Jesus had a problem with the Pharisees because they were different on the inside to what they were on the outside! He actually called them – you can look it up in Matthew 23.27 – a bunch of white painted coffins. On the outside looking very beautiful and on the inside dead, unclean bones.
Sometimes someone starts going to church, they even get born again, they even speak in tongues, but they do not reach a place where they start to yield their life to Christ, and do not reach a place where they value the love of God and loving other people. So, areas of their lives are still dead and unclean. They look great on the outside but if you get close you start to notice a bit of a whiff. They are dead on the inside.
These are the people who are living one way in church on Sunday morning, but then go home and act differently. They will do everything to be seen, and will never do anything to make a sacrifice – they will not live for Christ if it costs them something. They are hypocrites. The problem is not that often these people are deceiving others, but that most of the time they are also deceiving themselves.
They say the main work of a doctor is to diagnose a problem, once that is done, the solution is normally the easy part. It is the same in the kingdom, once you realize the problem you can solve it. But hypocrites will lie so often they believe the lies, they do something selfish and self-promoting and convince themselves they are humble and gracious and doing something righteous!
I have sadly seen this with pastors – some are wonderful in the pulpit and flow in the gifts, but then they are rude to the waiters in the restaurant and the ushers in the church. They are not the same person everywhere they go. People can preach Jesus, sing Jesus, exalt Jesus – then act in a way you wonder if they are even Christians and ever read a Bible!
Your external life should match your internal life! Do not live a dual life, do not be a hypocrite as you will end up falling off the bridge. You will not be able to hide the deadness inside you for long, before long you will stink and everyone will know what you are really like. Discover God’s goodness and love and turn to Him and find freedom today!
We don’t need a modern day Samson in the church – strong and anointed but unable to live for God, unable to be pure.
If you looked at Samson you would see the long hair – a sign of his dedication to the Lord – but he was yoked to the world, he was tied to it in his heart. Some people look dedicated but are not. They are tied up in the world, in immorality, in all sorts of messes. His not cutting his hair made people think he really loved God, and when it suited him he did love God. But he never made a sacrifice for the Lord, when no one was looking he just did what he wanted when he wanted.
He told his parents he really wanted to marry an unbeliever. He had two different personalities – a public one and a private one. Do not be a modern day Samson. If all your best friends and your girlfriend are unbelievers, you are a modern day Samson. Looked holy, but was having sex outside of marriage, and sex before marriage! That is not holy, that is not godly. He was a hypocrite.
How could a believer who wants to please God and live for God, who has a passion for God, who spends hours in prayer and studying the Word every day ever even contemplate a non-Christian wife, I will never know. I couldn’t imagine being married to someone I could not pray with, minister wife, serve with, worship with.
Samson was both spiritual and carnal. Next week, we will look at how that combination will destroy you!
Until then get rid of the hidden darkness and act like the man of God you look like. Selah!
20 My son, keep thy father’s commandment, and forsake not the law of thy mother:
21 Bind them continually upon thine heart, and tie them about thy neck.
22 When thou goest, it shall lead thee; when thou sleepest, it shall keep thee; and when thou awakest, it shall talk with thee.
23 For the commandment is a lamp; and the law is light; and reproofs of instruction are the way of life:
24 To keep thee from the evil woman, from the flattery of the tongue of a strange woman.
25 Lust not after her beauty in thine heart; neither let her take thee with her eyelids.
(Proverbs 6.20-25, KJV)
The phrase “strange woman” is here in Proverbs 6.24, and it is also in several other Proverbs (5.20, 7.5), and it is a woman who comes to church to destroy men who are ministers and who hope to be in ministry.
The next verse in Proverbs 6, is v. 26, and it says that “a whorish woman will bring a man to a piece of bread”. She will take someone who has a full and rich life and bring them to a subsistence level. The next part of the verse says “the adulteress will hunt for the precious life”. These women will drain the life out of men! They will go to church to destroy lives and get Christian men trapped!
Satan knows that the greatest asset in any church is strong, pure men with the hand of God on their lives, so he will do anything to target them – and one of his methods is a strange woman. Now you can gender reverse this, and ladies can fall for strange men, but it destroys the church more when men of integrity forget their integrity and forget their wisdom and have their life and prosperity stolen from them by a strange woman!
Every minister must be aware of this and on their guard for this sort of thing. The strange woman wants nothing more than to commit adultery or fornication with the man, costing him influence, stealing his life, and destroying his ministry.
Even a godly man who has lived pure all their life can be entrapped by a strange woman if they are not careful. There are strange women about today. I know men who have walked out on their wives, walked out on their future, lost their ministry, destroyed their church – all because they were immature and selfish around a strange woman.
We do not war against flesh and blood, but the enemy will happily use flesh and blood to seduce someone out of ministry and out of their position in Christ. God has put a lot of information about the strange woman in the Bible so you can recognize them, because adultery and fornication are sins that cause you to fall off the bridge and lose your place and lose your way and hurt your future a great deal. The devil loves attacking people with sexual impurity because it is so devastating.
There are many strange woman who are happy to go to church and seduce a minister and steal his precious life. Some know exactly what they are doing, others are damaged through their own upbringing and experiences, and are unaware of what they are doing. In churches, they often have a veneer of being spiritual – they sing in tongues in the service, they carry their Bible around and quote it – but they will readily have sex with anyone.
The church is the most precious place in the world. A meeting of saints is the most precious meeting in the world, and strange women hunt for precious lives – they want to destroy the precious saints. Precious people who really love God and would serve him with all their hearts, people who terrify satan just by getting up in the morning, and satan wants to target them.
When a young man decides to serve God with all his heart, satan will make them a special target of strange women. They come into churches and seek to destroy people. They will operate at night (Proverbs 7.9), which means in the church service they may seem normal, but suddenly they start to call the pastor well out of office hours. They also operate in the night of people’s lives – when some Christian leaders are going through difficulties – often a strange woman suddenly appears.
At night, you need to be very careful. I don’t text or call any women, let alone strange ones, outside of office hours. If you are engaged, I will tell you not to go out with your fiancee – but if you are married, you are not supposed to be going out with other ladies. Do not take your secretary out for a late dinner! Ever.
Strange women will be in the Sunday service, but rarely any other services. They will never be at a prayer meeting, because they cannot show off. But if you are off to the beach or out for a picnic, they will be there. They are at church to trap someone.
Proverbs 7.10 says they have the attire of a harlot. In modern talk that means they dress like a prostitute. They are not prostitutes, but they dress in a way that should make people a little shocked! If you are a disciple of Jesus Christ, you should pay attention to your dress. You should not be dressing in a suggestive or provocative way. I think we are all mature enough to know the difference between beautiful and dressed up, and someone who is a strange woman.
A strange woman will have a strange past – Proverbs 7.26 says many strong men have been slain by her. She will have stories in her past of defiling others. Now lots of people have a history and Jesus is a forgiver and a redeemer and loves restoring people, but when there is a pattern in the past that is still going on today – beware.
A strange woman will demand attention. Proverbs 7.11 says she is loud. She will be striking – she will have men flocking around her. Her appearance will be loud, her voice will be loud, her mannerisms will be loud. Proverbs 7.11 also says she is stubborn too. That means she will not listen to anyone – you will not able to teach her or give her input. If you ever marry her, she will never submit! And, if you marry her you will never know where she is (Proverbs 7.11 – her feet do not abide in her house) – she will not be in the home, she will be vague about where she is.
Another sign of a strange woman is they are obsessed with touching. Proverbs 7.13 says that this hunter caught the man and kissed him. These woman will be hugging everyone and it will suddenly end up with her body pressed against you, and a kiss or two. They will hold you, hug you, take your hand. They know full well it aroused the men, and it is deliberate tempting. She will be overly-familiar, not just in the touch, but talking about things that someone you barely know should not be talking about.
They are trying to make you close – they will comment on your hair, your body, your everything. They will not respect your fences, and they will not even care.
Finally, the number one trait of a strange woman is that she is strange. You will know nothing about her. She will lie about her past, trying to make it mystical. She will have so many secrets and you will never know where you stand.
In Proverbs 7.14, the strange woman had peace offerings. She did all the religious things – because that means men will put their guard down around her, but it is all fake. It is part of the strange. In this verse she is pretending to be a faithful saint, to attract a godly man. There are many such strange women in the churches, and we need to be aware they are cunning, they can fool religious people and steal life from men with great potential.
What can we do? Proverbs 6.25 tells us not to lust after her beauty, not let her take thee with her eyelids. She will look at you in a way to make you want to go after her. Do not fall for it.
Identifying a strange woman is half the battle. They might come to a pastor or a young leader in the church with many problems and need counselling and start sobbing. If you are ignorant you will put your arm around her and arrange to meet her, and she will take advantage of the fact that you are a Christian, a man of God, a kind, loving man.
Be aware – pray – seek wisdom from older more mature men. Be careful, do not let someone drag you over the edge of the bridge into the chasm, you may get very injured and may take years to get back to where you are going.
If you are committing the sin of fornication (sex before marriage) or adultery (sex outside of marriage), you need to not just repent, you need to get out of the mess you have made. Here are the steps you need to embrace:
If you are trying to get out of a sexually immoral relationship, you need to be honest. If you have a problem, and you need help you need to be open about it. I do not mean you tell everyone. If you are sick, you do not tell everyone, you go discretely to the doctor. If you are sick in your soul and engaged in sex outside of marriage, you go and tell your pastor. No one can help you unless you talk about it and tell people the problem.
If you are involved in fornication or adultery, you need help. That is not disputable – you need help. But the question is do you want help? If you do, then you need to share your situation honestly with someone who knows how to help. Without the belt of truth, your pants will not be held up!
Part of being honest is taking responsibility for your actions. Do not blame satan, do not blame demons, do not blame the other party, do not blame your spouse, do not call it something little or a little indiscretion. Be honest with what you have done – been carnal, selfish, arrogant and foolish. Be aware of what you are and what you did. It is the only way to freedom.
You need to start fellowshipping with the Lord and gaining a revelation of His love, His power, His will. When you pray, you build yourself up – and you need to be strong to resist a temptation that you have previously yielded to.
Jesus told his disciples to pray – or they would enter into temptation (that’s in Luke 22.46). If you do not pray, you will fall for temptations! It’s that simple.
I know a day I woke up and felt I really needed to pray, I prayed in tongues for about five hours. At the end of that day, someone really hurt one of my children, and I was so tempted to rip their head off and deal with them in a very carnal way, but I didn’t, I walked in love and peace. That prayer time saved me! You need to understand the power of speaking in tongues and not just in a theoretical way – you need to pray!
No matter what you have done, you are recepient of God’s grace. You cannot get free by having better sex with your spouse (but it helps), you cannot get free by setting up a system of accountability (but it helps), you cannot get free by telling someone (but it really helps), you cannot get free by declarations and hearing the Word (but it helps). You only get free by the grace of God, but the good news is that the grace of God is always available for you. It is grace that has brought you safe thus far, and grace will bring you home!
Turn yourself to Jesus and thank Him for His grace. Celebrate His grace and goodness!
One of the saddest stories in the Bible is the story of Tamar, it is found in 2 Samuel 13. Amnon, Tamar’s half-brother rapes his sister. This sexual act has ramifications that hurt people that I think Amnon could not have expected. Their brother was hurt, David was hurt, the relationship was destroyed, the nation suffered as Absalom took matters into his own hands and clashed with his own father. It affected literally millions of people.
A lot of people do not realize that even consensual sex outside of marriage can hurt people you would never expect. It could destroy a marriage you do not expect to be destroyed. It can affect people in ways you might not imagine. It can hurt people, it can destory families, it can cause rifts between people, it can cause arguments, it can rip apart house groups and whole churches. It is a sin that ripples into others lives and causes people to miss their destiny and miss God.
How can we avoid such a sin?
Don’t Date If you are not looking to be married
The book of Ecclesiastes tells us that there is a time to every purpose (Ecc. 3.1). There is a time to start looking for a husband and wife – that time is not while you are still at school or university. You do not even have a job in sight, let alone working in one! I just will not recognize the relationships of teenagers still in school. They are doing something at the wrong time. So many Christians think it is cute and beautiful, but puppy love will grow up into a giant big dog and bite someone!
Be Holy When You Do Date
Ecclesiates 3 also tells us that there is a time to refrain from embracing. That time is before you are married. When you are married, it is the time for embracing. It is really that simple. Sometimes I have made a mistake, I have told people that when you are going out and not married you need to be pure and holy. That’s true, but it is not specific enough! People need to be told what that means and where the lines are. A lot of people get involved in situations where they just work each other up and they make their lives so difficult for each other.
If you find the right person, get married
Proverbs 5.18 says to rejoice with the wife of your youth. The longer the engagement, the longer the temptation to sin. What exactly are you waiting for? Do not delay your marriage, if you have found the right person, prayed about it, know it is right, and you have a job and a house, advance boldly!
Do not blame the finances, you do not need a twenty-thousand pound ceremony, you can get married for under a hundred pounds if you really want to. It will make a great story to tell your grandchildren! Do not wait until you have the right TV or right car before proposing. When I got married, I had nothing, probably less than nothing. But I knew Amanda was the right one, and we are still together after over twenty five years and things are good!
The wife of your youth marries you not because of what you have, but because of who you are – that is a solid foundation for the future!
Have sex when you are married
The time to embrace is when you are married. It amazes me that I have dealt with couples who are committing fornication and we have counselled them and helped them, and married them, then they lie down together like two dead logs! That’s foolish! Embrace!
Next week, we will look at what to do if you are in a mess, and how to get out of it.
Last week, we looked at one of the most common ways people fall off the bridge to their destiny and miss out on what God has for them – fornication. You can read that post here. Now we will look at another issue about fornication that stops people getting to their destiny – fornication joins you to people that you should not be joined to.
Sex is supposed to be a binding experience between two people, and that bond is supposed to last forever. When you commit fornication, you are entering into a covenant with whoever you have sex with. God’s plan is that when a man and woman have sex for the first time, blood is shed, and that a permanent covenant is formed. Before that happens, the man and woman should be making a public declaration of permanent love and commitment to be married to each other, to be exclusive with each other until death separates them.
If you are “sleeping around”, you will be entering into union with a whole bunch of different people, your soul will be all over the place, you will be unable to focus, you will lose creativity, you will fail to prosper, you will fail to enter into your destiny and you will be incapable of dreaming big. Fornication destroys your power to dream.
Paul is very clear about this – do not take a part of the body of Christ and make them part of the body of a prostitute (1 Cor. 6.15). This is real talk today, this is about real things. I have seen Christians who have spent their entire lives crippled and broken, unable to win in life because of fornication. They remain tied to that other person and never break free.
The other thing that makes sex so special and exclusive is that sexual activity is the only thing that a man and woman can do that creates life. A human life is the single most precious thing on the planet, and it is best that a baby is born with a mother and father in an exclusive, marriage covenant with one another. Otherwise, there will be the temptation to even murder the baby! David murdered Uriah to hide his unwanted pregnancy, today people just murder the baby, saying it is just a few cells. You are just a few cells too – but you are a living human! Now, if you are in a situation that is less than ideal, there is grace and there is restoration, but you will have struggles and difficulties that you did not have to have. God could see those situations would make life harder, and gave you a way out – sexual purity.
Fornication can easily knock you flying off the bridge and stop you getting to your destiny. I have seen it happen so many times.Be like Joseph – flee from fornication! Run from it.
Next week we will look at some of the emotional issues that come when we commit fornication.
The Bible says some things very strongly. It says that fornication should “let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints” (Ephesians 5.3). Fornication means to have sex before you are married. If you are married, and have sex with someone you are not married to, that is called adultery. A lot of pastors are not talking about fornication any more, the word itself seems outdated and quaint to many people. But I believe that a good pastor should reflect the heart of the Lord, and give their people accurate Biblical knowledge and proper understanding. A pastor has to teach everything the Bible teaches.
I knew when I started this series on falling off the bridge – you know failing to make your destiny because you do not put one foot in front of the other but you end up doing something and going the wrong way and falling – that at some point I would have to address this. I was a little anxious for two reasons. One, I have had people leave Tree of Life when I talk about this. It genuinely upsets people as a topic. Secondly, I am a human too, and I have the same temptations as all of you, and I didn’t live perfectly before I got married, but we must live by the Word, live by faith and teach the whole Bible!
The standard of the Word of God is that no Christian should ever be involved in fornication, that sex should be for marriage, and marriage alone. Christians should not be involved in it – in fact, according to Ephesians 5.3, they should not even be talking about it. A Christian should not be speaking to another Christian they are not married to and saying “do you think we should have sex?”. Not even talk about it.
But fornication is becoming more and more common among Christians, and it is destroying the lives of many Christians, causing them to misstep and go flying off the bridge towards their destiny and a life of abundance and peace. Listen, there are men and women out there who will bring you to a place of fornication. They will take advantage of your needs, they will corrupt and destroy whole churches. They will stop you stepping into your ministry, your destiny and your abundant life. They will destroy your future!
Fornication is breaking God’s Word and God’s design for humanity. Now, every human being is subject to the temptation to commit fornication. But you need to put God as your highest priority, you need to make God your first choice, not sin. You need to realize you will lose out on life if you do not obey God. Your life is always better when you do things God’s way. You can be at church every week, you can worship with your hands in the air, you can tithe and you can serve – but if you are committing fornication you are in disobedience to God and His plan for your life.
I have had people tell me that the instructions on not having sex before or outside marriage are archaic, ancient laws, meant for an older generation, but not for now. They tell me that it is not realistic to save yourself for marriage, that lots of Christians are living together, that it does not make sense to keep your virginity. But we are supposed to live by faith in God’s Word, not what others are doing, what makes sense or what seems realistic. We are supposed to walk with the Lord and love the Lord. We are supposed to know the Lord and have a personal walk with Him. We are supposed to have a deep sincere relationship with the Lord and want to obey His Word and instructions.
Now listen, not committing fornication will cost you something, but it will pay more than it costs. Committing fornication will benefit you temporarily, but it will cost more than it pays. One of the ways that it costs is that fornication destroys your soul.
You may think I am being overly dramatic in saying this, but the Bible again is very clear. Proverbs 6.32 says that a man who commits adultery will destroy his soul. If you have sex before or outside of marriage, it is the same thing as taking an axe blow to your mind, your emotions and your ability to make good decisions. I have met many Christians who are deeply wounded in their ability to think, to feel and to make good decisions – often that wounding in the soul is caused by sexual immorality.
There will be people in church Sunday who came from their boyfriend’s or girlfriend’s house. I won’t know any better, but it’s nothing to do with me, it is between you and God – and it is you destroying your own soul. You are negatively affecting your inner self, and that is not sustainable.
With my experience pastoring, I know that as soon as someone is involved in fornication, their spiritual life just jumps off the bridge. They are not walking forward any more, they are in free fall. Their soul starts to nose dive towards destruction. Right off the bridge!
Now knowing that fornication will destroy your soul is bad enough, but it also destroys your body. The Bible says “Flee fornication, every sin you do is without your body, but he that commits fornication sins against their own body” (1 Cor. 6.18). When you commit fornication, you are destroying your soul and assaulting your own body! Your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, do not use it to commit fornication.
If you are in fornication, do whatever you can to get out of it.
Next post, we will discuss more ways in which fornication is the same as jumping off the bridge to your future.
There is a story Jesus told, and it goes like this:
15 When they heard this, one of the dinner guests said to Jesus, “Someday God will have a kingdom feast, and how happy and privileged will be the ones who get to share in that joy!” 16 Jesus replied with this parable: “A man invited many to join him in a great feast. 17 When the day for the feast arrived, the host instructed his servant to notify all the invited guests and tell them, ‘Come, for everything is now ready for you!’ 18 But one by one they all made excuses. One said, ‘I can’t come. I just bought some property and I have to go and look it over.’ 19 Another said, ‘Please accept my regrets, for I just purchased five teams of oxen and I need to make sure they can pull the plow.’ 20 Another one said, ‘I can’t come because I just got married.’
Luke 14.15-20, The Passion Translation
People in this story missed out on their time with God because they did not have a sense of urgency about the things of God. Last week we said (here) that we need to put God’s kingdom first and some things have a time limit. Here we are looking at some of the excuses people use to put off doing what God has clearly instructed them to do.
I have seen many people miss out on God’s will for their life over a piece of real estate. I have seen people buy a nice house in a part of the country where there just isn’t a decent church that is going to feed them and lead them. It does not take long for them to backslide right out of God’s will. All over a house that within the next few decades is going to become toast. Never put property between you and Jesus. If He tells you to sell it, do it. Obey Him! Be willing to submit to Him even over property. This story Jesus told explains so clearly that people missed out on their destiny, their life, their future because of their property – because in their heart they put property above Jesus.
Now, of course Jesus does not mind us having property – and loads of it. We are after all the head and not the tail, we are the lenders not the borrowers, we should be the landlords not the tenants! That’s part of the blessing of Abraham. But you should be the one who tells property what to do, it should never tell you what to do, and it certainly should never dictate to you where you live, where you worship, how you live, what you are doing, how you operate. People max out their borrowing over a nice house, and then cannot give to the kingdom of God and cannot invest in their local church. They have turned down the kingdom for property.
Do not get this one wrong. Never let property be your idol, and never let it get in the way of you and Jesus.
2. Business Ventures
Again, I have seen people turn their back on the kingdom for business. I have seen people work with very ungodly people and become very unequally yoked for the sake of a few pounds, I have seen people working Sunday after Sunday and missing church and wondering why their fire is weak. I have seen people lie to get a job, cheat to make a sale. They have compromised Jesus for business. Recently, a pastor contacted me with a business deal that involved me selling things to people in my church, he was telling me how much money I could make and how I could do this and that, and it would have involved me taking advantage of all the trust and credibility I have gained as a pastor and using it to get monthly subscriptions from people for something that they just did not need. I would not do that, but I know people who have!
I know other people who have a call to full time ministry, but have politely declined the call because they cannot leave their oxen behind, they cannot turn their back on their business interests to serve God. Read the words of Jesus, read them in other Bible translations. You will find that your business is not as important, not nearly as important, as the business of the kingdom of God. Never use your business to ignore or disobey Jesus.
Again, you can have a business. You should have a business, or two, or three, or ten. Jesus has zero problems with you having a business, but He does have an issue when the business has you. When it tells you where to go, how to behave, how to act, what to do. Then that business is your Lord and Christ, not Jesus. Selah.
Thirdly, Jesus is very clear – you should never let your marital state be an excuse for not doing the work of the kingdom. I have seen more tears as a pastor because of people marrying the wrong people than anything else. People want to marry so they ignore the leading of Jesus, they ignore the Scriptures that talk about marrying a believer, they ignore that marriage should be a team and they fail to marry a team player. They marry some idiot that does not care about God, does not care about the kingdom, but they did pray a prayer ten years ago, and now they have to go to church alone, now they have to raise their children in the Lord alone, now tithing is a matter of conflict, praying is a bone of contention and fasting a real concern. When if they had followed Jesus and put the kingdom first, a godly spouse would have been added to them, and they would be talking with them about the Lord, enjoying the joy of being married to someone with Christian character, going to church together, being called to minister together, supporting and loving each other!
Again, God has no problems with you being married, but if you being married stops you enjoying the feast of the Lord, there is a problem! A huge big problem. You cannot use your wife, your husband, your son, your daughter as an excuse for ignoring and disobeying your heavenly calling. When God calls you, you cannot use your family, your business, your house, what you want to do, who you want to marry, where you want to live, as an excuse. None of that is seen by Jesus as a valid excuse. When He calls, then you should be following. When He invites, you should respond with a holy honour and wisdom.
John Wesley, the apostle who founded the Methodist Church in the UK, had real problems in his marriage. His wife got jealous when he pastored people, his wife got upset when he worked, she got annoyed when he travelled, she got envious when he wrote letters to families in the church. She did not like the call of God on his life. They got married on a Monday, and on Tuesday John was preaching, and she never got over that. But she never stopped him doing what God called him to do. He loved her, respected her, endured her emotional outbursts, and then got on with the call of God. And without Him doing that, the United Kingdom would be in an even worse than it was. The Methodist Church for many years has been one of the major reasons why our nation has been brought back to the Word over and over again. John Wesley was unyielding – nothing got between him and serving God with all His heart, and putting God first. John Wesley did not fall off the bridge. And nor should we.
In our next post, I will talk about marriage again, and one of the things that has caused so many people in our generation to fall off the bridge and fail to get to their destination.
The Bible is so clear and powerful and explicit on what should go first in our life. Seek first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness and all these things shall be added to you (Matthew 6.33).
The first thing in your life should be God and His kingdom. If you want to have a life of increase and a life of fruitfulness, you have to learn to put God first. You put God before your comfort, you put God before your income, you put God before your security, you put God before your thoughts, your dreams, your ideals, your life. This will change your life for the better over and over and over again.
I am a pastor, I have been pastoring Tree of Life Church in Dagenham now for eleven years. It is a growing church, not just growing in size but also growing in wisdom and depth. People are becoming disciples and seeing the kingdom of God expressly grow and increase. If you think that you can do that in a week or two, or a month or two, or a year or two, you are a fool. We have to put the kingdom first in terms of time. I know someone whose vision is to go and plant a Bible College in a foreign nation, then after two years, move to another foreign nation and start another Bible College. That cannot be done. It is impossible. It takes more time than that. You have to keep putting God first. Find any growing successful church and you will find a church where the pastor has been in ministry a long time. You will find a pastor who put God’s kingdom first.
You need to put God’s plan and God’s kingdom first in your life. Then it takes time to prepare and get ready. You could not be a priest until the age of thirty in the Bible – Jesus did not start in ministry until the age of thirty. It takes years of putting God first again and again to get to where God wants you to go. It takes years to build a church, years to build character, years to build a ministry. So you need to put it first.
I know too many people who will only consider ministry when they are ready in their time, not God’s time. I know far too many people who will go to Bible College when they get their pension. They are exhausted from life, they have left themselves too little time to build something huge. They can still contribute and do something wonderful, and God is a God of restoration, but they have never put the kingdom of God first.
The kingdom of God really needs more young people! There are a whole bunch of things young people can do that older people cannot. They have a passion and life about them. Students can pray all night, serve in ways unencumbered by life and work and family. Give your first years to the Lord if you still can! If you are at an age and God is calling you to Bible College, don’t wait until the circumstances line up – do what God says.
The kingdom of God needs people of faith! If you crystalize for too long ignoring the call of God, your faith in your soul dries up, but if you act on what God is saying, you build momentum. There are people called to plant a church in 2010 the same year I was. Now in 2021, I have years of experience, wisdom, and momentum and I can see hundreds of churches. The person who ignored the call would take several years just to get back in place. We owe it to the kingdom of God to put it first in our lives. Ministry is, despite what most people assume, hard work. You do not have much time for yourself or your loved ones when you are a pastor! You need to start when you have a spring in your step still!
Do not hate the kingdom of God – put it first in your life. Do not put off kingdom work until you retire. What – architecture is a great choice for your life and when you are full of life, but now I am old and tired, I will serve God? No – put the kingdom first, whatever that means between you and God!
If the kingdom is first, then it is the kingdom you do first. Delay your marriage and serve the kingdom. Delay your career and serve the kingdom. Stop delaying the kingdom for everything else. The fields are right now white unto harvest, not in four months time. Do not bring delay into God’s Kingdom. Get up on Sunday and arrive at church early, someone will find you something to do to help set up.
People fail to realize that whenever God speaks, a timer starts. If you miss the opportunity, you will not be able to do what God has called you to do. The available time you have to serve the kingdom diminishes day by day! Well, I will bide my time with this and serve God later will not work as a life philosophy. If you are called to ministry, there is a clock counting down the days. Prepare, invest, get ready… do what it takes. Maybe you have been told to launch out into business to finance the kingdom – the time to do it is reducing. Maybe you have been told to move to another nation to serve Jesus – the time to do it is reducing. Prepare, get ready, learn, launch.
Put the kingdom of God first in terms of priority, and you will end up living the best life you can ever life. Selah!
I am starting a new series of blog posts today about how not to fall off the bridge. We are walking along a narrow path according to Jesus, and there are many people who have fallen off the bridge of faith and shipwrecked their faith. One of the reasons that people fall off the bridge is simple – they do not have good priorities. They do not put the most important things first, they do not choose well.
When you are a sinner or a brand new Christian, you only can choose to do a bad thing or a good thing, but when you start to grow as a Christian you need to learn to choose between two or three good things, and work out which one is the best thing. Jesus taught clearly in several places that we should put the first things first, that some things are more important than others. Some things are more important, should be done best and done first. As a Christian to stay on the bridge of faith, we need to work this out, work out what hte most important things are and do them.
God is so patient. He is so kind. Many people are not living for God but are still clearly very blessed, because God is so patient and kind. But here is the truth, if you are not living for God and not feeding on the Word of God and not feeding on His love and grace, and not praying in tongues, and keeping close to God, then eventually you are going to see the Word of God as insignificant in your life. Then you will not do what God wants to do in your life. The Word, living by faith, prayer, obedience to your calling – these are things you must do first.
I had a lot of distractions in my life – I got into medical school, I can sell things really well, I had a good career taking off in the city. But I am so glad today that I put God’s calling for my life first. I am so glad today that I did what God wanted me to do, and now I flow in the anointing and see miracles and see changed lives. Listen carefully – if I had not put my calling from God first, I could have ended up a doctor, I would be a in conference of doctors going “do you know one day I thought I might not go to medical school, I thought of being a pastor” and we would have all laughed at how young, immature, over-spiritual and over-zealous I was. I have met a number of people who have told me – I felt God called me to be a pastor, but they never did it, they went into business instead. They treat God as insignificant in their lives. They reach a certain age, and try and compensate for a life of ignoring God, they retire and go to Bible College to make up for 40 years of disobedience and ignoring God’s call on their life, and it never works well. God is still kind and patient and will open up doors to them, but their hearts take a long time to heal because of decades of ignoring God and His Word and His Spirit. I am talking about real things here. What would have saved these people? Doing first things first.
Another problem is that when we take important things and do not do them first, we often end up putting them off forever. That is one way to fall off the bridge of faith and stop being able to live by faith. If you fly often like I do, you will know that a delay can easily become a cancellation! If you delay in doing God’s Word and doing what God has called you to do, it often ends up as you never doing it. Many people intend on obeying God when their marriage is a bit more mature, after they have saved and gone on their first holiday abroad, when their children are older, when this or that. They put the kingdom of God in second place to all these things, and their victory and life never manifests and the right time never comes.
I have watched with a great heaviness in my heart people who are clearly called to ministry putting other things in the way, and delaying ministry until nothing happens at all. I have heard pastors tell me “God has told me to start another church” and they just do not do it. I have heard Bible College directors tell me “God has told me to start another Bible College” and they just do not do it. Always waiting for a better day is not the way forward, it’s the way to cancellation! People do not realize that every day that passes, circumstances change, and if you keep resisting God’s will, you will eventually reach a place where it simply does not matter any more and their dreams just do not motivated them anymore. It’s sad.
Has God spoken to you? Has He told you to do something? What has He asked you to do? Is obeying God first for you? Is His kingdom and His authority the most important thing in your life? Or have a million different things got in the way?
It is not faith and not grace to put God second or third or hundredth in your life. Can you imagine a man with two wives? He will never be able to give the right amount of attention to either of them! They will always be second in his life. You get married to be the number one in the other person’s life. And God is the same – He wants to be number one in your life. Not second to your spouse, your house, your ego, your career, or even your ministry. What is God saying to do – do that!
If God has called you to do something, to be somewhere, to get involved with something – then do that. Ignore every “if” and “but” and do what you are called to do. I planted Tree of Life Guildford when it was utterly foolish, when I had young children and a young church in Dagenham, I had no leaders, I had no people, I knew zero people in Guildford. But God told me to do it, and a few years later, we have a married couple pastoring that church who are remarkable, we have some exceptional elders, we have a worship team, a welcome team, we have people getting saved and healed, we have changed lives. If I had waited for the right time, I would still be waiting. The right time has not come, I made the time right. Seize the day, do what the Lord says, change the world. Everyone necessary to make that church glorious turned up after we had made the plans to move forward and do it. Selah!
Something that happens far too often to me as a pastor is something that is not going to help anyone walk in victory and actually hold you back. The story goes something like this (names have been changed to protect the innocent):
Jimmy wakes up Monday morning unwell, he has several symptoms that concern him and restrict him from being able to move or work. He is in pain. He prays, because Jimmy is a good Christian. On Tuesday, Jimmy phones the doctor and makes an appointment. The earliest appointment he can get is Thursday.
On Wednesday, still in pain, Jimmy calls me as the pastor, or puts a prayer request on the website, or email, or one of our WhatsApp groups. The prayer request goes something like this: “I have a doctor’s appointment tomorrow, I am in pain and have a number of symptoms, but can you all pray for me that I get a good report from the doctor”.
I find it really difficult to respond to this, because the prayer request is entirely misplaced. The truth is that if we were living by faith in the Word, the doctor’s report would not move us. We simply would not care one way or another what the doctor’s report says. You do not get to walk in victory or move forward in faith through a doctor’s report.
Isaiah 53.1 says “Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?” It is the Lord’s report that you need to believe, and here is the good news. The Lord’s report does not change. It is superior to every doctor’s report, it is superior to every bank statement, every bill, every piece of mail you ever get, and every email you ever read. That is what you need to read, to believe, to conceive, to receive, to declare, to focus on. If the doctor’s report disagrees with the Lord’s report, then make a choice to believe the report of the Lord. I really don’t care if the doctor tells me that I will die in 24 hours, I have a report from the Lord that says I will not die but live and that is the only report I accept. The doctor’s report might say I am terribly sick, but I don’t believe it. I have a report from the Lord that says by His stripes I am healed and that is the only report I accept.
The reason we want a good report from the doctor is because we are so unspiritual we actually trust the doctor more than the Word of God. That is a situation that we must address in our lives, and take the time to fill our hearts and minds with the Word of God until we realize it can be trusted.
The report we believe determines what manifests in our life. So stop caring about the doctor’s report, stop worrying about what the world worries about, stop idolizing the NHS (you can be grateful for it, but it is not God and it’s reports are not God!), and start believing the report of the Lord.
Listen if you start believing the report of the Lord, what will always happen is this: the arm of the Lord will be revealed. The arm of the Lord is powerful, and heals all sicknesses, destroys all diseases, restores all that is missing and brings life. Real life. Health. Real health.
If the doctor’s report says you are sick, and you believe that report, you will start talking and walking like a sick person. Sickness will dominate you. If you rather turn to the Lord’s report and read that and believe that report which says that the Lord is your Healer, that all your sicknesses and diseases were borne on the cross by the Lord and that by His stripes you were healed, then healing will dominate you. You will start talking and walking like a healed person.
So, next time sickness attacks your body, and you need some prayers from your church, we are glad to pray with you. We love praying with you. But don’t ask us to make something as insignificant as the report of a doctor good because you are too carnal to trust the Word. Rather ask us to stand with you against those symptoms, sicknesses and pains. We will, and in Jesus’ name they will definitely leave. When we resist satan he always flees from us. That is the report of the Lord.
Please pray for me, but don’t pray for a good report from a doctor, I do not care. Not now and not ever. Rather pray the report of the Lord over me, and I will pray it over you:
Ever since I first heard of your strong faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for God’s people everywhere, I have not stopped thanking God for you. I pray for you constantly, asking God, the glorious Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, to give you spiritual wisdom and insight so that you might grow in your knowledge of God. (Ephesians 1.15-23)