Pastor’s Blog Wk 4.15.19: LOVE & SACRIFICE

It seems the longer I live, the more I discover that there are truly so many beautiful things in this world that provoke some of the deepest human emotions that are too difficult to articulate. The most priceless of such things, I believe, are not the things purchased with money or gained by conventional means, but those things that have been gifted to us by our heavenly father. Where do you find beauty in a world full of darkness? I think beauty is ever present, but not everybody sees it. For instance, I think the most beautiful sound is the boisterous laughter of a baby as he plays with his dad, or the explosive joyful tears of an orphaned child as they’re told that there is a family who wants to adopt, or seeing the miracle of a child being delivered out of the mother’s womb. Beautiful and priceless. I remember when my first child Mikayla was born. I sat there as time seemed to stand still, while I witnessed the literal birth of life. I was filled with awe and every type of emotion one could ever imagine rolled up in a short moment. As tears flooded my eyes I was overcome with joy at the wonder of creation by witnessing my wife giving birth to another human being, my daughter. One life becoming two. I remember driving home from the hospital thinking how weird it felt. Two people drove to the hospital but three separate people came back. A life that was inside a life was now on the outside. It was beautiful and terrifying at the same time. 

I truly believe the most beautiful things on earth are those things that are birthed from a place of love and sacrifice. Yes, sacrifice…it’s funny isn’t it, how when we think about things that are beautiful, we don’t ever think about the word sacrifice; however, in all three examples I just mentioned, sacrifice is an inseparable component of each. Can one truly love without sacrifice? Take for instance the most well-known scripture, John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” His love for us was demonstrated by His act of sacrifice. What did He sacrifice? His only begotten son to purchase you and I. If you’re a Christian, you’ve heard this many times before but I sincerely feel most of us fail to comprehend the depths of such a beautiful truth. You see, whatever we give our life to is what we value and whatever we value we love. You cannot love something you don’t give time to, at least not the way God intends for you to love. This can be applied to the relationship you have with your friends, your spouse, your mother or father, your children or most importantly, God. He loves us in ways so beautiful and so intense no amount of books, poetry or songs could ever convey how deep is that love.

But just as much as there are beautiful things on this side of eternity there are also constant reminders of the fallen natured world we live in. A world filled with hate, betrayal, pain, disillusionment, rejection, sickness and death. You don’t have to live long to be victimized by this fallen world. The world deforms us, but the Word reforms us. The Bible says in John 16:33, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”Did you catch that? Jesus knew that in a fallen world His children would go through many painful and agonizing stages of life, whether they were self-inflicted or not, but He also tells us that we could have peace, not in the absence of these trials or tribulations but in the very midst of them. I can tell you from experience, when things seem to come undone and you feel like you’re losing grip on life, it is very easy to slip into hopelessness. But we must remember that our salvation is Jesus. King David had some intensely difficult times in his life, but in Psalm 23:5-6 he said, You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me All the days of my life; And I will dwell in the house of the Lord Forever.” David reminded himself that although things were falling apart during that season of his life, God was able to give him peace in spite of his circumstance. 

That promise was not only for David but for all of God’s children. The world is quickly turning into a very ugly place. The evolution of evil is taking full form and it is bringing with it immense suffering. The world is now teaming with selfish people and those who’s love has grown cold. But be not troubled, be not dismayed, be not discouraged, for we have already overcome. As the old saying goes, “this too shall pass.”  For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin – Hebrews 4:15

So take courage son or daughter. And I pray as the day approaches, that we will hold firmly to the promises of God and be found worthy to be counted within the membership of Gods eternal family. Keeping our eyes on the beautiful gift that is Christ Jesus. Loving Him and loving others for Him, because he first loved us – living for Him and dying for Him, because He died for us and rose again for us. So go and find beauty in the simple things, not the worldly things. Remember, whatever you have lost, whatever you have suffered, know that God is working everything out for the good of those who love him and are called according to his purpose. Let us finish as the Apostle Paul finished. “Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ…”Philippians 3:8

Pastor’s Blog Wk 3.4.19: Is Church Membership Biblical?

 

WARNING!

The content of this subject is controversial. Reader discretion is advised. READ AT YOUR OWN RISK.

I AM THE CHURCH?

Okay, this one is going to be a doozy. For the record, I make no apologies for what I’m about to say here, because it is birthed from scripture. This topic has become the thorn of controversy in today’s casual complacent culture. Many Churches and Pastors are flailing like fish out of water trying to figure out how to address it. There is a movement that has picked up traction over the years of whether or not you should be an active member of a local church. It resembles much of what has happened in Europe within the last 100 years.

There was a time when Pastors and anyone called out of the fivefold ministry was held in high esteem by virtue of this position and the church was seen as an institution of respect. Those days are gone like the wind. The church has fallen on difficult times. The scripture calls it perilous times, a bit more on that later. Unfortunately, some of that has been self-inflicted. Media coverage of sexual abuse and mismanaging of money by laymen has only fueled the critical perception of the church. The failures of a few have made the job of many goodhearted and God-fearing leaders much more difficult, creating a deeply antagonistic and defiant culture towards those of authority within the church.

IS THE CHURCH RELEVANT?

Many on the outskirts perceive the church as being more preoccupied and concerned with buildings and budgets, nickels and noses, piety and pretense, than people and their problems. People are still in search for the meaning of life but under their own terms, and while spirituality is “in,” church is definitely “out.” There is another group who goes even further, claiming that they needed to escape the claws of the church as to not commit spiritual suicide. The church for these individuals is seen as an institution that puts form before substance, tradition before truth, conformity before creativity, and seems more concerned about holding to constitution and by-laws than the leading of the Holy Spirit – even though they have no idea what that actually means in real life application. A Barna poll stated that large numbers of American Christians are disillusioned with the church. They even label these church dropouts as “revolutionaries.” Incredibly, many of these professing Christians see themselves as part of the universal church of Christ, but do not participate or belong to a local body. Others outright openly discredit the idea of formal membership in a congregation.

While many have given up on the church, I assure you that Jesus Christ has not. The bride of Christ, the church, is still the center of God’s work in this world, and if you belong to His kingdom you must belong to His church. Remember that the church is the bride of Christ and just as it would be very difficult for you to have a good relationship with me, while bad mouthing my wife, I fear many will come to that sobering reality when it is too late.

 

WHAT IS THE CHURCH?

The word church is first mentioned by Jesus in Matthew 16:18, where Jesus asks Peter the question, “who do you say that I am”, and Peter responds, “you are the Messiah”. Jesus in verse 17 says, “flesh and blood has not revealed this to you but my father in heaven” and in verse 18 is where we see the word church first mentioned. V18 “And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.” The word church here in the Greek is ekklesia, which literally means,“called out ones, a popular meeting place, especially a religious congregation, a synagogue, Christian community of members.” So, by Jesus’s own mention of the word “church”, it means a congregation of believers devoted to community and worship. Church and Kingdom is used in tandem, which leads to the next question…

 

WHAT IS KINGDOM?

In the very next verse, we see Jesus giving Peter the keys to the Kingdom. V19 And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” Jesus’s mention of keys here speaks of authority and the word Kingdom can literally be translated as government. In essence, Jesus is saying I will give you the keys or, “authority”, of my Kingdom or, “government”, and you will build my church and the gates of Hell will not prevail…

What we must understand about Kingdoms is that a Kingdom must have a King; and a King must have Institutional Laws that govern that Kingdom. No legitimate nation on earth exists today without laws and government. Even a bad government is better than no government, otherwise, you will have nothing but anarchy and chaos. The Kingdom of God is governed by Ephesians 4:11-12, “And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.” This is what I call the Five Fold Fingers of Gods managing hand on earth. It was Christ Jesus that appointed these offices to govern the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry and the edifying of the body. Let me put it this way: “Without God man cannot, without man God will not.” It begins to make sense of why Satan would sow a doctrine that would indirectly call into question the fivefold ministry and its authority. I was born in Brazil and have lived in the U.S. since 1980. After almost 38 years of legal permanent residence here, I finally overcame my procrastination and filed for my Citizenship. Although I enjoyed the benefits of living in the U.S. as a legal permanent resident, I have never been recognized as a citizen of this great country. After a series of complex applications and in-depth background checks, including written and verbal tests to determine my eligibility for citizenship, I was granted approval. Once I met all of the requirements, which I did, they then sent me a notice regarding my swear-in date, which is set for March 13, 2019. This entire process was used to determine my loyalty to this Country of which I sought citizenship. It prodded, probed and pricked every aspect of my life to make sure I was ready, committed and prepared to swear an oath of allegiance to love and protect the country and the Constitution by which it is defined.

 

In much of the same way, the Kingdom of God functions on earth. In heaven, there is a King who governs a Kingdom, on earth, there are Presidents and Kings who govern their Countries and Kingdoms, and in the spiritual realm we too have to make our loyalty known by the spiritual laws we abide under. Jesus said in Matthew 28:18-20 “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” 

A Christian that’s not plugged into a local body is like a television that is not plugged into an outlet; it has no power. Although it has a purpose, it serves none, because it is not connected to the power source. Ever wonder why Jesus chose to identify His children with sheep and His leaders as Shepherds? A single sheep is called a lost sheep because sheep are natured to flock together and each flock needs a shepherd. And again, Satan knew that if you strike the shepherd out of the picture the sheep will scatter, and scattered they have. Just this past weekend I had a gentleman walk in right before Sunday morning service and ask to speak with me. I didn’t know this man from Adam. After a series of strange questions, he then presumptuously began to tell me that he is a watchman on the tower and starts railing against our church body claiming we were 90% dead and 10% alive. Mind you, he had no exposure to our church or its members. I then responded by asking what church do you belong to, which he replied, I belong to God and don’t fellowship with any local body; “I am the church” type of response. I thought, “well that’s obvious,” then politely said, “if you’re not under any authority you’re not in authority, certainly not here.” I went on to explain the governmental order of God’s kingdom, from Jesus saying, “I only say and do what my father says and does,” to the Roman centurion approaching Jesus and saying, “I also am a man under authority, I say to this one go and he goes and this one come and he comes.” The centurion was not only in authority but under it. Anyone can put a police uniform on but it doesn’t make you an officer until you have been deputized by the power you claim to represent. There is a record number of rogue Christians today claiming Kingdom authority, but in reality, have none. They refuse and are defiant to leadership and have made it a mission to destroy and bring down the authoritative government of the local church. Good luck with that one. You’re not fighting man or an institution, you’re fighting God. Aaron had Moses and Moses had God, Elisha had Elijah, Samuel had Eli, David and Saul had Samuel, Timothy had the Apostle Paul, the disciples had Jesus and Jesus had the father. Do you see the pattern?

It quickly becomes clear why such an attack has been levied against the church. In the New Testament they met in homes but if you keep reading they also never neglected to meet in the temple or synagogues. In fact, the New Testament is riddled with letters that were sent to specific church bodies. In Matthew 18 Jesus is instructing their leaders how to deal with a person who is unrepentant of sin in a church body and he says in v17 And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector. In Revelations, there are letters sent to the seven churches… “plural,” not a universal church but seven individual local bodies, because they each had their own distinct issues that the Lord was addressing. This is just scratching the surface of scripture regarding the Biblical commandment of being connected to a community of believers and submitted under a Shepherd of that church body. And we can’t leave out Hebrews 10:24-25 when apostle Paul had to deal with the same trend we are seeing right now at the birthing of the New Testament church. And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves togetheras is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.”

I once heard a story about a believer who was completely and utterly deaf. Despite him not being able to hear, he faithfully attended and participated in the local church of which he was a faithful member. When asked why he bothered, his response was: “I want everyone to know whose side I’m on.” You see, Christians are like individual snowflakes, alone they are frail, but when they stick together they can stop traffic. Before you can ever be an avalanche for God, you must first be a snowflake. Scripture declares that “one man can chase a thousand and two, ten thousand”. (Deut. 32:30) Another scripter says, “a three strand cord is not easily broken”. (Ecc. 4:12)

AND FINALLY… THE ANTI-CHURCH MOVEMENT IN PROPHECY!

I will save you a lot of time by not flooding this blog with biblical prophecy explaining why I believe this trend is taking place in our time. There are hundreds of scriptures unmasking this repulsive lie about Christians not having to be a part of a local body to be effective in the Kingdom, but let me just give you this one and final passage.

2 Thessalonians 2:1-4, “Now, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, we ask you, not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as if from us, as though the day of Christ had come. Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.” In verse 3, it states that before the coming of our Lord, one of the main signs would be the great falling away from the faith. The falling away is translated from the Greek word Apostasy which means; defection from state, falling away or forsake. Watch this!

Here is the English definition of defection: a defector is a person who gives up allegiance to one state in exchange for allegiance to another, in a way which is considered illegitimate by the first state. More broadly, it involves abandoning a person, cause, or doctrine to which one is bound by some tie, as of allegiance or duty. In other words, you have abandoned your loyalty/defected, and in doing so, have surrendered your allegiance to a state and although you claim authority, it is illegitimate by the very state you defected from.

 

In closing…

I implore you if you are reading this and you are not connected to a spirit-filled church, or you have been hurt in church, or you are disillusioned and discouraged with the church, or whatever the reason may be, find your way back to the body of Christ. Get connected, get rooted and get plugged back in. A severed limb is not considered a body but a corpse. I am the body! (1 Cor 12:27-28

Pastor’s Blog Wk 2.4.19: Seeing RED

 

I say often, but I truly am in love with the Word of God. This past Sunday, we began a new series entitled “The Red Letters.” I am a bookworm kind of guy and really enjoy digging deep to fully understand the depths of what I am studying and teaching. Since we will be diving into this series for the next couple of weeks, I simply wanted to share MORE. Today, here on the blog, I am sharing some depth into The Red Letter Series. I hope you enjoy it.

– Pastor Eb

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Words are exclusive and without a doubt the most powerful force available to man. The Bible nails it when it says, “life and death are in the power of the tongue…” (Prov 18:21) God created the world by using words. Think about it…that is deeply puzzling and profoundly mysterious. Do words really matter? I mean, can a thought that is conceived in the mind, when spoken, literally effect matter? The answer is yes. Words are energy that affect the matter in your life; not only by principles but by the emotions it invokes. Their meaning crystallizes perceptions that shape our beliefs, drive our behavior and ultimately, create our world. Words can kill the heart or heal it, words can ravage a soul or mend it, it can encourage dreams or demolish them. A person is a total summation of his thoughts, which are comprised of words. You cannot even think without words. In fact, the technology you’re using even now to read this blog was first conceived in thought format. Thoughts then became ideas and ideas turned into action.

The Word declares that “…as a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.” (Prov 23:7)

That means you can just look at a man and see how he speaks to himself, for he will take on the outer appearance of how he converses on the inside. And that power of words is intrinsic to the human story. Words are universal and affect us in unimaginable ways.

On July 20th of 1969, as the world watched in wonder, a man by the name of Neil Armstrong, after achieving the seemingly impossible mission of landing on the moon, uttered the famous words, “that’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” Words that echoed the world over and for a moment broke the barriers we humans create to divide us and albeit for a moment we, the human race felt connected in pride and accomplishment. In the inauguration of John F. Kennedy as the 35th President of the United States, in his speech, President Kennedy urged American citizens to participate in public service and inspired America by saying, “ask not what your country can do for you–ask what you can do for your country.” We bind ourselves to covenants by our words. We say “I do” at the altar in a confession of our devotion to love and cherish one another in the bond and unity of marriage. Words can be spine-chilling, like when a judge passes judgment on a subject. Words can be used as weapons that can galvanize an outnumbered army and embolden them to fight against all odds and still come out victoriously, like, “Remember the Alamo”.

But no words were ever spoken by any man, past present or future that has ever mattered or will ever matter like the words spoken by Jesus Christ. Jesus used words to convey the message of God from heaven to man on earth. He completed that task by saying “it is finished.” What was His message? His message was in His words, the words spoken by Him and by His disciples through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit after His death.

I am astonished that today there are thousands of self-help books, theories and steps to living an abundant life but so little emphasis is put on the words spoken by Jesus Christ himself. Today there are an estimated 30-40 thousand denominations of Christianity. Is that not insane? And why so many forms of Christianity? It’s easier to trick people into a lie by creating numerous options. Confusion by numbers. A bestselling author and prominent preacher who has become a household name and has an average weekly church attendance of 52,000 people, who’s also touted as having one of the largest churches in America, when asked in an interview, “is Jesus the only way to God?”, could not give a definitive answer and skirted around the subject like a coward on whether or not Jesus is the source of life and the only way to the father. But when you closely examine His ministry, Jesus is simply a footnote that satisfies his critics while deceiving his followers. Most books that are written by this New York’s best seller, barely ever mentions Jesus in what He has said. This ministry is presenting another gospel, not the one preached by Jesus or His followers. And today the world is filled with those who profess with their lips but their hearts are far from God.

Satan knew that if the truth sets us free, then the lie would keep us bound. Remember in the garden when God had already spoken truth to Adam about not eating from the tree of knowledge of good and evil? Immediately after the truth had been spoken, Satan came asking Eve, “did God really say?” (Gen 3:1) Today we have a, “did God really say” culture. To compound the problem, it is estimated that only 17% of self-professed Christians read the Bible. A generation who would “Always be learning but never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (2 Timothy 3:7) Even Paul dealt with this problem when he said, “But now I’m afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s clever lies, your thoughts may be corrupted and you may lose your single-hearted devotion and pure love for Christ.” (2 Corinthians 11:3) He has been attempting to corrupt Gods word from the beginning. Remember, Satan cannot create, he can only corrupt and corrupting he has. The prince of the air who is the Father of lies has corrupted masterfully. Look at our world today, we have Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO’s), the air is not fit to breath, the food is not fit to eat, there is corruption in science, corruption in the monetary system, corruption in pharmaceuticals (pharmakea), corruption in academia, corruption in world History, corruption in archeology, corruption in weather modification (HAARP), corruption from the White House to the crack house and everything in between and most importantly, corruption in religion. A world that has fallen in love with the lies. God defiers and Messiah deniers. The apostle Paul addresses this problem when he said, “For the time is coming when they will no longer listen and respond to the healing words of truth, because they will become selfish and proud. They will seek out teachers with soothing words that line up with their desires, saying just what they want to hear.” (2 Timothy 4:3) He added in 1 Corinthians 11:3, “But I want you to understand that Christ is the source of every human alive, and Adam was the source of Eve, and God is the source of the Messiah”.

Jesus’ words are the only thing that truly matters. “In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and the word was God… then the word became flesh and dwelt with us…” (John 1:1,14) Everything begins and ends with Jesus, as it is written, “Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith…” (Heb 12:2) For this reason, I will be taking our church through a series entitled, “The Red Letters,” in which we will study the words of Jesus Christ the Messiah. It is of utmost importance that we seek out the truth in a world filled with lies. Jesus, right before his death said to His disciples, “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come.” (John 16:12-14)

Knowing the truth is what empowers us to live a life in the Will of God. It wasn’t grace that saved Noah, it was obedience. Noah obeyed Gods word and was not corrupted by the lies and so was spared. “God looked upon the earth and saw that it was corrupt, for all living creatures on the earth had corrupted their ways”. (Gen 6:12) Today we see all the evidence of an unseen hand hard at work corrupting. “And as in the days of Noah so shall it be when the son of man returns.” (Matt 24:37)

If we are truly His disciples, His truth and not our opinions should shape every facet of our lives. Today we have too many Christians and not enough disciples. Did you know that the word Christian is mentioned only 3 times in the Bible but the word disciple(s) is mentioned 273 times? A disciple is one who not only hears his master’s words, but obeys it. Christians profess Christ, but disciples live like Him. When we not only hear but heed His words, we evolve by the power of the Holy Spirit into new creatures. We then, as disciples, develop our worldview from His point of view. As a true disciple, I should not crumble under public opinion but rather speak out with boldness using Gods authoritative Word and dominion. A disciple’s moral code and value system should never come from the rise and fall of cultural tides but by the moral dictates of the Word. “Do not conform to the things of the world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:2) This can be translated as, “do not adapt to the culture of the world”.

In other words, regarding issues of faith, I am not entitled to my own opinion. That’s the problem, today we rely upon too much of man’s opinions rather than the word of God. And this is self-evident is it not? When a national preacher is asked about cultural divisive issues like abortion and gay rights, most of them crumble. You don’t see boldness, because they have squandered the God-given right to proclaim His truth without shame because they have grown too comfortable fellowshipping with darkness and succumbed to fearing man, rather than God. A person who is intimate with God will never be intimidated by man. In Acts 4, Peter and John were perceived as being with Jesus simply because of the boldness by which they were proclaiming the gospel. The religious relics, those who adorned themselves simply to be adored and revered by man became angry because they were inverting the pyramid of religious control on its head. This is precisely why 11 of the 12 disciples, (not Christians) were martyred for the sake of the gospel. As the day approaches, let us seek out the truth and never replace the words of God himself by books written by man. I’m not opposed to books, but they can never replace the “Red Letters” of God in flesh. As God separates the wheat from the chaff, the goats from the sheep, let us like Noah, be found blameless through the shed blood of Jesus Christ and not only talk like Christians but live like disciples.

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