Saturday, December 27, 2008

IMAGINE - Ministry without Blame (My Heart's Cry)

As a new Pastor, I often find myself in prayer simply repenting for many things I’ve learned that do not please God. There is so much He is revealing to me, and I thank God for it. Yet, I am grieved. I’m grieved at the state of the church, and my prayer is that I will never cause the church to “look bad”. God is revealing so much to me. He is opening my eyes to so much. Most of all, He’s reminding of many things He’s allowed me to see in the past, yet I spoke nothing. I must now speak.

One of my biggest fears in ministry has been becoming a reproach to the Body of Christ. Too often, the people of God suffer because of the "public" mistakes made by someone else in ministry. How many times have you heard excuses from those who don't attend a church that reference how Christians are fake, selfish and hypocritical? Too many people are hurt by those who call themselves ministers of God. Too much disappointment comes from those who claim to live holy lives.

Of course, none of us are perfect. Yet, we too often use the "I'm only human" excuse. Are we not supposed to strive for perfection? Should we not be holy as God is holy? I know that I have made many mistakes in ministry. Yet, God is faithful, and love covers a multitude of sin. When my mistakes are truly mistakes, God covers. He knows our motives and will make them known. Even the world knows those who have a pure heart from those who express excuses to cover their evil motives.

In Paul's second epistle to the church at Corinth, he spoke of the characteristics of a pure a blameless ministry. He encouraged the believers to think about more than themselves. He admonished them to remember that their actions represented the Body of Christ. For that reason, they were to be careful of their actions and words.

2 Corinthians 6:3-10 AMP
v3) We put no obstruction in anybody's way [we give no offense in anything], so that no fault may be found and [our] ministry blamed and discredited.

First and foremost, Paul speaks of a ministry that causes no offense. In other words, the ministers of God are blameless. Now, this doesn’t mean they will never cause anyone to be angry. The power, however, is that when we remove personal offence, only conviction remains. The word of God will sting. The word will rebuke, correct and even offend. Yet, when the people of God are blameless, no fault can be found in us. Therefore, the ministry is not discredited. Though disagreement may rise, disrespect will not be an issue.

What if the church was without offense? People might disagree with the word we preach, but would not be able to say anything bad about the saints of God. Too often, we offend in the flesh without ever allowing the love of God to flow. So, it’s not the word of God that is rejected, but we are rejected before the word of God is even preached. It’s scary when we consider how many people have missed God, simply because of our own foolish, mean and offensive acts.

Instead of focusing on obedience to God and fearful respect of Him, the majority of our message is how WE must be respected and obeyed. We teach that if someone doesn’t like us, they are cursed. If they offend us, they are in sin. That’s simply not so. It’s not about us. It’s about the word of God. It’s about the love of the Father.

Too many of us are turning people away from the church because of our own evil and selfish ways. We act as if we are the only way to God rather than Jesus Christ, His Son. We are rude and offensive, then cover it up by saying we are only human. We preach that others must “touch not mine anointed, and do my prophets no harm.” We don’t stop to think, pray and consider that perhaps our own actions were not of God at all. We have a tendency to forget that the greatest among us must be servants. The greatest of us should be willing and able to repent before those who hear our messages. We do not have free passes to offend, simply because we carry a title or a certificate.

v4) But we commend ourselves in every way as [true] servants of God: through great endurance, in tribulation and suffering, in hardships and privations, in sore straits and calamities,
v5) In beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless watching, hunger;

Endurance in tribulation and suffering… When was the last time we endured through tribulation and suffering from others, without causing our ministries to look bad? How much do we really value integrity?

Jesus warned in Matthew, chapter 5 that we would be ridiculed for righteousness sake. Yet, He also taught that we are not to return insults with insult. We are to “turn the other check.” Unfortunately, we often forget that vengeance belongs to God. It is not for us to speak curses on others because we feel “disrespected.” Instead, it is our job to pray for them and win them over with love. We must be more concerned about their sin than their opinions of us or our ministries.

Then, there are the beatings, imprisonments, labors, watching, hunger… Let’s be honest. Many of us don’t understand suffering for the sake of ministry at all. Many of us don’t even carry our own Bibles. Many of us don’t know what it’s like to preach without a mint and a crystal glass of water or tea. We believe we are to be served, and if we do suffer, just a little… someone is going to get rebuked. Where were the deacons? Where was the armorbearer? This is our thinking. Service? Suffering? They are still too foreign to us.

v6) By innocence and purity, knowledge and spiritual insight, longsuffering and patience, kindness, in the Holy Spirit, in unfeigned love;

The characteristics of a godly ministry are very clear. Innocence means “not guilty”. Purity means holiness, sinless, sanctified for the use of the Father. Knowledge and spiritual insight speaks to revelation… a TRUE RELATIONSHIP with God. That’s far more important than years of education or even years spent in the “church.” Tenure is not God’s priority. In fact, for many of us, tenure is more of a shame than a trophy. Twenty years in the church, but you’ve caused no change. How dare we sit in the midst of hell, disguised as a house of God, yet say nothing. I am guilty. God called me as a prophet, yet I refused to open my mouth. Why? Religion, control… God is tired. Who will stand?

Have we forgotten longsuffering and patience? Have we forgotten KINDNESS and love? People of God, we must stop being so concerned about being right that we forget mercy and kindness. Rebuke is godly correction – not instruction on how WE think things should be. What has God said? In many of our rebukes to others, if we would be honest, God never said anything concerning the matter, except that we should pray for that person and love them.

What are we really trying to prove? As Jason Upton sang in a song called “It Ain’t Easy,” when we learn to love like God, we learn to “give it all, and get nothing back!”

v7) By [speaking] the word of truth, in the power of God, with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand [to attack] and for the left hand [to defend];

True ministry brings forth truth. Jesus stated that those who are His disciples shall know the truth, and the truth shall make us free! So, why is there so much bondage? It’s not a testimony, leaders, to have people following who are more afraid and reverent of you than they are of God. That’s not a testimony, but a disgrace. You have accepted the position of an idol. Repentance is of the essence. Priorities must be reordered. Preach TRUTH, not self! Preach relationship, not tradition.

v8) Amid honor and dishonor; in defaming and evil report and in praise and good report. [We are branded] as deceivers (impostors), and [yet vindicated as] truthful and honest.

Can you imagine being found innocent of EVERY accusation? How many ministries would truly stand? In other words, how many of us would stand? We don’t realize that WE ARE MINISTRY. Ministry is your service unto God. If you are not pure, your ministry is not pure! Why do we think we can live like the world as long as our churches grow? As long as the website gets hits and people send us email messages, we feel that our lives can be out of order. We have it all wrong. You are to be a living sacrifice unto God. It’s your reasonable service. It is ministry. When you stand before God, after being dishonored by others, does He find you innocent? Is repentance a regular practice for you, or just something you preach to others? Your ministry is not those you lead… It’s the life YOU lead before God – naked and exposed!

v9) [We are treated] as unknown and ignored [by the world], and [yet we are] well-known and recognized [by God and His people]; as dying, and yet here we are alive; as chastened by suffering and [yet] not killed;

Wow! Unknown by the world? Are we really? What is our motive? What is our ambition? Television broadcasts… Nice clothes… Big cars… Elaborate homes… CD’s…Millions in self-worth… Why is a good thing for the latest gospel artist to be played on the R&B station or BET? Are these not the ambitions of many in “ministry?” What happened to being separate from the world – even unknown and hated by the world? Somehow, the ambitions of the world have become our own. In our warped thinking about evangelism, we have brought the world into the house of God, claiming we want to “draw them.” Jesus said that those who belong to Him would be drawn by the Father. Are we so afraid to be the remnant? Are we so terrified of being the elect, a peculiar nation? Or do we simply not trust God to draw His own? He doesn’t need our help. He desires our obedience. The world does not belong in His house.

We are to be recognized by God and His people. We are recognized by our sacrifice. Popularity is not our motive. Fame is not our plight!

v10) As grieved and mourning, yet [we are] always rejoicing; as poor [ourselves, yet] bestowing riches on many; as having nothing, and [yet in reality] possessing all things.

When we operate in TRUE ministry, we experience a peace that passes all understanding. Rather than blaming others for our sufferings, we rejoice in them. Our possessions mean nothing beside the love of God that we feel. We rejoice simply in knowing our Father is pleased.

Hmmm…. True ministry! Selah!

Saints of God, pray with me and FOR me. I want to please God. I take ministry VERY seriously and my motives must always be pure before Him. I’m tired of “church as usual.” I want to be the one who has signs following. I want to hear God clearly. I want to be a blessing to people. I want to be known as a servant. I want to see people reconciled to the Father. I’ve seen the games, and my heart hurts for those who are deceived and for those who are deceiving. Many are making resolutions for 2009 even now. Let’s make a decision to truly be God’s vessels in the earth. Prophets, decide that you will no longer be silent. Evangelists, make up your mind to preach the TRUTH. God is merciful, but He is also just. Apostles, set order. Don’t be discouraged when they leave. Pastors, take opportunities to serve and stop demanding to be served. Teachers, teach the Word of God and stand up against the teachings of your denomination. REVIVAL is imminent. I want to be a part!

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