Branching Out

The continuing growth and development of Tree of Life Church

Pick Your Battles!

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One thing I have learned in 2017 is that you don’t need to show up at every argument you are invited to. You see conflict always takes your energy, your wisdom, your strength and your time away from dreaming, and dreaming big is what leads you into your destiny.

I have found that most people who have a reputation for being contentious do not think they are contentious, rather they think they are honest, up front people who “tell it like it is”. In fact, they take great pride in being the person who tells everyone as it is. What is really happening is that they are copying someone in their childhood, often mum or dad, who would get their own way through making others scared, what we call intimidation. They are following a pattern, and are sadly blind to the relationships and wisdom they lose out on by doing so.

Nothing hurts a church more than a contentious leader. Nothing hurts a family more than a contentious parent, and nothing hurts a business more than contentious employees. When a person in a church cannot get along with others, the whole church feels it. When a person at work cannot get along with others, thousands of pounds or more can easily be lost as projects get delays, other employees feel they have to give their tuppence worth and every situation slows down and focus is lost from the main goal.

Now does the Bible have some wisdom for us in dealing with contentious people? Yes, it does and it is really clear:

17 And now I make one more appeal, my dear brothers and sisters. Watch out for people who cause divisions and upset people’s faith by teaching things contrary to what you have been taught. Stay away from them. 18 Such people are not serving Christ our Lord; they are serving their own personal interests. By smooth talk and glowing words they deceive innocent people. (Romans 16.17-18, NLT)i

I take the Bible very seriously, and I take these verses as seriously as anything in Paul’s letters. When people are divise and teach things against righteousness by faith, and obedience from faith, when people teach inclusionism, universalism, preterism, licentiousness and anything else contrary to sound doctrine, I just walk away.

I know so many people who have joined the band wagon in teaching that Christians do not need to be part of a local church. It’s heresy of the worst kind, and it is divisive. People like that I don’t even walk up to anymore, I just walk past.  I might nod or say hello, but I have nothing to do with them. I have too much to do to be distracted!

Do you realize one of the most powerful principles in the entire universe is the principle of agreement? One of the greatest powers in the universe is the power of two people in agreement.  Contentious people are trying to disrupt that power, and you don’t need that. If someone writes me a letter telling me one of my mentors is corrupt, it goes in the bin. I don’t have time for that garbage, and I know where it goes. If someone comes to me and starts trying to tell me that you don’t need to believe to be saved, I will be walking away. Sometimes you can help someone like that, more often than not you cannot.

One of the things that people will do if they are divisive is they will get involved in things that are none of their business. They need to read Proverbs 26.17 (I’m not quoting it, go look it up!), and they enjoy it – they love disputes, they thrive on conflict, and look for a reason to disagree with you.

We had Terri Savelle Foy preaching in Dagenham last Sunday, and she was amazing. One of the things she exhorted the church to do was to stop complaining and start giving thanks, in fact she said you cannot be a success unless you are grateful. Ingratitude is often the root of divisiveness, people try and divide churches because they forgot to say thank you.  People literally sitting in a kitchen that one of our pastors built and insulting him to their family. Someone is texting another one of our pastors and telling them they have done a bad job and don’t care using a phone that the same pastor bought for them! Ingratitude, that then leads to divisiveness – sorry, I don’t feel like coming to church this week, and suddenly that person is gone. Listen that can destroy a church plant in one month, it can kill a healthy “mature” church in six months. I’ve seen churches go from growing to dying because of one ungrateful person.

We need the boldness to stop any conversation rooted in divisiveness:

  • I’m not going to that church any more, it hurt me so bad.
  • I don’t think you should give to that church
  • I don’t reckon it’s a good idea to listen to that pastor anymore
  • He’s just not feeding me anymore

Anyone comes to you with this kind of negative, church-splitting, ungrateful talk, you have my permissive to talk over them and say “God is good, let’s thank God for His goodness, let’s get excited about a turnaround, let’s get to church this weekend!”  Be bold and be strong! It’s a fire, and you can pour water all over their hellfire stuff – go for it!

Don’t let the atmosphere around you be ungrateful and negative – change it!  Speak life!

Did you know more missionaries leave the mission field – not because of money, not because of getting sick or hating the culture – no, it’s because of personal disputes with other missionaries. People who love Jesus so much they move to another nation to share the gospel – and they have to come home because of petty fighting and an atmosphere of ingratitude.

Listen to me, I could say a lot more about this, but my finishing point is this: conflict is not created by an issue. It is created by a person:

For lack of wood the fire goes out, and where there is no whisperer, quarreling ceases. (Proverbs 26.20, ESV)

Agreement makes the devil run away, it leads us into life and abundance, companionship, happiness and the manifest presence of God. So get the division out, pick your battles.

The Power of an Accuser 07: The Association of Accusation

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When you are accused the people around you are accused as well. If a pastor is accused, the whole church is polluted with that accusation. If one church is accused in a network, then the whole network can be polluted with that accusation. Let me say it like this: accusations quickly spread to those associated with you.

Want to be my associate pastor? Part of the job description will be to be accused of the same things I am. Don’t expect to be the clean, holy one in the network! We all get accused, and it’s generally the same thing.  You aren’t greater than us, you aren’t greater than Jesus – if he was accused, you will be too!

So whenever you associate with a group, realize you will be accused with the same things they are. When a Word of Faith guest speaker comes to Tree of Life, I get the same horrible emails all the word of faith guys get. When a grace speaker comes to Tree of Life, I get the same vicious letters all the grace guys get. Dave Duell, my dearest mentor for many years had his own unique set of accusers, and trust me they aimed some of their lies at me.

I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, it’s just a thing, and I am just telling you to get used to it. It’s part of the price you pay to be part of something bigger than yourself.

I had some vicious accusations a few years ago, real nasty stuff. There was no truth behind them at all, but a couple of pastors I was mentoring distanced themselves for me. They couldn’t handle the association of accusation. They said their churches wouldn’t grow if they were tied to me. Now, we are running in 7 locations, with hundreds of people, one of the largest TV ministries in the United Kingdom, and their churches are still the same size.  They missed out on a powerful association because the price was too much.  I know people who would come and meet Dave Duell when he came to England, but they wanted me to keep it a secret, they didn’t want to deal with the accusations.  I believe the theological term is wimp!

You have to realize that to be part of something bigger than yourself, to have a great mentor, to gain great wisdom, you must always be prepared to be accused the way they are.

How was Peter accused – you’ve been with Jesus haven’t you Peter. You are one of them (Luke 22.58). And Peter couldn’t handle that and lied like a dog – No, I am not one of them!  Sometimes that pressure is intense, but stand up to your accusers, stand up for your church, your network, your friends!

I respect ministers who while under the pressure of accusation, stand up and still minister the Word and the Spirit and bring grace and wisdom and inspiration to people. Peter quit because a young girl accused him of being with Jesus!  Just the accusations Jesus endured for years and Peter didn’t last 24 hours.

Perhaps some people have avoided being my disciple because of the accusations against me don’t know how strong I am to handle them, perhaps they wouldn’t last 24 hours under the same accusation.  Perhaps God is calling you to a certain church or ministry and you know that you will be accused going there, but you maybe need to develop a backbone?

The Power of Accusations 06: The Foolish Wisdom of an Accuser

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Accusers can sound wise.  They will tell you that you have not been loving, that you have not behaved as a pastor should, that you are running a cult, that you are arrogant, that you are not grace, that you are demonic, that so on and so forth.

Now, here is something I want you to see – their wisdom will never, ever be from the Word of God! You will get some great non-biblical quotes in the letter they write you, you will get some great word definitions, you will get some great proverbs but you won’t get Proverbs!

Now to the average person these cleverly worded arguments can sound very convincing, but if you look closely you will see there is never any Biblical basis to what they are saying.  They have no Scriptures for statements they make that seem very authoritative. bu there is no Scripture to give it any authority.

Which Bible verse says it is wrong to appoint elders on the basis of character, not some philosophical idea of grace?  Which Bible verse says a pastor must drop everything they are doing to pray for your son, your parents, your cousin because you feel it is necessary?

Whatever the accusation, and however it comes, look for the Biblical basis behind it – you won’t find it. You will find some worldly wisdom, but not godly wisdom, not the wisdom of the Word.

The Power of Accusation 05: Accusers are Crazy People!

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People who accuse others are crazy.  They exhibit the same behaviour as mad people. I mean for any Christian especially to be the mouthpiece of the devil on earth, they have to be a little crazy. Now people get a little upset when I call accusers mad, but I didn’t start that, Luke did:

And the scribes and Pharisees watched him, whether he would heal on the sabbath day; that they might find an accusation against him.

But he knew their thoughts, and said to the man which had the withered hand, Rise up, and stand forth in the midst. And he arose and stood forth.

Then said Jesus unto them, I will ask you one thing; Is it lawful on the sabbath days to do good, or to do evil? to save life, or to destroy it?

10 And looking round about upon them all, he said unto the man, Stretch forth thy hand. And he did so: and his hand was restored whole as the other.

11 And they were filled with madness; and communed one with another what they might do to Jesus.

– Luke 6.7-11, KJV, emphasis mine

Men and women filled with anger and rage and fear say untrue things to hurt the body of Christ and discredit people of God – yes that’s insane!  And it happens all the time!

I spoke to a medical doctor about mad people, and apparently, that’s not a medical term. But the doctor did say that the main symptoms of what most people would think are mad people are paranoid delusions and auditory hallucinations. Paranoid delusions are the belief that there are very real forces around that are going to hurt you, and it makes the patient scared and convinced of things that are not real.  Auditory hallucinations is hearing voices.

The fear that there are forces that will get you are what drive the patient into craziness, and it’s a fear that there are forces that will get you that drives people into accusations. Paranoia increases until the patient hears voices that are not there – accusers often imagine things that are simply not real!  It’s the same process – accusers are crazy people!

People get so deceived and then they cling to their deception. They accuse a person of this that and the other, and you suggest they are wrong, they will get very upset indeed. So angry and furious!

Hatred is not part of a healthy psyche!  We need to be so careful of accusers, they are attacking others out of hate, and that is not sane!  We need to love them, but we also need strong firm barriers to stop that accusing spreading!

 

The Power of Accusation 04: The WHO and WHY of Accusation

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The “WHO” of accusation is simple: the closest person to you that the devil can get access to their mouth. Recently, I got a letter from a complete stranger who had watched my TV ministry who accused me of being a false teacher, and also completely stupid. In fact, the letter even had a diagram of how small my brain was so I could have a pictorial tool to see how stupid I was!  It went straight in the waste paper bin and apart from the humour value of the diagram I haven’t given it a second’s thought. Yet, when someone inside the church makes a comment about me, or an elder, or someone in my family… that haunts me, that can hold me back from ministry.

So the devil’s plan is to use those closest to you to accuse you! His ideal is to recruit your spouse or parents or children, but he will settle for colleagues or friends, or elders in the church.

You see the closer the person, the more we weigh the accusation!

Yea, mine own familiar friend, in whom I trusted, which did eat of my bread, hath lifted up his heel against me. (Psalm 41.9)

If the devil can get your trusted friends to accuse you, he knows he can get you off course! Listen the closer you are to your pastor, the cleaner you need to keep your heart because the devil wants to use you to attack and accuse him!  It’s that simple!

So, that’s the WHO of accusation, but WHY accusation?  What is the devil’s plan? Again, that’s simple too – the devil will keep accusing you until you retaliate in the flesh.  That is his game plan – to get you to do something carnal! He wants to push you until you quit your race.

Moses got fed up of being called a liar and a murderer. Instead of speaking to a rock, he hit it in rage. He lost access to the promised land and ended his ministry. That’s the devil’s plan for you! Don’t fall for it, keep doing what God called you to do!

 

The Power of Accusation 03: It’s the Exact Opposite

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The power of accusation I have found is that it is always the exact opposite of the character of the person being accused. Men who would never dream of taking anything that was not theirs, who sacrifice themselves for the kingdom of God, who tithe faithfully are accused of theft. Men who would die rather than cheat on their wives are accused of adultery. I run a network of churches, and have a team of pastors. I find they are always accused where their strengths are.

Moses of course was accused of wanting to murder Israelites, when all he wanted to do was protect them and deliver them.  He was also accused of being proud when he was the most humble man on the planet!

Jesus was accused of wanting to destroy the house of the Lord, when no one loved the house of the Lord more than Him!

 

 

 

The Power of Accusers 02: The Defilement of Accusation

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The one thing that you must know about any accusation is that it defiles your relationships – it puts mud in the waters and stops those relationships being pure.  Accusations just make everything dirty. Pure relationships are made dirty by accusations.  That’s one of the reasons the devil likes to accuse saints because he likes watching good, godly relationships fall apart.

There could be a man and woman in your church, both single, and both friends. Then someone accuses him of fancying her. Do you know their relationship is now dirty – everything is colored by the accusation. He may actually fancy someone else, but a pure look and an innocent offer of help is now dirtied by the accusation!  Accusations defile – that is their power.

Now, if you accuse someone of something that has never occurred to them, you defile that relationship and it will be very hard indeed to come back. You need to wash that relationship clean through trust and change, and that will take a lot of time and energy. Better to not accuse in the first place!

I want to eradicate accusation from the body of Christ – certainly from the Tree of Life network of churches. I want us to reject the notion that if we hear gossip it is probably true. It’s probably a lie.

Condemnation can often look like a word from God but it simply isn’t.  It is from the devil, and needs to be shut down.

 

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