First - get this devotional book and read it every day! Hearing God Through the Year: A 365-Day Devotional, by Dallas Willard. My definition of prayer, following Willard, is this: Prayer is talking with God about what he and I are doing together. God speaks to me about what he and I are doing together. What are God and I doing together? We are talking about bringing his kingdom realities on the earth. Willard writes: "God’s speaking to us does not make us important. Just as when he spoke to the ancient people of Israel, his speaking to us gives us greater opportunity to do good and greater responsibility for the care of others. God speaks to us because he wants us to join him in some purpose of advancing the kingdom of God here on earth." (P. 45)
This coming Sunday, Feb. 25, 5 - 6:15 PM. Redeemer Fellowship Church. Anyone is invited to come learn about the presence-driven church. If you have the book, you can prepare for this session by reading chapters 4, 5, and 6. Chapter 1 Introduction Chapter 2 The Case for Experience Chapter 3 The “Presence Motif” Chapter 4 Presence Comes Before Purpose and Programs Chapter 5 How to Experience God’s Presence Chapter 6 The Marks of a Presence-Driven Church Chapter 7 The Language of the Presence-Driven Church Chapter 8 Leading the Presence-Driven Church Chapter 9 God’s Presence Will Win the Day
What happens after we die? What does the Bible teach about this? N.T. Wright is a good place to begin, so...
Remember that Wright and other N.T. scholars are interested in, not how recent cultures (like American Christianity) view biblical texts, but on how the original Jesus-culture heard and understood the scriptures. Wright is looking for a correct biblical view. Here are some things he says about what happens when we die, especially in light of our ultimate hope and final destination.
A correct biblical view does not say Jesus-followers are ultimately destined for heaven. Instead, at the end of time, God will re-make our physical bodies and return us to a newly restored earth. Heaven is important, but it is not our final destination. The New Testament speaks far more about this final destination than it does about heaven. So, then, what is "heaven?"
Biblically, “heaven” is a temporary holding place. That is "life after death." The Bible gives us few clues about this. Paul says, in Philippians 1:21-23, "For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. 22 If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far."
So, immediately after death, we shall be with Christ, in heaven. And that, of course, is good.
While that is important and interesting, what the New Testament is more concerned with is what Wright calls “life after life after death.” Or, the "after-afterlife." Here we have far more information about our ultimate destination upon being physically resurrected. And that ultimate destination is God's recreation of a "new heaven and a new earth."
So, to sum up:
When a Jesus-follower dies they go to heaven, to be with the Lord.
Heaven is not our ultimate destination. It is a holding-place, until the final resurrection.
At the final resurrection, God will re-make our physical bodies.
We will live, in a state of everlasting time, in God's newly restored creation. This will be the unifying of heaven and earth. When "the times reach their fulfillment" God will "bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ." (Ephesians 1:10)
Knowledge of our final destination should affect our lives in the here and now. Wright says because he believes in God’s kingdom of justice and peace, it gives him focus to work on God’s kingdom coming in the present moment. Remember that The Lord’s Prayer was never understood to be a purely future hope. Unlike the total-paradisiac-future of Islam, the Christian hope includes redemption now. This is the “age to come,” invading “this present age.” (See Ladd's eschatology here.)
While the age to come will come in its fullness at the final resurrection of the dead, the in-breaking of the kingdom (heaven coming to earth) has been happening since the earthly life and resurrection of Jesus. ***
It's a privilege to sit under Wendy Backlund's teaching, speaker and author from Redding, California. Wendy and her husband Steve are part of the ministries of internationally-known Bethel Church, led by Pastor Bill Johnson. Their personal ministry is called Igniting Hope Ministries and their message does just that. Wendy encourages and empowers Christians in revival culture and victorious mindsets, and her experiences with God's love, his Word and the Holy Spirit have transformed her life and will impart breakthrough to you too.
Julie Weyandt, founder and director of Beauty for Ashes Ministry, is a gifted clinical counselor. She is also a presenter at seminars and workshops, and an author who has developed recovery group curriculum for adult survivors of sexual abuse and trauma. She will bring her Godly and professional expertise as we explore sensitive women's issues of abortion and post abortion trauma.
Aurora Newton, Prayer and Encounter Pastor at Dayton Vineyard is also founder & CEO of Assert Now, Inc. She is currently finishing her doctoral program in organizational psychology. She is an advocate who is passionate about the safety and well-being of children, teens, and women. Her vast experiences have equipped her to empower others, especially those who are vulnerable or at risk.
(My new book is Leading the Presence-Driven Church.) As Jesus' followers live lives of abiding in Christ, the Holy Spirit shows them what to do, and what not to do. Most of the ministries in our church have begun because God spoke to someone, while they were connected to him.
We have also released people from ministries because God has told them to let go. We have, on occasion, stopped an entire ministry. At one time it had life in it, but we now discern it has run its course, in terms of what God wants to do.
Churches that are fueled and driven by programs can find this hard to do. Because "the show must go on," the show becomes more important than the people. This is a formula for burnout and resentment. Never put programs ahead of people.
Presence comes before purpose. God presences himself in his people, individually and corporately (we are now "temples" that host God's presence). Therefore, because God's presence comes before programs, and since God presences himself in his people, people come before programs. Presence is about the intimate relationship between God and his people. Within this intimate relationship, God directs our paths. As we teach our people to focus on abiding, rather than what they are to do or not do, we find that God tells them what to do or not do. Teaching people to abide in Christ is a way of caring for them, because God's presence is what our people need, with all its comprehensiveness.
Then, as God speaks to people about what he would have them do or not do, the pastors and leaders must listen to the hearts of their people. We want our people to know they can hear from God. When they believe they are hearing from God, we must not put pressure on them because the show must go on.
For my MCCC Philosophy of Religion students. 1. "Evil" means gratuitous suffering (pointless suffering); viz., suffering that is not needed to bring about a greater good, or not needed to prevent a greater evil from happening. 2. Mackie believes "theism" is logically incoherent. Two statements are logically incoherent in that both cannot be true at the same time, in any possible world. For example: a. John is a bachelor. b. John's wife is Linda. Or: a. X is square. b. X is circular. 3. Mackie's Triad Mackie gives a "triad" of statements" which, he claims, cannot all be affirmed at the same time without contradiction. They are: 1. God is all-powerful. 2. God is all-good. 3. Evil exists. He adds two assumptions to this, which are: a) an all-powerful being would be able to stop evil from happening; and 2) an all-good being would desire to stop evil from happening. Mackie says there is no possible world where you could affirm all three statements at the same time. Therefore theism is incoherent. 4. Mackie's Possible Solutions Mackie says we would have no "problem" of evil if just one of the three statements was false. If 1 is false, then 2 and 3 could logically be true, since God might desire to stop evil but could not do so since he would not be all-powerful. If 2 were false, then while God could stop any evil from occurring he would not desire to. If 3 were false and evil did not even exist, then of course we are not left with a "problem of evil" any more than we have a "problem with unicorns." And who might deny that evil exists? Buddhism does, at least in its virgin, culturally unpolluted form. I'll next explain this idea to our students, which always proves to be head-twisting.
(My new book is Leading the Presence-Driven Church.) At Redeemer we have many who serve in areas of ministry. I must trust them with this and release them to it, without trying to control them. A some point I must not do the work for them. To help the laborers without invitation is to frustrate them. They will feel micromanaged, and grow resentful. I must keep my hands off areas of ministry where I am not qualified. To assist where I am incompetent destroys trust. Unskilled pastoral assistance breeds mediocrity. All this requires setting aside of "self" and ego. While the motivation to be of assistance can be pure, it can also be a sign of control. When this is the case, helping is wrong. Susan Cain, in her book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking, tells the story of an introverted wing commander in the U.S. Air Force. He was in command of thousands of people, was a classically introverted person, and a great leader. Cain writes: "He was also widely admired; when he spoke, everyone listened. This was not necessarily remarkable— if you’re at the top of the military hierarchy, people are supposed to listen to you. But in the case of this commander, people respected not just his formal authority, but also the way he led: by supporting his employees’ efforts to take the initiative. He gave subordinates input into key decisions, implementing the ideas that made sense, while making it clear that he had the final authority. He wasn’t concerned with getting credit or even with being in charge; he simply assigned work to those who could perform it best. This meant delegating some of his most interesting, meaningful, and important tasks— work that other leaders would have kept for themselves." (Cain, 55-56) Pastoral leaders need to know when to help, and when not to help; to know when to be with others, when to be without others. In leadership there is a ministry of presence, and a ministry of absence. Pastoral leaders must allow more qualified people to lead areas of ministry, and get out of their way. Pastoral leaders must get over themselves, to allow others to come forth and shine. To lead is not always to help; indeed, there are times when helping subverts leadership.
Moses has taken on too much! Just like some pastors. If they don't have a Jethro in their life this will end in disaster. Ruth Haley Barton identifies some of the symptoms that might manifest themselves when a pastor-leader is dangerously depleted and may be functioning beyond human limitations.
Irritability or hypersensitivity.
Compulsive overworking. Bryan Robinson writes: "Workaholism is an obsessive-compulsive disorder that manifests itself through self-imposed demands, an inability to regulate work habits, and an overindulgence in work - to the exclusion of most other life activities." (In Barton, Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership, p. 104)
Disconnection from one's identity and calling.
Not able to attend to human needs.
Slippage in our spiritual practices.
Barton writes: "If even a few of these symptoms are true for you, chances are you are pushing up against human limitations and you, too, might need to consider that "what you are doing is not good" for you or for the people you are serving." (Ib., p. 106)
Many leaders have a Superman mentality, which is "a grandiosity that we indulge to our own peril." (Ib., 108)
Pastoral leaders who take my spiritual formation courses know that the antidote to spiritual depletion is returning to their first love which is Christ, and a committed life of praying, solitude, and quietness before God. *** My book Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with Godcan help you overcome overworking.