Category Archives: Church

WILL THE CHURCH LET JESUS BACK IN?

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Laodicean church indeed!

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

THE CHURCH HAS LOST ITS POWER, AND WE HAVE NO ONE TO BLAME BUT OURSELVES

In a Washington Post article concerning Donald Trump’s meeting with evangelical leaders, the author wrote this: “While it wasn’t the first time Trump has reached out to the Christian right, it provided a vivid illustration of the fact that as an organized and potent force in national politics, the Christian right has faded into nothingness. It now exists for nothing more than to be patted on the head and sent on its way with an encouragement to vote in November”.

I was struck by the words “faded into nothingness”. Sadly, that is exactly how the secular world views Christianity in our culture – an irrelevant old dinosaur with outdated views that are harmful to the progress of the human race.
How did we get here? Around thirty years ago the church “experts” realized the culture was drastically changing, so they decided that the church needed to change with it. Unfortunately, this change has turned into compromise. In order to reach people in this post modern culture, we had to “do” church differently. First we needed to ditch the word “church”, as this brought angst to too many people. Then we needed to change our worship to be an entertainment extravaganza complete with the latest technological gadgets to tantalize the senses. Next the teaching needed to be “me” focussed, with theology and deep biblical truth dispensed with. Finally, the gospel had to be watered down to a bloodless and crossless event so that it wouldn’t be threatening  to unbelievers, and, along the same lines, Bible studies and prayer meetings became “nonthreatening” in order to make everyone comfortable and feeling good about themselves.
The results to this paradigm shift have been disastrous. The average “Christian” (I use this term loosely) is clueless about what they believe and why thy believe it, and have no idea how a follower of Jesus Christ is supposed to live. The average church attendee is an inch deep and a mile wide, and is anything but a testimony to the saving grace of our awesome Savior. Holiness, surrender, spiritual brokenness, and dying to self have been eliminated from discipleship. This, my friends, is a counterfeit discipleship and is totally foreign to Scripture.
Society sees Christianity as basically no different themselves, and thus irrelevant to their lives.
And what is the church’s response? Do we get back to the basics and return to being Jesus centered? Evidently, and unfortunately, not. We continue to pander to the culture and expend enormous time and energy in keeping up with it by continuing to adopt to their latest modes of dress, talk, music, use of technology, and lifestyle. In so doing, we have become so “cool” that our hearts have become as cold as ice towards Jesus. The culture sees right through our phoniness and, at best, just laughs, and, at worst, tries to eliminate us from society.

What a tragedy. The church, which is the most powerful entity on the planet because of the indwelling Holy Spirit, and the avenue that Jesus chose to be the transforming agent in the world, has become powerless. This powerlessness has risen because we have become prayerless, and we have become prayerless because we have become passionless for Jesus. We have taken our eyes off the One who is the Head of the church and put them on ourselves. In our pragmatism, we have become useless, and we have no one to blame but ourselves.

Can this be changed? Yes, but there’s only one way – humble, deep heart repentance for our own sins of lukewarmness and compromise. We need to cry out to God for mercy and to send a mighty wind of revival in the heart of His church. A revived church is in love with, and sold out to, Jesus, and is filled with passion, conviction, and boldness to be used By Him to transform society – not politically but spiritually.

If we don’t do this, then the words of Jesus to the church of Laodicea in Revelation 3:16 will be directed to us – “So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth”.

Church it’s time to come back to Jesus. It could very well be now or never.

THE DEISM OF AMERICAN CHRISTIANITY

While, there are different theological and philosophical ideas in deism, it’s basic belief is that there is a Supreme Being who created the universe, but then stepped back and distanced Himself from it. He established the laws of nature and then let the universe run itself. This idea includes human beings – God is not involved in our lives and is not interested in what we do. Theism, on the other hand,  holds that God created everything and is intimately involved in His creation, including the lives of human beings.  He cares what we do and is active in our daily lives. Evangelical Christianity is anchored in theism because theism is built on biblical truth.

However, by looking at evangelicalism today, it seems that many Christians live a deist type of Christianity. Most Christians today live as though God doesn’t really care how they live their lives. They acknowledge Jesus as their Savior but leave Him there. They become the “god” of their own lives.

How else can we explain the staggering divorce rate, premarital sex, addictions to pornography, unwholesome entertainment choices, self absorbed life styles, lack of honesty and integrity, and materialism that is so prevalent in the church? Over the years I’ve talked to countless believers who made choices that are so contrary to God’s holy standards, and seemed oblivious to the horrible witness they were to the world of what it means to be a child of God. Recently I heard a DJ on a national Christian radio show say that he viewed a certain movie and approved of a caller to the station who said that he saw it too. Not knowing about this movie, I read a review of it on a Christian movie review website and was absolutely horrified at the film’s sexually immoral and profanity laced content that the reviewer summarized. And yet here were two Christians, one who has a national platform, saying that they saw the movie without any real sense of shame.

The current mantra among many believers is “God wants me to be happy”, which then allows them to pursue anything they desire. This is deist thinking. No, my friends, God isn’t concerned with our happiness, He is concerned with our holiness. When we are walking in holiness we have His approval, and when we have His approval we have His presence in our lives, and when we have His presence in our lives we have joy. And joy, which is rooted deep in our hearts, is infinitely better than happiness, which is dependent on outside circumstances.

The worldview of a deist leads to disastrous results. Since all human beings are fallen creatures that are born with a sin nature, it is natural for us, even Christians,  to be selfish, self serving, and egocentric.  And that is the way many Christians act. Without dying to self and grasping the reality of Romans 6 that our old self was crucified with Jesus so that when we surrender to Him and His will sin has no power over us, we act just like the unredeemed.

A very popular saying in Christendom is “Christianity isn’t a set of ‘do’s and don’ts’ but a relationship”. While this sounds good and eases our consciences, it is only half correct. Salvation is not a set of “do’s and don’ts”, we are saved by grace alone through faith alone in Jesus alone (not by works, religion, or anything else). However, as followers of Jesus, discipleship is very much a set of “do’s and don’ts”. God has set the parameters of what is acceptable for His children and what is not. He has set the standards of holiness which we are all to strive for. Just read the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7, Luke 9:23, Luke 14:33, 1 Peter 1:16-17, and Philippians 4:8 as just a small sample of the definition of how a follower of Jesus should live.

Sadly, deism has dominated the thinking of the church today, leaving biblical holiness by the wayside. My friends, God does care how we live. Since He created us and is active in our lives, He knows what’s best for us, has laid down the definition of how we are to live, and expects us to follow it. When we treat Him in a deist way, we become the gods of our own lives and shame His glorious name and bring misery to our lives. Yes, it does matter what we watch on TV or at the movies. It does matter what we read or look at on the computer. It does matter what we say how we treat others, how we define marriage, and how we define sexuality. God has given us the standards for each of these, and we can’t just ignore them and convince ourselves that “God wants me happy” trumps them all.

God is our Creator, He loves us and has set the standards of behavior by which we are to live (for our own good and for His glory), and is active in our lives. The question is – will we surrender ourselves totally to Him? Will we give Him all rights to ourselves to His will, die to “self’ and live for His glory instead of our happiness? We will all give an account of ourselves to Him when our lives on earth are over and we stand before Him. May we live in such a way that we will not be ashamed of how we conducted our lives, and then hear Him say: ‘I know you weren’t perfect, but I know your heart was sold out to Me and you heart’s desire was to follow Me. Well done!”.

A PRAYER FOR THE CHURCH IN AMERICA FOR 2016

A prayer for the church in America for 2016:

Father,

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

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

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

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

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

In Jesus’ name, Amen.

THE BRIDE IS NOT READY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SHOULD CHRISTIANS BE INVOLVED IN CULTURE WARS?

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

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

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

I disagree.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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?


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?