Friday, April 15, 2011

The Next Phase

We are at the beginning of a turn, twist, or shift (however you would like to call it) in the physical and spiritual world.
     I believe that we are about to see God pour out His spirit like never before.  This will be a new concept and experience for so many people and may even strike fear into the minds of many.  However, just as ever revolution eventually comes to an end (i.e. farming era to industrial revolution, to the technological age and beyond), so has the age of the traditional church.
     What I see happening is that people are tired of the status quo.  They are tired of being fed milk and soft food spiritually, and are, in general, sick and tired of the "pastoral role" rising and falling all around!  On average, you could talk to almost anyone off the street and they will tell you that they do not trust the clergy in the church and that they would rather seek God on their own.
     Personally, I am tired of "service as usual" as well.  If I have to sit through 3 songs, announcements, offering, preaching, and closing prayer again, I will probably go into a spiritually catatonic state of boredom!  Why do we who remain continue on this repetitive path of assumed "righteousness"?  Is it because that is "how we were raised"?  Or, could it be, that we feel strongly about "not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together as the manner of some is" (Heb. 10:25 KJV).
     See, we are tired of being fed fake food.  You can only give so much time and resources to a "ministry" without being refilled.  Try pouring a pitcher of fruit punch into more than 20 cups without refilling it!  It gets empty really quick and that's where you see burnout!  The prosperity preachers only offer so much, but the promises of these leaders can only go so far.  We pay big money to go see them but not once have I seen them hand out keys to Mercedes' or mansions.  No, they talk a good talk and live what they preach because of the people who pour into them.  However, very few (if any) pour back out!  It's "buy my book and God will bless you!"  Or "Sew a seed and watch prosperity follow!"  My favorite is "Call now and for a donation of $20 or more, we will send you your very own personalized prophesy, straight from our dedicated prophets.  Yes, your very own message from God!"  I saw this one late at night on BET!  All this fake food looks good but when you test it and bite into it, it is repulsive and the body cannot digest it!  In fact, sometimes it makes people down right sick!
     So what is the thing that we're looking for?  Most people don't have a clue what it looks like.  They just know what it doesn't look like!  We have all seen the mega-pastors rise and fall.  We've seen the rise of Tele-evangelists and then their duplication like wild-fire.  And now-a-days, there is an endless supply of internet preachers with YouTube, podcasting, Facebook and the like.
     I can tell you, though, based on God's word, what the next phase is.  Pure, undiluted, uncompromised, untainted, passion for Jesus Christ and Him alone!  No more inflation.  No more self-glorification.  No more dying stars.  And above all, no more fakeness!  If you can't walk the walk, then don't talk the talk.  You may have had a shady past, and that's okay.  God is forgiving and so are his people when it comes to the past lives of passionate, anointed leaders.  That part makes them relatable, and gives them a testimony about how God saw them through.  But the leaders of today and tomorrow cannot walk the double life and expect to maintain a position as the head of a body!
     Do you want to know what will happen?  Here it is.  The outcry for a righteous Shepherd will be so persistent and loud that God will have no choice but to respond!  As the wounds and pain, inflicted by each bad choice the "shepherds" choose, become deeper and deeper, God will stop weeking for ihs people and begin avenging them.  Ezekiel 24 (see below) is God's reply to a generation full of bad shepherds who commit every sin known to man including the classic trio; lying, cheating, and stealing!  Rest assured, if you see one of these displayed, underneath is the other two!  (That little tid-bit is for free!)
     As you begin to read Ezekiel 34, you will see that God is a God of order.  He always starts at the head and works his way down the ladder of leaders.  To the shepherds he deals very harsh punishment.  It is hard because it is not a swift and quick judgement.  It is a state of punishment and consequences that leaves a lasting effect!  Its a period of suffering.  In the Bible, God lists the shepherds' faults so that it is clear why He is angry, and then he says (reader's digest version), I'm going to take away your flock, the ones you prey on.  Ultimately, I believe this means they can no longer make a living being a "shepherd".  They are cut off.  (Imagine not only being fired but also having to struggle without provision, and favor!)
     Then God turns his attention to the "fat sheep" that have benefited from the bad shepherd's tyranny.  These are the pious gas-bags who like to warm the pews and gossip; backbiting and stiff-necked, manipulative and luke-warm.  They can preach and teach but where are they when it's time to visit the jails, the nursing homes, the hospitals and the people hurting and impoverished mentally, physically or spiritually!  They're too busy looking for the new robe or clergy suit at Murphy's or being fitted for the over priced suit that is about to be commissioned!  They're worrying about which chain to wear on Sunday and if there is enough special juice on the pulpit for them.  They are lining up "spiritual sons" to chauffer them from one engagement to the next, spewing out "thus saith the lord" when really it's "thus saith me".
     See, these sheep are no better than the shepherds that God just dealt with before, but God deals with the fat sheep more swiftly than he does the dirty shepherds.  In verse 16, God says He will destroy these sheep.  Not just take away their provision, he will destroy them!
     To the remnant sheep; God promises restoration.  Binding up the wounded, feeding the hungry, seeking for the lost and scattered, and bringing back the ones who have been run off and left as prey for the "wild animals, God will be the Shepherd!  In Joel 2, the prophet tells of God bringing His people to a place of restoration.  Joel 2:18, 19b (KJV) says, "Then will the Lord be jealous for his land, and pity his people...and I will no more make you a reproach among the heathen."  Finally, when restoration has taken place, the order is restored, God promises in verse 28 that he will pour out his spirit upon all flesh!
     People of God, we are about to see God pour out His spirit like never before.  The little wildfires that sprung up here and there over the past century are nothing compared to what is to come!  We know that the signs and wonders will follow and that there will be a great outcry all over the world for God!  We will see God move in ways that we never thought possible and in people we never thought would come to God.  Even now, there are reports of remote tribes in African countries and Asian countries that are seeking out missionaries because God has spoken to them or appeared to them.  They didn't need and evangelist to hear God, just a willing heart!
     People of God, it is time to fall on our faces and repent and do right.  Ezekiel 33:12 says “Therefore you, O son of man, say to the children of your people: ‘The righteousness of the righteous man shall not deliver him in the day of his transgression; as for the wickedness of the wicked, he shall not fall because of it in the day that he turns from his wickedness; nor shall the righteous be able to live because of his righteousness in the day that he sins.’”
     What this means is that there is still hope for the "fat sheep" to repent and come back into alignment.  However, in the same verse, there is also a caution to those who have been righteous and then decide to repel out of frustration, pain, and resentment.  Stay on your face before God.  Stay humble and obedient, righteous and seeking His face above all else!
     In conclusion, God has not forgotten His people.  He is a gracious God and a merciful one!  Cry out to Him!  Give Him your pain and your wounds.  He is Jehovah Rapha, the healer!  He is Abba, Father, and loves his children!  Call out to him and he will answer!!!!
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Ezekiel 34:1-31 (KJV)
1And the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, 2Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel, prophesy, and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD unto the shepherds; Woe be to the shepherds of Israel that do feed themselves! Should not the shepherds feed the flocks? 3Ye eat the fat, and ye clothe you with the wool, ye kill them that are fed: but ye feed not the flock. 4The diseased have ye not strengthened, neither have ye healed that which was sick, neither have ye bound up that which was broken, neither have ye brought again that which was driven away, neither have ye sought that which was lost; but with force and with cruelty have ye ruled them. 5And they were scattered, because there is no shepherd: and they became meat to all the beasts of the field, when they were scattered. 6My sheep wandered through all the mountains, and upon every high hill: yea, my flock was scattered upon all the face of the earth, and none did search or seek after them.
7Therefore, ye shepherds, hear the word of the LORD; 8As I live, saith the Lord GOD, surely because my flock became a prey, and my flock became meat to every beast of the field, because there was no shepherd, neither did my shepherds search for my flock, but the shepherds fed themselves, and fed not my flock; 9Therefore, O ye shepherds, hear the word of the LORD; 10Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I am against the shepherds; and I will require my flock at their hand, and cause them to cease from feeding the flock; neither shall the shepherds feed themselves anymore; for I will deliver my flock from their mouth, that they may not be meat for them. 11For thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I, even I, will both search my sheep, and seek them out. 12As a shepherd seeketh out his flock in the day that he is among his sheep that are scattered; so will I seek out my sheep, and will deliver them out of all places where they have been scattered in the cloudy and dark day. 13And I will bring them out from the people, and gather them from the countries, and will bring them to their own land, and feed them upon the mountains of Israel by the rivers, and in all the inhabited places of the country. 14I will feed them in a good pasture, and upon the high mountains of Israel shall their fold be: there shall they lie in a good fold, and in a fat pasture shall they feed upon the mountains of Israel. 15I will feed my flock, and I will cause them to lie down, saith the Lord GOD. 16I will seek that which was lost, and bring again that which was driven away, and will bind up that which was broken, and will strengthen that which was sick: but I will destroy the fat and the strong; I will feed them with judgment.
  17And as for you, O my flock, thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I judge between cattle and cattle, between the rams and the he goats. 18Seemeth it a small thing unto you to have eaten up the good pasture, but ye must tread down with your feet the residue of your pastures? And to have drunk of the deep waters, but ye must foul the residue with your feet? 19And as for my flock, they eat that which ye have trodden with your feet; and they drink that which ye have fouled with your feet. 20Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD unto them; Behold, I, even I, will judge between the fat cattle and between the lean cattle. 21Because ye have thrust with side and with shoulder, and pushed all the diseased with your horns, till ye have scattered them abroad; 22Therefore will I save my flock, and they shall no more be a prey; and I will judge between cattle and cattle. 23And I will set up one shepherd over them, and he shall feed them, even my servant David; he shall feed them, and he shall be their shepherd. 24And I the LORD will be their God, and my servant David a prince among them; I the LORD have spoken it. 25And I will make with them a covenant of peace, and will cause the evil beasts to cease out of the land: and they shall dwell safely in the wilderness, and sleep in the woods. 26And I will make them and the places round about my hill a blessing; and I will cause the shower to come down in his season; there shall be showers of blessing. 27And the tree of the field shall yield her fruit, and the earth shall yield her increase, and they shall be safe in their land, and shall know that I am the LORD, when I have broken the bands of their yoke, and delivered them out of the hand of those that served themselves of them. 28And they shall no more be a prey to the heathen, neither shall the beast of the land devour them; but they shall dwell safely, and none shall make them afraid. 29And I will raise up for them a plant of renown, and they shall be no more consumed with hunger in the land, neither bear the shame of the heathen any more. 30Thus shall they know that I the LORD their God am with them, and that they, even the house of Israel, are my people, saith the Lord GOD. 31And ye my flock, the flock of my pasture, are men, and I am your God, saith the Lord GOD.”

         

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