The New Testament Prophet: Part 1

A MUST HEAR episode of Untangled is up! What is a New Covenant Prophet? Is there such a thing? Some have been taught that prophets don’t exist anymore or that prophecy is the same as teaching. Others have encountered all kinds manipulative, controlling, and cultic practices that have been presented as being prophetic. Loren interviews Dr. Stephen Crosby about his fantastic new book, “The New Testament Prophet: Understanding the Mind, Temperament, and Calling.” His book lays out a grace-based and new covenant perspective regarding the function of prophetic ministry in the New Testament era. This isn’t a “how to” or “predicting the future” book. Rather, it’s about relational wellness and integration AS prophetic people, WITH prophetic people, and AMONG the diversely gifted and configured body of Christ. You can pick up Dr. Crosby’s book at www.stevecrosby.com

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Father is Doing Something Remarkable

Father is doing something remarkable in rural Kenya. A few years ago, a typical missionary family from the states was living Kenya. They were trying to serve God using the usual methods they were trained in from the institutional church to reach out to the community they were in. During that time, something just wasn’t sitting right with them, and Johnny Brooks was writing about it on his blog. He shared his frustrations of how Christian religiousness was running rampant as a clever money making scheme for the local ‘pastors’, and how the truly needy were being taken advantage of.

As we were developing our FRM website and blog, I was often online doing searches for other blogs that were talking about life outside of the institutional church. Part of our vision for this site was to share what others were doing, and to help tell the story of their experience living loved and following Father’s heart. One of my searches led me to Johnny’s blog Pure Christianity. We began to communicate back and forth via e-mail and in 2008 while Johnny is in the states, he had the opportunity to visit me and stay in my home for a couple of days. I even introduced him to his first In and Out burger. We discovered that we were both on the same page.  We both sensed that Father had a bigger plan beyond how the institutional church had been doing missions for the past 100 years. There was a genuine hunger to engage in a more relational organic way of doing missions as the church in Kenya.

Jumping off the page

This was the first time I had encountered anything like this. We had interviewed folks for our Church Outside the Walls video series that were doing ministry outreach outside of the traditional methods of the I.C. (institutional church) in their communities. These folks were here in the states with their own jobs supplying their financial needs, but a missionary family seriously considering stepping away from the I.C. and its obvious financial support while living 10,000 miles from home, was all together new. They were jumping off the pages of all the blogs and the conversations in podcasts about living relationally with Father. Easy to talk and write about, but to be immersed into the reality of  completely being vulnerable to the need of financial support?  That takes guts, and putting to the test the strength of the relationships, love and support of their friends and family that believed in them.  And what about the people who left the I.C.? Would they even bother to give to them, since they were now free from the religious obligation of the tithe, and no longer being marinated in guilt from the pulpit? Would anybody even know they were there?

They prayed about it and chose to leave the ‘church planting’ model, and follow their passion for the plight of the orphans in the city the live in. Instead of building an orphanage, they added 9 orphaned/abandoned girls to their family of 5. It’s so easy to wrap your head around institutional things like orphanages, church plants, schools, and so on, but how do you communicate a need for financial support for relational things, without obligation?

Enter social media and crowdfunding.

I have been with the Brooks since they’ve left the I.C. and lost their primary funding source. My friendship with Johnny and Kate has grown ever since. We have journeyed together on this path of missions outside of the I.C. I have tried to communicate and expand the awareness of their mission through social media and crowd funding, since they are no longer have the luxury of a captive audience on a Sunday morning raise support. It hasn’t been easy, or smooth, but there has been growth and expansion, and Father has been faithful. Each year we run a crowdfunding campaign to raise money for their very real needs, and to grow the awareness of their mission. Take a look at it and learn more about A Future and a Hope, and consider giving to it.  Click here: Campaign

God is writing a story of love and hope that astounds me. This is his church. He can really be its head. What can happen in this world as people simply listen to him and do what he asks of them. He truly does all things well!

Bob Humphrey

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Predictability: the Killer of Spiritual Growth and Creativity

A new episode of Untangled is up! When people leave systems of religious obligation they often marvel at the rapid spiritual growth that follows. Loren found the explanation of why this is the case from an unlikely place – a video about economic growth. Loren examines how attempts to avoid surprises in the body of Christ stunts spiritual growth and stops creative thinking.

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A Stirring in the Wilderness

In the early ‘70s God was moving in an extraordinary way among young people. Surfers, hippies and agnostic yuppies were finding Christ and becoming passionate about following him. Those of us a bit older who had known the Lord for some time were “moved upon” as well and thought nothing of giving up all to serve him in reaching and mentoring those coming into a relationship with him. We were excited about God and what he was doing and were full of anticipation regarding the future.

Then we made the mistake of gradually adding our own structure and organization to something that was pure and powerful without it. We slowly digressed from being Spirit led to being guided by human wisdom. Eventually what had been a genuine move of God was institutionalized and began slowly to die. But the institution “lived” on. I became a “pastor” and collected the usual assortment of disappointment, boredom, the nagging feeling that something was wrong, and finally the blessing of disillusionment.

We stopped everything and cried out to God. He answered. Bottom line, he said to fold up and get out. It seemed natural to give it all up and follow him. Once more the sense of adventure and anticipation for the future beat again in our aging hearts. Father began un- wrapping us from religion layer by layer just as Lazarus was unwound from his long strips of linen grave clothes. New found freedom and fresh revelation of Father’s heart and nature soon overcame loss of identity, pain of rejection and the loss of long time relationships.

Now, over a decade later I find, as I touched on in the last blog, that Father is dealing with areas of my life that still need changing. He’s dealing with expectations I’ve had of him to move in my life and the lives of other people and situations for which I’ve prayed for years. Places I’ve felt abandoned; areas where he just isn’t cooperating. He’s asking me to trust him as a little child and to decide if love is enough. And in the midst of all this there’s the sense that he’s doing something quiet and powerful within those who are done with all but him.

In the past he’s allowed some to function in areas of unusual spiritual power, and they’ve often misrepresented him. Today he continues to reveal himself to those who are fully yielded to him and will allow him to make them whole. He wants people who reflect his image, who represent his nature, who live by his grace and walk in his love. He’s placing his hand on people who would rather be conformed to the image of his Son than to possess power or influence; people who would be happy to pray in the dark while others perform miracles and harvest thousands in the light; people who would be willing to fall into the ground and die for the next generation.

Father’s doing a transforming internal work in whoever will let him. He is moving now to reveal his glory to and through those who have no desire to share it. So if you’re walking in the dark, be encouraged. Humble yourself under his hand. Take time to wait on him. The silence won’t last forever, but when you hear that still, small voice, take heed. It may be the turning point of your life.

David Fredrickson

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An Appealing Gospel?

A new episode of Untangled is up! Many of us who truly have a revelation of the truth that God is love find ourselves being accused of “trying to make God more appealing to people.” Yet, if that is indeed the case, why are so many Christians repulsed by a God of love? Could it be that what is at the heart of the matter is religious people hate seeing the outcasts and sinners freely loved and placed on equal standing with them? This is what Loren and David discuss in the “must hear” episode of Untangled.

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Hope in the Wilderness

Recently I received a word of knowledge from a friend who I’ve come to trust over the past 15 years. He’s a good listener and slow to speak, so I was surprised when he re-directed our conversation to tell me with uncharacteristic intensity that I was coming to the end of my wilderness journey.

Of course there are a potential variety of circumstances and dispositions that may qualify as our wilderness. Unclear future, lack of inspiration, questions regarding purpose, feelings of worthlessness, financial drought or uncertainty and the absence of visible fruit are a few I can identify with.

In the last few months another phenomenon developed. It seemed that I met an obstacle that blocked the execution of whatever I was trying to do. Attempting to create an important document, working on the car, taking out the trash; no job was exempt. If I did get something together, I would forget where I put it. Time sensitive jobs that had to get done were frozen by computer glitches and normally inanimate objects would jump in front of me causing stubbed toes and a frayed temper. Innocent babies bit me…Ok, so I’m exaggerating now. The point is, it seemed as if every attempt to accomplish something more complicated than regular breathing set opposing forces in motion. All this increased after the encouraging word about my wilderness coming to an end.

Finally I gave up. It became apparent that there was nothing left to do, say or petition God for. No need to understand or know anything but that he is faithful. The only choice left was to yield humbly to him in every perplexing unknown and frustrating circumstance. And a wonderful thing began to happen. As things grew worse, I began to respond with less or no negativity, a lifelong hindrance being dealt with in grace and love. Depression left completely. Less stress, more joy. This, of course, will be an ongoing process with, perhaps, greater challenges to come. And there was more ahead.

I’m a marriage, individual and family counselor and also officiate weddings as a business, both of which had been slowly growing. But suddenly the two businesses dried up all at once! Most mornings I walk a fast four miles while I pray and think things
through. Last week while walking I checked inventory and came to the revelation that God had stripped me of everything that I was in control of or could depend on. I realized that the wilderness he was leading me out of had nothing to do with outward circumstances. They are only a tool that can be used to expose the wilderness within me. It was the fear of failure, negativity, stress, attaching my joy to useful service, financial security, etc.

Many Christians define “wilderness” by external problems. We may believe that once we learn what God wants to teach us, he will deliver us from our difficult or contrary circumstances. This assumption presents a serious problem in light of the possibility that certain outward circumstances may never change. The apostle Paul said: “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed…genuine, but regarded as imposters; known, but regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, yet possessing everything.” ( 2 Corinthians 4:8-9, 6:9-10) Although Paul was miraculously freed from prison at one point, it is believed that he was finally beheaded.

Paul knew that everything he suffered brought death to him but worked life in others. He was an example of the power of God working transformation in every son and daughter. In days past I believed that if I walked in obedience to God I would see great miracles, signs and wonders. I’ve seen a few. But the greatest power is that which transforms the inner man.

Paul’s prayer for the church at Colossae was “..that you may be strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience.” (Colossians 1:11). He didn’t misplace his hope on a better future here in this temporal world. He was convinced that “..our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” (2Cor. 4:17

David Fredrickson

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Will God Still Bless America?

The other day a friend of mine sent me a message asking me if in light of recent events, do I think God will still bless America? Here is my response.

That’s a loaded question. I’m concerned about writing a novel in order to answer it. I think the belief that God has been blessing America because it’s a righteous country that honors him is misplaced. Basically, that holds to the idea that the U.S., like Israel in the Old Testament, is a covenant nation. God chose Israel to be His holy people and He issued commands saying that if they did certain things they’d be blessed and if they did certain other things they’d be cursed. That’s because they were under the law. The way the law functions is on blessings and curses. If you do good you get blessed but if you do bad you get cursed. This was a burden Israel couldn’t even carry. They failed miserably. But see, Christ ushered in a new era when He came. He fulfilled the law (meeting all of its requirements) freeing us from its demands. So now we no longer live under the law, we live under grace. God no longer “curses people” for doing bad or “blesses people” for doing good. The whole point of the cross is we no longer have to try to earn points with God because He’s not keeping score. Yes, there are the natural consequences of reaping and sowing. (i.e. if I spend too much I’m going to run out of money and bad things will happen.) But there is also no longer one nation that is God’s chosen people. Rather He has a spiritual holy nation made up of people from every tribe tongue and nation who love Him.

If America was blessed for following the law then when has this nation ever upheld the entire law? We don’t get to pick and choose which parts of the law we’ll follow and which parts we won’t. Paul was clear that if you fail in one part of the law, you’ve failed in all of it. This nation is guilty of FAR more egregious sins than gay marriage. The oppression and murder of numerous people groups through out history, just to name one. Yet, the country continued and eventually repented (changed its mind) about those things, without incurring any wrath from God. This nation has been called “a Christian nation” but when has the government ever looked anything like Christ who told His followers not to wear titles or exercise top down authority as the gentiles do? When has this nation ever “turned the other cheek” when its been attacked? This nation was even birthed out of bloody violent rebellion to authority from a nation that ALSO believed it was God’s chosen nation. When did Jesus ever take up the sword to end oppression? He never led Israel to stand against Rome. (Something many of His Zealot followers really wished He would do.)

Actually, what we have here in this country is a weird mixture of Christianity and the world. We see America and Christianity as being one in the same when they are actually in opposition to one another. I think God is much more concerned about how His people have bought into a strange mixture of Christianity and the world that has caused them to lose their love for one another and the lost while trying to gain worldly political power so they can be over others and dictate to them their wishes. That’s something that runs completely the opposite direction from Christ. This is why the church has been powerless to change this country. Not because she doesn’t pray enough, or doesn’t read the Bible enough, isn’t active enough; but because she is not placing her hope in the Kingdom that is not of this world. Though most will never admit it, they think America is God’s holy nation. They have turned to political power and attempts to lord over others rather than placing their hope in Christ. We are not called to make America great. We’re called to love others as Christ loves us. America is not our hope, Jesus is. I believe with all my heart the body of Christ will see judgment long before America will. But when I say judgment, I don’t mean that in a condemning way. God’s judgments are always an act of love, to set things right. That’s why it’s almost humorous to hear Christians say, “God is going to judge America!” You mean He loves us so much He’s going to set things right? AMEN!!! The church in America is largely out of order. We all know that. But it’s not out of order because of it’s views on “gay marriage” or its lack of morals. It’s out of order because it’s lost sight of who Jesus is, His love for them, and His love for the world that He DID NOT come to judge, but to save. Christians so often sound like James and John asking Jesus to rain down fire on those who oppose them. Jesus told them they didn’t even know what spirit they were of. Much of the church in America has FAR more in common with the Pharisees of Israel than it does with the Son of God they claim to follow.

I think what looks like a mess right now is actually Jesus bringing his church to the end of themselves so they’ll finally give up and let Him be Lord. I can almost hear Him saying to His people, “Have you had enough yet? Are you ready to quit?”

“You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.” Matthew 5:3 (The Message)

Loren Rosser

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Friendship

A new episode of our podcast is up! This time we discuss friendship. Friendship was clearly a big deal to Jesus. He even called his disciples friends. Today words like “family” and “friends” are constantly tossed around the body of Christ, yet sadly, many discover after belonging to a congregation for years they really don’t have any true friends. Activities, programs, expectations, and performance end up proving not to be the building blocks for genuine friendship. Why is that the case? What can we do to make friends with others? This is what David and Loren discuss on this episode.

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Friendship

A good friend was sharing his heart with me concerning his parents who were under going a major crisis touching several areas of their lives. After describing their situation he made a comment that I’ve heard hundreds of times. “You, know,” he said, “they don’t have one friend.”

Oh, yes, they’re part of “the family of God” and they’ve been in the midst of many Sunday morning “church” services for years. I’ve met them on a couple of occasions and found them to be friendly folks. But when it comes to finding friends they might as well be Cyclops with with contagious life threatening diseases.

It seems like friendship was pretty much near the top of the priority list for Jesus. Even though he was God in the flesh, he put others on equal status with him in one sense by calling them friends. In the Greek and Roman cultures in which Jesus lived, friendship was defined succinctly in two ways: one who loves and who speaks honestly. Jesus told his disciples that he no longer called them servants, because a servant does not know what his master is doing, but he revealed to them all that the Father had shown him. He then took it further and said that no one had greater love than to lay down his life for his friends.

The religious system sets up an institutional format in which spiritual growth is measured by church attendance, tithing and enthusiastic participation in services. It is important to keep up an image of spirituality during these gatherings. If spouses fought like cats and dogs and screamed at the kids while trying to get ready for church in time, they must be all smiles, and God bless yous when they walk through the door of “God’s house.” Confessing faults to one another when asking for healing is extremely rare if nonexistent in such environments. Some do create accountability groups where you can open your life to a stranger, but organizing friendship is never a good idea. And somehow, the need to perform keeps folks from really knowing one another.

My Australian friends call these models Christian clubs. One becomes a friend, even called family, by being a member of the club. Yet it is not at all uncommon when one leaves the club after having served faithfully for a number of years to find they have no friends. Of course, that shouldn’t be surprising in light of the fact that they had no true friends in the first place, for the club recognizes neither sacrificial love nor honesty as the basis for friendship.

My sister was telling us about her daughter and her circle of friends. She mentioned that they weren’t necessarily a Christian group, but that their love and care for one another was remarkable. They accept one another with their differences, are there for each other when a need arises and love to be together as often as possible. She hasn’t seen that in the “church.”

The same thing is true of my daughter’s non-Christian friends. Love, acceptance and making allowances for one another seem to be the norm for them. Rachel and I enjoy spending time with them and others among our friends that don’t yet know Christ because they’re fun to be with and have few measuring sticks or hidden agendas.

It’s a shame that those who don’t yet know Christ often turn out to be more genuine friends than those who are Christians. But Jesus did not find his friends in the synagogues either. He found that tax collectors and fisherman didn’t have religious duplicity standing in the way of genuine friendship. They traveled together, ate together, sometimes competed with each other and ultimately followed Jesus to the cross.
In the end, most, if not all of his disciples laid down their life for their friend.

David Fredrickson

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Results Oriented

We’re back! Believers often measure their effectiveness in the Kingdom of God based on the results they see with their own eyes. People look for things they can measure to determine whether or not they are doing God’s work. They look for large crowds, numerous books being sold, popularity, and so forth. But is this what Jesus was talking about when He said that His followers would bear fruit? This is what David and Loren discuss in this episode of Untangled.

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