Earning a Living by The Gospel?

In the same way, the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should earn their living by the gospel.

-1 Corinthians 9:14
Is this text a proof text for paying preachers a salary?  It sounds like it, at first glance, but it is not.  
We are accustomed to preachers who preach at their church, week in and week out.  But that is not who Paul, nor Jesus, in the command that Paul is referring to is talking about:

Don’t take a traveling bag for the road, or an extra shirt, sandals, or a staff, for the worker is worthy of his food. -Matthew 10:10

Remain in the same house, eating and drinking what they offer, for the worker is worthy of his wages. Don’t move from house to house. -Luke 10:7

They are talking about traveling apostolic workers.  If you travel, in your gospel ministry, you are in this category.  If you stay put, and don’t travel, you can’t use this verse to get a salary.
People who don’t travel all the time, but stay put and preach mostly in one place, where they live, can take a salary.  It is not forbidden.  But don’t use this text to justify it.

The strangest person in the church today is the pastor, the preacher, or the priest; who is paid to be there and commands a salary from Jesus’ bride.  And we pay him or her to “do the ministry” for us.  This is not at all the church that Jesus and the Apostles had in mind.  Nevertheless, she persisted.

Gordon Fee, in his First Corinthians commentary, lamented that,

“All too often, one fears, the objective of this text is lost in concerns over ‘rights’ that reflect bald professionalism rather than a concern for the gospel itself.” (p. 414)

John Piper did express concern over the gospel and gospel preaching for profit, in a sermon, transcribed at the Desiring God website:  John Piper, Don’t Sell the Gospel:

Piper said that “Gospel-Peddlers”:

  • Crave earthly pleasure.
  • Dread earthly pain

Their false gospel is that:

  • Human prosperity is the gift of salvation. This appeals to the desire for earthly pleasure and replaces God’s worth with money.
  • Human obedience is the price of justification. This appeals to the desire for earthly achievement and replaces God’s grace with morality.

Piper said that the true gospel, that Paul espoused here is that:

  • All the money in the world cannot replace Jesus as our treasure.
  • All the obedience in the world cannot replace Jesus as our righteousness.

John was right in emphasizing the gospel and what Paul was talking about here.  Paul talked about how some people were hung up on their “rights” as a preacher.  And we don’t want to be like that, is what Piper was teaching, from Paul.

Piper, who has had a distinguished vocational career as a local church pastor, did not address the issue of who Paul was referring to, as preachers who earned their living from the gospel.

They were traveling preachers.

The Bible teaches that we should strongly support traveling gospel preachers.  They should be well taken care of.

The Bible, in the NT, does not teach that we should tithe to our local church, to support local church preachers.  Many of us have grown up in and learned tithing for Christians.  We are actually supposed to or encouraged to just give.

Teachers and preachers, who take a salary or need to meet a budget to pay the bills, are in the awkward position (a dual relationship), where they are desperate for cash from congregants; and tithing is for whatever reason, just simpler than the radical freedom in Christ of giving freely.

Instead of encouraging Spirit-filled living in Christ, where we give and get and give some more; preachers teach tithing in a legalistic way.  They teach and preach Malachi 3, or where Jesus mentioned tithing, in a rebuke to the Pharisees in Matthew 23, to advocate tithing for Christians.

Local church preacher, get a job.

The church that the New Testament envisions has traveling apostolic workers, who are taken care of; as in fed, housed, clothed, and remunerated.  Then, the local churches have elders to care for and teach.

We are supposed to support the travelers who can not hold down a job, because their ministries take them far and wide.

Paul, exempted himself from this and instead did tent making to support himself.  Imagine Paul, working all day on tents, while his disciples ran around town perhaps or maybe helped him; and then doing ministry at night, by candle light and on the weekend.

Paul practiced what he preached.  He equipped others for the ministry and then mentored them.

What this text says is that we should be taken care of by the gospel that we preach, if we are traveling ministers.  The same gospel message that saves also opens homes and gives money and feeds us.

A traveling preacher, struggling at a motel, lonely, and eating poorly on the road is not what God has in mind.  Some Christians have forgotten hospitality.

Hospitality is in the gospel.  Jesus made earth, Jesus came to earth, we welcomed him, we took care of him, and he saved us.  Now we do that with each other, when we come and go with the good news.

The NT teaches that everybody works, unless you can not.  The elders and deacons, the people who preach and teach, have jobs that support themselves, outside the pulpit.

Jesus worked.  He had a job and ran the family business, until he began traveling gospel ministry.

To really support pastor salaries, you have to keep the OT priesthood, which Christ did away with; and re-create the clergy-laity dichotomy.  It is easier to see this with the Catholic and and other “high church” traditions, but most every protestant tradition has the same thing.

This is really sad for local pastors who are in this awkward relationship financially, with the people they serve.

But God loves us anyway, even if our traditions are askew to scripture.  I’m so glad that God has always given me His love for the whole church.  I went to non-denominational grad schools where half the students were Catholic at the first one and half the students were Presbyterian at the second one.  The first school had people who believed in transubstantiation and the second had Calvinists and we all got along.

I know a pastor who got his start in ministry California casual churches, who later went into and became a bishop in the Anglican Church, where he wears what looks like a thick bathrobe and preaches about the Anglican traditions.  Why, why, why?  Because God called him to.

My point is that God is working within man-made traditions.  God is into evangelizing.

Even though this man is an Anglican bishop now, he is at his core, an apostolic church planter.  God sent him to the Anglican church to get people saved.  And the church that has had the gospel worked into it has supported him financially.

Back to 1 Corinthians 9:

The previous verse says: “Don’t you know that those who perform the temple services eat the food from the temple, and those who serve at the altar share in the offerings of the altar?” (1 Cor. 9:13)

This also does not justify pastor salaries.  Because verse 14 begins with, “In the same way”.  If you read the whole NT, you know that the OT priesthood is saying goodbye.  And Paul references Jesus’ word about traveling preachers getting support.

Traveling preachers get food, housing, and monies; just like the priests in the old days.

Over the centuries of church history, new church groups have emerged out of old ones, that say, “We are going to follow the Bible!”  The insinuation is that the traditions they are coming out of got off-track.  But they keep one thing that’s been in the Catholic church and many of the incarnations thereafter: the priest, who protestants now call the pastor or the preacher.

And just like in the OT, we must support our priests, who have become and chosen to be set aside for the ministry.

I think that very few people have the gift of celibacy and very few people are traveling preachers who must be supported.  When they get worn out and can not travel, we and their families must continue to support them.  That’s the gospel.

Traveling preachers who have no choice, but to preach on the road and get support from others; are described in Paul’s saying, “Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel.” (1 Cor. 9:16)  Paul could have taken support, and so can you; if you are like Paul, a traveling preacher of the gospel.

If I begin traveling, with the gospel message; I can expect that same gospel to support me.  I met a man, who left the local church pastorate, and began traveling, accepting invites to come and share.  His motto was and is, “If you invite me to come, I will pay my way to get there and back”.  And he says that God always provides the money.

The positive aspect of 1 Corinthians 9:14 is that if God calls you to go out and become a preacher who travels, with the gospel; that it will take care of you.  And you can also be self-supporting, like Paul.

Finding The One

Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul,  and when he found him, he brought him to Antioch. So for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people. The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch.

-Acts 11:25-6 (NIV)
Back when I was single, I was concerned about finding ‘the one’ that I would marry.  I have also been concerned about finding ‘the one’ job and ‘the one’ place to live.  Right now, I have been researching cars, looking for ‘the one’ car.
I remember when I bought a cassette tape, almost 30 years ago, about finding a spouse.  The Bible has a lot of practical advice, but not really the idea of finding ‘the one’.  In a sense, who you select becomes ‘the one’ and the two of you become one.

The Bible does not point us to personality tests or compatibility questionnaires.  It basically says, “walk with the Lord”, and “marry a believer”.

What about the other ‘the one’s’ in our lives: the one job, the one house and the one car to choose?

Are we guided by God and is there a plan?  Yes.  But there is a dance, where we make mistakes and encounter opposition and God re-guides us.

Apostle Paul is an example of a man that God had a plan for.  And that man did good and did bad.  Sometimes God guided and he did not follow.  Many times, he was opposed and kept walking with God and rediscovering the plan.

He walked with God through disappointment, broken hearted failure and just being wrung out.  But he became for us perhaps the number one theologian about Jesus and God’s plan of salvation.  His life’s message might boil down to ‘a man in Christ’.  That’s a pretty good epitaph.

What about the the one, perfect job?  Did you know that a high percentage of people hate their jobs?  Even many pastors say that they would do something else if they could, but they don’t see anything else they could do.
The scripture from Acts 11 is about Barnabas finding Paul and taking him to Antioch.  Paul was ‘the one’ who was going to be a prolific Apostle and was going to write a bunch of letters that would be inspired by God and make it into the canon of scripture.
Of course Paul was an amazing person and his life had massive impact.  But behind Paul and beside Paul, was this special man named Barnabas.  That was actually his nickname.  His real name is the very good name, Joseph.
Barnabas was such an encouraging person that he got the nickname ‘son of encouragement’ which is what Barnabas means.  He was Paul’s friend, mentor, liaison, voucher and reference.
Paul had about three years of a rocky, wild ride in his ministry, before being ‘benched’ by going back to Tarsus for nine years.  At the end of those nine years, Barnabas went to recall Paul and bring him to Antioch.  After about a year, Paul went on his first ministry trip, with Barnabas.
Barnabas was a gifted disciple, but he never exhibited a ‘me first’ or ‘I am the one’ attitude.  He was simply at the service of Jesus and allowed himself to be empowered and assigned ministry jobs including teacher, prophet and apostle.  He neither bossed Paul nor introduced him as ‘the new boss’.
 Paul made mistakes and was in sharp conflict with a couple of his apostolic associates later.  That did not disqualify Paul or make him ‘not the one’ to write New Testament letters.
Most of us have to choose a car, a job and a location to live.  A majority of people choose a spouse.  I know many people who have been married twice and a few who are like C.S. Lewis and past mid-life and are still unmarried.  
You can be fat and happy or unmarried and content.  You can be thin and unhappy or married and  discontented.  A word for the younger people: money, success, power or popularity do not make you happy.  Believe it or not, having a lot of any one of these actually makes you less happy.
Only God can give you happiness.  Remember the word, “Blessed are the poor”?  That does not mean you must have no money to be happy in God.  It does mean that money does not bring happiness.
You actually are positioned better to enter the kingdom if you are not wealthy.  Money is not the root of all evil.  The love of money is the root of all evil.
When I was graduating high school and had to choose a car, I did not know much.  Maybe I got lucky or maybe I got blessed and maybe my dad, knew something, and guided me.  I selected a Toyota.
It was outrageously reliable compared to all the cars I had seen in my family.  I had that car for about ten years.  I sold it with a quarter of a million miles on it for five hundred dollars.
Then, I tried to find the car that would be ‘the one’.  I thought I was wise in not choosing a German sports car, but ended up choosing a more sporty Japanese car.  I ended up having two of these, back to back, that both needed new engines ($$$) after only 50k to 75k miles of ownership.
After those, I actually considered a third try, but then opted for something more reliable, while still being somewhat sporty.  And that anonymous car is now over 200k and that is why I am looking for ‘the one’ again.
My two sports cars were so much fun to drive and I miss that, but I don’t miss the cost.  Life is a balance of enjoyable thrills within your budget.  I have an advice book where the author says you should own a convertible at least once in your life and I can think of three older men I look up to who have owned and ridden Harley Davidsons motorcycles.  Did you ever see the picture on the Chuck Swindoll book, where he is on a motorcycle, with his wife?
I did find the one person to marry and to have a family with.  And I am confident about the car thing.  I know that if I am careful, I can own a car for a year and then resell it with no trouble.  The job, career, calling, ministry, vocation thing is more complicated.
In a sense, I am doing my dream job.  When I was a kid, I had my own audio equipment: tape decks, microphones, radio transmitters and receivers.

And I also had a movie camera and learned to shoot and edit film.  I made a music film to a Toto song in high school and another film to a Tears For Fears song in college.  I also made a short film about the end of the world.

From the end of high school through all my college years, I had many opportunities that knocked to work in making commercials, television or film.  But I had no vocational mentor or coach.  I just had a couple of conservative, electrical engineering career path guys, who supported me in whatever I was going to choose.
And what or who I chose is what or who chose me and that is God.  Out of my life that was in chaos, confusion, fear and a longing for meaning mixed with broken hearted unhappiness came a hunger for God.
In my strategic time of the end of high school through the end of college, with all the dreaming and deciding on what to do, as I made the transition into adulthood; God intervened in my life and drew me to himself.
There are many other details I can’t go into now, on how I came to live where I live and work where I work and about the church I joined for about 14 years, and what I learned and inherited and what was developed in me that I posses today.
And after getting settled into my life with God and having a place to call home and a job, I did want to find the one to marry and a better job or a job that was a ministry job where I could do something more kingdom oriented.
I actually tried out two other careers or jobs and did them at the semi-pro level.  That happened before I got married.  I could not push the river.  I did not find her and even though the chorus said, “just pick one”, I felt like I had not found the person that I had been looking for and that God was going to send me.
God actually gave me a word, a prophecy; a promise verse that was about Janine.  That verse kind of says that all women are not equal in how they live or choose to live their lives and God will give that woman to the man who receives her from him.  I also had an additional prophecy, promise or word about my future that I wrote about, called ‘two-ten in the afternoon‘.
The clue or lesson I have learned in my search for ‘the one’ is my life is God.  The search for ‘the one’ comes out of and goes through and back to how God is ‘the one’.  God, worshipping God and serving God is ‘the one thing’.  God has always and will always be the one for me.  
I have discovered that God has a destiny, calling and inheritance for me that is developing and coming.  I chose that scripture about Paul and Barnabas because God calls and recalls and uses encouraging people in his calling and recalling.

What was Paul thinking and feeling when he went back to Tarsus for those nine years?

I think that whatever happened to Paul in those nine years was very important and had to do with his internal spiritual formation.  I believe he shared his faith and evangelized.  I don’t know if he taught people or had disciples.
Being a Barnabas and finding the Paul’s is an awesome ministry and so important.
The last thing I will say is that all of life is an in-between time and we are often in transition.  You can ruin the time you are in now by sentimentally looking back or discontentedly looking forward.  Remember that, “This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it”.
Not recognizing transition is when ‘good’ becomes the enemy of ‘best’.  The old order gets in the way of the new order.  It is the wineskin that Jesus talked about.  God has new things, new assignments, opportunities, relationships and responsibilities to give us that require new structure.  The new structure has God’s design for that new assignment, in you and for you to serve him.
God has our best for us and we have to let go of the good, to receive it.  Paul had those three rocky years and then went to the sidelines for nine and then was called back up.  God never forgot him and Barnabas got to be God’s representative to get Paul back into what was going to happen.
Imagine the ridiculousness of if Paul never left Tarsus and just stayed there.  He instead was open to change and reforming his call.  That is a good example to follow.

Are we guided by God and God has a plan.  But there is a dance, where we make mistakes and encounter opposition.  Then God re-guides us, renews us and recalls us.  We will have opposition, but we keep walking with God and rediscovering the plan.

The path to the one is in and through The One.  That is the overarching, chief plan of radical union with Christ.

The Lord’s Favorite Place

The Lord loves the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob.

-Psalm 87:2
The Lord has a favorite place on earth.  His favorite place is the place where people come into His presence.  That is what the gates of Zion means.
The gates of Zion is God’s Golden Gate Bridge.
Zion is a place, a mountain, that is real and symbolic.  Zion is the hill that Jerusalem is built on and Zion is the mountain that the temple is built on.  But today it is a place that points to something.
Zion today, is a word that signifies the people of God.  The Lord loves the gates of His people.  The gates signify the entryway and authority of Christ that believers live in with the Lord.
The gates are the ways and the means.  That is to say, the Lord loves the gates of Zion, because the Lord loves people who are living in Christ.  God’s plan has always been for people to come and be transformed and then to go out with Him, into the world.
The gates of Zion are the place where people are transformed.  People come into Christ, through the gates.  Then people go out into the world as God’s missionaries in Christ, through those same gates.
The gates of Zion signify the authority given by Jesus to his church.  Jesus said, 

“All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
-Matthew 28:18-20

Notice that baptism comes before teaching.  The beginning of discipleship is baptism.  This is something I learned recently, from a Baptist friend, who is insightful.

The great commision is to go out and make disciples. And the first thing a disciple does is to get baptized.

Jesus method is to go out and find people, make them disciples and baptize them, where they live.

Baptism is part of mission and evangelism.  I think that if you study baptism in the NT, you will find that it always happens outside of the more formal meetings.  As soon as you become a disciple, you get baptized.

It is natural, powerful and solemn; with prayer, and in the authority of Jesus, which all believers possess.

Jesus simply said, “go out into the world, in my authority. You are all authorized, as missionaries, to make disciples.  And first baptise them.”  There is no mention from him of getting people into the church (meeting houses) first or through catechism or confirmatory classes before the event of baptism.

The gates of Zion, are the authority to say, “you are in”, to people.  And baptising someone, where you find them, says, or is symbolic of, “you’re in”.  Every Christian is authorized by Jesus, to go out, into the world, and find people; to make them disciples and immediately baptize them.

That is the great commission.  That is the assignment from Jesus to all Christians.  This is permission.

The gates of Zion signify coming and going.  Coming into Christ and going out with Christ.  And we do both, through his authority.

And there is also an enemy of Christ in the world.  He also has a kingdom and authority.  A battle is going on between God’s and Satan’s kingdoms.

Jesus said,

“I will build my church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it”                                                           -Matthew 16:18b (ESV)

The gates of Zion prevail over the gates of hell.  The gates of hell means the comings and goings or the commerce of the forces of darkness.  Gates also means power or force, and hell also means hades.

The church has authority over the spiritual forces of darkness in the world today, through Jesus.  There is a battle going on and we are on God’s side.

The authority or authorization that Jesus gives his people, is to take territory and capture people out from the hands or clutches of the enemy.  As the church Jesus builds expands, it also extends into areas or spheres where the enemy has held influence, and takes that territory or spheres of influence away from the enemy and takes it for the kingdom of God.

The church and the people in the church, believers; are the soldiers of God, in the world, who put their feet on the ground and take the territory that Christ makes a way to be taken.  The church was never meant to be just a house of refuge, but the mountain that is Zion, and has authority from Jesus.

The way for the world to be evangelized is to take the church into the world.  And this is part of the destiny, calling and inheritance of the church that Jesus has had in mind.

The Lord has a favorite place on earth.  His favorite place is the place where people come into His presence.  That is what the gates of Zion means.
The gates of Zion is God’s Golden Gate Bridge.
Zion is a place, a mountain, that is real and symbolic.  Zion is the hill that Jerusalem is built on and Zion is the mountain that the temple is built on.  But today it is a place that points to something.
Zion today, is a word that signifies the people of God.  The Lord loves the gates of His people.  The gates signify the entryway and authority of Christ that believers live in with the Lord.

 

Questions About Prophets and Apostles

In the church that was at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius the Cyrenian, Manaen, a close friend of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul.

As they were ministering to the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work I have called them to.” Then after they had fasted, prayed, and laid hands on them, they sent them off.

Being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they came down to Seleucia, and from there they sailed to Cyprus.

-Acts 13:1-4
And God has placed these in the church:

first apostles, second prophets,
third teachers, next miracles,
then gifts of healing, helping,
managing, various kinds of languages.

-1 Corinthians 12:28
A question about prophets:

A lady was complaining about prophets.  She said that the church she attends, has a lot of so called prophets.  She wonders about false prophecies and words about nice cars and jewelry.  The advice of many people, to her, is to run away from this church.  Some people said that the prosperity gospel churches or teachings are heretical and that prophetic ministry today should always be ‘non-profit’.

When we have a problem with someone, it is best to go directly to them.  When you are bumped, you might say, “ouch”, and then, “please stop bumping me”, directly to the person that bumped you.  Assertiveness training is one of the top needs of Christians in churches today, and this is an illustration of that need.

When a situation comes about, of a person giving you a prophetic word, that you don’t want; in other words, you do not want to hear it; you have the right to say “no”.  And if this church is called something like, “God’s People Church: Prophetic Ministry Center”, they are already telling you what they like to do.  And the question is, “what are you doing there?”

Should prophets prophecy offerings or give a word saying that you should give them money?  Probably not.  But I do not have a specific verse for that.

Giving should always be free will, and never under any coercion.  And prophesying for you to give to me is out of line with the spirit of Christ, is what I would say.

Do all prophetic people, ministries, need to be ‘non-profit’ or ‘501c3’s’?  No.

Should all prophetic or so-called prophetic words be true or accurate, and if they are not, is the person a false prophet?  No.  I believe that somewhere in the neighborhood of 90% of prophetic words given today are inaccurate or false.

New Testament prophets are not the same as OT prophets.  NT prophecies are mainly encouragements and not predictions.  Many prophetically gifted people also flow in a gift called ‘word of knowledge’.  And there is yet another similar but different gift called ‘word of wisdom’.

Some prophets have all three or just the one.  And the gifting of prophecy, mentioned in 1 Corinthians, is different than the gift of prophet mentioned in Romans 12.  And the office of prophet in Ephesians 4 is also different than the former two.

Some prophets can teach and some can not.  Some teachers are not pastors.  And some pastors are prophetic but can not teach.  Many evangelists can not teach, but some are healers.

A Romans 12 prophet may or may not give personal prophecies and an Ephesians 4 prophet’s ministry is to equip or train all Christians to be prophetic people.

How can I say that about 90% of prophecies are false, but still believe that prophetic ministry is real and is for today?  Because the NT says to:

  1. Desire to prophesy (1 Cor. 14:1)
  2. Not to despise prophecies (1 Thess. 5:20)

How can churches manage this issue of false prophecies without quenching the Holy Spirit’s work through people?  Train people that have the gift or desire to prophesy, to not ever say, “Thus says the Lord”, but instead to be very humble and say things like:

  • “I don’t know if I am getting this right but…”
  • “See if this word I think I have for you fits…”
  • “I don’t know what this means, but I see (or hear)…”

Know that God may give pure and true revelation, but we get the interpretation or the application wrong.  There are three components to a prophecy:

  • Revelation (real or not real)
  • Interpretation (what this mean?)
  • Application (what should I do?)

Some of that 90% of false prophecies are real revelations with faulty interpretations or applications.

A question about God restoring apostolic authority and killing people:

You can look around and find people who say that God is restoring apostles to the church today.  One of the many questions that might come up about this has to do with the story of Peter’s dealings with the couple, Ananias and Sapphira, who lied and died in Acts 5.

I recently heard Greg Boyd talk about this (link).  In a nutshell, this is what I heard Greg say, and I agree with him:

  • It was the devil that gave cause to their sin
  • Elijah did call down fire and killed the messengers in 1 Kings 1
    • He had the authority to do it
    • But God did not approve
  • When James and John wanted to call down fire, Jesus disapproved
    • “You know not what spirit you are of” (Luke 9:54)
  • Satan was the one who inspired the sin of Ananias & Sapphira
    • Satan is the father of lies
    • Satan is about killing and destroying
  • Did Peter kill the couple?
    • Maybe: please listen to what Greg says
  • Was killing disobedient ones what Jesus taught Peter?
    • No
  • If Peter used his authority to kill the couple, was it ok?
    • No
    • Peter may have been like Elijah 
      • Or like James and John (Lk. 9:54)

I started with Acts 13, where it mentions teachers and prophets (not apostles) who the Holy Spirit moves through, to commission or send two guys on a missionary journey.  It is interesting to note that sending is something the church does collectively to teams and couples or duos.

It is also interesting to note that people don’t make you an apostle, but God does.  Acts 13 and 14 might illustrate that we call you apostolic after you have done apostolic ministry.  Paul may have been called from his mother’s womb to be an apostle of Jesus, but he and Barnabas were not recognized as such until after they really did the stuff.
 In the next chapter (14:14), Barnabas and Paul are called apostles, and also Paul becomes Paul, instead of Saul.  What is interesting is that at the beginning of  their missionary journey, in Acts 13, they have a nasty encounter with a sorcerer, wherein Paul makes a declaration of physical blindness over the guy and he does go blind.
How is this ok or different than the Ananias and Sapphira story in Acts 5?  This story (Acts 13) is a story of a power encounter with a person who has become an agent of the Devil and is blocking the proclamation of the gospel.  In Acts 5, it is a church discipline matter of lying.
Bottom line:  I take the position that Acts 5 is descriptive, but not prescriptive.  Jesus gives us counsel on if we should kill people who reject the gospel: No.
If God killed Ananias and Sapphira, then that is God’s decision and I don’t think we can applaud, because scripture says not to (Prov. 24:17), and I would not even say that A & S were Peter’s enemy.
But I don’t think the text says God killed them, nor that Peter killed them.  It is a mistake to think that Acts 5 teaches that apostles are God’s agents to kill people in or around the church.  This is a terrible and mistaken teaching.
The devil was there in their lives and inspired their sins.  And the devil always brings killing and destruction.  Sinners must take responsibility, while not blaming the devil; but the devil does inspire or tempt people to sin.
But the power encounter in Acts 13 is different.  Satan is also behind it.  But this is a clearly non-believer, who is blocking the reception of the gospel message.  
The big note is that God decides to do this to him, and Barnabas and Paul are God’s instruments.  That seems to be how Luke presents the story.  Paul gave the hard word to the sorcerer, while filled with the Holy Spirit.
In the first case, Satan tempted the couple to sin and they did.  Somehow, in their case, death came, linked to their sins.
In the second case of the sorcerer, the man was an instrument of deception and lies and was used by the devil to block the preaching and reception of the gospel.  God, the Holy Spirit, decided to do something about him and his deeds, and used Paul, in what we call a power encounter.  And the reason for this was to bring glory to God, by having the gospel preached, and many people became followers of Christ.

Wilderness Before Appearance

The child grew up and became spiritually strong, and he was in the wilderness until the day of his public appearance to Israel.

-Luke 1:80
Have you been, or are you in the wilderness?  The wilderness is an amazing metaphor that the Bible uses for time alone with God, or time in preparation for service or ministry.  The wilderness may seem like a punishment and sometimes people are forced there by adverse circumstances not of their own choosing.
The way that vocational preparation, that includes a calling to the ministry, usually works, is that a young adult chooses or believes they are called or they come into an understanding of their desire to do a particular form of work.  They then prepare for that work in schooling or training and then get into that field of work and begin a life of that vocation.
But, what if you want to be like the people we read about in the the Bible, who are named, and who did certain things, that had impact for God’s kingdom?  Every believer is called to live in the kingdom and let the kingdom have impact through their lives.  There are not two kinds of believers.
It is also a mistake or wrong headed to believe that the only ones that truly serve God are preachers, pastors, or missionaries.  On a white board, we could list every other form or kind of ministry, with a list of a hundred or more, and still come up very short.  God is very creative with what he has designed each person to do and his list of ministries is almost endless.
Whatever your dream, desire, or calling is; their is a wilderness component or time, sometimes.  I say sometimes, because it is not that way for everyone.  The wilderness is a place that God often takes his people to, and when he does it is for their good.
Mature believers love the wilderness, because they have learned how to find and live with God there.  God can take a person into a wilderness at any time, in the middle of their life-times, and do amazing things with them there.  True saints desire to go to the wilderness to spend time alone with God.
Jesus and John the Baptist were about age 30, when they began their public ministries.  I remember when I was a young adult and age 30 seemed older or mature.  My dad was pushing 50 and my grandparents were in their 70’s.
I heard someone share that in the first century, that a man could not be a rabbi until he was 30 years of age.  Because at 30, you had a considerable amount of life experience and were considered an elder.  The average life expectancy, in the first century, was about 25 years.  
Many people did not live past the age 10, but if you did, you might live to be about 47.  So, age 30 then was like age 60 now.  Imagine if the church did not allow anyone to be called pastor, as in the position or title, until the age of 60.
Selah
What if every person who feels called to the ministry, to be a pastor, had to just do pastoral ministry and raise a family and be part of the community of God, in a sort of ‘potential pastor’ or ‘pre-pastoring’, before they turned 60?  And at the age of 60, they could be a pastor, because they have become a pastor, and they are frankly old enough and wise enough to be trusted as ‘pastor’?
Look around at all the people up front who are under 60, who need to step down, because they are too young.  Stepping down means that they need to just work hard in their communities and raise their families together with others.  They can definitely serve along side of the older men and women.
What if we have it backwards, and our so-called prime years, in our 20’s, 30’s, 40’s, and 50’s are all meant to prepare us for appearing in front of people at age 60?  The senior pastor, solo pastor, lead pastor, or leading church preacher who is under the age of 60 is a modern invention that does not line up with scripture.
Your first and easiest objection might be the first 12 Apostles.  They perhaps were not yet 30.  Remember I am saying that age 30 in the first century is like age 60 today.  You also would bring up Timothy.
Timothy and the 12 Apostles were not pastors.  They were not local church, lead pastors.  They were apostolic workers.
If you have a problem with the word apostolic, for today, think missionary, church planter, or evangelist.  What if it is God’s plan or wisdom for planters and missionaries to be younger?  But those who stand up in front of groups and lead them need to be older, elders, people who are roughly aged 60 and above?
A guy in his 20’s or 30’s is not usually an elder.  People in their 40’s are becoming elders and folks who are in their 50’s are almost there.
When I found myself in a position of authority in the church, in my 30’s; it was very gracious for anyone to view me as an elder.  I was a junior elder, lacking a lot of life experience.  I always sought out people who were much older than I, preferably people who were in their 60’s.
This was purely common sense or perhaps a driving leading from the Spirit of God.  And the main thing that my older friends would do is listen to me and ask me hard questions, then listen some more.
What if God has people, like John the Baptist, who have been in the wilderness?  They have been living their lives, as disciples.  They have been growing and learning, loving and being productive in their spheres.
These people dream of appearing before people, for God, with words or deeds of God through their lives, that will be for God’s glory.  But they have been not visible to many and have been in a wilderness that is depressing at times, because it has stripped away their dreams of service for the Lord, that they thought were from the Lord, and they received years, even decades ago.
The message or lesson in the scriptures is that the wilderness is an in-between place, preparing us for the future, which may be tomorrow, next year, or far down the time-line of our life.  Being in the wilderness does not mean you are done, but it means God loves you.
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For further study:

Isolation–A Place of Transformation In The Life of a Leader, by Shelley B. Trebesch

Rabbi and Talmidim, by Ray Vander Laan

Sky Links, 8-31

When the Lord changed Zion’s circumstances for the better, it was like we had been dreaming. 
-Psalm 126:1

God is a Dreamer

We tend to think linearly, logically; like a + b = c.  Our imaginations push the boundaries of our logical thinking, and dreaming expands our imaginations.  God’s dreams for us are beyond our thinking and even imagining.  A part of ministry, whether discipling, teaching, or preaching; is to encourage or fund God’s dream in people that is beyond what we can see, hear, smell, and taste today.  We only have a hint of it in our imaginations, and can clearly see it in dreams.  The minister’s job, and everyone in Christ is a minister, is to encourage each one into their destiny or dream in God.

One of the primary roles of the preacher/teacher prophet/poet in exilic times is to fund imagination, where we have so compromised our imaginations with the vision of Empire. God’s people need to relearn God’s dreams.. dreams of peace and justice.. and we need to learn to dream together, dreaming about places we can go together that we cannot reach alone. We need to dream about God’s future, not the eternal now of satiation offered by the Empire. -Len Hjalmarson, funding imagination

What every minister, whether they are a preacher, teacher, missionary, or servant evangelist; has in hand or in mind and heart, is the Bible, which is God’s book of dreams.  Ministry is the art of linking God’s dreams for people to their lives, inviting, permissioning, and midwifing the new-birthing.

Dreams of God for you are far greater than the ones you have for yourself, and you are the one that needs to change.It’s time for every one of us in this room to be restored to dreaming. Because it’s a part of God’s nature. It’s a part of God’s abundance, and part of

your inheritance. You cannot get it unless you imagine it, unless you dream it. The Bible is a book about dreams. God encourages us to dream. He makes us dreamers. He speaks to us in dreams and visions. Why? Because its a language beyond logic. God is not reasonable. He is not rational. He is not logical. Read the Bible. Most of the things He did in the Bible are beyond logic and reason. In fact the only time He reasons is when you sin. The rest of time He says ‘don’t lean on your own understanding – trust in the Lord with all your heart. Don’t lean on your own understanding me. Trust me.’ He is a dreamer. He is a visionary. The only way you can live successfully in God is to dream and have a vision for your own life that you follow. Something beyond logic, something beyond reason, a move of God beyond dreaming.  –Graham Cooke, (11-08, notes)

The Future of America, The Church, and World Evangelism

Peter Wagner wrote an article called, The America of Tomorrow: How Shall We Pray? He addresses the issues of the future of America, the future of the church, prayer movements, and China’s rise.  It is a very good article from an 82 year old who has been studying the church world-wide and been involved in some of the biggest prayer movements.

We are in the place we are in America, after more prayer than ever before.  America has changed and the world is changing.  God has much change in store for the church in America, that has already begun.

Many Are Called But Few Are Chosen

Have you ever wondered about this saying of Jesus?  Judas was called by Jesus, but failed.  God calls people all the time, who turn him down.  Katherine Kuhlman said that she believed God had called several people to the ministry that she had, who turned him down, before God called her to it.

Mario Liu wrote about about this issue of “many are called”, with the perspective that God calls many and gets one who truly becomes what they were called to: Many are called few are chosen, and Black Caviar.  God still loves those who don’t follow through, by the way.

Kris Valloton – Five things about the devil:

1- he knows the Bible better than you do and he will use the bible against. It’s called a religious spirit.

2- he loves attention, therefore the greatest weapon we have against him is called “ignore.”

3-He never says, ” I am the devil, I am about to deceive you.” He’s insane but he is not stupid.

4-he has no new ideas, his whole arsenal is rooted in getting you to be afraid. When you fear him, you believe him, and you give him authority in your life that God didn’t give him.

5-contray to popular opinion, he can confirm his false words through other people. So if you get a bad word (thought, dream, vision, etc), he can confirm it through giving other believers the same bad word about you. So if the word has anything to do with; KILL, STEAL, OR DESTROY…you know the origin ….even if there is 10 confirmations. Rebuke it and go on.

Grumbling

Let’s not grumble, like some of them did, and were killed by the destroyer.
-1 Corithians 10:10

Anne Frank said, “I think a lot, but I don’t say much”.  Are you able to control your tongue, or do you grumble?  Jeff, the Scripture Zealot, on the sin of murmuring

New churches across the world are simple


I’ve been reading Mike Frost’s Exiles (p. 136-57), and he says that most new churches today, in the non-west (where the church is growing) are in a large part nondenominational, nonstructured, and nontraditional. David Barret and Todd Johnson, researchers in evangelism and mission called these kinds of churches “neoapostolics(2001). As of 2001, Barret and Johnson estimated that neoapostolics numbered 20, 000 movements & networks including 394 million Christians and will grow to over half a billion believers by the year 2025.

Frost writes (p. 136) that the neo-apostolic movements are “marked by four primary characteristics:

1. They reject denominationalism and restrictive, overbearing central authority.
2. They seek a life focused on Jesus.
3. They seek a more effective missionary lifestyle.
4. They are one of the fastest growing movements in the world.”

The church needs generals and fathers

“The church in North America is full of teachers, but what it needs are generals… a teacher never led an army into battle.”
-Barna (paraphrased from notes)

“There are a lot of people around who can’t wait to tell you what you’ve done wrong, but there aren’t many fathers willing to take the time and effort to help you grow up.”
-Apostle Paul, first letter to the Corinthian church

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