Monday, August 30, 2010

Recovering the Lost Gift of True Friendship

J. Lee Grady

Last week one of my best friends showed me what it really means to selflessly lay down your life.

Last week one of my best friends, Chris Maxwell, organized a two-day prayer gathering for me in north Georgia, where he serves as the pastor of a Christian college. Chris had listened to me whine for months about how confused I was about my future. He took it upon himself to contact a group of my friends, and they agreed to take time off work to pray with me about some important decisions.

Chris not only gathered nine men for this prayer retreat, but he also solicited counsel from other friends who couldn't attend, and from my wife. When I sat down in that living room on the first night, they put me under a microscope and proceeded to meddle in all my business. It was 48 hours of probing questions, wise counsel, sober warnings, gushing encouragement, brotherly affection and in-your-face honesty.

"True friends pray for each other. The prophet Samuel even wrote: 'Far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by ceasing to pray for you' (1 Sam. 12:23)."

Uncomfortable? Definitely. Embarrassing? At times. Humbling? Totally. But the pain was worth what I gained in the end.

One of the main things I gained was a renewed understanding of how important true friendship is. In this day of unprecedented social isolation (when many pastors admit they have no one to talk to) and in this season of tragic moral failure (when church leaders wait too late before they expose their weaknesses to anyone) I have learned that we cannot survive long without godly relationships. Here are three qualities we must reclaim:

1. True friendship requires sacrifice. I was blown away that nine guys from four states would take time out of their busy schedules to pray for me. One guy drove all the way from Pennsylvania; two others drove more than seven hours. When we were finished, several of the guys expressed amazement that Chris went to so much trouble. "Lee is so blessed to have a friend like you," one of them said.

Real friends do extravagant things to show their love. They don't just do what is expected—they go the second mile. Real friendship always cuts against the grain of selfishness. Jesus told his closest friends: "Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends" (John 15:13, NASB). A few hours after He said that, He was arrested, beaten and nailed to a cross.

2. True friendship requires transparency. Jonathan and David are models of friendship because they didn't allow their positions, titles or ambitions to separate them. Even though Jonathan was Saul's son, and the rightful heir to the throne, he recognized the call of God on his friend David and set aside his own agenda.

The Bible says in 1 Samuel 18:3-4: "Then Jonathan made a covenant with David because he loved him as himself. Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that was on him and gave it to David, with his armor, including his sword and his bow and his belt." Jonathan wasn't going through an airport security check; he took off his outer garment and weapons because these things represented his future status as a warrior king. He was signifying to David: "I'm putting you first." The same humility is required of us if we want genuine friendships.

At one point during our prayer retreat last week, the guys took turns sharing their most serious prayer concerns. Before we went around the circle we pledged not to divulge anyone's secrets. Then, with full confidence that no one was going to condemn anyone, we took our body armor off, let our force fields down and spilled our guts.

It wasn't long before the tears began to flow. I don't know if you've ever seen a group of grown men crying—but I can tell you it is one of the most beautiful sights on earth. One guy unashamedly offered a box of Kleenex to those who couldn't keep their emotions under control. We weren't worried about looking weak. We knew the Father was pleased that a group of guys had discovered that true manhood is about vulnerability, not about acting tough.

3. True friendship requires prayer. Ever since I became friends with Chris Maxwell in the late 1990s he has prayed for me faithfully. Often I get a simple text message from him that says: "PRAYING FOR YOU." It reminds me of the heart of the apostle Paul, who wrote to his spiritual son Timothy: "I thank God, whom I serve with a clear conscience the way my forefathers did, as I constantly remember you in my prayers night and day" (2 Tim. 1:3).

It might be safe to say that our love for our friends and family can be measured by our prayers for them. True friends pray for each other. The prophet Samuel even wrote: "Far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by ceasing to pray for you" (1 Sam. 12:23).

Few of us would make an appointment with a friend for coffee and then nonchalantly forget to show up. But how many of us have told a friend, "I'll pray for you," and then forgotten to breathe one word of prayer for him or her? I've recently gone back to using a written list to help me remember my friends' prayer needs, and to record answers.

My life was changed last week because some friends cared enough about me to get in my face, hold my feet to the fire and offer biblical encouragement and counsel. If you don't have friends like that in your life, I pray you will find them soon. And more importantly, I pray you will be that kind of a friend to someone else.

J. Lee Grady is contributing editor of Charisma and author of the new book The Holy Spirit Is Not for Sale. Follow him on Twitter at leegrady.

Six New Testament Words You Need in Your Vocabulary

J. Lee Grady

We've dumbed down the gospel for too long. Let's rediscover the Bible and become mature disciples.

I love words. That's why I do a crossword puzzle every day—not just because it is the mental equivalent of a three-mile bicycle ride, but also because I enjoy discovering that a word such as "coulrophobia" means a fear of clowns, or that "jobbernowl" means a stupid person.

Words are especially important to us as Christians, not only because Jesus is the logos—the word made flesh (see John 1:14)—but because our faith rests on the truth revealed by God in the Bible. We can't really know Him apart from the God-inspired words that describe who He is and what He has done for us.

"Countless martyrs died so that we could have the Bible, yet today we are forgetting it. I urge you to rediscover the timeless truths of Scripture."

Sadly, however, we are losing our biblical vocabulary. Many Christians don't read the Bible consistently, and many church leaders assume that basic theology is optional for discipleship. Meanwhile many of us charismatics often will choose Holy Ghost goose bumps and flash-in-the-pan miracle services instead of an hour of sound doctrine.

We are like the Corinthians, whom Paul said were "infants in Christ," stuck on milk because they couldn't handle solid spiritual food (see 1 Cor. 3:1-2). In this day of watered-down, dumbed-down faith, God is calling us to reclaim the genuine apostolic gospel and the words that frame it. I encourage you to make sure these words are part of your vocabulary:

Justification. Paul uses forms of this Greek word dikaioo 27 times in the New Testament. It means "to declare to be righteous." It is sometimes translated "to free," "to acquit" and "to vindicate." It describes what happened to you when you put your faith in Jesus as your Savior: In the courtroom of heaven, God declared "Not guilty!" over you! Are you walking in full awareness of this awesome revelation? Romans 5:9 promises: "Having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him (NASB)."

Redemption. We miss the meaning of this word apolytrōsis today because we don't have public slave markets. But in ancient times, a slave could be liberated from bondage when a wealthy person paid a hefty fee. Redemption means "released from slavery by the payment of a ransom." This is what Christ achieved for us when He died on the cross! Ephesians 1:7 says, "In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses."

Propitiation. This is certainly not a word we use in everyday conversation, since we have no cultural concept of making sacrifices for sins. This word, hilasmos, is packed with meaning—and speaks of a sacrifice that covers sin and satisfies the demands of a holy God. When Jesus died for us, He removed our guilt by transferring it to Himself. 1 John 2:2 says: "He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world."

Sanctification. This word, hagiasmos, is sometimes translated "holiness." It signifies separation unto God (not self-righteous separation from people) and separation from evil things and ways. It is the work of the indwelling Holy Spirit, who purges us continually as we offer our lives in consecration and devotion. The Bible also says sanctification is not optional: "Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord" (Heb. 12:14). In this season when our culture is redefining morality, this is not a word we should ignore.

Judgment. We live in a permissive culture, and any talk of final judgment is considered socially insensitive. Yet this inflammatory word was used by Jesus Himself to speak of the final destiny of sinners who reject Him. Jesus was certainly not politically correct when He said in John 5:24: "He who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment." Meanwhile the author of Hebrews reminds us: "It is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment" (9:27). The Greek word, krisis, means "a sentence of condemnation, damnatory judgment, condemnation and punishment." If we believed God's final judgment was a reality, it would certainly alter the way we interact with unbelievers.

Grace. There is a reason the hymn writer called grace "amazing." This word is almost impossible to define. According to Strong's Lexicon, the Greek word charis means not only (1) the goodness and favor of God, and (2) the kindness by which God exerts His holy influence upon us, but also (3) "the spiritual condition of one governed by the power of divine grace." Grace is not just God's unmerited favor, but also what it does to us and through us. This is implied when Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:10: "But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me."

Countless martyrs died so that we could have the Bible, yet today we are forgetting it. I urge you to rediscover the timeless truths of Scripture and expand your vocabulary. By the power of His grace, you will become a living demonstration of these words to everyone around you.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Consider Jesus– in the Avoidance of Offence

Octavius Winslow, 1870

“Lest we should offend.” –Matt. 17:27

How truly was our Lord Jesus ‘harmless’ because He was ‘undefiled.’ In Him was no sin. That His Gospel should have been an offence to the scribes and Pharisees, and that His cross was an offence to the world, is no marvel. It was so then, it is so now, and it will be so to the end. But our Lord never, in any one instance, gave NEEDLESS offence. His heart was too tender, His disposition too kind, His nature too holy, maliciously and thoughtlessly to wound the feelings or offend the ‘innocent sentiments’ of others. Maligned by His enemies, misunderstood and neglected by His friends, yet on no occasion did He retort, revile, or wound; but, with the harmlessness of the dove and the innocence of the lamb. He opened not His mouth. Let us learn of Him in this holy feature of His character, study it closely, and imitate it faithfully.

A desire to avoid offence does not demand a compromise of our Christian faith or profession. On no occasion did it in the life of Jesus. When He might have avoided a snare, or warded off a thrust, or escaped a wound by concession, conciliation, or compromise, He stood firm to His own truth and His Father’s honor, unswerving and unswerved–and yet the “sword” with which He fenced and foiled His foes was, “bathed in heaven” (Isa. 34:5). Thus, O my soul! learn of Him. Let this be your guiding precept, as it was Christ’s, “speaking the truth in love.” Offences will come. For, since “the offence of the cross is not ceased,” we cannot maintain its great distinctive and essential doctrines purely, faithfully, manfully, and not evoke animosity against us; nor the hostility and offence of the world.

And yet the Christian law, “giving no offence, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the Church of God,” is unrepealed; and the Christian precept, “that you may live pure and BLAMELESS lives until Christ returns” is still binding upon all true followers of the meek and harmless Savior. “The mind that was in Christ Jesus,” dwelling in us, will lead us to respect the convictions, to be tender towards the feelings, and to be charitable towards the infirmities, and to honor the consciences of other Christians differing from us in things not essential to salvation. “It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor anything whereby your brother stumbles, or is offended, or is made weak.”

“Lest we should offend.” What instructive words, O my soul, are these! How much evil in the world, dissension in the Christian Church, and alienation in families would be avoided and averted were the holy precept taught in these words of Jesus more fully observed. Let us, then, pray and watch against every least violation. Let us be careful of our words, our motives, and our actions, lest, wounding and offending one of Christ’s little ones, we offend and wound Christ Himself. Oh never give needless cause of offence to a weak believer, to a conscientious Christian, to a tried, tempted child of God–to one who, in his own way and sphere, is seeking to serve his Lord and Master. Let us deny ourselves any and every gratification, and allow any and every loss involving not disloyalty to Christ and compromise of His truth–rather than hurt the feelings, wound the conscience, or put a stumbling-block in the way of one who loves Jesus, and for whom the Savior died.

Oh, how seldom we remember, how faintly we recognize, the perfect ONENESS of Christ with His people! That it is utterly impossible to do an injury to, or confer a favor upon, a true believer in Jesus, and not be brought into personal contact with Jesus Himself–”He that touches you touches the apple of my eye.” “Inasmuch as you have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, you have done it unto me.” Lord, help me more and more clearly to see You in Your saints; and in conferring upon them a kindness, or in inflicting on them an injury, to see Jesus only!

Friday, August 27, 2010


Steven Dobbs (U.K.), 2005.

I received this from the Holy Spirit in early summer 2005. The Lord showed me that there is going to be a flood of deception* infiltrating much of the U.S church in the near future, (the gift of discernment of spirits is therefore going to become increasingly important). Why the Lord will allow these deceptions: I was extremely disheartened by this as the U.K receives a lot of help from some good U.S ministries and there are close links between these two nations.

The Spirit then ministered to me again and showed me that God was sovereign and that this was His will. I saw that although this increase in deception will test the Christians in the U.S.A. It will also filter the global church from the less reliable U.S teaching ministries and reduce their influence in the global body of Christ.

Many of the world’s largest and best known teaching ministries come from the U.S.A. I was shown that many were propagating poor, badly emphasized or erroneous teachings. The Lord showed me that He could not allow them to continue influencing the worldwide church as they are at present. This is because we will soon be entering into the end times and this season will test the faith of all of us. God therefore wants His people to be prepared for this with good teachings that have the same emphasis as found in the New Testament.

The filtering process: I was shown that the ministers that teach errors or a poor emphasis will also tend to have this reflected in their own walk with God. They will not therefore be rooted very deeply into the truth themselves even though many of them may be well known teachers or preachers. These people will thereforetend to be amongst those most open to this flood of deception. When exposed to such deception many of them will start to move in increased spiritual error and folly as a result. Many will get deceived as they fail to discern the difference between which spiritual phenomena are of the Lord and which are counterfeit and from the enemy. Their true spiritual maturity will then be revealed for all to see.

Many other Christians from around the world, those who are able to discern these things better, will then start to question the maturity and teachings of such ministries. They will start to look more closely at these teachings and notice the errors and wrong emphases that already exist, errors that they had not noticed before. People will then start to turn away from the worst teachers and listen instead to those who are teaching the full council of God in line with the whole of scripture. The overall level of teaching in the global body of Christ will improve as a result of this.

How this will realign ministries: The ministries which have the poorest levels of teaching will become less popular around the world as a result of this. Those teaching ministries that are the most mature and have the best quality teaching will become more popular than before. The overall quality of teaching ministries in the global body of Christ will therefore improve as a result of this filtering effect.

The “prosperity gospel”: God showed me that one of the main teachings that He is concerned about is that which has become known as the “prosperity gospel”. Although truths are taught within this I understood that errors and wrong emphases are taught as well. At present this teaching has a great deal of influence in the global body of Christ. This results in many believers around the world taking on board the errors and wrong emphases contained within it. I saw that the Lord does not want this situation to continue. We are heading into the end times in the near future and God wants us to be strong, built up with good, solid teachings that prepare us for the difficulties we are going to encounter and the sacrifices we may have to make to follow Christ.

A realigning of national churches at a global level: The Lord wants those national churches that are submitting the most to Him to have the greatest proportion of well known ministries at a global level. The Spirit showed me that at present the U.S.A is over-represented by such ministries. This filtering process will reduce the number of influential U.S ministries on the world stage. At the same time, other ministries from other nations will become more popular and will increase in influence as a result of this. The overall church of the U.S.A will also therefore lose some of its influence within the global body of Christ because of this filtering. The churches of some other nations, (those that have been submitting the most to Christ), will, however, see an increase in their influence in the global church.

This is God’s will and the global body of Christ will be strengthened as a result. The Lord wants the body of Christ to be led by, and follow the example of, the best international ministries. He also wants the global church to be influenced the most by those national churches that are submitting the most to Jesus.

The better ministries from the U.S.A: I was then shown a picture of a vessel of milk which had cream floating to the top of it. The interpretation was that as this filtering takes place, and the overall level of deception* increases in the U.S church, the better U.S ministries will then come to the forefront at a global level. I understood that many of these were presently only medium sized ministries because their popularity was presently overshadowed by some larger but poorer quality U.S ministries. I saw that many of these medium sized ministries already have a better walk with the Lord and that they would therefore be less likely to be influenced by the coming flood of deception. They will be seen to be mature as they discern and avoid these deceptions. In due course this will vindicate them and earn them respect from other believers from around the world. Their ministries will then become more popular and grow in influence because of this. I saw that some of them will then start to minister and preach at the highest levels on the world stage within the body of Christ in the future.

*I understand “deception” to mean all sorts of counterfeits of the Holy Spirit. These will include counterfeit moves of God’s power which will come from other spirits, from New Age/occult spirits,
counterfeit healings and miracles even, false teachings, false prophecies, counterfeit visions from the enemy, counterfeit experiences of heaven, fake appearances of Jesus and, please note, many counterfeit appearances of angels which will really be fallen angels come to deceive any believers who are open to them. Of course Christians can have such experiences genuinely from the Lord but there is also going to be an increase in these counterfeits as we move towards the end-times, as the enemy attempts to “deceive if possible even the elect”, (Matt 24;24).

*Concerning the U.S church, this increase in deception will have its entitlement at a national/ corporate level. We should not therefore see any deception as a judgement on individuals themselves. At a personal level some believers will be more exposed to these deceptions than others for reasons that are not necessarily their fault, e.g. if they happen to be in a church where the enemy is moving in a lot of deception. I believe, though, that those whose hearts are set to follow Christ will eventually come through any serious deception if they persevere in following the Lord and keep on submitting to Him.

At an international level, though, this wave of enemy deception will expose and reduce the global influence of the worst U.S ministries and will bring about the realignment of national churches and ministries that God desires. It will improve the quality of teaching and the quality of the most well known ministries at an international level. This is due to God’s sovereignty, and will strengthen the global body of Christ and prepare God’s people for the difficult years ahead.

-S. Dobbs, 30th Oct 2005.


Watchman Nee

THE sacrifice of Isaac is the believer’s deepest lesson. It puts to us very straightly the question, Is our hope and expectation still in God, or is it in God and the Isaac we are holding on to? Or, worse still, is our hope in our Isaac only? After all, only God can fulfil His own purpose. When I was without Isaac, I looked to God. With Isaac, I still look to God just the same.

Abraham had come not only into the land but into the heart of God. He had become God’s vessel, through whom God could do His work of recovery. This was no mere matter of justification by faith but of the man who was justified. God had secured the man He wanted.

Abraham’s experience is God’s standard in dealing with His people. Today God wants not only an Abraham but a corporate vessel. So Abraham’s experience must be that of each individual, not only as such but also as a member of one body. For us all, His purpose is that we should together be Abraham’s seed.

Ah, we may say, Abraham’s experience is wonderful, only I am no Abraham. In Genesis 22 Abraham shines. After all these years I’ve never shone! Abraham is God’s model vessel, certainly, but how can I ever arrive where Abraham did? God fulfilled His purpose in Abraham. Can He possibly do so in me?

Remember what we said at the beginning. God is not only the God of Abraham but also of Isaac and Jacob. This should serve to remind us at least that Abraham does not stand alone, complete and sufficient in himself as God’s vessel for the fulfilment of His purpose. Isaac and Jacob were also needed along with him. Moreover, if we are to take our part in that purpose, we must know not only the God of Abraham but also the God of Isaac and of Jacob. We must have the experience of these two also, and as we look at their experience we shall find our questions begin to be answered. Abraham is the standard, it is true, but between him and the kingdom of Israel there are these other two. The corporate vessel is secured through the witness of all three. When God is the God of Abraham, of Isaac and of Jacob, and when His people know Him as that, then the kingdom comes.

Abraham was the father par excellence. He had to learn to know God as Originator, but the peculiarity of God’s work upon him was that it made him original in more senses than one. He was a true forefather in that he was a pioneer. He was the first man in Scripture to forsake everything; to `cross over’ to Canaan and so be designated a Hebrew; to have intimate fellowship with God as man to man; to beget an heir at one hundred years of age; to reject his own natural son in favour -of God’s miraculous gift; and then to sacrifice that gift at God’s behest.

But if Abraham was the father, immediately we see Isaac as a figure of Christ the Son. No history so typifies Christ as does that of Isaac. Constituted the heir by divine promise, he was born, not after the flesh but after the spirit (Galatians 4: 29). Apart from Christ there was no other of whom this was said. Let us briefly recount some other ways in which Isaac may be a type of Christ. To Sarah, Isaac was Abraham’s only true son, the beloved (Hebrews 11. 17). Laid by his father on the altar, he was received back as from the dead to be to him the risen one. After Sarah herself died and her `age of grace’ was past, Isaac’s bride, a figure of the Church, was brought to him from a far country. Yet she came to him as the Church of God’s will, not brought in from without but born from within, for Rebekah and Isaac were of one blood, one family, as are Christ and His own. Moreover, Isaac really did occupy his inheritance. Abraham at one point went down into Egypt and Jacob returned to Mesopotamia, but Isaac was born, lived and died in Canaan. This is the Son who `is in heaven’, who never left His Father’s bosom.

So in remarkable detail Isaac is a type of Christ. But leaving aside his typical significance, we must look now at the practical lessons to be learned from his experience. His is in fact the most ordinary experience in the Old Testament. He was a man seemingly without distinctive character, and in this respect is just the opposite of Abraham. Abraham did many things that no one else had done. Isaac did nothing that another had not already done.

Ishmael mocked Isaac-and Isaac said nothing. He took no initiative. He followed his father to Moriah and there allowed himself to be laid on the altar-without uttering a word. What his father did, he accepted. He merely asked one question; no more.

Even about his own marriage he had nothing to say. He knew nothing of the woman, and was not even consulted by his father about her choice. From the human standpoint everything he did was passive, negative. To us he is the son `doing nothing of himself’ (John 5. 19.).

At sixty Isaac himself had two sons. Abraham had had to take action in respect of his children; he had had to cast out his eldest son. Isaac did nothing of the kind; nor was he asked to lay his son on the altar. Everything was difficult for Abraham; everything was straightforward for Isaac. He could not even sin with originality; his sin at Gerah was a replica of his father’s! Three wells were dug by Abraham; Isaac simply reopened them. When Abimelech went to see Abraham, Abraham rebuked him for damage done to the wells. When he went to make a covenant with Isaac, Isaac only asked him why his servants had done such damage; he gave him no rebuke.

In his old age Isaac at last did have his own ideas about blessing his sons. He wanted to bless Esau. But God would not let him do something his father had not done; he too had to bless the younger son! In the end, even the tomb in which Isaac was laid was the one provided by his father.

In a sense Isaac is the complement of Abraham. Abraham embodies God’s plan, God’s standard. Isaac represents God’s life, God’s power. To see Abraham by himself, without the help of Isaac, is hard for us. Many see God’s demands, and they cannot compass them, because they have not seen His provision. They see the standard, but not the life that satisfies that standard. Isaac gives us a picture of the life.

To Isaac Abraham gave all that he had (Genesis 24.36; 25. 5). Isaac did not have to labour, to toil, to spend time in order to get it. All was bestowed upon him. Abraham attained, through long trials; Isaac inherited, in a single outright gift. Of all that he received, nothing was his own work. He did not even have to travel to reach Canaan as his father did; he was born there.

So much for his relationship with his father. When we look at his relationship with God we find the same thing. The promise to Isaac in Genesis 26. 2-5 is exactly the same promise as is given to Abraham, and contains the words `I will establish the oath which I swear unto Abraham thy father’. There was nothing new in it that was not promised to Abraham already. And its fulfilment was stated to be `because Abraham obeyed my voice, and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes and my laws’. Again when the Lord appears to Isaac at Beersheba, He speaks of Himself as `the God of Abraham thy father’ and assures him that `I am with thee, and will bless thee, and multiply thy seed for my servant Abraham’s sake’ (26. 24). All was bestowed upon Isaac because he was Abraham’s son.

This fact of bestowal and acceptance is the great characteristic of Isaac. The God of Isaac is God the Giver. He is the God who comes out to us. We must know Him in this way as well as knowing Him as Father. If we only know Him as the God of Abraham there is no approach to Him. As the God of Isaac He comes to us and gives us everything in His Son. None can go forward and attain to God’s purpose unless he knows how to receive in this way. Romans chapter 7 offers us a picture of the man who has not yet found the God of Isaac. He is for ever under the law, and cries constantly: `To will is present with me, but to do that which is good is not.’ He has not seen that everything is offered to him in Christ, nor how full that provision is. The secret is receiving, not doing. The way through is not by the exercise of the will but by the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus (Romans 8. 2). We know what the God of Abraham wants-we can’t help knowing-but we don’t know how to get there until we have found the God of Isaac. Victory, life, salvation, all is bestowed, not attained. When you are born into a wealthy home, it is very difficult to be poor! You are rich; you were born that way.

We never worked for our salvation, gradually scaling the heights until we attained to it. The Lord sought and saved us. Victory over sin is the same; it is received, not worked for. Oh, may we learn to praise God that He has provided for us such bounty in Christ!

Peter says that we `have escaped’ from the corruption that is in the world (2 Peter z. 4). He does not say that we `are able to’ escape, or that we `hope to’ escape, but that we have already done so. This is the God of Isaac. What God has done, we receive and enjoy. We are not constantly waiting, hoping, anxiously seeking for it. We are born into the home; we have it all. Inheritance is ours.

Let us get quite clear what the life of the believer is. It is not: `from here to there’. It is: `from there to here’. It starts in God. As Paul says, it is the parents who lay up for the children and not the other way round (2 Corinthians 12. 14).

Some of us force ourselves to do things we don’t want to do and to live a life we cannot in fact live, and think that in making this effort we are being Christians. That is very far removed from what Isaac was. The Christian life is lived when I receive the life of Christ within me as a gift, to live by that life. It is the nature of the life of Christ not to love the world but to be distinct from it, and to value prayer and the Word and communion with God. These are not things I do naturally; by nature I have to force myself to do them.

But God has provided another nature, and He wants me to benefit from the provision He has made.

The only question Isaac asked was, `Where is the lamb? The answer is full of meaning: `God will provide himself the lamb.’ That is the life of Isaac. We ask, and the answer is always the same: `God himself will provide.’ So Abraham called the place of resurrection :Jehovah-jireh’. Everything that is demanded, God Himself gives: that is the experience of Isaac. In Abraham God sets up a standard; in Isaac He shows us His storehouse. Strength, life, grace from God, all are ours to receive that we may measure up to the divine standard of a vessel for testimony.

We have looked at Abraham and Isaac; we must look for a moment at Isaac and Jacob, for Isaac lies between the two. In the comparisons just now before us, we have seen what God is giving to us. But we cannot stay there; we must also ask what it is that God is securing in us. We know that Christ is all. But in us there is a rival to Christ, namely, our own strength of nature. That too must find its answer, and when we have dealt with Isaac, that answer will be the theme of our final chapters.

Isaac received everything, and by his very passivity sets forth God’s bountiful grace. Jacob lost everything, and in his trials exemplifies the rigors of God’s chastening hand. In Isaac God ministers to us the triumphant resurrection life of Christ. In Jacob we see the other side of the coin; for God is compelled, for Christ’s sake, to apply to us the discipline of the Spirit. The life of nature in us is being reduced progressively to its zero, that Christ may be fully displayed. God’s work in Jacob will in fact be to make room for the God of Isaac.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Loving God's Word

Fellowship of Companies for Christ International (FCCI)

Let us now turn our attention to Psalm 119 and see what God has to teach us about the benefits of loving His word as business leaders.

Probably the greatest need that we have as business leaders is for understanding. Whether the primary issues are business conditions, strategic business decisions, or technology development issues (as in our case), we are just little children before God, deeply and profoundly needing His wisdom. Look what Psalm 119 has to say about God's word as a source of wisdom:

18. “Open my eyes so that I may see wonderful things in your law."
24. "Your decrees are my delight and my counselors."
32. "I pursue the way of your commands, for you broaden my understanding."
45. “I will walk freely in the open place because I seek your precepts.”
66. “Teach me good judgment and discernment, for I rely on your commands.”

Verse 32 tells us that pursuing the way of God's commands leads to a broadening of our understanding. I don’t know about you, but my understanding needs to be broadened. This verse tells us that pursuing God's word will lead to a broadening of our understanding, which I desperately need.

Verse 24 amplifies that need for understanding, telling us that God's commands - His decrees - are our counselors. God's Holy Spirit will take the Scriptures and apply them to the particular problems we are facing. The Holy Spirit will counsel us through God's Scriptures.

In verse 18, we are asking God to open our eyes that we might see wonderful things in the Scriptures. As we see those wonderful things, the Scriptures become our delight as discussed in verse 24.

Verse 66 teaches us that relying on God's commands (His Scriptures) is an avenue for Him to teach us good judgment and discernment. Again, we see the Holy Spirit working through the Scriptures to teach us good judgment and discernment.

Do we lack wisdom in dealing with our business situations? Do we need understanding as to how to navigate the shoals in front of our ship? Do we need God's discernment to teach us how to choose the best? These passages teach us that God's Scriptures are the source for the understanding that we so desperately need. God's Holy Spirit takes the Word of God to teach us the things of God to transform us into the image of Christ, so that we can serve him effectively in the marketplace. Be sure to spend time in God's Word every day. It’s critical.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

How Much Does God Love this Church?

John Piper

I have two goals in this message. They both relate directly to Bethlehem, and they both feel pretty big to me. One goal is to clarify (or some might say rectify) something I have said for many years about God’s love for us. Hence, the name of the sermon, “How Much Does God Love This Church?” And I mean for you to take that very personally.

The other goal is to give you a strong encouragement that God intends to do very good things for you while I am away (on this upcoming eight-month leave). At root, both goals are the same. I want you to feel—and feel is the right word, though not the only word—more deeply and more firmly and more joyfully that you are loved by God personally as individual Christians, and corporately as a church with a love that is immeasurably great and eternally unwavering.

A Road Message Brought Home

Almost always when I go away form Bethlehem to speak, I give messages that are the overflow of what I have preached and taught here at the church. But at the end of February, when I went to Seattle, I worked out a fresh way of saying some things that I have been saying for a long time, which I hope will give a clearer sense of the biblical emphasis on God’s glory in the way he loves us. I refined that message by giving it three times, once at Mars Hill Church, once to some urban pastors in Los Angeles, and once in the chapel at Westmont College. I knew as I developed these thoughts that I wanted to find the right time to give the message here. And that’s what this is.

The Bottom of Our Joy: God, Not Self

Here is the question that I want to clarify. I have been asking audiences for years: “Do you feel more loved by God because God makes much of you, or because God, at great cost to his Son, frees you to enjoy making much of him forever?” The aim of that question has never been to deny that God makes much of us. He does. (Which we will see shortly.) The aim has been to help people relocate the bottom of their joy—the decisive foundation of their joy—from self to God.

More Concerned About the Hell-Bound

Let me try to help you understand what shapes so much of what I say. A people ought to understand their pastor. I am more concerned about nominal hell-bound Christians who feel loved by God, than I am about genuine heaven-bound Christians who don’t feel loved by God.

Please don’t hear me as uncaring or indifferent to genuine Christians who don’t feel loved by God. I do care, and this sermon is especially for you. At this point, I’m simply trying to give you a perspective on why I emphasize what I do. There are millions of nominal Christians who are not born again who believe God loves them and yet are on their way to hell. And the difference between them and a born again believer is this: What’s the bottom, the decisive foundation, of their happiness? As you penetrate down deeper and deeper to the core, or the bottom, of what makes you happy, what is it?

Jesus Is Not a New Butler

Millions of nominal Christians have never experienced a fundamental alteration of that foundation of happiness. Instead they have absorbed the notion that becoming Christian means turning to Jesus get what you always wanted before you were born again. So, if you wanted wealth, you stop depending on yourself for it, and by prayer and faith and obedience you depend on Jesus for wealth. If you wanted to be healthy, you turn from mere human cures to Jesus as the source of your health. If wanted to escape the pain of hell, you turn to Jesus for the escape. If you wanted to have a happy marriage, you come to Jesus for help. If you wanted peace of conscience and freedom from guilt feelings, you turn to Jesus for these things.

In other words, to become a Christian, in this way of seeing things, is to have all the same desires you had as an unregenerate person—only you get them from a new source, Jesus. And he feels so loving when you do. But there’s no change at the bottom of your heart and your cravings. No change in what makes you happy. There’s no change in the decisive foundation of your joy. You just shop at a new store. The dinner is still the same; you just have a new butler. The bags in the hotel room are still the same; you just have a new bellhop.

A New Bottom for Our Joy in the New Birth

That’s not what the new birth is. It’s not having all the same desires that you had as an unregenerate person, and just getting them from a new source. The new birth changes the bottom, the root, the foundation of what makes us happy. Self at the bottom is replaced by Jesus. God, himself.
What makes the born-again person glad is not at bottom that they have God’s gifts, but that they have God. This is what I am more concerned about than genuine Christians who are truly on their way to heaven, and don’t feel loved by God. And my shorthand way of trying to awaken people to the dangers of feeling loved by God while being unregenerate is to ask: Do you feel more loved by God because he makes much of you, or because, as great cost to his Son, he frees you to enjoy knowing him and treasuring him and making much of him?

Why God Makes Much of Us for His Own Glory

But today I am jealous that this concern of mine not undermine the immeasurable way God loves you who are born again, including by making much of you—indeed, making much more of you than you ever dreamed.

So here is my new way of coming at this issue. I ask: Why does God perform all his acts of love toward us in a way that reveals he is loving us for his own glory? Why does God relentlessly reveal his love to us by telling us in the Bible that he is loving us for his own name’s sake? It is an urgent question because there are so many who say or feel that it isn’t love if God’s aim is to magnify his own glory. Or they feel: You say he is making much of me, but in fact he isn’t making much of me if his design is that he be made much of in making much of me.

I tremble just to say those words. It isn’t so. I want to show you—I want to help you see and feel—that you are more loved by God when he loves this way. He makes much more of you when he makes much of you this way. Please don’t turn this off. Ask God to help you see what we are about to see in the Bible.

Examples of God Loving Us for His Own Glory

Just a few examples of what I mean by God performing all his acts of love toward us in a way that reveals he is loving us for his own glory.

1. God shows his love for us by predestining us for adoption into his family.
He predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace. (Ephesians 1:5-6)

God loved us in eternity before we were created, and he planned to make us his children by adoption. And the aim of this love was “to the praise of the glory of his grace.” He loved us this way that we might praise his grace. A regenerate person loves to praise God’s grace in our adoption. A nominal Christian simply loves the natural benefits of adoption.

2. God shows his love for us by creating us.
Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the end of the earth, everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory. (Isaiah 43:6-7)

God loved us in bringing us into being that we might enjoy forever all the good he plans for us. And he did it, he says, for his glory.

3. God shows his love for us by sending us a Savior.
“Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest.’” (Luke 2:10-14)

We get the Savior; he gets the glory. We get the “great joy”; God gets the praise. That is God’s design in sending his Son.

4. God shows his love for us when Christ died for us.
For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.” (2 Corinthians 5:14-15)

Christ loved us, died for us; and the aim was that we might live for him. He pursues his glory through our salvation. And if you wonder why we read Psalm 79 at the beginning, it was because of one verse, verse 9: Help us, O God of our salvation, for the glory of your name; deliver us, and atone for our sins, for your name’s sake! (Psalms 79:9)

Born-again people pray like this. They see their salvation primarily as a gift of the ability to see and savor and show the glory of God.

5. God shows his love for us in the way Jesus prays for us.
“Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.” (John 17:24)
“With” him. He prays that we be with him. And why does that make us happy? O he will give us many things. But the bottom of our joy, the decisive foundation of our happiness will be this: We will see his glory. Our Savior, not our self, will be the bottom of our joy.

The point of those five texts is to show that throughout the Bible, God performs all his acts of love toward us in a way that reveals he is loving us for his own glory.

Why does he do it this way?

How Much God Does Make of Us

Before I answer, it’s crucial in this message to emphasize that God’s love for us includes making much of us in ways that take our breath away. They are so over-the-top that we are scarcely able to believe how much he makes of us. A few examples of what I mean:

1. God makes much of us by being pleased with us and commending our lives.
Alan Jacobs said that C. S. Lewis’ greatest sermon was “The Weight of Glory.” And in that sermon, what is the weight of glory that every true Christian will bear? To the hear the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

To please God . . . to be a real ingredient in the divine happiness . . . to be loved by God, not merely pitied, but delighted in as an artist delights in his work or a father in a son—it seems impossible, a weight or burden of glory which our thoughts can hardly sustain. But so it is. (“Weight of Glory,” 1965, p. 10)

2. God makes much of us by making us fellow heirs with his Son, who owns everything.
“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” (Matthew 5:5)
“The promise to Abraham and his offspring [is] that he would be heir of the world.” (Romans 4:13)
“Let no one boast in men. For all things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours, and you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.” (1 Corinthians 3:21-23)

3. God makes much of us by having us sit at table when he returns and serving us as though he were the slave and we the masters.

“Truly, I say to you, he will dress himself for service and have them recline at table, and he will come and serve them.” (Luke 12:37)

4. God makes much of us by appointing us to carry out the judgment of angels.
“Do you not know that we are to judge angels?” (1 Corinthians 6:3)

5. God makes much of us by ascribing value to us and rejoicing over us as his treasured possession.
“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. . . . Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.” (Matthew 10:29-31)
“The Lord your God . . . will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.” (Zephaniah 3:17)

6. God makes much of us by giving us a glorious body like Jesus resurrection body.
“He will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.” (Philippians 3:21) “The righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father.” (Matthew 13:43; cf. Romans 8:30)

7. Most amazingly God makes much of us by granting us to sit with Christ on his throne.
“The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne.” (Revelation 3:21)  Or as Paul says, “The church . . . is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.” (Ephesians 1:22-23)

We are destined to share in the governing of the universe with divine-like authority.
Let it be known loud and clear, God makes much of his Son’s bride, the church. God loves the church with a kind of love that will make more of her than she can ever imagine. All this is yours, if you are belong to Christ (Romans 8:9).

Why God Reminds Us That He Loves Us for His Glory

The final decisive question is: Why does God, who loves so much, and who makes much of us so extremely, remind us again and again that he does all this for his own glory? Why does God remind us over and over that he makes much of us in a way that is designed ultimately to make much of him?
The answer is this: Loving us this way is a greater love. God’s love for us, that makes much of us for his glory is a greater love than if he ended by making us our greatest treasure, rather than himself. Making himself our end is a greater love than making us his end.

Self Will Never Satisfy

The reason this is greater love is that self, no matter how glorified by God (Romans 8:30), will never satisfy a heart that is made for God. God loves you infinitely. He sent his Son to die that he might have you, and that you might have him (1 Peter 3:18). He will not let you settle for wonderful and happy thoughts of self. Not even a glorified self. He will not let your glory, which he himself creates and delights in, replace his glory as your supreme treasure.

God’s Greatest Gift

Bethlehem, I leave this truth with you while I am away for these months. Glory in this. Take heart from this. Rejoice in this. Be strengthened by this. You are precious to God, and the greatest gift he has for you is not to let your preciousness become your god. God will be your God. God alone forever. And this is infinite love.

The Key to Peace

Derek Prince

Here is a word for you from the Word.

Psalm 119:165, Great peace have they [O Lord] who love your law, and nothing can make them stumble. NIV

The Bible here promises not just peace, but great peace. In the world today we tend to have a very low view of peace. If two nations are not actually fighting one another with weapons of war we say there's peace. There may be bitterness, hatred, fear, resentment, misrepresentation, but we still speak about peace.

I want to tell you that the Bible has a much higher standard of peace. The Hebrew word for "peace" is shalom; it is the greeting that is used in modern Hebrew. It really means more than just the absence of strife or war. It's connected with a root that means completeness or wholeness. So peace is wholeness, it's completeness. It's not having anything lacking. It's being a complete person. It's living a full life. And this is promised to those who love God's law.

You see, peace comes in our lives in abundance when we are living it out in accordance with the laws of God - His spiritual laws, His moral laws and His physical laws. When we live in accordance with the laws, then nothing makes us stumble; we are not easily offended; we are not discouraged. Opposition and difficulties do not overthrow us because something is stronger in us than anything we have to face the outworking of God's eternal laws.


David Wilkerson


The Psalmist wrote, "Our fathers trusted in thee: they trusted, and thou didst deliver them. They cried unto thee, and were delivered: they trusted in thee, and were not confounded" (Psalm 22:4-5).

The Hebrew root word for trust suggests "to fling oneself off a precipice." That means being like a child who has climbed up into the rafters and cannot get down. He hears his father say, "Jump!" and he obeys, throwing himself into his father's arms. Are you in such a place right now? Are you on the edge, teetering, and have no other option but to fling yourself into the arms of Jesus? You have simply, resigned yourself to your situation, but that is not trust; it is nothing more than fatalism. Trust is something vastly different from passive resignation. It is active belief!

As we hunger for Jesus more intensely, we will find that our trust in him is well founded. At some point in our lives we may have thought that we could not really trust him—that he did not really have control over the big picture and that we had to stay in charge. But growing closer to him and getting to know him better changes that. It means that we do not just come to him for help when we are at the end of our rope; instead, we begin to walk with him so closely that we hear him warning of the trials ahead.

The trusting heart always says, "All my steps are ordered by the Lord. He is my loving Father, and he permits my sufferings, temptations and trials—but never more than I can bear, for he always makes a way of escape. He has an eternal plan and purpose for me. He has numbered every hair on my head, and he formed all my parts when I was in my mother's womb. He knows when I sit, stand or lie down because I am the apple of his eye. He is Lord—not just over me, but over every event and situation that touches me."

A perfect heart is also a broken heart!

The Psalmist David said, "The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite [crushed] spirit" (Psalm 34:18).

Brokenness means more than sorrow and weeping, more than a crushed spirit, more than humility. True brokenness releases in the heart the greatest power God can entrust to mankind—greater than power to raise the dead or heal sickness and disease. When we are truly broken before God, we are given a power that restores ruins, a power that brings a special kind of glory and honor to our Lord.

You see, brokenness has to do with walls—broken down, crumbling walls. David associated the crumbling walls of Jerusalem with the brokenheartedness of God's people. "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart…. Do good in thy good pleasure unto Zion: build thou the walls of Jerusalem. Then shalt thou be pleased with the sacrifices of righteousness" (Psalm 51:17–19).

Nehemiah was a brokenhearted man, and his example has to do with those broken walls of Jerusalem (see Nehemiah 2:12–15). In the dark of the night, Nehemiah "viewed the wall." The Hebrew word shabar is used here. It is the same word used in Psalm 51:17 for "broken heart." In the fullest Hebrew meaning, Nehemiah's heart was breaking in two ways. It broke first with anguish for the ruin, and second with a hope for rebuilding (bursting with hope).

This is truly a broken heart: one that first sees the church and families in ruin and feels the Lord's anguish. Such a heart grieves over the reproach cast on the Lord's name. It also looks deep inside and sees, as David did, its own shame and failure. But there is a second important element to this brokenness, and that is hope. The truly broken heart has heard from God: "I will heal, restore and build. Get rid of the rubbish, and get to work rebuilding the breaches!"


Andrew Strom

I want to spend most of this article talking about the massive SPIRITUAL shaking and sea-change that is underway. And the OPPORTUNITIES for the true remnant of God in this. But first let us talk briefly about the "economic" shaking that is underpinning a lot of what is happening.

There are many signs appearing that another great "slowdown" in the world economy is underway. As you know, we have predicted "another wave down" and a "double dip depression". Last week new US unemployment claims jumped back up to 500,000. The figures for July 'existing' home sales look to show the worst slump that has ever been seen. (California and Texas report a -23% collapse in the space of just one month). The human cost of all this unemployment and economic mayhem is truly awful to contemplate.

But in the CHURCH I believe a great "shaking" is underway that will ultimately bring about a great 'purging' and cleansing. You may have noticed that a number of big-money ministries are suddenly in trouble. I am hearing reports of others that I regard as "spreading deception" falling into serious financial difficulty as well. I believe God is going to use this economic crisis to "clean out" His church. There is going to be a massive change at the top. The 'Saulish' leadership is going to be dethroned and the "Davids" will come forth.

We published a vision some time ago of the giant "trees" crashing to the ground and the little sprouts suddenly springing forth. The church has been dominated for too long by voices that have abused and stolen and spread deception amongst the sheep. God is coming to clean house, and it will not be "gentle". The whip is in His hand and He is about to drive the money-changers out. His house is to be a "house of prayer" once more.

Two of my books from the past were spent prophesying of this very time that we are now entering. The first was in 1996 - "The Coming Great Reformation - New Insights into the Coming Worldwide Shaking, Reformation and Street Revival." The most recent was in 2008 - "Survive the Depression - The Shaking Has Begun." (Links for both of these at the end of this article).

A lot of people say to me, "Give up hope of the church being cleansed or the false leaders being dethroned. We are in the time of great Apostasy," they say, "So just give up on any of that." And I say, "NO! I will not give up on the evil being dethroned from God's church, and the Body being cleansed, and the true gospel being restored. Yes - we are in a time of great Apostasy (no-one knows this more than I). But that does not mean that God has lost His desire for a church that is "without spot or wrinkle or any such thing." I still believe we have time for one last great "cleansing" and one last great Harvest. But it will come during a time of great "storms" and hardship."


There are several ways that those who believe they have been called into God's 'remnant' for this hour can "position" themselves to be part of what God is doing. Of course, PRAYER is the most vital thing, but also

(1) Get out of DEBT. Do not "hang on", deep in debt for year after year, hoping things will improve. They will NOT improve for YEARS. Use whatever means possible, cut your losses and GET OUT. The debt alone can prevent you from being where God wants you to be in this crucial moment.

(2) Don't get into a "bunker" mentality. Don't be tempted to hide yourself away with food and ammo in some basement somewhere. For true Christians this crisis is a GOLDEN OPPORTUNITY to show forth Christ to a dying world. Get INVOLVED - helping the poor, preaching the true gospel. This is not a time for "hiding away".

(3) Stop thinking of this crisis as a "doom and gloom" scenario and start thinking of it as a time where God is setting things to rights - purging the church and the nation of years of excesses and poison. For the Christian who truly loves God and His kingdom, this is literally the OPPORTUNITY of a LIFETIME to be involved in this whole process. Only DEBTS or FEAR or an unwilling heart can rob you of your place in this.

There is no time I would rather be in than right now. There is no environment I would rather be in. This moment and this crisis are exactly what God has been preparing us for. We are not to just "survive" - we are to 'THRIVE' in this time. Many of the big ministries are not designed to make it through such a crisis. When finances drop they will fall apart. But many of us have been specifically designed for this. Don't waste it. A total "changing of the guard" is underway. A revolution in leadership. Be about the Lord's work. Remember the long-forgotten promises and dreams the Lord gave you years ago and prepare to enter into all that He has promised. AMEN!!

Monday, August 23, 2010

John MacArthur with CNN (Who Is Jesus, Anyway?, What Happens When You Die, God and Good vs. Evil)

Who Is Jesus, Anyway? Pt. 1 of 3

What Happens When You Die - Part 1-2

God and Good vs. Evil, Pt. 1 of 3

Sunday, August 22, 2010

City Harvest Cell Group Leaders earn Commission? Seriously? by Terence Lee

Source: SG Forums

Saw something in the forums today that utterly strains credulity. A "Gracehp" claims he or she heard from a church staff that City Harvest cell group leaders and all the church's pastors earn a commission by bringing people to church. In my seven years in church, I've never heard of such a thing. It is plausible if a few CGLs would dare try such a stunt... but this must be a joke.

Good for laughs really, Terence Lee

Today I met with a long lost secondary school friend who is working at city harvest now.

She revealed to me the secrets of how CHC and Kong Hee earns big bucks.

Actually, from cell group leaders all the way to Kong Hee earn a commission when they get new members to join the church.

For example, a member who earns 3k a month is recruited into the church. He donates 10% of his salary which is $300 a month to the church.

He will be introduced into a cell group and as long as the cell group leader(CGL) manage to make him stay and make him donate 10% of his salary every month, the CGL will earn a commission.

CGL earns 10% of $300 which is $30 a month. Each cell grup is estimated to have around 10 to 30 members so we shall take 20 members in a cell group as a example. The CGL will earn $30 multiply by 20 members which is already $600 a month.

On top of that, the CGL will encourage his cell group members to bring new members into the church in which he will get the commission which is $30 a month assuming the person earns 3k a month. The CGL does not tell his cell group members about this so his kum gong cell group members keep on brining in new members not knowing that its the CGL and the Pastors who benefits while they get nothing.

The Pastor gets a higher commission of 20% a member. So Pastor gets $60 a member. Each Pastor is in charge of around 10 cell groups and assuming each cell group have 20 members the Pastor gets $60 x 20 members x 10 cell groups= $12k a month.

Kong Hee gets the highest of 40% commission.

Assuming that there are 30,000 members in city harvest and each of them earns 3k a month, he earns $120 X 30,000 members = $3,600,000 a month which is even more than what our Ministers are earning.

The remaining 30% which is $90 multiply by 30,000 members=$2,700,000 goes into the church fund which is used to pay staff salaries, electricity bills, investment etc.

Do note that using 3k a month salary as a guideline is already very low as CHC is full of rich people who easily earn more than 3k a month.

On top of that, CGL and Pastors are entitled to claim for travelling expenses etc so their earnings are much more than that.

So people, next time when you want to donate 10% of your salary to CHC think carefully.

Saturday, August 21, 2010


David Wilkerson.

"Enoch walked with God" (Genesis 5:24). The original Hebrew meaning for walked implies that Enoch went up and down, in and out, to and fro, arm in arm with God, continually conversing with him and growing closer to him. Enoch lived 365 years—or, a "year" of years. In him, we see a new kind of believer. For 365 days each adult year, he walked arm in arm with the Lord. The Lord was his very life—so much so that at the end of his life, he did not see death (see Hebrews 11:5).

Like Enoch, who was translated out of life, those who walk closely with God are translated out of Satan's reach—taken out of his kingdom of darkness and put into Christ's kingdom of light: "Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son" (Colossians 1:13).

Enoch learned to walk pleasingly before God in the midst of a wicked society. He was an ordinary man with all the same problems and burdens we carry, not a hermit hidden away in a wilderness cave. He was involved in life with a wife, children, obligations and responsibilities; Enoch wasn't "hiding to be holy."

"Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took him"(Genesis 5:24). We know from Hebrews that this verse speaks of Enoch's translation, the fact that he did not taste death. But it also means something deeper. The phrase he was not, as used in Genesis 5, also means "he was not of this world." In his spirit and in his senses, Enoch was not a part of this wicked world. Each day as he walked with the Lord he became less attached to the things below. Like Paul, he died daily to this earthly life and he was taken up in his spirit to a heavenly realm.

Yet while he walked on this earth, Enoch undertook all his responsibilities. He cared for his family: he worked, ministered and occupied. But "he was not"—not earthbound. None of the demands of this life could keep him from his walk with God.

Hebrews 11:5 says clearly: "Before his [Enoch's] translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God." What was it about Enoch that pleased God so much? It was that his walk with God produced in him the kind of faith God loves. These two verses cannot be separated: "Before his [Enoch's] translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God. But without faith it is impossible to please him" (Hebrews 11:5-6). We hear this latter verse often, but rarely in connection with the former. Yet throughout the Bible and all of history those who walked closely with God became men and women of deep faith. If the church is walking with God daily, communing with him continually, the result will be a people full of faith—true faith that pleases God.

All around Enoch, mankind grew increasingly ungodly. Yet as men changed into wild beasts full of lust, hardness and sensuality, Enoch became more and more like the One with whom he walked.

"By faith Enoch was translated." This is an incredible truth, almost beyond our comprehension. All of Enoch's faith was focused on the one great desire of his heart: to be with the Lord. And God translated him in answer to his faith. Enoch could no longer bear to stand behind the veil; he just had to see the Lord.

Our brother Enoch had no Bible, no songbook, no fellow member, no teacher, no indwelling Holy Spirit, no rent veil with access to the Holy of Holies. But he knew God!

"He that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him" (Hebrews 11:6). How do we know that Enoch believed God was a rewarder? Because we know that is the only faith that pleases God—and we know that Enoch pleased him! God is a recompenser, a remunerator, that is, one who pays well for faithfulness. How does the Lord reward his diligent ones?

There are three important rewards that come by believing God and walking with him in faith.

1. The first reward is God's control of our lives. The person who neglects the Lord soon spins out of control as the devil moves in and takes over. If only he would fall in love with Jesus, walking and talking with him! God would soon show him that Satan has no real dominion over him and this person would quickly allow Christ to control him.

2. The second reward that comes by faith is having "pure light." When we walk with the Lord, we are rewarded with light, direction, discernment, revelation—a certain "knowing" that God gives us.

3. The third reward that comes with a walk of faith is protection from all our enemies. "No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper" (Isaiah 54:17). In the original Hebrew, this verse is translated as: "No plan, no instrument of destruction, no satanic artillery shall push you or run over you, but it will be done away with."

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Terry MacAlmon Back From Fall!

Worship leader Terry MacAlmon to return to worship ministry

AMERICAN singer, pianist and worship leader Terry MacAlmon is returning to ministry. Read a statement from the artist, "Many of you know of my moral failure and subsequent divorce from my wife, Greta. To just set the record straight, my sin was brought to light in December of 2007. After four months of counselling, I simply imploded and I separated from Greta in May of 2008. nearly a year after the separation, and following six more months of counselling and therapy, believing there was too much to overcome between Greta and myself, we divorced in April of 2009. This was actually my choice, not hers, and I have laboured with much pain and agony over the decision. There is much more to any situation than meets the eye and I wish the very best for her a she moves forward. She is a wonderful lady and I am committed to help her as much as I can. We continue to share my music royalty business. We are both extremely proud of our three grown sons and their families. God is so good. Incidentally, the 'illegal' relationship I had was short lived and long past. Today I live alone in Dallas, Texas. I am grateful for what I have learned from trained professionals as it has been helpful in answering some of the 'whys' of my life as well as charting a new course of thought and action going forward. . . In the past few months God has been wooing me back to that which I was made to do - worship him publicly and help his people do the same. . ." Terry will be visiting the UK in November.

Church Leaders & The Use of Honorific Titles (Must Read)

by Darryl M. Erkel (1998)

"But you, are you seeking great things for yourself? Do not seek them" (Jeremiah 45:5)

The Lord Jesus, in His condemnation of the Pharisees recorded in Matthew 23, plainly forbids His followers from either giving or receiving honorific titles. Whereas the religious hypocrites love "respectful greetings in the market places, and being called by men Rabbi" (v.7), this is not to be the mark of Christ’s disciples: "But do not be called Rabbi; for One is your Teacher, and you are all brothers. And do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. And do not be called leaders; for One is your Leader, that is, Christ. But the greatest among you shall be your servant. And whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted (vv.8-12)."

Jesus is not denying functional differences and roles within the church; nor is He suggesting that it is wrong to term one’s biological parent "father." Rather, He is prohibiting the use of self-exalting and honorific titles of distinction among those who have chosen to follow Christ. While conferring honorific titles upon prominent religious authorities may be the way of the world, it is not the path that Christ has called us to pursue.

Yet, in spite of the clarity of Jesus’ command, Christians have historically ignored His words. We continue, for example, to address our church shepherds as "Reverend," "Doctor," or "Minister" and, unfortunately, far too many of them are glad to receive such flattery and even love to have it so! Commenting on the words of our Lord in Matthew 23, the noted New Testament scholar, R.T. France, has perceptively written:

These verses, while still commenting on the practice of the scribes and Pharisees, are addressed directly to Jesus’ disciples, warning them against adopting this status-seeking attitude. "Rabbi" (v.8) and "Master" (v.10) probably act here as synonyms. They are titles appropriate only to the One Teacher (v.8), the Christ (v.10), in relation to whom all His followers stand on an equal footing as "brothers" . . . Over against that unique authority His disciples must avoid the use of honorific titles for one another ("Christian rabbinism," Bonnard) – an exhortation which today’s church could profitably taken more seriously, not only in relation to formal ecclesiastical titles ("Most Rev.", "my Lord Bishop," etc.), but more significantly in its excessive deference to academic qualifications or to authoritative status in the churches (Tyndale New Testament Commentaries: Matthew [Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press, 1985] p.325).

Christian magazines are filled with advertisements for books or products recommended by "Doctor" so-and-so; and churches continue to promote their ministries led by "Reverend" so-and-so. The Christian world, it seems, is consumed with exalted and honorific titles for those in positions of leadership or influence. Some pastors, in fact, are rather offended when their congregational members address them by their first name or simply as "brother." It is thought by many to be disrespectful or unbecoming to address a Christian theologian in any other way than "Doctor" or "Professor."

But we must ask, are such titles necessary for church leaders? Have evangelicals genuinely honored the words of Christ in Matthew 23:8-12 by prefacing the names of their leaders with such flattering titles as "Reverend" or "Senior Pastor"? Church history, according to J.C. Ryle, has all too clearly demonstrated that we have missed the true meaning of Jesus’ words:

Happy would it have been for the Church of Christ, if this passage had been more deeply pondered, and the spirit of it more implicitly obeyed. The Pharisees are not the only people who have imposed austerities on others, and affected a sanctity of apparel, and loved the praise of man. The annals of church history show that only too many Christians have walked closely in their steps (Ryle’s Expository Thoughts on the Gospels, Vol.1 [Grand Rapids: Baker Book House Reprint, 1977] p.299).

Greg Ogden, a writer and church shepherd in Saratoga (CA), states:

I mourn for the church because we seem to display so many of the characteristics that Jesus said, "Not so among you" (Mark 10:43). Shameful arrogance and haughtiness have reached epidemic proportions among church leaders . . . A direct implication of Jesus’ servant stance was His obliteration of titles . . . We have refused to take Jesus’ words at face value. Jesus’ obvious intent was to remove any basis for "lording it over" others by dispensing with titles that give people an elevated place in the "pecking order." We all occupy the same level ground at the foot of the one Teacher, Jesus Christ. We are not "great ones" or "lords" . . . Finally, do not accept the designation "master" or "leader." No human can usurp the position of the head of the body, Christ. Our tendency seems always toward idolatry, to make someone larger than life. Never forget: Jesus alone is Lord (The New Reformation: Returning the Ministry to the People of God [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1990] p.172,174).

The Son of God "made Himself of no reputation" (Philippians 2:7), yet His servants seem bent on following an opposite course. Christ bids us to learn of Him who was "meek and lowly" (Matthew 11:29), yet His represenatives continue to exalt themselves with self-glorifying titles. But someone may ask, what real harm is there in such titles of prominence? Perhaps the following points will help to explain their danger and assist Christians in avoiding them.

1. The New Testament simply provides no warrant for giving congregational leaders priestly or honorific titles. Thus, any man who seeks or permits such titles to be given to him violates the express commands of Christ (Matthew 23:8-10) as well as apostolic practice. Alexander Strauch, a writer and shepherd in Littleton (CO), has stated:

The modern array of ecclesiastical titles accompanying the names of Christian leaders – reverend, archbishop, cardinal, pope, primate, metropolitan, canon, curate – is completely missing from the New Testament and would have appalled the apostles and early believers. Although both the Greeks and Jews employed a wealth of titles for their political and religious leaders in order to express their power and authority, the early Christians avoided such titles. The early Christians used common and functional terms to describe themselves and their relationships. Some of these terms are "brother," "beloved,"
"fellow-worker,"  "laborer," "slave," "servant," "prisoner," "fellow-soldier," and "steward."

Of course there were prophets, teachers, apostles, evangelists, leaders, elders, and deacons within the first churches, but these were not used as formal titles for individuals. All Christians are saints, but there was no "Saint John." All are priests, but there was no "Priest Philip." Some are elders, but there was no "Elder Paul." Some are overseers, but there was no "Overseer John." Some are pastors, but there was not "Pastor James." Some are deacons, but there was no "Deacon Peter." Some are apostles, but there was no "Apostle Andrew." Rather than gaining honor through titles and position, New Testament believers received honor primarily for their service and work (Acts 15:26: Romans 16:1,2,4,12; 1 Corinthians 16:15,16,18; 2 Corinthians 8:18; Philippians 2:29,30; Colossians 1:7; 4:12,13; 1 Thessalonians 5:12; 1 Timothy 3:1). The early Christians referred to each other by personal names (Timothy, Paul, Titus), the terms "brother" or "sister," or by describing an individual’s spiritual character or work: "Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 6:5); "Barnabas, a good man, and full of the Holy Spirit and of faith" (Acts 11:24); "Philip the evangelist" (Acts 21:8); "Greet Prisca and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus" (Romans 16:3); "Greet Mary, who has worked hard for you" (Romans 16:6) (Biblical Eldership [Littleton, CO: Lewis and Roth Publishers/Revised, 1995] pp.302-303).

Frank A. Viola has, likewise, written:

In keeping with our Lord’s command, biblical elders did not permit themselves to be addressed by honorific titles such as "Pastor Bill," "Elder Tom," "Bishop Jake," or "Reverend Sam" (Matthew 23:7-12). Such titles naturally elevate church leaders to a plane above the other brethren in the assembly. Thus, congregations and clergy alike are responsible for creating the current "Christian guruism" that is rampant in the church today wherein religious leaders are recast into spiritual celebrities and lauded with fan club status. By contrast, New Testament leaders were viewed as ordinary brethren and were just as approachable and accessible to the saints as any other believer in the church. For this reason, 1 Thessalonians 5:12,13 exhorts the saints to intimately know their leaders (a near impossible mandate to fulfill in most contemporary churches where the pastor is trained to keep his distance from the people lest he lose his authority). In this regard, the common image of church leaders as "sacred men of the cloth" is utterly foreign to the biblical concept (Rethinking the Wineskin [Brandon, FL: Present Testimony Ministry, 1997] p.63).

2. The apostles of Christ employed lowly and unofficial terms when describing themselves or others. Notice the expressions which Paul, Peter, and John repeatedly chose to use – which tends to argue against any notion of honorific titles:

Acts 15:23, "The apostles and elders, your brothers."

1 Corinthians 4:1, "Let a man regard us in this manner, as servants of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God."

2 Corinthians 12:11, "I have become foolish; you yourselves compelled me. Actually I should have been commended by you, for in no respect was I inferior to the most eminent apostles, even though I am a nobody."

Ephesians 3:8, "To me, the very least of all saints, this grace was given . . ."

1 Thessalonians 3:2, "And we sent Timothy, our brother and God’s fellow worker in the Gospel of Christ . . ."

1 Timothy 1:15-16, "It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all. And yet for this reason I found mercy, in order that in me as the foremost, Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience . . ."

1 Peter 5:1, "Therefore, I exhort the elders among you, as your fellow elder . . ."

2 Peter 3:15, "And regard the patience of our Lord to be salvation; just as our beloved brother Paul . . ."

Revelation 1:9, "I, John, your brother and fellow partaker . . ."

In light of these clear passages, should we not, then, heed the practice of our Lord’s apostles? "Brethren, join in following my example, and observe those who walk according to the pattern you have in us" (Philippians 3:17).

Acts 15:23 ("The apostles and elders, your brothers") is particularly interesting since, in an official decree that was to be sent to all the churches, the apostles and elders simply referred to themselves as "your brothers." It contained no honorific titles or hierarchical expressions; only the phrase, "your brothers." Thus, the apostles and elders are brethren writing to fellow brethren. The Lutheran Bible commentator, R.C.H. Lenski, writes: "‘The apostles and the elders’ write for themselves and for the entire church but as ‘brethren.’ Some texts have ‘and the brethren,’ referring to the congregation, but this reading lacks attestation. The apposition ‘brethren’ is highly significant in this communication. The apostles and the elders of Jerusalem speak to the Gentile Christians only as brethren and not as superiors . . . Brethren salute brethren. The communication is fraternal and asks to be accepted as such and as such alone" (The Interpretation of the Acts of the Apostles [Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Publishing House, 1961] p.621).

Another significant passage is 1 Peter 5:1 ("Therefore, I exhort the elders among you, as your fellow elder"). Here was Peter’s great opportunity to use an exalted title for himself (e.g., "Senior Pastor," "Chief Elder," "Bishop of Rome"), but chooses not to. Instead, he simply refers to himself as "your fellow elder." Such terminology, as Peter H. Davids points out, is "consistent with the tendency among the early leaders to avoid the use of exalted titles such as were used about them in the second century" (The New International Commentary on the New Testament: The First Epistle of Peter [Grand Rapids: Wm.B. Eerdmans, 1990] p.176).

It is important to emphasize that such terms as "elder," "overseer," and "pastor" are functional terms, and were never intended to serve as formal titles. In other words, the terminology is descriptive of one’s task; they help to picture a church leader’s function or may even denote one’s spiritual maturity as in the term "elder." Thus, it is just as foolish and unnecessary to speak of "Pastor Bob" as it is to speak of one who possesses the gift or function of hospitality as "Hospitality Harry"; or one who has the gift of mercy as "Mercy Mary"; or one who has the gift of giving as "Giving George."

3. Honorific titles feed the pride of men. It tends to inflate one’s ego, thus provoking church leaders to think more highly of themselves than they should (Romans 12:3). Let’s face it: we all struggle with sin and pride; but why compound that struggle by exalting oneself with special titles which have no basis in the New Testament? While seeing nothing inherently wrong with titles per se, even Craig L. Blomberg, associate professor of New Testament at Denver Seminary, is compelled to recognize its dangers:

But one wonders how often these titles are used without implying unbiblical ideas about a greater worth or value of the individuals to whom they are assigned. One similarly wonders for how long the recipients of such forms of address can resist an unbiblical pride from all the plaudits. It is probably best to abolish most uses of such titles and look for equalizing terms that show that we are all related as family to one Heavenly Father (God) and one teacher (Christ) . . . In American Christian circles perhaps the best goal is to strive for the intimacy that simply makes addressing one another on a first-name basis natural (The New American Commentary: Matthew, Vol.22 [Nashville, TN: Broadman Press, 1992] p.343).

4. Honorific titles, contrary to what many ecclesiastical authorities would assert, are a form of self-promotion. In fact, some men employ the title "Doctor" for the express purpose of making their opinions or books carry greater authority than they actually do. We tend to assume that the man with an earned doctorate is an "expert," whose words are beyond question. But no man’s opinions should be accepted merely because he has a Th.D. or Ph.D. behind his name. Every doctrine or human opinion is to be tested by the rule of Scripture (Acts 17:11; 1 Thessalonians 5:21; Revelation 2:2), not one’s educational achievements.

If we were to look at degrees only, we might also conclude that the apostles of our Lord were not particularly trustworthy, since none of them (except Paul) had any recognizable formal training: "Now as they observed the confidence of Peter and John, and understood that they were uneducated and untrained men, they were marveling, and began to recognize them as having been with Jesus" (Acts 4:13). Moreover, "teachers amongst the Lord’s people do not need titles granted by men as a sign of theological authority to teach; authority and ability to teach in spiritual things come from the Lord through the Holy Spirit, and not through the schools of men. Such titles, both then and now, distract from the preeminence of Christ over all those who are brethren in the family of God . . . We are all brethren and we are all servants (diakonos); this excludes self-exaltation. God reverses what man would esteem" (J. Heading, Ritchie New Testament Commentaries: Matthew [Scotland: John Ritchie, LTD., 1984] pp.307-308).

Perhaps one reason why some pastors feel compelled to preface their names with a degree or honorific title, is because they have an inferiority complex or are ineffective in gaining respect in ways that are more servant-oriented. It’s also important to note that many clergymen have pursued a career in pastoral ministry for reasons less than the glory of God. Far too many are seeking the honor and recognition of men, rather than the honor of Christ (John 5:44; Galatians 1:10). The use of self-glorifying titles only helps to attract such kind.

One common argument used to support honorific titles is that the man who has earned a doctorate in theology worked hard for it and, thus, is entitled to display his accomplishments. But so has the man who has earned a Master of Divinity degree or even a Bachelor of Arts! Should we, then, continually refer to such persons as "Master of Divinity Dave" or "Bachelor of Arts Bill"? If not, why should we continue to employ the title "Doctor" before one’s name?

We remind the reader as well that Jesus clearly forbid such titles of distinction among His followers in Matthew 23:8-12. Any person, therefore, who seeks to justify the use of honorific titles must ultimately answer to Jesus Himself. It might also be interesting to note that "Rabbi," as used during the time of Jesus, was employed "much as ‘Doctor’ is today. In fact, the Latin equivalent of rabbi comes from docere, which means to teach and is the term from which the English word doctor is derived" (The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Matthew 16-23 [Chicago: Moody Press, 1988] p.366).

Another argument used to justify honorific titles is that they are a means of expressing respect to church leaders. The early Christians, however, were still able to express their esteem toward each other without having to resort to special titles (Philippians 2:25-30; 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13; 1 Timothy 5:17).

5. Honorific titles draw unnecessary attention to oneself. The man who uses them is subtly telling others that he is someone important and worthy of their respect. Although he many never admit to it, the great day of judgment promises to disclose his true motivation and inner-secrets (Romans 2:16; 1 Corinthians 4:5).

6. Honorific titles detract from the glory that rightfully belongs to Christ alone. Such titles of distinction as "Reverend" (meaning, "he who is to be revered") not only esteem persons higher than is humanly permissible, but it intrudes in a realm that is not rightfully theirs. We would be wise to listen to the counsel of J.C. Ryle:

But still we must be very careful that we do not insensibly give to ministers a place and an honor which do not belong to them. We must never allow them to come between ourselves and Christ. The very best are not infallible. They are not priests who can atone for us. They are not mediators who can undertake to manage our soul’s affairs with God. They are men of like passions with ourselves, needing the same cleansing blood, and the same renewing Spirit, set apart to a high and holy calling, but still after all only men. Let us never forget these things. Such cautions are always useful. Human nature would always rather lean on a visible minister, than an invisible Christ (Ryle’s Expository Thoughts on the Gospels, Vol.1, pp.299-300).

Many churches in our day refer to their most gifted or experienced leader as "Senior Pastor." However, the only "Senior Pastor" that the New Testament speaks of is Jesus Christ (1 Peter 5:3). He alone is "the great Shepherd of the sheep" (Hebrews 13:20; cf. John 10:11,14,16; Ephesians 5:23). Those who serve in a leadership function within the local church are undershepherds. They are called to be humble servants of the sheep (1 Corinthians 3:5; 4:1; 2 Corinthians 4:5), not lords who reign over their fiefdom (1 Peter 5:3). Thus, it is quite arrogant to take on the lofty title of "Senior Pastor" when Scripture reserves this for Christ alone! Even the apostle Peter merely referred to himself as a "fellow elder" (1 Peter 5:1). The Christian apologist, J.P. Moreland, has said it well:

The local church in the New Testament contained a plurality of elders (see Acts 14:23, 20:28; Philippians 1:1; Hebrews 13:17). The New Testament knows nothing about a senior pastor. In my opinion, the emergence of the senior pastor in the local church is one of the factors that has most significantly undermined the development of healthy churches . . . Given these facts, the senior pastor model actually produces a codependence that often feeds the egos of senior pastors while allowing the parishioners to remain passive. None of this is intentional, but the effects are still real. The senior pastor model tends to create a situation in which we identify the church as "Pastor Smith’s church" and parishioners come to support his ministry. If a visitor asks where the minister is, instead of pointing to the entire congregation (as the New Testament would indicate, since we are all ministers of the New Covenant), we actually point to Pastor Smith . . . The local church should be led and taught by a plurality of voices called elders, and these voices should be equal . . . No one person has enough gifts, perspective, and maturity to be given the opportunity disproportionately to shape the personality and texture of a local church. If Christ is actually the head of the church, our church structures ought to reflect that fact, and a group of undershepherds, not a senior pastor, should collectively seek His guidance in leading the congregation (Love Your God With All Your Mind [Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress Publishing, 1997] people.190-191).

7. Honorific titles tend to attract carnal and power-seeking men to positions of church leadership. As pointed out earlier, if our churches continue to give to their leaders lofty and self-glorifying titles of distinction, we will continue to attract a large percentage of men seeking prestige, recognition, and power. This is not meant to suggest that every church leader who employs an honorific title is necessarily seeking to have his ego stroked or possesses less than genuine motives, but only that far too many fall into this category. Some are simply naïve as to the dangers and implications of their lofty titles.

Let’s face it: if you set up a religious clerical system that promotes power, prestige, and self-exaltation (as opposed to the humble servant-model of Jesus presented in Mark 10:35-45 and John 13:3-17), such a system will repeatedly attract men seeking such power and prestige. This is one of the major reasons why our churches have historically had the wrong kind of men in positions of leadership. But, we must ask, why kind of men would be attracted to church leadership if they were told they will be servants, not lords; not titled; probably not salaried (Acts 20:33-35); not the sole preacher/teacher (Acts 13:1; 1 Timothy 5:17); an equipper, not a shining superstar; and only one amongst a plurality of other leaders (Acts 14:23; Hebrews 13:17)? Only the most dedicated, humble, and self-sacrificing would be desirous of such a noble task! And, yet, these are the very kind of men that Christ wants to shepherd His sheep – and who are often most lacking in our churches. Greg Ogden writes:

We get the kind of leaders we deserve. It often seems that the world’s view of greatness is the standard we use when we select our leaders. We have allowed arrogant, unaccountable, and self-professed channels of the Spirit to shoot off like loose cannon. We sometimes have a penchant in the Christian community for holding up the proud and arrogant as our ideal because "they get the job done." Using the world’s view of power, we want leaders to exercise influence, work their way into positions of power, and throw their weight around. We therefore get what we ourselves honor – Christian leaders who act like potentates rather than self-sacrificing servants of Jesus Christ. Our actions show that we do not believe that real power is expressed through servanthood that leads to a cross. The Church Growth Movement has identified strong pastoral leadership as a key ingredient in the growth of a congregation. I will grant that leaders must lead. But what gets passed off as leadership often has no resemblance to servant leadership as modeled and taught by our Lord . . . Our natural tendency is to concentrate power at the top, but Jesus modeled and taught a different way of life (The New Reformation, pp.172-173).

8. Honorific titles tend to promote an elitist attitude and authoritarian forms of church leadership. Even the best of men can find self-glorifying titles intoxicating and begin to form lofty opinions of themselves. Within time, they begin to look upon their congregational members as mere "common folks"; an ignorant mass of "laity" who desperately need their wisdom and insight (John 7:49; 9:34).

Church leaders, however, must never give themselves the airs of stuffy, official, and fussy "ministers" as is common among many claiming to be pastors in our day. Instead, their behavior and attitude should conform to the words of Paul in Romans 12:16, "Do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly" and in Philippians 2:3-4, "Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others." The 19th century Baptist preacher, C.H. Spurgeon, warned his pastoral students of the danger of ministerial pride:

My brethren, be not priests yourselves. It is very possible to give yourselves the airs of hierarchs, even though you are avowedly nothing more than Nonconformist pastors. There is a style of dress – the affectation of it is not praiseworthy. There is a style of language – the imitation of it is not commendable. There is an assumption of superiority, looking down upon the common people as mere laity; this piece of pompousness is ridiculous. Avoid the way of certain clerics who seem intent on making their people feel that a minister is a dignified individual, and that the rest of the members of the church should hardly venture to differ from him. Say what we like about all believers in Christ being a generation of priests, we still find vain fellows among us who would be thought of as possessors of a mystic specialty. Our office, as pastors, deserves to be respected, and will be if properly carried out; but I have observed that some who are very anxious to magnify their office, really try to magnify themselves (An All-Round Ministry [Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1960] pp.371-372).

9. Honorific titles help to perpetuate the "clergy-laity" division. While it is common for people to speak of church leaders as the "clergy" and the rest of God’s people as the "laity," the New Testament never divides the body of Christ into two classes known as "clergy" and "laity."

The root meaning of kleros, from which we get our word "clergy," is "inheritance" or "lot" and refers to the believer’s inheritance in Christ, not to a special class of ministers. The word laos, from which we get our word "laity," refers to all of a group; in some cases, it specifically denotes the people of God. Thus, all believers in Christ are part of the laos (or "laity"), including pastors! Every believer is a minister and priest before God with authority to do the work of ministry (1 Corinthians 14:26; Ephesians 4:11-16; 1 Peter 2:5,9; Revelation 1:6). The New Testament never confines "ministry" to a select few.

Clericalism has done much to harm and weaken the body of Christ. It clearly divides the Christian brotherhood; it hinders the saints from behaving like the ministers they are; it obscures, if not annuls, the essential oneness of the people of God; and it exalts the pride of church leaders by conferring upon them special titles and privileges. Howard Snyder, a prolific author on the subject of church renewal, has stated:

The New Testament simply does not speak of two classes of Christians – "minister" and "laymen" – as we do today. According to the Bible, the people (laos, "laity") of God comprise all Christians, and all Christians through the exercise of spiritual gifts have some "work of ministry." So if we wish to be biblical, we will have to say that all Christians are laymen (God’s people) and all are ministers. The clergy-laity dichotomy is unbiblical and therefore invalid. It grew up as an accident of church history and actually marked a drift away from biblical faithfulness. A professional, distinct priesthood did exist in Old Testament days. But in the New Testament this priesthood is replaced by two truths: Jesus Christ is our great high priest, and the Church is a kingdom of priests (Hebrews 4:14; 8:1; 1 Peter 2:9; Revelation 1:6). The New Testament doctrine of ministry rests therefore not on the clergy-laity distinction but on the twin and complementary pillars of the priesthood of all believers and the gifts of the Spirit. Today, four centuries after the Reformation, the full implications of this Protestant affirmation have yet to be worked out. The clergy-laity dichotomy is a direct carry-over from pre-Reformation Roman Catholicism and a throwback to the Old Testament priesthood. It is one of the principle obstacles to the Church effectively being God’s agent of the Kingdom today because it creates the false idea that only "holy men," namely, ordained ministers, are really qualified and responsible for leadership and significant ministry. In the New Testament there are functional distinctions between various kinds of ministries but no hierarchical division between clergy and laity (The Community of the King [Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, 1977] pp.94-95).

What Can Church Leaders Do to Help Correct This Problem?
1. They must humble themselves and begin to view their ministry in terms of servanthood, not lordship (Mark 10:35-45; 1 Peter 5:3).

2. They must remove all clerical titles and gowns (Matthew 23:8-12). The saints must be taught to refer to their leader(s) as "brother" or by one’s first name.

3. They must return ministry to the people of God, seeing them as full partners in the task of building up the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:4-14; 14:12,26; Ephesians 4:11-16; 1 Peter 4:10-11).

4. We are in dire need of language reform. The terms that we use for ourselves ("layman") and those used to describe our leaders ("Reverend," "Minister") are very important since, not only do they convey our thinking on such fundamental issues as the nature of the church and how local church leadership should be structured, but the use of unbiblical or improper terms may help to stunt the growth of Christ’s body. As Alexander Strauch has wisely stated:

It is critically important for Christians today to understand that the language we use to describe our church leaders has the power to accurately reflect biblical thinking and practice or, conversely, to lead us far away from the true Church of Jesus Christ and into the false church . . . In the end, every local church is responsible to teach its people the meaning of the terms it uses to describe its spiritual leaders, whether it be elders, overseers, ministers, preachers, or pastors. Biblically sensitive church leaders will insist that the terminology they use represents, as accurately as possible, the original biblical terms and concepts of a New Testament eldership. False teachers have had their greatest triumphs when they redefine biblical words in a way that is contrary to the original meaning . . . Much of our church vocabulary is unscriptural and terribly misleading. Words such as clergyman, layman, reverend, minister, priest, bishop, ordained, and ministerial convey ideas contrary to what Jesus Christ and His apostles taught. Such terminology misrepresents the true nature of apostolic Christianity and makes it difficult, if not impossible, to recapture it. As a result, most of our churches are in desperate need of language reform (Biblical Eldership, pp.32-34).

The Clergy - Biblical or Not Biblical?