Author Archives: uncompromisedchristianity

A PRAYER FOR THE CHURCH IN AMERICA FOR 2016

A prayer for the church in America for 2016:

Father,

We enter this new year in a world that seems to be spinning furiously out of control – terrorism,  crime, racism, hatred, sexual immorality, disregard for human life, and relativism abound. Our country champions those things that You hate, and disregards, and even loathes, the things You love. America is creeping closer and closer to the point of no return, and seems to be unconcerned about it. As we look to the future, is judgment on the horizon?

And Father, Your church has joined the culture in the parade towards judgment. Oh, we haven’t purposely rebelled against You or devised a diabolical plan to plunge into doom. But we have become like the proverbial frog in the boiling pot – slowing dying without realizing it.

We’ve gotten away from Biblical truth and turned to pop psychology and the latest fad in our teaching and preaching. In order to be non-offensive and non-threatening to attendees we avoid truths like holiness, absolute surrender, dying to self, and brokenness, and have become wishy-washy on moral issues like gay marriage, the sanctity of life, divorce, and pornography. We’ve turned heartfelt worship into cheap entertainment, and instead of calling on the power of the Holy Spirit in fervent prayer, we’ve relied on marketing techniques, business models, and cutting edge technology.

We’ve done this under the guise of being relevant, but the only thing we have become is irreverent. In a sense, we’ve sold our soul for popularity, and have deeply offended You. Instead of being transformed into the likeness of Jesus and living in deep intimacy with Him, we’ve been conformed into the shallow, self-absorbed, ungodly likeness of the world.

Father, I pray that in 2016 we, Your church, would fall on our faces before You in deep, humble repentance and cry out to You day and night for a life transforming move of the Holy Spirit in revival so that we would fall in love with You all over again and be totally sold out to You. And Lord, I confess my need of personal revival, so may it start in me.

In Jesus’ name, Amen.

O LORD, HEAR US FROM HEAVEN

In Solomon’s dedicatory prayer over the Temple in 1 Kings 8:22-53 he asks God to “hear from Heaven” eight times. In each case it is in regards to a person, persons, or the nation confessing their sin, turning from it, and imploring God to have mercy and act on their behalf.

While the whole prayer is incredible, verses 46-51 are especially eye-opening:

“When they [Israelites] sin against you—for there is no one who does not sin—and you become angry with them and give them over to the enemy, who takes them captive to his own land, far away or near; and if they have a change of heart in the land where they are held captive, and repent and plead with you in the land of their conquerors and say, ‘We have sinned, we have done wrong, we have acted wickedly’; and if they turn back to you with all their heart and soul in the land of their enemies who took them captive, and pray to you toward the land you gave their fathers, toward the city you have chosen and the temple I have built for your Name; then from heaven, your dwelling place, hear their prayer and their plea, and uphold their cause. And forgive your people, who have sinned against you; forgive all the offenses they have committed against you, and cause their conquerors to show them mercy; for they are your people and your inheritance, whom you brought out of Egypt, out of that iron-smelting furnace.

While the United States has not been conquered and taken captive by our enemies as of yet, it’s as if Solomon was praying today for our country. We have indeed acted wickedly towards God in our nation. We have ousted Him from most aspects of our society and thumbed our nose at His moral absolutes – abortion, gay marriage, doctor assisted suicide, embryonic stem cell research, pornography, sex outside of the marriage covenant, divorce, dishonesty, greed, etc. In our cowardly political correctness, we congratulate and champion wickedness, and condemn those who hold to biblical standards of righteousness. And it seems to be getting worse every day.

And what about the church? The church in America has lost its way. Jesus is no longer the cornerstone, and has been replaced by programs, pragmatism, a lust for popularity, pop entertainment, compromised teaching and preaching, and a counterfeit holiness. The church is no longer the light that shines the truth of Jesus to a dark world. Sadly, many in our culture look at the church as totally irrelevant to life in our society.  How far we have fallen!

What can change this? What can reverse the growing darkness of evil and anti God thought in our land that seems to be progressing at an alarming rate?  Solomon, in the verses quoted above has laid out God’s masterful blueprint for how things can turn around.

“…and say, ‘We have sinned, we have done wrong, we have acted wickedly..”.  First we must confess our sins. Confession literally means to “say the same word”,i.e. to agree with. We must fall on our faces before our holy God and agree with Him that we, each one of us, and our nation, has fallen short of His holy standards. No more sweeping our sin under the rug, rationalizing it away, or blaming others. It’s time, with brutal honesty, to be transparent, to humble ourselves before Him, and to acknowledge our failures before our holy God.

“…and if they have a change of heart…and if they turn back to you with all their heart and soul…”   Confession is a great place to start, but it is not enough.  We must also repent. Repentance means to have a change of direction, which means that we must not only confess our sins, but also take whatever action necessary, even if it means radical action, to get to the root of our sin and obliterate it from our lives. It means to hate our sin because it grieves our holy God, and to have no desire for it in the future. Notice Solomon said “with all their heart and soul”.  True repentance originates from deep in the recesses of our souls and is seen in our actions. Half hearted repentance is no repentance.

and pray to you …”  After confession and repentance from the heart, we must then cast ourselves on God’s mercy, humbly asking for His forgiveness and to, once again, bless us with His presence. All great revivals in history were brought about when a remnant of God’s people fell before God in deep, fervent, desperate, urgent prayer. Prayer is the catalyst for revival. As Solomon dedicated the Temple, the main theme was prayer (it is mentioned no less than 25 times in his dedication), which tells us that while the sacrifices and rites were important in the temple, prayer would be the key. So too with the church. Preaching, teaching, worship, and outreach are vital parts of our churches, but prayer is the power that ignites these ministries to be glorifying to God and fruitful in their results .

 “…then from heaven, your dwelling place, hear their prayer and their plea, and uphold their cause. And forgive your people…” While revival is a sovereign act of God, when we humble ourselves and cry out to Him, we have confidence that He hears us, and our hope is that He sends a life changing and culture transforming revival in our midst. We first cleanse our hearts and then trust that our prayers are pleasing to Him and that, from His holy throne in Heaven, He hears us (i.e: responds to our cries for forgiveness and to our pleas for revival).

What a phenomenal dedication prayer by King Solomon. Read the whole prayer over very carefully and meditate on it, deeply digging out the poignant applications for us today. My friend, we live in dark times and the darkness is spreading thicker and thicker in our nation. Only a powerful move of God in an authentic revival will save us. Will you be part of the remnant and humble yourself, confess your own sin and the sin of our nation, repent with  all your heart, and cry out to God for mercy? He is our only hope. If the United States continues on its present path, we face the tragic consequences of God’s judgment. If we don’t confess, repent, and cry out to Him for mercy, is our fate going to be like that of ancient Israel, who was conquered by a foreign nation and taken captive? It’s time to cry out with a sense of utgency.

Oh Sovereign Lord, HEAR US FROM HEAVEN!!

THE BRIDE IS NOT READY

There is a popular song currently heard on Christian radio that contains the following lyrics: “Like a bride waiting for her groom we’ll be a church ready for you”.  The bride refers to the church as the bride of Christ (taken from Revelation 19:7, 21:2, 21:9), and the lyrics convey the idea that the church is ready to present herself to her Groom, Jesus, for the great wedding feast at the end times.

My friends, the church is not ready for her groom.

When you attend a wedding, you’ll always see the bride carefully adorned for her husband – impeccably groomed, a carefully coiffed hairstyle, a clean beautiful gown, nice shoes, tasteful makeup, and subtly sweet perfume. As the saying goes, all brides are beautiful on their wedding day.

However, let’s say you are invited to a wedding and, as the wedding march is played and you stand to greet the bride, you are astonished at what you see – her hair is unkempt, her gown is torn, her shoes are dirty, her faced is smudged with dirt, and she smells like she just got through mowing the back forty. This bride was definitely not ready to present herself at her best to her husband.

This, I believe, is how the church, the bride of Christ, currently is in America (author’s note: When I talk about the church in this post, I am talking about the church in general, not every single church, as there are some good Biblically based churches that remain uncompromised. However, the majority of churches have left their First Love).

A bride should present herself to her groom well prepared and chaste. And the church as the bride of Christ is anything but prepared and chaste. We have played the harlot with the world by going after other lovers – popularity, political correctness, compromised theology based on our culture instead of God’s absolute truth, lavish buildings, overflowing calendars, big attendance numbers, a non threatening gospel void of the cross and blood of Jesus, hardly a mention of repentance, an easy, breezy discipleship without calls to holiness, surrender, brokenness, or dying to self, and a biblically and theologically illiterate membership that is satisfied with a shallow, inch deep and mile wide relationship with our awesome Savior.

In a seeker and emergent church culture we’ve watered down the truth in order to be relevant and to keep the people happy and coming back. We’ve turned authentic, heartfelt worship into a Hollywood extravaganza meant to entertain attendees. We’ve turned the church into a “latte bar” style lounge so that everyone feels comfortable and “safe”.  And we’ve taken the focus off of Jesus and placed it directly on ourselves. In a sense, we’ve amused ourselves to death, and we’ve become so culturally relevant that we, in reality, have become spiritually irreverent.

No, the bride is not chaste, prepared, or ready for her Groom.

The lyrics of the song mentioned above might make us feel warm and fuzzy, but it is far from the truth. Church, we need to get ourselves ready to meet our Groom, and it will not be easy. In fact, it will be downright painful. If we fail to prepare ourselves, God’s judgment on America will have to start inside the walls of His church, with His bride. In Ezekiel 9: 5-6, God commissioned His angel to bring judgment on people who did not follow Him, and then told the angel “Begin at My sanctuary”.  These are chilling words, as they show that God’s own people had turned their backs on Him and followed after the world, and His judgment started with them.

You see, God is not shy about bringing judgment on His own. Church in the United States, take note.

The bride of Christ, the church, is supposed to be His tongue, arms, and legs in this world to influence culture with the gospel, and yet, sadly, just the opposite has happened – our evil culture has influenced the church. The influence has been so impactful that the church looks and acts just like the world – divorce, adultery, premarital sex, pornography, lying, cheating, gossip, materialism, self-centeredness, divisions and factions, and in some churches, the acceptance of homosexuality.

The bride has been soiled by the filth of the world and is no longer chaste.

How do we change this? How do we make ourselves beautifully adorned and chaste for our soon coming Groom? The only way is through a genuine revival.  And while revival is a sovereign work of God, all revivals in history have come when God’s people fell on their faces in humility and repented of their own sins and the sins of their nation. People were cut to the very core of their souls with their sin and wept in deep anguish over it, not because they got caught or because of the consequences they might face, but because it, in essence, slaps Jesus in the face and offends our Holy God.

When was the last time you, or your church, wept over sin? When was the last time you or people in your church fervently and passionately cried out to God for mercy and, with a sense of urgency called out to Him to bring a revival – first in yourself and then in His church? The results of revival are incredible, but the process is painful. Each of us must come to grips with our own sin – pride, self centeredness, self-righteousness, lust, unforgiving spirits, gossip, jealousy, critical spirits, materialism, idolatry, sexual sin, lying, unwholesome entertainment choices, and lukewarmness. We must come to the point where we honestly and humbly acknowledge these before God and hate our rebellion against a Him, and cry out in repentance. Then we must confess the sins of our nation and cry out to God for mercy. Nothing short of this amongst God’s people will bring a revival.

We desperately need revival, God has done it before and He can do it again. The spiritual condition of our country was pretty deplorable before both the First Great Awakening and the Second Great Awakenings, but God responded to the cries of His people and brought powerful revivals. A Third Great Awakening is our only hope.

A revived church would fall in love with Jesus all over again. A revived church would be characterized by a hunger and thirst for deep intimacy with Jesus, a passion for holiness, an unquenchable desire for the Word, lavish worship, sold out devotion to Him, and a continual attitude of fervent prayer. A revived church would have an incredible impact on its society, and evangelism would come so naturally that scores of people would be saved, and, as a result, marriages would be healed, fractured relationships mended, evil vices stopped, and goodness sought.

But revival must start in the church before its effects are seen in our communities. Church, have we had enough of lazy, compromised, worldly Christianity?  Do we want to present ourselves to our Groom chaste and adorned, ready for His return? If so, then our only hope is revival.

We must look at our culture with a sense of urgency. We could be dangerously close to experiencing God’s righteous judgment. Will you pray, with that sense of urgency, for God to send revival our way, And, more importantly, will you pray that He starts this Third Great Awakening with YOU?

THE QUESTION OF EVIL

The existence of evil has perplexed people for centuries. Philosophers have pondered its meaning, sociologists have studied its impact, psychologists have analyzed its behaviors, theologians have questioned its origins, atheists have embraced it in their argument against the existence of God, and all people try to survive in a world filled with it. Everyone must wrestle with the question of evil, regardless of one’s belief.

As mentioned above, atheists say that the existence of evil proves that the “good and loving” God of the Christians doesn’t exist because how could a “good and loving” God allow such horrible things to occur in His creation. As renowned British atheist Bertrand Russell famously said: “No one can sit at the bedside of a dying child and still believe in God”.

And if we are to be totally honest, most Christians struggle with this also. When we hear about rape, murder, sex trafficking, child abuse, torture, Ponzi schemes, children with fatal diseases, innocent people dying in at the hands of drunk drivers, birth deformities, etc. we wonder: “How could God, who created and controls everything in the universe, allow such wickedness?”. And many also wonder: “Since God created all things, did He, then, create evil too? How can this be if the God we believe in is perfectly righteous and holy?”

And this can leave our faith shaken to the core.

In order to have a deep, unwavering faith and a proper understanding of God we must wrestle with the existence of evil. How, then, do we as believers in the one true God answer the problem of evil?

First we acknowledge that, indeed, God is the creator of all things as the Bible says. The first two chapters of Genesis make this clear.  Additionally, when talking about Jesus, the Bible says in  John 1:3: “Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.” and in Colossians 1:16: “For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him.” As Christians, we believe this without any reservation. Well, some say, does this mean that He also created evil?

The verses cited above tell us that God created “all things“, but we must be careful about how we understand this. In interpreting this statement, we must also understand the nature and character of God. The Bible tells us that God is perfectly holy and righteous, and cannot think of doing evil, cannot actually do evil, and can’t force us to do evil. Thus, when we read that God created all things, we must understand this to mean that He created all things in perfect agreement with His nature,  and therefore cannot create anything that is evil. Simply put, God cannot create anything that is inconsistent with who He is. Indeed, five times in the creation narrative in Genesis, Scripture says that God saw that what He had created was good. And, after His creative work was completed on the sixth day, He saw that everything was very good.

Well, then, where does evil come from?

To answer this question we must first answer another question – what is exactly is evil? Evil is not a “thing” in the sense of something tangible. You can’t hold it or touch it like a rock, a rose, or a cat. Evil is what we see played out in our world when human beings choose to rebel against God’s holy standards.

God created humans with a moral will and therefore with the ability to make moral choices. When we choose to obey His moral standards the result is goodness. However, when we choose the opposite, when we choose to disregard God’s commands, goodness is absent, and therefore something else must naturally occur to take the place of goodness. That something is evil. The evil we see played out in our world is the result of people making “anti-God” choices.

When God created man with free will, He allowed for the possibility of evil to exist. This is very important to grasp so allow me to repeat it – God did not create evil but in creating human beings with free will He allowed for the possibility of evil to exist if these human beings He created chose to violate His laws. And in the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve did exactly that – they chose, out of their free will, to violate God’s command concerning the eating of the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. And when they did eat of the tree evil entered God’s “good creation”.

The question that naturally follows, and that is asked quite often, is: “Well, then, why doesn’t God do something about the evil that exists in our world? Why doesn’t He rid the world of evil? After all, He is all-powerful, right?” The answer is simple – He definitely could rid the earth of all evil. But if he did get rid of all evil in our world five minutes from now, where would you and I be in five minutes and one second? The earth would be absent of human beings (you and I included) because we all have violated, and continue to violate, God’s moral laws in some fashion. We may not be murderers or rapists, but we are selfish, proud, gossips, liars, and envious at times, and all of these are violations of God’s moral standards. You see, if God would rid the earth of evil He would essentially have to unmake the present earth and start again. So instead of complaining about evil, we all should be thankful that God is patient with us and extends his mercy and grace to sinners like us.

However, when people ask why God doesn’t do something about evil, we do have a powerful answer to give them: “Yes, God indeed did do something about evil. Something profound. He came to earth as a human being in the person of Jesus Christ to pay the penalty for all the evil that all humans do by dying on a cross. Now, for those who trust in Him as Savior, there is forgiveness and eternal life”. Profound indeed!

Going back to Bertrand Russell’s statement mentioned above, we can reverse his question and ask: “What does an atheist say at the bedside of a dying child? ‘Oh well, that’s the way it goes.Only the strong survive and I guess that you’re not one of them. Tough luck.'” Not very comforting words are they. However, what does a Christian say at the bedside of a dying child: “There is a God who created you and who loves you and has paid the price for your salvation. If you trust in Him as Savior, you will live with Him in perfect peace and joy forever”.

That’s quite a difference.

Yes, evil does abound in the world, and will until Jesus comes back in all His glory, but don’t let that shake your faith. God is still on the throne and is sovereign over all. In the end He will make all things right. When we get to heaven evil will not exist and there will only be utter perfection, beautiful goodness, and absolute holiness. And that’s something to truly look forward to!

MORE OF GOD…OR LESS OF ME?

I’ve heard many Christians over the years say that they want more of God in their lives. Indeed, there have been numerous songs sung and books written about wanting more of God. But is this a correct statement to make? I think we might have it backwards.

You see, when someone trusts in Jesus as Savior, immediately, at that very moment, the Holy Spirit  regenerates, indwells, baptizes, and seals the individual. Regeneration means that the person is “born again” and is a new creation in Christ. Indwelling means that the Holy Spirit’s presence takes residence in the new believer, and guides, teaches, convicts, and empowers the him/her in their Christian walk. Baptism means that the new believer is initiated into the family of God and is now identified as a child of God. The sealing aspect of the Holy Spirit is a mark of ownership and protection, which means that we now belong to God and He protects that which is His.

All this happens at the very second of salvation. Pretty special isn’t it.

According to this spiritual truth, every believer has all of God they will ever get. Ephesians 1:3 states: “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.”  , and 1 Peter 1:2-3 says: “Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness.”  (emphasis mine in both verses).

Do you see that God has blessed us with every spiritual blessing. When the Holy Spirit indwelt us upon salvation, we didn’t get half of Him, or three-quarters, or ninety nine percent. We got all of Him.  Thus, we cannot get “more of God” than we already possess through our faith in Jesus.

Well, then, why don’t most of us experience more of God in our lives? The answer is simple, and gives us the direction of what our prayer should really be. You see, my friends, in order for us to experience more of God, we have to give Him more of us. In fact, we need to give Him more of us, and more of us, and more of us, until we give Him ALL of us! Our prayer must be: “Lord, show me areas in my life that I still control, the areas that I don’t want You to have and want to keep for myself, and then give me the courage to surrender them totally to You. All of them”.

Our desire must not be “I want more of God”, but must be “God, I give You all of me”. We need to be like John the Baptist who said in John 3:30 “He must become greater; I must become less. “

Too many Christians want God’s presence without surrender. They want the power of God in their lives while “self” is still in control.  It just doesn’t work that way. You see, God is not going to force us to surrender. Surrender is an act of our will that intentionally gives the reigns of our lives to Him. It is dying to self and unconditionally giving Him every facet of our lives.

However, we often fight surrender because it goes against our natural inclinations. After all, we want to be masters of our own fate and captains of our own ship. We want to call the shots. Yet, we know deep down that in order to experience God’s incredible presence we need to do just the opposite . That is why surrender is a life long journey, a journey that continually, daily, dies to self and yields more and more to Him.

Have you said, or are you saying now “I want more of God”? The solution is simple. Just give Him more of you. Remember, if you are truly born again you have all of God you will get. Now, to experience His glorious presence, you need to surrender to Him and give Him more of you and more of you until you give Him all of you. This is the only way to go deep into intimacy with Him.

WIll you join me in saying this –  In my life:  Less of me until there is none of me. More of Him until there is none but Him.

THE MR. POTATO HEAD GOD

Remember Mr. Potato Head, the toy that let you grab a potato and create many different kinds of faces, depending on what you liked? It was fun, and your creativity was only limited by the number of combinations in the box. We felt empowered to create a potato man just as we desired.

Unfortunately, too many Christians have created what I call a “Mr. Potato Head” God. Many have, in their minds, created a God as they desire, a God that fits their lifestyle and makes them happy, instead of holding to a Biblically balanced knowledge of God.

Some have created a God who is like a benevolent old grandfather rocking in his chair in heaven, looking away at our sin because He is loving and just wants us to be happy. This God has dropped His absolute standards of morality because we are living in an ever-changing culture, and the measurement of happiness has changed with it. This God allows us to have premarital sex, live in a homosexual lifestyle, divorce our spouse for any reason, view pornography, cheat, lie, view unwholesome movies and television, and gossip without restraint. He is like our own cosmic bell hop who is at our beck and call to give us whatever makes us happy including health, wealth, and pleasure. This type of God can be loved but not truly honored, feared (respected) or worshiped. This view of God leads to a lifestyle characterized by license.

Others have created an angry God who is ready to stomp on us like a bug when we sin. This God takes great pleasure in making us squirm with guilt and fear, being constantly afraid that we will offend God and be slapped with His wrath. This is like a dictatorial father who rules with an iron fist and strikes terror in his kids. This type of God can be feared (honored), but cannot be truly loved with any depth because He is distant and unknowable. This view of God leads to a lifestyle characterized by legalism.

In both of these extremes, we have created a lesser God, a God of our own imagination, and a God who is far from the truth.

My friends, it is imperative that we have a Biblically balanced view of God – an understanding of God that is taken from His Word, not from our imagination.

What is a Biblically balanced view of God? What does the Bible tell us about our incredible God?

Our great, awesome God is :

  • Eternal (self existent) Exodus 3:13-14; Isaiah 43:13; Isaiah 44:6 ;1 Timothy 1:17
  • Omnipotent (all powerful)  Genesis 17:1; Jeremiah 32:17; Matthew 19:26;   Revelation 19:6
  • Omnipresent (all present)  Psalm 139:7-10; Proverbs 15:3; Jeremiah 23:23- 24
  • Omniscient (all knowing)  Psalm 147:5; Psalm 139:1-6; Romans 11:33-34
  • Sovereign (in total control of everything in the universe) Isaiah 45:23; Isaiah 46:9-10; Psalm 103:19
  • Immutable (unchanging in His nature and attributes)  Numbers 23:19; Psalm 33:11; Malachi 3:6
  • Righteous/Just  Deuteronomy 32:4; James 1:13; Revelation 15:3-4
  • Truth  Psalm 31:5; Psalm 117:2; Titus 1:2
  • Merciful  Psalm 130:3; Psalm 145:8-9; 1 John 1:9
  • Love  John 3:16; 1 John 4:8;1 John 4:16
  • Holy  Genesis 32:30; Exodus 3:4-5; Isaiah 6:3-5; Revelation 4:8-11;   Revelation 5:14

This list is by no means exhaustive (and each attribute is a monumental study in itself), but gives the essential basics of God’s character, and there are many more verses to describe these attributes than the ones listed.

Going back to our two extremes mentioned above (the “Old Grandfather God” and the “Dictatorial Father God”) we must keep a Biblically balanced understanding of God when addressing these two views. Yes, God is loving, but He is also just. We cannot just focus on one or the other. And no where do we see these two meld together so wonderfully than at the cross.

You see, a righteous, holy God must punish sin, if He didn’t He wouldn’t be righteous and holy. And since we are all sinners, He must punish us for our sin (which, according to the Bible, is death – both physical and spiritual). Yet, he loves us with a perfect love and wants us to be with Him in heaven forever. Now, this creates a seemingly impossible dilemma. How will perfectly holy and just God punish us for our sin (being separated from Him forever in the torment of hell) and still retain His perfect love for us (being with Him forever in the splendors of heaven)? The answer is the cross.

On the cross Jesus carried our sins upon Himself and took the full, undiluted wrath of the Father for our (and all mankind’s) sins. Our sin was punished, so God’s justice and righteousness was rightly meted out. And, since His punishment for our sins was directed on His Son, His love for us remains intact and we, when we repent and trust in Jesus as Savior, go free.

At the cross God’s love and His justice collided, and the result is grace. How absolutely glorious is that? My friends, do you see that when we grasp a Biblically balanced  view of God, we then can enter into a relationship with Him that is both reverent and intimate; a relationship that is based on both mental ascent (knowledge) and emotion (love). This is a God that can be both worshiped and loved. A God who is worthy of our total devotion and praise, and a God who we can come to as Daddy (Abba). What an incredible God we have!!

Oh, my friends, dig deeply into Scripture in order to go deeply into intimacy with our God. Don’t create a Mr. Potato Head God that is of our own creation. Let Him reveal Himself to us through His word, and then fall at his feet in worship, adoration, and love.

SIGNING THE BLANK CONTRACT

When someone has work done on their house the person doing the work writes up a contract that specifies, in detail, the work to be done and the total cost of the project. If the homeowner agrees to the contract specifications he or she signs the contract, signifying their acceptance of the terms. No sane person would sign a blank contract, allowing the contractor to do whatever work he felt like doing at whatever cost he determined. That would be disastrous to the homeowner. No one signs a blank contract.

However, when we follow Jesus He asks us to sign a blank contract to the rest of our lives, telling us that He will fill in the details as we walk with Him (this “blank contract” is not a literal piece of paper that we sign, but is a symbol of a heart attitude that is totally sold out to Him). He gives us no specifics about what the future holds, no time line regarding our activities, no indication if our lives will be filled with joy or pain, and not even a hint about what we will be doing.

Sounds scary, doesn’t it? All of us want to know the details regarding our lives, and signing a blank contract regarding the most valuable thing we have – our very lives – sounds crazy. But that’s the way Jesus is. He wants us to be totally sold out to Him, to follow Him wherever He leads, whenever He calls, doing whatever He asks us to do. Signing the blank contract tells Him that we are totally devoted to Him and that we trust Him wholeheartedly with our lives.

Think about some of the individuals in the Bible who signed the blank contract. God called Abraham to leave his home and to go to a land that He would show him. Abraham had no idea where that was or all the details of how his life would unfold. The only thing he had was the generalities of God’s covenant promise. But he followed Him and because he did, God’s covenant people, the Israelites, were birthed through him, and from his descendants came the Messiah.

Additionally, when Jesus called the men who would become His apostles, He simply said “Follow Me”, not giving them any details of what that entailed. I’m sure if He would have told them of the hardships they would face and of the martyrdom that awaited them, they probably would have turned and ran as fast as they could. But Jesus didn’t give them the details, asking them, in essence, to sign the blank contract and leave the details up to Him. They signed it and He used them to turn the world upside down for the Kingdom of God.

And think about Mary. She was a simple teenage girl from an insignificant town who was engaged to be married when God rocked her world and told her, through the angel Gabriel, that He had chosen her as the one to give birth to the Messiah. He didn’t give her all the details, just generalities. Yet, we see her heart when she responded to Gabriel’s words: “I am the Lord’s servant, May it be done to me as you have said”. Mary signed the blank contract, and her life was never the same as she played a significant role in the most profound story in human history.

The list is extensive – Elijah, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Nehemiah – individuals who were called by God for a specific task without knowing all the details. He asked them to sign the blank contract. They signed it, trusted Him, and were used incredibly by God.

How about you? If you are a born again believer in Jesus, He hands you a blank contract, asks you to trust Him and sign it, and then follow Him without any conditions. He asks us to follow Him on His terms, not ours. Sadly, far too many Christians follow Jesus on their terms instead of His. They place their devotion on their own happiness instead of on Jesus. This is not discipleship.

Signing the blank contract necessitates an absolute surrender of everything we are and everything we have to His will. It is holding our very lives with an open hand, allowing Him to do what He wants to do with them. Bottom line, it is dying to “self” and giving all rights to ourselves to Him. Jesus said in Luke 14:33: ” In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be My disciple”.  He is telling us that we need to sign the blank contract and let Him fill in the details.

This sounds fatalistic to some, but it is not. Remember we surrender to the One who literally loved us to death and continues to love us with an everlasting love. He knows that there is no greater journey on the planet than following Him unconditionally, and we will find no greater joy and fulfilment in life then being totally devoted to Him in absolute surrender.

Have you signed the blank contract? Have you, by an act of your will, given Him total control of your life? Do you love Jesus so much that you will follow him on His terms – whatever that may involve?

Ruth’s words to Naomi (in Ruth 1:16-17) are some of most profound words of surrender ever uttered: “Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if anything but death separates you and me”.

I’ve reworded these words of Ruth to pertain to the Christian life. Would you say this with me: “Jesus where you want me to go I will go and I will live where you want me to live. The people you want me to serve I will serve, and what you ask me to do I will do. You are my Lord and I love You with all my heart. I will follow You in complete surrender all the days of my life…no matter what”.

Amen!

SHOULD CHRISTIANS BE INVOLVED IN CULTURE WARS?

I recently read an article that said the church should not be involved in the culture wars that abound in our society, and should stick to its mission of loving everyone and being “good news” people. To quote the author of the article:

“How is it that the very people Jesus died to establish as models of forgiveness, gentleness, peace, and mercy have become a people generally perceived as mean, judgmental, and merciless? We have become identified with political agendas, culture wars, and religious demands that leave non-Christians shaking their heads and dismissing Christianity altogether. Along the way many Christians have become known more for what we are against than what we are for. That is bad news”.

It seems like the author is telling Christians to divorce themselves from what is going on around  them and just be syrupy sweet people who don’t offend anyone.

I disagree.

The reality is that there is an epic spiritual battle raging around us, and that battle strikes at the  very heart of Christianity. The “culture wars” that abound today are aimed at the moral absolutes God has established for all people, and thus, aimed at the very person of God. If left unchecked, a lesser God and a counterfeit gospel will replace the truth, and myriads of people will be led astray.

In the last few years there has been a seismic shift in the strategy of those who oppose God. There seems to be an all out attack on Christianity, the Bible, and God Himself. The rhetoric of the new athiests and others who oppose Christianity is filled with disgust and hatred. Tolerance for Christianity is all but gone. How do we combat this? Not with physical weapons, civil disobedience, or empty protests. But by presenting a clear, bold, irrefutable case for the truth.

When Christians take a stand for biblical truth on marriage, sexuality, the sanctity of life, honesty, integrity, and family we are not abandoning our mission as the church of Jesus Christ. On the contrary, we who have truth must communicate it to the world. If we remain silent, who will speak up for God’s moral absolutes? Who will present a biblical world view on the hot bed issues of the day?

It is pretty naive to think that we can impact culture with the truth of Jesus by ignoring the culture’s beliefs. Now I agree that some Christians can be obnoxious, mean-spirited, and self-righteous as they confront the evils of our world. That is counterproductive. However, we can be uncompromising, bold, and fearless while still being respectful, and we should strive to do so. However, many who are afraid of coming off as mean-spirited have gone too far in the other direction and turned into spineless jellyfish.

I get pretty tired hearing the phrase “Christians are known too much for what they are against than what they are for”. This is just wrong-headed logic. Tell me what you are against and, in essence, you are telling me what you are for. For example, if you say you are against abortion you are telling me you believe that life begins at conception and that all life is sacred. If you tell me you are against gay marriage you are telling me you are for God’s definition of marriage and His design for sexuality.

Yes, the main mission of the church is spiritual, but included in this is being unashamed of the truth of God’s moral absolutes, and to love people enough to tell them the truth. If we hide our heads in the sand because we are afraid of offending people or because we want the world to like us we are not fulfilling the mission we have been given. We need Christians of grit and backbone to stand in the gap for the truth in a society that has rejected God and His commands. We desperately need followers of Jesus who know what they believe and why they believe it, and who are courageous enough to face the opposition that they may experience when they stand for truth. We need Christians who are so in love with Jesus and who are so devoted to Him that they are willing to risk everything for Him.

Should Christians be engaged in culture wars? I believe so because, at the core of these wars is a battle for truth, which, if not confronted, will eventually undermine the theological and practical truth God has given us. This will lead to a God that we create in our image, a Jesus who is a role model but not the divine Messiah, a gospel that is void of the cross, and a compromised holiness that is an abomination to God. And that is not good news.

COUNTING THE COST

When planning a home project, a vacation, or a major purchase the wise person usually looks at the cost to determine if they have the necessary funds and if the result is worth the monetary outlay. In other words, they count the cost.

It’s the same with following Jesus. While salvation is a free gift of God – we are saved by grace alone by faith alone in Jesus alone – discipleship is another story. Salvation is free, discipleship costs everything. Jesus assumed that all who would receive Him as Savior would also follow Him as Lord.

In some of the most soul searching words Jesus ever uttered on the topic of discipleship He said: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be my disciple.  And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it? For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him saying, ‘This fellow began to build and was not able to finish. Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Will he not first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:26-33).

If you read these words and they don’t grip you down to the core of your soul, then you haven’t really read them.  This is not light and breezy teaching. This is point blank truth about discipleship with no holds barred. This is discipleship in its purest form. Everything else is a façade.

What did Jesus mean by these words? Do we really have to hate our families and get rid of all of our possessions? Let’s take a look.

The Bible is very clear about our relationships with others. We are told to love our families, our neighbors, our brothers and sisters in Christ, and even our enemies. Jesus said that if we are even angry at someone it is the same as murder. So what did He mean by hating our families? In this statement Jesus is saying that we are to love Him supremely above anyone else. He is to be number one on our priority list. Our love for Him must be so deep that all other relationships look paltry in comparison. Indeed, a true disciple, a true follower of Jesus loves Him with all his heart, all his mind, and all his strength.

Remember, and this is crucial, we will never be able to love our spouses, kids, parents, extended family members, and other people the way we should until we love Jesus first with a supreme love. When we love others above Him, our love falls short of the standard God has set and we will not love others as He commands us to. But when we love Him first and supremely, our love for others will flow out of our hearts like a cascading river in the spring.

What about selling all we have? Are we to get rid of everything we own and become  missionaries in Papua New Guinea? While Jesus might call some of us to leave the comforts of home for the mission field most of us will not be called. What Jesus means here is that we are to hold all the “stuff” He has given us with open hand, allowing Him to have control, and to be open and obedient to how He wants us to use them. It is to place Him above our treasures and surrender them to His will for Him to use for His glory, not our pleasure.

Bottom line, discipleship means dying to self and making Him Lord, and I really mean LORD of every aspect of our lives. This, my friends, costs everything. It costs everything because the terms of discipleship that Jesus laid down demand that we surrender ourselves and all we have to Him, and this flies right in the face of everything that comes natural for us and everything we are taught. It is natural for us to seek our pleasure, and our self absorbed interests. We are told by society to look out for number one, promote yourself, use others for self gain, and that life is all about us.

Jesus’ terms of discipleship say just the opposite. He says “Life is not about you or your happiness. It is about Me. It is about dying to self and surrendering to me in every aspect of life. It is only when you are on the journey of true discipleship that you will know Me intimately, love Me supremely, worship Me deeply, find the real purpose and meaning of life, and find deep rooted joy that makes worldly happiness look worthless in comparison”.

Yes, the cost is high (Jesus said to count the cost in the Luke 14 text quoted above). Discipleship is not for cowards, and alas, far too many Christians ignore it or choose the way of “self”. However, we must follow Jesus on His terms, not ours. To be sure, the journey of discipleship is a life long journey, and no one “arrives” in this life, but we must be on the journey. There is no other road to be on for a true born again believer of Jesus.

If you have no desire to be on this journey, I challenge you to do a real gut check to see if you are really saved. If you are truly born again and realize that you are not on this journey I challenge you to repent of the “self” attitude you have held and put your hand in His and commence the journey. It is never too late to start doing what’s right. Remember, it is the only journey on the planet that will bring a deep relationship with our incredible God, a life of holiness that glorifies Him, fulfills the destiny He has planned for our lives, and gives us the peace, joy, and hope that passes understanding.

As Jim Elliott said: “He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose”.

THE SMARTPHONE GOD

Smart phones are everywhere. These small hand held devices contain more computing power than computers that filled entire floors of office buildings twenty years ago. With these “mobile devices” (as they are now called) the world is at our fingertips. Using them as telephones is a minor reason for their existence, as texts, tweets, Facebook posts, entertainment, cameras/videos, and information have taken over as their main purpose. There are literally thousands upon thousands upon thousands of “apps” that give us whatever we want at the touch of a button. There are “apps” for every conceivable topic known to man – finance, lifestyle, home, entertainment, geography, lifestyle, sports, music, books, religion, etc. The list is endless.

However, our “smartphone” culture has, unfortunately, invaded our walk with God.

Our relationship with God has, for many people, been reduced to a “Facebook” level. People have gazillions of friends on Facebook, but never have been people been more lonely. The level of communication on Facebook is so shallow and superficial, and we have lost the ability to look each other in the eye and have a conversation that has depth and meat to it. This can also describe many Christians relationship with God – shallow and superficial. We have settled for a Facebook relationship with God that has reduced Him to nothing more than a Facebook type “friend”. Oh, He’s there, but only on the level of a name on a list. He wants so much more than this. He wants us to go deep with Him, to cultivate a meaningful, meaty, deep, intimate relationship. Jesus died on the cross to reconcile us to the Father so that we can, once again, live in His glorious presence in deep intimacy. Sadly, however, we’ve settles for so much less.

Additionally, we’ve reduced our communication with Him to a Twitter type “tweet”. Tweets are 140 character (maximum length) messages that let your followers know what you are thinking. These tweets are, generally speaking, random, unimportant, and impersonal. Now, while there is nothing wrong with short prayers to God throughout the day, it seems like far too many Christians have replaced deep, passionate, communication with God with short, meaningless ‘tweets’. We have become so used to “tweet” style communication that we can’t get alone with God and spend protracted time with Him. We rush through a “140 character” impersonal, shallow tweet/prayer and call it good. My friends, God so desires for us to spend unhurried time with Him. He so desires that we place priority on communicating with Him on a deeper level, and yet we give Him our “tweets”. He’s not impressed with our rushed, news flashes about how we feel about the burger we just ate. He loves us so much and is so devoted to us, and He desires that we spend time with Him and pour out our deepest hurts, our heaviest concerns, our humblest confessions, our sincerest thanks, and our most lavish praise on Him. A ‘140 character’ tweet just can’t do this.

Finally, we’ve made our awesome God into nothing more than another “app”. We generally ignore Him until something goes wrong in our lives, and then we remember “there’s an ‘app’ for that” and go to our “God app” and expect Him to rescue us. Just as we go to a financial app to help us balance our checkbook, a cooking app to help us with a recipe, or a medical app to help us with a health issue, we seem to treat God like an app when we need help that the other apps can’t supply. God is just an “app” away! My friends, God is more, much much more, than an “app” – a resource that exists to help us out of our problems or to give us information we need on a particular issue. Our incredible triune God is our everything, not just a cosmic bellhop who is just waiting for us to press our “God app”. He wants us to be sold out to Him, to die to self and surrender to His lordship, and to follow Him wholeheartedly. Indeed, every aspect of our lives is to be a sacrifice of praise to Him, and we exist to give Him glory. The “app” God reduces Him to the level of an impersonal, lesser God.

My friends, while there is nothing wrong with smartphones, let’s be intentional about not allowing a smartphone mentality to creep into our relationship with God. A challenge for all of us is to put our “mobile devices” down and turn them off for a period of time every day, and spend deep, meaningful, intimate time with our God. Don’t hurry through, but linger in His presence – sing praises to Him, read His word and let it soak into your mind and soul, pray to Him with purpose and passion, and let Him love on you in the stillness of the moment. Don’t worry, your smartphone will still be there. You won’t miss out on a tweet or a Facebook posting. And that recipe app that shows how to make gluten free cherry mango waffles with chia seed syrup will still be there. Believe me, your time with God will be the absolute highlight of your day that nothing on your smartphone can ever rival. Forget the “smartphone” God and give Him the rightful place He deserves. He’s your your Almighty God, your everything, your deepest intimacy, your Abba.