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August 6, 2012

The Essence of Life

What is the essence of life? Where do I fit into the giant puzzle called life? Who am I, and why do I exist? These questions I believe most people would have asked themselves as adults. Perhaps it is better that we ask these questions from the time in the high school so the motivation after graduation can help us in the right direction in life. I will answer these questions as a Christian.

The essence of life is not about what you achieve to benefit yourself due to your selfishness and greed. It is not the name you made for yourself so people can worship you just like the celebrities who are hungry for attention. It is not what you accomplished with the giant audience of cheering spectators. You are not only about yourself or what benefits you. You are not in this world alone. It is not about putting up a fictitious banner of an image that does not exist just because you want people to love you.

The primary essence of life is to touch at least one person, or a group of people of which your message will resonate to a higher frequency busting through the souls of other people into the ocean of life. To accomplish this you only need but one person, or a group of people. Jesus is a very excellent example of this in the Bible. He had many rings of disciples that surrounded him. The closest person to Jesus as the inner ring was John. The second ring that surrounded Jesus was the trio including Peter, James and John. Jesus had only twelve members in the third ring of the disciples that surrounded him. The outer ring were the seventy of which some of them walked away from Jesus because his teachings were too provocative for them. Jesus also had other closet disciples like Nicodemus. Very importantly, even Jesus did not have a very large number of people surrounding him like we have thousands of church members today. During his crusades he attracted thousands, but his immediate disciples were very limited. The point being, we do not need a very large audience to make a difference in life. We only need just one or two people to make a difference. One or two people can take your message to the world as directed by God to make a difference.

God Measures Success Differently

There was a story of a man who went to one of the developing countries from the U.S. and preached to them for so many years about Jesus. He was able to convert just one person. He lost his wife and his child. He had one surviving daughter that was sent back to the U.S. Later he himself came back to the U.S. so distraught and gave up preaching. Years later, his daughter found him in a run down building part of town. She told him how one young person who was touched by his message became a pastor of a very large church leading thousands to Christ. All it took was just one person who was moved by the message. Today, I see evangelists, and preachers alike counting how many millions they have led to Christ, how many radio stations carry their messages, or how many television stations air their programs. I have some questions to my fellow preachers. What difference does it make if we lead thousands to Christ and the society is still decaying in morality according to gospel of Jesus Christ? What difference does it make when those people who claim they are sanctified and church going Christians do not know the Word, or live by the Word. Our society is going through a very painful moral decay, and we are busy counting how many people we led to Christ in a crusade, or how many radio or television stations carry our messages. Why is the message of Christ failing to change hearts in the church? Why do we have to go to the government to legislate the gospel message by public policies when we fail to convince people inside the church? Is it possible that our political fights have muffled the true messages of Christ? Have we over politicized the messages of Christ for our own political gains? Have we made preachers and evangelists into celebrities far greater than Jesus while we are worshipping their images and diminishing the importance of Jesus inside the church?

Why is the Message Failing Inside the Church?

The sadness about the failing messages inside the church is because we are too busy bragging about our own egos than preaching the messages of Christ. We make preachers into celebrities and start to worship them. Once in a while God will reveal to us who is in charge. Instead of preaching the message of God, we rather preach sociology, psychology, psychobabble, philosophy, or politics, and kick Bible study to the side. We love to place ourselves on the throne and dethrone Jesus from the church. Then, we wonder why our messages from the pulpit are not changing the hearts of the people. Sexual perversion is on the rise and being accepted inside the church as normal. The divorce rate in the church is no better than that of the secular world. The morality of the church folks is no better than that of the non-believers. The rate of extra-marital affairs inside the church and among preachers in some situations is higher than the secular world. What is the evidence of the fruit that we bear for Jesus when moral statistics tell us otherwise? What happened to the seeds, and what happened to the grounds? May God help us!

Jesus talked about the parable of a rich man who thought he was wise. He built a greater barn to store his crops. He then told his soul to rejoice because he had plenty. But God said to him, "Fool, this night your soul is required of you" (St. Luke 12:20). The point of the rich man’s demise was because he lay riches for himself, and was not rich towards God. There are two critical points in this message from the parable of Jesus. First, God is the author of life. God can take that life anytime he wishes. He does not ask for our permission to act. God is sovereign. Second, Jesus used this parable to define one of the most important essentials of life is being rich towards God. Being rich towards God means serving other people with the riches God gave you. God is not going to come down and take your money from you. However, when you see a person suffering, are you willing to help that person, or the need to spend your money on yourself is greater than the gospel message of Christ? Let your conscience be your judge.

I read one of the Christians blogs a friend sent me. I read about how Christians are arguing and advocating for greed. On one hand we call ourselves Christians advocating for Jesus. On the other hand, we believe we are entitled to spend that money we make the way we want ignoring those that are suffering. The argument is always "I work hard for my money." I want to know anybody in this world who worked harder than Jesus, day and night, yet he was never paid. Today, people use the name of Jesus to make billions of dollars annually. Jesus is the biggest moneymaker for Christians and those who pretend to be Christians alike. Yet, Jesus never spent a dollar of that money people acquired using his name. Instead Jesus lived a life of a homeless man in the street. He had no earthly possessions. Jesus had no briefcase, a bike, or a bank account. The only clothes on his back they took from him and stripped him naked. This was the same man who came on a rescue mission to save us from a life of sin, and reconciling us back to God. His reward was a death sentence! Instead of cursing those people out who were torturing him, while on the cross he was praying for them. Jesus said, "Father forgive them because they know not what they are doing."

Next time when you think you work very hard for your money, think about somebody who worked harder than you, and was never paid. Even the religious leaders who could have paid Jesus for his work mocked and beat him up! Jesus was never paid for all the ministry work he did! Imagine if each Christian has to pay Jesus for the gift of eternal salvation he gives each and everyone of us. Yet, Jesus charges nobody a cent! Jesus gives us the gift of eternal salvation for FREE. "Yes, I work hard for my money." Ask yourself if your money can buy you eternal salvation!

Learning from the Miracles at Gadarene

I have asked the question why the gospel messages being preached from the pulpit today is failing in the church. I believe preachers can learn a good lesson from this section of the article. The message from the pulpit is not changing human behavior. Church members struggle with the same moral sins embraced and celebrated by the secular world. A critical lesson about evangelism can be learned from Jesus regarding his ministry in Gadarene, which is opposite Galilee. When Jesus landed in the city, he was immediately confronted with a man possessed with legions of demons. Evidently demons have been operating in that city and enjoying themselves torturing people. When Jesus arrived, the demons got scared. They begged Jesus not to torment them because the demons were busy enjoying themselves and having parties at the expense of people from that city. Jesus got rid of the demons by sending them into a herd of many swine feeding on the mountain. When Jesus cast the demons out of the man, they were released into the swine. The herd of swine ran violently down the steep and drowned (St. Luke 8:27-56). Those who fed the swine saw what happened, they fled. They went into the city and country to tell people what had happened because they were terrified. Although the multitude that came out of the region of Gadarene and saw the man who was possessed healed, they asked Jesus to leave because they were so terrified. The people only saw the damage done to the herd of swine, but they could not appreciate Jesus casting those demons out of their regions. Jesus did not argue with them, he got into the boat and he departed. However before Jesus left he sent a witness messenger to the region and withdrew with his disciples. The messenger was the man previously possessed by demons that Jesus healed. The man wanted to go with Jesus, but Jesus asked him to stay and be a testimony for him.

When Jesus left the area with his disciples, the man healed from demonic possessions went and testified for Jesus throughout the region. What happened next, when Jesus returned according to Bible, the people were waiting for him.

So it was, when Jesus returned, that the multitude welcomed him, for they were all waiting for him (St. Luke 8:40).

When Jesus arrived he started to do more miracles healing the people in the same area where he was previously rejected.

Jesus strategy was simple. The first thing he did was to send the man that was healed as his testimony to the areas where he was rejected. This was different from Jesus’ request in the past to anybody he healed. Only one man became a powerful evangelist for Jesus in the areas of Gadarene using himself as an example of Jesus healing power. Jesus held the demons in chains. The Spirit of God was let loose to touch the hearts of the people including the witness to the miracle; the man that was healed.

The problem with the church today is doing the opposite of what Jesus did in the area of Gadarene. We allow demons to go rampant in the church, including the demons of idolatry, greed, sexual perversions, hate, fear, prejudice, poisons of political rhetoric, selfishness, arrogance, pride, etc. We not only accept these demonic spirits, we make love to them and use them as weapons against people inside the church. In the parable of the sower, Jesus warned us that the demons would eat up the seeds of the Word of God sowed on to the hearts of the people. These are the seeds that fell by the wayside. "Those by the wayside are the ones who hear, then the devil comes and take away the Word out of their hearts lest they should believe and be saved" (St. Luke 8:12).

As long as we want to party with demons inside the church, our messages are going to be ineffective because the demons will eat them up! When he eats them up, he spits them out as perverted messages. He turns worshippers to be spectators for entertainment. After all the jumping up and down with tears running down faces, nothing happens in their souls. The church members leave the church without making any spiritual connection with the Lord because the demons are allowed to stand in the gaps instead of the Holy Spirit.

Holy Spirit Does not Party with Demons

The critical problem in the church today is the preacher’s messages are becoming ineffective to change the minds of the people. If you want your message from the pulpit to impact the congregation, get rid of the demons inside the church especially the ones attached to people sitting in the pews! Sometimes the preacher is the one who brings a truckload of demons inside the church because of past sins and unresolved personal issues. Some people may think it is because we water down the message, or the message is contaminated. This may be true to some extent, the reality is the destructive role played by the devil inside the church. The Holy Spirit can correct any misconceptions in the minds of the believers. In the absence of the Holy Spirit the members are doomed!

As a rule in the spirit realm, the Holy Spirit does not function where the demons are let loose to party. When Samson decided to party with the spirit of lust giving the secret of his power to the devil, the Spirit of God departed from him (Judges 16:20). Similarly, when the children of Israel decided they would rather worship idols than God, the Shekinah glory of God departed from the temple (Ezekiel 10:18). God would not allow his Spirit to strive with the spirit of man (Genesis 6:3). If God refused to allow his own Spirit to strive with the spirit of man, how do we think God would want his own Spirit to strive with the spirit of the devil? No way! As long as the party with the devil goes on inside the church, the Word of God will have no effects in changing the hearts of the people sitting in the pews. This is one of the greatest battles we have in our hands inside the church.

The demons while inside the church and firing up ungodly parties have one thing in mind. Demons introduce disunity, contentions, strife, chaos, deceptions, and lack of order in the church. After the hyper-emotionalized sermon, nothing happens in the hearts of the people. Some members may go home empty and depressed because they are unable to touch the heart of God during worship service. The preacher still has power, but he has lost his dominion (apostolic authority) to influence positive changes. This is because the enemy has taken away his authority. Think about the Sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest who tried to perform exorcism without divine authority. They tried to cast out demons in the name of Jesus. The demons responded to them saying, "Jesus I know, and Paul I know, but who are you" (Acts 19:15).

Then the man in whom the evil spirit was leaped on them, overpower them, and prevail against them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded (Acts 19:16).

When you have lost your apostolic authority as a preacher, you have been reduced to an entertainer before an audience. You can yell all you want during service, nothing will happen! The Holy Spirit of God does not function in the midst of chaos where the demons have declared ungodly parties to entertain the people. Watch out for too much entertainment and less spiritual worship in the church. So, instead of supernatural manifestations of God in the church, we settle only with the prosperity messages of tangible things. Some preachers now hide behind material prosperity as a sign of their success, not realizing they have fallen for the deceptions of the earthly riches. Jesus warned the church against this like he warned the church of Laodiceans.

"Because you say, ‘I am rich have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’ – and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked" (Revelation 3:17).

Jesus was telling the people in the church of Laodiceans that they might be rich in material prosperity, but were suffering from spiritual poverty, and poverty of the soul. He said he would vomit them out of his mouth because they were neither hot nor cold. Jesus asked them to buy from him so he could give them spiritual enrichment.

The most effective way to reclaim the sanctuary for the Lord is to switch off the music, stop the dancing, bind the demons, rebuke the demons, and cast them out of the church. Push those bad boys out the door and close the doors. Then, position cherubim with the sword of fire, the sword of thunder and the sword of lightening in all the doorways. Fast and pray for the ministering Spirits to come inside the church and request for the Holy Spirit to take control. The Holy Spirit will give back the authority stolen by demons. The angels of God will take positions inside the church. We can start the music again with our focus on the Lord during worship. Then, the atmosphere for the presence of God can easily be established during worship and we experience more supernatural manifestations of God.

True Essence of Life

The real essence of life is your purpose to touch the lives of others by the gift God has given to you. If you are always bored, it is because you may be roasting in your achievements. You will eventually get bored and sick of yourself. Personal achievement is limitless. It will never give you peace. Neither will it fill the void for God. If you look too deep inside yourself for fulfillment, you will eventually crash and burn, not matter what you have achieved. When you make a god out of yourself, that god eventually dies!

The critical essence of life is to give something to others so they can achieve something far greater than you have achieved in life. The essence of life is not about you. It is about touching somebody else for the goodness of God. If you fail in that endeavor is because you spend way too much time with yourself and roasting on the throne you placed yourself. You will get bored and hit the pain of despair. Your biggest joy is in reaching out to others that are less fortunate and to help make the world a better place. It does not matter whether you worked harder for your money. In Jesus parable, the rich man in the story also worked very hard for his money. God took him away from his riches because he was greedy. Sadly this catastrophe has happened to people who believed they got it all figured out because they are rich. Then the angel of death visits them at the unexpected time, and suddenly they become history. How many tragic unexpected deaths of celebrity have we experienced this year, 2012?

It is a misconception to believe that those who are less fortunate are lazy people who do not want to work. There was a story of a young wife with three kids. She was so busy; she had no time for her husband. She was involved in the church, going to seminary school, and taking care of her children. She did these chores for so many years and she believed she was doing the right thing. One day, she woke up and could not get out of bed. All her joints were swollen and she was in pain. After visiting her doctor she was told she had an autoimmune disease. Although she stayed in pain for many months, this disease helped to shake her up and realize that this life was not about her own achievements. Life is about what God wants to achieve through her.

When she was sick, all her busy activities stopped. On her bed, the Lord revealed to her that all the activities she was involved and seemingly serving God were actually serving herself. The illness she implied was a wakeup call from God to place a brake on her life on the busy highway. She indicated that after she realized that she had to do it God’s way, things started to fall back into place for her. Her illness improved and became more manageable. Instead of chasing the winds of life like she was doing before, she allowed the Lord to direct her for his purpose. If you believe you achieve anything on your own, ask yourself where did your energy come from? Did you create yourself and the energy that carries you through? What happens if you get sick with a disease like this young wife and you’re bed ridden? Are you still going to brag that you work hard for your money, or you’re going to be begging God for mercy? Sometimes, it takes God taking us to the lowest point in our life for us to have empathy for the sufferings of others.

As Christians, regardless of how much money we make, or how popular we are, the essence of life according to Jesus is to learn to wipe tears off the faces of others less privileged.

"When I was hungry, did you feed me?" Tell Jesus, "I worked very hard for my money."

"When I was naked, did you clothe me?" Tell Jesus, "I cater first to my family."

"When I was in prison, did you come to visit me?" Tell Jesus, "I’m tough on crimes."

"When I was in hospital, did you visit me?" Tell Jesus, "I do not believe in socialized medicine."

On that day regardless to what you have achieved Jesus would say, "Depart from me you workers of iniquity. I never knew you."

I pray that nobody would be faced with this kind of judgment before the Lord. The essence of life is not about what you have acquired for yourself, but how much you are able to enrich the lives of others to make it a better world than you find it.

Paula White is Wrong!

Today, July 16, 2012 on TBN I was shocked when Paula White one of my favorite tele-evangelists made a statement saying, "The church is not the Red Cross!" I love Paula White. I greatly admire her for what she has been able to accomplish in ministering to people. I love listening to her programs on TBN. I would have loved to handle this issue privately, but I hate to allow that statement to be accepted by people who do not understand the Bible. On her program she repeated that same statement today July 23, 2012. Just because somebody made that statement to Paula White does not mean the statement is correct. Such statement is incorrect! Get it Paula! I love you, but I strongly disagree with you!

This is primarily what is wrong with the church today. We believe in collecting money and making ourselves rich at the expense of Jesus, so we can make ourselves comfortable with GREED. "The church is not the Red Cross" is a false statement by Bible standard! Tell that to the "Samaritan’s Purse International Relief" of Billy Graham Ministry catering to the needs of people in the U.S. and across the world in disaster situations. The church is supposed to be the Red Cross. When the church started to fail in its responsibility to cater to the poor, the less privileged, and those in crises situations, that was why organizations like the Red Cross came to rescue. Majority of the initial hospitals built in this country were constructed by Christian churches with the banner names of the saints in the Bible. Those hospitals were built under the banner, "The Missions of Mercy." If the church is not the Red Cross, we do not need to take any more donations or tithes from the church members, Paula. I believe if the purpose of the offering plate is to serve only the needs of the preachers, let’s either switch off the lights or remove the tax exemption of ALL churches. The reason why the government gave the church tax exemption is for the church to help the poor and the less privileged. The church is supposed to serve the community, Paula. We have lost our responsibility and our place within the community while bragging about our celebrity image. I strongly disagree that the purpose of the church is to use a very small percentage of the revenue to help the poor and a larger percentage to sustain the private jet and the affluent lifestyles of the preachers. I strongly disagree, Paula! I love you, but I respectfully disagree with that statement. It makes me feel very uncomfortable as a preacher!

The primary responsibility of the church besides preaching to the people, and leading them to Christ, is to cater to those that are suffering. The church is presently failing in this duty and nobody is taking the church to task. Lack of adequate community initiates to rescue our children from the streets is part of where the church is failing today to the shame of ALL Christian leaders. Children are busy killing each other in the streets; we are busy dancing inside the church. There is something fundamentally wrong with this picture. I’m a Christian, I strongly believe in the church as a community, but I hate to accept that we should bring the Wall Street into the church. "The bigger my church, the richer I am." This is the false statement being preached to people about empty your pocket for the preacher, because God wants to bless you. Give me a break! I believe the church needs to stop scamming people and live up to the expectation of caring for the poor, and the less privileged instead of enriching the pockets of the preachers flying private jets! We are too interested in snatching the old lady’s social security checks than preaching the gospel of Christ. What a shame! The church is the Red Cross! That is an affirmative statement from the heart of the gospel message of Christ. If anybody disagrees, go read about the ministry of the Apostles in the Book of Acts. What in the heck do you mean the church is not the Red Cross, Paula! What did Jesus say about our responsibility to the naked, hungry, homeless, sick, and those in prison? Did Jesus say we should walk away from them like the preacher did in the story of the Good Samaritan? I hope we are all reading and preaching from the same Bible.

Just think about this. Greatness is not about owning and flying a private jet. You’re not great because you’re a celebrity. Your celebrity image is a deception! It is not what you have achieved or the name you acquired for yourself for selfish reasons, or the money you scam from people. Greatness is defined by your ability despite the most difficult situations and challenges you face, with less resources in life, to accomplish things of value that make this world a better place in the absence of cheering spectators. That is greatness! Jesus asked us to take care of the least of these my brethren. That is a major part of the essence of life according to Jesus – that we learn to wipe the tears off the face of others.

By Yinka Vidal, author, Closer Walk With Jesus