Monday, January 26, 2009

Not By Strength or By Power, but by my Spirit

I am in North Carolina on a business trip. I drove from Nashville where I dropped off my wife and kids out here today. 8 hours in a car by yourself is a long time when you are an extrovert like I am. I did have the audio book of Watchman Nee's, "The Normal Christian Life" which I listened to and very challenged by. Brother Nee asked as his treatise in one section, "What is holding you back from more fullness in Christ?"

I spent a few hours at the office and was then left to go be by myself till tomorrow morning. I prayed and asked the Lord where his church would be gathered tonight, and he led me to the Zadok House of Prayer. It was a strange experience for me, being led there by the Lord. Within the first 30 minutes of being there, I was quite convinced I had misheard the Spirit's leading. I don't mean that to say, that I thought it was not the church, but instead, I did not see what it would produce in me.

As I arrived and walked through the door the director was preaching, I stood in the back for a few minutes hoping to be greeted. I wanted to make a human connection. As is the problem I so often find entering meetings of Christian's is I was unnoticed and left to fend for myself in this entirely foreign environment. I found a seat to listen.

The topic of the evening was being a forerunner to the prophecy's of the end time. I must confess that the revelation of God about the end times that I have received, has little in common with a major school of thought in eschatology, and so I thought it was an odd fit, but still I felt that God had a message for me.

After the preaching had concluded, the meeting broke up for a few minutes before the next period of worship and intercession began. In this time, I continued to sit in my chair, and was still ungreeted. At this point I am wondering, "Why God have you led me here to leave me unmet?"

As the worship and intercession began, the session leader announced that this segment would be to interceded for the nation because of our president and his culture of death. I rolled my eyes, and pondered between joining the intercession, which I was opposed to topic or leaving.

  • On a side note, I am fiercely pro-life, however I believe that battle needs to be fought in the hearts and minds of girls, and in the priorities and habits of the church to provide care and structure to those girls whose hearts and minds are changed. The repeal of Roe V Wade with out a church ready to receive her commission to the brokenness that leads to this epidemic would only be more destructive.

As I sat, I decided the Lord had led me here, and better to be in the presence of praise that alone in a hotel room, so I stayed. I stayed, and I interceded not for the politicians or the babies, as there were plenty in attendance ready to intercede on those behalfs. I interceded on behalf of the mothers. Those precious daughters of God who are forced to choose the horror because the oppression in their life has led them to feel there is no other option.

Here is the prayer I typed into my phone and then read back to the Lord as we worshiped:
May we be you body so the mother sees she has value as more than an object

May we be your body so the mother can receive love so she can then act in love

May we renounce our participation in this culture of death by repenting of the attitude that children are ordained by any other than you.

May we renounce our greed that causes us to buy more for ourselves rather than to supply to those who feel they have no life to give

May we have an ethic of life that takes In the rejected of this world so mothers may know there is a place she and her child will never be rejected

May we care not only for unborn, but for those born into captivity, oppression, and poverty in our country and in our world.

Cut off your church's leg so that she will crawl back to you rather than walk past the pain that leads to this decision.

Cut off your church's hands that she will steal no more of the gifts you have blessed her with from being given to meet these needs.

Redeem FIRST your Church to life, to life, to life. So that she may have LIFE to give to those whose hope is only to take life.
So after about an hour and half the session transferred form intercession to a period of just worship. I used this time to inquire of God. I asked God the question from Brother Nee, "Tell me Lord what is holding me back from more fullness with you?" As I prayed it one of the band members said, "This is a word of Lord for the long haired guy in the black shirt." I looked up from my prayer and looked at her. She sang, "Not By Strength or By Power, but by my Spirit" Over and over again, in the VERY MINUTE I ASKED, the Lord gave me this answer.

I left a few minutes after the worship session, still having not be welcomed, greeted, or met by the church assembled there. Yet, I know it was the church God called me to this night, because God met me through the work of the church, and the word given to the musician. I was in God's perfect timing, met by God to meet my greatest need.

I need more Christ! I will get him, "Not By Strength or By Power, but by my Spirit!"

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

A Slave To God - Watchman Nee

How did I become the slave of the Lord? On His part He bought me, and on my part I presented myself to Him. By right of redemption I am God’s property, but if I would be His slave I must willingly give myself to Him, for He will never compel me to do so.

The trouble with many Christians today is that they have an insufficient idea of what God is asking of them. How glibly they say: ‘Lord, I am willing for anything.’ Do you know that God is asking of you your very life? There are cherished ideals, strong wills, precious relationships, much-loved work, that will have to go; so do not give yourself to God unless you mean it. God will take you seriously, even if you did not mean it seriously.

When the Galilian boy brought his bread to the Lord, what did the Lord do with it? He broke it. God will always break what is offered to Him. He breaks what He takes, but after breaking it He blesses and uses it to meet the needs of others. After you give yourself to the Lord, He begins to break what was offered to Him. Everything seems to go wrong, and you protest and find fault with the ways of God. But to stay there is to be no more than just a broken vessel—no good for the world because you have gone too far for the world to use you, and no good for God either because you have not gone far enough for Him to use you. You are out of gear with the world, and you have a controversy with God. This is the tragedy of many a Christian.

My giving of myself to the Lord must be an initial fundamental act. Then day by day I must go on giving to Him, not finding fault with His use of me but accepting with praise even what the flesh revolts against.

May I be dead, so that I am alive only to what Christ is doing through me!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Not Giving But Utilizing

One of my beloved Martin Luther King Jr quotes is "When you are right, you can not be too radical..." In honor of MLK day today I am committed to focus my mind's attention on areas that call me to radical lifestyle change. I enjoy being right, but as the quote points out, right with out radical transformation is of little value to becoming the ones we are waiting for.

The difference between identification with society and the radical's ability to enact transformation into that society lies in the difference between the person willing to give their resources and the person willing to utilize their resources.

The giver, waits on the edge of problems, observing and seeking opportunity to enable the work of those in the fray through their resources. The utilizer dives in deep to the brokenness that surrounds them, and wields their resources as a tool to bring wholeness. The giver sends professionals, while the utilizer spends themselves. While the giver mourns the lack of qualified specialist, the utilizer sharpens his own awareness through practice.

MLK Jr looked into the face of systemic injustice and realized there was no panel of experts able to solve the issue given enough time and money. MLK Jr looked into the broken prejudices of his time and utilized himself and his belief in God's perfect plan of love and nonviolence. MLK Jr recognized the problem was too big for anyone to have anything to give, so instead he inducted himself and inspired others into the work of laboring their resources to break the partiality of their society's oppression.

Today I encourage you, as I encourage myself to live radical. Live like the citizens of another Kingdom. Live like ones who believe the resource of love totally utilized can save the world, since in fact, it already has.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

The Wrestling Dream

I had a dream last. In my dream my friend Big John introduced me to a friend of his who was working his way through the ranks of professional wrestling. He was not yet on level with a WWF, but this was his goal and he was moving toward this. In the course of conversation I ended up somehow (I actually don't remember this part of the dream) having to wrestle with him outside in a make shift wrestling ring. The wrestler could have EASILY hurt me, but it was all just a game, as in neither of wanted to hurt the other, but there was definitely pride on the line.

We wrestled for a long time. From time to time he would appear to be defeating me, but each time I would out maneuver him. A few times he would over power me, but I was always able to use my small size and quick speed to wiggle my way out of the situation. At one point toward the end of the fight I was even able to get him in a precarious position. I was latched onto his head with all four of my appendages my body covering his face. In this position, I could do nothing toward moving into winning, and yet despite all his strength, he could not throw or pry me from his face. It was an impasse.

At this time Big John called the match a draw and I woke up. In my mind there was verse waiting to interpret the dream. "It is GOD who works everything to his will. So Do everything without complaining or arguing so that you may become blameless and pure children of God." You won't find that rendering of Phil 2:14-15 in any translation, it was the verse floating in my head.

I offer this dream as a confession and an apology. I have certainly many times, over many years claimed that the work God was doing in me was more valid, or more correct than the work God was doing in others. I have fought "monsters of doctrine" much bigger and stronger than me under the guise of worshiping Jesus, while in reality it was a battle of pride. I have substitute the "pride of the match" for the joy of community.

We are the body of Christ, if the hand thinks the foot's job is unimportant that would just cause a mess. I am committing to honestly celebrating both what I hear the Spirit speaking in my soul, and also to listen to what the Spirit is speaking into others soul. I don't want to wrestle for the sake of pride, instead I want to BE the body of Christ, celebrating the body in every form, that TOGETHER we can shine like stars in the universe.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Barna Groups Thoughts On House Church Revolution

Thom Black from the Barna Group set out to understand the reasons why "church attendance" has dropped by almost 20% in the past decade, and to their surprise discovered it is the not the peripheral members, but the core leaders who are exiting en mass.

I wanted to invite anyone interested in hearing a GREAT summation of my thought process in this transition to listen to his lecture. I am not so arrogant to view myself as a "revolutionary" as he terms those leaving the old institution toward house churches. I just think the reasons his "revolutionaries" are leaving, are the much the same as my own motivations.

Thom Black - Revolutionaries

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

I Need Africa

My friend Elysa, who we traveled to Swaziland with last January sent me this video.

After watching it, I believe if you have been to Africa you will relate and want the associated T-Shirt! So MochaClub sells it!

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Cardinal Drive Exit Letter

I was asked by the leadership at the church where we have been members and served in various leadership roles these past four years to prepare a statement that could be used to explain my exit and my future plans to the membership at Cardinal Drive . For brevity the leadership has decided to excerpt the statement in their presentation of it tomorrow. I let them know that they could direct anyone wishing to read the text of the statement in it's entirety to my blog. I value the many wonderful relationships we have made at Cardinal Drive and wanted to ensure everyone had the opportunity to read the full explanation behind this difficult decision.
January 04, 2009
To: Cardinal Drive Leadership & Members
RE: Resignation of Membership

After much deliberation and prayer I am officially stating our family’s decision to relinquish all leadership and ministry responsibility within the Cardinal Drive family. Christi and I both feel God is calling us to a new stage of ministry that will look different than the model of church most of us here are familiar with.

Taking this step is a very difficult one for me, I LOVE the church, and by the church I mean Cardinal Drive and the other the institutions like her I have been a part of. At her best these churches allow Jesus to shine through to the world. I have seen Cardinal Drive function as the body of Christ, and I have seen her serve as the very hands and feet of Christ.

Unfortunately, in my time here and in previous churches I have been a part of I have also seen the church be divisive, destructive, and down right anti-Christ. I have been deeply troubled seeing people who make large contributions be catered to, over those who have a much greater degree of spiritual maturity, and over those with Biblically authorized church authority. It is a tragedy that people suffering under the weight of marital issues, addictions, and moral compromise have far to often been belittled, dismissed, and abused rather than embraced, mentored, and discipled. Most troubling to my spirit is having repeatedly seen families suffering financially be treated like pariahs because the distressed the homogeneous social network of the organization.

None of these things make me love the church any less. However it does compel me to attempt an objective examination of her model of ministry. This examination has led me to the conclusion that the church's two greatest obstacles are SIZE and FORM. Both of these conclusions have brought our family to the place where we are moving forward to a model that is deeply reflective of the model of church life as seen in Acts, the model of meeting in homes daily. A church that meets "house to house" by nature is small and spry. It can react quickly and effectively to problems (fiscal, emotional, and spiritual) because it's intimacy makes it impossible to hide or to ignore these basic needs in each other. This model by it’s very nature becomes a fiscal, communal, and continual pursuit for it’s members. The close intimacy of the house church becomes a safe place to invite friends who would never fit in at, or otherwise would not attend a traditional church service. The small size and apparent deep relationship relieve the awkward stigma of visiting a church service. For some people outside the social atmosphere of church life the comfort of a home based community is a much more welcoming place to discover the abundant life of freedom in Christ.

Secondly on form, I think our style of stage and audience is destructive to the priesthood of all believers. I myself have been part of the problem where people feel there are those qualified to "DO" God's work, and others who must just support the doers. Another world is possible where Instead EVERY member has a function and each part forms together to benefit the others. A house church meeting looks different where every member becomes a conduit of the Spirit’s leading, and through discernment and mutual edification everyone becomes ministers to and for each other.

I believe the highest calling of the church has nothing to do with our buildings, our staff, or our membership roster. The highest calling of the church has to do with effectively reflecting Jesus, and corporately becoming his physical presence in our circle of influence. I personally feel led to make this calling a reality, so long as God leads us to remain here in Chicagoland, through the intimacy a house church enables.

I want it to be clear that I am not leaving Cardinal Drive out of any anger, malice, or any form of discontentment with any of my brothers or sisters at this church. It has been an honor to worship with you these past four years, and I value the relationships we have formed in many of your lives. I sincerely hope our families can continue to share life together. I am excited for the future of what God is doing at Cardinal Drive, and It is my hope that you are excited about the potential for what God is doing through our decision to plant a small house church that reflects a different model of being the body of Christ.

I do want to reiterate that our family will miss the fellowship we have had in many of your lives, and I want to let you all know that our home and our table is always open. If you want to sit down and talk more about what we are doing, and what this model looks like, we encourage you to come eat with us when you have the time. We serve an amazing God who is doing great things as he reconciles his creation back to himself! Let’s all participate with him in vigor to that cause.

In Christ,
Kevin, Christi and Family!
To anyone at Cardinal Drive who has additional questions or just a desire to talk further about this exciting step we are venturing out on, please feel free to call or email. I love and value each of you, as well as the many who have supported me in this decision through the blogging community.