Category Archives: Red Letter Christians

Lord, Why Not Call Bill Instead of Me? (Part 3)

Click on following for earlier articles: Part 1 and Part 2.

For David, after he had served the purpose of God in his generation, fell asleep…(Acts 13:36)

Not too long ago, a young girl was suffering through her first night working at the pizza delivery store where I work. She was nervous and self-conscious. And worst of all, it was Friday night. We were busy!

My manager brought her to me. “Just listen to Larry on the phone and do it the same way,” said the manager to the girl. Then, the manager left.

The phone rang; I picked it up. I greeted the customer,  introduced myself and entered the name on a computer. Then I added, “So, where have you been, we’ve been waiting all evening for your phone call? What’s your excuse?”

I continued throughout the whole phone order in this light-hearted banter. When I finished, I looked at the young girl. She broke down crying. “I can’t be like you. That’s not me.”

And of course, she was right. She needed to be herself.

This experience illustrates a major problem with us American believers, and probably most western ones.  Christianity desires standardization. We want cookie-cutter callings, stamped and approved by some well-respected college, Bible school or mentor.

Wait a second! I’m not against all Bible schools or mentors, okay? Just maybe 90% of them; but at least, this allows some leeway in my thinking.

“Why?” you shout.

“Good question,” I reply.

Who mentored Charles Finney, William Booth, Maria Woodworth-Etter, Evan Roberts, Billy Sunday, William Seymour, John Lake, Aimee Semple McPherson, Smith Wigglesworth, Jack Coe, Kathryn Kuhlman and hundreds of other pioneers? No one! Each sought the Lord and brought forth a special uniqueness, unlike any other,  for his or her generation.

To be honest, our generation does not need another Finney, Booth, Etter, Roberts, Sunday and so forth.  Not at all. We need callings of apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor and teacher who are totally new and will reflect what Jesus wants done in our age.

And this can not be carried out by standardized, cookie-cutter methods where one size fits all. It must be unique for each person, guided by the Lord and suited to the uniqueness of the individual.

My personal beliefs on training people for their callings is much like General William Booth, the founder of the Salvation Army:

Here’s a Bible. There’s a place on the floor over there where you can pray. Tomorrow morning, you will be out on the streets ministering and preaching to people.

Would people make mistakes under my system? Yes; maybe lots of them. But all the problems can be talked out over supper at the end of the day.

Oh! And by the way, this is the way the early Christians did it. They called it church.

(Continued in Part 4.)

Advertisements

11 Comments

Filed under Christianity, Christians, Church, church planting, Emergent Church, Faith, Gifts of the Spirit, God, grace, Home Church, jesus, Kingdom of God, Prayer, Prophecy, Red Letter Christians, reformation, Religion, spiritual warfare

Lord, Why Not Call Bill Instead of Me? (Part 2)

Click on following for earlier article: Part 1.

As Jesus went on from there, He saw a man named Matthew, sitting in the tax collector’s booth; and He said to him, “Follow Me!” And he got up and followed Him. (Matthew 9:9)

Matthew (also known as Levi) was a tax collector. Because of his profession, the Jews considered him a guttersnipe, an outcast, a reject and probably one of the last persons in the world God would ever choose to be a disciple.

None of this deterred Jesus. Why?

It states, Jesus saw a man named Matthew. By this, scripture indicates the Lord saw who Matthew was at that time and who He could become in the future. Thus, Matthew’s calling was based on his upside potential, not on his then present spiritual condition.

Bingo! This is the basis on how the Lord calls people to be His apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers…on their upside potential.

As for me, my calling from the Lord came through a nighttime vision. In it, I was standing at the rear of a packed auditorium. I had trouble at first seeing why there was such a crowd because of the tall people standing in front of me. Finally the people sat down, and I was able to see the stage and the person standing upon it. It was me; I was ministering to the crowd.

Okay, I knew I was called to preach or teach or something. But how? I had no clue!

At the time, I was a two month old Christian, living in a small Iowa town and attending a Catholic Church. I listened to Kenneth Hagin, Kenneth Copeland, R. W. Schambach, Marilyn Hickey, Malcolm Smith and others on the radio and read piles of books as fast as I could.

But there were no strong prophetic voices nearby. No one who could understand and encourage me with the problems I was encountering on an almost daily basis. I felt like a sheet hanging on a clothes line, blowing whichever way the wind blew.

Thus, I made mistakes. Yikes! Lots of them!

One morning, I was jogging outside on the streets of the town where I lived. As I ran, I said, “Lord, why didn’t you call Bill instead of me? People like him and he doesn’t make the mistakes I do.”

Have you ever seen a New York Stock Exchange ticker tape, where a corporation’s symbol and number of shares move across a narrow screen? Usually, it’s in black letters on a white background. This is how the Lord spoke to me.

The message ran from right to left across my mind. It said: “I called you because you are enthusiastic, zealous, determined and have a big mouth.”

Now, if you think about it, the Lord’s four reasons for calling me would also be the same reasons He would call anyone. Right?

(Continued in Part 3.)

12 Comments

Filed under Christianity, Christians, Church, church planting, Emergent Church, Faith, Gifts of the Spirit, God, grace, Home Church, jesus, Kingdom of God, Prayer, Prophecy, Red Letter Christians, reformation, Religion, spiritual warfare

Lord, Why Not Call Bill Instead Of Me? (Part 1)

prayer_homeIn early 1994, I attended a friend’s funeral in Illinois. What was so unusual about this funeral is that I had two encounters with the Holy Spirit while I was inside the church. The one experience, I wrote about in My Journey Out (Part 12). This is the other one.

My parents and I walked up to the church together, but just as I was ready to open the door and go inside, I head a low voice behind me. “Larry, is that you?”

I turned to see a friend whom I had not seen in twenty years. “Yes, it’s me. How are you, Eugene?”

We spent a few minutes talking and promised to talk more after the service. In the meantime, my parents had gone on ahead without me. When I finished, I walked inside.

Because it was a small church, there was only a center aisle which led directly to the pulpit; and of course, pews lined each side of the aisle. The casket stood at the front of the aisle and was closed. Some pictures of my friend sat on it.

Now, I do not recommend Christians asking the Lord whether a particular friend (or relative) makes it into heaven or not. What if you don’t like the Lord’s answer? What can you do about it? Complain. Pray him out of Hell. Depart from the faith. Your options are nil. So, it’s best to leave questions like that unasked and understand it was between the Lord and your friend…and not you.

But I did not heed my own advice this time. I asked the Lord over and over on the trip home from Iowa if my friend had made it into heaven.

As I approached the casket, a voice spoke to my heart. “Your friend is not in the casket. He’s with Me.”

I could have shouted and danced. I was so happy.

Then, at the casket, I turned left and headed toward a reception line with my friend’s wife, children and family. As I slowly inched forward, a tremendous grief came over me. It was overwhelming.

I began crying and wailing and whooping aloud. I was out of control. There was nothing I could do to stop myself. I wanted to die!

When I finally reached my friend’s wife, she consoled me. “Oh Larry, he’s out of his pain now.” She continued on and on. Finally, she introduced me to her sons and my friend’s sisters.

The whole time I cried and blubbered aloud. What an embarrassing mess I was!

Then, as I headed toward where my parents were sitting on a pew, the grief lifted. I was somewhat normal again.

Sitting next to my mom, I asked the Lord, “What was that all about?”

A gentle voice spoke to my heart: “Your friend was called to be a prophet and he did not make it into his calling. What you felt was just a fraction of the grief I feel when a person does not make it into his divine calling.”

For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. (Romans 11:29)

(Continued in Part 2.)

13 Comments

Filed under Christianity, Christians, Church, church planting, Emergent Church, Faith, Gifts of the Spirit, God, grace, Home Church, Inspirational, jesus, Kingdom of God, Prayer, Prophecy, Red Letter Christians, reformation, Religion, spiritual warfare

“My Journey Out” (Conclusion)

moses-parting-red-sea4

Click on following 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, a few prayers, and then, the pastor strolled to 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 planned 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!

(Starting Monday a new series will begin on the callings. Stop back if you’re interested.)

9 Comments

Filed under Christianity, Christians, Church, church planting, Emergent Church, Faith, Gifts of the Spirit, God, grace, Home Church, jesus, Kingdom of God, Prayer, Prophecy, Red Letter Christians, reformation, Religion, spiritual warfare

“My Journey Out” (Part 17)

moses-parting-red-sea

Click on following 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.)

Leave a comment

Filed under Christianity, Christians, Church, church planting, Emergent Church, Faith, Gifts of the Spirit, God, grace, Home Church, jesus, Kingdom of God, Prophecy, Red Letter Christians, reformation, Religion, spiritual warfare

“My Journey Out” (Part 16)

moses-parting-red-sea

Click on following 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 meaning 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 of what Feed My Sheep truly means is provided by Peter.

(Continued in Part 17.)

Leave a comment

Filed under Christianity, Christians, Church, Emergent Church, Faith, Gifts of the Spirit, God, grace, Home Church, jesus, Kingdom of God, Prayer, Prophecy, Red Letter Christians, reformation, Religion, spiritual warfare, Uncategorized

“My Journey Out” (Part 15)

moses-parting-red-sea

Click on following 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? 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 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).

2 Comments

Filed under Christianity, Christians, Church, church planting, Emergent Church, Faith, Gifts of the Spirit, God, grace, Home Church, jesus, Kingdom of God, Prayer, Prophecy, Red Letter Christians, reformation, Religion, spiritual warfare