Friday, September 23, 2016


I had anticipated this moment with an emotional mixture of intimidation and challenge. The intimidation was generated by the fact that I was standing before a large group of my fellow pastors and I was to deliver the opening address at our annual Pastors' Conference. The element of challenge found its focus in the question, "How can I outflank their professional communication skills and their ability to anticipate what they think I'm about to say? How can I arrest their attention long enough to make my point?"

I decided to take a risk and begin with a confession that would need more than a little explanation!

"I begin tonight with a very difficult confession before you, my fellow Pastors. There is no simple or easy way to say this; so I will just say it: I have been guilty of having an affair."

The tension level took a quantum leap upward! Some of those sitting in front of me were my peers. I had trained with these men for Ministry. I noted some looks of stunned disbelief. Others showed their disbelief in smiles that indicated that they knew I had to have an angle here of some kind!
I continued... "In one sense, I can think of no better place to make such a confession than in the presence of other Pastors because most of you will have long since recognised your own vulnerability. In another sense, I can think of no worse place to acknowledge my failure because the judgment of my peers has the potential to be the worst kind of condemnation.

Now I can almost hear your ask the question, 'How can one who is supposedly committed to the Lord Jesus and to his own wife ever allow another relationship to develop to the point where those two holy relationships are endangered?'

As best I can determine, it began with a flaw or weakness in my own character that was (and is) wide open to exploitation. Like many of you, I have a need to be needed and to be affirmed. sometimes I think that need is above and beyond what might be considered healthy. I further acknowledge that I am at my most vulnerable when there is an absence of encouragement and affirmation in my emotional diet".

Well, so far my explanation was not doing very much to lessen the tension level. I pressed on....

"My mistress was very subtle. She knew my emotional need for praise and affirmation in my life and she was quick to meet that need. Time and again she was ready to speak warmly of my qualities as a person and my endeavours as a Pastor. In return, she seemed to require so little - initially, at least. She repeatedly assured me that our developing relationship need not negatively effect my relationship with Bev, my wife, or with the Lord. At first she had told me she would be satisfied if I only offered her the time that was left after my prior relational responsibilities. It seemed that I could have my cake and eat it, too! It all seemed so fulfilling....just too good to be true!

But as time passed, this seemingly free liaison became increasingly demanding. I began to realise that I was becoming both enmeshed and addicted to the relationship.

My mistress was demanding more and more of my time. She began to begrudge the time I gave to Bev and my family. She also began to make demands on the time I had initially reserved for the Lord".

It was at this point that I became aware that a number of my listeners were becoming restless in their chairs while others sat like statues as though any movement might betray an inner response. of guilt. I was beginning to wonder if my approach was a bad choice. Too late now. I continued:

"As I tried to meet those demands, the intensity of my guilt began to increase. My priority commitments to my Lord and my wife came under enormous pressure. I found myself making excuses for the decreasing amount of time I was spending with Bev. I kept telling her that my lack of time with her and the family was part of the sacrifice we had to make for the sake of the Lord's work. I seemed to be forever asking forgiveness from God because of what I was allowing to happen in my relationship with Him".

"Another complicating and destructive factor in all this mess was that my mistress was now claiming that she, too, had needs that only I could meet. I found myself in the terrible situation of becoming indispensable to her and that just added to the feelings of fragmentation. The whole dynamic had become like a spiritual "Fatal Attraction". It sounds stupid even as I say it but, as demanding as she became, even that price was worth paying when I lost sight of where my needs were supposed to be met and tried to meet them with her. The paradox is that I have both warmly welcomed her and deeply resented her. I have sought consolation with her and yet I have despised the cost of that comfort".

I now began to note some further changes in the facial expressions of my listeners. Some, at least, were beginning to suspect that this was not what it first appeared to be! Some mental gears were beginning to turn in another direction as they tried to pre-empt just where I was going with this 'confession'? It seems that even pastors don't want to be the last to get it!

"I began by confessing to you that I had a mistress. I deliberately made that statement in the past tense. I did so partly as a statement of fact and partly as a statement of hope. It is a statement of fact inasmuch as, at this point of time, I do not have a mistress. That destructive relationship is now broken and is part of my history. I have owned it and I have been forgiven".

"It is a statement of hope inasmuch as I fully realise that I am capable of re-commencing that liaison at any time; particularly during those periods of emotional weakness when others seem insensitive to my needs. I know that she is always there ready to meet that need.

And now, as part of my confession, I have determined to complete my confessional atonement before you by actually naming my mistress to you".

The tension that had started to ease with some was quickly restored with this last remark! In fact, I was to find out later that two or three had determined by this time to get out of their seats and leave the room.

"I name her in your presence because, as I have listened to fellow pastors talk over the years, I believe some of you also know her and you may want to join me in my confession and atonement.

Her name is 'MINISTRY'".

The tension level, which had varied quite noticeably to this point, now relaxed very noticeably!

Ah, yes! I can see from the looks on some faces that there are those of you who are acquainted with her. That being the case, perhaps you might like to journey with me a little further as I try to explain the process of recovery and restoration to my wife and to my God that has happened for me.

Before I ask you to walk further with me in this expose, I need first to make another confession and, perhaps, an apology.

I recognise that, in using the analogy of an affair to make a point, I have run the very serious risk of piercing the hearts of those who may be struggling with a more literal affair or relationship than what I have described. If I have unwittingly and unhelpfully wounded you, I do ask for your forgiveness and understanding. On the other hand, if my analogy has pierced your heart with conviction, I do not apologise for that.

The reason I have been prepared to take the risk in describing the dynamics of this unhealthy relationship with "ministry" in terms of an affair is that I really believe that "ministry" can become a destructive "affair of the heart" that has the capacity to estrange us from our families. I, for one, have felt times of enormous pressure and conflict of interest as I have sought to be both a loving husband and a faithful Pastor. In retrospect, I can see that those pressures have been largely of my own making and have emerged in my life because of my failure to understand the true relationship that I was to have with "ministry".

Let me explain first how the Lord Jesus moved to expose and correct what had become an idol in my life. Even now it sounds strange to refer to "ministry" as an idol. But if an idol is something to which one devotes the major portion of one's time, energy and effort....if an idol is that for which I am willing to sacrifice just about everything in my life...if an idol is anything that comes between me and my God and competes for that devotion, loyalty and commitment that ought to belong only to Him.....then "Ministry " had become such an idol.....such a mistress.

As I think back now, one of the factors that led to the emergence of this form of idolatry was the confusion that developed when I lost sight of the fact that God had called me to Himself before ever he called me to "the ministry".

I have been challenged again by the call of the early disciples recorded in Mark 3 where the purpose for which Jesus called His disciples was "...that they might be with Him and that He might send them out to preach..."

That sequence has now become so important to me. God has called us first of all to Himself. He first says, "Come to me....." before He says, "Go into all the world...." All ministry must flow out of that reality. Of course, if you had asked me at any point in my 30 years of pastoral ministry if I believed that, truth I would have answered with a prompt "Yes!" But that answer would have come from my head, not my heart. The truth is that there is a lot that I affirm with my head which, if my actions are any indication, I do not really believe in my heart.

There is a key passage in Luke 10 that has helped me regain a perspective that my former mistress took from me. When the seventy-two disciples returned from their ministry assignment, they were ecstatic that even the demons were subject to the authority that Christ had given them. They had experienced a good time with "ministry"!! I hear in their words feelings of fulfilment, excitement and anticipation for what the future might hold by way of further ministry.

However, Jesus firmly added a corrective to their understandable enthusiasm. He said to them: "I have given you authority to overcome all the power of the enemy. However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven". (Luke 10:20)

Jesus was identifying for them - and for us - the only source and basis of joy and rejoicing and it was not be in the "ministry". Sure, we may be grateful for those times of blessing that result from what we do for Him but the only appropriate, unchanging and dependable source of joy is in our relationship with Jesus....the fact that our names are written down in heaven and we are secure in that fact!

Like some of you, I have often made the mistake of finding my joy elsewhere... especially with "ministry" ....and she has a way of becoming a idol. Too often my perspective and mood swings are directly effected by "ministry"! My source of joy becomes confused and I find myself on an emotional roller-coaster. I have also discovered that it is so easy, as a pastor, to develop a "professional" relationship with Jesus. In that kind of relationship, He is the "employer" and I am the "employee".

By contrast, I was challenged by the basis of Jesus' joy identified in the same passage: "At that time, Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit said, "I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth...Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure". (Luke 10:21). Here is the heartbeat of Jesus in terms of His relationship with His Father. His source of joy was in the other two members of the Godhead - the Father and the Holy Spirit.

Maybe that is why we never see Jesus centred upon the results of His ministry as though that was the beginning and end of everything. He never allowed "ministry" to become His mistress. He knew how to say "No" without feeling guilty. He knew how and when to serve and how and when to retreat...even in the midst of the demands and expectations of those about Him. Luke records these simple but telling words in chapter 5:16: "The news about Him spread all the more so that crowds of people came to hear him and be healed of their sicknesses. But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed".

Prayer retreats in the midst of human need! What kind of Pastor is this?

I hear echoes of that same demanding insistence in the words of the disciples when Jesus had gone out early in the morning to pray. In Mark 1:37, we are told that they came to him and said, "Everyone is looking for you!" Roughly translated that seems to me to mean, "You are indispensable! They can't do without you! Prayer is nice in its right place but you don't have time for that luxury right now! We are surrounded by need!"

Jesus response is both startling and instructive: "Let us go somewhere else - to the nearby villages - so I can preach there also. That is why I have come".(Mark 1:38)

What kind of Pastor indeed! The answer is simple and disturbing. Jesus was a Shepherd/Pastor who knew what His Father wanted Him to do and He did it - nothing more, nothing less and nothing else. He was the kind of Pastor who, at the end of His earthly ministry could say, "I have completed the work that you gave me to do"! (John 17:4). He fulfilled God's agenda for Him, not the expectations of countless other people. He was the kind of Pastor who found his joy in His relationship with God; not in what He did for God!

While I am grateful for what God does through "ministry", I am nowhere called to rejoice in the ministry or to rejoice in who I am or what I am doing. I am to be with Jesus and to rejoice in Him and in the relationship He has established with me as expressed in the fact that my name is written in heaven.

Part of my restoration process has been to set aside every Wednesday afternoon for a personal retreat time when I go away from my office and my home and I spend time with Jesus - not Jesus, my employer but Jesus, the lover of my soul. That's our time. I try not to talk "business" with Him in that setting. ....if you understand what I mean.

Knowing my own initial response to God's call for that time to be set aside, I am fairly certain that there are those of you who are now assuring yourselves that there is no way you can afford to be so extravagant with your use of time. In your priorities, such time allocation, while perhaps desirable, is not possible. You are busy telling yourself that the demands on your time are such that they exclude any possibility of 3 or 4 hours spent with the Lord in a block like that each week. Brothers and sisters, those words are being seductively whispered in your heart by the mistress....."ministry". I know because she has seduced me time and again with the same rationale. There is so much to be done, isn't there?

All that brings me to another biblical address that I have often had to visit. It is again in Luke 10. This time it is the domestic scene recorded in vs. 38-42.

The Lord has repeatedly drawn my attention to the difference between Martha and Mary.......Martha, the activist, and Mary, the listener. The question with which God has often challenged me is, "Who most clearly reflects your priorities - Martha or Mary?"

The answer is usually Martha. Now, you and I are hardly in a position to question her heart and her motives. They may well have been of the highest calibre. But what we are told is what was happening to her on the inside as she gave herself to 'ministry'. The three words used of her emotional condition are "distracted", "worried" and "upset".

Please don't get me wrong here. Someone had to prepare the meal. Someone had to be out in the kitchen. But the challenge to me is what was happening to Martha in terms of her attitude. Did you pick up on the resentment that was fermenting towards her sister? The water on the stove wasn't the only thing boiling out in the kitchen that day! "Lord, don't you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!" (Luke 10:40)

She was becoming resentful towards her sister and dictatorial towards her Lord! She presumed to direct Jesus as to what He should do to get her immobile sister mobile!! How often I have done that over the years! Jesus was again gracious but firm in His evaluation of the condition of Martha's heart.

He corrected Martha and commended Mary. Martha was committed to the urgent whereas Mary was committed to the important. Martha opened her home whereas Mary opened her heart. Martha gave her service whereas Mary gave herself.

I don't think it is coincidental that I hear in that inter-change an echo of what God has often said to my heart. Have you not had times when, in your genuine desire to serve the Lord, you have become distracted by all the things that had to be done? You have become worried and upset over the many things. You have become resentful towards your brothers and sisters in Christ because they seem to have been immobile when they should have been up and working. You have become resentful and guilty about the time your wife and family seemed to expect.

You have even presumed to complain to the Lord of the Church in such a way as to suggest that, if He paid some attention to your plight, He might just begin to do things the way you think they should be done. When those dynamics begin to emerge, we can be sure that "ministry" has successfully seduced us and become our mistress.

But what about that other prior relationship in all relationship with my wife, Bev? We have just celebrated our 43rd wedding anniversary. We have three great kids, two delightful daughters-in-law and 5 wonderful grand-daughters!! As I look back over the almost 40 years that I have been a Pastor, I can say that my wife has been very understanding about many, many aspects of what it means for me to be a pastor and her place as my wife.

She has been less than understanding about my mistress!!

I recall how, when we were in our sixth year of pastoral ministry back in the early seventies, Bev first tried to speak to me about how "ministry" was coming between us. I couldn't understand why she felt as she did because, after all, we were doing the Lord's work! From time to time she tried to explain how she felt and why but it was to no avail. I was blind to the fact that the dynamics of the "eternal triangle" were appearing in our relationship. Only it was not another woman. But it was a mistress, sure enough.

Bev was teaching school at the time and, because I had relatively little time for her, she began to apply herself in her work to the point where, on one day of rare enlightenment for me, I found myself thinking that she seemed to care more for her work than she did for me!

And suddenly my eyes were opened! Within 24 hours of that revelation, I was down at the travel agent trying to organise a holiday just for the two of us. It proved to be a smart move! We had a great time away together and a new start in our relationship when we came home.

You would think that I would have learned from that experience, wouldn't you? The truth is that my mistress was waiting to seduce me as soon as we came back. I have had to learn that the commitment of giving my wife the priority she deserves as my God-given partner in life is never static. It is always dynamic in the sense that it is a daily choice.

Over the years since that first realisation, I have sought to give to Bev the time commitment she deserves as my wife but it has been with varying degrees of success and failure.

From time to time, she has suggested that I should take time out from pastoral ministry so that we could have extended time as a family without those unique demands and expectations that constitute pastoral ministry. The very idea was anathema! Didn't she realise I was needed...even indispensable?!

Somehow I had become so involved again with my mistress that to even think of extended leave was tantamount to a betrayal of some kind! I look back now and I can see that what Bev was suggesting, in effect, was a sabbatical....a God-ordained principle.....a period of refreshment and renewal of our spiritual and emotional lives and our relationship together.

It was still some time before I began realising something else that was obvious to Bev long before it dawned on me. I was loosing my cutting edge. The vision of the Lord and a right understanding of my relationship to ministry had again become fuzzy. I was getting tired in the ministry....not physically tired but emotionally and spiritually weary. Although I took holidays and long service leave, the benefits seemed very short-lived.

It was towards the end of the 1980's that these realisations began to dawn and I can recall sharing with the Church Leadership what Bev had been saying for quite some time: namely, a growing sense that I was finding little fulfilment and a lot of tiredness and that I needed to take extended leave. So clearly did the Lord seem to say, "Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest". (Mark 6:31)

We resigned from that Church at the end of 1989 and we spent the next 14 months obeying and enjoying the biblical principle of the Sabbath. The level of renewal and refreshment that came to us is beyond my ability to describe and we both returned ready to embrace the Lord's call to service in a new and enthusiastic way.

We went to a new Church at the beginning of 1991 And guess what? The mistress called "Ministry" had moved to the new Church!! But there is now some understanding of how she operates and the way she seduces.

I feel free of her at the moment but I know that I need to daily monitor her attempts to seduce me and my response to her. I have come to accept that I will live with this tension for the rest of my pastoral life. It will involve daily choices for me. Somehow, I feel at peace about that prospect now that the "enemy" has been identified and her tactics are out in the open. I am also encouraged by the fact that the antidote to her poison has also been identified - a daily yielding of my life to my Lord and to my wife.

When Ministry Becomes a Mistress (by Dave Kraft)

Image result for mistress

Ministry idolatry is becoming increasingly widespread, reaching epidemic proportions. It is showcased at network and denominational gatherings, where the focus and conversation is often not about Jesus, but about us and what we are accomplishing and achieving. Leaders discuss the latest poster children for ministry success and their methods so we can all emulate them, buy their books, and attend their “how we did it” seminars and conferences.

“Idolatry creep” sneaks up on you because you can easily and quickly justify it by saying that everything you do is for the Lord, believing your motives are pure. We recognize this in businessmen who work obscene hours while insisting they do it all to benefit the family, when in reality it’s all about them.

Leaders must guard against ministry becoming a mistress. A mistress is someone who takes the place that only your wife should occupy. Ministry must never take the place of Jesus himself in your heart and in your values. As 1 John 5:21 says, “Little children, keep yourselves from idols.” The New Living Translation says, “Dear children, keep away from anything that might take God’s place in your hearts.” Our hearts are idol factories, and ministry, for many leaders, is the king of idols.

Why Do You Want to Lead?

We can start to rely on ministry instead of Jesus to meet deep needs in our own lives. I am convinced that many people move into leadership roles because of people needing them or because being in control satisfies something missing in their own sense of value or worth. I remember John Maxwell once saying, “If you need people you can lead people.” One leader told me that the motivation for “his call” to ministry was the opportunity to resolve the problem of his own insecurities and feel better about himself. The devil is out to snare Christian leaders, rendering them “ineffective or unfruitful” (2 Pet.1:8), and if he can’t achieve his purposes through obvious sin, he will achieve it by taking something that is admirable and good and turning it on its ear to cause us to stumble.

The apostle Peter, in his insightful chapter to leaders, says, “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Pet. 5:8). Our enemy can devour us through ministry by letting the ministry itself replace Jesus in our affections. Unfortunately, we are often quicker to recognize this happening in others than in our own lives.

What Now?

There is no “four easy steps to deal with ministry idolatry.” But I do want to share some things I am learning about dealing with each of the mistakes leaders make. Let me state again that I have made all these mistakes myself, and I have seen people in ministries, organizations, groups, and churches that I have been associated with make them.

So, how have I dealt with ministry idolatry?

For me the first step is realizing that this is a problem for me. I deeply desire to want to confess and repent when this sin comes to my attention, as opposed to making excuses and rationalizing. It should grieve my soul that I am allowing something to take the place of Jesus in my heart and affections. Like King David, I want to pray, “Against you, you only, have I sinned” (Ps. 51:4). My primary sin here is against God!

Most every day I make the issue of ministry idolatry a matter of prayer, asking for the power of Jesus through the Holy Spirit to occupy center stage in my life. For me, I find that ministry idolatry is an attitude, a mindset, as opposed to an action. It begins with the way I look at things, the way I think.

Colossians 3:4 is helpful to me: “When Christ who is your life appears, then you will also appear with him in glory.” Jesus is my life—not ministry, success, converts, disciples, developing leaders, being respected by my peers, etc. I need to keep being reminded of this truth. Paul says in Philippians 1:21, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” For me to live is Christ, not someone else or something else. I have several passages of Scripture memorized (in addition to those just mentioned) on ministry idolatry, including 1 John 5:21 and Revelation 2:4.

When the Lord makes it clear that I am starting to drift, I want to immediately own it, repent, confess, and ask for his help in agreeing with him that he is central. I want to be especially sensitive to others in my family or on the teams I am a part of when they bring this sin to my attention. One of my life values is to immediately respond to God’s revealed truth, whether that truth comes directly to me through Scripture or through the rebuke of a family or team member. Pity the Christian leader with no friends or coworkers who care enough to confront him, especially in the area of ministry idolatry.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

City Harvest trial: Church leaders weave web of lies to deceive church members, auditors, lawyers, says DPP

SINGAPORE - The six City Harvest Church (CHC) leaders deceived church members, auditors and lawyers, and weaved a web of deceit to subvert the church's internal governance bodies.

That was what Deputy Public Prosecutor Christopher Ong told the court on Tuesday (Sept 20) morning. He was responding to the arguments against conviction put forth by the six CHC leaders at the centre of a multi-million dollar financial scandal.

In October last year, the six CHC leaders were convicted of misappropriating millions in church funds to fuel the pop music career of CHC senior pastor Kong Hee's wife, Ms Ho Yeow Sun, in a church mission known as the Crossover Project.

The court found that they had invested $24 million from CHC's building fund in bogus bonds from music production company Xtron and glass-maker Firna, but this money was, in fact, used to fund the Crossover Project.

Later, another $26 million was used to cover up the initial misdeed.

The six, including Kong, are appealing against their convictions and sentences, while the prosecution is also appealing - for longer sentences.

DPP Ong said the CHC leaders knew the bond instruments were not investments but were in fact "excuses to expend building fund money on Sun Ho's music career".

Addressing the arguments by the CHC leaders that there was a need for secrecy in carrying out the Crossover Project in order to avoid uncomfortable public scrutiny, DPP Ong said it was "strange" that the only thing that needed to be "secret" was the fact that Ms Ho was funded by the church's building fund - which was "buried so deep that even the auditors don't know about it".

He told the court that it was public knowledge that Ms Ho was the "famous pastor Kong Hee's wife" and that Kong would come out to preach at the end of her concerts.

"Where is the secrecy in this?" asked DPP Ong.

The prosecution had initially asked for much harsher sentences - jail terms of 11 to 12 years jail for Kong, CHC deputy senior pastor Tan Ye Peng, former CHC fund manager Chew Eng Han and former CHC finance manager Serina Wee; eight to nine years for former CHC finance committee member John Lam; and five to six years for former CHC finance manager Sharon Tan.

Instead, the court handed out much lower terms in part because it found that the six had not been motivated by personal gain, and the church had not suffered any wrongful loss.

The six were given jail terms of between 21 months and eight years, with Kong facing the longest term.

The appeal is being heard by Judge of Appeal Chao Hick Tin, and Justices Woo Bih Li and Chan Seng Onn.

Arguments for the appeal will continue on Wednesday.

City Harvest leaders deceived members, auditors, lawyers: DPP

They subverted church's internal governance bodies, used positions of trust to misspend funds, court hears

The six City Harvest Church (CHC) leaders deceived church members, auditors and lawyers, and subverted the church's internal governance bodies, the High Court heard yesterday.

They used their positions of trust to misspend millions of dollars in charity funds - the largest amount in such a case in Singapore's legal history - on a pop singer's music career, according to Deputy Public Prosecutor Christopher Ong.

He was responding to the arguments against conviction put forth by the six CHC leaders at the centre of the financial scandal.

In October last year, the six were convicted of misappropriating millions in church funds to fuel the pop music career of CHC senior pastor Kong Hee's wife, Ms Ho Yeow Sun, in a church mission known as the Crossover Project.

The court found that they had invested $24 million from CHC's building fund in bogus bonds from music production firm Xtron and glass-maker Firna, and the money was used to fund the Crossover Project. Later, another $26 million was used to cover up the initial misdeed.

The six, including Kong, are appealing against their convictions and sentences - ranging from 21 months' to eight years' jail - while the prosecution is appealing for longer sentences.

DPP Ong said the CHC leaders knew the bonds were "excuses to expend building fund money on (Ms Ho's) music career" and not investments.

Addressing the arguments by the CHC leaders that there was a need for secrecy in carrying out the Crossover Project in order to avoid uncomfortable public scrutiny, DPP Ong said it was strange since the only thing needing to be "secret" was the fact that Ms Ho was funded by the church's building fund - which was "buried so deep that even the auditors don't know about it".

He said it was public knowledge that Ms Ho was "famous pastor Kong Hee's wife", and Kong would come out to preach at the end of her concerts.

"Where is the secrecy in this?" asked DPP Ong, adding that Kong and his conspirators also controlled the bond proceeds, choosing to spend them on the Crossover Project and deciding how and when they would be repaid to the church.

Justice Chan Seng Onn asked: "If I put out the money and eventually pay back to it myself, just sweeping around, playing around it myself, having full control of it, how can you call it an investment?"

DPP Ong replied: "Yes, your Honour, that is exactly our point."

Another issue discussed in court yesterday was whether the offences committed by the six CHC leaders fell under the ambit of Section 409 of the Penal Code that they were charged under.

This is the most aggravated form of criminal breach of trust, and sets out the offence as one committed by a person "in the way of his business as a banker, a merchant, a factor, a broker, an attorney or an agent banker, merchant or agent".

In this context, Justice Chan asked if "the church, as a society, is in the business of courting donations", with agents of the church then being seen as agents carrying out such business. DPP Ong disagreed. But he said Section 409 concerns individuals who "customarily and regularly are entrusted with funds which they are then supposed to take responsibility for".

Judge of Appeal Chao Hick Tin said that if the elements of Section 409 are not satisfied, the charges could be reduced. Arguments for the appeal will continue today.

Friday, September 9, 2016

12 Teachings That Harm the Church by JOSEPH MATTERA

I have heard it said that "balance is the key to life." I agree with that statement, as I have found that any truth taken to the extreme (that ignores others aspects related to its subject) is unbalanced and can be harmful.

This is also why Paul the apostle said that he teaches "the whole counsel of God" (Acts 20:27), which involves a full-orbed presentation of truth.

The following are some of the "hyper" teachings that have been harmful to the body of Christ, in my opinion:

1. Hyper-Grace – Grace is typically defined as unmerited favor given to humans by God. This is a satisfactory definition albeit not comprehensive. Since Scripture teaches us that we are saved by grace and not by works (Eph. 2:8-9), those in the hyper-grace camp believe and teach that once a person is saved, they can live any way they want and still achieve the benefits of salvation. They need a full dose of the book of James to counter-balance their hyper-grace!

2. Hyper-Holiness – Those in this camp put an overemphasis on outward holiness to the point in which they believe a person has to dress a certain way in order to have right standing with God (for example: Women should not cut their hair, wear pants, makeup or jewelry). Their emphasis on outward conformity to strict standards makes them more like Pharisees than Christians. They need to meditate on Matthew 23 to understand God's view that inward holiness is a greater priority than outward holiness.

3. Hyper-Calvinist – This camp emphasizes God's sovereignty to the point that it bypasses what Scripture teaches regarding human responsibility. For example, during Charles Finney's ministry, he had to constantly debate hyper-Calvinists who taught that it was wrong for preachers to induce sinners to repent, make decisions for Christ or do anything that aided in the process of salvation. Of course, the majority of Calvinists have not taken this approach as we study the ministries of former heroes of the faith such as George Whitefield, Jonathan Edwards, Charles Spurgeon and other Calvinists God used mightily to bring thousands of sinners to Christ by commanding repentance and obedience to the gospel.

4. Hyper-Arminianism – Those in this camp overemphasize human responsibility to the point that they nullify God's sovereignty. Extreme Arminianism such as "open theism" even goes as far as teaching that God doesn't know everything in the future and that God makes His decisions after He sees how humans respond to Him. They have reduced predestination (Eph. 1:4; Rom. 8:29-30) to "post-destination" and have created a god that responds to time and space rather than the One who controls it.

The difference between predestination and human responsibility is a scriptural paradox that will never be fully understood this side of heaven. I always say that Scriptures that emphasize predestination are taken from God's transcendent view of human reality (from heaven's perspective), and Scriptures that emphasize human responsibility are from an immanent view of human reality (from the earth's perspective).

5. Hyper-Love – Those in this camp emphasize the love of God to the exclusion of the holiness and righteousness of God. (Psalm 89:14 says "Righteousness and justice are the foundation of Your throne.") Whenever we focus on one attribute of God to the exclusion of the other attributes of God, we become unbalanced and present a wrong view of God's character and nature. Those in this camp say that God is love (1 John 4:7) and ignore the Scriptures that deal with God's wrath, along with the laws of sowing and reaping due to sin (Eph. 5:1-6; Gal. 6:7-8).

Even the apostle John, who wrote "God is love," also said in the same epistle that those who practice sin are of the devil and are lawless because sin is lawlessness (1 John 4:1-10).

Love Wins author Rob Bell went so far as to teach that all men would eventually be saved because of God's love. Read Revelation 20:11-15 to balance that view.

6. Hyper-Faith – Those in this camp primarily preach on faith for healing and deliverance, and set believers up to think there will always be victory with very little suffering or pain if they exert faith in God. This neglects the fact that Jesus not only healed the sick but also spoke about the need for His followers to walk in humility and meekness, to take up their cross and lose their lives in order to find it (Matt. 5:1-10 and Mark 8:34-35).

7. Hyper-Prosperity – Similar to the faith camp, this circle of preachers primarily emphasize Scriptures that deal with personal blessing and financial prosperity. Although there is some truth in their teachings, this overemphasis produces believers who seek the blessing more than the Blesser! It can also produce false expectations of people who sow their money into a ministry expecting a hundredfold return, which rarely, if ever, happens on a purely financial level. I believe in biblical prosperity but not in a "rights-centered" gospel that ignores our biblical stewardship to produce wealth primarily to confirm His covenant in the earth (Deut. 8:18).

8. Hyper-High Church – Those in this camp emphasize institutional church traditions and protocols that produce a professional class of clergy who have to walk around all day in clerical garb. They insist that the church be set up as a hierarchical organization replete with titles and even a throne for the head bishop! Those in this camp are losing most of their young people and have to reread the New Testament to understand the way of Jesus and the apostles. Somehow I cannot picture Jesus, the original apostles or Paul wearing clerical robes and collars every Sunday and focusing on hierarchical titles and titular elevations.

To counterbalance this approach, Philippians 2:1-12 comes to mind as well as Matthew 23, which is a judgment against the religious system set up by those who claim to follow God.

9. Hyper-Kingdom – Those in this camp preach as though the fullness of the kingdom has already come and that there are no more biblical prophecies left to be fulfilled. (Some call them "full preterists.") Many don't even believe things could get worse on the earth and don't believe in the second bodily return of Christ. Scripture teaches a paradoxical view that the kingdom is already here (Col. 1:12-13) but not yet fully manifest (Rom. 16:20).

10. Hyper-Dispensational – Those in this camp believe they have to passively wait for the rapture and avoid political and social reform, because trying to transform culture is like "rearranging the chairs on the Titanic." This is based on a faulty reading of Scriptures such as Daniel 9:24-27.

Although I do not believe every nation and all people will be saved before the second bodily return of Christ, I do believe there will be some sort of strong kingdom influence in the nations (especially "sheep nations"; read Matt. 25:32) before the Second Coming. All of the major biblical covenants and themes point to a victorious church and victorious gospel before the end of human history (Gen. 1:28, 12:1-3, 22:17-18; Ps. 110:2; Acts 3:21).

11. Hyper-Charismatic – Those in this camp focus more on the gifts of the Spirit than on the Word of God, character development and inward holiness. They elevate their spiritual experiences above the truth of Scripture.

12. Hyper-Rational – Those in this camp are afraid of any spiritual (subjective) experiences or manifestations. They depend on their mind to the neglect of their spirit. They believe God only speaks through His written Word. They rationalize their faith and have little or no real prayer life or substantive fellowship with God. They split hairs over biblical doctrines and in some ways worship the Bible more than the God of the Bible. (Jesus said it is possible to study the Scriptures without coming to God—read John 5:39-40).

In conclusion, whenever we focus on a truth to the exclusion of other aspects of truth, we end up in error.

May God help us to understand and preach the whole counsel of God so that we can feed the flock of God and equip them to fulfill their divine purpose!

Joseph Mattera is an internationally known author, futurist, interpreter of culture and activist/theologian whose mission is to influence leaders who influence nations. He leads several organizations, including The United States Coalition of Apostolic Leaders ( He also has a blog on Charisma magazine called "The Pulse." To order one of his books or to subscribe to his weekly newsletter go to

Friday, September 2, 2016

Touch Not God's Anointed By George Davis

Once in my early years in the institution called "the Church," I approached a minister regarding something questionable that he had previously shared with the local assembly. I was somewhat shocked by his response. He obviously perceived this to be a challenge to his authority, and feeling that he was above such inquiry, he hastened to preface the conversation with these words, "Are you about to touch God's anointed?"

In calling into question something he had previously said, I was touching God's anointed? How is it that in the asking of a simple question, I had become God's enemy? How did this brother view himself? And how did he arrive at such conclusions? How did he come to see himself as the recipient of an anointing that set him apart from the rest of God's children? How did these anointed ones come to be defined by such a special anointing--an anointing that makes them incapable of erring?

This mentality is clearly a holdover from the papacy. Pius IX (1846-78) gave it to us. The papacy was loosing power, but she would not go down without a fight. This was the birth of "ultramontanism," a movement to argue the right of the papacy to rule globally. It is clear that Pius IX saw that the quickest way to win this argument was to declare an edict stating that, as God's delegated authority, he cannot be wrong. Since this religious system cannot withstand the eye of scrutiny, he also declared that the origin and ceremonies of the papal church could not be called into question either. Case closed. By taking the Old Testament anointing of kings and mixing it with their own definition of priesthood, which was an amalgamation of the old Levitical priesthood, the pagan priesthood, and the autocratic government of the Roman state, they came up with the divine right of kings and clergy to rule.

Considering man's desire for conquest, due to the fall, should we be surprised that when given 1900 years to do so, he should devise an elaborate, systematic, and yes, lest I forget, Biblical justification of his divine right and responsibility to rule? The counsels of bishops and kings concluded that to challenge them and their pronouncements is to assault heaven itself, since they are "God's anointed." History records the long and sordid story of the folly of such men. Kings have subdued and controlled entire nations through their train of puppet cardinals and bishops. And the lie that frightened the masses into compliance is the lie that God would have it so, and the fear of displeasing God in displeasing "His anointed." The lie that God Himself had raised them up as the redeemer, benefactor, the friend of the people.

Jesus was clear on this. In fact, He was emphatic. "The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and they that exercise authority upon them are called benefactors. But you shall not be so: but he that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he that is chief, as he that does serve" (Luke 22:25-26).

Now benefactor was a title of honor, conferred on those who had done their country a service. It means a friend of the people. The cruel joke is that they exercise dominion and authority under the guise of being the friend of the people. They suffer all those sorrowful kingly duties and benefits, just for the people. They became king just so they could help the people. Makes you want to cry, doesn't it? What a noble way to lay down your life! Oh what venerable sacrifice of one's own desires and interests. Eat your heart out, Sister Teresa.

But the real test comes when the people touch their crowns, and then the heads of the ones they claim to serve will roll. Then the true kingly motivations surface. I tell you most assuredly that I have witnessed this same scenario in the institution called "the church" many times. They were just there to serve the people. Oh, they loved them so much. If the little people touched their throne, or in some way treated them in an un-kingly manner, they responded with such treachery as has not been seen since the Herodian dynasty. The offenders were treated in a manner tantamount to execution. They were verbally executed or banished to the outer realm. They were called heretics. And in the proud tradition of Diotrephes they were thrown out of the church (3 John 9-10).

When it comes to government over God's children, we must remember that the idea of an anointed king was man's choice, not God's. The true nature of that choice was to reject the rule of God, opting for the kind of government wielded over the nations. "...Now make us a king to judge us like all the nations" (1 Samuel 8:5). God warned the people of Israel of the consequences of the kind of leadership they chose. And when reduced to few words God's warning to them was, "He (King Saul) will take what is yours and give it to himself" (see 1 Samuel 8:4-22). This is the nature of kings, to take what belongs to God and his children and give it to themselves. They do all of this under the guise of being friends of the people, as though it was their divine right. There are many such Saul-like kings reigning the traditional church today. They take the ministry from the body of Christ, and sit them in neat little rows staring at the backs of each other's heads. They resist God's sovereignty over the believers individually by functioning as intermediaries between God and His children. They claim to hear God's voice for the whole church, and in this way they take the guidance of the Holy Spirit from the believers. They replace Holy Spirit guidance with their counsel--and all this without a twinge of conscience. Why? It is simple. They believe this to be their divine right. They have been anointed in the tradition of Saul, with an authority like that of the kings of the nations. Accordingly they see themselves as God's anointed, and in their minds they stand head and shoulders above the rest.

Who Are the true Anointed Ones?

I believe that God does have anointed ones, and that very few in our day are afraid to touch them. Acts 2:17 speaks of the anointing of these servants. Those regarding whom Joel had prophesied that God would anoint with His Spirit, and they would prophesy, see visions and dreams. Who are these anointed priest and prophets? They are the all Flesh of Acts 2:17. They are sons, daughters, the young, and elderly. They are the entire community of Christ. God has poured out His Spirit upon all flesh, not a select caste of super-saints referred to as Ministers, Pastors, Elders, etc. "Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams." The anointing that was once poured out on a select few is now poured out on all flesh. This new priesthood consists of all the saints of God.

These are the ones Peter referred to when he wrote, "But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that you should show forth the praises of him who has called you out of darkness into his marvelous light" (1 Peter 2:9). There is a new priesthood, the priesthood of all believers, and this priesthood represents a better covenant. Under this covenant, God puts His laws into our minds, and writes them in our hearts. Under this covenant there is no need for mediators to say, "Know the Lord." Why? For all shall know Him, from the least to the greatest (see Hebrews 8:10-11). All shall enter beyond the rent veil into the presence of God. They shall be taught of God there. In this new covenant, they "shall not teach every man his neighbor, and every man his brother," for all shall know firsthand through the anointing of the Spirit that God has poured upon them.

According to the author of Hebrews, the old, first covenant "had also ordinances of divine service, and a worldly sanctuary" (Hebrews 9:1). However, this new priesthood is not concerned with earthly sanctuaries and ceremonies. They minister beyond the veil in the heavenly tabernacle, which the lord has pitched, and not man (Hebrews 8:2). They function in the realities of heaven, not in the shadow realm of religion. (see Hebrews 9:1-) This new priesthood are also the lively stones that are built up into a spiritual house. They are collectively both the holy priesthood and temple of the Lord. This priesthood "offers up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ" (1 Peter 2:5).

John said regarding God's anointed, "But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you know all things. I have not written to you because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and that no lie is of the truth.... But the anointing which you have received from Him abides in you, and you do not need that anyone teach you; but as the same anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true, and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you will abide in Him" (John.2:20-21, 27).

The word anointing here refers to the inaugural ceremony for priests. It was the ceremony where the Old Testament priests were anointed with oil, which represents the Holy Spirit. It speaks of being set aside for divine service. The gift of the Holy Spirit is the anointing of Priests, and that anointing was poured out upon all in this new royal priesthood. In the new covenant there was a change of the priesthood, from the Levitical priesthood to that royal priesthood, after the order of Melchisedec (Hebrews 7:11).

The so-called anointed that stand in a kingly hierarchic authority do not hesitate to touch God's true anointed ones--the royal priesthood. Their brash and meddling hands have stoned the prophets, and have subjected the true anointed priesthood to the worst torture imaginable--those intolerable weekly sit-a-thons they refer to as the "service."

David saw the entire nation of Israel to be God's anointed.

When they [Israel] went from one nation to another, from one kingdom to another people; He [God] suffered no man to do them wrong: yea, he reproved kings for their sakes; Saying, Touch not mine anointed, and do my prophets no harm. (Psalm 105:13-15)
David , the anointed king of Israel, saw in a prophetic glance the whole of Israel as God's anointed. David had a heart after God, which expressed itself in his incessant desire to make God king. It was David's passion to restore the rule of God. It was expressed in his life, words, and songs. "Beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole earth, is mount Zion, on the sides of the north, the city of the great King" (Psalm 48:2). The great King to whom David refers is not David, but God. When he brought up the ark with singing and dancing, David knew he was bringing the true King of Zion through those gates. He was overcome with joy, he could not hold still; he leapt before the ark with all of his might. David knew that an earthly king was not God's original intention, so he gladly discarded his kingly robes and crown to dance in only a loincloth before his King--the great King. David had a heart after God, not God's crown. Oh that God's children were as zealous for the reign of God today!

God reluctantly anointed a king, but he gladly anointed a kingdom of priests. In fact God first expressed this desire right after Israel passed through the Red Sea, long before they entered the land. "And you shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and a holy nation. These are the words, which you shall speak unto the children of Israel" (Exodus 19:6). This is the exact scripture to which Peter refers in 1Peter 2:9. God would finally realize His plan for a royal priesthood, and a holy nation, in the priesthood of all believers.

These are the anointed of God. They have no need for intermediary teachers. Now I must ask, why is no one terrified to touch God's anointed? Why don't they hesitate to cast a murderous glance toward the prophetic community of God--that holy nation? Why do they gag and bind them to the pew?

I say to all that contend for the supposed right of kings and clergy to rule over God's heritage, Touch not God's anointed, and do his prophets no harm. God has poured out His Spirit on these, and has anointed them for service as priests so that each of them might go forth serving God, declaring His glory. In coming into His presence, and standing in His glory, their very faces will radiate Him. This is the heritage of the servant of the Lord. It is their right and responsibility as priests. All may come into His presence.

All are His priests. All are His anointed. Touch not God's anointed. Do not consign them to passivity. Do not supplant their priestly roles. Do not silence them through liturgy and sermonizing. Do not disrespect them by supposing that they are in need of any intermediary other than the one true mediator between God and man (1 Timothy 2:5). Although they may not look like it, these peculiar people are priests. Don't let their common appearance fool you; they are not your average garden-variety priests. They are royal priests. They are the priests and children of the King of kings. These are noble creatures called to true greatness. They are empowered from on high. Why would they need a teacher, for they can come right into the presence of God? They have an anointing that teaches them. God himself teaches them. Now God is calling for the true anointed ones to rise from the pew to power.

Suddenly I am overcome with an overwhelming desire to say, "Don't touch God's anointed!"

Systematized Deception By George Davis and Michael Clark

According to Jesus, everyone who is born of the Spirit is like the wind (John 3:8), not subject to systematic control, but into the flow of the Spirit. In countless verbal and practical ways, religion daily declares Christ's teaching here to be false, instead teaching that adherence to rigid denominational teaching is the only safe way to avoid deception.

Growing Up Into Him vs the Systematizing of Deception

In Ephesians 4:14 and 15, Paul sets forth a contrast of truth and deception. Truth is represented by the following words, "...[that] you may grow up into [eis] him in all things." Deception is described by the words, "…tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, by which they lie in wait to deceive." The words, "by which they lie in wait to deceive" take on an entirely different meaning in the Wescott-Hort Interlinear.

[TOWARD] [THE] [WITH-WAY (systematizing)] [OF-THE] [STRAYING (deception)] (Ephesians 4:14 Westcott-Hort)

Ephesians 4:14 would more correctly read, "so that we may no longer be minors, tossed to and fro and being carried about by every wind of teaching, by human caprice, by craftiness with a view to the systematizing of the deception."

Darby translates this passage similarly.

…in order that we may be no longer babes, tossed and carried about by every wind of *that* teaching which is in the sleight of men, in unprincipled cunning with a view to systematized error. (Ephesians 4:14 Darby)
Vincent's Word Studies captures the entire thought in two words, "Error organizes." The King James rendition, "lie in wait," is represented in the Greek text by the compound word methodeia, which means "a deliberate planning or system." Our word "method" comes from this Greek word.

Kittel comments, "It first has the sense 'to treat methodically, to handle according to plan. . .'" Through 1900 years of ecclesiastical conditioning, we have come to view order as a key component of truth. Along with the extra-biblical axiom of "cleanliness is next to godliness" we have placed "orderliness is next to godliness." We often hear that God is not the author of confusion, but error and deception are not random or chaotic. In fact, organization is the chief power of deception.

According to Jesus, everyone who is born of the Spirit is like the wind (John 3:8), not subject to systematic control, but into the flow of the Spirit. In countless verbal and practical ways, religion daily declares Christ's teaching here to be false, instead teaching that adherence to rigid denominational teaching is the only safe way to avoid deception.

Order is no indicator of truth. In fact, deception is more structured than truth. Russia under Stalin and Germany under Hitler had rigid order and systematic teaching under the systems of Communism and Nazism. Both claimed to exist for the good of the collective masses.

Error always organizes and the greater the deception the more systematized it becomes. It is no wonder that as we near the end of all things, a global government is emerging that by all appearances will make Hitler and Stalin look like choir boys. Phrases like global sustainability, global economy, and global warming are driven into our heads by the controlled media.

Carnal men take the dynamics of the Spirit and make a static, systematic organization out of it. What starts out as a dynamic life force becomes a hollow form of godliness. This sham displaces the power of God to bring about a true inward change in the individual, the only starting place. You cannot force men to make moral decisions by writ of law. It is in our Adamic nature to systematize legal structures so that we can cast off the restraint of the Spirit of God!  David wrote, "But you have cast off and abhorred, you have been angry with your anointed. You have made void the covenant of your servant: you have profaned his crown by casting it to the ground" (Psalms 89:38-39 KJ2000). Hosea wrote, "Israel has cast off the thing that is good: the enemy shall pursue him. They have set up kings, but not by me: they have made princes, and I knew it not: of their silver and their gold have they made them idols that they may be cut off" (Hosea 8:3-4 KJ2000). This is why the living word of God is constantly cutting away the soulish counterfeit life that seeks to replace the true life of the Spirit.

Which will it be--the soulish counterfeit or the true life of the Spirit? One will displace the other.

The Underlying Misconception
The foundational misconception behind all systemic deception is the idea that order brings life. We see this lived out all around us in religious circles today. You can hear it in virtually every sermon. If you do the right things passionately enough and long enough God will see your faithfulness and bless you. Everything is about achieving the proper God-pleasing form—building according to the pattern, yet they reject the one Pattern that the Father as set before us. Jesus is the Pattern! Order does not bring life. Divine life brings God-pleasing form and functionality that is consistent with His nature.

John put it this way, "In him was life, and the life was the light of men" (John 1:4 RSV). The life is in Him and that Life is the only Light that men can accurately see by! Out of Life comes light. He has been made unto us wisdom (1 Corinthians 1: 29). True wisdom and knowledge flows, moment by moment, from divine life. There is no other source for it. All so-called "wisdom" that does not proceed from the Father of light is not light but is artificial, earthly, sensual and ultimately, devilish (see James 3:13-15).

Source determines everything. If the source is the souls of men the best you can have is a poor counterfeit of the Real. "Figs are not gathered from thorns, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush" (Luke 6:44 NRSV). Or as Gerhard Kittel succinctly put it, "Life stands always under the question of its origin and goal."

The Soulish Counterfeit
The Pharisees give us a clear example of the cause and effect of the soulish counterfeit.

Under the old dispensation the law was binding but it was not binding enough to suit the Pharisees. No. They set themselves to give the demands of the law an even greater structure and definition as it applied to the daily life of Israel. At the heart of this effort was the twofold lust to distinguish themselves and control the people in the name of God. Soon they had written volumes of commentaries that they placed on the shoulders of the people—heavy burdens that they refused to remove—systematized error. What was the end of this error? Error always results in one thing—shutting up the kingdom of heaven against men. Jesus addressed this deception head on. "But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! Because you shut the kingdom of heaven against men; for you neither enter yourselves, nor allow those who would enter to go in" (Matthew 23:13 RSV).

What this deception amounts to is simply the replacing of one order with another—the replacing of divine order (the rule of God) with human order— the true life and leading of the Spirit vs. the soulish counterfeit enforced by men. Human order always has the affect of shutting people away from God's rule through intermediary interference. Thought the Bible has much to say about the necessity of living by and walking in the Spirit, these self-appointed mediators will not permit something so haphazard to occur on their watch. They are not going into God's kingdom and neither is anyone else! Though they speak of God and His kingdom in glowing terms they are the enemies of the direct rule of God.

Everything that man does in the name of religion is diabolically designed to supplant the order of God's Spirit, to replace the order of life with another system, order and head. In this carnal order all things are held together organizationally, by ecclesiastical heads in a diocese system governed by a religious hierarchy. Judaism and Islam have their own counterparts as well and are equally as hateful in their orthodox form to all who do not believe as they do. The wars that are being waged on the earth today are powered by systematized deception. The very definition of the word religion—to rebind—is what drives these religious sects.

The early church lived by a different order altogether. In God's order Paul wrote, "And he [Jesus] is before all things, and by him all things are held together (Colossians 1:15-17 KJ2000). The whole universe is held or bound together by Jesus alone, not men. Carnal men seek to rebind them to another, the master of systematized deception.

God's Respect for the Human Will
At the heart of God's order is a respect for the human will. God does not impose or force his will upon anyone. The height of the human will is willingness, not reluctance, not begrudging-ness but a voluntary response to His love. Through sharing His perspective and communicating His passion by His Spirit, He seeks to bring believers into His viewpoint until both wills become one. "Come now let us reason together says the Lord." In short, He works in us both to will and do of His good pleasure and when His work in us is finished, His good pleasure is our good pleasure. The order of God is based on union ("Emanuel - God with us") and revelation, not a mindless objective obedience. We will know if we press on to know the Lord (see Hosea 6:3). In other words, if we know the Lord, we know all we need to know. Truly the gospel of the New Testament is God introducing Himself through His Son. It is through contact with Him that we learn Him and come to know our Father in a greater and living way. As we are in union with Him we are taught by Him. Anything else is deception because it leads people to think that they have a relationship with God when they do not. They have a purely platonic understanding of God—not founded in reality. So much of what goes on in the name of preaching and teaching is nothing more that theorizing what God is like and what His will is. Instead it should be encouraging people to seek our Father with all their hearts. Jesus taught the disciples to pray, "Our Father," not "Great God in heaven." All through the gospels the orthodox Jews used the phrases "our father David, our father Abraham, our father Jacob," but in their deception they could not conceive of the God of the universe as their Father. And because Jesus referred to God as His Father they wanted to kill Him.

The order of the kosmos (the rudimentary principles of the world) is designed to manipulate and bypass human volition. Though God holds the human will in the highest regard, man does not. In man's mind the bottom line is always the chief consideration. Therefore the end justifies the means. He wants results and so tends to despise what God values, running rough shod over the wills of his fellow men.

The point we want to make here is simply this, methodology and systematizing are not "next to godliness" but rather man's soulish substitutes for life and growth—growing up into Him. We say substitutes because methodology and Divine Life are intrinsically opposed to one another because of their entirely different origins and births. You cannot mix the two. The former is of the world and is controlled by its mode of government--the rudimentary principles of this world. The later is of a heavenly origin and is exclusively born and guided from heaven through God's Spirit. We see this dependency upon the Spirit lived out by the early Church in the Book of Acts. Before long, though, they began to leave the divine order and turn again to the rudimentary principles of the world. Remember the Greek word for world is kosmos which means a system. Paul addressed this carnal tendency to leave the divine order and return to the governing principles of the world in virtually every one of his letters. He asked the foolish Galatians, "Who has bewitched you. . . Having begun in the Spirit, are you now completed in the flesh?" (See Galatians 3). These foolish Galatians were trading life for systematized error, the overtly rigid order of the Judaizers.

We get an even clearer perspective from Paul's warning to the Colossians. Please note the contrast.

"Let no one rob you of your prize by a voluntary humility and worshipping of the angels, dwelling in the things which he has not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind, and not holding firmly to the Head, from whom all the body, being supplied and knit together through the joints and ligaments, grows with God's growth. If you died with Christ from the elements of the world, [kosmos – system] why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to ordinances, (21) "Don't handle, nor taste, nor touch" (all of which perish with use), according to the precepts and doctrines of men? Which things indeed appear like wisdom in self-imposed worship, and humility, and severity to the body; but aren't of any value against the indulgence of the flesh." (Colossians 2:18-23 WEB)
The general direction of error is always toward rigidity, captivity, tyranny and loss. It is diabolically designed to keep you from something—to shut up the kingdom of God from you. Hence Paul's exhortation, "Let no one rob you of your prize." He goes on to say what the prize is and the method that the thief (Satan) uses to rob believers of that it. The prize is Christ and involvement in His Body. His Body is divinely knit together and as a result, grows with God's growth. What does the prince of this world use to rob believers? He tries to separate us from divine life by subjugating us to ordnances and in doing so he entices us onto earthly, unholy ground controlled by men in league with Satan. He deceives us into living by our soul-life (psuchikos) and attempting to finish what God has started in us by means of the flesh.

How is this deceptive order promoted? What is the mechanism for its advancement? Error organizes and it does so by teaching. It is "according to the precepts and doctrines of men."

As with the Galatians, the errors taught among the Colossians did not promote loose living. On the contrary, it called for greater holiness of life, abstinence, separation from the unclean thing, "Don't handle, nor taste, nor touch." On the surface, this certainly looks like wisdom, but the wise recognize that it is antagonistic to God's growth. God's growth is of an entirely different order. Though these legalistic teachings attempt to restrain the body and its carnal cravings, this self-imposed order strengthens the flesh.

In the nineteenth century, Andrew Murray understood this, unlike thousands of Bible teachers since him. He wrote in his Book, "The Two Covenants":

The two great lessons God would teach us by it [the Old and New Covenants] are very simple. The one is the lesson of SIN, the other the lesson of HOLINESS. The Old Covenant attains its object only as it brings men to a sense of their utter sinfulness and their hopeless impotence to deliver themselves. As long as they have not learnt this, no offer of the New Covenant life can lay hold of them. As long as an intense longing for deliverance from sinning has not been wrought, they will naturally fall back into the power of the law and the flesh. The holiness which the New Covenant offers will rather terrify than attract them; the life in the spirit of bondage appears to make more allowance for sin, because obedience is declared to be impossible.
The other is the lesson of Holiness. In the New Covenant the Triune God engages to do all. He undertakes to give and keep the new heart, to give His own Spirit in it, to give the will and the power to obey and do His will. As the one demand of the first Covenant was the sense of sin, the one great demand of the New is faith that that need, created by the discipline of God's law, will be met in a Divine and supernatural way. The law cannot work out its purpose, except as it brings a man to lie guilty and helpless before the holiness of God. There the New finds him, and reveals that same God, in His grace accepting him and making him partaker of His holiness.
It is winds of doctrine and adherence to the Old Covenant that keep Abba's Children from growing up into Him. It is teaching that tosses them to and fro. It is teaching that carries them about here and there, prohibiting them from taking root and maturing. It is teaching—this one saying this and another saying that—that keeps believers confused, uncertain and dependent upon teachers—"ever learning and never coming to the knowledge of the truth." Though the teachings may contain some objective truths, they yet leave the hearer dependent on teaching and the teacher rather than the Wind of God's Spirit.

Often believers are not pointed to reality but to theory, ideas, principles, and techniques that strangely never leave the realm of supposition. Being dependent on teachers, believers never get enough teaching. Beware when teaching becomes an end unto itself. Then what is incorrectly taught is no longer the problem. The real problem is that believers are subdued by the process of endless teachings that replace the voice of the Spirit in their lives. At such time, teaching itself becomes the wind that blows against the mast. Remember, apostate people "heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears" (2 Timothy 4:3 KJV).

On the other hand, truth is ordered by an entirely different principle—life and growth. Growing up into Him is not helped along by winds of doctrine. How many contradictory sermons must we sit through before we get this point? Jesus promised the Holy Spirit, who now leads all who will follow Him into all truth—spiritual reality. Anything less than this is simply organization begging for life. Remember, according to Paul, another indicator of apostasy is powerless form (morpho¯sis - outward semblance, as distinguished from the essential reality – Vincent). "…having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!" (2 Timothy 3:5 NKJV)

So what is our safeguard against such a well-ordered and seemingly legitimate deception? We must learn to distinguish the outward semblance from the essential reality.

"You cannot make something to carry the testimony of the Lord. You cannot make people carry the testimony of the Lord. You cannot gather them into Bible institutions and make them vessels of testimony. Only God can make spiritual men and women, living men and women, men wrought for this purpose. We must take our hands off one another, and leave them to the Lord. If it were something else we could get together and take counsel together, and we could arrange a scheme, an enterprise, and get beautifully organized, and launch it, and carry it on; but that is like a Philistine cart, and in the testimony of Jesus that cannot be done with the guarantee that God will sponsor it and take responsibility for it. God must constitute us a vessel on the basis of life and knowledge of Himself, and no man can do that, no man can make that sort of thing, only God.

So we stand back from one another and let the Lord do it. Much as we would like to help we can do very little; we have to let the Lord do it, and make men and make women, and when the Lord has made them there is the power of the Name. You cannot fit men to bear the Name, only God can fit men for that. It is a matter of the testimony of the Name in mighty energy and power being borne by men and women who are alive unto the Lord, and in intelligent fellowship with Him. Anything other is bound to break down, to go wrong, and what is more to come under the judgment of God sooner or later."

Addressing the Default Argument
Some might ask, "Didn't Paul write, 'Let all things be done decently and in order' (1 Corinthians 14:40)? Doesn't this mean that we should order our gathering? And that if there's going to be order there must be a director?"

Yes, Paul did write that, and yes, there is a Director. Paul wrote this qualifying statement right after he informed the Corinthian believers who that Director is. Divine order comes directly from God by His Spirit. Divine order is in the Spirit. Therefore Paul references, "speaking by the Spirit of God...diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit...there are diversities of workings, but it is the same God who works all in all...the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man...given by the the same the same all these works that one and same Spirit, dividing to every man individually as he one Spirit...drink into one Spirit...God set the members every one of them in the body...God has arranged the body." We could site many more such references. There's the order! Without this order any attempt to organize in the name of Christ is error and because it is thought to be right and true, it is deception. This is an either/or situation. There is no solution in compromise. To compromise is to settle for lukewarm mediocrity. Or to borrow the words of Michael McDonald in his hit song, No More Prayin':

"We are lost between faith and hope
Between heart and mind, between love and pride."
So which will it be, truth or outward semblance, as distinguished from the essential reality? Growing into the fullness of the stature of Christ, or being tossed to and fro by the teachings of men? Following the Wind of God's Spirit or being blown about by every wind of doctrine? Will we return to the order that flows from divine life or continue to scheme, enterprise and get beautifully organized? Will we be taught of God as was prophesied by the prophets of old or will we continue to deceive ourselves and heap up teachers?

But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, says the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall teach no more every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, says the LORD: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more. (Jeremiah 31:33-34 KJ2000)
Let no one rob you of your prize!

This article is part of The Kingdom or the Kosmos and is available in book form. Please see our Books In Print page.

Official or Functional Prophets? By Michael Clark and George Davis

A prophet marches to a different drum. A true prophet is not concerned with his image, nor how well he is received. It is God who holds people accountable for receiving the messenger and the message. The prophet's single focus is on speaking and writing the message that God has given him to deliver.

The American Heritage Dictionary defines the word "official" as; "1. Of or relating to an office or a post of authority. 2. Authorized by a proper authority; authoritative. 3. Holding office or serving in a public capacity."

There is a great stir in some Christian circles regarding the supposed restoration of the "Office" of Prophet back to the church. (We use the word "office" in quotes because it is not found in the original text of the New Testament referring to ministry gifts.) This has resulted in forum after forum dedicated to the recovery of this office. There is teaching on the subject at gatherings and prophetic conferences throughout the world, which bring the would-be prophets out in droves. Many are sincere and seeking God's will in their lives, but there are many that are seeking recognition and approval by the so-called "official" or "recognized" prophets.

If you look at the prophets in the scriptures, you will realize that the ambition to be accepted or approved of by men is alien to the calling of a true prophet. Acceptance and approval by the authorities of their day abounded only for false prophets. The most vivid case is the court of Ahab and Jezebel. They had 850 false prophets and persecuted God's true prophets including Elijah.

There are many who seek their own glory in prophetic circles today, speaking words that satisfy itching ears. There seems to be a "good ol' boys' club" these prophets use to promote each other. Consider Jesus' words:

"If I bear witness of Myself, My witness is not true. . .Yet I do not receive testimony from man, but I say these things that you may be saved." (John 5:31,34)

"He who speaks from himself seeks his own glory; but He who seeks the glory of the One who sent Him is true, and no unrighteousness is in Him." (John 7:18)

Elijah and Elisha pointillism copyright 2001 by Dorothy ClarkA prophet marches to a different drum. A true prophet is not concerned with his image, nor how well he is received. It is God who holds people accountable for receiving the messenger and the message. The prophet's single focus is on speaking and writing the message that God has given him to deliver. God puts these men through whatever is necessary to harden them to the inevitable opposition that they must face. God has one desire for them, that they speak His word to those in error and in trouble without changing a word of it. They must never alter His words in order to be received and accepted by the hearer. They must never use their gift for worldly and financial gain. Remember what happened to Gehazi?

Now regarding the idea of the "office" of prophet or the "official prophet." True prophets were not found lounging in king's courts. They did not hang out with the aristocracy. If they did end up before a king, they were usually either killed or imprisoned. Their ears were not scanning the crowds for cheers of approval, adjusting their delivery until they got it. No, their ears were directed toward heaven. They sought the approval of God, not man. These men were so regularly rejected that Jesus asked the Pharisees, "What one of the prophets did your forefathers not kill?" It seems that few living prophets were approved. Generally only dead prophets were acceptable and their tombs were decorated.

You cannot determine if a person is speaking the truth by whether the message is in line with the consensus of popular thought. Most often those who come speaking the truth are out of sync with what is currently held dear by the majority. This is true in the world and in many cases, it is true in today's Church. Be prepared to go cross-grain to many beliefs that are currently being taught in Christian circles if you want to be God's prophet. As Soren Kierkegaard observed in his book Purity of Heart:

For many fools do not make a wise man, and the crowd is doubtful recommendation for the cause. Yes, the larger the crowd, the more probable that that which it praises is folly, and the more improbable that it is any truth, and the most improbable of all that it is any eternal truth.

There is a big difference between a functional prophet and an official prophet. Somewhere along the way from the early church until now we have been sold the bill of goods that only those that are approved by the ecclesiastical structures of men are "official." They are AAA approved, guaranteed to be predictable, manageable and unlikely to embarrass everyone or go against the power structures of men. How religious man hates the unpredictable and the unmanageable! Didn't Jesus say that those who move in the Spirit are like the wind? Now that is unpredictable and unmanageable by mere men.

We do believe that God is restoring the functional prophet back to His Church! On the other hand, the official pre-approved prophets who gather around the ecclesiarchs who rule over the Church are like so many soothsayers sitting in a king's court waiting to bring an affirming word to the status quo. May God restore to the earth those who, without concern for their own welfare, dare to call God's people to repentance and a right heart and speak to what is out of order in the Church today.

Yes, Father, restore this endangered species, the true prophet, back to the earth once again. Don't let the spirits of the Great False Prophet get the last word. Bring forth those who weep and mourn over the fallen state of your Church. Amen.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

2 Reasons Many Ministries Are Not on the Path of True Life by BERT FARIAS

I'm not saying that the entire Church falls in this category, but the general impression of this minister was that the American Church was working much by its own might and power and not by the Spirit of the Lord.
I'm not saying that the entire Church falls in this category, but the general impression of this minister was that the American Church was working much by its own might and power and not by the Spirit of the Lord. (astrid westvang/Flickr/Creative Commons)

On a recent international ministry trip the word of the Lord came unto me saying: "The answer for the healing of this nation is in the pure rivers of living water that flow from man's heart." He then began to give me understanding as to why those rivers have been muddied and are no longer pure.

Of course, the river or rivers represent the flow of God's Spirit and power in the Earth. He referred me to the ever-enlarging river in Ezekiel 47 and the one in Revelation that was pure and clear as crystal (Rev. 22:1). God's will is for the river's waters to be pure with an ever-increasing width and depth to them. He showed me that the waters of that river were once pure in Jesus' ministry and in the early church, but then gradually men contaminated and defiled those waters. The Lord gave me two primary reasons those once pure waters have been muddied and polluted in much of the body of Christ:

1. The first reason is that men do not follow God's wisdom and plan for their lives and ministries. They follow the wisdom of men, which is often smart, creative and glittering in man's sight. They also follow their own plans, which usually appeal to the logic and natural goodness of man. In other words, man's plans seem good, but may not be God at all.

What happens is that men form their own plans and ask God to bless them instead of waiting on the Lord for His plans, which are already blessed. There's a big difference between the two.

"Except the Lord build the house, those who build labor in vain..." (Ps. 127:1).

"Then Jesus said to them, 'Truly, truly I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do. For whatever He does, likewise the Son does'" (John 5:19).

The greatest life and power is manifest in moving in God's wisdom and plan. The problem today is that men are doing all the moving. One foreign minister, after scoping the landscape of Christianity in America and visiting some of the great churches here, spoke these compelling words, when asked what impressed him the most.

"How much the church here has been able to do without God."  Ouch!

I'm not saying that the entire church falls in this category, but the general impression of this minister was that the American church was working much by its own might and power and not by the Spirit of the Lord.

Do you understand that it was unthinkable to Jesus to attempt ministry without the direction of the Holy Spirit? Just as it is unthinkable for a man to produce a baby without a woman, so it was unthinkable for Jesus to minister without the co-laboring of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus understood that He was not on the earth to do His own will but the will of the Father. He also understood that He was not here to do His own will in the name of the Father, which is the common error of today.

Here's the bottom line: The number one problem we have in Christianity today and the reason for every failure among those who claim His Name is we don't know Him.

We are not talking about a general knowledge of Him. Of course, when we are born again we come into new life in Jesus and we know Him as our Savior. Thank God that we receive eternal life and an assurance of our salvation. But to intimately know Him will move us into another realm of the Spirit's operation in our lives. You know Him through His Word and His Spirit and an ever increasing intimate knowledge of His heart and ways.

The first step toward knowing God intimately is to surrender the life of Christ within you on the altar of the Father's will. The reverse is what most Christians do. They sacrifice the life of Christ within them on the altar of their own will. They have life in their spirits but the direction of their lives comes from their own will and carnal mind resulting in works of the flesh.

This same pattern is also true in ministry today. Thus the reason the works of man are plentiful while the true works of the Father are rare.

2. The second reason the Lord gave me for the muddying of those waters was that love for people has been replaced with lust for ministry. Religious activity has often been disconnected from the genuine love of God and meeting the real needs of people.

 We have our programs, our projects, our forms, our feasts, our religious activities, and although these things can be useful and have their place, if we're not careful, our motivation for these things can be done for the wrong reasons. Our motives can become impure and defiled. What make the rivers of living water pure is also our motives.

 Jesus taught us that when we pray, fast and give we should do it unto the Father and not to be seen by men—not for the recognition and honor of men but for the honor of God (Matt. 6).

 Listen to this scathing rebuke of how disconnected Israel's religious activities had become from the heart of God:

"Hear the word of the Lord, you rulers of Sodom; listen to the law of our God, you people of Gomorrah: For what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices to Me? says the Lord. I am full of the burnt offerings of rams, and the fat of fed animals. I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs, or of male goats. When you come to appear before Me, who has required this at your hand, to trample My courts? Bring no more vain offerings; incense is an abomination to Me.

"New Moons, Sabbaths, and convocations— I cannot bear with evil assemblies. My soul hates your New Moons and your appointed feasts; they are a burden to Me; I am weary of bearing them. When you reach out your hands, I will hide My eyes from you; even when you make many prayers, I will not hear. Your hands are full of blood.

"Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; put away the evil from your deeds, from before My eyes. Cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, relieve the oppressed; judge the fatherless, plead for the widow" (Is. 1:10-17).

We have the same situation today in much of the church today. The entrapments in church work and ministry are many. We are often seduced by the production and pride of man, the professionalism and politics of the ministry, and all the hype and Hollywood-like appearance that is too often associated with ministry.

We must unplug ourselves from the entrapments of appearances that can fool us, and in fact, often act as a smokescreen to hide what is really going on. The above reproof by the Lord bears this out.

Secondly, we must plug ourselves in to meeting the real needs of people at a grassroots level. Every time we gather together in our church services, there are people that sit to our right and left that have very pressing issues in their lives, from single mothers trying to raise kids on their own to those who cannot pay their rent and struggle under heavy financial burdens. Then there are those who have deep relational issues in strife-filled homes, and marital situations that are on the brink of separation and divorce. The elderly among us have their own unique needs that are very difficult. These types of situations are void of the hype, excitement, and glamour that church services and Western Christianity often portray.

And although we have a responsibility to make sure the needs of the saints are met, the real work happens out in our communities. This is where our character is tested and where our sacrifice and self-denial is put to the fire. When we allow the love and compassion of Jesus to rule our hearts, we will find ourselves moving closer and closer to these types of needs and people that are often forgotten in our churches and in society. When we move in this kind of purity of heart, we will see the rivers of living water rise and the favor and power of God increase in our lives and churches.

What have you done with the eternal life of Christ that is in you? Once again, the majority of the Christian world has sacrificed that life on the altar of their carnal mind and their own will. Many have never yielded that life and love within them to the Lordship of Jesus, and the Spirit's direction.

The word of the hour for the body of Christ is that ministers and believers would learn to commune with the Holy Spirit and minister to the Lord until they hear and know the mind of Christ and plans of God for their lives, situations and ministry, and until they start moving in the love and compassion of His great heart.

Bert M. Farias, revivalist and founder of Holy Fire Ministries, has authored several books with an emphasis on helping to restore the true spirit of Christianity in the Church today, including the newly released, Passing on The Move of God to The Next Generation. An anointing of fire marks his ministry with frequent demonstrations of the Spirit and power of God. He ministers interdenominational and cross-culturally in nations, churches, conferences, on the streets and in homes. He and his wife Carolyn also host The Holy Ghost Forum – a school of the Spirit. Follow him at Bert Farias and Holy Fire Ministries on Facebook and @Bertfarias1on Twitter.