Thursday, October 10, 2013


I dreamed last night, or more likely early this morning, that I was quoting scriptures about God’s love and purpose for His Collection of People, otherwise known as the Body of Christ, or what we often just dub, the Church. In my dream I was feeling very up and positive with a new determination to see us as God sees us and help speak that into existence. When I woke up, emerging from the fog, I remember quipping that I am going to focus on our bright future and all was going to be okay.

After my cup of coffee I couldn’t help but be curious why I would dream such a thing since it is no longer my habit to pace the living room quoting scriptures in prayer trying to control the universe. Was this my former life resurging itself through my subconscious mind or was the Holy Spirit speaking to me? Dreams have formerly and currently been a vehicle of communication for me so I didn’t want to completely discount this one. The fact it didn’t carry any oppression or confusion with it, but instead I felt rather joyous and hopeful, gives me a cautious green light to explore the subject.  I thought to blog about it even if it's just to remind myself later.  That's one of the benefits of blogging - whether anyone reads your stuff or not, it's a place to journal.

In letting go of some of my former behaviors because they were rather ‘works’ oriented, I haven’t necessarily thrown out my core beliefs. In this case, I still believe in the power of scripture and I still believe in speaking it out into the atmosphere. But I am no longer compelled by the legalistic concept that there is no power in the scripture unless you speak it out loud. Wouldn’t that mean the power is in my speaking rather than in the power of the scripture itself? Isn’t there also power in ‘hiding the word in my heart so that I may not sin against God’ as David suggests in Psalm 119? Hiding doesn’t convey speaking, but rather storing something like a treasure, or a secret weapon to pull out when you most need it.  The Word is what will cause me to overcome temptation. I can think scripture and I can speak it. I can sing it and I can shout it. I can choose whatever ‘method’ of acknowledgement I want, but the power remains in the Word of God itself not in how I manage to agree with it.

Back to the dream, it does stir in me a desire to search the scriptures regarding the Body of Christ – the Bride of Christ - and God’s plan to partner with us. Even as the mega prosperity-driven church world threatens to redefine us and our mission, the Lord must have a plan to reclaim what is rightfully His. In the Old Testament there are plenty of accounts of how His chosen race went off the rails into idolatry, yet He always had a way of rekindling in them a desire to return to Him and worship only Him. Real life isn’t always about the sweetness and light of glory and victory, it’s also failure and defeat and with that, recovery and redemption.

For us, this last decade has been a discovery of how the existing institutional church has gone off the rails into its own idol worship. We have seemed to collectively sanction the exaltation of what is now commonly known, at least in the blog world, as the celebrity pastor. Our church leaders now have to be movers and shakers across the globe in order for us to revere them. If they are among the rich and famous, we can then live vicariously through them. What does this say about us? Why has a spirit of humility and true servanthood been replaced by what looks like the bravado of EGO and a sense of entitlement? There is a steady stream of evidence revealing that huge sums of money are funneled into the ‘lead’ pastor personal bank accounts.

Why do we know this and why don’t these types of pastors think we are smart enough to see what they are up to? Check out their houses (sometimes multiple homes!), their vehicles, their clothes, their jewelry, and most telling, their travel itinerary. What really gives it all away is how the adult pastor children flaunt their lifestyle online. So it’s easythese days to follow the money trail of the celebrity pastor, a lifestyle funded by the tithes and offerings of trusting followers who all give their blessing as they give their money in faith that it's being spent wisely. These pastors are living like CEOs of big corporations with the balance of power mainly in their hands, yet with tax exempt status. Do they realize their lifestyles actually endanger that status, not only for themselves but for the smaller conscientious churches. 

All this to say, we can see that the celebrity infested church is on a runaway train to its own destruction and we aren’t going to stop talking about it. But my dream last night could be hinting that there is a new phase in the journey, a bend in the road. It’s been there all along but maybe I am only now waking up to it. Unlike us, God isn’t surprised that the Christian community has given worship status to our pastors. He understands our natural bent toward wanting a human to elevate which reflects our selfishness and how we resist a true life of servanthood. Jesus’ disciples wanted him to act like an earthly king which would have made them feel better about themselves. Thankfully, God doesn’t panic and forget His original plan just because another stiff-necked generation refuses to cooperate. Could He want to remind us each of us who truly care about the outcome, in our own individual ways, that we are part of the plan to get His project back on track? He could do it single-handedly but chooses to work in a partnership with us, His people. It makes sense that He would give each of us tasks as part of the pro-active answer, whether it be prayer, blogging, writing articles or books, singing songs or some other artform – it’s all an opportunity to teach and hopefully turn the tide.

God has been calling people out of the mega church system for quite awhile now and who knows how many more may be leaving in the days and years ahead? That doesn’t mean the mega church world will end - it may only get worse. But, as we pray and seek out God’s thoughts on what is going on, we can forsee the victorious church spoken about in scripture. The Bride of Christ was designed to be God's vehicle of love.  And maybe it's not going to be some huge assembly where droves of people receive Christ by responding to an altar call.  Maybe it's going to be a world-wide community of believers, sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit, sharing the love of God and the Gospel of Christ one-on-one with those led to us - or us to them - however the Lord aranges it.  Why should we wait for an exalted man or woman on a stage do all the talking?  God wants to use all His yielded vessels, not just public speaker types.  Or rock star worship leader types.  Not saying He can't use people who are motivated to be in front of the throng all the time, but it's certainly not limited to those types.  So all I can do if that is the case is agree with scripture and say Come Holy Spirit and do your thing!  We are powerless without you!

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Rethinking The House of God

 Familiar feelings arose in me a few Sunday's ago when I read once again the house of God scriptures in Psalms that suggest our corporate church gatherings as Christians should be a place of safety and rest in the presence of the Lord.  What goes on at church is a subject we misfits return to as we process what's happened to us since we left our controlling churches and what our future holds.  For another post on The House of God I wrote a few years back, click here if you are in the mood for further reading.
Here are a few of the scriptures referencing the house of God: 
Psalm 27:4-5"One thing I ask from the Lord, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life to gaze on the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple. For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling; he will hide me in the shelter of his sacred tent and set me high upon a rock."
Psalm 84: "How lovely is your dwelling place, Lord Almighty!  2 My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.  3 Even the sparrow has found a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may have her young—a place near your altar, Lord Almighty, my King and my God. 4 Blessed are those who dwell in your house; they are ever praising you."  10 "Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere; I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked."
Reading these verses this time around I found myself feeling angry with the people who have turned the weekly Christian gathering into something we can no longer trust.  It's not our fault that we no longer fit in a church system that doesn't fit into God's description of what it should be.  Those scriptures infer safety and protection and a place of refuge, but it's obvious that someone has hijacked the meaning of going to church.  What we have lost is a true place of refuge, a great assembly to meet with the Lord, and a much needed reprieve from what we go through in the world.  It's been replaced by elements of the world system such as political posturing, elevating the pastors and their families to celebrity status and blatent nepatism and favoritism.  Instead of receiving replenishment for the week, we receive pressure to give a huge portion of our time and money to the machine, and sometimes even a chiding that we aren't doing enough to keep it alive and running. 

We are encouraged in scripture to honor the Sabbath, but Sabbath rest certainly doesn't come into play since there is no rest to be had.  It has become less and less about finding Jesus within what He called the house of prayer - in fact, prayer itself is one of many duties we must perform to assure the mighty machine runs smoothly.  We are made to feel like work horses who need to pull our weight.  This is taught from the pulpit and inferred weekly in the announcement segment that can last up to a half hour, plugging the need for all the groups and activity we need to support. 

Think about this:  For those in charge of God's House, it's a glorious place of sustenance and fulfillment. As long as the lead pastors can keep the volunteers busy propping up their ministry it works really well for them. Then think about the rest of the people, the worker bee volunteers, who lose sight of the Lord's true plan for their lives. It's like they are handing over their destiny to someone they have been taught is more important who deserve their undivided allegience and resources because they are in the work of the ministry.  As long as the layity is kept busy making the Pastor's vision succeed, there is little time to implement the vision God has given to each of them. If you observe the lives of people who are currently serving in churches today, their lives are consumed with meetings and events involving the church.

NonCelebrity Christian and I have been talking lately about how we can relate to the fury of Jesus when he encountered money changers in the temple when he took a whip to drive them out.  Jesus had an issue with turning His Father's house into a marketplace when it was supposed to be a house of prayer.  He also had an issue with the religiosity of the church leaders lording their positions over the people.  It seems so apparent that these issues have not only infilitrated the Church today, they have taken over.  Makes me want to cry out to Jesus 'where is your whip when we need it most?' 

Not to think too highly of ourselves, lest we become like those who are suspect in our minds, but perhaps the voice of the blogging world on the internet is one of the whips?  Just a suggestion, but will anything change until we are mad enough to stand up and say enough is enough?  Actually many of us are doing that.  As NonCeleb has often said, we are voting with our feet. 

Once we have voted with our feet, then what?  Is this where the journey takes a turn into an even deeper walk with the Lord one on one?  Can we be satisfied accepting that His house is a more personal one and can we trust Him to meet our every need of blessing and protection without aligning ourself to a local pastor family?  It's not like we can give our hearts to yet another church because the same government structure exists there as well.  And the answer doesn't necessarily lie in beginning another church, mainly because it will end up the same way.  Shouldn't the Christian walk be about each person being free to do the work of the ministry in the way God has called him to, touching the lives who God brings his way? 

So perhaps the answer is to continue to hang loose and wait on God and let whatevers going to happen 'happen organically' as my daughter is fond of saying.  "It" may never involve four walls again.  If that's what God has planned, is that enough for us?  It doesn't mean we haven't grieved over what should have been and that we don't pray for God to salvage what He can from the mess we have seemed to have made of His Church these days. 

I am doing my best to rethink these scripture concerning God's house and personalize them more.  Maybe that's what was meant all along, I don't know.  I do know I am comforted when He meets with me in the secret place which is indeed a type of house.  And yes, it is enough when I allow it to be, because He fills my cup like none other.  And no man or demonic plan can infiltrate His presence and take that from me or any of us.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Churches Who Quit Paying Their Mortgage Payments

A new trend seems to be emerging in certain circles of Christianity these days - quit paying your church mortgage yet with no plan to curtail outlandish spending habits - keep taking in the weekly tithe money and use it for what?  Pastor families who feel they are called as Christians to live like the rich and famous apparently want you to fund their lifestyles for Jesus.  Big proponents of the Properity Gospel these churches have outdone themselves on exhibiting their rules-don't-apply-to-us attitudes by defaulting on their mortgages.  Maybe we should all quit making our house payments too and use the money to go on vacation with pastors who seem to have invented a new meaning for recreational living.  Like them, we can just pray the Lord will provide for us through some hard-working business people who already have good investment practices.  We should ALL have such a sense of entitlement.  After all, we are King's Kids, are we not?  Well, yes we are children of the King, but that Particular King never mentioned living the high life using money from the collection plate.  Well, I guess he did refer to that, but it was in disgust of the practices of the Pharisees who loved the choice seats in the synagogue and walked around in fine robes, acting superior to the people who gave them their money.  Wow, that certainly resembles the attitudes of certain modern day prosperity-driven pastors - at least the ones we've seen.

Back to the delinquent mortgage topic, there are plenty of church stories to link to, but I will limit this post to the churches here out west that we happen to have been affiliated with at one time.  A few years back, Benny Perez, head pastor of The Church of Las Vegas, made news in his city and nationwide (Charisma magazine , Christianity Today ) when he and his board decided to quit paying the church mortgage because they owed the bank $7 million when the property was then only worth $2 million.  "The unusual move sparked debate over Christian ethics" says Christianity Today.  Eventually, a Canadian businessman and philanthropist (who is a friend to one of the church board members) bailed them out with a pledge of $3 million and then the church came up with another $1 million to keep themselves out of bankruptcy.  Now they have plans to build a new building and Benny has been spotted recently golfing on the Newport Coast which is quite spendy from what my friend who knows tells me. 

Even closer to home, the pastor of our former church (whose cousin is married to Benny Perez) decided that he too should quit paying his church mortgage.  (Was he advised by Benny to do this or did he decide, hey what works for BP works for me?)  Not too sure his board at the time was on board since none of them are on the board at this time but his wife and son and probably his cousins from Seattle.  According to THIS public notice that ran in the Idaho Stateman 4 weeks in March 2013, Capital Christian Center hasn't paid a mortgage since July 2012.  At the time the notice posted, the church owed more than $2 million on the church property - and it lists the payments they were ignoring from July - December 2012:

The defaults for which this sale is to be made are failure of Grantor to pay: (i) monthly payments as follows: $21,313.40 due July 15, 2012, $42,828.32 due August 15, 2012, $21,313.40 due September 15, 2012, $23,343.24 due October 15, 2012, $21,313.40 due November 15, 2012, and $20,298.48 due December 15, 2012, as set forth and required by the Deed of Trust and Note, and monthly payments thereafter on the 15th day of each month until the date of sale or reinstatement; (ii)late charges in the amount of $28,619.36, due and owing as of January 3, 2013 
The principal balance due on the Note as of January 3, 2013, was $2,543,323.75. The balance owing as of January 3, 2013, on the Note secured by the Deed of Trust (collectively, "Loan Documents"), was $2,654,427.60

If they didn't come up with the money by today, May 21st there was to be a Trustee Sale held, according to the public notice.  I'm sure CCC was praying and believing for a benefactor to bail them out in the nick of time to mirror what took place with Benny's church.  So, here it is May 21st and is there a Trustee Sale happening for the property at 2760 East Fairview Avenue, Meridian, ID, 83642?  No, because the benefactor apparently came in the form of their cousins who own a mega church in Seattle.  They co-signed a loan to make it possible to stave off today's sale.  Not sure on the details, but  I will update this info as it comes, but for now, all we know is they narrowly escaped at this time.  Were their prayers answered by this band-aid fix by relatives who step in to rescue their cousins in Boise?  Knowing the way they think, we are sure they believe it's the grace and favor of the Lord.  And who are we to know the mind of the Lord who is known for his long-suffering, so it may be.  Perhaps He is thinking of the unsuspecting and trusting people in the congregation in delaying what seems inevitable - after all, His timing is known for being perfect.

Grace or no grace, let's not forget the church in Boise operates as a 501c3 which means they have tax exempt status.  It would behoove the lead pastor family not to abuse this privilege in any way.  For instance, if they are using designated offering funds for designer clothes and furniture, multiple trips to Hawaii, expensive toys for their young children, etc., it could peek the interest of the IRS and that status could be revoked.  Even if the IRS never sees it, the people under their umbrella should be putting 2 and 2 together and seeing the church isn't making their mortgage payments but the lifestyle hasn't changed.  And now that the pastors to the rich and famous (don't even get me started) from Seattle are bailing their cousins out, shouldn't they be watching to see if CCC is going to begin to exhibit wise stewardship with the money so the loan isn't all for nought?

Do we want to see them fall, go under, be destroyed?  Not necessarily.  Do we want to see them no longer get away with unacceptable behavior?  Yes.  As long as they continue to blatently use tithes and offerings to live plushly while refraining from true, fruitful ministry, we have a bone to pick with them.  We'd like to see that come to an end because it brings damage to the cause of Christ by playing havoc with people's faith who are still within the 4 walls of the church at 2760 E. Fairview.  It would be great if the pastor family recognized what kind of people they have become, repent before the Lord and in front of the people fully, and get back to real Christianity and try to represent the true Gospel of Jesus.  If they don't see a need to change, then get jobs in the real world and live high on the hog that way - it would at least be acceptable.  Aren't pastors supposed to hold to a different standard, as they've always said, examples of how God wants us to live, as they've always preached?  They faithfully collect money every week from people who trust them to be wise stewards with that money to "do the work of the ministry".  It's evident that the lead clan is getting ministered to, but we have seen anything but wise stewardship from them to date.