Monday, February 28, 2011

Cultivating a Culture of Transformation by Ruth Haley Barton

Cultivating a Culture of Spiritual Transformation in your Church or Organization

“We can never see an organizational field, but we can see its influence by looking at behavior.  To learn what’s in the field, look at what people are doing.  They have picked up the messages, discerned what is truly valued, and then shaped their behavior accordingly…Organizational life is shaped by the invisible. If we attend to the fields we create, if we help them shine clear with coherence, a powerful field develops—and with it, the wondrous capacity to organize into coherent, capable form.”
Margaret Wheatley, Leadership and the New Science

Have you ever had an experience like this? You are enjoying a private conversation with another leader from within your church or organization and the two of you are open and receptive, able to listen attentively and willing to share your thoughts from the heart.  You notice a prayerful spirit in that person or perhaps a deep wisdom that you really respect.  Perhaps you have several interactions with individuals that seem particularly graced when you are one to one. But then you all show up in a leadership setting—a board meeting, an elder meeting, a staff meeting—and things are somehow different.

An individual who expressed real wisdom privately is suddenly reticent to share open-heartedly. Someone who is normally kind and gentle exhibits a hard, defensive edge. Relationships which, in more casual settings, are characterized by love and trust become tense or give way to maneuvering and posturing that speaks of a subtle distrust. Someone who has, in personal interactions, expressed a sweet desire to know and do the will of God, can barely find time for a quick prayer at the beginning of a meeting where real guidance is needed.

You can’t help but wonder What is going on here?

This common and yet very disturbing leadership experience speaks to the power of organizational culture to shape individuals and their responses. Human beings are a lot like rocks in a riverbed.  Just as the water flowing over the rocks day after day changes the shape of those rocks by virtue of the fact that they are in the flow of the river, we too are shaped by being in the flow of the organizational dynamics at work in the group we are a part of. These dynamics are often so subtle it is very hard to recognize them, let alone talk about them. Sometimes there is even an unspoken rule that we are not allowed to talk about these things because saying something honest will somehow make us a bad person, a disloyal person, a divisive person, etc.

What’s Your Culture?

The brave question for leaders who are concerned about spiritual formation in their setting is: How is the organizational culture shaping me and all of us who work and worship here?  Are we being transformed by virtue of the way we live and work and worship together or are we being deformed by unhealthy organizational dynamics?  Is transformation even possible in the current environment or is there something in the way we are together that actually works against transformation or even prevents it?

Any approach to spiritual transformation that fails to wrestle with the power of organizational dynamics to have a transforming or deforming effect will see very limited progress in spiritual transformation over the long haul. One of the dangers inherent in many current approaches to spiritual formation is that we tend to reduce it to a privatized matter that can be handled primarily by offering a program or a retreat here and there.  We are looking for an attractive add-on, not systemic change.

But spiritual transformation is not merely an individual matter. Authentic spiritual transformation confronts us, not only on the personal level, exposing our individual sin patterns, addiction to control and image-management, preoccupation with self-protective strategies, or performance-oriented driven-ness; it confronts systems and structures, exposing the ways in which our life together has a transforming effect or a deforming effect. Romans 12:2, which admonishes us to “be transformed by the renewing of your mind” is not written primarily to individuals; it is written to a group of Christians gathered in Rome trying to figure out how to live their new life in Christ together.  This verse could be more accurately interpreted “be not conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind—not just your private mind but also your corporate/together mind!”

Every church or organization has its own cultural patterns—ways of being together and working together that have become normative and shape us over time.  Some of these cultural norms are officially “on the books” through spoken or written communication, but many are unspoken and involve tacit agreements to which everyone adheres.  For instance, there might be a cultural pattern of addiction to work which is lived out through an unspoken agreement that no one takes their full vacation or, if they do, they don’t unplug completely. Or it might be understood that people work 50-60 hours a week which makes it impossible to maintain a manageable work week and still have a Sabbath.

There may be subtle norms governing what kind of information gets shared in what settings or how truth is manipulated in order to be more palatable to the congregation or constituency. It could be that the pastor has glaring character or personality issues that are destructive to the group, or the board is clearly dysfunctional but the unspoken agreement is that these issues will be tolerated. The Emperor might not be wearing any clothes, but no one is allowed to point it out!  These are just a few examples of a wide variety of cultural norms that can shape a church or organization and thus shape the individuals who work and worship there.

But there is an even more subtle reality functioning within churches and organizations; it is what Walter Wink identifies as the spirit or the ethos of a place. Referring to Revelation 2 and 3 in which seven letters are addressed to seven churches, Wink points out “the congregation was not addressed directly but through the angel [of that church]. The angel seemed to be the corporate personality of the church, its ethos or spirit or essence…the angel of the church was apparently the spirituality of that particular church.”  That is why, Wink points out, “the spirit of a church or institution can remain fairly constant over decades, even centuries, though all the original members have long since departed.”[i]

It is why a discerning person can sense a spirit of fear and control, apathy and defeat in a place or a spirit of love, trust, and deep faith.  Or why persons who are responding to God’s invitations to deeper levels of transformation might be faced with the dilemma of needing to defend against deforming dynamics in a particular church or organizational culture in order to grow.

Transforming or Deforming?

When it comes to spiritual formation, organizational cultures are rarely neutral.  The more deeply an individual engages in the life of the group, the more they will be shaped by the spirit of the place. For the most part, cultural norms (or the organizational field, as Wheatley identifies it) will support and catalyze the process of spiritual transformation or they will work against it.

Cultivating a culture of spiritual transformation does not happen by accident; it must be led very intentionally by leaders who are deeply committed to the process of spiritual transformation in their personal lives and in their life together.  These leaders know a culture of transformation is not primarily about programs; it is a culture shift that must emanate from the center out.  This means they are 1–clear that they are called to be a transforming community at the leadership level, 2–committed to the values that shape and undergird a transforming community, 3–engaged in spiritual and relational practices that help them live out their values in concrete ways, and 4–willing to covenant together around these things.  There is no short cut for this.

The good news is that the leadership group’s commitment to become the “transforming center” of their church or organization will automatically begin to change the culture from the inside out. Over time, the transforming values they are living together will become embedded in the system to create very positive cultural norms that shape the spirit or the ethos of the place. Individuals will start to experience spiritual transformation just by being in the flow of the community’s life together, which will result quite naturally in an increasing capacity to discern and do the will of God.  And that is really good news!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Surmounting the Limitations of Vision by John C. Maxwell

For centuries, astronomers have looked skyward, curiously beholding the stars above them. Over time, scientists steadily improved their vision of outer space by engineering telescopes of ever-increasing sophistication. However, the biggest advance in the ability to peer into the heavens came with the launch of the Hubble Telescope in 1990. No longer bound to the ground, astronomers could now view interstellar space free from atmospheric distortions. For more than 20 years, the Hubble Telescope has orbited the Earth, capturing images of stars, planets, and galaxies in stunning color and detail. Browsing a gallery of Hubble's images ( offers an awe-inspiring glimpse into the beauty of the vast recesses beyond our solar system.

Leaders, like astronomers, must learn to overcome the limitations to their vision and the distortions of their vision. We all have impartial vision, regardless of our creativity and imagination. Our perception of the future is hampered by our incomplete knowledge, the finite amount of information we're able to make sense of, and the boundaries of our experiences. Also, after looking at our problems for a while, we habituate ourselves to them until eventually our vision fails to register them. Furthermore, our vision is distorted by our tendency to view the world, not as it is, but as we are.

Capture More Light
The Hubble Telescope does not magnify objects in the cosmos. Instead, the telescope's far-reaching vision is made possible by its main mirror, which catches much more light than the human eye can capture. The primary mirror reflects the light onto a second mirror, which in turn focuses the light onto the telescope's scientific instruments.

As a leader, your vision is restricted to what you're able to see and experience in life. To expand your field of vision, you have to widen the circle whereby you collect knowledge.

    * Seek out and form relationships with experts. Obviously, you won't have the time to learn about everything, so tap into the geniuses around you.
    * Borrow experiences from those who are farther along in the journey than you are. Learn from their mistakes so that you don't duplicate them, and draw insights from their successes
    * Whenever appropriate, collect feedback from customers. Who is better suited to critique your performance and give you ideas than those you're trying to serve?
    * Mentor the upcoming leaders around you. In the process of guiding a future leader, you're able to crystallize the lessons of your own experiences. Also, you're likely to be surprised by how much you can learn from those you coach.
    * Become a lifelong learner. Make a habit of acquiring and applying wisdom from books, articles, training seminars, and conferences.

Be quick to share your own specialized knowledge, and you will gain reciprocal goodwill. People look for ways to add value to those who have aided them. Also, express gratitude to those who broaden your view of the world. Everyone likes to work with someone who appreciates his or her contribution.

Rise Above Distortions
Gases and water in the atmosphere bend light coming to Earth and blur our observations of outer space. That's why stars appear to twinkle when we gaze into the night sky. The Hubble Space Telescope, from its vantage point beyond Earth's atmosphere, views the cosmos free from distortion.

Leaders eventually grow accustomed to their surroundings, and this tendency can have the dangerous effect of distorting reality. If you look at dysfunction long enough, it starts to seem normal. As a leader, you have to consciously make an effort to see your organization with fresh eyes. This may mean shifting your vantage point by working on the front lines instead of a back office. Or, you may need to take a personal retreat to refocus. At other times, you may need to hire a consultant to come in and point out problematic areas you've been overlooking.

Clean Your Lens
Before the Hubble Space Telescope's main mirror was approved for assembly, it underwent what's known as a null lens test. In the null lens test, a small lens optically alters the mirror so that it appears spherical to incoming rays of light. Viewed through the null lens, if the mirror appears perfectly spherical, then it passes inspection.

Unfortunately, an undetected fleck of paint caused the null lens to be manufactured incorrectly. Consequently, the faulty lens misled scientists into approving the Hubble telescope's main mirror, even though it not built precisely to specifications. As a result, NASA was horrified when the first images transmitted to Earth from the Hubble telescope were blurry. NASA had to send astronauts on an expensive repair mission to fit the Hubble telescope with the equivalent of corrective eyeglasses to fix the problem.

In Winning With People, I shared the Lens Principle: Who you are determines how you see the world. Flaws inside of us warp our view of the world around us. For instance, self-doubt magnifies the obstacles in our path, arrogance shrinks our shortcomings, and fear obscures unpleasant facts.

As a leader, you will have blind spots, and from time to time, your personal biases will color what you see. For that reason, you must surround yourself with trusted advisors to alert you whenever your vision becomes impaired. With their help, you can avoid the trap of faulty vision. As George Bernard Shaw admonished, "Keep yourself clean and bright; you are the window through which you must see the world."

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Bono Interview: Grace Over Karma by Michka Assayas

 (Excerpt from the book Bono: In Conversation with Michka Assayas)

Bono_Rose_Colored_GlassesBono: My understanding of the Scriptures has been made simple by the person of Christ. Christ teaches that God is love. What does that mean? What it means for me: a study of the life of Christ. Love here describes itself as a child born in straw poverty, the most vulnerable situation of all, without honor. I don't let my religious world get too complicated. I just kind of go: Well, I think I know what God is. God is love, and as much as I respond [sighs] in allowing myself to be transformed by that love and acting in that love, that's my religion. Where things get complicated for me, is when I try to live this love. Now that's not so easy.
Assayas: What about the God of the Old Testament? He wasn't so "peace and love"?
Bono: There's nothing hippie about my picture of Christ. The Gospels paint a picture of a very demanding, sometimes divisive love, but love it is. I accept the Old Testament as more of an action movie: blood, car chases, evacuations, a lot of special effects, seas dividing, mass murder, adultery. The children of God are running amok, wayward. Maybe that's why they're so relatable. But the way we would see it, those of us who are trying to figure out our Christian conundrum, is that the God of the Old Testament is like the journey from stern father to friend. When you're a child, you need clear directions and some strict rules. But with Christ, we have access in a one-to-one relationship, for, as in the Old Testament, it was more one of worship and awe, a vertical relationship. The New Testament, on the other hand, we look across at a Jesus who looks familiar, horizontal. The combination is what makes the Cross.
Assayas: Speaking of bloody action movies, we were talking about South and Central America last time. The Jesuit priests arrived there with the gospel in one hand and a rifle in the other.
Bono: I know, I know. Religion can be the enemy of God. It's often what happens when God, like Elvis, has left the building. [laughs] A list of instructions where there was once conviction; dogma where once people just did it; a congregation led by a man where once they were led by the Holy Spirit. Discipline replacing discipleship. Why are you chuckling?
Assayas: I was wondering if you said all of that to the Pope the day you met him.
Bono: Let's not get too hard on the Holy Roman Church here. The Church has its problems, but the older I get, the more comfort I find there. The physical experience of being in a crowd of largely humble people, heads bowed, murmuring prayers, stories told in stained-glass windows
Assayas: So you won't be critical.
Bono: No, I can be critical, especially on the topic of contraception. But when I meet someone like Sister Benedicta and see her work with AIDS orphans in Addis Ababa, or Sister Ann doing the same in Malawi, or Father Jack Fenukan and his group Concern all over Africa, when I meet priests and nuns tending to the sick and the poor and giving up much easier lives to do so, I surrender a little easier.
Assayas: But you met the man himself. Was it a great experience?
Bono: [W]e all knew why we were there. The Pontiff was about to make an important statement about the inhumanity and injustice of poor countries spending so much of their national income paying back old loans to rich countries. Serious business. He was fighting hard against his Parkinson's. It was clearly an act of will for him to be there. I was oddly moved by his humility, and then by the incredible speech he made, even if it was in whispers. During the preamble, he seemed to be staring at me. I wondered. Was it the fact that I was wearing my blue fly-shades? So I took them off in case I was causing some offense. When I was introduced to him, he was still staring at them. He kept looking at them in my hand, so I offered them to him as a gift in return for the rosary he had just given me.
Assayas: Didn't he put them on?
Bono: Not only did he put them on, he smiled the wickedest grin you could ever imagine. He was a comedian. His sense of humor was completely intact. Flashbulbs popped, and I thought: "Wow! The Drop the Debt campaign will have the Pope in my glasses on the front page of every newspaper."
Assayas: I don't remember seeing that photograph anywhere, though.
Bono: Nor did we. It seems his courtiers did not have the same sense of humor. Fair enough. I guess they could see the T-shirts.
Later in the conversation:
Assayas: I think I am beginning to understand religion because I have started acting and thinking like a father. What do you make of that?
Bono: Yes, I think that's normal. It's a mind-blowing concept that the God who created the universe might be looking for company, a real relationship with people, but the thing that keeps me on my knees is the difference between Grace and Karma.
Assayas: I haven't heard you talk about that.
Bono: I really believe we've moved out of the realm of Karma into one of Grace.
Assayas: Well, that doesn't make it clearer for me.
Bono: You see, at the center of all religions is the idea of Karma. You know, what you put out comes back to you: an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, or in physics; in physical laws every action is met by an equal or an opposite one. It's clear to me that Karma is at the very heart of the universe. I'm absolutely sure of it. And yet, along comes this idea called Grace to upend all that "as you reap, so you will sow" stuff. Grace defies reason and logic. Love interrupts, if you like, the consequences of your actions, which in my case is very good news indeed, because I've done a lot of stupid stuff.
Assayas: I'd be interested to hear that.
Bono: That's between me and God. But I'd be in big trouble if Karma was going to finally be my judge. I'd be in deep s---. It doesn't excuse my mistakes, but I'm holding out for Grace. I'm holding out that Jesus took my sins onto the Cross, because I know who I am, and I hope I don't have to depend on my own religiosity.
Assayas: The Son of God who takes away the sins of the world. I wish I could believe in that.
Bono: But I love the idea of the Sacrificial Lamb. I love the idea that God says: Look, you cretins, there are certain results to the way we are, to selfishness, and there's a mortality as part of your very sinful nature, and, let's face it, you're not living a very good life, are you? There are consequences to actions. The point of the death of Christ is that Christ took on the sins of the world, so that what we put out did not come back to us, and that our sinful nature does not reap the obvious death. That's the point. It should keep us humbled . It's not our own good works that get us through the gates of heaven.
Assayas: That's a great idea, no denying it. Such great hope is wonderful, even though it's close to lunacy, in my view. Christ has his rank among the world's great thinkers. But Son of God, isn't that farfetched?
Bono: No, it's not farfetched to me. Look, the secular response to the Christ story always goes like this: he was a great prophet, obviously a very interesting guy, had a lot to say along the lines of other great prophets, be they Elijah, Muhammad, Buddha, or Confucius. But actually Christ doesn't allow you that. He doesn't let you off that hook. Christ says: No. I'm not saying I'm a teacher, don't call me teacher. I'm not saying I'm a prophet. I'm saying: "I'm the Messiah." I'm saying: "I am God incarnate." And people say: No, no, please, just be a prophet. A prophet, we can take. You're a bit eccentric. We've had John the Baptist eating locusts and wild honey, we can handle that. But don't mention the "M" word! Because, you know, we're gonna have to crucify you. And he goes: No, no. I know you're expecting me to come back with an army, and set you free from these creeps, but actually I am the Messiah. At this point, everyone starts staring at their shoes, and says: Oh, my God, he's gonna keep saying this. So what you're left with is: either Christ was who He said He was the Messiah or a complete nutcase. I mean, we're talking nutcase on the level of Charles Manson. This man was like some of the people we've been talking about earlier. This man was strapping himself to a bomb, and had "King of the Jews" on his head, and, as they were putting him up on the Cross, was going: OK, martyrdom, here we go. Bring on the pain! I can take it. I'm not joking here. The idea that the entire course of civilization for over half of the globe could have its fate changed and turned upside-down by a nutcase, for me, that's farfetched
Bono later says it all comes down to how we regard Jesus:
Bono: If only we could be a bit more like Him, the world would be transformed. When I look at the Cross of Christ, what I see up there is all my s--- and everybody else's. So I ask myself a question a lot of people have asked: Who is this man? And was He who He said He was, or was He just a religious nut? And there it is, and that's the question. And no one can talk you into it or out of it.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Life Lesson From Brother's Tragic Death by Joyce Meyer

Popular Bible teacher, author and television host Joyce Meyer opened up about the recent tragic death of her younger brother during the C3 Conference at Fellowship Church in Dallas last week.

While delivering her message on the life of self-pity versus the life of diligence and faith, Meyer told the gathering of church and ministry leaders how she learned that her brother was dead when Los Angeles authorities called her in late December.

They informed her he had been dead about 30 days but that they had only just found his body in an abandoned building in the city. About a week ago she received his cremated ashes and the handful of personal effects found on him.

"My personal effects and his personal effects are sadly different. How one's life turns out is not dependent on what people do to us or what they don't do for us," she told the attendants. "There is no man on earth or devil in hell who can keep you from the very best God put in you."

Comparing her life choices with her brother's, she illustrated her point that a person's determination by faith to follow God's plan, not circumstances, allow him to reap God's promises. For many years growing up, Meyer suffered from sexual abuse by her father. It wasn't until she was much older that she knew God was calling her to preach, she said. Meanwhile her brother David joined the Marine Corps and started using drugs, later becoming dependent on them and ultimately quitting a rehabilitation program with the Los Angeles Dream Center.

Her response to sexual abuse could have been like the paralytic's in John 5, she said, who lay by the healing pool for 38 years waiting for a touch from God. He could have at least wiggled to the edge of the pool, she pointed out.

Meyer noted that both she and her brother came from the same bloodline, same family and, in some aspects, went through their own unique struggles. While she eventually took responsibility for her behavior, she said her brother always ran from his.

She said she wasn't bringing up the story of her brother to bring disrespect, but she believed he would have wanted her to speak about him to teach others "a lesson."

"I think sometimes God has a miracle for people but He sees if they're going to wiggle first," she said. "Next time you're having a pity party and want to give up, I hope the Holy Ghost whispers in your ear, ‘Wiggle!’"

Monday, February 21, 2011

Robert's Quotes for the Week (#36) by Robert Ricciardelli

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Being Matters More than Doing by Robert Ricciardelli

God wants our being more than our doing. Our being in Him matters most. He is always in us, but are we consciously in Him? Do we seek Him, His Kingdom, and His nature? We want to make a difference, and yet often miss our Creator who is ever calling us towards Himself. Consciously transition to time with God by listening, responding, and resting in Him while we advance. Doing powerfully flows from our being.

Friday, February 18, 2011

He Needs More of Us by Robert Ricciardelli

The Kingdom of God is within. We do not need more of Him as He has given us everything we need. People chase power, prestige, and prosperity in the name of God and find themselves wanting. The transformational manifestation of God in us has been trapped in the prison of our hearts and minds. We are the only God people may ever see, and He desires to use us so much. We do not need more of Him, He needs more of us.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

X-Out the Negatives From Your Life by Robert Ricciardelli

It is time to X-Out the negatives that hinder perspectives, production, and success. Take courage to search out and admit to the weak spots in your life. We all have them, and many times we mask them, because it is too painful to take a peek under the hood of our mind, will, and emotions. Be encouraged as you identify the soft spots, you will now be empowered to begin to eliminate the destiny barriers from your life.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

God is Talking All the Time by Robert Ricciardelli

God is talking to you all the time. Are you listening? Do you expect Him to put passion and thoughts into your heart and mind? He is the author of amazing creativity and passion, and has deposited expressive brilliance within you. Sometimes we take ownership of all of our thoughts and passions. I once asked the Lord to support an idea I had. He said, "I love that idea, I will support it, and by the way, that idea was mine."

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Be Ready to Realign Rigorously by Robert Ricciardelli

Be ready For Divine interruptions to your plans. Many are the plans of men but God's plans prevail. This is a generation of time when God is shaking all that can be shaken so that all that remains is His unshakable Kingdom and His unshakable principles. In His love and providence, God does this without your permission. Be ready to realign rigorously to God's plans with joy, because His plans work best for you.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Commitment Propels Dynamic Living by Robert Ricciardelli

You are the offspring of God. He has created you in His image to existentially co-create with Him. Initiated through faith, it is commitment that propels our life dynamically forward. When we commit ourselves, Divine providence empowers all ideas and plans. Commitment births favor and a whole stream of unforeseen incidents, meetings, and provision. Suddenly the unseen bursts onto the scene in Majestic glory.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

What are your PEGS? by Robert Ricciardelli

Have you checked on your PEGs lately? What is your PASSION, and are you living a life of PASSION? What is your EXPERIENCE, and are you maximizing the strength, wisdom , and knowledge, gained from your life's EXPERIENCEs? And finally, what are your GIFTs, and are you able to live and work in the context that best releases your GIFTs? Living within your PEG's will continue to be a pathway for your success.
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Vision: What’s Love Got to Do with It? by John C. Maxwell

Where does vision come from? How does a leader develop a clear vision for the future?

At the earliest stages, the word "vision" may be somewhat misleading, portraying vision as a picture that we can see. The birthplace of vision isn't the mind's eye, but the heart. In the beginning, visionaries are guided by passion not sight. They must feel their way in the dark at first, and only through time do they gain a mental image of what the future could look like.

Vision is what you want to do in life, not only what you think should be done. I can think of a thousand noble causes, but only a select few resonate with my heart. Vision begins as a compelling want or desire. The genesis of vision isn't purely an intellectual exercise; it involves monitoring your passions.

Passion generates vision, but I certainly do not recommend blindly following your heart. When developing a vision it's necessary to realistically assess your strengths, skills, and available opportunities. For example, I may aspire to sing on Broadway, but if the sounds of my voice makes an audience cover their ears in pain, then it's time to focus on another area of passion. Desire alone surely is not sufficient to develop a vision. Yet, every vision starts with an emotional spark.

Passion Births Vision

Ability is not enough to enable us to reach our potential. Opportunity alone will never get us to the top. Knowledge is a great asset, but comes up short helping us "be all that we can be." Even putting together a good team is not sufficient. Passion is the difference-maker.

In my years of observing people, I have never seen an individual reach his potential without passion. Horst Schultze, former COO of the Ritz Carlton says:

You are nothing unless it comes from your heart. Passion, caring, really looking to create excellence. If you perform functions only and go to work only to do processes, then you are effectively retired. And it scares me - most people I see, by age 28, are retired... If you go to work only to fulfill the processes and functions then you are a machine. You have to bring passion, commitment and caring - then you are a human being.

Without passion we stop dreaming and settle for survival. We relinquish heartfelt vision in exchange for security and comfort.

One team of researchers followed a group of 1,500 MBA's over a period of 20 years. At the outset of the study, the participants were divided into two groups, Group A and Group B.

Group A, 83 percent of the sample
, was composed of people who were embarking on a career path that they had chosen solely for the prospect of making money now in order to do what they wanted later in life.

Group B, the other 17 percent of the sample, consisted of people who had chosen their career paths so that they could do what they wanted to do now and worry about the money later.

The data showed some startling revelations:
• At the end of the 20-year period, 101 of the 1,500 had become millionaires.
• Of the millionaires, all but one - 100 out of 101 - were from Group B, the group that had chosen to pursue what they loved.

In summarizing the research for his book Getting Rich Your Own Way, Srully Blotnick observed the following: "A missing ingredient had to be present if someone was going to become rich: they had to find their work absorbing. Involving. Enthralling." The success stories choose passion over predictable earnings. They had a vision for life beyond material riches, and ironically, they ended up generating the most wealth.

To birth a vision, begin by paying attention to your areas of passion. What makes you feel alive? What matters the most to you in life? What activities can absorb attention for hours? Don't worry about being able to see the whole picture immediately. As you look for ways to make contributions doing what you love, eventually a picture will emerge in your mind of how you can shape the future.

¡Levántate y Resplandece! by Francis Frangipane

Para esto Dios los llamó por nuestro evangelio, a fin de que tengan parte en la gloria de nuestro Señor Jesucristo» (2 Tesalonicenses 2:14)

El mandato claro de la Palabra de Dios para quienes vivan los últimos tiempos es que sean intrépidos al enfrentar las tinieblas. Hablando a través del profeta Isaías, el Espíritu del Señor ordena a los suyos:

            « ¡Levántate y resplandece, que tu luz ha llegado!
                ¡La Gloria del Señor brilla sobre ti!
                Mira, las tinieblas cubren la tierra,
                y una densa oscuridad se cierne sobre los pueblos.
                Pero la aurora del Señor brillará sobre ti;
                ¡sobre ti se manifestará su gloria!
                Las naciones serán guiadas por tu luz,
                y los reyes, por tu amanecer esplendoroso»
                                                                 -Isaías 60:1-3-

Por cuanto la segunda parte de Isaías 60 contiene referencias al milenio, adicionalmente algunos ubicaron el cumplimiento de todo este capítulo en tiempos futuros. Pero déjeme preguntarle algo: ¿cubrirán las tinieblas la tierra durante el milenio? Durante el glorioso reinado de Cristo cuando la muerte, el pecado y la aflicción desaparezcan, ¿se cernirá densa oscuridad sobre los pueblos? La verdad es que, aunque la profecía de Isaías ciertamente concluirá en el milenio, comienza durante las últimas horas de esta era.

Claramente, estos tres primeros versículos de Isaías 60 son un claro mandato de Dios para antes del arrebatamiento y antes del milenio. El Señor nos llama no solamente a soportar las tinieblas sino a levantarnos en su gloria manifiesta. La gente puede discutir sobre el momento del arrebatamiento, pero lo que estoy aquí presentando no molesta a ninguna escatología popular. Estoy diciendo que entre el ahora y cualquier escenario que usted crea habrá un tiempo de Gloria en aumento para los verdaderos seguidores de Cristo.

Algunos de nosotros nos sentimos derrotados, otros, cansados y debilitados por la creciente oscuridad en el mundo. Y es precisamente en esta situación en la cual la depresión podría atrapar nuestras almas que se nos manda levantarnos. Arrojar de nosotros la opresión no es precisamente un acto de fe; es un acto de obediencia. Es tiempo de cancelar los planes de ser infelices. ¡Mediante la sangre de Cristo rompemos el pacto con la muerte y las tinieblas y obedecemos la voz de nuestro destino!

Alguien podría argumentar: es que usted no conoce mis dificultades. Escuche cómo traduce el mandato de Dios otra versión de Las Escrituras: « ¡Levántese [de la depresión y la postración en que lo han mantenido las circunstancias, y elévese a una nueva vida]!» (AMP). En este preciso momento, mientras lee estas páginas, nueva vida de la presencia de Dios desciende a su espíritu. ¡Recíbala! ¡Acéptela! ¡Obedézcala!

Como puede ver, el plan de Dios es que, aquí en la tierra, en nosotros, sea revelada la gloria del Señor. La luminosa y radiante luz de su presencia, la que brilló en el rostro de Moisés, la que inundó el templo de Salomón durante su dedicación, la que irradió de la persona de Jesús y envolvió a los discípulos en el monte donde se transfiguró el Señor, esa luz de la presencia de Dios brotará de nuestro interior al final de la era. Esta misma gloria divina aparecerá sobre nosotros en los años previos a la segunda venida del Señor en niveles siempre progresivos de brillantez.

En realidad, esta gran obra de gracia ya comenzó. Somos parte de la expansiva reparación que el Espíritu Santo efectúa. Dios reúne a su pueblo. Aprendemos a humillarnos en arrepentimiento y oración, y descubrimos la amistad y la unidad con otros cristianos. No hay duda que nuestra reconciliación y la superación de las barreras étnicas y denominacionales conllevan una inconmensurable recompensa. A medida que «se levanten todos los valles, y se allanen todos los montes y colinas … se revelará la gloria del Señor, y la verá toda la humanidad» (Isaías 40:4-5).

Dios nos prepara para recibir Su esplendor!. Las naciones serán guiadas por su luz, y los reyes, por su amanecer esplendoroso!

Solamente El es Digno
No tema ni se considere así mismo indigno. ¡Por supuesto que lo es! Todos lo somos. Pero es para la gloria de Dios que somos preparados. Él no cometió un error al escogerlo a usted, así como tampoco se equivocó al morir por sus pecados. Él decidió poner su Espíritu en el interior de la vida del creyente. De modo que la carencia de valía personal no es una excusa aceptable. Dios fue el que decidió su destino. ¡Tenga cuidado, no sea que su sentimiento de indignidad se convierta en una bruma que encubra su incredulidad!

La oscuridad, el caos, el vacío que puedan existir todavía en su vida no son un impedimento mayor para el Todopoderoso que el terrible vacío que le esperaba en el principio, antes de la creación. Sin duda alguna, ¡su génesis individual de las tinieblas a la luz no será demasiado difícil para Dios!

Aun en este momento, el Espíritu de Dios desciende y revolotea sobre usted, y lo cubre con sus alas. La voz del Señor le ordena a la «nueva creación» que usted es:

 « ¡Levántate! ¡Resplandece! Sacúdete la depresión en la que te mantienen las circunstancias! ¡Estás en el umbral de la gloria de Dios!».


 El mensaje precedente fue adaptado de un capitulo en el libro de Francis, Los Días de Su Presencia  publicado en Español por  Asociación Editorial Buena Semilla bajo su sello Editorial Desafío disponible en su versión impresa y en formato electrónico.

Para obtenerlo por favor visite “Arrowbookstore” en

Arise, Shine! by Francis Frangipane

"And it was for this He called you through our gospel, that you may gain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ." ---2 Thessalonians 2:14

The Word of God states plainly---no, it commands those at the end of the age to be fearless in the face of darkness! Speaking through the prophet Isaiah, the Spirit of the Lord orders His people:

    Arise, shine; for your light has come,
    And the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.
    For behold, darkness will cover the earth,
    And deep darkness the peoples;
    But the Lord will rise upon you,
    And His glory will appear upon you.
    And nations will come to your light,
    And kings to the brightness of your rising.
                          ---Isaiah 60:1-3

Traditionally, because the second half of Isaiah 60 contains references to the millennium, some have placed the fulfillment of this entire chapter in the age to come. But let me ask: Will "darkness . . . cover the earth" in the millennium? During the glorious reign of Christ when death, sin, and sorrow are banished, will "deep darkness" still rest on "the peoples"? The fact is, while Isaiah's prophecy does indeed conclude in the millennium, it begins during the last hours of this age.

Clearly, these first three verses of Isaiah 60 are a pre-rapture, pre-millennial command from God. The Lord calls us not just to endure the darkness but to arise in His manifest glory! People argue about the timing of the rapture, but what I am presenting here does not disturb any popular eschatology. I'm saying between now and whatever scenario you believe there will be a time of increasing glory for true Christ followers.

Some of us feel defeated; others are worn out and weakened by the increasing gloom in the world. Yet it is here, where depression would otherwise capture our souls, that we are commanded to rise. To throw off oppression is not just an act of faith; it is an act of obedience. It is time to cancel our plans to be miserable! Through the blood of Christ, we break our covenant with death and darkness; we obey the voice of our destiny!

One may argue, But you do not know my difficulties. Listen to how the Amplified Bible renders the Lord's command: "Arise [from the depression and prostration in which circumstances have kept you; rise to a new life]!" Right at this moment, even as you read these words, new life from the Presence of God is descending into your spirit. Receive it! Accept it! Obey it!

You see, God's plan is that here on earth, in us, the glory of the Lord will be revealed. The luminous, radiant light of His Presence, as it shone from Moses' face and flooded Solomon's temple at its dedication, as it radiated from Jesus and bathed His disciples on the Mount of Transfiguration---that light of God's Presence shall arise from within us at the end of the age! This same divine glory shall, in ever-increasing degrees of brightness, appear upon us in the years prior to the Lord's actual second coming.

In truth, this great work of grace has already begun. We are part of the Holy Spirit's expansive preparation. God is gathering together His people. We are learning to humble ourselves in repentance and prayer; we are finding friendship and unity with other Christians. Indeed, our reconciliation across denominational and ethnic barriers has an immeasurable reward attached to it. As valleys are "lifted up, and every mountain and hill . . . made low . . . then the glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all flesh will see it together" (Isa. 40:4-5).

God is qualifying us to receive His splendor! Nations shall come to His light and kings to the brightness of His rising!

Only He is Worthy
Do not fear or think of yourself as unworthy---of course you are! We all are. It is for His glory that we are being prepared. He made no mistake in choosing you, just as He made no mistake in dying for your sins. He chose to put His Spirit within you. Personal unworthiness is not a valid excuse. Your destiny is God's decision. Beware lest your sense of unworthiness become a smoke screen for unbelief!

The darkness, chaos, or emptiness that may still exist in your life is not any more of a deterrent to the Almighty than the terrible, pre-creation void that awaited Him in the beginning. Certainly, your individual genesis from darkness to light shall not be too difficult for God!

Even now, the Holy Spirit is descending, hovering, and brooding over you. To your "new creation self" the voice of the Lord commands,

"Arise! Shine! Shake yourself from the depression in which circumstances have kept you! You are standing at the threshold of God's glory!"
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The preceding message is adapted from a chapter in Francis' book, The Days of His Presence published by Kingdom Publishing and available in hardback edition and eBook.
For ordering information, please visit the Arrow Bookstore at

Identifying the Hard Heart by Dudley Hall

Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. Hebrews 3:12 (ESV)

This text comes from an author seeking to relate our situation to the one the Israelites faced when they were offered the promised land. "Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion on the day of testing in the wilderness..." (Hebrews 3:7-8 -ESV). The Israelites had heard the voice of God telling them that he had given them the land. He instructed them to take it. They did not believe him and chose instead to reject his word. As a result they were given what they wanted and lived as they were until they died.
What is a hard heart? From this text we must conclude that it is a heart that refuses to take God's verdict as final. In its essence, a hard heart is one that clings to another authority besides God. In the case of the Israelites, they were so captured by the physical evidence of large and strong armies that they couldn't believe God's gift was viable. So their final authority was reason based solely on what they could observe with their senses.

Like the promise of the land to the Israelites, the promise of grace to us seems too good to be true. We must have an underlying trust in the One who speaks in order to believe the outlandish gift of grace.  Who would risk life and limb on the word of a stranger? If we do our research well, we will find that the one who speaks has a record of faithfulness. He has never been found to be deceptive. He has done everything he promised even at the cost of giving his own Son. But the research alone is not enough. We must know him. That is why he has ordained life to be about relationship with him. Relationships need maintaining. There is some work to discovering the different treasures in the other person. It is worth the time and effort. It is not about a first-time encounter and then waiting until the final day of judgment.

But there is more than just research on the rational level. There is the gift of illumination, which allows us to see beyond the scope of our natural senses. When we neglect that gift, we are taking the first steps down the path of a hard heart. Eventually we will not be able to see anything of God's reality. We will be shut up to reality as defined by us. We wind up being our own authority and that is judgment. So we cannot afford to neglect "today's" word. It will be the key that unlocks tomorrow's word. As we continue to live by his daily word we develop believing hearts that can march confidently into our promised land.

What if we have already begun to have a hard heart? There is good news. The very fact that we recognize it is a gift from God. We can acknowledge it and choose to submit to his forgiveness. We can start over. The "today" word for those convicted by the Spirit is to confess. When we do he grants illumination for the day.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Believer's Greatest Ability by David Orton

“Make me know Your ways, O LORD; Teach me Your paths.” Psalms 25:4

To fear the Lord is to be taught of the Lord.

In fact, the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.

But this wisdom is so beyond human ken it must be supernatural. Therefore, only by imbibing the “spirit of the fear of the Lord” (Isa 11:2) will we be filled with the desire and the ability to learn His ways.

But how does the “spirit of the fear of the Lord” work?

The majesty of God

First, confronted by the majesty of God, my stubbornly held autonomy is broken and I inwardly bow.

In awe of Him I yield and lose myself in the divine embrace. Relinquishing to Him my very personhood He becomes my King and I his slave. My rebellion dissolves and I am given a new spirit – one that trembles at His word. And so, every futile attempt at self-salvation is relinquished. Laying aside my rights and my will, even in the face of injustice, I entrust myself to Him as a faithful Creator. And finally my broken and contrite heart becomes a sacrifice that is acceptable to God (see Psa 51).

Teachable relationships

Secondly, the spirit of the fear of the Lord flows through into teachable relationships, especially with those whom God sets in Christ’s body as spiritual overseers and shepherds of the flock.

If our hearts have been conquered by the fear of the Lord we will pursue wisdom and counsel. We will seek out teachable relationships with authentic men and women of God in whom we can confide. The habit of our lives will demonstrate the humility of heart that seeks out the wisdom of the wise.
As the wisdom writer declares,

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; But fools despise wisdom and instruction.
Proverbs 1:7

Without consultation, plans are frustrated, But with many counselors they succeed.
Proverbs 15:22

The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, But a wise man is he who listens to counsel.
Proverbs 12:15

Whether we are wise or a fool is shown by whether we have heart relationship with spiritual teachers who are intimates of God. The wise are always teachable, seeking out the wisdom of the wise. Fools, on the other hand, are wise in their own eyes, preferring their own counsel. In fact, they scoff, making light of the teaching of the wise.

A wise son accepts his father’s discipline, But a scoffer does not listen to rebuke.
Proverbs 13:1

The loss of the fear of the Lord and consequent refusal to engage in teachable relationships is the source of much demonic disorder in the body of Christ.

Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth. This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic. For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion (disorder) and every evil thing are there. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. James 3:13–17 NKJV

The anointing that teaches

Lastly, you may exclaim, “Aren’t I a priest of the new covenant, with direct access to Christ Himself? Why do I need relationship with spiritual teachers?”

The answer is, “Yes”, to the first question and, “Because you are proud”, to the second. The kingdom of God operates on laws of humility and interdependence. This is why the ecclesia functions as a body, each member connected and dependent on the other.

Even so, as John explains there is an anointing that teaches.

As for you, the anointing which you received from Him abides in you, and you have no need for anyone to teach you; but as His anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you abide in Him.

1 John 2:27 NAS

Clearly, the Holy Spirit is the divine Teacher operating through human teachers who are given, according to Ephesians chapter four, as gifts to the body. Otherwise, John, as an apostle and teacher, would not be writing these very words.

If you have imbibed the spirit of the fear of the Lord and received those whom God sends as wise teachers the Holy Spirit will witness as to whether their words are true or not.

And so, the believer’s greatest ability is always their teachability.

How Do We Become Stupid? by Dr. Ron Jenson

“How STUPID” was the comment my wife and I simultaneously uttered last night while watching the news report of Republican congressman Chris Lee resigning after his shirtless Craigslist post.

The reporter said, “Republican politician resigns after woman’s web search reveals ‘fit fun classy guy’ posing as divorcee to be in fact married with a son.”

You probably know the story by now. Our response of “how stupid” resulted from the disconnect. After all, how could a powerful, second-term US Congressman do something so wreckless and, yes, stupid?

He has a wife and son and was a rising star in the Republican Party, but he tanked. Why?

My sense is that he became stupid like most of us do … slowly but surely.  Here is what seems to be the evolution of this kind of stupidity.

   1. Success and recognition of our accomplishments.
   2. Beginning to believe our own press.
   3. A lack of attention to and/or unwillingness to address character flaws and inappropriate and unhealthy internal motivations.
   4. Pressures of leadership and life.
   5. Refusal to develop self-discipline and good habits.
   6. A sense of inadequacy and unfulfillment.
   7. Development of a facade or public front.
   8. A growing lack of support and personal accountability.
   9. Increasing split between the private and public life.
  10. Self-sabotaging behavior.
  11. Increasingly risky activities.
  12. Crashing publicly.
  13. Disgrace and dishonor.

That’s my take on how we become stupid. We all have the capacity to end up there. That’s why we so desperately need friends who support us and hold our feet to the fire, internal spiritual resources, a focus on inner life and integrity (same in public as we are in private), and the humility to admit when we mess up (as we all do).

By the way, my wife and I are both filled with sorrow for him (hey we’re all seriously flawed), his family, the US Congress and the millions of people touched by yet another sad situation. But this forced me to ask how can this kind of thing happens?

What do you think? Did I get this right? What would you add or edit? Let’s think about this together.

The Triumph of Trust by James Ryle

“But I will trust in thee.” Psalm 55:23

It is one thing to boast of faith when all things are great and wonderful. But it is an entirely different matter when one can walk in the triumph of trust while things are desperate all about.

The Psalmist here is a man whose prayers are not being answered; indeed, it would seem to him that his voice is not even being heard in heaven at all. And it’s not like he’s asking for vain things. No, quite the contrary; for all hell has broke loose and he’s fighting for his life!

“The terrors of death are fallen upon me,” he says, “Fearfulness and trembling are come upon me!” It’s a bad day.

Furthermore, he is painfully aware of his own powerlessness in the situation; he doesn’t even have the ability to run away and hide somewhere. He would gladly scamper if he could, but even that is beyond his supply. He is captive in a Philistine prison.

He’s stuck in a bad deal, and it’s only getting worse. A friend, a dear friend; a treasured friend has betrayed him cruelly. A man who worshipped with him in the presence of the Lord, a man whose friendship he had never doubted and on whose loyalty he had staked his life – this man had proven to be false and broke David’s singing heart.

And in this downward spiral of sorrow he cried to God above — and nothing. No answer at all. Nada. Zippo. Zilch.

Yep, it’s a bad day; a real bad day.

Anybody would understand if at this moment David had decided to call it quits on God; after all, people do it all the time. “C’mon David,” they would say, “join the rest of us who are done with childish things like faith and prayers, Bible verses and silly love longs. Welcome to the real world!”

But David was cut from another stock than that, and now in this darkening moment a single ray of light still remained — it was the light of trust. He refused to regard God’s silence as indifference, or to consider God’s inactivity as impotence. No, instead, he triumphed in trust.

“Heaven might be brass today, and God withdrawn and silent, but I will trust in Thee,” he said. “Winds may be howling and demons may be growling, and all things lovely to behold may be blown away, but I will trust in Thee. My heart is faint, my hopes are dim, and my power is gone, but I will trust in Thee. And though friends have fallen and turned to foes, and none can give solace to my deeper wounds, nevertheless I will trust in Thee.”

We know now that David’s trust in the Lord paid off huge, for history holds him forth as one of the greatest of Israel’s kings. And the Church holds him dear as one of God’s great champions. Who knows but that a similar destiny awaits you on the other side of this ordeal?

Stay the course, my friend, and stand in the triumph of trust!

Heaven’s Great and Passionate Cry by Greg Austin

Before the dawning of the First Day of creation, before the First Second of measurable time had been recorded, God desired and sought a Body that would represent Himself, His being, His character, His essence.

In eternity, before the appearance of light or lands or any created thing, God spoke into the void that was to become the container of life and declared, “Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness.”

An Expression of Intention

With mysterious purpose, and in the perfection of the fellowship and relationship of heaven there was need for a body, a form, a physical and material expression of the eternal Creator-God, and the resulting Adam who became the First Man was to be the material template for the Second Man Who would endure the cross and save us from our sins.

Indeed, beyond the one who was destined to become “template” and the One ordained to become “Sacrifice,” was the melding of the two, the joining together of “The first man Adam” who “became a living being” and “The last Adam” who “became a life-giving spirit.”  

The union, the fusion of zaō  psychē  and zōopoieō  pneuma, bringing together  “living soul” and “life-giving spirit” would produce an entity that heaven had originally and eternally intended but that the world had never witnessed.

And these two, “living soul” and “life-giving spirit,” “first Adam” and “last” or “second Adam” would form a Third Man; the full and final expression to be displayed to all that was created of the fullness of the Godhead and of heaven’s ultimate purpose, which is to demonstrate to all of creation the justice and righteousness, the splendor and the glory of the God Who describes Himself, all of His deep and glorious characteristics the singular and most glaringly misunderstood and misused word in every language, “love.” 

An Embodiment of Essence

The thirteenth chapter of First Corinthians provides a definition of the thing called “love.” Yet in itself Paul’s description is incomplete, because in order for love to find expression, there must be a body out of which the intangible of love finds tangibility, and is made practical, receivable, comprehensible.

Jesus has been revealed to us not only as the living Word or the only begotten of the Father or as Savior; Jesus is also the Head of the Body. The Head determines direction and activity, attitude, purpose, destination, pace, rest, communication: it all flows from the Head. 

The Body responds to the desires and the impulses originating in the Head. The Body without the Head is uncoordinated, ungainly, without direction and purpose. The Body without the Head is out of order. One cannot express itself rightly without the other.

Without the Body, Christ is only a concept, a mere suggestion. Without the Body, the non-believing world remains unconvinced of the Christ contained by our superior arguments or our pseudo-spiritual behaviors.

Those who first knew Him beheld Him. Please do not miss this vital point. They saw Him. They saw Him with their eyes and their hands handled the Word of life.  Jesus was God in flesh and blood reality.

And when Jesus informed His friends, “It is expedient that I go away”   He did not have in mind only the coming of the Comforter or of some multi-level evangelism program. His intent was more than to inaugurate the advent of a Spirit-age of otherworldly manifestations and spooky activity.

More than merely enabling men to speak with other tongues or to give a thrill seeking church the cheap sensation of “Holy Ghost goose bumps,” He intended that through our transformed lives we might become to the world the very essence of the image of the risen, life-giving, life-changing Christ.

When the Helper comes He not only infuses the believer with the Spirit of God, but He comes as the Spirit of Christ, the Spirit that filled the body, the vessel, the being of Jesus.

It is with this truth in mind that Dr. Steve Crosby writes, “The whole purpose of Pentecost was to continue His life in the flesh, on earth, not in heaven.”

Heaven needs a Body in order to give full expression to the Person and Purpose of God:

A Body that feeds the hungry, and visits the imprisoned, that clothes the naked, loves the unlovable and touches the untouchable: A Body that brings heaven to earth, and makes understandable the mysteries of a kingdom not of this world. 

Paul wrote of a Body in Romans 9:23 in whom God “has made known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had prepared beforehand for glory, even us whom He called, as He says also in Hosea: I will call them My people who were not My people and they shall be called sons of the living God.”

This is the Body that preaches the Message of good news to the poor, that comes to announce pardon to prisoners and recovery of sight to the blind, to set the burdened and battered free.  

This Body, the visible manifestation of the Person, the Man of whom John declared was the “Son of God Who takes away the sin of the world”  is the Body, “the fullness of Him,”  of Jesus the Christ, the eternal Logos, the Word made flesh, Who is given speech through our lips, Who sees with our eyes, walks with our feet and touches with our hands.

This is the Body of which every true God-connected human is a part, and what we long for is the dawning of the morning of our full expression, the time of the manifestation of what has not been seen and of what has not been heard, but of what has been revealed to us by His Spirit.

And that Body is moving from earnest expectation to impassioned realization of the revealing of the sons of God, a unified, interconnected “many” becoming “one” even as Jesus prayed to the Father in John 17 “that they may be one.” Five times in this single prayer, Jesus utters the yearning that “they,” that “we” “may become one.”

This great high priestly prayer, this ultimate expression of the heart of God in the flesh before being offered up as an atonement for the sins of man reveals the central desire, the chief aim and the highest appeal of the heart of God.

And that appeal is not that we might be endued with power from on high: He does not pray that we might be adorned with all the gifts of the Spirit or that we should be looked upon with envy by the world.

Instead the great cry of God is that we the Body, the followers of Jesus might be “one.”

The Greek in John 17 translated “one” is heis (pronounced “hice”), and means “agreement, one thing, unity.” It is of interest to note that the transliteration of the Greek heis is “man,” which suggests growing up, becoming from a child, a man.
One man - one unified, integrated, cohesively fused Body with many members, moving together as a symphonic orchestra, each playing his part, each moving in response only to the great Orchestrator of the universe, even our Father, Whose Son is the Head from whom flow command and order, direction and purpose to move, to go, to speak and to fill.

With this truth in mind consider Paul’s anointed instructive to the Ephesian believers: “He has broken down the middle wall of separation, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two. Now therefore you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.”

“ . . . So as to create in Himself one new man from the two.” So much of the practice of the Christian church hinges on a sense of unique individuality. 

Learning from corrupt humanistic governmental systems, the church bought into a lie that has bred a dangerous and deadly cohort to sin – the result of which says “I don’t need you. I can develop my own gifts, I can succeed without your help,” and that damning lie from the pit of hell not only crushes souls and alienates brother from brother and sister from sister, but it exemplifies the attitude of denominations and independent fellowships alike. Far too long believers, joined together in one heavenly family have lived as though they haven’t needed one another.

In Himself One New Man

We are watching today, thankfully the demise of denominationalism and the death of religious sectarianism that has separated and prevented the Body of Christ from being the Body of Christ.

And it is symptomatic of the problem of disunity and disconnection and it is the reason that heaven cried to heaven; Jesus lifted up His eyes to the Father and cried, “If there is one, singular request that I can make before I lay down my life for all of mankind, let it be “that they all may be one, as You, Father are in Me and I in You that they also may be one in Us that the world may believe that You sent Me.”

Man believes he has no need of anybody else. Believer doesn’t need his brother or sister and it’s a manifestation of the curse of hell, this false belief that we can function without one another. 

Because to the extent we are convinced we don’t need others, we frustrate the work of Grace, we delay the deliverance of creation, we labor against the purpose and intention of heaven.

We are called, intended to become, to manifest His glory and nature, His Person to a world that is disjointed, disordered, that is discordant; a world desperately seeking something that not only makes sense, but more, a Body that speaks with one voice, sees with a single eye, moves with one purpose and touches with one heart.

It’s this concept of “one” that most believers know little about. We know about the corporate “one,” we know “The Lord is One.” We know academically there is one church. 

But we are convinced both by training and by human nature that we can go it alone, that we are somehow single-handedly building the Kingdom of God that cannot be established, cannot be manifested until the Head is acknowledged as the Head and the Body represents His Body.

For too long the world has been confounded by the monstrosity that has called itself Christ’s “church.” What the world has seen has been an arm here, a leg there, an eye and an ear, all disjointed, disconnected, each one claiming “I am the Body of Christ” when in fact we were more Frankenstein than any kind of “one new man.”

It is a stunning revelation: Jesus is the Head and we are His Body and we need to say this, to enunciate this elemental reality because in practice many so-called followers of The Way have neglected, forgotten or never learned spiritual anatomy sufficiently to understand the correlation between head and body.

We are separated and by nature we are separators and in our separateness we can’t truly know God, and until we know God we cannot become a part of the thing we long to experience.

But we cannot become the true Body of Christ until and unless we are filled with that which filled the Body of Jesus.

We cannot in our separateness and so long as we hold onto our darling issues, our pet theologies, our parochial views, our exclusive clubs for those alone who think exactly like we do, we cannot in our elite and restricted fellowships begin to demonstrate to a hopeless world the hope that is within us by virtue of His indwelling Presence.

A Body, in order to move and function, to be a living entity must be filled. The natural, physical body, what the Greeks called sarx must be filled with blood and oxygen, the organs of life - lung and heart and brain; so, too, the spiritual body must be filled with life-giving substance.

So the question is not, “Do we need to become His Body?” or “Are we truly His Body?” These are obvious. The questions are these: “What is it that fills His body that makes us to become uniquely “the fullness of Him?” “How can we who follower the Lord Jesus Christ truly become one; how can we accurately, authentically reflect Him to the world around us?”

These questions and that enigma beckon to be answered.

(Author’s note: In Part Two of this discussion, we will address these critical questions and offer clear direction for us all to follow and to hasten the day of the revealing of the sons of God in the earth).