I read this article and thought to myself how sad it is that popular preachers are straying from the safety net of wise counselors by abusing their powers that not only affect the flock, but their spiritual walk with God on a personal basis.
I think the major take away from this article are the numbered items that I think are key for leaders to understand about their role. There is nothing wrong with making mistakes…but it is the attitude in which those refuse to repent or be corrected by them that worries me. I have seen this happen in a church before and all the signs are there, but people are too afraid to speak up, pay attention, or do something about it (i.e. confront their leaders). We are our brothers keeper…and it is a duty to make sure that when even a leader strays. we guide them back on the right path on the right road with love and compassion and direction. If we shy away from correcting them…are we not saying we don’t care for their lives???
This should be food for thought today.
What would Jesus want us to do? We cannot forsake our brothers and sisters…but if they refuse to change…they will have to answer to God in the long run for their own actions. Apostasy continues when people don’t stand up for what is right, allowing abuse to continue to happen.
As a watchwoman, I find this to be critical to watch out for this year…leaders will reap what they sow during the season of the harvest if they don’t repent. It is not God’s will to watch Christian leaders fall…He wants them to change their ways and humble themselves and pray and turn away from their wicked ways, and God will restore them and heal them and deliver them, if and when they do choose the path of the humble and decide to repent openly before God and their flock.
This is a good time to remind people of the warning signs of an unhealthy church:
1. Little or no accountability. When celebrity preachers seem eager to tell everyone else what to do but aren’t willing to hear correction from others, prepare for a train wreck. There is safety in the multitude of counselors (see Prov. 11:14). There is much less safety—even danger—when a leader does not seek counsel from a diverse group of his peers.
2. Spiritual elitism. If there is a spirit of control in a church, people are usually told their group is superior. If people choose to leave, they are shunned or branded as renegades. Sometimes, in extreme cases, people are even cursed if they leave. This cultic behavior inflicts unimaginable emotional suffering and also divides families.
3. An oppressive atmosphere. Authoritarian leaders control people through manipulation. This may come in the form of threats, legalistic demands, unreasonable requirements or false doctrines. In such a church no one is allowed to ask questions. Spiritual heaviness lies like a thick cloud over the congregation, and few believers manifest genuine joy.
4. Angry domination. Tyrants are surprisingly similar. Because they want to control their surroundings, they often blow up when people do not conform to their demands. Yet the apostle Paul taught that church leaders should not be “violent” or “quarrelsome” but “self-controlled” and “gentle” (see 1 Tim. 3:2-3). He also instructed Timothy that the Lord’s servant “must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone” (2 Timothy 2:24).
5. A low view of women. While churches today differ in their views on women in leadership, it should be noted that authoritarian churches almost always discourage women from pursuing any genuine role in ministry. Women are viewed as useful only in their functions as submissive wives and mothers, and they are not encouraged to step beyond these confines to pursue ministry opportunities.
Let’s pray that the healing power of Jesus covers this situation in Seattle—and that the people who left Mars Hill Church, the people who remain there, and Mark Driscoll himself can recover from the trauma of spiritual abuse.
J. Lee Grady is the former editor of Charisma. You can follow him on Twitter at leegrady. He is the author of 10 Lies Men Believe and other books.
Before he became a believer, the Apostle Paul dragged Christians out of their houses to imprison or kill them. A modern day Iranian named Taher was no better; he even threatened to kill his own family because they became Christians. Like Paul, he received a vision of the Lord that turned his life upside down.
Taher was the last one anyone expected to convert to Christianity. He was well respected as a Haji, a pilgrim who had made the Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca. His wife was a Haji-eh; she had also made the pilgrimage. So when his daughter came to Christ, Taher was very angry. When his wife became a believer in Christ, he grew even angrier. When even his son turned his back on Islam and accepted Christ, his anger turned to rage.
He tried to force his family back into Islam in every way he could. He quoted the Koran; he forbade them to visit the church; he beat them; and he threatened to inform the secret police. At one point he even threatened to kill them with his bare hands. His efforts were to no avail. His family didn’t leave Christ; instead they left him and fled abroad.
After the initial anger over his family’s flight subsided, Taher began to feel lonely. In his growing despair, he memorized Koran verses and focused on Allah, whom he served so passionately. “Please show me your face,” he begged. The resounding silence made him doubt. What if this god he was serving didn’t exist after all and his family was right? He didn’t know if he should believe Allah or Jesus, the Bible or the Koran. In desperation he cried out, “I will believe in the God who reveals Himself to me.”
The living God answered his prayers through a dream. In his dream, a man riding a donkey came toward him. He had never seen the man before, but the man hugged him and said, “I will clean you from all your sins; you are free. I will give you rest. Believe in me.” Taher asked, “But what will happen if I sin again?” The man on the donkey replied with the same words, “I will clean all your sins.” Then the man on the donkey left, leaving Taher dumbfounded. Another man approached him in his dream. “Do you know the man on the donkey?” the man asked. “No, I don’t, Taher replied. “He is Jesus Christ,” the man said. “He cleans your sins.”
Taher woke up and mulled over the dream. When he went back to sleep, the same dream played before him. Waking up a second time, he became afraid. He had served Allah for 45 years. He was a Haji. How could he leave Islam? But when he finally fell asleep again, he had the same dream a third time. Waking up from this third dream, he could not escape the conviction that Jesus Christ was the only true God.
Taher was now convinced that Jesus is the true God, but he was unsure what he should do next. Everyone in the church knew what he had done to his family, but he realized that he had to visit the church he had forbidden his family to attend, the only place he knew that could tell him more about this man on the donkey. He cautiously entered the church. The Christians present were astonished and at the same time afraid. Wasn’t he the man that threatened to kill his own wife, son and daughter because they accepted Christ? One of the church leaders stepped forward. “How can I help you?” he asked. The answer was unexpected. “I want to pray, go to church and give my life to Christ,” Taher said, “but I don’t know how.” The leader was amazed and unsure if he should trust Taher; he could be a government spy. “I saw Jesus in a dream, I saw his face!” Taher explained.
As time went by, the church leaders started trusting him. Taher was like a baby: eager to learn more and more about Christ. After a discipleship period, he quickly became involved in ministry work, risking his life for Jesus. When his family, who had been praying for him ever since they left, heard of the transformation in Taher’s life, they praised God for answering their prayers and happily welcomed Taher back into the family. Taher now lives abroad with his family, rejoicing that they can worship together without fear.
Father, we stand in awe at how You drew Taher to Yourself out of the darkness of sin and false religion, out of persecution of Your church. We praise You that You have raised him up to know You, to have a new heart, to be strengthened through Your Word and to be reunited with the family he almost destroyed. Thank You that they are living in religious freedom now, gathering as a family with the saints to worship You freely in Spirit and in truth. We pray for those left behind to nurture and disciple others in Iran who come to faith in Christ. We pray Your protection over them as You grow Your church there. And we pray for the day when all Christians in Iran can gather freely to worship You. In the name of Jesus who brings spiritual freedom to the captives. Amen.
I know it’s been a busy month for everybody trying to wrap up things before the Christmas holidays, but let me just state that Jesus is the Reason for the Seasonand the whole point is no matter how inaccurate historians maybe about Dec 25th being Jesus’ birthday (which most of us know that it is not), the whole point is, it is a time of celebration concerning the Fact that Christ came to Save us all from the penalty of sin which is death, through what He did at Calvary by dying on the Cross and Resurrecting from the dead three days later in fulfillment of the scriptures.
Our Lord Jesus came down from Heaven to be born as a man to teach us all about God’s Kingdom, bear our sins on the cross and defeat the power of death so that we could all be redeemed and be reborn to be reunited with Him again by acknowledging that He is indeed our Savior. Such compassion shown by our God is worthy of all our praise and when you begin to realize, Jesus’ birth was not done in vain, the master plan was to restore all of us back into the fullness of our positions as joint-heirs with Jesus Christ. Through this, we have so much to be thankful for and so much to give to God and to others by our way of worship back to the Father for all that He has done for us.
Jesus came down to give us the gift of hope through salvation so that in return, we would do the same by blessing those around us with the same gift of hope to return back to the heart and the love of the Father.
Extend your love to others so that the light of Christ love shining through you can reach others who live in darkness.
If God owns it all, why do so many Christians find themselves lacking? Here’s how to experience the miracle of supernatural abundance from your heavenly Father—and what that really means.
I like to share the story about two girls who met at a camp on the East Coast. A bratty, rich girl introduced herself to the other: “Hey, there. I come here every summer because my daddy owns part of this property. Do you see that speedboat on the lake? My daddy owns that boat. Do you see that mansion on the side of the mountain? My daddy stays there when he comes to visit me.”
Looking upward, she then exclaimed, “Oh! Do you see that airplane? That’s my daddy up there,” and waved enthusiastically, as if the passengers could see her.
“So, who’s your daddy?” she asked in a condescending tone.
The other preteen was a good Christian girl but wasn’t wealthy. In fact, her mother had sold some of her personal jewelry to cover the camp’s registration fees. Feeling embarrassed and insignificant, the girl looked down at the dirt by their cabin.
Then she smiled and lifted her dejected head. With a twinkle in her eyes she said, “Do you see that large lake that your daddy’s boat is in? My Father created that lake. And you know that mountain your daddy’s cabin is on? My Father owns that mountain. As a matter of fact, do you see that big, blue sky your daddy’s plane is in? My Father owns that sky.”
Check Your Perspective
After reading that kind of story, you might be thinking, “So if God owns it all, why am I lacking?” The quick answer is that you possibly have a wrong perspective.
Perspective is everything, as shown by a recent experience my husband, Tommy, and I had. On a dark county road we noticed a red, out-of-control pick-up truck approximately 300 feet in front of us. Weaving back and forth, the driver jerked the truck from left to right and then sashayed into a circular pattern. We immediately called 911 to alert the authorities, only to discover later that the driver worked for the Texas Department of Public Safety and was testing a new type of road base. From our limited perspective he was a drunken fool. In reality, this good man was working late at night to keep our roads safe.
Perhaps you have a wrong perspective of God, believing He wants you to barely get along. But God is not like an earthly father who would say to his son, “Now, son, you know that I am a millionaire, but I don’t want you to become proud, so you can have only a dollar for lunch today.” No, no—a thousand times no. He is a loving Father who would say something more like, “After football practice, let’s go out for pizza; in fact, invite the whole team.”
I challenge you to renew your mind and think bigger. Spend time in Isaiah, where it says, “Behold, the nations are as a drop in a bucket, and are counted as the small dust on the scales; look, He lifts up the isles as a very little thing” (40:15, NKJV).
One drop. Ponder that when your faucet drips tonight. Let one drop fall on a plate and stare at it. In God’s mind that drop represents 196 nations on the earth. You can tap into the unlimited resources of heaven by meditating on His greatness.
Know the Father’s Heart
It’s normal for parents and grandparents to lavish genuine gifts on their children. My paternal grandfather rewarded each of his granddaughters with a dress when we broke our thumb-sucking habit. My two older sisters both selected a conservatively priced dress. Not me! I spied a cheerful polka-dotted dress with a full petticoat and a matching kelly-green coat. Yes, it was the most expensive dress in the department. But Granddaddy never flinched. As a 5-year-old, I wore his love proudly. While my sisters teased me, they could have done the same thing if they had wanted.
Let me be clear: I believe God wants believers to prosper us with as much as He can trust us with. God is a Father. The New Testament refers to Him as a Father no less than 245 times, including more than 100 times in the Gospel of John. The issue of a believer’s prosperity is not his treasures but his pleasures. If you are ready to serve God wholeheartedly, whether abased or abounding, God can trust you and prosper you. Your Father loves you, but don’t forget that you’re on assignment.
Remember Your Source
So, let’s talk about how to live in light of God’s generosity and the truth of our need. My husband, Tommy, and I know all about this, as years ago we founded a youth camp, called Discovery Camp, that forced us to learn what we believe about faith and finances.
Early in the process, we made a covenant with each other to obey God wholeheartedly, to never merchandise the anointing, and to never, never, never develop sticky fingers. To assure that we could put the ministry on solid financial footing, Tommy refused to receive a salary for the first five years. I believe much of the supernatural provision in our lives is a direct result of that covenant. As we strive to do God’s bidding, He has been faithful to exceed our greatest expectations.
When we started, a retired accountant asked us how we planned to pay for everything, such as $6,000 in monthly land payments, food for thousands of campers and staff salaries. I remember thinking, “What a dumb question. Doesn’t he know that God provides where He guides?”
To give you some quick background, for several years Tommy and I had led successful youth ministries, first separately and then as a couple. When we married, it represented the grand climax to our respective youth networks. Brimming with optimism as we set out on our camp venture, we mailed out newsletters to 2,000 friends and ministry contacts, inviting them to support us for $5 per month.
Initially I questioned Tommy: “Only $5? Why not suggest $10? Or $25?”
“No, Rachel,” he responded. “Only $5. They are all members of a good church, and our objective is be a friend to the local church.”
Reality struck us between the eyes a month later when only 42 people responded to our newsletter. It didn’t take long to do the math—$5 times 42 people equaled $210. Suddenly that $6,000 land payment looked more like $60,000.
“What are we going to do?” I asked.
Grinning, he replied, “We’re gonna get busy reaching kids for Jesus like He sent us here to do, because God is faithful.”
I’m not sure how we made those first few payments, but we remained faithful and steady. I watched, amazed, as we were never late on our mortgage or other bills. Plus, Jesus wouldn’t allow us to call anyone for financial assistance. He continually reminded us, “Men are not your source.”
Dare to Be Debt Free
In January 1992, faith rose up in our hearts to pay off the mortgage on the camp property. Tommy led our staff in a strong confession of faith: “By Dec. 31, this ministry will be debt-free.” We confessed this constantly, despite our bills dramatically increasing each month.
(By the way, miracles don’t happen just because you repeat something over and over like a parrot. It’s the Holy Spirit who deposits in your heart the faith to believe for something. He makes suggestions that you can accept or reject. If you choose to agree with God and mix your confession with faith, you’ll receive the manifestation. I’m not referring to a selfish-oriented “blab it and grab it” claim but a genuine faith promise that advances the kingdom of God. When God is the initiator, He is inviting you to be a part of a miracle.)
Tommy felt financial burdens pressing on his shoulders that year. The cost of operating a 553-acre campus requiring ongoing maintenance of land and vehicles, staff housing, insurance and food costs seemed to regularly escalate. We rejoiced if the monthly electric bill stayed under $20,000, while Tommy said things like, “Lord, if You help me pay this camp off, I’ll give away free camps to hurting kids.” Keep in mind, no megachurch or rich men’s committee underwrote us, just faithful pastors, partners and friends who obeyed His voice. We had numerous “$5 grandmas” who accepted the call to intercede. Great will be their reward in heaven.
You have to come to the place where you declare confidently, “Man is not my source, the mail is not my source and events are not my source. God is my source.” We spent that entire year standing on His promise to be debt-free by the end of the year. On Dec. 24, I looked at the calendar and wondered why God seems to take such pleasure in last-minute miracles. Friends, don’t let go of your promise in your 11th hour. God is faithful.
By Dec. 26, we miraculously had the funds in the bank. However, we still needed to complete some legal paperwork. Our confession remained strong because we knew that “He who promised is faithful” (Heb. 10:23). Sometimes if the door doesn’t open, you have to kick it down. Such was the case for our debt-free miracle. Tommy drove 300 miles to collect the necessary paperwork and then drove another 200 miles to finalize everything. Although some banks weren’t open because of the Christmas holidays and some doors slammed in our face, we never wavered in our confession of faith. On Dec. 29, with a check in hand for $139,604.35, we raced to the title company. Against all odds and to the glory of God, we paid off all 553 acres of the camp on the last business day of the year.
Keep Your Vows
In gratitude for God’s goodness and remembering Tommy’s vow, the next year we committed to give free camps to 2,000 underprivileged kids. We covered their registration and food and underwrote the $400 fee for a rental bus to bring them to camp. Some came from orphanages or lived on the streets with their homeless mothers. We saw no Scooby-Doo sleeping bags or designer jeans at those camps. One child’s lunch plate shook as he marveled, “I’ve never seen so much food on one plate!”
More than 20 years later, we have remained true to our vow. More than 25,000 children from impoverished backgrounds have enjoyed free camps, and most of them have decided to follow Christ. So have many of their chaperones. It seems that giving camps to these poor children opened heaven’s windows and released supernatural provisions. Solomon addressed this principle twice in Proverbs: “He who has pity on the poor lends to the Lord, and He will pay back what he has given” (19:17); and “He who gives to the poor will not lack” (28:27).
Make Room for the Supernatural
Tommy had just completed a sermon series titled “Seizing Your God-Given Opportunities” when a friend alerted us about a feed store in the process of being dismantled in Uvalde, Texas. Even at a super-low price, buying iron from the dismantled building sounded like a hassle, yet Tommy felt an inner witness to pursue it.
After the iron was delivered to the camp, we learned it was worth double the price we had paid for it. It was a case of supernatural provision! We used those funds to build classrooms for our Texas Bible Institute.
The same thing happened with our camp road, which started out as 1,800 feet of dirt base. In Texas we enjoy what the locals call “gully washers,” which are relentless, torrential rainstorms. For nine years we lived regularly with mud, mud and more mud. Campers routinely tracked mud into the dorms and chapel. Our guests’ vehicles frequently got mired in the muck. We used to joke that in heaven, our shoes wouldn’t be muddy.
God is sooooo good that I just had to share this little story here about what Faith is. Sometimes we have things that we can and cannot do in life. With the things we can do, we must do those things to the best of our ability, but with the things we cannot do, that is when we must learn to lean on God for help. Seek Him and Enjoy this Story.
The hit miniseries The Bible is setting records on cable television for the History Channel, with as many as 13 million viewers tuning in for the blockbuster. But certain aspects of the filming were even more remarkable, as producer Mark Burnett reports highly unusual occurrences behind-the-scenes that he labels miracles.
The epic five-part series, which runs through Easter, is the most-watched entertainment program on cable television, according to ABC’s Good Morning America.
The show has many celebrities following it, including rapper and actor L L Cool J, actress Lisa Rinna, and even Oprah, according to ABC. Oprah tweeted throughout the most recent episode several times, particularly about Samson: “Samson distracted by Delilah. fatal flaw,” she noted. Oprah’s interest and involvement may boost the ratings even higher.
R & B superstar Cee Lo Green’s musical addition to the production is also attracting a younger audience, giving a fresh new feel to a time-honored story.
The making of the TV behemoth was filled with strange happenings that Producer Mark Burnett can’t quite explain. When the actor who portrays Jesus told Nicodemus “The Holy Spirit is like the wind,” a strong rushing wind that felt like the exhaust behind a 747 almost blew the set over and sustained for 20 seconds, Burnett told Entertainment Weekly.
“Everyone just looked at everyone like, ‘What just happened?’” Burnett said.
The production – filmed in Morocco — also hired a ‘snake wrangler’ to make sure that dangerous reptiles did not get near the actors, and he usually found one or two snakes each day.
However, on the day the momentous crucifixion scene was filmed, the snake expert found an unprecedented 48 venomous snakes crawling around their re-created Golgotha – the place where Jesus defeated Satan, who is often depicted in Scripture as a snake.
When the baptism of Jesus was filmed in a reservoir, the producers were alarmed when part of the actor’s unique costume came off and floated away.
“Four days later, a kid showed up from many, many, many miles away, who had been seeking us through the desert to return this to us,” Burnett told Entertainment Weekly. “He didn’t know what it was why he should seek us, but he felt he had to return it.”
The series will air its final installment on March 31, Easter Sunday.
Two traveling angels stopped to spend the night in the home of a wealthy family. The family was rude and refused to let the angels stay in the mansion’s guest room. Instead, the angels were given a space in the cold basement. As they made their bedroom the hard floor, the older angel saw a hole in the wall and repaired it. When the younger angel asked why, the older angel replied…. “Things aren’t always what they seem.”
The next night the pair came to rest at the house of a very poor, but very hospitable farmer and his wife. After sharing what little food they had, the couple let the angels sleep in their bed where they could have a good nights’ rest. When the sun came up the next morning the angels found the farmer and his wife in tears. Their only cow, whose milk had been their sole income, lay dead in the field.
The younger angel was infuriated and asked the older angel “How could you have let this happen!? The first man had everything, yet you helped him,” she accused. ”The second family had so little, but was willing to share everything and you let their cow die.”
“Things aren’t always what they seem,” the older angel replied.”When we stayed in the basement of the mansion, I noticed there was gold stored in that hole in the wall. Since the owner was so obsessed with greed and unwilling to share his good fortune, I sealed the wall so he wouldn’t find it. Then last night as we slept in the farmers bed, the angel of death came for his wife. I gave her the cow instead. “Things aren’t always what they seem.”
Sometimes this is exactly what happens when things don’t turn out the way you think they should. If you have faith, you just need to trust that every outcome is always to your advantage. You might not know it until some time later. “Things aren’t always what they seem.”