True Church


For all who want to see the Church of God in action – go here.

That is all.

(Shortest post on record!)

Welcome to the Hand of God!


This is a special welcome to every new member of the Hand of God, especially those personally invited by my new family at the Daily Audio Bible community.  I have made a whole new set of friends on the chat rooms there, and want to shout out AmariNanny, Calico, Dennis, Servant-Ken, Newme, Jai, Southampton and all the others that I’ve started to connect with.

So, if you’re new, you’re wondering what this blog is all about, right?  Right?  Well, according to my About page (didya see that coming? Didya?…):

The purpose of the Hand of God is to chronicle God’s hand in my life, and testify of the things God does when I pray for others.  Here you will see slices of heaven on earth, where the miraculous meets the mundane.  I also share parts of my life and try to be as open online as I am in person.

Here there are several testimonies of God working supernaturally in my life and in the lives of others around me:

My Supernatural Stories series

Here is my series on deliverance teaching – Deliverance Foundations

Here’s another series I’ve done – Life Together series

Ok! That’s a lot!  I’ll post another links page for more forays into the innards of the blog.

Please comment in the blog if you find something you like, or contact me at handofgod.blog (at) gmail (dot) com.

Gestation


Coming off of my last post and the thought of being hidden away in the secret place, I found a chapter in this book I’m reading that resonates along that line.  The book is “Living Water” by Brother Yun – the second book from this author.  He is a Chinese Christian who detailed his testimony of being persecuted in his home country in his first book “The Heavenly Man”.  This, his second book, is a collection of his own teachings which, as the book says, “have evolved from his life experiences of persecution and revival in China.”

This book is deep. So much so that I can only take it in small doses!  In fact, I’ve gotten this book as a gift (thanks Phillip!) since January 13th this year, and I’ve only just gotten to chapter 6.

I have been stuck for a while on chapter 5 – “The Pregnancy of the Holy Spirit”.  Yun starts off with the account of Jesus’ incarnation – of him taking on human form to be our example.  He comments how God the Father orchestrated this event and protected his Son from the evil Satan was throwing at him in Herod’s murder of thousands of baby boys to get rid of him.  Yun mentions the shepherds on one end of the social scale  and the Magi on the other – all come to worship Jesus.  Next, he recounts the meeting of Mary with the angel Gabriel.

After this account, he states this:

Do you realize that God wants all Christians to be pregnant with the Holy Spirit today? He wants to give you a vision of His kingdom that originates from heaven, not from yourself.  He desires that all of His children would be overshadowed by His presence in such a way that they are changed and give birth to something in their lives that brings many into His kingdom.

He also comments that, “The message I want to share with you is that you must be willing to become pregnant by the Holy Spirit. When a heavenly vision comes to dwell inside your innermost being, the entire direction of your life will be changed.”

This is the season I am in.  I am crying out to the Lord for his birthing in me as I stay in his secret place.  I’m in a period of gestation.  I am seeking God to be formed in me, so that I can express his life through mine!

Brother Yun next speaks to the effect of people allowing themselves to be pregnant by the Spirit.  He starts of by speaking of the persecution of the Chinese Christians after the Revolution in 1949, where churches were destroyed or turned into “gymnasiums, granaries or government offices” and where all of the foreign missionaries were expelled.  The Christian church was forced underground.

Then God started to move in the 1970’s.  Yun used the analogy of seeds scattered on the ground and growing into thousands of trees as a few believers became many.  He said, “Thousands of believers became millions as revival swept our nation, and millions turned into tens of millions, and now even 100,000,000!”

He comments that, “This great revival happened after God found people who were willing to be pregnant by the Holy Spirit.  They were available and willing to preach the Gospel to every part of China.”

He complains that much Christian activity “seems to originate with our human plans, and it is then carried out in human strength, with human results.”  He mentions that “God is only interested  in His work, not our work. He oversees and empowers those things that originate in His heart.”

This is why I have come to a place of peace concerning this season in my life. Where I was champing at the bit like an over-eager stallion, now I am learning to rest in him and let him do the work in me.  I am not wanting another thing to spring up that is “our work.”  I’m only interested in “God’s work.”  I’m seeking his rest, as he builds me and forms me in the secret place.

I like what he says here:

If you become pregnant by the Holy Spirit, it is very important that you go and visit someone else who is also pregnant by the Holy Spirit.  Only people who are going through this experience can provide encouragement and comfort when others are attacking you.

Mary visited Elizabeth, who was also pregnant.  And what happened? Elizabeth blessed her, and the unborn John the Baptist leapt in the womb at the sound of her voice!

He continues:

When you become pregnant with a vision from the Holy Spirit, seek out your Elizabeth.  Such a person will not mock or condemn you for obeying God’s call on your life…. Spend as much time with others who are pregnant by the Holy Spirit. I know that each time you see them, something will jump in your spirit!

Brother Yun warns next that birth is a very painful process, but he encourages us not to be afraid, for “God will sustain you and complete the birth of that which is inside of you.”  He says that for the “joy of being pregnant by the Holy Spirit, I have been called to endure persecution and torture for the sake of the gospel”, but “[a]ll of this was worth it for the great joy of seeing God glorified as he blessed and saved people through that which He placed inside of me.”

This gives me encouragement, and I am ready to go forward – whatever the cost.

He ends his chapter with a challenge:

Our loving heavenly Father is looking for people who are willing to become pregnant with His presence, vision and power.

Are you willing to surrender control of your life into the hands of God?

Will you be like Mary, and pray, “I am the Lord’s servant; may it be to me as you have said”?

You will never regret such a prayer.

Lord I am willing.  Make me pregnant by your Holy Spirit.  May it be unto me as you have said.  Hear my heart’s cry, Lord JESUS! As you have hidden me, I submit to your hand upon my life.  I pray for all those reading this as well, that they will be moved to cry out in the same manner – Be it unto me, according to your word!!!!! May those that read this also become contagious, so that the revival fires will continue to rage, and many more will know the Saviour of the World!  AMEN

Table Churches


Stumbled onto this blog post Fulcrum Express, and this post,  Improbable Church, where the author starts off with

The church that meets together at my home each Friday evening to share a meal, encounter God and minister one to another is an improbable assembly of believers and even not-yet believers. We cut across races, cultures, nationalities, social status, and so many other lines — producing a rich tapestry of interwoven lives.

I love his explanation of how the church meets in his context – share a meal, encounter God and minister to one another.  That is so simple, yet so profound!  A mottley crew of people of all walks of life – even people who have not yet committed to the faith… that’s so awesome!

It makes me remember my friend Archie, who’s starting a whole new expression of the body of Christ called Fresh Connection.  He told me the first time people are meeting is this Wednesday – I told him I’d love to be there online.. maybe we can see how that can work.  God’s doing some great things!

His post references another post on the same blog site, “Table Church, Podium Church and Facilitating Leadership” which has an interesting ‘twist’ to the New Testament church model, made popular by the proliferation of ‘house based’ or ‘cell based’ churches that are gaining popularity.

The first part of this new post speaks to the author’s having to deal with a controlling pastor and how this experience made him search the Scriptures to find Biblical evidence of leadership.  He says, in part:

“Church” as it’s come to be is now largely pastor led and podium focused, with professional “ministry” and largely passive pew sitters. We have lost the New Testament pattern of a community of believers served by local elders and other leaders, who function in a collegial framework of diverse gifts to sacrificially equip all believers for works of service as we all minister to each other. See Eph. 4:11-12 & 16.

So there’s the challenge of our day: Do we want New Testament leadership that is facilitating rather than controlling, elders who are engaged rather than pastor-centric, and ministry that is diversified rather than centralized? Are we willing to take back our churches and once again be the church?

He coins an interesting term for traditionally styled churches – podium churches.  I don’t want to beat the dead horse of traditonal vs non traditional churches specifically… I want to get to how the church is shaped in his context – what he  calls ‘table churches‘.

The home-based model for the first three centuries of church history was firmly rooted in the New Testament, where believers met, fellowshipped, shared communion and a meal together in each other’s homes. Interestingly, and contrary to our current male dominated “churches” where women are typically excluded from key roles, those home fellowships were often hosted by women such as Mark’s mom in Jerusalem (Acts 12:12), Lydia in Philippi (Acts 16:15 & 40), and Priscilla in Ephesus and then Rome (Rom. 16:3-5 and 1 Cor. 16:19).

That’s the beginning of his context.  He mentions that Jesus himself orchestrated the home based model

Jesus himself established this pattern of home-oriented fellowship in Luke 10:1-11. He sent seventy disciples, two by two, to find houses of peace (likely headed by those who were not yet believers) to serve as focal points for bringing the Kingdom of God into a new town or village.

The author says that he focused this text – wrongly – on the disciples, but that the fulcrum was the homes of peace that the disciples were to use to operate from:

For too long, I wrongly focused in this passage on the disciples. After all, they were the ones sent out by Jesus himself and I thought they were the most important element for advancing God’s Kingdom. In reality, however, the key was those homes of peace, where hospitality and blessing could flow forth and draw people in. Absent such households, the disciples could do nothing and were commanded to shake the dust off their feet as they left for the next town.

Again, he says

I don’t think this focus by Jesus, Peter or Paul on using peaceful homes as the foundation for authentic fellowship, discipleship and church growth was an accident. It simply is not possible for people to feel the intimacy and security needed to open up, share with each other, develop their gifts, and minister one to another in larger, podium-focused meetings. Plus, homes of peace are the ideal setting for being the church, because the gift of hospitality naturally draws people in and fosters authentic relationships.

So how does he express the meeting of the believers? These are the points in his article that are expanded on:

New Testament churches typically met in homes where people shared communion and fellowship over a meal.

When New Testament Christians gathered together, they each were to come with something to contribute so they could minister one to another.

Table churches are not supplements or tack-on’s for podium churches. If anything, it should be the other way around!

Jesus told us to go out into the world to gather the harvest, and that’s what New Testament Christians did.

I will encourage you to read the article, but basically I will end with one more quote from this author:

Go! Find a household of peace or, if there are no households, then a person of peace — even if they are not yet believers. Bless them by asking what they need Jesus to do for them, then pray for them. If the Lord confirms his blessing by meeting them in their needs, you don’t have to “organize” things. They, instead, will call their friends and neighbors to come and share a meal at their house as they exclaim what the Lord has done for them. They will be excited and God will use their natural gift of hospitality and peace to attract people into the Kingdom.

From there, it’s easy — ask those who come (even if they are not yet Christians!) to share with each other what God is saying to them as he draws them to himself. They just sort of naturally become Christians without needing to be pushed!

In fact, I’m seeing on average about two to three people testify each week, sitting around various tables, that God met them over the prior week and they committed their lives to Jesus. Others in that fellowship will quickly come beside them to help them to find their own gifts, teach them to expect that God will continue to speak to them, and to lean that God will give them whatever is needed to minister one to another. Sometimes I jump in, but mostly I just sit back and watch ‘em take off!

Calling for a Counter Culture


I’ve had a message the Lord gave me about 3 weeks ago that has shaken me up – again.  God has been speaking to me about the fact that he wants to create what he called a ‘counter culture’ of Christianity – which is not the same thing as the religious culture of having Christian music, Christian apparel and stuff… but really, really impacting society by bringing in Kingdom thinking and Kingdom principles.  I emailed it out to a couple friends (okay, about 20) asking for input, and Archie put it straight on his blog – go to it here –  http://wp.me/pwYvw-w.   I am also attempting to attach the document itself here – until I do get it done sucessfully, you can get it from the above link.  (Update: Here is the link to the Counter Culture document itself. Finally figured out how to get it done!)

Disclaimer – For those who read the text of the email on Archie’s website I wasn’t thinking at the time I sent my original email that it would go beyond the Caribbean – at least not yet …. so the original wording is specific to that region.  (“Yeah, right,” I can hear some of you saying. “You didn’t think it would get out?”)  The other thing is that the wording seems to single out my Christian experience at my tertiary institutions, but underneath God is really speaking to the fact that he wants to interact with society in a real way, in a new way.

The other thing I want to say about this you will not get from either the email or the article.  The words God actually told me were, “Counter culture is dangerous!”  Then he showed me that Jesus was into counter culture – he interacted with society where it was at – without the religious body of his day – and the religious people killed him. As the article shows, Jesus’ followers continued to radicalize the faith and were killed as well!
What God was telling me – and what I’m passing on to you – is that this direction is where his heart is, but that whoever decides to seek the new thing God is doing will be at least questioned by the more traditionalistic thinkers … and, in the worst case scenario, you will be persecuted for it.
However, this is what God is saying in this time.  It’s not like God is saying, “This is too dangerous for you.”  He is saying, “This is dangerous – but this is where I am.  Follow me in spite of the danger.
Please comment.  This is not about stats for me. This is about getting God’s word into as much hearts as possible – and finding out what God is doing to extend his Kingdom.

Life Together: Relationship is the Key


“It is a picture of my bride, the Church: individuals who together form a spiritual city with a living river flowing through the middle, adn on both shores trees growing with fruit that will heal the hurt and sorrows of the nations. ….”

“….. You’re talking about the church as this woman you’re in love with; I’m sure I haven’t met her…. She’s not the place I go to on Sundays.”

‘Mack,  that’s because you’re only seeing the institution, a man-made system.  That’s not what I came to build.  What I see are people and their lives, a living breathing community of all those who love me, not buildings and programs.”

The above is a quote from “The Shack”, which I am reading through at the moment.  (Thank you for all who suggested – several times – that I read it … I can see why!) This book is so rich in truth about God and his relationship with us … as an extension of the relationship the Trinity has within itself.  I can’t put it down!

And yes, I know it’s a work of fiction.  I am not equating it with Scripture, but the concepts in this book are so poignant. The author – AND God the Father (called Papa in the book) – work deliberately to utterly destroy what men believe they know about God and his relationship with us.  I can see why some people would be uncomfortable with it – but I just have two words to say:  poetic license. Enough said.  *grin*  Here’s an example – those who read the book would know that Papa is God the Father, but in the book is represented as an African American woman, who said, in part,

“… I am neither male nor female, even though both genders are dreived from my nature.  If I choose to appear to you as a man or a woman, it’s because I  love you.  For me to appear to you as a woman and suggest that you call me Papa is simply to mix metaphors, to help you from falling so easily back into your religious conditioning.”

Powerful stuff.

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I didn’t plan it, but this post is an extension of my earlier Life Together Series – Showing Mercy, A Mutual Dependency, Authentic Friendships, and  A Shared Life. In fact, before my hiatus, I was dealing with relationship …. and the LoTR post that I still have to set up (sorry for promising for so long) will deal with fellowship and loyalty in relationship as well… stay with me.  It’s been a rough road for me – thanks for sticking this out with me.  Anyway as I was saying….

If the Church is not about the building, about the institution (“I don’t create institutions – nver have, never will”, Jesus said in the book) – what is it? Or, as Mack asked, “How can I become a part of that church?  This woman that you seem to be so gaga over?”

Jesus answers,

“It’s simple, Mack.  It’s all about relationships and simply sharing life.   What we are doing right now … being open and available to others around us.  My church is all about people and life is all about relationships.  You can’t build it.  It’s my job, and I’m actually pretty good at it,”

What about that?  There are so much nuggets of gold – more like great big pearls – of wisdom in this book… it’d take a while for me to process them all.

So, for God’s church to be authentic, we need to share life together,  authentic relationship.  Looking at one more set of quotes from The Shack, we bear out this point.  Talking to Jesus, Mack is asking about whose “in charge” of the Trinity – “I love how you treat each other.  It’s certainly not how I expected God to be.”  He tried to explain:

“… I have always thought of God the Father as sort of being the boss and Jesus as the one following orders, you know, being obedient…. the Sprit always seemed to be …. a free Sprit.”

Mack tried one more time,

“You know what I am talking about.  I am talking about who’s in charge.  Don’t you have a chain of command?”

Papa, Jesus and Sarayu had no idea what Mack was trying to say.  Jesus eventually said this:

“Mackenzie, we have no concept of final authority amoug us, only unity.  We are in a circle of relationship, not a chain of command… What you are seeing here is a relationship without any overlay of power.  We don’t need power over the other because we are always looking out for the best.  Hierarchy would make no sense among us.”

And we are a part of that great Scheme of relationship.  Jesus later says,

“As the crowning glory of Creation, you were made in our image, unencumbered by structure and free to simply ‘be’ in relationship with me and one another.  If you had truly learned to regard each other’s concerns as significant as your own, there would be no need for hierarchy.”

Ok so there it is.  Straight.

What does this post mean to you?  Is relationship like this possible?  Can anyone say that it is evident in their own life?  Discuss!

The Shape of the Church (Part II)


I’ve just gotten a great post in my Reader today, from Kingdom Grace .. and she’s pointed me to another great website that goes along the same topic as we’re discussing here Wayne Jacobsen’s blog LifeStream is dealing with “Starting A House Church”.   So I’m delving into what even more people are saying about this topic of the shape of the church.

This is part of Wayne’s opening statement:

The unspoken thought is that systems will work pretty well if the right people are in charge. The reality is that systems themselves are destructive to relational and organic growth.

Really? All systems are destructive to relationship and organic growth? 

It seems all of this stems from the fact that we really don’t trust that Jesus is capable of building his church—that he cannot give rise to the reality of his family if we don’t “start something”. It’s as if living loved and loving just won’t be enough to let him do all he wants to do.

Ok, I understand the implications of letting Jesus build his church, but like I say in my previous post,  structure is important, even for fluid organisms, right? I am not a fan of ‘starting something’, either, but the statement seems to demean all structure, which is thinking I’ve had to get away from.

Wayne was having a conversation with a brother, Mike, who felt called to start a church.  Wayne’s responses try to disuade him from ‘starting a church’, per se, but being open to sharing life organically instead.  To Mike’s initial comment that he felt led to start an open church, Wayne says, in part: 

People who start a church end up basing it around their vision or gifts and it will either bog down or simply become the outgrowth of one person. I am convinced real church emerges as an organic outgrowth of relationships people are already sharing. So the question is not, how do we start a church, but rather, how do we facilitate people caring for each other and growing spiritually together and see over time whether or not church life emerges from that reality?

I like what he says here:  “… real church emerges as an organic outgrowth of relationships people are already sharing.”  In my personal experience, “facilitat[ing] people caring for each other and growing spritually together” happens naturally as I extend myself to love – that part I can see.  I’ve grown to love my interactions on the blogospshere because of the deep abiding relationships that have formed and are being formed as I make myself available to love, without the structure.  However, I did find the tendency to build a structure…. was it necessary?  I don’t know – I’m currently in a time of reflection and seeking God. Maybe when I come out I won’t need that structure, who knows? It’s too early to tell….  I do find it easier to just love and be loved, at the moment.

I like this quote: 

I really don’t think we need to start churches. Jesus started the only one that matters at Pentecost 2000 years ago. We just need to live in that reality instead of starting more institutions that only further divide the body. That’s probably not what you wanted to hear, but I honestly thing the way God works is very different than the way we do…

That God works different to us is definitely on target!  Just more to chew over…

He comments that, “If I could encourage you in anything it would be to share your life freely, but look to come alongside someone else’s journey.”  Now that I can relate to.  Coming alongside someone else’s journey is the most fulfilling thing I have found, myself.  I love how God enocurages me as I encourage others….

Once we try to get people to have the experience we have, we’ll manipulate them instead of serve them. Jesus just wants you to come alongside folks and give them truth as they are ready for it. Once we start trying to manage people’s spirituality, people will run from us. God will show you. I love your heart and passion, but church leadership has done this wrong for a long time and its why people are fleeing from the church instead of finding God in her.

Hmmm.  Is ‘church life’ just trying to get people to have the experience we have?  Is it a case of ‘managing people’s spirituality’? In every case?  That’s the question.  You don’t want to throw out the baby with the bath water….

Another response to Mike:

My response: What should you do? Follow him. If you don’t know what that means yet, just live in his love and love others around you. In time it will be clear what he wants you to do. If you don’t know now, other than to follow someone else’s form, then maybe you are moving ahead of him. I’m really serious about this. We’re just asked to love like he loves us (John 13:34-35), to proclaim the gospel as we have opportunity and to help others follow Jesus who want to follow him (Matthew 28:19-20). We are not told to plant a church, for he said he would build his own. He’s good at this. He knows what to do. Just help others as God gives you grace. 

He continues with an interesting statement:

Don’t try to start something. Don’t try to ‘get people’ to do anything. Live your life before them until they are hungry enough to ask for help. Then help them learn to live loved and follow Jesus. And the gospel will spread…

I like that.  “Helping them to live loved.”  I think that’s a great way to describe how I help.  I’m always showering those who are broken with love, telling them that they are loved – not just by God, but by me.  It’s awesome to see the love of God creep under someone’s defenses until they don’t even know that they are out of their pain…

We must not forget that the ‘early church’ did not arise out of a plan to get people to do anything. The early church emerged out of a revelation of who Jesus is, and hungry hearts responded who wanted to know God and live in his life. There was no recruitment campaign and no strategy to manage people through a hierarchical system. They lived as a family and grew to discover how they could embrace his life together and live transformed in the culture.

One of his concluding statements is

Somehow we have to think differently—that our calling is not to build the church, but to present an authentic demonstration of the Gospel in how we live and what we say. Then, we take the time to equip those who want to know him, how to live in a relationship with him. As a pool of people discover how to live loved and love, then the church can take on a variety of forms and expressions in various times and seasons.

The whole article is well written, but has caused some healthy debate in the blogosphere.  Is he ‘bucking the system’ out of a lack of respect for structure?  Does he think we should just ‘hang loose and let Jesus do his thing?’ as one of his commenters on his blog asked?

I’ve been debating with a fellow commenter on Kingdom Grace’s blog who said, in part:

Jesus personally appointed Paul to ‘plant churches’ amidst the Gentile nations. Yeah, he got persecuted too. Just the term ‘plant’ indicates something organic. But didn’t Paul also place structure into those organic families of believers? Didn’t he have the leaders he mentored (e.g. Timothy and Titus) mentor others for appointment to leadership? There must be some middle ground here somewhere.

He called this post and others like it a ‘backlash against the institution.’

To my and other’s call to ‘obedience to God, whatever it ‘looks like’ he said:

 Having served in both church leadership and in international missions I have had to work with people who were absolutely convinced that they were being obedient to God’s call – and they ended up offending hosts, abandoning commitments, and making my job a whole lot more difficult than it should have been. It got to the point that I became very cynical of those who began their sentences with “God spoke to me … ” or “I feel led of the Spirit … “, etc.

He also said, in part, that

When working with volunteers in the mission organization there needs to be a sense of maturity, and certainly the younger volunteers who may not have had the proper experience to mature yet should at least be under the guidance of a mature leader. A leader who has the wisdom and influence to instruct these youngsters to minimally stick with the commitment they made in the initial agreement.

I agree with Ken’s assessment that leadership is necessary… but I don’t get that Wayne is trumping leadership at all.  In my opinion, he’s saying that the structure of top down leadership misses the mark.  Paul and the other apostles were well known and defined leaders in the early church, yet the early church did not have the goal of ‘starting something new.’  I agree with Ken’s last statement:

Thus, I agree with you up to a point, but from my experience in real life, much of this sounds idealogical. Life and people (yes, even Christians), are unpredictable and messy. I am a father and grandfather and I love my wife, my kids, and my grandkids more than I could ever express in words. But even within our family relationships it takes a lot of work to keep us moving through life together. We all ‘hear from God’ but we don’t always agree on what we’re hearing. It takes structure, collaboration, patience … and leadership. That’s how a healthy family functions.

I agree, brother, I agree…

In my experience, being relational doesn’t divorce from leadership at all… it is necessary, absolutely necessary – in my own network (which some call a house church) there are clearly defined leaders that we all look up to for advice and counsel, even as each group explores what God’s kingdom might mean for them. So I’m agreeing with you, brother… it might seem ideological, but there are places where ideology seems close to reality :)

What are your thoughts on this?