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LET US PRAY!
By Steven Lambert

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Early one morning many years ago now, I was driving toward a particular intersection on my way to the Post Office. On the right at that intersection was a particular church whose services I had attended a few times, and the pastor of which with whom I had enjoyed some fellowship. Until that moment, my only intention in my mind was going to the Post Office; nothing else. But, about a block from the intersection, the inner voice of the Spirit of the Lord said, “The light ahead will turn red, when it turns green, turn right, and then turn into the church!” It’s probably also a good thing that I had only a few seconds to either obey or keep driving. Continue reading “Let Us Pray!” »

The following video provides a clear and understandable explanation of the order of eschatalogical (end-time) events that will take place in the near future beginning with the Rapture (Catching Up) of the Church. This outstanding teaching of what to many is a confusing subject matter, that is often made worse by convoluted expositions by some “eschatology gurus,” is by our friend, Leslie Hale, “The Irish Preacher,” who is a tremendously knowledgeable teacher and skillful communicator of the Word of God. We highly recommend that you visit the actual-size Tabernacle in the Wilderness replica and the Antique Bible Museum on the grounds of the Leslie Hale Ministries campus located in Tarpon Springs, Florida.

Recently I heard a great prophetic teacher (Thamo Naidoo from South Africa) mention in his message that there is a difference between apostles of churches and apostles of Christ. He said that while there were many apostles of churches, there were only very few true apostles of Christ on the earth today. That one statement exploded on the inside of me and gave me much illumination.  I had never heard anyone make this delineation before, but it makes a lot of sense to me. The following is what I have unpacked in the scriptures since Thamo made this statement.

Essentially, the word apostle means a person who is sent to represent another, whether a king, kingdom, or entity like a church. 1 Corinthians 12:28 teaches that God places first in the church apostles, since they are sent by God to represent Him in a city to pioneer a beachhead (a church or ekklesia as shown in Matthew 16:18-19) for city transformation.

Apostles are the “sent ones” who represent the essence of what the church vision or mission is all about. In John 17, Jesus constantly referred to the fact that He was sent by the Father to the world, which is one reason why Hebrews 3:1 refers to Jesus as our Apostle. Jesus was God’s Apostle sent into the world to redeem it. In Revelation 22:14 we see the term “the twelve apostles of the Lamb.” There will never be another apostle added to that list since there were only twelve. However, it seems evident (at least to me) that Paul was also an apostle of Christ, which means this general category was not limited to merely 12 in total. Paul qualified his apostleship not only by planting churches but also by seeing Jesus (1 Cor. 9:1), which means that apostles at this level must have experienced a dynamic encounter and intimate walk with the Lord.

In the New Testament there were dozens of people identified as apostles. It is my view that since Paul was an apostle of Christ his apostleship transcended the churches he founded. Although Paul did not found the church in Rome, he was respected enough by the general body of Christ that he was able to write the letter to the Romans with apostolic weight and authority as if he was the one who planted it. Hence, apostles of Christ garner a high level of respect beyond the borders of their own church networks, even though they would never attempt to supplant the authority of an apostolic leader who is the founder and/or leader of another network (unless there was heresy or a gross violation of biblical ethics).

Also, Paul warned that there were some who were masquerading as apostles of Christ (2 Cor. 11:13), which probably means that this term (apostle of Christ) was used to identify some significant apostles who were not one of the original twelve. Furthermore, in 2 Cor. 8:23 Paul identified some as “apostles of the churches” (not “apostles of Christ”) which I believe refers to the fact that these leaders only had limited recognized apostolic authority related to representing a particular constellation of churches. Since apostles of Christ directly represent the Lord Jesus, they have a burden and calling for the whole body of Christ and/or a large expression of the global body of Christ. Apostles of Christ are also trans-cultural, trans-generational, and are more loyal to the Kingdom of God than to a specific geopolitical affinity.

The following are ten characteristics of apostles of Christ:

1. Apostles of Christ Build the Kingdom.
Oftentimes, church apostles are just focused on their local church and/or their network or denomination. One of the reasons is because their assignment is limited to those works they personally oversee or have founded. They do not have the grace or leadership capacity to go beyond their particular church system, doctrine and/or culture. On the other hand, apostles of Christ have an ambassadorial call that transcends any one church, movement or denomination. Hence, even if they try to focus on one group or movement, God will constantly pull them into other church communities and/or nations to build apostolic foundations related to doctrine or Kingdom life.

2. Apostles of Christ Are Not Hierarchical.
Generally speaking, church apostles can be caught up in titles, measures of influence within their movement, and/or church politics. Apostles of Christ do not personally crave titles (they will use them when appropriate) and do not need institutional church structures to validate their ministry or calling.

3. Apostles of Christ Don’t Strive For Recognition.
Philippians 2 teaches us that Jesus made Himself of no reputation. Apostles of Christ are often hidden and do not seek public attention, since they are already rooted strongly in their identity as sons of God and have no innate need for public acclaim.

4. Apostles of Christ Are Not Driven by Money.
Apostles of Christ have so much faith in their assignment from God, they trust God will provide all their needs as long as they are in His will. They do not go to a place to minister only because the offerings are good but will go only where the Lord is leading. Paul said he did not peddle the word of God for money (2 Cor. 2:17) and the apostle Peter warns shepherds not to minister for dishonest gain (1 Peter 5:2). Although I believe those who labor in the word full-time are worthy of double honor and should make a living from the gospel (1 Tim. 5:17; 1 Cor. 9:14), the bottom line for apostles of Christ is the will of God, not material gain.

5. Apostles of Christ Lay Down their Lives for the Gospel.
All of the original 12 Apostles (except John) as well as the apostle Paul were martyred for the gospel. As Jesus laid down His life for the sheep (John 10) those who represent Him are willing to die daily (Revelation 12:11; Acts 20:24; Galatians 2:19-20) whether it is to their own will or to literally lose their lives.

6. Apostles of Christ Have a Servant’s Heart.
Apostles of Christ are unassuming, do not have an entitlement mentality, have a servant’s heart, and do not lead with a top-down autocratic approach like the rulers of the Gentiles (Mark 10:42). They mimic Jesus’ words when He said that the greatest in the Kingdom is the one who serves (Mark 10:43-45).

7. Apostles of Christ Have Divine Influence and Calling Beyond their Network of Churches.
Although the apostle Paul strove not to preach where Christ was already named (Romans 15:20) his greatest epistle was to the church at Rome, where he endeavored to go in spite of the fact he was not their founding apostle. Paul had vast influence way beyond the primary sphere of activity he was focusing on (Read 2 Corinthians 10:10-14). His influence has even reached to us 2,000 years later through his inspired New Testament writings.

Since apostles of Christ represent the Lord Himself, by nature they have to be trans-national, trans-cultural, and multi-generational and have a desire for Kingdom advancement, not just the enlargement of their church networks.

8. Apostles of Christ Have an Intimate Walk with God.
Since apostles of Christ have to represent Jesus and not merely a church or denomination (of course all believers are called to represent Christ but apostolic callings have a greater measure of responsibility), they are obligated to know God intimately and walk in His presence and power.  All of the original 12 apostles walked with Jesus personally for more than three years before they were launched into their ministry, and Paul the apostle had a personal encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus (Acts 9). All true apostles of Christ will have a driving passion to know God and to make Him known.

9. Apostles of Christ Endure Great Hardship.
Paul validated his apostleship by the immense hardships he endured, not just by signs and wonders and church planting (2 Corinthians 11:17-12:8). Paul said (1 Cor. 4:9) that apostles live like those condemned dying in the arena (or have the sentence of death upon themselves). This kind of apostolic leader must have the capacity for high-stress leadership combined with the kind of emotional maturity to deal with all kinds of difficulties that the average person could never endure.

10. Apostles of Christ Live in Simplicity.
Apostles of Christ do not need or desire to live a life of extreme luxury and opulence. Their spiritual and psychological needs have already been met through their deep and abiding relationship with Christ. They have been so satisfied with living with the person and presence of God that they count all things as dung compared to knowing Him (Philippians 3:8-14)! Their greatest desire in life is to fellowship with Him, meditate on the scriptures, and serve God’s people and Kingdom. Consequently they do not need to drive the most expensive cars, live in the largest houses or make a huge salary in order to be satisfied in this life. Consequently, they live in simplicity, are content with little and are not driven to pursue material possessions and pleasure.

After seeing these 10 traits, we can see how there are only very few apostles of Christ in this world. May the Lord raise more up in these days so the body of Christ can fully advance!

A.W. Tozer: Biographical Essay
By Rev. Dr. James L. Snyder

A.W. Tozer PhotoBorn April 21, 1897, in the mountainous region of western Pennsylvania, Aiden Wilson Tozer influenced his generation like no other individual.

During his lifetime, Tozer, as he preferred, earned the reputation of a twentieth-century prophet. His spiritual gifts afforded him a degree of insight regarding biblical truth and the nature and state of the evangelical church in his day. Able to express his perceptions in a beautiful, simple, forceful manner, Tozer was often the voice of God when the words of others were but echoes. He saw through the fog of modern Christianity, pointing out the rocks on which it might flounder if it continued its course.

Just before his 17th birthday, Tozer heard a street preacher on a corner in Akron, Ohio, as he walked home from his job at a rubber factory. He could not shake off the simple message. “If you don’t know how to be saved,” the preacher said, “just call on God, saying, ‘Lord, be merciful to me a sinner.'” Wrestling with God for some time at home, Tozer emerged from his attic sanctuary a new creature in Christ.

Under the tutelage of his future mother-in-law, Tozer progressed rapidly in the things of God. She encouraged him to read good books, study the Bible, and pray. She also urged him to preach, often gathering people in her home to hear him. Continue reading “A.W. Tozer – A 20th Century Prophet” »

IS “GRAVE SUCKING” ANOTHER EXAMPLE OF “CHARISMANIA”?
By Joseph Mattera

grave-sucking

There is something gaining more attention in some circles of the charismatic world called “grave sucking”.

Evidently, this refers to the practice of a believer going to the grave of a departed saint they revere (for example, Charles Finney or Kathryn Kuhlman) and lay on top of it and/or kneel in front of it so they can receive an impartation of the anointing (or mantle) of the departed saint.

This is nothing new. I heard several decades ago that Benny Hinn supposedly visited the gravesite of evangelist Kathryn Kuhlman to get her healing anointing. I also heard recently that a respected prophetic teacher I know visited the grave of Charles Finney (19th century revivalist) and had a tremendous experience with God as He renewed his vision and call to revive America. (Not sure this one exactly fits in the same category or that this leader would consider his experience “grave sucking”.) [We’re pretty sure by that leader’s explanation that it does NOT fit in the same category and that he does not consider his experience “grave sucking.” —Editor]

Also, regarding the possible connection between a manifestation of God at the grave of a departed saint, there is a story in 2 Kings 13:20-22 in which a person came back to life after he was inadvertently thrown into the grave of Elisha the prophet and happened to touch his bones!

While I am sure there are many well-intentioned and even some effective ministers who practice “grave sucking,” I have serious concerns regarding it. [We do not share this view that any ministers who practice it are well-intentioned or that they are “effective ministers,” except for the kingdom of darkness. One of the “effective ministers” the author is no doubt referring to is the New Age Neo-Charismatic leader of Bethel Church, Redding, CA, Bill Johnson, whose endorsement and encouragement of the practice was recently addressed in SLM. —Editor]

Before I list these concerns I want to say up front that I appreciate the fact that there is now more and more respect for church history. Furthermore, Hebrews 12:1-2 teaches us that the present day church is surrounded by a cloud of witnesses; this refers to the saints who have passed on to glory before us. This means that the church of the past is connected to the present and future church and that the First Testament saints are part of the New Testament church!

To be fair, I think any time we come face to face with a significant historical artifact, it can have a profound effect on us because the reality of the biblical or historical story becomes more real. This is why we visit museums; this is why many people are greatly affected when they visit one of the death camps of the Nazi Jewish Holocaust and why many Christians go to Israel and are blessed. It is an amazing experience to see firsthand the land of the Bible and to physically see the places where the saints of old walked with God.

I am sure that if I visited the grave of one of my heroes like Finney, Calvin or Luther, I would be greatly blessed. Not because their anointing is still in the grave but because the physical marker (their graves) may aid me in believing and remembering their lives and legacies, which could open me up by faith to go to another level with God. If that is all these so called “grave suckers” are doing then I am fine with it.

However, this is not the impression I am getting from what I have heard.

The following are seven concerns I have about grave sucking:

1. It distracts from the true power source of our anointing.

The Word of God is clear that the true source of our anointing is from God (Acts 1:8). James 4:4 teaches that if we draw near to God He will draw near to us. Joshua 1:8, Psalm 1 and 119, and 2 Timothy 3:15-16 teach that meditation on the word day and night is the key to our biblical success. Many charismatics want shortcuts to the anointing and desire results from an instant microwave experience or a one-time event. Instead of wasting their time traveling to “grave suck”, they should discipline themselves to seek God, pour over His word and dig down deep in His presence.

2. We get equipped for the work of the ministry by the present-day fivefold ministry gifts.

Ephesians 4:7-12 teach us that the grace we need to minister comes from the ministry gifts of apostles, prophets, evangelists and pastor/teachers. Reading the context of the Bible clearly shows that the equipping and grace/impartation we need comes from those we are sitting under and trained by, not those who have already died. Hence, the spirit that was on Moses came upon 70 elders (Numbers 12) and then upon Joshua (Numbers 27) to help equip them to lead, but that experience was handed down personally to those who walked with Moses. We do not read about others in later generations getting Moses’ spirit; the same when Elijah passed his mantle onto Elisha.

Regarding John the Baptist coming in the spirit and power of Elijah (Luke 1:17-19): that was referring to God divinely placing an assignment upon John from birth, it did not come from John finding Elijah’s grave and sucking out the anointing! Furthermore, John was carrying on the next phase of a ministry Elijah started and was perhaps the last in a line of prophets from the school of the prophets Elijah led at one time (which was started by the prophet Samuel).

Hence, the anointing, spiritual DNA and legacy of a person can be extended generationally via a divine assignment and/or training and impartation, but not through “grave sucking”.

3. The only spirit of a departed person that is promised is the Holy Spirit sent by Jesus.

Jesus promised the Holy Spirit to His followers after He left the earth (John 14-16) which He said would empower us to be His witnesses (Acts 1:8). Consequently, the spirits of the departed saints are not sent down from heaven nor are they dispensed from the place where their bodies were buried.

4. It can make an experiential doctrine out of a mysterious unique biblical story.

As mentioned, 2 Kings 13 gives us a story of a person who came back to life after touching the bones of Elisha. Some have no doubt that the power of God was still in his grave and/or that the miracle-working anointing of Elisha was still residually present on his bones. We have to remember that this is a strange, unique, mysterious story and that it is dangerous to formulate a doctrine and/or practice based on one obscure passage. This is how cults have started. We need to compare scripture with scripture and if there is an isolated obscure passage we encounter, then we should refrain from conjecture and not make a doctrine out of it until we can establish a clear biblical pattern. Also, it must be noted that the person in this passage was raised from the dead. The Bible does not indicate that he received Elisha’s anointing, mantle or became a prophet.

Furthermore, that may have been just one sovereign act of God to remind the Jews of their heritage and the unique prophetic calling Elijah handed down to Elisha.

5. The spirit, power and anointing of these saints is no longer in the ground.

The Bible teaches that when believers are absent from the body they are present with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:8). This implies that our spirit leaves our body when we physically die. Hence, it is no longer on the earth and thus no longer in the grave.

6. It can lead to saint worship and necromancy.

One thing I greatly respect in the Christian Eastern Orthodox tradition is their love of the (spiritual) fathers and patriarchs. Unfortunately, some have taken their reverence too far and worship and pray to images of departed saints. There is a fine line between venerating the saints of old and worshipping them, especially to those who may be biblically ignorant among them. Also, many in this tradition have put the writings of the apostolic fathers (those leaders of the church who came after the first-century apostles) on the same level of scripture, something I disagree with for many reasons too numerous to cite here.

In the Roman Catholic tradition we actually see the official practice of Mary worship and saint worship. Furthermore, it is common for a Roman Catholic to pray to one of the canonized departed saints. Whenever we go to a departed saint for something instead of directly to Jesus we violate scriptures like 2 Timothy 2:5 and John 14:6, since we only have one designated mediator between God and man: Jesus Christ. Grave sucking comes perilously close to saint worship and, if not corrected, could also lead to communing (speaking) with departed saints. After all, if we can receive an anointing from the grave of a departed saint, who is to say we cannot receive advice and/or life altering visions from that same saint?

Finally, this could eventually lead to necromancy, which is witchcraft and has to do with conjuring up the spirits of the dead. Scripture teaches this is wrong even if you are trying to contact a departed saint (1 Samuel 28).

7. This could further divide the body of Christ.

Grave sucking seems like lunacy, not just to nonbelievers but probably to most Bible-believing Christians. Why? Because there is no specific biblical pattern that demonstrates it and/or commands or encourages it. Consequently, it further perpetuates the belief many hold in the evangelical camp that charismatics emphasize subjective experience more than the authority of scripture. Possibly the worst thing about grave sucking is that it could further divide the body of Christ at a time when we need true believers to unite more than ever before.###

[We agree that “grave sucking” is lunacy and another item on the long and growing list of demonically-inspired practices of Charismania and Charismaniacs. We also, however, believe that the time has come to name and call out the so-called leaders who espouse and promote such clearly demonic, New Age practices, such as the apparent chief leaders of same at this time, Bill and Beni Johnson, who we believe to be very, very spiritually dangerous people, in that they are leading multiplied thousands around the world into Biblically-condemned New Age religious practices and anti-Christ “doctrines of demons.” —Editor]

7 Reasons I’m Not a Christian Dominionist
By Joseph Mattera

There have been some in the Christian camp who have labeled themselves Christian dominionists, possibly because they refer to the original covenant found in Genesis 1:26-28 as “the Dominion Mandate” and because they advocate a top-down approach regarding the imposition of biblical ethics on secular society.

Regarding my teachings on the kingdom, some with an anti-Christian bias have no doubt referred to me as a Christian dominionist even though I preach against it. These folks try to label and intimidate any Christian leader who believes biblical ethics belong in the public square.

Since I am not in agreement with Christian dominionist language, methodology and/or conceptual framework, I will use this missive to give seven reasons why I am not a Christian dominionist. Some reasons are theological and some methodological.

1. The word “dominion” in Genesis 1:28 is not referring to the exerting of dominion over humanity.

As we examine this passage we realize God never commanded Adam to exert dominion over other human beings, but to have stewardship over the created order. (Read the context in Genesis 1:29-30.)

Consequently, I have theological issues with those who use language like “God has called the church to take our cities!” The church is never called to force the gospel message upon the general public. Of course, when a law that reflects biblical ethics becomes public policy, the civil authorities should enforce its application, which is much different from forced conversions.

In a pluralistic society such as the United States, only those who win the public’s perception earn the right (meritocracy) to frame culture with their worldview. Instead of using force or depending upon mere political coercion, Christians are called to prove that their biblical values best serve society in the context of everyday life.

2. The New Testament model for gospel influence is through service, not through coercion.

The New Testament equivalent to dominion is influence. Jesus modeled how the church is to have influence when He washed the feet of His disciples and said that the greatest in the kingdom is the one who serves. Those who serve eventually lead because they become the problem solvers of their families and communities. Jesus did not just preach the Word, but He met the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of the people.

Consequently, if we want to influence a city, we don’t take it but rather love and serve it. The problem with the early church after Emperor Constantine began to favor Christianity (A.D. 313) was not that Jesus was proclaimed the universal or imperial ruler, but that the church transmuted itself and became elitist in nature. In some ways the oppressed (the church) became the oppressor and the Roman Empire influenced the church more.

3. I do not believe politics is the primary means to kingdom influence.

As a case in point, the Christian Right put most of their time and money into political elections since the late 1970s. Although they have won many elections which include two presidencies (Reagan and Bush), they have lost the public relations battle with the secular humanists, and lost influence in the majority culture. Consequently, while they were focusing on mere politics their opponents focused on the music, arts and entertainment industries and won the hearts of most of the millennials.

Presently, the highest value in the Western world is freedom of expression and the Christian Right is now viewed as intolerant bigots who are against progress, creativity and equality. Politics is very important but will never ultimately work unless the hearts and minds of a culture are in agreement with its stated platform and philosophy of life. Thus, the church should focus on reflecting God’s truth in every aspect of culture, not just politics.

4. I do not vote for a political candidate just because he/she is a Christian.

There have been several elections, both national and local, in which I voted for a non-Christian over a Christian candidate. I would rather vote for a qualified person than someone who agrees with me theologically. Regarding the presidency, we are not electing a theologian-in-chief but a commander-in-chief! Also, if we elect an unqualified person just because they are a believer it can backfire if their failures in policy are blamed on Christian beliefs. I will vote for a person irrespective of their beliefs and lifestyle if their values, qualifications and methodological approach to policy is closer to my view than their opponent, even if their opponent is a Christian.

Of course, all things being equal, if two candidates are virtually equal in regards to policy, values and pragmatics, I would choose the Christian over the non-Christian. My hope is that eventually more Christ-honoring people will be qualified to lead in every realm of society because the consummation of history will ultimately unite heaven and earth under the Lordship of Christ.

5. God uses non-believers to fulfill His purposes.

In Romans 13:4-7 non-Christian magistrates are called God’s servants. Isaiah 45-46 and the books of Ezra, Nehemiah and Esther demonstrate how God uses unsaved political leaders for His purposes and even calls them His anointed ones. (Pagan kings such as Cyrus, Artaxerxes, Nebuchadnezzar and Darius are all biblical examples of how God used kings to save His people from a holocaust, to return them to their own land and to rebuild and restore Jerusalem.)

Through His common grace, God works through all people for the good of humanity even if they are philosophically opposed to Him. For example, many of the charitable outreaches I have participated in have been resourced and/or aided by secular agencies, political officials and some private citizens who have espoused a lifestyle different from mine yet we still serve together for the good of our communities.

6. I believe God has called believers to work toward having flourishing communities.

I am not opposed to Christians getting involved politically and I believe in biblical ethics in policy. However, our greatest ethos regarding ethics is to love our neighbor as we love ourselves.

Consequently, this means that the church should not do community service merely when they can evangelize and add members. This is disingenuous and the world sees through this and has a right to be offended by it. We are to love for the sake of love and use our gifts and abilities as image-bearers of God, to creatively enhance our communities for human flourishing.

As we live a life dedicated to love and service we will inadvertently change the narrative folks have regarding our churches and our faith. The church once transformed the Western world through music, art, the promotion of aesthetics, abolishing slavery, fighting for civil rights, and through the founding of universities, disaster relief agencies and hospitals. Without the love and ingenuity of the church, the Western world would still be living as their pre-Christian Barbarian ancestors did.

Hence, God is calling believers back to both kingdom orthodoxy and orthopraxy.

7. I do not believe all nations will be Christianized before the bodily return of Christ.

The Bible teaches us that Jesus will not return until the restoration of all things (Acts 3:21) and all His enemies are under His feet (Ps. 110:2). Furthermore, Jesus as the last Adam (1 Cor. 15:45) came to fully implement the cultural mandate given to the first Adam (Gen. 1:28), which is why He called believers to disciple whole nations (Matt. 28:19). While some Christians (some, not all Christian dominionists) have interpreted these passages to mean that every nation will eventually become Christian before He returns, I do not agree.

The Bible is not clear regarding what it means for His enemies to be put under His feet, so we are only left with conjecture regarding what kind of kingdom witness will be on the earth before His coming. Jesus said (Matthew 25:25-41) that there will be disobedient goat nations when He returns, thus showing that all nations will not be saved at His return. Also, scripture teaches in 2 Thessalonians 1:7-10 that “when He comes He will punish those who know not God and disobey the gospel.” Hence, there will be plenty of unbelievers at His return.

Finally, it says in Revelation 20:8-10 “that near the end of human history Satan will deceive some of the nations” and Revelation 21:24 (KJV) that “the nations that are saved will be able to enter into the Holy City” which implies that there will be large collections of unsaved people groups at the consummation of human history. What all these passages teach is that, this side of heaven, we will never experience the fullness of the kingdom until Jesus returns. This does not mean that we do not try to manifest His kingdom wherever we go, but that we occupy and function as the salt and light of the world until He comes (Luke 19:13; Matt. 5:13-16).###

Original Source: http://josephmattera.org/seven-reasons-why-i-am-not-a-christian-dominionist/

[Editor’s Note: Bishop Joseph Mattera is the president of the US division of the International Coalition of Apostles, an organization that claims conservatorship of the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR), presided over and proliferated by C. Peter Wagner, who abruptly stepped down after spearheading the very public and highly-publicized, purportedly prophetic “apostolic alignment” ceremony of the bizarre, brash, substance-abusing, New Age stigmaticist and sorcerer, convicted child-molester, head-to-toe-tatted, biker-dude, WWF-wannabe, frontman of the so-called “Lakeland Outpouring,” Todd Bentley, whose longtime hypocritical secret life of adultery and multifaceted debauchery was exposed the very next day, bringing an abrupt end to the months-long freak show that was televised around the world on the now essentially defunct, blasphemously-named “God TV” network. This inexplicable enigmatic event brought increased international disgrace and disrepute upon the ICA organization and its more prominent members, in particular, who were already perceived by many in the Body of Christ as authority-grubbing, egotistical elitists who used their self-proclaimed status as self-proclaimed, self-appointed apostles for self-aggrandizing and self-exalting purposes. A myriad of other extant proponents and subscribers of the apostolic-prophetic restoration who are not affiliated with the ICA (who are far more in number than those who are) are highly disturbed and perturbed by the antics, actions, and reflected attitudes, and in some cases, broadly-held doctrines, of the ICA and some of its members in that they are misrepresenting and discrediting apostolic and prophetic functions, and thereby deterring and delaying the apostolic-prophetic restoration and God’s purposes for it. The present primary leader of the international ICA is John Kelly, one of the organization’s original founders, who had voluntarily stepped away from top-leadership position in the ’90s citing health issues among other reasons, ceding leadership to Wagner, at the time. SLM is encouraged by this critique, albeit, indirect, by Joseph Mattera on the Scripturally-indefensible Dominionism (a.k.a., “Kingdom Now”) doctrine, and hope that it is a harbinger of more forthcoming, sorely needed, correctives to the ICA, its members, and its unofficial affiliates and subordinates. The ICA and those associating itself with its endeavors and enterprises would do well to recognize and perhaps even acknowledge the existence of this aforementioned myriad of extant non-ICA-affiliated proponents and subscribers of the apostolic-prophetic restoration and their aversion to such extreme heterodoxies as Dominionism, Preterism, Amillennialism, et al., along with other unorthodox teachings, private interpretations, and quirky beliefs emerging from the New Order of the Latter Rain movement in the late 1940s, of which C. Peter Wagner stated and restated numerous times, in writing and orally, the NAR of which he was a proponent, was an extension and continuation. In what seems to many to be blinding, narcissistic egotism, the ICA seems oblivious to the fact that its public persona is in desperate need of massive rehabilitation. Or, maybe, it, i.e., its members, couldn’t care less, despite the fact that God’s purposes for the apostolic and prophetic functions in the last hours of the Church’s presence on the earth is (in one sense) being severely harmed and hindered by same. See also SLM’s previously published disclaimer regarding this author. It is important to recognize that Mattera’s disavowing and tacit denouncing of Dominionism is also a refutation, inadvertent or intentional, of the so-called “Seven Mountain” teachings popularized by prominent ICA affiliates/members, the origins of which are rooted in Marxism, and the essence of which is Dominionism.]

PRAISE, INC
By Rev. James L. Snyder

When the Crystal Palace Exhibition opened in 1851, people flocked to London’s Hyde Park to behold the marvels.

The biggest attraction was steam. Displayed for everyone were steam plows, steam locomotives, steam looms, steam organs and even a steam cannon. Steam captured the imagination of that generation.

Of all the outstanding exhibits the first-prize winner went to a steam contraption with seven thousand parts. When turned on, its pulleys, whistles, bells, and gears made a lot of noise, but, ironically, the contraption didn’t do a thing! Seven thousand moving parts making a lot of commotion . . . but having no practical use.

It’s easy to smile at a former generation’s fascination with steam. Nobody thinks much of steam today. We have many more things to hold our attraction. In today’s high-tech age, however, it’s easy to confuse activity with accomplishment. Many are fooled into thinking that the sound of gears and pulleys is the sound of something important being done.

The latest craze in the church is directed toward worship and praise. No matter where you go these days you cannot help running into WORSHIP CELEBRATION which can mean anything from a Christian band to repetitious singing of praise choruses. To the careful observer the obvious focus in much contemporary worship is how it makes the individual feel. This represents a shift in emphasis from former Christianity. The purpose appears to leave the worshiper feeling great and uplifted. Nothing’s wrong with that. Certainly, worship should make a person feel encouraged and inspired. This is just the thing needed in many congregations.

Not all worship, however, should make us feel wonderful. The saints of another generation spoke often of the “dread of the Lord.” What they meant by that few Christians today seem to understand. Often, in times past, a terrific fear of the Lord would come on the congregation resulting in a wonderful, overpowering sense of conviction. People would line the altar pouring out their soul to God, pleading for mercy.

That holy dread is a rarity in these days of self-assertive Christianity. The lack of the fear of the Lord permeates contemporary worship to such an extent that anything goes without the slightest regard of how it sets with God who we are supposed to be worshiping. This mixed bag of worship is glibly accepted with no discerning regard for God Himself.

On becoming more familiar with God the worshiper begins to understand that some things are acceptable to Him while other things are repulsive. To go by what is in vogue these days you would think nothing offends God and He accepts everything without discrimination. Forgotten are the awesome lessons found in the Old Testament, lessons that cost the Israelites dearly in their struggle to become acquainted with Jehovah. All of the rules and regulations in the Old Testament pointed to one astonishing truth: the holiness of God. When Aaron’s sons burned “strange fire” on the altar they were consumed by a holy God, intolerant of insubordination from His people. Some things God will not tolerate and to worship Him I need to know what they are.

Worship is serious business as far as God is concerned and He wants His people to so consider it when they approach Him. A superficial attitude only reveals a basic unfamiliarity with God on the part of the worshiper. By bringing into the worship experience things incompatible with the nature and character of God can only bring reproach upon the congregation and leadership. The trend today to drag elements of our culture into a service set apart for the worship of God must displease Him. With all the detailed instruction in the Bible concerning the character and nature of God it should be easy to see what He likes and dislikes. Could this be one reason Christians suffer defeat in many areas of their life?

An atrocity affecting our assemblies today is entertainmentism. This proliferation of entertainment in churches can only point to the stark fact that we have lost the wonder and the delightful sense of God’s presence among us. Entertainment centers on some performance which has no place in the solemn and exhilarating worship of God.

According to the Scriptures, the “arm of flesh” cannot serve God.

Performance always suppresses the Presence. The goal of each worship experience should be the manifested presence of God. Therefore, anything affecting this should be rooted out of our assemblies. Those are wonderful times when the Presence of the Lord is experienced in a worship act but it is not a frequent thing among most evangelical churches. Some believe the high energy and excitement produced in some religious services is the Presence of the Lord. And, if a person does not know the real thing, the mistaken identity is understandable.

In the clatter and clutter of some worship services it is quite impossible to really get to know God. The noise is enough to give the angels around the Throne a headache. This essential acquaintance with God cannot be done in the bright lights of exhibitionism. The calisthenics and commotion created in such circumstances are rarely of God. At the core of all authentic worship is a revelation of some aspect of Deity never realized before or seen in such light. Out of that revelation comes a deep sense of admiration which leads to adoration.

The worship of God, whether private or public, centers on the Presence of God becoming increasingly apparent. This is more than just thinking about God although that is a beginning. It is being aware of His Presence right in the place where you are, not just knowing God is omniscient. God is everywhere, but the conspicuous Presence of God is something else. God delights in showing Himself to His people and the Old Testament is full of such remarkable instances. Whether it is Moses or Abraham or Isaiah or David, God delighted in surprising them with spontaneous glimpses of Himself.

This level of worship crosses the threshold of human consciousness where personality meets personality, God mingling with the individual worshiper resulting in fellowship and communion. This is not something stagnant. Rather, it is a growing and delightful sense of becoming conversant with God. Not with the intellect alone, but with the spirit, that marvelous instrument of spiritual recognition and investigation. For it is only by our spirit that we can truly come to the knowledge of God in any degree. That is why a person must be “born-again.”

This “new creature in Christ” can recognize the Presence of God. It is important to cultivate that, or Practice the Presence of God, each day. As a person is able to recognize God in the various situations of life, the greater will be his ability to express to Him the appropriate praise and worship which He rightfully deserves. As this interior life develops in the Believer he becomes less and less occupied with external things.

What is meant by the “manifested Presence” of God? It is a moment when God shows some aspect of His nature to a prepared worshiper through revelation. The human spirit then becomes aware of the Divine Spirit as actually present. This happens only through revelation and not by any exterior manipulation. This is God doing what He does best for those He loves.

To become acutely aware of the Presence of God is not the casual thing some have made it. This awareness of God not only reveals the nature and character of God it also exposes, in the worshiper, any resident sin. In other words, anything that is out of sync with the Divine nature will be exposed and often in an unpleasant manner. One person put it this way, “The more aware I become of God the more aware I am of my own imperfections and sin.” It is a glaring contrast for the worshiper.

It was Dr. A.W. Tozer who once cautioned, “To seek high emotional states while living in sin is to throw our whole life open to self deception and the judgment of God.” What God cannot cleanse and purify, He cannot allow into His Presence. What cannot stand in God’s presence cannot serve Him.

Christian worship cannot be marketed like dry-goods and yet that is what is taking place. This represents a complete misunderstanding of the character and nature of spiritual worship. Giving people what they want may get increased crowds for a time. In the end, however, it will not prepare them to face God nor worship Him as He deserves to be worshiped.

The emotional gymnastics practiced by some leave little or no room for the Holy Spirit to negotiate in the person’s life. Motion and commotion have replaced the quiet afflatus of the Holy Spirit coming on a person manifesting the Presence of Christ that is so real and wonderful and delightful. The religious props in vogue are not necessary to the humble person bent on simply worshiping God. In fact, these props hinder the true process of worship. The religious toys and joy bells are not only unnecessary but they take the focus of the individual from Christ and put it on something exterior.

Anything placed before the soul instead of Christ is an idol and will lead away from Christ. Warning must be given to those who are in danger of this idolatry. More is at stake than a simple style of worship preference.

Worship services today must get back to the simplicity of the New Testament church and again direct the worshiper to Christ. All the claptrap must be carefully eliminated so the Holy Spirit can again reveal to entire congregations the magnificent beauty of Jesus Christ in His manifesting Presence.

When Charles Finney came to a community the conspirators of hell trembled and ultimately fell under the power of God. The purveyors of PRAISE, INC. have little in common with such a man. Let’s not be fooled into believing the noise and the lights so prevalent today have any practical or spiritual significance. We may have seven thousand moving parts but accomplishing nothing.###

For three years or so the Lord has been speaking to me out of the prophetic prediction of Malachi 3:1-6 concerning imminent events that He will be orchestrating in the Church that He is building, i.e., the genuine Body of Christ. In the first quarter of this year, the Lord has been continually increasing the intensity and urgency of what he has been showing and telling me in this regard. I cannot possibly convey much at all of those prophetic insights He’s been communicating to me here in this forum and format or at this time because it is far too expansive and extensive and I have only recently begun to attempt to transfer it from my spirit to paper, so to speak, or in reality, to computer. I will, however, be progressively sharing it in some books and study courses I am currently and concurrently working on.

Anyone who has any substantial experience in “prophetic writing” knows how arduous, strenuous, and time-consuming such an endeavor can be, especially when words so often fail when attempting to convey spiritual impressions, concepts, precepts, and insights into human language as the medium of natural – i.e., intellectual – assimilation. I cannot account for the experiences of other prophets, but I know in my own case, what I “see” in my spirit, is so clear, precise, unambiguous, forthright, apparent, but when I attempt to communicate what I’ve seen in the spirit for consumption by others, words/language fail, and communication methodology conventions hinder rather than help. Or maybe in reality its just my own communication capacities that are lacking.

Many times I’ve wished that God would allow at least momentarily a peeling back of the clouds of human carnality overlaying our spiritual senses (hearing and sight) so that pristine spirit-to-spirit communication could transpire, but as idealistic and desirable as that might seem, it is not His plan or desire. Maybe some of those who are called upon by the Lord to communicate prophetically to God’s people understand what I am trying – probably ineptly and inartfully – to say.

Notwithstanding, I rise today through the auspices of this forum to make a sincere and earnest attempt to convey what I believe I received as a prophetic word from the Lord Jesus Christ, the Head of the Church, which He has instructed me to convey to the Church He is building, that is, His Body. A few days ago, I heard Him instructing me in my spirit to sit down at my computer, write what He speaks to me, and title it “A Prophetic Prognosis.” I did; He did; and what He spoke is what this article is about. It is too long and would take up too much space to place the whole message into this post format. So I have summarized what He spoke to me here and provided a link to the PDF document that contains the entire prophetic word. Continue reading “A Prophetic Prognosis” »

17 Signs You’re an “Empire Builder,” Not a “Kingdom Builder”
By Joseph Mattera

Ever since the Western and Eastern branches of Christianity divided in the 11th century, some of the greatest fears of the once united Christendom has been realized—fragmentation and division.

Even in the 16th century when Martin Luther led the Protestant Reformation, there was the hope that there would only be a few major expressions of the body of Christ—never in their wildest dreams did the reformers envision all the denominations and now various branches and networks of Christianity that have evolved—which has given opportunity for a spirit of lawlessness, independence and empire building among some insecure but gifted leaders. Whether all these expressions are of God or not is not the purpose of this article. Continue reading “17 Signs Distinguishing Kingdom Builders From Empire Builders” »

This article is part 1 of 1 in the series God's Theocracy

Moses & Israelites Exodus

The Church is the quintessential Theocracy. Its government is not a political government wherein the governed themselves constitute, devise, and effect their own government, such as that of this nation, the United States, which is a form of democracy (a republic), supposedly “of the people, for the people, and by the people.” Rather, the Church is literally governed by a singular Supreme Potentate—the Lord Jesus Christ—who God has appointed as its Sole and Sovereign Head. Thus, the ultimate Theocracy. The absolute necessity of understanding this one concept is emphasized and re‑emphasized repeatedly in the volume from which this article is extracted, and indeed is the ultimate and salient point of that book, Charismatic Captivation.

But, once it is understood that Christ Jesus Himself is the ultimate Head and Cornerstone of the Church, it is just as vital to understand that the government Jesus presides over is an intermediated or proxy government in its physical application. In other words, He does not govern alone, nor directly, nor even in person. Rather, His government is a “representative” or “delegate” form of government, if you will. This is to say that as God set apart and specially consecrated the Levites under the Old Covenant to represent Himself unto the people, so also Jesus appoints, anoints, and sends special envoys, ambassadors, to represent Him and His government unto the Church. These envoys are His personal proxies, His delegates, His stand‑ins, whom He sends to convey and effect His purposes, plans, pleasures, and passions. Continue reading “How God’s Theocracy Manifests on Earth” »

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EIGHT WAYS A LOCAL CHURCH CAN LIMIT BELIEVERS
By Joseph Mattera

I have served as a senior pastor for 30 years, and I have also worked extensively with political, community and business leaders over the past three decades. As my understanding regarding the Kingdom of God and marketplace ministry has evolved, I see church with a new lens and notice the frustration many young people and professionals have regarding their local churches. Many in these categories feel limited rather than celebrated and released into their callings. Continue reading “How Empire-Building Church Leaders Limit Followers” »

For years, during my itinerant ministry, when I spoke in churches on the topic of deliverance, I would commence my message by reading aloud Mark 16:15-19. Then, I would ask the congregation to raise their hand if they considered themselves a believer. Invariably, one hand per person in attendance would go up, regardless the size of the congregation. Then I would ask of those who raised their hand, those who had cast out any demons today to raise their hand. No hands would go up. Okay, then, this week, I would ask? No hands. Okay, how about this month. Still, no hands. This year? No hands. Ever? Once in a while, one or two hands went up, but most often, none. Then I would say, “I thought you all said you were believers?” And, pause for reaction. Uncomfortable snickers, would always ensue. Then I would inquire: “Jesus said that believers would cast out devils. Who lied, Jesus or you?” Continue reading “The Great Commission or Omission?” »

The Divine Perspective

By Dr. C.R. Oliver

Moreover the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah a second time, while he was still shut up in the court of the prison, saying, ‘Thus says the LORD who made it, the LORD who formed it to establish it (the LORD is His name): “Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know.”‘ Jeremiah 33:1-3

The prophet viewed everything through the eyes of the Lord God, not determining his reality by his surroundings or his circumstances or his times. Jeremiah was not blinded by the opinions of others, the ruling courts of his day or his rejection by the established clergy. He had been to God’s Holy Mountain and knew things are “not as they seem.” Not trusting his own reason or guiding his own pathway, he sought wisdom from only one source. Deep within him burned the fire of God and part of his being was the Word ingested. Self-evident was the truth of his declaration, “Call to Me and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know.”

My God, that is what we must have in these days! Continue reading “Acquiring A Divine Perspective” »

The Amazing Dual Gifts of God -- The Word and the SpiritThe Day of Pentecost exploded onto the ancient world with such power that it forever changed the work of scribes and the production of books. The overwhelming demand for the written account of Jesus had no precedent in world history. As a result, the New Testament numerically eclipsed all the combined works of Plato, Aristotle, Herodotus, Euripides, Homer, and other ancient writers. The explanation for this phenomenon can be given simply: The book revealed Jesus as the access to God. While other writers informed the reader, the message of Jesus changed the reader. Continue reading “Amazing Dual Gifts From God!” »

“By faith Abraham, WHEN HE WAS CALLED, OBEYED by going out to a place which he was to receive for an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he lived as an alien in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, fellow heirs of the same promise; for he was looking for the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God.” (Heb 11:8-10)

“Now these things happened to them as an EXAMPLE, and they were written for OUR INSTRUCTION, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.” (1 Cor. 10:11)

“For whatever was written in earlier times was written for OUR INSTRUCTION, that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” (Rom. 15:4)

Men craftily design and disseminate their humanly-invented doctrines and dogmas, founded in strife, envy, self-aggrandizement, and selfish-ambition, and aimed at controlling and corralling others, like crabs in a bucket, to preclude them from fulfilling their callings and dreams. Like Joseph’s family, they surmise their calling is to be “dream killers.”

One such concept posits that you may have a “calling” from God, but you dare not “go out” to pursue it, until you’ve received your “commissioning,” for “calling” and “commissioning” are not the same thing. And, very often according to them, THEY are the ones who will determine and decide when you are “ready” for your commissioning, which must come from them, when they lay THEIR hands upon you. In the meantime, you must “sit at their feet” and “serve” them to “prepare” you for your “commissioning.” Continue reading “A Lesson From Abraham” »

God is in the process of purifying His Church toward the end of glorifying the Eternal Bride of Christ, the Lamb’s wife (Rev. 21:9). That is to say, God has already begun to take the Church through a process of purification unto glorification, which shall result ultimately in exaltation of the true Bride of Christ unto the final status and station unto which she is destined. That final status and station is to become ONE with the Triumphant and Sovereign Christ, as His Co-Sovereign, throughout His millennial reign and all of eternity!

Every former move of God throughout history shall be eclipsed by what is about to take place as God exalts the Church into “all her glory” (Eph. 5:27). And, this thing shall not be done in a corner (Acts 26:26). The entire world shall be made to witness this spectacular phenomenon — the exaltation of a people, a nation, what is called, “A Holy Nation,” the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing, a mighty throng, clothed in white garments, girded about with the Truth and the golden breastplate of righteousness, having the high-praises of God in their mouths and a two-edged sword in their hands.

While the world, on the other hand, is being thrust into a super-chaotic period in which everything that can be shaken, is being shaken, so that in the end all the earthly kingdoms of men shall be toppled and brought to naught.

In the midst of the rubble shall arise another Kingdom — a Kingdom of all majesty and glory — the Kingdom of God. Continue reading “The Mystery of the Kingdom (Part 1)” »

Dr. Steven LambertFriends, we believe God is leading us (SLM, Inc—Publisher of Spirit Life Magazine) to start an Internet Radio Station (aka, webcasting or netcasting) in order to take Spirit Life Magazine, the Real Truth Radio Program and many other teachings of Dr. Lambert (Founder/Editor of Spirit Life Magazine) as well as other outstanding Bible teachers to the world. In fact, we also believe that God is leading us to acquire an existing broadcast radio station as well, but we are starting with the Internet Radio Station in the meantime until that happens. We have no doubts about this being God’s leading for this ministry at this time. And this is by no means an impetuous thing. Fact is: He’s been speaking to us about a radio station for nearly 40 years! We believe NOW is the time!

 

NOW PLAYING: Special Message from Real Truth Radio Program Host, Dr. Steven Lambert:

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The Internet Radio Station will be available around the world 24/7, programmed with the finest available cutting-edge Spirit-anointed teaching programs focused on advancement of the Kingdom by some of the top teachers in the world, spiritual development of Body of Christ, and “equipping the saints for the work of the ministry.” PLUS, all of that great teaching programming will be nested in between and surrounded by blocks of the best Christian Music of several different Gospel genres available! There’s nothing currently in existence like what we have planned for this 24/7 Internet Radio Station that people around the world will be able to access whenever they want!

Another important part of the daily programming will be a radio version of Spirit Life Magazine featuring news and commentary taken from many of the articles published on this website!

Real Truth Radio ProgramMoreover, this will actually only be the beginning of what we believe the Lord’s longer-term plans are, which includes FM/AM broadcast and short-wave radio stations to reach around the world, as well! Continue reading “MAJOR ANNOUNCEMENT: The Real Truth Radio Network!” »

With all the proliferation and promotion of the prophetic that is happily taking place now in some streams and camps of the Church, it is critical that we understand what the true Purpose of the prophetic really is. Some prophetic novices and new prophetic groups appear to think that prophecy itself, whether in the form of personal prophesying over people or publishing prophecies on the Internet, for example, is the goal of the prophetic. Moreover, the actions, attitudes, and speech of some regarding the prophetic seem to indicate that they think that the prophetic is an end in itself. But, it’s not.

Though it may seem enigmatic to say, prophecy is not the Purpose of the prophetic. The true Purpose of the prophetic is not the prophetic itself as an end in itself. It’s not just prophesying. It’s not seeing who can prophesy the most, the loudest, the longest, the most authoritative sounding, or the most profoundly. It’s not to use the prophetic to build a name for oneself, or to promote and proliferate a ministry, a minister, or a movement, or to develop a means of support or income for a ministry, or to sell books, or to become well-known or famous, or to build a church, a following, or a prophetic organization, or to achieve personal ambitions. The true Purpose of the prophetic is none of those things. Continue reading “Prophetic Purpose” »

In light of ongoing riots and protests in the aftermath of the George Zimmerman acquittal it is vital for genuine Born Again believers to be reminded of some important truths regarding real freedom.

Christ—who Himself is TRUTH—is the only Source of true freedom! No man can give you freedom, and therefore no man can take it away.

“If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the TRUTH shall make you FREE” (John 8:31-32).

“If the SON therefore shall make you free, ye shall be FREE indeed” (John 8:36).

Jesus said to him, “I AM the way, and the TRUTH, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me” (John 14:6).

Freedom is personal. Freedom is singular. Freedom is individualistic, and comes to individuals, not groups. Hence, individuals are the recipients of freedom, not any whole people-groups. Continue reading “The Real Truth About Real Freedom” »

There is a disease sweeping through the body of Christ. It’s an infectious sickness I call “the man of God syndrome” or “the celebrity syndrome.” It rears its ugly head in the form of self-adulation and self-promotion. Thankfully, the Bible offers the antidote.

In our politically minded, vote-conscious world, we think we are in control of who gets raised up. But the Bible says the opposite: “Exaltation comes neither from the east nor from the west nor from the south. But God is the Judge: He puts down one, and exalts another” (Ps. 75:6-7, NKJV).

In Daniel 2:21 we read, “And He changes the times and the seasons; He removes kings and raises up kings.” God is plainly telling us we are not in charge!

What does this have to do with the man-of-God syndrome? Everything.

A “syndrome” is a group of symptoms that characterize a particular abnormality. The man-of-God syndrome describes people who “think more highly than they ought” of their positions in the body of Christ.

These arrogant individuals are enamored by their perceived value. Unlike Jesus who made Himself of no reputation, they spend their lives making sure everyone knows their reputation.

This deadly disease affects the body of Christ worldwide. It’s in every congregation, denomination and church movement around the planet. Leaders are stuck on themselves.

Here’s a word of caution to my fellow clergy. If you’re a minister who’s rising in prominence and you begin to feel as if you’re somebody, get on your face before the Lord. Weep tears of repentance and say to the Lord: “Naked I came into this world and naked I will return. Anything I have or have accomplished is because You have given me breath” (see Job 1:21).

Remember Herod’s fate when he began believing the praise of the crowd? He died and was eaten by worms (see Acts 12:20-23). I’d rather be a worm than be eaten by them.

You see, it’s not by heredity. It’s not by the orders of men. It’s not by politics and elections. It’s not by natural succession. Nor is it by conquest and war that we get elevated in life. It’s by God.

Celebrity Mind-Set

When individuals infected with the deadly celebrity syndrome enter a room, they expect others to recognize their presence and pay homage. They desire front-row or platform seats and are visibly disturbed when not given the red-carpet treatment they desire.

They feel they must speak even when not called upon simply because they believe everyone present will live in the dark without their superior knowledge. These individuals have risen above doing menial tasks around the church such as cleaning toilets, picking up garbage and tending infants in the nursery. They no longer stoop that low because now they are “somebody.”

They even find it beneath themselves to spend time with a church member who is not at their socio-economic or spiritual level. The sad truth is, they avoid the very people who have elevated them to their position in the ministry.

Leaders who have been infected with this disease no longer associate with common, ordinary people. They claim: “Time just doesn’t permit me to spend time with you. I’m so busy.” But they seem to have plenty of time to rub shoulders, play golf and sip tea with a more prestigious crowd.

Ministers with this syndrome no longer spend time in the foyer shaking hands with congregants. They claim the church has gotten too large. Yet they have time to shake hands and dine with the elite. I call these people “white-collar clergy.”

I’m not attempting to sway the mass of ministers who, in their own minds, have risen to such high levels. They would attack me with Scripture and vilify me for speaking against their “well-deserved” positions. I’d rather spend my time preventing the present generation from going down that path.

Young men and women who desire to enter the ministry are witnessing a warped concept of true ministry. And many outside the church have become repulsed by today’s Christian leaders.

Stuck on Self

The world is waiting for men and women of God who are more concerned about how they appear to Christ than how they appear to the crowd. People are longing to find leaders who are stuck on helping sinners rather than stuck on helping self. They are fed up with our slick self-promotion; glitzy, eye-popping Internet, TV and radio spots; and high-gloss, self-exalting magazine, newspaper and poster ads that elevate man rather than exalt Jesus.

Some leaders have gone so far as to hire Hollywood ad agencies and secular image consultants so they’ll appear one notch above other ministers. Of course there’s nothing wrong with advertising an evangelistic meeting, a ministry or a church. But many have gone too far.

The church of Jesus Christ needs to send this self-promotion back to where it was birthed—in the cesspool of hell. Wasn’t Lucifer the first being who became full of himself and decided he should be promoted?

The next generation of believers needs shepherds who have a “servant syndrome” not a “serve-me syndrome.”

I’m not speaking only of clergy. If you serve in the church in any way—as a Sunday school teacher, deacon, choir member or children’s worker—then this message should speak volumes to you.

Why? Because the same self-promoting spirit that grips those in ministry can put a stranglehold on good, God-fearing churchgoers. The same idolizing, self-adulating spirit that has invaded the lives of so many who make ministry their career can find its way into your life too.

What can you do to avoid this deception? Here’s what Jesus had to say on the subject.

The higher you rise in popularity, the greater your position as a servant. We’re all familiar with the story found in Mark 9:35-37: “And He [Jesus] sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, ‘If anyone desires to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all.’ Then He took a little child and set him in the midst of them. And when He had taken him in His arms, He said to them, ‘Whoever receives one of these little children in My name receives Me; and whoever receives Me, receives not Me but Him who sent Me.'”

Before Jesus humbly blessed this child, He had already performed incredible miracles. He healed the woman with the issue of blood, experienced the transfiguration, raised Lazarus from the dead and fed the 5,000. Yet after all that, what did He tell His disciples? “If you want to be first, you’ve got to be last. You must be a servant of all.”

The higher you rise in popularity, the greater your position as a servant. That concept is hard to grasp in our Western culture because we’re known for climbing the ladder of success. Secular bookstores are flooded with manuals on how to rise above the person in front of you, which is the exact opposite of what Jesus taught.

Jesus’ prescription for this deadly syndrome is, “Whatever great things you do, always remember you’re a servant.” Let’s keep in mind that one of the last acts of this miracle worker was washing the disciples’ feet. The higher He rose in popularity, the greater His position as a servant.

A person who wants to be involved in the lives of men must first become intimate with God. We do that by spending time in our prayer closets repenting of our sins and getting to know Him.

Psalm 51 shows us the way. “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Make me hear joy and gladness, that the bones You have broken may rejoice.

“Hide Your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from Your presence, and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, and uphold me by Your generous Spirit” (vv. 7-12).

Hyssop was a plant used for medicinal purposes and for cleansing. Here’s the clincher. After you get right with God and are cleansed, after you become intimate with the Lord, something happens:

“Then I will teach transgressors Your ways; and sinners shall be converted to You” (v. 13). This is so clear. But too often people get the cart before the horse. If you want to be positioned in the ministry, if you want to be useful on earth, let me tell you how: Get in a place of intimacy with God.

Jesus, in the middle of His glorious, crowd-mesmerizing ministry, maintained intimacy with God.

What does this have to do with church life? Everything. Church members, singers, musicians, altar workers, children’s workers, future staff members—whatever you’re after, this is the road you must travel.

The amount of anointing you possess should never dictate how approachable you are. I’ve chosen not to model my life on the lives of modern-day pastors or evangelists. Although there have been great men and women of God in the past and there are many alive today, it is safer for us to pattern ourselves after Jesus. Jesus was mightily anointed, yet He allowed everyone to approach Him: children, people who had questions, people who had given up hope, people who made emotional pleas for help, people who wanted to follow Him. And He didn’t send His thugs to get rid of them.

You know the story of blind Bartimaeus in Mark 10. He wanted a touch from God and screamed out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” What did Jesus do? Did He say: “Get rid of him. Get him out of here”? No! He said, “Call him here.” My friend, that’s how Jesus operated. With His great anointing He was still approachable.

A person who is positioned in the ministry by God will be persecuted by others. You might as well accept it. If you’re positioned by God, you will go through persecution. In fact, if you’re not being persecuted, something is wrong.

Throughout the Word you will see this pattern. The Bible says they will revile or defame you. They’ll speak evil of you, hate you and persecute you for righteousness’ sake. Perhaps the reason we are not persecuted today is because we’re not preaching the Word.

Are you standing for truth? Jesus sent His disciples into homes and said, “If they reject My Word, leave and wipe the dust from your feet” (see Matt. 10:14).

Ministers today go into the homes of millions through television. Rather than being rejected they are received. Rather than removing the dust from their feet, they are raking in donations from their followings.

I wonder what would happen if our words carried a little more weight! The Bible says all who live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution (see 2 Tim. 3:12).

A person who is popular with the crowd should never pollute his message. This is another antidote to the celebrity syndrome. You never compromise the message, no matter how large the crowd.

Jesus was popular with the crowd. But when He told them to eat His flesh and drink His blood, many said, “This is too difficult for us,” and they turned and walked away (see John 6).

What was Jesus’ response? He didn’t flinch, change His message or run after the offended crowd. Instead, He turned to His disciples and said, “How about you, boys?” They responded, “You have the words of eternal life.”

So He told them: “All right. If you’re with Me, you’re with Me. Now follow Me.” Jesus is not going to change His message for anybody. We must live—and preach—to please God rather than man.

According to Jesus, a person who wants a ministry of mighty things must be willing to do menial things. Menial things are insignificant things that are done in secret when no one is shining a spotlight on you. You’re just busy doing something for the Lord.

Jesus spent His life serving. He washed His disciples’ feet. He cooked them breakfast after the resurrection. Jesus served.

If you want to achieve success and climb to a place of great elevation in the Lord, then look down. Don’t pass up the insignificant tasks, especially those that nobody but God can see.

There’s a new generation coming up, and I’m going after them. I want to raise up men and women who will get their model for life and ministry from the Word of God and the life of Jesus.

Their modus operandi will be to serve rather than be served, and their lives and ministries will be characterized by holiness, humility and a heartfelt love for people. I pray that God uses them in greater ways than He has used any other minister who has graced this planet—and that He preserves them from the deadly man-of-God syndrome.
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Evangelist Steve Hill preached the Brownsville Revival for five years, is pastor emeritus of Heartland World Ministries Church and has authored 13 books, including Spiritual Avalanche.
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Source: http://www.charismanews.com/opinion/from-the-frontlines/39925-steve-hill-end-the-celebrity-syndrome-in-the-church; accessed 6/20/13. Republished with permission from Charisma, June 2013. Copyright Charisma Media, USA. All rights reserved. www.charismamag.com.
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