Satan’s Cure for Revival: The Sowing of Leaven

Revivals are one of the rarest occurrences in Christianity and for this reason they are also one of the most desired experiences in Christianity. Like the illusion of the rarity of diamonds that causes their prices to remain very high, those things that are rare are the things that we deem as the most valuable. I suspect that it has always been so.

We understand why we think that diamonds or precious stones are very rare but why is revival so rare? Does God simply not desire to show himself in our day? Is he content with all of the charlatans in the pulpits and the sins of society? Is he perhaps so repulsed by all of us that he just would rather keep His distance?

Find yourself in any given Churchian circle and you may find the commonly held belief that there is no revival because we don’t ______ enough. Now, I will leave the blank for you to fill in because it all depends on your little group. Some commonly held entries would be: pray, repent, give, care, travail, laugh, read, etc.

Now there may be some truth to all of these sentiments. Who can argue that not _____ing is a bad thing and certainly not conducive to having a revival? But let me break from the herd here a bit and share what I believe the real problem is. I believe that the reason that they are so rare is mainly due to two reasons: firstly, we are in large part almost totally ignorant of God’s ways and secondly, we are ignorant of the satanic attacks that come as a result of seeking revival. In short, many in the church exhibit on a regular basis the simple inability to understand their own moments of divine opportunity or the satanic resistance to them.

I have watched God move many times over the years and those are the times that I live for. It seems that it is only in that ‘pocket’ that everything lines up for me. I have watched God show up on a Sunday morning in a United Methodist church and the entire congregation got saved with many getting baptized in the Holy Ghost for the first time, demons were cast out there and the Spirit of God forever changed the course of the lives of the people in that small church.

I have watched revival hit a small town in Nebraska with the numbers present at the meetings growing every single night. Tattoo parlors closed down to attend the meetings and the altar was constantly full. All advertising was done by the young people that attended those meetings; they made their own flyers and held placards on the streets. At the end, it was told to me that an entire year of the local bible college was filled with the people that were saved during this revival.

But more often than the times that I have watched great success, I have watched the church’s miserable failure to accurately discern the days that they live in. The Jews were accused of not recognizing the time of their own visitation and I can count off scores of churches who fit into that category. I would tell those in authority that I felt strongly that God wanted to move there and they would smile at me the way that you smile at a 2nd grader telling you what he learned in school that day. And there never has been a move in those places, they are exactly the same or worse off than they have ever been. We have no greater obligation to those who follow us in ministry than to be able to sense when the cloud moves and to follow it no matter the cost and it is right there that I feel most of us miss God when it comes to revival.

Then there are those instances when the church bows to satanic pressure and the assault of the enemy. Now, I believe that these attacks that we have seen hit the church when it has set revival as its goal can be understood as the enemy’s modi operandi, his modes of operation. He does not change them up very often so far as I can tell but why would he when they work so very well for the most part? I have watched many churches and groups torn apart after they started seeking revival simply because they did not know how the enemy was going to attack or because they chose to ignore the fact that he really does attack and attributed the work of satan to the hand of God instead.

Most believers think that they understand what a satanic attack is. We proudly regale one another with tales of our warfare, how the enemy is “after” us or how he has been doing this thing or that to us. I have learned through experience though that most of us have no clue what a real attack looks like, especially one aimed at a church that is seeking revival.

Would it sound far-fetched to you if I were to suggest that there are a few words that the enemy simply loathes? That as soon as those words are uttered across a pulpit, demons scurry to their superiors to inform them? Like the NSA watching emails for certain “buzz words” so too the enemy’s servants are constantly listening for those words that could actually hurt their master’s kingdoms. I imagine that so long as your church does not utter these words in an offensive fashion, you would see no attacks whatsoever. Some call this happy state “favor”; I call it base compromise and a sure sign that you are fulfilling the requirement for being a false prophet and damning those that follow you in the bargain.

Wondering what these words could be? If you want to know, simply look at what has grown to be out of fashion in the American church system and you will quickly begin to deduce them. The Blood, The Cross, Pentecostal, missions, martyrdom, prayer and perhaps the most offensive word to satan and his angels: revival.

I believe that it is important to learn from the defeats of ourselves and others because in understanding how he stops a revival we can understand how to thwart his plans in theory. I say in theory because some people become so determined at these times to agree with satan that no one will ever talk them out of it.

But for the rest of us, there are lessons to be learned and applied as we enter this season in the church. This is the time preceding the greatest harvest the world has ever seen and we must not be unaware of the enemy’s schemes. Many will hear the warning and go on to commit the error laid out, I can not stress this enough. Even if you perfectly lay out the upcoming attack to those around you, the delusion that falls on people is so strong that they will continue in it, justifying themselves as they go.

When seeking God for a revival, the very first attack that comes in is offense that leads to leaven.

Now, that offense may come against any number of things; the church as a whole, the vision of the church, other members of the church, the doctrine of the preachers, all of these are valid targets for this offense. The number one target however is the preacher. Matthew 26:31 says “Then saith Jesus unto them, All ye shall be offended because of me this night: for it is written, I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered abroad.”

In standing for a revival, the enemy’s number one target is the preacher. Anything is good cause for this offense; his past mistakes, wrongs that he committed, something he said from the pulpit, anything. This is the single best tactic for the enemy to use and the one that he uses more often than any other. He begins to “reveal” problems with the preacher in question, showing you how he is in the wrong. After you see the problem, he begins to show you additional proof until you are totally convinced that there is a serious problem with the man or his message.

In no time you will begin to get “led” to start sharing this information with other members of the congregation, all in order to protect them of course. Soon, you are talking bad about the preacher every single day to as wide of a range of people as you can within the ministry. This culminates until one day you decide that you have had enough and leave the ministry but not without making sure that as many others go with you as possible.

Now this church may have been a place that only a few days or weeks ago you loved. You saw the power of God show up regularly, you loved the preaching or teaching. You were deeply involved in the ministry there and saw the hand of God moving all around you. That is until they started talking about revival. Strangely, that was when you began to see all of these “wrong things” that were being done to you and others. Soon you find yourself getting hit with negative thoughts about the ministry or the preacher day and night until finally you begin to listen. And in no time the very place where you saw God move and felt his hand at work is no longer a part of your life and you and those that you poisoned are left scattered.

This principle is one that the enemy uses constantly and it is called leaven. Leaven as you know is yeast. It is odorless, colorless and tasteless. On its own it can not affect anything but the second that it is introduced into dough, the leaven begins its work. It sets off spreading through that dough, changing it at a molecular level until the last state of the dough is not even recognizable from what it was at the start.

In the church, leaven is introduced into only one person initially. They begin to meditate on a perceived wrong or a fault until their entire disposition towards the person who is the true object of the leaven has changed. After they are fully convinced of the person’s alleged faults, the real purpose of the leaven is revealed as it begins to spread. Because they then begin to confide in others about their struggles and infecting them with the leaven that is killing them. Except of course they manage to leave out key aspects of the true circumstances and communicate their leaven only in such a way as to put their perception under the very best light to back up their claims. This is manipulation and witchcraft that has the sole purpose of destroying a work of God.

The leaven, if unchecked, spreads from one person to another until the whole is leavened and changed. This was the point of satan’s sowing into you the initial offense. It was never about whether or not you were wronged, it was about destroying the work. Most who spread leaven could have had their grievances answered easily but instead opt to sow rebellion and division rather than make amends.

In fact, many people who get leavened live to see their actions as being the biggest mistakes of their life. This is because shortly after the leaven has run its course they begin to see how out of character they were while they were under its influence. They were used by satan under the banner of self-righteousness to destroy something that they had very recently loved. The truly sad thing for these people is that the delusion is never lifted until the damage is done.

What is the solution for leaven? When yeast is introduced into a batch of dough there is only one remedy to stop its spread, common table salt. You must take your stand, hold the line and refuse to make yourself accessible to the enemy. The word says, “Where no wood is, there the fire goeth out: so where there is no talebearer, the strife ceaseth. Proverbs 26:20”.Leaven is stopped by refusing to be a talebearer. If you are so convinced of the wrong that you must leave a work, then leave with peace. Bring it up to the leadership and communicate what you are struggling with and give them the opportunity to either answer the question or release you. It is never your job to destroy a ministry or to pull people out from a church.

However since most of those who get leavened also manage to contract a lethal dose of self-righteousness; you will never be able to convince them to leave peacefully. They will fulfill the lusts of their father, sowing division, strife, tale bearing and slander until they have destroyed everything that they once loved and cut themselves off from the body.

You can tell when someone is under the effects of leaven because they seek to keep it hidden from the one that the leaven is meant to destroy. They will talk to others but not the leader about what is troubling them. This is because they know in their spirit that they are acting under a satanic delusion and yet they can not break free from it on their own. They have opened themselves up to seducing spirits and the lies of satan and those spirits are afraid of bringing it into the light for fear of exposure.

The effects of leaven in the body of Christ can be seen acting much like the spread of cancer in the human body. Normally the cells in the human body work together, dividing and reproducing in a strictly controlled and coordinated fashion. This collaboration keeps each tissue at the size, shape and architecture appropriate to the needs of the body.

Cancer cells violate this collaborative ethos, becoming ‘rogue traders’ that pursue their own agendas for proliferation. Such uncontrolled reproduction leads to the formation of a tumor, which is not necessarily dangerous to the body. But if the tumor becomes more advanced, acquiring nutrients by plumbing into the body’s blood supply and then developing the ability to invade other tissues or colonize other parts of the body, the cancer becomes very hard to stop. These events – the transition from a normal cell to a malignant cancer – are driven by changes to the cell’s DNA.

The lesson is easily seen here: when those who are leavened begin to seek their own agenda in the body, they begin reproducing (leavening) themselves into nearby cells. This leads to the formation of a tumor, a group sharing the exact same leavened DNA and this tumor of people ultimately become cancerous, destroying the local body. Be warned, those who destroy the body can count on one thing- being destroyed themselves. Titus 3:10 says “Reject a factious man after a first and second warning, knowing that such a man is perverted and is sinning, being self-condemned.”

The sad fact of the matter is that this is a favorite tactic of the enemy simply because it works so well. We have warned the church before that the attack was coming, urged them to not partake and to stand their ground and yet stood by helpless as the leaven ran its course through the church. It is due to this fact alone that most churches do not see revival. We know of churches that were close to revival and when the leaven began and they started losing people, they immediately crawfished and withdrew from seeking it altogether, going so far as to tell their people to stop praying for revival.

Sadly the enemy never forgets you once you threaten him with revival. He knows that you may utter those words once again and he will not stop until you are destroyed or until he perverts you so thoroughly that you destroy those that God has in your care.

And so once we put our hand to the plow, we simply must not look back. For a church this means to push through the loss of people, the loss of revenue and the loss of friends until you see the revival happen as God had shown you. For revivalists and evangelists we must be ready to stand with churches in seeking revival for as long as they want us. When we are rejected, shake the dust off your feet and move on. The work hasn’t ended, only a chapter of it.

And finally for some of us, we will see the revival occur. And to them that see that, nothing outside of the day that you stand before your Lord will compare with the glory that you behold. You will have paid an awful price for it but the souls that are won to kingdom in the first day alone is more than a bargain, no matter how hard it was getting there.

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Heart Check

So, I’m really not a big “smash sinners” guy. You know what they say about people who live in glass houses, how they probably shouldn’t vacuum naked and all. So this post isn’t about that. God gave us the cross because he knew we were basically going to suck and suck big-time. We all suck and fall short.

I wanted to write today about something that I’ve been circling in my study time regarding the inclinations of your heart.

Check out this bible verse in Romans:

“Moreover, because of the condition of your heart, hard and dry and unwilling to admit a change of mind; you are actually continually storing up the wrath that will be poured out on you in the day of wrath and the revelation of a righteous God.

Who will pour it out onto each person according to their deeds (the actions they take that prove the inclination of their hearts): to those who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life; but to those who are only interested in themselves and do not obey the truth that they’ve known, but obey unrighteousness, wrath and indignation”.

Romans 2:5-8

Now that’s not behavioral therapy or a scare tactic. Here’s what it is saying; Look, don’t think that just because you’re doing all this mess and refusing to do right and the hammer hasn’t fallen yet that the hammer isn’t going to fall. God isn’t just looking at the mess you are doing, he’s looking at your heart that’s producing these messes.

If you care about him and want him to be pleased, you’ll do everything that you can to clean up what you’ve messed up and not continue in your mess. However, if the inclination of your heart is all about you and you don’t care what God thinks is right or wrong, look out because you can only do that so long before that stuff starts coming back on you.

Lots of folks like to pretend that they love God. What we actually do a lot of the time is we throw rocks and break windows then hide our hands behind our back like we didn’t do anything. Then we want to go to God and apologize in secret before there are consequences or before we have to actually remedy our behavior and make amends. We think it’s all about that instance of throwing the rock. You hurt people, lie, accuse, gossip, sleep around, drink, mess up and fall down again and then you want to go to church and act like a Christian because you asked God to forgive you secretly.

But God looks at not only the good or bad that we do, he looks at the inclination of your heart. You threw the rocks because you wanted to. You did what you did because you wanted to do it. And all the forgiveness of actions in the world does nothing for a self seeking and hard heart that wants its own way.

I’m not looking to throw shade here, I’m not. Man, I mess up all the time. Once I got my head clear though I discovered that my heart wanted something different, every single time. I don’t want to be jacked up, I don’t want to hurt people, I don’t want to be a ghost of myself. I let the enemy lie to me and throw rocks at me while he hid his hand behind his back and pointed at God. And when I accepted the lie that joker told there, it was an all out free for all of destruction in my life.

But once I turned my heart back to God, my heart changed. I didn’t want that stuff anymore and I didn’t want to hide anymore and I didn’t want the enemy that had humiliated me and embarrassed me to get any more glory. So, I check that heart. I want my life to line up with it. I want to fix what he’s destroyed and let Christ get some glory.

So quit running to God trying to get him to apply the White Out to your actions but ignoring your selfish heart that wants things that God doesn’t want. You’re a fake and you know it. You’ll never run away from it either, God isn’t going to let that slip. Take your heart to him, check your inclinations, fix your mess.

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.

Beautifully Broken.

I have been doing ministry for a time, always out on the ragged edge of things. And even after all of these years I find myself wondering why God would save and call an old skinhead and gutterpunk.

As I sit here and write this, I am restless. I actually loathe the thought of another speaking date. Don’t get me wrong – good things always happen. I will preach hard and to the point. I will not dodge issues and I will speak in the vernacular of my day.

I will dress without a facade and force people to see God beyond the exterior. I will play the role of a novelty and try my best to allow something positive to happen. People will be saved and delivered from demonic strongholds and to me, none of it will be enough.

Because even on those rare occasions when the sermon that God gives me is revolutionary in scope and substance, even when people flood the altar and repent, I still retire to whatever room I have and lament the entire event. Because no matter how well I may “perform”, no matter how strong the message seems to be, I know it is partly due to intellect, partly due to street smarts, part marketing and a part God’s Spirit. How can that ever be enough?

The weight of the ministry is at times oppressive. I feel the weight of my speaking to these crowds that are nameless and faceless to me. I know that God wants to intervene in their lives and that so much may be riding on God’s being able to use what I say and do as a catalyst for change. And I fear that I will fail in my task because of there being too much of me in the equation.

Something has transpired in me over these past years that doesn’t allow me to take the ministry in a cavalier way. I know that somewhere out there, just beyond my grasp is the light switch. In every event, every innocent meeting, the “forever change” potentially waits for the people that I come into contact with. That the possibility exists that somehow God could use this ugly vessel to produce a radical shift in someone’s accustomed paradigm that could affect the rest of his or her life.

And I know that it’s not me. And it is nothing that I know, nor any skill I possess. My cleverness cannot produce this forever change. And I cannot afford to write it off as some sovereign work of God that is simply beyond me, a divine comic lottery, if you will. There is a method to God’s seeming madness at all times, even (or especially) when His will makes no clear sense to us.

I am terrified of speaking well and manipulating people’s emotions in some way that I had predetermined that they should go. I am distressed at the thought that I am a factor in this ministry at all. I wish above all things that people would just say that God shows up at my meetings. I do not wish to be known for my intellect, my cutting style, my dress or my caustic sense of humor. I wish they would just see Jesus. But I am not equal to that task. And I wish more than anything that that fact were not so. I fall so short of the mark in so many areas; I am the perfect example of the wrong person for the job.

I choose to live on the edge and so the position of the tenuous and slippery hold is almost commonplace. If I were like many of the preachers that I know, I would simply shut up, play the game and prosper. I see so many of them do just that. It regularly pains me to see my family go without when with just a small amount of what I would call compromise they would be just fine. But I seem to live my life along the lines of Robert Frost’s poem The Road Not Taken.

“I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.”

Don’t get me wrong, I am grateful for what this life of faith has done for me. There have been times when my life was threatened when the years of faith paid off. I have had people sit on the front row during sermons of mine and show me the gun they had hidden between their legs. I do not know much but I know that the same person who did that was on their face the next night at the altar, completely overwhelmed by God’s love.

A part of my preparation for that moment happened during the times we prayed in dinner or rent. We live on the edge of disaster all of the time. People come and go in our lives. Promises are made and broken regularly. We sit on the verge of having nothing and losing what little we do have. But in all of that, one thing never changes; we know by practical experience that God is faithful.

And this is why I continue despite everything that happens. I am not the right choice for the job; I know there is someone out there who can do what I do better than me. But God’s love compels me. When I want to quit and start a business, when people desert us and forget us, when disaster looms ahead and there is no hope in sight, I still cannot quit. Because I remember when, despite all of my faults, God showed mercy. I remember when the answer came when all hope was lost. And I remember the joy at rediscovering the faithfulness of God when all else had failed. And so, I continue to be God’s fool.

I preach in some very large churches but never do I try and clean up to be able to speak at those “big churches”; I would rather hug the AIDS patient or befriend the runaway teen that is forgotten. I would rather live with nothing and know the joy of God’s provision in the midst of impossible odds than compromise and never experience him that way. It is just God and us alone most of the time. Funny how easily people turn away from you when you have nothing and they have nothing to gain from you. We have learned from vast experience that you can count on no one except God. I will fail you or offend you at some point. I will do wrong and you will walk away. But when that happens, I look around and find the Father smiling at me.

There have been times when we have had to go to the local churches and ask about the possibility of using their church for two hours on Sunday afternoons. When I approached one local pastor with the question, he put the religious 20 questions to me like he was Torquemada. Before I could use his building for a two-hour slot on Sundays he had to know who I was, what credentials I carried, my education, my thoughts on everything from predestination to the Apostles Creed. I started off answering his questions politely but I very quickly grew tired of them. Finally, I had to stop the inquisition and speak frankly.

I said, “Pastor, you want to know who I am? Let me tell you. I am a failure. I have been a liar, a cheat, a conman, a criminal, a squatting gutterpunk for years and a violent racist. I am the epitome of wasted potential. I was locked up in juvenile hall for a large part of my teenage years. I have a verified I.Q. of 153… And yet the last full year of regular school that I attended was the seventh grade. I taught myself everything that I knew. I grew up as true white trash; my family lived in trailers my entire life. We were on welfare or low paying jobs most of the time and I shopped for school clothes at the Salvation Army. I was a runaway and a vagrant. I could have been a great doctor or a lawyer, perhaps. If the plan would have worked out differently maybe I would have had a rich family that helped me.

But I lived on the streets from the time I was twelve. I saw a friend shot dead beside me and a girlfriend shot in the face in a drive-by shooting when I was a teenager. I had a seventeen-year-old friend die of AIDS as I watched. There have been at least 4 serious attempts on my life and I carry the scars to prove it. I have woken up in the middle of the night with a gang member’s pistol shoved in my mouth. So, I am by all normal estimates in this society and in this modern church- a failure and a dreg.

But when I was 19, Jesus intervened in my life during a suicide attempt. I crawled bloody out of a cold bathtub and sobbed naked on the floor asking him for help. And he changed my life. I may not be able to show you something that will make you feel that I am qualified; I may not have the backing of a major denomination that is well respected and safe. I have none of the qualities that people like you look for in a tame spiritual leader. I did not grow up like Ned Flanders, safe and secure in my wonderful home. It took me over twenty years to start to pursue my Masters because I spent no time in Bible School when i was first saved – I was too busy being a street preacher, reaching out to those that no one else cares for because there is no money in them. All that I have to qualify me is Christ in me. And that may not be much to someone like you but for someone like me, it is everything.”

The simple and elusive fact to many is that God loves the outcast. He loves the second-rate and the counted out. He seems to embrace those of us with nothing to show for years that we wasted on the world. When you look in the eyes of someone not worth your time, someone dying or poor, the obvious welfare mother at the store or the bum on the library steps, you are seeing Jesus stare back at you. When you stand next to the alcoholic who smells of urine and booze or the criminal Christian, who has failed even after salvation, you stand shoulder to shoulder with the Messiah’s heart. I am not the best man for the job and yet God chooses to use me. And that makes some people very angry. I leave them, who are way more qualified than I, without excuse. I live my life in joyful abandon because when the lights dim and the music is over, when the crowd is gone and the only sound is my own breathing, all that I have is God.

I can say with some pride that I am a fool and deserve to lose it all for foolishly trusting in God. But that trust that God will provide is my joy and that abandon is my identity. And He gave that to me, me the outcast, me the failure and liar and cheat. He looked on me in my worst possible moments, during the times I am most ashamed of and still he loved me. And if he loved me then, at that place and that time, how could he think less of me now?

What a mighty and amazing God we serve! I feel his presence so strong even as I write this. Yes, you too are a failure and a hypocrite. Yes, you could be better than what you are. But God called you as you were and you need to remember that when everyone around you reminds you of all that you are not.

He didn’t call you because you were the best or the brightest. He didn’t call you because of your morals or your strengths. God called you because of your failings and your shortcomings. He chose you because you are a fool and He loves to make purses out of sow’s ears. So many of us are deceived into thinking that it is what we don’t do or what we overcome that gives us our testimony. But your weakness is your testimony, not your strengths.

I may never be a success in the church’s eyes. Those who hate me may get to laugh as I fail. But I am thrilled at the ride. I am addicted to my hero, Jehovah Jireh. I know that life is no fun without danger and a man or woman needs no savior when there is no threat. And I have a hero who excels in the role. He lives for it, in fact. Because even though the one he rescues is dirty and discarded, used and abandoned, he is by nature the Savior.

And in the end we have but one job, you and I. And although we may wish that the job were to save the world or cause revival fires to spread over the entire planet, it is far more simple than that.

We are called to be beautifully broken in his wonderful hands.

Amerikan Babylon

Button your lip. Don’t let the shield slip.

Take a fresh grip on your bullet proof mask.

And if they try to break down your disguise with their questions –

You can hide, hide, hide,

Behind paranoid eyes.

You put on our brave face and slip over the road for a jar.

Fixing your grin as you casually lean on the bar,

Laughing too loud at the rest of the world

With the boys in the crowd –

You hide, hide, hide,

Behind petrified eyes.

You believed in their stories of fame, fortune and glory.

Now you’re lost in a haze of alcohol soft middle age

The pie in the sky turned out to be miles too high –

And you hide, hide, hide,

Behind brown and mild eyes.

Pink Floyd

Behind Paranoid Eyes

Before we begin, can I get your attention, students? I can already hear the flatulent disagreements coming from the Churchian crowd, so let me help you:

1. I am not nice, Christians are nice and nice is love and God is love so God is nice and since I am not nice to Churchians, I am bad.

2. God is a Conservative and Republican American and we are to hold up those values no matter what. So if a candidate aligns with us on a single issue such as abortion, then everything else must also be Christian.

3. There is nothing wrong with the World System. We are called to be moral citizens of that system and shine like lights as we act exactly like the world in every way except for the bars and strip clubs, those are obviously bad and god wants us to have all the good and sacrifice just the bad.

4. You, JC, are bad. You fell and drank and fought and sinned and have no moral platform to speak from because your failings are public knowledge while ours remain secret. So as long as people don’t know about our backsliding, bitterness, unforgiveness, porn habit, lying, apathy, complacency and hate filled gossip, we can judge you but you can’t say anything to us. (Cue Nellie Olson from Little House sticking out her tongue).

Ok. Said it for you. You are free to move on now.

This morning as I sat down to peruse social media before I began my day I literally sat in shocked, impotent silence. I browsed through the feeds as all of the Amerikan Christians began their days all over the country.

There were the obligatory cat videos, the Trump is God’s choice memes, the inspirational scriptures splattered across pretty pictures as if a gum drop fairy exploded, leaving it’s day-glo primary colors as grim evidence of the carnage. You could take your pick of millionaire preachers peddling encouraging garbage to a sugar addicted audience. I scrolled through Christian posts that touted kicking out all illegal immigrants, building walls, church defense seminars, love for guns and shooting your enemy, anti healthcare, anti poor and pro corporate memes and many that equated being Amerikan with being Christian.

Another day in Laodicea.

Happy people going to work, cleaning their houses, raising their children and thanking God for another day of peace and prosperity here in the Land of Promise.

And as I looked, I couldn’t help but juxtapose.

Last week I posted a picture and story of one of the orphans in Kenya that was crying because the other kids ate his banana. There was no other food to give him for the day. 172 Christians saw it, scrolled past and went and grabbed a processed snack from the pantry to buttress their already fat stomachs. Not one person commented, not one person gave. Hell, it didn’t even get a sad face emoji. I guess they are mad at me so forget hungry babies, they’ll show me, alright.

I have up to 25 girls between 8-13 waiting for a home to be finished in Honduras. A place where they will be safe from traffickers or in many cases, safe from their own family that prostitutes them every single night. As I lay me down to sleep…

Last night within one hour of the town where I currently am, I discovered up to six girls engaged in prostitution. One looked like a consenting adult but it’s hard to tell when they are strung out on drugs. The others were young which means that they are victims of human trafficking, stolen from their family and fed drugs and tortured in order to keep them docile for the oil field guys that care more about their own release than they do that they are paying to rape someone’s daughter.

Thank God it’s not my daughter. Thank God it’s not my family. Thank God that I am free to put on my Hillsongs CD and surround myself with Christian decorations in my warm and comfortable home.

I know, It is just so hard to care about some place that you have never personally seen when you live in the middle of the Amerikan Babylon and are dazzled by the neon lights and hazy glow of the television god.

Awhile ago in a small town where I had lived, I noticed an engraving on the facade of an old building near the downtown. Up near the very top it reads ‘Salvation Army 1905’. At one time the Army was here, playing their music out on the streets and preaching the Gospel message to all who came within shouting distance. That building is now an Eagles club where locals drown their sorrows in booze and place their hope in pull tabs. As for the Salvation Army, it is now a thrift store downtown.

Has sin decreased to the point that we no longer need that sort of Gospel or have we simply backslid as a church to the point that we no longer care?

When did the golden calf god that you made in your own image somehow take priority over the scriptures? When did the command to go into all the world change to “go into the world to make money right here at home”?

I have been in travail for the church planted in the country where my old flesh was born. So many do not know the truth here, so many. And whose fault is that if not ours? What excuse will we offer for our apathy and complacency to God? We stand on the brink of judgment and still we will not budge. All it would take is for China to dump their reserves of the US dollar in exchange for the Euro and we would be plunged into a depression to rival 1929, if not an all out economic collapse and yet here we are, eating and drinking without a care in the world beyond our own homes.

Rich and increased with goods and in need of nothing. I have a job, praise ye the Lord, I don’t need to know how to pray. My family is safe in our Churchian cocoon, surrounded by niceness, the World System has been good to me!

What exactly will it take to awaken the church from its slumber and for us to once again be stirred by the things that once stirred us long ago and far away from where we are now?

A few years ago I had the option of buying a schoolhouse that sat directly between two Indian reservations. For 5,000 dollars we could train natives to preach, we could train young people for missions for no charge. We could set up a church where no others existed and feed the hungry, clothe the naked and preach the good news to a forgotten, sin-sick and desperate people. For over two years we told of the need and not one person ever stood up to help, not one.

In Houston we reached out to street kids, ministered at AIDS hospices, delivered food to the poverty pantry and stood for the truth in the midst of a seeker sensitive stronghold. And regardless of all that we did, when we came under a brutal attack from the enemy, we looked around and no one stood with us.

Everywhere that I go and in every nation that has believers who write to me, the need is overwhelming, the potential is there and yet no one seems to care. And I don’t get it, my friends, I just don’t get it.

What is this madness that causes us to ignore the obvious, present need and yet buy some television preacher multiple homes on both coasts or a Rolls Royce?

What are the blinders that have fallen over our eyes that cause us to sleep while our house burns all around us? Why do we never mobilize and give God no rest until the nation we have been assigned to is one that He blesses once again?

Why did Hudson Taylor opt to give up everything to take the Gospel to mainland China and yet in our age, we never mounted a meaningful effort to save Russia when the opportunity presented itself? What did he have that we don’t?

What drove the Salvation Army in the early years that we don’t have now? What would cause them to take over city after city and we can’t even witness to our own neighbor?

Perhaps the real question should be, what caused that wonderful evangelistic army to become a ministry of thrift stores that had no problem flying its banners above a halftime show where some secular tart sang songs- not of the old ship of Zion and how God can still save you from an eternal hell but instead it was songs of worldly passions and lusts?

God help us.

Why have we stopped caring?

Is there no balm in Gilead any more? Is there no righteousness left that can stop our assimilation into this Amerikan Babylon? I do not know what exit off the highway led us to this ghetto called Laodicea but I watch as opportunity after opportunity slips away both here and abroad and I have to admit, it gets hard to hope that we will ever see our way clear of this place.

But hope I must and hope you must. Because we were born into the Kingdom for a time such as this. This darkness is the time that we were born for, right now.

If the church is asleep, we are here to awaken the Elect inside of it.

If the nation is slipping down a slope towards wrath, we are here to stop it.

In order to see that happen you are going to have to put down the Kool-Aid they have been giving you, the one laced with tares, and think clearly for yourself.

These days of the forgotten first love and Laodicean worship are the days we were chosen for, before the foundation of the earth.

The darkness is not happening to us- we are called to happen to that darkness.

But we must do something and do it now. Now is the time to shake yourself from your slumber and take back the ground that the enemy is squatting on. You must act now, church. You must act now for the sex trafficked, for Natives on the reservation, for the squatters that are forgotten and for the AIDS victim and the dispossessed in your own back yard, for the single mom and the Meth addict. You must act now or forever hold your peace.

And you will hold your peace with no peace in your heart because you loved your own comfort and security more than you loved God. You have given up nothing for the pearl you display and that is exactly the value that you place on it. You sit in your comfortable home while young girls are sold online in or near your town. You overfeed your doughy flesh while a baby cries for a single banana. You hide behind jaded eyes while a fake Christian holds up the evangelical buzzwords in our highest office, never even considering what medicine you are swallowing or what your hypocrisy has done to our testimony towards the last few generations.

We fiddle while Rome burns.

You must go, it is a command! And if you can not go yourself, by God, send someone else in your stead!

Do not be a part of the Amerikan Babylon but rather be the one who tears it apart, brick by corrupted brick.

-JC Smith

Eulogy for the American Preacher

image

I am sorry. I am sad to report that preparations are underway for the funeral of someone who has been, up to this point, an American mainstay: the Preacher.

I regret to inform you all that in the event of his death, there will be no open casket or even a time of visitation, as most who would have mourned his passing in the past, today would no longer much care.

For those who are unfamiliar with the preacher, his story can be found in virtually every chapter of our American history. He is seen in the first colony that landed on Plymouth Rock and you could find him shaking the windows of Philadelphia and the rest of the 13 colonies during and after the American Revolution. It was the Preacher in those days that rallied the troops and caused the swelling of national pride as he rode far and wide in the Black Regiment.

The preacher was active on both sides of the War Between the States. D.L. Moody served as a missionary on the front, finding out if dying men were saved before they perished. And in the South, the preachers would hold impromptu baptism services whenever they could, sometimes even in the midst of battle and in full view of the enemy.

America has heard the voices of A.W. Tozer and Paris Reidhead preaching a true Prophetic call. We heard the voice of Edwards, Whitefield and Ironside, Roberts and Ravenhill tell us that God was terrifying, loving and infinitely just. They would level a room with their voices expressing the holiness of God and the depravity of man. And in their voice the depraved heard the soft and tender call of the grace of God.

And yet today in America the voice of the preacher has nearly fallen silent. And I am grieved to carry to your itching ears the somber news that the voice that we need to hear now more than ever, may never be heard from again.

The American preacher, that icon of modern religion, the last of a long and noble line, has been on an unpublished endangered species list for decades. And here at the turning of the tide, at that moment when it would seem that we need him the most, his absence leaves a hole that can be felt only by the discerning heart that longs after God.

For in these days of the soft Prophet, the buddy, the encourager and the snake-oil salesman, the voice that calls you to awaken from your hyper-grace induced slumber is not welcome. Who wants to hear someone yell in a service anyway? Who in their right mind wants a return to the days of fire and brimstone when men spoke for God and called the comfortable to repentance and the lukewarm to task? Why should I repent, change, convert, awaken, give, love, serve?

Why should I give anything back in exchange for the grace that I lavish on myself, like the murderer who desperately tries to cleanse his hands under an open tap from the blood that he has just shed?

Who would want a return to those days when the church sought those who were lost, called the prodigal home and the truth searched the hearts of the un-consecrated in the sheepfold? Many eagerly await the news, it seems, that the voice of the preacher has fallen silent for good. That the one who troubled us is gone and his like shall not be seen again anymore.

But the annals of history shall reveal the terrible truth: that should we choose to let the preacher die- we choose to let the hopes of revival and indeed, the salvation of our nation die as well.

And choose it is, have no doubt about that. We choose when we do not pray for those standing between the living and the dead, calling for reinforcements in the battle of the ages. We choose when we withhold support, we choose when we do not attend meetings and we choose when we do not invite them to our churches and communities.

We choose, all of us. And that choice is to leave this nation in the spiritual hands of the mealy-mouthed purveyors of the humanistic Gospel. It is to abandon the morals of our nation to the oversight of those who will not offend the masses- so long as they continue to give. We will give over the helm to those that would abandon absolutes for post-modern questions with no answers, leadership with no authority, eternity with no certainty and doctrine with no foundation, other than the bi-polar whims of the Adonijah that stands before you.

God help us but the church has been all but usurped by businessmen who equate spiritual success with physical numbers and money. And in order to achieve that, they say nothing that may offend. When the goal is numbers and money, why stand for truth?

Who speaks for God today, the High and Holy One that does not look at crowds but individual hearts? Do we remember that He is still the One that overturned the tables of the moneychangers in the temple as they merchandized worship? The one who desires obedience and not sacrifice? The one who rejected the mammon of this world for true riches and told us that a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his goods? Will we give over the reins of the Church to those who would attempt to crown Him with those very things that He rejected, as Tozer said?

The American Preacher is not extinct, not just yet. But he is rare enough that even spotting one deserves observance. Like the nature photographer who sees a Siberian Tiger feeding in the wild; it is not impossible but neither is it expected. And how we need him today.

God, raise up prophets once again, those who cry loud and spare not. Give us those who come to the pulpits and the streets fresh from an encounter with your Spirit in prayer. Send us those who carry in their hearts and upon their lips, hot coals from the altar of God. Give us those who are beautifully broken, who do not abuse in anger, but plead in earnestness. Give us those whose passion for you far outstrips their fear of man. Send us the Reformers, the Revivalists, the Repentant who cry for repentance, the Radicals who see no value in mere money but desire justice above all else. Send us our Whitefield and Wesley, our Edwards and Luther.

Deliver us from Adonijah and Absolom, God. And glorify yourself once again in us, in our churches, in our cities and in this land.

Mercenary Loyalty

O love the LORD, all you His godly ones!
The LORD preserves the faithful
And fully recompenses the proud doer.
Psalm 31:23 NASB

Years ago, when I was a very young minister, I went back to Pennsylvania where I was born and where I grew up for part of my childhood. I held some evangelistic meetings in my hometown for 3 days and started to reconnect with some folks that I knew. On the last day of the meeting, one of my childhood pastors came to hear me preach. Afterwards, as we were visiting over some coffee I asked him why in the world was he still there, in the middle of nowhere, dealing with the same 16 welfare people that he had been dealing with for years. His answer made me ashamed of myself and my ambition. He said, “Son, God called me to be faithful”.

Faithful. Just that. He didn’t say that God had called him to be successful, rich, well known. He didn’t say that God had called him to make tons of money through offerings or to grow a big church. Just be faithful.

That lesson has stuck with me through all of these years. And while the temptation is always there to water things down for the sake of notoriety or worldly success, I can’t help but wonder if maybe on the Judgment Day, I will only be asked about my faithfulness and not my success. That has been what has kept us where we are for the last few years. Our church is still small (people have stayed away by the thousands) and we still struggle to make ends meet most of the time. I look at some of the big churches within driving distance, mostly seeker-sensitive drip pans, and the temptation is always there to get mad at God or frustrated due to a lack of big success in my recent service to god. And most times when I am ready to get despondent, I remember that I am called to be faithful, no matter where I am or what I perceive as the high cost that I am currently having to pay.

Faithfulness is a rare thing in the modern church. I have not found it very much over the last twenty years. While I was in the world, I had tons of friends. And those friends were my friends no matter what. Shoot, most times they would defend me even when what I was doing was wrong. And so I learned about the idea of fealty, devotion, loyalty and faithfulness from the world. Your friends had faults but then again, everyone did. And while they had genuine weaknesses and faults, you chose to look past those and glean the good things from them, things that were enjoyable to you about them while you were together. If a friend was in trouble, you helped, period. And if a friend was in danger, you went into it with them because that’s what friends did.

I came into the church after losing all of my friends due to my conversion. But I came with those same street values that I had my whole life. And man, was I in for a surprise.

In the church we do not know what the term loyalty means. We give no grace for growth. So many times, we bolt from churches and relationships because someone reveals (intentionally or unintentionally) their humanity. And while none of us are perfect, we are only too happy to end a relationship when someone else is imperfect in some way. We do not go into danger with one another, we do not share the burdens of life, loss or ministry. For all intents and purposes, we are just simple mercenaries, out for ourselves and willing to team up for brief periods but never forming lifelong relationships with others.

What makes it all worse is the stinking self righteousness that blankets us as Christians. We are more than happy to begin a relationship with someone but once we spot flaws, we immediately begin to distance ourselves. Eventually, when the person comes to be seen as a real, genuine, flawed human being (*gasp*), we decide to destroy them and all that they are doing as well. Because we simply can not believe that God would use a vessel of clay to act as a recipient of his spirit. And we do this with the full knowledge of how flawed we are ourselves, yet we consider this act of fratricide to be safe because our flaws are still hidden away. You know, shoot them before they can shoot you. And this is why so many leave the church and why countless more refuse to even darken the door. It’s not our singing, lights, greeters or programs that is keeping people away, it is our hypocrisy.

One of the most valuable things in life is the fellowship of a true friend. And some of the least important things are the flaws that everyone shares in common. But we will never be the people that God wants us to be so long as we continue to shoot our wounded and defend ourselves from anyone stupid enough to try and be our friend. So for me, I must leave the church yet again. And instead of patterning my behavior on the bad examples of the Christians that I have known over the course of my life, I will go back to the education that I received on the streets and just be a faithful friend, no matter how jacked up the person is.