Category Archives: discipleship

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.

THE VICTORIOUS CHRISTIAN LIFE


The victorious Christian life” is one of those Christianese phrases that we hear often and that rolls off of our tongues easily. Indeed we have victory in the blood of Jesus – victory over the curse of sin which brings us eternal life.  We read in 1 Corinthians 15:54-58:When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?”The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ”.  Pretty incredible, isn’t it?

However, when we talk about the “victorious Christian life” we usually refer to our present life, the life we now live on planet earth. By this, we mean experiencing power over temptation, living in the presence of God, and doing the things that give Him glory. Every Christian should desire this life.

Yes we want victory, but do we really want the circumstances that give rise to victory? Think about it for a second. The idea of victory means that there must be something or someone that we have victory over, which means that  that there are conflicts, battles, or all out war. There is no need for victory when all is peaceful because there is nothing to fight, and thus nothing to win. 

In the lives of believers in Jesus, victory tells us that we are in a war, and that war takes on two fronts. First we battle the forces of evil – Satan and his minions who work ceaselessly in their attempts to sew doubt in our minds, plant temptations in our hearts, and stir up chaos and confusion in our lives. Yes, there is a war that rages around us everyday, but there is victory when we claim that victory in the blood of Jesus and fight the spiritual battles with the armor of God that is so wonderfully explained in Ephesians 6.

The second front is “self”. Self is the old me, that part of me that wants to be God and call the shots. We fight this constantly whether we realize it or not – we struggle with obedience to God or doing what the world expects; we fight with being a humble servant as Jesus calls us to be or acting in pride and wanting our way; we battle with holiness when the world seductively whispers “go ahead you deserve to make yourself happy with all the pleasure you want”. This battle is also fierce, but there is victory, and that victory is experienced when we die to self and totally surrender to the lordship of Jesus in our lives.

Jesus wasn’t naive, He knew that this earthly life would be a battle. In John 14:33 Jesus said: I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”  He ascended into heaven and sent the Holy Spirit to indwell those who would trust Him as Savior so that we would have everything necessary to realize “the victorious life”. Ephesians 1:3 says: “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”. In order to allow the Holy Spirit to work this “every spiritual blessing in Christ” in our lives we must die to self. There is no other way.

Yes, every true Christian desires to have victory, but most don’t want the circumstances that go along with it – spiritual warfare and the battle for lordship in their lives (“self” vs Jesus). Yet, these conflicts exist in each one of us. The battles are fierce and continuous, and we must make concerted effort and take intentional steps to avoid being a casualty. But we are all in the war and must fight. There is no victory without the fight.

Are you experiencing victories in your Christian walk? While none of us is perfect, when we don the armor of God daily and die to self daily, we will realize more victories and experience the presence of our awesome God like we never did before.

We all want victory, but no one wants the battle. Remember, you can’t have the former without the latter. Are you taking the steps necessary to be victorious?






A MESSAGE FOR THE CHURH FOR 2014


I didn’t want to write this post, but I sensed God leading me to do so. I love the church, both the universal collection of all born again believers and the local bodies of believers that make up the universal church, so I argued with Him about it. However, one thing I have learned in my thirty three years of being a Christian is that when you argue with God, He always wins.  I gave God two reasons why I didn’t want to write this post. First, I asked God “Who am I to write this?  I’m just an unknown pastor of a small church that is struggling to keep its doors open.  There are many other big name pastors who should write this.” Secondly, the things He led me to write hurt deeply, because, as I write this, I am part of the problem, not part of the solution. But He prevailed, and so I write this. It’s not neat and pretty, but I sense it’s God’s heart. So here goes.


If I am part of the problem, what is the problem? The church, the bride of Christ, has lost its purity and gone after other lovers, and thus has lost its power.  Who are these lovers? Popularity, coolness, self exaltation, complacency, and lukewarmness.


The church has gone to great lengths to be popular and cool with the world. We make our sanctuaries look like coffee house lounges instead of places of worship. When I go to a doctors office, I expect it to look like a doctor’s office.  When I go to a church I expect it to look like a place to meet with God, not a place to lay back and drink a latte. Also, many churches have dropped the word “church” from their name because the word “church”, they say, is offensive to people. Call it what you like, it is still a church. Additionally, in our “coolness” we have also devised “non threatening” services, Bible studies, and prayer meetings. When we cut through the baloney, non threatening basically means watered down. In truth, the gospel is threatening because it says that I am a sinner that deserves hell, and that I cannot save myself. However, there is good news, absolutely incredible news in this threatening message, and that is God loves me and has made the way to forgiveness of sin and eternal life through his Son Jesus Christ. Unfortunately, the church has forgotten to tell people both sides of the gospel message. – all lovey-dovey and no sin, no hell, no repentance. We might be non threatening and non offending people to a lost eternity.


In order to be cool, we have adopted many buzz words in the last few years.  We are told by the experts to “think outside the box” (i.e.: do weird things). How about thinking inside the Book instead of “outside the box”? We are also told that the church needs to be “relevant”. Relevant? God and His word are always relevant. We don’t need to be clever and tell lots of cutesy stories and add a multi media extravaganza to make the message “relevant”.  Just preach and teach the Word with the anointing of the Holy Spirit and God will transform lives. Another buzz word is “missional”.  Do we really need to make this a central focus? Being “missional” (living out our faith and verbalizing it with others) is at the very heart of being a follower of Jesus. If we need to make this a big focus, it is a sad commentary that the church has lost its way.

I wonder how many pastors spend more time downloading stories and video clips to spice up their sermons than being down on their faces before God praying for anointing and holy boldness as they prepare and deliver His message. And we scratch our heads trying to figure out why most Christians are biblically and theologically illiterate, and don’t have a biblical world view on the moral issues of the day. They say, however, that they are not changing the message, just the method. Well, I believe that when you change the method, the message will eventually change because you now must cater to those whom you attracted, which are not really interested in the real message. But you need to keep them coming back so the message changes to appeal to them.

Sadly, the modern church has adopted a worldly stance in regards to music and literature. Dove awards? Really? Do Christian musicians compete with one another for the song of the year, singer of the year, etc? Aren’t we supposed to sing for God’s glory and His approval? Do we compete with each other to see who worships better? And what about Christian Book Awards (formerly known as Gold Medallion Awards) that are given to the best Christian books? Are we competing with each other on who writes the best book about God? On top of this, many big name Christian authors don’t even write their own books but use ghost writers to write their books and then put their own name on the cover. How dishonest is that? And yet we congratulate ourselves by giving each other little trophies, which are actually trophies to our own egos. 


Have you ever gone to a Christian conference or listened to a Christian radio/television talk show, and before the speakers give their talks the emcee takes about five minutes touting all the degrees the speaker has, all the prestigious universities they studied at, how many books he/she has written, how many television shows they have appeared on, and how many countries the individual has ministered in. I don’t know about you, but I really don’t care about all of that. I care about the individual’s heart. Are they sold out bond slaves of Jesus? Do they pride themselves on their accolades or are they broken, humble servants of God?


Have you noticed the plethora of self help books in Christian bookstores? There are “how to” books on every conceivable topic. Much of this worldly psycho babble has complicated the Christian life so much. We’ve made marriage, raising kids, work place behavior, and interpersonal relationships a chaotic maze of steps, emotional responses, and “to do’s”. We’ve complicated the Christian life so much, is it any wonder that most Christians haven’t a clue on how to follow Jesus.

We’ve become Christians of convenience instead of Christians of conviction. We want to come to church and be entertained by the “show” and then have our ears tickled by a feel-good, its-all-about-me message. We follow Jesus on our terms instead of His. We have ignored Jesus’ words in Luke 14:33: “In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be My disciple”, and Luke 9:23: “If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me”.  Instead we want an easy, comfortable, light and breezy discipleship, which is totally foreign to Scripture.

I could go on but this is already too long. You know, it’s one thing to say what’ wrong, and quite another to give solutions. So, what is the solution to the mess the church finds it self in? What can we do to be what God has called His church to be – the most powerful entity on the planet who, through the power of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, is used by God to transform our world for His kingdom?

It’s very simple. In fact, it can be summed up in three words: DIE TO SELF. Self is that part of me that wants to be God and call the shots and be in control. “Self” is the anti-God state of mind.

Dying to self means nothing less than absolute surrender to Jesus Christ. It is giving up all rights to ourselves to Him in total surrender. Dying to self is living in spiritual brokenness, which means to acknowledge that without Him, we are spiritually bankrupt, so we hold onto Him in holy desperation. Dying to self makes Romans 6 operative in our lives – acknowledging that “self” died with Christ on the cross, and intentionally living in this reality. 

Dying to self is the key to living the Christian life and impacts every aspect of life – marriage, family, work, recreation, entertainment, relationships, money, time, ethics, morals, and character. If we would just die to self and give God the reigns of our lives everything would change. For example, just think for a moment, what would every marriage look like if every Christian would die to self and obey God’s simple standards for marriage? How would our marriages be if every husband loved his wife as Christ loved the church (i.e.: unconditionally and self sacrificially) and every wife submitted to her husband (i.e: respected Him as the head of the marriage and home)?

My friends, only by dying to self will Jesus’ bride, the church, be chaste again. Only when each one of us repents of our sin of self sufficiency, self reliance, self centeredness, self righteousness, self exaltation, self congratulation, and selfishness, and dies to self by surrendering to Jesus Christ will we, the church, again be His holy, devoted, passionate, intimate, sold out bride. I believe that it is that simple. But for many of us, it is so hard to do because we fight so hard to be in control. However, if God is to send the revival that we so desperately need, it must start here.

I know that many who read this will not agree with me and think I am some crazy nut job. Probably some, if not most, will be angry at me and never read uncompromisedchristianity.com again. That’s ok. But for those who resonate with this, will you die to self and be on the journey of absolute surrender? As our world slides further and further into darkness and chaos, will we, the church, the bride of Christ, be His chosen instruments that He works through to shatter the darkness and bring people into the light?   I ask myself, and you my fellow brother and sister in Christ, will we die to self? Will we be part of the solution or remain as part of the problem?


KNEELING IN THE CIRCLE

On a wall in my office I have fastened a piece of chalk so that I see it constantly as I sit at my desk. Why? It’s not because I like to scribble on the carpet or draw hopscotch squares. I have it there as a reminder – a reminder that our nation, our churches, and most importantly, that I, need revival.

It has been said that when Gypsy Smith, the great English revivalist, would come to a town to conduct meetings he would get down on his knees, draw a circle around himself, and cry out to God to send revival,, and to start it inside the circle. The chalk on my wall reminds me that if God is to bring a revival to my city, my county, my state, and my country, then it needs to start with me.

It is so easy to look at our society and say how bad “they” are, and to look at other Christians and say how much “they” need revival. But what about you and I? I don’t know about you, but I sure need a fresh move of God in my life. I need to draw that circle get on my face, and cry out to God to start a revival in me.

Revivals always are birthed in prayer that is saturated in humble brokenness, honest transparency, and deep repentance. Humble brokenness that recognizes that we are powerless and spiritually bankrupt without God’s manifest presence in our lives. Honest transparency that acknowledges that we, too, have sinned in many areas of our lives, be it gossip, laziness, lukewarmness, critical spirit, sexual sin, lust, dishonesty, cheating, jealousy, compromise, or any other unholiness. Deep repentance that weeps over our own sin because we hate it so much – not because we got caught or because of the consequences we might have to face, but because it grieves the heart of our heavenly Father.

Before we “stand in the gap” for revival on behalf of our country (Ezekiel 22:30), we must kneel in the circle for personal revival. You see, my friends, it starts with me, and it starts with you.

And, when He rends the heavens and comes down within our circle and revives our hearts, it will be a transformation that is truly supernatural. We will be saturated in His presence, filled with the Holy Spirit, crave holiness, and experience deep intimacy with Him. We will be hungry for His word, passionate in prayer, sold out in our worship, and fearless in proclaiming Him. We will understand that their is wholeness in spiritual brokenness, victory in surrendering to Him, freedom in being His bond slave, and true life is dying to self. In summary, we will experience the reality for which we were created – to know, and I mean really know, our great God.

Will you join me and be a part of the army of the “Chalk Circlers”? Are you tired of just existing and going through the motions in your walk with Jesus? Do you hunger and thirst for more? Then how about going to the store, buying a box of chalk, and putting a piece in a prominent place so that you see it everyday as a reminder of your need of revival. If you can, draw a circle in a private place and get in that circle everyday and pray that God would send a revival, and start it in your circle. If you can’t draw a circle, still pray everyday for personal revival. Persevere in your prayer and don’t lose heart, God works in His will and in His timing (let me know if you will enlist in the Chalk Circle army so we can pray for and encourage each other).  

Remember – pray fervently in humble brokenness, honest transparency, and deep repentance.

Oh Lord, rend the heavens and come down in revival, and let it start with me!

WHATEVER HAPPENED TO THE UNITED STATES?


Whatever happened to the United States of America, that great experiment in democracy, that nation that was founded squarely on the morality and truths of the Bible? While the U.S. is not a “Christian nation” per se (our constitution provides for freedom of religion), it was undeniably founded on biblical principles. One only needs to read the statements of the Founding Fathers to see this. The argument of who was a Deist or who was a Theist is a straw man argument. The United States of America was founded on biblical principles. Period.


And because of this, our country led the way for basic goodness, decency, morality, and benevolence in the world. Oh, we weren’t, and aren’t, perfect. Far from it. Slavery and racism being a prime example. But, on the whole, we were a good nation. Why? Because of our foundation of biblical principles.

Since our country honored God, His hand of blessing was upon us. We enjoyed freedom, goodness, opportunity, decency, plenty, and justice. We were the country others flocked to to make a good life for themselves and their families


However, with the passing of time, things began to change. Before we reached our 200th birthday, we started to forget that God was the source of our incredible blessings and embarked on a dangerous journey of self reliance that had no room for God.


Prayer in schools vanished, evolution became the science of choice, living together replaced marriage, casual sex became the norm, rampant divorce led to the demise of the family which in turn left millions of kids confused and angry, the filth of pornography was protected as free speech, the mother’s womb became a death chamber for over fifty million babies, God’s moral absolutes were considered archaic for our modern society and were replaced by relativism, God’s name and His ten commandments were considered threatening to many and have been ousted from public places, and now homosexuality and gay marriage is applauded and championed in every aspect of our society.


Additionally, our elected officials, from the White House to the Governor’s office have not upheld their oath of office by refusing to defend the laws of the land and the measures voted on by the people. And sadly, unelected judges with no accountability are determining the course that the nation is heading on many moral issues.


If the Founding Fathers could see the condition of the United States today they would think they were looking at a foreign country, not the one they so bravely established over two hundred years ago.


In its inception, and for many decades, America was good and the church of Jesus Christ was a big part of that goodness.  The Bible was believed, faith was important, families attended church together, and God was considered as the cornerstone of society.


But, like our nation, something happened to the church. Theologians, scholars, and experts suddenly got “smarter” and started to doubt the Bible, wondered if God’s moral absolutes were really necessary, took a twisted view of morality, and began to compromise the truth. Instead of pouring energy into discipleship and helping Christians mature in the faith, the church decided that it needed to be “cool” and popular with the world. So the church made the sanctuary look like a night club or a lounge, replaced heartfelt worship with an entertainment extravaganza that rivaled a Las Vegas production, replaced the Bible with self help books and books about “me”, developed a crossless and bloodless gospel so as to not make people feel icky about themselves, and created buzz words like “thinking outside the box”, “emergent”, “seeker sensitive”, “non threatening services”,  “real, relevant, relational”, and “a new way to do church”.


And the results have been devastating. The church of Jesus Christ has lost its savor and has become no different than the world. Tragically, the church has lost the power of the Holy Spirit to impact our culture for Kingdom of God.

Church, we must be honest and shoulder some of the blame for the pathetic condition of our nation. We should have been leading the way for the culture to see their need of God and been the lighthouse to show them the way to Him. Instead , we compromised the truth and became like the ones we were called to transform. We have shamed our magnificent God’s name.


While its easy, and common, in articles like this to bemoan, the ills of society and the church, and how we’re going to hell in a hand basket, it is another thing to offer a solution.  Church, there is a solution.


And that solution is revival.


Only a revival in the church can halt the disaster that ominously looms before our nation.  The church is sick and on life support, but God can breathe new life into her. But it will come at a cost. Church, we, all of us who name Jesus as Savior, must fall on our faces before our holy God, repent of our own sins, the sins of the church, and the sins of the nation, and cry out to God for mercy.  Perhaps He will send revival fires our way. A revived church is surrendered, deep, passionate, fearless, bold, loving, hungry for holiness, and anointed by God. A revived church is alive and in love with Jesus Christ, and has an enormous impact on society.


Church, our nation is dying, and we, the body of Christ, can be used by Him to rescue it. Will we humble ourselves, repent, and die to self so He can live through us?


It may be now or never.

WHY YOUNG PEOPLE LEAVE THE CHURCH AND HOW TO STOP IT

Statistics reveal that the majority of young people who grew up in church leave it soon after graduating from high school, and most of them will never return. I’ve seen some statistics that speculate that the rate could be as high as eighty percent. This shocking reality should cause us to take a long, hard look at how the church “ministers” to youth.

Why do they leave? While I’m not a professional statistician or sociologist, I have interacted with young people and observed how the church relates to them, and I have come to conclusions that won’t be very popular with some.  Here they are.

When our kids are elementary school age, they go to Sunday school and Children’s Church which is great. However, what are they taught? By the time they reach fourth or fifth grade they have heard the story of the Walls of Jericho, Jonah and the fish’s belly, the parting of the Red Sea, Joseph and the many colored coat, and David and Goliath a zillion times. Oh, the story is presented in a more advanced level as they get older, but it is still the same story. By the time our kids finish elementary school, they have been storied to death. And they are bored.

Then they get to junior high and high school and join youth group, which is great. But what do they get in these gatherings? Silly games, greasy pizza, and a brief devotional that is as shallow as a wading pool. They are taken to stadium events once a year where there is a smorgasbord of continuous high tech emotional hype including blaring music, skits, games, and speakers that have the corner market on “cool”. These speakers dress like a sixteen year old and talk the latest “lingo” as they feed our kids a rah-rah message. At the conclusion of their talk, kids, who have been swayed by all the emotional hype, come forward by the hundreds to “surrender” their lives to God, not having a clue what that means. They come back to church the next week chanting “God is cool” and give the appearance of being transformed from the event. However, within a couple of months they are right back to who they were before the attending the event. While these gatherings do impact some kids, the vast majority are ultimately left unchanged.

Then they leave for college, the military, or jobs, and church is all but forgotten. I believe there are two main reasons for this mass exodus.

First, they have never been challenged in their faith. They haven’t been taught theology and doctrine and thus are clueless on what they believe and why they believe it. When challenged by a college professor or coworker about matters of faith, specifically Christianity, they can’t answer. Then doubts creep into their minds and they see no great reason for their faith. They never had anyone explain theology and how it relates to all matters of life, and have not dug deeply into the Bible. Their church experience has left them empty, and they find no relevance in following Jesus.

Second, they have not seen authentic discipleship lived out by adults in their lives – at church or at home. They see the adults in church bickering about the color of the carpet, the loudness of the music, and the length of the pastor’s sermon. They see adults who gossip, criticize, and live lives that are unholy. Young people are very impressionable, and when they see adults clueless about their faith and living like the rest of the world they think “Jesus really doesn’t make a difference, so why should I follow Him?”.  And they plunge headlong into the “goodies” the world dangles in front of them.

We are losing our kids to the world, and we scratch our heads in confusion and anger and wonder why. My friend, we have failed our kids both intellectually and practically. But their is hope.

I strongly believe that we need to teach our young people theology so by the time they graduate high school, they have a firm grasp on what they believe and why they believe it. Our kids are hungry to know truth, and we must be the ones to teach them. A few years ago I was invited to teach at a local church’s youth group. As I started to my lesson, the discussion took a fascinating turn. The junior and senior highers started to ask deep, penetrating questions about spiritual issues and how these truths impacted their lives. We went straight, without a break, for almost two hours. These kids were hungry. They had questions that were not being addressed at their church, and they wanted, and needed, to have answers.The adults in church basically said “just believe’, and wouldn’t, or couldn’t, answer their questions. I also had the privilege of leading a Bible study in a high school (before the school day began) for three years and found these kids to be hungry for truth and knowledge (evidenced by their willingness to get to school at 6:45 am for the study).

I’ve been told that we can’t bore our youth with theology and deep Bible study. I couldn’t disagree more. There is nothing boring about learning about God and how His precepts shape our lives. Too many kids have been told what not to do without explaining the biblical reasons why. A young woman came to me once and said she had always been told not to engage in sex until after she was married, but was never told why. The pat answer of “because the Bible says so” didn’t satisfy her question of “why not?”. So I opened my Bible and, going systematically through Scripture, explained why God limits sexual activity to marriage. After I was done and answered her questions, she looked at me and said that no one had ever explained it biblically before.

My friends, we must take the risk to teach biblical theology to our young people. Ignorance of theology and the Bible is ignorance of God. And ignorance of God leads to chaotic, messed up lives.

The other thing we must do is to live out discipleship in our own lives. Our kids need to role models in church and at home who show them what a follower of Jesus looks like. They need to see passionate, sold out, surrendered believers who love Jesus and who desire to live out biblical Christianity in all aspects of life. I’m not talking perfection, as no one is, but true, humble followers of Jesus who know what they believe and why they believe it, who apply His Word to their lives as they walk on the journey of holiness, and who openly repent when they blow it. When they see the impact Jesus has on the lives of the adults around them, it will hopefully impact them.

Will these two measures guarantee that our kids will be strong, uncompromised followers of Jesus? No. We are fallen human beings and some will choose not to follow. However, I believe that if we do these two things, we will dramatically lower the mass exodus of young people from church that we are currently experiencing.

My friends, lets turn the tide and start giving our kids what they really need. We’ve lost way too many. Let’s resolve to lose no more.

IF WE TRULY FOLLOW JESUS WILL THE WORLD LIKE US?

Over the last couple of decades many non Christians said that the church was no longer relevant, so  the church “experts” concluded that it was time to think outside the box in order to create a new way of doing church. As a result the church spent enormous amounts of time, energy, and resources trying to remake itself so it would look “with it”, “cool’, and a place where people can have a good time, sort of like going to a dinner theater or concert.

This “outside the box” thinking led to many changes. For example, many churches have dropped the word “church” from their name because the word “church”, they say, is threatening to many people. In some churches (or whatever name they have called themselves), you’ll find living room type seating complete with latte bars in order to make the atmosphere seem casual and comfy. Others have gone to great expense to make the music rival a rock concert with special effects, unique lighting, and a multimedia extravaganza. In keeping with the entertainment driven focus on this new way of doing church, it is common to see skits, plays, and dance routines in the service. Many have taken the preaching time and made it into a light, breezy, talk centered on pop psychology, self improvement, and managing one’s life.

Unfortunately, in the church’s attempt to become “relevant”, it has become spiritually “irreverent”.  All of these changes haven’t made a powerful impact in our society for the Kingdom of God. In fact, it seems to have done just the opposite. It has created a shallow spirituality that has deceived countless numbers of people in thinking that they are “okay” with God when they haven’t a clue of who Jesus is, how one becomes a Christian, and what it really means to follow Jesus.

We have it all wrong. Instead of seeking the world’s approval, we should be seeking God’s approval. Instead of being popular with the world, we should strive to be popular with Him.

The church has been so preoccupied with being liked by the world, we have forgotten that, if Christians follow Jesus, and I mean really follow Him as sold out disciples, the world won’t like us. Why? Because Jesus said so: “If
the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you
as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out
of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember the words I spoke to you: ‘No servant is
greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute
you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also”. John 15:18-20

As believers in Jesus Christ, we are supposed to be different because we have been regenerated by the Holy Spirit. We have new purpose, new motives, a new world view, new standards of behavior, new ways of relating to people, new parameters for entertainment choices, and a new focus. And all of these will be different from the world, and the world probably won’t like us for what we stand for because a  lifestyle of deep
discipleship is very much counter culture to the status quo of society.
The apostle Paul said in  2 Timothy 3:12 “In fact, everyone who wants to
live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted”.

(By the way. when I say we are to be different, I’m
not talking about being purposely obnoxious, spiritually smug, or
acting spiritually weird in order to get non Christians to hate us so we can tell others how much we are being persecuted for Jesus.
That’s dumb. I’m talking about living in intimacy with our incredible
God, being sold out to Him, and being on the journey of holiness and
surrender.)

You see my friends, while there is nothing wrong with using technology, the church doesn’t need gimmicks, promotions, or Madison Avenue marketing techniques to attract people to Jesus. We need Christians who are passionate about Jesus, knowledgeable of the Bible and theology, and filled with the Holy Spirit. We don’t need to be clever with the Word, just preach and teach the truth under the anointing of the Holy Spirit, and let Him do the rest. We don’t need entertainment, just genuine worship from hearts that are in love with Jesus. We don’t need to be “cool”, we need to be holy. Maybe I’m old fashioned, or not “with it”, but I believe, and always will believe, that Jesus is enough. And when we make our lives and churches about Him and chuck the idea of being popular with the world, God will use us to impact our culture and draw many to Himself. 

I wonder,…what would our culture look like if every born again believer in Jesus acted like one? If every Christian knew what they believed and why they believed it, and lived it out in daily life? If every Christian died to self, surrendered to God, and really fell in love with Jesus? If every Christian was passionate, bold, and unashamed of the Truth?

What would it look like? Boggles the mind, doesn’t it?

WILL YOU BE PART OF THE REMNANT?

   

Leading up to November 6, Christian leaders urged believers to fast and pray for the elections.  While we must be involved in the political process by voting with a biblical worldview and praying for our civil leaders, government is not the answer to our crumbling society. Never has been. Never will be.

If we want to see a transformed culture we must concentrate our energies on praying for a revived church. God is the answer, and as we can see throughout history, He uses His church as an instrument of change in society.

However, the church needs revival. Big time.  We’ve been too busy remaking the church into something Jesus never intended – shallow, compromised, spineless, and unholy.  A revived church is passionate, knowledgeable, bold, fearless, uncompromising, and loving.  A revived church is saturated with the Holy Spirit, sold out to Jesus, and empowered to build the Kingdom of God.

Will we finally wake up and start crying out to God in repentance for our own sins and the sins of our nation?  Church, God is calling us back. He desires to use us, and revival is our only hope.  We need a third Great Awakening.

In Ezekiel 22:30, as God is pronouncing judgment on the nation of Israel He said: “I searched for a man among them who would build up the wall and stand in the gap before Me for the land so I would not destroy it, but I found no one“. What a sad commentary on the people of Israel, but I wonder if God is searching for a remnant in His church today who are totally sold out to Him and are willing to stand in the gap and cry out fervently and passionately for revival.

Oh church, we desperately need a remnant, a group of passionate followers of Jesus who are tired of the status quo, whose hearts burn to see His glory fill this land, and who long to see Him high and lifted up.

But where is the remnant?

One of the saddest portions of Scripture is found in Ezekiel 10 where God’s glory (His presence) leaves the temple in Jerusalem. He goes from the Holy of Holies to the threshold, then from the threshold to the east gate, and finally it is implied that He left the east gate and returned to heaven. The saddest part is that the Israelites were so steeped in sin that they didn’t even know God’s presence left. And without His presence, they were doomed.

Is God’s glory (i.e. His presence) leaving His church in America right now?  Have we become so numb to our sin and so complacent in our Christian walk that we don’t notice his presence departing?

Another verse in Ezekiel is just as sobering as the ones mentioned above. In chapter 9, as God is dispatching an angel to execute judgment on Jerusalem, He gives the angel this command in verse 4: “...Begin at My sanctuary“. The Temple, where His presence was and where His people came to offer sacrifices in worship had become so sinful and cold that His judgment had to begin there. Do you see the parallel? If God brings judgment on America, He will need to start in His church. We have lost our first love and have compromised our holiness with the world.

My friends, our wonderful God loves us. We are His bride, but we have gone after other lovers. We need to present ourselves to our Groom as His chaste, holy, devoted bride. We often say that we are waiting on God to do a work in our midst. But is God waiting on us? Is He waiting for a remnant to fall in love with Him and to stand in the gap for revival?

Church, we are at a crossroads. Will we be the Nineveh in the book of Jonah that heeded God’s call to repent and were spared judgment, or will be the Nineveh 100 years later in the book of Nahum that did not repent and seek after God, and was destroyed?

Is it too late? Perhaps not. But we need a remnant who will stand in the gap and seek His face. A remnant who will cry out to Him for revival. Will you be part of the remnant who God stops His search at because He found the one who is willing to stand strong for truth, who will not compromise no matter what the cost, and who will stand in the gap?

Will you be part of the remnant? Which Nineveh will His church be?

…BUT NOT BAD ENOUGH


So many Christians say they want more of God in their lives. However, this is incorrect thinking. Why? Because when we repented of our sins and trusted in Jesus as Savior, we got all of Him – not half, not three quarters, not ninety-nine percent. The Holy Spirit indwelt us and now we walk this planet with God the Holy Spirit residing in us. No, we don’t need to get more of God, what we need is to give God more of us. That’s what is missing in the lives of most Christians, the surrender of ourselves to Him. You see, if we want to live in intimacy with Him and in the daily reality of His presence, we have to give Him more of ourselves, and more of ourselves, and more of ourselves, until we give Him ALL of ourselves.

Many say “Yes, this is what I want”. But, unfortunately, they don’t want it bad enough. They don’t discipline themselves to do what is necessary to live in this reality, and they fight surrendering themselves totally to Him.

For example, many believers want to know the Bible and grasp a firm understanding of God and His ways, but not bad enough. Their Bibles sit on their night stands, basically unread. Additionally, busyness and indifference keep them from Bible study, Sunday school, and the worship service.  The result? They go through life as shallow Christians, ignorant of God’s Word, which leads to a shallow, lukewarm relationship with Him.  

Also, most believers want to have a powerful prayer life, but not bad enough. Days go by with just a few, if any, quick “Facebook type” prayers rushed as we barrel like out of control freight trains through life. Prayer is the most important spiritual discipline we exercise because it is the key that unlocks intimacy with God, and it is the determining factor for everything we do in life, from ministry to our personal lives. Sadly, prayer meetings are so sparsely attended one would think that Christians don’t believe in prayer. God isn’t impressed with our Facebook prayers – those that are rushed, mechanical, and passionless. God wants us to spend time with Him, and He waits for us to stop for a little while each day and talk to Him. He waits for us…and waits,,,and waits. And we don’t show up. How would you feel if the one you love didn’t make time to talk to you? That’s exactly how God feels. Again, we want to have a dynamic prayer life, but not bad enough to take the steps necessary to have one.

Finally, virtually all followers of Jesus would agree that our country is headed in the wrong direction morally and spiritually, and that we desperately want to see a powerful move of God in revival. But not bad enough. We look out “there”, and say that “they” need revival while being blind to the fact that each one of us needs revival too. We want the goodies of revival – full churches, powerful worship, anointed preaching, passionate prayer, many being saved, society transformed – but we don’t want to pay the price that is necessary for revival to come. Revival is painful, as we must search our own hearts and come to grips with our own sin, humbly fall on our faces before our Holy God, and repent. We must become transparent and real, and surrender our lives to Him. We must be willing to forsake anything, absolutely anything, that is not honoring to Him. Revival comes with much prayer, authentic humility, much discomfort as we wrestle with God over those thing in our lives that must go, and with deep repentance. Alas, how many Christians are really serious about revival? We want it, but not bad enough.

My friends, you and I must ask ourselves this question – a profound question that will reveal the true condition of our hearts – do I want intimacy with God and His manifest presence in my life so much that I will clear a certain time slot on my calendar every day to spend time with Him in prayer and in His Word? Do I want revival bad enough that I will fervently pray for it, and ask God to start the revival with me – that He will convict me of those things in my life that He disapproves of? Do I want revival bad enough to respond in deep repentance, absolute surrender, and do radical surgery to get rid of anything He asks me to?

What is missing in most Christian’s lives is a deep hunger for, and a passionate pursuit of intimacy with our incredible God. In this crazy, fast-paced, high tech world we live in we get too distracted by “other things”, even if these “other things” are not bad in and of themselves. We too often choose the lesser, even the good,  instead of the best. And we miss out on the reality for which we were created – to enjoy a deep intimate relationship with God and to be used by Him for His glory.

Do you and I want the best? Will we give more of ourselves to God until we give Him all of us? Are we willing to whatever it takes to have this become a reality in our lives? Do you and I want Him bad enough?