Category Archives: The Church Series
It comes as no surprise to discover that churches hurt people. The surprise comes when OUR church hurts US. Somehow, churches that dish out pain are reserved for those people, in those cities, over there. Not on our turf.
And then it happens.
We take a five week break, and no one from the church staff team contacts us.
We serve in children’s ministry, faithfully every month for two years. And when we ask for a well-deserved break, we are given a guilt trip instead of a pat on the back.
We preach and teach our hearts out, week in and week out, and watch as good people make a stampede for the back doors because the preaching or teaching isn’t “deep” enough.
Church people hurt people.
Can I get an amen? And when we are hurt by churches – whether it’s by people in the pews, staff team members, or leadership boards and committees who question our character – we must do two things.
First, we must visit our pain. This will feel like an extended visit with our in-laws, because it is a time for answering hard questions. During our visit, we must have the courage to ask why we have been hurt so badly. Did we place unrealistic expectations on a people? Did we think we were more important than we turned out to be? Were we misunderstood? Did we feel like our hopes and dreams were squelched? Was there a legitimate bait and switch? Did we keep quiet for too long? Did we remain the squeaky wheel for too long? Is it really all their fault, or is there something we did wrong?
For me, this visit lasted the better part of one year. At one point, in the Summer of 2008, I honestly thought I was done.
There’s a second thing we must do. With Braveheart courage, we must end the visit we’ve established with our pain. This has been, after all, only a visit. We have walked in. We have sat down. We have cried honest tears. And now, we stand up, and we walk back out the door.
Most hurting church people refuse this part of the process, for it is perhaps the most difficult part of living in honest Christian community. It’s too easy not to forgive the church. It gives many of us an excuse never to go back.
And we take it. We choose to hate those people instead of forgiving them. And “hate” is not too strong a word for this. We know that from our experience.
The Apostle John picked up his pen toward the end of his life, and wrote the following to a splintered group of church people who had hurt each other – divided over a theological issue called “Gnosticism” – and who had become bitter and resentful as a result…
“Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates his brother is still in the darkness. Whoever loves his brother lives in the light, and there is nothing in him to make him stumble. But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness; he does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded him” (1 John 2:10-11).
When I am hurt by the church, and I choose to hold onto that hurt like a precious family heirloom – without forcing myself to go through the long, arduous process of healing and restoration – I will, by default, become a bitter, resentful person. I will “not know where I am going because the darkness has blinded me.” Been there? Me too.
I don’t want to be a Christian living in darkness. What’s the point of that?
For me, my journey out of my pain has involved really spending time with God and studying His Word. Learning what the church is all about and actively making steps to change the way we think, which in most cases causes the hurt. While that decision isn’t right for everyone, it’s been my way out of the darkness, and into the light.
Don’t allow the pain that someone forces upon you draw you away from God. Hurt is real, but so is He (God). The hurt, as bad as it can feel is only a tool that God uses to develop you, if you allow Him too. Grow through the pain!
Thank you, it was meant to be! You hurt me; but you couldn’t break me. You talk about me; but you couldn’t change the truth. You lied on me; but you couldn’t steal my integrity. Your efforts made me a stronger and better man; but it wasn’t your intensions. I forgave you; but can you admit and forgive yourself?
Today’s Crucifixion by the Bride
For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame. Hebrews 6:6
In most Institutionalized churches sometime today they will have a public celebration of what they do every day. Crucify our Savior all over again.
Jesus told Peter in Matthew 28:19-20 to make disciples, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you. In Matthew 22:34-40 Jesus is asked the question which is the greatest commandment. Jesus says, love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. The second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
Today, one of the most broken of His commands for us to do is love one another. Churcians (Institutionalized Christians) have fallen so in love with the church that we forget to love one another. Our love towards one another is so superficial that it stinks. One lady told me that she cursed someone out for talking about her church? A Christian lady of sixty years! Most of the conversions among Christians are about someone and not in love.
I myself have sacrificed friends for my love affair with the church. When God convicted me of the very thing I knew in my heart it was wrong, I repented and went to the people and asked forgiveness. Even after leaving the Institutionalized Church, I have had people I love tell me (Christians) that they wanted to be my friend, but didn’t want anyone (the church) to know. Some who didn’t say it, but tried to carry it out. Is this the way Christ loves the Church?
I know personally two of my former pastors have hurt so many people and talked about people in such a way that if a person loved himself that way they would commit suicide. However, the command says to repent and love, but pride causes them to continue to live in sin and crucify the Savior.
Jesus said, in Matthew 5:23-24; Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift. So many leaders are asking you to bring an offering to the altar, who themselves are not worthy to bring never the less except on behalf of God.
When we have tasted the very Word of God, but continue to live in disobedience to Christ. We are no different from the religious people who crucified and mocked our Savior.
LOVE! When you enter into your most loved religious edifice complex with all its’ beauty and sacredness, don’t celebrate, repent and crucify your flesh. Jesus said, “There is no greater love than one who is willing to lay down his life for a friend.”
The Church Series (Doctrines divide by nature. Discipleship brings us together.) Pt. 26 (WARNING) Rated FG-7
There is a deep hunger for wisdom in our time, but the church offers up little more than sugary nostalgia with a dash of fear. There is a yearning for redemption, healing and wholeness that is palpable, a shift in human consciousness that is widely recognized – except it seems in most churches.
Strangely, we have come to a moment in human history when the message of the Sermon on the Mount could indeed save us, but it can no longer be heard above the din of dueling doctrines. Consider this: there is not a single word in that sermon about what to believe, only words about what to do. It is a behavioral manifesto, not a propositional one. Yet three centuries later, when the Nicene Creed became the official oath of Christendom, there was not a single word in it about what to do, only words about what to believe.
Thus the most important question we can ask in the church today concerns the object of faith itself. The earlier metaphors of the gospel speak of discipleship as a transformation through an alternative community and reversal of conventional wisdom. In much of the church today, our metaphors speak of individual salvation and the specific promises that accompany it. The first followers of Jesus trusted him enough to become instruments of radical change. Today, worshipers of Christ agree to believe things about him in order to receive benefits promised by the institution, not by Jesus.
The difference, between following and worshipping, is not insignificant. Worshipping is an inherently passive activity, since it involves the adoration of that to which the worshipers cannot aspire. It takes the form of praise, which can both sentimental and self-satisfying, without any call to changed behavior or self-sacrifice. In fact, Christianity as a belief system requires nothing but acquiescence. Christianity as a way of life, as a path to follow, requires a second birth, the conquest of ego, and new eyes with which to see the world. It is no wonder that we have preferred to be saved.
God wants us (His people) to understand what the ministry of oversight is all about, and to make sure that those who are in a position of oversight fulfill their God given duties FAITHFULLY. We can discern from God’s word what would amount to a serious warning if the spiritual leader steps out of line.
KJV Ezekiel 34:1 And the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, 2 Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel, prophesy, and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD unto the shepherds; Woe beto the shepherds of Israel that do feed themselves! should not the shepherds feed the flocks? 3 Ye eat the fat, and ye clothe you with the wool, ye kill them that are fed: but ye feed not the flock. 4 The diseased have ye not strengthened, neither have ye healed that which was sick, neither have ye bound up that which was broken, neither have ye brought again that which was driven away, neither have ye sought that which was lost; but with force and with cruelty have ye ruled them. 5 And they were scattered, because there is no shepherd: and they became meat to all the beasts of the field, when they were scattered. 6 My sheep wandered through all the mountains, and upon every high hill: yea, my flock was scattered upon all the face of the earth, and none did search or seek after them. 7 Therefore, ye shepherds, hear the word of the LORD; 8 As I live, saith the Lord GOD, surely because my flock became a prey, and my flock became meat to every beast of the field, because there was no shepherd, neither did my shepherds search for my flock, but the shepherds fed themselves, and fed not my flock; 9 Therefore, O ye shepherds, hear the word of the LORD; 10 Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I am against the shepherds; and I will require my flock at their hand, and cause them to cease from feeding the flock; neither shall the shepherds feed themselves any more; for I will deliver my flock from their mouth, that they may not be meat for them. 11 For thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I, even I, will both search my sheep, and seek them out. 12 As a shepherd seeketh out his flock in the day that he is among his sheep that are scattered; so will I seek out my sheep, and will deliver them out of all places where they have been scattered in the cloudy and dark day.
This passage of Scripture was written for the Old Testament leaders of God’s people. It is written specifically against “the shepherds of Israel”. “Shepherd” is the same word as “pastor”. This would define what the concept of shepherd or pastor is, as God sees it. Failure to fulfill this task brings railing condemnation against that pastor. From this we too can learn much about New Testament church oversight (i.e. pastors).
Beware when your pastor …
1. Is overly concerned about remuneration and his own life style instead of his preaching. Ezekiel 34:2
The first and great overriding condemnation by God is that the pastors feed themselves instead of feeding their charge, the flock of God. We must admit that God’s principles are that the local church is to give the pastor a livable wage or salary, and they are to even give him “double honor” if he ministers well, and the pastor is to live of the gospel. But when the balance becomes to great towards “feathering his own nest” instead of tending to his charge, then the pastor is not what he is supposed to be.
The charge of God to the pastor is the same as the owner of sheep in Palestine to a shepherd of sheep, “whatever is wrong, fix it.” What this means is that the pastor should confront all problems and resolve them however it is necessary to do so. A pastor who by-passes and ignores problems in the local church is not doing his job. We must give time to many matters, and we must labor over them in prayer, but some matters need to be confronted and dealt with instead of being prayed over. For example God rebuked Joshua in Joshua 7 because he was praying instead of rooting out sin in the camp. In 1 Corinthians 5, Paul rebukes the church for not confronting sin in their midst. Paul’s comparison is that this is like kneading a lump of dough with leaven in it, soon it will saturate the entire lump if not stopped quickly and decisively.
The preacher should preach, and he should do that well. Preachers that do not spend a lot of time preparing, and that includes study, prayer, and meditation, just are slighting their duties. Even the most scholarly preachers still spend many hours on a sermon if it is to be a good, effective sermon. Moreover, when a preacher spends a large portion of his time in other things (such as administration of a Christian school, counseling, writing, fellowship, or entertainment concerns) be careful. A person’s priorities are reflected by his attention to that things, i.e. what he spends the most time, energy, and resources on is his highest priority.
Beware when your pastor …
2. Hurts more people than he helps. Ezekiel 34:2
The sense of “the diseased have ye not strengthened, neither have ye healed that which was sick, neither have ye bound up that which was broken” is that he should be building up the flock so that they are not crippled by spiritual disease or sickness. The broken perhaps refers to the difficult crises of life that cause a person to become disabled or unfruitful and unproductive.
Focus on our task as Christians. We must ask ourselves, “what should the sheep be normally doing that these diseases, sicknesses, and crises (brokenness) would hinder?” The answer is very simple, sheep are supposed to roam around after the pastor eating and feeding all they can get, and they are to reproduce more sheep, and give fruit (wool and milk). Christians then are supposed to go to church and feed on the Word of God that the pastor feeds them with. This Word of God explained (feeding grounds) is supposed to promote the Christian to bear spiritual fruit and to reproduce (evangelism). This evangelism is the mission of the church (Matthew 28:19-20). It is a single mission that must all come under the focus of the local church. The local church must evangelize the lost, baptize them (membership – integration) into the local church, and teach them all God has commanded us (discipleship so that they are just like the rest of the church). This is the work of God, and the sheep are supposed to be doing it, and the pastor is supposed to promoting it, making it happen.
Moreover the Christian is to bear spiritual fruit. Let us mention what the Christians should be moved to produce from their “church experience”.
Love – The practice and attitude of placing somebody else before their own self. Seeking the benefit of another before your self.
Joy – Happiness (well being) that is not necessarily linked to physical well being. Comfort or thoughts that overwhelms the person even if that person finds himself in conflict, affliction, distress, anguish, agony, or pain.
Peace – The absence of conflict in the soul, even though outwardly the person may be in great conflicts.
Longsuffering – Suffering long, waiting and having patience even though the events and pressures of life would force the person to immediate response, vengeance, attack, rebuke, conflict, or improper speech.
Gentleness – Treating others softly instead of harshly and brutishly. Gentleness means not seeking to hurt others even when it is fully possible.
Faith – Faith is belief. But much more than some doctrinal point somebody ascribes themselves to, faith is spiritual force to wait or go forward when the evidence before ones eyes is to the contrary.
Meekness – This is to approach others as though you believe them to be better and superior to yourself. While it may not be so, still the meek person will treat others with this respect and dignity even though he himself may be a king.
Temperance – Self-control. A control over one’s self so that one does not indulge in sins and excesses of life. This is a strong control over oneself, or perhaps better put, it is a complete rendering of one’s self to the control of God to decide and guide their life, actions and speech so that what a person does is God’s will.
KJV Ephesians 5:9 (For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth;)
The Christian is supposed to have his life full of all goodness and righteousness. Good is free from the element of sin. Righteousness is the opposite of sin. It is what we are supposed to be doing instead of sin. Truth is God’s banner (identifying flag) over us. We are supposed to be champions of the truth. Beware when people claim to be Christians and tell lies to protect or promote their version of Christianity. No obedient Christian will use Satan’s methods to do God’s work. It just does not work.
Beware when your pastor …
3. Drives away people instead of gathering them. Ezekiel 34:4
KJV Ezekiel 34:4 brought that which was driven away, neither have ye sought that which was lost
The biblical pastor will be active in evangelism. Any church or pastor that slights evangelism is making light of the verse heart of God. “For God so loved the world He sent …” Evangelism is hard and discouraging, but it is the essence of God’s work. We cannot get around it. We cannot use the world’s methods, especially not Madison Avenue’s methods to do God’s work. We must use God’s methods.
Some pastors drive away and scatter the sheep instead of gathering them. This is seen by the pastor doing and saying things that drives people away from the Lord for unbiblical reasons. God’s purpose is to change people so that they obey the will of God. When a pastor preaches the will of God, then at times he will drive disobedient people away from the Lord because they will not obey God’s word. This is normal and not what we are talking about here. (Christ said he came to bring a sword into this world). What is a bad sign is when the pastor delights or accepts driving people away when there is no need to do so. For example, the pastor is sarcastic or bitter or sharp with his words when he could have said the same thing in a different way and not offend. The offense must always be between the individual and God, not the pastor and the individual. The pastor shows them God’s word and they may get offended or repent and follow God’s will.
Another aspect of a good pastor is that he seeks the lost. This goes beyond evangelism. It goes to the pastor’s relationship with his own sheep. When the pastor offends somebody, or somebody just stops coming or distances himself from the church, the good pastor will go out and seek that person seeking to “fix what is wrong” and restore that person into the fellowship as an active and fruitful member.
Beware when your pastor’s …
4. Leadership style is marked with cruelty and force. Ezekiel 34:4
KJV Ezekiel 34:4 with force and with cruelty have ye ruled them
“Force” here means excessive force, vehemence, might, strength. “Cruelty” means to break apart, to break down, to fracture, to use severity or cruelty, rigor. The idea is that the bad pastor is somebody who gets his will done no matter what. He is very forceful, and reserves all right for himself. Seldom is he ever wrong (in his own eyes), and even when he is wrong, he will ignore it and wants all others to ignore his errors, adhering absolute loyalty to his “always right” way.
Beware when your pastor …
5. Decides not to give pastoral counseling and get involved in correcting people’s lives. Ezekiel 34:5
One of the most important points to understand about pastors is that they government the sheep. That “government” simply is that they make executive decisions for the welfare of the sheep. The word for shepherd (ra’ah) means and is translated on occasion, “to govern”. They are personally responsible to God for their charge (Hebrews 13:17). This governing takes a public form in guiding the decisions of the local church, and a private form in personal one on one counseling.
Public guiding of the church is done by preaching and teaching, setting the norms, understandings, and standards of that local church. Also he has the burden of biblically expositing the direction, activities, and work of the local church to set its course. He does not make these decisions privately, and the church simply obeys him, but rather he exposits biblically why and how we are to do what we do, and the church follows his leadership. His “validity” is not found in his authority (position) but rather in his right to “have the ear of the church”. He feeds them daily, weekly, monthly, yearly, with information from God that illuminates the church, and is the pastor’s principal means of governing.
When a pastor comes to a person position in his own life in which he is not willing or able to “risk” giving counsel and getting involved in correcting the wrong in people’s lives and in the church in general, he must be removed, either voluntarily or by the people of that church for failure to fulfill his primary work burden.
Pastors today think that they can split and divide their work such that they personally do not have to do the “dirty job” of dealing with people’s problems. This is the primary burden for the pastor. He gets his validity in everything else because he has helped the personal problems of his people and church.
Bottom Line: Whatever is wrong, the pastor has to fix it however it has to be done.
“And this do, knowing the time, that it is already the hour for you to awaken from sleep; for now salvation is nearer to us than when we believed. The night is almost gone, and the day is at hand. Let us therefore lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light…But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regards to its lusts.” (Rom 13: 11-12, 14).
“so then let us not sleep as others do, but let us be alert and sober. For those who sleep do their sleeping at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night. But since we are of the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet, the hope of salvation”. (1Thes 5:6-8).
Throughout the entirety of the New Testament the child of God is repeatedly warned to stay awake and avoid falling asleep. Obviously the injunctions of Scripture in this regard are not an ascetic attempt to have us all do away with our physical need of sleep and impose upon us a rigid course of bodily abuse in some vain and misguided notion of monastic holiness. Sleep is a gift from God and is to be regarded as such as anyone who has missed a few nights of it can readily avow. So exactly what are the Scriptures referring to when they admonish us to avoid falling asleep?
To best answer this question perhaps it would be advisable to characterize the actions and demeanor of those who are indeed physically asleep. Let us begin with the person who has not yet drifted into a deep sleep but rather is drowsy and is dozing off and on, vainly attempting to keep their head up and their eyes open. Try carrying on an intelligent conversation with someone who is in this mode. You will be unable to do so. Why? Because what you are saying to them simply doesn’t register. Their minds, their cognitive functions are suspended. They will hear the sound of your voice but your words will not make any impression on them. Oftentimes they will mutter some sort of senseless reply that has absolutely nothing to do with the topic you are discussing.
Now we come to the individual who has actually fallen asleep and is dozing away taking what might be considered a short nap. This person cannot even hear the words of any conversation much less make some sort of unintelligible reply to your queries as did the former. If you want to get any sort of response from them at all you are first going to have to rouse them out of their sleep or startle them by some either shouting to them or shaking them physically. Once roused, they are sensible momentarily, only to roll over and drift off back to sleep as soon as the commotion dies down. Oftentimes, they have no recollection of the events that took place during their brief waking moments.
Lastly, consider the individual who has fallen into a deep and heavy sleep. This person is well nigh impossible to wake up. Loud noises, prodding, shakings, all prove to be of no avail as our dreamer slumbers blissfully on. He might as well be dead for all the effect that any attempts to rouse him produces. It will take an incredible amount of effort to awaken someone in this stage.
Now let us see if we can pull together some adjectives that might describe the various things that mark a condition of drowsiness, light napping and deep sleep.
Let’s look at the person struggling against their own drowsiness. First, their mind is unfocused, unable to concentrate on any subject matter that might be presented to them. Even if they can manage to bring their mind to bear on the subject matter at hand, they will quickly forget it and be unable to recall it soon afterwards. Second, their attention span is quite limited and consequently they are incapable of any deep or serious thoughts on the present subject matter. They are more prone to lapse into a type of auto-pilot similar to one who has drifted off at the steering wheel while driving and is unable to recall the color of the traffic light at the last intersection they just drove through.
The light napper presents even more of a challenge. Everything that marks the one struggling against drowsiness applies to him but to an even greater degree. He may be roused from his sleep momentarily by a timely shout of; “Fire”, but after half-heartedly looking about and not perceiving any immediate danger he soon drifts back into his world of dreams and illusions more secure than before.
Lastly, the one who has entered the deepest stages of sleep possesses all of the above characteristics only he unable to be roused from his bed of repose at all. Should there indeed be a real fire, he will perish in its flames, not being awakened until they lick around his bed.
While there are differences among our sleepers, one thing stands out in common for all of them – they are all oblivious of their surroundings. In effect, they are insensible of the events transpiring around them.
The application should be quite simple to us as those who profess Christ. Just as sleep never comes upon a man instantaneously without any symptoms or warning signs, so too “spiritual sleepiness” never pounces upon the professing saint but by degrees and signs.
Drowsiness, the first sign, is evidenced by a lack of interest in the things of God. The one succumbing to drowsiness has no desire to do anything but find a place on which to lay their head and close their eyes. All that interests them at the moment is to obtain some comfort and ease. Everything pales in significance to this. So too, the drowsy “saint” has no heart to engage in anything that requires any effort on his part. The claims of Christ seem to him to be obstacles that stand in the way of his ease and comfort. Sermons are soon lost upon him as he is unable to recall their contents almost immediately after hearing them. The thoughts of his mind concerning the things of God are unfocused and fade in and out of consciousness. He is unable and unwilling to reflect deeply on any of the great truths of Scripture as they hold no relish for him. The love of God the Father in election, the love of the Son in redemption, the love of the Spirit in regeneration and sanctification, pass through his mind making only fleeting impressions upon his understanding and affections. He lapses into a type of spiritual auto-pilot where formalism and superficiality becomes the rule and Christian duties are performed much as if he were sleep walking. In short, he has lost his delight in spiritual things having succumbed to the elixir of this world and its goods.
Should he fail to fight off and overcome this lethargy, his condition becomes progressively more entrenched. Formerly, he had at least some fleeting impressions of the truth upon his heart and mind. Though not very deep at least they did register to a certain extent albeit only briefly or momentarily. At the next stage however, the vast majority of spiritual things make no impact upon him whatsoever. Only the sharpest of truths: warnings about perdition, the terrors of hell, the wrath of God, the Divine judgements can rouse him from his slumber. These will shock and startle him and his conscience will vex him for his carelessness and sinful indifference to God, yet he will soon fall fast asleep after the threatened danger does not materialize immediately. Soon afterwards, these same truths will lose their effect upon him altogether as he will dismiss them as things too far off to be of any immediate concern to his person. In effect, He will have been confirmed in his sleep and will then enter the last stage of deep sleep. In this stage he will be beyond any awakening whatsoever. No warning, no plea, no argument, nothing will be able to arouse him from his sleep of death. He will have proved to be an apostate in the end and go on to meet his solemn doom.
The sad truth is all of us are prone to spiritual sleepiness. None of us are immune or exempt from this temptation. Oftentimes the length of the journey tires us and we seek out a shady place to repose and relax. We seek a temporary escape from the spiritual battle against our own flesh and inward corruptions. We tell ourselves “that it is just for a little while Lord”. This is natural and is to be expected from time to time. Our Lord knows that we are but dust and has made ample provision for us to obtain some “spiritual rest” by providing us a “green pasture” in which we may repose for a while and restore our souls. Yet as the Scriptures say so succinctly:
“Arise and go, for this is no place of rest because of the uncleanness that brings on destruction, a painful destruction” (Micah 2:10).
In other words, there is a difference between spiritual resting and spiritual sleeping. God intends for us to rest not sleep. In other words, we have to sleep with one eye open! We cannot forget that whenever we are most secure is when Satan will fall upon us. He does not sleep. He has no need to. He is a restless and malevolent spirit who is always looking for an opportunity to destroy us. Just think in your minds how easy it is for him to sneak up on someone who is sound asleep. They are not alert. They are not vigilant. They are not watching. Their faculties are numb. Their hearing is poor. Their vision is useless. Their weapons are of no use whatsoever. In short, they are easy prey, figs ripe for the picking.
Consider the case of poor Samson in the book of Judges. How may times did he fall asleep in the lap of Delilah while she attempted to betray him to the Philistines? God in His great mercy spared Samson upon more than one occasion. Yet finally, he fell asleep in Delilah’s lap once too often. After having confided in her the secret of his strength, this seductive harlot cut his hair and delivered him into the hand of his enemies who surrounded him and easily overpowered him. He spent the rest of his life chained to the gristmill of the Philistines with his burnt-out eyes a constant reminder of his folly. He stands as an object lesson for all time of the dangers of “sleeping” in the enemy’s territory. As the Puritans so pithily said, “Think not to fall asleep in Delilah’s lap and to end up in Abraham’s bosom”.
This world is the Delilah with which we have to contend. It has all manner of charms with which to bewitch and beguile us. Not only that, there is a nature within us that longs for, even lusts after these charms. Add to this a cunning tempter who best knows how to present these charms to us so as to be the most effective and do the greatest harm. Is it any wonder that the Word of God admonishes us to stay alert and not to sleep?
How stands it with your soul Christian? Are you drowsy? Are you sleeping? Are you insensible of the dangers that surround you? Then rouse yourself and flee to Him who is able to gird you with strength for the battle. He is able to refresh your soul. He will give you the grace to “watch and pray” so that you do not enter into temptation.
“Christianity did not destroy paganism; it adopted it.” – Will Durant
And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. 1 Corinthians 2:4-5
The most sacrosanct church practice is the sermon. Remove the sermon from the order of worship and all you have is one big song fest, a wealth of entertainment. But, is the sermon any different? Have the givers of sermons just become another means of entertainment with the institutionalized church? Every Sunday morning, the pastor steps up to his pulpit and delivers an inspirational oration to a passive, pew-warming audience. Ask a person how was church on Sunday and you will most likely get, “pastor preacher a good sermon”. Remove the sermon and you will have eliminated the most important source of spiritual nourishment for countless numbers of believers (so it is thought). Yet the stunning reality is that today’s sermon has no root in Scripture. Rather, it was borrowed from pagan culture, nursed and adopted into the Christian faith.
In a word, the Greco-Roman sermon replaced prophesying; open sharing, and Spirit-inspired teaching. The sermon became the elitist privilege of church officials. It is amazing what men and women will do or sacrifice to be able to be next to get into someone pulpit to preach a sermon. Today many take a seminary course called homiletics to learn how to preach. Homiletics is considered a “science, applying rules of rhetoric. “Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: Acts 4:8” Being filled with the Holy Spirit is only a sidebar to men and women preparing to address you in their sermons. A polluted stream has made its way into the Christians faith and muddied the waters. Another influence, the Great Awakening, is responsible for the kind of preaching that was common in the early churches and is still used in contemporary churches today. Strong outbursts of emotion, which include screaming and running up and down the platform, are all carryovers from tradition.
Problems with the sermon are it makes the preacher the virtuoso performer of the regular church gathering. As a result, congregational participation is hampered at best and preclude at worst. The sermon turns the church into a preaching station. The congregation degenerates into a group of muted spectators who watch a performance. There is no room for interrupting or questioning the preacher while he is delivering his discourse. The sermon freezes and imprisons the functioning of the body of Christ. It fosters a docile priesthood by allowing pulpiteers to dominate the church gathering week after week. The sermon often stalemates spiritual growth. Because it is a one-way affair, it encourages passivity. The sermon prevents the church from functioning as intended. It suffocates mutual ministry. It smothers open participation. This causes the spiritual growth of God’s people to take a nosedive. As Christians we must function if we are to mature. If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.” Then He said to them, “Take heed what you hear. With the same measure you use, it will be measured to you; and to you who hear, more will be given. or whoever has, to him more will be given; but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him.” Mark 4:24-25 We do not grow by passive listening week after week. In fact, one of the goals of New Testament styled preaching and teaching is to get each of us to function.
He handed out gifts of apostle, prophet, evangelist, and pastor-teacher to train Christians in skilled servant work, working within Christ’s body, the church, until we’re all moving rhythmically and easily with each other, efficient and graceful in response to God’s Son, fully mature adults, fully developed within and without, fully alive like Christ. No prolonged infancies among us, please. We’ll not tolerate babes in the woods, small children who are an easy mark for impostors. God wants us to grow up, to know the whole truth and tell it in love—like Christ in everything. We take our lead from Christ, who is the source of everything we do. He keeps us in step with each other. His very breath and blood flow through us, nourishing us so that we will grow up healthy in God, robust in love. Ephesians 4:11-16
We are to encourage each other to open our mouths in the church meeting. I want you to think about how all this makes you more significant, not less. A body isn’t just a single part blown up into something huge. It’s all the different-but-similar parts arranged and functioning together. 1 Corinthians 12:14 The conventional sermon hinders this very process.
It matters not how loudly ministers drone on about “equipping the saints for the work of the ministry,” the truth is that the contemporary sermon preached every week has little power to equip God’s people for spiritual service and functioning. Unfortunately, however, many of God people are just addicted to hearing sermons as many preachers are addicted to preaching them. In the late 80’s I was addicted to cocaine in the late 90’s I became addicted to the Word of God, in the early 00’s I became addicted to church and sermons. Let me tell you in the late 80’s I was killing myself physically, in the early 00’s I was killing myself spiritually. (If you can read between the lines) New Testament styled preaching and teaching equips the church so that in can function without the presence of a clergyman.
Countless preachers speak as experts on that which they have never experienced. Whether it is abstract/theoretical, devotional/inspirational, demanding/compelling, or entertaining/amusing, the sermon fails to put the hearers into a direct, practical experience of what is being preached. Thus the typical sermon is a swimming lesson on dry land. It lacks any practical value. Much is preached, but little ever lands. Most of it is aimed at the frontal lobe. Contemporary pulpiteerism generally fails to get beyond disseminating information and on to equipping believers to experience and use that which they have heard.
Sermons mirror its true father – Greco-Roman rhetoric. Sermons are designed to entertain and display genius rather than instruct and develop talents in others. The contemporary polished sermon can warm the heart, inspire the will, and stimulate the mind. But it rarely if ever shows the team how to leave the huddle. In all of these ways, contemporary sermon fails to meet its billing at promoting the kind of spiritual growth it promises. In the end, it actually intensifies the impoverishment of the church. The sermon acts like a momentary stimulant. Its effects are often short-lived. Let’s be honest, there are scores of Christians who have been sermonized for decades, and they are still babes in Christ. We Christians are transformed by regular encounters with Jesus Christ. Those who minister, therefore, are called to preach Christ and not information about Him. They are called to make the ministry intensely practical. They are called not only to reveal Christ by spoken word, but show their hearers how to experience, know, follow and serve Him. The contemporary sermontoo often lacks these all important elements.
If the preacher cannot bring his hearers into a living spiritual experience of what he is ministering, the results of his message will be short lived. Therefore the church needs fewer pulpiteers and more spiritual facilitators. We have moved far outside of biblical bounds when we allow teaching to take the form of a conventional sermon and relegate it to a class of professional orators. Paul told his Greek converts that he refused to be influenced by the communication patterns of his pagan contemporaries (1 Corinthians 1:17, 22; 2:1-5). Christianity has absorbed its surrounding culture. When your pastor mounts his pulpit wearing his clerical robe to deliver his sacred sermon, hr is unknowingly playing out the role of the ancient orator.
I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth. Revelation 3:15-16
The Laodiceans were “lukewarm” (3:16). The church had become distasteful and unusable like the city’s water. Lukewarm water makes a disgusting drink. The church in Laodicea had become lukewarm, and thus distasteful and repugnant. The believers didn’t take a stand for anything; indifference had led to idleness. By neglecting to do anything for Christ, the church had become hardened and self-satisfied, and it was destroying itself. As a result, Christ was about to spit them out of his mouth. There is nothing more disgusting than a halfhearted, in-name-only Christian who is self-sufficient.
Yet, today the church’s greatest efforts to show it’s Christ-likeness to a world that is crying from within to see the glory of God; has left its members in a lukewarm state. Jesus is speaking through His Word to us today, “I know your deeds.” “I can see right through you! I know what you have done, what you are doing, and what you are going to do. I know what you are thinking and how you are feeling. You may be able to fool yourself, but you can’t fool Me.” Can you imagine all the work you have put into your ministry, trying to be the best you can be, but in all your efforts you lose the one important thing to success, the fire for God.
Jesus points out three types of people, the hot, the cold and the lukewarm:
People who are hot are on fire for the Lord. The Holy Spirit has dominion in their lives. They may have experienced fiery trials, but they have come through with a stronger faith and a more committed determination to serve the Lord. They are not perfect, but they are striving for the perfection that only the Lord can give. They take words of Jesus seriously: “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt. 5:48). Jesus rules in their lives, and His light shines through them.
People who are cold have knowingly or unknowingly rejected God. They are not saved nor do they want to be. They are more concerned with man’s opinion than with God’s. It’s doubtful that they are vocal about their faith since they have so little. They don’t talk to others about Jesus, and they don’t allow His words to affect their actions. They go to church to be seen by others, possibly to advance their own agendas or quiet their nagging consciences.
The third category is the lukewarm. They are best described as outwardly religious, yet uncommitted and self-complacent. They are indifferent toward the Lord, not “fervent in spirit” (Rom. 12:11). Equally bad is the fact that they refuse to give their lives wholeheartedly to the Savior. They are part-time in their faith, casual in their walk, and unsettled in their hearts. Deep down they know something isn’t right, but they take comfort in their rituals. Many will die and go into eternity without Christ. When asked why they should be admitted into heaven, here are some of the answers they will offer at the Great White Throne; I was a good person. I was a faithful Baptist, Methodist, etc… I was a member of the church since I was a kid. I was baptized. I was a deacon. I walked the aisle when I was a teenager. I really tried to do the right thing. I taught kids in Sunday school.
None of these answers will satisfy the Lord on Judgment Day. Scripture is clear: You must be one of His sheep. You must know His voice and respond to it in obedience. Jesus’ judgment against the church of Laodicea was that they were lukewarm. The church had taken on the characteristics of the city. Similar to the church today who have taken on the characteristics of the world we live in. Today it is hard to distinguish between a Christian and non-Christians, their characteristics are so similar. The church (Christians) rather than being “transformed” (Rom. 12:2); they have conformed to the world around them.
People who give God the cold shoulder do not harm the kingdom of God as much as those who are lukewarm. Those who are cold are non-players; they are non-combatants in a spiritual war that will soon end with the second coming of Christ. These people are on the sidelines, oblivious to the meaning of life and death. A person who is cold cannot spread hypocrisy like one who is lukewarm. Hypocrisy does incredible damage to Christianity and the name of Christ. I believe the greatest damage is inflicted from the pulpit and the pews in the lukewarm church. A complacent attitude toward Christ will result in devastating consequences.
God’s verdict on the lukewarm church (Christian). He says, “I am about to spit you out of my mouth”(v.16). Literally speaking the word “spit” (spue KJV) means to vomit. What’s God saying? How can we understand this rebuke for today’s church and apply it to our lives? A person that is vomiting is getting rid of some type of poison in his system. Though vomiting is anything but pleasant, it’s an effective defense mechanism your body employs. It rids the body of harmful bacteria and chemicals that can harm or kill the person. Lukewarm Christianity is poison to the body of Christ. It’s an invader from the enemy, and it’s harmful.
Jesus doesn’t mince words. He wants our attention. If every lukewarm Christian were to renounce his sin, repent, and eagerly seek the face of God, this world would be vastly better place. Instead of God’s curses upon our land, His blessings would overflow in our lives.
The lukewarm Christian is spiritually blind and can’t see the road ahead of him. They can’t see God trying to get their attention to guide them safety though life’s dangerous roadways. They can’t hear God’s voice directing them to stop or to proceed. They stumble through life unable to discern good from evil, right from wrong, and God from gods. They have blockaded the Lord from their lives. Do you remember Paul’s conversion on the road to Damascus? God had to blind him to get his attention, but once He did, Paul surrendered to Christ, and, as a result, turned the Roman Empire upside down. A truly converted Christian is often as excited as a blind person who has just regained his eyesight. There’s nothing more exciting than seeing and living the truth.
Those straddling the faith fence know so little. They’re like the four-year-old – they think they know it all. But like the wise grandma, the Lord pursues us, undeterred by our foolishness. His mission is to clothe us with His righteousness. Yet in our self-conceit, we rush into the spiritual storms of life, completely unprepared for the dangers that are lurking in the world. In our nakedness, we get sick and polluted by a lukewarm church and world. Like foolish children we shun God’s own remedy, the spiritual clothing of holiness and repentance.
Still the Father loves us. He does not abandon us in our rebellion. His discipline is a sign of His ongoing love. Revelation 43:19 states, “As many as I love I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent” Consider this, If God’s reputation is hurt by the church’s conduct, will people –
- Trust God with their lives?
- Confide in the Lord with their deep secret sins?
- Ask God for advice?
- Want to spend time with Him?
Jesus Christ’s good name can be damaged by church people who refuse to repent of their sins. Lukewarm Christianity is one of the most grievous lifestyles in the in the world today because it makes God look bad. Millions of people have refused God’s message of love and holiness because of the actions of those who claim to follow Him. People are longing for God deep in their souls. Sometimes all they need to see is one committed totally dedicated Christian who’s on fire for God deep in their souls. Do you want to be that person?
America’s churches are as “dumbed down” as its public schools. In all fairness, several generations of pastors have been lied to about the political themes in the Bible. Our call to be “salt and light” goes beyond loving our neighbors, telling the truth and being faithful to our spouses yet we are not taught. And it also extends to all aspects of life including politics, economics, law, education, medicine and any societal issue you can think of.
The word “king”, as well as variations such as “kings” and “kingdom,” appears almost 2,000 times in the Bible. But, for some odd reason, we do not understand the kingdom principles within church body.
I am no Bible scholar; however by God’s grace I developed an intellectual superiority. I just read more than some folks. This does not make me a better Christian or even a better person. I am just a bigger nerd. I was just a business owner who has developed an interest reading the Bible and in to process a zeal for God. It would blow most people’s minds if they knew what the Bible really says and how much they are being lied to by pastors and purported Christians.
Most churches nowadays do a rotten job of Bible education. This has resulted in a generation of gullible Christians who stand for nothing and fall for anything.
There are several forces at work here. The Church Growth Movement shares much of the blame. In order to get the maximum number of warm bodies through the doors each Sunday, many churches have sacrificed godliness in the name of relevance. Preach something too controversial and some folks might not come back. Relevance and a packed house are preferable to godliness and a few empty seats.
501(c)(3) is another huge contributor, if you will. This provision of the Internal Revenue Code requires that organizations refrain from endorsing political candidates and keep political comments to a minimum if they wish to remain tax exempt. Most pastors, I fear, are more committed to keeping this exemption than to the struggle against the rulers, authorities and powers of this world. (Ephesians 6:12)
The sad irony of 501(c)(3) is that, while churches compromise Scripture in order to avoid taxes, they remain silent about a tax code that inflicts far more harm on Christians than the world possibly could.
This situation will only grow worse as funding is needed for “faith-based” institutions to build bigger buildings which grow from a trickle to a deluge. What a great way to get more money. You cannot serve God and money. (Matthew 6:24)
Contemporary churches typically discuss Scriptures pertaining to the Christian attitude toward leadership. And even then, they get things all wrong.
I Timothy 2:1-2 instructs us to pray for those in authority. This does not mean that we should be brainlessly uncritical of what they do just because we like their rhetoric.
Too many people think it is their pastor’s job to spoon feed them Scripture. God gave you a brain. Use it! Take some initiative! Just because your pastor does not discuss certain subjects does not mean that they are not of biblical importance. Jesus told the apostles to be as “shrewd as serpents.” (Matthew 10:15) Discern the world around you in light of God’s Word rather than in light of your Pastor’s agenda.
Again, it would blow your mind if you only knew how much you are being lied to.
We hear a lot of talk about certain movies desensitizing children to the effects of sex, violence and so forth. I see a parallel in the church. Most people today have memory of only popular Scripture.
Add to this a church that has been derelict in its duty to educate people about a very important theme of Scripture, and you have greased the skids for a slide into slavery to your religion and the world.
In the Old Testament, God rebukes the Israelites for setting up kings without His consent and princes without His approval. (Hosea 8:4) American Christians 2,700 years later are no different. We have rejected God as our king, and we clamor for pastoral saviors. (I Samuel 8:4-20) We are just like secular people in our love affair with the modern superstar, which has no basis in Scripture.
The more we place our faith in our pastor and the church, the more we reject God. Keep in mind that Jesus was put to death by people who proclaimed, “We have no king but Caesar.” (John 19:15) They had become completely allied with Rome and no longer acknowledged their real king.
Authoritarianism in the church is one of the most serious problems that Christian churches face today. Authoritarian regimes and political machines within Christian churches are not only totally unbiblical, but they empower men to take a church anywhere they wish, bypassing the normal checks and balances found in the Bible. A church that has given control to a single man (often called a Senior Pastor) or to a small group of men (often called a board of elders) is helplessly tossed about in very dangerous waves.
Suddenly churches are turned on a dime according to the whims and agendas of men. If a dictatorial pastor wakes up on the wrong side of the bed and decides to take the whole church off a cliff doctrinally, most congregations just blindly follow, thinking they are helpless to do anything about it, if they even notice or care at all. Christians have been bombarded with the lie that certain men are appointed by God to rule and reign over His people. No, the Bible forbids such things and gives us the solution.
The popular yet monumental misunderstanding of authority in the church is probably the biggest problem driving the false church system. The main problem is with the people that the Bible calls “Nicolaitans”, those who Christians allow to conquer and suppress them. (From the Greek, the word “nico” means “suppression or conquering of” and “laos” is where we get the word laity which means people). In Revelation 2:6 and 2:15, Jesus said that He hates the practices and teachings of the Nicolaitans.
Not surprisingly, most Nicolaitans refuse to acknowledge and admit that they are Nicolaitans. They make the false claim that no one can really know what a Nicolaitan is or is not. Most just quote a popular fairytale that the word means a follower of the mythical heretic Niclaus. Not so. The truth is we know quite clearly exactly what the word means and exactly who these people are. Plus, it doesn’t make any sense that Jesus would mention something that He hates and then never let us know what exactly that He was talking about.
Today there is no shortage of those who want a counterfeit Saul to be king over them and there is no shortage of Nicolaitans who want to be that king in the place of Christ. (By the way, the definition of antichrist is one who opposes Christ and/or stands in His place). At least God told Samuel to appoint Saul as king. Even though God was displeased with the fact that Israel wanted a man as king instead of Him, he still authorized Saul’s appointment. Today’s multitude of counterfeit “Sauls” have no such authorization from God. They are self-appointed and people powered. Here’s why we know that they are counterfeit leaders (they may be real Christians but they are false pastors):
- All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Jesus (Matt 28:18).
- Jesus alone is the Head of the church (John 5:26-27, Eph 1:22-23, Col 1:18).
- God does not permit Christians to have controlling authority over other Christians in the church (see Matt 20:25-28, Mark 10:42-45, Luke 22:24-27, 1Pet 5:3, Matt 23:8-12, etc.).
- We do not have multiple special high priests over us. There is only One High Priest, Jesus Christ (see Hebrews 3:1, 4:14).
- We have One Master Christ and we are all brothers (see Matt 23: 8-12).
- You cannot obey two masters; you will love the one and hate the other (Matt 6:24, Luke 6:13). You simply cannot obey Jesus as master and a pastor as master at the same time.
There is a big difference between genuine behind-the-scenes loving elders who stand firmly for sound doctrine and admonish the Body of Christ to obey the Bible compared to a Nicolaitan one-man show who teaches his own agenda and draws men away to himself through manmade teachings and traditions. While the Bible makes it clear that we are supposed to submit to governmental authorities such as to the police and obey the laws of our land (pay taxes, obey traffic laws, live peacealby, etc.), we are also commanded to not set up authoritarian systems or regimes within Christian churches.
For there to be any hope for any church to navigate through the ever worsening apostasy that is upon us, now more than ever, Jesus alone must be recognized as the One solely in charge and His Word the Bible must reign supreme. That is how it was always supposed to be, at all points in church history, but that is not how it has been, and that is certainly not how it is today.
Aside from being incompetent, fearful, ignorant, distracted, and unbelieving, we sometimes suffer from even more serious handicaps. Many Christians are secretly in love with the other side. These may follow Christ outwardly, but in their hearts they are intent on currying favor with Satan’s world-system. And this despite the warning that “friendship with the word [kosmos] makes you an enemy of God” (James 4:4).
Spiritual beings are completely uninterested in temporal goals like pleasure and making money. Humans, on the other hand, often are obsessed with temporal goals but unable to articulate any specific spiritual goals in their own lives. Some of our follow travelers couldn’t care less about God’s goals and haven’t lifted a finger in years to move his purposes forward in the world.
Our Christian brothers and sisters frequently suffer internal division, with members too bitter toward their brothers and sisters to contribute anything but discord and distress. We have members right in our midst that Satan can energize and use any time he wants. A significant proportion of Christians are simply too lazy and too selfish to wage spiritual war. Others are so gullible they’re just as likely to believe what Satan and his people say as what God says. At this time, very few of our people are adequately equipped for real battle.
Sheila and I attended a church that seemed to have everything, including adequate space for worship services, enthusiastic members, and plenty of parking spaces.
However, we quickly learned that there were plans for an elaborate new sanctuary that would cost millions of dollars.
“I believe this is God’s will,” said the pastor, who noted that the church would have to borrow a substantial amount of money to complete the structure. He described the grandeur of Solomon’s Temple, which he said was a standard for modern-day churches.
Shelia and I believed that if the new sanctuary really was God’s will He would provide the funds—in His time. But they were in the minority, and eventually the church borrowed $4.5 million to fund its construction plans.
Unfortunately, getting a loan wasn’t the biggest obstacle faced by the church. The leaders soon discovered that servicing their loan required tens of thousands of dollars in payments every month.
“It’s not unusual for large churches to endure $10,000- to $80,000-a-month mortgage payments,” says Dave Pollock in his book Business Management in the Local Church. “Consequently, during the last recession, the default rate on church bonds and mortgages increased dramatically.”
“It is assumed that God prefers to be worshipped in great edifices of glass and steel. I believe the mistake is that sometimes these buildings are monuments to an architect and may draw the curious to an engineering marvel, but [do these buildings] draw people to Christ?”
A good or bad example?
Churches should be among the best examples of good money management, since this topic is mentioned hundreds of times in God’s Word. Thus, churches will be accountable for their stewardship and for any negative witness it provides.
Unfortunately, Satan’s attack on stewardship has been very effective in modern-day churches, diverting God’s people away from sound biblical principles. Those principles should be applied in every aspect of financial decision making, including the following major issues.
Budgeting—Should a church have an annual budget? Some people say no because they believe a budget removes the element of faith and brings the church down to a worldly level.
On the opposite extreme are people who want to operate their churches like businesses, right down to eliminating “non-productive” benevolence programs.
Both extremes are wrong. A budget does not reflect a lack of faith but, rather, good planning (Luke 14:28-30). However, it must not override the spiritual goals of God’s church.
Savings Accounts—Church members commonly set aside money in savings accounts, but should churches do the same?
There are many references to saving in God’s Word (Proverbs 6:6-8, 21:20). In fact, a surplus should be normal to a church serving God. After all, God has promised to provide for every good work.
The key is to avoid establishing savings accounts for the wrong reasons. Churches may hoard money rather than save it for God’s work. The money is not allocated to any needs, present or future, and represents a lack of trust, just as in the case of the rich fool described in Luke 12:16-20.
Freedom from Debt—Perhaps no single issue regarding churches and money is more controversial than church debt. Some argue that if borrowing, within limits, is allowable for Christians, it must be allowable for the church too.
Borrowing is allowable, but should churches settle for what’s allowable or for what’s best? We know that God holds Christian teachers to a higher standard (James 3:1), and deacons and elders also are held to a higher standard (I Timothy 3). Since each of these is under the authority of the church, shouldn’t we assume that the church is held to an even higher standard?
Churches borrow because they lack surplus money to fund the projects they want to build. However, this money may be lacking because church members aren’t giving and/or God is withholding provision for something that isn’t His will.
Christians often are hindered in giving because they are financially bound by debt. And projects that appear to be God’s will on the surface may be nothing more than a strong desire for a better place in which to worship.
The church is to be a light of God’s truth in a world of darkness. Our world is out of sync with God’s Word on borrowing, and the evidence is reflected in high rates of bankruptcy and divorce.
When churches adopt the world’s philosophy of borrowing, they lose opportunities to become testimonies of God’s faithfulness and provision.
This is not to condemn or judge leaders of churches that borrow. They are doing what they have been taught. But we need to begin teaching that God can and will provide what He ordains by giving surpluses to His people at the appointed times. We also need to teach the benefits and importance of giving.
As David Pollock points out, there are many churches across America that have chosen to avoid debt, even though these churches are large and thriving.
“They have decided to build debt free and, in some cases, have delayed expanding until they could afford to do so,” Pollock says. “I am aware of two churches in Southern California—one rents a high school on Sunday with an attendance of about 4,000, and the other has converted a warehouse into a 1,200-seat auditorium that even has a balcony.”
Some Christians believe that churches must have large, elaborate buildings in order to attract people. However, these churches are attracting people because of what they teach, not where they teach.
Satan’s power of deceptive work continues unabated today. How else could we explain why the church in one of the world’s most Christianized nations is declining, and why most growing churches get more than 90 percent of their growth by rustling believers from other churches? Clearly, the church is moving in directions that do not result in people being reconciled to God in meaningful numbers.
How can this be? What good are our theological studies, strategies, and millions of person-hours and dollars expanded in ministry if they do not result in people being reconciled to God? Interestingly, resent studies demonstrate that believers in churches that are stagnant or declining usually believe their churches are winning many people to God. Other studies demonstrate that leaders of growing churches are completely unaware that their growth is nearly based on transfers from other churches; they regularly overestimate the percentage of converts in their churches by five to fifteen times the actual figure.
How likely is it that churches will face the pain of seeking out new directions when they already believe they’re on the winning track? When Satan convinces Christians that their ineffective and misdirected efforts are successful, he guarantees they’ll continue in those same ways. To overthrow his deception, we must be willing to withstand the pain of looking honestly at our own failures.
Individual Christians have just as much trouble facing their own failures as do churches. How many believe they are faithfully serving God but haven’t led anyone to Christ or disciple anyone in years, and have actually stopped trying? Facing our own ineffectiveness for God requires a strong grasp of grace. Only believers operating under the grace paradigm will be emboldened to admit they haven’t found the way. Grace gives us both the courage to admit we’re failing and the strength to succeed. If we’re soft on grace, looking at our failure will only result in demoralization.
Facing our failure is also a voluntary act of sacrificial suffering. The agony of soul caused by looking squarely at failure is one aspect of bearing the cross. How many times have you been brought to tears before God over your inability to advance his mission in this world? Not often?—Never? What’s wrong with this picture? Only those willing to suffer the pangs caused by honestly assessing their own ineffectiveness will have the necessary drive and creativity to discover successful paths.
God granted me the opportunity to practice this a few years ago. For many complicated reasons that I don’t fully understand, I had a miserable two years with no spiritual growth, and that wasn’t my usual experience. Even though we appeared to be a thriving ministry, it was stalemate to an alarming degree and a number of other signs were negative.
Our top leadership was doomed to spending long hours of painful questioning and analysis; that everyone outside the family knew the answers, but no one willing to tell the truth. Was God just giving us a chance to consolidate the gain of earlier years? Or was it one of the far more likely reasons: sin in the church, ineffective ministry methods, a hardening field of ministry? Anyone who has engaged in a lengthy assessment like this knows how painful it is ti care from the deepest part of your heart but face an overall gloomy outlook.
God often calls Christians to serve in failure. Nearly every servant of God in the Bible had to withstand profound failure at times. Some lie Jeremiah and Isaiah, had to withstand failure all the time. Nobody ever listened to these men of God, and all the consequences they wanted people about eventually came to pass. This could happen to us. But are we willing to become weeping prophets over our failure like they were? Or will we comfort ourselves by buying in to Satan’s delusion that we’re doing fine?
Results in ministry are not our first calling. Servants of God “must be faithful” no matter what (1 Corinthians 4:2). God is more interested in faithfulness than in results. But Paul also say, “Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air” (I Corinthians 9:29). He explains, “Though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I may win more” (1 Corinthians 9:19). Paul saw faithfulness as the first priority, but results also matter. After all, Jesus told us to “make disciples of all the nations’ (Matthew 28:19), not merely to have good intentions.
By breaking our overall ministry down into smaller parts, we can see more clearly how Satan uses diversion to misguide our efforts. Remember Moses’ father in law, he saw all that he did to the people, he said, What is this thing that thou doest to the people? (Exodus 18:14) Like Moses to many leaders are allowing God’s people to sit in longs lines Sunday after Sunday and only gets kibbles and bits of what God has for them. And Moses’ father in law said unto him, The thing that thou doest is not good. (Exodus 18:17) This is the very reason so for transfer of membership in today’s churches, they come unto me to enquire of God. One or two men are trying to do what God equipped the Body to do.
Jethro told Moses, this is way too much for you—you can’t do this alone. Your job is to teach them the rules and instructions, to show them how to live, what to do. And then you need to keep a sharp eye out for competent men—men who fear God, men of integrity, men who are incorruptible—and appoint them as leaders over groups; Satan has deceived the elect! It is time for a change!!!
One difficult aftermath of spiritual abuse is knowing friends or family is still inside, that they can’t see, or can’t fully see the problem. We want them to know what we’ve learned about manipulation, mind-control, and pressure. And yet, we know that since we are the sinful outcasts or exiles, they would never listen to us.
We wish, sometimes, that someone they respect, someone they would listen to, would take them aside and say something like, “You know, your ?????? sounds a little strange. It sounds like there may be manipulation going on. Have you ever heard of spiritual abuse? You might want to look into it.”
But, of course, there are few people they respect enough to listen to like that since abusive leaders steer them into an elitist perspective. And these leaders move themselves into the place of prominence. Not obviously, of course, but slowly and surely. No one knows truth like the leader. How can inferior Christians have any special insights into spiritual matters? Why, they attend a church that doesn’t believe X or does believe Y. No point in listening to their opinions.
So, they stay trapped in the church.
You know that they are confused, as each new person leaves the church. You know they are confused when the pastor says something that is at odds with what they know is right and they struggle to rationalize it. They waver, they struggle, and they fight their own conscience and reason.
They know it’s godly to think the best of people, so when something critical comes up against their leader, they think the best. What they don’t consider, though, is that to think the best of their pastor or leader, they have to think the worst of all the other people hurt by that pastor. And they do. They think of them as rebellious or selfish or worldly or sinful, or maybe just weak.
So they struggle and you only pray that someday, before too much damage is done, they will be able to see through the manipulations and have the strength to get out; before their time comes.
Though I consider my church only somewhat spiritual abusive, after two years of working there I was not able to hear from God anymore. It took another year and a half before I knew for certain God’s voice to me personally. I wasn’t sure I would ever know it again.
I see those who suffered too much damage and who can no longer hear from God, or no longer know if they can hear from Him. It is the saddest thing to come across these people. Your heart just aches, my prayers goes out.
The Famine in Our Land
“Now there was a famine in the land, and Abram went down to Egypt to dwell there, for the famine was severe in the land”. Genesis 12:10 Just like in the days of Abram there is a famine in our land. God sent Abram to the promise land, Canaan a land that should have been flowing with milk and honey. However the land has now become dry and dusty, similar to our church today. In the same way Abram had to leave Canaan “The Promise” and go to a place to really appreciate God and who He is, we are at a point where we need to leave the “institutionalized church”, the money thirsty, Tower of Babel building, ego seeking church. The place which has become the replacement for the “Body of Christ” is in a famine. The Body of Christ “The Church”, “The Promise” today is experiencing a famine.
A famine is sweeping our land, from the sun drenched coast of California to the icy shores of Massachusetts. The barrenness stretches from Antarctica to Aruba and from Zambia to Zimbabwe. No amount of rain, sleet, or snow can relieve this famine. Only the water of the Word of God can quench our thirsty spirits and bring life from death. People don’t take lighting as seriously as they should. When you hear thunder, do you rush indoors and seek shelter or do you casually wind up your activities and stroll inside unaware of the danger lurking above you? When it comes to weather, we don’t always clearly see the danger on the horizon. We don’t even realize that lighting kills some people every year than tornadoes, hurricanes, and blizzards combined.
Nor do we take the danger of not reading the Bible seriously enough. Christians take the church building more serious than they do the Word of God. Matter of fact most Christians including pastors go to church more each week than they read their Bible. We know that we should read the Word, yet there is always something more pressing, something that just cannot wait that we do instead, choir practice, book club meetings (which has become most of the churches ministries) drama, and dance rehearsals, etc… What we know in our heads seldom penetrates our hearts, leaving us in danger, a danger we all too often dismiss. A biblical famine is sweeping our world, and many in the church cannot see the danger. They ignore the consequences of neglecting God’s Word.
The world is under siege by an enemy that has but one good attribute: patience. Of course, the forces of evil do not use patience to advance the kingdom of God; they use it to further the kingdom of Satan. Every day they persuade churchgoers to neglect reading the Word. As result, people slip further and further away from their heavenly Father. He longs to speak to us through His Word, yet many say by their actions, “Sorry. Not today. I have more important things to do.” Many will read bits and pieces of the Bible without allowing it to affect their attitudes and actions; the truths of Scripture go in one ear and out the other without reaching their hearts. And even if they do understand Scripture, are they acting on it? No! Many are lost in church because they have never drenched their minds and spirits with the water of life, the Word of God.
Famines don’t suddenly appear out of nowhere; they develop slowly. Day by day, they squeeze the life out of the land. Grass gradually loses its verdure and turns brown. You can’t see it happening in an instant; shrubs and trees do not suddenly succumb to the lack of water. Weeks or months may pass before you perceive the changes Then you say, “What happened? Everything is dead!” The word picture aptly describes the lukewarm Christian. The lost in church are withering from a lack of spiritual water: the Bible. The church is nursing on a substitute, entertainment! They are depressed, angry, and spiritually depleted, unaware. They are dry and parched in their souls, longing for something to quench their thirst. Unfortunately, few realize they are being drawn by the Holy Spirit and that they need to be washed and nourished by the everlasting spring of life-giving water. As Scripture tells us, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word,” Ephesians 5:25-26 “Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life”. Revelation 22:17
Scripture clearly teaches that reading the Bible is essential for Christians. When you read the Bible, you are hearing God speak to you personally. Can you picture yourself in a desert with no water? Without water, you would die. Take that picture and apply it to the Bible. Bam! You are dead! We refuse to open the Bible, and then wonder why life isn’t what you expected; it’s much like standing in the middle of a barren desert. Water is essential to life; in fact, most humans can survive only three days without it. Without water, our bodies dehydrate. This is simple science. The sad reality for many today is that they are refusing to replenish their souls and spirits with the water of the Word; therefore, they are unable to live the abundant, fruitful life that the Lords wants them to live. For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Hebrews 4:12 Your pastor can’t refresh you or even give you what you need to be refreshed. Matter of fact most pastors are dehydrated themselves. The worship leader may make you sweat, but try living off sweat.
Concrete mix comes in a powder and unless you add water it remains dry and dusty. The Word of God is your water for your mix. Without the Bible, your spiritual concrete will never set. You’ll never be capable of living the Christian life or obeying Jesus. Then Moses told the Israelites to “be careful to observe” How can people carefully observe the words of the Lord if they don’t know them? A person carefully observing the Word of God will hold it in high regard and take it seriously. The lost in church love to choose which commands they will obey, even the pastors. If some part isn’t convenient, or if it requires too much work on their parts, many simply discard or ignore those truths. They may say, “I’ll have to pray about that”; yet, inwardly, they have already made up in their minds to disobey, figuring god is loving, forgiving God.
The Bible tells us in Deuteronomy 32:47 “It is a futile thing, because is your life”. Our belief system is revealed by what we do. In other words, deeds are based on faith. What is in a heat comes out in the person’s life. As Luke 6:43-45 says,
“For a good tree does not bear bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. For every tree is known by its own fruit. For men do not gather figs from thorns, nor do they gather grapes from a bramble bush. A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks”.
If the church is not consistently in the Word of God, it will be only a shell without foundation or substance. Knowing God is knowing His Word. Having faith is obeying God. “It is your life.” Can the lord be any clearer? Apart from Jesus and His Word, eternal life cannot be achieved, for we all sin and “fall short of the glory of God” Romans 3:23. When you look at your Bible, what do you think? Do you treat it like the very Words of God? Don’t try to substitute your pastor, your church, your Christians friends, your spouse, or anything else in this world for the Word of God! 1 Samuel 3:7 says, “Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord: The word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him.” Verse 21 says, “The Lord continued to appear at Shiloh, and there he revealed himself to Samuel through his word.” God longs to give the lost in church life – real life – eternal life. It comes only through Jesus Christ who reveals Himself through the Holy Spirit and Scripture.
God wants to shatter the comfort zones of those lost in church, the mind-set that says, “I hear from God when the preacher is talking, when the choir is singing, when my pastor is praying. What more do you expect of me? God expects a lot more of you than an hour or two a week. Try giving your spouse that much time and see where that gets you. Matter of fact that hour or two you spend in church (as you call it) God Himself is not please with it. For many lost in church today, the most comfortable thing to do is hide, to pretend He’s not watching. They resort to our first parents’ behavior. After disobeying God, Adam and Eve did what came naturally to sinners. Genesis 3:8-14 tells the story.
The lost church are hiding behind their church membership, their pastor, their good deeds, their parents’ walk with God, or other flimsy excuses that will not be accepted by a holy God. There’s an astonishingly bizarre attitude among many churchgoers today. What they say they know, they don’t do. They understand the importance of spending time in their Bibles, yet their consciences don’t seem to stop them from ignoring this truth. 1 Timothy 4:1-2 speaks to this attitude: “The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron”. In other words, many lost in church can be compared to religious hypocrites who knowingly listen to the devil (I wanted to drop some names here, but God wouldn’t allow me) instead of God. A spiritual war of biblical magnitude is assaulting the world today, and many in the church are saying, “What war?” We are being blessed! The truth, they have made a deal with Satan. They settled for blessings from Satan and rejected the armor and weapons to fight effectively.
Instead of fighting the spiritual battles church seems to enjoy the fight amongst themselves with even recognizing it. What does God see when He looks at the “institutionalized church”? Does He see humble saints hungry for His voice? Spiritually deprived slaves worshipping a master call pastor? Old club hands getting their party on in the church house? I believe that too often God sees people starving and malnourished by a lack of spiritual food. What’s happening her? It’s a look at the church today. Can you imagine a week without food? Many in the church haven’t read their Bibles all week; they are spiritually empty. Too many go to church on Sunday morning, open their Bibles, and then close them until the following week. The truth of the matter most pastor are quiet happy with that. Why? Because if you ever grew into the knowledge of God, they know you would have to leave. Most of them would be out of the pimping business because you would become the truth ministers “disciples” of the Word of God. Wise up! The Bible holds the key.
We live in a lost world, a world more frightening than anything Steven King could have imagined. Its fearsomeness lies not in prehistoric monsters, but in the inhabitants who have turned away from their Creator and rejected the only Redeemer who could rescue them from their spiritual sickness. Disconnected from the God of grace, human beings live in disgrace, choosing to become their own gods. Burdened by their sins, they seek relief from the consequences of their actions but continue to do the very things that enslave them.
Yesterday as my wife and I sit in the gymnasium waiting for our younger daughter’s musical performance to begin. I look over and notice my wife crying. Our other daughter had given her an obituary of a person she knew. I understand the intense sorrow she was feeling. She was crying because of the physical deaf, but there is the deaf of a spiritual man that I moan for everyday. There are so many Christian in a quest to find themselves in church often die a slow and painful deaf. This leads to a religious experience in which the God of the Bible is thought to be nothing more than whispers in the wind, a voice cling in the desert, or an opinion that can be easily ignored.
Alienated from God and His laws of living, they live their lives the way they want, unashamed of their double-mindness and lack of faith. Like people who have deliberately spread the AIDS virus, they justify their search for self-satisfaction with rationalizations such as, “It’s my body. I can do with it as I please.” They are disconnected from God and others. There is so much similarity to the church today. Instead of truly loving people, they use them as objects for their satisfaction, tools for their self-satisfaction. God’s will is replaced with the will to pleasure self: “If it feels good, (like Nike) just do it.” Most of what is done on Sunday morning in church is a stroke of the feelings, the pew sitters want to feel good and the pulpit pimps want to live good. Morality is lost in a sea of relativism, and as Paul said, “The whole creation groans” Romans 8:22
Can you hear the groaning of our lost world? Listen to the cries of young girls with unwanted pregnancies, the result of a search for love and acceptance, a search for their lost selves. Most are the victims of religious church folks, who found more pleasure in serving in the church building or the pastor than loving and teaching at home. Listen to the angry, bitter words spoken by a couple who once vowed to love, honor, and respect one another. Listen as selfish demands obscure their recognition of each other’s needs. This is my personal testimony, church, pastor and I almost destroyed my marriage. It is so easy to get caught up in the ministry as we call it, which is really a stroking on man; that you lose things that are really important to you and God. My old pastor would always tell me that my wife was going to destroy the ministry and that she didn’t love me. Why? Because she refused to buy stock into what I had been sold from the man I believed was walking with God. The truth of it all she should have been the ministry’s objective.
Listen to the moans of the drug addicts, the homeless and the downcast. Listen to the excuse of the overworked, the driven, the dishonest all of whom the church tries to fix by having programs for, feeding once a week or casting demons out of. The church as we see it today has lost its biblical roots as the first century Christians laid the foundations for the Church. Listen to the groans of the world.
But listen also for a Voice of hope. In the middle of the chaos, His Voice can still be heard, saying, “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save and to save what was lost” Luke 19:10
Some of us heard this Voice. In this lost world, we have been found. We admitted that the restlessness of our souls can be stilled only by a return to our God. We have discovered our need for God and have given up our sins for His way – a better way, based on truth, hope, and justice. Like a bride longing for the return of her betrothed, we await the coming of our Lord with breathlessness impossible to describe. We know the Redeemer, Jesus Christ who bore our sins on a cross and opened the way for us to be found to be reconnected to the Father and to one another. As Isaiah 55:6 teaches, we have sought the Lord while He way be found; we have called upon Him while He is near. We have been saved! Not commercialized! I know you may be saying not my church, you don’t know my pastor, we are doing God’s will, and we are growing!
Why then is there so little difference between the church and the unchurched, the lost and the found, the faithful and the faithless? At a time when there may be more professions of faith than ever before, why has the church lost its impact? Why are there so many decisions for Christ with so few commitments to Christ? Why is the lostness of the world so descriptive of the church itself? Why are there as many teenage pregnancies and marital break-ups in the church as there are in the world? Why is it that out of ten self-described Christians only one claims that his or her spiritual growth is a high priority in life?
Could it be that some of us are actually lost in church? Could it be that the evangelized need to be evangelized? Could it be that many in the church don’t want the truth anymore?
As churches reach out to a lost world with the Gospel, many are growing. Facilities are expanding. Church budgets are mounting. Billboards (boards to help pay the bills) are being erected to attract newcomers trying their way and old-comers trying to find the hottest club.
My prayer is that my writings will serve as a sign – not just for the unchurched, but for the lost in church. I want to write specifically about some tough issues that we can’t afford to ignore, this is my purpose for this life. The apostle Paul admonition to believers in the early church applies today: “Continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose” Phil.2:12-13
My concern is not only that the lost in church would be found, but also that having been truly found, we may more effectively reach our lost world with God’s healing grace. 2 Chronicles promises,
“If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land”.
My writing is not for the individual who is comfortable with the status quo of Christianity. It is meant for the lost as well as the saved that are searching for the God of the Bible and not the pastor of the church. Those who will not rest until they have found the truth – God truth. My prayer is that the Son of Man will continue to seek and save the lost – weather it be the lost in the world or the lost in church.
Who is My Mother?
Then one said to Him, “Look, Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside, seeking to speak with You.” But He answered and said to the one who told Him, “Who is My mother and who are My brothers?” And He stretched out His hand toward His disciples and said, “Here are My mother and My brothers! For whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and sister and mother.” Matthew 12:48-50
Who is my mother? Jesus called attention away from earthly relationships to more important spiritual relationships. A believer is even closer to Christ than to a physical relative. This saying was not intended to be one of disrespect to Mary or to His brothers, for they too would come to share that spiritual relationship. Relationships are complicated, especially when we give our lives to Christ. Jesus’ first disciples had to leave their family to follow him. (Matthew 4:22, 8:22, 10:37) The love of a mother goes without saying can be one of the most intimate relationships one can have. As you celebrate this Mother’s Day, take a lesson from Christ and remember that as a Christian how all of your relationships with follow believers become as intimate.
The Lord is saying that the strongest relationship today is the relationship between Christ and a believer. Friend, if you are a child of God and you have unsaved family members, you are closer to Jesus Christ than you are to your own kin, including the mother that bore you. You are more closely related to other believers than you are to unsaved members of your family. This is tremendous! He is talking about a new relationship. The body of Christ has forgotten the new relationship we have with one another in Christ. The church as it exists today in many cases relationships among believers are bounded within their four walls, mainly on Sunday and within their clicks.
Instead of going outside to see what his family members wanted, Jesus looked at the crowd and asked an odd question, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” Jesus knew why his family had come, yet he used their visit as a lesson in discipleship. A relationship with Jesus was not limited to those in his immediate family. Jesus opened this relationship to all people. His question could be rendered, “Who are the types of people who can have a family relationship with me?” I have seen pastors take the side of family even when they are wrong and chastise a believer who was right. As the world celebrate their mother this weekend, if you have a relationship with Christ ask yourself the question. Who is my mother?
When Jesus therefore saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing by, He said to His mother, “Woman, behold your son!” Then He said to the disciple, “Behold your mother!” And from that hour that disciple took her to his own home. John 19:26-27 Jesus directed his disciple John to take care of Mary, his mother, in his absence. Mary had apparently been widowed and was being cared for by Jesus himself. Even while suffering in agony, Jesus demonstrated his care for his mother. The body of Christ should demonstrate the same passion for its members (mothers). And He stretched out His hand toward His disciples and said, “Here are My mother and My brothers! For whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and sister and mother.” Matthew 12:49-50
Jesus was pointing out that spiritual relationships are as binding as physical ones, and he was paving the way for a new community of believers to be formed as Jesus’ spiritual family. This family would be characterized by love; the members should desire to be together, work together, and share one another’s burdens.
The Five Star Hotel
“I see what you’ve done. Now see what I’ve done. I’ve opened a door before you that no one can slam shut. You don’t have much strength; I know that; you used what you had to keep my Word. You didn’t deny me when times were rough. “And watch as I take those who call themselves true believers but are nothing of the kind, pretenders whose true membership is in the club of Satan—watch as I strip off their pretensions and they’re forced to acknowledge it’s you that I’ve loved.”Because you kept my Word in passionate patience, I’ll keep you safe in the time of testing that will be here soon, and all over the earth, every man, woman, and child put to the test. “I’m on my way; I’ll be there soon. Keep a tight grip on what you have so no one distracts you and steals your crown. Revelation 3:8-11
So often I wonder if I am losing my mind because of the thoughts I have sometimes. I often wonder if I am the only one thinking the way I think. My wife tells me, normal (not the word she uses, but maybe what she is thinking) people don’t think the way you do. I am sure if John had a wife when he was writing the book of Revelation she would have said him the same thing him, my wife say to me sometime. My suggestion to my wife is always follow me, if I am wrong the worst thing could happen is you will deepen your relationship with God and His people. But what if I am right?
My wife and I spent a week in Orlando, Fl. For the first three days we stayed in a three star hotel and for the last four days we moved into a five star hotel. One of the things I always ask God to do is teach me as I live this life, in everything I do. Well, He always does, however, sometimes I wish I had not asked for the lesson He teaches me.
The three star hotel we were in was a very nice place, but when we saw the five star mega (you know where I am going) hotel it was pleasing to the eye and enticing to the ego. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, 2 Timothy 4:3. The first night we stayed in this mega hotel God begin to minister to me. As I slept I begin to dream as if Satan himself was tempting me to return to the thing I once loved to do in the world. I remember waking up having to go down on my knees asking God for his strength to overcome.
This is the first trick of the Devil, if he can get us caught up in the beauty of the eyes and the praise of the ears he can easily return us to the love of the world. Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. Matthew 4:8 This is the same trick Satan tried on our Lord. So often we lose sight of the Father, behind the building and the pastor.
This is what happened within the mega hotel and so often happens within the mega or institutionalized church. When I finish talking to my Father, I decided to go to the gym for a workout. I went down to the workout room ready to have a great workout. The nice lady who meets me at the door asked me had I signed up for the workout room yet. (The usher with the tithe envelop) I said no this is my first time here. She said I will be glad to assist you; our fee is $10.00 per day. What! In the three star hotel I had just left the workout room was free. So, I took me a long walk for free.
When I arrived back at the hotel my wife was just waking up complaining about her back hurting. She said this bed is nothing like the one at the other hotel. The room was big and beautiful, but it lacks the very essential thing to fulfill the purpose in which we were in it. The hotel that we had just left, the beds were like sleeping on clouds. When you woke up from your sleep you felt refreshed.
When I first came into the hotel parking garage to park my car I was told to just go on through, but the next time they ask for my room number, my name and gave me a pass. I didn’t think much of it; I had asked the lady at check-in about parking. She told they would ask me for my room number and that was it. Well on the day of check-out there was a billed slid under my door for $6.00 a day parking. Man at the hotel we left we have free parking and a shorter walk to the car.
I know you may be saying what in the world are you trying to say? I am glad you are wondering if you don’t have it by now. You see that same thing happen to us when we move from church building to church building, from pastor to pastor, and from body to body (of people).
As I view the movements that accrue within the body of believers 90% of them are made based on sight and what they hear and not based upon the moving of the spirit of God. The moving from one hotel to another was not base upon the needs of my wife and me, but the satisfaction of the flesh. As I am writing this on a fight from Orlando to Cleveland, I just realized that so many people were loving there stay at this hotel. They were so caught up in the luxury of everything; they didn’t realize the price they had to pay for going mega.
This happens to so many of us in the body of Christ. We are deceived by the beauty around us and don’t recognize the price we have to pay to stay where we are within the body (if that’s really were we are). In the same way Satan attached me in my dreams to entice me to my former life; so many have been enticed while day dreaming at the prosperity of the Gospel. However, we didn’t go on our knees to ask God for help. We go to the lottery of the altar with a promise that God would bless you for this act.
In the same way my wife was awaken from her restless sleep with plain in her back. So many of go throughout the week without a day, hour, minute, or second of rest, because this place costs so much to maintain. The peace that we need in God has been replaced by the desire for man to build a throne for him to rule and sit on. Your backs are burden not by the cross we should bear, but by the ministries the body now has to wear. The place we left gave us the rest we needed to show God in our lives. Not like the place we are that make us live through the pain of no rest and fake like we have it going on.
The food that we received at that other hotel was free, refreshing and left no after taste in my mouth. Unlike the food or lack of that I received at this place. The problem with so many of us is that we can’t afford the pimps we have as pastors. You can never pay a hired hand enough to feed you what our Lord gave us for free. So when they had eaten breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Feed My lambs.” John 21:15. The love for the Lord is scarified for the love of church, entertainment and prosperity. The lamb starve from lack of spiritual food and is too weak too even fend for him/herself.
The hired hand is not the shepherd who owns the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. John 10:12-13 This is what happens to us so often living large in the life of mega blessings, mega prayers, mega pastors and the dreams to go mega. Actually, I don’t have a sense of needing anything personally. I’ve learned by now to be quite content whatever my circumstances. I’m just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little. I’ve found the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry, hands full or hands empty. Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am. Philippians 4:11-13
The Marriage (The Church) Pt.1
Out of respect for Christ, be courteously reverent to one another. Wives, understand and support your husbands in ways that show your support for Christ. The husband provides leadership to his wife the way Christ does to his church, not by domineering but by cherishing. So just as the church submits to Christ as he exercises such leadership, wives should likewise submit to their husbands. Husbands, go all out in your love for your wives, exactly as Christ did for the church—a love marked by giving, not getting. Christ’s love makes the church whole. His words evoke her beauty. Everything he does and says is designed to bring the best out of her, dressing her in dazzling white silk, radiant with holiness. That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. And that is how husbands ought to love their wives. Ephesians 5:21-28
The first church, the marriage that God longs for His people to have as the church. The two of them, the Man and his Wife, were naked, but they felt no shame. Genesis 2:25 Adam and Eve spotted the church and ever since God has sought out men and women to restore and return to harmony his church. God intended husband and wife to be a spiritual, functional unity, walking in integrity, serving God, and keeping His commandments together. When this harmony is operative, society prospers under God’s hand. The church today have covered it’s self with fig leaves, with the shame of being naked.
The man (Adam) in the original church had a huge responsibility God commanded the Man, “You can eat from any tree in the garden, except from the Tree-of-Knowledge-of-Good-and-Evil. Don’t eat from it. The moment you eat from that tree, you’re dead.” The woman was not present when God gave Adam the command; Adam’s first responsibility was the ministry to his wife.
The serpent was clever, more clever than any wild animal God had made. He spoke to the Woman: “Do I understand that God told you not to eat from any tree in the garden?” The Woman said to the serpent, “Not at all. We can eat from the trees in the garden. It’s only about the tree in the middle of the garden that God said, ‘Don’t eat from it; don’t even touch it or you’ll die.’ ” The serpent told the Woman, “You won’t die. God knows that the moment you eat from that tree, you’ll see what’s really going on. You’ll be just like God, knowing everything, ranging all the way from good to evil.” Genesis 3:1-5
Adam had told his wife the command, but he neglected to minister to her the love of God, the power of their existence and ability to bind the enemy. When the Woman saw that the tree looked like good eating and realized what she would get out of it—she’d know everything!—she took and ate the fruit and then gave some to her husband, and he ate. 7 Immediately the two of them did “see what’s really going on”—saw themselves naked! They sewed fig leaves together as makeshift clothes for themselves. Genesis 3:6-7 Because Adam failed to minister to his wife, and allow the two to come together as one, they lost the power that God intended for the church and Satan deceived them both.
Today the church is in the same dilemma. Men have failed in their first ministry, The Man said, “The Woman you gave me as a companion, she gave me fruit from the tree, and, yes, I ate it.” Genesis 3:12 they are still casting blame instead of taking the responsibility to be the man God intended. Every wondered why Christians divorce at a higher rate than non-Christians? The man is trying to do in a chruch building what he should have completed at home first. (To be continued!)
Romans 12:1 (NIV)
Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God–this is your spiritual act of worship.
The values and norms of society become so deeply ingrained in our minds that we find it difficult to decipher between God’s will and our will. Romans 12:2 (NIV) Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.
Throughout the Gospels, Jesus presents the kingdom as a new order breaking in upon, and overturning, old ways, old values, and old assumptions. It if does anything, the kingdom of God shatters the assumptions that govern our lives. Everything including our expectations, assumptions and demands are reversed in the kingdom of God. Those whom we declare good are not seen that way from God’s perspective and vice versa.
Tension, paradox, irony, surprise, and mystery all infect the teachings of Jesus. Everything is flipped upside down. The first will be last, to lose our life is to save it, adults must become like little children, sinners receive forgiveness and blessings while the religious miss the great feast, the poor in spirit are blessed while the religious leaders are cursed. Nothing is what it seems in the kingdom.
I have to admit, I have been very naive and trusting throughout my spiritual journey. I grew up in the A.M.E. Church, all of my childhood sitting in the back of the building and when I grew up, I move to the balcony. When the Spirit of God really began to press upon me, I came down and told my pastor what was going on inside of me. He told me God, as calling me to be a Reverend to preach the Gospel. This is when I should have ran from the church. When I preached my first sermon, they tried to pay me fifty dollars ($50.00), I would not take it. My pastor pulled me to the side and scolded me. He told me, “not to ever preach without getting paid or ever turn down any money offered to me for preaching”. He said; “I would be cheapening the ministry it I didn’t receive money for preaching the Gospel”.
Well, pastor the Gospel is free or at least it should be free. Cheapening the Gospel is when you allow someone to pay you for preaching and the purse is less than what was paid on the cross for you to be able to preach. Pulpit Pimps have lowered the standard for preaching the Gospel, instead of giving it their life; they sell out for a price. What does this have to do with true worship? You may be asking, let me tell you.
Instead of countering culture and embodying a new alternative reality, we often reinforce cultural ideals and assumptions. Worship often reflects this cultural conformity. Why do we always need happy, shiny songs when so much of life isn’t that way? Why don’t worship leaders realize they are teaching theology when they choose the songs they do? Why is it that worship is supposed to make us feel better but rarely does? Why doesn’t worship confront us more often with the holiness, grandeur, and majesty of God? Why does so much of it seem so shallow and hollow and trite and simply about me? Why? I will tell you!
In the same way the Pulpit Pimps has lowered the standards of preaching. The Prostitute of the Pulpit Pimps has lowered the standard of worship. Just like the preacher who won’t preach without being paid or looks at his gift as a ticket to fame. Other than the building and the pastor the worship leader and the musicians are raping the Body of Christ. By the time I was leaving the Institutionalized Church we were pouring out eighteen hundred and fifty dollars ($1,850.00) per week, seven thousand four hundred dollars ($7,400.00) per month ninety-six thousand two hundred dollars ($96,200.00) per year, for an hour or two of praise and worship and this was modest in comparison.
We have reduced worship to an hour or two event in front of our service. We measure our worship experience by how well our prostitute performs. Worship should be a lifestyle once you leave the service. Paul said, “this is your spiritual act of worship” referring to us “offering your bodies as living sacrifices”. Additionally, it has become our physical act of worship, offering entrainment as a sacrifice to God.
Offer your bodies as a living sacrifice. Paul had already told the Roman believers, Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness” (Romans 6:13). Our bodies are all we have to offer we live in our bodies. The body enfolds our emotions, our mind, our thoughts, our desires, and our plans. Thus, the body represents the total person; it is the instrument by which all our service is given to God. In order to live for God, we must offer him all that we are, represented by our body. The word offer has also been translated give, yield, or present. If our body is at God’s disposal, he will have our free time, our pleasures, and all our behavior.
When sacrificing an animal according to God’s law, a priest would kill the animal, cut it in pieces, and place it on the altar. Sacrifice was important, but even in the Old Testament God made it clear that obedience from the heart was much more important (see 1 Samuel 15:22; Psalm 40:6; Amos 5:21-24). God wants us to offer ourselves as living sacrifices daily laying aside our own desires to follow him, putting all our energy and resources at his disposal, and trusting him to guide us (see Hebrews 13:15-16; 1 Peter 2:5). Our new life is a thanks-offering to God. Offering our body as a living sacrifice is holy and pleasing to God. To be a holy sacrifice is to be completely set apart for God and dedicated to worship him. Those who are dedicated to God are pleasing to God because they can participate in his service. If we are not set apart from our old life, we will not be useful to God.
True worship separates us from the world, we don’t enter into true worship, we become true worship, true worship leads us to love the body and not rape it. We are so busy paying to be entertained we turned our noses up at the penniless calling of the Holy Spirit. Worship is our response to God’s initiative. It is responding with our whole lives to everything God is and everything he has done.