Friday, August 31, 2007

Why the Death of Something Valuable is Sometimes Necessary for Advancement in Kingdom Life

"Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains by itself alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit" - John 12:24 (NAS).

Two major historical events in the charismatic calender have made me consider and re-consider this not too easy concept that God seems to sneak upon His people from season to season. The first was the closure of Stoneleigh Bible Week in 2001. At that point in my spiritual walk, I relied on Stoneleigh heavily and couldn't comprehend life without it and felt very grumpy with Terry Virgo for depriving me of it. The second was this editorial by Charles Simpson, Ern Baxter, Don Basham and Bob Mumford officially closing the New Wine Magazine.

The problem is that the Church's natural response is to settle into any routine, any activity and any ministry as soon as possible and for as long as possible whereas God in His infinite wisdom knows that it is only a radical Church on the cutting edge living in prophetic watchfulness for the next "Go!" from heaven that will spread His glory to the ends of the earth.

How then can we bring our thoughts and actions into line with the Holy Spirit? After all wasn't it Jonathan Edwards who said;

"It is the job of every believer to find out which direction the Holy Spirit is moving in and move with Him".

I had a few thoughts occur to me as to possible ways in which we can align ourselves with the Holy Spirit's movement and I am going to apply this to myself. I think at present, my "grain of wheat" is blogging.

1. Does your "Grain of Wheat" feel heavy and excessively hard work?

If so then it is possible that "grain of wheat" has died and it is only your effort that is preventing it from falling to the ground. I need to be considering honestly whether running the blogs is more effort than anything else and whether the thought is cropping up regularly that it is only the sweat of my brow that is keeping it going. If the answers to those questions is "Yes" then it could be that the season has come for the grain to fall.

I am not arguing that doing anything for God is "easy"! Both the organisers of Stoneleigh Bible Week and New Wine Magazine would testify that they were a lot of hard work! But the anointing of the Holy Spirit brings an ease with it that is unmistakeable both present and gone. The moment I sigh when I am logging on to blog, or the moment that I find myself filling up posts with quotes from other blogs simply to fill up posts I need to ask myself if this grain is ready to fall to the ground and die.

2. Does the idea of my "Grain of Wheat" dying seem unbearable?

In pushing His servants to shut down Stoneleigh Bible Week or to close the New Wine Magazine, God wasn't primarily thinking of depriving thousands of the blessing that they brought! God isn't a kill-joy who delights to upset or disappoint! Terry Virgo spoke repeatedly of the pain of shutting down Stoneleigh but since then we have seen the phenomenal growth of Newday, Together on a Mission and Mobilise. In shutting down New Wine, the four teachers - Charles Simpson, Bob Mumford, Don Basham and Ern Baxter went to different parts of the USA and exercised their apostolic ministries in greater freedom while retaining relational unity as they wrote. It is clear in the New Wine editorial that they knew closing the magazine would cause upset and pain;

"We do not want to disturb or distress you".

Why is it that the things we do can become so difficult to lay down? I fear that it is because the things we do particularly for God become our identities rather than WHO we are. I challenge every Christian blogger to ask themselves if they can go right now to the "Delete Blog" button and hit it. Does it seem impossible to you? If so are we holding on to the blogs too tightly because we're not secure enough in who we are in Christ Jesus? Let us see the death of our grains of wheat in the same light as death itself - just a path or a river to cross to something new and greater.

Personally I have decided that at a regular appropriate juncture I am going to ask my close friends and fellow bloggers (Pete, Jesse, Don, Julie, Luke and Scott) whether or not they too feel that now is the time to let my blogs die.

3. "God's Purpose is not the death of something but rather multiplied life" - Charles Simpson.

That promise being made publicly, I have not yet received the sense that I should delete the blogs. But if we can see the joy of multipled fruit from laying the "Grain of Wheat" down then surely that makes allowing that death easier. Jesus Himself walked to Calvary with all the emotions of a human being yet endured them "for the joy set before Him". Surely that is the ultimate example of how to face death! If Jesus hadn't gone to Calvary and risen again then many sons wouldn't have been brough to glory! Just so with us, let us not deprieve God of the chance to bring greater ministry and increased fruit and responsibilities by holding on to our "Grains of Wheat" too tightly. Who knows what God may have in store for us?

How then can we know when the time is right to let that "Grain of Wheat" fall?

1. Ask prophets. Terry Virgo testified that prophet after prophet said that the time was right to close Stoneleigh Bible Week and move onto something new - yet they didn't know what fruit was to come! An act of faith is made easier to become enabled by prophets who are seeing what God is doing.

2. Ask God. Mahesh Chavda really challenged me by speaking of the Holy Spirit as "My dearest friend". Let us culture a practice of asking the Holy Spirit every time we log on to publish. Do you want it back Holy Spirit? Is there something new and different you would prefer me spending my time doing? I am yours!

3. Fix our eyes on the ultimate goal - Numbers 14:21. If we spend our time continually looking to seeing the ends of the earth covered with the glory of the Lord then the death of our particular "Grain of Wheat" will be made easier for we will be able to see it in the grand cosmic scheme that God embarked on from before time began. Let's beware of becoming so enveloped in our activities that we fail to see the end and ultimate goal.

6 comments:

Don said...

Dan,

I've wondered for a while about the amount of effort you've put into the blogs you run - this one in particular. I stopped blogging after a couple of years due to burnout, and earlier had closed down a revival-oriented website after 6 years, when the Lord clearly told me to stop. That was very painful, but a huge relief.

I think a lot of the exhaustion comes from feelings of having to live up to others' expectations - which is fine when you're getting paid to do so, but very difficult and possibly prideful when you're not. You've done such a great job of posting mounds of text, transcripts, images, etc., but that fine performance has placed expectations on yourself - and maybe in some readers - that you must continue to do so. The good news is that you don't have to do so.

As you well know, this blog has been of immense comfort and encouragement to me for several years, even though I haven't had time to read it every day. My suggestion would be certainly not to take your blogs down, but to write only when you feel the Lord is prompting you to say something. Give the responsibility up to God, and find rest in him. You don't owe us - your readers - anything, but you do owe God the proper use of your time and resources. If he's not with you in this, it will definitely not be life-giving to you, but just a drain.

I'd say take a vacation from the blogs, but be ready to write if/when the Lord says to. (You could look at it as a blog-fast to hear the Lord more clearly.) You might be surprised at what comes out, after a break.

I'll be praying for you! -- Don

Dan Bowen said...

Thanks Don - that really means a lot, as you know I really value your opinion especially! I will certainly be praying through what you have shared and suggested and thinking about it seriously! My "accountability" pastor Pete Day gets back from his holiday on Monday so I am going to be meeting with him too and sharing what the Lord may have in store for the future!

I never want to become "Dan the blogger" ... I want to be used of God for anything that He wants of me! This blogging thing has just been something exciting that I NEVER expected I would do three years ago or so!

Thanks so much again - I really appreciate every comment you leave deeply!

James B said...

I disagree entirely - I don't think you should close down these blogs! There are precious little quality charismatic blogs around and it is vital to still be able to access resources that honour the Holy Spirit properly.

Dan Bowen said...

Panic not. Read the blog carefully. I just want to be in a state of readiness to shut it down should the Holy Spirit say so. :)

Jesse P. said...

Dan,

You obviously put much time and effort into your blog, and I appreciate the way you have stayed away from the arrogant opinion-airing that can characterize some blogs.

I once heard some wise counsel that for every decision you make to do something, you are also making a decision 'not' to do something else. This is part of counting the cost of what we do.

In all things we must weigh not only what we are doing but what it is keeping us from doing. If there are things that God has put on your heart to do that you are not able to get done due to your blog, perhaps it's time to spend a little less time blogging. But if you are able to do the things you feel called to and still have time for the blog, then I do not see any need to change.

Dan Bowen said...

Thanks Jesse. I value your counsel and thoughts so much because I know you share my passions for a Spirit-drenched life, a Spirit-led life, and a longing to see more of God manifest within our lives and our churches! Knowing you share that passion makes it very easy to receive advice, thoughts and maybe correction if necessary from you!