Thursday, February 27, 2014

Release the Primal Fire Within, Part Two

Perhaps the greatest impediment to the church’s work in the world is not discovering what to do but what to stop doing. So much of what happens in the church is programs and methods designed to put something into the disciples. But as we’ve seen in the previous post, we have the fullness of Christ and all His gifts already within us. So, what’s needed instead of a “putting in” is a drawing out of what Jesus has already placed there.

Leadership in the New Testament is about equipping the saints to serve the Head, not doing ministry for them...or even to them. We are not to strive to get our teaching into the saints, but to equip them to use the deposit already in them to teach others. This is a radical change in approach for those who lead.

Church leadership must shift from trying to put good stuff into Christians and start releasing the God-stuff already within. That is a complete 180º turn for most in church ministry. The deposit is already made and the treasure is within, sealed with a pledge that cannot be broken  (2 Tim 1:14; Eph 1:13-14). Christ in you is the hope of glory...and nothing else is (Col 1:27). Our role as leaders is not to try and add anything to it in some egotistic way as if we have anything that deserves to be in the same conversation. Imagine telling people that they have the powerful, continual, presence of the Spirit of Christ within them, and if they just add my teaching or read my book they can be used by God. Sounds awful doesn't it. Because it is. Our role is to help people realize what they already have and walk in that power rather than try and put anything within them. All leadership, speaking, books and methods should be about that.

Maturity in Christ is about discovering who you are in Christ, rather than trying to become something that you are not. Equippers have a single role, help people discover what it means to be connected to the Head and to serve Jesus.

This post is adapted from content in my book Primal Fire

Monday, February 24, 2014

Release The Primal Fire Within, Part One

Hetty Green, called the witch of wall street, died in 1914 as the richest woman in the world with an estate worth between $100 and $200 million dollars (that’s a lot of money now, but much, much more then). Though wealthy beyond belief, she lived like a pauper. She would eat cold oatmeal because she refused to pay the expense to heat the water. She would rarely pay the expense to clean her clothes so she was always dressed in worn and dark clothing looking like she came off the streets. When her son injured his leg, she took so long looking for a free clinic for his care that eventually he lost his leg due to infection. 

Like royal heirs living like paupers, we often act as if we’re unaware of the immense power available to us. As bearers of the image of God, there is far more to who we are than most of us realize. It is time for the primal fire that is Christ in us to be awakened and released.

For those who have accepted the grace of God in Christ, our Lord has already invested all that He has in us. We have been blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places (Eph. 1:3). All that we need to live godly in Christ Jesus is already ours (2 Peter 1:3). We lack nothing. Realize what is already within you  (Christ). . . and let it leak out naturally in your words and actions. Stop living life as if you just need a little bit more. There isn't more, you already have more than enough in Christ. You are spiritually wealthy.

Jesus came, died, rose, and sent the Holy Spirit to indwell us with His power. The true beauty within us is liberated, enhanced, and empowered by the  good news of redemption and the resulting mystery of Christ in you, the hope of glory. We don’t have to gain more spirituality; we simply need to live out what is already invested in us. If we are “in Christ,” and thus a “new creation” (2 Corinthians 5:17), everything we need is already within us—young or old, black or white, male or female, rich or poor.

If we are in Christ, we don’t need to try to gain the riches of Christ; we need to realize that Christ’s full treasure is already within us. Doing good works, memorizing more Scripture, praying more, and devoting ourselves to spiritual disciplines will not gain us any more spiritual blessings than we already have. All we will ever need or want is already found within us, and not as the result of good works that we can boast about (Ephesians 2:8-10). In fact, taking the pathway of performance in an effort to gain godliness will only hinder the release of the true blessing that is already within us (Gal. 5:1-12). We need to open our eyes to what we already have, rather than setting our sights on what we think we need.
We are not spiritual paupers, but spiritually wealthy beyond our wildest dreams. Live like an heir of the kingdom of God...and share the true wealth.

This post is adapted from content in my book Primal Fire.

Friday, February 21, 2014

God is Saying Something, We Best Listen

Four books by good friends in the missional church conversation are coming out at the same time and address related themes––but in very different ways. Do not think that if you read one, you have read them all, for that could not be further from the truth. There is actually very little overlap in the content, instead they seem to each build on one another as though designed to do so.

Mike Frost, Casesar Kalinowski, Hugh Halter and myself are friends who are frequently together addressing the missional church and training folks around the world. The four books being released are Incarnate by Mike Frost, Transformed by Casear Kalinowski, Flesh, by Hugh Halter and Primal Fire by myself.

The theme that is overriding all four books is that Christ within us is what makes all the difference in the people of God and their mission in this world. But this theme is addressed in very divergent ways with distinct voices. None of these books are a rerun.

I am convinced that God is saying something important that couldn't be entrusted with just one author or one book. Why not take a short season to delve into this subject by studying these four books one after another? It seems as though God has providentially arranged at this kairos moment to address this important topic. I am inclined to believe that God is saying something to us of utmost importance and he has moved through several people to say it in fullness.

Incarnate By Mike Frost

I have read many of Mike's books and was truly moved and challenged by this one. In fact, I couldn't just skim it in a fast read (as I fully intended); I had to read it slowly and take notes. I didn't really have time to do this, but I had to––it was that good. I think it may actually be his best yet, and that is saying a lot.

Let me just say that I have always loved Mike's books, but he is actually getting better with age! This man is pursuing Christ, learning and maturing as he does. That does not mean his earlier works are not good, but that he is getting better, and I think that is one of the highest praises a follower of Christ can receive.

I would argue, however, that Incarnate is misnamed. It is less about incarnation, and more about the fact that we are living excarnate lives: void of authentic human connections. With cutting social commentary, this book rips a useless band-aid off a lethal wound exposing a serious issue for us all.

Transformed by Caesar Kalinowski

Caesar is a newer author and I was pleasantly surprised by his writing skill. I have known Caesar as a missional practitioner as well as a bold thinker and communicator, but that doesn't always translate into a good book. In this case it does. He not only communicates profound ideas, but he also does so with many real life examples and moving stories.

Transformed is about how the gospel changes us from within so that we live from our new identity in Christ as God's children on mission rather than seeking a sense of importance from external behavior. It flows well and is easy to read.
Flesh by Hugh Halter

I have read most of Hugh's books. He is a prophetic voice and a great story teller. This book is no exception. While I was reading this book I felt self-conscious because of my tears. At other times I would embarrass myself while sitting in a cafe as I bust out laughing at some of his stories. Like Mike (and a good bottle of Scotch), Hugh seems to get better with age.

I understand that Mike and Hugh were originally writing a single book together, but the Lord made it clear that these were two separate works on the same subject but from different angles. I am glad they listened because the result is two very different books that are both needed.

Primal Fire by Neil Cole

Primal Fire is probably my most important work to date. I value all my books in different ways, but the implications of this one affects every kind of church and every kind of Christian in the most profound ways.

Fire is often used to represent God in the Bible. He is the first fire––the primal fire––that consumes, purifies, heals, forges, warms and provides light and serves up nourishment. Whereas the Primal Fire was something people saw at a distance and even followed behind in the Old Testament, in the New Testament it rests upon us and has taken residence within us. The fire now burns within and should be contagious and spread.

This book is a fresh take on Ephesians 4:1-16 and specifically the difference the five gifts of verse 11 makes in the health, development and reproduction of churches. I believe that the Primal Fire within us is Christ and that His strengths are measured to us in five gifts: apostolic, prophetic, evangelistic, shepherding and teaching.

I have known that I was to write this book for 15 years. I tried writing it a few different times and even had to cancel a contract with a major publisher (and pay back the advance) because the timing and content of the book wasn't right...until now.

It cannot be coincidence that these four books all have come out at once. Perhaps they tell a full story together.

Incarnate (Frost) sets the table for the dinner and whets our appetites for what is to come. Transformed (Kalinowski) prepares the food in the kitchen so that it is served fresh and warm. Flesh (Halter) brings it out to the table where we all can see it, smell it, and taste it's goodness. This is a full meal, not just hors d'oeuvres being served up, and Primal Fire (Cole) addresses the menu with all the ingredients and recipes of each course for a balanced culinary experience.

Perhaps an important question to ask is why did we each feel led to write on this theme at this time in this specific way? I suggest that there is an important message that God wants to get across and He is doing so from at least four different angles so that it is a holistic message. Bon appetite!