Character Is Foundational

Just this week I spent time on the phone with another apostle and then a conference call with two apostles regarding a person in ministry who needs to step down from all leadership responsibilities. 

This is a man whom we have worked with and supported over a number of years. We have encouraged him to make changes in his character and even offered help in some areas to enable him to do so. Areas such as finances and family. However, he has not taken the necessary action to improve and change. So, he is being asked to step down and focus on the issues that are needing attention.

So often in ministry we look at gifting and anointing. We determine the person’s call and begin to move them in the direction of fulfilling their call. We disciple, train, equip, and even mentor those who have a definite call upon their life to enter the fivefold ministry. However, more foundational than giftings, skills, knowledge, anointing, and calling is character. It is foundational to everything. Not just for leaders but for all believers.

Character involves a number of things … Let’s list them for a quick understanding of some of the elements of a person’s life that we might look at when determining and working with a person’s character.

      • Family – How are they doing with their family members? Do they love and respect this person?
      • Finances – Is this person a good manager of their money, paying their bills on time, living within their means, and tithing as well as giving to the work of the ministry?
      • Friends – Who are they relating to as friends? as “Bad company corrupts good morals”
      • Fun – What does this person do for fun and how do they spend their spare time?
      • Fruit – Do they exhibit the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23)
      • Fruitfulness – Are they influencing people and seeing people come into the Kingdom?
      • Faith – What are they believing God for – standing in faith regarding?
      • Faithfulness – Are they regular in their devotional life, church attendance, and ministry obligations?

As we work with people, see how they relate to and treat other people, and come to know them and their family better, we begin to see the character of the person. This character is the foundation for any and all ministry. Without it established and in place, functioning correctly, the person will not be successful in their ministry and in influencing others for the Kingdom. And, the Lord as well as the Church will, once again, be seen in a negative light in society and among non-believers. They do notice, by the way.

So, the most loving thing we can do is remove a person who, after a season of failing to develop and change these basic character issues – even when offered and given support and help – is to have them step down from all ministry. This frees them to focus on and work with these basic elements of their character. 

Of course, this action of removing someone from a leadership position may not appear to be a loving decision. Be that as it may, the removal is needed because the person has not cooperated nor responded to the help and direction being offered to them. They apparently are not teachable. They are not interested in being mentored. The leaders, in this case three apostles, have walked the extra mile or two with this person and spoken the truth in love many times. It is now time to move forward and release this person so they can decide what it is they really want to do and how committed they are to doing it. 

Character is foundational. God has called his children, not just His leaders, to be Christ-like in all of their behaviour and interaction with others. Our heavenly Father is desiring that we represent Him well amongst those who do not believe.

Gentle Heresy

I recently sat with a young man whom I coffee with when in the province east on my home province. He was a member of one of our house churches who has since decided to leave and attend the “going concern” church in his small city. However, I appreciate him and believe in him so I am keeping in touch. It was a good coffee conversation.

In the conversation he mentioned an author who he is currently reading. I had never heard of this writer. He mentioned that this preacher sees things in the spirit realm and teaches others to do the same. Now, I don’t have a problem with that. I also move in the supernatural gift of the Discerning of Spirits as found in 1 Corinthians 12:4-11. What concerned me was his comment that this man could do this since he was born. 

If a person who is not born again and baptized in the Holy Spirit can see what is happening in the spirit realm it is not a God-thing. His source would be the ruler of this age, the devil himself or one of the demons that constantly deceive believers. So, I did not say anything but my warning flags were raised and I decided to purchase this author’s books and read them to see where things stand. If the author actually says that then I will be deeply concerned and try to address the issue with my young friend. That comment would be a gentle heresy. Totally not biblical. 

It does not help that the author is part of a movement that I already have deep concerns about. So, I am treading gently and doing my due diligence reading what this man has written.

This is what I call a “gentle heresy.”

During the same week I was in a sharing session in a local church and another young man whom I know shared about a man he is following on You Tube and reading his books. He shared that this man teaches people how to get rich and, most importantly, the principles needed to handle the riches when they come. Again, my warning flags were blowing strongly in the wind. I am aware of this man’s teachings, his books, and his seminars. He is New Age and certainly not a believer in any way, shape, or form. 

The young man sharing was all excited about what he was learning about the principles needed to gain and maintain wealth. But it was all secular and New Age and not biblical in the least. The Bible states: “Beloved I pray that you may prosper and be in heath as you soul prospers” (3 John 2). Your soul – mind, will, emotions – propers only when connected to the Living God as seen and found only in Jesus. If your finances prosper beyond the level your soul prospers then you will see that specific person’s life enter confusion and end is disaster. I have seen it so often – especially with lottery winners. It is not just a matter of principles – it has to do with your connection with the Living God and letting Him transform your mind, your will, and your emotions. 

Another gentle heresy or wrong teaching. 

In some of the Facebook sharing of several people in the same local church as the “prosperity” guy above there are several who are directly and indirectly quoting the teaching of Joseph Prince. This one I have researched a lot and have seen the danger his teachings are to the Church. This man talks a good talk but when you scratch the surface even a little bit you have a much less than gentle heresy. You find a full-blown early church heresy called Antinomianism. This is any view which holds that Christians are freed by grace from obligations of any moral law – the Ten Commandments, for example. 

All these people sharing their thoughts and their theology are young people who love Jesus but are seeking out spiritual experiences and encounters. They are putting the subjective experiences – their own and that of others – ahead of the objective truth, the Bible. And, they have placed their opinions over the thoughts and the words of the Lord. And, in the process they have created a god that approves of their lifestyle and beliefs. And, they have built strongholds in their minds that need to be pulled down.

2 Corinthians 10:4-5 “For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ…”

The young believers today are desperately in need of spiritual fathers and mothers who are mature and will “speak the truth in love”. We need to be discipling and mentoring the young people in the Church today or else they will continue to believe a lie and follow their own vain imaginations. Eventually leaving the Church and the Christian faith because they no longer see it as relevant or believable. 

Fentanyl

 I have just had the opportunity to be driving by myself for a total of 14 hours in the last five days or so. I spend some of that time thinking, praying, and sorting thoughts and feelings, filing them or assimilating them so that they become part of who I am and are “filed away” and no longer continue to cross my mind and heart requiring more attention. Driving long distances is a good time to examine life and where it is at currently. An ancient philosopher wrote, “An unexamined life is not worth living.” I agree.

During the many hours of driving I occasionally listen to a specific program on PBS – Public Broadcasting Station – that is on the satellite radio system that my car is equipped to receive. This specific program often interviews some amazing people. This particular program was speaking with Ben Westhoff. He has just published a book called Fentanyl, Inc. It was an amazing interview. You can listen to it (in English) as well as see a full transcript of the interview at: https://www.kenw.org/post/fentanyl-dark-web-profit-center-chinese-labs-us-streets

The interview led me to purchase the book Westhoff had just written and that was the center of the interview and discussion. Fentanyl is a major issue in every nation where I work. The basic drug is known by many names on the streets – K2, Spice, 251-NBOMe – and is basic to the opioid epidemic that is sweeping our nations. The book deals with this epidemic on many levels – pharmacology, politics, law enforcement, drug dealers and even drug lords, as well as the families whose lives have been destroyed by this so easy to obtain drug.  

From the cover … “Through his courageous reporting Ben Westhoff takes us to the heart of the problem. In Fentanyl, Inc., he shines a light on the human wreckage and damage caused by the most powerful and dangerous of the opioids, fentanyl and its derivates. He shows us how addiction, mislabeling, and purposefully or mistakenly mixed drugs lead to tragic ends. The drug is often created out of factories operating with the permission of the Chinese government. To solve this epidemic, we must understand it. Make no mistake: the fentanyl problem is a global issue. Fentanyl, Inc., is a must read, pulling the curtain back and showing us how this human tragedy occurs and how insidious and addictive a drug can be.”

I am personally amazed at the number of believers who are unaware of what is happening in their world. Just after hearing the author interviewed I spent time with a number of believers – both one-on-one and with several groups. They were not aware of the problems we are all facing. And, some of them even bluntly stated that they don’t want to know all the “bad news” and thus don’t listen to the news or stay current with what is happening in the world and in their neighbourhood. I was astonished. I was amazed. I was shocked. I was deeply saddened. 

Jesus said that we were to live in the world – be in touch and involved with what is happening – just don’t get sucked into the ways of the world personally. In the world but not of the world. We are called to be light and salt … light needs to be in the darkness to make a difference. Salt needs to be in touch to change and preserve things. It is not wise to avoid knowing and understanding the bad news that is spoken about in real life every day. Remember, the Gospel is only good news because there is bad news. 

Isolating oneself from what is happening in the world is not what Jesus did. And, He does not want us to do it either. John 1:14 states that He came and dwelt among us. He became one of us. He lived as we live and where we live. We are to do the same. We need to engage with our culture and society, with all of its issues. We need to embrace those who are struggling with drug addiction and be there for them – loving, accepting, forgiving, caring. Anything less is not Christian. 

We have a cycle of addiction and death that is gripping many families and even nations. It is time for believers to become aware of what is really happening in the world – in their world. Don’t kid yourself, someone in your own local community and neighbourhood has an addiction problem. And, Fentanyl is not just a street drug that people buy illegally. Many people receive their initial introduction to this ‘drug problem’ through legal prescriptions and become addicted that way.

We need, as believers, not to be ignorant of the current social problems our world and our local community is facing. We need to care enough to become knowledgable and involved.   

Apostate Leaders

A friend, Bill Lewis, lead apostolic leader of The Connection Church in Ohio send me the following…

Every now and then there comes along an article that is so current and powerful, you wish you had said it so eloquently. However, it so powerful that it needs to be reprinted, published as many places as possible, and shouted loudly. My son, John, sent me this article and I was so moved by it for its boldness, conciseness, honesty, and truthfulness. So, here is the article by George Brahm quoting John Cooper of the band, Skillet.

 

Skillet’s John Cooper on Apostasy Among Young Christian Leaders by George Brahm

John Cooper, lead singer for the rock band Skillet, responded to the litany of recent apostasies among young Christian leaders. In a Facebook post titled ‘What in God’s Name is Happening in Christianity?’ put up on Tuesday, August 13, Cooper directly addressed the reasons given by Hillsong songwriter Marty Sampson for renouncing his Christian faith, before highlighting the need for Christians to stay grounded in a truth-driven faith over an emotion-driven one. Here is the text of the post in its entirety (not corrected for spelling or punctuation):

“Ok I’m saying it. Because it’s too important not to. What is happening in Christianity? More and more of our outspoken leaders or influencers who were once “faces” of the faith are falling away. And at the same time they are being very vocal and bold about it. Shockingly they still want to influence others (for what purpose?)as they announce that they are leaving the faith. I’ll state my conclusion, then I’ll state some rebuttals to statements I’ve read by some of them. Firstly, I never judge people outside of my faith. Even if they hate religion or Christianity. That is not my place and I have many friends who disagree with my religion and that is 100% fine with me. However, when it comes to people within my faith, there must be a measure of loyalty and friendship and accountability to each other and the Word of God.

“My conclusion for the church (all of us Christians): We must STOP making worship leaders and thought leaders or influencers or cool people or “relevant” people the most influential people in Christendom. (And yes that includes people like me!) I’ve been saying for 20 years(and seemed probably quite judgmental to some of my peers) that we are in a dangerous place when the church is looking to 20 year old worship singers as our source of truth. We now have a church culture that learns who God is from singing modern praise songs rather than from the teachings of the Word. I’m not being rude to my worship leader friends (many who would agree with me) in saying that singers and musicians are good at communicating emotion and feeling. We create a moment and a vehicle for God to speak. However, singers are not always the best people to write solid bible truth and doctrine. Sometimes we are too young, too ignorant of scripture, too unaware, or too unconcerned about the purity of scripture and the holiness of the God we are singing to. Have you ever considered the disrespect of singing songs to God that are untrue of His character?

“I have a few specific thoughts and rebuttals to statements made by recently disavowed church influencers…first of all, I am stunned that the seemingly most important thing for these leaders who have lost their faith is to make such a bold new stance. Basically saying, “I’ve been living and preaching boldly something for 20 years and led generations of people with my teachings and now I no longer believe it..therefore I’m going to boldly and loudly tell people it was all wrong while I boldly and loudly lead people in to my next truth.” I’m perplexed why they aren’t embarrassed? Humbled? Ashamed, fearful, confused? Why be so eager to continue leading people when you clearly don’t know where you are headed?

“My second thought is, why do people act like “being real” covers a multitude of sins? As if someone is courageous simply for sharing virally every thought or dark place. That’s not courageous. It’s cavalier. Have they considered the ramifications? As if they are the harbingers of truth, saying “I used to think one way and practice it and preach it, but now I’ve learned all the new truth and will start practicing and preaching it.” So the influencers become the voice for truth in whatever stage of life and whatever evolution takes place in their thinking.

“Thirdly, there is a common thread running through these leaders/influencers that basically says that “no one else is talking about the REAL stuff.” This is just flatly false. I just read today in a renown worship leader’s statement, “How could a God of love send people to hell? No one talks about it.” As if he is the first person to ask this? Brother, you are not that unique. The church has wrestled with this for 1500 years. Literally. Everybody talks about it. Children talk about it in Sunday school. There’s like a billion books written on the topic. Just because you don’t get the answer you want doesn’t mean that we are unwilling to wrestle with it. We wrestle with scripture until we are transformed by the renewing of our minds.

“And lastly, and most shocking imo, as these influencers disavow their faith, they always end their statements with their “new insight/new truth” that is basically a regurgitation of Jesus’s words?! It’s truly bizarre and ironic. They’ll say “I’m disavowing my faith but remember, love people, be generous, forgive others”. Ummm, why? That is actually not human nature. No child is ever born and says “I just want to love others before loving myself. I want to turn the other cheek. I want to give my money away to others in need”. Those are bible principles taught by a prophet/Priest/king of kings who wants us to live by a higher standard which is not an earthly standard, but rather the ‘Kingdom of God’ standard. Therefore if Jesus is not the truth and if the Word of God is not absolute, then by preaching Jesus’s teachings you are endorsing the words of a madman. A lunatic who said “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the father except through me.” He also said that he was alive before Abraham, and to see him was to see God because he was one with God. So why then would a disavowed christian leader promote that “generosity is good”? How would you know “what is good” without Jesus’s teachings? And will your ideas of what is “good” be different from year to year based on your experience, culture trends, poplular opinion etc and furthermore will you continue year by year to lead others into your idea of goodness even though it is not absolute? I’m amazed that so many Christians want the benefits of the kingdom of God, but with the caveat that they themselves will be the King.

“It is time for the church to rediscover the preeminence of the Word. And to value the teaching of the Word. We need to value truth over feeling. Truth over emotion. And what we are seeing now is the result of the church raising up influencers who did not supremely value truth who have led a generation who also do not believe in the supremacy of truth. And now those disavowed leaders are proudly still leading and influencing boldly AWAY from the truth.

“Is it any wonder that some of our disavowed Christian leaders are letting go of the absolute truth of the Bible and subsequently their lives are falling apart? Further and further they are sinking in the sea all the while shouting “now I’ve found the truth! Follow me!!” Brothers and sisters in the faith all around the world, pastors, teachers, worship leaders, influencers…I implore you, please please in your search for relevancy for the gospel, let us NOT find creative ways to shape Gods word into the image of our culture by stifling inconvenient truths. But rather let us hold on even tighter to the anchor of the living Word of God. For He changes NOT. “The grass withers and the flowers fade away, but the word of our God stands forever” (Isaiah 40:8)”

 

 

Safe Relationships

The other day after the shootings in:

Gilroy, California – Garlic Festival

El Paso, Texas – Walmart

Dayton, Ohio – downtown restaurant area

The Pope in Rome, Italy issued a statement saying in part… 

That he was “spiritually close” to those who were grieving and then he led the multitude listening to him in St. Peter’s Square in a recital of the “Hail Mary” for the victims

“Spiritually close”  Read more

Living Like Jesus

There is a fascinating story in the gospels where Jesus defends a lady being confronted by religion
Then at dawn Jesus appeared in the temple courts again, and soon all the people gathered around to listen to his words, so he sat down and taught them. Then in the middle of his teaching, the religious scholars and the Pharisees broke through the crowd and brought a woman who had been caught in the act of committing adultery and made her stand in the middle of everyone.
Then they said to Jesus, “Teacher, we caught this woman in the very act of adultery. Doesn’t Moses’ law command us to stone to death a woman like this? Tell us, what do you say we should do with her?” They were only testing Jesus because they hoped to trap him with his own words and accuse him of breaking the laws of Moses.

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Church as Usual is Coming to an End – Part 1

(and Prophetic Churches Must Emerge to Fill the Void) 

Around the world the Church, as we know it, is in trouble
In some places it is seriously dying – growing smaller every year
20% decline a year due to deaths, moves, and people leaving
So to remain steady at the same number of people annually need to grow 20%
In some places the Church has fallen into heresy – teachings that are not biblical
In some places there are what we call “man-made moves of God” where the churches are growing but it is by programs and hype, charismatic leaders who tickle ears
In some places the Church is growing quickly and attracting young people but these young people soon recognize that the structures and traditions are, in many ways,  hampering and hindering the flow of the Holy Spirit

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A Season of Change

Recently on a trip to Kazakhstan I had the honour of being in a service where the people of God prayed for a team of 14 who were heading to Mongolia on a “mission trip” to win the lost and establish house churches. I later had the privilege of speaking at length with and then prophesy over two of those involved – a couple who work in an orphanage in Kazakhstan and pastor a house church. They were excited about the 42 hour bus ride they were about to embark on to reach the nation of Mongolia and the people there who have never head of Jesus.

Paul writes, “I make it my ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named, lest I build on someone else’s foundation, but as it is written, ‘Those who have never been told of him will see, and those who have never heard will understand.’”

The Passion Translation reads: “It is my honour and constant passion to be a pioneer who preaches where no one has ever even heard of the Anointed One, instead of building upon someone else’s foundation. As the Scriptures say: ‘Those who know nothing about him will clearly see him, and those who have not heard will respond (understand).’”

As I move along in my own ministry I find my passion changing. I was prophetically told that I was now in the third and final season of my ministry and that I would see many changes and much would be new. I love teaching the saints. I really greatly appreciate training, equipping, and mentoring young people in their calling to change the world. There is much that I do and have done that is both enjoyable and beneficial to the Kingdom. However, recently I have found myself impatient with the saints who simply sit and learn and seldom do anything with what they have learned. Saints who have lost their passion and zeal for Jesus and His cause. I am finding less value and even less satisfaction in giving just another teaching and then another teaching and then…

Recently in the city of Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan I had the honour of speaking to some campus leaders and some of the Christian students whom they lead. In the group were a number of new believers – less than two weeks old. Alive, hungry, full of questions. We spoke about the baptism in the Holy Spirit and the gifts of the Spirit and answered many questions. Afterwards, I had the opportunity to speak with and prophesy over the leaders of the university campus ministry. Again, powerful. Here was part of the feedback:

“It was tremendous the move of the Holy Spirit after your visit of my team and students. You remember a student said that he had visions before becoming a believer and he has them after. That night Ersultan and the rest of my team and some students cast out demons from that student for 3 hours. It was shocking the way demons reacted in him. Then yesterday we continued casting out the rest major 2 demons and a devil from him for 2 hours. Everyone saw visions and then we prayed over students to release speaking in tongues, after worshipped together and the room filled with the presence of the Holy Spirit.  It’s amazing the move of the Spirit which is a starting…”

In my heart of hearts this is where I want to be. I want to minister where the gospel has not been heard. I want to see the lost saved and raised up into new life. New expressions of the Church planted. I want to speak to new believers who are hungry to be trained and equipped and to learn more. I want to see churches that have not heard the true Gospel of the Kingdom come alive for the first time and embrace their divine destiny. I want to see the true Church that Jesus is building rise up and impact the community where they are located. I want to work with leaders who are wanting to go somewhere and do something significant for the King and the Kingdom. I want to mentor young people who are hungry for more and want to fully embrace the future that God has planned for them. Young people who are not satisfied with what is and are reaching for what could be. Young people who are wanting to see the lost won to Jesus and their nations transformed by the Gospel. 

Don’t get me wrong – I love what I am doing right now. I teach, I pray, I prophesy … but most of the churches I work with are not reaching the lost. And, to be honest, they really don’t have any interest in doing so. Add to that the obvious fact that little is changing in their lives and it leads to a bit of frustration on my part. Not to mention being somewhat bored teaching the same things and seeing nothing change.

So, as I enter the third and last stage of my 40+ years of ministry I am sensing a major change as I move into a serious season of raising up young people and training them to be world changers as they risk their life and take the Gospel of the Kingdom to places that have never heard the true Gospel. I will fade slowly from a lot of what I am currently doing. I will move forward embracing the new opportunities that have already begun to open up for me in the ministry – church planting in Canada, training young church planters in Viet Nam, working with campus ministries in Kazakhstan, and continuing to work with churches that truly are committed to the expansion of the Kingdom and are not simply maintaining the sheep and staying safe and comfortable. 

Change is never easy. But, in my life, I am welcoming and embracing this season of change and look forward to all the adventures it will lead me into. 

A Daring Adventure

Part One – Follow the Holy Spirit
Helen Keller who was born in 1880 both deaf and blind was an American author, political activist, and lecturer. She was the first deaf-blind person to earn a bachelor of arts degree. She was made famous by the movie “The Miracle Worker”
She wrote:
“Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.”
As Christians who have the Holy Spirit living in us and we have been empowered by Him as well (John 15:26, Acts 1:8)…

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The Church – Organic or Institutional

I can’t remember how often I have said, “The Church is an organism and not an organization. Yet, although we are an organism, we can still have some structure and organization as needed.”
When a baby is conceived there is no structure – just life. And, it is the lift that is important and eternal. A baby can be born minus a hand or a finger due to something being wrong in the DNA. That baby will survive and grow up to be an adult because he or she has life. Life is the key.
As the baby grows in the mother’s womb we see structure form. The structure includes internal organs, a spine, a head, arms, legs. But, again, it is life that is key. So, the only structure that is needed and is essential is the structure that encourages the life to keep growing and developing.
When the baby is born – there is a structure that has kept the baby alive for nine months. A structure that can now harm the baby and destroy the life. So, the structure must be removed. We are talking about the umbilical cord. The structure was important and good as long as it continued to encourage life. As soon as it was no longer needed it was removed.

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