Posted by: Art Heinz | November 2, 2016

The Consequences of Standing on the Wrong Platform

democratic-vs-republican-party-in-america-republican-democrat-xlc8wc-clipartJesus told the story of two houses built upon two entirely different foundations, one on sand and the other on rock. When the storm came, the house built on sand collapsed, but the house built on the solid foundation survived.  What was the reason for the differing outcomes?  Was it the type of house?  Was it the severity of the storm?  Was one builder just fortunate?  No, the outcome was entirely based on the integrity of the foundation.  During the 2016 election, a choice will be made to once again either build upon the sand or a solid foundation.  That foundation is the official platform for each of the major political parties.

Like a building foundation, the political platform, a party’s statement of official values and positions, will affect how well our nation weathers future storms and challenges. Political candidates will come and go, but the ideas, values, and agendas remain for generations.  Too many Christians have bought into the lie that the presidential election of 2016 is about two personalities.  The truth is the election is about two different views of the world and two different directions for the United States.  Both candidates are deeply flawed but we must look beyond the personality and potential time in office and discern and project what policy and cultural legacy they will leave behind for the next 50 years.  The two major party candidates represent two very different platforms, and the values, views, and policies reflected in those platforms will impact our country long after the candidates are gone.  

The consequences of standing on the wrong platform will be severe and lasting and why I believe this truly is the most critical election of my lifetime.  We will have Supreme Court justices who bend the constitution to suit political ideology and persuasion. We will have the unrestricted slaughter of the unborn, including late term elective abortion such as partial birth abortion.  We will have an all out assault on our right of religious expression, teaching, autonomy, and practice.  We will watch our right to bear arms watered down and severely restricted.  We will see rampant wickedness and abomination further normalized in our nation.  We will watch the greatest healthcare system in the world devolve into a single payer system where medicare and social security are raided and destroyed, where healthcare premiums skyrocket, and where quality is compromised.  We will lose our national autonomy to the march of globalism putting world interests above the interests of our people.  Socialistic policies will continue to drain our national wealth rather than increasing it.  The national debt will balloon to nearly 30 trillion dollars.  Corruption and collusion in the government between the Justice Department, the FBI, the State Department, the White House, and the Clinton campaign will never be brought to accountability.  The economic stagnation experienced under Obama (the only president with no quarter with GDP at 3 percent in U.S. history) will continue because of poor tax policy and over regulation.  Our foreign and military policy will continue to lack common sense, vision, cohesion, and execution trying to control monsters like ISIS instead of releasing our full war capabilities to annihilate them. We will continue to follow immigration policies that violate our current laws, disregard rules of fairness, and ignore our security.  Energy policies will continue to destroy American jobs while failing to tap our own  resources toward energy independence. Inner cities like Chicago, Baltimore, St. Louis, Detroit, and Milwaukee, completely neglected by Obama, will continue to crumble under the weight of crime, unemployment, degradation, and failing schools.  

As believers we have the responsibility to evaluate the platforms of the political parties through the eyes of Scripture.  For the purposes of comparing the most critical components of the platforms, consider where the Republicans (R) stand, where the Democrats (D) stand , and where the Kingdom of God (K) stands on the issues:

The Sanctity of human life:  (R) Life begins at conception and should be protected.  (D) Abortion should be on demand, without restriction and funded with tax money.  (K) “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you” (Jeremiah 1:5).

Marriage:  (R) Marriage is between one man and one woman.  (D) The definition of marriage should include anyone a person loves.  (K) “God made a woman and brought her to the man” (Genesis 2:22).

Religious liberty:  (R) Religious speech and practice is constitutionally protected.  (D) Religious speech and practice is subservient to protected lifestyles.  (K) “Preach the truth in love” (Ephesians 1:5).

God in government:  (R) Rights given by God trump human or government given rights. (D) God has no legitimate role in government or place in the platform.  (K) “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord” (Psalm 33:12).

Israel:  (R) The security of Israel is supported unconditionally and it’s capitol is Jerusalem.  (D) There should be a two-state system with no claim of Jerusalem as Israel’s capitol.  (K)  “I will bless those that bless thee, and curse those who curse thee” (Genesis 12:3).

America’s security:  (R) ISIS is an existential threat to our security and way of life and must be destroyed.  (D) The greatest threat to our national security is climate change. (K) “But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason.  They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer” (Romans 13:4).

America’s place in the world:  (R) The interests of the United States should be placed above the world.  (D) The interests of the United States are subservient to those of the world.  (K) “The fourth beast shall be the fourth kingdom upon the earth, which shall be diverse from all kingdoms, and shall devour the whole earth” (Daniel 7:23).

Like many of you, I find different aspects of each candidate disappointing and distasteful. But I have made the quality decision to look beyond the personality and the limited time each would be in office and consider the long-term implications of their policies and agenda on our nation, our children, and our children’s children.  Instead of the candidate, I am voting for the platform and the future impact of that platform on the country I love.  I am voting for the platform that best aligns with the Kingdom of God. Christian, if you believe that abortion, redefining marriage, restriction of religious liberty, the exclusion of God from government and public life, the manipulation and persecution of Israel, lip service to threats to our national security, and advancing globalism at the expense of our national interests lines up with the Kingdom of God, then please do vote for the Democrat. If, however, you reject the death and darkness of the Democratic platform choosing instead life and light, then you should join me in supporting the Republican nominee for president.  I encourage you to assess which platform is better for building a great nation, sand or rock?

 

Posted by: Art Heinz | September 10, 2016

No Más!

unknownPanamanian professional boxer Roberto Duran is considered to be one of the greatest fighters in history earning championship belts in four different weight classes.  The boxing world called him respectfully “Hands of Stone” because of his punching power.  Ironically, he is best known for losing his punch and quitting right in the middle of his championship fight with Sugar Ray Leonard, exclaiming, “no más” or no more.  Instead of going out a champion, the way he lived most of his life, Duran ended his boxing career and hung up his gloves perceived by the boxing world as a quitter.

The pressure is on believers all over the world to do the same thing.  The enemy knows that we are more than conquerors through Jesus, that we are always led in triumph in Christ, and that we have the victory that overcomes the world, even our faith.  He cannot defeat us so he focuses instead on trying to provoke us into quitting because he knows that he cannot win without our willful surrender.  He could never defeat you, affect your right standing with God, or ever get God not to love you, but he can and does do everything he can to get you to quit on your right believing and right living.  So, all over the body of Christ too many Christians and Christian leaders are hanging up their gloves and quitting their spouses, cutting off friends, leaving their churches, vacating their ministries, and bankrupting their destinies.  Why?  Because they became weary in doing good instead of holding on to the promise that they would reap in due season if they did not quit (Galatians 6:9).  They started to focus on the limited negative at the expense of all the positive.

Every assignment, every attack, every confrontation, every disappointment, every setback, every loss, every inspired criticism, every agenda, and every perceived slight is designed to get you to quit, because quitting gets you off the path of God, and that was the devil’s goal all along.  Quitting indicates a believer has become demonized and is under the influence of the enemy and captive to do his will.  Regardless of whether we do it in the thralls of discouragement, the depths of depression, a fit of anger or offense, or with an arrogant smile on our face, quitting in violation of God’s word and will is a clear indicator that the enemy has pushed our buttons long enough that our troubled minds and roller coaster emotions are now driving our decisions rather than the voice of the Holy Spirit.

In these challenging times, the Lord would have us keep punching, to never give in, and to never give up.  That’s why he commanded (not just encouraged) Joshua to not be discouraged (Joshua 1).  Discouragement is a loss of spiritual courage, and the loss of that courage always precedes quitting.  I know as a believer and Christian leader that there are times you just want to hang it up, but the Lord needs you in your place, your family needs you to be steady, the Church needs you to be stable, and the world desperately needs you to model the hope you profess.

When you feel like quitting (1) on purpose put off that decision to quit, (2) take the time to flood your heart with the word of God and prayer, (3) get around people who are uplifting, challenging, and encouraging, (4) refuse to make decisions based on negative feelings or thoughts, (5) and remember God NEVER forgets a seed sown.  No matter how things look, you WILL reap in due season IF you do not quit!

Posted by: Art Heinz | August 8, 2016

Spiritual Kryptonite

imagesSuperman is an iconic and enduring image of strength in our Western culture and around the world.  We know about Metropolis, Clark Kent, the phone booth, Lois Lane, and Superman’s arch nemesis Lex Luther.  We also know there is nothing that could take Superman down, except for one glowing green gem called kryptonite from his home planet of Krypton.  In the presence of kryptonite, the man of steel became mortal, weak, confused, and subject to attack and ultimate defeat. 

Believers and Christian leaders too have a kryptonite from our home planet that works the same, draining us of life, joy, peace, and victory.  Our kryptonite, however, is more of the carbon based variety than some precious element.  The kryptonite our arch enemy uses to defeat us is people.  You see, animals don’t offend us, the oceans, forests, mountain ranges, and skies don’t offend us.  People offend us. 

Sooner or later we all have our own encounters with kryptonite.  Sooner or later we all have our stories of spending years investing in people only to have them turn on us, bending over backwards to make sure a family in need is taken care of only to get mad at you for some unspoken reason, experiencing disappointment in some bold endeavor, trusting a good friend only to find out the friend is one of your biggest critics, making great sacrifices with little to no appreciation, watching church members get in conflict with one another and take it out on the entire church, experiencing a crushing loss in life or ministry, or navigating the sting of a Judas kiss from a coworker or staff member. How we respond to the these kryptonite encounters determines whether we will reach our destiny or fold under the hurt, betrayal, and cynicism.  

I know what that’s like after nearly 30 years of ministry service.  Ministry does not exempt a person from kryptonite.  On the contrary, ministry just gives the minister more exposure to kryptonite – more opportunities to get offended.  One pastor I served slammed his hand in anger against his canoe during and outing breaking his hand and then blaming me for the injury.  Another church leader invited us to serve as his associate pastor, promised that we would soon transition into the lead role at the church, and then weeks later informed the people, after we had moved across the country, that he would have to let us go if the money did not start coming in.  My home church voted me down as their pastor, twice, after a spurious search process that included drawing names out of hat (no, I’m not joking), putting my name back into the hat, realizing the other man wasn’t going to come, and finally submitting my ministry to the church for a vote.  Rejected and dejected, we walked back into the church to face the people with a warning from the loving Holy Spirit: “Be very careful what you say next, for what you say will impact your destiny and their future.”  It’s not what happens to us, but how we respond to it that matters in life and ministry.

In each situation, and countless other encounters with kryptonite through the years, I had to make a decision whether to let it poison me or move forward trusting God.  Our failure to perceive what the enemy is actually trying to do with the kryptonite of people is his greatest weapon.  Paul admonished Timothy to stay out of strife with people because strife is the doorway to becoming captive to the devil to do his will (2 Timothy 2:24).  Imagine claiming Christ and yet living your life as a tool for Satan.  If we go through things without letting that kryptonite get inside of us and affect us, the devil cannot have his way with us.

Psalm 55 provides special insight for identifying kryptonite and overcoming its power in your life.  The Psalmist cried out to the Lord for help saying, “My thoughts trouble me and I am distraught.”  When we are distraught we are deeply agitated, upset, unable to think or behave normally, and extremely distracted.  In reality, however, the Psalmist was distraught and close to imploding from the kryptonite because he was thinking about all the things people were saying about him, all the things people were thinking about him, and all the things people were doing to him.  There’s nothing we can do about what people say, think, or do, but we have the power to choose not to think about it. “Cast your cares on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall” (Psalm 55:22).  The key to defeating the kryptonite is to not even touch what THEY are saying, thinking, or doing with your thoughts.

I heard a preacher once tell the story of a jet airliner beginning to make its initial decent.  As it flew below 10,000 feet, the electronic and communication systems began to go haywire. After aborting and pulling back up to 20,000 feet the systems became normal.  After flying back down and pulling up several times with the same results, the co-pilot went below to find out what was happening.  He discovered there were rats chewing on the power conduits.  At the higher altitude the rats couldn’t function, but at lower altitudes the rats would come to and begin chewing on the cords disrupting the systems of the aircraft. 

As believers, God has called us to a SUPER life, but if we choose to live at the lower altitudes of hurt, offense, and bitterness, we will be short-circuited and defeated every time.  We need to habitually live at the higher altitudes where the kryptonite infested rats can’t affect us.  Our spiritual altitude is set by our time in prayer, time in the Word, and practically by what we choose to think about.  “And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise” (Philippians 4:8, NLT).  Our lives tend to go in the direction of our most dominant thoughts. Whenever you are given an opportunity to get offended with people just tell yourself it’s kryptonite, and then choose to go up even higher where the rats can’t play in your head.

Posted by: Art Heinz | July 23, 2016

Trump, Clinton, and The Cyrus Effect

clinton_trump_splitLike many God-fearing believers around the country, I have struggled to make sense out of this election cycle. After suffering the radical progressive policies of the past 8 years, I long for someone to take the helm of this great nation who has the spiritual and leadership credentials to bring restoration, healing, security, and prosperity back to our country (you know, someone with the moral and spiritual depth and maturity of a Billy Graham mixed with the economic, policy, and communication prowess of a Ronald Reagan).  After a long and contentious primary season that feels like Alice in Wonderland, we seem to be left with Tweedledee on the right and Tweedledum on the left.

I realize there are some Christians and Christian leaders who will exhort us all to just preach Jesus and stay out of the political arena altogether, but that position is out of sync with our nation’s history and inconsistent with God’s demonstrated concern for the nations as indicated in the prophecies to the nations in Isaiah. No, God is very much concerned with the governance of nations and He uses the nations throughout time as instruments of his purpose and plan.  I believe He still has a great plan for our country. The truth is we have a Scriptural, moral, and civic responsibility to participate and not in a LBJ IRS amendment “churches keep your mouths shut kind of way.”  We as Christians are citizens of the United States and we did not forfeit our citizenship or constitutional rights when we joined a church or accepted the call into the ministry.  We simply cannot stick our heads in the sand while our national fabric is unraveling, our country is being drained morally and financially, our future is being held hostage, and our people are being slaughtered around the world with no clear champion to defend them.

Between 597 B.C. and 581 B.C. the Jewish people were exiled to be held captives in Babylon where they cried out to Almighty God for their deliverance: “By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion” (Psalm 137:1).  If you were to gather the rulers and elders of Israel together in that captive place and asked them what their deliverer from captivity would look like, I’m sure they would be thinking of a Moses or a David like historical and biblical figure to execute that deliverance. Shockingly, Isaiah prophesied that Israel’s help would come from a total pagan ruler, Cyrus, and worse yet, God would have the audacity to use messianic terms to describe him: “This is what the Lord says to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I take hold of to subdue nations before him…so that you may know that I am the Lord, the God of Israel, who summons you by name.  For the sake of Jacob my servant, of Israel my chosen…though you do not acknowledge me” (Isaiah 45:1-5). Cyrus came to power 170 years after the prophecy, captured Babylon in 539 B.C. and two years later decreed Israel’s return to their homeland, the rebuilding of the temple, and that the treasury of Cyrus would pay the bill (2 Chronicles 36; Ezra 1).

I mentioned to my sister back in January of 2016 that I believed something is going on in this nation that transcends normal politics, political parties, and political alliances.  By the millions, born again Christians have been crying out to God on behalf of our nation for years, a country being held captive philosophically and spiritually. God’s dealings with man throughout history reveal one important lesson that may have some application to our nation’s current election cycle – we have the right and liberty to cry out for deliverance, but just like the Jewish leaders in Babylon, that does not mean we get to choose through whom that deliverance will come.  Too many Christians are looking for a president that would qualify for a deacon, Sunday school teacher (Jimmy Carter was a great Sunday school teacher), or pastor in their church forgetting that God’s ways are not our ways (Isaiah 55:9).  

I believe we are experiencing our own Cyrus moment in the United States this year.  My candidate of choice in the primary did not survive the process (and considering his behavior at the RNC I’m glad) so it looks like I have a choice between Tweedledee (Trump) and Tweedledum (Clinton).  Despite the misgivings and ambivalence I may have toward both candidates, the question is simply who is most likely to be an agent of that deliverance?  Who appears to have the favor of God?  To me, Tweedledum has demonstrated failed leadership as a Senator and Secretary of State, she holds policies and values that are completely contradictory to mine, and she does not possess a clear moral compass as indicated by the never-ending ethical issues.  Tweedledee, a recently born again believer, is a brash, blunt, bold, and successful businessman who lacks the polish and couth (but also lacking the veneer) of a seasoned politician, but says things that resonate with many disillusioned and alienated Americans.  

I have concluded during this election cycle given the enormous stakes, including the fact that the next president will most likely appoint as many as four Supreme Court justices, to put away my grocery list of likes and dislikes and attempt to discern God’s big picture agenda and his Cyrus for this moment in U.S. history.  At the risk, well, of alienating everyone, and although as distasteful to some Americans and Christians as Cyrus was no doubt to the Jews who benefited from his political, military, economic, and human rights policies, I believe the mantle of Cyrus is on Tweedledee during this turbulent and unprecedented election season as an agent of change, not based on his spiritual or political credentials, but based simply on God’s sense of humor, penchant for irony, the prayers of his people, and directional sovereignty. Of course, time will shortly tell.

 

 

Posted by: Art Heinz | February 13, 2016

Stupid Devil Mind Tricks

jedi-mind-trickAll Star Wars fans are familiar with the Jedi mind trick used to target those of weak mind in the galaxy.  Obi-Wan Kenobi used the trick on the storm troopers who were looking for C-3PO and R2-D2.  All he had to do was wave his hand and say, “These aren’t the droids you’re looking for.” Instantly the trooper responds, “These aren’t the droids we’re looking for.” 

The sad thing is I run in to a lot of people in the Christian universe who are just as susceptible to stupid mind tricks. Instead of a Jedi waving his hand around, the devil makes simple and repeated suggestions and believers, failing to reflect on the source and content of what they heard, buy in to and act on those suggestions to their destruction. This confusion is a device of the enemy to introduce deception through multiple or contradictory voices that distort God’s voice or drown it out.  What’s amazing is how open God’s people are today to the distortion of the enemy – even people who have been trained to know better.

Like the Jedi mind trick, all Satan has to do is suggest something and too many Christians will follow him like the pied piper.  Very quickly, those believers assimilate the thought and suggestion as if it were their own or coming from God.  The devil must sit back and laugh at how gullible God’s people are at his stupid mind trick.  I can almost hear the drone-like automatic responses of Christians to the devil’s suggestions:

“Nobody cares about you…Nobody cares about me…”

“You want to kill yourself…I want to kill myself…”

“You need to dump your spouse…I need to dump my spouse…”

“God just wants you to be happy…Yes, God just wants me to be happy…”

“You don’t have any friends at church…I don’t have any friends at church…”

“You want to quit your ministry…I want to quit my ministry…”

“You should leave your church…I should leave my church…”

“You should be offended by that…I should be offended by that…”

Gehazi, the protege of Elisha and prophet in training, accepted the thought of the evil one that he knew better than his master, and Naaman should have to pay for the supernatural healing he received from God.  Instead of rejecting the contradictory word, Gehazi was moved by the stupid devil mind trick, received clothes and money from the recently healed leper, was exposed by the prophet Elisha, and was consequently stricken by leprosy. Gehazi, the servant of Elisha, the servant of Elijah, stood to walk in an anointing even more powerful than Elisha or Elijah, but lost everything because he acted on a stupid devil mind trick.

The cost for believers is just as high today.  Acting on the stupid devil trick causes separation – separation from our faith community and family, separation from our destiny, separation from vital relationships, separation from our blessing, separation from our anointing, separation from our covering of protection and wisdom, and separation from our inheritance (spiritual and natural).  The simple suggestion of the enemy is responsible for countless believers failing to walk in and experience God’s best. Sadder still, the devil convinces believers they are perfectly justified and right to act on the stupid devil mind trick.  Imagine carrying out the agenda of the enemy convinced it’s Gods will (John 16:2).  God’s people are truly destroyed for a lack of knowledge (Hosea 4:6).  Gehazi’s story reminds us the stupid trick works on seasoned leaders as well as babies in the faith.

The good news is the confusion of the enemy caused by stupid devil mind tricks can be overcome. First, you can defeat the deception by laying a foundation for clarity in your life by saturating your mind daily with the Word of God.  The best way to tell a counterfeit thought is to be immersed in the truth of the thoughts of God (Romans 12:1-2).  We can’t identify the will of God (what is true) until we offer up our bodies as living sacrifices and transform our thinking by the the Word of God.

Second, test or challenge everything you think you hear following the admonition of Paul to hold on to only that which is true (1 Thessalonians 5:21).  It’s comical how many people mindlessly repeat or repost things they found on Facebook or other social media.  Just because we saw it or heard it does not make it true.  We need to be especially sensitive to the suggestions of the enemy.

Third, close the door to confusion by ridding your life of envy and strife, “For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work” (James 3:16, KJV).  We are predisposed to the deception of the enemy when we are envious of others or have entered in to strife.  These things always produce confusion and help to explain how good Christian people can become destructive forces in their families, churches, and places of work.

Fourth, become Spirit led instead of emotion driven (Romans 8:14).  Too often, when we hear something, including the lie from the stupid devil mind trick, we have an emotional reaction before we evaluate the thought biblically.  Emotion ruled living intoxicates the believer, and much like the drunk driver, impairs the believer’s judgement and responses.  We need to make decisions from a position of spiritual peace instead of emotional intoxication.  

Finally, submit what you think you heard to spiritual leadership early in the process for there is wisdom in a multitude of counselors (Proverbs 15:22). Godly leaders are anointed to sniff out the stupid devil mind trick and deception but the believer must submit the situation to leaders early and quickly instead of coming to them just to inform them of what they have already decided.  

The time is short and the stakes are very high.  Don’t be like the weak minded stormtrooper easily duped by the Jedi, but become strong in mind able to identity and reject the stupid devil mind tricks that come against your mind.  We simply can’t afford to lose any more Gehazis to the dark side.

 

Posted by: Art Heinz | January 19, 2016

Divorcing Your Church

87604643A traveling preacher was waiting to be picked up by a local church pastor to speak at his church that evening.  Relaxing by an outside courtyard at the hotel, the preacher engaged a grandmother with two young children in a cordial conversation.  The woman noticed the man’s Bible and asked if he was a believer.  He explained he was a believer and that he was scheduled to speak at such and such church that night.  The woman replied, “I used to go to that church.”  “In fact,” she continued, “my grandchild here was healed of autism at that church.”  Stunned by the disconnect between the fact of the child’s healing of what is considered incurable by many professionals, and the statement that she used to go to that church, the preacher simply replied, “praise the Lord.”  He struggled to wrap his mind around the woman’s decision to leave a church where such faith was preached and such a powerful miracle took place simply because she was now moving in some “new” revelation.

What the preacher observed that night has in fact become an epidemic across the country where people leave their faith family despite the fact that the faith family was the source, in the Lord Jesus Christ, of the life and breakthroughs in their lives.  A couple is headed to the divorce court with no hope of reconciliation.  The Lord uses the church to restore the relationship but the couple then leave the church.  A man attempts suicide, fails, and shows up in church where he gets saved and delivered, and then leaves the church.  A young man is told he has an incurable disease but God exposes the infirmity and removes it through a word of knowledge. But then the individual lets hurt and disappointment drive him from the body God used to restore him.  A man receives a prophetic word over his life about money all around him, and after prospering in a manner consistent with the Word, departs the church leaving pledges, vows, and commitments unfulfilled.  A dejected and demoralized woman comes in to church and finds acceptance, love, and belonging only to walk away because of some minor misunderstanding or offense.  The stories are endless but they all share a common narrative of people receiving life and restoration from the church and then divorcing their churches to serve some offense, yield to a divisive or deceptive spirit, or to pursue some spurious teaching, doctrine, or practice.

According to Psalm 68:6, the Lord sets his people in families so that the benefits of redemption can be explained, explored, and enjoyed.  The word “set” means to remain or to abide.  Our destiny in this life, our ability to bear fruit, and the influence we are to have on the lives of others are all tied to remaining in God’s set place for us.  It’s easy to leave a church when it is viewed as an entity or organization, but when believers have the biblical revelation that the local church is a family, and a family the Lord has set them in, it is much more difficult for the deceiver to displace them.  Like natural families, there may be sound reasons for separation such as abuse, but in most cases people are abandoning their faith families due to a dysfunctional view of and judgment of the their faith family.  Sadly, these individuals then act like the family doesn’t even exist and was never a significant factor in their spiritual lives and well-being.  Once this type of behavior is started, unfortunately and tragically, it is often repeated over and over again sowing confusion in the affected churches, insecurity in church leaders, and contempt for the Church in the hearts of kids exposed to this behavior by perpetually disgruntled parents.

Like with any family, there are issues, challenges, disagreements, and problems, but also like most families, there are untold and innumerable benefits to being a part of a faith family.  Perhaps as American Christians we should intentionally focus on the positive aspects of family rather than focusing on what is not right or imperfect.  It’s possible for the devil to inspire us to amplify the negative, forsake our faith family, and compromise the good things God had planned to do in us and through us in association with that faith family.  Choose instead to honor the set place God has for you, to appreciate the life you have received from that faith family, and to focus on the positive when faced with issues, legitimate and imagined, in the local church.  Perhaps it’s time to remember the value of blooming where we are planted or dancing with the one that brought us.  If you have developed the habit of divorcing your church or have completely separated yourself from church altogether, consider the grace and mercy God has given to you and the fact that he did not divorce you for your imperfections.  Ask yourself a simple question: Did I and do I treat my faith family like God treats me?  Selah.

 

Posted by: Art Heinz | December 17, 2015

Oh the Humanity

gracePerhaps the greatest paradox in Christianity is the realization that the Lord sovereignly chose to use imperfect people to preach a perfect gospel and lead people to a saving knowledge of the one true perfect God.  Besides the one flawless example of Jesus, every man and woman charged with speaking or acting on behalf of God throughout history has been flawed.  Abraham was a chronic liar.  David couldn’t keep his zipper up.  Moses needed anger management.  Jeremiah could use some Prozac.  An arrogant Peter sounded a lot like Donald Trump.   Paul was quick to write people off at times.  Despite the flaws and failures, the Lord did amazing things through them and so many others because the anointing is God on flesh doing what flesh can’t do.

Though a preacher of righteousness and recipient of the revelation to build a vessel to rescue God’s creation and his own family before the flood, Noah was found in a compromising position after partaking of wine from the grapes he grew after the great flood waters receded.  The behavior of his sons upon the discovery of their naked and drunk father reflects two contrasting attitudes found readily in the Church today.

In Genesis 9, Ham discovered his father’s nakedness and couldn’t wait to tell his brothers.  When Ham’s brothers, Shem and Japheth were told they placed a blanket between them and walked backwards into the tent to cover their father’s shame making sure they did not so much as turn their head in the direction of Noah.  Notice the different reaction when the humanity of the preacher was discovered and observed.  Ham saw Noah’s humanity and broadcasted that humanity to others.  Shem and Japheth saw the same humanity and chose instead to cover the humanity because “love covers a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8).

So that I am not misunderstood here, Christians and particularly Christian leaders must have accountability in their lives.  But there is a difference between accountability to specific brothers and sisters who, in keeping with Paul’s command, restore the fallen and flawed with gentleness (Galatians 6:1) and others who observe the humanity and work to expose or broadcast the error with no heart for the restoration of the fallen.  Why is it we all want cover for ourselves and exposure for others?

There seems to be an unwritten rule some cynical believers follow that says if they witness the humanity of a Christian leader they do not have to respond in mercy, respect, or discretion, and they no longer have to receive from that leader. That “Ham” spirit, as in the days of Noah who was personally responsible for saving representatives of all of God’s created life on earth, forgets and diminishes the contribution that leader has had in his or her life and the lives of others choosing to focus instead on the imperfection of the leader.

Of course when Noah found out from Shem and Japheth what Ham had done (and understand emphatically here that just like Shem and Japheth, a godly believer does not hold confidences against the leader, but good or bad, keeps the leader informed) he was of course disappointed and prophesied a very different future for Ham in comparison to his brothers.  A simple reading of this story in Genesis reveals a powerful truth that all Christians can and should learn from.  The Hams in the body of Christ witness leadership humanity, broadcast that humanity to others, and end up cursed or empowered to fail.  In contrast, the Shems and Japheths in the Church are not blind to leadership imperfections, but in observing the humanity, choose to cover it with a garment of love and mercy and end up receiving the blessing or the empowerment to succeed.

If we spend any time around Christians and Christian leaders, we will observe imperfections, flaws, and their humanity (and they will observe our humanity).  Make a quality decision to be a blessed Shem or Japheth in the Church who sees, covers, and works to restore the humanity of others rather than a cursed Ham who sees, exposes, and cares little about restoration.  Remember that without love and mercy for others when they fail, we become more susceptible to temptation and failure ourselves (Galatians 6:1).  Without grace for others, we set ourselves up to reap the same when our humanity is observed (and sooner or later our humanity too will come out).

Posted by: Art Heinz | December 1, 2015

How to Be Miserable

ScroogeA friend of mine passed along an interesting list of ways to be miserable in life.  The original note written on old fax paper has all but faded, but the truths mentioned are timeless and life-changing for anyone wanting a fresh start and outlook in life.  Take a moment to read and think about these twenty ways to be miserable in life.  If they challenge you and you want to make a change…make a change.

How to be miserable in life…

      • Use “I” as often as possible.
      • Always be sensitive to slights.
      • Be jealous and envious.
      • Think only about yourself.
      • Talk only about yourself.
      • Trust no one.
      • Never forget a criticism.
      • Always expect to be appreciated.
      • Be suspicious.
      • Listen greedily to what others say about you.
      • Always look for faults in others.
      • Do as little as possible for others.
      • Shirk your duties if you can.
      • Never forget a service you may have rendered.
      • Sulk if people aren’t grateful for favors.
      • Insist on consideration and respect. 
      • Demand agreement with your own views on everything.
      • Always look for a good time.
      • Love yourself first.
      • Be selfish at all times.

This formula is guaranteed to work…

Posted by: Art Heinz | October 26, 2015

Clergy Lives Matter

IMG_5665Clergy abuse in the Church is well-established and reported, including controlling behavior, manipulative leadership, financial impropriety, and even sexual abuse. But just like other professions (few doctors are drug addicts, few peace officers are racists, and few lawyers are on the take), the overwhelming majority of pastors regardless of faith tradition are dedicated, sincere, honorable, and faithful servants of God tending to the flock God has assigned to their care.

What has not been sufficiently addressed and written about is the systematic abuse of spiritual leaders by some members of the congregations they serve.  The ignorance of the phenomenon where it is unknown, and the blatant disregard for the behavior where it is tolerated are taking an enormous toll on the Church in the United States.  Every four weeks 1500 ordained ministers leave the ministry.  The simple plan of the enemy is to decimate local churches of all denominations and polities by abusing, demoralizing, crippling, and displacing the local shepherds. What is simply amazing is that the devil’s primary tool in this offensive is not secular humanism in society, or persecution from the world, but internal abusive behavior by congregants.  The weapon of choice is the mouth rather than a gun.  The projectiles are words instead of rounds.  The death is an emotional one rather than a physical one.  

The vast majority of church members support, uplift, and encourage their shepherds in their ministry assignments as spiritual leaders.  Unfortunately, too many shepherd abusers are allowed to function in the shadows of the otherwise functional church sapping the leader of energy, vision, hope, joy, and passion.  Perhaps by shining the light on a few of the devices (or types of the personalities or spirits) the enemy uses and employs to abuse spiritual leaders, congregations can become more sensitive to the problem, begin to identify and mark the behavior, and then hold the behavior accountable when it is discerned.

First, the Jezebel in the congregation works to introduce idolatry by seducing the spiritual leader (and not just sexually) so that the leader is manipulated and controlled by the individual.  The Jezebel usually has a hidden or competing vision or agenda for the house.  If seduction, manipulation, and control fail, the individual will often attempt to destroy the leader through false accusations or by creating dissensions in the body.  If the leader yields to the Jezebel, their ministry is compromised.  If they refuse to yield, they incur the intrigue and wrath of Jezebel who wants the head (or the authority) of the leader.  Just like with Elijah, the Jezebel is tireless in the pursuit of it.  

Second, the Absalom, which means ironically “father of peace,” seeks to steal the hearts of the follower away from the God ordained leader.  As in the day of David, often the Absalom is usually close to the minister or someone the spiritual leader has given a platform for ministry.  Taking advantage of the platform, the Absalom stands at the social gates of the local church sowing seeds that suggest the leader does not care about the people or have time for the people.  The Absalom intentionally becomes the unofficial complaint desk for the congregation, and has no ethical problem counseling church members without the knowledge or support of the pastor, abusing the visibility, access, and trust given to them by the leader.  The result is the separation of the hearts of people from their spiritual covering and the compromise of their spiritual destiny.  The Absalom selfishly fails to consider the true welfare of the people, concerned only with the advancement of an illegitimate kingdom.

Third, the most common abuser, the Demas, receives a significant investment in time, ministry, and personal development from the spiritual leader.  Often, the Demas has experienced major breakthroughs, including salvation and even deliverance and restoration from life-controlling problems, life-destroying tendencies, and life-wrecking experiences.  Just like with Paul, Demas just one day disappears from the scene.  The biblical Demas left because of his love for the world (carnality).  Church folks leave churches today for a variety of reasons, some valid and some ridiculous. Nonetheless, the thing that marks every Demas is that he or she deserts, forsakes, and abandons the ministry, and does so without even a word to the pastor, despite the substantial ministry, love, and benefit the individual received through their ministry.  Most church members wouldn’t even think of leaving a job without giving a two-week notice.  But the Demas just vanishes with no word or explanation (except to other people), and no consideration for the damage that is done to the local church and the local church minister.  Surely the local church shepherd deserves at least as much consideration as a church member would give to Burger King.

Ministers are fully aware of the high calling they receive, the charge to speak the truth in love, the challenges of serving God’s people, the warfare that accompanies the responsibility of watching over their souls, and the need for proper self-care.  The problem is the abuse of clergy over time has a cumulative and debilitating effect, the results of which may not manifest for years or decades.  While it is the responsibility of the minister to remain faithful to the flock and maintain a strong and vital spiritual life to sustain them internally during the marathon course of their ministry, it is also the responsibility of the flock to value clergy lives by upholding them in prayer, supporting them with faithfulness, strengthening them with words of encouragement, and confronting and holding accountable the abusive personalities like the Jezebel, the Absalom, the Demas, and others as they manifest.  These simple efforts can dramatically increase the tenure of local pastors and increase the health of the churches they serve.

Posted by: Art Heinz | October 17, 2015

The Selfishness of Skipping Church

Old Church 1The overwhelming consumerist mentality in our nation has spilled over and saturated the thinking of Christians throughout the Church in the United States.  More and more believers in America approach the concept of finding and remaining in a church the same way they would handle buying a car, shopping for the latest technological advancement, or choosing a movie to watch.  An institution whose founder came not to be served, but to serve, has been tainted by a ceaseless drum beat of “what can you do for me?”  The worship environment, the style of music, the dress code, the church programming, and the overall focus of the church, is no longer about the Lord and His agenda, but about the personal preferences of individual church shoppers.

The crisis of commitment and ownership in the American Church is reflected in the 2015 Pew Research Study that showed a serious decline in Americans self-identifying as Christians.  The problem is demonstrated any given month as families who used to attend church weekly and even several times a week now attend services one to two times a month (and I’m not referring to the shut-in, the sick, or those who must work). It is impossible to build anything of consequence in any sector of society with such inconsistency.  Imagine if a construction crew showed up to a building site only once or twice a month.  Think of what would happen if physicians and nurses manned the hospitals and ERs only a couple of times a month.  Consider the problems in education if our teachers worked only two days a month.  And yet, the welfare and future of our great nation hangs in the balance as rabid hedonists, religious fanatics, and ignorant young socialists and progressives march on fully committed to their causes.  We cannot build godly, committed, and society-changing future generations with a selfish hit and miss approach to church.

The key to the restoration of our culture and society is not the economy, our healthcare system, or even education, but the tone and temperature of our nation spiritually.  How can cold, lifeless, church skipping Christians possibly be the catalyst for fanning the flames of spiritual renewal and fire in the United States?  This coldness and lifelessness is reflected in the attitude of the Christian who says I don’t need to attend church all that much because I can get my spiritual food online or through broadcast media.  The attitude is reflected in the individual who says I don’t need to go to church because I can commune with God in nature on my own.  It’s reflected in the family that emphasizes every other kind of activity and pursuit other than spiritual education in the name of putting the family first.  It’s reflected by the one who points to their hurts, their disappointments, or their needs as an excuse to be absent from church.  It’s reflected in church workers who only show up to church when they are scheduled to serve, teach, or lead.  It’s reflected by parents who teach their children, by ungraciously and habitually leaving church after church, that the Church and its people are fatally flawed and not worthy of real commitment.  It’s reflected in the people who pursue amusement, recreation, and entertainment to the detriment of their spirituality and places of worship.

So, what’s the issue here?  The primary issue is a fundamental misunderstanding of why we gather as Christians.  True, we gather to worship God, learn the principles of God’s Word, and fellowship with one another.  But if you read the words of the writer of Hebrews, our priority is gathering so that we can encourage and help one another to progress spiritually in an increasingly secular, pessimistic, and antagonistic culture:  “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.  Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:24-25). Luke tells us Jesus, the one we say we are following, left an example of faithful attendance explaining, “on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom” (Luke 4:16).  Think about that.  Jesus, the Son of God, had a habit of going to the house of God.  How much more do His followers need to develop that habit?

The culprits in the current spiritual malaise and indifference in our country are the selfish Christians who fail to consider how they can help, assist, and encourage someone else by coming faithfully to church instead of focusing on and serving their own wants, preferences, needs, and schedules.  That single mindset of coming to church not for what you can receive, but for what you can provide is the key to a true spiritual renewal in our land. When you are not in church the gifts and abilities in you are not made available to others.  That’s why skipping church is selfish and the complete opposite of the example of Jesus, the mission of Jesus, and the commands of Jesus.  If you are a consistent, constant, and faithful church goer, don’t let anything stop you from continuing in your dedication.  If you have become distant, cold, lifeless, and selfish in absenting yourself and your family from the Church, repent and return to a faithful lifestyle and relationship with your local church.  As the writer of Hebrews challenged us, we should become more diligent and dedicated to one another as we see the end coming, not more selfish.

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