WHAT WE FEAR WILL MASTER US

Related imageWhile reading Ezekiel chapter 11, the Lord reminded me of the words of the Lord Jesus Christ, “No one can serve two masters; for he will either hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon “(Matthew 6:24).

In this passage, Jesus is referring to a false god found in many pantheons of false worship around the world. His statement was part of a larger teaching, where he commands us not to worry about what we will eat or drink or wear. The reason is that worry unchecked becomes fear, which can give way to panic. In that state, it is easy to say we trust God for our daily bread and provision, while running to serve mammon (or some other idol we have made). This practice had been adopted into Judaism as an acceptable practice.

Jesus is declaring God will have no competition with mammon or any God. We must trust him alone, because whatever we fear will eventually master us. If this is the fear of the one true God, Hallelujah! But if something else, we have a definite problem.

Why did this come to mind, while I was reading Ezekiel 11? Because of what we read in Ezekiel 11:8.

Ezekiel 11:8 You have feared the sword; and I will bring a sword upon you,” says the Lord God.

Ezekiel 11 is part of a more expansive vision given to the prophet, which begins in chapter 8 of the prophecy. A little background is necessary.

Many from the Jewish nation were already in captivity; Ezekiel among them. In detail, from chapter 2 to 11, God reveals the judgment to fall on His chosen people, because they feigned trust in Him and had whored after false gods (like Baal, Ashtoreth and Mammon among others). In Chapter 8 Ezekiel is shown abominable things happening in the Temple–in Ezekiel 9 the prophet see’s the marking of a faithful remnant, but the judgment to fall on those who walked in unbelief towards YHWH–Chapter 10 which is perhaps one of the saddest in the Old Testament, reveals the glory of the LORD departing the Temple–In chapter 11 we see His glory depart the city of Jerusalem.

Into this narrative we understand, that although God has called His people to repentance, in arrogance they had rejected His calling.

In the midst of this narrative we read the passage highlighted above, Ezekiel 11:8You have feared the sword; and I will bring a sword upon you,” says the Lord God”. 

How does this tie into Matthew 6:24, making it not only a revelation to Israel, but also an admonition to the Church of the Living God, purchased with Christ’s shed blood?

Quite simply, the things Jesus commands us not to worry about, are the very things that drove Israel to idol worship. Throughout her history, Israel had feigned trust in the LORD, only to panic when God did not come through when they demand he would. In their immaturity, they missed the truth that delays do not mean God will not or is not able; it means He will bring what is needed, when He deems it the right hour.

Do we have a potential for trouble in walking out that characteristic of our faith (trust in Him with all… not being wise in our own eyes)?

Far too often, out of fear of what was to come, Jewish leaders would run to another country and pay tribute to a foreign God, in money or worship; then find they were still up the creek without a paddle. At times, they would get into bed with foreign powers that had once enslaved or abused them.

It was fear of starvation, or fear of losing favor, or fear of invasion or… you get the point, which drove them away from the LORD. Now the Lord was saying, your fear of destruction has led you to idolatry, now that which you fear will master you.

The lesson for us today is: Whatever you fear will dominate your lifeit will become your master.

Should a person have the only fear allowed in scripture… FEAR OF THE LORD, their life will be mastered by the Lord Jesus Christ, as they are led by the Holy Spirit. Some want to redefine the fear of the Lord for the Christian as reverence only. That understanding is only partially true. Scripture clearly indicates that the Christian needs to reverence God almighty, but this is founded upon the truth that it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the Living God; because He is a consuming fire, who will strike at us, should we continually run  afoul of His commandment and calling.

Some conjecture this point with no biblical support. Let us consider those who had little fear of the Lord and how they fared when forgetting He is a consuming fire.

  1. Ananias and Sapphire (Acts 5:1-11)
  2. Simon the sorcerer (Acts 8:9-25)
  3. King Herod (Acts 12:20-24)
  4. Bar Jesus, aka Elymas (Acts 13:4-12)
  5. 7 Churches of Asia Minor (Revelation 2 and 3)

Should Christian’s serve the Lord in proper fear, they will have wisdom and His manifest presence to delight in. Should we fear other things, we fall into mastery by another.

Proverbs 29:25 The fear of man brings a snare, But whoever trusts in the Lord shall be safe.

The fear of man is not simply the fear of a man or group of men, but fear that is common and controlling in the lives of all men, women and children. The fear of man is the basis for all the things Jesus instructed us not to worry about.

My concern is that fear is driving and commanding much of what the church is pursuing in America. Let us consider for a moment the support for the current president of the United States, as received from evangelicals.

Though he may now have shifted some of his positions, concerning issues considered non-negotiable to Christians (abortion and religious freedom), he is no more Christ-like than the last president, no matter what famous evangelical preachers tell us. We need remember that politicians are politicians and as such, often have short memories when those who support them outlive their usefulness. Far too many believers have put their trust in a president’s ability to do their bidding, forgetting that earthly power does not work that way. If we are honest we may have to admit that we are guilty of what Israel was guilty of, when it comes to making men out to be our political saviors.

A little closer to home, we may find that much of our ministry, perhaps even our outlook on our own life of faith, is being driven by what men fear apart from fearing God. Sadly men and women of God can be driven and mastered by…

  1. The fear of failure
  2. The fear of success
  3. The fear of being passed over
  4. The fear of not having enough provision
  5. The fear of not getting the credit we feel we deserve
  6. The fear of loss
  7. The fear of being irrelevant
  8. The fear of not being good enough
  9. The fear of being found out a fraud

Perhaps there are more, but let me give you a practical example of how this fear creeps in and drives us from trust of God, very subtlely.

On September 27 ReviveOHIO in Seneca County began a 15 day run, that was truly God moving in mighty ways. Scheduled for 7 days originally, we began going out in teams comprised of ReviveOHIO team members and pastors and congregation members from 27 different churches of like minded faith around Seneca County. Over the next seven days, Baptists, United Brethren, Methodists, Pentecostals, Evangelicals, Non-denominationals, trained, prayed, ministered to the lost in evangelism, ate, worshiped and fellowshipped together.

The results were amazing… multitudes saved, many physical healings encountered, several public baptisms and several commitments for one year of discipleship occurred. In addition, we experienced God weaving together the hearts of dedicated Christ followers, from many different denominational backgrounds; all in the sweetness of the unity of the Spirit and bond of peace.

As we approached day five it was apparent we needed to extend, knowing God was only beginning. After another two days we prayed, seeking the Lord if we would extend again. We were all tired and agreed the harvest was plentiful, but had not enough laborers. As pastors and leaders from Seneca County and  ReviveOHIO team members gathered together privately, we were told Time to Revive (the parent organization of ReviveOHIO), had been led to bring their entire organization to Seneca County should we extend, to aid in the harvest.

What did this mean? In the first place God answered our prayers. Secondly He answered them in a huge way; 67 more full time “Time to Revive” evangelists were coming to help for at least two days. We were blown away and speechless. Someone suggested we get on our faces before God, but the fear of man crept in and began to drive us.

“Where will they stay?”

“Where are we going to secure enough food?”

“How long with this continue?”

“Where are we going to host lunch?”

“Will this cost more money?”

This normal logistical questioning is assumed allowable, but is it in the face of God’s leading to humble ourselves? This banter lasted about five minutes or less, until a very humble and wise sister in Christ from ReviveOhio spoke up “Our brother said we need to get on our face before God; I believe this is God’s instruction”.

Without hesitation, we moved in unison. Without hesitation, the LORD moved on us. We did not rise for 45 minutes, as we cried out to God in praise, joy, humility and faith. Praise the Lord for her courage, because had she not spoke up, fear would have driven us from meeting God that day in a special and tangible way, as we pursued getting our ducks in a row like lost men.

As I reflect on this, I must admit that I have allowed fear to drive me hard in my life. It was a fear of losing my children to the world, that led me at times to be overbearing with my children, as I tried to protect the call of God on their life. I am grateful that Jesus has healed the hurt that led to this, and now I am enjoying a season of trust in the Lord, that I have too little experienced prior to the last few years.

Remember, what you fear will master you. Better to have Christ as your master, than the myriad of wealth, power and provision, a fear driven life may produce. The Lord has said it best for us…

2 Timothy 1:7 For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.

Ask yourself dear saint of God “What fears may at times be driving me?”

 

 

Posted in Ezekiel 11:8, Fear becomes your master, II Timothy 1:7, Matthew 6:24, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

God’s Power in REVIVE Seneca County

16d7dbe90116ae3a2ff4b8469b46eebaSunday evening, one of Encounter Church’s members (Chuck Woerner), while working at our Church to prepare for ReviveOHIO’s arrival (we are the host church in Fostoria), was involved in “freak accident”. He lost so much blood (at least five units), from what was diagnosed as a severed artery, that he was placed in a medically induced coma.

We received the news while we were in fellowship at New Beginnings Assembly of God in Tiffin. Revive team, church members from various denominations and cities in our county, Revive national members around the country, and as many in the family of God as we could call on, began to pray.

He was life flight-ed to Toledo Hospital in serious condition. By the time he arrived and was checked in, he was downgraded to stable condition and put on (only) light sedation. We were told, there was no evidence of a severed artery, can you say healed by God’s power? HALLELUJAH!!!

Praise God! Chuck is now is looking around some and squeezing hands!

This once more is a miracle of God and clear sign of His presence among His people in Seneca County. God is on the move, throughout our county in mighty ways and we anticipate, in faith, more of His mercy, power and love!

Chuck was serving the Lord, doing his part for the church of Jesus Christ; the enemy took a swing, God’s people prayed, and He who WONDERFUL, COUNSELOR, MIGHTY GOD, EVERLASTING FATHER AND PRINCE OF PEACE, responded in POWER!!!

Get to praying saints… in the last week…

Close to 80 have made first time commitment to Jesus Christ—40 to begin a discipleship commitment—20 baptisms, multiple healing’s (including Chuck)—restored relationships and the unity of the Holy Spirit, between Baptists, Pentecostals, Methodists, non-denominational’s, United Brethren (forgive me is I forgot some).

We believe this will not only continue, but be amplified.

The angel armies dispatched from Tiffin to Fostoria, to war against the darkness and cover the ministry of the saints have arrived (Hebrews 1:14). Let us go forth in the power of His name! Seneca county will never be the same… AMEN!

Come tomorrow at 7:30 for prayer and to begin your journey in working with Christ to REVIVE Seneca County!

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Don’t be a Biting Sheep

Dear friends,

In the midst of difficulties with Christian brothers, always seek to see Christ in your brother even if he is behaving as your adversary.

When the enemy is afoot, he will attempt to pull your mind to seeing only what irritates you, in the one you are in conflict with; this is an effort to cover a history of service, support and love, between brothers.

Don’t let Satan win, strive to see Christ in them, for there is to much to lose… The very testimony of Christ to the world (John 17:20-23).

John 17:20-23 “I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me. 

This does not mean to condone or cover up sin, but it is to behave under the leadership of the Holy Spirit, manifesting Christ’s character rather than that which does not work the righteousness of God (James 1:19-20). 

James 1:19-20 So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God.

Brother Michael

 

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Posted in James 1:19-20, John 17:20-23, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Worst Pain and What We Must Do

Image result for Christ's lvoe despite our failingsFor all the wonderful experiences and glories we are blessed to share in as followers of Jesus Christ, there are as many if not more trials, burdens, and afflictions we are called to walk in on Christ’s behalf.

(Job 5:7) 7 Yet man is born to trouble, As the sparks fly upward.

Although this statement is generally true in relation to all men, it appears to be expressly  illustrated in the Christian life, especially for those who truly desire to love the Lord their God with all their heart, soul, mind and strength (Matthew 22:37-38). From the word of God, we find difficulty not only a constant, but also an agent of teaching and sanctification.

(John 16:33) These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”

(2 Timothy 3:12) Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.

(Psalms 119:67-68) 67 Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep Your word. 68 You are good, and do good; Teach me Your statutes.

(Psalms 119:71) 71 It is good for me that I have been afflicted, that I may learn Your statutes.

(1 Peter 1:6-8) 6 In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, 8 whom having not seen you love.

(1 Peter 4:12-13) 12 Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; 13 but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy.

In relation to the troubles, trials and afflictions written into the passages from God’s word above, most would confess “We get it”, “We expect it”, “With God we can handle it and become better for it”. We may not like the pain and at times must beat back our desire to respond carnally, but we understand, the world hated our Beloved Christ, they will hate us; the difficulty will make us more like Him. Therefore we can take the pain.

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Speaking of carnality, we understand there is a war waging in our members, between the Holy Spirit and the flesh (our old man). The letter to the Galatians clearly outlines this often painful war and Romans  6 through Romans 8:17, reveals how we can and ought to overcome in this war by the Spirit. When winning battles in this war, there is the pain of self-denial. In the midst of this pain we are strengthened by the Holy Spirit. This good pain,  leads to stronger trust of God and operational faith.

There is also the pain of failing Christ or falling to temptation, when we are desire whole hardheartedly to yield to God’s Spirit and bring glory to Christ. This pain arises from enemy attack, or a trial revealing unknown and unseen weakness or sin, hurts the most. .

Occurring when we are in the midst of running hard after Jesus, the failing may be a momentary lapse of sobriety where we fall to a sin of sensuality–or may arise as we are taxed to the max, encounter a conflict and we lash out in angry outburst without righteous cause–or may be an increasing presence of apathy which leads to powerlessness, prayerlessness and  an insensitivity to His word or Spirit–or may be associated with a complete failure in a particular ministry endeavor, because of a growing sense of pride or self-sufficiency.

Once more this pain is not because being embarrassed in the sight of men, but because in our love for Christ, we feel we failed Him, or ignored His leading, or our common humanity got in the way and we were’t faithful enough to bless Him as we desire.

The pain of failing the Lord Jesus Christ is the one of the worst pains, we who are devoted to Christ can feel. It is the pain of Peter, who did mighty exploits in Christ’s name, but often bit off more than he could chew, because of pride, a sense of commitment greater than the cost and plain old human weakness.

This past week I was reminded of this, in my own failings, as I reflected on all that could have been thus far, in my efforts for Jesus Christ, had I been a better more faithful man. In each failure it can feel as if we had denied Him, run from Him and failed Him.

In all honest e do fail Him at times and we ought to stop trying to ignore the pain, because it can be a source of our greatest growth, should allow the Holy Spirit to use it for the Kingdom.

We admit sadly that there are times when “ministers” give up and don’t care anymore. In despair, they quit on Jesus, walking away to live in carnality and sin. These are those who may have left there first Love ,which is a serious charge and one which we should pray and seek the Lord to never walk in. Apostasy is very real and in the midst of the pain associated with failure we are exposed and must follow the scriptural trail God has laid out for us. It is equally important to remember that every failure is not us walking away from God.

What do we do when we suffer the greatest pain of failing to glorify Christ as we ought to?

REMEMBER NO CONDEMNATION FOR THOSE WALKING IN THE SPIRIT

(Romans 8:1) There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.

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For those who’s chief desire is to glorify Jesus, for the sake of love, they must guard against condemnation. Although I am not in the camp of, “we’re all just sinners saved by grace”, I am also not in the camp of being afraid of worrying about the loss of the salvation I have in Christ, if I fall into a sin here or there in my life.

I am also not saying that falling into sin continually, or practicing a sin, is allowable under the new covenant, it is not for the Christian. Having God’s grace in Christ is not a license to commit any sin, or remain in it. But momentary lapses and failures do occur.

Despite all that, we must guard against our own inclination to despair and doubt when failing, which leads to self-condemnation, as the enemy laughingly whips us with the memory of our sin. In order to understand how to overcome feelings of condemnation, let’s look for a moment at sin and handle something we may have forgotten or never fully grasped.

1 John 3:4-8  4 Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law. 5And ye know that he was manifested to take away our sins; and in him is no sin. 6Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither known him. 7Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous. 8He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil.

You’ll notice I used the King James version for this verse. The reason is that it is very helpful in understanding the nature of a sinner, as opposed to that of the saint, who is no longer a sinner. This does not mean that we no longer sin, but that we are not practicing sin as the rule of life. Notice in verse 6 where it declares “Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not: whoesover sinneth hath not seen Him, neither known Him”.

The use of the “eth” expresses something lost in our modern English; that of a continuous progressive action. When we see the word “sinneth“, it means that the person is practicing sin as the rule of their life, or doing it continuously and more progressively. In this understanding you’ll notice the beginning of verse 6 declares the Christian does not sin as a rule of life,  but  practices righteousness as it reveals in verse 7. It is the practice of sin that makes a person a sinner. It is the practice of righteousness, continually and growing progressive in it, which identifies the saint: no matter how imperfect it may be.

This is the reason I am not in the, “we’re just sinners saved by grace” crowd, which often becomes and excuse to justify carnality. We need to stop diminishing the truth of our being new creations, those who are a chosen generation, royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people; that show forth the praises of Him who called us out of darkness and into His marvelous light (II Corinthians 5:17; I Peter 2:9-10).

This knowledge is a necessary part of our faith, in overcoming sin and it’s practice, as we yield to righteousness, by the Holy Spirit (Romans 6:1-14, 8:11). This knowledge is also essential in our fighting back against the condemnation, which amplifies the pain of failing Jesus Christ our first Love. In the moments of pain, after a fall or failing, remind yourself that you are dedicated to the practice of righteousness not the practice of sin. Meditate on how you have learned and are growing in the practice of the righteousness of the Christ life, the Spirit’s leading and empowerment. If you are not then stop treading water, you may be in danger.

This knowledge exercised in faith dissipates condemnation, but to overcome the pain as intended, we must follow His diagnosis, operation and post operation instructions.

(1 John 1:7-10) 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 Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin. 8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.

DIAGNOSIS, OPERATION AND POWER OPERATION INSTRUCTIONS

The Diagnosis We understand that pride comes before a fall. Although we are not “just sinners saved by grace“, we are capable of falling back into a pattern of the old man (I John 1:8). We can sin and must be humble about our human weakness and every hour need of the Holy Spirit. With this appropriate scriptural view, we can excel in soberness and reduce the likelihood of a catastrophic fail or falling.

The Operation In verse 9 we read a verse well know by Christians, but in definite need of renewal in our minds. This is the operation of God, where He quells our sorrow and pain over the failing or fall, and cleanses its pattern in us practically. Remember this is an act of the cleansing of the conscience and the life practice, supernaturally, by the Blood of Christ, as applied by the Father through our faith.

Operation Instructions Verse 7 gives us the post operation instructions. Regardless of how we feel, we must walk in the light of the truth, concerning who we are in Christ and the power that is in His blood. This is difficult when we fail Jesus, but it is the only way of faith. We must discipline our minds to what God’s word says, rather than what we feel.

In this we have fellowship with other who follow Christ in faith. Here is a most important part… with a person you have fellowship, confess your fault and need (James 5:16). We often need a brother or sister in Christ to help remind us of the truth, and the presence of Christ in their physical presence.

By walking in the Light as He is in the Light, having true fellowship with each other (iron sharpening iron), we guarantee the benefit of His blood continuing in its original power and intent for those called by His name.

I am truly sorry if this became a little clinical. My intent is to help you understand you’re not alone and your sin or failing is not greater than God’s love for you. Don’t forget that. Too many pastors and leaders are walking away from our faith, killing themselves, or simply treading water for decades in apathy. We will fail Jesus, but He will never fail us and our sadness and pain at failing Him, reveals our love for Him.

 

Posted in are Christians sinners?, Christian Affliction, I John 1:7, I John 1:9, Uncategorized

The Worship Sirens Leading Us Toward Apostasy II

Image result for hillsong concertAs discussed in part one of this series, our error prone understanding and fixation on “worship music” and “worship leaders”, has led to some spiritual deficiencies in Christianity in the United States, England, Europe and Australia. Aside from what was discussed from an individual standpoint, we must consider how our faulty understanding of worship has affected the fellowship of the saints when we gather together Sunday to Sunday.

From the beginning, we must admit that the pattern of the New Testament church was not a  once a week meeting, as the only time of fellowship, instruction in righteousness and prayer. In fact, we can acknowledge that two meetings a week was not the New Testament pattern, but rather consistent house to house meetings of vibrant Holy Spirit led fellowship.

It is very important that we realize the primary focus of early Christian fellowship was to encounter the Lord Jesus Christ through the word of God and the leading of the Holy Spirit. Let us consider his purpose as laid out in Acts of the Apostles.

Despite these early church realities, we can see a consistent pattern, of the least 1300 years where a weekly meeting on or around Sunday is THE common time of weekly fellowship. Without much explanation, this weekly meeting has been essential to countless saints for persevering in the faith, once delivered to the saints. Because of the importance of these meetings, they must be intentionally arranged to be Holy Spirit led, as the word of God outlines.

Acts 2:42-45 42 And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. 43 Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. 44 Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, 45 and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need.

Acts 4:32-33 32 Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul; neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common. 33 And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all.

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The phrases highlighted in bold print reveal God’s word being used to teach and call others to Christ. We also see the Spirit of God, as the leader of fellowship, praying, miracles, and the bold proclamation of the word of God. These pillars of early church fellowship are the intentional framework by which we must arrange our meeting times, most would agree.

Although singing was more than likely a staple of the early church fellowship, there is no emphasis placed upon it as a primary or even focused upon gifting or programmed portion. Yet in our Christian context, this is not the case. In fact the “worship team”, and the “worship service” are more than prominent, they are largely the focus. The “worship leader” has even been granted status as a pastoral position; often without openly declaring it, we elevate “worship leader” to a specific status of calling by God, although this is not expressed in the New Testament.

This ought to cause some concern. Scripture is clear that there are five ministry giftings to the body of Christ: apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor and teacher. Each gifting is necessary at differing times, for the building of the body into the image of Christ. Though none of the gifts is given with the idea of preeminence (none is of higher rank), we often get that wrong as well.

For instance, in what is referred to as the NEW APOSTOLIC REFORMATION, some charismatic believers teach that the apostle is the chief office in a top down structure, even though this is clearly not scriptural. This error is not new, but a regurgitation of the Catholic doctrine of apostolic succession, where the pope is the chief apostle; again this thinking is clearly not scriptural.

We see this type of error when considering the role of pastor. It seems that in the American church we generally call anyone and everyone a pastor. Lead pastors, are the first place leaders–youth pastors lead youth–executive pastors lead other pastors–administrative pastors lead paperwork–and worship pastors lead singing people. To me this reeks of the over specialization that eventually can grind effective workers into ineptitude, in a union setting.

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We ought to be careful of assigning leadership to those not called by the Lord to that gifting. With “worship leaders” we must be careful, for the New Testament does not reveal any such calling in the church. This is not to say that there are not people naturally gifted in music and inclined to be a model of praise. These godly souls are seeking to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit for aid in directing the fellowship toward God fixation. This ability is good, but our creation of a calling apart from God’s word, pulling away from God fixation, to people fixation.

Most agree that over the last 60 years churches have experienced division over money and music more than any other two issues. How to spend the money (on youth, seeker sensitive things, or rainy day type items) and on what causes much angst. Many times the need for prayerful consideration over funding real kingdom of God pursuits, is not on our radar.

Secondarily, the music issue brings much division. This division arises over traditional verses contemporary–length of time, how loud or soft and whether we use instruments or not–whether we use props… and the beat goes on. Since the enjoyment of music is such a personal preference to most people, the above issues can easily tear a loving fellowship apart. Focusing on meeting those preferences, in “culturally relevant ways”, can become  full time diversion from what is the heart of our fellowship… PRAYER.

Truth be told, our services usually have more music than praying; yet we are supposed to be a house of prayer above all other things. In being a house of prayer, hearing from God is more important than speaking to Him. This reality is impossible in most churches, where even if a person is meditating on God’s glory, as described in a song, they’ll be chastised to raise their hands by some insecure “worship leader”.

 There is a danger in our “worship teams” and their “ministry” being a bloated construct, imposed upon our true calling when we come to the house of God.

Ecclesiastes 5:1-5 Walk prudently when you go to the house of God; and draw near to hear rather than to give the sacrifice of fools, for they do not know that they do evil. 2 Do not be rash with your mouth, and let not your heart utter anything hastily before God. For God is in heaven, and you on earth; therefore let your words be few. 3 For a dream comes through much activity, and a fool’s voice is known by his many words. 4 When you make a vow to God, do not delay to pay it; for He has no pleasure in fools. Pay what you have vowed—5 Better not to vow than to vow and not pay.

Many servants of the Lord Jesus Christ, who minister in the word of God and prayer, lament how the messages they preach are received. It seems that people are insensitive to God’s direction and unable to experience real conviction from His Holy Spirit, in relation to the word of God. Far too often, in this circumstance, the preacher will seek a conference or course of study to be more relevant, which actually may make them less relevant to the souls of men. Often in frustration they lose faith that they can make a difference. What if the problem is not in them or their preaching?

Perhaps, the issue lies in how the saints approach the house of God, not coming with the intention of drawing near to hear Him (and receive His love through admonition, correction and instruction), but to have an exciting experience, where the environment is cool and inviting, where I feel God. In this environment, we have been taught that “worship leaders” lead us into the presence of God… Excuse me… they do what?

Where does this teaching come from? Where is it in the word of God? Remember saints, in the new covenant, Jesus ratified with His shed blood, and inaugurated with His resurrection, we don’t have to be ushered into the presence of God.

Hebrews 4:16 Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

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Let us also remember that the mystery hidden from ages past has now been revealed in us, the corporate body of Christ, when we gather together (as little as two or three gathering in Jesus’ Name). This mystery is Christ in us the hope of glory (Colossians 1:27). Let’s remember we are seated with Him right now in heaven, meaning we are always in His presence (Ephesians 2:6). In forgetting these truths, we have lost our call to draw nearer His person to hear. Therefore we are in danger of giving the sacrifice of fools (See above Ecclesiastes 5:1-3).

In drawing near we sing, for sure, but we sing of His majesty, holiness, power, mercy and kindness, not about the almighty “I”, that is at the prominent in far too many songs today. A friend of mine spoke to this reality, as he was preaching to the congregation the Lord called me to shepherd. He said we ought to be careful in raising our hands, as a sign of surrender, in singing “I Surrender All”; because in his experience most Christians are only willing to live “I surrender some”.

Or how about “I Will Give You ALL My Worship”. Can we rightly sing that when there are things in our life, which direct our lives and emotions other than God? The point is we must allow praise, sung in fellowship, to stir our hearts to awe concerning Christ and His faithfulness; rather than making vows we will not pay to God, which is to give the sacrifice of fools (Ecclesiastes 3:4-5). 

Ezekiel, the prophet, had to deal with the circumstance of people not  hearing the word of God, because of their bent toward proclaiming their devotion to God, through religious professions and song singing (see Mark 7:6-8 as well).

Ezekiel 33:30-33 30 “As for you, son of man, the children of your people are talking about you beside the walls and in the doors of the houses; and they speak to one another, everyone saying to his brother, ‘Please come and hear what the word is that comes from the Lord.’ 31 So they come to you as people do, they sit before you as My people, and they hear your words, but they do not do them; for with their mouth they show much love, but their hearts pursue their own gain. 32 Indeed you are to them as a very lovely song of one who has a pleasant voice and can play well on an instrument; for they hear your words, but they do not do them.

How do we avoid the call of the sirens leading the church toward apostasy? In our daily life, let us seek to be led by the Holy Spirit and as we approach fellowship let us prepare our hearts to draw near to hear, from His Word. The hour is drawing near for Christ’s return. Let us live being those who proclaim the praises of Him who called us out of darkness and into His marvelous light”. Remembering this is not done in a building on Sunday morning primarily, but in the community of those who are still in the dark.

Remember, all Christians are called to be “worship leaders” in this reality: We are called to show and call others to be living sacrifices for Christ, which is an all day everyday thing.

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The Worship Sirens Leading Us Toward Apostasy

Related imageIn Greek and Roman mythology men are introduced to a particularly dangerous creature, called a siren. In the epic poem entitled ‘The Odyssey”, the siren is a feminine and sensual being, part human part animal, which sings to passing ships. Their purpose is not to entertain, but lead men away from the right path and directly into destruction. Their song promises a short cut to what the person hearing the song truly wants, yet will never attain if they follow the hypnotizing singing.

I was reminded of this mythology last week, when yet another “worship leader”, in a very public way, announced they are turning from the faith once delivered to the saints. In the person’s Facebook post to the whole world they spewed out the standard lines of criticism concerning suffering, science and the “if God is good” stuff, to justify his choice.

The person I just mentioned (a portion of which can be read in my last blog click to read HERE), as well as other high-profile “worship leaders”, who have fallen away over the last 35 years, like the sirens of mythology are not what they seem. They sing concerning their love for Jesus, drawing others into their choruses and verses, only to lead others into confusion in the end.

Knowing we can all be fooled ought to cause us some concern, when considering the “worship music” genre of our generation. In the first place, it is for the large part “I” centered, rather than “Christ” centered. In addition, much of today’s worship music is repetitive and sensual, not spiritual. Despite the “mile wide and inch deep” nature of “worship music”, it is making money for someone to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars a year.

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Many continue to think this music is bringing us closer to God, while it may actually be leading us further away from true worship of the Lord Jesus Christ, who is the eternal word of God. This is essentially the beginning of a slippery slope that can lead to falling away from the faith in Christ and the faith once delivered to the saints.

Before someone’s head explodes at my assertion, remember I am a musician and have been leading the congregations in praise toward God for most of my 16 years of pastoral ministry. Therefore, I have a perspective from inside that is beneficial. This perspective must begin with examining an error in our terminology.

In the first place, to call one a “worship leader” or music which exults God “worship music”, are what are called “misnomers”. This simply means the phrases are wrong and inaccurate designations, labels, or terms. What do I mean? Well “worship” as defined by the Bible is so much more than singing. Let us consider Jesus’ words to the Samaritan woman who met at the well.

John 4:19-24 19 The woman said to Him, “Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet. 20 Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, and you Jews say that in Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship.” 21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father. 22 You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews. 23 But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. 24 God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.

Interestingly, when looking into the Greek word used for worship, it gives a word picture that is more an attitude of heart, than a literal performance. It means to prostrate one’s self on the ground, with knees and forehead on the ground. This is the position of a servant or slave in the presence of their master. The woman was declaring that her ancestors commanded this action and attitude toward God where she lived, in the north of Israel, while the Jews at the Temple in Jerusalem.  Why the dispute?

When the Kingdom of Israel split after Solomon died, the apostate north sacrificed in Samaria and the Jews in Jerusalem. The point is the central act of either Samaritan or Jewish worship was sacrifice to God, which was for the sake of atonement. In fact, after the captivity when the Jews returned to the land and before they even laid the foundation for the new Temple, they built an alter and sacrificed for atonement for sins with the blood of bulls and sheep (Ezra 3:1-6).

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The act of worship Jesus is referring to in John 4:21-24, is not that of singing, but of living sacrifice. This is what the word of God calls us to in Romans 12:1-2 “I beseech you brethren by the mercies of God that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to the God, which is your reasonable service (Your spiritual act of worship). And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”

When considering this in light of Jesus’ declaration that God’s true worshiper will worship Him in Spirit and in truth, not at a particular location, but at all times and anywhere; we can surmise that worship is to surrender your life to the will of God, at all times and in all places. This is life lived with a heart in submission to God, as servant humbly waiting for the next direction, reverence express in true humility.

Therefore, true worship is to deny oneself for the sake of the call of Christ, even when indulging is not necessarily sinful—true worship is to choose God’s way of thinking over our own—true worship is choose to pray, meditate on His word, or intentionally love my neighbor, when I have “free time”—true worship is to turn the other cheek and love my enemy, when he seeks to discredit or destroy me—true worship is to cheerfully give from my abundance and lack, to my brothers and sisters in Christ, who are in need—true worship is to stand firm in the faith once delivered to the saints, when my life, job or relationships are at risk—true worship is to sing His praise, when I am hurting in every area of my human frame.

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A good diagnostic of the “worship music” being produced is does it cause me to deny myself, take up my cross, and follow Jesus into the valley of the shadow of death, where I know His presence; or is it simply there to serve as an affirmation of what I profess with my mouth concerning what I believe? The latter is a dangerous tool to use indeed, as Jesus defines those in that practice as hypocrites and those who never knew Him (Matthew 7:21-23; Mark 7:6-8).

Be careful saints of God, we can become just like Israel as described in Amos 6:3-6

Amos 6:3-6 3 Woe to you who put far off the day of doom, Who cause the seat of violence to come near; 4 Who lie on beds of ivory, Stretch out on your couches, eat lambs from the flock and calves from the midst of the stall; 5 Who sing idly to the sound of stringed instruments, and invent for yourselves musical instruments like David; 6 Who drink wine from bowls, and anoint yourselves with the best ointments, But are not grieved for the affliction of Joseph.

As Americans we ought to admit that we love to be entertained and as Christians we seek to find appropriate entertainment acceptable to our practice of faith. Let’s also admit that entertainment is not a biblical word. The “worship music” produced today is largely idle songs, based on thin threaded metaphor created more to entertain us or serve as background noise. Reject what has connection to God’s word. Be a worshiper of God, walking out your obedience and having a heart of praise that comes from explosive joy from the Holy Spirit, being a person who obeys the leading of the Holy Spirit.  (I Peter 1:6-10).

Challenge yourself dear saint of God, to reject the call to “worship” that is being sounded today. If you do not, you will be pulled into the sirens call to “worship” that leads to apostasy. How does a person know if they are hooked?

Remember, the need for satisfaction drives addiction. When a person uses an addictive substance, the pleasure, in subsequent use, diminishes with the same dose. This means a person needs more of the substance and more frequently to feel the same pleasure.

In relation to praise of Jesus Christ, we understand that because of the indwelling of the Spirit of God, all praise or any action of living sacrifice worship originates in our inward man; where our spirit is in union with the Holy Spirit. Therefore, if we can’t be happy, or pray, or have courage to witness, or perseverance to read the word of God, without outside stimulus, such as the right music, we are orientated wrongly.

Ours is a day of 24 hour access to “worship music”. In this environment we have all but lost the heart of all true praise: God’s word resonating in our life, by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. It is in this lost operation, where in all times, seasons, trials and tribulation, we can meet with Christ; then His word enlivened by the Spirit, becomes our thoughts, power and our movements. This is the well of joy that is missing, which must be recovered, or we will move further toward apostasy as a body of Christians in America.

The reason there is such a market for “worship music” that does not resonate with the Holy Spirit inside of us, is have moved further from our First love Jesus. therefore we need these thinly written and heartless productions, in order to “feel” godly, or faith filled or close to God. Refuse this sirens call, or we may end up like the Holy Spirit describes in II Timothy 3:5-7

2 Timothy 3:5-7 5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away! 6 For of this sort are those who creep into households and make captives of gullible women loaded down with sins, led away by various lusts, 7 always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.

In my next post we will look at how this “worship music” error has hurt our Sunday morning gatherings.

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[Guest Post] “John Cooper of Skillet on Apostasy Among Young Influential Leaders”

Image result for John cooperAfter another two defections, of young and influential Christian leaders, from the faith once delivered to the saints, I decided to post an excellent article in response to this growing and troubling trend.

I will remind you that in the last days before Jesus returns, there is great apostasy. We are seeing it. Please prayerfully read the text of the article written by George Brahm as published at the website “Cogent Christianity” and entitled “Skillet’s John Cooper on Apostasy Among Young Christian Leaders”. At the bottom I will provide a link to this article and a link to an article written by Michael Brown from the Christian post, concerning this topic.

John Cooper on Apostasy Among Young Christian Leaders

Published: August 14, 2019 on the website Cogent Christianity below i the entirety of John Cooper being quoted in the article

““Ok I’m saying it. Because it’s too important not to. What is happening in Christianity? More and more of our outspoken leaders or influencers who were once “faces” of the faith are falling away. And at the same time they are being very vocal and bold about it. Shockingly they still want to influence others (for what purpose?)as they announce that they are leaving the faith. I’ll state my conclusion, then I’ll state some rebuttals to statements I’ve read by some of them. Firstly, I never judge people outside of my faith. Even if they hate religion or Christianity. That is not my place and I have many friends who disagree with my religion and that is 100% fine with me. However, when it comes to people within my faith, there must be a measure of loyalty and friendship and accountability to each other and the Word of God.

“My conclusion for the church (all of us Christians): We must STOP making worship leaders and thought leaders or influencers or cool people or “relevant” people the most influential people in Christendom. (And yes that includes people like me!) I’ve been saying for 20 years(and seemed probably quite judgmental to some of my peers) that we are in a dangerous place when the church is looking to 20 year old worship singers as our source of truth. We now have a church culture that learns who God is from singing modern praise songs rather than from the teachings of the Word. I’m not being rude to my worship leader friends (many who would agree with me) in saying that singers and musicians are good at communicating emotion and feeling. We create a moment and a vehicle for God to speak. However, singers are not always the best people to write solid bible truth and doctrine. Sometimes we are too young, too ignorant of scripture, too unaware, or too unconcerned about the purity of scripture and the holiness of the God we are singing to. Have you ever considered the disrespect of singing songs to God that are untrue of His character?

“I have a few specific thoughts and rebuttals to statements made by recently disavowed church influencers…first of all, I am stunned that the seemingly most important thing for these leaders who have lost their faith is to make such a bold new stance. Basically saying, “I’ve been living and preaching boldly something for 20 years and led generations of people with my teachings and now I no longer believe it..therefore I’m going to boldly and loudly tell people it was all wrong while I boldly and loudly lead people in to my next truth.” I’m perplexed why they aren’t embarrassed? Humbled? Ashamed, fearful, confused? Why be so eager to continue leading people when you clearly don’t know where you are headed?

“My second thought is, why do people act like “being real” covers a multitude of sins? As if someone is courageous simply for sharing virally every thought or dark place. That’s not courageous. It’s cavalier. Have they considered the ramifications? As if they are the harbingers of truth, saying “I used to think one way and practice it and preach it, but now I’ve learned all the new truth and will start practicing and preaching it.” So the influencers become the voice for truth in whatever stage of life and whatever evolution takes place in their thinking.

“Thirdly, there is a common thread running through these leaders/influencers that basically says that “no one else is talking about the REAL stuff.” This is just flatly false. I just read today in a renown worship leader’s statement, “How could a God of love send people to hell? No one talks about it.” As if he is the first person to ask this? Brother, you are not that unique. The church has wrestled with this for 1500 years. Literally. Everybody talks about it. Children talk about it in Sunday school. There’s like a billion books written on the topic. Just because you don’t get the answer you want doesn’t mean that we are unwilling to wrestle with it. We wrestle with scripture until we are transformed by the renewing of our minds.

“And lastly, and most shocking imo (in my opinion), as these influencers disavow their faith, they always end their statements with their “new insight/new truth” that is basically a regurgitation of Jesus’s words?! It’s truly bizarre and ironic. They’ll say “I’m disavowing my faith but remember, love people, be generous, forgive others”. Ummm, why? That is actually not human nature. No child is ever born and says “I just want to love others before loving myself. I want to turn the other cheek. I want to give my money away to others in need”. Those are bible principles taught by a prophet/Priest/king of kings who wants us to live by a higher standard which is not an earthly standard, but rather the ‘Kingdom of God’ standard. Therefore if Jesus is not the truth and if the Word of God is not absolute, then by preaching Jesus’s teachings you are endorsing the words of a madman. A lunatic who said “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the father except through me.” He also said that he was alive before Abraham, and to see him was to see God because he was one with God. So why then would a disavowed christian leader promote that “generosity is good”? How would you know “what is good” without Jesus’s teachings? And will your ideas of what is “good” be different from year to year based on your experience, culture trends, poplular opinion etc and furthermore will you continue year by year to lead others into your idea of goodness even though it is not absolute? I’m amazed that so many Christians want the benefits of the kingdom of God, but with the caveat that they themselves will be the King.

“It is time for the church to rediscover the preeminence of the Word. And to value the teaching of the Word. We need to value truth over feeling. Truth over emotion. And what we are seeing now is the result of the church raising up influencers who did not supremely value truth who have led a generation who also do not believe in the supremacy of truth. And now those disavowed leaders are proudly still leading and influencing boldly AWAY from the truth.

“Is it any wonder that some of our disavowed Christian leaders are letting go of the absolute truth of the Bible and subsequently their lives are falling apart? Further and further they are sinking in the sea all the while shouting “now I’ve found the truth! Follow me!!” Brothers and sisters in the faith all around the world, pastors, teachers, worship leaders, influencers…I implore you, please please in your search for relevancy for the gospel, let us NOT find creative ways to shape Gods word into the image of our culture by stifling inconvenient truths. But rather let us hold on even tighter to the anchor of the living Word of God. For He changes NOT. “The grass withers and the flowers fade away, but the word of our God stands forever” (Isaiah 40:8)”

John Cooper on Apostasy Among Young Christian Leaders

Reaching out to a Hillsong leader who is renouncing his faith

Posted in Christian Apostasy, Hillsong, Marty Sampson, Skillet, Uncategorized | 1 Comment