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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 5: 1 John 5.16

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Someone emailed me this week asking about the meaning of 1 John 5.16, saying it had always been a puzzling verse to them.  And I agreed – it is a strange verse.  Read it for yourself in the KJV:

If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death, he shall ask, and he shall give him life for them that sin not unto death. There is a sin unto death: I do not say that he shall pray for it.  

So it would appear there are a number of questions: what is the difference between a sin leading to death and a sin that doesn’t lead to death.  Any why would there ever be a divine instruction in Scripture not to pray for someone – especially someone in trouble!

Some people use these verses to justify an idea that there are different levels of sin: generally the sin that they do is acceptable, but other people’s sins are unacceptable.  Two things we need to consider so we can discard that idea: firstly, John had just finished saying that all unrighteousness is sin (1 John 5.12), so it seems very unlikely that John is then after putting all sin in the same box separating sin into good sins (or less bad sins) and bad (or worse) sins.  Secondly, it is clear that it is about seeing the sin: it’s not about gossip and finding out that way.  It’s that the brother sees the other Christian commit the sin that does not lead to death.

Well the answer is not that there are different scales of sin, but that the wages of sin is death (Romans 6.23).  Sin pays wages and the wages sin pays is death.  But not every day is pay day!  If you see your brother sinning, you should ask (pray) about it.  But this is where the grammar of this verse gets confused.  Most people translate the personal pronouns like this: 

If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death, he [that man] shall ask, and he [God] shall give him [the sinning brother] life for them that sin not unto death

So the idea is that you see a brother sinning – you go round someone’s house and catch them watching a porno, you are with them when they explode in anger at someone and plan to hurt them, they tell you they are having an affair, you use their bathroom and the towels say “Hilton”.  So you pray, and because your pray is so awesome God will pour life into that person and wipe away that sin.

That’s not how things work, and you know it!  People sin – born-again, Spirit-filled, Christians sin.  And your prayers don’t change that because prayers don’t override free will.  You can pray for people in sin, don’t get me wrong, and if you rebuke the devil and pray for peace, they may suddenly regain a freedom and start living for God, but they could equally choose to keep sinning.

The point is that is not what this verse means.  The pronouns in Greek are all referring to the same indiviudal, so the best way to translate this verse is:

If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death, he [the man that sees his brother sinning] shall ask, and he [the man who sees his brother sinning] shall give him [the brother sinning] life for them that sin not unto death

In other words when you catch someone in a sin, when you see it (not when you hear Sister Bucketmouth tell you all about it) then you don’t just pray.  You give life to your brother.  What does that mean?  You tell them that they are righteous, you point out that sin is evil and its wages are death.  You tell them that Christ has already paid the full price for their sin, and that they are dead to sin, and alive to Christ.  You give them the life of the gospel of redemption and you love them will all the love you have.  You are not the accuser of the brethen, you are the brethren of the brethren.  Did you know in law courts judges aren’t allowed to judge family?  That is because even this nation recognizes that family-ties overtake the role of being a judge.  Yet most of the church want to judge their family in Christ.  No!  Love your family in Christ, be family to your family in Christ.  Bring life to them.  Speak words of life and hope and freedom!  Whenever you see someone sin, let them know how much you love them and how free they are!

That’s why it’s not a sin unto death – you brought life before payday.  

The next thing John says is: There is a sin unto death: I do not say that he shall pray for it.  

That seems harsh until you realize there is a mis-translated word in there.  And it is the word “pray”.  The Greek word here is not aiteo, the normal Greek word for prayer, it is eratao – which means to ask questions about.  This verse is not saying “yeah, some sins are so bad that if someone does a sin from the bad list you should simply then not pray for them or help them because they are such bad Christians” – though I know a lot of people see it that way.  It’s not saying that, it’s saying something else, something far more profound and far more Christ-like:

There is a sin unto death.  I do not say [another Christian brother] shall ask questions about it.

You see sometimes a sin is hidden until it explodes in someone’s face.  It’s not one of those times you find out about it, show love and life to the person and help them.  You only find out when the person is suddenly dealing with the consequences.  It’s now payday, the wages of sin are now being paid out in full.  His wife turfs him out, his car is repossessed, his boss fires him, his friends abandon him.  In those cases, the Scriptures are not telling you “don’t pray for such a wicked person”.  It’s saying “don’t ask any questions” – mind your own business, don’t ask for all the juicy details.  Get involved by loving, showing life, helping, praying, being kind.  Don’t get involved by trying to find out all the juicy details, and give them your tuppence worth.  No-one when their sin harvest comes in wants your tuppence worth, they want your love and life and abundance.  We live in an age of gossips, and this verse is a timely encouragement to focus on what’s important.

So if you see someone sinning before their sin payday, pray and show them love and give them some life.  If you see someone sinning after sin payday, show them love and grace and don’t get hung up on the details.  Never ever forsake someone for messing up, but love them!

Difficult Verses 4: 1 John 1.9

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Well, thanks to the people who suggested this verse as a difficult verse they want an explanation on.  I will do my best to help you grasp what this verse is saying.  The verse says this:

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1.9, ESV)

And it is a difficult verse because it seems at face value that it contradicts the wealth of New Covenant Scriptures that we are forgiven because of the work of Jesus, not because of anything we do: that we are saved by grace through faith alone (Ephesians 2.8-9), that the way to salvation is through believing in the work of Christ (Acts 16.31) and not by our works (Romans 4.16, 24).  If our forgiveness is dependent on our ability to confess, then we are in trouble – you don’t remember all your sins, and nor do I – so how can we possibly confess them all.

This verse is initially so difficult to reconcile with the New Covenant that some people actually seek to remove it from Scripture.  I have heard that, against all principles of letter-writing and grammar, that 1 John 1 was written to non-Christians and 1 John 2-5 was written to Christians.  I will give you three reasons why this cannot possibly be true, but firstly let’s just realize this: if your theology has to rip a New Testament letter to the church in two to avoid a verse, you are letting your theological system have more weight than the Word of God has.  That can only be reading into the text, not reading out of it.  

There are three clear reasons this verse applies to Christians today:

  • There is no chapter break between 1 and 2 in the original text.  You have to rip a letter written to the church into two to make this idea work
  • John uses first person plural pronounsin the verse: “we”, “our” and “us”.  Now if John says “we”, “our” and “us” he is including himself.  You cannot argue that this verse is not to Christians unless you want to make the case that John was not a Christian.  If this verse applies to John, it applies to you.
  • People haven’t thought through the implications of what they are saying.  For people who claim this verse isn’t for Christians, they have to then accept it is for non-Christians.  Some people say it is for all non-Christians, others have a special group of non-Christians that 1 John 1 is apparently written to (again, against all possible logic and grammar!).  One prominent teacher tells us that this first chapter of 1 John 1 is written to the Gnostics.   Now, let’s just ignore the fact that there were no Gnostics around in the 1st century when this letter was penned, and let’s just say that if it is not written to Christians then it must be written to someone!  Do the people who think that it written to non-Christians think that non-Christians (whether all of them or just a special group of them) think that non-Christians have to confess all their sins to be righteous?  Do they believe that for a certain group of Gnostics the normal rules of salvation by faith don’t apply?  It’s just not been thought through. 

I appreciate the passion people have for Christ and the complete work, but ripping verses out of the Bible, or relegating them to a secret group of people who no longer exist, because they are difficult to understand is not the way to honour the Word of God.  We have to engage with the Word and find out what it means.

So what does 1 John 1.9 mean?  Well, firstly, we have established that it is definitely written to Christians.  It is written to born-again, righteous, pure, holy, redeemed people.  John includes himself in the recipients of the letter – so it is definitely written to Christians, even mature Christians and leaders and elders!  Let’s just be honest – sometimes Christians, whether they are new Christians, older Christians or even church leaders – sin.  We get caught up in patterns of sinful behaviour and we need to get out.  This verse actually gives us a powerful route out of sin, and to relegate it to a 2nd century cult or rip it out of the letter is to do Christians a great disservice because this verse is powerful and will help you when you rightly understand it.

The first thing we need to do to find the meaning of the verse is examine the words that make it up.  Let’s start with the word “confess”, which in Greek is homologia.  Homo- means the same as, and logia means words, and homologia means to “say the same words as”.  It doesn’t mean we have to ball and squall on the floor and weep and wail about all our sins.  It isn’t talking about an emotional experience, although sinning, dealing with sin and making declarations can be emotional at times.  It is talking about you saying the same thing as God about your sin.  So what does God say about your sin?

Firstly, God says that sin is sin.  So stop calling it something else.  It’s not your personality type, it’s not a bad habit, it’s not my oopsie. It’s sin.  Gossip is sin.  Stealing is sin.  Outbursts of rage is sin.  Looking at a woman with lust in the heart, watching porn, is sin.  Sex outside of marriage is sin.  Cursing Christians is sin.  Pride and arrogance is sin.  Call it what it is.  Face up to the issue – man up and own your sin! Say out loud: “I have sinned.  This action I have done is sin, and I want to be free!”  Let’s exercise some responsibility.

Secondly, God says that your sin has been paid for on the cross.  It has been dealt with.  2 Cor. 5.21 tells us that Christ became sin with your sin so that you could be made the righteousness of God.  So your sin has been forgiven and you have died to sin.  Sin is not your master anymore because you are under grace (Romans 6.14).  Now you have accurately diagnosed your problem as sin, and are not hiding behind an excuse start to declare that you are free from sin, that you are forgiven, that you are redeemed, that you are righteous, that your spirit is pure and holy, that you are born again.  Start to declare this outloud.  That is confessing your sin – saying what God says about it.

You see you can only have God’s remedy for your problem when you admit God’s diagnosis for your problem.  Keep denying it is sin, keep blaming the other people for making you behave like that, you start to distort the world.  Your thinking darkens and you become corrupt.  Admit it is sin, declare it is sin, then you can declare God’s solution to sin: the blood of Christ and the cross of Christ.

So now you have confessed your sin, we find out that God will do two things.  Not because He is merciful and kind (though He is!) but He will do these things because He is faithful and righteous.  You see if you have sinned, and you have confessed that sin, then you need to know that God isn’t going to do what He does next because of His goodness but because of His righteousness and faithfulness.  Christ died for your sin because of God’s goodness, but now that Christ has paid the full price for sin, it would be unrighteous for God not to help you in your sin!

How does God help us?  Well, the Scripture says He forgives us and He cleanses us from all unrighteousness.  This again causes problems for us complete work people, we read this and go “well, I am forgiven” and “I am righteous” so what is this about?  Let’s just look a little deeper and find out.

Firstly, God forgiving us?  Aren’t we forgiven because of Jesus at the cross, rather than because of our awesome confession?  It depends what you mean by forgive.  The Greek word for forgive is also equally translated as separate, and even as divorce a couple of times.  It means to firmly and deliberately separate two things.  This verse isn’t talking about God forgiving us because we finally said sorry – I know it’s been preached that way, but God is not waiting for an apology!  Forgiveness is rooted in the cross, not our apology.  It’s talking about the fact that God will separate you from your sin – when you start declaring what the Bible says about your sin, you find that sin loses it’s power to tempt you, to control you, to hold you.  When you start declaring that you are free from sin, and sin has no dominion over you because you are under grace not law, that sin loses its power to con you into thinking you have to obey it.  That is what 1 John 1.9 means by forgiveness – it’s about being free from that sin.

Then the cleansing from all unrighteousness.  Look, we all should know that our spirits are righteous the moment we get born again. You are totally righteous in your spirit.  Therefore, it doesn’t take a genius to work out that this Scripture is not talking about our spirit! Then it shouldn’t be too difficult to realize it’s talking about our souls.  Your spirit is righteous, but your soul – not so much.  If you had an x-ray machine that could see spirit and soul, and you were standing next to Jesus and you set the machine to spirit – you would not be able to tell the difference between you and Jesus.  You are one spirit (1 Cor. 6.17).  That’s awesome – your spirit is the righteousness of God.

But if you turned the dial on the machine and set it to soul – to thought processes, to how we think and respond and feel.  I am guessing it wouldn’t be that hard to work out which one is Jesus and which one is us!  Our souls are not yet fully renewed and not yet fully restored – we are a work in progress in our souls.  But when we start declaring the Word of God and what God says about sin – confessing our sins – then God, in His faithfulness and righteousness – starts to cleanse our souls from that unrighteousness.  Our thoughts start to line up with His thoughts, our ways subsume into His ways.  It’s awesome!  You see now why the power of this verse means that it should not be relegated to non-Christians or Gnostics or ripped out of the Bible!  It’s part of grace!

Now you sin and most of the time, you can pick yourself up again.  This verse isn’t saying to confess all our sins, it’s talking about those times where a sin or group of sins just seems to be having the victory over us and our life.  Sometimes, and it happens to all of us, a certain sin just seems to get the better of us.  It seems to be winning.  In those cases, here are the 4 steps to victory:

  1. Agree with God that it is a sin.  Stop making excuses or blaming the others, or your DNA, or the situation.  It is sin.  Confess (declare) that your actions are sinful.  This is the diagnosis that allows the remedy – if you can’t make the right diagnosis, you won’t take the right cure!
  2. Agree with God that sin has been dealt with on the cross.  Start to declare and agree with God that sin has been dealt with.  That you died to sin, that sin is not your master.  Read Romans 6.1-14 out loud.  Declare that it is for freedom that you have been set free.  Declare that your spirit is righteous, that you are pure and holy.  Confess (agree with God) that this sin has been dealt with on the cross.
  3. God will then forgive (separate) you from your sin.  You will find as you declare and agree with God what He says about your sin that it’s power is dethroned.  Your confession gives you authority and wisdom.  It dislodges the sin from your thoughts, and God jumps in and separates you and your sin.
  4. God will cleanse you (your soul) from all unrighteousness.  He will start to help you renew your mind and think God thoughts.

The Christian life is not just health and wealth, it’s also manifest righteousness.  It’s living free from sin, living free from selfishness.  Never having to lose relationships because of your selfishness is one of the best blessings about living the Christian life.  And confession of sin, as defined Biblically – not culturally or dogmatically – is one of the most powerful tools in the Christian life.  Don’t follow the people who because of the misusers of this verse have become non-users of this verse!  Become a user of this verse and learn how to live a life free from sin today. 

Difficult Verses 2: Hebrews 12.14

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Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord: (Hebrews 12.14)

This verse is one of the verses that is used to condemn people all the time.  If you are not holy, you will not see the Lord.  It’s often taken two ways: firstly, if you are not holy you will not see the Lord (come through for you).  In other words, you will stay poor and sick, stay broken, stay a mess because God isn’t happy with you and doesn’t want to bless you until you reach a certain standard of holiness.  That brings so much condemnation.  The second way people add to this verse is even worse, they think: if you are not holy, you will not see the Lord (when you die).  In other words, you lose your salvation because you are not good enough to be saved.

Let’s refute both of these.  Firstly, you are not going to fail to get blessed because you are not good enough.  You are already blessed with every spiritual blessing in Christ (Ephesians 1.3) so you are not going to fail to be blessed because you are blessed.  In Galatians 3.1-5 Paul is clear that miracles happen because you believed the Word not because of you obeying the Law.  Your goodness is not a currency that you can exchange for blessings.  The good news of the gospel is that you are blessed independent of your behaviour.

Secondly, you are not going to heaven if you are good enough.  You are not good enough – entry into heaven is through faith in Christ alone.  All you have to do is believe and receive.  You are saved from hell by confessing with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believing with your heart that He is risen from the dead.  Again, goodness has nothing to do with it.

So what does the verse mean?  The context is clear from the first part of the verse (and the surrounding verses) that Paul (or whoever you think the writer to Hebrews is) is talking about how we relate to other people.  It’s to do with peace with all people.  You see this verse is about following holiness because without that holiness no man (i.e. other people) will see the Lord.

You are holy already (Ephesians 1.5).  Your spirit has been made in true holiness and righteousness.  Deep down you are holy – your salvation and you being blessed is secure in Him and His work.  But unless you follow that holiness other people will not see the Lord in you.  You have all the love of God in your spirit, but if you steal from your boss, are mean to your co-workers and are known as the office flirt, no one will ever see that love and that holiness in you.  You have to follow holiness – not to get saved, you are; not to get blessed, you are – but so that the world will see our light and come to the light.

So go and live holy.  Not to impress God – He loves you to bits.  Not to get blessed – everything is yours in Christ already.  But so the world may know.  So you have credibility when you ask people to church.  So you can impact the world with the love of God.

5 Benefits of a Multi-Cultural, Multi-National, Multi-Ethnic Church!

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One of the greatest joys in my life is pastoring a church that has over 20 nationalities present in any given weekend.  That’s awesome. I think if you have a monocultural church in London you are doing something wrong.  I love the variety and the life that this exposes us to. Here are 5 of my favourite things about the Tree being multi-cultural:

5.  There are people clapping on every beat.  Maybe you have never noticed this but during the praise music, black people generally clap on the upbeat, and white people generally clap on the downbeat.  At the Tree we have every beat covered!  

4.  We find out about preachers that we would never have found about otherwise.  Ever heard of Stanley Ndovie?  Man, that guy can preach.  He is from Malawi, and I would never have known about him without people from our church from that awesome nation.  I would never have heard some of the amazing preachers from Uganda, Nigeria, Ghana or India without people from those nations introducing me to them.  In fact, a lot of European and American preachers who minister mainly to a particular ethnic group I would never have heard either.  That’s a great thing, because you are getting to help learn Scriptures that maybe you wouldn’t have looked at or who wouldn’t have looked at in a particular way.  These things are really important because…

3. The body of Christ is made up of different parts – just like your body.  If all you do is fellowship with people who look like you, who act like you, who grew up where you grew up and see things your way, then you never learn anything new.  You can’t get help when you meet help.  If you got a splinter in your foot, you would never be able to take it out with another foot – you need a hand to take that splinter out.  When you reach a problem you cannot solve, calling someone just like you will just add to the ignorance in the room.  I am so glad for the wisdom I have received on topics such as giving, prayer, integrity, passion, honour, discipleship, peace, healing from people who have come from a different culture and brought wisdom and life no Englishman could ever have taught me.

2. The food.  I love groundnut soup, fufu, jollof rice; I love daals and chili, I love food from all nations.  Our church pot-lucks are amazing!  Seriously… amazing!

1..  It’s a love tester.  It proves that our community and church are built on love.  If you only love those like you, you are just like a tax-collector said Jesus.  Really – if you cannot love someone who is different from you then you cannot really love anyone.  Racism comes from fear and pride – I’m better than you, and I think that your differences will detract from me.  The counter attitude to racism is gracism: I know we are equal in Christ, and I know your differences can benefit and bless me.  That’s the attitude we are cultivating in our church full of the nations.

3 Kinds of People Who Leave Your Church

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Where's the Exit?

 

 

Sometimes people leave your church!  Some leave quietly, suddenly skulking away; others leave with a song and a dance and with maximum drama slamming the door loudly on their way out making sure everyone and their dog knows exactly why they are leaving and why the glory has now departed from your fellowship.

Firstly, let’s establish that people leaving is not always bad.  Sending someone to plant a church would be a clear example of someone leaving and it being awesome.  But when someone who doesn’t give, spreads gossip, causes division finally decides they are going – that’s a blessing. A church of 70 with peace is better than a church of 700 with strife.

In Luke 15, Jesus tells three parables: the lost sheep, the lost coin and the lost son.  He is not telling the same parable three times, but talking about three people who all get lost for different reasons.  When someone leaves your church there are different reasons behind it and your response should be different based on the person.

1. The Distracted Person

Some people are like sheep – easily distracted.  Sheep get lost because they see something shiny or moving and wander over to it and lose the herd.  They wander off – going to a market one Sunday, dealing with a family crisis the next, then they just lose contact with the flock and each week they don’t go it gets harder to come back.

How to deal with people like that – go and get them back.  Go hunt them down and bring them back – they want to come back, they are just not sure how. 

2. The Offended Person

The coin was lost because the woman lost the coin.  Some people are lost because they get offended at someone else.  “That person wasn’t nice to me” – well, welcome to a church that is open to everyone, including you, including them.  It never ceases to amaze me how thin skinned Christians can be, getting offended over the songs sung, the attire of the preacher, the hair cut of the preacher – if there is a silly reason to get upset someone will.  And of course, let’s be honest sometimes things happen that are offensive – churches are populated by humans and sometimes we badly let people down.

Some people get upset and just vanish.  What to do?  Turn the house upside down, sweep the floor – find the reason and make it right with the person.  

3.  The Self-Willed Person

Some people fancy themselves as the lone wolf – they don’t need a pack; they want to do things their way, they don’t want to listen to the preached Word, just TV speakers (why?  because they can change channel if it upsets their theologies), some people don’t want to be around people they can’t control, some people want to come into the church and do church their way.  The worst thing a pastor can hear is “my last church used to…” as they immediately think “well go back there.”  

I once had a series of emails from an individual who did not want to be part of a church body.  He did not want an organized church.  I told him to find a church with less than 5 people because otherwise there needs to be organization.  Even a family with a child is organized!  He told me to be more like a certain church.  I said if he liked that church so much he should go there, he pointed out it didn’t exist anymore.  It didn’t – there was a coup and the church split every which way possible.  Not really a good model for going on!

Some people leave because they want their inheritance, they want to walk in their dreams and they know they are not.  But rather than admit they have flaws they need to work on in community, that they need the help of the church, that they need discipling, they blame you for withholding their inheritance from them, storm off, demand their way and leave.

Listen carefully: don’t go chasing people like that.  Wait until they are eating the pig food then they will come back.  If they don’t come back, you are better off without them.  If you after them, it will engender strife and waste your time.  

Let them come to their senses.  It’s a waiting game, and it’s hard, but it is the only way to deal with the self-willed.  Save your hunting energy for the lost sheep

This is Your Year!

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Today, God has given you a gift.  A gift that He has given everyone on the planet.  A gift of time.  A gift of 365 days.  Although the charismatic prophets will be telling you this is the year of this and that – breakthrough, financial release, the wealthy place, the abundant return – and the cheers will go up from the people who believe that changing calendars leads to a fresh anointing – it’s simply not the case.  This year is a gift to you and it’s up to you what it is.

It can be the year of breakthrough – if you renew your mind.

It can be the year of the financial release – if you get some financial wisdom and give generously and in faith and love

It can be the year of the abundant harvest – if you sow the abundant seed

At Tree of Life Dagenham we are calling this year “The Year of Identity” – but that’s not because God is going to give us an identity in 2014.  Christ gave us all an identity as the righteousness of God when He died and rose again on the cross – He welcomed us into the family of God and now our identity is linked eternally with His.  All we are doing is choosing to focus on it, preach on it, sing about it, study it, enjoy it and watch it manifest in our lives as our souls line up with our spirits.  It’s going to be really exciting.  

In Watford we are calling this year “The Year of Healing” but that’s not because God suddenly decided – hey, I’ve got a new calendar, let’s heal some folk.  No – all healing was accomplished 2000 years ago when Christ bore our sicknesses and diseases.  It’s not by this year you were healed, it’s by His stripes you were healed.

In Guildford we are calling this year – well certainly the first half of it because we are going to nail this in less than a year – Crossing Over.  We are going from fort to castle – we are growing into what God has prepared for us.  But it’s not that God hasn’t prepared a land of promises for us – it’s just that this is the year we are going to embrace it and enjoy it by focusing on it and renewing our minds to it.

So – this is your year.  It is what you choose it to be.  It will be the harvest of the seeds you sow.  So, I want to on this first day of the new year give you five kinds of good seeds that you could sow this year and mean that you will enjoy an abundant harvest:

1.  The seed of YOUR WORDS.  Jesus said the sower sowed the WORD.  If you want a good harvest you have to learn to speak good.  This is a challenge for this year: get 10 Scriptures that sum up what you want from God – healing, finances, and so on.  Personalize them – if it says “My God shall supply all your needs” you turn it into “My God shall supply all MY needs”, if it says “By His stripes you were healed”, turn it into “By His stripes I am healed”.  Repeat them every morning and every night.  That one action alone will totally change 2014 for you.

2.Financial seed.  If you don’t tithe, start tithing this year. Not because you have to or because God is going to get to but because you believe God’s Word and it says that if you give it will be given to you pressed down shaken together running over …. and you know that you can give more generously than a dead man under law.  Try it and see the results.  In April, we are running a 90 day tithing challenge – tithe for 3 months consistently – if you are not blown away by the change then your money back.  That’s how much I believe in this.  If you do tithe, think of something outrageous to give and believe that God supplies seed to the sower.

3. The seed of time.  What you do is what you become good at doing.  Want to become better at playing the guitar – put some time in.  Want to become better at being a friend – put the time in.  Want to become better at preaching – put the time in.  Want to become better at knowing God’s Word – put some time in.  What you invest time in will flourish.  What you ignore and neglect will wither and die.  Today, choose what you want to cultivate in 2014.  You cannot do everything  – so decide what is important.  We go on and on about being well rounded, but a squash ball is well rounded but if you needed surgery you wouldn’t want the surgeon using a squash ball, you would want a blade that is not well rounded but sharp.  You have a choice in life, well rounded or sharp.  Sharp is more useful and more valuable.  Focus on what you want to do and invest time in that.

4. The seed of “NO”.  I honestly believe “no” is the single most anointed word in the world.  It has the powerful to release destiny, set you free, give you a future.  An extra doughnut is saying “eat me”.  No.  A friend wants to gossip about the pastor.  No.  A guy starts to come on to you when you are married.  No.  All sorts of negative thoughts are trying to nest in your head.  Your flesh will want to have a pity party – tell it no.  Often our lives are a mess not because of what we are not doing, but because we are doing too much and are too busy.  Churches fail because they have too many meetings, businesses fail because they are trying to do too many things.  Stop being swept away – find out your destiny and say no to everything else.

5. The seed of love.  This is the seed that often produces the quickest harvest.  Try smiling at someone – they almost always instantly smile back.  Go and take someone out to the shops and buy them some new shoes.  Go and buy someone some flowers, some shopping, a new computer game.  Go and mow someone’s lawn.  Right now phone the first single mother who comes to mind and offer to babysit one night this week and let her go out.  Pay her to babysit her child.  Let’s decide to try and outdo each other in being the most loving people on earth this year.  

Sow those seed and this will be the year of harvest.  Don’t sow them and it’s still the year of harvest.  It’s just 100 times nothing is still nothing.

Excerpt from Rivers and Wells (Pastor Benjamin’s book on the anointing)

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This passage is an excerpt from Pastor Benjamin’s book RIvers and Wells.  The book can be purchased here.

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On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given,because Jesus was not yet glorified. (John 7.37-39, NKJV)

Incidentally, I much prefer the King James rendering of the phrase as “rivers of living waters.” Some modern translations use the phrase “streams of living waters”. I prefer the imagery of rivers of water flowing out of me, rather than streams. It just seems more powerful. The Greek gives the idea of water with a current – water that is flowing to a destination. Incidentally the King James translates a few phrases a bit better than the more modern versions. In Ephesians 6 the King James Version tells us to take up the shield of faith because of the fiery darts of the enemy. The New International Version tells us the enemy has flaming missiles. I do not know about you, but I would rather be facing fiery darts than flaming missiles!

So, by comparing these passages we can see that in John 4 Jesus is talking about the new birth and says that at the new birth a well of gushing water is placed inside you. In John 7, Jesus is not referring to the new birth but rather the baptism in the Holy Spirit, and he says the baptism of the Holy Spirit is not like a well inside you, but like rivers that flow out of you. These rivers flowing out of you are your ministry to others: laying hands on the sick, casting out demons, speaking the Word to people. This ministry is not just for the full-time ministers but should be part and parcel of the life of every Christian. Jesus said that whoever believed in Him would do the works He did (John 14.12). I know a lot of people talk about the end of that verse (“greater works”) and many theological people have argued about what greater works means. I simply do not care what greater works means. I do not. I am staying on the first part of the verse: I will do the works Jesus did. When I am doing them fully, then I will find out what the greater works are.

It makes me laugh when I hear theologians discuss and argue about what the greater works are when they have never even done the works Jesus did in the first place. You, Christian, should be doing the works of Jesus. That is the power of God that has been placed inside you: rivers of living water. Not just one river, but many rivers. So you can flow in the power of God and minister life and healing to those around you. Mark 16 tells us that those who believe will lay hands on the sick and the sick will recover. It does not mention apostles and prophets and pastors! It says those who believe. The highest calling and anointing for any Christian is the anointing and calling to be a believer. There are many people who would call themselves (and it is them calling themselves, because God certainly has not done it) apostles and prophets, and yet they have never even once functioned in the anointing of the believer. They have never laid their hands on the sick and seen them recover! It is time the body of Christ stopped arguing over titles and pre-eminence, got over our jealousy of one another and started doing the works that Jesus did.

Every Christian should be casting out demons, healing the sick, ministering life and love to the world and doing good. This is the most important issue when it comes to the anointing, not the prophetic and apostolic anointings. These are real, and Christians need to know how to relate to these anointings, but there is far too much emphasis on them within the charismatic move today. Let us focus on the main issues: every Christian should be ministering in the power of the Holy Spirit and have rivers of life flowing out of them changing their worlds. The church is so far removed from this. There are so many Christians who do not know that the power of God is inside them, that the same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead lives inside them, that they can do the works of Jesus, that they can place their hands on a sick person and the person will be healed. And yet, the church is arguing about who is a prophet and who is this, and who is that. Who cares?

The fact is most of the world needs a church that is filled with faith and glory. God’s desire is for the whole church to be doing the works of Jesus and extending the kingdom and rescuing people from hell. We have made church a spectator sport, like a theatre show. You pay your money and you put your backside on a chair so the pastor can boast how many backsides are on chairs, but you are not expected to do the works of Jesus.

You know you are destined for more than a bottom on a seat. You were designed by God for dominion, for destiny, to rule and reign over fear and over sickness. To change lives and demonstrate the kingdom of God. You know that rivers of living water will flow out of you.

Say this out loud: No more am I merely a bottom on a seat. I am a child of God. The same power that raised Jesus from the dead is in me. The greater One lives in me. I have an anointing from the Holy One. In me is a well of water, out of me flow rivers of living water.

You need to keep saying this out loud until you start getting excited about this. You need to be so confident of this that when you walk out your house and see someone sick you offer to lay your hands on them. You offer to minister life to them. When you see someone sad, you are going to cast the devil out of them. You are going to do the works that Jesus did. You are going to believe the Word of God.

10 Ways to Destroy a Church

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10.  Never be willing to do anything to help.  See the church as a provider of a service, not a community you are part of.  Never step up to taking responsibility, always see yourself as a tenant not an owner!

9.  Expect everyone to notice you and what you contribute.  If they fail to notice you, get stroppy with them for being so selfish and not noticing all you do to make things happen.  If they still fail, withdraw from the group until someone contacts you and asks how you are and makes a big fuss over you.

8.  Always speak to the people you know.  Never speak to new people in case they find us friendly and then decide they want to hang around – then where would we be?

7.  Be very intolerant of people who don’t know how we do things around here.  Our unspoken dress code, our order of service, even how we make a cup of tea and coffee, where cables go at the end of the church.  Make sure these people are told in no uncertain terms that they have done something really foolish and that everyone thinks they look ridiculous.

6.  Make sure you put other people down and criticize their contributions, their ideas, their style.  Otherwise how else is anyone going to know how amazing you are?  Your candle will surely burn brighter if you blow everyone elses’ candles out. 

5.  Be unpunctual.  It’s only 5 minutes of your time – so don’t ever think that if 20 people are waiting for you to arrive that’s 100 minutes you have wasted.  it is important not to think of other people here, but only yourself – otherwise you might stop being selfish, arrive on time and actually contribute to moving things forward.

4. Always take on more than you cope with – and when you serve be like Martha – rush about, get upset at people not serving, get bitter and angry and then boom – you lose your relationship with the Lord, and make other people feel guilty.  It might not help the community grow, but it will make you feel better and superior too.  That’s what it’s all about – that’s the only reason to serve.

3. Look for things to criticize.  You will find them.  In any church, you will find them.  Make sure you don’t look at all the work the church is doing, all the exciting things that are happening, all the good that is being done.  Look for the crack in the wall, don’t praise God for the wall.  When your looking at the cracks, you don’t get inspired and challenged by the wall.  You don’t get excited by all the things happening in the building.  You keep focused on the cracks.  But the good news is that you get a reputation in the church as the crack expert.  When people want to know what is going wrong, they come to you.  You get a lot of admiration being the crack expert and the great news is this – it’s the easiest job in the church.  Getting involved in the building, mixing cement, laying bricks, working as a team – that’s too much like hard work.  No – watch the builders build, notice when they get it wrong and let others know (loudly).  That is an easy job and an easy pathway to making friends and having a following.  (NOTE: please don’t take the time to ever consider that if you choose this path all your friends are backstabbing gossips.  Just be glad that they are listening to you and feed your power base).

2.  Make sure you tip the church.  About £1 per service is about right, maybe £2 or £3 if the message is amazing.  That way you dull the feeling inside that you should contribute to the financial health of the church, and that giving to the church is part of being significant.  There are a whole bunch of internet sites, mostly written by people who don’t go to church about how the tithe is obsolete, giving to churches is wrong and you should keep your money and spend it on yourself.  Spend lots of time reading these sites in case you start giving significant amounts so the church can blaze forward and impact the world.  Every time the preacher gets a new suit or car, think all about your suits and cars that you don’t have and hold back on your giving.  Remember – it’s someone elses’ job!

1.  Never, ever be disciplined about going.  It’s been a busy weekend?  Skip church on Sunday.  Stay in bed.  Play a board game with your children – tell yourself that you are doing it for them (don’t consider that you are training them to skip church when you are tired, and that might not be a good habit to instill in a child).  It’s been a hard day at work?  Don’t go to Living Church.  They won’t miss you.  You can read the Bible yourself (don’t consider that you never do during those times).  You don’t need fellowship to advice.  Go when you feel like – and tell yourself it what Jesus wants.  Again, there are loads of websites written by people about how church is institutional, sets you back in your Christian faith and a whole host of other things.  Start to see church as an optional extra that fits into your life, not the bedrock of your Christian life.  

10 Scriptures that Can be used in nearly every mess

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We often learn lists of healing Scriptures, finance Scriptures, family Scriptures, etc. so that in specific crises we know what the Word says.  But if you are a new Christian or if you don’t know the Word as well as you should, or if you are facing multiple battles at once it is great to know that there are some Scriptures that will apply to EVERY situation.  These Scriptures should be learned, considered, meditated and declared in every mess you find yourself in.

10.  Greater is He that is in you, than He that is in the world. (1 John 4.4)

9.  My God shall supply all my needs according to His riches in glory (Php. 4.19)

8. If God is for us, who can be against us? (Romans 8.31)

7. He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? (Romans 8.32)

6. We are more than conquerors through him who loved us (Romans 8.37)

5. So then they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham. (Gal. 3.9)

4.  Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree: (Gal. 3.13)

3. Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not. (1 John 3.1)

2. Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.  (Romans 5.1-2)

1. Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place. (2 Cor. 2.14)

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