Churches: Fellowships without Fellowship (Part 1)

 

The Easter Sunday crowd packed the seats in the school gymnasium where the young Four Square Church held its service. The worship team led off with fantastic worship music. One song, Hungry, captured the assembly’s attention, especially its chorus: “So, I wait for you. So, I wait for you.”

The worship team finished as the young, good-looking pastor walked over to the microphone. He clapped his hands in appreciation for the worship team’s efforts. He turned to the assembly, winking an eye at everyone.

“Maybe by now,” he said, “you’ve realized that we’re a little different from all of the other churches in the city…”

The pastor continued on, but I did not hear a single word he said for the next five minutes or so. I was in a different zone, one where the Holy Spirit had my full attention.

“No, this church is not any different than the others,” said the Holy Spirit. “Not one bit different than any of the other churches in the city. If you were, right now, attending a Catholic Church or a Baptist Church or a Pentecostal one or any other church in the city, it would be no different than this one. You would still be sitting here like a bump on a log listening to a head frog croak at you. Your only input into this service will be the check you toss into the offering plate when it is passed under your nose. Is this the church Jesus hung on the cross and died for?”

I sat there, stunned by His words. I wanted to weep. I wanted to run. I wanted to vomit. I wanted to quit, but I did nothing.

Afterward, I told Carol about my experience. She sighed and stared at me.

“You’re sure different, aren’t you?” she said. “I really like this church and now this happens.”

Just so you know, the Holy Spirit was not referring to doctrines at the various churches. If that were the case, each would be different, but instead, He was referring to the wineskin, the particular format, which all traditional churches follow in their churches. They are all basically the same, in that there are definite separations between the active few −the clergy −and the passive many −the laity −who sit in the seats and pay for the privilege to do so.

********

I hurried down West Broad Street in my Ford pickup truck, carrying Toyota parts to a mechanic who needed them right away. As I drove along, I had a graphic vision.

Do you remember iron lungs, which polio sufferers used during the 1950’s? They looked like large cylindrical metal tubes and encased polio victims, helping them to breathe via a pressurized airflow system. The bulky machines filled entire hospital wards during the height of the polio epidemics.

In my vision, the American church system was terminally ill. As a last ditch effort to save its life, the whole church system laid in a white iron lung, gasping for its every breath. The long power cord, attached to the rear of the unit, meandered itself through other electrical cords to a unique power source: money. The life support system was plugged into bags and bags of money.

I stared at the strange sight and then a thundering voice interrupted my thoughts.

“Pull the plug!” proclaimed the voice.

Carol and I prayed about my vision that night. We felt we needed to leave the traditional church system.

Our decision to not attend churches sounds easy now, but at the time, it seemed like we were the only people in the whole nation walking away from churches. A little research on the Internet revealed hundreds of thousands of Americans had done the same thing over the previous years.

Still it was not easy to break our church attending habits. We were used to sitting in pews on Sunday mornings, Sunday evenings, Wednesday evenings, and whenever the church doors opened.

A well-meaning pastor once took me aside and gave one of those lectures no one likes to hear.

“Larry, you need stability in your life and for your marriage,” he said, shaking his head at our nomadic life. “No one will ever take your prophetic ministry seriously if you don’t settle down. You need to settle in a city and find a good church to park yourself so others will take you more seriously. Please, seek the Lord on this advice.”

This vision blew any thoughts about obeying his words out of the water.

(The above excerpts are from my memoir, The Hunt for Larry Who, an Amazon eBook.)

If my two experiences are really from the Lord, what is His eternal purpose in all of this?

(Continued in Part 2)

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Prayer for the Church (9/18/2018)

Christ Church Stellarton

Photograph of Christ Anglican Church, Stellarton, NS. Taken the morning of October 28, 2005

Does God require a believer to vote? And if the believer votes, is he/she required to vote for conservatives only?

Somehow, I found myself stuck in this conversation with some other believers last week. The conversation looped around until it landed on my non-voting stance. (You can see my reasons for not voting here)

The conversation continued on and on about my non-voting stance until I mentioned, “Hey, I fast and pray for America every Thursday. Why don’t you join me so we can truly make a difference in our nation?”

The conversation died.

My prayer today:

Lord, help the American Church return to its dependence on changing our nation through Your Spirit and not through our flesh. (Based on Galatians 3:3)

Join me on Tuesdays to fast and pray for the American church.

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The Apostles: Men Doomed to Death (Part 6)

praying

 

“Been there! Done that! Bought the tee-shirt!” should be the slogan printed on shirts worn by apostles.

Why?

Because the phrase aptly describes the apostles’ journeys into their callings and throughout the length of their callings.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. (2 Corinthians 1: 3-4)

As a young Christian, I remember another believer saying to me in a hushed, reverent whisper, “You know, that person is called to be an apostle.”

How awesome! I thought at the time.

To be honest, I was flabbergasted at how glamorous the word apostle sounded to my ears. It seemed to be the height of the Christian pyramid. The top hierarchal rung. The creme de la creme of callings.

Of course, I was naive and had no understanding of callings at all, and especially that of an apostle. But since then, I’ve studied and learned a few things.

You see, the apostle is specifically prepared and trained ahead of time by the Lord to help the Body of Christ journey through treacherous, tough times before they take place.

How does the Lord prepare His servants – the apostles?

If your guess is that the training is carried out in nicely lit, air-conditioned rooms while sitting comfortably on soft cushions and listening to qualified lecturers at an ivy-towered university overlooking a quaint village, then I have bad news for you. You’re wrong!

For each apprentice apostle candidate, the Lord has specially designed circumstances which will simulate the treacherous, tough times which awaits the Body sometime in the future. These circumstances come filled to the brim with frustration, stress, and humiliation.

The apostle candidates are sort of like dirty clothes shoved into a gigantic automatic washer, going through one desperate, ruinous cycle after another. The candidates’ heads are held under the water most of the time, with a few short breathing breaks between dunks.

All of this continues until they are finally rinsed and brought out to dry. This may take years, but along the way, many will drop out of the program to sit on the sidelines.

Now, while this divinely orchestrated training is happening, the rest of the Body of Christ looks on and scratches their heads. “What’s wrong with those losers? Why don’t they get with the program? They don’t seem to have a clue about faith,” they murmur to each other.

But when the treacherous, tough times hit a nation, it will be these losers – the apprentice candidates – who will step forth as apostles and confidently proclaim: “I know that our God will bring us through these bad times. Just follow me because I have discovered the correct path for us to walk on.”

(Continued in Part 7…but if you want to read all of the parts to date, you can go here.)

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The Apostles: Men Doomed to Death (Part 5)

praying

 

Close your eyes and visualize what you think an apostle should look and act like. Do you see him or her like a classy CEO of a corporation, barking orders to underlings? Or like a authoritative general? Or like a prestigious national leader?

We probably all have opinions about apostles.  Some of our beliefs will be based on our cultures and some on our church traditions or teachings.

But how did Paul visualize his calling of apostle?

For, I think, God hath set forth us the apostles last of all, as men doomed to death: for we are made a spectacle unto the world, both to angels and men. (1 Corinthians 4: 9 ASV)

…we have become as the scum of the world, the dregs of all things, even until now. (1 Corinthians 4: 13 NASB)

Not exactly what you had in mind, right? But consider this: our English translations paint a much rosier picture of the apostle than what Paul really visualized when he wrote these verses in his original Greek writings.

Paul actually saw the apostle as a person who was considered by the world as the lowest and worst possible criminal, much like an Adolf Hitler or Idi Amin or a brutal serial killer. A person who the world would not have one drop of pity or empathy for at all.

And if possible, the world would capture the apostle and place him at the end of long procession that would pass by crowds who would taunt, spit on, throw rocks at, dump refuse on, and whatever to belittle the apostle. Why? Because the apostle, in the judgment of the world, deserved this abuse because of his calling.

The long procession would eventually parade itself into an arena where the apostle’s death would be the main attraction for the world’s spectators – and also for angels.

The apostle’s death, as visualized by Paul, would not be a beheading or a firing squad or a hanging. No, those types of executions would be much too civilized for a culprit as evil as the apostle. Instead, wild animals, such as lions and tigers, would be sent into the arena to tear and rip apart the apostle. All the while, the world would be looking on and enjoying the bloody spectacle.

Okay, get the picture?

Now, how would you feel about having an apostle, like the one Paul visualized, come to your church? Would it bother you that the world, maybe your friends, relatives and neighbors, would think of him as an evil criminal? Would you like being linked to his name and assumed to be just as guilty as the apostle because of your association to him?

(Continued in Part 6…but if you want to read all of the parts to date, you can go here.)

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The Apostles: Men Doomed to Death (Part 4)

praying

 

A year after my salvation, I had breakfast once a week with three or four Christian men. We fellowshiped, prayed for each other, and usually one gave a short teaching.

The only teaching that I can remember from those breakfasts was given by a young man who stated, “Our heavenly Father is a good God.”

As he said the words, a revelation exploded within me: “Of course, that has to be true because my own earthly father is a great dad. So, my heavenly Father has to be a good God.”

This simple revelation has remained with me for more than thirty-three years. It has comforted me in my worst times, just knowing that God is a good God and that He absolutely loves me.

Over the years, I have been with many different groups and befriended many Christians. All have mouthed the words, “God is a good God,” but sadly, I have met very few believers who really, really believe that God is a good God.

It’s not that the believers did not love God because they did. It’s just that the believers did not have the child-like abandon of knowing that the Father loved them and was cheering for them on their good days, as well as their bad days.

Most believed that they had to perform at a certain, but undefined, high holy level so that the Father would love them. They did not see themselves as little children and God as a loving Father who absolutely loved and doted upon them, even when they made mistakes.

Some of these believers had less than perfect earthly fathers, and a few were even abused by their dads. And to be honest, this may hinder a person’s revelation of God being a good God, but at the same time, God is able to give anyone a revelation of His love and goodness. We just need to ask and keep asking until we receive this revelation.

But most (98%) of these believers, who had difficulty believing God was a good God, had Christian leaders over them who did not reflect the Father-Heart of God to them.

For if you were to have countless tutors in Christ, yet you would not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel. (1 Corinthians 4: 15)

Here for this third time I am ready to come to you, and I will not be a burden to you; for I do not seek what is yours, but you; for children are not responsible to save up for their parents, but parents for their children. (2 Corinthians 12: 14)

Because the traditional church system is set up with a definite separation between the clergy and the laity, most church leaders look at church members as a means for advancing their own personal visions. After all, their personal visions came from God, right? And the laity has been the traditional money-source for hundreds of years, so why change?

The end-time apostles are willing to spend themselves for other believers.

(Continued in Part 4…but if you want to read all of the parts to date, you can go here.)

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Prayers for the Church (9/13/2018)

Christ Church Stellarton

A new Pew Research Center Report shows young Christians (35 years old and under) are leaving churches in record numbers. A followup poll reported the young Christians no longer believed the messages were true. The specific explanations included the following:

“Learning about evolution when I went away to college”
“Religion is the opiate of the people”
“Rational thought makes religion go out the window”
“Lack of any sort of scientific or specific evidence of a creator”
“I just realized somewhere along the line that I didn’t really believe it”
“I’m doing a lot more learning, studying and kind of making decisions myself rather than listening to someone else.”

The Apostle Paul went to a city, converted a few people, started a church, stayed a couple of weeks, and then went to another city. He didn’t usually return to the new church for a couple of years. At best, the new church received a letter from him every so often.

And the churches thrived!

Now remember: Paul’s ministry was mainly in the Asian part of the Roman Empire where fifty percent of the people were slaves, ninety percent could not read, and ninety-five percent could not write. So, even if Paul could have left them King James Study Bibles, they were of little value to them.

What did Paul do?

He preached the gospel of the kingdom of God and —

And when Paul had laid hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke with tongues and prophesied.

Most of today’s churches offer musical performances and eloquent speeches, but no demonstrations of God’s power. Hey! This won’t satisfy young people because YouTube has better stuff.

My prayer today:

Lord, help us to contend earnestly for the faith which was once delivered to the saints in the early churches. Help us to not settle for anything less than seeing Your Spirit moving in power in our churches. (Based on Jude 1:3)

 Join me to fast and pray for the American church.

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What’re Your Plans for 300 Years From Now? (Conclusion)

larry-243.jpg

 

Jesus used a parable to describe the kingdom of heaven when He told about a businessman traveling to a far country. The businessman called three of his servants and gave some of his goods to do business while he was gone. To the first one, he gave five talents of silver. To the second, two talents of silver. And to the third, one talent of silver.

When the businessman returned from his travels, he called the three servants to give an accounting. The first and second servant doubled the businessman’s investment with their trading.

The businessman said to these two servants, “Well done, good and faithful servants; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you rulers over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.”

The third servant did nothing with the talent of silver given to him and returned it in full to the businessman. “You wicked and lazy servant…” said the businessman to the servant.  “Take the talent from him and give it to the one who has ten talents…And cast this unprofitable servant into the outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

Yikes!

Did Jesus cast the unprofitable servant into Hell for being lazy?

Dr. Spiros Zodhiates in his commentary, The Complete Word Study New Testament, wrote about “the outer darkness” and “weeping and gnashing of teeth”:

These terms may be applied to believers who have failed the Lord in their service…In this instance, the “outer darkness” may be a reference to a place or a position of far less rewards for the servants who proved themselves less diligent than those who used their talents to the fullest.

Kenneth Wuest wrote in his book, Greek New Testament:

This darkness is simply the darkness that is outside the King’s banqueting house.

Charles Stanley wrote in his book, Eternal Security:

The outer darkness here simply refers to being thrown outside of a building into the dark. It is not a description of hell.

Unfaithfulness and failing to run the race of faith all the way to the end of our lives will probably cost us rewards in the world to come.

And have made us kings and priests to our God; and we shall reign on the earth.(Revelation 5:9)

Do you not know that the saints (the believers) will [one day] judge and govern the world? (1 Corinthians 6:2 Amplified Bible)

For He has not put the world to come [Millennial Kingdom], of which we speak, in subjection to angels. (Hebrews 2:5)

What are my plans for 300 years from now?

I’m assuming that Jesus will return and set up His Millenial Kingdom on earth. So, with that in mind, I want to be one of His rulers who reign in partnership with Jesus on earth. Some of us will rule over nations, some over states, some over cities, and some over smaller territories.

There could be millions of positions in His infrastructures all over the earth. My desire is to be the best I can be for His glory.

What about you?

If I would have written 100,000 words on this subject, it still wouldn’t have been enough to cover every topic on this subject.  But it was my hope to at least stir up each reader’s desire to be a faithful servant all the days of his or her life.

(Conclusion…but if you want to read all of the parts, you can go here.)

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