Rev Dr Edgar Mayer; Living Grace Toowoomba Church
Sermon Series: Supernatural Ways Of Royalty – 06 (Chapter 11) – Fathers For The Family; Date: 30 October 2011
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Fathers For The Family
The best Bible lessons are those that come verified by the experience of Christians. The Bible means so much more – gains our trust – grows in our esteem – when human experience backs up the Bible truth and witnesses the fulfilment of Bible promises. For instance – (consider the question) – did God feed the nation of Israel with manna (supernatural food every day) for forty years in the desert? Most of my life – pastors and professors of theology cast doubt and suspicion on the Bible accounts. They said: “Oral traditions are known to exaggerate God’s basic provisions. The manna has more of a symbolic meaning.” However – in 2008 – I met an older woman (Kaye Beyer – a former Lutheran) from Canada. She was known to go on mission trips with her husband Harold – for more than fifty years – and manna would on occasion – (throughout these years) – appear on the pages of Harold’s Bible (and now that he has gone to glory, Kaye experiences the manifestation less frequently). It always appeared on the page where the Bible speaks about the “hidden manna” that the believer will receive – Revelations 2:17: “ ... To the one who is victorious, I will give some of the hidden manna ... ” Kaye and Harold’s testimony is well documented and there are many eye-witnesses all over the world – (they even ate the manna and it tasted like the Bible said [Exodus 16:31: “... it was white like coriander seed and tasted like wafers made with honey ... ”]– Harold himself experienced its healing power) – which changed my former attitude to the Bible. God is the same yesterday and today and he is still performing the miracle of producing manna. Therefore – God did feed the nation of Israel with manna for forty years in the desert. The Bible is true and can be trusted. Maybe I should have taken the Bible accounts by faith but the modern testimonies helped me.
Isn’t it true that – many a time – we only understand and accept the truth of the Bible when our own experience with God – or the experience of those around us – point us into the right direction? Two further examples – have you always known the meaning of the following Bible verses? Be honest now. Have you always exercised faith to receive what they promise? Romans 5:5: “ ... God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit ... ” 1 Thessalonians 1:6: “ ... you welcomed the message in the midst of severe suffering with the joy given by the Holy Spirit.” [Peter 1:8: “ ... you believe in him and are filled [by the Holy Spirit] with an inexpressible and glorious joy.”] 1 Corinthians 2:1-5: “And so it was with me, brothers and sisters. When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.”
It is only over the last few years that I have come to expect more of an experience of love and joy in God’s kingdom. We are meant to receive these kinds of intimate feelings from God through the Holy Spirit. Maybe not all of the time – (there are seasons of trial and testing) – but some of the time – most times. It helps my trust in the Bible to see how God releases supernatural joy on our church over the last few months (e.g.: Janne Eiby and I at the Holy Spirit Seminar, several people at the Glory Conference, the wife of a cancer sufferer at the recent healing night, the last few Sundays & Jubilee meeting, etc). A life of joy is possible despite severe suffering.
Then – as you know – I first took notice of 1 Corinthians 2:1-5 when I experienced power demonstrations of God at one of our church services in 2003. Pastor Gemechis Desta Buba was our guest-preacher and two thirds of the congregation ended up on the floor. I think that we needed this kind of encouragement – an experience – to exercise faith in the truth of the Bible and also expect demonstrations of the Spirit’s power in response to our normal Sunday preaching but it’s happening now – the gold dust is a loving and gentle power demonstration of God confirming the Bible truth.
This finally brings me to the study course which we are currently doing at Living Grace: The Supernatural Ways Of Royalty by Kris Vallotton with Bill Johnson. The value of this course is precisely the same approach to the Bible. The writers are not just offering theory – clever words and opinions – but they share with us how their own experiences have validated – confirmed – the wisdom of the Bible and – sometimes – it has taken them decades to see the light of the truth according to the Bible. (E.g.: We heard about Bill Johnson’s journey to let go of introspection. See http://www.livinggracetoowoomba.org/2011/2011Ever-IncreasingEdgarMayer.htm.) I personally value what comes out of the experience of mature Christians and appreciate the shortcut of learning the lessons without the long years of not knowing what to do. (There is still enough left for us to discover on our own for the next generation.)
Now listen to a significant development in Kris Vallotton’s life:
Kris Vallotton with Bill Johnson: The Supernatural Ways Of Royalty, Shippensburg: Destiny Image 2006, 129-132:
I will never forget the night that Kathy and I received the Lord. I was 18 and Kathy was 15 years old at the time.
I had an encounter three years earlier that sent me on a journey to find God. My mother had become very sick with psoriasis and her body was covered with a rash. To make matters worse, for nearly a year we had a prowler looking through our windows at night and terrorizing us. One night I even took a shot at him after I awoke to find him coming through my bedroom window.
The police were at our house several times a week. My mother was sleeping on the couch with a shotgun. I would wake up in the middle of the night and hear my mom crying as she struggled to keep herself together. This was all extremely unsettling for a 15-year-old boy who was the oldest of three children. We were not raised in a religious home and therefore I didn’t really know if there was a God. One summer night, at about three o’clock in the morning, the pressure got to be too much for me. I sat up against my headboard. It was pitch dark and I could hear my mother weeping quietly in the front room.
I cried out in desperation, “If there is a God, if you heal my mother, I will find out who you are and I will serve you the rest of my life!”
An audible voice answered, “My name is Jesus Christ and you have what you requested!”
The next morning my mother woke up completely healed. Her psoriasis was gone! Within a few days the police caught the prowler and life began to change.
A week or so passed and I was lying on my bed around midnight contemplating these amazing events when the voice spoke to me again.He said, “My name is Jesus Christ. You said if I healed your mother you would serve me and I am waiting!”
I began searching for God everywhere. I would go to different churches and stand in the back during the service and wait to see if God was there. I would often leave in disappointment saying to myself, “The God who spoke to me isn’t here.” Finally, three years later, Kathy and I were invited to a friend’s fellowship. It was a home group packed with young people. They were all excited about Jesus. We came in and sat down on the floor with about a hundred other kids. The worship started and everyone began to sing passionately with their hands raised. As the music died down, the leader gave an invitation for anyone who wanted to receive Christ. Kathy and I raised our hands and prayed a prayer asking the Lord to forgive our sins and come into our lives.
We didn’t realize it then, but what happened next would forever change our lives. After the meeting ended the leader came over and introduced himself. He explained what it meant to be saved, how we were newborn babies in the kingdom and we needed to be fathered. He then introduced us to three young men and asked which one of those men we wanted to “father” us. I didn’t realize that “fathering” wasn’t normal in church at that time because I hadn’t been in church much. We picked a man named Art Kipperman who was about three years our senior. He and his wife, Cathy, became our spiritual parents. It was awesome having someone to mentor us and speak into our lives. We had a relationship with them from that point on.
A few years later we moved up to the Trinity Alps in northern California. We lived there a year without the benefit of having a spiritual father and mother living alongside us. I was starving to be nurtured and felt lost. I began to cry out for God to send me a father.
I was working as a mechanic in a repair shop at the time. One day while I was laying on a creeper underneath a green Jeep Wagoneer the Lord spoke to me saying, “The man who owns this Jeep will be your father.” I had been praying fervently that day about the void in my life, but I didn’t even know the man who owned the Jeep.
When that particular customer came in to pick up his vehicle I collected his money and explained the work order to him. I was so nervous. He was about twenty years older than me and seemed very warm and loving. I accompanied him to his car, still trying to gather the courage to tell him what God had said to me. He got in the Jeep and rolled down his window as I stumbled over my words.
Finally I blurted out, “God told me that the man who owed this Jeep would be my spiritual father!” (I was choking back tears.) He turned off the engine and opened the door of his truck. He stood up, wrapped his arms around me and said, “I would be honoured to be your father!” This man’s name is Bill Derryberry and he has been my mentor for more than 20 years. His love and discipline have changed my life. I am forever indebted to him.
The love that Bill and I have for each other has resulted in many people being born into the Kingdom through both Bill’s encouragement in my own life and the contagious nature of love when it is expressed through someone. In the same way, God’s desire is for the bride and the bridegroom to be so passionately in love with one another that children are the natural outcome. The very presence of our children reminds us of the covenant love that we share. When conceived in love rather than lust, the natural outgrowth of children and their parents is an unbreakable, unchangeable and everlasting bond. Their children’s hearts become tablets on which husbands and wives write their love letters to one another. The outcome of this kind of relationship is that the children are secure, well-adjusted and have a healthy self-worth because their parents value them.
When the Church of Jesus becomes a family instead of a harem, people won’t just come to church, they will become the church. It will no longer be a place they go to but a tribe they live in, a people they have responsibility for and a family that nurtures one another in good times and in bad, in sickness and health, until death do us part. They won’t change churches just because the worship isn’t as good as Joe’s Super Church down the street. They will be committed to a family where they hear the voice of their Shepherd in the people who are leading them.
Covenant also means that people belong to a fellowship to be a contributor rather than a consumer. Covenant breaks the back of the pressure that leaders feel to perform because their flock hasn’t come to be entertained but they have come to be led.
God introduced himself to Kris Vallotton in a supernatural way – answered his prayer with an audible voice and supernatural revelation: “My name is Jesus Christ and you have what you requested!” – Jesus healed his mum but why was this not enough? If we related this testimony to the Bible book of Philippians, we could find words in this book that would tempt us to relax about the new convert Kris Vallotton (at the time 15 years old) – Philippians 1:6: “ ... being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Jesus had begun a good work in Kris – without anyone’s help – and he could bring it to completion – without much further assistance. After all – Kris had already seen and heard so much – the voice of God and the miracle healing of his mum. He was on the way – and if he was someone in our church – we would not have to worry about him. Right? Wrong!
The miracles may bring in new Christians – they prompted Kris to be on a search for God – but they are never enough. Miracles for the immature believers may even become boring. They say: “Oh, another healing, more gold dust, another one laughs ... ” For the immature believers – after a while the miracles are like the new iPhone 4 – a marvel of technological brilliance but you get used to it and then wait for the iPhone 5. Kris Vallotton needed a spiritual father because his miraculous encounter with Jesus needed to grow into a relationship with Jesus. You never get bored with healings or any other miracles when you understand them as love notes from a gracious God.
For instance, I never grow tired seeing the gold dust because I take the miracle as the voice of God saying to our church: “I love you. I died for you. You are forgiven. My blood on the cross cancelled all your shame. Instead of condemnation, you receive glory on account of me. I love you.” [Cf. The nation of Israel lived in a miracle culture in the wilderness but only ever saw the acts of God (manna, quail, supernatural victories, the glory cloud of God by day and the pillar of fire at night) and never drew near to him in intimacy – Exodus 20:19: “ ... and said to Moses, ‘Speak to us yourself and we will listen. But do not have God speak to us or we will die.’” Therefore, they always rebelled and took up idolatry.]
Any new Christian needs to be fathered into a mature relationship with God the Son Jesus Christ. The Bible book of Philippians explains why:
Philippians 1:8: “God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.” This means that someone loves us with the very love of Jesus Christ whose affections for us move our spiritual father/mother.
Philippians 1:9-11: “And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.” This means that a loving relationship with Jesus (and our spiritual father) can and will grow in knowledge, insight and discernment for making good choices and producing positive outcomes of righteousness.
Philippians 1:25: “ ... I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith.” A spiritual father will help us to progress in our faith and ensure that God’s joy will unfold in our lives. The fullness of God’s grace is not immediately manifesting in a Christian’s life but comes with maturity.
Philippians 2:12-13: “Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.” We need spiritual fathers and be obedient to them because they help us to work out our salvation with fear and trembling. They help us by taking responsibility for us.
Philippians 3:18-21: “For, as I have often told you before and now tell you again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Saviour from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.” We need spiritual fathers who warn us of false teachings and discipline us with tears in their eyes.
Philippians 1:3-5: “I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.” Spiritual fathers need spiritual sons and daughters to partner with them and grow up into helping with the proclamation of the Gospel – the good news of Jesus Christ and the salvation of all those who put their faith in him.
At this point – can I ask you: Do you have a spiritual father or spiritual mother? Do you have someone that loves you with Jesus’ affections, makes you grow in knowledge and discernment, continues with you for more joy in the faith, takes responsibility for you in requesting obedience, disciplines you with tears and allows you to partner in the Gospel with him? Do you have a relationship with another Christian whereby the other Christian is more mature than you and offers you guidance and love? If not – how are you doing? Are you going well in your faith? Maybe this morning – God will point out a spiritual father for you.
Then, I ask the more mature Christian? Are you a spiritual father or mother to someone? Are you functioning according to this Bible truth of the church becoming a family with spiritual parents? Kris Vallotton’s first spiritual parents were young – (21 years of age) – but this is not a matter of age. Sometimes – like in normal life – you become a father before you think that you are ready. Then, you just have to step up. If you invite a friend to church and he becomes a Christian, who is going to be the father of the new Christian? Most likely – you are. He trusts you and followed your lead. He already wanted what you had. Therefore: congratulations – you have become a dad. Take up the responsibility.
This is important. Unless we understand this principle of spiritual parenting in the church, we will never get anywhere. Take our church. We are offering a whole range of programs: Sunday worship, Acceler8 for children, Sunday afternoon meetings for youth and young adults, Wednesday night outreach at the Stations St Community Centre, Getting To Know God studies on Monday, Friday night Bible study and Prayer Watch, various small groups in people’s homes, craft group, etc. These programs are good but they are not the essence of the work. The programs are only tools – facilitating growing relationships between spiritual sons and fathers.
Programs by themselves do not make a church. It’s all about relationships. This means that you cannot sit back and trust that the church is doing its work through the programs that the pastor and evangelist – and other leaders – are offering. We need you to attend and take someone else under your wings. Please – if you have been a Christian for a few years, it’s time to become a father to someone else. Just think how much care and time it takes to raise a child. It’s not different in the faith.
You may ask me how to be a spiritual father and – in response – I can offer you a bag of resources and much helpful advice (even though I myself ask Tatjana for advice) but – as any parent knows – every child is different (even within the one family). Therefore, you need the wisdom of God – much prayer – to raise up another Christian. Open your heart to be a father. If today another person committed his life to Jesus Christ in our midst, who would put up their hand to father him? We want an outpouring of the Holy Spirit but why would God grant us this wish, unless we were prepared to be fathers and mothers to the new believers?
What I like about the whole concept is that it is not complicated. We are born into families. We understand families. There are entire bookshelves offering advice on church life – (big church or small church, multi-staff or lean structure, seeker-sensitive or solid) – but – ultimately – it’s simple: God made us a family with babies, children, youth, brothers and sisters, fathers and mothers, grand-parents. If we have healthy family relationships, then we have a healthy church according to God’s design. Are we healthy? [Difficulty: We are living apart during the week and the modern life-style is busy.]
Let me demonstrate again from Philippians how natural the family concept was for the first Christians:
Philippians 2:19-30: “I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, that I also may be cheered when I receive news about you. I have no one else like him, who will show genuine concern for your welfare. For everyone looks out for their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. But you know that Timothy has proved himself, because as a son with his father he has served with me in the work of the gospel. I hope, therefore, to send him as soon as I see how things go with me. And I am confident in the Lord that I myself will come soon.
But I think it is necessary to send back to you Epaphroditus, my brother, co-worker and fellow soldier, who is also your messenger, whom you sent to take care of my needs. For he longs for all of you and is distressed because you heard he was ill. Indeed he was ill, and almost died. But God had mercy on him, and not on him only but also on me, to spare me sorrow upon sorrow. Therefore I am all the more eager to send him, so that when you see him again you may be glad and I may have less anxiety. So then, welcome him in the Lord with great joy, and honor people like him, because he almost died for the work of Christ. He risked his life to make up for the help you yourselves could not give me.”
Like any family – (like any healthy family) – the church family wants to be together and longs for each other. They worry about each other. Epaphroditus was from the church in Philippi and – as a messenger from the congregation – he visited Paul and his team with financial provisions and loving support. Then, he fell sick and the church back home was worrying about him but he recovered and Paul sent him back to make everyone glad. Paul himself was keen to come for another visit to Philippi but first sent Timothy to them. He wanted to be cheered by receiving news from them. We need to find ways of coming together and know what each other’s needs are.
In the case of Timothy – Paul was quite specific about the father-son relationship –
Philippians 2:19-23: “I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon ... I have no one else like him, who will show genuine concern for your welfare. For everyone looks out for their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. But you know that Timothy has proved himself, because as a son with his father he has served with me in the work of the gospel ... ” Timothy was doing well – showed genuine concern for the welfare of the church in Philippi – did not look out for his own interests but the interests of Jesus – proved himself in practice – served in practical mission work – Timothy was doing well because he was fathered on the job and did not learn about the kingdom of God from books (and I love books). He learned by doing. The spiritual father Paul demonstrated the truth to him. It was practice – not just theory.
And this is what we all need. I come back to the beginning. The Bible is wonderful and true but we understand its riches best when human experience verifies the lessons. What better way than a spiritual father demonstrate what a life according to the Bible promises looks like – with spiritual power manifesting in his life (miracles, signs & wonders), impartations of love and joy.
This is where it may get challenging because you as a spiritual father have to demonstrate the Christian life also. We need you as a father. In the Bible book of Philippians – Paul did point to the example of Jesus for humble living – Philippians 2:3-5: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus.” However, Paul was also confident in promoting himself as a worthy model – a mature spiritual father – to emulate. He wrote repeatedly – Philippians 3:17: “Join together in following my example, brothers and sisters, and just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do.” Philippians 4:9: “Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.” We learn by imitating what is demonstrated to us.
Much is asked of spiritual fathers and mothers; therefore they are honoured before God and us. Paul writes with a certain kind of confidence which may sound strange to us modern Western ears – Philippians 2:14-16: “Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, ‘children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation’. Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life. And then I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labour in vain.” Philippians 3:15: “All of us, then, who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you.” Philippians 4:1: “Therefore, my brothers, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown ... ” Paul was in no doubt as to the importance of his work. It would be his reason for boasting on the day of Jesus’ return – (always qualified by his dependence on God) – and his crown in eternity. He knew that he carried authority as a spiritual father. So do you among us and we owe you respect and gratitude. We need fathers and mothers.
One more point: As in natural families – the relationship between children and parents does change over the years. It’s beautiful and satisfying – great family gatherings and laughing around the table – much happens at meal times – holidays and adventures – highlights like the first day at school and graduation – but there are also sleepless nights with babies, toddler tantrums, rebellious teenagers and then it’s time to leave home and become a parent yourself. In the beginning – the parent may look perfect to you – the dad as hero – but then you grown up and you recognize that your spiritual father is also on the way of growing in holiness. Be kind to him and simply leave home when it’s time to establish your own household. I am now middle-aged and the relationship with my parents has become more equal but – and this is the same in God’s kingdom – my parents still bless me as their son and I still honour them as my parents. The relationship changes but it is lifelong.
I come to a close. Jesus knows what we need. He responded to the prayer of Kris Vallotton with an audible voice and a miracle healing but then placed him in the care of a spiritual father who would love him with his own affections and mature him in his faith – for discernment and joy. This is Jesus’ way for us. This morning – if you do not yet have a spiritual parent, go home and pray about the person who will step into this role for you. Ask Jesus to point out the man or woman to you and speak to them as well. [Sometimes spiritual fathers can do the parenting form a distance through conferences, videos and books. This is how some Christian leaders (e.g.: John Strelan, Heidi Baker, Bill Johnson) have become spiritual parents to me.] Likewise – if you are here this morning and you are a Christian of many years, consider becoming a spiritual father or mother to someone – a new Christian. Demonstrate the life of faith and receive the crown of spiritual fathers. Church life is simple. We are a family. Amen.
Kris Vallotton with Bill Johnson: The Supernatural Ways Of Royalty, Shippensburg: Destiny Image 2006, 129-132:
Many years ago the Lord convicted me of the cohabiting attitude that I had toward Bill Johnson. Bill has been my senior leader and pastor for more than a quarter of a century. He is one of the most amazing men I have ever known and I have a deep respect for him. One night the Lord revealed my heart toward Bill. Although I had served him well and had done my best for him, I never had any intention of staying with him forever. I wanted to be the Man, the Boss, the number one guy and I was using Bill to get there. The Lord said to me, “You’re always talking about covenant but you haven’t made one with your senior father! You are serving him to benefit yourself, not for his benefit. I want you dedicate the rest of your life to serving him.”
Wow! I was undone. I realized then how much I didn’t want to be in submission to someone. All my trust issues began to surface. Did I really believe that if I gave my life to serve Bill that he would reciprocate the relationship? More importantly, did I trust that Jesus could give me the desires of my heart while I was the servant of another man? Could I live with Bill getting credit for things that I accomplished because people saw Bethel as “Bill’s church”? Did I want to spend my entire life living in the shadow of a famous man? My false heart was unmasked. Yuck,Yuck,Yuck!
The conviction grew day by day until I could no longer stand it. I couldn’t just have a message, I had to be the message. I needed to make a change in my life but it was a battle.
Bill and I were doing a men’s retreat together in Orangeville, California, right at the height of my tension. It was tough, and to make matters worse we were riding in the same car together all the way there. On the way there we hardly talked which isn’t unlike Bill (he is very quiet), yet it was a minor miracle for me. I was afraid to talk because I wasn’t sure what might jump out of my mouth. Finally I couldn’t take it any longer. Bill was driving and I looked over at him and I blurted out, “I covenant to spend the rest of my life serving you. One of the main goals of my life from this day on is to make sure that you accomplish all that God has given you to do with your life and I will stay with you until I die.”
I thought I was going to pass out, because I had such a deep revelation of what I had just done and I am a man who keeps my word. Bill glanced over at me and said, “Thanks.” I think Bill thought I was verbalizing something I had always carried in my heart because I had served him for so long, but that wasn’t the case. Those words have changed my life. I have come into a whole new level in God since then. My ministry has exploded and my finances have more than doubled. In fact, this book is a result of Bill encouraging and promoting me. He even called Destiny Image and arranged for them to read my manuscript.