Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing

Paul in talking to the elders of the church in the city of Ephesis warns them of wolves in sheep clothing. He states that they will come in from the outside and devastate the flock and that others will rise up from within the flock as well teaching twisted things with the intention of drawing followers to themselves and away from Jesus. Listen to the words inspired by the Holy Spirit and recorded in Acts 20:29-30 … “I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them.”

This was not just a warning for one local church in the time of Paul who was ministering as an apostle.This was recorded in Scripture as a warning to all local churches today. Beware of those believers – “even from your own number” – who distort and twist the truth for their own benefit and draw others away from following Jesus to following them. I see this happening daily today.

It is interesting that this took place just after Paul finished teaching the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27). So, as an apostle he lays a foundation (Ephesians 2:20) and earnestly contends for the faith (Jude 3) and immediately upon departing external forces as well as internal forces arise to distort the truth he preached and are quick to gain an audience. Times have not changed. This still happens today all over the world.

Recently I discovered people who are “getting high on the Most High” as they do a man-made “manifestation called “smoking…” We have drinking in the Spirit and doing so from a make-believe barrel. We have people drinking Godka (God and Vodka) as well as smoking Jehovahwana (Jehovah and marijuana). It gets worse… There are numerous people teaching and promoting this “distortion of the truth” and even more – welcoming these teachers and teachings into their pulpits and churches.

And just when God is reestablishing truth to His Church – and birthing the ministry of apostles who will teach correct doctrine and lay proper foundations for the future expansion of the church.

One man teaching and leading this is John Crowder. He is headquarterd in the United States but is having a major impact in what are known as River Churches overseas in Eastern Europe and elsewhere. His teachings and man-made manifestions are heretical and grieve the Holy Spirit. However, many believe that what he teaches and demonstrates is a genuine move of the Holy Spirit similar to (and a continuation of) the manifestations recently seen and experienced during the renewal known as The Father’s Blessing and now moving forward around the world under various other banners.

Here’s the problem – at least one of them as there are many. People are having experiences that are spiritual in nature and finding either biblical or historical backing for the behavior as if this verifies that what is happening is really God. Instead they should be examining the fruit of the experience and what changes the experience has brought to their character (are they becoming more like Jesus) and whether or not they are more focused on seeking and saving the lost (Luke 19:10) and moving out into their world sharing Jesus and the Gospel of the Kingdom with others and seeing people truly converted and discipled. If these two things are not happening then we can validly question the manifestions that person is experiencing in their supposed walk with the Lord.

I believe it is time for apostles everywhere to stand up and warn the Church that there are wolves dressed up as and passing as sheep who have entered the flock (worldwide church) and there are others who have risen up from within the flock who are leading many well-meaning believers and leaders astray from the apostolic teachings of Scripture. They are smooth in their presentations, slick in their manner, and good at making their teachings appear biblical. And, due to the lack of discernment and the fact that most believers have a poor working knowledge of the Scriptures many are being deceived and the lost continue to march into Hell second-by-second as the sheep are distracted from the mandate of the Lord to His Church.

Time to wake up and recognize the deception for what it really is – demonic!

Change From the Inside Out

Often at this time of the year we look at what has been – the year that is ending – and make plans for the year that is about to dawn upon us fresh and clean as the calendar pages turn and we face January and the start of a new year. Taking time to do this – taking a personal inventory – can be the start of something new if we don’t fall into a very common error.

At this time of the year many people make personal new year resolutions. These are decisions, based on a look back, that they hope will change things for them in the year to come. You know, such as, “Next year I am going to exercise every day.” As someone who goes to the gym almost daily I find this time of year rather humorous. For the week after Christmas and the first two weeks into the new year we end up with a 400%+ increase in people exercising. Many of them have taken out new memberships in the gym as part of their new year resolutions. However, by the 15th of January our numbers are back to the regular levels with few of the new people continuing on with their resolution into week three of the new year.

Here is the problem – new year resolutions are based on what people wish would happen not what they want to happen. It is based on the outside and not the inside. So, on a whim, they make a change or two but are not committed to really seeing it through with all that this might mean. So, as soon as it becomes an effort, crosses the line from fun to discipline, or does not give them their expected outcome or results – they call it quits. Estimates are that over 90% of new year resolutions end this way.

For real change to happen on the outside – actions, behavior, attitude, life-style – there must first be a definite change on the inside. All permanent change starts on the inside and works outwards into one’s daily priorities and life-style. So, unless there is a definite “change of heart” new year resolutions are simply wishful thinking resulting in nothing but disappointment and even frustration.

Now, think about this on a spiritual level – not just on the physical level where so many of us really focus and live. You make a new year’s resolution to read your Bible every day, pray more, witness to those who don’t know Jesus – whatever your spiritual “need” is at the moment. If you are simply adding a new discipline, a new event, a new demand upon your time, a slot filled on your daily calendar – then it is destined to fail. However, if your spirtual reolutions are based on an inner hunger, a thirst for more it is most likely, with a little effort and daily planning, to be successful long-term.

All permanent change starts on the inside – not the outside. It begins with a need being felt and recognized, a quality decision being made, timetables adjusted and organized, and a focus on the end results of the change so that you will not give up when the going gets rough or the novelty wears off.

What is it that you ar “feeling” needs to change in your life? What are you sensing in your heart or spirit? What is the Lord asking of you in 2011 that is going to require some changes, adjustments, and disciplines? As we take a deep breath after the Christmas rush and before we get into the new year celebrations – take a good look deep in your heart and soul and listen for the Lord. There are some felt needs on the spiritual realm that need dealing with. Handled properly they will also have a major impact upon your physical and outer world.

Failure to take the time or make the time will result in another year of “same old, same old” and you experiencing the same frustration 12 months from now that you feel as 2010 comes to an end. Only you can change this. Then you can truly have a “happy” new year.

Overcoming Fear in Witnessing

John 7:10-13

Our life should be a living witness…but we haven’t FULLY COMPLETED our witness until we open our mouth and speak. That is hard, but necessary, as we are called to share “the actual WORDS of the gospel.” 

Romans 10:14 How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher (witness)?

People need to do more than see a believer live according to the Bible – they need to hear the actual words of the Gospel of the Kingdom that Jesus came to preach.

Read more

New Year’s Party and Handover

The New Year is fast approaching. And, many will celebrate the turning of the calendar from 2010 to 2011. They will go out and party. Many will get drunk. Some of them will say emphatically that they are Christians. They seem unaware that drunkenness is spoken of as a sin in the Bible – or, they believe that in spite of deliberately going out to get drunk – that God, because of His love and mercy, will certainly forgive them. That’s an interesting hope or belief that might not stand up under too much scrutiny. However, in spite of that theological argument, I still don’t understand why anyone would want to usher in the first day of the new year with a handover. Maybe I am just getting older. Maybe I am just getting wiser. Maybe both. Most likely, my view is tinted by the fact that I am a recovered alcoholic.

Each day of your life is a God-given gift. Today could be your last day and you don’t even know it. There may be no tomorrow for you and for many others like you. No one is guaranteed another day let alone another year. We are, as believers, to live for today – not the new year. We are to live today – not yesterday, wallowing in our regrets and guilt. The only time we have is “now” and we should live “today” to the fullest. Yes, review the last year and see what was accomplished and maybe what you could have done better – making some adjustments to your attitude and approach, actions and activities. Take a look at next year and plan it out a little so that you are not simply flying blind. But live today!

As difficult as it is to root ourselves in the present, it is the only place we have to live and the only place where relationships are built. In the words of missionary martyr Jim Elliot, “Wherever you are, be all there.”

In the book “Tuesdays with Morrie” Morrie states, “I believe in being fully present.” Life and relationships had grown clearer to the dying professor, and he explained to his younger friend gently, “That means you should be with the person you’re with. When I am talking to you now, Mitch, I try to keep focused only on what is going on between us. I am not thinking of what’s coming up on Friday … I am talking to you. I am thinking about you.” He had learned, as he was dying, how to live for the present – in the now.

As believers we know that the Bible states our days are numbered and limited. The Bible states that only God knows the specific number of days we will live. Jesus tells us to live one day at a time when He states “sufficient are the evils of today for today” So, our focus needs to be – today – here and now. Yes, we know we will go to Heaven when we eventually leave this earth, whenever that may be. But, meanwhile let’s not spend time focusing on and celebrating the new year or regreting the past year and the mess we have managed to make of it. Instead, celebrate today! It may be your last one so live it to the fullest and without regret – touching lives for Jesus as you do.

Communication Does Not Begin With Words

Professor Leo Buscaglia recounts the true story of a little boy whose neighbor’s wife passed away. Seeing that the elderly man was heartbroken and grieving, the boy’s mother warned her son not to bother the neighbor.

It wasn’t long before the mother noticed the little boy crossing into the neighbor’s yard and climbing up into the old man’s lap. He remained there for some time, sitting quietly.

When the boy returned home, his mother met him with her hands on her hips. “I told you not to bother him!” she scolded. “What were you doing?” Read more

We Have a New DNA

When we are born again we become a new creature in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17) and so receive a whole new DNA. Our character and very nature are totally transformed so that now we have the same DNA as our Heavenly Father. Just as when we were physically born into this world we shared the DNA of our earthly father and mother – so, when we are born again, we share the DNA of our Heavenly Father. We are given a whole new set of DIVINE NATURE ATTRIBUTES.

In 2 Peter we are told that God has, by His divine power, granted to us this new DNA. Hear the Word of God… (2 Peter 1:3-4) “…seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust.”

We have a new nature – a divine nature – our DNA is new and different than it once was. And within the DNA is everything we need now or ever will need to live a godly life; a life pleasing to God. And we have received everything that pertains to maintaining a living relationship with the Giver of this life – Jesus Himself. Within this new DNA is everything necessary for our growth, our strength, and our perseverance. We simply need to draw upon this new DNA that flows through our spiritual being. We are not missing something. We have everything that is needed to maintain a godly lifestyle and godliness even in today’s world that is so filled with lust.

The key to this new DNA is “knowledge“. Did you see that in the verses quoted above? The knowledge of Christ here is not a superficial knowledge or a mere surface awareness of the facts about Christ, but a genuine, personal sharing of life with Christ based on repentance from sin and personal faith in Him. With this, the Holy Spirit comes to live in us because we are new creatures in Christ and we are “partakes of this divine nature (DNA).” We have escaped from the power which the rottenness in the world has over us through our fallen, sinful nature. We have left this “rottenness” and death behind and have received a transfusion of life – His life and DNA – becoming sons and daughters of the living God.

This DNA – the life and nature of God – is found in such verses as 1 Corinthians 13:1-13 and Galatians 5:22-23. We are called to release this DNA into everyday life so that the very life – the nature and character of God – is seen by others. In John 1:104 we see that the life of God (Zoe) in Jesus is the light. This very same life and nature is in us and thus we too are lights in the world shrouded by spiritual darkness. So, let your light shine and don’t hide ip under a bushel – but place it on a holl for all the world to see.

Remember, our task is to let that light shine so that others will come to know there truly is only one true God and will join the family of God by being born again and thus receive the same DNA that we are experiencing and so continue to work until all people hear the Gospel of salvation and come to hear of the King and His Kingdom.

My Jeans Shrunk

Well, by now you are back out the door doing some of those normal activities of life – shopping, gassing up the vehicle, returning gifts you received and did not need or even want… You may be one of the lucky ones who has gone back to work. But, life is slowly returning to normal for a few days – before it all gets turned upside down again as the New Year break from routine tosses normal out the window once again.

This morning you got dressed as you always do and found that your jeans or dress slacks shrank in the laundry over the holidays. Come on now! How old is that routine – even I use to do that one. If your clothes are a little tighter than they were before the holiday break it most likely has nothing to do with the laundry but with what you ate and drank during the holiday break and the lack of serious motion as you sat, and sat, and sat some more. So, time to stop blaming the laundry machines and become seriously honest with yourself. Afterall, you were overweight before the holiday festivies began and all you have managed to do is ignore that fact and add to the problem during the Chriustmas festivities. It’s time to get serious and give yourself a good talking to -while you do some exercising?

Well, yes it really is time to take your physical health seriously. Even if you did not over eat during the Christmas holidays and so didn’t gain any weight … take a good look at yourself before you get dressed tomorow morning. In front of a mirror – full length if possible. Now, be honest! Are you in shape or out of shape? Does your body shape – glorify God? If someone looks at you does your shape and weight indicate a discipled and godly lifestyle? Be honest, now! And, does your inner skeleton – you know muscle and inner structure glorify God? And, don’t give me any of that beauty is only skin deep nonsense. Oh! Sorry, if you are spiritual your comeback could be “God does not look on the outside as man does but at the heart…” Oh! Give me a break.

Your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. How’s the temple? You are given so many days to live on the earth and, if you are not careful, you will shorten those days by your lack of attention to your diet, your waist line and your weight as well as your lack of exercising the temple properly every day.

And, let me go where angels fear to tread … what do you think goes through a non-believer’s mind when they look at you professing to walk with Jesus when you can hardly walk and a brisk pace for 30 minutes would take you out of action for the next few hours or days? I mean, come on, we talk about the need to care for the widows and orphans and helping those less fortunate but stand there miles overweight having used some of the money we could have sent to help the poor and spread the Gospel on food we most certainly didn’t need to consume. And, believe me, non-believers don’t miss that fact!

So, it’s time to join Santa in a get healthy, take care of your body, repair the temple, wear the stuff at the back of the closet, dress in front of the mirror, go to the gym, get out and walk “party.” New Year’s is coming and its time to make those soon-to-be-forgotten resolutions … but this time we need to recognize that for any decision to last and not just be a passing thought without resulting in long-term action it needs to arise out of Holy Spirit conviction that our lifestyle is not glorify God. Following that conviction should be a good dose of godly sorrow, a time of repentance, receiving and knowing God’s forgiveness and cleansing power (1 John 1:9) and then a time to think through your action plan – diet changes, timetable adjustments, gym membership costs in the budget, time to find a good gym close enough to become part of your daily routine.

It is time for our walk and talk to line up. It is time that our temples represented well the Lord Jesus Christ and His message of salvation for the whole man – body, soul and spirit.

Stir Up Sunday

In traditional churches today is often called “Low Sunday.” It is called this because most churches experience their lowest attendance of the year on this Sunday each year.

It is the end of the year, everyone is tired from the activities of the days (weeks) leading up to Christmas, family events are still on-going and often set to happen on a Sunday (and the Christians remain quiet and let the non-believers determine the scheduling). For some it is just a down period when everything, including routine, stops for a week or two so they can catch their breath before jumping into another hectic year.

In one denominational church it was, many years ago, also called “stir up” Sunday because the prayer set out for that Sunday (called a Collect) started with the words “stir up, O Lord…” I like this nickname better as it appears to be more biblical. The Bible states that the gift of prophecy is given to us to edify (build up), exhort (stir up) and comfort (cheer up). (1 Corinthians 14:3). So, as we appraoch 2011 and a fresh new year to follow the Lord and do His will it would be a good time to stir ourselves up.

It would be a good time – during this semi-lull between Christmas and New Years – to have a look at the prophetic words you (and your church) have received over the past few years; especially the ones that have yet to be completed and portions of which still need to be prayed over and believed for (standing in faith). It is time, as Paul said to Timothy, to “not neglect the spiritual gift within you, which was bestowed on you through prophetic utterance with the laying on of hands by the presbytery.” It is time to remember what the Father has spoken over and into your life and review the words carefully to see what portions have yet to happen so that:

1> You can pray about these areas and come back into agreement with the Lord and His Word if you have wandered slightly off course during the past year. Stir up your prayer life and bring it into line with God’s Word and thus God’s will.

2> You can see what else you need to do to fulfill any stated conditions… Often we forget that the Lord said “if you do this then I will do that…” and so the Lord is waiting upon us to do our part and we have simply forgotten. Refresh your memory and stir up the needed action and attitude.

3> You can stir up your faith and begin again to believe God and release Him to work in your life – situation, circumstances, family, church and especially in your heart.

4> You can stir up the actually gifts that were imparted to you through the prophetic ministry. These supernatural gifts need to be released and you need to learn the skills needed to use them effectively and efficiently. Often these gifts lie dormant in a believer’s life because we don’t activate them and actively use them.

So, let’s take advantage of the slower week we are now entering, carve out some extra time with the Lord, find and dust off those unfulfilled prophetic words (or find the recording and type them out for the first time), and adjust both our thinking, and our believing to fit the powerful Words spoken over us.

And, while we are at it, let’s look forward and adjust our 2011 calendars to allow God a higher place on the priority list – setting daily time aside to be in His presence and find the needed refreshing and release that we will need as believers in this troubled and fast-changing world.

In Him Was Life and…

I was sitting early one morning in Ivanovo in central Russia reading my Bible seeking a time of refreshing in the presence of the Lord as it had been a busy two weeks of ministry and it was beginning to show in my own spirit … I am sure no one saw any difference in the actual services and ministry but I knew my spiritual tank was running a bit low and so I was taking extra time to be with the Lord. It meant getting up long before the sun rose but this was good as then it was totally quiet as others in the building had yet to wake.

For years I have enjoyed a tradition – some traditions are good – of reading John’s Gospel as I prepare for the Christmas season. I don’t do any Christmas shopping at all and so I’m speaking of spiritual preparation. So, that morning I was rereading John, Chapter 1… read many, many times before. And there it was – verse 4: “In him was life, and that life was the light of men.”

This is telling us that Jesus was not the light of the world. Inside Him was the light – it was the very life of God in His human body. The life of God (Zoe) was shining forth from Him and this appeared as light to men who lived in spiritual darkness and without real life. Existence, yes! Life, no! So, the light people saw was the life of the Father living in and through Him.

When we were born again we were translated from the domain of darkness into the Kingdom of His Son(Colossians 1:13) who is light. And, we are called to walk in that light (1 John 1:7) and to be light to the world (Ephesians 5:8). So, we are called to allow His light to shine through us to those who still live in darkness. In the life and ministry of Jesus that light was the very life of God (Zoe) flowing through Him; so it is with us – if we are going to be light in the spiritual darkness we must let the very life and nature of God that lives within us be seen by those who know us and interact with us. We are not the light – the life and nature of God within us is the light that shines into the world.

Let your light shine for all to see. Let God’s life and very nature flow from your inner most being and touch others during this special time of celebrating His birth in Bethlehem. That becomes somewhat more difficult when you are too busy with family, gifts, eating, travelling, and all the extras that this season often brings into our lives. However, I believe we need to be very intentional about letting the light shine. We need to swim upstream while the rest of this country is going with the flow – downstream. Remember, dead fish float downstream.

It is a great season of the year – and one during which, due to extra activities, events, family involvment, and travel, we tend to spend less time with the Lord and less time in prayer and Bible reading. Our relationship with the Lord suffers damage during a season when just the opposite should be true. As a result, we often become less of a light unto the part of the world we inhabit… and so lose the opportunity to influence and impact lives. This should not be. Only you can change it!

Christmas Eve And Nothing Is Stirring

‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;

This is the first four lines of a famous poem by either Clement Clarke Moore or Henry Livingston (they are unable to determine the specific authorship).

The poem goes on to mention St. Nicholas, sugar-plums, reindeer, a sleigh full of toys, going down and back up chimneys … All well and great and it is a cute poem but it has nothing to do with Christmas and the message of the Kingdom that Jesus came to declare.

In Luke, Chapter two, we read: “…the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.'”

Please note that there is no mention of all the additional players we now have on the scene during the Christmas season. The focus is on the One – the one and only true God born as a man. The Savior, Christ the Lord. Not Santa, not St. Nick, not stockings and sugar-plums dancing, not chimneys and flying reindeer. One God, one Savior, one Lord, one who was born King (not a prince to become king). It is time for Christians to return to their first love and stop all the nonsense that we have become entrapped by because the world around us is “doing it.” It is time to take a good, hard look at how we celebrate the Christmas event (it’s not a season – it is an historical and spiritual event).

It is time that something was truly stirring once again. We need to stir up our love for the Lord. We need to stir up the call of God on our lives to seek and save the lost. We need to stir up the gifts that have been placed inside us when we were baptized in the Holy Spirit. We need to stir up the prophetic destiny that we have had spoken over our lives by apostles and prophets (as Paul writes to Timothy). It is time that something began to stir within us once again. It is time to stir up, rise up and live as true believers and stop doing what everyone else is doing… and start celebrating the true meaning of Christmas in a meaningful way. If “nothing is stirring” in your spiritual life – shame on you!

Talking about “nothing stirring” … This is not the case in God’s Kingdom. There is much stirring, adjusting, changing, and being added in this spiritual Kingdom to which we belong as born again believers. Much is happening and major adjustments are taking place. New things are being released and God is preparing for some major shifts in the way the Church is operating in the world today …. sizable shifts that will effect everyone who declares the Name of the Savior. Lots is stirring and no longer will anyone be permitted to simply sit, being still and as quiet as a church mouse.

Merry Christmas everyone. As you celebrate the birth of the Savior may it be a time when God births a new vision, new passion, a new focus in your heart and may you feel the Holy Spirit stirring up “divine discontent” with what is and a new hope for what is soon to come – the true Church of Jesus Christ, not built by man but built by the Lord and Savior whose birth we celebrate.