Foundation of Worship

Sometime ago I wrote an article on what it means to worship God in Spirit and Truth, I thought I will just emphasize a few things from that article.

True worship is impossible without Jesus Christ

In the conversation with the woman by the well Jesus says: “But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. (John 4:23)”.  Jesus is the one who makes that possible.  He says “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:6)”. True worship is not centered around some special place, building or even a particular religious experience but around Jesus Christ.

True worship is impossible without the Holy Spirit

“God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.(John 4:24)”.  It is the Holy Spirit who convicts us of our sin and point us to Jesus Christ.  It is also the Holy Spirit who empowers us to live a life worthy of the gospel. A life where we worship God in everything that we do.

“Worship of the living and true God is essentially an engagement with him on the terms that he proposes and in the way that he alone makes possible” – David Peterson

On the 30th of July, 11am at Ridge Church Manet Youth Center,  we will be having our second Acoustic Sessions dubbed “Worthship” where we will encouraging one another and reminding ourselves of what it means to worship God through music and poetry.

Modesty Is A Christian Virtue

“You are cheap” is a derogatory remark that one may attract if, in the opinion of an accuser, the person does not spend freely. You face the brunt of the ‘cheapness’ police if you buy clothes and accessories that are ‘too cheap’ or a car that is ‘too cheap’ or organize an event at a place that is ‘too cheap’ or buy food that is ‘too cheap’. In a world where how well a person has done is based on how well they have done for themselves, this may be acceptable. But that is not the Christian world.

I Timothy 2:9-10 says, “I also want the women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, adorning themselves, not with elaborate hairstyles or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God.” 1 Peter 3:3 says, “Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes.”

Following are two definitions of modesty from the Oxford Dictionary. The first is “the quality of being relatively moderate, limited, or small in amount, rate, or level”. The second is “Behavior, manner or appearance intended to avoid impropriety or decency”. It is clear that Paul means both when he urges women to dress modestly in 1 Timothy 2:9-10. It is interesting how some Christians conveniently ignore the first meaning while being vociferous advocates of the latter. Paul is not simply teaching the women to be decent but to be moderate as well.

Then in 1 Peter 3:3, Peter also teaches the women that their beauty should not come from elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. In a Christian world view, therefore, wearing expensive clothes and jewelry, in the very least, means nothing! In the world, it may add something to you but from a Christian view point, it adds nothing. If it adds nothing, then are our resources best spent dressing expensively?

It is good Christian behavior to spend less on oneself so you can help others. And this applies not just to clothing. Romans 15:1 says, “We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves.” Luke 3:11 says, “Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same.” Although a Christian can afford to have two shirts, he may just keep one and give the other away. Of course, to the world, a man who wears only one shirt is cheap. However, from a Christian view point, he is just being Christian.

The world should not teach us or pressurize us to “not be cheap” as they put it. They don’t know better. “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” (Romans 12:2) We are called to reform the world not to be like it.

 

The Untouchables

Touch not the Lord’s anointed.

This is a very popular battle cry whenever the teachings and actions of a particularly popular Christian leader is questioned or criticized. If I am not mistaken this is what is meant when people use this statement:

  • A man of God is called by God and not by man
  • He is therefore not answerable to anyone but the one who called him
  • Since we do not know whether what he is teaching and/or doing is by divine instruction and therefore according to God’s will to question his actions or teaching can unknowingly be questioning God Himself and therefore incur the wrath the Lord.

I wonder if this view of Christian leaders as being untouchable stems from the way we as an African society view spiritual leaders. Traditionally religious leaders are untouchable. Their word is law and to speak against them or question their methods or instructions is to go against the gods. Terrible things could happen to someone who challenged their authority. I suspect an aspect of this has influenced the way our society also views Christian leaders especially the ones who display the ability to perform the miraculous.

There is need to examine the origins of the phrase Touch not the Lord’s anointed in the Bible.  Conrad Mbewe does a brilliant job of explaining the meaning of the phrase in this article http://www.conradmbewe.com/2012/12/touch-not-lords-anointed.html. The key point is that, the phrase  “…is about harm, especially physical harm, and not legitimate criticism“.  Using this as a defense against criticism just doesn’t work.  The Bible calls on us to actively check that what we hear is in accordance with the gospel. Conrad Mbewe makes this point brilliantly:

“Public teachers must be above reproach. That is one of their qualifications. If they meddle in heretical teaching or immoral living, they disqualify themselves. Thus, those of us who are aware of their devious dealings or dangerous teachings must sound the public alarm. We must warn the unwary lest they fall prey to them. Public sins must be rebuked publicly.

Paul named heretical teachers and wanted the church to keep a safe distance away from them. He wrote to Timothy saying, “But avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness, and their talk will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, who have swerved from the truth, saying that the resurrection has already happened. They are upsetting the faith of some” (2 Timothy 2:16-18). Was he “touching” the Lord’s anointed? No, but he was certainly publicly naming those who were teaching heresy…..

Paul rebuked Peter publicly when he acted in a disorderly manner and his behaviour was going to undermine the gospel. This was not even heresy—yet it had dangerous long-term effects….Evidently, Paul did not think that rebuking Peter publicly was touching the Lord’s anointed!”

We as Christians must really begin to know the gospel that we believe.  I suspect we are in a generation that assumes what the gospel is.  We were brought up in Christian homes and have lived with Christian jargon our entire lives.  We know how to talk the talk and walk the walk.  We can answer Sunday School questions without thought.  But do we really know the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.  The gospel of which Paul says:

“I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. ” – Gal 1:6-8

Do we know the gospel enough to be able to discern when an “angel from heaven” preaches a different gospel? Here is why I think we may have difficulty to discerning between the authentic gospel and a fake gospel.

  1. A lot of us are second-hand readers of the Bible.  Our knowledge of the scriptures is sometimes based on what someone has told us.  There is no direct engagement with the scriptures.  In this case you can’t really check whether what is being said is in error because you don’t even know what the original source says.
  2. We have learnt a lot of unhelpful ways of reading the Bible.  I keep hearing the popular refrain “read your Bible…read your Bible” but I think there is an assumption that we all know how to read the Bible.  That would have been a fair assumption if not for the fact that the ways we hear the Bible being taught also teaches us how we read the Bible.  If we only see people pick one verse and come up with stunning conclusions seemingly out of the air,we will assume that is how verses should be read.  It has become incredibly normal to see Biblical verses used to justify all kinds of things and incredibly rare to see an actual exposition of a Biblical text.  The current approach to Bible reading is liking going to a marketplace.  You walk around examining the goods and picking what you like and leaving the rest.  At the end of the day the gospel becomes whatever creature you want it to be.  If we read the Bible in this way we are only reinforcing positions and ideas we already have instead of being challenged by scripture and being transformed by the word. A text without a context is a pretext for a proof text. 
  3. False teaching often tells us what we want hear to instead of instructing us in sound doctrine. In instructing a young preacher, Paul has this to say: For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths 2 Tim 4:3.

When we are tempted to say Touch not the Lord’s anointed, let’s first try and out what exactly is being criticized.  Is just it just an unwarranted attack at a faithful servant of the Lord? or are legitimate questions being asked about the content of what is being preached as gospel?  Also before we launch into any “attack” on any Christian leader, are we doing so in a helpful, respectful constructive way that seeks to build up the church?

Worshipping in spirit and truth

When we hear the word “worship” what readily comes to mind is music. That shouldn’t be surprising because in church the period where we sing songs with a slower tempo is referred to as the “time of worship”. It seems in our everyday language worship almost always means singing (unless the person makes it a point to say it’s not).
Worship is generally recognized as the period in the church service where we enter into God’s presence (generally through singing). And the worship leaders are the ones who are responsible for getting us there and in fact they are the ones who tell us when we have finally arrived. This makes the worship leader an extremely powerful and influential person when it comes to the church service.
But is this what it means to worship? Is being a true worshipper all about participating whole heartedly to the “worship” session in the church? Is this what it means to worship God in spirit and truth?

The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet.
Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.” – John 4:19-20

In John 4, Jesus has an encounter with a Samaritan woman by a well. After an initial exchange (John 4:7-18) the woman realizes that Jesus is no ordinary stranger by the well. The woman the tries to find out his opinion on the appropriate place to worship. Why is Jerusalem the place where people ought to worship? This mountain has worked for us for generations.

But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth. – John 4:23-24

Jesus’ answer is where I think we should start when we want to find out what it means to worship.
Firstly, there is a redefinition of what it means to worship both for those who worshipped out of ignorance and for those from whom salvation came from (John 4:21-22). This redefinition makes a physical location for worship an obsolete concept. Worship is no longer centered around a place.

Secondly, God seeks true worshippers who will worship Him. True worshippers in this context probably means authentic or genuine worshippers. And what will mark out these worshippers is that they will worship the Father in spirit and truth. Verse 24 seems to say that this is the only appropriate way to worship God because God is spirit. In the previous chapter we are told that the only people who will enter the Kingdom of God are those who are born of the Spirit (John 3:5-6) and this is tied to believe in the Jesus Christ (John 3:13-18). Jesus is also describes himself as the Truth and the one who makes a Way for us to come to the Father so that we can have Life (John 14:6). I would suggest that to worship the Father in spirit and truth not only means that worship is no longer centered around a place but worship is now centered around a person…Jesus Christ. How we worship the Father is by believing in the Son and what He has done for us on the Cross.
One writer puts it this way:

John tells us that the Word became flesh and—literally—tabernacled among us (John 1:14). Jesus promised, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” (John 2:20). In other words, Jesus’ body is now the temple, the place where God meets his people, manifests his presence, and deals with their sin (John 2:21–22). That’s why Jesus can say that an hour is coming when true worshipers will no longer need worship in Jerusalem, but will worship in spirit and truth (John 4:21–24).

…the Old Testament’s terms for worship have been applied to the whole lives of believers. In Romans 12:1 Paul writes, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” Now we don’t offer animals as sacrifices but our very selves. The Christian’s whole life is an act of sacrificial service to God.

Or consider Hebrews 13:15: “Through him [that is, Jesus] then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name.” Praise is our sacrifice, and we offer it continually—not just for an hour on Sunday morning. The fruit of lips that acknowledge God’s name includes songs of praise, but much more too: boldly confessing the gospel in public, speaking words of truth and love to others, bringing every word we say under Christ’s dominion.

This means that “worship” isn’t something we mainly do at church on Sunday. Instead, worship should suffuse our entire lives. For the Christian, worship isn’t confined to sacred times and places, because we are united by faith to Christ, the one who is God’s temple, and we are indwelt by the Holy Spirit, making us both individually and collectively the temple of God (1 Cor. 3:16–17, 6:19; cf. Eph. 2:22).
http://www.9marks.org/blog/biblical-theology-and-corporate-worship

What is God’s will for my life?

Guidance is a hot topic in Christian circles.  People ask about guidance in a variety of ways.  “What is the will of God for my life?”  is a common way in which this question is asked.  I think Paul answers this question in 1 Thessalonians 4, but not in the way that we would expect.

Finally, then, brothers, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God, just as you are doing, that you do so more and more.  For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus.  For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality;  that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor,  not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God;  that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you.  For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness.  Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you. – 1 Thessalonians 4:1-8

Paul seems to have said it quite plainly.  It is the will of God that we pursue holiness because He has not called us to impurity but to holiness. I would like to suggest that thinking about God’s will in this way shapes the way we make decisions and how we live.  What God wants for us is our sanctification: that we grow to be more and more like Christ as His Spirit convicts us every day about the areas in our life that displeases Him.  Which means that God is not only interested in what exactly we do with our lives (because it must not be something that brings dishonour to Him), but also how live our lives.  This affects things like how we interact with family, friends, work colleagues etc and also how we go about making the little decisions that make up our day.  Our lives must be characterized by the pursuit of a life that pleases God and when we fall His grace is sufficient to pick us back up.  We cannot be living outside of God’s will if that is our focus. And always in hindsight we always marvel at how God has used seemingly insignificant decisions we have made to further His purposes in our life.

A very wise pastor gave me these guidelines in making decisions which I think shows how we practically seek God’s will when making decisions.

  1. Is the choice I’m about to make sinful or not? – That is the obvious first step.  If the choice means doing something that the Bible explicitly condemns then it is a definite no go area.  It is an obvious step but worth mentioning since there have been quite a few examples of people justifying sinful actions by claiming they were directed by the Spirit.  The Spirit will never contradict what He has said in Scripture.
  2. Is the choice I’m about to make wise or unwise? – There are some things that are not sinful but definitely unwise.  Generally speaking the counsel of mature Christian brothers and sisters can point us towards wise path.  That is part of the reason why we belong to family of Christ so that we can learn from the experiences of those more mature in the Christian walk than we are.  I personally think it is good to have a mature Christian brother or sister that we can seek advice from when making decisions.  Someone that we trust can be truthful with us and help us think biblically about the decisions that we make.  Also this is a far more difficult step since it is very easy to see things that are explicitly condemned Biblically but much harder to figure out whether something is wise or unwise.
  3. Flip a coin! – What I mean is that if the decision to make does not lead towards a sinful path or is not unwise then we have the freedom to make that decision.

The idea is that after taking in mind these three steps we are left with choices that are in line with God’s will i.e. living a life of purity.  I take it that we are praying through all the steps.  I don’t think prayer is an additional step that is added at the end but part and parcel of who we as Christians are; so we are constantly praying through everything that we do.  If we live life in this manner we will be used by God to accomplish His purposes no matter what decisions we make.

Seeing the Bible as a whole

The Bible is made up of 66 books and connecting those books together and seeing how the tell one story is an extremely helpful tool when it comes to studying the Bible.   Justin Tayler provides Graeme Goldsworthy’s summaries on the main divisions in the Bible here.  

Too many times, we think of the gospel as a story that jumps from the Garden of Eden (we’ve all sinned) right to the cross (but Jesus fixes everything). On its own, that works fine in communicating the systematic points of our need for salvation and God’s provision in Christ, but from a biblical theological perspective, it doesn’t do justice to what’s actually in the text. Once a person becomes a Christian and cracks the Bible, they’re going to wonder what the big deal is about Israel and the covenant, since that storyline takes up roughly 75% of the Bible. Getting people into that story is important. As D.A. Carson says, the announcement is incoherent without it.

 

Every story has a main character. The Bible does too. It’s God. Specifically, it’s God as He reveals Himself to us in the Person of Jesus Christ.

Here’s what happens if we learn individual Bible stories and never connect them to the big Story. We put ourselves in the scene as if we are the main character. We take the moral examples of the Old and New Testament as if they were there to help us along in the life we’ve chosen for ourselves.

But the more we read the Bible, the more we see that God is the main character, not us. We are not the heroes learning to overcome all obstacles, persist in our faith, and call down fire from heaven. We’re the ones who need rescue, who need a Savior who will deliver us from Satan, sin, and death. It’s only in bowing before the real Hero of the story that we are in the right posture to take our place in the unfolding drama. Bearing in mind the big story of Scripture helps us keep our focus on Jesus, and off ourselves.

Quotes from http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/trevinwax/2013/11/05/4-reasons-to-teach-the-bibles-storyline/

 

 

The Bible’s Big Picture

The opening chapters of the Bible clearly teach that, as Creator, God is the owner of all things (Ps. 89:11). All wealth therefore belongs to him (Ps. 50:10) and is to be used to rule the earth and bring glory to him through the worship of his Son and service to his people.

As the owner of all, God desires that we, his creatures and rulers on earth, desire relationship with him, rather than fixating on the things he created to serve us (Matt. 6:31-33). However, mankind has consistently worshipped created things rather than the Creator, and used material things for selfish purposes.

This has the been the norm throughout history, so it came as a huge surprise when God acted graciously towards Abram, promising him and the generations that followed a magnificent kingdom which he would bless materially, so that they could do what God intended for Adam: to rule over creation for the purpose of worshipping God and serving others, as well as being a light to the nations (Gen. 12:1-315:1-18). The nations were meant to look at Israel and see them as a wise and blessed people, and then turn to their God for inclusion amongst his people (Deut. 4:1-8).

To prepare them to be this light, and to prepare them for life in the Promised Land, God gave his people the Law (Ex. 19-20), after which he promised that those who submitted to his rule would receive material blessing, while those who rejected his rule would face his curse, often described in terms of material poverty (Deut. 28:1-68).

However, despite that warning, the prophets were still required to preach words of warning to those who chose to pursue their own wealth rather than being rich towards God (e.g., Isa. 5:8-10). Even after they suffered the punishment of exile for refusing complete allegiance to God, the people of God continued to choose their own comfort and pleasure over the glory of God (Hag. 1:4).

Throughout the Old Testament period the wisdom writers taught God’s people that there was no wisdom in choosing anything over the Creator. Wisdom, based on the character of God, dictated that generosity would have positive outcomes in the giver’s life, while self-centeredness would result in futility.

Only one man heeded the warning and had the wisdom to obey God’s call to obedient submission. Jesus, despite Satan’s temptations, lived in perfect obedience to the law of God (Matt. 4:1-11). As a result, he exercised perfect dominion over all creation as seen in his calming of storms (Matt. 8:23-27), healing of the sick (Matt. 8:14-17) and even by having dominion over death (Matt. 28:1-20).

Jesus’ call to people was, and is, that we act wisely and obediently and submit to God’s plan for our lives: repenting of sin and exercising faith in Jesus, God’s revealed King. His death on the cross offers the forgiveness that self-centered humanity so desperately needs and his resurrection assures eternal life with him.

The New Testament writers echoed Jesus’ teaching, who, by his perfect obedience had become Israel’s wise man and prophet. They warned of the love of money and urged God’s people to pursue contentment and generosity for the sake of the growth of God’s kingdom (1 Tim. 6:6-1017-19). Through their teaching, we know that those who gather around Jesus (the church) are promised God’s daily care and provision (Phil. 4:19). But this promise of material provision and even blessing is not assured in the same way as it was with Israel, who revealed that material possessions were not an indication of their faithfulness or obedience. In fact, Jesus taught that he may lovingly call the church to suffer for his glory as a witness to a self-obsessed world, by displaying its desire to treasure him above all else (Matt. 5:3-12). For any believer, this suffering will be a joy, for he knows that Christ is his treasure, and that nothing can ever separate him from Christ (Rom. 8:35-39).

For the believer, eternity is the enjoyment of Christ his treasure, which even surpasses God’s promise of great abundance and blessing being poured out on his people forever. …..

-Except from Prosperity Gospel and Biblical Theology

See also this video on the Big Picture of the Bible… Entrust: Bible Overview

Helpful resources for studying the Bible

I have been seeing quite a few helpful articles around that speaks on how we study the Bible.

Thats all for now 🙂

Helpful questions for studying the Bible

Found this very useful guide for Bible Reading and study.

Our desire was to create a simple, reproducible strategy that would facilitate this process. This led us to develop a simply strategy for small clusters (2-3 people) to meet together regularly and talk about the Scriptures and apply them to their lives.

The seven arrows of Bible reading were an attempt at developing a tool for proper hermeneutics to power these relationships. We did not want our people to simply talk about the Bible. We wanted them to understand the Bible and know how to apply it to their lives. Each cluster would read a predetermined passage of Scripture and discuss it using these seven arrows.

It is seven very helpful questions to ask and dwell on when studying a passage of scripture.

  1. What does this passage say?
  2. What does this passage mean to its original audience?
  3. What does this passage tell us about God?
  4. What does this passage tell us about man?
  5. What does this passage demand of me?
  6. How does this passage change the way I relate with people?
  7. How does this passage prompt me to pray?

I especially like how it not only ask questions that dwell on the original intent and purpose of the passage but also questions that aid in applying the passage to  one’s life.

Read more details here… 7 Arrows for Bible Reading.

Why the rise in false teaching in Ghana?

I don’t normally hear about Ghanaian movies on BBC, so imagine my surprise when I hear a BBC report on a Ghanaian movie(http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-24087312).  “Praising The Lord Plus One” is a Ghanaian movie that just had its premier few weeks ago.  It movie is about how fake prophets and pastors use the name of the Lord to pursue their own desires.  This is the synopsis that the director gives on his website
“Why is Heaven so expensive for the poor on earth? Are we using God’s name in vain? Must Satan be blamed for all our challenges, or the man of God sometimes creates Satan to satisfy his own needs? And must the poor, for fear of Satan’s hell, give away the little he/she earns and wait for the after-life reward in Heaven? Has the earth become hell for the needy because the man of God says so? Has man lost hope on earth?”
I must say I applaud the filmmakers for doing something that will provoke people to ask questions.   I think we need to think critically and ask some questions about these areas.

The role of the Christian leader

In an article that has been mentioned here before, Conrad Mbewe, a pastor in Zambia, argues that the role of the Pastor/Prophet in Africa looks suspiciously like the role of the traditional priest/jujuman/witchdoctor (http://www.conradmbewe.com/2013/07/why-is-charismatic-movement-thriving-in.html). He goes on to say that:

So, a person who is beset with perennial illnesses, failing to get a job, failing to find a spouse or to have children, whose business is failing to thrive, etc., simply goes to the witchdoctor who alone has the key to look into the spirit world. He is told that it is either a deceased person or an evil spirit who is frustrating him.

Sometimes the enemy is a person who is alive. However, the reason why this living individual seems to have a mysterious hold over your life is because he has plugged into those two layers (of either dead ancestors or evil spirits) and you have not. With the help of a powerful witchdoctor you can outsmart him in those two layers, and the blessings of God can once again begin to flow into your life.

Whichever way, the power of the witchdoctor is not in explaining truth but in mindless frenzy. His grip upon the popular mind is his eerie mysteriousness and his capacity to knock you out of your senses and then pronounce you delivered. Of course, this is never done by benevolence. You pay for his services.

If he is right in his analysis, it means that a wrong view of the role of the Christian spiritual leader, specifically the pastor or prophet, breeds an environment where con men can masquerade as legitimate men of God. In the article he is talking particularly about a view where the man of God is seen as link between the people and God. The people need him because without him that link is cut off and access to God is blocked from them. This places the pastor or prophet in a vital position in the lives of the people and can explain why some people are willing to do a lot of things which are seemingly unwise just so that the relationship is maintained.
The question is that is the role of our church leaders viewed in that light when we look at the scriptures? We are told a lot of things about what a pastors in the scriptures. From the character they should have (1 Timothy 3:1-7), to what they should teach and how they should live(1 Timothy 4), and the fact that they should refute false teachings(2 Timothy 2:14-26). Even with prophecy we are told what they effect of prophecy should be. But in all of this, the one who has restored our relationship with God, the one who has enabled us to be called children of God, the one who has sent his Spirit to live in us if we are Christian, the one who the shepherds in the church are supposed to guide us towards is the one true Shepherd, Jesus Christ our Lord. So the person who is sick can pray to his Father in heaven knowing full well that he will be heard.  We are sometimes in danger of seeing the man behind the pulpit as the one through which we have access to our Father.  An unscrupulous person can use that to his advantage.

The place of special prayers/items
There also seems to be a rising popularity in special objects, annointing oil (in various colours and types depending on your need), handkerchiefs etc. And if the item is coming from Israel then it is always more powerful. The question to be asked is what place do these items play in Christianity. Coupled with this is special prayers which sometimes go hand in hand with these items. I admit that I have more to study and learn about the doctrine of prayer in the Bible but I am quite sure of a few thing. The person we go to when we pray is our Father in heaven and the Bible teaches us how to pray for to our Father. I know we can boldly go to him because of our sins have been dealt with on the cross. I know that God intervening and answering my prayers is not dependant on anyone or any item but dependant on God. It becomes very easy to fixate on the items and people instead of on the all-powerful God.

Celebrity Pastors
This is not a new phenomenon. It was happening in the Corinthian church where the church was divided between the big church leaders of their day; Paul, Peter and Apollos. Having great influential leaders in the christian church is a blessing especially when they use their great gifts of teaching and wisdom to edify and build up the church. It becomes a danger when we forgot that it is the gospel that authenticates their ministry and not any supernatural manifestation. We know from scripture that many will come who will perform signs and miracles to deceive the masses. If the substance of their message is not the authentic gospel then we must avoid them. By the way it is quite possible to use all the christian phrases and verses and deliver a message that is devoid of the gospel. A message that makes us more reliant on the individual or ourselves rather than on Jesus Christ.
The celebrity status we sometimes give them makes it seem sometimes that their words cannot be questioned even when in some cases it clearly goes against scripture. It is difficult to be discerning when we have such a high view a person. All I am saying is that our view of scripture should be higher than our view of anyone and that will allow us to validate what they say with what scripture says.

Guidance
The prevalent view of guidance seems to be around “hearing a word from God” which usually points to someone saying “God told me to tell you…”. I will share two qoutes that I think highlight the dangers of that view. This was during a discussion on a blog when this issue came up(http://thefrontporch.org/2013/09/the-bishop-and-the-filmmaker-what-t-d-jakes-and-tyler-perry-teach-us-about-the-black-church-black-elites-and-authentic-spirituality/).

Let me try to illustrate with a couple of questions why I think “God told me to” is a bad way of speaking about subjective guidance (having already admitted that I believe God can and does prompt us in various subjective ways). You mentioned that “God told you to marry your wife.” Let me ask: If you had not married your wife, would that be sin? If she had refused, would she have been in sin? Since you had that sense from God, does that also mean God had only one correct wife for you?

Do you see the problems these questions point to? Many Christians get paralyzed–especially in matters of Christian freedom–because they’re waiting for God to “tell them.” But, in the case of marriage, for example, God has spoken. In 1 Cor. 7 he says we’re free to marry or not marry. We don’t sin if we marry; nor do we sin if we do. To say “God told me to” in a way that feels like “Thus saith the Lord” is to adopt a view of guidance that inevitably brings us into tension and sometimes contradiction with what God says in His word. I know you would never advise using “God told me” as an excuse for contradicting the word. But you can probably also admit/experienced that there are tons of people who do exactly that. That’s why I think that’s a problematic way of speaking about God’s will.

The issue of “God told me” is problematic. It presents a non-negotiable engagement, that benefits the one uttering such. It may also give a false ideal that one has this ethereal communion with Christ that the other does not. … What is problematic in the pulpit is, scripture in many cases says what is worlds apart from the pulpit. Scripture says “He that findeth a wife findeth a good thing.” Biblical wisdom from within ones-self and the counsel of the “Godly” around you will help one choose a virtuous, prudent help-mate. As to giving away a possession, the Bible says it is, “better to give than receive,” or “Give and it shall be given thee.” The book of Acts displays sharing and “one-anothering” to meet needs, etc. We have multiple parables of how persons of “The Way,” ought to seek to meet needs by being good to all men and especially those in the household of faith. With these things in mind one does not have to live “listening” for a mystical voice from within or without. I believe the pulpit needs to stand firm on the five Sola’s and let that be the “guiding light” for the “pew.”

Whether you agree or disagree with the people speaking, I think their points have merit and many people have used the weaknesses of speaking like this to their advantage and keep telling people to do things that are clearly not from God.

In conclusion, there are probably more areas that need to be thought through but I think that in all this the faithful men and women who preach God’s word are a key to solving this problem.  They need to teach, rebuke, correct and train us from the scriptures and also refute the false teachings that is going on by the authority of the Scriptures.  “Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths” – 2 Timothy 4:2-4