Sunday, June 09, 2013

Living an Un-Offended Life

Today is my 23,000th day.  My 63rd birthday appears on the calendar later this month, but recently  I have begun to think more of the importance of days.

Our lives are a gift of God.  They are mostly measured in years, but really we live out that gift day-by-day.  I think the day marker is most important, because to some extent, a night's sleep veils the previous day.  In a significant way, each day is new.

I have learned the power of speaking into the new day.  I have learned the importance of affirming in every day Thanksgiving, living an Un-offended life, Love, Identity, and Purpose.

A few days ago, I was offended at my wife.  That offense diminished the flow of love between us.  In reality, the offense was a false construct in my own mind....she did NOTHING wrong.  But because I have not yet fully put offense under my feet, damage was done to our relationship.

Because each morning I affirm my commitment to living an un-offended life.....because I refresh that commitment each day.....I knew fairly quickly that I was wrong....and that I had allowed what I had committed NOT to allow.

As discouraging as it was to damage the relationship I have with the one I love the most, I felt a breath of encouragement.  I realized that the daily affirmation I make to live an un-offended life is what allowed me to quickly see where I had gone off the rails.....and because I am a son of God, I asked for forgiveness and restored the relationship.

Each day, I use TULIP as a memory aid to start the day right.  I write in my journal words of Thanksgiving. I affirm my commitment to live an Un-offended life and a life of Love.  I write of my Identity as a prince in the Kingdom of God, and I write of my Purpose in Him.

If you want to write or speak into your own day, you may want to make a different list of attitudes and affirmations.  However you do it, you can renew your mind in this way each day.  You can use the creative power given by God to shape yourself for the coming day.....and the years that make up your lifetime.  

That's what I'm doing, as best I can.  

How about you.....what do you do to make the most of each day?

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

What is it about Bethel: Thoughts on the Revival at Bethel / Redding

The revival going on at Bethel Church in Redding California has been a subject of growing interest to many Christians in America and around the world since the late 1990's.  It is a long-lasting revival by any measure, and continues to grow in impact.  Linda and I relocated to Redding in September 2012 for personal revival and to get a much more intimate view of this church and its culture.  We have graduated from 1st year of the Bethel School of Superantural Ministry, and that shapes our viewpoint, of course, but the culture of the church shines through everything Bethel does.  This is my perspective on the church as I see it today.

Worship at the Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry.  The first
year school is held at the Redding Civic Center to allow space for
the 1,100+ students.  
It is easy to see that something extraordinary is going on just by visiting a church service: if you want a good seat in the main auditorium, plan on arriving about an hour early for the 10:30 AM Sunday service.  If you want any seat at all in the main auditorium, don't be late.  Lines form outside the auditorium to get in and claim a good seat.  The church has added an additional campus a few miles away to serve the growing membership.  A much larger campus will be completed not far away by 2020.

Furthermore, people move to Redding, a Northern California community, just to be part of this church.  We have met several couples who sold out, uprooted family, and moved here to be part of what God is doing. We know from conversation that  many have come in just this way.  We will be in their number this year.  We are in the process of selling our home in Anchorage, Alaska and moving to Redding where we are enrolled in the 2nd year ministry school, and where we intend to live until we know it is time to move again.

The Bethel ministry has global impact.  Bethel leaders travel frequently all around the world.  Thousands of churches are in relationship through Global Legacy.  

There are number of characteristics of the revival that has filled Bethel with holy fire.  Probably the most significant from my perspective is a powerful emphasis on seeking more of the Presence of God.  Senior Leader Bill Johnson, a sixth generation pastor, made a vow at the Toronto Blessing in 1995: "Lord, if You touch me again I will never change the subject".  He has kept the vow, and so has the church.

The Presence of God is valued above all else. While there are obviously tensions in church service timing, I have no doubt that in the event of a Holy Spirit move at any given church service, Bethel leaders would make space for Him and let everything else work around what He is doing.

Revival is the main Kingdom push.  Everything supports revival and/or flows out of revival.  There are MANY ministries in the church with MANY talented workers covering every aspect of the work of a local church.  But revival remains the main thing.  The signs, wonders, miracles and healings, for which Bethel is widely known, support revival, and flow from it.  The Church leadership team is working diligently to create a culture that will facilitate this present revival to continue and spread indefinitely.  Jesus is preached, not the Bethel way. Kingdom is what is important, not Bethel culture. 

Love undergirds the ministry.  The surpassing, unalloyed love of God is a major theme and is very visible in how people treat one another. The very visible culture of honoring one another is a practical outworking of God's kind of love.  Because of honor, Bethel relationships are low control and high accountability.  The church works hard to love and honor the Redding community in practical ways.   Bethel culture is highly relational.  Relationship has priority over structure.  Spiritual fathers and mothers are important; both broadly (e.g. Bill Johnson, Heidi Baker) and personally with individual relationships.  Family is key.  Children are celebrated and actively trained, not warehoused.  

The entire five-fold ministry is powerfully in operation.  The five-fold ministry is led by a strong apostle (Johnson) and a gifted prophet (Vallotton).  There are also: strong pastors (Silk, Backlund and many others)  exceptional teachers (Farrelly, Dedmon, and others) and gifted evangelists (Overstreet and others).  Johnson and Vallotton have worked together for over 30 years, and have been in covenant working relationship since 2001.  This long term, covenant relationship, and other strong, decades-long relationshps are a large stone in the foundation.  The apostle has transferred day-to-day decision making in the local church to his son, Eric Johnson.  Senior Bethel leadership is in relationship with other like-hearted ministries through the Revival Alliance.

The Bible School is focused on inner transformation pointing to a revivalist lifestyle.  Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry (BSSM) is designed to bring students to a place of understanding their identity as believers, and their place of significance in the Kingdom of God.  Practice of Kingdom lifestyle is emphasized more than learning Bible facts, although Bible reading and intense study is required, and principles for understanding the Bible are strongly taught. Activation is key.  BSSM1 focuses on identity, core Kingdom values, and practice.  BSSM2 focuses on Kingdom practice, ministering to others, and leadership.  BSSM3 places graduating 2nd year students in intern positions at Bethel and in other ministries.  There will be around 2,000 students in all three training years in 2013-2014.  More than one-third of the students come from overseas; most from Europe, but also from Oceania, South America, Asia, and Africa.

Prophecy is celebrated. Prophecy is thoroughly taught, modeled and practiced.  It is seen as a way of bringing God's heart from Heaven to earth, and of edifying or "calling out the gold" in those around us.  It is one of God's calling cards and is taught as powerfully useful in evangelism and the everyday Christian life. In mid-winter, our daughter visited a Bethel 4th grade class with her baby.  The teacher asked if they would like for the kids to pray and prophesy over them.....and they did. 

Taking risks is encouraged.  Throughout the church, risk taking is encouraged.  BSSM1 students are told that they cannot graduate unless they make at least three mistakes.  "Messes" are not encouraged particularly, but they are expected as a necessary side-effect of risk taking.  Johnson says, "Any rule in the church that prevents a Judas from arising will also prevent a Peter or a John from arising."

Women and men are equal partners in ministry.  Bethel teaches that women can fill any role in ministry.  While women can be found in senior leadership positions of this ministry, the most visible leaders remain men. Nevertheless, the real intentionality test of this teaching is what is happening in junior levels of leadership, because these leaders are the future of the ministry.  What we see here is gifted younger women and men both rising rapidly into the roles that their gifts support.

There is more to report, of course.  And I am hardly an unbiased observer.  Nonetheless, I hope this will give you some useful insight into one of the powerful centers of revival that are rising around the earth in the early 21st century.

What have you heard about the revival at Bethel, and what do you think is its global impact?  Your comments are welcome below.  

Read more in this blog about Bethel and our experience within this community.

Our friend Dani posted these perceptive thoughts about Bethel on her blog: