Friday, October 11, 2013

Quotes: God Shaking Our Foundations

Charles C. West once said “We turn to God for help when our foundations are shaking, only to learn that it is God who is shaking them.”  This is a quote that has had a profound effect on my life; both in its truth, and in its reality.

Very often in our lives, it seems like the world is falling down around our ears. Everywhere we look, things are being torn down; no matter where we are in life, it seems as though it is nothing more than complete upheaval. For those in positions of power and wealth, times like this can be extremely concerning; for those who have far less, it can be downright terrifying.

The thing to keep in mind is that God is always in control. It is hard to focus on this in moments like these, but it is in these moments when it is vital to turn to He who directs our steps and lights our paths.

Here in the United States, there is a partial government shutdown taking place. I'll not go into the politics of it at the moment, because those views are better left to my personal blog, for one; and for another, politics can be a grave distraction from the things of God for many. Suffice to say, our political leaders have dropped the ball once again, but in doing so, have granted us all a fantastic opportunity to seek God in our daily lives. We must seek Him not only for guidance and direction in our spiritual walk, but now we have a "real" reason to seek Him as our provider.

I use quotations because many of us know that He is always our provider. Many of us know Him to be the source of all we have. Yet in this current time, many more are having to face the reality that God is not just the Provider in hard times, but He is the Provider at all times.

Our foundations have been shaken, my friends; shaken by political upheaval; shaken by personal tragedy and hardship; and shaken by a sudden lack of those things which we consider to be vital and important in our lives- Indeed, things which we consider to be necessary. Some of us have lost our methods of transportation; some of us are facing uncertainty in the area of benefits; some are seeing the warning signs of layoffs; some seem to be trapped in locations far from home with no way of getting back; and still others have found a loss of will to continue on.
Yes, these are all times of hardship, and can indeed be times of chaos - If we allow them to be.

The answer to the hardships and trials we face is a mere prayer away; nay, even a simple whisper. Our loving Creator will provide all our needs, but there are times when we must ask. The days are coming, and coming soon, when we as followers of Christ must rely upon Him solely for the provision that we require, and now is as good a time as any previous to make that change.

Allow me to give an illustration from my own life- I was uprooted from my home state of New Hampshire and brought to New Mexico for no other reason, it seemed, than to languish. I had a job lined up out here, but when I arrived, I discovered that they had given it to someone else. I found myself staying with a friend, my benefactor to whom I will forever be grateful, and looking unsuccessfully for employment. No matter where I went; no matter how many applications I filled out; no matter how many resumes I dropped off, I could find no work anywhere.
That is when I realized that God had brought me here for the sole purpose of learning to rely upon Him, and at that point, I'd been attempting to make my own way- All the time, complaining to Him for not opening doors. I required a time of sincere repentance, and refocused my vision so that my eyes were upon Him day and night.

Shortly after these events, I found work with a gentleman from my former church in his auto detailing business. Yet again, I find myself forever grateful to him not only for the work, but for opening his home to me when my other living situation fell through. After about a year, he received one of the desires of his heart, and was accepted to study at Oxford.
No matter what events transpired, however, so long as I kept my eyes upon Christ and relied upon God for the provision of all my needs, He saw to everything. Employment when needed, housing when required, and the provision of money, food and transportation at all times. Never have I gone without my needs since I returned control of my life to Him.

I share this story with you all, not to show how righteous or amazing I am (because such a statement would be a far cry from the truth!), but to encourage you, our readers, to look to God for all things. He will always provide- I have learned this truth in my own life, and will continue to learn this lesson in greater and bigger things.
My prayer for each of you is that God shows Himself to be as amazing, if not more so, in your lives as He has in mine. Indeed, I pray that each of you see greater blessings in your lives than I have seen, so that those around you may see and believe.

May God bless and keep you all in His mighty hand, safe from the intentions of the enemy, and provide all your needs- For though your foundations are shaking, it may very well be He who is reminding you that He must be first in all things in your lives.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

A Rare Appeal

A Rare Appeal: The Background

As some of you are aware, the co-founders of this ministry, Brian and Dara Shook, are currently living in separate states. Brian has been caring for his aging father, but as the economy has gotten worse, he can no longer afford to join his wife.  Caring for his father has been a full time job in itself, and because of this, he cannot get a job.

As a member of WarriorSoul Ministries, its principal writer, and a close friend of these two amazing people, I believe that it is possible to bring him home, and to do so with something everyone is fond of... T-shirts! The gist of it is this: You buy the shirt you like, and after overhead, the proceeds go to fund Brian's trip home. Any Additional Funds Will Be Used Specifically For And By WarriorSoul Ministries! There will be no individuals profiting from this fundraiser- We are NOT televangelists!!

The fundraiser itself will last from now until September 10, 2013.

A Rare Appeal: The Selection

A Rare Appeal Standard Front
The front of the Standard
Here is how this works (price breakdown to follow shirt descriptions).

We have two styles of tees available. The first is what we're calling the "Standard" version, which basically means that it's the least expensive of the two.  It sports only lettering, with the words "Mine is a WarriorSoul" in gray and red on the front.  On the back, in red, are the words "WarriorSoul Ministries."  These are selling for $15, and we need to sell 50 of them at the very least... If we do not reach that number, none of the shirts will be shipped, and you will not be charged- But our fundraiser will have failed as well.

 The second style is being referred to as the "Limited Edition."  It has the same wording on the front as the Standard, but features the WarriorSoul logo on the back.  This shirt is selling for $25 and we need to sell at least 20 of them.  Again, if we do not reach that number- No shirts, no charge and no Brian going home.

Both of these styles will be available in black, navy, forest green and ash gray beginning tomorrow.  Currently, they are available only in black.

A Rare Appeal: The Price Breakdown

A Rare Appeal LE front
Front of the Ltd Edition
Because we believe in honesty and full disclosure here at WarriorSoul (and because I believe it will help you understand the need for the prices and set amounts), I'd like to show you the price breakdown.

The Standard version has an overhead cost of $11.35- That's for the screenprinting, labor and service. The remaining $3.65 is what will be coming to us to fund Brian's trip.

The Limited Edition has an overhead cost of $21.75.  Again, this is for the screenprinting, labor and service, but it is higher than the standard due to the graphic used on the back.  Thus, the fundraiser will be receiving $3.25 for every LE sold.

A Rare Appeal: The Minimum Sales Limit Explained

A Rare Appeal Standard back
Back of the Standard
The reasons for the minimum amounts is very simple: The smaller the sales goal is, the greater the base price.  This is due to a few things, but most notably the labor that goes into setting up the equipment which does the printing.  When the batch is smaller, it requires more supervision and prevents leaving the batch to print while getting a new batch ready.

Let me offer you an example: To print a mere 10 of the Standard shirts, the base cost would be $14.67.  However, printing a total of 50 costs $11.35.  If we were to raise our goal to 200, our base price would lower to a mere $8.55, but our relative chances of success decrease as well.

To expound on the example, let's use the LE. Printing 20 of these shirts costs 21.75.  Printing 10, however, spikes our base price to $30.75.  In order to sell the LE at a comparable price to the Standard, we'd need to sell a minimum of 130, and the base cost would be $12.13.  Once more, we see a lower price, but also a lower chance of making our goal.

These are the reasons we've set the limits where they are currently.

A Rare Appeal: The Final Word

A Rare Appeal LE back
back of the Ltd Edition
We've got readers and family from around the world, and I want to reassure everyone that we're able to get shirts to you no matter where you are- Using the company we're using, we can ship internationally, meaning out friends in Australia, Russia, the United Kingdom, China, Japan... Even Tanzania and Guatemala... Can help with this fundraiser and have something to show for it.

So aside from buying a shirt, or a few shirts, how can you help?  Well, you can tweet the shirts themselves, or this blog entry, to make sure that everyone who follows you gets the chance to hear about it, and hopefully pass it on.  You can share the shirts on Facebook and on Pinterest directly from the pages, or you can share the url from any form of social media.  You can also share this blog entry as well.

Feel free to share about the fundraiser and its purpose outside of the internet as well!  Word of mouth when speaking with your friends, coworkers, family and fellow church members can be just as vital and viral as what is shared online.

I'd like to thank you for your consideration and support of this effort, and I am confident that with all of you helping to support it and spread the word, it will be a monumental success. God bless each and every one of you!

Monday, August 5, 2013

God Unchanging - Grace and Mercy

 The Lord is compassionate and merciful, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love ~Psalm 103:8

We read that Moses had a similar revelation in Exodus 34:6, and we can see that David not only mirrors Moses' own words quite closely here, but he does so again in Psalm 86:15, 111:4 and 145:8.  I tend to think of these passages often when I hear folks, Christian and non-Christian alike, compare the "Gods" of the Old and New Testament.  God is not a man that He should lie, but neither does He suffer from a personality disorder!

This truth about God is not only spoken of here; later on, in the days of the prophets and harsh judgment, we read very similar sentiments.  In fact, it is often missed that true love gives way and in fact enables the administration of just punishment- Even toward the object of affection.  For example, look at Joel 2:13, Jonah 4:2, Nehemiah 9:17, Isaiah 55:7, and Jeremiah 32:18 to offer just a few.

A great Bible teacher and commentator once made the statement that there is a great deal to be found in some of the smallest and least suspected passages of the Bible. Indeed, he went on to say, much of what we meditate upon within Scripture can be found within some of the smallest portions- In this case, the phrase was: "Slow to anger."  The quote regarding this section of the verse specifically says the following: "not speedily punishing sinners, but patiently waiting for their repentance."
Mercy pardons sin, grace bestows favor undeserved, and the Lord has each in abundance.  In the word's of Charles Spurgeon, "All the world tastes of his sparing mercy, those who hear the gospel partake of his inviting mercy, the saints live by his saving mercy, are preserved by his upholding mercy, are cheered by his consoling mercy, and will enter heaven through his infinite and everlasting mercy. Let grace abounding be our hourly song in the house of our pilgrimage. Let those who feel that they live upon it glorify the plenteous fountain from which it so spontaneously flows."

There is a great disparity which exists, however, in the concept of biblical grace and mercy, and the twisted understanding of the same by much of humankind.  God's justice MUST be met, so His mercy and grace will only carry each of us for so long in this life.  Eventually, we come to the crossroads whereat we choose to abide in our sinful behavior and thus abandon our First Love, or to flee our sin and cling to He who gave Himself up for our redemption. Choose we the former, and we will see ourselves set aside for the day of judgment; but if we take hold of the latter, we will find ourselves sheltered beneath His wings in the worst of the storm (for we are bequeathed only so much as we are able to handle by the strength afforded us through the Holy Spirit).
Contrast this understanding of God's divine grace and mercy, however, with that understanding by which the unsaved and unbelieving world carries out their debauchery.  It is the mindset of those who have heard and reject that they are simply not ready, and they will turn to God when their need is greatest: Little do they understand that they are drowning and marked for death, so their need is indeed at its greatest.  Likewise, those who have not yet heard continue to sin in blissful ignorance; their misdeeds counting against them, certainly, though the irony is that they survive by sole merit of the grace and mercy they know nothing about.
Between the two, however, the first group's crimes are greatest; the latter abuses the grace and mercy of God through ignorance, but the former willfully, gleefully and without remorse abuses that gift which they know of, yet which they refuse in a misguided attempt to make the "good times" last as long as possible.

Note now the only difference which can be drawn between God's actions within the Old Testament and His actions and responses of our time: It was His own slow response to sin; His own patience and longsuffering; that prevented judgment against the peoples of the world from falling more often than it did during the Old Testament period.  It is the blood of Christ which now dissuades the diverse and varied punishments of our just and holy God from falling more often now; yet by His own work, God holds His wrath for the day of judgment more completely now, as it is the blood of His only Son which cries out (in stark contrast to the blood of Abel) for continued patience, longsuffering, grace and mercy.
Ephesians 1:7-8 tells us this much- That if not for the shed blood of the Lamb, we would not have the grace we now know; nor would we have the sort of forgiveness we now understand; nor would we live beneath the covering of mercy we so often take for granted. By direct and absolute intervention, God Himself provided a means by which all of humanity could survive and live eternal- Yet such an offer is not an automatic thing, though it is, according to the Word of God, retroactive (that is, our sins are removed from us through the acceptance of the Sacrifice).

How dare we so cheapen the wondrous workings of a graceful and merciful God by saying that we are encumbered by having to do such great work as to merely accept His gift?!  Far too many have had this attitude in regards to the great and glorious work of our Lord, and far too few ministers illustrate the full passion of our Redeemer so as to set these minds aright.
Therefore, let us carefully bear in constant and perpetual remembrance Paul's statements from Romans 5:20-21-
"Moreover the law entered that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more,so that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord."

Some have used this verse to accentuate their claim against God; saying that only a cold and cruel psycho would introduce a law with the specific intent of causing sin, an offense for which this "psycho" imposes death.  However, it ought to be pointed out that this is a horrible interpretation and/or translation.  Look at this passage again, this time in contemporary English-

"The Law came, so that the full power of sin could be seen. Yet where sin was powerful, God's kindness was even more powerful. Sin ruled by means of death. But God's kindness now rules, and God has accepted us because of Jesus Christ our Lord. This means that we will have eternal life."

The law, then, was introduced in God's grace and mercy; not to cause sin to increase- Sin is sin; it is anything which goes against the nature of God- Instead, the law was introduced for the express purpose of exposing the seriousness and extent of sin to humanity.  It was introduced to show the need for reliance upon the Lord, not because of what He did, but because of human kind's own weakness.  It is through this understanding of the unchanging nature of our God that we are able to sing with the psalmist, "the Lord is compassionate and merciful, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love."

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Escape or Endure?

Rarely has so true a Scripture been depicted so falsely

The question before every human being on the face of the planet, to which God has already given answer, is this: Escape or Endure?

No trial has overtaken you that is not distinctively human; and God is faithful; he will not let you be tested beyond what you can bear, but with the trial will also provide the way through, so that you will be able to endure it. ~1 Corinthians 10:13

This is from the Mounce Reverse-Interlinear New Testament. I love the way it phrases this, because this is one situation where many English translations fail miserably. Let me give you an example or two of this:

No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it. ~NKJV
The only temptation that has come to you is that which everyone has. But you can trust God, who will not permit you to be tempted more than you can stand. But when you are tempted, he will also give you a way to escape so that you will be able to stand it. ~NCV

The original text actually says that God will provide "ekbasis," or a route out. This Greek word is a combination of "ek" or "ex" meaning "point of origin; where action begins" and "basis" meaning "to walk; foot pace." Literally, it is stating that God will provide a route through the hardship. Not an escape, as if God was going to snap His fingers and remove you from the situation you're dealing with; rather, an escape route- A path to follow by which to exit hardship.

Readers confuse themselves on whether to escape or endure

The second point of issue with English translations, to a minor degree, and much more with the very READERS themselves, is the less than regular emphasis on the latter portion of this Scripture. Everyone loves the idea that God doesn't give us more than we can handle; still more people are very happy with the fact that God will just speak and *boom* - Our trials are over. The problem is that one section at the end which reads "so that you will be able to endure it."

Oops. If that remains there, then the verse as a whole can't mean that God's going to magically remove us from our individual struggles. So as a result, very few actually pay attention to that section... And as a result of that, we have some translations pandering to the itching ears. For instance:

There hath none other temptation taken you, but such as followeth the nature of man. God is faithful, which shall not suffer you to be tempted above your strength: but shall in the midst of the temptation make a way to escape out. ~2004 edition of the William Tyndale New Testament

You are tempted in the same way that everyone else is tempted. But God can be trusted not to let you be tempted too much, and he will show you how to escape from your temptations. ~Contemporary English Version

We’re all tempted to do so, but God is more than willing to help us follow God’s advice. ~Better Life Bible

A lot of you have heard me rail against the BLB, saying it should not even be considered a Bible, and this last quote is offered as further evidence of this.  However, even it is closer in truth at the last than the previous two.  You see, God is willing to help us follow His law (not advice) and His ways.  He is rarely willing to remove us from those situations wherein we are required to choose whether to follow Him or succumb to the world.

This is why the Mounce is so excellent in this regard- Not only did it handle the issue of the way through the temptation correctly, but it also makes certain to emphasize the fact that the answer to the escape or endure question is the endurance of the trial.  Ironically, for all the hard words and accusations that our modern translations get, one of the most maligned got it dead on accurate.

There isn’t any temptation that you have experienced which is unusual for humans. God, who faithfully keeps his promises, will not allow you to be tempted beyond your power to resist. But when you are tempted, he will also give you the ability to endure the temptation as your way of escape.        ~God's Word Version

Final thoughts on whether to escape or endure

Oftentimes, we as humans are so caught up in our daily lives that we read our Bibles when we should be
soaking in them. We simply give our Scripture of the day a quick read, and do not take the time necessary to pray and meditate on what it means.  If we took the time necessary, it would be obvious to most what this Scripture is saying right from the start.

In closing, let me reiterate this simply:

God tests us. He will not allow us to be so assaulted that we cannot stand our ground.  In every test, no matter how hard it gets, we can rest assured that He's already prepared our exit, and the path to get there.  He will rarely pluck us out of the hard times; but He will strengthen and encourage us so that we are able stand firm as long as we trust in Him- And THAT is our way out... Endurance.

Grace and peace be with you as you endure!

Friday, May 24, 2013

The Age of Ichabod

Once again, we have a great piece from our guest author, Nathan H. 

This piece may not be for everybody. That’s fine. I’m throwing it out there like a fish lure. Let them bite who will.
If I had to describe the general attitude among Christians with a single word, I would probably use “frustrated.” Many Christians have unmet expectations that wriggle like a pebble in their shoe, whether they’re minor letdowns or devastating disappointments. Behind every soapbox and impassioned sermon lies a gnawing ache that something is wrong.
I begin this piece by saying that something is wrong, and it’s happened before. Let’s call it the Age of Ichabod. There’s an over-arching story in the Bible as told in the narrative of Samuel in which the birth of a boy named Ichabod marks a horrid dry spell in Israel’s history. This story lays out a particular principle that needs to be remembered and applied today.

In 1 Samuel 4, we see a transition of sorts. Previously in the book, we are told of the phenomenal events surrounding the birth and childhood of Samuel; he was called by God at an early age to replace the corrupt and inept house of Eli as the spiritual leadership of Israel. By the fourth chapter, the Israelites were again at war with their old-time rivals, the Philistines, and they were losing.
“Why did God let us lose?” they ask one another. Rather than dwell on this question and possibly admit their need for repentance, they instead decide to force God’s hand by sending the Ark of the Covenant before them into battle. The Ark was where God’s presence was manifest on earth, so surely they could manipulate God into doing what they wanted—what they needed.
The national indifference toward God was a result of the leadership. We are told in 1 Samuel that the high priest, Eli, had two sons who were beyond wicked, yet he did not discipline them or even remove them from service in the tabernacle. It is no wonder that the troops had minimal regard for God when His own high priest displayed so little.
They thought God would do what they wanted if they played their cards right. They thought wrong.
Not only did Israel lose the next battle, but they lost the Ark to their enemy, and suffered almost ten times the number of casualties—including Eli’s evil sons. When a survivor ran back to Shiloh, the city where the Tabernacle was permanently set up in the Promised Land, his tale was so shocking that Eli fell off his high chair and broke his neck. What’s more is that his son’s pregnant wife went into distressed labor at these turn of events, and died giving birth to a son. The midwife, astonished that Eli, his sons, and the mother were dead, and that the Ark was in the possession of the enemy, called the boy Ichabod, saying, “The glory has departed from Israel!”
The Age of Ichabod had begun.
The name comes from the Hebrew *qabod, meaning “glory.” Hebrew glory was not just the idea of greatness and grandeur, but something more inspiring, like radiance and splendor. It was with this meaning in mind that Paul said a woman’s hair is her “crowning glory.” Israel lost her glory; she had just been scalped. It’s a shame that the grandson of Eli had to bear the name which commemorated the new era.
The absence of the Ark was more than just cosmetic, however. The Ark was the centerpiece to Tabernacle ministry. Sacrifices of praise could be made without it, as well as some ceremonial rituals as administered by the Levites and priests, but the sin offering on the Day of Atonement required the Ark. Without it, Levitical observances would be little more than show, as the soul of the rituals and ceremonies would be absent. It’s essentially for this reason that modern Jews do not maintain the need for sacrifices today—how could they without the Ark?
Samuel finds himself thrust into the forefront of national turmoil. Even though the Ark was returned to Israel within seven months, it wound up in the custody of a steward rather than in the Tabernacle. Samuel was raised in the instruction of Eli and made sacrifices, so it seems that he continued with the priestly observances without the luster of the Tabernacle proper.
Even though the conduit of God’s manifest presence was returned to Israel, the glory had not!

Samuel compelled the Israelites to dispose of their idols and return to faithful devotion to the LORD God. He established an itinerate circuit, so as to minister to the entire nation, rather than sitting on his haunches at home all year long, expecting the people to come to him. Although the glory was missing, there was peace.
As Samuel grew old and gray, however, the people began to desire a human king. Samuel rebuffed this at first, but God told him to relent. “They have not rejected you as judge, Samuel, but they have rejected Me as King. Give them a king.”
What the people got was Saul. He was a head taller than any man in the land, and he looked good in a parade. When the Philistines made war against Israel yet again, the people were happy to follow Saul into battle.
Saul became arrogant, though. God had made him king, and it went to his head. Samuel’s ways were out-moded. Things were much better Saul’s way, Saul thought. He was eventually tormented by demons, and was arguably driven to madness.
Along comes David.
When the picture-perfect king couldn’t slay a Philistine giant, a shepherd boy chosen by God does what the king’s army couldn’t—trust in God.
Despite Saul’s position, he had no authority. He sacrificed it when he went his own way. David, though a runt, won the day because he stood on his faith in God.
For a time, David and Saul were copacetic. Saul recognized David’s potential, and even though the nation’s admiration sparked jealousy, Saul took a liking to David…except for the times when he tried to have David killed.
In the end, Saul was destroyed by his own pride. Pinned down in a rocky battlefield, he fell on his sword rather than admit defeat in a battle he thought to win in his own strength.

When David finally became king, his reign was so diametrically opposed to that of Saul’s that you could barely give them the same title. Saul was just like the other kings, which is what the people wanted. David was a man after God’s own heart, and despite his faults and failures, he put God first in everything he did. Israel flourished as a result.
Yet the glory had not returned.

In 2 Samuel 6, some twenty years after its capture and nonchalant return to Israel, David had the Ark of the Covenant returned to the Tabernacle, which was erected in the newly conquered capitol, Jerusalem.
David wore nothing but an ephod while dancing for joy in the streets. He wasn’t dancing because the priests were singing his favorite song. His dance wasn’t a display of worship to intimidate all of the shy people.
David danced because the manifest presence of God returned to the heart of Tabernacle ceremony. The soul of the nation was back. There was actually a point now to going through the rigorous motions of Levitical ceremony.

How does any of that relate to today?

We have four components in this narrative.

1)      House of Eli
2)      House of Samuel
3)      House of Saul
4)      House of David

Let’s say the House of Eli is the old generation. Compromise had set in during Eli’s ministry. He valued getting along more than righteousness. As long as everybody was with the Program, then why rock the boat by upholding justice (and not letting his sons sleep with women waiting in line at the Tabernacle)?
In order to function better, concessions have been made with the world. A truce has been struck with the kingdom of darkness—it is given its space over there, the church is given her space over here, and everybody goes on in a tenuous balance.
God does not jive with this. He ends Eli’s ministry, eliminates his successors, and removes the Glory.
Samuel is raised up. He is trained in the same ministry as Eli, but he has integrity. In fact, he is never recorded as having done anything wrong, or to have displeased the LORD—“The LORD was with him, and did not let his words fall to the ground.”
Yet the glory did not return through Samuel.

Let’s say the House of Samuel is the response to the old generation; a ‘tweener generation, for lack of a better term. This response does everything asked of the LORD, yet there is no glory. This is perhaps the bulk of the frustration seen within the church; sincere and devout believers who cannot understand why the situation, whichever situation, remains so. Why isn’t there change? Why isn’t progress made?
It was not the fault of Samuel; it was the people. They want Saul.

Let the House of Saul be the response to Samuel. Ineffectual ministry must be discarded and something new brought forward, right? Let’s try what everyone else is doing. Seems to work for them, right? What begins with genuine ministry is twisted by hubris into something that’s counterproductive, and possibly hostile to the goals of God.

The House of David is the answer to Saul and Samuel. Samuel passes the torch to David, but instead of following the traditional way, David does something new. He fights. Rather than trying to persuade a corrupt institution to do something contrary to its nature (sincerely repent and humbly submit), David takes the torch and performs that institution’s mission himself. He doesn’t need the people’s permission, for they at times love and hate him, and while he took refuge and support from the priests as they made available to him, David’s hope was in God, whether  as a shepherd, a general, a rebel commander, or a king.

David made war against Israel’s enemies even while called an enemy of Israel. When he was edged outside the confines of Israel’s establishment, he simply continued to do what he was called to do, and his calling made room for him. By doing what the king was supposed to do, he was made king.

In our time, we’ve witnessed the death throes of Eli, and we’re experiencing the conflict between Samuel (the alienated, frustrated remnant) and Saul (the delusional prima donnas). The only difference is that Samuel is reluctant to anoint David at this time.
For the Age of Ichabod to end, David must come. Rather than purifying the old Eli ministry, Samuel must overcome his fear of Saul (or seeing another Saul rise up in his place) in order to launch David forward.
This applies directly to us, here and now.
In order to attain the peace and prosperity that many envision in the future Solomon generation, we must face the battle as David. We must embrace rejection and revulsion, not resent it like Samuel; we must stand boldly in the face of opposition like David, not cower behind ulterior motives like Samuel; we must honor God in all we do, and not follow our own wisdom and passions like Saul. We must whole-heartedly follow God because we love him, as David did, not play-act devotion because that’s what’s expected of us like Saul did.

The contrasts can go on, but the message is clear: Samuel did fine during the Age of Ichabod in his obedience, but the nation did not. We need to stop trying to resurrect Eli. Ichabod will endure, unless we risk the wrath of Saul and the world itself to become David.

Ichabod was so named because the Ark left the Tabernacle. There can be no glory where there is no presence. Seek the presence of God as if He’s a real person, utilize His wisdom and words instead of your own, stand where others flee, and trust in Him whether you’re personally confident, terrified, or despondent. In this, we defy the Ichabod state, the lack of glory, by reaching out of this world and into the next.

In this Age of Ichabod, I want to be a David. I want to bring finality to the war of attrition against the church and to see the glory return to the House of God. I want to leap for joy because God’s manifest presence has returned to the heart of His people, because then I would know that the frustration of all the Samuels and the distractions and self-destructions of the Sauls will be at an end, and the way will be clear for the Solomon generation (Solomon, whose name means Peace) built upon the splendor and radiance of God’s returned glory.

Who's with me?

Friday, March 1, 2013

The Strategy of the Gospel

The Strategy of the Gospel was originally a blog comment.  However, as I thought about it, I realized that it ought to be shared on a broader forum.  We can all use encouragement from time to time; this is yours today...

The Strategy of the Gospel

There is a “theology” that the Bible is mostly allegorical. Bill O’Reilly was the most recent in current events to allude to that when he was interviewing Roma Downey and her husband about the Bible miniseries. I remember you saying, however, that you take the whole Bible as truth. As that is so, let me offer a little bit more advice, partially from personal experience, partially from the Word of God.

I was on FB at one point. I did some investigation into Zuck’s political pandering, donations, and the biased slant the advertisements for candidates had taken. For instance, Obama’s campaign ads showed up when one was viewing any page having to do with hope, change, and even our Savior. This might not seem like a big deal, since people who pull advertisements have a say in preferred placement.
However, the ads for McCain showed up when one was viewing FB pages that supported Westboro Baptist, satanic groups, etc. These are obviously not preferred spots for a political candidate, yet there is where they were seeing their ads.

As a result of me publishing my findings, both on my blog and on FB, I was banned from it, without warning.

Strategy of the Gospel: Not Our Own Works

What the Lord showed me is that while we are meant to uphold the truth, we are also to bring it in love, as He showed you. Yet He also brought my attention to Matthew 10:16, which reads:

“Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.”

See, I thought He was done at that point, but He wasn’t. He knows exactly who He has placed us among, and He specifically commanded us to be wily, crafty and intelligent. (Note that I use these words in the sense of strategy, not deception!) Why would He send us out among wolves, and why tell us to be strategic? The answer is partly in the wording He chose, and and partially in His following explanation.

The word “wise” being used there is phronimos (φρόνιμος), and means sagacious or discreet. There were two other words He could have used: Sophos, which is general wisdom, or sunetos, which denotes problem solving. However, He chose to use phronimos, which combines sunetos with phren, which suggests a covering, or discreet nature.

Then, in verses 17 and 18, Christ says this (and I’m using the Phillips because of the way it reads):

“But be on your guard against men. For they will take you to the court and flog you in their synagogues. You will be brought into the presence of governors and kings because of me – to give your witness to them and to the heathen.”

He told us why we were to be discreet; why were are to be strategic in bearing our message: Because we are to be on guard against men; not comfortable with them, but at the same time, not trying to stir them to anger, either, no matter how they may treat us.

Strategy of the Gospel: Not Our Own Voice

Note the reason all of this is taking place, was the next thing He taught me: It is by MY will, not your own pride or blunder, that will bring you before governors and kings. It is NOT because your words stirred them to anger; or because your words were so powerful, undeniable and moving; but because of MY will ALONE.

Then came the next two verses, 19 and 20 (same source for the same reason):

“But when they do arrest you, never worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say. You will be told at the time what you are to say. For it will not be really you who are speaking but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.”

Even in this moment, when all seems lost and it looks as though you have reason to be indignant, He said, you are not to lose your temper. Remain calm, be still, and you will know that I am God.

So, we are to be discreet, and when the time comes for us to be uncovered and exposed before the rulers of this age, whether it be the President or FB, it will be His doing, not ours. We will know this because we have adhered to His word; we’ve delivered truth in love, and carried it with wisdom and strategy.

Hope that was of some encouragement to you.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Five-Fold Calibration

Back after what seems to be the usual holiday-ish sabbatical, we'll be running a few guest written articles while getting some of the other material prepared.

This week, our guest author is Nathan.  Most recently a youth pastor, Nathan is being positioned more and more for ministry to and within the Body of Christ in a much greater capacity.  His personal stylings, however, seem to shatter a great deal of preconceived notions regarding what a minister of the Gospel should be: We see the list within the Pauline letters, but mankind has added such a great deal to the concept of "minister," that the two are barely recognizable.

Ironically, it was this disproportionate emphasis on one form or another of "use" within the Church that led to this first article, and it is so very much on point, I feel it would be nearly criminal not to feature it here on WarriorSoul.

Without further ado... Five-Fold Calibration.

There's a passage of the Bible that many scholars have debated about for awhile now.
And he gave some to be apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;
for the perfecting of the saints, unto the work of ministering, unto the building up of the body of Christ:
till we all attain unto the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a fullgrown man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:
that we may be no longer children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, in craftiness, after the wiles of error;
but speaking truth in love, we may grow up in all things into him, who is the head, even Christ;
from whom all the body fitly framed and knit together through that which every joint supplieth, according to the working in due measure of each several part, maketh the increase of the body unto the building up of itself in love.
 ~Ephesians 4:11-16 (ASV)

Paul is the king of run-on sentences, so we'll just leave it there.

There's a moderate debate as to whether or not this passage applies today, and I feel obliged to speak to that before continuing.
Starting from the last verse, we can note a few things:

  1. the Body makes increase by its inner workings of love;
  2. the inner workings of love within the body are in due measure of each part;
  3. the Body is framed and knit together, every part, in Christ.

In other words, the Body of Christ can only be the Body of Christ if it's doing Christ's work as Christ prescribes at Christ's direction. I cannot rightly call someone else's body my own body if it's not attached to me and follows its own commands, or the commands of someone else.

In the next-to-last verse, we read that the Body speaks the truth in love in order to mature in Christ. Maturation means growth, not decline; increase, not decrease.

By now we've back-tracked to verse 14. The Body is expected to become an adult in terms of purpose and wisdom, and not confused as a child or adolescent. There ought to be clarity and depth in the Body's ministry, not shallow ambiguity.

Verse 13 outlines the requirements for reaching adulthood:

  1. unity of faith (we all share the same belief);
  2. complete knowledge of the Son of God (Jesus is more than a name);
  3. fully measured up to the full stature of Christ (we do everything Jesus did).

In spite of many victories, achievements, and lives given to devotion and service, even after 2,000 years, I don't think anybody can say that the Body of Christ at large has attained unity of faith, complete knowledge of Jesus, and the full measure of Christ's stature on earth. We're just not there yet.

Where does that leave us? Verse 12 outlines the sorts of things the Body can do to exercise itself:

  1. perfecting the saints;
  2. ministry;
  3. building up the Body.

Sounds a little redundant, but we're about to go into overtime after 2,000 years and we still haven't gotten it right, so maybe we need to look at how the Bible says it's supposed to be done. That takes us straight to verse 11.

Christ gave apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastors, teachers. For what purpose? Let's retrace our steps:

Apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers were given in order to:

  1. Perfect the saints;
  2. Minister to the world;
  3. Build up the Body;
  4. Attain unity of faith;
  5. Attain complete knowledge of Jesus;
  6. Attain the full measure of the stature of Jesus.

When we see spiritual offices at work to accomplish those things, it is then that we see the Body increase its inner workings of love, a balance where every member does their part, and Christ is actually followed rather than mentioned.

The question is not whether apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers ought to still exist, but rather what they ought to look like and whether or not the Body is in a place to utilize all five.

Before we can really get into what a fully utilized five-fold ministry looks like, we'll have to look into church structure.

Ecclesiology is the study of church structure, from the Greek ekklesia for "church." The ecclesiology of Christianity has undergone a number of transitions over the centuries.
When the Roman Empire decided to reverse its policy of persecution toward Christians by virtue of the maxim "if you can't beat'em, join'em," there was a priesthood erected to service the imperial religion across the known world. Up to this point, there was not any position of 'priest' within Christian ecclesiology. Before the fourth century, church structure followed the advice given by Paul to his protoge, Timothy. Since the fourth century, every major ecclesial tradition has been in response to the Roman Catholic tradition.
In the New Testament books 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, and Titus, known collectively as the Pastoral Epistles, Paul identifies several key positions in church structure, but not once does he refer to either apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, or teachers. Not once, save to refer to himself as an apostle, but more on that later.

Paul referred to, at most, only three positions of church structure:

  1. the daikonos;
  2. the episkopos;
  3. the presbyteros.

The deacon, the overseer/bishop, the elder.

A "daikonos," or deacon, is literally a servant, and the position was instituted by the apostles in the book of Acts.

Now in these days, when the number of the disciples was multiplying, there arose a murmuring of the Grecian Jews against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration.
And the twelve called the multitude of the disciples unto them, and said, It is not fit that we should forsake the word of God, and serve tables.
Look ye out therefore, brethren, from among you seven men of good report, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business.
But we will continue stedfastly in prayer, and in the ministry of the word.
And the saying pleased the whole multitude: and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolaus a proselyte of Antioch;
whom they set before the apostles: and when they had prayed, they laid their hands upon them.
And the word of God increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem exceedingly; and a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith.
And Stephen, full of grace and power, wrought great wonders and signs among the people.
 ~Acts 6:1-8 (ASV)

Deacons were needed in the first church in Jerusalem because the apostles were so busy with charitable administration that they were not able to spread the Good News very effectively. Incidentally, is this not the state in which many American churches find themselves, where the Church Game has taken over and replaced the Gospel of the Kingdom? The solution was to select seven men of faith and character to administer charity to the Body so that the apostles could commit themselves to prayer and preaching.
In other words, deacons were tasked with the nitty-gritty stuff.
What is often not emphasized is that Stephen, a "mere deacon," was noted for being full of grace and power, and was known for working great wonders and signs among the people--not small wonders, but great ones.

Although Paul advised elders to be in charge of teaching (in fact, being apt to teach was one of his requirements for eldership), ministry was not restricted to them. Deacons were clearly used by God in ways other than the mundane tasks of their church positions.

This means that there is an assumed distinction between somebody's spiritual calling and their church position. In other words, just because somebody has the title of "pastor" does not mean they are actually gifted or called as a pastor. "Pastor" is simply the nominal title used for a bishop/overseer/head elder in modern American Protestant traditions. Whether one says bishop, pastor, reverend, or father, the distinction is one of church structure--a physical position--rather than an office or gift--a spiritual position. The confusion between a "physical pastor" who leads an American 501(c)3 not-for-profit church organization and an actual pastor gifted with the office of spiritually mentoring believers has lead to obscurity in spiritual offices and an imbalance in how they're perceived and even administered.

Common results are some rather distressfull circumstances for Christian leaders who attempt to fit an ecclesiological mold that was not fashioned with them in mind. Here is an agreeable example: a believer who feels called to the ministry is pigeon-holed into the role of a pastor when they are spiritually gifted as an evangelist; somebody who is moved to spread the Good News is forcibly leashed to a pulpit when he is called to the frontier, whether in domestic society or abroad. This creates disparity in his ministry and in his discipleship, as he is not able to relate effective experience to others when the time comes for him to pass the torch.
A more controversial example is someone who is called as a prophet or apostle, but they are part of a church tradition which does not recognize either of those gifts and ministries as valid, and therefore he commits himself to a life of pastorship in order to serve God and the church. This means that someone who is called by God to the unique position of prophecy is instead prompted to mentor young believers in spiritual living--something within his ability but not necessarily within his range of gifts. Many 'pastors' grow frustrated and burn out because they've danced to the beat of the wrong drum.

Don't get me wrong--every believer has the ability to evangelize, mentor, and hear from God. It might be buried, but it's there as part of their spiritual birthright. What I am saying is that when the ability is supernaturally enhanced, it's advanced to the level of 'gifting.'
I am exercising my ability to evangelize when I give my testimony, but when the word of that testimony is enhanced by the witness of the Holy Spirit, it becomes recognized as a gift. Somebody whose life revolves around a particularly strong gifting would be a strong candidate for an office, which is to say that a prophet would be correctly defined by somebody whose ability to hear from God is supernaturally enhanced to the degree that it shapes their life differently from another believer who has a heart for the lost.
That is the difference between someone who is called by God to be a pastor and someone who chooses to be a pastor because the other options are limited by ecclesiological tradition.

So, not only is there a division between church positions, such as bishops/elders (remember, the title of "pastor" falls into this category) and deacons, and spiritual offices, such as apostles, pastors, and teachers, but there are degrees of spiritual gifts that separate a disciple with spiritual gifts from an office of ministry.

Church positions and spiritual offices are on different spectrums. This means that somebody can be a pastor without having a church position of 'pastor,' while someone with the title of 'pastor' isn't necessarily called as one.

This is demonstrated by Paul introducing himself by a spiritual office and not a physical position--an apostle has a spiritual realm of authority, whereas an elder/overseer/bishop has a specific physical authority. Paul had authority in churches that he founded, but whenever he attempted to minister in Jerusalem, he was stymied--he was veering away from his realm of spiritual authority by meddling in a physical region outside of his spiritual calling to Gentiles.

Furthermore, the concept of a laity (church members who just sit there) is useful only for head-counters and cattle-herders. When Paul refers to a 'congregation,' there is absolutely nothing to suggest that he is not assuming that the local body is not comprised of full-fledged and fully devoted disciples. That is to say, regardless of one's position in a church body, a believer ought to be pursuing their personal calling in Christ and living out their spiritual destiny. Remember, Stephen was chosen as a deacon because of the grace and power on his life; grace and power did not come as a result of his position.
If one's spiritual destiny is not being revealed, developed, or in any way activated, then there is an imbalance that can only be corrected by a five-fold calibration.

This means that regardless of how a church is structured in terms of leadership (deacon boards, elder boards, leadership committees, etc., etc.), the actual spiritual growth of the Body depends on the balance of the five-fold ministry. A church which over-emphasizes evangelism to the detriment of discipleship is going to marginalize the potential pastors in their midst; a church which over-emphasizes teaching to the detriment of prophetic living is going to alienate potential prophets (and possibly lose them to Occult influences).
Calibrating the five-fold within a church body is the first step toward spiritual health; otherwise, a church will face a spiritual disability in one way or another.

If this concept is rediscovered among the American Church, then there will be a spiritual revolution among the Body from top to bottom and from the inside out. While it's an unfortunate development that American church leaders are universally referred to as 'pastors' rather than emphasizing their place in the Body, the time is coming when titles, ranks, and positions will become meaningless as the entire church structure is shaken. Many people will be alarmed, as people tend to be whenever the status quo is shattered. The building might come down, but it will be time for the Body to rise.
The time is coming when 'church as usual' will change. If the believer understands that spiritual offices supercede church positions, then there will be nothing to fear: just as there is still a congregation even if there is not a building, there are still apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers whether or not there are elders and deacons in position to administrate their communities and gatherings.
Since there will always be the five-fold ministry until we reach the full stature of Christ, then that means no amount of neglect or denial will make it truly disappear. This means that even if those called to a prophetic life get sucked away into the Occult, or one called to evangelism insteads gets taken in the ambition of Corporate America, these gifts and offices still exist. It depends upon the church to identify and mentor those whom God has called and raised up.

Some are apostolic. Some are prophetic. Some are evangelistic. Some are mentoring. Some are instructive. To deny any of these in the Church is to deny one's own senses. The Kingdom will advance regardless of the Church's five-fold balance or lack thereof. What the difference will be is whether or not the Body limps along in neglect or wholesale denials of its members, or run with perseverance the race that is set before Her.

"Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ. This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ.
Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth.
Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love."  ~Ephesians 4:11-16 NLT