The Sound of Silence

I recently had a conversation with someone that went something like most of the conversations I have when I encounter new people who think they are “prophets.” They introduce themselves, they are a little all-too-eager for me to tell me what they do and what office they are called to, and they then feel the need to try and give me a “word.” Over many years of discernment and many years of watching a steady decline in the quality of what we consider genuine “word,” I have taken note that there are certain standards that people always say, time and time again. The first is to tell me that I am filled with the Holy Ghost (duh), the second is to tell me how God has “so much ahead for me” in one form or another (duh), and when I don’t respond to that the way they want, I usually throw something in the mix for good measure. Something that states financial concern or other issues, to which the response is always the same: “Money is coming your way. I just heard that.”

Oh you did, did you? What a coincidence!

Sigh.

To me, it’s boring. These so-called prophets and people with prophetic gifts are reading me and my spirit, not telling me what the Spirit has to say. We are so conditioned to watch people and to tell them what we think they want to hear that we have no depth or perception to actually see or say what God wants to say to them. We are in our own way, rejecting the true prophets and entertaining the ones whose messages fill us with false hope and make us want to run around the room. We respond the same way, time and time again, to messages that are vague and misleading and are meant to read us in a clever mind game rather than genuinely discern the heart of God and lead us to a better place.

I remember talking with Apostle Yolanda Greggs some years back about Revelation 8:1, which reads: “When He opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour.” (GW) This passage, which is often perplexing to scholars, took on a whole new meaning when we started talking about it in terms of prophecy and prophetic time, which equates to approximately 43 years (or thereabouts, as the prophecy says there was silence for about that time). In my commentary, All That Is Seen And Unseen: A Journey Through The Book of Revelation, I talk in depth about the significance of the approximate 43-year period of time (which yes, means all those end-time chasers are wrong on their timelines) whereby heaven is silent, prophecy seems mute, God seems distant, and heaven seems still, watching and waiting for what comes next.

I don’t think it’s foreign to assume that we are, in some semblance, in a period of time that resembles the silence of heaven. In our deeply psychological world, it’s easy to be a deceiver and just as easy to be deceived. We think if we watch people carefully enough, in the same way that psychics do, we can tell someone something completely vague and turn it into a “word from God” as we supplement details and people are able to read our spirits rather than hear from the Holy Spirit. We think being over-eager, personable, extremely interested, and going what appears to be “above and beyond” will substitute for the true Spirit’s move in our lives, replaced instead with a psychological head game.

The problem is that we have gotten so manipulative, so good at this game, heaven has no choice BUT to be silent. God can’t have any part in the means or methods by which people are not discerning Him, but trying to discern His people. It doesn’t mean that God does not speak or has nothing to say, as I will speak on in a moment…but it does mean that the methods by which God’s true people are speaking are not ordinary, nor are they common…nor are many of them even eager to speak.

Disturbed is not my favorite artist, but they hit one out of the ballpark for me with their cover of “The Sound of Silence” by Simon and Garfunkel. I love how they transformed the song with deep vocals and their stunning black and white music video, making it about more than its original context, which came in the wakeful hours following the shooting of John F. Kennedy in 1963. I believe I have blogged on the song before, about living with those quiet in-between times where God doesn’t seem real vocal and we don’t often have a lot of direction, but in this blog, I’m talking about that reality that sometimes the sound of silence we hear on spiritual matters is because we haven’t attuned ourselves to hear the Word of God in a proper context and with a proper spirituality. We are used to noise in church: loud music, loud drums, lots of enthusiasm and running around wild, and messages that throw us into fits of emotional ecstasy. We cry, we run all over the room, we scream and yell and cheer, only to find ourselves in the same exact situations and places all over again, every time.

till, there are many of us who are dealing with a true and authentic “sound of silence” echoing in our lives, in our quiet time and our situations, as we look down the corridors of our churches and our dream states and see things that just don’t seem to measure up with what people are telling us about God. It begs me to ask the question: are the people who are giving us words really hearing from God, or is it nothing more than what I spoke of earlier, where people are reading our spirits and responding to our behavior, thinking that it is God talking to them? If we look at the Bible, the people of God received many messages from God, and very few of those messages would make any of us fly around the room at warp speed. They were disciplined messages, reprimands for idolatry and injustice, leveling for hypocrisy and practicing false worship, and calls to repent, left, right, and sideways. In the Old Testament, it was usually Israel, God’s own people, who received these messages. Very few people had experiences where they went to heaven seven or eight times per day to come back and report what was going on, and even fewer started conversations with the words, “Thus saith the Lord.”

Amos 3:7-8 (GW)

Certainly, the Almighty Lord doesn’t do anything
unless He first reveals His secret to his servants the prophets.
The lion has roared. Who isn’t afraid?
The Almighty Lord has spoken. Who can keep from prophesying?

Why is this relevant, you ask? Because the people of the Old Testament ALSO thought themselves “spiritual.” The book of Amos proves that there were so many so-called “prophets” running around with messages much like the ones we see today that Amos didn’t even want to be a part of the “school of the prophets.” There was so much corruption and so many false words, Amos couldn’t even bring himself to be a part of the order of his day. In our day and age, we have the opposite issue: people refuse to submit themselves to order and run renegade, each with their false words. They don’t realize that they shouldn’t be so shocked by things and they shouldn’t be so easily rattled, because the point of the prophetic is to be so deeply in the heart of God, that the prophets are able to rightly explain and discern what is going on in the world and provide explanation and hope for God’s people.

Yet I, like so many others, sit at points in my life and hear only a sound of silence when we need to hear a genuine word from the Lord. Contrary to popular belief, we don’t always hear for ourselves. This proves that God’s gifts are genuine and that we aren’t just using them for ourselves. I don’t need to hear I am going to live long, that this is just the beginning (which 20 years in, I don’t think that even makes sense), or that money is coming my way. I need to hear what God has to say to me, in this moment, in this hour, in response to where we are. There are so many things that need explanation, and need mention and notice, so many things we need to be attuned to and need the true prophets to be listening and learning about…and instead we are getting the same crap we’ve been hearing forever.

In the song, The Sound of Silence, there is a particularly interesting line:

And the sign flashed out its warning
In the words that it was forming
And the sign said “The words of the prophets
Are written on subway walls
And tenement halls
And whispered in the sounds of silence”

In this interim, where we are dealing with the false and the true, sorting out wheat from tares (and, for the record, if the wise and foolish virgins prove anything, at least half of the prophets are tares), in a period of heavenly silence, it’s not that God stops speaking or revealing; it’s that it just comes in different forms and in different ways, with things we’d never consider and from people we don’t consider to be approved. It’s found in subtle ways: in signs that only we will understand, in words from people we barely know and barely would consider, looking for messages in odd places; maybe not even found in church or the pulpit, watching as those words are found in places and people we wouldn’t considered worthy of giving God’s Word. It demands we are more attentive, more careful when we feel that we have a word of knowledge, wisdom, or prophecy for someone, and that maybe even we, ourselves, find a new way to present our message in our era of silence.

Things will one day change; periods of silence do come and go, and seasons do shift. For now, we pray, we believe, and we listen for God’s voice in the midst, in the different and challenging, and in the concepts that change our very perceptions of who we are and what it means to be church.

Oh yeah, and…in the meantime…we wait…in the sound of silence.

© 2016 Lee Ann B. Marino. All rights reserved.

“The Sound Of Silence”

Hello darkness, my old friend
I’ve come to talk with you again
Because a vision softly creeping
Left its seeds while I was sleeping
And the vision that was planted in my brain
Still remains
Within the sound of silence
In restless dreams I walked alone
Narrow streets of cobblestone
‘Neath the halo of a streetlamp
I turned my collar to the cold and damp
When my eyes were stabbed by the flash of a neon light
That split the night
And touched the sound of silence

 

And in the naked light I saw
Ten thousand people, maybe more
People talking without speaking
People hearing without listening
People writing songs that voices never share
No one dare
Disturb the sound of silence

“Fools” said I, “You do not know
Silence like a cancer grow
Hear my words that I might teach you
Take my arms that I might reach you”
But my words like silent raindrops fell
And echoed in the wells of silence

And the people bowed and prayed
To the neon god they made
And the sign flashed out its warning
In the words that it was forming
And the sign said “The words of the prophets
Are written on subway walls
And tenement halls
And whispered in the sounds of silence”

Be Not Afraid

Bathrooms. Bathrooms, bathrooms, bathrooms. Every time I come on Facebook, all I hear about are bathrooms. Every time I watch the news, all I hear about are bathrooms. It’s to the point where I am having dreams about bathrooms when I go to sleep. I have never cared about bathrooms, nor been interested in them, nor taken an inventory on who exactly is going in or out of them. A bathroom is a bathroom is a bathroom.

I’m sick of hearing about bathrooms.

Why are we so afraid of bathrooms? When I was growing up, it was all about germs on the toilet seat. I was told not to sit when I went to the bathroom in public, which always resulted in a disaster. Let’s just say there is a reason we are supposed to sit, and not hover, over the toilet seat. Then it was that you could get AIDS from a toilet seat (you can’t). Or an STD. Or, my favorite, hemorrhoids. Or people were putting pushpins on the toilet seat so you would get hepatitis. Then it was sexual predators outside of men’s bathrooms. Then it was getting kidnapped in the bathroom, because there were rumors that someone was hiding in the stall. Then it was they weren’t clean. It was always something.

Now, thanks to HB2 in North Carolina, people are afraid of bathrooms for a whole new reason: perverts who are going to pretend to be transgender and use the bathroom under an anti-discrimination policy that did not pass. Instead, we were left with the opposite: HB2, which effectively ended discrimination laws of all forms in the state. If someone wants to sue for discrimination now, they will have to do so on the federal level. While everyone was busy fussing over their fear of bathrooms, all the state laws which protect workers, the elderly, women, men, minorities and yes, the LGBT community were dismantled. Now if a male boss wants to go into a bathroom in North Carolina and assault his female secretary, she has no protection under the law, thanks to the law that so many people think allayed their fears about sexual predators and their access to unassuming bathroom-users.

But, I guess my question is, what is really at the root of all this? Now I see people sharing, liking, posting, and discussing the matter of bathrooms and genders and paranoid fears of predators, justifying their support for a bill that isn’t even in their state and they don’t even understand, and what is the root of it? Our all-American fear of bathrooms in each and every form. They don’t have these problems in Europe. In fact, most bathrooms in parts of Europe are unisex. Even when I was a kid, most of our bathrooms were unisex, especially at school when we had in-classroom bathrooms. We never had a problem, not a sexual predator, nor gender questioning children (at least that we knew of). Most of the bathrooms I have been to in church are also unisex, and I have never heard of a problem in one, although I have heard a lot of fictionalized accounts of such based on the fears people have about them. I am well over thirty years old and I have yet to ever meet anyone who was assaulted in a public bathroom by a complete stranger. Rape and sexual assault statistics state that over 90% of rape and sexual assault victims are attacked by people they know. Date rape is on the rise. I have never met someone who got a disease, an illness, an STD, or anything else from a toilet seat, even if it was dirty. The people popping around, hoping for a shot to assault someone in a bathroom? Doesn’t exist. In fact, maybe instead of being so paranoid, we should stop giving them ideas with our over-active imaginations.

The root of all this bathroom/gender mess is fear. Sure, we talk a good game in the church about not being afraid and avoiding our social anxieties. We talk about overcoming our fear of what others think and our fears that relate to negative thoughts or practical fears, such as failure or personal well-being…but we don’t talk about the big fears. If anything, I think the church has a way of promoting and deliberately instilling fear within its people. Preachers want their people afraid, because fear keeps them coming back for more, looking to their leaders as if they have all the answers and investing in that church, whether they are comfortable with the message, or not.

If anything, the nature of fear perpetrated in our churches re-emphasizes the fleshly issues and ideals that we hold close to us, that we hold onto in defense of being about ourselves and trying to protect ourselves with our own emotional insecurities. We are afraid of the world, of the people in the world, of people who are different, people who don’t sound or look like us, and people who don’t engage like we do. We are afraid because they seem to be against us or our values, and they aren’t at all, not in any sense, what we seem to like, look like, want, feel, or think.

“Do not show partiality in judging; hear both small and great alike. Do not be afraid of anyone, for judgment belongs to God. Bring me any case too hard for you, and I will hear it.” (Deuteronomy 1:17, NIV)

We like to justify our fears, and if you listen to what people say when they state their oppositions, they always have a reason that sounds, at least on the surface, justifiable to non-suspecting ears. We’re afraid it’s the end times, and so conditioned for fear, we are afraid every time we watch the news or see something, anywhere, about current events. We’re afraid of aliens coming in and taking our tin foil hats. We’re afraid the government is going to come and round all of us up and take all of our churches. We’re afraid of persecution to the point where we claim we are being persecuted when we aren’t. We’re afraid of Muslims, because they are going to come in and take over our culture and force us all into their cultural submissions. We’re afraid of immigrants and refugees, because they are going to take all our jobs. We are afraid of gay people, because they are going to force everyone to be gay. We are afraid of sex education, because it’s going to make people have sex. We are afraid transgender people are going to make everyone want to be a different gender. We are afraid of divorce, because we think it is going to ruin marriage. We are afraid of women, because they are going to be better than the men at what they do. We are afraid of minorities, because they are going to take over the establishment. We are afraid of Wal-Mart. We are afraid of the Illuminati. We are afraid of celebrities. We are afraid of the music industry. We are afraid of everyone and everything. They aren’t new fears. If you read sensational news story books, like The Late Great Planet Earth or New World Order, they were all saying the same mess, years ago, none of which has yet to come to pass (and since they said it would by certain time frames, that makes them false prophets…but we hold on anyway, because they threw in a few Bible verses). Afraid, afraid, afraid. And the church, as a whole, perpetrates, encourages, and even promotes these fears, invalid as they are, because it makes sure that people will hold on to something, even if what they are afraid of…surprise…isn’t really real.

“Fear not [there is nothing to fear], for I am with you; do not look around you in terror and be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen and harden you to difficulties, yes, I will help you; yes, I will hold you up and retain you with My [victorious] right hand of rightness and justice.” (Isaiah 41:10, AMPC)

Consistently in the Scriptures, I hear “Be not afraid.” Whether it was a command not to be afraid of a genuine perceived enemy, a real enemy, for one’s livelihood, for one’s ministry, or for one’s welfare, God consistently tells us to not be afraid. We can’t evangelize the world if we have already cursed everyone and everything in it that is different from us. If we see everyone who comes up to us as an enemy, as a minion, as evil, we aren’t going to be able to engage with them for the sake of the Gospel. Whatever someone is doing is irrelevant, because before God, we are all still sinners. It doesn’t matter what the sin is, it doesn’t matter if we can see the sin; that sin is somewhere in there, and we need to stop being so judgmental that we can’t see the image of God in people, regardless of who they are or what they have done. No matter what you feel is sin or not sin these days, if you can’t see God in someone who is different from you, then you aren’t Christian enough. The church encourages us to hold on to our hostilities and anger at other people, and it calls us to, in what is perceived to be a defense of the Scriptures, stand on a perceived concept of Christianity that is just not very Christian. Yet somehow, some way, by truly walking with God and laying down our oppositions to other people, we are able to see people…friends…even hope for the lost…if we will stop being afraid long enough to allow God to take over control.

Too many of us just aren’t there yet. We want to use our fear to justify where we are. We want to use our fear to keep others out and see enemies walk down the street instead of people who need to hear the Gospel. It keeps us comfortable, it keeps us safe. It makes sure that the sins of the church go unnoticed and that we can say the world is just giving us a bad rap. They aren’t. They are right when they say we aren’t living up to what we should be. We get defensive when it comes up but they’re right. They are seeing through our protests, our hatred, our embittered behavior, long enough to say that we aren’t willing to give up the control we maintain through fear so maybe we can make a difference in this world.
There’s a much higher price that we are paying for our fear, and that’s our own lack of healing. Nobody has to accept, agree with, or believe in anything they don’t want to believe in, but there is no reason why we should be in such a state of fear, running from perceived enemies that don’t really exist. If in every person that passes you see a perpetrator, that is a dangerous place and world to be in…and I truly know (and believe) that is not Jesus’ will for you in the grand scheme of things. It’s time to get free…free from the fear of the unknown, the different, and the things that happen that we cannot change.

Be not afraid! People, it’s just a bathroom. It’s not a battle ground. If I have to go to the bathroom, I don’t want to deal with the governmental pervert at the door who is going to decide which bathroom I should go in (and gee, what about the fact that preoccupation with that is kind of strange?). I don’t like that we are using fear to teach our daughters to be discriminatory and that yet another generation of paranoia sweeps through the bathroom. That person you feel you are fighting isn’t the real enemy; control is, and fear is the weapon used to keep you fighting the wrong enemy. In the Kingdom, no fear should live here: not of people, not of enemies, not of social anxieties, not of finances, not of any of it. We need to have enough trust in God to realize that the Kingdom of God is here, close enough to touch, and to love our neighbor as ourselves (Leviticus 19:18), because perfect love casts out all fear (1 John 4:18).

© 2016 Lee Ann B. Marino. All rights reserved.

Who’s Coming To Dinner?

Matthew 22:1-10 (NLT)

Jesus also told them other parables. He said,  “The Kingdom of Heaven can be illustrated by the story of a king who prepared a great wedding feast for his son. When the banquet was ready, he sent his servants to notify those who were invited. But they all refused to come!“So he sent other servants to tell them, ‘The feast has been prepared. The bulls and fattened cattle have been killed, and everything is ready. Come to the banquet!’ But the guests he had invited ignored them and went their own way, one to his farm, another to his business. Others seized his messengers and insulted them and killed them. “The king was furious, and he sent out his army to destroy the murderers and burn their town. And he said to his servants, ‘The wedding feast is ready, and the guests I invited aren’t worthy of the honor. Now go out to the street corners and invite everyone you see.’ So the servants brought in everyone they could find, good and bad alike, and the banquet hall was filled with guests.

Revelation 3:20 (NLT)

Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear My voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends.
The observation was made to me last year that we will most likely be very surprised at the individuals who are present at the wedding feast of the Lamb at the end of time.  The odds are going to be good that the people we have decided will be sitting in the most supreme seats and receiving the most honor might not even be there, while the people we automatically assume won’t be there will be.  I think we need to think more about this and give it some serious thought, especially in the context of much of what’s going on in our world today and the way we approach Christianity in general in our society.

Gone are the days where we concern ourselves with the genuine needs and care of people, able to put our politics aside and reach out to the homeless or the hurting.  Nowadays we have Christians running for office and rubbing elbows in places of political power to try and push agendas, when that is never what Jesus told us to do.  Jesus told us to go out and feed the hungry, clothe the naked, give drink to the thirsty, visit the sick, visit people in prison, and welcomed strangers.  It is that last one, welcoming strangers, that I want to look at here in this note (although all of it will connect in a certain way).  In the efforts to rise up and gain power, the church is ignoring the call, its duty, to welcome people into the church that might be different from us.  We are ignoring this call because we want to be seen with the right people and be perceived to have the right impact because we don’t want to give to people that we won’t receive from.

Yup. We want to get.  And the results of wanting to “get” are clear in this parable.

The guy in Jesus’ parable invited everyone to the wedding feast who “mattered.”  He made sure that the people he invited were going to look right in the photos and make the society section of the newspaper and that all the right connections would bring his son the best gifts and then, in turn, invite him to their weddings.  Weddings of old were just like the ones today: they signified alliances between families and social connectedness.  Thus, the man did what everyone always did when it came to weddings: he used it as an opportunity to move up the social ladder by extending his table to those who had something he wanted.

Do you only invite people to preach at your church because you think they’ll bring their church out, and you’ll get a big collection?  Are you only inviting people to your church because you want to be invited to speak at theirs?  Do you only welcome visitors if they can put a big offering in the collection plate?  Do you want to solicit businessmen or politicians to become members of your church, while the homeless person on the street, or the struggling teenager who got kicked out of his parents’ house because he or she somehow told them that they are different from the norm, you’ll gladly pass up?

The result of what the man got was all those people who “looked right” for the wedding didn’t show up.  They didn’t even come up with good excuses: it just kind of boiled down to “we’re too busy.”  That sounds to me just like any time we try to have an event, or a prayer call, or a conference, or a service when we have church these days.  “We’re too busy, we can’t come.”  There’s always an excuse, none of them good, and none of them valid, all of which boil down to: what you are doing isn’t important enough for us to make the time and commit to coming.

Then there are those who attack what we are doing: “Women can’t be preachers!”  “Faith is a waste of time!”  “Your ministry is never going to make it!”  “You have nothing to offer!”  Then we get ourselves all wrapped up in our feelings – and it’s not the first time, or the second time, or the third time – and somehow instead of just going on and growing up, we stay there, all wounded and offended, and feel bad because we’ve been “attacked.”

And that is right where we stop in the church today, isn’t it?  We host our event or our ministry work or our service and when no one shows or we don’t get the turnout we want, we complain and we whine and we pout.  We come on social media and start chastising the church for being uncommitted and not caring.  We start harping on people for not giving enough.  We go on and on and on and feel bad for ourselves because nobody came to our thing…and we ignore what God is trying to tell us!!!

Maybe the problem is that you want a church full of status and you haven’t yet accepted that the people you think should be at the banquet aren’t the ones who are coming…selah.

The man in the parable didn’t leave that wedding banquet empty!  He sent his servants out and had the banquet hall full, with the “second string” of choices.  The people who came weren’t going to make the nightly news.  They weren’t the people who careers were built upon.  They weren’t people that anyone would have assessed as “moral judges.”  The Bible says the good and bad alike came in, and you couldn’t even tell the difference because at that banquet, anyone who was willing to partake was welcome there to receive what was offered.

In other words: shut up and stop whining and go get the people that God wants at His banquet.  The Bible itself indicates there will be people there who we perceive to be good and people we perceive to be bad.  The job of the church is not to be a political agency that looks good and moves people up in the nation’s power structure.  It is not our job to make these vast, sweeping moral judgments about people; its job is to bring the people in and let them partake of the goodness of God, of the supper that He offers to all of us so that He can reveal His essential truths to all of us and lead people to where they need to be in Him.

Stop being so elitist and then being offended when the people you want around don’t show up.  Jesus stands at the door and knocks, and He is knocking so we will open up that door and make sure He is at our banquet as our guest of honor.  We’re not doing our job as we sit around, insular and idle, arguing about everything under the sun with anyone who will listen.  Contention makes for a bad dinner host.  Grace makes for a meal that anyone can respond to and partake of, because grace leads to forgiveness.

If all you are looking for is to capitalize on God and move up using ministry to do so, Jesus isn’t coming to your banquet.  Come to think of it, I don’t think I want to be there. either.

(c) 2015 Lee Ann B. Marino.  All rights reserved.

Now God has written a lesson for the rest of mankind
If we’re slow in responding, He may leave us behind
He’s preparing a banquet for that great and glorious day.
When the Lord and master calls us, be certain not to say…
I CANNOT COME!
– “I Cannot Come,” Medical Mission Sisters

False Christs And False Messiahs

Matthew 24:24:

For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders; so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect. (ASV)

False christs and false prophets will appear, and they will offer great signs and wonders in order to deceive, if possible, even those whom God has chosen. (CEB)

False messiahs and false prophets will come and work great miracles and signs. They will even try to fool God’s chosen ones. (CEV)

For false-christs and false-prophets will arise and give great signs and wonders, so as to deceive, if possible, even the chosen ones. (DLNT)

Mark 13:22:

False Christs (Messiahs) and false prophets will arise and show signs and [work] miracles to deceive and lead astray, if possible, even the elect (those God has chosen out for Himself). (AMP)

There will appear false Messiahs and false prophets performing signs and wonders for the purpose, if possible, of misleading the chosen. (CJB)

For false Christs and false prophets will arise, and give signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. (DARBY)

False ·Christs [Messiahs] and false prophets will ·come [appear; rise up] and perform ·great wonders [signs; miracles] and ·miracles [wonders; marvels]. They will try to ·fool [mislead; deceive] even the ·people God has chosen [elect], if that is possible. (EXB)

We all like to quote the passages above, in a variety of translations (because, for the most part, the passage’s message remains the same) whenever a cult leader seems to rise up. I remember the panic in people’s voices when they heard about David Koresh’s compound in Waco, Texas, or the work of the Heaven’s Gate cult leader Marshall Applewhite, or some of the other groups that, to this day, still seem to send chills down the spines of people who simply can’t believe – or fathom – anyone followed these people.

Sure, the leaders of these different were odd, at best, demonic, at worst. The things they did and the ways in which they manipulated people’s minds were not only evil, they had a characteristic of wrong about them that doesn’t cotton well in the minds of average people. My question, however is as follows: in keeping with the passage, which makes it obvious that multiple people will come in order to deceive, is claiming to actually be Jesus Christ or the Messiah incarnate really what this passage is literally speaking of?

Take a guess, if you will, just how many people in recorded history have claimed to actually be the Christ Incarnate. How many do you think it’s been? 10,000? 1,000? Even 500?

Nope. The actual number is not even 100. In recorded history, approximately 35 historical figures have actually claimed to be the Messiah, or claimed to be “the Christ.” While I am sure there have been others that we don’t know about (which should say something in and of itself to us), or others who maybe history has obscured, with 35 on record, that pretty much clears up that there was never going to be some sort of mass movement towards people claiming to be the Second Coming, Jesus Himself, the Incarnation of the Christ, or some combination of all three.

The way this prophecy reads, it is surely not only a reference to the 35 people who outright claimed to be Jesus. The reality of these people is that very few people in history ever really bought into their claims that they were Christ and, therefore, their work had very minimal, if any, effects on the larger principle of the “elect” or “chosen” in history. Out of the list of people who claimed to be Christ, very few of them ever even claimed Christianity for themselves, or did something that obviously distorted the belief system to the point where not too many followed or believed them.

This means that, as with most things Biblical, we need to go back and look – again – at the warning and the passage. The term “false Christ” and “false Messiah” are the same word in the Greek, it being “pseudochristos” (#5580, Strong’s). (Note: these are different terms from the word “antichrist,” which is “antichristos,” and indicates being against something, rather than being false). This term has been translated to mean “false Christ” as in the person of Christ, but what it literally means is “false anointing” or “false anointed one.” It is parallel in structure to the term for “false prophets,” which is “pseudoprophetes” (#5578, Strong’s). In other words, the Bible is not just telling us to beware a few random people who will claim to be Jesus Himself – but are warning us to beware people who come, having a “false anointing” or a “false prophecy” – one that appears (where we get the prefix pseudo-from) to be anointed or appears to be prophetic – but indeed, is not.

All of us have met someone who claimed to be something in ministry, but their claims just didn’t seem to match up with the reality of who and what that person is. For example: a deliverance minister who doesn’t seem to have any success stories, nor do they have the gift of healing or discernment. An apostle who doesn’t cover any leaders, but just seems to wander around, not really leading anyone and not building up the church in some way (I did not say ‘a’ church, I said ‘the’ church, which is a word for another message). People who can’t seem to give an accurate word, no matter how hard they try, or who give words that are so convoluted, nobody understands them. People who seem to sound good – maybe they can preach the part, look the part, or sound the part – but who, at the end of the day, just don’t have what is needed to measure up to the claims that they have – are operating and misleading via a “false anointing.” The second they are somehow confronted with this, even if it’s done in an innocent way (such as not agreeing with the word or not accepting something that they say), they suddenly turn and become punitive, demanding repentance or somehow questioning your own relationship with God as being sub-par to their own.

The reason why we are told to beware these types is not just because they can mislead us into error. That is part of it, but the real reason relates to deception. The line between a true anointing and a false one is rather thin and any one of us can deviate off into the realm of false appearances if we start doing anything that we do through our own human productions, mimicking and mocking the realm of the Spirit, thus blaspheming it (Matthew 12:31-32). God wants us, at all times, to remember the anointing moves through us, but is not us (2 Corinthians 4:7). The deception of the elect, the chosen, of those whom God has His hand upon, is about far more than denying Jesus and turning to someone else; it is about the principle of idolatry, which we see all throughout the Old Testament. The Israelites always claimed to be of God and wanted to rely on God when things were difficult for them or being followers of God seemed to be beneficial. Israel consistently wanted the benefits, but didn’t want the exclusivity of following God as He required them to. The false anointing leads us into a similar state: we want God’s benefits but we want to be enchanted and entertained by the false anointing, as well. Too often, we want to be around people who keep us with the appearance of God, but who actually deceive us into thinking we are all right where we are, with the attitudes and issues we have, and that God is not asking us to change.

False christs and false messiahs are a far more serious problem for the Body because they reveal to us the deceptions we all have: the hopes to be more than we are or than God has for us, the desire to hear that we don’t have to change or transform, and the concept that we can produce an anointing for ourselves, as long as it looks just like we have been transformed to other people.

Beware the real “false christs” and “false messiahs” that walk among us every day, in our churches, our lives, on the internet, even on television or radio. God has called us to be alert and aware, and understand the way the anointing works. If something or someone sounds eerily like exactly what you want to hear at that moment…it’s time to step back, pray, and consider a false anointing is at work with a familiar spirit behind it.

© 2015 Lee Ann B. Marino. All rights reserved.

Power For Today Magazine, Fourth Quarter 2014

Power For Today Magazine, Fourth Quarter 2014

Power For Today Magazine: Power For Today Magazine, Fourth Quarter 2014

Power For Today Magazine is published quarterly and is a publication of Apostolic Fellowship International Ministries. Fourth Quarter 2014: Is This The End Of The World As We Know It? Interview: Apostle Stacey Woods. Articles by Apostle Dr. Lee Ann B. Marino, Apostle Tim R. Hopkins,…

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Power For Today Magazine, January/February 2014

Power For Today Magazine, January/February 2014

Power For Today Magazine: Power For Today Magazine, January/February 2014

Power For Today Magazine is published bi-monthly and is a publication of Apostolic Fellowship International Ministries. January/February 2014: Holiness. Interview: Crimson Storm, Christian heavy metal band. Guest articles: Colored Judgment and The Sound Of Silence. Authors: Apostle Dr. Lee Ann B…

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Race Ipsum Loquitor: Reaching Common Ground In The Martin/Zimmerman Case

546575_3674462585379_988285994_nAs an apostle, I wrote “Turning The World Upside Down: The Social Call Of The Apostolic” for a five-volume apostolic anthology recently released by Kingdom House Publishing. In that work, I make the following statement: “The call to reconciliation has many different facets, as reconciliation relates to people. Reconciliation is a part of healing ministry, although it is different from traditional concepts of healing. While many apostles may walk in a gift that enables them to heal others physically by the power of God and faith, reconciliation heals people in ways that are not always so visible. It does relate to unity within the church. We should not, however, assume it stops there. It also relates to the issues that divide humanity, which are found in the world at large. Reconciliation bridges the gaps created by sin, and the result of those gaps, as they form through evils, abuses, wrongs, and injustices. The apostle is called to stand as an agent of justice, a representative of God’s order in social matters. They are called to be advocates of truth in every arena. As part of the apostle’s social call, they are called to bring people together, and bring healing to the rivalries and rifts that damage relationship. Apostles do not have the right, nor option, to be racial bigots. The apostle is called to go wherever God sends them, to any and all people, and for any and all purposes. Ethnic hostilities must cease in the presence of a true apostle’s work. Knowing God calls all nations and people to be in relationship with Him (Psalm 67:3-4, Psalm 68:32, Psalm 96:3), the apostle fosters relationship with as many diverse people as possible. When someone or something is being unjustly persecuted, the apostle is called to stand for God’s truth in that situation.” (Aligning With The Apostolic: An Anthology of Apostleship, Vol. 2: Apostles And The Apostolic Movement In The Seven Mountains Of Culture, “Turning The World Upside Down: The Social Call of The Apostolic by Dr. Lee Ann B. Marino, pp. 293-294) I had no idea when I wrote those words in October of 2012 how relevant they would be when the anthology was released a few weeks ago. The various tensions which have erupted as result of the Trayvon Martin murder trial make the words relevant to all of us who are in the Body of Christ, but most especially, to those who are leaders. We are called to make a stand and to stand for what is true in this situation. In that effort, I want to write about the case both as an apostle and as one who worked as a legal secretary and one who continues to do all my own legal representation, to this very day. It is a part of my call to make a statement, to bring clarity and understanding, because that is what I am here to do.

I wrestled with writing this because I do not want to behave in any manner that would assume me to be out of place. I intend no disrespect in this work whatsoever. I will outright say that I have no idea what it is like to be a black woman, with black sons and daughters, experiencing the sting of racism against that specific race in the United States. I do, however, know what it is like to experience prejudice, and I do know what it is like to be profiled. I’m not just an apostle; I am also a woman. Any woman who is called to any office in the five-fold ministry has experienced both profiling and prejudice. In fact, I’d venture that most Christian women have experienced profiling at some point in time, as we are told what our place is and harassed or rebuked when we dare to do something that is not in our place. I’ve had plenty of men, both in the secular and church world, tell me where I could go, what I could do, or what or what was appropriate or inappropriate for me simply because I am a woman. That’s a lousy feeling, if you’ve experienced it: it is the message that being a woman makes me inferior. Being a woman is not something I can control, it is something that just is, and sexism is prejudice. When I was a kid, I watched my mother, already a battered woman, experience prejudice at the hands of the judicial system by judges who were known to hate women, and who expressed bias because my father was the town justice for a little hole in the wall. Somehow his position made it impossible for her to even find an attorney who would speak to her within an hour and a half of where she lived – and made it so any equitable justice in her divorce was impossible.

I am also a woman of Italian-American ancestry, whose immigrant relatives dealt with and encountered prejudice and injustice as a way of life. (People assume I am white but honestly, thanks to my genetics, we’re not sure what I am – LOL.) Under the rule of FDR, Italians were banned from the United States for ten years, and also received the lowest pay grade in the United States – lower than the Irish, the Chinese, and yes, even the blacks (Richard Gambino, “Blood Of My Blood: The Dilemma Of The Italian Americans,” 1991). Even though people often cannot tell my ancestry due to a very rare genetic condition that causes me to be as white in coloring as I am, when I was younger and still had more pigmentation, I was referred to by racial epithets geared at Italians. It’s not a good feeling to feel profiled; to be called out by something that is beyond anyone’s control or doing, and made to feel inferior based on that singular characteristic.

I’ve also witnessed racism just by being alive: Oneonta, New York (where I lived for 25 years) had an active Klan until the 1970s, burning crosses on integrated church lawns. In 1992, Oneonta, New York made the national news due to a SUNY Oneonta college student’s attack on a 77-year old woman. The woman described the assailant as black and carrying a knife, to which the police responded by creating a list of black college males at the school and interrogating, harassing, and accusing them. It turned out, in the end, that the assailant was a white fraternity boy – not a black male, as had been stated. (http://www.nytimes.com/1992/09/27/nyregion/college-town-in-uproar-over-black-list-search.html?pagewanted=all&src=pm)My older sister was denied access to a swimming pool as a child because she was so dark. Owensboro, Kentucky, where I lived from 2007-2009, remains segregated, to this very day. When I discovered one of the outlying country funeral parlors refused to service blacks because they’d have to buy make-up in order to do so, I was the one that blew the whistle to the local chapter of the ACLU. When I’ve been in certain cities in the “deep south” with people of different ethnic backgrounds, people will stare or make comments. Even here, in North Carolina (where I have lived since 2009), Raleigh of which is rather integrated for a southern city, outlying cities will still pull blacks over for no good reason except to hustle and harass them. I know of numerous stories in which black churches were protested or blocked from going into neighborhoods, and situations where churches have been raided and harassed during services by cops who enter, guns drawn, to hand out citations during Sunday morning worship.

I’m in these churches, too. The majority of churches I’ve preached in over the past year are inner-city churches, complete with bars on the windows. God’s promise to me is to give me property in every city in which I go to – not every suburb or outlying area. My ministries will be located in these areas where needs exist and the Gospel must be preached. When the cops decide to raid the building, the odds are good I will be there, too. If the cops decide to pull someone over due to race, the odds are good I may be in that car. When we move into the neighborhood, it may very well be my integrated church that they decide to pick on and harass. I could do the funeral of any woman’s child who dies as the result of prejudice or injustice. This case, the reasons behind this case, are as much a part of my reality as they are a part of anyone’s reality. For that reason, I care, as all of us doing Kingdom work should.

Biases exist. I’ve heard many people argue that bringing race into the case is starting trouble. That is an unfair statement, simply because race is an underlying issue that exists in many situations, and is especially prominent in certain regions of the United States. Even though the individual who makes the statement may not be a racist, pretending racial issues do not exist is not practical, nor is it pragmatic. I believe in praying for peace, as I am sure many of you can witness. I do not believe, however, that praying for peace is going to magically make all of our racial issues in the United States vanish or make race irrelevant to this case. To understand the basics of this case, we must start with the fact that, yes, race was relevant in the case. It was a part of the underlying agenda, underlying motives as voiced by Zimmerman himself on the 911 call. I can’t ignore this fact; therefore, it is relevant not just to me, but to all of us examining this situation. Beyond this, we need to examine the cold, hard facts of the case in order to understand the truth of the matter and come to a place of common ground – where instead of ignoring the racism present and the racism present in the United States, we can understand why we need to come together as one (beginning with the church) and stand against the wrongs that are inevitably coming.

The legal system has a term: Race ipsum loquitor. It means “the facts speak for themselves.” This means that there are legal cases in which the facts of the situation are self-evident and, therefore, their own evidence. I believe the essence of the legalities of this case lie in race ipsum loquitor.

Fact #1: An unarmed teenager was killed by a man over legal age.

Trayvon Martin was shot by George Zimmerman. That fact is not in dispute. Trayvon Martin is now dead, and George Zimmerman faced trial with charges spanning from Murder in the Second Degree, to Manslaughter, to Acquittal. Acquittal means the individual did not, in actuality, kill someone. All other charges, including Manslaughter, indicate that the other party was killed, albeit by accident. For Zimmerman to have received Acquittal, that indicates the jury – and the law – do not recognize Zimmerman as having killed Martin.

This is, in and of itself, a travesty of justice because every one of us knows from the facts of this case that Zimmerman killed Martin. Trayvon Martin was an underage male without a gun – who was unarmed. That means Zimmerman had no reason to fear for his life because Zimmerman was, himself, in fact armed. And, given he was the one with the gun, Zimmerman is the one who killed Martin. Thus, given this fact – Zimmerman should have received a sentence that was not Acquittal, because he did shoot Martin – and admittedly so.

The verdict, therefore, was totally unjust.

Fact #2: Racial epithet invoked by Zimmerman was recorded on the 911 call.

The Bible tells us: “For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.” (Matthew 12:37, NIV). Zimmerman himself used a certain derogatory term when he called 911. Magically, now, this fact that was formerly quite clear has suddenly become muddled due to enhanced audio manipulation. It is my own belief that what it first sounded like is, indeed what was said; the fact that it was altered makes me highly suspicious. The altered version does not fit the conversation, nor the surrounding discussion of the call. Using an epithet is not acceptable – and means that race was indeed a relevant factor in the case.

Fact #3: Zimmerman was explicitly told by police to stop following Martin, and chose to ignore that.

Zimmerman played vigilante with a gun. There’s no other way to put it. He also defied order and authority, which wasn’t a stupid thing to do, it was a rebellious thing to do. Right there, that bespeaks that Zimmerman moved forward with his own intentions and motives. Whether the motive was racial, to be macho, or any combination of the two – Zimmerman did not do what he was told. According to law, that makes him legally liable for any results of his own actions (i.e., killing Martin because he was specifically told by law enforcement to refrain from pursuit). It is also relevant that Martin was a minor at the time of the incident, thereby making Zimmerman the responsible party to execute and obey the obligations of the law. If a fight or scuffle ensued, it ensued because Zimmerman did not follow the instructions of officers; thus he was the instigator, following Martin against advice, and the aggressor of any events that transpired thereafter.

Fact #4: Zimmerman’s father is a retired judge.

My memories of my mother’s divorce are highly reminiscent to me these days because the “good ol’ boy network” is alive and well, especially in smaller communities. The fact that his father is a retired judge automatically creates bias in the legal system within that area. That is part of the reason why Zimmerman was not arrested, nor tried, immediately. It also makes other factors in this case highly suspicious, such as the jury’s verdict (which I will discuss in a moment), the passing glances between Zimmerman and his attorneys, and the passing of items between those involved in his defense (possibly bribery). Since when in history has there ever been an all-female jury? Or a verdict that comes down and read at 10 PM on a Saturday night, especially after the jury was extremely divided on the sentencing? The “good ol’ boy network” is a facet of the justice system which keeps things tilted in the favor of those who want to have favor, and denies true justice to those who often need it the most. In other circumstances, the trial would have been moved to another state whereby the father’s influence would not have been had.

Case en Pointe: the Florida woman who used “Stand Your Ground” as a defense because she shot a gunshot into the air to scare off her abusive husband, who is now sentenced to twenty years. She was told this law “doesn’t apply” to her because she didn’t shoot him! Now let’s imagine if she had shot him – My guess would be, as is typical of battered women in the system, this abused woman would have still been told “Stand Your Ground” didn’t apply to her. We won’t even mention the fact that, given racial tensions and issues in Florida, this woman is also black – and, big surprise, the Florida legislature has found a way to treat her unfairly.

Fact #5: Stand Your Ground Law was inappropriately applied to this case.

According to Wikipedia, the Stand Your Ground law is as follows: “states that a person may justifiably use force in self-defense when there is reasonable belief of an unlawful threat, without an obligation to retreat first…under these legal concepts, a person is justified in using deadly force in certain situations and the “stand your ground” law would be a defense or immunity to criminal charges and civil suit. The difference between immunity and a defense is that an immunity bars suit, charges, detention and arrest. A defense, such as an affirmative defense, permits a plaintiff or the state to seek civil damages or a criminal conviction but may offer mitigating circumstances that justify the accused’s conduct.” later in this same piece, the following is said of the Stand Your Ground Law in Florida: “In Florida, self-defense claims tripled in the years following enactment. The law’s critics argue that Florida’s law makes it very difficult to prosecute cases against people who shoot others and then claim self-defense. The shooter can argue that he felt threatened, and in most cases, the only witness who could have argued otherwise is the deceased. This problem is inherent to all self-defense laws, not just stand your ground laws. Before passage of the law, Miami police chief John F. Timoney called the law unnecessary and dangerous in that “[w]hether it’s trick-or-treaters or kids playing in the yard of someone who doesn’t want them there or some drunk guy stumbling into the wrong house, you’re encouraging people to possibly use deadly physical force where it shouldn’t be used.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stand-your-ground_law) The basics of Stand Your Ground in Florida is the formation of a defense, rather than preventing prosecution or arrest. Even though it was legally invoked in a situation by which there was a shooting, it was inappropriately applied to the case because it cannot be a self-defense case if Zimmerman was told not to pursue Martin. If Trayvon Martin had come up to George Zimmerman without warrant and started punching or attacking him for no apparent reason and Zimmerman fired, that would be self-defense. It was not self-defense if Zimmerman was pursuing Martin after he was instructed to wait. Zimmerman had no evidence Martin was doing anything wrong and, as one on community watch, he should have been aware that Martin lived in that neighborhood – not profiled him as causing trouble. Self-defense has no bearing if Zimmerman failed to follow orders and, therefore, Stand Your Ground does not apply.

Fact #6: The jury did not reach their verdict based on the facts of the case.

When people are selected to sit on a jury, they are instructed to decide their verdict strictly on the evidence presented to them in the case. They are often prohibited from watching television or having any contact with the outside world during their jury duty experience. Keeping that in mind, and also keeping in mind the information we have already examined, I want us to carefully examine some of Juror B37’s remarks (http://www.cnn.com/2013/07/15/justice/zimmerman-juror-book):

She said she believes Zimmerman’s “heart was in the right place” the night he shot Martin, but that he didn’t use “good judgment” in confronting the Florida teen.

“I think George Zimmerman is a man whose heart was in the right place, but just got displaced by the vandalism in the neighborhoods, and wanting to catch these people so badly that he went above and beyond what he really should have done,” she said. “But I think his heart was in the right place. It just went terribly wrong.”

“I think George got in a little bit too deep, which he shouldn’t have been there. But Trayvon decided that he wasn’t going to let him scare him … and I think Trayvon got mad and attacked him,” she said. Zimmerman felt his life was in danger before shooting Martin, and it was his voice that was heard screaming for help in 911 calls, the juror said she believes.

“He had a right to defend himself,” she said. “If he felt threatened that his life was going to be taken away from him, or he was going to have bodily harm, he had a right.”

The statements above do not reveal a verdict based on the evidence involved in the case, but loudly bespeak emotional judgments. This juror (and apparently the jury as a whole) came to the conclusion that George Zimmerman was basically just a guy gone wrong, but that he had good motives. Whether George Zimmerman was an altar boy as a child, the lead drummer in the Friends of the Friendless, or the lead director for Make-A-Wish is not relevant in the evidence of this case. If the jurors acknowledged – as this one did – that Zimmerman acted out of step with the law and went “above and beyond what he really should have done,” that makes him guilty – not acquitted.

It is obvious, however, that the jurors were swayed with emotionalism – the concept of Zimmerman being afraid, of him being in too deep – and they sympathized with him, instead of looking objectively at the facts of the case. It can’t be self-defense if Zimmerman was the pursuer. It is also obvious that racial issues were present with the juror herself, as she described Trayvon Martin as “He was a boy of color.” (http://gawker.com/george-zimmerman-juror-b37-hates-media-called-trayvon-787873533)

Given the facts of this case, I believe all of us need to step back first and look at ourselves. We need to stop somehow equating this trial to the OJ Simpson case back in the 1990s (the two have nothing in common), stop saying “But Zimmerman was Hispanic how can this be about race?” (that doesn’t mean he didn’t have racial tendencies toward other groups), and stop making it about Trayvon Martin’s character (the kid is dead, he can’t defend himself, and there is nothing that was found to be about him that labeled him as anything other than an average, normal kid). We need to look at where we are as a church and as a nation. The first thing we need to do is look at our own personal biases and issues. Where are we falling short? Do we refuse to go to a certain church or be with a certain group of people because we are biased against them? Do we refuse to do something because of our own prejudices? Are we not helping or as involved as we should be because of something we don’t like in someone? We need to stop pretending race doesn’t exist in the church. I am the first one to admit there should be no black church, Hispanic church, white church, etc., but the reality is that they do exist, and those lines have been drawn because of the sins of our ancestors. The divisions in the churches exist because someone, somewhere in time was prejudiced and didn’t want to embrace a person of a different race in their church. The result has been radical differences among racially divided church lines. But who says we have to still abide by them? There is nothing stopping any one of us from visiting or reaching out to people of different races who are our brothers and sisters in the Lord. If we want peace, we need to be advocates of it ourselves.

We also need to stop making race an issue among ourselves in the way that we do. It has been spoken of my ministry that sociologists should do a study on us because none of us seem to care that I am the only one of us in the room who does not appear to be of minority descent. Do we care? No, because I’m not trying to be anyone I’m not. At the same time, every one of us is very aware of what I am. When I get up to preach, nobody yells out to me, “Preach, Black Woman!” because to do what would be absurd. This doesn’t make any one of us ignorant, bigoted, racist, or prejudiced; it’s just acknowledging what is. Yes, there are people of every imaginable race who I either work with or who are somehow a part of our ministry and it’s a non-issue to us because we are all one in Christ. Instead of staring at it, maybe it’s time to ask us why we are the way we are and how we’ve all managed to put these issues aside and support one another in love. We’re happy to share where God has brought ALL of us from. That means we need to get active with others and stop just ‘sticking to what we know.’ Get out there and make a stand as pertains to the racism present in the US. Join a peaceful protest (I will not advocate vigilantism in any form), sign a petition, join a boycott, march, write, teach on reconciliation in the church – get out there and do something. Stop staring and start doing.

I think my most pressing issue with the church is asking where are all the prophets and intercessors? People forever tell me how keen they are in the Spirit and how prophetic they are, but they couldn’t watch the body language of Zimmerman and his attorneys on the news and see the smirks, glances, and evil smiles that said “we got away with it?” They are so busy telling people who they are going to marry and telling fortunes for money, they aren’t even praying for our young people or for the racial issues present today! This issue needs to be someone’s spiritual burden, especially as the issue itself continues to spark and get further and further out of control. Why aren’t you praying? Why are you so busy trying to get noticed and get in someone’s conference that you’ve stopped praying for the issues that affect this country? Instead of just randomly praying for peace, why don’t you get before the throne and start seriously seeking God about ways to bring about peace in your own community?

And how about us caring about the issues in our own backyard? I am not opposed, in the least, to mission work…but what about addressing issues at home? What about the fact that we have immigrants from other nations coming in, driving Mercedes and living in huge houses, while the black inner-city communities live in poverty? I’ve got a problem with that! What about making opportunities for those who are right here to go to school, to advance, to get educated, and to bring reform? How about us working for reform?

I believe we need more than just revival in the US; I believe we need reformation. That reformation begins with us, right here, leaders who are able to reach out to others and stand as models of truth and unity in our communities and the nation at large. I’m not going to let anyone or anything turn me away from the Gospel of reconciliation, which holds the promise and truth for us and our healing. That Word is what unites us all across racial lines. I believe in that Word, and the Spirit that unites.

So, no matter how white I may look, where I may be from, or what you may think of me, I want justice for Trayvon. Not just for Trayvon, but for everyone who has experienced injustice in their lives and prejudice based on skin color, or any other reason they may experience injustice. And, with you, I will stand, because the facts on this case, and on racism, speak for themselves.

(c) 2013 Lee Ann B. Marino. All rights reserved.

There Is No “But”

“As the night was ending, Jesus came to them walking on the sea. When the disciples saw Him walking on the water they were terrified and said, ‘It’s a ghost!’ and cried out with fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them: ‘Have courage! It is I. Do not be afraid.’ Peter said to Him, ‘Lord, if it is You, order me to come to You on the water.’ So He said, ‘Come.’ Peter got out of the boat, walked on the water, and came toward Jesus. But when He saw the strong wind He became afraid. And starting to sink, He cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’ Immediately Jesus reached out His hand and caught him, saying to him, ‘You of little faith, why did you doubt?’ When they went up into the boat, the wind ceased. Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God.’” (Matthew 14:25-32, NET)

I was recently in an event where I was in the room with two other apostles and a pastor. Discussion of the Apostle Peter’s experience walking on water came up, to which one of the other leaders stated the following: “If someone came and said they walked on water, you know what we would all say – That’s of the devil.”

I sat and thought about it for a minute, and then quietly responded: “I wouldn’t say that. I would want to know more about their experience.”

I was willing to be the odd man out of the group for this one. That may be how the majority of the church may think, but that was not how I think. The Apostle Peter’s experience is fascinating to me for many reasons. Despite the good level of talk we do in the church today – we say we believe God for this, that, and something else, I know that an awful lot of people would say that such an experience today is either wrong, of the devil, or imaginary. So I ask you: what would you say to such an experience? Do you believe it is possible? Would you discount any and all possibility of such? For the sake of argument, let’s leave off the “What ifs”: What if the person is lying, what if the person is crazy, what if it was a magic trick and someone walked across on plexi-glass, what if it’s all made-up, etc. We are going to go on the premise that someone, of sound mind and spiritual being, comes and shares such an experience with you. What would you do?

As sure as I sit here, I have faith that such an experience can happen again. The Apostle Peter had the same Holy Ghost I have (as Apostle Yolanda Davis-Greggs would put it) and that means the same results can come forth. Let’s also clarify why the argument that such an experience was “just for Peter” or “just for that time” is no good. If it was the Apostle Peter’s faith which propelled him to walk toward Jesus, recognizing Who He was in that very moment, then walking on water was an act proportioned to a great measure of faith. If it was a measure of faith, it is still possible, even today. The argument that it was just for another time is the same argument people use against other measures of faith in our modern times, be they tongues, healing, the five-fold ministry, and miracles – but notice we seem to have defenses in place to dispel all those arguments. So why is it that we would never think or fathom that Jesus couldn’t call someone out of a boat today – and that person, having such a measure of faith – walks out on the water to Him?

I think what disturbs me most about what I am speaking of is the clear lack of faith. Today people in the church have the appearance of belief, but if we really press it, they do not, in actuality, have faith. People really believe a miracle is getting their electric bill paid or getting a car loan, when anyone who has or does not have faith can, in actuality, do those things. We’ve reduced God and the miraculous to things that, are in actuality, not a miracle. The result is a faith that sounds like this: “I believe, but.” People today say they believe in God, but then find a million other things they do not believe God can do or is doing today. In faith, there is no “I believe, but.” (Thank you Apostle Yolanda for that line!) We either believe in it, or we don’t, and if we believe all things are possible with God, that means ALL things are possible. We don’t have to have seen it to know it’s real, for “…Blessed are the people who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:29, NET) In order to see the great miracles of God, we must have faith first. Someone needs to stand and have the faith to agree with God for the incredible. All we have to do is have faith…and yet…somehow that seems hard for this modern generation. We go running to the doctor before we go to the Throne. We go running to the phone instead of taking our issues in prayer. We call ourselves things we are not, simply because we don’t have the faith to be who and what God has called us to be. When it comes right down to it, we don’t receive the Spirit in a transforming way in our lives because we simply do not have the faith.

I think I don’t doubt the possibility of the experience because of all I see in the recount of the Apostle Peter’s experience. We can clearly see Jesus’ divinity in the passage, but that is not all God was trying to teach us there. The Apostle Peter had an experience that changed his entire perception of faith and belief, and stood as an ensign to the others who were there. I also know that in the course of my own ministry, I deeply identify with the Apostle Peter’s literal ups and downs. I’ve been on the water, under the water, and pulled out of it in so many ways in the spiritual realm, I see no reason why it can’t happen in the natural realm. Being in ministry was never something I asked for. God called me, and I answered. Being in ministry for the past sixteen years has not been easy. When I started out, I was plagued with emotional, mental, and physical problems. I had been diagnosed with clinical depression. I was sick, and nobody knew what was wrong with me. I had been hurt by tradition and the legalism of religion. I suffered from seizures. Being in ministry did not make these problems go away; in fact, in some ways, the stinging difference of my call made some of these problems more prevalent. It took faith in God and faith in His purpose for me to bring me to a place where I could be healed in Jesus’ Name. Many times throughout this walk, I have been in a place of faith, only to start drowning when I stopped walking in faith. In keeping with the Apostle Peter’s experience, God pulled me right back up, set me right back where I needed to be, and I realized Who He was, all over again. I had my own experience with God, a re-baptism of sorts: brought to a prefigure of death and risen once again to new life.

I still go through various trials, even though all of the physical and mental ailments mentioned in the last paragraph have long been healed and are no longer a part of my life. Now I deal with people who try to pull me under the water with them because they do not have the faith to walk on the water. I’ve had a few very vocal critics (who are mad because I wouldn’t let them be in control, are jealous, didn’t get their way, or something like that) as the ministry gets bigger, who only by the grace of God are silenced. The ways God silences them are serious, because judgment begins with those who claim to believe: most either are downsized in scope or wind up out of ministry all together. Now I have people under the ministry and who are friends who know better when people try to stir up those waters to drown, but that wasn’t always the case. I had many times where I would go under the water with them, only to rise up again by the very hand of God Himself, bringing me to a place where I could know and experience the divine in a realm that is only of Him. I know God is real and He works miracles even today – miracles beyond bills paid and money received – because I have experienced it within my own life. We know God is no respecter of persons, which means you can receive, too – if you will but trust and believe.

We can’t say we believe in the resurrection and discount the possibility of defying the natural elements by faith to walk on water. Why, you ask? Because it is a miracle that is also a type of the resurrection. The resurrection defies all natural order, including death and decay. In the Apostle Peter’s walk, descent under the water, and then being pulled back up out of it, we find the prefigure of the resurrection. In that single action, we learn that faith is the secret to overcome death and walk in eternal life. That is why it was the Apostle Peter who stood up on Pentecost to speak of the power of baptism: “Repent, and each one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 2:38, NET). The Apostle Peter understood about baptism and Jesus’ resurrection in a way that nobody else there could, because he, himself, had lived through a type of it based on his faith. He’d been brought to the brink and raised up again. He knew death, burial, and resurrection through his own baptismal experience, out there on the lake. He also knew the power of faith and how it could overcome anything: the elements, the storm, the trial, and even death.

Jesus poses an interesting question to us in Luke 18:8: “…Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” (NET) Faith is about a lot more than what you “confess,” how much stuff you have or how big your bank account is, or, quite honestly, how well you can turn your relationship with God around toward yourself, manipulating the Word and turning it into something far from its purpose. When Jesus comes back, will He find faith on the earth? Will He find a true and lasting faith that stands upon the promise that all things are possible? If God called me to walk toward Him on the water tomorrow, you better believe I’d be up and out there, trusting Him with complete faith and assurance that if I walked, I’d walk, and if I sunk, He’d catch me. What about you? Would you believe in such an experience? Would such change your life, or would you still be talking about God in terms of light bills and money? Would you discount someone else who had such an experience? Lord, I want to see the church in a better place, a truer place – where Your signs and wonders follow because we do believe. Oh, how I long for that day – because I am sick of the church of “I believe, but.”

In faith, there is no room for “I believe, but.” In this era where people are tried and sinking, it’s time to be tried – and succeed in faith. The Word says judgment begins in the house of God, and we all know that means the church is called to accountability. If we do not really believe as we should and stand on faith as we are so called to do, we walk a dangerous line of playing with God. God isn’t playing! If we mock the things of God and distort the truth, we will sink under that water to death instead of living again. So I call to you today, come on out into the water with me, whatever happens – and let’s represent a true faith to the end, answering as He has called us. All He asks is that we will believe and obey, unto the end of faith.

© 2012 Lee Ann B. Marino. All rights reserved.

Power For Today Magazine, September/October 2012

Power For Today Magazine, September/October 2012

By Righteous Pen Publications in Power For Today Magazine

26 pages, published 9/4/2012

Power For Today Magazine, a monthly magazine for understanding our lives and times, is published monthly and is a publication of Apostolic Fellowship International Ministries. September/October 2012: "Mormonism: The Things You Never Knew, Part 1." Join in this intriguing look into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and their theology, philosophy, history, and social impact.

Power For Today Magazine, July/August 2012 Edition

Power For Today Magazine, July/August 2012

Power For Today Magazine: Power For Today Magazine, July/August 2012

Power For Today Magazine, a monthly magazine for understanding our lives and times, is published monthly and is a publication of Apostolic Fellowship International Ministries. May/June 2012: “Discerning Wise And Foolish Behavior,” teaching us to look closer at what it means to be wise and foolish -…

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