Tag: body of Christ

Easter Up The Hollow

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IMG_3987Today, Easter Sunday 2014, was a day to remember. My wife and I, along with her sister, and her sister’s daughter and husband, attended Saint Johannes Lutheran Church in St. Clara, West Virginia. Well, I’m not sure if it’s IN St. Clara, or just close by. Really, it’s “up the holler”, as the locals would say. Or, for you people who like to speak proper English, to you it’s “up the hollow”. Regardless, it’s one beautiful place.
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The church was started way back in June, 1888. Yes, that’s just about 126 years. A lot of history, a lot of pastors, weddings, funerals, pot luck dinners…and a lot of God.

It’s nice to know that God hasn’t changed in 126 years, even though the building has.

Phyllis and I attended the church back in the initial days of our search for truth and life. We didn’t realize we were looking for Jesus, but we were. We had been married only 1-2 years, and were a couple of young kids. This was in 1973-74.
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At the beginning of the service, from the back of the sanctuary flowed a beautiful melody, “Alleluia Canon”, that was awesome. Two ladies were singing, accompanied by some soft wind instruments. It made the hairs on the back of my neck rise up, like they were trying to praise and worship the God of the Resurrection! It was amazing.
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God came to church, right out there in the hollow. Wow!

Scripture readings came from Acts 10, Psalm 118, Colossians 3, and Matthew 28. We heard that Jesus went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, that today is the day of salvation, Christ is risen and we are risen with him, and that no stone or devil can stop God’s work.

IMG_3966One thing I specifically gleaned from the message was life happens. Regardless of whether we have our life planned out for us or not, or even just part of a day. Things happen that we may not be ready for, or even want to take place, but with the Spirit’s help we can face it, endure it, and even reign above it. Praise the Lord.

Communion was powerful; connecting the resurrection of Jesus with his promise to come again.

IMG_3974They didn’t have what I would call a “worship team”, and some of the songs were unfamiliar to me, but God was worshipped. Even though we sang from a hymnal, recited the Lord’s prayer, and read the Apostle’s Creed in unison,

IMG_3968God was there.

Why wouldn’t he be? He’s been associated with Saint Johannes Lutheran Church for almost 126 years. And he’s the one who said, “If you seek me, you will find me; when you search for me with all your heart. And I will be found by you…”

IMG_3964Even “up the hollow.”
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The Freak Show?

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Have you ever been to a circus or county fair? I’m talking about the old-fashioned kind with cotton candy, ring toss games, the game to test how strong you are (ever ring the bell?), and, of course, THE FREAK SHOW!

Sometimes there’s a bearded woman, a man with 6 toes on each foot, or someone with 3 ears. I saw a guy once who was 8 foot 2 inches tall, back when I was about 4 foot.

Of course the really strange and freaky people can’t be seen unless you pay the extra 50 cents to peek behind the curtain. You know, the guy with only one eye stuck in the middle of his forehead, or something like that.

But have you ever seen a guy without a body? Just a head; nothing else. I realize it’s kind of freaky to think about, unless you’re a Christian in today’s church.

Now why did I go and say something like that?

Ask any “Christian” if they believe Jesus is able to do ANYTHING and EVERYTHING and you’ll probably hear a hearty “AMEN!” Ask them how can He do what He does and you’ll hear, “because He is God.” Follow up with “what is the body of Christ”, and you’ll hear a three point sermon about the church of Jesus Christ.

Yes, the Church is the Body of Christ. Jesus is the Head, the church is the body that belongs to the head.

Can I say something without making someone mad? Many believers have their theology correct; it’s straight in their mind: Jesus is the Head, the Church is the Body. But in practice, they treat Jesus like He belongs in a freak show, billed as the “Bodiless Man.” I say, “in practice”, because they distance themselves from the work of God. It’s either someone else’s job, or it’s God’s. It sure can’t be theirs! In real life the body and the head are supposed to be connected! The head gives the instructions, the body carries them out. The body lives to accomplish the will of the head, and the head makes decisions that will help the whole body.

“And the disciples went everywhere and preached, and the Lord worked through them, confirming what they said by many miraculous signs.” (Mark 16:20 NLT)

Notice The Lord worked THROUGH them. He didn’t work in place of them, nor did He tell them to go out on their own. The Head and the Body worked together!

I would venture to say a lot of prayers aren’t answered because believers don’t realize their responsibility as a body. Over and over the scriptures admonish us to care for one another, pray for one another, give to the one who has a need; but we want to leave it all up to the Head.

Paul wrote a lot about this subject; here’s a little example from 1 Corinthians.

“The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ. Some of us are Jews, some are Gentiles, some are slaves, and some are free. But we have all been baptized into one body by one Spirit, and we all share the same Spirit. Yes, the body has many different parts, not just one part. If the foot says, “I am not a part of the body because I am not a hand,” that does not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear says, “I am not part of the body because I am not an eye,” would that make it any less a part of the body? If the whole body were an eye, how would you hear? Or if your whole body were an ear, how would you smell anything? But our bodies have many parts, and God has put each part just where he wants it. How strange a body would be if it had only one part! Yes, there are many parts, but only one body. The eye can never say to the hand, “I don’t need you.” The head can’t say to the feet, “I don’t need you.” In fact, some parts of the body that seem weakest and least important are actually the most necessary.” (1 Corinthians 12:12-22 NLT)

Notice, “the head can’t say to the feet…”. And why would He want to? Jesus NEEDS His Body to act like it’s connected! Remember Jesus said, “Apart from Me you can do NOTHING”. (John 15)

Just imagine what could happen if we began to treat this Christianity thing like it really matters. If we’d find out from the Head what His plans and purposes are. If we’d acknowledge Him in all our ways and let Him direct our paths.

Well, we’d find ourselves growing up spiritually, increasing in wisdom and understanding, and being used by The Lord to do incredible things!

People might start wondering about our “strange ways”, and maybe even think we belong in the freak show.

That’s alright; at least the Head won’t be alone. Jesus said, “…that where I am, they may be also.” John 17

“This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ. Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth. Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.” (Ephesians 4:13-16 NLT)

Hey, Jude!

20130807-223048.jpgEver hear of the rock and roll group called The Beatles? Of course you have! As a teenager, and like millions of other teens, I listened to them every chance I could. And, like it or not, their music spoke directly to the heart of their generation, the culture of the day.

From simple songs about love, to complex pieces laced with veiled references to the drug world, their lyrics told tales of people with names like Rita, Lucy, Michelle, and Maxwell. They gave the world a new way to sing “Happy Birthday”, revealed a thing or two about Walrus’, took us on a Magical Mystery Tour, and encouraged us all to just “Let It Be.” And we can’t forget the cryptic cover of the “Abbey Road” LP; the one with Ringo as the preacher, John as God, Paul as the deceased, and George as the grave digger – as the story goes.

Yes, they spoke to their generation, for better or worse, and most of us listened and bought their message.

Ever hear of a guy named Jude? Not the guy the Beatles sang about; this guy was a brother of Jesus and a writer of a very small letter in the New Testament. He had much to say to his generation, as well. And although his letter is about 2000 years old, the message he gave then is probably better suited for this generation!

Ever read his letter? It begins nice and friendly; cordial, in a way. But things get pretty hot real quick. I mean, he starts writing and warning people to stand up, contend, for the faith. Fight for the Truth, the Gospel. Why, because there’s a time coming when all “hell is gonna break loose!”

He warns of judgment to come, the danger of “backsliding”, and the need to keep “built up on our most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost.” He uses the word “ungodly” so many times you begin to get the idea God isn’t very pleased with a lot of people who call themselves Christians; the ones who act like they’ve never met Jesus. For instance:


“But I want to remind you, though you once knew this, that the Lord, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe. And the angels who did not keep their proper domain, but left their own abode, He has reserved in everlasting chains under darkness for the judgment of the great day; as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities around them in a similar manner to these, having given themselves over to sexual immorality and gone after strange flesh, are set forth as an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.

“Likewise also these dreamers defile the flesh, reject authority, and speak evil of dignitaries. Yet Michael the archangel, in contending with the devil, when he disputed about the body of Moses, dared not bring against him a reviling accusation, but said, “The Lord rebuke you!” But these speak evil of whatever they do not know; and whatever they know naturally, like brute beasts, in these things they corrupt themselves. Woe to them! For they have gone in the way of Cain, have run greedily in the error of Balaam for profit, and perished in the rebellion of Korah. These are spots in your love feasts, while they feast with you without fear, serving only themselves. They are clouds without water, carried about by the winds; late autumn trees without fruit, twice dead, pulled up by the roots; raging waves of the sea, foaming up their own shame; wandering stars for whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever.” (Jude 1:5-13 NKJV)

See what I mean? “Having saved people…destroyed those who did not believe”, and “while they feast with you without fear, serving only themselves.” These people hung out with the believers, but…

Jude, poor Jude. He’s not a very popular guy! Definitely not as popular as the Beatles! And his message doesn’t attract too many people today, either. In fact, most of the “church world” would just as soon ignore the message of Jude.

Here’s a little ditty that resonates with a lot of the modern “saints”. Feel free to sing along!

Hey, Jude,
I can’t believe
You’d take a Good God
And make Him bitter
Remember,
God is love and so kind
I am offended by your letter

Hey, Jude,
Why are you mad?
Where’s the love, man
Why be so hateful?
Remember,
God’s love and grace is for all
He wouldn’t send a soul to hell.

So why the angry rhetoric,
You know, I’m sick
Of people who always speak so ugly
Why can’t we all just get along
Would it be wrong?
To talk of the good, and not the ungodly

Hey, Jude,
You’re such a fool,
To believe those tales of fiction,
Remember,
The thought of angels in chains
Is but a vivid imagination

So let them out and let them go
Those words of woe
They only embarrass Christian brothers
Lighten up your voice of gloom
Your words of doom
And let’s all love one another…

Hey, Jude,
Though I’m your friend
Feel that church has made you bitter
Remember,
It’s not as bad as it seems
So take your sad notes, and make them better, better, better…

Yep, poor old Jude. Too bad he didn’t realize this generation doesn’t care for such negativity. If he’d only gotten the memo, and had a dynamic agent, he just might have connected to the believers of the 21st Century.

Na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, hey Jude!

Are You Teachable?

Know-it-alls come in all sorts of shapes, sizes, ages, and experiences. The world is full of them, in case you haven’t noticed. No matter what the subject, some people are experts on everything!

Maybe you’ve never met a know-it-all. Good for you. But just wait, you probably will one of these days. Of course, everyone goes through a period of being ultra smart. It’s part of growing up. It happens usually during the teenage years (which could include the “spiritual teenage years”). Unfortunately, some people never grow out of it.

How about you? Are you teachable?

The word “teach” is a very important biblical word. It’s used over 100 times, most of it pertaining to being taught by the Lord. People read verses about being taught by the Lord and think it gives them the right to say, “God’s my teacher. I don’t need any man to teach me!” They use the verses as an excuse to be unteachable. Here’s a hot one for you…

If someone will NOT receive teaching from anyone but God, they WILL NOT receive teaching from God.

A favorite scripture verse for the “unteachable” is found in 1 John 2:27, “But the anointing which you have received from Him abides in you, and you do not need that anyone teach you; but as the same anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true, and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you will abide in Him.”

“See”, they say, “No one needs to teach me anything; the Holy Spirit is the Only One I need.” But the same Spirit has placed us into a Body; a Body with different parts, different gifts, different callings, different offices…DIFFERENT! We NEED DIFFERENT! He has placed us into a Body into which He has also placed…”Pastors and Teachers”…for the perfecting of the saints…

So you don’t believe me, eh? You don’t agree with my statement? You don’t agree that a person has to receive teaching from an individual or else they’re really not teachable? Allow me to explain.

Different instructions, dealing specifically with teaching and learning, have been given to us throughout the Word of God. Here are some examples:

“Now therefore, go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall say.”

“And you shall teach them the statutes and the laws, and show them the way in which they must walk and the work they must do.”

“You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.”

“Show me Your ways, O Lord; Teach me Your paths”

“Come, you children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord.”

“Teach me Your way, O Lord; I will walk in Your truth; unite my heart to fear Your name.”

“Teach me to do Your will, for You are my God; Your Spirit is good. Lead me in the land of uprightness.”

“And they shall teach My people the difference between the holy and the unholy, and cause them to discern between the unclean and the clean.”

“Now it came to pass, as He was praying in a certain place, when He ceased, that one of His disciples said to Him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples.”

“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.”

“yet in the church I would rather speak five words with my understanding, that I may teach others also, than ten thousand words in a tongue.”

“These things command and teach.”

“And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.”

“And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient…”

“But the anointing which you have received from Him abides in you, and you do not need that anyone teach you; but as the same anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true, and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you will abide in Him.”

Sorry, no scripture references. Easy to find using a concordance, though…

Anyway, did you notice all the references to teaching? It’s rather a simple concept, actually. How else can someone learn if they can’t be taught? And for someone to be taught, they must be teachable!

It’s like this: to add water to a glass, the glass can’t be full. Someone’s who’s teachable has room in their glass. Someone who is UNTEACHABLE THINKS their glass is already full.

We will NEVER get so smart we can’t or shouldn’t learn something.

I’ve watched people. I’ve watched them grow in God, grow in fellowship and relationship with others, and then I’ve seen them become so SMART and SPIRITUAL they quit learning and developing in the things of God. They pull themselves and their families out of church, out of fellowship with others who could help encourage them. I’ve contacted them afterward. They start complaining about all the hypocrites, the shallowness of the pastor, the volume of the music. No one seems to care. And since they’ve been reading the Bible, they can lead their family just fine. They’re anointed just as much as the pastor is. (Kind of reminds of Korah, in the book of Numbers)

Unfortunately, and it never fails, a year later or so the family is a mess, and the unteachable one is still bad mouthing everyone but himself. You know what? I’d rather sit and listen to a smelly ol’ catfish growl than to be in the company of someone who isn’t teachable. How about you?

A person who won’t be taught loves to hear themselves talk. They love their opinions, and couldn’t care less about what anyone else might have to say.

Years ago, as I was deep into my know-it-all stage of spiritual growth, we attended a little church in Altoona, Iowa. Our pastor was Brother Anderson, and he has since gone on to be with Jesus. Anyway, he sure was a patient man. I know. I helped him develop patience by the way I acted. Now I didn’t see it at the time, but looking back, I was really a know-it-all. Yes, I was hungry for God and His Word, wanted to grow and help others; but I was a know-it-all. I really had a hard time listening to sermons that weren’t as “deep” as I felt they should be. Hard for someone like me to learn anything from anyone! Too busy comparing what I heard with what I “knew” to be correct.

Well, back to my pastor and I. At that time there was a family in the church whose daughter became extremely ill and ended up in the hospital for an extended period.

Since I was quite the caring, spiritual giant, I asked the pastor what he thought I could do to help the family.

“Well, I would recommend going to the hospital and sit with the family. Encourage them by just being there. Visit with them, pray with them, and stay out of the nurse’s way.”

My spiritual response was, “I really thought I should bring some Kenneth Copeland tapes, a tape player, and my Bible so I could pump them full of the Word of God and faith.”

One of the few times he showed his frustration with my “billowed sails of knowledge” was after my response. I’m sure he tried, but he just couldn’t hold it in. He could only temper his reaction which were these words, “If you didn’t want my opinion, why did you ask?”

I learned something at that moment. Several things, in fact. One, I really didn’t know as much as I thought. Two, others have a lot more knowledge and experience about things than I do. Three, if I’m really going to grow in the Lord, I’d better listen more than I talk. Four, if I don’t receive the ministry of the one God has put into my life, then I won’t receive ministry from God.

Ouch!

So, when’s the last time you actually allowed someone to teach you what you really need to do in order to: get through a certain situation, deal with a particular co-worker, handle problems with your kids, parents, or spouse…

and when’s the last time you actually followed their advice?

When was the last time you admitted to yourself that you really aren’t the brain you’d like people to think you are?

Why not do it now? Look into mirror and say, You, in the mirror! Look at me while I’m talking to you. You know some things, but you don’t know all things. You need to be, YOU WILL BE, teachable. You will learn from God, from your pastor, from your brothers and sisters in the Lord. You will learn from enjoyable moments, and you will learn during seasons of sorrow. You will learn how to be content with little, and you’ll learn how to abound with plenty. You’ll learn God CAN make it without you, BUT He’d rather not have to. You WILL LEARN that in order to listen to other’s wisdom, you must clamp your mouth shut. Shut mouth, open heart.
You’ll learn there’s a season to give to others knowledge, and a season to allow others to pour into you.

You, in the mirror, YOU WILL BE TEACHABLE – and thus you’ll be an asset to the Kingdom of God; and especially to the King.”

“For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence.” 1 Corinthians 1:26-30 NKJV

America Needs To Blush

Blushing“To whom can I give warning? Who will listen when I speak? Their ears are closed, and they cannot hear.
They scorn the word of the Lord. They don’t want to listen at all. So now I am filled with the Lord’s fury.
Yes, I am tired of holding it in!

“I will pour out my fury on children playing in the streets and on gatherings of young men, on husbands and wives and on those who are old and gray. Their homes will be turned over to their enemies, as will their fields and their wives. For I will raise my powerful fist against the people of this land,” says the Lord.

“From the least to the greatest, their lives are ruled by greed. From prophets to priests,
they are all frauds. They offer superficial treatments for my people’s mortal wound. They give assurances of peace when there is no peace. Are they ashamed of their disgusting actions? Not at all—they don’t even know how to blush! Therefore, they will lie among the slaughtered.
They will be brought down when I punish them,” says the Lord. (Jeremiah 6:10-15 NLT)

Isn’t it time to seek the Lord? Isn’t it time to be ashamed of our disgusting actions? Don’t you think it’s time we learn how to blush?

“Oh, brother. Here we go again.”

Yep.

“But, brother, Jeremiah was giving the nation of Israel the “what for”! This is the United States of America, not some nation given over to idolatry.”

Oh, really? Please explain to me the difference between Israel’s love affair with everything but God and this nation’s love affair with everything but God.

No difference.

Okay, you say Israel was held to a higher standard than our nation. Since they were “God’s people” and had been “preached to” for centuries, God required more of them.

Are you sure that’s the case? This nation has been inundated with preaching! Good preaching, bad preaching, false preaching, loud preaching, quiet preaching, dry preaching, and even Godly preaching; we’ve had it all.

To whom much is, or has been, given, much is required.

I believe God is requiring the Church in America to repent of idolatry, repent of ignoring and scorning the Word of God, repent of greed, repent of living a life focused on pleasure, and repent of twisted thinking – calling evil, good, and good, evil. It’s time to stop treating people’s mortal wounds with years of humanistic counseling, and speak God’s truth into their lives.

It’s at the point in time when America the Beautiful must look into the mirror once again at her abhorrent image. How can we say we’re a Christian Nation, in God we trust, when it just isn’t so?

It’s time we let our nakedness, our lack of God’s covering and protection, be as embarrassing to us as it is to the Lord!

It’s time we learn how to blush.

Agree? Disagree? Please comment.

Be Unique

20130416-095945.jpg“…anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun.” (2 Corinthians 5:17 NLT)

“Belongs to Christ…” Anyone who receives, by faith, Jesus Christ as The Lord of their life becomes a new creation, a new “fabrication”, a “species of being which never before existed.”

Recreated on the inside, in our “spirit man”, the part of our being that is dead, unresponsive, to God without the life only Jesus brings. “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.” (John 1:4)

It’s interesting to realize how every new creation can be fashioned into the likeness of Jesus (Romans 8:29), yet each person be so different. Each person, each individual, totally unique.

Our lives can be so monotonous, so mundane, until we discover who we really are as a new creation. Until we embrace our uniqueness and trust The Lord to fit us, differences and all, into His Body.

We are unique, in Him. Individually, we are one of the many facets, variables, which make up His glorious Body. And as individuals walking in the grace of God, we join our unique gifts, callings, and personalities into one “Light of the World” and a “City set upon a hill.”

Quit acting as though your life is nothing special! Allow God the joy of showing you how your unique beauty can be used to reveal a facet of His glory to your world.

You are unique! Be unique, in Him.

Why America Is Falling Apart At The Seams

20130409-124938.jpgWhy America Is Falling Apart At The Seams

I have a strong feeling some people will not agree with my conclusion, my answer to the above statement. Oh well. I’m prepared for that. So for those who disagree slightly, or vehemently, feel free to post your comments.

I believe something I’d rather not believe: The United States of America has seen its best days. I believe the reason lies primarily in two verses: one in Genesis and the other in Galatians.

“I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”(Genesis 12:3 ESV)

“And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.” (Galatians 3:29 ESV)

I DO believe in a final awakening, revival, or whatever you’d like to call it. I believe the Church will see its best, and most fruitful, season very soon. Things are accelerating in the spirit realm. The Holy Spirit is moving among every denomination, every people group, and every nation. Prophetic voices are being raised up to help prepare the saints to do the necessary work of the Kingdom.

Spiritual attacks are on the rise. The enemy isn’t prophetic, as he doesn’t have “revelation knowledge”; after all, he is darkness. I do believe, though, he can witness “troop movement” and get the idea something’s building. So, troubles, snares, and all manner of attacks have been mounted against God’s Army. But hallelujah, the weapons of our warfare are mighty and powerful for recognizing and neutralizing the enemy’s assault!

Yes, the Church’s finest hour is being staged. The God Who orchestrated Israel’s deliverance from Egypt, Jesus’ birth and life of ministry, the gathering in Jerusalem for the Spirit’s Outpouring; that same God is about to manifest Himself to this world in such a way it will separate believers from unbelievers, righteous from religious, and the Kingdom of Light from the kingdom of darkness. Kingdom against kingdom. It will be like an earthquake in the spirit realm. Make certain you are pursuing God. Prepare your hearts to hear His voice. Respond very quickly to His slightest prompts, and join with others for the Glory of God!

We are right at the threshold of the greatest, most intense, spiritual battle man has ever witnessed. My opinion. But it’s also my opinion America has seen its greatest glory and has declined as a world super power. Its borders are vulnerable, its systems corrupt, its wisdom utter foolishness, and America is beyond repair. There is not enough time left “in the day” to raise it back to where it was.

As for the two verses mentioned earlier, the idea is this: as people treat Abraham and his family, that’s how they and their family will be treated. Now people have used the Genesis scripture to circulate the idea God was only referring to Abraham’s family through Jacob, or Israel. And while it certainly pertains to Israel, it actually applies to an even larger group. What group?

The Christians. The Body of Christ. The Church.

Note the Galatians scripture. “If you are Christ’s, you are Abraham’s…and heirs with Abraham as well as Jesus.”

Think about the cultural, spiritual shift over the last 20-30 years. Society used to use Judeo-Christian principles in establishing and upholding laws. Now days, those values are perceived as outdated and too restrictive for “enlightened” mankind, and more of a nuisance than a help. Every religious group has the privilege and Constitutional right to act in any way and say anything, in the name of diversity. Every group except Christians.

America is saying, loud and clear, “Christians, shut up! We don’t care to hear your worthless chatter any longer. You’re a bunch of hypocrites, anyway!” That is the prevailing spirit of America.

If you’ll study Galatians three, you find God made His promises to Abraham and his seed (descendants). The promises of blessing and cursing applied to Abraham, Abraham’s kids, their kids, AND their SPIRITUAL family!

America has listened to the god of this world for so long, the spirit of antichrist has infiltrated our society, daily pronouncing “curses” on the church. The political system, the laws and enforcement of those laws, and the interpretation of our Constitution have undermined this country’s world influence and eroded the foundation that once made it strong. The world’s system is “anti-Christ” and would like nothing better than to see the church fail. Unfortunately, America has adopted the world’s spirit.

Now the curse of the devil cannot override God’s blessing on His people. For as one sows, they also reap. However, those curses are killing the country.

We continue to pray, as Paul wrote in 1 Timothy 2:1-4, “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (ESV) Our focus in prayer? The leaders, truth, all people to be saved.

So, why is America’s influence fading rapidly? Why is it falling apart at the seams? Because America has chosen to curse the Body of Christ, the Seed of Abraham.

And NO ONE can get by with that for very long!

Agree, disagree? Tell me why, and let’s discuss it. Thanks.

The Network

Spider Web

Network.

What does the word “network” mean to you? Anything? Everything? Nothing?

It’s really developed into a big thing over the last dozen years or so. The word has a variety of definitions with a common theme “tying” them all together. The common theme is “connecting”. Connecting various parts, people, purposes, and whatever to form a network. Kind of like a spider’s web with its sticky, silk-like strands sewn together for one purpose. Or the human body with all its various parts, some large, some small, some seen and others hidden; but functioning together for a single objective.

Network.

As an ordained Assemblies of God minister, I, too, am part of a network. In fact, the District I belong to is officially named The Iowa District Council of the Assemblies of God, but does business using the name “Iowa Ministry Network”.

I must admit, I have at times been critical of my network. And while I have not broadcast my criticisms far and wide, in fact they haven’t left my house; still, my own personal feelings have affected the network to some degree.

Really? How can the personal feelings and criticisms of one individual affect a network of a few hundred members? Can critical thoughts alone have an impact on a network? It’s very possible.

Consider the network examples used earlier; the spider web and the human body. Let’s say one strand of the web was damaged deliberately. Even one damaged strand can diminish the web’s effectiveness.

The network’s effectiveness.

When I was young feller, I got a kick out of irritating spiders. I know, I’m weird, but when I saw a spider web, I’d toss little rocks, twigs, cigarette butts and pieces of paper into the web to see if the spider would react. Usually it would appear momentarily, then dart back into hiding. By the time I was finished, the “network” was in need of repair. And I’m sure the spider was thinking of a way to get even.

A number of years ago, while working as a painter in a foundry, I did something stupid and unsafe. I was painting heavy man-hole cover rings, weighing about 300 pounds. The parts were to be dip painted by using a small hoist and hook, dipping the part into the paint, then letting it hang over the paint while it dried. I didn’t use the correct hook and, as a result, dropped the casting onto my foot. All of a sudden, my body was offended and my foot broken.

My “network” was greatly damaged.

Even though my foot was the only part damaged, my whole body had to change what and how it did things for quite some time. As with the spider web, one broken part limited the strength of the network.

Using these analogies, suppose the broken web and busted foot kept quiet about their pain, their offense, and didn’t let the other parts of their network know they were hurting or offended. Would the web or body have noticed right away. Probably not. Not until there was a situation requiring the network’s full strength. Like when a huge bug slams into the web…

Paul wrote to the Ephesians about networking. He used the human body as the example. Actually, he referred to the Church of Jesus Christ as “the Body of Christ”. A Body, made up of parts joined together, networking for a common purpose.

“And He Himself (Jesus) gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, 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; 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, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head – Christ – 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.” (Ephesians 4:11-16 NKJV)

There’s one part I would like to draw your attention to: “from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies…” Joined and knit together BY WHAT EVERY JOINT (or strand of spider web) SUPPLIES.

For a network to be strong, EVERY JOINT must supply something of value to the rest of the network.

I began to realize my complaints were not helping build a strong network. Complaints don’t add to a network’s value, they only detract. Avoiding fellowship doesn’t add value either.

Ever hear someone say, “If I can’t say anything good, I won’t say anything at all”? That is not what I’m talking about. Paul wrote, “Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.” (Ephesians 4:29 NLT) In other words, we all need to add value to those around us; those in our network. Don’t just keep quiet, saying nothing. Find something good to say so value will be added to YOUR network.

It’s also true in a local church body. The local church is a network.

What are you adding to the local body? What is your “joint” supplying to others? What do you say about your leaders? Encouraging words or venomous words?

I choose to add value to everything I’m connected to. My words will be words of blessing. I will only think the best of others. I will pray for my networks, believing God to give each member strength, wisdom, and total prosperity.

After all, we’re a network.

The Correct Tool For The Job

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I used to work on cars. My cars. I would do such things as change oil, plugs and points, wires, antifreeze; simple things like that. I have also changed a transmission, rear leaf springs, u-joints, drive shafts, front struts, brakes, hoses, heater cores, and such.

Besides learning I didn’t want to be a mechanic for hire, I learned:

a) I didn’t know everything about automobiles, though I did know quite a bit
b) I didn’t have all the necessary tools to work on everything
c) I would be better off if I asked someone who had the knowledge and proper
tools to do the job, even if it cost more money.

I remember changing the struts on my 1978 Plymouth Horizon. I didn’t have the money to pay someone to do the work, so I purchased the parts, rented a couple of spring compressors, and began the task of changing them in the carport of our apartment. I had a service manual to use, but even with the manual I was pretty much at a loss. I finally finished the job, with no parts left over, but I had wasted so much time. Then, a short while later I mentioned to a mechanic friend what I had done. He told me that was one of the stupidest and dangerous things I could have attempted. “Trained mechanics with the proper tools and training have been seriously injured while compressing the strut springs”, he said.

Tools

things (as an instrument or apparatus) used in performing an operation or necessary in the practice of a vocation or profession.

Knowledge

the fact or condition of knowing something with familiarity gained through experience or association; acquaintance with or understanding of a science, art, or technique.

Using the correct tool, and using it correctly, isn’t only important for mechanics. Knowledge of a tool, familiarization and proficiency gained through experience using a tool, is extremely important to God’s work, as well.

How many mechanics possess all knowledge and ability for each and every problem? Even the most experienced mechanic can get stumped at times. There are situations that demand the mechanic bring in someone who may specialize in a certain area. Someone with the tools and experience to assess the situation and fix the problem.

So it is in the Body of Christ, the Church.

I remember thinking, as a young pastor who loved to preach and teach, God has given me as a gift to my congregation. He has equipped me to teach and train the saints, win the lost, impart anointing, heal the sick, and leap tall buildings in a single bound.

I had guest speakers from time to time, but mainly to give myself a break, or stir up some excitement by bringing in a bigger named preacher than I. Of course, it was important to advertise, so any non-attached saints could find another church to try out.

Just recently, maybe the last 10 years or so, did I realize that all the gifts, tools, special anointings God has placed in the Body of Christ are needed for the complete maturation of the saints. (Ephesians 4:11-16)

There are a few instances from the Book of Acts I would like to share with you, in dealing with this subject.

1) In Acts 8, Phillip had traveled to the city of Samaria, preaching Jesus. What a powerful outpouring of God’s Spirit! Many people were saved, healed and delivered as a new church was planted. But when the apostles in Jerusalem heard about the outpouring, they sent Peter and John to them. Why? Not to sign papers of incorporation, but to pray and lay hands on the saints to be filled with the Spirit of God! Anyone can lay hands on another person, but God has anointed and gifted certain ones in the Body with certain “tools of the trade.” And because of the “special mechanic’s ministry”, people were filled with the Spirit and God’s word multiplied!

2) Acts 9 is another example of a “specialist’s” ministry. Dorcas had died, but the saints heard Peter was staying over in a town close by. So they called for him, asking him to come and raise the woman from the dead! Again, the pastor, deacon, women’s ministries president; these all could have prayed and believed God (and probably did). But they recognized God had equipped some with certain things, like the gift of faith, that should be utilized and not ignored.

3) Barnabas was sent by the Jerusalem church to assist with the foundational work in establishing the church in Antioch. Again, there were others in Jerusalem who could have used some of their vacation time for a short term missionary assignment. But Barnabas was anointed and equipped to minister to that group at that time.

4) Acts 21 tells of Phillip again, only by this time he had 4 daughters who prophesied. Paul and his minister friends stopped off to visit with Phillip for awhile. During their visit, The Lord sent Agabus, the prophet, to minister specifically to Paul. Why didn’t The Lord use the tools already in the house? Because He needed a specific tool for a specific task.

Years ago, it was common for pastors to schedule “special” meetings. Several meetings, even meetings that lasted for weeks, would be scheduled each year. The Lord would speak to the pastor about the need for a special work to be done in the church, so the pastor would follow His leading and “call” someone with the experience and the tools to meet the need. God would set up the opportunity to further equip His people.

Yes, the economy has changed and it’s harder to pay the bills.

Yes, with only one service a week, there isn’t the opportunity to have “specialists” come in.

Yes, the congregation needs to hear the lead pastor.

Yes, people aren’t interested in extended meetings any longer.

Yes, people are too busy, or too distracted, or…

Yes, yes, yes.

But maybe the issue with our people isn’t just their business. Maybe we, as leaders, have given in to the pressure of our society. Maybe we don’t really believe our congregation wants to grow in the Lord. Maybe we expect God to work His miracles, train the saints, win the lost, heal the sick, and call people into ministry using the schedule and format we give Him. Maybe we don’t trust our people to give to another’s ministry, or we’re jealous when they do?

I really believe the church is fast approaching its finest, yet most difficult hour. It’s imperative we keep an open ear to God’s heart and His word. The church of Jesus Christ needs all the gifts, anointings, and impartations the Lord has planned and prepared for it. Without them…

…it’s like trying to change struts in a carport.

Biblical, Spiritual Elders

Elders

Biblical, Spiritual Elders

“Doing” church these days can be kind of confusing. Trying to understand terminologies, such as bishop, deacon, head deacon, minister, pastor, elder, and so on can really be overwhelming. Discussing such a topic as Kingdom Leadership can be as challenging as discussing the Holy Spirit’s ministry in a cross-denominational discussion forum. Wide variety of opinions, interpretation of scripture, and personal feelings sometimes find their way into the discussion.

Understanding that dynamic, let me say up front that, though I hold my opinions expressed in this article to be true, I do not, for a minute, believe I have full and complete revelation on the matter. I simply want to share truth as I see it, submit it to other Kingdom Leaders for review and dialog, and continue to grow in Kingdom Leadership effectiveness. And I wouldn’t be surprised to have people write and tell me I need to get a life, or something.

I do not want to “split hairs” with this subject. The Kingdom of God is not in word only, but in power. It’s not what we call ourselves that really matters. Yet we need to understand how Kingdom leadership works, how we submit to it and function in it.

Biblical, spiritual elders. Paul said, “Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.” (Acts 20:27 -28 NKJV) Overseers – elders. The term, Elder, is not just a New Testament term. It was used a lot in the Old Testament when referring to the leaders under Moses, those Joshua appointed, as well as other men and women of God.

Basically, a biblical, spiritual elder is someone ordained and anointed by God, and recognized by other leaders, to help equip, exhort, and encourage the Church. Theirs may not be a widely known ministry , or, they MAY be well known throughout the Body of Christ. They link with others, either on a local scale, such as a local fellowship of believers, or on a much broader scale, such as city-wide, regional, national or even global scale. Point is, they link together for the purpose of governing and directing the Church to enable it to fulfill its divine destiny. Whether their ministry is “small” or “large”, it is indispensible.

An elder can operate as an Apostle, Prophet, or any of the “5-fold” ministries mentioned in Ephesians 4:11. However, in my opinion, they don’t have to be defined or confined by one of the 5 mentioned, to be an elder. They may preach, prophesy, pray, teach or lead worship. Or, they may not be used of God for any of those specific purposes. Or, the opposite may be true. True Apostles, Prophets, etc. are elders, but not all elders are apostles. Peter made a statement in 1 Peter 5:1, “now a word to you who are elders in the churches. I, too, am an elder…as a fellow elder I appeal to you.” (NLT)

It was explained to me, when I asked someone why the word “pastor” isn’t used much in the New Testament, that when the church was first formed the Apostles went around to different fellowships and appointed “elders” – those older, more experienced with life and how to deal with it, to help the younger ones. All were young in the faith. So, it was told me, God had a plan to help the Church grow until more people could be trained to lead.I believe most of that line of reasoning. What I’m not sure about is why the Church has, by and large, dropped “elder” from its lexicon. Now there are people in churches who wear the title of “Elder”, but that’s not what I’m referring to. An old mule could be called a kangaroo, but watch it long enough and you’ll know it’s not a kangaroo.

Biblical, spiritual elders, were established by God as far back as Adam. He was to rule, govern, under the authority of God Almighty. Things got messed up, but that didn’t take away Adam’s calling under God. God helped restore him and, I believe, poured into Adam truth that would affect generations to come. Study it out and you’ll find Adam living long enough to pour truth into many generations! When Adam died, though, people fell further and further from the Truth. Noah, Abraham and sons, Moses. These were all biblical, spiritual elders. They would help govern God’s people, and defend God’s righteous cause. They were people others could go to for counsel and support. People anointed and trusted to uphold truth in the spirit of love. The ones God anointed as judges, they also functioned as elders. The children of Israel did well as long as the judges were around, but when they died, each one did what was right in their own sight.

Reheboam, Solomon’s son, was asked a question pertaining to his new role of leader. He consulted his elders for advice. They told him to loosen the fist of leadership from around the people and they would follow him forever. That’s what the elders said. But he didn’t follow their advice. He followed the advice of his peers, his drinking buddies, who told him to tighten his fist around Israel. That advice split the Kingdom.

It’s good to have peers, partners, people who will agree with your every decision. But God has established elders in the Church. They are to help keep the Church from splitting and falling by the wayside. Even the great man of God, Moses, couldn’t fulfill his calling without the help of elders. Think about this. God used someone not “in the church” to help Moses see that truth!

The church has had elders for a long time. So why are there so many issues and divisions in the church today? Could it be that 1) the church hasn’t paid any attention to elders, not knowing those who labor among them, and 2) the church has paid TOO MUCH attention to them, idolizing them to the point of unsure footing? Unsure footing? Standing on man-made “truth” mixed with God’s Word. Shaky ground.

Use a concordance and look at the references for “Elder”. You’ll discover these truths about biblical, spiritual elders:

1. Elders have authority and responsibility to shepherd the church (see Isaiah 40:11)

2. Elders can carry on kingdom work even if the leader is absent

3. Elders are aware of “the times” and act appropriately.

4. Elders will follow the lead of spiritual authority, obey the placement (around the tabernacle), and receive the same spirit as their leader.

5. Elders witness transactions / deals made. They sit at the gate to rule, judge, and determine who enters, who trades and peddles, and see to it that justice and mercy work hand in hand.

6. Elders’ experience, as well as their spiritual insight, help them govern.

7. Elders have a direct bearing on the spiritual condition in the land.

8. Elders identify with the spiritual condition left them by previous generations and seek to rectify or build on the condition.

Whichever term you decide to use when referring to God given, God anointed, spiritual leadership, don’t forget their place in the Body of Christ. Remember James, “anyone sick…let him call for the ELDERS of the church…”? Elders. Might be a pastor, might be a prophet. Might be…but should be an elder.

I believe the Lord is saying He is “raising up people who will function in the Church, and in the world (Moses “communicating” with Pharaoh) as biblical, spiritual elders. Unknown by many, not wearing a particular title or badge, but walking in heaven’s authority. They will function as elder’s of old. Fire will fall from heaven as they speak heaven’s word. Miracles will multiply and Jesus will be magnified. Man’s “High Places” of idol worship will be distinguished between My place of True Worship. ”

“The end is close. The work is great. The Anointing of Jesus more than adequate! Be who you were made to be – recognize your place and others in the Body of Christ – and understand the Body functions as ONE.”

Elders. Not just a name.

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