Author Archives: uncompromisedchristianity

A GOD IN OUR IMAGE LEADS TO SLOPPY CHRISTIANITY

I believe that one of the major deficiencies of modern day Christianity is our view of God. In order to attract more people to church and make them feel comfortable, the church has presented God as just a shadow of His true essence. We have made Him too ordinary, too common, and too plain. We have brought Him down to our level, thinking people will see Him as more approachable and more relevant. In the quest to make Him more likable, we have portrayed Him as a cosmic genie who is just waiting to grant our wishes, or “Joe” down the street who we watch football and eat guacamole with, or some cool dude who plays video games and lives on social media. In short, we have created God in our image.

How utterly tragic. Today’s Christianity has lost the understanding of the awesome holiness and majestic glory of God. In the Bible, everyone who caught a glimpse of the incredible awesomeness of God was overwhelmed beyond words. Indeed, the very nature of God– His sovereignty, omnipotence, omnipresence, omniscience, eternality, holiness, righteousness, justice, and immutability is so profound that it causes us to fall on our faces in worship of such a magnificent Being.

This unbiblical view of God is evidenced, I believe, by a couple of things. One is the worldly lifestyle and sloppy discipleship of many Christians. Since God, in our recreation of Him, is basically just a good ol’ boy, there is  no need for holiness, no need for deep discipleship, no need for surrender, brokenness, or dying to self. We set the bar of discipleship too low because, after all, God is “cool” and lets us slide. However, Jesus set the bar of discipleship extraordinarily high – just read, for example, the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7, Luke 9:23, or Luke 14:26-33. The sloppy, discipleship of many Christians is a direct result of a faulty view of God.

The second evidence of our unbiblical view of God is seen in how we dress for church. Most churches tell people to come in whatever they are comfortable in – short shorts, flip flops, lounge pants, baseball caps, etc. After all, they say, God is more interested in your heart than in your attire. While this is true, I believe that this has been taken way too far. Sloppy dress has a direct correlation to a lesser view of God. Think about it – when you go to a place that requires nicer attire, it becomes more special than going to a place where you can wear your sloppy jeans and worn flip flops. Going to  a nice restaurant where nicer dress is required is a lot more special than jumping in the car with your well-worn “work around the house” clothes and heading to McDonald’s. Yet, many people come into the presence of the King of Kings looking like they just finished cleaning the house. For most people, it is just not a special thing to come into the presence of our awesome God because we have recreated Him into a lesser God.

Thus, sloppy dress follows our sloppy view of God. I’m not saying we need to wear fancy three-piece suits or evening gowns to church on Sunday, but, at the very least, dress with respect for the KIng of Kings and Lord of Lords in whose presence we are coming. At the church I pastor, in the FAQ section of our church brochure regarding what to wear we say this: “Wear whatever you like as long as it is in good taste and respectful in coming into the presence of the King”.

Yet, this majestic, sovereign, awesome God who we worship is also our “Abba”, our daddy who we can have a deep intimate relationship with. Jesus died on the cross to bring justification for our sins (He died in our place to take away our sins and give us eternal life), but also to bring reconciliation between us and the Father (to restore the broken relationship between Him and us because of our sin). These two aspects of our salvation – justification and reconciliation are so crucial in our understanding of, and approach to, our awesome God.  Justification reminds us of the majestic holiness of God, and that we must approach Him with reverence and awe (the intellectual understanding of who He is). Reconciliation means that we can have a deep, intimate relationship with Him as His children (the emotional connection with Him).

This Biblically balanced understanding of God will lead us to the incredible relationship that He desires us to have with Himself. Both of these – intellectual and relational – , in proper balance, are necessary because having just mental knowledge (without emotion) leads to cold legalism, and having just an emotional connection (without mental knowledge) leads to sloppy mediocrity (which, I believe, is the prominent attitude of most Christians today).

No, we don’t need to “change” God to make Him relevant to our culture. He is always relevant, and He is enough! Know God intellectually and worship Him. Love Him intimately and have a deep relationship with Him. When you have a healthy balance of these two, you will know our awesome God as He wants to be known.

 

 

LORD BREAK ME – A PERSONAL TESTIMONY

 

A year ago I wrote a post on this blog titled “Lord Break Me – A Bold and Daring Prayer”. In the post I mentioned that I prayed this prayer 37 years ago, and how God has been in the process of answering this prayer since the day I prayed it. Well, since writing that post, and especially in the last few months, the Lord has heightened His work in my life in answer to this prayer. I have always taught that, as followers of Jesus, we need to be transparent, open, and honest with each other regarding our lives, and thus He has led me to write this very transparent testimony. This is by far the hardest thing I have ever written because it is so personal, and writing this makes me extremely vulnerable before you, but I have nothing to lose. I write this from a place of brokenness. Hopefully, it will shed some light on the breaking process and give you some encouragement as you walk with Him along the “Broken” road.

I need my to start my testimony in March, 1998. At this time God was working in a powerful way in my life. He brought me into a place of deep intimacy with Himself, and I started experiencing incredible mountain top times with Him and in ministry. It was at this time that He called me to be a “watchman on the wall” – definitely not a prophet, but someone who He would reveal the true state of the church and society, and  preach, teach, and write what He placed on my heart regarding these. It would not be a popular message, and not many would want to do this type of ministry (even me), but I responded to His calling and started to be that watchman on the wall.

Because the burdens He gave me to speak and write about weren’t positive and upbeat, I was basically ignored by many, and opposed by others (I’ve been called all sorts of derogatory names through the years). Because of this I started to grow hard and, inwardly, started to develop a critical spirit against those who didn’t think like me or embrace what God had given me to say. Additionally, and unbeknownst to me, I had a sense that I was God’s gift to the church and that I had, in some ways, “arrived” to that special place in His kingdom because I was doing what very few would do. Because of this, I had this idea, deep in my heart, that I didn’t need anyone, which led to developing an unteachable spirit, which led to spiritual arrogance. No one would have ever guessed that I felt like this because outwardly I appeared just the opposite – humble and selfless. Shockingly, I didn’t even realize it myself, I was blind to my own wretched condition.  But deep in the recesses of my soul this ugly attitude festered.

So God began the breaking process in earnest, and in 2004 He started to shatter these prideful characteristics. Having been approached to start a new church in another part of the country, I resigned my position at the church I was pastoring. We sold our house and were excited to begin this new area of ministry. However, this opportunity fell through soon after we sold our house, and there I was, having resigned my current pastorate and having just sold our house. Needless to say, I was devastated. At this same time my 14-year-old daughter was diagnosed with a condition that required expensive medication, which exhausted my medical insurance prescription benefits. We ended up renting a condominium in an area where my kids could stay in the same school, or so I thought. A week into the school year we were told that our kids had to change high schools, which was really hard on them, and it crushed me to see this happen to them. On top of this I was applying to many churches around the country that had pastoral openings, but couldn’t get hired. I was a finalist in four or five churches but didn’t get hired. So I took on some temporary jobs in the field I used to work in before entering ministry. My income from these jobs wasn’t enough to meet our monthly bills so we had to dip into our savings, which started to get smaller and smaller. This was a bleak time in my life. I argued with God, yelled at God, and accused Him of not caring about me or my family. After all, I reasoned, I had given up everything to follow Him and I had boldly taught and written what very few pastors were willing to say.  I thought that since I had kept up my end of the deal by being a watchman on the wall, God owed me blessings. At one point, I was so low that I just wanted to walk away from ministry and from God, but in His infinite grace and mercy, He wouldn’t let go of me.

Finally, in August, 2005 I was called to the church I currently pastor. Many other heart wrenching things happened along this journey (things that brought me to my knees before Him) but I would need volumes to write them all down. Suffice it to say that similar things like I described in the preceding paragraph continued to happen. Deep down I continued to be bitter at God and my heart became old, cold, and hard. I continued to preach, teach, and write what He led me to say. I never compromised His calling, and He graciously continued to use me in a powerful way in spite of myself. But my heart just wasn’t right. Then a few months ago God started to peel me back like an onion, layer by layer. He showed me my spiritual pride: thinking I was His gift to the church, that I had somehow “arrived” to that special place in His Kingdom,  being critical of those who didn’t agree with me, and having an unteachable spirit. When He revealed these attitudes to me I was absolutely floored. I had never realized that this was the condition of my heart. He let me know that my spiritual arrogance had robbed Him of His glory, and this absolutely devastated me. You see, when I had entered ministry in 1997 my prayer was that I would always point eyes to Him and would never rob Him of the glory that was due to Him alone. I cannot explain how grieved I was to realize that this is just what I had done – robbed God of His glory, and was shocked to see what I had become. It was a gut punch that left me breathless and crushed. What God told Job in Job 40:8 applied directly to me: “Will you really annul My judgment? Will you condemn Me that you may be justified?” I had, in a sense, condemned Him to justify myself.

Then for the first time, I could see why God allowed all of those trials to enter my life and why  He needed to bring me so low. In His infinite wisdom He brought these trials as part of the breaking process to bring me to this very point in my journey. I didn’t know what to say to God other than what Job said in Job 42:5-6;  “I have heard of you by the hearing of the ear: but now my eye sees you. Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.  For the first time I started to understand what it meant to be broken. I cried out to God in repentance, and wasn’t sure what to do next. I had this feeling that, perhaps, He had given up on me for ministry, I know that I am still saved (by grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus alone), but the shame of my spiritual arrogance and the fact that I had robbed God of His glory was overwhelming. The fact that I am still standing and breathing, and the fact that I am still in ministry is a testimony to His grace. Now, each week when I preach and teach, and when I write these blogs or articles and letters in the newspaper, I am overwhelmed at His grace – overwhelmed that I am still fulfilling His call on my life, as I definitely don’t deserve to be in ministry. He hasn’t given up on me, still wants to use me, and still loves me in spite of myself.

Psalm 119:65, 67, and 75  is so applicable in my life: Psalm 119:65 –  “You have dealt well with Your servant, O LORD, according to Your wordPsalm 119:67 – “Before I was afflicted I went astray, But now I keep Your word“; Psalm 119:75 – “I know, O LORD, that Your judgments are righteous, And that in faithfulness You have afflicted me“. 

Is the breaking process over. No. It will be a life long journey, but I’ve experienced and learned so much. I know that I have nothing to offer Him but my brokenness, and I am nothing and have nothing apart from Him. Has the breaking process been hard. Definitely! Do I wish that I hadn’t have had to go through this painful process? Oh yes! However, am I glad that He has done this in my life? Absolutely! Without this breaking process, I would have continued in my spiritual arrogance, robbing Him of His glory, and been ignorant of my pitiful condition. My prayer now is that, in the rest of the years He has me on this planet, my original motive would be true – to point all eyes to Him and to bring glory to Him alone, and that He would rebuild this broken, shattered bond slave of His into a vessel worthy of His glory. In faithfulness and love He has afflicted me, and I love Him so very deeply!  Amen.

A BIBLICALLY BALANCED UNDERSTANDING ON IMMIGRATION

 

Immigration is a very controversial and emotional issue. I haven’t seen too many articles expressing a Biblical world view concerning this topic, so in this post I will endeavor to present a Biblically balanced worldview on this issue that is so dominant in our society. While the Bible doesn’t pointedly address the specific immigration issues we are currently facing in 2018, it does lay down general guidelines on the treatment of foreigners, and the role of government in a society. As uncompromised followers of Jesus, we need to know what these Biblical principles are regarding this issue, understand what they mean, and then apply them to our situation. While I am aware that everyone won’t agree with me, it is hoped that this discussion will encourage Christians to take a deep dive into Scripture in order to look at the issue.

Both the Old and New Testament mention foreigners and the treatment of them. In terms of the nation of Israel in the Old Testament, this was usually in context of non-Jews living in their midst.

When the Jews were redeemed out of Egypt by God many foreigners went with them (Exodus 12:37-38, Numbers 11:4, Joshua 8:35). These folks were accepted by the Jews and received special protection (Exodus 22:21, 23:9) and were to be loved by the Israelites (Leviticus 19:34). Additionally, they were granted privileges conditioned on their obedience to certain regulations. For example they were not to blaspheme God’s name (Leviticus 24:16), engage in idolatrous worship (Leviticus 20:2), participate in acts of sexual immorality (Leviticus 18:1-26), work on the Sabbath (Exodus 20:10), eat leavened bread during the Passover remembrance (Exodus 12:19), and eat blood or flesh from animals that had been ripped apart by other animals (Leviticus 17:10, 15). As long as the foreigners followed these laws they were to be protected and were given the same civil rights as Israelite citizens. Additionally, they could even own property (Leviticus 25:47) and offer sacrifices to God (Numbers 15:14, 22-29).

If a foreigner desired to be a citizen of Israel, he had to undergo circumcision, which then bound him to observe the entire law. He was then identified with the nation and included with it (Exodus 12:48), and then would enjoy the privileges of the covenant that God made with Israel.

It must be noted, however, that there were certain people who were excluded from fellowship with the nation of Israel: the seven Canaanites nations that lived in the Promised Land were destined to destruction and thus excluded permanently (Exodus 34:12-17, Deuteronomy 7:1-4), the Edomites and Egyptians were excluded until the third generation (Deuteronomy 23:7-8), and the Ammonites and Moabites were excluded until the tenth generation (Deuteronomy 23:3; the tenth generation could symbolically mean forever).

In the New Testament, Jesus constantly interacted with non-Jews, and came to declare God’s love for all people (John 3:16). In Jesus there were no longer racial or ethnic divisions (Galatians 3:26-29), but all humanity had the privilege of participating in the New Covenant of grace through faith in Jesus. Additionally, followers of Jesus were to treat all people, including foreigners, aliens, and strangers with love and respect (1 Peter 4:9, Romans 12:13, Hebrews 13:2).

Interestingly, believers in Jesus are, in a sense, considered aliens and strangers in this world as our true citizenship is in Heaven (1 Peter 2:11). However, even though “foreigners” here on earth, we still must obey the laws of the land we live in unless these laws contradict God’s moral absolutes as seen in Scripture (an example is Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refusing to worship Nebuchadnezzar’s image in Daniel 4) just as the non-Jews were expected to obey the laws of Israel and the Jews of Jesus’ day were expected to obey the laws of the Roman empire (again, obviously, unless they contradicted God’s commands). For example, Jesus said that we need to pay taxes (Luke 20:20-26), which was reiterated by Paul (Romans 13:6-7).

The next topic we need to look at is the Biblical teaching on the role of government in society. Civil governments are established by God to preserve order in society and to protect its citizens. Governments have been empowered by God for this task, and have the mandate to punish those who break the laws of country (Romans 13:1-7, 1 Peter 2:11-17). Citizens and, yes, aliens and strangers, must obey the laws of the land. Without this, chaos and anarchy abound. Additionally, the government has the right to exclude certain people from immigrating into the country if they pose the potential of doing harm to the citizens and residents of the country (refer to the exclusion of the Canaanite nations and the Moabites and Ammonites mentioned above).

To summarize our points so far, all people are to be treated with respect, and thus we are to welcome everyone, even foreigners (aliens and strangers) and treat them with love and respect. However, all people, even aliens and strangers, must be subject to the governing authorities and must obey the laws of the land. If not the government has the mandate to punish those who break the law.

Now that we have our Biblical foundation, how do we apply it to the illegal aliens, DACA individuals, and others who want to immigrate to the United States today?

First off, all people are to be treated with respect and dignity regardless of ethnicity or country of origin, and we welcome all of those into our country who enter legally, who will not be a potential threat to our safety, and who wish to participate in our society. Secondly, we are a nation of laws, and our laws must be obeyed. If not, the government has the responsibility to punish those who break the law because there must be consequences for illegal behavior or chaos will reign. (As an aside, there are some churches today that harbor illegal aliens from the government. I believe that this is wrong because abetting those who are lawbreakers is rebelling against God’s command to obey government. Remember, we obey the governing authorities as long as they don’t cause us to violate God’s commands. Our immigration laws are not in violation of God’s moral laws).

In regards to illegal aliens in our country today, they have broken the immigration laws of the United States and there must be consequences. But what about those who have been in this country for many years, have worked hard, been law abiding citizens, and have assimilated into our society? That’s a tough question, but I believe, using a Biblical world view, that there could be an approach that balances the spirit of the law with human compassion. For example, in cases like this for such illegal aliens a possible solution might be as follows:

  • If an illegal alien has committed a crime or has just used the welfare system they would be deported
  • For the others, allow them 60 days to start the process for a obtaining a one year temporary workers visa
  • For those who obtain such a visa, and when the one year is up, they must appear before an immigration official and prove that during the year they held the temporary workers visa they held a job, did not committed a crime, and learned enough English to be able to converse with the immigration official without an interpreter
  • if they pass these, they would be given a five year provisional visa
  • after the five years, they must show that they have held a job and not committed a crime
  • if they pass they would be given a permanent resident alien card
  • they could never become naturalized citizens because they initially entered the country illegally, and there must be consequences for breaking the law

Obviously this isn’t a perfect plan, but it is just an example of a solution that would keep consequences for breaking the law (by not allowing illegal immigrants to be naturalized citizens) while still showing compassion (by allowing them to stay permanently in the U.S as a legal resident). It would take some concerted effort to go through the process and learn English, but if they really want to stay in America and enjoy the opportunities that exist here, one would think that they would be willing to do whatever it took to see this through.

For DACA individuals who were brought to the U.S. illegally  as children by their parents, the same procedure mentioned above (including the time line) could be used, with the exception that they could earn citizenship instead of a permanent resident status. Since they didn’t have a choice on whether to cross the border illegally, citizenship could be obtained..

For those who want to immigrate to the U.S. in the future, a thorough vetting procedure must be set up and only those who don’t appear to be a threat to our country should be let in.

What about a wall on the Mexican border? I see nothing inherently evil in this. There is nothing immoral about a country clearly defining its borders.

I know that my discussion on this issue is far from  the ultimate solution, but I pray that it will help followers of Jesus get a better understanding of the issue and compel them to search Scripture for the questions they have. The Bible is always the final authority on all magters of theology and life. Christians must not be led by emotions, but must build a Biblical worldview on the moral issues of our day. A Biblical world view always brings the best solution.

 

 

OF DOVE AWARDS AND CHRISTIAN BOOK AWARDS

There are so many awards in the the area of the arts – Academy Awards, Emmy Awards, Grammy Awards, CMA Awards, Golden Globe Awards, Tony Awards, etc, etc, etc. These awards are very coveted and give the winners prestige, plaudits, and fame.  And, sadly, the church has adopted the practice of rewarding its artists.

Dove Awards are given each year to Christian musicians in categories such as Song of the Year, Male Vocalist of the Year, Female Vocalist of the Year, Group of the Year, Artist of the Year, Songwriter of the year, New Artist of the Year, Worship Song of the Year, and Praise & Worship Album of the Year (and many more). Also, these recording artists tape music videos of their popular songs, which are videos of them lip syncing their song with creative camera shots of them in while they “sing”. In the ones I have seen, the focus is always on themselves.

Another award in the Christian arts arena is given by the Evangelical Christian Book Association (ECBA) to Christian authors for books written in categories like Bibles, Bible Reference Works, Bible Study, Ministry Resources, Biography & Memoir, Christian Living, Faith & Culture, Devotion & Gift, Children, Young People’s Literature, and New Author. And, sadly, many books that are written by big name authors are really not written by them at all. They have “ghost writers” who actually write the books (using the authors main ideas), with the author putting his or her name on the cover as the writer of the book. I’m sorry, but this is just dishonest, even if they put the “ghost writer’s” name in much smaller print under their name (which is in very large print).

When these musicians and writers are given their awards on the big night, they thank God and say all praise goes to Him, but then they grab their awards and joyously receive all the adulation that comes with winning. The winners of these awards will tout their achievement, and make sure that everyone knows that they are a “Dove Award” winner or an “ECBA (or “Gold Medallion”) Award” winner when they come out with a new album or book. Additionally, when they appear on a Christian radio talk show or TV show, they are introduced with accolades about how many Dove Awards or ECBA Awards they have won. The more the better.

I don’t want to sound like a killjoy and a stick-in-the-mud, and I know that many don’t agree with me, but I think this is just wrong.

Awards for worship songs? Are we really competing with each other for who writes or sings the best worship music? Do we really compete with each other for who sings the best, or which band or soloist gives the best performance on stage? Are spiritual gifts given so we can compete with each other on whose is better? Is worship a competition?

And book awards for Bibles? Correct me if I’m wrong, but God is the author of the Bible. All the notes at the bottom of the pages are just extras. And regarding the other categories, do we really compete with each other to see who writes the best about God or the Christian life? Is the measure of a book determined by how many copies it sells and how popular it is with people?

All spiritual gifts are given by God and are given for one purpose – to bring Him glory. We should use them with humility, knowing that they are not ours to use for recognition, applause, or self gain. We don’t use them to compete with others who have been given the same spiritual gift for an award and a bigger recording/publishing contract. If anything, the very fact that God would give us certain gifts and use us at all should bring us to our knees before Him in humility and awe. It should compel us to recognize that we need Him in using these gifts, and that these gifts are useless when we exercise them in our own power for our own recognition.

I would love to see the recipient of one of these awards leave the trophy on the podium and never mention it again. And when one of these individuals is a guest on a radio or television show or at a conference, I would love for them to be introduced simply as a bond slave of Jesus, not as someone who has won “x” amount of Dove Awards with “x” amount of gold or platinum albums,  or the winner of “x” amount of Christian Book Awards with “x” amount of best sellers.

Don’t get me wrong, we all need encouragement as we serve our awesome God, and it gives us joy when we know that what we do is making a difference for the kingdom of God. But when we go out of our way to congratulate ourselves, to reward ourselves, and use these awards to promote ourselves, we have let pride take over and have actually robbed God of the glory that is due Him alone. We have put ourselves in the spotlight instead of Him, no matter how “Christianese” the acceptance speech is in saying that all glory goes to God, while the winners clutch their trophy and basks in their victory. Church, we have congratulated ourselves to death.

Serving God by using the spiritual gifts He has given us is both humbling and joyous. Humbling in the fact that none of us is worthy or capable of serving Him in our own strength, and joyous in the fact that serving Him in His power and strength for His glory makes Him smile and pleases Him.

Knowing that He is pleased and glorified is our reward. And no trophy or applause can ever rival that.

WILL THE CHURCH LET JESUS BACK IN?

 

In the second and third chapters of Revelation, John records seven letters that Jesus wrote to the churches in Asia Minor. Many believe that the seven churches represent seven stages of the church throughout its history since its birth at Pentecost, with the last church Jesus wrote to, the Laodicean church, representing the current church as we near the end times.

The Laodicean church was characterized by compromise and apostasy, as can be seen in Jesus’ statement to the church: So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth.  Because you say, ‘I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing,’ and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked, I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire so that you may become rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself, and that the shame of your nakedness will not be revealed; and eye salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see.” (Revelation 3:16-18) 

Then Jesus said this to the church:  Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me”.  This verse is usually used in evangelistic meetings, but, when taken in context, it has nothing to so with evangelism. Jesus is talking to a church, and thus, it is assumed, to believers. What Jesus is saying to this church, and, thus, too us today (if indeed the church of Laodicea represents the current church, which I believe it does) is to make the church about Him once again.

What a horribly tragic statement for Jesus to make. The church belongs to Him (Matthew 16:18), and He is the head of the church which is, spiritually speaking, His body (Colossians 1:18, Ephesians 4:15). The church exists to exalt Him, and thus He is the main focus of everything we are about. And yet we have, in a sense, ushered Him out the door. In this verse we see Jesus knocking on the door of His church, waiting for us to open the door to let Him back in.

How have we kicked Jesus out of His church? In our attempt to be relevant and popular with the culture we have become the focus of church instead of Him. Sermons are too often centered around “me”, using pop psychology, and shallow “feel good” messages that tickle our ears. We have become afraid to challenge the congregation with the true meaning of discipleship. How many sermons have you heard that teach absolute surrender of all we are and all we have to His lordship? Or sermons about dying to “self”, or spiritual brokenness, or biblical holiness? Have you been taught theology and doctrine (without good, sound theology we have no foundation on which to grow in our walk with Jesus…theology is absolutely crucial).  In my travels over the last twenty plus years of full time ministry, I have seen way too many shallow, lukewarm, mediocre Christians. And, disturbingly, most are totally comfortable and content to stay that way.

Unfortunately, the church has become only a shadow of what Jesus intended it to be. It is no longer a place of extravagant, heart felt worship, but has become a place of entertainment. I’ve come across numerous church web sites that tell potential visitors to just come as you are, bring your latte into the auditorium, and sit back and enjoy the “show”. They say to come and have fun. Fun? We don’t come to church to have “fun” (fun is what you experience a an amusement park). We go to church to worship our awesome God in reverence and awe. We go to bring a sacrifice of praise and to grow closer to Him, not to be entertained and given a pep talk on how to be successful and happy. To be sure, we do receive joy when we are in His presence worshiping Him, but that is a totally different thing than “fun”. Fun has its roots in our senses and emotions. Joy, on the other hand, has its roots deep within our souls.

Additionally, the church is supposed to be a place of prayer, but we have made it a place of pragmatism. Prayer should be the most important thing we do, and is indeed the very life blood of the church, but it has become just a quick interruption that we feel we need to do (if we do it at all) in the midst of our overbooked church calendars. Instead of prayer we have become self-reliant, self-sufficient, and self-empowered. We use Madison Avenue marketing techniques to make the church grow, secular business practices for managing the programs and staff, and statistics to measure our “success”. My friends, the church is not a business!  It is the body of Christ that is empowered by the Holy Spirit, and when we use worldly pragmatism we only get natural results, but when we pray and are empowered by the Holy Spirit, we’ll get supernatural results.

What a tragedy! Jesus, the Founder and Head, is no longer leading His church, the body. The body has severed itself from its Head and the results have been devastating. The church is scorned and mocked by the very culture we have been called to impact, and are now considered irrelevant and, shockingly, the biggest threat to the advancement of society.

The Laodicean church indeed!

My friend, Jesus is knocking on the door of our churches. He wants to come in and, once again, take His rightful place as the center focus and Head. Will we open the door and let Him in?

NONTHREATENING CHRISTIANITY IS COMPROMISED CHRISTIANITY

 

One of the popular buzzwords in the church today is “nonthreatening”. I’ve seen many churches tout their “nonthreatening” services, “nonthreatening” Bible studies, and I even saw one church invite people to their “nonthreatening” prayer meeting. When they say “nonthreatening” what they really mean is that they don’t want to offend anyone and want everybody to feel comfortable. It is their desire that everyone enjoy the service, Bible study or prayer meeting without feeling uneasy about what is said.

Simply put, “nonthreatening” Christianity is compromised Christianity.

This “nonthreatening” Christianity compromises the gospel message. You see, the gospel, by its very message, is very threatening. It tells me that I am a sinner separated from God, and the result is hell forever. It tells me that I’m not okay, and that I cannot earn, bribe, work for, or persuade my way into heaven. It tells me that Jesus had to go through a horrible physical death on the cross because of my sin, and had to endure the wrath of the Father that I deserve. It tells me that I must repent of my sins and put my trust solely in the finished work of Jesus on the cross.

The “nonthreatening” gospel is crossless and bloodless. People are invited to “accept Jesus in their heart”, and they will be on their way. There’s no mention of confession, repentance, conviction of sin, the cross, or the blood of our awesome Savior. Just accept Jesus in your heart. It’s nonthreatening and not offensive, but it is also worthless. Today;’s church is filled with people who think they are saved but have no clue what the true, biblical gospel is, and are on their way to a lost eternity. The “nonthreatening” gospel is cheap grace at its ugly best.

Additionally, “nonthreatening” Christianity compromises discipleship. To be a follower of Jesus, the Bible says that I need to surrender totally to Jesus and follow Him unconditionally. It tells me I need to die to self daily and, in spiritual brokenness, live as a bond slave of Him. It tells me that the cost of following Jesus may indeed be everything, and that I must be willing to forsake all for Him if He should ask me to do so. In a “me” focused culture, this is definitely offensive, and is very threatening to our self absorbed mindset.

“Nonthreatening” discipleship is void of any mention of holiness, sanctification, surrender or dying to self. In the minds of many in today’s church, following Jesus means owning a Bible, coming to church when it doesn’t conflict with other activities, and throwing a twenty in the offering plate once in a while. It is a cheap imitation of what the Bible clearly defines as being a Christian. This Christianity “lite” had weakened the church dramatically in the last couple of decades.

Yes, the truth may be hard to take because it is so convicting, but it is still the truth and the only way to real life. When we compromise the truth to make people feel comfortable and safe, we lead them on the dangerous path of eternal destruction (the “nonthreatening” gospel) and the pathetic road to a mediocre, shallow relationship with Jesus (“nonthreatening” discipleship).

We don’t need to be cute with Biblical truth. Just preach it, teach it, and share it, and let the Holy Spirit do His job in the hearts of people. Yes, the uncompromised proclamation of the gospel will be threatening and offensive to the unsaved, and the uncompromised truth about discipleship will be threatening and offensive to Christians .  But do we dare teach anything less? We were never called to make comfortable people in all nations. We were called to make disciples of all nations.

The truth may hurt, but the truth will set people truly free.

“LORD, BREAK ME” – A BOLD AND DARING PRAYER

 

I have been a Christian for 37 years. About a year after I was born again I read a short book by William MacDonald entitled “Lord, Break Me”. After I read it, I figured that this was crucial to living a life honoring to God, so I prayed that the Lord would break me. A short time after I prayed this I mentioned it to an older fella who had been a Christian for many, many years. When he heard what I prayer he smiled, shook his head, and said “Man, are you in for it now. That’s a prayer that God always answers”.

Well, about 36 years later I can say that God certainly does answer this prayer, and it takes a long time, dare I say a lifetime, to answer.

God answers this prayer because it gets at the very heart of what He wants from us – total devotion and surrender. David said in Psalm 51:16-17: “For You do not delight in sacrifice, otherwise I would give it; You are not pleased with burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; A broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.”

What does it mean to be “broken”? It means to be reduced to the point of humbly realizing and accepting that without Jesus we are nothing. It is to understand we are spiritually bankrupt without Him, and have nothing to offer Him but our total brokenness. Simply put, being broken is to die to self and totally surrender all of yourself to Him. “Self” (the prideful “me” that wants to be in control of my life) must be reckoned as dead, because “self” does nothing to bring Him glory.

The breaking process is long, tedious, and painful.  God must bring us to and through many dark times, uncertain days, many tears, gut wrenching revelations about ourselves, and humbling experiences. To break us of our pride, self-reliance, self-sufficiency, selfishness, idolatry, and worldly ways necessitates some drastic measures, and God is a master of these measures. However, spiritual brokenness is the key to His heart.

It is the broken person who God can use powerfully in this world. You see, God must shatter us so that He can rebuild us into a vessel He can use. Danish philosopher and theologian Soren Kierkrgaard once said: “God created everything out of nothing. And everything which God is to use He first reduces to nothing”.

If God is to indeed break us, the process is long and hard, trust me, I know this first hand because It has been over 36 years since I prayed that prayer and I’m still in the process. Along the way He has brought me to my knees in tears many times, and has been relentless in the process. But along the way I have experienced Him in ways that I would have never known without the process. You see, God cannot have the results of the process (deep intimacy with us and anointing to bring Him glory in our lives) without the process (breaking us).

Think of it in terms of a fruit tree. We have lots of them in our yard and every January we prune them pretty severely. We cut off the dead or diseased branches that will harm the tree, and prune the good branches way back to allow for new growth in the spring. Now if the tree could talk it would probably shout “STOP!  This hurts, and you are wrecking me!!”. But we know that, in order to bear good fruit in the summer, the hard pruning is necessary. Do you see the parallel for us? In order to be fruit bearing and useful to God, He must do the same to us.

Just last Sunday in our service as we were singing in worship, God reminded me of this prayer that I prayed so many years ago. I realized that He hasn’t forgotten it, is still in process of answering it, and wants me to remember and reaffirm it. I was overwhelmed in His presence, and knew that the breaking process, though painful and ongoing, has brought me to this point in my life. I’m not sure what He has planned for me around the corner, but whatever it is, I know that the breaking process has prepared me, and is preparing me, for it.

My friends, will you be daring and bold enough to pray, in all seriousness and earnestness, “Lord, break me”? Will you invite Him to crush the worldly part of you that keeps you from a deep intimate relationship with Him and from the power He would bestow on you so as to use you for His glory? It is what He desires to do in your life because He loves you too much to leave you as you are. Being broken is the key to His heart. Isaiah 57:15 says: “For thus says the high and exalted One Who lives forever, whose name is Holy, “I dwell on a high and holy place, And also with the contrite and lowly of spirit In order to revive the spirit of the lowly And to revive the heart of the contrite”.

It’s up to you. It’s an act of your will that results from being sick and tired of mediocrity and shallowness in your walk with Jesus, and from a heart that is hungry and thirsty for Him. Is it painful? YES! Is it necessary? YES! Is it worth it? YES! Is it what God wants from you? YES!

My friends, will you right now bow in humility in His presence and dare to pray: “Lord, break me!”?

 

FOOLS FOR JESUS

Fool. A word that  such a negative definition. The  Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines it as “a person lacking in judgment or prudence; a harmlessly deranged person or one lacking in common powers of understanding”   Indeed, no one wants to be called a fool.

However, there is a “fool” we should all strive to be – a fool for Jesus. Paul said in 1 Corinthians 4:9-10: ” For, I think, God has exhibited us apostles last of all, as men condemned to death; because we have become a spectacle to the world, both to angels and to men.  We are fools for Christ’s sake,..”.

Being a “fool” for Jesus,  What does this mean? It means climbing uphill in a downward spiraling world, It means swimming upstream against the current of popular opinion.  It means dying to self and surrendering our wills totally to Him.  A fool for Jesus draws a line in the sand and takes a stand for God’s standards of  holiness, not living for pleasure, power, plaudits, or position, but for His glory, A fool for Jesus is on a passionate, relentless, radical pursuit of Him and of holiness.

Jesus said in Luke 9:23: “… If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me”.  Denying ourselves means dying to self and handing Him the reigns of our lives. Taking up our cross means to live the life He led, the life that was totally abandoned to the will of the Father. Following Him means to have an uncompromised walk of obedience to Him. A true disciple of Jesus is the true counter culture.

The world looks at such Christians as “fools” and thinks that they are out of their minds because following Jesus, in their eyes, is a mindless journey that leads to failure, shame, and drudgery.”After all”, they say, “why would anyone want to abandon their lives to some religious nutcase that died over two thousand years ago?  After all, we are the captains of our ship and the masters of our fate”.

Oh, how wrong they are.  The greatest journey on the planet is found on the road of absolute surrender to Jesus and living for His glory. There is no peace, no hope, no purpose in life, and no meaning of life apart from Him. A fool for Jesus will be made fun of and laughed at. They might lose friends, be shunned by family members, and passed over for promotions at work. But a fool for Jesus, one who is deep in intimacy with Him, does not turn back because they know the Truth (Jesus), and the Truth has set them free.  As Jonathan Edwards is quoted as saying in his resolutions: “Resolution One: I will live for God. Resolution Two: If no one else does, I still will”. Fools for Jesus don’t care what others think about them. They only care about what Jesus knows about them.

Are you a “fool” for Jesus? Are you sold out to Him and on the journey of surrender, giving all rights to yourself to Him? Are you on a passionate, relentless journey of holiness? As Jim Elliot said: “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose”.

IS IT TOO LATE FOR THE UNITED STATES?

2 Kings 22-23 and 2 Chronicles 34-35 record King Josiah’s reign in Judah. His grandfather, Manasseh, who was the longest reigning and the most wicked king in the history of Israel, had led Judah into the depths of depravity that are indeed shocking. Although he repented and attempted to do good in the last six years of his reign, it was too late. In the previous 49 years his sin was so horrendously evil that he had crossed the line and assured Israel of God’s righteous judgment. Manasseh’s son, Amon, even though his reign was only two years, continued the evil ways of his father.

It is into this context that Amon’s son (and Manasseh’s grandson) son, Josiah took the throne when he was only eight years old. At the age of sixteen he began to seek after God, and when he was twenty he initiated incredible reforms in Judah.

During this time the Book of the Law was found in the Temple. When it was read to Josiah, he immediately realized the horrible state of apostasy of the nation and fell into deep repentance over their sin. He sought God’s direction on what to do and, through the prophetess Huldah, God told him that it was too late for Judah. His grandfather, Manasseh, had crossed the line of wickedness and the sins of the nation were so grievous that His righteous judgment was coming (by way of Babylonian take over, destruction of Jerusalem, and exile of the people). However, God said that, since Josiah humbled himself before Him and repented from his heart, he would not experience this judgment, but would have peace in his days. Josiah then led one of the most powerful revivals the world has ever seen.

This story brings my thoughts to the current condition of America. We have moved far from God, and are steeped in gross sin. Many evangelical leaders are crying out for God to have mercy on our nation, but, I wonder, have we crossed the line? Like Judah, is it too late for the United States to avoid God’s righteous judgment?

The sins of our nation are great. Consider:

  • Over 58 million babies have been slaughtered in their mother’s womb since the Roe v Wade decision in 1973.
  • Recently, hundreds of thousands of women marched around the country to retain the “right” to kill their own babies.
  • Assisted suicide is now legal in six states.
  • Recreational use of marijuana (which is a gateway to harder drugs) is legal in seven states and Washington D.C.
  • The Supreme Court has made gay marriage legal in the country
  • Eighteen states have “bathroom bills” (males can use female bathrooms and locker rooms if they feel female, and females can use male facilities if they feel male), and many more states have pending legislation regarding this matter.
  • Gay pride parades are celebrated by society.
  • The “hook up” generation, which sees sex as just another type of recreation to be engaged in whenever one feels the desire and with whoever is available at the time, is now the norm
  • Pornography literally floods the internet.
  • God’s moral absolute truth is scoffed at and has been replaced by relativism and political correctness.
  • Biblical Christianity is considered by some to be a threat to the progress of humanity and has been equated to terrorism.
  • Organizations like the ACLU and the Freedom From Religion Foundation spend vast amounts of money and energy attempting to oust God from society.

And this is just some of the evil that abounds today. I’m definitely not a prophet, but it sure seems like we have crossed the line and reached the point of no return. As it was during the reign of Manasseh, our wicked culture has thumbed its nose at God and defiantly, arrogantly, and brazenly trampled on His majesty, holiness, righteousness, and sovereignty.  And the consequences will be terrifying. Just look at what happened to Israel.

As I study eschatology (end times) from Scripture, I never see a reference to any nation from the west. Evidently, the western world, including the United States, deteriorates into oblivion. Nations crumble from within, and it appears that America is well on its way.  If He brought His righteous judgment on Israel, His covenant nation, we dare not smugly think that He won’t bring His righteous judgment on the United States. I believe that the terrorist attacks of 9-11 were a wake up call from God to our country. However, we failed to respond to His call. Is God’s judgment on our blasphemous nation looming on the horizon? Have we reached the point of no return?

If so, church, what do we do? Just ignore the signs? Just sit back and wait for Jesus to come back and take us home? Definitely not! We need to be like Josiah, who, even though he knew God’s judgment was coming, continued to work towards bringing a final revival in the hearts of the people of Judah. Likewise, we need to keep praying, keep preaching, keep witnessing, and keep serving for His glory. Who knows, perhaps He will send an end times revival, a Third Great Awakening, before the hammer of His judgment falls.

Church, its time for us, God’s people to follow Josiah’s example and fall on our faces in deep humility and repentance before our holy God. We need to repent of our own sins and the sins of our nation. The order here is absolutely crucial – we must first repent of our own sins. You see, my friends, the church of Jesus, the bride of Christ, has played the harlot with the world. We have gone after other “lovers” – popularity, glitz and glamour, fancy buildings, “coolness”, and pragmatism. We have watered down the gospel into a bloodless and crossless “accept Jesus in your heart” transaction, and have made discipleship an easy, breezy journey that is centered on personal happiness and worldly success. We have replaced the Holy Spirit with programs and marketing gimmicks,  holiness with happiness, and the focus on Jesus with the focus on “self”. Bottom line – the church has lost its power because its lost its first Love.

In Ezekiel 9:5-6, God, after having an angel put a mark on those in Israel who faithfully followed Him, is dispatching His angels to bring judgment on those without the mark, and He says these chilling words:  But to the others He said in my hearing, ‘Go through the city after him and strike; do not let your eye have pity, and do not spare. Utterly slay old men, young men, maidens, little children, and women, but do not touch any man on whom is the mark; and you shall start from My sanctuary‘. So they started with the elders who were before the temple”.

The judgment was going to begin in the Temple, where His holiness and majesty should have been reverenced. I wonder, is God going to begin His judgment on the United States with His church? Will His righteous judgment come because of our lukewarmness, worldliness, and worship of “self”?  Oh, my friends, we need to repent! Just think, if every true believer in Jesus would humble themselves and cry out to God in repentance for their sins and the sins of our nation, God could do incredible things in these last days through a humble, surrendered, sold out church? This is our only hope.

Is it too late? Maybe. Maybe not. But regardless of what He has planned, what are you doing to bring one last revival?

 

A CHRISTMAS POEM

It’s time now for Christmas, two thousand sixteen
And we say “peace on earth”, but this peace is so lean

Whites are against blacks and blacks are against whites
And Hispanics, too, are in the midst of the fight

Terrorists abound, wickedly spreading their fear
Killing at will, more and more every year

Babies are slaughtered before they are born
And drugs are made legal, so lives can be torn

Marriage has been cheapened into anything we want
And those who oppose this are met with a taunt

Boys will be girls and girls will be boys
Using bathrooms depending on their own private joys

What was once called evil is now thought as good
And morality is formed as each thinks it should

Peace on earth? I laugh at this thought
For this land is in chaos and goodness is not

But through this deep darkness a hope does shine clear
For two thousand years ago a Savior came near

He was born in cave where farm animals were fed
And laid in a manger with hay as His bed

But this child who was born in such humble estate
Was God in the flesh, who is mighty and great

Jesus was the name the parents gave to their son
And raised Him in Nazareth, a town all did shun

More than thirty years later on a cross He would die
To reconcile sinners to God the most high

And He rose from the dead, the Savior does live!
And to those who repent, salvation He’ll give

So in a world wrought with strife and where evil abounds
True peace can be yours, yes, it can really be found

But only through Jesus, the child who was born
Two thousand years ago on that first Christmas morn