The christian landscape in America is changing and changing very fast. If you are not careful you will blink and miss how rapidly things are being transformed. In fact many people are blissfully unaware of what is really going on. Two things are happening and it seems to be simultaneous. First, the lukewarm and the hypocrites are shuffling through the established, traditional churches, faster than tour operators can herd foreigners through the gates of Disney World! This endless shuffling is the circulatory movement of a large mass of nominal, self-centered christians who move around from church to church sampling and consuming whatever feels and tastes best for them and/or their families. They are not in the Kingdom and have no intention of ever entering the Kingdom. They are religious, nothing more. They drag their disinterested souls to one church or another with large gaps in between only to appease their religious conscience or to shutup the nagging of a religious family member. What keeps them coming is the tickling of their ears. The entertainment value alone is worth the price of admission. So what if they have to toss in a few dollars to assuage a guilty conscience...the music and sermons are not all that bad and give valuable "life coaching" and is worth the few measly dollars they toss the preachers way.
These roaming bands of lukewarm religious Americans are not interested in Jesus and probably don't even know what the term "building the body of Christ" even means, let alone giving some semblance of serious thought to the idea. It is all about them and their own cozy life. They don't even want to be taught the Word and don't dare to challenge them whatever you do...or they will beat a path to the nearest exit faster than you can say "oh bless your heart"!!! Coddle and entertain them and you might be lucky to keep them around for a while...until the next best thing comes along:-)
The second thing that is happening is that true believers are sick and tired of the game. Their eyes are wide upon and they can spot a fake a million miles away. This contrived, marketed dribble that is conjured up to attract consumers, does nothing but induce nausea in the true child of God. As more and more churches shift and compromise and cater to the flesh, more and more of Gods people drop out and look for a new church. But what they are finding is that true, new covenant, biblical, servant led churches are becoming as rare as hens teeth! It’s supply and demand and there are only so many nominal American consumer christians to go around, so more and more churches are moving to the "dark side" to hold onto market share. This creates the domino affect that drives out true believers, which in turn creates a vacuum which has to be filled with more and more nominal christians.
Do you see how fast this becomes a vicious cycle?
It is no wonder that good hearted men of God are also dropping out, some even resorting to suicide...if not physical, at least "career" wise.
The fact is that our country has changed and there is probably no going back to the "good ol days". Churches have to cater to the flesh because this is what American "christians" are demanding. Either get with the program or become irrelevant and get left behind. The choices are grim and unfortunately most churches are making the wrong choices just to survive.
All is not lost however, God is STILL in control and He is STILL purging and building His church in this country. There is a purification going on and it is getting more intense by the year. God is preparing a bride, without spot and without wrinkle and she is being made ready for the Bridegroom...King Jesus. May we will toss aside anything at all that stands in the way of Jesus making us ready for His soon and coming return. Let us humble ourselves and allow the Lord to join us together with other believers of like mind and spirit. Gather in houses or under bridges...any structure or even an open field will do. The location is not important...allowing Jesus to truly be the Head and truly build His church is what really matters. May the Lord lead us all into His perfect will this brand new year, to not only BE the Church but to gather and love another as the Church!!!
On the flip side...be very, very careful about joining up with just any old, random group. Many stand alone churches, house churches and groups are perfectly fine but there are may others who are filled with "nutters" who do not fall into the latter category of wholehearted true believers. Many of these people have an agenda and many others are obsessed with political and/or end times events to the detriment of building the body of Christ. I am not saying that political and end times issues are not important but they must not become our focus and capture our time or attention. Also some of these groups are led by and filled with people who have a rebellious spirit and cannot submit to anyone, not even true godly, servant leaders. Other groups are known for who and what they are against. Rather than shine the light of Christ they spend all their energy and time denouncing others. Again, there is nothing wrong with giving warnings but when it becomes our obsession and our focus we have begun to go astray from what the Lord has called us to, which is to partner with Him to build the body of Christ.
Let us fall into the hands of the Lord, for his mercy is great; but do not let me fall into human hands. – 2 Samuel 24:14
It is a simple truth yet very important and David recognized this when he failed before the Lord. The truth is that God is more merciful then his creation is. David knew himself and how ruthless we as humans can be to each other, judging, condemning and thinking others deserve judgment without mercy. David knew that men’s mercy was not great and abounding. The hebrew word for “great” in this passage speaks of abundant, exceedingly, and full. God’s mercy is over-abounding and exceedingly yet men’s mercy at times towards others is lacking. A similar passage in the Epistle of James says, “The Lord is full of compassion and mercy” (James 5:11). He is full of pity and very kind and full of tender mercies. See God’s mercy all over the Scriptures, see it in his very Son who came to this earth. It has been a testimony of those who grow and mature in their knowing the Lord they exhibit and revel in God’s mercy. I remember sitting in an older pastors home and he kept quietly saying how wonderful God’s mercy is. Once I was sitting in a conference where a brother was speaking very hard words to believers, and when I looked down at the pew I saw a name tag with the name mercy. God spoke to my heart that though hard sayings are in the Scriptures we must always still have mercy.
When we are close to the heart of God and in his presence we also share his mercy towards others. Are you full of the Holy Spirit? Then you will be full of mercy, kindness and love. We are prone to judge and quickly condemn others for attitudes, sins, and teachings when we do not consider ourselves. Our Lord said, “Do to others as you would have them do to you” (Luke 6:31). We do not have commands to show no mercy but rather all corrections, rebukes, must be filled with mercy and a willingness to relent and forgive an offender. We should look for the good in others, and build each other up. If we just look to tear down others, and not show mercy then we are asking God to treat us in the same way. When we have been transformed by the Lord from our own self-centered lives we will be full of mercy towards others and have joy in doing so. Thomas Watson said, “God is more willing to pardon than to punish.” John of Kronstadt says, “Your Lord is a God of mercy and bountifulness: be a source of mercy and bountifulness to your neighbours.” Let it be something you look at in yourself daily and ask the question: How merciful am I towards others? Am I growing and abounding in mercy?
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.
(1 Corinthians 13:1 ESV)
It may be inferred from our text that certain believers at Corinth believed that speaking with tongues was (is) the hallmark of true spirituality. Paul erases this notion without forbidding or disparaging tongues. He points to the fact that without the love of Christ, speaking with tongues will annoy people as fast as banging a gong in their ears.
In the early 1900s, Classical Pentecostalism became a sect within Christianity teaching that speaking in tongues is "the initial physical evidence" of receiving the Holy Spirit. The fact that a case can certainly be made for this from the book of Acts is beside the point. Over the next 100+ years this "initial evidence" doctrine has been reduced to any kind of ecstatic utterance or gibberish that may come from a person's mouth — regardless of whether or not the person's life was radically changed by the event. Couple this with the shallow conversion experiences that have come into vogue along a parallel line, and we live in an age where there are people who " speak with tongues " who may never have truly been saved — much less received the Spirit. It may be a radical thing to say, but many people believe they are spiritual and have at no time been born again.
The Simon Generation
“And when Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money.” (Acts 8:18 KJV)
Around 50-60 years ago "moving in the supernatural" became so popular, that by the time we reached the 1980s and 1990s certain well-liked Pentecostal and Charismatic leaders were practically flaunting what they termed as "the power of God." Knocking people down with their coat or their breath were common occurrences. This enticed several generations to desire that type of power — in a similar way that many young men desired to be great athletes. There were even books written and sold to teach people how to get what was termed "the anointing." The royalties from some of these books made the authors richer than Simon the Sorcerer could have ever hoped to become. For those who read the books but still fell short, they just tripped folks to get them on the ground — simulating being "slain in the spirit."
The full-Gospel movement (especially on TV) drifted into a murky mess that skewed and twisted hundreds of thousands — if not millions of peoples understanding of true spirituality. Like Simon the Sorcerer, the unsuspecting saw what appeared to be the power of God and lusted for it. From that time until now multitudes of people have their mind fixed on the lie that the supernatural is evidence that they are spiritual and there is no real sign that this delusion is being overthrown.
But Peter said unto him, Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money. Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter: for thy heart is not right in the sight of God. Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee. (Acts 8:20–22 KJV)
Peter called Simon the Sorcerer's misguided desire for the power of God, "wickedness." He had one major problem, his heart was not right with God. He wanted to move in the gifts (as is sometimes said), and he was a hairs-breadth from blaspheming the Holy Spirit. Peter's reply was a foretaste of what Jesus spoke of when He made clear, Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity. (Matthew 7:21–23 KJV) In other words, you are not spiritual because you appear to be prophesying, casting out devils and doing miracles: you are spiritual when you do God's will. Again as it is written, And we are His witnesses to these things, and so also is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey Him. (Acts 5:32 NKJV)
Many people have learned about receiving the Holy Spirit through what we might call "on-the-job training." They learned it from someone they trusted and watched — who learned from someone they trusted and watched and so on. Meanwhile, few have returned to their bible to see if what was going on is biblical. Apart from a few obscure proof texts, there is little for them to base what they are doing on. This is why ministers and altar workers try to pray people through to the Holy Spirit who haven't even repented of their sins and trusted Christ. Their heart is not right with God and someone is trying to pray them into receiving the Spirit. This is madness, but it happens all the time and it has happened for decades.
I personally have been in countless meetings where altar calls were given and there had not been enough Gospel preached to save a flea, and yet folks are trying to pray people through to the Spirit. The band starts playing and people are driven into near madness trying to somehow get to God. In many cases the music is so loud that the people can't hear God. They are being carried along in some mindless music induced emotional state. What happens? They have a good cry, utter a few unintelligable words, and there is no change. Someone declares, "You got it! You got the Holy Ghost!" And they go back to their old ways. Why? Because they try to do with music and emotionalism what can only happen through total surrendering our will to God's will. The altar workers are listening for the sound of a "tongue" rather then seeking to lead a person into total obedience to God. Tongues is the end-all. What is more delusional is that these type altar calls are believed to be essential to the furtherance of Pentecostalism and if we don't have them, we have failed in ministry.
How can we know if the goings on in meetings are producing fruit? First, turn the attention off of the supernatural and get it on Jesus. A person has to come completely under His authority. This can take days and weeks to establish. It all depends on the person and their understanding of what God is doing in them. Many people try to receive and resist the Holy Spirit at the same time. They want to receive His power-- while resisting His Lordship and guidance. This is impossible. To dabble in this way is to open oneself up to demons and counterfeit spiritual gifts.
When the Holy Spirit really comes in He pours in with the love of God (Romans 5:5). Compassion for all people floods into your being. This is what Paul was speaking if when he wrote, If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. (1 Corinthians 13:1 ESV) Speaking in tongues is wonderful, but if a person is doing it who does not move in the love of Christ it is only an annoyance to people. We may even want to question the source of the utterance. The Holy Spirit does not come in with just tongues or prophecy: He brings the full load of the fruit of the Spirit. This means compassion for people like unto what we find in the New Testament.
For example, while Christ was on the cross suffering the worst injustice in the history of mankind He uttered these words, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. (Luke 23:34) The question is not whether a person speaks in tongues, but whether they can forgive like Jesus forgave. What about Stephen when he was being stoned to death at the hands of a merciless angry mob? And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. (Acts 7:60) How could he do it? Why didn’t he curse and swear as the pain and agony bore down upon his battered body? What about Paul the Apostle? He spoke of being stoned, beaten of rods, and a host of other disfiguring assaults. Nevertheless, he could raise his shirt, show you the scars on his back, and still exclaim, "I tell the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit, that I have great sorrow and continual grief in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my countrymen according to the flesh" (Romans 9:1-3 NKJV).
No matter how deep the nails probed into Christ's hands or the spear probed into His rib and side — they still tapped love. Stephen was smashed to bits and as they stirred through his battered body nothing could be found but love. When Paul was beaten and stoned the scars left behind his testimony, I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my countrymen according to the flesh. These are the words of lamentation because of the Israelites who had rejected the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This is the love of God. This is what removes the clanging gong from the testimony of those who speak with tongues and move in the gifts.
The disciples had desired to call fire down from heaven on the Samaritans, but here is Paul wishing himself could be accursed from Christ if it would save his people. Have you ever wondered why he would utter such things? What could be at work inside of him to make such selfless statements? He was not lying. He means it. His own conscience is affirming within that he is not faking these comments. This is fervent, unfeigned love. Could this be the same man that was breathing out threatening and slaughter against Christians some twenty years before? What could have possibly caused such a radical change in this man?
Simply put, he was baptized into Jesus Christ by the Holy Spirit and that reality was demonstrated through his great compassion and labor on behalf of Christ. He was no noisy gong. He was the real thing, and he wanted the Corinthians to be that too.
These people are grumblers and faultfinders. – Jude 1:16
Some modern believers act as if faultfinding is a virtue. The main objective of any conversation, meeting of believers or hearing a teaching is to try and find what is wrong in it. Instead of seeing the good in others they pick apart everything and always have something negative to say. They look for small problems in others and treat them as if they were big (Matthew 7:3). The faultfinder has a motive to build himself up by tearing others down. Many faultfinders can be filled with envy, discontented at the position and calling of others from God. Most faultfinders are not in any type of fruitful Christian ministry but are spectators always finding what is wrong in what they see. In envy he hurts others but it is himself he hurts the most. Just like the Pharisess they find fault in anything and even the sinless Son of God (Matthew 9:11). Faultfinders have very few friends or those who want to be around them because in the end they pick each one apart. These “mote-hunters” seek to find any small thing wrong with a minister or christian leader to try and disqualify them. They feel exalted in their ability to be able to see faults in others but this is a deception as its a work of the flesh. They will not be able to humble themselves to repent of their own sins because they are too busy looking at the sins of others. There is no spiritual gift of fault-finding, there is no virtue or benefit to it.
Basil the Great says, “If you see your neighbor in sin, don’t look only at this, but also think about what he has done or does that is good, and infrequently trying this in general, while not partially judging, you will find that he is better than you.” We are quick to look at the faults of others but at times slow to look at our own. The way of humility is to humble ourselves and see our own sin and need of mercy from God. f you have been judged by another brother or sister instead of finding fault in them also, leave them to God’s mercy. Instead of seeing to look at others faults we should seek to love them, show mercy, kindness, goodness (Galatians 5:22-23). Those who are overly critical lack peace and joy, suffering from tension and bodily problems. Faultfinders usually are not content with their own situations in life and therefore try to make others miserable by judging them. When we find fault, we sow discord amongst brethren, it divides, and does great damage. Faultfinders have a self-righteous attitude, a sense of superiority and they refuse to admit they are wrong. Let us not allow fault-finding in our life but put it away as its a work of the flesh (Galatians 5:20). Father in heaven, please forgive me for being critical and finding faults in others in your body. Give me grace to see the good in others and seek to uplift others in the Church. Amen.
Instead, we were like young children among you. Just as a nursing mother cares for her children. 1 Thessalonians 2:7
There are believers in our day that teach and believe that any hierarchical authority in the Church is wrong. That to submit to a Christian leader as above one is wrong and to have any leaders who are above other leaders is wrong also. Such thinking lauds the idea of the autonomous local Church, meaning that believers can act independently and freely in a local area without any jurisdiction or control. But as we look at the New Testament as a whole we see the Church was anything but autonomous. The Church was a family, they were co-dependent, they were submissive to Apostles, evangelists, elders and prophets would travel amongst different Churches in cities. Paul the Apostle says to the believers in Thessonlica: “Even though as apostles of Christ we could have asserted our authority” (1 Thessalonians 2:7). Clearly he was teaching that as an Apostle of Jesus Christ they had authority given to them by God (Matthew 28:18). Though acting as spiritual parents they did not desire in anyway to impose control or authority on people but came with tenderness, love and meekness. Our Lord said his leaders would not impose themselves like the gentiles over others but rather to come as slaves.
The word picture of an infant needing the help of the mother is very revealing showing the need for believers to submit to their their spiritual leadership for the good of the believers to be fed the pure milk of the Word of God (1 Peter 2:2). Such leaders such as Apostles had spiritual authority over local Elders and were respected as such. This submission was willing as people respected those Apostles especially that saw our Lord Jesus Christ in the flesh (John 1:14). Cyprian says, “The Lord warns us, He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters. (Matthew 12:30) He who breaks the peace and the unity of Christ, is an opponent of Christ. He who gathers anywhere than in the Church, scatters the Church of Christ.” Though God’s Church is far from perfect we need to submit to the plan of God in establishing leadership and those who can feed and care for believers. No denomination or Church work is perfect, each has faults and problems over time. We are to seek to be humble, join with what God is doing (1 Peter 5:5). Seek to submit under Church leadership that is meek like Moses was (Numbers 12:3). For Paul the Apostle spoke of himself as being gentle, like children amongst the believers. As slaves yet having authority like a master. To fight against hierarchy and leadership in the Church is going against God’s order. Find a place where you can submit under godly men and start to gather with the Lord helping those sheep who are astray. The work of God will go on, God will always establish a wineskin for his work in any generation.
And whoever wants to be first must be your slave. – Matthew 20:27
Our Lord shows us in this passage we are looking at that the one’s that desire to be great and feel called of the Lord to be leaders need to seek to be servants. The mother of two of the Disciples comes to our Lord and asks if they could sit in the places of honour in the coming kingdom. Jesus’ response did not nullify her request as he stated that these positions were only to be given by his Father in heaven. Yet he did take the opportunity to teach his followers a lesson of the type of leaders he was looking for in his kingdom. He shared that the world’s rulers and kingdom work in a way of force, and strength. But those in his kingdom are to operate as servants and slaves. Leaders who are performing duties for another in lowliness and serving other people as being owned by God himself. Seeking to be in such a position in God’s kingdom is death, meaning that you must die to yourself and spend your life serving others. Jesus did not in anyway say there were not leaders or that they were not be respected and be over people. What he said is that the heart of leaders that truly represent his kingdom are to be slaves and have servitude as their foundation. If you are a leader of a Church or movement you need to write “slave” on your office door, you are a slave of Jesus Christ (Romans 1:1) and you need to do his bidding. When leaders assume positions in the Church who have not died to their carnal nature and are not slaves, they can do great damage to the work of Gods kingdom. An un-crucified leader will be against the purposes of God, just like Judas who in the end crucified our Lord.
We should also realize that leaders in the body of Christ though they are slaves still have great authority from the Lord. Believers are to willfully to submit under the authority of true leaders in the body of Christ and cannot be forced. If you are not able to submit to a servant leader then go to another Church or place where you can. It is damaging not just to yourself but to others when you fight against God ordained leadership as imperfect as it can be at times. God’s way is the way of peace and he has a place for you to be to submit under authority where brethren are slaves in their position of leadership. The Apostle Paul says to Timothy that those who desire to be an Overseer desire a good thing (1 Timothy 3:1). Yet it is not to a life of luxury and happiness but suffering as a slave for others that one commits to in being a Christian leader. Spiritual Eldership is very solemn because those leaders will account for those that submit to them (Hebrews 13:17). If we do not submit to Christian leaders then they will not give account for us, so submitting ourselves to them is very important. When we submit to a Overseer we are putting ourselves under their protection, it is a choice of the will, we must still use our judgment and reasoning but realize we have safety in submissiveness and humility. The world teaches independence but the Church teaches submission as the way of godliness and life in believers. True freedom is found in submission and humility under slaves of Jesus Christ. What a truly upside down kingdom, but a glorious kingdom we are in as believers.
April 28, 1997
There has been a lot of talk in recent years about great conspiracies -- schemes purportedly aimed at destroying both democracy in America and Christianity. These stratagems have included the Trilateral Commission, Communism, the New Age movement, Secular Humanism, the Illuminati and cults. Yet I believe none of these conspiracies has ever troubled the heart of God. With just one tiny whiff of his divine breath, he could blow them all into oblivion!
There is only one conspiracy that concerns our heavenly father -- a scheme aimed directly at Christians who have set their hearts on entering into the fullness of Christ. It is a satanic conspiracy meant to thwart God's plan of raising up an army of sanctified people -- men and women totally devoted to the Lordship of Jesus in their lives!
There Is Rampant Today - A
Conspiracy of Interruptions!
The fact is, the devil is terrified of Christians who hunger and thirst after righteousness. Indeed, he fears praying saints more than he fears a thousand years in chains!
All of hell quivers and quakes at the effectual, fervent prayer of a single believer. And every demonic principality seated in high places cowers upon hearing the cries of a weeping, broken-hearted child of God. The powerful praying of just one intercessor sounds like raging thunder in the caverns of the damned. And there is not one inch of space in hell that isn't affected by a believer who denies himself, takes up his cross and follows Christ with his whole heart.
Yet, we must be aware: The soul that cries out with agonizing yearnings for depth in Christ will become the central focus of Satan's conspiracy of interruptions!
A pastor from Arkansas once wrote to me, saying, "I must be like many other ministers. My greatest battle is not with some secret sin of the flesh -- but with maintaining a consistent life of prayer and study in God's word!
"Satan rarely tempts me with sexual sin. But he has found one thing that works on me time after time. He gets me so busy with the daily affairs of life that my prayer and study time are crowded out!
"I don't allow this to happen intentionally. In fact, I always renew my efforts to get into the prayer closet. But I'm soon caught up again in all kinds of projects and interruptions. And this cycle is repeated over and over. Satan is robbing me of my time with God! Perhaps you could write a message about this problem we all face...."
Like millions of other sincere Christians, this dear pastor is the victim of a demonic conspiracy of interruptions. And the devil's chief target in these attacks is the secret closet of prayer! He knows it is the door into the holy of holies -- the armory out of which saints emerge in full battle dress, ready to withstand all of Satan's fiery arrows.
So, how does the devil keep believers out of this fearsome, secret closet of prayer? Does he parade erotic images through their minds? Does he tempt them with soothing thoughts of escape through alcohol or drugs? Does he lure them with dreams of fame and prosperity?
No, never! The devil knows that the person in union with Christ will not be tempted by any such vulgarity. And the truth is, these obvious temptations are not necessary for him to accomplish his work. Instead, the old fox seeks to interrupt a believer's every attempt to enter the presence of God. He uses every device in hell to hinder that Christian's efforts to spend time in prayer and in the study of God's word!
Let Me Tell You About
My Experience With
I've often promised myself I would spend the entire day in prayer and Bible study -- to little avail. On those occasions I would instruct my wife or secretary, "Let no one -- nothing -- disturb me. This day belongs to the Lord. I don't care if the President of the United States calls. I can't be interrupted!"
Of course, it's never the President who calls. Instead, it's a teenager saying she is about to commit suicide. When this comes up, I gladly answer the telephone. But within just a few minutes of talking with the young woman, I discern she is not in despair at all. Rather, she just wants to boast to her friends that she has talked to me.
As I hang up the phone, a knock comes on my office door -- and in steps a visitor from overseas who insists on meeting with me for just ten minutes. Half an hour later, my secretary tells me other important calls are awaiting me. Before I know it, several hours have flown by, and it is now late afternoon. I've been hit with a plague of interruptions. I realize the day is gone -- and my master has been robbed of my best time!
Please don't misunderstand me. I want to be available to people. But I cannot deny the tremendous tug I feel on my heart by the Holy Spirit. It is a spiritual pull -- something that makes me long to run to my secret closet and hide away in Christ's precious bosom!
The devil's conspiracy of interruptions in my life is most ferocious whenever I am most determined to get alone with the Lord. Recently, after making a great resolve to let nothing hinder me from a day of prayer, I was again swamped suddenly with unexpected interruptions. It was so overwhelming -- and so obvious -- I cried aloud, "This is supernatural interference! The devil himself is behind these interruptions. He is conspiring to keep me away from my beloved!"
From that day on, I have become more aware of Satan's subtle devices to hinder my prayer and study time. Of course, the interruptions themselves are not intrinsically evil -- but the force behind their timing often is. Think about it: If Satan can delay an archangel who's on his way to deliver a message to Daniel, he can also delay our visitors and callers -- just long enough to coincide with our trip to the prayer closet!
One young minister told me of his experience with a conspiracy of interruptions. It seemed all his interruptions had to do with human need. There was always someone who needed help -- his help -- just at the time he felt he needed to pray and seek the Lord. After a while, he recognized a conflict in his soul: He was torn between his call to prayer and his compassion for hurting people.
While in prayer one day, the young man wept out all his pent-up confusion. He prayed, "Lord, how can I turn down anyone in need? How can I neglect those who are hurting?"
The answer came to him clearly but firmly: "Son, how can you neglect me?"
I ask you: Isn't this the crux of the issue? Could anyone or anything ever be more important to us than our Lord? Is there any need or hurt that could ever be more important to us than Christ himself? Of course, we have to make time for family and for others, as God's word commands. But Christ must always come first!
Jesus himself withdrew from the massive human need all around him, so he could quietly communicate with his heavenly father. And a time has to come, in every Christian's life when he looks at all the hurting, troubled people making demands on him -- including his family -- and say, "You'll have to wait! I'll be back -- but first I have to pray. My soul is hungry, and I have to feed on God's word. I need time alone with the Lord -- or else I'll have nothing to offer you but my feeble human compassion!"
Our Flesh Is in
League With Satan!
I've never believed that Satan could enter the secret closet of prayer -- a place hallowed by the very presence of God, where he meets the cries of every devoted intercessor. But the devil doesn't have to enter the secret closet to accomplish his purposes. And that's because he already has our flesh in cahoots with him!
You see, our flesh is at constant enmity against the Spirit of God -- and it always will be. Only by trusting in the glorious power of the Holy Spirit can we take full dominion over our flesh.
Yet, all too often, we allow our flesh to rise up whenever we finally do get time alone with God. And we're all well aware of what follows: Constant yawning. Wild, fluctuating thoughts. Short attention spans. Our minds wander off, unchecked, in many different directions. And after a while, we're too weary to keep trying to pray.
The flesh has won the battle. Whereas the Spirit sought to bring us into a much-needed place of victory, weariness has stolen our hearts away. I wonder: In such times, does Jesus stand over us, as he did his disciples, asking, "Could you not watch with me one hour?"
Think about it for a moment: Paul would not have commanded us to bring every thought captive to obey Christ, if it were not within our power to do so. We are to go into our prayer closet determined to reckon our flesh totally dead to Christ, stripping it of all authority and dominion. We have the power to bring every yawn, every roving thought, every physical and mental interruption into obedience to the Holy Spirit within us.
Of course, physical exhaustion is another matter. God deserves our best time, our most productive hours. And yet, that is the one thing he hardly ever gets from us -- quality time!
If we've spent the day in energy-draining activities, we'll enter his presence weary and worn. Beloved, whenever that's the case, the best thing to do is simply to go to bed. God is not a hard taskmaster; he gives his children sleep. Prayer was never meant to be a burden, or the cause of guilt trips. On the contrary, prayer -- the very life of our communion with the Lord -- should be done when we are alert, mentally and physically.
Even the Early Church
Fathers Faced This Conspiracy!
In the first-century church at Jerusalem, the Jewish widows were being neglected in the daily distribution of food. Naturally, they sought the help of the leaders in the church.
But the apostles didn't feel right about giving up their study of God's word and time in prayer just to oversee this administrative task. So they called together the church body and said, "...It is not reason (good) that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables" (Acts 6:2).
As a result, seven men of "good report" were appointed to handle all the church's business affairs. In the meantime, the apostles pledged, "We will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word" (verse 4).
This arrangement resulted in "...the word of God increas(ing); and the number of the disciples multipl(ying)..." (verse 7). The church grew, because these men refused to neglect their primary task!
Yet very few pastors today will make this kind of sacrifice. One minister looked me in the eye and said, straight-faced, "I simply don't have time to pray. I'm too busy. There are too many demands on my time." Another pastor confessed to me, "I haven't prayed in months. I meditate and have quick devotions every so often. But I can't bring myself into the discipline of prayer."
I frequently receive pitiful letters from Christians who complain of the lack of spiritual life and depth in their churches. Many write, "Our pastor is dry. His messages are light, without any kind of conviction. Most of the time he seems preoccupied."
I don't want to condemn any hardworking, devoted minister of God. But the fact is, every servant rises and falls to his own master. And many preachers of the gospel today are not aware that they have become victims of a satanic conspiracy of interruptions!
These men are constantly on the run, bogged down under an avalanche of duties and details. And if their church is in the midst of a building project, their dilemma only grows worse. They feel compelled to flit about the construction site, keeping on top of everything.
Such running about can become an addictive way of life for many pastors. (My grandfather called such ministers "preachers with sand in their shoes.") And in the process of running around, trying to stay on top of things, they neglect the Lord and cheat their congregation.
I believe this is one of the main reasons many Christians are falling away from the faith -- especially young people. Dead, dry preachers have become so preoccupied with business affairs that they have no time to pray and get a fresh word from heaven. I cringed when the pastor of one of America's largest evangelical churches told me, "I just can't get away to pray. My congregation can't get along without me. I have too many things going on in the church."
This man doesn't realize that congregations actually prefer their ministers to shut themselves away with God -- and let the elders and associates deal with everyday business matters. No minister of God is to act as a corporate president. His time is to be given to prayer and the study of God's word!
Now, I thank God for every minister who is faithful to his family and to his congregation. Such men are righteous, conscientious, and their lives are an open book. Yet it is possible for any godly minister to come under the dominion of Satan's conspiracy of interruptions -- and be kept from a deeper walk with the Lord!
Any congregation that loves its pastor should pray for him continually: "Oh, God -- deliver our pastor from a gadabout spirit. Keep him from the devil's conspiracy. Let him know he must avoid Satan's trap -- and flee like an escaped bird to your heavenly refuge!"
There Is Also a Great
Conspiracy in the Home!
Satan's conspiracy of interruptions has been most effective in Christian homes. The myriad interruptions that keep husbands and wives from praying together is not accidental. And those who do finally make it to prayer discover that the harassment of interruptions has intensified!
The devil knows he doesn't have to break up Christian homes to reach his main objective. All he has to do is divert godly people from prayer and God's word. He knows if he can interrupt their Bible study and intercessory time, they will falter in their faith.
After all, prayerless parents are weak parents. They have no spiritual authority to keep the spirit of the world out of their homes. They represent no threat to the devil's kingdom or to any of his strongholds. And the result is, their children become prey to demonic seductions.
Most prayerless parents eventually end up parked in front of their TV -- wasting hours at a time, growing spiritually dull and hard. And that is the real evil of having a TV: It becomes the greatest interruption of time that rightfully belongs to God!
Consider this fact: By the time he's eighteen, the average teenager has watched six years of TV. Yet in that same period, he has spent only four months in church. The tragedy is that most Christians can hardly sit through a one-hour worship service -- yet they can easily sit through a three-hour TV special, without a trace of impatience!
There was a time not long ago when sold-out believers were sensitive to the inner voice of the Holy Spirit, calling them to the secret closet to pray. But after spending weeks and months idling away precious hours in front of the TV, they no longer hear the still, small voice of God. His voice has become drowned out by all the worldly voices emanating from the tube!
You may say, "But we all need balance. And every TV does have an 'Off' button, you know. All anyone ever needs to do is just turn it off." But how many Christians are actually doing that? How many have the self-restraint to shut off the clamoring voices of the world, and get alone to hear the voice of God? Where are Christian parents who have the courage to take authority over the conspiracy in their living room -- and turn off their TV long enough to hear the Lord in prayer?
Beyond all the nudity, filth and godless immorality, the real issue with TV is that it absorbs too much time, keeping us away from much-needed communion with the Lord. We simply have to take godly authority over its misuse. And the time we save by not watching it must be given to the Lord, in the secret closet of prayer. Otherwise, we won't be prepared for the great shaking about to fall on all humanity -- because our homes will be without God's protective wall of fire!
What Is the Solution?
The Lord has led me take the following steps to guard my prayer time and withstand all satanic conspiracies. I believe these steps are meant for you as well:
Only when prayer becomes important enough will you make the time to do it. Yet, most Christians -- including pastors -- neglect prayer simply because they don't recognize its importance and effectiveness. I know that as a pastor, I dare not minister to people until I first minister to the Lord; otherwise, I will be an unprofitable servant.
The truth is, it is impossible to waste time when you are in prayer, seeking God. And furthermore, outside the secret closet, the praying man or woman accomplishes more in less time, with less hurry and sweat.
But the most effective work for God we'll ever do is on our knees, anyway. While the prayerless run helter skelter, to and fro, attempting great things, the praying Christian is hard at work moving kingdoms, shattering strongholds -- and, in the process, becoming a giant with God!
Can you imagine someone keeping the creator God of the universe waiting, while that person lingers to view his favorite TV program? Yet that is what most of us do! Even worse is that we often don't bother to show up in God's presence at all. It's not that we forget our appointment with him -- but that we willfully refuse to appear before him!
Isaiah lamented, "He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not" (Isaiah 53:3). When I allow interruptions to come between me and my appointments with the Lord, I am hiding my face from him -- and not appreciating him!
Yet, I thank God that we are never at the mercy of Satan or any of his devices. We can expose his tactics, speak the word of faith, and in Christ's name stop every single interruption. And by the power of God's Spirit within us, we can clear our path to the Lord's gates -- and come boldly to his throne of grace, to receive help in our time of need. That is what the Lord desires for all of us.
Will you mortify your flesh today, and return to the secret closet of communion? Will you give up wasteful, worldly hours in front of your TV, in order to gain what nothing on this earth can give you?
Cry out to Jesus to deliver you today, by the power of his Spirit. Take authority over Satan's conspiracy of interruptions in your life, which is meant to shipwreck your faith. And enter into the fullness of your walk with Christ, as God has planned for you.
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A man who isn't convinced about the Holy Ghost ought to go out and plow corn; he ought not to be in the pulpit at all.
[The Church in the book of Acts] believed in God the Father, and they believed in God the Son, and they believed in God the Holy Spirit. Not only did they believe in Him creedally, but He was also everything to them. God was at the center of everything. They gathered unto the Lord; they worshiped the Lord; they obeyed the Lord. The Lord was everything to them!
But to a great many churches-perhaps most churches-God is no longer necessary. I think that this is one of the most awful things.
My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry. - James 1:19
We have all done this in our lives, spoken words that we wished we would not have. Words have power and can bring life and death, or more practically can bring encouragement or discouragement. When we speak of others by name we run the risk of speaking words that will slander a brother and such reckless words are dangerous to be spoken. Our Lord never spoke words without purpose, intent and leading from His Heavenly Father. We know Jesus never sinned in all he spoke. It would do for all us well to hold our tongues more and listen to others. Especially when we are in situations where have have hurts, emotions and displeasure. Anger can manifest in words that has their intent on revenge or punishment. Such words can cause slander, hurt and disregard to a servant of the Lord before other believers or publicly bring shame to God's work. James exhorts believers to be slow to speak and in the original greek the meaning of that word is to be "stupid, or inactive in mind." Essentially what is being said is do not think to respond to everything but accept what is being told you and do not be quick to respond in your own reasoning. This can be very helpful when we are in situations where we think we can fix the problem or have a disagreement with a fellow believer and just want to voice our opinion on the matter.
A.B. Simpson says, "I would rather play with forked lightning, or take in hand living wires with their fiery current, than speak a reckless word against any servant of Christ, or idly repeat the slanderous darts which thousands of Christians are hurling on others, to the hurt of their own souls and bodies." James later in this later speaks this clear word to believers, "do not slander one another" (James 4:11). To James as an Overseer and worker in the Gospel he saw it as a red light to ever speak or repeat a careless word (Matthew 12:36) that would hurt another believer in the Lord. Repeating a slanderous report about another brother or sister in the Lord is just as worse as speaking it yourself. Moses spoke the people the law of the Lord by saying, "Do not spread false reports" (Exodus 23:1). It is very dangerous to simply repeat things we have heard and accusations when we fully do not know or understanding the truth behind the matter. This who have been hurt by someone in the body of Christ speak their hurts to others and accusations of the offender, but they can be blinded by their hurt to really see what was the true faults. There is sometimes truth in a slanderous statement but to achieve help for someone in the Church by slander will never work or bring healing. We all see in part and are blind to our own faults and errors. Be slow to speak of others, especially of their sins, but speak to the Lord often of your own.
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