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Grace People or Gracious People?

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Kenneth Hagin said the derailing of the faith movement would happen if the people with strong faith did not love the people with weak faith. I believe the derailing of the grace movement will happen if grace people never become gracious people.

Grace can easily be just head knowledge to a series of doctrines, making you a policeman to those who you feel are too condemning and too judgmental, and blinding you to the condemnation you throw back at them, and the judgement you pronounce on them for not dotting their theological “i”s and crossing their ecclesiastical “t”s the way you do.

“I’m a grace person” can easily degenerate into our shibboleth, instead of being a foundation for which we build our lives and a way to learn how to love how we have been loved, it becomes a standard for deciding who is in our club and who is not in our club.  The very grace that should level us and bring unity is then used as a tool to divide!

People who are graciously serving the people of God, teaching, training, laying down their lives, are rejected and ignored because they don’t fit our image of grace.  Because they don’t do things the way we do, because they were too busy working for God to sit down and spend a year or two learning all your great revelations which you have kept to yourself or just shared with those you deem to be religious.

Healthy churches are rejected and criticized for not fitting the framework, while the grace people meet in their holy huddle, not even filling a living room because so few fit their rigid “grace” lens which doesn’t lead to loving the world, which doesn’t lead to serving and loving the church, which doesn’t lead to work of love and grace, but leads to a wicked judgmentalism and an arrogant us vs them mentality.

Grace is not supposed to be the mirror you hold up to the world to see if they are good enough to join your world.

It is supposed to be the mirror you hold up to your self to reveal your true identity and nature in Him. It is supposed to make you secure enough to take your place in the body of Christ – not leading for you to go through life not going to any church because “none of them are good enough for my high level of doctrinal purity” or rejecting people because they don’t look like us. It is supposed to be the mirror we gaze into to see His glory – His true glory is stepping into a broken, religious, hate-filled world and showing it love. His glory was never supposed to be kept hidden, never supposed to be shone onto the world exposing them for being outside of His pure, accurate doctrine of God and rejecting them for not grasping what He knew about His Father.

We are supposed to gaze into His glory – not just the friend of sinners, but the one who patiently endured Nicodemus’ ignorance, as the one who had a habit of going to synagogue even though they were mangling the book His Father penned to make points He never intended to make, as the one who even when the religious leaders nailed Him to a cross still died for them as well, crying “Father, forgive THEM for they know what they do”.

Then we are supposed to reflect His glory to the world. Is it your custom to be where the people of God are, even if they don’t get you or understand the true nature of your Father? Are you forgiving not just in word but in action, are you committed to His body on planet earth?

If not, get back to gazing at His glory. Stop using grace to divide and start being gracious.

Church Planting

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A sociologist, after studying the spread of Christianity across the world in several countries, said that there is no single more effective way of increasing the number of active Christians in an area of the world is to plant new churches.

As someone who has – as of last weekend – planted two churches in two very different areas, I think that is an accurate conclusion.  Church planting is effective – it attracts people who for whatever reason have not made contact with, or in worst case scenarios, been hurt by – the established churches in the area.  It raises the mood in the area and it forces you to focus on how to reach those who have never been reached.  

Just reflecting back on last weekend, which I consider to be a total success, there are three things I have learned that maybe some of the wannabe church planters, or even those who just have an interest in these matters might want to consider.

Firstly, church planting starts off as maximum effort.  What made this weekend about fifty times easier than starting the Dagenham church was the number of people who drove hours and hours this weekend helping out, making teas, greeting people, sharing their lives, cleaning and setting out chairs, playing guitars, and doing all the stuff that needed to be done.  When we first started out Tree of Life in Essex, we did all that ourselves, and if we couldn’t do it, it couldn’t get done.  I think this really bears well when we  consider planting in Watford next year, as it means there will be even more helpers around to invest in the church plant.  That makes a massive massive massive difference.  My advice to anyone looking to plant a church is this: GET AS MUCH HELP AS POSSIBLE.  We had more people come to our first Healing Crusade (which was in Barkingside) than we did in the Guildford one, but we lost people because we did not have the structure in place to keep them.  Here, the people who came will be with us when we officially launch regular services in two weeks’ time because we did have the helpers.  Everyone who came and helped is absolutely awesome, and will get many, many rewards in heaven!  That’s awesome.

Secondly, the most important thing isn’t how slick you are but how much you care.  One of the realities about Tree of Life Dagenham is that as it is growing (another 100+ day yesterday, praise the Lord – five first time visitors, one of whom got saved, another got baptized in the Holy Spirit) things that were informal have to become formalized to cope with the growth.  Praise God for the Living Churches where you can still meet in a house and share the Word and teach and help one another and love each other.  That way we get the benefit of big and the benefit of small.  But when you are starting you are small.  Rather than hate that, use that.  You can say hello to everyone, find out everyone’s name, have some fun with everyone.  Use that to your advantage.

Thirdly, always celebrate every step of the way.  The first family, the first healing, the first salvation, the first baptism in the Holy Spirit.  Everything when you are new is just awesome.  They say with children you adore the first but enjoy the second.  I think it is the same with church planting, I am thoroughly enjoying myself in a way that I could not with Dagenham because it was so intense and everything was new.  This is fun, and I love it.

Selah!

Harmony House *IMPORTANT NEWS*

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Starting April 4th (Easter Sunday) and every Sunday morning following we are meeting between 10.30am and 1pm in Harmony House for worship, fellowship and the preaching of the Word.

You are more than welcome to attend these meetings.  Don’t feel that you have to dress up or prepare to come and meet with us.  We welcome you as you are!  We have a crèche for pre-school children and a children’s ministry for 6-14s.

The address for Harmony House is:

Harmony House
Baden Powell Close
Dagenham
Essex
RM9 6XN

You can get directions to Harmony House here.

Romans 2.5

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5But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God;

When you are religious you think that your behaviour is all that counts before God. If you behave well, God loves you, if you misbehave God hates you. As we said about the last verse religious people are judgmental and mean.

Also discussing the last verse we established that people are religious because they hate the goodness of God. In this verse we find out that when people hate the goodness of God and become religious that they develop a hard and impenitent heart.

This is a disaster place to be: a drunkard, a thug and a prostitute all know they are sinners and when they hear the grace of God in the gospel they can repent and change. Someone with an impenitent heart cannot even know they have sinned: religion’s worst problem is that it is totally deceptive. It makes you think you are heaven bound when you are hell bound. It makes you think you are kind when you are horrendous. It makes you think you are pleasing God when you are storing up wrath for yourself.

Let’s take this verse to pieces and examine what it means:

1. Religious people have a hard heart.

This word means harsh or intolerable. It means you cannot change, you are unyielding, you will be unforgiving and cruel. Whenever you think that you relate to God by performance you will be cruel to people. It is a fact. Your heart becomes harsh because you start to see God as harsh. You act like whatever you think God is like and if you think God is harsh and mean, you will be harsh and mean to people.

2. Religious people have an impenitent heart.

This word means someone who is unable to change their mind. Religious people are unable to change their mind about anything. If someone is in their bad books, they are never going to be in their good books because religious people never change their mind.

If they grew up in a church that says that tongues is not for today, it does not matter what they read in the Bible about tongues they will never believe it because that would mean changing their mind.

Stubbornness and religion go hand in hand. If you are struggling with being stubborn, check your view of God: do you think that you impress God with your behaviour? Do you think that God is capricious and mean? If you do, get into the Bible and realize that God is a good God.

3. Religious people heap up trouble for themselves.

This word in the KJV is translated “treasurest up” because the Greek word is generally used to describe someone who is building up a pile of treasure or making themselves rich. However, metaphorically this word is used for someone who is following a lifestyle that ends up in a particular direction.

For example if someone is taking drugs, it is not difficult to predict where they will end up unless they change direction. We know that this is true for obvious sins like sexual immorality, drug taking or fits of rage and anger. However, the Bible here is teaching us that this is also true for religion.

If you think that you can impress God with your behaviour and even worse that your behaviour does impress God, then you will never come to God for His grace and mercy. You will always look to yourself and never to Christ.

Your direction will eventually be wrath – the accurate and precise judgment of God for your actions. Even your best actions are filthy rags. Your only righteousness that will enable you to escape the wrath of God is the righteousness of Jesus. If you continue in your good works you will end up in hell.

4. Religious people will be judged on the day of judgment.

This is great news for religious people. It might not sound like great news at first, but think about it: God could judge everyone right now but He does not. This is the age of grace. If someone as religious and spiteful and destructive as Saul could become the apostle of grace and kindness Paul, then anyone can change. Anyone can move into grace, receive Jesus, stop trying to live on their pathetic self-righteousness and start living as a king in the righteousness of God.

5. When God judges religious people, He will be right!

The Bible here calls God’s judgment righteous judgment. This means that God will never judge someone based on His mood, His bias or anything other than an accurate and precise assessment of someone’s actions.

If you live your life in a selfish way, focused on your righteousness and your goodness and never repenting for what you have done wrong and never trusting in Jesus as Lord and Saviour, then you will end up in hell and it is right that you end up there.

The only way to enter heaven is through Jesus. Religious people still think that they can enter themselves because of their goodness. Some religious people think that it is just their goodness, others think it is some Jesus and some their goodness – both are completely and utterly wrong. It is only Jesus. If your trust is in something else you are in trouble, and it is right you are in trouble.

I urge you: put your trust in Jesus. ALONE!

Romans 2.1

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Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things.

In Romans 1, Paul takes great pain to point out to us that every human who rejects God slips down a death spiral, that without God their condition is hopeless. This is why Paul is not ashamed of the good news that Jesus Christ is our Saviour, Redeemer, Healer, Prosperer, Lord, Protector, Comforter and Friend. Because everyone needs a Saviour.

In Romans 2, Paul deals with the biggest problem in people becoming Christians: organized religion. Since I have started feeding on the Word of God and realizing how much God loves me, I have developed an absolute hatred for religion. There is not an atheist or secular humanist on this planet that hates religion as much as I do.

Religion is a system of behaving to attempt to impress God. Whether it is a Muslim praying five times a day, a Hindu offering food to an idol, or a Christian tithing – if the motivation behind your behaviour is to impress God it is religion. Religion always leads to depression, failure, bondage and sin. Religion always leads to comparing yourself with other people, something the Bible describes as foolish (2 Cor. 10.12). It always leads to making judgments on other people, something that is a symptom of pride. Religion always leads to pride, and pride goeth before destruction (Proverbs 16.18). Religion is evil.

Christianity as it should be is resting on the completed work of Christ on the cross. It is knowing that I do not have to impress God because I already impress God because of Jesus. If I do anything for God it is because He loves me and I love Him; never because I am scared of Him or because I need to placate Him. The wrath of God and the justice of God are taken care of because of the gospel which is the message of Romans 1.

Romans 2 is setting out to prove that religion does not mean you do not need the grace and mercy of God. We know instantly that Paul is talking about religious people in chapter 2 of Romans because he is speaking to those “that judgest”, and that is religious people. The reason why more people are in the pub than in the church is because non-religious people are – on the whole – non-judgmental and they accept people as they are. Do you remember the old sitcom “Cheers” set in a pub, it used to begin with the lyrics:

Where everybody knows your name,
and they’re always glad you came.
You wanna be where you can see,
our troubles are all the same
You wanna be where everybody knows
Your name.

That is why more people are down the pub than in church because with a few notable exceptions in church people do not know your name, are not glad you came and try their hardest to hide that they have the same troubles as you because they are terrified of being judged. It is not Christ, the friend of sinners, the merciful, the Redeemer, the one who eternally makes intercession for us, that makes people like that it is religion. It is the stinking lie that you have to reach a certain standard or do a certain thing to impress God.

Paul takes his first swipe at religion here in this verse: if you judge people according to a standard, you are inexcusable. The Greek word here is anapologētos, which literally is: without apology. Apologetos in the Greek means a defense or justification for your actions.

People in the Roman church, just like in my church and your church, often when they have done things wrong and sinned against God and man do not rest in the truth that they are justified by faith in Christ and have peace with God (Romans 5.1), but rather try to hide the seriousness of their sin by comparing themselves with other people and judging other people:

I might have lost my temper at my wife, but at least I provide for her, unlike Bob in the church.
I might have eaten too much cake, but at least I don’t have a glass of wine like her.
I might have had a glass of wine, but at least I am not a greedy glutton like him.
I might have had an affair, but I tithe and turn up every week – most people in here don’t care for this church and do that!
I might have an anger problem, but I am a deacon, not like everyone who is not a deacon.

It is a horrible attitude for two reasons. Firstly and obviously, it means that church becomes just another rat race. You can never be the holy building God wants you to be while one stone is thinking it is better than the other stones. Every stone is needed, and it is need in the shape it is to fit into the master plan for the building. No one wants to go to church where the leaders are smug, where the ushers are sneering and where people do not genuinely love them.

Secondly, it means that people are self-justifying. They are acting in a way to impress God. It totally bypasses the work of Christ. In Romans 1-5, Paul is showing the Romans – in the most powerful way ever put to paper by any individual in all of history – how to enjoy being made righteous. One of the key ways is to realize that righteousness frees you from religion.

Then Paul says something so accurate and powerful: if you judge someone, you condemn yourself because you do the same things. Look at the verse in some modern translations:

You may think you can condemn such people, but you are just as bad, and you have no excuse! When you say they are wicked and should be punished, you are condemning yourself, for you who judge others do these very same things. (NLT)

THEREFORE YOU have no excuse or defense or justification, O man, whoever you are who judges and condemns another. For in posing as judge and passing sentence on another, you condemn yourself, because you who judge are habitually practicing the very same things [that you censure and denounce]. (AMP)

Therefore, anyone of you who judges is without excuse. For when you judge another, you condemn yourself, since you, the judge, do the same things. (Holman Christian Standard)

Whenever you judge another person for their sin, two things are true:

1. You are condemning yourself.

If you are pointing out the sin in another and holding it against them, you are saying implicitly that Jesus Christ’s redemptive power is not enough to deal with sin. If someone comes to your church for healing and you tell them God cannot heal them when they are wearing ripped jeans (I have heard someone say that to someone), you are saying that the blood of Jesus is less powerful than rips in clothes! The blood of Jesus is more powerful than ripped jeans! The blood of Jesus is more powerful than alcohol, than drugs, than adultery, than immorality. Healing is a fact achieved for us by Christ – there is no minimum standard necessary to receive healing.

But the minute you set a standard, you condemn yourself because you are not perfect. The next time you come to the Lord for healing, the devil will jump in there and your own conscience will jump in there and tell you that you had a lustful thought, you had an angry thought, you haven’t prayed enough, you aren’t good enough and your faith will not be enough to overcome this because you are the one that said there was a standard. Yes, you set the standard in such a way that you are doing better than Mr Jones, so you should be more blessed than Mr Jones, but by setting a standard you are being legalistic and you obscure Christ and His redemption, so when you come to the Lord you condemn yourself and make it impossible to receive from God.

If you are telling other people they are not good enough for God, but you are coming to God on grace alone, then you are double minded (see James 1 to find out what you will receive from God being double minded!)

2. You do the same things!

This is very difficult to misunderstand. When someone in the church starts aggressively judging someone in sexual immorality, that person according to Romans 2, does the same things.

One of the main reasons why some Christians are so judgmental of people living in sin is that they secretly want to! They live the life in their mind, never letting it out and hide it away. This is what religion does to people: because it makes God this critical wrathful Judge, it keeps people away from Him. People who know the Father, who walk with Him, genuinely do not want to sin. Like Moses they would give up the pleasures of sin in a second just to be known as one of God’s people and enjoy fellowship with Him (Hebrews 11.25). They know that God is more wonderful than any passing folly.

Religious people keep away from God: He is painted as a God of wrath with exacting standards who we have to continually impress or be attacked. I would stay away from God if He were like that, but He is not: He is humble, He is gentle, He is gracious. He redeemed us and He loved us and He gave the most precious thing He had to set us free! But religion tells people that God needs to be impressed.

So religious people have no relationship with God, they only have relationship with rules. Their hearts are still wicked and selfish as they have never been given a new heart. They have no intimate relationship with God, so they turn to rules and try and keep the rules. But their heart is not in it. So on the outside they have never committed adultery, but on the inside they are burning with lust. Jesus said that if you look at a woman with lust and imagine having sex with her, you have committed adultery of the heart (Matthew 5.28). The reason someone committing adultery of the heart disdains and hates and judges someone committing adultery is because they are jealous: their heart’s desire is to commit adultery. They do not do it not because they know the love of God, but because they are terrified of the punishment of God. They are only keeping the rules because of fear.

They are like the little boy who tells Jimmy angrily that he cannot come out to play because “Mum won’t let me.” Everything on the inside of the little boy wants to go and play, but he is scared of his mother. As soon as mother’s back is turned, the boy will be out the house. If mum does not turn her back, Jimmy will not have a good relationship with mum, but sulk and hate her. That sums up many Christians relationship with God perfectly.

When your secret heart desire is to commit a sin, you hate and judge the people who do commit that sin because you are jealous.

Christians who are not religious, who love God and know God loves them, do not want to commit adultery. They are not stupid – they know that breaking a marraige covenant would cause so much pain in the world they will not do it. They do not want to catch STDs, or hurt their families, or bring pain into their life. They trust God to satisfy them with one woman or one man, they believe God’s plan for sex and marriage works because they know God and they know He is love and that He is wiser than them! They walk with God and do not fill their minds with thoughts of adultery. They are not avoiding adultery to make God love them, because they know God loves them.

When someone like that meets someone in adultery, they do not condemn them. (John 8.1-11, compare Jesus’ reaction of love with the Pharisees’ reaction of judgment – that story sums up what I am saying here perfectly). They love them. They do not want them to commit adultery because they do not want them to be in pain, but if they keep doing it they will still love them. They will still know their name, they will still welcome them. But because our churches do not show the unconditional love that the pubs do, people are going to go “where everybody knows their name” and stay away from church in droves.

Religion kills. It stops people from accessing the grace of God for themselves and it then means that they stop others receiving that grace. Hopefully as we examine Romans 2 we are going to see how destructive religion is and get out of it. Religious death is just the same as Conscienceless death (Romans 1) and has the same negative effects. But when we reject religion and accept redemption and righteousness, we enjoy life, we enjoy God, and good things happen to us.

Glory and freedom,
Benjamin

Wonderful Newsletter from the Osborns on God’s faith in humanity…

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Dear Benjamin,
testimony ldo

I am amazed by God’s great trust in people! Imagine, after all that Christ accomplished at the cross to redeem “whosoever will” back to God, He then turned over to PEOPLE the task of telling the world this GOOD NEWS to the people! This is the greatest trust!

Love, Hope & Healing

Because of God’s trust in you and us, we confidently announce His message of LOVE, HOPE and HEALING to people everywhere. Wherever we go, He confirms His word with signs and wonders.


This is Christ’s ministry continued today. This is His Early Church action duplicated today. THIS IS WHAT YOU ARE DOING THROUGH YOUR PARTNERSHIP WITH US, OUR FOCUSED AND EFFECTIVE MINISTRY.

When you see the multitudes that gather, you will also see the ripe harvest!crowd singles 2 2

Be Bold & Passionate

Today I am encouraging you to be BOLD and PASSIONATE about your ministry to all nations of the world. Just as Indonesia is experiencing the impacting POWER of the Gospel, so every nation needs to hear the true message of Christ and see His living wonders.  We must press forward with FAITH and TRUST in our God who TRUSTS us!

Letters and emails of request are pouring in with requests from sincere believers and pastors, to send books or teaching materials, and to come help them learn how to continue Jesus’ ministry in their own nations. We take these requests seriously, because God has entrusted His Gospel to us and we are committed to passing it on throughout the world.LDO preach 59 2

Thank you for caring with us! Your friendship and association in the love-ministry of Christ is very encouraging. Your prayers and partnership with us in global evangelism MAKES A HUGE DIFFERENCE.

Now is the time for FAITH and for ACTION!

Your Partner in Gospel Ministry,

Dr. LaDonna

Romans 1.1

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Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God,

I am going to daily post a sequential verse of Romans and make commentary on it.  I hope you enjoy.  Please feel free to make comments as per the blog system, regards.

The gospel is the Greek word euaggelion which means good news or happy news. There is no Hebrew equivalent because the Old Testament does not bring good news, only the news that Jesus Christ has completely paid the price for your sin, that you are not under law but under grace, that you are completely free from sin, sickness and poverty is good news.

Paul was separated to the gospel. What are you separated unto? Paul was utterly devoted to the gospel – anything that got in the way of the gospel Paul just did not pay attention to. Think about that – if anything in your life does not increase the gospel in your life: does not increase the amount of good news that is in your heart, then just ignore it. Turn that TV programme off, distance yourself from that person, and throw that religious book in the bin. If it is not making you glad, what is your fascination with it?

Get separated unto the gospel. Whatever it takes get it. Because what you are separated to, what you fill your heart with will produce in your life. You are what you think, so think the gospel.

Glory and freedom,

Benjamin

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