During our season serving a church plant in South Africa, Sweet Bridget and I heard that an elderly woman who lived high in the hills was requesting a pastoral visit. She wanted to be baptized!
While this was certainly a special request, what added even more to this scenario, was the reality that this dear woman was physically disabled—unable to move her feet. Usually, our practice of baptism looks like being fully immersed under water as a picture of dying to sin and coming alive through faith in Christ (Romans 6:1-5)! We often celebrate baptism publicly, surrounded by friends and family, to announce our new life in Jesus and to commit to support new believers on their spiritual journey ahead.
We also recognized that Scripture uses the symbol of water being poured to depict the cleansing and forgiveness that Jesus provides, which has led some faith traditions to sprinkle with water in baptism (Ephesians 5:25-27, Hebrews 10:19-23).
Prepared with a water bottle in hand, we made the trek up to her hut.
When we arrived, she explained: “I’ve believed in Jesus, so I have been born of the Spirit, but I haven’t been water baptized! The Bible says unless we are born of water and the Spirit, we cannot enter the kingdom of God! I’m afraid. I don’t want to die and go to Hell.”
She was referring to the words of Jesus about being born again (John 3:3-8). We were encouraged to let her know she definitely had already been born of water! In fact, every human being has been. When the water breaks and we emerge from our mothers, we are born of water.
Jesus emphasized the need to also be born supernaturally by the Spirit through faith in Him! Once we have been born again by giving our lives to Jesus, as our Lord and Savior, a next step of obedience is to be water baptized to demonstrate we are His followers (Acts 2:36-39).
The next step for this dear woman was to affirm that her faith rested in Jesus alone to save her and to bring her safely home to Himself (1 Peter 1:18-21).
Have you trusted in Jesus as your Leader and Forgiver?Have you been water baptized to demonstrate you are following Him (Matthew 3:13-17)?
“We must picture Hell as a state where everyone is perpetually concerned about his own dignity and advancement, where everyone has a grievance, and where everyone lives the deadly serious passions of envy, self-importance, and resentment. This, to begin with.”
It quite surprised me—as I am sure it did you when you no doubt heard—that I was to be removed from my post for an undesignated period.
My theory, more well-informed of course than most, is that there was a jealousy brewing among some higherups regarding my capabilities and potential qualifications to be promoted to their rank (please keep this tasty tidbit to yourself and refrain from sharing it vertically or horizontally).
I have my finger on something that few others in our organization are aware of.
While some supervisors have their heads deep in the weeds of particular cases and others get bleary-eyed looking at the grander scheme, I have noted some dangerous blips on the map, spiritual trends you might call them, which if left unaddressed could present significant problems for our overarching initiatives and long-range organizational goals.
When my findings are fully recognized, I will no doubt be promoted to a rank much higher than you could ever dream of attaining.
You may have heard it explained that the ranking system our organization employs was uniquely designed for us. Of course, humans have attempted to implement our structure everywhere from their families and corporate org charts to their religious institutions.
It is quite humorous (if one is given to humor) to observe the ensuing disunity, mistrust, and inequality that results.
Some have falsely attributed the origin of our organizational ranking system to the Enemy. Of course, it was our Chief Operating Officer, our Father Below himself, who arranged the levels and ranks for us, with himself firmly fixed at the highest office.
To say the least, I was elated, while reviewing your client’s file, to discover that he is a reverend. And not just a member of the so-called clergy, but one who insists on being addressed by exalted titles like “Pastor,” which he finds ever so much satisfaction in. What’s more, he revels in discussing his rank, experience, and education ad nauseum.
Your weak ramblings in your initial briefing and the lack of clarity in your client plan speak loudly and clearly that you have failed to grasp how simple this assignment can be for you!
This may very well become a backburner account that provides rich dividends, requiring only minimal maintenance—while you can give your attention to taking on additional clientele. In this case, your perceived enemy can very easily become your ally. In fact, he already may be an asset to our cause!
I hope you will soon wake up and smell the coffee in the fellowship hall! Realize, my pea-brained compatriot, you have nothing to fear just because your current client is “religious.”
The world of human religion is an opportunistic playground for us, as it often inherently embraces several foundational pillars, which our organization prizes. A few of which are the love of power, manipulation, domination, control, wealth, rank… need I go on?
If you have done your homework—which would be hard to believe—you may remember that our Enemy addressed this very matter during his incarnate years on this earth.
The Enemy instructed his disciples they were not to be addressed by honorific titles like Rabbi, Teacher, or Father. This was important to him because he, dangerously, knew what was in a human heart.
He recognized humankind is given toward pride. Thus, they jump when the opportunity presents itself to find identity or a sense of worth in position, power, or personal accomplishments.
“The Enemy instructed his disciples they were not to be addressed by honorific titles like Rabbi, Teacher, or Father.” ~Preptor S.
It wouldn’t be helpful to anyone involved to go into all the details of where the content of these posts originated and how they came to us. In rough sketch, they were intercepted on the dark web. If it wasn’t for a friend who works in cyber security, we probably would’ve never stumbled upon them.
Our friend felt that these posts were important enough, even potentially helpful, for us to be aware of that he passed them on…
“There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors and hail a materialist or a magician with the same delight. The sort of script which is used in this book can be very easily obtained by anyone who has once learned the knack; but ill-disposed or excitable people who might make a bad use of it shall not learn it from me.”
I post this open letter in hopes that I will increase the girth of not just my waistline but my influence, during this strategic season of my career.
Through many decades of practicing my profession, I have learned quite a few tips and tricks of the trade. I trust these principles will prove invaluable to those less experienced and less effective than I at shepherding souls toward the greater light—which some have so ignorantly called the darkness.
Out with the old in with the new
An important update that I feel impressed to announce is that our organization has ceased use of the term “patient” and instead has replaced it with the more desirable designation “client.”
After all, who would feel honored to know she is referred to as a patient?
It brings to mind the poking, prodding, and all manner of procedures that often accompany unpleasant medical tests. Of course, while you and I may think fondly of such torturous treatments, most of our clients do not.
In a very real sense, we are here to please. And so we must update our language as the higher-ups deem compulsory. This serves both to address the changing tide of societal norms and to shift the sands of popular opinion in our favor.
We do have a responsibility to do both after all.
We influence environmental conditions, inspire value systems, and establish human partners, which will instigate people movements toward our liking. We also respond gleefully at times to the downward trends that the mass of humanity chooses entirely for themselves.
People do so often make deliciously destructive choices that propel them in our direction like swine over a cliff.
Tangentially, another deterrent of the word “patient” is its similarity to the term “patience.” Though for different reasons, “patience” too is quite loathsome—both by virtue of its inherent power and how often it is asked of our Enemy, as in:
“I pray for more patience…”
Instead, our organization has wisely opted for the term “client.” A memo has gone out to all high-ranking supervisors, which prominent department heads like myself had clearance to access. And we have been charged to instruct our subordinates—those of lower rank such as I assume yourself—to amend our language immediately.
Lest you stumble over our specific choice of words, you will do well to observe that our work is as much art as it is science.
We do tend to deal in extremes. Here is what I mean in 4 bite-sized points…
Lest you stumble over our specific choice of words, you will do well to observe that our work is as much art as it is science.
1. Of course, it is useful to encourage a client toward viewing the world amorphously (think: The Blob).
The less aware they are of a grander story, purpose, and connection in their lives, the more likely they will tend toward hopelessness, depression, and the insatiable pursuit of that which temporarily quiets their inner pangs for greater meaning.
2. If you cannot inspire a client toward viewing the world in extreme shades of gray, absolute black-and-white thinking can serve our purposes just as well.
Ensure your client is unable to see from another’s point of view and is fully entrenched in opinions he has held for as long as he can remember. This will near guarantee his inability to learn, grow, or discover so-called truths that might pull him toward maturity and out of your tender, loving grasp.
3. Whether a client has an excessively fluid or intensely rigid view of the world, their denial of the tensions between most truths in life will lead them to a discomfort with themselves, others, and ultimately with the Enemy.
This will leave them no choice but to pursue numbing activities to lessen their perception of pain and the inevitable approach of their impending death—which cannot come soon enough from our perspective.
Sometimes their self-medicating will take the form of addictive behaviors that you are well aware of, such as substance abuse, sexual extremes, or overeating—to name a few. However, equally powerful can be more subtle workaholic tendencies, religious extremism, or compulsion toward a certain brand of do-gooding.
4. If there is a road to be driven on, ensure your client falls into the ditch on one side or the other.
This will keep her from safely arriving at a destination dangerously nearer the Enemy and the values of his realm.
Ensure your client either is so busy with what he deems important pursuits that he has no time for rest and quickly wears out like a threadbare garment. Or conversely, that he so gives himself to leisurely pursuits that he slowly eats, drinks, amuses, and sleeps himself to an early death.
If there is a road to be driven on, ensure your client falls into the ditch on one side or the other.
Now, I will address those working with clients who are already religious.
Ensure traditional and sacramental types are so off put by the evangelical claim to have a personal knowledge of God that they give themselves all the more fully to the ornamental and superficial.
Ensure the self-proclaimed evangelical so emphasizes his “personal relationship” with the Enemy that he neglects meaningful connection with others and becomes all but deaf to the cries of the world around him.
Keep them all focused on buildings and budgets, dollars and donors, nickels and noses.
Ensure neither camp opens the Enemy’s dastardly Book.
If by chance you fail in this regard, and they are somehow exposed to its words, ensure they glance at it only ritually or out of obligation. Discourage any sense of expectation to hear from the Enemy, or perhaps worse, to apply what is read in their daily lives.
The more lifeless the Book can appear to them the better. The collection of copies upon copies in various versions and styles will be just fine, as long as they all remain largely untouched, unread, and dusty on some high, hard-to-reach shelf. Even an occasional display copy on the coffee table is just fine, as long as it goes unnoticed like a forgotten carving in the woodwork.
Discourage any sense of expectation to hear from the Enemy, or perhaps worse, to apply what is read in their daily lives.
It goes without saying that electronic versions are permissible, as long as they remain unread and forgotten once downloaded. Ensure they don’t discover the ease of accessing the Book on mobile devices. If by chance they do, ensure alerts pull their attention to other pursuits, which I like to call delectable distractions.
Abounding busyness is sure to set in again soon.
In short, keep your clients blissfully unaware, as they slowly lull themselves to sleep with the hum and whir of their many machines.
Ever Yours, a True Expert,
Distinguished Former Department Head, Messenger of Light Inc.
(Currently furloughed. Seeking contract work.References available upon request.)
Keep your clients blissfully unaware, as they slowly lull themselves to sleep with the hum and whir of their many machines.
Growing up, our parents would often send us to camp or on field trips with disposable, single-use cameras. I remember the excitement of waiting for the film to be developed and ready for pick up!
As I prepared a message from Hebrews 11 this Sunday (6/14), “Something I’ve Never Done Before,” part of a series called Incredible Faith, I reflected on the power of remembering that pictures provide us…
I took a walk down Memory Lane with a photo album, I dug out of a storage bin.
As a kid, I think I looked so longingly toward getting those pictures developed, because they allowed me to remember and to retell the stories!
What are some family pictures that are most meaningful to you and your loved ones?
What memories do you plan to hold onto, as long as you live? Are there any that you hope to retell in eternity?
As a kid, I think I looked so longingly toward getting pictures developed, because they allowed me to remember and to retell the stories!
Isaiah 53, especially verses 4-6, is the foundation of my understanding of healing.
Isaiah prophetically describes the torture and crucifixion Jesus would go through for our forgiveness and healing. This passage speaks about emotional restoration (v. 4, for our griefs and sorrows), spiritual restoration (v. 5, for our transgressions and iniquities), and physical restoration (v. 5, for our healing); ultimately, His purpose in all this restoration is to draw lost sheep back to Himself (v. 6).
Some claim that Isaiah 53 is only speaking about spiritual healing. However, in Matthew 8:14-17, Jesus physically heals Peter’s mother-in-law, who was sick in bed with a fever. He also casts out demons and heals all those who are ill. Matthew, inspired by the Holy Spirit, states these physical healings and deliverances were to fulfill what was prophesied in Isaiah 53 (Matt. 8:17).
In 1 Peter 2:21-25, Peter summarizes the teachings of Isaiah 53 for New Testament believers. 1 Peter 2:22 seems to reference Isaiah 53:9, and 1 Peter 2:25 parallels Isaiah 53:6. Peter, under the Spirit’s inspiration, explains that Jesus’ work on the cross heals us from sin and all its effects in our lives (1 Pet. 2:24). When we return to the Shepherd and Guardian of our souls there is true wholeness available for every area of life (physical, emotional, and spiritual).
The “I AM” statements of the LORD reveal to us aspects of His nature and His character, who He is and what we can trust Him to do. In Exodus 15:26, He said, “If you will give earnest heed to the voice of theLordyour God, and do what is right in His sight, and give earto His commandments, and keep all His statutes,I will put none of the diseases on you which I have put on the Egyptians; for I,theLord, am your healer.” This promise was given to the nation of Israel. However, we learn the principle that the LORD is Healer for His people. He says that part of His nature and character is to heal from physical disease. As believers in Jesus, we see from His ministry and the teachings of the New Testament that our Messiah, who is God in the flesh, is still “the LORD who heals” us.
We know from Isaiah 53 that healing is available to all and from Exodus 15 that it’s part of the LORD’s character to heal us. But do we know that He wants to heal everyone always?
1 Timothy 2:3-4 and 2 Peter 3:9 explain that God wants all to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth, not wanting any to perish but to come to repentance. But what is salvation? According to Isaiah 53, the salvation that Jesus paid for on the cross is needed because of our turning away from the LORD, our breaking of His Law, our sin. Salvation is from sin and all its effects in this broken world. Salvation is restoration to wholeness: spiritual, emotional, and physical.
And yet, many of us can point to an experience of on-going brokenness in our lives or to a seemingly unanswered prayer. This may be part of the tension we feel in this world between the “already” and the “not yet” aspects of Christ’s kingdom, which is here and coming (Matthew 12:28, Luke 17:21, John 18:36).
In Romans 8:18-25, the Holy Spirit says through Paul that all creation groans to be set free from the effects of sin on this world (v. 22). One day, Jesus will restore all creation when He sets up His Kingdom on earth with His throne in Jerusalem (Isaiah 25:6-8; Revelation 21:1-5). Until that day, followers of Jesus are commanded to preach His good news and teach others to obey everything that He taught (Matthew 28:19-20).
He also commanded a group of seventy believers, sent out two by two in Luke 10, to heal the sick and cast out demons in His Name (vv. 1-12, 19-20). These commands were given to not just the twelve first apostles but to the seventy who represented all the followers of Jesus. According to Romans 8:19, the whole creation waits for the children of God to be revealed, to rise up, and to share the good news of Jesus and minister restoration (spiritual, emotional, and physical), which has been made available by our crucified and risen Savior to all who will believe.
Let’s live and pray boldly according to His promises and leave the results in the hands of our mighty and gracious God.
In recent years, we’ve been on a journey, discovering more and more of what it looks like to follow our Lord Jesus in loving obedience.
James is a great book on this topic filled with Jewish-style wisdom from a Jesus-loving Jewish leader, James the brother of the Messiah. His focus isn’t primarily doctrine or logic but the practical outworking of our faith, how faith works out in everyday life.
According to Dr. Gordon Fee, James is “…the New Testament counterpart of the Jewish Wisdom tradition, now in light of the teachings of Jesus.”
My heart’s desire is to grow as a disciple of Jesus, following in His footsteps (1 John 2:6). As I spend time in His Word, I’m developing the habits of:
identifying a specific way “I will…” put into practice in my life what I’m learning.
sharing with someone else who might benefit or be encouraged by something I’m learning.
I recently shared a message on some of these themes from James 1:19-27 at our dear friend’s church in Rochester, NY. I pray hearing it will stir in you a similar desire to walk out your faith.
As you listen…
~What’s your “I will…” (your next step of obedience)?
As we began our revival history tour, I couldn’t help but feel the minister at Park Street reminded me of George Whitefield or Jonathan Edwards (but without the white wig). His message was from John 17…
…Jesus looked up to heaven and said, “Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son so He can give glory back to You” (Jn. 17:1).
The night before, our group gathered around a table and shared what brought us on the trip. We each expressed a passion for prayer and a heart for revival. Though from many different backgrounds, we were united in mission.
Park Street Church was founded in 1809 by handful of people, who united to address Unitarianism. They were clear about their purpose, emphasizing biblical theology, revival and spiritual renewal, and worldwide mission.
As a congregational church, they’ve consistently emphasized mutual accountability and the priesthood of all believers (1 Pet. 2:9-10). As a church that loves the Gospel, they’ve hosted great revival preachers through the years like Jonathan Edwards, Charles Finney, D.L. Moody, and Billy Sunday. They gathered 40,000 on the nearby Boston Common to hear Billy Graham.
As a missional church, they were part of sending some of the first cross-cultural American missionaries, who sailed to India in 1812. In 1819, Park Street commissioned its first team of missionaries to the Sandwich Islands.
Living out their faith through social action, William Lloyd Garrison hosted anti-slavery meetings at Park Street, and the American Educational Society was founded there. They were among the first to provide Sunday School for those without access to formal education, during a time when this was looked down upon as “working on the sabbath.” This calls to mind Jesus’ question: “Is it lawful to do good on the Sabbath?” (See Luke 6:7-11 for His answer).
Each week, 40-50 different nations are represented by those who gather to worship King Jesus at Park Street. I was blessed to worship beside a brother in Christ from Nigeria.
How could a local church be true to hermission for over 200 years?
“I have revealed You to the ones You gave Me from this world. They were always Yours. You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word.” ~Jesus, John 17:6
As we worshiped with this biblical, Gospel, missional church, the minister spoke from John 17 on what Jesus wants for us. The night of His betrayal, just before His suffering and death, Christ prayed for our unity. Let’s not miss the significance.
“I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in Me through their message. I pray that they will all be one, just as You and I are one—as You are in Me, Father, and I am in You. And may they be in us so that the world will believe You sent Me.” ~Jesus, John 17:20-21
This was Jesus’ last prayer for us before the dawning of a new era. The season of the Spirit was about to be inaugurated through His death and resurrection.
Jesus could have prayed for many things. Just as Park Street’s message that morning could’ve covered many topics. But Jesus prayed and the minister preached on unity in mission.
“I have given them the glory You gave Me, so they may be one as we are one. I am in them and You are in Me. May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that You sent Me and that You love them as much as You love Me.” ~Jesus, John 17:22-23
We so often allow differences to divide. We underscore what makes us different instead of our Gospel commonalities.
We attempt all sorts of programs and expansions while neglecting Scripture, prayer, and mission. And we wonder why modern religious methods fall so short…
Will we learn from a 200-year-old church who has stayed united and true to her heritage?
“O righteous Father, the world doesn’t know You, but I do; and these disciples know You sent Me. I have revealed You to them, and I will continue to do so. Then Your love for Me will be in them, and I will be in them.” ~Jesus, John 17:25-26
Chime in. I’d love to hear from you…
In what ways are you pursuing Gospel unity and missional priorities in your community?