Author: Jeff Krall

I help people detoxify from lifeless religion and life controlling issues so we can be the people Jesus prayed we would be.

UnChurching – The Modern Church Dilemma

DilemmaThis article about “unchurching” furthers the discussion from our article “The 12 Reasons Why “Mature” Christians No Longer Go To Church”. If you haven’t read it, I suggest you see if you identify with any of the reasons why so many believers in the West are unchurching… why so many struggle to fit in a traditional, institution church setting.

Many of those who are “unchurching” state the contemporary, institutional church is a man-made construct and therefore is irrelevant. There are other reasons these believers give for unchurching, but if you will permit me, I want to tackle the issue of why some believers say they no longer need a traditional church after their formative years.  Let’s look at the beginning phase of our spiritual journey to see how it might affect our perception of a church community today.

Your First Family-Church Model – Winning People to Christ.

This is like our biological family. A man and a woman (pastor and board) enter a marriage covenant (church bylaws) so they can bring children (new believers) into the world, in a safe, structured environment. The father and mother are the preeminent authority in the house (church). They are responsible to protect, provide, and train their children for least 18 years. When we are children (immature believers) we are completely dependent on the adults who provide us with a house, a bed, a bathroom, cloths, food, water, electricity etc. Since these new believers are vulnerable to deception and abuse, it is important that they submit to their parent’s loving authority. Accountability to this authority is needed during their formative years. Here are some things they will experience in this environment:

  • Regular Meals and Shelter.
  • Authority and Order.
  • Right and Wrong.
  • Discipline and Punishment.
  • Protection (covering) until They are Adults.
  • Their First Community Culture.
  • Their First House.

When people become part of an existing family (church) as adults (mature believers) the dynamics are much different. Accommodating these “adopted grown-up believers” can sometimes be a wearisome challenge for leadership.

For the millions of believers who are “unchurching”, they often express the same kind of disillusionments and disagreements that an emerging young adult experiences with their parents and siblings at home.

Is This About Cross-Less Christians?

Critics of “unchurching believers” say those leaving church think they are too mature to stay home, but are actually too immature to lay their lives down to help around the house or start their own family. Could these “dones” be unhappy because they feel it is all about them? Are their criticisms simply a case of “Moses and Cross-less Believers”? I once heard of a survey of 1000 pastors and churches that asked; “What is the purpose of the church”? 91% of the pastors stated; “the purpose of the church was to win the lost”. Not surprisingly, 89% of the people in those congregations said, “the purpose of the church was to meet the needs of me and my family”. As you can see, leadership and their congregations often don’t see eye to eye. One leader responded to criticisms of his church by saying; “We may be doing Church wrong, but I think God likes the way we are doing it wrong better than the way you are not doing it all”Unchurching

Is this a case of believers who carry a cross and follow Jesus and those who don’t? In Matthew 16:24-26 Jesus said we each need to deny ourselves, take up “our” cross and follow Him.

Maybe It’s Not About Carry A Cross, But About Gifting

Some believer’s dissatisfaction with church might be connected to the fact that they no longer appreciate the dominate gifting of (dad) the lead minister. For example; if you were raised by an evangelistic pastor, you may now be drawn to a teaching pastor, or vice versa. If we reluctantly stay at home, conflict may arise as we may unknowingly try to create our leader according to our preferences. This is when we attempt to “Create Our Leaders in Our Image”.

Just what is the dominate gifting of the leaders at your church? According to Acts 2:42-47, there are 5 purposes of the Church. Rick Warren wrote about the five purposes of a church in “The Purpose Driven Church”. Your leader and your church may have one of those purposes driving their identity and mission. Some large churches try to be and do all five.

I will leave you with this diagram to look over and to ponder; Is there one aspect of the 5 purposes of the Church that has influenced your decision to stay or leave? Is the group you are a part of now doing one or more of these purposes? Does one of these purposes reignite your passion for the ministry of Jesus?Purposes of the Church

 

 

 

 

12 Reasons Why “Mature” Believers No Longer Go to Church

12-bWhat in the world is going on with believers who no longer go to church? The easy answer is they are backslidden and selfishly living for themselves instead of for Christ. But could there be other reasons? Some researchers speculate that as many as 20 to 30 million believers no longer attend church regularly. There is a rising consensus that the Church may be going through a reformation in the way we do church in America. They are less certain as to what this change will look like in the years to come. After 30 years of ministry I have noticed that many formerly active, “mature” Christians are no longer involved in a local church. I recognize “mature” may be a misleading term, but I am referring to those who were once highly involved, in love with Jesus believers. Some of these believers are some of the finest Christians I know. They just don’t go to a traditional church anymore.

To start, Jesus Himself said, that a certain percentage of people would drop out because of tribulation, persecution, and the deceitfulness of riches. Some believers evidently had the wrong idea that the Christian life was supposed to be easier. I am also not referring to the 12 Reasons Why Millennials Have Dropped Out of Church after High School or College. Nor is this about the people who left the Church because someone hurt their feelings, the music was too loud or they didn’t like the pastor’s wife. Something much deeper is going on. This is a conversation I hope others will add to. Why have “mature” believers stopped being part of a church community? See if any of these reasons resonates with you.

1. They Outgrow Their Childhood Fear of God (Judgement). They no longer are afraid ofphoto1 the “boogie-man” of the fear of God’s judgment. As adults, they have outgrown the fear of being sent to hell for not attending church services or prayer meetings, paying their tithes, or being involved in their local church programs. Some believers were so driven by the fear of man or the fear of God that they only attended church out of obligation instead of love. They also no longer fear the warning from Jesus about being spit out of His mouth for being lukewarm because they see so many other believers who still love God without church involvement (Revelations 3:16). Once they realized that God loves and accepts them regardless of their performance, they see no reason to submit to church life and the control they felt while attending. Some of this reaction may be a legitimate response to controlling leadership. For more on this read “23 Ways Leadership Dominates Their People”.

2. They No Longer See the Need for a Spiritual Parent. They no longer feel the need for parent-left_child-right_yellow-background-svg1someone to tell them what to do. When they were children or new believers they were dependent on an adult, or a leader to teach them everything about life and the Bible. Spiritual leaders tell the young or new converts the difference between right and wrong, good and evil, the clean and unclean. This is all new information to the new believer or developing child. There is a great reliance on somebody else’s spiritual life until they develop their own. This explains why most growing churches are full of young people and new converts. As Christians get older they may begin to resent the unspoken expectations to conform to the group. Even though you may have loved your parents and home life, the desire for independence causes many to leave the environment that raised them. Sometimes we are looking for a different kind of leader than the one the Lord used to help us in the beginning of our walk. For more on this see “UnChurchingThe Modern Church Dilemma”.

3. They Feel Institutional Church can be Wasteful and Contrived. Although most believers are aware of the biblical admonition to “not forsake assembling together”, many feel the Sunday morning assembly no longer resembles what the scriptures intended. For some, the idea of creating a corporation and calling it a church seems foreign to the Bible. As time passes, some older believers start to question the church they are a part of, and imagine a church of their preferences. They may begin to ask if all money spent at church is worth the effort. They see buildings that are not fully used. They see the cost of advertising, the staff and man-hours and energy needed to produce the Sunday program, and wonder if they are truly impacting the community. Furthermore, with only 4% of the population with a biblical world view, one wonders how we’ve lost a generation using all these state of the art facilities, satellites, TV and Radio shows, sound systems, video projectors, fog machines, and lighting systems. 

Some start to recognize that even though there is plenty of activities in churches, the relationships can be superficial. After a while it can all feel forced and unnatural. What extoireviewfinal21started out with inspiration can become a ministry machine that wants to be fed. They feel it is more of a business than an actual family of believers. It is important to remember, we often don’t express these concerns about how much money and man-hours it costs to run our schools, our police and fire departments, our hospitals, and businesses. Are those endeavors any less important than the mission of the Church?

Yet church can sometimes feel like everyone is there to build the leader’s “kingdom”… in Jesus name. God led Israel into Egypt to be a place of provision, but it later became a place of slavery. Some have noted that their early church experience was a beautiful “mothering” place, but later it became a bothersome “smothering” place. Some kingdom-minded believers even go as far as to say the current church model is detrimental to authentic Christian living. Today this aversion to “institutional church” is so pronounced, that the first thing believers often say when getting together with other believers, is to say this gathering is emphatically not a church.

4.They are Embarrassed of Their Past Service or Their Present Sin. Some believers upon reflecting upon the way they lived their Christian life may have realized they were judgmental of other believers, because they were too performance driven and hard on themselves and others. They may have been unaware that their great commitment to the work of God, was because they had an angry image of God and an inner need to gain His approval. Some of the most faithful church workers over the last 20 years no longer serve in the local church because they are ashamed of the way they scolded other believers for not being more involved at church. Now that they have run out of energy themselves, they have discovered that their zeal for God was more about a personal quest for validation than following the leading of the Holy Spirit. Just as we are embarrassed at old pictures of us wearing outdated cloths, we wonder why nobody told us we were wearing unfashionable motives, attitudes, and actions at church.Portrait of upset man covering his face with hand isolated on a

Perhaps nothing embarrasses us and humbles us more than finding ourselves involved in a sin, especially for veteran believers. Countless faithful Christians who taught Sunday School classes, small groups, went on mission trips or who were in some level of leadership, have found themselves in all kinds of sinful situations. This makes them feel even more ashamed because they confidently taught the Bible to others. The performance based relationship that drives most believers in their early years also leaves them vulnerable to sin. The same flesh that drives us to perform for approval is the same flesh that wants to satisfy other appetites as well. Sadly, their immature relationship with the Lord that allowed them to stumble into sin also clouds their vision to see how to go deeper to correctly apply God’s grace to their current situation. The enemy robs them of the opportunity to turn their mess into a message about Christ’s faithfulness that could help others.

5. They are Dealing with Their Inner-life Stuff. Many “mature” believers find themselves wrestling with the mid-life crisis, finding their identity after the kids leave home, career changes, dormant illicit sexual desires, divorce, covetousness, uncontrollable need to people please, financial problems etc. The universal “father wound” which produces a performance-based identity inevitably wears us out. Believers are simply worn out from navigating the minefield of interpersonal relationship conflicts at home, church, or work. These conflicts magnify unconscious painful childhood inner-life1memories and dysfunction. This stuff all comes to surface as you get older. We simply run out of energy trying to pretend everything is all right through our external activities. We are no longer capable of holding down the proverbial “beach ball” of our dysfunction under the water. Sunday morning sermons designed for the seekers seem insufficient to address the inner life issues percolating from within. Many slip away into isolation because they don’t think their church has any answers to what they are experiencing. The enemy lies to these believers by suggesting there is something wrong or different about them… that they just don’t have what it takes to live the Christian life. These issues should change our focus from church programs and draw us closer to Christ’s person. What they don’t realize is that they are just like everyone else. They need to allow the life of Christ to go deeper. They also need to go deeper in their relationship with others. This is the worst time to not be part of a healthy community.

6. They Don’t Have a Biblical World View. This may beworldview2 the biggest misunderstanding of disconnected believers today. American believers have an individualistic, independent mindset that comes from our high value of privatized, individual rights in our western democracy. But this is a foreign concept to the Bible. There are over 30 “one another” commands in Scriptures that can only be obeyed if we part of a community of believers. They forget that right believing and behaving includes right belonging as well. Knowing God, being discipled, learning spirituality, finding your Christian vocation, all occur in community, for the purpose of the community. There is really no such thing as Jesus being your “personal” Savior. He is your Savior because He has adopted you and brought you into the Family of God, into the Body of Christ. Jesus isn’t coming back for a harem, He’s coming for a Bride. We get the personal benefits only because we are part of the whole. That’s why a kidney, a liver or lungs will die outside the body. Disconnecting from His Body often disconnects us from Him, Who is the Head. Jesus is one with His Body. What kind of community we belong to is another discussion. Remembering the 7 Fundamental Disciplines of a Disciple of Jesus will help us know what to do next. 

7. They are Confused About the Grace Message. The last 20 years has produced a tidal wave of grace teaching. This teaching emphasis affects just about every sermon, worship song, Radio and TV program and Church name in the West. The Gospel of Grace has GraceWood[1].jpgrevealed just how much God really does loves us. It reminds us that the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus has done away with three things central to the Old Covenant; The need for a sacrifice (Jesus is our sacrifice), the need for a temple (we are the temple of God) and the need for a priest or mediator to God (Jesus is our High Priest). This has removed the “have to” of church attendance for many. This leaves some believers questioning the need or purpose of organized church other than teaching new believers or children during their formative years. For more on the topic of the Grace Message you may want to read; “In The Year 2023 – The Gospel of Grace Meets the Gospel of Repentance”.

8. They Already Receive from 3-5 Ministers a Week. Gone are the days when you and your family went to one of the few churches in your town. Back when there were only the-preachers1three channels on TV and no internet or cell phones, the activities at your local church was sufficient to get your attention and attendance. Today the typical believer receives from between 3 and 5 of their favorite ministers or Bible teachers through TV, Radio, and Social Media. All this head knowledge leaves many believers, especially those who are struggle with interpersonal relationships, eager to avoid the whole church community scene.

9. They are Confused by New Doctrines. Sitting in a church service designed for the unsaved or new believers year after year can result in older believers’ attention drifting because of the predictable routine of the ministry machine. For those whose hearts don’t grow cold, a search for answers for life’s deeper questions will ensue. If their church doesn’t have mature leaders or small groups who can address their questions, they will inevitably look elsewhere. They may listen to different ministers or read different authors from different theological camps from their denomination or tribe. This can be exhilarating as well as disconcerting as they wonder why their “first teachers” didn’t bring this information up in the first place. Admittedly our first parental, spiritual leaders are more focused on giving us “roots” by rehearsing foundational doctrines, than they are with giving us “wings” to understand broader theological and philosophical issues. Like when our children go off to college and have professors tell them they have been brainwashed by ignorant parents, these believers can doubt everything they were taught if they read these new things without discernment.doctrines

This phase of Christian life is vital to moving onto personal maturity but it is also fraught with many dangers. Chief among them is the original demonic assault on the mind of Man in the garden. This is where Satan strategically attacked Adam and Eve by posing his deadly question; “Did God really say…”? This resulted in them disobeying God and eating from the Tree of “Knowledge” resulting in death. Today the believer is confronted with all kinds of “knowledge” questions concerning the infallibility of Scripture, the conflict between the Jesus of the New Testament and the God of the Old Testament, theories of the atonement, eschatology, and the eternal state of the soul. In this valley of decision many believers succumb to the wolves in the valley and fall away from a vital Christian community simply because the enemy has successfully sowed the seeds of doubt about almost everything God has said in Scripture. This is similar to the way Solomon drifted away from the Lord, because of the seduction of so many religious points of view from his many lovers. The only solution for them is to crucify the flesh at the “place of the skull” like Jesus, and have a fresh encounter with Holy Spirit, Who is our Teacher. In 1 John 1:7 the Words states, If we walk in the light as He is in the light we will have fellowship with one another. Our connection to a group of believers makes it pretty clear whether or not  we are walking in knowledge or walking in His light.

10. They Struggle Getting along with People Without a “Leader” Around. Now that some believers have broken away from their church, they find it difficult to fit in any where else. There is a lot of talk from believers who are critical of the institutional church wanting authentic relationships, but the evidence seems to contradict them, because when they disengage from the ministry machine they criticize, they often wander into isolation instead of deeper fellowship. Those who have disconnected from a traditional church community may be unaware their current isolation could be connected to their relational immaturity. When believers are in the institutional church model there is a kind of “forced” unity, like peopleyou had when you were a kid growing up in your parent’s home. In other words, because everyone in the house or community is submitting to a ministry leader (the parent) it appears as if everyone is getting along, at least externally during the 90 minutes of the church service.

But what happens when millions of believers feel they have outgrown church and stop being part of a Christian community, where there is no recognized headship, no rank or order? For many believers they find they don’t have the conflict resolutions skills or the grace to get along with different personalities and maturity levels in other people. They take for granite how much their spiritual parents kept so many different people together in one house without killing each other. Here is where the isolated believer often realizes they don’t yet possess the mature love, grace, and wisdom of Christ that leaders do. Could it be that we humans need a parent, a pastor, a teacher, a coach, a drill sergeant, or a boss to facilitate functional communities? 

11. They Don’t “Feel” God Anymore. Some believers say they just don’t “feel” God like they used to at church. No one seems to know if this is because God has lifted His manifest glory off their church or our nation from the high-water mark of the Jesus Movement of the seventies, or if it is just due to the fact these believers are growing lukewarm. Could it be similar to loosing the feelings of wonderment of Christmas when we were children? Feel GodWhile some Christians feel led to stay at a traditional church and help raise the other new converts within church’s programs, many believers leave that housework to others to pursue their purpose outside the church. Believers who once idolized their church, their pastor or ministry leader now find themselves finding all kinds of faults or “issues” with them. Psychologist note that when children find fault or discover their parents are human, it is an indicator that they moving onto maturity. But where do these believers go? Another traditional church often isn’t the answer, for most are doing the same things. It appears as if millions of Christians feel they are too mature to stay home but too immature to begin parenting themselves. This in-between place leaves them disconnected. Will churchless Christians take the next step into maturity and lead a community of believers themselves, or will they retreat to their room to play with their “toys”?

12. They Are Looking for Something Different. There are some who believe all this decline in church attendance is simply what they interpret as the “great falling away”. They reason, it’s millions of Americans Christians incrementally compromising with this sinful culture that has produced these results. Yet some of these churchless believers have not lost their fire for Jesus, and may be looking for something different. Not all believers who have stopped attending traditional church are lukewarm or backslidden. This disconnect maybe more than youthful idealism that cynically finds fault with everything they see in traditional church. For some, there is a longing for something more than the Americanized, entrepreneurial, consumer friendly church model we have today. Some say they are yearning for something authentic. A ministry leader friend of mine shared his thoughts like this. and-now-for-something-completely-different-300x3001While we are incapable of giving the complete picture of what The Church looks like in its valid existence and operation, we can identify some points of clarity of returning to the original design by Jesus. Less is more. Jesus influenced the 12 to change the world… He threw seed to the crowd. He ministered at all levels, but more intently to the few. What does that say about our approach to ministry when it all seems to be about what we can do to get more people and tithes and staff and buildings… not that any of that (staff and buildings and large congregations) are bad in and of itself”.  

What percentage of these churchless believers are looking for the “less is more” model? I would like to know. Some could be looking for a city (a church expression) whose builder and maker is God (Hebrews 11:10). Perhaps they are looking to be part of the Kingdom of God emerging in-between the ministry houses where they live. The rise of house churches in America could be an indicator of how many believers have a problem with submitting to leadership. It could also be an indicator of some wanting to go deeper in their specific gifting or mission. In China, the world’s largest church (120 million believers), 90 percent is based in homes. Christians in many provinces are hunted down and tortured, yet true believers continue to risk all to be part of a faith community. It appears as if the original Church model of Acts 2 is alive and well

Some believe we should return to the sacramental and liturgical aspects of ceremonial worship; reminiscence of the counter culture the Church offered during the 2nd through 5th centuries. Others refer to “The Benedict Option” which is a call to create monastic communities in order to detox from the world and the compromising church. Along with the disciplines of spiritual formation, they hope this will restore a sense of normality and continuity that will carry us and our children into the next generation. Others think we should simply model the 24-7, irreligious lifestyle of Jesus. These believers report they are finding a more fulfilling Christian life, through their close knit relationships on their Soccer Teams or at Starbucks than they do at the institutional church. 

Regardless which way you choose, I continue to believe every believer lives their best life when they are involved in a community of believers, regardless of what shape that community looks like. Whatever new thing is emerging from God, I want to be part of it. I pray you will find your place in a body believers for your benefit and theirs…as well as for the world and for the glory of God. Peace.

P.S. For a recent scientific study on this subject you may want to read “Church Refugees” by Josh Packard, PH.D. Also you may want to read “Unchurching” by Richard Jacobson

3 Difficulties of Being From the Future

Future


 “I have declared the former things from the beginning; they went forth from My mouth, and I caused them to hear it. Suddenly I did them, and they came to pass. Isaiah 48:3

Perhaps every human has some desire or capacity to see something come to pass that doesn’t exist now. It could be a better toaster, a safer car, a better curriculum, a better relationship, a new medicine, a better fuel or smarter cell phone. Maybe because we are created in the image of the Creator-God we can’t help but see things as they should be and try to bring them to pass through our God-given creativity and ingenuity.

This is even truer for Christians who have been reunited with the Creator through Jesus Christ. As the years pass we will see different needs around us that need filling. Over time we may recognize we have a unique way in presenting Christ and His kingdom to meet those needs. I mention in Roadkill Seminary we discover we all have “the message” (the Gospel) to tell the world, but we also have “a message” (our testimony) to tell the world as well. I think we all have a heavenly “FEDEX” package we are called to deliver, incrementally, throughout our time here on earth. We each possess a particular aspect of the “Word” that is becoming flesh in us, and we are the delivery system.

Our gifting motivation may be that of a giver, a server, a teacher, a facilitator, or a mercy person. Our dominate role may be that of a pastor, an evangelist, a homemaker, an attorney or a plumber, but something deeper is being exchanged. Some heavenly substance or DNA is mysteriously being transferred from God’s realm through the “modem” of our being into this realm. This is what makes “Thy kingdom come here on earth as it is in heaven” an emerging reality.

The Way We Think God is Using Us and the Way He is Actually Using Us

Through the benefit of hindsight we can recognize how the Lord is using us more than we used to. Our interpretation of what we were supposed to do for God can be shortsighted. We grow in our understanding of what kind of instrument we are in His tool belt; as well as understanding when He is taking us out of His toolbox to use us and when He wants us to stay quietly in place. God’s patience is immeasurable.

One Aspect of Prophetic Ministry is Seeing Part of the Future

I say all that because my FedEx package from heaven has a prophetic aspect to it. The Lord showed me over 35 years ago, albeit through a glass darkly and a slow mind, what has been gradually transpiring over those years. This is a burning message that I cannot shake or suppress, no matter what I have tried. Similar to the calling of John the Baptists, I have desire to see God’s people overcome every mountain of opposition and every valley of excuse, to make straight the way of the Lord in our generation…to see believers “grow up” into the Lord’s Prayer in John 17. Seeing believers mature beyond denominational loyalty and move toward oneness (not sameness) in our communities is what I saw so many years ago. Although we are not there yet, I could go on and on for hours about how things have changed over the years. The conversation and connectivity around the Kingdom of God has never been so widespread and fruitful. It is happening as you read this. It may not be as big or visible as we would like, but God’s best works are often done in a way where believing is seeing.

How about you? Do you see something from the future that God wants to do or is doing? But like you I’m sure the thing you are contending for has at times created certain barriers or burdens in your life. Here are few difficulties of being from the future that you may wrestle with.

#1 – You See Dead People

One of the burdens of being from the future is that most of the people you and I are sent to speak to seem dead to what we are talking about. They don’t know where we are coming from and why we are coming from there in the first place. This is especially true of the time we are living in. There is much slowness of heart and dullness of spirit in our nation today. Many once fired-up believers have wander from the way of life and have settled for “dead” knowledge. Proverbs 21:16 says it like this; A man who wanders from the way of understanding will rest in the congregation of the dead. Yes, there are a lot of dead congregations out there.

Dead peopleWhen Isaiah saw the Lord on the throne and received his great call into ministry he was also sent to a “zombie” nation… Israel. God told him; “Go, and tell this people: ‘Keep on hearing, but do not understand; keep on seeing, but do not perceive.’ “Make the heart of this people dull, and their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and return and be healed.” Isaiah 6:9, 10. Sometimes we are called to speak things to people who will not receive us nor our message. Our ministry may be more about our testimony being read back to certain people in heaven’s courtroom on judgement day. The good news is, what you are I are facing today is nothing new to God or humankind. Our task is to faithfully convey what we see from the future leaving the results to God.

#2 – You Can Feel Alone

Even though John 17, 1 Corinthians 2, Ephesians 4,  and other Scriptures clearly state the Lord’s intention for unity, I have had leaders in Body of Christ tell me for over 35 years, “it will never happen”. Being from the future can give you the sense of being alone on your mission from God. It’s not actually true, but like Elijah in 1 Kings 19:10, we can Alonefeel like we are the only ones standing in the gap between the way things are and the way they should be. In one sense being alone is what is called for in certain circumstances. After all, if you are a plumber on a house call, I don’t think you would be sad by the fact there aren’t more plumbers at the house. That would be bad for business. I guess what I am trying to convey is that some of what we are called to do requires are aloneness because of the unique way in which God has made us for a particular situation and time. It takes a while for us to realize this, but sometimes we may have something from heaven that not everyone else in the room has. We may feel alone in our specific situation, but just like Elijah we need to remember there are 7000 who haven’t bowed their knee to Baal throughout our community. We should always remember that we are not ‘the” part of what God is doing, we are “a” part of what He is doing.

#3 – It’s Difficult Challenging the Status Quo

One of the more frustrating burdens of being from the future is communicating what we see is really coming to the world or the Body of Christ. (An example of this can be found in what I saw In The Year 2023). For example, one of the things from the future I have seen is the reality of Jerusalem Cities and Antioch Cities, where the Body of Christ in our America cities are recognized more by its geography than the individual signs over our buildings. Where the Church, in one accord, works together with apostolic, prophetic, evangelistic, pastoral and teaching ministries in a given geographic region. (For more insight into this see God’s Ministry Assembly Line or the Top Ten Reasons We Should be Working Together). I see Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done here on earth as a prevailing reality, not just some cute Sunday school memory verse.

Status quo 3In the past, when I spoke about becoming the people Jesus prayed we would be I would get looks from believers and especially leaders, as if I was speaking an ancient dialect they have never heard of. They often looked like they were saying; “Why aren’t you helping me build my church/kingdom instead of this nebulous talk about Christ’s kingdom”? To help believers understand this contemporary blindness I wrote the Epistle to the Church of Sanford to help Christians in my city see what the Apostle Paul would say to us if he showed up in town today.

I think we are experiencing the same thing Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. felt in Mississippi in the 1960s, when he said that change was coming to America. He was telling people about a dream he had that one day blacks will be accepted in every walk of life and one day there could even be a black president of the United States. The prevailing culture of his day thought he sounded crazy, someone who was out of touch with reality. But thank God Dr. King was from the future and in touch with a greater reality.

If you and I are following the Lord’s call on our life, we will inevitably be bringing things from heaven, things from the future that this world hasn’t seen or experienced yet. That is why serving God always has a sense of newness about it; because it’s a flowing river of new life from Him that hasn’t been here yet. This is why His mercies are new every morning. Let’s encourage one another to keep saying what we are seeing in the future.

For I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like Me, Declaring the end from the beginning, And from ancient times things that are not yet done, Isaiah 46:9, 10

This is Where God Speaks to You about Everything

And there I will meet with you, and I will speak with you from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim which are on the ark of the Testimony, about everything which I will give you in commandment to the children of Israel. Exodus 25:16-22; 37:7

CaptureWith over 800 verses dealing with the Tabernacle, and the Bible declaring it was modeled after the one in heaven, I think we can conclude that God is trying to communicate something important to us. In fact, I believe this is where the believer can enter the “sweet spot” of Christianity; that is if they are willing. It is here, in this place, where we will find the answers about life. As one of the most overlooked roadmaps in the Bible, our book The Inner Journey helps believers understand the 3 stages of spiritual growth described in the Tabernacle. This journey leads to a place the Lord is beckoning all of us to reach. Today this “meeting place” takes place inside our soul, in the Spirit. Everything that touches our lives presents an opportunity for us to access this holy place. Be encouraged, over time, God will come into focus. This is the place where God communicates with us, here on earth…about everything!

In summary, in the third level of spiritual growth we see the Ark of the Covenant or box containing the Ten Commandments of God, where He “lays down the Law”, even writing them in stone. Here sin is judged by a sin-hating God. Yet on top of the Ark of the Covenant we see the Mercy Seat and two cherubim, the merciful side of God. Covering the Mercy Seat we see something red and astounding. We see blood all over the place, but not just the blood of bulls and sheep. This is in reality, Jesus’ blood. Jesus presented His blood in the temple in heaven at His ascension in Hebrews 9:24.

Notice that God doesn’t do away with the Law written on stone tablets. He doesn’t explain away and remove or diminish the parts of the Bible like some in the liberal side of the Church tend to do. Also notice the mercy and forgiveness He offers us through His shed blood. He doesn’t categorize certain sins as unforgiveable as some in the conservative side of the Church tend to do.Ark

The In-Between Place

Furthermore we see God speaking to us from above (the box) the Law and the Mercy seat, from between the two gold cherubim. These guarding cherubim protect the parameters of the conversation. These two cherubim were hammered out of one piece of gold so they would face each other and the Mercy Seat.  This shows us that God speaks to us about an issue when we are “hammering things out” face to face, over His throne of Law and Grace.

God speaks somewhere between and above Law and Mercy. We need to pay close attention here. . This is where our solutions will be found! Seeing Jesus shedding His blood, suspended between heaven and earth, gives us a picture of how expensive and precious this in-between place can be.

Not the Middle Ground

It is also important to note here, we are not talking about the “middle ground” but the “in-between” place. This isn’t about being a moderate. The Spirit of truth speaks to us within these Biblical parameters. Like playing a guitar, the music may require a different movements between the bridge and tuning keys. It may be necessary to lean to one side or the other periodically. This is where the binary thinking of unregenerate humans often miss potential solutions because they are looking for a black or white, either or scenario. Yet we serve a trinary God, Who speaks from the Law and Grace as well as from the in-between places.

ContrastTo help illustrate this we’ve included 24 Biblical contrasts found in the Scriptures. It seems in order for the Lord to communicate eternal spiritual truths from His dimension, He has to use parables or juxtapose contrasting examples to lead us to the in-between places where He speaks. This is where the Lord seeks to teach us to discern between the Good & Evil, the Holy & Unholy, the Clean & Unclean and the Right and Wrong. See Leviticus 10:10; Ezekiel 22:23-26; Hebrews 5:12-14.

24 Biblical Contrasts

  1. Tree of Knowledge & Tree of Life – Genesis 2:8-17; 3:1-24
  2. Cain & Abel – Genesis 4:1-15
  3. Abraham & Lot – Genesis 26:27-32; 12:1-9; 13:1-18; 14:1-24; 19:1-38
  4. Ishmael & Isaac – Genesis 16:1-15; 17:1-27; 18:1-15; 21:1-21
  5. Abraham & Isaac – Genesis 22:1-19
  6. Esau & Jacob – Genesis 25:20-34; 26:32-35; 27:1-46; 28:1-22
  7. Jacob & Israel – Genesis 32:1-32; 33:120
  8. Joseph & Brothers – Genesis 37-50
  9. Joshua/Caleb & 10 Spies – Numbers13:1-33; 14: 1-38
  10. Saul & David – 1 Samuel 1-8 – 2 Samuel 2
  11. Israel & Judah – 2 Samuel; 1 Kings – 2 Kings
  12. Righteousness & Justice – Psalm 89:14
  13. Mercy & Truth – Psalm 25:10; 61:7; 85:10; 86:15; 89:14; 100:5; Prov. 3:3; 16:6; 20:28
  14. Wise Builder & Foolish Builder – Matthew 7:24-27
  15. The Four Soils – Mark 4:1-20
  16. Five Wise Virgins & Five Foolish Virgins – Matthew 25:1-13
  17. Martha & Mary – Luke 10:38-42; John 11:1-44
  18. Prodigal Son & Older Brother – Luke 15:11-32
  19. Sheep & Goats – Matthew 25:31-46
  20. Moses & Jesus – John 1:17; Romans 2-8; Galatians 3; Hebrews 8:1-13; 10:1-4
  21. Barabbas & Jesus – Matthew 27:15-26
  22. Hagar & Sarah – Galatians 4:21-31
  23. Christ & Anti-Christ – 1 & 2 John
  24. Harlot & Bride of Christ – Revelation

The City Altar

Pray

The latest spiritual-sociological evidence reveals that the “community altar” (the place where people gather to offer themselves and their time and money) affects the spiritual atmosphere of a city or nation. It appears that whichever “altar” (God’s or the Demonic) is most active determines what kind of culture we will have (see The Sentinel Group for more information). In the ancient world people wouldn’t ask you “What god do you believe in, but rather which god do you actually sacrifice to?” (Also see “Prayer Altars” by John Mulinde and Mark Daniel). This makes us confessing Christians take inventory about what we are really giving ourselves to, doesn’t it?

When people here on earth spend or “sacrifice” to the over-sexualized, God-mocking music, concerts, television and movie industries, when they support political and corporate corruption, they are offering a piece of themselves upon the same unseen altars of ancient pagan deities. Unbeknownst to the typical American is that in spite of the lustful desires or greed they are trying to satisfy, they are also empowering unseen evil spirits to traffic in our dimension to suppress the truth of God’s loving goodness. This pollutes the atmosphere which results in people being less open to understanding the truth of the glorious Gospel of the Kingdom.

Pray 4Some may ask, “What’s the big deal about meeting together for prayer; doesn’t everybody do that on Sunday?” It’s true that some Christians meet every Sunday at their local church to pray. However the City Altar isn’t about prayer taking place within individual churches or ministries. It’s about the Body of Christ coming together in a community. Yet even as church attendance numbers have diminished in recent years something more critical has been occurring. More of the population is meeting together to offer themselves to ungodly activities in greater numbers with the full endorsement of educators and the media within the culture. The Lost are gathering together more, while the Body of Christ remains isolated from each other. The Church’s “business as usual” mindset is no longer sufficient to counter the darkening spiritual atmosphere and the growing militancy of those who reject God’s rule in their lives. We thought things have gotten bad, but who knows what evil “worm hole” is about to be opened.

Some have noted that the recent decrease in Church attendance could be a good thing. There may be a divine pruning away of those who have a superficial relationship with God. Perhaps God is mercifully removing the branches that are not bearing fruit so that the faithful remnant (the healthy stock) can receive more vine-life for the new fruit that’s about to take place.

The Biblical counterpart to our time may be similar to when Elijah confronted apostate Israel and the 450 prophets of Baal in 1 Kings 18:25. This spiritual showdown at the “OK Corral” may be upon us again. Sadly when Elijah asked the people of God “How long will you falter between two opinions. If the LORD is God follow Him; but if Baal follow him”? The people answered him “not a word”. Wow! Never has silence spoken so loudly. It appears that the people of God seemed to need exposure to some kind of supernatural phenomenon to break them out of their spiritual stupor and the cultural stalemate. Evidently this paralizing silence is once again present among the people of God today. Some even suggest God is using the boldness and fearlessness (or vulgarity) of an ungodly Donald Trump as a “Trumpet Call” for the cowering Church to speak up against the political correctness currently silencing the people of God.

pray 5

So Why Aren’t Believers Meeting Together at the City Altar?

  1. They don’t believe that their prayers will make a difference. Most won’t admit it but they don’t really believe prayer can make a difference with such entrenched generational problems. We have been trying to fix the problems for so long in the natural that we lost sight of the supernatural ability of God. This reveals why community revival tarries, because its starts with individuals experiencing it for themselves.
  2. They don’t know how to relate to or trust the convening leaders of the City Altar. Many believers have been taught to only recognize the leaders in their “home” ministry. They have difficulty recognizing God’s leaders in the community that are not from their network or denomination.
  3. Sometimes these kinds of prayer meetings are well-meaning but narrowly-focused. Some leaders who try to facilitate city-prayer meetings unknowingly “push” their way or style of doing prayer meetings. Instead of something that integrates the Body of Christ, it becomes an extension of their own church service.
  4. Their eschatology prohibits them from believing and working towards the betterment of their city or nation. Some believe the Bible teaches society has to get worse before Jesus comes back; therefore any effort to make things better would be contradicting the Scriptures. Others teach the Lord will not return for generations and therefore lack the sense of urgency needed to overcome their uncomfortableness with working with believers from other tribes.
  5. They are simply tired from the grind of trying to make a living. Many believers are stuck in the trap of making “bricks for Pharaoh” and simply don’t believe God or His present day leaders can bring a solution to such long-standing problems. It’s not until they seek “first” the Kingdom of God that they will truly see God provide for them and free them from slavery to the world’s system.

So What Kind of Believers Attend a City Prayer Meeting?

  1. Believers who believe in the Supernatural. They recognize the futility of trying to put Christian morality on a society that isn’t Christian. They believe the contest between competing cultures is at a tipping point in history where the unbelieving and compromising believers must see evidence of a supernatural God if they are going to switch sides. They remember that every generation that experienced a move of God in history had a tangible spiritual component to it.
  2. Believers who are Spent. Those who have been around for a while. They’ve seen every program and hype offered by man. They themselves have run to and fro trying to make things happen in their strength; but now they are simply out of gas. Yet the one thing they do have is that they remember where to get the gas. They have returned to the filling station of the ancient paths of persistent, prevailing corporate prayer. According to Jesus, this kind of prayer is the proof of the kind of faith He will look for when He returns (see Luke 18:1-8).
  3. Believers who are Serious. This kind of prayer attracts spiritual opposition of the highest order. This is more than praying about the success of an individual church or ministry. This prayer is about birthing movements in a region. This is about transforming cities and even nations through diligent intercession whereby the power of God comes to bring a spiritual paradigm shift to the region.
  4. Believers who are Sacrificial. There is a great inconvenience to this kind of prayer, especially for community leaders. It takes them away from pursuing success for their organization or ministry. Yet prayer meetings like this is how we prove that we no longer are relying on business as usual as we join other believers in our community to stand in the gap between the Lord and cultural apostasy.
  5. Believers who are Sensible. They recognize that sometimes people unknowingly use prayer meetings to mask unbelief and inactivity. That’s why believers who come to the City Altar recognize they need to live out what they are praying in practical, every day life.

Pray 2There may be prayer gatherings like this already taking place in your community. Believers from different denominations having Bible studies and prayer meetings are increasing in number across the country. Some estimate that the exodus from traditional churches has created over 225,000 home churches in America. We believe that these individual groups will increasingly find themselves discerning the “unity of the Spirit” and uniting with other groups as they all gravitate towards their City Altar before the next soul-saving cloud of God rains down on us.

Something special is percolating within the underground Church in America. Black, brown and white believers from every denomination are praying together with greater fervency. Perhaps you are becoming the kind of believer who desires to pray at the City Prayer Altar in your city. You may even be someone from one of the tribes of God’s holy nation called to rebuild your community altar.

Then Elijah said to all the people, “Come here to me.” They came to him, and he repaired the altar of the Lord, which had been torn down. Elijah took twelve stones, one for each of the tribes descended from Jacob, to whom the word of the Lord had come…With the stones he built an altar in the name of the Lord. 1 Kings 18:30, 31

Who’s Right About The End Times? 10 Reasons Why They Are Convinced

EndtimesA common debate among Christians is how the end times will work themselves out before Jesus returns. There are compelling reasons why some Christians cling to their particular end-time world view. I’ve highlighted some of the key points that resonate with them. I suppose it is predictable that believers can look at the same Scriptures and come away with different interpretations. Witnesses often can’t describe the same car accident to authorities. Some say Bible prophecy isn’t important. Yet with almost a quarter of the Bible dealing with prophecies this is something God definitely wanted us to study. There are many points of view on this subject, and how you and I interpret these Scriptures affects how we will view many other scriptures. While some groups are content that God will work things out in His timing, there are two groups that seem to disagree the most. I have generalized (even over-simplified) these two points of view for those who are new to the discussion. I give some suggested reading at the end of the article as well.*

So let’s look at two belief systems that often clash with each other. The Premillennial/Futurist view refers to the millennial reign of Christ that takes place in the future after a great tribulation (Christ’s kingdom comes in the future). The Postmillennial/Preterist view states the reign of Christ has begun and the apocalyptic events of the last days of the Old Covenant were experienced in Jerusalem in 70 A.D (Christ’s kingdom is here now).

Here are some reasons why their followers can look at the same Scriptures but come away with a different End Time point of view…

  1.  THEY BOTH BELIEVE BIBLICAL PATTERNS AND CONTEXT IS VITAL

Premillennial / Futurist View They follow the Biblical pattern of fulfilled prophecy which had a partial immediate fulfillment yet will have a secondary ultimate fulfillment centuries later.

Postmillennial / Preterist View They follow the Biblical pattern of fulfilled prophecy. Jesus was speaking only to His generation. Historical records back it up.

  1.  THEY BOTH BELIEVE THEIR VIEW IS A SIMPLE NARRATIVE TO FOLLOW

Premillennial / Futurist View They believe the world gets worse, the Church gets persecuted more, and then Jesus comes back.

Postmillennial / Preterist View They believe the Church advances the Gospel to all nations more, and then Jesus comes back.

  1.  THEY BOTH ARE COMFORTED SEEING THE SCRIPTURES CONFIRMED TODAY

Premillennial / Futurist View They are comforted knowing the Bible is validated by so many prophetic current events happening right in front of them in the News.

Postmillennial / Preterist View They are comforted knowing the Bible is validated despite the sensationalism of the News; the actual data shows the Church is advancing.

  1.  THEY BOTH BELIEVE THE OTHER GUYS ONLY LISTEN TO ONE SIDE OF THE STORY

Premillennial / Futurist View They see the other guys as pie-in-the-sky idealists refusing to acknowledge the bad news.

Postmillennial / Preterist View They see the other guys as insecure, fear-based humans only acknowledging the bad news.

  1.  THEY BOTH BELIEVE THE OTHER GUYS CAN LOOK BAD

Premillennial / Futurist View The other guys sound like Israel refusing to listen to their prophets’ warning about impending doom by discounting the signs as silly or impossible.

Postmillennial / Preterist View The other guys have predicted the end of the world in every generation for the last two thousand years without ever acknowledging their errors.

  1.  THEY BOTH BELIEVE THEIR VIEW IS A MOTIVATION FOR MINISTRY

Premillennial / Futurist View The sense of the time being short and imminent judgment motivates believers to repent and spread the Gospel with missionary zeal.

Postmillennial / Preterist View The sense of destiny to take the nations with the Gospel motivates believers to take dominion in every sphere of life with missionary zeal.

  1.  THEY BOTH BELIEVE THEIR VIEW TAKES FAITH FOR WHAT’S COMING

Premillennial / Futurist View They believe we need to prepare the Church for the terrible times about to take place on planet earth to test every believer.

Postmillennial / Preterist View They believe it doesn’t take faith to watch things get worse; things do that all by themselves. Advancing the Kingdom of God takes faith.

  1.  THEY BOTH USE THE NEWSPAPER TO INTERPRET THE BIBLE

Premillennial / Futurist View They use today’s New York Times to confirm their interpretation of the Bible.

Postmillennial and Preterist View They use the Jerusalem Times of 70 A.D. to confirm their interpretation of the Bible.

  1.  THEY BOTH BELIEVE THERE IS AN ANTICHRIST

Premillennial / Futurist View They believe an antichrist will appear in the last days, during a one world government to declare himself as God before Jesus comes to set up His kingdom for thousand years.

Postmillennial / Preterist View They believe John identified Nero Caesar as the antichrist who appeared in the last days of the Old Covenant and declared himself as God as Jesus set up His kingdom forever.

  1.  THEY BOTH BELIEVE IN A VICTORIOUS ESCHATOLOGY

Premillennial / Futurist View They believe that despite the Antichrist, the persecution and the Tribulation, Jesus returns and defeats all His enemies and wins in the end.

Postmillennial / Preterist View They believe that despite the antichrist spirit, the persecutions and the tribulations, Christ’s enemies are made His footstool and He wins in the end.

As you can see there are real reasons why different Christians believe what they believe. Is there be a place to meet in the middle or can there be a synthesis of the two points of view? I think there are strengths and weakness in both points of view. Let us loving work together to find common ground without demonizing the other guys. That way we will fulfill Ephesians 4 and “grow up into all things into Him who is the Head – Christ”.

*For those who were brought up listening to Hal Lindsey, Jack Van Impe, Tim Lahaye, Ed Hinson, Irwin Baxter, John Hagee, Grant Jeffery, or Perry Stone you may want to read some books from guys on the other side. Here are a few suggestions. You can start with a free online version of Raptureless by Jonathan Welton. Also The Last Days According to Jesus by R.C. Sproul, Victorious Eschatology by Harold Eberle and Martin Trench, Before Jerusalem Fell by Kenneth Gentry, Days of Vengeance by David Chilton, Unraveling the End by John Noe and Revelation for Everyone by N.T. Wright.

 

“The Weakest Link” in Becoming One Holy Catholic Apostolic Church

Link5After working with ministry leaders over the last 30 years I believe that we must address the “weakest link” in our efforts to see the prayer of Jesus for us becoming “One” in our communities. If the Gospel of the kingdom is to become a functional reality we need the courage to recognize and repair this weak link. It’s not the theological differences one might suspect that separate us. It’s something more difficult to recognize and deal with.

Before we get to the number one weakest link, let’s look at what some leading thinkers commonly consider are the top five. Stating with number 5…

Number #5 – Kingdom Ignorance

There is still considerable ignorance about the Gospel of the Kingdom in most Christian communities. Local pastors building their kingdom in Jesus’ name, still has a monopoly on how most of us do “church”. The Gospel of salvation rules most mindsets, yet Jesus preached and proclaimed the Gospel of the Kingdom everywhere He went. The Church tells people how to get a ticket to heaven but not much about how to live beyond church life in the very communities in which they live. The fact that most ministry organizations don’t teach their disciples how to work with the different parts of the Body of Christ is an indicator that they don’t understand how to live Kingdom life themselves. No wonder we haven’t shown the way. Many believers are still stuck in the grooves that their first teachers and their denominational networks emphasized. These tutors should have prepared believers for life in Christ’s Kingdom, but regrettably these organizations gave them hitching posts instead of guide posts.

Number #4 – Structural Idolatry

It is one thing to finally accept the Kingdom vision for the world as set forth by the Scriptures, but it is another thing to insist we should unite believers using the Old Catholic, Orthodox, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Baptist, Methodist, Anglican or Episcopalian ecclesiastical structures. The same holds true for the new breed of leaders in the New Apostolic Reformation who believe we need to go back further in history and use the original template of the first century. We must appreciate the old and the new. That way the wine and the wine skin are both preserved. Our seminaries and denominational networks have a vested interest in promoting “their” franchise and have done a poor job explaining how the other parts of the Body of Christ are to interact. That’s why I wrote “Working Together For Jesus”. The Kingdom of God is a work made without human hands; God is supernatural and we need discerning eyes to recognize how He is supernaturally weaving His tapestry together.

Number #3 – The “Anti-Denomination Denomination” Syndrome

Sadly, some of the most elitist, isolationistic, reclusive and independent believers and ministries are being led by “pastors”, “bishops”, “apostles” and “prophets” who claim they are uniting the “true” Body of Christ under the banner of the Kingdom of God. Many are unaware they are operating in the same sectarian spirit they criticize in traditional churches. This is known as “anointed self-deception” where we believe the part we have from God is “the” most important thing God is doing.Link An important litmus test to determine if you or your ministry is free from this deception is to ask; “Does your ministry and its leader(s) actively pursue and develop, year in and year out, relationships with other ministries and leaders in your community?”  I emphasize doing it “over time” because we have a Scriptural mandate that we can’t give a try and then give up on because it’s difficult. I emphasize “your” community because it’s easy to preach among your network but forsake the community where you live. Ironically we end up becoming an unhealthy ministry, a “tumor-ministry”. Remember, a tumor is a group of cells that grows unto itself without regard for the rest of the body. In fact it sucks the life out of the host Body causing death if left unchecked. Jesus said by our love for one another would we prove we are His disciples. Therefore the world needs to see our love for each other demonstrated in our community.

A friend reminded me that the very nature of apostolic and prophetic ministry to blaze new trails and expand the borders of the King’s domain into enemy territory requires a bold and a courageous disposition. These fearless pioneers don’t easily lend themselves to developing relationships between ministry settlers (pastors) among the people of God. Yet if these leaders don’t grow up and model these collaborative kingdom relationships, who will? We have to advance beyond platform rhetoric and be the change we want to see. The Body goes where the Head goes. It usually takes years and many broken relationships before these independent ministers realize they would do things differently if they could go back in time.

Number #2 – The “Heaven/Earth” Blindness Syndrome

Perhaps one of the most stunning blind spots we all struggle with is the inability to properly discern what the Scriptures teach us about the culture of heaven. Remember, this is essential because we are commanded to pray that earth be just like heaven. So just what is going on up there that we want down here? For starters we can stop jockeying for the head position in our communities because the “head” position is clearly filled by Jesus Himself. In heaven, everyone with a title or crown of achievement throws it at the feet of Jesus with their face on the ground. When was the last time you saw that spirit among leaders down here? In heaven, everyone is so grateful, so overwhelmed by the fact they are allowed to be in His presence; there is no envy or jealousy in anyone’s heart. Worship explodes from the redeemed; there is no critical commentary and sectarianism. Finally, we know Jesus rules His kingdom with clarity and perfect order. The confusion and disunity down here reveals many of our leaders are not truly receiving from heaven’s broadcast. Another similar excuse people give for not working together is the “untruth”… “We will never get along until Jesus comes back”. Well if that’s truth then why did Jesus tell us to pray “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done here on earth”? Are we suppose to obey the command or shrink back because it’s too expensive for us?

This leads us to the question…”What is the number one weakest link to one holy catholic apostolic church?” The Weakest Link is…

Number # 1 – The Psychology of Our Theology

The number one weakest link to becoming one holy catholic apostolic church is our spiritual and emotional immaturity. Yes it’s that simple. Like self-absorbed siblings who cannot seem to get along with one another we have need of maturity. Once we don’t get the attention or honor we think we deserve or our feelings get hurt, we usually take our ball and bat and go home; and the joining and connecting of the Body of Christ is often postponed, if not abandoned all together. We often unconsciously hide our immature selves behind the façade of commitment to sound doctrine or our critical appraisals of other believers. Instead of seeing kingdom transformation we are left with advancing a narrative that justifies entrenchment and the status quo. Each believer does their best to carry on doing their own thing, but the grace God releases through the “joints” (the parts that meet together) remains missing. Regrettably the Church remains disjointed and anemic. We often run back to our individual studies and redouble our efforts to explain our point of view. We write a new book, start a Bible School, create a new website, a blog, etc. When all that is needed is an apology, a humbler heart, a teachable spirit, a phone call and a sober recognition we truly need each other. In other words, more of us need to deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Christ.

I have seen it happen time after time. Misunderstanding and confusion over another leader’s gifting and level of maturity. One Christian leader offends another by some cultural insensitivity or a believer over-emphasizes some doctrinal position because their identity, their sense of significance or their income is tied up in its uniqueness. I was standing in the parking lot during one of our ministers meetings, when one apostolic leader said, “We are 40 years away from seeing the Church get it right”. He was referring to another leader in the meeting who was basically using his title, to control the people in His ministry, so no one would ever challenge his authority. I told him; “As long as we were having this discussion outside and not with him, he was right, it may take another 40 years; but why don’t we go talk to him right now?” He didn’t seem to want to engage in this kind of dialogue. The emotional and psychological minefield was apparently too scary for him to step into. It is difficult getting real and being real with other humans. And this illustrates why we are not addressing the weakest link.

It is expensive tackling these emotional issues. Just seeing Jesus suspended between heaven and earth speaks to the cost of reconciling two parties who are separated. But this is what we must do. All of our preaching; all of our conferences and seminars will fill our heads with information; but if we don’t deal with our inner heart issues we will be nothing more than a lot of intelligent people consistently coming to the wrong conclusions. Sadly, that sounds like Washington DC; doesn’t it? For those wanting the character and culture of heaven flowing through your life and ministry but have felt stuck where you are at, we wrote “Roadkill Seminary”, “The Inner Journey” and “Working Together For Jesus” just for you. You don’t have to wait 40 years to be the answer to the prayer Jesus prayed. Welcome to the Movement!

We Are Jesus Christ Regional Hospital

As believers from different camps continue to work together as never before, I find it helpful to use the following analogy whenever misunderstandings do arise. Sometimes we divide over our lack of understanding about how the Lord gifted us and our ministry houses. The Lord gave to the Church those with apostolic, prophetic, evangelistic, pastoral and teaching graces to bring the Body of Christ to health and maturity. We humans can be down on what we are not up on. In my book “Working Together for Jesus” I use the analogy of a hospital to help believers see Christ’s Kingdom in operation in their town. Just as in the natural realm we can see that each of the different ministries is necessary to heal the lost and hurting of our world. Follow me as we spend a day at Jesus Christ Regional Hospital in your local city.

General Practitioners – Pastors

Surrounding Jesus Christ Regional we see dozens of doctors’ offices and clinics (churches) where they attend to their patientsDoctor day in and day out. From infants to the elderly, these general practitioners (pastors) see everything under the sun. They are the true backbone of God’s health care system. They know every part of human anatomy and treat their patients with love and great concern year in and year out. They inspect their patients from head to toe looking for any sign of sickness. These G.P.’s are usually over-worked as they attempt to care for all their patients in their congregations. “How do you feel? How are you doing? Where does it hurt? It’s going to be alright. I want to see you in two weeks” are common statements heard in these doctor/pastor offices. These shepherds gladly embrace the responsibility of every individual’s well-being in the Body.

Paramedics – Evangelists

Suddenly we hear the sound of sirens and air horns. We see flashing lights of an ambulance (sounds like a typical evangelistic service) and a rescue squad as they leave the hospital to another tragedy. These paramedics (evangelists) rush to the scene with great boldness and energy. In dramatic fashion they arrive at the accident scene with a sense of urgency with their “Jaws of Life” to pry open the awful wreckage caused by the devil. These aggressive ministers move quickly to the hurting, often risking their own lives as they enter the fiery accident or collapsing building (the devastated situations people get themselves into).

They can appear to be rough and abrasive as they tear off the clothes of the injured and insert tubes and wires into them. They often beat on their patient’s chest, blow in their mouths and sometimes cut off limbs in an effort to remove them from the wreckage or bring them back to life. Their eyes scour the scene (the congregation or crowd) looking for any signs of other victims who need their help. Paramedic

An ignorant bystander might think these insensitive rescue workers are doing more harm than good and cry out, “Hey, what are you doing?” Their quick, assertive response sounds almost threatening as they shout back, “I’m trying to save their lives!”

You know you are near one of these ministers because you hear phrases like deliverance, set free, power of God, healing, anointing, breaking strongholds. Everything at the accident scene (the evangelist’s meeting) seems like a life or death situation needing dramatic action. This is nothing like the pastor’s office. Crowds of people are quickly attracted to the action as they drop everything to see what’s happening at the scene (the revival service).

The general practitioner (pastors) rarely sees this kind of excitement and activity in their office (local church) but appreciate (or they should) the paramedic’s function. With lights flashing and sirens screaming (sound systems blaring) they rush to the hospital with great drama. They go from one dramatic event to another. They blow in, blow up and blow out of town as quickly as they came.

Medical School – Teachers

Meanwhile, students from the Medical School which is attached to the East Wing of the hospital are observing procedures in Teacherthe Emergency Room. As the ambulance arrives and victims are carried into the hospital (the local church), the paramedics (evangelists) appear to dominate the atmosphere of the E.R. The visiting professors (teachers) with their new students offer insights as they critique the rescue workers’ procedures. These teachers are needed to introduce new or corrective techniques into the ministry to help save lives. Their research has also revealed the strengths and weaknesses of certain ministry styles and philosophies. They are alert to the theological ramifications that the rest of the ministers often overlook. Their work has revealed the harmful effects of certain medicines and procedures that need to be heeded. But sometimes their classrooms are so far removed from the reality of the sights, sounds and smells of the real world, their advice can fall on deaf ears which is regrettable for all, especially if you’re the patient.

Surgeons – Prophets

Further in the hospital complex we see a surgeon (prophet) entering the O.R. for a specialized surgery on a difficult case. Sometimes considered aloof or even elitist, these spiritual surgeons rarely deal with the mundane, day to day work of caring for people. They are not usually seen as a team player (though they should be). Their work is specialized. Once given the signed consent from the patient they perform delicate, critical invasive procedures with great skill. Let’s face it; most of us don’t want to find ourselves truly needing their ministry. It is usually after trying everything else and experiencing great personal suffering that we go to the prophet to hear the penetrating word of the Lord.

For many believers, their walk has been superficial and full of denial about their sinful habits or compromise; if given permission the surgeon can remove that cancerous denial or idol and save your spiritual life. This kind of ministry requires a sterile environment. Thus atmosphere (worship) plays a big part in the success of their ministry. They work under extremely bright lights and want everything exposed to the light. They are gifted to see and understand a person’s insides (MRI) to get to the root of the problem. They also have unparalleled insight and knowledge (discernment) of the latest techniques to fight disease (the devil) and the inner workings of the human body (heart & soul) as it relates to a holy God.surgeon

Many times they use unorthodox and never before seen measures to save a life. Sometimes it may take years before the rest of God’s health care community (the Body of Christ) will ratify and accept these new procedures. Some of these ministers appear almost other-worldly in their demeanor. As super-spiritual as some of these specialists (prophets) may appear to be, if you needed spiritual brain surgery this is the ministry gift to do it.

We need to be grateful to the Lord that these prophets have separated themselves for their life’s work. We need to thank God for the function they serve. Your life, or the life of someone you love, may depend on them some day.

Don’t You Wish More Christians Would Understand This?

As you can see, at Jesus Christ Regional Hospital every ministry gift serves a vital role to the well-being of the people. Each gift could be jealous or critical of the other, but if we focus on the hurting it becomes clear, that we need each other. If you were the one hurting and you were being cared for by these four spiritual professionals, wouldn’t you want them to communicate with each other concerning your personal spiritual chart?

Why haven’t we been working together better? What can we do to fix the dysfunction in the Church? What about those with an apostolic grace? I’ve been hoping you were going to ask that. In the next few pages we will discuss that missing element in the Church today.

Don’t you think more people would reach maturity if these professionals worked together? Ministry leaders need to recognize that every Christian needs to be touched by all the Lord’s health professionals if they are going to be whole. Let’s work together so the Church can truly be an effective hospital to the world. “Here’s a good place for someone to say Amen.”

Excerpt from “Working Together For Jesus

Why Does it Seem like God is Hiding from Us?

HidingAs we read the Bible it seems as if God regularly appears to the saints of old. By the time we get to Israel leaving Egypt God is showing up almost daily to these wandering Jews. But as you read on it wasn’t all that great for God or His people. Just as God found it nearly impossible to live among sinful people, the Israelites found it nearly impossible to live with a holy God in their midst. They even turned down the opportunity to talk to Him, preferring Moses meet with God on their behalf (Exodus 21:19). We see that even though God dwelt in their midst in the Tabernacle, fed them daily with Manna, led them by a cloud and pillar of fire, executed instantly those who rebelled, and gave them a meticulous code of ethics called the Law, they still lacked faith and obedience…which is what God was looking for in the first place. Their true condition made it virtually impossible to be near God. Some kind of greater work or transformation needed to be done to their souls.

Even those of us who want God to reveal Himself with supernatural signs and wonders must admit that the fireworks of Moses, Elijah and Elisha were just a blip in Israel’s history that produced little lasting faith. We submit that the miracles in Egypt, the supernatural victories during the wars of Israel, the awesome ministry of Elijah and Elisha, and the signs and wonders of Jesus and His disciples had more to do with them dispossessing the power of the Devil than trying to prove God’s existence and create faith in God’s people. Jesus Himself even said in Matthew 16:4, “a wicked and adulteress generation seeks after a sign.” In effect He was saying, “You won’t be faithful to me unless I give you an incentive to be faithful.” Try telling that to your spouse and see how long your marriage will last.

You see, when God tried to reveal Himself, He was often misunderstood in the eyes of a sinful people. Sin keeps us from seeing God with eyes that can behold and understand Him as He truly is.

His Presence Would Overwhelm UsHiding 2

God also seems to limit His exposure to us so as to not influence our behavior in His favor. Take the story of Job for example. God didn’t sit down with Job and explain the existence of a terrible Devil who desired to destroy him, although most scholars believed the ancients knew of the Devil from the oral traditions passed down from Adam. God simply allowed Job to be free to respond to his circumstances according to his own will. God gave Himself no advantages.

Philip Yancey says it like this, “The gambler would say God stacked the deck against Himself. The cynic would say the Creator is taunting and toying with His creation”. But only an all-knowing God truly knows the delicate balance between revealing Himself and holding Himself back in order to produce true obedience in the heart of the believer. Remember, God has had a plan from the foundation of the world that we free-will, yet sinful humans would stand before Him blameless and in love. (Ephesians 1:14). Somehow He will make us blameless and we will truly and freely love Him.

This seeming unwillingness for God to reveal Himself fully to us can be better understood in a story told by one theologian about a King who was in love with a humble maiden. Yancey quotes the story about a King in love.

The King of the Universe Falls in Love

“There once was a King like no other King. Every statesman trembled before his power. No one dared breathe a word against him, for he had the strength to crush all opponents. And yet this mighty King was melted by love for a humble maiden.

loveHow could he declare his love for her? In an odd sort of way, his very Kingliness tied his hands. If he brought her to the palace and crowned her head with jewels and clothed her body in royal robes, she would surely not resist — no one dared resist him. But would she love him? She would say she loved him, of course, but would she truly? Or would she live with him in fear, nursing a private grief for the life she had left behind? Would she be happy at his side? How could he know? 

If he rode to her modest forest cottage in his royal carriage, with an armed escort waving their bright banners, that too would overwhelm her. He did not want a cringing subject. He wanted a lover, an equal. He wanted her to forget he was a King and she a humble maiden and to let shared love cross over the gulf between.

The King, convinced he could not elevate the maiden without hurting her and crushing her freedom, resolved to descend. He clothed himself as a beggar and approached her cottage incognito. It wasn’t just a disguise but a new identity he took on. He renounced the throne to win her hand.” (Philip Yancey, Disappointment with God. Zondervan 1988 p.103, 104).

This love story gives new meaning to the following Scripture.

Who being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a servant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Philippians 2:68

During the Old Testament, anytime God appeared to man He would have to tell those He was speaking to, to “fear not”. Through Jesus, anybody could walk right up to God Himself, shake his hand, walk right on by, or spit on Him. The humiliation God has gone through to relate with us and reveal His love for us is staggering to comprehend.

As much as we want God to reveal Himself in a big way, through signs and wonders, we should remember “The Big Picture”. Our God wants genuine love from us because of who He is, not because of how powerful He is. It is really to our advantage that God limits the physical revelation of Himself so that we might choose Him as a person and not His power. It is as we embrace the characteristics of God will we be prepared to meet Him face to face.

Another reason we need to recognize for God’s apparent hiddenness is because He is communicating to a deeper part of our being. He is speaking to us but He speaks in the spirit realm. You can learn more about how He does this here… Be Encouraged, God Will Come into Focus.

Excerpt from “It Really Is God’s Book”

Finishing Well…Will You?

Finishing Well

Are you aware of the various stages we humans will experience during our life? How well are you dealing with the “process items” you are facing in each phase in your life? Do you plan on finishing your life well or are you just trying to make it through today? Dr. J. Robert Clinton’s book “The Making of a Leader” has some tremendous insights on this subject. Also my books may help as well.

“The Inner Journey”

“Roadkill Seminary”

“Working Together For Jesus”

Expectation versus Expectancy

ExpectancyEvery believer will need to sort out the difference between expectation and expectancy during their lifetime. The way that leads to life in this world is often narrow and requires balance to avoid the ditch on either side. This is similar to the distinction we need to make when we discern the difference between Self-Sacrifice and Sacrifice of Self.

In a nutshell, when we have a certain “expectation” it may come from a sermon or teaching that arouses our faith or we have a great need to believe God for something specific. This is when our circumstances require us to believe that God is going to do something. However the potential for a setback and an offended heart lies at the door of this scenario. It’s because we often imagine how God will do this miracle and we inadvertently put our faith in the “thing” we imagined more than in God Himself and His will in the situation. This is called putting our faith in our faith. It also reminds us why God didn’t want us to make any graven “images” of Him in the Ten Commandments. Images carved in stone or carved into our minds almost always keeps us away from Him Who is the eternal, uncontainable Spirit. There is a big difference between serving the God we want and serving the God Who is.

This wrong focus often happens when we use the Bible selfishly as a “utilitarian tool” instead of a love letter that leads us to the heart of God. We see countless disillusioned believers who put their faith in what they believe God is going to do versus putting their faith in Who the miracle worker is. There is a difference between believing in healing and believing in the Healer; believing in salvation and believing in the Savior. Disillusionment is a good thing in some cases because we need to be removed from some of our illusions.

We initially don’t recognize there is a difference between expectation and expectancy until we don’t get what we are praying and believing for after an extended period of time. This brings us to a fork in the road where we must choose between our belief in the thing we want to happen and our belief in the Lord Himself.

How do I know the difference? One sure way to recognize if your faith is in the wrong thing is to inventory your thoughts when the thing you are believing for doesn’t come to pass. Are you insulted or offended? Are you bitter or resentful? Have you secretly disengaged from the fight? Are you just going through the motions? Do you have a secret accusation against God?

An Idol of Expectation. I remember several occasions being so angry with God about my circumstances not changing. I thought I was faithful; I was living right and I was standing in faith yet with no results. I didn’t recognize I was secretly offended and was developing a cold heart. I also didn’t realize the source of my offense was because I placed my faith in the scenarios I constructed in my mind in the first place. I even thought I was being so generous to God. After all, I even gave God 3 or 4 different scenarios that He could use to answer my prayer. Wasn’t that so benevolent of me? I was so proud of how humble I was. Yet God is His wisdom and mercy had to let me experience the death of my expectations so I would be free from putting my faith in my “image” of answered prayer; in my ability to intellectually devise a scenario for God to work.

An Attitude of Expectancy. I am learning to keep and attitude of expectancy in my life. When I do, I am more peaceful and relaxed as I am more willing to go with the pace of grace. My faith is in the goodness of God as I remember He always has my best interest at heart (see Jeremiah 29:11). I now know God is always good and has an agenda of abundant life planned for me. I am beginning to appreciate the “journey as the destination” with God. He could make everything we need appear instantly but He has predestined us to be “conformed” to the image of Jesus. Sometimes delay isn’t denial, it’s just God’s wisdom at work. Besides, regardless of whatever I am believing for, it is always a lessor thing compared to the glorious relationship we have with Him as we are travel on this journey. This realization becomes real after our imposed deadline for what we are expecting passes or our faith expires. Then we often see God turning circumstances around in way that had nothing to do with what we imagined in the first place.

In our early years it seems almost impossible not to construct some idea of what it will look like to believe God in a particular area of our lives. We all try to imagine how a particular answer to prayer might turn out. It’s not easy telling a young person that the latest thing or boyfriend they want so badly isn’t really going to make them happy in the end, because it’s what they “imagine” will make them happy. We only come to appreciate this when we don’t get what we want and God gives us what is best for us. He reminded Israel of this in the book of Isaiah.

For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts. Isaiah 55:8, 9

It is a painful lesson to be circumcised or pruned from our way of thinking but the result is a more intimate relationship with the Lord. So if you are not receiving from God what you are expecting remember what Garth Brooks said in one of his songs… “Some of God’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers”.

We can keep an attitude of expectancy with God because He is faithful to His word and He loves us enough to sacrifice His own Son for us.

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. Jeremiah 29:11

3 Blind Men, An Elephant and “Big Theology”

ElephantPerhaps one of the biggest reoccurring blind spots we Christians deal with is the certainty we have about the part of God that we do understand. We sometimes insist on forcing the Scriptures to fit the worldview given to us by our “first” teachers. We end up reading what we believe instead of believing what we read in the Bible.

In my book “Roadkill Seminary” I state that we ironically have to be delivered from our commitment to our brand of the Christian religion in order to more fully discover the person of Jesus Christ. This realization often only comes through prolonged and difficult trials of the soul.

In my book “Working Together For Jesus” I have a chapter called “Anointed Self-Deception” where I detail this blindness to see things as they really are. Several biblical characters were infected with this short-sightedness. They were so sure the part they had from God was “THE” part that they ended up in “anointed self-deception”. The obvious ones were Elijah in 1 Kings 19:18; Peter in Matthew 17:4; and John in the book of Revelation 19:10 and 22:9. These all made incorrect statements and assumptions in the midst of awesome anointed events as they were serving the Lord.

Let’s look at some of the common areas where we get hung up.

Eschatology – Preterists, Amillennialists, Futurists and Dispensationalists work very hard to fit their view of the End-times into a systematic grid, but fair-minded observers note they can’t fit everything they believe into an error free narrative. I’m sorry if I am popping your theological bubble here but each point of view has to fill in certain passages of scripture with speculation, conjecture and hypothesis. Of course they are fine with doing that but they often won’t allow the other guys the same latitude with their narrative. See “Who’s Right About The End Times”.

Freewill – Calvinism and Arminianism represent the age-old Church debate about whether man truly has freewill or does God’s providence override it. Both points of view can be found in Scripture so what is a person to do? Well some people choose a camp and will mercilessly squash anybody who tries to tell them differently. Frank Viola brings some clarity to the debate with his article “Why Calvinists Live Like Arminians & Arminians Pray Like Calvinists” http://frankviola.org/2012/05/24/calvinismarminianism/

Law and Grace – Perhaps nothing has Christians arguing more today than how we should decide the correct application of God’s Law -judgment and His Grace-mercy. In my book “The Inner Journey” I attempt to remind us all of the Biblical illustration the Lord gives us in His Tabernacle. His Law is written in stone so no theologian can erase His holy standard; yet He keeps the stone tablets in a box covered with His own blood so no theologian can suggest any of us are unredeemable. I still see both Law and Grace alive and active in our day. Its in these in-between places where God speaks with us about everything. Sadly the old adage; “the devil is in the details” may never be more true than here. My article “In the Year 2023” may help the discussion between those who emphasize Law and those who emphasize Grace.

Politics – Conservatives and Liberals approach to the Scriptures from the opposite emphasis of righteousness and justice, see Psalm 89:14. One focuses on our vertical relationship with God and His righteousness, the other focuses on our horizontal relationship within society and His justice. In my book “A Better Way To Govern” I discuss how seeing the bigger picture here gives us the grace to overcome the caustic rhetoric that eats away at the solutions we all so desperately need. This doesn’t help television or talk radio ratings but it will change our world for the better.

The News – The George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin story that we here in Sanford were so involved with presents another illustration. Some of my liberal friends post only the articles that make George Zimmerman look like an untrustworthy racist and some of my conservative friends will only post articles that make Trayvon Martin look like a no good thug. They each seem incapable or unwilling to acknowledge the other point of view. Are we capable of a better way? My articles on “Choosing Between Jesus or Barabbas” helps us recognize what spirit we are operating in when trying to address entrenched problems in our communities.

I’m not faulting anybody with a belief system they support. They are doing the best they know how from their point of view. However we forget that a point of view is just that, a view from a point. I do think we need to aware that when we are hell-bent on making things fit our point of view we can contort the heart of the Scriptures to make them fit our presuppositions. Some of us do so much Scripture twisting we make an Olympic Gymnast look arthritic.

In the end I keep noticing that each point of view falls short if left in isolation to the others. I like Psalm 119:160 where it says; the sum or the entirety of Your Word is truth. It’s when all the pieces are considered together, do we begin to see the big picture more accurately. Its not your way or my way, its Yahweh Who needs to be our focus.

Three Blind Men and An Elephant

I think many of us have heard some version of the story of the blind men and the elephant. One was holding his tail and described it as a rope. The other held its trunk and described it as a tree. The other held its ear said it was like a leaf. They were all partly right but totally wrong. Sometimes we do the same describing God. Our initial observations are correct but our conclusions often misrepresent the bigness of God and His purposes.

When people ask me what theological camp I embrace, I tell them I embrace a belief system that I call “Big Theology”.

What is Big Theology?

Big GodB – God is Big – This should go without saying but as we try to define God or a particular aspect of God we may inadvertently make God small. In an effort to be exact, we can become myopic. We exchange the micro for the macro. We miss the forest because of the trees. We end up making God smaller and easier to handle for our convenience. We forget He exists and works from several extra-dimensions and to make Him fit into our worldview is like explaining the internet to the ants in your back yard. A little perspective here may be just the dose of humility we all need.

I – God is Inviting – The apparent Biblical contradictions (called the principle of antinomy) between doctrines and groups within the Body of Christ are put there by divine providence. Dr Stephen Crosby points out in “Authority, Accountability and the Apostolic Movement” that it is the very polar opposite positions we spoke of earlier that creates a magnetic field that draws objects into its space. They make us look into the mystery. Neither the Scriptural contradictions nor the skeptics should discourage us from pressing in. The dichotomies and contradictions in Scripture and in our society should draw us in to find where God is in the mix. There should be a magnetic attraction moving our hearts to look deeper into the mystery before us. Jesus didn’t speak parables and mysteries to keep truth “from” us but to keep truth “for” us. It is only those who have a royal seekers heart that are deemed worthy of receiving these precious kingdom truths in the first place.

G – God is Glorious – If we study the Scriptures with an open and humble heart the fruit will be wonderment and amazement. God is like the ocean; you can play in the water ankle-deep but if you are willing to relinquish control you can go deep! When we see Emmanuel in the manual we are swept away in awe and beauty. The glorious revelation of Him causes us to worship. That is why Jesus said we worship God in Spirit and in Truth. Theology is the child of worship. Revelation of Him should transform us into His image, not into the image of our particular denomination outlet or network. God is dynamic. He never changes but He is always moving. Beware of religious rigor mortis. That which is static is often dead. He is not the scaffolding used to build the building. He is more than our doctrines and opinions. He is not the wrapping paper or the box the gift comes in. He is so much more than that. He is “BIG”.

Backslidders; When Will They Come Home? “Give Me” vs “Make Me”

Son 3

Sinners, Their Loved Ones and the Boundaries that Helps Bring About Their Inner Transformation

Every person on earth will need to make a journey within the difficult geography of their soul if they are to enter the kingdom of God. This journey starts at the bottomless pit of a “give me spirit” and hopefully ends at the entryway of a “make me spirit”.

Jesus explains this journey of transformation in a story about a father who had two sons.  One day the younger son came to his father and asked him for his inheritance.  Apparently this son had become restless and discontented with his life on the family farm and wanted to know what else life had to offer.  Perhaps he was already flirting with sin and worldliness. Maybe it was the drudgery of the daily chores in the family household.  Whatever the case, we can read between the lines and see that this son wanted more than he was getting out of life.  Like many of us in our younger years we often don’t appreciate what we have and often long for some elusive idea of what will make us happy… love, independence, drugs, money, sex, power, notoriety, significance, an exciting career, etc. 

The Discontented Younger Son

The Lord doesn’t go into much detail, but since human nature being as predictable as it is, we hear in his first words he wanted more.

Then He said, “A certain man had two sons.  And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, GIVE ME the portion of goods that falls to me.’”  So he divided to them his livelihood.  Luke 15:11-12

Unaware of why he had this emptiness in his heart, the younger son’s emptiness would drive him to search for fulfillment in anything he could get his hands on. He probably didn’t realize the pain he was causing his father by asking for his inheritance in the first place. In the Middle East, what this son did was the equivalent of saying “Father I wish you were dead so I can get my hands on your stuff.” It is amazing how selfish we can be as we seek to fill the void in our hearts.

This son was too young to realize that this glitch is in our DNA and came from our forefather Adam, as he succumbed to Satan’s deception to break God’s command and live independent of the Creator. Satan introduced this “willful independence” into the world and the resulting “never satisfied emptiness” that leads to death. Only God can fill the place in our hearts designed for Him in the first place. Because we are designed for the limitless wonders of an all-powerful God and eternity; nothing… absolutely nothing can fill this void and satisfy us except God Himself.

Hell and Destruction are never full; so the eyes of man are never satisfied. Proverbs 27:20

This is a good place to remind people even if we were the perfect parents, the perfect spouse or friend to our wayward loved one; the “give me spirit” will still be unsatisfied. If Lucifer could find fault in the perfection of heaven under the leadership of a perfect God, then you will realize this “give me spirit” can only be resolved by its death.

The Wise Parent, Spouse or Friend

Parents, spouses and friends, listen closely. The Lord has shown us the key to how we are to deal with a child or loved one who is restless, unfulfilled, or who has a rebellious renegade spirit. This wise father knew he couldn’t force his son to love him and stay with the family so he released him.

…so he divided to them his livelihood. Luke 15:12

And so must you! You must clearly divide up your inheritance to those in your life. When we speak of inheritance, we aren’t speaking only of money, but all that you are willing to give and do for your child, spouse, or loved one.  This could mean money, food, housing, cars, payments on insurance, bail money, and the list goes on.  You must give them a clear picture that what they have coming to them from you is a limited amount that must be used with wisdom.  You must clearly divide up what you “will” and “will not” do for them in this life. Every relationship needs to have these boundaries…a river without banks is a swamp.

If you do not do this, you will be forever susceptible to them coming back to you for money and other things.  Every time they come back to you, you will feel the pressure to either give them what they want or explain why you won’t. Sometimes parents or spouses cave in to their wayward loved ones because they feel they are partly responsible for their unhappiness and their rebellion. If you are not vigilant, your emotions will let them continually take advantage of your lack of boundaries.  They will suck you dry emotionally, financially, and spiritually. Their bottomless pit, their emptiness will devour everything they have and everything you have.

If they keep taking advantage of you, you may wonder why God hasn’t answered your prayers to change them. After all, you may think to yourself, “I’ve shown them the love of God by continually giving them stuff.”  But this is where you are wrong! You’ve shown them that they don’t have to rely on God, especially when you bail them out every time things get tough.  You’ve also shown them that even you don’t have the courage or conviction to live by the Scriptures yourself.  This wishy-washy, sloppy-agape (love) will do more harm to your loved ones than you can imagine.

Son 5I’ve counseled many frustrated parents and spouses who are over-extended on their credit cards, with their own finances in shambles, trying to help a renegade son or daughter or spouse who is living in sin.  These believers think they are giving witness to the love of God when in fact, they are saying indirectly by their deeds, “It’s okay that you’re sleeping around and living in sin.  I’ll help you overcome the consequences of your ungodly behavior. I’ll make it easier for you to live without God.”

If you are led by your human emotions and not by the Word of God, you will communicate by your deeds it’s alright living contrary to the Word of God. Remember, God’s love is unconditional but His blessings are always conditional. With no boundaries on your resources clearly established, the back-slidder doesn’t feel or recognize the impact of his Godless life.  Furthermore, we have no moral authority to compel our back-slidden loved ones to live according to the scriptures when they can look into our eyes and see our own emotional compromises with the Word. Sin will take any opportunity to stay the course.

The renegade must see clearly when your resources end and when he or she must look to God to have their needs met.  Our fallen human nature causes us to consider God only as a last option. We will reach for everything except Him. It is imperative that we let “Life on earth” impact him or her with all its fury, thus driving them to their knees, and ultimately to God.

They Always Go Far Away

And not many days after, the younger son gathered all together, journeyed to a far country, and there wasted his possessions with prodigal living.  But when he had spent all, there arose a severe famine in that land and he began to be in want. Luke 15:13-14

Once an individual decides that a godly lifestyle isn’t for them, they will usually leave “not many days” after they are able.  This is another painful stab in the heart of the father. As soon as the son got the cash he split! Notice the wise father doesn’t argue and try to keep his son home.  He knew that the Lord would have to break him of this “give me spirit”.

Jesus says he went into a far country.   Your lost loved ones might only be across town or they could be across the country but they usually go far from the way they were raised. Some of the wildest sinners on earth are those who were raised in church, around the things of God.  However, we see his emotions and “give me” heart caused him to waste his possessions as he tried to fill his life with everything but God. This intense lifestyle usually ends up this way. Because the conviction is usually much greater with those who knew the ways of God, they have to work harder to quench the conviction. This results in them spending more than they have to, to fill not only the void they have in their lives, but now they have to silence the conviction they feel. This often leaves even the wealthiest people in the world financially and emotionally bankrupt. Soon after, we see a famine came to his life and he really begins to understand what it means to be in want. 

They Will Often Join Themselves to the Wrong People

Then he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. Luke 15:15

Here we see him joining himself not to God, but to a citizen of the foreign land he was in.  He literally became a slave, as do all of us when we live outside of God’s leadership.  We may become a slave to the wrong boyfriend or girlfriend, or perhaps a career, or pornography, drugs and alcohol. Every one of us will be a slave to someone or something because, at our basic state, we are still sheep in need of a shepherd.  Even sheep with Ph.D.’s will be a servant to something or someone.  We can see this principle in Romans 6:16:

Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin to death or of obedience to righteousness?

Whomever or whatever you yield yourself to will ultimately be your master.  That’s why the smartest thing any of us can do is to join ourselves to the Lord Himself. He is the only One we can join ourselves to and be safe from abuse and bondage. All other masters will leave us tormented, empty or dead. 

No One Gave Him Anything 

And he would gladly have filled his stomach with the pods that the swine ate, and no one gave him anything. Luke 15:16

Here we see the son willing to eat anything he can get his hands on.  The “give me spirit” isn’t so selective anymore, but it still isn’t dead at this point.  It isn’t until the last part of verse 16, “and no one gave him anything,” that the beginning of the breakthrough comes.  Before we look at the breakthrough, LET THESE WORDS SINK INTO YOUR HEART, “and no one gave him anything.”   It is absolutely imperative that we watch very closely what is happening here. In order for this back-slidder to come to his senses, he had to come to the place where no one gave him a thing.

That’s why the father divided up his inheritance in the first place. The father recognized the “spirit of the world” in his son and decided what he would and wouldn’t do for him. If you don’t establish clear and concrete parameters for your relationships, you will be devoured by the very demonic desires that are trying to destroy your loved one. Lifeguards are trained to give a drowning victim a floatation device and stay clear of them lest they pull them under as well.

Countless believers get sucked into taking care of a lost loved one only to discover that their sin is not only ruining the addict but their family as well. We must not love them with wishy-washy human emotional love, but with the true love of God that will set them free. As long as there is an “enabler” who continues to help this person in their addiction or rebellion they will never find freedom. The reason they won’t find freedom is because they’ll never reach out in holy desperation to the only one who can give them their true freedom – Jesus Christ.

Why didn’t anyone help this boy out? Could it be because of the prayers of the wise father? Was the father praying the “hedge” around his son? Remember that without clear boundaries the son’s pitiful condition will continue for years and years as he shows up now and then looking for a hand out. Was the father actually praying his boy would end up in this situation in the first place? Have you ever heard of the principle of praying the hedge? 

Praying the Hedge

There is a spiritual principle of prayer taken from the book of Hosea chapters one and two called “praying the hedge”.  Hosea was a prophet of God and was told by God to marry a woman of harlotry to illustrate how God was married to the back-slidden nation of Israel. We can see here that God really does know how it feels to have a loved one going astray.

Therefore, behold, I will hedge up her way with thorns, and wall her in, so that she cannot find her paths.  She will chase her lovers, but not overtake them; yes, she will seek them, but not find them.  Then she will say, “I will go and return to my first husband, for then it was better for me than now.” Hosea 2:6-8

God put a hedge of thorns around Hosea’s backslidden wife so her lovers would feel uncomfortable around her.  She then tried to pursue them, but couldn’t catch up to them.  Finally, she realized it was better for her to return to her husband than to be alone. Could this have been what the wise father was praying for his younger son? Could this be the reason “nobody gave him anything?

He Came To Himself

But when he came to himself, he said, “How many of my father’s hired servants have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with   hunger!”   Luke 15:17

The statement, But when he came to himself, represents the beginning of his breakthrough.  This is when we recognize the real us in our true condition. When a person really hits bottom, they will find that what they thought was the bottom will drop out and fall another ten stories into despair beyond what they could conceive. Now they are the person without the money, the care free sex, the popularity, the position, the fame. We are left with the phony friends, the deceitful lover, the sexually transmitted disease, the failed get rich schemes, the false religion, the ruined reputation. What they thought would make them happy turned against them and destroyed them. They took Satan’s bait and now they are ensnared in his trap and unable to get out.

They then begin to realize they came into this world naked and they will leave this world the same. Quite often it’s not until they are in the filth of the pig slop that they begin to see clearly what their decisions have gotten them into.

The fame they thought they needed so much, the lover they thought made them feel so alive, or the career they thought would make them feel important and significant all seem to come up short. They eventually discover that the grass isn’t greener on the other side, it still needs to be mowed and it has just as much poop as their yard did. Suddenly they realize they are not all that smart. When they see themselves in their true condition, as spiritually and emotionally bankrupt, lost and starving for purpose in life without the means to save themselves, their road to salvation becomes clear.

The Son Comes Home

I will arise and go to my father, and will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you.”  Luke 15:18

Here we see the back-slidder saying, “I will arise,” not to look for loan, not to work out another scheme, but rather he would arise and put his repentance into action. He was going back to his family to repent.  It is important to note that this son believed he would be welcomed back home if he repented. Something in his father’s life and actions led him to believe this. The wise father stood by his convictions, but in the spirit of love.  And so you must always let it be known that your loved one is welcome home when they are repentant.

The son acknowledged to his father that he sinned against heaven. True repentance recognizes that we’ve first sinned against God, then against each other.  Do you remember the prayer of repentance King David prayed after He committed adultery and murder?

      Against You, You only, have I sinned, and done this evil in Your sight. Psalm 51:4

Son 4Here we see he sins against man, but David realizes his sin was an offense firstly towards God. Listen to the backslider’s own words, “Father I have sinned against heaven and before you.” 

The “Make Me Prayer”

And I am no longer worthy to be called your son.  Make me like one of your hired servants. Luke 15:19

The transformation is complete when we hear these beautiful words coming from this restless, self-centered individual, when he says, “I am not worthy to be called your son.  Make me like one of your hired servants.”  Notice, there isn’t a “give me spirit” anymore.  He’s realized that it was that selfish attitude that got him in the mess he was in. It’s at this place that the back-slidder finally understands that he doesn’t need more things in his life, he needs to be changed from the inside.  Listen again to David’s words.  True repentance can only take place when we realize that we are helpless sinners to the core…

Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me. Psalm 51:5

He recognized his very nature must be transformed if his life would ever get back on track.  This change is what must take place in the heart of every person running from God.  We must stop praying give me prayers and start praying make me prayers.  We all need a nature change, and then our behavior will change automatically.

When God Ran

And he arose and came to his father.  But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him. Luke 15:20

Jesus, using this parable to illustrate the love of God, reveals the heart of God, as we see the only place in the Bible where God runs. In the Middle East it would be humiliating for a father to do this, especially for a son living a depraved life with sinners. But this reveals the heart of our God. God will run towards every man, woman, and child who turns from their ways and calls on Him.  It doesn’t matter how far away a person is from GodIn this story, the prodigal son was a great way off, but we see that the Father saw him.  He was always looking for His son to return even though they are far away. What an awesome and merciful God we serve.  He keeps His eye on us even though we are a great distances away, doing unmentionable things.  David wrote about this in Psalms 139:7-10;    

Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend into heaven, You are there; if I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there.  If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there Your hand shall lead me, and Your right hand shall hold me.

This is the heart of a loving God who wants to show mercy and compassion to us, if we will repent of going our way and choose His.

But the father said to his servants, “Bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet.” Luke 15:22

Son 2This is an example of true forgiveness and restoration: The father restored his wayward son to his place as a son in his household.  The son doesn’t even get a chance to fully repent. The father in essence said “we don’t have time for that we must celebrate”. Notice how this wise parent doesn’t hold his past over his son’s head.  When someone is truly repentant, they are as clean as if they never sinned because of the blood of Jesus, and we must treat our loved ones the same.

And bring the fatted calf here and kill it, and let us eat and be merry; for this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.  Luke 15:23-24

The father rejoiced greatly that his son came home, because he understood that his wayward son was dead and lost.  Regardless of how you’ve been taught about “eternal security” (once saved, always saved), Jesus Himself gives us His Heavenly Father’s perspective of a back-slidden son – he was dead and lost of his own choosing.  God cannot make someone choose Him and His eternal life. Not even one of His own sons. This is why the father was so concerned for his son and so ecstatic when he returned. The father knew his son was really lost and really dead and in danger of eternal judgment.

Uh-Oh, Here Comes the Angry Older Brother!

Now his older son was in the field.  And as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing.  So he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant.  And he said to him, “Your brother has come, and because he has received him safe and sound, your father has killed the fatted calf.” But he was angry and would not go in.  Therefore his father came out and pleaded with him.  Luke 15:25-28

The older brother hears the partying going on and wonders what all the excitement is about.  When he finds out his younger brother is back from a life of raising hell and his dad is throwing a party for him, he becomes furious.  He refuses to participate in the celebration.  His father then comes out and pleads with his oldest son to understand the reason for the festivities. The elder son was understandably angry. After all, he played by the rules. And now it seemed like his father was bending the rules by not scolding or chastising his son for living like the devil. It didn’t seem fair.

He must have said something like “That son of yours got to live a life of sin and now that he’s home he gets a party.” The oldest son complains that he never got the kind of attention this back-slidder “son of yours” is getting now.    With that statement the older son was breaking relationship with his father and his brother. By refusing to go to the feast, this son was publicly denouncing his father’s action, which was complete disrespect in this culture. Once again we see the loving father reach out to another wayward son. This time the son he was reaching out to was the one who stayed at home. The father reminds his son of the seriousness of the situation.  Your brother was dead and lost; it is right that we should be glad.

As we look at the older brother’s demeanor towards his brother, one might wonder if his duty-bound legalism and cold-heartedness toward his younger brother could have been one of the reasons the younger son left home in the first place.  This younger son evidently did not feel part of his “responsible” older brother’s way of life. Did the younger brother want to leave home and his church because he didn’t want to end up like his lifeless legalistic older brother?

This is often true in many of our churches today.  The new converts or young people are seen more as a nuisance and a disturbance to the way we must do things.  Young people are deciding whether or not they want to live the “Christian life” as it is portrayed in the lives of the older saints but often see lifelessness and hypocrisy. No wonder why they want to leave. The rules and rituals of these institutions don’t foster close and real loving relationships. This coldness is enough to make anyone want to leave the church for some real life.

The Older Brother Secretly Had a “Give Me Spirit” Too

So he answered and said to his father, “Lo, these many years I have been serving you; I never transgressed your commandment at any time; and yet YOU NEVER GAVE ME a young goat that I might make merry with my friends.”   Luke 15:29

The roots of the “give me spirit” are evident in the older brother when he angrily says, “…you never gave me” a young goat, etc…  The big brother stayed home with his father, but his heart wasn’t truly there.  He wanted “more” than he was getting, he was just too religious to recognize it or admit it.

We can see into the heart of the older son who stayed, and recognize that he was just as empty as his younger brother.  He wasn’t truly content with what he had because we see him envious of his brother’s party. The older brother was evidently doing what he had been doing all those years out of obligation and works, not love. He was living by lifeless rules and not a loving relationship.  He was truly more of a household servant than he was an appreciative son.

Instead of rejoicing in a fulfilling life in God many Christians are straining to earn what God has freely given them. The self-sufficient “give me spirit” can drive us to try to find fulfillment in the ways of the world or the ways of religion. Either way causes them to live by their own efforts.

The Father Still has Rebellious Sons and Religious Sons  – Which One Are You?

The wise father said something like; “Son I love you not because of what you‘ve done for me but because of who you are, you’re my son. I love your younger brother not for what he has or hasn’t done. But for who he is, he’s my son also.” One wonders which son drifted further from the father in this story. We know the younger son was reconciled, but the story is unclear about the fate of the older. It is an amazing thing to behold that the older son was willing to break relationship with the father because of His kindness to a sinner. This is what the Pharisees stumbled over with Jesus. He didn’t play by the rules as they understood them. He lived by the rule of love! Let us be careful not to follow in the older brother’s footsteps. Let’s be sure we are serving God because we are humble and grateful servants, who are still blown away by the fact that God calls us sons.

Conclusion

First, if you are praying for a child, spouse, relative or friend who is running from God, you must clearly divide up what their inheritance is with you.  Establish boundaries. Remember, a river without banks is a swamp. Let them know how much you will do, or how far you will go for them. People need to know that boundaries are necessary for a fruitful life. Let these boundaries be clear and steadfast.  Show them that just as with God, your love is unconditional, but your blessings are conditional. This will help them look less to people and to God as their source.

Secondly, you must accept the fact that in the heart of every person, a “breaking of the self-life” must take place before God can come to their rescue.  We all must undergo this nature change if we are going to be saved, there are no exceptions. After all, to have a Savior means we need to be saved from something. As we understand this fundamental change that must take place in the heart of a back-slidder, we as their loved ones will know better what to believe and expect as we pray for them. We must remember that we aren’t looking for an outward change in their behavior, but rather a deep fundamental transformation in their heart. 

Thirdly, we also will better understand that our loved ones aren’t rejecting us as much as they are rejecting God and His Word. Yes, it hurts when they leave us, but it is more about them rejecting God’s ways than ours. Their deliverance begins when they realize they have sinned against heaven. Always remember that God also sheds the same tears for them as He does for us when we forsake Him. Therefore we should never have a superior attitude towards anyone; regardless of the sin they are involved in.

God has a lot of experience seeing all kinds of renegades repent and come back to Him. God is not a respecter of persons; if He’s done it for others He’ll do it for your loved ones as well. Keep praying for them and don’t give up. Finally, may the Lord change all of us from one who prays, “give me”, to one who prays, “make me” like You, Lord, please “make me” like You! Amen.

 

In The Year 2023 – The Gospel of Grace Meets The Gospel of Repentance

2023As a person with a prophetic disposition I sometimes receive words or subtle indications from the Lord about a variety of subjects and issues. I am sure it may also be the pizza I had the night before. I have been wrong before. I often wrestle with what I should share and what I should keep to myself. This time I sense it is for the Church to consider. I suppose when these impressions are from the Lord it is only one part of many parts for us to gain a perspective for where we are personally or corporately. That’s why I love working with the different tribes of the Body of Christ…I get to see the pieces from each stream coming together to reveal a high-definition picture of the Lord.

Recently I have been getting an impression that another Scriptural emphasis is coming our way that may seem at odds with the “present truth” of the much-needed “Grace Message”. First of all let me state here that I love the Gospel of Grace (see Acts 20:24). For those in the know, this message of emphasizing the unmerited favor of God has been sweeping the world over the last several years. Never before has there been such an acceptance of focusing on our identity in the last Adam, instead of who we were in the first Adam. It is a sweet and refreshing wind from the Spirit of God releasing His people from striving and struggling to earn what has been freely given through Jesus Christ. Focusing on Jesus and what He has accomplished for us is what transforms us and gives us true liberty and freedom. Freedom is not the absence of something but the presence of Someone! (See 2 Corinthians 3:17). Some trace the recent resurgence of the Grace Message to the prince of this movement…Joseph Prince from Singapore.

I have enjoyed watching all kinds of ministers throwing out old tapes and CDs from their teaching library that focused on our subtle but very real strivings, to earn our righteousness. Some prominent prosperity and faith teachers are changing their sermon topics to grace. More Grace Churches are springing up as well. I have even seen some “hell fire and damnation” preachers allow for the occasional addition of the Gospel of Grace in their repertoire of sermons. Much of the Church still hasn’t discovered the fullness of His grace but that is changing every week.

Some who may misunderstand the Gospel of Grace will say this “easy-believe-ism” message is condoning sin and removing the necessary guard rails of the Law that keeps believers from sinning. The apostle Paul was slanderously accused of the same error in Romans 3:8. In fact, when was the last time our preaching of the Gospel got us accused of having a reputation of saying sinning is OK? Are we preaching the same Gospel Paul preached or some hybrid? Something to think about.Grace 2

The Gospel of Grace maybe like other teachings that dominated the conversation in years past like; the Holiness movement of the 1940s, the Healing movement of the 1950s, The Charismatic movement of the 1960s and 70s, the Word of Faith and Prosperity movement of the 1980s and 90s, the Apostolic or Kingdom movement of recent years. Some of these may be the winds of doctrine spoken about in Ephesians 4:14. It is important to note the Ephesians text doesn’t say all these doctrines were error, just that they should all lead us to maturity in Jesus. Verse 15 admonishes us to grow up into “ALL” these things into “HIM” who is the Head – Christ.

What About The Year 2023?

But back to the year 2023. I believe I see a new spiritual emphasis coming to the forefront of the world. I don’t know if 2023 is the beginning, middle or end of this movement. The only way I know how to describe this emphasis would be a great move of Repentance.  What I saw in my mind’s eye was as if the greatest news to multitudes of people is that someone is giving them a new opportunity to repent of their lifestyles in order to connect with God, who they have been ignoring. For our discussion here I will call it the “Gospel of Repentance”. In 2023 I see it becoming recognized as an effective movement or teaching in Europe and then spreading to America and around the world. I run a risk here of trying to explain this phenomenon instead of just simply stating what I see. Please allow me to be fallible here.

I sense this Repentance emphasis will seem strange to many believers who will have difficulty reconciling it with what they have been hearing over last 20 years. We rarely hear strong messages to repent and turn from our sinful ways anymore. Some even infer that the “act of repentance” is unnecessary today, because it indicates we are subtly engaging in a type of self-effort to be righteous.

But the results of this message of repentance will be remarkable and difficult to dismiss. Just as the masses are now accepting the Grace message, I see multitudes accepting the “Repentance Message” (a God-given eagerness to repent and fully surrender to Him). I sense a younger man will be the initial figure-head of this emphasis, but many will take up this mantle. I am puzzled because I don’t see what Scriptures they are using or what kinds of sermons are being used, but I see amazing results. I see a new zeal in these repentance ministers but I don’t see what the “secret sauce” that is in their message. I think this is more than the axiom of Grace to the believer and Law for the sinner at work here. It is as if the whole world is ready to repent…like they really want to.

With so much of the Church in the West in retreat and unfettered licentiousness spreading throughout our culture this may seem improbable. Yet the freedom to sin with who and with as many people as they want, appears to cause the culture to reach a tipping point. It is as if the lost themselves will become deeply sickened by their own lifestyles. They will be filled to brim with their own lustfulness and the lifeless consequences that comes with it. Their cup of iniquity will become so full,  they will become desperate for the lifeline of the Gospel of Repentance. I see parts of the earth so ripe for harvest that the fruit almost falls to the ground of its own accord. It will seem as if any Christian reading the “phone book” before a group of lost people is enough for an altar call almost anywhere.

RepentanceThis Gospel of Repentance may have some of the same DNA of ministers like George Whitefield, John Wesley, Jonathan Edwards, Evan Roberts, D L Moody, Billy Sunday, Charles Spurgeon, William Booth and countless others. It’s important to remember, that although today the Gospel of Grace appears to be a superior revelation than what these men preached in the past, their results were unmistakably Biblical. The high retention rates of their converts, the high percentage of those converts called into ministry, the godly lives they lived and the godly families they produced as a result of their preaching is unequaled in the Church. Their message caused the powerful cultural changes of the 1st and 2nd Great Awakenings. Are we on the verge of a 3rd Great Awakening in America?

Will the Church rediscover the Biblical purpose of grace? Listen to Titus 2:11-12; For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously and godly in this present age… Here we see that Biblical grace instructs us to deny sin, not accommodate it. The current sin-level in the Church may be an indication that some of the current “grace messages” are a counterfeit gospel. Something to think about.

Perhaps the Grace Revolution is just what the doctor ordered for the people of God suffering from dead religion, so they could enter Christ’s rest and find His strength for the Harvest to come. Perhaps the Repentance Revolution is what the world desperately needs as it discovers its dream of a world free of Jesus and Christianity has turned out to be a nightmare of artificial freedom leading to slavery to the very things they thought would bring them happiness.

This takes me back to the first sermon Jesus preached in Mark 1:15;

“The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.”

 

Orthodoxy According to Jesus

orthoTrue Christian Orthodoxy

According to Jesus Himself the world would only recognize we were authentic followers of His by our love for one another and our Oneness with God and each other. Did Jesus know something about the cynical nature of our time? Did He know that the culture would grow cold and would need to see true love before they would believe Jesus was sent by God? Or is it true that in spite of all the religious jargon we use, people know when they see a sham and when they are witnessing authentic Christian love and unity … the kind that is a foretaste of heaven?

Visible Unity Reveals the Reality of God’s Nature and His Love

If you are still tracking with me and believe this is the missing element or as they say the “weakest link” in our testimony to the world, then listen to this. (Read about the Weakest Link here). The standard of unity we are called to is no less than that of the unity of the Godhead. The Father, Son and Holy Spirit are three who are one. This isn’t some surface religious unity we are talking about. This is not about superficial smiles and phony Sunday morning relationships. This is the essence of heaven’s source of life. This is the kind of oneness every true believer is drawn to like protons and electrons are drawn to the nucleus of an atom.

According to the Bible, Jesus’ method for world evangelism is believers’ ONENESS. (The word “glory” is mentioned 8 times and “world” an astounding 19 times in the Lord’s Prayer in John17). Jesus knew our generation would need something more than religious activities and buildings. To get the world’s attention, He calls us to Oneness. Due to iniquity abounding and the love of many waxing cold, only the glory of the unified Body of Christ can reveal the Spirit of Christ in a penetrating way.

God’s unity of Spirit displayed on the canvas of flawed humanity will erase all the bad reputations of the Church and Christians alike. You may not have faith to believe for this oneness in your city but you can start with teaching your children, your cell group or your church to believe and be part of the remnant Church, preparing herself as a bride. If you are a ministry leader you can stay faithful to what God has specifically called you to do. Try giving 90% of your time to your ministry and give 10% to the Body of Christ in your area and watch God bless.

Are you still unconvinced that believers will get their act together and cooperate some day? Don’t worry! Jesus prayed for this to happen and the Lord Jesus always gets his prayers answered. The question is, “will you be part of the answer of His prayer?”

Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! For there the Lord commanded the blessing—Life forevermore. Psalm 133:1, 3

Excerpt from “Working Together For Jesus”

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How Israel Complaining 14 Times Mirrors Your Christian Journey

ComplainingWhen God delivered Israel from slavery to Egypt He also intended to bring them into a promised land flowing with blessing and prosperity. The children of Israel however didn’t cooperate with the plan designed to benefit them. They complained and fought against God almost every step of the way. The Bible states these ancient events serve as our examples, that we might learn from them. Thus we also see why we struggle so much with our own journey from slavery to sin, to possessing our inheritance in Christ. Let’s see why God wanted us to observe their journey and what we can learn from the 14 times they complained.

#1 – The people complained to Moses that because of Him and His talk of a promise land, Pharaoh made things worse for them – Exodus 5:1-22 This is when the enemy creates pressure at home, at work or school to discourage you at the beginning of your Christian walk. Out of nowhere, your responsibilities at home, work or school suddenly increases and requires you to meet impossible deadlines and quotas. Your workload and the extra overtime “scatters” (verse 12) you, and you feel like you are taking a “beating” (verse 14). Your family, your boss or supervisor blames you and your sudden interest in “Christian things” for not being able to do your job.

#2 – The people complained and said to Moses “let us alone” – Exodus 14:11-12 This is when you are faced with what seems like an impossible situation all because you listened to your godly friends or leaders. You wonder if this “Christian thing” is worth it. We sometimes blame the preacher or our Christian friend who has been witnessing to us for all the new drama and pressure in our life.

#3 – The people complained about the bitter water – Exodus 15:22 This is when you are faced with the bitterness of changing your diet from the things of the world to the things of God. Like asking a child to go from sugary foods to eating their vegetables, it never happens without a protest.

#4 – The people complained about being hungry; God gives them Manna – Exodus 16:1-4 This is when your spiritual growth produces greater hunger. However, its the not the earthly food we are used to; God begins to feed you with heavenly food. The irritability during the infant phase seems constant.

#5 – The people complained about being thirsty – Exodus 17:1-4 This is when your spiritual growth produces greater thirst. God seems to allow the thirst and the hunger to teach us where our provision truly comes from.

After complaining 5 times God begins to take out His belt!

#6 – The people forsake the Lord. The Lord orders the Levites to kill 3000 people by the sword, because they worshipped the golden calf. – Exodus 32:28  This is when you recognize just how impatient our flesh-nature is when it comes to the things of God and how inclined we are to worship anything but the One True God. Instead of waiting for 40 days for Moses who was on the mountain, they forsake the Lord and created their own idol/God. 

  • This is the 1st time Moses intercedes for the people – Exodus 32:10-12

#7 – The “mixed multitude” of the people complained about food – Numbers 11 The Lord burns the outskirts of the camp – Moses wants to die – The Lord sends a very great plague v.33  Here you become so dissatisfied with the spiritual diet God has given you, that you may wonder why you even became a Christian (v.20). This is where the confusion of being in a crowd of people with varying degrees of opinions and commitment to the Lord exasperates the problem. The ongoing process of further weaning the people from the world’s food comes to a head.

#8 – Miriam and Aaron complain about Moses’ leadership – The Lord curses Miriam with leprosy – Numbers 12:1-12

  • This is the 2nd time Moses intercedes for the people – Numbers 12:13

The next test the people face was the test of leadership; knowing the importance of not only Complainfollowing God but following His delegated leaders.

#9 – The people complained about how difficult it looked to conquer the giants in the land so they refused to enter the Promise Land. Numbers 14:1-10 Because the path the Lord has chosen to develop His people is almost always humanly impossible and difficult, it can cause some people to freak out and desire to go back to their old life. These people didn’t want to have to depend on the Lord this much in order to go forward.

#10 – The people complained again and wanted to kill Moses – they try to select another leader. The Lord seeks to destroy the people with pestilence – Numbers 14:10 Some believers will attempt to “vote out” their spiritual leaders; hoping to select leaders who will lead them into a more prosperous path.  When it doesn’t look like they can replace their leaders they actually tried to kill them.

  • This is the 3rd time Moses intercedes for the people. Numbers 14:12 (we know this is the tenth time because here God says they tested Him these 10 times in verse 22) The Lord kills the 10 spies by the plague – Numbers 14:37

#11 – The key leaders rebel against Moses – Numbers 16 – God gets serious and opens the earth and swallows the offenders! This is when the bitterness of a few disgruntled leaders defiles many and God has to stop the coup.

  • This is the 4th time Moses intercedes for the people – Numbers 16:22

#12 – The people complained again and they accuse Moses of killing God’s people – Numbers 16:41  

  • This is the 5th time Moses intercedes for the people – Numbers 16:45-49 – God kills 14,700 people.

#13 – The people contended with Moses again because of no water – Moses gets angry Numbers 20:1-5 The people gather against Moses again. This is when the people’s rebellious nature comes to a head. This even blows Moses’ circuit breakers as he runs out of grace for these clueless people, resulting in Him becoming embittered and losing out on the Promise Land as well. Snake 4

#14 – The people complained against God and Moses – Numbers 21:4-5 – God finally brings the solution – The fiery serpents to bite them – He shows them the depth of their sin-nature. This is perhaps the most important of all the lessons during their wilderness journeys. God finally gives them a taste of their own hateful medicine. They were to experience the same painful poison they were dishing out. As a recipient of their own venom, they finally recognized the death that was in them and cried out to the Lord; acknowledging they sinned against God and Moses (V.7). 

The solution to this poison seems very odd at first. God commanded Moses to make a bronze serpent and to put it on a pole, so that anyone bitten by one of the fiery serpents could be healed. But how would God heal them? God would heal them by having them look at the bronze serpent. In other words, we only get saved from this poisonous and rebellious nature and the death that comes with it when we look at it face to face. We must look at our own spiritual MRI and see the seriousness of our disease. When we, out of desperation, look in the mirror and finally acknowledge our own hideous propensity to sin, our deliverance is near. Acknowledging our true condition is what confession and salvation is all about. This is why in the New Testament, Jesus said the only way for us to be saved, was to look at Him (as He became sin for us; 2 Corinthians 5:21) on the cross, the same way Moses put the serpent on the pole. Listen to His words;

And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. John 3:14-15

This is the last we hear of the people of Israel complaining in the wilderness. They still fell into sin here and there, but something changed in their minds and hearts. It is as if a light bulb came on and they began to understand what was driving their murmuring, complaining and rebellion all these years. They also began to understand why God had to deal with them and their free-will the way He did all those years as well. The wilderness journey we call life is all about us coming to the place where we truly see our true spiritual condition. Jeremiah states it like this in chapter 17:9;

The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it? I, the Lord, search the heart, I test the mind, Even to give every man according to his ways, According to the fruit of his doings.

The good news is God doesn’t leave us frozen by the horror of seeing our grotesque selves. He also reveals His boundless mercy and compassion towards us. It is truly amazing to consider that the one and only true God, the righteous and holy Creator of the universe, patiently puts up with us, and then dies for us; even the death of the cross. How could anyone not want to serve an awesome God like this?

The Greatest Verse In The Bible

Why is it, that out of 31,103 verses this one is the greatest? Before we explain why it is the greatest verse in the entire Bible, let’s stop to remember who is talking here. It’s Jesus Christ Himself; the greatest human to have ever lived. Even atheists and leaders from other religions concede that Jesus has no equal among men. He is the only human who split the calendar (B.C – Before Christ and A.D. – Anno Domni – The Year of our Lord).

Someone once said; “If God were to ever come to earth we would expect Him do great things like no other person has done; He would show Himself as master over the laws of physics and nature; He would speak the greatest words ever spoken; and His revelations would lead men to a life of higher meaning and purpose. Guess who fits that job description?

Who is Jesus talking to when He speaks this verse? He is talking to Nicodemus, a religious leader, an expert in the Scriptures who should know better, yet is completely perplexed by who Jesus was and what He was up to. Nicodemus came to Jesus in the middle of the night to avoid being seen seeking answers from such a controversial figure. Although He knew Jesus was from God because of all the signs and wonders Jesus was doing, he didn’t understand this message that transcended the intellect and pierces the heart was all about. Just what would God say the meaning of life was?

Jesus told His nighttime visitor that he needed to be born again by the Spirit of God in order to be saved from his current condition and to understand spiritual things. He needed a new birth. Jesus explains the lengths God went through to make this possible. Thus we have the following words…

John 316If you haven’t already, I pray you will believe and receive this gift now before you do anything else. Simply pray something like this:

Dear God, I acknowledge that I have said and done things that violated your commandments. I did those things because I have lived my life independent of You. Please forgive me of my sins. I believe that Jesus lived a sinless life and died in my place, and then rose from the dead to provide a way for me to be forgiven. Today I receive Jesus into my heart and life, by faith, as my Lord and my Savior. Give me Your Holy Spirit so I can live the way You want me to live for the rest of my life. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

The Epistle to the Church of Sanford

BibleEpislte

CHAPTER 1

Our Common Salvation

Paul, an apostle and bondservant of the Lord Jesus Christ. To the saints of Sanford and surrounding region who are in Christ Jesus. To the city the whole world watches, to see what will become of the races in your country.

  1. Grace and peace from God, the Father of Jesus Christ who has begotten us by His grace, through the blood of his only begotten Son. We give thanks for each of you praying always that the Lord will continue to give you revelation of His love for us, to Him who is eternal and true.
  2. Whose kingdom is coming in ever increasing power and glory. May your sanctification be evident to all before His coming.
  3. I write to you to remind you of those things, which were spoken by the prophets and the apostles and the Lord Jesus Himself.
  4. Those things concerning our Lord, which He prayed on the night of His betrayal.

Don’t Be Deceived by Satan

  1. For I fear for some of you who may have fallen asleep and have forgotten your first love and have accepted the serpent’s substitute for Christ.
  2. You may have a form of godliness and religion, yet deny the power of God in your midst as if it were something to be ashamed of. I beseech you to not allow the wisdom of this world to sway you from the simplicity of Christ, lest the message of the cross be of no effect.
  3. For the power of God is in proclaiming Jesus Christ crucified, buried and raised from the dead, not with persuasive words of man’s wisdom.
  4. For we are not ignorant of the devil’s devices in which he seeks to fix our attention onto lesser things and not the supremacy of Christ. Yes the enemy of our souls will seduce us with the things of God as long as we are not worshipping God Himself.
  5. This has been his most effective deception as he seeks to enslave believers in religious pursuits for righteousness as he blinds their minds to the finished work of Christ on the cross.
  6. Believing they are gaining the approval of God, they are driven to and fro; to everywhere, except to the costly sacrifice God has provided for their lost souls.
  7. And even some of the very elect have fallen into this delusion as they continue in lifeless religious traditions and the pursuit of reputation among men.

CHAPTER 2

Remember the Power of God’s Might

Therefore, when I saw that this was so concerning some of you, I believe it was needful for me to address those obstacles presently besetting the advancing Church of Christ in Sanford, according to the grace I have received.

  1. For you know perfectly well how the enemy is like a cunning serpent, twisting the purposes of God in the earth.
  2. But our weapons are mighty to tear down these strongholds. Therefore let us not be afraid to fight the good fight.

The Sins of the City Are Widely Known

  1. It is reported and known abroad that Sanford has been struggling to rise up out of its poverty and the past wounds of racial injustice, which hinders the unity of the Church of Jesus Christ.
  2. The root of bitterness has been allowed to defile many. Instead of receiving the Lord’s healing, some who try to honor the suffering of their forefathers have unknowingly passed on this wound from generation to generation.
  3. This “victim identity” impoverishes people and withholds from them their true identity in Christ that leads to abundant life and joy in the Lord.
  4. This is the same slave mentality that kept the children of Israel from possessing the promise land, and caused them to waste away in the wilderness.
  5. Some even teach their disciples to remain separate from members of His Body because of the color of their skin. They forget that it was God who reconciled Jew and Gentile to Himself and made all peoples from one blood.
  6. It has also been reported that some of your shepherds are sexually immoral as were the sons of Eli, causing the people to despise the house of the Lord and no longer assemble with the saints.
  7. Others have greedily run after profit as Balaam, prophesying to those with itching ears for worldly prosperity.
  8. I rejoice in the Lord for those who have been faithfully praying for Sanford to rise up and become the city of light set on a hill.
  9. I call upon you “Friendly City” to remember your first name in which you were called the “Gate City”. For through you many have entered the central regions of Florida looking for hope and purpose.
  10. And yes, people arrived through your River Gate, through your Railroad Gate and Airport Gate. The Gates of the County seat still sit on the shores of Lake Monroe. Truly you are a gate city and the gates of hell shall not prevail against the Church of Jesus Christ in Sanford.
  11. Let us go forward in the full assurance of God’s power to root out and to pull down, to destroy and throw down, and to build and to plant.
  12. Let us obey the Lord’s command to remove the altars and sacred pillars, the mental images of anything that exalts itself above the knowledge of Christ’s victory and His prayer for us to be one in Him.
  13. If there is any teaching that draws men to principles instead of to the person of Jesus Christ, then let us rise up and confront it in His name. If there are leaders who are living contrary to the Scriptures, let us confront them in love, rebuking those who resist the truth.
  14. Let us hear the admonition to speak the truth in love. Let us no longer just think the truth. Now is the time to shout it from the housetops.
  15. It is time for the Church to come out of her closet. The voice of one crying in the wilderness is once again preparing the Bride for her Bridegroom.
  16. No longer will the Church in Sanford be subservient to the controlling spirit of religious and cultural traditions.
  17. Where the Spirit of the Lord is there is liberty, and liberty is what the truth produces in those who know and obey it.

CHAPTER 3

Confronting Religious Control

Let us remove those strongholds that are hindering the glorious manifestation of the Lord Jesus Christ through His Body in Sanford.

  1. Do not forget our Lord’s Prayer that we would be one as He and the Father are one. Herein the lost will acknowledge that God truly sent Jesus to save the world, when they see us as one. Let not the Gospel fall on deaf ears because our lives contradict what we preach.
  2. Therefore we confront the sin of religious control that forces the people of God into sectarian groups, making disciples of ourselves that are isolated from the rest of the Body.
  3. We charge those who shepherd the flock to edify and work to join and knit the Body of Christ together, so every part does its share.
  4. We confront the error that teaches we are only responsible to build our group without any thought for the whole Body.
  5. Don’t become a cancer, a tumor growing without regard for the rest of the Body. Let him who thinks he stands, take heed lest he be found outside saying “Lord, Lord, didn’t we do all these things for you?”
  6. We are not speaking about “sameness” but about “oneness”, otherwise where would the foot, or the eye or the ear find their purpose?
  7. If Christ is your head and He is building a Body of every tribe, tongue and nation, then work out that purpose in Sanford. Confront everything that exalts itself against His Lordship over His Body?
  8. Truly are we not to pray that His Kingdom come, on earth as it is in heaven?  Are we not to expect it to be manifested here in our generation? Anything less would be unbelief and vain repetition that displeases God.
  9. Who has bewitched you to depart from the unity of the Spirit that already exists? Why haven’t you worked with the elders of the Lord in your city?
  10. How is that you can strain at nat-size doctrinal differences while swallowing a camel-size Church divided against its self?
  11. Are you building your kingdom in Jesus’ name? Is it really the Lord you are bringing people to, or is it to your own enterprise you are bringing them to? Consider this and the Lord will give you wisdom.
  12. Remember that each tree will bear its own fruit. Is there liberty and life in your tree? Does the fruit of your ministry tree heal the tribes and nations in your city and your country?
  13. Let us consider one another and provoke one another to work the works of Jesus. He who has called us is faithful who will perform it.
  14. Herein is the love of God, that we love all the brethren. By this the world will know that we are His disciples.
  15. Therefore I beseech all the servants of God to break out of the religious traditions and isolationism that works against our Lord’s Prayer, lest you be disqualified on the Day when Christ will judge the secrets of all men.

CHAPTER 4

Test and See If You Are of the Faith

Brethren examine yourselves to see if you are in the faith before the Lord comes.

  1. When we are received into the glories of heaven we will all be of one mind and one spirit because we shall see Him as He is.
  2. Let us provoke one another to consider how we can see Him that way now in the Spirit.
  3. The shepherds of God must model this reality for the flock to follow. What we will be in heaven we must be now in the earth.
  4. Those who discern the presence of the Lamb that was slain throw their crowns at His feet. Those who proudly cling to their titles or positions haven’t seen the Lord.
  5. Remember that the Kingdom of God births the Church. When we live from the life of the King and His Kingdom we become the true Ecclesia that represents the King. Greet one another as fellow citizens of the Kingdom.
  6. Know this, the Lord Himself is coming to His Church in power before He comes for His Church in glory.
  7. To the only wise and omnipotent God and Savior, Jesus Christ, be all the praise and glory forever and ever; Amen.

The Beauty of Hell

Hell 3We fear it. We hear horror stories about it. Hell is the place nobody wants to go to. Can such a scary place really exist? It is popular today to question how a loving God could ever send somebody to a place of torment… especially forever. Critics say that religious leaders use the concept of hell to scare people so they can control them and their wallets. Others question if Hell is real, is it forever? Others believe Hell is a place where the last ounce of energy to resist God is expended and people finally succumb to God’s love…which never fails; this is called “Hopeful Inclusivism”. Some say hell is a place of annihilation (the end of existence). Articles like “Why Hell Is Not in the Bible” helps us understand why some scholars don’t believe in a literal eternal hell. Explaining all the different doctrines about hell can leave one lost in a theological abyss. Explaining it Biblically is much easier. Regardless of its duration or dimensions, it is not a place any sane person wants to go to.

The scholars who believe in a traditional hell believe God knows how to faithfully judge and determine the fate of all those who have never heard the Gospel? He determines their fate by their conscience amidst the knowledge they do have? He decides what to do with aborted babies and children before the age of accountability by His foreknowledge (or Middle Knowledge; a Molinist View) by how they would have lived (see Romans 2:14-16, 26-27).

It is interesting to note that the same Greek word used for eternal or everlasting life is used to describe eternal or everlasting fire or damnation. I guess if we are questioning if damnation is forever we may need to rethink if our salvation is forever as well. In any event, we sometimes forget that the Good News Jesus told us to proclaim to the world is good news because the bad news is so bad. Jesus came to save us from Gehenna; the smoldering “garbage dump” of His day. Many believe this represents the spiritual garbage heap in the afterlife.

Some say that God allowed humans to kill Jesus on the cross was for the purpose of revealing how bad the depravity and cruelty of sinful man is. Others see it as God’s way of describing how terrible hell must be must be by how much Jesus was willing to endure to save us from it. This innocent God-man suffered so much because He wanted to save us from something so terrible and so horrific, it is beyond words. Perhaps that’s why Jesus warned us so much about a place called hell.

This is where the critics of Hell are met with a dilemma. You see, the greatest human who ever lived (Jesus), talked more about Hell and judgment than anyone else. The plain reading of these texts, are inescapability clear; this is a place you don’t want to go to. Listen to a few things He said…

And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. Matthew 5:29

And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. Matthew 10:28

Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: Matthew 25:41

So it was that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom. The rich man also died and was buried. And being in torments in Hades. Luke 16:22-23

When the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.  These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power,  when He comes, in that Day. 1 Thessalonians 1:6-10

Some say these Scriptures metaphorically refer to the consequences of sin in this life. Yet it makes one wonder, why does some concept of Hell exist in almost every culture on earth? It maybe because we humans somehow instinctively expect there must be some accounting, some reckoning for acts of evil if there truly is a just God-afterlife. There must be a heavenly Judge Who cannot be bribed or manipulated, Who will bring righteous judgment to all the evils in the world. One thing is for sure…God will not put anyone in a “headlock” and force them into heaven.

So what is so beautiful about Hell? Have the scholars who believe in a traditional hell found any meaningful reasons why a loving God would allow for a place like this? Here are three possible things to consider.

1 – Could Hell Reveal How Loving, Wise and Merciful God Is?Hell 2

I know that may sound strange; but think about it for a moment. If God truly gave us a free-will to choose to love and serve Him or reject Him, there also would have to be a real place to go for those who would refuse Him. It would be cruel and merciless to force someone into heaven if they didn’t want to be there. If they didn’t love God, love His people, love His ways or love intimate communion with the Creator, why should they be forced to live in heaven? It would also be unfair to the multitudes who wanted to be with God. Why should they be subjected to an “eternity with angry house guests” who are hostile to God and His ways; that wouldn’t be paradise to them either? That’s how we can be in heaven and be cool with people in hell; even our loved ones. When you realize that they are rejecting the Creator and Author of life, separation from them is not only required but welcomed (see Luke 14:26). Jesus said, compared to our love for Him our affection for others would look like hate.

I know before I became a believer, hanging around Christians, Bible reading, a worship service, a prayer meeting or mission work would be hell for me. I wanted to be as far away as possible from God’s light and His life. I resisted Him. However now that I’ve been born again those things are like air in my lungs…the very things that gives me joy and purpose for living. I can’t get enough of His presence.

The loving thing for God to do for those who love God and those who don’t is to make a place for each of them. Our time here on earth, provides us with a complete vetting process and clarifies our choice before a just God.

2 – Could The Fact that a Place Without God Being so Terrible Mean that God’s Presence is so Awesome?

HellSome may ask; “Why does Hell have to be such an awful place?” First of all we need to realize that wherever God’s presence is absent, there you will find Hell! The heroin addict, the pimp, the prostitute, the gangster, the corrupt businessman, the hate-filled terrorist, the cold–hearted homemaker all experience this emptiness whether they will admit it or not. People often overlook the fact that God is the Author of life, liberty, glorious light, health, wonder, beauty, boundless love, mercy, acceptance, unending joy, unspeakable peace and goodness. If you don’t want to be around Almighty God, you’ll be separating yourself from these attributes and benefits as well.

But why would God make it a place of gruesome fire? Scholars differ as to the reasons. As we said before, it may not be any of God’s doing. It may simply be just an unavoidable by-product of God’s absence and so many godless people in one place. However some scholars believe the fires of Hell could actually be a result of God’s mercy at work. The very flames themselves could be God’s way of crippling or restraining the ability of the stronger and more-wicked rebels from inflicting greater torment on others.

For example, if you were put in jail for DUI you would probably appreciate the insane ax-murderer in the cell with you being securely handcuffed to the opposite wall so they wouldn’t be able to hurt you. The flames of Hell and the Lake of Fire may be there to keep them from tormenting each other. Some believe that those in Hell will suffer proportionally to the level of sin and rebellion they lived on earth. Likewise those in heaven will be rewarded according to their works on earth. Jesus indicated these differences when He said, it would be more tolerable in the day of judgment for those in Sodom and Gomorrah than those cities in Israel who rejected the Gospel. The more knowledge one has the greater the condemnation.

3 – Could Hell be a Place You Have to Actually Fight to Get Into?

BattleThat’s right. Nobody gets into Hell unless they want to be there. You have to battle your way into this place. You have to fight past every obstacle God puts in your path. You have to fight to ignore the hundreds if not thousands of signs and indicators from creation revealing the goodness and glory of God (Romans 1). You have fight to ignore Christians witnessing to you. You have to refuse the Good News coming from the ministers on TV, radio, newspapers, your friends, relatives and the guy at work. You have to ignore scenes in movies that depict God’s invitation to be saved. You have to ignore this article. You have to fight the voice of your conscience. You have to fight the still small voice of the Holy Spirit convicting you of refusing the God Who created you. Yes, you have to fight and resist with every ounce of energy you have until your last breath to get into Hell.

C. S. Lewis suggested that there is a way for people in hell to leave but they inevitably always end up choosing to stay there because separation from God is worth more to them than the suffering it causes. In any event, regardless how you define Hell, it was never intended for mankind; it was prepared for the devil and his crew (Matthew 25). If you don’t want to go to a place like that, ask Jesus Christ to come into your life and save you from your sins and their consequences… surrender all you are to Him…Let Him be your Lord. You will truly see why the Good News is so good!

See also; The Beauty of Doubt and The Beauty of Failure

The Beauty of Doubt

Doubt 4We fight it. We work very hard at avoiding it. We deny we have it. We feel terrible about it when we do have it. Yet everybody struggles with Doubt. What makes us feel even worse about it is we know Jesus rebuked His disciples when they let their doubt squelch their faith (Luke 9:41). We know that without faith it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6). We are told to beware of “an evil heart of unbelief” in departing from the living God (Hebrews 3:12). This is serious stuff. Gee whiz, even “the unbelieving” tops the list of those who end up in the Lake of Fire…even before the murderers, the fornicators and the sorcerers (Revelation 21:8).

There is no way of getting around it. We are saved by faith, we are sanctified by faith, we are filled with the Spirit by faith, we receive healing and deliverance by faith. Faith is so important that Romans 14 ends with the statement; “For whatever is not from faith is sin”.

God chose faith as His way of interacting with us humans without infringing on our freewill. Ever since our forefather Adam willfully chose to eat of the Tree of Knowledge, his bloodline, his offspring has been infected with the sin-virus of an independent inclination and defiance towards God. Today we simply call it pride or self-sufficiency. Therefore through Jesus, God restored the opportunity for us to have relationship with Him through the free-will agency of faith. We have a choice to choose Him and His will for our lives every day, without being forced to comply.

It seems God doesn’t want us to justify ourselves, but to simply choose His way of doing things. Faith is us trusting Him and not our abilities and strength. Faith would be the end of our death-producing independence, thus fixing what Adam messed up in the first place. Even Abraham was counted as righteous by God for simply believing God and trusting His word (Genesis 15:6). Danish philosopher and theologian Søren Kierkegaard may have had this concept in mind when he said;

“And this is one of the most crucial definitions for the whole of Christianity; that the opposite of sin is not virtue, but faith.”

So why do I say there is beauty in Doubt? Because there is an aspect of doubt that is truly wonderful to ponder. It reveals the wisdom of our God. You see, without the possibility of doubt we would be preprogrammed robots. Without doubt we wouldn’t truly have a free will, and if we didn’t really have freewill we wouldn’t be created in the image of God. It is an amazing thing that God actually created billions of people in the same image of Himself. The presence of doubt should remind us we still have a choice in every circumstance. Doubt reminds us we are back in the Garden and have a free will to choose God’s way, our way, or the world’s way.

This presence of Doubt is a reminder of our freedom. However it can be disconcerting at times. Kierkegaard described it well when he said “Anxiety is the dizziness of freedom.” Doubt presents us with alternatives to the will of God. Some of those alternatives are difficult to choose from because the choice may cost us a lot.

Let me leave you with some closing thoughts about Doubt.Doubt 3

#1 – Certainty without the possibility of Doubt is not a good thing – Wouldn’t it be great if Adolf Hitler, Charles Mansion or today’s Islamic terrorists had a little doubt about their belief system? Isn’t their certainty a scar on humanity? What about the Pharisees? Their self-assured, self-righteousness ended up snuffing out the life of Jesus…which they still do today. People sometimes forget that the apostles of the Lord sometimes stated the will of God in terms of something that “seemed good” to them and the Holy Spirit (Acts 15:25, 28 and 34). I love the humility in their words.

#2 – Don’t freak out when Doubt comes. If a bird flies and lands on your head that’s not your fault. However if it builds a nest on your head you have entertained your doubts way too long. We need to remind new believers if doubts come against them it’s not because they are failing at Christianity. Doubts enter into everybody’s mind, especially right before an important decision or situation in their life. We aren’t helpless before these doubts.

hitler-2#3 – The presence of Doubt means you are still alive. You are still a freewill moral being with the power to choose. Nobody has preprogrammed you. You are still on the journey of life if you wrestle with doubt. You have options. In fact, it is the very 50-50 decisions we are forced to make; the ones where we aren’t really clear what we are to do; when our intellectual abilities are exhausted, that we must depend on our “gut”, our faith. It is in this crucible of “choices with consequences” that our faith and our inner person, which was created in the image of God comes forth as refined gold.

#4 – Doubt doesn’t mean you don’t have faith, you may have just misplaced it. The story of Jesus and His frightened disciples on the stormy sea (Luke 8:25) caused Jesus to pose an important question to them; “Where is your faith”? Jesus wanted them to think about where they placed their faith. They (like us) probably allowed their fearful circumstances to push their faith down into a corner of their soul. Yet it is still there. Jesus is reminding them (and us) to get our faith out and use it again.

So the next time you are fighting the fight of faith, remember that the presence of doubt doesn’t mean you are a weak person or you are a hopeless cause. The little faith you do have, even if it is the size of a mustard seed, is enough to remove every mountain in your way.

In the end you can also remember… you can doubt your doubt.

For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that overcomes the world – our faith! 1 John 5:4

Also see – “The Beauty of Failure” and “The Beauty of Hell”

The Beauty of Failure

Pic 6We fear it! We hate it! We all resist it with every fiber of our being. But nevertheless it will touch all of us. There are no exceptions. Yet there are wonderful, even beautiful, aspects of failure we need to appreciate. Here are a few:

#1. Failure. You can’t be a Christian without it. We can’t be saved unless we have failed at being righteous, and the Bible states in Romans 3:10, “there is none righteous, no, not one!” Despite our intentions at being successful at being righteous, the sin we have been infected with always raises its prideful head and causes us to do those things we wished we wouldn’t. Yet failing here is what qualifies us for the Saving Grace only God can provide.

#2. Failure. The gift of recognition. It is only after we fail at something do we discern our present condition and context. Thomas Edison is known to have said after he was questioned about failing to make a light bulb after a thousand attempts; He said, “I now know 1000 ways how not to make a light bulb”. He appreciated the beauty of failure. Winston Churchill said, “Success is going from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm”. Each failure brings us one step closer to the answer if we look to the Lord. Most of us are spiritually slow, but as we get older and tired of doing it the wrong way we begin to see the light. For a righteous man may fall seven times and rise again, But the wicked shall fall by calamity. Proverbs 24:16. Failure isn’t final, it’s only feedback. (For more on this see Be Encouraged God Will Come into Focus )

#3. Failure. The gift of humility. Perhaps the one virtue we resist the most is humility. We often serve a wrong image of a God who we think demands perfection from us in order to be accepted, so we refuse to step out and try new things because we fear failing. We end up stuck in the paralysis of analysis.  I like how Chris Vallotton confronts this fear of failing with the students in their school of ministry in Bethel, California. None of the students can graduate unless they can show how they failed at least 3 times attempting to minister supernaturally. What beautiful freedom that produces as it puts a nail in the coffin of self-reliant perfectionism.Text

#4. Failure. The portal to more grace. Failing shouldn’t be so much of a surprise to us. Every time we fail it should simply remind ourselves; “I just did something without Jesus”.  In John 15:5, Jesus states, “without Me you can do nothing”. What does a faithful believer do when they fail to live up to the Word of God? They faithfully repent and rely again, on the same grace that saved them in the beginning. 1 Peter 5:5 states, “God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble”.

Many times people think that when God has called you to something, He’s promised you success. He might be calling you to fail to prepare you for something else in the future. ~ Timothy Keller

So the next time you feel like a failure, just remember that failing is an “event”, not an “identity” when you have Jesus Christ in your life. This doesn’t make us self-confident but God-confident. Therefore no matter what you are facing today remember, when you have the Lord you can “fail-forward” in everything you do. Praise the Lord.

Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ. 2 Corinthians 2:14

Also See – “The Beauty of Doubt” and “The Beauty of Hell”

Jesus Wore a Crown of Thorns and So Will We

CrownIf this is the first time for a believer to go through a crushing period it can be very disconcerting. Often it causes them to doubt the validity of Christianity. Up to this point the Christian has only known the academics of the Faith; but once the actual process of testing begins it can be overwhelming. Since the spiritual diet in many Churches in America is mostly focused on the “sweet parts” of the Bible, the average believer is unprepared to face the trials all of God’s servants encountered in the Bible.

Can you imagine the mind games David must have battled as he was running from Saul’s attacks? Where was God during this time? Did David wonder if the prophet Samuel misheard God when he prophesied he would be the next king? What about young Joseph when he was languishing in an Egyptian prison; didn’t God show him something different in his dreams? What about Paul being regularly beaten and imprisoned for simply preaching great sermons? The mental anguish they faced must have been immeasurable.

This is where our “intellectual veil” is torn and greater access to spiritual perception and authority opens up to us. Up to this point our Christianity has been more about the adherence to the Christian religion. Now we become truly desperate for the person of God. When our formulas and memorized Scriptures don’t alleviate the torment, all we have left is God. This isn’t a loss for the believer; it is sweet deliverance from the “exalted intellect” we were cursed with during the Fall of Man. Yes this is painful, but it is God’s way of setting us free from dependence on our soul’s ability to figure things out. Through death of self we are set free.

Remember, Jesus wore a crown of thorns and so must you and I if we are going to take up our cross and follow His will for our lives. The Bible says that the soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on Jesus’ head. When we are breaking out of our dead religion or lifeless rituals, the battle to keep us in a form of godliness yet denying the power will be intense. As we wear our crown of thorns, many painful and sharp thoughts will “jab” into our head, our mind as well.

These fearful thoughts will also be twisted around other legitimate thoughts making it difficult to separate them in order to make sense of them. Internal arguments arise such as; “Is this God’s will for me? Why is this stuff happening? Is this a lack of faith on my part? Should I have done something different? Do I have sin in my life? Maybe I missed God? Should I be rebuking the devil or submitting to this process?” These thoughts are so twisted together that it is difficult to unravel them to see which ones are valid and apply to your situation.

We know the mental anguish Jesus suffered must have been unbearable because He actually sweat blood. The good news is Jesus wore His crown of thorns to enable us to overcome the flesh and the mind games the devil throws at us as we wear ours. This is where we identify with Christ in the fellowship of His sufferings.

It is awesome to realize how deep and strong Jesus’ love for God and for us truly is. His love enabled Him to keep His mind subject to the will of God even during the anguish of the garden and the horror of crucifixion. We must not forget the Lord Jesus stated plainly that if we are going to follow Him, we must deny ourselves, take up our cross (the instrument and circumstances of our death) and then follow Him. This is serious business for the follower of Christ!

Over the last several years I’ve met many Christians who were going through this breaking. When they went to their bishop, apostle, pastor or elder for support they often discovered that these leaders had no idea what they were going through. There are many in Christian ministry today who rule by their own strength and political maneuvering who simply don’t understand this process. They are really no different from the person on Wall Street or Madison Avenue trying to get ahead at any cost. When a “budding” David or a young Joseph with vision asks for help they are often ridiculed or they are rebuked instead of offered any encouragement.

When God is taking us through Roadkill Seminary, those in positions of authority who dropped out of God’s School will see us as strange or even a threat. Get ready to duck, because there is a good chance a spear is headed our way, or watch out, our brothers might be ready to throw us into a pit! Be of good cheer, they are also part of the curriculum.

Excerpt from “Roadkill Seminary”

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The Anatomy of a Stronghold

StrongholdGetting to the root of the problem starts by recognizing where we are believing a lie in the first place. That’s why Jesus said “You will know the truth, and the “truth” will set you free. Generally speaking a lie can be about anything that contradicts the Word of God. But more specifically a lie results in strongholds in our lives because it keeps us from the truth of our true identity in Christ. Isaiah 5:13 states; Therefore my people have gone into captivity, because they have no knowledge. Hosea 4:6 states; My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. As you can see, we don’t have a sin problem as much as we have a knowledge of the truth problem.

For more information on how you can experience freedom in Christ get your copy of “You Can Be Free”

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Be Encouraged, God Will Come Into Focus

FocusFor all those who wonder if they will ever hear (or sense) God speaking to them, let me encourage you. God is still speaking, even if it feels like God is hiding. Heaven’s radio station transmits all the time. It does require some fine tuning on our part. Over time, you will gradually distinguish the voice of the Lord from all the other competing voices in your life. You can also discover the place where God speaks about everything.

This process usually takes time because God speaks from realms and in frequencies that the normal, natural you, doesn’t readily discern. In fact the Bible states;

But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.1 Corinthians 2:14

Unsaved and unregenerate human beings fret against the ways of God.

The foolishness of a man twists his way, and his heart frets against the Lord. Proverbs 19:3

Not only are we are not inclined to listening to God but we hide from the truth in His voice. Hear

And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. John 3:19-20

However, once we surrender our lives to God through faith in Jesus Christ, a new spirit is birthed in us and we are given the capacity to hear and receive from God. Yet the self-dependency of our natural thinking from birth still governs us most of the time. We will need to be intentional about steering our wagon out of these mental ruts. As time goes by we gradually recognize subtle indications and unctions from the Lord from all kinds of circumstances in our life. We increasingly become aware of coincidences, impressions and confirming words or signs that keep pointing us to a wiser, loving intelligence at work in our life. If we live in a prophetic community this process of recognizing God’s voice is accelerated.

The truth of the matter is we often simply wear out from resisting God’s way of doing things. We become tired of seeing no fruit from doing things in our strength. In our depleted state of resignation we begin to recognize and acknowledge God’s agenda is marching on… sometimes without us. This awakens us to Who is really in charge of our world and we begin to humbly acknowledge the still small voice of God in our life. Another factor that determines the time it takes to develop a hearing or listening ear is that at each step in our walk we have to choose… we have to volunteer to cooperate when the Lord speaks to us regarding the things that are not pleasing to him. It’s as if there are trees and bushes blocking our “inner satellite dish” that need to be removed before we get the full signal. If we cooperate with the Holy Spirit working in our lives, as months and years go by, we hear and see more clearly.

Help From a 400 Year Old Book

If you would like some practical tips to receiving more from the Lord when reading your Bible, you can do yourself a favor by getting a copy of “Experiencing The Depths of Jesus Christ” by Jeanne Guyon, written over three centuries ago. The first 20 pages will radically change how you read your Bible.  Also “Four Keys to Hearing God’s Voice” by Mark Virkler is one of the best resources available to help you tune into the voice of the Lord. The good news is; if you will give yourself to regularly reading and mediating on the Word of God; if you incline and apply your heart to understanding; you will hear the voice of God. The Lord will relentlessly break though every hindrance and barrier in your life, like a plant pressing its way through a concrete sidewalk. You will begin to see and hear God come into focus.

My son, if you receive my words, And treasure my commands within you, So that you incline your ear to wisdom, And apply your heart to understanding; Yes, if you cry out for discernment, And lift up your voice for understanding, If you seek her as silver, And search for her as for hidden treasures; Then you will understand the fear of the Lord, And find the knowledge of God. Proverbs 2:1-5

5 Ways We Hinder Our Own Spiritual Journey

5With so many Christians in America giving up on their active pursuit of God, I believe we need to help them diagnose the reasons for their apathy. It seems as if they have the attitude of; “I did the church thing, got the t-shirt and I am over it”. “I don’t see the need or the payoff of seeking hard after God the way I used to”.

Some researchers estimate that tens of millions of evangelical believers have stopped active involvement in a community of believers.  You may find the “12 Reasons” why some believers are actively “unchurching” informative as to why your friends or relatives are no longer part of the traditional church scene. My article “The Church In Transition” addresses why the institutional church may have a blind spot about how we “do” church and why it results in so many dropping out from boredom. In a nutshell, believers need exposure to not only pastoral ministry, but apostolic and prophetic graces to go onto maturity and find spiritual employment in the kingdom of God.

However on an individual level, some of this apparent lack of passion and zeal for God may be a maturity thing; a realignment of our kinetic, youthful activity to a more balanced and educated approach to God. Perhaps a more knowledgeable understanding of the Gospel of Grace and the finished work of Christ reduces the amount of striving in our lives.  In other words we are no longer driven by the condemnation of the Law and the fear-based, performance trap that comes with it. For more about the Grace Movement you may want to see “In The Year 2023”.

Yet sadly most Americans haven’t found the sweet spot of a mature marathoner, running toward the prize of the upward call in Christ. They have become spectators who are no longer running the race with patience. Even the sporadic trip to church to appease their conscious is insufficient to dissuade their unconscious “knowing” that they have in reality quit the race altogether.

The following heart issues address some of the wrong thinking that hinder or hurt us on our own spiritual journey that we often are unaware of.

1. The Cain Syndrome – When our prideful, human efforts to serve God and fulfill His will fall short of God’s approval or validation it can leave us standing before a fork in the road of life. We can pause and ask the Lord; “What would you have me to do; what are you teaching me in this?” Or, we can respond like Cain; who felt rejected and ended up so angry he murdered his brother and spent the rest of his life aimlessly wandering. What Cain failed to understand is that God didn’t reject him, but his human, sacrificial efforts. If God rejects some human work on our part, it should free us to more fully discover what He really wants… not cause us to quit, hate our brother, criticize the Church and wander through life with no purpose.

This self-life or what some call the sin-nature we all wrestle with, consistently produces a misunderstanding or a miscalculation of God’s ways and leads us to dejection. Listen to how Oswald Chambers describes the danger of this spiritual self-pity.

Every fact that the disciples stated was right, but the conclusions they drew from those facts were wrong. Anything that has even a hint of dejection spiritually is always wrong. If I am depressed or burdened, I am to blame, not God or anyone else. Dejection stems from one of two sources— I have either satisfied a lust or I have not had it satisfied. In either case, dejection is the result. Lust means “I must have it at once.” Spiritual lust causes me to demand an answer from God, instead of seeking God Himself who gives the answer. What have I been hoping or trusting God would do? Is today “the third day” and He has still not done what I expected? Am I therefore justified in being dejected and in blaming God? Whenever we insist that God should give us an answer to prayer we are off track. The purpose of prayer is that we get a hold of God, not of the answer. Dejection spiritually is wrong, and we are always to blame for it. My Upmost For His Highest; February 7.

Entertaining thoughts of self-pity and feeling sorry for yourself hinders your spiritual journey.

2. The Saul Syndrome – I think it was Albert Einstein who said “Premature responsibility breeds superficiality.” In King Saul, Israel’s first king, we see an insecure individual coming to power without the necessary trials and testing that Joseph, Moses or David experienced to prepare them for the weight of leadership. Saul acted in a way that was harmful to his spiritual journey. He was in it more for the accolades and the approval of the crowds than the approval of the Lord. This “fear of man” caused him to react in impulsive ways, worried what the people would say. Saul’s impatience and impertinence to wait of the “pace of grace” led him to further frustration and rejection. When Saul tried to govern his own life and the kingdom without relating properly to the prophetic Word of the Lord, he got off track on his journey and lost everything.   

The fear of man brings a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord shall be safe. Proverbs 29:25

Worrying about what others think of you hinders your spiritual journey.

3. The “Little-Big” Blindness – When we are led by our carnal intellectual nature we almost always miss what God is doing and then wrongly conclude God is not working in our lives. It is our addiction to the strong impulses of our flesh that governs us most of the time and keeps us from being sensitive to God’s gentle spiritual impulses. It usually takes many more trials and tribulations to tenderize our hearts in order to hear and feel the subtle whispers and promptings of His Spirit. It’s amazing just how blind and deaf we can be to the Spirit of God. Ironically we have no problem daily using a radio or a cell phone that operates on invisible and inaudible radio waves and tiny bits of micro-electrical impulses. Yet we struggle tuning our human equipment into heaven’s broadcast. In my article “Be Encouraged, God Will Come Into Focus” you may find some perspective.

Failure to recognize God in the smallest acts or events in your life hinders your spiritual journey.

4. The Hitching Post Syndrome – Our intellectual pursuits can lead us to a dead-end. Nowhere is this clearer than watching our government leaders in action (or inaction) these days.  Never have so many intelligent people logically and consistently come to the wrong conclusions. Proverbs 14:2 states; “There is a way that seems right to man, but the end thereof is death”. Head knowledge can be “dead knowledge” if it doesn’t become flesh and dwell among us by God’s Spirit. Holding on to the last thing the Lord revealed to us can cause us to die on the vine as well. The Scriptures teach us that heritage is good, landmarks are good, traditions are good, and liturgy is good, if they are used as tools that lead us to a vital, living, experiential God. One of the Ten Commandments states we are to have “No graven images”… even if they are only in our minds. We hurt our spiritual journey when we hold on to what God said at the expense of what God is saying. What should have been a “guide post” becomes a “hitching post” of dead religion and old wineskins. The Lord taught me to distinguish Expectation with Expectancy.

Clinging to what God did in the past in order to feel more in control hinders your spiritual journey. 

5. The Judas Syndrome – We know Judas betrayed Jesus for 30 pieces of silver but the real story is how Judas betrayed himself by not seeing what was truly valuable in his life. He was his own worst enemy. He was riding the popular wave of Jesus Christ Ministries for reasons that were evidently not pure. In truth, some of us unknowingly do the same today. As the treasurer of the ministry perhaps he saw the potential of Jesus’ ministry and a position in His administration as the future king of Israel. He imagined himself moving up the corporate ladder only to find out Jesus’ ladder was leaning on the wrong building in his eyes. The final straw was the “wasteful” use of expensive perfume by Mary upon Jesus. Judas was infuriated at the financial mismanagement. And to make things worse Jesus didn’t rebuke her, but rather praised her while making some remarks about this being for his burial. Burial!? Regardless if Judas fully understood what Jesus’ burial reference meant, he may have gotten a glimpse of Jesus’ “kamikaze mission” and decided to cut and run. The next verse says “Then” Judas went to the High Priest to get the best severance package he could leverage under the circumstances. (Matthew 26-6-15)

There are many in America who stopped following after God simply because they were in it for the wrong reasons. They were trying to fill their financial, emotional or social status bank accounts in hopes it would give them “their idea” of a life of peace and security.

Failure to recognize why you should be following Jesus in the first place hinders your spiritual journey.

If you’ve become bored with God and whole church scene; if you stopped earnestly going after Him it simply means you have gotten your eyes off of the resurrected Jesus. Somehow you became focused on the box or the container He came in. If you are truly beholding Him, you will be captivated by the One who breathes galaxies into existence. This will keep you from being one of the Walking Dead.

What Does It Feel and Look Like When You Are Doing It Right?

Let me let you in on a secret. When your heart is right; when you have been tenderized by life instead of hardened by it because you kept your eyes on Him instead of the problem, you will gladly remain on your spiritual journey.

As you read His word you come with a spirit of expectation that something is always flowing from a limitless God; and it is priceless not matter how small it is. Even something as small as an atom can have an explosive impact in your life. You come with neutral buoyancy, with no agenda and you are willing to be led by Him. There is a childlike sense of wonder and awe at the slightest glimpse of Him and His world. There is a liberating fear because you fear the right things. When you properly fear or respect God, nothing else scares you. You experience a pride shattering awe and awareness because you are near such awesome, yet holy power. You are overwhelmed by an intellectual comprehension on the one hand, while receiving the essence of knowing something beyond knowledge on the other. Yes, we are full of God when we yield to the unique knowledge that surpasses human knowledge.

…to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Ephesians 3:19

You understand what the apostle Paul meant when he said we would see with the “eyes of our understanding”. This is where our Spirit is refreshed and our soul is fed with the living water and bread from heaven. Staying on our spiritual journey is a joy when you do it this way. Nothing in this world even comes close to the fulfillment of laying down your old life and following Jesus. Do I have a witness?

12 Reasons Why I Am a Christian: by Frank Viola

Pic 3I found Frank Viola’s reasons for following Jesus Christ to be ones that resonate with me. Consider his remarks below.

In 1927, the famed British philosopher Bertrand Russell wrote an essay entitled, “Why I Am Not a Christian.”

Russell’s essay inspired the title of this post.

By “Christian,” I mean someone who has trusted their life to Jesus Christ as Crucified Savior and Resurrected Lord and seeks to follow Him each day. (I’m keenly aware that the term “Christian” has been hijacked to mean different things, hence the need to define.)

Three things to keep in mind about this list:

1) This isn’t a list of theological reasons (e.g., God chose me in Christ before the foundation of the world and the Holy Spirit revealed Christ to my heart).

2) This isn’t a list of why I am indebted to Jesus (He owns me; He bought me with His blood; He died for my sins, etc.) Instead, they are intellectual/emotional/experiential reasons why I trust in and follow Jesus.

3) This isn’t an exhaustive list (I can certainly list more reasons), and it doesn’t reflect any particular order or priority.

At the end of the list, I have a question for readers who aren’t following Jesus at the present time. And I’m really looking forward to hearing what they have to say.

So share this post via Facebook and Twitter using the links/buttons below.

Why I’m a Christian . . .

1. Because life makes no sense to me apart from Christ. Nor does it have any purpose.

2. Because I’ve tried to not believe in Jesus, and I find that I cannot. (Perhaps this is why the early Christians were called “believers.” We believe for reasons that we cannot naturally explain. We believe because we believe. I have certainly struggled with various doubts along the way and questioned why God does and doesn’t do certain things, but that’s a different issue.)

3. Because I’ve never seen the Gospel narratives refuted successfully. Every critique that’s sought to debunk them throughout the years has been discounted under careful scrutiny and scholarship. The Gospels have stood the test of time.

4. Because I’ve never seen the resurrection of Jesus refuted successfully. Upon careful study of all the historical data, it actually takes more faith to deny His resurrection than to believe it occurred.

5. Because it makes no sense to me that Jesus of Nazareth isn’t who He said He was – the Messiah, the Son of the living God. No human being has had nearly the kind of effect on world history as Jesus has (e.g., I’m writing this post in 2012 – what does “2012” mean?). No serious historian denies that Jesus of Nazareth existed (there is more historical attestation for His existence than there is to Julius Caesar and many other ancient figures). And C.S. Lewis’ trilemma – Jesus is either a lunatic, a liar, or lord – rings true for me.

6. Because I can’t help but see the biblical narrative of Creation, Fall, and Redemption echoed in every play, every work of art, every human story, every drama, every movie, and the news I read each day. The Christian story is deeply embedded in the soundtrack of human history and art.

7. Because every time I meet a true follower of Jesus for the first time, I feel like I’ve known him or her all my life.

8. Because Jesus is the most compelling, intriguing, awe-inspiring, and amazing person I know of who is worthy of the greatest admiration, obedience, love, and (uniquely) worship. To my mind, truth, justice, and beauty are all grounded in Him, and His story (as told in the Gospels) trumps every other story known to humanity.

9. Because I’ve never seen any religion or philosophy deliver people from a life of carnality and bondage to addictions. In my experience and observation at least, Jesus transforms people’s lives greater than anything else on the face of the earth.

10. Because I have a deep and unshakeable belief that the Lord Jesus Christ is with me and taking care of me . . . and has all of my life. I cannot imagine life without Christ.

11. Because there is no rational explanation for some of the prayers that I (and others I know) have seen answered “in Jesus’ name.”

12. Because I don’t weep easily, but I readily cry whenever I detect the fingerprints of my Lord or behold His handiwork.

http://frankviola.org/2012/07/30/whyimachristian/

Why “Your” Jesus Has to Die

death2Our Image of God Has to Die Before We Can See the True God 

Many times our relationship with God is reminiscent of the relationship we had with our natural father that may have lacked closeness and intimacy because our dad was absent physically or emotionally. Our present so-called high Biblical standards and sacrificial commitment to God are usually more about us trying to be special and worthy of being noticed by a distant God because we have yet to truly know Him intimately.

Ironically the Lord has to deliver us from what seems like our very commitment to Him in order to bring us to Himself. This is similar to what happened when Jesus let His disciples see Him die right before their eyes. The Jesus they knew and loved, as awesome as He was to them, wasn’t the full representation of all He was. Jesus is so much more.

God wisely has to allow “our” Jesus, our Christian formulas, our systematic theology, our dreams and our faith in people to die in our eyes, before we will fully embrace the true resurrected Christ in His fullness. As the Lord worked to circumcise our outward flesh-nature and behavior like smoking, drinking, and a life of promiscuity in the Outer Court, He begins to carefully cut and circumcise our souls as well in the Inner Court.

This painful cutting is actually like a pruning that will produce more life. Truly, except a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it abides alone (John 12:24). Just as the seed may feel like it is losing everything, it is about to become everything it was destined to be. We will all experience this kind of death as we approach the veil that separates us from knowing God more intimately and experientially.

It’s not until we are drawn by the Lord to go even deeper in our relationship with God that we discover the impurity of our prideful motives. Here we discover the seed-bed of all sin. Here we discover what really needs to die in our nature internally, not just the external surface sins. This process is usually initiated through great trials and tribulations and is often accompanied by great disappointments or prolonged suffering.

This is God’s graduate school of heaven that we call Roadkill Seminary. If it were not for the suffering and trials, we would probably be content to stay in the place of Salvation or Service (typical Christianity in America) where we just learn more knowledge without obtaining significant personal transformation. It is God’s gift to us to draw us into this difficult, unfamiliar wilderness (see Deuteronomy 8:2).

Excerpt from “The Inner Journey”

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I Have a Dream Too

Dream

In light of the recent 50th anniversary of one of the greatest speeches in American history, I believe we can tap into a “greater grace” to advance Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Dream” and the “Dream” of the Lord Jesus Christ in John 17 that we would be one. I believe there is something beyond the normal talking points of our ideological entrenchment that is available to the humble. In my dream I still see the Church (or better said, the servants of Jesus Christ) as the best answer for all that is wrong in the world today. However the Church needs to admit we have missed the mark when it comes to reconciling the races and the denominations.

Some of our Sunday morning separation is not wrong; it’s just a matter of cultural preferences similar to the variety on our radio dial. I love the honesty of a black minister in my city. He said, it isn’t that he doesn’t like white people, he just prefers to be with black people. People like certain genres of music. It’s not often you will find country, blues, jazz, hip hop and rock music all on the same radio station. Variety is a good thing. However when we never interact with each other between the Sundays, when we don’t cross pollinate, when we only have relations with our “own kind or family” the offspring we produce can have “birth defects”. Our mutual isolation produces psychological and sociological genetic weaknesses that keeps us from reproducing healthy solutions the next generation needs. We have lost the ability to balance both points of view that enables us to walk the “narrow path” that leads to life in our nation.

The Church of Jesus Christ is the only authorized and empowered people on the planet that can bring true reconciliation to mankind. The God who reconciled sinful man to Himself through Christ has deputized us as ministers of reconciliation, in all its forms. However the Church needs to be reminded that the Church isn’t the pattern for the Church… Jesus is the pattern. We are to offer the essence of Christ Himself, not the religion about Him. We are to be Jesus with skin on. I believe He still walks our streets and the halls of government through people who are willing to yield to His Spirit, whether in the local PTA meeting or Congress.

We sometimes forget that Jesus didn’t come to earth to bring a religion; He came to bring a Kingdom. His kingdom is not political, but it is governmental. He still administers His heavenly domain here on earth one life at a time. Often it’s only those who are broken, “kingdom minded believers” that possess the essential grace to advance the conversation we need so desperately. We need to be aware of the powerful vortex drawing us into the same trap set by the religious leaders of His day. Will we stay stuck by repeating the same old talking points that keeps us separated or will we mature to find new solutions.  Let’s tap into the grace to advance the conversation that is available to the peacemakers.

I have a dream…

I have a dream we will not be political snake breeders.

I have a dream we will be free from doing things the way Barabbas did. 

I have a dream we will find life amidst a larger, balanced theological perspective.

I have a dream we will bury the excuses that keep us from working together in our cities.

I have dream we will humble ourselves and let God take over as never before.

I have a dream we will find a better way to govern by seeing things from a third perspective.

I have a dream the Church will understand the bigger picture of how we are to reach maturity.

I have a dream believers will understand how apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers can get along.

I have a dream the transition the Church is experiencing nationally with turn into another awakening.

Jesus or Barabbas – Which “Son of the Father” Are We Following?

BarabbasThe cyclical nature of human events still amazes me. The more things change, the more they remain the same. About 2000 years ago the Roman government gave the religious leaders in Jerusalem a choice between two men; Jesus or Barabbas. The Romans gave the Jews this choice because of a custom of releasing a prisoner every year around Passover to appease the Jews in an effort to keep the peace.

The choice between these two men came about because Jesus’ ministry was upsetting the status quo in this Roman province of Palestine. He was changing people’s hearts and therefore was changing the accepted order of things. No imperialistic power allows this for long. The religious leaders were afraid this intenerate minister was going to shake things up so much that it would cause them to lose their place of social status. Pilate, the Roman governor, was giving the people of God a choice that would determine the philosophical direction they and their nation would go.

Here in Sanford Florida, in the wake of the Trayvon Martin tragedy I have challenged both white and black leaders with this very question. “Are we going to follow the way of Barabbas or Jesus?” Will we try to resolve the racial conflict in our city by the strength of our flesh or by the Spirit of God? One way prolongs the division the other resolves it.

Both Choices are Sons of the Father

Everyone knows Jesus is the son of the Father, but did you know that Barabbas’ name ironically also means “son of father” (bar=son and abbas=father)? Here we see again how multilayered and insightful the Bible is as it illustrates the two natures we humans must choose from today. The struggle of the ages ironically isn’t about what is happening outside of us but with what is happening inside of us.

Choices are a central theme in the Bible. The Holy Scriptures highlights several scenarios where we have an opportunity to choose between good and evil, right and wrong and Spirit and flesh. There are choices between the Two Trees in the Garden, Cain and Abel, Isaac and Ishmael, Jacob and Esau, David and Saul. Each of these choices illustrate this inward struggle we all face. (For more insight on this see Where God Speaks About Everything).

Sympathy for Barabbas

Barabbas was already in the custody of the Roman authorities for murder and insurrection (Mark 15:6; Matthew 27:15; and John 18:39). It’s not difficult to understand why Barabbas was responding the way he was. From a little boy he probably saw members of his family and friends suffering under the forced labor and taxation of a foreign nation. How much pain and humiliation had he experienced from the hands of these invaders? How many friends did he see crucified? It seems he was unwilling to sit back and do nothing while another “lynching” took place. He was going to fight these oppressors. The anger and bitterness he felt was justified. In the end he ended up in jail awaiting crucifixion.

Today we might see Barabbas in a right wing militia or in a Black Panther group. Sometimes you can see Barabbas in the Civil Rights movement or on Talk Radio. The Cable News shows give air time to Barabbas as political operatives. I think we all would agree we see Barabbas in the Islamic terrorist.

When We Chose the Way of Barabbas

When we choose Barabbas we get a short term rush from a sense of accomplishment. Our prideful, flesh/nature craves this kind of instant gratification. It gives us a small sense of control in a world where we seem out of control. However a “Barabbas spirit” results in us planting seeds that continue the war perpetually. It’s not that there isn’t a time to fight a just cause; it’s just very important we monitor what’s going on in our hearts while we do it. Jesus taught us to beware of a root of bitterness because it defiles many.

Looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled. Hebrews 12:15 NKJV

When we harbor bitterness, unforgiveness and revenge in our hearts it’s like drinking poison but expecting the other guy to die. It affects every relationship we have. Jesus told two of His disciples who wanted to take action like Barabbas in Luke 9:55, 56; that they didn’t know what “spirit” they are of. The Lord doesn’t want us becoming the enemy while fighting the enemy.

I like what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said during his “I have a dream speech” 50 years ago this month. “But there is something that I must say to my people who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred”.

Many of Us Still Chose Barabbas Today

Our Religious Leaders – Some of our religious leaders still chose “Barabbas” today. They may have “reverend” in front of their name but they are not operating in the spirit of a peacemaker involved in the ministry of reconciliation. In fact they seem to relish the thought of stirring things up and instead of calming the situation down. It is a shame, but it is evident that these “spiritual leaders” haven’t experienced a genuine personal transformation that comes from an intimate encounter with Jesus Christ. Their serial combativeness and self-interests betrays their true condition and their real agenda as they agitate the very disputes they claim to want to solve.

A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, But the slow to anger calms a dispute.
Proverbs 15:18 NAS

This is when snake catchers sadly turn into snake breeders (For more information see our article “Keeping The Snakes Alive” ).

Our Corporations – The executives and producers of our television news networks and talk shows choose “Barabbas” by inviting him on their programs. The fireworks and heated rhetoric he uses raises their ratings and their revenues. These business leaders seem more focused on their company’s stock prices than meaningful solutions.

Our Politicians – Some of our political professionals never waste a political or a racial crisis as an opportunity to seek out a camera; not to foster dialogue in order to find solutions, but to advance their self interests. Since their power comes from the consent of a particular constituency they often don’t seek heaven’s point of view.

We The People – Let’s be honest. None of this happens in a vacuum. We as a nation often chose “Barabbas” each time we participate in the argumentative mudslinging as we watch television, as we talk to those at the water cooler at work, or with our family around the dinner table. We love the propaganda each sides spews forth and the drama it produces. We are like the people who go to hockey games for the fights. We are not unlike the crowds in Jesus’s day voting for the guy who looks more capable of busting some Roman heads. How many of us are working to advance the conversation towards heavenly solutions by doing things Jesus’ way?

When We Chose the Way of Jesus

When we chose to die to the “Barabbas way” of doing things and yield to the life of Jesus Christ, new life and new solutions emerge from another realm. What seemed like an impossible situation or conflict becomes an opportunity for the “Way-maker” to make a way through us. New relationships and perspectives develop between different groups of people as we submit to Him, not our entrenched ideological camps.

Choosing Jesus is not easy to do, especially if you live in a world like Barabbas did; where a dominate culture oppresses and withholds justice. There is a price to letting the Spirit of Christ rule the day in our lives. Just seeing Jesus suspended between heaven and earth testifies to the price of being part of the solution. The feeling of being alone in this process is often unavoidable. If you feel alone you may also be experiencing “The 3 Difficulties of Being From the Future”. You may get shot at by both sides of an issue; Jesus did. Ironically a godless empire conspired with right-wing fundamentalists to get rid of the greatest human who ever lived.

Yet Jesus overthrew the empires of Rome and Religion; better yet He also overthrew the satanic strongholds in the human heart that causes these oppressive institutions in the first place. Even Gandhi following the teachings of Jesus from the Sermon on the Mount overthrew the greatest empire of his day.

It may not seem like you are accomplishing much when you choose the way of Jesus. It may seem like things are moving like a herd of turtles. However every time we choose Jesus we win. Victory is guaranteed. Regardless how it feels, the way of Jesus is actually the short-cut to fixing everything that needs fixing. I choose Jesus. I hope you will too.

Does Everyone Need to Attend Roadkill Seminary?

RKS 3As we stated before it is not the intention to discourage anyone from serving the Lord Jesus in any capacity. We are addressing the need to encourage those who are being prepared for maturity and fruitfulness. If we were to ask a plant what they thought or how they felt during pruning time, the plant might scream, “someone is trying to kill me!” However, after the seasons go by, the pruning makes more sense. This material is meant to help explain and encourage every believer as they get pruned.

When asked if everyone must go through RKS, I must respond with, “Yes, if you are following in Jesus Christ’s footsteps.” Every believer spends time at RKS sometime in their life. Our school enrollment papers are signed; our tuition has been paid; and the registration desk is waiting for us to officially sign in. Maybe we won’t experience the same depth of suffering as the next guy. However, whatever it takes for us to be pliable in the Master’s hands will come to bear on our life. Is every one of us called to the kind of wilderness experience of a Joseph, Moses or David and Paul? Perhaps not. However I believe every believer is called to advance the kingdom of God in some way with the one life they have been given by the Lord.

To do this we must undergo the preparation of the Lord at Roadkill Seminary. We cannot do this in our strength. It’s not by might; It’s not by power, but by My Spirit says the Lord, Zechariah 4:6. The way to discover and walk in His Spirit is to remove the obstacle of your old nature and our fleshy efforts; only then can we be used of God to remove the demonic strongholds in our world. At RKS we will be truly liberated from us, and then we will be empowered to minister at a level that truly displaces the enemy.

Finally, let me remind all of us that we have “The message” to tell the world, and that is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. But we also each have “a testimony” of what God has worked in our lives. We discover our message while studying at Roadkill Seminary. That is why the Bible says in Revelations 12:11. We overcome the devil by the blood of the lamb (that’s the simple Gospel), and the word of our testimony (that’s our story), loving not our lives unto death (that’s Roadkill Seminary).

Excerpt from “Roadkill Seminary

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How The Call of God Affects Your Flesh

CowAs we stated at the beginning, real Christian ministry is a privilege to bear a cross for Christ, not an opportunity to be successful or popular. This principle is very real to me since I had no aspirations other than to just be faithful and obedient to God. My insecurities limited my scope of ministry. Yet God’s solution for delivering me from this timidity (this self-focus) was to cause me to step into the greater responsibility of leading a ministry, and one with horrendous problems. God knew stepping into this battle would be enough to break me.

This is where we learn that God will sometimes call us to do what seems to be diametrically opposite to what is comfortable or natural to us. A powerful illustration and shadow of this spiritual principle is found in 1 Samuel chapters 5 and 6. In the text we see that the Philistines had captured the Ark of the Covenant (the chest containing the Ten Commandments). The ark of God represented the direct presence and glory of God; to have it meant you had God’s presence and ultimately His favor.

The Philistines put the ark in their temple before Dagon, a Philistine idol. However, by morning when they arose, their statue was knocked over on its face. The next day it happened again, but this time its head and hands were broken off and the inhabitants of the city began to experience tumors and plagues as God’s judgments fell on the city.

Therefore, the pagan priests decided to get rid of the Ark of the Covenant. They wanted to determine if the judgment on their city was coincidental or an act of the God of Israel, so they decided to put the ark on a new cart pulled by two milk cows who had never been yoked before. They said to themselves “If the milk cows pull the wagon with the ark toward Beth Shemesh (which means house of the sun) in Israel, then it was God who caused the plague; but if the cows don’t go in that direction, then it was by chance this evil has occurred upon us.”

Then the men did so; they took two milk cows and hitched them to the cart, and shut up their calves at home.  Then the cows headed straight for the road to Beth Shemesh, and went along the highway, lowing as they went, and did not turn aside to the right hand or the left. 1 Samuel 6:10, 12 

Here we see the “anointing” (the presence of God) cause two milk (mother) cows to go against the strongest natural instinct known on the planet, which is, the instinct for a mother animal to feed and protect her offspring. What possible force could have squelched this powerful natural desire of these cows to not respond to the cries of their babies? It was the presence and purposes of God.

The Bible says that these cows headed straight for Beth Shemesh “lowing as they went”, and did not turn to the right or the left. These cows were also symbolically experiencing the sufferings of Christ as all believers do when they submit to the call of God on their lives. This is where many believers miss out on their purpose in life. Some of what God has called us to may require us to do certain things that are the opposite of what is natural or instinctive to us. The skill of these cows to pull a cart is being employed; but to go away from their very own offspring required a death of their very souls. The unction of God can steer us down a road that will “over-ride” our strongest fears and insecurities and even the unhealthy soul ties in our lives.

Some Christians shrink back from the call of God because they can’t imagine God requiring this much of a commitment. Many believers would rather serve God out of their natural abilities and common sense because they have more control. Yet there is a place where we die at a deep instinctual level that qualifies us for an anointing that is a quantum leap from our usual service. When the Lord called us to deny ourselves and take up our cross (our calling) and follow Him, He knew the call would kill our flesh-nature and liberate us to fully serve Him as well as fully experience His resurrection life. (see Offering Skills versus Your Soul the Lord).

I believe God has a deeper call on many Christians. They may be serving God faithfully the best they know how, yet there is more. The thing the Lord calls us to may be the weakest area of our life, the place where we are most insecure and fearful.

However it is here where there is so little of ourselves to get in the way of how God wants to flow through us. Here is where we go from the place of self-sacrifice, where we give God our works, to the place of sacrifice of self He desires, where we have nothing to say about the matter. We simply obey the “unction” of the Lord and go down the road to Beth Shemesh! This is consistent with the principle found in Exodus 20:25 where it states: (see Self-Sacrifice and Sacrifice of Self).        

And if you make Me an altar of stone, you shall not build it of hewn stone; for if you use your tool on it, you have profaned it,

God doesn’t want us working or chiseling away at our circumstances to make our altar of sacrifice in an attempt to serve Him. He simply wants us to offer ourselves to Him the way we are. Any self-effort would only defile the sacrifice. The more we identify with the death of Jesus and the lowing of the cows, the more we will have the life of God operating in our lives. The apostle Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 4:10-12 to identify with the sufferings of the Lord always:

Cow 2Always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our body.  For we who live are always delivered to death for Jesus’ sake, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.

As we yield to the call of God on our lives, we will be amazed at how the Spirit of the Lord will lead us to do things that we would never do in ourselves. Yes, if the anointing of God can silence the cries of baby calves in the minds of their mothers, it can also silence the needy voices trying to deter us from our destiny as well.

Excerpt from Roadkill Seminary

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The 7 Fundamental Disciplines of a Disciple of Jesus Christ

7Success or failure in sports or in business is often determined by whether we execute the fundamentals consistently or not. The Christian life is no different. If we want to finish well we need to faithfully execute the fundamentals. Here are seven to consider.

1. The Discipline of Hanging Around Other Believers – The Bible says we are to fellowship one another in Hebrews 10:25; not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.  God calls us His sheep; and sheep can only survive in a hostile environment when they stick together and follow the shepherd (John 10:1-16). There are also over 30 “one another” commands we cannot obey unless we are fellowshipping with other believers. You are who you hang around. 1 Corinthians 15:33 – 34 states; Do not be deceived: Evil company corrupts good habits. Your closest friends need to be serious Christians (1 Corinthians 5:11; 2 Corinthians 6:14-17).

2. The Discipline of Daily Reading (Studying) God’s Word – This is not easy to do because life has many distractions along with the devil trying to steal the Word from our hearts (see Luke 8:12); but successful Christians always find time to spend in the Word of God. 2 Timothy 2:15 says we are to study the Word of God; Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. Joshua 1:8 states; This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. (We read the Bible to fellowship with the Lord, we study it to apply His word in our lives).

3. The Discipline of Daily Praying (Talking) to God Matthew 6:5-7 states; But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly. And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. Mark 1:35 states Jesus prayed in the morning; Now in the morning, having risen a long while before daylight, He went out and departed to a solitary place; and there He prayed. 1 Thessalonians 5:17 says; Pray without ceasing. Prayer starts with praising and thanking God for everything He has done for you. Simply being quiet before the Lord is also effective prayer as well as praying in the Spirit (spiritual language – Jude 20; 1 Corinthians 12-14).

4. The Discipline of Regularly Worshipping Together  – The fourth commandment speaks about resting and worshipping the Lord every 7th day. Exodus 20:8 states; Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. We are like coals in a fire; when you remove one from the others it usually goes out. Psalm 122 states; I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go into the house of the LORD.” Worshipping together is practice for what we will do together for eternity. Matthew 6:10 states; Your will be done here on earth as it is in heaven. It glorifies God when His kids gather before Him in one place to thank and praise Him. Regardless of what day you choose, the Lord gives us one day out of seven to rest and enjoy Him. This day of gathering together reminds us of His blessings and His ability to handle things while we rest.

5. The Discipline of Honoring God with Your Finances First – From the very beginning, before there were churches, even before God gave commandments about tithing we read about Abraham and Jacob giving tithes (10%) of everything to God (Genesis 14:20) as a way of showing God was the One Who gives us everything we have. Proverbs 3:9 states we should do this first; Honor the LORD with your possessions, And with the first fruits of all your increase. Deuteronomy 14:22, 23 states tithing is the way God teaches us to reverence Him; You shall truly tithe … that you may learn to always fear the Lord. Malachi 3:6-13 states when Israel didn’t tithe they were robbing God from His holy portion! And tithing was the only thing Jesus commended the Pharisees for. Matthew 23:23. As Christians we know 100% belongs to God so we don’t have to tithe like Israel of old, but we get to tithe as a type of financial circumcision, or sign of our covenant with God. This also enables us to follow the typological example of not touching the forbidden thing (like the tree of knowledge in the garden) as we follow the example of those who walked with God.

6. The Discipline of Service – The Bible states we were not only saved from hell but saved to serve the Lord and others; Ephesians 2:8-10 states, For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. It is only as we work together do we see the part of the body God made us to be come alive and grow (1 Corinthians 12). Ephesians 4:16 states it this way; the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love. James 1:22 states we are to be doers of the Word not just hearers.

7. The Discipline of a Clear Heart – Perhaps the single biggest danger that “trips up” new and old believers alike, are disappointments and offenses. When we are let down (and we will be) by some expectation we had of God, of ourselves or other believers, we are vulnerable to evil spirits whispering thoughts to us to give up. It’s hard to pray to a God you secretly are mad at. 2 Corinthians 2:10-11 states we need to always maintain a forgiving heart; If you forgive anyone, I also forgive him. And what I have forgiven—if there was anything to forgive—I have forgiven in the sight of Christ for your sake, in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes. Satan loves to enslave us with an “offended heart”, a  “blaming spirit” or a “root of bitterness” (Hebrews 12:15) so we don’t focus on God but on ourselves or other people. That’s why the Bible calls him “the accuser of the brethren” in Revelation 12:9-11. Therefore confess your sins to God and He will forgive and cleanse you (1 John 1:9). See also Matthew 5:21-26 and Proverbs 4:2.

What Christian Leaders Wish Their People Knew But Are Afraid to Tell Them

rrChristian leaders must be willing to take off their masks and the Sunday-morning professionalism and share the real needs of the ministry and its leadership. More Christians need to be trained how to support ministry leaders. That’s the reason for the book, “What In Hell…Is Going On?” – it will help your ministry know the truth about what’s going on behind the scenes, even if your leaders are hesitant to talk about the spiritual attacks he or she is experiencing.

Admittedly, this is difficult to do. One leader noted that when he began to open up and let his ministry team know what he was really battling, he was criticized. The naïve members of his ministry didn’t want to hear that they were a burden to him. They effectively said, “We don’t want to know you are human”. (Kids don’t usually like to acknowledge their parents are people too until they have children of their own.) Yet this is absolutely necessary if we are going to bring God’s people to maturity.

We cannot expect to reach a lost and dying generation by pretending things are better than they are. If Christian leaders are getting shot to pieces by their own troops, then we better say something about it. If leaders will honestly and candidly share what the real battles of the ministry are (at least to their leaders), I believe they will find a larger army of sensitive, well-informed soldiers ready and willing to lift their hands, even as Aaron and Hur supported the hands of Moses (Exodus 17:10-12). Don’t you think it is time for a candid conversation like this in every Christian ministry organization in America? I hope that you do. With a little more than a 100 pages this resource blows the lid off the secrecy and dysfunction in our ministries. Here is the Table of Contents.

1. Why This Book is Necessary

2. The Hats a Christian Leader Wears

3. Welcome to Your Leader’s Life

4. The Power of Critical Words

5. The Leader and Sin in the Camp

6. Criticized by Cross-less Christians

7. “Cains” in the Congregation

8. Damned if You Do, Damned if You Don’t

9. Weekly Issues Do Affect Your Leader

10. Ten Things to Help Your Ministry

11. A Word to Ministry Leaders

12. Where Do We Go From Here?

The Strategic Purpose for this Book

First, it is a specific tool to help grow up the people of God, by having an adult conversation about the realities of the Christian ministry as it is played out in the local church, home group, jail ministry, homeless ministry, mission organization etc.

Second, it gives Christian leaders and the people in their ministries a tool to initiate this adult conversation with their core leaders, facilitated by someone outside their ministry. If the material is too heavy for some to digest, they can always eat the fish and spit out the bones. At least the conversation will have started.

Third, it exposes demonic strategies hidden in the local ministry, so God’s people can exercise their dominion over Satan instead of over each other.

Fourth, it may provide new insight about differences in ministry gifting and governmental adjustments that can be made in order to reduce the number of disagreements the devil uses to hide behind as he hinders the flow of the Holy Spirit in the organization.

Fifth, it reveals the sin nature operating among religious people and thus the need for all believers to let the cross of Christ have its deeper work in our lives.

Excerpt fromWhat In Hell… Is Going On?”

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23 Ways Leaders Dominate Their People by Sam Storms

DominateI thought Sam Storms listed some clear abuses of authority that would apply not only to church-world, but the family and the business world as well.

Proverbs 28:16 states; “That a ruler who lacks understanding is a great oppressor”. Many times these insecure alpha male/females types don’t even recognize they are oppressive leaders. They think their assertiveness and control is a sign of good leadership, but they are often unaware they are masking deep insecurity. Read Sam’s list below and see is you can identify any of these traits in yourself.

1. A man can “domineer” or “lord it over” his flock by intimidating them into doing what he wants done by holding over their heads the prospect of loss of stature and position in the church.

2. A pastor domineers whenever he threatens them with stern warnings of the discipline and judgment of God, even though there is no biblical basis for doing so.

3. A pastor domineers whenever he threatens them with public exposure of their sin should they not conform to his will and knuckle under to his plans.

4. A pastor domineers whenever he uses the sheer force of his personality to overwhelm others and coerce their submission.

5. A pastor domineers whenever he uses slick verbiage or eloquence to humiliate people into feeling ignorant or less competent than they really are.

6. A pastor domineers whenever he presents himself as super-spiritual (his views came about only as the result of extensive prayer and fasting and seeking God. How could anyone then possibly disagree with him?).

7. A pastor domineers whenever he exploits the natural tendency people have to elevate their spiritual leaders above the average Christian. That is to say, many Christians mistakenly think that a pastor is closer to God and more in tune with the divine will. The pastor often takes advantage of this false belief to expand his power and influence.

8. A pastor domineers whenever he gains a following and support against all dissenters by guaranteeing those who stand with him that they will gain from it, either by being brought into his inner circle or by some form of promotion.

9. A pastor domineers by widening the alleged gap between “clergy” and “laity.” In other words, he reinforces in them the false belief that he has a degree of access to God which they don’t.

10. Related to the former is the way some pastors will make it appear that they hold sway or power over the extent to which average lay people can experience God’s grace. He presents himself in subtle (not overt) ways as the mediator between the grace of God and the average believer. In this way he can secure their loyalty for his agenda.

11. He domineers by building into people a greater loyalty to himself than to God. Or he makes it appear that not to support him is to work at cross purposes with God.

12. He domineers by teaching that he has a gift that enables him to understand Scripture in a way they cannot. They are led to believe they cannot trust their own interpretive conclusions and must yield at all times to his.

13. He domineers by short circuiting due process, by shutting down dialogue and discussion prematurely, by not giving all concerned an opportunity to voice their opinion.

14. He domineers by establishing an inviolable barrier between himself and the sheep. He either surrounds himself with staff who insulate him from contact with the people or withdraws from the daily affairs of the church in such a way that he is unavailable and unreachable.

15. Related to the above is the practice of some in creating a governmental structure in which the senior pastor is accountable to no one, or if he is accountable it is only to a small group of very close friends and fellow elders who stand to profit personally from his tenure as pastor.

16. He domineers by viewing the people as simply a means to the achieving of his own personal ends. Ministry is reduced to exploitation. The people exist to “serve his vision” rather than he and all the people together existing to serve the vision of the entire church.

17. He domineers by making people feel unsafe and insecure should they desire to voice an objection to his proposals and policies.

18. He domineers by convincing them, ever so subtly, that their spiritual welfare is dependent on his will. To cross him is to cross God!

19. He domineers by misinterpreting and misapplying to himself the OT command: “Don’t touch God’s anointed.”

20. He domineers by building a culture of legalism rather than one of grace. People are thus motivated to embrace his authority and bow to his will based on extra biblical rules that supposedly are the criteria for true spirituality.

21. He domineers by arguing or acting as if his movements and decisions are ultimately determinative of the spiritual welfare of others (cf. 2 Cor. 1:23-25).

22. He domineers when he leads people to believe that their faith hinges (i.e., rises or falls) upon his life and decisions.

23. He domineers when he uses people as a means to his own satisfaction rather than enabling them to experience satisfaction in Christ alone.

http://www.samstorms.com/enjoying-god-blog/post/pastoral-bullies

Self Sacrifice VS Sacrifice of Self

Pic 1A very important distinction is discovered when someone takes classes at RKS, and that is the difference between Self Sacrifice and Sacrifice of Self. We are often ignorant of this difference until one is met with the cold shoulder of heaven. Just as Cain and Abel both sacrificed to God, one offering was acceptable and the other was not. Abel’s sacrifice received some kind of validation; Cain’s did not. Why did God favor one but not the other. What is God trying to tell us in this story in the very beginning of the Bible? Remember, this is the first act of worship or ministry recorded in the Bible. This is also where the first murder is recorded, which was over how to properly worship God. This is an extremely important foundational truth for us to understand. Abel’s offering was a forward-looking type of Christ’s shed blood. This story points to a right and wrong way of thinking about how we worship or serve God.

We can begin to see the difference between the right and wrong way by discerning the difference between self-sacrifice and sacrifice of self. Self Sacrifice is when we give up the things we want to give up, the way we want to give them up, when we want to give them up. We are in control during the entire process. This is nothing more than the works of the flesh disguised as religious sacrifice. Sacrifice of Self is when we put our entire being on the altar of God; we allow Him to show us what He wants us to sacrifice, the way He wants us to do it, when He wants us to do it. We are dead to our choice in the matter. Instead of offering things to God we are actually offering ourselves, our very souls to Him, and we are what He is after. We often fall into the religious delusion that God wants us to sacrifice stuff, when He actually wants us to sacrifice self. It usually takes years before the typical believer discerns the difference. One results in dead religion, the other in life-giving Christianity. Oswald Chambers wrote along this line:

“It is easier to serve or work for God without a vision and without a call or a word from God, because then you are not bothered by what He requires. Common sense covered with a layer of Christian emotion, becomes your guide.”

Excerpt from “Roadkill Seminary”

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Misconceptions About God – God Won’t Let You Go Through More Than You Can Handle

Pic 12One of the first things we learn in God’s School of Ministry is that there are some incorrect suppositions about how God deals with Man. These misconceptions are widely taught as gospel truth in our seminaries and church pulpits. The first misconception that a believer realizes is the falsehood that God will not allow us to go through more than we can handle. Those who continue to espouse such a belief either don’t understand the Scriptures or have never been to Roadkill Seminary.

We often tell young Christians that God won’t put them through more than they can handle to comfort them. In general, from a theological perspective it is appropriate for new believers to understand God will not allow them to be destroyed or vanquished into oblivion by trying times in their life. However it can be terrifying when we are faced with a situation that is presently overwhelming our ability to cope. We can become greatly confused and disoriented because we have been incorrectly taught that these trials and tribulations were never supposed to get this difficult. Besides what makes this belief irrelevant in the first place is that our idea and God’s idea of what is too difficult for us to handle is not the same.

This failure to cope during a trial may cause us to think we are really messed up because we are presently experiencing more than we can handle; yet in our mind we remember being taught this should never happen to a Christian. We falsely think God should’ve come to our rescue by now. “Why don’t the Scriptures work for me?” we think to our self. I believe this misconception adds to the drop-out rate (and sadly, sometimes suicide) for Christians all over the world.

Believers who are experiencing tests and trials that are beyond their ability end up thinking God has abandoned them or they just don’t have what it takes, so they often give up on their walk. The source of this misconception is rooted in a misunderstanding of 1 Corinthians 10:13:

No temptation has overtaken you except such is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make a way of escape that you may be able to bear it.

What the Bible says here is that no “temptation” will entice us so forcibly, so powerfully that we will have to succumb to it. No one will be able to stand before God on Judgment Day and say to God “I’m sorry Lord, I just had no choice but to sin, he or she was just too beautiful to turn down.” Joseph escaped the temptation of Potipher’s wife by running. God made a way of escape. However trials are different. Joseph couldn’t escape the pit or the prison. There are no escapes from these kinds of trials. Just ask Daniel about the lion’s den and the three Hebrew children who were thrown in the fiery furnace, or the countless martyrs throughout history who didn’t have a way of escape. The Scripture here in First Corinthians is referring to no “temptation” will overwhelm us. It is not referring to a trial or the testing of our faith.

Paul himself said he was burdened by circumstances so great they were beyond measure and above his strength to bear. Contemporary preachers may try to sanitize RKS from the Bible but the apostle’s words are still in black and white in 2 Corinthians 1:8:

For we do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, of our trouble which came to us in Asia: that we were burdened beyond measure, above strength, so that we  despaired even of life.

For the Christian who is being prepared for a higher calling, it appears God will allow, and even specifically design, circumstances and trials to break them, to take them beyond their present ability to cope. It’s only when the Lord takes us beyond our breaking point and blows our “circuit breakers” that we truly discover where our life ends and His Spirit begins. This is the beginning of the Spirit-dependent life.

We acknowledge in the eternal sense that our God wouldn’t allow a trial to destroy us. In truth these trials are about us dying to the strength of flesh and discovering His enabling grace. However, there are times when the Lord out necessity allows us to be overwhelmed beyond our ability to bear, so we will discover the reality of His resurrection power. Are you still unconvinced that God would have you go through something you cannot bear? Look at how Jesus Himself fell under the weight of the Roman cross on the way to Golgotha (Matthew 27:32). It was more than Jesus could handle. The Roman soldiers had to get another man to help Him carry it to the finish line. God will also have particular people positioned in our life to help us continue towards our appointment with death/trial … then resurrection.

As we become obedient unto death as Jesus did, the Bible becomes more than a religious book; it becomes the Living Word of Life. Those who don’t hunger for the higher calling and purposes of God or those who have shrunk back from God’s dealings may find this difficult to accept. Understandably there is a naïve sense of security in believing we’ll never have to face more than we can handle. As we stated earlier, many are called but few choose the path of the chosen. Maybe we’ll never be given the opportunity to be tested like we are discussing here. Yes I said opportunity. It is a privilege to suffer for Christ. It is only the grace of God that has allowed anyone to suffer faithfully for the Lord.

So they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name. Acts 5:41

Excerpt from “Roadkill Seminary”

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The 4 Things God Doesn’t Know

You may have heard of this before but let me encourage you to play along. It may seem odd to suggest that Almighty God might not know something.  How can the God who knows when a sparrow falls to the ground anywhere in the world or and who has numbered every hair on every human’s head not know something? 

Are not two sparrows sold for a copper cPic9oin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Matthew 10:29, 30

God even records every day of our life before we were born.

Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written, The days fashioned for me, When as yet there were none of them. Psalm 139:16

Many of us are aware the Bible states that God is Omniscient (all knowing), Omnipotent (all powerful), and Omnipresent (every where all the time). He is the Alpha and Omega the beginning and the end.

For I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like Me, Declaring the end from the beginning, And from ancient times things that are not yet done. Isaiah 46:9, 10 

Even some leading Astrophysicists, Molecular Biologists and Scientists involved in Quantum Mechanics, have acknowledged that some super-intelligence or master engineer had to have overseen the events of Creation or the Big Bang to bring the universe to where it is today. Why do they believe this? Because scientists now know that just to create one simple cell requires the simultaneous existence of dozens of proteins and amino acids. In other words, these components had to show up on the scene at the same time. Furthermore, there needed to be even smaller molecular machines transporting the DNA information throughout the organism. 

For thus says the Lord, Who created the heavens, Who is God, Who formed the earth and made it, Who has established it, Who did not create it in vain, Who formed it to be inhabited: I am the Lord, and there is no other. Isaiah 45:18

This irreducible complexity doesn’t even factor in the massive amounts of sub atomic particles like atoms, consisting of protons and electrons, which are made of smaller things called “quarks”, which have recently been discovered to consist of even smaller things called “preons”,… all of these things have to be properly aligned and precisely balanced for life to exist. Scientists have also observed all these components are being held together by some invisible, vibrating energy or power.

 God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds; who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, Hebrews 1:1-3

If the testimony of Scripture is that God holds our lives and every atom of our universe together, how is it possible for us to state that God doesn’t know four things? Just what are these four things?

Number 1 – The First Thing God Doesn’t Know, is a Sin He Doesn’t Hate!

These six things the Lord hates, Yes, seven are an abomination to Him: A proud look, A lying tongue, Hands that shed innocent blood, A heart that devises wicked plans, Feet that are swift in running to evil, A false witness who speaks lies, And one who sows discord among brethren. Proverbs 6:16-19

Why does God hate sin so much? Because He sees it for what it really is. He knows the eternal consequences of sin like no one else. He understands it in its entirety. To sin means to miss the mark, to fall short of the glory and holiness of God. Furthermore when we miss the life and the glory of God, we hit something else that is not God.

Whatever is not part of God, will ultimately die because God is the source of life. We are like a battery that will eventually go dead without a connection to the eternal life in God. In fact, our life has just enough battery life to allow us to decide whether or not we want to be plugged back into the source of life. That’s what our free-will is all about.

Since God is the source and author of all love, all life, peace, joy, happiness, health and fulfillment, He hates it when we miss Him and hit the death that comes with sin. God see’s the enormous domino effect it has on the human soul and society. God not only sees the damage caused to the one who has sinned, but the ravaging effects it has on others. There is always collateral damage with sin. Sin is like sticky tar; it gets on everything.

We all know about the horrors of the pride and greed of people like Nero, Napoleon, Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Po Pot, Kim Young IL, which we are responsible for killing hundreds of millions of people.

But sin affects every person right where we live.

Right now, there are people in positions of authority that are sinning and their sins are going to affect every one of us reading this.

  • The pharmacist who is lustfully distracted by someone in the office and prescribes the wrong medicine.
  • The drunken airline pilot that crashes his plane killing hundreds.
  • The pornographer that produces programing that objectifies woman and destroys families.
  • The food inspector who accepts a bribe and lets tainted baby food into the marketplace, killing dozens of precious babies.
  • The greedy building contractor, who cuts corners with inferior building materials to make more money, and looks the other way when the bridge or high-rise building collapses killing hundreds.
  • The Bernie Madoffs of the world, whose sin of greed will wipe away hundreds of thousands of retirement accounts.
  • The CEO of a military corporation that foments the drumbeat for war in the press which will kill thousands just to keep his stock price high.
  • The criminal behavior that results in every one of us paying higher taxes for police, judges, lawyers, courtrooms, parole officers and prisons.
  • The subtle compromises we all make that allow Hollywood to fund God-hating movies and television programs year after year.
  • The news media executives that encourages political conflicts for higher ratings and for the profits that come with them.
  • Those of us who are carry bitterness and anger for whatever reason end up damaging and emotionally alienating our children, who will often turn to alcohol or drugs to medicate their emotional and psychological wounds. And the cycle continues, generation after generation.

The tragic consequences of our Godlessness and our immorality, is finally breaking the bank of our government. Every time we choose to live contrary God’s laws, we suffer and so does our nation. The government grows bigger and bigger as it tries to fill the gap created by absent fathers. Washington tries to provide the food stamps, child care, and the medical and housing subsidies, along with the increase spending for the costs of crime, which is always associated with inner city, single parent households.

 For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Romans 3:23

God doesn’t know a sin He doesn’t hate because it is all deadly to our soul. Sin is like Bologna – it’s all sin, no matter how thin you slice it.  You might not think you have sinned much, but who do you compare yourself too. Mother Teresa who gave her entire life away to God by serving the poor in the slums of Calcutta, India – said she was helplessly lost and in desperate need of Savior. If she needed a Savior after a lifetime of service where do you and I stand? We fool ourselves when we compare ourselves to others we think are worse than we are.

It is all sin and it makes all of us guilty. Remember Rat Poison is 99% food and only 1% poison. A glass of water can have over 10,000 drops of pure water in it, but 1 drop of anthrax in it will kill several men. Would you drink a glass of water with one drop of anthrax in it?

Jesus gets to the heart of how deadly sin really is.

You have heard that it was said to those of old, You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment. But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, Raca! shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, You fool! shall be in danger of hell fire. Matthew 5:22

 You have heard that it was said to those of old, You shall not commit adultery. But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. Matthew 5:27

None of us escape the consequences of sin – even the cowardly and unbelieving tops the list of sinners listed at the end of the Bible.

 He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son. But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death. Revelation 21:7, 8

Probably the greatest reason God doesn’t know a sin He doesn’t hate is because it separates us from Him.

 Behold, the Lords hand is not shortened, That it cannot save; Nor His ear heavy, That it cannot hear. But your iniquities have separated you from your God; And your sins have hidden His face from you, So that He will not hear. Isaiah 59:1, 2

We forget that God is a being of a whole different order than we are – He is holy, holy, holy! Remember God is the just judge of the entire universe. We place high standards on our earthly judges and demand them to show no favoritism or partiality in their deliberations over any individual who has broken the Law. Multiply that need for a judge to be impartial by a billion, and you have an idea of how awesome and just God truly is.

We should remember that sin isn’t always something we do, it’s something we are. It’s part of our nature. Our soul’s clandestine and clever inclination to live independently of God is proof sin is active in us to some degree.

Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned: Romans 5:12 (Also Romans 3:10-12; 23)

Since Scripture says death has passed upon all men because all have sinned, and mankind’s supposed “sinless human nature” has never hit the mark (the glory of God) anywhere, at any time, it seems reasonable to conclude all have been infected by this terminal “mark missing syndrome”. Some say it’s just a weakness or a frailty – but Romans 3 indicates there is an enmity, a willful (even demonic) resistance to God pulsating in us. That would concur with the concept we have the venom from the original snake bite, from our original parents still in us.

Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me. Psalm 51:5

Sin cannot exist in His presence – He is too holy and powerful. It’s like a piece of paper trying to exist on the surface of the sun. It just can’t happen without protection.

Number 2 – The Second Thing God Doesn’t Know, is a Sinner He Doesn’t Love!

 Come now, and let us reason together, ”Says the Lord, “Though your sins are like scarlet, They shall be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They shall be as wool. If you are willing and obedient, You shall eat the good of the land. Isaiah 1:18, 19

He said to her, “Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.” John 8:10, 11

 This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. John 15:12

 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38, 39

 God Doesn’t Know a Sinner He Doesn’t Love!

 He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. 1 John 4:8

Number 3 – The Third Thing God Doesn’t Know, is a Way to Save Us Except Through Jesus Christ!

 Jesus said to him, I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. John 14:6

 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8

 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. 1 Corinthians 1:18-25

Think about this for a moment – the Bible says that Jesus dying on the cross for our sins is the wisdom of God. The all-knowing, Almighty God, the God who organizes all those atoms and molecules and cells and DNA and stars and galaxies, with all of His immense intellectual capacity, came to this conclusion. That Jesus’ sacrificial atoning death is the only way to redeem a person from sin and  hell, while leaving their free will intact. Wow!

Jesus dying on the cross for us speaks volumes; no it actually shouts to us, not onlyabout the greatness of God’s love for us but the severity of the horrific separation and damnation that must await all of us sinners. In fact just looking at the brutality of Jesus torturous death on the cross sends shivers through our imagination… what terrible place is He trying to save us from.

How do we know that God doesn’t know another way to save us besides Jesus? Besides the fact we are dealing with the greatest intellect in the universe, the fact that God sends His only begotten son settles it for all eternity – if there was another way God would have found it. If you are a parent can you even imagine who much love you would have to have for another person to sacrifice your own child? This is love of a whole different order.

 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. John 3:16

Number 4 – The Fourth Thing God Doesn’t Know, is a Better Time Than Right Now to Accept Jesus.

We then, as workers together with Him also plead with you not to receive the grace of God in vain. For He says: “In an acceptable time I have heard you, And in the day of salvation I have helped you.” Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation. 2 Corinthians 6:1, 2

When a drowning man is thrown a life-preserver he grabs it, When a man falling from an airplane is offered a parachute he grabs it. A person bitten by a king cobra is offered anti-venom he takes it.

Every one listening to this message has now heard the Gospel – and is now accountable for what you have heard. You have received your spiritual MRI – you have seen the X-ray of your soul – now is the time to accept the surgery and take the medicine while there is time.

Not one more second is promised to you or me. A car wreck, a freak accident, a stroke, a brain aneurysm could take us at any moment. Make the right decision for yourself and repent of living life independent of God and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and his sacrifice He made for you today. Bow your knee and make Jesus the Lord and Savior of your life.

You will not only escape the greatest death, but you will discover a new and abundant life full of joy and full of glory. You will discover the real reason you were put on this earth.

To receive Jesus Christ into your life, pray something like this.

Dear God in heaven. I confess that I am a sinner; I have missed Your holy standard in my life. I need You to change me. I repent this day of living my life independent of You and Your Word. I pray to receive Jesus Christ into my life, as my Savior and my Lord. Please forgive me and wash me by the precious blood of Jesus. Fill me with Your Holy Spirit, so I can be a new creation in Christ, and live the way You want me to live. I believe You have heard my pray and I Thank you Lord.  In Jesus name, Amen.

If you prayed that prayer anywhere in the world – I pray for you my brother or sister, for the Holy Spirit to fill you – to make you a new person in Christ.  I declare that your sins are forgiven in the name of Jesus. I declare your inner-man is awakened to the Word and to the voice of the Spirit of God.

I challenge you to read your Bible everyday (start with the book of John) and find a Bible believing Church or home group right away, so you can grow in the knowledge of the Lord; where you can be blessed and where you can be a blessing to others, as you learn about the spiritual calling and destiny on your life.

Congratulations the angels in heaven are rejoicing that you are now part of the family of God.

Welcome to the Family of God!

“Keeping the Snakes Alive” When Snake Catchers Become Snake Breeders

Pic 8This is where I am going to meddle in everybody’s business. Some people simply don’t want real solutions to the problems we face today. They find their purpose in life, even their identity, by fighting from a particular side of an issue. This fight is like a game to them, something to keep score in. The money and thrill to be gained by keeping the fight alive is much too profitable and intoxicating to try to really look for a resolution. There are some television and radio programs that would go off the air and newspapers and magazines that would go bankrupt if they didn’t keep the controversy alive and the fear fomenting. We must be honest about this if we are going to be one of the problem solvers.

In India there was a certain province that had a severe infestation of poisonous snakes. People were dying in large numbers because of them. The government officials got together and decided to hire professionals snake catchers to rid themselves of these lethal pests. Months past and eventually the area snake population was almost totally eradicated.

Then the snake catchers found themselves in a real dilemma. They were working themselves out of a job. Their livelihood, even their sense of identity was at stake. Officials discovered later that the snake catchers had also secretly become snake breeders. Yes, they actually began raising snakes in private to ensure their services would always be needed. It was just too profitable for them to completely solve the local problem.

The same is true with many of the political problems facing us today. Some people whose identity and income is so completely derived from the social problems they champion are no longer truly looking for solutions. Their niche industry would go away if they actually solved the problem. These are political carpet-baggers who prey on any opportunity to be seen as the “professional problem solver”. They are especially prevalent in the “Civil Rights” and “Talk Radio” arenas. Wherever there is a problem and a camera you can count on them showing up.

Booker T. Washington bravely identified this problem among his own people over a hundred years ago when he said; “There is another class of coloured people who make a business of keeping the troubles, the wrongs, and the hardships of the Negro race before the public. Having learned that they are able to make a living out of their troubles, they have grown into the settled habit of advertising their wrongs — partly because they want sympathy and partly because it pays. Some of these people do not want the Negro to lose his grievances, because they do not want to lose their jobs.”

Some on the right will use those who stir up community conflict as an excuse to brand everyone on the other side as unworthy to partner with. In truth, it seems the last thing some right-wingers and some left-wingers want is the problem solved, because there is too much money to be made keeping the conflict alive. The “snake-breeders” of our day have no new ideas or real desire to see the issues they are supposedly fighting for solved.

We know this because they won’t sit down with the other side (without the cameras) and sincerely dialogue about equitable solutions. They almost never recognize or openly concede the other person’s valid points of view. A book such as this is easily dismissed as a meaningless, mushy moderate point of view to them and their constituents. Their venom poisons every attempt to work and build lasting relationships between both sides. Some ministers, unaware they are using the Bible every Sunday to validate their separation, forget the Son of God was willing to be suspended between heaven and earth to bridge the gap. We can discover new solutions if we look in places we have not looked before as we talk to each other and not at each other.

Excerpt from A Better Way To Govern

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Moses Gets Slammed By Cross-less Believers

Pic 13Do you think Moses knew what competent leadership looked like? Of course he did; he was raised in the finest schools in the world in Pharaoh’s palace. Do you think he knew what excellence was? Egypt had the best of the best. Do you think he knew about effective management and organization? He saw the pyramids being built; he knew how to plan and organize a project. Do you think he had to die to the way God was using him to lead the people of Israel? Was it humbling for him to lead this way; did it make him look like he didn’t know what he was doing? Absolutely! I said all this to point out that it isn’t that leaders like Moses or your leader don’t want things done the right way. But there are times when the Lord leads ministers in a way that is opposite of what you think is the right way, for eternal purposes.

Incompetent Leadership or God’s Divine Leading?

God told Moses to take three million Jews out of Egypt … tonight!!! Where is the competent planning and preparation? “What kind of idiotic leadership is this”? Then God told Moses to lead Israel to a dead-end by the Red Sea. “What kind of fool are we following”? Then God had Moses lead them to where there is no water. “Is this guy blind; I thought he knew where he was going”? He also married a woman who wasn’t even a Jew. “How can he do such a blatantly unbiblical thing in the eyes of the people”?

God told Moses to go up to a mountain for 40 days to seek God’s will. “How could our leader leave us like this; to go on a leadership retreat at this time is unacceptable. He obviously doesn’t care about us”. These seem like valid questions, but they came from a rebellious people. God confronted these rebellious critics with judgment, even opening the ground and swallowing some of them alive. Then the people responded by accusing Moses of killing the people of God (Numbers 16:41).

Time and time again, the direct and specific leading of God was met with ridicule and complaining by the people who lacked the discernment as to what was really going on in the Spirit realm. People still do the same things today. Some believers still perish in a wilderness of complaining and criticisms. Just like immature kids who only see things from their perspective, they have no idea what God is up to. Moses was invested in the will of God all the way. He was totally sold out for God, even if things made him look foolish. He was going to follow the Lord in spite of the embarrassment of looking like an incompetent leader and the relentless criticisms from God’s people who wanted an easier way of life.

Some of the people who complain about others have lives that are so messed up you wonder how they would even attempt to criticize another person. Yet some of may also be well-educated. They may appear to be intellectually mature and quite successful in their occupation. They may look like they have their world all together. Their criticisms may even sound astute and sensible. However, their remarks are often the sharp arrows that come from a prideful believer’s heart whom Satan is using to destroy God’s puposes and your ministry leader.

They may have a form of godliness, but they deny the power or authority of God in your leader’s life (2 Timothy 3:5). They fake submission to God and His leadership. They are only invested in the ministry if they get something out of it. They may offer their skills or expertise but not their souls to the Lord. They keep everyone at arm’s length, avoiding truly investing themselves in relationships or the future of the ministry. They are like Judas, who was part of the disciples, yet was never really one of them.

These cross-less Christians have yet to truly take up their cross and follow the Lord. They are essentially still the same person who came to the Lord yet without any significant character or personality transformation. They are often completely unaware of their immaturity and lack of discernment.

Every leader in every kind of Christian organization will have to deal with these kinds of people. Our book helps you deal with them and helps them to recognize what they can do to not hurt, but help the ministry move forward.

Excerpt from “What In Hell… Is Going On?”

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Do You Offer Your Skill or Your Soul to the Lord?

Clip 22We should take note of the two kinds of people in your ministry as you read this. This will help you understand why there always seem to be “conflict in the camp” and casualties from friendly-fire. There is a huge difference between a person who is offering their very soul to the Lord as Moses was and people who followed and only offer their skills or service to the Lord. It’s kind of like the pig and the chicken who wanted to make breakfast for the farmer. The chicken said he would make the eggs and the pig should make the bacon. The pig said, “You would be making a contribution; I would be making a total commitment”. Where do you see your commitment level to the things of God?

Another important distinction every believer needs to make is the difference between self sacrifice and sacrifice of self. This is what determines if you are going to be like Abel or Cain…somebody whose offering to the Lord is received or rejected. (See Self Sacrifice VS Sacrifice of Self).

Excerpt from “What In Hell… Is Going On?”

The Tension Between Those Who “Defend” And Those Who “Extend” The Faith

Clip 21To help illustrate the tension between Christians and the ministry leaders in our towns today, we will initially categorize them into two basic groups. Just as the human heart pumps blood away from it to the body and back to it, Christian Ministry also flows in two directions. Please allow me the liberty to generalize these groups for our discussion. Those who “Defend the Faith” are primarily Pastors and Teachers. Those who “Extend the Faith.” are primarily Apostles, Prophets and Evangelists. Those who defend the faith are similar to a mother caring for the kids at home. Those who extend the faith are similar to the father taking the kids with him to work. One is wired to be care-takers, while the other is wired to be risk-takers.

One camp could be characterized as settlers, the other as pioneers. Similar to our early American settlements, one would be concerned with establishing Boonsboro. The others, like Daniel Boone himself, would be looking over the next mountain ridge to scout out new territory for God. Without pioneers, the Church would never take ground; without settlers, the Church would never keep the ground which has been taken.

One group is mostly concerned with “Maintaining the People of God”, while the other group is focused on “Advancing the Purposes of God.” One group desires to establish the people in Biblical Truth while the other motivates the people to exercise Biblical Action.

It is the tension between these two camps that results in much of the disunity among Christian leaders in cities today. These differences are even more prevalent than the doctrinal and cultural differences that divide us! Most of our problems with each other are more psychological than theological. In fact, most of the attacks we suspect are from evil spirits working in other people are actually our misunderstandings of their gifting.

When a person in ministry doesn’t flow the way we are gifted, we can view them as a hindrance to what we believe God has called us to do. Pastors/teachers may see the emotionally charged or “hyper spiritual” services of the prophets/evangelists as a carnal or even demonic attempt to manipulate and coerce the people. Prophets/evangelists sometimes believe the reserved and cerebral emphasis of the pastors/teachers and perceive they are operating in a dead religious or Pharisee spirit.

This can separate leaders for months and years. Much of what some do in ministry today is often more about slamming the other camp than advancing the kingdom of God. If we remain teachable, the Lord will reveal to us that those other ministers are not from the devil but are the other ministry gifts we are supposed to work alongside of.

The balance we and God’s flock need is not found in our own kind, but in those ministers we often think are working against us or holding us back. It usually takes years and many broken relationships before the typical minister realizes this fact. Unless a minister has attended “Roadkill Seminary” and experienced true brokenness he or she won’t be able to fully incorporate the revelation of the Scriptures into their daily lives. The reason is, we are too busy building our kingdoms our way to be bothered with material like this that addresses the believer’s inner life. Be forewarned! God is much more concerned about reaching all of you than He is about you reaching all of the world!

Excerpt from “Working Together for Jesus”

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Overcoming “Anointed” Self-Deception

DeceptionOne of the most common reasons why Christians may divide into different camps even within their own ministry networks or denominations is how they perceive what God is doing in their lives and ministries. Believers can have tunnel vision, where they only see their perspective. For example, when a Gospel minister operates under the anointing of the Holy Spirit, God Himself is flowing through them to preach, teach, or heal. When we minister like this it can be exhilarating to know that a mere mortal, can be used by Omnipotence to affect another person’s life for eternity. This anointing allows us to experience real results as we operate under the influence and power of the Holy Spirit.

There is no mistaking what is flowing through you now; you know this is God and the people’s response seems to validate it. Not only has this touch of God blessed those you were ministering to, but it also greatly affected your life as well. Fresh in your mind is the new contrast between the “normal you” and the “empowered, anointed you.” Suddenly this contrast exposes weeks, months, even years of un-anointed preaching or teaching in your ministry. Now you are really sure you know what is God and what isn’t God. This is like your first teenage crush; often the emotions are so overwhelming you aren’t even aware of how you are acting.

This “anointed” endorsement convinces you that this fresh view of God certainly must be the ultimate one. This often results in the strong human desire to start building something, by trying to package what you’ve seen and heard or even by starting a new ministry. Read Matthew 17:4:

Then Peter answered and said to Jesus “Lord, it is good for us to be here; if You wish, let us make here three tabernacles: one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”

Here we see Peter beholding the transfiguration of Jesus, plus Elijah and Moses. “This is really anointed!” Yet Peter’s desire to build a monument (or a ministry) to this revelation wasn’t the “anointed” thing to do. Peter’s excitement blinded him to the whole purpose of what God was doing. This is “anointed self-deception” and it occurs to all of us at one time. Anointed self-deception is when you are so amazed, even intoxicated by what God is showing you that you are convinced you have the whole picture. You think your understanding of God’s ways is now the way. Our human nature easily gets these things messed up. This can be especially true if you and I have been rejected in the past and are longing for some kind of affirmation or validation. Most of us need to be delivered from hidden psychological wounds and issues before we can successfully minister at higher levels. Even the great apostle John, upon seeing the most amazing revelations from God, missed it in Revelation 19:10:

And I fell at his feet to worship him. But he said to me, “See that you do not do that! I am your fellow servant and of your brethren who have the testimony of Jesus. Worship God!”

John almost worshiped a man instead of God. He probably would have been convinced he was right to do so. After, all, he had seen all these marvelous revelations from God Himself; surely he wouldn’t be wrong. Oh yes he would be wrong! John even blows it a second time in Revelation 22:9. Even things God has clearly given to us can become stumbling blocks or idols such as the “bronze serpent” fashioned by Moses in Numbers 21:4-9. It was a symbol of healing in his day, but in 2 Kings 18:4 it had to be destroyed because it became an idol.

If you are a believer, a pastor, teacher, prophet, an apostle or evangelist and you have given yourself to the Lord to minister to others, He has no doubt at times anointed you to minister to His precious Body. You must remember that you are only seeing a part of what God is doing — not the part. The Bible says now we know in part.

Excerpt from “Working Together For Jesus”

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Who Are Controllers?

PuppetA controller can be a child, a parent, a grandparent, a spouse, a brother, a sister, a best friend, a church/ministry leader or anybody close to us. The controllers that affect us most are rarely strangers. We should remember that some of the people we are close to and respect right now might not continue to go on following the Lord at the same level we are. If you and I are not confident in the Lord, they might try to influence us to keep us in their comfort zone. They can also feel threatened by us growing in the Lord and may actually feel empowered by controlling or keeping us under their own influence.

Controllers are often obsessed with supervising the behavior of others. They are wrapped up in what others are doing in light of their own personal needs. Controllers can be very self-centered. Although outwardly they may appear confident, a person with a controlling spirit usually has low self-esteem, and many times is suffering from a spirit of rejection. This fear often causes them to try to control their environment and just about everyone in it. This is where Satan takes advantage of them by manipulating them to do his work through their own controlling behavior. In other words, demonic spirits use their behavior to get to you in an attempt to trick you out of the will of God for your life. Do you remember Peter in Matthew 16 trying to get Jesus to stop talking about the crucified like? Satan is always near when people try to control others.

We should note that all of us have some human tendency to control our environment and those close to us in some way. One minister noted that when we say “I Do” on our wedding day that even the best of us are actually saying; “I promise to manipulate you as painlessly as possible in order to get all my needs met”. That is why RKS is so necessary for every believer. Dead men have no needs for Satan to take advantage of. Remember, Jesus said that Satan had nothing “in” Him in John 14:30.           

How Do They Control Others?

Emotional Control ‑ A controlling spirit may use a person who will over react or under react in order to keep their victim suspended and second-guessing how they should respond. They will use tears, anger, rage, threats, outbursts, moodiness, sulking, silence and even illness as instruments to manipulate others to do what they want. Getting and keeping the attention of others is a priority of controllers. By controlling the attention and actions of others they feel secure or that they are important and in control of their own destiny.

Spiritual Control ‑ A religious spirit in a leader will often try to control or dominate the people of God to make the believers in their ministry totally dependent on them and not the Lord. Using guilt or legalism, some leaders will keep God’s people insecure and dependant on them. True spiritual authority should make believers less dependent on them and more reliant on Jesus. Mature leaders hold all their people with open hands. Insecure leaders are often great oppressors (Proverbs 28:16). See 23 Ways Leaders can Dominate Their People.

This also happens from individuals within a ministry. Insecure Christians, in an effort to fulfill their personal needs in their life, will purposely or ignorantly pray or prophesy over people in an attempt to fulfill God’s will according to their understanding. To the young and unsuspecting Christian, these “soulish” Christians may appear loving and sincere at first. But they can mother (or smother) us so they can feel important and fulfilled. It’s difficult to recognize what they are doing at first because they appear to be so mature and concerned about our well-being. Sometimes we are just thrilled someone is taking an interest in us. See Creating Your Leader in Your Image.

Recognizing You Are Under Attack

If we desire to serve God, we can expect this demonic power will attack us at one time or another. We know we are under attack when we are suffering from depression, loss of vision and despair beyond our ability to explain. We may also experience a frequent infirmity or sickness. We can experience mental fatigue and suicidal thoughts along with fear and anxiety so thick it paralyzes us. We may also struggle with powerful and shameful, lustful thoughts. However, when we really know who we are in Christ and recognize we are being attacked, these powers will easily fall under our feet where they belong.

Excerpt from “Roadkill Seminary”

We Don’t Need a Power Encounter We Need a Truth Encounter

Pic 10Dr. Neil Anderson’s writings are some of the best there are on the subject of victorious living. You will do yourself a big favor by reading “Victory Over Darkness” and “Bondage Breaker” as well as his other books. Remember, you don’t need a power encounter; you need a truth encounter to walk in freedom. It’s not what someone does for you but what you BELIEVE Jesus has already done for you that makes you free.

We don’t need a powerful person to pray for us; we need to believe and confess what the Bible says about who we are in Christ. You don’t “out muscle” or “out shout” the devil; you “out truth” him. We need to say the Scriptures out loud! Yes we need to believe, declare and act on the word of God; the devil is not obligated to obey our thoughts. When we truly assume the responsibility for our own life and believe the truth regardless of our sad emotions, we will find freedom.

When someone says, “I want to believe God but I just can’t believe,” they are being deceived. Of course we can believe God, because it is something we choose to do. Faith is something we decide to do, not something we feel like doing. Pay close attention to that statement. Faith is something we decide to do – it is a deliberate choice to choose God’s way, God’s will and God’s Word. The disposition of faith is one of surrender and yieldedness.

Don’t focus on not sinning. Abstinence from sin is an incomplete goal; we don’t abstain from sin in order to get right with God. We get right with God in order to abstain from sin. Our relationship to the one and only true God comes before any attempts at trying to be holy or good. That happens after we come to Him… in every area, every time.

We Are Saints Who Sometimes Sin, Not Sinners Who Sometimes “Saint” 

We need to stop trying to be perfect Christians. As believers, we are not trying to be saints; we are saints who are becoming like Christ. Remember the writers of the New Testament address their letters to the saints, not the sinners, of a particular city. If God said it, it is true, whether we believe it or not. 2+2=4, whether we believe it or not. Our lack of believing it doesn’t make it untrue. The Bible says we are in Christ ten times more often than it says Christ is in us. We are secure in His hands.

The fruitfulness of our entire Christian walk will be determined by how close we believe we are to God, and how close we believe He is to us. This is the abundant life that Jesus said we could have now; not when we die and go to heaven (John 10:10). Remember, eternal life isn’t something we are going to experience when we die; we have it now because of our union with God through Christ. Freedom is not the absence of something, it is the presence of Someone…Christ. Tap into His life. Who the Son sets free is free indeed.

Excerpt from You Can Be Free

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Why Does it Feel Like Jesus is Walking Past Me?

Pic 17Why didn’t Jesus pray for people to stop sinning? Why didn’t He offer to help? This is crucial for us to understand if we are going to walk in freedom. Why didn’t He use His power to help the drunkard, the thief or the adulterer? When we realize that we don’t need His power encounter, but rather His truth encounter, we will stop waiting for our deliverance; we will walk in it. Jesus didn’t pray for people to stop their sinful habits, because He provided a way for them to stop. We have more of a choice than we realize. He can’t manipulate our wills even if it is for our own good.

Today many Christians are waiting for Jesus (or a minister) to come by and lay His hands on them like He did for the sick, so they’ll stop their sinful habit. People are praying for God to “take this sin from me”. Do you know that is an ineffective prayer?

You and I will wait a long time, but the Lord will walk right on by. “Why doesn’t the Lord help me?” you might ask. The Bible says He already has … you just don’t know what He has done for you. We haven’t taken advantage of what He’s done for us. We haven’t learned how to appropriate what He’s already done. That is the simple truth of why we aren’t free now.

Let me say here that it is fine to have people pray for us when we a struggling with a sinful habit. Confessing our faults to another humbles us and sets us free from pride so we can receive more of God’s grace. However the effectiveness of a person praying for us is really about them praying for us to recognize the blinders and demonic interference, so we can receive the truth that sets us free.

With an open mind and a teachable heart, let’s look at what the Lord has already done for us. Remember this, “Christianity really works”. God gave us a way to live in Christ that promises 100% victory. If you and I are not experiencing victory it’s not because God’s plan is weak; it is because we haven’t correctly learned how to take full advantage of Biblical truth in our lives.

It’s like having lots of money in the bank but no knowledge of how to fill out the withdrawal slip to get the money out. If you’re ready to get down to business then let’s read on. Don’t be in a hurry; sometimes this process of freedom takes awhile before you get a handle on it and your thinking aligns with God’s Word.

Excerpt from  “You Can Be Free”

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Leaders and Sin in the Camp

SinThe way a ministry deals with the “sin issue” has to do with the kind of calling or ministry DNA the Lord has called them to operate in. One of my pastor friends has several thousand members in his “seeker friendly” church. He said about a quarter to a third of his congregation are cohabitating with someone they are not married to. He doesn’t try to convict them through sermons because he is trying to develop a trusting relationship with them so they will allow the other ministry leaders to address their moral issues later in their home groups. He’s not trying to clean the fish until he knows he really has them in the boat.

Some of my other pastor friends see that philosophy as compromising the Word of God. They clearly see it as watering down the Gospel in order to draw larger crowds. They believe it to be the main reason why the American Church has become so worldly and unable to positively affect the culture. They also believe these ministers are spineless and fear man more than they fear God. They confidently say nobody in their church of 200 is sleeping around, because they are the “real” believers.

Ironically, one pastor boasts that they had hundreds of sinners in their church last Sunday, while the other minister boasts that they had no sinners in service last Sunday. Each ministry leader has a different idea of what a “ministry homerun” looks like. They are both standing at different stages along God’s ministry assembly line (see our book The Inner Journey for more on this Assembly Line). Some are dealing with the raw materials of lost souls by drawing them closer to the boat; others are fine tuning the people by calling them to live the Christian life. Can you see where each ministry may have a different role to play? Can you see your own ministry in this scenario?

Excerpt from “What In Hell… Is Going On?”

God’s Ministry Assembly Line

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Leaders Often Get Along Until The Children Come Into The Room

leadAnother way to describe this tension in the Church would be to use parents as an illustration. Let’s imagine three or four couples along with their children, having a dinner party at someone’s house. The kids are in the back yard playing while the parents are relaxing over coffee and conversation. There is apparent unity and consensus among them as they enjoy each other’s company.

However, when the children come into the living room to join the conversation so does the potential for friction as the different parenting styles become evident. Everyone keeps their thoughts to themselves but on the ride home each car is filled with comments like “I can’t believe they let their kids act that way,” or “They are so mean to their children,” or “That’s not how I would deal with that situation”. These parents got along until the children came into the room.

This family analogy can also illustrate the sentiments between ministers of the Gospel. It may be easy to get along with other ministers, even from different camps, until the sheep (children) are in the room. Suddenly the gifting in each minister wants to impact the people of God according to their abilities. We sometimes presume we know what the people of God “really” need. Instead of each of us affirming and preferring the other ministers, we can doubt their validity.

Sometimes just being in the same room with someone with a different ministry gift can drive you “bonkers” as they seem to over react or under react to certain things. They can appear to be too intellectual or over spiritual. It is difficult to appreciate where they are coming from and why they are coming from there in the first place! But as we mature we will be able to love and really appreciate them and their ministries just like our Heavenly Father does. Remember… Jesus is building His Church. It’s the leadership of our churches that must decide if they are going to be part of the bigger picture. If we fail to be mature in this area our churches and our communities will deteriorate from a place of “completing” each other to a place of “competing” with each other.

Excerpt from “Working Together For Jesus”

Friendly Fire – Creating Your Leader In Your Image

FriendAnother subtle type of control that wears on ministry leaders is from so-called “friendly fire” which comes from well meaning compliments. This is when the senior minister receives little comments or notes from certain people who will compliment the behavior they want them to display. When they preach hard and with conviction, certain people will praise them for being the prophet they always wished for. When they teach long comprehensive expository sermons, certain people will praise them for being the teacher they always wanted them to be. Then when they are passionately reaching the lost in relevant ways, certain people will praise them for being the fiery evangelist they believe every preacher should be. Then if they visit someone at the hospital, they will praise them for being the pastor they always wanted them to be.

When praise comes from a pure heart, it is beautiful and edifying. But unbeknownst to some believers is the subtle spirit of control they operate in as they try to make their ministry leader into their ministry ideal, instead of accepting them for who God made them to be. Like many things in life, it all seems innocent until you are on the receiving end of it.

Excerpt from “What In Hell… Is Going On?”

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The Power of Critical Words

CriticalUnaware that critical words are being used by “evil spirits” with pinpoint accuracy to hit the leader’s heart and mind, we sometimes unknowingly provide the natural vehicles for demonic forces to move about in the earthly realms of our organizations. It is sadly like giving aid and comfort to the enemy. Discerning leaders can actually tell when people in their ministry are speaking against them by the level of demonic attacks on their mind.

Often the Lord reveals by a “word of knowledge” what persons in the organization are causing the division. Just like a parent’s sixth sense, God gives His leaders the ability to know what each of their spiritual kids are up to. The enemy may have planted a selfish idea in their minds about what they think the ministry should do. Yet the minister has to love them, even as they are glaring at them with the “skunk eye” while he or she is teaching the Word of God.

Parents Beware

One pastor recalled a service where he greeted one of the teenage girls in his church as she was getting a drink from the water fountain. As she turned to see him, her face lit up with joy as she said “Hi Pastor Bob”, but then she instantly turned away and looked down and walked away; almost with the look of, “I’m not allowed to like you”. The Spirit of the Lord spoke to him and said, “She loves and respects you, but her parents, particularly her mother, has been speaking negative things about you and the church because mom is immature and controlling”.

Parents have no idea how much damage they can cause their own children when they are openly critical of God’s leadership. These parents have sowed the seeds of rebellion in their children that will manifest shortly in their lives. This teenage girl was receiving the anointing from this leader’s ministry gift as well as from others on the ministry team, but because her parents were critical, she was confused. This can abort the Godly spiritual transfer of what God had for her. That poor girl loved her spiritual leaders, but was also confused by her parent’s remarks.

What usually happens next is the teenager suddenly finds fault with everything at her church. She experiences unexplained conflict with the youth leader and the other kids in the youth group. She ends up going from youth group to youth group or she may stop going to church all together. She may not even realize that she has also been programmed to not submit to godly leaders by her own parent’s critical comments. Sadly this criticism can lead to a directionless and promiscuous life. Most of us are unaware of why we are so critical of authority until we examine our developmental years honestly. So much of what we do in our developing years is often self-centered and tainted by our sin-nature. That is why Jesus said we must all take up our cross in order to kill the part of us that is dangerous to us and to others. Many Christians do not truly realize how often they are used to pray selfish and even demonic prayers as they succumb to “charismatic witchcraft”. In their insecurity they often try to control others and the direction of those around them. They may attempt to push or influence some personal agenda while covering it in religious jargon (James 3:13-18).

They often fail to recognize that even if their spiritual leaders only have the I.Q. of a “speed bump”, they are still required to respect their office and authority from God. To not do so is extremely dangerous for the church and their spiritual condition. Their innuendos breed seeds of rebellion that seem harmless at first, but later reap chaos and hardships for all in the ministry. God will not hold those guiltless who speak against His leaders (Numbers 12:1-16). The Bible says things go well for us when we obey and are submissive to His leaders in our lives.

Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you. Hebrews 13:7

Excerpt from “What In Hell… Is Going On?”

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The “TOP 10” Reasons Why Christians Should Be Working Together in Their City

10What you are about to read may be new to your understanding about the way Christians are supposed to do “church” and live out their Christianity. Most of what you are about to read will not be taught in the typical local church or Theological Seminary. Most Bible Colleges and Seminaries exist to only emphasize their distinctiveness. In effect they are there to teach why they are different than the other teaching institutions across the country. This isn’t all bad, but it is also not all good. We will show you why in a moment.

We will show you Biblical truth that heretofore hasn’t been taught with the preeminence that the Bible teaches it. We will also try to explain along the way why it isn’t readily taught by most of our current leaders. We do this with the hope of removing the religious and psychological barriers hindering the advancing Church of Jesus Christ. Hang on, this is a road less traveled.  It is a little bumpy, but you are going to love the view.  Jeff Krall

Reason #10

It Was God’s Idea to Comprise the Nation of Israel from 12 Different Tribes

All these are the twelve tribes of Israel, and this is what their father spoke to them. And he blessed them; he blessed each one according to his own blessing. Genesis 49:28

In the beginning God created His people, the Nation of Israel from the 12 sons of Jacob/Israel. Each of these tribes had a specific identity and calling on them. They were unique and played a different role in the national affairs of Israel. They conquered different parts of the Promised Land. They had their own inheritance they were to fight for and settle. From this observation we can also see how the many Denominations and Independent Christian groups are simply tribes in God’s family; they are tributaries that comprise the Great River of God. Each one of these groups are stewards of the manifold wisdom of God as it is being unfolded through the centuries (Ephesians 3:10). They were given some truth or revelation from God for their generation. They aren’t supposed to be like the other tribes. In fact the only two areas where they were supposed to be unified, is in worship and warfare. They worship the same God, Jehovah; and they fought the same enemy, Satan and his imps.

The reason this is important to see in our contemporary setting is that there are many Christian leaders today who fall into two extremes. The first is to think their tribe or religious organization is the only correct one. It is good to be proud of your spiritual heritage. It is good to be a faithful steward of the particular scriptural emphasis God has given your organization. But there is a dangerous kind of pride that results in elitism and territorialism. This results in an arrogant superiority complex that insists on everyone being like them before they will fellowship and work with them.

Be Careful – Don’t Start Another “Anti-Denomination Denomination”

The second extreme is the belief that all denominations are wrong and not of God. This results in some starting their own organization. Remember, the prideful separatist spirit that often comes with denominations is unhealthy; but the truth or revelation that God has revealed through them is not.  People who believe that all denominations are bad usually end up starting their own movement, which unbeknownst to them results in another denomination called the “non-denominational denomination”.  The same separatist spirit they criticize in other organizations results in them forming another separate organization, church or network that isolates itself from the rest of the Body of Christ.

Our point here is God likes and designed unified diversity in His creation, in Israel and in His Church. Let’s not try to make everybody like us. Let’s also realize we need each other to be the whole Body of Christ, the whole Nation of the Lord. We are here to complete each other, not compete with each other. Therefore let’s lessen the hyper criticisms about denominations and ask ourselves, what are we currently doing to unite the Body Christ?

Reason #9

There Must Be Unity Before There’s Power

Behold, how good and how pleasant it is; For brethren to dwell together in unity! It is like the precious oil upon the head, Running down on the beard, The beard of Aaron, Running down on the edge of his garments. It is like the dew of Hermon, Descending upon the mountains of Zion; For there the Lord commanded the blessing— Life forevermore. Psalm 133:1-3

These three verses of scripture hold a powerful key the Church in our communities is missing. The place where the brethren dwell together in unity is the place where the Lord commands the blessing. In Acts 2:4, they were in one accord before the power fell. Peter’s shadow could heal the sick because the Church was in one city in one accord. Just like Jesus who was all together in one place in His human body did awesome miracles, so we will see the miracles again when we assemble all the parts of Jesus’ body today in one place in our town. Concentrated Jesus is what is lacking in our churches and communities.

Think about this scenario. A father comes home from a day of work and walks into his house to hear his children fighting and screaming at each other. One stole a toy from the other. One smacked the other and the third one is cussing and calling the other one terrible names. Do you think their father is about to bless them and take them out for ice cream? No way! Blessing isn’t what is about to rain on them … a swift paddle on their back side is more likely to come into their world. Yet much of the Church is treating their brothers and sisters the same way and are praying and expecting God’s blessing. No sane father blesses his children when they are fighting and attacking each other. However when they love on each other it pleases him greatly, resulting in him giving great reward. So whether it’s a home, a church or a city, to the degree there is maturity expressed in oneness there will be power released from the Lord.

That’s Not Satan We Are Fighting; It’s God!

Another example of how we are often far from God’s full blessing can be illustrated by some intercessors and pastors who were praying and fasting for revival in their city. One of them said the Holy Spirit told them the name of the principality hindering the move of God in their city.  Its name was “Yahweh”. The Lord showed them that God Himself was actually resisting the Church in their community. Why? God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble. God was showing them they didn’t need to worry about the devil and his crew. If He was displeased by their divisions and strife in the Church, He was the One who they should be concerned with.

The Bible states in Psalm 133, that God will command the blessing “there”! Where is there?  There, is the place where the brethren dwell together in unity. God commands it because of the nature of spiritual warfare fighting against this unity. He commands “life evermore” because “life” is what we need in our churches and cities. Life is that essence or force which stops atrophy, decay and death. Life is the one commodity man cannot produce in spite of all of our sophisticated religious knowledge. We need God’s life to manifest, to sprout in our midst and push back the death and demonic power in our families, our churches and in our communities.

Look Where the Oil Goes

We see from the Scriptures that when there is unity among the brethren the sacred anointing oil representing the precious Holy Spirit descends upon the leadership (the head of Aaron) of the Church or community. It is God’s endorsement that the organization’s leadership pleases Him so much that He anoints it with blessing – life evermore. Dear leader, could this anointing oil also represent God’s acknowledgement that we have effectively led the people of God into a mature understanding of unity? Do we have the necessary humility and maturity that qualifies us for more heavenly endorsement?

Reason #8

It’s About Our Father

Now it came to pass, as He was praying in a certain place, when He ceased, that one of His disciples said to Him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples.” So He said to them, “When you pray, say: Our Father in heaven… Luke 11:1, 2

Here we see what is commonly called the Lord’s Prayer, but is really the Disciples’ Prayer. The disciples asked Jesus to teach them how to pray.  It is important for every believer to realize that when addressing God, Jesus wanted us to remember that He is OUR Father, not just My Father.  The very model of prayer Jesus gave for every believer starts with an emphasis on our relationship to God and one another. Jesus wants us always mindful that when in prayer we have brothers and sisters with whom we need to be in right relationship. Everything about God’s being reflects relationship.

The Godhead itself screams diversified unity as the very essence of God’s nature and being. We cannot escape the fact that our Christianity is irrevocably connected to other brothers and sisters in Christ. The Bible has over 30 “one another” commands which show us that we can’t be an authentic Christian who is isolated from other believers.

Reason #7

Your Will Be Done On Earth As It Is in Heaven

Your kingdom come, Your will be done On earth as it is in heaven. Luke 11: 2

Perhaps one of the most astounding blind spots in the Church today is the disconnection between what is going on in heaven and what is happening here on earth. What is going on in heaven?  Discerning what is going on up there is the key to what we need to believe for down here. First of all, at the risk of sounding like a “space cadet” out of touch with reality I will tell you that I have been to heaven. So have you if you have read your Bible with a heart of faith. Have you experienced the Holy Spirit and discovered the language of the Spirit, visions and dreams? Have you seen yourself seated with Christ in heavenly places? Has your inner man breathed heavenly atmosphere? All believers who have been born from above will at some level experience heaven before we get there. Let me tell you what I have seen in the Spirit, I trust it will bear witness with you and the scriptures.

First of all, there are no divisions and strife in heaven. No one is jockeying for the head position for it has already been filled by Jesus Christ Himself. Not one leader is seeking to promote themselves or is insisting to be the preeminent pastor or bishop or apostle in the room. The Lordship of Jesus is so glorious and all consuming no one even considers exalting themselves above another.

There is complete forgiveness among everyone in heaven as the reality of the depth of each one’s sins have been found out yet met with God’s amazing grace. There is immeasurable gratefulness and humility for even being allowed to be there. There is unalterable unity and appreciation among its citizens as they work seamlessly together for the glory of God’s expanding kingdom. There are waves of liquid love and joy unspeakable as the reality of Jesus and His benevolent reign saturates every corner of the heavenly realm in perfect peace. And there is unfettered, explosive worship from everyone whose focus is on the King of kings and the Lord of lords. It is clear; heaven has one star, one leader and it is the LORD!  This is not a fairy tale. This is the real reality of our universe.

This is Our Bull’s Eye, Our Touchdown, Our Finish Line.

This is what we are to pray will happen here on earth, in our communities and churches. Anything less would be ignorance and unbelief, or worse, downright rebellion to the Lord’s rightful place in our midst. Thy kingdom come is more than a verse we hang on our refrigerators, this is a command for us to pray and believe for. This is not a vain exercise without an expectation to see results here. This is our bull’s eye, our touchdown, our finish line. This should be the reality our efforts are working towards.

Failure to discern what is going on in heaven is an indication we have not been fellowshipping with Christ in heavenly places. We have been too immersed in our religious kingdoms. We have become shortsighted, earthly minded. Your focus is your future. It is time we focus on what Jesus told us to focus on. Let’s focus on His kingdom come; His will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

I often ask ministers what is the greatest example of the Lord’s presence among us. The common responses are usually people being saved, manifestations of healings or other spiritual gifts. These are great things to behold. I submit the greatest manifestation of the Lord being in our midst is when the elders, the pastors and leaders of our community throw their crowns at Jesus’ feet and fall on their faces in humble worship. There is no greater indicator that the true King is among us then when people who are lesser kings and lords fall on their faces in humble adoration of Jesus. In our minister’s gatherings the tangible presence of the Master is always proportional to how much we are willing to cease from self promotion, preferring the Lord.  It is true of our churches and communities as well.

Reason #6

Jesus Recognizes His Church by Its Geography Not By the Signs on Our Buildings

To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all who in every place call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours. 1 Corinthians 1:2

Throughout the Scriptures we see God speaking to cities and regions. Epistles were written to the Church of Corinth, Ephesus, Galatia, Philadelphia, Thyatira, Laodicea etc. What can we learn from this?  Jesus recognizes His Church by their geography not by the signs over our buildings. He speaks to the city elders or messengers of these cities and charges them with the spiritual well being of the Church in that region. If the Lord only recognizes His Church by its geography, shouldn’t we? Do you discern the Body of Christ outside your four walls? Can you see it? As we said before we often become myopic and develop tunnel vision when we only work on what’s going on inside our ministries. The maturing saint will see what Jesus recognizes as His Church.

Reason #5

We are Babies and Even Carnal, If There are Divisions Among Us

Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. For it has been declared to me concerning you, my brethren, by those of Chloe’s household, that there are contentions among you. Now I say this, that each of you says, “I am of Paul,” or “I am of Apollos,” or “I am of Cephas,” or “I am of Christ.” Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? 1 Corinthians 1:10-12

Scripture tells us to speak the same thing. There should be no divisions among us. What are we doing to obey this? Why do we let divisions to continue? Is your God powerless to do something about this?  Have you become part of “the great falling away” the Scriptures warn us about? What I mean by that is: “Have you fallen from the faith that believes the Lord is going to bring His Church to maturity”?  Where are the fathers and discerning leaders in our ministries and in our communities who can mediate these situations as they arise? Remember, when the Church is in unity we automatically win the battle with Satan and his hordes. That’s why he fights so hard to create divisions, and that’s why God’s leaders need to fight even harder to expose his efforts.

And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ. I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it, and even now you are still not able; for you are still carnal. For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men? For when one says, “I am of Paul,” and another, “I am of Apollos,” are you not carnal? 1 Corinthians 3:1-4

Four times in this text the Bible calls us carnal or fleshly because we are allowing divisions instead of Christ to rule the day. Regardless of how we think of our religious status or our prominence within our religious institution or church, the Bible says we are “in the flesh” when we are divided from one another. It doesn’t matter what we say to each other to justify our condition … the Bible makes it clear who we really are in light of Scripture. I pray we all find a healthy dose of humility from the diagnosis of the Word of God.

We Don’t Make Unity, We Keep It

I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.  Ephesians 4:1-6

It is important to note that we don’t create unity; we are to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace that already exists. The discerning believer recognizes the unity of the Spirit and cooperates with it anywhere on planet earth. There is a present unity of the Spirit no matter where you are in the world. Heaven’s atmosphere is available to everyone in every place. We don’t try to work hard to manufacture this unity; it is already in existence because it is the nature of our God who is everywhere. It is like your favorite radio station. It is transmitting through you right now as you read this book. All you need is the equipment to tune into the right frequency. The same is true with the unity of the Spirit (heaven’s atmosphere). It is transmitting through the walls of religious bigotry and legalism in your situation too. It just takes a little teaching on how to tune it in. The fact that you are reading this material will greatly help your reception.

Reason #4

If Jesus Ordained You Then You Will Work to See the Body of Christ Joined and Knit Together

And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God … joined and knit together by what every joint  supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love. Ephesians 4:11-16

We need to evaluate if our ordination for ministry comes from heaven or from a man made organization. Beware; if your ministry organization “ordained” you, you will often work to see it grow up into maturity instead of the Church of Jesus Christ. This is called building “my kingdom” in Jesus’ name.  If your organization ordained you, you will inevitably work to build it up.

If Jesus ordained you, then you will build the Body of Christ. It is that simple. For many, this distinction doesn’t become apparent until they go through God’s school of preparation and die to their self-life. We write about this process in our book “Roadkill Seminary”. This breaking causes the Christian leader to have a wakeup call to the real ministry instead of just being a company man.

If Jesus Christ ordained you, you will have an unquenchable desire to see the whole Body of Christ grow up into Him and become joined and knit together. That’s why Jesus gave apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers to the Church in the first place. Please look at these verses with fresh eyes.  Have you been building a denomination or a religious company all these years? Or have you been building the “spiritual house” of the Lord in your area?  Are you connecting the body parts?

Maybe you, like so many other leaders, have been focused on the scaffolding rather than the actual House of the Lord in your community. There is a temptation to focus only on our ministry within our four walls because that is where we feel successful and derive our sense of value or our incomes. That is how we compare ourselves with the banker, the doctor and the dentist; by how our practice looks to others. However we should be more concern about how we are pleasing the One who ordained us for the purpose He set forth in Scripture.

Reason #3

This is Authentic Christianity According to Jesus

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:33, 34

According to Jesus the world would know we are genuine disciples by our love for one another. This is how they will know you and I are the real deal – Love for one another (not just love for the Lost!).  Does the world see this in us? Is it hard for us to love Christians who are different from us because we are using our particular religious system to gain God’s approval? Are we still trying to make ourselves worthy of God’s love and acceptance by keeping our camp’s set of rules and rituals? Could it be we are more rule oriented than relationship oriented? Does this leave us loveless and disconnected from the other believers from different camps?

Reason #2

Our Relationships Reveal How Much Light We Are Walking In

But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin. 1 John 1:7

 He who says he is in the light, and hates his brother, is in darkness until now. He who loves his brother abides in the light, and there is no cause for stumbling in him. But he who hates his brother is in darkness and walks in darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes. 1 John 2:9-11

The proof we are walking in the Christ’s light is revealed by our relationships with one another. The level of fellowship we have with members of the Body of Christ reveals what level of light we are walking in. If we walk in the light as He is in the light we will have fellowship with one another. If you can only get along with one other believer you have a small level of light you are walking in. Getting along with people in your home group is another level of Christ’s light you are walking in. As you grow in Christlikeness you will be able to walk in more light which will enable you to have meaningful fellowship with an entire church, denomination, city or nation. How much light are you walking in?  I find it amazing as a leader in a local church that I can walk in fellowship with all who come to our house of worship, yet many within the same church will not get along with people different from them. They’ve chosen to stay at their low level of light.

I don’t know about you but I want more of God. He is light and love. He loves everyone. So if you are going to be like Him or be near Him you better plan on losing your dark areas and step into the light as you fellowship with believers from different streams.

Reason #1

We Are To Be the Answer to the Real Lord’s Prayer

I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me. John 17:20-23

The last free night of Jesus’ ministry on earth we get to hear Him pray the most important thing on His heart. The Holy Spirit records the most intimate and precious words the Son of God ever uttered in the Bible and we get to listen in. This is awesome! What would be on your mind if you were on your death bed? What would you say to your family if you only had hours to live? What would be your last prayer for them? I guarantee it would be the most important thing on your heart. What is the single most important thing to Jesus Christ? This is a very important moment so pay close attention.

The answer is, that we would be One as He and the Father is One, so the world would know He is the Savior of the world. It is absolutely astonishing beyond all belief that just about every Theological Seminary and Bible School misses the importance of this sacred point made by our Savior. Almost every Christian organization has a Statement of Faith or list of Orthodox Doctrines necessary to be considered an authentic Christian or minister. Yet according to Jesus Himself the world would only recognize we were authentic followers of His by our love for one another and our Oneness with God and each other. Did Jesus know something about the cynical culture of the last generation? Did He know in the last days the love of many would grow cold and would need to see true love before they would believe Jesus was sent by God? Or is it true that in spite of all the religious jargon we use, people know when they see a sham and when they are witnessing authentic Christian love and unity … the kind that is a foretaste of heaven?

If you are still tracking with me and believe this is the missing element or as they say the “weakest link” in our testimony to the world, then listen to this. The standard of unity we are called to is no less than that of the unity of the Godhead. The Father, Son and Holy Spirit are three who are one.  This isn’t some surface religious unity we are talking about. This is not about fake smiles and superficial Sunday morning relationships. This is the essence of heaven’s source of life. This is the kind of oneness every true believer is drawn to like protons and electrons are drawn to the nucleus of an atom.

According to the Bible, Jesus’ method for world evangelism is our ONENESS. (The word “glory” is mentioned 8 times and “world” an astounding 19 times in the Lord’s Prayer). Jesus knows the end time generation would need something more than religious activities and buildings. To get the world’s attention, He calls us to Oneness. Due to iniquity abounding and the love of many waxing cold, only the glory of the unified Body of Christ can reveal the Spirit of Christ in a penetrating way. God’s unity of Spirit displayed on the canvas of flawed humanity will erase all the bad reputations of the Church and Christians alike. You may not have faith to believe for this oneness in your city but you can start with teaching your children, your cell group, and your church to believe and be part of the remnant Church, preparing herself as a bride.

Still unconvinced believers will get their act together? Don’t worry! Jesus prayed for this and Jesus always gets his prayers answered.

Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! For there the Lord commanded the blessing—Life forevermore.

Excerpt from “Working Together For Jesus”

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Who Does God Want Me to Vote For?

VoteSo Who Should I Vote For?

Here is the proof I am not just a mushy moderate. I know some may be thinking I was safe discussing this concept in theory, but why did I have to talk about politics again? Why did I have to go here? It’s great to have this new insight regarding human disagreements, but what about the real world? What are we going to do about choosing the elected representatives who will lead our country? This is where I may upset some of you.

If the Holy Bible gave us the understanding of the male (conservative) and female (liberal) perspectives, it also has something to say about the kind of direction our nation should take. If you are still struggling with any of us receiving instruction from an ancient book, I would again suggest you read our book, “It Really Is God’s Book” to see some amazing and distinguishing facts that prove the validity of the Bible as the only authentic revelation of the one true God.

I must stipulate one caveat here that may irritate some. We need to have God’s Spirit to understand its mysteries. And we only receive His Spirit by surrendering our lives to Jesus Christ. When we meet the author, the book really makes sense.

We are going deeper, so please hang in until the end. There is nothing like choosing a country’s elected leaders that can make a group of people turn into an angry mob. Asking who we will vote for is like asking, who do we want to live with after our parents’ divorce—our mom or our dad?

If We Choose the Liberal-Female Side of Government (Our Mom), She will…

She will fight for us to have a decent minimum wage. She will fight for our artistic rights and our freedom of expression (she still has our drawings that used to hang on the refrigerator). She will courageously fight for justice and to liberate the poor who have been falsely convicted because they couldn’t afford a good lawyer.

If we do commit a crime and become imprisoned, she will fight to get us educated and she will fight to get us rehabilitated so we will have the skills to work when we get out. She will also work with the disadvantaged and disenfranchised among us to obtain health care for their family so their medical bills won’t bankrupt the family, leaving them on the streets.

She will fight to protect the environment we live in from over-development and pollution that can cause all manner of disease. She will protect our rights from the big corporate monopolies that would like to have a permanent underclass of cheap labor. She will insist that the nations we do business with overseas also have the same worker’s rights and protections we do so that our nation will be morally consistent here and abroad. She will compassionately reach out and welcome any immigrant coming to America in search of a better life for their family. She will always find a way to make the food in her pantry feed those in her home. Don’t you just love mom? She will remind us that Jesus commands us to reach out to the poor and the powerless.

If We Choose the Conservative-Male Side of Government (Our Dad), He will…

He will fight to keep ever growing big government from taking our rights and freedoms by micro managing every aspect of our life. He will fight to keep wasteful bureaucracies from making us work 6 months out of the year for the government before we earn money for our family. He will fight the false utopia of socialism and communism that enslaves millions around the world. He will provide a safe haven for the desperate multitudes seeking to escape those communist countries. He will provide us with a strong military and a strong police force to ensure the peace and safety of our family and our nation.

He will make sure career criminals are locked away or executed so they can never harm innocent people again. He will fight the killing of innocent unborn children. He will fight to rid America of drugs in the streets as well as those in the classroom prescribed by misguided educators afraid of disciplining children. He will fight the efforts of the Left to remove Christianity from our schools, from our universities and media throughout the nation. He will remind the Woman that there just isn’t enough money to fund all her compassion projects. He will remind us that our freedoms come from God and not the government. He will remind us that the government should not be the god we look to, but rather we should look to the God of heaven and earth to be our provider.

So Who Will You Vote For?

This seems to be more difficult for all of us with each election cycle. Both political wings violate their own promises and convictions with regularity. Our system seems to be hijacked by unseen forces rendering well meaning people impotent to bring reforms. There are powerful indicators of a conspiracy to bring about the demise of our nation with its freedoms and liberties. The Bible is the only “holy book” that pulls back the veil on these unseen maneveloent spirits and how we can defeat them. The Scriptures also teaches the discerning how to bring meaningful solutions from between the male side and female side of our politics.

Some say we have lost access to heaven’s discernment because both sides have lost a healthy fear of God. Some in our nation have asked God to leave our public dialogue and institutions so we are left with carnal people devoid of godly wisdom making life and death decisions for the country. With no absolutes, our leaders have been trying to build our society using different tape measures; no wonder the national building is teetering and near collapse.

For me it is less about voting for a person or party and more about voting for a philosophical direction I think the country should go. I find it increasingly more difficult each year to vote for any of the political parties because the Biblical virtues I believe in have been so ignored or abused by each of them.

When a person asks my opinion on the matter I often tell them as a believer in Christ I choose what I believe will best support the advancement of the kingdom of God. This may not always be what looks best for the country. As a Christian I usually side with the…

For more insight in Helping Preachers, Politicians and Problem Solvers find Solutions check out my book.

Excerpt from A Better Way To Govern

God Doesn’t Come to Take Sides, He Comes to Take Over

sidesThere is a Need for All of Us, Especially Christians, To Be Free from the Sin of Presumption

Remember that God doesn’t come to take sides. He comes to take over! (See Joshua 5:13-15). The story in Joshua is one of the most astounding examples in the entire Bible of why none of us should dare presume or take for granted that God is on our side. Here we see the children of Israel had just crossed the Jordan River outside of Jericho under “God’s direction”. Joshua was appointed by God as Moses’ successor to lead God’s chosen people, the Jews, into the Promised Land. God had been leading His people for 40 years through the wilderness to come to the edge of the Promised Land to take possession of it. They were commanded to dispossess these morally depraved nations who were killing their own children in religious sacrifices.

This is the crowning moment of over 400 years of  planning to fulfill the promise God personally made to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, that their descendants would possess this land. Right after all the males circumcised themselves to prove how committed they were to keeping God’s commands and ordinances. Their leader, Joshua found himself confronted by the appearance of the Lord with His sword drawn. We know it’s the Lord Himself because Joshua was told to take his sandals off (it was holy ground) which was something only God would say. Let’s take a look at Joshua 5:13-15 in the New Living Translation:

When Joshua was near the town of Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with sword in hand. Joshua went up to him and demanded, “Are you friend or foe?” “Neither one,” he replied. “I am the commander of the LORD’s army.” At this, Joshua fell with his face to the ground in reverence. “I am at your command,” Joshua said. “What do you want your servant to do?” The commander of the LORD’s army replied, “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy.” And Joshua did as he was told. 

Joshua looked at this heavenly figure with the sword and asked the question of the ages, “Whose side are You on; Ours or theirs?” The divine response is “Neither”. How in the world could God not be on Joshua’s and on Israel’s side? They are Abraham’s children. God Himself powerfully delivered them from Egypt through signs and wonders. They were led by God through the wilderness. God divided the Red Sea and the Jordan River for them to cross. There has never been a surer group of people on earth with the supposed endorsement of God. Yet we see God reminding us and them that we should never presume God is automatically on anybody’s side.

This Puts the Axe to the Root of Presumption

It’s not your way or my way, it’s YAHWEH! I pray this Scripture makes us consider that no matter how right any of us truly think we are, we should always pause and acknowledge our need for God’s grace to save us from ourselves. I hope at the very least we will learn a few things in the following pages as we join the camp that the Lord is in.

Excerpt from A Better Way To Govern

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God’s Ministry Assembly Line

assemblyNow that we understand the progressive nature of the maturing process we will also begin to understand and appreciate why certain ministers, churches and ministries operate the way they do. The proof of our spiritual growth is played out in the context of Christian ministry where we live. This material helps us understand the “maturity milestones” Christians must attain to effectively minister side by side; it’s a maturity/character thing. Our book “Working Together for Jesus” helps us understand why so many elders, deacons, bishops, apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers often struggle to get along with each other. It’s a ministry context thing.

Our hope is that we will begin to look at different Christian leaders who we thought were out of order in a different light. We will realize that certain ministers are positioned by the Lord to help believers move along the Ministry Assembly Line, the maturing process. Here we see the division of ministry (those who Defend the Faith and those who Extend the Faith) as God ordained. There are fathering and mothering aspects to bringing Christians to maturity. However Satan and his religious spirits work continually to cause friction between these two styles of discipleship so he can divide and conquer the Church.

To help understand this division of ministry we should review Hebrew culture. The patriarchal (father) and matriarchal (mother) roles reveal why the Church of Jesus Christ emphasizes two different roles. When a woman had a baby in ancient Israel the father and the mother would often give the baby to a “wet nurse” so the mother would stop lactating to better enable her to conceive again.

Evidently the new mother’s body doesn’t allow her to conceive easily when she is nursing. In the Jewish mind, the more children they had the more they were obeying God’s command to be fruitful and multiply. Wealth was measured by how many sheep and cattle and children they had.

After the child was weaned they would hand the child over to a tutor (“pedagogue” in Greek) until such time as the child would have their bar mitzvah. Then the father would, in a sense officially adopt his own child into his care, his training and his family business. That is why we read about Jesus at around 12 years of age saying “He must be about his Father’s business” when He was in the temple (Luke 2:49).

The Bible says that Israel was kept under guard by this “pedagogue” this tutor, which was the Law.

But before faith came, we were kept under guard by the law, kept for the faith which would afterward berevealed. Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor.  Galatians 3:23-25

This is the Way This Plays Out in Our Christian World

The first part of your Christian walk you are brought into a church/ministry family where you are regularly fed and nurtured by a tutor, a church family, and a pastor or home group leader. These loving and caring people along with teachers change your spiritual diapers and feed you with the milk of God’s Word. Some even call the Outer Court the “utter court” because it represents a new believer’s need for milk.

We are given consistent and regular routines and programs to help us more easily understand and assimilate the Bible’s basic doctrines. Providing peace and predictability are essential when we are young. We become committed to our local church or denomination because it is the house we grew up in, the yard we played in and the first bedroom we hung our posters in.

This is the safe and soft place of the Church known as your mother or matriarchal ministry. This is the place of peace and predictability that is so necessary for all young believers. However, sadly the religious spirit enters here in almost every ministry and fulfills Satan’s plan to keep Christians stuck in perpetual immaturity. What was valid and appropriate ministry has now become grotesque and emasculating. Egypt was a place of provision for Israel but years later it became a place of slavery to man’s egotistical monuments. This environment de-motivates believers.

Have you ever seen an unemployed 30-year-old man who sleeps in late, watches TV all day and still lives at his mother’s house because there is no father is in the house to straighten him out? The same is true for believers in America. It is so sad to see the great tragedy  of wasted spiritual potential for the kingdom of God. What is even more incredible is the fact that most Christians have never had their Christian experience described like this before. They have never been exposed to the anointing and authority of the Apostolic and Prophetic ministries that uncovers the fact that they have been stuck in a sad state of perpetual immaturity.

AssemblyThe Reason Why So Many Backslide and Fall Away

Some church experts believe that there are as many as 20 million Christians who no longer go to church? Do you want to know why some of these believers stopped going to church or why they don’t participate in the ministry?

Read more in The Inner Journey