{gasp!} How Dare You Judge Me!

“You can’t say that! We’re not supposed to judge!”

Isn’t it strange how people who arrogantly dismiss what God has to say about their lifestyle, are so quick to tell you what {they think} He says about “judging”!

They say it with a look of in-credulousness that you as a professing Christian would dare violate such a “basic tenant of the faith”!

“”Do not judge, or you too will be judged!” is thrown at you triumphantly, an arrow proven to be a powerful one because most Christians want to be loving and kind. They have no interest in making enemies but they do want to stand for Jesus.

How many times have you had the wind taken out of your sails with that lie? And that’s what it is, just another lie, an effective arrow from the enemy’s arsenal.

The verse quoted is from Matt 7 of course. But Jesus isn’t forbidding us to judge. He is saying we have no grounds to judge, IF we are guilty of the same.

There is a process to judging correctly, but judge correctly we must!

“You hypocrite, FIRST take the plank out of your own eye, and THEN you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” If you don’t have a plank in your own eye, you have permission to say what Jesus says about the matter. Not quarrel, but firmly stand on the truth of scripture as revealed by the Holy Spirit. Not man’s opinion of scripture.

How to go about removing a plank? Judge ourselves first.

Some examples…I should not rebuke a person who is in open sexual sin if I am secretly into porn. I should not instruct a thief in righteousness if I drive the company car and use their gas to run my errands {assuming it’s against company policy}. I should not correct a liar if I falsely blame others for my mistakes, etc….

A hypocrite’s words have no power, so lets remove planks if we have any, and speak! We are responsible to boldly speak forth truth in our generation to the world around us, and that includes the church!

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Peace On Earth

“Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division.” Jesus, Luke 12:51.  Or…

“Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.” Jesus, Matt 10:34

Then He goes on to explain further that a person’s worst enemies can turn out to be even his closest family, friends and “Christian” ties.

How does this reconcile with the vision of peace and utopia for Christians? A Christian world where everybody is accepted and we all affirm each other and get along just peachy?

A Christian world view where the believer who, {just as an example}, has convictions that sin should still be actively avoided by those who profess Him, and dares to say so, is tagged as one who is “operating in a wrong attitude and/or spirit of legalism”. Because the goal is to have peace between men at any cost.

Peace, in spite of beliefs that conflict with scripture, error, and downright false teaching becomes the proof we have finally got this Christianity thing right, by George! To have enemies means a lack of “holy Christian love”.

Enter the sword.

 And all nations will hate you because you are my followers. But everyone who endures to the end will be saved. Jesus, Matt. 10:22

Jesus did not come to put people at odds with each other, it is the Sword that does that.

The sword cuts between light and darkness, truth and lies, good and evil and it is just getting ramped up. It started a long time ago and it will continue to increase.  It will culminate in a great end time battle shortly in which the enemy of our souls will get his.

Jesus came to bring peace between God and man. To bring satisfaction to the requirements of death for sin.

Peace to your conscience when you forsake that which you are instructed by Him to forsake. And take on that which you are instructed to take on.

But not peace between all men.

Posted in encouragement for the Body, false gospels, institutionalizing the church, kingdom principles | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

Fear of the Lord

The Fear of the Lord

I decided to try doing a study on the Fear of the Lord.

In today’s church era of “Freedom and Grace” with dubious explanations of what Biblical freedom and grace actually are, it seems when I mention the Fear of the Lord it is usually met with resistance and fears of “Legalism and Law”. But there is a lot of scripture on the subject, both Old and New.

I must confess when I started the study I was almost overwhelmed by the sheer and vast number of scriptures on the subject. It is obviously not a side issue or a minor note with God. I believe I can safely say that, based on the amount of scripture He has dedicated to it.

So I decided to narrow this writing down to just scriptures from the books of Psalms and Proverbs. Not because they have the most scriptures on the subject, they don’t. The main reason I chose them is because they have clear and concise quotes that can not easily be misunderstood.

The following is only a portion of the scriptures concerning the Fear of the Lord mentioned in Psalms and Proverbs and a very small representation of the Fear of the Lord from the scriptures as a whole.

I do acknowledge it is rather lengthy, but it is all scripture and I double-dog dare you to actually read it! And I hope it helps you draw closer to the Father.

A. What is the Fear of the Lord?

1.To fear the LORD is to hate evil; I hate pride and arrogance, evil behavior and perverse speech. Pro. 8:13

2.The fear of the LORD is pure, enduring forever. The decrees of the LORD are firm, and all of them are righteous. Ps. 19:9

3.The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; sound understanding belongs to those who practice it. Praise of God endures forever. Ps.111:10

4.The fear of the LORD is the foundation of true knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline. Pro. 1:7

5.The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. Pro. 9:10

6.The fear of the LORD teaches wisdom, and humility precedes honor. Pro. 15:33

7.By lovingkindness and truth iniquity is atoned for, And by the fear of the LORD one keeps away from evil. Pro. 16:6

B. Benefits for those who Fear the Lord

1.Come and hear, all you who fear God; let me tell you what he has done for me. Ps. 66:16

2.The LORD confides in those who fear him; he makes his covenant known to them. Ps. 25:14

3.The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them. Ps. 34:7

4.But the eyes of the LORD are on those who fear him, on those whose hope is in his unfailing love, Ps. 33:18

5.But for those who fear you, you have raised a banner to be unfurled against the bow. Ps. 60:4

6.Surely his salvation is near those who fear him, that his glory may dwell in our land. Ps. 85:9

7.For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; Ps. 103:11

8.As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him; Ps. 103:13

9.But from everlasting to everlasting the LORD’s love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children’s children Ps. 103:17

10.He provides food for those who fear him; he remembers his covenant forever. Ps. 111:5

11.He fulfills the desires of those who fear him; he hears their cry and saves them. Ps. 145:19

12.The LORD delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love. Ps. 147:11

13.The fear of the LORD adds length to life, but the years of the wicked are cut short. Pro. 10:27

14.Whoever fears the LORD has a secure fortress, and for their children it will be a refuge. Pro. 14:26

15.The fear of the LORD tendeth to life: and he that hath it shall abide satisfied; he shall not be visited with evil. Pro. 19:23

16.The reward of humility and the fear of the LORD Are riches, honor and life. Pro. 22:4

17.Fear the LORD, you his holy people, for those who fear him lack nothing. Ps. 34:9

18.You who fear him, trust in the LORD– he is their help and shield. Ps. 115:11

19.He will bless those who fear the LORD– small and great alike. Ps. 115:13

20.The fear of the LORD is a fountain of life, turning a person from the snares of death. Pro. 14:27

C. What should be our response to the Fear of the Lord?

1.Do not let your heart envy sinners, but always be zealous for the fear of the LORD. Pro. 23:17

2.Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD and shun evil. Pro. 3:7

3.I am a friend to all who fear you, to all who follow your precepts. Ps. 119:63

4.Serve the LORD with fear and celebrate his rule with trembling. Ps. 2:11

5.Let all the earth fear the LORD; let all the people of the world revere him. Ps. 33:8

6.Let those who fear the LORD say: “His love endures forever.” Ps. 118:4

7.You who fear the LORD, praise him! All you descendants of Jacob, honor him! Revere him, all you descendants of Israel! Ps. 22:23

D. God’s warning to those who do not Fear the Lord.

1.Of David the servant of the LORD. I have a message from God in my heart concerning the sinfulness of the wicked: There is no fear of God before their eyes. Ps. 36:1

2.God, who is enthroned from of old, who does not change– he will hear them and humble them, because they have no fear of God. Ps. 55:19

3.Then they will call upon me, but I will not answer; they will seek me diligently but will not find me. Because they hated knowledge and did not choose the fear of the LORD, Pro. 1:28-29

E. God’s willingness to teach us the Fear of the Lord.

1.Come, my children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the LORD. Ps. 34:11

2.Teach me your way, LORD, that I may rely on your faithfulness; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. Ps. 86:115.

3.My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you, turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding–indeed, if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God. Pro. 2:1-5

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What is a “Usurp Authority Over her Husband” kind of Woman?

What does a “usurp authority” woman look like? I’m not sure any of us really know, even those who are constantly warning us about the dangers of this somewhat unidentifiable person. We are thrown elusive hints and innuendos about questionable behaviour to look for, as a means to help identify her.

From what we are taught most of the time, she seems to resemble ‘Rosie the Riveter’, flexing her sizable muscles as she throws her weight around and runs roughshod over a husband who can’t rein her in. Taking charge, running the show and generally making a fool of herself while he and a paralyzed congregation stand by, seemingly helpless to stop her.

Let me assure you, there are scores of women in the body of Christ who are absolutely terrified of being labelled a “usurper of authority” over their husbands. They live in fear of the humiliation and shame that accompanies  such a verdict being handed down from their peers. It effects every thing they say and do in the church setting.

{In some circles, of course, any woman who preaches or has a leadership role is labelled as “usurping authority” over her husband. That is not where I want to focus. Those folks are entitled to their opinion but this post is not for them.}

No, I want to address those who have spiritual understanding in this area and know that there is neither male nor female in the Spirit. And consequently there is neither male nor female in the work of the Spirit either. It is as the Holy Spirit wills.

As examples of women who do not usurp authority over their husbands, we are often pointed toward prominent ministers like Joyce Myers.  We are further assured that since she has her husbands blessing, approval and permission to preach and teach, she is operating within the will of God.

This subtly or not so subtly lets the ladies know they will need their husbands permission to pursue a similar course, should the Lord put it on their heart to do so.

I have several questions. The first one is, what do you say to a teenage girl who says “I would rather never get married then to worry about having to get my husbands permission and approval to do the will of God.”

The second one is, what do you say when that same girl asks, “If I have to have my husbands permission to do the will of God, why doesn’t he have to have mine?”

The third one, again I need an answer for the same young girl, “Why do I have to ‘adjust to and support his calling’ but he has to ‘give me permission’ to operate in mine?”

Last but not least, this young girls conclusion. “Something ain’t right about that and I don’t believe it! Nor do I receive it.”

I couldn’t have said it better. Or asked better questions. And quoting a friend, “What’s good for the goose is good for the gander!”

Anyone who has done the most general of studies on the subject will know to “usurp authority” simply means “to dominate“. Why do we keep warning women about the evils of dominating her husband in this context? In the context of doing something for the Lord?

And why have I never, in thirty years of church life, heard a sermon on the evils of a husband dominating his wife while “doing ministry”?

We have a hierarchy mindset in the church that is very much like the class system in other nations that we Americans find so horrifying. This ungodly class system is considered “normal” in Christian marriages as well as the church establishment.

To do what God puts in their hearts to do, lay people are taught they need approval from clergy and wives are taught they need approval from husbands. Instead, husbands and wives should be encouraged and taught to seek the will of the Lord as one will for the two of them and submit to that will as one unit.

I believe it is wrong to presume any of us have the right to give another person “permission” to do the will of God. I say that isn’t “normal” Christianity at all.

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in which we are linking you up to other bloggers

Below, we are linking you up to some other bloggers that will either challenge your thinking or affirm it. But no matter what, dig, dig, dig. Test what we are saying, test what others are saying. But whatever you do, search out truth on the matter. Step aside centuries old traditions, doctrines, and man made additions and find out for yourself what the Spirit is saying.

1. What are the “offices” of church? Before you go hook, line, sinker with pastors that swear they {have authority} over you, well, you might want to do your homework here at Paul Burleson’s.

2. So you are pretty sure you know all about that ol’ tithing thing.  Maybe you disagree with us here at eatinglocusts on that one, but you might wanta look here at Wade Burelson post where he talks about those veiled and not so veiled threats from the pulpit aimed right us .

3. If you’ve been wondering about all this spiritual “covering” stuff, Cheryl Schatz tells it like we see it. The more we dig in finding support for this “covering” in scripture, the more we are convinced of it’s absolute wrongness.

4. So many times we see it, or  have been the perpetrators ourselves, pastor-idol-worship. You know what I’m talking about, the we-need-this-pastor-more-than-he-needs-to-go-and-save-his-marriage, idol. I personally know of this happening, where the pastor is more important to a church than he is to his own family, perpetrated by the people, no less. They {congregants} “need” him. So excuse me if I get a little heated under the collar on that one and that’s why Jon Zen’s article on a mega-church pastor falling is included. My 2cents on this is: “The congregants turned the preacher man into a Jesus-man, the preacher man accepted the position, and the devil laughed.

5. If you don’t like name-dropping, sniffing out possible wolves by name, and warning the sheep with a big ol’ bullhorn, well then, you won’t wanta read anything at the FBC Jax Watchdogs. No sirree. Stay far, far, far away because you might just learn something that will burst your bubble. But if you do venture over, I guarantee you, you will not be bored. Promise.

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Church Leadership, or what leadership is not!

I no longer consider someone to be a “church leader” simply because they hold a title or position, whether it be the position of pastor, deacon, or head of ministry etc… In fact, I believe many “leaders” today are self appointed leaders to self created positions.

I do have some friends that I would call “leaders”. They are humble and love the Lord. When I look at them I can safely say they have what it takes to be an example for other people. They have the capability to inspire and teach. Their character, lifestyles and desire to seek Jesus and His righteousness are good examples to follow, therefore I consider them to be “leaders” in the Kingdom.

Many people in the church world might consider my “leader” friends ineffective and unimpressive. They can’t whip up a big crowd or produce a big budget. My friends don’t have huge followings, in fact some of them could even be labelled as ‘loners’. However, that puts them in good company considering Jesus Himself would be considered ineffective, unimpressive and a loner by today’s church leadership standards. He was considered a failure by the “church” of His day.

But I digress.

Today I would like to write a bit concerning how I came to this conclusion of “leadership” or rather, this conclusion of what leadership is not! A little something personal about myself.  Including why I have developed an automatic reaction that I call the Turtle Routine when a so called “leader” crosses my path in life.

Definition of my Turtle Routine is as follows:
*Pull into my shell and cautiously peep out, thereby preventing my head from getting stomped on and giving no opportunity to have my neck severed.

*Taking some time to assess the situation before I make a move and cross the road just because everyone else does.

*A significant lack of confidence that many “leaders” are what they profess to be.

I have been contemplating recently on some of my personal experiences with some “church leaders” and came up with a rather grim series of events that spans about 30 years of walking with the Lord. I have listed some of them below.

First, I grew up Amish and was “excluded” from that church and it’s leaders when the Lord gave me revelation and I experienced the new birth that included a radical change in my life. In their opinion I was operating in pride and sin because I left the church. They felt I was deceived to believe I could be put right with God by repentance and faith in Jesus Christ alone.

In all seriousness I must say, I was not without fault in some of my responses during the events I’m sharing in this post. In this particular one, it certainly didn’t make it easier for me when I quite boldly told them I didn’t believe they knew the Lord they professed to serve.

I had to come out.

From there I became a member of another church in that area that was comprised of many ex-Amish. I had that privilege taken away when I insisted on being rebaptised as a believer. I didn’t regard my  baptism in the Amish for the purpose of becoming a church member, as a truly scriptural baptism. The leaders in this church were hesitant because they didn’t want to insult the Amish and insinuate by rebaptism that Amish baptism wasn’t a “sufficient baptism”.

I’m sure having my membership taken away from this church had a lot to do with the fact that after months of stonewalling on their part I gave them an ultimatum. I informed them I hadn’t changed my mind about being rebaptised and if they wouldn’t accommodate me, I would find someone else that would. I was labelled as rebellious. And I did end up having to find someone else to baptise me. So I left.

The third event came after moving to another state where I became a part of an exciting new non-denominational church consisting of many new converts who had come out of dead religion. Coming out of death with grave clothes still hanging on and an unwillingness to part with some of those grave clothes, like inflated egos and power trips.

While attending there I began to receive revelation and spiritual understanding of scripture and to see that God uses women in ministry as well as men and that women are equal to men in His eyes. Furthermore, I was beginning to feel He wanted to use me.

Eventually  I was labeled “a Jezebel” and told I needed to leave or they would be forced to close the doors of the church! I was informed I had such a powerful and negative “Jezebel effect” on the preachers there, that they were essentially paralyzed and unable to preach if I was in the room!  I could have called their bluff and stayed to see if they really would close the doors of their newly remodeled church building. But I didn’t do that. I left.

Again, I’m sure my situation wasn’t helped by the fact that I left some pamphlets in the leader’s mailboxes, presenting argument from scripture that suggested they were the ones that were actually operating in the spirit of Jezebel, not me!

Number four, moving on to a third state where I attended a Prosperity/Faith camp Bible School for a year.

After I had been there for some time I started to receive merciful revelation and understanding of scripture that I thank God for! I came to understand that taking money from the people for “the ministry” and drawing exorbitant salaries from that money to fund very extravagant lifestyles was not pleasing to God.

Through a personal experience He made it abundantly clear to me that He would judge them for their greed and I didn’t want to be a part of that judgement and eventually I left.

By this time I had a little wisdom and I didn’t issue any ultimatums or leave any pamphlets when I left. But I have continued to be vocal about the error I see in the Prosperity/Faith doctrine.

Next, I felt the Lord was leading me back to the state I was born in and where I had started from. I needed a break so I began attending a mainline denominational church where I could sit on the back pew and do the token one hour Sunday morning ritual for a while. That pew got very uncomfortable as I started to learn a little bit of the history there. That along with the constant push from headquarters with their annual vote ‘to accept or not to accept’ homosexuals in the pulpit, made it difficult.

The Free Mason influence was very strong in the church and among its members. But we were assured from the pulpit on a regular basis that God loves, loves, loves everybody and ungodly lifestyles and unscriptural beliefs didn’t seem to be a big deal. In fact, it was all about love, love, love and acceptance. And then more love! And more acceptance.

I couldn’t take it any more and moved on.

The latest and my most recent encounter with “church leadership” came while attending a local non-denominational church that claimed to be ‘Spirit filled’. After attending there for a short time I felt led to encourage the congregation on several occasions to repent of sin.

Soon I started to feel invisible daggers, you know, the ones where you can feel the coldness even though the faces are smiling?

The messages there were about a wonderful ‘new revelation of grace’ that in reality has all the ear marks of the scriptural definition for lawlessness.

In the meantime, I was privately labelled a ‘legalistic law preacher’ by the powers that be. Their diagnosis of my problem was; I did not fully understand freedom nor the grace of God because I was raised in legalism . I keenly felt the cold shoulder of un-fellowship so once again I left.

About six months later the front page of the local newspaper headlines read, “Local Pastor charged with Child Solicitation”.

It was him. He had been involved with an under age girl in the congregation and got caught. And to my indignation and dismay, it had started during the time I was attending that church.

Needless to say, these experiences have opened my eyes concerning “leaders” in the church today!

I am in no way suggesting God doesn’t appoint leaders in the Body of Christ. Scripture is quite clear He does. Nor am I saying that every “leader” in the respective churches or denominations I’ve mentioned in this post are bad people. Many love the Lord and serve Him. But the reality is, too many of the  compromising on exalted pedestals of “leadership” today, bear little resemblance to Jesus Christ.

I was contemplating on all this and it has moved me to rejoice in the faithfulness of God! His faithfulness to bring me out and bring me through and keep me!

He who said “Follow me…” He is my Leader!

Posted in false gospels, institutionalizing the church, kingdom principles, liberty and sacrifice, spititual abuse, wolves and falsehood in church | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

the way we still spurn God today

Even though Jesus tore the veil in the Temple by His death and Resurrection, man busily re-erects the veil in various forms. With subtle (and not so subtle) ways, the painstaking process of re-building that broken down temple hasn’t stopped.

I’ve come to realize this about the church. And I’m not referring only to the institutional ones that depend on buildings and 501c’s, but also the homegrown ones too.

It’s a rare commodity to find others who are willing to wean themselves off the old (Testament) priesthood.

Either someone believes they are the priest for you (usually called “pastors” where they rule over you in some fashion) or there is the rest (of the “laymen”) who find it easier and simpler to sit under a priest/pastor (rather than enter in through the torn curtain).

It is one thing to be on the look out for wolves, false doctrines, or plain problem solving (“elder”ing or “bishop”ing); or teaching sound doctrine in a dialogue fashion  (“pastor”ing) vs. a monologue one man show, but it is quite another thing to place yourself (spoken or unspoken) in a superior position above believers. This leads to all kinds of control, whether open control or manipulating it behind the scenes. But rest assured, this ultimately leads to controlling the Holy Spirit’s influence among their “congregants”.

Because that would be crazy to let believers loose and operate freely by the Spirit, right?

I  mean, what if a “baby” Christian went off on a zinger? What if someone spouted off some cuckoo alien-abducting doctrine? No way Hosea, can they open their mouths!

So leave the talking only to the mature, thank you very much, and keep all the others silent, right?

Except sharing our faith, as Spirit-led, leads to edification not only to the hearer but the speaker as well. So that “baby” Christian gets extra heaping spoonfuls when speaking. And that cuckoo theology isn’t scary when the Holy Spirit counsels each and every one of us about Him.

How much more growth happens when His people are loosed!

Now it is true if I visit a church building, I expect the typical hierarchy of things to be in place. But at least it’s in the open there. Rather I agree with it or not, my relationship with the Lord is not dependent on the pastor or the elders who have been placed over people in that building.

My agreement or disagreement with of a type of church “king” does not mean that I am worthy or un-worthy of attendance. If I go, I go to worship Jesus.

His love is what unites. Not a uniformity requiring we have exactly the same beliefs or the same theology.

But I also see the pendulum swing the other way. Where church-goers are quite content to volunteer for those programs, sit in the pews, go umpteen hours in work for the Lord, and yet not enter their own personal worship or relationship with Him. They throw their money into the coffers called a “tithe” and think this is what it means to be a Christian.

And there’s this false idea that dedication to God looks like this: “Despite the odds and the grumpiness this Sunday morning, we made it to the church service.”

God doesn’t care about how well we attend or how often. What He cares about are hearts, ones personally communing with Him.

Not our hours of work dedicated to Him. No!

He wants us.  Not our pet projects, not our volunteerism, not our service attendance, not our getting to church on time without snapping at one of our kids, not our good behavior, not our latest Christian conference attendance, and not the latest Bible study group we just joined.

He want us. All of who we are.

And we know “all” is a big word. It changes everything because it’s more than some salvation prayer.

But the truth is, many times we love our life more than losing it to Jesus.

I’m reminded of the mountain where God, Himself, called His people to come up and be with Him. And after doing all the things required to do before going up, when it came right down to it, they refused.

  So Moses went back and summoned the elders of the people and set before them all the words the Lord had commanded him to speak. The people all responded together, “We will do everything the Lord has said.” So Moses brought their answer back to the Lord.  The Lord said to Moses, “I am going to come to you in a dense cloud, so that the people will hear me speaking with you and will always put their trust in you.” Then Moses told the Lord what the people had said.

 On the morning of the third day there was thunder and lightning, with a thick cloud over the mountain, and a very loud trumpet blast. Everyone in the camp trembled. Then Moses led the people out of the camp to meet with God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain. Mount Sinai was covered with smoke, because the Lord descended on it in fire. The smoke billowed up from it like smoke from a furnace, and the whole mountain trembled violently.” Exodus 19 (7-9; 16-18)

The “doing” part did not scare them. Doing this or that part, did not require their life. The less risky part is the act of “doing”, the life-threatening part begins when it means death. 

Many a Christian is willing to love Jesus so long as He is their one way ticket out of Hell. Or they are willing to bring Him along their life, living it the way they want to live it. Or wrapping Him up into some smart sounding theology full of historical data and scriptural knowledge, all the while devoid of any life by the Holy Spirit.

When it came time to go up the mountain, when it trembled something fierce, when they feared for their very own life, they turned down God’s offer. “No, we will stay right here at the foot of this mountain. We won’t budge one big toe in that scary direction! But we got good ol’ Moses here, he will go for us!” 

When the people saw the thunder and lightning and heard the trumpet and saw the mountain in smoke,they trembled with fear. They stayed at a distance  and said to Moses, “Speak to us yourself and we will listen. But do not have God speak to us or we will die. Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid. God has come to test you, so that the fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning.”  The people remained at a distance, while Moses approached the thick darkness where God was. Exodus 20:18-21

In essence, we love our lives more than we love fellowship with You, God.  “Besides, it’s too hard to do it. We prefer Moses (or a pastor) doing that kind of work and he can give us the God stuff down here.”

God was spurned there at the foot of that mountain.

How many times do we still do that today? How many men do we send up to go and get the “word”? How many times have we gone to the Sunday morning thing, then Sunday night thing, then Wednesday night, only to count that as our “work” for the Lord? And how many times have we sat idle without turning one page or entering one prayer or thinking one  thought about Him the rest of the days in between?

How many times are we content to sit in the pew or chair while someone else preaches and we consider that going up the mountain? Is that not just a Moses bringing the word back? Nothing wrong with Moses, but we too are called up the mountain to hear Him speak!

We must also have our own time. We too, need His voice, to enter that thick darkness where fear for our earthly lives may test and try us!

He speaks to us individually if we are willing to listen and willing to die to this flesh thingChrist not only died on the cross for our sins; but also He was showing us the way we must live, by dying to sin and self.

Despite the foreshadowing here in Exodus 19 & 20 of Moses being a Christ, we still have a New Testament church wanting to send a man, some other man (or woman) besides ourselves, who will speak the things of God instead of entering that terrible and trembling mountain.

Today, the Old Covenant is alive and well in practice. The “priests” enter the “holy of holies” for their congregants. They bring the word back to a people who continue to stand at the foot of the mountain and keep their distance.

And we wonder: where is the maturity? What’s wrong with the congregations? Or what’s awry with the pastors? Why are pastors “burned out” and congregants apathetic?

I believe it’s both the system (a pastor-dependency) and a people quite cozy-n-comfortable at doing their part from afar. Which leads to a vicious cycle of: milkers (pastors) and milk-ees (congregants) and no meat (maturity).

~~tammy

Posted in church and the Holy Spirit, encouragement for the Body, institutionalizing the church, liberty and sacrifice, spititual abuse | 2 Comments

{Guest Post} Are Amercian Christians called to be political

Once again, the younger generation speaks. Paz delves into the political arena with thought provoking and personally convicting words about American election. Not that voting in of itself is wrong, but rather the dogmatic American ideology of the process. I was challenged by her words as I’m sure you will be too.

The American Presidential election is a only a few short weeks away. And each Sunday, ministers all over the country are exhorting their congregates to get out and vote to insert a reason (uphold religious freedom/against abortion/support God’s cause, etc.)

The average evangelical churchgoer is often made to feel they are failing God if they don’t vote.  They are not being “salt and light”, they aren’t “holding back the enemy”, they are failing to “pull America back from the brink”.

Every four years, laboring ministers do their best to whip a heavy, creaking institution up to enough speed for a mighty collision with the political powers.  Kind of like two medieval knights jousting.  The impact, if the church ever built up enough steam they say, would be spectacular.

Many Christians get starry-eyed at the thought of the church becoming a powerful political force in her own right, a Christian “enforcer” of sorts.

So, is this right?  Are Christians required by God, by their mandate to be “salt and light”, to be politically active?

Last week, late Sunday morning, I was sitting in a living room, talking with a small group of people, and the subject happened to turn to America.

One man started talking about how American Christians have the responsibility of saving America.  He believes that God favors America and wants to bless her, but Christians have to step up to the plate.  We have to stand on our covenant, that America is absolutely still a Christian nation, and that President Obama was most certainly wrong to say otherwise!

When I first heard what President Obama said (in 2009 in a Turkish press conference) that “we [Americans] do not consider ourselves a Christian nation,” my spirit quickened and the Holy Spirit brought to mind Caiaphus, the high priest of Jesus’ day. 

 

John 11:47-52 records that Caiaphus prophesied Jesus’ death.  “Now this he did not say on his own; but being high priest that year he prophesied”. It was because of the position he held that the Spirit prophesied through him, not because he was a prophet, or even a godly man. 

 

I believe Obama’s statement was prophetic.  And this isn’t the first time I have felt he has (unknowingly) made prophetic statements over our nation.  Such ability to prophesy has nothing to do with Obama the person; it has everything to do with Obama the President.  Many presidents, kings/queens, and prime ministers throughout history have been led to prophesy simply because of their position.

So, if America does not consider herself a Christian nation, what does that mean for the Christians?  What is our responsibility?

I started out by examining Jesus’ life on earth.  Keep in mind, Jesus lived in a very politically volatile society.  There were the Jewish Temple politicians, the Pharisees and Sadducee s and their government.   There was the monarchy of (evil) Judean kings and their government.   There were the Jewish rebel factions fighting a guerrilla war for their various beliefs.  And over all of this, trying to keep everything from flying apart, was the mighty Roman empire, the Caesar.  There were Roman governors, Roman military, and of course, Roman tax collectors.

Each group had its own political agenda, with plenty of infighting and shaky alliances between them.  The situation was so bad the first thought Jesus’ followers had was, “He has finally come to set things straight! Hallelujah!”  They were confused and disappointed when Jesus told them, “My kingdom is not of this world”.

In fact, in spite of the political situation around him, Jesus never preached politics.  Instead, he stayed focused on his mission – the advancement of the kingdom of God.  The transient kingdoms of this world were not Jesus’ (or any of the Apostles’) focus.

Some argue that Jesus wasn’t politically involved because he couldn’t vote.  By contrast, we should be because we can.

Nothing Jesus did showed him to be a person careful of his public image.  He was an extremely bold and controversial figure in his day.  He could have exhorted people to rise up against the evil government.  Many expected him to.  But he didn’t.  He preached the kingdom of God, the truths of repentance,  righteousness, holiness, and justice.  His message was to the individual heart, not the government.

The problem today is that too many in church are Americans first and Christians second. 

As a nation, Americans are quite egocentric.  I read a good newspaper editorial recently that pointed this out.  For example, if talks break down between two middle-eastern nations, we immediately ascribe it to something our President did or didn’t do.  If a nation experiences social turbulence, we immediately credit American influence at some level.    We tend to see everything that happens on the international stage as developments of decisions we have made, policies we have enacted, stands we have taken, videos we have posted to YouTube.

While America does have world influence, I don’t believe it is any longer as great as many Americans assume.

Now, just wipe that foam off your mouth.  I am not an anti-patriot.  But this idea that we as a nation are so important, so powerful, indispensable to the world and to God, is nothing more than pride.

Just as God is no respecter of persons, I believe He is no respecter of nations.  It is those who fear Him and work righteousness who are accepted by Him.  America does not get some type of “free pass” simply because of her godly origins.  The only nation that could possibly make a Biblical case for any sort of special consideration in God’s eyes would be Israel.

I bring all this up to point out how this egocentricity of American culture has been carried right into the American church pew and made itself at home.

American Christians mistakenly believe that not only are most world events ultimately  developments of this nation’s actions, but also most national events are developments of the church’s actions –  results of something the church is or is not doing right.

Christians pray, they vote, they fight, all to uphold this struggling society on God’s behalf.  They lament when ungodly men and women take office because they blame ungodly laws for corrupting the land.  But I take a different view.  Wicked governments do not make wicked nations, wicked nations make wicked governments. 

It is not about a battle for righteous laws, it is about righteous hearts.  

I thank the Lord for those believers He has called into political office and activity.  I thank Him for all those He has appointed to administer justice and hold back evil for the sake of His name and His people.  But God is not depending on American believers to save the USA any more than he depends on Iraqi or Saudi or Chinese believers to save their respective nations.

And I don’t believe God holds America in some special esteem;  He loves His peopleIt doesn’t matter which geographical nation your body lives in; when you were born again you became a citizen of “a holy nation, a peculiar people.”  That is the nation He loves. 

So, back to the original question.  Do Christians have a spiritual obligation to vote?

In this, as in everything, you are to be led by the Holy Spirit.  He may tell you to vote.  At other times He may not.  Seek Him to find out.  Be salt and light as the Lord directs.  And never make the mistake of assuming that just because someone ungodly takes office and a nation suffers judgment that God’s hand is not in it.

God cares about the affairs of men, and He does intervene when called upon; but He is no more interested in establishing a human government on the earth right now than he was in Jesus’ day.  His kingdom is not of this world.  He blesses the nations and individuals who follow His ways and judges those who don’t.  But neither choice affects His sovereignty, or the ultimate success of His purposes, in the slightest.

Regardless of what happens in the American political arena, stay focused on the kingdom you are an eternal citizen of, the kingdom of God.  Work to advance that kingdom.  Everything else is just temporary.

Posted in church and the Holy Spirit, church as a Bride, Guest post, kingdom principles, the younger generation speaks | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

monologue-only vs. dialogue, a New Testament look at “preaching”/”teaching”

In my many years of being part of the home based organic church fellowship, one of the areas I’ve struggled with involved the meetings of New Testament believers (and non-believers) in the Synagogues.

From studying on it, I’ve discovered a few things.

One, God never told the Old Testament priests to build synagogues, but to build a Temple. Very specific directions were given and the Temple was built. Synagogues, to my understanding, were designed to read and study scriptures (which in turn developed into a place of worship, of sorts). 

Second, the Pharisees were the ones who ruled the synagogues and added all kinds of human traditions which in turn became “law” (not the law of Moses, but additional “law”s enforced by the Pharisees). Third, Paul was found “preaching” and “teaching” many times in these places (synagogues) so would that constitute a modern day traditional/institutional church service? 

In understanding scripture, I’ve found it critical in also understanding cultural influences and also examining the original language (or root/origin of words) used in scripture, much to my dismay. I’m not an analytical person, quite the opposite. I like broad and big pictures, not details and small brush strokes. Give me the whole thing in one big swipe, not lots of little things that lead to an end result.

But with God, all things are possible. Bear with me as the big picture comes into focus.

Paul often preached in Synagogues and even one time “preached” so long in a home that someone fell out the window and died.

Getting to the technical side, let’s clear a path here. Don’t let the Greek cause you to glaze over with all it’s definitions (about the time when my mind would get mushy), but instead, I challenge you to look at it in light of what we consider “preaching”  or “pastor-led” in today’s church.

Something will begin to appear that differs from our modern pew (or contemporary chair) sitting of a pulpit congregation.

And upon the first day of the week when the disciples came together to break bread Paul preached unto them ready to depart on the morrow and continued his speech until midnight. And there were many lights in the upper chamber where they were gathered together” Acts 20:7,8

Not all versions say he “preached”. Others say he “talked” or such. But regardless, we know it was a long night. What was interesting is that the Greek origin of this “preached” comes from Strong’s #1256, dialegomai. In versions such as NAS or INT the word used is “talking” and “talked” from the similar Greek, dielegeto also spelled dialegeto (another form of Strong’s #1256). This word also happens to be the root of our English word, dialogue. Below, I’ve highlighted some of the areas for emphasis from “preach” or “teach” from its original Greek definition:

  • Dialegomai- Strong’s definition: verb, to converse, argue, reason, preach; HELPS Word-Studies: (from 1223 /dia, “through, from one side across to the other,” which intensifies 3004 /lego, “speaking to a conclusion”)- “getting a conclusion across” by exchanging thoughts (logic)—“mingling thought with thought, to ponder”; usually of believers exercising “dialectical reasoning”. This is a process of giving and receiving information with someone to reach deeper understanding—a going back and forth of thoughts and ideas so people can better know the Lord; NAS Exhaustive Concordance: to discuss, to address, to preach, argued, carrying on a discussion, discussed, discussing, reasoned, reasoning, talking; Thayers STRONGS to converse, discourse with one, argue, discuss, dispute, preach unto, reason with

 

In Acts 20:7-8, Paul’s “preach”ing ‘til midnight would’ve been a discussion-type of meeting with dialogue. That doesn’t mean Paul didn’t do a teaching and it was a random free-for-all.

I believe this would be more like Paul sharing revelations, insights, discussions he’d had previously with other Apostles or Jesus Himself, teaching where there was a lack of knowledge, etc as he discipled them about God’s revealed nature through Jesus Christ.  But none the less, it would  have been an open floor for questions, remarks, shared insights from others, discussion, dialogue, and such by those in attendance for the edification of the hearers.

In fact, according to Paul’s custom, he went to them (in the Synagogues), and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the ScripturesActs 17:2. So this was “Paul’s custom” to “reason” with people, which meant discussion possibly heated ones at that.

Then there are scriptures which have different meanings (from dialegomai) to the “preach” and “teach”  which simply are:

  • didaskoSTRONGS: to teach, to hold discourse with others in order to instruct them, deliver didactic discourses, to be a teacher. There are 97 occurrences usually as “teach” or “taught”, with 16 of them in Acts (1:1, 4:2, 4:18, 5:21, 5:25, 5:28, 5:42, 11:26, 15:1, 15:36, 18:11, 18:25, 20:20, 21:21, 21:28, 28:31)

 

  • kerusso-STRONGS: to proclaim, to herald. Where I’ve seen this used (sometimes as the word “preach”) was in conjunction with evangelizing or presenting the Gospel to unbelievers with 61 occurrences, 8 of them in Acts (9:20, 10:37, 10:42, 15:21, 19:13, 20:25, 28:31); 32 of those occurrences happening in the Gospels

 

  • euangelzomenoi-STRONGS: to bring good news. There are 6 occurrences of this in Acts as “preaching” or “proclaiming” depending on the version of Bible you are using (Acts 5:42, 8:4, 11:20, 14:7, 14:15, 15:35)

Bottom line: both kerusso, euangelzomenoi types of “preach” were primarily to unbelievers or those coming to hear the Gospel for conversion (or for repentance as seen in its use in the Gospels). These were declarations of Good News, but there is no mention in definition that these would be in a monologue format.

In fact, even when Jesus spoke there were discussions going on. Sometimes children interrupted Him to sit on His lap or He would direct His attention to what others were saying while He was teaching (for example the Pharisees grumbling against Him). Jesus even specifically addressed some to engage in conversation with them while He was in a crowd. But it was always done for the glory of God to be manifested.

Besides that, Jesus always taught outside in the streets, along lakes, at the outer courts, but never from inside the Holy of Holies of the Old Testament priests.

Now when Paul wrote his letters to the church, he would write to the entire church (without addressing leaders/elders upfront), but entrusted each individual with the message. For example, he never started his letters: “To the elders of Corinthians, read, teach, and preach these instructions to your people” or, “To the pastors of Galatians, take this letter and advise your people to what I’m saying to you (elders & leaders)..”  

No! He wrote to the church as a whole, encouraging each member to function as the Body with many parts. These operating parts of His Body are a witness to the outpouring of the Spirit on His people. Paul even said, let 2 or 3 speak and “let the others judge” 1 Corinth 14:29, requiring discernment and discussion.

This was to Corinthians! One of the worst abusers of the gifts of the Spirit, so much so that Paul said they looked “out of their mind”.

But Paul did not even tell Corinthians to stop operating in the gifts given by the Spirit and revert to teaching that might resemble a monologue format. Nor have we seen any mention of pastor-led meetings.

Paul also did not discourage dialogue (even though the Corinthians were getting carried away with some of the gifts), nor did he encourage restraint. Instead, he tried to correct the disorder which hindered the edification of the hearers. While also encouraging them to continue in the manifestation of the Spirit evidenced by His outpouring on the gathered believers, for their edification.

Operating as the Body with many parts (whether mature or newly developing in Christ), allows His Spirit to edify us more fully through the many parts, instead of just one or two parts.

Paul even said: “Even so you, since you are zealous for spiritual gifts, let it be for the edification of the church that you seek to excel.” 1 Corinth 14:12 

That is key. It must be for the edification of the whole church, led by the Holy Spirit as He sees fit in each person

When it comes to other believers, baby or mature meeting together, the Spirit teaches them all things for the edification of His Body. Not for miracle sessions to be the focus of the meeting or even the gifts to be the focus, but purely for edification by the Spirit pouring Himself out through others!  

Finally, when it comes to the didasko, dialegomai, dielegeto  “teaching”, “preaching” it would indicate there was discussion, discourse, and dialogue taking place during these “preaching”s and “teaching”s.

My concern when it comes to a predominate monologue fashion of teaching (without much or without any dialogue), is that it creates a dependence on that format (monologue-style teaching). Which in turn, atrophys, stifles and quenches the operation of the Spirit by the Body parts required to sit passively and listen.

More importantly, I do not see scriptural precedence for a monologue format of a small group of gathered believers.

Each has the Holy Spirit and each have been given various talents and gifts for the edification of His Body. So in a traditional, pastor-led monologue service, the Holy Spirit is very limited in operation because He’s only operating through a small number of the Body. That is the staff. The same is true of a small body or group which meets and leans heavily on a monologue-type teaching without room, space, or initiation of dialogue to discuss (or “judge”) the words, psalms, or teachings which arise from the meeting. 

In scripture, I see the Spirit pouring Himself out on all believers for the edification and glorification of Jesus Christ. So whether we meet in small groups, larger ones, or even  more traditional (pastor-led) ones, we must be aware that the Spirit is limited, or not, depending on the allowance of His operation there. Hence, the edification is either small or full and robust depending on the liberty with which we allow Him access in those places.

 

Further Reading:

Church in a Circle: http://www.churchinacircle.com/2012/08/28/the-medium-is-the-message-preaching-in-church-leads-to-preaching-as-outreach/#more-179

Alan Knox’s article: http://www.alanknox.net/2012/07/replay-dialog-during-the-meeting-of-the-church/

 

Posted in church and the Holy Spirit, encouragement for the Body, institutionalizing the church, liberty and sacrifice | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

{Guest Post} testing the spirits–critical; Gifts of the Spirit #3

{There is a younger generation rising up. And with all force of the Holy Spirit they speak boldly. This post is one of those voices crying from the wilderness. To keep from focusing on the writer, this person prefered a new name for the blog. Paz, who is born the first time somewhat reserved; born again as a dedicated temple of an outspoken Holy Spirit. A guest post from Paz}

So, what are the gifts?

First of all, I do not believe Paul’s list to be exhaustive in the sense that the Holy Spirit is confined by it.  I do believe the list broadly covers the various categories of gifts and that within these categories, where people actually minister, there is a wide variety of individual, unique “flavors” expressed by the Holy Spirit.

The expression of a gift through a human being is as unique as everything else about that human being.  Two people may have the same gift, but the nuances of the gift in operation will be different between the two.  All expressions of the gift, however, will be in keeping with the nature of God and the Holy Spirit.

So, the gift list (in a compilation of different scripture translations) is as follows:

  • wise counsel/advice (wisdom)
  • clear understanding (special knowledge)
  • simple trust (great faith)
  • power to heal the sick
  • power to work miracles
  • ability to prophesy (proclaim God’s message to the people)
  • ability to discern whether a message or gift is from the Spirit of God or another spirit (distinguishing/discerning between spirits)
  • ability to speak in strange tongues or unknown languages
  • ability to interpret and explain what is being said in tongues

A perfect church fellowship would have all these gifts operating on equal footing, with equal respect and freedom, among the various members.  Living and fellowshipping in this ideal way  would result in a complete and perfect image of Christ, whose Body we are.

The beauty of God’s design is that each member is necessary.  No one gift is “more important” than another.  I love how The Message translation puts this:

           

            “No matter how significant you are, it is only because of what you are a part of.  An enormous eye or a gigantic hand wouldn’t be a body, but a monster.  . . -the ‘lower’ the part, the more basic, and therefore necessary.  You can live without an eye, for instance, but not without a stomach. . . If anything, you have more concern for the lower parts than the higher.  If you had to choose, wouldn’t you prefer good digestion to full-bodied hair?”   1 Corinthians 12:18-24        

If you see someone “operating in their gift or ministry” and they are proud, arrogant, and walk as if they are more important to the body than you are, it does not take the gift of discernment to realize something is very wrong there.

So far, I know there are at least two general ways to “go wrong,” as it were, in situations and places where the gifts are operating.

In the first case, you can have someone who truly has been anointed by God and gifted by the Holy Spirit in a certain way but the person has gotten slightly “off” in their ministry.  They may be in sin or some error in their life.  This does not mean, however, that the gift originally given to them by the Holy Spirit has been removed.  It has not.   For a time, the person may be able to continue to operate under their anointing and the Lord may continue to minister through them, although possibly in a limited way.

Those with spiritual discernment, especially those with the gift of discernment, will often pick up that something is not quite right and be cautious of the person; they will be lead to take great care and carefully examine everything coming from that person. 

After a time, if the person does not repent, the Lord will withdraw Himself.  The shell of the gift, the natural talents, the charisma, the ability to evoke the same emotional responses that were once real responses to spiritual experiences – all the methods of the gift – may remain, but the lights are out.  The Power is gone. 

To the spiritually undiscerning, everything may look the same.  There may be no change in the natural, the person may continue to operate in their “ministry” without hardly a ripple to indicate any alteration in course.  But in the spirit there is a vast difference.  With their heart hardened by their persistent refusal to listen to the Lord’s correction, this person will abuse whatever traits of the gift that remain and will increasingly veer ever further into error, taking others with them.

In the second case, there are people who operate in a false gift.  It is not given by the Holy Spirit; it is a counterfeit.  There is often, if not always, a wrong spirit attached to such a person and who operates through the false gift.  Contrary to being afraid of believers, this spirit thrives on operating within the church setting, and as high up in a leadership position as it can get itself.  The person is always in considerable pride, although it can be very difficult to perceive because there will often be a front of false humility. 

False humility tends to operate in the opposite of what a person is saying. In other words, for example, they will say, “I do not want to be the leader of this group (of believers) because I’m just another believer like you.”  When in reality, they actually operate within the group by doing the opposite and do most or all of the speaking or teaching. Undiscerning believers, especially young ones, are susceptible to its deception.

Everything about this “gift” or “ministry” will closely mimic the real thing while all the time subtly working against actual Truth.  The wrong spirit will often masquerade as the Holy Spirit, leading the person in error to say such things as, “The Lord told me”, or “The Lord is showing me”, etc.

Again, those with spiritual discernment will be aware that something is “off”, sometimes very much off!  The Holy Spirit is faithful; He does not fail to lead you into all Truth and keep you away from pitfalls and dangers as long as you are willing to be lead Take everything before Him.  He is your only Guide.

Stay with Him, even when it becomes uncomfortable, even when there are those around you who are afraid to go where He is leading you.  For He alone is able to keep you and eventually present you faultless before the throne.

Posted in church and the Holy Spirit, encouragement for the Body, Guest post, institutionalizing the church, kingdom principles, liberty and sacrifice | Tagged , , | 3 Comments