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The Key to a Successful 2013: Think Practices, not Products!

If I could give you one key to a successful 2013, it would be this: Think practices, not products!

Everyone is making new years resolutions right now, and that is a good thing, not a bad thing. But make sure that your resolution takes the form of a practice, not a product. Let me explain the difference.

Here are some examples of product oriented new years resolutions:

In 2013 I will write and publish a book!

In 2013 I will lose 35 pounds!

In 2013 I will learn to speak a new language!

In 2013 I will save $20,000!

In 2013 I will memorize 100 verses of Scripture!

All of these are great goals, and if any one of them is on your list, you are definitely thinking in the right direction. In 2013 I believe God wants to move us forward in places where we feel stuck, where little or no progress has been made. We need to think big this year! In 2013 its go hard or go home!

But their are three distinct problems with product-oriented resolutions, and these problems are the reason why most people fail to accomplish their resolutions. If you understand these problems and shape your resolutions differently, I believe you cannot help but succeed in all you do!

Problem #1: Product-oriented resolutions are so daunting! We tend to set huge goals for ourselves, and every day we awaken to this huge task before us. Lose 35 pounds. Every morning I wake up to the scale, and I'm confronted by the fact that I still haven't lost 35 pounds! Product-oriented resolutions delay my sense of accomplishment for months into the year!

Problem #2: Product-oriented resolutions lead to discouragement and/or embarrassment. What if you don't lose 35 pounds? What if you only lose 25 pounds? 25 pounds is a clear win! You've changed your life in an incredibly powerful way, but it still feels like a loss because you fell short of your goal.

Problem #3: Product-oriented resolutions are short-term, and thus short-lived. To continue the weight-loss example, what happens after you lose the 35 pounds? Your only goal was to get it off. Now that you've accomplished that, are you going to go crazy with food again? People lose weight on diets all the time, but the weight doesn't stay off because the goal was to procure the product of a certain weight-loss number, rather than to establish a life-style that includes the practices that lead inexorably to weight-loss and long-term health.

Now let's look at the same group of resolutions from a practice-orientation, rather than a product-orientation:

In 2013 I will write for one hour every day!

In 2013 I will exercise at least four times a week!

In 2013 I will spend 30 minutes a day studying Spanish!

In 2013 I will save 15% of my gross income every single month!

In 2013 I will meditate on a verse of Scripture every day!

All of these practices lead to your desired products, but because the focus is on the practices, rather than the products, your heart and mind are protected from being overwhelmed by the immensity of the task of producing a product like a book, or learning a new language. Bettering your life is not about amassing more products, it is about developing the practices that make you feel good about yourself when you go to bed at night. So stop thinking about what you want to produce, and start thinking about what you will practice in 2013. Focus on those practices and get em right, and you'll produce more products than you ever thought you could possibly produce. Its called bearing fruit!

P.S. My new book, A Path Through Mighty Waters, will help you tremendously with the last resolution! :-) To buy it on Google Play, click here. To buy it on Amazon, click here.

The 21st Century Reformation

In the 16th century Martin Luther emphasized the biblical theme of the priesthood of all believers as a critique of what he saw as an overemphasis upon the professional priesthood in the Roman Catholic Church. Luther contended that from a biblical perspective, every believer in Jesus Christ is a priest, not just the professional clergy. Inspired by Luther, William Tyndale set out to translate the Bible into English, having devoted his life to the prospect of making the Scriptures accessible to the common man. In a famous encounter with a group of priests whom Tyndale rebuked for placing the words of the pope above those of Scripture, Tyndale declared: "...if God spares my life, ere many years, I will cause the boy that driveth the plow to know more of the Scriptures than thou dost!" (see Foxes Book of Martyrs, chapter XII)

While nearly 500 years have passed since Luther tacked the 95 Theses to the door of the Wittenburg Cathedral, it is now time for a new reformation! Tyndale (and others in the tradition of Wycliff) sought to make the bible accessible to the masses by translating it into the language of the common man. That has proven to be a highly successful pursuit, as now bible translations abound, and anyone with internet access has access to as many free bible translations as their hearts desire! But my contention is that we have not gone far enough in providing the means for equipping the average believer with the weapons that comprise the arsenal of the average pastor.

Seminaries and bible colleges are for those who are called to full-time ministry, right? But see, there's the problem right there! We are all full-time ministers! Every believer in Jesus Christ is called to the ministry, not just pastors and teachers! Ministry is not just an event, not just something that happens within the four walls of the local church; ministry is everything that every believer does in the world as a representation of Christ. Just as we expect pastors to be serious about preparing themselves for the sacred task of declaring the gospel to the people of God and rightly dividing the word of truth, so we must begin to expect every member of the body of Christ to get serious about preparing themselves to bear witness to the resurrection and glory of Jesus Christ in the work place...in the realms of education, of politics and government, of arts and media, of family, of entertainment, of science and medicine, etc. Every believer is called with a holy calling, and that means that we must get serious about preparing every believer to fulfill that holy calling!

The problem is that the traditional routes take too much time and money. A seminary education can cost $60k or more, and typically requires three years of full-time study or more. We cannot expect every believer to drop everything and go to seminary, and in fact such a decision would not be wise. Seminary will continue to be a viable option for those who are called to professional/vocational ministry within the local church, and/or those called to be biblical scholars and theologians. Seminary is not the problem; the problem is that there is no viable alternative for those called to serve in non-church related realms. If such an alternative existed...a way of providing the core content of a seminary education to every believer in a digestible, understandable, and practically applicable package, it would spell the beginning of a new reformation...a 21st century reformation!

What if every Christian took their calling seriously? What if Christians in the secular workplace saw themselves as the pastors and teachers divinely appointed to serve there? I know, this type of rhetoric is already widely used in the body of Christ. But I still don't believe it is really taken seriously. Pastors are expected to pray fervently and study the Scriptures intensely as they prepare themselves to bring the word of God to bear upon the people of God. But how many marketplace Christians prepare themselves with the same intensity before going to work in the morning? Christians in the marketplace tend to say that they see themselves as full-time ministers, but they rarely take that calling seriously enough to take the time to arm themselves with the accoutrements of the task set before them. Workplace evangelism tends to take the form of simplistic spiritual platitudes and invitations to come to my church on Sunday! "Come hear my pastor preach," is not what Jesus meant when he commanded us to make disciples of all nations! What if every member of the church had just as much depth in the word as the pastor? Now that would constitute a real reformation that actualizes the priesthood of all believers!

We are a kingdom of priests! But we've got to get ourselves ready! We've got to take our calling seriously! Its not enough to sit under a pastor who knows the word intimately; you've got to know the word intimately yourself! And you've got to prepare yourself to give a reason for the hope that you have to anyone who asks! Its time for the church of the 21st century to wake up from its slumber, and when that day comes every member of every church will rise up and take their place! This is my passion in a nutshell: If the Lord spares my life, ere many years, I will cause the boy that driveth the plow to know more of the Scriptures than the average pastor!

Are you ready to take your place? Let Abba University start you on your journey! We can provide you with the core content of a seminary education without the complexity of technical research papers and obscure academic reading! We equip our online classrooms with high quality HD video lectures that are deep enough to challenge you, yet simple enough to engage you, and our courses require as little as one hour per week! And here's the best part: the cost to you is only $95 per course! 

Don't wait another day: register today and let Abba U empower you to take your place in the 21st century reformation!

Registration closes on December 14th at 9pm
Class begins on December 17th

The Glocal Church II

In my previous entry I discussed the secular dimensions of what I see as the next great revolution of our generation and how it is reshaping our definition of locality. My argument was that technological advancements in the realms of communication and transportation have affectively made the world a smaller place...and since locality is primarily about accessibility, as our accessibility increases our local spheres of influence and relationship also increase!

In this post I'd like to discuss a primary spiritual dimension of this next great revolution. My argument is simple: church is about to change! In fact, the transition has already begun, and if we are to catch the wave of the next great move of God we must shift our hearts and minds into alignment with what God is doing in the body of Christ!

So what is God up to, and how will it change the way we do church? From my perspective the answer to that question is found in Malachi 4:5-6.

Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord. And he will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the earth with a curse.

We have entered into the season in which God is releasing the spirit of Elijah within the body of Christ, and the role of the spirit of Elijah is to return the spirit of fatherhood and sonship to the body of Christ. God is removing the curse of fatherless from the earth by causing there to be a turning of the hearts of fathers toward their children, and the hearts of children towards their fathers. Where this does not take place, a curse remains on the land.

To state this clearly, God is reviving the role of the spiritual father in the body of Christ, and in doing so he is teaching us how to become his children, and how to become mature sons and daughters of God! This is the great revolution that is just now beginning to break forth in the body of Christ that corresponds to the social revolution that is happening in the world. Together, these two great movements will completely transform the way we see church, the way we see our role in the kingdom of God, and the way we grow in our relationships with each other and with God.

However, when I say this this movement is just now beginning I do not mean that people are just now beginning to speak of the realities of spiritual fatherhood and sonship. In fact, the concepts are as old as the body of Christ itself. Paul referred to Timothy as his true son in the faith, and in Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy the concept of the spiritual father has always remained strong. However, Luther and the reformers threw it out because Jesus said that we should call no man father. The result has been an overly individualized form of Christian spirituality that has pervaded the Protestant world, manifesting itself most prominently in the tens of thousands of denominational entities that have cropped up since the reformation.

Yet, even in the past 100 years talk of spiritual fatherhood has begun to creep up in Protestant circles as many evangelicals (especially pentecostal-charismatics) have begun to sense the presence of this reality and have sought to trace its contours.

But the nature of spiritual fatherhood and sonship -- what it really means -- has yet to be adequately articulated and understood within these circles. We've known about it for a long time, but we're just now beginning to understand it. The next step is that we actually begin to practice it!

In the next move of God pastors will begin to see themselves as the spiritual fathers of their congregations and church members will begin to see themselves as the sons and daughters of their respective houses. The result will be an increase in the authority of the set man to bring freedom to the hearts and minds of the sons and daughters of the house and an ability to pass down the things that God reveals from one generation to the next (see Deuteronomy 29:29).

This will change the way we see and do church because what we will look for will be completely different from what we have looked for. The concept of the local church is a spacial concept and it is dependent upon transportational and communicational restrictions. But what will happen as those restrictions are being alleviated by technological advancement is that people will no longer look for a church in their region to join, but will join themselves to the man or woman of God who gives birth to them through their teaching. Sons and daughters are born through teaching, just as we are all born again through the incorruptible seed of the word of God which lives and endures forever (1 Peter 1:23).

This shift in my thinking has taken place gradually over the past few years, but has hit its tipping in just the past 6 months, and it was my experience with the Bermudez family in Oklahoma that brought my thinking on this subject to its present place of clarity. Rene and Naomi Bermudez live in Oklahoma just outside of Tulsa. Through a series of events, Rene discovered a couple of my sermons on youtube and was blessed by them. He them shared them with his wife, who was also blessed. Then he discovered Living Hope's website (one of the two churches that I pastor) and my podcast there and began listening to sermon after sermon with his wife. Then he discovered my blog and facebook fanpage and began digesting everything I communicated there. Finally, he discovered that Living Hope live-streams all of its services and began gathering his family around their computer to participate in our services from Oklahoma.

At the time Rene contacted me he and his family had already been following our ministry for three months. They listened to every sermon, read every blog post and every facebook status update, participated in every service. The only thing they were missing was a connection to the community. Rene finally contacted me with a request that confronted me with a hole in my paradigm: "Can we become members of Living Hope from Oklahoma?" I didn't know what to say; that request didn't fit into my paradigm...so I told him I'd have to pray about it and get back to him.

But how could I turn him and his family away? I had this sense that they had been born into my house through the teaching they had received! I was now responsible for this family just as I am responsible for the teaching. But how could I receive them? They are in Oklahoma, for God's sake! How could they be a part of the community from Oklahoma?!?

Then I realized that the technological advancements in the realm of communication had already begun to answer that question. One of the most powerful community builders that Living Hope has is a facebook members group. As soon as we receive people into membership we add them to that online community, and the interactions that happen there are nothing short of amazing! When someone feels down, they let the group know and the members encourage one another right there on the wall! So much love, so much care, so much encouragement is communicated there, it causes me to marvel!

So we accepted the Bermudez family and livestreamed them into the next membership course. We gave them a Barnabas Partner (I ministry we created to help integrate people into the life of the house) and introduced them to the body. We welcomed them into membership along with the others who went through the process, and then added them to the facebook group. The result is that they are more connected to the life of the house than some people who live around the corner! The community loves them and they love the community! In fact, they are so interactive in the facebook group that someone invited them to their home for dinner, thinking they lived nearby!

How is it that a family in Oklahoma watching a computer screen can be more connected to the life of a church than people who live around the corner from it? Because the life of a church is not regional life, it is spiritual life, and the Spirit transcends space and time. Where the life of the Spirit is imparted between a spiritual father and a spiritual son, there we have a manifestation of "church" that is more family oriented than regionally oriented. The idea behind the local church is that family and community can only happen within a particular locale. This is not true even in the natural! When I moved from the Bay Area to Pasadena to go to Fuller Seminary my parents did not say, "Its been great having you as a Robinson, but now your first priority in Pasadena is to find a new family to be a part of." No, I was always a son of Peter and Diane Robinson, and that sonship has never been a spacial phenomenon. So why do we send off church members to new cities and instruct them to find a new spiritual family? Because our concept of the local church is communal, but not familial. When you are a son, you are a son, and that transcends location.  And how do I know who my sons are? My sons are those who receive my teaching! And my spiritual father is the one whose teaching I receive as a son. Wherever this occurs in the world, we've just begun to experience church the way God intends it in the days to come. Locality, from this perspective, is a spiritual phenomenon, not a regional phenomenon.

In the next post I want to flesh out spiritual fatherhood and sonship with greater detail in order to reach for greater clarity on this all-important reality! Thanks for sticking with me. I'd love to hear your thoughts!