A note to my friends and blog followers:
This is my first post in a few weeks. I apologize for the long gap. My family has been tied up in a huge spiritual battle and period of unexpected hardship. Our local newspaper, the San Antonio Express-News, wrote a story about our situation and ran it on their front page two days ago. If you’re interested in finding out more, here’s a link to the article. I appreciate your patience and prayers. – M.A.
I find it amazing how so many Christians simply cannot properly take – or assign – responsibility for the foul fruit of human failings.
It’s like they think, “So long as we don’t outright kill anyone or steal anything, or get caught breaking any of the other commandments, then everything else we do is irrelevant to the outcome of our actions.”
I’ve seen long-time ministers, who are indeed gifted at teaching the Word, live the most slothful lives and make the most foolish decisions – and then blame God (and/or the “immature” believers around them, who “don’t give enough”) for their poverty. Now, they wouldn’t outright say “it’s God’s fault” in so many words — rather, they seem to believe God is perpetually holding them in a “dry season” to “teach” them something – but it’s the same thing. Yes, God is trying to teach them something, like get off your butt and actually do something productive! The dry season they’re facing is not God’s fault; it’s the inevitable endpoint of the path they’ve chosen.
I’ve seen other long-time ministers form committees, councils, boards or teams of people who are incompetent, shallow, immature, conflicted and/or otherwise not trustworthy – and because they are “good Christians,” the organizer holds to an irrational belief that everything that happens will be “God’s will.” So when the group’s resulting action (or inaction) makes no sense or goes the wrong direction, the minister just follows merrily along, the blind following the blind, with God’s name stenciled on the mess.
The Lord gave me a vision onetime of a Christian farmer in a farmhouse, praying earnestly for a bumper crop of corn. This farmer has the most fertile bottomland in the county, the best equipment in his barn, it’s a wet year, and there is nothing standing between him and a record harvest. But a few weeks after planting time, this farmer’s field is still brown, while his unbelieving neighbor’s field is sporting healthy sprouts.
So the farmer gets on his knees and prays even more. He fasts, digs deeper into the Word, activates the prayer chain at “church,” and resolutely declares the “word of faith” that God is definitely going to give him a huge harvest this year. And yet another month later, when the neighbor’s crop is “knee-high by the Fourth of July” and growing, this farmer’s field is still desolate.
So our farmer pours out his heart to God. He puts a bigger check in the offering plate. The elders of his “church” pour oil on his head and pray over him. His touchy-feely, super-“spiritual” friend helps him dig into his childhood and analyze all the bad things that ever happened to him, seeking the “root of his troubles.” His holy-roller pastor waves his arms and flaps his tongue in a wild prayer of deliverance. But a number of weeks later, while his neighbor rolls out the combine and brings in a bumper crop, our friend’s field yields nothing but weeds and dust.
Finally the Christian farmer, at wits end, lays face down before the Lord, humble and broken. “Why, Lord? Why is it your will that I suffer, while my unbelieving neighbor gets rich?”
The Lord, with grace, yet a touch of frustration, replies, “My son, I gave you the best bottomland in the county, the best farm equipment there is, plenty of rain, and everything you needed to produce a bumper crop. But you didn’t do your part! All you needed to do was plant the seeds I gave you, and I would have made them grow….”
This scenario is more common than we may realize. Even as I write this, I am once again convicted of my own guilt in blaming God for the failures and lack in my own life. It is not His fault! He has given me more than I need, and I alone am to blame for the consequences of my own poor decisions. I pray God helps me see clearly where I’ve mis-stepped, because I know that taking responsibility is a pre-requisite for learning and doing better in the future. When I blame Him or anyone else for my mistakes, I am doomed to repeat them.
Here’s the truth: God gave us the authority and mandate to establish dominion over the world. He freely offers Wisdom and Revelation to guide our steps. He promises provision and direction when we seek and obey His will. And He also gives us free will to do it His way, or not.
We must realize that He didn’t give all this to us so that we may have a free pass on the principles of His creation. Believers are not exempt from reality! Instead, the opposite is true: God established the fundamental principles of creation – scientific, economic, political, business, etc. – and gives us access to His very mind, so that we may master them. He wants his sons and daughters to rise up and take dominion over these things, not cede them to the unbelievers through our own foolishness, ignorance and inaction!
This truth applies to us, wherever we find ourselves. I see everyday believers “blame” God for their unemployment, yet they don’t hustle to find work, don’t present themselves well in interviews, and never took the time to master the skills necessary to be successful in their given field. No, their unemployment is not God’s fault! It is a result of their own bad habits and poorly-chosen path.
I see believers who actually believe their broken marriage is God’s will. Of course, it must be God’s will, and certainly has nothing to do with the fact that they’re lazy, self-centered, worldly, and didn’t put Christ at the center of their relationship!
I see Christian business owners “blame” God for hardship and failure, yet they continually ignore wise counsel, make stupid decision, and do not put a professional face on their endeavors. How is it God’s fault when they go out of business? Just because they’re a “Christian” business doesn’t mean they don’t have to compete in the marketplace!
Sure, there are legitimate “dry spells” and hardships in life. God teaches us through trials and fires. We’re not here to live it up in the here and now, and material outcomes are not necessarily any measure of Godly success. That’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about all the times that we miss out on God’s desired outcome through our own ignorance, stubbornness, foolishness, laziness, and bad habits – and then, instead of facing the truth, we chalk our failure up to God. I believe this is more widespread than any of us may care to admit.
Where this grips me the most is in “church.” Pews and pulpits today seem filled with folks like the Christian farmer in my little story. We are failing in our God-given mandate to bring His Kingdom on earth as it is in Heaven, and we are becoming increasingly mocked and marginalized in the world. At the same time, frauds and phonies are reaping a bumper crop, leading multitudes down the path to destruction.
How can we honestly believe this has nothing to do with the fact that even the most “contemporary” of our “churches” today – compared to The Way modeled in Scripture – are legalistic, ritualistic, materialistic, tradition-bound, shallow, inbred and downright goofy?
Instead of facing the facts and returning to The Way, what is our answer? Redesign the bulletin. Rejigger the order of “service.” Play more modern music. Wear flip-flops on Sunday. That, or double-down on the archaic traditions of our denomination’s founders.
Fact is, we reap what we sow, and we don’t reap what we don’t sow. It’s time we step up and accept responsibility! Churchianity is failing, and yet our “church” leaders continue to inflict us with failing methods – and then blame God for the outcome.
As if claiming that our failure is somehow His fault were not bad enough, now we’ve come up with a pop theology to justify it all. The ultimate insult to our Lord and King, and the pinnacle of the “blame God” mindset, is the modern teaching that global dominion of the Body is not really inevitable, after all, and the best thing we can do is just wait to be rescued. The only one glorified by modern “end times” teaching about the inevitable rise of the antichrist is the antichrist himself! This is not Biblical in the least. Holy cop-out, Batman!
It’s time to grow up, stop blaming God, beg for wisdom, follow His lead, take responsibility for our failings, learn from our mistakes, plant the right seeds, and set our faces like flint towards finally establishing dominion over the world He created for us.
This is His will, and He continually gives us everything we need to do it. If we continue to miss out, it’s not His fault.
– You are the salt of the world. Stay salty, my friends!
Imagine being Christopher Columbus, loading up ships to sail around the world, while naysayers shout, “you fool, you’re going to fall right off the edge of the earth!”
That’s how I feel sometimes in ministry.
I mean, I’m playing to win. I believe that’s our calling; that our God-given purpose and destiny is to conquer the kingdom of darkness, here and now, once and for all. I find this clearly and unequivocally stated in the Bible, over and over, from the beginning of Genesis all the way through the Revelation. Yet the conventional wisdom of today’s pop theology states that big-picture winning is not an option.
Today’s popular “end times” fable claims that “the antichrist” will rise to global prominence, and Jesus will come to snatch away His floundering Bride before it gets too bad. Why this has achieved such dogmatic dominance among well-intentioned Christian leaders is beyond me – I mean, it’s nowhere in the Bible, its dubious historical roots are recent and easily established, and it makes Christians look like kooks. Yet it is dominant, and rarely challenged.
To Columbus, belief in a round earth was a no brainer. I mean, as far as he was concerned, anyone could scan the horizon or watch the sunrise and see it. I’m sure he knew he was risking his life to find a round-the-world passage to India – there were all sorts of unknown dangers in the uncharted deep – yet I doubt the thought of sailing off the edge a flat earth was one of his concerns. He simply knew otherwise, and he was right.
This belief was foundational to his endeavors; it was the implicit premise upon which all his plans and activities were based.
How frustrating it must have been for him to prepare for his first journey. How many times did he have to explain this most simple, fundamental belief? The investors. The shipbuilders. The suppliers. The sailors. Family and friends. Strangers on the street. Everywhere he turned: “Aren’t you that crazy guy who’s wants to sail around the world? Ha!”
How sad, because the conventional “wisdom” of a flat earth (conventional ignorance, really) had kept humankind trapped for centuries.
I’m sure Columbus grew sick and tired of having to explain this simplest and most fundamental reality, and was eager to finally cast off. He never set out to prove the earth was round. To him that needed no proving. He was simply looking for a more direct trade route to the Far East, and he wanted to put the ignorant naysayers behind him and get on with it.
In the same way, I’m not setting out to “prove” that the Body of Christ is destined for global victory before Christ returns. To me, this needs no proving! It’s simple, fundamental and foundational – plain for anyone who has eyes to see. I just want to play my personal role, as called by God, according to the gifts He’s given me, and I want to get on with it.
Yet everywhere I turn, I run face-to-face with Christians who buy the conventional “wisdom” that we’re powerless in the face of the enemy and destined for nothing but rescue. Just like Columbus couldn’t have set sail with a crew of flat-earthers, how can we manifest Christ’s victory with a team that doesn’t think it’s possible?
Like belief in a flat earth, this ridiculous yet mainly unchallenged teaching has kept the Body of Christ trapped for too long!
It’s time to dump this modern, man-made fable into the rubbish heap of history, so we can finally march forward in unity towards our victorious destiny in Christ.
It’s time for “Left Behind” to get left behind!
– You are the salt of the world. Stay salty, my friends!
This year may prove to be a perfect storm of ridiculous, kooky, end-is-near fever as secular/pagan whackoes who give credence to the Mayan calendar will join forces with the “Christian” whackoes who’ve made an industry out of “end times” predictions. Pop celebrities and mainstream media will no doubt get in on the act, because anything that generates hysteria makes good ratings — and if “Christians” end up looking even stupider in the end, that’s gravy for them.
This is a perfect — I believe God-ordained — opportunity for true, mature Christians to stand up and inject some Biblical truth into the mix. When 2012 comes and goes, and WE are the ones who can stay, “see folks, we told you so,” the media’s sensationalism will backfire on them, and God will be glorified through it all! This can and should be the year that the Gospel of the Kingdom gains global pre-eminence, and the would-be “Christian” Nostradamases are finally brought into the truth (or shamed out of their pulpits and seminary lecturns).
Those who understand the Gospel of the Kingdom, that Jesus taught and the early church advanced, know that there is no secret alarm clock ticking in heaven that will someday trigger “the end times.” We understand that the modern, pop-theology/mythology teachings of a sudden “rapture” and future “great tribulation” are nowhere in the Bible, and were instead pulled from their Dark Ages origins and popularized by John Darby, the father of modern “end times” kooks. We know that the rise of the victorious Body of Christ is inevitable before the end, not the rise of the antichrist!
The Bible says seven times that Jesus is currently seated in Heaven, waiting UNTIL His enemies are made His footstool. Jesus Himself said seven times in a row (in Rev. 2-3) that only those who are victorious over the world will have an eternal inheritance. Paul said that spiritual gifts are being given to men UNTIL the Body of Christ rises to global pre-eminence, and only THEN will Christ return. In the Revelation, it says that at the end, the angels will rejoice because “The Bride has made herself ready.”
On virtually every page of the Bible, this point is clear: God has given His children on earth a job to do — that is, to conform the world to His Kingdom — and the end won’t come until we’re done. “No one knows the day or the hour” because it’s in our hands, and we have free will!
So when will the end come? According to the Bible:
- After Christ’s enemies are under His feet. Where are His feet? On His Body. That’s us! We have power to bring down powers, principalities and strongholds of the enemy. The end won’t come till we stand up and exercise that power!
- When the Body of Christ (that is, us!) reaches “the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.”
- When the sons and daughters of the Kingdom reach full maturity.
- When all true believers are united in the truth.
- After Christians are fully victorious in conquering the kingdom of darkness.
So … how far are we from that? Well, look around. To say that it’ll happen in 2012 is a stretch, at best!
Did you know the word “apocalypse” means “unveiling” — as in the unveiling of the Bride of Christ? The only one who should be afraid of that is the enemy! Certainly not victorious sons and daughters of the Living God!
There’s money in sensationalism. Human nature (as in, the sinful variety) values victimhood and craves a rescue from reality. Some leaders (Christian and other, sincere and not) gain great wealth and esteem by playing on these facts. They should, instead, be basing their leadership on the facts of the Bible. And those facts are that we are called to be VICTORS, not VICTIMS, and there will be no great escape or sudden “end of the world” apart from our crossing the finish line!
True peace is only found on the path of God. As fear grips the world this year, let’s seize the opportunity to draw mankind — starting with our Christian brothers and sisters — into the peace and certainty of God’s true vision, the message of His Kingdom come.
How? Read UPRISING: Time for Christians to Stop Waiting and Start Winning. Do like many others have done (including several mininisters) and buy multiple copies of it to give away. That’s a good place to start!
– You are the salt of the world. Stay salty, my friends! (Especially through 2012!)
No, I haven’t gone all kooky on you. Don’t go sell all your stuff and start carrying signs saying “the end is near!”
I most certainly do NOT believe in some secret alarm clock in Heaven that will someday go “BING” and then the world will end. There is not a mysterious, unknowable timeline for the apocalypse. God’s not playing cosmic musical chairs with us, to see who He can catch off guard at “the end of the world.” There will be no sudden “rapture,” either, and no far-out numerology or astrology will figure it out. Studying headlines or watching Middle East politics will just drive you batty and distract you from the work at hand. The prerequisite events that will trigger end of time are not in the hands of the enemy or “antichrist.” Instead, they are in the hands of God’s sons and daughters, intentionally put there by our loving Father. “No one knows the day or the hour” because it’s in our hands, and we have free will!
Jesus said the end will come “just as it was in the days of Noah.” Noah had a building project, and so do we! The very first thing God said to man in Genesis 1, after He made us, was “go and conquer!” In Revelation 21, He says that “he who conquers will inherit all things.” In between, the entire arc of Scripture paints the picture of God raising up victorious sons and daughters who gain the character necessary to inherit His eternal throne by conquering the enemy here on earth.
The Bible says seven times that Jesus is currently seated in Heaven, waiting for this to happen. And Paul said God will continue to give gifts to men until it does. God has given us an enemy to vanquish and a Kingdom to establish, and the end won’t come till we are done. The Bible plainly spells this out for those with eyes to see.
Noah could have refused to build the ark, and God would have raised up another man. The flood came one week after the ark was done. Yet, had Noah taken a two week vacation sometime during that 120-year construction project, he wouldn’t have drowned in the flood. Instead, God would have delayed the flood by two weeks! And Jesus said the end will come ”just as it was in the days of Noah…”
The first generation of Israelites could have chosen to trust God, count the cost, and cross the Jordan, and they would have been victorious! Or, the second generation could have turned around like their parents, and God would have raised up another generation, and another, till He got His people where He wanted them. Yes, in the mystery of eternity, He saw the end from the beginning — because it’s always NOW in eternity — but that fact did not negate their free will.
Some generation, someday, will finally grasp the Gospel of the Kingdom — the universal, uderlying message of the Bible, and the message that Jesus said was His very purpose for being sent to earth — choose to trust God, count the cost, and will gain victory over the kingdom of darkness once and for all.
When they do this, it will trigger the end of time, and usher in the new heaven and the new earth. Only then (as it says in Revelation), “the angels (will) rejoice because the Bride has made herself ready,” and (as it says in Ephesians), Jesus the Head will join the Body that has finally grown to the “measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” on earth. Like Noah, we have a building project. And also like Noah, we have a choice.
I’ve worked with youth full-time for 10 years now, and have been blessed to lead hundreds to Christ. I’m not talking about getting them to raise their hands and say a prayer, or sign up to be members of a church group, or sit in a pew, or listen to “Christian” music, or even accept the factual truth of the Bible. I mean, God has used me to introduce Himself to them, personally and deeply. It has been a tough, costly and often lonely road, moreso than I ever imagined, but well worth it. I’ve also talked with hundreds of youth ministers over this past decade, and seen countless youth minstries in action (or inaction, as the case often is!). What I’m saying it, God has shown me a thing or two about what works and what doesn’t, and why.
We have to be REAL with young people — stop trying to fake them out, and start getting them out of the fake. They don’t buy the same old churchianity that’s worked for generations.
They’re the most sophisticated generation ever. Their entire world is made up of advertising messages of one form or another, and they’re highly jaded, skeptical, and disillusioned. They are HUNGRY for REAL and know it when they see it — because they’ve tried everything else. It’s just that most have just never seen it before!
When we meet them at their level — which is HIGHER than what we’re used to intellectually — leave out the religious traditions and jargon, stop trying to be “cool” and just be REAL, they respond, in a big way. Meet them where they are, personally introduce them to the Living God, and BAM — watch out!
I have genuine hope that THIS is the generation that will deliver victory. But how will they believe if they don’t hear, how will they hear if we don’t tell them, and how can tell them if we keep assuming they’re shallow and irresponsible?
I wish every youth ministry in America would trash the freaking X-boxes, skateboard ramps, pop music, pre-packaged programs and cutesy names. I wish youth ministers would stop diminishing themselves trying to “fit in” and be “cool” — trying fruitlessly to connect on a shallow, fake level, when the kids really want something REAL and DEEP.
Instead of trying to entertain them and slip in a little Jesus here and there, just sit down and BE REAL with young people! Stop playing “church” and start playing to win! Personally introduce them to the Living God, and let Him (and them!) take it from there. I can testify to you from first-hand experience that it works. They will go deeper, harder and faster then you ever imagined. Try it — you’ll be surprised! The Kingdom of God belongs to such as these!
We can choose to be the last generation!
– You are the salt of the world. Stay salty, my friends!