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FEARING GOD…AND LOVING GOD

The concept of fearing God is not a popular topic in churches today. Most Christians aren’t interested in a God who commands us to fear Him, they would rather have a God who is syrupy sweet, easy going, permissive and who winks and smiles at their sin and says “its okay, don’t worry about it”.

However, the Bible is crystal clear, and it is repeated often, that God commands us to fear him. But what does it really mean to fear God?

it is very common to interpret the fear of the Lord as simply having reverence for Him. But this is a soft translation. While the Hebrew and Greek words for “fear” do include the idea of reverence, they also carry with them the idea of genuine fear or dread. The word “fear” in the Old Testament is the Hebrew word yare, which means to revere or to frighten, In the New Testament the Greek word is phobos which means to be alarmed or to frighten. So fearing God includes both reverence and actual fear. Indeed, in the Old Testament, everyone who experienced a theophany (an Old Testament appearing of the Son of God before He became incarnate as Jesus Christ), or experienced a glimpse of God’ s awesome glory fell on their faces in reverence and at the same time were so overwhelmed that they were afraid that they were going to die (Exodus 33:18-20; Deuteronomy 4:33, 5:22-26; Judges 6:22-23, 13:18-22; Isaiah 6:1-5).

God is that awesome.

Fearing God, which He commands us to do, means that we hold Him in utmost reverence and respect, and knowing that He is a righteous and just God who does, and must, punish sin. Fearing God means that we walk in strict obedience to His commands, not wanting to experience His discipline if we stray from Him. To be sure, it is not a cowering terror that causes us to purposely stay distant from Him, but a healthy understanding and a keen awareness of who He is – the majestic, transcendent, eternal, righteous, just, holy One – and who we are – His creations who are sinners saved by His marvelous grace.

Additionally, and importantly, the fear of God must also be balanced with the love of God. This supremely awesome all powerful God is also our Father who loves us and cares more about us than we will ever be able to grasp. In Matthew 22:37 when Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment was, He repeated what Moses told the Israelites in Deuteronomy 6:5: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind”.

Through Jesus, we have the incredible privilege of coming to the Father as Abba, which is the Aramaic word for “father”, and is used in an endearing emotional context. The English equivalent would be “Daddy”. On the cross Jesus reconciled us to the Father, and when we, by faith, trust in Jesus as our Savior, we are adopted into the family of God and become His sons and daughters, which connotes that we have both an intellectual understanding of our relationship with Him – the fear of God – and the relational connection to Him – the love of God. Indeed, when we truly understand the theology of the cross we can’t help but pour out our love, and fear, for Him.

Yes, both fear and love are crucial in our relationship with God. If we focus on just the fear of God, it can lead to cold, mechanical legalism. But focusing on just the love of God can lead to sloppy, casual, mediocre discipleship. Both the fear of God and the love of God must be grasped and held in a Biblically balanced way if we are going to have the deeply intimate relationship with Him that He wants us to have, and will lead to a life of holiness that brings Him glory.

Unfortunately, we tend to avoid or ignore the fear aspect of our relationship with God because we think it will be a life of drudgery and misery. However, Scripture tells us just the opposite:

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow his precepts have good understanding. To him belongs eternal praise“. Psalm 111:10

“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding”. Proverbs 9:10

“The fear of the LORD is a fountain of life, turning a person from the snares of death” . Proverbs 14:27

“Humility is the fear of the LORD; its wages are riches and honor and life”. Proverbs 22:4

“The fear of the LORD leads to life; then one rests content, untouched by trouble”. Proverbs 19:23

The fear of the Lord is not to be avoided but is to be robustly embraced because it is the path that leads to real meaning and purpose – the life that glorifies God. And, my friends, that is the reason we exist. You are breathing and your heart is beating this very second for this sole purpose – to bring glory to God. It is not about us, it is, has been, and will always be about Him. And when we bring glory to God, we experience the reality for which we were created, and experience life at its pinnacle. Nothing this world offers comes even remotely close to living in God’s presence with deep intimacy. And this becomes operative in out lives when we anchor our relationship with God on a Biblically balanced understanding of the fear of God and the love of God.

Do you love Him? Do you fear Him? These two profound foundational truths will be the catalyst in developing a deep intimate relationship with Him. And possessing this relationship with the God of the universe is life at its utmost best.

DEEP

The church today has a desperate need. It’s not for more individuals with PhD’s or ThD’s. It’s not for more talented singers and musicians. It’s not or more eloquent speakers. Nor is it for more people with dynamic, charismatic personalities (those that possess the proverbial “it” factor). I believe what the church needs now more than ever is deep Christians. Followers of Jesus that leave the safety of shallow, superficial Christianity and risk it all to plunge into the depths of discipleship. Those who are not satisfied with a safe, predictable, status quo relationship with Jesus and dare to launch out to know Him as well as a human being can know Him in this life.

What is a deep Christian? Deep Christians are those who really understand the cross and have a solid theological foundation in which to anchor their relationship with God on. Deep Christians understand their total unworthiness and God’s mind boggling grace, Deep Christians have a profound sense of humility, understanding what they were and yet understanding their present position as a child of the living God only because of His incredible grace.

Deep Christians come to God in spiritual brokenness and are totally dependent on Him in every aspect of life. They die to self and surrender to Him completely, knowing that the only reason for their existence is to bring Him glory. And this brokenness, surrender, and dying to self is with gladness and joy. They don’t care what anyone thinks about them, they only care what God knows about them. Deep Christians hunger and thirst for holiness, and hunger and thirst to know Jesus more. They bear fruit for God’s kingdom, and desire that He, and only He, gets the glory.

Deep Christians are definitely not spiritually weird in that they have their heads so far in the clouds that they can’t relate to others, or are smug and obnoxious Bible thumpers who act superior to others. Nor are they perfect super saints who have “arrived”. They just live their lives in the power of the Holy Spirit and and emanate the sweet aroma of Jesus wherever they go, even if they are hated by others, criticized, or laughed at.

Deep Christians know Jesus intellectually, pursue Him relentlessly, approach Him reverently, love him intimately, follow Him unconditionally, worship Him passionately, stand up for Him unashamedly, serve Him excellently, and enjoy Him gladly. 

Are you a deep Christian? My friend, don’t settle for shallowness and superficiality. Don’t be like so many Christians who are an inch deep and a mile wide. Leave the safety and predictability of the shallows and dare to plunge deeply into our incredible God. He wants you to. Dive deep, you’ll never regret it.

A 2019 NEW YEAR’S PRAYER FOR AMERICA

Father God,

We enter this new year in serious trouble. Our country has lost its way and is sliding at lightning speed into the abyss. We’ve turned our backs on You, and the evidence is everywhere. We continue to slaughter babies in their mother’s wombs by the millions. Your design for sexuality has been totally discarded and its perversion is rampant – premarital sex, adultery, homosexuality, polyamory, and every other type of perverted behavior that is now called “normal”. Marriage can now be defined as whatever we want it to be. Gender is now determined by our own sinful whims instead of how You created us. Your absolute moral truth has been replaced by relativism and situational ethics. Racism, anger, and hatred define our society. Many facets of our culture have given in to political correctness instead of standing up for what is right. Greed, selfishness, and entitlement have become the prevailing mindset of our culture. We have become slaves to technology, which has actually alienated people from one another and forced us to look down at a little device in our hand instead of looking up to our Creator and out to others. Lord, we’re in trouble!

Have we finally exhausted the limits of your patience and crossed the line into certain judgment? Is it too late for America?

Father, only You know the answer to this, but would You raise a remnant of your people to cry out to you for revival in this new year. We need a Third Great Awakening! You are our only hope. We need a powerful move of the Holy Spirit in a heaven sent revival, and it must start in Your church. Father, Your bride, the church, has lost her purity and has gone after other lovers. We are to blame for many of the evils that exist in our culture because the church is the most powerful entity on the planet because we have the indwelling Holy Spirit who empowers us to do your will, and yet we have become impotent to impact the culture. On the contrary, the culture has impacted your church and we have become just like it.

The church, Your bride, has become like the Laodicean church, thinking we’re just fine when we are actually lukewarm, and wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked. We have become like the church in Sardis, thinking we are alive when we are actually dead. We have become like the churches in Pergamum and Thyatira, which compromised truth and tolerated sin. We have become the Ephesian church which had lost its first love.

We have become pragmatic instead of prayerful, entertained instead of worshipful, cool instead of holy, relevant instead of reverent, spineless instead of bold, wishy-washy instead of passionate, compromised instead of radical, and comfortable instead of convicted.

We, your bride, need to repent of our own sin and fall on our faces before You in humility, acknowledging our own sin because the most grievous sin is not “out there”, it is within the walls of the church. Break us of our lukewarmness, pride, compromise, and laziness.

Oh Father, break us of “self”.

The revival must start in the hearts of Your people, who will then be able to go out and impact the world for Jesus. It is only through a revived church that is totally sold out to You that the hearts of our nation will be transformed and our nation healed. Convict us, Lord, and may we respond to You. This is our only hope.

May 2019 be the year where we get serious, get transparent before You, acknowledge our own sin, and seek Your face for mercy and revival. Have we crossed the line? Is too late? We don’t know, so we repent and cry out to You in this new year. Oh Sovereign Lord, rend the heavens and come down, one more time.

And may the revival start with me.


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.

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

THE THREE WORDS THAT CHANGE EVERYTHING

In my last post I wrote about how most Christians never rise above the level of mediocrity in their walk with Jesus because the bar has been set too low. Most Christians just aimlessly float through life with a “oh well, I’m just a sinner” mindset and never experience all that God has planned for them. However, God has blessed us with everything necessary to live a holy, God glorifying life, and to reach the destiny He has planned for us.

You see, as born again believers in Jesus, we have it all. Why, then do so many believers miss this? Why do so many live such a defeated Christian life and settle for mediocrity? Because most never appropriate the profound truth found in Romans 6 that every believer has died with Jesus to their sins. Romans 6:5-7 says: “For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection,
knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin;  for he who has died is freed from sin.”,  and Romans 6:11 tells us: “Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus” . Add to this Colossians 3:3: For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. “ and Galatians 2:20: I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me”.

You see, my friends, the totality of the Christian life can be summed up in three words: DIE TO SELF.

“Self” is that part of me that wants to be God, that part of me that wants to call the shots. Simply put, “self” is the old, sinful me. When we, by faith, repent of our sins and trust in Jesus as Savior, we become new creations. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says: “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.”  What an incredible truth! However, when we become this new creation, it is important to remember that the old self is not eradicated, The old, sinful “me” is still hanging around.

This is where dying to “self” comes in. I must, based on Romans 6, Colossians 3:3, and Galatians 2:20, consider that my old “self” is dead, having been crucified with Jesus. How, you may ask, is this possible? Obviously we weren’t living two thousand years ago, and we certainly were not crucified with Jesus. So what does this mean? Simply put, we must consider it a fact that positionally, (not physically), our old sinful “self” was put to death with Jesus on the cross, meaning that the power of sin has been broken in out lives.

Two phenomenal truths happened at the cross – 1. Jesus died for our sins, which is justification; 2. We died with Jesus to our sins, which is sanctification. All Christians (if they are truly born again) grasp the first truth. But very few grasp the second, which leads to a mediocre life. 

The Biblical truth of dying to “self” impacts every aspect of our lives. When I counsel married couples having problems, or when I talk to an individual struggling with sin, or an individual who is just going through the motions of Christianity, the common cure is very simple – DIE TO SELF. “Self” is the cause of virtually all sin and problems in life. Why? Because “self” is rooted in pride, and pride is the root of all sin.

In talking to couples with marriage problems, I have heard so often the phrase: “he/she is not meeting my needs”.  Well, marriage is not about “you”. It is about being a humble servant of your spouse. Just think, if every married person would die to “self”, would there be as many marriage problems?  No! The “I” and “me” focus would be replaced by the focus on “my spouse”.

If every individual would die to “self”, would there be as much shallow Christianity as we see today? No! Believers would die to the old desires and replace the  attitude of “I’m going to do what I want to do” with “I’m going to do what Jesus wants me to do”. This would impact our entertainment choices, our relationships, our handling of money, our attitude at work, how we use our time, and what comes our of our mouths. Dying to “self” is, in effect, making Jesus Lord of our lives (instead of calling Him Lord but never giving Him the reigns of our lives) and living in obedience to His commands. You see, we mess up our lives when we (“self”) call the shots instead of God.

Practically, dying to “self” means that:

  • I don’t need to get my way
  • I don’t need to be recognized when I do something
  • I don’t need others to validate me
  • I don’t seek retaliation when I am wronged
  • I don’t need to be served or coddled
  • I don’t need to be popular
  • I care more about what God knows about me than what others think about me
  • I am content with whatever God determines for me
  • I care more about my holiness than my happiness
  • I am not impressed with myself, and realize that life is not about me
  • I put others before myself
  • I surrender myself without any condition to God
  • My number one goal in life is to bring glory to God

You see, my friends, this is the only way to deep intimacy with God, to experience the power of His awesome presence, to experience the true meaning and purpose in life, and to be used by God to advance His kingdom. There is no lifestyle on the planet that can compare with a life that has died to “self”.

Why do we find it so hard to die to “self”? Because we are told by our culture that life is all about us – about our happiness, our comfort, our pleasure, our way. We are told that we are the captains of our ships and the masters of our fate, when in reality we are neither. Our life is about God – bringing Him glory, serving Him, and walking in intimacy with Him. I don’t want to burst anyone’s bubble, but life is not about you. Never has been and never will be. It is about our awesome God.

Have you died to “self”? It is a daily choice that we must make. You see, since the old “self” is still in existence, there is a continual battle raging between the old “self” and the new “self”. The one you nurture will be the one that you will serve. If you feed your new “self” daily with prayer, studying God’s Word, and communing with Him, you will experience victory in your life. If you neglect these and feed yourself with worldly things, your old “self” will dominate and you will make choices that are destructive to you and dishonoring to God.

It’s our choice. Do you want to rise above the level of mediocrity in your Christian life? Are you tired of being shallow in your knowledge and love for Jesus? Then die to “self” daily. It is the only way to bring glory to God and reach the destiny He has planned for you. Not a life of perfection, as we will never be perfect in this life, but a life where victories far outweigh the failures, and a life that goes deep with Jesus.

Remember, the entirety of the Christian life can be summed up in three words, the three words that change everything – DIE TO SELF.

My friends, die, and live!

THE BAR HAS BEEN SET TOO LOW

For many Christians, their walk with Jesus is just a hum drum, bland reality that can be characterized, at best, as mediocre. We’re told, over and over and over again, that nobody’s perfect so it’s normal to make bad choices and sin. When that happens, you just confess your sin and off you go…into another sin and another confession…into another sin and another confession… This endless, vicious cycle is all that most Christians ever know. This pattern is just like that of the Israelites as recorded in the book of Judges. They lived in such a cycle and were a real mess.

Over the years I’ve had so many Christians come in for counsel who had done some tragic things, and when I talked to them about the life of a follower of Jesus they just shrugged their shoulders and said, “Oh well, I’m not perfect”. Well, yeah, its common knowledge that no human being is perfect, that’s a given. Those who find themselves in messes because of their sin use this excuse (nobody’s perfect) to justify themselves and to try to convince themselves that they are just like every other Christian. After all, they think, at least I’m not like “them” – i.e: non Christians who do even worst things then they do.

This is just wrong-headed, defeatist theology. First of all, our comparison must never be with the world. If we make such a comparison, we’ll always come out smelling like a rose.  No, our comparison must always be with the holiness of God, and the standards He has set for us.  1 Peter 1:14-16 says: “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, “YOU SHALL BE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY.” When we do the right comparison, we will never be content with a mediocre walk with Jesus.

Secondly, God meant our Christian life to be one of victory, not mediocrity. Do you see, my friends, there is much more, so much more, to the Christian life than most of us ever experience – deep intimacy with God, victory over temptation, fruitful service,  peace through trials, joy in the midst of earthly sorrows, marriages that are a testimony to the world, priorities that are Christ centered, and lives that are full and make a difference in the world. Jesus said in John 10:10: “… I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly”, and in John 15:11: “These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full”.

I would probably be fairly accurate in saying that most Christians never experience this full life of joy. I’m not talking about a trial free or pain free life. Nor am I talking about a life of sinless perfection.  None of us is that naive to believe these. We live in a fallen world where pain, sorrow, heartbreak, and trials abound, and followers of Jesus aren’t immune to these realities of life, And because we still have a sin nature in this life, perfection is impossible. However, even with the limitations of earthly life, we still can experience all that God wants for us, and reach the destiny he has planned for us.

The reason most Christians miss the abundant life that Jesus talked about is because we have set the bar too low. We satisfy with a mediocre, “well I’m just a sinner” mindset. The Bible tells us that God has given us everything necessary to live a triumphant life. Ephesians 1:3 says:  “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ”, and 2 Peter 1:2-4 tells us: “Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord;  seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust”. 

What incredible promises God has made available to us!!

It is human nature to strive for a goal that is set for us. If the goal is set low and is easy to grasp, we will exert just enough effort to reach it and be satisfied with attaining it even though we were capable of a much more. Likewise, if someone sets a lofty goal for us we will strive to give a concerted, determined effort to attain it.  When we do reach our goal we are realize what we are capable of, and will never satisfy with lesser things.

It’s the same with the Christian life. When we fail to understand the power that is at work within us (in the person of the Holy Spirit) and the life that God expects from His children, we will never rise above mediocrity. However, when we do grasp these realities, we enter a depth of relationship with God that most never know.

Yes, God has set the bar high…really high. Just read the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7. Read Luke 9:23, and Luke 14:26-35. These are classic verses that show us what a true follower of Jesus looks like. Will we be able to reach all of these lofty goals? No, not in this life. However, we still strive to reach them. Like Paul in Philippians 3:12-14,  we say : “Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus.  Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus”. 

Now it is easy to write about this, but quite another thing to put them into practice the, How, then, practically, do we do this? How do we get off the merry-go-round of mediocrity and live a life that glorifies God and realizes the destiny He has planned for us? In my next post (to be published is a few weeks) we’ll take a look at one of the most profound, and most overlooked, truths about discipleship. We’ll look at the three words that change EVERYTHING when they are applied in our lives daily. Stay tuned.