The Remedy For Deception in the Church

church building

100 years ago William Booth, the founder of the Salvation Army, said this about the twentieth century:

“The chief danger of the twentieth century will be religion without the Holy Ghost, Christianity without Christ, forgiveness without repentance, salvation without regeneration, and heaven without hell.”

We are now living in those days.  Everywhere one looks there’s a new doctrine that excuses people from living the true gospel.  Praise God, there’s still a righteous remnant in the land who hasn’t bowed their knee to Baal.  But still the danger is real.  This was the primary thing Jesus warned us of in the end-times: “Take heed that no one deceives you (Matt 24:4).”  

One of the worst things about being deceived is that you don’t know you’re deceived. You think you’re walking in the truth, when in reality, you’re not.  How do we know whether we’re walking in the truth or not?  How can we be sure we’re on the path that leads to life?

The simple answer is the Bible.  Despite the sinking sands around us, God’s Word is truth.  It has continued to be the anchor for the Church throughout the centuries.  Yet even if we’re in the Bible on a regular basis there is still opportunity for deception.   And this is where many believers stumble and believe a lie:

Receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.  But be doers of the Word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.  For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was.  But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.” – James 1:21-25

We must do what it says.  If we hear the Word but don’t obey it we deceive ourselves.  Sadly, this is happening in the Church now more than ever.  There are many worship leaders, pastors, and prophetic leaders who read, “take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life”, but don’t do what it says.  They drink too much alcohol and give their bodies over to drunkenness.  They read passages that say “The lamp of the body is the eye.  If your eye is good your whole body will be full of light.  But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness”, but at night they binge on watching television shows and movies that grieve the Holy Spirit.  They hear passages saying, “Take heed what you hear”, but they indulge in worldly music that defiles them as they listen to it.

It almost seems they are living two different lives.  In the ministry they are anointed and sincere.  But in their personal lives they are grieving the Holy Spirit.  Their lifestyle choices are shallow which lead them to watch questionable things, listen to questionable things, and talk about questionable things.  But in the ministry they are reaching for God.

How do we reconcile such things?  How can we be reaching for God but still dabbling in compromise?  How can we be reading the Word but not doing what it says?  The answer is, we can’t.  Those who listen to the Word but don’t do what it says deceive themselves.  Over time, they become cynical towards the Church.  They’ve “been there, done that” and so they feel relieved from the responsibility of focusing.  Their lack of follow through after reading the Scriptures causes them to believe they’re walking in holiness, when they’re not.  The areas in the Bible they disobey have created “blind spots” in their spiritual vision, though they don’t know it.

This is when the fellowship of believers should come in.  We ALL have blind spots, every one of us.  Our fellow believers are meant to see these blind spots and kindly point them out to us in love (Eph 4:14).  Unfortunately now days, that’s pretty rare.  We’re too kind to confront.  We’d rather stay comfortable and not disturb anything.  But if we all stay comfortable how will we be freed from these blind spots?

What we need is a few courageous men and women who speak up.  But there’s one important thing these courageous men and women need to learn first: compassion.  If we’re beating people on the head with Bibles everywhere we go, not much is going to happen.  In fact, truth without mercy is a sure way to make things worse.  God usually brings these courageous men and women through a refining process before He uses them to speak the truth.  They must first learn their own weakness & depravity.  They must first learn that without the grace of God they’re nothing.  Then, once the refining process is complete they are ready to speak the truth in love.

The remedy for deception in the Church has these two components.  The first component is 100% obedience.  We sincerely seek to obey everything the Bible says, even the things that are difficult.  This requires us to read our Bible on a regular basis.  We regularly open the Word of God and then we commit to obey it.

The second component is the fellowship of believers.  We make a commitment to receive and give each other the truth in love.  We call each other higher.  We refuse to let our friends off the hook with disobedience.  We stand for holiness when it’s unpopular.  And we kindly address the blind spots we see in love.

It will take a lot of courage for the Church to be freed from deception.  It’s roots go a lot deeper than we realize.  But it is attainable and Jesus has promised a reward for all who overcome it (Rev 2:7, 26).  Let’s do this thing together.

 

November Newsletter

I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me.  Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”  -Phil 3:12-14

Life is a race, a short race of 80 fall picyears or so in order to win a prize.  Often we forget that we’re running.  We get caught up in responsibilities and cares and lose sight of the purpose of it all: this short time frame is preparing us to reign with Jesus for eternity.   Every decision, every act of our will, every word and deed, will be the gift of love we offer to Jesus when we stand before him. And the way we choose to run determines our rewards forever.  That’s the way the early church viewed life.

It’s a provoking idea to know that many saints have already completed their race.  They finished well.  The cloud of witnesses cheer us on, eagerly watching our stories.  Even the angels watch with curiosity.  But ultimately Jesus Himself watches, waiting at the end to reward our labors.  Will we be satisfied with the way we ran when we stand before Him?  Will we hear those precious words, “Well done good and faithful servant”?  This is our goal, our ambition, our purpose.  We want to live for Jesus.  We want eternity stamped on our eyeballs so that everything we see is seen through this lens.

“Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the Author and finisher of our faith…(Hebrews 12:1).” 

He is the goal of life.  Our hearts will burst with joy as we reign with Him forever on the earth.  We will see His face and hear the tone of His voice.  Our bodies will be like His body without fatigue, pain, sickness, or decay.  All will be right.  All will be bright.  Every tear will be wiped away and we’ll sing songs of worship to Him together.  It’s quite a dramatic story.  Glory to God!

Loretta & I have been provoked by My Dad’s story lately.  When he was 18 years old the Lord spoke to him saying, “Take up your cross and follow me.”  He’s done that valiantly.  Through all the sickness and ups and downs of life he has faithfully followed Jesus.  And he’s not done yet!  The latest CT scan showed that the tumor is stable so he has the opportunity to regain his strength and bounce back.  This is really good news, though the best news would have been that the tumor shrank.  We’re praying that the tumor continues to remain stable (or shrinks!) and that he is able to walk and stand again on his own.  Thank you to all who’ve prayed with us.  Here in Kansas City things are going well.  The KC Royals almost won the World Series, the prayer room is full of faithful intercessors, and our house group is growing closer together.  We’re actually really excited about the direction our house group is going.  We’ve decided to study the Gospels together again and are going to be going through the events of Jesus in chronological order.  This will probably take 3 years or so to finish but we’re in it for the long run.  In our personal life, wisdom is the main thing we’ve been asking for.  We want clarity on the specific work He’s given to us in this season.  We can only run our race well when there’s clarity about what He’s called us to do.  Right now, we feel the simple need to be faithful in small things.  Showing up on time, staying engaged during intercession sets, discipling young people, and stewarding our time better.  These are simple things we want to get better at so when we stand before Jesus, we have confidence that we ran well.  The voice of Jesus calls us onward and upward.  Let’s not grow weary!

10 Words of Encouragement For the Sick:

sunshine rays
1)  Never Stop Believing for Your Healing – Jesus doesn’t want us to be sick.  Sickness entered the world as an enemy of God & one of the primary purposes for Jesus dying on the cross was to destroy the works of the enemy (1 John 3:8).  Therefore we should never believe the jargon that it’s God will for us to accept sickness.  Jesus healed everyone who came to Him and He is the same yesterday, today, & forever.  We should always press in for our physical healing, till our last breath.

2)  Pain Can Be Used as an Escort Deeper into God – Let’s not forget that pain can be used to transform us into the likeness of Jesus & gain us more eternal rewards.  It’s not God’s will that we’re sick, but sometimes He allows it.  While we’re pressing in for our external deliverance (physical healing), let’s not forget to press in for our internal deliverance (transformation/communion with Jesus).  Pain often causes us to see the lack of beauty in temporal things & calls us to reach for eternity.  The deepest fellowship with Jesus is often in the midst of pain.

3)  You Don’t Have to Choose Between the Two – #1 and #2 go together.  We’re meant to press in for both external and internal deliverance at the same time.  We don’t have to choose between our healing and our fellowship with Jesus.  Pursue both!

4)  The Exchange Rate is really High – For billions of years we’ll live in perfect peace & joy with God.  There will be no more pain, sorrow, crying, or death (Rev 21:4).  It will be easy to love God then.  Only now in this short time frame do we have the opportunity to love Jesus in the midst of pain.  When we choose Jesus in the midst of sickness we gain eternal rewards (2 Cor 4:16-18).  The eternal currency in our heavenly bank account is multiplied a hundred times every time we love Him in this age (Matt 19:29).

5)  God Doesn’t Change – Our circumstances don’t change who God is.  He is always the same & His Word is the anchor of reality.  No matter what we feel, God’s love is still full.  His power is still unlimited.  His wisdom is still perfect.  One of the most powerful things we can do during sickness is declare who He is.  When we choose to worship & declare the truths of Scripture, the manifold wisdom of God is being displayed to angels & demons in the spiritual realm (Eph 3:10).  God’s heart is moved.

6)  Sickness Doesn’t Mean You’re Out of God’s Will – Sickness doesn’t mean we did something wrong or are out of God’s will.  There are times that that happens but if we’re sincerely walking in obedience that isn’t something we have to worry about it. There are multiple passages in Scripture that show even mature, obedient Christians go through severe hardships (Job, SOS 5, John 16:33, etc).  Anyone who says otherwise isn’t reading their Bible right.

7)  Trust in God’s Sovereignty – The question, “If God is a good God, why does He allow bad things to happen?” has a simple answer: free will.  God doesn’t want robots in His kingdom.  He created humanity with a choice to obey Him & He refuses to take that privilege away.  Bad things happen because humanity chose to disobey God.  Abortion, sexual immorality, poverty, & sickness are all results of the fall.  They’re not a case against God’s goodness.  The better question is, “If God is a just God, why doesn’t He destroy everyone right away who choose to reject Him?”   We don’t deserve anything but the wrath of God.  It’s His mercy that we have breath every day.  We must continually guard our hearts from accusation.  Our trust in Him is the demonstration of our love for Him.

8)  The Comfort of the Cross – Corrie Ten Boom, who went through the holocaust, once said “there is no pit so deep, that God’s love is not deeper still.”  No matter how low circumstances get, Jesus went lower.  He can meet you in the pain.  Meditating on the cross where Jesus bore our sorrows & carried our grief’s can be a great comfort in the midst of sickness.  Even now, after the cross, He hurts more from our pain than we do.  In our affliction, He is afflicted (Isaiah 63:9).  We must remember that It costs Him more to allow painful things in our lives than it costs us.  He doesn’t despise the affliction of the weak.   He weeps with us.

9)  Remember to Laugh – The Bible says that “A merry heart does good, like medicine, but a broken spirit dries the bones (Prov 17:22).”  Laughter is healthy.  When we remember that all things are working together for our good & that we’ll have a resurrected body forever, things don’t seem so grim.  These temporary pains are only a shadow in eternity so it’s right to rejoice.  Remember to laugh and enjoy the good things God gave you as much as you can.

10) Have Faith in God - Not a superficial faith that pretends everything is Ok when it’s not, but a faith that believes in Jesus’ power & words.  We must remember that Jesus is both able & willing to heal us.  Faith is the most important thing we need during sickness.  We must believe in His love, in His power, & in His wisdom.  We must step out of the boat onto the water with Jesus.  Even if we fall, He’ll be there to catch us.

The Call to Be Separate

After reading the books of Ezra & Nehemiah a few weeks ago something stood out to me in glaring color.  The reason Ezra & Nehemiah plucked out their beards, tore their garments, and “sat down astonished” was because of mixture.  Mixture with the people around them had put the remnant of Israel in danger before God:

 “When these things were done, the leaders came to me, saying, ‘The people of Israel and the priests and the Levites have not separated themselves from the peoples of the lands, with respect to the abominations of the Canaanites, the Hittites…and the Amorites.  For they have taken some of their daughters as wives for themselves and their sons, so that the holy seed is mixed with the peoples of those lands.  Indeed, the hand of the leaders and rulers has been foremost in this trespass.  So when I heard this thing, I tore my garment and my robe, and plucked out some of the hair of my head and beard, and sat down astonished.” –Ezra 9:1-3

That seems like a alone_in_crowdpretty intense response.  Why was it such a big deal?

Now days many have adopted the idea that in order to influence the culture we need to be more like the culture.  But I think the Bible teaches the exact opposite.  It’s true Jesus was a friend of tax collectors & sinners.  But Jesus was also the most set-apart Man that ever lived.  The reason He (and His disciples) impacted the darkness was because He was the Light, not because He was trying to fit into darkness.

Even more recent fathers and mothers in the faith are good examples.  Take a look at John G Lake, Andrew Murray, Heidi Baker, or Reinhard Bonkke.  Would we classify them as men and women who blend in with the culture?  Or are they “strangers who seek a homeland”?

Christians are called to be drastically different than the world.  This doesn’t mean our clothing style has to change (though in some cases it does!) or that we stop interacting with unbelievers.  But it does require us to evaluate what things in our lives are displeasing to God.  A clear line must be drawn in the sand:

“Do not love the world or the things in the world.  If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.  For all that is in the world – the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life – is not of the Father but is of the world.”  -1 John 2:15-17

“No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other.  You cannot serve God and mammon”. –Matt 6:24

“‘You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts.  For what is highly esteemed among men is an abomination in the sight of God.’”  – Luke 16:15

If we find that we’re excited by the same things the world is, we may need to take a closer look at our lives.  Many things our culture celebrates may seem innocent but in heaven’s eyes they are idols, distractions, and offenses to God.  We need discernment.  We need to know what parts of our culture God is pleased with and what parts He is offended by. We should then separate ourselves from the things in our culture that displease God.

The ironic thing is that the more separated unto God we are, the more impact we’ll have on the people around us.  Why would an unbeliever want to become a believer if we look just like the world?  What’s the difference, if we put our hope in the same things, watch and listen to the same things?  The power to change the culture comes through consecration.

Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers.  For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness?  And what communion has light with darkness?  And what accord has Christ with Belial?  Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever?  And what agreement has the temple of God with idols?  For you are the temple of the living God.  As God has said: ‘…Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord.  And I will receive you.  I will be a Father to you, and you shall be My sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty’”.   -2 Cor 6:11-18

That’s actually what the word “holy” means – Separate, different, other than.  The lie is that if we choose to be holy, we’ll miss out on a lot of fun.  But what is fun?  What is joy? Contrary to our culture’s belief, the Bible teaches that true joy comes through holiness:

“You have loved righteousness and hated lawlessness; therefore God has anointed You will the oil of gladness more than Your companions.” – Hebrews 1:9

If this is true, than there’s no reason not to walk this narrow road.

Lord help us answer the call and be holy as You are holy!

October Newsletter

“I have set watchmen on your walls, O Jerusalem; they shall never hold their peace day or night.  You who make mention of the Lord, do not keep silent, and give Him no rest till He establishes and till He makes Jerusalem a praise in the earth.” –Isaiah 62:6

It’s a happy birthday here in KC!  The 2 year ann 2International House of Prayer celebrated 15 years of non-stop worship, prayer, and works of justice this Month.  The small ministry that began with 20 staff members back in 1999 has now become a source of confidence for thousands of houses of prayer throughout the earth.  Back in the 80’s statistics said there were less than 25 ministries on the planet that called themselves a 24/7 prayer & worship ministry.  Now in 2014, there are over 10,000 houses of prayer on the earth.  Clearly, the vision for day & night prayer is exploding across the nations and we are so grateful to be a part of it!

For three days our community gathered together to share stories of IHOPKC’s history, while eating food, playing games, and getting vision for the future.  The last day of the celebration was spent outside at John Anderson Park.  My favorite part of the celebration (besides the games) was talking about where we want to be in the future.  Each table had a short discussion time on the second day about where we see ourselves in 10 years.  For Loretta and me it’s quite simple.  We want to be part of building & strengthening houses of prayer, teaching the Bible, and making disciples.  We see ourselves with a few kids and actively involved with ministering to orphans in our city.  In 10 years there’s a chance we won’t be in Kansas City but wherever we go, that’s our vision.  We love the full-time ministry of ministering to the Lord through day & night prayer, worship, and acts of justice.  Mike Bickle, one of the senior leaders of the International House of Prayer also shared about “IHOP 2.0” during the celebration.  The past 15 years was the first installment of this ministry and the next 15 years will be the second installment.  We believe in the next 15 years we’ll see deeper friendships established, a greater anointing to heal the sick and win the lost, and greater authority to intercede and worship.  Yet along with us we’re also bracing ourselves for greater attacks from the enemy, including controversies.  We can be sure that the enemy’s goal is to shut down houses of prayer that seek to advance God’s kingdom & glorify Jesus.  But whatever may come, we’re committing to press forward with humility & courage until Jesus returns.

Besides the ministry, our main focus in this season is praying for my family.  As mentioned in the previous newsletter, my Dad is continuing the battle against the brain tumor they found in mid-August.  His last radiation treatment was September 30th and he made it through valiantly.  My mom has been a superhero wife the last month, as she’s stayed by his side and done the dirty work when no one but Jesus is watching.  Our main prayer is that my dad responds well to the radiation treatments and comes back to his normal self.  As you can imagine, he’s very weak and unable to put things together right now.  But we believe that with the prayers of the saints and the skills God’s given to these doctors; he’ll bounce back and regain his strength.  No matter what happens we know Jesus is a perfect leader and that He’s in control.  It’s often difficult to go through seasons of death & trial but the saints can rest assured that death will always lead to life.  Though we go through the valley of shadows we don’t stay there.  The shepherd only leads sheep on the valley path in order to get to high ground.  “Therefore my heart is glad and my glory rejoices.  My flesh also will rest in hope.  For you will not leave my soul in Sheol nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption.  You will show me the path of life.  In Your presence is fullness of joy.  At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore (Ps 16:9-11).”