Sometimes it is hard to use your gift. That is a fact of life, a fact of ministry, and definitely a fact of local church. Joseph was in jail, falsely accused of rape, when he only did the right thing. That’s a tough environment. Sometimes we go to church and we feel accused, we feel passed over, we feel ignored. We feel like we should have been promoted quicker than that, we feel the church has ignored us – worse still, we feel that God Himself failed to protect us, help us, deliver us, exalt us, promote us.
Joseph is there in jail and he sees the chief butler and the baker of the Pharaoh. He doesn’t sulk, he doesn’t say the time is wrong, he has too much to deal with, it’s not the right place. He still serves!
Even in prison, Joseph interpreted dreams and encouraged these two men. He was not waiting for better people, a bigger crowd, a more anointed meeting with smoke machines and worship leaders. No, he served where he was no matter what he was going through.
He overcome the temptation to be bitter by serving. As a pastor, that temptation is there. I help people in remarkable ways and sometimes they totally forget what I have done. They forget how hard I have worked for them. But you keep going and keep reaching out and keep touching life and keep being grateful and keep serving. This example should help all of us serve in tough situations.
I want to say a lot more, but this account says it all – serve in the hardest times. It’s a principle that will lead to promotion. Go to church this weekend and serve, it will change your life. No matter what you are going through, help someone else in their mess and it will become a message!
Joseph was working for Potiphar when Potiphar’s wife started making advances on him. He wisely refused her advances, saying that to accept her offer would be to “sin against God” (Genesis 39.9). You cannot live in this world long without encountering the fact that our world is very sexually immoral. It is filled with lust and fornication and adultery. You will even encounter this in the local church! Christians living together as if there is nothing wrong with this, as if marriage is no longer holy, and is an outdated tradition rather than the purpose and plan of God!
Within church life I have had to deal with people who are into pornography, lust, fornication, adultery, prostitution and all forms of immorality. All of them have the same choice – to be in bondage to this, or to trust Jesus and find a place of freedom.
And you have to make a choice – what will you do about it! Will you be free? The best choice to make is the choice to overcome! To walk in holiness and righteousness. To be pure.
Avoiding sexual immorality is possible through the new birth and the grace that God has given us, and if we ask for wisdom He will give us wisdom to get out of any situation. One of the problems of course is that we are often fighting not just the world but our own bodies lusting after things we cannot have. That is why staying pure can be a great struggle. But we can and must overcome and walk in victory like Joseph did. Joseph would have been a great asset in the local church – because he did not have sex outside of marriage and stayed pure. A lot of the hard work of a pastor is counselling and pastoring people who never made the strong godly choices Joseph did. Churches fail because of people making bad choices in the area of sexual purity!
A second area of wisdom found in this account of Joseph choosing sexual purity is that Joseph also chose not to be provoked by false accusations. After being spurned by Joseph, Potiphar’s wife falsely accused Joseph of attempting to rape her. This lie caused Joseph to end up in jail. Satan loves to tempt us into sexual sin, but if he cannot, he loves to accuse of being immoral anyway. He is the accuser of the brethren, and if you are in local church with the brethren, at some point you will be accused of something.
Joseph was falsely accused, but he did not let that define him. I know good people who have been accused of terrible crimes, often the exact opposite of their character. If you want to be in local church, especially if you want to be a leader, you must learn how to deal with being accused and moving forward as if you do not even hear what they are saying about you.
Life is not fair. Joseph going to jail was an injustice – he had an experience that he did not deserve. That provokes strong emotions in people – we want to rise up and challenge injustice. I have experienced injustice many times in my life, and my flesh wants to go out there and somehow prove my innocence, and let people know you cannot do that to me, I will not be cheated. But that is not the way of Jesus. 1 Cor. 6.7 actually says “Why not rather be defrauded?”. There are times i have let myself be defrauded rather than speak up against an injustice against me because I will not attack the church, I will not expose my brother’s nakedness. As you grow in Christ, you will find out there is a need to accept injustice in life and just keep walking with God.
There’s a lot in Genesis 39 about how to be a remarkable disciple of Christ. Why not spend some time meditating on it today.
Joseph was a big dreamer, and he told his dream to his brothers and rather than rejoice in his dream, they hated him yet the more (Genesis 37.5).
I have found that if you really want to achieve your dreams, if you really want to walk in victor, if you really want to win in life, someone will always hate you. The bigger the dream, the more the hatred. There are rivers of hatred that will come your way and you need to learn how to surf them! We must not respond to hatred in a natural, carnal way, we have to respond in a spiritual way.
You must learn to respond with hate with love. We must learn to handle our detractors with love and patience and kindness and not envy and bragging and acting unbecomingly! One of the hallmarks of love according to 1 Cor. 13 is that love is not easily provoked. Getting provoked is one of satan’s favourite ways to get you to leave the local church that Jesus has assigned you too.
Joseph’s brothers hated him but he loved them. When he was promoted above them, he used that position to feed them not get revenge on them. That kind of heart is essential. I am in the position now where we are funding projects of other churches who tried their hardest to stop us growing and planting! That’s a good place to be. I will not let other people’s behaviours provoke me.
Often if we do not deliberately focus on choosing love, we act at the level we are treated. If we did not get love, we don’t care. If no-one in the church noticed us, we fail to notice others. If a leader is selfish, we become more selfish. That is not the way!
We need to learn how to surf a wave of hate and still stay loving, and still dream big even when being rejected and persecuted. There are times people have deliberately stood in the way of my dreams, lied about me, attacked me, tried to get me excluded from certain situations. That’s not abnormal sadly, you will be rejected if you want to succeed – rejected by your class, your friends, your tribe, your nation. This is a real experience that you have to learn to surf.
Some keys to surfing a wave of hatred aimed at you.
Remember this is not everyone. Some people hate me, but other people really love me, they celebrate me, they want me to come and minister to them, they seek out my prayers. They promote me. You realize this wave is not the entire ocean, it really helps you press on. Sometimes one person’s reaction can feel like everyone’s reaction and it just isn’t true.
Do not let the wave of hate move you. Do not leave a church because of hatred, do not move to PITYTOWN and start pitying yourself and having a pity party. Do not move to a mindset of feeling unloved. Stay where God has placed you.
If you are hated because you are not fully developed in an area, get developed.
Do not stop dreaming. Even when his brothers hated him, Joseph went and had another dream! I love that.
Do not drown in the wave of hate. It’s not worth it.
The hardest time of hatred and rejection is when it is someone you admire and look up to. A pastor you respect, a teacher you admire – and they try and shut you down or dismiss you or even worse persecute you. It’s really hard.
I know one man, who is now with the Lord, who rejected me even though I was utterly committed to his ministry. He treated me like a wild man even though I loved him and served him and gave to him. He seemed to welcome people who did not love him and were using him. I thought “why am I being so loyal to this man”, I was tempted to let the wave move me. But I kept dreaming and God turned the whole thing around and I am walking in some big dreams right now.
Do not retreat when rejected. And do not respond with hate. There will always be haters. Haters cannot stop you walking in your destiny, but you descending into hating yourself will!
I used to think if a pastor was hated they must be a bad pastor, but now I know universally liked pastors are generally the bad pastors! A good pastor is loved by some and hated by others. Jesus was not liked by everyone and nor is anyone trying to be like Him!
Being in a local church is absolutely awesome. Besides salvation, the baptism of the Holy Spirit and your spouse, local church is the best gift Jesus has given you. You should not be a church-hopper. But sometimes there is a season to shift lanes in a local church. You might have been a deacon for a few years, but God is shifting your lane to become an elder. You might change small group, the serving team you are on, you might change what you do and who you are with. You might step into a new season.
You need to learn when to be able to detect a new season in every area of your life, but because church life is such an important part of your life, you need to be able to know when a season change is coming in your church life so much so! It is very important.
Now sometimes God will just tell you. You will be praying and God will say – join the music team, join the ushers, join the teas and coffees team. That’s great when that happens. Other times, you will just know that you know that you know. I see this like a spiritual instinct. Animals have instincts, they know where to migrate to but they have never been there before, they can do some amazing things that they have never learned. They are born and can hunt instinctively. Animals never watch porn or have marriage counselling but instinctively know how to make baby animals, they know when they are in heat, how to attract a mate without going to a seminar. They know when they need to store extra food for winter.
When we get born again we get spiritual instincts. There are some things we just know. A lot of people have come to Tree of Life Church, and they tell me “I know I need to be in this church”, they just know. Spiritual instinct.
I love it when we just know things. I want all of us to be in the right lane, when to slow down, when to serve more, when to serve in a different place, when to get involved in certain things. It means the church advances in new ways.
We need to know which lane is ours – what task is God choosing us to do in the local church? If you are in Tree of Life Church and you know in your instincts that God wants you in Tree of Life, then you have something to offer Tree of Life. You are there for a reason. Do you “know” what that reason is? If so, move into that lane with dignity and care. If you don’t, keep coming, and you will one day just know. It’s instinct.
One of the things that you must do be a loyal and mature contributor to a local church is tithe. A tithe is taking 10% of your financial increase and giving it to the local church. Abraham tithed, Isaac tithed, Jacob tithed. Part of living with the blessing of Abraham is to be a tither like Abraham.
Jacob made a vow before God to serve God, build the house of the Lord and tithe. Those things are awesome things and they go together. If you are not building the local church, you are not serving God. If you are not tithing you are not building the local church or servigin God.
You see the truth that you must accept is very simple – only God can provide for you, only God can look after you financially and only God can revolutionise your money situation. As you trust God to look after your money, you start to tithe, and show that trust in your consistent and regular giving.
Most people have no understanding of how powerful the tithe is, how powerful tithing is. Tithing is a step of faith that causes grace to manifest, it is a way of showing that you genuinely trust the Lord. Words are cheap, but tithing is proof that you know God can provide when you believe and act on His Word.
The tithe is what will cause you to be rich, and cause you to manifest the blessing of Abraham, and cause you to walk in victory. As an added bonus, you will help the local church grow and develop too! What a deal.
A Biblical account nearly everyone knows, mainly because it is so shocking, is when Esau sells his birthright to Jacob for a bowl of stew. Now, listen carefully, all of us have a spiritual lineage – somewhere we came from. We have a spiritual family – people who have helped us, raised us up, taught us, encouraged us, forgiven us, walked with us. You were not born again into a vacuum – you had people around you, spiritual parentsn and siblings and cousins. That spiritual family gives you a spiritual inheritance. You know some things, you realize some things, you have some teachings because of your spiritual lineage. God puts us in families.
Everyone of us has a lineage. People we should be grateful for. People that shared the gospel with us, people who taught us about the Holy Spirit, people who taught us about faith, grace, prosperity, healing, holiness. Those people have been used by God to load things into our lives!
Now if we hate our lineage or try to deny it, because you think it is inferior or because you got offended at the people God brought into your life – you will not succeed in life. You will become like Esau, lost and without heritage. I have seen this happen time after time.
Once I was in a conference, and the speaker invited someone up to give a testimony, and it was a powerful testimony about how the speaker had prayed for this lady. and how she was healed. She shared the testimony and people applauded, it was a great testimony. Except it wasn’t totally true. The person was actually healed in one of our churches. Every detail about the miracle was there – every single detail, I know because I was there. Except for the one detail of who prayed for her. It wasn’t this guest speaker but rather one of our local pastors.
But this lady denied her lineage for the applause of a larger crowd. God put the Tree of Life into her life to teach her about healing and get healed, but she came to despise us. That’s sad. And she is now no longer in church and no longer walking with the Lord.
God chose your birthright to load things into your life. That doesn’t mean the church or ministry that you get saved in or taught first by is the one you have to stay in. I did not stay with the Baptists but that does not mean I do not honour them.
I have the heritage I have and it gives me abilities other people do not have. The Bible College I went to did not teach me grace as well as maybe other Bible Colleges and for a time that concerned me, but I learned grace from some cassette tapes, and the heritage I have from my Bible College – the vital importance of local church, the need for honour, the need for a heritage among many other things – had been invaluable in my ministry.
During my time at Bible College, I met people who were involved in revival in the United Kingdom, people who have raised the dead, people who have known things that I would never have learned everywhere else. I am very blessed by and happy for my heritage there, more grateful than I could ever express in words.
But Esau despised his birthright. Like the person who leaves his local church having been there for years to do a discipleship course or Bible College or work for a ministry, and suddenly they forget the only reason they were there was their heritage, Esau hated what God gave Him. Esau did not value his background. Born to the most blessed family on earth, Esau did not value it. He despised it.
When someone goes to Bible College the main indicator of whether they succeed in ministry afterwards is whether they honour the church that sent them there. Nothing else is more indicative than that in my experience.
I have seen people do that in the natural, wishing they were born in a different nation or to a different tribe, wishing they were whiter or blacker than they are. Do not despise your birthright. God has designed you for a particular reason and gave you the birthright to do what He called you to do. He is not a fool, He knows what family you need to get where you are going. He knows it in the spiritual too!
In church, you will never prosper if you despise your birthright. If you are always trying to introduce your pastor to “better” teachings, if you are always looking elsewhere for spiritual food, if you are always looking for the new fix, the new thing. then you will not respct and honour where you are, what God has given you and what God has taught you.
Genesis 28.7 says that Jacob obeyed his father and mother. That is one of the ways to get a blessing. Paul says in Ephesians that this is the first commandment with a blessing. When you obey your lineage, you honour your birthrate. Listen – let me say it like this – your ability to honour your spiritual lineage determines your future. Some people want everything around them to be different from their spiritual family and it will not work.
Esau was not like Jacob, if Esau found out that his parents liked one thing – he did the opposite. He thought that sort of immature rebellion was cool and mature. It isn’t. Jacob married a girl that made his parents happy – that was not too much for him. That’s a huge decision to make to honour your parents.
Most people fail at living the Christian life because they do not honour their spiritual lineage. It really is that simple. When you got saved, there were people pleased you were saved. When you started speaking in tongues, there were people so happy for you. When you grasped how to walk in victory, how to read your Bible for yourself, how to pray and get results, how to minister healing, there were people really excited and happy. That is your spiritual family. If you work on honouring them, you will do well. If not you will not.
What is your lineage, and how can you honour them today?
One of the criticisms of modern screen writing is when a writer TELLS us something rather than SHOWS us something. For example, if the main character is an excellent detective, someone might say they are an excellent detective, they may say it about themselves, but if in the film or TV show we never see them being a detective then we deep down struggle to believe it.
On the other hand, if the character works out something from a small, seemingly insignificant clue, and is SHOWN to be a great detective then not only did we enjoy finding out the person was a great detective we deep down believe it, because we know TELLING is easy, SHOWING means something is real.
Some people sadly do the same in real life. They TELL me that conference, that experience, that this encounter with God, that their time at Bible College, has made them a remarkable disciple of Jesus Christ. Other people may TELL me how wonderful they are as well.
But the truth is for anything to be authentic we need it SHOWN. Turn up an hour early for church and help set up, forgive quickly, do not gossip, honour people, serve, be consistent, be available, be sweet and kind. Then not only will we enjoy finding out that you are a great disciple of Christ, we will know it is real.
Nothing larger than three people can survive without the principle of delegated authority. Anyone in authority of anything growing must as the thing grows, be it a church or business or family, must learn how to delegate authority.
Now the purpose of this blog is to help you learn how to behave in church, because so many do not know. And this will help you – you cannot function in church if you do not know how to respond to delegated authority.
Most of us would love to deal with the CEO of the company and the lead pastor at the church, however as a church grows, it is not always possible to deal with the highest authority. If you cannot deal with delegated authority you are a mess waiting to manifest – a disaster waiting to happen – a collapse about to collapse.
God is ultimately the highest authority in the universe, but if God sends a pastor to a local church and you are in that church, make do with the pastor. If the pastor sends an associate pastor to visit you, or an elder, make do with the associate or elder. I am using stark language here, but it is so important you grasp this. So many Christians are too proud and arrogant to relate to delegated authority.
I know several people who will flow with me, but will not flow with one of my associates or elders. They cannot relate to delegated authorities. Some even failed to relate to my own wife! These people are not living in grace or wisdom! To walk in your destiny, you will have to deal with the people God has delegated, and the people that have been delegated by them and the people delegated by them and so on.
Abraham sent a servant to find a wife for Isaac. Would you be happy for one of your father’s employees to go find you a wife? Seriously? But Isaac submitted, and ended up one of the wealthiest men alive and had a better marriage than his father or son. Some people would allow their father to find a wife for them, but not the father’s delegate. Most people would feel like saying “how can a delegate choose correctly.”
Isaac had the humility and character to accept the wisdom and leading of delegated authority, and that led to the blessings of Abraham. He ended up in the lineage of Christ and became an awesome patriarch. Rejecting the authority of a delegate is possibly the most obvious sign of arrogance and the most common way the arrogant do not enter their destiny.
The most obvious example is those people who are born again but too arrogant to go to church. Another example is the people who will skip church if the lead pastor is away, another example is the people who only come when there is a big name guest speaker. It’s all arrogance and an unwillingness to accept delegated authority.
As Tree of Life grows, this skill may be one of the most important you learn. Selah.
There are some things the Bible is so explicit and clear on it amazes me when someone misunderstands them. We can argue about the antichrist and the events of the end, we can argue over certain other issues that the Bible can seem a little unclear on, but on some things, the Bible could not be any more specific and clear. For example, James 1.26:
“If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless.” (NIV)
If you misuse your tongue, every other religious practise you do is worthless. All your praying giving, Bible reading, helping old ladies across the road is worth nothing if you are misusing your tongue. James goes on to inform us that the tongue is the bit that moves the whole horse, the rudder that moves the whole ship, the spark that starts the entire fire, and the poison that destroys your whole life. The tongue is tiny but can cause more pain than you could even imagine. You see once the forest burned, it will take decades to put the forest back again.
I have seen whole churches burned to ashes because of one spark from one tongue, and I will not let that happen to the Trees of Life that are sprouting up around the UK.
One of the sparks that seems to fly out of the mouth of Christians that can cause great destruction is gossip. Gossip is actually forbidden by the law of Moses – “Do not go about spreading slander among your people” (Lev. 19.16). Yet so many Christians do just that, they go around spreading slander, they tell stories about other people, lazy, idle, exaggerated, malicious, nasty stories. It call comes under the banner of gossip.
Something many people do not know is that the word “devil” in the Greek, diabolos, means a gossip and slanderer. The devil is a gossip, and gossip is the work of the devil. If you are a gossip, telling tales about how other people treated you and what they did, and how they are – and I say this wth all the love I have in my heart because I want you to win in life – you are doing satan’s work for him. You are an agent of satan in this earth. You have to be very careful not to be a gossip. It’s that important – you do not want to be an agent of satan. You want to be an agent of Jesus!
The flip side of this is that we must not just be careful not to be the giver of gossip, but we must be very careful not to be gossip receivers. The Bible – God’s Word – says “The words of a gossip are like choice morsels, they do down to a man’s inmost part” (Proverbs 18.8). This is sadly what people are like – they love to hear something bad about someone else, they love to see other people shown up in a bad light. There’s something about our flesh that rejoices in iniquity, but love never rejoices in iniquity.
So the gossip comes with words about someone else, instead of saying “Do not gossip about someone in my presence, be quiet”, we swallow the morsel – we eat it up and it goes right to our heart. If we are not careful, we will gulp down gossip and it will ruin your heart and mess up your faith. Gossips do not walk in theirs dreams because their hearts are clogged with all those morsels they ate! They are poisoned – they taste sweet but they give you heart failure. Do not eat them.
When someone comes to me and says “Did you know what this person did to me”, “Have you heard this about such-and-such”, even if it is wrapped up in religious language – “I am so concerned about such-and-such, and I love them so much in the Lord I need to tell you that…”, “Can we all pray for Such-and-such because I heard they have done this or that”. It’s all gossip. It’s all going to stop you dreaming big. Then you tell someone else and they tell someone else. And everyone’s hearts shrink and your gang think that’s the normal size of a heart!
We are told that “a gossip betrays a confidence, so avoid a man who talks too much” (Proverbs 20.19). Gossip is linked to excessive talking! It’s one of the ways in which you spot it. But it is a form of disloyalty. You find out something because someone thinks you are being loyal so they share a secret with you and you then share it – that is betrayal, that is disloyalty, that is dishonour.
Gossip is a sin. But if you listen to it, you become an accessory after the fact. You know the crime is committed, you heard the gossip, you know it was a crime, but you never told the person to stop, you never told them to go and speak to the person not about the person. You did not do that, so you joined them in their crime! You are as guilty as they are. You are turning the spark into a forest fire, not putting it out. You are taking the stolen goods of gossip and are now a handler of stolen words!
I want to dwell in the tent of the Lord, and according to Psalm 15, I can live in His tent if I do not slander with my tongue. We must not gossip. But Psalmist then says to live in His tent, we must not “receive a reproach against our friend”. How often have I thought someone was a friend until they ate the morsels of gossip about me? They call me up.
I got one call once from someone who said: “Hey, such and such called me and told me how you upset them, and they were on the phone for over an hour”. I replied “they called me last week to tell me how much you upset them, but the call only lasted two minutes because I won’t feed on that and I told them to speak to you”. I won’t eat the morsels, because i will not treat my friends like that.
We must not eat the gossip, it will poison us and cost us friends. How many friendships are destroyed by third-parties because someone did not have the courage to say “Do not say that about my friend. You can say it to his face, but do not say it behind his back to me, that is not Jesus, that is satan”. But rather people receive the gossip, feeling precious for knowing the secrets! That doesn’t just destroy the friendship, but you have failed to care for the gossip and help them see their action is wrong.
As a young Christian I gossiped about my pastor once to an elder in the church. She put me in my place and made sure I never did it again. That moment defined me as a young Christian and forced me to learn and grow. If she had listened to me, not only would it have hurt her, hurt her friendship with the pastor, it would have hurt me as I needed someone to refuse to eat my poisoned morsels and correct me.
It’s a sin that has plagued the church too long. Do not be a gossip! Do not receive stolen gossip and be a handler of gossipped words. Do not burn down something precious and wonderful.