Worship: Singing Your Lies.

F2351656-D148-40DB-B4B3-F11280BE98B1

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 I 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 years 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 the 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

Advertisements

The God of Serious Men?

4C7BE13E-2AB9-4D4F-A766-E3368413DD13

‘If I had my way, I’d fire you. You aren’t the God of serious men, you’re the God of little girls that wish upon a star’.

Thus began my prayer time today.

No reflective pause at the start, no praising Him for this or that thing, no coming before him in the mighty and incomparable name of Jesus. Just this single honest thought that was as true of a thing in my heart as I could think of.

Before you get your religious panties all scrunched up, I’ve always been this way with God, from the first day that religion brightened my doorstep. If I were to venture a guess I would say that it was due to my slight problem with authority; that’s always
been a bit of an Achilles’ heel in my life. I don’t give a rip what title you carry, I am only concerned with the authenticity of your leadership. I will not submit to nor will I follow a title, I follow leaders and if none worthy present themselves, I follow no one. I will however sit outside of your Golden Calf God Crystal Cathedral Family Fun Worship Center, Inc and pelt you with rocks and garbage.

I know, I know, you don’t even have to say it. You really want me to be more humble and take on the nature of a servant so that I will willingly fall in line and align myself with the vision items and teachings of your husband/brother/wife/cousin/pastor/tv preacher with cute hair and tight jeans, whoever, that couldn’t find God if he sat on their forehead and rode them like a hobby horse in the kid’s area at a midget rodeo.

Hence the crux of my dilemma.

See, ministry is easy. Small towns, big towns, small churches, big malls- all the same. All that you have to do is present the right image and feed the people a line. If other people think you are something, most will.

Make ’em laugh
Make ’em cry
Make ’em dance in the aisles
Make ’em pay
Make ’em stay
Make ’em feel okay
Not now John
We’ve got to get on with the film show
Hollywood waits at the end of the rainbow
Who cares what it’s about
As long as the kids go?
Not now John we’ve
Got to get on with the show
~Pink Floyd

See? Pink gets it. The original Pink, not the chick singing now. It’s all about the manipulation of the teeming masses, that’s it and that’s all. I’ve met big time preachers, gads of them. I’ve watched them show up to venues, sorry, churches, and have the staff put up their 30 foot banners on the outside – their huge faces letting everyone know the show was in town. Ive seen their riders before they get there, guaranteeing the amount of their pay and demanding rental cars, new cell phones pre-programmed with important local numbers, what kinds of foods they will and won’t eat at restaurants (they will NOT go to private homes to eat), and what they would like to see in their fruit and gift baskets in their room.

And man, they can put on a show! The crowds come, the place is full, the warm-up band is killing it, the offerings are fine as can be. They preach a message designed to do whatever the pastor has on his agenda and everyone is happy.

Except maybe God, who knows with him?

Of course there’s also myself but I’m never happy anyway. Walk away, he’s a downer, nothing to see here…

When I met Jesus it was during a suicide attempt, my second by the time I was 19. When I met him for myself, wet, bleeding and naked on a bathroom floor – I was sure I had finally found the answer. I’ve not had a normal life, not at all. I had seen and done more by the time I was 15 than 90% of adults have by the enId of their life. It’s been a merry little trauma train ever since, one situation after another. And in all of this, two things stand out as being absolute:

1. I am looking for the God of Elijah.

2. I am not content with your Ba’al.

And Ba’al he is, even if you just call him “Lord”.

Ba’al he remains, even if you sing songs at him on Sunday mornings, songs that touch the heart of Jehovah about as much as “My Sweet Lord” by George Harrison would.

See, kids, you can’t play a player and I can smell your fake about six miles away. I know you trust in your Churchian haircuts and cardigans like they are armor but they aren’t. They are billboards, declaring to the world that you are ravening wolves in a Ned Flanders mask.

And this is what I ran into upon my introduction to “the church” (yessss, amen… cue goosebumps…). Not a place where love abides and the glory of God fills the place, nope. I ran into tombs and mausoleums erected to an idea of a dead God who no longer really acted anymore (unless you have a rider and 30 foot big-face banner), a God that was on vacation but left us all a nice note. Granted, the tomb was decorated like a Victoria’s Secret store, and socially engineered to make people feel comfortable yet still conveying the idea that we are hip, down with emerging trends and technology.

I actually saw a church sign once in Minnesota that struck me as perfectly apropos: it had a black background and big bulbous green letters declared, “Sick?? We’re just like you!”

How comforting. If they point to the answer.

See, I’m weird. I came into this thing expecting God to be who the Word said he was and for the church to be anything other than what it is.

So I am constantly placing myself in the wonderful position of being alone, mostly broke, eschewing big invites to big places and needing to see God show up. I can’t sit back, content with the status quo and pretend. I would rather die than place hope in a false God that can’t provide, heal, save, deliver. I can’t quote your sermon zingers that are written from your bondage in Egypt or Babylon. I can’t sing your lies about God’s greatness when we are all taken away captive by a world system that we are enslaved to. Sorry. Pass.

I have to leave your camp because it stinks like a refugee camp in Africa in the heat of mid-summer. I can’t be content with the promise of Heaven and golden streets that I will walk down when I die; my uncle Bob who was “saved” on his deathbed by repeating the Sinner’s Prayer and asking Jesus into his heart- meeting me wearing white robes with tiny bird wings and telling me about the wonders of heaven that he has enjoyed. It’s a lie and the place you call heaven is a myth generated by men that didn’t know God but wanted to give out false hope.

No, count me out of your easy believing, shallow sermons from some fool that talks about a God they don’t know. I choose to be alone, looking for a God that can supply when no one knows my needs. I choose to wait for the right bus rather than to jump onto the one that everyone takes to the mall, church, give it a name.

I had a vision once at the beginning of my ministry because I am awesome. In the vision there was this huge pointy mountain and corkscrewing its way around the mountain was a road. As I looked, crowds started coming up that road, four abreast. They all were in lock-step with one another and dressed identically. As they rounded the first bend and disappeared behind the back side of the mountain, I waited and watched for them to come back into view. When they finally did, about a third were left. By the end of the second bend, none came out from behind the mountain. I was wondering about this in the vision when I heard someone tell me to look up; that’s when I saw a few men and women scrambling up the side, fighting to reach the top. Up there were some folks I recognized: Wesley, Bohler, Calvin, Knox, Augustine, Spurgeon, Allen, Branham, Coe.

Let the reader understand the vision.

Call me whatever you like. Level your charges against me, accusing me of non-conformity with an immovable object, all day. I’m glad.

At the end of the day, for all of your talk and posturing you probably couldn’t pray in a pair of shoelaces if you needed them and your leaning on the breasts of the world system and feeding your flesh its milk, lovingly stroking it and calling it “God” are a joke. It’s easy to conform to the world system and give God the credit for your car, house, credit cards, wardrobe. But you are slaves to it and God doesn’t want your false worship, he wants our obedience.

We are nothing more than the most moral representatives of a satanic world system and that is it.

And that is all.

Open your mouth up wide…
*makes airplane noises*
That’s good, now chew…

God has purposefully given me some awesome ideas the last few years. I mean, groundbreaking, paradigm shifting, non-conformist plans of awesome snowflake uniqueness that no one cared about.

Hey, churchy people! I have a request for two orphanages in Kenya for babies whose parents were just slaughtered by rebels. Give to this so we can help them!

*cue crickets*

Hmmm… strange…

Okay, how about a totally unique outreach to France, a country where 95% of the people have never seen a Bible? I’m talking a Gen-X outreach using very little resources but using off-the-grid, organic, self sufficient permaculture and sustainability to plant using an idea that they can readily identify with? Did I mention that none of the mission agencies send people to France because it’s too dark?

*cue more crickets, some sticking out their tongues at me*

Hmmm… curiouser and curiouser…

Okay. Here’s the marching orders- there’s a place in Cleveland called Slavic Village. Ground zero for the housing market crash. Good people are being overrun by drug dealers and gangs while corporate capitalist vulture pigs are buying up properties on the cheap and practicing gentrification while pushing out families and the poor. I’ve been given a four bedroom house there and a building to launch a ministry training center, if you could just partner with… us… as… we…

*Cue more crickets, some mooning me while whistling Chris Tomlin worship songs…

Hmmm… Okay, I’m starting to get annoyed.

Okay, you guys must care about this. We have a request on the table from a group working with the government of Honduras. They need us to raise 25 k to build a home for 25 little girls between the ages of 9-13 who are being used as prostitutes every night. Rich businessmen are paying low prices to sexually abuse these babies and I can’t sleep at night because I know that as I sit here, that piece of trash is ravaging that little body and ruining that baby girl. But we can change all that if you just give.

*Cue crickets interspersed with the sound of tonight’s episode of The Voice…

Hmmm.

What if I promise you that no matter the amount that you give with your tax deductible gift, God will return it to you a hundred fold? New houses, new cars, you can finally rest knowing there is money in the bank. Divorce your husband for not making enough money, it’s fine, Ba’al understands your pain!

*Cue cash register sounds as the milk and money flows.

Those are all real life scenarios and real life responses, crickets not actually being crickets.

And I sit here looking for God, The God of wonders, sovereign and supernatural. I have paid a heavy price for my search, believe me. I’ve also seen some incredible things; provision, AIDS healed, other healings beyond counting, satanists unable to open their mouths, ministry across the globe, providence at the last minute, countless lives changed and decisions made, watching God show up when I was on the road, numerous things, too numerous for this post.

Yet I still haven’t found the God of Elijah. I’m still looking for him, waiting as an object of ridicule as I choose to find Him rather than compromise and give him credit for the things I’ve gained. My heart has been broken a thousand times, I’ve lost people that I loved, I’ve been left and vilified when I couldn’t take the emotional trauma anymore. I’ve been slandered, rejected, ostracized, marginalized. I’ve fallen into drink, betrayed and destroyed by people that I loved and disappointed in a system that I hated.

Yet I’m still here.

The God I’m waiting for keeps his Word, him alone on the throne, the hearts of men and women in his hands, the fate of nations determined by his whim. This God can provide for me according to Matthew 6, not a resume, contacts or job market. This God can open prison doors, can cause you to walk on water or even part them before you. This God can be trusted with your very life, no matter the circumstances. This God is worthy of all of my love and all of my service because I know him.

If you prefer your Ba’al Golden Calf God, the one that promises much but delivers only the world system as a substitute, you go ahead and keep him. That God is a pathetic joke that the world openly mocks because he is nothing but the Venus DeMilo, all teats with no arms. Yet you placate your weak conscience by going to church with the family on Sunday listening to snake oil sales pitches from someone that knows God isn’t showing up. Then you continue in your mess because God stopped keeping score.

You’ve lost your first love, you’ve rejected the Holy Ghost, you have cast off the truth you knew because it all proved too hard.

Well, baby, it looks like the thing you longed to change ended up changing you. Now you’re a shell without hope, mortgaging your birthright for a temporary meal, worse than Esau because you know what you were called to and who you sold out in your adultery with the world and it’s system.

I’m calling on my Generation to wake up, cast off the mess they’ve sold you and leave the camp. I’m calling on you to leave the world system and all it’s pretty baubles and determine to find God, no matter the cost. I’m calling on you to get fed up with the status quo and reject the world, be crucified to it rather than compromise and court it’s favor.

I’m calling you to outright rebellion and revolution lest our entire generation is lost.

Wake up. Get up. Head into the unknown looking for a God that has assured us that he is bigger than anyone has yet seen. Now is our moment to walk in the Kingdom and change this world.

Can you do that?

If not, sleep on, take your rest. There is a city that you will never see the inside of called the New Jerusalem and a global reformation about to get underway, a foundation shifting revival coming that you will see but never be a part of.

Selah.

 

 

Christian JERKS

“So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple. Salt is good: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be seasoned? It is neither fit for the land, nor yet for the dunghill; but men cast it out. He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.”

Jesus

Luke 14:33-35

“Well I’m gonna go then. And I don’t need any of this. I don’t need this stuff, and I don’t need you. I don’t need anything except this. And that’s it and that’s the only thing I need, is this. I don’t need this or this. Just this ashtray. And this paddle game, the ashtray and the paddle game and that’s all I need. And this remote control. The ashtray, the paddle game, and the remote control, and that’s all I need. And these matches. The ashtray, and these matches, and the remote control and the paddle ball. And this lamp. The ashtray, this paddle game and the remote control and the lamp and that’s all I need. And that’s all I need too. I don’t need one other thing, not one – I need this. The paddle game, and the chair, and the remote control, and the matches, for sure. And this. And that’s all I need. The ashtray, the remote control, the paddle game, this magazine and the chair.

And I don’t need one other thing, except my dog.”

Navin R. Johnson

714160B4-27E8-4D2A-9514-834EF91C8CD0

Selective hearing is amazing, is it not? At some point in the journey of the Christian Church, we lost our ability to take God seriously. I am willing to take a guess that this may have started when the Bible stopped being the Word of God and it became the suggestions of God, and even those have been, in our mind, muddled up in bad translations and social ideals that no longer apply.

But if one part of the book is wrong, how can any part of the book be trusted?

And that is exactly our issue, isn’t it? If you do not believe in the infallibility of the book in the original languages, if whole sections are not for today, then you can be free to pick and choose which parts you like. We have gotten very, very good at this actually.

Throw two rocks hard enough and you will likely hit two Churchians with radically different ideas of God. And in our relativistic post-modern society, that is exactly what you should expect. Since no one has a lock on the truth and all religion is simply a man trying to have some personal religion that suits him, the idea of absolutes makes people freak out. We don’t like the idea that God has:

a.) The power to do as He wishes.

or

b.)The authority to do as He wishes.

We are the stars of this show and He loves us, right? I mean, for God so loved the world that He gave so this whole thing is all about us and His desire to love, bless and snuggle with us if we so choose. We leave churches if we aren’t getting fed, loved, hugged, promoted, adored, called, whatever. We choose churches based on what they can do for us. We engage in endless self-promotion in order to further our ministry and our gifting and our agenda. We build huge monstrosities called “Churches” (imagine if we called Army barracks Armies?) so that the world can gaze in wonder in the rightness and power of us and our calling.

We choose doctrines and pet teachers who tell us exactly what we want to hear. Hyper-Grace Antinomian doctrines are flourishing even though that little bit of heresy was called out a long time ago. We are even starting to see Pelagianism and Universalism make a comeback. All of this is surging in popularity because man wants the Gospel presented to him in a way that lines up with his or her worldview, period.

God is irrelevant; my perception of God is what is important. Besides, if the Bible is only partially true, who cares, right? A good God’s judgment seat is only for rewards, not to ever punish.

And so we heap up to ourselves teachers who tell us that God’s desire is for you to have your best life now. We hang on the every word of Antinomian pimps who tell us that grace is a cover for sin and that nothing that you do matters because God doesn’t care about law, commands or morals. We chase teachers who will give us the 7 secrets of complete selfish happiness, all without the slightest concern that they are teaching half-truths designed to hobble the true church of God and usher in a satanic age such as the world has never seen.

Sin is self-life, period. I want what I want when I want it and no one can tell my heart otherwise. This is the root of all sin, self. And (curiouser and curiouser) it also happens to be the common theme of the Laodicean church.

Let me give you an example; a person’s life turns out to not be what they expect. They are facing some failures and some loss that they do not want to face. A friend suggests that they go with them to ‘Happy Family Fun Church’, who knows; maybe they will hear something that will help them out. Once there, the person sees Happy Family Fun Churchians all acting happy and fun together. They sing happy songs, greet you in a happy way and happily take your money.

Then the motivational speaker takes the stage and explains that God loves them and has a wonderful plan for their life. It wasn’t His will that they are not happy, they chose to be unhappy by not saying the magic words. If they would just say the magic words along with the speaker, why, all will be well. God won’t care if they sin anymore, he will load them with benefits like cars and planes and all of this can be theirs for the happy fun price of ZERO, if they will just simply join us in saying the magic words.

Well, once they do this (who wouldn’t take a deal like that?) they are immediately welcomed into the church and given basic teaching on how to talk like a Christian and look like one (happy and fun). And that person is effectively damned for all of eternity because of the lies being propagated in the name of Laodicean religion. Jesus only saves the lost, you see. If they are comforted and coddled and told that they are just fine, what are the chances that they will ever accept the fact that they are lost and ungodly?

The root of that religion is self and origin will always point to destination, always.

Go ahead and try and ruin a ministry and start your own, hide and watch exactly where you end up. God will not be mocked, friend. Start a church based off a split, fostering a spirit of division, discord and malice. Plan for that church to split and split and split. Steal an idea and start a business, divorce your spouse for a better one, smear and use gossip to ruin someone, choose your poison. Your origin in unrighteousness will always point to your destination.

This holds true for those who come and “accept” Christ in an AMWAY altar call or even those who run to an altar call to avoid Hell, it is all the same. If self is the heart of your origin, selfish destruction will be the destination that you arrive at.

Someone may say that this is not fair, that it was the Preachers who were the ones spreading this false doctrine, why should the people be blamed for it? And I agree to a point but we know the end result of those people, they will be held to a stricter judgment and give an account of what they have done. And those who were wrapped up in the spirit of the age and selfishly seeking the benefits of a Just and Holy God will gain the word of God from The Revelation of St. John; ”He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still: and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still: and he that is holy, let him be holy still. And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be”.

The heart of all sin is self. “Selah” right there for a moment and contemplate. When you were offended at a brother and began to maliciously gossip and slander them with self-righteous zeal, what was the root of your offense? Was it not the wounding of your self-life in some way?

When you were alone and looked at pornography on the internet, what was the root of that? Was it not self and its needs and desires and the wishing for what you do not have, coveting something that is not yours?

When you lie to spare the feelings of someone else are you not really lying to save yourself from embarrassment or in order to maintain position with that person?

When you read the words of Christ about taking up your cross and following Him or forsaking all that you have, what is it that rises up in consternation and screams; “That’s not for today!” or “Jesus wasn’t being literal, just be willing to do it!” It is self, friend and it is your mortal enemy and has become in the Laodicean church the enemies’ Fifth Column. It is the hidden underground resistance that undermines your trip to the Celestial City every single step of the way. Because self and Christ don’t mix, they are mutually exclusive, diametrically opposed to one another.

The very heart of the call of God to salvation is a rejection of the self life. In Prevenient Grace, you must accept that self does not know Him, in Convicting Grace; you must accept that you are not pleasing to Him. Then, on the border of salvation and damnation, you must come to the conclusion that you are ungodly and that, not your faith, charm, will, decision, power, money, but that alone is the basis of your salvation. “I am ungodly; take me to Him who justifies the ungodly”. That admission of guilt and your undeserving nature is the death pangs of self-life in you.

But the wrestling match against the sinful selfish nature will continue until complete sanctification is established with Him in glory. And at every moment that it rears its head, we must yell, “Away with Him!” If self is tied up in possessions, give them away, literally. If self is tied up in ministry, quit until you get it fixed. If self is causing you to sin, cut that part of your life off completely. If your self life is so strong that you are compelled to look at porn, throw the computer out, dear heart. If self is at the heart of your business or your job, quit, take a reduction in pay and embrace simplicity in order to find salvation from self.

When the Israelites were given instruction for the Passover, they were told to not enjoy the meal, eat it quickly and in much haste. They were told to bind up their garments to run and eat it with their walking staff in their hand. As Watchman Nee wrote, “The world is to us while we live, a journey, when we die, a tomb”. This world is not your home, you are passing through. And none of these things can give you satisfaction. Live as if you are passing through here, a righteous sojourner.

And your mission while you are on this earth is to daily crucify your flesh, that self-life that ties you to Hell. Deal with it as extremely as you need to, it is your worst enemy. Do things that do your proud heart good. Serve as if you are no one. Be the least as often as you can. Kill that scoundrel by any means necessary.

The Christian life does not end with Justifying Grace but in the process of the Holy Spirit making that justification true in you through Sanctification. This is a forgotten truth in this era of presumptuous faith. So many reject openly the truth that we have to walk worthy of our calling, examine ourselves, prove our own selves and pursue holiness in the fear of the Lord. If we would hate the self-life and embrace His sanctification, using resolutions as our Fathers did, we would find ourselves in a much different state of Grace than we are currently in here in America.

I truly believe that many of us in the Church have only left the world in tears, taking as much of it as we could along with us as we go, just like Navin R. Johnson left his home in The Jerk. This is so contrary to the Gospel message that we have been and will continue to be doomed to failure and ridicule by the world so long as we continue to do this.

The world is, after all, looking for someone to tell them the truth based on a life that looks like the truth as well. But where are the self-sacrificing missionaries today? Where are those who take little but give much? Where are those who would rather be wronged than harm a brother? Where are those who display the true Grace of God to the world in the rejection of the world and the self?

This is true Christianity, the death of self, the Glory of God and the defeat of the world, the flesh and the devil.

And we will never leave Laodicea until we start right here, eating our meal quickly and with bitter herbs, staff in our hands ready to journey into the desert for the sake of the call.

Revival: Leave Laodicea Now!

303DF900-B423-4AD7-96B5-F416A01CD4F7.jpeg

One of the main motivations that I feel in this divinely inspired 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 years of pursuing vintage reconciliation, I find myself not really looking very typically charismatic most times. But I am feeling a whole lot more like Jesus. I suspect the same can be said for all of the churches that have been undergoing real transformation in preparation for Reforming Revival.

It has been hard, I have lost some people that I loved over the years, I have seen numbers and donations fluctuate. I have endured one of the most awful attacks that I have ever even heard of; losing everything – my wife, my kids, my money, my reputation, my ministry. All that was left when the dust settled was myself, two bags of clothes, no money, no car, a huge funky mess and this Jesus guy. But I know that God is the wind in my sails and so I press on. I 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, that feels a whole lot better than sitting there and complaining about all of the wrong that is around you.

So, Pastor Abraham, 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. My 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.

Preparing for the Next Revival (or the deconstruction of the McChurch)

 

 

E079BB07-C0C6-4D25-8BB3-994278C83AAD.jpeg
Separating wheat from chaff, baby.

These are strange days. 

It seems like the Lord is requiring more and more from me with each passing day. All of those things that are not pure must go from my life and from the churches in my future. Revival is coming, He is making his bundles and preparing his people.

I am not alone, I am hearing it from the Elect leadership all over:  ‘Something is coming, you are not ready, get that way in a hurry’.

So then these are the days of the solemn assembly, where the people of God gather themselves together and are purified by Him.

Those things that have been in our church services that are man-made are being required of Him. That is not to say that they are bad, they are just flesh. Just as true is the fact that people are currently being “bundled” into one camp or another; those being told to radically change now because revival is coming and those he has said nothing to because they are, more than likely, rejected from participation based on their hearts towards him previously. Don’t believe me, Zeke, remember the Foolish Virgins?

We must lose the man-made worship service with its 3 fast songs and 2 slow songs, it has to go. It is a part of an attractional McChurch franchise model that stinks in God’s nose. God has shown that real worship was you laying yourself upon that altar, caring for widows and orphans and remaining unspotted from the world. (Check out my article on Worship: Singing Your Lies) And until we do those things, we can no longer offer to God the lies that we sing to Him week after week.

Because our lives show our love, our real love. We sing “I Surrender All” when we surrender nothing but that which we can easily do without. We sing “He Touched Me” when at the very moment His hand touches us to be sanctified or sacrifice, we recoil and beg for mercy.

If I am being honest, the people should no longer be allowed to sing, but rather, taught and shown how to show the poiema of what God has done in their lives. Perhaps someday God will allow us all to sing again as congregations and on that day, by the grace of God, our lives will be sung first, a sweet sacrifice, pleasing unto God.

The altar call and ‘sinner’s prayer’ that has been used for so long is being required of Him. Because it has become a mere form and we have worshipped it as a third sacrament in the church. But what prayer can you pray without the inner witness that you have been brought from death to life? When did we stop the altar, the time when you sought God with your whole heart until the ‘strange warmth’ of Wesley filled your heart and you knew, beyond any contestation, that you had been born again? How long have we taught people to bear the false witness of salvation, your own witness without any corroborating evidence? Selah.

“Are you saved?” we have asked.

“Yes, I am saved.”

“How do you know that you are saved?”

“I just know. I prayed a prayer and accepted it by faith.”

“Have you repented of your sins and made restitution where it was possible? Have you been humbled by His grace and now your life has become a repayment of a debt to God that you have no hope of ever repaying?”

“No.”

“Then have you become aware of your inner sin and been filled with the knowledge that it is no longer your master but that you have been given mastery over it, that you no longer have to obey it?”

“No.”

“Well, do you have the joy of lowness? Are you hungry to go lower and lower for God, to be spent, wrung out for Him? Do you aspire to be the lowest of all, to serve, to reckon others better than yourself, to give up all? Is your constant prayer, ‘Lower, Lord, lower’?”

“No.”

“Then surely you have the joy of instant, literal obedience to God with no consideration of the personal cost, right? You are prepared to sell all that you have, distribute to the poor, to travel far from hearth and home to serve God in a remote village or foreign land, if the call should come? When you see a need, do you sacrifice what you have to fill that need? Do you live with only the necessities so that you have more to give into the Kingdom and for the care of those who are hurting and needy?”

“No. But I prayed a prayer and I believe that Jesus died and rose again”.

“So do the devils, and tremble at the thought.”

We have sacrificed conversions for decisions and disciples for numbers. We have lowered the bar until nothing is required and nothing has a cost and then sat back and wondered why we have no disciples, no missionaries and no sacrifice.

God help us.

We are being asked to give up self-importance and to become aware of the myth of fingerprints. To look and see that we are fascinated by the world and all that it has to offer us, the clothes, the homes, the stuff that we surround ourselves with. The desire and hunger for things that we consume upon our own lusts, new this, better that. We are sanctified consumers, spending our lives in service to Wal-Mart and mortgages, television and the internet, our cell phones and text messages. We are surrounded by the world on every side and live with a constant hunger for more. We live as if we are defined by what we possess, the amount of money in our bank account, the success of our fleshly lives.

We need new clothes, fashionable ones, the trendiest haircuts and the expensive gadgets.

We are so busy worshiping at the Cult of Me, a religious order built upon the foundation of the life of the individual and all that defines you in this world (that looks strangely like a great golden calf) that we have utterly forgotten about body life and the servant’s heart.

“Pastor, I can’t give much for the poor or evangelism or for your food or even to keep the lights on at the church. You see, I have a mortgage, two car payments for our new cars, a cable bill so I can watch my shows, internet, insurance, the grocery costs; the kids need haircuts and new clothes. Little Jimmy has soccer and Susie has Ballet. We have to put away for retirement and get a new TV (ours is so old now, it’s practically an antique). I like to have some spending money for hair, nails, tanning, hobbies, and to shop a bit on EBay. So you see, Pastor, we just don’t have much. Believe God with us that we will get better jobs so that we have more to give. And pray that we will have better hours so that we can be at the Church more without cramping our lifestyle. And by the way, if you could do a series on having your best life now, that would be great. I really wish we could help the poor or help support a new church plant or a mission but we just have nothing left after our flesh is completely sated.”

The true life for a Christian is the life found in the body and the joy of spending and being spent in service to the King. Nothing that this world has to offer can compare with the feeling of sacrificing what comfort you have so that others do not experience lack.

1Ti 6:7 For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and raiment let us be therewith content.

Shouldn’t the question be “How little do I actually need surrounding me in order that I can give to others and serve God with my time”, rather than, “God can have the tiny bit left over after I have all I want.”? And we thought this pleased Him, that we gave anything at all. Why not rather have far, far less? Friends, I think that the world has us lock, stock and barrel. This I believe is what Jesus meant by ‘the deceitfulness of riches’. Is this world our home or isn’t it? Are we passing through or residing permanently?

God is requiring all of these things from us if we are to progress; He has asked for a sacrifice of the pride of life and the satisfaction of conformity that you gain from the world. To sit back and have very little and give what you do have and to discover the joy and great freedom this can bring to our hearts. Will it last forever? I am not sure. I have told people that I am wearing the same clothes every single day until I learn to stop being so self-important and begin to love it. Until I reject the myth of fingerprints and the slavery to worldly fashion do’s and dont’s.

But it is more than that.

Revival is coming and God has called for a sacred assembly, a fast and a time of sanctification from His people. These are the days of purification, sanctification and consecration. To put feet to our faith and show God that we are serious about drawing near to Him. We desire Him so much that anything in our lives that does not tend to godliness must go.

Who shall ascend into the hill of the LORD? or who shall stand stand in his holy place? He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully. He shall receive the blessing from the LORD, and righteousness from the God of his salvation.

These are strange days but they are days of cost and fire and I would not trade it for anything in the world.

Obey, Saul. Don’t pretend you do.

450C40F7-2F17-4141-AD8A-F1D66F025DF4.jpeg

We have no clue what you are saying…

To obey is better than sacrifice
I don’t need your money
I want your life
And I hear you say that I’m coming back soon
But you act like I’ll never return

To obey is better than sacrifice
I want more than Sunday and Wednesday nights
Cause if you can’t come to Me every day
Then don’t bother coming at all.

Keith Green

“Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord,” shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to me in that day…”

Jesus in Matthew 7:21

It struck me recently reading the above verses in Matthew that I have never fully understood what they meant. I used to use it simply as a verse for telling people that there were those that claimed to be Christians who would not make the final cut. The other night after reading it, something struck me deeply. I tossed and turned for quite awhile in bed struggling with the thought and its implications for not only myself but for the whole of western Christianity as well.

The definition I use for religion is a simple one. It is the worship of God in His absence. When God is absent, we humans get into big trouble, fast. And usually it is directly related to some misconception that we have involving God. It is so easy to confuse His silence for His condoning of us and our actions, doctrines, beliefs and habits. In fact, many can go years without hearing from God, writing it off as a “wilderness” time and feeling that because He is not directly rebuking them or interfering, that He is fine with who they are or what it is that they are doing.

The rules all change when God is away from the office. Men feel they have a free hand to interpret the scriptures however they like. After all, God is not saying anything so it must be okay, right? Denominations rule the unwashed masses with the iron hand of flesh because God has never said he cared one way or another. And worst of all, we live and act as if God is just pleased as punch with whatever we give Him. He doesn’t expect much; after all, we are only human.

This is especially true in the area of ministry. We act as if a license to preach is a license to do whatever strikes us as being “godly”. We create good programs, centered on quasi-godly ideas. We cleverly market who we are and the “god” we have created in our minds as being the right one, for everyone, across the board. We build big churches and control people who we think God has given into our care. All because God is absent and not really saying anything one way or another about what we are doing. Look across the panorama of the American church system today and you will see a large percentage of those involved in that system doing what they feel is “right” in His name.

Because God is absent, we substitute in His place an image of God that we have created. We use scriptures to build this image, raping them to provide the most one-sided version possible, the version most conducive to what we ourselves have said about God in the past. For the grace crowd, that means ignoring or flat-out lying about large sections of scripture that plainly go against the ideas that they claim to be God’s plan. For the repentance crowd, it means forgetting His grace and love as you batter and beat everyone around you for not being “up to par” with your ideals. Either way, we scream from our ditch that those across the road in the other ditch are wrong.

This holds true whether you are Baptist, Lutheran, Pentecostal, Word of Faith or Episcopalian, COGIC, Methodist, African Methodist, whatever. One note sounds clear through all of the posturing and portraits that we paint: God is absent and we are all just guessing.

Read a hundred books; see a thousand preachers. Attend a million churches; sit in a dozen conferences, the song will remain the same. There are a lot of people intrigued by the idea of God but with no practical knowledge of the “god” that they are making all of these assumptions about.

It is interesting to note that Saul listened to the people when he made the decision to keep the best back as a sacrifice to God. They apparently were still going to offer them all to God as a sacrifice. Perhaps they felt it was better to offer it all in a big ceremony than just to simply destroy it where they found it as God had commanded. They were going to do what God said to do; they were just going to alter the way that it was done. After all, the ends justify the means. The sacrifices would be made as God had said, just in an improved way. Here we find the first parallel to the times that we live in.

More and more I hear from the Spirit that this is the age of Saul. First off, it says that on the way back, Saul built a monument for himself along the way. What are many of our ministries and churches if not exactly that? They are monuments to the preachers who built them or the congregations who inhabit them. They offer every convenience for people so that they will return. They put exactly the right light on the minister so that people look up to him, admire him even worship him. If God does not show up, does it matter at all? After all, isn’t God in the still, small voice as well? Isn’t the satisfaction you get from being around friends and family close to his heart? Aren’t the things that we are doing related to God and therefore isn’t He pleased with us?

Saul followed the desires of the common people in making his decision to alter the way he kept God’s command. The way they suggested seemed to be a good way to kill two birds with one stone, as it were. You could keep the command of God while keeping the people happy. Sounds good, right? Well, to everyone except for God, it seems. Because God responded, “to obey is better than sacrifice and to hearken than the fat of rams.”

When God says something, it is not open to interpretation. You cannot take it, perform only the core of what was required and call it good. To obey means to do what he says, how he says. There is no deviation allowed from what God commands, period. But Saul opted to appease the people while trying to obey God. There is another group guilty of this in the bible that not many are aware of, the Laodicean church from the book of Revelation.

When we think of the Laodiceans, we think of the luke-warm church. And that is obviously the case. But ever wonder how they got that way to begin with? You see, we can use archaeology to tell us all about the history of Laodicea but that tells us nothing of the church itself. What does speak volumes is the name itself. Laodicean is a compound word. Laos is found in Strong’s 2992: a people, people group, tribe, nation, all those who are of the same stock and language. This is where we get the word laity, the common people. The last part of the word is Dike, found in Strong’s 1349: custom, usage, self-evidently right or just. Taking those two together would be “what the common people consider to be right or just or the customs and opinions of the common people”. Sounds seeker-sensitive to me.

The Laodicean church probably began like all of the others. Somewhere along the way, however, something happened. They began to do things in line more with what the people felt than what God had said expressly. And as they did so, they created an atmosphere that was luke-warm, comfortable for the people attending. They became so comfortable in who they were that they succumbed to spiritual pride; they actually believed that they had no need of anything at all. They looked around at each other and noticed they were all the same and God was silent. They couldn’t be wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked! They had attained everything that they needed to, there was no need to repent, they had arrived.

But God said differently. You see, the person of God is not open for personal interpretation. Neither is service to God, for that matter. With him, the ends do not justify the means- only the will of God matters. In fact, God starts the letter to the Laodiceans by calling himself the “Amen, the faithful and true witness”. He is the “so be it”, faithful and true to perform what He says. He sees, as a witness, what God requires and no deviation from that is acceptable.

How the sound of the bleating of the sheep can be heard today in our country! How many of us perform what God requires, only in a slightly skewed way, based upon our own culture and ideals or worse, based upon what the crowds want around us? How many blow off what God said to do, justifying it with a million scriptures or the slight of hand of a master illusionist, showing all of what you have accomplished on the right while hiding where you have failed in your left? How many of us are doing a million things in His name and never asking His will in the first place regarding any of it?

How it is done is as important as what is being done. Who reading this letter will stand before the judgment seat of Christ one day with all that we have done in His name fresh on our lips, the smiles falling away as he calls us practitioners of lawlessness, who never considered asking what he wanted while we were busy performing everything we wanted him to ask of us?

Many shall say on that day.

Many. Not a few, not the exception, many will say to him on that day, “Lord, Lord”. And not be known. Because what matters to God is adherence to His will, not only doing His work. But we are all so busy with the “work of the Lord” that we feel we can ignore the Lord of that work.

Churches open 3 times a week, preachers preaching sermon after sermon to empty people in a godless environment. How can we sit in a place built to house the church as they meet God and where God is to meet His church, and never for a second wail at the fact that He is not even present there at our meetings? We can eye the girl ahead of us or think nasty thoughts of the person behind us that we don’t like. We can think about lunch or the ball game the entire time we are there. Because God is absent and none of it really matters, only that those around you see you acting pious and holy. And week after week, year after year, we never ask the simple question that should have been the very first one that we asked, “Where is God?”

America is in danger today because the church, which lives in her, is asleep at the wheel. We have made ministry a career and the absence of God an excuse for pushing our own agenda. In an age when God is absent, we have made spiritual excuses for this instead of stopping and looking long and hard at who we are and whom we serve. What is his will? Is what you are doing for him his will for you today?

Friend, you better hope that it is. Because God does not like those who do things in his name apart from his will. We are in danger as a country because we don’t pray; we just assume that we know. We are in danger because we sit back and jealously defend what we have said to be true for the last however many years; almost uncaring that God may be saying something different.

To obey is better than sacrifice. To be obedient is more important than what you do to serve Him. It did not matter that they were going to offer the best as a sacrifice; all that mattered was that they were lawless in their actions; rebellious to what God said to do. If rebellion is at the heart of your service to God, is it any wonder that He is absent from our services? Rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft to God. And service to Him that is begun or worked out in rebellion is no service at all. It is a placebo, carefully designed to lull you into a state of complacency and eventually, apathy to His will.

To know His will in all things, beyond a guess, beyond reasoning and then to accomplish that revealed will is all that matters. Revival will come when we all make this step, to know Him and the fellowship of His sufferings. To make sure that the cup and His will are the same thing and then to drink it gladly, regardless of its contents.

Then and only then will we be able to find Him. When we stop programs that are needless and human-centered and find out His mind on the subject. When we pray rather than prance, petition rather than posture. When we would rather have nothing and know His will then have everything and be ignorant of it. When we can throw it all away just to find Him or rather, be found of Him. When we are transformed by the renewing of our minds and we know what is that perfect and acceptable will of God in all things, then we will have revival.

What we have today is a Spirit of Saul running rampant in the church. This is one who calls himself a prophet, performing the duties of the office because he once prophesied. Someone who does a part of what God asks and balks that God should be displeased with Him. We have a church system that is busy doing the work of God apart from the will of the God they are supposedly working for in the first place. This is an entire generation that will be crying out “Lord, Lord, did we not…” on that day. Because they assumed they knew the will of God when God was silent. We say we are doing what is right but I hear the Spirit asking, “What is that bleating of the sheep that I hear?”

Because the ultimate proof of God’s being behind a work is God being felt in the work. And for the biggest of us, that presence is awfully small to be Jehovah.

wp-1459610314405.png

Success in ministry! (or the Ministry of the Shivering Sheep, Inc.)

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, To preach the acceptable year of the Lord.” Luke 4:18-19

D9BBB1C2-6AA1-48A7-92AE-A80633DB6B17.jpeg

  • (It’s this or lamb chops, Fluffy…)

What is ministry success? Simple question, isn’t it? And no doubt the answers would roll off of our tongues readily and without much thinking involved.

But I have really had to put some thought into this lately and I am not sure where it is taking me. See, here’s the deal; we have the “Churchian Correct” answers, then there are the real answers that you may think but wouldn’t actually say out loud and then somewhere out there is the truth. I am after number three on that list; what is the truth?

For most Pastors and Itinerants (Evangelists, teachers, etc.) the Churchian Correct answer would be “To glorify God”, “To see people saved”, “To impact the world for the Kingdom”. All of those are nice answers and admirable “CC” answers as well. No one can give you the Pharisee stare over those answers, for sure. And yet, how do we really quantify success?

This is important, not only so that we can begin to view everything that we do through God’s viewpoint but also for our own sanity as the Churchians, the flesh and the enemy all jockey for position in order to be the one who takes us out of the game.

The questions that everyone has (and few ask out loud) in regards to a church or ministry are like these:

“How many people do you have coming?”

“How much money is coming in?”

“How well are you known?”

“Who do you know and who knows you?”

“What projects do you have underway?”

Here is the very bottom line for much of the American church. To glorify God, see people saved and be able to impact the world are wonderful ideals but all of those must fall at the feet of what we truly worship: American success and American exceptionalism. Numbers and money are the failsafe way of telling whether or not God is with you. The other things are nice, even noble, but what is really important are numbers and money.

Imagine if they ran Missionary Societies that way. The Society sends a couple to the Bukuvu, deep in the jungle. After awhile they start to get concerned about a lack of “fruit” and so they place a call from Headquarters:

“Hi Brother Todd, we were just calling down there to check up on you and the work, how are things going among the cannibals of the Buvuku? All of the people here are praying for you, you know.”

“Well, it’s the Bukuvu, sir, and things are going really well spiritually, we added a few headhunters and have been adapting our methods in order to really impact this region”.

“Great! How are your numbers?”

“Well, numbers aren’t high. We get some in and then don’t see them again. Then we had quite a few that came in and were involved but then they tried to eat my face off. You know, they are cannibals and biting and devouring each other is how they are used to living. That’s why we are adapting our methods. But we have some here that are wonderful stories of how God has impacted their lives…”

“Numbers aren’t high, huh? Well, how are the offerings? I mean, you haven’t been able to send much back to the home office here. We are getting a little tired of sending money down there and not seeing a real return.”

“Well, like I said, we have some that have been really impacted and we have quite a bit of hope for what God is starting to do around here. Plus there is this enemy tribe that attacks almost constantly, especially me and the family. Then we put the call out for the church to come and defend us and most of them fall asleep. So, it has been tough, you are fighting the “Eat your face off” culture on one hand and the enemies on the other.”

“Well, you need to get the cannibal attendance up and speak to them about the importance of giving as well. Remember, sheep are only good for two things: for meat and to be sheared.”

“Uhhhh…yeah… Well, something about that just doesn’t sound right to me. I was under the impression that ministry is its own reward and that we are doing this to ‘seek and save those that are lost’. And as far as the sheep go, they are coming along but I will certainly not use them just to shear or for… meat.”

“Well, that is idealism. In public we will say that these things are what are important but in reality we all know that a ministry must produce. See, it’s like a cow, if the milk production runs low, you need to kill it. Or else it’s just a waste of resources. So, we need you to produce real results or we will have to conclude that you are bad and that God doesn’t want you here.”

“Because I don’t have high numbers and we aren’t producing money?”

“Yes, those are the very best ways of determining if God is with you- numbers and money.”

Now, that seems farcical but it’s not. Why are so many church plants done in suburbs? Of course, the suburbs need saved too, we would all agree on that. What’s amazing to me is how many of us get “called” there when there are so many places that desperately need us and are ignored. What about Evangelists that you know who focus only on jails? When I have done prison ministry, there is almost a 100% rate of success. But the offerings aren’t all that high, unless you count cigarettes.

Can success be reckoned by numbers? As David Platt said in his recent book, “Radical”, Jesus was the world’s youngest Mini-Church Pastor. In fact, He seemed to go out of His way to discourage people from following Him. By John Chapter 7, he was left with a handful of people after He preached what Platt referred to as His infamous “Eat Me” sermon.

So, Jesus wasn’t exactly into numbers as a gauge of His success. For that matter, neither was Jeremiah, Paul, Ezekiel or Daniel.

All Church planters sow in tears that they may reap in joy. And most of the time, that season of reaping can seem so terribly far off that they no longer live with it before their face. When the markers for success are money and numbers, is it any wonder all of our kids want to be in Christian rock bands and not missionaries, either to the world or right here in the U.S.?

Adoniram Judson was the first missionary to India. I am including His story here to begin to give you a peek into what God deems as success:

His conversion not only saved his soul, it smashed his dreams of fame and honor for himself. His one pressing purpose became to “plan his life to please his Lord.” In 1809, the same year he joined the Congregational church, he became burdened to become a missionary. He found some friends from Williams College with the same burden and often met with them at a haystack on the college grounds to earnestly pray for the salvation of the heathen and petition God to open doors of ministry as missionaries to them. That spot has been marked as the birthplace of missions in America.

Three years later, February 19, 1812, young Adoniram Judson, and his bride of seven days, Ann Haseltine Judson, set sail for India, supported by the first American Board for Foreign Missions. But on that voyage, Judson, while doing translation work, saw the teaching of immersion as the mode of baptism in the Bible. Conscientiously and courageously, he cut off his support under the Congregational board until a Baptist board could be founded to support him!

The Judsons were rejected entrance into India to preach the Gospel to the Hindus by the East India Company and after many trying times, frustrations, fears, and failures, they finally found an open door in Rangoon, Burma.

There was not one known Christian in that land of millions. And there were no friends in that robber-infested, idolatry-infected, iniquity-filled land. A baby was born to alleviate the loneliness of the young couple, but it was to be only for a temporary time. Eight months later, Roger William Judson was buried under a great mango tree. The melancholy “tum-tum” of the death drum for the thousands claimed by cholera, and the firing cannons and beating on houses with clubs to ward off demons, tormented the sensitive, spiritual souls of that missionary couple, too.

And there were no converts. It was to be six, long, soul-crushing, heart-breaking years before the date of the first decision for Christ. Then, on June 27, 1819, Judson baptized the first Burman believer, Moung Nau. Judson jotted in his journal: “Oh, may it prove to be the beginning of a series of baptisms in the Burman empire which shall continue in uninterrupted success to the end of the age.” Converts were added slowly — a second, then three, then six, and on to eighteen.

But opposition came, also. Finally Judson was imprisoned as a British spy — an imprisonment of twenty-one months. Judson was condemned to die, but in answer to prayers to God and the incessant pleadings of his wife to officials (one of the most emotional-packed, soul-stirring stories in evangelism), Judson’s life was spared and finally British intervention freed him from imprisonment.
So, follow me here. Judson goes to India as a loose cannon. Then, amidst horrible poverty, they have a baby who dies. Six years into the work, there is not a single convert. When his church grows to 18, he is thrown in prison. This is not sounding like he was called at all. No doubt He was told to quit- unless he was having awesome offerings there in India. God was obviously not with Him, if He was, the baby wouldn’t have died, He would have seen numbers go up and the offerings would be there.

The end of the story is telling:

The work progressed and gospel power began to open blind eyes, break idolatry-shackled hearts and transform the newly-begotten converts into triumphant Christians. On April 12, 1850, at the age of 62, Judson died. Except for a few months (when he returned to America after thirty-four years from his first sailing), Judson had spent thirty-eight years in Burma. Although he had waited six years for his first convert, sometime after his death a government survey recorded 210,000 Christians, one out of every fifty-eight Burmans.
Now, one of you out there just thought to yourself, “Yeah, but that was in Heathen India, this is the U.S. of A and so it’s not the same”. So, there is an American Hell then for the lost sinner? Those in India who don’t know Jesus are more lost than an American who doesn’t?

So, what is the measure of ministry success? I have come to the conclusion that it simply cannot be either numbers or money. That fits the American mindset but not the Biblical one nor historical precedence.

I have often seen ministry as if God has this huge map up in the throne room spread out before Him. And in every place where there is a dedicated servant, He can put a push-pin there. It is covered; He has someone there to work with and to carry on Kingdom business. And what is that business? I think that Jesus’ opening salvo at Nazareth is a pretty good indicator:

Are you preaching the Gospel to the poor, helping those who cannot repay you?

Are you healing the brokenhearted? Is your ministry personal, hands-on and compassionate?

Are you preaching deliverance to the captives? Are people getting free of the world, the flesh and devil under your ministry?

Are those who cannot see, seeing for the first time?

Are those who are bruised being set free? Are the oppressed, those who are held in bondage and tyranny, coming into a new Kingdom?

Are you proclaiming Jubilee? Are debts forgiven, slaves being set free and are people coming out of the world and into God’s way of Sabbath Economics and freedom from Babylon?

All of these things are worth putting money into. Because we have an intangible product. We don’t produce cars or accounting papers or stocks or bonds. We are in a spiritual business and so you can’t determine the value of what we do by using physical things, like money or big numbers.

But even using those standards, we still have to embrace what I call “Endgame thinking” in our ministry efforts. At the end of your life, after all of the die have been cast and all of the changes have been made in you that God wanted to make, what are you left with?

I think that if at the end of my days, there are more Christians in our churches who have been saved, trained and sent out than there was when I began, then I am a success in the Kingdom, because I would have multiplied my talents. Those who would have known the terror of an eternal Hell are now walking along the Highway of Salvation to the Celestial City.

And what price can you place on one soul?

If there is a church there where truth is being preached, we are a success. This is true in world missions: to get a church in place and place someone there who loves Jesus. That there is any fruit at all is a vast improvement over what would have been there if there was no church at all.

And we simply must begin to adapt these same standards to what we do here in the States.

Let those churches with an excess of money redistribute that to places where money is tight. This was what they did in the book of Acts and I see no reason to change it today (curiouser and curiouser) We should begin to applaud church planters and support them just as we do foreign missionaries. We need to start to have a big picture approach to what we do.

The moment you being to judge Gospel effectiveness by the flesh, you will never succeed because you will forget God and compromise everything to accommodate the world system and its way of thinking.

wp-1459610314405.png