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.”
Proverbs 3:3 (NIV)
3 Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart.
As I begin my day I will pen on my heart the love of the mercy which God has shown me, showing the same to others. I will resolve to walk in the faithfulness of His truth according to His Word, living my life as an example. ~KP
“I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth on me should not abide in darkness.” (John 12:46)
This world is dark as midnight; Jesus has come that by faith we may have light, and may no longer sit in the gloom which covers all the rest of mankind.
Whosoever is a very wide term: it means you and me. If we trust in Jesus we shall no more sit in the dark shadow of death, but shall enter into the warm light of a day which shall never end. Why do we not come out into the light at once?
A cloud may sometimes hover over us, but we shall not abide in darkness if we believe in Jesus. He has come to give us broad daylight. Shall He come in vain? If we have faith we have the privilege of sunlight: let us enjoy it. From the night of natural depravity, of ignorance, of doubt, of despair, of sin, of dread, Jesus has come to set us free; and all believers shall know that He no more comes in vain than the sun rises and fails to scatter his heat and light.
Shake off thy depression, dear brother. Abide not in the dark, but abide in the light. In Jesus is thy hope, thy joy, thy Heaven. Look to Him, to Him only, and thou shalt rejoice as the birds rejoice at sunrise, and as the angels rejoice before the throne.
I remember when I was a little boy and my father took us on a family vacation to Ruby Falls. I remember being in a cave and they turned the lights out. A voice came over the speaker and said if you stayed in this dark for too long you would go blind. I don’t know if that is true or not, but I do know that so many Christian walk in darkness for so long when they see the light it blinds them. Like waking up in the morning and someone turns on a bright light.
Abide in the light of our Savior, so when someone tries to shine the light on you the light of God leaves them as deer staring into headlights.
Summing up: Be agreeable, be sympathetic, be loving, be compassionate, be humble. That goes for all of you, no exceptions. No retaliation. No sharp-tongued sarcasm. Instead, bless–that’s your job, to bless. You’ll be a blessing and also get a blessing. 1 Peter 3:8–9 MSG
In Other Words
In summary, God wants us to be agreeable, sympathetic, loving, compassionate, and humble. It gives God no pleasure when we become obsessed with getting even, behave like put-down artist, or become champions of sarcastic word wars. We are called to be different. We are to bless, not curse. When we bless others, even in adverse circumstances, we also receive blessings. Bless and be blessed, that’s God’s way.
ü God wants us to get along with grumpy people
ü He wants us to return sarcasm with sympathy, distain with empathy
ü Jesus wants us to be loving and compassionate, even when surrounded by hate
ü Our Father is not happy when we waste time in getting even or playing “pay-back”
ü He is not pleased when we put others down instead of lifting them up
ü God winces when we willingly become bows for poisoned arrows of sarcasm
ü Jesus empowers us to be different
ü Our Father expects us to both bless and be a blessing to others
ü When we bless each other, then surely we are being blessed
Questions and Thoughts to Aid Digestion
Have you ever launched a counter-attack against sarcasm? Were you happy with the results?
How much do you grow in the Lord when you have vindictive or spiteful thoughts?
Which seems more natural, to turn our cheek, or to slap theirs?
How often are you caught in the act of being a blessing to someone else?
Because God expects us to be meek, does that mean we should be weak?
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.
“Success” does indeed have its rewards. Therefore the temptation to parade the accouterments of achievement in front of others in order to garner their admiration is almost irresistible! After all,
“If you‘ve got it, FLAUNT IT!“ (But subtly, of course.)
Let’s just admit that it’s hard to be humble when you’re soooo good!
God is not against success. But He is against pride. And the pride that often accompanies our success can indeed be seductive.
Take for example the experiences of:
“But after Uzziah became powerful, his pride led to his downfall. He was unfaithful to the Lord his God… “ (2 Chronicles 26:16)
“After Rehoboam‘s position as king was established and he had become strong, he and all Israel with him abandoned the law of the Lord.“ (2 Chronicles 12:1)
“Jeshurun grew fat… filled with food… heavy and sleek. He abandoned the God who made him and rejected the Rock his Savior.“ (Deuteronomy. 32:15)
Because “SUCCESS” IS A SEDUCTIVE MISTRESS we would be wise to heed sage old King Solomon — who himself was seduced by his success — when he prayed:
“Give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, ‘Who is the Lord?‘ Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God.“ (Proverbs 30:8, 9)
QUESTION: How well are you handling your “success” in the eyes of the Lord Jesus?
- Is He pleased as He observes you, His humble, self-sacrificing, and gracious servant? Or:
- Is He grieved by a pride-ridden life that is locked on to spiritual cruise-control?
The problem is that a lot of us are in spiritual cruise control. We are not pursuing God. We are not following after righteousness. The Christian life is like a greased pole: either you are climbing or slipping. How about you? Are you climbing? Are you growing? Are you maturing? Or are you going backward? It is time for us to use what God has given so we can go out and do some serious spiritual four-wheeling.
It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord. (Lamentations 3:26)
As I sit quietly I can hear my heart beat, just listening for God’s Spirit to speak to me. This is the place where my faith grows, in my time of quietness I can feel the Spirit of God preparing me for tomorrow. “The Lord is in his holy temple: let all the earth keep silence before him” (Habakkuk 2:20) I heart races and then it seems to stop, my mind is at the center of consciousness that generates my thoughts. My hand sprints across the page of my notebook, my pen feels like a baton waiting to conduct the great performers.
Take heed, and be quiet; fear not, neither be fainthearted”. “In quietness and in confidence shall be your strength”. Such words reveal to us the close connection between quietness and faith. They show us what a deep need there is of quietness, as an element of true waiting upon God. “Hold thy peace at the presence of the Lord God” (Zephaniah 1:7) If we are to have our whole heart turned toward God, we must have it turned away from man, from all that occupies and interests, whether of joy or sorrow.
God is a being of such infinite greatness and glory, and our nature has become so estranged from Him, that it requires our whole heart and desires set upon Him, even in some little measure, to know and receive Him. Everything that is not God, that excites our fears or stirs our efforts or awakens our hopes or makes us glad, hinders us in our perfect waiting on Him. The message is one of deep meaning: “Take heed, and be quiet”; “In quietness…shall be your strength”; “It is good that a man should… quietly wait.”
As long as the Waiting on God is chiefly regarded as an end toward more effectual prayer, and the obtaining of our petitions, this spirit of perfect quietness will not be obtained. But, when it is seen that Waiting on God is itself an unspeakable blessedness one of the highest forms of fellowship with the Holy One the adoration of Him in His glory will of necessity humble the soul into a holy stillness, making way for God to speak and reveal Himself. Then, it comes to the fulfillment of the precious promise, that all of self and self-effort will be humbled: “The haughtiness of men shall be bowed down, and the Lord alone shall be exalted in that day” (Isaiah 2:11).
“Take heed, and be quiet” (Isaiah 7:4). “It is good that a man… quietly wait.” Take time to be separate from all friends and all duties, all cares and all joys; time to be still and quiet before God. Take time not only to secure stillness from man and the world, but from self and its energy. Let the Word and prayer be very precious. We will discover that it grows upon us, and the little season of silent worship will bring a peace and a rest that give a blessing not only in prayer, but all day.
The quietness is the confession of our meekness. It will not be done with all our willing and running, with all our thinking and praying. We must receive it from God. It is the confession of our faith that our God will, in His time, come to our help the quiet resting in Him alone.
“My soul, wait thou only upon God!”
Sam and Jean had a hellish marriage.
With a history of promiscuity, personal insecurities, etc., etc., both brought excess baggage into the relationship that contributed toward constant
conflict. Both however, had recently become followers of Christ and were committed to living out their marriage vows His way.
That was twenty years ago. Today I was on the phone with Sam as he mused over the fact that he and Jean had become “best friends.”
It seems to me there are several reasons for this remarkable transformation:
1. Both were willing to humble themselves and seek out competent and godly counsel to help them identify and root out the origins of their problems:
“For lack of guidance a nation falls, but many advisers make victory sure.” (Proverbs 11:14)
2. Both were committed to spiritual growth: Consistent times of prayerful meditation upon God’s Word:
“Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it.
Then you will be prosperous and successful.” (Jos. 1:8)
3. Both surrounded themselves with godly people to whom they chose to be accountable; people from whom they gained supportive strength:
“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs
with gratitude in your hearts to God.” (Colossians 3:16) (See 1 Thessalonians 4:18; 5:11; Hebrews 12:12-15)
4. Both were committed to persevering through their problems. In their minds divorce was never an option. Thus, they chose to face, rather than deny
or ignore the critical issues:
“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” (Galatians 6:9) (See Romans 5:3 ; 1 Corinthians 15:58; 1 Thessalonians 3:13; Hebrews 12:1-3; 1 Peter 3:8-11)
Over the years, I have met few couples who did not face daunting challenges in their marriage. I have come to believe that marital success or failure
is determined not by the size of the problems, but by whether or not the couple is willing to face and deal with the problematic issues, whatever the pain, whatever the cost.
Living as we do in a crybaby world “if it feels good do it” society where marriage vows often read, “as long as we both shall love,”
instead of “till death do us part,” we need to comprehend the fact that God hates divorce, and only granted it because of people’s hardness of heart. (Malachi 2:16; Mark 10:2-9)
QUESTION: Are you demonstrating your commitment to your marriage by taking whatever steps are biblical and necessary to resolve the difficult
issues that inevitably could destroy it? If not, why not?
THOUGHT: If you applied these principles and biblical truths to every area of your life, what would the outcome be?
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?
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 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.
I’ve been wanting to write to you for some time now.
Seems like every time I would try, I never could find the right words to say.
We pass each other every Sunday. Sometimes even during the middle of the week.
But for some reason, I just don’t feel like we’re as close as we once were.
I’m sure there are a number of reasons for that. We both probably share some of the blame.
But I felt like it was my time to apologize for a few things that may have driven us apart.
For that time one of my ushers told you that seat was reserved for our “special guests.”
For those times I said our evening services would end at 9pm, but ended at 10:30pm.
(I realize how difficult that can be with children that still have to get up early for school.)
For that time you called one of my leaders for prayer and never received a call back.
For sometimes being way too critical on how you choose to dress for service.
For those times it seems like I’m always asking for some kind of financial assistance.
(I realize how you and others give so faithfully. I just wish there were more like you.)
For the times I may have appeared more interested in gaining new members, than serving and being a disciple to those members (like you) who were already coming.
For that time your friend (the one you invited to come visit on last Sunday) got screamed at by one of my parking lot leaders for going the wrong way. She really didn’t know.
For those times you had questions about some of my messages and were afraid to ask.
And I’m (Really) Sorry….
For the times you’ve felt I place too much emphasis on the pastor. I admit sometimes I can get a bit carried away.
I can’t imagine how many other things I may have done to make you feel the way you do. I never meant to disappoint you and want you to know how important you are to me.
If there is anything the last few years have taught me, is that I desperately need to make some changes. I realize I’ve picked up a pretty bad rap recently. So much so I thought about giving up.
But just when I was about to throw in the towel, I read in Ephesians 5:25 that Christ loves me, and even gave Himself up for me (despite my many shortcomings).
I figured if Christ could love me, with all that I’ve done in the past, there still may be hope for the two of us. Although I can’t promise everything is going to be perfect, I know that together, we still can do some great and awesome things. I hope you will consider forgiving me and working alongside me.
We have so much to do.
“The Order of Worship”
I remember when we decided to move from traditional to non-traditional church. One of the things that needed to be changed was the “Order of Worship”. We went through all the meeting to change the traditional order of worship into a new dressed up order of worship. However, with all the thoughts and suggestions, no one ever considered; what will lead us to the spiritual growth God intended?
The reality of it all, no matter how charismatic you think your order of worship has become, it has only tightened the choke hold it has on God people. The new fad is only a continuation of repressing mutual participation and growth within the body of Christ. There is absolutely no room for the Holy Spirit to use anyone spontaneously in prayer, song, insight or exhortation, silencing the members of the Body of Christ.
We are forced to be muted. What if in the middle of our “Order of Worship” God lead someone to just start praying for someone out loud? What if the Spirit leads you to just start singing another song in the middle of the praise and worship on the “Order of Worship”? What if God gave you a word during the pastor’s sermon and you could hold your peace, you raise your hand and no one acknowledged it, so you just started saying it? Even though open sharing in a church meeting is completely scriptural, you would be breaking the liturgy if you dared to try something so outrageous! You would be asked to behave yourself or leave.
I remember there was a family who started coming and worshiping with us. During the service this lady would get up and start dancing up and down the aisles. Our reaction was oh my God, what is she doing? We cannot let her interrupt our “Order of Worship” like this. Soon the aisles were blocked off, which forced her and her sons to dance in the back of the building, next thing you knew she was gone. Then the next thing you knew the “Order of Worship” called for dancing in the aisles and everyone was okay with that. I wonder did anyone go and apologize to the lady and her family?
The “Order of Worship” takes another turn it removes the headship of Jesus Christ. The entire service is directed by one person. You are limited to the knowledge, gifting, and experience of one member of the body – the pastor. Where is the freedom of our Lord to speak through His body at will? Where is the reason for the others member of the body to seek a deeper insight with God to be able to share with the whole body of believers? The “Order of Worship” allows for no such thing, Christ has no freedom to express Himself through the others of His Body. He is rendered a passive spectator.
Granted, Christ may be able to express Himself through one or two members of the church – usually the pastor and the music leader. Wow, what a very limited expression of the glorious gifting that has been given to the Body of Christ. I remember there were a few ladies within the Body, which we were told to watch out for. They liked to go and pray for other people and interrupting the “Order of Worship”. We were told to stop them! Was this not a crippling of Christ manifesting Himself through the other members of the Body?
For many the Christians, the Sunday morning service had become boring. Then came along the Charismatic Mega Churches, they recognized the sterile nature of the contemporary church service. In response, they incorporated a vast array of media and theatrical modernizations into the liturgy. This is done to market worship to the un-churched or bring the world into the church instead taking the church into the world. Employing the latest technology, Charismatic Institutionalized Mega Church has been able to succeed in swelling their ranks. Despite the added entertainment it affords, the market-driven charismatic service is still held captive by the pastor, the threefold “hymn sandwich” remains intact, and the Body continues to be muted spectators, only they are more entertained in their spectating.
The “Order of Worship” you quietly sit through or with loud music you stand through every Sunday actually hinders spiritual transformation. Why would I say that? It encourages passivity, it limits functioning, and it implies that putting in one or three hour (depending if the Holy Ghost shows up and someone catches it) per week is the key to victorious Christian life. No wonder it is so hard to get people (Christians) to go visit the sick, those in the nursing homes and in prison unless the pastor is going.
Every Sunday you attend the “church” to be bandaged and recharged, like all other wounded soldiers. Far too often, however, the bandaging and the recharging never take place. The reason is quite simple The New Testament never links sitting through an ossified ritual that we mislabel “church” as having to do with spiritual transformation. We grow by functioning, not by passively watching and listening.
The New Testament is not silent with respect to how we Christians are to meet. Shall we, therefore, opt for man’s tradition when it clearly runs contrary to God’s thought for His Church? His Headship of Christ for the sake of our sacrosanct liturgy? Is the Church of Jesus Christ the pillar and ground of turth or the defender of man’s traditions?
I hope to visit you soon, but just in case I’m delayed, I’m writing this letter so you’ll know how things ought to go in God’s household, this God-alive church, bastion of truth. This Christian life is a great mystery, far exceeding our understanding, but some things are clear enough: 1 Timothy 3:16
Is there any logic in believing that God started His Church as a Spirit-filled, loving body with the intention that it would evolve into entertaining, hour-long services? Was he hoping that one day people would be attracted to the Church not because they care for one another, not because they are devoted to Him, not because the supernatural occurs in their midst, but because of good music and entertainment?
Try to imagine what conclusions you would come to if you had no prior church experience. The things in church services might make sense to the American church-attendee, but they don’t make sense biblically.
Picture yourself on an island with only a Bible. You’ve never been to a church-you’ve never even heard of one. The only ideas you have about church are what you’ve read in your Bible. Then you enter a building labeled “church” for the first time. What would you expect to experience as you entered that building? Now compare that to what you actually experience when you attend church.
A while back, an ex-gang member got baptized at our church. He fell in love with Jesus and turned from his old lifestyle. But after several months at the church, he stopped attending. When we asked him why he stopped attending, he answered: “I had the wrong idea of what church was going to be like. When I joined the church, I thought it was going to be like joining a gang. You see, in the gangs we weren’t just nice to each other once a week-we were family.”
That killed me because I knew that what he expected is what the church was intended to be. It saddened me because I realized that the gangs paint a better picture of loyalty and family than the local church body does.
But what if the church looked like this?
They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. (Acts 2:42-47)
That describes what the ex-gang member was looking for. It describes what the world is waiting for. I used to look at this passage as something that was wonderful but could never happen in the twenty-first century. There are just too many cultural obstacles for the Holy Spirit to overcome. He is powerful enough to raise the dead, but not powerful enough to form a sharing and loving body in our individualistic society. I doubted God’s ability to stir a body of believers to love tirelessly and give without restraint. I reasoned that this type of fellowship was probably not intended for our time. Besides, we don’t have time to love like this.
Looking back, I wonder if I came to those conclusions because there was a part of me that wasn’t sure I wanted it. It’s interesting how much our theology is driven by desire.
Imagine this; There came a point where the elders at our church concluded that there was no reason why God wouldn’t want the church to look like it did in the beginning. From there we reasoned that if God wants that, then we want it too. But the exciting part came when we resolved not to settle for anything less. We would pursue this for His Church regardless of how many would be turned off and move to other churches. If this is God’s standard, then we will one day give an account for how we led His people toward the biblical model.
But where do we go from here? The hard part is answering the question of how. There are probably many who want our churches to function like the early church, but how do we get there?
START WITH WHAT YOU CAN CONTROL
In other words, start with yourself. It’s wrong to blame others for the condition of the Church. And it’s silly for leaders to blame followers. God wasn’t satisfied when Adam blamed Eve or when Eve blamed the serpent.
Our elders started with what we could control. We can’t control other people. We can’t make the congregation “break bread in their homes” or “sell their possessions.” We also can’t control God. We can’t make Him do “wonders and miraculous signs” through us. I can, however, sell my possessions as people have needs. I do have control over that, so that became the first logical step. As we do our part, we trust God to bring about the “awe” and “wonders” in His time.
It was a beautiful time of sharing as our elders laid “everything” at each others’ feet. We surrendered the keys to our cars, homes, and bank accounts. I actually believed the elders who looked me in the eyes and said, “What’s mine is yours. If anything ever happens to you, I will support and care for your kids as much as I would care for my own. I will be your life insurance.” And because they had a history of genuine sacrifice for the sake of the gospel, I trusted what they said. From there, we began going to some of our friends in the congregation and expressing our commitment to them (something anyone can do).
And now this mentality is spreading. New life is permeating the church as individuals are backing up their words with sacrifice. Cars and homes are being sold or given away. Expensive vacations are joyfully replaced with spending on others. People are being taken into homes-not only for meals, but to live. It’s still the beginning of the process, and most people probably still come for the teaching or the music, but there’s a growing number at our church who are coming to be with their church family and they don’t care about who’s teaching or leading music. (SORRY WAKE-UP)
THERE MUST BE MORE
Something real was happing in the early Church. It was something of the Spirit, too powerful to be replicated by human effort. Imagine taking a friend to one of their church gatherings. Your friend might not experience a smoothly run, professional service. But one thing he would experience: God. Do we even need to ask which is better? So much of church growth today has nothing to do with the Holy Spirit. The right team of talented people can make any church grow. When people sit through creative services, is it really God they’re experiencing?
Don’t get me wrong: I’m not saying that we shouldn’t give our best to God. If you’re a musician, work diligently at your music. If you’re a teacher, labor intensely over your messages. I’m just asking you to be willing to rethink what you’re doing and ask: How can we create a more biblical environment where people see and experience God?
I’m reminded of the story of Gideon in Judges 7. God tells Gideon, “You have too many men for me to deliver Midian into their hands. In order that Israel may not boast against me that her own strength has saved her, announce now to the people, ‘Anyone who trembles with fear may turn back and leave Mount Gilead.’ So twenty-two thousand men left, while ten thousand remained.” (Judges 7:2-3)
If you remember the story, God then reduced the army to 300 soldiers. God did not just defeat the Midianites-He was careful to do it in a way that gave Him all the glory. He did not want to allow Israel to boast “that her own strength has saved her.”
May people see our churches and know that mere human beings could not have created what they experienced. May we seek the priorities of the early church and trust God to once again produce the fruit of the early Church.
“And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:47)
The Disjointed Body
By means of his one Spirit, we all said good-bye to our partial and piecemeal lives. We each used to independently call our own shots, but then we entered into a large and integrated life in which he has the final say in everything. (This is what we proclaimed in word and action when we were baptized.) Each of us is now a part of his resurrection body, refreshed and sustained at one fountain—his Spirit—where we all come to drink. The old labels we once used to identify ourselves—labels like Jew or Greek, slave or free—are no longer useful. We need something larger, more comprehensive. 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. (See 1 Corinthians 12:13-14)
For the last few months I have been hard at work trying to bring my body under submission. Not long ago I was forty pounds overweight. My mind would think of things for my body to do, but I could not get all the members functioning at the same time in the same direction. My body was disjointed, dysfunctional. Kind of like the Body of Christ operates today. The Body of Christ has become over weight and lazy, eating McSpiritual burgers, and salted down sermons holding their cups under sugared filled altars.
The major problems are doctrines that are shaky at best when lined up with the Word of God, immorality involving superficial spirituality among its members and social malice concerning cliques gathered around different preachers. The things we must be concerned about in this Christian era of immaturity are that we are more carnal than spiritual, and our disunity is more interested in spiritual gifts than fruit.
For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and we were all made to drink of one Spirit. So the body is not one part but many. 1 Corinthians 12:14
The immediate context of this verse is a three-chapter section concerning spiritual gifts. I Corinthians 12 deals with the varied gifts experienced in the body; I Corinthians 13 demonstrates that when exercised without love can damage the body; I Corinthians 14 outlines the more excellent way of using the gifts with love to build up the body. It’s a pity that the uninspired church has interrupted the flow of the Word, allowing readers to lick the jam of love out of its charismatic sandwich. Use of spiritual gifts has become an object of abuse in the assemblies. This is my underlying or over-riding concern; however is the unity of the body, without which the gifts are at beat useless toys or at worst dangerous weapons.
Many Christians enjoy the self proclaimed gift of speaking in tongue than to speaking to someone the street and telling them about Jesus. Many Christians enjoy the gift of healing rather than visiting the sick and shut-up. Many Christians enjoy the gifted title of pastor than they do about feeding and return the lost sheep to the fold. Many would rather manifest a gift of wisdom just to call someone else a fool.
Many pastors, ministers, prophets, bishops’ elders, etc…, whatever they are calling themselves today. Speak with the tongues of angels but, have no love.
Church has taught us to seek the gift and not the Giver of the gifts. We as the Body of Christ our eagerness to be the next great have diminished our ability to be whole and be united. I remember a lady on the prayer ministry; she was going through a few things. However, because she acted differently than the prayer warriors assumed she should they talked about her behind her back. They wanted her off the ministry, but no one had the where with all to say anything to her. Is that love? These people professed to have the gift to pray for people, but would rather talk about a person. DISJOINTED!
I remember one Sunday evening; I was sitting in the pulpit beside the big man chair in a visiting church. My pastor and I was sitting beside each other, we listen to the people talk about how they love their pastor because how he comes to see them when they are sick. One man told the story of how when his wife was dying, and he had not long joined the institution the pastor was right there when he called him. My pastor leaned over and said to me, this guy will never make it he is too involved with the people. Was his gift as a pastor not to see to the spiritual needs of the people? DISJOINTED!
But the greatest of these is love. 1 Corinthians 13:13
If the Body of Christ could learn to love the Perfect Church would rise and be a LIGHT unto this world.