Monthly Archives: August 2010

My Journey Out (Part 18)

An Updated Rerun Series

Click on following links for earlier articles: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9, Part 10, Part 11, Part 12, Part 13, Part 14, Part 15, Part 16 and Part 17.


As with most walks with the Lord, my journey out of the traditional church system has not been a straight line. There have been a few left and right turns along the way.

One such detour happened in the fall of 2001.

Honey was selling furniture in Yorba Linda, California, and a Christian couple invited her to attend their church for a Sunday service. She wanted to please them and felt we both should go.

Now, the couple’s church was the mother church for a denomination which is famous for worship music, casual dress and laid-back style. The denomination’s founder had recently passed away and another had replaced him. And to be honest, the denomination was one which Honey and I usually searched out in the many cities we had lived in.

So, I was eager to visit the church.

The couple greeted us at the door and led us inside the sanctuary to where they were sitting. As we sat down, the husband leaned over and said, “The new pastor mentions finances a little more than our founder did. It’s probably because the church has dropped from 5,000 in membership to 3,500. “

My antenna went up, as did the hairs on my neck.

The service began with worship music, followed by the taking of the offerings and a few prayers. Then, the pastor strolled to the pulpit. He was forty-ish, dressed in Dockers and had a pleasant voice.

“I was going to speak on prayer today, but I felt a pressing need to speak on a different subject,” he said, looking around the sanctuary.

Now, what subject do you think had jumped over prayer to the top of his sermon docket? Was it salvation? Or healing? Or love? No, no, no!

It was finances!

The pastor explained how the church had just spent millions of dollars to purchase a parcel of land next to the church for possible expansions in the future. The additional expenditures increased the church’s total debt to $13 million. $13,000,000.

“As always,” said the pastor, “our goal is to help the poor, but until we pay off our debts, the poor will have to be put on the back burner. Then, when the debt is retired in twelve years or so, we will be in a strong position to help the poor and others.”

Yipes! Yuck! Yowie!

Now, you might be thinking this left turn experience is the exception for the traditional church system, right? Sadly, not so!

The Barna Group which is known for their extensive surveys on Christianity and churches has conducted yearly surveys on church finances. Their findings for all of the Protestant churches in America are that 85% of the tithes and offerings are spent on mortgages, construction, salaries, building upkeep, special programs and miscellaneous. Less than 10% is given to the poor or foreign missionaries.

For me, this last church experience was the dot at the bottom of the exclamation mark after the words, “Pull the plug!

(Conclusion)

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I’d Like to Prophesy, But… (Part II – 8)

This is a continuation of the nine-part series,  I’d Like to Prophesy, But…

Click on the following links for earlier articles: Part II-1, Part II-2, Part II – 3, Part II-4, Part II- 5, Part II-6 and Part 7.

Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ but do not do what I say? (Luke 6: 46)

Even every secularist knows that we Christians are supposed to love people. In fact, if believers point out that some acts are sins, such as homosexuality or abortion, invariably the secularists’ response is that we are not acting in love, but rather out of hate and hypocrisy.

You would think the only words which the Apostle Paul wrote that were of any value were contained solely in Chapter 13 of 1 Corinthians. But believe it or not, Chapter 13 is snuggled between two other verses:

But earnestly desire the greater gifts. And I show you still a more excellent way. (1 Corinthians 12:31)

Pursue love, yet desire earnestly spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy. (1 Corinthians 14:1)

Paul wrote the letter to the Corinthians twenty-five years after the first Pentecost. It was not written as a training manual with chapter and verse numbers like our present day Bibles. But instead, it answered questions and settled problems the church was struggling with at the time of the letter.

So, how did Paul handle the Corinthian church which was totally messed up with their use of the spiritual gifts? Did he tell them to quit prophesying and practicing the spiritual gifts until he arrived in Corinth and retrained everyone?

No. Absolutely not!

Therefore, my brethren, desire earnestly to prophesy, and do not forbid to speak in tongues. But all things must be done properly and in an orderly manner. (1 Corinthians 14:39 – 40)

Now, why would Paul encourage  the Corinthians to continue prophesying and using the spiritual gifts? The answer is simple.

And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all. (Ephesians 1: 22 – 23)

Paul actually believed that Christ was the head of the church and that the Holy Spirit dwelled within the church. Thus Paul believed in the continuing ministry of the Holy Spirit, as stated by Jesus.

Now, if Paul believed in the spiritual gifts, wrote about the spiritual gifts, practiced using the spiritual gifts and encouraged others to use the spiritual gifts as a further work of the Holy Spirit, then why have so many pastors, leaders and theologians ignored the spiritual gifts, especially prophecy?

Once again, the answer is simple and can be given in a one word statement: prophets.

(Continued in Part II – 9)

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My Journey Out (Part 17)

An Updated Rerun Series

Click on following links for earlier articles: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9, Part 10, Part 11, Part 12, Part 13, Part 14, Part 15 and Part 16.


…Feed My Sheep (John 21:17 NKJ)

It’s interesting to note that John recorded the intimate discourse between Jesus and Peter when the “Feed My sheep” quotation was spoken, but Mark did not. Supposedly, Mark received most of his information from Peter; and yet, Peter must have chosen to remain silent about this particular conversation.

Now, wouldn’t you think one of the apostles chosen as the foundation for the church would have mentioned such an important quotation as this? After all, it provides the basis for which all of our modern American traditional churches revolve around: the pastor’s sermon.

Yet, Peter does eventually provide insight into the “Feed My sheep” theme.

Shepherd [or Feed in the King James Version]the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by constraint but willingly, not for dishonest gain, but eagerly; nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but be examples to the flock. (1 Peter 5: 2-3 NKJ)

When did Peter first hear about not being a lord over believers and being an example to them instead? It was on one of those days when the disciples were arguing over which of them should be considered the greatest.

But Jesus called them to Himself and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. Yet, it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant. And whoever of you desires to be first shall be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many. (Mark 10: 42-45 NKJ)

Maybe you’re thinking, “So what?”

But once again, you have to take off your rose-colored glasses and ask some interesting questions, like:  How can there possibly be a separation between clergy and laity if no believer is supposed to lord – or exercise authority – over other believers? Isn’t that exactly what clergy are supposed to do?

And how can the modern pastor be an example to a congregation when he (or she) is standing behind a pulpit preaching a sermon and the passive believers can not do likewise? Or should all the pews be removed and everyone be allowed to have their own pulpit to stand behind, awaiting a turn to speak?

Doesn’t it seem that our traditional church system consisting of clergy, laity and sermons falls apart when it is lined up with scriptures?

(Continued in Part 18)

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I’d Like to Prophesy, But … (Part II – 7)

This is a continuation of the nine-part series,  I’d Like to Prophesy, But…

Click on the following links for earlier articles: Part II-1, Part II-2, Part II – 3, Part II-4, Part II- 5 and Part II-6.


Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord, and do not do what I say? (Luke 6: 46)

Just as a reminder: God never changes, Jesus never changes, and therefore, we can safely assume that the Holy Spirit never changes. Okay, with this bit of information refreshed in our minds, let’s move forward.

I will not leave you as orphans, I will come to you. (John 14: 18)

Jesus spoke the above words to His disciples at the Last Supper, just hours before He was arrested, and then, eventually crucified on the following day. It is an important promise to all of us believers, but how is it being fulfilled today?

After all, Jesus is now seated at the right hand of the Father in heaven and with rare exceptions, He does not visit us believers here on earth. So, what’s the big deal on Jesus’ promise?

I will ask the Father and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever. (John 14: 16)

The Helper, also referred to as the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of truth, the Spirit of Christ and the Spirit of God, dwells within each believer, but He is not a willy-nilly gossiper. He only speaks to us what Jesus or the Father says.

But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, he will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come. (John 16: 13)

Jesus is called the Truth and each believer has His Spirit, the Spirit of truth, dwelling within his (or her) heart. Thus, that’s how Jesus has fulfilled His promise not to leave us as orphans and alone in the world.

But how does this relate to the further work of the Holy Spirit as mentioned in Part II-6, and is this further work still relevant in today’s world?

(Continued in Part II- 8)

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My Journey Out (Part 16)

An Updated Rerun Series

Click on following links for earlier articles: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9, Part 10, Part 11, Part 12, Part 13, Part 14 and Part 15.

Feed My Sheep.

According to the Bible, what do sheep eat?

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. (Psalm 23: 2)

Sheep are herbivores; and thus, in the Bible, sheep graze on grass. No other diet or dietary supplement is mentioned for sheep.

Now, when it comes to comparing the word, or scriptures, to food products, Jesus used the analogy of sowing seed in Mark Chapter 4. The word was the seed and the sower was a type of preacher.

But in the Bible, sheep do not eat wheat or oats, they graze on grass.

In Hebrews 5: 12-14 , the word is referred to as milk and strong meat. And in John 6:48, Jesus refers to Himself as the Bread of Life, and you could make a good case that the Living Word is bread. Milk, meat and bread are certainly foods.

But once again, in the Bible, sheep graze on grass. Period.

If the words Feed My sheep are an analogy signifying that modern pastors are supposed to preach sermons to solemn congregations, then we are stuck with nonsensical mental images. (Remember: every analogy in the Bible is used to give clarity to the reader, not to add confusion.)

So, in order to justify a modern interpretation of Feed My sheep, you would have to envision a pastor walking out to his back lawn, clipping the grass, bagging it, carrying the bags to church; and then, tossing grass out of the bags from the pulpit to bleating, hungry sheep. Not a good mental analogy, right?

Furthermore, there are no supporting verses in the Bible for the interpretation of Feed My sheep as having the meaning of a pastor preaching a sermon to a congregation. None. Zip. Nada. It is a modern tradition which is really a cloud without water, carried along by the winds of time.

But interestingly enough, the answer to what Feed My Sheep truly means is provided for us by Peter.

(Continued in Part 17)

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I’d Like to Prophesy, But… (Part II – 6)

This is a continuation of the nine-part series,  I’d Like to Prophesy, But…

Click on the following links for earlier articles: Part II-1, Part II-2, Part II – 3, Part II-4 and Part II- 5.

Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say? (Luke 6:46)

On May 20, 1985, I – an agnostic – walked into a friend’s insurance office to ask some questions. While I sat on a chair in front of his desk, the Holy Spirit spoke to the man.

Then the man said to me, “You’re thinking about committing suicide, right?”

His words shook me up so much that I began thinking that there was a God and He cared about me. Not only that, as I left the office, the man said, “And I speak in tongues, too.”

As you can see, my whole life was changed in a matter of minutes by the power of the Holy Spirit and His gifts.

Afterward, I hung out with Charismatics who asked this question of almost everyone: “Have you been baptized in the Holy Spirit?”

Whether or not you believe that the Baptism of the Holy Spirit has to do with speaking in tongues or the gifts of the Holy Spirit is unimportant to me. The arguments one way or another have their merits in scriptures and throughout church history. This issue is not worth chewing on, okay?

But the important point I do want to make is that the Charismatics and Pentecostals do recognize a further work of the Holy Spirit after salvation, which is scriptural.

But you will receive a power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria and even to the remotest part of the earth. (Acts 1:8)

The one hundred and twenty men and women in that upper room were already believers. But yet, they waited for something more, a further work of the Holy Spirit after their salvations.

Five years later, Peter and John went to Samaria to help Philip in an evangelistic crusade. And what did the two disciples do?

…they sent them Peter and John, who came down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit. For He had not yet fallen upon any of them; they had simply been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then they began laying their hands on them, and they were receiving the Holy Spirit.  (Acts 8: 14-17)

Once again, the people were already believers, but they received a further work of the Holy Spirit when the two apostles prayed for them.

Then, twenty-four years later, look at what another apostle did.

He said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” And they said to him, “No, we have not even heard whether there is a Holy Spirit.”

And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they began speaking in tongues and prophesying. (Acts 19: 2, 6)

From these scriptures, we can infer that one of the most important questions that the early church asked each new believer was: “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?”

Now, is this further work of the Holy Spirit after a person’s salvation still relevant for today’s church?

(Part II – 7)

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My Journey Out (Part 15)

An Updated Rerun Series

Click on following links for earlier articles: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9, Part 10, Part 11, Part 12, Part 13 and Part 14.

Let’s say that we conduct a survey of every Christian in America, asking, “What do you believe is the number one duty for church pastors?”

Do you have any ideas on what their responses might be?

Well, I would guess that 95% of the Christians would say something like, “Feeding the sheep.” And of course, what this really means is, “Pastor, bring on the sermons.”

What’s the scriptural logic behind this answer?

He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?” Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you love Me?” And he said to him, “Lord, You know all things; you know that I love You.” Jesus said to him, “Feed My sheep.” (John 21:17 NKJ)

Out of this single discourse between a newly resurrected Jesus and a broken, discouraged Peter has grown the tradition of pastors preaching sermons in today’s traditional churches. So ingrained is this tradition that few of us even question its scriptural validity.

But wait a second! What was Peter’s calling? Pastor? No!

Peter was one of the original twelve apostles, chosen to be a part of the foundation for the Church, with Jesus being the corner stone. He was never a pastor, restricted to a local assembly. But instead, he was a traveling, church-planting apostle. This is an important point, one which is usually overlooked when this section of scripture is studied.

So, what was Jesus’ main purpose in His “Feed My sheep” discourse with Peter?

I believe our Lord’s main purpose was restoring and reconfirming the apostolic calling on Peter’s life.  Do you want to know why I believe this? The answer can be found in a prophecy spoken by Jesus to Peter a few days earlier:

Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat; but I have prayed for you that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren. (Luke 22: 31-32 NKJ)

How would you like to receive a prophetic word like this one? And then, have it come to pass? Wouldn’t you be so discouraged that you’d believe your calling had been tossed out of the windows of heaven forever and ever?

This particular discourse between Jesus and Peter is the most personal and intimate conversation recorded in the New Testament. It reveals the compassion and love that the Head of the Church has for an individual and his unique calling.

But yes, there are some other scriptures with a “Feed the sheep” theme.

(Continued in Part 16)

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