-faced god called Janus.  So – if you feel bad about celebrating Hallowe’en because it is “pagan” then don’t give anyone a Christmas card, don’t celebrate your pagan birthday in pagan January, and certainly don’t go to church on the day named by people who worship the Sun!

3.  Get a grip on rumours and conjecture.  Here is the truth: no one actually knows what Wiccans and pagans did during the ancient festival of Samhain.  What we do know is the Pope moved All Saint’s Day to November 1st so that people had something to celebrate at this time of year.  If that sounds familiar it should – that’s how we have the current dates for Christmas. 

4.  Realize that satan has been utterly and completely and totally and irreversibly defeated.  I mean seriously – if I dress up as a dog I am eating at the table of the devil, falling into the devil’s pit and walking into the devil’s trap?  Did you forget about Calvary?  Did you forget that the devil has a squished head.  Did you forget that Jesus beat him once and for all for all eternity?  If you think the devil is so powerful that he can demonize someone for dressing up or eating candy, or bob for apples, or carving a face into a pumpkin, then you don’t have a Biblical paradigm, you have a pagan one.

5. This wonderful quote from Martin Luther: The best way to drive out the devil, if he will not yield to texts of Scripture, is to jeer and flout him, for he cannot bear scorn.  Have a good laugh at the devil.  Here is this day that some Christians are scared of, some Christians will hate you for embracing, some Christians will not sleep at night because of the imaginary extra demon activity – you may even hear stories of witches praying and fasting – here is this scary, scary day and you are getting time with your children, you are getting free sweets, you are oblivious to him and his ridiculous fear-tactics.  Have a good laugh about now, because that’s awesome.   Don’t spend the night concerned and worried – that’s not the fruit of redemption.  Have some fun and have a laugh at the no-powered, flat-headed, wannabe that tried so hard to give you the heebie jeebies.

6. All Saint’s Day (November 1st) is a really important thing.  I know some people think that you have to be really really special to be a saint.  Nah!  Every single born again Christian is a saint – is a holy one.  You were made holy by Jesus the moment you accepted his life into yourself.  Your spirit was transformed into righteousness and your life changed so significantly Jesus called it being born again.  It’s great to take some time to remember all the saints who have influenced you, helped you, mentored you, inspired you with their books and biographies.  It’s important to remember that generation after generation the church has grown, survived and helped people and that you are currently where you are only because you are standing on the shoulders of giants.  Hallowe’en is from “Hallow’s eve” which is the night before All Hallow’s or All Saint’s day – the day of remembering the saints.

7.  Hallowe’en is a great day to smash a stereotype.  Some people think Christians are a bunch of frail-minded, superstitious fools who see a devil in every corner.  They think you are sitting under your covers rebuking the devil, warding them off with your HOLY Bible and separating yourself from people.  Get out there, smile at the neighbours as they go round the streets.  Get boxes full of sweets and hand them out.  Be the most generous giver of sweets on your street.  I would say don’t dare stick a tract in the bag unless you know that bag has the most sweets in it of anyone in your street.  Get yourself talked about – get the whole street talking about your generosity, which is spelled L O V E.   Then when someone asks why give an answer about the love and life of God inside you.

Imagination

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Pastor Benjamin Conway, lead pastor of Tree of Life Church and founder of the Tree of Life Network, shows here how to use your imagination to enter fully into God’s dream and your dream for your life. This message is inspiring and challenging and will let you be all you can be!

Straining at Gnats

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In Matthew 23.24, Jesus in His gentle and tactful manner tells the Pharisees “Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel”.  The Pharisees would get upset and vitriolic at the most minor of things, but fail to see how areas of their lives and ministries were hugely out of whack with God’s heart and love.

The fact is there are still people out there today.  As I express the Biblical truths about healing, people will come at you and say “That sounds Christian Science-y” – of course these will be people who have never met a Christian Scientist, never read Ellen White, and don’t actually know what Christian Science is all about.  But someone told them this, they think it sounds wise so they strain at the gnat in your teaching.  

Someone else might say “That sounds like Greek philosophy”, or the power of Words doesn’t work because I can’t confess I am married to a supermodel and have it happen tomorrow (the fact that doesn’t work is because their spirit has never been wired with faith for that to happen, but your spirit is wired for faith in healing and prosperity – the problem is the mind has been programmed for failure!). 

They are straining at gnats, but missed the camel.  Here is the camel:  Jesus told us that we should do greater works than Him (John 14.12).  He told believers (not apostles or pastors or super-doopers, but believers – all Christians) to lay hands on the sick and they would recover (Mark 16.17).  

The camel in the room is that Jesus Christ has given every single believer a healing ministry.  Hebrews 6.1-2 tells us laying hands on people is a FOUNDATIONAL and BASIC doctrine – the milk of the Word. 

If you are not seeing the sick healed in your life and in your ministry.  If you don’t have some testimonies of people being healed because you laid hands on them and prayed in Jesus’ name, then you have a massive camel in your dinner. 

You do not have time to find someone who is healing the sick and tell them that they haven’t dotted their theological i’s and crossed their philosophical and ministerial t’s correctly.  You have a far, far bigger problem: you are failing to help sick people the Biblical way and failing to go around doing good by healing all those oppressed by the devil.  You are failing to imitate Christ in one of the major areas of His life and ministry.  You are failing to help captives of the devil get set free.

You need to get on your face before God and ask Him for the wisdom to start seeing the sick healed in your life.  You need to dismantle some of your poor theology and thinking that leads to doubt and unbelief; you need to destroy the traditions that make the Word of God (that when sent healed the sick) of no effect.

You really don’t have time to go around correcting everyone else’s gnats until you sort out this massive camel.

If the church took this advice seriously, it would revolutionize our witness on planet earth.

6 Ways to Successfully Build and Pastor a Multi-Ethnic Church

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1.  Celebrate food!  People will accept you if you love their food and eat it with enthusiasm.  It’s amazing what a pot luck will turn into with food from several nations.  It’s a lot more fun than just quiche and mini-sausages, I can promise you!  And eating together breaks down all barriers.

2. Do not appoint leaders just because of their ethnicity or gender.  Appoint the best leaders for the task.  

3. Always be sensitive to any group that is a significant minority.  It’s not easy being the odd man out.  Show that sensitivity by listening to people.  People from a new culture who come to the church are often gateway people who bring a number of people from the same culture, help them feel at home and disciple them.  Awesome.  If people are doing that job, make them part of your leadership team and encourage them to keep discipling.

4. (This is a controversial one) Never divide your small groups on the basis of ethnicity.  People need to get to know – and trust – people from every culture.  We are preparing people for heaven, which will be every tongue, every tribe and every nation.  I know some church growth strategists disagree with this, but sometimes growing people is more important than growing numerically.

5. Have a couple of people you know and trust from the different cultures and run any big ideas through them.  They may see things you haven’t seen, and they can advice you on the impact that decision would have on people who have been raised in a different culture from yourself.

6.  Remember at the end of the day, there are no white people, black people, Asian people: there are just people.  We have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, and we are all made righteous freely through the redemption of Jesus Christ.  Our similarities as Christians far, far, far outweigh our differences.  We have the same faith, the same God, the same peace, the same Bible, the same struggles, the same temptations, the same Holy Spirit.  

5 Attitudes to Ditch before the New Year

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1. Apathy.  There was a survey done of pastors of growing churches recently that showed the one thing they had in common wasn’t their theology, doctrine, mannerisms in the pulpit – but that they worked hard.  They knew how to rest and enjoy the rest patterns of life, but they worked hard.  They were continually learning how to engage with people better, how to become better leaders, how to influence and help people more.  Apathy never lets anything grow.  Gardens become wastelands when we do not tend to them.  Are there things you know need doing?  Make a list, and start working through them one after the other.  Stop watching nonsense on the TV, and vegging out all the time.  You are creating a vicious cycle that is not helping anyone.  Set the alarm for 5 one day before the family get up and spend 2 hours working through the to-do list.  Take a few days of Facebook – no one will actually miss you and your church or business won’t implode because of it.  Apathy is a killer, the Bible says clearly that laziness arms poverty in your life.  Not just poverty of finances but of thinking, of dreaming, of relationships.  Get up and put some effort into what you want to grow in 2013.

 

2. Stubbornness.  The death cry of the church or ministry or the business or the relationship is “we’ve never done it like that before…”  If you want different results that what you have always had, you will have to do something you have never done.  If you want success that you have never had, you are going to have become more flexible, more adaptable.  Stubbornness is a virtue only if you are right – if not, it is a vice.  Find out how people who have achieved more than you have achieved it, and make some changes.  Change is your friend, not your enemy.

 

3. Noseyness.  You have the exact amount of time in 2013 to do everything God has called you to do.  He is a master planner like that, but He has allocated zero time for you to poke your nose in other people’s business.  Every time you are interfering with someone else’s destiny you are absolutely failing to be working out your OWN salvations.  The fruit of the Spirit is self-control, not other-control.  Live and let live.  

 

4. Stinginess.  He who scatters sparingly shall reap sparingly.  Unless you learn true heart generosity, you will never receive the increase you deserve this year.  Become a great giver and you will become a great receiver.

 

5. Envy.  Stop looking at what other people and what they are doing in terms that you want them to fail so you look better.  Blowing out all the other candles in the room doesn’t mean yours will burn any brighter!  When Peter was told he would die for Jesus, his immediate response was “what about John?”  Jesus told him that John’s ministry was none of his business!  It’s true – the pastors envy the evangelists, the evangelists envy the pastors; the ushers envy the Sunday School workers, the Sunday School workers envy everyone who is not in the Sunday School… it’s hard to keep focused sometimes.  Spend time thanking God for what you DO have, and it is a lot easier not to get frustrated about what you don’t have. 

Jesus is not the reason for the season…

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Every year we get people telling us “Jesus is the Reason for the Season”. It rhymes, it sounds spiritual, but it isn’t true!

Jesus is not the reason for Christmas. Jesus has existed for all eternity as part of the Godhead. The reason the Word became flesh wasn’t for His benefit, wasn’t for His safety, wasn’t for His joy. No – God joined the human race, and submitted Himself to the form and la

ws and life of a human not for selfish reasons, but for you.

You are the reason for the season. Christmas is about a God who saw you could never do enough to impress Him, never be able to earn peace with Him – never even have enough control over your own stinking heart and flesh to be able to try! And God became human, the Word became flesh, baby Jesus was born so that you could have a Saviour who is and was touched with every infirmity, that He would understand your weaknesses, and so He could die as a human and redeem all humanity from the curse of the law.

Christmas is about you. It’s about a God who is not demanding anything from you but who wants to pour His life and righteousness and peace into you. A God who became flesh for you. The angels sang “Peace on earth”. They didn’t sing peace in heaven, because there has always been peace in heaven. Christmas is for us on the earth; it is for you and for me.

Thank you, Jesus!

Church Planting

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A sociologist, after studying the spread of Christianity across the world in several countries, said that there is no single more effective way of increasing the number of active Christians in an area of the world is to plant new churches.

As someone who has – as of last weekend – planted two churches in two very different areas, I think that is an accurate conclusion.  Church planting is effective – it attracts people who for whatever reason have not made contact with, or in worst case scenarios, been hurt by – the established churches in the area.  It raises the mood in the area and it forces you to focus on how to reach those who have never been reached.  

Just reflecting back on last weekend, which I consider to be a total success, there are three things I have learned that maybe some of the wannabe church planters, or even those who just have an interest in these matters might want to consider.

Firstly, church planting starts off as maximum effort.  What made this weekend about fifty times easier than starting the Dagenham church was the number of people who drove hours and hours this weekend helping out, making teas, greeting people, sharing their lives, cleaning and setting out chairs, playing guitars, and doing all the stuff that needed to be done.  When we first started out Tree of Life in Essex, we did all that ourselves, and if we couldn’t do it, it couldn’t get done.  I think this really bears well when we  consider planting in Watford next year, as it means there will be even more helpers around to invest in the church plant.  That makes a massive massive massive difference.  My advice to anyone looking to plant a church is this: GET AS MUCH HELP AS POSSIBLE.  We had more people come to our first Healing Crusade (which was in Barkingside) than we did in the Guildford one, but we lost people because we did not have the structure in place to keep them.  Here, the people who came will be with us when we officially launch regular services in two weeks’ time because we did have the helpers.  Everyone who came and helped is absolutely awesome, and will get many, many rewards in heaven!  That’s awesome.

Secondly, the most important thing isn’t how slick you are but how much you care.  One of the realities about Tree of Life Dagenham is that as it is growing (another 100+ day yesterday, praise the Lord – five first time visitors, one of whom got saved, another got baptized in the Holy Spirit) things that were informal have to become formalized to cope with the growth.  Praise God for the Living Churches where you can still meet in a house and share the Word and teach and help one another and love each other.  That way we get the benefit of big and the benefit of small.  But when you are starting you are small.  Rather than hate that, use that.  You can say hello to everyone, find out everyone’s name, have some fun with everyone.  Use that to your advantage.

Thirdly, always celebrate every step of the way.  The first family, the first healing, the first salvation, the first baptism in the Holy Spirit.  Everything when you are new is just awesome.  They say with children you adore the first but enjoy the second.  I think it is the same with church planting, I am thoroughly enjoying myself in a way that I could not with Dagenham because it was so intense and everything was new.  This is fun, and I love it.

Selah!

The Mandate for a Grace Filled, Guilt Free, New Testament Church

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Arthur’s messages during our Restoring Leaders conference have really challenged me and lifted my thinking.  He is possibly the single most powerful Bible teacher in our generation (yes, I know I have said something superlative there and I have considered my thoughts and words carefully).

Something he said several times was this: we have to take a stand.  And that is so true.  It’s all right claiming that we are a grace church, and that we are a church that take the New Covenant and the complete work of Christ seriously, but then when it comes to worship we sing “I’m so hungry, so desperate, I’m going to the enemy’s camp, I surrender all” when it’s nothing to do with “I” but with “HIM”.  This Sunday I determined to only select songs that would be appropriate in heaven – that led to me rejecting a huge number of songs.  Well over 80% of what is written today is about us, about begging God, and about “warring with the enemy”.

That is not the worship of heaven and it should not be the worship of the redeemed either.

Then we have the offering and we beg and plead for money and make prosperity something you have to “DO” to be prosperous, when prosperity is rooted in the redemptive work NOT IN OUR ACTIONS!

No – I am taking my stand.  This Sunday.  If I lose 1/2 the church, then that is what will happen, but Tree of Life Church is a New Testament Church.  We are not going back to the law.  I have already dealt with a lot of this in the series I did on Witchcraft in the Church, but I am going back to this ground and staking a claim.  The foundation of our church is God’s grace as found in the complete redemptive work of Jesus.

No more do to be.  No more heavy burdens.  No more guilt, no more fear, no more shame.  No more condemnation.  No more law – law was our master until grace set us free.

That nagging, doubting, harsh voice inside you – IT’S NOT GOD!  He loves you.  He adores you.  He only has thoughts to prosper you.  He isn’t angry at you, and he isn’t mad at you, and He isn’t out to get you.  

When people say it’s greasy grace: GOOD!  We need to slide in, we couldn’t even walk in through the door of works, none of us could!

When people try and make you feel ashamed because you preach and believe grace and that the law is over, let them know: you are NOT ASHAMED OF THE GOSPEL!

I’ll let you know how it goes.  I believe it will go awesome because God is initiating it, and God is in it. And our church are a bunch that just want to know His Word so they can know Him better.

 

 

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