A Modern Woman's Perspective On The Kingdom of God on Earth

Showing posts with label Religious Spirit. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Religious Spirit. Show all posts

September 26, 2021

Moving From Religion to Faith to Relationship

I am often amazed at the Christians I come in contact with who are still unable to extricate themselves from a religious mindset, which keeps them bound in doubt and unbelief. That might sound like a vague or ill-defined statement, so let me try to clarify my thoughts. What I'm trying to convey is the message that oftentimes Christians view what they call their "faith" from a system of religious principles, tenets,  dictates, or decrees; as if there is a specific "order" of how to believe in God. But that can lead to associating God as a strict task-master, with rules or practices intended to regulate behavior or thought. Stray from the application of those prescribed rules, and God will punish you for "not doing it right".

Believers become so consumed with not breaking the rules, that they begin to doubt their worthiness to receive salvation. They become so worried about coloring inside the lines of religion, that the focus becomes about them and not about the One they profess to worship. That is the picture we see portrayed by the Pharisees in the Bible. Just like those ancient religious leaders, Christians today may recite all the commandments, but not practice them; profess holiness, but continue to act unrighteously; spout mercy and grace, but sow injustice. And believe me, I am well aware that we have an Enemy who tempts us to sin. That is our human nature, and I am in no position to cast the first stone!

This same religious mindset can come perilously close to Gnosticism which plagued the Early Church and is still alive and well in the 21st Century. Gnosticism makes God out to be distant and uninterested in the day-to-day experiences of life, and thereby leads to human interpretation (put forth as knowledge) of God's will.  So I grieve for my Brothers and Sisters in Christ who only know Jesus through religion. They will equate it with "faith", saying they have faith, but there is a world of difference between religion and faith. Religion tends to be expressed in outward acts or deeds and self-made wisdom; resulting in the performance of rituals and traditions.  Religion is often experienced in the physical world. Faith, on the other hand, is defined as assurance of things hoped for [and divinely guaranteed], and the evidence of things [unlike religion] that are not seen.

Religion will say, "I've done everything right ... I've followed all the rules ...". Faith will say, "God is my strength, and I trust in Him." People with faith [versus religion] do not define their relationship with God by how many of the rules they follow. That only got the Pharisees accused of hypocrisy by Jesus. The acts of people of faith are done to please God, not men. Faithful people are obedient to His expressed will; knowing [and expecting], and eagerly looking forward to their promised inheritance. Religion is focused on the here and now. Faith knows we are strangers and exiles on the earth, sustained by the promise of a return to our heavenly home. Chapter 11 in Hebrews is known as the "Hall of Faith", and there is not one person listed in that chapter that is lauded for their religion; they are all men and women of faith. They are examples of how to move from religion to faith and Godly relationships with our Father in Heaven.

And that leads me to the importance of relationship with God. It is difficult to have an authentic relationship with God if we see Him as only a distant taskmaster with rules that must be followed to please Him. There is no room for intimacy in that relationship. And faith, alone, without intimacy in a relationship with God, will be empty of the familiarity and friendship that are hallmarks of a real partnership. For you see, that is what God is looking for... someone to partner with on the earth. And I wish I had discovered that truth earlier in life.

But the reality, in my life, is that I first came to know my God, and my Lord and Savior, through Religion. I found a Pastor that introduced me to all the doctrines of the Church and the precepts and principles of the Bible, but I was never taught that these principles were level one; that my Father wanted obedience and intimacy, and I would never find my way to those concepts by limiting myself to Sunday attendance, Church offices, or denominational affiliation. As strange as it may sound, I was never really encouraged to get to know Him through a personal study of His Word. There was always someone else responsible for telling me what I was to know ... a Sunday School teacher, the Pastor in his 20-minute sermon each week, or an "elder" whom I automatically assumed should know more than me.

It wasn't until I began to study and read the Bible on my own, and went to these people with my questions, that I realized a lot of them had no answers from a faith standpoint ... they were just repeating man-made doctrine, and were responding from religion, not faith. Some were even uneasy with questioning these formulaic answers, possibly thinking it was blasphemous to God to challenge what the leaders of religion had unquestionably accepted as "God's Truth". But I found that as I dared to trust in God [more than men] for my answers, that He responded with amazing revelations that left me in awe of His character and nature. I began to believe EVERYTHING about Him in the Bible -- especially the supernatural aspects, which the modern world declares He no longer displays. 

And that has led me to real relationship with ALL of who He is ... Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; merciful, gracious, loving, and just. I know Him in all His individual capacities, and how He works for my good. I know how to hear from God, Jesus, and Holy Spirit -- individually and together. I have learned how to spend time in the spirit with them and receive rest, peace, power, and strategies. And I know that if the Body of Christ is unable [or unwilling] to move beyond Religion into Faith, and then grow their Faith into a real Relationship, then the season we are about to move into is going to be difficult for most to traverse. We must be focused on Christ as our way forward and through the crises that are coming upon us. We must be able to transcend the limitations of this earth and ascend in the spirit to sit in the presence of our Savior. Religion cannot become our sanctuary in this season. Faith and Relationship will be the weapons that the Enemy cannot destroy or defeat. He has no answer for them! There is nothing in his arsenal that is comparable to them! Thank you, Jesus, that you continue to pursue us; that you answer our questions and doubts with your convincing and infallible truth; and that you never leave us nor abandon us when we fail you! Strengthen us through your power in us, far beyond anything we dare to ask or think! Glory be to you in all the generations that come after us! Amen!

1 Corinthians 1:30-31     But it is from Him that you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God [revealing His plan of salvation], and righteousness [making us acceptable to God], and sanctification [making us holy and setting us apart for God], and redemption [providing our ransom from the penalty for sin],  so then, as it is written [in Scripture], “He who boasts and glories, let him boast and glory in the Lord.”

October 26, 2020

"Religion" Is Not What Jesus Modeled!

You would think that we American Christians would be grateful that we still live in a free society where we can practice our faith without overt persecution, and that we would support and encourage each other in the incredible freedoms we enjoy to explore and grow in our relationship with Christ. You would think that, wouldn't you?

But, just as Jesus faced constant challenges from the religious Pharisees, I am still seeing opposition, and even hostility, towards Believers, like myself, who have been called to offer encounters with Jesus that are unconventional and outside the boundaries set by religious traditions. As I have shared many times in past posts, the Inner Healing Ministry [to which the Lord called Mark and I] has been the subject of many attacks by Christians who object to it as "un-Biblical" or "un-Scriptural". But is it? 

In addition, when the Lord showed us that Jesus's primary reason for being sent by the Father was to preach the Gospel of the Kingdom, we were accused of disparaging the Gospel of Salvation. It didn't fit the established doctrines of mainstream denominations. Yet that is exactly what Jesus says in Luke 4:43... that's why He was sent. In the Book of Matthew, He talks about the Gospel of the Kingdom 56 times, and never mentions the Gospel of Salvation. Granted, our Lord came to be the Lord of the Jews first. Christians did not exist at that time; those non-Jews who would come to believe in Him as the Son of God were called Gentiles and most often worshiped pagan gods. It wouldn't be until after the Jews rejected Him as their Messiah, He was resurrected, and appeared to Paul on the road to Damascus, that Jesus instructed His message be offered to non-Jews. 

And I will say it again ... SALVATION WAS IMPORTANT TO JESUS! He experienced a horrific death on the Cross to give it to us! But the Bible only records Him talking about it once, to Nicodemus in the middle of the night, away from the religious leaders of the Jews. He makes it clear that Salvation is necessary and essential to see [discern or perceive] the Kingdom, and one must be Saved to enter the Kingdom. The religion of Christianity has grasped the concept of Salvation really well, and they have promoted it, preached it, and taught it around the world. But Jesus said in Matthew 24:14, "And this Gospel of the Kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then the end shall come."

So, it is with sadness [and a modicum of frustration] that I am still hearing Christians criticizing each other when one of us presents a different form of His message from a platform that doesn't correspond to what they think should be the prescribed formula. Jesus didn't model the Jewish faith in the system the Pharisees thought was acceptable, either. In fact, to use a modern euphemism, Jesus didn't color inside the lines.  So, when I hear Christians say that a person's Salvation should be the first thing that we "accomplish" in introducing them to Jesus, I want to have a sincere conversation about determining exactly what Jesus modeled for us. The Sinner's Prayer [or the Prayer of Salvation] does not have to be the first or the be-all, end-all of any ministry opportunity. And I don't see Jesus demanding any litmus test to follow Him. He was all about relationship, not rules.

And I should probably, at this point, head off any criticism that I am saying "anything goes" when it comes to presenting God's Word or representing Jesus and the Father. I am not. We must present the Truth of the Bible according to Scripture. But I think the Father has given us unique ways to do that, and we do not have to be religious or uncompromising about the protocol. If Christians would spend some time reading their Bible and verifying what they have been taught, I think they would find that Jesus's modus operandi, if you will, was to show the love and mercy of the Father to those He came in contact with. When the people experienced the power of God in their lives to heal, to forgive, and to extend His grace, they were more likely to listen to His message and teachings about the Kingdom -- which remember, was His purpose. He wasn't so concerned about following any methodology, or repeating a formula or technique. 

When you can invite women to a retreat and witness the sharing of testimonies of how an intimate relationship with Jesus healed a miserable childhood experience; or how different our journeys can be to develop a faith life; or even just that its okay to start right where you are, without fitting any "model" of what your Christian walk should like, then you are showing the heart of God to love us into relationship with Him. That relationship will lead to Salvation, and then we can share the Gospel of the Kingdom. And when someone can come to us because they have nowhere else to turn and are desperate to be rid of the oppression and attacks from an Enemy they don't even know -- and we can help them have an encounter with Jesus, whom they've never known, then you have been blessed to give them that gift. And if they are not saved, this encounter with Him gives rise to the opportunity to share the messages of Salvation and the Kingdom. Both circumstances are just two of many different ways that follow the model Jesus has portrayed for us. He first healed the blind man, and then introduced His Father's Kingdom. He met the woman at the well, revealed Himself to her, and then told her to sin no more. 

Jesus healed the pain first and then said, "Go, and sin no more". These people were more willing to hear His message after they had experienced His heart and received healing. We would do well to remember we are all sinners and treat others the way Jesus did. He didn't judge other sinners. And He didn't give them a free pass. He guided them into a new way of thinking about how to confront sin; He showed them mercy. He didn't condone sin or pardon it. He was clear that the Father's will for our lives should take precedence over our own free will. The simple truth is that He showed the Father's love and will for us through His actions and the only prayer that He suggested was a prayer that revealed the Father's Kingdom and His willingness to deliver us through His power and glory. 

I have nothing against the Sinner's Prayer. It is easily understood and provides a way to help someone repent for their sins and begin a relationship with God through Jesus Christ, as their Savior. But unless that someone is discipled and encouraged and trained in the ways of the Lord, that Sinner's Prayer can become a mechanical gesture. Can we find it in our hearts to accept that there are other ways to lead a person to that relationship and to truly know the One who has Saved them? Can we not demonstrate the self-righteousness of the Pharisaical mindset? God has made each of us unique according to His purpose for His Kingdom on earth. Can we agree that He just might use unique people and unique ways to reach us? Let's try to give our fellow Christians the grace that Jesus showed others who didn't fit the mold. After all, it's the end result the Father is after ... receive Salvation through faith in His Son and then enter Kingdom to spread that Gospel to all the world. I'm pretty sure there are as many ways to do that as there are people. And I think the Father enjoys seeing the creative ways in which we reveal Him and His Truth. That represents the magnitude and vastness of His own creativity. That's how great our God is!

Romans 12:6   Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to use them accordingly ...






February 9, 2020

A Restful Soul and a Light Burden

     I sense that many people, like myself, are in need of rest for their souls. In addition, the burdens of this life on earth, let alone the obedience as a Christian, can weigh heavy on our hearts and spirits. Many times, I have gone to Matthew 11:28-30 to find solace: Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.
     I have never despaired of the calling on my life to bring an encounter with Jesus to the life of someone who needs healing from the wounds of this world. But as a friend reminded me the other day, "Even Jesus had to take a break from the demands on Him, and remove Himself for periods of rest". Don't get me wrong, in no way do I think that my work for the broken-hearted compares to what Jesus accomplished. But, as the Lord increases the number of people who find their way to our door, Mark and I do get weary in our flesh, souls, and spirits. 
     We do recognize that we need rest. And I used to find comfort in these verses, thinking that they were telling me that Jesus invites everyone who senses they can't ease their burdens on their own, to come to Him. He offers rest for our souls, which often overshadow and smother our spirits, limiting our ability to receive the gifts of the Spirit: joy, love, patience,  peace, gentleness, kindness and self-control, or discipline. He invites us to learn from Him as He models how to carry out our work for the Kingdom without feeling like we have a millstone around our neck.
     While I believe that interpretation to be valid, I have recently discerned what I think is another layer to this familiar passage.  Previously in Matthew 11, Jesus had spoken that the Kingdom of Heaven had suffered violence and the violent were taking it by force (verse 12). I believe Jesus was implying that the Kingdom of Heaven was being pressed into by men forcing their way in because they had been denied entrance by the religious restrictions and rules of the Pharisees. This resulted in a religious burden for those seeking to get closer to their God. 
     "Come to Me all who are weary and heavy-laden"... all who feel tired and worn-out from trying to meet all the criteria of being pronounced worthy of entering even the Temple, let alone the Kingdom of God. From the time Moses came down off the mountain with the stone tablets, some 1400+ years before, God's ten commandments for righteous living had multiplied exponentially, being mingled with oral traditions and the rabbi's written commentaries until the burden of meeting the standards of the religious leaders was nearly hopeless.
     "I will give you rest... you can recover your strength from the endless burden of meeting those standards. "Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls... Submit to His authority (yoke) and learn from Him how to walk out righteousness; sharing not only His Kingdom's system and structure, but the same rest for their souls that being aligned with the Father's kingdom lent Him. Jesus's heart and the Father's are in communion, yielding a gentle, submissive and obedient spirit; unburdened and rested.
     For my yoke is easy and my burden is light... Again, the submission to His authority (yoke) is easy, and His burden (discipleship) is light. Unlike the religious path of the Pharisees, following Jesus is easy and no burden, at all.  
     The fact that Chapter 12 is full of examples of these "rules" that the Pharisees placed on men -- no harvesting of the grain the Disciples ate on the Sabbath; no healing on the Sabbath of the man with the withered hand; no casting out demons by the Spirit of God -- is evidence to me that the "burden" Jesus referred to as being "heavy" was, indeed, all the religious rules that made it difficult for men to seek the Kingdom of God.
     So, as I contemplate my recent weariness, I must admit that a good portion of it comes from the burden of having shown Christians the glory of God healing the souls and spirits of Believers, only to have it embraced as Truth, then watch that enthusiasm evaporate as they slip back into their religious traditions. 
     I should not be surprised, though. As I read the messages to the churches in Revelation 2-3, Jesus clearly warns that the Body of Christ will not walk the straight and narrow path. Only a remnant will take His yoke upon themselves and learn from Him. But the harvest is great, so we will continue to labor in His fields, presenting the Gospel of the Kingdom and our King's gentle and humble heart. And we will rest when we can and never resist harnessing ourselves to Him and His authority.

Revelation 3:1-3     I know your deeds, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead. Wake up, and strengthen the things that remain, which were about to die; for I have not found your deeds completed in the sight of My God.  So remember what you have received and heard; and keep it, and repent...

December 30, 2019

The Religious Police vs Kingdom Citizens

     Oh, boy, I'm sure that this post will not win friends or influence people, but I feel it is time to take a stand. So here goes ... I am seeing a growing chasm between Christians; namely those in the camp I will call Reformers and those in the Kingdom camp. And I have to say that the rhetoric from the Reformer camp is getting uglier and more divisive. The articles on one of their more prominent websites, pulpitandpen.org, show me that they have designated themselves as the heresy police of Christianity. They decide who is a "real Christian" and who is not; often using Scripture sporadically, broadly, and frequently out of context. Furthermore, they categorize anyone who is Kingdom-minded as members of the NAR (New Apostolic Reformation).
     I will admit that I do not align myself with the NAR either, as I have discerned many of their adherents seem to be chasing prophetic gifts and titles. However, just because I am not so inclined, it does not mean that I condemn them or give individual pastors and teachers no credibility. I will leave the final judgment of their fruitfulness up to the Lord. As long as I see fruit from a group or movement, I join my husband in deciding to "eat the meat and spit out the bones" -- agree with what I see as fruit-bearing activity, and disregard areas that my spirit challenges. Not so, the Pulpit and Pen crowd.
     Their latest tirade is against Bethel Church and their attempt to resurrect a two-year-old child of one of their members through prayer. Here is some of what they wrote in an article entitled, Bethel 'Dead Raising Team' Fails To Save 2-Year Old:  "Of course, Bethel Church does not have the power to raise the dead. This is not the Apostolic age, and there are no Apostles or prophets (because we have the written word of God, (Hebrews 1:1-2). Some will look at this article and think it is cruel. Compare it to the actions of Jenn Johnson [worship leader and preacher at Bethel], publicly calling for this poor baby girl to be raised from the dead, giving her parents false hope and immeasurable pain instead of being content in 2 Corinthians 5:8, that for this child to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. Instead of giving hope in the coming resurrection, they sell false promises. They are wicked, and Jenn Johnson should shut her evil mouth."
     WOW! Is that showing the love of Christ from one Christian to another? Is this the image of Christians that "the Church" wants to show the world? Or do these people more accurately resemble the religious Pharisees of the Bible? To be honest with you, it doesn't surprise me that this condemning language came from this website, one of the most outspoken of the Reformers. They have a history of defaming women who dare to declare themselves representatives of the Lord.
     Another of their articles titled, Are Women-Only Gatherings Biblical? Thoughts from John Bunyan, reads [in part] like this: "Essentially  [Bunyan's] argument is that prayer is – at its heart – doctrinal. Corporate, public prayer should contain doctrine and teach doctrine." The writer of the article [who is also the publisher of Pulpit & Pen] goes on to quote many of John Bunyan's opinions on the subject, but let me give you the condensed version as I surmised it ... Prayer is a serious business with doctrine at its center, and "there's no way to teach doctrine without authority". But look how they define who is entitled to walk in authority: "in a godly church where doctrine is closely checked and the pasture dutifully guarded, the calling of studies or prayer meeting or conferences – and their oversight – belong to the men commissioned for the office of pastor" ... therefore, it should not be led by whom the Holy Spirit calls the “weaker vessel.”
      So, it should not be surprising that Jenn Johnson, being a woman in what they see as an unbiblical position of preacher, should be their latest target. But I have a few things to say about both these articles. First, in regards to Bethel's attempt to resurrect a child who had tragically passed away, our Lord commissioned us to do just that! In Matthew 10:7-8, Jesus tells the Disciples, And as you go, preach this message: ‘Heaven’s kingdom realm is accessible, close enough to touch.’  You must continually bring healing to lepers and to those who are sick, and make it your habit to break off the demonic presence from people, and raise the dead back to life. Freely you have received the power of the kingdom, so freely release it to others.
     Now, I know the Reformers will say those instructions were given only to the Twelve Disciples and not to us. NOWHERE does Scripture say that! That is man-made doctrine called Cessationism. In fact, in what is called The Great Commission in Matthew 28, Jesus tells the Disciples, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” 
     Follow this with His declaration in Luke 10:19,  Now you understand that I have imparted to you all my authority to trample over his kingdom. You will trample upon every demon before you and overcome every power Satan possesses. Absolutely nothing will be able to harm you as you walk in this authority. Follow that with John 14:12, which says, Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father.
     Just connect the dots! Disciples of all nations were to be taught to do what Jesus commanded the Twelve, and raising the dead was specifically commanded. Furthermore, He says that He has imparted ALL His authority and those who believe in Him will do the works that He did. Guess what? Raising the dead was part of the works he did to defeat the devil, along with casting out demons and healing the physically and spiritually sick. So I'm just a little tired of the ugly and slanderous language towards Christians who are seeking to follow not only Jesus's model, but His specific commandments.
    Secondly, the attacks on women as not being qualified to speak for Christ is also not biblically sound. And to quote the writings of a non-biblical source (John Bunyon) as truth is a little hypocritical, don't you think? And the writer/publisher shows his disingenuous intent when he asks at the end of the article, “Why? Why do we feel like women-only gatherings are obligatory or essential to our spiritual growth?” As a woman, I have never stated that I felt women's Bible studies were either obligatory or essential -- anymore than I think men's Bible studies are. As a matter of fact, I'm for any group of people who wish to gather together in search of Scripture's truth. 
     What I find burdensome and troublesome are self-appointed arbiters of what Christianity is supposed to look like. God inspired Scripture as His Holy Word. But when men decide they can re-interpret it according to their man-made doctrine, then differences of opinion are going to arise. Those differences are not inherently heretical. (Think "eat the meat and spit out the bones" -- as long as your spirit discerns there is nothing anti-Christ in the presentation). But Jesus never called for a religion. He commanded us to do what He did. He never said "Adopt this doctrine". And the Bible Study Tools website says "Doctrine is scriptural teaching on theological truths." But whose truths? Jesus's or John Bunyon or Pulpit & Pen or Jenn Johnson? It seems to me that it's important, as a follower of Jesus, to determine whose teachings line up with His. 
     And to call fellow believer's heretics or tell them to shut their evil mouths doesn't line up with Jesus's heart. And I just have to say that in the end, it all comes back to the fruit. Both camps are Saved and love Jesus. But only one camp is going to inherit the Kingdom. In Matthew 7, Jesus warns of pretenders ... Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter into the realm of heaven’s kingdom. It is only those who persist in doing the will of my heavenly Father. On the day of judgment many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, don’t you remember us? Didn’t we prophesy in your name? Didn’t we cast out demons and do many miracles for the sake of your name?’ But I will have to say to them, ‘Go away from me, you lawless rebels! I’ve never been joined to you! ... Everyone who hears my teaching and applies it to his life can be compared to a wise man who built his house on an unshakable foundation... But everyone who hears my teaching and does not apply it to his life can be compared to a foolish man who built his house on sand..."
     The Kingdom of God on earth is built on the foundation of those who followed Jesus and did what He did, which was the will of the Father. Before we condemn each other for being heretical, perhaps we should see if they are following Jesus's teachings -- not John Bunyon's; not John Calvin's; not Bill Johnson's; not mine, nor any man or woman's personal doctrine. Jesus is the model and we are clearly instructed to follow His teachings! 

Matthew 25:34     "Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world." 

July 30, 2018

Venom Within The Church: They Should Be Ashamed!

     The news of the wildfires in California are capturing headlines across the internet and news outlets, and the conflagration known as the Carr Wildfire has devastated northern California, targeting the town of Redding, where Bethel Church is located. If you are not familiar with Bethel and the Lead Pastor, Bill Johnson, I think it is safe to say that mainstream and religious Christianity do not quite welcome them into the Family of God with open arms.
     Those who do not believe that the signs and wonders, and the miracle healings that accompanied the First Century Church are for today do not subscribe to the belief system that defines Bethel Church. There is something about proclaiming the promises of Jesus [that those who believe in Him will do the same things He did and even greater] that does not set well with the Pharisees of today.
     You see, Bethel believes in the full healing properties of Jesus's ministry. They believe that when we receive the promise that "by His stripes we are healed", it is in the full sense of that word healed; namely, we are saved, delivered, healed, rescued, and made whole. And they aren't afraid to walk out what Jesus modeled for us, or to obey Jesus's commission to His disciples: to heal the sick, cast out demons, cleanse the lepers (the spiritually and physically unclean), and raise the dead; all-the-while sharing the good news that Jesus has brought heaven's power to earth.
     But just as in Jesus's day, the hyper-religious are threatened by this freedom and power to walk as Jesus walked. I have become increasingly saddened -- and yes, even alarmed -- at the vitriol and hatred that comes from the Pulpit & Pen crowd. And, in case you are unfamiliar with them, according to the definition on their own website, Pulpit and Pen (heretofore, to be referred to as P&P) are "Baptists, [who] most – but not all – hold to the five points of Calvinism. All contributors hold other similar convictions, including a belief in the Scripture’s inerrancy, young-Earth creationism, Biblical manhood and womanhood, and a general detestation of skinny jeans". Right off the bat, you get a taste of their sarcastic judgmentalism.
     Their campaign against Beth Moore and other evangelists they deem "too liberal" caused me to quit going to their site over a year ago. But when googling information of the Carr Fire and the effects on the town of Redding and Bethel Church, I came across an article that I felt needed to be addressed. The sarcasm -- and I hate to say it -- the downright glee with which this website saw the fire as God's justice due against Bethel Church disturbs me.
     Is the Body of Christ a family or not? Do our differences in theology and doctrine give us license to gloat over the misfortune of our fellow heirs of salvation? Some of the, frankly, unloving points made in this article were shocking. P&P goes way beyond their usual method of calling Bethel a "charimastic cult", and resorts to such cheap shots as the following: "Bethel’s Facebook page asks for prayer to save Redding. In it, the group acknowledges that God is sovereign and in control over the rain and the weather (this seems to contradict Johnson’s message that God has surrendered his authority on the Earth to his people). Ironically, Bethel Church has been praying for “the fire” to fall on them for many years, a charismatic expression that is biblically linked to judgment far more than blessings". Sounds like wishful thinking on the staff of Pen & Pulpit to me. Can they not simply do what Bethel asks, and offer up prayer for the town of Redding, without excoriating the Pastor?
     First of all, let me say this.... I listened to the snippet of Bill Johnson's sermon on YouTube (available here) from which P&P make their erroneous charge that Johnson declared God had surrendered His authority on Earth to His people. Here's what Johnson actually said: "God has created a system where humanity gets to live, and through partnership we get to demonstrate and manifest the dominion of God in the earth. He comes at our invitation because He has released the dominion to us. That's why prayer is so essential".
     If you're able to use your discernment, I'm hoping that you realize the difference between "surrendering God's authority" and "releasing the dominion of God". A simple exegesis of those two words reveal that surrender means "give up, yield, relinquish", while release means "make available, put at someone's disposal, set free". Bill Johnson did not say God gave up His authority on Earth to man; but, rather, said God put His government on Earth at the disposal of man through partnership in prayer. That is a different, yet Scripturally valid theology that P&P just can't seem to understand. But when you practice your theology like a Pharisee, then it's easy to make a value judgment against someone else's belief system, based on one’s own assumed secure position.
     I want to be clear. I do not disagree with everything that the writers at Pulpit & Pen put forth on their website. As fellow Christians and members of the Body of Christ, there is much we agree on.... that there is One True God; a Holy Trinity; Jesus Christ is God, the Living Word, Who became flesh through His miraculous conception by the Holy Spirit and His virgin birth; the death, resurrection and ascension of Christ to sit at the right hand of the throne of God; salvation is received through faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior --- all of which are the foundations of the Christian faith. They are my Brothers and Sisters in Christ, and I will never denounce their faith. I may disagree with aspects of their theology, but I will never question their love of the Lord, nor accuse them of heresy.
     But I have a problem when one group of Christians appears determined to destroy another; when theological differences become grounds for insults, slander, and outright distortion and misrepresentation. That is exactly what the religious Pharisees did to Jesus. And, interestingly enough, the two main issues they had with Jesus are the same issues the hyper-religious of today have with those who seek to resemble Jesus in their walk: 1) the Pharisees objected to Jesus aligning Himself with God. Today's hyper-religious Christians object to a kind of relationship with the Father that believes that the supernatural God who empowered Jesus desires the same supernatural relationship with us, and 2) the Pharisees objected to Jesus's relationship with men and His willingness to love the unaccepted of society. Today's Pharisees object to our desire to love all men, even sinners who practice what God detests. It does not mean that we approve of their sin, but that through a partnership with God and the Holy Spirit, we can heal them with the love of the Father; physically and spiritually -- just like Jesus did.
     I actually feel sad for these people who love Jesus, but are unable [and unwilling] to see how much God wants to work with His people to see all men experience His love. I think it is their inability to see Jesus, Holy Spirit and the Father at work in churches and believers like Bethel that keeps them blinded to how big our God is. And when that blindness leads to accusations of blasphemy, heresy, and anti-Christ behavior, then it borders on the denial of God's power in the world today.
Tweet by Kris Valloton, Senior Associate Leader at Bethel
     But the saddest and most egregious aspect of P&P's conduct is their lack of compassion and love for fellow Christians who are hurting. To stoop to mocking and ridiculing Bethel and their Pastor and presenting false accusations that Bethel is only interested in their self-preservation, rather than offering prayer and support to strengthen their Brothers and Sisters in Christ, is not the image of Christ that I seek to model. In fact, no word of support was offered to the Bethel community. The website also offered a link to a satirical article, claiming Bill Johnson accepted full responsibility for the fire because of his theology. That is hate, not love, and I find myself asking, "Is this representative of the state of their "Christian" hearts"?
     The last line of the article read, "In the meantime, the people of Riverside and Shasta Counties need our prayers and support", followed by tips pointing to Red Cross for evacuation and donation information.  Apparently that request for prayer excludes Bethel and their people. But perhaps the height of hypocrisy for this super-religious group of Christians was that the author of the article on Bethel and the Carr fire didn't even have the courage to sign his name. It is written under the authorship of "the News Division". That is cowardly.
     In summation, I do not expect that my words will count for anything to those who are determined to follow their own reasoning in this matter. And whether you agree or disagree with Bethel Church and its theology, I would hope that, as sons and daughters of a God who loved us so much that He sacrificed His Son for us, we could offer the same grace, mercy and compassion that has been given to us by the same God we all profess to love, follow, and obey. Pulpit & Pen's actions should not be how we treat fellow believers. And oh, how it must grieve our Father. So, forgive them, Father, and I pray for them to receive renewed minds and hearts that reflect You. Let us love one another and not persecute each other. And for God's sake, let us be willing to offer words of comfort and strength in time of need! Amen!

Psalm 140:3         They are known for their sharp rhetoric of poisonous, hateful words. Pause in His presence.