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Kingdom Math: 12 + 13 = 14

May 29, 2008 1 comment

Can I stimulate your thinking with a riddle, not unlike Samson’s, “Out of the eater came something to eat, and out of the strong came something sweet”?

The following thought came to me with some clarity recently as I was reflecting on Jesus’ Bride, the church.

Here it is: 12 + 13 = 14

For those of you who have been reading my articles lately you might be guessing where I’m coming from…. to others of you I offer this hint: think 1 Corinthians! Does that help?

The progression is really beautiful when you see it:

Chapter 12 and the diversity of the gifts and manifestations of the Holy Spirit, is followed quickly by the “excellence of love” in Chapter 13. Finally, the question is asked, “What is the outcome then, brethren, when you come together?” and Chapter 14 unfolds an awesome description – really the best one in the whole NT!- of gathering together for mutual edification and functioning. “When you assemble, each one has a psalm, a teaching, a revelation…”

The concept that came to me so powerfully is that without LOVE we will never have functioning with spiritual gifts the way God intended it!

We really need to see this in progression!! 12 + 13 really does get us to 14.

If we only have gifts and manifestations of the Holy Spirit we can have a “spirit-filled mess”, which seems to have been the case in Corinth and led to arrogance and super-spirituality. If we only have love without the power of the supernatural gifts, we may have a “sugar-coated Christianity” that won’t have the “kick” to see people freed from bondages and lacks God-given direction and discernment!

As author Edwin Stube has written:

“Spiritual gifts make love practical and demonstrable.”

If my neighbor is sick, love says to bake cookies and pray for him/her; spiritual gifts ask that I visit that person in Jesus’ name, lay hands on them and pray for healing!

I think, if I may tell of my own personal journey, that in a desire to see Chapter 14 (read: functioning) re-established on the earth, it is very easy to skim through the Love Chapter! It is easy to get caught up in the “size” of the gathering vs. the “location” of the assembly vs. the “leadership” of the meeting vs. the “what do we do with the children”, etc. Ad infinitum!

Yet that which never fails is LOVE!

Paul says it quite plainly: “If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing!” (13:2)

Let’s read a slice of the “Love Psalm” again:

Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude…
Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never fails… So faith, hope, love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

My wife, Maria, and I are at this point in our lives very (read: extremely) passionate about seeing God’s people shake off the grave clothes of centuries without experiencing, to any great degree, functioning and mutual edification “when we come together”! We have burned our bridges to any other way of doing / being church! BUT we must not read past the clear teaching of First Corinthians that “12 + 13 = 14” (ie. gifts + love = functioning).

We long to be in such close, 24/7 fellowship with a group of God’s people, that when we come together, truly Jesus alone is Head and each one contributes as the Holy Spirit leads. The “Manifest Presence” guiding each one takes us further into Jesus than we often could get by following a leader or a program.

I am well aware that for Type A people (and many other “types” as well!) this way of meeting seems to be a sure recipe for disaster: gathering together without a “pre-ordained” order of service, with little formal leadership! “What if we sing too much and we never get to hear the sermon? Won’t sister Mary just tell her old, old stories over and over again…?”

Not if 12 + 13 = 14 is happening!

Don’t you just long to be in a meeting where you “assemble”, like pieces of a puzzle (and that IS the biblical word-picture!) and you have no idea what the picture will look like until each piece has been put in place? Or imagine, as you are “assembling”, someone who is seated has an “at-that-moment” revelation, jumps up, and brings the spotlight of Divine truth into the gathering! (1 Cor 14:30)

The church is changing her paradigms. We see it all over! Now more than ever we need the “rule of love”! Some of us have burned our bridges, some are still on the bridge, others are just getting on the bridge for the first time! In all this, let us follow the most excellent way:

“House churches are not boastful; cell churches are not arrogant or rude. The ‘new wine’ does not insist on its own way but believes all things, hopes all things…”

Amen!

Finally, one last look in on love from a trio of great apostles:

Paul: “Now as to the love of the brethren, you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another.” 1 Thess 4:9

Peter: “Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins.” 1 Peter 4:8

John: “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.” 1 John 4:7

Yours for the least in the Kingdom,

Jeff Gilbertson

Categories: Uncategorized

Apostolic Stewardship

May 23, 2008 Leave a comment

Probably the hardest (and likely the last) part of the current revolution going on in the church as She finds Her way back to Her apostolic roots will be the subject of finances. The world-wide return of the church back to homes and mutual edification and participation did not really cost us too much. Some paid a higher price than others but for most of us it was a feeling of relief!

But I believe that to express what I call “apostolic stewardship” as found in the NT we will all pay a dear price.

Jesus spoke about finances a lot. Some theologians tell us He spoke more about money than He did sin. Actually, it is not stretching the truth to say that in Jesus’ mind there are only two battlefields: God or money.

“No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Mammon”. Mtt 6

Jesus knew that where our treasures were, there our hearts would be also. He urged His followers to store up their treasures in Heaven and not to worry about tomorrow and what we will wear or eat. Even the lowly birds are fed by their Heavenly Father.

How simple yet how difficult.

When Jesus sent out His 12 apostles, He told them: “Take nothing for your journey except a staff—no bread, no bag, no money in your belts.” (Mark 6)

When the early church had experienced the baptism in the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost they were led to sell their “possessions and goods and give them to any who had need.” (Acts 2)

When Peter and John were going up to the temple at the time of prayer they were met by a man crippled from birth. The man expected alms from them but Peter declared they had none: “Silver and gold have I none, but what I do have I give unto you: Walk! (Acts 3)

Take nothing with you. Sell your possessions. Give to the poor. Store up treasures in Heaven. What is Jesus after here???

When Good Intentions Aren’t Enough

There is a helpful axiom that says “If you only have a hammer in your toolbox, then every problem you encounter is a nail.” In the Western world we only have a checkbook in our toolbox, so all the problems we encounter require money. However, we desperately need rock solid, Biblical principles, put together by proven ministries over the course of many years.

For example, a principle provided for us by Glenn Penner from his excellent paper Dependency: When Good Intentions Aren’t Enough is:

“When aid is needed, resources should be sought in as close of geographical proximity as possible.”

We in the global house church movement are sitting on a powder keg of finances that will be available to release into the kingdom of God to penetrate into the Muslim, Hindu and Buddhist worlds.

The question is will be ready for the task? Let’s think BEFORE we act so as not to make the same old mistakes our “forefathers” did.

How Shall We Then Give?

The main principle that Maria and I hold to is this: the best giving is done by those living closest to the need.

We see this as the heartbeat of Jesus’ ministry with His disciples: “They do not need to go away: you give them something to eat!” (Mtt 14) The disciples could only come up with 5 loaves and 2 fish. Not too impressive with 5000 hungry mouths! But here is where we err, hoping to provide through our strength (financial might and sheer numbers) and not in the miracle working power of Jesus.

In actual fact, the disciples were quite slow to get the message of Jesus’ miraculous provision, as just a few days or weeks later they where faced with the task of feeding of the 4000: “Where will anyone be able to find enough to satisfy these men with bread here in a desolate place?”

They had forgotten WHO is the real provider!

Could it be that because we don’t bring the miraculous to the mission field we end up bring the money?

Can I say it again: “those closest to the problem are best suited to find the answer”. That is a Starfish principle if I ever read one!!

Of course, there are times when the physical situation is so catastrophic that giving from far away is not only the right thing to do but also the best. (Think back to the Tsunami of 2004) In the NT we see that the churches Paul planted gave money to meet needs of the “mother church” in Jerusalem because of the famine. But this was a one-time deal it appears and not a steady practice.

Yours for the least in the kingdom,

Jeff Gilbertson

PS. For further reading on dependency I highly recommend World Mission Associates.

Categories: Uncategorized

Discerning the Seasons and Times

May 19, 2008 3 comments

“For everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted.” Ecc 3: 1-2

In this text from the one-time “wisest man on earth”, the Hebrew word for season is translated more precisely as an “appointed time”. There is an appointed time (or fixed time!) for everything: every purpose and longing under heaven. I believe, with all my heart, we are in a season, a “fixed time” for the church of Jesus Christ on the earth to uproot what has been improperly planted

This has been our singular passion for the past five years: seeing the church return to its apostolic pattern.

To be sure, the church has been through many strategic, “appointed times” before such as with Martin Luther- justification by faith; John Wesley- personal holiness; General Booth- ministry to the poor and needy; the Moravians- passion for Christ and missions; the Pentecostal movement- emphasis on the gifts of the Holy Spirit… and countless others. Each of these God-ordained “seasons” added life and light to the world-wide church of Jesus, propelling her into a new age.

As we enter the 21st century, Almighty God is stressing to the church again an appointed time! This season the focus is on the structure of church. Not on what we believe or why, but rather on how we function as believers when we gather together in His Name. A sign that a “fixed time” is looming is that so many believers are questioning the obvious discrepancy between what we read in the New Testament and what we experience “on any given Sunday” in church in the Western world:

· We read of vibrant “Love Feats” or Breaking Bread occasions that certainly included a full meal, with lots of food and beverages for all. (1 Cor. 11)

· We read of the active participation and functioning of “each one” when the believers gathered together, everyone using spiritual gifts that all would be edified. (1 Cor. 12:7, 14:26)

· We read of believers meeting together in homes, simple churches without titles and labels. Churches that humbly met in the homes of Aquila, Archippus, or Nymphas, and many others. (Ro 16:5, Col 4:15, Philem 2)

· We read of elders shepherding their flocks but also working hard with their hands “among the people”, like the Apostle Paul. (Acts 20) We see no clergy/laity rift.

· We read of the “whole church” coming together for decision making and then, by consensus, solving major church problems. (Acts 6,15)

A Simple Gospel begets a “Simple Church”.

The most interesting and important point of this present season is that, unlike the past “fixed times” when God raised up a figure head person or movement, this “appointed time” will be marked by its nameless and faceless key figures! This season is tailor-made to be engineered and guided (notice I don’t use the word LED!) by the rank and file believer. This is where I fear the greatest danger also lies, as we look for the next Wesley, Moody or Booth to lead us in the new season! Brothers and sisters, there won’t be one!

God is emphasizing the need for changing the structure of how we “do church”. Past seasons brought by God have seemingly never looked at this critical issue or were unable to bring any significant, lasting change to our church structure. For example, without doubt Luther brought back to the church the “priesthood of all believers” during the Reformation, but it was on a more individual level, not a corporate one!

As a result of incomplete reformations throughout the centuries, our church structures tend to be “top heavy”, complex, chain-of-command institutions where a chosen few lead and direct the masses. Keeping the building and programs running smoothly seem to take the major amount of time and effort of all involved. Some have suggested that in the average church in America 20% do all the work while 80% are uninvolved! (Unfortunately this 80/20 principle works in opposite fashion when it comes to local spending vs. missions and outreach. Most churches find that 80% of their budget is spent on local salaries, office upkeep and property and 20% on missions/outreach!)

The very essence of this season is its simplicity, the spirit of which I read in the NT, where fishermen and tentmakers explode upon the scene, arguing and reasoning with Kings and Queens – establishing churches everywhere they went I might add. Simple churches with no higher financial needs then gathering in someone’s home for a pot-luck meal! Simple churches with no great leadership giftedness required other than to “shepherd a flock” of some 20-30 people, and even then with the help of others (i.e. elders)!

Can I ask you a thought provoking question:

“If you were to plant churches amongst the Muslims of Central Asia, would you rather plant ones that required low maintenance, low visibility and low giftedness of its leaders or one that required high maintenance, high visibility and high giftedness of its leaders?”

Join with me in sounding the trumpet for this important season, stressing a simple gospel that calls for simple church structures!

Yours for the Least in the Kingdom,

Jeff Gilbertson

Categories: Uncategorized

First Apostles, Second Prophets…

May 10, 2008 10 comments

Today the church of Jesus Christ is going through a great transformation. My wife, Maria, and I have the privilege of first-hand awareness of these transformations on three continents! Many around the world are hearing the same call. Pastor Sung Hee Lee, a prominent Christian figure in Korea, has listed some of these transformations that we will see in the 21st century church:

from Sunday church to everyday church
from a great congregation ministry into small group ministry
from a gathering church into a sending church
from clergy centered to laity centered
from authority of the pastor into leadership of the pastor
from discipleship training into apostolic training

What I want to make special note of in this article is the last transformation listed: from discipleship training into apostolic training. In my words, recovering apostles and prophets who lay the foundation of the church, above all, where there is no church!

For this we have unmistakable evidence and agreement in the NT, regardless of our present day position, of the role of apostles and prophets in building the church.

* “And God has appointed in the church, first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helps, administrations, various kinds of tongues.” 1 Cor. 12:28

* “You are of God’s household, having been built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Himself being the corner stone.” Eph 2:19-20

* “And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers…to the building up of the body of Christ.” Eph. 4:11-12

Stuart Murray writes similarly in Church Planting – Laying Foundations (1997):

“For church planting movements, the identification and deployment of apostles (and prophets) is arguably highly significant… Many churches [in Acts] were planted by unknown men and women, rather than by recognized apostles… But there are passages that seem to link apostles closely with church planting. Some have suggested that apostles and prophets are foundational ministries in a way neither pastors nor evangelists are. Although Jesus Himself is the “cornerstone”, churches are built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets” (Eph 2.20). A mark of Paul’s apostolic ministry was that he laid foundations (1 Cor. 3.10), and that he did not build on foundations laid by others (Rom. 15.20).”

Where Have You Gone, Apostles and Prophets?

I feel many struggle with the idea that we are limiting God if we become too sticky on this point! I often hear: “God is a God of infinite variety and diversity, not a ‘cookie cutter’ god!”. What matters to me most of all, however, is not the actual use of the word “apostle” but rather its role/function restored to pioneer church planting and God’s order re-established in the unreached corners of the globe!!

Once again from Murray:

“The use of the term apostle is less important than the effective deployment of apostles, by whatever they are known. Apostles are trans-local rather than local leaders, and their focus is on mission rather than maintenance.”

If Jesus said “First, Second, Third…”, we don’t just have the freedom to say: “Second, Third, First”. Or worse (and more often the case): “Tenth, Sixth, Nineteenth…” !

Isn’t this somewhat like the error of David in bringing the ark back to Jerusalem, missing God’s order, “line-by-line”, for the re-establishing His church. “We did not inquire of Him about how to do it in the prescribed way”. I Chron. 15:13 (NIV)

According to the Pattern

Dear brothers and sisters, there is a “prescribed way” Jesus will build His church. There is a pattern!

“When the tabernacle in the wilderness was built exactly ‘according to the pattern’ (Heb 8:5; Ex 25:9) given to Moses in the mountain, the glory of God’s presence came down and filled the Holy of holies…If we build according to the pattern God has given us in the NT, we can confidently expect a much greater manifestation of His power and glory in our day.” (Edwin Stube)

God didn’t bend the rules with David or Moses and he surely won’t with you and I.

Consider with me the “prescribed way “of church planting revealed in Acts:

* In Cyprus when the apostles Paul and Barnabas faced direct opposition to their work from Elymas the magician, they called on the name of God and brought His judgment upon him, which led directly to the salvation of Sergius Paulus (who had earlier asked for the apostles to come and share the word of God with him)! “Then the proconsul believed when he saw what had happened, being amazed at the teaching of the Lord” Acts 13:12

Without that power encounter, I argue, they would have left that island “empty handed”, their time spent in discussions, talking, etc. and no fruit! If God would have started first with administrators, helpers, givers, encouragers, gifts of mercy… the church in most places would have never gotten planted!

* In Iconium a great multitude believed, both Jews and Greeks (Acts 14), but as in most other places where the apostles labored, “the unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles, and embittered them against the brethren.” Therefore Paul and Barnabas spent extra time in that city speaking boldly to the people and “the Lord was bearing witness to the word of His grace, and granted signs and wonders to be done by their hands.” These evidences of divine approval had a powerful influence on those in Iconium, both believers and non-believers alike.

Again, without those power displays (which are the signs of a “true apostle” 2 Cor 12) they would have left with an infant church struggling terribly in the midst of an “embittered” people, if not altogether snuffed out shortly thereafter!

* In Lystra Paul discerns by the Holy Spirit that a man who had never walked had faith to be healed! “Stand upright on your feet!” Paul said with a loud voice and another church of the Master was born! Would the “pastor/teacher” have had the discerning spirit and the eyes of faith to bring “God’s goods” to that man? How you answer that question is critical.

In the most helpful book about church planting I know, “According to the Pattern” (1982), Edwin Stube writes about apostles as well:

“An apostle is sent by God to begin a work. The apostle Paul went from place to place, led by the Spirit, evangelizing and establishing congregations in places where there were formerly no Christians. An apostle must be able to manifest all the gifts of the Spirit – prophesy, heal the sick, cast out demons, etc. – because in a new place there are no others to do these things. He does the works of Jesus and reveals Jesus’ power. The apostle does not speak with his own words, but with the words that are given by the Holy Spirit.”

Since Jesus is the Way, we must do it His Way!

Our passion: To see church-based apostolic individuals, who are sent out by twos and threes to the “unreached” ends of the earth, to lay the foundations and work themselves out of a job by building congregations which can quickly stand on their own two feet.

Of course, apostles are made not born!

Timothy was a young boy when Paul hand-picked him from his home and took him on-the-road, along with Silas. Their friendship /co-working lasted nearly 20 years! Timothy was directly mentored on the job, just like Jesus did with the 12. Certainly this is a process as well, witness young Mark who left the apostolic team once in fear and utter failure. Three years later the famous riff between Paul and Barnabas ensued over Mark and the two apostles painfully split up…Years later Paul writes from prison in Rome telling Timothy to bring Mark with him when he comes for “he is helpful to me in my ministry”. Evidently, Mark measured up to his call, but it didn’t happen over night, wasn’t without hardship and difficulties, and wasn’t as “pain-free” as getting on a plane and heading to another country…

Yours for the least in the Kingdom,

Jeff Gilbertson

Categories: Uncategorized

When We Will Finally Admit It’s Not Working…

May 7, 2008 1 comment

Last month I came upon three various reports on the life of the church in the USA. The statistics are shocking to say the least.

1. First, I read about the rapid rise in the “immigrant churches” in the Minneapolis and St Paul area and the declining white churches.

“We have the largest concentration of Somali immigrants in the United States. We have the largest concentration of Hmong, Liberians, Oromos [Ethiopian], Anuaks [Sudanese] and Karens [Burmese], and the second-largest concentration of Tibetans. Some of these churches are huge, with over 1,000 members. Without [these churches] the number of churches would be going down, there’s no doubt about it. A lot of white churches are dying. Ethnic churches are where all the growth is.”

(Rev. John Mayer, executive director of City Vision)

2. Next, I read about the alarming trend of church attendance going down steadily since 1990.

According to “The American Church in Crisis” (David T. Olson) church attendance on an average weekend in the USA has fallen from 37% in 1990 to 17.5% in 2005.

Lest you think that this is just playing with statistics to get what you want, consider the following:

“This study is based on the largest-ever research study of American church attendance, yearly data from more than 200,000 individual Christian churches was collected from 1990 – 2006. This unique research base led the author to discover trends and patterns in the American church that were previously unknown.”

3. Finally, I came upon the latest findings of the huge number of non-believing Americans “Tripping over the church” and staying away from Jesus at the same time.

“The negative perception for many people, however, seems to be the church, not Jesus himself, according to the study. People on the outside see the church as candles, pews and flowers, rather than people living out their love for God by loving others,” he added. “Such skepticism can only be overcome by churches and believers who demonstrate the unity and love for which Jesus prayed.”

Had Enough?

If this was only the case in the USA alone that would be enough to make one wonder what is going on with our American Christianity. But even more tragic is the “army of millions of missionaries”, both long and short term, sent out as “ambassadors” FROM these declining churches, who sit today in many different nations reproducing this type of church.

I was so glad to see the following “pingback” from a blog I wrote on this on this subject I wanted to point it in your direction.

———————————————————————————————-

…I would like to suggest that Christianity may be one of the worst reproduced “products” on earth!

What I mean by that tantalizing line is that even McDonald’s knows enough to send their “Overseas Franchise Operators” through a rigorous and comprehensive training institute in the USA before ever opening a store in Phnom Pang. Yet, in the church, we often send workers with no other training than living in a western church for 3-5 years or so, plus a 1–5 month crash “discipleship course”, expecting then a near perfect reproduction on the other side of the earth in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan! (from my blog, Jeff Gilbertson)

I totally agree with this quote. And it’s a question I’ve struggled with for years. How do we create, model and coach something into place we’ve never experienced?

The modern approach that is taught is the CPM model or Church Planting Movement. Our organization has spend lots of money, time and energy researching, documenting and teaching this approach to mission work. After several years, we’re seeing very few CPM’s actually happening. Is it the approach? I honestly don’t know. Jesus didn’t use it, He just met people’s needs, taught the Kingdom and trained and equipped others to do the same. So why doesn’t it work like we hoped? Here are a few elements of the CPM movement and why WE fail it.

* Meet in homes. This one’s easy. How many of us attend small groups in the US as our sole and primary form of church? We do Sunday school, have big choirs, massive budgets, impersonal services, shallow interactions, staff to do all of the dirty work and then we come overseas and try to plant small groups that meet in homes. We don’t understand it because we’ve never experienced it. Even when we get overseas most of us have church meetings…on Sunday….at 11 am, with 5 songs, a children’s message and a 3 point sermon…why? Because this is what we know and this is what we value.

* Strong on one-on-one discipleship. Wow, I wish I had this in my life. In a recent team meeting of around 25 people we were asked to describe a time when we were discipled. The room was full of people with vast church experience, seminary degrees and ton of training and yet there were only two responses. Why? Because in the SBC we usually interpret the Great Commission as a call to “go and tell… ” not a call to share life, the good and bad with those around us in order to help others be disciples. In my application to serve here I was asked several times “About the most recent time I shared my faith with someone?” And not once was I asked to describe the last time I discipled someone. We lean on programs and classes to do the work that we were each commissioned to do. If we’re not being discipled by our leaders, then how can we expect to know how to do it with new believers….especially when they’re illiterate. (side question….Can you disciple someone with a cd?)

So what can we do to fix it? Can we fix it? Are we the problem?

(taken from the blog http://camelcrossing.net/?p=345)

Yours for the least in the Kingdom,

Jeff Gilbertson

Categories: Uncategorized

The power of tradition. By Maria Gilbertson

May 2, 2008 1 comment

In my recent re-reading of the Gospels something stuck out to me. It has to do with Jesus’ diligent efforts to tear down the walls of tradition put up by man’s religious thinking.

Jesus seems to constantly offend the accepted customs of the devout and religious and with that, the Pharisees personally, who were the religious “law-keepers” of their time. Again and again we find him questioning traditions and habits that had developed out of their understanding of the Law and that had been accepted for generations. They had become part of everyday life, the religious life in particular. No one had dared to question them before, at least not openly.

To them it must have seemed that His sole purpose was to be offensive, to destroy the religious traditions, and to “work up” the people. It must have sounded like a contradiction to them when He proclaimed that He had come to fulfill every iota of the Law and yet He deliberately offended those that knew all about the Law.

For us today – living in a different time and a different religious environment – it is quite clear why He had to do this. We can clearly see that yes, they knew the Law but they completely missed the point behind it. They failed to grasp the heart of the Father behind the Law.

We hear a passionate lover when He says: “Don’t you get it, the Sabbath was made for you and not you for the Sabbath” (my paraphrase). They hear the rebel that offends them.

It is obvious to us that Jesus’ motive was not to offend the Pharisees but His passion was to lead them back to the heart of the Father. His passion was also for those that were being led astray by those traditions and customs.

Were His words not words of liberty and freedom – that should have had great appeal to the human heart? (And they were appealing to the less religious!) Why then were those words causing such anger, outrage, offense and outright violence? I believe that is the power of tradition.

Webster defines tradition as

“the doctrines, knowledge, practices and customs passed down from one generation to another”.

Tradition defines who we are.

Paul tells us in Galatians 1:14 how he was extremely zealous for the traditions of his fathers and that was the reason for persecuting the church of God and trying to destroy it. THAT is how powerful traditions are.

Traditions that might have started with the Word of God (in Paul’s case the law given by Moses). Of course it was mainly the Pharisees that got angry because they considered themselves the guardians of these very important traditions.

I am not trying to say that all traditions are bad. Not at all – that makes us who we are as a people group, a nation, a family or as Christians.

But reading the Gospels in the light of all of this makes me wonder.

Actually to be honest with you it makes me more than wonder – it gives me an uneasy feeling. I am just not sure what our response would be, if Jesus came today, stood amongst us and questioned some of our beloved traditions. Traditions that started out in truth, that were understood with good hearts, that maybe have been passed down for generations. What if He lovingly looked at us and said, “I know you love this one but does it truly portray the heart of the Father?” Would we be defensive and zealous for the traditions of our fathers or would we willingly surrender and allow Him to give us new revelation.

I know it is a fine line to walk.

When we come to a point of conviction or new revelation we often incorporate those into our lives and they become good habits but sometimes they might lose the heart behind it.

When I was a pretty young believer I had heard some teaching and read some books on fasting and was fascinated by the subject. I felt convicted and convinced to make fasting a part of my Christian walk. A friend and I started fasting every Thursday and we spent our lunch hour praying together. In the beginning we struggled with the discipline of it but we felt we were growing and it was a wonderful time. After a while our bodies had gotten so used to it that we didn’t even feel hungry on Thursdays anymore.

About a year and a half into it, it had become a habit and we felt quite good about ourselves. Thus was born a tradition in less than two years and that’s when the Lord started speaking about stopping our “Thursday fasts”. I was offended and defensive.

“But Lord you started it. We were just obeying… it is all for You. Look at all the wonderful prayer times we have had.”

I know today I had crossed a fine line – a conviction/revelation, a step of obedience had over a period of time become something more. It had become a habit/tradition that we cherished but it also had become a source of pride and self-righteousness. Thursday prayer times were still good but our fasting was not all about HIM anymore. We had lost the heart behind it.

Today – 25 years later – fasting is still part of my life but it is based on my relationship with Him, when He prompts me.

I feel, Jeff and I – our whole family really – has been on this incredible journey where Jesus seems to be questioning every single thing that was/is dear to us and very lovingly seems to ask us to come along with Him and rediscover what the Heart of the Father truly is. For us that meant questioning big issues such as how we do church, how we do missions or smaller issues such as tithing.

But my challenge to you would be to allow HIM to come and ask you about your traditions as well. What are the things that we hold so dear because we were raised with them or maybe they started with a personal revelation (i.e. my fasting) but have lost their real “heart” and He is challenging us to rethink them.

It is a scary but exciting journey.

In Jesus,

Maria Gilbertson

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