Archives For Faith and Life

One of the most ignored or tolerated sins of the church is the sin of SCHISMThe formal separation of a church into two churches, caused by differences in opinion or belief. I have been a part of splits and, let me tell you, they are messy. No, messy is too nice a word. They are downright destructive—demonic. And, sadly, both sides usually are convinced they are on God’s side.

Too often a disgruntled assistant pastor or lay leader feels he can do a better job than the pastor. He promotes his cause through gossip. Once his movement has enough steam he leads a coup against the senior pastor or starts a new congregation. Paul calls this “building on someone else’s foundation.” (Rom. 15:20) It is also called rebellion, divisiveness, self-promotion, pride, gossip and more.

The fruit of schism is broken relationships. I have seen families split into two over congregational divides. I have seen lifelong friendships come to a halt. That is the demonic part. A spirit of division disguises itself as righteousness or godly boldness. It feels right. You’re taking a stand. But rarely does the fruit of the split justify the pain it causes.

Yes, there are times to take a stand against a pastor or leader of a congregation. Sometimes, you might even need to warn people to leave:

  1. Sexual immortality or other chronic sins (theft, habitual dishonesty).
  2. False doctrine (to be clear, that means it goes against what mainstream evangelicalism considers broad orthodoxy, not just against your opinion).
  3. Cult-like tendencies of control over the lives of the members.
  4. Gross ineffectiveness—and, in this case, I would expect that you would have a group of elders who had already appealed to the ineffective senior leader.

Jesus Loves Unity

God puts a high price on unity. It was the thing that Yeshua asked the Father to establish in the body in John 17.

Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one.(John 17:11)

Paul rebukes the Corinthians for establishing cliques, and equates division to destroying the temple of God! And then, he warns them about what God does to the person who destroys His temple (i.e. causes division):

Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person; for God’s temple is sacred, and you together are that temple. (1 Cor. 3:16-17)

What if two leaders simply can’t work together? It happens, as we will see with two of our heroes. Sometimes, it is even God’s way of moving someone out in a new direction. The question is: do you have the humility and love for the body to do it in a way that causes the least damage to the congregation. If you are the junior in the relationship, then it is incumbent upon you to walk away. When we seek to take others with us, it is often because we don’t trust God to lead us in a new direction. We take people with us, so we can still have a congregation. We can easily disguise it, even to ourselves, as taking a stand.

Even Paul was Part of a Split

Leaders are, by nature, a little strong-willed (read: hardheaded). We tend to think we are right. Even Paul and Barnabas had sharp disputes that put an end to their ministry relationship.

Some time later Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us go back and visit the believers in all the towns where we preached the word of the Lord and see how they are doing.” Barnabas wanted to take John, also called Mark, with them, but Paul did not think it wise to take him, because he had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in the work. They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company. Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus, but Paul chose Silas and left, commended by the believers to the grace of the Lord. He went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches. (Acts 15:36-41)

The issue was simple. John Mark left the team in the middle of their mission. Barnabas, who is more of a pastor in his gifting, has mercy on Mark and wants him to join them. Paul, who seems more prophetic in his calling, takes a hard line. If he abandoned us once, how do we know that he will not abandon us again?

This is such a big deal that they go their separate ways. It does seem that Paul and Mark worked out their differences, as Paul refers to him later in life. Through this example, though, we can learn from Paul and Barnabas how to disagree and, even separate, in a godly way. They did not let their split affect the churches they had planted or the people in them.

Who has the Spiritual Authority?

When they first started out, Barnabas was the lead apostle. But, very shortly thereafter, Paul became the primary leader. When they separate, Barnabas goes to Cyprus with Mark to minister to the believers there. Cyprus recognized Barnabas as their spiritual father, as it was one of the first places they visited. Paul takes Silas and visits the churches they had planted after Paul was the lead apostle.

They respected each other’s apostolic fathership. You’ll notice, there is no book of Cyprus from Paul. He had no authority to write it, as Barnabas was the father. Paul only wrote to churches that he planted (except for Romans and there was a reason!). Whenever you find yourself in a situation where you have to break with another leader, the easiest way to know who needs to walk, is to ask, ‘Who has the authority here?’

I Almost Caused a Split!

I almost made this mistake after I first moved to Israel. I had a disagreement with my pastor—and there did not appear to be a solution—and wanted to start another congregation. Of course, if I did it in the same city, people from my former congregation might be tempted to follow. Some had already expressed interest. I felt completely justified (We always do!); even though it went against everything I had learned and had taught. But I was deceived! I was completely unjustified. So, we had a disagreement. It didn’t come anywhere close to the four reasons I stated above. In the end, thanks to godly counsel, we shut down our little group. A few years later, I reconciled with the pastor and, today, we have a great working ministry relationship.

And what is interesting is that by humbling myself—not what I wanted to do—God opened an amazing door in another city with far more influence than I had before. But it didn’t happen until I committed to not start a competing ministry.

But, sadly, all over the world, splits are winked at when, in fact, the historic church looked at the sin of schism as a serious violation. We would do well to take it more seriously as well.

 

 

 

 

 

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I love the morning. There is something new, fresh and amazing about a new day. It is a gift from God. I want to share with you three awesome things about morning.

1. Fresh Manna

Yeshua, when He taught His disciples to pray, said that we are to ask God for our daily bread. Surely this means provision. God has promised to meet our needs. After many years of seeing the faithfulness of God, I rarely panic over provision. I used to…for sure. But that is for the immature. When your relationship with someone grows, so does the trust factor. If someone has been faithful to you for ten years, you know he can be trusted. It is the same with our Father.

But, this is more than just filling our stomachs. God wants us to ask him for spiritual bread,as well. We get a picture of this from our ancient examples, the Israelites. When God introduces manna, He starts by saying this: “I will rain down bread from heaven for you.”

Wow! God will rain down bread for us. What a promise! But did you notice that the Israelites were expected to collect the manna every morning? Moses told them that “no one is to keep any of it until morning.”When they did, it was gross, full of maggots, and inedible. The point is that we cannot live on yesterday’s manna. We need to seek God daily for our spiritual sustenance.

2. Mercies are New

Each morning the mercies, or compassions, of the Lord are new. This is what we are told in Lamentations. This entire book is about the destruction of Judah and Jerusalem. It is a sad book. God has judged His people. But the author doesn’t leave us hopeless. God will not judge us forever—His mercy, love and compassion is renewed to us each morning.

It doesn’t matter what happened yesterday. Maybe you did something stupid. Maybe you sinned. You didn’t want to, but, perhaps, you gave into temptation. Yes, it was wrong. Sin is gross; hideous in the eyes of the Lord. But, as Peter says, “Love covers over a multitude of sins.”(1 Peter 4:8) While we don’t make light of sin, neither do we limit the ability of the blood of Yeshua to forgive us.

Lift up your head this morning. Confess your sin and receive the cleansing of the Lord. John gives a great promise:

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)

3. Joy Comes in the Morning

There is no question that God gets angry. Sometimes He is angry at us. Hebrews tells us that His discipline is an extension of His great love for us. What kind of good father doesn’t discipline his child?

Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as His children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. (Heb. 12:7-8)

Don’t let His discipline get you down. If He disciplines you, He loves you! And there is more good news.

For His anger lasts only a moment, but His favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning. (Ps. 30:5)

His anger is quick, but His blessing, favor and smile over your life lasts forever! Yes, you may spend a night weeping, but that weeping will lead to sweet victory in the morning.

In this context, David is under attack. His enemies want to kill him and it looks like they might succeed. In addition, it appears he is suffering from an ailment (v. 2-3). When I think of weeping through the night,it is not only because of the Lord’s discipline. It can be for many reasons. You might be under spiritual attack and need to intercede through the night. Maybe you are praying for healing from a sickness. David was – God heard him and healed him.

Maybe you are fighting a temptation. Often temptation comes at night. Most sexual sins are committed at night. Partying happens mostly in the evening. I remember being at a sales convention when I was a car-phone salesman in the late 1980s. At night, there were cocktail parties. Everyone was having fun. I was in my room trying to figure out how I would provide for my new wife and baby. Depression and oppression attacked me. I wanted to go to the parties and drink with everyone else. I wanted to fit in. But I sought the Lord. The next day, I had a great spiritual breakthrough that lasted for many months and I learned how to fight off the lies of the enemy. Had I given in I would not have learned and joy would not have come in the morning!

So, there you have it! Three reasons that mornings are awesome!

Bonus: Yeshua always got up early in the morning to spend time with His father. If He needed that time, then surely I do!

 

 

 

 

 

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What’s the difference between the Pope’s inner circle and the typical “spin team” of a politician? Sadly, not much.In what I can only label as clueless, tone-deaf and heartless, Cardinal Blaise Cupich, head of the Archdiocese of Chicago,says the Pope doesn’t have time to focus on priests raping little boys, because he has more importantthingsto deal with, like the environment and immigration.

To be clear, the issue he was indirectly referring to was the raping, or molesting, of more than 1,000 children and those studying for the ministry.  His remark was directly connected to the accusation from Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò that “Pope Francis not only disregarded sexual abuse allegations against Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, but promoted McCarrick and sought his counsel.” (Daily Wire)

Here is “Father” Cupich’s exact quote:

“[The Pope has] got to get on with other things, of talking about the environment and protecting migrants and carrying on the work of the church. We’re not going to go down a rabbit hole on this.”

Sadly, the mainstream media has been mostly silent. This Washington Postarticle focused almost entirely on the accusation that the accuser of Pope Francis has a hidden agenda, and ignored the most important issue: The Pope may have known about the perversion of Cardinal McCarrick and, not only did he do nothing to stop him, he promoted him.Whatever Archbishop Vigano’s motives are, the accusation is stunning and must be investigated.

However, Cupich has other plans: Stone the messenger and ignore the message. If they can discredit Archbishop Vigano, then they will not have to answer allegations against the Pope.

Taking a page right out of the ‘Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi handbook’, Cupich pulled out the racism card, claiming, “Quite frankly, they also don’t like him because he’s Latino.” The Pope is 100% Italian, not Latino!But why let the truth get in the way of a good smear?

Growing up Jewish, I didn’t have a great understanding of the Catholic Church. But I always had great reverence for the Pope. He transcended politics. He was sort of super-humanin my eyes. It is stunning for me to see how much things have changed. I am not sure what is more shocking: The Pope covering for a pedophile or the discovering that he has a team of henchmen to spin the accusation. It seems that the Pope’s inner circle is no different than the inner circle of any two-bit politician.

The press is complicit in protecting their beloved pontiff. The Daily Wire’sBen Shapiro has sought to shine the light on this cover-up:

It’s pretty astonishing. So several years ago, obviously, when the media started to delve into all of the sex abuse allegations against the Catholic Church, there was a great deal of enthusiasm, I think rightly so, in the press, for investigating all of that. But now that Pope Francis is at the head of the church and they like Pope Francis more than they liked Pope Benedict, in the left-wing press, suddenly they have to rush to Pope Francis’ defense over these allegations. And The New York Times ran one of the worst headlines I’ve ever seen today, talking about how as the allegations against Pope Francis mount, conservatives pounce. Conservatives pounce? How is conservatives pouncing on sex abuse allegations the story?

Yes, the story is not that the Pope may have aided and abetted a pedophile, but that conservatives are upset about it (insert incredulous look here). Leftist media outlets appear less than enthusiastic to attack their favorite pope. He is soft on homosexuality, concerned about global warming and for open borders. They love him! He is not your daddy’s pope.

The Pope seems to embrace liberation theology, where Jesus is not seen as a savior in the sense that He died for our sins, but He is a savior in that He leads a rebellion against oppression. Except that He didn’t. He actually rebuked His followers who wanted to rebel against the Romans, to focus on the more important issue of sin and redemption.

Liberation theology, espoused by Louis Farrakhan, Palestinian Protestants and left-wing socialists, finds inspiration in the ancient Israelites, as they stood up against Pharaoh. (It is ironic that anti-Semitism and liberation theology go hand-in-hand.) Jesus is their Che Guevara, leading the fight against oppression.

Progressives see Pope Francis as an ally. But now that it appears he may have covered for a serial rapist, the left-wing media is in a quandary—investigate to find the truth or ignore and crucify the accuser? Instead of shining a light on the papacy, they are attacking the Archbishop Vigano. Sadly, the Pope’s inner circle is nothing more than a bunch of politicians with funny hats. Oh that we would have more heroes like Vigano. How wretched to be one of the Pope’s intimidators, tasked with spinning his gross misconduct.

 

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Years ago I endured a very sark season. When the Lord rescued me, he showed me how I could stay strong in the future. I had never been one for writing out prayers, but I saw that that was a key to David’s success as he ran from Saul. I wrote “Ron’s confession of faith,” and it changed my life! I want to share with you, what I learned. If it blesses you, please leave a comment.

 

 

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God did not waste any time in revealing His triune nature to us. It can be seen in the very first chapter of Genesis. The first person to point this out to me was actually an ultra-Orthodox rabbi. His name was Yankel Kranz, and he was the leader of the Lubavitch community in Richmond, VA. The Lubavitcher rebbe or ‘pope’ died in 1994, amidst claims that he was the Messiah.

After telling Messianic Jews for years that Isaiah 53 didn’t refer to the Messiah’s suffering (He will come as a reigning king, not a suffering servant—I was told), suddenly Rebbe Menachem Mendelson Schneierson was the fulfillment. Except, to the shock of his followers, he did not rise from the dead. For years, the Lubavitchers stood watch by his grave, but he did not appear. To this day, some believe he will rise.

“In Our Image”

Rabbi Kranz was a kind man. We met weekly, at my parents’ behest, to study the Scriptures. On one of our first meetings, he pointed out Genesis 1:26:

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.”

“Ronnie,” he said, “this does not prove the trinity.”

Being just a new believer, I was not claiming that it did. I was largely ignorant to the Bible.

“What we see here,” he continued, “is God speaking to the angels. He is not speaking to any Son or Holy Spirit, but the angels.”

What did I know? This was all new to me. Buuuuut…. it got me thinking. Is he right? Isn’t he just repeating what the anti-Messianics rabbis taught him to say?

Dominion

The fact is, Genesis 1:26 is definitely a reference to God’s triune nature. And I can prove it.

Let’s read the whole verse:

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. (Gen. 1:26-27)

God says to someone, or to some ones, “Let us make man in our image.” So, in their (their being to whomever he is speaking) image, man will be created.

But it could not be the angels. The angels were not given dominion to rule.

“And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”

Angels, according to Hebrews, are “ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation.” Angels serve us, as believers, in carrying out God’s will on earth. They are not rulers. Therefore, he could not have been speaking to the angels.

Image of God

And it says, God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him.” In case there was any confusion, He adds, “in the image of God—not the angels—He created him.” So, to whom was God speaking?

Clearly, the Godhead—the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit—made this decision in complete unity.

One in Hebrew

Even the Hebrew word for one that is recited in the Shema—“Hear O’ Israel, the Lord your God is one”—connotes unity or plurality. To mean one, you could use the word yachid, which means an individual or a single unit. But echad, as is used here in the Shema, means one in unity. It is the word that God uses when he says, referring to a man and a wife, that the two “will become one (echad) flesh.” And Eve was literally a part of Adam, as God made her from Adam’s rib. From echad we get the Hebrew word for together, yachad—which means together. And this is the word that God uses, echad, when describing Himself.

If I were preaching on the importance of unity, I would not say that we need to be yachid—a single individual unit—but that we need to be echad—one in unity.

Let me give you a better example. Echad emphasizes unity, where as yachid emphasizes a singular entity. If I were to say that someone is the one and only something, I would use yachid. But, if I were to say that the elders of the congregation act as one, I would use echad. God tells the Israelites that He is Echad, not yachid, in the most famous passage in the Hebrew Bible, Deuteronomy 6:4.

While the triune nature of only true God is complex and difficult for our finite minds to fully comprehend, there can be no question that God is revealing this to us, and He begins immediately in the very first chapter of the book of Genesis.

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