Ariticles

Jesus Leads and Uses Leaders

 

Have you ever wondered why God needs spiritual leaders? What is their purpose and what is there place? With this in mind Jesus wants Him and His word to be followed directly. He said to one of the first apostles, Matthew, a tax collector, in Luke 5:26, “Follow me”. I wouldn’t say in any way he meant to follow someone else who claims to be certain to be listening and faithfully following what the Lord is saying and doing. What He wants is a personal life of listening and engaging with Him. It is a good point that it was easier to follow Him when physically present but what about now with the indwelling Holy Spirit? This is going to be an interesting discovery into how Jesus expects His followers to be faithfully devoted to Him who is now unseen.

There is probably something many people have been asking but haven’t managed to say it. How should a man as a leader be related to if it’s God who is to be in charge when believer’s meet? The Lord brought up the attitude to have about His leading in Matthew 23:8, ‘But do not be called Rabbi; for One is your Teacher, and you are all brothers. 9 Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. 10 Do not be called leaders; for One is your Leader, that is, Christ.’ It’s important to establish the appropriate spirit of relationship to God and man into two separate categories.

We will come back to this. It needs to be known that numbers are very important in the spiritual realm. There are different kinds of Christian fellowship and the dynamic of these can depend on the size. There is a saying that two is company and three is a crowd. Well from the Bible there is insight into these numbers. The Lord Jesus showed that three is a good number for private moments with God, ‘And He allowed no one to accompany Him, except Peter and James and John the brother of James’ (Mark 5:37). And later in the same Gospel, ‘Six days later, Jesus took with Him Peter and James and John, and brought them up on a high mountain by themselves. And He was transfigured before them’ (Mark 9:2).

The number of personal meetings I believe goes up to twelve. It’s the total number in the first pioneer group. This corresponds with the twelve tribes of Israel. There was no leader within this group. This probably seems obvious to you since Jesus was actually with them. But it was also true when with Him absent. And even when He was permanently removed after Jesus was glorified they still didn’t need to appoint a leader for their group. You might be asking: Then why do we need leaders at all if they didn’t have a man as leader then? I think this is the answer to that question. It makes sense to me that if the numbers exceed twelve it follows a boundary in the spiritual realm to be categorized as a public or congregational meeting. This being so it’s important to have a leader present. Can you imagine three spiritual friends on fire for God and believe they have clear instructions about what to do, how to achieve this and where to go. I can see how they would reason together to work on God’s leading in each individual’s life. There is the scope for corporate input about each one’s part to fulfill their calling. And all this to be living in repentance and faith so as to be in a good standing with the Lord. A caring friendship group creates a much safer place with involved friends to be used effectively as a channel of grace.  I can see that after the number twelve it becomes impersonal and harder to maintain the right level of attention for personal relationships and ministry.

I had to set that understanding about numbers before we go into the real heart of leadership: the five-fold ministry. In the new testament church a leader is called an elder with five distinct branches as mentioned in Ephesians 3:11, ‘ And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.’

There are two categories in the spiritual realm the heavenly sphere and the sphere of man. What this is about is the battle to hear and obey God’s voice. We are made like receivers constantly looking to connect for further instructions and feedback on what is being done. Now that Jesus’ voice is to be heard in His physical absence it is more difficult to follow His right instructions. It can take training with effort and practice to understand His pure will. This is also achieved by how God’s written word relates to every area of life. In a small group it is more personally managed to follow His leading but in the larger gatherings it’s best to have leadership to help to bring order and direction. I wonder can you sense the battle even in the early church when James suddenly spoke up to direct attention to what He wanted to say. It’s like in the technical age of today to pass the microphone, ‘After they had stopped speaking, James answered, saying, “Brethren, listen to me’’ (Acts 15:13). It tells of a need to speak on Jesus behalf to make up for not being there in person. There is a constant search for what exactly He wants to say and do. So the higher level of gifting of the eldership ministry team is to help to manage with the void of Jesus’ physical presence to be replaced with the Holy Spirit’s invisible presence. Good listeners as ministers working in tandem for this same cause is to keep and guard God’s pure voice to be heard, ‘You shall follow the Lord your God and fear Him; and you shall keep His commandments, listen to His voice, serve Him, and cling to Him’ (Deuteronomy 13:4). One of the duties of a leadership team has its core purpose to be skilled at hearing and following God’s voice. It helps the Father’s heart to be known. The eldership’s depth of communication with the Lord in the beginnings of the early church is shown in Acts 15:28 in a communiqué, “For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay upon you no greater burden than these essentials’. This is in no way designed to compensate for a lack of each believer’s personal life experience of living and listening to God. But to assist to establish the relationship in a lifestyle of communication with Him. That is, the ministry leadership is not be be a crutch to rely on but an assistance to grow in His grace. Each individual Christian is ultimately responsible to be ordered by the Lord Himself.

Friendship with God and Real Friends  

Can you imagine having the Lord Jesus in person to be with you for one day? What would you think you would say to Him and visa versa? That would be amazing! He knows exactly what we need and what to say to us. It would be like surgery for a day. Fellowship with Him is in a totally different sphere as He is the origin of life who everyone really needs. His word has unlimited power that nothing can resist. That is unless He allows for it. It really is a void to be without this experience of His physical presence. Jesus was asked why John’s disciples fasted while His didn’t in Luke 5:33 to which He replied, “Can you make wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them?’. Those around Jesus who were joined to His ministry would have got the ultimate life training program. There was little room for error to receive personal prophecy as Jesus’ mouth could be seen moving with His words as He spoke with His distinct voice. The only problem could be to misinterpret His exact words. These twelve would have got instant or perhaps a short delay to feedback on their daily tasks, assignments and progress of repentance and faith. Exact instructions were given by the Lord about when and where to go,  what to do and how to do it. They would have received commendation and correction. At times they got a repuke as there is pain in progress. Wow! Because of this amazing grace I wouldn’t imagine there were many complications for them to stay in God’s will with all this direct and personal training program.

 

As well as having Jesus in person there was surer success for the twelve disciples’ to have life-term friends working alongside in ministry. They were all attached to one another in a life-commitment group that God Himself brought together. They didn’t get to choose this special group of ministry friends just as not getting to choose a natural family. The stark reality of the need for mercy and forgiveness was a reality every day and there was a reverence in Jesus’ presence. There was also a strictness that He wasn’t afraid to display at times because He really loved them, ‘As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love’ (John 15:9). They had personal attention from the Lord Himself to help them to work on their personal spiritual walk with Him. The Lord told them how they could be a true blessing, “If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet” (John 13:14). They were made to live in teamwork to help to stay spiritually clean and alert for the work of the Kingdom of God. It really takes effort to work at being spiritually alive and ready at every moment for action. They were a repentant circle of friends that experienced Jesus in His authority who was really living among them.

 

After Jesus death on the cross these first Apostles and the early church were slow to work on the revelation that He joined together the Jews and Gentiles to equally partake in the new creation, ‘that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace’ (Ephesians 2:15). As well as that it would seem that they didn’t grasp the revelation that they had a model group that was needed for every believer. I’m glad to say God was not only thinking about their sake but also the whole church to have one of these. I would say that a ministry friendship team is part of the spiritual inheritance for each member of Christ just as the land of Canaan was a natural place for Israel’s inheritance. Much better success can be had when active in ministry with a circle of spiritual friends. I couldn’t imagine this special first group of disciples is a special case. God made man with a spiritual family in mind and friendship groups go a long way to fulfill that void in the human heart. The Lord has designed everyone to be a part of a tight-knit spiritual family of friends. These would be intrinsically joined sharing innermost thoughts and feelings. It’s at a far higher level of support and care than having separate friendships who are not actively connected.

 

There’s no doubt that it’s happy days that now everyone joined to Christ has the Holy spirit with a more depth of God. In Jesus own words, But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you.’ (John 16:7). I know you are probably thinking that all Christians are better off as the Lord has just said. I personally would say He was talking to His disciples who had been on a wonderful intensive training program with Jesus’ personal attention. They were in a routine of what exactly needs to be done and what the Lord is looking for in their personal lives. Without training to listen to the Lord and following His clear direction much of the benefit becomes lost by having the Holy Spirit. It could really be a case of Jesus is better for a time until a certain training is reached to say that in reality having the Holy Spirit instead of Jesus in person becomes an advantage. It really comes down to living outside of God’s intention: every believer is to live in a group of repentant friends. It’s better than having the Lord in person if true believers have a friendship team that listen to the His voice, lives and understands His word, grace and kindness and follow specific instructions about what to do for the kingdom of God. It’s much trickier without the interest of friends to discover the gifts and callings that are unique to each individual member of Christ . Anyway with the process of repentance and faith it will clear the cobwebs to hearing the much needed instructions and to have a personal vision about where God is leading. There is a great blessing to be in this circle of spiritual friends who are keen to clean out their lives in the reverencial way that God wants. He is gentle so He needs everyone in these groups to be very attentive to what He is saying. In this way we can tap into a fuller grace to fulfill His purpose. The best thing ever is to enjoy the personal experience of living well with God: Emmanuel.

John McCarthy 31/01/19

 

Friendship with God and Real Friends

Can you imagine having the Lord Jesus in person to be with you for one day? What would you think you would say to Him and visa versa? That would be amazing! He knows exactly what we need and what to say to us. It would be like surgery for a day. Fellowship with Him is in a totally different sphere as He is the origin of life who everyone really needs. His word has unlimited power that nothing can resist. That is unless He allows for it. It really is a void to be without this experience of His physical presence. Jesus was asked why John’s disciples fasted while His didn’t in Luke 5:33 to which He replied, “Can you make wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them?’. Those around Jesus who were joined to His ministry would have got the ultimate life training program. There was little room for error to receive personal prophecy as Jesus’ mouth could be seen moving with His words as He spoke with His distinct voice. The only problem could be to misinterpret His exact words. These twelve would have got instant or perhaps a short delay to feedback on their daily tasks, assignments and progress of repentance and faith. Exact instructions were given by the Lord about when and where to go,  what to do and how to do it. They would have received commendation and correction. At times they got a repuke as there is pain in progress. Wow! Because of this amazing grace I wouldn’t imagine there were many complications for them to stay in God’s will with all this direct and personal training program.

 

As well as having Jesus in person there was surer success for the twelve disciples’ to have life-term friends working alongside in ministry. They were all attached to one another in a life-commitment group that God Himself brought together. They didn’t get to choose this special group of ministry friends just as not getting to choose a natural family. The stark reality of the need for mercy and forgiveness was a reality every day and there was a reverence in Jesus’ presence. There was also a strictness that He wasn’t afraid to display at times because He really loved them, ‘As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love’ (John 15:9). They had personal attention from the Lord Himself to help them to work on their personal spiritual walk with Him. The Lord told them how they could be a true blessing, “If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet” (John 13:14). They were made to live in teamwork to help to stay spiritually clean and alert for the work of the Kingdom of God. It really takes effort to work at being spiritually alive and ready at every moment for action. They were a repentant circle of friends that experienced Jesus in His authority who was really living among them.

 

After Jesus death on the cross these first Apostles and the early church were slow to work on the revelation that He joined together the Jews and Gentiles to equally partake in the new creation, ‘that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace’ (Ephesians 2:15). As well as that it would seem that they didn’t grasp the revelation that they had a model group that was needed for every believer. I’m glad to say God was not only thinking about their sake but also the whole church to have one of these. I would say that a ministry friendship team is part of the spiritual inheritance for each member of Christ just as the land of Canaan was a natural place for Israel’s inheritance. Much better success can be had when active in ministry with a circle of spiritual friends. I couldn’t imagine this special first group of disciples is a special case. God made man with a spiritual family in mind and friendship groups go a long way to fulfill that void in the human heart. The Lord has designed everyone to be a part of a tight-knit spiritual family of friends. These would be intrinsically joined sharing innermost thoughts and feelings. It’s at a far higher level of support and care than having separate friendships who are not actively connected.

 

There’s no doubt that it’s happy days that now everyone joined to Christ has the Holy spirit with a more depth of God. In Jesus own words, But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you.’ (John 16:7). I know you are probably thinking that all Christians are better off as the Lord has just said. I personally would say He was talking to His disciples who had been on a wonderful intensive training program with Jesus’ personal attention. They were in a routine of what exactly needs to be done and what the Lord is looking for in their personal lives. Without training to listen to the Lord and following His clear direction much of the benefit becomes lost by having the Holy Spirit. It could really be a case of Jesus is better for a time until a certain training is reached to say that in reality having the Holy Spirit instead of Jesus in person becomes an advantage. It really comes down to living outside of God’s intention: every believer is to live in a group of repentant friends. It’s better than having the Lord in person if true believers have a friendship team that listen to the His voice, lives and understands His word, grace and kindness and follow specific instructions about what to do for the kingdom of God. It’s much trickier without the interest of friends to discover the gifts and callings that are unique to each individual member of Christ . Anyway with the process of repentance and faith it will clear the cobwebs to hearing the much needed instructions and to have a personal vision about where God is leading. There is a great blessing to be in this circle of spiritual friends who are keen to clean out their lives in the reverencial way that God wants. He is gentle so He needs everyone in these groups to be very attentive to what He is saying. In this way we can tap into a fuller grace to fulfill His purpose. The best thing ever is to enjoy the personal experience of living well with God: Emmanuel.

John McCarthy 31/01/19

A01 Do you know what God wants to do in your life?

It’s a blessing to share with you some things I have been writing about in a book about the Bible and a coursebook. It might be that after delving into the many stories and encounters of Jesus in the Bible that you sense there is still something you aren’t getting. I hope this article will shine light on these grey areas. What you really need to know is God’s heart: a developing relationship with Jesus along with spiritual friendships and ministry. In the beginnings of Moses’ life these last two purposes of how he was designed was missing. I’d say he would have become a spiritual leader forty years earlier if he had them. A ministry friendship he had much later was Joshua. For him, Moses was to be replaced by another man of God called Caleb as a co-worker in ministry. They already proved to be a perfect match in an assignment to spy out the land of Canaan while Moses was alive as you can read in Numbers 13. It’s a dreadful shame this spiritual ministry attachment didn’t continue. Both Joshua and Caleb missed out on being co-workers in ministry. I am sure this disturbed God’s work not only for themselves but also the whole nation of Israel. There might be something at the back of your mind if this has happened to you.

There is an amazing story of Mary and Martha in John 11. Their individual strengths compensated for their weaknesses in their newly developing spiritual relationship. This quickly had to develop into a stable progressive ministry friendship for both of their destinies and beyond. The truth is that they had to become good enough ministers for themselves first so that they could make an impact to train many others in what they have learned. I’d say they had no idea that one day they would be launched into a famous international ministry after the death of their brother Lazarus. The world’s eyes were suddenly upon them. They together became like two pillars.

This theme of God’s purpose continues in the story of Elijah who left without Elisha on a grand-scale mission to win Israel back to God. The pivotal point was in 1 Kings 18:16 when he was successful to put an end to the false prophets and helped establish the Lord to be the God of Israel. A lack of a ministry partner stifled God’s work to bring Israel back to the Lord so that only part of the mission was successful. The servant he had was no replacement for a co-worker as a spiritual friend. Godly training by team workers could have created the conditions for His people to live a life reconciled to God and not just to be convinced that He was real. The reality of these two parts of God’s heart, spiritual friendships and ministry, is that God is working on these around you in this never ending story. The reason for these stories and many more like them in the Bible is to reflect on how they affects us. I have learnt something to share with you from all this work I have been doing in these writing projects. It’s that God wants both purposes in tandem. When there is a void of spiritual life-term ministry friendships or the ministry itself He has an issue with and is likely to lead to losing spiritual battles. I wonder if you can see in your own life that God has been busy working on these. It would be great to see more clearly what He is trying to do to cooperate with Him. It will really help to have the spiritual eyes open to see the many ways the Lord wants to bless us. There is likely to be amazing opportunities to take of healing, destiny connections, ministry, financial blessings and much more if we could understand what He is planning around us. I want the work I’ve put into the writing to help establish a personal experience of Jesus with spiritual friendships and individual ministries by having a deep understanding of these and many more vital insights into the Father’s heart.