Saturday, December 31, 2011

God's Government

“And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone.” (Ephesians 2:20)

When Jesus came to the earth the first time, He was sent to the “lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matthew 15:24); in other words, He was sent to His own people, the Jews. But His own “received Him not” (John 1:10-11). They rejected Him, not because they weren’t looking for and desiring the promised Messiah, but because they didn’t have an understanding of God’s government, and its method of operation.

Natural governments have established systems of authority that are recognized readily by men. For example, our military leaders and personnel wear uniforms which designate their rank and status, and men recognize them and give them honor. But the things of the Kingdom of God are spiritually discerned (I Corinthians 2:14).

In these last days, it is more important than ever to be able to discern and recognize God’s servants and authority structure, so that we can all come together in the unity of the faith through the operation of the Spirit (Ephesians 2:20-22, 4:13). Satan is working diligently to bring forth a counterfeit church with a counterfeit gospel, to prepare the world for the appearance of the antichrist and the culmination of the ages. The move to accept all “faiths,” is already under way, so that we can “all get along and be at peace,” and where “everyone cooperates, works together, and accepts one another.” It sounds wonderful, but it is vehemently opposed to scriptural truth. The sad thing is that many will be deceived into embracing this philosophy because they don’t recognize God’s government in operation. The masses will eventually flock to it (Daniel 11:21).

God is not all that interested in the world becoming a better place; in fact, Jesus Himself stated that He didn’t come to bring peace, but a sword (Mathew 10:34, Luke 12:51-53). A division between those that recognize and understand God’s government and those that don’t. God warned us that this world and its ways are perishing (I John 2:17), and will continue to get worse and worse; it is the false church that puts emphasis on this present, evil world.

Paul was an apostle, but He was not one of the original twelve that walked with Jesus when he was upon the earth. He was “born out of due time” (I Corinthians 15:8) on the road to Damascus, as he fervently persecuted and fought against the church. Jesus revealed Himself to him in a moment of time, and Paul immediately recognized His authority, “Who art thou Lord?” “What would you have me to do?” (Acts 9:5-6) Jesus didn’t send him to the Jerusalem Bible College after his conversion; in fact, the disciples had no idea what had happened to Saul of Tarsus. Instead, he was sent into the Arabian Desert to be taught by the Holy Spirit (Galatians 1:15-19).

When He returned to Jerusalem years later, the ruling authorities of the church didn’t ask for his credentials, but instead recognized the grace that was upon him (Galatians 2:9), and even though they were apostles first, they willingly received the grace and authority that was upon his life. In fact, at one point, Paul rebuked Peter to His face (Galatians 2:11-15), and Peter didn’t respond, “Listen Mister; I’m an apostle, and I walked with Jesus Himself! I’m the pastor in charge here; don’t come around here telling me what to do!” No, Peter didn’t do this because he recognized God’s authority upon Paul.

Many of our leaders today have their titles posted on their doors and walls, more so than even the Word of God (Deuteronomy 6:8-9, Matthew 23:5-8); they demand to be called of men, “Pastor, Pastor, Prophet, Prophet, teacher, teacher…” Because of either insecurity in their calling, or the fact that they’re not called at all. They persuade men through the use of such titles and compel them to acknowledge them as prominent authorities, not understanding that God’s government is recognized by its members; even the most simple among us. God is confronting this type of thing in these last days (Luke 3:5).

“Well, are titles wrong, Brother Tom?" Not necessarily; it all depends on motive and intent. If the purpose is flattery or pride, then yes, they’re wrong (Job 32:21-22, Matthew 23:8-10). If it’s to honor the office and the man in the office, with the intent of giving honor to God, then there’s nothing wrong with it (I Samuel 26:17, Acts 24:3). And there’s nothing wrong with acknowledging what God has made you. Paul stated on more than one occasion that he was an apostle, “Not of men but of God…” (Ephesians 1:1, Galatians 1:1, Colossians 1:1, I Timothy 1:1, II Timothy 1:1, Titus 1:1, I Peter 1:1, II Peter 1:1). But he never demanded that men call him “Apostle Paul,” for the purpose of exalting himself to a place of preeminence among God’s people (Ephesians 3:8, III John 1:9). Someone once said, “Some of us are more Catholic than the Catholics are!” This saying is true.

If we understand God’s government, then we will understand the boundary of our authority. Every believer has been called to a place of dominion, even if you are five years old and your domain only involves the family dog; God has given you authority over something. An apostle is not necessarily an apostle over every church or work of God. He is an apostle over the things that God has assigned to him, and these boundaries must be spiritually discerned.

King Uzziah became king of Judah when he was very young, and he did great things during his reign; he was righteous and pleasing to the Lord, and he reigned for fifty two years. God blessed him and made him to prosper. But in his strength, his heart was lifted up; he forgot his place of dominion and stepped into a place that belonged to another man. God struck him with leprosy for his infraction, and he remained a leper until the day of his death (II Chronicles 26:16-21).

King Josiah was also a righteous king before the Lord; in fact, he walked in the ways of David, earnestly pursuing after the heart of God (II Chronicles 34:2). But when he became strong, he forgot the boundary of his authority. He was warned by another man, who was also following God’s plan, to mind his own business, but he didn’t heed the warning and it cost him his life (II Chronicles 35:20-24). There have been great ministers that have died because they have veered from their path and have used their prominence and influence to publically criticize or attacked other ministries. God had tried to warn them, but their hearts were lifted up and they inadvertently came against a genuine move of God.

God commands us to reprove, rebuke and exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine (II 4:1-2), and commands that we warn the unruly (I Thessalonians 5:14) (Ezekiel 33:7-9, Jeremiah23:28). Failure to do this will also bring God’s judgment. Saul lost his kingdom because he didn’t execute God’s righteous judgment upon a people that were appointed to death. “Well, how are we to know the difference?” We know by the Spirit.

The church of Jesus Christ is a living organism in the earth, and its structure and government highly organized and precise (Colossians 2:19). In these last days, the fullness of this will be realized before Jesus returns for His church (Ephesians 5:27). The world will not recognize us, but we will know one another by the Spirit (Daniel 12:10, II Corinthians 5:16).

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Line in the Sand

“Moses my servant is dead; now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, thou, and all this people, unto the land which I give to them, even to the children of Israel.” (Joshua 1:2)

Have you ever noticed that there seems to be an invisible “line in the sand?” “Well, what are you saying, Brother Tom?” I’m talking about the area that God has been speaking to you about that you want to avoid, because when you go there everything around you seems to come “unglued,” yet you know that God has told you to cross it. You can go around it, over it, under it, or anywhere in between, but just don’t go there!

You may have good praise and worship at your church, and as long as you stay with your program; sing a few songs, get excited and praise the Lord, everything stays pretty much in order. But as soon as your worship team begins to step into new levels of worship, being led by the Spirit and operating in areas of the prophetic anointing, your musicians begin bickering and the finances of the church are attacked. You may have good prayer time, but then there is a place that you touch in the spirit where hidden things are revealed, mountains move and giants fall, but as soon as you go there, the people that love you the most suddenly can’t stand the sight of you! Your spouse and your staff will get angry with you and won’t even know why they’re angry. There is a line which the devil has drawn and said, “This far and no more!”

This line can be drawn in families, churches, communities and nations where the demonic principality assigned to the region has put a limit on what type of spiritual activity will be “allowed.” In areas that are dominated by a religious spirit, the devil may only allow you to have a certain number of people in your church, and the gifts of the Spirit may only operate to a certain degree. When you cross these lines, you find yourself in the fight of your life! You may have to step into new levels of prayer that cause some people to be uncomfortable; it may even challenge some of your own preconceived ideas. If you don’t believe in spiritual warfare, then you will by the time that you’re done.

When we cross these lines, Satan pulls out all the stops and attempts to intimidate us; “Remember what happened last time you did this; you almost lost your church!” he whispers in our ears. It’s alright to pray a little bit, but don’t pray in tongues, and if you do pray in tongues, don’t pray in strong, authoritative, and diverse tongues (I Corinthians 12:10, 28). It’s alright to read the Bible, just don’t actually believe it and act on it! Don’t declare it with unwavering faith and authority. You can even preach the Word, but just don’t preach it with authority!

Satan will also attack your home. You can talk with your spouse, and have a “nice” family discussion; you can go to movies, have fun with the kids, but just don’t have open communication about certain pivotal issues that will enable you to come together in agreement in faith and obedient action to what God has told you to do. Have you ever heard of Babel? Satan assigns demonic spirits to insure that communication about key issues never takes place in Christian homes.

These areas are called strongholds. They are areas in our lives, churches and ministries which the devil has garrisoned up and heavily guarded. He has commanded his demons, “If they get even close to these areas, attack and buffet them so viciously that they will retreat wounded, disillusioned and broken.” These are most often key areas that must be addressed in order to move forward in the things of God. The children of Israel had to face giants in order to enter into the promised land. But because they were unwilling to face these giants, that generation never entered (Numbers 13:31-33). Some of these lines have been drawn generations ago, and passed down to successive generations, where a family may never seem to be able to get past a particular problem (Exodus 20:5-6).

The Israelites were in bondage in Egypt, and although it wasn’t the most pleasant situation, their lives were relatively bearable. But when God sent Moses to deliverer them, Pharaoh laid upon them hard bondage (Exodus 5:1-23, Acts 7:17-19). He made their lives so miserable that the people came to a place where they didn’t care whether they were delivered or not. They even got angry with Moses and blamed it all on him. If it was up to the people, they would have retreated and stayed right where they were, content to remain slaves in the land of Egypt.

The Lord spoke unto Jeremiah the prophet and commanded him to warn a rebellious and stiff necked people to stop burning incense to foreign gods and worshipping idols (Jeremiah 44:15-19). But the people refused, and for a very interesting reason. They said, “Before we quit burning incense to the Queen of heaven, we had everything, and had no problems; but when we tried to obey God, everything went wrong!”

Why? Because the devil aggravated an already bad situation. The people brought the curse on themselves by violating God’s laws in the first place (Deuteronomy 27:26), and when they “repented,” they thought that things should turn around overnight, and without any opposition (Jeremiah 44:20-23). Satan attacked them with pressure and circumstances in order to deceive them into drawing back into their old ways instead of pressing on until their situation turned around. Many times things will seem to get worse before they will get better.

God told Adam, “Be fruitful and multiply.” (Genesis 1:28) His instructions were to move forward and build, and then the attack of the enemy came. The devil couldn’t get to Adam directly, and so he targeted his wife (Genesis 3:1-6). He wasn’t interested in the woman, but rather the authority that God had invested in the man. The devil used the influence of the woman in order to get to the man, and Adam said, “Sure honey, whatever you want!”

Men are forfeiting their God-given destinies and laying down their authority every day by putting their wives in charge. “Well, you know how it is; when Mama’s happy everyone’s happy!” “She’s the boss, you know!” No, she’s not the boss, and if Satan can get to you through your wife, he will attack her continually. You must drive him out of your garden. Ahab was the King of Israel at one point, but he was not a strong man, and his wife was domineering and controlling; she was also very wicked (I Kings 16:31). The situation was ripe for demonic influence and attack, and they wrought much evil in Israel, mostly under the influence of Jezebel. What you compromise to keep, you will lose in the end, and surrendering your authority will lead your family, church or ministry down a wrong and destructive path (Isaiah 3:12).

Satan will apply pressure to leaders through the very people that they lead in order to coerce them into compromise and disobedience. They’ll come at you like they did to Moses, “We’re unhappy!” “We’re tired of Manna; we want Quail!” “We don’t want to wait for a new Sunday school room, we want it now!” (Numbers 11:4-6). As they did with King Saul, many times the people will want to keep what God said to kill, and to kill what God said to save alive (I Samuel 15:24). But as a leader, you must know how to say, NO!

One of Satan’s greatest deceptions is to cause us to believe that we can compromise in certain areas for the sake of “peace,” be negligent in applying the principles of God’s Word, and that somehow it will all work out in the end. “God understands what you are going through!” The devil will whisper in your ear. But Jesus warned us that failure to diligently believe and act on His Word would bring crop failure and unfruitfulness (Mark 4:19, Matthew 13:22).

When we are under heavy fire and Satan is unleashing his attacks against us, his strategy is to cause us to lose sight of the focal point of our faith, whatever it is that precipitated the attack in the first place. He wants us to be so overwhelmed by the intensity of what he is throwing at us, that we lose sight of our focus and switch to a defensive mode rather than an offensive. Many times the oppression will break when we stop fighting where the devil wants us to fight and continue on the offensive. “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil…” (Psalm 23:4) We are not to camp in the valley, but continue to walk through it! Satan wants us to camp with him.

God spoke to Joshua and commanded him to “Be strong and very courageous, that you may observe to do…” (Joshua 1:7) Today God commands us to be strong in the Lord and the power of His might (Ephesians 6:10), so that we can possess territories, experience His blessings, and pass them on to the next generation. When we step across the unspoken lines and prevail, curses are broken and blessings are passed down to a thousand generations (Deuteronomy 7:9).

Monday, October 24, 2011

Traditions of Men

“Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition, which ye have delivered: and many such like things do ye.” (Mark 7:13)

I have discovered that some of the greatest enemies to preaching the gospel are right in many of our churches. These enemies are cleverly disguised, but yet quite effective in preventing the move of the Holy Spirit and the operation of His gifts. Satan isn’t really all that concerned if we get together and have church, hear some preaching, sing a few songs and then go home, as long as we don’t operate in the power and revelation of the Spirit.

Religious tradition is one of Satan’s greatest weapons against strong, local churches. He perpetrates religious ideologies and doctrine so that he can work unhindered in the lives of believers, and to repel those that have any common sense. Even a sinner wants to be free, but if you tell a religious person that they can be free, they’ll want to kill you!

Satan has believers resigning themselves to things that he has brought into their lives, thinking those things are “the will of God,” when they are not the will of God at all. He destroys marriages, and divides families and churches; he inflicts believers with sicknesses and diseases, and keeps a yoke of poverty and shame upon many of our lives because of a lack of knowledge (Hosea 4:6).

There’s an old argument that God is sovereign and all powerful, but yet at the same time highly incompetent, negligent, cruel and malicious, or He is not sovereign at all. The reasoning is that there can be no other logical explanation for the cruelty and injustice in the world and in the church. There is, however, another explanation, of course, and Jesus has revealed it to us in His Word. The Word of God reveals that God is indeed sovereign, however, in His sovereignty He has chosen to delegate authority and responsibility to men (John 20:21, Mark 13:34, Luke 10:19).

Adam was created in the image of God, and he was created perfect. God gave him dominion over all the earth and everything in it, and he became the ruler, or “god” of this world (Genesis 1:26). Satan lied to Eve and told her that she could become like God, but she already was, for they were created in God’s image (Genesis 1:27, 3:5). She believed the lie, and Adam went along with it. God had given Adam authority, but he gave what God gave him over it to the devil through disobedience, and because of this, Satan became the “god of this world” (II Corinthians 4:4).

Jesus destroyed Satan’s power and stripped him of his authority when He went to the cross and rose again, and gave authority to every believer (Hebrews 2:14). He gave us authority over sin, and over the devil and all of his works. We have been redeemed from sickness and disease, destruction and calamity, premature death and poverty, if we only believe and act on what God has said in His Word.

Religion has taught that we have “no guarantee of tomorrow,” but this is part of the curse, not the blessing of Abraham (Galatians 3:13-14), and is only true for the unbeliever, not the believer. We have surety of long life (Deuteronomy 28:66, Psalm 91:16). We must know our rights, or Satan will take advantage of our ignorance.

Satan is not a law-abiding spirit, and he will continue to cause trouble unless he is apprehended by a born-again believer through faith, standing steadfast on the Word of God. It is upon the rock of the revelation of Jesus Christ, the living Word of God, that the gates of hell will not prevail against, not religious tradition (Matthew 16:13-18).

Religious traditions come in many different forms. For example, the devil would rather have us kissing a Bible rather than reading it. He would rather have us saying nice, dinner and bedtime prayers that make everyone feel good, rather than speaking the Word of God in faith. He would rather have us believing that something is “just the will of God,” and therefore doing nothing about it, rather than believing the truth and standing firm on the promises of God.

“Well Brother Tom, are you preaching that we should never have any problems and float through life on a bed of ease?” The truth is, if you live by faith, you’ll have more attacks and problems then you have ever had in your life because Satan will attempt to discourage you and cause you to quit. He will seek to steal the Word of God out of your heart in order to cause you to become unfruitful (Mark 4:14-20). But in all of these things we are more than conquerors! (Romans 8:37) A person who lives by faith will overcome and be victorious over every attack, problem and opposition (Psalms 34:19, Revelation 3:5, 12, 21).

Religious tradition has been around for a long time; in fact, it was alive and well back in Jesus’ time, and He had much to say about it. It was so prevalent in His hometown that He, Jesus the Son of God, could do no mighty work! (Mark 6:4-16) It doesn’t say He wouldn’t, it says He couldn’t! Jesus had compassion on the sinner but had no mercy for those who were religious. Religious spirits are the worst kind of evil, for they appear righteous before men but their hearts are far from God. For this reason they are dangerous, because men do not discern their treachery (Matthew 23:27).

God desires to reveal the fullness of His glory to His people, and He wants us to live victoriously and whole. Religious traditions can deeply frustrate this desire (Galatians 2:21). He desires us to know Him and be free from every satanic bondage and oppression; to serve Him without fear all the days of our lives (Luke 1:74-75). But we must know, believe, speak and act on what God has actually said in order for His promises to manifest in our lives (Romans 5:2).

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Honoring the King

“A son honoureth his father, and a servant his master: if then I be a father, where is mine honour? and if I be a master, where is my fear…?” (Malachi 1:6)

There is something that has been on my heart as I travel to different places and have the opportunity to visit various churches and places of worship. It appears that, in our zealousness to free ourselves from religious bondage, we have become so “free” that we have forgotten who we are and why God gave us the freedom that He has given us.

Eli was God’s leader in Israel at the time of the Prophet Samuel’s birth, and God judged him severely for his casualness toward the things of God. In fact, the judgment was so severe that there would be no forgiveness for Eli or his descendants forever (I Samuel 3:14). What was it that provoked God to such a degree? It was because there was no respect for the holy things that God had entrusted to him. Eli was more concerned with what other people thought, specifically his sons, then what God thought (I Samuel 2:29). He was gluttonous and lazy, and had no backbone to stand up and confront disorder in his camp.

Today, as you walk into churches, you will find church leaders dressed in blue jeans on Sunday morning with their feet propped up on chairs, men with earrings and jewelry sticking out of their faces, and carnal and unclean spirits all over everything. Coffee and food is served, and then brought into the sanctuary while the service is going on (I Corinthians 11:22, 34). If a pastor dare confront these things, he is immediately accused of being “religious,” or “legalistic.”

My friend, listen to me carefully, honoring the things of God and the office of God is not being religious. It is demonstrating a heart condition, just as we would present ourselves honorable before a head of state (Malachi 1:8).

The believers at Corinth were one of the “freest” groups of Christians in the New Testament, but was God well pleased with their freedom? “After all, it’s really just bread and wine; if you’re hungry just fill up on the communion bread, and if you’re thirsty, fill up on the wine!” “David ate the showbread when he was hungry so don’t be legalistic!” (Mark 2:25-26) Well, they did eat all right, and they drank till they were drunken, but did God commend them?” No, many of them died and others were sick; they brought a curse upon themselves for disrespecting the things of God (I Corinthians 11:30).

There’s nothing wrong with wearing blue jeans to church if that’s the best you have, but when it’s in the power of our hand to offer God our best, and we’re just too lazy or cheap, then we are giving Him a corrupt offering which He will reject (Genesis 4:4-5, Malachi 1:7, 14).

Honor is not something that we simply carry around in our hearts, but rather it is demonstrated by the things that we say and do. There’s more honor and respect for God in some of the churches that we condemn than there is in many of our own “Spirit-filled” churches. There’s an old saying that “If you get a Catholic born again, he’ll be the most faithful one in the church!” There is an element of truth to this statement, because as much as mainline denominations are ridiculed for being “religious” and “legalistic,” they are also taught to honor the things of God. They may not understand why, but they know you’re supposed to respect it. There’s a holy fear when many of them walk into their churches.

God will judge us much harsher because we have been given much, and to him whom much is given, much shall be required (Luke 12:48). We have tasted the good Word of God and the powers of the world to come, and yet at times we handle these things carelessly (Hebrews 6:5, Jeremiah 48:10). Am I suggesting that we condemn the man that comes into the church with long hair, blue jeans and earrings? No, absolutely not, for God has received him. However, after a year or so, and he has matured and been accepted on the usher team, then it may be time for him to put away certain worldly things, and time for church leadership to help lead him in this direction.

Many of the things we now deem “legalistic” are still very important to God when done with the right heart. Setting aside a day of worship unto the Lord, tithing and giving offerings, the way we dress and carry ourselves and the length of our hair for men; these things speak volumes to others, and they also reveal the condition of our hearts. God says, “Them that honor me, I will honor…” (I Samuel 2:30)

It is important to remember that God has given us liberty as a blessing to us, and to serve others, not as an occasion to the flesh (Galatians 5:13). This is also true of our nation, the United States of America. God gave us liberty and made us strong so that we could bless Israel and preach the gospel throughout all the nations of the world, and be an example to other nations. He didn’t give us freedom so that we could consume it upon the lusts of our flesh and neglect the very purpose that he gave it to us for.

God has called us to holiness, to be set apart for Him. He is a jealous God and wants our very best (Deuteronomy 4:24, Malachi 1:14). I feel compelled to mention that God is not looking for the best, but He is looking for our best; if we give Him our best, He will make up whatever may be lacking through grace and mercy.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Power from Heaven

“But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)

One of the subjects that have brought much contention to the body of Christ is the Baptism of the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in other tongues. This is intriguing because scripture is rather clear on the issue. However, I have discovered over the years that deception in this area is rampant in the body of Christ.

The early church had no such issues as to whether the baptism in the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in other tongues was a valid thing for every born-again believer. Much of the Apostle Paul’s admonitions to the churches were in regard to the use and operation of spiritual gifts, not the validity of their existence or availability.

The baptism of the Holy Spirit or “infilling” has been thought of as an optional, “additional” experience subsequent to salvation that God desires His people to have. However, being filled with the Spirit and speaking in other tongues is not a suggestion, but rather a commandment (Acts 1:4, Luke 24:49, Ephesians 5:18-19, Jude 1:20, Ephesians 6:18). God has not given us a choice in the matter, but rather this thinking is a position that many of us have assumed as a result of religious teaching and ideas that have no true scriptural foundation. In fact, God strongly condemns those that would oppose the working of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 12:24-32, I Thessalonians 5:19).

“Well, Brother Tom, I am filled with the Spirit!” “I feel the Holy Spirit working in my life all the time; I don’t need tongues!” If this is your position, then I would have to ask you, when did you become an authority on what you need? God spoke to Job out of the whirlwind… “Who is this that darkeneth counsel with words without knowledge?” “Gird up your loins like a man, and I will demand of you!” “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?” “Declare if you have understanding!” “Do you know the ordinances of heaven?” “Can you set the dominion thereof in the earth?” (Job 38:1-41). Do you know all these things? If your answer is no to these questions, then you need to speak in tongues so the Holy Spirit can pray through you the things that He knows and you don’t! (Romans 8:26-27)

The Apostle Paul had multiple visions from the Lord (II Corinthians 12:1-6); he was caught up to heaven, and yet he declared, “I speak in tongues more than you all!” (I Corinthians 14:18) Even with the degree of revelation that He had received from God, Paul still didn’t know how to pray as he ought (Romans 8:26). A person who rejects speaking in tongues frustrates the Holy Spirit because God cannot do what He wants to do in their life, nor can He accomplish what he wants to do through that person in regard to other believers, the church, and those around them.

God commands every believer to put on the whole armor of God, which includes praying in the Spirit (Ephesians 6:18). We are also admonished to pray in the Spirit for other believers, and if we are not doing this, we are not operating in the perfect will of God, it’s really that simple. Do we always know what is going on in the lives and hearts of others? How can we pray effectively and obey this command without speaking in tongues?

“Well, my pastor doesn’t believe in that!” But God is not asking you what your pastor believes; He wants to know what you believe! (Matthew 16:15) “But what would my family say?” Jesus said, “He that loves father or mother, son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me” (Matthew 10:37). Brother Tom, are you saying that if I don’t pray in tongues that I’m going to hell?

Well, I suppose it would depend on why you don’t speak in tongues. If we reject the Holy Spirit in order to please men rather than obey God, and only obey the parts of the Bible that are convenient to us and those around us, then we will have to give an account for this. Teachers and leaders will be judged by an even stricter standard (James 3:1), and if a person continues to teach and preach false doctrine after he knows better, then he stands condemned (Titus 3:10-11, Galatians 1:6-9).

Satan has gone to extremes in order to keep people in ignorance, fear, and unbelief in this area. The reason is simple; Jesus said, “You shall be endued with power from on high!” (Luke 24:49, Acts 1:8) Does Satan want us to have power? NO! This miracle-working power will destroy the devil’s operations and interfere with his ability to dominate and control our lives and the lives of others around us. Of course he doesn’t like this, and he also knows that praying in tongues is a portal into other spiritual things that come out of heaven, such as the gifts of the Spirit.

When we pray in the Spirit, it’s like charging a battery, and likewise, being “filled” with the spirit is not a one-time event (Jude 1:20), any more than filling the gas tank in our car is a one-time event. We not only charge ourselves so that we are filled with power, but we pray mysteries and secrets (I Corinthians 14:2), the perfect will of God into the earth. Satan cannot understand what we are saying, and therefore his ability to hinder and launch counterattacks is limited. Furthermore, the Holy Spirit has never prayed a prayer of unbelief, nor has He ever prayed selfishly. In other words, everything He prays comes to pass.

I was recently reading a book written by another believer in which he shared the testimony of a man that God had miraculously healed in a church service. The man had been crippled for many years, but he had heard about the power of God that had operated at a certain Pentecostal church. He had also been warned about these “tongue-talkers” by his pastor. Well, he decided to go anyway, and during the service came forward for prayer. The power of God came upon him and he was miraculously healed.

He was so happy, of course, that he went around telling everyone about it; he even went to his pastor, and said, “Pastor, I thought you told me that this couldn’t happen!” “I thought you told me that these tongue-talkers were a fraud!” “But look at me, I’m healed!” But the pastor replied, “That’s right, it can’t happen; the devil healed you!” Then his pastor sat him down, and within a couple of hours had him convinced that he had been deceived, and that he needed to repent of allowing the devil to “heal” him. Sadly, the man “repented,” and within a couple days the man was crippled again, but he was worse than he had ever been. The minister who had written the book said that he had seen him years later, living on the street, a crippled mess. Did God punish him? NO! The man opened the door to the devil through unbelief, and left God “standing outside;” this man believed the lie of the devil. In fact, Jesus said that when an evil spirit leaves a man, he will seek re-entrance, and if it is granted, he will take seven more spirits more wicked than himself and the last state of that man will be worse than it was in the beginning (Luke 11:24-26).

Satan will whisper to believers, “Tongues have passed away,” or, “It’s not for every born-again believer,” or that tongues come from him. He employs the same tactic with healing, “Sure, God heals, but it’s not His will to heal you!” I’ve never met a person that prayed in tongues that believed that it was not for every believer. All those that believe this are the ones that don’t speak with tongues.

If you are reading this today, and you are not filled with the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in other tongues, pleased do not let this message offend you. Instead, allow it to ignite new hope on the inside of you, an excitement and anticipation of what lies ahead, that there is something more that God wants to give you!

It is certain that God will withhold no good thing from them who walk uprightly (Psalms 84:11). The ability to pray and speak in tongues opens up a whole new dimension of intimacy with God that would never be possible without it. We must be wise and understanding regarding the will of the Lord, and not to be fooled by the devil (Ephesians 5:17).

Thursday, June 9, 2011

The True Gospel

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth…” (Romans 1:16)

What is the gospel? It has been many things to many people down through the ages. It has been the basis for religious denominations, churches, theological debates, and a set of “rules” that must be followed in order to “please” God and get to heaven. In fact, much of the time it has become something that God never intended it to become.

God’s intent in sending Jesus was to break the curse of sin and bring freedom and deliverance to the captive, and to give us access to His Kingdom. It is the “good news” of our salvation; salvation and freedom from every work of the enemy (I John 3:8, Galatians 1:4). If this were not the case, then what are we preaching? What is the purpose, if there is no true power?

God is opposed to bondage, hardship and suffering; if this were not the case, then He would have these things waiting for us in heaven. “Well, Brother Tom, are you saying that there is no suffering involved in living for Jesus Christ?” Listen, we must first understand what Biblical suffering is, and what it is not, otherwise we can be deceived by religious spirits that are sent to steal our God-ordained destinies.

There is a “martyr” syndrome which is an insidious form of the pride that is at the root of religious control and bondage. Jesus warned us about the subtlety of this spirit which was the driving force behind the Pharisees and Sadducees (Matthew 16:6, Colossians 2:18).

A person under the influence of this spirit will blaspheme and not even realize it; they will blame God for the trouble and destruction that comes into their lives as a result of demonic attack, disobedience, fear or unbelief. After all, if God “allowed” it to “teach them something,” then it absolves them of all personal responsibility, and makes a way for the devil to continue to operate covertly, unchallenged. These attitudes serve no other purpose other than to draw attention to the “sufferer,” and away from the Lord (Philippians 3:19, Colossians 2:18). So what then is biblical suffering? (I Peter 4:9)

After the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941, our President and Congress declared war against the nation of Japan. Why? Because our nation and our way of life had been attacked. Our Declaration of Independence declares that we have been endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights; among these are “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” This is the stance of our government (at least that of our founders), yet our government sent approximately sixteen million of its people to fight in a brutal war that claimed the lives of almost half a million American soldiers. Of those that fought, many were captured, killed and tortured as prisoners of war, and many are still missing without explanation. Is this the will of our government, or the American people? No, of course not! It is a consequence and fact of war; of battle against mortal enemies that seek to destroy us.

The mission of our soldiers was not to “suffer,” but rather to take and defend territories, and to accomplish their mission. During World War II, there were strategic assignments that were crucial to the security of our nation and that of our allies, and there was a price to pay for executing these missions. War is difficult, and there are casualties, but there are also awards and medals given for exceptional service and valor, but cowards and traitors are court martialed, and then shot or imprisoned (Revelation 21:8). Our eternal God is no less righteous than our government. The will of God is that we live a “quiet and peaceable life” (I Timothy 2:2-3), just as it is for a righteous nation to live at peace; howbeit this is not always possible.

We have a responsibility in this life to be a soldier (II Timothy 2:3-4), and because we are in a (spiritual) battle, there will be hardships and difficulties; there is a mission that must be accomplished, but in knowing the will and character of our Commander, we will not be fooled by the enemy. In regard to our natural government, the Code of the United States Fighting Force states, “If I am captured I will continue to resist by all means available. I will make every effort to escape and aid others to escape.” This is also the will of God for His army; we are never to allow the devil to gain even one inch of territory, but are to resist him steadfastly in the faith (I Peter 5:9). God has, as a natural commander would also, one primary objective; total and absolute victory.

God has given us exceeding great and precious promises (II Peter 1:4), but they are realized in our lives only by faith. It is Satan’s objective to bring deception and religious doctrine in order to make the Word of God of none effect; in other words, cause it to be without effect (power) in our lives (Mark 7:13). It is his objective to cause us to either doubt God’s promises, or to be ignorant of them altogether (Hosea 4:6).

Satan’s lies can be very subtle, especially where religious ideas and doctrine are concerned, and our churches are full of them. For example, well-meaning preachers have stood up and declared, “We have no guarantee of tomorrow!” But barring the return of the Lord, having “no assurance of our lives” is part of the curse (Deuteronomy 28:66), but many have not known that. We have been redeemed from the curse of the law by the blood of Jesus Christ! (Galatians 3:10, 13) This lack of assurance applies only to the unbeliever, who is under the dominion of Satan (John 8:44, II Timothy 2:26). God has promised us long life! (Psalms 90:10, 91:16, Nehemiah 8:10)

We have been redeemed from sickness and disease, poverty and destruction, and furthermore, there are no such things as “accidents.” “Accidents” are created by the devil in order to steal, and to kill and destroy, and there must be an opening (Proverbs 26:2, Hosea 4:6). “Well I don’t believe that!” But listen, Jesus is our example! He gave us an example so that we can walk as He walked. He never had a Camel accident! He was never sick! He never went hungry or went without clothing and basic necessities. “Well what about the Apostle Paul?” “He was shipwrecked, and…?” That’s right, and these were not accidents, but a result of aggressive, demonic attacks launched against him to steal the revelation that God had given him, and to stop his ministry (II Corinthians 12:7, 11:23-29). But God delivered him out of them all (II Timothy 3:11, 4:18, Psalms 34:19).

This indeed is the gospel, the good news of our redemption; eternal life, deliverance for the captive, the opening of the prison to them that are bound, and healing and restoration for the brokenhearted (Isaiah 61:1-2, Luke 4:18-19).

Monday, May 2, 2011

The Friend of God

“And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God.” (James 2:23)

Abraham was called the friend of God. This indeed is an amazing thing that the Creator of the heavens and the earth would consider a man as His friend; but Abraham was not the only friend that God had in the Old Testament.

Apparently God had a specific time of the day in which He would visit with Adam (Genesis 3:8, Psalms 8:4, Hebrews 2:6), no doubt sharing and discussing the secrets of the universe and teaching him about His Creation (Genesis 3:8). “What do you think, Adam?” “What should we call these creatures that I have created?” “I have created you in my image and in my likeness!” “Tell me, what shall we call these animals? (Genesis 2:19-20)

Adam was a friend of God, and that’s why the devil targeted him so aggressively; he knew that the man and woman whom God had created were precious to the heart of God, but he also knew that God had given them ruling authority. This fact infuriated the devil, filling him with envious rage; he would stop at nothing until he took what belonged to them and became the “god of this world” (II Corinthians 4:4). Well, most of us know the rest of the story; Satan deceived the woman, and Adam, who was standing there next to her, hearkened to the voice of his wife instead of obeying God (Genesis 3:6, I Timothy 2:14).

We have been taught that God was angry, but it was not so; the voice of God cried out in the cool of the day for the man that He had created; “Where art thou Adam, my friend?” “My heart longs for our fellowship!” “What did you do?” (Genesis 3:9) Of course God knew what they had done and where they were hiding; He wasn’t asking because He couldn’t find them, He was crying out to them because the man that had been His friend was now (spiritually) dead (Genesis 2:17). God’s heart cry continued to echo down through the ages, through all of His holy prophets, speaking of a time of restoration when true fellowship would once again be restored (Acts 3:21). We are privileged to be now living in that time.

God takes His relationship with His friends very seriously. In fact, He valued His relationship with Abraham to such a degree that He consulted with him on one of His major decisions (Genesis 18:17-19, 23-33). Why did God share such intimate things with Abraham? Because He was a prophet? (Genesis 20:7) No, God didn’t share these things with him because he was a prophet, but rather because Abraham was His friend. Friends share intimate things with one another, but prophets are not always friends. There were prophets in the Old Testament that were anything but friends of God (I Samuel 10:11, II Peter 2:15), and so it is today (Matthew 7:22-23).

The Apostle Paul also understood that with friendship comes responsibility and accountability, and he admonished the Corinthian church because they were unwilling to pass judgments pertaining to the affairs of this life (I Corinthians 6:1-4). Paul knew that, as sons and daughters of God, they had been given authority to execute righteous judgment and make decrees (John 20:21-23, Job 22:28, Mark 11:23, Romans 4:17), and that God would back these decrees that were in line with His will.

Paul walked in such intimate fellowship with the Lord that there were times when God gave no commandment concerning his instruction to the church. But rather gave Paul liberty to pass judgment himself, as one that had been found faithful to act as His ambassador (I Corinthians 7:6, 25). Paul was so yielded to the Spirit of God that his decisions were, in essence God’s decisions, and God’s decisions were his decisions; these judgments and decrees of Paul were not by commandment, but rather permission (I Corinthians 2:16), and yet they became scripture.

“Whoa, Brother Tom, are you saying that we can write scripture?” No, but we can make judgments pertaining to the affairs of this life in our specific realm of authority. What is your God-given realm of authority? Are you a pastor? A father and husband? A business owner or employee? An apostle or prophet?

Jesus knew His purpose and the boundaries of His authority because He was not only God the Son and the Son of Man, but He was also a friend of God; He obeyed the Father because He loved Him and spent many hours communing with Him, and knew His heart in matters.

Jesus died and rose again so that we could have the same opportunity that He had while he was on the earth; the same opportunity to walk in oneness with the Father, and to bear much fruit in His name. In fact, Jesus Himself told us that the mighty works that He did, we would do even greater because He was going to the Father, and we were to remain, in His stead; in His authority (John 14:12). We have indeed been privileged to be called the sons and daughters of God (John 1:12).

Monday, January 24, 2011

Leaven of the Pharisees

“…Beware ye of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.” (Luke 12:1)

I read a statement this week by another believer concerning a minister that had fallen into sin, but has since repented, and God is restoring him. This believer said, “The attitude we have toward this man (the minister) reveals something about our own walk with the Lord.”

How true this is, for if we truly know God, we will also understand His ways (Exodus 33:13, 34:6-7). His ways are mercy, truth, compassion, forgiveness and restoration. “Well, Brother Tom, God might forgive, but that doesn’t mean a minister that sins should continue to minister!” My friend, when God restores, He restores! It’s people that don’t restore, forgive and forget.

The most dangerous and repulsive thing in the eyes of God is the religious spirit; the spirit of the Pharisees, Scribes and Sadducees. Jesus Himself warned us of this monstrosity, exhorting us to beware of hypocrisy. But what is a hypocrite? Hypocrisy is a condition of the heart; it is someone that professes to be something, when in reality, they are something else. But let me explain what it is not; it is not a person that has struggled, or is struggling in an area of their life, but yet loves God and is endeavoring to overcome the weakness.

There are many people that love God that stay away from our churches in mass quantity because of the religious people that are in them! Drunks hang out in bars and religious people hang out in churches! So you can go to either place and get beat up! This ought not to be so my brothers and sisters.

Religious spirits hate those that are spiritual because they cannot control them. A religious spirit is all about control; they want control and they want preeminence (III John 1:9). A spiritual person (One who is led by the Spirit of God) that will step outside of man-ordained boundaries to pursue after the will of God will become their targets.

If we understand the ways of God, we will be able to discern correctly and judge righteously. Yes, we are to judge (discern) the fruit of others, and we’re to judge prophecies and those that labor in our midst (For how else are we to drive out wolves that come to destroy the flock?) (I Corinthians 14:29, I Thessalonians 5:12) But this instruction and command is for those that are spiritual, not religious (I Corinthians 2:15, Galatians 6:1) When Jesus told us to “Judge not,” (Luke 6:37) He was not telling us that we shouldn’t discern; He was telling us not to condemn; there is a difference! Religious people condemn others while excusing their own ungodly behavior; they are always looking at everyone else’s faults, but they refuse to look inward. They are gossipers and backbiters, and it’s no wonder that sinners off the streets are apprehensive to walk through our doors; the prostitute feels safer on the streets of Los Angeles, than in the ladies Sunday morning “Bible study!” I don’t blame them, I would too!

My wife told me that, when she was young, a woman evangelist came to their church and preached a message of truth on a Sunday morning. That evening only one fourth of the people returned! She cleaned out the church! The church leaders were living in adultery and fornication, drunkenness, and all manner of sin, pride, disobedience and rebellion against God’s Word, yet they ran her mother out of the church because she got filled with the Holy Spirit and prayed in tongues!

We are warned that many that call Jesus, “Lord,” will be denied entrance into the Kingdom of God. Scripture tells us that these people will not expect this, and in fact, will be taken by surprise; they will be expecting Jesus to applaud their “good works,” but instead will hear something else (Matthew 7:21-23, 22:11-13). They will be shocked when they hear their condemnation at the lips of Jesus because they had no relationship with God, but were in fact religious, hypocrites. The sinner on the street knows that he or she is a sinner, and most wouldn’t step foot in a church for shame, but those that are religious believe that they are alright with God, when in fact, they are not (Matthew 18:9-14).

How do we avoid the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees? We allow the grace of God to work in our hearts (Hebrews 13:9); it is in knowing God through intimate relationship that we can do and be all that he desires for us to become. The Pharisees used the scriptures to condemn others, and it is no different today (John 8:5-6). They pound their Bibles and scream “homosexuality is sin!” But never mention the delivering power of God, and how God so loved them that He sent His Son that they can be free! (John 3:16) You hear them praying that God would send doctors and lawyers to their churches (For the offerings, no doubt), but how often the drunkards, the ex-convicts, prostitutes, homosexuals, pedophiles and murderers? Our prayer should be, “God, send us your worst!”

“Oh, Brother Tom, we don’t want pedophiles in our churches!” I didn’t say that you had to put them in charge of Sunday school! But do you believe in the power of God? This is what Jesus told us to do! (Luke 14:23) We ignore this part of the Bible, and then point our fingers at the denominational church across the street because they “call their ministers ‘Father,’ and scripture condemns this!” (Catholic priests) (Matthew 23:9) Well, what about the other things that “scripture condemns?” Like condemning the guiltless? (Matthew 12:7) This is hypocrisy, my friend. “Well, do we just excuse people’s sin?” “How do we know the difference?” There are no formulas; it is through relationship; God will take us to His Word, and give us that which is appropriate for each unique situation (Those things that are our business, that is) (John 21:21-22).