Consistency & Challenges

June 15, 2010

I love Starbucks. I wouldn’t know what to do with myself if there wasn’t a Starbucks on practically every corner of the city that I live and work, and every area where I am prone to travel. I know that I can walk into any Starbucks in the United States and get my ‘grande 170 degree Mocha with 1 pump of Raspberry and extra whip cream served in a venti cup,’ and it will taste exactly like the one I get every morning at the Starbucks in my neighborhood. Starbucks has all but cornered the luxury coffee market because of quality and consistency. No matter where in the world you travel, if there is a Starbucks, you can have your favorite drink, the way you like it, just like at the Starbucks back home.

In the rural area where I live, outside of the city of Colorado Springs, there is a Buddhist temple. Many people are surprised when they find out that we have a Buddhist Temple way out here in “cow-town.” I have had the opportunity to speak with the monks who live there because they frequent the same grocery store that I do. They dress consistent with the monks in every Buddhist temple around the globe. Their daily practices of prayer and meditation is consistent with every other Buddhist temple, and the teaching heard by their congregants at their regular meetings is consistent with every other Buddhist temple anywhere in the world.

Growing up in the Jewish religion in New York City, it was expected that when our family moved to Florida that the teachings in the synagogues in Florida would be consistent with the synagogue I grew up in, in New York. We never gave it a second thought. The teachings of Judaism will be consistent regardless of where in the world you visit a synagogue.

Muslims throughout the world know that no matter where in the world they happen to be, if they visit a Mosque, the doctrinal teaching, the reading and interpretation of the Koran, and the prayer and practices will be consistent.

Roman Catholics, for the most part, experience this same thing. No matter where they live or travel, they know that when they find a Roman Catholic Church in the area they are visiting, the doctrinal teaching and worship practices will be consistent.

However, if you are an Evangelical Protestant Christian believer, you will be hard pressed to find a church, anywhere, where the teaching is consistent with the church that you are used to attending. You don’t have a snowball’s chance in Hades of the teaching in any two supposedly ‘Christian’ churches being consistent, one with another. One teaches baptism in water. Another teaches baptism in the spirit. One church will operate the manifestation of speaking in tongues (albeit, most times erroneously and out of order, but they operate it just the same). Another church will teach that speaking in tongues is devilish. Some churches are ‘pre-tribulation,’ others are ‘post-tribulation.’ There are Monotheistic churches and Trinitarian churches. There are Lutherans, Methodists, Baptists, and Presbyterians. What in the world is goin’ on?

The truth of the matter is that the dilemma facing the Christian Church in our day and time is the same dilemma it has faced for centuries. The dilemma of division and inconsistency of teaching began shortly after its beginnings. The Church didn’t even make it forty years before legalism, pride, ego, greed, divisiveness, idolatry, and, most damagingly, illogical and deceitful handling of scripture took root and spread like a cancer, leaving it in ruin.

The Apostle Paul, constantly throughout his life and ministry, had to confront and deal with these issues. In his epistle to the Corinthians he deals with egos, divisions, carnality, and that’s just in the first three chapters. He had to confront idolatry, heresies, and illicit sexual practices. He had to confront and ‘straighten out,’ as it were, their wrong usage of the manifestations of the gift of holy spirit, which wrong practices continue even to this day, queering the greatness, and diminishing the significance of what God made available on the day of Pentecost, as recorded in Acts, chapter 2.

Throughout his life, Paul would declare the Word of God, the doctrinal revelation that God was giving him, and then have to turn right around and, by revelation, write epistles of reproof and correction. He was constantly harangued and harassed by the theological intelligencia, the religionists, and the legalists, whom he referred to as vicious “dogs” in his letter to the Philippians. Sadly, he watched as the Devil racked and ruined the Church, eventually describing its decimated condition in his last known writing, his second letter to his young prodigy, Timothy, shortly before his death.

The history of the Christian Church is a sad and sordid record, full of envy and jealousy, idolatry and intellectualism, deceitfulness and abuse of power, even conspiracy and murder.

What the Apostle Paul experienced was not unique to men and women who are called of God to serve and speak for Him. Moses dealt with it as he led the children of Israel. The judges dealt with it, as did all the prophets. Even Jesus Christ dealt with it as the very people to whom he was sent to minister arranged for his execution.

Imagine the heartache, the sadness, the disappointment, the loneliness, and the discouragement. The record of the scriptures includes how sometimes the greatest of men can fall, and fall prey to the strategies of the enemy – Moses frustration with the Israelites, that led him to strike the rock twice at Meribah, and kept him from leading the people into the Promised Land, as recorded in Numbers, chapter 20. Samson’s loneliness, that led him to violate his oath to God to his unbelieving wife, and eventually lose his life as recorded in Judges chapters 13 through 16. David’s lust for the wife of Uriah that led him to conspiracy and murder, and resulted in many troubles, including the death of his child, as recorded in II Samuel, chapters 11 and 12. The unnamed ‘man of God’ who was deceived by a prophet that at one time walked for God, that led him to disobey the revelation that God had given him, resulting in his death as recorded in I Kings, chapter 13. Job’s fear, that led him to lose all, as recorded in Job, chapter 3, verse 25. The Psalmist’s envy at the prosperity of the wicked, that led him to write, “I was as a beast before thee,” as recorded in the seventy-third Psalm. The apostles, during the early days of the Church, allowed themselves to be ruled by their five-senses, human logic, which led them to conclude that somehow they couldn’t (or shouldn’t) “serve tables” and still teach the Word. Yet, they ended up choosing seven men who figured out how to do both, as recorded in Acts, chapter 6. Peter, James, and other of the apostles couldn’t get out from the legalism of the Mosaic Law as recorded in Galatians, chapter 2, and Acts, chapter 15. Even Paul, out of fierce devotion and love for Israel, misconstrued and ignored God’s revelation, which led to his arrest and imprisonment, as recorded in Acts, chapters 20 and 21. The only one who never fell prey was Jesus Christ, and it is he to whom we look for strength in those times of temptation.

These are not criticisms of these great men, upon whose shoulders the weight of leadership grew heavy, and without whom we would not have the knowledge of God’s revelation, but rather the record of God’s Word, “ensamples,” loving reminders that all are human, all are fallible, none are above reproach or the counsel of the Lord. Those called to teach and minister His Word pay a hefty price many times for the burden of leadership, and the road is laden with stumbling blocks and pitfalls. None of us are in a position to criticize. Prayer is the order of the day.

The truth of the matter is that the modern day dilemma of division and lack of harmonious consistency of doctrine and teaching evident in the Christian Church today is Satan’s doing. Satan’s great enemy and fear is the accurate knowledge of God’s Word. For that is how he is defeated in the lives of believers, and how men and women can be redeemed from his ‘death grip’ of eternal destruction. So, he, and his cohorts, work overtime to ‘trip-up,’ defeat, and disgrace those who bear the responsibility of leadership, and who carry the burden of ministering and teaching the Word of God. He knows no bounds when it comes to making believers look foolish and defeating them in every category and segment of their lives. He will stop at nothing to make Christianity laughingstock, by infiltrating it with illogical and deceitful handling of scripture, intellectualism, legalism, theology, pride and ego.

It is the great privilege and responsibility of the ministries in the Body of Christ to thwart Satan’s efforts until the return. These ministries of apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers are gifts from God to His people. At various times, in various places, one or more of these gifts may be needed above others, but all work according to the will of God, like the President’s Cabinet members work “at the pleasure of the President,” and all of these ministries are among us today, and will continue until the return.

Ephesians 4:8, 11-16
“Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive. But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ.”