Note: This is an excerpt from my book UPRISING: Time for Christians to Stop Waiting and Start Winning.
This site, and my ministry work, is dedicated to the understanding that believers are here, not to mark time and “do our best” till some random time we’re rescued, but instead to advance the Kingdom of God till the pre-eminence of Jesus is manifest in all creation.
When we embracing our God-given purpose of achieving Kingdom victory, it should compel us to look more strategically at how best to tackle the problems facing our world.
When we do this, we can see that for each of the enemy’s cultural strongholds, there is both a supply side and a demand side. There are people who produce pornography and people who purchase it, people who sell illegal drugs and people who use them, people who govern poorly and people who vote them into office, and so on.
Our human nature is to look for shortcuts – the perceived path of least resistance – and also to seek recognition for our endeavors. This nature generally leads us to attack the supply side of a stronghold; it just seems to be the logical way to bring it down, and we can certainly make a big splash by doing so. As a result, with all the best intentions, we picket abortion clinics, organize electoral campaigns, wage war against drug cartels, seek to outlaw pornography, and the like.
Now, we each need to do as the Lord leads, and there’s nothing wrong with any of these activities. If the Lord calls you personally to focus on the supply side of a stronghold, then you should do it with all your strength. However, if we as a Body embrace these tactics as our sole strategy for pulling down strongholds, and do so for any reason other than the leading of the Spirit, victory is impossible. How can I say this? It’s a simple lesson in Economics 101: For any given demand, limiting the supply simply drives up the price. For example, attack the supply chain for illegal drugs without addressing the demand – that is, keep the number of addicts the same, but make the drugs harder to come by – and you’ve only hiked the street value. As a result, you’re driving addicts to do even more extreme things to get them! Hardly sounds like the desired outcome to me.
Want to tear down the stronghold of illegal drugs? Just like every other cultural stronghold, removing the demand is the winning strategy. When former drug addicts would rather “get drunk on the Holy Spirit” than high on dope, the illicit drug trade will disappear! Instead, we’ve spent oceans of money and manpower fighting the supply … and how’s it working for us?
When men hunger and thirst for righteousness more than for the desires of the flesh, the pornography industry will collapse. Attack the supply – whether it be through shutting down pornographers or simply putting “porn blockers” on computers – and allow the demand to linger – and men will still commit adultery in their hearts. No victory there!
When our elected leaders are storing up treasures in Heaven instead of pursuing earthly riches, corruption will vanish. When the hearts of the electorate are turned towards righteousness, and they vote accordingly, the righteous will once again rule. Connect gang members to real, loving, edifying relationships and street violence will stop. When the truth of God’s love is known by all, then all religions and sects based on legalism, division or hate will fail.
Attack the supply side of any of these and you may get some temporary relief, but it’s no better than putting a Band-Aid on an infection. It may look fine on the surface for a time, but the real problem is still there, only getting worse.
When you get to the heart of these issues, you realize the ultimate supply of all our cultural ills is the deception of the enemy. Even those people who are agents of the “supply side” are, in their hearts, simply demanding gratification from something other than God, and they have believed the lie that they can find what they’re looking for through sin.
We must remember that our battle is for people and not against them! Any perceived shortcut is really a dead-end street. God’s Kingdom will come when we personally connect with the hearts and minds of individual people, one at a time, and turn them towards Christ. Victory will not be accomplished through blunt force, but instead through loving kindness. Put two and two together –“The meek shall inherit the earth”and “He who (conquers, carries off the victory) will inherit all things” —and it becomes clear that we will conquer through meekness. There is no other way.
– You are the salt of the world. Stay salty, my friends!
I use computers quite a bit, and I’ve noticed something over the years. Maybe you’ve noticed it, too. When a computer is brand new, I’m always amazed at how fast it does things. But within a couple years, its processing speed starts to get slower and slower, so that basic functions seem to take forever. From conversations I’ve had, I think this is a pretty common occurrence.
When this happens, there are a couple of options. Some people just accept the slowness, figuring that their computer is “getting old” and the sluggishness is to be expected. Some take the computer to get repaired, but with the age of the machine and the price of computer technicians these days, getting it fixed can cost more than the computer is worth. Others skip the repair step and just chunk their old computer and upgrade to a new one.
I’m not one to accept slow speeds from a computer when I know it’s capable of much more, and I also don’t like throwing good money down a hole. So I’ve done some digging and figured out how to restore my computer to running like it’s new again. It takes a little time, but it’s really not that hard.
The first step is to open the “add/remove programs” control panel – which lists all the software that has been added to the system over time – and remove all the unnecessary programs. I’m often amazed at how many there are. Some came installed on the computer and were important at the very beginning but have no use anymore. Some provide fancy features that simply aren’t necessary. Other programs were ones I added over the years for a specific purpose but are no longer necessary. There are usually others I know nothing about – I don’t know how they got there. All of these had some good purpose at one time but are simply not relevant anymore, and by remaining in my computer they serve as a drain on the system. After removing these unnecessary programs, I restart and go on to the next step.
Step Two is to run a virus scan. It’s surprising all the bad things that are out there that can get lodged in your computer. Computer viruses can sneak in through a “back door,” they can come disguised as something good, or they can come attached to something that appears to be safe. Whatever way they get in, viruses infect our systems with potentially harmful programs and slow down their performance. After locating and removing all the malware, I restart again and proceed to the final step.
The last step of this process is to “defrag” the hard drive. The hard drive is the internal storage disc that holds all the data on a computer. Each bit of information on it resides at a specific “address.” With all the adding and deleting over the years, and then all the stuff removed by this clean-up process, the data on the hard drive can get quite fragmented, with bits and pieces of it scattered all over the disc, and so it takes the system extra time to call it up when necessary. The defrag process re-organizes the data and brings it all closer to the center of the disc, so it is unified and easy to access.
After one final restart, my system runs at like-new speed; it was not obsolete or beyond repair after all! This whole process takes time, tough decisions to figure which software to keep and remove, and humility to admit that I’ve let the bad guys plant viruses on my system. But it’s worth it.
So… what does all this have to do with the subject matter of my blog?
It’s simple. I’ve found this computer renewal process is a perfect metaphor for the job before us as the Body of Christ.
While none of us have first-hand experience of when the Church was brand new, we have perfectly clear records in the Bible which tell us that the Body used to function at a much higher level of performance. And, like an old computer, the level at which we function today is pathetic compared to what it’s supposed to be.
Because of this, some folks simply resign to the fact that our faith is obsolete, or that what we experience today is the best we can expect. Others throw money at the problem, and others simply trade in our “religion” for a newer, more “relevant” belief system. But none of these options is good!
Instead, there’s a process we must undertake, which can restore us to the performance of the early Church. Like the computer tune-up, it takes time, tough decisions and humility.
The first step is to analyze all the things we believe, teach and do. If we do this soberly, we’ll find that, just like on the computer, there are all sorts of things we hold onto without even realizing it. Many of these were great at a specific time and place but simply aren’t beneficial anymore. Some just add fancy and unnecessary features to the practice of our faith. And there are others that make you wonder how they got there in the first place. The key here is to discern the fundamental truths of Scripture from all the traditions, interpretations and habits we’ve embraced over the millennia since Christ walked the earth, and jettison all the unnecessary stuff. For long-time Christians, this un-learning process can be hard and painful.
The second step is to pray for revelation to see all the bad things the enemy has snuck into our Church operating system. If we’re humble and hungry, we’ll see it. Politics, pride, practices adopted from paganism, patterns of this world, a focus on prosperity, and lots of other flesh-based junk has snuck in over the years, and must be removed.
Finally, because of all the stuff that’s been added and removed over the years, the Body has become quite fragmented. Once we strip away all the unnecessary programs and viruses, we’ll find there is nothing standing in the way of true unity, and we’ll be able to “defrag.” This will come when we all agree to let go of our long-held theological subdivisions and re-unite around the center, which is the cross of Christ.
Our current dysfunction is not what God intends for us! When we, as a Body, can allow the Lord to lead us through this process, we will experience the same miracles and community transformation they experienced back then.
When we finally let go of 2,000 years of tradition and once again embrace The Way of Christ, we will once again become an earth-changing force, on The Way to Kingdom victory.
– You are the salt of the world. Stay salty, my friends!
I’ve written quite a bit about leadership lately, and I don’t want to give the wrong impression.
Our problem, as I’ve spelled out in some recent posts, is that we’ve come to accept flesh-and-blood leaders as “the guiding heads” (the dictionary definition of “leader”) of projects and organizations within the Body, while in God’s design this place rightfully belongs to Christ alone.
Please don’t read into my statement that I advocate anarchy, indecision, formlessness, or consensus-based governance in the Body. That is definitely not the case. Rather, I fully embrace the notion of God’s people following bold, decisive, visionary men and women who are appointed by Him, for a specific reason and season, to inspire and supervise our efforts. It’s just that these people need to be fully submitted to God, and their authority must be spiritual and not positional.
God often uses authoritarian individuals to serve as His instruments for planning, organizing, influencing and coordinating the activities of groups in the Body. The Bible is full of examples of people who played this role in a God-pleasing way, like Moses and Joshua, the Old Testament judges, and the New Testament apostles.
God worked through them accomplish His divine projects. When they did it right, they knew He was the Head, they did just what He said, and they succeeded. When they went beyond His leading, did things their own way, and/or sought to hold onto power beyond God’s intended term, all sorts of bad things happened.
Just like I’ve wrestled with use of the word “church,” I have trouble using the word “leader” anymore, and I am struggling to come up with the right label for this role. Paul spoke of “apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds and teachers.” Properly understood these titles say it all. But I’m afraid that, in the state of The Body today – where we’ve virtually all subscribed to worldly ideas of leadership and decision-making – the generally-accepted meanings behind these titles has changed too much from God’s original intent.
The best I can come up with is “point man,” “chief steward,” or “God’s agent.” These seem to fit. Moses was most definitely NOT a “leader” by today’s definition. Instead, he was God’s designated “point man” among the Israelites. He was the “chief steward” of God’s vision for His people. And, he was “God’s agent” in the project to move the Chosen People from Egypt to the Promised Land.
Proper guidance of Kingdom projects is invariably through a God-called “point man.” It is to this person that God gives His vision, standards, instructions, and authority for any given project. It is obvious in the Bible that God often favors strong, resolute people in this role. To managing volunteers (as we all are, ultimately) in a faith-based initiative can be like herding cats. A firm hand is often needed, and I can’t find any example in the Bible of successful guidance of a Kingdom project being nebulous, weak, or consensus based.
We miss the mark on this big-time in churchianity today, in two different ways. Either we invest all power in a strong leader, whose authority is mainly positional and permanent, or we undermine the potential for a strong “point man” to emerge by embracing the worldly idea of “democracy.” I don’t know which one of these is worse.
Democracy is a great form of civil government but a terribly non-biblical way of running a “church” or ministry. Try as I might, I cannot find one good example of it in the Bible. The five prominent examples I can find of “democratic” decision making – to throw Joseph in the pit, to make the golden calf idol, not to enter the Promised Land the first time, to crucify Jesus and to stone Stephen – don’t paint a very good picture of this leadership model. When the original apostles wanted to replace Judas, they specifically did not want to vote on it, so they cast lots. They knew the dangers of politics and preferred seemingly random chance over the “democratic process” in ministry leadership.
When a project or organization within the Body is led by a committee – “church” council, board of directors, board of elders, whatever you call it – it is not following any Biblical example I can find.
Christian “point men” are supposed to answer to God and not man. My experience with “democratic” organizations is that, despite the words they use, the opposite is generally true. Boards and committees vote – and politics is almost always involved, whether they admit it or not – and the “leaders” follow their orders. This gives a false sense of comfort to each one: the committee can blame the “leaders” if things go wrong and take credit when they go right, and vice-versa.
Name the great men of the Bible. I’ll throw out a few: Abraham, Moses, Joshua, David, Jesus, Paul. Not one of these men answered to a committee or board of directors. They received guidance directly from God and stewarded their projects accordingly. And – imagine this – their followers followed them, respectful of the fact their “point man” was appointed by God. Yes, these men sought wise counsel. Yes, they held themselves accountable. But the buck stopped with them.
“What about elders in the early Church?” you may ask. Fact is, they were appointed by the presiding apostle and could be removed by him, and nobody could vote to override his decisions! They were not in a position of governance in the way modern “church” councils are, and had zero authority to tell their shepherd what to do.
In The Way, apostles are accepted as God’s “point men.” They serve that role faithfully, under God’s authority, and democracy is never a part of the mix. At least this how they did it in Acts, and look what they accomplished!
Yes, in an organization where the headship of Christ is not understood, in a culture where the rhema of God is not accepted or discerned, where The Way has been lost, I guess democracy is better than the alternative, because a fully-empowered leader in a faith-based organization who is not under the step-by-step direction of the Holy Spirit is a very dangerous thing.
But why settle for less than what God desires? He does not desire leaders (as we define them) OR democracy in “church” organizations! Instead, God wants to call the shots Himself, through the men and women He calls to serve as “chief stewards.”
In a properly-functioning, discerning, submitted Body, under God’s model of governance “voting” has no place.
As long as we demand to have a vote, or submit to committee rule, or accept a “leader” over us, we will never be able achieve the full potential God has in store for His sons and daughters.
Our Father’s long-established model is to work through “point men”— faithful, seasoned, discerning and strong – to steward our efforts along The Way.
– You are the salt of the world. Stay salty, my friends!
Note: Just yesterday, I finished the first draft manuscript of my latest book, Church Burning: What will it take to rediscover The Way? Thought I’d share with you the book’s introduction.
In the years after Christ walked the earth, the men and women who had walked with Him continued to journey down the same path.
Following His footsteps, their vibrant, Spirit-led lifestyle was completely free of ceremony, tradition, organizational structures, facilities and clergy. Virtually all the things Christianity is known for today were non-existent. In every way imaginable, theirs was the anti-religion.
The growing community of brothers and sisters was centered on sharing, service, deep fellowship, and experiencing together the awesome wonder of their living, loving God.
In the face of mounting persecution from the institutions threatened by this uncontrollable, organic movement – long before there were steeple-topped buildings, ordained ministers, Sunday “church services,” committees, Christian radio stations or fish emblems … and centuries before the Bible as we know it was printed – the Body of believers experienced Christ’s presence daily, as they forcefully advanced His Kingdom in exciting, miraculous ways.
Without the trappings of religion, Christians then were known simply for their authentic loving kindness, and nothing else. They lived as Christ did – a life of love, passion, purpose, peace and selfless service. “And the Lord added to them daily those who were being saved.”
During His time on earth, Jesus had declared He was The Way. And this is what the early believers called their Christ-centered lifestyle: The Way.
So what’s happened in the past 2,000 years?
Under the influence of 20 centuries of Judaizers, Romanizers, legalists, traditionalists, theologians, intellectuals, religion-seekers, “prosperity” pushers and students of the world’s ways, Christianity has become a religion much like all the others – I call it “churchianity” – that bears little or no resemblance to The Way of our faith’s forefathers.
What are Christians known for today? No doubt, we’re better than ever at building big “churches,” organizing group activities, staging “services” on Sunday mornings, recruiting “members” and raising funds. Yet despite all this (or, just maybe, because of it) we are failing to accomplish the mission He gave us, in every possibly way, and people – believers included – are suffering as a result.
I need to tell you up front, this book does not seek to establish the fact that we’ve lost The Way. This has been well proven by numerous, excellent researchers and writers over the past few decades. Heck, it’s plain to see by anyone who simply reads the Book of Acts!
Instead, this book addresses the question: What now?
A course correction is due on a grand scale. It’s time we rediscover The Way.
– You are the salt of the world. Stay salty, my friends!
In the previous post I referenced some key Bible verses that, when we understand the Greek behind them, are able to unlock for us the next level of faith. Let’s revisit those verses and insert the proper Greek word. I believe this will make them come alive for you in a new and exciting way.
In Matthew 4:4 Jesus said, “Man doesn’t live by bread alone, but by rhema.” In context this is particularly stunning. If you recall, Jesus spoke this to satan after His first temptation in the wilderness. Satan had come to Him after a 40-day fast and tempted Him to turn rocks into bread and eat them. Now let me ask you, what would have been the sin in that? Where is it written, “Thou shalt not turn rocks into bread and eat them?” It’s not! Only a few times in the Bible do we see beyond the veil into the spirit world. No doubt satan dangled temptations in front of Christ over and over again – like when He was walking on water, the enemy must have been screaming, “you’re gonna sink!” – but it’s simply not recorded for us. If this story were like the others, and we only saw the “natural” side of it, we’d simply think it was another miracle if Jesus had finished fasting, turned rocks into bread, ate them, and moved on. Nobody would look at that and say, “See! He wasn’t God after all! He sinned!” – because there was nothing in and of itself “wrong” in the thing He was being tempted to do.
Indeed, our whole human checklist for decision-making was satisfied: Jesus had the power, the right, the freedom – and no doubt the desire and physical need – to do that very thing. So why didn’t He do it? Herein lies the vital importance of rhema. Jesus said, in effect, “Satan, I acknowledge that I need bread, but what’s more important to me is that I follow the step-by-step instructions of God, and He hasn’t told me to do this yet.” Jesus would have rather starved to death than do anything outside of God’s specific, step-by-step, rhema-given instructions for His life! He didn’t live on bread alone, and not on graphe (the written word – because on that basis alone, the thing tempted would have been just fine!), but on rhema.
Here’s another key verse: “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” If you have dedicated of your life to evangelism according to our traditional methods this may hurt you in the gut, like it did me, because here’s the truth: The “word” in this verse is rhema. Faith comes by hearing rhema from God. Like in the story of young Samuel, a person can be dedicated to God, live in the temple, observe all the proper religious activities, have a trusting knowledge of graphe, and still not have true faith as God defines it. If we do not, like Jesus, recognize and follow God’s personal, present voice in our lives, we simply are not in His flock.
I admit this is a hard truth. It was painful for me to accept, because of all the years I tried to serve God without this understanding.
Most denominations don’t teach this, but it is the truth, and as such I know that when you accept it, it will give you new life, freedom and power. We can give away cases of Bibles, quote Scripture till we’re blue in the face – and the people we are working to reach can believe every word of it – and yet without a real, meaningful, personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ – a relationship with rhema at its heart – then it is all a waste of time and energy. This is precisely what Jesus meant when He said, “Many will say to me …, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!” He just wants to have a real relationship with us – built on intimate communication – that’s all. Nothing else we can do matters. Nothing else can lead to victory.
Before I present one last key rhema verse, I want to make something perfectly clear: I value, honor and revere the Bible more than life itself. I’m old fashioned in that I never let anything sit on top of my Bible – it’s always the top of the stack. I believe it is the infallible, inspired graphe of God, and I base my entire life and worldview upon it. But fact is, the written Word, while fully true, is just a portion of what God desires to communicate to us, and mere intellectual acceptance of the Bible as truth does not save us. Without a real relationship with God through Jesus Christ, based on personal rhema from Him, everything else is worthless.
Of course, God often gives rhema to me through graphe, but rhema is much more than that. He speaks in all the ways He promises: guiding my steps, making sense of things, giving me words to say, and – dare I say it – even telling me what to write.
When you realize the believers in the Book of Acts didn’t have what we call the Bible – the few scrolls they had were hard to access, especially for the Gentiles – and instead, only had rhema, you begin to realize how important it is. Look at what God was able to do through them! They weren’t skeptical of God’s power – they lived in it! If I were in a situation where I had to choose between rhema and graphe, I’d choose rhema, 100 percent of the time. Thankfully we don’t have to choose. But sadly, out of tradition and ignorance, most Christians do choose – they choose graphe alone (“sola scriptura”) and the results are … well, the results are what we have today.
Ok, back to the key rhema Bible verses. And this one is a doozie. In his letter to the believers of Ephesus, who were called by the Lord and shepherded by Paul to maintain and expand upon the transformational work that had been won in their community, the great warrior apostle wrote:
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
Did you notice – in all of the items Paul lists, there is but one weapon? One tool we are given with which to tear down every stronghold, demolish every argument that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, and utterly defeat satan and his kingdom of darkness? What is this one, all-powerful weapon? It is not the written Word.
The sword of the Spirit is rhema.
This has been translated as “word” and interpreted as “Scripture” for too long! You can’t beat the devil by quoting the Bible to him – he knows that Book better than any man ever will, and he believes every word of it, because he was there when it all happened! What satan doesn’t have access to, which we as followers of Jesus Christ do, is the rhema of God – His fresh, relevant, personal word, through which He guides our paths, orders our steps, tells us what to do and when to do it, when to pray and what to pray for, puts the proper words in our mouth, and prompts us at all times in all things to do His will. And when we are in His will, His power flows through us to defeat anything the enemy can throw at us. When we are in His will, the very gates of hell can’t stand in our way!
The rhema of God proves Christianity as the one true faith. Only a Living God can utter a living Word, and no other faith offers this. Practiced without rhema, however, Christianity is just a religion, no better than any other. Without rhema, our faith is merely a collection of holy writings, a prescribed way of living, a system of worship, a community of like-minded people, belief in a distant and silent deity, an avenue for “prayer,” a reason to hope, a basis of ethics and morals, an opportunity for full-time ministers to make a living, and the promise of “heaven” when we die if we play things by the book – just like virtually every other religion on earth. Without rhema, Christianity is empty, ritualistic, legalistic, and ultimately pointless. Without rhema, our religion truly is, as Karl Marx famously wrote, “The opiate of the masses” – a mysterious, superstitious code that keeps the deluded population under control.
Jesus didn’t come to start another religion. He came, ultimately, to reconcile us to a real relationship with our Father. All the other things He accomplished – destroying the works of the devil, reclaiming that which was lost in the garden, setting the coming of the Kingdom in motion – all spring from this one thing: We now, through Him, have open access to a personal relationship with the Living God, and all the benefits that come with it.
– You are the salt of the world. Stay salty, my friends!
Note – This is an excerpt from my book UPRISING: Time for Christians to Stop Waiting and Start Winning.
WARNING: This is blog post contains a Greek lesson.
Now don’t get scared. I’m not some boring academic type, and this isn’t some intellectual, ivory tower lecture. Instead, if this information is new to you (as I’ve found it is for most Christians), I think it will be one of the most explosive, exciting, faith-expanding things you’ll ever learn.
This is one of those truths that hit me like a ton of bricks when I learned it, and it’s taken my relationship with the Lord to a level I never knew was possible in this day and age. It can do the same for you.
I am shocked and disappointed that I had to learn it on my own, outside the “four walls” of the “church,” after decades of sitting in pews, dutifully doting on the teachings of my pastor and denomination.
Rest easy – it’s not a mystery, it’s not a new pop theology, it’s not an odd mountaintop revelation from some mystic, and I’m not asking you to “just trust me” – it’s simply Greek, and it’s been there in the Bible all along, lost in translation.
The word I’m going to dig into here is just that: The English word for “word.” Bible translators slap this four-letter word on top of several Greek words with vast differences in meaning. Much more than simple nuance is lost. Rather, a vital, foundational principle of the Christian faith has for generations been virtually erased from the Bible by this translational shortcut.
For years I’ve asked Christians what they think of when they read or hear the phrase “the Word of God.” Every single person I’ve asked has the same answer: The Bible. That’s all there is to it: The Word of God is the Bible, and the Bible is the Word of God. Period, end of subject.
So when they hear, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God,” they picture a Bible floating in space. When they hear, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God,” “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God,” or “Take … the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God,” their minds insert “Bible” and come up with this: We live by the Bible, have faith by hearing the Bible, and fight the devil with the Bible.
I must ask you to pause for a moment before you read on. Please ask God to open your heart to His truth. It’s hard for me even to type this, because I know most readers who (as I do) revere the Bible more than life itself may initially take this statement as shocking blasphemy, but the fact is this: Inserting the word “Bible” into these great verses is wrong, sucks meaning out of them, drains them of power, and robs us of possibly the most precious promise of God in this life.
There, I said it.
I hope you’re still with me (and still breathing normally!). And I hope that seeking God’s truth is more important to you than holding onto long-standing, traditional paradigms that simply aren’t working. If you have difficulty with anything I am presenting here, don’t take my word for it — dig into it! Get a Strong’s Concordance or other Biblical Greek dictionary and see for yourself. I’m not making this stuff up.
Ok, back to it. As I said, there are numerous Greek words, expressing widely divergent meanings, which most English-language translators simply lump under our word, “word.” These include logos, graphe (grah’-fay), and rhema (ray’-muh).
As I dig into the definitions for these, allow me to couch them in a metaphor so they make more sense. Think of God as an architect and us as His work crew. He wants us to complete a building project (His Kingdom) and is seeking to guide our steps as we do it. He has a crystal clear vision for the structure, including every detail, and He must communicate this to us so we can build it according to His specifications.
At its essence, communication is the effort to transfer a thought from one mind to another. There are lots of ways to do this – through writing, speech, pictures, demonstration and much more. When you look at all the Hebrew and Greek Bible words we translate as “word,” you begin to see that God employs all of these means to transfer to us His vision and guide our steps. Yes, the static, printed words of the Bible are a vital and incredible source of divine communication, but they are just a small fraction of what He offers “those who have ears to hear.” As long as we remain stuck in man-made tradition, and continue to view the Bible as the sum total of God’s “Word,” we will never be able to find The Way or complete our Kingdom building project.
Before the dawn of time, God had a vision for His Kingdom, His sons and daughters, and this world. This original, founding vision is best expressed in Greek by the word logos. It is “a decree, mandate or order; what is declared, a thought, declaration, aphorism, a weighty saying, a dictum, a maxim.” This word is used 316 times in the Greek New Testament. It says, “In the beginning was logos, the logos was with God, and the logos was God,” and that Jesus was logos made flesh. Before the dawn of time, there were not little scrolls or books floating around in Heaven; instead God had a vision, a plan, a Big Picture. And Jesus was not a talking Bible with arms and legs! Instead, He was the physical incarnation of God’s vision. (Is it starting to make a little more sense?)
An architect must start with a clearly defined vision. This is the source of all other forms of communication related to the building project. All other methods of attempting to transfer this vision from his mind to others’ – including scale models, drawings, etc. – are derived from this original vision. It is important to understand that nothing less than the finished building itself fully expresses the architect’s vision. Every other form of expression, while accurate, is incomplete.
Once the architect has conceived the vision in his mind, next he drafts a set of blueprints. These are printed sketches, descriptions and instructions intended to guide the steps of the builders. The Gospel writers used the word graphe for this concept. It means, “written word, scripture,” and is used 51 times in the New Testament. We get the word “graphics” from this root. The printed pages of the Bible are graphe. Interestingly, this is always translated as “scripture” in the standard King James Version – and so while this is never called “word” in the Bible, it is the one thing people think of when they talk about the “Word” of God!
Our traditions have led many of us to take the Architect’s blueprints and then just run along with the assumption that they fully and completely express His divine purpose, plan and will. But as anyone who works in construction can tell you, if you simply take blueprints and hand them out to your work crews – with no hands-on, step-by-step supervision from the architect or a general contractor – the building will never take the precise form intended by the architect. A building may come together but it will be plagued by quirks as the different subcontractors interpreted things their own ways, and the look, feel and functionality will differ from what the architect intended. As hired hands for God’s Kingdom construction, we need more than blueprints!
Let me step out of this metaphor for a moment. You deserve more than human reasoning to accept this point so let me spell it out straight from the Bible. At what we call the Last Supper, Jesus told His disciples that His time on earth was coming to an end, and there was of course much more information they needed to know in order to continue His work. “I have much more to say to you,” He said. “More than you can now bear.” But He couldn’t because His time was up. He told them not to worry, however, because “the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things andwill remind you of everything I have said to you.”
Right here, in Jesus’ own words, He clearly said there is much more to the Architect’s vision than He could communicate to His disciples, even after spending three years in their close company; that all the words He spoke and demonstrated to His disciples were but a fraction of the entirety of God’s logos. Then, just a few chapters later in John, the great apostle concludes his book by saying, “Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.” And so my point here is confirmed by the words of Christ and the personal admission of one of the Bible’s primary and most prolific writers: The graphe (written word) – what most Christians assume is the entirety of God’s Word – is but a fraction of a fraction of all that God desires to communicate to us.
Of course Jesus didn’t leave us hanging. As He said, in reference to the Holy Spirit, “When He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth.” Back on the metaphor, Jesus is saying here that the Architect isn’t going to leave us hanging with just a set of blueprints; instead, He will send a jobsite foreman (in the form of the Holy Spirit) to fully and completely communicate His vision to us, every step of the way.
This brings us to what I believe is the most important Greek word for “word” of them all: rhema. This word means, “that which is or has been uttered by the living voice, thing spoken; word any sound produced by the voice and having definite meaning.” It is used 67 times in the New Testament, in some very key places.
Rhema is the personal, conversational, relevant, relationship Word of God. It is God’s voice for each of us, like it was for Samuel as a youth when God called out to him in the middle of the night, saying, “Samuel! Samuel!” Interestingly, in this story it says, “In those days, the word of the LORD was rare.” There weren’t fewer scrolls in the temple than before. Instead, because of the high priest’s disobedient household and nation’s rebellious people, the personal, spoken word of God is what was rare.
This story also says the great prophet-to-be didn’t recognize that voice because “Samuel did not yet know the LORD: The word of the LORD had not yet been revealed to him.” By this time in his life, he had been fully inculcated into the religious structure, he obviously believed in God, and he had been exposed to the Scriptures. But he still didn’t know God, in the true sense, because he hadn’t yet been introduced to God’s rhema word. Personal communication is the basis of every real relationship. Jesus said, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow.” Prior to hearing and following His rhema, Samuel wasn’t in the flock. But then God’s living voice came to him and he responded – and that changed everything.
– You are the salt of the world. Stay salty, my friends!
Imagine a leader calling his followers to pool their resources and work together to make a batch of ice cream. He motivates them by describing how great the ice cream will be and how much they’ll enjoy it once it’s done, then he invites each one to bring a portion of the ingredients.
At the designated time, they all bring their fair share and combine them according to the recipe, pour it all into an old-fashioned popcorn maker, plug it in and hit the “start” button. How long do you think it’ll be before they are all enjoying the ice cream the pastor promised? Of course it’ll never happen. Popcorn makers simply are not designed or equipped to make ice cream.
Trying to make ice cream in a popcorn maker is absurd, like staging a swim meet on a basketball court, or a Broadway play in the city dump … or seeking true Church within the organizational and physical structures of a “church.” The things we’ve built and call “church” today are just not equipped to facilitate true, organic Church.
Not terribly often, but occasionally, I hear a pastor exhorting “his” congregation to experience Church according to The Way. No doubt there’s something deeply appealing to the description of organic fellowship in the New Testament, and any Christian who really reads his Bible must feel some pull to it.
I certainly respect these pastors’ desire to function in a more Biblical way. But their calls invariably fall flat, as if their preaching goes in one ear and out the other.
Generally, I’d suspect, the response of these pastors is to 1) chalk it up to the “immaturity” of the congregation, 2) internalize the failure and think less of themselves, or 3) rationalize the failure to mean that true Church simply isn’t possible today. Whether their response is one of these or something else doesn’t really matter, because they’re all wrong. I’ve never seen or heard of one coming to the right conclusion, because if they came to and acted upon the right conclusion, it would likely spell career suicide.
“Look folks, when the believers met in the New Testament, it says they all participated in the fellowship, and we’re supposed to do that, too,” he says … while considering himself “clergy” and speaking through a microphone in front of rows and rows of “laymen.” He might as well be saying, “come on, pour your cream into the pot of this popcorn maker.” It makes just as much sense!
“Church isn’t supposed to be in here, it’s supposed to be out there,” he says … during the 10:30 “church service” at “XYZ Community Church.” And he wonders why the ice cream ingredients are boiling instead of freezing!
No wonder the people don’t get it. For a pastor in a “church” to try to compel his congregation to function as an organic expression of the Body of Christ is the epitome of “do as I say, not as I do.”
A pastor’s job description is to facilitate and give a speech at the weekly sing-along/lecture/fundraiser, serve as CEO of a non-profit organization, live as the designated holy man, and in between perform the clergy-related tasks of counseling, visitation, etc.
Some have made bold leaps in changing the traditional ways of “church,” like taking the denominational name off the sign, incorporating more modern music, embracing a more casual dress code, and so on. But in reality, that’s not much different than peeling the “popcorn maker” label off the machine. The guts of their organizations and gatherings remain the same. A man-made, paganism-inspired “church” by any other name is just as dysfunctional.
There’s a Biblical principle that “like begets like.” Cats breed cats, apple trees grow from apple seeds, and tennis coaches teach tennis players. In the artificial, pre-fab, man-made structure of “church” today, our designated leaders are stuck in the position of saying, “ok folks, don’t practice your faith day-by-day the way I do; rather, go and do it some other way…”
This is not the way Jesus or the Apostle Paul did it in the Bible. Jesus said, “come, and I’ll make you fishers of men.” They followed Him, step-by-step, as He demonstrated by example exactly how to live each day, and He groomed them to continue precisely as He modeled it. He said, “go and do likewise,” and they could. They followed His footsteps, not merely His “sermons.”
Paul, too, raised up people to mirror his every step. He was not “clergy” – he was a tentmaker! He didn’t stage weekly shows under a steeple; rather, they gathered continually, house-to-house, and lived inter-connected, inter-dependent lives as a growing, living Body. He knew, as Jesus did, that if he did it right, it wouldn’t be long till the people could do it without him.
If a pastor says, “go and do likewise,” he doesn’t really mean it – he can’t – because if the people did, there’d be nobody there the next Sunday. They’d all be off somewhere preaching under steeples to silent audiences, just like he does! Very few people ever follow their pastor’s footsteps, thank God. (There’s no offense intended to any pastor; I’m just voicing the fact we don’t need more pulpiteers in the Body, we need more Pauls.)
Jesus’ ministry, from start to finish, was three years. Paul would spend a few months in the majority of communities he reached – a couple short years at most –and then move on. In this short period of time, they sparked a movement that transformed the world.
How long as your pastor been in ministry? How long has he served your specific congregation? There are some out there who’ve stood behind the same pulpit for decades. Sure, maybe their building and staff are bigger now, and maybe their audience and budget have grown. But compare their results to those of Paul. How does it stack up?
Now imagine what Paul would accomplish if he had as much time, technology, freedom and wealth at his disposal as even an average pastor in America. If you have any a smidgen of understanding of The Way Paul functioned, you know the difference in outcomes would be impossible to calculate.
Understand, I’m not questioning the faith, sincerity or capability of any pastor. On the contrary, I tip my hat to them. The resilience necessary to do the same thing over and over and over again – and never really get anywhere, but just keep plugging along – is admirable. The tenacity required keep people pouring ice cream ingredients into a popcorn maker, Sunday after Sunday, year after year, and never taste any real ice cream – and yet keep them coming back for more – is amazing.
Even more admirable and amazing, however, would be for a pastor to realize that the machine that employs him is the real problem, and simply walk away from it.
No, the problem is not the people. It’s not the pastors. It’s not the world, or the times, or anything else.
I pray someday a prominent pastor will grasp God’s true vision for The Way today, commit to it, courageously walk away from the man-made trappings of churchianity, and then say, like Jesus and Paul, “Do as I do! I’ll see you at the tentmaking shop. Oh, and y’all are all invited to my place for dinner!”
Ice cream is quick and easy to make in an ice cream maker.
– You are the salt of the world. Stay salt, my friends.
To my friend and blog followers –
Some of you already know that I’ve felt called by God to assemble some of my recent writings and publish them as my second book. The working title is Church Burning.
This is a play on words, of course, with multiple meanings. In the Bible, fire is used metaphorically for several clear purposes. On the bad side, it is used by God to judge and punish. On the good side, it is used to purify and motivate.
There is no doubt God wants to bring a fire to His Church. If we are doing things the way He intends, we should welcome this, like the disciples at Pentecost. If we are not, we should dread it.
If you think “church” is a place to go or a thing to do — a building, an organizational structure, a set of teaching and traditions, or an event — then Church Burning may well conjure terrible images in your mind. If you know Church as the intimate fellowship of God’s sons and daughters on earth, then you probably see Church Burning as a glorious thing.
I said that Church Burning is the working title. I’m still not quite convinced, but the more I chew on it, the more I like it. It seems sizzling enough to sell books and yet multi-faceted enough to make people think, but I reserve the right to be wrong about that. I’d value your feedback. Do you like it? Would you pick up, buy and read a book with that title? Or is it so in-your-face that it’ll turn off the average Joe Christian? If the people that most need to read it are repulsed by the title, that’s bad. Please leave a comment or drop me a note and let me know what you think.
ALSO, below is what I’ve written as a draft of the first chapter. My goal is to clearly express my heart — that I am not angry, hostile, or bitter, as so many “church” critics come across — so that the reader will be more prone to seriously consider the things I write.
Thank you for all your comments and feedback over the past several months. I appreciate your prayers as I work to bring this project to completion.
First chapter –
Talk about kicking a hornets’ nest! Writing a critical book about modern churchianity is probably not the best way to go about winning friends and influencing people, but I believe somebody has to do it.
Despite the intentionally controversial title (gotta sell books, you know – and it has multiple meanings, many of them positive), I’ve done my very best to approach this topic with tenderness and candor.
I’ve found there are generally three groups of people who are eager to discuss the problems with “church” today.
First are those who are hostile to our faith and are quick to pounce on and propagate anything they think will get us to question our beliefs. Many of these are deeply wounded folks who come from a “church” background, and who rejected God when they rejected the institutions we’ve build in His name. (Sadly, these formerly-churched people seem more numerous and harder to reach with the truth than the un-churched, which I think is something we must address.)
Second are those who have been wounded by “church” politics, legalism, hypocrisy and religiosity, and yet who still hold on to their faith, and to the often vague hope that there is a better way. These people seem to talk about “church” like a cheated-on wife talks about her ex-husband; they feel betrayed by someone they love.
Both of the above categories of “church” critics often put their fingers on some very real and important issues, but they tend to communicate their points with bitterness and hostility, as if they are trying to win people over to their side of a conflict. As a result, their hard-learned lessons often are lost on those who most need to hear them, who can do something to help fix the problems. While their ranting may draw a flock of birds of the same feather, it tends to compel their “church”-bound brethren to defensiveness, and not much good results.
There is a third group, however, and that is forward-thinking Christians who love God’s Church, seek truth and know there is a better way. These folks have dug into the roots and fruits of our modern “church” system, and into the original intent of our Father, and found that we are terribly missing the mark. Theirs is constructive criticism, for the purpose of calling God’s people to a higher, better, and more God-pleasing express of Church.
Because their intended audience has been bombarded by hostile complaints from both wounded brethren and opponents of the faith, and because the kernels of their messages are often quite similar to those the bitter critics, this third group can have a very tough time getting their points across. Theirs is a challenging calling. I know, because I fall into this third group.
You need to know that I thank God for my mainline, denominational, liturgical upbringing. I have fond memories of Sunday School classes, stirring sermons, inspirational music, fun fellowship, and even service on various committees. Some of my best friends over the years have been pastors, and I nearly went to the seminary to join their ranks. Sure, as I grew up and my horizons broadened, I began to question some things about “church,” and to seek to make improvements from within, but it was always “by the rules” and with deep respect for the institution and the other people involved. I do not consider myself wounded, bitter, or hostile toward churchianity in the least.
But I must tell you, as I have dug into the truth of God’s will for His sons and daughters on earth, and the true potential for His Church, something has changed in me over the years. I no longer feel called to work entirely from within the four walls of the “church.” While I still have love and respect for the people, my respect for the institutions themselves has greatly diminished. I’m just being honest here.
I want to ask you a favor as you dig into this book. Will you please give me some grace, and approach it with an open mind? I know these are sensitive issues, and we can easily become quite emotional, defensive and hostile when we discuss them. We can also jump to conclusions about the other person’s motives. I am asking you to accept that my heart is in the right place here, and I am only seeking to call God’s people to the very best. My goal is to build up, not tear down (although a little constructive demolition is necessary in any remodeling job).
And yet, I am only human, too. Maybe I have been a little wounded and not fully healed, and maybe it does come through a little at places. I don’t think that’s the case, it’s sure not my intention, and I’ve done my best to write with sensitivity and grace. But if anything I write seems bitter in any way, please forgive me, and try to look through it to the heart of what I’m saying. My writing style is often passionate, colorful and to-the-point; please don’t confuse passion and righteous frustration with hostility.
Anyway, just because someone is wounded doesn’t mean they’re a bad person, it just means they’ve experienced something that hurt them very deeply. We should not write off the words of the wounded; rather, we should have compassion for them. If elements of our “church” are hurting people deeply, then we need to bring them to light, however hard that may be, don’t you think?
As God has led me deeper into His Word, and into a greater understanding of The Way that He desires for us to come together as the Body, I’ve taken that understanding and laid it side by side with what I’ve personally experienced, observed and learned about churchianity. At times, this journey of discovery has been like watching a movie, where sometimes you want to laugh, sometimes you want to cry, and sometimes you want to yell at the person on screen. Writing this book has been a very personal and emotional journey, and at various points its content reflects all of these emotions.
This stuff is very important to me, and try as I might I simply cannot approach this topic as a scientific, emotionless observer sitting on the sidelines. Serving God by advancing His Kingdom and building up His people is my deepest passion. I pray that is the common ground on which you approach my writing.
There’s one more thing you should know before you jump off into the rest of this book. I wrote this over the course of about a year, and for most of the time I didn’t even realize I was writing a book. Rather, I was simply keeping notes of my observations, insights and experiences. It was only later that I felt the Lord’s call to pull it all together into one package. As a result, it’s more of a diary than a narrative, and like any diary, you will see a variety of emotions expressed.
There are certainly consistent threads and overarching themes throughout, but each chapter is also something of a stand-alone essay. This book is not a profound theological research volume, but rather a collection of thoughts, impressions and revelations I’ve had as I’ve wrestled with this topic in my own life. If there are chunks of it you simply can’t abide, that’s fine. I’m not trying to sell you anything. But I hope you’ll keep going anyway, because you may just find a few nuggets along the way that will revitalize your faith, bring you closer to the Father, and maybe even spark a healthy dialogue in your own congregation. If this happens, I’ll consider it a success.
Folks who know me know I’m a solutions-oriented guy. I don’t think much of bomb-throwers who do nothing but point out flaws and problems but never offer solutions. I agree with Theodore Roosevelt: It is not the critic who counts.
Yes, there’s absolutely a time and place to dig into what we’re doing wrong, but the point isn’t to find fault, lay blame or simply complain. Rather, the point is to uncover exactly where and how we’re missing the mark so we can take the appropriate corrective action. Constructive criticism offers a better way forward. Everything else, as I see it, is pointless and destructive.
Some who have kept up with my recent string of posts regarding my issues with modern churchianity have accused me of pointing out problems without offering solutions.
I would beg to differ. I believe I have presented the fundamental solution all along, but I can see why some folks have missed it. The misunderstanding lies in the fact they aren’t looking deep enough at the problems. Because underneath it all, there is just one fundamental problem plaguing the modern system we call “church” – and there is only one real solution. It’s really quite simple.
Yes, there’s a problem with what we call Sunday “church services.” But the solution isn’t to re-jigger the format or theme of our Sunday morning gatherings.
Yes, there is a problem with who we designate as “leaders,” and the organizational structures we build beneath them. But the solution isn’t a new way of choosing and elevating leadership, or re-mapping the organizational chart.
Yes, there are problems with how we raise and spend money and build useless buildings to house our Christian clubs. But the solution isn’t a new budgeting strategy or building design.
There are problems with what we consider “evangelism” and how we go about it, what we call the “gospel” and how we preach it, the traditions we follow, the teachings we embrace (and reject), and a whole host of other aspects of what we call “church” today. But to address these on the surface, and offer a “new way” of doing them, is nothing more than treating the symptoms without addressing the disease. It is all just re-arranging the deck chairs on a sinking ship.
If that’s what you’ve been looking for from me, I can certainly see how you’ve been disappointed, and how you may think I’m just lobbing bombs. I hope you’ll let me take you a little deeper.
Unless we’re just completely blind or clueless, we all see problems with churchianity. Many of us disregard these by saying, “well, you’ll never find a perfect church,” and so they settle for far less than the best, just seeking to make the most of it. These are the folks that get offended by the slightest fault-finding with the status quo, and discount any criticism that doesn’t come with a superficial “quick fix.”
Others of us just don’t buy that cop-out; we believe perfect Church definitely is possible, here and now. The Bible says Christ is waiting for His spotless Bride to arise, and that someday she will make herself ready. He modeled for us a perfect expression of Church, and that is exactly what He is calling us back to. Our Father has not called us to fail in this endeavor. Yes, a perfect expression of Church is definitely possible, it is God’s will, and I, for one, will not rest until I find it.
Our human nature demands a “plan.” We want quick fixes. We want to have a firm handle on the present and the future. We want a roadmap we can wrap our minds around that spells out exactly how we are supposed to get from Point A to Point B. We would never think of starting a building project without a blueprint. Those who expect me or other critics to offer such a roadmap or blueprint for “fixing” things need to understand that this is exactly the element of human nature that has caused all these problems to begin with!
Here’s the fundamental problem with churchianity: We have taken control of things. In doing so, we have built our “churches” on own understanding, conformed to the patterns of this world – which is the precise Biblical recipe for remaining outside of God’s will. We have – with the best of intentions – done our best to build “churches” for God. This is the opposite of God’s desire, and it is the underlying disease – the malignant cancer – that is causing all the symptoms I’ve written about.
There is only one cure, one fix, one path to a perfect Church, and it’s is really quite simple. It is to remove this mindset from the Body, and return to the day-by-day, step-by-step leadership of the Holy Spirit.
Theological defenders of man-made churchianity for generations have misinterpreted one of the most important portions of Scripture, creating a false, two-sided debate in which both sides are flat wrong. In this passage, Christ clearly spells out the true foundation on which He desires to build His perfect Church. Here it is (Matthew 16:13-18):
When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”
They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”
Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.”
Here’s the $64,000 Question: What is the rock on which Jesus desires to build His Church?
For countless generations, Catholics have interpreted this passage to say that Peter, the man, is the original rock of the “church.” This understanding is the foundational stem cell of their entire institution, and explains virtually everything they do. It is a structure built on positional authority, and on the traditions and leadership of men. This is a dangerous thing!
Contrary to this, most Protestants since the Reformation have interpreted this passage to say that the rock is the words Peter spoke, “Surely you are the Messiah, the son of the living God.” Peter’s statement is indeed true, and the heart of our faith. The belief that this statement alone is the intended foundation of Christ’s Church is the Protestant stem cell. This reliance on a static statement led to the principle of Sola Scripture (by the written Word alone), and explains virtually everything Protestants do. It is a structure built on the goal of having people believe and follow the written word alone (or at least their interpretation of it). This is not enough!
For hundreds of years this debate has raged, with both sides missing the mark. The current state of churchianity in the world today is the fruit of these two faulty interpretations. We’ve tried both, to an absurd extreme, and both have failed.
There is third option!
Here’s what that passage really says, and what we’ve missed all along: God doesn’t desire to build His Kingdom on a mortal man, or on the words spoken by a mortal man. Rather, Jesus was saying that it is the underlying truth of what had just happened – “This was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven” – that He desires to serve as the foundation of His Church.
What made Jesus so excited, and prompted Him to speak this vital statement, was that Peter had just received and responded to the simple prompting of the Holy Spirit. Jesus was saying, “Yes! Somebody finally got it! He didn’t tell me what he thought, he just listened to the Father and obeyed. I can work with that!”
The key to the Kingdom is simple obedience to the Holy Spirit, the step-by-step leading of God.
Simple obedience is how Moses led the Israelites out of bondage, and how Joshua led them to conquer the Promised Land. When they relied on men, or the statements of men, they failed. When they followed the continual revelation of their Father in heaven, they succeeded.
This is what made David a man after God’s own heart. It is how every single servant of God recorded in Scripture lived, including Christ Himself. They let God call the shots – day by day, step by step – into the great unknown.
Jesus said we must be born of water and the Spirit to see and enter the Kingdom. Paul said that the true sons and daughters of God are those who are led by the Spirit. He also said that we are to grow – individually and corporately – into Christ the Head, who desires to call the shots.
Throughout the Bible it says we are not to lean on our own understanding … we are not to worry about material things, or about tomorrow … we are not to conform to the patterns of this world. When we do, we cannot know God’s will, and we are not on His path. Anything called “church” that is built this way – on our own roadmaps and blueprints – is built on the wrong rock. And the cure for what ails us will never be found in another man-made plan.
Instead, the solution, the way forward, is to simply cease from our works! It is to be still and know that He is God. It is to enter into His rest, take on His easy load, and let Him lead the way. It is to do nothing at all without His specific, personal prompting – and then to simply obey what He tells us to do, step-by-step, day-by-day.
He doesn’t care what we do “in His name” – because there is nothing worthwhile that we can do for Him. Our best works are like filthy rags! Rather, He just wants to know us, to have a real relationship. He wants to be the true center, the true Head, of our lives and our fellowships.
Yes, to abandon our understanding, to scrap our plans, to throw away our roadmaps and blueprints, will be a great adventure. When we do this, He will lead us to forge into the unknown and do things beyond our understanding, as He unveils our plan for us, one day at a time.
This is the walk of faith! This is the path to true, perfect Church. It is The Way modeled by Christ and recorded in Scripture.
Is this disappointing for you? Do you still want a man to give you a plan? I’m sorry, I can’t help you there.
– You are the salt of the world. Stay salty, my friends.
The Lord woke me up at 4 a.m. the other day and showed me a vision of how the enemy can gain a foothold in our lives.
I had been in intense prayer for quite some time for a dear friend of mine, a strong man of God, who is currently being yanked all around by the enemy. It’s like the devil has a hook deep into him and is dragging him through all sorts of heartache. From the outside looking in, it’s clear as day what’s happening. But this guy won’t receive loving input or correction, and my soul is in anguish for him. It’s like this man, who is otherwise blessed with enormous spiritual clarity, has a gaping blind spot, in which the enemy has had free reign to operate.
My prayers have been not only for this fellow’s deliverance, but also for insight into this phenomenon. If a man as spiritually seasoned as my friend is susceptible to giving the enemy such a blatant foothold, then I know I am, too. And I don’t want that in my life!
The vision the Lord showed me was, like most things He shows us, quite simple on the surface, but the more I dig into it, the deeper it gets. It directly answers the question of what’s happening to this fellow, how it can happen to any of us, how we can help each other when it does happen, and how we can keep it from happening in the first place.
What I saw was a robber busting into a bank and going directly to the surveillance camera, where he whipped out a can of spray paint and darkened the lens. After that, he had free run of the place.
As I dug into this vision, numerous Bible verses of “eyes to see” and being spiritually “blinded” came to mind. As I looked them up, I realized this vision unlocked for me the meaning of a very consistent theme in the New Testament.
Here’s how I’ve come to understand it. As followers of Jesus Christ, we each have a deposit of the Holy Spirit living in us. One of the benefits of the Spirit living in us is that He gives us a crystal clear, 360-degree spiritual surveillance system. Only this surveillance system is in our hearts, and in our natural state it is surrounded by opaque flesh. The only way we can see beyond it, to make full use of this system, is to do as the Bible instructs and “crucify” our flesh. When we do that, the flesh falls out of our field of view and the eyes of our hearts can see clearly. Then we can identify and avoid the work of the enemy when he comes close. When we are truly, fully “dead to self” – and “it is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me” – then we can accurately perceive all of the enemy’s schemes.
Because of this, like that bank robber, the enemy’s first goal in attacking us is to block out as much of that surveillance system as he can. Instead of spray paint, however, the enemy aims to re-animate our flesh. This is what he seeks to do when he dangles temptations in front of us; it’s just like the bank robber spray painting over the surveillance camera. When the enemy can coax us into bringing a portion of our flesh back to life, this creates a blind spot in which he can freely operate. Always ambitious and opportunistic, when he can do this, our enemy will then make full use of his hidden access to our lives, and wreak as much havoc and destruction as he can, in us and through us.
Now, there are multitudes of people out there who are one hundred percent spiritually blind. They live in darkness. The enemy has no problem pushing them around, and he certainly uses them to advance the kingdom of darkness. But these people, ultimately, are not the ones he pursues most fervently. The high value targets, the ones on Hell’s Most Wanted list, are the most mature believers. These are the ones who have access and influence in the Kingdom of God. When the enemy can gain a foothold in the life of a long-time believer, he can tag along with them into all sorts of circles where he’d never be welcome in his own right, and you better believe that he will use that to his full advantage.
If any of us, even the most advanced and mature Kingdom warrior, believes he is immune to this, he’s already a victim of it, because his pride has become a blind spot. The Bible is full of warnings about wolves in sheep’s clothing, and devils masquerading as angels of light. God implores us all to always be self-controlled and alert. While we’re here on earth, we are susceptible to this tactic, and we should all take heed.
It’s been said that our biggest strength can also be our biggest weakness. I didn’t fully understand that until I saw this vision. You see, where we know we’re weak, we tend to be the most vigilant. But we can be lulled into not really paying attention to our “strong” points, and this can give the enemy room to work.
In our “strength” – where we’re most naturally gifted – it is quite easy for us to let our flesh come back to life and not even realize it. Whether it’s pride, or taking our “strength” for granted, or falling into patterns and habits, or dismissing loving correction from people who are not as gifted in that area, it seems the enemy can have an easy time getting that portion of our flesh re-animated, and when he does, he then has free room to function in our lives. He quite literally uses our greatest strength against us, to advance his own ends.
This is what happened to my good friend. He’s a real hero of mine, having spent several decades on the front line of the Kingdom – living on faith and fighting the good fight. All along, he has relied on God to provide for his needs, and the Lord has never let him down.
Then along came an agent of the enemy, masquerading as an “angel of light” (messenger of elucidating information, literally), and he knew just how to spray paint over that part of my friend’s spiritual surveillance system. He did it by posing as someone the Lord sent to finally reward my friend for all his years of day-by-day, hand-to-mouth living. By talking the talk of a “fellow minister,” flashing wads of $100 bills, and making promises of enormous generosity “as soon as this big business deal comes through,” this fellow appeared to my friend as the answer to decades of prayer. Finally, his ship was going to come in, thank God!
My friend’s greatest gift is his absolute faith in God. And yet the enemy came right into the middle of that gift, coaxed a small bit of flesh back to life, and hid right behind it. My friend’s strong faith became his greatest weakness – to the extent that when people questioned the motives of this wolf in sheep’s clothing, even old friends – he would shut them off as if they were questioning God Himself; the enemy caused him to confuse his belief in this fellow for his faith in God the Provider.
The results have been catastrophic. This fellow ended up being a high-level conman of the worst kind, one posing as a Christian minister. He has been arrested by the civil authorities and is being brought to justice. But before the authorities put a stop to his scam, he had gained access to a number of prominent and wealthy people — under the covering of my friend – and ended up ripping them off for an enormous amount of money.
Lots of people lost money in this guy’s web of deceit. Sadly, however, it looks like my friend may be the biggest victim of them all. While the other victims only lost money, my friend’s hard-earned esteem is being trashed – and it’s easier to get back stolen money than a squandered reputation.
The enemy comes to kill, steal and destroy, and all it takes is one small foothold, one little piece of living flesh to hide behind.
This whole episode has caused me to look at my own life, and led me to be doubly vigilant to “die daily” as Paul did. Wherever even a speck of my flesh is alive, I wish to crucify it with Christ, as painful as that can be. This isn’t just a good idea or a “religious” concept for me anymore. It is life or death.
This is all the more reason for us to join together in full fellowship according to The Way of Christ. When we are stuck in a “church” system that has threads of individuality, competition, popularity, or positional authority woven in, we can easily be led to shut off the words of correction offered by others, even our closest friends.
But we need each other, like a herd of buffalo circling around their young to protect them from a prowling lion, and God knows this. That’s why His Way calls for us to share all things in common and truly knit together as the Body. When we do this, we can watch out for each other – and truly receive the rebuke and correction that is often necessary for each and every one of us to keep our surveillance systems clear. Outside of the Way, we are in harm’s way.
We do have a real enemy, and he does come to steal, kill and destroy. While we are on this earth, in these jars of clay, none of us is immune. Be self-controlled and alert.
He who has eyes to see, let him see…
– You are the salt of the world. Stay salty, my friends!