Motive Check

As I reflect back through the years since I first entered into “full time ministry” I am forced to admit that my motives were often not pure. I gave up a good job and stepped out in faith to serve God with no guaranteed income. I took food to the poor, visited the prisoners, took the homeless in, comforted the sick, preached the gospel in developing nations, counseled and preached my heart out every Sunday and often woke up with a nervous stomach on Monday morning with the previous day on my mind.

Much of my activity was motivated from a sincere desire to obey God by being faithful to the call he had given me. But very little of it was generated by love for others. I was often moved by a sense of duty or the desire to be approved. I had high expectations for myself and performing well held off the fear of failure. I had small interest in people who
offered little that would further my ministry goals. As a pioneering visionary, I looked beyond the local community to the city, the nation and the world, so it was important to be strategic in everything I did. Even being a good pastor was a stepping stone to a “higher calling.” God had given me a burden for unity, so I began reaching out to local pastors and initiated a regular gathering that eventually grew into a unity movement in the city. Some of us began to really like one another. But the important thing was to “reach the city for God.”

There’s nothing wrong with a sincere desire to obey God or to be awakened to a burden he’s given. But if love is not the underlying and overriding motive that carries the desire and burden, we’re building on sand. Yet if we’re serious about knowing him, he will be faithful to lead us gently down a path where everything that once defined and validated our “ministry” and sense of worth is stripped away. We’ll lose our false identity and enter no man’s land where we’ve lost control of our destiny, haven’t a clue as to what the future holds and are not sure what else beside Jesus we’re sure of. We realize that somewhere in the past we must have asked him to reduce us to love, even if we didn’t use those exact words.

I wonder what impact on the world the church would have today if everyone feeling called to “ministry” believed and practiced the one commandment Jesus left us with before he was crucified. What if all visions, strategies and attempts to build something were put aside until one learned to love well? I think we’d find that building up one another in love is the strategy and the only way to build. I saw God do some amazing things in those too rare times when I let him fill me with his love and put my own plans aside. Whatever is done in love will remain forever. All else is wasted effort.

We don’t need to die to self; that already took place at the cross. We don’t need to get closer to God, we’re already one spirit with Christ and seated next to God in heaven. It won’t work to try harder, Jesus finished working for us. We only need to trust him that he loves us with an unsurpassed love exactly the way we are and let that love overflow to everyone around us.

David Fredrickson

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Real Church

Stephen Crosby posted a blog awhile ago which included the following:
Dr. Alexander set up a scientific experiment in the 1970s which involved a lone rat in a rat cage with two water bottles. One was laced with cocaine and the other just water. In this well-known experiment, it was allegedly proven that nine out of ten rats in the rat cage will go back, again and again, to the cocaine bottle until they killed themselves. The conclusion taken from this experiment was that the rats were hopelessly chemically addicted to the point of suicide.

However, in a later alternative experiment he called Rat Park, many rats were together in a habitat of relationships, food, tunnels and exercise. The previously addicted rats stopped taking the deadly drug without coaxing, withdrawal, or removal of the drug from their environment. The chemical hook was not strong enough to stand against the bonds of relationship that were introduced in Rat Park.

Recently I saw a nature program on TV that dealt with animals that formed relationships with other animals of a different species. One example involved an old goat that became a guide and constant companion to a horse that lost its eyesight. With no human prompting and receiving no reward he guided the blind horse to grazing and resting places for years until the horse died.
In another instance, a lonely gibbon monkey tagged along with a troop of monkeys of a different species. Although he adopted the tribe, they never fully adopted him, yet he would do whatever it took to attract their presence. Even without any significant interaction with them, he stuck with them rather than be alone.

Unfortunately, some of us fail to grasp the importance of community to the degree that these animals have. Today most Christians think church is a group of folks sitting in pews staring past the back of a stranger’s head at a man they don’t know who is delivering a sermon to people he may never interact with. Afterward they leave the building, also called a church, and may travel considerable distances to their homes where some have never met their neighbors. They will not see the strangers at “church” for another week.

What the New Testament designates as church has absolutely no relationship to the scenario described above. The local expression of church involved a community of believers who were joined to one another in love and lived out that love during the week as they instructed, taught, served, encouraged, built up, sang songs to and confessed their sins to one another. They were instructed to know those who labored among them and beside them, for how could anyone be an example to those around him/her if their lives were not open books?

They understood that when they came together, Christ was in their midst in way that they could not experience individually. But whether physically together or apart, being joined by one Spirit, they were moved by sacrificial love such as Jesus demonstrated at the cross. It meant putting aside one’s own agenda, needs and expectations to serve others in what ever way was needed.

Paul exhorted the Colossian believers to be “united in love, SO THAT they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely Christ, in whom are hidden all treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” But he makes an even more amazing statement when he told them; “For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and you (corporately) have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority.” It’s by this authority that strongholds are broken and through this unity that Jesus is revealed to a lost world. It is this love that moves us to reach out to the poor and dying, welcoming them into community where they will find unconditional love, help and healing.

This is what real church will always look like, for the Kingdom of God is not compromised by the weakness of man and his tendency to reduce heavenly reality to something earthly he can control. As seldom as we see community as described above, it is not an empty ideal, for nothing less can be called normal for the Church of Jesus Christ.

David Fredrickson

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Worm or Wonderful

A new episode of our podcast “Untangled” is up. “You’re just a worthless sinner!” is the way the gospel is often shared. Is that true? How does God view us? How much value does He place on us? And just how finished was Jesus work on the cross when He said, “It is finished!” David and Loren discuss in this podcast God’s perspective of us and the only real labor that remains for us to do: to believe Him.

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Jesudamilare’s Song

I have a friend in Nigeria with whom I’ve been communicating via email for a couple years now. Most of the folks who’ve emailed me from Africa and India are looking for funds, but this young man has sought advice and counsel only. Having left the religious system not long before he first contacted me, he has been on a journey familiar to most of us who have taken the road less traveled. Though he is now beginning to see some fruit from his labors, the he’s taken is no less difficult. I think many of those reading this will be able to identify with the prose he wrote.

And days when the heart’s thoughts
Are scribbles that shame even a toddler…
The jumbles are criss-crosses of pain
And despair and a settling futility
For the outstretched hands thought
To have grasped the “elusive” reality.
Is this a game of hide-and-seek?
The fiery dart painted with “Yes”
Flies like a heat-seeking missile, strikes
Hard, draws blood, spurts poison
But a resounding “No”, the voice of a
Trumpet from within, blasts and yet whispers…
My heart is held in this place of agony
Is it weak to be weak? To say, I don’t know
And not have all the answers?
Is a smile pasted on the best solution
To a throbbing, bleeding heart?
Must people see one who has it all together
Every time they look at me?
Am I scared to be perplexed?
Averse to the silence of questioning in the heart?
Where is the place of faith?
Is this the phase of revival as of the
Bed-strapped patient who’s just coming
Out of a coma? In & out of the dark…off & on?

Oh for ten thousand tongues
To sing of His grace
Oh for ten thousand songs
To lift up His praise!

I don’t have answers, pat & trite
He’s weaning me from them
Not all questions need have answers
That do only the hearer good but drives
Deeper the nails on the speaker’s coffin-lid
The word is “On the third day…Oh
On the third day, He would raise us up!
That we may live in His sight…
The taste, the foretaste lingers
The only thing that perplexes is the suddenness
Of an high going to a low
How does one manage the transitions
From exultations to the drawn faces of
“Father, why hideth Thy face from us?”

But this is the terrain
Of attaining unto sonship
Son though He was, yet learned He obedience
By the things that He suffered and…
AND being made perfect…
And so we cling to the Anchor
That holds within the veil—
The Resurrected Life of Jesus
That holds true in spite of changing seasons
That whether living or dying, dry or on fire,
High or low,
WE LIVE SOLELY BY HIS LIFE!

How True!

David Fredrickson

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Tainted Love

Have you ever been to a home and garden Show? They’re basically massive sales and marketing events. Businesses set up booths and run all kinds of contests and specials with the hopes that you’ll become a client. You’re constantly approached by nice people asking you questions like, “How would you like a free vacation to Hawaii?” or “How would you like a patio roof installed for free?” My first thought when I’m approached is, “What are you trying to get from me?” These folks aren’t offering these deals out of the goodness of their hearts, they have an agenda. They want me to join their vacation club for $3,000 a year or for me to purchase a $5000 patio roof. As much as I enjoy going to the occasional home and garden show, it’s funny, not one time did I ever think to myself, “Wow! These people really love me!”

The sad thing is this is exactly what much of Christian activity done in the name of love looks like to the world. Christians will give away free turkeys for Thanksgiving, hand out free hot dogs and bottled water at parks, shovel snow off driveways and walkways in neighborhoods, and hand out candy and presents for Halloween and Christmas. These are all kind things to do. The problem is most of the time when these things are done it’s for the purpose of getting people to visit and hopefully join one’s congregation. Just like the merchants at the home and garden show, there is an agenda attached. The kind deed does not stand alone; the doer is after something from the recipient. When the free turkeys, hot dogs, and water bottles are handed out and when those driveways are shoveled you better believe a flyer is handed out with the name of the group responsible along with an address and meeting times. What appeared to be love suddenly just turned out to be nothing more than marketing. It was nothing but a PR campaign done using Jesus’ name. This is why many groups refuse to be a part of anything for which they will not receive the bulk of the credit. Help another congregation with something they’re doing and receive no recognition? HA!

See, real love, God’s love, comes without an agenda. The moment a flyer or an attempt to get somebody to do something in return is attached to the act of kindness it ceases to be love. Now it’s either marketing, or worse, manipulation. Sadly, many Christians are so stuck on following their own agendas and doing their own thing that they have substituted the Holy Spirit with manipulation. They have their thing they want to build, their name they want to get out there, or their organization they want to increase so they’re already out of tune with God’s heart. And being that God isn’t in what they’re doing they have to lean on the flesh, their own strength, to achieve their desired results. So they turn to marketing and call it love. But they’re just another booth at the home and garden show and those who encounter them are left with a bad taste in their mouth.

Ever wonder why so much of the church in America is powerless? She stopped asking, “Father, what are you doing?” a long time ago. (I don’t think most ever were asking that.) Today, even when congregations do dare to ask Father what He is doing most have drawn up clear boundaries within which He must work. If He moves beyond those boundaries or moves contrary to our plans and agendas we immediately dismiss Him and return to our agendas. Few dare to actually do what He is doing in this hour. So, what do you do when you’re not doing what God is doing? First, you make it look like you are. And second, you lean entirely on your own strength to get anything done. You hand out turkeys and hot dogs with flyers.

A true act of kindness is done without blowing a trumpet. Christians sound a trumpet every time they proclaim “Look what my group did for you!” “MY CHURCH gave you that water bottle!” “MY CHURCH shoveled your driveway!” They have their reward right there. The folks saying, “Oh, that’s nice.” is their reward. Sadly, competition is one of the main motives for kindness we see displayed by congregations today. They want you to join their group, not that other one.

Real love comes without a thought or the need to draw attention to one’s self. Paul even wrote in 1Corinthians 13 that love does not boast. It doesn’t say, “Look what I did!” “Quick! Call the TV station and tell them about the nice thing we’re going to be doing this Saturday at 9 AM on Elm Street!” What a nightmare! Paul went on to say love is not self-seeking. It doesn’t ponder, “How can we promote ourselves?” “How can we get people to do what we want them to do?” It doesn’t use kindness to get something in return. See, genuine love is a reflection of God. But since most Christians think God is a big bragging showman who does stuff to get us to do what He wants, they act this way.

The truth is God is humble. How do I know? Jesus is the exact representation of God and look how He CHOSE to live while He walked among us. He wasn’t “God in disguise.” He was being who He is. He chose to be with the least in society because that’s where He likes to be. He also never gave to get anything from anybody. How many times did Jesus follow up with the people He healed? “Hey Peter, did you get that centurion’s contact information? We’ll probably want to follow up and invite Him to walk around with us once a week after he realizes I healed his daughter.” Jesus just gave of Himself and sought nothing in return. He didn’t even want people to go around blabbing about the miracles He performed. This is the face of love. This is the love that changes the world.

Genuine love comes without a hook. This is actually unfamiliar to many Christians because most live in a world built on expectations. “I’ll do this for you so you’ll do that for me.” I’ll call you up during the week to see how you’re doing so you’ll come to my Bible Study next Thursday. I’ll be your friend as long as you keep going to my church. I’ll volunteer to help with the children so you will make me a Sunday School Teacher next year. I will be a committed hard worker and agree with everything so you will make me a leader. Then we dare to turn around and say, “We’re family!” “We love one another!” That ain’t love folks! That is nothing like Jesus.

There are no hidden motives or angles behind real love. Real love doesn’t look for anything from another or use others for one’s own advantage. When we see Jesus for who He truly is and have a revelation of the affection Father has for us we begin to see agendas attached to love as the poisons they truly are.

Loren Rosser

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ISIS, Christians, & America: A Clash of Kingdoms

A new and hard hitting episode of Untangled is up. What should be the Christian response to persecution such as that we’ve seen dealt out by ISIS? Should Christians take up the sword and fight back? Is America a Christian nation? Should Christians strive to gain political power in nations to steer them in a “Christian” direction? These hot topics are discussed by David and Loren in this timely podcast. You’ll want to listen to this one all the way to the end, if you can handle it. We knock over a lot of sacred cows in this one, but not to stir up controversy. In order for the church to grow up, we must embrace the Kingdom of God, not this world. 

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Kingdom of the World vs Kingdom of God

Dwekh Nawsha, a Christian militia whose name is an Assyrian-language phrase conveying self-sacrifice, is standing up to ISIS as the terror group tries to stamp out Christianity in Iraq and Syria. The group is accepting foreign recruits, as are other groups in the area, AFP reported.

When I read the above with the article that accompanied it, I thought of Peter. He was one of Christ’s most passionate followers. When Jesus told his disciples that he was headed for Jerusalem where he would be handed over to sinful men and crucified, Peter was filled with “righteous” indignation. He took Jesus aside and exclaimed; “God forbid it, Lord! This shall never happen to you!” The answer Jesus gave Peter is familiar to most Christians. “Get behind me Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.”

The truth is that Peter and most of the other disciples were still in a kingdom-of-the-world mindset, a kingdom that is ruled by Satan and is opposite in every way to the kingdom of God. Although Jesus demonstrated the nature of his kingdom in many things he said and did, they would not really understand until it was fully demonstrated when he humbly submitted himself to his killers, was crucified and rose again. Consequently, Peter did not learn his lesson after Jesus’ stunning rebuke. When the soldiers came to take Jesus away, Peter drew his sword and cut off the ear of the high priest’s slave. Jesus told him to put away his sword, “for all those who take up the sword shall perish by the sword.…”

Through Calvary, Peter and the other disciples would learn the true nature of the kingdom of which they were now citizens. They would begin to understand why Jesus would never directly address ethical issues, did not condemn the Caesar for his gross immorality, or push for political reform. When he instructed them not to resist an evil person or return evil for evil, to turn the other cheek and to give your cloak to a person who sues you for your shirt, it all added up to the cross. His is an upside down kingdom that never uses power to rule over or force submission, but rather comes under to bring change to hearts rather than to external reforms.

As Gregory Boyd points out in his excellent book, The Myth of a Christian Nation, Phil. 2:6-8 shows that ‘Christ renounced the claim to govern history, choosing instead to win the world through sacrificial, loving submission.’ However we choose to respond to insults, threats to our freedom or even persecution, ‘if it doesn’t look like Christ dying for the people that crucified him, it isn’t the kingdom of God.’

It’s rather ironic that the name of the Christian militia conveys self sacrifice. Is putting ones self in danger in order to kill the enemy the kind of sacrifice Christ taught and demonstrated at the cross? My purpose is not to condemn these militants, but to point out a worldly mindset that a majority of Christians have bought into since Constantine and the Crusades. Yet violence against our enemies is as foreign to the Kingdom of God as was Hitler’s campaign. How can the church possibly demonstrate the power of God when she’s been seduced by the kingdom of the world? The real enemy is Satan, who has deceived the church into fighting people Christ died for instead of exposing his tactics by the power of the cross. For as Boyd also stated; ‘The best way to get people to lay down the cross is to hand them the sword.’

Our purpose for taking up the cross to follow Christ is not to help create a better world, turn our nation to God, and certainly not to defeat the human enemies of Christianity. We live and move in sacrificial love so that the world will know that the Father sent the Son. We live to let the power of love flow through us to set the captives free from the prison of self so that hearts are changed and lives are transformed.

David Fredrickson

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What is God doing in 2015?

What is God doing in 2015?Gold_Transparent_2015
My friend David Fredrickson wrote a blog on this topic recently but I felt like throwing in my two cents. Like him, I’m seeing tons of posts and articles from various “prophets” predicting what God is doing this year. They all pretty much fall into one of three categories: 1. Those who say bad things are coming. 2. Those who say wealth and wonderful things are coming. 3. Those who say bad things are coming to the world but wealth and wonderful things are coming to believers. So here is my in-depth look at what God is doing in 2015.

What is God doing in the government: I don’t know.
What is God doing in the economy: I don’t know.
What is God doing in Russia, China, Iran, North Korea, and Israel: I don’t know.
What about A.I.D.S, Ebola, ISIS, terrorism, etc.? I don’t know.
What is God doing in the church? I think I actually have some insight on this one.

I see Him doing three things in this season in the church and always.

First, He is awakening us to His love. Yes, we all know God loves us…mentally. We’re supposed to believe that. It’s Christianity 101. But the fact is many, many believers don’t truly believe that. His love has been mixed with obligation and a whole lot of nonsense that is anything but Him. Love has been treated as merely one of many attributes God has rather than being His defining characteristic. God is opening the eyes of the church to just how much He loves each one of us. As people are beginning to see that He is indeed an affectionate and loving Father their entire lives are changing. They’re reading their Bibles differently, praying differently, and living differently. Many of the beliefs they clung to for years are falling by the wayside as they’ve proven not to line up with what they now understand about their Father’s heart. For the first time, many are truly enjoying their relationship with their heavenly Father as they are discovering that He is indeed their Abba.

Second, the church is discovering the liberty we have in Christ. This is directly linked to the growing revelation of our Father’s love. As the many in the Body of Christ are growing in His love they are realizing that much of their activities were rooted in trying make themselves worthy of His love, trying to make Him happy, trying to please Him, and/or trying to remove their guilt. They were attempting to make themselves feel better about themselves by following rules to gain approval or perform well to be “more spiritual” or “better” than others. It was all based on being “in” or “out.” Lines were constantly drawn to determine who’s “in” and who’s “out.” It was all shame based.

But as the Body of Christ has been discovering how loved they are by their Father their shame has been disappearing and along with it all the drivenness that accompanied their attempts to deal with it. The need to perform for approval has been fading as they’ve been discovering they’re already accepted by their Father. The sense of having to add to themselves something that is lacking has been diminishing as many in the body of Christ have been finding they are already complete in Christ. The church is discovering they’ve been trying to earn points with somebody who is not keeping score. As believers are growing in the love of their Father they’re also discovering that He doesn’t place burdens on people, rather He removes them.

The bottom line is the truth is setting the church free. Jesus is the Truth. And as people are seeing who He is all the religious additions are falling off. They are discovering they are free indeed and no longer obligated to perform or do anything to prove they are His followers. The proof is their lives not in religious activities. This is a big reason why many congregations are finding their numbers dwindling. This is a mark of what God is doing, not Satan. This doesn’t mean belonging to a congregation is wrong. To say so would mean the church doesn’t have liberty. But that’s the point. Jesus is freeing His people to live in His life and joy. If attending a congregation builds you up and helps you live in His life and joy, then more power to you! It’s just for many it does not. In this season they are discovering they’re free to abandon that which they don’t find life giving. Many in the church are discovering a new freedom they have never known before.

Third, the church is learning how to love one another. This builds on the foundation of knowing Father’s love for us and living in His liberty. As we are growing in His love we can’t help but reflect Him and love others. And because believers are growing in His liberty they are able to truly love others, free from agendas with hearts to lift their burdens. The body of Christ is learning the true meaning of words like friendship and family. Through liberty the expectations we used to place on one another are being removed so we can accept one another as we are, function as we were built to function, and truly be family. It is here where the world will be changed. As we love one another the world will see we are His and be drawn to Him.

This is what I see Father doing in 2015 and beyond. For some of those who haven’t yet come to understand the Father’s heart, this season is quite disconcerting. They’ll continue to throw around words like “heresy” and accuse those who are living in Father’s love of “following the empty philosophies of men.” But that’s to be expected. And for those with vested interest in man-made kingdoms this season will be particularly problematic, not because God is “out to get them” but because they’re “kicking against the goads.” It’s a tough place to live. Having been there, I actually feel for them. He’s building His church. Jesus’ work never goes forth without resistance. But I think this is such an awesome time to be alive! The church is finally coming back to what really matters – Him and one another.

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Community

A new episode of Untangled is up!  We were created for community. We have within us a God-given desire to connect with others. Many have found that Sunday Morning services don’t meet that need. What is genuine community? How do we find it? These are some of the things David and Loren discuss in this podcast.

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They Won the Race

I’m seeing all these posts today about the 21 Christian men executed on the Libyan beach and hearing much anger and cries for the government to intervene. What’s strange is in the midst of the evil, I’m feeling a different emotion…pride. Not the arrogant kind, the kind a sibling feels when he sees his brother take the gold in the Olympics. I’m proud of you my brothers! You finished the race well! I know what we didn’t see but you witnessed was Jesus walking along that beach greeting each one of you by name as you entered eternity with Him. From our side it looks tragic, but from your perspective it’s glorious. You have obtained a better resurrection. You won!

And on behalf of my fallen beautiful brothers I’d like to say to their captors, I forgive you. You don’t know what you’re doing. You have been blinded by hatred, deception, and lies. You don’t know that the very one who received the men you killed also reaches out to you with the same loving arms. He already bore the wrath for the sins you just committed. He loves each one of you. He calls to you as a Father calls for a lost son. I pray that you will see how much He loves you. I pray that you will know such love in your life time. My brothers who have fallen, your death was not in vain. I pray your bodies along with the others whose lives have been taken will be seeds in the ground that will bring forth a great harvest in the middle east. May the love of God abound. God’s love is the weapon that will defeat this enemy. I pray for you my enemies. I pray soon I will call you brothers. God bless you all.

Loren Rosser

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