I have written this blog out of a heart that wants to see young ministers or those who are new to ministry thrive. There are those who have been in ministry much longer than I have who could write much more about their many years of experience in a very helpful way. With that said, there are some things that I have learned in the pastoral and leadership roles that I have held over the past fifteen years or so. While I haven’t fell into all of these five pitfalls, I’ve had my share of missteps and don’t want to see any other young minister fall into the same pits. We are seeing a growing number of pastors with well established ministries fall victim to traps, with some of them losing their churches and ministries never to return. This is sad. Its pretty safe to say that none of them ever thought they would be where they are today, but who does? This is why I believe that setting boundaries early and taking inventory often will lead to a long and prosperous ministry that will leave a lasting legacy. Before you are quick to read the titles of some of these and say that’s not me, take a long hard look at your life, whether you think you’re successful or not. Just because you have successes doesn’t mean that there is not room for improvement.
1. Ministry Over Family/Marriage
This is probably one of the biggest downfalls for a minister. It is a fundamental misunderstanding of what God expects out of us as pastors and ministry leaders. One of the reasons that so many pastors have horrible marriages is that when they felt the call to the ministry, their relationships with their wives took a back seat. It doesn’t happen over night, but in time they look up and realize that their connection with their spouse has been lost. Think you are to young and in love for this to happen to you? Its happening to the best of them. Our call as leaders is to first love God with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength Deut 6:5, Matt 22:37. This is where a lot of ministers go wrong. We start off loving Jesus and wanting to use all of our talents and abilities to get the gospel out to as many people as possible, then something bad happens. Slowly without even realizing it, our focus is not loving Jesus with all of our heart, soul and mind, but rather we give all of that to the ministry. It is a ploy of the enemy to take the calling for which God has given you and turn it into an idol that shuts God out. Because when you’re no longer loving God, but still love ministry, God is not involved. Everything you do in ministry must flow out of your relationship with God. I know from my own life what it means to be driven. The passion and the intensity you have to see the vision that God has called you to come to pass. But ask yourself this, Do you have the same passion and drive to see your marriage thrive? How many hours are you willing to put in to see that your wife and family are tended to? See, the next thing that God has called leaders to do is to love our wives as Christ loves the church Eph 5:25. Notice the scripture doesn’t say love your wives as you love the church, rather you are to love them as Christ loves the church. It doesn’t matter how much you love ministry if you don’t love your wife or she comes second to ministry. You are probably thinking that this doesn’t apply to you because you say you love your wife, but have you read 1 Cor 13 lately? How patient have you been with your wife lately? How about the times that you keep record of her wrongs in your mind? See, its easy to love those that you are over at church because you don’t have to go home with them and make major life decisions with them. You don’t have to help raise their children, but you do have to do those things with your wife. I know what its like to spend ten to fifteen hours or even longer each week preparing a sermon. Trying to find the perfect illustrations and everything else that will tie that masterpiece of a sermon together. Yes, you need to study to show yourself approved unto God 2 Tim 2:15, but Paul didn’t write that to Timothy so that he could make study and research an idol.When you stand before God, He’s going to want to know what you did for your first church, (your family) before he wants to know what you did for your extended family (the church) When you truly love God with all of your heart, your focus will be on pleasing Him, in turn you will be a great husband and father first, then a minister. Notice I said great, not perfect. God is not looking for perfect men, but surrendered men. I believe this is one of the reasons men of God fall into sexual sin. They simply are not rejoicing in the wife of their youth Prov 5:18, rather they have replaced that with a passion for ministry. I do not write this in judgment, but rather out of a heart that wants to see health come to ministers around the world. There was a time in my own life that ministry became number one. I went an entire span of ten years in various pastoral ministry positions without one vacation. I spent hours researching and studying for sermons at the expense of time with my family. I thought I was doing a noble thing when in reality I was living contrary to what God wanted for my life. As long as you will sacrifice your family, people will let you. You are not immune to falling into this trap. Make changes to your schedule now and go on dates with your wife. Take out time at least one time a week to have an uninterrupted time out doing something you both like to do. You will never get that time back. My wife and I have what we call “face time” every week. This is a time where we can be focused just on us. What I’ve found is that it is a kind of pride to think that you can’t take a vacation because you think things will fall apart if you’re not present. If you were Jesus that would be true, but you’re not, so go on vacation, spend time with your wife and keep God first. Everything else will fall into place.
2. No Family Vision
If I were to ask you were you see your ministry in five years, you could probably rattle off a lot of things in a short amount of time. Now, if I were to ask you where you see your family in five years the list would probably be much shorter. What I have found is that some just coming into the ministry are super excited about whats ahead for them in ministry but not a clue where their family should be spiritually, emotionally, and financially. Why emotionally? Ministry is very hard on a pastor/ministry leader and his family. It is very important that as a husband and father, he is listening and addressing their concerns as they take this journey together. Sometimes leaders go years without addressing the concerns and frustrations of their wife and children and it leads to a wife that is bitter towards ministry and sometimes even God. It sometimes also leads their children into rebellion and even suicide. The Bible states in Prov 29:18 that “where there is no vision, the people perish”. Do you have a vision for your family like you do for your ministry? How about finances? Are you just living day by day hoping that things will work themselves out? does that ever happen? Absolutely not. We must be intentional about our finances. If you’re in ministry you know that finances are not always abundant, and there are times that you could move to multiple states where salaries may vary depending on the size and circumstances of the places you may serve. This can be an added stress to your wife and children if you don’t have a vision for your finances.You can endure unnecessary hardships due to poor financial planning which can also lead to distractions in ministry. Its tough to have a razor sharp focus on the ministry when you don’t know where your next meal is coming from. It is also irresponsible. What about spiritually? So many leaders are so focused on how their church or youth groups are doing spiritually, that they forget how their own family is doing. How is the atmosphere at your home? Is it conducive to the workings of the Holy Spirit? What kinds of music are your children listening to? What and how much TV and social media are all of you consuming? Is there bible reading and prayer? These are things that all of us should be asking ourselves, but especially if we are in leadership. What will we say to God if we boast about how healthy our church or ministry is but our family has no vision, nothing to attain to, no goal ahead. Think about it. We as husbands and fathers have to have our ears attentive to the Holy Spirit to know what His desires are for our families as we go through different seasons. Fantasy football is great, baseball season is great, but what about God’s seasons? What if His plan is to draft one of your children for the greatest missionary team this world has ever seen? What if your son is the first round pick for a new church plant? See, if we can’t see what God sees, some dreams may perish. Don’t let it happen to you! Your family should have a vision before your church, youth group, or small group has one. Get with your wife and discuss your goals and dreams together. Sit down with your kids and share with them what God is showing you about their lives, then set up a plan to make it happen! Go!
Prov 16:18 Pride goes before destruction and haughtiness before a fall. Scoot in real close because there’s something I need to tell you. You are not amazing. Christ Jesus and He alone is amazing. Whatever success you have gained has nothing to do with you, but has everything to do with God. We are depraved and utterly useless without God. There is no quicker way to lose your anointing than to start thinking God shows up because you walked in the room. Nothing can be farther from the truth. As young ministers begin to see small successes in their ministries, it is easy to start thinking that it is your planning and strategy that’s making things happen. Don’t be fooled. It is neither your plan or your strategy that gets anything done, but rather the workings of the Holy Spirit. Do everything you can to deflect praise from you and redirect it to God. This does not mean that people can’t compliment you on being a willing vessel, but train your soul to always give honor to who it really belongs to. You need not worry, God will elevate you. Cast down early in your ministry enemies of the heart such as lust, pride, and greed, seeing that those three enemies are the most enticing, but yet the most lethal. Its cool to be called pastor so and so, but if you need to be called that, that’s a red flag. The only person that needs to recognize us is God. If heaven doesn’t know you, that’s a problem. If people don’t, who cares. And if you’re making strides in the kingdom, Hell will know you as well and will try to entice you to do just as the devil tried to do in heaven and take some praise for yourself. That didn’t work out to well for him and neither will it for you. Early on in my ministry and sometimes even now I have a hard time accepting compliments from people because I’m deathly afraid of pride. But what I’ve found is that its ok to accept compliments, it’s what you do with the compliment that’s important. Accolades from people are false floors. You are amazing today and fit for the gutter tomorrow. Keep your eyes on Jesus and forsake all else.
4. “My Sermon Prep Is Sufficient Time With God”
Think of a buzzer in a basketball game or when someone gives the wrong answer on a game show. This has got to be the most fatal flaw in a minister’s life. There is no amount of studying of the word for a message that can replace your personal time with the Lord. Trust me, this is a fatal mistake to you, your family and your ministry. Everything you do flows from your personal times of refreshing in the presence of your heavenly Father. This common misconception is what I feel is causing early burnout in pastors. You cannot survive without the source of life for your own soul. You need to drink deep from His wells in a very personal way. You must allow the Word to pierce deep into your own life before you can help others. God longs for you to be healthy mentally, spiritually and emotionally. The only place that you find that is in the throne room, for yourself and by yourself. As you lay hands on the sick, you need to be continually healed on the inside. As you speak life over others, you need to allow the Holy Spirit and the Word of God to speak life into your own spirit. Make time to sit and soak in His presence. If your schedule is too busy for that, you are to busy to be the leader God has called you to be. I know what it’s like to read the Bible and even when you’re reading for yourself the scriptures are coming alive to you and you begin to write down notes for a sermon. But what if that word was for you and you missed it because you were to busy being a preacher instead of a sheep hearing the voice of your shepherd for your own life. I will never forget when my lovely wife and I were at a marriage conference. She looked over at me as I was feverishly taking notes. For a moment I think she thought she was going to come home to a new husband as it seemed I was holding on to every word the marriage experts were saying. Part of that was true, I was holding on to every word those men of God were saying. The problem was that I wasn’t writing down those things for me and my marriage, rather I was writing them down for a future sermon! I was stuck in pastor mode and could not extract with clarity what I needed for my own life. Needless to say my wife wasn’t exactly running the aisles with excitement that she was bringing the man of her dreams home that night, but rather the same old stuck in the mud, priorities wrong, church vision driven pastor husband that she was stuck with. That’s not what she signed up for. She wants a man that has more passion to see his marriage thrive than a great sermon preached. But when you’re stuck in leader mode all the time you will never get the nourishment you need for your life. Study the Bible for your own life. Pray for your own soul. An unhealthy pastor cannot build a healthy church. If this is an imbalance in your life, fix it today. After I transitioned from my last pastorate, I felt God wanted me to take a sabbatical before I went back into full time ministry. I’m still in it today even though I have small leadership roles in my local church. My desire is that my personal house is in order, then I can entertain what God has for my future. So I encourage you to check for imbalances in your own life. Don’t be legalistic about it, but make sure you’re spending time with your amazing Father. It’s worth every minute.
This issue is directly connected to our culture. We live in a very consumer driven society. The entitlement mentality of the teens and twenty somethings has gotten out of control. It’s amazing how many twenty somethings think they should be living like their parents who are many times in their late forties and early fifties. The same goes for young ministers who get their first position right out of bible college. Many young ministers want to live like their spiritual mentors when it took their mentors years to get where they are today. Its ok to drive a clunker the first few years in ministry, we did. When some young ministers finally get a position they go and make big financial purchases like getting cars with payments on them and buying homes they can barely afford. This is a grave mistake and a hardship on your family if anything were to happen. If you’ve been in ministry any length of time you know that it can be touch and go sometimes with finances at the church depending on size and the economic status of the area in which you serve. Some young ministers don’t plan for things not working out and having to move their families. All they are thinking about are the things they would like to have. You are not defined by a car, house, Iphone or what other ministers including your mentor has. It is healthy both spiritually and naturally for you to go through seasons of waiting and putting money away for emergencies. Be smart. No one owes you anything, even in ministry, and you certainly are not entitled to anything but what your education and experience can gain you. Do not put your family under strain trying to live where you think you deserve to be, but rather seek to be where God wants you to be. I hope these have been a help to you and your families. God bless!
If you’re anything like me, you are grateful that we live in the age of rapidly advancing technology. It makes life much more simple, or does it? My love for technology over the past few years have started to decline rapidly. I have grave concerns for how it is affecting the culture, especially our youth. I see no influence on our world today greater than the influence of TV, Movies, Social Media sites etc. Sadly the influence is a terrible one. Trying to find something wholesome to watch on television anymore is like trying to dig for a good apple in the garbage can. You might find something, but look what you have to pick through to get to it. This brings me to a activity online that is wildly popular, Selfies. While I am not against the occasional ” look at my new hair color” selfie, I am strongly opposed to the “its all about me” flesh fest that is happening on social media right now. As Christians it is so important that we are committed to the passage of scripture that says; “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think”. Romans 12:2 NLT. Whether we want to face it or not, when it comes to social media, the devil is in the details. Some might ask, ” Are you a part of one of those communities that think any modern technology is of the devil”? Absolutely the opposite is true! What I’m concerned with are enemies of the soul. The devil doesn’t care how he gets into your life, as long as he gets in. The glorification of creation rather than the Creator is staggering. Selfies can be as innocent as showing off a new pair of shoes or a new trendy outfit that you bought. There is nothing wrong with that. Usually this is not the case. If you and I are honest with ourselves, its usually a cry from deep within for attention and affirmation from those we are friends with. Or in some cases, people we barely know, which is scary. See, we are all human whether we are saved or not. At the core of humanity is a desire to be accepted, loved and affirmed by everyone we encounter. The truth that a lot of people, especially our youth don’t realize is that all of those desires can only be filled by God. The issue is that when something gets popular in the secular world, Christians tend to jump on the same bandwagon without first discerning what they are getting themselves into. Thus the world cannot tell us from themselves and we blur the lines so much that they have no one to turn to. This is sad seeing that we are suppose to be guided by the Holy Spirit, not pop culture. Here are three things one should consider when posting a selfie.
1. What is the motive behind this selfie or what is it that I am trying to say
This may seem like an unnecessary question to ask yourself before posting a selfie, but it’s the most important question you can ask yourself before posting one. Lets be honest. When you’re posting a selfie, its your desire that people see you. What is it that you want them to see? Deep within our hearts is the longing to be approved. If you think about it, there are not many reasons that you can come up with on why you post a selfie other than you want a person to focus on you at the moment. Again, its not wrong in and of itself, its the motive behind it. It is important that our soul is healthy in this culture. This culture is saturated with celebrities who promote self glorification which is in direct contrast to what scriptures teach. God should be the one lifted high, not us. As a married man scrolling through my Newsfeed, what is it exactly that you’re trying to say to me? Believe it or not, every picture has a message behind it. You may say, my picture is not for you. Okay, but you know that I’m going to see it, so whatever message that you’re trying to send to those select few people, I’m getting the same message, so be careful. Some pictures should only be seen by your husband. Some looks should be only given to your husband. Your seductive eyes, protruding hips and duck face should not be for public consumption. No one posts pictures of themselves because they think they’re ugly. So those pictures that you post are telling someone’s husband, son, and teen girl something about you, every time you post. Is it that you think you’re beautiful? That may very well be true, but why the need to constantly remind girls who are struggling with their self image and their ever changing bodies how beautiful you are? Or that husband that is having marital problems and is already having a problem with wandering eyes? Does he need to keep being reminded of how beautiful YOU are? Or how much weight you’ve lost so that you could fit into your bikini? Sometimes the things that we look at as being innocent and the norm has been perverted by hell itself. The devil will use anybody. I’ve seen everyone from teen girls to Pastor’s wives fall into this trap. The devil is prowling around, seeking someone or some marriage to devour. Be on your guard! 1 Peter 5:8 Ask yourself, what is my motive? This goes for guys as well. No one needs to see your abs but your wife. Do the girls that are friends with you on your social media accounts need to see how you’re progressing in the gym? What about young guys that you could potentially mentor? They need to see what you have on the inside instead of constantly being reminded how ripped you are. We are to be men of integrity. if our minds are constantly on our physique, we can’t be effective for the cause of Christ.
2. Will my Picture in any way cause my brother or sister to stumble
Be careful, however, that the exercise of your rights does not become a stumbling block to the weak. 1 Corinthians 8:9This is a big one, seeing that a lot of selfies do just that. Women, think about how many men you are friends with on Facebook. Some married and some single or engaged. I’m convinced that most women do not think of this when posting a picture of themselves. While you think you look fabulous in your new bikini with your newly slim body, so does your friend’s husband and the single guy at church who is doing everything he can to keep himself pure for his future wife. Men in this culture are bombarded enough with endless innuendos and seductive pictures in magazines, billboards, TV commercials etc. So while you’re trying to boost your self esteem, there is a husband out there who is buckling under the pressure of a sex saturated culture. This type of thing should certainly not come from women of God, but yet it happens all the time. Pictures that focus on your eyes, form etc are simply not healthy for men. You may say, its his fault, he shouldn’t be looking at me in that way. You are right, he should not look at you that way, but this works both ways. You need to use wisdom with what you post and he needs to guard his heart and mind from these things. Many men are scrolling through their Newsfeeds and being assaulted by sexual images from so called Christian women. 1 John 2:16 says, “For everything in the world–the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life–comes not from the Father, but from the world. Consider the negative influence you can have on a pre-teen or teen girl with your selfie. So many teen girls struggle immensely with low self esteem. The last thing they need is sister “perfect body” from church posting seductive pictures of herself. Instead of being part of the solution for teen girls, you can easily become the problem. I hear all the time, ” it’s my body, i will choose to do with it whatever I want. the scripture says different 1 Corinthians 6:19-20. When your body or your face comes up in your friends Newsfeed, they can’t help but see you. After all that’s what you want right? If no one saw it, it would be pointless to post. So if we know that’s the case, then we need to be very careful. Many marriages have been broken up because of Facebook and Instagram. Where women are more relational, men are 100% visual. It will effect them one way or another. In Paul’s day because of Jewish customs, eating some meat was considered by some offensive. Paul realized the freedom that he had in Christ to eat meat. We see this in 1 Corinthians 8. Paul didn’t take a nonchalant attitude to the fact that someone may stumble over something that he didn’t see anything wrong with. Not one time did Paul blame the other believer for being weak in their faith. He didn’t call them immature Christians.Paul instead humbled himself and said if what he was doing was causing another believer to stumble, that he would not do it again in his lifetime. This is the attitude that God has called all of us to have. Imagine what healing could take place if we lived by this principle in the word of God. We must be willing to lay our lives down for one another.
3. Is what I’m posting bringing glory to God or am I advancing hell’s agenda on the earth
I guess having a teenage daughter growing up in this culture has heighten my awareness to the dangers of this phenomenon. There are at least 400 million Snapchats sent everyday. That is an astounding number. It would be great if those were just friendly pictures between friends. Often what you find is the exact opposite. Go to any teenager’s Facebook or Instagram page and look at all the pictures they took of themselves. Then look at all the comments below. No doubt you will see other bright eyed teens comments of praise of the person’s looks. Guys will talk about how hot she is and gals will say things like, I would kill for that body. If this was only happening on pages of people who didn’t profess a personal relationship with Christ, we would have nothing to discuss here, but these are blood bought believers and their children participating in a flesh fest. At this point you may be saying; Lighten up, it’s just a picture! Tell that to the thousands of men who are hooked on pornography. Tell them to “lighten up” its just pictures. That’s exactly what they thought when they started glancing through the sport’s illustrated swimsuit edition magazine. They thought to them- selves, its just pictures, it can’t be that bad. Now they find themselves locked in the grips of hell itself, fighting sexual addiction and some committing sex crimes all because of a “innocent” picture. Tell that to all the girls who are struggling with bulimia and anorexia, that the weight loss pictures that were crammed down their eye canal was “just a picture”. Don’t tell me pictures don’t have power. Sex sells. Just ask Calvin Klein. Quite a few years ago when he changed his advertising for his products to more of a sensual tone through his pictures on colognes and magazines, his sells skyrocketed. All because of pictures. So as Christians, our desire more than anything should be to bring glory to our King. Is it wrong to post a picture of yourself on social media? No, but always check your motives and your heart and be honest with yourself. The only way your heart and soul can truly be healthy is that you are honest with God daily and you are honest with yourself. You are not your own, you’ve been bought with a price. Honor God with your Body. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20
I’m not one to focus a lot on the details of eschatology (the study of the end times) because it can be so divisive. My desire is that people come to know the Christ that will return one day. That should be our main focus. Jesus didn’t ask us to spend our whole lives trying to iron out every detail about how and when He would come, rather he has asked us to “Go and make disciples” Matthew 28:19. The Christian world has been plagued with Pastors and so called experts on eschatology who scare people into stocking up water, canned goods and gas masks for some catastrophic event. Ask the people in year 1999 who stocked up untold amounts of food and supplies during the Y2K craze how that worked out for them. Some may be too young to remember Y2K, I remember it all too well. Even then Christians were sending thousands of dollars to these so called prophecy experts to buy tons of food and survival gear that is now unusable and a big waste of money. Yet if you watch Christian television, you will see they are still selling these end time packages for thousands of dollars. What happened to trusting God? Yes we should prepare for hard times whether it be a tornado or financial crises or any number of things, but we must be careful that in our preparing we use wisdom and don’t get caught up in unnecessary hype. In every generation there has been catastrophic events. Take World War I and II or Hitler’s reign of terror, Certainly people in those times thought that the end most certainly had to be near. Some even suggested that Hitler was the Antichrist. If you had lived in that day, you might have as well. When major events happen in our world it is hard for us who are finite to understand the reasons behind these events. So in turn we try to connect every major event in history with the end times.
Though I’m not an expert in this area, history has proven itself. For years people in the evangelical community have set dates for the return of Christ even though it says in Matthew 24:36 ” But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.”For example; In the early 90’s John Hinkle was one of the notable voices on end times. He said on the Trinity Broadcasting Network that the most cataclysmic experience that the world has ever known since the resurrection is going to happen. He claimed that God told him Thursday, June 9, 1994, ” I will rip all of the evil out of the world”. He was to return as a special guest on TBN on that very day. That day came and went and both Hinkle and his cataclysmic event was a no show. Lester Sumrall wrote in his book Begin of Jesus’ reign from Jerusalem ” I predict the absolute fullness of man’s operation on planet earth by the year 2000 AD. Then Jesus Christ shall reign from Jerusalem for 1000 years.” Who can forget Harold Camping and his multimillion dollar campaign that the end of the world was going to come in 1994 and again on May 21, 2011 and after that proved false he said it would happen on October 21.2011. Then it was the Mayan’s who knew things that even Jesus nor the angels knew when people were promoting that the end will come on Dec 21, 2012. The list goes on and on with Jehovah’s Witnesses and their long history of setting dates. You would think by now that people would just simply believe the Bible that no one knows except our heavenly father. Money, popularity and good marketing still fool people today. So the saga continues.
Enter Pastor John Hagee. First of all Hagee is a classic Word Of Faith teacher. He believes it is God’s will for everyone to be healthy and wealthy this side of heaven. He believes being poor is a curse even though Jesus himself said “The poor you will always have with you.” Mark 14:7. Hagee believes Faith is a force, words are the container of that force and through the force of faith one can create their own reality. That is simply new thought metaphysics wraped up in a Christian package. Those in the Word of Faith movement love to quote Romans 4:17 and say we should call those things that be not as though they were. Notice the scripture does not say we, it says God calls those things. We are not creators, only God can create. So “we” can’t speak anything into existence, only God can. Hagee also makes outrageous claims about Jesus and the Jews. He states that “If God blinded the Jewish people to the identity of Jesus as Messiah, how could he send them to hell for not seeing what He had forbidden them to see.” So now I guess its Jesus’ fault that the Jews rejected Him. He goes on to say ” The Jews were not rejecting Jesus as Messiah, it was Jesus who was refusing to be the Messiah to the Jews.” That is some of the most outrageous statements I’ve ever heard! Jesus does give indications that He is the Messiah in Luke 4:17-21, Luke 20:41-44. Hagee also claims Jesus had a big house even though the scripture says ” the Son Of Man has no place to lay His head. Matthew 8:20. Hagee says Jesus had to have had a lot of money because he had a treasurer (Judas) and he wore a designer robe. This is utter foolishness. But because he writes books, he’s on TV and has a big church people will follow what ever he says without checking the facts for themselves 2 Tim 2:15. Why is it that Pastors get away with twisting scripture and sell millions of books based on their twisted theology? It’s because we are becoming more and more biblically illiterate statistics show. It’s a shame that so called Christian stations would even run the program of a person with these outrageous beliefs. There are some at this point that may get angry at me for writing these things. Please know that I’m concerned that you get the truth, not just what is popular. I’m sure John Hagee is a fine husband and father. This is not about his character, this is about his message. I’m sure he is a sincere man who thinks that he is right. Someone can be very sincere and be dead wrong. This is why we need to test all things we hear, read or see in light of scripture and do research before we propagate what we hear. It’s simply the blind leading the blind. I wanted to tell you the above things so that you would understand why I had to fact check this new craze made popular by Pastor John Hagee, 4 Blood Moons.
See the problem with bad eschatology is that there is an unsaved world that is watching us. If we continue to set dates even though the Bible says the opposite, we will continue to hinder a lost and dying world from coming to Jesus. Because every time we are wrong, the unsaved put the blame on our Saviour. They don’t realize that fallen humans are doing what fallen humans do. We try and figure out an infinite God with our little finite minds. Do I think Jesus is coming back soon? Absolutely! Do I think there will be signs in the heavens? Yes. Do I think that He could come any second? Yes. I await His precious face along with many other believers on this earth. What I don’t want to do is get my eyes off of Him and the lost while I’m preoccupied with people who blatantly go against scripture by date setting and getting everyone in an uproar because they got a “revelation” that can’t be backed up by scripture. This is the reason I wrote this blog, it’s also the reason that I am posting this article below from a well respected Christian Astrophysicist. Simply read the facts. I love you dearly and want you to be well informed.
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Will Lunar Eclipses Cause Four Blood Moons in 2014 and 2015?
by Danny R. Laulkner
Dr. Danny R. Faulkner has a B.S. (Math), M.S. (Physics), M.A. and PhD (Astronomy, Indiana University). For over 25 years he was on the faculty of the University of South Carolina Lancaster, where he taught physics and astronomy. He was Chair of its Division of Math, Science, Nursing, and Public Health (2009–2012). Dr. Faulkner retired as a full professor and now holds the title of Distinguished Professor Emeritus. In January, 2013 he joined Answers in Genesis and its Creation Museum full time. He has published more than a hundred papers in various astronomy and astrophysics journals. So far, Dr. Faulkner has published one book, Universe by Design.
Mark Biltz is the founder of El Shaddai Ministries, a Hebrew roots resource and teaching ministry located near Tacoma, Washington. Recently Biltz has attracted attention in presentations and YouTube videos about end-time prophecy and the Lord’s return. He discusses the significance of four total lunar eclipses that will fall on the dates of Passover and Sukkot in 2014 and 2015. The Crucifixion of Jesus was at the time of Passover, and Biltz believes that the Second Coming of Christ must happen at Sukkot, so he argues that this relatively unusual event of four lunar eclipses on these four dates has great significance. He also mentions two solar eclipses in 2015 having prophetic implications. Because total lunar eclipses often appear red, people sometimes call a totally eclipsed moon a “blood moon.” Therefore, Biltz suggests that these eclipses are a fulfillment of the prophecy in Joel 2:31 of the sun being darkened and the moon turning to blood and suggests that they may presage the Lord’s return. Others, such as John Hagee, have begun speaking about this as well. Let us examine some of these claims.
Why do total lunar eclipses often appear red?
A lunar eclipse occurs when the earth’s shadow (the umbra) falls on the moon. If the earth’s shadow completely covers the moon, it is a total eclipse. But a partial lunar eclipse happens if the earth’s umbra only partially covers the moon. Because the earth has an atmosphere that bends light around its edge, the earth’s umbra is not completely dark. So, the totally eclipsed moon will reflect the color of the light contained in the earth’s shadow. The earth’s atmosphere scatters out shorter-wavelength light (green through violet) leaving mostly longer-wavelength light (red, orange, and yellow) in the earth’s umbra. This is why sunsets and sunrises generally are red, and why most lunar eclipses are red.
However, a wide range of color and brightness can be found in lunar eclipses. This is based on atmospheric conditions at the time including dust and humidity levels. While the color of some total lunar eclipses could be compared to blood, others are more orange, similar to a pumpkin. Still other eclipses look yellow, and some are very dark—virtually black. One of the most unusual total lunar eclipses was the very long one on July 6, 1982. Half of the earth’s umbra was as dark as coal, but the other half was rather bright and had a peach-like color. No one alive could remember such an unusual-looking lunar eclipse, nor were there any similar reports of past eclipses. In short, most lunar eclipses don’t appear blood-like, so it is a bit presumptuous to assume that any particular future eclipse—or, in this case, four eclipses—must of necessity be “blood moons.”
How unusual are total lunar eclipses?
Total lunar eclipses aren’t that unusual; there will be 85 total lunar eclipses in the twenty-first century. The greatest length of time between two consecutive total lunar eclipses is only three years. In between these “droughts” will be occurrences of three or even four total lunar eclipses, each separated by about six months. A little more than half the earth’s surface can witness at least a portion of a particular eclipse. So, from any given location, total lunar eclipses aren’t quite as common as these statistics might suggest.
But what about the coincidence of the four eclipses of 2014–2015 with Passover and Sukkot?
This, too, is not quite as remarkable as has been claimed. Since a lunar eclipse occurs when the shadow of the earth is cast upon the moon, a lunar eclipse can happen only when the earth is between the sun and the moon. This happens once each month when the moon’s phase is full (fully illuminated as viewed from the earth). But there is not a lunar eclipse at full moon each month, so there must be more to it.
The moon’s orbit around the earth is tilted a little more than five degrees with respect to the plane of the earth’s orbit around the sun (known as the ecliptic). So normally a full moon is above or below the earth’s umbra, and no eclipse occurs. Each month the moon’s orbit crosses the plane of the earth’s orbit around the sun in two places, points that we call the lunar nodes. If a full moon occurs when the moon is near a node, then there is a lunar eclipse. (Conversely, a new moon at this time results in a solar eclipse.)
There are two times per year when the nodes are roughly aligned with a full moon. These eclipse seasons are little more than a month long, and they are separated by a little less than six months. The moon’s orbit precesses in an 18.6-year period, so the eclipse seasons shift about 20 days earlier each year. The result is that the possibility of lunar eclipses happening around the times of Passover and Sukkot (which are six months apart) repeats roughly half of this 18.6-year period. For instance, in 1995–1996, there were four lunar eclipses (not all were total)—two that fell on Passover and the other two within a day of Sukkot.1 I set up a telescope for public viewing during the total lunar eclipse in September 1996 and mentioned to the people who showed up Joel’s prophecy and the timing of the eclipse with Sukkot.
But isn’t it unusual to have a lunar eclipse on the same day as Passover or Sukkot?
No, it’s really not that unusual. Remember, a lunar eclipse happens only at full moon. We don’t follow a strictly lunar calendar today, but most ancient people, including the Hebrews, did. Their months began with the first appearance of the crescent of the new moon, which is a day or so after our modern definition of a new moon (when the moon and sun are in longitudinal conjunction). Reckoning from this point, fourteen days later, or the fifteenth of the month, always coincides with full moon.2
The civil year began near the autumnal equinox on the first day of the first month, and Jews today still celebrate Rosh Hashanah (New Year) then. However, at Sinai God established that the ceremonial year would begin in the spring, six months earlier. The festivals that the Hebrews were to observe on this ceremonial calendar are recorded in Leviticus 23. Passover is the fifteenth day of the first month and Sukkot begins on the fifteenth day of the seventh month, six months after Passover. Thus, Passover and Sukkot are always at full moon and always six months apart.
There are roughly 29.5 days in a lunar month and thus 354 days in 12 lunar months. This contrasts with about 365 days in a solar year, so some adjustments must be made to keep solar and lunar calendars synchronized. The easiest adjustments are to alternate between 29 and 30 days per month and to add an additional, intercalary month about every three years. Eventually the Hebrews adopted the Metonic cycle, a method of adding intercalary months appropriately in a 19-year cycle, but it is doubtful that they adopted this immediately.3 The first of each month initially may have been observationally determined, but eventually, as today, a formula determined when the first of each month occurred, and that algorithm nearly always matches what one would normally observe as the beginning of the month.
A lunar eclipse must happen exactly at full moon. On a lunar calendar the fifteenth of the month falls on or within a day of exact full moon, so any lunar eclipse must be on or within a day of the fifteenth of the month. Hence, any lunar eclipse that happens near the equinoxes must fall on or within a day of Passover (spring) or Sukkot (autumn). Therefore the coincidence of these festivals with lunar eclipses is not as rare as Biltz implies.
Illustrating the Recent Coincidences of Lunar Eclipses with Passover and Sukkot
To illustrate the frequency of the coincidence of lunar eclipses with Passover and Sukkot, consider the 230 lunar eclipses of all types (total, partial, and penumbral) during the twentieth century (1901–2000). Table I lists the 39 lunar eclipses in the twentieth century that coincided with Passover or Sukkot (Passover always is in March or April, and Sukkot always is in September or October). Many of the dates of lunar eclipses exactly match the dates of the Passover or Sukkot. Others are off by one day, and a few are off by two days.
There are at least five reasons why these eclipses don’t exactly match the dates of the holidays. First, the algorithm for determining the beginning of the Hebrew months results in the first of each month falling one or two days after astronomical new moon. This difference of a day or two causes the fifteenth day of each month to vary by a day or so from astronomical full moon, which is when a lunar eclipse must occur. Second, the moon doesn’t move in its orbit at a uniform rate, so the time between new and full phases varies slightly. Third, the date of each eclipse is listed for the Universal Time (UT, which for our purposes can be treated as the same as Greenwich Mean Time [GMT]) of mid-eclipse. This means that many of the eclipses span two days in UT.
Fourth, since lunar eclipses are seen at night and we change our calendar day at midnight, lunar eclipses must span two days as reckoned locally anyway. Fifth, there is a little ambiguity as to the date of Passover and Sukkot. In our modern convention we begin our days at midnight, but in Hebrew reckoning the day begins at sunset. On most calendars the dates of Passover and Sukkot are listed as the conventional date on which the sunset would commence the respective observances. For instance, in 2013 we said the Passover began on the evening of March 25, but in Israel it began on March 26, for there it already was March 26 at sunset. The dates in Table I were listed according to the modern convention, not the dates in the Hebrew reckoning.
With these caveats, we can say that all 39 of these lunar eclipses coincided with Passover or Sukkot. This is about one-sixth (39/230) of the twentieth-century lunar eclipses, which is what we would expect because Passover and Sukkot happen in two of the 12 months. The relatively high frequency is a result of definition of the fifteenth day of the month on a lunar calendar. Therefore, again, the coincidence of lunar eclipses with these two observances is more common than Biltz realizes.
From what vantage point must one view these eclipses?
There also is a question of from what portion of the earth one ought to view these eclipses for them to constitute a sign. One might think that Jerusalem would be a key site, but the first three total lunar eclipses in 2014–2015 won’t be visible from there, and only the beginning of the final eclipse will be. One must ask whether a sign that few people notice is much of a sign.
What about the two solar eclipses in 2015?
Biltz claims that the two solar eclipses in 2015 may be a fulfillment of the prophecy of the darkening of the sun. In one of the videos Biltz states that the first eclipse (March 20, 2015) is on the first day of the ceremonial year, attaching great significance to this fact. While this is technically incorrect since the eclipse is on the last day of the previous month and year, this discrepancy can be explained similarly as discussed above for lunar eclipses.
As with the coincidence of lunar eclipses with Passover and Sukkot, the coincidence of solar eclipses with the beginning of the Hebrew ceremonial year is more common than Biltz realizes since both must happen at new moon. The ceremonial year begins close to the vernal equinox, so when a solar eclipse occurs near the vernal equinox, the solar eclipse must fall on or within a day of the first day of the ceremonial year. Table II lists the 19 of the 228 solar eclipses in the twentieth century that match the beginning of the Hebrew ceremonial year. Some of the caveats on the dates previously discussed apply here as well. The ratio of 19 to 228 is exactly one-twelfth, which is what we would expect since by definition any solar eclipse near the vernal equinox must coincide with the Hebrew ceremonial New Year.
Who will witness the two solar eclipses in 2015?
The first eclipse (March 20, 2015) is total. Having personally experienced one total solar eclipse, I can testify that a total solar eclipse is stunning and awe-inspiring. Therefore a total solar eclipse could be interpreted as a great sign to those who witness it. But how many people will witness this particular eclipse? The eclipse path is in the North Atlantic and Arctic Oceans. The only landfalls that the eclipse path will make are the Faroe Islands and Svalbard. The population of the former is 50,000 and the latter less than 3,000. The eclipse is of short duration, and the weather can be overcast much of the time at that latitude. There is a good chance that few people, if any, will actually see this eclipse.
The second solar eclipse (September 13, 2015) is partial and falls on Rosh Hashanah. Though many people have experienced a partial solar eclipse, most of them had no idea that anything was going on. This is because unless a partial eclipse is very close to being total, the sun is not appreciably dimmed. Not actually witnessing these events but instead just knowing that somewhere some sort of solar eclipses are happening seems to fall far short of being specific and spectacular signs of end times.
Mark Biltz has an engaging style, and judging by the response of those in attendance in the videos, he makes a very persuasive case for his audiences. However, most of those in attendance probably know little, if anything, about the circumstances and appearance of lunar and solar eclipses, so they are easily impressed. Biltz makes two key observations. First, he notes the coincidence of these eclipses with major Jewish festivals. Second, he points out that these four eclipses are in a row (a tetrad). Admittedly, bringing together such factors is rare, though not unique, but there is no suggestion that these eclipses will be otherwise exceptional. The biblical passages that refer to the dimming of the sun (Matthew 24:29; Joel 2:31) and the moon turning to blood (Joel 2:31) speak in very apocalyptic terms, emphasizing frightening things that men experience. The timing of the eclipses that Biltz draws attention to, while interesting, falls far short of the sort of signs that will cause the heavens to shake (Matthew 24:29).
TABLE I Back
|Date of Lunar Eclipse||Type of Lunar Eclipse||Date of Jewish Holiday|
|April 22, 1902||Total||April 21|
|October 17, 1902||Total||October 15|
|April 12, 1903||Partial||April 11|
|October 6, 1903||Partial||October 5|
|March 31, 1904||Penumbral||March 30|
|September 24, 1904||Penumbral||September 23|
|April 1, 1912||Partial||April 1|
|September 26, 1912||Partial||September 25|
|April 22, 1921||Total||April 22|
|October 16, 1921||Partial||October 16|
|April 11, 1922||Penumbral||April 12|
|October 6, 1922||Penumbral||October 6|
|April 13, 1930||Partial||April 12|
|October 7, 1930||Partial||October 6|
|April 2, 1931||Total||April 1|
|September 26, 1931||Total||September 25|
|April 22, 1940||Penumbral||April 22|
|October 16, 1940||Penumbral||October 16|
|April 13, 1949||Total||April 13|
|October 7, 1949||Total||October 7|
|April 2, 1950||Total||April 1|
|September 26, 1950||Total||September 25|
|April 4, 1958||Penumbral||April 4|
|April 24, 1967||Total||April 26|
|October 18, 1967||Total||October 19|
|April 13, 1968||Total||April 12|
|October 6, 1968||Total||October 6|
|April 2, 1969||Penumbral||April 2|
|September 25, 1969||Penumbral||September 26|
|April 4, 1977||Partial||April 2|
|September 27, 1977||Penumbral||September 26|
|April 24, 1986||Total||April 23|
|October 17, 1986||Total||October 17|
|April 14, 1987||Penumbral||April 13|
|October 7, 1987||Penumbral||October 7|
|April 15, 1995||Partial||April 14|
|October 8, 1995||Penumbral||October 8|
|April 4, 1996||Total||April 3|
|September 27, 1996||Total||September 27|
TABLE II Back
|Date of Solar Eclipse||Type of Solar Eclipse||First Day of Ceremonial Year|
|April 8, 1902||Partial||April 7|
|March 29, 1903||Annular||March 28|
|March 16, 1904||Annular||March 16|
|April 6, 1913||Partial||April 7|
|April 8, 1921||Annular||April 8|
|March 28, 1922||Annular||March 29|
|March 17, 1923||Annular||March 17|
|April 7, 1940||Annular||April 8|
|March 27, 1941||Annular||March 28|
|March 16, 1942||Partial||March 18|
|March 18, 1950||Annular||March 18|
|April 8, 1959||Total||April 8|
|March 27, 1960||Partial||March 28|
|March 28, 1968||Partial||March 29|
|March 18, 1969||Annular||March 19|
|April 7, 1978||Partial||April 7|
|April 9, 1986||Partial||April 9|
|March 29, 1987||Annular/Total||March 30|
|March 18, 1988||Total||March 18|
While these are numbered, they are only numbered for structure purposes. These six things are equally important. The things I address in this piece are things that as I have been in the ministry for the last decade, God has convicted me of in my life as well as the church I pastored. It is so easy to get caught up in the tradition of ministry instead of the purpose of ministry. I do not write these from a place to which I have arrived, rather I write this as goals that I want to attain to not only in my ministry, but also in my personal life. May the Holy Spirit speak as you read this, As a pastor reading this, you may feel as though you are missing the mark because all of these may not be fully implemented in your church at this time. Be of good courage!!! God has blessed what you have done and desires to do more!!! For those who are lay persons, Get behind the senior pastor and executive staff in your church that maybe trying to implement these things already in your church. They need your prayers, support, and help!!!
1. Clear And Concise Teaching Of The Word Of God
I can’t stress how important this is. I am convinced that people don’t need to be preached to as much as they need to be taught. In a time when biblical illiteracy is at an all time high, we as pastors, ministers leaders, teachers etc need to make sure we are being good stewards of the Word Of God and teaching the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27). Most pastors have certain issues that they are very passionate about. But while that is a good thing it can cause your congregation to have an unbalanced diet, ultimately leading to an unhealthy church. The Body needs a complete and balanced diet! Some preachers spend most of their pastorate focused on signs, wonders, and miracles, while others spend lots of time on faith, others on social justice issues. All of these things are good to focus on, but focusing mainly on one and not the other can cause serious theological error. There are a lot of churches that see awesome manifestations of God in their services, but because the whole council of God is not taught, marriages are suffering, family finances are in ruin, and people are beginning to believe false prophets even though they are in church every Sunday morning. While all of the responsibility should not be put on the pastor and teachers, We must not neglect teaching the word in a complete and understandable way. This is why teaching sometimes in a chapter by chapter verse by verse manner can be so helpful. While that may not be your style, do what you can to get the same end result with your unique style of preaching. No style of preaching is an excuse for not teaching the whole word of God. God is not an one issue God, this is why we have a bible with 66 books that explains in detail or in principle everything we need to know about life and how to live it. An unbalanced focus is why some pastors can look back and see an issue that they have never preached on in their ministry that may span thirty years or more. I know of a church personally that not one message on marriage or family was taught in 10 years. That is unacceptable! Emphasizing faith healing, but not putting the same amount of emphasis on personal responsibility for health and exercise will lead to people doubting the power of God. Because if God chooses to heal them the illness returns because of them not being good stewards over their body. Now this person believes that God is playing some cruel joke when in all actuality their the product of unbalanced teaching. We must teach the whole counsel of God!
2. Vertical Worship
This is a passion issue for me since I have been a worship pastor for the last ten years or so and played in a church environment for the last 17 years. So bare with me as this is very near and dear to my heart. We live in a very “me” saturated culture. When it comes to worship, this is the most sickening attitude you can have. There are so many people who come to church with an attitude of “what’s in it for me”. As worship leaders, some of us have pushed that cause without even realizing it. There are so many songs out there that focus on what God is going to do for us, instead of what we are going to do for Him. So I’m confused. Who is it that we are worshiping again? Is it us or is it God? See, when we sing songs that focus more on what God can do for us, we miss the majesty of God completely. You should leave church in awe of God for who He is, not in awe of what he did or didn’t do. Vertical songs talk about the majesty and splendor of an awesome God. It talks about how we bow before him and surrender ourselves to Him. He is hands down the most Beautiful and Glorious Being in the entire universe. Worship Him for who He is, not just what He can do for you and watch your church services transform. There would be less people at the altars at the end of the service if people really entered into the true presence of God. You can not come into the presence of Our Magnificent God and not be changed. But instead we wait to hear our favorite song or wait until we “feel” something before we are willing to enter in. As worship leaders, we must not sing horizontal songs all the time of what Gods going to do for us, but sing songs that bring the greatest honor to Him. Songs like ‘ Revelation Song’ and ‘ To Him Who Sits On The Throne’ are great examples of vertical worship. We don’t have to work God up, He responds to true worship from His people and will respond in blessing. You don’t have to try to get blessings from Him, He willingly pours them out on a service or individual when He is worshiped in spirit and in truth. I so believe this that one time I had the entire congregation turn around and face the back wall in the worship service. I didn’t want them looking at the musicians and focusing on their talents and abilities. I wanted them to focus on God and Him alone. That was one of the most powerful services we ever had. It may sound crazy to some that I would do such a thing, but we have to stop worrying about our little programs and what people think and start worrying about what God thinks. Many in charismatic circles teach people to focus on what God will do in a worship service. This is a terrible mistake! This mentality of “God will do this if I do that” is frankly sickening. God is not a circus pony, He is the creator of the universe! We are to worship Him for who he is whether or not he does something for us or not. Why don’t we do what we were created to do and stop worrying about what we think God is suppose to do. He will always do his part. Are you doing yours with no strings attached? If you are soley focused on getting your miracle during a worship service, you haven’t even begun to worship. Worship focused on God’s hand and not His face is not worship at all. Again, this will cause an unhealthy unbalanced church because people will be consumers instead of world changers.
3. Real Authentic Leadership
At first glance it may seem as if I’m talking about leadership that is not hypocritical, that you should be the same person off stage as you are on, and that you should be, no doubt! But in this instance I want to take it to a much more vulnerable level. I know as pastors we have to be very careful about what we say, when we say it and how we say it when it comes to our personal lives. Lay persons as well need to be careful who they confide in as “that person” to whom they share their heart with. With that said, we live in a culture were people are looking for people who are REAL. They are looking for people that they can relate to. It is imperative as leaders in this culture that we are not afraid to share our struggles and trials. Every time I preach a message and insert a personal story I know that I am running the risk of being judged by the congregants. People are going to judge you no matter what you say or do. So instead of cowering back, lets share our stories of winning and losing so that the culture can see that God is with us through it all! It is through some of your darkest times that your greatest testimonies emerge. This also helps when dealing with new Christians and youth. Many times they already feel a sense that they are the only ones going through a particular issue. This is not the time to protect your little kingdom. This could be a divine appointment for you to share how God has brought you through the same or similar circumstances. People don’t want to be talked down to, they need someone to give them a hand up. Sometimes after we get delivered from certain issues in our own life, we forget how much we ourselves struggled before we were set free. The same thing that helped you will be the same thing that will help them, the mercy and grace of an almighty God. Even Jesus in Matt 26:39 in His humanity ask if it was possible to not have to endure the pain of the cross. But thank God He selflessly did! I love that the Bible does not try to hide the many failings and trials that men of God faced in those days, but put them on display so that we could be helped and grow by the things they went through. No matter how you think it looks on the outside everyone knows that you’re not perfect! Use wisdom, but be REAL!!!
This by far is the most important thing your local church will ever do! You can have the best musicians, most educated preacher, the best tithers in the church. The thing that will matter most is that your church went aggressively after the lost, the hurting, and the broken. Besides, this is what Jesus spent most of His earthly ministry doing. His passion was to bring hope to a world that was hopeless. It always baffles me the amount of sermons that are preached on Acts 1:8 only using the first half of the verse. This beautiful passage reads as follows: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth.” Ask yourself when you think of that passage, what three words stick in your mind? Like most, it would be Holy, Spirit, and Power. The next thing that should stick is what you do with that power. The last part of that verse is just as important as the first part. You can’t have one without the other. See, some churches focus only on the “power”, which leads to a very unbalanced teaching of this verse. Teaching on this verse without bringing the weighty responsibility at the end of the verse is a grave mistake. Some who read this scripture make this synonymous with running the aisles, and shouting until their bobby pins fall out, because we stop preaching at: “you shall receive power”. Enjoying the presence of God is a beautiful thing, but if you think the main reason you have the Holy Spirit is to run the aisles, you have a very unhealthy view of the Holy Spirit. It is impossible for you to be effective in any kind of ministry without the Holy Spirit, especially evangelism. While many have focused on the gifts of the Holy Spirit, I encourage you and your church to be more focused on what the gifts are given for. It’s not for us to take all of our time and energy and expend it in the four walls of our church so we can go home and say we had a good time at our church. Rather you should take the power that God has given you and use it where it is most needed, a lost and dying world. Too many Pastors and parishioners are satisfied that the Spirit of God moves within the four walls of their church, when their hearts should be breaking for the people that are sometimes just a few hundred feet away from their doorstep hurting and looking for something greater than themselves. Worship Leader, when was the last time you took your worship service outside the four walls of your comfortable church to a lost and dying world? Pastor, when was the last time you told your congregation that instead of having “church” this Sunday in your comfortable familiar environment, you instead had reverse church, where you actually do what we’ve been called to do and go out and reach the lost instead of expecting them to come to us. Jesus didn’t tell them to come to us, he told us to go into the highway and the hedges and COMPELL them to come, Luke 14:23. Some churches pride themselves on the fact that the Spirit moves in their services, Great! I wouldn’t want to be where it wasn’t moving. The bible says; “where two or three are gathered in His name, He’s in the midst of them”. My question is what are you doing with all of that power, Superman? Though this may seem that I’m coming down too hard on the local church with this issue, my desire is that the local church would rise to its full potential. There are too many ministries that are fine with people falling out in The Spirit on Sunday morning in their churches and are perfectly fine with that being what they constitute as an awesome move of God. If souls are not being saved on a regular basis (not new members from other churches being added to your membership) but true conversions happening, You are missing the point of the Gospel. Our most important priorities must be souls and discipleship, everything else should be built around that. Church growth in large part should be new converts, not transplants. There are 2.9 billion unreached people in 6500 people groups in the world. I’ll ask you again. What are you doing with the Acts 1:8 Power? This starts with the leadership of the church. If all you drill into your people is that they should be seeking signs, wonders and miracles, they will be completely self absorbed waiting on their miracle or the next faith healer to come to town. What they need to know is their primary job is not to sit and wait for God to bless them, but that they would be a blessing to those who are lost. There is no greater miracle than someone coming to know the Creator of the universe!
But yet people are more focused on angel manifestations, healings and miracles more than peoples souls being saved. As you minister to others, God will minister to you! It is more blessed to give than to receive! I’m not interested in having my “best life now” unless I plan on going to Hell. I want to see people come to know the amazing love in the face of Jesus Christ.
As important as evangelism is, evangelism has no real lasting effect if there is no discipleship. One of the unfortunate things about crusades where thousands of people come to know Christ is that in a lot of cases there is not a real effective follow up and discipleship structure. God doesn’t want us to just “get people saved”, rather God wants us to go the distance with people and help them make sense of their life by applying the Word daily. I believe some of the strongest churches in America are churches that see the importance of making disciples. In Matthew 28:19 Jesus very plainly instructs His disciples to ” Go and make disciples of all nations”. We cannot do this by being one issue Pastors (as stated in the above paragraphs). Rather we are to first disciple our congregations so that they will be equipped to disciple others. So many come to faith and have no idea how the Bible is relevant to their unique situations. It is our job to show them that it is the most relevant book they will ever read about their lives. This is why community in a church is so important. Show me a church without good discipleship, I’ll show you a weak church. Even though they are excited in worship on Sunday mornings and the Pastor may preach an inspiring message, that is not enough for them to effectively live the life God has called them to. We need people who will be able to stand as Christian persecution gets worse. It won’t be those who ran the aisles the most that will stand when they are faced with persecution. It will be those who have dug down deep into the Word of God, realizing experiences are not enough but being an apprentice of scriptures and training others to be the same will last. Oh how I pray that churches in America will realize how important it is to make disciples not just converts. What a misconception people have about being a “disciple” of Jesus. If you watch Christian television you would think that becoming a disciple of Christ meant you will have a mansion, drive a Rolls Royce, never get sick and that you have the power to tell God what to do. God’s definition of being a disciple is to come and die. Die to yourself, your way of life and take up your cross,( not a diamond encrusted one) and follow Him.
To be a true disciple of Jesus, you will have to do as He did, speak what He says, love who He loves and duplicate Him in as many people as you can. Ready? Lets do it!
6. Take Care of Orphans and Widows
This is where everyone wants to shut their computers and iphones off. I’m sorry, He said take care of who? Don’t we have governmental agencies for that? It baffles me how many people in the local church are focused on themselves. Then I turn on Christian Television and I see why. We live in a generation of “ME”. The mind blowing thing is that you won’t find any such thing in the Bible. Yet this idea sells millions of books and fills many hours of Sunday sermons. Why? If its not in the Bible? I’ll tell you why. Even the church has bought into the “American Dream”. We have this idea that we are entitled to all of this “stuff” while neglecting the very “least of them”. Its pretty hard to know the plight in your community if you drive as fast as you can in your SUV to your country club church, complete with a starbucks. Let me introduce you to a scripture in the Bible that you probably haven’t heard in a while. James 1:27 states: “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world”. Now if you come from a strict holiness background they likely focused on the later part of this verse to support their teaching of why you shouldn’t go to a ball game. What James is actually communicating here is that true worship is not just jumping when the LED’s are going or shouting because you think your miracle is coming, but rather he’s communicating what real worship should be. With a church on every corner in America, it is a shame how many orphans still roam our streets and are in shelters and foster homes in need of God’s amazing love. But we are constantly pumped with how much God wants to bless us and how we can be a better person. Others talk about how we should give and it shall be given to us “pressed down shaken together and running over”. Imagine if the church believed its own Bible and began to give to the community without expecting anything in return. It never has and never will be the government’s job to take care of our precious babies and widows. It is the Church’s job! The American dream says if I take on one more child I can’t buy that SUV I want, or I can’t go on that vacation. What’s a vacation compared to a child having a loving God fearing home to be a part of. You hear things like “Adoption is too expensive” but yet we waste money on houses and cars we can’t afford. Church it is time to get back to what the Bible actually says. If we do,the orphan rate would be wiped out in every city of our nation and our widows would not have to depend on the government. When will we learn as a church that this Prosperity Gospel movement is one of the deadliest cancers in the church today. We could sponsor a child through Compassion International for about as much as we spend on starbucks. The reason why we are given much is to be a blessing to others, not so we can brag on how God has blessed us to hold it back from people who really need it. This life is not about “YOU” it’s about the God who made you and what He wants to do with what He’s given you. If your local church is not involved in helping orphans and widows, urge them to do so. John 13:35 says, “by this will all men know that you are My disciples, if you love one another”. Love is an action word! It’s one thing to sit and write checks to a ministry and let them do all the work, it’s another thing to take ownership of the problems in your community. I urge pastors who think they are benefiting from preaching the self serving prosperity garbage and take a fresh look at the Word of God for yourself. Otherwise you will grow a consumer driven church that are all about themselves and what God can do for them, rather than people ready to lay their lives down for those less fortunate than themselves. Just think of all the hours that are put in to sound, lighting, eye popping graphics, video clips and the latest and greatest for that climatic hour on a Sunday morning. If we took just half of that time and devoted it to James 1:27 in action, we could wipe out the orphan epidemic! Imagine a youth group full of children who were all adopted by people in their congregation. Imagine what worth they would feel and how they would be empowered to change the world! You wouldn’t have to use all kinds of clever tricks to keep them in church, they would see the Word in action! The youth of today want something real, something that’s tangible. So lets give it to them. It’s sad when a church boasts of the presence of God in their midst, but yet the very attributes of God are glaringly missing by the lack of care for those who are hungry, poor and desolate. See, none of this is to issue condemnation on any church or persons, but rather it is to bring conviction to the Body of Christ. There was a time during my last pastorate that God really began to open my eyes as to how the church as a whole is falling way short of what He has actually called us to do. We think because we preached an inspiring message and a few people got their miracle, visited the sick, attended some strategy meetings we’ve done our duty. Wrong. Until every person is fed both spiritually and naturally and every every child has a family, we are not obeying the Word of God. I would much rather be the miracle in someone’s life, than spend my whole life chasing my own miracles. This is an area of my life where I truly want God to help this imperfect vessel to be His hands and feet and touch the world with not just my words but my life.
If you haven’t heard about it yet, Its coming to a conversation near you. Being held at Grace Community church in Southern California, the Strange Fire Conference is one of the most controversial conferences in the evangelical community today. The main focus of this conference is to bring awareness to the alleged mishandling of the Holy Spirit in Pentecostal/Charismatic circles. John MacArthur the founding pastor of the host church, says his desire is to bring awareness to what the bible actually says about manifestations of The Spirit. Let me start by saying, I have high respect for John MacArthur, a man who has been in the ministry for decades and to my knowledge has never been caught up in any financial, marital, or sexual scandal. These days it is a miracle for someone of his caliber to have such a stellar record. His integrity is something that those who are just coming into ministry should take note of. With that said, I have great concern for the content of this conference. At the time I’m writing this, the conference is about three months away. So my blog is not to criticize something that hasn’t happened yet, rather I’m writing to exhort those who will be attending and who may get audio from it at a later date to be discerning. While I have a mountain of concern with the current state of the Pentecostal/Charismatic movement these days, I also have concern with those who have what I would call a misled view of the manifestations and gifts of the Holy Spirit. I am very critical of what I call “Charismania” in the church. It makes me sick how people will take someone as precious as the Holy Spirit and make Him into something that will bring glory to their perverted ministry.While all along playing God’s people for utter fools. There are people who are so addicted to “manifestations” of the Spirit that they will believe any experience that a person claims they had . They don’t test the experience in light of scripture, all they care about is the person had some type of experience while in church. With that said, I am deeply concerned about the impact this conference will have on the church as a whole. The Bible clearly states in Acts 2:17 (NIV) ” In the last days, says God, I will pour out my spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. I believe we need the power and manifestation of the Spirit more today than we have ever had. I also believe the devil is going to do everything he can to try and silence the power and manifestations of the Holy Spirit in the local church. Oh how I love and cherish the Holy Spirit and His gifts! There is an effort in some circles of the church that don’t fully understand the gifts of the Holy Spirit to totally avoid any manifestations of the Holy Spirit. But in that fear many fail to remember that the Holy Spirit is a part of the trinity which means it has everything to do with God. So in essence you are nervous about God himself moving in your church. You may have grown up in a denomination where there were no outward manifestations of the Holy Spirit, but does that make it something that is not real? What some don’t experience themselves they are quick to write it off as a lie or a figment of someone’s wild imagination. Again if you have not experienced something, does that now mean it isn’t possible? I’m Sure people on the day of Pentecost were really taken back by how radically God moved that day. There was nothing ordinary or easy to explain with the logical mind about that day. Same is with us today. We can’t predict every single time exactly how God will decide to manifest His presence, nor should we try. I believe that so many pastors fear that if they allow the Holy Spirit to move, that it would be open season for every flake to come out of the woodwork. But if it is truly the Holy Spirit, there won’t be disorder, but rather there will be a beautiful unity of the gifts operating together. So if there is ever a service where a there is disorder, God is not in it. It may have started out a God thing and then someone wanted to come along and try and “help” the Spirit and when you do that, you can guarantee that everything will go south from there. The Spirit doesn’t need our help, rather its in holding Him back, or trying to enhance Him. He knows exactly what He’s doing. While I don’t disagree with MacArthur on everything, I strongly disagree with him on the gifts of the Spirit and how they operate in this modern epic. MacArthur is a Classical Cessationist. Cessationists believe that the miraculous gifts such as prophecy, healing and speaking in tongues all ceased with the death of the Apostles. As you carefully examine the scriptures you will find that such a belief is simply not found.
So one who holds such a view will be very leery of any manifestation of the spirit in the church. In 1Corinthians14 you find Paul instructing the local church on how to flow in the gifts properly. Paul is not instructing a group of apostles or super Christians, rather he is talking to Johnny pew sitter, people like me and you who are filled with the Holy Spirit and empowered to win people to Christ. There is no way that you can argue that the people at the church in Corinth was any different than we are today. I’ve been in Pentecostal churches for years were the gifts of The Holy Spirit were in full operation in a very biblical and orderly way. This continues to happen at the church I attend today. Gifts are in operation every weekend without things getting out of control. I would call on pastors and ministry leaders across the country and the world to prayerfully examine the scriptures and allow God to move as He wishes, realizing that the Holy Spirit is always up to something good. I would also admonish churches and pastors who for the sake of money and fame desecrate the sacred name of Jesus with your ungodly ridiculous side shows on Christian television claiming that it is the moving of the Holy Spirit when its really just made for TV hype. That is a disgrace. Some pastors feel if no one is laying on the floor by the end of service that not much was accomplished, but if those people who fell on the floor in the spirit rise up and are still living sinful lives there is a problem. People need to be pointed to Jesus and not some experience They need true breakthrough and deliverance, not just a pat on the head so they will fall out and inflate your ego as a pastor or evangelist. It’s not about us as pastors and leaders Its about our precious Saviour who died on a cross. There is nothing Glamorous about that. As a Christian we should always test experiences in light of scripture. Don’t fall for everything that someone claims is a move of God. Find a church where the leadership is addicted to who God is instead of what He can do for them. If God chooses to do a miraculous thing in a church service that’s great! But that’s not the main reason you are there. You are there to worship Him for who He is. You are also there to be equipped to serve and win others to Christ. When our minds are only focused on the gifts rather than the Giver, we will fall prey to all kinds of strange gifts and strange fire. So as this conference will soon take place I exhort you to exercise discernment. I do believe the light needs to be shined on those in the church that are sending up strange fire but at the same time we need to guard against an all out attack on the Pentecostal church and reject sweeping criticisms of the Pentecostal church as a whole.
As we go through a political, economic, social, and spiritual shift in this country, I’m reminded that just twenty years ago, though we were not perfect as a nation, we were leaps and bounds better than who we are today. So what happened? Did a cruel dictator come to power in the last twenty years and demand that we embrace homosexuality? Let gays serve openly in the military? Reverse the Mexico City Policy so that our tax dollars go not only to pay for the 4,000 babies that are slaughtered EVERY DAY in America, but now in other countries as well? Has there been a dramatic rise in the gay population? The answer to all of these questions is no. So what is the right answer? As you shuffle through all the files in your brain let me make this very simple for you. We live in a world that is full of sin and depravity. The great thing about this certain truth is that there is a God who has created and chosen a people for Himself. While that may sound like an exclusive club that you need a special code to get into, it’s not like that at all. Those chosen people are people like you and me who might not look sound or have ivy league education. But if you are saved you have been wired with all it takes to turn the tide of this failing country. In Isaiah 60:1-2 the Bible clearly states that Darkness, gross darkness will cover the earth, but God’s people would be lights in the midst of that darkness. Notice that the light is shining on and coming through God’s people. Herein lies our answer. We can’t expect the world to fix its own problems. It is incapable of doing so. This is why we, as God’s people, are not to use what we have as a Sunday morning jump and shout, but rather we are to literally change the landscape everywhere we go. If we are to change the bleak outlook of America, we do it by realizing who we really are. We are hands down the most powerful people (because of Christ) on the face of the earth. One of the reasons society looks the way it does today is because the church was silent when we should have risen up. Madalyn Murray O’Hair would have never been able to get away with taking official bible reading out of the Schools if the church would have risen up. Where were you Men of God? Where were the ones who said you were passionate for the truth and the freedoms we enjoyed in America? She was only one woman and she is affecting every child’s life in America because of a cause and a passion that was burning inside of her. Sadly in her case, it was the fires of hell that were burning in her mind and heart. A fire that destroyed something that had been woven in the fabric of America. If one woman can do that, Imagine what would happen if we all came together. Forgetting and putting aside our petty differences as Christians and united for one cause. To lift up a biblical Standard in America once again as our founding Fathers did. Where are you? America needs you! God wants to use you! It’s time for the church in America to wake up! In the same way the fires of Hell are burning in gay activists all over America. What will you do church? Will you cave like so many are doing? Will you now rewrite the policy in your churches to include (in leadership) those who are in open unrepentant perversion? While we dare not hate ANYONE no matter what their sexual preference, we must protect the sanctity of marriage. No excuses!