Monday, July 12, 2010

"When 'THAT' Phone Call Comes"

Subtitled: "Hey (your name), Do you have a couple of minutes?"

Perhaps if you are a Child of God, in the past, and more than likely in the near future, you will receive a phone call that goes something like this:

"Hey (your name)! Have you got a few minutes? I was just thinking about you the other day. I know how successful you have been in the past, and still are in (your business) and I've just gotten involved in this tremendous company / opportunity / business that is looking to expand in our area and I would like your "opinion" on it and run some ideas by you. It may or may not be for you, but I would like to take a few minutes of your time to show it to you. Since it's hard to draw a conclusion without getting all the information up-front, would Wednesday or Thursday be better for you?"

Ever heard something similar to this? You probably have. If not, chances are you will. And when you do you just became the "latest target" of someone who is zealous for their latest Network Marketing / Multi-level Marketing Company (MLM) that they have become involved in.

Now, what does it mean when you pick up that phone and hear those words above? Well, almost like a cult they dangle the bait out in front of you so they can then 'put you through their system the correct way'. Now, I am NOT saying the MLM IS a cult. But they will "hide" from you the complete picture (in order that you can 'get the true message – at least the message they want you to hear until you are 'hooked'). Later on, you find out, as Paul Harvey says, "The rest of the story".

So, the real question is, what do they REALLY MEAN when you hear those words and what can you EXPECT if you 'take the plunge' into MLM? To answer that question, let me expand the opening conversation you SHOULD receive if every person that approaches that is involved in MLM was actually "up front with you" as they should be. Or simply as The Scripture says, "providing things HONEST in the sight of ALL men".

You ready? Here goes: "Hey (your name!) Have you got a few minutes (though in reality when you see what I've seen this will envelop and control your life for years to come changing the way you think, the hours you spend, and where you will put your priorities. Now I' know you have been successful, because that's why I'm calling you in the hopes that you will also be successful in my company and personal downline. What I'm about to share with you may or may not be for you, but if you're as intelligent as I am and see what I saw, there is no question that you will get involved…

…Since I've signed on the bottom line and spent this money to get involved in this Network Marketing / Multi-level Marketing Company, which I believe is THE BEST MLM COMPANY in all the world (because I believe it has THE BEST marketing plan & system [Oh, and I've been involved in a bunch of others before now AND I've checked all the other ones that are out there and currently I REALLY DO BELIEVE (now, though in the past I believed it was actually another company, but that was then) that this ACTUALLY IS THE BEST ONE with the best PRODUCT(S) / SYSTEM, PAY PLAN etc. over any other, (and I need you to spend the same amount of money I did also)…

…And I REALLY DO BELIEVE you can save money AND make a LOT OF MONEY – why? Because if you can find a couple of "go-getters" just like you, as I'm hoping to do with you] so we can get people "hooked" on using OVER-PRICED products (so we can pay commission back several levels down and we will do so by convincing them to be faithful to the business and use only our products and services to send out the right message by replacing everything in your house with our stuff and convince them we are being Good Stewards of God's money by overspending and asking others to do the same so we can all share that commission)…

…And in the process of our building this business TOGETHER I can (as also you can), will be able to MISUSE our influence, testimony, walk with God, and ministry (even though in doing so we may actually be 'taking the name of our Lord in vain – thus misrepresenting God and His emphasis) – and may even perhaps be prostituting to you the idea that you would be HELPING OUR (or someone else's) MINISTRY to 'free us up' to do more for God by your getting involved and using the product(s) / services we provide…

…Also causing you to spend more money than you will make by also attending weekend functions four or five times a year (that cost a couple between $800 and $1,000 dollars to attend – not including finding someone to watch the kids while we're away from them - which you HAVE TO ATTEND IF YOU'RE SERIOUS ABOUT THE BUSINESS because all the movers and shakers and winners go to these, but not the losers, in order to obtain that multi-million dollar training from other multi-million dollar winners, by INVESTING in your life and future – (and the speakers do get an honorarium when they speak, plus it helps their business, also), oh and when you leave the functions you will find that it will be THE MOST motivational, impacting, life-changing time of your life, almost a religious worship-type experience that you'll ever attend!...

…Even though after two years of being in the business there are proven statistics that 98% of everyone involved in MLM, if you were to look at their W-2 forms, will actually LOSE MONEY in, and building the "business", but that's okay, because look at all the tax deductions you get for the potential of, but actually in the long haul, not making money…

…Anyway I was thinking about you (because I'm going through my list as fast as I can go [because that's what my upline taught me to do, to not prejudge anyone, but to use my circle of influence, especially in and with my ministry, position, etc. and of course, GOD, (because He is SO behind our company, pay plan, and business) in order to get as many people involved as I can, (but it's not only who I know, but who you know, and who they know, ad infinity)…

…And oh, what they will tell me and you later is that even though we are brothers and sisters in Christ, and enjoy fellowshipping together now, we will be taught that we will have to get new friends and 'relatives' – mainly because since we become like those we hang around, I can no longer afford to waste my time with you if you don't get involved, because after all, if you don't see what I see, well, then need I say more, because I won't be able to fellowship any more with negative stinking thinking people no matter who they are (and it's not that I won't love you anymore, I just won't have the time to show you) AND what I have yet to realize is that most of my friends and relatives won't want to spend time with me or be around me later either because I will have been brainwashed into seeing them as stinkin' thinkin' negative people and thinkers – who will also get tired of the only thing I want to talk about, the majority of the time is the business and trying to get them involved…

…And since "out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks" I'll outwardly 'talk about the Lord', but THE BUSINESS will be what continually comes out of my mouth and heart. So the days of when we used to get together and truly fellowship in our Lord, if you don't get involved, we won't actually do that anymore, and I'll actually use Scriptures out of context to convince myself that what we are doing is Biblical (even though it won't be)…

…Oh, in and in regards to the functions- you'll just have to go, because (even though LITERALLY EVERY SINGLE MLM Company in the US propagates the SAME THING, even though their company is bad and inferior while only ours is the best) these rallies are so mind blowing, fantastic emphasizing Patriotism, The American Dream (which is actually what we have to do by finding out what you really want - when I talk to you about this, or we sit down, or you attend a 'business opportunity', or watch my DVD and talk to my "friends on the phone calls to substantiate what I can't yet"…

…Because in SELLING THE DREAM we have to make you disillusioned and dissatisfied with what God is doing in your life NOW and where HE has you to mold you and make you, what we have to do is make you COVET more money, bigger homes, the beaches of the world, and how GOD can use this to make you prosperous [even though I will find that if I can't budget and honor God with what we are making NOW, more money will only help us to perpetuate our lack of control of finances but just at a higher level and reveal the true thoughts and intents of our heart] - (and we'll even tag on in our presentation about being able to 'give more to missions and the Lord' (or charities), though most NEVER DO)…

...And understand that even though Christ says "In this world you will have trials / tribulation", we will refuse to believe that so what we will do is technically 'LIE' by presenting and posturing ourselves as where we WANT to be even though we AREN'T, and of course we'll pull out those 'name-it-and-claim-it, prosperity verses' ignoring those verses like Hebrews 11, Paul's suffering in 2 Corinthians, etc.) because, wow, just think what the early NT Christians and Paul could have done for our Lord and how they could have accomplished so much more if they or he had just had an opportunity like this, that's why in these "last days" God is pouring out His Holy Spirit and blessings in and through and on OUR COMPANY (and when you become 'enlightened' you will understand this also)…

…And NOW is THE RIGHT TIME for you to get involved, in fact there is no better time in history than RIGHT NOW, (and if you don't then you'll be left behind and one day look back and remember this day and it will haunt you for the rest of your life) – that's why you will have to begin right away LISTENING to the CDs / DVDs and READING BOOKS thus changing the way you THINK and SPEAK (you know, 'fake it til you make it', speaking into existence the cars, homes, motor homes, etc. you want – some call this a New Age mindset, but they are just unenlightened), and yes, our upline DOES make a lot of money on these 'tools', but hey, you ARE investing in your future, aren't you…

Oh, and we will also convince you of the importance of neglecting your children's ballgames, plays, and school events, along with spending time with your family NOW – we will be able to convince you that it is 'WORTH IT' – of how you must listen to the instruction of your upline over the voices and heart of your FAMILY, the very ones God places in your care - because you will be investing in their future – and they 'just don't understand' (of course, we'll never tell you about the homes that do break up, the affairs that do happen – because of men and women working together, bonding without their spouses, the financial hardships that do occur with those who just aren't serious and as committed, the love for money overshadowing their love for the Lord. (and in your mind confuse and combine the two)…

… You see to really make it in this business you will have to eat, drink, sleep, and breathe this business NOW for only the next 2 to 5 years and THEN you will have THE RESIDUAL INCOME (e.g. "easy street" because you can 'pay now and play later, or play now and pay later, but either way you're gonna pay") [though we won't tell you that more people will actually LEAVE the business than stay in (until you get to a higher pin level of course, and then you will be instructed in all this), and you never will have TRUE residual income (you can maybe take longer vacations and/or a month or two off, but YOU'D BETTER NOT walk away from this business and quit building it because it will literally fall apart…

…Oh, and if you make it to one of the top levels, you can then propagate all sorts of personal stuff off on your downline and 'make a killing' [CD's of your spouse singing, other "ideas" or "gadgets", books you've written, motivational CDs/DVDs you will produce, etc. the sky's the limit!} – and if you don't think it will fall apart, there is always the danger of YOUR GROUP leaving you for a 'better' MLM plan, company, idea "down the road" (as misguided as they will be, of course) and you will be financially devastated, so you'll always just have to KEEP THEM WORKING, and MOTIVATED and YOU CONSTANTLY WORKING but that's okay, because it's better than that old 'J.O.B; (right?!)…

…So even though you will sacrifice time away from your family and friends for that "one day" DREAM VACATION and "one day" FREEDOM to have that TIME TOGETHER with your family, that you could be INVESTING IN NOW, but don't think you can, so you'll take what little time you do have and make excuses for it now, breaking your kids' hearts, disappointing them regularly for that next event, justifying all this in your mind, causing disappointment with your children, but MAYBE one day they'll understand (?) that because you can give them more THINGS, THEN when you didn't take the time to spend with them NOW WHEN THEY NEEDED IT and the importance of GIVING OF YOURSELF that somehow, one day, those 'THINGS' will all make up for it (yes, the Scripture says, "we brought nothing into this world and we can take nothing out", but remember, "God gives us ALL ***THINGS*** "RICHLY" to enjoy, so we need to get BIGGER and BETTER and MORE THINGS then, don't we, but don't worry, maybe the family will be able to sort it all out, maybe they will perhaps grab "that what you are SAYING is more important than what you LIVED before them"…

…And be sure that we will show you how the Top Producers seem to have achieved what we long for and they will tell you that EVERYONE can do it too, even though THE NUMBERS NEVER PLAY OUT, perhaps you can be ONE OF THE FEW who can speak on stages, walking the beaches of the world, impacting a downline – in essence giving them a FALSE HOPE - so even though there is NO WAY you can comprehend all of this right now, and even though, in a way, you'll be pimping and prostituting your fellow Christians (making them almost like 'Christina Hookers' – using them for selfish gain – though you will mentally convince yourself that it is actually for their own good one way or the other – and if not, then they just didn't 'buy into the dream' and weren't serious enough about 'working the business' and 'being a part of your team') and even your non-Christians "friends" (at least for just a little time longer), and in reality you'll be misrepresenting God to those who do and don't know Christ, and even though you won't be able to LOOK at anyone ever the same again, especially at Church because people will become "prospects" the Holy Spirit can 'lead you to' instead of Brothers and Sisters in Christ to love simply… "WITHOUT A HOOK"…

…And even though people will SHUN YOU because they won't feel like they can approach you anymore without your trying to prostitute / proselyte them into your new company / business / system – so you've lost the freedom to simply share with them God's heart (without sitting there figuring out how 'down the road' you can now USE THIS as a tool / stepping stone into having them join your team and thus building your business and making you wealthy)…

…My question for you now, and what I am REALLY EXCITED to share with you and ask you is 'Would Tuesday night at 6 p.m., or Thursday at 7 p.m. be better for you?"

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Journal Entry: Jerusalem 108 AD – "Hungry Children"

Dear Journal: It is hard to believe that 40 years have passed since Paul has left us. Over forty years since that encounter he had with our Lord on the road to Damascus, followed by years of fruitful ministry and many hardships. Paul is now with the Lord in Heaven and we carry on in his place. Our lives were touched by his compassion and heartbeat. That is what drives us.

I remember Timothy telling us many of the stories about Paul, the lives he touched and the ministries he started. One of which I am carrying on still today. There are so many homeless and hungry children with no one it seems who cares. Well, actually they do. But until Paul began collecting monies from followers of The Way and strategically placing those funds where needed, many of those needs went unmet. At first, it was a few locations 'here and there', but as we've become more organized, it now seems that so many more lives are collectively impacted, on a long-term basis.

Paul passed the baton onto Timothy, and now, he to me. But here lately, I find my travels are becoming harder. This old body doesn't recover like it use to. I foresee soon how the day will come when I may be unable to perform all that is required to keep this ministry going, the long miles, the endless hours, time away from home takes its toll on a man. These sacrifices though are now well worth it for The Master. But it has played more on my mind with my wondering, "Lord, what will I do? How will my needs be met?"

This has plagued me for some time. And then one day, it was as if the Lord Himself opened my mind with a vision, or was it a revelation? I wonder, but the clarity of it became real to me of how not only to impact so many more lives, but also how to provide for myself as I grow weaker and older.

First, what has transpired since that morning in my tent is that I have obtained the help of other Believers who are also in the service for our Lord. They too are now sharing this burden to feed the homeless and hungry children around our world. Many of these Followers have become 'well known' in our Messiah's movement and have much influence. They have partnered with me, almost like a network, in spreading this much needed message to every town and village. Because of their efforts, many, many more are now helping to support, these, God's little children. What was it our Lord said, "What you do to the least of these, you do also to me", yes, that's it.

Second, these 'servants of God' in helping me further this ministry, while still performing their own calling, they too have expenses. At times they go without. I have found, by taking a 'portion' of the regular amount collected that has been 'promised to the children', and giving to 'help support and provide to offset their needs, results in the very ones who are spreading this word', motivating them and increasing the zeal of their message. This has resulted in more and more monies coming in. Thus the more they share, the more people give. The more people give, the greater their stipend. For some, the amount they receive is becoming a very substantial amount.

Yes, it is true we don't share with those who are giving to the children, that part of their grace giving goes to the actual person who is collecting those funds, but as His Word says, "They who preach the Gospel, should live of the Gospel", and in reality, NOT telling the contributors causes less 'trouble' than trying to explain that to them "up-front".

Third, of course there are expenses for myself and those who serve alongside me also. Though most of the time a significant portion of what is given is still going to the children, it seems that it is taking more and more to creatively 'spread the word' into new areas, establish new overseers to distribute the food and funds, provide incomes for them, etc. At times I wonder if this is what Paul had in mind when he began all of this?

Finally, I am excited to see how this is what The Lord will use to help me retire, or rather I should say, meet all my family's needs as I enter my twilight years; or if some injury or illness prevents me from further travel. In fact, I hate to say, with the amount of monies coming in, even with supporting thousands of hungry and homeless children around the world as an international ministry, our finances will no longer be a problem. Praise Yahweh!

Recently we had the pleasure of meeting a successful businessman by the name of Demas. He shared with us that if we would use some of the proceeds to bring Elders from various cities to see our work, as well as 'honoring' the larger collectors of funds by bringing these two groups to 'the field' to visit the children and see first-hand how they have, or can, 'make a difference', that this would more than quadruple revenues coming in so we would be able to support more children. One of his slogans is, "The ends justify the means". I am not sure if this is part of Adonai's recorded words or not, but it sure makes sense, and it works.

Journal, something unusual happened the other day as I was traveling through Sinai. I met a caravan and presented them with the need we share and asked them if they would like to give. They asked me some pointed questions regarding the actual distribution of our funds. There was something in the man's eyes with whom I spoke that made me want to be honest with him, so I told him what we were doing. He thanked me, but then declined the offer! He said something about another follower of The Way, I think they said he goes by the name "Christian", he's from somewhere over around Antioch, and this man is also feeding the hungry and homeless children. He keeps no denari for himself, nor does he give any of the proceeds to others. He shared that every single coin he collects, all of it goes to the children. Any personal or ministry expense that is accrued is provided for in a different and separate way. Imagine that!

Still, there are fleeting moments I question if what we are doing is truly ethical and completely honest with God's people, and before our Lord. After all, what if those that were distributing the funds and food to the children did it simply because they loved the Lord? What if others in God's family would present this without remuneration because that is simply what our Lord would have done? What if we trusted God to provide in some other way rather than 'robbing', maybe I should say 'taking', a portion out of the mouths of these children? What if every denari that someone gave really, completely went to the children? I wonder how many more lives could we really impact and touch?

But then… When I look at all we have accomplished, when I see how "prosperous & successful" everything is, I conclude, surely this is a sign of God's blessings, isn't it? Oh well, it is working, and there are a lot more children out there who need to be fed, and there a whole lot more people who can give.

Until the next time, Journal, Shalom.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

"If It Looks Like A Duck, and Quacks Like A Duck..."

Have you noticed the names of "Churches" lately? Imagine if someone knocked on your door, or invited you to this Church…

"Hello, we're from the United, Interdenominational, Non-denominational, Denominational, Independent, Conservative, Fundamental, Restoration, First, Second, Anglican, General, Evangelical, Reformed, Pentecostal, Holiness, Charismatic, Progressive, Contemporary, Traditional, Southern Gospel, Church of God - in Christ, of Jerusalem Acres, of Prophecy, All Saints of Bethel, Trinity, East, West, North, South, Uptown, Downtown, Faith, Hebron, House of Joy, Kingdom Covenant Ministries, Willow Head, Willow Creek, Morningside, New Beginnings, Paradise, Various Trees, Saint Whoever You Want, Firstborn, Messianic, Covenant, Victory, Celebration, Bethlehem, All Saints, AME, Apostolic, Full Gospel, Lutheran, Freewill, American, Southern, Baptist, Methodist, Calvary, Crossroad, Assembly, Fellowship, Gathering, Cowboy, Episcopal, Presbyterian, Encounter, Global, Cornerstone, Connection, God's True, River of Life, Core, Guardian, Disciples, Christian Missionary, of the Nazarene, Savior, Lord, Living Water, Rock, and King Jesus Christ, Temple, Tabernacle, Community, Cathedral, Chapel Home Group and Church"

(Whew! Could you imagine writing your 'tithe' check to this institution?) A name like that, of course, would be ridiculous. But let's take a moment and consider "THE NAME" of the institution we attend.

We as people who 'claim to follow the Lord Jesus Christ' can come up with some interesting names (and yes, sometimes some ridiculous ones also) regarding what we want to CALL OURSELVES and to BE KNOWN AS… AND we 'wear' those 'names' with great pride, and many times as a badge.

Ask the average Christian, "Where do you GO to Church?" and you'll probably hear a combination of some form of the list above. The SAD reality is that we TALK MORE about our own INSTITUTIONAL CHURCHES than we ever do about Jesus Christ, and it doesn't stop there. We Expend the majority of our Efforts, Energies, and Expenses to PROSELYTE other 'church goers' to our 'corner lot or street address' in order to increase the Size of our Buildings & Attendance, Monies coming in, our Program expansion, et al, in order to HOOK OTHERS into our own 'Community' than we ever do by truly focusing on building the Kingdom of Jesus Christ.

But I digress. The focus of this article is that WHAT WE call ourselves is really NOT IMPORTANT. Recently in our home town, another 'Church' has changed its name from the typical, standard denominational wording because it felt that it just wasn't relevant any more to our modern culture. Therefore, they 'changed the name' in the hopes that it would be more contemporary and user-friendly. That somehow, "CHANGING THE NAME OF WHAT WE CALL OURSELVES", would be an ATTRACTION to 'get people to come' to our location and somehow define us more accurately. Or even better, to cause people who have never come before, to now want to come because of a new name we've tagged ourselves with. But an Institution is an Institution. And no matter how we REPACKAGE it, RENAME it, or REWORK it, the essence, structure, and emphasis, for the most part, is still the same

Here's the REALITY: It doesn't matter what WE call ourselves – what DOES matter is what the WORLD calls us. Did you get that? Please, read it again.

For some reason, we as 'Christians' are living in a fairy-tale world and pseudo-spiritual mindset where we 'THINK' that what we are DOING and HOW WE DO IT are actually relevant and impacting those around us. In truth, for the most part, the only ones we are 'impressing' may be other believers in other institutions (who, if we were honest with ourselves, are the very ones we are COMPETING with! Don't believe me? Attend an average citywide Pastor's gathering, and you can 'cut' the Posturing, Power struggle, & Personalities vying for Preeminence, Dominance, and Control with a knife). We are NOT impacting our city or society. In fact, if the average 'Church' would take its "head out of the sand" we would find that society is laughing at us – not because they don't understand spiritual things but because of our MINDLESS, MEANINGLESS RELIGIOSITY.

We keep trying to REPACKAGE and REDRESS what we are doing ON THE OUTSIDE with NO REAL CHANGE on the INSIDE. Where did we ever get the idea that doing a 'facelift' of our particular Institution would 'FOOL' those outside it, or ever be a DRAWING CARD to those who don't know Christ?! People aren't attracted to Cantatas, Programs, Buildings, Personalities, Movements, Gimmicks, etc. People aren't stupid. They SEE THE HOLLOWNESS of what we are doing and the BOREDOM as well as the MONOTONY. Where did we ever develop the thoughts and mindset that they are blind and oblivious to our HOOKS – that we think they can't see what attempting to accomplish

Think I'm off-base. I challenge you; over the next week to ask your fellow co-workers, neighbors, students, and relatives what THEY REALLY THINK OF THE LOCAL CHURCH – that "thing" we have developed, redefined and call 'Church'. But let me warn you, you'd better be prepared because you WON'T like what they are saying, and you WON'T like what you will hear. And when they tell you, DON'T take it 'personally' and certainly DON'T try and defend your position against their comments, accusations, and insights. For once, step back and LOOK AT IT THROUGH THEIR EYES and see it as THEY do. If they TRUST you, they will be HONEST. If they don't, well there is no telling 'what' you will get. Either way, their answers and insight will SHOCK you. It did me, and boy am I glad it did.

You see, the world, (both the un-churched and lost) are looking for people who are REAL in their walk with Jesus Christ. They are TIRED of all the PLASTICITY and MINDLESS COOKIE CUTTER ROUTINE. It doesn't matter to them if you 'Dress Up Your Duck' and try to become more User-friendly or relevant or not. They are looking for someone whose devotion is not geared toward a 'Sunday Morning Event'. Where the 'Jesus' we promote in our meetings, and rarely talk about outside of them, is TRULY REAL, and where they can see Him ACTUALLY IMPACTING someone's life in a meaningful way instead of a people who claim to know Christ and simply traded a "Secular Country Club for a Religious One". Where life become vibrant instead of a RELIGIOUS, DEAD ORTHODOXY - Where HE is REAL and THE FOCUS of their life –where there is an INTIMACY with Abba Father, where walking daily in the dust of The Rabbi is a DESIRE instead of a DUTY, instead of mindlessly serving the endless expectations of an institution.

Go ahead, ask them. One of the answers you will get is that they see a people IN LOVE with a Building, Meetings, Programs, and Schedule; but they just don't see those same people TRULY IN LOVE with A PERSON. They will tell you about: Power struggles, Dictatorship, Contradictory Rules & Regulations, Meaningless Traditions (both Old and New), Promoting of Personalities, Endless Programs, Phoniness, Money-hungry, Obligations of Attendance and Service 'Inside Four Walls' to and for an Institution which they have set up as a standard of faithfulness and true spirituality, where DOING is emphasized more than BEING, and their list will go on-and-on. And whether you feel it is 'true or not' doesn't really matter. WHY? Because perception is 90% the rule, and that is what we've been presenting, and what they have been perceiving by our actions. (Remember the old saying, "What you are Doing speaks so loudly I can't hear what you are Saying")? In reality, that IS what we have been doing and still do. How do I know? Because not only have I been guilty of the same and 'been there', but the Scripture tells us; 'Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks".

You see, "It's NOT what we CALL OURSELVES that matters, but what OTHERS CALL US". Whether those names include "Hypocrite, Religious, Phony, Fake, Empty, Churchy, Boring, Self-Righteous, (and add to it any of the CHURCHY names from the beginning of the article) etc." What do people CALL You? The Bible tells us, in Antioch, the lost world called those who believed in, walked with, and followed Christ, CHRISTIANS. Did you catch that? The Christians didn't choose their name or title, but OTHERS DID IT FOR THEM. And WHAT A TITLE!

Individuals who exemplified not a denomination, non-denomination, church building, or movement; but individuals who were totally consumed with A PERSON, JESUS CHRIST. So much so, that HIS LIFE became their ALL and FOCUS so consumed with His REALITY, PERSON, and LOVE that they became just like Him. People consumed WITH, BY and IN a RELATIONSHIP and NOT a 'religious duty'. And THAT is what the world saw. (They just 'called them like they saw them')

Am I just too naïve to think that is the way it should be today? I don't think so. The more I place my heart in His, the more I understand that He first loved me and loves me with an everlasting love, then the LESS important the 'churchy name I'm called, or group I'm affiliated with, or building, or religious institution becomes. We've been trying to build THE INSTITUTIONAL CHURCH with worldly success principles OUR way as if that was the way He would do it. Jesus didn't die to start another movement, religion, or building. He no longer dwells in buildings made with hands. And yet, we've redefined the 'Church' to what it is today - a Building and Location vs. a Body. Jesus said, "I will build MY Church". People today (both in the Religious Structure and outside it) are BORED with the way we are DOING Church. More and more Christians, as well as society is looking for a PEOPLE (not an institution) whose emphasis and reality is on BEING the Body of Christ and not DOING Church. And THAT has NOTHING to do with LOCATION.

Oh that that would be our FOCUS today instead of OUR institution, building, kingdom, and names. Oh that there would rise up individuals where CHRIST was such a part of their lives, that out of the abundance of their heart, He would be on their, no our lips. But instead, we just keep PROMOTING and REDRESSING our duck trying to make it more relevant to a world that could care less and wants nothing to do with our Religious Social Clubs.

May I ask you this question, as I have asked myself many, many times lately, "What do my and your fellow co-workers, neighbors, students, or relatives REALLY SEE as the essence of my and your heart and life? Is it a "Location" or a PERSON – a 'RELIGION' or a RELATIONSHIP – Is it Endless involvement with an INSTITUTION or INTIMACY with a Loving God"? What if you asked them about you? Would you dare? If they were to look at your life and all that it represents, what would they CALL YOU? Is your emphasis and focus more on one of the 'names' from the list above, or Jesus Christ?

I'm NOT telling you to leave your particular institution. I AM advocating that you WALK with and LOVE HIM so much more. "I am!" you might say? If you really think so, then ask someone, outside of your 'fellowship, gathering, or church'. If you did, what would people CALL YOU if you asked? Are you willing to "drop your label" and see what people CALL YOU? Give it try and then let's stop REDRESSING OUR DUCK and start LOVING and WALKING with our SAVIOR!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

"Let's Go To The Circus" Part 1


"Ladies and Gentlemen, Children of All Ages. Come One, Come All and Welcome to the Greatest Show On Earth!"


Don't you just love the Circus?! The Colors, bright lights, the music, various performances, the clowns, the animals, the cotton candy, the death-defying trapeze artists - the list goes on and on. Nothing quite can capture the mind and heart of the smell of sawdust, the lights, the air of expectation, and the excitement.

Circuses come in all shapes and sizes. Years ago before television, it was the highlight of the year for any town – it is something that everyone looked forward to. The train whistle would sound and the smoke flume rise as the train chug-a-chugged rolling into to town. Children would rush and watch the circus cars unload. People of all ages would line the streets as the gala parade began. Lions in cages, performers riding elephants, the calliope pipes tooting, beautiful costumes, jugglers and clowns would unicycle down the street as the parade traveled down the street. The crowds would excitedly make their way out to where the circus tent was located longing to hear those words, "Let the Show begin!"

Circuses varied in their size and what they offered. Some circuses had one ring. The bigger and better circuses had two, and even three rings. But one thing was for sure, there was something for everyone to excite the hearts and minds for children and adults alike.

Perhaps THE best known and loved circus even to this day is the Barnum & Bailey Circus. Visit one of their shows today (and they have several), peruse their website and you can almost envision the sights and hear the sounds; you can feel the excitement bubble up within you – yes, you 'want to attend'.

Each circus has a ringmaster or ringleader who is often the most important and most-visible performer in the modern circus. He usually introduces the various acts
and guides the audience through the entertainment experience. Most modern-day ringleaders become an integral part of the performance, singing and dancing along with the other entertainers.

The traditional opening line of many circuses is the phrase "Ladies, and gentlemen, children of all ages..." drawn out in dramatic fashion, with voice raised, and pause given just where it is needed... It not only signals the beginning of the main event, but it also assures the adults that it is okay to experience the child within and enjoy the show.

In the days before modern lighting equipment, it was the ringleader's job to literally "direct" the attention of the audience to the appropriate sections of the performance area, even as the previous act was being torn down or the next act was being set up in another area. In the past, most performances were mute by nature, accompanied by resounding brass music. Therefore, the ringleader's big, booming voice was important as it cut through the clutter and excitement to announce the act.

It is also the ringmaster's job to create a sense of hyperbole whenever possible while introducing the acts.
Declarations of
the "biggest", "most dangerous", "amazing", "spectacular" and similar expressions are common, regardless of the actual caliber of the performance.

The ringleader is responsible for maintaining the smooth flow of the show — or at least the appearance of it. He may be called upon to fill time if an act isn't ready for their entrance in time.

People are attracted to the Circus. And the better the Ringmaster – the more people will invite others. For the Ringmaster, makes the audience feel as if they are a part of the performance."

As with all circuses of yesteryear and even today, they compete against one another. For truly, the owner, Ringmaster, and performers want you attending their circus instead of going to the 'competition'. Each circus wants to be THE CIRCUS that is above all the others, the one that attracts the most. And within each circus, performers and Ringmasters come-and-go to other circuses – wherever they are better paid / compensated, and appreciated, and for some, where they can finally move to the 'center ring'.


NOW STOP A MOMENT! BEFORE you go any farther, will you take a minute and simply reread those first few paragraphs again and see if you see what I see? Do you see ANY similarities with another group, organization, or institution? Can your mind stretch with me just a moment and be opened to the possibility of how a CIRCUS functions has in many ways become the very same way we "DO Church today'? Farfetched, ludicrous you think? Let me explain. It may not be as far off as we would like to think it is.



Let's start with The Ringmaster – who in many churches has become a lot like the Pastor. The Ringmaster-Pastor directs The Performers and Performances – that 20% of every congregation that does 80% of the 'jobs / ministry / performances' of any institution. Want to know all he does, reread the paragraphs above. Though an accurate description of a true circus ringmaster, the parallels are frightening.

Next are the Circus Performers - those who "minister, sacrifice for, perform, and are up front, in the spotlights of the 'theater', out in the ring performing / ministering to and for the 80%. These are the ones whom the audience would possibly think are 'the most talented and spiritual'. An Interesting Fact: Though many of these people have a true heart for God and want to be used by Him to lead and encourage others to walk with God, and do the same as themselves – there is an increasing, growing number in many local congregations across America of those who are truly are intimate with Abba Father, walking daily as a disciple and not just performing some religious duty or function – walking in the dust of the Rabbi, becoming like Him; it is these very people who are refusing to become bogged down in the often times drudgery, life-sapping, endless requirements, commitments, committees, and programs that are needed to keep the circus / machine running smoothly.

Lastly, there is the Audience. They are the target. These are the ones who come to enjoy and "feel a part' of the circus by watching the performances, acts, and listening to the Ringmaster. They give their money, clap, laugh, and cry; critique the performances / acts / ministries, and enjoy the show, The Ringmaster's and Performer's job is to make sure that the Audience is receptive, entertained, and given a show that they will never forget so that they will Return and most of all, invite their friends, as well as proselyte those who might attend other circuses to attend their own.


I am afraid that somewhere along the way, we have lost our focus. When most of our time is spent 'preparing and practicing' for 'our upcoming performances' (after all we do want to honor and glorify God with our very best); when we expend the majority of our energy, expense, and effort to go toward "The Sunday Morning Event", where a "FEW perform" for the masses, in reality just to maintain the 'success' of the "institution", so that those attending will feel that they are a vital part of the "circus performance' itself, even when the majority of what they do is just being spectator; somewhere along the line we have gotten sidetracked and off-centered,

Is this what Jesus really meant when He said He would establish and build His Church? Is this what Jesus meant when He prayed for unity, that we as His children would with an almost "competitive pride, vengeance, and fervency" promote and proselyte people from another Circus to our own – that our emphasis and intense love is no longer directed toward Christ as Lord and Savior and reaching the lost, but toward our own Circus, as if it was BETTER than someone else's, as if IT was the answer for all men's problems?. That we would sacrifice and expend numerous hours every single week for a one, two, or three hour 'performance' that we are calling a worship service? Is that what ministry is really to be all about? Localized in a building (whether that building is a home, church, storefront, or gymnasium)? Focused INWARD toward the Audience instead of OUTWARD in reaching the world. Is perhaps the reason the world wants NOTHING to do with our Savior is because we are so busy exalting, promoting, and talking about our Circus / Church / Religious Institution / Home Group that they see us as 'glorified fraternities or religious social clubs'. That our Circus impacts us more than our Savior!? Why would anyone want to 'leave this world' for another 'organization'? We are not presenting to them a REAL JESUS but a performed one!

[Note: Please understand that we are NOT suggesting that it is 'wrong' for Christians to gather for Bible Study or Worship. The questions that truly need to be answered are: Are we truly operating as a complete Body of Christ according to Ephesians 4? Are lives TRULY being changed when the average Christian remembers little to nothing re: the previous week's performance or message but they sure enjoyed it (just like at a circus)? Are we truly impacting our world and community for Jesus Christ or just 'pumping up' our own Christian Gathering? Are we fulfilling our need to 'perform in order to be accepted, to be considered spiritual, or do we have some kind of 'spiritual narcistic' need to be in power, control, and to be noticed as the Ringmaster or one of the Performers by directing others (we call it 'leading') in what they should do – having them fulfill our vision and jump through our hoop? Have we forgotten and replaced what Jesus said re: what TRUE LEADERSHIP is – that of being a SERVANT with that of being a Ringmaster? These are questions that MUST be answered by each of us]

You see, if the things we do as a body are not TRULY (1). Christ-focused / centered, and (2) Relationship based then we've missed it. No matter how "successful" we think we are, how many people we attract, how big, attractive, and modern our buildings (circus tents) are, or how many programs we may support, - if numbers 1 & 2 are not THE FOCAL POINT, the very HEARTBEAT of what we do, the very BREATH WE BREATHE, then we are only kidding ourselves! When the Circus / Church / Institutional Building / Home Group – "within our four walls" receives the majority of our energy, focus, thoughts, and efforts THERE IS A PROBLEM! And here is THE BIGGEST PROBLEM OF ALL – conservatively 95%+ of ALL Circuses / Churches can operate WITHOUT GOD at all. For most, 'JESUS' has become a slang word, that 'Savior out there', our tag-on to validate the spirituality of everything we are doing instead of our very BREATH, our CENTER and FOCUS, or as the Scripture says, "IN HIM we move and breathe and have our being" . No, for the MAJORITY of Ringmasters, Performers, and Audience, our weekly "fix", our satisfaction of performing, being recognized by others, etc. has become our validation instead of WHO we are in Christ and most of all just LOVING AND KNOWING (intimately) Him.

If we truly would take the time to stop and honestly look at and evaluate what we are actually doing, I believe we will find that 'though we "say" we are doing what we do is to 'glorify God', in reality our very energy, expenses, and efforts are intensified in TALKING more about, PROMOTING and PROCLAIMING our own circus, as well as COMPETING AGAINST other "Christian Circuses" to proselyte Christians away from where they currently are attending in order to DRAW people to our OWN INSTITUTIONS rather than the Lord. In fact, we truly need to ask ourselves the question of "WHY IS IT that the majority of our ENERGY, EXPENSE, AND EFFORTS are predominately FOCUSED towards our Sunday morning services and around a building???!!! It is true that Jesus spoke to the multitudes, but where LIFE CHANGE occurred was where He spent time ONE ON ONE with individuals in an intimate, daily, discipleship process. Somehow we feel that in our present day that OUR way of doing things is much better than the way God set things up to be the most productive in affecting, changing, and impacting lives for HIS glory. Maybe we just need to be candidly honest with ourselves and admit that one of THE main reasons we fervently, and purposefully attract people to 'our own Big Top' is, that if we don't, they will "go somewhere else". And it DOES take money to pay salaries, utilities, insurance, buy equipment, etc. at a location that is probably the worst use of God's Stewardship for the amount of time that the people are 'in the Big Top' – that's why the more people we get to come to our unique form of circus rhetoric, the more it allows us to provide varied and streamlined performances. The more money we collect, we feel the 'more we can do for the Lord'. We proclaim that the 'bigger and better our circus is' the more we can 'accomplish for God'. And yet, most of our monies, and "outreach" or "humanitarian efforts" have an underlying HOOK, HIDDEN MOTIVE, and INCENTIVE to draw and bring people to OUR LOCATION, truly focusing us INWARD, instead of 'really' for the Lord. God becomes a 'tack on' by-product.

First, let me say that I don't believe that all local "congregations" are this way. But as we look on the horizon, somewhere we have subtly and perhaps without realizing it, made the move from a gradual to complete paradigm shift from BEING the body of Christ – and BEING His Church to now DOING and PERFORMING CHURCH – from experiencing true FELLOWSHIP and RELATIONSHIPS to a superficial interaction within a meeting and a sterile RELIGIOUS PERFORMANCE that "sprinkles" the same with 'Jesus' name' to justify what we are doing..

As a 'Circus', we MUST keep the audience happy and entertained. We MUST make sure that the 'Circus machine runs effectively and smoothly' – because if we don't, there are enough OTHER circuses out there for people to choose from. And if OUR Circus doesn't remain 'THE BEST', they WILL find another circus / church to go to.

What we need to realize is that whatever Performances, Programs, and Personalities we use to draw and attract people to our 'Big Top' is what we will have to continue to do to KEEP them there. Note: Some Ringmasters have become master manipulators in using GUILT, or finding a person's BUTTON to get them to invite others to the circus and maybe even get them to PERFORM for their own circus. In fact, they have become professionals at finding what 'motivates' a person and then playing to their need, especially if they are talented or wealthy. They call it SPIRITUAL DISCERNMENT (e.g. "The Lord has impressed upon me to share with you, ask you to, etc.) When in reality it is simply SPIRITUAL MANIPULATION & ABUSE. So our process becomes that of focusing on 'making our church / circus to succeed' and "to attract more and more people to our circus performance'. Why? So they will keep coming back, again-and-again-and-again.

    Ephesians 4 states, that the CHURCH of Jesus Christ is a BODY, a FAMILY, that is NOT to function as a MACHINE, but as a FAMILY that truly LOVES and INTERACTS with each other, DAILY. Not in some 'religious superficiality' on "Sundays and Wednesdays", but where "every part does his or her share" so it will not retard the growth of the body – daily walking by each other's side and investing in each other's lives. [Note: And when this was written, there was NO Church Building or Institution for over 300 years, so it's application is NOT to be specifically focused within our "four walls", but it something TOTALLY DIFFERENT - perhaps something we need to take "outside the box – outside our 'four walls'] And it is not fulfilled with the 20% serving the 80%. It is not the 20% performing. It is not the 100% focused within or an Institution, on Programs, etc. But it is 100% of the body, encouraging each other one-on-one, wherever they are in their walk, outside the church walls, on a day-to-day basis loving each other. For BEING THE CHURCH is FAR DIFFERENT than the way we have adopted DOING CHURCH.

    I could go on-an-on, but I believe the meat of our journey has been presented in this blog, "Let's Go To The Circus" – Part 1. My purpose in writing and sharing with you is not in a superior attitude. For years, I was guilty of many of the atrocities listed above. Any satisfaction that was received, always left me hollow needing more. Bigger and better next time. More energy, uniqueness, difference etc. next to attract, (I mean minister to) the people. Take the time to reread the first paragraphs again. It may be painful, eye-opening, heart-rending and produce the brokenness we truly need.

    I am tired of the Circus Band Wagon. I'm getting off. When will JESUS ever be enough for Ringmasters, Circuses, Performers, and Audiences? When will JESUS EVER BE ENOUGH to attract and keep people. Maybe we have gotten so used to attending and performing at the Circus, we are afraid to embrace HIM. For the satisfaction and euphoria we receive for ourselves in reality is IDOLATRY of the worst kind and nothing but 'wood, hay, and stubble'. As John Maxwell would say, "Just a thought".

    Don't let the excitement of 'Going to the Circus' cause you to miss out on intimacy with Abba Father and walking in the dust of the Rabbi – our Savior Jesus Christ in simplicity, reality, and intimacy. It is so much freer and better than 'The Circus'. I close with this thought: in the Indiana Jones Trilogy where Indiana is trying to choose the correct 'cup of Christ', (where just prior to that someone else chose the wrong one and suffered devastating, disastrous results), in his choosing the correct one the Knights Templar states, "You have chosen wisely". I admonish you, "choose wisely" Choose CHRIST over the CIRCUS. You will be more than glad you did.

"Ladies and Gentlemen, Children of All Ages. Come One, Come All and Welcome to the Greatest Show On Earth!"

Friday, January 29, 2010

Lessons On My Personal Journey

This month I am more than pleased to share with you some tremendous insight from my oldest son, Matthew Souders. Matthew is almost 21, single (for all you girls out there), loves our Lord, and is active in Air Force ROTC.

Matthew, a couple of years ago, attended a Discipleship Training School in Montana, and then later returned to work there for a year as an Intern. It was not only a time of growth in our Lord, but since his return to see what God has done in his life since then has far surpassed what a Dad could hope for. He like the rest of us have not "arrived" but we are On The Journey with our Lord Jesus Christ, daily.

A father hopes that his children will have a real, and vibrant relationship with our Abba Father and not just get 'caught up' in religious duty or function, OR just 'do church' which often becomes a substitute for walking with God. Matthew wrote this Update Letter to all his fellow interns as well as to current and former staff of Potter's Field Ranch. Matthew had no clue that when he was writing it that "Dad" would post his letter or even want to since it wasn't written for that reason. (It is done so with his permission, of course). I am very proud to share this with you (as I am thankful for all my children's walk with God and the Lessons On The Journey with God they are experiencing). It is my hope that as you read it, you will glean as much insight from the heart of a 'young man after God's own heart' as I have. Feel free to share it with others.

Lessons On The Journey,

Pastor Greg Souders

[The Letter]:

Hello everyone. Today I am going to break down my update into sections, yes that is right I said sections. So go ahead and grab a chair, take a bathroom break, get stretched, and grab a stress ball and get ready for stuff that most of us won't admit and that what might be my most straight forward letter that I have ever written. No I am not writing a depressing letter, just an honest letter about the following:

1. (EVERYONE) I'm NOT engaged!

2. Life since the Ranch

3. [Personal admonishments to individuals omitted in this posting]

4 [Personal admonishments to individuals omitted in this posting]

5. (EVERYONE) The Relationship God has always desire

1. (EVERYONE) I'm NOT engaged!

As I said, I'm not engaged so there goes a lot of stress! Man, I must admit there are way too many of ya'll getting married. Ya'll are making a brother feel like I am doing something wrong. But God has put some amazing people in my life, both those whose walk is strong, those that are desiring a deeper relationship with Abba, and those whose walk are nowhere near where they need to be. And I thank Abba everyday for them, because, I can be real about what goes on in my life, I get the opportunity to be a light, to be a mentor, and still be a child sitting in Dad's lap just basking in His radiant love and presence.

2. Life since the Ranch

Since we last parted ways, I have begun attending college about an hour away from my home pursuing a degree in History. Sorry I love history for it truly shows just how amazing God is, and what a beautiful story He has and is writing. My main area of study would have to be the crusades, weird, but who said ya had to agree. Anyway, God provided me with a the chance to move into the dorm last semester to be an ROTC RA, translation, put up with freshman cadets who play way to many video games. But they are some really neat guys so hopefully they will begin to see Jesus in me the more I spend time with them, but I am going to just be real with them and admit when I err and when I am wrong and let them know where I stand. When I say real, some of ya'll are probably sitting there and reading this going what does this word "real" mean. In a nutshell, it the process of honestly admitting that I am a man who has encountered an awesome Savior, and is willing to admit that I don't have all the answers when it comes to questions and willing to admit that I sin just like everyone else.

5. (EVERYONE) The Relationship God has always desired

I have learned that we often as followers of Jesus constantly put up this mask that says (sorry for the bluntness but its true) "SCREW OFF I AM DOING FINE" and we wonder why people don't find us compelling or willing to ask us the difficult questions. We have replaced the awesome relationship with Abba that we are given through Jesus, with religious function. We promote our church, our programs, our new ministry, our new pastor, building, children's church, youth group, social event, all for the sake of a new member instead of the person of Jesus and the relationship with Abba that He has given us. Why? I want an answer. Email me with an answer. It saddens me that we care more about a building that could burn to the ground in an instant than the people who desperately need Jesus and His saving grace.

When reading the Bible, you will notice in the New Testament that Jesus has many encounters with the Pharisees and we always sit there and say yeah get 'em Jesus, but we never stop to really look at these men that Jesus often reached out to. Pharisees at the time, were the best theologians in their time, they observed every holiday, tried their best appear holier than thou, and always had an answer. But even with all this "righteousness" they believed they had obtained, Jesus still said they were like white washed tombs with dead men's bones on the inside. We read this and wonder what did this mean, Jesus was simply telling them, you cannot be good enough. Pharisees not being good enough? No one ever wonders what must the Pharisees thought when they heard this...I imagine them saying "I can't be good enough, does Jesus know who I am? I attend the temple every Sunday morning, Sunday night, Monday night Bible Study, Tuesday night Evangelism class, Wednesday night service, Thursday night church bingo, Friday night youth/college group, plus I have memorized the entire Bible cover to cover in original Greek, Hebrew, Latin and Spanish and French, and English on top of daily devotions and prayers everyday of the week 24/7. ME NOT GOOD ENOUGH?"

Why, you ask did I mention the Pharisees, because that is what we have become.!!!!!!!!!!. We have turned the awesome relationship that we have with God the Father and instead have traded it in for religious functions, jargin, and motions just to check off our Jesus box for the day or week. But if I were to ask everyone right now over the phone (which ya'll never answer, and yes I have called) I can guarantee that not a single person can tell me what their respected pastor's life changing message was 1 month ago, 2 weeks ago, or even last Sunday in detail without notes. Why? Because it has become function/habitual just soak in week after week after week of 104 life changing messages that apparently mean nothing to you or most of our brothers and sisters in Christ. I am in the same boat. I'm tired of religious games that we play with God, instead I am trading in all my religious functionality, games, religious jargon, for relationship with an awesome Savior and my Heavenly Father.

And just because I read a couple of ya'lls recent letters, we are in 24/7 ministry. And that is regardless of the building we are in. Example: A Navy Seal does not stop being a seal when he clocks out at the end of his shift, he is always a seal and will answer the call when and if it comes while he is "off the clock" there is never a rest period. What is it that makes us think that we have to be in a church building or organization to do ministry? I don't stop studying for a class just because the class is dismissed, I constantly am studying so that I will be prepared when I go back to class. Again why do we think that our ministry starts at 0800-1700hours/5days a week?

Simply my challenge for everyone is right now to open your bibles to John 17:3-26. Read it . Learn/UNDERSTAND it and then apply it. For when we realize that our first priority as dearly loved children of God is to know intimately Abba, abiding in Him, it makes life all the more worthwhile living for Him unto Him that Jesus might receive glory. Even if I never attend another church service, college group, and I am stranded on a desert isle with a volleyball named Wilson, my relationship with God will never diminish or change, it can only grow closer and more intimately and more deeply in love, sitting in Abba's lap just knowing the deep love he has for each and every one of us is worth all time and energy I can produce. That my beloved brothers and sisters is worth it all. If you don't like what I have had to say, tough, I said I would be honest. If you are that offended by it, call me I'm not afraid to answer, because I love each and everyone deeply. If you don't have my number it is at the bottom.

For those of you who are getting married, CONGRATULATIONS! I am sorry that I cannot at this time attend a lot of ya'll know that my prayers and blessings of happiness and joy and long life are with you and that I look forward to the day when I see each one of you face to face.

Learning to simply trust and learning what it means to be loved by Abba,

Matthew Gregory Souders

John 17:3

[Cell phone number not published for blog]