Press Release

Home / Archive by category "Press Release" (Page 2)
06-27-17 Loved Ones Devotion NO CONDEMNATION!

06-27-17 Loved Ones Devotion NO CONDEMNATION!

[My awesome, loving and wonderful Grandchildren, and Annika and Kaleigh, whom I love and pray for every day“…God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that THE WORLD MIGHT BE SAVED THROUGH HIM. (John 3:17)

[Our awesome Abba Father loves us so much that He GAVE His one and only begotten Son, FOR US! Why?]

“The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was ONLY EVIL CONTINUALLY. And the LORD REGRETTED THAT HE HAD MADE MAN on the earth, and IT GRIEVED HIM TO HIS HEART.” (Gen. 6:5-6)

[See how God hates sin? We should also hate sin? Has our sin grieved him to the heart?]

“…you have burdened me with your sins; you have wearied me with your iniquities.” (Isa. 43:24)

[YES! Shouldn’t we also be grieved and full of sorrow in our hearts for it? O, that this example and OUR UNDERSTANDING OF IT; may humble us and shame us, and that we may see how we have grieved our Abba Father, and mourn, so we do not turn back from His wonderful LOVE for us! See what our wonderful Abba Father has done:]

“I, I am he who BLOTS OUT your transgressions for my own sake, and I WILL NOT REMEMBER your sins.” (Isa. 43:25)

[We must understand that we are in a battle for our souls; the enemy of our souls IS doing everything he can to get us to fall away!]

“Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But EXHORT ONE ANOTHER EVERY DAY, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” (Heb. 3:12-13)

[Stephanie, Ethan, Camden, Olivia, Aidan, Landon, Kinsley, Annika and Kaleigh, It is our responsibility to exhort: (encourage, pressure and urge) one another on a regular basis:]

“Let us then with confidence DRAW NEAR TO THE THRONE OF GRACE, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Heb. 4:16)

[Our Abba Father will grace us with the strength we need to stand up for our faith so that we may:]

COUNT IT ALL JOY, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that THE TESTING OF YOUR FAITH PRODUCES STEADFASTNESS.” (Jam. 1:2-3)

[Steadfastness: to have cheerful endurance and lasting patience!]

WE CAN DRAW NEAR TO THE THRONE OF GRACE, SO WE MAY RECEIVE MERCY AND FIND GRACE TO HELP IN TIME OF NEED!

Notice: [We must understand that the bible says: “Let us then with confidence DRAW NEAR TO THE THRONE OF GRACE, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (!!!] That’s for you: Stephanie, Ethan, Camden, Olivia, Aidan, Landon, Kinsley, Annika and Kaleigh

Missio Dei: The Sending by God

Missio Dei: The Sending by God

“Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: ‘Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?’ Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.’” (Matthew 22:34–40).

The classical doctrine on the missio Dei (the sending by God) is tied to the trinity as God the Father sends the Son, God the Father and the Son send the Spirit. There is today another movement: The Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit send the church into the world.

Mission, is seen as a movement from God to the world; the church is viewed as an instrument for that mission. To participate in the sending by God (mission) is to participate in the movement of God’s love toward people. The Church has an opportunity to share in the redemption of humanity and to be the instrument by which God, through Jesus and by the Holy Spirit calls humanity back into a relationship with their creator. Back to mankind’s original purpose, to love the Lord God with all of our hearts!

Our body, the Church of God of Prophecy, must know that everything we do, every event, every service, every strategy and every ministry must fit into two categories if it is to please God (faith) and fit into the sending by God, our mission.

We must live out God’s original purpose for creating us: to be in relationship with Him.

We must fulfill the will of God in the earth. We must go and call fallen people back into relationship with their Creator, back to their original purpose!

Our Original Purpose

First, we must learn to love God with all of our hearts and grow in our relationship with Him. This is our purpose for being, to be in relationship with our Creator. Genesis 2:7 says: “Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.”

The word “formed” comes from the Hebrew word “yatsar,” which means to shape with pressure, in the same way a potter would shape clay into a vessel. This Scripture verse shows the great care the Creator took in “forming” mankind. He shaped us with loving pressure. In every other instance of creation throughout Genesis 1, God simply commanded, “Let there be,” and it was done. God spoke the world and everything in it into existence just by His command. But the creation of man was different. When God created man, He formed, built, and breathed life into His creation.

The love and tenderness of the Creator toward mankind is evident as He provided man with a home and created a woman to be his partner and helpmate. No other creature was created with the potential and possibility to be in a personal relationship with God—only humans.

The phrase, “became a living soul” contains the Hebrew word, “lenefesh,” which means “a soul, living being, self, person with desire, passion, appetite, emotion, to be made alive relationally.” Man did not evolve; instantly, with a gasp of air, with the breath of God and the quickening of the Holy Spirit, mankind began to breathe, and the intellect, the emotions, and the will, (the soul of man) was brought into existence. The soul of mankind was made alive in a relationship where the intellect (what man knew) was designed to know God and the emotions (the inward appetites or passions) were set towards obeying God.

The will of man was regulated by the choices of man and how he allowed those choices to affect his actions. Choosing whether to obey or not to obey God’s commands determined mankind’s eternal destiny. God created mankind to be in relationship with his Creator. In the Garden of Eden, that relationship was perfect—mankind and God were in harmony. They enjoyed fellowship and relationship.

Our Problem

Not only did God want to have a relationship with man, He also wanted man to be able to freely choose to have a relationship with Him. God created within man the ability to make choices and decisions. The original choice between right and wrong that was presented to man was whether or not to eat from the tree that God had planted in midst of the Garden. The consequences of disobedience and eating from the tree were in God’s command to mankind when He said, “And the Lord God commanded the man, ‘You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die’” (Genesis 2:16, 17). The choice was clear: Eat from any of the trees or plants in the Garden and live forever in relationship with God, or eat from the one forbidden tree and face physical and spiritual death and separation from God.

Adam and Eve made their choice, and that choice affected all of mankind. In listening to the serpent, they:

  • Looked at the fruit. They used their intellect to judge from the standard of what was right and wrong. “Thou shall not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.”
  • Desired the fruit. Their emotions, appetites and passions fueled their desire.
  • They took the fruit and ate it. They used their will to make a choice.

 

Because of the choice they made, their relationship with God was changed. Disobeying God’s command caused separation from the original, created relationship with God. When mankind took and ate the fruit (a choice), sin entered the world causing mankind to be separated from God and the relationship between man and God to be broken. The problem that mankind faced in the Garden is still faced by mankind today.

Because of sin entering the world, and the separation of the relationship with God that it caused, mankind now needs a way, through choice, to come back into relationship with his creator.

In spite of mankind’s choice, God’s original design has always been to be in relationship with His creation. His love for us was so great that He provided a way to bring reconciliation between Himself and His creation. The provision for reconciliation came through the sending of His son, in the person of Jesus.

Colossians 1:21-22 says, “Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation.” Sin brought separation and death, but Jesus brought reconciliation and life. “But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions” (Ephesians 2:4, 5).

Jesus’ death on the cross and His resurrection from the dead provided the way for us to fulfill the purpose we were created for—to come back into a reconciled relationship with God. Your purpose in life is to live in relationship with God. Because of sin, the only possible way to have a relationship with God is to accept Jesus as Savior (a choice) and obey his commands.

God Sends! (God’s Will)

The second commandment for our lives is like the first, we must love humanity as ourselves. It is the will of God that seeks to restore humanity and heal creation. God’s original plan for mankind was that his creation might know Him. The Church today is the instrument to fulfill God’s will by taking the Gospel of Jesus to mankind so that salvation might be obtained. Not just for this life, but into the next, unto eternity. God’s will for the Church is to bring lost man into a relationship with the Creator, and disciple them to do the same.

God’s Will for the Son

Jesus lived out the will of the Father while He was on earth. John 4:34-35 tells us, “Then Jesus explained: ‘My nourishment comes from doing the will of God who sent me, and from finishing His work.’” Jesus came to earth to do the will of the Father—to bring mankind back into a relationship with God. Through His death and resurrection, the Son made reconciliation between creature and creator possible again.

Jesus was the Messiah—God in flesh. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known” (John 1:1–5, 14, 16–18). It is by choosing to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and by living a life of obedience to his Lordship, that mankind can be brought back into a right relationship with the Father and spend eternity in God’s presence. The relationship between God and mankind isn’t only for a lifetime; it is an eternal relationship.

Christ’s Finished Work (Revelation and Sending)

What is the finished work of Christ? John 17:2–4 and 6–8 give us insight to the finished work of Jesus while here on earth. “For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him. Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. Jesus did God’s will by restoring the original relationship between man and the Creator. I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do…I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word. Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you. For I gave them the words you gave me and they accepted them. They knew with certainty that I came from you, and they believed that you sent me. Jesus finished the work the Father gave Him to do.”

The finished work was that the disciples received the revelation, by the Holy Spirit, that Jesus was the Christ. That a relationship between mankind and God could be restored, and mankind through choice could accept God’s word and live the standard of obedience to Him.

Jesus was the Christ! When Jesus’ disciples accepted the revelation of the truth of who Jesus was and God’s Word was placed in the hearts of the disciples, the work of the Son of God was completed. He could then go to the cross so that through His death, burial, and resurrection humanity (through choice) could believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God, the Messiah. The Holy Spirit today, though revelation, is revealing Jesus as the one true Savior of humanity. The same revelation that Peter experienced in Matthew 16:16 when he answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” This revelation must be pronounced and proclaim by Christ’s body, the church, in the earth today!

Jesus’ Will for His Disciples

After His resurrection, Jesus told the disciples His will for their life: Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:18-19). God’s will for all who believe is to go (a choice) and share the message of reconciliation back to God, through Jesus, by the Holy Spirit, to every part of the world. We must disciple others to live in relationship with God throughout their earthly lives, into eternity.

God’s Will for You and Me

In John 17, Jesus prays for you and me, and His prayer gives us insight into God’s will for us: My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them will be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me (John 17:20, 21). Jesus prayed that we make the choice to believe in Him, and that we would share the Good News with others so that they could make the same choice.

The will of God is the same for all disciples of Jesus. Regardless of age, occupation, stage of life or location in the world, the purpose and will of God remains the same—that we would be in relationship with God (“may they also be in us”) so that others would believe in the reconciliation provided by Jesus’ death and resurrection (“that the world may believe that you sent me”). It is God’s will that we point others toward a relationship with their Creator and disciple them to continue to live in relationship with God. We have the promise of Jesus that as we live out our purpose for being, to know Him, and carry out the will of God by engaging humanity with the Gospel, Jesus said, “ . . . and surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:18-19).


Kirk Rising
International Youth Director

Questions We Must Answer
If our purpose for being is to be in relationship with God, and the will of God for our lives is that we call mankind back into a relationship with their Creator, we must ask ourselves:

Will you and I as individuals, choose to be and grow in relationship with the Creator of the Universe?

Will we as the Church of Jesus, in our daily lives, choose to call humanity back into a relationship with God and teach them to do the same to others?

Will we choose to grow in our relationship with the Holy Spirit as He opens our eyes to the lost and develops in us a heart of courage to share the Gospel of Jesus? Missio Dei. Will you and I participate in the mission of God as He sends us to lost humanity? Will We?

This article appeared in the June 2017 issue of The White Wing Messenger, the official publication of the Church of God of Prophecy. To preview or download the issue, click here. For an annual print subscription, click here

6-23-17 Loved Ones Devotion EVERYTHING NEW!

6-23-17 Loved Ones Devotion EVERYTHING NEW!

[My awesome, loving and wonderful Grandchildren, and Annika and Kaleigh, whom I love and pray for every day“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, THE NEW IS HERE!” (2 Corin. 5:17)

[The change the grace of God makes in our soul so awesome, that, old things are passed away – old thoughts, old values, and old practices, are passed away; and all these things must become new. Regenerating grace creates a new world in our soul; ALL THINGS ARE NEW. When we are renewed; we act from new principles, by new rules, with a new finish, and with new friends.]

“He who was seated on the throne said, I AM MAKING EVERYTHING NEW!” Then he said, “Write this down, for THESE WORDS ARE TRUSTWORTHY AND TRUE.” (Rev. 21:5)

[The new birth is the necessary first step we must take to experience the new heaven and the new earth!]

“Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea.” (Rev. 21:1)

[The world is not newly created, but newly opened, and filled with all of us who are the heirs of God. To make way for the beginning of this new world, the old world, with ALL ITS TROUBLES AND COMMOTIONS, is passed away.]

“I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, PREPARED AS A BRIDE beautifully dressed for her husband.” (Rev. 21:2)

[Stephanie, Ethan, Camden, Olivia, Aidan, Landon, Kinsley, Annika and Kaleigh, this New Jerusalem is the bride of Christ in her new and perfect state, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband, beautified with all perfection of wisdom and holiness, perfect for the fulfillment of the Lord Jesus Christ in glory!]

“And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and HE WILL DWELL WITH THEM. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘HE WILL WIPE EVERY TEAR FROM THEIR EYES. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (Rev. 21:3-4)

[The presence of our Awesome Abba Father with his children in heaven will not be interrupted as it is on earth, but he will dwell with us constantly FOR ALL ETERNITY.]

“I did not see a temple in the city, because THE LORD GOD ALMIGHTY AND THE LAMB ARE ITS TEMPLE. The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp.” (Rev. 21:22-23)

[Declare with me, for our lives in Christ…BEHOLD, ALL THINGS ARE NEW!]

IN HEAVEN, THE LORD GOD ALMIGHTY AND THE LAMB ARE ITS TEMPLE!

 Notice: [We must understand that the bible says: “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and HE WILL DWELL WITH THEM. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘HE WILL WIPE EVERY TEAR FROM THEIR EYES…”!!!] That’s for you: Stephanie, Ethan, Camden, Olivia, Aidan, Landon, Kinsley, Annika and Kaleigh

Do With Your Might What Your Hands Find To Do!

Do With Your Might What Your Hands Find To Do!

Introduction

King Solomon writes negatively through much of Ecclesiastes. His view of this life in his first chapter could be downright depressing. He treats human history as an endless cycle of meaningless repetition. Much truth, though, comes through in his musings and it is one of these trues and what it suggests that I am briefly addressing in this article. I am framing my remarks in the context of “leadership” or more accurately, “servant-hood” which is the biblical model that our gracious Lord Jesus left us.

As a student of biblical exegesis and one who appreciates the contextual approach, I understand that the main thrust of Solomon’s argument goes to the urgency of life’s opportunities for in Sheol (the grave to which we are headed) there is nothing that can be done or redone. We who hope in the resurrection to eternal life know that death is not so final but in focusing on the first part of our text, I wish to address a few thoughts suggested by doing with our might what our hands find to do.

 

What Is at Hand?

That which is nearest us accessible to us and within our reach is said to be “at hand.” We should prioritize our lives based on where we are and what is around us. There are several potential thoughts in this idea—where we are, what’s with reach of the hand, and the need to do those things that present themselves. This is very simple. However, many of us spend a lifetime looking (or waiting for) the next thing, really the next “big” or “bigger” thing to do, something we think more worthy of ourselves, our abilities, or our self-assessed potential. We dream of what we could do if we but had the right opportunity or a more powerful place from which to work. This is heady stuff that generally paralyzes us or causes us to function poorly if at all.

The concept of “what is at hand” has in it, I think, two very powerful, God-oriented suggestions. The first is that we are to be content (if we truly trust God) with the station in which He has placed us. This means that our lives are not accidental. Discontentment with his heavenly status in God’s created order, caused Lucifer to become the devil in his attempt to overthrow or displace God. Likewise, our discontent can lead to the desire (secret though it may be) to overthrow or displace others. It is the kind of self-promotional pride which once it starts, it is never thereafter content. The second very powerful Godly suggestion is that we are to do what is at hand. Hands do not think, aspire to greater things, or contemplate the future. They are simply involved in the “now.” “What the hand finds” is a very humbling phrase. It highlights and reinforces the idea that we are to humbly begin where we are with what is within reach to be done. This phrase also suggests that we are to value where we are and that we are not to treat our occupations as stepping stones to so-called greater things.

We are to let the example of the mind of Christ (Philippians 2:5) govern our attitudes. He sought no different station and was content to do His Father’s will. Indeed, in a deep and loving obedience to His Father, He gave up the advantages that were legitimately His. He acted fully and completely in accordance with His station in the form of the absolutely obedient Man (Philippians 2:8).

God Leads As We Willingly Do What Is “At Hand”

Over the years I have heard quite a number of persons (younger and older) say, “I am trying to find God’s will” or, “I am waiting on the Lord to show me what to do and where to go.” Many times this kind of remark is a euphemism for our secret desires to be elsewhere, a kind of cloak for our unhappiness with where we are. I say firmly that our Lord cannot lead us when we do not care to walk through the doors that surround us or are before us, in other words, “at hand.” This attitude of “looking for elsewhere to be” causes us to be stagnant and unjustifiably frustrated. Who owes us a debt of position? No one! Who ought to make way for us so we can succeed or move on to greater things? No one! Is God not a God at hand? Yes, He is! I am convinced that God knows exactly where each and every one is, and that He is poised to lead us along from where we are if we could only keep our eyes off the stage of glory, power, and popularity. In our stations in life, just where we are, God wants to commune with us, teach us about Himself and about ourselves. Wherever we are, whatever our status in life, it is a place of reality and authenticity for God, the mighty Redeemer, is there! O if we could only see this and embrace it! What transformations would occur in our lives even now! We would be flooded with light for God light is indeed all around us. If we let our hands do what is nearby maybe our eyes would see clearer how God work in our present. We can then rejoice in His presence and honor Him as our Teacher and Companion. What more can we want? What more can there be? Is it not God we seek or is it someone or something else?

The first verse of the old hymn, “He Leadeth Me,” by Joseph H. Gilmore (1834-1918), helps to make the point of this writing perfectly:


Adrian L. Varlack, Sr.
CBL Instructor/Church Historian

 

“He leadeth me, O blessed thought! O words with heavenly comfort fraught!

Whate’er I do, where’er I be, Still ‘tis God’s hand that leadeth me.

Chorus

He leadeth me! He leadeth me! By His own hand He leadeth me!”

His faithful follower I would be, For by His hand He leadeth me.
God leads us where we are and it does not matter where that is, for knowing God and His Son Jesus Christ is indeed eternal life (John 17:3).

Thy Will Be Done – Amen?

Thy Will Be Done – Amen?

1 Samuel 8–12

And they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top is in the heavens; let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.” – Genesis 11:4

In the book of Genesis, building a city was the equivalent of building a kingdom where one could rule and “be someone,” have fame, reputation, or power—make a name for oneself. The Tower of Babel was there to protect from attack, but at the same time it served as a religious stronghold, a place where you defend a belief, or an idol, or a leader, or an ideal. They said—all together, remember?—one language, one speech? “Let us” build it, with the new materials “we’ve” discovered. “We are so advanced,” they thought, so superior, so important, “that our tower will reach to the heavens.”

Maybe “reaching the heavens” was a way of saying that their gods would be impressed with their architectural endeavors and they would earn a few plus points to contribute toward their success to becoming someone. Whether they intended to literally climb the ladder to success, or achieve it through high society, they hadn’t counted on opposition from anyone strong enough to halt their success.

They were trying to go up, but they could not. But He who was up could easily come down because He is actually everywhere. Now, however, He comes down to intervene, to take part. Apparently He had not been invited, or they wouldn’t have gone that far with their nonsense. But we see that the blueprints of the city already under construction, and the Lego tower, with its stick-glue reinforcement, were right before the Lord God’s eyes.

“And the Lord said, ‘Indeed the people are one and they all have one language, and this is what they begin to do; now nothing that they propose to do will be withheld from them’”(v.6). The people are one; one language. God did not refute the fact that the people had one language and one speech, and that this is powerful.

Have you ever worked with someone who is insistent, calculating, stubbornly determined to get his own way, someone who pushes and shoves, manipulates and maneuvers until she arrives at her selfish goal? Anyone that gets in her way will be eliminated from the scene, bulldozed under with her blood-thirsty weapons of hate, even if they supposedly do so in the name of God. It makes me think of Hitler, Stalin, Mao Zedong, Saddam Hussein; from all continents, races, tribes—religious leaders and atheists—in every era of history.

Of course we tend to associate those bad guys and girls with the people out there, across the seas, that belong to “isms” other than our own; communism, atheism, socialism. But perhaps you or I are among those pushers and shovers that see no other way than our own, stop at nothing less than a finished tower.

Now imagine an entire group of people, the “whole earth,” united together. One language and one speech. Together they decide to do something, and they won’t stop until they reach the highest level of achievement. “Nothing they propose to do will be withheld from them”; words pronounced by God himself.  Unity sounds picture perfect, but that depends on where unity leads, and who is doing the leading and what they are uniting to do. People united to do evil are an extremely horrific thing. It appears there is no way to stop them.

God, however, could stop them. He has always stopped evil. He will always stop evil. And eventually, there will be no evil to stop within the Kingdom of God.

“Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech” (v.7). The people had said “Let us make bricks … let us build.” I can just see the politician running for office. “Let us create this and that department and then let us build a new nation.” Campaigning to get mutual support. But God had his own “Let us” plan. “Let us go down  . . .” Whether this refers to the Trinity, or to the host of collaborators that God would use to fulfill his plan, it is a joint project.

God does not remain indifferent and aloof from our self-destruction, ignorance, or self- righteousness, thinking we can do things on our own and that making a name for ourselves will make us happy. Just as Jesus Christ did centuries later, God leaves His heavenly home and accompanies us on our journey of faith, even when we are headed for a precipice.

“Let us go down and confuse their language.” What a merciful gift from God, to snatch up these naive and weak-minded simpletons (to put it nicely), and save them from a sure recipe for long-term failure. There is a saying, “fools rush in where angels fear to tread”, and this foolish plan would have guaranteed idolatry, godlessness, dictatorship, slavery and oppression for indefinite time. Confusing their way of communication was loving discipline. Ps 55:9 says, “Lord, confuse the wicked, confound their words, for I see violence and strife in the city.”

Maybe we could all use a bit of confusion now and then to keep us from implementing witless projects and schemes that, even though we think we are so modern and clever, might actually being killing us. Better to not understand each other, but understand God. Then he will bring real unity, based on wise and loving principles and eternal values instead of momentary frenzies.

“So the Lord scattered them abroad from there over the face of all the earth, and they ceased building the city” (v.8). Just what they didn’t want, but just what they needed. Maybe they were afraid, maybe they thought their plan was better, (as silly as it was). Maybe they weren’t strong enough to go against the status quo. Maybe they were comfortable where they were. Maybe they had little faith to believe their efforts would not be recompensed after their death, so why bother: “Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die.” But now that God broke His silence, and spoke, no one understood Him and no one agreed with Him, but somehow they knew He had spoken. The spell was broken. Though they didn’t understand God, not really, neither did they understand each other. All Greek to me! Their one language and one speech were over. Confusion abounded. And their city made no progress, it deteriorated, fell apart.

The confusion God brought was an intelligent and ingenious tool to enable their minds to hear with their hearts. From this point on, God calls Abraham and Sarah, who step by step would learn to understand his strange heavenly language and ignore the confusing babble that had so fascinated the people before. The next chapter of the story of God follows immediately after the Tower of Babel and it is of God himself unifying a people called by his name. Doesn’t that make sense?

And the story comes to a close in verse 9: “Therefore its name is called Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of all the earth; and from there the Lord scattered them abroad over the face of all the earth.” The name Babel, bab-ili in the Babylonian literature, meant “the gate of God,” as we saw with their tooth-pick tower on tippy toes reaching upward toward heaven. But in Hebrew it resembles the word for confusion, bavel, a fitting name. But Father God didn’t leave them in confusion forever.

There is a happy ending to this story. God is always blessing, or making happy, saving from danger, from death, from sin, as a loving parent rescuing their toddlers from their frolicking and revelry, from their boisterous playing. He leads them to a life of purpose, a life with permanent consequences, a mature life of edification within a community of like-minded God-followers. He even teaches us his divine language and we learn to hear his message. Our cities made of cardboard, or brick and tar, are to be abandoned for a city built with living stones like you and me, built on Christ the rock that will not totter, a city where confusion is replaced with understanding, where unity is never imposed but won through fellowship with a loving God, and fortified by the fellowship of the saints.


Jude Enxuto
Barcelona, Spain

There is a command in Matthew 28 that says, “Therefore go (be scattered) and make disciples (people who understand what is taught) of all nations (even those outside of Shinar), baptizing them (dying with Christ to life instead of settling for pseudo-comfort) in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit (“Let us come down”), teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you (a much better plan). And remember, I am with you always (the Lord, the ever-present God), to the end of the age.”

______________________________________

This article appeared in the July 2017 issue of The White Wing Messenger, the official publication of the Church of God of Prophecy. To preview or download the issue, click here. For an annual print subscription, click here

 

Here I Stand!

Here I Stand!

1 Samuel 8–12

 

There was a man of God who had a great career leading God’s people. In today’s Pentecostal language we would say that revival broke out under his leadership. During the days of Eli, his predecessor, “the word of the Lord was rare; there were not many visions” (1 Samuel 3:1 NIV).[1] Under the ministry of Eli and his sons, the tabernacle was in place, the Ark of the Covenant was in the Holy of Holies, the sacrifices were performed as ordered by God in the Law, but everything fell under the category of performance. God was absent and the priests and the people had not noticed. God was not missed in the picture. But with Samuel, things began to change, for with him, the voice of the Lord was heard again and “the Lord continued to appear at Shiloh, and there he revealed himself to Samuel through his word” (v.21).

Samuel was doing a great job judging and delivering God’s people from their enemies to the point that “throughout his lifetime, the hand of the Lord was against the Philistines” (7:13). But one day, the elders of Israel came to him and told him some dreaded words: “Samuel, you are old.” Besides telling him something that he already knew, they added: “and your sons do not walk in your ways.” These two statements justified their request: “now appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have” (8:4). This request for a king displeased Samuel. He was not thinking about retiring from his job, but now the people asked him to retire. He felt rejected by the same people he had served since his youth (12:2). Maybe his surprise was greater with God, who told him: “listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king” (8:7). Therefore, rejection of the leader was only a sign of having rejected God.

What do we learn from the life of Samuel as he transitioned from ministry to retirement?

 

Handle transition with grace despite rejection (1 Samuel 9-10).

I think about Samuel as he is going through this process. He and his sons have been rejected. One because of age, the others because of corruption. If I would have been Samuel, I would had been thinking or expressing many things such as: these ungrateful people; see how they repay me for my sacrifice and the sacrifice of my children; I have given them my life and I only get their rejection. But that is me. We don’t know what went through Samuel’s mind.

One day, God told Samuel that he was sending a man from the land of Benjamin, whom he had to anoint to be the leader over his people, and that he will deliver his people from the hand of the Philistines (9:15). This man was taking over Samuel’s job. Maybe Samuel remembered when, under his leadership, God delivered Israel from the Philistines. Now this man, whom he doesn’t know yet, is going to do his job. I don’t know what to think about the words that Samuel told Saul: “and to whom is all the desire of Israel turned, if not to you and all your father’s family?” (9:20). I think that it takes a lot of courage to recognize that you and your family are no longer the desire of the people. That the people prefer another leader. And still, you honor that other leader with dignity as Samuel did, because at the end, he is God’s leader, and they are God’s people. Him you ‘seat at the head of the table, and give the special piece of meat laid aside’ (9:22-24). To him you offer hospitality, for he is not your enemy. He is your fellow servant (9:25). To him you give instructions about his new task (9:25). To him you give God’s words and anointing (9:27; 10:1), acknowledging God’s call on him. Upon him you want the Spirit of the Lord coming in power (10:6), because this is not about competition, but about servanthood. One servant empowering another. The older empowering the younger. Despite your pain, there is no place for jealousy or rivalry. Either forced or voluntarily, handle transition with grace. And when the time of transitioning comes:

Leave as you lived (1 Samuel 12).

We should have only one way of living. We have to live by the Word. When the day comes for us to leave, will we be able to face those whom we have served and look them in the eyes without shame and regret?

Samuel declared boldly: “Here I stand!” (12:3). Stand means to be in an upright position with all of your weight on your feet. Merriam-Webster). Just imagine the eyes of all the people on him, and Samuel standing amongst them. Some of you know what it is to have the eyes of everybody on you and the pressure that it brings. In my case, my mouth dries and it feels like sand. I remember my first sermon in Lima, Perú, a long time ago. I fainted. And that was just a small group of maybe 15 people.

At this moment, Samuel, standing before the people, reminds them that he has been their leader from his youth until that day. They already know him. They know what kind of life he has lived. Samuel has nothing to hide. For that reason, with God and his anointed as witnesses, he calls them to testify against him if he had broken the law. Whose ox have I taken? Whose donkey have I taken? Ox and donkey are mentioned in the tenth commandment: “You shall not covet your neighbor’s ox or donkey” (Exodus 20:17). They replied: “You have not taken anything from anyone” (12:4). Samuel then continues with the laws of justice and mercy aimed at dealings with your neighbor: “Do not accept bribe, for a bribe blinds those who see and twists the words of the righteous.” “Do not oppress an alien: you yourselves know how it feels to be aliens, because you were aliens in Egypt” (Exodus 23:8, 9).

And he asks: “Whom have I cheated? Whom have I oppressed? From whose hand have I accepted a bribe to make me shut my eyes? If I have done any of these, I will make it right.” Again the answer of the people was: “You have not cheated or oppressed us” (v.4).

Samuel was setting himself against Eli, Eli’s sons, and even his own children who disregarded and violated the law and used their position for their own benefit, and, maybe, setting the standard for the newly anointed king. And standing before them, after their negative response, he could say: “The Lord is witness against you, and also his anointed is witness this day, that you have not found anything in my hand” (12:5).

The people did not have any evidence against Samuel breaking the Commandments, but he had some evidences against them. Now he told them: “stand here, because I am going to confront you with evidence before the Lord as to all the righteous acts performed by the Lord for you and your fathers” (12:7). Samuel retold them the Exodus story and how unfaithful toward God they had been. Instead of serving God, they served the Baals and Ashtoreth. As a result, God sold them in the hands of their enemies, but when they cried out to God, He delivered them sending the judges. So far, God had been sufficient to deliver them from their enemies. But now that Nahash king of the Ammonites was moving against them (12:12), they asked for a king to rule over them. They rejected God as their king, for an earthly king, because they wanted to be like the other nations. With this they also rejected their singularity as a nation. To demonstrate God’s displeasure (and I would add Samuel’s too), of the evil thing they did requesting a king, Samuel told them again “stand still and see this great thing the Lord is about to do before your eyes!” (12:16). In summertime, as an answer to Samuel’s prayer, God sent thunder and rain (12:17, 18), “so all the people stood in awe of the Lord and of Samuel.” Since Samuel always honored God’s Word, God honored Samuel’s words too (3:19). Like Samuel, when leaving time comes, let’s leave how we have lived. Leave with clean hands and a good testimony.

 

As you leave, encourage those coming after you (1 Samuel 12:19–25).

Samuel lived an uncorrupted, spiritually healthy life. That enabled him to be able to continue praying and teaching the people of God. After seeing a supernatural manifestation of the power of God, who sent rain and thunder in summertime as an answer to Samuel’s prayer, those who rejected him asked him to pray for them. His answer to them was: “far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by failing to pray for you. And I will teach you the way that is good and right” (12:23). His clean hands and heart qualified him for continuing his ministry from backstage. There are some people that I would not like to pray or teach me, since they leave ministry spiritually sick, with bitterness and poisoned. Our goal should be to start uncorrupted, continue uncorrupted, and finish uncorrupted. We must also leave with words of encouragement for the people.

 

Conclusion:

How you leave will make an impression on those coming after you. Don’t even pretend that you will leave in one piece. Remember that we are coming out of the battlefield. But leave with the best of you. Leave with a positive attitude, with a clean testimony that will encourage those coming after you.

The Battleground is a movie about 101st Airborne resisting Hitler’s fierce, final counteroffensive. The soldiers were facing a crude winter; outnumbered by the Germans; they were running out of food and ammunition, until one day the skies cleared, and the Air Force could help them defeat the enemy. They were tired, some were wounded, some had limbs affected by the cold, and they were in need of a good rest. Even though the sergeant received the order for their relief, when he called them into formation, he made them believe that they were going back to the battlefield. They began forming unwillingly, practically pushing their bodies into formation. But suddenly, the sergeant gave an order that they were not expecting: “About face!” and began to smile.


Elias Rodriguez
Instructor,
Center for Biblical Leadership

As they began marching out, they saw a column of new soldiers coming into the battlefield. One of the soldiers shows them to the sergeant, who immediately gets the group ready to give a good impression to those new soldiers coming in. The attitude of the soldiers changed as they began chanting their military cadence. They found strength, changing their discouraged walk to a strong march out of the battlefield.

For me, this is an inspiration for those coming after me, whom I want to say: “If that is the way you come from the battlefield, I want to go the battlefield.”

 

[1] All the Scriptures are from the NIV unless otherwise specified.

______________________________________

This article appeared in the July 2017 issue of The White Wing Messenger, the official publication of the Church of God of Prophecy. To preview or download the issue, click here. For an annual print subscription, click here

The Life-Giving Church

The Life-Giving Church

“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near” (Hebrews 10:24-25).

Why are you connected in the church body? Is it because you were raised to consider church attendance and participation important? Did you hear and believe the writings of the Scriptures that admonished us to fellowship together in unity? If so, it’s a good thing to give priority to it. Time after time, we are encouraged to “not forsake the assembling of ourselves together” (Hebrews 10:5), but have you stopped to consider why we are given such instruction?

There are spiritual benefits to community. “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17). Our interaction with each other helps us all become better people and see life from different vantage points from our own. Church attendance is vital to your spiritual formation and maturity in Christ.

“Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts” (Colossians 3:16 NIV).

I started attending church regularly when I was ten. The new local pastor visited us while my father was recovering in the hospital and that act of kindness in turn prompted us to dive into the fellowship headfirst. Through the years, I cannot overstate how vital the local church was to my development, helping me to learn spiritual truths but also societal protocols and norms. Just as school provided a framework of knowledge, the church provided a living, breathing community to be nurtured by and belong to.

Today, I can also look beyond my own needs for the church and see how my wife and children are growing and thriving in that community as well. When we go home and my daughter tells me about how Moses escaped in a basket or when another daughter sings, “I want to seek You first,” it’s like Christmas morning to me. I look out over the congregation and I see myself in many young people who are finding church to be a refuge from the storms of society.

Some people think they can do life on their own. Research and life experience, however, are telling a different story. A few years ago, I participated in a conference call with someone who spoke about the importance of church community. He said:

 

Without the church, it’s like having a boat without a rudder. All my life I’ve been involved with exercise. I know a lot about the body, but you need help. You need a trainer. You need to go to a gym and have the guidance, the expertise. I feel the same way about Christianity, about church in general. Minsters, pastors, they are the trainers that take you places you think you can’t go but they guide you into it.

A lot of people say, “I can do that on my own,” but it’s not quite the same. I found that out the hard way. They’re just trying to justify their laziness. The more I go to church and the more I turn myself over to the process of believing in Jesus, I feel the process (is working). You put in the time, you will reap the benefits.

 

The person on the other end of the phone, by the way, was Sylvester Stallone, creator and star of Rocky.

Even beyond the many spiritual implications, it is now becoming more obvious to even secular society that being in community can extend your life span. In a recent article in the Boston Globe magazine, writer Billy Baker discusses what many, including the US Surgeon General, Vivek Murthy, are considering to be the most pressing modern health crisis—isolation.

“In 2015, a huge study out of Brigham Young University, using data from 3.5 million people collected over 35 years, found that those who fall into the categories of loneliness, isolation, or even simply living on their own see their risk of premature death rise 26 to 32 percent. Now consider that in the United States, nearly a third of people older than 65 live alone; by age 85 that number has jumped to about half. Add all of this up, and you can see why the surgeon general is declaring loneliness to be a public health epidemic.” 1

The article also pointed out that isolationism has been linked to cardiovascular disease, the onset of Alzheimer’s, and carries as many long-term health risks as smoking.

The takeaway for those outside of the church is that by bypassing this great fellowship, they are not only endangering their souls, but their lives as well. As you progress in life beyond public school, friendships become more difficult to create and maintain, for a variety of reasons. A thriving, vibrant body of believers is just what the doctor ordered to extend a lifespan.


DeWayne Hamby
Editor, White Wing Messenger

Inside the church, there is also an important correlation. In most of our outreach campaigns, it has been taught that the church needs to reach the world and that is true. But what is equally true is that the church needs people from the world. As we reach out to them, the benefits to us spiritually and physically benefit not only those who are the targets of outreach but also the ones who are doing the reaching out. We all receive the blessing of community as God intended it to be. We all need each other.

 

  1. “The biggest threat facing middle-age men isn’t smoking or obesity. It’s loneliness.” Billy Baker, Boston Globe Magazine, March 9, 2017.

 

______________________________________

This article appeared in the July 2017 issue of The White Wing Messenger, the official publication of the Church of God of Prophecy. To preview or download the issue, click here. For an annual print subscription, click here

Do We Really Need Preaching?

Do We Really Need Preaching?

There is an anecdote told of a holiness preacher who was asked to speak at a church. He prayed about it and the Lord confirmed that he was to go. The date for his visit was set. When the time came for the service, the minister arrived at the church to find it open and heated, but empty. He was certain the Lord had told him to preach at this church on this date and for a moment, he was confused. Determined to obey the Lord, he went to the pulpit and poured out his heart to unfilled pews.

Several years later, he was in Union Station in Chicago when a young man came up to him and said, “You don’t know me but I know you. I’ve wanted to meet you for many years. Do you remember the time you preached to an empty church?”
The minister raised his eyebrows and said, “Yes, I remember. How do you know about that?” The young man told him, “I was there that night. In the basement. I was the janitor of that church and had come to turn on the heat. I was about to leave when I heard you begin to preach. I listened to your message through the grates of the furnace and the Lord convicted me of my sins. I gave my heart to the Lord and was called to preach the Gospel. I just finished a revival here in Chicago and more than 400 people accepted the Lord.”

This story has been shared for decades. Some call these kinds of narratives “preacher stories” because of how often they are used in sermons. Maybe they have fallen out of fashion.

Do we need preaching in the contemporary church service? Why don’t we all just sit and wait for a manifestation of a gift of the Spirit to bring us revelation from God? Why don’t we have all singing or a discussion format or a drama acted out each week in the place of preaching? Is it still relevant in today’s church for one person to address the congregation with preaching from a Bible text? Isn’t that a little old fashioned? What is preaching anyway?

Dr. Elias Rodriguez is an instructor for the Church of God of Prophecy (COGOP) Center for Biblical Leadership. He travels all over the world teaching, among many other things, preachers to preach. He says, “Preaching is the proclamation of the good news of Jesus Christ by living witnesses, who have experienced in their own lives the transformational power of God, to both sinners who need to be brought into a relationship with God and to God’s people who need to be aligned with God’s kingdom and purposes.”

 

Preaching: A Tale as Old as Time

Words were created by God, employed by God, esteemed by God. Words are important. And God gave us the gift of speech so that we could communicate His words with each other and the world. John A. Broadus, scholar, teacher, preacher of the 19th century stated: “Preaching is characteristic of Christianity. No other religion has made the regular and frequent assembling of groups of people to hear religious instruction and exhortation an integral part of worship.”

But preaching didn’t begin with Christianity. Speaking admonitions and instructions from God took place before the time of Jesus. Old Testament preachers included Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel, Amos, as well as others. They spoke and wrote the words the Lord gave them for His people and world leaders.

“During Israel’s return from exile, when all the people gathered to hear the law, Ezra and all the Levites traveled among the people and explained it to them. They read from the book, from the Law of God, clearly, and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading” (Nehemiah 8:8). “You must speak my words to them, whether they listen or fail to listen, for they are rebellious” (Ezekiel 2:7).

“Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; so hear the word I speak and give them warning from me” (Ezekiel 3:17). Even David laid claim to speaking for God. “The Spirit of the Lord spoke by me, and his word was on my tongue” (2 Samuel 23:2).

 

Jesus Preached and Told His Disciples to Preach

“Jesus began a tour of the nearby towns and villages, preaching and announcing the Good News about the Kingdom of God” (Luke 8:1). “Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent and believe the gospel’” (Mark 1:14). “And he (Jesus) sent them to preach the kingdom of God, and to heal the sick” (Luke 9:2).

And today’s disciples continue to be called to preach. Paul Holt, Director of Finance and Administration at the International Offices, knows this after many years of pulpit ministry. “The only reason that I preach is because I am called to do it. I do not feel it fits with my natural inclinations, but God called me, anyway. I would not have chosen preaching to be my vocation, but God chose me. As such, I am confident that I cannot do it without His help.” Dr. Rodriguez, when asked why he preaches, replied, “I preach because it is the way Jesus communicated His message.”

 

The Bible Tells Us to Preach

“And as you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand’” (Matthew 10:7). “Preach the word of God. Be prepared, whether the time is favorable or not. Patiently correct, rebuke, and encourage your people with good teaching” (2 Timothy 4:2). And ministers are not the only ones who have a responsibility when it comes to preaching. Those listening are instructed to believe. “Receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls” (James 1:21).

Is preaching a scriptural mandate? “Yes,” says Cathy Payne, Global Missions coordinator for the COGOP. “I believe the prophetic voice is a scriptural mandate and I believe preaching is a form of the prophetic. Preaching is an illumination of God’s Word to people and it is more needed today than ever before.” Dr. Rodriguez added, “Paul was commissioned by Jesus to ‘preach the gospel’ and Paul, in turn told Timothy to ‘Preach the Word.’” The Bible tells us to preach.

 

Preaching Teaches People How to Read God’s Word

Keeping the Bible central to the life of the local church, especially by preaching Scripture, teaches people how to read the Bible. The power and wonder and truth of the Bible are most effectively communicated by anointed, faithful preaching. Preaching connects us to the power of God. We find in the Word that God’s power brought redemption from Adam’s failure by instituting the blood sacrifice. Throughout the Bible, God’s power kept His plan on course, using flawed humans. God fulfilled “every promise in the Book” and brought salvation through Jesus and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Preaching connects God to Israel, Israel to Jesus, Jesus to the church. When God’s Word is the focus in the church, hearing it will help people know how to read it and give them a hunger to dive into it for themselves.

 

Preaching Changes Lives, One Week at a Time

“How was church? “Great!” “What did the pastor preach about?” “Umm . . . about 30 minutes?” What good is it for a minister to study and prepare and preach if the listeners are going to forget everything they heard? Contrary to what we think, we do not forget everything we hear. Most of us can remember the concepts we heard preached in sermons and specific sermons that changed us: how we think about God, marriage, money, etc. Do not believe the untruth that preaching is ineffective. Preaching changes people.

Bishop Holt spoke to this concept of change that comes from preaching: “I have shared things that came from God and I have seen those things bring transformation to people’s lives. It is the evidence that has convinced me of the importance of preaching. It is not the only thing, but it is an important thing.”

But do we need preaching on Sundays? Can’t we leave preaching to every now and then or to the guy on the street corner? Consider this: God began the weekly rhythm at Creation. In Genesis we see the Scriptures mark the days of the week. And since Creation, Sunday comes around every seven days. Like the daily manna in the wilderness, preaching has an expiration date. Come Sunday, folks are famished and need to be filled once again. It may be that the messages we hear preached are only meant to get us to the next Sunday! Sermons don’t have to remain with people throughout eternity. They’re meant to sustain one week at a time. Why else would Hebrews 10:25 admonish us to not forsake assembling together?

By faithfully preaching the Gospel, the preacher reveals people’s hearts to themselves, gives them the power to make judgments that liberate them, and imbues them with the certainty, confidence, and gladness to overcome trouble and sickness and hell itself.


Marsha Robinson
Editor, White Wing Messenger

Why do you preach? Sister Payne put it this way: “I preach out of my passion for the Lord and passion for humankind. I preach out of my calling from the Holy Spirit and the calling out that comes from those who need Him. I preach out of my availability— the Spirit’s faithful availability to anoint and use me and my availability to Him and His use.”

We need preaching. Until heaven. And there, our faith in the Word made flesh will become sight. He will remain with us forever. And the need for preaching will end.

______________________________________

This article appeared in the July 2017 issue of The White Wing Messenger, the official publication of the Church of God of Prophecy. To preview or download the issue, click here. For an annual print subscription, click here

Pentecost Sunday

Pentecost Sunday

We hope that you will join us for this weekend’s Pentecost Sunday simulcast on Sunday, June 4 at 6 pm EST. Bishop Sam Clements, General Overseer of the Church o f God of Prophecy, will lead us in a dynamic time of prayer and worship live from Breezewood Church of God of Prophecy in Greensboro, North Carolina.

Let us know you are joining us by registering. Registration is free and allows us to become connected with you and your church. Just visit:

https://cogopforms.formstack.com/forms/discover.

The simulcast will be available through Livestream. It will also be available on demand following the live webcast. View the simulcast here:

https://livestream.com/accounts/8635833/pentecost 

10,000 Leaders by 2020

10,000 Leaders by 2020

Brian Sutton Explains His Vision for Leadership Development

 

Brian Sutton, who assumed the role of executive director of Leadership Development and Discipleship in May 2016, explains his vision for the department and how it is positioned to impact the Church of God of Prophecy’s work in the harvest.

You stepped into this role straight from being a long time pastor. Do you feel that what you’ve done to this point has led you to what you’re doing now?

My experience as a pastor, and even going through the journey of attending two seminaries, has given me a heart for every pastor and every leader who sits and ministers in a congregation. Helping pastors and leaders become better equipped to serve God’s mission is where I want our focus to always be

I always want us to ask, “How can the programs Leadership Development and Discipleship offer minister to the pastor and help those pastors and leaders meet the needs in every community where they serve?” I think we have to be practical. We have to somehow find our way to equip those pastors because every pastor, every leader in every local church is crying out to God, saying, “Lord, equip me. Lord, make me better that I can discern Your voice so that I can minister more effectively.” The hunger to meet those needs that the pastors have, it’s very real because I’ve lived there day after day, week after week, crying out to God, “Please make me able to hear Your voice and to discern Your voice.”

You have promoted a vision of 10,000 Leaders by 2020. This is something that you feel like the Lord has really spoken into your ministry.

When I came into this role, I was following great people who’ve been in this position, so there were two specific areas I wanted to see us focus. First of all, for me, since we live in a very results-driven society, I wanted to look at that and say, “God, what is the result that You want from this? What is it that You desire for this department, Leadership Development and Discipleship at the International Offices? What is it that You want us to say we want to reach?” I don’t want our vision to be my vision, I want it to be God’s vision for us. The one thing I felt inspired from the Holy Spirit is was that we could have purpose through the ministries that we have here, and we’re going to touch and equip, 10,000 leaders by the year 2020.

Several years ago, we cast a vision through the International Offices about Vision 2020, and with that came the core values, and one of those core values was greater leadership development. We use 20/20 as our model for physical vision, so spiritually, that’s what I just felt in my heart God was saying. “I want these departments to equip 10,000 leaders by 2020.” We began to compile a database for youth and children’s ministry and Center for Biblical Leadership and Accredited Ministry Development, all those ministries that operate out of these offices. We want to touch 10,000 unique people by the year 2020. Bishop Clements and all of our General Presbyters have been so wonderful in launching this vision and I’m so thankful for them. They are praying into this vision of equipping our leaders. We are all working together to seek every open door that we can walk through to equip leaders so that they can step into all that God is doing.

As our team met in staff meetings, I really feel like we heard from the Holy Spirit, that there are three specific areas that all our equipping should focus on and those are in the areas of spiritual maturity, fruitful ministry, and participation in the mission of God. Spiritual maturity means we personally have a depth in God because we cannot give away what we don’t have ourselves. We want to encourage every leader through these trainings to be more spiritually mature ad know and encounter God in His fullness. We want to have fruitful ministry, not be measured by the success of the world, but look at what God has designed for our success where we are. Lastly, we want to equip the church for participation in the mission of God, to know that the mission of God is bigger than one church where we’re serving. It’s bigger than one denomination. It’s His mission, and as I recently heard, God’s church doesn’t have a mission, but God’s mission has a church. We’re surrendering to the mission of God.

This leadership initiative, the 10,000 leaders initiative, to see us go to the Assembly of 2020 and be able to celebrate that we’ve heard from God as a body and we’ve surrendered ourselves to that equipping, and now we’re 10,000 leaders that are ready to take the work of God wherever He tells us to go.

I think it’s a great day to be in this church because I think we are seeing where the Holy Spirit is moving around the globe right next to us in our neighborhoods and around the world, but the call of the Spirit is to respond; respond, not to live in front of the Spirit and ask Him to bless what we’re doing, but to turn into this responsive people who are so tuned into the Holy Spirit. We want to be a part of what God is doing, so we’re seeing great growth. It will only come through prayer. This will not be a human initiative. There is no conceivable way that we will ever see 10,000 people really touched without prayer. We have to prevail in prayer. Why prayer’s so critical to us is that prayer is not just speaking to God, but it’s hearing from God. It’s that communication with Him.

God is leading everyone somewhere, and you have a variety of places to affirm their leadership.

If God is leading every person to become more like Him, and to be more engaged with Him, then those avenues that leadership development and discipleship programs touch, they need to be more than just equipping pulpit ministry.

There are dynamic ways to serve in children’s ministry. For example, The Children’s Ministry Institutes, our “Train the Trainers” events, and many other opportunities to be equipped through Children’s ministry trainings are just some of the leadership equipping avenues which can propel stronger leaders for the work of the kingdom of God. The same thing with our brand new young leader certification that youth ministry is launching this year. Those are skills about mentoring. The word mentoring, that’s almost a fancy word for discipleship. The young leader’s equipping is more than just training people to stand behind a pulpit. It’s training people how to serve others and disciple them and mentor them.

One of our most exciting things that we do through the Center for Biblical Leadership is this class, “Become a Church with Impact.” In my experience, the longer I pastored, the more I felt this call from the Holy Spirit that our church must make an impact in our community, being more than just being a place where people come to church. It has to be the church. We have to touch the community. In this class, which is just one of our CBL offerings, we have already seen amazing results around the world and it’s just beginning. There’s this call that every person in the body steps into this role of serving the community, of living out the incarnational ministry of Jesus in the community. That particular class lays out the five biblical functions and five biblical commitments of a local church for example. A local church has to become more than a preaching point. It has to become more than just a pulpit. It becomes a force in the community that brings Jesus and gives witness to the kingdom of God in that community.

Our partnerships through Accredited Ministries Development, which is a brand new department that we’ve begun at the International Offices, have been going very well. We currently have almost 400 students involved in our Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary Masters programs in four continents. We have launched a new partnership with the Pentecostal Theological Seminary to offer accredited equipping in every age and stage of need. We are offering undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral programs to our Church of God of Prophecy family. We are launching our first fully online Masters program through PTS that launches this summer and we’ve already had tremendous response to that.

I’m really excited about what God is doing in these programs. We can’t wait to share these in even more states, regions, and nations.

If someone is reading or listening to this interview and is thinking “Yes, I’m in,” what are the next steps for them on their journey?

I think it would be great to find out a little bit about these four areas—youth ministry, children’s ministry, Center for Biblical Leadership, Accredited Ministry Development. All of these four departments are doing great things. Of course, I would say to them first, “Go to COGOP.org/LDD.” That way, they could look around at those websites and find out what we do. After they’ve looked at the site, try to discern where God is leading them specifically in terms of serving, where that would be. For example, our youth ministry trainings, our children’s ministry and CBL trainings, those are open to leaders of local churches. They’re open to leaders of the kingdom of God. They don’t have to be a Church of God of Prophecy leader. There’s that, those leader equipping trainings, and all that information should be on our sites. Also, they can always contact us at the International Offices or they could contact their state and national overseer for the equippings that are coming to their area.

We’re all over the globe in every continent. We conduct these trainings. If they’re looking for an accredited education, through our partnerships, we offer a wide array of opportunities. I would say to take those next steps, you would want to go to our website and find out how you can be involved. Contact your state and national regional overseer to say or your pastor to say, “I want to be involved. I want to be one of these leaders who’s equipped through LDD Ministries,” and let your pastor, or your state or national overseer help you find out exactly where you can go.

Also, through social media, we have several social media outlets through the International Offices that I would encourage someone to go to. But I do feel like Leadership Development and Discipleship at the International Offices functions to walk beside our nations, states, and regions and our awesome overseers who lead those regions. We are here to serve them. We want to be a blessing to our presiding bishops and assist them whatever they’re doing to equip pastors and leaders in their state, region, or nation.

I am so blessed to serve with an amazing team of leaders here at the offices. Every director of every department in LDD and every staff member have all just been so wonderful. We are deeply seeking God together to see Him do with us what He desires. I am so thankful for this team and I’m so thankful for all of the departments who serve the International Offices. They are all pulling with one focus and that’s to please the Lord.

What kind of personal responses have you encountered since casting this vision and assuming this role?

Often I hear pastors or leaders say, “I was ready to quit.” or “I was burned out.” Or “I was finished! In some of our equipping classes or trainings we’ve heard them tell us, “I’m going to come to one more thing. If this doesn’t work, I’m finished.'” We find the research is unbelievable, about burnout in ministry and in leadership because people are often just empty. They’re just constantly poured out, and so they’re running on empty. When you have a person that comes to training and they say, “I was done before this, but the Holy Spirit spoke to me and the Holy Spirit equipped me. The Holy Spirit filled me with a new passion.” That’s what we want to do in all of this. We want to take the eyes off of the expectations of the world and put our eyes squarely upon the working of the Holy Spirit today, what He is doing today.

Brian Sutton
Executive Director
Leadership Development and Discipleship

No matter what context you’re in, we have to surrender ourselves to a constant filling of the Holy Spirit and a constant equipping to do more. The message of Jesus Christ has not changed. The method of delivery may be some of the reasons we are so burned out and some of the reasons we’re so tired. To hear a person say, “I was ready to quit, but God touched me here,” that’s why we all need to surrender ourselves, to equipping through whatever ministry is available. I believe God is calling us to constantly recognize that iron sharpens iron and we need that. I’m praying that we all hear God’s voice to be better equipped for his work.

—DeWayne Hamby, Editor

 

______________________________________

This article appeared in the June 2017 issue of The White Wing Messenger, the official publication of the Church of God of Prophecy. To preview or download the issue, click here. For an annual print subscription, click here