Post State of the Union Musings

Tonight the President of the United States gave his State of the Union address. This yearly speech is the one that the President set the legislative goals for the year ahead or uses to set or declare the vision, direction, and agenda for the country in the year  ahead.  Now, the things the President spoke about will please some, anger others.  Certainly those that hold to Judeo-Christian morality will be unhappy with some elements of what the President spoke about.  Personally, it ultimately is irrelevant.

The irrelevancy is not because it will not impact me personally. Certainly it will as this country is where I live and am subject to the laws.  The irrelevancy comes because what matters for me is the state of a different union.  What matters to me is what God is establishing and working in my own life.  What directions is he leading me, am I following his will.  Am I walking fully under His authority.  Do I exercise and walk in adequately the authority of being an ambassador of the Kingdom of God?  What steps do I need to take in the areas God is working in my life? Am I following God’s agenda and in his time or am I off doing my own thing.  Am I sitting passive when I should be active?    For me these matters are far more weighty than the machinations of government and  elements of the power of sword that will be coming ahead. 

Now the questions and reflections are admittedly self-focused.  God does ask us to think and move beyond self.  So there are other questions related to the state of the church as a whole.  The church as a whole, much like this country, is in trouble.  The church is in trouble because of lost focus.  Rather than focus on simply making disciples there get to be other distractions including self-focused Christianity, political enmeshment,  Gospel vacated acts of outreach, and institutional stagnation.  The state of the church is one in need of waking up and remember all that God has revealed and focus on spiritual and eternal matters.  

Now unlike change in this country, changes in the state of relationship with God and in the state of the Church can happen. It involves surrendering to God’s will, walking in faith, and actively pursuing the directions God’s lead in His time.  If you are uncertain of what God is leading, simply pray for wisdom and God will supply, but the answers always involve faith and acting regardless of what is seen.  All in all we need to grow in being aligned and aware with what God is doing with a focus not on the things of this world, but on the eternal matters of God’s Kingdom.

Helpful articles: The Last God to Go-

Recently I was direct to this article which gets to the heart of a matter of buidling your own kingdom or ministry versus serving God.  The article is one that calls each person to question matters of the heart.  This fits well with the worship in spirit and truth messages recently wrote/gave. The website is found here: http://awildernessvoice.com/LastGod.html

 

The Last god to Go

By George Davis and Michael Clark

John closed his first epistle with these words, “Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen.” (1 John.5:21).

The Amplified Bible reads, “Little children, keep yourselves from idols (false gods)–[from anything and everything that would occupy the place in your heart due to God, from any sort of substitute for Him that would take first place in your life]. Amen (so let it be).”

The New Century Dictionary defines an idol as “. . .any person or thing that is the object of blindly adoring regard or inordinate devotion.” In short, an idol is anything, other than God, we ascribe worship to.

Christendom today venerates one icon above all others. It is the most deceitful, illusive and beloved idol known to religious man. While other idols are more obvious and more readily cast off, this one object of worship is often the last god to go. It is talked about on every “Christian” television and radio broadcast and is the topic of an untold number of “Christian” books. Many people spend their lives in undying devotion, burning incense to it from the wee hours of the morning to the late hours of the night. What is this idol that bewitches so many well-meaning Christians today? Is it a statue of some Phoenician god set up in a secret sanctum? No. It is more subtle than that. It is the god of ministry.

Behind this idol is an even more beguiling and sinister object of worship. As in the movie “The Wizard of Oz,” if you pull back the curtain behind the flash, fire, and smoke of a lot of “ministry” today, you often discover a different culprit altogether. Cowering behind the curtain called “My Ministry” is the self-exalting fraud of self-interest. Much of what is done in the name of ministry today comes from an inordinate romance with our own reputations, and resembles a PR campaign, complete with regular mental polling to determine your ratings. At the end of the day, success is determined by going down an unseen checklist of all the people that can hurt or help your cause and realizing that all of them have been placated. Yes, “nothing succeeds like the appearance of success” (Christopher Lasch).

Jesus contrasted this idolatry to His own devotion to the Father. He told the Pharisees, “I don’t receive glory from men, but I know you, that you don’t have God’s love in yourselves. I have come in my Father’s name, and you don’t receive me. If another comes in his own name, you will receive him. How can you believe, who receive glory from one another, and you don’t seek the glory that comes from the only God?” (John 5:41-44) Let’s ponder these words for a moment.

One predominate trait of this idolatry is expressed in Christ’s words, “If another comes in his own name, you will receive him.” How often have we seen this? Great crowds gather to hear and see men of renown who come in their own name, but he who is true, who seeks the honor of the One true God, and refuses to accept honor from men is not received. One of the unwritten qualifications for this good ol’ boys club is “You pat my back and I’ll pat yours.”

How often do we see men in ministry coming in their own names? There is Bobby ____ Ministries, Kenneth _____ Ministries, ________ and Associates, _____ _____ University, ______ Bible Institute and so on. Carnal man loves to have his name in lights. Carnal followers love to be identified with big name personalities. Can you see John the Baptist with a huge sign on the cliff above the Jordan that read, “John the Baptist Ministries” or “Baptisms are Us”? No, John did not come in his own name. When messengers from the religious leaders in Jerusalem asked who he was, he simply answered, “I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness.” John did not come to lift himself up, but to make the path straight for the only One who God wanted to glorify, the very Son of God.

Jesus told those Pharisees, “I don’t receive glory from men. But I know you . . . ” There is little doubt what Christ is saying here. Because these Pharisees did not have God’s love IN them nor seek God’s honor, they did not truly worship God. Instead, they honored themselves. They looked for honor from men and not the honor that comes from God alone. Their religious cloak was only a ploy to gain power over the righteous.

Paul puts it this way, “But he who boasts, let him boast in the Lord. For (because) it isn’t he who commends himself who is approved, but whom the Lord commends” (2 Corinthians 10:17-18). Elsewhere he wrote, “For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? For if I were still pleasing men, I wouldn’t be a servant of Christ” (Galatians 1:10). It doesn’t get any plainer than this. If the favor of men is our focus, we cannot be the servants of Christ. We are not true if we do not seek the glory that comes from God alone. To receive glory in this life for the work of God is to miss receiving it from Him in the next. He will say to us as we stand in judgment, “I say unto you, you have had your reward.”

When our sense of accountability is horizontal toward man rather than vertical toward God, we cannot possibly be faithful to Christ. When we look for praise from man, jealousy and unbelief creep in. Jesus said, “How can you believe, who receive glory from one another?” Belief is more than adhering to a system of doctrine; it is faithfulness to God’s leading and obedience to Him alone. You live what you really believe.

Man’s Good Ol’ Boy Networks

Unless a man is free from private ambition and free from the need for man’s approval, he cannot be a true servant to the people of God. Paul wrote, “For being free from all, I have made myself bondman to all, that I might gain the most possible.” (1 Corinthians 9:19, Darby) You cannot truly serve another and do what is best for them if you are fearful of falling into their displeasure. This fear is what makes today’s good ol’ boy networks work. In associations like these, the members are constantly trying to make themselves look better and win the approval of the power clique in hopes of moving up the ladder.

One ministry that is making great inroads on today’s apostolic/prophetic community has a single man at the top who instructs the other ministries under his venue to cut off anyone who will not yield to their authority. He and his ruling board also advocate removing pastors who will not come under their power from their ministries. Having been raised in the Catholic Church, I (Michael) see the same controlling, top-down structure here in this Protestant group that I saw in my youth. The proverb has once again been proven, “Like mother, like daughters” (see Ezekiel 16:44-45).

This movement goes by different names, such as Third Day, Third Wave, or New Apostolic Reformation, and is the religious equivalent of the New World Order of the governments of the Beast system. These Third Day ministries professes to think outside the box, but a closer analysis of their structure reveals the same old box with a new look. The thing that they will not touch is the hierarchical structure that has been in place for the last 1700 years. If anything, what is coming is a greater concentration of power to the few at the top. These elite few are taking to themselves the titles of apostles and prophets. The thinking goes, “If we just tack scriptural names and titles on what we have built in the past, then God will bless it.” Nothing has really changed. The controlling spirit behind it is still the same.

This is the same method that David and Uzzah used to bring the ark back to Jerusalem. Since the Philistines sent the ark back to Israel on an oxcart, they thought a new oxcart would be ideal to bring it on up to Mount Zion. God was not impressed then and he is not impressed now. Every oxcart needs people to steady it. Invariably the ox–those burdened with making the new system work–stumbles. People and movements always die and eventually all that is left is another cold denomination.

In order for the presence of God to return in power in HIS temple, the body of Christ, God must be true and all men be liars. God will not share His glory or power over the church with men, even if they are priests. God struck Uzzah dead because he and his priestly sons failed to follow the due order. We are not speaking of a cast of priests doing the work of the ministry. In the New Testament every man and woman is a priest and minister unto the Lord, set completely apart to follow Him alone.

Men Who Would Be Kings

One of the unwritten laws of good old boy networks is that the ruling members are to make the other ruling members look good at all times. You are never to dress down another leader in front of the “laity.” An appearance of solidarity must always be maintained before the faithful or they might loose faith in your right to rule over them.

I, Michael, was in one such ministry in my youth. The head minister who supervised everyone with an iron hand instructed us to lift him up in the eyes of the public, mentioning his name in glorious terms at all times. If we did, he would build us up in the eyes of others, too, and we would all look good. What ever happened to Jesus’ words, “If I be lifted up, I WILL draw all men nigh”? Carnal man wants his own name lifted up above Christ. This is the very essence of antichrist, which not only means against Christ, but also to displace Christ.

If we are slaves to the fear of man we cannot do what is best for them or ourselves. We will be too fearful to correct people when the Spirit shows us that they are out of order and teaching false doctrines. The fear of man is two-sided. One side is the love of being seen and praised; the other side is the fear of rejection and scorn.

If Christ had looked for honor from man, no one would be saved today. The last place He would have gone was to the shameful and humbling death of the cross. Thank God that He shouldered his cross, bore it outside the camp, and suffered and died for our sins.

The Last God to Go

In the kingdom that Jesus came to establish, there is no priestly cast that rules over the saints. Paul planted believers in Christ. He did not plant churches or make himself head over them! Wherever two or more of these believers were found, that was the church in that area. God was autonomous over them as HIS priests. God’s mind has not changed. Jesus is still building HIS church in one heart at a time. His church is built after the pattern in the heavens and cannot be aided by worldly, romanistic methods.

Paul cried out to the Corinthians,

“Oh, that you would bear with me in a little folly–and indeed you do bear with me. For I am jealous for you with godly jealousy. For I have betrothed you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. For if he who comes preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or if you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted–you may well put up with it!” (2 Corinthians 11:1-4, NKJV).

Can anyone read this and not feel Paul’s heart? Where are our hearts? Are we espoused to one Husband or have our ministers espoused us to themselves? Who and what are WE in love with? God’s words, spoken through the prophet Jeremiah, ring as true today as they did back then. “But my people have forgotten me, they burn offerings to a delusion; they have stumbled in their ways, in the ancient roads, and have gone into bypaths, not the highway” (Jeremiah 18:15 RV). Do we burn offerings to a delusion or worship the one true God? Do we erect secret shrines and burn incense to our own image–our own ministries?

Paul wrote that the events of the Old Testament “happened. . .by way of example; and they were written for our admonition” (1 Corinthians 10:11 ASV). Its types and shadows are examples that often apply, in amazing detail, to God’s current work in the Church.

Today many people are fulfilling that same idolatrous vision that Ezekiel saw in chapters eight and nine.

And He said to me, Son of man, have you seen what the elders of the house of Israel are doing in the dark, each man in the rooms of his image? For they are saying, Jehovah does not see us, Jehovah has forsaken the earth. . .And he brought me into the inner court of the house of Jehovah. And, behold, at the opening of the temple of Jehovah, between the porch and the altar, were about twenty five men with their backs to the temple of Jehovah. (Ezekiel 8:12 and 16a GLT).

The chapter starts out with these elders of Jerusalem sitting with Ezekiel in his house, looking good to the outward glance. But the prophet is taken out of this inner circle by an angel and shown what they are doing in the hidden chambers of their hearts. He is taken in a vision to the inner court of the temple and there he sees each man bowed down before his own image (imagination or conceit; see Hebrew meaning of image) in the inner court of the temple of God. They are driven by the god of Jealousy (Hebrew – envy). Under the guise of ministering to the people, they turned their backs on the temple of God built with living stones.

God then orders His angel in white linen (the garment of the true priests of His inner court [see Ezekiel 44:17-18] to go forth and mark the foreheads of all those who are mourning: “And the LORD said to him, ‘Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and put a mark on the foreheads of the men who sigh and cry over all the abominations that are done within it.'” (Ezekiel 9:4, NKJV). Then the judgment falls on all that are not so marked.

Be warned. God has once again sent out his angels to mark the foreheads of all who are weeping over the fallen state of today’s self-seeking church leadership. The unmarked who are profiting from this current apostasy and going along with it will be dealt with. Judgment begins first in the house of the Lord.

Are We Betrothed to One Husband?

How quickly we trade the living Son of God for other idols! Paul betrothed new believers to Jesus Christ Himself, not Paul, not a hierarchy! As the friend of the Bridegroom, he presented them as chaste virgins to Jesus, the only Bridegroom. They were not of Paul, nor Apollos, nor Cephas. Because they belonged to Jesus alone, all things were theirs in Christ (see 1 Corinthians 3).

Men in ministry are still betrothing the bride to themselves, constantly referring to my ministry, my congregation, or my church. They act as if THEY are the rightful bridegroom. If one of these men had been sent by Abraham to purchase a bride for Isaac, Isaac would still be waiting for his bride in Canaan (see Genesis 24). This self-seeking is perverse and sick and yet the people of God are taken in by this craftiness. Instead of following Jesus, they follow a man who tells them that HE has the NEW way to get to Jesus or the keys to all truth.

Paul warned the Ephesian Church:

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

Savage wolves that devour the flock of God will never produce a new wineskin that God’s new wine can be poured into. They are IN the box, will never think outside the box, and will not allow others under their domain to do so either. Jesus spoke of the antichrist (in place of Christ) spirit when he said to the Jewish leaders, “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut up the kingdom of heaven against men, for neither do you go in [yourselves], nor do you allow those who are entering to go in” (Matthew 23:13). They can repaint the whitened sepulcher as often as they like, but inside it still holds a rotting corpse that kills everything that comes in close contact with it.

Today Christians still put up with those who are of another spirit, preaching another gospel, and portraying another christ. The more things change, the more they remain the same. But there is hope. We get letters from dear saints who are finding the truth in the One who said, “I am the Truth.” The latest movements always point to themselves and their apostolic names, positions and titles. They want to rule over the believers, so they rarely point them to Christ. If these men and women were honest, they would adopt the country song by Toby Keith as their theme song. “I wanna talk about me, talk about I.”

The Heart Motivation

The motive of the heart determines whether you are true or not in the eyes of God. The current preoccupation with accountability in the church is to insure that the ones at the top remain there. The ambitious who are climbing toward the top use submission to get their piece of bread. Solomon wrote: “To show partiality is not good, Because for a piece of bread a man will transgress” (Proverbs 28:21, NKJV). These people can be bought and in fact have been. They sell themselves for promotion in the eyes of honored men. As Jesus put it, “No one can serve two masters; either he will hate the one and will love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other” (Matthew 6:24). No wonder the church is filled with apostasy these days.

Man cannot maintain true accountability to men and remain faithful to God. If fear of being called to task by man motivates us, we are not truly serving God, but are bowing before lesser gods. One of the first lessons about God that I (George) learned as a child was, “God sees everything!” You can run but you cannot hide. He is around when there’s no one else present. It is a sub par “Christianity” that requires man’s scrutiny to force God’s children into obedience. These accountability systems destroy any sense of the believer’s responsibility of doing “all things as unto the Lord.” The victims of this system find themselves doing all things unto church dictators. Paul spoke of this in the context of slaves and masters. “Not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart; With good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men” (Ephesians 6:6-7).

I, Michael, remember the paralysis that I felt when I was sent out to do a task for my master in the ministry group I mentioned earlier. Invariably, something would come up that was not covered by the leader’s instructions, and I would be forced to make a decision on my own. No matter how hard I tried, I would always make the wrong choice and the inevitable dressing down followed. The fear (of man) has torment. I have since learned that this is typical cult behavior.

Our Lord “made Himself of no reputation.” He didn’t come to win friends and influence enemies or use soul power to build a large following. Jesus did not render eyeservice and He was not a man-pleaser. His eyes were trained on the Father and He did only the things He saw the Father doing. Who was Jesus accountable to? Who did He honor? Who did He receive honor from?

In today’s Church, we promote ministries like the world promotes rock stars. “Come and see Dr, Apostle, Prophet, Evangelist, Pastor, Teacher, Brother Wonderful! He moves in all nine gifts of the spirit and possesses all five ministry gifts in his humble little soul. He will be preaching a barn burner of a message and miracles in Holy Spirit power will follow (on demand).” It has taken lots of time, effort, and publicity, but some have finally reached superstar status, not caring who they used or stepped-on along the way.

Raise Yourself Up!

Today there is a mentality that says, “If I am raised up before all men, then I can draw all men to Christ.” This is a flat out lie from Satan himself. Jesus was constantly pressured to promote Himself. An example is found in John 7. The feast of tabernacles was at hand, and His brothers scoffed at him, “Go where your followers can see your miracles!. . . You can’t become a public figure if you hide like this! If you can do such wonderful things, prove it to the world!” (John. 7:3-4 NLT). Christ was not concerned with becoming a public figure. He had come to bear witness to His Father, not Himself. “He who speaks from himself seeks his own glory” (John 7:18). Those who speak their own words from their own authority seek their own glory, but those who are sent by God seek only His. These are the genuine article.

The way of Christ is to decrease, not increase. It is the way of lowly service, not ruling over. It is the way of the cross, not the way of gilded thrones and posturing over the priests of God.

Choose the cross, dear saint, not the way that seems right to men but ends in death. Jesus is the Pattern Son. Follow Him alone. Then when you stand before Him you will hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant,” not “I say unto you, you have already had your reward.”

Kingdom building: Who you building for?

Serving and wanting to serve God is a good thing, right?  Overall the answer is yes, however, it is an area where we are all ripe to be tempted and deceived.  It is real easy to get caught up in our own kingdom in the name of serving God. 

Ways we can get caught up in seeking after own kingdom. We can desire God, desire to serve God, desire to reach out to others, but we can let ourselves corrupt matters. Each of us can easily seek to serve God through means of the lust of flesh, lust of eyes, or pride of life. We can easily move from service to and for God, to meeting our own needs for love, significance, and security. There is even a very popular church program around being “purpose-driven” which definitely can move in the direction of self oriented and direct service. 

Now if you look at scripture, what God want most from each of us is surrender. Take a look at Romans 12: 1-2 (NIV): 1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God–this is your spiritual act of worship. 2 Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.” 

We are called to daily surrender. We are called not to conform to the pattern of this world.  What is the pattern of this world? Seeking self-satisfaction or engaging in need satisfaction. We are called to change our thinking not to ourselves and satisfactions of our wants and needs but focus on God and the Gospel through the Word of God.

There are several ways seeking our own wants, needs and engage in building our own kingdom occur.  One particular way we can shift to building our own kingdom for God is becoming obsessed over a being used in a particular way. Some people may in fact approach God and ask “make me a prophet,” “or make me a healer,” or “make me a revivalist.” God can certainly meet those prayers. But it can turn into an obsession of a particular gifting of God with loss of site of other gifts.  And if God hasn’t called or chosen the person for the particular gifting then it clearly can be something that moves into satisfying own selfish desires or needs.  For example, think of a really bad singer or dancer on any audition for popular reality television shows, the ones that have no talent but are convinced they have talent, sometimes we can be just like them. We can be so enamored with ways we want to be used that we lose site of what God really wants to do in our lives. 

The Bible states in Romans 12:3-9 (NIV): 3 For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you. 4 Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, 5 so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. 6 We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. 7 If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; 8 if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully. 9 Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.

            The passage clearly indicates that God gives gifts as He will.  We are each created differently and He chooses to give us different gifts. Rather then asking God for a particular gift, it is better to ask God to gift use as He will. If there is a desire on the heart, bring it before God in submission and ask Him to reveal to you what His will and gifts are.  Accept the ways God has gifted you and learn to walk in those gifts in surrender. 

            It is important not to forget 1 Corinthians 12:12-26 (NIV): 12 The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. 13 For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body–whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free–and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. 14 Now the body is not made up of one part but of many. 15 If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. 19 If they were all one part, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, but one body. 21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” 22 On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, 24 while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, 25 so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. 26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.

            We all have roles within the body. We are all a cell in the body of Christ. However, God made us a particular cell and each cell serves a distinct purpose.  The cell doesn’t determine it’s role, it is determined by the creator. Science has even shown this with the discovery of stem cells, which do not take on their function until given the instructions. Per the passage, we receive entrance into the body through the Holy Spirit, and as such it is when we receive our instructions and placement in the body.  True we have gifts and natural skills at birth again given by God, and God takes those things into account in placing us within our place in the body of Christ. God as made us and arranged us as He wants, it is not about what we want. 

            In the passage it is clear another way we each can lose focus, which is to get jealous or envious of another persons gifting or place in the body. We can easily focus on people who God gifts to heal, or God uses to raise someone from the dead, or God uses to harvest many souls into the Kingdom of God.   And according to the above passage, the parts of the body with “dishonor” are given greater honor with God. Yet, we often look at the “attention” getting gifts or the ones that demonstrate power or knowledge.  So think of whomever in the body of Christ that draws no honor, perhaps a handicapped person who simply prays and worships God because of no capacity to anything else. In God’s kingdom and perspective, such a person has a higher honor.  We at times envy and desire things that externally look exciting or note worthy, yet with God it is what happens that goes unnoticed that has the higher honor, yet we don’t envy or desire such gifts.

            When we lose focus on serving God’s kingdom, and view from our own perspective another way to easily get wrapped up in serving self is when it does become about building our own Kingdom’s literally. It becomes about wanting to be a leader or gain power and influence in the church.  Often times it can start out well meaning, wanting to reach others with the Gospel, build a church or ministry that will impact others. However, power is enticing and corrupting.  Once you have a vision of serving God suddenly amassing more power and influence becomes the priority.  The bible says some pretty specific things about leadership.

For example: James 3:1 (NIV):  1 Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. This passage clearly indicates that teaching and leadership results in greater judgment. It is not to be entered into lightly, for there is greater responsibility. As a leader a person is not just responsible for them selves but those that serve under them.

Also look at   Luke 14:7-14(NIV): 7 When he noticed how the guests picked the places of honor at the table, he told them this parable: 8 “When someone invites you to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor, for a person more distinguished than you may have been invited. 9 If so, the host who invited both of you will come and say to you, ‘Give this man your seat.’ Then, humiliated, you will have to take the least important place. 10 But when you are invited, take the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he will say to you, ‘Friend, move up to a better place.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all your fellow guests. 11 For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”  The passage clearly demonstrates that we need to not seek honor, not seek to be someone considered important, but rather to humbly serve.  

We also need to consider what Jesus said “If anyone desires to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all.” (Mark 9:35b NKJV) Jesus demonstrated this consistently. He demonstrated in the washing of the feet. He ultimately demonstrated this at the Cross.

            Now it is possible for us to not be seeking after power or leadership but rather get caught up in looking for external evidence of building the Kingdom of God. Looking for this external evidence can be a snare.  We can look for numbers or external manifestations and look to depend on them or rely on them and get caught up in building our own kingdom in the name of building God’s kingdom.  Things like attendance numbers, numbers of people coming forward at an alter call, numbers of small groups, numbers of programs, and so on. 

            We can get caught up in the numbers game because in our mind the numbers are what shows whether or not there is fruit.  However, numbers are simply numbers and God looks at things differently.  1 Corinthians 3:11-15 (NKJV):11 For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, 13 each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. 14 If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. 15 If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.  This passage clear shows that what stand as good work and good fruit in the end is what passes through the fire.  What we do building our own kingdoms will burn and doesn’t count. So we really cannot get to excited about external appearances.

            Another good verse is 2 Corinthians 10:12-13 (NIV):12 We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise. 13 We, however, will not boast beyond proper limits, but will confine our boasting to the field God has assigned to us, a field that reaches even to you. This passage clearly shows that there are limits to pay attention to, that seeing the good that God does certainly can be commended, but when we start comparing to ourselves or others we lose focus and become unwise.  Numbers and externals are really about what makes us feel better. It makes us feel like something is accomplished, but often what God really accomplishes is unseen and unnumbered.

            Another easy way to get caught up in building our own kingdom versus the Kingdom of God is when we get caught up in a particular plan or program. It is real easy to get caught in the method, versus the Kingdom.  There are ways and tools and programs that God has used in varied locations. However, it is a mistake to think that any plan or program or formula will work in all cases with all people.  In the American church, the focus on programs as even gone to the point where there are prepackaged sermons and sermon series.  Now, I can see the value in passing on particular series of messages that God has used. But we make a mistake if we think that God interacts and works with all people in that same manner. 

Jesus himself did not always work in the same way or manner.  He met individuals at there need, at their level of faith.  He met them where they were at and always challenged them to go beyond and enter the Kingdom of God.

            We can have the most thought out plans and programs and God may not be in it.  Plans and programs are not bad, it is all a matter of what God is doing and how he is acting. For example, Paul had an excellent plan and spoke with all wisdom to the Greeks, yet it went no where. God’s wisdom and plans running contrary to human wisdom is evident in 1 Corinthians 1:17-21(NIV):17 For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel–not with words of human wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. 18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.” 20 Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe.

            Building the Kingdom of God always comes down to what God is doing. He may not make sense to human eyes and human wisdom, but God’s path is clear.  Again programs and plans can work, or the may be works that burn in the fire.  The important thing for each of is to attend to what God is doing.  We need to get beyond ourselves and consider each individual as Jesus did in the Gospels.  A passage clearly outlining this principle is found in 1 Corinthians 9:19-23 (NIV):19 Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. 20 To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. 21 To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. 23 I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.

            Paul indicated that we have to meet people where they are at, and share the Gospel at a level they understand.  We also can get so caught up not only in programs or plans but our own ideas and agendas about God as well. We each have experience with God, God shows us different things and we can often apply broad brush applications of our experience and demand the same of all, forgetting that God made us each unique.  The Bible is filled with both God and Jesus working in different ways in people’s lives. However, we can instead of continually learning and testing all things, become convinced of an aspect of God and expect all to understand the same way and all that vary are wrong.  We forget the admonition of Romans 12:3(NIV):For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you. Instead we get grand thoughts that every one needs to understand as we do. We can fail to listen and instead speak at and judge others. 

            However, the fact that we operate often from our own understanding and ideas doesn’t eliminate the fact that truth about God has been revealed through the Word of God.  However we understand God it needs to be based on the scripture.   As it says in 1 Corinthians 13:12(NIV): 12 Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.  The passage clearly show that our understanding is limited, partial.  Yet God has revealed Himself and His truth through the Word of God. It is by studying the Word of God that in this life we can know more in full.  We need to follow Proverbs 3:5:6:  5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; 6 in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. and not be like the watchmen of Israel described in Isaiah 56:11(NIV): 11 They are dogs with mighty appetites; they never have enough. They are shepherds who lack understanding; they all turn to their own way, each seeks his own gain.

            When we don’t understand something about God we need to seek him and seek the truth in the Word of God.  The Word of God is the foundation as seen in 2 Timothy 3:16, 17(NIV): 16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.   

            God does promises that He will give understanding for example in Proverbs 2:1-51 My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you, 2 turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding, 3 and if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, 4 and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, 5 then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God. As well as in James 1:5 5 If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.  We need to ask God and seek the truth.  Our understanding is in part but God will give us greater understand as we ask and as we set aside our own understanding.

            Now I could identify several other ways the church commonly seeks to build kingdoms in the name of Jesus but not truly building the Kingdom of God.  Building the Kingdom of God is about surrender to the King of Kings.  The bible does give some clear guidelines for building the Kingdom of God. Clear ways to walk in.  1 Corinthians 13 is a good start point. Evidence of building the Kingdom of God is rooted in love. But not only is the kingdom rooted and driven in love. It is the driving factor. It is for love of others that we seek to draw others into the Kingdom of God as shown in 2 Corinthians 5: 12-15(NIV): 12 We are not trying to commend ourselves to you again, but are giving you an opportunity to take pride in us, so that you can answer those who take pride in what is seen rather than in what is in the heart. 13 If we are out of our mind, it is for the sake of God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. 14 For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. 15 And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. How that kind of love looks is further expanded in other scripture as in Romans 12: 9-21(NIV): 9 Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. 11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13 Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. 14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. 17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. 20 On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. Now of course it would be worthwhile to examine each particular aspect of what sincere love looks like in practice but for now will leave the Word of God speak for itself.

            The central point of this article is that we easily, each of us, can get caught up in building kingdoms that are not the Kingdom of God and do so in the name of building the Kingdom of God.  Building the Kingdom of God  starts with surrender and is driven by love.  We each need to examine ourselves and our actions and our theology and our programs and whatever we do in the name of Jesus and see if there is anything that is of self, anything that is not about surrender and not driven by love.  Again much more can be written on this topic and will write other articles fleshing out varied aspects of building the Kingdom of God but it is time for me to draw this article to a close.  I will close this article with another set of lyrics from Daniel Amos that I think makes an appropriate point.  I also recommend reading a parable at http://www.sheeptrax.com/articles/main.html that also makes and appropriate point.  So now until my next article enjoy the lyrics to I Didn’t Build it for Me.

 

I Didn’t Build it for Me

from the album “Doppelgänger”

Words and Music by Terry Taylor and Jerry Chamberlain
©1983 Twitchen Vibes/ Paragon Music Corp. ASCAP

You think I built this for me?
You think I built this for me?
This isn’t mine- it’s yours, it’s really for you
I didn’t build it for me

I don’t have the time to enjoy it
I’m asked why I don’t use the facilities
I don’t have the slightest inclination
I won’t consider it, I didn’t build it for me…

There’s a plaque in the hall
My name’s on the wall
And a statue of my family
It wasn’t my decision
It was all in a vision
I didn’t build it, I never would have built it
I really didn’t build it for me…

One man stood alone
One man did succeed
I’m the man, I’m the one
I didn’t build it for me
One man stood alone
Numero uno
I’m the man, I’m the one
I’m the man of the hour!…

I used to say, “Why doesn’t somebody do something about this?”
I cried, “Oh, what about this need?”
Then a voice said, “You do something about it”
I said, “Oh woooow you mean me?”…