Doctrinal Distinctives: Tithing

Not many areas are as contentious as tithing due to the fact that no other area hits us squarely in our pocketbook as tithing certainly does. We are a self-motivated people and those motivations are seen the clearest when the issue of tithing comes up. It is of the utmost importance that we tackle this subject however because very few areas of the bible have as far-reaching consequences as this area does because God himself has placed an incredibly heavy emphasis on it.

The exact reason why God stressed the tithe so adamantly has been a subject of debate for a long time with men both arguing for and against the tithe. In this teaching, I am not going to attempt to refute every argument; instead I am going to attempt to communicate the revelation that I have gotten on this to you rather than just more information.

The foundation of tithing is found in two places before the giving of the law on Mount Sinai. In Genesis 14, Abraham returns from the Battle of the Kings and gives tithes of all to the priest Melchizedek:

“And he brought back all the goods, and also brought again his brother Lot, and his goods, and the women also, and the people. And the king of Sodom went out to meet him after his return from the slaughter of Chedorlaomer, and of the kings that were with him, at the valley of Shaveh, which is the king’s dale. And Melchizedek king of Salem brought forth bread and wine: and he was the priest of the most high God. And he blessed him, and said, Blessed be Abram of the most high God, possessor of heaven and earth: And blessed be the most high God, which hath delivered thine enemies into thy hand. And he gave him tithes of all.” Genesis 14: 16-20

This is the first evidence of pre-law tithing found in scripture. It also holds consequences for us today in that it is the portion of tithing directly referenced in the New Testament (Heb. 7:5-9). Later we find Jacob making a promise to God that in return for his support, Jacob would give God a tithe of everything (Gen. 28: 20-22). He did not do this as a requirement because Jacob’s life was lived before God gave the law to Israel. But we still see an important theme being played out that supersedes law and that is, God’s people tithe what they owe to God whether they are under the law or apart from law.

Before we go any further, I think that due to the overwhelmingly antinomian attitudes of today’s church, I need to make some distinctions. Firstly, the usage of the term “the law” has to be understood in context. When someone says to you that they “are not under the law”, it would be good to ask them which law they mean exactly. There were three specific divisions of the law; the ceremonial law (gave you righteousness if perfectly followed), the civil law (rules for behavior in Israel) and the moral law (rules for righteous behavior towards others). Out of the three, it was the ceremonial law which Christ fulfilled. The civil law is the foundation of modern law in general and no one in their right mind would argue that we have no need for laws of the land, right? And the moral law was perfectly exhibited in the behavior of Christ and still serves as a guide to our lives and behaviors now.

The antinomian premise that all three aspects of the law were perfectly fulfilled by Christ and imputed to us is just plain dangerous. Should we say that it is okay to murder our neighbor because Christ bore the punishment for murder and has imputed his righteousness to us? Absolutely not.

We say that tithing was not included in the ceremonial law of the Old Testament but was instead a principle falling under the moral law. The reason why we say this is because the moral law is about the duties that we owe to man, as the elect people of God. God has no use for your dollar but he is very interested in your acts of sowing and reaping and your care for others. This is the heart of the commandment to tithe and is the reason why God felt it necessary to tell the people that they had robbed him by not giving what was due (Mal 3:7-12).

Let’s look at the specifics of what tithing was about. Firstly, there were three tithes in the Torah and also the tithe of a tithe, which fell on the priests. The first, called the Lord’s tithe, consisted of the 10% of the harvest that went to support the priests and Levites since they were given no inheritance of land. (Numbers 18:21) Then there was a 2nd tithe on the remaining 90% that the people consumed themselves each year at the Feast of Tabernacles in a nationwide celebration of God’s provision. (Deut. 14:22-27) It was called the Festival tithe. The 3rd tithe was the tithe for the poor. It was given every third year to help the poor and indigent. (Deut 14:28-29).

So for those who take issue with giving God ten percent, just be glad you were not an Israelite, paying 29-30% in tithes in some years.

The first tithe is what we are going to focus on in this article, the one called The Lord’s Tithe and that was for the support of his priests:

“And the LORD spake unto Aaron, Thou shalt have no inheritance in their land, neither shalt thou have any part among them: I am thy part and thine inheritance among the children of Israel. And, behold, I have given the children of Levi all the tenth in Israel for an inheritance, for their service which they serve, even the service of the tabernacle of the congregation. Neither must the children of Israel henceforth come nigh the tabernacle of the congregation, lest they bear sin, and die.

But the Levites shall do the service of the tabernacle of the congregation, and they shall bear their iniquity: it shall be a statute for ever throughout your generations, that among the children of Israel they have no inheritance. But the tithes of the children of Israel, which they offer as an heave offering unto the LORD, I have given to the Levites to inherit: therefore I have said unto them, Among the children of Israel they shall have no inheritance.” Numbers 18: 20-24

So, the priests had no inheritance with the other tribes and did not supply for themselves because they were especially consecrated to serve the Lord with their time and talents. For anyone raising the objection of the unfairness of this due to the priesthood of all believers, see the previous section article entitled “Doctrinal Distinctives: Priesthood”. This idea of inheritance is important in what we are talking about regarding the necessity of the New Testament tithe for exactly this reason. These priests spent their entire lives in service to both God and man and for that reason, God declared that it was the moral obligation of the congregation to support them with 10% of what they had. No doubt had God not included this in the moral law, these priests would have been left to their own and been forced to offer their services for next to nothing.

I say this because it is stated that 90% (that is 9 out of 10 for those of you in Rio Linda) of people who start out in today’s ministry do not retire as ministers.

And so in the Old Testament God built protections into his system so that his priests could minister to the people without fear of starvation, eviction or crippling poverty. God even went so far with this protective cover that he equates the withholding of tithes to robbing himself.

“Even from the days of your fathers ye are gone away from mine ordinances, and have not kept them. Return unto me, and I will return unto you, saith the LORD of hosts. But ye said, Wherein shall we return? Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings. Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation.

Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it. And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, and he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground; neither shall your vine cast her fruit before the time in the field, saith the LORD of hosts. And all nations shall call you blessed: for ye shall be a delightsome land, saith the LORD of hosts.” Mal 3:7 -12

The tithe was not meant to provide lights, pay mortgages, fill up building funds or be continuously rolled over in a savings account for the congregational needs. The tithe was designed for the support of the priests and their families, period. Any needs of the congregation or the temple were collected through freewill offerings above the tithe itself (Exodus 36:1-7). And when Israel was asked to provide these extra funds for the work of the temple, they gave so much that they had to actually stop the giving because it was too much! That is a good problem to have!

Today most churches stress a tithe but its usage has been bastardized to build buildings and pay light bills. This is of critical importance because if the original intent of God has been compromised, we cannot expect God to keep his promise of supply. He promises in Malachi that if you bring the tithes into the storehouse (if it is inconvenient to give tithes of your cows, sheep, corn and grapes, it is perfectly alright to turn it into money according to Deuteronomy) he will open up the windows of heaven and pour you out a blessing until you don’t have enough room to contain it. Not only that but he promises that if you bring your tithe to supply for your priest, he will rebuke the devourer for your sake and your harvest will not be touched by the enemy.

Some teach that the Old Testament requirement was to tithe 10%, but since Christ we are to give our all. This is incorrect doctrine. The number ten represents the whole, and when we give our 10% we are giving our all. If we are not tithing it is not only willful disobedience but an outward showing of the condition of our own hearts. The WORD talks about a people who say they love Him with their lips, but their hearts are far from Him. Isn’t this the evidence of hardened hearts today? Many say; ‘I love the Lord’ (but) don’t ask me to give my money to make preachers rich, don’t ask me to spend gas money to get to Church Service. Or how about this one; I will give to God after I pay off the credit card, the loan, or buy my computer, boat, car – or whatever. “You shall not delay the offering from your harvest and your vintage”. Exodus 22:29

There is no mention of I.O.U.’s here, it is always Him first.

The purpose of the first tithe was to set right the neglect of the things of our spirits. For when we give it is a sign that our spirits are right with God. When we do not give the tithe, our hearts are not with Him. The first tithe was to go to the Levites who taught the people the Torah and what to do. God said this tithe belonged to the Levites as an inheritance in return for their work. This was an ordinance to them forever. The Levites then tithed from what they were given. Today whoever is ministering to the congregation by delegated authority of those above him in the Lord and ministering in both word and doctrine, they are the true Levites and priests today (Ezekiel 44: 23,24).

“And he gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors-teachers for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ”. Ephesians 4:11

The true teachers of the WORD are the priests today. Scripture is clear, not everyone is a teacher, though many could teach. Not everyone is a prophet, though many can prophesy etc…

This is where our tithe and offerings reside. God called the tithe a lasting commandment throughout our generations. This tribute we give becomes the commitment in our hearts. We are not to take some of the tithe and place it over here and put some of it over there, doing with it as we please. This is like church hopping and reflects a double mindedness. Just because you believe what you’re doing is correct, doesn’t make it right. We must verify if our idea lines up with the Word, if it doesn’t the issue is with US and we need to change.

Personal preference over God’s principles can stop the flow of support for Christ’s work and His priesthood; and without a priesthood, the temple falls. Here lies the fundamental question; do we want to do things HIS way or elevate our opinion above His word? If we chose to do that, we transfer into the traditions of men and the Spirit goes somewhere else. What we sow, we will reap (Ezekiel 43:6-7, 10,11; 44:23,24)

We are to understand that the tithe is for our benefit, they are holy. After the people give the tithe to the priest, then the priest gives a tithe and offers up a ‘heave offering’ and God receiving it brings forth the blessings of abundance. How we handle the tithes and offerings determines our inheritance both physically and spiritually.

The tithe of a tithe is the principle that when you give your tithe for the support of a priest, he then takes a tithe of that and distributes that. When he does this, the anointing of increase falls on everyone that gave. We can see this played out with the miracle of the loaves and fishes. Someone brought for the supply of the priest, he thanked God, broke it and gave. When he did, everyone experienced abundance, to the point that the 12 disciples each had a basketful of their own. How exciting!

We can break all of this down as follows:

You give God 10% of what you make, without fail.

This goes to supply for the priest (the gift of God to you according to Ephesians 4).

The priest then gives a tithe of a tithe and releases abundance to everyone.

In addition, you should also put aside 10% for a huge party at the end of the year so that we can all celebrate God’s blessings. If you want steak, buy steak. If you want lamb shanks, buy those. If you want single malt scotch or expensive wine, feel free! Really, it’s in the WORD. Deuteronomy 14:22-29.

Also, you should tithe the increase of what you get each year. So, if last year you made $50,000 and this year you make $90,000 then you would tithe $9,000 to the priest, set aside $9,000 for vacation and then according to the moral law, you need to set aside an additional $4,000 (the increase from last year) and make your vacation even greater!

This is because God both knows that if you tithe, you will increase and because he wants you to be sure to set money aside and pay yourself and have some enjoyment.

Some of you may very well say, “I can’t afford to tithe, I am barely making it now!” To this, God says that if you were to tithe and the proper system was in place to receive it God’s way, you would always have more than enough and wealth and riches would be in your house.

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Doctrinal Distinctives: Priesthood

And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
Revelation 1:6

Now ye are full, now ye are rich, ye have reigned as kings without us: and I would to God ye did reign, that we also might reign with you.
1 Corinthians 4:8

feloki-logoThe first thing that you need to understand is that you are called by God to fill one of two roles in the Kingdom of God; either you are a King or a Priest. These roles were intended by God to work together towards a common goal, namely, the establishment of the Kingdom of God here on the earth.

We can summarize these roles simply by stating that Priests are called by God to supply the vision while Kings are called to supply the provision. A Priest without Kings will have plenty of vision without the resources or help to see it come to pass. A King without a Priest will have smaller results in the marketplace and lack the vision to supply where it is truly needed.

In the past, due to a faulty revelation regarding the system that God had established, neither the Kings nor the Priests have been able to operate at their full potential and as a result, the Kingdom of God has not been able to operate at its full potential either.

It shouldn’t shock you that satan would strive to undermine the government of God (and that is really what the church is). The last thing that he wants is for us to walk in the revelation of the church as the Kingdom and government of God on this earth. By sowing a false understanding of the roles that we are to play, he has wreaked havoc in the church. One of the ways that he has done this is in the modern church is through the overemphasis on the priesthood of all believers and a lessening, even an enmity, against the idea of a ministerial priesthood and its priests. The basis for the teaching of the priesthood of all believers can be found in 1 Peter 2:5, 9 it reads:

“Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ”. and “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light”.

As this reads on the surface we are all priests, the entire group, which is true. Kings are also “priests” to a degree inasmuch as they share in the consecration of election. But in the Old Testament and the New, the priesthood is made up of three distinct levels. Not understanding this can be dangerous.

The trouble comes in when you begin to couple this idea of the priesthood of all believers with the modern worldviews of antinomianism (anti-law) or egalitarianism (communistic equality).

For example, take a widely misinterpreted section of scripture that has been much abused in modern times such as 1 John 2:27. This scripture seems to teach that you have no need of man to teach you. When improper interpretation of scripture is used to bolster anarchistic antinomian views, lawlessness enters and we get ourselves into real trouble.

We need to make sure that we are practicing proper Biblical interpretation when we study scripture. Exegesis is the practice of gaining an understanding out of the text, or what did the author intend for his original audience to understand out of what he wrote? On the other hand, eisegesis is when you read your own meaning into the text and this can be quite dangerous.

In the scripture referenced above in 1 John for example, the original audience would have understood that John was referring to the “secret knowledge” supposedly gained from going to one of the special Gnostic teachers, thus gaining the special knowledge that the Gnostic cult claimed would enlighten people to the truth. John was battling that heresy at the time and his readers knew exactly what he was talking about. John was claiming that the Gnostic mystics couldn’t teach them biblical truth and that they should immediately reject anything that could not be confirmed by what they had already been hearing through apostolic teachings.

When you choose to interpret scripture using a process of eisegesis however, it could seem that John was saying that we don’t need teachers because the Holy Spirit can teach you all that you need to know. When bad interpretation like this is coupled with a limited understanding of what Peter meant regarding the priesthood of believers, it has led many to embrace lawlessness and shipwreck both theirs and other people’s faith.

When Peter referenced that we were a royal priesthood and holy nation, did you know that he was equating the Christian Church with ancient Israel? In Exodus 19:5-6 it reads;

“Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine. And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel”.

Peter, being Jewish wrote what he did from the Jewish perspective and assumed that those who read what he wrote would understand his reference. Now, let’s ask a question that should be easily answered; did the statement that all of Israel was a nation of priests mean that they had no need of a ministerial priest class in Israel? Of course it didn’t.  It simply pointed at their consecration as a people.

All of Israel was called “the chosen people”, special in the earth. Thus, they were all consecrated to God. They spoke for God to humanity by the laws they followed, by their reverence to God, by their piety, by their traditions. Thus, they were called a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. But they still had priests who spoke to them for God, taught them, worked in the temple, etc.

How did this work in actual practice? In the Old Testament you could say that there were three distinct classes of priests. First was the nation of Priests, or all of Israel. Second were the ministerial priests, those who were called into particular service to God and the temple. Thirdly was the office of High Priest, who directed and oversaw the priesthood and offered the sacrifice in the Holy of Holies once per year.

Just as someone not of Israel could not be called a member of the kingdom of priests, a normal Israelite could not offer sacrifices or serve as a priest of God. Consequently, a member of the ministerial priesthood could not choose to do the job of the High Priest. So we see that though all of Israel was a nation of Priests, there were certainly differences in the roles that they played inside of God’s Kingdom.

When there is strife over honor due to those employed in God’s service, this is exactly the situation that presented itself before Moses and Aaron in Numbers 16. Korah and his group from the Levites determined that it was too much for Aaron and his sons to be “elevated” above them due to the fact that all of the people were holy, every one of them. God’s response to those who would rail against leaders or the calling and election of God was to swallow them up. How dangerous is it for us today to embrace this spirit of Korah and pit ourselves against God’s government?

We gladly accept the priesthood of all believers as a matter of consecration. We can also say with certainty that the Church has only one High Priest, Jesus Christ our Lord (Heb. 4:14). What we have lost in many circles is the honor due to those of the Ministerial Class of Priests, those who serve God in full time ministry.

In the Old Testament, the ministerial priests were Aaron’s sons and their male descendants (Exodus 28:1, Number 18:1, 1 Chronicles 24:1-19).  They are in charge of sacrificial duty, thus only priests can offer sacrifice in the sanctuary (Number 3:10, 18:1, 5, 7). They also give instructions from God and are His messengers (Malachi 2:7), they act as judges (Deuteronomy 17:8-9, 2 Chronicles 19:8-11, Ezekiel 44:24) and they can bless in the name of God (Number 6:22-27). They served as leaders (Joshua 24:31, Judges 2:7), as judges (Deuteronomy 22:15-19, 25:7-9), as representatives of the people (2 Samuel 8:4-5, 5:3) and they participated in the sacrifice (Leviticus 4:15).

They have a clear role to play in God’s service and that role is reserved to them by God. When Saul forgot his role as King and offered priestly sacrifices in 1 Samuel 13, God stripped him of the throne. So we can see that the class distinctions are not interchangeable. Kings need Priests just as Priests need the Kings.

What we have failed to see until now is that the original three-level system was intended by God to carry over into the New Covenant as well. We can see this in the Old Testament and in the New Testament and even in the writings of the Church fathers from the first few centuries of the Christian Church. Just as there is a general class of Priest (The believers), there is also a Ministerial Class and a High Priest.

We hold that the New Testament Ministerial priesthood replaces the Old Testament’s Levitical priesthood.  Thus, Bishops (Philippians 1:1, 1 Timothy 3:2) and Presbyters or Parsons (interchangeable terms according to Acts 20:17, 28; Titus 1:5,7) and deacons (Philippians 1:1, 1 Timothy 3:12) are the New Testament’s priests and Levites, while the Old Testament Levitical priesthood is no longer functional.  In fact, after the destruction of the Jerusalem temple in 70 AD, the sacrificial system of Judaism came to end.  However the Old Testament has a prophecy saying that Levitical priests will never cease offering sacrifice.

“For thus says the Lord: David shall never lack a man to sit on the throne of the house of Israel, and the Levitical priests shall never lack a man in my presence to offer burnt offerings, to burn cereal offerings, and to make sacrifices forever.  The word of the Lord came to Jeremiah: Thus says the Lord: If you can break my covenant with the day and my covenant with the night, so that day and night will not come at their appointed time, then also my covenant with David my servant may be broken, so that he shall not have a son to reign on his throne, and my covenant with the Levitical priests my ministers.  As the host of heaven cannot be numbered and the sands of the sea cannot be measured, so I will multiply the descendants of David my servant, and the Levitical priests who minister to me”.  Jeremiah 33: 17-22 (emphasis added)

Because the sacrificial system has ended, the Levitical priesthood of Judaism cannot fulfill this prophecy.  This does not mean that God has put an end to calling people to serve him exclusively as ministerial priests. The Old Testament also prophesies that God had intention to extend the Levitical priesthood to include non-Jewish people.  Isaiah chapter 66 describes the prophecy that God will gather all nations and tongues to see His glory (Isaiah 66:18) and then it goes on saying-

“And I will set a sign among them, and I will send those that escape of them unto the nations, to Tarshish, Pul, and Lud, that draw the bow, to Tubal, and Javan, to the isles afar off, that have not heard my fame, neither have seen my glory; and they shall declare my glory among the Gentiles.
And they shall bring all your brethren for an offering unto the LORD out of all nations upon horses, and in chariots, and in litters, and upon mules, and upon swift beasts, to my holy mountain Jerusalem, saith the LORD, as the children of Israel bring an offering in a clean vessel into the house of the LORD.
And I will also take of them for priests and for Levites, saith the LORD. For as the new heavens and the new earth, which I will make, shall remain before me, saith the LORD, so shall your seed and your name remain”.  Isaiah 66:21 (emphasis added)

Thus priests and Levites would be no longer hereditary or even Jewish at all. In relation to this prophecy Malachi 1:11 also prophesies that in every place offering (Greek “thusia”) will be offered to God because His Name is great among the nations.  We believe that the prophecies in Jeremiah 33:17-22 and Isaiah 66:21 find its fulfillment in the ministerial priesthood where bishops and parsons (presbyters) are the priests and the deacons are the Levites.  Note that the Isaiah 66:21 says that only “some” will become priests and Levites, thus it is cannot be a prophecy of universal priesthood of all believers.

The New Testament gives a clear distinction between priestly roles. There are bishops (Greek “episcopos” 1 Timothy 3:1) and presbyters/parsons (Greek “presbuteros” Titus 1:5) as well as deacons (Greek “diakoneo” 1 Timothy 3:10). We won’t get into the different roles that each played in this section but suffice it to show that there are three levels of ministerial priest both in the Old Testament and the New as well as in early church history.

The fact that there is a clear distinction between these ordained ministers and the laity or general priesthood of believers can easily be seen in verses like 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13; “And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you; And to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake. And be at peace among yourselves.

And also 1 Timothy 5:17-19; “Let the elders (presbuteros) that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine. For the scripture saith, Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn. And, The labourer is worthy of his reward. Against an elder (presbuteros) receive not an accusation, but before two or three witnesses.”

The reason why the New Testament never applies the title “priest” to Christian ministers is because Christianity in the New Testament times was still a movement within Judaism (Acts 22:19 and 26:11).  The first followers of Jesus both attended Jewish temple (Acts 2:46) and broke bread (Acts 2:46 and 20:7).  Breaking bread is the other name of Eucharistic celebration (Luke 22:19 and 24:30).  Peter and John went to temple to pray (Acts 3:1) and so did Paul and others in Acts 21:26 to give offering and to announce the days of purification after performing the ritual.  To the Christians in the New Testament times, “priests” were exclusively known as the Levitical priests in the Judeo-Christian world. Only after the destruction of the temple (c. 70 AD) Christianity’s break-away away from Judaism, did we have attestation of “priests” among the Christians as testified by the writings of the Church Fathers.  The earliest reference to three-levels of priesthood (High priest, priests and Levites) among Christians was recorded in the 1 Clement (written c. 96 AD).

“Those, therefore, who present their offerings at the appointed times, are accepted and blessed; for inasmuch as they follow the laws of the Lord, they sin not.  For his peculiar are assigned to the high priest, and their own proper place is prescribed to the priests, and their own special ministrations devolve on the Levites.  The layman is bound only by the laws that pertain to laymen”. 1 Clement Chapter 40

We also have the testimony of the early Christians that the ministerial priesthood already existed in the early Church.  Ignatius (died c. 107 AD), bishop of Antioch, wrote that the celebrant of the Eucharist must be a bishop or one he has entrusted and that a bishop ministered as a priest to God. Irenius (c. 115 to 202), bishop of Lyon wrote that all apostles of Jesus were priests who served God and the altar continually. Polycrates (late 2nd century), bishop of Ephesus, also wrote that the apostle John was a priest. Tertullian (c. 160 to 230), bishop of Carthage, referred to bishops as “chief priests” or Latin “summus sacerdos” and wrote that those chosen for sacerdotal (priestly) order must be men of one marriage. His successor Cyprian (died c. 258), wrote that a bishop is Christ’s priest and that presbyters are associated with the bishop in priestly honor. He also wrote that priests (bishops and presbyters) offer the same sacrifice Jesus offered to God the Father. Thus, the title “priest” was first applied to the apostles and then to bishops who were their successors and later was also applied to presbyters.

Ignatius wrote around 100 AD; “See that you all follow the bishop, even as Jesus Christ does the Father, and the presbytery as you would the apostles; and reverence the deacons, as being the institution of God. Let no man do anything connected with the Church without the bishop. Let that be deemed a proper Eucharist, which is [administered] either by the bishop, or by one to whom he has entrusted it. Wherever the bishop shall appear, there let the multitude [of the people] also be; even as, wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church. It is not lawful without the bishop either to baptize or to celebrate a love-feast; but whatsoever he shall approve of, that is also pleasing to God, so that everything that is done may be secure and valid.

Moreover, it is in accordance with reason that we should return to soberness [of conduct], and, while yet we have opportunity, exercise repentance towards God. It is well to reverence both God and the bishop. He who honours the bishop has been honoured by God; he who does anything without the knowledge of the bishop, does [in reality] serve the devil. Let all things, then, abound to you through grace, for you are worthy. You have refreshed me in all things, and Jesus Christ [shall refresh] you. You have loved me when absent as well as when present. May God recompense you, for whose sake, while you endure all things, you shall attain unto Him.

Nor is there any one in the Church greater than the bishop, who ministers as a priest to God for the salvation of the whole world. Nor, again, is there any one among rulers to be compared with the king, who secures peace and good order to those over whom he rules. He who honours the bishop shall be honoured by God, even as he that dishonours him shall be punished by God. For if he that rises up against kings is justly held worthy of punishment, inasmuch as he dissolves public order, of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who presumes to do anything without the bishop, thus both destroying the [Church's] unity, and throwing its order into confusion? For the priesthood is the very highest point of all good things among men, against which whosoever is mad enough to strive, dishonours not man, but God, and Christ Jesus, the First-born, and the only High Priest, by nature, of the Father. Let all things therefore be done by you with good order in Christ. Let the laity be subject to the deacons; the deacons to the presbyters; the presbyters to the bishop; the bishop to Christ, even as He is to the Father”. Ignatius, Epistle to Smyrnaeans

So we can see that there is a distinction between Kings and Priests. We can also see that in the priestly class, there are distinctions between the general priesthood of all believers, the ministerial class and the High Priest.

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Faith that Procures

Leaving Eden

The idea of faith is a tough one, especially in the church. If you are a more traditional believer, faith is a generic term that you use to describe religious beliefs, such as, “My faith is something that I like to keep private”. If you are full gospel then you might say that faith is the substantiation (verb) of things hoped for, an active force that is used to appropriate things that God has freely given to you.

Of course, as with anything, the truth is both deeper and wider than our logical compartmentalization. Theologically, we can say that there are three words used in Latin that all mean faith. These three terms are noticia, assentia and fiducia.

To have noticia is to take notice of something, as in, I believe that the object on the floor in front of me is a chair. To have assentia is to assent to the fact, as in, I believe that the chair that sits in front of me could hold me if I sat in it. To have fiducia is to have entrusted yourself to it, as in, I know the chair can hold me and I choose to rest in it.

Now, this has importance because only the last one, fiducia is called “saving faith”. In other words, knowing something to be true will not save you and neither will mentally assenting to its virtue, power or ability to save. The WORD says that even demons assent to there being a God.

The only faith that can save you is the kind that entrusts yourself to God’s ability to save. Make sense?

Well, this is also true when it comes to the kind of faith that procures. Simply knowing that God gave a promise regarding a thing in your life will do nothing for you. Even assenting to the truth of it won’t. You can know that God has given a promise in his WORD regarding healing, you can even assent that God is both willing and able to heal if he so chooses. But neither of those kinds of faith will be enough to cause the application of faith.

And this is where the rubber meets the road, folks.

Both assentia and noticia are sense-knowledge faiths, based on information. Nothing that comes from God operates by information, it operates by revelation. When man fell in the garden, he fell from revelation (what God said to him personally) to information (what he discerned by logic). So, you can say then that information is gathered by logically considering facts. Revelation is gained when God illuminates something to your spirit personally.

You can also say that truth that is based on information is considered objective while truth gained by revelation is subjective. A promise that is known by information is just a promise. A promise that is known by revelation is “My promise”.

And it is here and only here, that we see results to prayer and confession. It is only the personal revelation of a promise that produces the application of faith. Until you know that the promise is made to you, its power remains untapped and it is susceptible to the confiscation of the enemy.

What makes a promise believable and based on fiducia is meditation on God’s WORD. Now by meditation I don’t mean sitting in a lotus position and blanking your mind. What I mean is actively choosing to view your life through the prism of God’s WORD. If you will take the time to imagine life where God’s WORD is true in every way and choose to believe that what God has promised, he is able also to perform, you will begin to see a change take place in your life.

So remember; meditation brings revelation and revelation brings the application of faith.

Information without revelation brings the confiscation of what you need to occur.

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Are You a King or a Priest?

And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. Rev 1:5-6

The Kingdom of God is not that difficult to understand and walk in. God created the Kingdom to be simple, practical and eternal. To start operating in the Kingdom, you need to have a revelation of what your role is in the Kingdom. The good news is that there are only two roles that you could possibly fill; either you are a King or you are a Priest.

The issue that we have had is that we have experienced a general lack of knowledge about this foundational truth of God’s WORD. The WORD says that “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me: seeing thou hast forgotten the law (the WORD) of thy God, I will also forget thy children” (Hosea 4:6).

In other words, what you don’t know can and does kill you.

A King who operates as a Priest brings destruction on himself (1 Sam 13). The office of a Priest is a holy office, the Priests being chosen by God himself. A Priest does not choose to be a Priest; in fact, he may try to run from it for years. But because it is God’s sovereign choice, you can never get away from the calling of God. I have watched over the years as satan has tried to lessen the importance of this office, either by filling it with men who are not called to be Priests or by spreading egalitarianism in the Body of Christ. Simply put, if you are called to be a King and you take on the office or the actions of the Priesthood, the WORD promises trouble will come to you. If you are a King who operates outside of the relationship that you should have with a Priest, inevitably you will misspend the provision that God has placed in your hands, fight battles outside of the choreographic move of God and never see the favor that the Kingly anointing should bring to your life.

On the other hand, a Priest who operates as a King brings confusion, frustration and ineffectiveness on himself.  If you are a Priest that chooses to act as a King, you will chase provision to your own hurt. You will experience severe frustration at the lack of provision for fulfilling the vision that God has given to you. And ultimately, the distraction of money will completely cripple your ability to carry out your mandate on this earth.

So you see, we need each other desperately but we need each other to know and operate perfectly in the roles that God has chosen for us. Kings are called to conquer but they need the revelation and blessing of the Priests in order to war effectively. Priests are called to manage the affairs of the kingdom but they need the Kings to conquer and bring to the Kingdom of God the spoils from the secular world.

At this stage, we have found that the single most important thing that we should seek as Kings and Priests in the Kingdom of God is revelation knowledge. God created man to operate by revelation, God speaking to and revealing things to man. When man fell, he fell from revelation to information and has attempted to get back by education. But education and information cannot bring about revelation (1 Co. 2:13). Flesh begets flesh, logic begets logic and spirit begets spirit.

So, how do we get revelation? If you are a King, you can get a limited amount of light by studying and praying on your own. The Holy Spirit will teach you and lead you into truth. But it was never God’s intention that Kings should be able to operate independently of his Priests. Some quote the verse in 1 John that says that “you have no need of man to teach you” as proof that we do not need Priests today or that we are all priests. But John was speaking directly to a heresy that was affecting the church in those days, the error of the Gnostics. John was saying that you have no need of the secret teachings of mere men, even the youngest Elect has more spiritual understanding than the wisest carnal man.

Revelation is given by God to his servants so that they can teach and build up the Body of Christ here on earth (Eph 4:8-13). How do you get revelation? Get yourself into an ekklesia that is teaching revelation knowledge of God’s WORD. There is simply no substitute for this. If the Spirit of God is not present in the meetings, giving revelation that transforms your thinking every single week, run. As a King, you need that revelation knowledge so that you will be fully equipped to live in dominion over this world system. Without it, you will just spin your wheels and lose your rewards.

So let’s look at a brief overview of what the job duties are for Kings and Priests inside of the Kingdom of God:

It is the job of the Priest to:

  1. Do service in the temple, or church building (We call them Embassies of the Kingdom of God). To teach, train, offer communion and baptize.
  2. Care for the house of God.
  3. Care for widows, orphans and the strangers.
  4. Receive the tithes and offerings from the people and use them in Kingdom business.
  5. Speak blessings over the Kings before they go off into battle.
  6. Hear the direction and timing of the move of God.

It is the job of the Kings to:

  1. Fight battles against the enemies of God.
  2. Gather the spoils of war. Satan wants control over the resources of this world so that suffering will not be alleviated. The more money his kids have, the less that can be used to end suffering on this planet.
  3. Bring tithes and offerings to the Priest. It is the job of the Kings to protect and provide for the Priest that God has given to them. God calls it theft from him to withhold tithes to support the Priest (Mal 3:7-12).
  4. Govern the secular affairs of the Kingdom.

This is a brief overview, we are teaching it much more in depth in our services. But this should give you a good start in knowing your role and beginning to walk in it. If you want more teaching on this, attend one of your local Isaac’s Wells. If there is not one near you and you would like one, simply write to us and we will see about starting one. So far we are running Embassies in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Pennsylvania. You can also become a partner with us and get special monthly teachings and access to sermons.

So, get out there and build Kingdoms, my friends! That is indeed your birthright!

New Dates Added in October

Hello friends and partners. Just a brief note to y’all from the far north woods. We wanted you to know that we will be holding a teaching conference October 7-11 at River of Life in Prescott Wisconsin.

There is a major shift taking place as God prepares His church. During this 5 day conference, we are going to be laying out everything you need to know to be a part of it. We sense something huge taking place right now!

Also, we are holding the Norfolk Victory Campaign in Norfolk, Nebraska October 24-27. This is an important event because we are going back to the place where we saw a revival take place in which nearly a thousand were converted in a few days and an entire class enrolled at the local bible school to become preachers and missionaries.

If God is opening up this door now, it can only mean that it is time for another visitation in Norfolk. Contact Christ is King Community Church for details or keep your eyes peeled right here.

Tools for the Harvest

This has been a very exciting (and exhausting) few years as we have focused exclusively on Isaac’s Well. We have never been more challenged, in just about every single way. Pioneering churches has always been a key part of what we do, we truly love it. The challenge of starting a church that speaks directly to generations of either unplugged or unreached people is something that stirs our hearts and focuses our minds.

Lately, we have begun to feel a bit empty though, even with the busyness of pioneering two churches 9 hours apart and with very little support from the established churches. And it is due to not sharing the ministry time with our first love; healing evangelism.

If you have taken the time to look around the American church lately, you no doubt have seen the lack of Evangelists. I could write a treatise on the why’s of it but I won’t. The fact remains that for both Gen-X and Gen-Y, the harvest is ready but there simply are no workers. Of course, we all have the ministry of reconciliation and that has taken center stage as the people with a direct calling and anointing to win the lost are busy doing something else.

I have been doing something else myself.

But we strongly feel that now is the time for me to add healing evangelism to my plate and get back out there where the people are lost, sick and without answers. And of course, we feel like we are to do it in typical American Pentecost style: with an old-fashioned tent.

The vision that God has placed in our hearts is to get a tent that can fit 500 people and take the saving message of Christ everywhere that there is a need. I know this sounds dated but it is actually much simpler to strike a tent and invite than to navigate the church political system. Those who came before us saw the ministries of Sunday, Wigglesworth, Allen, Branham, Coe and Roberts. This generation has seen none of what it looks like when the power of God confirms the word spoken.

Help us to let them see it clearly.

The running list of what we need is long.

1. 40 x 120 tent with sides, poles. At 6 square feet a person, this means that we can fit about 500 with room for an altar.

2. Truck and trailer to haul equipment.

3. Lights/ Sound equipment

4. 500 folding chairs.

5. Portable stage.

We want to invite you to partner with us right now as we expand what we are doing as church pioneers and dare to take the message of the cross public once again.

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Prayer That Gets Results

Walking by faith can be one of the most confusing and disappointing processes that a Christian can endure. To pray is one thing but to pray and consistently see results is quite another. This is proven out by the 900 pound gorilla in our churches that everyone sees but no one discusses; lack of prayer. I have seen this not only in my own churches but also in the majority of churches that I visit as a healing evangelist. The prayer meeting has gone the way of the testimony service and it is easy to see why- you just can’t have testimonies without prayer.

This is not the fault of the people. People simply can’t be excited about prayer when they do not see the results that they expected to see. And hyperbole will only take you so far as a preacher. They may get excited about your one liners and cutesy catch-phrases but in prayer, the proof is definitely in the pudding. If you are praying and not seeing consistent results, the pudding is just not any good. We need revival in America and that means that we need a revival of intercession first. The old saints that knew how to pray have gone home and we are left with their stories but not their power.

Much of what I have discovered to be true regarding prayer won’t be found on the lips of the big name preachers. And if I were to venture a guess, I would say that it is because some of the shepherds no longer smell like the sheep. When you have a multi-million dollar budget, thousands of people in your church or sending you money monthly from your telecast, you can forget what it is like on the front lines, down in the nitty-gritty of ground level faith. You may get excited about how they believed in a new jet or a bazillion dollar ministry complex but something gets lost in translation when you are just trying to get off the ground.

The old saints taught prayer in the sweet and low down. You learned how to pray for shoes, meals, bills. After you had learned how to get a prayer through to God, then you could start extending that prayer into ministry. Today, we teach them how to throw together prefab McChurches or we teach them how to exegete until the truth has been completely suffocated under the weight of our intellect but we don’t teach them to pray. This is completely reversed from where it should be! What does perfect doctrine matter if you can’t effectively communicate with the God that your doctrine revolves around?

So here then are a few of the things that I have learned regarding faith and prayer.

#1: Pray Through DAILY.

For those of you who don’t know, praying through means praying in the spirit until faith comes. This is a bit backwards from what they teach today but welcome to this ministry! Much of what we presume is faith is really just false faith, a faith that is based on mental assent, personal experience or emotions. None of those are genuine faith. When you pray, you pray until faith comes on the matter, no matter how long that takes. You will find time to pray for what is important to you. When faith comes, it is a perfect assurance that it is done, complete, fat lady singing in the background and everything. You will probably not see one thing different in the natural but internally you know that you know that you know that it is done. That is praying through.

#2 After Faith Comes, PRAISE.

God dwells in the praises of His people. You know the old saying, “It’s all over but the shoutin'”. That is completely true. Praise is natural after faith comes on a matter, just try and hold it back! When the enemy looks at you and sees that nothing has changed on the outside but you are praising God and sweating your suit out, he knows that faith has come and its all over for him. Praise is offered as a magnification of God, he is not changed by it but your perception of Him has changed. It is all about your belief in his integrity, that what God has promised he is able also to perform. After faith comes on a subject, the journey from “I believe I receive” to “There it is” is undertaken by praise and patience and obedience.

#3 Action IS Faith’s Forward Step.

God specializes in impossible things. If it were easy, there would be no need for prayer or for divine assistance, right? But the number one reason why people do not see results in prayer is due to a real lack of knowledge of this step right here. Jesus did not just teach to ask and wait, did he? No, he taught us to ask, seek and knock and we forget that.

So listen carefully, there is always an action in the natural that serves as a catalyst for a supernatural miracle.

The reason that many do not see results is that they sit on the edge of the Red Sea and wait for it to part. But God does not work that way most of the time. Instead, God leads you to an impossible thing and then leads you step by step to possession. When faith has come on an issue and you are praising him for the answer, go ahead and ask God what your next step should be. Maybe you are flat broke with a credit score of 550 and you believe that God wants you to have something that there is no way that you can afford. You can pray, receive it, thank him for it but if you don’t take some steps out into the water, you will never see it.

So you need wisdom in order to know his plan for possession. I call these “Godsteps”. When I am looking to do something impossible, I know that I can only get there one step at a time. And so I ask for wisdom to know what step to take next. After I have done that step, I ask for the next and the next and the next until I am standing right in the middle of what people told me was impossible. You can do the same thing!

We walk into the possession of impossible things one step at a time. You need to hear from God, think incrementally and possess the land one single step at a time.

If you do this consistently, you will never falter nor fail. I say this because ultimately it is God who is responsible for keeping his own promises. And we know that his word is exalted above his own name and that he watches over his word to perform it. So go ahead, ask for impossible things and then step out and get them all!

 

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Battlelines: The Wal-Mart Church

So, I have watched as the church has transformed over the last 21 years. Actually, it has been even longer than that because I have been around some aspect of the church my entire life. When I was growing up, it was in a small Pentecostal church in Pennsylvania. The church was never large, that was not even on the radar in those days. The question was one of effectiveness, not numbers.

If someone were getting saved, delivered or healed, the church was a success. They might struggle for finances or stay in the same building for 30 years without anyone raising the question of whether or not they were supposed to be there. If God was present, that closed the issue.

When I was first saved, it was pretty much the same. In fact, if you were a big church it probably meant that you had compromised something vital in order to get the numbers up. The focus was still not on size but rather quality of ministry, purity of the Word spoken and effectiveness in evangelism.

Back then there was still street ministry and witnessing that took place, imagine that. And a preacher could still get a crowd if he came to town. If you spit hard enough you would hit an evangelist in shiny shoes. True story. I began my ministry as an Evangelist, first on the streets and then travelling from town to town.

Then Swaggart and Bakker happened. Suddenly, being an Evangelist was linked to money and televangelist flash and it became one of the least popular professions in the country. Pretty soon, you couldn’t find an Evangelist to save your life, unless it was in Africa. Everyone here in America started being “teachers” (during the Word of Faith craze) and then later “prophets” (during the prophetic movement).

Today we just have a hole where a foundational gift to the church used to be.

During these years we also saw the rise of the monster named Rex Walmartasaurus in corporate America. They would plant one of these stores in a town and slowly drain the life from all of their competition. First it was the competition in the city falling by the wayside as Kmart, Shopko, Sears and many others started to tank. Wal-Mart offered everything and they offered it cheaper than everything else. And in a culture addicted to convenience, having everything available in one great location became like crack. Soon, small mom and pop stores had to start shutting the doors because they simply could not compete with the Wal-Mart juggernaut.

Even in the town where we live, prices are dollars higher per item in our local store than at Wal-Mart. And in a slow growth economy, who is going to drive around looking for different items when Goliath has everything right there at your fingertips.

So, small stores in small towns have been forced to adapt in order to survive. The only way to do that is by carving out a niche as a boutique and offering super specialized items that can’t be found at a big box store.

Get the picture? Our small towns have become bedroom communities as our industry moved to big cities and then our commercial businesses got smaller and more restricted in order to stay afloat. The big box dominates all and a person is hard pressed to start a business and prosper by offering goods and services to their own town. Everyone drives 30 minutes to the nearest Wal-Mart rather than pay higher prices for a smaller selection.

The same is true in the church and the changes took place at the same time.

Today, you have mega churches (where God is interested in what they are doing), upper-middle sized churches (that are on their way to being mega) and the small churches serving communities (where God ignores them because they are too small, because if you are from God, you gots to be big, baby).

The mega church offers everything: campuses designed to look like city streets with shops, bookstores, jungle gyms, Kids areas designed to look like castles, programs for everything from singles to the Latvian Lesbian midget support groups. Everything is right there at your convenience and you can rest assured that the teaching is good because the preacher is on TV, which is a sure sign of personal integrity, dedicated prayer lives and orthodox teaching. These are the Wal-Mart’s of the church world. Everyone from the area goes to these places because they can be anonymous, catered to, they are offered convenience and the chance to be a part of something big.

The mini mega church is like the Target chain. They have some of the good stuff, just less of it. But they really want to be a Wal-Mart and so they adapt to whatever Wal-Mart is doing. Ambition drives these churches, usually helmed by a preacher who is certain that he is the next big thing. They have all of the things that it is going to take to break the ceiling and become big and solidify what they have always known: they are from God (I am big! You like me, you really like me!).

At the same time that the fight for growth is occurring, you have those that don’t really matter laboring on anonymously inside of a small church. These churches are like bases in baseball where all of the church hoppers, ne’er-do-wells, dysfunctional elites and know-it-alls have to make brief stops before quitting the system altogether. They are usually hampered by a lack of finances, a lack of devotion, an overabundance of tourists and the crushing weight of ineffectiveness and obscurity.

Now, let me ask you; is this the way that it is supposed to be?

The answer that we need isn’t as simple as some would have us to believe. It is not a matter of the first church having met in houses and so we should meet in houses too. Because near as I can tell, church buildings and houses both have walls, floors, ceilings and windows. They are both buildings, Copernicus. The reason that the first church met in homes was because it was illegal to be a Christian, the synagogues (where they preferred to meet) were closed to them and they couldn’t build a temple.

No, the answer isn’t about location, style or format; it is all about motivations.

Why are any of us doing this? Is it to get rich or famous? If it is, go sit in the back of the bus.

Is it to fulfill our own ego by equating ministry success with personal worth? Go to the back of the bus.

Is it to control people and build a cult following? Sorry, back of the bus for you.

God needs a people that are interested in effectiveness rather than notoriety. We need to change our definition of success so that the question of God’s glory is included somewhere. We need to stop basing our determination of spiritual success on material possessions. And we need to start counting bodies healed, lives changed, hearts melted, lives repenting and salvations occurring as the primary gauge of ministry effectiveness.

We as ministers must start speaking the truth in love with boldness, no matter how large the congregation that God has us serving. We must hear from Him alone as to what He wants our branch of the government of God to be doing.

We must act as ambassadors, regardless of the region that we serve. We have to care for the poor, shower the region with common grace, preach boldly so that the elect hear the message and respond and change the spiritual temperature where we live. Bringing the Kingdom of God to where we live and making that area resemble heaven- that is our calling.

It has nothing to with the flesh, with numbers, with money. And many big time preachers sitting in big time churches are going to be in big time trouble when they approach the Bema and find out that God was more interested in how they treated a little obscure pastor or how they overlooked the poor and hurting than in how big of a building they built to house their congregation of spiritual pygmies.

Have you been reading the red and the book of Acts like I suggested in the last article? Then you should be ready for this next bit.

You will not find success in Christ by buying into the Wal-Mart doctrine. It isn’t through being clever or different that you will see numbers go up. That is the boutique mindset and it can only survive, not thrive. You won’t find personal fulfillment by chasing mega churches or mega preachers either. You will only find success as you get back to basics, shun the system, leave the camp and seek God. See, I have news for you preachers- numbers are no gauge as to God’s favor because it can be counterfeited. No, God’s favor comes through the fire, through prayer and through the breaking of a man until he resembles the Christ that he serves.

I want you to start acting today as if your life is under the hand of sovereign arrangement. Every person that you talk to, every setback that you experience, every temptation, trial and tribulation that comes your way has a hand behind it. The true quality of your life and ministry will be measured by your responses to the acts of God’s sovereign arrangements and by nothing else.

Many of the things that we do for God will not matter at all because they did not originate in God but in ourselves. But our responses to the things that have their origin in Him, they will mean everything.

So, forget the hype and the hoopla, the game and the boy’s club. Instead, consecrate your life to him, ask for the wisdom to see his sovereign arrangements and then live those moments as you saw Jesus live and teach about and the first church carry out. Being big isn’t important, being faithful and pure is.

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Battlelines: Pragmatic Modernism

The disease of the church truly is systemic at this point. Everything that it once was, it no longer is. Instead, it has become a steadily focusing mirror of the predominant groupthink of the day. This may sound extreme to you, it does to most people. The reason for that is very simple; you tend to normalize your surroundings in order to keep sane.  Most kidnap victims will begin to have empathy with their kidnappers. A recent poll of girls aged 12-25 revealed that over 45% of them thought there were grounds for a man to hit a woman and 40% said they would take him back if he did it.

You normalize your surroundings and so you bob and weave through life normalizing everything you see until you eventually come to believe that ‘it has always been this way’.

Case in point; in reformed circles today you will hear about how everyone that the Father gives to the Son will come to him. Therefore, why sweat things like evangelism? Since God is the one who seeks you out and since it is he that draws you with irresistible grace, why go through all of the rigmarole of troubling yourself with evangelism? And yet they have forgotten George Whitefield, Jonathan Edwards and Charles Spurgeon, all champions of evangelistic effort.

In Arminian circles there is also massive confusion. Everyone is so focused on the newest revelation, the freshest program and the most relevant façade that they have forgotten their own history and thrown orthodox doctrine out the window.

We are a product of the age that we live in, have no doubt about that. And the modernist mindset has held sway in the church for a very long time now. And it is that pragmatic, humanist mindset that has led to the decline that we currently see in the church.

To those under the influence of the zeitgeist, it may seem like there is actually no problem at all. There are large churches; there are Christian radio stations and Christian television channels. There are Christian schools and universities that you can send your kids to. There are Christian bookstores selling Christian mints that you can use to “evangelize” your unsaved friends and loved ones. What could possibly be wrong?

I am going to lay out for you one of the issues that I think is most hindering us at this point and one that I feel we must correct if we are ever going to see revival: pragmatic flesh-based ministry. What do I mean by that exactly? A pragmatic flesh-based ministry is one that sees everything totally based on a human’s viewpoint and then sets goals and meets them based on what works best.

Recently, I had someone get very, very angry with me because I said in a service that it is absolutely wrong to go to church. They were shocked and offended because they had been a church-goer for years and it was a main part of their life, how could I even suggest that going to church was wrong? I can just hear some of you now wondering if I actually said that to the group. I did.

But my point was not that you shouldn’t attend a service or be a part of a group of the Elect who are walking out the dominion of the Kingdom of God on earth. My point was that if you “go to church” you are already deceived because we ourselves are the church. But for most people, it is easiest to confuse the terms because that way, you can assume that you are the church because you attended one. But as Keith Green said, “Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than going to McDonald’s makes you a hamburger”.

Pragmatism says that the most efficient way to be a Christian is to decide to and then proceed to do the things that Christians do, like go to church. You should sing songs, learn the lingo and read a bible. But the Word does not say to do any of that in order to be a Christian. It says that you must repent, it says that you must die and be raised with Him through baptism and receive the promise of the Holy Spirit. But pragmatism can’t be bothered with any of that, it takes too long and is generally outside the comfortable confines of our convenience.

Let me ask you an important question; what is the church? Is it a group of like-minded individuals who gather together regularly to worship? Or is the church truly people of differing skills brought together by God under a single head that serves as the government of God in the area that they occupy?

If it is the former then everything is fine. You can afford to qualify its success or failure on tangible things like the number of people who attend and the amount of money that they generate. As the Pastor, you can drool your seeker-sensitive affirmations all over them and lull them into an eternal sleep because all that matters is the number of people attending not what they are doing. If you know whether or not God is with you by the amount of income generated then use any means that you can to generate it. Go ahead, help yourself.

But if it is the latter then we are in deep trouble. If you can’t determine the success of intangibles using tangibles, how should you determine the success of what you are doing? If we are truly people of differing skills brought together by God under a single head that serves as the government of God in the area that we occupy, how much area do you occupy? How do the poor fare in your district? How is injustice ended? How are your people living under common grace? Is Eden being spread and has the Kingdom come and is his will being done in your district as it is in heaven? If we asked the poor, the drug addled, the suicidal, the criminal individuals in your district who the Christians are, would they say it was you? Or are you hoping that they would say it based on the numbers and money that you generate?

The Westminster Confession states that man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever. We like to assume that God is glorified in our buildings and programs. Just like the Crystal Cathedral, right? I mean, they had people and money so God was obviously glorified.

Doxazo (Glorify) means to make something renowned, to render it illustrious, to cause the dignity and worth of some person or thing to become manifest and acknowledged. Most of what we do glorifies ourselves and our inflated sense of calling and importance but does little to nothing for the glory of God.

We are flesh and we have adapted our methods and goals to the flesh. It is as Tozer said, one fallen head instructing another fallen head. But it has been normalized and become convenient and finding the truth would be so darned difficult. Besides, I have to pay bills and eventually retire. So, while truly pursuing the glory of God sounds nice, it is not pragmatic nor practical.

God help us all before the Bema.

So, here is my challenge to you today; read only the red that Jesus said for the next week. Don’t bother with the Old Testament or Pauline sections, just stick to the red bits and ask yourself how closely you are following what He said. Then read just the Book of Acts for the next week. Write down everything that they did and the way that they did it. And then juxtapose that with what you are doing right now. If we are going to get it right then we must base everything on the original intent. It can’t be Luther, Calvin, Finney or Spurgeon alone. We must get back to the whole counsel of the Word of God outside of the zeitgeist.

And then I double dog dare you to begin to live out what Jesus told you to do and to begin to conduct your church as they did it in the Book of Acts. I am not telling you to only meet in homes as cell groups or totally eschew the use of buildings, I am telling you to do what they did; meet together in homes daily for prayer and fellowship, breaking bread together. Voluntarily redistribute your goods. Care for the widow and orphan. Evangelize the world. Stand against tyrants and usurpers. Take correction and love others enough to correct them. Be merciful. Bear fruit. Make disciples.

In other words, settle for no less than actually being a Christian.

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Battlelines: The Preamble

Revolution is about the overthrow of one system for another. In the course of time, two ideas that once co-existed have finally become diametrically opposed to one another. At the outset of revolution, one side remains entrenched in power while the other side actively seeks to supplant it. This is revolution, friends, and never mind what the commercials tell you or what the trendy youth group says that it is. Revolution is messy, divisive, chaotic and uncomfortable. Real revolution is never pleasant; the two different sides will dig in and defend their positions, violently if necessary. This was just as true for David and Saul as it is in our day. When God begins to do a new thing, the old thing starts chucking javelins.

Today we find ourselves in a pre-revolutionary period in the church. All of the pieces are in place if you look for them. They are sitting there, simmering just under the surface, waiting for a spark, a move, a shot across the bow that will send the mighty wheel of revolution turning. This is the calm before the storm, that moment when détente is being practiced by diplomats and people are seeking ways to build a compromise that will leave everyone happy.

But there will be none of that. The gulf between mindsets is too far apart now. The ideas and ideals of the two parties can’t be brought together. Saul knows that David is the next thing, his kingdom is coming to an end and his only legacy will be a cautionary tale of humanism, corporatism, gimmicks and the substitution of the real for the gimmick.

It is my experience that people generally do not want to hear this truth. That is especially true in our world today. What we want instead is a series of affirmations that what we think, feel or do is right. We seek churches that will do this, ministries that will do this and read books that do this. When we hear that something that we have been believing is wrong, we immediately get defensive, it is just our humanist nature, I guess.

The history of the Christian church is one of progressive revelation. At times the church has forgotten this and tried to introduce something that had no basis in what God was previously doing. The result of this is always the same- error, heresy and shame. The Protestant church of the 20th century bears no similarities to the church of the 19th century. The Pentecostals have lost Azusa and the Methodist church only resembles Asbury and Wesley in name only. The Salvation Army has become thrift stores without salvation, an army of retailers and not revivalists. The reformed churches have forgotten Calvin and Knox while the Presbyterians have forgotten Red River.

We have forgotten who we are and have simply started just making things up that felt good to our flesh. But God instructs us his people line upon line, precept upon precept. The revelation of the previous generation becomes your foundation and God then adds to his grand story with the lines of your age.

Like all true revolutions, this one will occur when we make a decision that no matter what, we must get free or die. The disease of the church is systemic and the only ones that support what it has become are the fat cats that profit from it. For the rest of us, we cannot live in the system as it is set up and we can tolerate no compromise with it. And so we, like Moses, must leave the camp and seek God where he is.

The fault of where we find ourselves today can be laid at the feet of a few trends that have become the norm in the last 40 years or so and an older worldview that has infected us to our core. Let me be clear, these methods and worldviews have nothing to do with the progressive revelation of God but are rather compromises with the spirit of the age. And we must begin to see them as exactly that- a hindrance to revival and in enmity with God.

  1. The church growth movement with its emphasis on numbers and money as a gauge of success.
  2. The pragmatic mindset that excuses any gimmick, fad or phase as being from God if it works to appeal to the flesh of men.
  3. The corporate mindset that tells us that we should grow real big and offer everything to everyone, like Wal-Mart, then franchise our product all over. This mindset has caused the exact same “big-box store versus boutique” phenomenon in the church as it has in the world marketplace.
  4. The individualistic mindset that constantly focuses all attention and energy on the all-powerful ME.
  5. Finally, the humanistic mindset that places the highest priority on man and his existence rather than on God and his eternal glory.

This is American Churchianity. And like seeing an embattled and aged Ali sitting ringside at a boxing match, everyone knows what you used to be and pities what you have become.

God willing, this is the start of a new series that will begin to look at each of these things in detail and offer the alternative. What you do with this is up to you. I would encourage you to read what is written, prayerfully consider the implications and then commit yourself to the revolution with wild abandon.

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