Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Power, Prayer and Proclamation

“Why do we see so few genuine miracles in our day?”  Have you ever asked this question? I certainly have. We see a lot of hype, psychological manifestations and pseudo-miracles, but my heart aches for the real and the holy. It’s not that God has decided not to ‘do miracles’ anymore so the problem isn’t His. Could it be ours?

It is not only the scarcity of miracles that concerns me, it is also the disconnect between how we live and what we observe in the lives of the early disciples. Those men and women who made up the first century church were passionate about Jesus and powerful in the way they ministered in His name. When they prayed with one heart and mind the place they were in shook (Acts 4:31). When Peter’s shadow fell on the sick they were healed (Acts 5:15).  They were devoted to God and to each other (Acts 2:42-47). When they preached they did not call for a ‘while all heads are bowed’ secret response to the Gospel. Instead they proclaimed boldly, “Repent then, and turn to God” (Acts 3:19). They were different to people around them and different to most believers today.

In 2005 George Barna conducted a survey among United States Christians. Among other things, he ascertained that:

  • The typical churched believer will die without leading a single person to a lifesaving knowledge of, and relationship with, Jesus Christ.
  • Churched Christians give away an average of about 3% of their income in a typical year, and feel pleased at their ‘sacrificial’ generosity.
  • The likelihood of a married couple who are born-again churchgoers getting divorced is the same as couples who are not disciples of Jesus.
So the terrible reality seems to be that most of us are no different to unsaved people. I guess if we want to minister miraculously as Jesus did we need to live as He did – differently. If we want to experience what the early disciples experienced then we need to be like them.

These observations have troubled me deeply for several years and so I set out to try to identify the root causes of my dilemma. Of course it is a hopeless quest to try to simplify such a complex issue and to reduce it to a set of prescriptions. However, my main findings are as follows:

Most of us have an essentially materialistic mindset. We need to realise that the Kingdom of God is shifted 180o to the kingdom of this world (John 18:36). What is more, it is the worldly kingdom that is up side down, not the Kingdom of God.  Problems occur when we still live as if the world is the right way up; as though it were the same as the Kingdom of God. To act differently we need to first think differently. I believe that as we start to see the world as it really is, from a spiritual perspective, we will begin to speak and act as the early disciples did.

We also have a terrible misconception of who we are. Most disciples of the Lord Jesus see themselves primarily as servants, even slaves. Our favourite prayer is “Lord, please use me”. Yet the New Testament revelation is that we are sons and daughters of the Most High God.  “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” (1 John 3:1). The wonderful passage in Galatians (3:26 to 4:7) that sets out our true status ends with the words, “so you are no longer a slave, but a son.’ Of course we serve, as bond-slaves, but service defines what we do, not who we are. We are sons and daughters who serve. There is a profound difference between a son and a slave mentality. A slave defines who he is in terms of what he does. A son determines what he does because of who he is.

Perhaps the underlying reason we are generally so passionless and powerless is that we have failed to realise just who we really are. Consider some of the implications of sonship:

  • The privilege of prayer, both personal and corporate.
  • The prerogative of revelation.
  • The potential for empowerment.
  • The response of service.
  • The catalyst of revival.
That’s what I want! What about you?

My third major finding was that so many of us seem to have become confused concerning the nature of prayer, the stewardship of spiritual power, and the need to proclaim in word and ministry – prayer, power, and proclamation.

Regarding prayer, we have largely reduced what is meant to be intimate communion with God into stylised categories such as petition, intercession, and so on.  When did prayer stop being simple heartfelt communication, and start becoming a series of formulas?

We also seem to have confused prayer with proclamation. For instance, some folk address demons, and even the devil, as part of a ‘prayer’ meeting. Others deliver mini sermons to others in the group over God’s shoulder. Do you know what I mean? “Dear Lord, let us….” Or even as blatant as lecturing others and then adding “and so Lord, help us to….” We also routinely pray for the sick when Jesus actually instructed us to heal the sick. Have you noticed that Jesus never prayed for people who needed His ministry?  None of the accounts of Jesus casting out demons or healing, record Him as praying for the afflicted person. He simply instructed, proclaimed, declared, and imparted healing and life.

Regarding power, a lot of people either effectively deny that God still imparts ‘power from on high’, or limit it to an initial, once off,  ‘baptism in the Spirit’ experience. Yet surely one of God’s responses to our prayers is to empower us so that we can grow up as His children to be and do as Jesus did. And that is what we can experience!

Finally, having prayed and received power from on high, we need to proclaim in word and deed – we need to speak and do in the power of the Holy Spirit and under the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ. So, perhaps as we restore the dynamic unity of prayer, power, and proclamation we will live our lives in Christ more as the early disciples did and experience more of the miraculous Kingdom of God..

Being Filled With The Spirit

In the seventies, my wife Pat and I became disciples of the Lord Jesus. The first church we attended was a traditional Pentecostal assembly, and the leaders wasted no time in instructing us in the need for baptisms. First they baptised us by immersion in water and then, some months later, they laid hands on us to be baptised in the Holy Spirit. The Charismatic renewal was in full flood then and we were soon exposed to people who identified themselves as ‘born again, baptised in the spirit, tongues talking believers’. It came as a sad shock to realise that some folk regarded themselves as higher class citizens in the Kingdom of God because of their ‘second experience’. Our naivety was also assaulted by traditional folk who thought that being ‘born again’ was some sort of cult membership initiation. On the one hand we heard Charismatics referred to as ‘holy rollers’, and on the other to traditional worshippers as ‘the frozen chosen’. My, my, my!

If we unpack the core differences concerning the ministry of the Holy Spirit from their traditional and language wrappings, it comes down to the following: Pentecostals and most Charismatics believe that there are two distinct experiences of the Holy Spirit. The first is when He gives us new spiritual life and we are born anew from above. The second is when He empowers us for ministry. The first experience is being ‘born again’ and the second is being ‘baptised in the Holy Spirit’. 

The teaching of the traditional non-Pentecostals is that there is only one experience, and that we receive the full blessing of the Holy Spirit when we are converted from the dominion of darkness to the Kingdom of God – “For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body — whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free — and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.” (1 Corinthians 12:13 NIV) Lying between these two positions is the path I choose to walk. I accept that when we become disciples of the Lord Jesus, the Holy Spirit gives us a new spiritual life, and we are thus born again in a very real sense. I also believe that the Holy Spirit empowers us for life and ministry many times afterwards. I understand that sometimes there is a significant time delay between conversion and effective empowerment and I can see that in these cases an encounter with the Holy Spirit can be a dramatic and radical ‘second’ experience at a level of intensity beyond subsequent anointings. 

For me, the issue is not so much the label we attach to the experiences, nor the timing of these encounters with the Holy Spirit, but the fact that we need to fully embrace His presence and ministry in our lives. A key text is Ephesians 5:18 where, in the context of God’s will for us, it has; “Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit” (NIV). The Greek word translated as ‘be filled’ is a present tense imperative verb. The present tense indicates that it is something that should occur repeatedly.  The imperative indicates a command, or at least an entreaty.  This statement embraces both initial and subsequent experiences of the empowering ministry of the Holy Spirit. More than this, it points us firmly to the need for frequent spiritual infillings. Perhaps, to avoid any confusion it would be better to refer to being filled with the Holy Spirit rather than baptised in the Holy Spirit. In this way we will not restrict ourselves to just one formative, post regeneration, spiritual experience.

The Greek word pleero├║sthe, ‘be filled’, contains a further aid to our understanding; it is in the passive voice. This means that we, the objects, receive the action, we do not generate it. We receive an infilling of power from on high and it is the Holy Spirit who does the filling. He gives and we receive. We do not ‘plug into’ some heavenly power; rather we receive from the one who is the very source of spiritual power – the Holy Spirit Himself.

When I discuss the spiritual manifestations of 1 Corinthians 12 with some folk, a fairly common response goes something like this; “Why do I need to speak in tongues and what difference would it make if I did?” I point out that tongues are a form of prayer (1 Corinthians 14:2) and provide the believer with a Holy Spirit given means of expressing adoration and dependence that goes far beyond the limitations of our mother language. A similar question can be posed; “I am saved by the grace of God, so why do I need to be ‘spirit filled’?” Well, if you have been regenerated, born again, then in a way you are already ‘spirit filled’. But are you effective in life and ministry? When you put a new rechargeable battery into a torch you will have the ability to shed light. But batteries discharge by being used, and rechargeable batteries loose their current even when the torch is not in use. We are much like that – if we are not recharged then we loose what charge we have. Being filled with the Spirit is just not an optional, charismatic, religious experience – it is a spiritual life, and light, necessity!

When Zerubbabel returned to Jerusalem from Babylonia to rebuild the Temple, the prophet Zechariah spoke this word of God to him; “‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,' says the Lord Almighty.” (Zechariah 4:6 NIV) He could attempt to rebuild the temple by organizational group might or by personal power, and in this way erect a building. However, only the anointing power of the Holy Spirit could enable him to restore the Temple, the place where God dwelt by His Spirit. We too can do many good works in our own strength. By organizing and mobilising the church we can do even greater works. But if we are not anointed by the Holy Spirit for these tasks then that is all they will ever be, good works. NGOs’ and social societies can do good works, but only a spirit filled disciple of the Lord Jesus can make an eternal difference in the lives and destinies of people and nations. Is this a bold claim? Perhaps it is, but this is how I understand the prophetic word to Zerubbabel and the injunction of the Lord Jesus to His disciples not to leave Jerusalem but to “wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about.” (Acts 1:4 NIV)

So then, we NEED to be spirit filled, not just once, but often. But what do we need to do? ....We need to ask. Jesus said this; "Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!" (Luke 11:11-13 NIV) It is so simple that it is almost impossible for us to comprehend. “Just ask?” “Yes, just ask!” However, asking is not a perfunctory or casual enquiry. To ask for empowerment is to acknowledge total dependence on God. To ask Him to fill us with His Spirit is to admit that we cannot be effective without His empowerment. Perhaps this is why we so often fail to ask… to really ask. James pinpoints the problem; “You do not have, because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives…” (James 4:2-3 NIV) This is hard to swallow, but it is often the true diagnosis of our condition.

We need to be constantly filled with the Spirit and we need to express our motive and humility by asking. If we do, then will we instantly be ‘mighty men of God’ or ‘wondrous women of faith’? Probably not, but I believe we will become more effective in ministry than we were before, and we will be more sanctified in lifestyle than we were. The Holy Spirit both empowers and frees from sin. Anything, no matter how seemingly insignificant, done in the anointing power of the Holy Spirit can make a life-changing difference and even a small adjustment towards holy living, affected by the work of the Holy Spirit, can change us eternally.

We can argue about being baptised in, by, or with the Holy Spirit. We can set ourselves above others because of our claim to a higher experience of the Spirit. We can discuss when the various acts of grace occur in our lives. But all of this will not change anything! What changes us, our church, and our world, is the power of God. Being spirit-filled is not the subject of a doctrine or a tradition, it is a spiritual life necessity.

God Is Not A User

Sincere disciples of the Jesus often pray, “Lord use me, please use me.” The intention is honest – they want to be useful, to serve, to make a difference, and to extend the Kingdom of God. However, the particular choice of words reveals something seriously amiss.

Generals use troops to attack enemy positions, often with massive loss of life. In biblical times, rich men used slaves for their pleasure and profit. Morally corrupt, or desperate, mothers use their little children to beg at intersections. But God does not use His children!

In Old Testament times God occasionally used pagan kings to achieve His ends (Isa 7:20). Once He used a great fish, a vine, and a worm (Jonah).  He even used a donkey (Numbers 22:28). But He never used His children! Jesus used language (John 10:6 16:25) and He taught us to use our worldly wealth (Luke 16:9). But He never used His disciples!

Those who are born again of the Spirit, who are disciples of Jesus, are sons not slaves (Galatians 4:7). We are children of God. We are sons who serve, not servants who pretend to be sons. (Ladies, for ‘sons’ please read ‘daughters’). Listen to this; ‘How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!’ (1 John 3:1). We are children of God, not tools God uses to achieve His grand purposes. We are sons and daughters of the Most High, not dispensable ‘canon fodder’ in some cosmic conflict between good and evil.

How we understand our relationship to God has a profound effect on our theology and on the way we live. As His children, God has one overarching purpose for our lives – that we come to know Jesus, grow to be like Him, and help others to do likewise. To achieve this, God draws us into a co-operative relationship. He allows us to work with Him, to speak for Him, and to minister in His name and power. As we obediently co-operate, we grow and mature, from glory to glory -   ‘And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit’. (2 Corinthians 3:18)

Theologically, this understanding sheds light on issues such as God’s sovereignty versus man’s freedom to choose - God sovereignly grants us a meaningful degree of discretion so that we can mature as His children. It also helps us understand how the scriptures can be both divinely inspired and humanly produced. - God worked with human authors to produce what He wanted recorded for our growth and guidance.

At an entirely practical level, our understanding of our relationship to God makes a major difference to how we live. “God use me” implies a lack of responsibility and accountability, because if God chooses not to use me, then so be it, it’s not my fault. However, if God allows me into a co-operative venture with Himself, then I have a part to play, no matter how small.

God’s co-operation with us also sets a powerful example for us to follow. If God uses people then so should we! But, if God co-operates with us for our growth, then so should we co-operate with others for their growth. How many marriages have collapsed because husbands try to use their wives?! How many children grow into dysfunctional adulthood because parents try to use them for their own ambitions, pleasures, or vicarious achievements?!

Think too of the effect on church leadership. Elders are supposed to emulate Christ and grow His people. Pastors do not own churches, nor should they use churches to further their goals. Pastors should follow the example of Jesus, and give of themselves so that the church members can become more like the one they follow… Jesus!

So, “Lord, please use me” is probably not what we should pray. Rather pray; “Lord help me to follow you. Help me to serve others in your name. Give me ears to hear and eyes to see, a mind that seeks after you, and a heart of love for you and your children. Lord, help me please to be more like Jesus. Amen.”

Our way or God's Way

There is a way that seems right to man, but in the end it leads to death

It’s the start of another year. Perhaps we should number it 2008 PC – the year two thousand and eight, Post Crash! The end of last year was a dark time for our share prices, property values, interest rates, rand value, and inflation rate. When the smoke clears away from the rubble of our fallen financial edifices we will no doubt realize that the whole towering financial system was built on flawed foundations. Kingdom of God finances stand on the principles of earning before spending and creating before consuming. However, the financial foundation of the kingdom of this world is to borrow and spend today in the hope that tomorrow we will be able to borrow and spend even more! But, Romans 13:8 reads, ‘Owe nothing to anyone – except for your obligation to love one another’ NLT. With hindsight, it seems like the world went down a wrong path and hit a brick wall in 2008.

Proverbs 14:12 reads, ‘There is a way that seems right to man, but in the end it leads to death’ NIV. It makes two points that we should ponder carefully as we go into 2009. The first is that our ways are seldom God’s ways, and the second is that we need to carefully consider the destination to which our paths lead.

Isaiah 55:8 states the first point in stark terms; “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways, my ways, declares the Lord’.  We can’t deny the evidential truth of this. Jesus chooses two men, Paul and Barnabas, to reach the Gentile world – our way would probably be mass rallies and crusades, TV campaigns, and the like. Jesus taught that to get much we need to give much – we say that to get much, borrow much!

Why is it that we so often find ourselves going down our own way, rather than God’s way? I don’t think it’s because we don’t want God’s way, or that we don’t pray or read the Bible enough. I think the prime reason is that we just don’t understand God’s ways. His ways are so different to what we are accustomed, what we have been taught through the educational system, and what we see modelled all around us. We need to be transformed by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:2). But how do we do this? How do we reform our mindsets? At the risk of over simplifying, I suggest a three step process.

Step One:  Stop thinking and doing what we already know to be contrary to God’s way. ‘Now reform your ways and your actions and obey the Lord your God’ Jeremiah 26:13 How can we walk down God’s way if we are consciously walking down another path?

Step Two:  Seek God’s way with wholehearted attention. Obviously this entails reading the Bible, but it means more; to seek His ways means that we must diligently study, meditate on, and practice the words and deeds of the Lord Jesus Christ. God walked this Earth, He struck a path through time, He showed us the Way, and He caused this way to be recorded in scripture for us. And His way is not just a set of values or doctrines, but an ongoing and vital relationship with Himself, for Jesus said, “I am the Way…” (John 14:6). Before the early disciples were called Christians, they were known as the people of The Way. That’s what we should be today; people of His Way.

Step Three:  Having repented of known error in our ways, and having steeped ourselves in the life of Jesus, we need to walk with wholehearted trust down God’s Way in our lives. ‘Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths’ (Proverbs 3:5-6)

Oh dear, I have just run out of column space – I have exceeded my allotted words  and I don’t have room to deal with the second point that Proverbs 14:12 makes. I do hope this is not going to be indicative of the year ahead.

May God bless you in 2009, may He make His way clear to us, and may we walk in it.

The Privilege of Prayer

In my previous article (Joy! August 2009) I asked why we, as Christians, are generally so passionless and powerless. I suggested that one of the reasons was that so many of us are confused concerning the nature of prayer, the stewardship of spiritual power, and the need to proclaim in word and ministry – Prayer, Power, and Proclamation.

Part of the problem, as I see it, is that we have separated these three elements instead of integrating them into one - three yet one. Conversely, we tend to confuse these elements with each other.

A well known adage is, ‘there is power in prayer’. But there is no power in prayer. Prayer precedes power, but in itself, prayer is simply communion with God. Prayer is the communication component of our end of an intimate relationship with our heavenly Father. God is certainly powerful, but how can the act of speaking to him have power in itself? Yet preachers often tell us that prayer ‘works’ (another expression which confounds me). Powerful results of prayer are simply evidence of God’s response.

We confuse the response with the request when we say that there is power in prayer. Even more seriously, we confuse the object with the method. God is the one to whom we pray (object), and prayer is the method of communicating with him. Yet prayer is foundational to both power and proclamation. In prayer we express our dependence on God and our willingness to proclaim His will in word and deed. In prayer we ask Him to fill us with power from on high so that we are able to powerfully proclaim His word.

As children of God, we also ask Him, in prayer, to exercise His power to achieve what we perceive to be valid kingdom endeavours. It might appear on the surface that our prayers have released power, but it is actually God who chooses to manifest His power. An example of this is in Acts 4:29-30, where the disciples prayed, “Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. Stretch out your hand to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” Verse 32 records that “After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.” The disciples prayed, and God responded with a mighty demonstration of his power.

However, the text also reveals that God went further than just demonstrating His power; He also filled the disciples with spiritual energy so that they could speak His word with boldness. This is the second level connection between prayer and power. God may respond to prayer with direct acts of power, but He may also respond by imparting power to us, His children, so that we can act in His name. This seems to be the Father’s preferred response to our prayer requests. Why? I think it is because He wants us to grow up to be responsible and mature members of his household; children who have learned both dependence on Him and responsible stewardship of His authority and power.

As always, let’s take our queue from Jesus. Matthew chapter seventeen records how Jesus went up a mountain to pray. Whilst He was praying, He had a dynamic spiritual encounter, heard the voice of the Father, and received an illuminating anointing. Jesus then went down the mountain and cast out a demon from a suffering boy - Prayer, followed by the receipt of power, followed by proclamation.

Prayer precedes power, and power is essential to effective proclamation. In my next article I will present something from my latest book ‘P3’ concerning power from on high.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Women in Ministry

Confusion, not Confucius, says, “He who handles hot potatoes seeks burnt fingers or mash!” I seek to produce some nutritious mashed potatoes, but I am bound to get my fingers burnt. The sub-title of this article should be, “A position on women in ministry in 728 words… and other miracles!”. I can’t do justice in such a short article to this important topic, and I can’t even attempt to discuss the matter. What I can do though, is make some statements and hope that they stimulate a healthy appetite for the subject.

When dealing with a topic like this we, as Christians, can come at it from one of two directions. We can start with modern culture and then seek biblical support and justification, or we can seek to understand what the Bible teaches and then try to apply this to our time and culture. This second way is my convicted choice.

First off, let me state my firm belief that women and men are equal. In Christ, men and women are equally children of God. Role distinctions do not imply inequality in human society any more than they do within the divine society of the Godhead.

There are however differences between role/office and function/ministry. Roles within the family, and offices within the church, are specific positions of responsibility. Functions within the family and ministries within the church are non gender specific areas of service.

I believe that a woman should function in any capacity within the family. Income production, financial management, and so on, are not exclusively male domains. Child care, cooking, and so on, are not exclusively female functions. However I believe that the man should assume the headship role in the normal two-parent home. 1 Corinthians 11:3, “Now I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of woman is man…

I believe that a woman should minister anywhere within the church body. Teaching, preaching, and leading are not exclusively male ministries. Elders lead but not all leaders are Elders. Preaching and teaching are to be under the oversight and direction of Elders, but this applies equally to men and women. Sunday school, caring, and dance are not exclusively female ministries. However, I believe that only men should hold the office of Elders in the Church. (Titus 1:6-9  1 Timothy 3:1-7 etc.)

The way I understand it is that headship is God’s wise provision for order and health within both family and church. He has ordained that husbands should be the head of their homes under His mandate as prescribed in scripture. He has also ordained that in the extended family of the church … Christ should be head. Ephesians 5:23 “For the husband is head of the wife as Christ is head of the church…”  In the family wives have authority under mandate from their husbands as prescribed in scripture. In the church a group of male Elders have authority under mandate from Christ Jesus as prescribed in scripture. So Elders stand in the same relationship to the church as wives do to the family – Elders are wives and mothers, not husbands and fathers. Jesus is the head and husband of the church and God the Father is… well, the father.

But what is headship?  As I see it, a head is one who is given authority, within a specific mandate, to be the final arbiter. A Managing Director is head of a company under mandate from the board of directors. A President is head of a country under mandate from its citizens through constitution and vote.  Husbands are heads of their families and Elders have delegated and derived headship of the church.

I mentioned earlier my belief that women can and should preach and teach within the church. I understand ‘teaching’, in the sense that Paul views it in 1 Timothy 2:12, to be linked to authority. Only the Elders have authority to establish doctrine and practises within the local church. Having done this, then I cannot see why a woman, equipped and gifted for this ministry, should not preach or teach within the mandate of established doctrine and under the oversight of the Elders.

So there you have it – mashed potatoes without, I sincerely hope, too many of my sensitive little fingers being burnt. 

Inverted Kingdoms

 It is hard to run when you are walking on your hands! What a strange thing to write. What I mean by this is that it is very difficult to move fast in a world that is up-side-down. This would be very much like walking on our hands in a normal world. It would be even harder if we could use our legs but we had to run on the ceiling. Yet, actually, we are living in a world that is topsy turvy. From a spiritual perspective, it is completely inverted; it is up-side-down, and in-side-out, and back-to-front!

Many years ago, some psychologists conducted an experiment with a group of volunteers. They gave them each a special pair of spectacles which turned everything they saw upside-down. The poor guinea pigs had to wear these spectacles all the time. In a sense, the spectacles turned them on their heads. I can imagine the confusion, frustration, and physical discomfort they must have experienced. After many days, something wonderful occurred. Their brains made the adjustment and simply turned the visual inputs 180┬║. Suddenly their worlds were the right way up again. Of course, you can guess what happened next. The researchers took away their spectacles, and the world once again turned upside-down!

In a figurative a sense, we are born with spiritual inversion contact lenses. We don’t know we have them, and we have no idea that the world we see is actually upside-down. Because we are born with these lenses, we feel at ease and we operate reasonably well. Then, later in life, we start to realise that things are not as they should be. We become aware of a spiritual world, parallel to and interwoven with the material world. We observe that this spiritual realm seems to operate entirely differently to the world into which we were born. Our discomfort becomes intense when the Holy Spirit regenerates us and we are born again. As we read the Bible and learn to listen to the Holy Spirit, we become painfully conscious of the differences between the Kingdom of God and the kingdom of this world. The values, principles, and priorities of these two kingdoms are inverted in relation to each other. For instance, in the Kingdom of God, victory is through surrender not conquest. In the material realm, we live and then we die; in the spiritual realm, we die in order that we may live. In the world, we focus on getting, but in the Kingdom of God, we focus on giving. Jesus teaches us to love our enemies instead of hating them. It is all so much in contrast to the way the material world operates.

Enlightenment, in the Christian sense, is the experience of taking out those spiritual contact lenses and perceiving the world as it really is. Spiritual transformation is the process of adjusting to the new reality, and learning to live differently. At first, it is disturbing and disorientating, but after a time we are able to make the adjustment. Our reality flip-flops, and we become conscious that we are walking the right way up in a world that is upside-down. Jesus said, “My Kingdom is not of this world…” (John 18:36). He also said that “the Kingdom of God does not come with your careful  observation, nor will people say, ‘Here it is’, or ‘There it is’, because the Kingdom of God is within (among) you.” (Luke 17:20-21)

The problem occurs when we still live as if the world is the right way up; as though it were the same as the Kingdom of God. We try to apply physical laws to spiritual realities – and we fall off the ceiling! We attempt to apply business principles to church life, and we end up with a church that looks, feels, and is … just like a business, not a church.

We need to realise that the principles of the Kingdom of God are very different to the principles of the kingdoms of this world. We must also acknowledge that our thinking needs to change radically, if we are to operate successfully in the realm of the spirit

Finally, we need to commit to speaking and acting differently, and then diligently practicing until the 1800 shift occurs. I have written a book in an attempt to help us all to come down off our spiritual ceilings and walk tall through the Kingdom of God – It’s called P3: Prayer, Power, and Proclamation and you can obtain it at www.chrispy.co.za