A Word To My Hyper-Holy Brethren:Caterpillars Can’t Fly

No, I don’t have an axe to grind. I’m not angry at anyone. And I don’t for one second presume to think I know better or am better than anyone else-because I’m not better and I don’t know anything. I’m just a small voice in a small corner of the world, trying to fulfill the Great Commission. I don’t expect to change anyone’s mind about anything with the words that follow. But I’d like to address several important issues that have been scratching at my heart and mind lately. Indulge me if you please.

Ok. Let me lay down some ground rules. I am Pentecostal. No shame for me there. I would probably be described as being of the more ‘conservative’ brand; comparatively speaking-as opposed to those who are hyper or ultra Pentecostal. I am neither, but I am Pentecostal nonetheless. We’re the ones who speak in tongues. Some of us jump, shout, and wave our hands; we are quite the demonstrative ones. Some even run, spin around or wave their hands; and I hold no malice toward those who do those things–I do some of those things myself. But it must all be Spirit led and Spirit driven, and not flesh driven. Having said all that, I must say sadly, that as I see it, much of the bad doctrine that has permeated the church in recent years, has come from our camp (I speak also of the closely related Charismatics). It’s actually a shame to even speak of different ‘camps’–seeing that God does not recognize denominations anyway.

Do Pentecostals have the corner on spirituality? Of course not. Depending  on what church you attend, why is it that we Pentecostals sometimes spend so much time and effort trying to make everyone else just like we are? Let me tell you what happens sometimes, or rather what I have witnessed. In some churches there are ‘cliques’. These cliques sometimes call themselves ‘ministries’. Some of them, however, are quite ‘exclusive.’ To be a part, you basically have to do what they do and speak and believe what they do. If you don’t measure up, you become a piriah (an outcast), and you get treated as such (yes, I’ve seen it).

In some churches, tradition prevails over truth in some matters. Many people, especially young people, are made to feel as if they must ‘conform’. They are inadvertently pushed by well meaning, but overzealous parents and in some instances pastors, to be baptized, take communion, or even ‘preach’. I once heard a pastor tell a young person, ‘You’ve been coming to church long enough, why are you not baptized yet?’ Surely time spent in church cannot be the criteria for getting baptized and such, right? Am I missing something? Caterpillars cannot fly. Longevity has its place, but that alone is no substitute for salvation. Before baptism and the like can take place, a person must be saved. Encouraging individuals, especially youth, to do saved things, will not benefit them-if they’re not saved. As it pertains to preaching, the church is not the place to ‘hone’ your preaching skills. Young people don’t need to ‘learn’ how to preach. If the call of God has been placed on someone’s life to preach, He will make it known. The church is not the Aberdeen Proving Grounds. You may be thinking, ‘Who set you up as a judge, and how do you know who’s saved or not?’ What I will say is that God has given us discernment; the Spirit-led ability to know whether someone or something is of God or not. In our desire to see young people serve God, we must not attempt to ‘play God’ by placing them behind the pulpit to keep them on fire for God. If some of these are not saved in the first place, as stated previously, then there’s no fire anyway; putting them behind the sacred desk will do them no good, except possibly giving them a false sense of security, resulting in the mistaken idea that they must be a Christian; ‘After all, I preached!’, some may say to themselves. When will we learn that going and being in church is not the equivalent of being in Christ. The pulpit, as far as the preaching of the Word goes, is for those who have been called to it.

The following matters are not weighty issues at all. They do not affect one’s salvation in one way or another. I bring them up only as points of reference as they pertain to youth, or others affected by it. For instance, does the bible explicitly state that it is a sin for a woman to ‘straighten’ or ‘perm’ her hair? Weaves? No. Many young people in hyper-holy churches are told yes. How about braids? Or pants on women? Sleeveless blouses in God’s house anyone? Those who are part of the hyper-holy crowd will tell you that these things are evil, worldly, and just plain ungodly. Once again, I’m simply using these cases as examples. My aim is not engage in any lengthy debate. I’m only saying that for those who believe that these and many other such things are actually sinful, young people in particular are placed under pressure and highly scrutinized. The older ‘saints’, in an effort to keep them and the church ‘holy’, are actually turning out ‘clones’, i.e., younger versions of themselves. Is this what we want? Listen to what Jesus said: ‘Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves (Mat.23:15). I’m not calling anyone a child of hell, but what I am saying is that we should avoid adopting a ‘pharisaical’ mindset. Should we not want folk to be like Jesus, and not like ourselves? With all of our holier than thou, pre-conceived, ‘I think that’s what Jesus would’ve done’ attitudes? Half the things folk do in church, in His name, He never sanctioned anyway!

When it comes to matters of praise, worship, the moving of the Spirit of God and prayer, how is pressure placed upon the young? First of all, church, i.e., the worship service, is not a circus. The Spirit of God can have His way without it being a free for all. Anything should not go in God’s house. The Holy Spirit is the moderator of worship services-not we ourselves. Some of the things I’ve seen over the course of many years in several places, amount to one thing–flesh. Scripture tells us in 1 Jonn 4:1, that we should test the spirits, to see whether they are of God or not. He’s telling us here not to be deceived; everything that looks of God is not of God. So, when some well meaning saint places their hands on someone to pray for them, and the immediate response of the one being prayed for is a shake, and a shimmy, and a shout, and the same response comes from the next one, and the next one, and the next one, etc.; and all of the responses are exactly alike in word and motion–then I know that something is rotten in Denmark! No rocket science is needed to figure out that something’s not right.

Mimicking has become an art in many Pentecostal churches. As I stated at the outset, I’m Pentecostal myself. We’re loud. We express ourselves. This is what we do. However, we all cannot do the very same thing, in the very same way, at the very same time all of the time. It’s not a spiritual phenomenon, but it is a fleshly one.What I believe has happened in some places is that folk have simply, and maybe unintentionally picked up one another’s behavior, and made it their own. When this happens they are not allowing the Spirit of God to work uniquely with them, and settle for ‘conforming’ to what everyone else does. This in turn causes the Spirit of God to step back because not only is He grieved, but He is quenched now that the flesh has come in. Scripture plainly states: ‘…So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.’ (Romans 8:8). Young people, sometimes because they don’t know any better, or because they just want to be a part, unfortunately fall into this terrible behavior of just doing; copying and mimicking what the older ones do; and it’s not good, and it’s not right. Caterpillars cannot fly.

As far as the scripture goes, a wrongly divided word will do untold damage to those who hear it. When preachers add restrictions and read things into scripture that are not there, they place invisible shackles upon those under the sound of that word. For the young, many of them carry those chains with them into adulthood, with varying degrees of misery. As they grow, many begin to question certain restrictions that have been placed on them because they don’t find proof of these restrictions in the Word for themselves. This is because these restrictions do not exist! Rather, they are the unfortunate misinterpretations of those who have treaded down legalism’s path. Legalism is a dangerous monster and it’s victims are many. Young people who have chosen to opt out of church due to all they have seen, heard and experienced. For each one who has opted out, several others have thought about it or are presently thinking about it. A young lady told me years ago that she couldn’t wait until she turned eighteen, because then she was going to leave home, and leave church, due to the fact that she had had enough. All I know is, from that point, I began seeing her less and less-until I didn’t see her anymore.

Let me close by saying that we are not perfect. This should be obvious. But we must take pains to get the Word right. If not we run the risk of pushing people out rather bringing them in. The Word of God is described as a hammer; (Jeremiah 23:29), but we must not turn it into a spiked club. The Word is a sword; (Ephesians 6:17; Hebrews 4:12) but we must refrain from using it as a dagger. Let’s draw them to the water of life that they may drink-freely. We must not impose, we must not force, assume or take things for granted. We need to draw young people and everyone else to the living water, but we cannot make them drink. It’s the simple presentation of the gospel-the message of the Cross, preached under in the power and anointing of the Holy Spirit that will change lives. Anything more, or anything less, will not produce the desired results. Only saved people should do ‘saved’ things. Caterpillars can’t fly; and they shouldn’t try-not until they’ve been transformed into butterflies. And then the sky is the limit.

That’s the Word! Take it with you. God bless you.

Are You Paying Attention?

PAY ATTENTION

We live in fast paced world. Everything and everyone is on the move, and everyone seems to be busy doing something, and who’s to say what’s being done is not important? But with all the things there are to do, who has the time? With things pulling you in every direction, and everyone wanting a piece of you, what’s important? What is worthy of your valuable time? What do you pass off, and what do you pay attention to? Because as should be obvious, we do need to pay attention to what’s going on around us.

When we look at it from a spiritual perspective, it all becomes even more important to pay attention. Scripture is full of admonitions to ‘take heed’, which means not just to pay attention, but to pay careful attention. Both Old and New Testaments speak at length about this often looked over discipline. We read in Deuteronomy 4:9:

  • Only take heed to thyself, and keep thy soul diligently, lest thou forget the things which thine eyes have seen, and lest they depart from thy heart all the days of thy life…

And then in Hebrews 2:1:

  • Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip.

Whether you are a babe in Christ, or have been living for the Lord for any number of years, paying careful attention to our walk should not be underestimated.

One of the reasons why so many Christians struggle, is because they live loose, slipshod, and raggedy Christian lives. What I mean by all that is that they live on a ‘whatever sounds right is right’ mentality. A little bit from here, and a little bit from there; a little dab of this and a little dab of that. When it comes to their daily walk, and trying to make practical application of these ‘spiritual tidbits’, the struggle ensues, because what it all amounts to  is what resembles a patchwork of belief systems, pulled in from different places to make a whole with no solidity and no root; just a runny doctrinal mess. It needs to be understood that an improper doctrinal foundation will only lead to trouble down the line. For this reason, and several others we will explore, we need to pay careful attention. Are you paying attention?

WE NEED TO PAY CAREFUL ATTENTION TO OUR COVENANTS & COMPANIONS

  • Take heed to thyself, lest thou make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land whither thou goest, lest it be for a snare in the midst of thee: Exodus 34:12

This speaks of our relationship with the world. The Lord is saying that we should not make, or have any close, intimate alliances with the world. We cannot ‘sleep with the enemy’, so to speak. Here’s how the New Testament breaks it down:

  • Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? 2 Corinthians 6:14

The Israelites were prone to backsliding; they were easily beset by the sin of compromise. The danger lied in becoming  too closely entangled with the people and their ways and allowing those ways to become their own. This challenge is also ours: to be in the world, and remain unspotted from the world. I don’t believe any of us do it to any perfection because as one preacher puts it, ‘the clinging vines of the fall’ are not easily broken. However, who you surround yourself with and who you allow into your space  matters. We need to pay careful attention to our covenants and our companions. Are you paying attention?

WE NEED TO PAY CAREFUL ATTENTION TO THE COMPASS OF OUR HEART

  • Take heed to yourselves, that your heart be not deceived, and ye turn aside, and serve other gods, and worship them; Deuteronomy 11:16

The Lord says that we are to pay careful attention to our hearts, because simply put, as the heart goes, so goes the life. King Solomon put it this way:

  • Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life. Proverbs 4:23

Jeremiah 17:9 reminds us that,

  • The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?

Wherever and whatever our hearts are drawn to, will be the place where our affection lies. Jesus himself said:

  • For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. Matthew 6:21

All this means that we need to pay careful attention to our heart’s trajectory. Where does it lean? In what direction does it constantly point you toward? Which way do you find yourself turning? If we do not get a handle on this, we will slowly find ourselves turning aside, running to, and embracing those things which can only bring us back into bondage. Are you paying attention?

WE NEED TO PAY CAREFUL ATTENTION TO THE CARES OF THIS LIFE

  • And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares. Luke 21:34

When there’s too much going on in our lives and around us, our minds and hearts can become dulled, and numbed to it all. Once again, the heart is referenced as we’re told to pay careful attention to our hearts (which can be translated, ‘mind’ here), so it doesn’t become weighed and bogged down with,  ‘stuff.’ It is not just our alliances that ought to be selective, but also our activities. We may not have issues with partying or drunkenness, as spoken in this verse, but we all have cares in this life. These are the things that cause us to take our eyes off what is most important. Jesus said that the cares, riches, and pleasures of this life will choke the Word out of our lives and make us unfruitful (Lu.8:14). Are you paying attention?

WE NEED TO  PAY CAREFUL ATTENTION TO OUR COMMUNICATION

First, we need to pay careful attention how we communicate the Word to others:

  • And he answered and said, Must I not take heed to speak that which the Lord hath put in my mouth? Numbers 23:12

We all feel we have something important to say, and what we have to say is important, except when what is being said clashes with His Word. That’s when my words are no longer important. His word rules.
When speaking, relating, explaining or proclaiming the Word of God, we must be careful to speak what the Lord has spoken. In our verse, Balaam speaks this way because he had already proven himself to be willing to tickle the people’s ears for a price, and God found it necessary to chastise him. We must never make the mistake of muzzling, softening, changing, adding or subtracting anything that God has spoken or has done.

Secondly, we must pay careful attention how the Word is communicated to us:

  • And he charged them, saying, Take heed, beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, and of the leaven of Herod. Mark 8:15

When I say ‘how’ the Word is communicated here, I don’t mean the manner in which it is done, but rather the content of what is spoken. Is it truth? Does it line up with the Word of God? It’s important to note also that scripture usually uses the word ‘leaven’ to illustrate sin. Here it means ‘doctrine’ or ‘teaching.’ Jesus says to pay careful attention to, and be on guard for the teachings of two groups: the Pharisees and the Herods.

The leaven of the Pharisees can be defined as, ‘the hypocrisy and religious traditions that overturn and set aside God’s righteous commands, and both invalidate and make of no effect God’s Word and God’s will.’ The leaven of Herod can be similarly regarded as, ‘the spirit of secularism and worldliness, along with the attending immortality and corruptness that accompanies them.’

We have to pay careful attention as to who we allow to speak into our lives. With the myriad of voices around us claiming to have a ‘word from the Lord’ we must be very selective. New believers need especially to arm and equip themselves with basic foundational teaching. But what is right? Who is right? When it comes to doctrine, everything that glitters is not gold. Much of the church’s teaching nowadays can be classified as ‘fool’s gold.’ It looks right, it sounds right, but if I may use the vernacular–it ain’t right. The key is not accepting views of those who preach human ideas, unbiblical traditions, or a secular humanistic type of gospel.

  • Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. Colossians 2:8

Once again the admonition is to be on guard. Receiving and accepting this type of teaching will bring weakness to the church in general and to your personal walk with the Lord. False teaching, properly labeled, ‘doctrines of demons’ in scripture, will always seek to drive a wedge between the Christian and truth. Are you paying attention?

FINALLY, WE NEED TO PAY CAREFUL ATTENTION TO THE CROSS

  • How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him; Hebrews 2:3

This great savation is all about the Cross. It is the Cross that saves us, it is the Cross that sanctifies us, and it will be the Cross that keeps us.

  • Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 1 Peter 1:5

The Cross is the power of God, because it was there, at the Cross, that Satan was defeated, and remains defeated. If we neglect and overlook the Cross, we do ourselves great harm. We must embrace it and keep it at the center of all we do, because it is the center of who we are. Are you paying attention?

That’s the Word! Take it with you. God bless you.

Too Much Church And Not Enough Jesus

Grabbed Frame 102 (2)

Pizza parties. Game nights. Movie nights. Seemingly clever little ideas to draw youth into the church or keep them in. It all sounds good, maybe done with good intentions. Food! Fun! Fellowship! Make it all worth their while. Give them a reason to want to come. We do need to at least make it a little more exciting, right? After all, who wants to go to another boring service? Give them something to do. How about a dance ministry? Step team? Mime? Anybody down for the drama team? Let’s call another week or two long revival, with an exciting guest speaker–or maybe a concert. That’ll bring them in won’t it? Here’s a novel idea: we’ll let them preach to one another and let them have their own worship team. Not a problem here; except let’s make sure that all the parties involved are saved first please? Let’s top it all off with some good music; not that slow old fashioned kind–something new, fresh, rhythmic and LOUD—because every little bit helps.

Unfortunately, the church has dug deep into the world’s grab bag and tried to implement many of these things into itself.  We cannot win the world to Christ using the worlds’ methods. The church has also, without realizing it, tried to improve upon the gospel message. By that I mean to make it more palatable to the taste. Let’s not talk so much talk about sin, and the blood; that’s not appealing. Let’s give them something more soothing and inviting. When this is done, it becomes watered down. A watered down Word will not and cannot save anyone.

I’m well acquainted with most of the arguments for these things. One,  for example says ‘Young people need to express themselves; they need an outlet.’ Take dancing for one. They say, ‘After all, didn’t David dance before the Lord?’ Oh yes he most certainly did! Only David’s dance was not choreographed; his was spontaneous praise.

If all any church can do is to play the music louder and faster to get the youth, (or anyone else for that matter), to jump higher, sweat harder, dance better, and shout louder, then what has been done? Nothing. Where’s the anointing? The doing of all those things does not guarantee the Spirits’ approval or presence.

Today’s church is off track, out of line, and gone astray. It has abandoned the old fashioned gospel and has made a plate at the table of entertainment and a ‘feel good’ message; a catchy, alluring and psychologized message that invites you to, among other things, ‘live your best life now’. It has gotten away from the mission statement given by the Lord Jesus Christ: ‘…Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.’ (Mark 16:15)

The church is not an entertainment outlet. Instead of ‘shakin’, rattlin’ and rollin’, the church should be evangelizing and preaching and reaching the lost with the gospel. Not prosperity. Not social justice. Not a ‘happy, feel good’ word. You go ahead and live ‘your best life now’, and be as ‘purpose driven’ as you want to be, but there are hard times coming. Much harder than the hokum that’s being preached now can handle. The true, cross-centered gospel will liberate the sin-chained souls of men and women. None of the pseudo-gospels (which are actually no gospel at all), have any power to save or set free. For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. (Rom.1:16). These so-called gospels only pander to the flesh and to those with itching ears; yearning to be told that everything is alright.

From where I stand, young people are disenchanted; many are deceived, and even more are lost. I see young people leaving the church because they do not see and have not experienced anything that is real. Sheer emotionalism will not cut it; and it is the fault of the church. Young people and others are being fed a steady appetite of ‘church’–or what is called church, and not enough Jesus. More dancing, more sweating, more jumping, more shouting–and no anointing. No power. There is nothing wrong with these things in themselves, but is that all you have? When the enemy attacks and comes in like a flood, if that’s all you do have, then the enemy will come in like a flood, and overtake them!

The church needs to come home to the Cross. That’s where our life in Christ began and where it needs to stay. There are no alternatives. It cannot be improved upon or minimized. Preach it. Teach it. Proclaim it. Live it. Cherish it.

So I’ll cherish the old rugged cross,
Till my trophies at last I lay down;
I will cling to the old rugged cross,
And exchange it someday for a crown.

That’s the Word. Take it with you. God bless you.

Cutting It Straight

NEWSHOWLOGO 145Excuse me as I wax blissfully about one of my loves…

Oh the joy of studying the bible! There is nothing like having a pile of commentaries and dictionaries stacked up on my desk just to go over a passage! The pure joy of plumbing the depths of New Testament Greek just to understand one word! The utter feeling of satisfaction that comes from knowing exactly what you have to do when you get home-STUDY! Yes!

My words may seem sarcastic to some, but it should be apparent that I really love studying the bible! It is my hobby and my pastime, if I may describe it as such. Most and more important than all that, it’s my calling. It is what God has given and gifted me to do for Him as a contribution to His church. I teach, and if I teach for Him, it must be right.     My approach, my preparation, my perseverance, and my presentation must be proper.

Bible reading and especially bible study are obvious necessities of the Christian life. Along with prayer, they are commonly known as spiritual ‘disciplines’. They’re called disciplines because they don’t come naturally to us. We will do them and do them to a greater degree as we surrender ourselves to the Spirit of God. Without bible reading we will not know fully what the Lord wants to communicate to us, and without bible study, we will remain in a state of spiritual infancy. For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. (Hebrews 5:12).

As I study the Word, first my approach must be right. I must believe that it is His Word and not my own. But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him. (Hebrews 11:6). I must be careful not to insert any of  my own bias into it. I must not force a meaning into it that is not there. When this is done, it plants the ungodly seeds of false doctrine.

When it comes to bible study, the scripture we love to tout the most, and rightfully so, is found in 2 Timothy 2:15. It says, Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. Having said that, it is important to note that the word ‘study’ in this verse (in the original Greek), actually has no direct reference to reading or studying as we understand it. It is from a verb that means ‘to make haste’, ‘to be zealous or eager’, or ‘to make every effort.’ So what is it that we are supposed to be eager and making every effort to do? We are to be presenting or showing ourselves as approved unto God. But how? Stay with me.

Secondly, my preparation to study the Word must begin with prayer. Asking the Lord to quicken His Word in the mind and heart and remove any obstacle so that they are ready to receive from Him. The fact that the Holy Spirit here uses the word ‘workman’ here, indicates that I am a laborer, and that the business of being approved unto God will not be easy. Satan will do all he is able to do to sidetrack and derail our faith. This is why we must keep our eyes on Christ and His cross, knowing that the battle was already won there. That leads directly into the third point. Perseverance will only happen on my part as I continue to rest my faith in Christ and all He accomplished on the cross. Anything less weakens me and pulls me away from Him.

Finally, there is the presentation of the Word. Approval also has to do with a proper handling of the Word. The phrase ‘rightly divide’ is one word in Greek and it means ‘to cut in a straight line.’ As I prepare to teach or preach, I am to be honest in my handling of it. The Word must be taught and preached in a straightforward manner, being careful not to tickle any ears in the process. In other words, as a minister of the Word, I must resist the temptation to tell people what they want to hear; which will probably make them feel good. Rather, I should speak exactly what the bible says, mincing no words. It should be understood that the Word does not always bring comfort as we know it. In 2 Timothy 3:16, we read among other things, that scripture is useful for reproof, which has the idea of bringing conviction, and also for correction; two things that we need from time to time as we traverse this life in the Lord.

As it pertains to the Word, when I approach, prepare, persevere and present the Word with these things in mind, and make every effort to do so, I will know that I have been approved unto God; maybe not unto man, but that doesn’t matter. When it comes to the Word, cut it straight–and no tickling!

That’s the Word! Take it with you. God bless you.

Planes, Thangs, Autmobiles and Other Sins of The Rich and Righteous

ilovemoneyI’ve never actually wanted to be rich. I mean I’ve just never had the itch to have a whole lot of money. A decent roof over my head, and having my basic needs met seems to have always been enough for me. Now don’t get me wrong. I’ve had plenty. I’ve been at that place where I didn’t have to worry about food, rent or mortgage and the like. I’ve also been in that place where I had pretty much nothing; living paycheck to paycheck, so to speak. So I’ve been in both places and truth be told, plenty is better. When one does have plenty though, the tendency is to forget God; we become comfortable. Having nothing much will keep you on your knees. I think I can rest somewhere in the middle.

Obviously there is nothing inherently wrong with being rich. If God chooses to bless me greatly financially, if He chooses to bless the fruit of my labor, or if He chooses to bless because I have been a good steward of what He has provided, or whatever the case may be, I would graciously receive whatever He gives with thanksgiving. However, I believe that the seeking out of wealth, for wealth’s sake and devoting one’s whole life purpose to the accumulation of riches will prove to be problematic. ‘Money is root of all evil!’ they say. Well they are wrong. It’s the love of money that is the root of all evil. 1 Timothy 6:10 says: For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. See the problem? Loving money and setting one’s heart on it is a form of greed and causes one to take their eyes off the Lord and wander away from Him. It also causes the offender to be on the receiving end of much sorrow and misery. It’s better to take the Apostle Paul’s advice (actually a command), to young Pastor Timothy. He told him, ‘Flee these things.’ (1 Timothy 6:11).

Now I read that Pastor Creflo Dollar (yes that is his real name), is asking for money to purchase a new jet for his ‘World Changers’ ministry. The old one purchased in 1999 has engine problems. The new luxury jet will cost 65 million dollars. He’s asking for 200,000 people to contribute 300 dollars apiece to meet the need. The statement from his website reads in part: ‘…we believe it is time to replace this aircraft so that our Pastors and staff can continue to safely and swiftly share the Good News of the Gospel worldwide. We need your help to continue reaching a lost and dying world for the Lord Jesus Christ.’ Awww. Just the right combination of compelling words to almost make one want to give out of duty and compassion. But here’s the problem with the statement. Aside from the phrase ‘Good News of the Gospel’ being redundant (the word gospel already means ‘good news’; it’s like saying ‘good news of the good news’), there is a much more serious problem. What exactly is the gospel that he is preaching? Creflo Dollar teaches a ‘prosperity’ gospel. It is both nefarious and unbiblical. It is a gospel laced with untruths, half truths and scripture twisted so tight it takes discernment of the highest order to weed it out. He is also a major proponent of the ‘gospel of grace’ or ‘grace revolution’, as it is touted, which states that since we’ve been forgiven, there’s no need to ever confess your sins again. Basically, though they don’t say it in so many words, I am to ignore the convicting power of the Holy Spirit if I sin, as a matter of fact, it’s not the Spirit convicting you, it’s the devil trying to make you sin conscious, because I’m already forgiven! That, my friend, is very near blasphemy; attributing the work of the Holy Ghost to the devil. Here’s what scripture has to say about those who promote false gospels which are actually no gospel at all and preach another Jesus: Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple. (Romans 16:17-18).  

That all being said, why would a truth loving child of God want to support this type of ministry or any like it that preaches and teaches the things they do? I’ve only given you the most basic tenets of what they believe; it’s all much more intricate. The Apostle Paul stated that he preached ‘Christ crucified.’ (1 Corinthians 1:23). That speaks of the Cross, and we can do no wrong by preaching the same.

But alas, Creflo Dollar will get his 65 million dollars and his new luxury jet and will probably continue spouting his pseudo-gospel. These men and women have countless followers who support their ministries and have made it possible for them to live like kings and queens. Their lavish lifestyles filled with planes, cars, houses and land are all passed off as blessings from the Lord. The jury is still out on that one. Building a ministry and lifestyle on the backs of the deceived is not my idea of being blessed.

But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed. (Galatians 1:8-9). Powerful words. So powerful, he had to say it twice.

That’s the Word! Take it with you. God bless you.

The Madness of the King’s Children

confusedAfter hearing it over the radio, I needed to see it for myself. The host of this Christian program said I could go online and check it out. He spoke of one Todd Bentley, an ‘evangelist’ (I use the term very loosely), down in Florida who said that the Holy Spirit had instructed him to thrust his knee into the stomach of a man suffering from colon cancer in order to remove the cancer. As you mull that over in your mind, I will tell you that when I first heard that, I was grieved in my spirit. To lie against the Spirit of God, and make him part and parcel to his own personal madness. I mean, it is madness isn’t it? I did go home and watch online this ghastly act by this ‘man of God.’ He said that when he’s dealing with Geeky Unsure Womancancer it’s necessary to drive it out and that he needed to be ‘obedient’ to the Spirit of God. This same man testifies to the fact that God instructed him to kick a woman in the face to heal a tumor in her leg. Madness. I can and will say no more about him. I’m grieved as I write.

There are many other words and acts of madness being perpetrated by men and women of God among God’s people. In most cases, they are well meaning pastors and leaders, who have the trust of their congregations. The congregation in turn buy into many of the false words and actions of their leaders. When the leader says that they ‘had a dream’, or God spoke to them ‘and He said…’, it is immediately scooped and eaten up as from the Lord, no questions asked. The thinking is, ‘After all, he or she is the man or woman of God and they know.’ Sounds plausible. But not so fast.

Case in point. I was in a service at a particular church some years back. Several individuals had come from another church with instructions that we needed to drink some concoction that someone had dreamt about in order to protect us. Protect us from what I don’t know. Was the dream from God? Do I need to drink something in order for the Lord to protect me? Am I supposed to fall in line and do this thing, just because it was spoken by reputable leaders sanctioned by the pastor? I sat and watched incredulously as the cups were passed out, and the mixture was poured. They prayed and everyone drank. Except me. I refused a cup. I was grieved. It was madness. Let me explain what I mean by madness. By madness I simply mean the crazy, ridiculous, unnecessary and in nearly all cases, unscriptural things Christians do and say and pass off as ‘of God.’

Here’s a statement I heard that perfectly fits this description of madness. I was in a bible class at another church where the teacher made a statement to this effect: He said (get ready for this) when a preacher sweats and wipes his brow, those tissues or napkins should not be thrown away because they can be used to pray for the sick. Good night! I wrote it down so I would never forget that slice of lunacy. Unfortunately, there are those who believe that if I am ‘in the Spirit’, and my sweat is transferred to you, or if I even touch you, now you have my anointing. Madness. Show me scripture. I had a woman tell me years ago that when she was in church, she would stand next to certain people so that the Spirit could ‘jump on her.’ When has the Holy Spirit ever jumped on anyone? Madness.

cropped-openbible91.jpgWhen people have another authority other than the Word of God, they will slowly slide into this madness that I speak of. When faith is placed in a dream or an experience, or I have an unhealthy trust in any person, that they cannot be wrong, there is a strong likelihood that they will falter at some point in time. No one would like to admit it but we place more faith in the man of God than in the Word of God, else how do folk wind up listening to and obeying some of the unscriptural things they spout?

I could cite several other examples of things I’ve seen and heard over the years that can be construed as madness. Suffice it to say, we need to be sure that we know in whom we have believed. We need to be sure that scripture and scripture alone is our final authority. If what you say or if what you do does not line up with it, then I am not in agreement with it. Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path. (Psalms 119:105). Thy Word. Nothing else will do. Let’s stop the madness. 

That’s the Word! Take it with you. God bless you.

Leaving The Word Behind

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Allow me to set the stage. Several years back I was standing outside of a church after the service. The weather was cold, raw and damp. The preacher that day was compelling and dynamic. As people continued to file out, adjusting their coats and jackets to the inclement weather, out comes the preacher of the day, dressed in shirtsleeves. I casually remarked to him with a smile, ‘Hey my brother, you better run inside and grab your jacket, it’s kind of chilly out here.’ I will never forget his response. He replied bluntly and boldly, ‘It’s ok. Sickness is not for me.’ Really. Having heard him preach, I knew where he was coming from, but I was still dumbstruck. Sickness was not for him. Simply amazing.

The truth is, we live in a fallen world. There are germs everywhere and we are susceptible to them. Under the right conditions anyone can become sick. There are things lurking within our bodies that will make themselves known at some point in time. We age and this body begins its slow and persistent descent.

This preachers’ mindset is nothing new. His thinking is obviously steeped in the belief that sickness is of the devil and the child of God has no part in that. To be sick or become sick is due to a lack of faith on our part. What must be done to remedy the situation is to quote the right scripture or scriptures, and everything will be alright. Those who believe this way will quote Proverbs 23:7 out of context, which says in part,…As a man thinketh, so is he…’

How does this subtle scripture twisting take place? Why are so many Christians unable to detect and discern these erroneous teachings? On a broader note, why does it seem that much of the false teaching that permeates the church today comes from Charismatic and Pentecostal circles? The answer is quite simple. Any time an individual or group opts to move away from the truth of the Word of God, anything becomes possible. When people leave the Word behind, they begin to make up things as they go along. Securely embedded within these corrupt teachings are kernels of truth. That’s what makes them so believable. However, we must not be ready to flow with every wind of doctrine that blows our way. Just because they stand behind a pulpit, or just because they happen to be your pastor or bishop, or just because they preach on any particular network and have a worldwide following, does not make them right. If a teaching or message does not line up with scripture, it must be rejected. From the Word of Faith movement, to Kingdom Now or Dominion Theology, to the somewhat new Grace Revolution, gullible and biblically illiterate Christians have been and are being swept up in their seductive wave. The purveyors of these demonic doctrines, who themselves have been misled, promise their blinded followers money, health, power or whatever else they need. All they have to is ‘name it and claim it’ or ‘believe and receive it.’  They are told that we as Christians are to permeate every strata of society so that we can make the world ready for Jesus to return. To cap it off, Christians are now being told that there is no need to confess our sins to the Lord because that would make us sin conscious. Are they kidding? Unfortunately they are not. These are the dishes that are being served and received today in many of our churches. If everyone believes it, or it becomes popular, it must be from God right? Not at all. I assure you that there is death in the pot.  openbible9

Why do so many leaders leave the Word behind? I believe one of the reasons this happens is because of the desire for ‘new’ revelation. We know that God still speaks to His children, but is God speaking anything that can be construed as ‘new’; that is, in addition to what He has already written in His Word? Once again, they will quote from Isaiah 43:19, which says in part, ‘See, I am doing a new thing!’ We need to be mindful of what it says in 2 Peter 1:3: ‘According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue…’ Although His divine power cannot be exhausted, one of the things eternally entwined within that power is His Word. According to Hebrews 1:3 He is ‘…upholding all things by the word of his power…,’ i.e., ‘the power of his word.’ Leaders are searching for something new that God is saying, when He has said everything that we need to know in His Word. Yes, He still leads, guides and directs, but all according to what He has already written. When people reach out and begin to look for something new, they are bound to leave the Word behind. This in turn gives the enemy the latitude he needs to work. He will seek to aid and abet them in their search by planting seeds of false doctrine in the heart and mind. A second reason why leaders leave the Word behind is because the people, i.e. congregations, want more. But is more actually better? A very telling scripture in 2 Timothy 4:3 says, ‘For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears…’ This verse says it all. We are living in a day when people don’t want to be told about sin and obedience, about life and godliness or about heaven and hell. People want to be tickled and coddled and told how they can ‘live their best life now.’ They don’t want to hear about the world to come, but they do want to know how to live more comfortably here. This verse says sound doctrine, which is truth, is not what they want. What they do want is for someone to tell them what they want to hear in accordance to their own desires. This is dangerous. Anytime we desire that which is not in accordance to His will and Word, we will inevitably leave the Word behind.

How can we stem the tide of this seemingly overwhelming barrage of false doctrine that has infiltrated the church? First of all, I believe that because of the hardness of men’s hearts, there will always be some degree of false doctrine in the church. However, on an individual level, it can be abated. Each person must do several things. First, they must be fully persuaded that God’s Word and not man’s, is truth (John 17:17). This truth will both keep us and sanctify us. Second, each person must test the spirits. 1 John 4:1 explicitly states: ‘Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.’ Discernment plays a key role in the life a Christian as it pertains to false teaching. If it does not look right, it probably is not. If it does not sound right, it probably is not. If it does not even feel right, it also, probably is not. Finally, each individual must become personally and intimately acquainted with the Word of God. Too many bibles sit on shelves gathering dust in between Sundays. False doctrine finds a resting place in the hearts of many a Christian because they simply don’t know any better. Time spent with the Word is time well spent indeed. I love the model of the Berean believers in Acts 17:11. It says: ‘These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.’ No one was going to pull the wool over the eyes of the Bereans! It will take both a consistent and carefully persistent study of scripture to combat the rampant spread of false teaching in the church that will come calling for each one. No one need be a victim of scriptural charlatanry. When this happens, you have in essence, left the Word behind.

That’s the Word! Take it with you. God bless you.