3 Reforms Needed in the Church

2944813f856f876da02e15e0a5f5083bIn these tumultuous days in which we live, it seems the importance of having good character is becoming a thing of the past. Character is defined as, “the aggregate of features and traits that form the individual nature of some person or thing; qualities of honesty, courage, or the like; integrity.” Integrity adds another nuance to character: “the state of being whole, entire, or undiminished.” Perhaps the reason character seems to be lacking is because there are fewer people who are whole. It’s pretty obvious that our culture is broken in many ways; families and relationships are broken because people are broken. Brokenness is the result of sin in our lives.

Those of us who are Jesus followers should be the most whole people on the planet. After all, the unblemished, unbroken One lives within us. But even within the Church, many are broken as well. Something is missing. After over 2,000 years of Church history, we aren’t really much different from the rest of the world. There’s too many things to list in this short article that are still rampant in the Church. Sexual immorality, addictions, deception, abuse, divorce, rebellion, depression are just the tip of the iceberg. Why is this? What are we doing wrong? Undoubtedly, books could be written on this topic, but a few things seem obvious.

  1. Wounded leaders produce wounded followers. This is a big one. You reproduce what’s inside you. Too many leaders have unhealed issues and are ministering out of their woundedness. Education and training are not enough to lead God’s people well. Leaders must be committed to wholeness, first in themselves. Then they can minister more effectively to their congregations, leading them into wholeness.
  2. Church structure is unbiblical. Another big one. When one or two people are the main leaders everyone suffers. The leaders burn out; the leaders and people become codependent. Immaturity is fostered in the body. People are not taught, equipped or challenged to grow up apart from a balanced leadership team of five-fold ministers. Leaders should be raised up continually so the body expands, matures, and unifies, to further spread the kingdom, not the Church. This means going out into the culture to reform it according to kingdom principles. Many churches focus on their own needs, their own issues and ministering continually to one another. This is not what Jesus taught or modeled with His disciples.
  3. Incomplete theology. I would venture to say that the majority of teaching in the Church is based on head knowledge, not experiential knowledge. Those who have been taught “about God” rather than led into experiencing Him personally, are easily dissuaded when faced with objections, opposition, or persecution. By contrast, those who have had genuine God encounters will generally stand firm and immovable in their faith when shakings occur. Rather than learning the art and discipline of meditating in the Word, wrestling in prayer, and waiting on God, most believers are spoon fed each week, relying on their pastors to “hear from God.” Instead of persevering in prayer, many give up and decide it must not have been “God’s will,” or that God has abandoned or is angry with them. In our instantaneous gratification society, we often take matters into our own hands rather than waiting for God to move.

There are undoubtedly many other reasons for our current condition. But these three keys, I believe, are vital to reforming the Church so that we can do what Jesus commanded us – to make disciples of all nations. (Matt. 28:19-20) It is time for a new wineskin, a new perspective. The old ways have not and are not working. It is time for the body to become whole; to reflect the true nature and character of Christ. It is time to be the salt and light, transformational elements in our culture. This is what it truly means when we pray, “…on earth, as it is in heaven.”

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How Desperate are You for Change?

fish escape conceptI’ve been involved in healing ministry for the past 20 plus years. It’s been mainly spiritual and emotional, but also supernatural physical healing as well. I’ve learned a lot about healing and about people over those years. In regards to people, I’ve come to realize that we are all very stubborn and resistant to change. I say we, as I’m including myself, as well. We are resistant to change because change requires work, and we also tend to be mostly lazy.

I saw this time and again with people who said they wanted to be free from traumas and various bondages they were in. Yet they were often unwilling to let go of the sin, the lies they believed, or the grievances they had that gave place to the bondages. The effort required to renew their minds seemed overwhelming, so rather than pushing through, they chose to give up. In truth, we usually want a quick fix to get us out of our pain. It is also true that we make time for the things that are important to us. Those who did get healed and free were desperate enough to do whatever it took to get there.

Over the past few months, the Lord has been greatly impressing upon my heart the area of health and nutrition. I see it as an extension of the healing ministry I’ve been a part of; another facet of the diamond, so to speak. Scripture says our bodies are fearfully and wonderfully made (Ps. 139:14) and it is true! Science and the medical industry are continually learning new things about the incredible ways our bodies work and what they are capable of. In this early stage of my new journey, I am more in awe every day of God’s magnificent design, seen in the human body.

I am also learning that so much of our quality of life is determined by our diet. Stress and anxiety also play a big role in affecting our health. I see and hear so many people talk of how tired they are, or how sick they’ve been. They go on about this medicine they’re taking and the side effects they’re dealing with, how much weight they need to lose, chronic pain they’ve had, and a host of other issues. It’s sad to say the least. But the good news is, it doesn’t always have to be that way. We can help turn our health around by making better choices in how we eat, sleep, and exercise. learning new ways to alleviate as much stress and anxiety from our lives will also help.

Which brings us back to what I said at the beginning – we humans are mostly resistant to change because we are lazy and don’t want to do the work required. So we go on in our dysfunction, be it spiritual, emotional, or physical, and take on a victim identity. The really sad part is that we choose that because it is familiar and comfortable, even if it is slowly killing us! It is easier to blame everything and everyone, than to take responsibility for our health and our lives, and do something different.

I want to say that I know not everyone or every situation falls into this category. There are always exceptions to the rule. There are times when every possible option is explored and still there are no answers. I am in no way meaning to discount anyone’s suffering. We do live in a fallen world, and therefore, bad, unexplainable things, sometime happen to good people, people who are desperate for healing. No one but God has all the answers. I am speaking to, and hoping to challenge, those of us who can do something about our situation. We can change our diet, how we handle stress, how much we exercise, etc., if we really want to.

I don’t know your situation or where you stand, but for me, I am ready to make some changes. I am sick and tired of being sick and tired. I am desperate enough to do whatever it takes – how about you?

Recognize and Get Free From Unrealistic Expectations

Have you ever expected something from someone that they didn’t live up to? I’m sure reality-check-ahead-sign-unrealistic-stealing-dreams-blog-e1407820920643-400x400every person that has ever lived or ever will, has. I suppose it is just part of our human nature. We expect things from the people around us all the time, mostly without realizing it. We expect our friends and family to be there when we need them. We expect our spouse or significant other to always love us. We expect our children to adopt our values. We expect others to be grateful when we help them. These are just a few examples.

It’s not necessarily wrong to expect certain things from others. But when we expect more than they are capable of giving or doing, our expectations are unrealistic. When we have unrealistic expectations, we set ourselves up to be hurt and disappointed. Years ago when I was very wounded, I actually expected my husband to be able to read my mind…no joke. I had some pretty serious issues. Each time he failed to do so, which was pretty much all the time, my heart was more deeply wounded. As I later learned, no one is capable of reading my mind, other than God. It wasn’t my husband’s fault or intention to hurt me, it was my own naivete or stupidity that was at fault. It was a lie I was believing from the enemy.

I have seen many others fall into this same trap. Maybe you have, too. So how do we avoid making this same mistake? First, ask the Lord to show you any unrealstic expectations you may have towards anyone. One possible sign is continual conflict in relationships, or a pattern of broken relationships. Another is continual feelings of anger, resentment, bitterness, or betrayal. Be honest with yourself when you are hurt by someone. Ask yourself what you were expecting from that person. If your expectation seemed reasonable, then try talking through the issue or get counseling from a third person if needed. If you were expecting more than was humanly possible, take responsibility for your mistake, apologize, and seek forgiveness.

Sometimes it may help to put yourself in the other person’s place. How would you feel if they were expecting from you, what you were expecting from them? Ask the Lord to show you the lies you may be believing. Renouce and break agreement with them, and receive His truth. Avoid blame shifting; it never resolves anything but only adds to the problem and the hurt. Look to the Lord to fulfill the needs only He can meet. Some needs aren’t meant to be fulfilled by people. God designed us to be dependent upon Him first and foremost. What we receive from others is then just icing on the cake. Expecting others to be your all, to make you happy, complete, satisfied or fulfilled will only lead to hurt, anger, and disappointment. It isn’t that others may not want to be that, but that they cannot. They aren’t made to, and neither are you made to be someone’s all in all.

Take responsibility for your unrealstic expectations and do whatever is necessary to change them. This will set you free to love and enjoy your relationships without the weight of those expectations being placed upon them. Changing your beliefs will also help prevent unnecessary hurt and disappointment. Remember that even those with the best intentions will let you down at times, all of us do. We are all in need of God’s infinite grace and mercy!

 

The Deception of Denial

denialIt has been said that the first step to healing is to acknowledge one’s need of it. Living in denial is a deceptive trap that keeps us in bondage. An example of this is seen in Mark 2:15-17: While Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s house, many tax collectors and sinners were eating with Him and His disciples, for there were many who followed Him. When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw Him eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they asked His disciples: “Why does He eat with tax collectors and sinners?” On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

The tax collectors and sinners recognized their need of a Savior, and followed Him. The Pharisees and teachers of the law, on the other hand, showed contempt of His association with those considered the outcasts of society. Their self-righteousness blinded them to their own need, thus, cutting themselves off from His salvation and mercy.

When we live in denial, we create our own false reality that is rooted in pride. This can be seen in those who believe that everyone else is the problem; they couldn’t possibly be to blame. When others disagree with our views, we automatically believe that they are wrong, we certainly couldn’t be! Denial is also categorized by refusal to acknowledge painful memories, thoughts or feelings. Doing so, of course, cannot make them go away. Facing the truth about ourselves and/or our hurtful situations is very hard, but it’s the only way to get healing and freedom. 

Jeanne McElvaney wrote, “There is a moment in our healing journey when our denial crumbles; we realize our experience and it’s continued effects on us won’t “just go away”. That’s our breakthrough moment. It’s the sun coming out to warm the seeds of hope so they can grow our personal garden of empowerment.” 

Jesus said that when we know the truth, the truth will set us free. May God give us all the grace we need to face the truth, acknowledge our need of healing, and receive the freedom He has already paid for and longs for us to have.

The Dilemma of Unanswered Prayer

If you’ve been a believer in Jesus for very long, no doubt you’ve experienced thewoman-praying dilemma of unanswered prayer. I believe no one is exempt from it. Yet many turn away from God because of it. In my daily conversations with Him, the topic often comes up. I’m always the one that brings it up, of course. I have been walking through a season of unanswered prayer that has lasted many years. Those of you who know me, know I have had ongoing health issues for over twenty years. I have had more people pray for me than I can possibly remember – even people that are well known for their healing anointing on an international level.

As an intercessor, I strongly believe in the power of prayer. I direct a healing ministry that has seen many, many healings and miracles over the past eight years. I have personally prayed for people and seen them get healed. I even pray over myself every day. I believe it is God’s will for everyone to be healed (1 Peter 2:24), just as it is His will for everyone to be saved (2 Peter 3:9). But everyone doesn’t get saved, and likewise, not everyone gets healed. There are many reasons for this, too many to mention in this short article.

So how do we respond in the face of unanswered prayers? Here is how I choose to respond:

1. I believe God’s Word is true and He cannot lie. Just because it hasn’t happened yet doesn’t mean it won’t. I refuse to give up believing and pressing in for my healing.

2. I believe God promises to work all things together for my good. (Rom. 8:28) Though the enemy is the one who brings sickness and infirmity, God’s plans for me are bigger and greater than any plans the enemy may have. He has already brought much good through this trial – I am growing in my faith; I have greater compassion for the sick and suffering; I have drawn closer to God because of my great need for Him; I am growing in patience; and these are just a few!

3. When other believers say or imply things like, “You don’t have enough faith,” or, “You must have sin in your life,” (which are things we are often taught and can, at times, be true) I have had the opportunity to exercise grace and forgiveness, and to go before the Lord to see if what they are saying is true. Twenty years gives one abundant time to do a lot of soul searching!

4. I am learning the art of waiting on God. For more on what this means, see my article, The Crucible of Waiting Upon God. God’s ways and timing are not like ours. He is more interested in the process than in the final destination. For Him, it is always about relationship, not our personal comfort. He is always good, so when He allows pain to touch our lives, His purposes for doing so are always redemptive. When we don’t understand His ways, we can always trust His nature and character.

5. While I am in this season of waiting, I am learning the importance of taking better care of my body. It’s sad, but so often true, that we take our good health for granted, until we lose it. I am finding natural alternatives to help heal and restore my body that have helped tremendously. I am also learning to eat healthier. There is so much sickness that can be prevented just by changing our diets.

6. I continue to pray for others to be healed. It doesn’t make sense that He wouldn’t want us to have what He has already paid for. As I see many of these prayers answered, it stirs my faith anew to continue to stand firm and believe for my own.

7. I often think about the testimony I will be able to share when my healing is complete. I believe that testimony will encourage and empower many others who have been waiting for years to receive their own healing. What a glorious day that will be!

If you’re walking through a season of unanswered prayer, how are you choosing to respond?

The Power and Purpose of the Gift of Discernment

In over twenty years of ministry, I’ve run into a lot of confusion and misunderstanding fiery dovewhen it comes to the spiritual gift of discernment. I don’t claim to be an expert on it, by any means. Most of what I have learned about it has come the hard way, by making mistakes along the way. I hope this brief article will provide some clarity.

The gift of discernment is listed in the spiritual gifts list found in 1 Corinthians 12:7-10, where it is referred to as “discerning of spirits.” It is also mentioned in Hebrews 5:14. Both of these verses use the same Greek word which literally means, “to separate, discriminate; to learn by discriminating, to determine, decide, a judging; judicial estimation.”  In 1 Corinthians 14:29, it is used of “discerning” what is of the Holy Spirit in a gathering of believers where prophecies are spoken. It’s primary purpose is to discern what God is doing and/or saying in a meeting or situation.

In 1 Corinthians 11:31, the same word is used in judging oneself, “For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged.” This refers to discerning whether we are operating in the Spirit, in our soul, or in the flesh. This is its second purpose. This includes discerning if other people are, as well. However, this is not for the sake of making a character call of anyone. Discernment can tell you what someone is operating in, whether Spirit, soul, or demonic spirit, but it doesn’t tell you how they got to that place.

It’s third purpose is for discerning the operation of demonic spirits. In Acts 16:16-18, we see Paul operating in this kind of discernment. “Once when we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a slave girl who had a spirit by which she predicted the future… This girl followed Paul and the rest of us, shouting, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved.” She kept this up for many days. Finally Paul became so troubled that he turned around and said to the spirit, “In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her!” At that moment the spirit left her.” Though the spirit speaking through her was telling the truth, Paul’s spirit was troubled and he recognized it as an evil spirit and set her free from it.

When God reveals something through the gift of discernment and we mistakenly use it to judge or accuse someone, we are partnering with the accuser of the brethren, Satan. This grieves God’s heart greatly, for His purpose in revealing it, especially if it’s negative, is so we will partner with His heart in intercession for that person to be set free. I have ministered to many believers who have been deeply wounded by brothers or sisters who used their “discernment” to call them out and judge them. Others have been ostracized and slandered because of gossipers who often share what they believe they discerned as a “prayer request” for a backslidden brother or sister.

Discernment is not suspicion; there is no spiritual gift of suspicion. If we are operating in suspicion, we need healing and possibly deliverance. Discernment is not judging for the sake of condemning. In Hebrews 5:14 we are told discernment comes with maturity. “But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.” It is God’s way of sharing His heart with us for those who are wounded and trapped in bondage. Our response should be the same as His, mercy and compassion that fuels our prayers that He would heal and deliver them. If we are found faithful, we may be privileged to be the one He uses to set them free!

Avoiding Burnout

Burnout is a topic that comes up often in conversations, especially when one is involved burnoutin ministry. I read and hear stories, almost daily it seems, of pastors and leaders who succumb to various sins, often because of burnout. These include sexual immorality, quitting the ministry, substance abuse, financial dishonesty, divorce, and even suicide. It not only affects the leader and his or her family; the ripples go out far and wide, affecting group/church members and their families.

Pressures from within and without often lead to this state of burnout. Outside pressures can include the needs, demands, and expectations of those within the group or congregation we lead. In addition, there are the needs of the family, which are often neglected because of the above. Personal needs, including time with God, are often last on the list of things to do. When given into, these pressures become a recipe for disaster and certain burnout.

Then there are the pressures within. Legitimate human needs, such as affirmation, validation, acceptance, and love can drive us unwittingly to perform and to prioritize people pleasing above pleasing God, taking care of ourselves, and our families. These needs can make it difficult to set healthy boundaries and say “no” to people when necessary. This behavior, over time, leads to resentment, anger, and bitterness because people cannot meet those needs, not even the ones who love us the most. This behavior, in turn, will lead to burnout.

So how can we avoid burnout? As in all matters of life, Jesus is our perfect role model. Though He was constantly surrounded by needy people, He was never driven to meet every need. He Himself clearly said, “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by Himself; He can do only what He sees His Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.” (John 5:19) When ministry became hectic, He understood the need to rest. Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, He said to them, “Come with Me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”  (Mark 6:31) Jesus modeled our need to spend time with Him and the Father. But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed. (Luke 5:16) He understood our need for affirmation, love, and acceptance. “As the Father has loved Me, so have I loved you. Now remain in My love.” (John 15:9)

Often, healing and deliverance are needed to bring the wholeness that enables us to resist these pressures, and thus, burnout. Issues such as unmet needs from childhood, lack of identity or purpose, absence of one or both parents, abuse, rejection, or abandonment by parents or others, etc., must be resolved – they don’t just go away. Whether we realize it or not, we live, and minister, out of these areas of wounding and the lies we believe as a result. Consequently, we reproduce what we are, for we can only give to others what we have within.

Burnout can be avoided if we receive healing and resolution to our own personal issues, learn to make quality time with God our first priority, and spending time with family above time spent in ministry. Learning to get enough rest, eat healthy, and exercise are also important to maintain our own physical, mental, and even spiritual strength. Though this may sound difficult for some, it is possible, by God’s grace. Jesus wants a whole, healthy bride, which must start with whole, healthy leaders.

Have you struggled with burnout? Did you overcome it, and if so, how? Please share your comments.