LIFE IN THE SPIRIT

OUR GOAL: ALWAYS PROVOCATIVE - ALWAYS BIBLICAL - ALWAYS EDIFYING. If you haven't already, please log on to our Kingdom Gospel Ministries website for a lot of info and a new drama each week - www.kingdomgospelministries.org

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Location: Phila Metro, Pennsylvania, United States

Tentmaking Evangelist (Architect). An Evangelist with the Anchor Bay Evangelistic Association (non-denominational). Co-Founder of Kingdom Gospel Ministries, a ministry now in its 31st year with a mission to reconcile people of different racial, ethnic, and economic situations, and the producer of two weekly radio programs - a Sunday morning verse-by-verse Bible Study on Radio Delaware Valley and a weekly radio drama on the Wilkins Radio network. He also has archived many, many programs on the Internet. John is also a PA/NJ Architect with his own practice in its 38th year working on a wide variety of projects. Acutely interested in politics since a teenager with many articles published over the last 50 years and served as a guest on a Talk Radio show discussing race relations and on It's Your Call TV show with Lynn Doyle dealing with the subject of interethnic marriage.

Friday, September 16, 2011

IT'S ALL THAT SIMPLE

Sometimes we really tend to overly complicate things. The Apostle John made it simple - if we love, we are in the truth. Paul also cut through the mustard and Jesus himself was not known to pull punches - check out his tirade on the Pharisees if you have any doubts about it. It really is true - good trees produce good fruit. Bad trees produce bad fruit.

In the course of my work and our ministry I run into all kinds of people. Some are honest and forthright; others are devious and lie with seeming impunity. Unfortunately, many in the latter category see themselves as serious Christians, often believing they have almost a monopoly on truth.

Now I wrote before on guarding our faith, as MANY are deceived. This was of course prophesied to be a hallmark of the last days, but I keep getting stunned with the order of magnitude of the deception and the breadth of it.  It seems MOST people are not operating in the truth. 
MOST people believe premarital sex is OK.
MOST people believe 90% or more of their resources are theirs to do with as they choose. 
MOST people think 2 hours a week in church sets them above the motley masses.
MOST see nothing wrong with lying for the boss and simply lying when there is no boss. 
MOST use language that would have resulted in a mouth being washed out with soap not all that long ago. 
MOST believe that they are "above average" and that God is fortunate to counted them among the elect.

So why did Jesus warn that MANY would claim they were doing two of the things that were central to the ministry of Jesus - casting out demons and healing the sick - and still be cast into hell?  The same reason we see people doing those things today while missing the whole point - often grabbing intense wealth for themselves on the backs of the poor and undereducated, ignoring Christ's teachings on the poor.  One of the simple facts is that too many people see ministry as a profit center. They may claim spirituality, but are often not in close relationship with Christ at all. There are few who will challenge them, and they repeat what they hear from each other. Just like I heard Mayor Bloomberg in NYC say on Fox that he didn't invite clergy to the 9/11 main ceremony because the U.S. Constitution demands the separation of Church and State. Neil Cavuto corrected that oft-repeated fallacy, but how often to big names say the most scripturally indefensible things?  All THE TIME. And preachers down the line all the way to local churches never act like Bereans and check it out, but simply repeat the errors they hear and try to sound convincing about it.

Unfortunately, many who support these folks do not understand the heart of God either. They are impressed if people wave and folks fall to the floor. They ignore that this practice is nowhere in the Bible and is done by a hypnotist in Vegas as well. I have sadly found that when there is deviation from the Word of God – it is not only in practices, but also in the priorities of the gospel. SALVATION should always be primary but but is often shunted aside as elementary and we need to “move on”. I was recently speaking with someone who is known for claiming that finances are in the atonement. I essentially told the person that every time I hear something specious like that I hear constant emphasis on benefits of the blood of Christ with salvation being given short shrift.  Whenever ANYONE minimizes salvation from sin or talks little about it I know their heart is off center. Do you honestly believe Christ would have suffered and died so we in twenty-first century America could have the toys that neither he nor his disciples nor the saints for two millenia enjoyed?  Of course not - that is absurd!  God does take care of his people, but persecution does impact their finances both here and worldwide. Oops!  To mimic Urkel, "Did I say that?"   Yes, I did! 

IF you are honest in business, very often you will lose what could have been yours by lying or cheating in ways no one would know. If you lie for the boss or go along with unjust practices at work, you may well get promoted and if you refuse, you may languish in the backwater or be laid off because you are not seen as a team player.  You may work for a Potiphar or Pharoah who understands the value of honesty in those working for him, but then again, you may not. It is not only Christians in Muslim countries who suffer economic and career deprivation. In America today, I cannot be a member of the American Institute of Architects without going along with a pro-gay agenda. Thank God there was a Society of American Registered Architects with the Golden Rule as their sole ethical standard that I now belong to. The Lawyers organization has taken a pro-abortion position. Teachers and Union members often see their dues go to support what they oppose.  Students who believe the Bible are being excluded from medical school for their faith, though Christians make the best doctors because they know Christ is healing the person, not them.  Ever see those billboards with the Jefferson Healers in the white coats? No man or woman heals anybody. It is the power of God!

Let's be real and not compromise truth.  IF you are truly in Christ, good things will flow from your spirit - compassion, a love for the truth, total loyalty to the scriptures, and an intolerance for false gospels. Narrow is the way that leads to eternal life. Conversely, we will not attribute righteousness to folks from bad trees - trees of theological liberalism, liberation theology, Marxism, situational ethics, universalism, practitioners of demonic and New Age activity claiming it is of God, and Nicolaitan practices of steep authoritarianism with hierarchies filled with the unregenerate and wide differences in compensation in ministry between the Lords at the top and the Laity at the bottom.  We are saved today because people DIED for the truth and enabled the truth to be maintained until it reached us. They died for the Word of God. They died at the hands of those claiming to be Christians who were not.  They did not name as "Christian" evil people with anti-Christ agendas whose fruit obviously came from bad trees.

It's All That Simple.  Gather round those who are sound and about the Father's business. Avoid those who will pervert your heart from the truth. Remember, as we said in our drama we called THE COUNTERFEITERS, when Satan attacks a truth, it is because it is a key to so much. He knows much will fall if he can get that one compromise. It was predictable that rejecting the testimony of Christ in Genesis on the creation and affirmed in Exodus 20 will result in the acceptance of Godless practices later. It is an epidemic in "Christian" institutions of higher learning seeking to be more acceptable to the world. First Genesis, then miracles, then the sole efficacy of the blood of Christ for salvation. Totally predictable. Satan has no new tricks. He reuses his playbook again and again because it works! A firm foundation built on the Rock Jesus Christ will stand.  A house built on the shifting sands of molecules-to-man evolutionary philosophy that came from Satan's rebellion itself will fall.  Many do not know that one of the most controversial international figures today in the healing movement (with almost no medically verified healings incidentally) believes a Satan-inspired compromise on the book of Genesis!  That is truly the way it happens. Now Christ heals today - I know of numerous medically-verified miracles. However, Satan counterfeits. Satan counterfeited Moses' miracles before Pharoah and that is one of his modus operandi. Do not be deceived even if you see a real healing if not done God’s way.  Read the scriptures – Jesus never said they did NOT cast out demons and heal the sick. He said he NEVER knew them!   Do not park near bad trees – park near GOOD ones!

We need to guard our faith and be sure we compromise nothing. Did Satan ever compromise with you? NO!  He will come after you until you fall. Much better to not compromise with Jesus! You will never go wrong standing with him in his testimony about the truth of the gospel, the inerrancy of his word, and the fact that any good fruits comes from a good tree. Eat from the Tree of Life today my friends!

Monday, September 5, 2011

WHO AM I???

In the course of human events, people want to categorize us.  I do not say this in a negative way - people simply want to know who they are dealing with and what kinds of belief systems are driving the person. The problem is that almost all of the categories Christians are pegged for have something lacking (You might want to ask me about my booklet on Doctrine which goes through a lot of detail on the large variances we are dealing with today.)

The days of being simply a "Christian" are long gone.  We all are IMMEDIATELY suspicious when someone says they are a Christian.  We tend not to believe it.  Why?  Because from experience, talk more and they have nary a clue.  Then we used "born again" Christian.  That worked for a while, but then people liked the ring of it and before long 75% or more Americans told George Gallup they were "born again".  George Barna did a poll that wasn't multiple choice, but simply asked people to define "born-again".  Only 7% of Americans could define it.  While some who aren't Christians could likely define, that still leaves close to 9 out of 10 of those who say they are born again can't define that term Biblically. By the way,  I am sure that some people are saved but are not good at collecting their thoughts, but it sure explains why so few people witness for the Lord. And on it goes.  Still I  AM a Christian.

How about Fundamentalist?  Seems like a good idea - concentrate on and defend the Fundamentals of the faith. That is my heritage. But what happened. People insisted you had to use the King James version only. Someone would quit high school band because playing the theme from "The Sound of Music" was too worldly.  A concentration on the end times with the recent idea of a pre-trib rapture with no suffering fit in well with American exceptionalism and perceived invincibility and protected status, but ignored the suffering of the saints for two Millenia just about everywhere else (and if the truth be told - violence against the saints in early America and almost total marginalization and ridicule in the present days).  However, learning to defend the scripture and understanding the centrality of a six-day creation to Biblical understanding were high points. I will always hold in high esteem being told that what the Bible says is to be taken over what the church says.  Too bad they did not take it well when I actually did that in certain areas.  Anti-movie and dancing pledges and in some quarters rigid dress codes, banning of beards, etc. were kookie.  That said, how many good movies are there you can see and what about the yucky trailers for coming attractions even when you find a good, clean one?  AND, aside from dancing with your wife or country, square, or line dancing, can anyone recommend dancing some of the sensual dances with just any woman, particularly someone else's wife? You might be interested to know that despite the narrow definition thought of by many Christians,  the world considers ANYONE who believes the Bible to be true and Christ the only way to be a Fundamentalist.   All things considered, I have to consider myself in that company as well.

And then there is that term Evangelical.  I consider myself one even though I am distressed in spirit that so many have compromised the inerrancy of the word of God and the exclusivity of salvation through Christ.  Christian College and Seminary after Christian College and Seminary have DEEPLY compromised the word of God. They wanted status and respect and brought in people who really are not solid in their faith. These folks purvey compromise.  People have given me evangelical book after evangelical book.  Some by InterVarsity, some by others. From outright opposing Christ's own account of creation written on Moses' stone tablets to :"understanding" homosexuality and being sensitive to Islam to demonizing white Christians in particular, I am hesitant to even use the word. They seem to be on a slippery slope.  However, those who say they are NOT Evangelicals are even more compromised so if I have to make a distinction with nominal Christianity, I must say I am an Evangelical.

How about "Spirit-filled"?  Did you know that fewer than 3 our 10 people who consider themselves Pentecostal have EVER spoken in tongues?  And we all know people who haven't done it for a long time. We all know that not long after Azuza Street, the groups fractured and a lot of non-Biblical theology took over.  From hyper-legalism, separate white and Black streams to Oneness doctrine to leaders of deeply compromised character to still exploding denominations with more disunity than any other branch of Christianity,  Pentecostalism became centered on experiences and on itself as opposed to simple following of Christ.  Yet I am a son of Pentecost and embrace Penttecostal distinctives if not the subculture itself.  I was set aside for ministry by a Pentecostal fellowship, and I value that, but that is not all I am.

Then there was a newer, supposedly improved version - the  Charismatic.  People that were interdenominational and who sought to break down walls.  I was a member of an interdenomninational Charismatic church for many years and had a lot of wonderful experiences.  I still go there periodically. While some born-again folk are suspicious of Catholic Charismatics, some of whom used the term similarly to Protestants, but a substantial number of  others used it simply to mean people who were looking to the Bible or having contemportary worship. Nowdays, so many people who use the term Charismatic  preach things opposite from the Bible that it is getting dangerous and counterproductive to use that term to describe oneself anymore.  We see Word-Faith, blogs filled with conversations with angels, prophecy sites with off-the-wall stuff that does not agree with the Bible, hyper-authoritarian "Apostles" who control a lot of people and a lot of wealth, and with the Third Wave inspired by Toronto and Brownsville and Lakeland "services" where people really do act drunk, and the wilder the better.  So though I operate in the gifts of the Spirit, this is one label I tend to avoid unless I am with the shrinking company of Biblically sound Charismatics loyal to the true Holy Spirit, in which case I would surely identify with them.

Well, there are more labels, but that is enough.  I prefer New Testament Christian.  If it is in the Bible, I am for it.  Now you smarties out there will surely tell me there are "New Testament Churches" out there
who teach all manner of things and who disagree with each other on just about everything. (Sigh).

I love Jesus. I am a servant of Christ. I am one of his Ambassadors on this earth. I want to sow to the Spirit and not to the flesh.  I want to do my part in obeying the Great Commission. I want to be prepared to give an answer to every man who asks me about the hope that lies within me. I want to know the Word of God inside out like Jesus did and have the faith to believe and obey every Word of it.

Is that good enough?  Or do we have to keep playing "Who Am I"?

Well, I finally made the trek to Times Sqjuare Church.  Had to get there an hour early to be assured of a seat. People from all lover the world (at the visitors reception there were people from Paris, Nigeria, Brazil, etc.).  A church without any obvious political or cultural baggage that appeals on a regular basis to over 100 nations?  Well, yes.  And I suppose that some were "New Testament", "Pentecostal", "Charismatic", "Evangelical", "Fundamental",just plain "Christian" and a healthy helping of "seekers" just checking out the place."  I have often noted that in many churches the pastors come out after the worship. Never figured that one out. In this case, they were out a half hour BEFORE worship pacing the platform praying.  In fact, the entire carriage of the leaders from the worship leader to the Senior Pastor was genuinely humble and refreshing. The word was solid and encouraging and what kept standing out to me was the lack of ego-involvement that is the scourge of so many places today. I really was looking at SERVANTS of God, and it was a blessing. They passed the telltale sign of the offering - it was low key and ZERO pressure. No scourge there. And the musicians praised God without drawing undue attention to themselves - it was all about God.

So you see, it is possible for a wide variety of nations and ideas to gather around the throne of God - that is his eternal design. So how does all this speak to the church as a whole?  Is there a need for our doctrine to be brought into Biblical unity?  Of course! There is only ONE SET of truth!   Is there a need for excess to be reigned in?  Of course!   Wildness and attention-getting antics have no place in the church.  Does giving have to return to the New Testament pattern?  You betcha!  It must be dignified, voluntary, and without insulting God by tying strings to our giving.  Does church have to be more like I Corinthians 14 with a plurality of ministry at each service with the gifts operating?  I desire that with all my heart.

The message to the church as whole is first of all to gather together as they did. A place where people of all cultures and political inclinations can relax knowing that there is one God to be worshiped.  A dignified service where the desire is to worship God and not ourselves, and to hear the word from men of God who see themselves as servants of his.  With these basics in line, I believe we will be in position to be taught accurately the word of God, learn discernment so as not to be drawn in by false prophecies and visions and vain imaginations, and to live soberly in these trying times.

Who Am I?  A member of the Body of Jesus Christ. An Ecvangelist called by Him. A servant of the most high God.  That is quite enough.

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