How The American Church Majorly Lost This Election

*Note: this blog contains uncensored quotations.

**Secondary note: rude or defensive comments will be deleted.

If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you. – The Gospel of Thomas, Verse 70

When I speak on the American church losing this election, I am not talking in terms of candidates and who won or lost. Whether or not America’s presidential election is launching a great era or a bad one is a matter of personal opinion, and the realities of that opinion will either be confirmed by facts, or they won’t. Either way, I feel that American Christians severely lost this election, and we lost because who too many of us really are was exposed for the entire world to see.

I am not given to politics. I do have my opinions, but when I traded in the world for the Kingdom years ago, I let it go. Prior to that time, I was a lobbyist for women’s issues within the New York State house and senate, and I will fully admit that I did what I did as a lobbyist for both Planned Parenthood and Concerned Clergy for Choice. I am not ashamed of the fact that I did community education for women in preventing disease and unwanted pregnancy, and that I was a part of the EC in the ER bill back when it was still on the New York State floor (later, it was signed into law by President Bush). One of the major reasons I left was because I felt they were mixing politics and I was not comfortable with where they were going. All in all, however, I do still follow matters; I do still have thoughts about what is best for my country, and now, most definitely as a church leader, I have thoughts about what is best for the church.

I resolved when this whole election mess started that I wouldn’t delete people because of who they voted for president. I still state I have not done that, although I will fully admit that one side got deleted a lot more than the other because of their behavior. No matter who you back for president, you should be able to do it with poise and not vile, ungodly behavior. When people started getting ungodly, I waited, and I toughed it out, until I simply could not watch what was being done and said any longer. Good or bad, whether someone thinks I am right or wrong, I deleted people who couldn’t behave and even blocked a few because they would not stop their vile conduct.

For this, I am not sorry. It is an example of how the church lost this election, and how if we don’t get ourselves together, we are going to destroy ourselves. Which is why I write this blog.  As a church, we need to be reached.

I am not going to use this blog to get into a discourse on church and politics; I am saving that for my next blog series, which will be very insightful into the origins of these movements and the realities that, whether or not they tell you that you’re “voting the Bible,” you’re not, and you aren’t doing what you do out of Biblical belief, but rather, clever propaganda. In fact, what I am seeing in our losses as a church is how easily swayed we are by propaganda, by ideas and thoughts that we’ve heard so much, we don’t realize they aren’t true even slightly. So here, we are going to look at all the ways we’ve lost…in a big way.

Following the improvers of men – Whenever I start looking at the throngs of people Christians seem to follow, I always hear the words of Nietzsche in one of his works: “These improvers of men – who are they? And who made them improvers?” In other words – we are surrounded by self-declared experts who, for whoever knows what reason, decided that these are the people we should follow because they have the “answers.” We don’t know where they came from, we don’t know the first thing about them, and what they have to say is really not that innovative or interesting. Most of the time, they are “improving” by getting caught up in waves of emotion and swaying people to their thoughts and feelings. What came to me this election was the true way in which people simply follow people because they are perceived to be famous, more “spiritual,” claim to have been to heaven three hundred times in the past year, or because they are simply more entertaining. The more we clamor that we want something new, the more we follow people who are literal and traditional, who uphold our modern traditions and who make us feel better about who we are as believers, isolating ourselves and ignoring the bigger issues of the church as an international whole.

When Charisma Magazine started endorsing Donald Trump, I was done with them. I hadn’t been a big fan of Charisma’s cohorts for awhile, because I felt that many of their statements were derogatory to women without being derogatory (they criticized feminism, made women in ministry sound like a commodity rather than something that should just exist, and elevated some people over others), but I was willing to tolerate them. Before now. Now they just sound like a bunch of “improvers” with an agenda to push, one that is not for the good of the church but for whatever ideals they have, and their conservative ideals leave out a good majority of a more moderate or more liberal church that has no interest in what they seek to push or promote.

We love money – and that’s not a good thing – I have this sinking feeling that had Donald Trump just been some poor, unsuccessful man who decided to run for president, he wouldn’t have taken the world – or a good percentage of the church community – by storm. Everyone would have blown him off (like they should have) and not taken it all real seriously. Because he is a billionaire businessman, he’s right up the alley of people who think prosperity is the key to everything and the ideal that God blesses people with only money. In prosperity logic, Donald Trump as a billionaire equates to Donald Trump being favored by God, with no consideration for the fact that there are rich people and poor people and it rains on both alike. Throw in a few chants for conservative politics and you have a complete recipe for the ultimate deception. Which brings me to my next point…

We don’t understand spiritual gifts and five-fold ministry offices – When I discovered that Charisma Magazine and many others were endorsing the idea that Donald Trump was a prophet, it was enough to make me want to throw in the towel and join another religious group. For the past decade, I have taught on spiritual gifts, on the five-fold ministry, and what apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers do…and it’s apparent that the church is simply not listening. How anyone can presume or compare a secular politician in a secular country, who has no prophetic training, who we have no comprehensive education he is even a Christian, is a prophet sent to deliver a message is absurd. Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are secular politicians appointed to represent secular groups of people. There is no evidence to bespeak that either one of them has a prophetic or any other sort of ministry gift because neither of them are in ministry. We do know Hillary Clinton is a churchgoing Methodist, but we have nothing to suggest that Donald Trump had set foot in a church in recent memory before someone went and put a prayer shawl on him. The very act of doing so was disgraceful, because it proved that we don’t understand the symbolic power of such garments and that we so want to have our own way and feel like someone represents the church that we were willing to compromise spiritual dignity.

If we don’t understand spiritual gifts and the five-fold ministry, that means we need to sit down long and hard and admit we don’t know about the Bible (as a church) as we might like to hope we do and start learning from accurate leaders who may not be sensational, but can help us get to where we need to be in the spiritual realm.

A revolving cast of characters – What do Jezebel and Elijah have to do with this election? The proper spiritual answer is nothing, but somehow, they got dragged into this election as the whole thing took on a ridiculous, fanciful messianic character that was, quite frankly, an embarrassment. Donald Trump cannot by any serious scholar be compared to the Prophet Elijah for a few reasons. The first is that Elijah went up against Ahab, not Jezebel. There is not a single verse in the Bible that ever says God sent Elijah to talk to Jezebel, because Ahab was the leader, not Jezebel. Jezebel only had as much power as Ahab lent to her, and if you read the whole story of Ahab and Jezebel, you will see that Ahab deliberately went and sought out Jezebel for his wife in rebellion to God. But Donald Trump was running for president, for the highest position in the land. He wasn’t a spiritual authority sent to go talk to the highest authority in the land. He brought no spiritual measure to the election and he was not “going up” to combat anyone. He was a man battling an election against a politician, but both were to be elected by the people and the electoral college. Ahab was a king; he inherited his position, he was not voted in. Donald Trump did not speak a singular prophetic word the entire election. God did not appoint Trump to speak on His behalf.

The theology and scriptural errancy in these ideas is almost laughable, but what is even more scary is how quickly and desperately people swallowed it up. People want a leader so bad, want someone they feel they can “identify” with, they bought this, hook, line, and sinker. But as one of my pastors put it, “Who decides who is who?” That, I feel, is a really important message – who DOES make these decisions, and why do people follow them so readily?

Not caring enough who are leaders are – I have made the statement in the past few years that I get sick of being “Al Borland.” If you’ve ever watched the show, Home Improvement, the main character, Tim Taylor, is host of a cable tool show, Tool Time. He’s always screwing up and everybody hates him. Al is his assistant; quiet, competent, and clearly knows what he is doing. Tim got the job because he was more entertaining, even though Al might have been more qualified. I feel like this is exactly where we are in church today. People throng behind a leader they think might be more entertaining or more popular while forsaking competent leaders who can teach them the Word and about ministry, bringing them to a place where their work speaks for itself. The fact that Christians thronged behind Donald Trump shows me that we don’t care enough about who we choose for our leaders. We are willing to overlook aspects of their character and their credentials that are unqualified for the job and improper for those behaviors as believers in order to get the one who has the most money, is the most popular, or stirs up the emotions the most.

There are people who have been on my Facebook page for years; some of them I even met in person. When they started using foul language on their pages, becoming aggressive and pushy, and behaving in a manner that was downright derogatory, I had to disconnect from them. They refused to hear that they were behaving improperly and it was obvious they had picked up the nature of their desired “leader.”

The leaders we pick are the leaders we become. Let that sink in.

Trying to make prophecies fit where they don’t, showing we don’t understand Scripture – I have seen more Christians try to stuff current happenings into the Bible during this election than I ever have in my entire life. It is almost as if there is this intense drive to make things “apply” or “fit,” to make circumstances and world happenings point to something that they simply do not.

Look, the book of Revelation and the book of Daniel are not a gigantic codebook that we can plug headlines into. They are prophecies we should seek to understand from the perspective in which they were written, and see something more in them than just trying to shove an agenda down everyone’s throats. The more we keep trying to misuse Scripture, the more we prove to the world that we do not understand it and we do not desire to learn it.

We’re not conscientious enough about world events – When an individual running for office says, “I would bomb the shit out of them” in regards to a perceived threat to the United States, that individual proves that they do not know enough about how politics work. When people seriously think that building a wall on the Mexican border, using nukes, “loving war,” and handling the international community is a good idea, they are proving that they don’t know the first thing about what goes on internationally and how problems and issues get resolved. Because Christians in America insist on believing they are being persecuted and mistreated, they are missing the fact that how we interact with other nations seriously impacts the spread of the church worldwide and our ability to fellowship and consider our international brethren. It deeply disturbs me when I hear people talk in a derogatory manner about Palestinians, because they are also talking about Palestinian Christians who get lost in political rhetoric. This is a classic example of how politics cause us to throw the church under the bus and to ignore our international, borderless brotherhood and sisterhood of believers. There is more in the international world to consider besides the nations of America and Israel, and there is more to think about than just what is best for us in an immediate sense. There is a fine line between patriotism and idolatry, and if we can’t separate the two, it doesn’t surprise me why the American church has almost completely dropped off the missions map. You can’t go on missions if you already think you’re superior in this modern world.

Christians behaving badly – I acknowledge that people misuse the concept of love to indicate that anything should go sometimes, but we can’t erase that the Bible does tell us God is love and we are supposed to love one another. There is special Biblical injunction for loving those in the Christian community as well, because such proves that God is real. If we can’t love each other, after all, how can we even venture the idea of trying to love others? If this election proves anything, however, it’s that the church has deluded itself on what love really is and is using the defense of truth to try and turn love into a right-fight. The way so-called Christians have behaved this election disturbs me to levels unknown: posting derogatory pictures and memes, bashing, public cussing, not considering how they behave or what they say might hurt someone else’s feelings (let alone turn off onlookers to Christianity in the process), and just not considering or caring that a public official has to think about more than just what one group of people might want.

The way people have behaved is disgusting. The fact that their candidate got elected just endorses it. My Bible tells me I have to die to myself, to the things I might want and the way I might want to act sometimes, not that I have the right to run around and say, “And you can tell them to go fuck themselves.”

The divisions of the American church – Like it or not, the church in America is not one. Our churches are still largely divided by racial lines, the church is sexist with no intention to change that any time soon, the church as a whole is unkind and ungodly toward LGBT individuals, and it’s obvious through incidious propaganda and teaching that nobody even thinks about that the church as a whole has no intention of correcting or changing where it’s at. Change, however, is exactly what is needed, but this won’t happen until the “improvers of men” just become “men with opinions.”

Not separating from undignified individuals – In keeping with my last point, those of us who believe in unity held on as long as we could to people who don’t have any regard or respect for those of us who don’t agree with them on many important issues. We held on to people who didn’t support our ministries and who most of the time picked other leaders and individuals to fraternize with because they liked them better. All of this relates to what I spoke of earlier, about thronging to people who we see as more entertaining and more emotional. These same people, however, are ones who would say I was not a real Christian because I did not endorse Donald Trump for president.

I believe the accusation is unfounded, but I think it’s more to-the-point that we are insisting on holding on to people who proved long before this election that we weren’t THEIR choice in their understanding of the kingdom. People who maintained dignity, discussed things with respect, and who worked as hard as they could to die to the flesh and love people regardless were classified as not being really Christian. This has unveiled where our priorities lie; how too many are defining faith and belief; and, whether or not we want to admit it, reducing faith to issues of salvation by works because the implication is made that if you don’t do what they want, you aren’t saved.

Not acknowledging the sins of their candidate – I’m tired of hearing about emails and Benghazi. If I never hear about either again, life will be great, but I know better. You can’t run around and say Hillary Clinton is a criminal and then bury your head in the sand when it came out that Donald Trump had an inappropriate sexual relationship with a fourteen-year-old girl and dozens of other women. You can’t expect Elijah to be a sexual deviant. Nope. Not equal time, not right, and certainly not family values.

If you can’t accept the sins of your candidate, then he is an idol. He is not Elijah, he is not Jesus, he is not a prophet, he is a man with multiple marriages and children from several different women, and that means I don’t want to hear another word about single mothers, divorce and remarriage, or anything else related to this topic. If your selected leader can get away with it, so can everyone else.

Only considering part – not all – of the issues – Abortion is not the only issue that should be considered when it comes to a candidate. There are medical reasons why late-term abortions become necessary, and there is no such thing as an abortion in the ninth month. Making abortion illegal doesn’t stop abortions, it just creates death. Immigration is a complicated issue, but the Berlin Wall proved that it’s not as simple as building a wall. There are other things that we need to consider as citizens of a nation that have nothing to do with hot-button issues. A lot of things can bring economic instability and can cause racial tensions, the downfall of companies, and the like. We’re supposed to be big enough and set ourselves aside enough to consider social issues that effect everyone, not just what we might like in an ideal world or ideal setting.

Judging different decisions – I saw two extremes this election: individuals who said you would go to hell if you voted for anyone this election, and people who said you would go to hell if you did not vote in the election. Neither statement is fair theologically and neither is true. God is not up in heaven endorsing candidates and the decision to vote is a personal one, made between an individual and their country. The popular vote of the US was for Clinton, not Trump, and the fact that some feel now their vote was wasted or that participating in the system had no point is a justified feeling. Let’s all stop judging one another on this matter already!

Being afraid – When I first heard that Trump won the electoral college vote, my first impulse was fear. I never imagined his run would go this far and that I would have to face the fact that he might be elected, for real. Everything he had said throughout this election ran through my head: “I love war.” “Yes, even with nukes.” “I would bomb the shit out of them.” “I know more about ISIS than the generals do, believe me.” “They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime.” They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.” “He’s not a war hero. He’s a war hero because he was captured? I like people who weren’t captured.”

My thoughts raced to numerous people I’ve met around here: The front-end manager at the Wal-Mart up the street who is from Pakistan, the couple I’ve met with their grandson who is from India, the numerous Hispanics from different parts of Latin America, all of whom are living their lives and minding their own business. Then I thought about our own lives and what can happen and I got quickly worried. God had to remind me that He has not given us a spirit of fear. I have to remember that even in the midst of this, God is using the situation to bring us to a place where we are willing to look at ourselves and where we are to find a place of change. Even this crazy election should be used not to feel vindicated, but to look at who we are and what we need to do.

If you believe in the last days, then you should realize that the church’s time to get itself together isn’t real long. Even if you don’t believe we are in the last days, we all know God doesn’t allow mess to go on forever. We need to learn the truth, the Scriptures, the realities about who we are and stop aggrandizing everything. We have the responsibility to learn how to live with others. The election might have been a disaster politically, but it is only a disaster spiritually if we refuse to learn and accept that we aren’t who we think we are. The sooner we do this, the sooner God can do what He wants to do in and through us.

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

20 Things Your Leader Is Looking For If You Are Looking For Promotion

Psst….you…hey, yeah you…you over there who wants to be ordained or elevated in your position in the church…I got a message for you! There are many times when we think we are ready to do something or to step out into something and we have a leader who, for some reason, just doesn’t seem to budge or agree with us that we should receive a higher or elevated position in the ministry. Why? Sometimes leaders reference specific things, but a lot of times, leaders don’t explain a lot of why they aren’t promoting someone except to say that it isn’t the right time. This might seem like an unfair reply, especially if you feel that you are very gifted and anointed and that your abilities could be better used with a promotional elevation.

When a leader says that it doesn’t seem like the right time, the truth is that it’s probably not just one thing they are seeing within you that’s not right; it’s probably several little things that make up the work and purpose of ministry that they are hoping to see or are not seeing within you at any given time. Successful ministry work is many things coming together at once and if a leader isn’t seeing a good number of these things at work within you, odds are good they are properly assessing you aren’t ready for what’s next. While there is no question that different ministries have different requirements, there are certain spiritual and personal qualities a leader needs to see in you make and effort in doing in order to elevate you to the next level of ministry.

So consider this a bit of a “cheat sheet,” the Cliff Notes version of things a leader is looking for when it comes to promotion. Go over them and esteem yourself honestly before inquiring deeper into promotion from your leader, and if you are honestly not seeing development in some of these areas…work on them without accusing your leader of being unfair or partial.

1. An ability to handle correction. – One of the hardest things about ministry is the way that ministers are universally scrutinized. Ministers are judged by the people under their ministries, they are judged by society and the media for being too Christian or not Christian enough, they are judged by their critics, and they are most certainly judged by their enemies. If you aren’t doing things properly in your life and those improprieties are obvious – personal attire, nasty attitude, personal behaviors, inability to handle personal or familial issues, easily offended, defensive, petty, vindictive, chronically angry, rude, unseemly, or improper attitude toward authority – those issues are going to rate judgment and are therefore going to bring a bad name to the ministry. Handling correction properly means that you are mature enough to recognize that those you have chosen to have rule over you are there to see things within you that need correcting and that you handle those issues through prayer and self-discipline rather than turning on your leadership.

2. Attendance and participation at ministry functions. – If you want to be ordained or promoted, especially within the context of handling things within a church or ministry structure, your leadership needs to know they can trust you will be present at things in their absence. If you are out of church more than you are in church, have an endless parade of reasons why you are not at church services, Bible studies, classes, or meetings, or are sporadic in your attendance, don’t expect to get promoted.

3. Bringing visitors/guests to the church. – Being promoted means taking a bigger part in the ministry where you are, and that means you need to consider the ministry you are a part of as more than just your leader’s vision. You need to prove that you are a part of that vision, on board with it, excited about it, and willing to share it. If you have been in the church for ages and you never bring a visitor, recommend a guest, or are a part of getting new members, then you aren’t on board enough with the vision to take on more of it.

4. Taking initiative when it comes to assignments and projects. – One of the biggest things I look at when someone is sniffing around me for a promotion is their level of initiative when it comes to an assignment or a project. If I assign someone a project or they come and tell me they want to take one on but they never complete it or leave it half-finished to do something else, that’s how they are going to approach other ministry responsibilities, as well. I don’t know why we think we’ll be different when we get what we think we want. If you can’t step up and do what needs doing now, you will just fail to do what needs doing with different things later.

5. Personal giving, including tithes and offerings. – I have long taught that if the Bible teaches us that where our treasure is, there our heart will be, also, that is telling us clearly that where we spend or give our money shows what’s really important to us in our lives. To clarify: if you have money to go on vacation, or get your hair done and nails done, or to throw a big party, or to have a big holiday celebration, but you skimp on your personal giving to the church or skip tithes because you want to do something else, that tells your leaders that your heart is simply not with the ministry.

6. An ability to finish the things you start. – Some people chronically start things but don’t finish them. This is a serious problem in the church and a serious problem in ministries where people have been promoted before they can prove they will follow through and see projects through from beginning to end. If you are taking on a project, a work, an idea, or something of that magnitude, seeing it through from start to finish shows an ability to plan, think things through, problem solve, and commit to something thoroughly.

7. Having a proper attitude. – The proper attitude relates largely to a big word that we often use in church, and that word is accountability. Rather than blaming everyone else for where you are or are not, you need to be willing to be honest and say that you know who you are, what you’ve done or are doing, and step up with maturity to do what is right.  Thus: If you throw temper tantrums when other people get something you think you deserve…if you get nasty and petty when it’s time for correction and self-examination…if you can never apologize…if you always have to be right…if you are constantly trying to usurp authority…If you are critical of the way your leader runs their ministry…If you are nasty when you get caught doing wrong…If you are just waiting for an opportunity to get out…If you feel you are “owed” a promotion for sticking around…If you think you are more qualified than your leader…then you need to sit yourself down somewhere for a good, long time. You can be as gifted as you want but that nasty attitude of yours is going to hold you back because your leader is under no obligation to do anything for you while you are like this.

8. Seeing through right vision. – The church abounds with people who feel they have had dreams, visions, and words from God that are, in fact, not from God. Some of them are from counterfeit spirits, some are opinions, some are thoughts from observations, and some are nothing at all but a royal mess. If you want to be promoted, you need to prove to your leader that you have enough of right vision to make proper decisions and direction not just from leadership, but from God Himself, as well.

9. The manifestation of fruit of the gifts. – As a person, you are, most likely, very enamored with whatever it is that you feel God wants to do in your life and with the gifts that God has given you. This is a part of spiritual process, because it’s all new and different, and God has most likely shown you where you will be one day if you stick to the right principles and learn obedience and honor along with development of your spiritual gifts. Your leader, however, isn’t real interested in the things that you feel are going to come “one day” from being in ministry. You aren’t the first person to come to us thinking they are a great and gifted preacher, a future best-selling author, called to the nations, or “anointed” for great things. Believe it or not, we hear it all the time. The reality of how many people we really see reach this place in their lives is very minimal because too many people do not discipline themselves to the point where their gifts bear very much fruit. If you claim to have gifts, your leader wants to see those develop fruit, not personal boasts.

10. Action and an ability to be a self-starter. – I personally hate it when people talk too much, and I experience it all the time. I find people who talk incessantly and don’t listen to be people who try to dominate the conversation, thus exerting a spirit of control. I am much more interested in seeing the great things God is doing through and by you rather than hearing all about what you think He wants to do later on or will one day do. I speak for all leaders in saying that we do like people who self-start, and you never need to ask for permission to do something good for someone else: give a ride to church, volunteer at something in the community, volunteer to do something in the church, etc.

11. Loyalty to the ministry, especially the leadership. – If you are saying one thing to your leader’s face and another behind their back, never assume that you know better than they do and that you are hiding something from them. Every single time I covered someone who was speaking badly about me behind my back, God always let me know. I might not have said anything about it to that person without proper evidence, but I knew their wagging tongues were busy when I wasn’t in the room. These are also the people who always start off really gung ho and interested in things but then wane interest over time because they don’t get their way or can’t have all the control. You cannot expect a leader to give you papers or a promotion because you think you are gifted when you show a complete and total disloyalty to all things related to the ministry. If you really think so little of your leader, why do you want them to ordain or promote you in the first place?

12. Reasonable and sensible in one’s sense of order. – Let’s get something straight right now: an awful lot of the time, ministers are not being controlling with their people; they just don’t like that they aren’t getting away with the things they want to get away with, so they yell control. There are incidents where ministers do control their people, but it is not control to expect that people who desire promotion display proper order in their lives or to expect that those who want promotion participate in the ministry. You have chosen to submit yourself to the leadership present in a ministry. Let me state again: that is a CHOICE you make. That means if you believe you are supposed to be there by God’s purposes that you follow the rules as are outlined for that work and you stop trying to conform them to your own vision. If you are unhappy with a vision or don’t feel in alignment with it, then you make the choice to go to a ministry that fits better with where you are at in your life and belief system. If you are so out of line with the leadership where you are, then again I reiterate, as I did with the last point – why do you want promotion from them to begin with?

13. Being self-disciplined. – Self-discipline comes from self-examination, and self-examination comes from self-awareness. It is also probably one of the most important aspects of being in ministry. We should reach a point in time where our leaders don’t have to explain everything to us and that we should be able to recognize things within ourselves that need change or improvement without other people always having to tell us about them. It also means we should have the ability to make changes within ourselves without constant praise and hand-holding from our leaders.

14. A respectful attitude. – Respect is something that extends to more areas than I have space to list, but let’s say that a truly respectful attitude displays in every area of our lives and conduct. Someone who is disrespectful will be careless with their speech, fleshly and emotional, undisciplined, and immature. I recognize we all have our bad moments (leaders included) and that some people bring out sides of us that we otherwise would not expose; I am not talking about such situations. A general attitude of disrespect, however, on a regular basis, is most definitely a problem that will block promotion.

15. Being a good steward. – We often talk about stewardship in terms of money, but stewardship is far more than just about money or finances. Stewardship is the ability to wisely use resources and to use them to the best of one’s ability. An unfortunate reality of ministry is that money and resources alike often have to stretch over a far distance, and the ability to use resources in a creative manner goes a long way in proving one is ready to advance in ministry work.

16. The ability to apply learning. – I think we have given the false impression that ministry is all about gifts and anointing, and that God will fix us wherever we lack. Ministry does require anointing and gifts and abilities, but it is also about learning methods, tips, and purposes to execute the anointing, gifts, and abilities that God has given to us. This requires training and a willingness to learn from those God has appointed to teach us in this life. If you aren’t applying what you have learned, then you need to learn it again.

17. Humility. – Pride goes before a fall, even among ministers. If you esteem yourself more highly than you ought, you can stay where you are.

18. Patience. – Sometimes leaders see things within the people they cover but they realize that the time for promotion is simply not right. Every time it was time to promote or ordain someone, God came and gave witness to me about it. If you are having to promote the idea of your promotion, odds are good that the timing is off and it is better to be patient and wait than make it so that your leader feels you will NEVER be ready to elevate.

19. A sense of honor. – The word “honor” has multiple meanings, including a high sense of respect, esteem, privilege, or to fulfill an agreement. All of these definitions are in play when it comes to ministry promotion. Potential elevation needs to bring with it respect for one’s self, the ministry work, leadership, the church, the people one will minister to, accountability, other leaders, recognizing the work of ministry to be a privilege, recognizing the allowance of promotion to be a privilege, and the willingness to fulfill one’s duties through to the end. If you aren’t here yet, you aren’t ready for promotion.

20. Ability to do the work of the ministry. – Different people are called to do different things for the Kingdom. We are not all called to be in ministry. We are not all called to the same offices, appointments, or purposes in the ministry. This means that not everyone in the church or ministry is the right fit for every available position or promotion that comes up in a given church setting. It is very possible that the abilities and gifts you have are better suited for something other than what is available or purposed at that given point in time, and that the leadership you have recognizes who you are and the abilities you have and is, for that reason, not putting you into a position that is not right for you to handle.

(c) 2016 Lee Ann B. Marino. All rights reserved.

Old Things Passing Away

I had a blog brewing within me before I saw the news about Jan Crouch’s stroke a few days ago.  When I saw it, I knew she was going to die.  I can’t explain how I knew it, except to say that I have had my eye on several other older preachers who I thought were a lot further toward the death front than she was who seem to keep holding on.  When I saw the news she had her stroke, I knew that it was over.  Another preacher from a bygone era, one that popularized prosperity preachers and over-the-top lifestyles for Christians was now gone, further proof that the “shifts” we all constantly seem to want to talk about or try to push ourselves into has yet come into existence.

In other words: What we are always talking about, hoping will come, want to see come to pass, is now already here.  We just keep missing it because we are too busy holding on to what was, the long-lost images, the days when people felt TBN was legitimate, the new ideals and concepts that had yet to come to pass, and the concepts, the hope, the promises that we still believed in.  Now, despite the realities that the promises were made did not come to pass for the average person, the hope for many is lost, and hasn’t been replaced by anything substantial has left a feeling of “fluff,” something that causes people to desire to look back, to hope back, to want something else.

John 1:24-28: Now they had been sent from the Pharisees.  They asked him, and said to him, “Why then are you baptizing, if you are not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?” John answered them saying, “I baptize in water, but among you stands One whom you do not know.  It is He who comes after me, the thong of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.” These things took place in Bethany beyond the Jordan, where John was baptizing. (NASB)

John 4:19-26: The woman said to Him, “ Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped in this mountain, and you people say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.” Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe Me, an hour is coming when neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” The woman said to Him, “I know that Messiah is coming (He who is called Christ); when that One comes, He will declare all things to us.” Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am He.” (NASB)

I can’t help but reflect upon the verse above, and hear us, today, in that passage.  In the first century, the Jews and the Samaritans had a specific concept about what the Messiah would look like and how He would be.  Jesus didn’t meet with that image, so when He stood there, staring them in the face, they had no clue that what they sought was right in front of them.  They were interested in the old, the traditions, the way they’d been told it would be, and instead of embracing that God’s movements have nothing to do with what we think, they held so tight, they missed what was staring them in the face.

Despite all the talk about “new” all the time, we seem to have an unhealthy preoccupation with the old.  We talk about the past days of the church in misty-eyed remembrances, almost as if a certain reminiscing goes along with the nostalgia of the “good ol’ church days.” We remember summertime revivals (we forgot how hot and uncomfortable they were), we remember the way that people were with their leaders (we forgot how controlling and domineering some of them were), we remember how touched we were by the Christian life we led (we forgot how limited we felt by rules as pertained to our hair, our attire, not being able to wear shorts or pants, or make-up or jewelry), and we remember those moments of “Holy Ghost-filled power” that we thought would never end (we forgot how brother or sister so-and-so sleazed up against us at that moment or how many of them never came back). No. We remember in shades, in black-and-white versus color; glossing over the histories of many who were in leadership, who were important or larger-than-life, and our own personal histories somehow get just as shadowed out, not remembering the realities about those who were around us, what we experienced, or how we really felt about those times.

As a result, I am seeing a sort of yearning for those “days” present in preaching today.  We want hard preachers, dramatic preachers, sing-song preachers drenched in sweat, who tickle our ears, tickle our fancies, and appear to have an old-time, “Holiness or hell” message.  Since things are different now, that has to be the way it should be, right?  That has to be the answer, the thing to do is go back, instead of go forward.  We aren’t going to embrace anyone new or different (since any time anyone says they are different, that’s just code for “exactly the same.”), because to do so would mean all those old things we did, all those old things we were, all those dear memories…weren’t so dear, after all.

The reality of those old days: they weren’t that great. They had their drawbacks.  We complained through them, just like we complained through today.  We were looking for something after the newness of what we were experiencing finally wore off.  We were left with the same empty feeling when someone else seemed to do better in their faith than we did, and we were disappointed when someone didn’t get their healing or the things they had hoped to receive.  We were still green with envy when Sister SuperChristian got promoted at church and we didn’t, and we still felt the same injustices, impartialities, and unfairness that we feel in church, now.  Those good ol’ days didn’t solve these problems or issue us into an era when we had solutions for them, and they left us…hanging…seeking…searching…and without good answers that weren’t recycled church nonsense, spoken time and time again to keep us coming back, yet empty, at the same time.

God doesn’t desire that we remain in such a state, dependent on trite, cute sayings that don’t solve our problems.  It isn’t His will that we remain Biblically illiterate, relying on archaic translations that we don’t understand and a few arbitrarily placed Bible verses quoted over and over again, with no meaning. It isn’t His will that the gifts are so voided of power, we actually get bored when people start manufacturing them at services.  It isn’t His will that someone, like me, is downright bored most of the time at other churches because I know the same, predictable old-school style will flow, without fail, and without any power.

I am finally at a point in my life where I am embracing the reality that I have never been an “old school” preacher.  I did try to embody and receive such in my life at an earlier time, but it never really worked.  I’ve never been into collars or robes (you’ll get me in them only for ordinations, weddings and funerals) and I’ve never been a sing-song preacher.  It’s hard enough to get up there and hear from God, let alone try to make a dramatic performance out of it.  I think I tried to make the “old school” label work for me because what I saw around me didn’t fit me, either, so I assumed that the style and values I embodied had to be from an earlier time.  Truth be told, I know “holiness or hell” never worked, even though someone did describe me like that once upon a time, they didn’t know me very well and I actually took offense to the reference.  Sure, I have tried to be more dramatic or more of something else in my preaching, but it was never me.  The only way I have ever been “me” in the pulpit is if I did and said what God would have me to say, and trust that however it comes out, it will fit being “all things to all people” for whoever would receive it.  Sometimes I was more excited than others, sometimes more quiet, but in all seasons, the best messages have always been those that embraced the leader that I am, as myself.

So it’s meant that my sermons on pop culture references, slang terms that we embody one to another (considered unfit for the pulpit), song lyrics, and inspired ways of interpreting the Bible might not be for many churchgoers who refuse to let go of these older ideals and ways.  It means that I’m not going to preach in their churches.  It means they aren’t going to receive what I have to say.  I’m not old school, I’m not new school; I am something else, something that moves and shifts with the Kingdom, intensely attentive to changes in spiritual times and seasons, who wants to be a part of what God wants to do now, rather than earlier.  It’s having the ability to see karios time, not just what we see in the natural with our eyes.  It’s time to preach something eternal, rather than moving from temporary shift to shift.

As I prepare to do an ordination this week, I realize how much things have changed, not just for me, but for all of us.  Good, bad, or indifferent, Jan Crouch is dead.  How she lived and what she embodied is not between her and us anymore; it’s between her and God.  The era she was a part of, good, bad, or indifferent, is over, too.  It’s a new season; it’s a new time.  We can’t embrace what God is doing if we refuse to let go of those older times, of the memories and the not-so-accurate histories we keep dear to our hearts.  The seasons have shifted.  The things we keep looking for have already come.  We aren’t embracing them because they don’t come in the package, in the way we expect, because we are looking at things too natural, too temporal.  If we keep looking at things from the temporal view, we are never going to see the depth of what God is bringing to focus in this time.

I might not be traditional, but I am here, and as I look over at my silver and black dotted robe and zebra print shoes to wear to the ordination this weekend, I feel the shaking, the shifting, the movement.  It’s not what we expect. It’s not what we want.  It’s not what’s been done before.

Ready or not, change is here…and it’s staring you in the face.

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

The Price of Ordinary and Extraordinary

Mark 10:42-45 (GNT): So Jesus called them all together to Him and said, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the heathen have power over them, and the leaders have complete authority. This, however, is not the way it is among you. If one of you wants to be great, you must be the servant of the rest; and if one of you wants to be first, you must be the slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served; He came to serve and to give His life to redeem many people.”

In the process of writing this blog (which I believe will be therapeutic, in a sense), I have to talk about some things that I don’t, as a rule, speak much on. It’s probably not a big surprise to most to learn that I am a bit on the private side. As a minister for going on nineteen years, I have learned the value in privacy and in maintaining that privacy. Some of that comes from many years of not having much of it, and admitting things to the wrong people, only to find that they took what you told them and used it to judge you with it. Funny how people like that aren’t people who are ever really helpful, but we’ll leave that alone for the sake of this blog. What I am going to give is a story in two parts on ordinary – and how it is either a blessing or a bitterness – depending on who you are.

My second cousins, Phil and Roslyn, were married for well over fifty years. Neither one of them ever had a breakout hit on Youtube. They weren’t looking to be extras on a movie set. Neither of them were famous, nor was anyone in their family famous. If anything, they paid a great price to be together, as my cousin’s side of the family (the Battaglia side) had no use for Roslyn, and literally made Phil choose between them and her after they got married. Even though they didn’t abandon the family all together, it was obvious that lines were drawn, choices were made, and that over time, they separated from the initial family. There’s no question that, given the truly good relationship the two of them had, that Phil and Roslyn did what was right for them. They raised their children, they took care of each other, and they lived their lives.

For them, they paid the price of being ordinary, but it benefited them. The price of being ordinary means they traded our own concepts of being “someone” in order to be parents, to work together, to keep food on the table and the mortgage paid, and to be successful, in general, at life.

There’s nothing wrong with being ordinary, if that is what you are genuinely called to be. There’s an ease with it, with the simplisticness of life and attention to detail. There’s something powerful about being called to be someone who raises a family, or even remains single, and lives day-to-day life in a powerful and blessed way. It is really fine not to be called or anointed for ministry, or fame or fortune, or international influence. It shows one as a witness, that God cares about every aspect of our lives, and that He is with us, no matter how big or small we may be in the eyes of the world. No matter how extraordinary we may be, we all have to do ordinary things in life, and the ordinary of life, and the ordinary calling, remind us that none of us can escape that which we must do in our day-to-day living.

There is another side to this, however, and it is when people who are called and endowed with the extraordinary and seek to hide that in the ordinary. Yes, it happens. On to my next story.

Some of you know I have relatives who haven’t spoken to me in a number of years, and some of you don’t. The here and there of what happened is not what I am going to get into here. Yes, some of it is my calling; some of it is nothing more than being very different from my relatives and all of them don’t accept those differences in me. I’m not the only one, everyone has been reached out to, and helped, time and time again, until the Lord said that it wasn’t my battle anymore and to stop engaging people who didn’t want to be engaged. Here we have been, as we are, for well over a decade.

One sister of mine was not ordinary. We all knew it. My mom even told me (many years after the fact) that my sister had seen in dreams and visions things that were to come. Yet, everything within my sister rejected this idea, and the idea of God. She desired to be ordinary and ignore the gifts she had, and pursue things in her life that gave “ordinary” a new meaning. She pursued bad relationships, jobs that were far below her capabilities, lifestyles that brought harm into her life, and other things that affected her health and life. Anything to avoid God, avoid dealing with who she was as a person and the flaws she had, and confronting the things in her life that needed addressing.

Not all that long ago, I accidentally found her Facebook page. When I say “accidentally,” it was because I wasn’t looking for it; I literally stumbled on it. When I saw the pictures of her and her life, all I could say to myself is…how ordinary looking. For someone who had so many aspirations, she certainly has chosen an ordinary lifestyle in order to avoid being extraordinary.

It seems like no matter where people are at today, everyone is malcontented. People who have gifts don’t want them. They want to pursue any sort of life they want, any relationships they want, and have it “all,” as people say. They want the ministry, the fame, the fortune, the kids, the spouse, the maid, the big cars, the fancy clothes, and the cozy home life with chicken and dumplings cooking in the kitchen. The problem with this is that you can’t have it all. Everything that we choose to do, even in the Lord, requires choices and has consequences. Not everyone understands the choices that we make, and being extraordinary in many ways sets us apart. It hurts our relationships, it causes misunderstanding with those who are closest to us, and requires people in our lives to just “understand,” when understanding is nearly impossible for them. Then there are those who live the blessing of ordinary lives, who want that ministry, what they pursue as the fortune and fame, the money and the prestige of sitting on the front row or in the pulpit, and don’t consider the price that being extraordinary costs: the loss of privacy and quiet time, the strain on relationships, the judgment that people harbor against someone who makes mistakes publically and decisions openly, and the overall feeling that your life is not your own. The ordinary want to be extraordinary because they think the extraordinary are closer to God, and the extraordinary want to be ordinary because they think life is easier.

It’s a classic case of thinking the grass is greener somewhere else, when it’s not, at all. No matter what you are called to, the grass is exactly the same, and takes the exact amount of effort to care for, because that’s the grass that you are appointed in this life to handle.

Those who are seen as extraordinary aren’t closer to God, and those who are seen as ordinary don’t have easy lives. The moral of this story: it’s so important that we just be whatever we are supposed to be. Too many people are trying to be things they aren’t, whether they are trying to be ordinary when they aren’t, or trying to be extraordinary when they are ordinary. We can use any state of life and state of being to hide behind what God really asks us to do and wants for us in life. It is better to just flow with who He creates us to be than trying to be something else. Everyone is not called to be something seen in the world as “great,” and everyone is not called to have a simple life. We are all, however, called to serve, right where we are, in the way He has gifted and appointed us to do so.

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

The Leadership Series, Part 2: Submit Yourselves, One To Another

Note: this is second in a series of posts I am doing specifically based around leadership issues. If you haven’t read Part 1, Letting What Needs To Die…Die, you have time to catch up :).

Whenever we start off anything with the word “submit,” people automatically get defensive.  There is often justifiable reason for this.  For years, we hear “women, submit to your husbands!” banged over women’s heads from people who take the Bible out of context and balance to try and make women do something they don’t feel they are doing.  We hear, “Members, submit to your leaders!” as if it is some sort of driving home force, something commanded and demanded without explanation and made to sound as if it is an unquestioning silence.  We’ve all heard the marital horror stories (or maybe not even horror stories, it should say something to us that the relationships just aren’t working) and the leadership horror stories where members are forced into marriages, relationships, lives, and unquestioning abuses, all in the name of “submission.”

Nobody likes to feel that they are being automatically shut off, cut off, told to shut up, or put down.  That’s what a lot of people feel when they hear talk about submission.  I know that’s what I tend to feel, especially when it is talked about between men and women.  No matter how much the speaker or writer might try to disclaim that they aren’t putting anyone down, that’s exactly how it comes across, every single time.  The reason it sounds that way is because they don’t understand submission, and don’t understand what the Bible is really trying to teach us about the issue.

I’m not going to get into the whole male/female, member/leader submission debate.  I have written extensively on both issues throughout the years, so if you are interested in what I have to say about those issues, check my archives.  Yes, submission is mutual, and if you are in Christ, don’t distort the words of Paul to make submission a power and control struggle.  If you are submitting yourself truly to God, that makes you a servant, not a head-honcho.  What I want to talk about here is the principle of submission and why it is so important as a leadership principle and a principle of good Christian conduct.

My mom used to tell me stories about her father and her grandmother and the casual way in which they used to tell you, “Whatever you do, don’t ask her how she is, because she’ll tell you!”  That was code for “She does nothing but complain!”  There was always something wrong with her: she was not feeling well, she was upset, someone wronged her, she was having a bad day, and she did it with this high-pitched, whiny voice that made listening that much more unpleasant.  Nobody wanted to hear her complain, or hear her speak, because they knew what she was going to result.  Once she got started, she didn’t want to stop.

However, as much as nobody wanted to listen to my great-grandmother whine – again – they all still asked her how she was and were courteous and polite to her.  Why?  Because she was their elder, she was their mother or their grandmother or their aunt, and that merited a certain level of respect.  No matter how old they were, they submitted themselves to her, and served her by talking to her and considering her personage.

As a leader, I know the importance of teaching people about submission.  The basic command to serve is not only Biblical, it is for each and every one of us.  If I am going to tell you about submission, I need to live it myself.  If I am going to be a leader, that means I know how to both submit to order and how to abide by it in my own ministry and my own life.  They need to see me do the very things I say they need to do, and they need to see me do them with a good attitude.  They need to know that when I say I am a servant, that I am really doing so, and that I am here to serve them just as much as they are here to serve, too.

Yes, I am an apostle, and yes, that is a specific type of service to the Body of Christ that is in addition to the service that we, as Christians, are supposed to perform.  Yes, I expect those who are a part of this ministry and in leadership within this organization (and theirs, as well), to demonstrate behavior that models a proper humble attitude.  Everyone is taught to tithe, to give offerings, to help out others who are covered by the ministry with events (if they are able), to study the Word and to study about ministry, and to walk their ministry calling with excellence.

It also means I must be doing these things, too.  For example: I am the spiritual covering for the Christian sorority, Zeta Nu Delta.  Even though I am the covering of the organization and the organization submits to my spiritual leadership, I still must defer to the founders and the rest of the board when decisions need to be made.  When matters come up, I make sure that one of the founders is contacted and if someone wants me to go with them on their behalf, I do that – but I never tell them what to do of my own directive without hearing from someone else how things are supposed to go.  If I am going to write a letter on behalf of something as pertains to the organization, it is my responsibility to make sure that the letter is approved by a founder prior to sending it out.  I am responsible to pay my dues every year.  I am called to be sisterly with my other sorors.  I make sure that I do not post in a way that disrespects the organization, or brings reproach.

These are all actions of submission, of us submitting one to another.  When someone in the organization needs advice, I am there to listen and help guide the founders, directors, and leaders to where they need to be.  I know what I have to say is respected, and that is not in any way taken from the fact that when I need to follow order, I follow it as much as I expect it to be followed.

The leaders I cover see this, and recognize that there have been many times when we are all together and one is speaking or holding the event, I ask them how they want to handle things and what they want to do.  I will advise if I think it is a bad idea, but in learning to be in authority, people must also learn the balance of true submission.  They recognize that authority doesn’t mean being on a power trip, and that our interactions with our leaders are teaching us how to submit in a greater way to the entire body of Christ, not esteeming ourselves more highly than we ought.

There are many people today who want to be in leadership because they think it means people serve and submit to them.  If you are in a position of authority and you are using that position to make a point, bottom-line people (this is the way it’s going to be when a “tough” decision needs to be made) or to usurp authority, then you are doing it wrong and your motives for demanding submission are already wrong.  The reason we learn submission, the reason we learn the principle of submitting before anyone is because we are all called to submit ourselves before God.  No position should go to our heads, and if we are servants as we call ourselves, then we should always be ready and willing to interact properly with others, showing proper care and love rather than conceit and arrogance.

I really believe that the entire power and control struggle among offices in the church and leaders has become a mean-spirited competition that it was never intended to be.  God did not give us five different offices, three appointments, eleven functions and at least a dozen spiritual gifts so we could fight and bicker over who was the greatest among us.  In our pursuit to be the greatest and best, the next megachurch preacher (sorry, you aren’t going to be that, get over it), and the one who is always being heard or acknowledged, we’ve forsaken common courtesy and dignity in the name of getting what’s “ours.”  Do I really need to remind us all that Jesus Himself said, “You know that the rulers of the non-Jewish people love to show their power over the people. And their important leaders love to use all their authority. But it should not be that way among you. Whoever wants to become great among you must serve the rest of you like a servant.  Whoever wants to become first among you must serve the rest of you like a slave.  In the same way, the Son of Man did not come to be served. He came to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many people.” (Matthew 20:25-28, NCV) The ancient pagans thought their leaders were literally gods (a teaching not all that foreign in some supposedly Christian circles today).  Just because you have a calling…or feel you are a leader…does not exclude you from the call of mutual submission that runs all through the church.

There is a very overlooked passage in the Bible, known as Ephesians 5:21.  It reads:

…submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God. (KJV)

…subjecting yourselves one to another in the fear of Christ. (ASV)

Yield [Submit; Be subject; …yielding/submitting; grammatically linked to the previous sentence, and so part of being filled with the Spirit] to each other out of ·reverence [respect; fear; awe] for Christ. (EXB)

Out of respect for Christ, be courteously reverent to one another. (MSG)

Jesus clearly told us to love others as we love ourselves.  Showing that love starts in leaders, and spreads to others.  If you are a leader, submit.  If you are a church member, submit.  If you are a part of order, submit.  If everyone would just humble themselves, an awful lot of the problems in the church would go away.

Love y’all in the Kingdom,

Apostle Dr. L.

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

My Ministry Life As Al Borland

On the 90s show Home Improvement, the lead character, Tim Taylor, had a home improvement show called Tool Time.  On that show, he had an assistant named Al Borland.  Al spent much of the time on Tool Time cleaning up after Tim, who had more confidence than know-how and was frequently in situations that caused injury, physical harm, or danger.  In a behind-the-scenes documentary on the show, Tim Allen (who played Tim Taylor) stated that the idea for Al Borland was that he was the guy who probably should have been the host of the show, but he didn’t get it because he wasn’t “entertaining enough.”  Because someone else could tell better jokes, could work the crowd right and could spike ratings, Al was perpetually doomed to live his life in the flannel background while the more entertaining character got put front and center, even though he didn’t know what he was doing.  Even though everyone “loved Al,” when it came down to it, Al wasn’t the one they wanted because he wasn’t as entertaining as Tim.

This past week, I realized I am the Al Borland of ministry.

Bear with me on this one.

For nearly eighteen years, I have watched church people gravitate toward what entertains them.  This is true for leaders, as well.  As much as we gripe and complain about the fact that everyone seems to want entertainment more than they want God, we are the first ones who want the people who are entertaining to come to church as guest speakers.  We want the people who will entertain us – who will be hard on our people and say all the things we want to say to them, but don’t feel that we can.  The church as a whole is very responsive to screaming, shouting, angry, mean preachers who condemn and chide and make us all feel better about what we’re not doing because they make us feel like someone else is worse than we are.  We don’t want a leader who is real with us, or who really cares about us, but a leader who will move us up or connect us.  Everyone thinks they are great, and perfect, and resist learning, and forgets that true covering and ministry work is much, much more than just being tickled.

I scrolled down my feed this week to notice that several ministers I know who might claim to “love me” or like things I post online are having events that, once again, I am not included in.  I can live with this fact, because I do accept that not every speaker is right for every event, and do recognize that there are financial issues often involved in speaker selection.  But it’s more than being occasionally excluded or passed up.  It’s never being a consideration, even a blip on the radar.  They love everything I say, but don’t go buy the book, or send an offering, or EVER consider me for stuff.  And I say EVER because we go on, year after year, and I am passed up while they go on to get scammed, time and time again, or look to other people for things, or go on their merry way, all the while ‘loving’ me so much that they don’t consider me, yet again.  The majority of people who say “we’ll have to have you” never follow through.  I have been acknowledged as competent, by many as being in this or superior in understanding than they are…and here I sit because I am not deemed as “entertaining” enough or not able to “move them up to the east side” as fast as they want to go.

And yet there they sit, on the south side, not moving anywhere, no matter who they get for stuff.  But, I digress.

To make matters more insulting, the problem isn’t so much that I am not included, but it is who IS included.  Scrolling down my feed this week, I noted people – all who praise me to the sky but never give me the time of day professionally – who had people of known questionable character in their events.  One was a woman who is frauding people openly, engaging them in contracts that are outrageous and then making sure she gets paid and they do not.  One was a man who has almost no members in his church because he has no idea what he is doing, and another was someone who isn’t even that great of a preacher.  The three of them were all people of questionable character.  But because they have on a ridiculous preaching outfit, they spit and sweat and yell about politics and sound all “churchy,” they are there…and I am not.

To say it like the church mothers would, “Don’t nobody come on here and tell me ‘your gifts will make room for you.'”  We’re taking that phrase out of context and using it to keep us from addressing things that we just don’t want to deal with.  Our gifts can’t make room for us if you acknowledge they are there, but won’t even let us in the building!  There is nothing wrong with my gifts, there is nothing wrong with my patience (I feel 18 years in ministry speaks to that), there is nothing wrong with me or my ministry.  I don’t want to hear “God’s got a plan” because the problem isn’t God, nor His plan.  I am not writing this out of hurt or offended feelings.  It is what it is and I am not going to be brushed off with the things we all say to try and placate each other out of cold, hard facts.  It’s not my gifts, it’s not that I am not in God’s plan, it is not that it’s not my season: it is that the church wants people to be in their face, hard, mean, entertaining, spitting, singing, and sweating, because if we don’t do that, then we aren’t doing church.  And we are refusing to make room for people who know more, who have more experience, and who, believe it or not, are quiet enough to hear just what is being said and be prepared to retort to it with all it deserves when the moment arrives.

It doesn’t seem to matter that well more than half (maybe somewhere in the extreme of 80%) of the ministers I have met over the past several years are either claiming to be in an office they aren’t called to (and it’s obvious), or are mis-officed (they are really something else) or they aren’t called to ministry at all.  If they can work a crowd, if they can stir things up, they’ll get the preaching engagement, and the money, and everyone fussing over them.  If I get invited to preach somewhere, I won’t get invited back (I’ve been invited to speak more than once at two churches; one stopped speaking to me years ago and one I consider to be as family, and I thank God for them) because I’ll say something that’ll call someone out without even knowing it.  It’s that gift of mine that doesn’t make room for me, it throws me out the door, every time.

Believe it or not, I can jump a pew or a chair with the best of them.  I can stir up a crowd, depending on the message.  I am just selective about how and when I do it.   I desire to hear from and move with the Spirit and do what is needed at the time.  I am not five offices in one.  I am not going to be outlandish or obnoxious just to get in someone’s door.  You might not feel that makes me good enough for your pulpit or to headline your event, but it doesn’t change that I know my office, and I know what I am doing.

I’m an Al Borland.  I know what’s going on in your churches and ministries, and I’ll call it out when I see it.  I don’t care if I am entertaining or not, although I’ve been told I do a good job (and my Youtube videos testify to it).  I am just different.  I am frequently excluded, and often shoved out of the picture because someone always thinks the grass is greener over the septic tank.  Just remember what’s in the septic tank.  When the pretty, green grass sinks because the tank is leaking, remember I’m here.  Then, like now, I’ve got just what the church needs.

Tim got in trouble, and Al knew what to do, and at that moment, it didn’t matter who moved the crowd; it mattered who could solve the problem and fix the mess.  Churches, let the Al Borlands of ministry in to fix these messes.  We might not be your first choice, but in the end, Tim Taylor sets the fire, but can’t put it out.

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

Why God Allows Us To “Miss” Him

The humble shall see their God at work for them. No wonder they will be so glad! All who seek for God shall live in joy. – Psalm 69:32 (TLB)

Pride leads to arguments; be humble, take advice, and become wise. – Proverbs 13:10 (TLB)

But those who think themselves great shall be disappointed and humbled; and those who humble themselves shall be exalted. – Matthew 23:12 (TLB)

For everyone who tries to honor himself shall be humbled; and he who humbles himself shall be honored.” – Luke 14:11 (TLB)

If you will humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, in His good time He will lift you up. – 1 Peter 5:6 (TLB)

I want to start this off by saying I am not writing this to be theological. I am sure that there are those who would be technical and argue the theology of what I am about to share. It’s a revelation I received today from God that applies to me as much as it does to anyone else. What I am writing on is more existential as pertains to our relationship with God and the direct experiences we have as we grow in Him and we work and strive to develop the gifts He has placed within us. Oh, do we think we are “gifted” today. It’s not enough to have one gift today, we think we need fifteen of them (even ones that are not Biblical, ergo the reference to fifteen of them) and that we are a bunch of offices at once, because one just isn’t enough for our grossly inflated egos. We naively believe that our gifts will take us where we want to go, that they are all-sufficient as they are, and that nobody ever has the right to question what we come away with when something comes up…because, after all, we are “anointed.”

The prophets throughout the ages (many of whom were also types for other five-fold ministry offices to come in the New Testament) were all “anointed.” They were people with gifts and abilities that cause our own vague and leading prophecies about weather patterns and Kim Kardashian to pale in comparison. There was never a Biblical prophet who made a beginning of the year prophecy that natural disasters would happen, because that’s a big “duh” message. Meteorologists can tell you that is going to happen without being prophets. Nobody sat around and debated politics via prophecy. There were no “words” asking where watchmen were when calamities or wars arose, because people accepted they were things that happened and had a prophet rose up with that kind of commentary, people would have wanted to know where he or she was to stop it! Prophets didn’t arrange marriages or tell people they were going to find a “husband” or “wife” or tell them who their future spouse was going to be. Nobody called out social security numbers, bank account numbers, or online passwords and classified such ridiculous things as “prophetic word.” The things we consider a “word” today would have been considered words of none effect in times gone by, not even meeting the standards of the ancients, because they were made by observation. In this pursuit, being enthralled with the concept of being “gifted” and expecting that to suffice in the face of everything to the contrary, we have dumbed down prophecy to the point where our puffed up self-righteousness doesn’t even come close to the true glory and splendor of God reflecting through us.

In the Old Testament, God’s prophets went through not one year of training, or two years of training, or even ten years of training, but at minimum, thirty years of training. It certainly puts those who are too arrogant to go through a three-year seminary in perspective! Have we ever considered why that is, and why the training was so detailed and excessive? In the Old Testament, the Israelites didn’t worship and receive instruction like we do today. The system of teaching in Judaism emerged later in history and did not serve the same purpose as the “schools of the prophets” did in those times. In fact, the “schools of the prophets” were nothing like sacrificial offerings, festival gatherings, or other periods of study and group worship. They were thirty-plus years long instructional experiences that studied the prophetic, the voice of God, the way God moved historically, and the way God moves and speaks through His creation. In the experiences of life and the problems of living and surviving, the prophet needed to recognize that the prophetic word of God and the way God moved through people and through circumstances would seem different, evolve, change, and develop in a deeper way. What they “felt” was God guiding them in a situation a few years earlier might seem or sound different as they grew as a prophet.

In other words: prophets were still human beings (their spiritual gifts and anointing did not make them sinless, nor perfect, nor infallible, nor divine) who were appointed by God to speak for Him and deliver His Word. It was possible for them to have their “misses,” meaning they misjudged something as being from God when it was not and then they would have to be accountable for that misspoken word. The Law made absolutely no allowance for false or misspoken word to the people, especially when it was spoken in the Name of God (Deuteronomy 18:14-22). False prophecy was grounds for being put to death, because it caused confusion and easily led the all-too-eager to sin Israelites right into a place they needed not to be. The long-term school of the prophets proved that being a prophet was a life-long calling, one that also demanded a long-term commitment out of an individual. It wasn’t just get papers and run like we do today (sometimes I think my three-year requirement isn’t even long enough), but the continued dedication to understanding and discerning the voice of God as a trained group of people surrounded that individual to create accountability and help through those periods where they “missed” God. Such a long-term experience helped keep the prophets humble and from allowing false teaching to permeate the wrong ears and infiltrate the camp. In other words, it stopped the problems that we have in church today before they ever started.

I believe we can achieve this kind of purpose without having to have a thirty-plus year training session with leaders today. It is created through the continual accountability we are all called to have with leadership as they help to grow and develop us on matters. It also starts as we stop insisting that we are always right and always hearing from God and think every single thought, feeling, vision, dream, or experience we have is divine and insisting that it should always be shared. Even though the Law existed that any prophetic miss on the part of the prophets merited death, Biblical history is full of people who prophesied and missed God on matters. David fell into sin with Bathsheba. Abraham and Sarah brought forth Ishmael out of impatience. Jacob led himself into all sorts of mess with his own family (especially his brother, Esau) and then with Leah and Rachel. Their survival and longevity proves to us that while missing God was a serious issue, it was something that happened. It’s something that still happens, and I just wonder if there is a reason for it. I wonder if God allows us to miss Him sometimes on things, especially important things, so we will remain humble. It is God’s desire that we know and listen to His voice in all things, that we don’t overestimate our abilities, and that we are able to see where we are getting in our own way of hearing Him when we need to. We need to be people who are accountable for what we say and what we teach, and who are not too proud to listen to the wise and discerning counsel of good leadership, good mentors, good friends, even those we teach at times and accept the fact that at times, we have missed God and need to pay that much more attention to listen to Him better in the future. Haughtiness will result in humbling, and the worse we get, the more opportunities we are going to have to miss God as we pursue our own course and refuse to heed the wise counsel of those we know and trust. While this is not something that I believe happens randomly, with each person who just doesn’t want to accept the words that we have to say, I do believe that accountability is created by those relationships formed in those we trust to teach us because we see God’s hand on them and their work, and those who we know God’s hand is upon by their history of experience with Him.

Everything in church isn’t as deep as some big, grand revelation. Some of our dreams, thoughts, experiences, and feelings are nothing more than being overtired or watching too many movies, influenced by the world, the results of choices we have made, or our opinions about something. Everything we do, say, think, and feel was not put within us by God. This doesn’t make it inherently wrong or evil, but it does make it lack the divine quality to count as revelation or word. Man or woman of God, take a deep breath and allow God to show you where you are missing Him in your life, and get with someone who can help you in honesty to accept His revelation and hear in a deeper way from Him in your life and ministry.

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

The Prophetic: Separating Truth From Myths

When I first became a Christian in 1999, I knew of a grand total of one so-called prophet.   This individual turned out to be a false prophet who spoke a series of time-frame specific words, which never came to pass, over the church community I attended. I had never met anyone else who claimed to be a prophet. If we fast-forward to today, in the latter part of 2012, there are more than one or two so-called prophets in the church. With the advance of expectations on leadership, the confusion between gifts and offices, and the push for people to accept a leadership role, we witness an influx of people claiming to be prophets, prophetic people, prophetically gifted, and the like. What we do not see is extensive teaching on the prophetic, prophecy, and the whole understanding of prophecy and the walk of a prophet. As a result, people are confused. It does not help that the prophetic realm is highly complex and encompasses many areas, which are often misunderstood.

It’s very important for us, as believers, to be smart about the prophetic. Prophecy is a big part of the church, and we know the foundation of the church consists of the apostles and prophets (Ephesians 2:20). We also know the spirit of prophecy is subject to the prophets (1 Corinthians 14:32). In order to function properly, the church needs a balanced, empowered approach to all things prophetic.

Most churches today know they can draw a crowd if they let people know a so-called prophet is coming to town. The reason for this is simple: people like drama and people like to receive what they deem to be a personal word, just for them. This increase in miracle-chasers calls us to greater discernment on prophetic matters. Just because someone claims to be a prophet does not make them one.   Just because someone claims to have a gift does not mean they have one. Just because the majority of people forgot the last false prophet’s prophecy doesn’t mean the individual is not a false prophet. Since Jesus Himself advises us not to be deceived by false prophets (Matthew 7:15, Matthew 24:11, Matthew 24:24, Mark 13:22), we ourselves need to step up and separate the truth from the myths about the prophetic realm.

TRUE OR FALSE: The Spirit of God is given to all believers.

Answer: TRUE. The Spirit of God is most definitely given to all believers, but this does not mean the way the Spirit manifests in everyone is exactly the same, as we will discuss more to come. Even though the Spirit of God manifests in all believers, not every believer is a prophet.

In that case, why did I address this question as part of an examination of the prophetic? There are groups that teach the Spirit of God is NOT given to all believers, and that the Spirit of God has no manifestation among believers today. Such people espouse a doctrine of cessationalism, which literally means the gifts of the Spirit have ceased. If we want to understand the prophetic, we have to understand the operations of the Spirit. The Spirit produces both gifts (Romans 12:4-8, 1 Corinthians 12:4-11) and fruit (Galatians 5:22-25) in believers. The Word specifically states that we “live by the Spirit,” which indicates activity – not inactivity – on the part of the Spirit’s work within us (Galatians 5:25). Trying to establish the move of the Spirit as relevant only for the first century, or as totally void in this day and age, nullifies the understanding of the Spirit’s power and gifts present within the Body.

TRUE OR FALSE: The word “Prophet” means “Someone who exercises spiritual gifts”.

Answer: FALSE. The word “Prophet” literally means “Someone who speaks for God.” As with the prophets of old, a prophet serves to relay a message from God to God’s people. Because the prophet is hearing from God, the prophet is able to walk in an office of discernment. It is the prophet’s job to convey God’s message and refute false messages. God gifts the prophet so they do have the ability to function in the prophetic office, but a prophet is not identified solely by their gifts – they are known for their ability to communicate God’s desired message, in His desired time.

TRUE OR FALSE: Having a prophetic gift is the same thing as being a prophet.

Answer: FALSE. Many people assume an ability to prophesy, give a word of knowledge or wisdom, or operate healing makes someone a prophet. This understanding is false. Healing, prophecy, word of knowledge, and word of wisdom are all charismatic gifts, or gifts that are given by the anointing unction of the Holy Spirit. Any Spirit-filled believer can operate one of these charismatic gifts that relate to the prophetic realm (1 Corinthians 12:4-11). The five-fold ministry gifts (apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor, and teacher), or didomi gifts (Ephesians 4:11), are a separate set of gifts that specifically relate to church offices for leadership and governance. Not everyone is called to be a leader, but everyone is called to help build up the church through the charisma (anointing) given by which charismatic gifts flow. This is the main difference between understanding the call to ministry and operating a gift. When you are in the office of a prophet, your entire walk, call, and being flows within that operation; when you have a gift, it comes as God wills and functions as God wills, rather than being an entire operation of your life. This also means a prophet will walk in some or all of these charismatic gifts as part of their calling – but it doesn’t mean someone who occasionally receives a prophecy or gives a word is a prophet.

TRUE OR FALSE: Being a Christian means you are automatically prophetic.

Answer: FALSE. Because all believers have an indwelling of the Spirit, some people maintain all believers have the ability to operate prophetic gifts. While I will agree that most believers do have experiences by which they directly experience God in some way, this is not the same as being able to operate a prophetic gift. What many do not realize is we have two passages of Scripture that list charismatic gifts: 1 Corinthians 12:4-11 and Romans 12:4-8. 1 Corinthians 12:4-11 lists many gifts that relate to the prophetic (word of wisdom, word of knowledge, faith, healing, miracles, prophecy, discernment of spirits, tongues, and interpretation of tongues), while Romans 12:4-8 lists some prophetic gifts, but several practical gifts that relate to ministry purpose and function (prophecy, faith, service, teaching, encouragement, giving, and mercy). Service (found in some translations as hospitality), a long-forgotten gift, is not a prophetic work. Encouragement is not a prophetic work. Service is not prophetic. Giving is not prophetic. I know we are all about showy gifts and grand, impressive moves of God today, but the Word makes it clear that all gifts are of value, purpose, and edification of the Body. Gifts aren’t about what entertains us the most; they are about God and building up the church. Being handed a cup of water or served a meal after preaching is just as valued as the preacher who proclaims the message. A word of encouragement at the right time is not prophetic. Serving and giving are not works that are prophetic – but they are all equally important. It’s important that we, as the Body of Christ, value all of God’s gifts to the church manifest in His people, so we, as a Body, may be complete. Even though one person may not be as prophetic as someone else, they are still just as valued, loved, and important as someone else.

TRUE OR FALSE: There is more than one way to be a prophet or exercise a prophetic gift.

Answer: TRUE. Not all prophets operate by the same means. Some prophets are very strong teachers of prophecy and interpreting the prophetic throughout history. Most exercise a combination of the charismatic prophetic gifts, but that doesn’t mean they exercise every one of them, or exercise them twenty-four-seven. The same is true of someone who exercises a prophetic gift and is a prophet. Remember, the goal of the Christian life is not to be enamored with gifts, but enamored with the Giver of gifts. Every prophetic gift serves a purpose for the Body – and we must be more open to greater understandings of the prophetic. Intercession, discernment, and interpretation of prophecy are all prophetic gifts, just as valuable as healing and a word of wisdom.

TRUE OR FALSE: Being able to discern the outcome of an event does not necessarily make you a prophet.

Answer: TRUE. There are numerous commentators who ramble through news headlines and popular stories in an effort to prove themselves “prophetic.” They will make “predictions” about world events, and call these “predictions” “prophecy. If one steps back and analyses these commentators, they aren’t prophesying; they are analyzing current news trends. They are often as wrong as they are right, and the conclusions they draw when right are from analyzing circumstances – not receiving spiritual inspiration. Prophecy doesn’t come from the ability to put together facts – it comes from God, and often appears without evidence to speak to its future outcome. When the Prophet Daniel received the vision we now know to represent four major world powers (Daniel 7:1-28), there was nothing to suggest the sway of governmental politics would work in his favor. If we look at prophecies made promising exile (Jeremiah 2:1-37, Ezekiel 4:1-17), the prophecies weren’t respected because people didn’t see those prophecies fitting into their plans. True prophecy isn’t discerned by analyzing news stories: it’s discerned by the Holy Spirit.

TRUE OR FALSE: There is a difference between a prophet and a psychic.

Answer: TRUE. Most of us know this, but there are still many out there who think prophets make predictions the same way psychics do, just by a different power. The truth about psychics is overwhelming: the average psychic has an eleven percent accuracy rating, and the majority of their “hits” come about by reading people or discerning circumstances. God’s prophecy is not “hit and miss,” nor does it come about through via divining means. A psychic is trying to tell people things about them, supposedly by a supernatural source other than God. This is why mediums, psychics, and diviners are so strongly forbidden according to the Word: trusting one is a sign you do not trust God, and you are following after false gods and sources (Leviticus 19:31, Leviticus 20:6). A prophet speaks God’s Word to His people – thus making the power of God present in a prophecy, increasing one’s faith (Isaiah 6:1-13, Jeremiah 1:4-10).

TRUE OR FALSE: Prophets can be partially right and partially wrong, speaking out of the flesh at times.

Answer: FALSE. If prophecy consists of God’s Word to His people, there is no “fleshly prophecy.” (2 Peter 1:20-21) True prophecy is not based in the flesh, and does not come forth from fleshly attitudes, thoughts, or reading people’s emotions. A true prophet cannot speak prophetically right at times and prophetically wrong at others. Prophets also cannot speak a partially right prophecy, where some of the details are accurate, but some are not. Prophecy is one of those one hundred percent things: it’s either all right, or it’s wrong. If part of a prophecy is wrong, that makes it a false prophecy (Deuteronomy 18:14-22).

Prophets, as people, are allowed to have opinions and thoughts – clearly distinguished from ministerial prophecy – and those opinions do not count as prophecy, because they are opinions. For example, a prophet may have a personal opinion about an elected official, the food they like, or their favorite color, none of which have anything to do with their prophetic call. A prophet may be wrong about things as a human being, and they may run into personal issues. These are matters to be considered in kind, and based on personal perspective. When it comes to prophecy, however, the prophet is either right or wrong – because prophecy does not leave room for human error.

TRUE OR FALSE: Prophecy is dependent on the person who receives the prophecy to do certain things.

Answer: FALSE. Most in today’s church confuse a word of wisdom, a word of knowledge, and prophecy (1 Corinthians 12:4-11). There is a reason these gifts have been identified by three different terms, in three different ways. A word of wisdom is what we commonly call a “word.” When someone asks for a “word,” they aren’t asking for a prophecy, they are asking for a word of wisdom. A word of wisdom is a personal, direct word of guidance and direction for an individual and their life. It may or may not include a specific directive relating to someone’s future, but it typically includes an instructional directive. This makes a word of wisdom conditional on an individual person’s obedience. A word of knowledge is divine insight into a person’s situation, and typically offers perspective, encouragement, correction, or hope as pertains to that specific situation. A word of knowledge is also conditional on an individual person’s obedience. In both instances, the individual must accept the wisdom and knowledge offered. This makes the outcome of a word of knowledge or wisdom dependent on the individual’s actions thereafter. A prophecy, however, is not dependent upon a person’s obedience. A prophecy is clear and direct, and clarifies the consequences for disobedience and the promise for obedience. Either way, what happens in the result of the situation at hand remains the same with prophecy. Telling someone a prophecy is conditional upon their actions is a misnomer, and reflects a misunderstanding of prophecy.

TRUE OR FALSE: Prophecy doesn’t always make sense until it comes to pass.

Answer: TRUE. When Daniel, Ezekiel, and Hosea were shown visions, asked to literally live the sins of Israel, or illustrate the broken covenant between God and His people (Daniel 8:1-27, Ezekiel 3:18-27, Hosea 1:2-11), what they saw and did seemed odd to people. I would venture that it seemed odd to the prophets themselves, as well, because God often asked them to break rules, laws, and guidelines deeply instilled within them as codes of holiness. When they were first doing these things, it didn’t make sense. As the Word of God came forth through their prophecies, however (along the same lines as a parable), the people understood better what God was trying to convey. Sometimes prophecy doesn’t make sense at first, because we don’t have all the details. It may seem vague in some ways, and ultra-specific in others. Prophecy often contains symbolism, as well, which may open the door to numerous speculations about its interpretation. Prophecy is something understood completely only in hindsight, and it is important that we don’t immediately write off a prophecy because we don’t understand everything about it.

TRUE OR FALSE: A prophet should require money to give a prophetic word.

Answer: FALSE. It’s important we are careful about the words we receive, and even more careful about who we receive a word from in our modern times. We also need to be careful about where we sow our finances, and why we are giving that money where we choose to give it. The church abounds today with leaders who will tell you they have a “word” for you, but they won’t give it to you unless you pay them for it. This is witchcraft at its finest, not to mention ridiculous.   There is nothing wrong with giving an offering to a prophetic speaker or just giving to someone because God places it on your heart. What is decisively wrong is when someone refuses to give you a message from the Lord because you won’t pay them. Such conduct is a sign God is not with that prophet. When people follow such a leader, it is a sign that God is not with those people, either – because God cannot dwell with dishonesty (Micah 3:11).

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

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.

Ask The Apostle: Should Christians Be Concerned About Witchcraft?

From: Power For Today Magazine, Vol. 13, No. 2., Second Quarter 2015 (March 2015). Copyright 2015 by Apostolic Fellowship International Ministries, Inc.

By Apostle Dr. Lee Ann B. Marino

Q: Should Christians be concerned about witchcraft?

A: Witchcraft is a hot topic in most Christian circles. A short survey of the social media site, Facebook, will show curious onlookers the complicated beliefs and concepts people have about what witchcraft is and how it affects the life of the believer.  Some people think it has no effect whatsoever, some think it has a moderate impact, and others believe it has such a great impact, there is no way a believer can survive in a situation where witchcraft is present.

The over-emphasis on witchcraft today (as well as much of the misunderstanding most have about it) comes from the “entertainment factor” present in many deliverance ministries.  The more dramatic a story someone tells, the more readily people swallow it, even if much of it is a total or partial lie.  We’ve turned deliverance, witchcraft, possession, even warfare into a drama, parallel to any soap opera that entertains us on television.

Deliverance ministry, witchcraft, and understanding the ways that spirits influence and often control our lives is not entertaining.  They do not exist for our personal fodder or to make for good television programs.  The realities of witchcraft are very real and very prevalent in the church today, most often in ways we do not consider and we do not understand.

Every single human being has spirits of one form or another “around” them.  We would call these “familiar spirits,” beings that seek to cause confusion and trouble in our lives.  We can either allow these spirits to have sway over the little things we do and the ways in which we treat others, or we can choose to follow God and do things the way He would have us do them.  It doesn’t begin and end with that declaration, however. Familiar spirits are called such for a reason – they know about us, what makes us tick, the hurts and pains that we have incurred in our lives, and the different ways in which we are easily tempted, scorned, hurt, or offended.  These spirits work in various ways to get our attention and influence our behavior as they play upon our emotions, temptations, and states of thought and feeling in order to get us to behave in a carnal, or “fleshly” manner.  Familiar spirits operate to get sway over us and introduce us to spirits that are more difficult to overcome and break in our lives.

Witchcraft is, simply stated, control.  It is one individual working, manipulating, and contriving in order to get their way over someone else without that individual’s consent.  Some people are very preoccupied with witchcraft as is declared through paganism or spell-casting, but that is not witchcraft that the believer should focus on as their first line of concern.  There are plenty of people who profess to be Christians who exert their will through power and control, attempting to run the church from the pew, praying that someone will conform to their desired will and the desired actions (falling in love, marriage, having a baby without discussing it with their spouse, getting people in the household to do what they want, etc.) and all do it in the name of “prayer.”

There are as many forms of witchcraft as we can find forms of power and control today, and we must be, therefore, very careful who we trust, confide in, and discuss things with.  We’re quick to believe that witchcraft only takes on obvious, larger-than-life forms, but this is simply not true.  Witchcraft does not just operate via big-name spirits, such as Leviathan (pride) or Ahab and Jezebel (co-dependence).  Most of the time, witchcraft effects people through the realm of familiar spirits, through those little decisions, choices, and feelings that influence us on a daily basis and suddenly lead us into states of being, thoughts, concepts, and ideas that we would ordinarily not even give a second thought to.

We also must realize that we can make anything sound good and “holy” if we try hard enough.  We can make our own scorn, hurt, dislike for correction, or disdain to be any array of divine missions, if we try hard enough.  It’s very easy to try and exert witchcraft (power and control) over people because we feel they have hurt our mission, stung us with correction we probably rightly deserved, don’t acknowledge us in the way we desire to be acknowledged, or somehow hurt our feelings.  It’s important to be spiritual enough to step back and be honest about our situation and the healing we need instead of trying to fire back “super spiritual statements’ disguised as divine warnings or the displeasure of God.  None of us, no matter how anointed or purposed we may be, are above the influences of witchcraft and above operating in such behavior if we don’t “check ourselves before we wreck ourselves.”  Every Christian should understand how spirits operate and influence us, recognize signs within ourselves, and have enough discernment to recognize when someone else is working a little controlling magic against us.

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