Saturday, March 29, 2008


March 28, 2008

"No, dad," pleaded our insistent, pre-teen children, Trisha and Travis. "Don't make us go on that ride. It's too scary!"
Our family had been at Disneyland all day and had taken in just about every available adventure. The only major ride we had yet to experience was "Splash Mountain," a relatively calm, easy-going log ride through a series of re-created scenes from Disney animated movies. I say "relatively calm" because about two-thirds of the way through the ride the log boats take you over a waterfall in a thrilling, sixty foot drop that leaves you breathless in sheer panic and totally drenched in cool water.
For my wife, Babs, and me, veterans of many journeys on this ride, the falls was a highly desired, long anticipated, adrenalin rush without which no visit to the Magic Kingdom would be complete. However, convincing our children of this was proving to be a challenge, especially since screams of terror emitting from the ride could be heard all over the park. I did my best to focus their attention on the joys of the ride both before and after the waterfall while attempting to downplay the small part that might be a little unnerving.
"The scary part only lasts for five seconds," I explained. "You can close your eyes while that happens. The rest of it is slow and gentle with some really great things to see. Mom and I will be riding with you all the way. Please come with us on the ride; we can’t leave you alone and we really want to go on “Splash Mountain before we go home!”
Unfortunately, my powers of persuasion were not up to the challenge. This predicament called for a more drastic strategy.
"After the ride we'll all go have some ice cream," I announced, not at all ashamed of having to resort to bribery.
Finally, with the promise of ice cream and their choice of one Disney souvenir each, we talked them into getting in line with us for "Splash Mountain." During the hour-long wait in line, with the screams of frightened log riders growing ever louder as we inched closer to the start of the ride, we continually had to reinforce their fleeting courage in order to keep them from running away. At last we climbed into our log boat with me sitting in front (sacrificing my body to protect my family), Babs taking up the rear, and Trisha and Travis sandwiched in between. "Great," I thought to myself. "Nothing can stop us now."
Throughout the first part of the ride I frequently looked back to see how the kids were doing. Just about every time I checked they had their eyes closed.

"You're missing all the neat stuff to see!" I shouted above the joyful music which accompanied us throughout most of the ride. "I'll let you know when it's time to close your eyes."
Although I was unaware of it at the time, their eyes were not just closed in fear. They were praying.
"Please God," they both silently begged, "make this ride break down. Don't let our boat go over the falls!"
Eventually the happy Disney tune changed to a minor key and the music became mournful and foreboding. Up ahead was a long, steep incline that would carry our log boat up to the top of the waterfall. I turned around to let the kids know it was time to cover their eyes only to discover their eyelids were already tightly shut.

"Please, God," they continued to pray in silent desperation, "make the ride break down right here. Don't let our boat go over the falls!"
Just as our log boat hooked onto the chain drive which began pulling us up the hill to the top of the falls (That's right, you guessed it!) we jerked to a sudden stop. After a few frustrating minutes wondering what was happening, the music ceased and a voice came over the loudspeakers.
"We are sorry but the ride has malfunctioned. Our attendants are coming to assist you. Please follow their directions and carefully climb out of the boats making your way to the nearest exit."
Babs and I were devastated. We couldn’t believe our rotten luck. Our kids, on the other hand, were ecstatic.
"There is a God!" they squealed in delight. "God is real! He cares about us! He answered our prayers!"
Whether the malfunction was caused by God or merely coincidence (Someone once said coincidences are God's anonymous miracles.) it certainly was a boost to our children's faith. It was also a cause for even more celebration on their part as Babs and I reluctantly had to be true to our agreement and treat them to ice cream.
Now that our children are older they would jump at the chance to accompany us on "Splash Mountain." Maturity has a way of mitigating amusement park fears, just as spiritual maturity helps lessen our anxiety over the crises we face in this life. Experienced Disneyland adventurers know the waterfall on "Splash Mountain" is exhilarating, almost always survivable, and leads to more fun on the rest of the ride. For a mature Christian, experiencing a calamity with Christ in the front of the boat is exhilarating, not only survivable but spiritually strengthening, and even if the worst does happen there is always more to look forward to, a reward that even beats ice cream. Going over the falls doesn't mean the ride is finished.
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego knew this as they faced the fiery furnace. "...the God we serve is able to save us...but even if He does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods..." – Daniel 3:17-18. Job knew this when he faced the sudden reversal of all his past blessings. "Though He slay me, yet will I hope in Him..." – Job 13:15. Paul learned this as he faced his "thorn in the flesh." "Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But He said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you...'" – 1Corinthians 12:8-9.
The spiritually mature know that regardless of our circumstances there is a God, He is real, He cares about us, and He answers all our prayers even though we may not like the answers He gives. “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” – Romans 8:28. We have learned to trust Him whether the promotion is given to us or someone else, whether the check arrives on time or too late, whether the test results are benign or malignant, whether calamity is averted at the last moment or hits us head on. Our faith in God will not falter, our trust in Him will not waiver, our love for Him will not be washed away, even when He allows our boat to go over the falls. Whether the ride breaks down at the last moment or we are propelled into disaster, all will be well. We can relax and enjoy the adventure; our Father is riding with us in the boat!

Bill, a child of God enjoying the ride

Saturday, March 22, 2008


March 21, 2008

He could sense that dawn was approaching, a dawn he feared more than anything. No sunrise could brighten the darkness in that musty, gloomy, foul-smelling room, darkness so intense he felt his soul being crushed beneath its weight. Slowly, methodically he paced back and forth, the sound of his footsteps accompanied only by the scraping of chains across the stone floor. From somewhere in the darkness a voice rang out.
"Sit down! How can anybody sleep with you rattling your chains all night?"
He answered with a curse, a brief release of an overwhelming anger that had been held captive far too long. Sleep? How was that possible at such a time as this? There would be plenty of time for sleep later, after... No! He would not allow himself to think of the horror soon to come. He must fill his mind with other thoughts, memories of far better times. But all he could squeeze out of his tortured mind were recollections of a wasted life, a bitter childhood, unreturned love, countless rejections, isolation, and poverty. Then there was the ever-present, deeply rooted hatred for the government, for the wealthy, for religion, and even for God. His thoughts would not allow a peaceful sanctuary for him. There would be no rest for his weary soul, not on this evening.
In his mind he replayed his trial. Robbery, murder, rebellion, the prosecutor had done his job well. He was helpless to mount a defense against such charges. He could still hear the judge's verdict ringing in his ears. "Guilty!" Even now the word sent a chill down his spine and he began to sweat despite the cold of early morning.
Morning! Already? Like a dam bursting in his mind he could no longer hold back the flood of thoughts concerning what was about to happen. The humiliation, the pain, the torture, the agony, the mocking, the nails, the cross! The sound of footsteps in the corridor made him jump with fright. Keys rattled, the door burst open, light flooded the cell, and two soldiers grabbed his arms and roughly dragged him outside. His heart pounded harder than he thought possible. An unthinkable horror, the torturous final act of his miserable life, was about to begin...or so he thought. Keys rattled again and his chains fell to the ground with a clang that startled him out of his nightmare.
"Go on, get out of here!" shouted the centurion. "You're free to go, by the order of the governor.”
"What! How can this be?" He asked, unable to fully comprehend the sound of the word "free."
"It's Passover," grunted the centurion not even trying to hide his disgust. “According to custom, every year the governor sets one prisoner free at this time. This year, you are the lucky one. The prophet of Nazareth is taking your place. Look, there he goes, carrying your cross!"
The dumbfounded, just released prisoner stares in disbelief as a noisy procession passes by in front of him, a parade of death. In the midst of the crowd is a bruised and bloodied figure struggling beneath the weight of a large wooden cross. For one brief moment the eyes of the newly-freed meet the eyes of the now-condemned. Expecting to see hatred, he finds only love looking back at him, a love that seems to cry out, "This is for you!" The innocent is taking the place of the guilty, and the guilty falls to his knees in amazement and awe. It is a day he will never forget.
Who is this fortunate criminal? If you answered Barabbas, you are only partially correct. He is a fascinating, obscure character in the Passion narrative, yet his bit-part in this drama is highly significant. The Bible gives us tantalizingly few clues as to his personal life, but from the list of his crimes we gather that he was awaiting a just punishment. The name, Barabbas, means “son of the father” and he will be forever remembered as the one who was released in place of the only begotten “Son of the Father.” But he was not the only convicted felon who escaped punishment that day. My life was also spared, and so was yours. For we, too, have been accused of grand larceny (robbing God of our time, talents and money), murder (hate is the equivalent of murder in God's eyes), and rebellion (all sin is rebellion against God). The verdict is in; the jury cries, “Guilty!” "For all have sinned and fall short of the Glory of God." – Romans 3:23. And the sentence has been pronounced. "For the wages of sin is death..." – Romans 6:23.
But, wonder of wonders, the prison door is opened, the keys of grace rattle, and our chains of sin fall to the ground. "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." – Romans 5:8. The prophet of Nazareth is carrying our cross. Let your eyes connect with His and experience the unconditional, unfailing, all-encompassing love that cries out, "This is for you!" The Innocent has taken the place of the guilty and we fall to our knees in amazement and awe. The only begotten Son of the Father has paved the way for you and me to also become sons of the Father.
“Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.” – John 1:12-13. “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life. For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” – John 3:14-16.
He was sentenced to our punishment, bound by our chains, and nailed to our cross. He bore our sins, endured our pain, suffered our shame, and died our death. And in the process, we have been offered a full and complete pardon. The incongruity of it all is unfathomable and we are caught up in the most profound sense of awe. Only the purest form of love would willingly make such an offer, and only a fool would refuse it. The thrill of our new found freedom is tempered by the knowledge of its terrible price. The relief of our last minute reprieve is couched in the memory of the One who suffered in our place. The joy of redemption is bound by our love for the Redeemer. It is a day we will never forget...a day we call, Good Friday.

Bill, another son of the Father in awe of His grace

Saturday, March 15, 2008


March 14, 2008

Forgive me for shifting gears a little this week but I felt this might be of some value to many of you. One of our church planting couples, Mike and Leslie Kim, have taken upon themselves the task of chronicling what God is doing through the simple church movement in this area. They met recently with three of our more apostolically gifted individuals, ones who have been moving in the house church revolution for awhile, to listen to our stories and interview us with a view toward encouraging other church planters. Since our storytelling lasted far into the evening and we ran short of time, they emailed their remaining questions to us. I am passing along to you my responses to these questions in hope that they might help you understand a little more about our ministry and encourage you in your personal walk with the Lord.

What did it cost you to do this? What kind of spiritual warfare did you endure?

When we began this adventure into the simple church movement some five years ago we had no idea where this would eventually lead and the trials we would endure in the process. Shortly after beginning our walk down this new path Babs, my wife, was diagnosed with breast cancer. Though we were told that the tumor had likely been growing inside of her for at least five years, the timing of its discovery came as a crushing blow to our ministry efforts. It monopolized our focus, zapped our energy, severely tested our faith, and reminded us that the enemy doesn’t play fair. But through it all we have also learned that the Lord of the harvest is far more powerful than any blight or ill-wind the devil hurls in our direction.

In the years since our journey into simple church began we have endured the loss of health, wealth, jobs, title and prestige. Many we once fellowshipped with now look upon us with incredulity, fear and disdain. We have had to scramble to earn a living in the secular workplace. I have walked away from the title of “Pastor” and all the influence and prestige that comes with it. Even members of my own family have wondered if I might be “losing it.” We have suffered much loss and the temptation to give up has been a constant companion. Yet God has proven faithful through it all. Our ill-health has been healed (again and again), we have never been in financial crisis (the bills always miraculously get paid) and have even managed to provide help for others, and God has graciously supplied new partners in our ministry with a fellowship that is stronger than we once knew and a sphere of influence greater than ever before. Everything the enemy took away from us was replaced by the Lord in greater numbers! “You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.” – 1John 4:4.

What was the relationship your family had to these things? Did they assist in planting or praying or what not?

At this point our children are all grown and no longer live at home. I am sure they lift us up in prayer and occasionally they will send us financial support, as do several of our extended family members. However, the only one in my immediate family who is currently walking with me in this journey is my wife. It has been truly fascinating watching her grow and blossom in the freedom of this movement. In every other ministry position I have held she was regarded as only a spouse, just the pastor’s wife. Now I regard her as a full partner in ministry. We have discovered that Babs is gifted as a pastor while my gifting is more apostolic. Together we make a formidable team. While we each have our own small groups with which we minister and we each are involved in our own individual discipling efforts, most of the time we are laboring side by side in our various gatherings. Her loving spirit, her pastoral heart, and her touching prayers have opened up many doors to our ministry. People are drawn to the love of Jesus which exudes from every pore of her being and they are anxious for a closer relationship with us and with the Lord we serve. Having my wife as a ministry partner is one of the greatest blessings I have received from the Lord of the harvest.

How has your walk with God changed -- if at all-- during the process?

I have been walking with God for over 47 years. I grew up in a pastor’s home, earned a master’s degree from a Christian seminary, and have been in the paid ministry for over thirty years, yet I have never enjoyed as close a relationship with Christ as I now have. He has led us into a ministry where we absolutely have to rely on Him, and He has never let us down. My prayer life has mushroomed, my faith has skyrocketed, and my intimacy with the Lord of the harvest has become vastly more satisfying. Even so, I feel like I am only just beginning to know what it means to be a disciple of Christ.

Whether you know it or not, you're spiritual fathers in the apostolic; what would you pass on to young men and women? What were some of the most helpful or important things you learned?

Thanks for the complement, but I can’t help but think the honor of being an apostolic father is as much due to my age as any other factor. I was wondering if there might be any openings for an apostolic big brother? Seriously though, I’d love to pass on a few thoughts.
1. Don’t let anyone tell you that you are not hearing from the Lord. There will be a plethora of well intentioned individuals who will roll their eyes and shake their heads when you share what the Lord has revealed to you about your ministry. Be willing to be a fool for God. “For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength.” – 1 Corinthians 1:25.
2. Don’t worry about how you are viewed by others. Do not seek after a title or earthly prestige. Seek only the Lord of the harvest. He calls us simply “harvest workers.” This is blue caller labor. There is very little here in this ministry that would speak of any earthly significance. But to Jesus we are of prime importance, for we are the answers to His own prayer request (Luke 10:2b).
3. There will likely be a wilderness-wandering trial waiting for you if you have not already suffered one. Our Lord endured such a trial and His disciples seem to be destined to do the same. When it happens embrace it as an invitation to draw closer to Christ, to learn humility, patience, endurance, and intimacy with Him. It is in the wilderness where we learn to discern His still small voice from the myriad of others screaming for our attention. The temptation to return to Egypt will be intense. There were difficult times in the last five years when I threatened to give up nearly every day, but the Lord always managed to find a way to bring some amount of encouragement to my life to keep me going. I praise God that I was open enough to see those moments of favor from the Lord and foolish enough to continue pursuing Him through the wilderness in spite of what appeared to be an impassable desert. “…let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross…” – Hebrews 12:1-2.
4. Don’t even think about trying to do this alone. We have got to learn to partner together in ministry. Five years ago it wasn’t easy to find others in this area who were following a similar path. I forced myself to travel great distances to link up with other simple church advocates. Those times of fellowship were invaluable to me. Today there are people all over Northern California who are moving in the simple church revolution. We have no excuse for loneliness. “After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two…” – Luke 10:1.

If you could have done some things differently what would you have done? Did all of this look the way you thought it would when you started?

At one point in my life I wanted to be a forest ranger. I believe that would have been a far easier pursuit. But then it’s hard to ignore the Lord when He calls. It’s easy to look back and see what we could have done differently. I believe the Lord allows us to make mistakes and miscalculations in life precisely because that’s how we best learn. I have certainly had much more than my share of opportunities to learn from mistakes. For me it has been a painstaking process of learning to let go of institutional church traditions and just follow the Lord into the harvest. When we started doing church in our home five years ago it looked pretty much the same as we had always done church—set order of worship, prepared study, pastor-led. Over the years the Spirit slowly pealed away the traditions until we are left with a simple gathering where He leads, the order is constantly changing, and nothing but the food is prepared ahead of time. Our definition of church has changed dramatically. We have learned that church can be two individuals meeting at Starbuck’s to share what Jesus is doing in their lives, or a carload of people praying together on the way to a conference, or a piano lesson that morphs into a counseling session. Yes, I wish I would have known all this years ago, but I’m not sure I could have made the adjustments any more quickly.

What do you feel are the main ingredients or "essentials" in doing organic church planting? How would you define or describe organic church planting to someone asking about it?

Trying to define organic church planting is a near impossibility. I could point you to Luke 10: 1-20, but the reality is little fuzzier than what is written. It is simply following the Lord into the harvest field, listening to what He says, and obeying what you hear. He leads us to a key individual (“man of peace”) who connects us with others (“household”). We pour out the love of Jesus upon them, lead them to faith in Him, disciple them, and the Lord plants a church there. There is no set pattern; every church is planted in a different way. However, I can think of a few essentials which have led to our greatest success.
1. Pray the Lord’s own prayer request; pray it regularly and often. Recruit others to pray with you. “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” – Luke 10:2b.
2. Be alert to people the Lord brings into your path. If you are praying for opportunities, they will happen, but they could happen anywhere. Just don’t miss them. Be bold, most people are open to spiritual discussions and most will not refuse an offer to pray for them.
3. Let Jesus pour His love through you upon these contacts. Love will open up doors and break down barriers you would think were impenetrable. It has happened for us even cross culturally, even through languages and customs unknown to us.
4. Don’t invite these contacts to your own home group; go to their home. This single change in strategy has probably been the greatest factor in our success this past year.
5. Don’t try to plant a church right away unless you feel led by the Spirit to do so. Keep pouring out the love to them. Lead them to faith in Jesus. Disciple them. Jesus will build His church.
6. As soon as leaders have been discipled and are mature enough to shepherd the gathering, leave. Staying too long will make them dependant upon you and stifle their growth.
7. Try to discern those who may be gifted in one of the five-fold ministries of Ephesians 4:11—apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds and teachers. If possible, link them up with other similarly gifted individuals who are more mature. All of us need to be reproducing ourselves.

What are the things that excite you the most as you tell your stories? What are your dreams and passions now; what is God putting on your heart to pray for? If you could have anything at all from the Lord now, what would you want to help equip you?

One year ago I thought I might be the only one in this region interested in simple church. Now we have five gatherings of church planters meeting around the Bay Area, one of them in our own home. We have witnessed people won to the Lord, churches being planted, lives being transformed, and miracles of healing taking place. I can hardly wait for what God has in store for us in the next year. I truly believe this is all just a tiny trickle of the flooding river that is about to pour over this area. Please Lord, let the river flow. Let it flow through me. Let it flood this area with life-giving, disease-healing, love-penetrating power. I pray not just for churches to be added to our numbers, but for a church multiplication movement to spring up and grow, a viral contagion infecting every neighborhood in the Bay Area, Northern California and beyond. I pray for more workers for the harvest because the harvest here is immense with webs of influence reaching to every corner of the globe. I pray for more apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds and teachers, and I pray that more intercessors will arise to bathe this region and this movement in prayer. Please Lord, do it for the sake of the harvest, for the advancement of your kingdom, for your glory, in Jesus name. Amen.

Bill, a child of God and a simple harvest worker

Saturday, March 08, 2008


March 7, 2008

On May 11th last year I wrote about a word which I received from the Lord concerning what He was about to do in Northern California. He woke me up in the middle of the night with a Scripture passage from the book of Joshua running through my mind.
“After three days the officers went throughout the camp, giving orders to the people: ‘When you see the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God, and the priests, who are Levites, carrying it, you are to move out from your positions and follow it. Then you will know which way to go, since you have never been this way before…’ Joshua told the people, ‘Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do amazing things among you.’” – Joshua 3:2-5.
“So when the people broke camp to cross the Jordan, the priests carrying the ark of the covenant went ahead of them. Now the Jordan is at flood stage all during harvest. Yet as soon as the priests who carried the ark reached the Jordan and their feet touched the water’s edge, the water from upstream stopped flowing. It piled up in a heap a great distance away…” – Joshua 3:14-16.
The following is a condensed version of what I wrote last May in an article I entitled, The Lord Will Do Amazing Things:
I felt the Lord saying, “The time has come! Run through the camp and tell my people to get ready. When you see my presence going before you, rise up and follow me. But before you do, you must consecrate yourselves.”
Consecrate yourselves? I wonder what the Lord means. When I studied this passage previously I discovered the literal meaning of the term “to consecrate” meant to “wash your clothes.” But why would Joshua want the people to wash their clothes, especially since they were headed into battle? Their garments were bound to get covered in blood, sweat, and all sorts of filth from combat. Why bother to wash them before the war? In the past I just assumed God wanted us to be cleansed from sin before we could be dedicated to His service. And I suppose that is part of the answer. Now, however, I understand there is much more to it than just spiritual cleansing.
The Israelites were covered in desert dirt. For forty years this band of runaway slaves had been wandering in the wilderness. The present generation had grown up knowing nothing but the ways of the desert. They had spent their lives as wandering nomads huddled in twelve tribes bent on protecting their own from the fierce elements which surrounded them. Now God was issuing a new calling to them. They were about to invade the enemy’s territory. They were being asked to form a mighty, invincible army of righteousness. The defensive-minded, retreat-prone, fear-motivated, return-to-Egypt-hearted wilderness wanderers were compelled to transform into fearless warriors and conquer the land. They would have to completely let go of the past and learn methods of warfare totally unfamiliar to them—Walk around the enemy fortress seven times and shout; ask the Lord to make the sun stand still; always follow the commander of the army of the Lord remembering He is not here to fight our battles but rather we are here to fight His. There was so much dirt to wash away; so much new to learn.
The people of God are still covered in desert dirt. We are nomadic wanderers bouncing from one church to another searching for the choicest pasture. Many of us have grown up knowing nothing but the ways of the traditional church wilderness. We are runaway slaves who have spent our lives huddled in our own tribes bent on protecting our own sheep from the fierce elements which surround us. Now God is issuing a new calling. We are about to invade the enemy’s territory. We are being asked to form a mighty, invincible, army of righteousness—one army, waging one war, against one enemy! The defensive-minded, fear-motivated, return-to-the-familiar-prone, cower-behind-the-walls-hearted wilderness wanderers are being compelled to transform into fearless warriors commanded to conquer the land. We must completely let go of the past and learn new methods of warfare “since you have never been this way before.” There is so much dirt to wash away; so much new to learn.
I have always been intrigued over how the Jordan River stopped flowing at precisely the time when the feet of the priests, who were carrying the ark of the Lord, touched the water’s edge. In order for the timing to be perfect God must have been working upstream as much as an hour in advance piling up the water in a heap. God is always working upstream for His people. He is already busy stockpiling the resources, devising the strategy, and preparing the battlefield for skirmishes with the enemy which we will not experience until tomorrow. However, we may not realize His efforts on our behalf until our feet touch the river’s edge.
If I am hearing the Lord correctly, I believe we are about to experience the opposite of the miracle of the Jordan River crossing. Instead of piling up the water in a heap upstream, God is releasing the water which has been prevented from flowing down the dry riverbed. In California right now we are suffering from a drought which has lasted for over a year. The spiritual drought, however, has been continuing for a generation. Is this thirsty land about to taste a fresh flow of living water? The word I heard was that the water has already been released! It remains for us, His “called out ones,” to follow the presence of the Lord into the dry riverbed. As soon as our feet hit the river, the water will begin to flow. Yes, it is harvest season! And yes, the river will be at flood stage!
Is this message meant for just California or is it aimed at the entire country, all of North America, or even beyond? I’m not sure. But I’m sensing that this revival is greater than any one region. Wherever the people of God hear the voices of His servants crying, “Get ready, consecrate yourselves, follow the Lord into the river,” it will likely mean the water has already begun to flow. Our Lord has already been busy upstream stockpiling the resources, devising the strategy, and preparing the battlefield.
The harvest is upon us; it is ripe and waiting for the feet of the harvesters to enter the river. For those of us who are willing to consecrate ourselves and wash off the “desert dirt,” who with faith and courage are daring to follow the captain of the army of the Lord into the river, this promise still rings true: “…tomorrow the Lord will do amazing things among you.”
For the past ten months I have been waiting for the water to arrive, begging God to show me where the river is flowing. “Tell me where the river is, Lord. I want to jump in; I want to swim in it, bathe in it, play in it, rejoice in it, and float with it wherever it may lead. I want to tell others where the river is located so all of your people may be immersed in it. Please, Lord, show me where your river is flowing.” In a fresh word last week the Lord revealed to me the location of His life-giving stream. The river flows through us! Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” – John 7:38.
This is the image I believe the Lord showed to me. We live in a very dry land, a spiritual desert. Those of us who have tried to minister in this area for any length of time know how hard-packed and dry the soil is. For years we have tried to plant seeds only to see them fail to germinate or wither and die in such a harsh climate. For whatever reasons the flow of the river has been shut off somewhere upstream, “piled up in a heap,” and prevented from following its natural course. But now God has broken through the dam and released the water. This is not just a small trickle, folks. The floodgates are opening and a mighty deluge is beginning to flow. And get this: It is flowing through us! Wherever we go, the river goes with us. Wherever we minister, the river flows through us.
C. S. Lewis in The Lion, The Witch, And The Wardrobe tells us that in the presence of “Aslan” the harsh winter turns into spring and everywhere he steps, flowers spring up. It will be similar with us. Wherever we go “living waters” will flow. Wherever we step, the parched soil will drink from the flow and seeds which may have been planted years ago along with those recently sewn will suddenly sprout and thrive. There is a life-giving, healing, nurturing, refreshing, stream flowing through us and irrigating the surrounding desert.
Last Saturday some thirty individuals crowded into our home to seek the Lord about where He might be leading us in the simple-church movement. When the facilitator asked us to discuss our corporate identity, who we believed we were in the kingdom, I knew why the Lord, just two days before, had revealed to me the location of the river. After I shared what the Lord had spoken into my heart we began to describe what this identity means to our movement. In just a few short hours our entire focus had begun to change. Instead of a church-planting movement, we were becoming what God had intended us to be, a river of life.
We were reminded that Jesus did not command us to plant churches, but rather to “make disciples.” – Matthew 28:19. Our Lord did not say His reason for coming was for us to have churches, but rather “that they may have life, and have it to the full.” – John 10:10. Our emphasis should not be solely on planting churches, but rather simply allowing the river of Jesus to flow through us. We are to be a continual flowing stream of “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” – Galatians 5:22. God’s grace, mercy, and earthly provisions, whatever blessings He sends down the river, are to be constantly flowing from us to others. In the process of allowing His living water to flow through us, Jesus will build His church…in His way (organically)…in His timing…with those He chooses to gather, whether in small pools or wide places in the river.
We were reminded that water always follows the path of least resistance. Likewise, we must be flexible. Whenever a pathway is blocked, we need to move on to another channel. Water is the perfect mixer. We need to be open to flow out to those of every race, ethnicity, gender, age, and economic status. Indeed, we are learning that those who have been the most marginalized in our society are the very ones who most need to experience the river’s flow. Water always seeks its own level. There is no hierarchy here. No matter what our function in the river may be, our status remains on the same level with everyone else. And there is still a need to periodically consecrate ourselves. Unfortunately, desert-dirt is still prevalent. If it builds up in us it will restrict the river’s flow cutting off the living water from those around us. Whether the dirt is from personal sin, an attempt to apply institutional correctives to the flow, or an effort to direct the flow where we desire instead of allowing the river to follow its own path, we need to occasionally “wash our clothes.” Otherwise, once again the waters will pile up in a heap somewhere upstream.
As if to confirm what the Lord was revealing to us last Saturday, one of the participants in the gathering at our home received a text message shortly before we adjourned. It was a prophecy that had been received several days earlier, shared with someone else, and sent from the second party to our gathering. The message came in the form of a passage of Scripture and was given to reveal where the Lord would be leading us. The fact that we received the message at the end of our time together made us all realize that something truly supernatural had just taken place. The passage was from the book of Isaiah.
“The desert and the parched land will be glad; the wilderness will rejoice and blossom…Then will the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped. Then will the lame leap like a deer, and the mute tongue shout for joy. Water will gush forth in the wilderness and streams in the desert. The burning sand will become a pool, the thirsty ground bubbling springs. In the haunts where jackals once lay, grass and reeds and papyrus will grow.” – Isaiah 35:1,5-7.
The river is flowing, my brothers and sisters, and it is flowing through us. May it flow continuously, unrestricted, in an ever-increasing rate, deeper and deeper, until the entire Bay Area and all of Northern California are completely immersed! Please, Lord, may it be so!

Bill, a child of God through whom the river flows