Positive shepherding

Matt and I are finishing up an expedition 44 miniseries on James (within our never-ending church series). Click here to watch it. This week we are on Chapter 4. Chapter 4 takes on the widely understood Hebrew message popular in OT wisdom literature of taking on a mindset of wisdom from above which is about peacemaking. What is the mark of a good shepherd community? Humbly living in the provision and plan that God has for you and your family community defined as agents of what is good -TOV.

At Covenant Theological Seminary (CTS) the first action I performed as the President was to continue our legacy by adjusting our tag line to fit our mantra which is to cultivate a Jesus culture. This is a short succinct way of communicating a plethora of Biblical understandings. This tag line recalls an entire way of life in the same way that the authors of scripture may have quickly cited a simple Hebrew idiom to recall a well-known teaching without having to retell it. Even today Hebrew idioms work this way. For instance, the phrase, “Na’eh doresh – na’eh meqayem” translates as “He who demands well, should fulfill his demands well,” or practice what you preach. That one is really plain and simple, but we all get the message. Even in English we say it all the time and it is a way of keeping someone in your family or community on target in just a few words. This way of thinking was paramount to 2nd temple communities but unfortunately has been mostly lost in translation to the modern church.

Another Idiom I invite you to consider more deeply is “Al d’ateft atfu’kh, v’sof m’tifaikh ytufun” which translates something like because you have drowned others, you were drowned — and in the end, those who drowned you will be drowned. In English the translation sounds like “you get what you deserve”, but in Hebrew it is contronym language and takes on nearly the opposite idea.

To the non-Hebraic (western) mind this one is harder as it embodies a plethora of teachings from several different directions. Essentially it recalls the various Torah and Jesus teachings that communicate because you’ve committed a sin, other people will want to harbor animosity towards you. But in doing so, they will also be sinning and essentially be as much of the problem (and as guilty before the Lord) as the initial offender. It also carries a connotation that people shouldn’t want to take the law into their own hands; that a life of shalom is better; and you should never demand Justice of God. Who are you to do that? Justice is for the Lord not for you. You are simply to forgive and continue living a life of grace and edification towards the offender as the communal body of Yahweh. (But this way of thinking also takes into account the need to transparently address the issues that may divide and not sweep them under the carpet.) It takes on the gezerah shavah, (verbal analogy) of loving your enemy with the underlying goal to win them over and reclaim them as your brother or sister such as in Mt 5:39. This is what Jesus continued to teach in a culture that had become very counter to this way of thinking (Roman culture was about yourself and the emperor and continually becoming great in the eyes of men). In the midst of the Jewish systems embracing the hierarchy of Rome, Jesus brought [back] an upside-down sense of Hebraic kingdom devotion, to return to Torah but also progress deeper within the context of servant discipleship to reclaim the world (introducing a new covenant Talmidim).

Jesus was radical and taught counter cultural radical communal based discipleship. In an Ancient Hebraic culture (and then again redefined in the first century Jesus culture), this IDIOM (Al d’ateft atfu’kh, v’sof m’tifaikh ytufun) took on an idea that didn’t need to be continually taught, it was engrained in every teaching. Essentially it created a family context of putting others before yourself and choosing to interpret actions of others in light of the greater kingdom good. The culture together understood this dynamic and expectation and lived it out. And when someone acted in a way that violated this communal code, a simple phrase was all that it took to shepherd someone back to a better way of life.

I uttered the phrase to a pastor the other day and they had no idea what it meant. I went on to spend the next 30 minutes explaining the mindset, and their reaction seemed foreign to the idea. Today it would seem that we (modern Christians) have completely lost this culture of encouragement that was so engrained into the pages of the Bible for thousands of years.

To take on this kind of cultural mindset meant that all things communal need to be positive. Even today, this Hebrew phrase or idiom takes on this mindset. It meant that in every interaction you have a choice to interpret positively or negatively, see the glass as half full or half empty. Your covenant commitment was to always interpret positively. This points to the original calling that God’s people were made to shepherd, to be the keepers and cultivators bringing shalom to chaos. Today we think of this kind of encouragement as a cheerleading unfortunately; it is far from that modern image.

This “code” of conduct meant that every opportunity was one for a positive shepherding.

You could be a positive challenger or a negative challenger (Satan.) It is the notion that we are all on a path to a better balance of establishing the Lord woven into every facet of our personal and communal life. This often came through transparent positively based conversation, that frankly most of us don’t make the time for today; don’t let the sun set before your communal body comes to agreement. Take whatever time is needed to positively shepherd into reconciliation and healing. Everyone should be shepherding, up and down, in the mindset of equality in Christ. I am often shepherded by my children in this way. The Spirit regularly speaks to me through them. Nothing should trump this way of thinking and certainly not our busy schedule outside of the community of believers. Your time, treasures, and talents should point this way, and always take priority to things of the world. In the Old Testament this was first fruits thinking but pointed towards the coming of Jesus in which the message would be completed into a New Covenant of a royal priesthood asking for all of you rather than just your first fruits. Transparent questions and open conversation bring healing, truth, and restoration by and in the Spirit. 

Unfortunately, when we don’t take on a mindset of positivity, we allow transparency to be interpreted with evil intention not positive intentions. Transparency between God and you, God and your spouse, God and His church, and believer to believer is the Biblical recipe of authenticity. This is the message of considering other before yourself.

In Hebraic thought, Communal relationships are a reflection of your relationship with the Lord.

The first church lived this out and we still should today. When someone does something that could be taken either way (their action could be interpreted as positive or negative), your mindset should be of the same as that of Jesus, to them as you seek to communicate that you don’t have any room (before the Lord in comparison to what He has done for you) to interpret their actions negatively or by offense (in a way that detracts). There is no place in the covenant “code” of believers to think this way. Every interaction and interpretation within the fellowship of believers should be regarded as “the most positive” trajectory it could possibly take in.

Those that were regarded as “elders” or mature believers were often defined in this way according to the track record (the way in which they bore fruit) of their positive interpretation. They didn’t allow themselves to ever become offended, they chose to bring life in their shepherding.

The entire message of Grace in scripture embodies this idea.

When you understand this way of covenant thinking you now understand many scriptures in new light. You understand how a grossly mistranslated Romans 8:28 doesn’t necessarily mean that every evil will be made pure by God (although you may theologically think that), it culturally meant and still continues to mean that in the same way that God interprets us as good “TOV” (not evil) that we should do the same. You should embody this image in every interaction with the world and/or your communal kingdom family.

We should live in redemption and freedom of encouragement knowing who we are in Christ.

Romans 12:17-21 and Ephesians 5:16 speak to living in total peace making the most of every opportunity to re-interpret and distribute life. The major theme of the Bible from the first two chapters of the Bible to the last two chapters is to bring shalom from chaos. In fact, Jesus would commission disciples as the primary agents to do exactly this. To shepherd a better culture by loving your neighbor.

For 3000 years this way of thinking was a given amongst the Hebraic kingdom culture and was made complete through Jesus. However today most of our Christian community has no idea what living this way looks like. We do exactly the opposite. Even our churches interpret as the world does, often completely half empty, not full. The major calling of the church is to be a disciple and bring others to discipleship which primarily means to see and communicate the image of Jesus.

Rather than see the best and speak life as you shepherd those around you we become trained by our world to constantly see and “anti-shepherd” the worst in people.

Let me use a very transparent example. In one sense you could interpret what I just said as “anti-church” and I know many people have and will continue to interpret what I teach this way. Interpreting it as “dogging the bride of Christ.” In my opinion that is unfortunate and a major part of our “CHURCH” problem. I am not anti-church at all… I am pro-church, pro-Jesus, pro-loving your neighbor, and pro-total transformation in the image of Christ. I am “pro” the church becoming and living up to the calling of Jesus to become shepherds and disciples in a culture of better discipleship. This is why I speak up, because I love the church and don’t love it when we claim the name of Christ and live far from that image. The continual struggle is when the church continues to seemingly do a better job of leading away from that calling by enabling a worldly version of church and non-intimate discipleship.

2 Corinthians 10:5 tells us that we are to “demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” This doesn’t mean simply garbage in, garbage out (although it does mean that), it also means that every thought needs to be transformed. It is saying don’t let something be an argument… bring life that conforms to Christ. Your primary role as an image bearer is to do what Jesus did and transform chaos into life.

In this way when someone says something that could be taken negatively, you shepherd them back to Jesus by interpreting their words and speaking Jesus into them. When we choose to live this way, you might often you find you are actually the problem. What someone said, and you thought they intended was simply miscommunicated. Often what they meant to say or communicate might have actually been coming from an amazingly transparent “Jesus” mindset, but you misinterpreted it. If you don’t apply Jesus and talk through it, you likely will miss the blessing. I often find when people ask to meet with another person in a spirit of a Matthew 18 reconciliation it is usually the person that thinks they are wronged that is more misaligned or off the mark than the other person. When we follow scripture and transparently work towards harmony we learn and become more intimate and unified. It is a picture of speaking life and seeing beauty in the body of Christ. This is an expectation communally that we can do better in Jesus.

This (IDIOM) mindset is the picture of what Jesus does for every one of us. He takes what we offer Him, that which begins as negative and ugly (when we are first pulled out of darkness) and utterly transforms it to a rich symphony of blended spiritual giftings and unity. As we mature in Christ, we should begin to look more like and offer what is beautiful to Jesus and His body and our image should then continually look like the beauty of Jesus not the ugly of the world. We don’t stay “in ugly.” That isn’t a mark of a mature believer. This is the “Beauty from Ashes” perspective of transformation of the world and especially towards your brothers and sisters in Christ. This is the metamorphoó & anakainósis (kainos) of Romans 12:2.

Covenant community takes every opportunity to turn what could be evil into good. This is what you were designed for. You were made to be as a royal priesthood to partner with God to see things “GOOD -TOV” and transform life!!! There is no longer room for a believer to tear down or negatively interpret but bring life to everything by your choice to image Jesus.

A Jesus community positively interprets, and is the reflection of Jesus as agents of edification.

If someone (especially someone in your fellowship of believers) posts something on the internet (or says something to you in a discussion) that could be taken the wrong way or maybe even, you know is just “BAD”… your role as an image bearer in covenant is to give grace, forgive, shepherd and transform. Interpret it in light of Jesus and shepherd and encourage the statement to bring positive encouragement (and possibly teaching) in edification. It also means to be open to the idea that you might be missing the mark. Don’t allow anything to offend you but consider every opportunity to become better before each other and the Lord! This is what community in Christ looks like. We edify not tear down, we interpret by Jesus culture standards, not by the world’s standards.


This way of thinking has been engrained in me since my days at Moody Bible Institute in the late 1990’s. I regularly attended a messianic Jewish assembly where this message was communicated in nearly every interaction. I believe this discipleship culture needs to find its way back as the central theme as the first priority of every church ministry and family initiative. Everyone should take on a missional approach for discipleship shepherding from a positive communal perspective regardless of their spiritual stage.

There are so many examples of this way of thinking throughout the pages of scripture. In fact, now that you understand this central theme of the Bible, you can’t “NOT SEE IT.” For instance, we think of “standing strong” biblically as being a wall or being ready to go to war, the NRA “stand and fight” connotation. As there may be Biblical application to that way of thinking (which my good friend Matt would likely argue, and my other good friend Steve might promote) – the primary interpretation is that we stand as a rock (Peter) in the image of Jesus! Its backwards thinking. That we are strong in our humility and servanthood even to be able to usher in something that could be of utmost negativity to the body and “strongly” transform it into every good and perfect deed. That we might suffer the backlash of tribulation for the good of the kingdom community. That is what a strong Christian “looks” like. That is a spiritual rock. Agents of transformation in spite of tribulation.

Today I encourage you to take on a Hebraic mindset. Don’t allow yourself to interpret anything negatively. Be a glass half full person and transform life in everyone and everything around you. This is the community Jesus asked Christians to embody and be known for.

The world should know we are Christians by our love. By our transforming ability to shape and shepherd chaos to good. There is no place in the community of Christ to do the opposite. We are all shepherds, and you are always shepherding one way or the other. Do you want to be a person known for your shepherding to life, or someone that always see the worst in your brother or sister?

Comments Off on Positive shepherding Posted in ADVENTURE

Spiritual blindness and the pastor-king hierarchy problem of the church

One of the things I don’t admire about the evolution of church is the “don’t ever question anything or anyone” hierarchy or CEO mindset of some churches and denominations. As with other situations in life, sometimes hard transparent questions and discussion lead to a better understanding and “intimacy” of the matter. The “don’t question” mindset has filtered into nearly every church I know. We hear people saying things like, “don’t question God’s anointed” as if they are an Old Testament king or are untouchable. This has its roots in Roman Catholicism; essentially establishing the priest as nearly God, or a deity and it is quite contrary to scripture. This is the epitome of making someone another god “before” the Lord. It is a great example of doing the exact opposite of what God has asked us to do and is rampant in the church today. This way of thinking and acting creates disunity not unity. Why don’t we see it? Why do we continue to enable actions so opposite of what scripture asks? Some in the church have become spiritually blind which is nearly always an indicator of being stuck in elementary Christianity. 

When we stop maturing in Christ our vision becomes cloudy and the ways of God and the world seem to grow blurry.

That kind of “blindness” is counter to what the NT church is called and “anointed” to live and operate like. The king of the OT was contrary to theocracy. Today, charged and empowered by the New Covenant, we are called back into a theocracy, “GOD IN US”. In the OT the king became rival or in replacement of God as the authority over Israel. When we imply that pastors are the only anointed ones or outrank everyone else, we are going against a King Jesus “GOD IN US” mindset. When the body lacks accountability at all levels we are no longer living through and in the equality of Christ. In the OT just because the king was anointed didn’t mean they were above reproach, look at all the prophets (considered as regular lay people by the king) sent to bring back the anointed kings to the ways of the Lord. The kings usually represented a picture or mosaic of the mis-shepherding of Israel more than they imaged the positively shepherding of Israel. You shouldn’t want to identify as “or be” like a king of Israel! They led people away not brought them closer to God. This un-questionable mindset has done significant damage to the body of Christ, and it has been displayed largely by the pockets of wayward (blind, or spiritually stuck or immature) church leadership today. (It has been described as the blind leading the blind, or the babies leading the babies.) It is almost always recognized when a lay person progresses into a vibrant spirit lead personal journey of spiritual growth to maturity and becomes more mature than those “leading” the church and their eyes become open to the lack of spiritual fruit within the church “leadership”. Unfortunately, there are many “pastors” that are stuck in elementary Christianity or blindness and can’t shepherd any further than they are. This is often the case when “hired” workers treat the “church” more like a job than a relational missional community. But thankfully the spirit isn’t limited by that and leads people or communities of people further. (Although Mark 6:5 may also indicate that kind of a spiritual limitation is possible.)

When Jesus comes, is resurrected, and ascends to the throne establishing a New Covenant, He is the only King or head of the church we need or should be looking for. From that point on, all believers are called and anointed. In a better view, staff “pastors” and/or “elders” (which I would say is a very arguable discussion according to the picture or recipe in the first church that we get from the NT) simply function as those recognized by the body as mature believers and operating as the servants or humble shepherds of the church and should be approachable, and of a similar (or better) mindset of authenticity and transparency as the rest of the called and commissioned priesthood of believers. I want to emphasize the importance of the recognition of maturity coming from the body of believers. It isn’t “voted in” or an “office” or even a “job,” it is an “observance” and spiritual identification of maturity as those that have borne fruit and exercised clarity in vision from God. They represent the image of God and are recognized by their heart resulting in action. They are a model as they shepherd those who shepherd. They equip the equipped as encouragers and teachers. The pastor doesn’t out rank anyone else in the church, and they certainly shouldn’t be elevated to a “mini god” status. That is clearly idolatry in the eyes of the Lord, and this is why the Bible is so clear that there is no hierarchy in the body of Christ. This connects to the way some churches have pushed things under the rug that has hurt a lot of people, they have been unapproachable with an attitude of hierarchy from the top and not functioning as the authentic and transparent bride of Christ. 

Transparent questions and open conversation bring healing, truth, and restoration by and in the Spirit. 

This is a major theme of healing in the Bible and living together in unity of the body. Don’t let the sun set before you are reconciled and brought back into harmony (symphoneo) by your community in love and nurturing. There are good “leadership” bodies that function with a Pauline model of “follow me as I follow Christ” and perhaps your goal should be to find one of these communities. It is time for the church to get transparent. According to Gallup poles (and Barna agrees within a few percentage points) church attendance is down 51% since 2009 and the major reason for people leaving the church is “distrust”. How long are we going to continue to act contrary to the recipe of the scriptural church and enable spiritual immaturity?

Comments Off on Spiritual blindness and the pastor-king hierarchy problem of the church Posted in ADVENTURE

Praying for a Revival?

You should be! But likely not in the way that you are. Let me divulge.

I’ll start and finish with the Asbury Revival (of February 2023). I am hopeful. I pray it is genuine, transparent, and real. No hype, no flash, no superstars, people truly finding Jesus where they are and being moved to places they haven’t been spurring each other with the tools to persevere and continue to grow as disciples when the excitement clears. I pray it is an authentic outpouring of the Spirit. It appears to be a community of worship, testimony, prayer, teaching, and humility in a spirit of deep contemplative shepherding. I pray the only name and face is Jesus.

With that said, this article has very little to do with Asbury itself. A great part of Theology is understanding the original message and intention of words and determining how we might properly interpret them within the context of the original audience and how they may then be applied to us if at all. This article will seek to explore what the term revival meant when used in the pages of the Bible and how we still might apply and interpret the word thousands of years later. A mature believer should understand the context of the scripture and apply it similarly to their own walk.

Today I find the great majority (but not all) of our evangelical Christian churches are “off the reservation.” We are way past the recipe given and the evolution of it doesn’t look better (I regularly say any evolution is ugly.) We haven’t taken the recipe and created a steadfast feast that is more grandeurs than the original, but rather “watered it down” and created more of a cheap fast-food snack, and some might even say a poison. We are enabling thoughts and actions that lead farther from discipleship rather than closer. We are seeking things that are opposite of what we should be; ideals that promote casual Christianity rather than wholly devoted discipleship. In some cases, we are part of a wayward (Biblically described as adulterous – not my words) bride that needs to be shepherded to a better place and we should all be concerned and in unity of spirit to bring her (us-them) back in the trajectory of Jesus. Some people say that we are in need of revival to accomplish this, and I “sort of” agree with that, however its problematic framework within theology for a few reasons that I will explain. I am not as convinced that we need “revival” as I am that we need transparent, authentic, raw, and real discipleship. From the 1:1 level to 3, 12, and 70; everyone in the church should be on a continuous journey of being devoutly discipled and discipling others in a covenant community.

Let me say first that not all of the body of Christ looks like a fast-food snack. I am part of a life group that is amazing and walks with Yahweh communally each day with people that are in different stages of the journey. I also have many friends around the country that belong to vibrant bodies that are flourishing in discipleship. At Covenant Theological Seminary (where I am the president) we have thousands of students that desire to live as fervent disciples and lead others in that walk and are in a devout journey with Jesus and others. We are nurturing a discipleship culture. Find your tribe, find discipleship, live in life! Unfortunately, in my county there are 92 churches and the great majority of them don’t show the fruit of discipleship as described in the Bible. It seems much of the church has a discipleship and/or covenant adultery problem.

When people say things like, “we, or our church” need a revival; I believe it is “good” and I want to believe that their hearts are right; but it is really the opposite of what they should be saying as mature Christians and can be an indicator of shallow theological understanding. When people want to drive for hours to be part of “a move of God” it can sometimes seem like they are empty of the spirit moving this way in their life regularly, so they want to “go find it” somewhere else.

According to Merriam Webster to “revive” means to bring something back to life or resurrect it.

I would agree with Webster here that the definition implies something once had life, that life has ceased, and then is restored. It isn’t often that I would say a modern definition of a word is in line with a Biblical definition but in this case it likely is. The challenge we have to address when we apply this definition to a Biblical perspective is that we need to interpret “life” based on a Biblical understanding.

There are two Hebrew words that are translated “revive, revived, or reviving” in the Old Testament. They are chayah and michyah. Michyah is the noun and adjective form of chayah. Here are Strong’s definitions:

2421. chayah, khaw-yaw’; a primary root; to live whether literally or figuratively; causative, to revive:

Translated (in the KJV): keep (leave, make) alive, X certainly, give (promise) life, (let, suffer to) live, nourish up, preserve (alive), quicken, recover, repair, restore (to life), revive, (X God) save (alive, life, lives), X surely, be whole.

4241. michyah, mikh-yaw’; from 2421; preservation of life; hence sustenance; also the live flesh, i.e. the quick:

Translated (in the KJV): preserve life, quick, recover selves, reviving, sustenance, victuals.

By Biblical definition, chayah means to live, michyah means the preservation of life and they are both translated “revive, revived, or reviving.” Neither one really takes on the more modern idea of resuscitation of life.

There is only one word in Greek in the Bible that is translated “revive.” It is anazao:

326. anazao, an-ad-zah’-o; from 303 and 2198; to recover life (lit. or fig.):

Translated (in the KJV): be alive again, live again, revive.

The Greek seems to be more in line with the way we think of “revival” today within our modern western evangelical glasses. The root word is zao, from which we get the word zoo. Used as a prefix (“zoo”-logy) it means life. Zoology is the study of life. Zao means life, or to live. In this specific word, the Greek prefix ana means to become. It is a word that has several meanings when taken in context. It may mean in the midst of, up, between, apiece, in turn, again, and others. So anazao means to come alive (again).

Based on the above, in theology there are two views of Revival, and ironically the basic conceptions of both views are near opposite. The first claims that Revival can only come to one that is already “saved,” and the second view would attend that it can only come to those that are not “saved.”

  1. The first view (that I do not ascribe to) says that only Christians can be “revived” because only they have spiritual life, having been regenerated by the Spirit of God on the basis of the redeeming work of Christ. At first it sounds pretty good, but let’s really consider the statement. This definition tends to be a reformed view hinging on some of the 5 pillars of Calvinism (TULIP). Biblically those in this camp would need to interpret the Israel story to be “always saved” because they are God’s chosen and therefore can’t lose their salvation (which in my opinion is far-fetched, but that is another post.) Therefore, when revival comes to Israel, it must be defined as bringing His people back to spiritual vitality. I could actually agree with this for the definition of renewal but not necessarily revival, but the text says revival; so, in my mind the definition still doesn’t work. There are several other problems with this view, but the main one is that isn’t ever the Biblical definition of what the word revival means. It might be what we want the term revival to mean in a modern culture, but I would argue it didn’t mean that to the intended audience and shouldn’t mean that today. The Hebrew text repeatedly treats revival in Israel as having new life (they were dead and now they live), not some kind of second awakening from real life to a better kind of real life, or real life again. That kind of thinking is platonic philosophy applied to 1700’s reformed antics and requires a lot of theological gymnastics to try to align with the Biblical definition of revival. Revival is the same root as resurrection which implies from death or destruction to a completely new life pointing to the example of what we have in Christ. As I will go on to point out, if you are in Christ, you are already a new creation and once you have this life in Christ you aren’t looking to get it over and over again.

    This view of “revival” is often interpreted in modern English as “restoring the life you once had.” Drowning victims and heart attack victims can be revived or brought back to their previous life. Normally when people say they desire revival, they don’t want to just get the life back we had a few minutes or years ago, they are desiring of more than they had, they are asking that God take them further or that they might experience more than they previously had. In this way you might think of revival as to come home, like the prodigal did. (Although some will argue that the context of the parable of the prodigal son is Israel and shouldn’t be applied to us and that is a valid point to consider here, does it have application to the word revival at all?) To consider this point, perhaps there is a Biblical application to someone that once had a vibrant life in Christ and went astray and is now seeking restoration or reconciliation back to God or the community or body of Christ. But again, this doesn’t really seem to fit what most people pray for when they are praying for “revival” although in some situations it may be very accurate and applicable. It seems like this is often used to rather defend a view of once saved always saved and try to give merit to eternal security theology. As I would contend with much of the (TULIP) framework, this seems like a stretch here. The specific words for revival never seem to be applied to these situations in the Bible. For instance, in the Prodigal parable, the author certainly could have used the term anazao  if that was the intention, but they didn’t.
  2. The best hermeneutical approach (what the Bible seems to clearly teach) indicating a definition of Biblical revival (as it is used throughout the pages of the Bible) would be to say, the unsaved or dead, are brought to authentic life. God brings a community out of destruction (chaos-death) into “life” with Him. I will demonstrate this in the scriptures below. This obviously gets very theological. Our modern western minds go right to thinking salvifically as I mentioned with the first point. Most western Christians are always trying to find where the line of salvation is drawn in the sand. In other words, was the person saved and then came back? (Once saved always saved? TULIP) I would suggest thinking this way is a deeply rooted modern problem and needs to be untrained. It is the wrong way to consider the journey of salvation and sanctification. Christ died once for all and offers the same to us, to accept life once. Not over and over again. Humanity is Biblically personified in Adam, we have physical life (which at one time in Eden was whole but is now Biblically dead – at one time we belonged to God but now we are the worlds) and when we accept one new life grafted into the body of Jesus we are reclaimed by God and experience death to our previous life and resurrection of new life in Christ. Therefore…

When we are “revived” it is the returning to Edenic life that God intended for us. We are revived to the original plan and context of partnering in life with God, made complete in Christ, and culminated in the fellowship and communion of His body… ONCE AND FOR ALL.

Nehemiah brought Israel “back” from captivity giving them freedom. Every time revival came to Israel they were literally lost in their destruction (a metaphor for death). Today the American church is also very much lost in their destruction in idolatry to the world and most of the church seems to enable it. I am careful again to not draw a line of salvation. There is an element that may or may not be salvific but it is not the best way to think about what revival meant. Christ didn’t dwell on salvation. It was merely a part of the whole process to complete life in Him. Our lens of the work of what Christ wants to do in us should be greater. We need to challenge ourselves to a better more scriptural goal.

The aim should be complete life in Him, devout discipleship in the image of Christ, not simply salvation.

The New Covenant calling was total discipleship. Check everything on the beach and walk each day with the Messiah, your life will change, you won’t go back to work tomorrow as a fisherman, or back to the ways of the world, you will walk with the King each and every day from this point forward in His kingdom of discipleship. Your life will never look the same because you are now living in redemption, you’re walking towards total transformation into the image of Jesus back to Eden. Every care is cast on Him and you’re living in complete faith. You are part of the solution to bring peace to chaos and cultivate intimacy in Christ.

-Dr. Will Ryan This is the Way of Covenant Discipleship (Part III)


I see and here a lot of Christians describing the desire for “revival” and it often makes me wince. Jesus brought revival (new life to the spiritually dead – which is the meaning of the word itself) with the intention of moving people towards a life of complete devotion as disciples. When a mature believer is seeking “revival” it seems “off” to those that understand the Biblical stories and definition of revival. It may seem as if they have an elementary understanding of Biblical discipleship. Sometimes it comes off as an indicator that they themselves aren’t mature “doers”, essentially if they were mature in their understanding, they should already be claiming that life and not asking for it or desiring it again. To say it differently, mature Christians shouldn’t be looking for revival of themselves, they are already alive in Christ and should be displaying fruit and shepherding others into revived new life in Christ. They have life and are given everything they need in Christ; they just need to claim it and be devoted to walk in it. They don’t need to be reborn over and over again. That is contrary to the message of the gospel. Revival Biblically should bring a dead person, community, or nation into new life. However, I also understand that when people use the word “revival” what they often mean is they have the desire for Biblical renewal; but when they use the word “revival” it might seem like they aren’t theologically grounded or possibly not in a good place (which could even infer wondering about the authenticity of their salvation.)


In nearly every case (with the only exception being if you choose to interpret the prodigal as a revival), the word revival is used to apply to a community not an individual. However, if I am part of a larger movement of revival it would also be proper to say that I personally experienced the revival (if the group experienced it, I was part of the group and therefore also experienced it as a group but also individually.) But theologically that is a modern way of thinking. By Biblical context the term should take on a primary context by which it is applied to a community not an individual. One of the modern age interpretations we are challenged with is we don’t really think this way very much anymore. Our culture today tends to be based upon the individual needs of myself rather than the needs of the community. We are plagued with a self-centered desire to apply things intended in the OT to be communal to simply be about “me.” We might need to adjust our context of interpretation.

I think there is a wonderful place for renewal of mature believers. X44 is involved with several Renewal ministries. But Biblical renewal is different than Biblical Revival.

In every example of “revival” in the Bible (and there actually aren’t many), revival is shepherded by those walking in devotion to Yahweh.


Samuel sees revival in Israel (1st Samuel 7: 1 – 13.) Samuel we know of as one of the most devout OT disciples- through his devotion he leads Israel (in part) back to the Lord.

Revival in the Times of King Asa. (Second Chronicles 14 – 15.) Asa was the third king after Solomon. Chapter 14 tells us how he destroyed the centers of idolatry, some of which had been set up by Solomon in his later years to please his foreign wives. The Lord blessed his efforts, guided him, gave him security, with long periods of peace and prosperity.

Elijah. (First Kings, chapter 18.) Elijah was tested because he had to rely upon God to supply every need, including food, water and protection. It was Elijah (and God) against the rest of the world, and what followed was the world found or feared Yahweh.

Revivals during the Reign of King Jehoshaphat of Judah. (2nd Chronicles 19 – 20.) & The Reign of King Hezekiah of Judah 2nd Chronicles 29 – 32, and Isaiah 36 – 39 Scholars are on the fence of whether these were true revival or not. The prophets sought revival but was it genuine?

The Reign of King Josiah of Judah (2nd Chronicles 34 – 35.) This story marks the last of the revivals during the period of the kings of Israel and Judah. Although there had been a number of higher points, the story has been largely one of decline, spiritually, morally, and socially, to the point where God allowed both of these kingdoms to be destroyed. In other words, the revivals didn’t stick. They didn’t have lasting fruit. Some might even say they were simply hyper sensational. As we have found on the other occasions, “devotion” to God rises and falls. There is very little steady growth. Perhaps it lasted a generation but likely not.


You might also consider Daniel 9 and Nehemiah 8 and some will argue for Revival in the New Testament but that is difficult by biblical definition without some theological gymnastics (as I have described pertaining the prodigal parable.)



When I hear people say things like, “and the revival started through the people not the pastors or any leaders” I have mixed feelings or might again wince. In some way I totally agree, as I have identified the church hasn’t looked much like fervent disciples from the top. In this way these statements don’t surprise me. But on the other hand, revival comes to those Biblically that are dead not alive in Christ. The better Biblical posture is to pray that Jesus would move you as a He did His disciples to shepherd others to a full or whole life in Christ. But I also believe it is possible for individuals and communities to come to God without shepherding, that just isn’t the Biblical picture that we get. But in God all things are possible. 


My hardship continues in that our modern evangelical church looks very little like those Jesus anointed to bring life – those in devotion with the father, those that have intimate knowledge of the father shepherding others into the same place, those that left their old lives on the beach and lived totally redeemed lives. Today most Christians can’t pray for 45 minutes let alone all night as Jesus asked those that were clearly in the trajectory of covenant discipleship (and still failed). 2000 years later we should look more like disciples (or Jesus) than ever, yet we seem to have digressed compared to the first century description of the disciples that we have; our lack of devotion enabled by much of the church is likely the problem.

Historically, revivals are hit and miss, only last for a short time, and generally do not have positive long-term effect on a community. But people sure do love to brag that they were there or part of it (which also makes me wince). However, renewed discipleship living in a covenant with Christ brings sustaining powerful life and Jesus’ community to every heart it touches. With that said, I am personally willing to be a part of any Jesus movement and pray for the best! You never know what God might do! 


If we are praying for Revival of those that need life, we first need the body of Christ to get back to the recipe given, to claim the life they already have and to return to a whole-hearted devotion of checking the idolatry on the beach and walking each day with the master. Devotion to Jesus means living perpetually in renewal. Bringing people to new life hardly matters if we aren’t willing to shepherd them into deeper discipleship. I pray daily that the dead come to life and also be transformed into disciples, I pray every day that God may use me that way… but until we get the great commission transparently communicated as “all in” discipleship into mature believers within the church, we are going to have a hard time shepherding the rest of the world to revival. 


Some people thrive on emotion, others are turned off by the mere word of revival because of its association with hyper – sensationalism or “OVER” emotional stimulation. I won’t touch on this much, as I think a personal emotional encounter with God is sometimes very warranted (although I don’t identify with “Captain Kirk” much here as I am more of the theological “Live long and prosper, Dr Spock”, but to each there own before the Lord, who are we to judge.) The better concern is rooted in authentic works of the spirit vs imitating an act of the spirit that leads some to distrust. If your “dropping feathers” or anything else to engineer what looks like the spirit you are promoting falsity not truth and that obviously is counter to what God wants of us. Much of the revival language today revolves around a “sovereign move of God” and therefore relegates spiritual growth in a community to whether God will do it or not based upon us pleading or finally “allowing” it. This is also poor theology and sending people down the wrong path. God is ALWAYS ready and willing to revive or renew and desires that individually and as a communal whole for His bride the church. It is also worth noting that when you regularly lead out of emotion rather than let God or the spirit lead, people question the motif. God loves people more than any self-declared “intercessor” ever could…

The Biblical model is that God brings revival to those that need new life using those that have claimed life once and for all and live devoted and continually renewed to that life and the kingdom community of Jesus.


Frank Viola is one of my favorites. Finding Organic Church is an excellent read. Here is a quote from the book on revival: “What is needed in the body of Christ is not restoration. It’s not even revival. What is needed is a revolution—a complete and radical change from top to bottom, a new sighting of Jesus Christ and His church, and a change of both mind-set and practice. To put it bluntly, we need a revolution in our understanding of the Christian life. We need a revolution in our practice of the church. And we need a rev­olution in our approach to church planting.”

I agree with Frank, much of our problem isn’t simply “more” revival it’s a complete paradox change within the body of Christ. I think we nearly agree 100% in regard to our thoughts on revival. My only concern with Frank’s take is that I get nervous with the word “revolution” in a Jesus context. Jesus was clearly not about Revolution in the sense that we think of the term today. I know that isn’t what Frank means, but I personally am hesitant to use the term here. The term Revolution today brings idea of war and disunity where I believe Revival and Renewal should be framed in peace, love, and mercy that Jesus imaged in humility. 


Unfortunately, a lot of revivals have been about the popularity of people. The events are centered around the hype of the famous “shepherd” rather than Jesus Himself. It is interesting that in John 6 Jesus also seems to turn away people that may just following the hype of the event. Too many people have chosen a pastor personality over Jesus and that has had devastating effects on the body of Christ. On the other hand, not every revival has been plagued by this. 


You sometimes here people saying things like they are “chasing after” the spirit which can also be a sign of immaturity and shallow theological thinking. As I understand that what they likely mean is they have a desire to be a part of a community that is experiencing God, there is a disconnect. Healthy believers experience the spirit daily, there shouldn’t be a “chasing after” as if the spirit is a wild animal that needs be captured. If you are in Christ, the Spirit is already in you and desires to fill you up and simply needs your inviting continual devotion. In John 6 there were crowds coming to “watch or chase” Jesus and His response was to invite them in deeper communion. They are essentially turned away. This is a picture of people chasing after Jesus but when they get there, He calls them to His definition of discipleship, and they aren’t willing to enter. This is my hesitancy with people “chasing after” “revival” – Jesus didn’t seem to be into that. He was into discipleship. Did it open the door? Perhaps, (I am sure that happened) but we don’t seem to get a clear picture of that or see it as the ideal or prescriptive. What we get are stories of those that He invites after a period of walking with Him in intimacy not chasing for a momentary experience. That again seems “opposite” to the message we get with Jesus. That said, everything should be in balance. There isn’t anything wrong with going to a revival. If something points to Jesus I want to be a part of it. If Jesus is here in our midst, I want to commune with Him! 


I am on the other side of Calvinism (Free Will) but I admittingly share some skepticism of this event (Asbury) and other revivals as most of my Reformed brothers and sisters are skeptically wondering, “haven’t we progressed past the shallow revivalism of the past and moved towards more stability in our faith?” Unfortunately, I don’t think we as the body of Christ have. Some have, but not most of the church.

I am however hopeful and prayerful about Asbury. My response is simply “AMEN.” In this way I am not attempting to judge anything or anyone, whether they are mature or not, whether it is genuine, hyper-sensational, emotionally driven, or even engineered. I simply say and pray “AMEN.”

How do we know if it is a work of God? I don’t know for sure that we ever will. My typical indicator (which is borrowed from someone) goes something like, “It isn’t how high you jump in the moment but how straight you walk when you land.” I pray for the fruit and healing of the kingdom. It is good (tov) to desire such things.

Comments Off on Praying for a Revival? Posted in ADVENTURE

Etymology of a prayer shawl

Usually when I speak at a conference or church, I wear a prayer “scarf” around my neck. Technically the ones I usually wear (or any that are various colors) are more commonly called a keffiyeh also known in Arabic as a shemagh, and are the traditional headdress worn by men in middle East counties. In Israel these scarves are generically called prayer shawls even though they are not necessarily worn by those who would be known to pray. They are also part of battle or war clothing. Let me explain to you how these scarves evolved and their roots in the Bible.

The Exodus took place ROUGHLY 3500 years ago, in the 890th year before the destruction of the Temple by the Babylonians likely in 421 BCE although this is controversial, as most have learned 586/7 BCE. The Exodus therefore dates at either 1310 BCE (or 1476 BCE). Either way, the idea of wearing these scarves dates back about 3500 years and has its roots in the Bible. In other words, Moses literally wrote the book on the prayer scarf 3500 years ago.

We find the instructions in the last paragraph of the Shema שְׁמַע יִשְׂרָאֵל “Hear, O Israel” which is a Jewish prayer that serves as a centerpiece of the morning and evening Jewish prayer services. Its first verse encapsulates the monotheistic essence of Judaism: “Hear, O Israel: YHWH is our God, YHWH is one.” Torah Observant Israelites were instructed to wear a prayer shawl and find refuge in Yahweh. The Tassles (tzitzit) remind you of who you are as IMAGE BEARERS that are no longer in slavery but are free to live redeemed and free representing Yahweh. This exodus or redemption motif becomes a major recursive theme throughout scripture.

The instruction is found twice in the TORAH, or the five Books of Moses. First in Numbers 15:37-41 and the more Jewish English Sefaria Community Transliteration is the best for understanding the dynamics of the Tallit:

“And Hashem (God) said to Moshe (Moses) saying: Speak to the sons of Israel and say to them [that they must] make for themselves tzitzit upon the corners (Kenaph) of the clothes for generations, and on the tzitzit give a string of techelet (BLUE). And they shall have for themselves tzitzit and they will see them and they will remember all of the commandments of Hashem and they will do them, and they will not stray after their hearts and eyes so that they shall not pursue after them. So that they will remember and adhere to all of my commandments and will remain holy to their God. I am Hashem your God who took you out of the land of Egypt to be for you a God. I am Hashem your God.”

The rabbis taught that in each tzitzit (tassle) there should be seven white threads and one blue thread. When the temple was destroyed this art of using the dye of the chilazon mollusk for the blue color was lost and Jews began crafting shawls in various colors. (Although not all Jews agreed that this was permissible). The idea is later reiterated in Deuteronomy 22:12. The number 22 is associated with the idea of completeness. This later might have become a wordplay when Jesus said be complete as I am complete pointing to the Shema and Torah. Interestingly before Deuteronomy was ascribed chapters this part of the Shema was still considered to be in the 22nd part of it. Here it is reiterated that Tzitzit should be worn on the tallit gadol (prayer shawl).

Another point of interest is that the Tzitzit shares its root word with the Hebrew for ‘lock of hair’, or ‘dreadlock’. For example, in the Ezekial 8:3 an angel grabs the prophet “by the tzitzit of [his] head;” he could be said to be “dragged by his hair.” (It is thought that this prophet was of the nazarite vow by which hair was a sign of what is sacred and set apart.) Their hair became their tassles. In other words, tzitzit are visible signs of your commitment to God or a vow to be set apart.

NOTE: (Kiddushin 34a) would imply that a woman could wear tzitzit but were not expected to which is based on an interpretation of “sons” of Israel. The problem is “sons” in Hebrew is usually gender neutral. But you may hear this and it is why traditional Jewish women don’t always wear tassles.

X44 Mission: Expedition 44 is a covenant community dedicated to cultivating a discipleship culture that is wholly devoted to King Jesus. X44 represents the modern-day remnant of those that are set apart. Therefore, I think it is fitting to wear a “scarf” that signifies a prayer shawl when I am teaching the Bible and have prayed that I be part of sacred space. So essentially Israel was instructed to wear these prayer shawls to remind them of everything God in their lives: their covenant, their family, their community, their law and that is why I also have chosen to wear one.

A major tenet of observant Torah practice is that A WHOLE PERSON IS A HEALED PERSON. Deuteronomy 22 is about SHALOM – balance, being completely whole, or healed from anything of the world.  DELIVERED – FREE – OF THE WORLD – SET APART. When you place your whole self on the Atar given to the Lord you pray that he would answer with a double portion which is actually innumerable. 44 Represents the double portion result from God of offering an all-in living sacrifice.

They were reminded of their covenant daily by the Shema, but even more so during festivals, communion of sacred things (temple and worship), weddings, funerals… and you ready for this… when they went to war. They would put their scarves over their heads to drowned out the world and find their place of peace and refuge in the midst of the worst turmoil and tribulation.

In Psalm 144:1 David says, “Train my fingers for war” which many people take as a battle verse, but it is sort of the opposite, David played the harp – The better translation may have been “May the Lord fight your battles as you worship Him.” Some know that the X44 emblem represents this verse. The line of the left shield or chalice is the 1 of the 44 and the right side is the 1 of the verse.

These scarves for 3500 years have been mobile prayer rooms.


If you go to Israel today you see people that look like they are flying… The prayer shawls take on a resemblance of flying WINGS. Remember the Deuteronomy 22 healing thing, it was believed that God protected you when you represented Him and kept Him at your heart. You lived a healthy or healed life.

Remember the story of The Woman Who Touched Jesus’ Garment in (Mark 5:21-34)? Perhaps you should read it again.

The Woman was bleeding for 12 years was healed when she touched what? The korner, the Kenaph or the Tassle of Jesus cloak.  Jesus was likely wearing his Tallit and she was healed… Power had left him….There is healing in the wings. Malachi 4:2, NASB: But for you who fear My name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings; and you will go forth and frolic like calves from the stall.

WINGS have religious meaning. We might say, RISE TO THE FATHER which is a Metaphor for meeting Jesus.

When we die Jesus meets us, we rise to Him. We also aren’t totally healed until we meet Jesus. But these wings are a sign of that – CS LEWIS says that we get a picture or a MOSAIC of that healing here on Earth and Jesus says bring Heaven to Earth right here right now. We are His agents to bring Healing and meet Jesus intimately in sacred places which are representative of removing the world and focusing completely on Him: RISING TO THE FATHER.

So why do I wear this scarf? Because it signifies me as one who still believes that God wants to see His people live in freedom completely healed of this world, Risen to the father in constant communion. – The scarf is a visible picture of me and our x44 community and reminds us to claim each day as one that is healed and redeemed.



Comments Off on Etymology of a prayer shawl Posted in ADVENTURE

Ideas for a better scriptural “church” experience [ORGANIC]

What would a first century Acts 2:42 church look like today? Perhaps the evolution of the church 2000 years later straying far from the prescription we were given is ok, but perhaps it isn’t! Here are some things that might change should we take a mindset to return to the Acts like church.

  • Create a Christ as the only King – kingdom Jesus culture.
  • Reduce the world in the church. The church should have the mindset of an “alien to this world” outpost and be undefiled or protected from the world. (Most embassies have locked gates and are selective about who may enter their courts.)
  • Encourage a Love God and Love others environment. Be agents of peace.
  • Promote ALL-IN Kingdom Discipleship first and foremost.
  • Offer less “sermon type messages” from a singular or main “preacher” (too many people end up with an inclination towards a person, not Jesus.) This is “give me a king” ideology, which is opposite of what we should be looking for or desiring, and has the tendency to create a CEO “power over” approach not the “power under” method that Jesus modeled to us.
  • Be ok with small numbers and intimacy (but have a plan to respond to growth).
  • Consider the fact that most first century churches were less than 70 and split or planted a new church when they grew past that number.
  • Everyone needs to think as a shepherd: 1,3,12,70 – continual steps within a journey.
  • Family and fellowship (communion) based – driven Lifestyle.
  • More regular testimony in life, living, and assembly.
  • More spirit led meetings – but also not chaos driven assemblies (guidelines clearly established and communicated – shepherded)
  • Shepherded by those that fit the biblical qualification of elders (mature believers who have proven fruit), and if you don’t have anyone that meet the description, you don’t have them until you do, they come as a representation of the body as those that are recognized (not voted or elected by one or a few) as bearing fruit and modeling maturity in Christ.
  • Learned Women and Men should be encouraged to teach, those that have not been discipled and gifted in teaching (4-14 year of dedicated study and have been commissioned) should remain more silent (in terms of teaching) in assembly unless giving testimony and participatory worship as they are shepherded.
  • Continual Teaching more than preaching directive of discipleship.
  • More circular engagement, less rows (possibly tables to encourage study -not simply listening) -Mix up the elements each week to appeal to diversity and learning styles and change the meeting locations regularly and take field trips to teach like Jesus did – know and minister in your area.
  • Less Business CEO atmosphere, more organic worship & servant led atmosphere which is consistently described by the -washing of feet- (Less leaders from the top, more leaders from the bottom -servant humility mindset) Christoformity
  • More of a sacred orthodox approach, & less of an evangelical “American” event-oriented approach
  • We shouldn’t compete or desire to be like the world, let them desire to be like you (as the image of Jesus).
  • Less cracker-grape juice communion and more festival feasts interaction which was the intent of communion in scripture.
  • More transparency in the messages, less hierarchy speak in ways that build unity, not promote division.
  • Stress continued commitment to discipleship over one-time salvific thinking. The pre-eminent call of Jesus was to make disciples, salvation was a small part of what Jesus commanded and we have often made it out to be the main thrust of the gospel. Communicate a better gospel message.
  • Emphasize more sharing of broader gifts of the body in the midst of the body not a few people leading from the front.
  • Continual encouragement of the body from those that teach and shepherd the rest of the shepherds (often called elders). This is often forgotten or seldom exercised in churches today and was the main staple of shepherding in the first churches.
  • Create mentor / shepherd based groups with accountability models (strategic checkups with how the body is tracking). Care about what is happening in the flock and actively pursue them, let your actions communicate your heart for the flock.
  • Smaller family group models seeking to find your “tribe” (encouraging families to experiment with others to find your people). Work to create intimate life groups that have similar vision and interests.
  • Encourage families and couples to be counselled and provide Biblical availability to meet with a “coach” -We need people to take responsibility for checkups with the flock (intentional calendar and scheduling meetings). Coaching to be less like the world and more like Jesus should be a regular and steady interaction that each person receives from shepherds and peer accountability.
  • Encourage these smaller families to “lead” the bigger assembly together different weeks (week 1 group 1, week 2 group 2 etc) Shepherds shepherd everyone else to a better place, intentional coaching through messages, testimony, and other gift sharing should be a staple of a Jesus Community.
  • Less money to staffing and overhead and more towards helping neighbors and building community to help the body of Christ (purposeful cultures in Christ eventually should all be giving the majority of their time to Jesus, not just the pastoral staff). When more people begin to share the service, less will need to be paid. In the first century church pastors weren’t paid, I don’t think the evolution of paying them is wrong, but our mindset is off.
  • The early church regularly sent “apostles” from established churches to create new Jesus cultures. This should be a regular plan of commissioning. Every church culture likely had established several other Jesus cultures as a result of their one. Churches lack this aspect of commissioning and planting today.
  • Less and smaller buildings, encourage smaller more intimate gatherings, sharing of common smaller meeting spaces and homes which encourage planning of shared space together and shows better stewardship. Most churches today have one meeting in a multi-million dollar building with 1000 people. The early church has a much smaller home/meeting area that fit around 70 and was used nearly all week. The same 1000 people could meet in a less expensive building and spread out over 14 meetings having a more intimate assembly and spending far less money. But your culture has to teach Jesus over the worldly schedule to accomplish this. Most people today will not schedule their work around their Jesus life to make this happen. The method of the mindset isn’t in line with Jesus’ model of discipleship, and this is largely because we are bringing the ways and the people of the world into space that should only be sacred.
  • We should attain to a more missional approach to the ongoing study of God’s word (a scope and sequence with strategic plan and direction of teaching) Everyone eventually should be in seminary style learning (4-14 years of intentional everyday training to become an all-in disciple and bring others to that place). We should exhibit a lifelong promotion of discipleship and purposefully plan and steward this kind of directive within the church assemblies.
  • A better digital ministry strategy: Tracking cameras, online testimonials and stories to better communicate the story of what is happening in the Jesus culture, the world should know and desire to be a part of this. In First century they often met open air so people could see and hear the message and lifestyle. Today we can accomplish this through technology. Let the world watch well.
  • Create a culture of deeper shepherding from the teachings: deeper study, deeper devotion, deeper prayer, deeper worship, deeper commitment to first century scriptural tenets of Christianity (Better allegiance to Jesus).
  • Communicate in thought and action that relationships and people matter more than events. Invest your time in relationships not things that will pass. When you do plan events, plan and communicate well as if you are doing it directly for Jesus.
  • Provide weekly training beyond the in-person experience: Offer deeper challenges every week through devotionals, books, or content and community that builds on the message (get away from the idea that a simple Sunday message is enough) and create regular diversity to appeal to different learning styles.
  • Build a better digital Jesus community (shepherd spiritual maturity out of conflict, encourage tough questions, welcome sceptics and work through better answers.) We can do this very well today online in groups, but we also need to emphasize in person groups.
  • We need to return to caring for the widows and needy. The government today does a far better job at this than the church does. This should be one of the things that the world knows the church for and sees the image of Christ through.
  • Build a better plan for kids and teen teaching: Mentor programs that bridge the kids with other adults, train parents in biblical partnering with the church, include kids in all aspects of the regular group (including teaching and testimony). Think less programming and more life experiential training and education. In a Hebraic mind simply doing a task was selfish if you didn’t invite someone else to learn from you and share in the experience. You missed the spiritual blessing.
  • Keep the body of believers as primarily the “BODY OF BELIEVERS” don’t water down the experience. Encourage individuals to build relationships to Jesus outside of the main sessions that are intended to develop deeper devotion to Christ, evangelism should primarily be done as part of life relationships not as an “event” or “show” -Keep it organic as a Jesus journey that is nurtured and cultivated.
  • Keep the church assembly sacred (limit things that resemble acts of the world).
  • Be set apart by immersive experiences to the body and the community (practice what we teach). The church should aid in administration and planning of strategic experiences as an identifier of the multi-faceted gifting of the body.
  • Intentional communications strategy: Address communication gap internally with the people who are already a part of the church. Keep in communication but don’t delude or defile the worship through it.
  • Think undefiled sacred, pre-planned, strategic, intentional, purposeful assembly… but at the same time build a culture of continual unending worship.
  • Communication of a clear discipleship plan and path: What is the missional purpose of a disciple. This sounds simple but I doubt too many people would answer the question today in our churches similarly. Our mission should be known and continually communicated and lived out. Every person in your Jesus community should know the ultimate goal for everyone is all in discipleship.
  • More organic sharing and worship throughout the week outside of planned assembly. All of Jesus culture should be shepherded, purposeful, and planned, but open to adjustment as the spirit leads. Everything (all work) should be approached as missional unto Jesus. Less work-toil within the world and more fellowship-joy within the body should be the goal.
  • Pray and desire less worldly money and more spiritual blessings.
Comments Off on Ideas for a better scriptural “church” experience [ORGANIC] Posted in ADVENTURE

Encouragement & Intercession for Turkey

But encourage one another day after day, as long as it still called, “Today,” lest any one of you be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.  Hebrews 3:13

Join us for a “house of prayer” style service at MTZN this Sunday February 12 at 6Pm to intercede for Turkey

I often say that you don’t need to know the biblical languages, especially with the modern internet helps that we have (such as the free Bible Hub interlinear) but at the same time I find myself saying all the time, “If we/they only knew the Greek!” Hebrew 3:13 is one of those cases.

The word for encourage is parakaleite. The literal interpretation is to come or call alongside of. We just returned from a renewal retreat in Mexico with married couples. It was INCREDIBLE. I have been involved in Renewal retreats since I was 16 and have often said they are the most significant thing I will likely ever do in the Kingdom; lives are radically transformed and largely because of community intercession and encouragement. When I share a talk at the weekend renewal retreat, called Tres Dias on the Holy Spirit, I emphasize the three roles of the Holy Spirit are to convict, to teach and to counsel.

The Holy Spirit is our constant companion and inexhaustible aid.  He prays on our behalf.  He brings to our minds the truth of the Torah and Jesus. He is the archetype of encouragement.

Christ also offered much of the same to us in human form while on earth. I love the squirrel moments, and theologians have long, scratched their head over the trinity and Jesus in light of the spirit. (The concept of the Trinity isn’t discussed or debated enough in evangelical Christianity. Was the Spirit of God Jesus in the OT, then God in the form of Man, and did he send “His” spirit, or a separate person of a spirit etc…) But just to keep this post simple, when Jesus was on earth, He embodied all of these “spirit” things in human form, and then at Pentecost sent the Holy Spirit to continue that work in and through us.

The author of Hebrews (likely Paul IMO) certainly knew the deep spiritual connection and likely even wrestled with the spirit / Jesus (discussion) of the Trinity when He used this verb in the imperative. Specifically, you and I are commanded to admonish each other as the image of Christ on earth in physical representation of the Spirit. We are the literal hands in feet of Jesus empowered by His Spirit which is the representation of the Holy Spirit.

In this way, I refer to the Holy Spirit as the archetype example of what we are called to be as agents of encouragement and intercession. You are the physical manifestation of the image of the Holy Spirit to your spouse, family, & those in your community and the world. This is called Christoformity, representing a Jesus culture in every part of your community identity. We are aliens, living in a place that is not our nation. We are of a different kingdom. We are uncomfortable with the world and the world is uncomfortable with us. Our image should intercede for & ruffle everything the systems of the world represent.  Remember when Jesus said that to be friends (the verb is phileo – brotherly affection) with the world is to be an enemy of God? Yes, we are going to reclaim everything in His name, but until every knee bows these are rival kingdoms to Jesus and that is why we are commanded to love, encourage, and even intercede for our neighbor as well as our enemy.

Are you attentive to the Spirit and what Jesus desires to do in you and your community? Are you completely given to this identity in Christ? How can we be Jesus to each other here and now and to the other side of the world; to those in turkey that are pleading for your spiritual intercession?

How will the Holy Spirit move to action in you today?


Pray that a great awakening will happen in the heart and minds of the people in this nation. 

1. For those on the ground to find and help those still bury under concrete

2. For the new teams coming from all over the world and country to help. I can just imagine the relief it will be to those on the ground first but also what a task it will be to work with so many different cultures and languages.

3. For the 1000 of people who are homeless.

4. For God to sustain the ones in the cold. 

5. For our team leader here who will be leaving in the morning with 3 Turkish brothers. They will be driving east to assess how M company,  our team and our fellowship can help. 

6. For all of us who still have to go on with life as normal. School for me and the girls and preparing to open the coffee shop for Peter. 

7. For us to learn how this nation grieves. How our friends are handling the new and how we can come along side of them. Some are at total peace and some can’t take their eyes off the screen. 

My good missionary friends the Nordquists share, “Not sure what the future will hold, but we know the one who does. So for now we keep our eyes on Him our comforter and guide. Our good, good Father.”

Comments Off on Encouragement & Intercession for Turkey Posted in ADVENTURE

Koinonia – CTS SEYPHER 2-23

I just wrote an article for the CTS SEYPHER Winter Newsletter, if you’re not on that list here is the article and link to join.

Therefore, if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being in one spirit and purpose. Philippians 2:1-2 NASB

The Greek word used here is koinonia. You might be surprised to know that the word itself simply meant “what we have in common.” In fact, in an ancient context, it even took on the connotation of those things that “what had little value.” It’s strange to think of the original definition in this way for a word we have translated as the modern day “church” and have elevated to such a pedestal! The idea of using this word (instead of more prominent word ekklesia -which should be translated “assembly,” not “church”) was that we are all on common footing or equal in God’s eyes as the functioning body of Christ’s kingdom by our gifts. It also was a fellowship of the ordinary that could become extraordinary when humbly offered to the service of the Lord. In this fellowship there is no hierarchy of economic status or social position or hypothesized authority. It is leading from beneath in the upside-down Kingdom of Jesus. The underlying idea is based on the Royal Law of holding others in higher regard than yourselves, in a society where what we have is given up for the benefit of others. That explains why the early church continued to sell what they had to support those that newly joined their fellowship. We don’t really think that way anymore in terms of the church, but we should! That was one of Jesus’ primary messages to us that seems to have been lost in our modern rendition of “church.”

CTS is a major part of the church kingdom. In Christ’s church your best is offered to the King for the benefit of the kingdom and community. Unfortunately, the world and even most evangelical churches have lost or forgotten this and have done exactly the opposite in elevating the “positions” of the church to look more like rulers, CEOs, and kings rather than servants. This is why what CTS is doing is so important. We aren’t just training how to be devout or exhibit a better exegesis; although we do that, what we are doing is cultivating or nurturing a better worldview for the discipleship culture that Jesus laid the foundations for. There is only one King, and his name is Jesus. CTS is committed to returning to a better theological mindset of training kingdom communion. 

Koinonia is about changing our view of community. It’s about removing the natural instinct for self-promotion and leading from a heart of submission and servanthood like the Master gave by living example and teaching. The heart of discipleship is in relationships and that is what this season is about. If you are new to CTS, welcome to the fellowship, we are super excited to have you in our community and are looking forward to your gifting and the fellowship of believers. 


Comments Off on Koinonia – CTS SEYPHER 2-23 Posted in ADVENTURE

VISION – חָזָה

Have you ever read Obadiah? Honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised if you said no or if you don’t remember it, it is only 21 verses!

In Hebrew, the first sentence reads, ḥāzôn ʿÔbadyâh (English Transliteration). Yes, you read that right, the first sentence is only two words! The Hebrew word ḥāzôn is from the root חָזָה (ḥāzâ), translated normally as the English word “vision.”  In Hebrew, letters are pictograph representations of what they mean. The consonants in this word are Chet – Zayin – Hey, which suggest a cut (weapon) that reveals (behold).  It would seem that Obadiah is delivering a verbal weapon that might divide. Strange to us that the biblical word “vision” is also rooted in division, but even in English the language carries the same root words, but you probably haven’t ever considered the connection of both words in this way. (Vision/Division)

This is called a contronym in Hebrew. I talk a lot about contronyms in our YouTube videos and articles on Expedition 44 and other published works. You won’t find this anywhere else; it is a bit of a “Dr. Ryan” branded word. Essentially a contronym in Hebrew means that something can bring similar results from one extreme to the other. The most common understanding of a contronym is found in the Hebrew word barak. It is one of the 7 words used to describe worship in Hebrew. (In English we just have one word, where in Hebrew they have 7.) The same word in Hebrew can mean to bless or to curse. In Hebraic thinking you would pray that what you consider to be your biggest curse in life could be laid before God at the altar and transformed by Him to be the biggest blessing of your life. In this same way, a “vision” from God can be interpreted and cause division by some but also when founded in the Lord and given fully to Him can result in great unity; the vision transforms into living through the eyes of God in Devotion and unity. Being in “COVENANT” with his plan for us and following in the spirit of unity should be the mission of all believers, unfortunately most churches exemplify division more than vision and unity. We should change that!

Today, my prayer for you is simple, it is that we are united in creating a covenant vision building a discipleship culture by which we understand what God asks of us and those we are shepherding and are enabled and commissioned to do what God is directing and has designed us to do for His kingdom.

My hope and prayer are that each of us through study and devotion bear the image of Jesus and His Kingdom to be transformed into “ALL IN” disciples and bring others this “VISION” of unity as we shepherd and model.

[1] Culver, R. D. (1999). 633 חָזָה. R. L. Harris, G. L. Archer Jr., & B. K. Waltke (Eds.), Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (electronic ed., p. 275). Chicago: Moody Press.

Dr. Will Ryan

“The LORD bless you and keep you,
Y’varech’cha Adonai v’yeesh’m’reicha.
יְבָ רֶ כְ ָך יְיָ וְ יִ שְׁ מְ רֶ ָך.

Comments Off on VISION – חָזָה Posted in ADVENTURE