Take time to align

Unless we align with God, we’ll be forever off course. Francis Grimke (an early American Civil Rights leader in 1919) put it like this: “The great spiritual need of man is to get rid of sin, to get out from under its guilt and power and into fellowship with God.” To refuse to surrender to God’s authority is to put yourself at odds with Him.

To give up self-justification and to humbly seek God’s mercy is to step into His Light. Forgiven & delivered sinners have more love than the self-righteous. Jesus put it this way: “Whoever has been forgiven little loves little.” –Luke 7:47 (If Christ has truly forgiven you, He has forgiven you of much; not of just a little.)

No one is innocent of rebellion against God. Only the guilty need God’s forgiveness. The innocent are fine without it. We all need His mercy not His justice. To believe yourself innocent before God is a great deception.

No one is innocent before God; but through Christ, God offers forgiveness. To plead “not guilty” is to miss out on God’s forgiveness, grace & mercy.

To expect your nation to punish wrongdoers, but God not to; is inconsistent. If nations can have a criminal justice system, why shouldn’t God have one? If a nation (or God) refuses to punish wrongdoers it leads to unloving anarchy.

The good news of Jesus is that wrongdoers like me can be transformed & set free! Here is true love: Jesus took your punishment for your wrongdoing so you can be set free. However, Christ’s mercy is optional. He doesn’t force anyone to accept it.

I feel their passion for God when I read the witness of the first Christians in the Bible. I believe the Bible because it works in my heart and in my life. The Bible explains me better than anything I’ve ever found.

The Bible is a live link that will connect you to God if you access it. Don’t believe what people say about Christianity without checking it out in the Bible. To put your opinion above the Bible leads to deception. In this world full of many religious views, the Bible can keep us from deception.Bible overacting to leagalism

Reading the Bible feeds my soul! Have you fed your’s today? To define God by your feelings is to exchange God for an idol of your own creation.

God doesn’t accept our self-destructive behaviors, but empowers us to overcome them. Jesus doesn’t say, “Have it your way.” He says, “Follow Me!” & “I am the Way!” Jesus calls us to change. That’s what He meant by “repent.”

Christians who root for one another give pride the boot & grow in love and humility. We are called to collaborate with the Spirit & with one another; not to go it alone. When we get in sync with the Spirit & one another, Christ’s power flows.

Ekklesia meets to surrender to Christ’s authority and accept His mercy. Ekklesia is a Christian accountability group demonstrating God’s love and His agape community. It’s a spiritual exercise group where people workout together with Coach Jesus It is a gathering of Christians who inspire, challenge & support one another. In ekklesia there’s no big person & little person; but all Christ-followers are equal in Him!

Ekklesia literally means “called out ones” – called out of the world’s value system. Don’t be so earthly minded that you have no heavenly influence on those around you.

Ancient Athens, Greece had a town hall meeting known as ekklesia. Jesus used that word to identify His followers when they gather to be led by His presence. He said: “I will build my ekklesia.” Nashville is known as the “Athens of the South.” Our goal at The Salvation Army Berry Street is to spread the love of God in our city by proclaiming and demonstrating the caring, support-group-style environment of “ekklesia” in Nashville. Come experience it for yourself on Sundays at 10:45 am., 225 Berry Street, 37207.

Church without a live download of the the risen Jesus is like “Attachment Unavailable.”

Posted in atonement, Bible, called out ones, deception, ekklesia, Follow Me, I am the way, justice, Nashville, original innocence, punishment, repentance, spiritual need, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What the world needs now is truth & love . . .

Truth without love is unkind. Love without truth is unreal.

Our growth, both as individuals and as an expression of Christ’s body depends on our being both truthful and loving at the same time. Paul of Tarsus wrote: “Speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of Him who is the Head, that is, Christ.”

If we avoid the truth to try to not appear “unloving,” we spread deception. However, if we speak the truth without heart-felt love, God’s agape, we can unleash pain and create defensiveness in others. But if we blend love and truth together, hearts and lives are transformed.

That’s what William Booth and the early Salvation Army did. They wrapped the truth about Heaven, Hell, repentance, and salvation, in the love of soup, soap, support, and shelter.

Love is lived out through kindness; and kindness is the best communicator of truth. So if we wrap (speak) truth in love and kindness, it is much more easily received. Our hostile world needs fresh, creative displays of truth spoken with love. And God wants to use you to do just that. But how?

Simple. Before you speak a truth to someone that they may have trouble receiving, first show them that you genuinely care about them as a human being. Once they know you care they will be much more willing to receive what you have to say.

Then, before you go speak to them, here are a few ideas that may help you get ready:

1) First, think about how you might say it in a way they can best receive.
2) Ask yourself, “How would I feel if someone said that to me?”
3) Ask yourself, “If I needed to say that to the person I love the most in the world, how would I want to say it?”
4) Pray and ask God to give you compassion for the person and also the right words to say.
5) If it is really touchy it is better to write it down first, then read it and edit it.
6) Then go and humbly say (or write and send) what you need to say.

My dad used to keep a plaque in his office that read: “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a tremendous battle.” To help someone ignore the truth about themselves is unkind. So is speaking the truth to them in a mean or harsh way. True kindness speaks the truth in love!

Posted in agape, compassion, Crazy Love, deception, dishonesty, Ephesians 4:15, God's love, heart-felt love, honesty, radical love, Salvation Army, soup, soap, and salvation, the way the truth the life, true love, truth, Uncategorized, what is truth | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Immigration of the heart

Many people choose to live in the kingdom of darkness rather than immigrate to the kingdom of light. (To paraphrase Jesus’ first message: “Immigrate to the kingdom of light!”) I’m a spiritual immigrant who fled the world for a new way of life in God’s kingdom.

Don’t just be a tourist in the kingdom of God. Become a permanent resident & full citizen. There’s lots of love, community & celebration when immigrants to God’s kingdom meet together. (The New Testament calls that kind of meeting ekklesia.) God’s kingdom is the most beautiful “land”–full of the fruit of the Spirit! “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” Galatians 5:22 Come see!

Foreigners to God’s authority are invited to shift their allegiance to His kingdom. To follow Christ is to be assimilated into His heavenly culture and lifestyle. Refugees gain entrance to God’s kingdom, not based on documentation they achieve, but on grace and mercy. Once they enter God’s kingdom they are called to live by it’s standards, not by the world’s.

God calls people to immigrate from the world’s standards to God’s kingdom. He invites us all to immigrate away from self-focus, and to become loyal citizens of His kingdom — to change from self-authority to God’s authority! Jesus tore down the wall & invites whosoever will, to immigrate to God’s kingdom. Ephesians 2:13-14

The kingdom of God occurs when we cross the border from self-rule to Christ-control. Let King Jesus be the ruler of your heart — your inner Head of state. Does the kingdom of God have your heart & your greatest allegiance?

Christ-followers are called to follow Jesus, not to follow our own desires. We are called to cruise on Christ-control, not to be controlled by cravings. To surrender to & obey the risen Jesus is to enter the kingdom of God.

Read the Bible not just to learn, but also to experience Jesus like His disciples did! Read it to learn to how live in God’s kingdom by following and obeying Jesus daily.

Posted in build a wall, church refugees, documentation, fruit of the Spirit, grace, He broke down the wall of hostility, I saw the light, inner Light, King Jesus, King of Kings, kingdom of heaven, kingdom values, let your light shine, light of the world, light shinning in darkness, Old Testament, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Ask not how a pastor can minister to you. Ask how you can minister to others!

Ask not how a pastor can minister to you. Ask how you can minister to others! People besides a preacher have something to say from God. Why not let them
speak up in church? When many people freely speak, we have to trust the Spirit to coordinate the meeting.

Too much structure stifles the spontaneity of Holy Spirit. Lets unstifle! Perhaps the wisdom of many voices prompted by the Spirit, is more powerful than one. Let God speak through all and the Spirit will fall on all! (1 Corinthians 14:24-25)

To mute the voice of Christ through ordinary people is to miss much of His message. Let’s unstifle the Holy Spirit; unmute those who love like Jesus; & change the world. When Christ-followers meet with open, humble hearts, as a community forum, Jesus moves among them. To meet & be led by the Spirit with a group who love Jesus and love you is amazing!

Release the mute button and let the sounds of the Spirit surge through your soul. Stir up the God-bit in you & let it grow until you’re filled over the brim with Him.

Conscious contact with Jesus should not be a one-time occurrence, but 24/7/365. You can ignore God; but He’s not ignoring you.

I’m coining two new words: 1) Mystigetics–direct encounters with God that prove His reality; and 2) Christiosity–a strong desire to know Jesus better; inquisitiveness about Christ.

Without self-imposed thought boundaries, happiness is impossible. A heart overgrown by uncontrolled cravings & compulsions needs weeding & landscaping. Landscaping your heart with beauty creates joy.

Let your mind be the Holy Spirit’s thought machine! Let Jesus get an unshakable grip on your heart and He’ll carry you through!

When prayer is rare, life’s hard to bear! God not only listens when you talk to Him. He also responds. High hopes are build on faith that God answers prayer. Indeed, hope soars when you believe that God answers prayer! It’s never too late to talk to God. To interact with God is to reach beyond the bonds of time & touch eternity.

You can’t lead anybody to someplace you’re not going yourself. Does Jesus weep when He sees His sheep unready to obey or even make a peep for Him? Perhaps it is time to say and do what Jesus tells us to!

Posted in answered prayer, apologetics, Christiosity, curiosity, God answers prayer, high hopes, hope, humility, joy, mysticism, mystigetics, positive thinking, prayer, Uncategorized, wisdom | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Emil Brunner Quotes about ekklesia

Ever since I encountered the risen Jesus in a Spirit-led meeting on a college campus, I’ve wanted to go beyond the formal way of doing church and meet the way Paul describes in 1 Corinthians 14:26. In 2008, The Salvation Army asked my wife and me to open a “non-traditional church” in Nashville on that model. In 2015 I wrote a book about meeting that way: Beyond Church: An Invitation To Experience The Lost Word Of The Bible–Ekklesia.

Today I discovered Emil Brunner, a Swiss theologian who died in 1966, and his writings about ekklesia. I am amazed at how much Brunner’s writings match what we do at The Salvation Army Berry Street and my book. Here’s a quote from him that matches how I feel about the opportunity to experience ekklesia with The Salvation Army:

“I am inexpressibly grateful that the Lord of my life has granted to me in such abundance these opportunities to take part in the life of His Ekklesia and to bear witness to the Living Christ in so many places and in so many ways.” –Emil Brunner (1889-1966)

Here are quotes from two of Brunner’s books:

Quotes from: Dogmatics: Volume III – Christian Doctrine of the Church, Faith & The Consummation

“The Spirit who is active in the Ekklesia expresses Himself in active love of the brethren.”

“The Ekklesia does not only know that God is love. The Ekklesia also lives from the love of God.”

“Christ did not give the Ekklesia the Word alone, but His life also.”

“Luther realized that the true Church, the Ekklesia, was based wholly on the Word and Spirit of God and not on the Sacrament. He realized that faith is not the obedient acceptance of a doctrine but encounter with Christ present in His Word and Spirit.”

“The more time passed, the clearer it became that the official and institutional character of the the Church hindered the creation of Ekklesia.”

“Only by starting with the Ekklesia can we understand this bond that unites faith to the fellowship of faith.”

“Ekklesia, in it’s love individuals are bound together in fellowship and brotherhood at the same time.”

“The faith which stems from the Church and not from the Ekklesia, from doctrine and not from witness, is not in itself living faith.”

“The misunderstanding of the Ekklesia as the Church, as a sacred institution, corresponds to the misunderstanding of faith, through which faith was misunderstood as affirmation of doctrine.”

Quotes from: The Misunderstanding of the Church

“The ekklesia is what it is through the presence of Christ dwelling within it.”

“The very being of God is Agape — that love which the Son brings to mankind from the Father — and it is just this love which is the essence of the fellowship of those who belong to the Ekklesia.”

“The historical Church . . .has arisen, in the course of a long and complicated history, through a process of development, transformation and retrogression, out of the New Testament Ekklesia.”

“The New Testament Ekklesia is a is not an it, a thing, an institution, but rather a unity of persons, a people, a communion.”

“The Ekklesia of the New Testament, the Christian fellowship of the first Christians, was not a church and had no intention of being a church.”

“There was in the Ekklesia a regulation of the functions— Scripture declares this explicitly— assigned by the Holy Ghost to the various individual members who were thus equipped to perform their special services — falsely represented as offices. For an office belongs to a public organization; an office is part of an institution. The diakoniai, however,
the services, should be conceived on the analogy of the organs with their specific functions which inhere in a living body. Even though it be only a metaphor, this is relatively
the most adequate expression of the truth.”

“The New Testament surprises us again and again by the multiplicity of these functions and their bearers, of the various services and those who render them. One thing is supremely important: that all minister, and that nowhere is to be perceived a separation or even merely a distinction made between those who do and those who do not minister, between the active and the passive members of the body, between those who give and those who receive. There exists in the Ekklesia a universal duty and right of service, a universal readiness to serve and at the same time the greatest possible
differentiation of functions. The metaphor of the organism illuminates one aspect of the reality; the dependence of all kinds of ministration on the one Lord reveals the other. The
head of a body is something different from the ruler of a people. Yet both sides of the reality are expressed and must obviously be expressed, in order to do justice at one and the
same time to the vertical and the horizontal relationship, on the one hand to bring out the mysterious vital fellowship, on the other hand to show that it is the one Spirit who effects
the differentiation of functions. It is therefore quite wrongheaded to describe this pneumatic ordering of the Ekklesia as anarchical simply because it is something different from an organization or institution.”

“It is the mystery of the Ekklesia as the fellowship of the Spirit that it has an articulate living order without being legally organized.”

“The impression made by the life of believers plays a part of decisive importance in the genesis of faith. People draw near to the Christian community because they are irresistibly attracted by its supernatural power. They would like to share in this new dimension of life and power, they enter the zone in which the Spirit operates before they
have heard a word about what lies behind it as its ultimate transcendent-immanent cause. There is a sort of fascination which is exercised mostly without any reference to the Word,
comparable rather to the attractive force of a magnet or the spread of an infectious disease. Without knowing how it happened, one is already a carrier of the infection.”

“It is so much easier to discuss from an intellectual and theological standpoint the ideas implied in the revealed Word of God and to analyse them conceptually than it is to allow
oneself to be transformed at the center of one’s life by the action of the Holy Ghost”

“It is so much easier to secure the life of the fellowship, its coherence and its indispensable hierarchy by means of solid legal forms, by organization and offices, than it is to allow the
life of communion to be continually poured out upon one, to allow oneself to be rooted in it by the action of the Holy Ghost. You can handle and shape as you please such things
as law and organization, but you cannot act thus towards the Holy Ghost.”

“The fellowship of Jesus discloses a paradoxical unity of terms which elsewhere are incompatible. It is a mystical unity of visible earthly persons with an unseen,
heavenly, and yet present Person, their Head, with the eternal ever-present Christ.”

“The Ekklesia is the sphere of actual and realized fellowship with the Christ — a fellowship which is as real as faith and love and hope are real.”

The Ekklesia wherein the one Spirit bestows upon each his peculiar gift and therefore assigns to each his characteristic ministry . . . is reality, heavenly divine reality.”

“The Ekklesia of which the apostles speak was thus not simply a theory or ideal springing from the vision of Christ; it was also the sphere of the new life grounded in the historical
fact of redemption through Jesus Christ, and in His effective presence and power as living Head of the body.”

“What we know as the church or churches resulting from historical developments cannot claim to be the Ekklesia in the New Testament sense.”

“The meaning of the Ekklesia is what we recognized from the New Testament as its characteristic essence: communion with God through Jesus Christ, and rooted in this and springing from it, communion or brotherhood with man. The oneness of communion with
Christ and communion with man is the characteristic mark the Ekklesia.”

“With or without the churches, if necessary even in opposition to them, God will
cause the Ekklesia to become a real community of brothers. Whether the churches yield to this recognition or on the contrary blind themselves to it will determine the question whether or not they have a future.”

Here are a few additional quotes from Emil:

“To be united with Christ through the Holy Spirit means: to be directly united with Him. Here there is no difference between an ordinary Christian of our own day and an Apostle.”

“The fact of our redemption—the history of salvation—is transmitted by the proclamation of facts, that is, by the testimony of the Apostles under the guidance and inspiration of the Holy Spirit.”

“Above all the teaching of the Church, even above all dogma or doctrinal confession, stands Holy Scripture.”

“The Dogmatic Theologian who does not find that his work drives him to pray frequently and urgently from his heart: ‘God be merciful to me a sinner,’ is scarcely fit for his job.”

“Theology is an assault on the sin-distorted intellect.”

“Gospel preaching, is the spreading out of the fire which Christ has thrown upon the earth. He who does not propagate this fire shows that he is not burning. He who burns propagates the fire.”

“Take oxygen away and death occurs through suffocation, take hope away and humanity is constricted through lack of breath; despair supervenes, spelling the paralysis of intellectual and spiritual powers by a feeling of the senselessness and purposelessness of existence.”

“I am trying to express a view of revelation which does not fit in any of the ready-made patterns.”
Emil Brunner

Posted in 1 Corinthians 14:26, books, church government, church leadership, church services, Dones, house church, organic chruch, participation in church, participatory church, simple church, Spirit-led, Spirit-led church, worship | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Letting Heaven’s culture freely flow

Jesus revealed Heaven’s culture. His disciples wrote it down. Now let’s follow the risen Jesus & the Bible and daily live it out! Son-gazing will release God’s flow. (Hebrews 12:2)

It’s not enough to be in the know. We also need to be living in God’s flow. I love to see ordinary people open their hearts & freely let their love for Jesus flow. Let’s activate the anointed, not appease the apathetic. Why marginalize the congregation & make it peripheral? God can flow and speak through anybody!

Bible words dance in my soul, filling me with hope, peace, & joy! If we trace the word church back to the New Testament we find ekklesia — the name of the city council in Greek city/states, where democracy began to flow.

Let’s gather & let God use each other to make what we don’t know better known. To avoid being misled, listen to God both in your heart & through the Bible. Heaven’s culture book, the Bible, can keep you from caving to contemporary culture. It shows us what the first Christians believed about Jesus & can keep us on track.

If you can’t find happiness inside your heart, it’s very hard to find it outside. The risen Jesus Christ, living in you, is the source of stable happiness.

Let’s go beyond
A well-planned show
And together experience
Christ’s spiritual flow.
Berry Street Feet poster

Let Heaven’s culture invade the days of your life. The future belongs to everyone who wakes up tomorrow. Use it wisely! God gifts us the present of the future, one day at a time. The first day of yesterday’s future has arrived. Now what ya gonna do? Showboat self or surrender to God’s flow and Heaven’s culture?

The past didn’t last. So let yesterdays go, unwrap the present, & let God build your future. If you try too hard to erase the past, you may miss out on the present of the present.

Posted in Bible, biblical, Christ in you the hope of glory, Christian spirituality, flow of the Spirit, Hebrews 12:2, Holy Spirit flow, kingdom of God, led by the Spirit, spiritual formation, spiritual growth, spirituality, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Putting Old Testament violence in perspective

There were times in the Old Testament where God ordered the killing of all the people, and even animals, in a town. When reading those verses it is easy to think that God is unjust. It’s easy to judge God, the only being in the universe who is truly just. But what a double standard we humans use!

For example, I am an American. America was founded on some great injustices against both African Americans and Native Americans. Many of our Founding Fathers forcibly held innocent men, women, & children in life-long bondage; making them work without pay; forbidding them to read the Bible or any other book; breeding them like cattle (sometimes forcibly fathering their own slave children); and having them brutally punished if they disobeyed them. And yet, many of the men who did such things are still considered great — George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, for instance. How can people judge God so harshly, yet whitewash the grievous cruelty of America’s early human traffickers?

Another example is that untold numbers of Native American men, women, and children were slaughtered over the years. However, accurate records were not kept and most those who ordered such acts were not held accountable. One American President, Andrew Jackson, even went against the Supreme Court to order the removal of all Indians east of the Mississippi River, leading to the death of many thousands of innocent men, women and children. Why do so many people want to accuse the righteous God, but justify Andrew Jackson and others who practiced genocide against Native Americans?

According to the book Fire Sites by Jörg Friedrich, around 600,000 German civilians were killed by the Allies’ World War II bombing raids on the general population in German cities. This including 76,000 German children. So why aren’t the American, the British, and other allies judged for their cruel killing of 600,000 innocent men, women, and children. Is it fair to give them a pass while judging God for Israel’s violence? Is it somehow different to kill innocent people with bombs rather than with swords?

And what about President Harry Truman’s order to drop two atomic bombs on two Japanese cities that resulted in the slaughter of 300,000 or so innocent men, women, and children? Is it fair to let Truman off the hook for the people he ordered killed, while judging God for His orders in the Bible?

History is full of accounts of political and military leaders ordering the slaughter of innocent people, yet still being considered great and wonderful people. Why aren’t those who ordered such acts judged harshly? Perhaps it is because we humans feel justified in using violence to get our way. We think it’s okay to kill civilians if it is for “a good cause” (usually meaning our country’s cause); but we don’t want God to use violence for His purposes.

Another example of killing defenseless people is the violence against the most innocent form of human life — the child in the womb. Preemies have done nothing to deserve death, yet millions of them are killed every year. Personally I don’t see any difference between abortion and killing children after they are born. In both cases, innocent life is taken. Many people and governments support abortion. If we approve of killing the unborn, how can we judge God, the giver of life?

I don’t fully understand why God commanded Israel to kill civilians. I do know that, if anyone in the universe has pure motives and the ability to use violence justly, it is God alone, not human leaders.

So here’s a question. If you can overlook the atrocities of your country, your leaders, and your heroes, why won’t you trust that the Creator had a pure and just reason (bigger than you can understand) for what He commanded ancient Israel?

Posted in abortion, Andrew Jackson, genocide, George Washington, God, Harry Truman, Joshua, Native Americans, pro life, prochoice, prolife prochoice, right to life, Thomas Jefferson, war, World War II | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments