Category Archives: ministry

Observations from a Middle-Georgia Pastorate: Operation Re-Evaluate (Pt 2)

Funny thing, I don’t really like long titles, but what’s a guy to do?


Answering “Why?” 

In my previous post I promised that in the next I would “address ways that churches (including the one I pastor) can use this current crisis to turn us into the effective, healthy Church Body we should have been all along.”

But before I get into that, I would like to give an answer to the question I suggested many people are going to be asking: “Why do I even go to church?”

I know there have been some very well-written and scholarly responses to the above question, and, for me, it all comes down to a command from Jesus Christ. Regardless of what I can get out of it, going to church (gathering with other believers in a biblical, congregational, ecclesiastically-sufficient context, not simply a home Bible study) is an act of obedience and worship. But what is the answer going to be to this generation?

Perceived Value

One reason I believe the question will be asked is because of perceived value: “What am I really getting in return for my investment?”

When people who attend only sporadically, at best, come to discover they don’t miss much through this crisis, the likely response will be to quit going. And who could blame them? If their only reason for going was a religious one, one that satisfied their conscience and offered a visible sense of faith, then why go through all the effort to go to church and be around people they see but once or twice a month? Why not just watch online?

But when people who attend regularly begin to see very little difference between being in church and NOT being in church, what will justify going back? In other words, if while not allowed to attend corporate worship no one gives them a call, sends them a note, checks on their family, or in any way recognizes their personal worth outside of a number on an attendance roll, why be a statistic?

The reality of the human condition is that people want to be loved, respected, needed, and wanted. What I see happening is many church-goers figuring out through this absence that the relationships and friendships they thought were real were only facades meant to perpetuate an institution. Given enough time to think, many will conclude the only reason they were being asked to go to church was to fill a slot, keep up the numbers, or satisfy the ego of someone who didn’t even care to call or check on them.

Revitalizing the Value

It is in times of crisis that we find out who we really are, what we are made of. When it comes to the Church, specifically the local congregations, we have the opportunity to discover if we are more than a weekly social club with voluntary dues and free potlucks.

Go to the sixth chapter of the Book of Acts and what do you see? You see believers who walked through life together, not just on Sunday, but throughout the week. They were a community, a family, one that took care of each other OUTSIDE the walls of any structure. Did they regularly meet at the temple for instruction? Absolutely! Daily, even! But they were also there for each other through struggles, breaking bread in each other’s homes and meeting temporal, tangible needs.

And note: all of the above, as listed in Acts 6, was done BEFORE persecution came. This was the model of church life that would carry them through the truly difficult days just around the corner.

Folks, what we should have been doing all along is making sure there is a legitimate, tangible, temporal value to being a member of a local body of Christian believers. This means more than offering a nice place to sit for an hour, generic smiles, and a sweet, full-color, take-home bulletin with built-in sermon outline. It means genuine inclusion into a Family that loves you, values you, walks with you through the good and bad, and has your back when no one else will.

If we churches don’t want to lose members after this pandemic, then we need to be working overtime to do everything possible to revitalize our sense of family and our duties as a community of Believers. If we simply wait until we are allowed to gather again before we acknowledge each other, then we are hypocrites.

What Bethlehem Is Doing

In some ways we are unique, but in other ways we are well behind the curve. However, every church, to some degree or another, is having to do some new things.

Regarding questions of real and perceived value, let me share with you what we at Bethlehem Baptist are trying to do or improve.

1. Expand our social media footprint.  Long before the COVID-19 crisis erupted, I stressed to our church that we needed to make every use of social media and the internet. Some folk were a little skeptical, as you can imagine. Yet, a few others took me seriously enough to get to work on a website. Unfortunately, the initial energy waned, thereby leaving us with a handicap at this time.

However, one thing that I was able to do early on was drastically increase our presence on Facebook. This is still a work in progress, but increasing posts and promoting the content has brought a good deal of fresh attention to Bethlehem Baptist. Believe it or not, there is not a local television station in our county! Therefore, social media is the only real-time media in town. Not taking every advantage of its usefulness would be tragic.

No photo description available.

Check out the Washington County Grapevine!

Even before this crisis, I had already been posting videos to YouTube, then to our church Facebook page. So, when we couldn’t meet as a congregation, going live on Facebook was second nature to me – I’d already been doing it on my own. I even created a county-wide community Facebook page which could function as one more channel through which we could reach people.

2. Make contact with member families.  If we can shake their hands or hug their necks on Sunday (we still do those kind of things down here in middle Georgia), we’d better be sure to make a call (or visit, if possible), send a card, or do something. We’ve got to show that we appreciate people and miss them when they are not here.

The worst thing we can do to people is allow them to go unnoticed.

3. Seek out needs to be met.  There are still a lot of people down in this part of the country who don’t like to ask for help, and many of them are the elderly. However, that doesn’t remove the responsibility of the Church to care for those in need; it mandates that we should be looking for ways to serve.

Too often the complaint leveled at Christian churches is that all we want is people’s money. Of course, that is patently false. However, even though perception is NOT reality, we need to prove to our own members, at least, that it’s not what they put in the offering plate that makes them special.

Holy Lemonade

Image result for lemonade imagesLike I’ve said before, when life (or China) gives us Coronavirus-lemons, make holy lemonade. And by that I mean that we should look at this as a cutting-edge, next-generation opportunity to engage our communities with the Gospel. Even more, we should up our game and engage the world!

We used to sit around and talk about what the Church was going to look like in the future, how we would operate, and how we would maintain our cohesiveness. Then, right out of the blue (or Communist red) came this tiny little virus that has rocked the world-wide community, including Christians. Doing “church” like we’ve always done it is no longer an option and no longer up for debate.

I’m looking forward to once again gathering in our beautiful old sanctuary, but I praise God for the shock to our traditional system! And what’s even more exciting than seeing congregations stepping up to the plate and swinging is the feeling that this could be the beginning of a new era.

As we re-evaluate, God may be sending revival! 

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Observations from a Middle-Georgia Pastorate: Operation Re-Evaluate

Bethlehem Baptist Church
95 Bethlehem Church Road, Warthen, GA 31094

It’s Our Time

I know I am not going to be the first person to make this observation, but as I said on Facebook this morning, the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and crisis is this generation’s World War Two.

Make no mistake, this is a world war . . . a war for survival, both physically and economically, against a killer virus. But unlike wars of the past, this one is being fought on every continent – none are immune from its effects.

However, as tragic and scary as the upheaval may be, just like our forefathers did in the 1940’s, what we have is the potential to come together in ways thought impossible just weeks ago. Where less than a month ago people had no plan for how to survive a national crisis, now you see the creative minds working to solve difficult issues.

It’s not an easy thing to say, for it could be interpreted the wrong way, but as strange as it may sound, this crisis could be the best thing to happen to America since WW2. In so many ways it is forcing us to unite to fight a common enemy that cares nothing about politics, race, or religion – it just wants to destroy us. So, where petty ideological differences, even serious political and social ones have threatened to destroy our country in recent years, this virus – like Nazi German and Imperial Japan – is deadly and costly enough to force a re-evaluation of who we are.

And just think about it! What time in history would have been a better time to fight a war like this? We were created for such a time as this, and in this time we will be victorious.

It’s the Church’s Time

How often have you heard it said that the modern Church is irrelevant? How many times have you heard the complaints about living within our buildings’ four walls and never engaging people outside?

How many times has it been said that the modern, local church cares only about itself? How many churches, for real, exist only for those who walk through the door on Sunday?

COVID-19 is the wake-up call – no, more like the Pearl Harbor – that Christian churches across America have needed for a long time. We have had an Enemy waging war against us for ages, but we’ve been content living with the effects being on distant shores. Now, the fight has been brought to us, and even the old “home guard” is being activated.

Throughout the history of Israel and the Church, God has brought conflict, even foreign invaders, to shock His people out of complacency and lethargy. At times God called our enemies His “servants” to discipline us. And as we should be thankful God loves us enough to discipline us, it should not be too far of a stretch, then, to be thankful the “virus” has come at this time.

What of the Walls?

So, finally, here we are in a situation where the walls of the church don’t matter too much anymore. Oh, sure, we will get back to corporately worshiping together like we should, but what of the walls right now? Not only are they doing us little good, but they have no relevance to who and what the Church actually is or how it must operate right now.

Most local churches have operated on the model that worship, fellowship, community, bearing each other’s burdens, etc., happens only when people show up to the building, the campus, or wherever the bulk of the member choose to gather.  In other words, when you miss out on what happens at the church property, you not only miss out, but you get left out, ignored, forgotten.

All that has abruptly changed.

For the first time in the history of the Church, local congregations are being forced by a virus – not the government or a tyrant – to make “church” something other than simply attending a one-hour meeting while sitting on a pew.

For the first time in history, churches are now, for the most part, gathering online over the internet, not inside four walls.

For the first time in a a LONG time, local churches are going to have to prove their worth to the members. For if coming together on Sunday to hear a choir or listen to a pastor is all church is, many are going to wonder why they tithe or give offerings.

Frankly, this pandemic is going to open the eyes of a lot of people and make them ask the question: “Why do I even go to church?”

What is our answer going to be?


In my next post I will address ways that churches (including the one I pastor) can use this current crisis to turn us into the effective, healthy Church Body we should have been all along. 

Until then, make a phone call, do a video chat, and pray with a fellow believer. We must not forget each other, nor our need for fellowship.

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Coronavirus Sunday: Turning a Virus Into Evangelism

Did you wash your hands?

Good evening, everyone! What a different day this has been! How many of you went to church, despite the fear that you might get sick and die?

As I typed that, I couldn’t help but think of all those in places like Nigeria where going to church on any given Sunday could get you killed by an AK-47 or a machete. I wonder what they think of our virus protection plans? Which do you think they would prefer, a bullet-proof vest or hand sanitizer?

Anyway, many congregations across the country and around the world decided to cancel meetings this morning. Others did what we did: we encouraged the vulnerable and sick to stay home, and we streamed the service live on Facebook.

Missions

What I found so wonderful about all this, however, is that by streaming our services to Facebook, then sharing them on other media platforms, what would have been local turned into global! Think about that for a hallelujah minute!

One can’t help but wonder if Satan was at one point dying from laughter, then the next moment throwing a demon across the room in a fit of rage. I hope so!

It’s like, “Oh, look at all those churches closing their doors over some silly little virus! We are shutting them down, now!” Then it was, “OH, MY PLACE! What are they doing now? Reaching the world with the gospel??”

The Videos

So, what I want to do for this post is offer you the opportunity to watch both our ENTIRE Sunday morning service, along with a video I did from my office this evening.

But just so you don’t miss it, there’s a lot that went on this morning in our church service. So, if you want to skip to that actual sermon I delivered on St. Patrick and missions (it’s a GOOD one!), go to the 41:30 mark.

That shirt made me look HUGE! 

If you think St Patrick was Irish, or that his favorite color was green, you REALLY need to listen to this sermon 😉

God bless, and have a Christ-honoring week!

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Countdown to Jamaica (15 days left)

As of this moment, alone in my quiet office, having just finished my preparations for Sunday morning’s sermon, I have only 15 days till I’ll be in Jamaica!

Yeah, for some of you that’s no big deal; you’ve probably been there multiple times. But for me, this is my first time going there, and I think I have a right to be excited. Don’t you think?

I will be flying out of Atlanta on the 20th, a Friday evening. Unfortunately, flying is the worst part – I have a love/hate relationship with it.

If you are curious, I will be preaching in a week of revival services at Leith Hall Baptist Church, along with ministering at several other locations throughout the week. Lord willing, I will also be speaking to the local police officers (please pray about that).

To my surprise I found a video on YouTube that shows the very street I will be traveling and the church in which I will be preaching! How cool is that?

I’m told this area of Jamaica is considered the poorest in the country. Those who do have jobs likely drive all the way to Kingston to work. For the rest, the unemployment rate is near 80%

Most of the children where I will be eat only one meal a day, and that’s their lunch at school.

As the days get closer, I’ll keep you guys updated.

Also, if you feel led to help support this trip, what I don’t use for personal items, food, fees, and all that junk, I will be leaving in the hands of those whom I can help. Simply click on the PayPal tab and designate what the funds are for.

 

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Tips for Beautiful Feet

My Bare Feet

Alicia, our oldest daughter, commented on Facebook to a lady in our church, “That’s a confident man posting pictures of his feet!!!!” And she’s correct.

There are other aspects of my body image of which I’m not too proud. For example, before I cringed at the weight blinking at me on my new scale, I had to lean over the energy reserve I’ve accumulated over many years.

But when it comes to my feet, even my lovely wife and daughters are jealous. I’m not even joking. They have to worry about callouses, the hair on their toes, missing toenails (due to a tractor accident), and whether or not the color of the polish matches their shoes.

My feet are just beautiful (handsome) the way they are. I don’t even need to keep them moisturized; they’re naturally baby-soft.

Beauty Tips

But if you are the type that needs special help to keep your feet looking beautiful, here are four simple beauty tips that will keep the podiatrist away:

  1. Soak them periodically. Not too long, or they will end up dry and cracked.
  2. Exfoliate once a week. Remove dead skin cells with abrasives.
  3. Wear proper shoes. Improper shoes contribute to body aches and sore feet.
  4. Don’t walk in the dark without a flashlight. A badly-stumped toe can not only ruin your day but lead to life-long issues.

Some people aren’t blessed with naturally healthy, attractive, baby-soft feet, so it’s important to take the necessary steps to achieve beautiful results.

Preaching Feet

Some of you could care less about your feet. You probably don’t even care if they stink, have nails poking through your socks, or leave painful abrasions on your spouse in the middle of the night.

But what about preachers? Are you a preacher? If you are a Christian, and if you are one that cares about telling others about Jesus, then yes, you are! What does Scripture say about your feet?

“… as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!” – Romans 10:15b

If you are preaching the gospel, sharing your faith with the lost, your feet are already beautiful! “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings . . . that sayeth unto Zion, ‘Thy God reigneth!'” (Isaiah 52:7).

However, when you walk around a lot, especially in this world, your feet will need some attention in order to stay beautiful. Here are four simple beauty tips that will keep you in tippytoe-top shape for tiding telling.

  1. Soak them periodically.
    [When thou saidst], Seek ye my face; my heart said unto thee, Thy face, LORD, will I seek. – Psa. 27:8
    My heart heard you say, “Come and talk with me.” And my heart responds, “LORD, I am coming.” – NLT
  2. Exfoliate once a week.
    Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. – Psa. 57:1
  3. Wear the proper shoes.
    And [have] your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; – Eph. 6:15
  4. Don’t walk in the dark without a light.
    Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path. – Psa. 119:105

Image may contain: 1 person, possible text that says 'I toed you so.'Just remember, lots of people are counting on you being able to get around. Those longing for the Good News will think even the most unattractive feet are beautiful when you “bring glad tidings of good things.”

But if you don’t take advantage of the above beauty tips, not only will you feel self-conscious and shy, but your mistreated, crusty, aching, bruised feet will keep you at home when you should “go tell it on the mountain.”

Don’t be pedi-ful. Be beautiful!


Note: Middle-aged foot model looking for work. Goes by the professional name of Arch Healy.

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8+ Ways Small Churches Could Be Better than Mega-Churches

The Survey

In a recent study conducted by the survey pro’s at TheRecoveringLegalist.com, pastors from both large and small congregations shared why they thought a small church could be better than a big one.

The survey sample was made up of pastors from various denominations, from different parts of the country, and consisted of men from my personal contact list – and my wife.

It was a VERY scientific survey – sorta.

The Question

I had my own thoughts, but I wanted to know what other pastors thought. The question I posed went something like this:

“I’m doing a quick, non-scientific survey for a blog post (no names will be mentioned). Can you give me 1 or 2 reasons why a small church could be better than a big church?”

Within moments I received multiple replies through text, email, and Messenger. It took them very little time to respond, like it was something they didn’t even have to think about.

The answers they gave were practically the same.

The Answers

If the answers from the pastors in the survey I conducted mean anything, it would seem that smaller churches are the place to be if you want to be:

  1. Known by name;
  2. Have intimate relationships with others;
  3. Have a pastor who misses you when you’re not there; and/or
  4. Experience more accountability.

Other answers suggested that in larger churches it is harder to keep track of what is being taught in “small groups,” while in smaller churches everyone is more on the same page. But overall, the most common reason given for smaller churches being better than bigger churches was knowing and being known by others in the congregation.

As a matter of fact, what the pastors in my survey said echoed the hopeful and encouraging words of Karl Vaters’ article “Why Small Churches Are the Next Big Thing.” Speaking of Millennials, he said:

“[There’s] growing evidence this new generation will bring the greatest opportunity for small church ministry in 2,000 years.

Why? Because, as the first generation with a majority born and raised outside traditional marriage, genuine relationships and intimate worshipwhat small churches do best—will matter more to them than it did to their parents.” [emphasis added]

(Note: The above article was from 2014. Vaters wrote a follow-up piece that’s worth reading.)

So you see, even though larger churches do offer a LOT – unlimited numbers of ministries in which to get involved; professional-quality childcare; servant pastors for every niche; and the best technology money can buy – many people are beginning to rediscover what makes the community of a small, loving congregation so special.

But Wait! There’s MORE!

Should you conclude that relationships, accountability, and being able to talk with your pastor without an appointment are the only qualities a small church can offer, think again!

There’s more! Much more!

Here are 8 simple ways small churches could actually be BETTER than larger ones:

1. Parking Spaces. Why should one have to search ten minutes to find a parking place within walking distance to the trolley you must ride to get to the front door?

Small churches have plenty of parking; usually no further than a hymnbook’s throw away.

2. No Auditions Necessary. Forget having to try out for the choir, the praise team, the annual play, the children’s musical, or the worship orchestra.

If you can sing, play an instrument, or read a line – or even if you can’t – there’s always a place for you in a small church, at least in the choir.

3. No Training Necessary. So, you want to run sound? You want to operate the lights? You think you have a desire to operate the recording equipment? Well, you’d better have a resume and a list of references if you want to do any of that in a big church.

Seriously, they can’t let just anyone with a desire operate a $25,000 camera or push the buttons that link to the network satellite feed.

But in a small church? HA! With just a little instruction and a few notes, you could be adjusting the mics and pressing “record” in no time!

4. The Best Seating Anywhere. If you come in late to a service at a big church, no kidding, you might need binoculars to see the holes in the pastor’s jeans.

But in a small church, well, the back row might as well be in the reserved section! Compared to a mega-church, the back row in a small church is practically within spitting distance of the preacher.

5. Genuinely-Experienced Childcare. Do you have small children? Do you care about them? Why let Buffy or Bianca watch your crumb cruncher while you worship? Why not trust them to the experienced, floppy-armed grannies that’ve raised more kids than a champion goat farmer?

Who better to make sure your young’uns act right and learn about Jesus than a few ladies who’ve washed out more than a few mouths with Ivory soap? [Disclaimer: Washing out mouths with soap is no longer approved]

6. Free Interactive Technology Museum. Bigger churches are all about the newest, most advanced technology. Smaller churches, on the other hand, rarely have the funds for regular upgrades.

Small churches are like free interactive technology museums where in some places you can listen to both the preacher AND the local radio station at the same time!

7. Food, Food, and More Food. Go to a large church and you’ll find plenty of opportunities to eat. They have Wednesday night meals, socials, finger foods, and all kinds of stuff before Sunday School (morning Bible study). Some large churches even have coffee bars and sit-down restaurants on campus!

But seriously, how does any of that compare to what a bunch of church ladies can whip up for homecoming dinner on the ground? You rarely see Mexican cornbread, turnip greens, or creamed corn in a mega-church.

8. It’s Your Community. Large churches – the ones with huge TV ministries and social programs – are made up of people from all over the place; small churches are filled with your neighbors.

It’s in the small, hometown churches where people learn to shoulder up to each other through the hard times; where a pastor will attend your child’s graduation; where the funerals and weddings are no charge; and where someone always notices when you’re not there.

Seriously, I have nothing against large churches – every pastor would love his church to be one! However, most churches average no more than 80 members, and they are where the majority of solid, faithful, salt-of-the-earth Christians still attend.

So, are small churches really “better” than big ones? That all depends on where God wants you.

But if you don’t want to get lost in the crowd – or in the parking lot – a small church might just be what you’re looking for.

May I suggest one? 

Bethlehem Baptist Church (est. 1790)
95 Bethlehem Church Road, Warthen, GA 31094 Sundays at 11 & 6, Wednesdays at 6:30

For the record, we do have a modern audio and security system. Just saying 🙂

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A Doctrine from Eden Repackaged (Faith In Words)

The Beginning

In order to put things in perspective, we must start with the beginning. And when I say beginning, I mean THE beginning. Please consider the following verses, for they are critical:

Genesis 1:1 In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.

John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

John 1:14 And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.

It should be obvious, according to the above verses, that not only did God create the universe, but that the Word which He spoke was none other than Jesus Christ. The doctrine that Jesus is the “express image” of God the Father, even God Himself (Hebrews 1:3), is at the core of orthodox Christianity.

Jesus was not just a good man or prophet, and neither were the words of God at creation just words spoken in faith.

Did you get that last part? That’s the part I want to address.

Faith in Words

There is a teaching still being taught that essentially says: “If you have faith in your words, as God had faith when He spoke the worlds into being, you can also create a miracle, your own reality. You can be like God, if you have the faith of God.

Excuse me? God had faith? Really? If so, in what?

Well, if you’re like Kenneth Copeland, you’ll believe God had faith in His own words when He “spoke to the Spirit” on the day He created man…

“[We] can see that man’s body was formed from dust, but he became a living spirit when God spoke to Himself and breathed life into his physical body. … In short, we must always remember that unlike any other creature, man was both formed from dust and created with words of faith.” (Source)

Or then there’s this:

“God used words when He created the heaven and the earth….Each time God spoke, He released His faith — the creative power to bring His words to pass.”
Kenneth Copeland, The Power of the Tongue (Fort Worth: KCP Publications, 1980), 4.

First, stop and think about this! Do you realize that God is the Giver and Author of faith (Hebrews 12:1-2), not One who puts His faith in something or someone? There is something fundamentally wrong with the idea that Omnipotence would have any reason to have faith, for the very definition of faith requires a sense of dependence on a power outside yourself.

When God speaks, things happen; not because of His faith, but because He’s God!

Secondly, ask yourself: “If God had faith in His Word, then would that make Him the first Christian?” How silly does that sound? But in reality, if we are to believe that God had faith in His words, which brought about creation, then would it not stand to reason, – if John 1:1 is correct – that God the Father put His faith in Jesus? Was not Jesus the Word by which all things were created?

Crazy, right?

Then, there is the worst part…

Words of the Serpent

Do you remember how Satan tempted eve in the garden of Eden? Remember how he tried to convince her that by eating the fruit, she could “be as gods?” How similar, then, is the promise, “If you have faith in your words, as God had faith in His words, you can create like God did?”

If you think I’m making this stuff up, my friends, consider the following statements by one of the foremost teachers of this false doctrine (and you can find more on YouTube):

Image result for kenneth copeland images“You have the same creative faith and ability on the inside of you that God used when he created the heavens and the earth.”
Kenneth Copeland, ‘Inner Image of the Covenant,’ side 2.

“On the cross, Jesus won the right for believers to be born again back into the god-class. Adam was created, not subordinate to God, but as a god; he lost it, and in Christ we are taken back to the god-class.” ~ Kenneth Copeland (AZQuotes.com)

“I say this with all respect so that it don’t upset you too bad, but I say it anyway. When I read in the Bible where he [Jesus] says, ‘I Am,’ I just smile and say, ‘Yes, I Am, too!'” ~ Kenneth Copeland (AZQuotes.com)

It may anger some of you, my readers, but please don’t be offended. Do as Paul told Timothy, “take heed unto thyself, and to [thy] doctrine” (1 Timothy 4:16).

Please understand, to claim one has the power to create, as God created, is heresy! Faith in our words, outside of faith in God, especially in order to bring about our will, as opposed to, or in spite of God’s will, is nothing less than witchcraft.

Even more, it is the doctrine of Eden reborn: “you shall be as gods.”

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