"Together, we are his house, built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets. And the cornerstone is Christ Jesus himself." -Ephesians 2:20 NLT
"When you reach your own room, be kind to those who have chosen different doors and to those who are still in the hall. If they are wrong, they need your prayers all the more; and if they are your enemies, then you are under orders to pray for them. This is one of the rules common tot he whole house." CS Lewis - Mere Christianity
"For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her to make her holy and clean, washed by the cleansing of God's word. He did this to present her to himself as a glorious church without a spot or wrinkle or any other blemish. Instead, she will be holy and without fault." Ephesians 5:25-27 NLT
"I had a dream that I was at a wedding. I saw the bride enter the room. She was a mess: her face dirty, her dress torn, and her body bent over. She limped toward the alter. I looked and saw the groom. Instead of surprise or disgust, his face shone like the sun, full of love and admiration. I looked back at the bride. As she walked, she transformed. The dirt disappeared. The dresses reformed. Her body became strong and beautiful. Finally, she made it to the altar, a perfect and holy bride. Then, I heard God say, 'do not insult the bride I died for.'" - CJ Witkoe
We see all denominations, churches, and communities of Jesus as one Church. This is the bride that Jesus died for. Jesus loves His Church; and so do we. We are for other churches and desire to see them become holy and glorious. We will not hurl insults at those we disagree with. We will not participate in conversation that hurts the Church. For those who have been hurt by the Church, we are sympathetic. But, the Church does not belong to a pastor or board. The Church belongs to Jesus. And that Church must be honored.
"In fact, some parts of the body that seem weakest and least important are actually the most necessary. And the parts we regard as less honorable are those we clothe with the greatest care. So we carefully protect those parts that should not be seen, while the more honorable parts do not require this special care. So God has put the body together such that extra honor and care are given to those parts that have less dignity. This makes for harmony among the members, so that all the members care for each other. If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it, and if one part is honored, all the parts are glad. All of you together are Christ's body, and each of you is a part of it." 1 Corinthians 12:22-27 NLT
In the same way, each individual is a member of Christ's body. As members of Christ, each member ought to honor the other.
Since every individual believer is a member of the body of Christ and all together His House, we value unity among individuals and communities of believers. We want to be a part of uniting the Body of Christ.
"I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me."
John 17:20-21 NASB
Finally, all who believe become members of God's family. In this family, believers are brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, fathers and mothers, and God is the Father of us all. Therefore, our community is not passing, shallow, or weak. Our relationships are not limited to services. We are not friendly; we are family.
"But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God. They are reborn-not with a physical birth resulting from human passion or plan, but a birth that comes from God."
John 1:12-13 NLT (also: 1 John 1:3; Romans 8:14-17)
"If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn't love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God's secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn't love others, I would be nothing. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn't love others, I would have gained nothing." - 1 Corinthians 13:1-3 NLT
"I passed on to you what was most important and what had also been passed on to me. Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said." - 1 Corinthians 15:3 NLT
This is love in action.
What makes a person spiritually healthy?
A person can participate in spiritual activity, but their spirit remains cut off from spiritual life without the Gospel of Jesus. The Gospel is the doorway to healthy spirituality.
Likewise, healthy spirituality is not determined only by one's ability to operate in gifts of the Spirit of Jesus, but to display the fruit of the Spirit of Jesus. The Spirit of God is one of Love. We value character over charisma. It is the heart of a person that God looks at.
"On judgment day many will say to me, 'Lord! Lord! We prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.' But I will reply, 'I never knew you. Get away from me, you who break God's laws.'" - Matthew 7:22-23 NLT
Many people today struggle with chronic hurry sickness. This is a succumbing to the tyranny of the urgent. After a while of living a rushed lifestyle, the adrenaline from such becomes addictive. People speed through life on the surface and never sink their feet deep below the waves. Anxiety, depression, and other psychological disorders follow a life without depth.
In my (CJ) first year of full time ministry, I struggled with this. On my way to a youth retreat, I got two speeding tickets because I was behind schedule. I was also driving the church van filled with students when I got these tickets. Dallas, a youth leader, asked me, "why are you so hurried? It's not like we are going to miss the party." Since, we were the party.
This value does not mean that we do not work hard and fast. Instead, this value pushes against pop leadership culture and and recognizes that often times, God, and the advancement of His Church, moves at a different pace.
"Also it is not good for a person to be without knowledge, And he who hurries his footsteps errs."
Proverbs 19:2 NASB
"God's mission is unhurried and unstoppable" - "The Patient Ferment of the Early Church".
God is not hasty and is not driven to perform. Instead of being dominated by time, he orders it, and acts at just the right time.
"When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners." Romans 5:6 NLT
Anxiety, stress, and burn out enter the Church when we let time be our leader, instead of Jesus. But, when we commit to be in step with Jesus, not ahead and not behind, he promises rest and levity:
"Then Jesus said, "Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light."" Matthew 11:28-30 NLT
Resting is warring. Sabbath teaches us that God is our master, not the tyranny of this world. Sabbath teaches us how to enjoy God, which is only possible when we trust Him. Sabbath teaches us to trust God and rest in his sufficiency instead of our own.
"Remember that you were once slaves in Egypt, but the Lord your God brought you out with his strong hand and powerful arm. That is why the Lord your God has commanded you to rest on the Sabbath day." Deuteronomy 5:15 NLT
"So there is a special rest still waiting for the people of God. For all who have entered into God's rest have rested from their labors, just as God did after creating the world. So let us do our best to enter that rest. But if we disobey God, as the people of Israel did, we will fall." Hebrews 4:9-11 NLT
Jesus was unhurried and Unstoppable. We never see Jesus "busy" like so many today. Instead, you see him moving in the speed directed by his Father. He was in step with God, not dragging behind and not stepping ahead.
"So Jesus explained, "I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself. He does only what he sees the Father doing. Whatever the Father does, the Son also does."
John 5:19 NLT
Because Jesus was in step with His Father, he had great confidence in all of his activities, knowing that he was in His Father's purpose. And, the purposes of God are unstoppable. So, when we walk in those purposes, we also are unstoppable and can face the most monumental of assignments with a face like flint.
"When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem."
Luke 9:51 ESV
"But the Lord God helps me; therefore I have not been disgraced; therefore I have set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be put to shame."
Isaiah 50:7 ESV
Jesus has granted us access to the manifest presence of God.
"And so, dear brothers and sisters, we can boldly enter heaven's Most Holy Place because of the blood of Jesus. By his death, Jesus opened a new and life-giving way through the curtain into the Most Holy Place. And since we have a great High Priest who rules over God's house, let us go right into the presence of God with sincere hearts fully trusting him. For our guilty consciences have been sprinkled with Christ's blood to make us clean, and our bodies have been washed with pure water." Hebrews 10:19-22 NLT
The manifest presence of God as was in the Garden of Eden, was the goal of Israel in the construction of the temple. The inner portion of the temple was designated for the manifest presence of God. This space was separated by a curtain. When the curtain tore at the death of Christ, a new age was ushered in. Now, followers of Jesus have access to the space of the manifest presence of God. The presence of God is what sets God's people apart from all others (Exodus 33:16). His presence is not limited to time and space, but is accessible anywhere, at anytime by those who believe. We invite the manifest presence of God to come when we gather, in a large group or in small groups. We invite his manifest presence when we are alone, and we are rejuvenated and refreshed by Him.
"The one thing I ask of the Lord - the thing I seek most- is to live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, delighting in the Lord's perfections and meditating in his Temple. For he will conceal me there when troubles come; he will hide me in his sanctuary. He will place me out of reach on a high rock. Then I will hold my head high above my enemies who surround me. At his sanctuary I will offer sacrifices with shouts of joy, singing and praising the Lord with music. Hear me as I pray, O Lord. Be merciful and answer me! My heart has heard you say, "Come and talk with me." And my heart responds, " Lord, I am coming." Psalms 27:4-8 NLT
Worship is the most intimate activity between God and his people. It is a deep dive into the presence of God. It requires devotion and attention: it's sacred. Indeed, one can worship God through many means and many times, but the presence of God is holy and should be treated as such. Music has been a means of expressing worship to God. Worship is not music, but worship can be expressed through it. Worship through music is the most common, natural response to the presence of God. Worship through music is an activity we are involved in now, and throughout eternity.
"Then I heard again what sounded like the shout of a vast crowd or the roar of mighty ocean waves or the crash of loud thunder: "Praise the Lord! For the Lord our God, the Almighty, reigns. Let us be glad and rejoice, and let us give honor to him. For the time has come for the wedding feast of the Lamb, and his bride has prepared herself. She has been given the finest of pure white linen to wear." For the fine linen represents the good deeds of God's holy people."
Revelation 19:6-8 NLT
The time will come when people will not listen to the truth. They will look for teachers who will tell them only what they want to hear. 2 Timothy 4:3 NLT
We believe that truth is key in accomplish the mission. This truth should not be watered down, spun to make it seem better or worse, but be presented with clarity so that people may chose to accept it.
it takes a level of vulnerability and courage to be honest and tell the truth. This is especially evident in our relationships. Truth is the foundation of relationship and without it, there can be nothing to stand on. We take ownership. We are honest about our shortcomings. We honor people by telling them the truth, instead of what they want to hear. We are not confrontational; we are honest. We are a community that engages in healthy conflict.
Jesus coming ushered in the Kingdom of God.
"May your Kingdom come soon. May your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven." Matthew 6:10 NLT
"You won't be able to say, 'Here it is!' or 'It's over there!' For the Kingdom of God is already among you. "" Luke 17:21 NLT
Jesus resurrection is the triumph of the Kingdom of God over the Kingdom of Darkness:
"You were dead because of your sins and because your sinful nature was not yet cut away. Then God made you alive with Christ, for he forgave all our sins. He canceled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross. In this way, he disarmed the spiritual rulers and authorities. He shamed them publicly by his victory over them on the cross." Colossians 2:13-15 NLT
To have a Kingdom mindset is to think according to the Kingdom of God, which Jesus followers already belong to.
A Kingdom mindset includes sacrifice. Since God has given us all things in Christ, the reasonable response is the sacrifice all for Him.
"And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice-the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. Don't copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God's will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect."
Romans 12:1-2 NLT
A Kingdom mindset includes contentment in all things. All things have been given to the believer through the work of Jesus. When this value is internalized, the believer will never have lack. Even if we lost everything, if we have Jesus, we have everything.
"Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength."
Philippians 4:11-13 NLT
The Kingdom mindset means that we live for the life to come.
"This means that all of creation will be shaken and removed, so that only unshakable things will remain. Since we are receiving a Kingdom that is unshakable, let us be thankful and please God by worshiping him with holy fear and awe. For our God is a devouring fire."
Hebrews 12:27-29 NLT
The Kingdom mindset includes faithful stewardship. Everything that we have, including our own gifts, talents, intellect, skill, relationships, time, money, and possessions, all belong to God. We are enjoy the blessings and responsibilities of being stewards of His possessions. At the heart of the Gospel is God's generosity. When God sees that your are faithful, he blesses you with more: prosperity with a purpose.
"To those who use well what they are given, even more will be given, and they will have an abundance. But from those who do nothing, even what little they have will be taken away."
Matthew 25:29 NLT
The Kingdom mindset is triumphant amidst all trials and persecution.
"But you belong to God, my dear children. You have already won a victory over those people, because the Spirit who lives in you is greater than the spirit who lives in the world."
1 John 4:4 NLT
"And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them."
Romans 8:28 NLT
The Kingdom mindset also includes the topics of justice (Romans 12:17-21), ministry (Matthew 16:18), and more.
God desires to speak to us and desires for us to speak to him. He invites us to converse with him.
'In the last days,' God says,
'I will pour out my Spirit upon all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy.
Your young men will see visions,
and your old men will dream dreams.' - Acts 2:17 NLT
God speaks in many ways. The gift of prophecy is a special gift that has been poured out on all Jesus followers. This gift of prophecy can be operated in and a way that God speaks. All words given are tested by the Bible.
This most important thing for us to do is what Jesus is asking us to do. The guidelines to life with Jesus are clearly laid out in Scripture, but the Spirit of God offers us unique guidance in our life. This guidance is accessible by listening to God's voice.
Humility is the foundation of healthy leadership. Those who lower themselves will be lifted up. The humble can handle the honor.
"Fear of the Lord teaches wisdom; humility precedes honor." Proverbs 15:33 NLT
"Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves;"
Philippians 2:3 NASB
"He sat down, called the twelve disciples over to him, and said, "Whoever wants to be first must take last place and be the servant of everyone else.""
Mark 9:35 NLT
We are to honor those in authority over us and to honor and respect all people, regardless of there status, reputation, or presentation.
"Respect everyone, and love the family of believers. Fear God, and respect the king."
1 Peter 2:17 NLT
"For example, suppose someone comes into your meeting dressed in fancy clothes and expensive jewelry, and another comes in who is poor and dressed in dirty clothes. If you give special attention and a good seat to the rich person, but you say to the poor one, "You can stand over there, or else sit on the floor"-well, doesn't this discrimination show that your judgments are guided by evil motives?"
James 2:2-4 NLT
Honor can take many forms and does not always equal submission. Honor recognizes God sovereignty in raising up authority. ￼We are to honor with the blessing of respect and gifts.
"Elders who do their work well should be respected and paid well, especially those who work hard at both preaching and teaching."
1 Timothy 5:17 NLT
"But Peter and the apostles replied, "We must obey God rather than any human authority."
Acts of the Apostles 5:29 NLT
We can still exercise honor when we disagree. Jesus gave guidelines for His followers when there is conflict.
"If another believer sins against you, go privately and point out the offense. If the other person listens and confesses it, you have won that person back. But if you are unsuccessful, take one or two others with you and go back again, so that everything you say may be confirmed by two or three witnesses. If the person still refuses to listen, take your case to the church. Then if he or she won't accept the church's decision, treat that person as a pagan or a corrupt tax collector."
Matthew 18:15-17 NLT
We engage in healthy conflict and believe in the saying, "clear is kind". We honor people when we are clear and honest. We honor people when we look at the source, not the symptom, of the problem. When there are failures, we ask, "what is the (real) problem?"
Jesus is our example of this value. He lowered himself in humility, and now God has raised him up to the place of highest honor.
"You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal's death on a cross. Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other names, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."
Philippians 2:5-11 NLT
Avoid "second-hand spirituality".
We are in danger of becoming "consumer Christians". There is so much content for us to devour: podcasts, messages, devotionals, etc, that we can become spiritually unhealthy. Deep spirituality requires us to be transformed by the power of God in our lives, not just receive information.
If Jesus doesn't change you and the world around you, you haven't met him yet.
We are also in danger of "second-hand spirituality". This is relying upon someone else has a spirituality, their disciplines, prayer time, revelation from God, that we syphon off of. We must be people that go to the Well of Life ourselves, instead of just drinking from someone else's cup. It is only when we begin to God to Jesus ourselves that we will become mature Jesus followers and have deep spirituality.
We must personally go to the Well for Waters of Life.
This can only be accomplished by enlisting spiritual disciplines in our lives. Here are some of them: Sound Bible Study, Spirit empowered living, Gifts of the Spirit and the power of God in display, Serving, Silence, Prayer, Contemplation, etc.
When it comes to sin, we resist the urge to correct behavior, and instead look to Jesus for transformation.
Address the source not the symptom
- the symptom is obvious "sin". Racism, hate, broken hearts, broken relationships, war, greed, etc.
- The source of all of sin is a broken relationship with God - our maker.
- As a church, we care more about addressing the source, not the symptom. Once the source is healed, the symptoms drop off.
We must always remember that our God is not like a kiddy pool. You may remember those plastic blue pools. They were great when we were small. But, if you tried climbing into it now, it would not be fun. You have outgrown it. A lot of us think that God is like a kiddy pool and are content to engage with him the same way we did when we first met him. We fail to go deeper into him, allow him to do deep works in our soul, challenge us, and venture deeper into his love. It is the journey into His heart that is what fills us with the fullness of Christ. Therefore, our spirituality should reflect the depth of our God:
God is not shallow, so neither should our relationship with Him.
"For this reason I bow my knees before the Father,
that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God. Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen."
Ephesians 3:14, 16-21 NASB
"When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth. I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God's love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God's people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen." Ephesians 3:14-21 NLT
Being made complete with the fullness of God is accomplished by grasping the love of God. This love of God is infinite, and because it is infinite, our understanding and experience of it is infinitesimal. It is as if we are standing on the shore of a vast ocean, or peering into the vast universe, the wake hits our feet, and wonder fills our eyes, how great is the love of our God.
We maintain hearts filled with awe and wonder of our God.
Wonder is a normal part of journeying with God. It fills our hearts whenever we say "yes" to His calling: Abraham venturing into the unknown, Joshua establishing a nation, David worshipping in the wilderness, Peter stepping out of the boat... Our God is not shallow, and we have not figured Him out. He is vast, infinite, powerful, great, and awesome.
The most terrifying thing about this, is how easy it is to loose it. Falling in love with someone is fairly easy, staying in love with someone, and deepening that love, is difficult. We must recognize that it takes effort to dive the depths of God, and rocket farther into the vastness of His love. We must avoid at all costs religion that does nothing but puff up, and boredom that invites idolatry. Our God is not boring. Our relationship shouldn't be either.
"But I have this complaint against you. You don't love me or each other as you did at first!" Revelation 2:4 NLT