Examine Yourself

by Warren Heckman.

Uncle Sam’s tax authorities can be merciless when they look over your shoulder and say, “Come here, boy!” I was audited a few years ago, and it sent shudders up and down my spine. What had I done wrong in filling out those dreadful forms? This whole thing had to be a mistake. I wasn’t a criminal. I hadn’t tried to wiggle out of paying my share. But there it was, in black and white–pages of new forms to fill out to justify the amount I had contributed to church and missions.

The apostle Paul suggests a sort of spiritual audit when he says, “Examine and test and evaluate your own selves to see whether you are holding on to your faith and showing the proper fruits of it” (2 Cor. 13:5 Amplified).

We have to admit that we hear of way too many leaders in business, sports, politics, and ministry who are ultimately found to be breaking the law, living in sin, and trying to cover it up. When exposed by the media, it’s not a pretty picture. Homes are wrecked, marriages ended, families are shattered, ministries crumble, and individual lives are forever uprooted.

We need auditors, mentors, and accountability processes in place to help us stay on the straight and narrow for the glory of God. We must examine ourselves, as Paul says. But in today’s world, I think we need additional safeguards. As senior pastors, we have a responsibility towards our staff, pastors, elders, and deacons. We need to institute and maintain policies that will ensure their integrity.

Here are several areas that need annual audits and check-ups for the safety of our ministries:

1. Annual financial audits by a CPA firm (Certified Public Accountants), to satisfy ourselves, critics and outsiders that our records meet the GAAP (Generally Accepted Accounting Principles).

2. Constitution and by-laws audited by an appropriately knowledgeable attorney. Times change, laws change, people change. We live in a litigious society, and we need to know and understand our documents. They may need to be updated.

3. Safety audits. Are our building/s and grounds safe? What about stairwells … HVAC units … fire extinguishers? Are they in place and updated?

4. At the end of a Sunday morning service each year, practice a fire evacuation plan, so people know where to go quickly. How, for example, will all the children be moved to safety–and then reunited with their parents?
5. Audit of all insurance coverages, deductibles, and contingencies.
6. Prepare for the horrible possibility of a deranged person showing up at church with a gun.
I gleaned much of this list from John Ruck at Lake City Church in Madison, Wisconsin, who helped keep us on track and prepared during the years I was there. The list could go on and on, but this is adequate to get us thinking.

In Luke 12:39, Jesus tells us that as householders, if we knew our home was going to be burglarized, we would prevent the thief from doing so. So it is with various audits. It’s too late after a crisis. We must be proactive. Yes, it’s a bother, it may be expensive and not everyone will agree, but after the fact, everyone will be glad you took action and kept the enemy from a slam-dunk victory. God help us to live spotless before the world and take care for the safety of our flock.

Warren Heckman is the U.S. National Coordinator for Fellowship of Christian Assemblies. 

The Truth About The Liar

by Wayne Wachsmuth.

The Truth About the Liar: A Spiritual Warfare Strategy Aimed at Satan’s True Identity, by Russell Doebler (Intermedia Publishing Group, 2010).

In this book of 191 pages composing ten chapters, we find sane reflections on the nature of spiritual warfare and a clearly proposed strategy that aims at the enemy’s true identity. Pastor Doebler seeks to empower believers to destroy Satan’s kingdom through the authority given to us because of the shed blood of Christ. This work merits careful attention, reflective reading, and thoughtful deliberation and discussion within the body of Christ.

C.S. Lewis once quipped that there are twin dangers to avoid in reference to our adversary: (1) denying the existence of Satan or (2) having an unhealthy preoccupied with his malevolence. Pastor Doebler begins with an examination of his earlier life as a practicing “Christian Sadducee,” not really expecting to encounter angels, demons or other supernatural phenomena. Far too many today are practicing atheists when it comes to genuine power encounters and the free moving of the Spirit of God. Chapter Two begins with a quote from Keith Green’s song, “No One Believes in Me Anymore” and addresses Scriptures that speak to demonic involvement in the lives of Christians and non-Christians alike. The strongest point in this chapter is that the blood of Jesus Christ changes everything. There is a helpful and correct understanding of the Greek words daimoniodes/daimonizomai (and I might add daimonzomenous) meaning demonic/demonized. It is with a smile of approval that I recommend the author’s appreciation for the struggle against the world, the flesh and the devil. I especially appreciate the fact that he came down clearly on the position that a Christian cannot be demon-possessed.

A unique feature of this book is the author’s systematic attempt to dismantle the classic “Lucifer rebellion theory.” He posits an alternate explanation for the existence of Satan that I did not find entirely convincing. He makes some appeal to the Early Church Fathers (4, 89), but apart from brief mentions of Origen, Tertullian and Augustine, there is scarce treatment of the rich resources that contribute to the traditional view. Augustine’s notion of the nature of evil as privation is interesting, but there remains a wealth of data since the fifth century that needs to be taken into consideration. The reader will need to decide.

The latter portion of the book is practical and filled with pastoral concern. The reader is encouraged to delve deeply into the Word of God as our necessary food, to learn and practice the disciplines of prayer and fasting, to nurture a faith that is the gift of God and “the personality of Jesus resident in what our souls hope for.” The last section on authority is worth the entire cost of the book. Here is a sampling of some fine treasures from chapter eight:

“For example, how is it helpful for me to tell someone who is sick that if he just believes harder or finds something to repent of, he will be healed? Many people have given this advice to sick people who have remained sick. And when they remain sick, that counsel adds guilt and unnecessary self-analysis to their illness. The self-analysis often detracts from focusing on Jesus, and whatever miracle-working faith they might have had is drowned in the doubt of self-consciousness” (129).

“We must not make an idol out of faith or put our faith in our faith – that is, we should not put our trust in our ability to believe” (130).

“Control is a man-made substitute for God-given authority. We ‘take control.’ God gives authority” (141). [An earlier passage states the premise that authority is always given and never taken or stolen (76).]

“Authority is given to those self-controlled” (143).

“Submission is necessary to function in God-given authority” (147).

“God cannot give us authority when we’re hanging on to control” (149).

This book is necessary reading for anyone seriously interested in doing spiritual warfare…and winning. It holds an abundance of Scripture for serious consideration and a clear perspective for victory: (1) understand who God is, (2) understand who you are, (3) understand what you are up against. We are called to demolish strongholds, to use wisdom as we encounter the enemy, and to wage warfare prayer while also issuing words of blessing instead of cursing.

Wayne Wachsmuth is Academic Dean at Christian Life College, Mount Prospect, Illinois. He holds a B.S. in Ministerial Studies from Bethany Bible College (Santa Cruz, Calif.), an M.A. in Christian Thought from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (Deerfield, Ill.) and is working on a Ph.D. in Education, also at Trinity.

Hell Yes or Hell No?

by Warren Heckman.

Thousands are all a-Twitter, blogs are bogged, and Facebook is getting an about-face by the pros and cons regarding Rob Bell’s book, Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived. Our Twin Cities evening news carried a big story about the forthcoming fight among evangelicals. The Minneapolis Star-Tribune ran a lengthy story on page titled, “Firestorm about Heaven, Hell blazes in Blogosphere.”

Bell has an astronomical following in the internet arena, but that hardly constitutes a measure of orthodoxy. Many groups we call cults have huge numbers in their ranks. Those of us who can rightly be called living dinosaurs, not yet extinct, have seen much of this played out before. Questionable Christian doctrine seems to be cyclical in trying to reinvent itself with heretical, unusual, and controversial interpretations of Scripture and theology. In the early years of my pastoral ministry I faced this teaching and regularly had to put on a black-and-white striped shirt and a silver whistle so I could attempt to referee accelerating anger and arguments between otherwise kind church members. To some degree, it is impossible to change certain people’s minds, especially when their convictions are so deeply entrenched.

A Google search on “universalism” brought up far more links than I had time to pursue, so I quickly decided that there are far more brilliant minds, trained theologians and Scripture expositors than myself to try and refute what I believe is the resurfacing of an old error. I strongly believe in the orthodox/evangelical teachings of our forefathers who gave the biblical teaching of hell as eternal. Yes, we grieve at the thought of anyone going to hell and spending eternity there. But in fact, I think it’s one of the strongest motivations for witness, outreach, and global missions.

Can a universalist go to heaven? That’s not really a shot for me to call. But it seems to me that if someone truly repents of sin, accepts Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, and does their best to live a godly life, I will see them walking on the golden streets someday–even though we disagree on this issue. What do you think?

Warren Heckman is the U.S. National Coordinator for Fellowship of Christian Assemblies.

Membership Has Its Benefits

by Warren Heckman.

This is a reprint from 2010, but just as relevant as ever.

We face two big things this month. First, it’s time for us all to renew our FCA listings, and second, it’s time to get all that Christmas shopping done. I’ll leave the shopping to your discretion, but I want to say a few words about showing up in the FCA Directory. Maybe you are asking yourself, “Why spend the money?”

I think I can answer that. It is my strong conviction that we need to make several commitments as believers: first to Christ, second to a local church, and third to a fellowship or community of ministers and churches. There are other worthwhile commitments, but I’ll stop with these three.

I am committed to the FCA because I need you all more than you need me. I need ministers and missionaries who inspire me, challenge me, inform me, encourage me and keep me accountable. Yes, I know we can have that without having our name in a directory, but there is something about laying it on the line, putting my name in the book that is an act of commitment to a group. I am proud to be associated with such people of integrity, faithfulness and vision for the local church and churches.

I belong to other groups: the YMCA, Sam’s Club, a frequent-fliers club, and I used to belong to Rotary. Each cost me something, but I found them valuable and profitable. As your National Coordinator for the Fellowship of Christian Assemblies, I use our annual directory constantly. I refer people to other people, I answer email inquiries, I respond to your requests for phone numbers and addresses, and I network with ministers and missionaries throughout the year.

When youth pastors, worship pastors, children’s pastors and executive pastors are listed, it is great for them to connect with one another and share ideas and activities.When I can’t find someone’s name in the directory, it’s a hunt to chase down the needed information. So, let me encourage you to get your information and payments in to the U.S. office ASAP. The deadline is only a week away-December 15. Thanks!

Warren Heckman is a life-long member of the Fellowship of Christian Assemblies and the former U.S. FCA National Coordinator.

Adventures in Uganda

by Warren Heckman.

Donna and I want to thank all of you for your prayers, encouragement and concern over the past couple of weeks. My decision to walk down a steep hill in Kampala, Uganda, rather than walk around to the path was an unfortunate choice. I skidded about 15 feet, hitting the bottom with a bang, twisting, jamming, pulling muscles, ligaments, joints and really hurting my lower back. Then I looked at my right ankle and saw my foot turned around and facing backwards.

I groaned, and the pain hit me like strikes of lightning over and over. An hour later, I began my week in the Kampala International Hospital. There was surgery (I watched Dr. Mauluba put in two steel plates and screw them into my bones), followed by casting, recasting, lots of shots, unbelievable pain, uncertainty, and anxiety.

They would not let me out of the hospital until the bill was paid–about 6,000 U.S. dollars. We were not prepared for this. Missionary Ron DeVore had to scramble and try to gather up this amount, while I lay in bed Monday evening. The banks were closed by then–yikes. Bless Ron and his staff, they got the money together, and I got home to his mission about 9 p.m. (I owe Ron DeVore big-time). The doctor, on the other hand, trusted me to pay his bill. I just sent him a bank transfer of $5,000 (US).

God worked a miracle through Donna and the Raptim Travel Agency to get me on the same flights as Bob and Sue Forseth, only in first class where I could lie flat and get my leg up to prevent blood clots. Bob and Sue were like my traveling guardian angels.

So thank you, FCA family, for your prayers, love and support.  What a blessing to have friends who care.

P.S. A little business:

In my overseas trips, I often notice our missionaries are not listed in our annual FCA Directory, and they don’t have a current copy of the Directory. This means they don’t get the notice to send in their forms, or they get them too late, or their forms get lost in the mail, or they can’t download them from the Internet, etc.

Pastors, I beg you to fill out a form for each of your missionaries! We’ll soon be getting the 2010 notice this fall. Fill it out, send in the appropriate amount of money, and get them listed. Then when we all get our new directory, send one to each of your missionaries. They are doing a great job. Let’s be sure they get included in the directory.

Warren Heckman is the U.S. National Coordinator for Fellowship of Christian Assemblies.