Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Self-Promotional Churches Will Soon Be Judged by BERT M. FARIAS

I believe that much of what the Lord is doing today is completely counter to Christian pop culture and the flow that we are seeing in the Western Church. It is typical in such times that there will be a counterfeit that runs parallel to the real.

There will be an echo arise right alongside the authentic voice. Some of these echoes are very deceptive and hidden from the casual hearer, while others are rather obvious and easy to discern. For instance, there's a false teaching out there that says the Christian doesn't need to repent—that God has forgiven all your past, present and future sins. Yet there's never been a greater need for repentance in the church world than today.

In a recent poll done by ChristianMingle.com, single Christians between the ages of 18 and 59 were asked, if given the opportunity, would they have sex before marriage. A whopping 63 percent stated that they would. How does that happen? It's simple. Either they are hopelessly backslidden or they've never repented of their sins and experienced true conversion. A majority of them belong to a church culture that is perhaps trendy and popular, but has no interest in fulfilling the demands of Christ. Many of them serve an "American Jesus" who lets them live as they please, and of course, will never judge them. Amidst all of the frenetic religious activity going on today, we need the ability to recognize the real Jesus, the Lamb of God.

In John 3, John the Baptist who was filled with the spirit and power of Elijah, and who ministered with Divine authority, declared, "Behold, the Lamb of God!" Then he declared again, "He must increase, but I must decrease."

John's ministry was not one of self-exaltation or self-promotion as is so common today, but he was separated by God for the sole purpose of exalting the Lamb of God and preparing a people for Him, a bride for the bridegroom.

"He who has the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom's voice" (John 3:29).

Those who are true friends of the Bridegroom hear His voice, not an echo. The voice of His messengers, who are filled with the spirit and power of Elijah, will point people to the Lamb of God, not to their own ministries, personalities, and agendas. John the Baptist was a voice crying in the wilderness. The entirety of his ministry was focused on the Lamb and His bride.

If a ministry is not pointing people to the One who was, and is, and is to come it, will be judged harshly in this hour. Those who are exalting the Lamb of God have no interest in being seen or heard. They are not looking for a platform to promote themselves. The things that denote ministerial success in our day, such as large buildings, large followings and popularity, are of no interest to the true messengers of the Lamb.

Actually, the Lord is leading ministers right now to do the opposite of what it takes to build a large ministry. He is stripping away human wisdom and all we've utilized in our own efforts to build things, for He will not share His glory with another.

The Ephesians 4:11 gifts are to equip the saints for service and to prepare a bride for the Bridegroom, or a wife for the Lamb. "There was a man sent from God, whose name was John" (John 1:6). There is a present-day ministry with a mandate just as John the Baptist had, to turn hearts back to the Lord, to make a people ready for Him.

One of the great emphases of the Lord in this hour is on the preparation of His bride. There must be a distinction made between the church world and the bride of Christ. This is more than a salvation issue. It is more about the Lord possessing our vessels for His eternal purposes. This is the spirit and power of Elijah that was upon John the Baptist, and would also be a characteristic of those who would minister before His second coming (Mal. 4:5-6).

God's invitation is to everyone, but that invitation demands a dedication and a consecration. Counting the cost and paying the price are no longer terms we hear today in the marketplace of Western Christianity, but this language is found everywhere in the Scriptures.

It is time to wake up the sleeping church! She can be awakened kindly with a kiss or be shaken with the Lord's severity (Rom. 11:22). It's our choice. If we put it off to the future it will demand His shakings, which often come in the form of tests and trials, or a crisis that will expose our pride and crooked ways. Wholeheartedness is what the Lord desires.

In the times of Elijah we see this ministry in manifestation in the spirit and power of Elijah as he stood on Mount Carmel and contested with the false prophets of Baal. The fire fell and consumed the sacrifice along with the wood, stones, dust and even the water. This mighty manifestation caused the people to fall on their faces and declare the Lord as God.

"Now when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces; and they said, 'The Lord, He is God! The Lord, He is God!'" (1 Kings 18:39).

We also see this ministry exercised in the days of Moses as he stretched forth his rod, and the Red Sea swallowed up and drowned the Egyptian armies. The results of this anointing and authority are noted in Exodus 14:31: "Thus Israel saw the great work which the Lord had done in Egypt; so the people feared the Lord, and believed the Lord and His servant Moses."

This anointing administered in the spirit and power of Elijah will be seen again. Its purpose is always redemptive—to bring forth true repentance and cause the hearts of the people to turn to the Lord.

We are in the infantile stages of the release of this authority. This will include a worldwide company of men and women who have been summoned by the Lord to be His messengers.

In the times of Moses and Elijah, great severity was necessary to turn the hearts of the people back to the Lord. Often people quote the scripture in Romans 2:4, properly stating that it is the goodness or kindness of the Lord that leads to repentance. But when the Lord's goodness does not lead to repentance, then He is forced to move us into the realm of Divine severity.

Too many people have taken the Lord's goodness to further their pleasurable, worldly and even sinful lifestyles. Therefore, for the sake of their salvation and perseverance of their souls, the Lord has to administer His severity.

And so we will see both the manifestation of the goodness and severity of God side by side in the days ahead. Bittersweet times are upon us. We will choose our own medicine. These things will come with great cost and great loss to many as well as great glory and victory to others.

I find the scriptural reference to Jesus as the Lamb of God very rare until we get to the book of Revelation. There the Lamb is referenced 27 times. That is more than the rest of the entire New Testament combined. It was the revelation of the Lamb that ushered in His first coming, and it is that same revelation that will usher in the end of the age. It is only in the Lamb's meekness that we will triumph. Let's make ourselves ready!

"Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready" (Rev. 19:7, emphasis added).

Bert M. Farias, founder of Holy Fire Ministries, is the author of The Real Gospel and co-host of the New England Holy Ghost Forum. He is a missionary evangelist carrying a spirit of revival to the church and the nations. Follow him at Bert Farias on Facebook or @Bertfarias1 on Twitter.

Religion Expert Exposes Real Danger of Halloween by DEBORAH HAMILTON

With Halloween just days away, children—and some parents, too—are eagerly anticipating donning costumes and asking for a 'treat' from neighbors as the price for not having a 'trick' played on them. Meanwhile, decorations designed to terrify—from skulls and witches to life-sized graveyards and giant insects—have turned homes across America into virtual haunted houses.

It's all just harmless fun. Or, is it?

Religion and culture expert Dr. Alex McFarland says that while many see Halloween as a chance to dress up and get goodies, there is real danger involved.

"Many of the common activities and themes associated with Halloween provide opportunities for harmless fun and togetherness," McFarland said. "At this time of year, churches often capitalize on the spiritual openness of people, on children's capacity for imagination and on the enthusiasm that Halloween generates. But parents need to know that beneath the costumes and make believe are spiritual realities that should be taken seriously."

As an example, McFarland points to the prevalence of witchcraft and the occult during the Halloween season. Indeed Wicca, which is the prominent religion of witchcraft, views Halloween, or 'Samhain,' as a high holy day, and a day for communicating with the dead.

"Halloween in America has become a celebration of darkness and of the supernatural as it relates to darkness," McFarland continued. "This is compounded by the fact that people long for spiritual experiences, spiritual fulfillment and a place to 'fit in'—all of which are promised by witchcraft and other occult activities. While it used to be that witchcraft was widely viewed as evil, today there is growing mainstream acceptance of it. Much of our media and culture in recent years has centered on themes of witchcraft, vampirism, communication with the dead and paranormal phenomenon in general—for example, the 'Twilight' books and films; Katy Perry's 'Dark Horse' performance at the Grammys, which had the feel of a satanic ritual; Nicki Minaj's 'Roman Holiday' performance; and more. Halloween annually fans this cultural trend."

McFarland adds that because the supernatural is real and not simply a figment of the imagination, playing with the supernatural should not be taken lightly.

"One must use caution and exercise discernment when seeking spiritual reality, meaning and truth," he said. "The Bible clearly speaks out against occult practices and all forms of witchcraft. Today, many dismiss the Bible as outdated or marginally relevant at best, but it contains clear and emphatic prohibitions against occult involvement, in both the Old and New Testaments. This is not because God wants to take away our fun but because He loves us and wants us to be protected from evil spiritual entities whose desires are to deceive and destroy. Could it actually be that there is tangible danger in opening oneself up to certain types of spiritual experiences by participating in a supposedly innocuous celebration of a day devoted to death, darkness and witchcraft? According to the Bible, yes."

15 'Signs of the Times' Indicating Judgment by LARRY TOMCZAK

 The Bible warns us about saying "everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation" (1 Pet. 3:4) when judgment is at hand. We know that God is "patient not wanting anyone to perish" (v.9), but there comes a time when the gavel falls!

After Hurricane Katrina, I spoke with a former resident of Louisiana. He told me he grew up hearing warnings of levies breaking but folks simply tuned it out when nothing happened. This describes America today.

If you fell asleep like a Rip Van Winkle for 30 years and awoke today, imagine how shocked you would be at what happened to America.

1. Divorce: Increased from 4% to 51% in one generation.

2. Cohabitation: 65% of "altar-bound" singles live together, a euphemism for lifestyle fornication.

3. Abortion: 57 million unborn babies aborted, some with taxpayer funding and now part of socialized medicine.

4. Marijuana: Being legalized in several states.

5. Euthanasia and Infanticide: Being legalized under camouflage names.

6. Pornography: Rampant, graphic, just a "click away" on hand-held devices.

7. Homosexuality, lesbian and transgender lifestyles: Promoted even by our president along with gay marriage and homosexual ordinations.

8. Movies and music: Standards almost nonexistent with graphic nudity, profanity and blasphemy commonplace.

9. Out-of-wedlock births: 1st time in U.S history – more than 50%.

10. Sexually transmitted diseases: Over 110 million in our population infected.

11. Economic insanity: $18 trillion national debt; millions unemployed deriving benefits; $60 billion in annual Medicare fraud and waste.

12. Illegal immigration: Over 11 million and politicians pushing open borders and amnesty.

13. Political leaders: Corruption, incompetence and deception at all levels.

14. Radical Islam and terrorism: Exploding in regions of the world with an increasingly vulnerable America dismantling militarily and docile politicians calling it a "peaceful religion."

15. Should we add illiteracy... crime... catastrophic fatherlessness... human trafficking... adultery... profane comedians...an ignorant and low information populace? How about the ongoing erosion of our religious freedoms and secularism taking over society? And last but not least, how about a Laodicean, apostate church compromising and lacking the courage to address the defining issues of our day with clarity and conviction while defining success in terms of happy sermons, attendance, offerings, number of staff, programs and square footage?

Do we see the "handwriting on the wall" that we are at an unprecedented tipping point? Are we aware that America is rapidly spiraling into a lawless culture similar to Germany of a generation ago?

My wife and her parents are German and they will tell you an educated and civilized nation moved from democracy to dictatorship and then demise in less than six years! A once-thriving nation can have its heritage and faith so decimated that history records it as a tragic collapse.

Our Only  Hope for Turnaround is a Heaven-sent Awakening That May Require A Calamity to Jumpstart

As long as things continue to run somewhat smoothly on the surface, we have an amazing ability to cope and carry-on, all the while making flimsy excuses for compromise and a comfortable "Christianity."

• "I don't like what's happening in America on so many issues, but it's not      really affecting me or my family."

• "I prefer they not schedule soccer games on Sunday morning but I guess we can live with it. As a family we try to make it to church at least twice a month unless we need to catch up on our rest."

• "I wish our pastor would address these critical issues but his role model is Joel Osteen so he avoids controversy."

• "I grew up with Sunday school, Sunday evening and Wednesday evening services but times have changed and I guess we can get by with a brief Sunday service."

• "Our worship leader is gay, I think, and the primary singer is living with her boyfriend but it's probably best not to stir up problems."

• "I wish our church gave out voter guides so we knew where candidates stand but since we're in a building program, leadership said they don't want to jeopardize fundraising."

"Our pastors tell us they don't put out any lawn signs for candidates or  speak about anything political because of separation of church and state."
         "We got the evite for the citywide gathering to pray for transformation in our city but it's the same night of Dancing With the Stars finale and we just can't miss it."
"I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So because you are lukewarm – neither hot nor cold – I am about to spit you out of my mouth. You say, 'I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.' But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked" (Rev. 3:15-17).

           8 Potential Disasters to Awaken Us?

Will it take another stock market crash, severe financial recession or, God forbid, global economic collapse to get our attention?

Might it take a series of beheadings and coordinated Islamic terrorist attacks in malls and cities by ISIS supporters slipping through unprotected borders to wake us up?

Would a massive power outage shutting down computers and canceling NFL games nationwide strike fear into the hearts of citizens and sober us to the urgency of the hour?

How about an airborne Ebola virus outbreak and the "pestilences and diseases" (Matt. 24:7) Jesus predicted at the end of the age? Maybe a mass migration of infected Central Americans streaming through our porous Southern border?

Perhaps the beginning of war in the Middle East as Jerusalem is surrounded by enemies (Luke 21:20) and Iran launches the "bomb" on Israel causing catastrophic disruption in the Straits of Hormuz (where 20% of the total world's gas supply passes)? Recall the long gas lines of 1973?

Friends and family "handed over to be persecuted and put to death...hated by all nations because of Me" (Matt. 24:9)? Imagine us saying what a Chinese pastor, Huang Yizi, said this week upon being arrested in a government crackdown: "I am grateful to God for the opportunity to go to jail."

Perhaps the very real, dreaded, catastrophic EMP (Electromagnetic Pulse) attack causing unimaginable devastation by paralyzing America as all power lines burn out and all goes dark instantly? USA Today stated: "Cities darken, food spoils and homes fall silent. Civilization collapses." Cause: One terrorist A-bomb or a severe solar storm.

Massive earthquake(s) as Jesus foretold (Matt. 24:7). Scientist Dr. Lucy Jones issued a dire warning on Oct. 15 to the L.A. City Council of the effects: "Infrastructure crippled; power grid and communications knocked out; water supply disrupted; 1,800 fatalities, 53,000 injured and ½ the buildings unusable." [Note: This is not the inevitable "Big One" set for San Francisco.]

                                 Awakening From Spiritual Coma

After the disaster of 9/11, people flocked to church buildings, prayer meetings mushroomed and streets were lined with marquees calling for God's blessing on America. We got our wake up call and people were motivated to seek the living God as atheists and the ACLU were silenced.

Unfortunately, we hit the snooze button and fell back asleep. African pastors gathering in D.C. stated it this way just a week ago: "America is in a spiritual coma!"

Providentially, the same week over 100 churches gathered at the Lincoln Memorial in our Nation's Capital to cry out to God for one thing - spiritual awakening in the United States of America.

In the time of Esther, things looked bleak and God's people were very discouraged at the prospect of a national disaster. But through prayer, fasting, seeking God and Spirit-led action, God intervened to save the day. "Who knows if you've come into the Kingdom for such a time as this?" (Esther 4:14) was spoken over one believer. As the clock is ticking, can you hear God issuing you and me the same challenge?

This is the second installment of a two-part series. Part one was posted yesterday.

Unless otherwise specified, the opinions expressed are solely the author's and do not necessarily reflect the views of Charisma Media.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

City Harvest Church leaders tried to "bamboozle" auditor: Prosecution

By Alice Chia : 25 Sep 2014 Channel NewsAsia

Messages between church leaders Sharon Tan and Chew Eng Han were cited by prosecutors as proof that they tried to not let the church's auditor find out that church funds were used to redeem Firna bonds.

SINGAPORE: At the City Harvest Church trial on Thursday (Sep 25), the prosecution said finance manager Sharon Tan was not the "innocent follower" that she tried to paint herself as, when it came to plans to use church funds to redeem sham bonds.

Tan was taking the stand for the tenth day. She is one of six church leaders who are accused of using millions of dollars from the church's building fund to buy sham bonds in two companies, Firna and Xtron.

Lead prosecutor for the case, Mavis Chionh, showed the court messages between Tan and co-accused Chew Eng Han, in which Tan proposed using a third party to redeem the Firna bonds. She had proposed using Pacific Radiance, a company linked to member John Lam who is one of those on trial.

In one message, Tan said that even if church auditor Mr Sim Guan Seng suspected that church monies were used to redeem the bonds, "he can't fault or pinpoint". The prosecution accused Tan and Chew of trying to "bamboozle" Mr Sim and not let him find out that church funds were used to redeem the Firna bonds.

Tan disagreed and said that she was worried about "disclosure" as she had the understanding that the drawdown from the Firna bonds would be used to support the Crossover Project, which involved church co-founder Sun Ho recording and launching secular music albums.

The prosecution also showed a chart drawn by Chew during a meeting on Sep 29, 2008, with co-accused Serina Wee and Tan. The chart illustrated the flow of funds and transactions for the redemption of Xtron and Firna bonds. After the meeting, Tan updated deputy senior pastor and co-accused Tan Ye Peng about the plans.

It is the prosecution's case that these were not genuine investments and that the four accused were planning to use church funds to redeem the Firna bonds by roundtripping the funds in a series of transactions.

For example, in one chain of transactions, the church would invest S$11.4 million in a Special Opportunities Fund by investment company AMAC Capital Partners (AMAC), which has Chew as its sole director.

AMAC would then loan the amount to Ultimate Assets, a company owned by Indonesian businessman and church member Wahju Hanafi. Ultimate Assets would in turn loan the amount to Firna, which would use the money to redeem the bonds.

- CNA/xy

CHC - E-mail with :) under the spotlight (Emoticon would not be sent if there was a conspiracy, says accused)

BY FENG ZENGKUN  September 19, 2014

A smiley face emoticon which one accused e-mailed another came under the spotlight in the City Harvest Church trial yesterday.

Former church fund manager Chew Eng Han said the icon, which was sent to him by church finance manager Sharon Tan, showed that he and his alleged co-conspirators did not believe they were doing anything illegal.

"Sharon, you and I have been charged for conspiring to defraud the auditors," Chew told Tan, who turns 39 today.

"If we were really conspiring, would you put a smiley face (in the e-mail), unless you are a seasoned conspirator?"

Tan, who had inserted the icon at the end of a series of e-mail messages discussing what to tell church auditors about various church-financed investments, replied: "No."

Tan, Chew, church founder Kong Hee and three others face charges for their part in allegedly misusing some $50 million of church funds for the secular music career of Kong's wife, Ms Ho Yeow Sun, and then covering it up.

Chew, who is representing himself, yesterday used his chance to cross-examine Tan to refute the prosecution's allegation that his fund management firm AMAC Capital Partners was nothing more than a shell set up to funnel church funds illegally into Ms Ho's career.

AMAC had helped the church buy $13 million worth of bonds issued by Xtron, the company that managed Ms Ho's singing career. The bonds, allege the prosecution, were "sham".

In one e-mail, Chew instructed Tan to keep details of various AMAC investments financed by the church from auditors, since there was no legal obligation to disclose the information.

He told the court yesterday that he did so because "some of the loans that were made to shareholders of listed companies were sensitive information".

"We were not trying to make the job difficult for the auditor," he said.

He also pointed out how AMAC, through investments unrelated to Xtron, had also made "serious money" for the church, with one deal reaping $703,500.

Tan simply nodded or said yes to most of Chew's assertions, a stark contrast to her demeanour earlier in the day.

Having broken down on Wednesday as the day's hearing drew to a close, she was again in tears yesterday when describing her long relationship with the church, which she insisted precluded her from doing anything to harm the organisation.

She told the court how she had joined City Harvest when she was 15, then worked there for more than a decade and married a cell group leader. Now, her three children are members.

"This is my first and only church. Everything that is me right now I learnt from this church," she cried. "I never had the intention to cause any loss to the church. Never."

- See more at: http://www.straitstimes.com/the-big-story/chc-funds-case/story/e-mail-under-the-spotlight-20140919#sthash.OEkZAHTO.dpuf

City Harvest trial: Finance manager concedes her action may have deceived auditors

BY IAN POH  26 September 2014

SINGAPORE - City Harvest Church finance manager Sharon Tan broke down on the stand on Friday, even as she conceded that information she had inserted into church board meeting minutes may have deceived auditors.

Choking up under cross-examination by Deputy Public Prosecutor Mavis Chionh, the 39-year-old said: "Your honour, it might be seen like they are being deceived, but... it wasn't my intention."

Tan had inserted information into the document, dated Sept 12, 2009, that the board had approved "advance rental" payments to music production firm Xtron of $7 million per year for eight years - part of a plan to purge bonds held in the firm from the church's books.

The court heard that the information was false, as no such approval was received from the board on that day.

Tan is one of six people, including founding pastor Kong Hee, accused of misusing $50 million of church funds to boost the music career of Kong's wife, Ms Ho Yeow Sun, and covering up the misuse. The prosecution believes that all of the accused, except Tan, channelled money from the church's building fund into sham bond investments in Xtron, which is Ms Ho's management company, and glass manufacturer Firna. Four of them, including Tan, then allegedly devised transactions to clear the sham bonds from CHC's accounts to throw auditors off the scent.

Friday's hearing has centred on the church's book-keeping, with Tan taking the stand for the tenth day. This is the third time she has broken down on the stand.

- See more at: http://www.straitstimes.com/the-big-story/chc-funds-case/story/city-harvest-trial-finance-manager-concedes-her-action-may-have-d#sthash.xgmnDDOF.dpuf

Friday, October 10, 2014

An Appeal to Joel and Victoria Osteen


Joel and Victoria Osteen

Dear Joel and Victoria, I hope and pray that you will read this letter and that you take to heart the things I'm sharing. I write as a friend wanting to help, not an enemy wanting to hurt, and everything I write, I write out of love for God, love for you, and love for the church and the world.

I have said many times that I'm glad to see your smiling faces on TV as you speak about Jesus rather than some stern-faced, joyless, angry Christian leader. And I believe you genuinely do care about people and want them to find wholeness in the Lord.

Joel, I appreciate the fact that you end every service by asking people to get right with God, having them pray a prayer where they say to Jesus, "I repent of my sins, come into my heart, I make you Lord and Savior."

The big problem is that you haven't told them what their sins are, and you haven't told them what real repentance is. And since you are speaking to people around the world, you can't possibly assume that all of them understand the meaning of sin and redemption and repentance. (Most American Christians don't even understand these things today.)

In short, you have not shared with them the whole counsel of God, and by telling them only part of the story, you have done what the false prophets of ancient Israel did: "You superficially treat the fracture of My people saying to them, 'All is well, all is well,' when nothing is well" (Jer. 6:14, my translation).

A true physician tells his patients what they need to hear, not what they want to hear. As one preacher of old, Jean Daille, once said, "Ministers are not cooks, but physicians and therefore should not study to delight the palate, but to recover the patient."

Have you been more of a junk-food cook than a physician? Have you been afraid to tell people their true condition? Have you been so concerned with making them feel good about themselves and giving them a sense of hope that you failed to diagnose their terminal sin disease?

Paul said to the elders of Ephesus, "I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all, for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God" (Acts 20:26-27).

Do you really believe in your heart of hearts that you have declared the whole counsel of God to your listening audience?

God has given you one of the largest platforms for the gospel in human history. Can you say before Him that you are "innocent of the blood of all"?

Have you ever taught extensively on the words of Jesus from the Sermon on the Mount? Have you ever worked your way through one of the letters of Paul? If not, why not?

Proverbs tells us that, "Whoever rebukes a man will afterward find more favor than he who flatters with his tongue" (28:23). Do you believe God's Word, or do you feel you have found a better way to do His work?

I appreciate the fact that you hold up your Bible before you preach, as your father did, and you have people make a confession about God's Word, as you also learned to do from your father. But do you really preach that holy Word?

Shortly before Paul was martyred for his faith, he reminded Timothy that, "All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness" (2 Tim. 3:16).

He also gave him this solemn commission: "I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching" (2 Tim. 4:1-2).

Is this your pattern of preaching and ministry? Do you rebuke in love (Prov. 27:5) as well as exhort and encourage?

Perhaps it's time to ask yourself honestly where you fit in this warning from Paul: "For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths" (2 Tim. 4:1-4).

Wouldn't it be utterly heartbreaking if, on the day you stand before God, you discovered that you were one of these teachers? Wouldn't it be tragic if your efforts were found to be wood, hay and stubble on that great and glorious Day (1 Cor. 3:11-15)? And may I ask you candidly if you even talk about that holy day of accounting?

Some Christians have referred to you and Victoria as outright heretics, others have said that you are fighting against the Holy Spirit (since the Spirit convicts the world of sin but your preaching does not), others have said that you are a pagan religionist, while others have said that your superficial message of material prosperity cannot bear the weight of the gospel.

These are very serious charges, but rather than just saying, "Hey, I'm just going to love everybody and stay in my lane," perhaps you should ask if these leaders might be saying something you need to hear. Is there any truth at all in their words? Could it be that God's lane for you is different than the lane you're in?

It would be far better for you to see your TV ratings fall and your crowds dwindle than to displease the Lord. (Perhaps if you preached the whole counsel of God, your audience would end up even bigger.)

By all means, you should be an ambassador of hope and joy—that's all part of the gospel—but if you don't speak about sin plainly and without compromise and if you don't tell people that there will be suffering and hardship in this world as we follow Jesus, then the hope that you offer will only go skin deep.

Have you ever wondered about how your message plays out among Christians who are going through hell on Earth because of their faith in Jesus? Have you ever thought about what your message sounds like to persecuted believers today who just had to leave their homes and possessions behind to flee for their lives?

And Victoria, if I may speak with you for just a moment, your recent comments that have gone viral have drawn a stream of well-deserved criticism, even if some of it came in an ugly and wrong spirit.

The reality is that our lives are supposed to revolve around God; He doesn't revolve around us. And even though worship and praise are good for us too, since they focus our attention on who God is and bring us into His presence, we do not worship or serve Him for ourselves but for Him. As Paul wrote, Jesus died for all so "that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised" (2 Cor. 5:15).

This is Gospel 101, as basic as it gets, yet you turned things upside down during that one regrettable moment on TV, a moment that reflected a wrong, off-base theology that starts with us and that says God is here to please us rather than starting with God and recognizing that we are here to please Him.

Joel and Victoria, I know these words have been strong, but they are written with love and concern. And since I have no connection to anyone on your team and I don't know of any way to reach you directly, after prayer and reflection, I felt that this was the best way to go, addressing public statements publicly, jealous for the Name of Jesus, jealous for your massive listening audience, and jealous for both of you.

Without a doubt, there are many people you have helped; you have also hurt far more than you realize. I pray you will take this to heart.

Michael Brown is author of Can You Be Gay and Christian? Responding With Love and Truth to Questions About Homosexuality and host of the nationally syndicated talk radio show The Line of Fire on the Salem Radio Network. He is also president of FIRE School of Ministry and director of the Coalition of Conscience. Follow him at AskDrBrown on Facebook or at @drmichaellbrown on Twitter.

The Wrath of God Is Coming


judgment day

The Bible speaks of the day in which Jesus will "tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty" (Rev. 19:15), a day when He will come "in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus" (2 Thess. 1:8).

Almost all the writers of the New Testament spoke of this day when the wrath of God would be poured out on the earth. Why is it that so few of us speak about it today? Why aren't we sounding the alarm?

When Paul exhorted believers to live holy lives and to abstain from sin, he reminded them that wrath was coming on the disobedient and ungodly.

To the Ephesians he wrote, "Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not become partners with them" (Eph. 5:6-7).

To the Colossians he wrote, "Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming" (Col. 3:5-6).

Did Paul know something we don't know? Was there a reason he wanted to remind the godly about the fate of the ungodly? Did he feel it would help us not play games with sin?

Paul actually wrote about God's wrath one-fourth as many times as he wrote about God's grace. Do we follow his lead?

In his short little book, Judah (Jude) found it important to quote this prophecy from Enoch, "Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of his holy ones, to execute judgment on all and to convict all the ungodly of all their deeds of ungodliness that they have committed in such an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things that ungodly sinners have spoken against him" (Jude 1:14-15).

Why did he emphasize this? Why not just speak about the love of God (which he does as well; see v. 21)? Why remind the righteous about the coming judgments on the unrighteous?

Some teachers today try to downplay this theme by claiming that the verses that speak of Jesus coming in flaming fire and wrath referred to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. Are they right?

Certainly, Jesus did warn about the coming destruction of Jerusalem both directly and in parables (see, for example, Matt. 23:37-39; Luke 19:42-44; Matt. 21:33-45).

But it is the height of absurdity to reinterpret all these wrath-related Scriptures to fit that singular event, especially in light of Paul's frequent references to the coming wrath, as if he was saying to believers in Ephesus, "Don't play games with sin, because Jerusalem will soon be destroyed." Hardly!

Worse still is the tendency in some hyper-grace circles to eliminate the wrath of God by simply removing it from the Scriptures, as the Mirror Bible does at times.

As I pointed out in my book Hyper-Grace: Exposing the Dangers of the Modern Grace Message, in the ESV, Romans 1:17 reads: "For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth." In the Mirror translation, it becomes: "The righteousness of God that is endorsed in the heavens is in such contrast to the counterfeit earthly reference that blindfolds people in their own unrighteousness." What happened to God's wrath?

Or consider Colossians 3:6, which we quoted earlier: "On account of these the wrath of God is coming." In the Mirror translation, it becomes, "These distorted expressions are in total contradiction to God's design and desire for your life." Yes, "wrath" has completely disappeared once again!

But most teachers and preachers today have not gone so far as to eliminate God's wrath from their Bibles or to interpret it away. They simply ignore it. Why?

Revelation 6 presents this shattering, overwhelming account: "Then the kings of the earth and the great ones and the generals and the rich and the powerful, and everyone, slave and free, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains, calling to the mountains and rocks, 'Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?'" (vv. 15-17)

Do we just ignore this because Revelation is hard to understand? Shouldn't this rather shake us to the core because, as surely as God is God, His wrath will one day be poured out on a sinful and rebellious world?

Peter, like Paul, told us that this should affect the way we live today.

First, he describes what is coming: "But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed."

Then he makes application: "Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn!"

And he adds this promise: "But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace" (2 Pet. 3:10-14).

The wrath of God is coming, and a new heaven and earth are coming.

How then should we live, and what then should we preach?

Michael Brown is the author of Can You Be Gay and Christian? Responding With Love and Truth to Questions About Homosexuality and host of the nationally syndicated talk radio show The Line of Fire on the Salem Radio Network. He is also president of FIRE School of Ministry and director of the Coalition of Conscience. Follow him at AskDrBrown on Facebook or at @drmichaellbrown on Twitter.

'Hyper-Grace' Message Creating Culture of Lawlessness


I had just finished praying in the altars on the last night of an extended revival. A young man who was studying for ministry approached me with tears in his eyes. As I placed my hand on his shoulder, he said, "I need to apologize to you. I judged you too soon. Anytime I hear someone preach what sounds like 'law' it makes me angry and I instantly shut them out. I can see now I was wrong and missed out on what God could have done in me this week." My heart welled up with compassion for him, as my mind replayed the past week searching for the offense. I took a few extra minutes to minister and pray with him there at the altar and the next few days thinking about our conversation.

To be clear, I am a preacher of the gospel, not the law. As an evangelist, I have no other message than that of Christ and Him crucified. It is a message not only of grace, but of love, forgiveness, salvation, redemption, faith, freedom and power!

That said, I have noticed that anytime I make reference to the law, sin, conviction and repentance alongside grace, I feel barriers go up in the atmosphere. At that moment it often becomes necessary to stop and define these terms as they have become so distorted by the toxic theology that has been taught in recent years.

Focusing solely on the grace of God without preaching the divine law, justice and judgment of God is unbalanced. Remember, John 3:16 doesn't just tell us that God loved us and gave his son to us, it also tells us we will perish unless we believe upon Jesus.

It seems to me that we have created a culture in which God's law isn't just physically taken down from courthouses across the nation, but spiritually it has been removed from churches as well. What a shame!

David wrote, "I am a stranger on earth; do not hide your commands from me. My soul is consumed with longing for your laws at all times" (Ps. 119:19). Today if you take delight in God's law you are certainly regarded as a stranger here on Earth. Messages of lawlessness, disguised as grace, abound within the body of Christ in these last days to the point that any discussion of God's law is immediately deemed as old-fashioned, legalistic and anti-grace.

As the message of grace has become the vogue message in today's church culture, have we become unbalanced? Does the law have a place in our preaching alongside grace? Is it possible to once again take delight in the law of God? Bear with me as I ask a few of these important questions. Let the Holy Spirit speak, and may He bring the light of truth.

Is God's Law Still Relevant for Today?

Yes! The law was not a set of random rules that God made up to restrict his people as they gathered around the foot of the mountain. It was an expression of his divine nature. His way of showing former slaves what a life of righteousness looked like. They were not given to restrict his people from freedom, but to release them into it! As James states, "whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do" (James 1:25).

I wonder which one of God's laws is no longer relevant today in the 21st century with our new revelation? If we are under grace, why hold people accountable for lying to you? Why not invite your neighbor over to sleep with your spouse? Why prosecute a murderer? Why pay for anything at Walmart when you can just take it?

Jesus said, "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them" (Matt. 5:17). Jesus then revealed what that law—fulfilled in himself and within us—looked like.

"You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, 'You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.' But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister, will be subject to judgment. ...You have heard that it was said, 'You shall not commit adultery.' But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart" (Matt. 5:21-28).

Where is the higher standard? With Moses when adultery was done with the body or with Jesus when adultery was done with the heart? Jesus was able to teach the law this way, because with Moses the law was external to the man, written upon stone, but under grace the law was internal to the man written upon his heart (Rom. 2:15, Heb. 10:16, 2 Cor. 3:3). Under the law, man was told what he had to do to live righteously, but under grace, man was enabled to actually be righteous.

Is It Possible to Take Delight in God's Law and Still Be Under Grace?

David said, "Blessed is the man who fears the Lord, who finds great delight in his commands" (Ps. 112:1). I am a man who stays in awe of God's love and grace. I also take great delight in all of his word—including the law. I have found that grace doesn't render the law irrelevant to me but actually makes it even more relevant for me.

Under the law, man was provided the PRECEPT—that is, the divine rule that taught godly behavior. Every precept of God is based upon a PRINCIPLE—that is, the divine reason behind the rule. Under grace we come to fully understand the principles that drove the precept. Paul was right when he said, "the law was our tutor" (Gal. 3:24).

The Pharisees found satisfaction in their strict adherence to all 613 precepts. Outwardly they looked incredibly religious. Jesus said they were whitewashed tombs, filled with dead men's bones. They knew the precepts but couldn't grasp the principles. Jesus was the perfect picture of not just the precepts but the principles as well. He taught that all the law was based on love. Love for God and love for others. Without love, you'd never understand the law, let alone uphold it (Matt. 22:40, Gal. 5:14).

The Pharisees would criticize Jesus for healing a man on the Sabbath. To them this was work, which dishonored the precept. Their understanding of the law would rather leave a man sick, lame or dead than to see him made whole on a holy day. How absurd! That's exactly what religion is—absurd! Jesus told them that they didn't understand the principle. "The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath" (Mark 2:27).

When we see the principles behind the precepts, we begin to see God's truth, which leads to wisdom. These truths can then be applied to every aspect of life. God's wisdom always produces the greatest blessings. The more I understand and utilize the truth of God, the more I am blessed.

So like David, "I meditate on your law all day long. Your commands make me wiser" (Ps. 119:97).

Should the Law Still Be Preached Today?

Paul said, "I would not have known what sin was had it not been for the law" (Rom. 7:7).

The law has a purpose. It reveals God's perfect nature and at the same time it reveals our imperfect nature. The law is a picture that shows God's perfection as well as a mirror that shows our imperfection. It's just as much a work of grace to show the sinner his sin, as it is grace to show the sinner the way out of his sin.

Today the lawless preacher says, "don't preach the law, only grace! It's the kindness of God that will lead them to repentance." My friend, grace does not withhold the truth! Jesus came in grace and preached the truth. Likewise, if I truly love you I must point to the problem, then offer the solution.

The law is not bad, "the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous and good" (Rom. 7:12). Oh for the day that preachers would once again realize that God's law is good! Oh for the day that ministers would no longer withhold truth for the fear of man, but with a burning fire begin to proclaim truth with the fear of God!

The law is not the problem, sin is! Today man tries to erase sin by deleting the law and then calling that grace. However, Jesus said, "it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one dot of the Law to become void (Luke 16:17). The law points to the sin, "in order that sin might be recognized as sin" (Rom. 7:13).

Once the problem is fully identified, then and only then will man cry out, "What a wretched man I am!" (Rom. 7:24). How will a man ever find his Savior, unless he realizes he is in need of saving? Today sinners find it easy to sit in comfort within our churches never once feeling convicted for their sins. Is it grace to let a drowning man drown lest we offend him? Is it love to watch him sink below the surface hoping one day he might stumble upon the answer?

Grace never withholds the truth! It goes to the furthest extent to rescue us from our sin. Nor does it leave us as it finds us. It transforms us, enabling us to become everything Jesus intended us to be.

Jesus said in the last days "lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold" (Matt. 24:12). The unbalanced message of distorted grace is creating a culture of lawlessness within the body of Christ. As the curtain continues to close and the time of His return draws near, we must right this tilting ship by continuing to preach grace and once again taking delight in his law!

Daniel K. Norris is an evangelist who worked alongside Steve Hill bringing the message of revival and repentance to the nations. Together, they co-hosted a broadcast called From the Frontlines. Norris also hosts the Collision Youth Conference that is broadcast all over the world. He can be contacted at danielknorris.com.

14 Symptoms of Toxic Church Leaders


Most church leaders are godly and healthy. A toxic church leader, one that is figuratively poisonous to the organization, is rare.

But it is that church leader who brings great harm to churches and other Christian organizations. And it is that leader that hurts the entire cause of Christ when word travels about such toxicity.

In a post from last week, I noted the traits of long-term, healthy pastors. I now travel to the opposite extreme and provide symptoms of the worst kind of ministerial professionals, toxic church leaders.

1. They rarely demonstrate the fruit of the Spirit. Paul notes those specific attributes in Galatians 5:22-23: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, and self-control. You won't see them much in toxic leaders.

2. They seek a minimalist structure of accountability. Indeed, if they could get away with it, they would operate in a totally autocratic fashion, with heavy, top-down leadership.

3. They expect behavior of others they don't expect of themselves. "Do as I say, not as I do."

4. They see almost everyone else as inferior to themselves. You will hear them criticizing other leaders while building themselves up.

5. They show favoritism. It is clear that they have a favored few, while they marginalize the rest.

6. They have frequent anger outbursts. This behavior takes place when they don't get their way.

7. They say one thing to some people but different things to others. This is a soft way of saying they lie.

8. They seek to dismiss or marginalize people before they attempt to develop them. People are means to their ends; they see them as projects, not God's people who need mentoring and developing.

9. They are manipulative. Their most common tactic is using partial truths to get their way.

10. They lack transparency. Autocratic leaders are rarely transparent. If they get caught abusing their power, they may have to forfeit it.

11. They do not allow for pushback or disagreement. When someone does disagree, he or she becomes the victim of the leader's anger and marginalization.

12. They surround themselves with sycophants. Their inner circle thus often includes close friends and family members, as well as a host of "yes people."

13. They communicate poorly. In essence, any clarity of communication would reveal their autocratic behavior, so they keep their communications unintelligible and obtuse.

14. They are self-absorbed. In fact, they would unlikely see themselves in any of these symptoms.

Yes, toxic leaders are the distinct minority of Christian leaders. But they can do harm to the cause of Christ disproportionate to their numbers. And they can get away with their behavior for years because they often have a charismatic and charming personality. Charming like a snake.

Do you know of any toxic church leaders? Do these symptoms seem familiar?

Thom S. Rainer is the president of LifeWay Christian Resources. For the original article, visit thomrainer.com.

Beware of Superstar, Self-Appointed Church Personalities


celebrity preachers

Are these popular ministerial personalities great in the sight of the Lord or only in the sight of man? Are they really known in heaven or only on the Earth? Are they God-anointed or self-appointed? Is it ministry they deliver or some subtle form of hype?

"Many who are great in the sight of the Lord are living in cottages and hovels, and are scarcely known, unless to a few neighbors equally obscure," said William Jay.

Believers, especially Christian ministers, need a baptism of clear seeing and holy discerning. Our ministry marketing budget may be soaring high, but our perception can sometimes be so low. Our motives need refinement. The refiner's fire is near the door. Will you open it? Can you see the narrow way to holiness? Or is all the smoke blocking your view?

Before me now I see the impression I saw months ago. There are two scenes. One is of a clear and sunny horizon lined with an endless row of people. The other is of a vast forest. Dense fog covers the forest, and out of the fog comes the Lord Jesus Christ. Christ, for the most part, is not found among the general populace. People have to really look to recognize Him.

Think about it. Our Savior was not born in a big metropolis, but in the small town of Bethlehem. And He grew up in the despised region of Galilee. He was not born in a palace where kings are, but in a lowly stable. The wise men had to really search and diligently follow the star to find Him. When Jesus entered into ministry, it is written that He had no place to lay His head (Luke 9:58). He did not have a ministry headquarters. He died a criminal's death on a cross, naked and nearly alone. His grave was a borrowed tomb. His throne was an invisible one hidden from the multitudes of those who were healed and delivered through His ministry. He was called meek and lowly; certainly not the description fitting for a king. But today, ministry is so different.

A church brings in a special speaker. He's known all over, so the people flock to hear him. They come from everywhere, every night. At the meetings they jump, sing and shout. They hear the newest revelation proclaimed with jubilation. The people are saying of the special speaker:

He's on TV,
I love his personality.
His ministry is so big,
His clothes I really dig.
He's so wonderful!
And his wife looks so smart,
Her latest hit song
Is at the top of the chart.
Oh, I love to hear him speak,
And I hate to see him go.
Maybe he'll stay another week,
Or speak again on his daily show.

The same church brings in a name unknown. The people stay away by the droves. A few faithful gather to hear the Word of God. They long for holiness and a vision of Jesus. With a broken heart, the little "no-name" preacher weeps for lost souls as he delivers a word from God.

The big personality was sent by man. The little "no-name" was sent by God. The crowds who came from miles away came to hear a man. The smaller group came seeking Jesus. One set of meetings produced much excitement but no fruit of holiness. The other smaller meetings generated far less excitement but resulted in a brokenness and a lasting work of holiness in those who came. This may seem like an extreme example, but it makes the point.

Just because someone or something is big doesn't mean it's godly (and it is also understood that bigness is not tantamount to ungodliness either). In fact, it's a greater test of our devotion to be big (whatever "big" means to us) and yet remain holy, than it is to be small (whatever "small" means to us) and holy. And let's not forget that smallness is not equivalent to godliness either. Discerning the difference between hype and holiness is what's important. But we are so often fooled by the "big" while being unaware and undiscerning of the "small."

Holiness is not only sought but bought: "Buy of Me gold tried in the fire that you may be rich" (Rev 3:17). Have you been tried in the fire? Have you tested your teachings? Have you experienced and even suffered for the truth you believe? Truth is to be bought, not sold. We sell the truth when we sell our souls to pleasure, profit and earthly popularity. We buy the truth when we are tried and found true, when we suffer with godly sorrow the pains of our personal Gethsemanes, and yet remain private about them. When we allow God to strip us of all glory-seeking and subtle pride, we are buying the truth.

Too many today are selling messages they never bought. When we minister forth from what we've personally experienced or suffered, the Spirit will produce a far greater effect of holiness in the hearers. The deeper the suffering is—or has been—usually the more perfect the obedience. The more fiery the trials, and the deeper the burning, the purer and richer the vessel becomes.

This is what we must understand: God's measuring gauge and standard of holiness is so different from man's. Bigness and smallness are terms not found in Christ. Here is the criterion for holiness: Is Christ made visible? Is He seen and heard? Is the ministration of Christ being imparted? Is His Word being made manifest? Are the people changed more into His likeness? Is it producing a spirit of holiness and an increase in the fruits of righteousness? Are they paying less credence to men and personalities and reverencing God?

The problem with today's generation is that we elevate the teachings of popular Christian teachers and we have a tendency to place greater value on them than the Scriptures. We elevate their charisma, their eloquence, their humor and wit, their style, and even their cuteness and good looks. We even sow our finances into the same.

Beware of hype. Beware of those who glory in appearance void of substance. Beware of emotional excitement that lacks depth. Beware of hypnotic smoke with no holy fire.

Hype fakes the happening while delaying true holiness. Hype is infinitely more dangerous than we can ever imagine, because it lies to us and tells us that something great is happening, when in fact, very little is going on.

Bert M. Farias, revivalist and founder of Holy Fire Ministries, is the author of several books, including the newly released My Son, My Son, which he co-wrote with his son Daniel for the purpose of training up a holy generation. He is also co-host of the New England Holy Ghost Forum, a school of the Spirit. Follow him at Bert Farias on Facebook or at @Bertfarias1 on Twitter.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Are We Headed Toward Revival or Retribution?


David Ravenhill

Within the last three days I've received two very different YouTube messages from two senior charismatic prophetic leaders. The first leader, Rick Joyner, was citing a very vivid and frightening dream he recently had of terrorists coming across our southern border and carrying out unimaginable acts of brutality. So horrendous were these acts that Joyner stated he was not even going to describe them due to their violent and barbaric nature. (Only today we learned of the beheading of an Oklahoma woman by a recent convert to Islam.)

The other video centered around the "Appeal To Heaven" movement. Dutch Sheets, a well-known teacher and prophetic minister, was relating how our nation's first flag was that of a green pine tree on a white background bearing the words "Appeal to Heaven."

America during its first fledgling years knew the people's only hope for existence as a nation was sole dependency upon God. The point of the message was that several people through dreams, etc., believed that God was once again bringing us back to this place of absolute dependency upon Him; and that as we sought Him, He would bring about a Third Great Awakening in our nation.

My first reaction to these very different prophetic words was one of confusion. On one hand was the possibility of retribution while on the other, that of revival.

What was I to believe? As I pondered over these words I came to the realization that both were correct and that one was not necessarily in opposition to the other.        

Let me see if I can explain myself. I believe it's all a matter of timing or order.

Imagine if you were one of the many hundreds of missionaries who had given their lives to serve God in China prior to the Cultural Revolution under Chairman Mao Zedong. Once the revolution had begun, you were forced to leave—no doubt wondering in your mind what on earth was going to happen now that all the missionaries had been forced out. Fast-forward to the present, and we are now witnessing one of the greatest moves of God in recent history. What at first appeared to be a major disaster turned into mighty testimony to the power and grace of God.

The prophet Isaiah declared, "When the earth experiences Thy judgments the inhabitants of the world learn righteousness." He went on to say, "Though the wicked is shown favor he does not learn righteousness" (Is. 26:9-10). It is my personal belief that America is in for a time of judgment and that to be shown favor now would only delay God's ultimate purpose.

That said, I believe we are going to see an increase in violence, terrorism and natural calamities. God will use this to separate the carnal from the consecrated and in turn, produce a church that is truly Christ-centered. It would not surprise me in the least to see an underground church in America in the not-too-distant future—a church where every member functions in their God-given gifting and where everyone depends not only on each other but also holds fast to Christ their Lord and Head.

I truly believe that God wants to send revival to our nation, but revival now would simply cause the vast majority of believers to go on with business as usual.

I well recall during the first year of our ministry working with Brother David Wilkerson in Teen Challenge in Brooklyn, New York. One cold winter's day two drug addicts came in seeking shelter. Bro. David talked to them for a while and then I saw them leave. Bro. David said to me after they had left that he couldn't help them because they were not desperate enough to give up their drugs. He went on to say that all they really wanted was a bed for the night and a good hot meal. I somehow think that is what the church is looking for in revival—a good sermon, some great music, followed by some carpet time.

But I believe God's plans are radically different. He's looking for a pure, passionate, powerful people whose only desire is to extend His kingdom. A people who will love not their lives unto death, and whose first love is not the NFL, NBA, MLB or NHL, but Christ Himself.

We are nowhere near to having Christ as our first love. God must first produce a real CRY in His people. We cry when we are in pain and not until. King David said, "Before I was afflicted I went astray: but now I have kept Thy word" (Ps. 119:67, KJV). Or to put it another way, "Spare the rod and spoil the child."

The shakings have begun. Watch out for more. But remember, that while "no chastening seems to be joyful for the present ... afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness" (Heb. 12:11, NKJV, emphasis added).

I see Joyner's dream coming to pass first, and then followed by a great awakening.

That's my opinion, and time will prove me right or wrong.

David Ravenhill has served the Lord for more than 40 years as a missionary, pastor, teacher and itinerant minister, having worked with the late evangelist David Wilkerson, Youth With A Mission, pastor Mike Bickle and the late evangelist Steve Hill. He is the author of several books, including For God's Sake, Grow Up! and Welcome Home.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Apostles: True or False? by George Davis and Michael Clark


True apostles are not called and made by men, they are birthed and transformed by God. Nothing reveals a counterfeit as effectively as the genuine article. It is an issue of the organic verses the synthetic, the real opposed to the knock-off. ...Who is doing the transforming, God or men? If it is God, the apostle is true, but if it is men, these apostles are Satan's ministers. From what we have seen so far, today's apostolic reformation more resembles Horatio Alger's self-made man than the birthing of true apostles. True apostles are God-birthed, not self-transformed. They are born from above, not made by the hands and wills of men.

In chapter two of the book of Revelation, Jesus is walking in the midst of the seven golden lamp stands, which represented the churches of Asia Minor. Among the few positive things that He said to them are the following words to the church at Ephesus, "...you tried those pretending to be apostles, and are not, and have found them liars" (Revelation 2:2). The trial of those who pretended to be apostles is listed among the positive actions of the Ephesian Church, which pleased the Lord. We are fully aware that we are living in a day when many of God's children fail to understand the difference between testing and judgment, discernment and criticism, and view all speech and writing of a negative nature as critical and destructive. This has led to a general no-speak climate enforced by those in control that resists reform and allows unchecked deception. We are commanded to prove (dokimazo - to test, examine, scrutinize) the genuineness of all things and hold fast to what is good. (See 1Thessalonians 5:21). It is in this spirit that we write the following article.

In certain circles today, a great emphasis is placed on the restoration of the "office of apostle." We believe this has led to an unwholesome preoccupation by power hungry men and women seeking to corral the saints of God in a sheepfold that does not belong to the Good Shepherd. As a result, you cannot kick over an ecclesiastical rock without finding an "apostle" under it. At first this seemed rather innocuous because those claiming this title were a scattered few, but lately this inordinate ambition has risen like a ziggurat on the plains of Shinar.

You can never underestimate the resolve of ambitious men. When people set their minds to a thing, and become one around a central ambition, "nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do" (Gen 11:6). This preoccupation with the restoration of apostles has resulted in a network of so-called apostles and a "presiding apostle" sitting over them in kingly regalia. Under the name of biblical apostleship, these men have created a new Romanism. They move in both secular and religious power, "mapping" an empire tantamount to global papalism, issuing their own versions of the papal bulls called memorandums. These men set themselves over the people of God by the frequent use of honorific titles and extravagant ministry names. Although they claim that their actions are biblical, there is little scriptural evidence to support them.

We do find one passage that aptly describes the driving force behind this new apostolic reformation. It is found in 2 Corinthians 11:13 where the apostle Paul wrote:

For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves (3345 metaschematizo--self-transformation) into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed (self-transformed) into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works.

Who is doing the transforming, God or men? If it is God, the apostle is true, but if it is men, these apostles are Satan's ministers. From what we have seen so far, today's apostolic reformation more resembles Horatio Alger's self-made man than the birthing of true apostles. True apostles are God-birthed, not self-transformed. They are born from above, not made by the hands and wills of men.

Not to long ago, I (Michael) went to one of these big name conferences where these self-made men and women presided. The worst sort of pride and lust for power permeated not only the elevated leaders, but went out from them and saturated the crowd that gathered to worship at their feet! The unspoken message from the stage for three days was, "If you give us power and honor, you will receive power and honor from us as well!" We are convinced that these self-transformed "apostles" who come as messengers of light are deceiving thousands. For the sake of God's children we can no longer keep silent!

True apostles are not called and made by men, they are birthed and transformed by God. Nothing reveals a counterfeit as effectively as the genuine article. It is an issue of the organic verses the synthetic, the real opposed to the knock-off. Let us first look at the calling of a genuine apostle, whose birth and preparation was unlike anything known by most of today's so-called apostles.

"One Born Out of Due Season"
We see in Paul an example of the birth of a genuine apostle. Paul spoke of this birth in 1 Corinthians 15:8-10.

"Then last of all He (the risen Lord Jesus) was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time. For I am the least of the apostles, who am not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me." (NKJV)

Note here that Paul attributed who he was and what he did to the transforming grace of God. He was indeed God's workmanship born in travail and crisis. Paul spoke of his calling in Galatians chapter one. "Paul, an apostle, (not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised him from the dead)" (Galatians 1:1). Paul's election was not of men. What does this mean? The Greek word for of here is apo [575], which should more correctly be translated from. Paul's calling did not come from man. Neither did it originate with or was it sustained by or through man. It was not the result of years of working his way up through a religious hierarchy, accumulating degrees and finally receiving the recognition due him. Paul's calling and ministry were heavenly in their conception, inception and fruition. From beginning to end, Paul was what he was by the grace of God. Paul was not a self-made man. Those days were over for him when he forsook his past as one of the religious vanguard of Jerusalem in favor of Jesus Christ and Him crucified. Even the gospel that he preached was not formulated or pre-approved by man. It was not developed in a church conclave. In fact, it was not well received by many religious men and therefore brought him into constant conflict with those who did not known the true meaning of the precious gospel that he preached.

"But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after (kata -down from, through out, according to) man. For I neither received it of (para- with, from, by, near) man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ." (Galatians 1:11-12)

The gospel that Paul preached did not come down (kata) through an approved religious agency. He didn't receive it through association with men. He was not near men when he received it. Paul went out of his way to deny all human involvement regarding his calling and ministry. If his calling and gospel were not purely divine and untainted by ecclesiastical persuasion and ambition, then his ministry could not be purely from heaven. Paul did not seek the approval of men. In fact he saw searching for man's approval as a disqualifying factor, clearly stating that if he sought the approval of men he could not be the servant of Christ. (See Galatians 1:10). He received his Gospel first hand by the revelation of Jesus Christ. How then did God birth and equip this "one born of due season"? How did God transform a Pharisee by the name of Saul into Paul?

From Saul to Paul
In Hebrew culture the changing of the name represented a change of character and station. Names were also prophetic, foretelling your destiny. We see this name changing by the hand of God throughout the scriptures. In the early chapters of Acts, we are introduced to Saul of Tarsus, an ambitious young Pharisee who guarded the cloaks of those who were stoning Stephen and consented to his death. The name Saul means desired. We know that King Saul of the Old Testament was desired and chosen by the people because he met the outward standard of greatness. This standard was not God's standard of leadership, but pagan through and through. Saul was the son of Kish, who descended from Aphiah, the son of a Benjamite, a mighty man of valor.

This son of Kish was "an impressive young man; and there was not among the children of Israel a better (towb) person than he. From his shoulders and upward he was higher than any of the people" (1Samuel 9:2).

In what way was Saul better? He was towb [02896] good, "pleasant, agreeable to the senses." He appealed to the soulish nature of fallen man. When Eve look upon the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, she "saw that the tree [was] good (Heb. towb) for food." In physical stature Saul was taller than any one else in Israel and quite handsome. He was striking in personal appearance. From a purely human perspective Saul was the perfect male, gifted with great potential and charisma for leadership. Let's not forget that Israel had requested a king like those of all the nations (1 Samuel 8:5). This is exactly why Saul appealed to them. He fulfilled the lusts of their hearts perfectly.

Now back to Saul of Tarsus.

Saul of Tarsus had a "little-man complex" that may have motivated him to do spectacular things and do whatever was necessary to excel above his peers. From all appearances he was trying to live up to his namesake, King Saul. From what we know of his pre-conversion days, he was very ambitious. His persecution of the church was to further his career as a Pharisee. Saul of Tarsus was a man on the make, climbing, excelling. He worked hard to reach the top of the religious ladder, overcoming great obstacles along the way. The greatest obstacle of all was his weak outward stature and his speech, which some referred to as contemptible (see 2 Corinthians 10:7).

In chapter thirteen, verse nine of the book of Acts, something life-changing happened to Saul of Tarsus. By this time, even his name was changed from Saul to Paul. The name Paul or Paulus means small or little. Are you catching the drift here? Something happened to Saul that ended his striving to be head and shoulders above the rest. The old Saul-life had passed away and a new name had been assumed that matched his God given character and calling. A new nature and destiny had transformed the man who had struck fear in the hearts of believers, who now preached "the faith which once he destroyed" (Galatians 1: 23).

How had such a radical transformation occurred? What would cause an ambitious man to count his life-pursuit and his perfect religious credentials as dung? What would cause such a man to join the very ones he had persecuted? How was Saul transformed into Paul? The amazing story is recorded in Acts chapters nine through thirteen. Understanding this portion of scripture is key to understanding the birth of an apostle and also discerning the true from the false.

In chapter nine we find Saul in his quest for greatness, doing the very thing that would give his religious career the boost it needed. "Breathing threats and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord," he went to the high priest, to request a letter of permission to go to Damascus and bring believers bound to Jerusalem (Acts 9:1-2).

A funny thing happened to Saul on his way to the top. He was knocked off his religious horse on his religious posterior by a blinding light. After being properly introduced to Jesus Christ as Lord, he was led blind to Damascus. Unbeknownst to Saul, God was speaking to a dear saint named Ananias, telling him that Saul was a chosen messenger. The Lord said to Ananias, "Go your way, for he is my chosen vessel to bear my name before the nations and kings, and the children of Israel. For I will show him how many things he must suffer for my name's sake" (Act 9:15-16).

Here is the rub. We all want to stand before nations and kings and preach the gospel to them, but no one wants to suffer. How many times have we heard the verse parroted, "A man's gift makes room for him, And brings him before great men" (Proverbs 18:16, NKJV)? Have you ever considered the condition God's gifted ones were in when they were brought before the kings of this earth? Some were flogged, starved, and even beheaded as they were presented to these great men of the world system. This could explain why there are so few true apostles today. For this call -- the call of an apostle--IS a call to suffering and that suffering is preparatory and necessary to the work. I (George) told my son, who has recently been going through a severe trial, "Pressure creates the diamond." His answer, though quite candid, is very relevant here. "Yes, but how long do I have to be a chunk of coal?"

I am sure there are many with this call on their lives who feel this very way. We also have called out, "How much longer, Lord?" But take heart and know that true apostles are born through such travail and suffering. The sufferings of this present hour are not to be compared with the greater weight of glory that lies just beyond the cross.

We see this clearly borne out as Saul's story continues. Ananias found Saul, embraced him as a brother, prayed for him and God healed his blindness. Because of his newfound zeal for Christ and his effective preaching in the local synagogue, the Jews set guards at the city gates to take and kill him. Thus his suffering began. The other disciples heard of this plot and lowered Saul down through the city wall in a basket and he escaped to Jerusalem. There, the disciples at first distrusted Saul and later found him too hot to handle. Yes, as soon as Saul hit the city gates he was stirring up trouble again. He preached boldly in the name of the Lord and disputed against the Grecian Jews, who also wanted to kill him.

When the brothers discovered the intentions of the religious Jews, they brought Saul down to Caesarea, and sent him off by ship to Tarsus (Act 9:30). And then "the assemblies throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace, and were built up" (9:31). Perhaps it is not fair to say that the reason for the unrest in the Jerusalem Church was Saul's white-hot zeal, but Luke did think it necessary to record the calm after his departure. Saul's suffering continued as his zeal for preaching the gospel far outweighed any desire he had for a life of Christian enjoyment. His passion for the lost was greater than his desire for his own comfort and safety. Saul stirred the religious pot in Jerusalem. This would not be the last time he would do so. Things were just beginning to calm down after the trouble that Stephen stirred up when he challenged the high council of Jerusalem, and here came another radical. Saul cannot even find consolation in the community of believers. His zeal separated him from them as well.

God had separated him unto Christ from his mother's womb, separated him from the "Jews' religion" (Galatians 1:12-13), and now he was still being separated, but now unto Christ alone. When God sets you apart, He REALLY sets you apart! Jesus was insuring that man would have nothing to do with the birthing and transforming of this apostle, nor would men influence the gospel that he would preach. Where was Saul to go? He was initially sent away to his hometown, Tarsus, but it is clear from his own account of this time of preparation that this is not the whole story. Where did he go? In Acts, Paul completely disappears from the scene for a long period of time.

Here is his own account:

For you have heard of my way of living in time past in the Jews' religion, how that beyond measure I persecuted the assembly of God, and ravaged it. I advanced in the Jews' religion beyond many of my own age among my countrymen, being more exceedingly zealous for the traditions of my fathers. But when it was the good pleasure of God, who separated me from my mother's womb, and called me through his grace, to reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I didn't immediately confer with flesh and blood, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me, but I went away into Arabia.

The Wilderness
After Paul's conversion he did not confer with flesh and blood but instead went into Arabia. The area called Arabia or Arab extends into the Great Syrian Desert. Where is the first place that God led Saul, to prepare him for this great call on his life? The Spirit lead him into the wilderness. Where else would Jesus prepare a chosen vessel? The one common thread that we find in the lives of those God separates unto Himself to do His will is an extensive time of wilderness that kills everything of their old natures and places the kingdom of heaven in their hearts. The stripping process of the wilderness is what makes a true apostle impermeable to the things of men and devoted to the things of God. We don't know much about what happened during this period of Paul's life, but we do know that God had His way with him and made him ready for the work that was ahead in building HIS kingdom.

Before Paul returned to Damascus, Christ had been formed in Him. Today many want the power, the title and the authority that Paul had, but few are willing to be tested and proven in their own wilderness period. Few are willing to let God strip them down to nothing and then raise them up in the character of His own Son. Most think that they can use the strength of their natural man to do "the work of God." To this we emphatically say, "NOT!"

Isaiah prophesied of this dichotomy when he said,

Who among you fears the LORD? Who obeys the voice of His Servant? Who walks in darkness And has no light? Let him trust in the name of the LORD And rely upon his God. Look, all you who kindle a fire, Who encircle yourselves with sparks: Walk in the light of your fire and in the sparks you have kindled--This you shall have from My hand: You shall lie down in torment. (Isaiah 50:10-11, NKJV).

Apostle Paul continues,

Then I returned to Damascus. Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to visit Peter, and stayed with him fifteen days. But of the other apostles I saw no one, except James, the Lord's brother. Now about the things which I write to you, behold, before God, I'm not lying. Then I came to the regions of Syria and Cilicia. I was still unknown by face to the assemblies of Judea which were in Christ, but they only heard: "He who once persecuted us now preaches the faith that he once tried to destroy." And they glorified God in me. . .Then after a period of fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking Titus also with me." (Galatians 1:13-2:1).

It was more than seventeen years before Paul went up to Jerusalem to resolve the Antioch conflict. True apostles are not born overnight.

During this fourteen-year period (2:1), Barnabas, at the bidding of the assembly at Jerusalem, went to see if the reports of the vital Gentile church at Antioch were true. Obviously those apostles who sat in comfortable popularity in Jerusalem did not start that work, or they would have known about it. The Antioch Church that Barnabas witnessed was a great source of rejoicing to him, and we have no record of him reporting back to Jerusalem. Who was the first one that Barnabas thought of when he found this glorious Antioch Church that had mysteriously sprung up? He remembered Saul and his burden for the Gentiles, and without so much as a by your leave from the Jerusalem apostles, Barnabas straightway set out for Tarsus to find Saul.

When Barnabas found Saul he told him about this anomaly at Antioch. They returned together and stayed there at the Antioch Church, teaching the believers for the following year (see Acts 11:22-26).

The Final Stages of an Apostle's Birth
It was while Saul was there at Antioch that another great transformation occurred in his life and ministry. Let's read the account in its entirety to see the final stages of the birthing of an apostle.

And in Antioch some among the existing church were prophets and teachers. (such as Barnabas, and Simeon who was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen, the foster-brother of Herod the tetrarch) and Saul. As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, So, then, separate Barnabas and Saul to Me for the work to which I have called them. Then having fasted and prayed and laid hands on them, THEY LET THEM GO (to set free, to let go, dismiss, to detain no longer). Then these indeed sent out by the Holy Spirit went down to Seleucia. And from there they sailed to Cyprus. And when they were at Salamis, they announced the Word of God in the synagogues of the Jews. And they also had John as an assistant. And when they had gone through the island to Paphos, they found a certain conjurer, a false prophet, a Jew whose name was Bar-jesus; who was with the proconsul of the country, Sergius Paulus, a prudent man. He called for Barnabas and Saul and asked to hear the Word of God. But Elymas the conjurer (for so his name is, if translated) withstood them, seeking to turn the proconsul away from the faith. Then Saul (who is also Paul), FILLED WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT, set his eyes on him and said, O son of the Devil, full of all deceit and all craftiness, enemy of all righteousness, will you not stop perverting the right ways of the Lord? And now, behold, the hand of the Lord is on you. And you shall be blind, not seeing the sun for a while. And immediately a mist and a darkness fell on him, and he went about seeking some to lead him by the hand. Then, seeing the thing happening, the proconsul believed, being astonished at the doctrine of the Lord. And Paul and those around him sailed from Paphos and came to Perga of Pamphylia. And John left them and returned to Jerusalem. (Act 13:1-13 MKJV)

Note the transition here. It all began with a prayer meeting where prophets and teachers, including Barnabas and Saul, were ministering to the Lord and fasting. It is noteworthy that in the long list of those attending this meeting, Saul is mentioned last. The one who excelled beyond his peers in the Jews' religion was now last in the ekklesia of God. God had him right where he wanted him. Also, when Barnabas and Saul are mentioned together, Barnabas is mentioned first.

As they ministered to the Lord the Holy Spirit spoke a word of separation, "SEPARATE Barnabas and Saul to Me. . ." Consider for a moment the true nature of this separation. This was a call that severed all human attachments, a call to let them go, a call to be set aside BY and UNTO the Spirit of God alone. It was a call to be filled, led and empowered solely by God's Spirit. Something was about to change! Before this time Barnabas and Saul had not been fully SEPARATED by the Spirit unto the work. They had taught and preached the gospel in previous days but something was about to change! Saul had performed no miracles before this time that we know of. Again we see Saul being separated, first unto the Holy Spirit and then unto the work. Then after more fasting and prayer they laid hands on them and let them go.

Please hear us! These brothers were not sent out by the church; they were sent out by the Holy Spirit! They were led out. All that was required of the other brothers in that meeting was to LET THEM GO! That's exactly what they did. They prayed and laid hands on them and let them go. They did not send them forth. They simply set them free to be fully led by God's Spirit--to raise their sails and to be directed by HIS Wind (see John 3:8).

Only God knows all the hidden ties that His children put upon each other, if only the expectation that they should faithfully fill a pew every Sunday morning. God's call on other believers is really none of our affair. Before their Master they will stand or fall. To believe otherwise is to assume a lording-over posture rather than one of caring and obedience. No matter how much we love each other and desire to be together, we must hold all relationships loosely, understanding that the Holy Spirit still SEPARATES believers unto Himself. We are always called to be ministers to God before we are set forth to minister unto men. On judgment day we will answer to Him, not mere mortals. Do you remember Jesus' words to Peter, who was excessively curious about John's calling? "If I desire that he stay until I come, what is that to you? You follow me" (John 21:22).

Barnabas and Saul sailed to Paphos, where they met a conjurer and false prophet named Bar-Jesus, who hindered them in any way he could. Note Barnabas is still mentioned before Saul here. Finally, in verse nine, Saul (who is also Paul), FILLED WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT, pronounced blindness upon this "son of the Devil," who afterwards had to be led about by the hand for a season. As a result the proconsul was astonished at the doctrine of the Lord and believed!

In verse 13 we read these pivotal words. "And Paul and those around him sailed from Paphos and came to Perga of Pamphylia." Hallelujah! Saul is dead! Paul is born!

Now it is "Paul and those around him." When King Saul was little in his own eyes, God could use him. So it was here. Saul of Tarsus had grown into his new name. Paul--Paulus--small or little. The wilderness had done its work. God gives grace to the humble and resists the proud. Here we see something said of Paul that was never said of him before. Paul, "FILLED WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT." There is no doubt that in the past he had been full of zeal, but now, having been fully separated unto the Spirit, he was FULL OF THE SPIRIT and power. As the prophet Zechariah prophesied, "'Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,' says the LORD of hosts" (Zechariah 4:6, NKJV). The way up is down and the way down is up. As Paul's life indicates, the preparation to be an apostle first consists of an emptying and stripping of the old Saul-life (Philippians 3:4-8) and then a filling of the Spirit.

Now that we have witnessed the birthing of a true apostle, let's compare it to the apostolic network that is appearing center-stage, cheered on by many in Christendom today.

"New Apostolic Reformation"
One of the defining differences between Paul and many of the so-called apostles of today is that Paul decreased. By contrast, these men and women who flaunt their titles and positions are ever on the increase. Another big difference is that Paul preached Christ, while these are ever preaching their apostleship. Paul wrote, "For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus' sake" (2 Corinthians 4:5). In contrast, all the books by today's rising stars are written in defense of their supposed ministries. Their sole preoccupation is the resurgence of apostles in the church and the restoration of apostolic authority. To our knowledge, only those who view themselves as apostles have written such books. This is a clear conflict of interest since they preach themselves!

Paul warns us that the identifying mark of false apostles is masquerading. "For such men are deceitful workmen, masquerading as apostles of Christ" (2 Corinthians 11:13). If you are not a true apostle, it requires constant posing and posturing to convince others that you are. This may explain the need to make up new and extravagant ministry titles almost daily. They want us to think they are as important as they think they are.

They clearly state that victory in "spiritual warfare" is dependent upon them "going into an area and doing spiritual battle with territorial spirits." One of these so-called apostles wrote,

"These evil prince spirits will be defeated little by little, and they will be eventually dethroned by the warfare of the Church. In contrast, a man who is an apostle and submitted to Christ will now reign spiritually over that locality in place of the displaced evil prince spirit . . . As these evil prince angels are defeated one by one, Satan's control over the world is seriously weakened. Finally, in unified global spiritual warfare, the last apostles and the Church will confront Satan himself."

Talk about visions of grandeur! We thought that the angels of God were the ones who throw Satan into the lake of fire at God's appointed time. It was this kind of insanity that Jude warned against when he wrote:

In the same way these dreamers make the flesh unclean, having no respect for authorities, and say evil of rulers. Now when Michael, one of the chief angels, was fighting against the Evil One for the body of Moses, fearing to make use of violent words against him, he only said, May the Lord be your judge. But these men say evil about such things as they have no knowledge of; and the things of which they have natural knowledge, like beasts without reason, are the cause of their destruction. (Jude 1:8-10, BBE).

These presumptuous men also believe that the restoration of "the office of the apostle" is key to "releasing finances" for the church. In their own minds, these men see themselves as the answer to all the needs of the church. A few have even dared to place themselves at the top of the apostolic heap.

After the 9 -11 attacks one of these "apostles," who refers to himself as the "Presiding Apostle," gives us a glimpse into the megalomania of these poor self-deluded men and women.

"In our roles as apostolic leaders of the International Coalition of Apostles, both John Doe (not his real name) and I have written initial apostolic declarations. This is mine, and John Doe's will be attached to it in the same communication . . . I habitually read a chapter of the Bible before each day begins. On September 11, I read 2 Kings 18 before I had heard that we were in a national crisis.

Naturally my reading for September 12, after I knew about it, was 2 Kings 19. This is the story of Hezekiah. In 18 he went on a spiritual offensive and wiped out idolatry from Judah. The devil did not like this, so he sent Sennacherib of Assyria against him with a threat, which I liken to the destruction of the twin towers. As I prayed for my personal role in this crisis, I came to 2 Kings 19 recording Hezekiah's reaction. Hezekiah inquired of the Lord, then sent for the Lord's word through Isaiah the prophet. He was aware that "God does nothing unless He reveals His secret to His servants the prophets" (Amos 3:7).

Only when he had received the word of the Lord through Isaiah did Hezekiah go back before the Lord and make his kingly declaration. I saw that the Lord wanted me to postpone any declaration about the twin towers war until word had come in from the prophets. The word, at least a preliminary word, has now come in from the prophets (we have received over 1,000 emails), so I am ready to write this memorandum."

Does this man actually envision himself as a king, making a kingly declaration?

He continues,

"I imagine that numbers of other apostles, besides John Doe (not his real name) and me, will be doing the same thing. Who knows? Maybe some day we will be able to collate them in order to agree on what the Spirit is saying to the churches. . .the Strategic Prayer Network, the Observatory, Generals of Intercession, the International Coalition of Apostles, the Apostolic Council of Prophetic Elders, the Jericho Center and other vital units."

Thank you, commander and chief! Did you notice how they gravitate to the titles that this world system employs--titles like Strategic, Network, Generals, Coalition, Center and units? One of these men spoke of an ever increasing ascendancy of titles as the emphasis changed from the ministry of pastors to teachers, from teachers to evangelists, from evangelists to prophets and from prophets to apostles over the last five decades. When I heard this, I (Michael) thought, what title will they clamor after next, the title of Jesus Christ the King? After reading the memorandum above, this does not seem to be so far out of reach. There is nothing so blinding as pride. In contrast, the words of Paul come to mind,

Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our confession, Christ Jesus, who was faithful to Him who appointed Him, as Moses also was faithful in all His house. For this One has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses, inasmuch as He who built the house has more honor than the house. For every house is built by someone, but He who built all things is God. And Moses indeed was faithful in all His house as a servant, for a testimony of those things which would be spoken afterward, but Christ as a Son over His own house, whose house we are if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm to the end. (Hebrews 3:1-6, NKJV).
The one who builds the house gets the glory. We ask you, "What house are these men building and who is getting the glory?" The answer is all too obvious.

These self-appointed kingdom builders also charge exorbitant prices to get in to their meetings, often over $300 per seat. They make merchandise of the unsuspecting people of God. Other than the Bible, the Didache is among the oldest Christian documents. It was written about 150 AD. In it we find the following instructions.

Now about the envoys (apostles) and prophets, do just as according to the tenet of the good message. Now each envoy who comes to you, accept as you would the Lord. But he will not remain for one day. Now if there is need, also the next day. But if he remains for three, he is a false prophet.
Now when the envoy departs, he should take nothing except bread until he lodges. But if he should ask for money, he is a false prophet.

The Signs of an Apostle
The scriptures clearly state that there are signs that prove whether or not a person is "one sent." Paul's ministry was questioned by the Corinthian ekklesia. He wrote them and reminded them that "the signs of an apostle" had accompanied his ministry. The article "the" in "the signs of an apostle" implies that in the first century ekklesia, it was common knowledge that these signs would confirm the ministry of those who were truly sent. These signs were miracles, wonders, and works of power (dunamis).

Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you in all patience, in signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds. (2Corinthians 12:12)

Through mighty signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God; so that from Jerusalem, and round about unto Illyricum, I have fully preached the gospel of Christ. (Romans15:19)

When Paul preached the gospel, it was fully preached "Through mighty signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God." We ask all who think they are apostles today, Are you sure? Do the signs of an apostle bear witness of your ministry? Are you truly a "sent one"? This is clearly the only true test of an apostle. If these signs are absent, you are not an apostle. Sorry!

If you cannot say with all sincerity, "by the grace of God I am what I am," and if the words "I labored more abundantly . . . yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me" do not describe your ministry, you had better rethink your calling. You had better seek God and ask Him to try your heart to see if your apostleship is man-made or God birthed--driven by ambition or grace. There is nothing to lose except your illusions. If you discover that you are not an apostle and that you were duped by your own heart-ambitions, you have not lost anything, but have gained the truth. God knows whether the driving force behind our so-called ministries comes from a desire to be first or love for Him and His people. "For the word of God is living, and active, and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing even to the dividing of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and is able to discern the thoughts and intentions of the heart" (Hebrews 4:12).

The time when God winked at this kind of foolishness is over. You can not run a con on God. If you persist in this game you will loose. Paul was warning of this when he wrote,

The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness. (2 Thessalonians 2:9-12, NKJV).

In our years in institutional Christianity, we have witnessed the christianization of every ambition known to man. Let's get honest with ourselves, dear saints, and allow God's two-edged sword to pierce and divide between our soulish ambitions and what is birthed of God's Spirit in our lives. The flesh cannot mysteriously be transubstantiated into something spiritual. No, what is born of the flesh IS now and always will be flesh and shall not glory in His presence. The heart is desperately wicked and always tries to put the best face on the flesh. Only God is able to discern and expose its thoughts and intentions. So as living sacrifices, let us put ourselves on the altar before our Great High Priest that our inward thoughts can be laid bare and known to us. Better to find out now than later!

We Leave You with this Simple Exhortation
God is setting us apart so that we are no longer our own. Our minds are no longer ours either. The God who makes all things new is working to form the mind of Christ in us.

Part of God's work in us is to bring us to see that in our flesh dwells no good thing. There is nothing redeemable there. Many people who call themselves "Christian" today are reinventing themselves to avoid the work of the personal cross of Christ, the Cross that requires death to their ambitions. When Peter said to Jesus, "Lord spare yourself..." Jesus' reply was to the point, "Get behind me Satan, for you do not desire the things of God, but rather the things of men." He was speaking to the antichrist spirit within Peter. It is a harsh reality that the temple where the antichrist sits is the very temple of God, those who profess to be Jesus' followers. It was true then and it is even truer today. John wrote:

Little children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that the Antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come, by which we know that it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us. (1 John 2:18-19, NKJV).

"Went out from" - Greek - exerchomai - 2a) to go out of an assembly, i.e. forsake it, 2b) to come forth from physically, arise from, to be born of, 2c) to go forth from one's power, escape from it in safety, 2d) to come forth (from privacy) into the world, before the public (of those who by novelty of opinion attract attention).

The antichrist spirit rises up above others ("little children") in order to attract attention to itself.

Now consider Paul's warning to the Ephesians,

For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves. Therefore watch, and remember that for three years I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears. (Acts 20:29-31, NKJV).

This constant tendency to come out from the humble brethren and raise yourself up, to draw attention to yourself and build a following is the most perverse and yet the most common form of the man of sin. The son of perdition "opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God" (2 Thessalonians 2:4). It is evident that the falling away was well underway by the time the last of the early apostles died, even though there was some effort to counter the rising tide of hierarchy. "You will not exalt yourself, nor will you give over-boldness to your soul. Your soul will not cling with the high people, but you will conduct yourself with the just and lowly ones" (Didache).

Most of what is parading around in much pomp and circumstance as the "apostolic and prophetic movement" these days is antichrist to the core. These men and women who rise up over the saints of God have been duped and are not modeling the lowliness of Jesus Christ in the slightest degree. As we read their writings we see many chapters about their ministries and their right to rule over the people of God, but very little about Jesus. Maybe it takes being outside the camp, bearing His reproach for a few years, before you finally get eyes that can see what is going on in Christendom. We are praying that something as truly new as heaven itself comes forth rather than a rehash of the old Roman system with Biblical titles to cover its shame

God bless you as you follow the Lamb wherever He leads!