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

Showing posts with label Sins of the Church. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Sins of the Church. Show all posts

June 25, 2024

When Religious Leaders Serve Themselves (As It Was in the Days of Jesus)

It is with a heavy heart that I find myself contemplating the state of religious leaders throughout the centuries. From the time of the Levitical priesthood [in the Old Testament] to the scandalous headlines concerning pastors in these past few weeks, there have been incidents of flagrant rebellion and overt sinfulness among those appointed to act as shepherds of God's believing followers. 

I'm not interested in calling out anyone, or naming names. I'm more concerned with the hearts of those who claim to represent our Holy and righteous God, yet disparage His character through their self-interest and unrepentance, thus leaving room for doubt and confusion among those who become discouraged from ever seeking Him. But even more than misguiding those whom they are commanded to equip and train up in the ways of the Lord, I think I am more disturbed by the fact that the religious leaders seem to lose sight of the purpose of Jesus's Kingdom mission and their role in it. 

Jesus, Himself, experienced the mistrust and doubt from the First Century Religious leaders regarding His authority. The Pharisees, Sadducees, Herodians, Essenes and other religious leaders questioned His mission and the motives of His teachings. Unlike today, when our society has lapsed in the intentional teaching of Scripture and Biblical history to our young, the Jewish tradition placed a heavy emphasis on teaching their children about the Torah, the Prophets, and the Writings [the Poetic books of Psalms, Proverbs and Job; the Festival scrolls of Song of Solomon, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, and Esther; and the Historical books of Daniel, Ezra-Nehemiah, and Chronicles]. 

The Jewish people in general, and especially the Sanhedrin, [who held high positions in the religious and political spheres of the Jewish nation] knew the prophecies of the coming Messiah. The prophets of old spoke of a King who was fit to rule Israel like King David, returning them to a time of power and prosperity over their enemies. At the moment of His birth the wise men from the East came seeking the Messiah, "the one who was born King of the Jews". Those that Jesus healed at the beginning of His ministry hailed Him as "the Son of David". 

When John the Baptist joined with Jesus, proclaiming that the Kingdom of God was at hand, it's not hard to see the expectation that was placed upon Him. Even His Disciples saw Him in that light, expecting Him to take on the mantle of restoring the kingdom of Israel to its former glory under the Davidic dynasty. They believed the signs and miracles He performed, which were greater than the historical prophets, was clear evidence that He was the prophesied Messiah. But His mission was misunderstood and that led to the religious leaders feeling threatened by His teachings calling for a life of service and humility toward others; the willingness to suffer on behalf of your fellow man.

The priestly rulers simply could not understand the authority He possessed among the people. His teachings stressed loving your enemies, turning the other cheek, and sacrificing yourself for the benefit of others. He proclaimed that if one followed Him and His teachings, you were following the Law of Moses. And His ways challenged the strict boundaries of the Law as imposed by the religious Jews. Put in a very simplistic manner, Jesus's mission did not meet the expectations of the religious system that governed the Jews of the day. The Kingdom of Heaven, represented by Jesus, was in conflict with the kingdom of Israel, as administered by the religious leaders [in agreement with the political leaders].

Looking back, we see that Jesus came with a very clear mission and purpose: to establish God's righteous Kingdom on earth, making a way [through His sacrifice, death and resurrection] for all people to receive forgiveness for their sins, and be restored to a relationship with God. The goal was that this salvation from eternal death into eternal life would become the entry point into the Kingdom of God on earth (John 3:1-5), thereby changing the hearts of men and ultimately defeating Satan's kingdom on earth. Righteousness and Justice would rule the world and Evil would be defeated. 

Those leaders of the Jewish faith should have stood in righteousness and holiness, encouraging the people to believe in the prophecies of the Messiah, and welcoming Jesus as the true Son of God. But they were too caught up in their own reputations, arrogance, pride, and power to submit to a life of service, humility, and sacrifice. They exchanged God's laws for their own strict and binding rules that hindered an intimacy and connection with the Father. They missed the mission of the One they were waiting for.

And that brings me to the current state of religion and faith in the modern Christian world. Are we and our religious leaders following the same misguided path towards Jesus's goal and mission for His Second Coming? Are our modern shepherds too caught up in protecting their lofty positions of fame, money, and performance standards to understand the purpose of His Second Coming? Like the Pharisees, are they after self-importance and validation above those they are called to serve? And if the accusations of immorality that are currently being reported are true, then the community of Christian leadership needs to take a good hard look at itself. 

We need to take to heart Jesus's woes that He directed to the scribes and Pharisees, comparing them to the outside of a cup that looks clean, but is filthy on the inside [full of extortion and robbery and self-indulgence]. "You spiritually blind Pharisee [leader]; first clean the inside of the cup and plate [examine and change your inner self to conform to God's precepts] so that the outside [your public life and deeds] may be clean also". The Jewish religious leaders of old looked pious, God-fearing and devout servants of YHWH on the outside. But on the inside and in their private duties within the synagogues, they were back-stabbing, power-hungry, and oppressive hypocrites. They never held themselves accountable, and the celebrity environment within the 21st century Church has lent itself to the same temptations among our shepherds.

And that reality could have some mighty serious consequences for the spiritual maturity of the Christian brotherhood as we look forward to Jesus's Second Coming. Will we see the same kind of misunderstanding about what it's going to look like? He wasn't recognized or accepted the first time He came. Will He be the second time? The First Century Jews were expecting a King that would crush the Roman Empire and return them to prosperity and leadership. How many Christians are expecting to be removed from the earth before the Tribulation and "Time of Sorrows" covers the earth? Are they expecting that Jesus will announce that His Kingdom now rules the earth and Peace will exist across the globe? Are they going to be equally disappointed [as the Jews were] if what they've been taught doesn't occur?   

Will they be as lost and confused as the Disciples were when their hopes and dreams of a restored Kingdom of Israel didn't instantly materialize? Just as the religious leaders had not accurately interpreted the Scriptures and prophecies of Jesus's First Coming, I'm afraid that the Church has misconstrued and miscalculated the timing of events regarding His Second Coming. How are we to rightly understand His revelations that His return will mark "the great day of His wrath", or that the kings and leaders of the entire inhabited earth will "gather to do battle on that great day of God, the Almighty". Jesus prophesies in Revelation 19 that He is One who "judges and makes war"; He will "strike the nations" with a sword and tread "the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God".

These passages clearly show us that the world will not greet the returning Messiah with open arms. In fact, the world and its leaders will be as hostile towards Him as they were the first time. Are our current religious leaders serving their flocks by preparing them to accept Jesus in His true identity? Sadly, the First Century religious administrators were consumed with serving themselves and did not recognize the truth of Scriptural prophecy when He was in their midst. And I'm not that sure the modern Church has adequately raised up mature Leaders who can move past their desire for celebrity, popularity, and the need to compete for notoriety in order to be ready to receive Jesus and accept the mission and purpose of His return ... to establish the Kingdom of God once and for all and to usher in the the New Heaven and Earth. 

So, it is absolutely imperative that the Body of Christ rise up and join together in praying for our Pastors and Religious Leaders. Pray for repentance, clean hearts, a new movement of righteousness and holiness in the spirits of those God has called to shepherd in this time of world history. I pray for divine discernment; that they will seek the truth of Jesus's mission on His return; that they will seek the Holy Spirit's guidance and counsel in ways to equip and train the Body to prepare the faithful for Christ's victorious return. I pray that the temptations of Satan and this world will be removed from before their eyes as they focus their physical and spiritual eyes on the Heavenly realm from which He will appear. I know there are good, faithful, righteous and Godly men who serve our Lord in the role of Pastors and Church Leaders. I pray for their protection and their emergence as holy representatives of God's Kingdom on earth. I pray that all men will prepare their hearts in Truth and Spirit for King Jesus's return... help us to prepare the way for you, Lord! 

Mark 13:23, 37     But be on your guard: I have told you everything in advance... What I say to you, I say to everyone, 'Be on the alert (stay awake and be continually cautious'.


April 18, 2024

The "Stronger Men Conference" and the Blasphemy towards God

I had intended to write on another subject for today's post, but I will defer that subject to another day. An ugly controversy has arisen in the Body of Christ, and I cannot remain silent on it. I don't want to belabor the points why it is important for me to speak out, so here is my take on the latest public disagreement among Christians.

By now, I'm sure you're aware that the internet has blown up over the opening act of the 2024 "Stronger Men's Conference" hosted by James River Church and Lead Pastor John Lindell. The controversy arises from the comments delivered by Pastor Mark Driscoll, himself a controversial figure in the Christian community, and the subsequent reproach delivered by Pastor Lindell. 

This post does not seek to condemn either Pastor Lindell nor Pastor Driscoll for what either said. I will not judge them in their roles as Pastors, whether in the present or the past. That, I leave to God. That is not what I seek to address. Rather, as a Believer who honors the Holiness of our God, I want to comment on what I see as the dishonor and perverted irreverence towards God during the performance that opened the Conference. 

First, let me say that in Biblical terms, dishonor means "to treat shamefully" or "insult". Perversion refers to any form of human behavior which deviates from what is considered to be normal; usually sexual behaviors that are considered particularly abnormal, repulsive or obsessive. Irreverence points to a lack of respect; and in regards to the human condition, is a product of ignorance which leads to disobedience.  

So, let's jump right into the controversy. The very first thing that starts off this "Stronger Men Conference" is a male stripper performing an erotic act on a stripper pole, which includes licking and swallowing a sword. Now, since the stated purpose of this annual event [hosted by James River Church] is "to inspire and equip men to live out God's vision for manhood to be the husbands, fathers, and leaders God has called them to be", I must say I fail to see any connection to the supposed objective of the Conference, nor any Godly reason for this act of perversion. 

How does inviting the spirit of Perversion to a men's conference "inspire and equip men to live out God's vision for manhood"??? Who thought this was a good idea and a way to honor God? And don't tell me that the leaders of this conference had no idea who this "star of the show" was! Now, you can go online and find all kinds of testimonies saying this man has repented of his errant days as a gay male stripper and he has come to the Lord. Maybe that's true and I pray that Jesus has changed his heart. Yet, here he is, stripping on a pole in front of other men! That is called seduction! And Romans 1:24 says, Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their own hearts to [sexual] impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them [abandoning them to the degrading power of sin]...

As disturbing as this part of the controversy is, that's not what has everyone in an uproar on social media. There were people who got up and walked out on that opening presentation, but it was what happened the next morning that has stirred up a heated debate among Christians. Pastor Mark Driscoll gets up to speak, telling the crowd that he's been up since early in the morning praying because his heart was burdened for those in attendance. 

He stated that his remarks were in no way a rebuke or a correction, but rather an observation ... "Before the Word of God was opened, there was a platform -- it was a high place. On the platform was an Asherah pole; the same thing used in a strip club for women who have the Jezebel spirit to seduce men. In front of that was a man who ripped his shirt off [like a woman does] in front of a pole at a strip club". Further pictures of the demonstration show the man ascending the pole and then descending into a pose like a man crucified upside down. I can see why Pastor Driscoll's heart was burdened. But as he prepares to continue speaking, Pastor John Lindell yells from the crowd "This is out of line" a couple of times. And Pastor Driscoll concedes and says, "OK, Pastor, I will receive that". Lindell then yells, "You're done", and Driscoll leaves the stage.

As if the performance, the subsequence observation by Driscoll, and the termination of his remarks by Lindell are not enough, the aftermath of this embarrassing event now has "the Church" arguing whether Driscoll followed the proper protocol for order in the Church. Citing Matthew 18, Lindell said Driscoll should have come to him privately if he disagreed about anything being done at the Conference. That is the argument for putting the focus on Mark Driscoll's sin, but the issue of the sin against God's honor is not addressed!

In addition, Matthew 18 is all about sins of personal offense, and Mark Driscoll clearly stated that he was not rebuking or  correcting anyone, but rather calling out the release of a spirit of Jezebel. I would add to that the spirits of seduction and perversion! To be honest, I am also discouraged by all the comments that claim the performer is now a born-again Christian, who is attending a church. My reply to that is the fact that he is still displaying his old sins [and at a Christian conference] is no evidence of any fruit of his conversion.

And to those who claim that Pastor Lindell is a righteous and pure man of God, and the appearance of the strip act was "an oversight" by the planning committee, I am left wondering why the good Pastor, himself, didn't stand up and stop the act the minute it began. Why did it take until the next day before anyone spoke up, and then when they did, why did Lindell resort to chastisement and shut the criticism down? 

By now, you are well aware of what I think about this controversy. It is just further confirmation [for me] that much of the Church has lost its reverence for the holiness of our faith, and it deeply saddens me. The fact that thousands of men at this conference -- some with their wives and young sons in attendance -- were subjected to this aberration of manhood, shows us just how far the Church has fallen into a distorted practice of their faith. 

Ephesians 5:3 says, But sexual immorality and all [moral] impurity [indecent, offensive behavior] or greed must not even be hinted at among you, as is proper among saints [for as believers our way of life, whether in public or in private, reflects the validity of our faith. My question to the leaders of this conference is this: How can you justify your opening act in light of this Scripture? How does that performance inspire or equip Godly men?

And as for Pastor Lindell's use of Matthew 18 to justify his handling of Mark Driscoll, I'd like him to respond to a verse that a good friend of mine pointed out to me: As for those [elders] who continue in sin, reprimand them in the presence of all [the congregation], so that the rest will be warned (1 Timothy 5:20). Again, I am not willing to condemn Pastor Lindell as overtly sinning in this situation, because I do not have all the information of his involvement in the planning of this event. But I can call the performance out as sin against our Holy God. 

As a part of the lineup of speakers, did Mark Driscoll handle this situation in the proper manner? Perhaps not. Did John Lindell feel "called out" and his leadership questioned? I'm sure he did. But was anyone involved in this conference thinking about how God felt? Do you think He was offended? Does anyone think He approves of this perversion as a good way to build "stronger men"? And if you don't want to go as far as to call the opening performance perversion, then perhaps you should go back and read Ephesians 5:3 again. As the song says, "I saw Satan laughing with delight."

It is time that real men of God stand up and reclaim their identity as righteous men. The spirit of perversion has invaded our land and the Church has not risen up to fight this spiritual battle! We are seeing too much carnality infiltrating, not only society, but our churches and our church leaders. God will not be mocked, nor will He allow Himself to be disgraced or disrespected! There is a limit to His patience for us to clean up the Church. Before long, God is going to gather His wheat into His barn, and then He will burn the chaff. Remember, He is a consuming fire! Pray for the Church to repent for agreement with perversion like this conference portrayed!

1 Peter 4:17      For it is the time [destined] for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not respect or believe or obey the Gospel of God?