Friday, September 26, 2008

Saul, Saul, Why Do You Persecute Me?

In the book of Acts a man named Saul was going down a road to Damascus. He was a man that loved God. He was a religious man. He was going to hunt down and kill those who called Jesus their savior. He was going to kill those who were preaching the good news about Jesus. He thought that he was doing something good. He thought he was serving God. Jesus, Himself, knocked this man off of his horse and asked him, "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?' The man repented, asked Jesus to be his savior, and went on to write the majority of the New Testament.

Jesus told Saul that he was persecuting HIM... Jesus, because he was persecuting those who believed in Him.

Today we have preachers who are supposed to be full of the Holy Spirit, standing up in pulpits, slandering and insulting people who are in the body of Christ, people who are their brothers and sisters in the Lord. Calling them clowns, punks, pea brained christians, flesh churches, idiots, and other things like that. How is this any different from Saul???? These men are persecuting Jesus by slandering members of the body of Christ and using their pulpits as a platform to do it.

Maybe it is time for these men to be knocked off of their horses. Maybe if they are, they will wake up and see that they are doing the work of the enemy and not the work of the Lord.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Faith or Formulas

Faith. What a huge subject to examine. The Bible talks a lot about faith in the New Testament. My former church talked and taught a lot about faith. We were a faith church. The pastor there supposedly lived by faith. He taught the people to "live by faith". We were taught not to be satisfied to by where we were in life because then our faith would become stagnant. We were to always be "stretching" our faith. This meant to always be striving for the bigger or better house, the nicer car, the better job, a bigger income, nicer clothes etc. We were taught that these things made others look at us and want to know Jesus.

I began to do some reading on what the Bible says about faith. I could not find one place where Jesus taught us to use our faith to gain material things. He actually told us not to even think about the material needs in our lives. He said that as we seek first the kingdom of God that all the things we have need of would be added unto us. He actually said that the Gentiles seek after material things. He never told His disciples to go out and tell others of all the nice things that they could have if they followed Him.

We were also taught a lotabout confession. We had lists and lists of scriptures to confess that related to one situation or another. There were confession books and prayers to pray over and over. In Matthew 6 Jesus talked about prayer. He said that the heathen pray using vain repetitions because they think they will be heard for their much speaking. Is that any different than believing that something will happen for us because we say it over and over? The example of prayer that Jesus gave is simple and pure. It is not a constant and repetitive confession.

Faith is a much bigger thing than a cheap meal ticket or credit card without a limit.

Stephen did miracles through faith.
People were healed through faith.
We are justified by faith.
We are made righteous by faith.
Whatever is not of faith is sin.
We live by faith.
We walk by faith in the Son of God.
We receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.
We are the children of God by faith.
Faith is one of the fruits of the Spirit.
We are saved by grace through faith.
We have the shield of faith.
We inherit the promises of God through faith and patience.
Faith is the substance of things hoped for the evidence of things not seen.
Faith without works is dead. ( this does not mean faith to get rich)

To say that God has given us faith for us to get material things for ourselves cheapens and degrades faith. I went to Hebrews 11 and read the people of the Old Testament that were mentioned for their great faith. Solomon, the wealthiest man that ever lived was not mentioned as having great faith to attain riches. The ones mentioned here are those who lived by faith and overcame by faith.

How sad it is that in a time where we have the means and ability to reach a lost and hurting world with the true gospel of Jesus Christ that faith has been reduced to a get rich and get what you want scheme and true prayer has been reduced to repetitive formulas.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Provoking Others

In a church I attended many, many years ago I had a group of friends that I spent time with. One day one of them received this letter in the mail. I watched her as she opened it and began to read. As she did, tears poured from her eyes. Then, a smile came across her face. I asked her if something was wrong. She just handed me the letter. I later asked her for a copy of it.

Here is what it said:
Dear ........,
I just wanted to tell you what a blessing you are to me. When I look at you, I see such a strong desire and commitment to serve God. As I see you with your children I am so blessed by what a wonderful mother you are.
The faithfulness and fervor with which you serve God provokes me to righteousness. I pray in the name of Jesus that God will richly bless you and abundantly meet every need in your life; exceedingly above anything that you ever thought, or hoped, or dreamed.
Thank you for being such a blessing to my life and helping me to grow by seeing the love of God in your life and your faithfulness to Him.
Love in Christ,

I still have a copy of this letter. I remember thinking that I wanted to affect some one's life for God in that way. My friend hardly knew the person that sent this letter but the way she acted and the way she treated others has affected this person and provoked them to want to serve God and show the love of God.

My friend was not a person that was well known, was not beautiful to look at, was not classy, did not have money, did not drive a nice car, did not live in a nice house, did not dress in nice clothes and did not have "great faith". It was not any of these things that made another person want to serve God. It was love. It was not just having love, it was SHOWING love.

The Bible says in Romans 2:4 that it is God's kindness that leads us to repentance. It is being loving and kind to everyone we come in contact with that makes others want to know Jesus. It is what people saw in Jesus that drew multitudes to Him. Had He not loved them completely and unconditionally all of His teaching would have been in vain.

I do desperately want to provoke others. I want to provoke them to righteousness. I want to provoke them to love. If I can let the love of God show through me enough to do this, God will have given me the desire of my heart.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Those Who Labor Among You

The other day I was thinking about all the years I had spent at my former church. I began to wonder how I had been so deceived for so long and what I needed to do in the future to make sure that I never found myself in that situation again. The Bible verse that says, know those who labor among you, came to me and I looked it up to see exactly what it said. Here it is in the amplified version:

1 Thessalonians 5:12-22
Now also we beseech you, brethren, get to know those who labor among you [recognize them for what they are, acknowledge and appreciate and respect them all]--your leaders who are over you in the Lord and those who warn and kindly reprove and exhort you. And hold them in very high and most affectionate esteem in [intelligent and sympathetic] appreciation of their work. Be at peace among yourselves. And we earnestly beseech you, brethren, admonish (warn and seriously advise) those who are out of line [the loafers, the disorderly, and the unruly]; encourage the timid and fainthearted, help and give your support to the weak souls, [and] be very patient with everybody [always keeping your temper].See that none of you repays another with evil for evil, but always aim to show kindness and seek to do good to one another and to everybody. Be happy [in your faith] and rejoice and be glad-hearted continually (always); Be unceasing in prayer [praying perseveringly]; Thank [God] in everything [no matter what the circumstances may be, be thankful and give thanks], for this is the will of God for you [who are] in Christ Jesus [the Revealer and Mediator of that will]. Do not quench (suppress or subdue) the [Holy] Spirit; Do not spurn the gifts and utterances of the prophets [do not depreciate prophetic revelations nor despise inspired instruction or exhortation or warning]. But test and prove all things [until you can recognize] what is good; [to that] hold fast. Abstain from evil [shrink from it and keep aloof from it] in whatever form or whatever kind it may be.

I italicized the beginning and the end of this passage because that is what stood out to me the most. I typed all of the passage because I am so tired of having several single scriptures read, out of context, and strung together to create a new doctrine that does not line up with what the Bible teaches.

This scripture tells us to get to know those who labor among us and those who are our leaders. The leaders at my former church did not want to get to know anyone that they were leading, and they certainly did not want those that they were leading to get to know them. They were secretive about everything that concerned their lives. They didn't want anyone to know anything about them. They only wanted people to know the image that they built for themselves and as the years went on it became apparent that this was a very false image.

It also tells us to test all things and hold fast to what is good and to stay away from evil. I began to look in the New Testament to see what leaders should be like and what I should hold fast to and what I should stay away from. I found this in Matthew and I felt like the New Living Translation gets the point across the best.

Matthew 7:15-23 “Beware of false prophets who come disguised as harmless sheep but are really vicious wolves. You can identify them by their fruit, that is, by the way they act. Can you pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? A good tree produces good fruit, and a bad tree produces bad fruit. A good tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit. So every tree that does not produce good fruit is chopped down and thrown into the fire. Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions. “Not everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter. On judgment day many will say to me, ‘Lord! Lord! We prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.’ But I will reply, ‘I never knew you. Get away from me, you who break God’s laws.'

I looked at the way the leadership in my former church had behaved. The way they treated people as a whole. It was so wrong. I looked at peoples' lives that had been mistreated by the leadership and the results of the way they had been treated. It was definitely bad fruit. I see by this scripture that all because someone 'prophesies, casts out demons and performs miracles' in Jesus' name it means nothing if people are treated as something to be used today and discarded tomorrow. According to this scripture someone who doesn't even know Jesus could prophesy, cast out demons and perform miracles, and at my former church there were no demons being cast out and no one performing miracles.

Proverbs 29:4 in The Message says: A leader of good judgment gives stability; an exploiting leader leaves a trail of waste. I have personally seen the trail of waste left in many peoples' lives by my former leaders.

The New King James version says it like this: The king by justice establishes the land, but he who exacts gifts and tribute overthrows it.

The dictionary definition of justice is:1) the quality of being just; fairness 2)the principle of moral rightness 3)conformity to moral rightness in action and attitude, righteousness 4)the upholding of what is just, especially fair treatment, and due rewards in accordance with honor, standards or law.

The Bible has this to say about justice in Matthew23:23 in the NIV says:"Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.

The most important things about the ones who labor among you is how they act. If I ever choose another church to be a part of and become a member of I will make sure that the ones in leadership positions do not neglect the more important matters such as justice, mercy and faithfulness. I will make sure I get to know those who labor with me. I will choose a church where the leaders want to labor with me and not control me and require that I labor for them instead of for the gospel.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Empowering or Crippling

Is your pastor preaching things that empower you, help you to mature spiritually and bring you to the place where your walk with God is more of a one on one level between you and God? Or is your pastor putting himself in your walk with God as a "go-between" between you and God and teaching you that you need YOUR PASTOR to be there to teach you and speak into your life so that you can have God's best?

A true pastor, a shepherd after God's own heart would have a purpose for you. That purpose would be to bring you to the level of spiritual maturity so that you didn't need him to guide you. He would encourage you to seek God on your own and hear from Him. He would desire above all things to bring you to the place that you could go out and minister to others. Even if you were not called into the full time ministry, his desire for you would be for you to be fully equipped to minister to anyone in any situation. A true pastor would not desire the place of authority in your life. He would actually want you to be independent of him and fully dependant on the Holy Spirit.If you felt in your heart that God wanted you to go somewhere else, even if it was another church, he would encourage you to follow God's leading. His desire would be for you to honor God, not honor him.

A self seeking pastor who is a shepherd after his own heart would have a totally different set of desires for you. His would set himself up as a gift of God to you. He would teach you that you need him for a covering in your life to keep the devil away from you and keep you safe. He would teach you that you need him to "speak into your life" the things that God would want you to know. He would teach that you should respect him the way you respect God and give him a place of honor in your life. He would teach you that you not only need to tithe but that you need to give and give and give so that you can be blessed. He would never want you to leave his church because then he would loose his control over you and most importantly he would loose your money.

Why would a true pastor want his sheep to be dependant? Examine your pastor and examine your life and your spiritual walk. Is your pastor feeding you truth that empowers you and enables you to become mature in the Lord. Or is he bringing you to the place where he is becoming a need in your life? Don't sit under a pastor who thinks more highly of himself than he should and claims a place in your life that he shouldn't. Find a pastor that wants you to be yourself and let God guide you. Not one that cripples you and makes you a spiritual invalid dependant on a man. Look for a pastor after GOD"S own heart not a pastor after his own heart.

Monday, September 8, 2008

How Did They Ever Make It

Today I woke up and suddenly I realized that Noah did not have a pastor. How on earth did he ever manage to understand that there was going to be a flood without someone to speak into his life? How did he ever manage to build that huge ark without the messenger of God whom God had chosen to put His word into, to go and tell Noah what to do? How did Noah survive all that time and keep the devil at bay while he was getting that ark built without a spiritual covering to keep him safe? Moses didn't have a pastor either. How did he ever manage to lead the entire nation of Israel out of Egypt without a pastor to tell him what God wanted him to do.

We have been taught that we must have a pastor. That without a pastor to "speak into our lives" that we will not have the guidance from God that we need. That we need to become a "member" of a church in order to have a "spiritual" covering. Without that covering we are just out there unprotected and a prime target for the devil. That the pastor has some great insight into life and we are to do what he says and follow his instruction and advice because he hears from God "for us" and without this pastor we cannot hear from God on our own. That if we don't do what our pastor says then we are no doing what the Word of God says.

It is like as new testament believers we have been taught that we are in many ways no better off than the old testament children of God. They had to have a priest to go to God for them but we have to have a pastor to hear from God for us and instruct us in what He would have us to do.

These pastors seem to forget that we actually have the Holy Spirit living on the inside of us to lead and guide us into all truth just like they do. We all have been given the same measure of faith just like they have. We have the same authority over the devil that they do. We are a part of the same body of Christ that they are. We are joint heirs with Christ just like they are.

I have watched so many people make terrible decisions and mistakes based on what a pastor told them to do and told them it was God. I have heard pastors say things that they said God told them that weren't right. I have watched pastors manipulate and control others. I have seen pastors delve into others lives and tell them how to live when they and their own families do not live according to the Word of God. I have seen pastors that are not men of their word.

Abraham , Noah, Moses and many others somehow managed to make it without a pastor. They actually did what it took to know and communicate with God themselves and they did not even have the Holy Spirit on the inside of them. I do not need a pastor to tell me what God says or what His word says. I do not need to be told how to read and be a doer of the Word of God. I do not need someone to tell me what songs I need to sing to worship God. I am a child of God. I know Him. I am His sheep and I hear His voice and the voice of another I will not follow. I made that mistake for over a decade and I will not make it again.

Abraham, Noah and Moses made it and so will I. I will make it with God. I will make it as the head and not the tail, above and not beneath, I will make it in victory, I will overcome by the blood of the lamb and the word of MY testimony..... Not what a man tells me to do.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Fishers of Men or Fishers of Blessing

In the past few years at my former church a very disturbing question loomed constantly in my mind. Why was the church pastor never preaching or teaching about reaching the lost? Why were there no discipleship programs? Why was everyone who did not have the evidence of God's "blessing" in their lives looked upon as having no faith, or not doing the Word? Why was it the wealthy and prominent that were the focus?

One day during church we were singing some old songs about what Jesus had done for us and what victory we had. The pastor had made it common knowledge that he never liked the new worship songs such as Hillsongs and others like that. Suddenly I realized something. He only liked songs that talked about what he had, what his inheritance was and what he could have because of the cross. That was it! He wasn't interested in songs of adoration to the Father, adoration of Jesus, songs of surrender, or songs about crucifying the flesh. He wanted to sing about what he could have and what he could get and what he could do because of his authority.

I began to realize that all our teaching was about what we could get or have. Never about the majority of things that Jesus actually taught during his ministry. Nor about the majority of things Paul wrote to the church about. Any teaching was turned to warn ME and what I could attain or overcome. Never was it about others. Don't get me wrong, others were mentioned, but the teaching basically centered around "me".

I remember that Jesus said that He would make us "fishers of men". I realized that it had been over a decade since there was anything taught regularly in the church that could qualify as being a teaching on how to be fishers of men. It was taught that when we have money and nice things then it would draw others to Jesus. The Bible does NOT teach that. It is the way we treat others and the love we show that draws people to Jesus. It is how we act when we have been treated wrongly by others that draws people to Jesus. It is the things we do for others with the love of God evident in it that draws people to Jesus. Not our money or what we have.

It became evident to me that the church was totally focused on fishing for blessings and not men.
I believe that the deceitfulness of riches has replaced the burden for the lost in many of our churches. I have decided to be a part of a church that is full of fishers of men and not fishers of blessings. I know that as I seek first the kingdom of that God will bless me without me spending my time and effort seeking those blessings.