Friday, July 29, 2011

The Holy Spirit vs Religion

In my enthusiasm for the Holy Spirit - the witness of Jesus on earth - I just couldn't contain myself. I somehow rounded up a bunch of friends from the local evangelical church and invited them to one of the conference meetings. They were nice folks, loving, but always struggling. By there own admission, they were saved, but each one confessed that they didn't seem to be going anywhere with God. Religion for them was boring and bit dry. They had been told that tongues were of the devil, and that any worship of the Holy Spirit and not about Jesus, was a cult.

Off we went to the meeting!

“Do you believe God?” shouted a loud and fiery preacher from the platform; right in the midst of worship. There was such a sense of the need to repent, that I hit my knees as soon as I found a seat. Closing my eyes, I quietly cried out, “God forgive me, God forgive me! Oh Jesus, please forgive me.” I wasn't looking around me—it was me and the Lord right then. A few minutes later, when I felt a release, I stood to my feet and I noticed that hundreds were on their knees around the sanctuary. Except for an Anglican mass, I had never seen such a sight.

The meeting went on going between worship and preaching, to prophesying and praying, and back to preaching again. The air was filled with anticipation. I hung on every word, every note expecting something to happen. What, I didn't know.

At the first of many altar calls that evening; a couple that I was with went forward. The husband asked for healing for his a lung disorder. As the presence of God came on him, the preacher asked him to recite the sinner’s prayer. He just began to cry as he mouthed the words.

“Are you full of the Spirit?” she asked. “You know, God won’t give you a scorpion when you ask for an egg.” She continued. “Do you want to be full of His spirit, His Holy Spirit?”

He barely eked out a “yes,” and the power of God caused him to lean forward 45 degrees to the floor. As he started to speak in tongues, he just hung there, almost suspended in thin air.

“Now do you want to be healed?” she asked.

“Yes” he said, and hit the floor, overcome by the power of God.

The preacher leaned over and grabbed his hand, “Get up and run! Show everyone what God has done for you tonight!” She exclaimed.

He got up and ran around that sanctuary! “I can breath!” he shouted as he took his victory lap down the center aisle. People clapped and gave God praise as he returned to the seat next to me.

Next it was his wife’s turn. They had been trying to have a baby for nearly five years. One of the ministers laid hands on her belly, and shouted. “I break the curse of bareness over your womb!” She fell to the floor.

A few weeks later my friend’s wife was sick in the mornings and went for a pregnancy test. The doctor determined, not only that she was pregnant, but that she had conceived the day of the conference! We laugh about it every time we bump into each other. Because of her healing that night, they went home and believed God for her miracle.

What do you think, is it God or not?

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

All Hands On - Rejecting Biblical Leadership

Just about all people follow someone's leadership. They have heroes, bosses, managers, parents, pastors and teachers. And yet most of us also lead. We can lead ourselves, a family, or a country; someone is in always in charge. I believe Church leadership is partly talent, partly learned and always entrusted to us by God.

All of our choices have consequences, and therefore are leading somewhere.

Every entity has some sort of leadership; the church is not exempt from that. It seems I have come across more then few uniformed church people in the area of leadership. They don't seem to understand the fundamentals of leading, but have no problem taking control. They don't seem to get that leadership is not about them, but about those they lead. Simply stated in the Bible, "But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first." Leadership in the church is about getting at the end of the blessing line and encouraging others to join you. Church leadership is really a place of sacrifice, humility and service.

Within the church there are different visions for leadership. Some churches have a board, others have a voting deaconate, some seem more like a corporation and others are one man; one vision, take it or leave type operations. There are also different leadership styles, some are aggressive, some are not. John Maxwell has written some good solid leadership books. He details some of the key principles of leadership. Real leadership seems to have a persuasive nature to it. A leader interfaces with people in a fashion that motivates them to do things your way. Leaders take responsibility for their actions and choices. Good leaders are an example to their followers and know how to delegate to others. A good leader considers lots of ideas.

What if all that training, all those ideas, and all that counsel is not God?

Regardless of our style, Christians need to adhere to biblical principals. What amazes me is that many don't know what they are. Here is one that shows up a lot, but I don't see it in the Bible. Voting! No one in the Bible voted on anything... save Paul before his conversion to put Christians to death. They cast lots to give God and opportunity to show His preference. But they didn't vote! They relied on wisdom, council, prophecy and hearing the Holy Spirit. You may remember that Peter and Paul addressed some conflicts, but this was an informational meeting for the uninformed, not a vote. When we understand church leadership is being led, we come up with some very different models.

In the church we seem to have a CEO mentality... I am the boss you are the workers; or worse, the spectators! This view is an American corporate teaching, not a biblical teaching. In business I guess it works, but in the church it separates the leadership from those that need more intimate attention. It turns people in to commodities, not parts of a body joined together by grace to perform the work of the church. Certainly we have to have authority in the church, but that comes from God and it is not controlling everyone, or trying to make everyone like us. The church is meant to be a body with all the parts working together to fulfill the mandates of Christ. There are many scriptures regarding the body and it's functioning. Read 1 Corinthians 12, 13 and 14 along with Romans 12, and Ephesians 4. These chapters talk about the body and the gifts that are used both in the and outside of the church walls. Ephesians 4 specifically talks about how we are to train and equip all believers.

If you look over your life I am sure you can think of people, teachers, pastors, parents, coaches and managers that taught you things, not by control and manipulation, but by modeling principals and behaviors, answering questions, and encouragement. They answered your questions with interest and information in a way that that you could understand. They allowed you to do it and helped you to become your best.

Over the years I have heard of all kinds of discipleship movements. My favorite was the matrix model. I liked it because it took those in leadership and asked of them to raise-up someone to take their job within the church. From pastors and worship leaders to Sunday school teachers and toilet cleaners, everyone serving in the church was to raise someone else up! It was something like an Elijah and Elisha type relationship. Or a better example might be Jesus and the 12 apostles. He trained them for a time when He would be gone they took over. I am sure that they were glad that He was around when they had to feed the 5,000 men and their families. But on the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit was with them and thousands were added to their number.

We may only be making coffee, but that is an important job in the church and when we grow into something new, we'll need someone to take our place. If you are a leader, don't be threatened by your protegé, he might just do a better job. Wouldn't it be great if those we inspired did a better job then us! We don't have to be experts or super spiritual, no, we need to get at the end of the line and put someone before us. And if God sees fit, we'll get a promotion to do something else.

How about you, do you lead, or have an inspiring leader?

Monday, July 25, 2011

5 1/2 Millstones, Tombs and Whitewash

I have been writing about religion the last few posts - mostly why I think it is a spirit killer. I often wonder if  vegetarian, eats a juicy steak, are they a hypocrite? If a Satanist DOES not run someone down in the crosswalk, are they a hypocrite? Is it really what we believe that gets us into heaven, or what we do? Is a Christian a hypocrite because they have poor character, fruit-less lives or don't speak in tongues and cast out demons?

For sure, I have more questions than answers. Here's a tough one: What is the difference between being religious, and being a Christian? Ha! After all, isn't Christianity a religion?

-1 Rote Practice: Why is it that we make formulas for getting God to move? One of the reasons that I hate WWJD? is that it limits us from God doing something different. We stuff him in the same yesterday, today and tomorrow box like He won't ever surprise us with a new and creative solution. AND when we get something that does work, we turn it into a program, a framework for prayer, or an outline for a message.

Conversely, we can't do something new to be different. We need to be obedient to God.

Jesus wept (John 15:13), Jesus healed (Matthew 8:13), Jesus rebuked (Matthew 19:13). Jesus loved (Mark 10:21), Jesus hung out with sinners (Matthew 9:10), Jesus let a bad guy on his team (Matthew 10:4) and Jesus healed a guy with spit and dirt (John 9:11) - so which one is the model for all our ministry? It is the one that God is doing at the moment!

-2 Lack of Power: Jesus said to go out into the world and make disciples, heal the sick, cast out demons, and preach the Good news to the lost. Why is it that almost all American churches are not seeing healing, demons cast out and a significant number of salvations? God is still a God of power, and like Jesus, he still isn't forcing himself on anyone. He did not try to convince people as much as he demonstrated the love of God by the power of Heaven. Paul went on to say that the manifestation of this power (love) that is in the gifts (1 Cor 12) is available to all, DESIRE THEM.!

-3 Man-Made Traditions: Pulpits, genuflecting, songs before preaching - the list goes on and on. Jesus preached a lot without music. Music happened without sermons. The disciples went out in tows to cast out demons and heal the sick.Offerings were given directly to ministers.

All of these traditions are suspect, and if they don't translate across cultural lines, then they have to be God locally,or they have to go. (Did you know a lot of people are bored with church? Traditions are a killer.)

Are we at church to practice some set of rules?

-4 Spectator Mentality/Formatted Services: This flies in the face of 1 Corinthians 14. Church services are supposed to be places for us to be obedient to God. Unfortunately we have made the focus of most of our services the worship music and the pulpit, leaving very little room for anything/anyone else to participate.

How can we come to church with a song, a word or a testimony when we don't have a format that allows it to happen? We often her that God is a God of order - LOL - that passage is for the people prophesying and giving tongues and the interpretations of them in the church.

If we are at church to entertained, I suppose that is better and cheaper than a Broadway show, but is it God?

-5 Lack of Freedom: We talk grace and love like it is the key to Christianity. Then we identify ourselves as sinners. How is that possible? Most of the church has a problem calling believers "saints." I don't think it's bad to say where we came from. I think it's bad to make our identity that which we used to be. Our past is not our future. We are a new creation.

Freedom allows us to enjoy our grace. It lets the work of the cross be "completed", "finished" -  "done!" There is nothing more that we can do to please God except to have faith in the finished work, and be obedient to his voice.

-5 1/2 Lack of Love...

Here is a 2 minute testimony that is exactly what I am talking about. Enjoy.

Church, we need to stop doing what we are used to, good at, talented at and put it all on the altar and see what's left after Jesus is allowed to get at it.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Break the Neck of the Religious Spirit

I can get angry at the devil for messing with me and my Christian friends. I don't mind conflict, but I sure do prefer it when it's resolved. I recently had another one. It seems that gossip is more important than relationship, and that makes me even angrier.

Matthew 5:23 Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering. 25 Make friends quickly with your opponent... (NASB)

It has been my experience that many church people hold things against you, and they don't really say what they are - somehow in the name of Christ or something like that. I think they find it easier to abdicate from resolving issues by avoiding them. I am sure that it is not every Christian, but it seems there are enough of them to provide leaven to the religious bread.

Matthew 16:12 Then they understood that He did not say to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.

It is no secret that dysfunctional churches misuse authority to gain control, or at least emulate the structure of a corporation. How religious must one be to "require" someone to be in the Sunday service and not in the lobby getting to know a wayward teen or a listen to the woes of a brother? (Some days I wonder if pastors take pastoral jobs because they are unemployable anywhere else!)

That's how is all got started. A pastor decided that I would have to be in the service in order to set an example. It sounds reasonable, until you look at the motive. It wasn't during worship, it was during the sermon. Hmmm... That ended me up in an elder's meeting to confront my bad behavior. I had already dropped out of any sort of leadership role, and tried to be a good boy for a few months. It was absolutely suffocating listening to an hour sermon from a book I already read.

I left for another church where I could at least get some good preaching.

I know that God cares about hearts, and I didn't care to rebel, or cause them any trouble. I simply said that I felt my time there was over. What angers me is that they are still talking about it three years later. Of course the "niced" me out the door with prayer and everything. They probably thought I would evaporate until we got to heaven. Of course, they never came to me.

I assure you that religion and legalism is a real problem in the church. Some times we don't think that the devil can touch our church, or our services, but it is not true. Some times it can be pretty bad.

Mark 1:23 Just then there was a man in their synagogue with an unclean spirit; and he cried out, 24 saying, “What business do we have with each other, Jesus of Nazareth? Have You come to destroy us? I know who You are—the Holy One of God!” 25 And Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be quiet, and come out of him!” 26 Throwing him into convulsions, the unclean spirit cried out with a loud voice and came out of him. 27 They were all amazed, so that they debated among themselves, saying, “What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey Him.”

Jesus was in the church of the day with the people of God, and there he confronted the devil. In the book of Ephesians, Paul speaks of the the powers of the air and principalities that reign over certain regions of the earth. These too can be destructive forces which come against the church - and can entangle us. Do you think Peter knew what was going on when Jesus said "Satan, get thee behind me!" I doubt it very much. Peter was a pretty religious guy, and friend of Jesus. I don't think that his heart was purposely set on hindering the plan of God - but he sure did get all religious certain things.

My point is this: Religion and legalism are killers. Add to that gossip, and your have the perfect storm for division and offense, both of which are sin. We must constantly search our hearts to remove that which keeps us from having relationship. To put it in more biblical terms. "remove the plank from our own eyes. Part of this is just good relationship skills. If someone I know and love messes up, it usually because they are in some sort of pain, they are overtired, or they've been offended. We have all been there. Why be offended, just get on with life after a sincere "could you forgive me?" I have to tell you, i have heard that phrase very little in all the years I have been a Christian.

The religious spirit empowered by Satan who walks around like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. Whether it is you who is offended, or some else that sins against you, it doesn't matter. It is foothold for the Devil and he'd be happy to have you for lunch.

Demonic strongholds are tougher because they are the undercurrent of a region. It takes discernment and humility to beat them at their game.

I had a prophetic word about "breaking the neck of the religious spirit in my region. It is an interesting mission. It is not by power or might, but by building and maintaining relationships. there is a lot of pressure that comes against us from darkness, it is part of being in an army.

I have written about the demonic before, but not in terms of its effect on me. Here are some blogs if you have the time.

Demonic Oppression Part I

Demon Possession Part II

My Turn Part III

And of Course there is More Religious Stupidity

What do you think, are religious people just stupid, or is the devil behind it?

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

5 1/2 I Really Hate Religion, Well Until Now!

This next few posts are going to be about religion. If you have read this blog for any length of time, you know that religious practice that is disconnected from a living God, is a something I often rail against. If you have any doubt, just click on the Religion topical link down to the lower right!

Religion is in itself, a bunch of hooey. One person believes their pet philosophy and practices it in a certain way. They are all out there, Muslims, Jews, Christians, Buddhists, Rastafarians and a half a million more. They all claim to follow someone,or something, while they incorporate the teachings, practices, sayings, or theologies into their daily lives; or not. It seems that no one can prove anything, therefore; there is this debate that never ends. No wonder most people find at least one aspect of religion boring.

There is a new religion that is is taking hold in Austria. It is the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster whose members are call Pastafarians. HERE is more on the founder sporting a colander in head in a driver's license photo shown above. If your God can't do anything, might as well join them and get your spaghetti colander while you are at it.

When I was in college I took a class in Comparative Religion, it was awful! It simply made religion seem like choosing one off the shelf at the Dollar Store. Most people (globally) think that the Christian church is shear foolishness. And that is what religion is for me, foolish. I know, I write these words and I am just another one that has chosen to follow my own way of thinking... hmmm....

If we claim to know God, there should be a difference in our religion. Don't you think?

Let me make this really clear. If we have faith in a living God, then we need to show a marked difference between "them" with the dead or nonexistent god, and "us." Here is how I see it.

-1 Healing: I am inspired by the testimonies that came from the Expecting Miracles event at one of the churches I attend. They made testimony videos of people that came with physical ailments and were healed in the name of Jesus! The is part of the inheritance we have in Christ. It is not magic, it comes through faith and prayer.

-2 Miracles: Elijah called down fire on Mt. Carmel (1 Kings 18) and it was AWESOME! Since man first acknowledged God, he has been preforming miracles through the power of the Holy Spirit, and he still does. I have witnessed quite a few in my lifetime: Anonymous checks in the mail that met a certain need to the penny, multiplying invitations to a church meeting in Norway, and a number of others which I have written about on Fire & Grace.

-3 Revelation: The sheep know His voice! If you are one of God's sheep, then you should be hearing his voice! Wake up, God wants to speak to you if you'll take the time to learn how to listen with your spirit. (I know you've probably had a hundred sermons on hearing God's voice) It may come in prayer, or though a prophetic word, or an illuminated Bible verse, but you need to hear God. Sure, sermons are great, but if that is all you are getting, it might be time to do something different.

-4 Authority over the Demonic: In America we pretty much don't believe in the Devil or demon possession, but that doesn't make it nonexistent. Once we engage the spiritual realms and leave the realm of intellect and debate, we will engage evil spirits. Jesus said we had authority over them. Did you know that?

-5 Reckless Abandon: Are you serious about your Christianity? Are you willing to bet your life on it? We think the terrorists are extreme because they are willing to die for their cause. Well, guess what, you and I are in an army that requires that same sort of commitment. We are not suicidal, but we value the path of Jesus more than our own lives.

-5 1/2 Sacrificial Love... love is not feeding the poor, caring for the sick, or preaching a sermon. It is doing what we see the Father doing!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Releasing the New Man Puts Sin to Death - Guest Blog

Today I am guest blogging on Write Down the Revelation which you may find HERE.

Releasing the New Man Puts Sin to Death

There are many way in which we identify ourselves. As Christians we have a new identity, but somehow we've been taught to live like sinners.

As humans we do have frailties which the word of God has not yet been able to eradicate; some of that is due to the lack of knowledge, His sovereignty, His timing, and in some case, His grace. If we are saved, we are God’s mess now.


Monday, July 18, 2011

You May Have Noticed

You may have noticed that I have been posting from the archives more frequently than ever before. I am back to work in the city after 3 months of being home/working from home. It takes a lot of energy just to manage work, exercise, food and sleep. I have pretty much cut out any extra activity, an don't even make it to my home church every week.

Enough with the excuses.

I have been working on my second book, and the last chapter is coming along just fine. I am hoping to find a decent copy editor to get it ready to send off to a publisher. There are other changes too, I lost 50 pounds, I finally have paychecks coming in again, and it's summer here in the Northeast. It's all good.

Today I have my weekly donation, on Kingdom Bloggers and Tuesday I am guest posting over on Write Down the Revelation with Andrea York. Enjoy, I have a new series coming on Wednesday!

And thanks for being faithful readers!

BTW - I am thinking about having guest posts here, which is something I have pretty much not done in the past 5 years.Let me know if you are interested, just leave a comment.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Why Man Can't Fly and the Church Can't Get Along

From the archives - but I am guest blogger next week and I was working on that - more on Monday. This is one of my most popular blogs.

I have an online buddy and last year we had a chat about some denominational differences. It wasn't a debate, but a sincere conversation about what the Bible says, and what man has added to it. In the midst there were questions about religious practice.

A denomination is simply an emphasis on certain biblical truths; often "colored" by a culture, a religious experience, or a move of God.

The truth is there are lots of denominations. We have many expressions of Christianity in the US, and also some cults which seem Christian on the outside but reject the central truth that Jesus taught: Jesus is God. A cult is defined as any so-called Christian organization that denies the divinity of Christ - Jesus is/was/always has been God. I am not going to try to answer the age old question regarding theology: "Who's right?" (I am writing this blog because I think I am!)

Please keep an open mind and explore the links. In the end, you will be challenged in your own beliefs.

If we look at the major denominations, we'll find some interesting information in how they have arrived at their denominational traditions and bylaws. Each one emphasizes a certain portion of the truth. Be sure, I am not picking on anyone, I am just trying to bring some enlightenment to the Body of Christ for the sake of unity.

The largest denomination in the world is Roman Catholic and over 1/3 of Christians (little Christs or little anointed ones) belong to this group. They have been well established since the 3rd century and for over 1,200 years they were pretty much the only show on earth - we'll talk about them first.

One of the traditions that makes Roman Catholics different from any other denomination is Priests that do not marry. Why? 1 Corinthians 7:27 Are you married? Do not seek a divorce. Are you unmarried? Do not look for a wife. 28 But if you do marry, you have not sinned; and if a virgin marries, she has not sinned. But those who marry will face many troubles in this life, and I want to spare you this.

38 So then, he who marries the virgin does right, but he who does not marry her does even better.

It is not a sin to be married, nor a requirement not to be. Paul is simply stating that marriage requires focus that could be used on the Lord and serving Him.

The debate over divorce and marriage rages on in just about every denomination. We have a number of other catholic denominations including the Anglican Communion and the Eastern Orthodox churches who split from Rome over things like marriage and divorce. The Anglican church is considering splitting over gay marriage. There is nothing new under the sun.

Catholics also have services in which they "adore" Mary. This too; is not unbiblical. (Luke 1:46-55) See verse 48b From now on all generations will call me blessed.

I think Evangelicals adore Paul an awful lot from the pulpit. I'm just sayin'.

Catholics also have a liturgy to exercise or cast out demons. (Mark 16:17) I would have to say not too many Protestant churches even think about this as a possibility, never mind practicing it.

After the Protestant Reformation (Martin Luther) in 1517 we saw the rise of other Liturgical denominations, including Lutheran, Presbyterian and Congregational. In doctrine, they are pretty much agree on the Nicene Creed as a basis of their belief. Over the centuries their differences in worship style certainly begun to separate them.

John Wesley (1703-1791), who embraced Areminianism, was an Anglican that developed intensive, personal accountability, discipleship and religious instruction among members. His great contribution was to appoint itinerant, unordained preachers who traveled widely to evangelize and care for people in the societies.

There are many historical documents in church history. Some of the major ones you may read HERE.

With each nuance of change, reform, cultural differences and new ideas, our beloved church has changed a lot over 2 millennia.

Over the centuries there have been many notable men and woman of God. Here is a brief list of folks that changed the face of Christianity. Some names are controversial, but each in their own way has contributed something to the Kingdom of God.

St. Patrick - He lived in the 4th century and spread the Gospel to Ireland. From slave to missionary; he confronted the Druid darkness in Ireland. He operated in the supernatural stopping a snow storm and raising the King's children from the dead.

St. Francis - One of the most influential missionaries of the 13th century was known as a man of peace; one who traveled to Egypt and the Holy Land as he witnessed to Muslims. When he preached, Christ was known to appear among those listening.

Smith Wigglesworth - (1859-1947) Known as the Apostle of Faith. He claimed to have never read any book but the Bible, he was sought after for healing, carried an amazing presence (anointing) of God, and standing up to the Devil.

John G. Lake - (1870-1935) A businessman who became known for his ministry as a missionary and faith healer. He was influenced by the healing ministry of John Alexander Dowie, and he received the baptism of the Holy Spirit in 1907 in the wake of the Azusa Street Revival.

Kathryn Kuhlman - (1907-1976) A Methodist, sometimes called the Mother of Charismatics, she had a TV and radio show called, I Believe in Miracles. She was responsible for thousands of healings.

Oral Roberts - (1918-2009) A Televangelist that withstood the test of faith and the critics. He touched the lost and the saved for 6 decades.

Benny Hinn - One of the most charismatic and controversial faith-healers in the world. He is responsible for thousands of salvations and physical healings. As I write this, his wife has filed for divorce [Article].

There are a number of American denominations and their traditions differ based on their interpretation of the Bible. Here is a brief list.

Lutherans are of course followers of Martin Luther. The main theme is salvation by faith, through the grace of God. (Acts 2:21) The are the original evangelical movement.

Calvinist's used the Apostle's Creed. Those who follow the teaching of John Calvin are called Presbyterians in the US. The doctrine of being "predestine" (Romans 8:29) as opposed to act of the will, is predominately the major difference from other evangelical denominations.

Followers of John Wesley we called Methodists. They placed primary emphasis on Christian living, on putting faith and love into action (James 2:26), both in the local community, and abroad.

The Baptists were refugees from England as were the Puritans in New England. They first gathered in the backroom of an Amsterdam bakery in 1609 to read the Bible together. There most notable doctrinal difference is baptism by submersion. (Matthew 3:13-17)

Pentecostals are named after a revival that took place on Azusa Street in Los Angels in 1906 and lasted to about 1915. (Acts 2:1-13) The particular revival was characterized by speaking in tongues and resurgence of the 12 gifts of the spirit (1 Cor 12:7-11) The Pentecostals had another well known revival in Pensacola, FL at the Brownsville Assembly of God.

Four Square - A spirit-filled denomination following the 4 tenets of Christianity: prayer, fellowship, Bible study and communion, outlined in Acts 2:42.

The Vineyard Movement was a group that followed John Wimber and were the churches in which the Prophetic Reformation, the Apostolic Renewal and the Toronto Blessing grew out of. Their main differences from other Charismatic and Pentecostal denominations is the emphasis on spiritual gifts, the laying on of hands, small group community and "one man, one vision," church government.

For the past decade a new movement of churches are making their way onto the Christian Landscape. It is based on the 5-Fold ministry laid out in Ephesians 4:11.

As I type the last words of this blog, I want you to challenge you to think, to pray, and worship outside the box!

I have previously written more about some of the subjects I have only mentioned here. I have tried hard to recognize biblical differences not identify the tradition of man. Religion is the quencher of the Spirit of the Most High. For it is only in loving one another, agreeing on the basics of salvation and coming together for the work of the Kingdom, that we will ever be unified by the Holy Spirit.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Facebook 10 Tips for the Over 40 Crowd

Well, it seems like every one is on Facebook these days - well the ones that haven't moved to Google+. As we become more computer savvy, the middle-age crowd is still making mistakes. If you are not aware, here are David's Top 10 Tips to be cool enough to survive cyberspace.

1. Friends: Don't become friends with people at work! Do I need to explain this? Have you seen the news, people get fired for posting beach pictures when they've called in sick! Even saying that you've had a bad day - not a good idea. (One reason Google+ is so cool, it's easy to post to specified groups.)

Let me ask you, I don't come visit you ever, have you asked yourself why? You probably don't know that I hid all your posts and that's why I NEVER comment on them. And when you posted the status: "I am cleaning out my friends  let me know if you want to stay on." I didn't respond. Yeah.

2. Profile Pictures: They need to be recent; within the last 10 years people! Group and travel photos are confusing, especially if there is an animal in the background that is better looking than you! Do remember to change the orientation of your photos so it looks like you are standing up, not laying in the gutter eating pizza. Stay away from amusement park photos of you pulling up your shirt up at Splash Mountain - boys you are not that cute. And don't put up a picture of your dog or favorite cartoon character, you're an adult now. And we know how old you are.

3. Status: "What's On You Mind?" I realize this is scary question for most of us. Big Brother is recording everything on Facebook, so lie - well, and remember to confess it on Saturday too. We don't care if you lost your car keys (try the front door). Skip the fantasies, song lyrics and don't be firing off stuff to make people mad that are not my friends too. IE: I am mad at Bob, he such is such a jerk and deserves to die. Try Compose New Message from the Messages menu! And while we are at it, forget the "fishing statuses". "People suck", really? Which ones? Be specific and tag the people that suck. If you post "I wish I was dead." I might reply "me too."

4. Relationship Status: Call the other party and let them know that you are dumping them, OK? I mean, nothing like Bob changing his relationship status to "Single," and then posting your friends asking for dates. Not cool.

5. Family: If your kids are your friends, do not post "when you get home, your father is going to kill you." Think about their friends?

6. Fan Pages: Please, Bobby Sherman is long gone and preforms in Vegas for old people. He was actually never cool, and he still isn't. Don't become his fan, it shows your age, and you're on Facebook trying to hide it right? Remember, this is your last chance to be cool before you die, don't blow it. Even if you are a fan of Morning Sex, don't go there. Your kids are watching and this is a picture they don't want to have.

7. Commenting: This is different from What's On You Mind? It's a comment about a post. You didn't know that because you were too busy watching your fingers while typing. FYI - comments are public too!

8. Notes: This is where you put all that junk that you would normally send in email as a forward. SO STOP FORWARDING ME EMAILS! I don't want the Neiman Marcus cookie recipe, and I don't play in the balls at the McDonald's playground. Oh, one more thing, I am not going to read your notes either!

9. Birthday: Skip displaying the year. There are 3 reasons: 1) We graduated together in 1970 something -- in 30 years, nothing has changed-- including the year you were born. OK, well maybe our pants sizes. 2) It makes me feel old. 3) Identity thieves can use it to get your credit records.

10. Name: Can you please use a name I recognize? I shouldn't have to buy a vowel just figure out who you are. There is a space for maiden name - you can even use that if you are divorced. And if you don't like your middle name, don't put in "holy crap" or butterfly lover" - please, millions of people can see this!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh - Making Happy Campers

Happy Campers
We've all heard the song "A Letter from Camp."

"Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh. Here I am at Camp Granada. Camp is very entertaining. And they say we'll have some fun if it stops raining."

What's it going to take to make us all happy campers in church? I think I have a few ideas - so bear with me as I lay a foundation.

The song assumes that the "singer," a child, has two parents, one male and one female. But this blog is not about families - no - it's about church.

Presently, in most developed countries, the cultural status of the nuclear family is fractured. There is rampant divorce both in and out of the church, resulting in single parent families, and various other aberrations of the biblical family. Regardless of what the world thinks is politically correct, God has a standard.

I am assuming that you have noticed there is a difference between the way males and females act? The healthiest families are meant to have a father and a mother. I am not dissing single parent families - thank God one of you is taking the responsibility to raise your child!

The male is meant to be the leader and initiator (Father God), where the female is meant to be the nurturer and comforter (Holy Spirit). This does not mean that men cannot be nurturing, or that females cannot initiate. These are however; the "natural" and instinctive roles for men and woman.

Interestingly the church is designed to be the model of marriage, with Christ as the head, and the church submissive to His loving leadership. That's normal, regardless of how you "feel."

Ephesians 5:23 "For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church"

In a marriage, a woman is not to be the head of the house, although she may feel the need to take over if the husband does not lead. The man is not created to be the one with the "nesting" instinct. These (and all) biblical principals are meant to bear fruit for the family by balancing love, grace, discipline, and submission. All are essential elements in a healthy relationship with Jesus.

Although grace has been available in the church since the beginning - much of that has come from Mother Church - she has held that name for nearly 1500 years. This understanding comes from Ephesians 5:23 (above). At best it is an incomplete revelation - and possibly a wrong interpretation of the scripture. Having a one parent church over the centuries has caused some problems in the church.

We are in the post-denominational era. It is an interesting time for the church global. Participation in denominational churches is subsiding in the US and elsewhere. The term "recovering Catholic" has been coined but it is commonly used to describe every other "recovering" denomination. The growth of non-denominational churches, although still seeing a decline in attendance, is doing a better job in attracting congregants than its denominational siblings. That's a fact, not an opinion.

Unfortunately all churches not only have declining attendance, but they also have an exodus of young people to other religions such as Islam and JCLDS, as well as followers of the paranormal and occult. This is sad news parents!

So, what does all this have to do with parenting, kids falling away and denominations? Everything! Let me explain.

The same thing that is going on in the world, for the most part, is going on in the church. Believers in our churches are parented in the same way many children are - with one parent. And in some cases a dysfunctional parent. In the worst cases, there is no parent at all!

Parent-less; but particularly fatherless believers show up at church every week looking for significance. Maybe you're one of them. As Christians, we need both spiritual fathers and mothers!

Do a word study on "father" and then do one on "mother," you'll see.

Look, I don't care how we got here, but we need to fix it. We need the church to act as both parents, not a parent. That means we need both fathering and mothering. Maybe you remember when you told you mom you were too sick to go to school. She got you and aspirin, and a cup of tea. But when your father came in he said, "If you are to sick to go to school, then you are too sick to play in the game after school.

You may remember your mother saying. "Wait until your father gets home." I do.

Fathers are to provide some "spine," it is part of who they are. Mothers are to be nurturing. It is part of who they are. And when both dynamics are part of church, we are much more likely to become disciples.

We need spiritual fathers and mothers, and we need them now!

And now for the good part. You can be a spiritual farther or mother. Woman you can dote on your kids with affection, and smother them with love. Fathers, you can take another male and teach him to be accountable, help him pray and make decisions that are good for him and his family. You can be affectionate, loving and hear confessions. You can be a family.

Sure, many of us have had bad modeling in terms of parents - particularly fathers. So? There are a lot of things we used to be, but then we met Jesus? Amen?

Think about it. You can find someone in your church or neighborhood and model God! You can bless them, laugh with them, cry with them, and take on their burdens. You can hug them and kiss them, and expect nothing in return. If you do, you will probably have a spiritual kids that you are proud of. A child that serves God, and loves others.

What's that you say? This wasn't done for you? Well, its got to start somewhere.

Next time you see a lonely teenager in the back row, grab them. Next time you hear someone say, "let's get together." DO IT!

What would it mean to you if someone who had invested something in your life said, "I am proud of you kiddo!" What would it mean to have a cheerleader for every decision? How would you feel if someone showed up at your game?

Me, I'd be a happy camper. How about you?

Friday, July 8, 2011

Advanced AIT - We Are In A War

Division and disagreement in the church is nothing new, but it sure ain't God's fault. For awhile it seemed like the most popular church planting model was a resentment and coffee pot! As I discussed in the blog "The Great Divide", there needs to be a way to reconcile the opposing views by inserting the will God over everything else. This is not an intellectual endeavor, but a spiritual one. However; division in the church is historical.

1 Corinthians 3:3 For you are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are you not carnal, and walk as men?

There are more divisions in church then there are denominations! It's still not God's fault. The central problem lies with human nature - but hey, aren't we supposed to control that with the Spirit?

In the US Army, AIT is an acronym for "Advanced Individual Training"... but for the purpose of this blog, it means, "attitude, integrity and teaching." That is how we combat division. We can't all be right, and we can't all be in God's will. So, we need to find a way to get in His groove, and leave behind our good ideas and get with God's ideas.

The first thing we need to change is our attitude. There is no room for judgment of those of "lesser faith." There is no room for looking down on others because of their beliefs, or there social stature or position, or lack of it in the church. I like the saying, Jesus isn't judging anyone until they are dead, so why should you? Sure we need to be discerning, and if we have a track record for that, I say go for it. If not, shut up. ;o]

Part of changing our attitude is the problem of being easily offended. If you are like most people, you have probably been offended in one way or another either by someones comments or actions. Holding on to grudges because you were offended does not contribute to your happiness or mental health - and it sure isn't God. We need to grow up, and realize that we are all human, and have flaws that will be offensive. We need to stop being oversensitive, and follow some of the wisdom of Proverbs and James in taming the tongue.

The second part of overcoming division is integrity. We need to take responsibility for our actions, admit when we missed God; when we were wrong, and ask others for forgiveness. We need to quickly agree with those that we are in conflict with.Without this crucial element, we will never overcome division. Pride, arrogance and ego will take over and rob from us, and others, what God wants to do in the church.

A big part of integrity is that our private lives match our public lives. A good test is this. If you can't say it, or show it to your spouse, or from the platform in church, it is probably off limits. Another facet of integrity is preferring and serving others. You will reap what you sow in terms of giving time, resources and relationship.

The problem for so many is the biblical model of conflict resolution is not followed. Here is the proper way to resolve conflicts with Christians.

-1 Go the them first! Matthew 5:24 leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering."

-2 Bring someone with you - Matthew 18:15-20 15 "If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. 16 But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that `every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.' 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.

-3 And remember, be angry but do not sin. Understand the source of your anger to overcome it. IE: Separation, Disapproval, Rejection, Inadequacy/Failure, Deprivation, Betrayal, Humiliation, Exploitation/Manipulation or Injustice/Unfairness (From the Rage Within)

And the last element of combating division is teaching. I find that so many are poorly taught in some areas, and get the same food week after week. Well, even caviar eventually gets boring. And there is a long list of topics that divide the church, when, for those that really read and study the word of God, are pretty clear. They maybe outside of your experience, but God's ways are not your ways.

Here are some divisive topics, yet they should never be avoided:
- Leadership structure
- Woman in ministry
- Spiritual gifts - especially tongues
- Tithing
- The Eucharist
- The laying on of hands
- The color of the hymnals
- Worship volume

Babes in Christ will have an opinion about all these. But I think God has one opinion, and it may not agree with mine or yours, but for those that truly seek Him, they're likely to be closer to the truth, don't you think?

It seems we are so focused on the milk, that we can't get to the meat. Why is that? I mean someone is running the local church! It might be time to recheck attitude and integrity. If there is no fruit, it is pretty likely not God. Paul had a lot to say on growing up, getting taught, and who was supposed to do it.

Ephesians 4:11-25 (NKJV)

11 And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, 13 till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; 14 that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, 15 but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head - Christ- 16 from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.

17 This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind, 18 having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart; 19 who, being past feeling, have given themselves over to lewdness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.

20 But you have not so learned Christ, 21 if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus: 22 that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, 23 and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, 24 and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.

25 Therefore, putting away lying, "Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor," for we are members of one another.

How about you, are you a messenger of unity, or of division? Tell us why.

This is from the archives. I am trying to get back to writing.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Lack of Deep Relationship - More Stupid Christianity #!10

-10 Lack of Deep Relationship - I think of all the stupid things Christians commonly do, the fact that so many do not understand what it means to be a church family, a brother or sister in the Lord, or a godly friend tops the list.

John 15:12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.

Somehow this scripture from John (above) has been Americanized to mean "be nice to each other." Sure, some will take it deeper and pray for others, and some will even serve each other by bringing a meal or visiting someone in the hospital. The deeper the better - but I don't go to church to be "niced" to death!

I think the basic problem is that we love as we have been loved, not as Jesus has loved us.

The true test of a loving and deep relationship, however; is not good feelings, personal satisfaction and a plaque for expressing love using one of the 5 Love Languages. A deep relationship creates an atmosphere of trust, accountability and camaraderie. It is sacrificial - an intimate expression of God's lovingkindness, mercy and grace; facilitating the sharing of burdens, confession of sin and prayer for one another.

James 5:16 Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.

Christian "fellowship" as it is often called, tends to be focused on Sunday services, Bible studies, chit-chat at the coffee pot and other small group activities. Fellowship focuses on religious activities, occasionally on Jesus, and rarely the building of healthy relationships. IE: Getting to know one another.

What would it be like if every Christian, instead of hoping that their sins remained private, had someone that they could trust to share them with?

I confess, I have never been to a church that taught true relationship. They threw a few books at it - temperaments such as DISC or the Greek Model, The 5 Love Languages (for married couples) and a few sermons on love - often aimed at married folks. Others have focused on personal healing - using books like the Boundaries series, 12 Steps for Christians and Search for Significance.

Many men's groups used Wild at Heart, are touting leftovers from Promise Keepers and other materials pertaining to the differences between men and woman. All of these are EXCELLENT resources. They are helpful in understanding yourself and others, which; results in better quality relationships. Some, however; are aimed at fixing the old man, the very same one that must die so that the new man in Christ can be released!

There are practical things you can do to facilitate relationship, those are listed HERE.

If we are first going to develop real relationship, then we need to know what God expects of us in those relationships. As previously stated, just telling folks to love another, doesn't seem to be doing the trick!

The following is a list of Bible versus using the Greek word ALLELOUS; often translated as one another along with a few of others that imply one another. As doers of the word, I am sure you'll find them handy.

Leviticus 19:11 "'Do not steal. "'Do not lie. "'Do not deceive one another.

John 13:14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another's feet.

John 13:34 "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.

John 13:35 By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."

Romans 12:10 Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves.

Romans 12:16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.

Romans 13:8 Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law.

Romans 14:13 Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother's way.

Romans 15:7 Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.

Romans 15:14 I myself am convinced, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, complete in knowledge and competent to instruct one another.

Romans 16:16 Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ send greetings.

1 Corinthians 1:10 I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought.

Galatians 5:13 You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love.

Ephesians 4:2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.

Ephesians 4:32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

Ephesians 5:19 Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord,

Ephesians 5:21 Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

Colossians 3:13 Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.

Colossians 3:16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.

1 Thessalonians 5:11 Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.

Hebrews 3:13 But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness.

Hebrews 10:24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.

Hebrews 10:25 Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another-- and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

James 4:11 Brothers, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against his brother or judges him speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it.

1 Peter 3:8 Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble.

1 Peter 4:9 Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.

1 Peter 5:5 Young men, in the same way be submissive to those who are older. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another , because, "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble."

1 John 1:7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.

1 John 3:11 This is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another.

1 John 3:23 And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us.

1 John 4:7 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.

1 John 4:11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.

1 John 4:12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.

1 Peter 4:8 Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.

James 5:16 Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.

James 5:9 Don't grumble against each other, brothers, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door!

Hebrews 13:1 Keep on loving each other as brothers.

2 Thessalonians 1:3 We ought always to thank God for you, brothers, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love every one of you has for each other is increasing.

1 Thessalonians 5:15 Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else.

1 Thessalonians 5:13 Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other.

1 Thessalonians 5:11 Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.

1 Thessalonians 4:18 Therefore encourage each other with these words.

1 Thessalonians 4:9 Now about brotherly love we do not need to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other.

1 Thessalonians 3:12 May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you.

Colossians 3:13 Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.

Colossians 3:9 Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices

Philippians 4:2 I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to agree with each other in the Lord.

Ephesians 4:32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

Galatians 5:26 Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.

Galatians 6:2 Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.

Corinthians 12:25 so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other.

Galatians 5:15 If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.

1 Corinthians 11:33 So then, my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for each other.

Romans 1:12 that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other's faith.

Ephesians 4:16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.

Philippians 2:3-5 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus.

Monday, July 4, 2011

The Influence of Witchcraft In the Church - More Stupidity #9

-9 The Influence of Witchcraft In the Church - What? The church does not engage in witchcraft! Well, some Christians do - and it is more common than you might think.

Human beings are designed to engage the supernatural realms. Some of it's just not God! Even 33% of atheists believe in the paranormal and prayer.

Martin Luther taught that witchcraft was a sin because the 2nd commandment says, "you shall have no other God before me." With that in mind, and before we look at the scriptures, here is brief list of practices and topics that I found in the Google search "christian witchcraft."

- Divination, Fortune Telling, Horoscopes, Tarot Cards, Psychics and Ouija Boards

- Fantasy characters such as Harry Potter, Chronicles of Narnia, Disney, Santa and the Easter Bunny

- Holidays that take place on pagan holidays such as Christmas, Easter, Halloween, Valentines Day

- White and Black Witchcraft, Wicca and Liberal Christians only casting loving spells (I really found that!)

- Satanism

- Repetitive prayers and mantras

- Positive Thinking - you thinking good thoughts, random acts of kindness.

- Study of the temperaments and other psychological practices

- Eastern Religions and their practices

- Santeria, Skull Worship, cannibalism, shrunken heads and various Indian traditions

The Bible definitively condemns the practice of witchcraft.

Deuteronomy 18:10 Let no one be found among you who sacrifices his son or daughter in the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, 11 or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead. 12 Anyone who does these things is detestable to the LORD.

Exodus 22:18 Do not allow a sorceress to live.

Some who practiced near-east religions acted as "mediums", channeling messages from the dead or from a "familiar spirit". This would include things like ghosts, seances, demons inhabiting homes, and other tangible items such as crystals and dream catchers.

Saul rightly consulted prophets (supernatural hearing from God) as king of Israel and sinned when he consulted the witch Endor (supernatural hearing from the demonic) 1 Samuel 28.

The difference is the source!

The church (Catholic, Pentecostal, Charismatic and some independent denominations) maintain their own supernatural arsenal sometimes called charism (plural: charismata). The word comes from the Greek, charis - grace. It's a reflection of God's grace and power. These are described in 1 Corinthians 12, 13 and 14, Ephesians 4 and Romans 12.

The gifts of the spirit are from God, however; they can be duplicated by demons. I once ministered in a church full of false tongues. I have also ministered in hundreds of churches with the real deal. These are the type of spiritual phenomena that Paul said need to be spiritually discerned. The same is true of prophecy, healing and other types of miracles. If you don't know God, it is doubtful you'll recognize His handy work.

As we contrast the above list to the second commandment and the verse from Deuteronomy , we can easily weed out a number of practices.

Off the list are all types of spells, divination, psychic readings horoscopes and the like. We'll call that the occult. Also off the list are non-Christian religions - eastern, western, Indian, New Age, and Wicca. HERE is a related blog by Tony C Today.

That leaves us with holidays, fantasy characters, and psychological practice. Regarding psychology, there is some very good stuff out there, but use your discernment. Good psychology simply observes healthy godly behavior. I'd stay away from Jung, Freud, and some of the pop stuff. Remember, we can't make this stuff our god or we risk sinning against Him.

I am going to state my opinion when it comes to stuff like Harry Potter. If it looks like sin (witchcraft), it is likely to cause sin.

I am big fan of the imagination, and therefore artistic and creative writing is on the good list. God gives us talents and creative thoughts. Like everything else, we must keep the truth in perspective, and enjoy that which is created by artists. Certainly I am not talking about profane images, and other types of art that will cause us to sin.

With such a tremendous saturation of video games, entertainment, movies, online activities and a barrage of other media that runs 24/7, we need to find ways to keep our Christian life in balance. I don't think that we can set up a balance schedule - we need to hear from God and do it, that's always that bottom line.

A steady diet of non-Christian books, music, media and games, is not going to develop godly character!

When it comes to holidays, as Christians we must careful of the appearance of evil. If it looks like we are sinning, or we are doing things that cause others to sin, we're in trouble. The Christian calendar has been primarily established by the Roman Catholic church. Holidays were meant to "compete" with secular celebrations (this was the beginning of ineffective programs!). It is not what I would have done personally, however; tradition is not harmful unless it keeps us from God.

There is a realm between sin and holiness that I like to call Not Sin, Not God - Read About It HERE. It is possible to know which activities that are not strictly forbidden by scripture, are permissible.

Paul said this:
Romans 14:20 Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All food is clean, but it is wrong for a man to eat anything that causes someone else to stumble. 21 It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother to fall.

22 So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the man who does not condemn himself by what he approves. 23 But the man who has doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and everything that does not come from faith is sin.

Enjoy that which is legal, refrain that which is not, and keep your mouth shut about what is neither. How does that sound?

Friday, July 1, 2011

Settling for Less - More Stupid Christianity #8

-8 Settling for Less - Mediocrity in the church is a foothold for Satan. As church members are lulled into lifeless religious pursuits, believers grow lukewarm in their relationships, commitments and passion.

Revelation 14"To the angel of the church in Laodicea write: These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God's creation. 15 I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! 16 So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.

We have all heard this verse. Most church hoppers use it at least once to describe the church they are leaving for another church.

The question is this: is being lukewarm the fault of the believer, or the fault of the church?

I believe the answer is both. When individuals are not passionate about their Jesus, about the mission of the church, then, for lack of a better word, they get bored like teenagers on MySpace. When you have enough of these folks, then it becomes widespread in the church.

If we look over the letters to the churches in Revelation, we find the following faults and encouragements:

Ephesus Revelation 2:1-7
-Left their first love

Smyrna Revelation 2:8-11
-Be faithful, even to the point of death.

Pergamos Revelation 2:12-17
-Hold the doctrine of Balaam (Balaam's heart was perverse and he spoke for gain, abuse of grace)
-Hold the doctrine of Nicolaitions (A spiritually smug hierarchy, a ruling class in the church, abuse of power)

Thyatira Revelation 2:18-28
-Allowed Jezebel to seduce God servants to commit fornication and eat things offered to idols. (She was a Phoenician queen that turned Ahab's people from Yahweh to Baal.)

Sardis Revelation 3:1-6
-Have a name that you live but are dead. There deeds were not complete.

Philadelphia Revelation 3:7-13
-You have kept my command to endure patiently.

Laodiceans Revelation 3:14-30
-Think you are rich and increased with good, but are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked.

I believe that there are two teachings that can help turn these church "faults" around; neither of which I have ever heard preached on 30 years! I believe the manicured American church suffers from some of the failures listed above. The following two spiritual principals embody the encouragements to the churches at Philadelphia and Smyrna. (The other 5 were to repent)

-1 Excellence - This is the spiritual principal of running the race in such a way that we push ourselves for a better time each lap.

Matthew 5:48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

This is a verse that can be casually dismissed by saying to ourselves and to others, "No one is perfect, so why bother trying?" Yet, it embodies the very essence of the new man in Christ.

The pursuit of perfection is called excellence. As Christians we don't get to say, "That is good enough for me." We need to ask ourselves if it is good enough for God?

-2 Commitment - The principal of adhering to a godly vision regardless of the personal cost. Commitment is the determination to finish the race in spite of all hurdles, obstacles and conditions.

Matthew 5:37 Simply let your 'Yes' be 'Yes,' and your 'No,' 'No'; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.

This is another verse that can be causally dismissed and yet it is very powerful when we think about how many of us, can run our lives apart from committing to God, the church, and His people.

Paul reiterated the message.

2 Corinthians 1:16 I planned to visit you on my way to Macedonia and to come back to you from Macedonia, and then to have you send me on my way to Judea. 17 When I planned this, did I do it lightly? Or do I make my plans in a worldly manner so that in the same breath I say, "Yes, yes" and "No, no"? 18 But as surely as God is faithful, our message to you is not "Yes" and "No."

And finally, mediocrity is sin. Without godly repentance, and a spiritual commitment to life building activities, we are just going to end up in the same place.

2 Chronicles 7:14 If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.

I have come to believe that if a person will seek God's face in repentance, they will be in a personal revival. If a church does this, they will be in revival, and if a country does this, they to, will be in revival. No matter what the church global does, their action is the result of the individual decisions that are part of that entity in which they are a part.

Repentance is a hard lesson, but in it is the essence of dying to self, and the promised release of God's Spirit - which this writer finds very exciting!

We need revival, are you willing to repent, to work for excellence, and commit to the process?
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