Mark Banyard

Articles by Mark Banyard

A sacrifice not wasted

This time of year Christians around the world remember the death of Jesus Christ, their
Saviour. The day is called Good Friday. Why do we call it good?
When you think about it, there’s really nothing good about an innocent man being
crucified for a crime he did not commit. There is nothing good about a violent and
torturous death. There is nothing good about a crisis that devastated Jesus’ disciples!
The only thing good about Good Friday is God. The Bible says that God is good and
his love endures forever. The Bible says he is holy and therefore perfect in every way.

Good Friday?

Good Friday is about death—death by crucifixion. It was a form of execution, invented
by the Persians, perfected by the Romans, to put to death those who had committed a
crime punishable by death. It was considered one of the most brutal and shameful
modes of death, usually reserved for slaves or disgraced soldiers. In this case, it was
used on Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God.
But, if you don’t believe in God or believe that he is good, if you don’t believe that
Jesus was the son of God who was entirely without sin (as the Bible says), then there is
nothing good about Good Friday. It should be called “bad” Friday!
If that’s what you believe, like many in the world today, then all you have to remember
on Good Friday is a story about an innocent man who was put to death by the
Romans, who was thought to be a teacher and by some, even a prophet, and feared
by the Jews to be confused to be the Messiah.

The Question

If so, the question is, “Why then did Jesus have to die?”
What was accomplished by an innocent man being put to death in this way, let alone
the son of God, pure and holy?
What was accomplished by such a gross travesty of justice resulting in a needless
death?
Was the crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth a wasted death?

The Answer

The answer is not found in examining the details of the execution, or what immediately
led up to it, but rather in understanding God’s purposes in it! Yes, God had a purpose
in sending his son to be put to death on a Roman cross. His purpose in this was: to
receive the payment for the sins of the world that would be so perfect that it would
once and for all pay our debt so that we—a sinful people—might be reunited with God
once and for all! The purpose of Jesus’ death was because he offered himself as a
sacrifice to God for our sins. The Roman cross was an instrument execution, but God
used it as an altar upon which a sacrifice was given. Yes, that’s right: Jesus was the
sacrifice that God provided for us. Jesus is, as John the Baptist declared, “the Lamb of
God who takes away the sins of the world!”

Isaiah, in his messianic prophecy, wrote this:

Who has believed our message
and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground.
He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,
nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by mankind,
a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces
he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.
Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to our own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.
He was oppressed and afflicted,
yet he did not open his mouth;
he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,
and as a sheep before its shearers is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.

—Isaiah 53:1–7

Jesus’ death was not wasted! It was not a mistake. He understood from the moment
he came out of the desert to begin his ministry, having been tempted by the devil, that
his final goal was to get to Jerusalem, to Calvary’s Hill, to die for you and me.

But Why?

Some may still asking “Why?” Why did Jesus have to give his life for our sins? Could
not God, out of His mercy and grace alone, have just forgiven us? The problem of
course, was sin. Romans 3:23 reminds us, “For all have sinned and fall short of the
glory of God”.

Simply, the BIBLE TEACHES:

Because of our sin, we are separated from God.
Because of our sin, we are sentenced to death.
Because of our sin, we don’t go to heaven when we die; we go to hell, that is, to
a place of eternal separation from God, an enduring experience of eternal grief
and pain.
Because of sin, we live broken, dysfunctional lives resulting in a world of pain,
cruelty, and injustice.

And so, God sent his son to die on a cross for our sins so that we might:

Be forgiven – no guilt, shame, condemnation.
Be healed – physically, mentally, emotionally.
Be set free – of fear, demons, death, satan, and hell.
Have life, and have it abundantly.
Be reconciled to God, to know him, to be known by him, to be loved,
unconditionally.
Be filled with his Spirit—his presence and his power.
Know the reason why we were created.
Walk in the destiny and purpose of God for our lives on earth.
… and much more!

And this is all because Jesus was willing to be sent by God, to offer himself as a holy
sacrifice to God for our sins! We read in Philippians 2:8,

And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!

And so, what we remember on Good Friday is not simply the unjust and inhumane
death of an innocent man, but the sacrifice that he offered on our behalf to God for our
sins.

*I must emphasize that God—our just and righteous and holy God—required a perfect
sacrifice, a full payment for our debt, in order that WE COULD BE FORGIVEN! Jesus’
sacrifice was all about fulfilling the legal requirement that was set by God.

When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God
made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the
charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he
has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and
authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the
cross.

—Colossians 2:13–15

To be clear, because of Jesus’ perfect sacrifice, the “charge of our legal indebtedness”
has been canceled—paid in full!
This is not about a loving and merciful father who is excusing our sin!
This is not about a redefinition of immoral behaviour to make it less offensive to God!
This is not about denying sin, death, the devil, or hell to make us feel safe and loved!
This is about God DEMANDING a perfect, holy, pure, full, complete, efficient sacrifice
IN ORDER THAT WE MIGHT BE FORGIVEN!!!

In Hebrews 9:22 we read 
“without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.”
In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and
without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.

—Hebrews 9:22

In the Old Testament, we know that God required a sacrifice from his people, which
was often sheep, and the blood of bulls and goats. However, that was never enough to
satisfy God! He required—no, demanded—a perfect sacrifice in order to establish a
NEW COVENANT with his people so that we might be “made Holy as our God is Holy”.
And that perfect sacrifice was the blood of Christ!

The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who
are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. How
much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered
himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to
death, so that we may serve the living God!

—Hebrews 9:13–14
I am reminded of the lyrics of an old hymn,

What can wash away my sin?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus;
What can make me whole again?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus

—Robert Lowry (American Preacher,1876)

Jesus’ sacrifice was so perfect, and therefore so powerful, that his blood not only
cleansed us from sin but defeated the devil and hell.

Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that
by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—
that is, the devil— and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their
fear of death.

—Hebrews 2:14–15

Good Friday is when we remember the death of Jesus of Nazareth. It was unjust and
inhumane, but nevertheless it was the plan of God. Jesus was willing to be the sacrifice
that God required and only he—no one else—could have met God’s requirement.
Jesus’ death was not wasted, because in death—even death on a cross—he became
that sacrifice that would “take away the sins of the world!”

As single verse says it all:

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever
believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

—John 3:16

A Crisis not Wasted

A few weeks ago, my old friend Terry Somerville of Total Change Ministries asked if I
would be willing to be interviewed on the radio program he hosts. It was an honour to
be asked, and sounded like a fun thing to do. During the interview, after asking about
my background and current ministry, Terry asked me what my God-sense was, in light
of the global pandemic we are now in. For the remainder of the interview I shared the
things that God has put on my heart—some things I had discerned, as well as some
things that had been revealed. I finished by saying this: “I just hope we don’t waste this
crisis.”

Perhaps you have heard it said that what appears as a crisis to many looks like an
opportunity to some. To be clear, we are in a crisis that must be taken seriously by all.
However, in this crisis we have an opportunity as the body of Christ to reach out to a
world that is gripped with fear—and in this case, to be specific—gripped by the fear of
death. As I quoted earlier from the book of Hebrews, Jesus broke the power of the
devil who holds the power of death, to “free those who all their lives were held in
slavery by their fear of death” (Hebrews 2:14–15). This crisis is a rude but real
confrontation of our mortality, forcing people everywhere to seriously consider the
consequences of death. The fear of death is the elephant that the room is too small for!

If there was ever a time for true believers of Jesus Christ to act, it is now! We can
redefine this moment with the life—giving message and experience of the Gospel’s
power. We can be a light to the world, a light in the darkness, hope to the hopeless,
models of true rest and peace, carriers of God’s presence and power. However,
something that can blind us from perceiving this as a God-moment—as a Godopportunity—
is fear. If we believe in the one who has freed us from the fear of death,
yet continue to fear, then we will be immobilized from ministering to others in his power
and love. Jesus’ sacrifice was not wasted! And so, remembering all that Jesus
accomplished by his finished work on the cross, let us cast off all fear so we can act
boldly in this unusual moment in the history of the world, and bring the Good News of
the gospel to the world!

shaken

In January of 2017, I released a prophetic word that I received from the Lord with
regard to a reset that was coming. A hard reset. Often true of such words, there is a
now fulfillment as well as a then fulfillment of the word. It would seem, in the light of the
global pandemic we are in, that what we saw and experienced back in 2017 was only
the beginning of something that would shake the world and Jesus’ Church.

Concerning his Church, this “shaking” can be framed in many ways, but the most
compelling to me is a Biblical one. In the book of Haggai 2:6–7, we read:

This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘In a little while I will once more shake the
heavens and the earth, the sea and the dry land. I will shake all nations, and what
is desired by all nations will come, and I will fill this house with glory,’ says the
Lord Almighty.

Haggai makes it clear that the purpose of such a shaking is to release “what is desired
by all nations” so that God’s house will be filled with glory—a glory “greater than the
glory of the former house” (Haggai 2:9). The context here is the rebuilding of the temple
by Zerubbabel. The shaking releases the wealth of the nations, flowing into the temple
in Jerusalem. Once the temple is rebuilt, adorned with riches of the world, then God
will fill it with his glory. But in these verses there is also a foreshadowing of the coming
of Christ. Jesus referred to his body as “this temple” (John 2:19–21). His life, death,
and resurrection would fulfill what the temple pictured through its design, its
priesthood, its furniture, and its sacrifices. Whether they realize it or not, Jesus is what
all nations desire! He is the radiance of God’s glory. What the temple pictured, Christ
fulfilled.

The Intended Result: a Broken and Repentant Heart

There is an unsettling—an uprooting—that happens in times of crisis. Things become
personal very quickly. What was previously avoidable becomes unavoidable. People
ask questions about life and death, before and after, heaven and hell. Intentionally or
not, these questions can be a springboard toward God and greater revelation of his
glory. This is the intention of God—that in the shaking, the confrontation of false
realities, and the disturbing of all forms of human securities, the world cries out to God.
And for those who do this in repentance and with faith, there is forgiveness, healing,
freedom, relationship, identity, inheritance, destiny, purpose, and eternal life. In the
New Living Translation of the Bible it says this:

The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit.
You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God.

—Psalm 51:17

God’s Plans

At times like these—that is, in a global pandemic—we, God’s people, need to be
reminded of his word to his people when they were in exile in Babylon. His bottom line
to them? “Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a
future.”

This is what the Lord says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will
come to you and fulfill my good promise to bring you back to this place. For I
know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not
to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

—Jeremiah 29:10–11 (NIV)

God had a plan and purpose for them, and being in exile was not the way things were
going to end. Nevertheless, seventy years is still seventy years to those who have to go
through it, just like there’s no shortcut through the pandemic we are in now! No, for the
Hebrews, exile was not to be their end-game but would be for them a game-changer.
After seventy years in exile, they would be given another chance at listening to God,
trusting God, walking with God, and worshipping God alone. Seventy years in exile
would prove to shake enough people to turn back to God with all their hearts. They
would call out to him, pray to him, listen to him, and seek him. Then and only then
would they be liberated from their place of exile and be re-established in the land with
God.

Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You
will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by
you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you
from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the Lord,
“and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.”

—Jeremiah 29:10–14 (NIV)

 

We Will Not Be Shaken

So what will sustain us in this moment we are in? As the Church of Jesus Christ—a
light to the nations, a message of hope to the lost, a testimony of God’s love and
power—on what particular rock will we find ourselves standing when all the shaking is
over? God’s love through his abiding presence alone is what will sustain us. As the
psalmist writes, “I keep my eyes always on the Lord. With him at my right hand, I will
not be shaken” (Psalm 16:8). And the rock? The only rock you want to stand on, both
now and then, is Jesus—Saviour, Messiah, the Son of the Living God. This answers the
question Jesus asked Peter: “But what about you? Who do you say I am?”

 

Planking the Curve
During this global outbreak, health care systems have been overwhelmed, even

endangered, by the coronavirus. As a way of coping, they have come up with a plan to
prevent the exponential increase of new cases so as to manage further spread while
caring for those truly in need. In Canada, at least, this is referred to as “planking the
curve”. Practically, it has entailed frequent washing of hands, practicing physical
distancing, not touching our faces, and staying at home and working from there, if at all
possible. Hopefully, this will result in “planking” or flattening the curve, for now; but it
won’t save the lost, who one day, without Christ, will face eternal punishment and
separation from God. That is not God’s desire, of course. His desire is that all would be
saved (1 Timothy 2:4). Even in the shaking, God is exercising patience. Peter reminds
us,

Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to
come to repentance.

—2 Peter 3:9

 

It Ain’t Over
As they say, “it ain’t over ‘til it’s over!” And I believe that although we are all being

shaken, the time of grace is not over. Not yet, anyway. With Christ’s return, there will be
judgement. In the Apostles’ Creed, in speaking of Jesus’ return, we declare,

[Jesus] is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty.
From there he will come to judge the living and the dead.
And again, the apostle Paul in his letter to the Romans writes,
You, then, why do you judge your brother or sister? Or why do you treat them
with contempt? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat.

—Romans 14:10 (NIV)

So let’s not waste this crisis through lack of proper “spiritual” understanding, that is,
having a worldly understanding rather than the mind of Christ. The shaking that is
happening is meant to shake us from our apathy, unbelief, false sense of security, and
idols. For the peoples of the world, it is meant to disturb them enough that they cry out
to God and are saved. For the Church, it is meant to humble us and remind us of who
we have been made to be so we fully engage with our Kingdom mandate, the Great
Commission; and it’s meant to deal with our fear of death once and for all so that we
might be bold and fearless in reaching out to the world in the fullest expression of
God’s love.

Have you ever wondered if you made the mistake of misinterpreting the moment? When your response to something you had seen or heard was based on a spurious interpretation of the moment? Even though most of these moments go unnoticed, often they leave us feeling embarrassed and a bit awkward!

I wonder if Peter considered that he had “misinterpreted the moment” as he came down the Mount of Transfiguration (Luke 9:28-35 (NIV)). They had gone up the mountain to pray, looking for a quiet place as well as a place away from the crowds where they were sure to have a private experience. On the Mountain of Transfiguration, Jesus revealed to his disciples a version of Himself that they had never seen before. When they reached that place, they watched something unusual happen to Jesus. It must have been both wonderful and terrifying at the same time. The Bible says that Jesus’ face changed into something “other”. That is, His visual appearance changed so that he looked different than they were used to. Perhaps, if they had not seen it with their own eyes, they would not have been able to recognize Jesus!

His garments were also changed. They became as bright as lightning. Not something that the natural eye would have been able to look at for very long. And then, Moses and Elijah appeared and discussed with Jesus His upcoming death. Moses (representing the law) and Elijah (the prophets) were a picture of God’s authority and power during the old covenant age. But now it was time for the new age to begin, and with Jesus’ death and resurrection a new covenant was about to be established where all authority, power, honour and glory would belong to Jesus.

The wonder and the oddity of this supernatural unveiling of Jesus’ pre-incarnate glory were not for Jesus, but for His disciples to see. Peter, always a man of action in the moment, suggested that they build shelters so they could camp out together longer, perhaps forever! What he failed to understand was the moment was just that: it was a moment. It was meant to foreshadow a reality that is, was and is yet to come. It was a window of revelation that he and the other disciples would need during the dark days of Jesus’ arrest, trial and eventual death by crucifixion.

Peter’s misinterpretation of the moment didn’t ruin Jesus’ plans but it must have left Peter wondering, as they were heading back down the mountain, “What was that all about?” Later, when he would receive the Holy Spirit on the day Pentecost, it would all make sense. Why? Because spiritual moments cannot be properly interpreted with the human mind! The revelation on the mountain required an interpretation that only the Spirit of God could give, and that was something Peter needed to wait for.

I wonder how much our need to make sense of things in the moment actually interferes with what God is trying to show us. That is, when our need for quick and clear discernment overshadows our call to “trust and obey”. Peter’s discernment was off, but God in his grace still led Peter and the others into the fulfillment of His destiny & purpose for their lives.

Was Peter’s suggestion of staying on the mountain, perhaps indefinitely, totally wrong? No, not really. It is only natural to try to prolong powerful positive experiences as long as we can. Peter’s suggestion of building shelters on the side of the mountain was just that: an attempt to prolong the moment. But it wasn’t meant to be. It was a moment of revelation which would have its true significance in the future. It happened. It happened quickly. But it was over. Were they disappointed? Sure they were. I know I would have been! Those moments are often life-changing, impacting us thoroughly. Most of us would live in them forever, if we could. But that’s not what Jesus intended. It was to lead them, as it is to lead us, into a greater revelation of living our lives in the glory of His presence.

I believe as we draw closer to Jesus’ return, we are going to have more “up the mountain” supernatural experiences, moves of God, spiritual awakenings, even revival! If we are to truly benefit from these kinds of happenings, we will need to wait for the Holy Spirit to give us not only the revelation in the moment but the interpretation during or after the revelation has been given. Waiting for the interpretation is the only way we can be sure that we do not, like Peter, “misinterpret the moment”. Let’s be honest: none of us want to wake up one day to find that Jesus has moved on and we’re on our own, still camping out on yesterday’s mountain!

easter

So what about Easter? For Christians around the world, it is a time when we remember
the death and celebrate the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. It would seem for the
rest of the world that it has become a three-day weekend filled with chocolate eggs
and Easter bunnies.

I’m not really surprised that non-Christians would take an opportunity to have
something to celebrate. I don’t mean that in a cynical kind of way. Just that, from my
observation, any opportunity to celebrate seems to be a good one: Christmas, Easter,
Valentine’s Day, Hallowe’en, St. Patrick’s Day, whatever, take your pick, all of the
above. I’m not really bothered by this because I remember before I became a Christian
I used anything as an excuse to party! And so, I really understand why the rest of the
world would celebrate Easter.

I guess what I’m really saying is that Easter has become something other than a
Christian tradition. Much like Christmas, really. More and more a marketing retail
opportunity, taking advantage of what I’ve already said, that the world wants to
celebrate something and the retail industry will take every opportunity to help,
regardless of what the holiday is called.

No, I’m not bothered by the worldly reasons for celebrating at Easter time. I’m more
concerned about the Christian perspective, that is, buying into the idea that once a
year we pull out all the stops to remember and celebrate the death and resurrection of
Jesus Christ. Is that our tradition, and if so where did it come from? And how has that
tradition perhaps been shaped by a worldly culture that is increasingly more hostile to
the Christian faith altogether?

For years now I have refused to tell my wife I love her on Valentine’s Day simply
because the world of shopping tells me to do it. Moreover, I decided long ago, that I
would love my wife and tell her so every day of our married life together. I don’t need
someone to tell me to buy flowers for my wife. (Sadly, some guys do!) Instead, I buy
flowers regularly, spontaneously to give them at times when there is no other reason to
give them except to say, “I love you!”

For me, Easter has been all the time, every day of my life since I decided to believe in
Jesus. Every day I remember His death. Every day I remember His resurrection, the
promise of new life. Every day I thank Him that He gave me something I did not
deserve. Every day I say to Him, “I love you!”

This weekend, I will celebrate with the rest of my brothers and sisters in Christ around
the world. This weekend I will remember His death. I will celebrate His resurrection with
my family and my friends. My celebrations won’t stop next week or the week after, or
the week after that, because for me every day is a good day to give thanks to the Lord
for dying on the cross for me. Every day is a good day to say, “Jesus, I love you!”

 

Next Gen

Last week I received a couple of emails with links to messages concerning Jesus’
imminent return. Truthfully, I can’t think of any “breaking news” that could be better! To
think that tomorrow, Jesus is going to appear with the angelic hosts, coming on the
clouds in the fullness of His glory as King of Kings and Lord of Lords! What a day that
will be – the last day, in fact, as we know it.

There were, however, a few things I found disturbing about this “good news”. Those
bringing it concluded that because of the shortness time there was no need to raise up
the next generation. In fact, one commentator insisted emphatically, “…don’t waste
your time!” Hmmm. Unwise advice, if you ask me. History shows that in every
generation since Jesus’ ascension there have been so-called prophetic voices
announcing the Lord’s second coming. Just for the record, so far, they have ALL been
wrong!

So, where does that leave us? Well, I for one DEFINITELY believe that Jesus is coming
back, because the Bible tells me so. But I think that we should leave the day and the
hour up to Father God, don’t you? Here’s what Jesus had to say about this:

But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the
Son, but only the Father. As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming
of the Son of Man.

—Matthew 24:36–37

Since the day that God cast Adam and Eve out of the Garden of Eden, He has been
working on a kind of reconciliation that would reinstate them into holy relationship with
Him. Also, throughout the Bible God’s expressed intent is to have a people for Himself
on the earth among whom His Name will dwell. The Bible portrays His agenda as one
that spans generations. His covenant promise to Abraham was to make him a father of
many generations. Clearly, God’s plans and purposes are cross-generational.

There will, of course, be a generation–that is, a “terminal” generation–in which Jesus
returns. However, until then, our call is to be His testimony until His work here on earth
is done. And who are we to say that it is done? Even more so, shouldn’t we be like
Abraham, who pleaded with God not to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah for the sake of
even 10 righteous people. Remember, …the last day will be THE LAST DAY! No more
chances for the last 10, …not even the last one!

Don’t you think it would be worth postponing the great and terrible day of the Lord (…if
we could) if there’s a chance for 10 more souls to give their hearts to Jesus before His
return? And don’t you feel it would be in the heart of God to put off His coming one
more day if a few more might turn to the Lord and be saved? The Father still gets to
decide the day and hour, and the day will come; but until then, today is NOT the last
day. Meanwhile, we can continue in obedience and faith to share the love of Jesus with
a broken and lost world.

Consider this: Jesus will come on the last day, that is, the last day of grace and
salvation. He will come without warning. He will come with those who have died
already. Those “in Christ” on the earth at His coming will be given a new glorified body.
They will join with him in the air, along with those people He brings with Him to judge
the un-saved. Those who died whose names were not found in the Lamb’s Book of Life
when they died will be resurrected to damnation. It is appointed to man once to die
and after this is judgment. The unredeemed will be judged guilty and cast into hell.

So, what should our response be? Should we be delightfully happy, rejoicing in the
streets? Or should we be deeply sobered, even disturbed, by this seemingly finite
ending for so many in the world, it appears, who will find themselves condemned to
hell forever? I think both responses are not only appropriate but necessary. We need to
live every day of our lives, before Jesus’ return, with a confidence of our salvation that
has been sealed into us by the Holy Spirit as a guarantee of things to come. Our lives
need to be a testimony of the victorious life in Christ. And though we long for His
coming, we rejoice when we know that the delay of His return gives us another day’s
worth of opportunity to share the love of Jesus with a lost soul. The Spirit and the Bride
say, “Come!” But to know Jesus is to know His heart, and His heart is one of
compassion for the lost.

He will come. No one knows the day or the hour. That’s for certain! And so, while we
wait let us give ourselves to the destiny and purpose of God that is before us. In faith,
let us pass on the baton to the next generation, so that as long as “today is called
today” we will continue to be the testimony of God upon the earth until Jesus returns.

feeling

This morning I sat down at my computer with, of course, my coffee in hand and, after
waking it up from its sleep, I was staring at a Facebook page that said, “How are you
feeling, Mark?”. It was as if somebody sitting right in front of me was asking me the
question. I found myself thinking of an answer, and, even worse, not being able to
come up with one. And then it dawned on me: It was the wrong question! If the
computer had asked me, “What are you thinking right now, Mark?”, I would have
quickly answered with a paragraph or two on my thoughts for the day. For whatever
reason, I wasn’t thinking yet about how I was feeling; rather I was thinking about what I
was thinking.

Years ago when I was taking counselling training in grad school I was taught that
people can generally be sorted into two simple groups: They are either thinkers or
feelers. If you ask a thinking person how they are feeling, it’s likely that you won’t get
much of a response. Similarly, if you ask a feeling person what they are thinking, they
may find it difficult to express themselves. Of course this is a generalization, but I’ve
found it helpful to remember over the years when wanting to know how a person is
doing, that is, thinking and/or feeling. Of course, no one is purely a thinker or a feeler.
We are all a mixture of both to some degree. It’s just that we tend to have a preference
with regard to collecting information, processing it and then expressing the results.
Because of this, we often experience people as either thinking types or feeling types,
and if we are not careful, we end up putting them in a box that may be helpful for us
but restricting for them.

If we can think of individuals in this way, we can also think of groups of people like this,
too. That is, that they are either thinkers or feelers. For instance, in most local churches
there are those people who typically experience God in a feeling/sensing kind of way
and often express this with a range of emotions. They are referred to as “creative” or
“artistic” or just “prophetic” types. There will also be those who experience God in their
thoughts. Typically they rely heavily on the study/teaching, reading/speaking and
application of “the Word” to express their experience of knowing and walking with
God. Unfortunately, most thinking types are suspicious of the feeling/sensing types,
often criticizing them of being subjective in their experience, and, therefore, selffocused
and superficial. Feeling types have their box, too, for the thinkers in the crowd.
Convinced they are disconnected from their emotions, thinkers are considered to be
low in faith as they require everything to “make sense” before they commit. Feeling
types believe that thinkers are slaves to reason and rationale, prone to being
controlling, legalistic and unable to show a depth of compassion due to their inability to
empathize with real heart.

I believe that Jesus was both a thinker and a feeler. I don’t think anyone would say of
him that he was either one or the other but rather, both. In fact, there was never a time
that his head and his heart were truly at odds with each other. In being fully human, he
experienced decision-making challenges that came from the conflict between the
heart’s feelings and the head’s thoughts. For instance, in the garden of Gethsemane,
Jesus was conflicted between the passions of his heart and the belief of his destiny.
His resolve was found in submission to his Father’s will, “…not my will, but yours be
done” (Luke 22:4).

And so, the true biblical picture of Jesus, the son of God, is a picture of oneness. He
was not only one with the Father (John 14:10), but also demonstrated a perfect unity
between his head and his heart. This picture of Jesus on the earth, I believe, is one for
us to reconsider when we think about the church in these days. In him, there was a
unity and harmony between both head and heart. He demonstrated a mixture of
thoughts and feelings throughout his life and ministry. Today he wants to bring us into a
reunion of heart and mind, of feeling and thinking, of the body and the head.
Separation and division in the church have too often come from a disunity that has had
its genesis in a mutual suspicion between those who think versus those who feel. Dare
I say, there have been whole denominations and movements that have come out of a
particular preferred way of knowing and experiencing God. It seems silly to me that
anyone would want a headless body, any more than they would want a bodiless head!
But yet, that is often what we have, perhaps not intentionally, but as a consequence of
our trusted preference of experiencing life and God.

Today we are standing on new ground. The Lord is renovating his house for the sake of
his glory. And he wants to bring the feelers and the thinkers of his body into a oneness
of knowledge and experience of his presence and his power. And the key to this unity
will be found in our ability to trust one another. Suspicion is the door through which the
enemy enters, bringing division through hard-heartedness and a judgmental mind. It is
only within a culture of honour and respect, built on the solid rock of his love and
grace, that we can know and experience the kind of unity that the Lord himself has in
mind for us. Not impossible, but like fine wine, rare and costly.

i believe

I have always thought it would be fun to walk on water, like Peter did. But I
don’t need to walk on water in order to believe in Jesus. I don’t need to see another
miracle to be convinced that he is the Son of God, conceived by the Holy Spirit, born
of a virgin, who died on a cross for the sins of the world, and who God the Father
raised from the dead on the third day.

No, I don’t really need to see another sign or wonder in order to believe or follow
Jesus. In fact, Jesus said,

Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not
seen and yet have believed.

—John 20:29

Having said this, however, I can’t wait to see another of the miracles or signs or
wonders that Jesus is going to do, specifically that he’s going to do through us who
really believe. Why? Because when we do these things, in Jesus’ name, through the
authority he has given us, then we are doing the will of the Father and drawing
attention to his son. But for what other good reason should we, as believers, want to
see more signs, wonders and miracles (SWMs)?

In understanding the Father’s heart in sending Jesus to seek and save the lost (Luke
19:9), the SWMs he performed were to bring the lost to repentance and faith in him.
From reading the Gospels, I have come to believe, that the SWMs of Jesus are about
his Kingdom on earth. These manifestations of his power and love accredit him to the
hearts of those who are yet to be convinced of who is. On the day of Pentecost, in
Peter’s Holy Spirit inspired message to a captivated crowd of onlookers, he wrote,

Fellow Israelites, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God
to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him,
as you yourselves know.

—Acts 2:22

This makes it pretty clear that SWMs were about two things in particular: first,
establishing his true identity, that is, Jesus really is the Son of God, the Messiah!
Second, to confront people with the reality of his Kingdom through a demonstration of
his power. The apostle Paul wrote,

My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but
with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on
men’s wisdom, but on God’s power.

—1 Corinthians 2:4–5

And again in his 2nd letter to the Corinthians,
But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is
from God and not from us.

—2 Corinthians 4:7

There is something about the manifestation of God’s power that confronts us with the
reality of who the Scriptures say he is. It often results in us believing – having faith – in
what would we normally say is unbelievable! That is, in things that don’t make sense to
the human mind that is living and learning within the limits of natural laws. His power
confronts us with another realm of existence, that is God’s realm, the realm of the spirit
and supernatural. Now, I know the word “confront” might seem a bit strong but often a
confrontation of realities and beliefs is needed in order for our hearts as well as our
minds to be changed. And what is the sign of that change? Repentance.

Then Jesus began to denounce the towns in which most of his miracles had
been performed, because they did not repent.
—Matthew 11:20

One purpose of the miracles that Jesus did then and is still doing today is to bring
people to repentance. True repentance is required so that we can appropriate God’s
forgiveness through the perfect sacrifice for sin that Jesus has already made on our
behalf. Faith alone is not enough. It must be accompanied by sincere heartfelt
repentance; a kind of repentance that is rarely seen unless something or someone has
confronted us with a greater reality by which we can contrast ourselves and our
previous experience.

When Jesus first began his ministry, we are told that he continued to preach, as his
forerunner John the Baptist did, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near” (Matthew
4:17). However, unlike John, he did not baptize the people in water for the forgiveness
of their sin but just forgave them, for He was God! He did, in fact, baptize people, but
in the Holy Spirit. Furthermore, unlike his cousin John, “a voice of one calling in the
desert, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him’”, Jesus moved in
SWMs.

Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the
good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the
people. News about him spread all over Syria, and people brought to him all who
were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demonpossessed,
those having seizures, and the paralyzed, and he healed them. Large
crowds from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea and the region across the
Jordan followed him.

—Matthew 4:23–25

Like any good pastor today, Jesus preached and taught the scriptures in a way that
often impressed his listeners. But he didn’t stop there. He went on to move in
supernatural power, performing SWMs – and that’s what got him into trouble!!! It would
either cause people to believe and repent or it triggered a religious spirit to rise up,
manifesting in threats and false accusations. They called him an impostor, a heretic, a
blasphemer, and even a satanist! Two extremes: one a response, the other a reaction,
but both resulting because the Kingdom of God manifested, and set God’s divine
plumb line.

Jesus never took credit for the miracles he performed. He always gave the credit to His
Father in heaven: “…it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work” John 14:10.
His words should have been enough for his disciples to believe, yet he knew that the
heart of man can be hard to convince, and so he added,

Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least
believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves.

—John 14: 10

The “evidence of the miracles” tells us that Jesus is God’s son and if we believe in him
with repentant hearts we will be saved! We must remember, though, that his miracles,
either reveal and clarify or hide and confuse. They are the divine plumb line that God
often uses to expose our hearts; the sword of the Spirit, the word of God, living and
active, which penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges
the thoughts and attitudes of the heart (Hebrews 4:12). Even John the Baptist, in prison
in his last days, seemed confused by what he heard that Jesus was doing! So much so
that he sent some of his disciples to Jesus to ask him, “Are you the one who was to
come, or should we expect someone else?” Matthew11:3. Jesus, not bearing witness
to himself in his own defense, pointed instead to the manifestation of his Kingdom: a
true witness to his identity as the Messiah.

Jesus replied, “Go back and report to John what you hear and see: the blind
receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear,
the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor. Blessed is the
man who does not fall away on account of me.”

—Matthew 11:4

I find it chilling to think that John the Baptist who knew Jesus so well, even in
prophesying his coming and recognizing him when he finally did, now was confused
about who Jesus was because of what Jesus was doing! And Jesus made it clear to
John’s disciples, as well as to the crowd around him, that SWMs he performed would
be the very acts that would separate them into one of two camps: those who would
believe and repent and follow versus those who would not.

Every morning I pray that will do the “greater things things than these” of John 14:12,
because I know that this is God’s way of accrediting his son, Jesus, to the hearts of
men. I also know and believe that if we are praying for revival to come in our day it will
only come as we, the Body of Christ, move in the signs, wonders and miracles of
Jesus. Jesus said, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” John
20:29, but yet, in his grace, he will confront us through a demonstration of his power so
that as many hearts as possible might be convinced.

Jesus Return

From the gospels and epistles we know that Jesus is going to return one day. Most
commonly referred to as the “Second Coming”, this is a widely embraced truth
throughout Christendom, though not without debate. My question is this: is his return
imminent? Jesus made it clear that although we should take note of the signs that his
return is soon approaching, no one except the Father knows the day or hour of his
return.

Well, now, that makes things a bit tricky, doesn’t it! Be prepared, watch for the signs
but, ultimately, no one will know or be able to predict exactly when he is coming back.
In fact, when he does return, it will be at a time that we least expect. Here’s how Jesus
said it:

So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when
you do not expect him.

—Matthew 24:44

Predicting Jesus’ return, however, is not really what this is about, as if knowing the
when of his return could better prepare us for it, albeit at the last minute. No, in
knowing that he will one day return without knowing the when, we are faced with a
choice: First, to live moment-by-moment, fully prepared for his return, like the five wise
virgins of Matthew 25:1–13. Unlike the foolish five, they made sure that their lamps
were filled with oil just in case the bridegroom came in the night. Alternatively, we can
gamble on having the time to make our preparations in the last moment. The struggle
in this choice, I believe, hinges on the idea that true satisfaction and significance
cannot really be found outside of worldly pursuits and pleasures. “One foot in the
world, one foot in the Kingdom”, so to speak. Young believers, especially, have
expressed this by asking questions like, “If I really follow Jesus, does that mean I can’t
be cool?” “Does being a disciple mean I have to live a boring life?” Or the simple
conclusion, “Why do the wicked seem to have all the fun!” Even Jeremiah couldn’t help
commenting:

Why does the way of the wicked prosper? Why do all the faithless live at ease?
—Jeremiah 24:1

Whether young or old, the gamble is that we might forfeit eternal salvation if we
continue to live a worldly life after we have been saved. Leaving this discussion for
another time, that is, whether we are “once saved, always saved”, I will say that I have
come to know and believe that God’s grace is not at all like the grace of man. His grace
extends and stretches far beyond anything we can either know or express to one
another as mere mortals through our own strength and power. But we should not take
his patience as permission to see how close we can come to the line of the world
before crossing over.

There is, however, another possible response to Jesus’ return, which is to not respond
at all. That is, to live our lives as if he isn’t coming back. Puzzling, for sure, but more
common than perhaps many of us are willing to admit. Like in the day of Noah, Jesus
said, so it will be when he returns.

As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For
in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and
giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing
about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is
how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.

—Matthew 24:37–39

Was their fate due to ignorance? Hardly! Not with the lunatic Noah building the ark
under their noses for years on end! It was not for lack of warning that they perished.
What sent them to their deaths was a love of their own lives and a lack of the fear of
God. These are two things that we, who have been made one with Christ through the
blood of his New Covenant, must be rid of, once and for all, by the perseverance of
faith, if we are to be prepared for his return. In this way, we can be sure that the
testimony he has made us to be does not become tarnished.

I believe that Jesus is going to return again. When, I don’t know. But what I do know is
that while we, his bride, watch and wait, by God’s grace and power we will live a life
that is holy and pleasing to God. So that our salvation might be guaranteed? No! So
that he might know how incredibly thankful we are for the gift of grace we have
received – a gift, by the way, that neither you nor I deserved.

5 Fold Min

Talk of returning to the five-fold ministry of Ephesians 4 is certainly not new.The history
of Christianity is peppered with reformers and reformations. Among believers it is a
subject that resurfaces from time to time, often with great passion and conviction. Over
my last 25+ years of ministry we have seen a re-embracing of the prophetic to where
there is now a level of comfort in talking about prophetic gifts and ministries, and even
those we call prophets.

And then there is the gift of apostle, more commonly referred to as apostolic ministry.
We have come a long way. Whereas once upon a time apostolic ministry was rarely
mentioned, now we talk openly about such things and, even speak of those who are
modern day apostles. In fact, in the 90’s (1990’s that is!) there seemed to be selfproclaimed
apostles popping up all over the place. Whether they were the real deal is
certainly not something I am going make a call on, except to say I did notice that there
appeared to be a lot of ‘wannabes’ who overtime were unable to produce sustainable
apostolic fruit. (By the way, I am not picking on anyone in particular, as we will all be
known and judged by our fruit.) This shouldn’t be surprising, as with each renaissance
there is a surge of early adopters who suddenly appear on the scene.

Now that the dust has settled and the novelty worn off, we are left on the one hand
with institutional apostles, that is, those who take for themselves or are given the title
Apostle (not unlike being called Pastor), denoting rank, status, or a job description. On
the other hand are those who exercise their apostolic gifts and authority without the
need of title, and often outside the confines of institutional Christianity.

God works through most apostolic people to start new ministries. In talking of this,
Loren Cunningham comes to mind. As a youth pastor in his twenties he had a vision to
train and send out teams of young people on short-term evangelistic missions, but his
overseers were not enthusiastic:

The leaders were cordial enough to me, a young greenhorn, but they pointed out all the
inherent problems in my plan. Inexperienced young people would be an explosive
element overseas, they explained. With rising nationalism and political unrest, the
denomination had its hands full keeping the experienced missionaries from getting
kicked out. They pointed out that the complexities of different cultures presented
another set of challenges. And there were real dangers and diseases. The last thing
they needed was a bunch of thrill-seeking kids complicating the worthwhile job the real
missionaries were doing.

(“Is That Really You, God?” by Loren Cunningham with Janice Rogers, p.47)

Knowing he’d heard from God, Loren responded by moving outside his denominational
boundaries and founding Youth With A Mission in 1960. Today, YWAM trains 25,000
missionaries a year, and has tens of thousands of full-time workers in over 1000
locations. Truly Loren Cunningham is and has been an apostolic father in our time.The
question remains, however: Will the Loren Cunninghams of the new generation, waiting
to be recognized and released, find a different kind of response from older church
leaders to their fresh apostolic vision and passion? Will they be forced to find the
fulfillment of their ministries outside of current church structures and systems? I have
often heard it said by YWAM leaders, though be it candidly in hushed tones, that when
the church re-embraces its Kingdom agenda of equipping, training and sending out
young missionaries around the world then YWAM will no longer need to exist. As a
friend and partner of YWAM I have to say that I am in total agreement. The gift of
apostle, as part of the five-fold ministry of Ephesians 4, was given to the Church and is
essential for the whole body to attain the measure of Christ. Now, as an older leader
my prayer is that we may recognize, call forth, raise up, bless and release in our midst
new apostolic leaders. In this, I believe we will be aligning ourselves with God’s plan
and purpose to restore the five-fold ministry so that the Church walk fully in her destiny
and purpose in these end times.

maturity

I have no confusion with regard to my conclusion about Ephesians 4 being a Biblical
model, if not the model, for a gifted, appointed, God-anointed group of individuals
who, by their Christ-given gifts, are “to prepare God’s people for works of service” v.12.
When this bunch of preparers (who I will herein refer to as Five-folders) fulfill their
divinely commissioned task faithfully, the results will be staggering, i.e., the body of
Christ will be built up, reaching unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of
God, becoming mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fulness of Christ!

It equally seems clear to me, as it does to so many others, that in order for this result to
come to pass, it will require something supernatural to happen, that is, not just the
exercise of natural talents along with the cleverness of the mind, but a demonstration
of the Spirit’s power to radically change our lives – individually, and even more so,
corporately. Any other kind of effort to accomplish the same result, if it could, would
only serve to lessen our sense of value of what it means to attain to the whole measure
of the fulness of Christ.

The truth, however, is that this is not yet the measure to which we have attained. For
the sake of being honest, and more likely to recognize the necessity of a shift in our
hearts and minds, we must be willing to be measured by the picture of ourselves as
one unified mature Body in God’s Word. The height to which He calls us may seem
unattainable, but it is, nevertheless, the level of knowledge and experience He intends
us to have. And I believe we can reach this “whole measure” by re-embracing the
ministry that Christ gave to His Church to be the Church.

5 Fold Min

And so, what about this five-fold ministry of Ephesians 4? Since Jesus appointed some
to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be pastors, some to be teachers, some
to be evangelists, then why is it that in most local churches leaders are pastors who
perhaps teach, and elders who perhaps are mature enough and wise enough to be
recognized as such?

Of course, the fact that we call local church leaders “pastors” does not really tell us
anything, except that they have likely been appointed to manage a branch of the local
church. In the most general sense, “the pastor” is the leader even if the pastor does
not have the gift of pastoring. Confusing, right? For the sake of clarification, the Bible
portrays pastoring as a gift given to those who have been called by God to shepherd
the flock. They may be leaders, or perhaps not, but they know how to care for people
with the love and compassion of God.

Teachers, on the other hand, are those who have been gifted to teach. Sounds simple,
doesn’t it? However, we often call these individuals pastors, too. Now it’s getting really
confusing! And then of course we have apostles and prophets. We usually don’t call
them anything. Well, that’s not exactly true. We call them pastors, too, if they are
leaders in the local church. When they don’t settle into local church ministry then we
call them missionaries. Hmmm…this isn’t getting any clearer now, is it? We do speak of
people being prophetic but rarely do we recognize those who have been called by God
to be prophets in our day and in our time. And what about apostles? Are there any still
around? It is rare that we refer to anyone as an apostle, but yet I believe there are many
men and women who function in this calling and gift but have had to find a release
outside of Sunday-centred Christianity.

And finally, the evangelist, or should I say the evangelistic gift? Like John the Baptist,
they’re often a strange bunch of individuals. Of course, when they reach the stature of
Billy Graham, they are honoured, revered, and respected. But few get to this level, and
as a consequence, most become marginalized through others’ misunderstanding of
their unique and often strange ways.

And so, since the five-fold ministry of Ephesians 4 has been given to us by Jesus “…to
prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up
until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become
mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ”, then can we, the body
of Christ, expect to reach this on a singularly based pastoral-led church? True, the
leadership tag “pastor” seems to be a catchall for a mixture of gifts and callings, but it
does not clearly recognize or embrace the fullness of these gifts that have been given
to some.

If there is another move of God coming (and I believe there is), will it be sustainable? It
is one thing to pray in revival; it is quite another to sustain it over time. If unity is a
necessity, then what kind of unity are we talking about, and how do we experience it? I
believe this unity is above and beyond the social, organizational, political or national
kind. It is rarely brought about by ministerial meetings or local churches deciding to do
something together a couple of times a year. It is a unity that is “of the Spirit through
the bond of peace”. What we know about this peace is that it is a peace that the world
cannot give (John 14:27). And so, both the peace that binds us together and the unity
that comes “of the Spirit” are miraculous works of God in us through Christ Jesus, our
Lord! We are, of course, His workmanship (Ephesians 2:10). The key in this for us is an
issue of heart. As Paul wrote so simply, “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient,
bearing with one another in love” (Ephesians 4:2). It seems that this is a prerequisite for
true unity.

Unity and Maturity

There is also another kind of unity, that is, “unity in the faith and in the knowledge of
the Son of God” (Ephesians 4:13). That’s where the five-fold ministry comes in. It is
brought about when those apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers and evangelists that
Jesus himself anointed and appointed do what they are supposed to do! And this is
their work:

…to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may
be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of
God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of
Christ.

—Ephesians 4:12–13.

In the five-fold preparations of God’s people, the Body of Christ receives more than just
an equipping “for works of service”; in this there is spiritual unity and maturity that
cannot be reached any other way. If “attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of
Christ” is our ultimate goal, then unity and maturity in the Body of Christ are essential.

unity

When I think of leadership in the Church, several scriptures come to mind as key texts.
Ephesians 4 is one of them, in particular verses 11–16, often referred to as the teaching
on the “5-fold ministry”. This has been and continues to be foundational in our
understanding of the Christ-anointed/Christ-appointed ministry gifts that have been
given to bring the Body of Christ into unity and maturity. These grace gifts are what I
and others call “essential” gifts rather than “optional” or even “preferred”: in order for
the Body of Christ to come into “the whole measure of the fullness of Christ” these
essential gifts, in recognized leaders with active and accepted ministries, need to be at
work.

That being said, Ephesian 4:1–16 is not really about leadership or the 5-fold ministry,
but rather it is about unity in the Body of Christ, His Church. Earlier in that chapter Paul
writes: Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.

A Shared Understanding

Knowing that this unity hinges on a correct understanding of some key spiritual
realities, Paul goes on to say this:

4 There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to one hope when
you were called— 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of
all, who is over all and through all and in all.

It would seem that Paul is answering the question: “How many bodies are there?” Or
perhaps, “How many Gods, or Lords, or faiths, or hopes, or baptisms are there?” As
non-PC as it might be in our day and age to suggest that there could only be one of
each of these, the truth remains that there is only one. Not many, but one. One God,
one Lord, one Spirit, one faith, one hope, one baptism, and…one body! Keeping “unity
in the Spirit”, then, requires us to be unified in a shared understanding of this truth. In
knowing and sharing this together Paul trusts that it will spur us on to what he exhorts
us all to be, that is, “completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one
another in love” (v. 2).

Unique Branches, One Vine

Often when I am asked to speak in a place that I have never been before, I will ask
those listening, “How many churches are there here?” They go quiet for a minute as
they do the mental math. Eventually, some get the nerve to speak up with the sum of
their calculations. “Maybe 100…possibly more?” After thanking them for the answer, I
take the opportunity to tell them that they are wrong, that there is, in fact, only one
church! A trick question? Yes, but not meant to embarrass or shame, but rather to
make a point: too often our default, when it comes to the Church, is to think of it as
different, distinct and independent, therefore easily quantifiable. Arguably, there is
some merit to this. Likening our relationship to Him as fruit-bearing branches in the
Father’s vineyard, Jesus did say that though there is just one vine, from that vine there
would be many branches. The key to being a high-yielding, fruit-bearing branch is to
remain in him, the one and only true vine. We can and should celebrate our individuality
and uniqueness as our Father in heaven does. However, to come into true unity as the
Body of Christ, we must take our eyes off ourselves and put them on Him. What we
see then is a picture of perfect unity.

As Jesus said himself, “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30). We hear this again in
John 14:10, but this time it is more than agreement or shared understanding but rather
a coexistence where the submission of the Son allows the Father to speak and act
through Him: “Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me?
The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is
doing His work.” The uniqueness and individuality of Jesus are not lost in this, even
though by choice He delights in doing the Father’s will. It is beyond contemplation
what would have resulted if Jesus had chosen differently! I believe that oneness would
have continued to exist but without the fruit that comes from unity. Unity, then, is
essential.

heart

Who may ascend the hill of the LORD? Who may stand in his holy place?
He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to an idol
or swear by what is false.
He will receive blessing from the LORD and vindication from God his Savior.

—Psalm 24:3–5 (NIV1984)

The Bible uses the word remnant to describe a small group of people who remain
devoted to God. Kept by Him, they also are those who have chosen not to lift up their
souls to idols or swear by what is false (Psalm 24:4). Of course, we know that outside
of the blood of the Lamb, and therefore still under the law, we can not live at a level of
perfection that will allow us to ascend God’s holy hill. The only way to “clean hands
and a pure heart” is through repentance and faith in the work of Jesus on the cross.

But a remnant heart is more that an individual’s faith and walk with God in Christ Jesus.
It refers to a corporate heart – one that has been shaken and sifted to be purified
through testing. A remnant heart speaks of a fragment of what was once: a holy and
fragrant residue. Gideon’s army is perhaps one of the strongest pictures of this. The
army was heavily pruned until it was no longer Gideon’s army but rather the army of the
Lord!

Today, as always, it is often a remnant heart that first hears the Word of the Lord. But
hearing is not enough; the Word must be received, and an intentional, tangible
response demonstrated through steps of faith and obedience. In hearing and receiving
the Word of the Lord, a remnant heart finds itself activated in the purposes and plans of
God through the Holy Spirit. To put it plainly, “stuff just starts to happen!”

I believe that God is speaking today as He has in the past. I believe He is speaking to
everyone through the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. The question is, however, who is
hearing the voice of the Lord in these days? And of those who hear, who are those who
are receiving? The Kingdom of God is not for the faint of heart, nor is it for those who
seek comfort and control above and before Jesus’ kingdom and His righteousness. It is
a remnant heart that God will use to usher His presence into the nations and advance
His kingdom on earth.

positioned

Joseph, Moses, and Esther are each known for marking a transition, for standing
against the flow of what was expected in order to prevent mass destruction. Joseph
provided refuge for the people of Israel when their survival was threatened. Moses led
that same nation out of a hostile situation. Esther prevented the annihilation of her
people by the king of Persia.

There’s something conspicuous that shaped and defined all three: each was required
to spend a significant period of time estranged from his or her culture of birth, living
and working in a cross-cultural situation. The outcome in each case was the
positioning to bridge the gap between two cultures at a strategic time, for the
fulfillment of God’s purposes.

Joseph was sold into slavery in Egypt when he was seventeen. From then on he lived
among Egyptians, first as a household slave, then as a prisoner, and finally as secondin-
command to Pharaoh. God used the complexity of Joseph’s cross-cultural situation
to position him to rescue the entire nation of Israel from death by famine.

Generations later, Moses was adopted as a baby into Pharaoh’s family. At a time when
other Hebrew baby boys were hunted and killed, Moses was nursed by his own
mother, then raised as an Egyptian son in the palace. His cross-cultural upbringing
positioned him to go between two cultures and spearhead a massive international
move, returning the people of Israel to their home.

Esther was taken from her uncle’s home in a Jewish community to become a Persian
queen. Her years of living in the court of King Xerxes positioned her to prevent the
murder of her people.

Similarly with us, we are changed in some significant ways when God leads us to live
among other nations or people groups. Quite apart from what we accomplish while
we’re there, God’s purposes are realized through divine positioning so that at just the
right time, in just the right place, we become the very instrument through which God’s
purposes are fulfilled.

Let’s not resist God’s strategic call on our lives!
Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go
for us?”
And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”

—Isaiah 6:8

dancing

The Spirit of God has been emphasizing to us lately the importance of keeping in step
with Him. “In step?” Yes, just like Jesus – saying only what we hear the Father saying,
doing only what we see the Father doing, being about the Father’s business and able
to say, “It is the Father in me who is doing the work.”

In this, the picture that has come to me again and again is one of dancing – dancing
with Jesus. It is not a freestyle kind of dance where everyone does his or her own thing
regardless of what the dance partner is doing. But rather, it is the kind of dance where
we join with Him, the two becoming one.

Years ago, as a young single male, before I became a follower of Jesus, I frequently
visited discotheques and bars where there was dancing. I love to dance, even now. In
those days (the seventies) most people danced independently of their dance partners,
emphasizing personal freedom and individual expression. Of course, as the night went
on and after everyone had had a few drinks, it really didn’t matter who you danced
with, perhaps no one at all! It seemed free. It seemed fun. But it was incredibly
egotistical and self focused. And for some of us, it was with great regret that we
remembered the next day our antics on the dance floor the night before.

In the days of renewal there was also a lot of dancing. This time, it was not a dance of
the unredeemed, but rather of those whose hearts were being rekindled with passion
through a revelation of the Father’s love. A different dance, but similar in some ways. It,
too, often looked like the kind of dance we used to dance in days gone by, i.e., a kind
of independent, unscripted expression of unfettered joy. Mixed in with this dance were
also some pretty bizarre manifestations of the Holy Spirit. It was quite a powerful
cocktail for those of us who were drinking it at the time! In the moment, it was what
freedom looked like, without a doubt. It was right, it was appropriate, and it was God!

But that was then and this is now. For those of us who drank of those waters, who
swam in that river, our lives were blessed and changed forever. However, God always
meant us to be drinking with a purpose. Some of us understood that the place that we
entered the waters would not be the same place we got out. The river of life was never
a stagnant pond or an inland lake fixed by its surrounding environment. The springs of
renewal were dynamic and ever flowing for the purposes of changing us into the very
people that God wants us to be!

And so, today many of us are hearing again the Lord calling out, “Come, dance with
me!” But this time, it is a call to dance with Him, …in His arms. It is a call to enter into
His loving grasp, trusting that He can lead us well around the dance floor. It requires a
kind of surrender that only those who are loved can give. And the dance He leads us in
makes us look beautiful! He makes us better dancers than we actually are. As He leads
us, we cover the whole dance floor, not just a postage stamp-sized spot where we
march in time to the music. In His arms, the whole dance floor becomes ours to enjoy!
Moreover, as we dip and dive, twirl and swirl in His arms, the Lord is going to be
positioning us exactly where He wants us to be. There is no question that this dance is
about the one in whose arms we trust, i.e., the King of Glory and His destiny and
purpose!

And finally, this call to dance with Jesus is a corporate call. It is a call to a kind of unity
that few of us have ever experienced. It is as “one new man” that we enter into the
arms of the bridegroom. It is not the “everybody doing their own thing” dance of days
gone by, but rather it involves being “in step” with the spirit, unified “in the faith and in
the knowledge of the Son of God” (Ephesians 2:15; 4:13). This call to dance is to His
church, and it is a remnant heart that is first to respond.

The Zerubabel plumb line speaks of the preparations of God prior to the building or
rebuilding of His house. When the plumb line appears, it tips us off that God is about to
do something. It also speaks of a “truing up” of our hearts, that is, we are measured by
something that is true and holy. The divine plumb line reveals hearts, that is, to show us
what God already knows to be true! It also is used to divide or separate, giving strong
clarification or demarcation of kind, i.e., “separates the sheep from the goats” (Matthew
25:32). Because our God is also loving, “a compassionate and gracious God, slow to
anger, abounding in love and faithfulness” (Psalm 86:15), the work of the plumb line is
to give us the opportunity to turn from our sin through repentance and faith followed by
the demonstration of a changed life. Of course, one day this opportunity in this season
of grace will be over and the divine plumb line will be used one more time in judgement
(see Matthew 25:31–46).

I believe “the House of the Lord” is being re-established on a new foundation. He is
speaking to a remnant heart, that is, a corporate heart made up of individuals who are
pursuing God passionately and have given themselves to Him totally for His purposes.
Remnant, of course, refers to a small remaining quantity of something, that is,
something that was once big has now, in comparison, become small and, therefore,
purer or more suitable for God’s purposes, e.g., Gideon’s army. And so, we are being
or we are about to be measured by God’s plumb line so that we might prepare our
hearts as well as count the cost of being used for the reestablishing of His House on
earth.

(Originally posted August 23, 2018)

A few weeks ago, while in prayer, I had a clear vision of airplanes stacked up over an airport in a holding pattern. I asked, “God, why are you showing me this?” He said, “Because you haven’t landed yet. I’ve got you in a holding pattern…in the heavenlies.” Needless to say, I was somewhat stunned by this revelation, but all of sudden everything made sense to me.

We landed back in Canada from Japan – physically – on March 7th. Now it was August 7th and we were feeling desperate to get back on the plane to head off to our next assignment in the nations. Apparently, we had never gotten off the plane, spiritually speaking. Just hovering, not being allowed to settle or put down roots. We knew before we left Japan that we were not coming back to Canada to resettle, but to wait to be reassigned. However, with days turning into weeks and weeks into months, with no home of our own in which to live out our lives, we found that the very thing that we were not to do, i.e., resettle, became a growing temptation.

I am sure that during their days of wandering in the wilderness God’s people longed to settle, too. No more moving! “Let’s just stay here, Moses!” Sometimes, settling for second best seems like a pretty good option. Our need as humans to settle is more than just a survival instinct: it is a desire for a home…a place that we can call our own…in which to live our lives over time, raising our families, celebrating all the seasons of life together with the ones we love. These are not wrong things to want. In fact, I believe that this is the way God created us to be. However, there are times when our need to have these things is greater than our desire to know and to wholly belong to the God who created us.

Since the time we were married, Jane and I have agreed to pursue God together, as well as to offer ourselves to Him, completely. To this day our prayer remains, “Anytime, anywhere, no matter the cost, here we are God: send us!” He knows what we need as well as the temptations that might distract us away from the very thing we ask for: to find ourselves continually in the centre of His will for the sake of His Kingdom on earth.

And so, we have been in a holding pattern, …a holy holding pattern. Physically landed, but in the heart and mind of God still in flight in the realm of His Spirit, according to His purposes for our lives. When the reassignment comes, I suspect it will come suddenly. And like the 10 virgins that went out to wait for the bridegroom (Matthew 25:1-13), we want to be sure that when the moment finally arrives there is nothing in our hearts or minds that will stop us from being on our way again, in full flight.

This time of year always seems rife with prophetic words for a new year. As well, there seems to be an endless flow of opinions, postulations and speculations – forecasts and predictions, along with real news and fake news. If there was ever a time to be discerning, it is now. We need to remind ourselves that information is not wisdom, nor does ability or giftedness equal spiritual or psychological maturity.

Prophetic words, in order to be ‘prophetic’, need to come from God, the Holy Spirit. Whether it is a prophetic word, picture, vision, dream or sense, it is not the prophet’s voice that gives the words life but rather the voice of God. And when it is God who is speaking, not only is there a witness in our spirits but also some kind of measurable result, over time, confirming that what was given was indeed the word of the Lord.

There should be no argument: social media is changing the world (or at least changing speed and coverage of the way in which the peoples of the world are communicating). This change is true for Christians, too. Social media, which by nature is neither good nor bad, is changing the way we ‘do church’. Much could be argued, of course, for and against the effect of the internet, however, with regard to the prophetic, it has given a platform to everyone who wants a voice on a global scale. The question is: Is it the voice of God? It is by the Word of God and the gift of discernment that we will be able to tell what is true and holy, and I believe that it is our discernment that is being tested.

There have always been false prophets – the Bible is full of them. And there continue to be those who speak falsely ‘in the name of the Lord’ today, with access to the internet, just like you and me. It is not, however, their words we need to be concerned about but rather our ability to hear and discern the voice of God. For it is written, “Do not quench the Spirit. Do not treat prophecies with contempt but test them all; hold on to what is good, reject every kind of evil.” 1 Thessalonians 5:19-22 (NIV)

Having said that, mid-2016 I started to receive a word – a prophetic word – which I believe was from God for the Church in 2017. Words need to be discerned and tested, and so I invite readers to consider what I am sharing in this way.

There will be an unusual ‘shifting’, a ‘recalibration’ in the Body of Christ in 2017. He is about to hit the ‘reset’ button. For some it will be a soft reset, for others it will be hard. It will result in a ‘reallocation’ of people and resources. With regard to shifting, there will be a significant coming and going of pastors and leaders – on both national and international levels. From some countries there will be a significant exodus of missionaries – some forced and some freely – some by the Spirit of God and some out of fear and frustration. On the other hand, new fields will be opened up and we will begin to see younger first-timers head to the nations. This will not, however, be a wave of new missionaries, at least, not at first. The Lord does not want us to be discouraged by this but rather understand that He is doing a ‘reset’ on missionary vision, passion and, therefore, effectiveness.

Concerning the reallocation of people and resources, this will be the Lord’s doing as well, though it may seem that it is the effect of changing legislation and policies of countries and governments. Within a variety of Christian organizations and denominations this reallocation will have a major impact – for some it will bring reformation, for some renewal, while for others it will signal an end to their movement and mission.

The Lord, also, spoke to me about His Kingdom. In Jesus’ government He has ministers with specific ‘portfolios of ministry’: a Kingdom administration. He is about to shuffle His cabinet: a ‘reappointment’. Some will be reappointed, while others will be stepped down – sent to the back benches, while still others will be retired ‘to glory’. There will be a few new appointments, too. (It should be noted that I received this word before the Emperor of Japan had announced his intention to abdicate, before Donald Trump won the election in the US and set his new administration in place, before the Prime Minister of Canada – Justin Trudeau – shuffled his cabinet, before the Brexit vote signalled the departure of David Cameron, and so on.) Again, the result will be an increased effectiveness of the ministry of Jesus around the world. In 2017 the Lord will expedite things promised that have been held back by a religious spirit in the church. We will see clusters of kingdom-hearted, kingdom-minded people come together and form foundations for new apostolic centres. Governmental authority, i.e., the authority of the King, through His five-fold leadership team, will be exercised “to equip His people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up”, Eph.4:12.

Finally, 2017 will be a year of great testing. Western Christianity, in particular, will experience crisis. Not a crisis of faith but, rather, one of expectation, i.e., the expectation that God will preserve a standard of living encased within a unique Christianized cultural context.

We will know His goodness and see more signs, wonders and miracles than perhaps any of us have ever seen before, but the shifting, shuffling and shaking will not stop until we experience these three things: reformation, renewal and revival. These three will prove to be the needed preparations of His bride before the Bridegroom, Jesus, King of Kings returns.

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

Ephesians 3:20-21(NIV)

Articles by Mark Banyard