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Posts Tagged ‘repentance’

Today I read a passionate argument against some “hyper-grace” teaching that has become popular.  Living under my rock, I am not in a position to comment on teachings I have not heard for myself, but this has never stopped me before.  🙂  I will concede that maybe the message of Grace in Christ could be presented badly.  But I find it hard to believe that it could ever be too much.

I’m not sure if the reaction is toward something that may actually be heretical or if maybe much of the Church has never understood that law and grace were never meant to be in balance.  Grace replaces law because it does what the law could never do; creates a new life, draws with love rather than fear of punishment, transforms desires which in turn guides a life toward Christ instead of self.  Maybe those teaching “hyper-grace” don’t know this either, but I have never heard anyone teach that Jesus has no affect on a life.  He just saves you and that’s all there is to it?  Nothing changes except you go to heaven instead of hell?  Are people really teaching this?  Or are some people afraid to let go and let Him be the Lord of the road people are on while seeking Him.  I would speculate it’s possible that neither side of this debate really know Grace.

I have wanted to write about this so many times, and never could quite seem to figure out how to approach it – because it’s kind of the depth and scope of everything about living in Christ. It’s like, if you don’t get it – I can’t give it to you.  But I see so many Christians , churches, and creeds missing the awesome power of Grace.

Real Grace (which is even beyond my ability to accurately define) is such a transforming power that squabbling over what you think you are allowed to do or not allowed to do becomes pointless.   Those debates are for those who don’t have enough grace, not too much.  Grace fills you with love for God that keeps Him in mind in all your actions, words, and even your thoughts.  Grace fills you with love for other people so that you lay down your prejudices, hates, grudges, and feelings of superiority.  Your heart lives with those who are last, not first, and you learn to lay down your life and take up your cross.  You even find yourself loving those who hate you.  Grace isn’t always easy, but it’s glorious.  It’s Jesus on a cross loving you and His executioners, saving us who were against Him.  You can’t have too much of Him.  Loving Him with your whole heart, mind, and soul does not lead to licentiousness.  Quite the opposite.  People think that when Christians begin to get comfy with sin (which is also sadly defined only by moral behavioral lines while the sins against love are ignored), they need more law.  I disagree. They need to see more Jesus, and we so seldom speak of Him.  We love to dwell on agendas and abstract ideas.  Even New Covenant recovering theology junkies like me are in danger of this.  Life is not a good idea we can talk about at a distance.  It’s a Person who is your Life and has an active participation in it.  We often turn His Spirit into a dead doctrine  or a band-wagon, either one.   Both of these forget that He is standing there as our Bridegroom, waiting for us to realize the intimacy and power of His Love.  Imagine an unpublished final chapter of Pride and Prejudice.  Elizabeth Bennett,  in spite of her hard-won love and admiration of Mr. Darcy, turns to a life of crime because he wasn’t stern enough to keep her in line.  That’s not how love stories go, and I don’t believe it’s what Jesus intended for those who fall in love with Him.

It makes me sad when people believe Jesus isn’t enough and we need to step back to Moses to get a good dose of morality to stay on the straight and narrow, or to even find conviction for sin.  This isn’t what He taught.  The inheritance He gives us, His Spirit, His Life.. is so much more, so much greater.  And it’s continuing to open my eyes to areas that I had not surrendered to Him before.  Grace loves me enough to not leave me to wallow in my own ways.  In the last year, I’ve seen things that were so out of line with Him, that I used to believe were true (similar to the awakening which inspired the start of this blog).   The areas of my life being pruned would never have been brought into the light with the Law.  His Spirit goes deep into the heart and tests things against the Law of Love.  So much in my heart has failed this test.   This did not come about because someone came and said, “you need to repent of x,y, and z”.  Rather, it’s the fruit of walking with Him, and hearing His heart.  And I have much further to walk.  Maybe we need to move past God as a doctrine and realize that living in communion with him (as a husband and wife, father and child, etc… whatever family or friend relationship you relate to) doesn’t operate on this score and control system when it’s healthy.  What friend of Jesus did He ever have to force Himself upon?  Was there ever a more attractive Person?

I may have never encountered this actual problem of hyper-grace, and I may misunderstand the arguments against it, but I do appreciate the chance to say, Jesus is enough. 🙂  Always.

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My apologies to those who have already waded through the multiple chapter version of my story.  While I began this blog with the intent of showing how God delivered us from false religion posing as truth, the greatest part of my story is when Jesus saved me.  It’s not about how I got smart and chose God, but how He saved and worked change in my life before I even knew I needed Him.  This version of the testimony will soon be in a small booklet along with stories of other women saved and changed by God’s grace.

Found by Love

Many people, realize it or not, are looking for a kind of love they have never found.  We demand it from family and friends, and no one seems able to live up to our expectations.   Broken relationships litter our lives as we continue to want the warm fuzzy feeling that doesn’t fade with time.  In our failed search, we may try to numb the craving with work, chemical addictions, sex, shopping, food… the list is endless.  Just the fact that we desire this elusive love is evidence enough that it must exist somewhere.  So many promises, so much disappointment.

But even my search for love was selfish, seeking it for what it could do for me.  In spite of this, Love found me.

My life started fairly normally, born to a middle-class family which attained the standard two children and a house in the suburbs. Normal, except my father was a pastor in a Christian cult. I knew from a young age we were different and considered our way of life superior to those who went to other churches. We believed other Christians would eventually be required to accept our teachings to be saved.

My first memory of recognizing the deep love of Jesus came during a series of evangelistic meetings my father held. He showed a film series on the life of Christ which had come from a mainstream Christian source. Through the films I fell in love with Jesus and was very touched by his love, compassion, and suffering. The crucifixion affected me in particular. I wasn’t old enough to understand theology, but I could perceive a great love, and a purely good man who didn’t deserve the cruelty.

My parents enrolled me in our local denomination’s school, but after my first year, my father was moved to mountain community with a tiny struggling church. My mother home schooled my brother and I for the two years we lived there, on a forested three acres. Except for our church, we had no other interaction in the community. The mountain range we could see at the end of our long driveway became a comfort to me. When everything else began to disintegrate, the mountains never moved.

One winter night, after a mid-week prayer meeting, the destructive fire smoldering under the surface of my parents’ marriage ignited an explosion. They fought for hours. Everyone cried. I told them I loved them both, and I just wanted a whole, happy home. This blew over for a time, but I remember this first outward expression of their serious problems. My mother then began to confide in me often about her discontent and sadness. When she spoke of separation and divorce, I assured her we would be okay.

During this time I felt an urge to be baptized. I had been taught even as a small child that we should never claim to be “saved”. We spoke only of someone being “converted”. In our world this meant someone had studied our 27 church doctrines, agreed with them, and been baptized. I’m not sure what motivated my request for baptism, but I believe it was a desire to be good and do the right thing. I wanted to be acceptable to God, but did not understand there was no work I could do to earn His attention and love. Nor had my own incurable, selfish inclination to sin been revealed to me. I believed if I tried hard enough, I could succeed at being a good Christian as defined by my church. I didn’t see the symbol of death in the baptism which shows we can’t fix ourselves. We must agree to die with Christ, and be raised to His Life.

The final crucible came for my parent’s marriage, and it failed under the pressure. They could no longer maintain the facade, and my mother decided on divorce. I cried alone one day several months later when I sensed the void of a missing parent, but this was the only time I remember allowing myself to grieve. My job was clear – stay strong and be there for them.

As my parent’s relationship dissolved, a simultaneous upheaval was taking place in our denomination. My father was not able to stay in the ministry as a divorced man, but he was already in the process of questioning some of the foundational, distinctive doctrines of the church, as many pastors in the organization were doing at the time. Their founding prophet had come under scrutiny and found to be a fraud, and many people’s eyes were being opened to the truth-twisting teachings of the church.

Doubt about everyone and everything began to creep into my soul. I reacted with an attitude of anger and rebellion toward my church, which at the time meant I was also angry at God. Even though my mother had enrolled us in their church school where we attended for the next eight years, I did not accept the prophet or believe we were the end-time “remnant church” as they taught. But rather than seek God and the truth of His word, I turned to the world.

My senior year I went to live with my father and attended public school for the first time. Moving from a religious sub-culture in a big city to a small town where everyone had grown up together, I didn’t fit in, or even try to. But I soothed my loneliness with male companionship, as I had learned to do as early as the 2nd grade. Only now, boys wanted much more than to hold hands. I made good grades, worked more than one job, paid for all my car expenses and clothing, and appeared mature and responsible. But I was not able to completely hide the inner reality which eventually expressed itself in a lifestyle of promiscuity, alcohol, and drugs.

After one year in college, I landed in Texas, married to a man I had met at the end of my senior year. We partied a lot, but so did everyone else we knew. I never thought past the moment at hand. Being with someone who would love me and be there for me controlled every decision I made, although this is only seen in retrospect.

God blessed me that first year with a beautiful baby girl (the one bright spot in my early adult life), and shortly after she was born I began working in a fast-food restaurant to supplement our income because my husband rarely worked. We survived with public assistance and the help of his parents.

I began to attend a support group when I became aware my husband had moved from the young, immature party scene to that of alcoholism. Contrary to what he and his family claimed, he was most certainly an addict. I needed this confirmation, and knowing I wasn’t the only one struggling with this helped tremendously. They also explained how my reactions and attempts to control him were adding to the problem.

During the traumatic time of dealing with the monster of addiction, my husband and I were involved in a serious motorcycle accident which could have killed us both. This event marked a turning point for me. Not only did it give me plenty of time to evaluate the life I had nearly lost, but I also became aware of a loud inner hunger for a deeper meaning in life. Men had failed to fill my needs and I wanted answers to the purpose of my existence and help for life’s pain. But I still directed my spiritual search away from the Bible and Christianity.

One day I was in a health-food store searching for a supplement that would help my multiple-fractured leg heal faster. The recovery process dragged on much longer than expected, trapping me at a time when I wanted to be free to leave my husband, my dismal job, and the depressing, small Texas town. A sweet, grandmother-type behind the counter asked if I needed any help. She expressed genuine concern for me as she looked past my obvious physical injuries and perceived my inner pain. I found her so easy to talk to. She offered suggestions for my emotional well-being as well as physical health, and invited me to attend a weekly meeting of like-minded people, a New Age study group.

I became instantly attracted to their teachings and quickly dove into pursuing this new path to knowledge. Occasionally something would directly confront my previous understanding of God as the Creator, Christ, and sin – but I would dismiss it as my past primitive understandings. I began to meditate regularly and believed I could directly alter my life through positive thoughts and affirmations. Good and evil were explained has higher and lower frequencies of energy, and I desired communication with higher spiritual guides. I learned of channeling and other psychic phenomenon, experimenting with them myself.

But this enlightenment was not helping my marriage. In spite of my search for healing and wisdom, I still refused to seek the only One who could heal and love me as I craved. Even though my Alanon support group talked of a higher power, it remained an abstract idea. The pain of living with a man who continued to put drugs and alcohol before his family became too much for me, especially when I saw our alcohol-related accident had changed nothing in his life. As soon as he was physically able, he returned to the same friends doing exactly as he had always done. We divorced when our daughter was only about a year old.

My husband had been a huge disappointment, but my selfishness had hurt him as well. My love for him was motivated out of my emotional need which sought to control him for its own interests.  This counterfeit “love” became hostile instead of nurturing when the needs were left unmet. Our failure to love one another as God intends left our daughter with a broken beginning and no remembrance of a home with both of her parents. I hoped she would not be able to miss what she never had, but the divorce affected her deeply as she grew up.

After our divorce, I felt a need to ask him to forgive me as I realized more and more how much I had hurt him too.  We reconciled and remained friends for a time, until he re-married.

As was my custom, I quickly found myself in another relationship.  As an old friendship turned into romance,  I tied the knot again about a year later .  I know most believed this would be a short-lived, rebound marriage.  But in spite of myself and my hastiness, God gifted me with a loving, responsible man.  About a year after we married, He blessed me further with a precious baby boy.

When my son was just a few weeks old, overwhelming thankfulness kept welling up in me. I knew I couldn’t take credit for the blessings in my life and certainly had not “manifested” them with my mind or words. I had not turned to God before in my hard times because they were the obvious consequences of my bad choices. I couldn’t imagine a God who would have anything good to say, or give any help to someone like me. But when He did anyway, without my asking, my cold heart began to melt. I had a deep desire to worship and thank the Source of the blessings in my life, but how could I ever turn back to simple-minded Christians and go to a church?!

Not long after I began to experience this longing, we received an invitation to visit a church with a friend. I had many fears and objections, although I had started to pick up my Bible from time to time. One Sunday, at the end of the service, the pastor stopped to dwell for a moment on the simple gospel. I heard the truth about turning away from sin, and forgiveness through what Jesus had done by willingly laying down His life.  My mind was flooded with a picture of Jesus and my own guilt before God swallowed me up for a moment as I realized He was very real. I had turned my back on Him, playing the spiritual whore, and I could not think of any acceptable excuse for this. Deep down I realized I had always known the error of my chosen path. This was my unveiling, seeing myself in the light of the purity of Jesus – seeing the true nature of my sin. But He beckoned me with the same love that had drawn me there in the first place. He was not condemning but offering me Life. I came to Jesus that day, in tears and in thankfulness. The weight of guilt and shame lifted away and I was humbled by the truth that this forgiveness could never be earned or deserved.

This experience was so much deeper than the words someone preached, but the words moved with the Holy Spirit to open my eyes.  Just as Paul said in Romans, the gospel of Christ is the power of God for salvation.

As of this writing, seventeen years have passed, and He has not failed my husband and I through any trial.  He has not failed to give correction as well as provision. He is the faithful Father all broken human children crave. I have made many, many mistakes, misunderstood many things, and continue to do so. Yet He is always there leading, guiding, blessing, pruning, and drawing me into a closer relationship with Him.

He has come to the broken places from the past, the lost child feeling forgotten and rejected, and become the Parent that never abandons or sees me as the object to fill his own empty needs, because He is wholeness.  He has healed the feelings of worthlessness and despair.  Not all in one day.. but as these places are reached in the journey.  And it continues.  (I am not blaming my parents, but all human parents fall short, including me!)

He has allowed pain and suffering because it provides opportunities for growth the blessings alone cannot give. In Spirit and Word He continues to come near, heal, and reveal. I am forever thankful for how He pursued me with His love and life in Him is new every day as I learn to love and know Him more.

Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Hebrews 12:1,2

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"All I Want is You" by Ramone Romero

Jesus loves His Church, His Body – as man and wife become one, so is our Lord with His Bride.  But I have stepped back and realized that very little of what is called church is the actual Church.  Many dear children of God are within the walls of its institutions, but at this point in time, I personally am not able to stay there (but have not forsaken the gathering of believers in true fellowship).  I have not yet been able to find one close enough to attend which is aligned with the heart of Christ, or following His will and commands.  He said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” John 14:15.  And in another place… “You are my friends if you do what I command you.” John 15:14.   Jesus didn’t teach salvation by works, but a salvation that does work.  And it does not take a scholar to discover what this salvation looks like in action according to Jesus and the Apostles.  The sad truth is that those who wish to obey this call often meet resistance in the local church, or are pushed out altogether.

I am not saying it’s right or wrong – or a black and white issue – to belong to an official “church” organization or not.  For those coming out of cults and deception, the structure can be very beneficial and fellowship among believers  is absolutely essential no matter what.  The important thing is to be where God leads you, and at the moment we have been led to step outside for a time.  Maybe not forever.  We did not want to, but this has been the result of seeking to follow Jesus alone.  I read in the scripture where He said, “If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also…” John 12:26.  I prayed for Jesus to show me where He was working in this world, where was His heart?  When He showed me, it was not in the traditional church.

Yesterday six teenagers and some adults stood for hours out in the sun on 105 degree day to host a fundraiser carwash.  As they stood at the road waving signs, they could see the temperature on the bank sign down the road rising one degree at at time.  Yes, complaining abounded from time to time, but no one abandoned the job, and the joy at the end of the day in loving fellowship was worth every drop of sweat.  All this, not for a ski trip, or a prom, but to have money to go out in two weeks to take a meal and clothing to those who have nothing.  And they didn’t raise enough to cover the single meal they wish to take.  They will also sacrifice from their own resources.  I am not telling this to lift them up, but to draw a contrast between the desires and love God has put on their hearts, and the most obvious love and desires of  the visible church (generally speaking).  Jesus also said, “But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out IN GOD.” John 3:21 – (emphasis mine) – because clearly no one can boast of these desires which God planted, and the fruit is of Him, for His glory.  In fact no one would be crazy enough to do something like this with no personal payback involved unless God put an unstoppable love in his heart.

Why did Jesus care about “the least of these”?  Why did He ask us to minister to them?  I believe because in this we see His heart and identify with Him more than in any other act.  He in fact says we minister to HIM, when we serve THEM.  He asks us to offer grace and mercy to the often undeserving just as we have received freely from His hand.  And just as His love has opened our hearts, love opens the door in the hearts of others too.  The end goal is not to fill a stomach or cover a body, but to glorify God as our Lord by our obedience, and call others to follow Him as well.

The contrast:  This group worked within a stone’s throw (tempting imagery) of a church that has just built a beautiful new addition to their small building with exquisite architecture and marble counter-tops.  The cost of this gorgeous work of art was over a million dollars, most of which they still owe.  But even if it was debt free, what is the value of this in God’s eyes?  I won’t go any further with this point, although I could give endless examples of decadence, as well as stories of churches turning away those in need, because it wasn’t “their ministry”.

I write this out of urgency to call people to see God’s true REALITY.. not what we have imagined it to be.  The dream I posted a few weeks ago still haunts me.  I cannot stay in buildings that will burn or walk with those who do not have  heart for those that will be brought into judgment with themselves.  As Paul spoke of the coming vengeance of God on two groups of people; those who do not know God, AND those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. (II Thessalonians 1:9)

I am not the only one sensing these things deeply.  This following message resonates with me as well.  Test all things… including my words and these – but I must share this:

DEATH of the USURPER CHURCH by Stephen St. Louis

"Your Bride" by Ramone Romero

God has ever kept for Himself a remnant who have not bent a knee nor kissed Baal (1 Kings 9:18). We may be looking at that even now. Several months ago, the Lord gave me an insight during worship that I felt compelled to write down. I shared it with my pastor. The jist of it was that God was going to deal harshly with the Usurper Church and her leaders so that His true bride might take her rightful place once more. Whether this will happen before Christ comes back or when He comes back I can’t tell you, nor do I believe it is particularly important. The main focus (and the reason why I gave it to my pastor in the first place) is that we need to make sure we are part of the Bride and not the Usurper.

The PROPHECY ITSELF

I was in church having listened to an announcement about the money needed for the elevator ($30,000) thinking to myself, “Do we really need it? What else could that money be used for? If they can raise that money that fast to put an elevator in, why can’t they do the same to put towards missions or helping those in need in our own community?”

As worship started again, I felt this welling up inside that just had to come out so I wrote it all down (hence the desire to have the actual words). It started off with almost a rebuke about not doing those things which the Bible clearly calls us to:  looking after the needs of the poor, the lost and the hurting.
Then it went into what God was going to do about it. Firstly, he was going to deal harshly with, as I said before, the Usurper, meaning the people that call themselves The Church but are not. He was using words like “expose her ugliness” and the image that I had was of a beautiful bride in a veil who is discovered to be ugly and fat and diseased when the veil is lifted. God said He was going to remove the usurper and restore His true bride to her rightful place. Now as for the bit about the usurper’s leaders I believe the words used were “fall by the hundreds and by the thousands.”

I came across another “word” that I’d written down about a month before (dated April 18th 2010). The two go surprisingly hand in hand. Again I was sitting in church during the worship. I believe I had my Bible open to 1 Samuel 5 (either that or the Lord brought that story to  mind).This is what He said.

“… How much time do you think you have? Repent. Repent of substituting my idea of church for yours. I did not build my church with bricks and stone but with hearts and minds… I am going to crush the idol of mammon like I did Dagon only worse. Those that worship that idol will be crushed beneath it. Those whose hope is in mammon will be devastated by its destruction.”
The image that I had in my head while I was writing this was of an idol of stone being exploded violently such that only the tiniest pieces remained. It was shattered beyond description or repair.

Source:  http://www.johnthebaptisttv.com/

More Hebrew Roots Movement postings soon!!

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When Christianity misses the New Covenant GOOD NEWS by teaching moralism and methods, it also fails to see repentance in the light of relationship instead of behavior.   Actually, it fails to teach repentance at all because in this paradigm you only need to change your thoughts and actions, rather than die and be birthed by God.

Too often people are told to “trust Jesus” to save them from hell, but you have to work out the rest of this life on your own.  To them “repent” means, “I’m sorry I was bad.  Jesus forgive me.  Now I will try my hardest to be good and keep my Christian “to do list” checked off daily.”

In the story of the prodigal son, the picture does not focus on the debauchery of the son, but shows how his path led to his brokenness and desire to RETURN to his father, a father he knew had no obligation to even accept him as a son any longer. The scene of the return demonstrates the love of a Father who rejoices over his son who was lost, and “dead” but is now alive.  Repentance is to return to our Father from our own pathetic devices and desires.  Do we come home and party like we did when we were out in the world?  Does our Father have to demand that we don’t or do we stand amazed in his mercy as he takes away our shame?  Is this not the most transformational relationship you can imagine?

I want to share a statement from a friend of mine whose journey has led her to a similar conclusion.  I am always overjoyed to find fellow travelers who have seen the inner core of LIFE.

The cry of my heart is to try to focus on Jesus … because for me I came from a watered-down nothing church, to a good, Bible-centered church that had somehow or other, in spite of all the wonderful Biblical correctness, missed the New Covenant completely.  When a person is truly introduced to Jesus, he will never stand for a counterfeit, and cannot stand to be without Him.  Although that person becomes Christ-centered, rather than behavior-centered, he is more sensitive to sin or the slightest unkind thought or action than he could have ever been while concentrating on behavior.”

This echos the statement of Paul here in 2 Corinthians:

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

And what John proclaimed in his gospel.

And from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.  For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

I have probably said this before… but we don’t need a balance of Law and Grace as so many teach.  I know these teachers mean well, but are motivated by fear that if you let go of the law, all hell (literally) will break loose.  Ironically, when you focus on the law, you will find something similar to that result.  If you observe most of the children raised in this environment, you will see the fruit of rebellion and disillusionment.

Grace has a law built in, (Romans 8:2) one that renews and gives life and REAL change, not condemnation.  Paul tells Timothy that the Law (previously given) is for the unbeliever, the wicked man.  When we are born into Christ, we are no longer under that law.  The New Covenant never gives us a list like the Old Covenant had.  We find two defining principles which encompass all of life; our First Love – God alone, Who then passes His love through us to each other.

As I wrote in “Our First Love”..

If we loved Him more, we would believe Him more fully in everything He promised.  If we believed Him, we would trust Him in all our ways.  If we trusted Him, we would follow and obey Him.  If we obeyed Him, the world would see Him through us.

This journey begins only when we come to the end of ourselves.  I would now add… if we loved Him, we would seek Him.  As we seek Him, we know, love and trust Him more.  Trust, faith, belief, whatever you name it, produces fruit as surely as a rose bush will bloom a flower given the right soil and fertilization.  This is why James says, “Show me your faith”.    But we can’t get the fruit by using the fruit as the root… which is what we do when we focus on ourselves and our own performance.

Was I sorry for my sin when God drew me to return to Him?  You’d better believe I was sorry… grieved to the core.  In the moment I saw Him, I became aware of so many ways I had betrayed His love to me and given Him my rebellion in return.  I became keenly aware of my sin as the rejection of His love and sacrifice for me, not that I had broken a list of rules.  While the new birth is a one-time event, repentance may be necessary often in the sense of retracing our steps when we lose sight of Him and go our own way.  I have grieved deeply for this as well, not just when I was first saved.  While He is faithful to show me the truth about myself (which is often painful), He is also faithful to give me hope and to take my hand and move forward.  In Him, there is no condemnation.

Let us return to God our Father, look to Jesus without the veil, and be continually changed into His likeness though the Spirit.

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In my last post I shared a dream I had which included a symbol of black water.  I believe this video shows one of the manifestations of this.

Appearances alone are not enough to prove this is false, although this is a large part of the equation..  Most pagan religions have trance-like states where people lose control of their own bodies.  There is no Biblical way to test this, because it simply isn’t there.  Paul says… the LOVE OF CHRIST controls us.  This is not that.

The real proof to me (and the explanation of why these manifestations have come) is in the false gospels of “self” they are preaching, and the corresponding fruit – which is rampant immorality and greed, which is not hidden, but out in the open for all to see.  Yet men are not held accountable for their sin.  Jesus said, “By their fruits you will know them.”  I am not saying there are not sincere born-again Christians taken in by this for now, but those leading it are not inspired by the one true God.

I was saved in a charismatic/word-of-faith church about the time these things were beginning to spread.  I am thankful I heard enough truth that day to trust Christ; that through the proclamation of Jesus as Lord, He  revealed Himself to me.  But the church did not see the gospel of Christ as their primary message and the priority became experiencing supernatural manifestations and material blessing, which even as a new Christian, felt extremely wrong to me.

It’s hard for me to post this because some people I love think this is really from God.  While I do believe in miracles, and gifts of the Spirit to edify the Body and share the Good News, I share the desire with others to sound a warning here for discernment.  I have been involved also in the New Age, and its spirits and power are real.  Just because something is supernatural and makes you feel good does not mean it is from God.  Just because a lot of Christians believe something, does not mean it’s from God.

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I am increasingly concerned that adapting Jesus culture to business culture transforms faith into following a fad.  I am fully aware this didn’t just start yesterday, nor does it describe the whole of Christianity in America, but it’s becoming endemic.  Here are some of my personal observations, which may or may not be worth a plug nickel.

1 – Business culture seeks most of all to succeed on terms which are incompatible with  how God defines success.

Worldly success values that which has a wide appeal, fulfills a demand, generates a profit, and can be multiplied or duplicated through packaged franchise methods.  Do I need to explain how this is counterproductive to the foundational principles of faith Jesus taught?

2 – Innovation drives business and technology but destroys doctrinal foundations.

We are a culture driven to find something new and our gadgets are obsolete before we even get them home from the store.  Marketing companies are always looking for ways to reinvent the same product to appeal to the bored consumer.  The nature of the human separated from God is seeking to fill up a void with something.  Nothing but God can satisfy that longing, so the search for a new thing goes on endlessly.  This same obsession is described in Acts.

Now all the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there would spend their time in nothing except telling or hearing something new.  Act 17:21

The “old time religion” isn’t good enough for us either.  It has become archaic, boring, and too simple-minded.  We have to reinvent the gospel, deny the authority of scripture, turn Christianity into a motivational self-esteem campaign, and seek to make it compatible with other World Religions.  Many things can and should change – but never the Gospel.

3- Hero/leader worship of pop culture (a tool of business culture) lends itself to creating widely accepted icons…

…with mega churches and best-selling books.  A sign that says billions and billions served must prove the product is great!  Or does it?  The documentary “Super Size Me”  seems to indicate that the food billions have consumed is actually lethal, yet it’s the single most successful restaurant in the history of the world.  In Christianity, if these icons stray from the truth – few will dare question them because of their popularity.  Truth can never be determined by popular vote.  There are some really great pastors with huge churches, don’t get me wrong.  But often success in numbers will over-rule the need to discern.

4 – Marketing success of one product generates a merchandising frenzy of many others.

Even if the initial offering had some value, the ensuing effort to capitalize on the success wave is often banal and funnels valuable financial resources away from areas where they could have eternal impact.  You can tell this is a problem when authors drivel on about nothing to get a book-length manuscript when they could sum up their point in ten pages.  Sequel books are often as disappointing as sequels to movies.  But then so much would be missed in the way of journaling editions, study guides, simulcast events, t-shirts, bobble heads, and children’s products with the same name, etc.. etc… etc….

5 – Relying on business marketing methods (mass mailings with pithy slogans inviting people to gimmicks, limited-time promotions in shopping-mall like churches)  demotes the gospel and our Savior from Life itself to a competing product in a world of possibly equally valid ideas.

Some people justify all this based on the success alone.  They say the goal is to maximize the profit.. (er…impact, sorry) and it’s only right to seek the most effective ways to draw people through the doors of a church.  This last Easter the efforts of churches to outdo one another in my small town for the largest Easter attendance reminded me of the retailer frenzy the day after Thanksgiving.  From a 15,000 eggs at one Easter egg hunt to a free Barbecue dinner, it seemed strange to me that Jesus overcoming sin and death for us – having been raised from the dead – isn’t a big enough draw?!  Makes me wonder how much we believe it or think about it.  Instead, we have to bait people in with something more appealing.

6 – People attracted to Christianity via these methods will demand a steady supply of such to remain interested and pumped up.

This will probably not be easy for people to swallow – but I was sickened when I investigated the Women of Faith website recently.  I’ve never seen such shameless marketing, even to the point of offering a Women of Faith VISA card!  I lost interest about a nanosecond later.   Evidently this traveling mega convention isn’t enough to really satisfy because yesterday I got a flier in  the mail for a “Women of Joy” conference!  I think I’ll hold out for “Women of Peace” when it comes along.  That’s probably what I need the most.  (obviously! ha.)

Each woman spends hundreds of dollars to attend these conventions.  I’m sure they have fun.  I’m sure women are touched.  But I wonder why the demand and success of such events when we have churches on every corner?  Don’t we have enough ministry in this country to keep women encouraged?  I guess I just don’t get it, so I apologize to those who do.  I am greatly edified by the 3 women I meet with for Bible study once a week, my Godly husband, my church fellowship, the Word of God, and the Holy Spirit.  I would rather send my money to the native missionaries in India who are walking barefoot from village to village to tell people about Jesus who have never heard of Him.  K.P. Yohannan of Gospel for Asia is very vocal about how American Christianity spends 99% of its ministry income on itself rather than to reach the lost and hurting.

7 – Vendors of Commercial Christianity will be tempted to not speak the whole truth if it means they will lose fans or revenue.

Jesus said you can’t serve God and money at the same time.  The problem there is pretty obvious.  My son is disgusted with “Christian” bands who do not use their influence and platform to share the gospel.  What are their priorities? (i.e. gods?)

So how is it working?

Are the lost being saved and lives changed?  People picking up their own cross and following in the footsteps of their Savior?  Are we really expanding the Kingdom of God with all this?

In spite of generating churches with memberships equal to some city populations, rumor has it Christianity in America is not growing, but shuffling.  Church growth has been found to come from church transfers, not from evangelism of the lost.

Christian divorce rate is equal to the general population according to this study.   I have been tempted to blog on this topic all by itself.  How can we follow what Jesus said to love one another as He loved us, if we can’t even sacrificially love our spouses?  This one is HUGE to me.  I have seen so many Christian marriages dissolve just from pure worship of self.  There was no biblical right to divorce.  Before coming to Christ, I too chose divorce and the consequences of a broken family on your children have to be lived with.  My husband and I both come from divorced families.  Many of our grandparents were married multiple times.  The Word says God hates divorce, and so do I.  It has caused me so much pain, and no one is untouched by it anymore.  If the Body of Christ looks the same as the world in this area, we have a deadly problem.

Only 1 in 5 of those who say they are  Evangelical actually hold to the foundational beliefs which define Evangelical Christianity.  Truth isn’t sought after because now even Christians have adopted relativism.

The seeker friendly movement at Willow Creek which generated a revolutionary church-growth strategy admitted openly a few years ago, that according to their research, all their programs were not affecting lasting transformation in people’s lives.  They drew people but failed to make disciples.  Their solution?  Do some more research and start over with a clean piece of paper.  Hmmm..

Incredibly, the guru of church growth now tells us that people need to be reading their bibles and taking responsibility for their spiritual growth… Bob Burney … See Full Article

Mass marketing seems to generate a great income, but it looks like a steady diet of  this type of religion is leaving the church in the state of spiritual emergency, not emerging health.  It’s not that I am against great programs and ministry conventions – just people trusting in them to do the work only the Holy  Spirit can do.  The biggest problem with Laodicea is she thinks she can manage just fine on her own.

With God even a rich man can get through the eye of  a needle and a Laodicean church can repent and buy gold tried in the fire.  We won’t be changed however until we see ourselves as we are, or all our man-made devices are taken away from us in God’s mercy.  When Christ applies the eye salve (Rev. 3), we will be compelled to pray, repent, seek God and His ways instead of the world and its way, because we will finally realize there is no alternative.  Well, there is one other option actually – something about being “spewed out.”  I trust this is not God’s will for Laodicea.  He knows what it will take.   It’s not something an outward reformation in form or method can fix.  The root problem is a body severed from its Head, and a heart drawn after idols.

If you see clearly – please pray with me that others will too, and pray with each other.  We so desperately need to pray.

(Picked up a book recently by Michael Horton called “Christless Christianity – The Alternative Gospel of the American church.” I am only in Chapter 1 so far, but standing and cheering …  other people far more qualified to speak out are seeing it too!!)

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Truth is simple
but simple doesn’t sell.
We complicate God
making converts for hell.

The business is easy,
we just say it on T.V.
People fill their eyes
and believe what they see.

God’s words are lost
in the mass of men’s lies,
changed into something
that never satisfies

But gives us a reason
to not trust our Lord
can teach us his Truth
from knowing his Word.

So we give our minds
over to some leader
forgetting God promised
He’d be our Teacher.

The fruit is plain
and it brings great pain.

We carry His name
but bring Him shame
acting like
He never really came
we and the world
act just the same.

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Yesterday I heard the testimony of a woman who realized she had a problem after twelve years in missions and ministry with a husband who preaches with a fire like John the Baptist.  I have seen this man preach in person and I don’t know how anyone leaves the building not saved.  The Holy Spirit is on this man like none I have ever heard.  But as hard as it is to believe, she says that in those first twelve years, she herself was not converted.  She had grown up in a Christian home and raised her hand for Jesus at a meeting once in the Christian school she attended.  She did all the churchy things, along with her friends.  They were all good kids and she married a missionary.  She says people try to tell her, “Well, you really were saved, but you have just had this experience of coming closer to God.”  Her reply was, “I live in here… and I know where I was, and I know what happened.” (paraphrased from my memory)

She goes on to describe how over the course of three years God began to deal with her about her heart.  During the “How to know if you are a Christian” sermons, she would squirm in her seat and struggle SO HARD to do the things that seemed to come naturally to others.  She performed, following the Christian “to-do list” but that was where her motivation to seek God began and ended.  She could not overcome known sins in her life and grow more like Christ.  One day God opened the door for her to spill her heart to her husband, who told her the honest truth.  (He specializes in the honest truth.)  He said, “Based on what you are telling me… I can’t tell you that you are a Christian.”  She had come clean and stopped putting on the act, an act so convincing no one around her knew the truth, deceiving even her own eyes for many years.  A pivotal moment came when she saw a prostitute on the street and she knew in her heart that even though she looked good on the outside, on the inside she was no different than her.  We are all that kind of woman (or man) if Adam is still our father.  She tearfully said she realized she did not have the strength to keep up the act and took that new honesty to God in prayer.

Does this story sober you?  Does it raise questions?  She said reading 1 John convicted her deeply.  The tone of this letter seems to be encouragement for those having their assurance threatened by a false teaching or obligation.  John is telling them, “Look, this fruit is the evidence of your true faith in Jesus, not what these other people are claiming.”   He warned them earnestly against false teachers, told them how to spot them, and affirmed, “I write to you because you know the truth.”  He was encouraging them not to waver from the foundation they had been given in Jesus.  But for someone who has not yet received a new birth from God, this book can be difficult to understand, or read.  Religion has many external tests to determine who is a Christian.  But God has always looked on the inside when men are evaluating the outside.  We can fit the outward mold while our hearts are trying to figure out how to find the point in going through the motions.

John deals with the most crucial fruits of faith, the ones we can’t fake.  God knows if we lust after the world, hate our brother, hide habitual sins, or feel little or no conviction for them.  We might be able to hide all that from others and even lie to ourselves, but God sees the real us.  The greatest gift we can receive from God is to see ourselves as we really are.  John is definitely not talking about being perfect, but he IS saying true salvation has fruit, just as James explains.  The New Creation DESIRES God, despises sin even though tripped up by it from time to time.  It loves, simply because it is an extension of God Himself in this world, a residing place of His Spirit.  It’s not about doing, but being.

The two biggest lies of false religion are:  You are okay just the way you are OR  You are not okay and it’s up to you to fix it, or keep it fixed. The TRUTH is, in your natural born state, you are NOT okay and there is NOTHING you can do to fix it.  In the absence of this revelation, we have owned a mental historical fact only, and have not entrusted our whole being into God’s hand – to die with Christ on the cross and be raised to New Life (represented by our water baptism).  If we do not at some point come to terms with both of these truths about ourselves, we will keep trusting in either our own innate “goodness” or our ability to become good, or uphold God’s work in our own efforts.  This deception can invade any heart in any pew of any Bible-teaching church.  False teachers capitalize on these two tendencies, but we don’t need them to believe these lies.  We believe them very well on our own, which explains why we so easily follow them.  We would rather go either direction than face our own helplessness and depravity.

People who leave cults often see the exodus as exchanging wrong facts for true ones, but some don’t realize what they really need – to fall helpless before God to save them and give them a brand new heart.  Thankfully most I know have also been broken by the truth they have found, but if we leave it on the intellectual level and do not “examine ourselves to see if we are in the faith” as Paul exhorted, we can still be terribly deceived.  This wife of a powerful preacher knew “the truth” but until she made it HER truth, she was not actually free.  I am SO thankful for the helpless brokenness God has brought me through, first to trust Him to save me, and also to continue to change me.

As you read this, if you have any doubt whatsoever, read 1 John in prayer and ask God to reveal your heart, not just doctrinal facts.  If John’s message does not bring you comfort and assurance as a child of God, then I urge you to take that honesty to God.  He knows exactly what to do about it.  Some evangelists like to use the Ten Commandments to confront people with their sin.  True confrontation goes much deeper than wrong behaviors.   The Words of Christ Himself along with this short letter both expose our true nature and desires.  The problem of Adam’s children isn’t that we do bad things, but rather at the core of our identity, we are enemies of God.  Does a tree branch strain to pop out an apple?  It simply does, as a result of being connected to the tree.  This is why you can’t try harder to be a Christian.  You are one, or you aren’t one.  No middle ground.  Is it time to find out for sure where you are abiding?

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The context for this discussion is not cults, but what commonly passes for genuine Christianity.  The climate in Christianity today completely squelches discernment in the name of tolerance and “not judging”.   Some verses are consistently used as a fallout shelter for anyone seeking to justify their false position.  Nowhere does the Bible instruct us check our brains at the church door and abandon discernment.  Quite the opposite in fact.

The “If you can’t say something nice…”  mentality has taken us over.  I wrote about this in a much earlier post “My Apologies to Thumper’s Mom”.  But I would like to go deeper into why it’s so important to practice discernment and to contend for the truth.

Anyone who has a belief system of any kind will have some way to define what they consider truth, and what they reject.  A Christian should be able to explain why he is not a Hindu and an atheist will be happy to explain why he does not believe in a God.  Even the relativist has an operating system governing his decisions – professing “there is no absolute truth”.  This ironically becomes his absolute truth.  Sadly, we are now trained to be tolerant of everyone, except for those who say there is something they can’t tolerate.  Those individuals must not be tolerated under any circumstance.  As goes the world.. so goes the Church.

I don’t expect  everyone to agree with me here, but more importantly to understand where I am coming from and why. I fully acknowledge I am not always going to apply this correctly – but knowing we all have a margin of error does not prevent me from seeking to be grounded in truth as solidly as is humanly possible.

Two things I try to avoid are this:  1 – Rejecting every ministry or teacher which holds to some point at which I disagree with them.  2 – Accepting any teacher as valid simply because they claim to be Christian and are widely acclaimed.

I recently heard a pastor who believes a popular teaching I consider extremely unbiblical.  However…  while most teachers who follow this line of thinking make this belief the central focus of their ministry, this man in contrast preaches the true, bedrock gospel and is reaping an amazing harvest for the Kingdom.  I would never speak a word against him because he is a true brother, in spite of this point of contention.  His first and foremost desire is to see people repent and be born again into God’s family, and God is using him greatly.

On the other hand, there are many false prophets, apostles, and teachers IN the church – not just in cults.  We were warned there would be by Jesus and the apostles.   They described them for us so we could clearly see the contrast between the true and the false.  I have found two short litmus tests for these:

1.  Proclaiming Jesus is the Son of God – a true gospel focus.

1 John 2:23  No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also.

1 John 4:14, 15  And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world.  Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.

Anything that DISTORTS or DISTRACTS (replaces the rightful focus) of Jesus Christ and His gospel is not from God.  (“Indeed.. there are many antichrists in the world”)  The word “confesses” here is not a one time thing – it’s an ongoing activity. (I checked this verb tense with a language scholar.)  It must be the main point and goal of a true Christian ministry.  We can do many great things but if Jesus is not at the center of it, we are not drawing people to Him but to a philosophy or our own agenda.  This may sound simple, but it’s not.  People replace Jesus with many good things.  We can talk about “God” all day long and not ever train our eyes to see Jesus and His words.  Even Paul with his vast wealth of knowledge said he had known nothing among his pupils but “Christ and Him Crucified”.

This test requires more than a correct doctrinal statement.  It demands an eye with a single focus.  Jesus said Follow ME.   He said anyone who is ashamed of Me and MY WORDS, I will be ashamed of him.  Those are hard words!   Jesus said many hard things that few people have the courage to actually preach in this day in time.  His Grace doesn’t give us an excuse, but should give us a desire to stop making them.  We must fall broken and humble at His cross and agree with Him that we can’t do anything at all without Him, both as individuals and corporately.

2.  Right relationship with money.

Matthew 7:15  “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.

Ezekiel 34:2  “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy, and say to them, even to the shepherds, Thus says the Lord GOD: Ah, shepherds of Israel who have been feeding yourselves! Should not shepherds feed the sheep?

Isaiah 56:11  The dogs have a mighty appetite; they never have enough. But they are shepherds who have no understanding; they have all turned to their own way, each to his own gain, one and all.

2 Corinthians 11:1-4  I wish you would bear with me in a little foolishness. Do bear with me!  For I feel a divine jealousy for you, since I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ.  But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ.  For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or if you accept a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it readily enough.

2 Corinthians 11:19, 20  For you gladly bear with fools, being wise yourselves!  For you bear it if someone makes slaves of you, or devours you, or takes advantage of you, or puts on airs, or strikes you in the face.

It seems that the falsehoods change little over the millenia, yet they still succeed.    I couldn’t write a more accurate description of what I see going on in some ministries.  I would really urge every believer to make a serious study of EVERYTHING Jesus and His true Apostles had to say concerning money.  Write it all down and read it all together, then use it as a plumb line.  These are not cultural, outdated exhortations but foundational to the walk Jesus Himself described.  Did you know that greed is listed right up there with sexual immorality in the New Testament?  That seems often overlooked.  We will condemn the homosexual and keep our greedy leaders because they promise us we can have all that too!  This should be to our shame.  False teachers would have very little success but for the willing audience and financial support.

False teachers love to quote scripture, but are they hearing what God is really saying or what they want to hear?  Every deception is cloaked in many great statements of truth.  This is the element that disarms the listeners and gains their trust.  Satan comes to us as an angel of light, and speaks truth!  Almost.  But I would assert this:  The truth when misapplied is more dangerous than the lie.

So this is the WHAT…  but what about the WHY?

Paul qualified his ministry against the impostors based on his sufferings and sacrifice for the gospel, as well as the power demonstrated by the Holy Spirit.  He had not exalted himself, asked for pay, or lorded over anyone.  I on the other hand can only say that I am worse than a nobody.  I have been a false teacher deserving of the double curse Paul uttered in Galatians – not in the aspect of seeking greedy gain, but in the sin of exalting something other than Jesus as  my focus (idolatry).  I did not have a formal position (being female I would never take one), but I did attempt in many ways to share and spread a false message.  I and my husband both deserved to be discerned as false and confronted, but we weren’t.  Either no one could see the problem, or they lacked the resolve to speak up.  I don’t pretend I would have received it well at the time, but I believe that both of these elements are desperately needed in the church today.  We have lost our ability to identify divergent gospels and humbly give or receive correction.  It’s now a taboo!

In the public arena of thought and discussion, I have a burden to be one small voice  available to speak the truth in areas where lies and half -truths have comprised our foundations in Christ.  Because He is worthy!  We are dragging his name through the mud in so many ways and turning the world off with a false Jesus, not giving them the true, Life-giving Jesus.  He said “If I be lifted up, I will draw all men unto me.”  Instead the church as decided to lift up idols and draw all the other Christians in town to our new and improved brand of religion, to empty smoke and mirrors.  People go from church to church, some looking for Life, then get derided for “church hopping” when they can’t find the genuine article.  True seekers (not the kind who want to be tickled and entertained) are bailing out in droves.

If you think the American Church is “okay” you really need to look at the latest lab results.  The statistics tell a very different story.  It’s going the way of Europe’s Church which has almost disappeared.  Having been delivered from a false religion, I am now confronted with a reality so depressing that if I did not believe in the words of Jesus, that the gates of hell would not prevail against His church, I would completely lose hope.  I do believe He will save it from itself, and it will not be pretty.  Hard pruning hurts.  A refining fire burns.

But will He save it in America?  That remains to be seen.  Nothing says He has to.  The parable of the wedding feast, while given to the Jewish nation, I believe would apply to any group of people too busy or distracted to accept His invitation.  Revival comes first with the gift of eyesight- seeing our need, then with humble, earnest prayer and fasting.  It comes with total consecration.  It comes with a willingness to surrender and follow the truth at all costs.  I don’t see that willingness in very many places, even people who have all their facts right.  Their minds are fortified in doctrines and their hearts are in the world, or held up in  their own efforts apart from the power of God.  Truly we believe we are rich and in need of nothing, not even the one who gave us Life.  To be a Christian in this country and not be sucked into this is almost impossible.  I don’t claim to have completely escaped.  Just because I can see where we need to go doesn’t mean I have arrived there myself.

I speak out for those who are seeking truth – but not to start arguments with those who have already made up their minds.  I will not and cannot be silent.  My heart is broken for the church in America and just as Jesus lovingly calls His church to repent in Revelation 3, his Spirit is yearning now with many to speak this same message.  I am one tiny voice among many.  If my words do any good anywhere, it is only by His design.

If you are a friend or family member and have taken offense at anything on this blog, I am sorry and have not directed anything here to anyone personally.  I love you all and am happy to openly discuss anything.  I enjoy and appreciate open, honest dialogue.  The friends I value the most are the ones who love me enough to be honest, even when we don’t agree.  I would rather be confronted than patronized any day.  So don’t just say something nice.  Jesus deserves praise but we are tempted in it.  Be willing to see the Truth, and speak it in love.

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I heard a sermon a few years ago on the radio relating many stories of men who rose to fame in Christian ministry only to end in defeat or humiliation.  The stories sobered me because you seldom hear “the rest of the story.”  The speaker shared statistics which indicated this is actually the more common outcome, rather than the exception.  I have been reading over the life of Solomon lately, and this sermon came back to mind.  We have no shortage of examples in scripture or in modern Christianity.

An interesting paradox in our Christian walk is that the greater a gift God gives His children, the more potential we find for the gift to become our bane instead of a blessing.   The first temptation is to love the gift more than the One who gave it, not realizing we have misplaced our highest devotion.  I believe this was Solomon’s downfall – his heart being drawn after the women in his life and passively following their spiritual desires at the expense of his love for the true God.  Sometimes the gifts and blessings of God overwhelm me, and the temptation is to focus all my energies on those things, especially my children and family.  But if we make an idol out of our career, house, family, church family or a charismatic leader, our love will quickly grow selfish, constricting, conditional, and even abusive, as we have cut ourselves off from the true Source of real love.  These idols are hard to see because we are supposed to love and nurture these things – but not more than we love God.  We often don’t realize we have crossed the line.   But others can often tell something is wrong, even if they don’t know why.

The other trap, especially in the area of ministry, is the feeding of our pride.  We mistakenly begin to ascribe to the sometimes subtle belief that our gifting originated in ourselves, not in God, or we may want to think He gave it to us because we are special in some way.  This describes the first evil found in our universe – when Satan became lifted up in his own beauty and aspired to sit on God’s throne himself.  We can never delude ourselves into believing anything good originates in us, and not lose the benefit of it in the end.  Solomon asked for wisdom in humility, telling God he was like a child who did not know how to go out or come in.  I wonder how long he remembered this was his natural state before God answered his prayer?

This is where we learn that the greater our revelation, the more we must be willing to suffer.  The great men and women of faith I admire the most, have suffered things I can only imagine. Why is this?  God’s mercy I believe, as Paul wrote:

So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited.   Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me.   But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.  2 Corinthians 12:7 -10

This is why we are instructed to not despise the correction of God.  He does it in love to protect us from ourselves.  Not every calamity comes for this reason.  Some obstacles we are called to stand and fight against in spiritual warfare, but we must have discernment to hear when He says to us, “My grace is sufficient.”

God’s giftings come with testing built in – to see if we will love Him the most, and walk in humility before Him.  But if this is not enough, the church turned institution developed an over-dependence on leadership not found in the New Testament.  This structure places men on platforms they should not have to stand on, and binds burdens on them which should be shared by other giftings designed to work together as.. a body…. maybe?   This damaging symbiosis weakens both the pastor and the flock.  One is taxed to the point of his flame being burned out while the flock becomes passive. They expect their leader to spoon feed them, inspire them,  hear from God for them, soothe their every wound, and do the work of building the church by reaching the lost.  Some enjoy being large and in charge I suppose, but I have known those who have crumbled.  They need intercessors urgently – especially those who truly have a heart for honest truth and obedience to the Spirit.  Spurgeon said his ministry was a result of fervent intercession by those called to pray for him and the body.  Once during the Israelite’s wilderness wanderings, God allowed the burden to fall on 70 other men to prophesy with Moses – to lighten his load.  Moses declared at that time he wished all of Israel would prophesy.  This is the reality of what we have in the New Covenant and of God pouring out His Spirit on all flesh!  Yes we need leaders most definitely – but they are not ordained to be our everything.

Burnout, giving in to temptations, being distracted from our First Love in idolatry – just a few reasons why we do not end well.  Paul spoke of running the race and seeking the prize at the end.  I don’t believe he meant striving to be saved, but striving to end with integrity and faith, glorifying Christ.  In Ecclesiastes it appears that Solomon gained the greatest wisdom in the end – realizing the vanity of this world and the importance of a singular focus on God Himself.  Yet the consequences of his disobedience played out in a sad story of a divided kingdom.  We are living in an age of divided families, friendships, and churches.  We are not ending well, and it is my greatest desire and prayer that our true focus may be restored – to the praise and glory of God alone.

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