Dear Saul,

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Dear Saul,

I am writing this to inform you that I am leaving your church system. I know that a letter is not the best way to do things but I figured that without my informing you, you may not have even realized that I had left.

It is really no surprise that you would not have noticed my being gone- I was not one of those that you seem to prefer for a member. It was hard for me to just accept everything that you said and my endless questions and idealism seemed to bother you from the start.

Although you may never notice my absence, I wanted to let you know why I am leaving your system because in my heart, I always find myself hoping that somehow you will turn things around.

1. For continuing to stay in position even when the bleating of the sheep can be heard. (1 Samuel 15: 13-14)

Performing part of what the Lord tells us to do while ignoring the rest of His command is not acceptable, Saul. I guess that you do this in order to please the people who are following you. But the Lord does not care about your good intentions towards the people- He cares about your obedience to Him. Have you forgotten that the word says that if you seek to please men, you cannot be a servant of God?

I see you so many times worrying about what the people want to hear. I see you providing every conceivable program and entertainment in order to draw them. But what happened to telling them the whole truth? You can’t exclude the cross from your teachings because the people don’t like to hear it, unless of course you have excluded the cross from your own life. If that is the case, you really have no right to teach it anyway.

The bottom line is that I cannot stay involved in a system where those that lead are doing it after their own imagination and not following the will of the Lord. Have you asked what His will is lately, Saul? Or have you just sought more power for your program from Him?

2. For bringing us into your churches as a novelty, so long as we pleased you. (1 Samuel 16: 17-23)

It took us awhile to figure out that you were doing this to us. We were always so pleased that you had “discovered” us that we just did whatever you wanted us to. We encouraged you, helped you in your ministry and defended you against every foe that we saw.

What we didn’t know is that you viewed us as a novelty that could be thrown away when we lost our “shiny”. Being rejected is not a good feeling for anyone and especially not for people like us. We put our whole heart into trying to help you, Saul. And we never purposefully did anything that we thought would hurt you. It seems that so long as we found favor in your sight, we were allowed to stand just behind you. But any time that your favor ceased- we were sent back to Jesse’s house.

We always found ourselves believing that there was something wrong with us personally when you had no more use for us. We would cry out to God to show us where we were so wrong that we should be rejected. The answer that we finally got from our Lord shocked us, Saul- He said that you were not Him.

No matter how hard we tried, we always seemed to lose your loyalty. Maybe that is because we love Jesus more than the system that you created.

3. For creating an effeminate army and then allowing the world to march out and mock it every day while you do nothing. (1 Samuel 17: 1-11)

Nothing that has been done sickens us quite as much as this one. When we came into your church system, we didn’t do so from some squeaky-clean background. We came up on the rough side of the mountain, so to speak. To be honest, when we came into your system we didn’t really know what a real Christian man even looked like. We had been brainwashed by your generation into believing that our parents couldn’t be trusted and that the “old folks” had been way too rigid and their way of thinking should be done away with.

We came in looking for an answer and for role models to pattern ourselves after but what we found was shocking. We found the “warriors” who were sent to stand against the enemy too afraid to even go to the battle.

We found that all of these “men” had become the products of the spirit of the age and were too soft to fight. They were like the tribe of Asher who abode on the seashore when Deborah called them to fight; everything seemed to be more important than the battle of the ages. These men of yours are more likely to huddle than engage in any meaningful melee.

The world has mocked Christ continuously on your watch, Saul. Every day they march out in public and shower Him and His Church with disdain and ridicule. And you just sat back and watched him do it. Worse that that, you have managed to sin so grievously that God was forced to expose you and distance himself from you so that no one could confuse your lack of holiness with Himself.

We are not of your generation and we hold no soft spot for your social commentary. When you talk of revolution, you mean love-ins and meaningless boycotts that produce nothing. When we talk of it, we don’t mean little token gestures, we mean kicking the enemy full in the face and rooting all of his garbage out of the church.

We have got some news for you, Saul; we are not the kind of men that you approve of. We have a profound intolerance for injustice and we will lay down our lives for the cause of Christ and to alleviate the suffering of mankind. We will run to the battle yelling “Blessed be the Lord who teaches my hands to war and my fingers to fight!”

It is a new day and we look far in the past, before you came around, to find our role models. We look to the heroes of WWII, who did not shirk at the possibility of death in order to stop the oppression of the innocent. They did their duty and never thought of burning a draft card or running away. We do not look to your generation and your men that seem to need therapy after every battle and who are more comfortable in slippers than combat boots.

Duck and cover, Saul. David is running to the battle now. And we are taking no prisoners and giving no quarter.

4. For trying to force us to wear your armor when we are going to war to clean up your mess in the first place. (1 Samuel 17: 32-39)

If we were to have listened to you, Saul, we would not have even gone up to the battle. You were doing little, of course, except building ever bigger kingdoms for yourself but you said that we should not go because we were only youths. But when we came to this camp of the Lord, we did so with some past experience under our belt. We came to you full of the understanding that God had saved us from the lion and the bear and any uncircumcised Philistine that stood against God would end up just like these had.

You told us that if we had to go to war, we had to go just like you did. But your armor doesn’t fit us and it never will. You don’t understand why we aren’t content to just do everything exactly the way that you have done them. You say that we can’t even be a Christian if we don’t do Church like you. We must sound like you when we preach and sing like you when we worship. From marketing to altar calls, you dictated the way that we should go to the battle but in the end, we saw that it just did not work for the fight that we faced.

And so we beg to differ with you, Saul.

You have failed to reach our generation with your humanistic Gospel. They are dying by the multiplied millions while you pose and parade and practice the fine art of political correctness.

And we will wait for your approval no longer to do battle. If all that will stand up to the Goliaths of our day is we few socially questionable radicals than so be it. We will do so with 5 smooth stones and the battle song of the Lord on our lips. We will not look to you when we decide how a church should be run. We will not look to you when we evangelize our generation. We will look to the Lord and to the battles that he has already brought us through.

All of this being said really just boils down to this:

Goodbye Saul, we have a battle to run to. We tried to fit into your system; we tried to build bridges so that you could understand us. But you required more than you gave and in the end, it was always just about yourself and preserving your monument that you constructed. You were so intent on elevating your methods and protecting the changes that you introduced, you never even questioned if they even worked anymore.

And so we will ignore your system completely and seek God on how to build something after his heart so that our generation may worship Him freely without all of your baggage attached. And together we will see that the Ark comes back where it belongs.

See you anon,

David

Gen-X is leaving Laodicea.

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One of the main motivations that I feel in this current drive towards vintage reconciliation is my deep desire to help correct what I view as fundamental flaws in the churchian system and to provide genuine alternatives for those who feel trapped inside of it. As this generation gets older, I see that we are less and less willing to just accept the spiritual hand-me-downs of our predecessors. The armor doesn’t fit us, the system is all wrong and we just can’t get used to it. Like being in a bed when the sheets are too short, after awhile, you just want to replace them all and start fresh.

Personally, I have always been a bit marginalized, counter-culture, non-conformist, give it a name. When Christ found me all those long years ago, I was not a poster child for Christian virtue, anything but. I was a real mess in every possible way. And yet, He was pleased to find me and to lavish upon me a love and concern that frankly I had never truly experienced in my life, who has?

When He did this, He bought someone who loves Him back, viciously. The scripture that reads, “Zeal for your house consumes me” (John 2:17) certainly has always applied to me, as my entire being has been focused on God and His work ever since. Now, my zeal has been imperfect at times (let the reader sense understatement here) even damaging to myself and others in particular. In other words, I have never done everything right but everything that I have done, I was sure was right at the time. Selah.

I have always been quite sure that God was somehow amused by my awkward attempts at zealously pursuing what I felt that He wanted from me. Like a teacher who gives children hand-outs of perfect cursive and tells them to copy it exactly, what do they feel when they view the awkward and imperfect attempts at carrying out their wishes? Not anger, to be sure, unless they are a tyrant. So, I have always felt God smile when my baby deer legs didn’t quite hold me up or when I picked fights too big for me, certain of His bigness.

My sureness of His hand on my life stems primarily from the fact that He doesn’t let me get away with much. God always lets me know when I have been or am wrong and that has become one of those things that I genuinely fear, I really don’t want to be wrong because I really want Him to be pleased with me. This being said, I always find that I doubt, above all things, the sincerity of my own heart. I know myself, that is, my flesh, and am convinced as to its reckless and selfish nature.

And so I am generally the first to apologize, even when the other person’s wrong far exceeded my own and they have never apologized for what they did. I do this, not because I am über but because I fear God. I want to make sure that He is pleased with me and I will let Him deal with the others, He is after all, really good at that.

What bothers me most, therefore, is not the fact that men can be wrong, even grievously. What bothers me is that they never see it, repent for it, make amends or even apologize.

For instance, ever since I first came to the “church”, I have been shocked at the deluded and Christless state of many in the Church both systemically and personally. I have traveled and preached all over and it never ceases to amaze me that so many could never question or care that what they promote or do is contrary to the truth of the Word. It is actually quite scary when you think about it; how many of those who name the name of Christ can do things that are humanistic at best and downright satanic at worst, all without ever seeming to even care?

Some are loyal to “you four and no more” above all else, believing that God is interested in you in particular and so it does not matter what you do or whom you do it with or to. Some shamelessly build their own Kingdoms using gimmicks and humanist programs. Some think that their “calling” gives them the right to get to where they are going all on their own, even trampling ministers and ministries along the way. Some “serve” Christ while fostering satanic ideals of division, rebellion, selfishness, self-centeredness, gossip, malice, character assassination, bitterness and despising authority. Talking about Christ while hating and trying to destroy ministries in His Body is not a mistake, it is satanic.

The concept of community, Body life and brotherly love has all but disappeared in our every-man-for-himself culture. We have equated love with emotion and lost the notion of love as an act of volition. We have mistaken community for pot lucks and movie nights and missed the entire point of New Testament community.

The laundry list of faults goes on and on.

To understand how we got here, you must understand that the main focus of what we do is first of all numbers and secondly, self advancement.

This is how we judge our own success and other’s as well. If you have numbers, God is pleased. If you do not have numbers, God is obviously not pleased with you or even “with” you at all. This flies in the face of both the Gospel and history and has been one of the main causes for the declension of the modern Laodicean church. Because the proclamation of truth searches hearts and the motivations of the heart, something Laodicean Larry and Laura do not want. They want their best life now, justification of sin without justification of the sinner, prosperity without divine purpose and no guilt trips to bring them down.

In the clergy’s pursuit of the American dream, we are happy to give them what they want. We want numbers, they want Jesus-Lite (all of the taste, none of the guilt!) and so we fashion them whatever God they wish. They hand us their gold, we get to building them an idol that they can sing about, feast to and fornicate in front of without fear. Big churches want to hold onto their power and money, middle churches wish to get more money and power and little churches dream of having money and power and we sell our souls to satan for it.

Gone is all talk of sin, the depravity of man, the sovereignty of God, the wrath of God, Hell, the atonement, regeneration as mandatory, repentance, sacrifice, martyrdom, consecration and the judgment seat of Christ. In their place are self-help, practical lessons on life, prosperity without purpose, greasy grace, antinomianism, Pelagianism, egalitarianism, seeker-sensitive non-religion, no cost, no discipleship, no guilt, no works, and humanist propaganda.

For those of us who feel that something is rotten in Denmark, it is easy to feel overwhelmed by the sheer volume of the problem. In this culture, size makes right and so if you have numbers, it must be God. Subsequently then, if you don’t have big numbers, you really cannot speak on issues until you have proven that God is indeed with you by big numbers.

So to cry out that you feel that something is amiss when you are not on Christian television (a sure sign of the favor of God) is frowned upon. Small town local pastors should not have a say in the state of the church because that right is reserved for certain special leaders. I imagine many of the same arguments were made in Luther’s day; how can the whole church be wrong? Why would God give you an answer? Aren’t there good things that are going on to outweigh the bad? Why would God reveal truth to a little nobody monk?

And we, like Him, only know what we know. Namely, that this monstrosity looks nothing like the First Church, Geneva, Herrnhut, The Foundry, Red River, Ulster, Northampton, Wales, Hebrides. And our current crop of Adonijah leaders look and sound nothing like Knox, Calvin, Augustine, Luther, Edwards, Whitefield, Zinzendorf, Wesley, Moody, Spurgeon, Tozer, Reidhead, Paisley and most importantly, Yeshua Ha-Mashiach.

So, regardless of numbers or popularity, we hear the voice in the middle of the night telling us to  “Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee”. We only know that something is deeply flawed and we have to leave. Like Abraham, we travel from Ur not knowing where we are going but certain of the call to go anyway.

God’s natural law states that a body in motion will stay in motion unless acted upon by an outside force and the force that acts upon it must be an unbalanced force. In other words, in order for us to make a difference to the church at large we must hit the problem as hard as we can from one direction and at a different trajectory than what it is currently on.

So, here we all are. We are stuck on a bus with no driver, heading as fast as it can towards a destination that we want no part of. And yet, we feel helpless because all that we know is on that bus.

We want to continue mostly worthless worship services because we don’t have any better ideas. Never mind that particularly in the Charismatic circles, it is all emotionalism, humanism and flesh. We just don’t have any better ideas and besides, our flesh really likes to sing and imagine that God is listening, he is, of course, so desperate for any affection that he breaks down and weeps when even the biggest hypocrite, who denies His name six days out of seven, sings along with our worship leader.

We want to continue with all of the Laodicean 21st Century inventions because that is what we are comfortable with. And as that revolutionary war guy said, “Give me comfort or give me death”! We know, deep down that something is wrong but we are afraid to make the changes to something better because we don’t really know what that is.

And so, like the people who do wrong, consistently, even brazenly, sowing discord, division and character assassination and so on, we never think of repentance or reconciliation because we want what we want. God will get over it, right?

One of the best ways to understand the concept of sin is that sin is rebellion against deity by saying that you want what you want, regardless of what deity says. Alternatively you can say that Christianity therefore is the practice of saying that you want what God wants, regardless of what your flesh wants. This is basic elementary everyday normal Christianity.

Using this simple bit of truth, when we know that changes must be made and yet we do not do them, that must be sin, at least as much as those who seek their own and curse, bite and devour others on their way. We want our way with the church, we want society to be pleased with us and we don’t want to rock the boat. It all starts, continues and ends with self.

I have seen this particularly with charismatics. They are fine with all manner of heresy, heterodoxy, error, sin, humanism, self love and narcissism. But don’t change their changes. Whatever little “advances” and modifications they have made generationally to the church are off-limits. You can rant and rave all day about religious people (everyone not charismatic), but don’t you dare change their changes.

So here after a few months of pursuing vintage reconciliation, we find ourselves not really looking very charismatic at the moment. But we are feeling a whole lot more like Jesus. I suspect the same can be said for all of the churches here locally that have been undergoing real transformation.

It has been hard, we have lost some people that we loved, have seen numbers fluctuate. But we know that God is the wind in our sails and so we press on. We do this because it is better to not be safe than to be silently wrong. To leave Ur and head out, even not knowing where you are going feels a whole lot better than sitting there and complaining about all of the wrong that is around you.

So, Pastor, wherever you are right now just get up and go. Sure, numbers may drop, people may hate you for rocking the boat, fleshy Christians high on greasy grace may bite and tear at you but shouldn’t you follow your own conscience? You know that something is amiss and in order to change it, incrementalism simply will not work now. We are too deep into the Humanist age; the consumer-based Churchian mob rule of Laodicea. No, what it is going to take to awaken the sleeper out of their slumber is a full on carpet bombing mission of shock and awe. And no one else can do it except you.

What it takes is simply stepping off of the bus, period. Just get off and stop the madness altogether. Nix everything in your service that has been contrived in the last hundred years for starters, you have to go back before Laodicea. I would counsel not trying to go back to the Apostolic age, even they were rebuked in the Book of Revelation. Instead, go back to the Philadelphian Age, brotherly love and missions. Just start there. Kill the lights, close the computer, shut down the PowerPoint and the tragically hip praise team. Then, kill your suit, kill your sermon, kill the altar call, kill the offering.

After it is all gone and the room sits silent, just the sheep and yourself, talk to them and let them talk to you back. Talk about Jesus and talk about discipleship. Serve communion, feed some hungry people once a week. Actually help people who come by your church, get involved in your community and fight for what is right and for those who can’t defend themselves.

Chuck the show and the entertainment and just demonstrate what Christianity is. Then begin to add again what people have forgotten from that wonderful Philadelphian era. Our services have begun to look like services again but with a major difference; they don’t look like we are living in Laodicea. And by the Grace and favor of the Lord, we won’t ever wake up in Laodicea again.

And so, my dear Pastors and leaders out there, do you really want another day at the Laodicean Christian Center, Inc.? If you don’t change now, you may die right there. You were meant to be a preacher, to exemplify Christ, to reach out to a lost a dying world, to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. You were not created to be a religious CEO but a prophet. Leaving Laodicea doesn’t take a five year plan or a twelve step program, it takes just simply leaving Laodicea and being true to what God has called you to be, even if it is true by yourself in the desert heading to a future that is uncertain.

The foundation is faulty.

“Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.” Romans 4:4-5 KjV

“Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.” Luke 18:10-14

In the course of studying about the faith of our fathers I have come to some terrible conclusions.

One of these and perhaps the most important to us right now is the issue of foundations. If we can see that the very foundations of our Christian experience have been compromised, we have a chance to fix it. If we fail to acknowledge that the foundation is faulty, the entire building is in grave danger of collapse. This collapse may not happen when you are ready for it; it may be during the night or in a storm while you sleep.

On a construction television show that I once watched, the homeowner called the show because he couldn’t understand why he could dig out the concrete in his foundation fairly easily. The home was unleveled, the concrete foundation falling apart; the whole of this very expensive house and all of its inhabitants were in great danger. Why? The foundation was not solid enough to do its job of supporting the structure that was built upon it. In order to save on costs, the contractor had cut corners in the solidity of the concrete and after a few years, the damage became evident.

For us, we are talking not about the investment of a home but rather about your eternal security and the health of the church here in America. Nothing could be more important to us.

Do you figure that perhaps the enemy might know this? That all he would have to do is change the composition of the material in a foundation and though it looks decent at the start, the cracks will begin to appear after time? Those cracks would begin to show in times of stress, of danger or in the midst of the storms of life. And it is only then, at the exact point when you realize that you need the stability of a foundation the most, that your true state, and the immediate danger of catastrophic system failure is revealed.

So, here is the question I put to you now: Has our 21st Century Christianity lost something foundational and utterly necessary to producing not mere decisions but rather genuine conversions? And what are the repercussions to us of having a faulty foundation?

As we learned previously, a cheapening has occurred, we have substituted the pearl of great price for cultured pearls meant to look like the real thing. And because we have paid so little for those pearls ourselves, we are quite willing to sell them to others just as cheaply. This has led to our churches being filled to the brim with people who are the product of cheap grace and born out of a need to fill up space with as many warm bodies as possible so that we can be reckoned to be a success.

If our calls to salvation are flawed in this way, could it be because we, like those contractors, have cut corners? Have we weakened the mixture so as to make the product cheaper for those seeking to emulate our own foundation? And if the product that we were given was similarly compromised and we compromised the mixture even further for those who followed us, where does this eventually lead? To entire generations whose houses have been built upon the sand, not upon anything even closely resembling a rock.

The altar call of the 21st Century looks like this; we first grow quiet and contemplative. Then, the minister begins to talk earnestly about salvation. It usually centers around how bad your life has become and how God can make it all better if you give Him a chance. Some brave ministers will mention Hell as being a possibility tonight if you don’t ask Jesus into your heart, most don’t go this far. Then comes the fateful moment; the group is told to “bow their head and close their eyes, with no one looking around”, because we don’t want anyone’s decision to be hampered by the embarrassment of being seen by others.

Then the question is put to the group- who would like to ask Jesus to come into their heart, who would like to be “born again”? They are then told to go ahead and lift their hand if they would like to accept Christ (“I see that hand, thank you.”) and then we lead the entire group in a prayer called “The Sinner’s Prayer”. Again, it has to be the whole group that prays this prayer out loud, we do this because of the potential embarrassment of those who lifted their hands, or just in case someone, being too embarrassed to lift their hand to ask Jesus into their hearts, wouldn’t be shy about praying something that the entire group is praying at that moment.

Whatever gets them to say the magic words is fair game after all; those magic words will save them. This little belief system has led to one “Evangelist” producing cards with the sinner’s prayer written on them. He then had people cover the city, getting people to repeat the magic words written on the cards. If you could get them just to say what was written on the card, they were saved! He would then report inflated numbers of “conversions” and claim that they were in revival.

After everyone says the magic words of the Sinner’s Prayer, the group is then told to open their eyes and clap for those who did so. In some churches, those people are then invited to come up front or follow a person into another room where they will be given their first bit of propaganda on the new subculture they have joined.

And that’s it! After that, they are told to find a church, read their Bible and pray. You are a now a Christian and have in your possession diplomatic immunity for when you sin and the mandatory “Get out of Hell, free” card that is probably the only reason you wanted Christ in the first place. Just in case, you know, you can never have too much insurance.

Are the means of salvation of any importance? Does any of this matter if the ends are the same? If, no matter how you get in, it all leads to the same destination, then no. If all that matters is that you say the magic words, then any port will do in a storm. But what if those magic words are not real, what then? What if there are no magic words and what really matters is something entirely different? And what happens in the lives of those people who climbed up some other way into the sheepfold?

The means that are employed in our initial salvation become the foundation of our walk with God. If we offer a salvation based on Humanism, one that is tailored at making people happy, wealthy or peaceful, the ends of that would have to be self-centeredness, greed and self-indulgence. If we offer cheap grace, the ends would have to be sin, lack of holiness and lack of consecration. If there is no true conviction of sin, they will never be mindful of sin. In short, what they build upon the foundation that they are provided will be as flawed as the foundation itself. God is not mocked and origin determines destination every time.

I have looked carefully at church history, looking for clues as to what our Fathers believed and taught regarding the means of salvation. What I discovered could not be any more different than what our current experience is right now.

Before I talk about that, I want to touch on something else first. I am of the opinion that “normal” Christianity is not the generic experience that we have come to expect to see all around us. Normal Christianity was the life of Christ, the practices of the First Church and the revelation and practices that have occurred in revival history through the centuries. It was here, in times of revival, that the church was normal in the sight of God. Everything else, our compromise and substitutions, only occur in times of declension. We fall away and come back, like the waves of the sea. At the high point of revival, the church sees and acts as it was meant to.

Knowing this, that whatever the church has become in times of declension is not the normal that God intends for us to live in but rather the effects of religion, flesh and compromise on our part, we simply have to reject the current state of affairs as being abnormal. Nothing can be trusted; the entire apparatus has been compromised by a total lack of understanding that we are not what we are supposed to be.

Paris Reidhead once recounted a story that I feel is perfect for demonstrating this. He said, “They tell about a man, out in the western part of Mississippi in a little rural town, way back up the river, that had a large plantation and many, many slaves.

Somebody came around to the slaves and said that the emancipation proclamation’s been signed. So they went to the owner and said, “Now what does that mean?’ He said, “That means I can’t sell you to anybody else. It means that from now on I just can’t sell you. It’s utterly impossible for me to sell you, the government said I can’t sell you.” “Well, what does that mean?”, they asked.

He said, “Well that means you just go right on ahead and work here and you don’t need to be the least bit afraid. You just work for me and go right on working for me and I’ll never sell you, I’ll never sell you. You can stay right here.”

So, one year went on, two years went on. They kept living in the slave quarters, they kept going to the field, and they kept eating the food, taking the lash of the overseer. Just going right on, and they said, “Isn’t it wonderful to be emancipated? We don’t have to be so feared about being sold, our families won’t be broken up and surely we can live right here with our daddy and our mommy all our life. We’ll go right on working for the master here.”

And so they go right out into the field and grovel and serve and they were talking about being emancipated. Cause they couldn’t be sold to anyone else. Then, someone came along and said, “What are you doing here?” “Well”, they said, “we’re emancipated, we don’t need to be afraid about being sold anymore.” “Listen, you don’t understand what emancipation is, you don’t need to serve that man anymore, he doesn’t own you. He not only can’t sell you, but he can’t make you work for him. You don’t have to do his dirty bidding anymore. You can leave here, pack your things and go down the road and go anywhere you want to go.” “Well he never told us that, that’s what it meant to be emancipated. So, we’ve spent four years working here, when we didn’t have to.”

When the very terms that we use in Christendom have been corrupted, how can you walk in any light whatsoever? And if we find ourselves in a position of waking up and realizing that we have been lied to, you can’t make a partial change, you must affect an entire change. If one term has been compromised, all are in danger of being the same.

The life we lead as 21st Century Christians is like those poor slaves in the story. We asked what salvation meant and the devil gave us our definition. We asked what the Power of God was and religious people who had never experienced it for their selves defined it for us. And on and on it goes, everything that we thought we knew was based on a flawed definition, a foundation that is weak and unable to bear the weight of a normal Christian life.

The true state of the normal Christian life then can only be seen in times when the Church experienced revival. Revival being the normal of God destroying the concept of normal gained by defining normal on the downward scale of our group experience. As sin runs rampant, we define our normal by it until sin is considered normal. When divorce is more prevalent in the church than in the world, we define our normal according to it until it is accepted and even expected. When the Church has grown apathetic, lazy and cold, we define our normal by that and accept that God does not move today because surely, if he did, we would have seen it by now.

Even more dangerously, in Charismatic circles, we have actually believed that we were experiencing all that God has for us. We take goose bumps, emotionalism or small spiritual experiences as proof that all is right between God and ourselves. We have shrunk the Spirit of God down to the point where the best He can do is to give you a shiver or knock you down and when we have some sort of experience, we assume that this must be God. This God, whose glory filled the temple until the priests could not minister, this God, who man can not look on or he would die, we say that He is behind our little experiences and go on living in utter rebellion against Him and leaving ourselves wide open for any doctrine and any spirit that comes along.

We cannot bring ourselves to admit that were God to actually show up at a meeting, the results would be markedly different than the puniness of our present experiences. He is Jehovah and is larger than your experience, than all of our experiences!

This is a tragedy!

The very fact that revival is so rare should send us to our knees in travail. Because it is not rare simply due to it being a sovereign act of God that He has chosen to rarely bless the Earth with, it is rare only because we compromise so efficiently and effortlessly that the normal of God can never stay with us very long. But make no mistake, revival is the normal of God, it should be the normal experience of the Church and when we live outside of it, nothing that we take for granted should be. We may, all of us, be in for a rude surprise when we see Him face to face.

In regards to the normal means of salvation then, the common experience both lived and taught in a time of declension is no standard by which we should measure it. Rather, we should look to times of revival to see what it looks like under genuine normal circumstances.

I believe that it is here where we have so often failed. A few years ago, a movement started in the Third Wave circles called “The Repentance Movement”. It was generally believed that repentance was the means of salvation and without it, you could not be saved. And so repentance was sought, preachers railed and blasted and people felt really bad. I half expected to begin seeing self-flagellation at the meetings at some point, everyone being so determined to feel bad and suffer.

And yet (curiouser and curiouser) there was no revival, nothing even close. It seemed that God did not respond to the repentance any more than He did to the Humanistic calls made by the other side. In fact, the entire thing devolved to the point to where it was full of very mean people, full of self righteousness, who, when revival did not come, turned instead to heresy hunting and pointing out errors of doctrine as their form of revival and worship.

And so I began to see that perhaps we were confusing the effects of the drawing of God with the means by which salvation occurs. That something else was occurring that was as much of an error in the right ditch as the Humanists were wrong over in the left ditch. And if repentance was not the means of salvation, what was? And was it possible that we had, in our genuine desire to see God move in our day, simply slopped together another mixture and presented it as true and right when in fact, it also could not support us as a foundation.

Upon reading revival history, I discovered something quite profound that had escaped my notice before.

There is only one means of approaching God and anything else added to it will never suffice as a foundation. It is simply this: “I am ungodly, take me to the one that justifies the ungodly”.

We tend to want to add something to it, don’t we? We want to say, “I am ungodly, look at my remorse, look at my tears”. We want to push on God our faith in Christ, our repentance and our desire to know Him. We say “I am a sinner, I have committed sins” but this is mentioned as an aside. We truly feel that the real juice in the sinner’s prayer is, “I believe” and that it is this, your belief that saves you.

But all of those, even your belief, are from us and stink of works. Even the heartfelt tears that come as God reveals your sin are not sufficient to appease him alone. When we make an offering of these things to God and attempt to add to his requirements, we short-circuit the system and create a false foundation for our Christian walk.

If tears saved you, then he would no doubt have required those as payment for salvation. If it took an overpowering sense of Hell, He would have just said that. But all that He requires is this, “I am ungodly, take me to him that justifies the ungodly.” And when we come to the place where we know that being ungodly is all that we are and that nothing else has any value whatsoever to him as a means of salvation, this is when we can begin to repent, to believe.

This is both incredibly simple and at the same time, very complicated. Because we must here ask why it is that this is not being produced in our services. To this, I must say, that it is due to our undervaluing of His worth and overvaluing of our own.

If we understood His value, His holiness, His justice and mercy and if we saw clearly our own worthlessness, our sinfulness, our corruption and our fallen state, we would not dare question His demands from the race of man. If we saw Him as He is, we would simply know that our best is not good enough and that it never can be. We would stop trying to make an offering of our tears at being caught in the act, or of our feeble mental assent as to His nature or our disastrous reckoning of divine love.

If we saw this clearly, we would stand with our head down, hands at our sides, the fight taken out of us completely and just say, “I am ungodly. I know this now. There is nothing good in me. I have no virtue that I can offer to him in trade. When I see myself as He must see me, in His infinite goodness and His perfect justice, I know that I am undone. And so here I stand with nothing to say in my own defense, no offering in my hands to increase my own worth. I know that this is what He requires, that I come to Him on this basis alone. I am ungodly. Would you take me to Him that justifies me based on this fact alone?”

In revival, it is understood that ungodliness is the one thing that separates man from God and yet, paradoxically, it is the one thing that ties man to God. Because it is the simple acknowledgement of this fact, without addition and without excuse that God requires as the means to salvation. And when we come to Him with just this, we can then experience true repentance and true belief as we receive in ourselves the inner witness that we have been saved.

The old Methodists taught that sinners should “pray ‘til they knew they were lost and then pray ‘til they knew they were saved” and this is true. When the true nature of God is preached unapologetically without the defilement of 21st Century mindsets, man can see himself for what He is: ungodly. And when we come to God based on this alone, He responds with genuine salvation. And that foundation will hold and it will produce a normal Christian life that has begun not with our own virtues but with the death that Jesus requires of all who would seek to follow Him.

“I am ungodly” then is the admission of the soul who has accepted his fate at the site of the execution and who knows that he has no defense. He goes willingly to his punishment, knowing that he deserves it. And after the sentence is carried out and he dies, that is when he finds the true life just beginning.

And here lies the difference between the Church of Declension and the normal Church of God; the normal Christian life must begin with your death.

I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. Galatians 2:20

You stand before a just and holy God without excuse. So much of the time we go before Him like a prisoner on death row who says, “Yes, I killed someone or stole, or lied or cheated BUT…” then they proceed to give excuse as to why they did what they did or to attempt to off-set the bad with something else such as “I feel really bad about it”. What would be the outcome of amnesty declared in such a case? Why, that person would go on from there feeling as if they were set free because of some quality that they possessed, perhaps it was their remorse or their good qualities.

But the person who stands there and knows that there are no redeeming qualities to them and that justice demands that the sentence be carried out immediately, to which they agree because they deserve it. What would the outcome be of amnesty in that case? Gratitude from the grave.

Christianity must start with this, the complete admission, without additions of “I am ungodly”. This is the necessary first step in the normal Christian life. We are baptized into this death and the life we live is to be His life in us. The old is to be gone, both the positive and negative qualities of it as well. It is to be executed and then the new life that rises is to be His and His alone.

The atonement did not provide anything for you, you being the old man. Whatever benefits there are to the atonement are poured out on Christ, whose life you are now living by the faith of the Son of God.

And friends, this then is the only beginning to the normal Christian life.

Worship: Singing Your Lies.

This is not a simple thing, getting simple.

Much of what we do is rooted in our identity as 21st century beings and it is very difficult to shed those thought processes. I have come to feel that the trappings of the zeitgeist can only really be seen when they are held up in contrast to an earlier age. Juxtaposing 21st century Churchianity to a much earlier time has revealed some fundamental issues that I would never have been able to see clearly before we set out on this adventure.

I have discovered that before we can even begin to gather our twelves baskets full of remnants, we have to deal with ourselves and the repercussions of our adhesion to the spirit of the age. This has proven to be so deep and far reaching that we have barely even been able to start this emulation. To deconstruct must come first; who are we and how did we get here?

Stripping away everything from the stage is the first step in this. All of our actions, props and lights that add depth to the stage and by extension, the “performances”, have to be removed so that we can clearly see what we really have before us. It is a raw thing, to be sure. We are so used to hiding in various aspects of our Sunday performance, not wanting to have to deal with the reality that is all around us. We seem to sing, dance, use our multimedia, preach and pray in an almost sterile environment, the preacher being removed from the people and fully insulated in the bubble of “the show”.

When you take away all of this, you are left with what remains; the people and their issues and you.

I discovered something just here at this point. When I removed the whirl of the service progression and deconstructed it down to its most basic elements, everyone was left without something to hide behind. For some, it was music. In the McChurch, you play five songs or more and you have a predictable response. Some dance, some sing, some lift their hands, some don’t budge and just stare straight ahead. When you strip that time away and pose to the people the simple issue of what worship is, they quickly get uncomfortable and even distressed. I think that we have substituted real worship for this thing that we do, this sing-along that allows you to act spiritual without doing anything spiritual.

Let me explain.

Matthew 15:7-9 reads: “Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying, This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.”

Fair enough, Jesus. So, some folks sing and profess something with their mouth while their heart is elsewhere, I get it. So, let’s stress that the people really must mean every line from the songs that WE chose for them to sing, regardless of where they are or what is happening to them. That may close the issue for good (and has) if it weren’t for the next line, the last bit here that throws everything off: “worship in vain, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men”.

Have we done that? The Boomers, who have set the stage here for us in regards to McChurch, love worship. In fact, they demand a satisfying worship experience and to not have one is heresy of the first order. Gen-X could not be more different in this. What we long for is realness, period. I don’t want to go through the motions and follow a pattern that you created for me just so that I can fit in. What I long for is a depth of experience that I have not found in the McChurch pattern. A segment of this generation is also totally burned out on the whole performance aspect of “worship ministry” in general. We have been to so many shows over the course of our lives and coming into the church, we see one more show. And we don’t want our spiritual church service to simply stoop down to the level of filling a missing area of our lives.

That idea is very Boomer; no concerts now that you are a Churchian- we will fill that void with a Jesus concert-lite. No cool festivals- Jesuspalooza is the answer. Can’t watch that cool movie- substitute Christian cinema. The Boomers did this with everything from stupid Christian shirts that played on worldly themes (Lord’s Gym, Jesus: that’s my final answer!) to bumper stickers to mega churches that more resemble malls than places of worship (get a brew at Higher Grounds while you shop at our bookstore). I was, and am, just as guilty as everyone else of subscribing to the Boomers need for customization, substitution and convenience. God help us.

Real worship does not happen in a sing-along. In fact, real worship has nothing to do with singing at all. When the church in the first century heard the word “worship”, their thoughts went straight to the outward elements of sacrifice and the multi-layered facets of Judaism. To worship was equated with sacrifice. To us, we gloss this over with the term “sacrifice of praise” and then demand that everyone assume that we we are doing is right and God ordained.

So what is true worship, in spirit and in truth?

Rom 12:1-2  I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

Jas 1:27  Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.

When Paul calls presenting your bodies a living sacrifice, your reasonable service, the word rendered service there is the Greek word “latreia”- worship. When James talks about “pure religion and undefiled”, that word rendered religion there is the Greek word “thrēskeia”- worshipping.

Now, let’s get our heads around this. So, Jesus said that people were praising God with their mouths while their hearts were far from him and that they taught for doctrine the commandments of men. Paul and James go on to clarify by saying that dying to self and presenting your life to God in consecration is your reasonable act of worship and that pure worship and undefiled before God is to care for widows and orphans. How has that devolved into a sing along set to the snappy tunes of contemporary music while your life is not presented as a reasonable sacrifice and the only person that you really care about is yourself? I mean, people will actually get angry if you don’t have sing-along time because you are taking away their time to worship… an incredibly selfish statement that is only perceived in its true inglorious state when juxtaposed against the word of God stripped of all the double talk and false references.

Where does singing come in? The Bible does reference it, telling us to make a joyful noise and to sing and lift our hands. So you obviously can’t throw the baby our with the bathwater, right?

A few months ago we had what has come to be called “Fire Church”. It was a little event at one of our member’s farm with just a small group of us present and a visiting minister from out of town. Basically, we all sat around a fire and began to talk about God and spirituality and the differences between Gen-X/Y and the Boomers. For some reason, the conversation took place primarily between myself and the other preacher (curiouser and curiouser). What we experienced was the most spiritual church service that any of us had been a part of in years and in some cases, ever. At the end of the night, the Spirit of God hung thickly around that fire and the other preacher declared that we should sing. He began singing a song that was perfectly in line with the night’s impromptu teaching: They Will Know We Are Christians By Our Love. It was a deeply spiritual moment as all sung together these words that seemed like they were written just after our conversation, you could hardly breathe due to the presence of God that was there. And the song, sung in unity, actually added to the night’s revelation. We all walked away from that night knowing that something had occurred in the spirit that was transformational and powerful.

Juxtapose this with the McChurch service: begin with three songs, uptempo. The Worship leader must talk and cheerlead the people into getting excited. Then, after accomplishing this, we get serious. So begins the “worship set” of two to three slower songs meant to make the people contemplative. After this, we take your money, give announcements and get to the sermon.

I am sorry, I can’t do it. I am past the point of no return, that area that exists in the pilot’s vocabulary that denotes the area where you can no longer turn around, there simply isn’t enough gas, so you either make your destination or you crash. I am there.

The issue is that we have faked it for so long that we don’t know what it means to be real. When we ask ourselves what worship would look like if you took away all of the societal pressures and contraptions, all of the norms and patterns that we have learned from McChurch, you are left with a big, stinking hole that you don’t know how to fill. I mean, if you listened to country, pop, rock, punk, contemporary, is that what we should make our worship services into? If it is accepted by the status quo as “normal”, does that make it right?

What is “normal” to God?

We have found it best to allow my wife (our Worship Leader) to be led by God in regards to what to sing and when. That it should be Spirit-led and in harmony with the revelation, teaching, preaching, Word from God. That it should be simple and valued for the words that are said and not the style that it is in. It doesn’t have a “place” in the order of service as singing is only one small aspect of what true worship is. We should be presenting our bodies as living sacrifices first, dying to self and allowing God to free us from our demands of individuality, consecrating ourselves to God and His service. We should be engaging in Social Gospel activities, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, caring for widows and orphans, first. Then, properly laying upon the altar, we should sing songs in unity and sing to Him and for Him alone

The (ab)normal Christian Life

Have you ever stopped the world for a second and taken a long, hard look at what we have become? I have, and what I have seen has shocked me to my core. You see, to conform inside of the Cult of Normal truly is the easiest thing in the world to accomplish, you just go along and get along. Members in good standing shouldn’t question anything that is happening; you just accept that if it appears to be “normal”, it must be right.

In order to break free from the Cult and see things as they really are, you must begin to question with boldness. And the only reason that anyone would have for truly starting to question what they see and feel and do is if they take a chance and contrast and compare what “normal” looks like.

This is true with much of life. A person who is third generation welfare considers this state of affairs to be truly normal. You live on food stamps and are never ashamed because that is what “everyone” does. To get disability when you turn 18 is normal, to equate having babies with a larger check is normal. And to get these people off of the entitlement system is proving to be almost impossible, because why should you go to work and lose the free money, free healthcare and all of the benefits that are gained from your dependence on the system?

In order to free their mind from their perception of normal, you would have to immerse them in a completely different normal and let them learn to begin to see things with a fresh perspective. Sadly, for most who are trapped in a faulty worldview, the only world that they see is the one that has helped define what normal is for them and they can never truly break free from it.

For us as Christians, the journey must start with canceling our subscription to today’s normal Christianity and stopping that world completely in order to take a fresh, clean inventory of all that it is and has become.

Let’s begin this with some very simple questions: what was “normal” to the first church? I said the first church here and not Jesus because it becomes too easy for most people to disbelieve things when it comes to Jesus himself. You want to chock it up to His divine nature, supernatural power and sinless life. So for most people, being like Jesus is nigh impossible and so what He would consider to be normal is too far out for you to start to comprehend, much less empathize with.

So let’s talk about what “normal” looked like in the first church.

1. They continued steadfast in the Apostle’s doctrine and fellowship, and in the breaking of bread and prayers. Acts 2:42
2. All that believed were together and had all things common. Acts 2:44
3. They sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need. Acts 2:45
4. They continued daily in one accord in the temple and breaking bread from house to house and ate their meat with gladness and singleness of heart. Acts 2:46
5. The world expected miracles when they were around the Church. Acts 5: 12-16
6. They were imprisoned for their faith. Acts 5: 17-19, Acts 8:3, Acts 12:4, Acts 16:23
7. They were martyred for their faith. Acts 7:59, Acts 9:1, Acts 12:1-2

Now, let’s contrast and compare the original church with today’s version in America.

1. They follow many different teachers, all teaching something different. You have fellowship with close friends but little with the Church as a whole. Corporate prayer is nearly lost.
2. All that believe are separated by thousands of denominational groups and are expected to fend for themselves. Pentecostal handshakes and care for our own has nearly vanished in practice among today’s churches.
3. We give approximately 2.3% of our paychecks to the church, most of that going to uber ministries and not a local body. No one would dream of selling all that they had and giving it to the church.
4. We generally don’t visit the Church building daily. You attend service on Sundays, it must start at a certain time and finish at a reasonable time and if you are a fanatic, you attend a mid-week service as well. We don’t go around breaking bread from house to house as our private life and church life rarely intersect. We don’t really know what singleness of heart even means.
5. At best, the world expects bigotry, close-mindedness and intolerance when they are around the church. At worst, the world expects scandal and hypocrisy when they are around the church. Very few are convicted of their need for a savior or expect miracles.
6. Not in America, with few exceptions.
7. Again, not in America, with few exceptions.

As you can see, when we begin to contrast and compare what is considered to be normal, there is a wide gulf between experiences. Most will shrug this off as idealistic and simplistic, feeling that due to the age that the first church was occurring and the very nature of society at that time, a comparison would not really be fair to us today.

But we are not talking about society; we are talking about what is considered to be normal. The only way that you should expect output to change is if method and industry were to change. If method and industry remain the same, output would also remain the same. Because method and industry are internal mechanics and outward circumstances can only affect those if they are allowed to.

For instance, a winery that uses the same fields, the same methods of care and harvest and the same storage methods would be expected to produce a consistent product, that product would be considered to be normal for that winery. If on the other hand, the winery changes its fields, methods and storage facilities in order to keep up with the times or the demands of its consumer base, then the product must necessarily change as well. And what would be considered to be normal for that winery would therefore change and its output would be considered to now be inconsistent.

Somewhere deep inside of us, we know this inherently. Having been raised in a plastic world full of substitutes and alternatives, meant to streamline the process and mass-produce product in the name of convenience, we hunger for the real thing.

If you have ever tasted the difference between an organic tomato and one that is raised year-round in a gas filled chamber, there is no comparison. A pineapple picked directly off of the tree is miles removed from one that has been cold-packed and shipped 3,000 miles. The taste of an organic free-range chicken is totally different than the sad product generated from the tragedy of modern processing plants. And on and on it goes; real butter from a churn does not taste anything like “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter!”

And real Christianity tastes nothing like the genetically altered mass-produced and sterilized version that is foisted on us today.

There is a movement going on in the world today, particularly here in America. We are fed up with the substitutes and something deep inside of us desires the real thing now. We are tired of apartment buildings and cities full of traffic and pollution, we are fed-up with working for a corporation that pays us wages that are equally divided up between the government and other corporations, leaving us with little to nothing of our own.

We buy our food from corporations, spend our leisure time watching a corporate product or using one. We are constantly being bombarded with corporate slogans and offerings. And in the end, as we lay in a corporate bed with corporate covers, watching a corporate commercial, we know that something has gone terribly wrong and we are just not satisfied anymore.

Many of us dream of wide-open spaces and dirt between our toes, raising our own food and placing our own fences for our livestock. We secretly desire to escape to a place where we can raise our families without government or corporate intervention. We want to taste real meat and real vegetables and never again ingest sugar-filled substitutes that we suspect are killing all of us in inches.

But to do that seems too hard for many of us and so we content ourselves with buying something that claims to be organic at Wal-Mart or recycling our plastic bags or wearing a hemp necklace or wool socks. We know that something is wrong in our churches as well, it just feels- wrong somehow. You suspect that what is considered to be church in the 21st century is just another cheap knock-off, a substitute that has been genetically altered so that it can be mass produced for a greedy public.

Real salvation is too hard, try Salvation-Lite! It looks like the real thing but it is easily affordable even for the person willing to pay almost nothing! You can now be a Christian, fill your religion needs and not have to do anything for it at all, don’t change a thing!

You can choose the Church of your choice based on the Pastor’s style, the worship experience, its Children’s Church facilities. I tell you, a world of choices await you out here in the Cult of Normal, individually prepared and packaged for your convenience. If you tire of the product, why just switch, it’s all here for you!

Does it taste like the real thing? Sure it does, all you have to do is change the definitions of the words a little, based on today’s standards and voila, you are experiencing the same product as the first church. Salvation means either belonging to a church or praying a prayer. If you have done one of those things (based on your personal preference, of course) then you are as saved as Peter. Repentance means feeling sorry after you have been caught. Have you ever felt sorry after you have been caught doing something? Then you have repented, just like Paul.

The power of God? Why that is either a feeling of peace, a shiver you feel or being transported to the Third Heaven, as you like. Miracles? Well, life is a miracle after all, isn’t it? We are all surrounded by a thousand little miracles every single day here in the cult of Normal. Fellowship is simply having some friends and unity is when you are all getting along. Evangelism is suggesting that someone come to a church service with you and holiness is best seen through the lens of grace because no one is perfect, right?

And though all of this is considered to be normal and though the spin masters have tried to sell us on the idea that what we have is what they had back then, we all know in our hearts that it is a lie. That Christianity has been imitated and duplicated and sold to us in such a way that all of us can look like we have something that we know we really don’t.

I used to say in church that if we were to have a Jesus altar call, no one would answer it. For him, it was “Come and take up your cross and follow me”, “Sell all your goods and distribute to the poor”, etc. And I would juxtapose this with today’s Christianity-Lite pitch that tells you that if you raise your hand in the air with no one else looking and repeat a prayer under your breath that the whole room is praying, you too can be saved.

Now I understand that it is deeper than just the methods employed, it is a matter of value.

Pleather was created for the clothing and upholstery fields, a cheap mass-produced leather substitute that allowed you to have the feel and look of real leather, at a fraction of the cost. And today’s Christianity is nothing more than spiritual pleather, which looks good from a distance but could never really be confused with the real thing. The reason that it couldn’t comes down to value.

Nate Saint, who was martyred by the Auca Indians in Ecuador in the 1950’s said “People who do not know the Lord ask why in the world we waste our lives as missionaries. They forget that they too are expending their lives… and when the bubble has burst, they will have nothing of eternal significance to show for the years they have wasted”. The question for Nate came down to value. How could something spent in service to Christ ever be considered to be a waste when the value of obtaining Christ was so much greater than the value of what was being spent for it?

When I contrasted Jesus’ altar calls with modern ones, I thought that the difference lay in the process but I was wrong. The difference lay completely in the perception of the value of the item gained.

The merchant who discovered the pearl of great price went immediately and sold all that he had to obtain it. The reason that he did that was because the value of the pearl that he had discovered was worth far more than what he had to give in trade for it. All that he had and all that he had acquired up to that point in his life was worth less than the value of the pearl that he had found.

No doubt, had he discovered a cultured pearl as he was shopping, he would have been willing to give far less in trade for it. The value of that which was obtained determines the cost that is to be assigned to it.

And we have mass produced Christianity and cheapened it to the point that the only thing that it is worth in trade is the potential embarrassment of repeating a silly prayer in public and an hour of your time on Sunday at the church of your choice. Our salvation that is offered is pain-free, cost-free and hassle-free not because of what someone would be willing to pay for a genuine item of great value but because we assign very little value to it ourselves.

We bought a whole string of cultured pearls at little to no cost and what fool isn’t interested in getting something for nothing? If you can live blessed, happy, forgiven and carry diplomatic immunity in regards to sins that you commit and on top of all of this, have eternal life too and pay exactly nothing for it, I mean, who wouldn’t want that? It looks like pearls, feels sort of like them too, all at a fraction of the cost. Why would you need the genuine article, which is so costly when you can have the exact same thing for next to nothing?

Spiritual pleather- as good as the real thing and at a price you can afford!

We all like something for nothing, friends, but here is the problem, your pearl is a fraud. And you know that it is, why else would you attempt to hawk something of infinite value as a blue-light special? Why would you cheapen it and give it away at bargain basement prices to whoever comes down the street if it weren’t for the fact that you ascribe no value to it yourself? You got yours for nothing and ascribe exactly that value to it yourself. Because what they sold us was a lie, a cleverly marketed spiritual pleather that they spun out of whole cloth.

And you know it and I know it.

This is why the normal of today is so different than the normal of the first church; we aren’t talking about the same item. The pearl that they could gain was so precious that giving up all of your goods to give to the poor was nothing in comparison to what they got. To have all things common and make sure that everyone in the church had enough, that is a bargain! To die a martyr’s death and receive a Crown of Life or be imprisoned for your faith were of such small cost when compared to the Excellency of Christ and knowing Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings that they gladly paid it in exchange.

In the Moravian church, they were willing to accept insult and injury and risk their lives for the sake of Christ and spread the Gospel all over the world.

In the Reformation, they were willing to be burned at the stake by people claiming to know God because it was worth it.

All throughout history, people have discovered the pearl for themselves and the awful prices that they paid in exchange for receiving it paled in comparison to what they got. But here, today, no one wants your pleather Jesus and no one is willing to pay a dear price for it, not because He is any less worthy but because you see no value in him yourself. And though you may get offended at my saying this, check the value you place on Him, dear heart, you will see that I am right.

How can we ever have a return to normal if we don’t even understand the value of Him?

You get what you pay for, don’t you?

What does God say that salvation should mean and how much are you willing to give in trade for that?

What miracles are they that Christ says that we are to expect and what are you willing to give to see them?

What does the Word say that deliverance, freedom from sin, holiness, the presence and power of the Holy Spirit, evangelism, fellowship, unity, healing, peace, love and joy and true community all look like both in the Scripture and in the past lives of those who have attained them and told us of their wondrous power and what exactly are you willing to pay to see them for yourself?

The state that we live in of continual disappointment and spiritual excuses for why we don’t see more is a direct result of our unwillingness to pay for it. In fact, climbing up onto your cross willingly is the first step that is required of you. And the refining process continues until He receives you to Himself. We must give up our sins, our self-importance, our pride, our goods and our ties to the world, our virtues, our strengths and our identity to Him in fair trade for the privilege of seeing who He is.

“But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith. That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.” Philippians 3: 7-11

Some will no doubt claim that there is no price to pay but these are they, which paid nothing for what they got and are desperate to claim it as the genuine article. Jesus paid it all, they say and to this I say, “all to Him I owe”. There is a price to escape the Cult of Normal and there is still a precious value in the Blood of the Lamb.

It costs everything you are, everything that you have and everything that you will ever have and I can’t think of a better deal. There is something about this Jesus, that when you see Him as He is, when you look into His eyes and see the tenderness and care, nothing is too great of a price to stay there.

So, attention please, all you preachers and pastors, prophets and pimps, you teachers and intellectuals and liberals and conservatives. Listen up you mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, friends and relatives, spouses, lovers and acquaintances, you bosses and co-workers, you sons and you daughters. Everyone, please, if I could get your attention; would you please stop the bus, I’d like to get off.

I don’t like where you’ve taken me and don’t like where you are going. I am sick of the smell in here and I feel like I need to stretch. I see something else out there, out past the finger-smeared window in front of me. I see a vast horizon and an adventure that is waiting to happen. I see freedom of movement, away from my seat and the restricted way that I am forced to endure these cramped conditions like I was just meat being taken to market.
I see freedom out there for my head and my feet, for my heart and my lungs and I simply cannot take this guided tour of the make-believe movie of someone else’s freedom anymore.

I have got to go now and see what is out there for myself. Somewhere, out there, outside of these confines that you have laid out for me, I see a twinkle in the dirt, the light has caught on something and though I don’t see it clearly yet, my heart is stuck in my throat at the thought of what it could be buried out there, undiscovered.

I have a pearl to attain and I know that it will cost me all that I know and maybe it will cost me my relationships with all of you on this bus. It will cost me everything and I don’t really know what life will look like out there but I have heard of it, as a whisper in my spirit, God has told me that it is worth the cost.

So stop the bus, I don’t want your normal anymore, I have a pearl to gain.

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!

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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