An Apostolic Center

relationship

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I am given all authority and power in heaven and on earth. Therefore I send you to the nations to make disciples out of them. Ma 28:18b-19a

Lately, I have been talked to about apostolic centers quite often. Most of the time, apostolic centers have been compared to local churches, and questions arose as to the different, complementing callings of local churches and apostolic centers. Let’s have a look on what sets such an apostolic center apart.

First I thought that the „center“ part was pretty clear, but I will say a few words to that later as well. For now, let’s have a closer look at the word apostolic.

Actually, we are going to start with the noun apostle and it’s roots. Apostolos means to send or to be sent. Just as Jesus was sent by the father, he sent us. An apostolic centre therefore has to do with sending.

Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God. … through whom [Jesus Christ] we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations. Rom 1.5

But before Jesus sent out the disciples, he lived with them for more than three years. He taught them, invested in them, equipped them. Then he trusted them with the church.

But before leaving he gave them gifts. His gifts? People. People with special anointings and callings. Apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, teachers.

Therefore it says, “When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men.” … And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers. Eph 4:8.11

Paul, an apostle— not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead. Gal 1:1

And here we find the word again: apostle. This time as a noun.

Apostles in ancient Rome where very important people with great authority. When Rome conquered a province, the army usually went on to the next. When coming back, they realized that the people had gone back to their way of living, their culture. Sounds like some evangelistic crusades, when the evangelist returns after some time and the same people give their life to Christ once more, having lived their old life again in the meantime.

This is where the Romans sent apostles.

Apostles did not come on their own. They brought with them an „army“ of craftsmen, artists, merchants, philosophers, teachers, politicians, you name it.

And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues. 1Co 12:28

They founded cities and trading places, public baths and theaters. They brought Roman culture and way of life and thus bound the province to the Roman empire.

Apostles were sent by the senate or the caesar with great authority. Just like Jesus was sent by the Father to establish Kingdom culture on earth with great authority. And just as the Father sent Him, he sends us.

But as I said: apostles rarely come on their own. To do their task, they need others. God gave men many divers gifts and abilities, and each of them is a part of the puzzle.

Back to the five gifts Jesus gave to the church. He gave them, so everybody could develop their abilities and giftings, to become what God planned for them. So all could contribute to the task to establish and strengthen the Kingdom of God. Here.

The five are not called to do everything on their own. On the contrary: it is their assignment to foster, facilitate, sponsor, equip others and give them vital parts of the overall assignment both in the church and the Kingdom. To equip and set people free to come into their God-given calling – whether in church or not.

… to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ. Eph 4:12

Prophets’ main task therefore is not to hear the voice of God, but to teach others to hear more clearly. Evangelists train people to evangelize, overcoming their fear of men. Pastors show others how to care for people. And teachers teach people to learn and teach, to reach their sphere of influence without having to point people to the teacher each time they have a question. And apostles? They show people how to grow into the authority that Jesus gave us. And keep the ship on course.

Apostles – as everybody else – have a sphere of influence. It includes

  • Churches: Paul founded some churches, like Ephesus and Corinth, but in others he had a totally different task and demeanor, like in Rome. He brought correction to Corinth, but sound theology to Rome.
  • People: we know the relationships between Barnabas and Paul, Paul and Timothy, Titus, Silas. Or think of Barnabas, Paul, and John Mark.

If to others I am not an apostle, at least I am to you, for you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord. 1Co 9:2

That is why my assignment includes you in Rome as well, who are called by Jesus Christ. Rom 1:5-6

To Timothy, my true child in the faith. 1Ti 1:2

By now, I think I have established the base ideas about the word apostle. But what about apostolic? Our first definition might be: whatever belongs to an apostle. And we would be dead wrong.

Nothing belongs to an apostle. The earth is the Lords, and all that is in it.

So what does apostolic mean? It means everything that has the same sending, the same assignment as an apostle. Of course that is the company of gifted men and women complementing the apostle, just as the merchants and craftsmen in the Roman empire. But it includes the necessary tools and provision as well – we know well that money for example has ears and assignments.

An apostolic center therefore is a place where a likeminded group of very divers people invests themselves into others to further the Kingdom by developing gifts and anointings in people and sending them out. Just as Jesus sent the disciples and Paul, and Paul sent Timothy, and told Timothy to invest himself into people that would do the same again. A never-ending story of complementation, succession, multiplication.

 And there we are again: apostolos.

Now it is clear that the word center does not mean centralized. It is not even the center of the action. It just signifies location and builds a base for the apostolic team to work out of. There will be many apostolic centers in a organically grown network of churches, serving the whole body.

And you?

  • Do you want to be part of an apostolic people, belong to the sphere of influence of an apostle and his team?
  • Do you want to get equipped for your service and assignment, and equip others?
  • Do you want to grow to become sons of God?

Sun, Moon, and Stars

Star Sun Moon snow

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Then he had another dream, and gave his brothers an account of it, saying, I have had another dream:the sun and the moon and eleven stars gave honour to me. Gen 37:9

We have a wrong focus. At least we typically have. What do I mean?

Let me give you an example.

When we receive a word, a prophecy, an encouragement, wo often tend to warn people afterwards that such words tend to bring troubles. There is somebody that wants to steal your promises. And that is true, and we usually mean very good, as if exhorting the recipient of the word. Just be ready. Things might happen that want to distract you from your promise.

I have come to believe that this actually is the first distraction from your promise. You just received a word and you now have to build up expectation and faith for it to come true. Because faith will draw what already is in the spiritual realm into the natural, so your promise will manifest. Without expectation and faith, promises hardly manifest. So often Jesus said: your faith has healed you. Or: I have not seen such faith in all of Israel.

But our faith is paired with fear immediately. Just because we work that way. OK, I am going to say this a little less tinted: our expectation of the good is tainted with the expectation of bad things happening to steal, prevent, or push back the good. Immediately, we at least have a split attention, a divided focus. As if we were wearing bifocals, we have in near sight the expectation of bad things happening, and in far sight the promise.

This is especially bad because we tend to believe that the good cannot come without the bad happening first, and we often miss the good.

But let me tell you a couple things about the thieve that is supposed to steal your promise.

He is a defeated foe. Jesus defeated him at the cross. Peter tells us that he now is our enemy – he is not Jesus’ any longer. But then, if we are hidden in Christ, he cannot be our foe any longer either. He is prowling the streets seeing whom he can devour. Keep off the streets then. Stay hidden in Christ.

Let’s make it clear: the enemy only has the authority you give him. Jesus said: all authority and power is given me in heaven and in earth. That does not leave much for anybody else. He continues: therefore I send you in my authority. In Christ, we have all authority he has. And only if we give the devil entrance, he has the power and delegated authority to steal, kill and destroy.

Withstand the devil, and he has to flee.

I therefore advise you to build faith and teach people to fight with their words without implanting fear. Make them strong in Christ.

But what does all this have to do with our verse today?

We not only wear bifocals in the near and small, but also in the big picture.

In several places the bible talks about the sun, moon, and stars darkening before the great and dreadful day of the Lord.

It is part of our eschatology to expect everything to get much worse before Jesus returns and cleans up the spot.

And that makes us look forward in fear – or doesn’t it? Well, at least it lets us cheer when bad things happen. Not openly, and obviously we are torn.

Torn between moaning and trying to prevent a chip that we think is the proverbial sign on the forehead, and cheering that Jesus’ return is getting closer since yet another sign is being fulfilled.

We support Israel as they – so some believe – will keep up the good work of the gospel during the 7 years of tribulation and the 1000 years of Christ’s reign on earth, while we are in heaven, while expecting and longing for two thirds of the Jews to be killed as that would usher in the advent of Christ.

I asked you what if a few posts back. What if most or even all of revelation is in the past. And that is the point I would love to talk about the sun, moon, and stars.

Let the bible interpret the bible. Therefore, when the bible talks about the sun, moon, and stars, let’s see what these meant in places that have had their fulfillment already.

The first time those three are mentioned together is in Genesis, in Josef’s dream. And it is interpreted there for us immediately. Sun, moon, and stars are father, mother, and brothers. Later, in Isaiah and Ezekiel, they represent leaders and maybe gods of cities and nations – Babylon for example. When Babylon was extinct, the physical sun did not turn dark, but the king and his leaders did.

Now let’s look at Jesus words about the last days. What if those days were the last days of the old covenant?

Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Mat 24:29

After Jesus’ death, his resurrection, and the foundation of the church and therefore the full and complete start of the new covenant, God gave Israel 40 years as a testing period to make the shift. After that, there was the Jewish war, during which one million Jews were killed, mostly killed each other, and the Romans destroyed the elements of the old covenant, mainly the temple and the sacrifice.

Animal sacrifice had become unnecessary with the one sacrifice by Jesus, for all and all times. Read Daniel: when the prince is cut off, he cuts a new covenant with the people and puts a stop to animal sacrifice. Jesus did all that, and after that, abomination came to the temple in its destruction. What if the seventieth week of Daniel is fulfilled?

Obviously, then Jesus’ prophecy is fulfilled as well. The king and the leaders of Israel grew dark. The sun, the moon, and the stars did. If we go back to Josef’s dream: when Jesus died, there was darkness, and the connection between Jesus and the Father faded. We could say the sun darkened. Jesus actually turned red from blood. Just like the moon is the reflection of the sun, so Jesus was the reflection of the Father, as he only did what he saw the Father doing. And the disciples, the future stars and leaders of the church, all fled.

If all this is true, the days of sun, moon, and stars darkening are over, and we do not have to wait for them in fear and expectancy. We do not have to wear bifocals any longer, expecting the bad before it can get better. Nor do we have to secretly long for catastrophe to happen. Suddenly, another verse of the bible would be much more probable and suitable:

Moreover, the light of the moon will be as the light of the sun, and the light of the sun will be sevenfold, as the light of seven days, in the day when the Lord binds up the brokenness of his people, and heals the wounds inflicted by his blow. Isa 30:26

A great description of the new covenant, is it not?

Let’s get rid of our bifocals. Let’s expect the good, the godly. Let’s shine brighter. Build your faith, and the faith of others.

Because if you focus on Jesus, who cares what is going on around you? You are going to be an encouragement, an example people cannot ignore. And instead of pushing them away with your constant fear and pessimism, you will draw them to the source of your faith.

What do you think?

The Number 10

Ten Virgins  01

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And the servant took ten of his master’s camels, and all sorts of good things of his master’s, and went to Mesopotamia, to the town of Nahor. Gen 24:10

It is more than interesting that above verse is verse number 10 in this chapter. Of course I know that there where no chapters and verses in the bible originally, and that is maybe why Paul usually just said: „it is written“. But, Paul, a hint to the book would have been nice. On the other hand, at least I can claim tradition if I do not know chapter and verse of something I am quoting. In that respect: thank you, Paul.

But back to my point. What is so interesting about the number 10?

When you look at the number, you will find that it is associated with tests throughout the bible.

It starts with Abraham. When he had won over the five kings that had taken Lot captive, he met Melchizedek, king of Salem. That is „my righteous and holy king, king of peace“. Does that ring any bells?

Abraham pays the tithe of what he conquered to Melchizedek. It was a test, a test of subordination to a higher. But that is not the only occurrence of the number ten in Abrahams life.

When Abraham lived in Canaan for ten years, Sarai brought Hagar to him and urged him to fulfill God’s promise and prophecy of a son himself. This time, Abraham failed. His faith failed the test – but obviously, God did not draw back his promise.

Abraham, when asking the Lord to save Sodom if he found upright men there, started at fifty, but ended his request at the number 10. If God would find 10 upright men, he would spare Sodom and Gomorrah.

Later, it was Abraham again that sent his servant to find a wife for the son of promise. And the servant took with him 10 camels. It was these camels that the future wife had to give water to so the servant would know that it was her. And her brother asked for a 10 day waiting period before she was to leave. But the servant did not accept that. Test after test.

The same brother changed payments 10 times for Jacob, before Jacob finally had enough. It was 10 brothers of Josef that first went down to Egypt when there was no food in Canaan.

And we just finished Genesis. Look at the rest of the bible, and you will find the 10 plagues in Egypt. 10 commandments. Would Israel listen to the 10 spies? Gideon took 10 servants to bring down the high places of his father during the night, executing God’s assignment. 10 virgins, five foolish and five wise.

Did I make my point?

Even the forty years in the wilderness speak of it. 4 times 10. Or the forty years between Jesus’ death and the destruction of the temple – a test for the Jews whether they would repent and accept the Messiah.

Passing tests at times is vital. Ask any Israelite older than 20 when leaving Egypt. Not to speak of the Jews living in Jerusalem 70 AD.

Sometimes, failing just means additional rounds around a mountain. Just take the test again. Abraham passed the second time around and had his promised son Isaac with the right woman, in God’s plan.

But whether you loose your life or just some time, it is not worth it.

Now think about tithing. God promises that he will open the gates of heaven when we tithe. Jesus and his Kingdom live in us, and it is through us that the Kingdom will come into this world. Thus, we are those gates of heaven. Failing the test prevents the Kingdom to manifest first in our lives and then in our surroundings. Is that worth it?

My advice: pass your tests. What do you think?

Past Revelation

Rome

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The Revelation of Jesus Christ which God gave him so that his servants might have knowledge of the things which will quickly take place:and he sent and made it clear by his angel to his servant John. Rev 1:1

Obviously, God has a totally different understanding of quickly than I do. The word used here is tachos, translated shortly, speedily, quickly. It is where we get tachometer from.

Sure, God’s thoughts are higher than ours, and living outside of time he thinks in different time frames – if at all. But still: two thousand years do not compute in my mind as speedily.

But what if. What if all this already happened?

Scholars today tell us that Revelation was most probably written in about 95 AD. That view has been held for less than 200 years now. Before that, most people would have dated the book to the years 64/65 AD.

Facts rather favor this early date. Just one example. We are told by extra biblical sources that John, after being released from Patmos, extensively travelled Asia Minor. But when he was old, and in 95 he would have been anywhere between 75 and 95 years old, he was carried to church and only repeated one sentence over and over again: love each other.

The postponing of the book’s creation was done by the same people – and during the same time period – that founded dispensationalism and futurism, including a new explanation and interpretation of the book of Revelation as future events.

Why is it important to postpone the book for this? If the book was written in the sixties, there are events that happened quickly after this that align themselves wonderfully with the story. Postponed, there are none, and a new interpretation has to be found, postponing all events to the future.

Remember, I am asking what if. All I want to do is broaden your mind. So please, don’t be offended, but take this as an opportunity to test your believe system against some alternative thoughts. Maybe it will come out even stronger.

There are two systems at war. The world system, and the Kingdom of God. Old nature versus new creation. Old age versus new covenant. Old world versus new world and new heaven. The first Adam versus the last Adam, Jesus Christ.

Maybe, the end of the world is the end of the world system. Thus. the last days are the last days of the old system.

When Jesus died, the last days of the old covenant had come. God gave the Jews another 40 year time period to make the shift from the old into the new, accepting Jesus as their Messiah. Then, he destroyed the old Jerusalem, replacing it with the new coming down from heaven. He destroyed the elements of the old covenant – the temple and the sacrifices – and replaced them with the elements of the new – his blood and his body. His sacrifice and the church, he the head and we the body.

Revelation starts with letters to seven churches in Asia Minor, challenging them to renew their thinking, to leave the old ways and accept the new. The old ways being Hebraic or Greek, the new being Kingdom. And then he warned them of what would happen to those not making the shift.

I mentioned the old and new Jerusalem. In Revelation, the old Jerusalem is called Babylon. Let the bible interpret itself: throughout the bible, the harlot is either Israel or Jerusalem. The wife of God that was unfaithful and betrayed him with the kings of this world. Spiritually, Rome could not have been the harlot, because Rome did not know the covenant in the first place.

But the new Jerusalem is called the bride of Christ. It clearly stands for the church. It is the city Abraham was looking for but never found during his lifetime. It is the church that was founded when the Holy Spirit came on Pentecost. We are seated with Christ in the heavenly places, and we bring the Kingdom to earth. It started when Jesus was born – that is why he said that the Kingdom is here – and continues until all enemies are made into his footstool – that is why he said that the Kingdom is coming. The new Jerusalem is here and it is coming.

Nero was Caesar in 64. He turned against the church when he burned down Rome and needed a scapegoat. And he tormented the church for 42 months, before committing suicide.

I just pointed to some facts here which I leave to your judgement. And just bear in mind that prophecy can have immediate and future fulfillment. But what if Revelation has been fulfilled, and we can draw from its principles instead of fearing future events?

One conclusion that I draw from this: it opens a door for a glorious future instead of one based on fear. Yes, darkness will be darker. But light will be brighter as well. And the future will bring the furthering of the Kingdom.

Jesus will come back when all his enemies are made into his footstool, the last one being death. He will not come back to overcome his enemies, but when his enemies have been overcome.

What do you think?

Who’s Who to Whom

Flock of sheep

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And he said, Who made you a ruler and a judge over us? Are you going to put me to death as you did the Egyptian? And Moses was in fear, and said, It is clear that the thing has come to light. Ex 2:14

There are three questions you have to be sure about the answers before you can stand in situations like the one Moses was in. And let’s be clear: he didn’t. Because he didn’t know the answers.

Let’s recapitulate. Moses had realized that he was an Israelite. He has known all his life, because I am sure that his mother taught him when he was little and she nursed him. In those times, nursing went on for up to five years. So he remembered. But it was not his identity. He was brought up in the Egyptian palace, and only saw what was happening to his people through the lenses of his education. We need workers. We need to keep them low, because otherwise they will overthrow us. The God’s made the Egyptians rulers of the earth. Those were the sentences he heard and for a long time even believed.

But then he saw an Egyptian kill an Israelite. We don’t know what had been going on within him before that day, but that was the proverbial drop that made the jar flow over. It broke out of him. He suddenly knew who he was. An Israelite.

Moses had just found the beginning of the answer to one of the three most important and daring questions everybody has to answer:

  • Whose am I?
  • Who am I?
  • To whom am I joined?

Obviously, it wasn’t but the beginning. Because in the above verse we find him afraid because of his insecurity of who he was. And because he had not found the other two answers.

Who am I?

The most foundational question of the three, and usually the starting point. “Who am I” is implanted into our being as a quest, with the follow up questions of “why am I here” and “what am I doing”. Our search for identity.

Today, we answer this question by what we are doing. I am a programmer. I am a writer. I am a teacher. I am a drug addict. I am a victim. Even such things as “I am a sinner saved by grace”.

The last answer at least has a touch of the environment the question has to be embedded in. Because our three questions build an inseparable complex of questions that only bring peace when asked – together.

Ask one of the questions alone, and you will be led astray.

I just told you that asking the question of who I am without the others, I will end up defining myself by what I do. Or what has been done to me.

Asking the question of whose I am will lead me into slavery, if I do not know at the same time who I am.

Asking the question of to whom I am joined without having identity and knowing whose I am will lead me to join people only because they give me a chance to belong. Gangs, bad marriages, abusive relationships, dependencies.

Later in his life, Moses is questioned over and over again. When he comes back to Egypt to free his people. When they get stuck between the Egyptian army and the red sea. Or just about anytime the Israelites had maneuvered themselves into a bad situation. Remember the rod of Aaron? The people questioned the legitimacy  of leadership.

What was different?

Moses knew who he was to an extend that people started to believe him. He knew he was a son of God, sent to deliver the son of God, his firstborn, Israel.

To find out his true identity, namely that he was a son of God, he had to know whose he was. God’s. He did not belong to the pharaoh, nor was he his own.

And he knew, who he was joined to. He was joined to Aaron and Mirjam, Joshua, Caleb, the elders, his father-in-law Jethro. This group gave him strength, boldness, support, and correction. They carried the vision for the people of Israel together with him, more and more. Moses needed to know that he was joined to them especially in times when they questioned him. When Aaron and Mirjam questioned his leadership – remember, he was their little brother – he had to know. First whose he was. then who he was, and certainly that he had been joined with them.

And he for sure had to know that he had been joined to the people of Israel. Otherwise, could he have stepped in on their behalf and hindered god from killing them all because they had rebelled against himself? Or would he have stepped in?

It boils down to this:

Be it old or new covenant, before, during, or after the law, it does not matter. These three questions are humane, universal, and cannot be avoided:

  • Whose am I?
  • Who am I
  • To whom am I joined?

It’s the questions we have to face and answer. It’s the answers we will grow into over a lifetime. It’s the facts we will learn to have more and more revelation about on the way. It’s the truths we have to believe. Even though it is easy to know the answer, it is hard to believe them. Because they are grand, earth changing, and delivering all at once.

Obviously, I can give you the answers. They are plainly written in God’s word. but to apply them to your life, you have to experience them yourself. You have to see the answers.

And here they are:

You are God’s. For the earth and everything in it belongs to the Lord. And now we have the right to be called God’s children.

You are a son of God. This is my son in whom I am well pleased. And because you are sons, God has sent out the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, saying Abba, Father. And Jesus is the everlasting father. And the whole creation yearns for the sons of God to come forth.

You are joined to a group of people within the church. You have your place, just as Peter and John came back to their company after being let go by the Sanhedrin. You are joined to a spiritual father and a team of the fivefold ministry just as Moses had Aaron and Mirjam and Jethro. You are joined to spiritual sons just as Moses had Joshua.

Does this help you? Depending on where you stand at the moment, it gives you a hint in the right direction, resonates within you as the Spirit gives testimony, or just confirms you in the faith and strength you found in this.

Again, these three questions have to be posed and answered by you yourself. These three answers have to be found and experienced by you yourself. These truths have to be settle with you yourself.

I gave you a kick in the right direction. Will you go for a hunt?