FINALLY, BROTHERS AND SISTERS

I started uncompromisedchristiaity.com in 2009 with the hope that God would use my love for writing to help Christians be deep, sold out, surrendered, passionate followers of Jesus. I’ve enjoyed writing these posts and thank those who read them and those who wrote comments whether they agreed with me or not. However, I feel led not to renew my blog. Since 2009 I’ve averaged only three views per day, which really isn’t having an impact on the church. So, as I close this blog, I just want to encourage those who read this to die to self, surrender totally to Jesus, and walk in spiritual brokenness. Be those passionate, hungry, deep Christians that the world needs to see and that brings glory to our awesome Savior.

My brothers and sisters, I pray the our incredible God would go before you to led you, behind you to protect you, above you to watch over you, beneath you to steady you, beside you to encourage you, and within you to love you.

TO GOD BE THE GLORY!!!!

WAKE UP, CHURCH !

America is spinning out of control at a dizzying pace. Gender has been totally turned upside down from the two God created (male and female), to more than 100 different ones a person can choose from today. Marriage has been redefined from God’s design of one man and one woman to homosexual marriage, or whatever one wants it to be. Our kids are indoctrinated into these perverse ideas as early as elementary school. Premarital sex, adultery, and pornography are firmly entrenched in our culture. Mass shootings are becoming the norm. Racial unrest is at a boiling point. Abortion is still legal and celebrated, to the extent that a law legalizing infanticide in New York was welcomed with a standing ovation. Drug abuse continues to be widespread and destroys lives daily, but our governing bodies pass laws legalizing marijuana and setting up “safe injection zones” in cities. The family structure is in shambles. Technology has consumed society so much that it is hard to go anywhere these days without seeing numerous people looking down at a five inch by three inch black screen. God’s moral absolutes have been replaced by relativism. And incivility and vicious vitriol is everywhere.

Where is the church, the body of Christ that has been empowered by the indwelling Holy Spirit to impact society for Jesus Christ? The church has fallen asleep.

It’s time to wake up Church!! It’s time we get our head out of the sand and take a realistic look at what’s going on. We’ve deluded ourselves into a “lala” land of “positive and encouraging” while our nation crumbles around us.

Wake up,Church! It’s time to stop putting our energy and time into showing the world how “cool” we are and start falling on our faces before our holy God in repentance, crying out to Him for mercy. While our world is barreling into the abyss, the church is too busy “thinking outside the box” and being emergent, emerging, and seeker sensitive. It’s time we be the body of Christ! We’ve been too preoccupied on being relevant – many churches have made their facilities look like coffee houses where one can come in their lounge pants, tank top, and flip flops and get a mocha latte to sip while sitting back and watching the musical extravaganza and then listening to a motivational speech centered on “me” that’s filled with cool jokes and cute stories. We want people to come to church and have “fun” , feel good about themselves, and laugh. I’m sorry, but there is nothing funny about the condition of our country. We’ve amused and entertained ourselves to death.

Wake up, Church! Jesus never called us to be cool. He called us to be holy, He called us to be His surrendered disciples who die to self and live solely for His glory.  He called us to live in spiritual brokenness, where we are totally dependent on Him in every facet of life. He called us to have a deep, intimate relationship with Him, and to be hungry and thirsty for Him, and for holiness. And He called us to be His witnesses in a sin cursed world.

Wake up, Church! We have become so culturally relevant that we’ve become spiritually irreverent. We know all about the latest box office success, app for our Iphone, or best selling book, but are ignorant about the Bible and clueless about theology. We have become an inch deep and a mile wide, having settled for a shallow, mediocre walk with Jesus that wants just enough of Him to get into heaven but not enough of Him to make Him the absolute Lord of our lives. We’ve lost our first love and gone after other lovers. We have played the harlot with the world, and the world saw through our phony coolness and has cast us aside like dirty laundry.

Wake up, Church! The most powerful entity on the planet, the church of Jesus Christ, has become powerless to impact our world. We have become powerless because we have become passionless, and we have become passionless because we have become prayerless. And as a result we lost the culture.

Wake up, Church! We’ve lulled ourselves into a false sense of God’s approval and have become blind to our own sin. We have become like the Laodicean church in Revelation 3 where Jesus says to it: ‘I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I wish that you were cold or hot. 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…”

Wake up, Church! If judgment comes to America God will start with His church, just as He did with ancient Israel. Some of the most chilling verses in Scripture are found in Ezekiel 9:5-7 where God said to the angels who He commissioned to bring judgment on Judah because of their gross sin:  “But to the others He said in my hearing, “Go through the city after him and strike; do not let your eye have pity and do not spare. ‘Utterly slay old men, young men, maidens, little children, and women, but do not touch any man on whom is the mark; and you shall start from My sanctuary.’ So they started with the elders who were before the temple. And He said to them, ‘Defile the temple and fill the courts with the slain. Go out!’ Thus they went out and struck down the people in the city.” God tells the angels to start the judgment in the sanctuary. Do you see, my friends, God’s judgment had start in the very place where He was supposed to be worshiped and glorified. And it will be the same for His church.

Wake up, Church! If God brought judgment on His covenant people Israel, do we dare think he won’t start His judgment now with His new covenant church? Are we so clueless and smug that we have convinced ourselves that we will get a pass because we are His bride?

Wake up, Church! It’s time to stop everything and fall on our faces in humility and repentance for our own personal sins the sins of the church, and cry out to Him for revival. We need a third Great Awakening! Is it too late? Have we crossed the line, and has His righteous judgment been ordained? Only God knows. But, even if we have crossed the line, we can still pray that God would rend the heavens and come down in a powerful move of true revival one more time before His judgment comes. In ancient Judah, King Manasseh was so wicked that he crossed the line and God determined to bring His judgment on Judah. Even though Manasseh repented at the end of his life and his grandson, Josiah, brought about a revival in the land, it was too late, and judgment was coming at the hands of the Babylonians. Manasseh’s wickedness was that bad. Is this a picture of America? Is judgment looming on the horizon as determined by God? I don’t know, but I do know that we need to repent regardless of what God has chosen to do.

Wake up, Church! We live in dire times and need to live with a sense of urgency. We can take back the culture for Jesus in these last days, but only is we repent and humbly cast ourselves at His feet for mercy and cry out for revival. This is our only hope.

Wake up Church! Will you who is reading this right now be one of the remnant who does this, or will you fall into the sad reality of what God said in Ezekiel 22:30 when He was about to bring His judgment on Judah:  “I searched for a man among them who would build up the wall and stand in the gap before Me for the land, so that I would not destroy it; but I found no one.”  How tragic! God could not find anyone who would humble themselves in repentance and cry out to Him for mercy on the nation. Will He find a Christian today who will stand in the gap for America?

Wake up, Church! Will you, reader, stand in the gap, repent, and cry out to Him for revival. Will you risk being laughed at and being called a “doom and gloom negative Nellie” or will you just go with the flow and care more about your reputation and comfort and leave the urgent call to repentance and revival to someone else, who will leave it to someone else, who will leave it to someone else…? My friend, if not you, who?

OH, CHURCH, WAKE UP!

LORD BREAK ME – A PERSONAL TESTIMONY

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

THE THREE WORDS THAT CHANGE EVERYTHING

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Practically, dying to “self” means that:

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

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

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

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

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

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

My friends, die, and live!

THE BAR HAS BEEN SET TOO LOW

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

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

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

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

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

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

What incredible promises God has made available to us!!

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

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

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

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

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.

O LORD, HEAR US FROM HEAVEN

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oh Sovereign Lord, HEAR US FROM HEAVEN!!

MORE OF GOD…OR LESS OF ME?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SIGNING THE BLANK CONTRACT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amen!