Journeyman Project Dispatches from the Life of Patrick Fowler: Christianity Explored

10Nov/140

The Holy Spirit can be confusing…

And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem without knowing what will happen to me there. 23 except that the Holy Spirit warns me in town after town that imprisonment and persecutions are waiting for me. Acts 20:22-23

They repeatedly told Paul through the Spirit not to set foot in Jerusalem. Acts 21:4

10 While we remained there for a number of days, a prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. 11 He came to us, took Paul’s belt, tied his own hands and feet with it, and said, “The Holy Spirit says this: ‘This is the way the Jews in Jerusalem will tie up the man whose belt this is, and will hand him over to the Gentiles.’” 12 When we heard this, both we and the local people begged him not to go up to Jerusalem.  (Acts 21:10-12, NET)

 

In Paul’s dramatic approach to Jerusalem the people he meets warn him against going to Jerusalem. Some bible interpreters even argue that “spirit” in the first passage is Paul’s spirit, rather than the Holy Spirit because the tension is too great for them to believe the Holy Spirit would both compel someone to do something AND warn them not to do it.

However, Jesus faced a similar tension in His own life when He struggled in prayer before His crucifixion. He wished for a different trial than the one He was going to face, and prayed against it even to the point of sweating drops of blood.

I believe Paul needed both the motivation and the preparation for suffering that the Spirit provided in these instances. He needed to have a firm resolve that takes a lot of thought and even argument to set in a person’s mind.

 

We should also avoid being put off when we see conflict arise between godly people with godly intentions. While we should be VERY intentional to make sure everyone is speaking what they believe to be God’s perspective, yet we should also be aware that often times God leads us to a place of tension and disagreement that we are meant to stay in, rather than resolve.

There will be times when we disagree with a leader or parent, but should obey and respect His decision because God has put Him in charge and the decision is not morally or ethically wrong—its just different than we would make if we were in his place.

There will be times when we don’t see a matter eye to eye with other believers, but where the difference in belief should not hurt our friendship, because its not moral or does not change the way we worship God together in our larger gatherings.

There are times when someone holds a strong personal conviction that we disagree with. As long as its not directly in conflict with Scripture, we should avoid thinking that God has told us what that person must do. God rarely gives us insight into His instructions to someone else. We must trust and pray for them to hear God’s voice clearly, and allow them to act on what they believe, even if its wrong. If they make a mistake, they will learn from it. Our goal is to encourage and advise and pray, not to play the role of the Holy Spirit or hear the Holy Spirit for someone else.

15May/140

My Upcoming India Trip

I recently shared the news that I am going to India via snail mail with friends and family...here's the update, if you haven't see it yet:

India women listen during a Christian prayer service on a village rooftop.

Dear Friends,

I have been invited to be a part of the new partnership team in our church that is traveling to help start churches in India this fall, and I need your help to make it happen. Please help us build this amazing partnership in Punjab!

Men and women from Ft. Campbell deploy and spend months serving in difficult living conditions away from their families in order to protect our country. They respond with great enthusiasm to the packages that are sent to them from around the world. Imagine how that same kind of gift is received by a worker who has spent months working in similar conditions, away from their family, to support their wife and children. If you can imagine that, you can understand how our friends at the "For All Mankind" movement are changing the world, and how we are involved with them.

On August 2-9, 2014 we are sending two Compassion Kit outreach team to districts of Punjab, India. The impact can be tremendous. Punjab has 36,004,423 people less than 1% of which are Christians. I am joining the August team and will personally experience this church planting movement among a people without access to Bibles and the knowledge of Jesus. I’ll be sharing Bible stories along with my testimony as we distribute kits and help a local pastor build a church among some of the villages. I personally want to see the new churches as they develop, and I want to be challenged by the faith of these young pastors as they pray, teach, and disciple others in their own unique culture—I believe that will transform me and improve how I pastor our church in Clarksville.

God is calling me to have a heart for the world—so much so that I get involved! I want to ask that you will do the same! India is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the democracy with the most people in the world. It’s a place that needs the good news of Jesus more than any other—and I want to help the local people build churches that can share that good news with prayer, encouragement and support. I want to see the beliefs that shaped our country into a place of justice, opportunity, and security, reshape theirs too.

Do me a HUGE favor, and pray hard about whether you can support this initiative by helping send me and Compassion Kits to Punjab in August, or anytime beyond. Visit their website at www.compassionkits.com and watch the videos. See if God will give you a heart for India too. And if you can, please consider helping me raise the $3,000 for my part of the partnership by contributing $100, $250, or $500 toward the August initiative by writing a check to oneChurch and sending it to me. (1620 Gratton Rd, Clarksville, TN 37043)

If you get a chance to call me or meet face to face, I’d love to talk more about my journey and what I am learning as I take this incredible journey. Its hard to know who to talk about this with personally, but if you’ll let me know you’re interested, we will connect heart-to-heart about this. And if your church wants to get involved, there’s opportunity for that too!

In Christ,

 

Patrick Fowler

4Aug/130

Churches that Hurt…should not run you off

I have seen my fair share of people hurt by churches in the past few years and I definitely empathize with their pain and anger toward untrustworthy individuals.

However I find a lot of these people discontent over imperfect churches, hoping to find the perfect one out there somewhere, and I think that is a myth that needs to be broken. I hope you realize that this issue is not connected with the American church model...it's been the issue since the first days of the church. Paul--the first and greatest church planter laments to Timothy that everyone has abandoned and betrayed him in 2 Timothy. The church has been highly imperfect from those first days, and it remains that way today. Even the great Reformer Martin Luther died a bitter drunkard isolated from the church he had help restart.

Do your best to come to me soon. For Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica. Crescens has gone to Galatia, Titus to Dalmatia. Luke alone is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is very useful to me for ministry. Tychicus I have sent to Ephesus. When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, also the books, and above all the parchments. Alexander the coppersmith did me great harm; the Lord will repay him according to his deeds. Beware of him yourself, for he strongly opposed our message. At my first defense no one came to stand by me, but all deserted me. May it not be charged against them! But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. So I was rescued from the lion's mouth.  (2Tim 4:9-17, ESV)

 

Wikipedia summarized Martin Luther's final days like this:

His poor physical health made him short-tempered and even harsher in his writings and comments. His wife Katharina was overheard saying, "Dear husband, you are too rude," and he responded, "They are teaching me to be rude." In 1545 and 1546 Luther preached three times in the Market Church in Halle, staying with his friend Justus Jonas during Christmas.

His last sermon was delivered at Eisleben, his place of birth, on 15 February 1546, three days before his death. It was "entirely devoted to the obdurate Jews, whom it was a matter of great urgency to expel from all German territory," according to Léon Poliakov. James Mackinnon writes that it concluded with a "fiery summons to drive the Jews bag and baggage from their midst, unless they desisted from their calumny and their usury and became Christians." Luther said, "we want to practice Christian love toward them and pray that they convert," but also that they are "our public enemies ... and if they could kill us all, they would gladly do so. And so often they do."

 

All in all, Don't go looking for a church that will never hurt you. It doesn't exist. Go looking for a church that will admit its faults and ask your forgiveness when confronted. Don't withdrawal from relationships because they hurt--confront those relationships like we are instructed to in Matthew 18 and watch as God makes you both better friends and better church members. It is only through working through hurt that we find and deepen trust. We see that in movies and on TV shows all the time...but somehow we miss it in real life. That's the lesson God has taught me in recent years. And I hope you will try and find that it is true for you too.

So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.  (Matt 5:23-24, ESV)

“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church.   (Matt 18:15-17, ESV)

I am reminded finally of Mark--a companion on Paul and Barnabas first missionary journey, who abandoned them part of the way through their trip. When they prepared to make a second journey, Paul and Barnabas disagreed so much over whether to take Mark along again that they ended up traveling separately. Paul was not ready to forgive. However even though they separated, Paul came to forgive and deeply appreciate Mark.In what was probably his final letter, he wrote: "Bring Mark with you when you come, for he will be helpful to me in my ministry." We must learn to be hurt, and yet still be the ones to seek reconciliation.

Praying for those hurt by the church today. I really hope they find healing and the key to relationships through confrontation and forgiveness.

30Jul/130

The Law of the Lid: Leadership Ability Limits Your Life

 "I believe that success is within the reach of just about everyone. But I also believe that personal success without leadership ability brings only limited effectiveness. Without leadership ability, a person’s impact is only a fraction of what it could be with good leadership. Whatever you will accomplish is restricted by your ability to lead others."

I first read the Law of the Lid over 10 years ago, and at that time I took it with only a slight bit of seriousness. However, after a decade of looking at the world through the lens of leadership, John Maxwell style, I am totally bought into this concept.

If you want dramatically different results, one key area you cannot afford to ignore is your leadership abilities. Read John's article here, and see for yourself why leadership matters so much.

And if you are intrigued enough to make a big move to grow yourself in this area, then you need to come to the Leadership Summit with me on August 8-9th. We are only weeks away!

12Jun/130

Book Review: The Explicit Gospel by Matt Chandler

explicit gospelFinished this book this morning, and let me just say, as much as I like Matt Chandler, this book was tough to read through. My initial impression was that his thoughts were scattered, some of his comments were misdirected/mislabeled the issues, and the book itself didn't quite make points skillfully. In short order, he needs a ghost writer to make this flow much better in the future. If you want to read a better book on this subject, I heartily recommend The Green Letters.

Here's the main point that needs to be taken from this book:

The Gospel is the core of what we believe and what transforms us--if we don't make it clear enough, often enough in our churches and our relationships, people will assume incorrectly that we are just trying to be good to earn God's favor--the basis of every other religious system. The gospel is about the restoration of the entire world, one heart and mind at a time, through the power of the Holy Spirit. In order to experience that, people must understand that their sin stands between them and a holy, just God. Then they must understand that there is one payment for sin--past present and future, in Jesus Christ. We must live, preach, and teach this truth.

That said, the book explains why the gospel is important, a message that needs repeated as many times as possible. While I found the book dry for me, I loved the first 30 pages, and the last 15...those thoughts were worth reading the entire thing. Here are some of those thoughts I loved:

We are wired to worship--and if we don't know that it should be God, we find people or things to worship: celebrities, movies, sports teams--the world is full of fanatics for things that really don't matter that much. pg 36-37

God is HUGE, and in some ways, out of our league. We need to live in awe of His power, knowledge, and love. Rather than presume that He owes us something, or that we can earn His favor, we need to start coming to God on HIS terms, not ours. pg 28-29

We need to learn to let go of the past--God forgives our past, present, and future sins in Christ. However, we let those things come back to disable us. We need to see the past as God sees it--we died to that life. It no longer matters. What matters is the present and how we move into the future, with the new life God has given us. pg 212-213

The key to defeating sin is twofold: We need to kill the root of our sin--to have our heart's motivations reshaped, and we need to fall deeply in love with God. If we can do those things, then following God will become far more attractive than sin. But it takes time. It takes a deep conversation with God, and the insight and accountability of others. If we are just trying to cover our bad behavior or stop it, we need to make sure that we understand God's purpose in saving us--it is not about earning God's favor! pg 216-219

Those are the best part of the book for me. Without trying to slander Matt, whose intentions are great. Here are a few things I think he could have argued better.

Matt tended to attack messages and preachers for not preaching the saving news of the gospel at every event. He seems to think that we need to explain the work of Jesus every time we are in front of people. That's distracting, and its overkill to me. Coming to Christ takes time, takes the full breath of teaching of what our Scriptures have to say. He took a non-believer to a True Love Waits rally for Christians on sexual purity, expecting her to hear the gospel. Wrong event, wrong person, not the wrong message, in my opinion. He was placing expectations on an event that he should not have. I don't take non-believers to the Leadership Summit, or a Married Life Live conference to let them hear Jesus on the cross. I take them to a service intended for non-believers.

Matt tended to portray the gospel as if it would always evoke an immediate response--as if a person is changed dramatically for good or worse by a single sermon.  I think that most people take a lot of time to come to a saving faith--they listen to our sermons, watch our actions, and begin to trust God slowly by hearing about how much love and mercy and grace God has for this world. Demanding a response from people short-circuits their ability to be drawn by God. We need comfortable, yet challenging church environments and relationships with people that allow them to "taste and see" that God is good, trustworthy, and gracious without demanding an response until they are ready. pg 63