Priority makes the way!

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Acts 3:6  Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.”

     The power of priority is one of the quiet eternal principles that work in our universe yet so few seem to ‘get it’!  Peter’s priorities were aligned with God and His righteousness.  Although Peter didn’t have any money he had the Holy Spirit’s power!  For the crippled beggar who couldn’t walk this was an important distinction.  The beggar was looking for a little monetary relief and God through Peter’s ministry gave him a new life.  When it comes to provisioning and daily need, Jesus said; “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” (Matthew 6:33)

     This wisdom is all but lost to my generation and those that follow it.  Sadly it is lost in some who profess to speak in God’s name as a prominent evangelist’s  ’emergency letter’ demonstrates  (quoted in the Let us Reason Ministries website);

“A few days ago I came out of a powerful, anointed time of prayer, feeling the presence of the Lord all over me, with peace flooding my soul and God’s joy in my being.

But when I turned on my BlackBerry cell phone shortly after I was finished with my prayer time, I read an urgent report sent by my Chief Financial Officer informing me that we have vendors to whom we owe money who are threatening to cancel some of our vital services because of the financial struggles that we as a ministry are facing right now due to the hard-hit economy.

Immediately I called my CFO. He told me that we are facing very serious financial circumstances—one of the worst in years—and unless we have a major influx of money right now, we will face a situation where our vendors will discontinue services that are absolutely essential for our survival as a ministry….”

     Counterfeit preachers attempt to poach God’s Grace as they manipulate people through fear, using any edge including gratitude for true healing to get people to give to them as they place themselves between Jesus and us.  Even among sham ministries God does work miracles and pours out His mercy to those who cry out to Him.  We must not forget that both the wicked and the faithful assemble together;  “. . .  his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way. ”  (Matthew 13:25)  Any preacher that places exorbitant claims upon a person because they have been healed or because they have been shown Grace, is a poacher.  We owe Jesus and no one else!  For the faithful, God alone covers our daily needs and provides – no one else!

     One telling mark of a poacher preacher is in who he turns to in times of need or trouble.  Chief Financial Officers, fundraisers, management gurus or charismatic personality are all idols that poachers prop up beside their pulpits to beguile their ‘marks’.  In extreme cases instead of relying on God, the poaching preacher puts himself on the cross and asks his people to intervene for his sake making a parody of the True Gospel.   From  that point on starts the manipulation through guilt and shame as well as grasping claims on the honest gratitude of people who feel blessed by God’s Grace.  God in Hosea’s day saw this and nailed the false priests;   “They eat up the sin of my people, and they set their heart on their iniquity. And there shall be, like people, like priest: and I will punish them for their ways, and reward them their doings. For they shall eat, and not have enough: they shall commit whoredom, and shall not increase: because they have left off to take heed to the LORD. ” (Hosea 4:8,9,10)  

     It is easy to point to the outrages of extreme cases.  It is far harder to discern when we stray from trusting God for our daily needs and turn the idolatry of management paradigms, fundraising gimmicks or charismatic personalities.  Like the proverbial frog placed in lukewarm water, we can’t (or don’t want to) notice the slow heating up of the water until it boils and then the damage is done.  Every person in the assembly of the faithful is responsible for knowing God’s Word and maturing in the knowledge of it.  God’s Word and the growth of the faithful in His Word is the way to freedom from manipulation.   The early church did this; “And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.” (Acts 2:42)

     Let no one stand between you and Jesus.  If you keep your priorities straight and aligned with God then you will walk in His Grace and Power – like Peter, Paul and the Apostles.   Many healings, many miracles of Grace and provisioning  occur quietly and powerfully in today’s true church.  Any faithful person can walk with the Holy Spirit’s Power just like in the days of the early church – it just isn’t usually televised.   The world takes no notice.  Whether you have silver and gold won’t matter because these things are not priorities.  His will and His way matter more than anything else; in them are life and life in abundance (John 10:10). 

     Jesus said:  “If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.” (John 15:7)

     Praise the Lord!

Cut to the heart

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Acts 2:36,37 “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.” When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”

     When the Holy Spirit came at Pentecost those in the church fell under His influence; “All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.” (Acts 2:4)  Onlookers who had gathered heard their own languages being spoken.  Some were amazed; “. . . we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” (Acts 2:11).  Some thought the speakers were drunk.  Peter addressed the crowed and explained what was happening.  He concluded with the hammer blow which placed the guilt of the people squarely on them.  They were guilty, guilty, guilty!

     I can’t help but wonder  how it might have turned out different if Peter had been more mealy-mouthed, more accommodating, more inclusive.  What if Peter preached a message that was designed to help people feel better about themselves?   How would the people have responded? I don’t think they would have cried out; “What shall we do?”  Had Peter preached a different message he may have started a mega church right there in the first century! 

     What would have happened  had Peter preached a message based on a common church outreach paradigm operating today; “I believe that the responsibility in this Age is to ‘positivize’ religion. Now this probably doesn’t have much bearing to you people, being Unity people, you’re positive. But I talk a great deal to groups that are not positive… even to what we would call Fundamentalists who deal constantly with words like sin, salvation, repentance, guilt, that sort of thing.”  (Robert Schuller quoted in Let us Reason Ministries)  What if Peter hadn’t been a ‘fundamentalist’ and instead of sticking to the facts he had ‘positivized’ his message to the onlookers that day at Pentecost?

     Let us Reason Ministries have argued that Peter achieved the same end with a different message; “Peter had the same results with a different presentation in Acts 2. His was by the power of God through a scorching presentation of the gospel to the people that rejected Jesus. He did not cater to their sensitivity.” (Ibid)  I disagree for two reasons. 

     People are not cut to the heart by the ‘feel good positivized’ gospel.  It is a counterfeit gospel and as such produces counterfeit results.   One blogger puts it this way;   “Finding a mega church without an American Idol running the show . . . . is rare indeed. It’s not just that they put their pastors on pedestals. Many churches are in competition for bragging rights about church size. They all want to move up on the list of the top 1000 largest churches in America and they do not much care how they advance. Whatever works is their overriding methodology.”  Church growth and personal transformation are not the same.

     The telling hallmark of His true church is given in the book of  Acts.  People have a fear of God, a reverence and gratitude that is reflected in all they do.  God’s Word and His Holy Spirit works a transformational miracle in such a church; “And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread and the prayers. And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles.”  (Acts 2:42,43)

     Remember; the Bible calls us to change, to transform;  “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”  (Romans 12:2)

     It all starts with being cut to the heart.

     Praise the Lord!

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