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I’m still amazed of the fact that some Christians seem to be asleep at the wheel.  Somewhere in our hearts, was sown the seed of  “being a nice person” which has resulted in a Church which is dry, dull and largely ineffective in extending the Kingdom of God. 

I’ve got some news for you. Becoming a Christian isn’t about “becoming a nice person”, its about being radically transformed from the core of your being.  Transformed people transform everything in their path.  Jesus gave the analogy of salt.  ”You are the salt of the earth, if salt loses its saltiness what is it good for?”.  Salt has both cleansing properties and preserving agents in it that allow it to treat wounds from infection and preserve various foods from spoiling and becoming rotten.  Salt will also sting.  The Dead Sea in Israel is dead because it has 33% salinity.  It is 8.6 times more salty than the ocean!  Because of this, if you swim in the Dead Sea you’ll find that if you have any open sores or cuts on your body, you’ll feel the sting, running to shore as fast as possible to get out. 

Thats how many Christians are.  When the Kingdom of God comes into contact with the kingdoms of darkness, there WILL be conflict.  There SHOULD be collision. We expect a confrontation.  Anywhere the Gospel of the Kingom is preached, there will be resistance…at first.  But the fact is we win. Unfortunatly, because we have been ill equipped and coddled so much, we tend to run to the shores of safety at the first sign of sting.  If the church continues to hide itself, holding on for safety what you will see is a socitey and culture that is spoiled rotten.

What the church needs to understand is that she is not only to engage culture, but to occupy and possess the “wealth of the nations”.  As I’ve mentioned in this blog before, the wealth of the nations are PEOPLE.  Jesus is interested in coming back for a church that is living victoriously as a bride that is dancing with tears in her eyes.  She is rejoicing over the return of her King, but weeping with compassion over those who have turned a deaf ear to the gospel.  There is more to the gospel than just becoming a “nice person”, God has no other plan than to use the church to demonstrate his manifold wisdom on display to the kingdoms of this world.

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According to Barna Groups 2007 Church Technology report only 26% of churches are using social networking technology to connect the people in their churches. I’m sure those numbers are rising. Even so, it’s interesting to see the effect the internet has taken on our culture. We are officially in a global economy. Fifteen years ago to have a conversation with a believer in Uganda, Africa would have been almost impossible. Now, I can become friends with him on Facebook and establish a friendship.  The next move of God in the earth is to connect local churches to work together through networks.

The early church was not an explosion of isolated, autonomous house churches.  If you notice, you’ll see that they clearly felt a connection to the larger body of Christ, spread out together throughout the region.  They often came together in rented facilities or the temple courts, to worship, fellowship and hear from church leaders.  Mark Wilson from The Underground Church network in Chicago calls this the “Macro” layer of the church. The “Macro” layer of the church is the interconnected family of faith within a city or a region.  Consider this your “extended family” in Christ. Notice, in the Bible we don’t see Paul addressing letters to particular churches, we see him addressing his apostolic letters to cities. (“the church in Corinth” or “the church in Ephesus”)

Unfortunately, the church in a particular region is no longer interconnected. It is sad, but Sunday morning is STILL the most segregated, separated day of the week in our communities. We are guilty. We are guilty of building our own kingdoms, instead of building the kingdom of the King.  We are guilty of not paying attention to the “one another’s” in Scripture and instead selfishly trying to make a name for ourselves and our ministries.  Instead of working together to change the spiritual atmosphere of our regions, we work against each other in fear of losing sheep, control and position. Some statistics might even lead us to believe that there is a better chance that Muslims, Jews and other religions would attend joint meetings and work together on social service projects more often than evangelical Christian churches. It’s about time we remove the spirit of competition from our lives and replace it with a spirit of unity, where God will command the blessing. These connections can be accomplished by relational, apostolic networks.

We can accomplish much more together than we can by ourselves.

Apostolic networks should have three different characteristics. They must be regional, relational and rely on Christ alone.

Regional
There are several layers to a network. The internet has given us access to what is happening around the world.  The local church is still important. “Family” life is created within the context of a small, local community of believers. However, churches need to begin to think in terms of changing their city or region.  Apostolic networks should be established regionally to allow access for close proximity of ministry, resources and worship.  What good is it to have access to Eph. 4 ministry gifts that only visit 2 times a year because they are based in another part of the world?  How could an apostle truly lay any foundation in people’s lives only coming in contact with the people occasionally?  Regional ministry will bring greater impact and definition to local church life.

Relational
Apostolic networks should be more than just “ministry organizations” that one signs up for and pays a fee.  These networks should be without financial cost and should be based upon relationships that are built upon fellowship, love and supernatural joining. It seems popular now days to be a part of these so called “apostolic networks” where the members will “tithe” to a senior apostle or pay some kind of membership fee for access to teaching, ministry or materials. From a distance, it seems like a religious multi-level marketing scheme and we should stay away from models like this.  It’s important to know those that labor among you and that they are willing to build friendship, relationship and willing to be as servants in God’s house.

Rely on Jesus Christ alone
Networks should be centered on the supremacy of Jesus Christ as Lord and head of His church. Too often people seem to rally around a pet doctrine or denominational tie.  This seems the most difficult of the three because we are asking people to lay aside disputable matters that can be discussed, debated and made plain later.  I understand there is difference of opinion about what are considered essentials of the faith, but doctrine should not be a series of bricks that we build to keep people out, but instead more like springs on a coil that are flexible to bounce on.

This is only the tip of the iceberg. I would encourage you to consider being a part of a regional, relational team or network of people if you aren’t already that has its focus totally upon Jesus Christ alone.  God did not call you to become isolated and disjointed to the Body of Christ; He has called you to be fitly joined together with one another, with each joint supplying the next.

Dealing with a rough week, I thought I’d post some thoughts on worship. In a discussion this past weekend, a question came up, “How do we claim our victory over the enemy?”  My wife, made a powerful statement that I wasn’t even thinking of. She piped up “Praise!”.  I almost fell out of my chair.  Being a worship leader, praise is always at the forefront of her mind.  But her statement made a profound impression on me. Praise is a weapon. How does that work?  Here are some thoughts on worship and praise:

Praise magnifies God and makes your problems look small.

Praise and worshipping God changes the atmosphere around you from a normal, familiar place to holy ground.

Praise declares God as sovereign over your circumstances.

Praise and worship enthrones Him.  And as He is enthroned, His presence comes.  And in His presence there is fullness of joy.

Praise is strength, a people that do not praise become tired and weary.

Praise and worship bring freedom from bondage, doubt and unbelief.

We Praise Him for what He’s done, we worship Him for who he is.

Worship and Praise is not an option. We owe it to Him.

Worship is a lifestyle.

I’ve opened back up comments on here for your contributions! Share with us how worship and praise has transformed your life.

I should notify those people connected to this blog or who stumble upon this blog that I have switched over to WordPress.org and am hosting our blog on a personal website. Of course I hate to leave the wordpress community here, but WordPress.org give me much more control over my blog. I’ve been blogging for several years now on subjects of faith, church and relationships. We must always take things to the next level! My own blogging platform will help me do just that.

We are in the midst of founding an apostolic and prophetic network in the Chicagoland area called About A Burning Fire. ABOUT A BURNING FIRE is a team of Christian ministries based in Chicago, Illinois. We are interested in raising up a prophetic generation over the next 20 years, burning with the mind (knowledge, wisdom and insight) and heart (love, compassion and zeal) of God. Among, other hallmarks, we value 5 fold ministry gifts in full operation and are part of an apostolic house church community located in Plainfield. As a team of ministries we work with multiple churches to build, provoke and equip them to become strong organic communities. We have a vision to see the Kingdom of God expanded throughout the Chicagoland area. Our goal is to make Jesus the center of our focus until he comes back again and to tell everyone we know about the wonderful message of His love and salvation.

Here is our link http://www.aboutaburningfire.com

Visit our blog…follow us on twitter or connect with us through Facebook to find out what we are up to! We love to hear from this next generation of leaders and world changers!

Reaching Your Prophetic Destiny
Thursday March 4, 2010
Saturday March 6, 2010

7:00pm
Solid Rock Ministries
7S641 Barnes Road
Aurora, Illinois 60504
This is our Worshippers & Warriors Prophetic Conference

Come for a time of equipping ministry in the prohetic.

Featuring speakers:

Prophetess Michelle Mclaine
Prophetess Yevonne Relford
Prophetess Yolanda Garner

This conference is FREE!!

“As a church ministry, our mission is to help pre-Christians come to know Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. Our mission continues by developing people into worshippers, warriors, and leaders by identifying, restoring, and equipping them to do the work of the ministry for the building up of the Kingdom of God.”–Pastor Kerrick Woodfork

For more information contact: 630-859-7741

“For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus…” 1 Timothy 2:5

I’ve been pondering a lot lately the idea of “covering” and whether or not the concept we think of “covering” is Biblical or not.  For the sake of clarity and understanding, there is a teaching floating around in the body of Christ that an individual must be submitted underneath another individual or group of individuals in order to receive the blessing of God, and to be able to function in their God-given calling or ministry. This group of individuals in traditional churches might appear in the form of a denominational tie or in other traditions an affiliation with some type of “organization” of which they are “members” of.  Usually this is termed “apostolic covering” in charismatic circles. 

So, I pose the question…is this scriptural?  Do I need someone placed positionaly over me in my relationship with God to act on His behalf as agent, or do I have direct access to the Father through the shed blood of Jesus Christ?  As I pondered this past week on this, the Holy Spirit brought to mind the above scripture from 1 Timothy that tells us that “there is one mediator between God and man”.  Most people, when asking this question, are probably wanting to know a few things. One, they are probably asking “who are you accountable to?”  Valid question. Certainly I think we would all agree that we don’t want lone ranger Christians roaming around independently.  Especially when they are trying to teach something false or exercise some form of ministry.  Two, they probably are asking “who am I in relationship with?”  I am giving these folks the benefit of the doubt that it is simply a matter of semantics.  I fear, though, that it is in actuality a grave error in a misunderstanding of authority. 

I’m all for accountability, however what concerns me about the concept of “covering” that we are dealing with is the hierarchical emphasis of the relationship.  Have you ever heard of the term “lord it over?”  Jesus addressed the concept of kingdom leadership with his disciples in Matthew 20. 

But Jesus called them and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those in high positions use their authority over them. It must not be this way among you! Instead whoever wants to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave   – just as the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Jesus identified this practice as a pagan practice and discouraged it among his followers.  Rather than creating a hierarchical structure of a CEO organization, Jesus turned the concept of leadership on its head.  He said to be considered a leader, one must serve others.  How does this look compared to the way your “apostolic covering” is fleshed out in your life?  Do they serve you or do YOU exist to serve them?  Usually its the later instead of the former and the reason why is because this is all a mere church power struggle.

Its time to understand that God has made you a king and priest.  He has given YOU the ministry of reconciliation and for that you don’t need permission from any human authority to operate in. He has called you to do the work of the ministry.  True, he has not called you to do it alone.  He has not called you to be defiant, rebellious and independent.  He has called you to relationship with brothers and sisters that will help you walk this out, to challenge you and encourage you along the way.  You are not protected because you come under the “umbrella” of a ministry or a man.  You are protected and provided for by the covenant love of Father God.  The mediator of this covenant is Jesus Christ and Christ alone. In HIM I place my trust.

The Apostle I heard someone say recently that there should be Ephesians 4 ministries in every local church. (apostles, prophets, evangelists, teachers and pastors.)  I have many thoughts on the five fold ministry. Too many to go into for this particular post, but I would like to take a moment to highlight a few ideas regarding this over emphasis on the gifts.

Ephesians 4 describes an individuals function in the church.  These ministries are better understood as verbs, not nouns. Just because you lead a few people to Christ, doesn’t necessarily make you an Ephesians 4 evangelist. Got it?  In face, there are many in the body of Christ who have actually been mis-identified because of a lack of understanding.  I’ve been pondering lately on why there are so many people weaving in and out of church life proposing to be apostles and prophets. I’ve come to the conclusion that some of these people, not all, but some have been mis-identified because of a lack of understanding and lack of relationship.  This has left a bad taste in people’s mouth, including mine, concerning true apostolic ministry. Here are a few items to note. (For scriptural reference to apostolic ministry I would suggest a good reading of 2 Cor.)

1. Planting churches doesn’t make you an apostle.
In fact, nowhere in the Bible does it command us to plant churches. We plant people…out of the kingdom of darkness, into the kingdom of Light.

2. There is a difference between being and apostle and doing an apostolic work.
Every apostle has a different assignment from God and most apostles are called to do that outside of the church. The apostle will bring a revelation of Jesus to the church, but will also be “sent” to a particular sphere for the work of ministry. I know apostles in the music industry. I know prophets in film. I know teachers who are called to the public school system. There are some apostles that simply evangelize. There are some called to government and politics. True apostles know their assignment from Jesus and follow that kingdom assignment. If you don’t have a church presently, don’t feel your not called as an apostle.

3. Apostles need to be submitted and accountable to a local church
Yes, I said it. Some of you may disagree with me. Thats fine, we can agree to disagree, but I find that biblically that apostle’s gift, calling, and proven character were identified within the relationship context of a local church. NEWS FLASH! You don’t graduate from ministry school and go out to plant a church and call yourself an apostle! The apostle will be found in the local gathering of believers and first off known simply as a brother in the Lord. Apostles need care, shepherding, loving and feeding too. They need a place where they are able to rest, participate and share in the fellowship, without the pressure to minister or exercise their gift. Even after the person is recognized and sent out, that apostle should be able to come home, and rely upon that local church for encouragement, strength and accountability. Note: The problem with most local churches is that they lack the “sending Spirit of Christ”. Instead of raising up and releasing people, they hold them for the sake of building a ministry. Very few churches are sending out true apostles into the earth. We need secure senior leaders to have the humility enough to be able to recognize other emerging ministries.

4. Apostles are last.
If your seeking a glamorous ministry position please don’t seek to become an apostle. Contrary to today’s belief that apostles are first…they are actually, from a biblical standpoint least, last and the worst job you’d want to carry out in the body of Christ. (sometimes I feel the prophetic would qualify for this as well) The responsibility is immense, the pressure too much to bear and often you’ll be ridiculed, mocked, and suffer greatly in ministry.  If your a true apostle…you’ll count it all joy. God doesn’t make apostles to wear shiny shoes, rolexs and stretch limos. (not that those are bad.) He makes them to serve, build and bear with the body of Christ until she comes to maturity. An apostle is a “fathering” role.  Many apostles out there today are emerging apostles learning to be fathers. Most of them have skipped God’s process and are in ministry prematurely.

5. Being associated with a “ministry organization” doesn’t make you an apostle.
I understand why such organizations have come about. Its because the local church is sick. But the danger with so called “apostolic networks” or “ministry schools” is that they often give licenses to individuals without any relational context. If there is a form of relationship, its not enough to be actually be considered accountability. A phone call with a regional director once a month doesn’t serve as accountability folks. Having access to ministry material, conferences and books doesn’t give much to go on either. Now, in defense of these networks, they can be great resources and tools for the body of Christ. They are great forums for teaching, training, impartation and networking to build unity in the body of Christ. I would not find them to be a good source of identifying and endorsement of ministry.

This, my friends, is just scratching the surface. I would love to hear your responses.

What is an Apostle?

Since we are in the vein of discussing the apostolic grace, I found this blog post by a friend named Yvette Nietzen from Fresh Wind Ministries. I found it to be very clear and concise as to describing the apostolic anointing…

What is an apostle?
Yvette Nietzen

There are many teachings regarding the Apostolic, and I would like to share what I have learned on this popular subject. My desire here is to make this simple and not complicated for all to understand.First of all I would like to make reference to GMRN where I received my training and where many of the these truths stem from. Without them, I would not be where I am today. I do my part to share the pattern that the Lord has revealed to the end times Apostles and Prophets.

Below are some signs to look for in an Apostle. Having these signs in your life does not make you an Apostle, that is for the Lord to decide.

An Apostle is a pioneer. They receive a plan/blueprint from the Lord, much like Moses did and they begin to execute that plan.

An Apostle is set apart and sent by God, unlike missionaries where they are sent by an organization. They receive a direct call from God and execute that plan. Many times he or she is a loner and viewed by many as odd, or off in the wrong path.

Romans 1:1 says Romans 1:1 Paul, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated to the gospel of God(NKJ)

An Apostle leaves the visible church system to receive training from God. We have the example of Jesus, King David, Moses and John the Baptist.

An Apostle builds the church. But what is the church? The church are the people, not a building. They begin by setting a new foundation in the hearts of the people, doing away with old mindsets and teaching them new truths and revelation from the word.

An Apostle can function in all the five fold ministries. They may have a stronger emphasis in two to three areas, but they are able to function in all five at any given moment as the Lord requires.

An Apostle faces death to the flesh constantly and to things that just don’t go right. They learn quickly to die already, and move on.

An Apostle is a servant and receives the call from the womb. We have Jesus as the example.

Galatians 1:15 – 16 says: But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb and called me through His grace, to reveal His Son in me, that I might preach Him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately confer with flesh and blood

An Apostle does not build on other men’s foundation, they receive their own blueprint from the Lord. 1 Corinthians 3:11 For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.

Can anyone be an Apostle? The answer is no. I have written an article titled “Are you Called or Chosen” that answers this question. We need to understand that being called as an Apostle carries with it a heavy price.

Can women be Apostles? Yes, because the scripture does not give reference to gender when distributing the gifts of the spirit. The Lord is looking for willing vessels, ready to carry out His plan upon the earth. Colossians 3:11 where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all and in all. (my personal conviction is that this scripture is referring to salvation in Christ.  A woman cannot be in the office of the apostle, being that Scripture teaches that women are not to have authority over men, also a woman cannot “father” as an apostle should. This is not to say a woman cannot be “apostolic” in the sense she is sent, or called as a co-laborer with apostles as many women are and where in the Bible.–Rusty)

An Apostle does not produce new scripture. So run fast from those that say otherwise.

Apostles are called to leadership, they are not followers.
Romans 11:13 Romans 11:13 For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles I magnify mine office (KJV)

An Apostle will have a face to face relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ and excellent communication.

This is just a very small overview of what being an Apostle is about. As the Lord leads, I will add new articles on this subject.

Apostle-
Brother Miguel Villareal

Can you update the apostle section with this content. Reading what Yvette wrote spurred me to make corrections and to add more to what i believe are many misconceptions about the call.

“For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinated to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren Rom 8:29”

JESUS himself was thee chief Apostle, so only being like Christ can constitute any grace gift as valid, but they are specific highlights of this particularly gift that can be discerned as earmarks of the gift. As noted above Rom 8:29 in context explains our sonship/adoption as children of GOD, but I believe it reveals a spiritual law that apostle carry within them and that is an cognitive-spiritual awareness of being selected from others to operate and function in this gift beforehand. When this person hears this call to apostleship it bears witness long before they understood what it is that would explain the “Foreknowing”.

The next piece would be an understanding that the image of JESUS CHRIST is the chief example or cornerstone in which this particular individual mimics there apostleship. When apostles the heart of an apostle is one who desires to see JESUS CHRIST modeled in the person or people they are called too, this is called duplication. A true apostle duplicates the image or character of JESUS CHRIST ” image of his son” in others. If discipleship is not an essence of one who says they are an apostle they must be guided to scriptures to embody exactly what JESUS was sent to do and that was to seek and save the lost by example. Another aspect of an apostle is the understanding of the“Firstborn” that entails being first not in a hierarchical matter as I am above, but contrary are you willing to be first to be last, are you willing to be first in dieing, are you willing to be first as an mocker in this world, are you willing to first in being a fool in this world, are you willing to be first in being the weaker even though you have revelation that would even inspire angels, are you willing to be first in being despised, are you willing to be first in being hungry so others can eat first, are you willing to be exposed naked first so all can see your sins and weakness so others can be made strong, are you willing to be first in being homeless this could mean that GOD will call you at any movement to pack your cloths and leave your home, attacked, reviled, persecuted, defamed, filth of the world, a reject? If you can see these characteristic in those who call themselves apostles, then they are worthy of double honor.

Miguel Villareal is a dear brother and emerging apostolic leader. He has done church planting in the UK for 5 years and has visited several nations including Czech Republic, France, Germany and South America. He has a mandate to plant organic house churches and currently is laboring in the NW Suburbs of Chicago. He and his wife, Mary and 2 girls live in Plainfield, Il.

Apostolic-Definitions of an Apostolic people.
Brother Miguel Villareal.

Without getting into a analogical argument of it’s meaning we must look into this subject with apprehension. The locus of it’s inception is spiritual and birth spiritually protected by death, and resurrected by HIS blood. It is a smudging of JESUS spirit upon a person or people, it defines the operation of the church and it’s function. To be apostolic is not merely an achievement but a cue that one has obtain fellowship with the saints. JESUS borrowed a Greek word to express what HE wanted HIS body to become. In these twelve men we see it’s cosmic definition prescribed by character, action smelted together breeding a clarion difference between Judaism and Apostolic. It forged away the old, carrying forward anew. Without it the people are perplexed even questioning themselves if they are true. It is a brand, a tattoo that we must not lose cause if this word loses it’s pungency then might it at work without HIS power.