Hi my friends. As we approach Good Friday and Easter, I thought I’d share this video of the apostle John’s first hand account of Jesus’ death on our behalf. It is my prayer that it might give you a deeper understanding of what Jesus went through on our behalf, and that you would grow deeper in love with Him and surrender all of yourself to Him. To Him be the glory forever!! Happy Easter!
I’ve been asked if the current corona virus pandemic is God’s judgement on the world for our rebellion against Him. Well, the answer to that loaded question is “yes” and “maybe, maybe not”.
“Yes” in the sense that all sickness, disease, famine, natural disasters, pestilences, and death are the result of sin. When Adam and Eve ate the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, disobeying God’s clear command not to, sin entered God’s perfectly created universe and all of creation was cursed. There would now be calamities like hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, and tsunamis, The climate would be severe at times and the ground would now produce weeds that could be controlled only by hard labor. Disease entered creation and human beings would now get sick and die. So, all of these negative consequences of the fall are, in a sense, God’s judgment on sin.
The “maybe, maybe not” answer to the above question is that the current pandemic could be a judgement on our present society for our rebellion against Him, however, it could also not be God’s judgement. There have been numerous pandemics over the course of history so the question could be asked, then, “have all of the pandemic in history been God’s judgement”? We are not prophets so none of us has a direct pipeline into God’s dealings with mankind. So, then, the corona virus could be God’s judgement, but, on the other hand, it very well could not be. However, we know that God is sovereign over His universe, is omniscient, omnipresent, and omnipotent. This pandemic didn’t take Him by surprise, and He is not at a loss on what to do about it. He can let it go on indefinitely, or He can stop it in the next minute. Regardless of what He chooses to do, He has allowed this to happen, and God always has a holy purpose for everything He does or allows. He is not fickle or capricious, but rules His universe with purpose and intent in the context of His holiness. When He allows something like a pandemic or natural disaster to occur, we must take a step back and ask ourselves “what is God trying to tell us in this, what can we learn?”
So, then, what might God be trying to tell us in this current corona virus pandemic? Is God, perhaps, tearing down the idols we have built for ourselves? Is He trying to break us of the things that we have put ahead of Him? Let’s take a look.
Sports have become a major focus in our culture, but now we have had to live without the constant barrage of sports on television 24-7. There was no March Madness, no NBA or NHL games, no XFL football, no Major League baseball, and no golf. We have found that we can survive without these obsessions.
We can no longer go to a restaurant and sit in the dining room to have a meal. We either get take out or cook at home. Likewise, we can no longer go to a movie theater, concert, or amusement park. Our entertainment choices have been severely limited.
We can no longer go to the supermarket and buy whatever we want, as we cannot be certain that those items will be in stock. We have taken for granted the blessing of having a gazillion choices and fully stocked shelves in which to choose from. (On a side note, will any of us ever look at toilet paper in the same way after this is over?)
The idol of busyness has also been torn down. Instead of running around from early morning to late at night taking our kids to myriads of athletic and extra curricular activities, they now must stay home, and we are finding out that life does go on without these endless sources of stress.
The idol of our retirement investment portfolios has been obliterated. So many of us were basking in the booming economy and skyrocketing stock market, and we took our eyes off of the One who alone is the source of all of our needs. We put our trust in Dow Jones instead of the Creator and Sustainer of the universe, and, in a sense, lost our reliance on God.
And finally, for many people, the jobs that we thought were our right to have and took for granted suddenly vanished. The source of income for many people has now been dried up, and we now long for the jobs that we took for granted and so often complained about.
You see, my friends, tragedies like pandemics and natural disasters, perhaps unlike anything else, humble us and help us hit the reset button so that we get our eyes back on where they belong – on Jesus. We realize that we are not captains of our own ship and masters of our fate. We are not in control of the events of life, and the earthly things we trust in are transient at best. The idols we have built, often inadvertently, are straw houses that can be blown over in an instant.
So, my friends, during this tragic pandemic we all find ourselves in, lets ask God to show us the idols we have built for ourselves, and then refocus on the one who is the only one worthy to be worshiped and trusted in. Let’s acknowledge that God, and God alone, is Sovereign, and let us respond by surrendering totally to Him. This is the only thing that will give us peace and hope in these dark days. And remember to be the hands, feet, and mouth of Jesus in your community, helping those in need, and offering the words of hope that is only found in Him alone.
Lyrics on many contemporary Christian songs have the repeated idea that we are all flawed and messed up, but it’s okay because God still loves us anyway. The bottom line is that it’s okay to be not okay. While it’s pretty obvious that we are all flawed and God loves us regardless of this, it’s not okay to be “not okay”! As believers in Jesus, we settle for mediocrity in our lives way to easily. Allow me to explain what I mean.
I’ve talked to many Christians who constantly make bad choices, live lives that are are more worldly than holy, and have a shallow relationship with Jesus. When asked about this they just shrug their shoulders and say “oh well, I’m not perfect”, and then just settle for a mediocre Christian life. This shouldn’t be!! Do you see, when someone trusts in Jesus as his/her Savior, the Holy Spirit instantly regenerates them (John 3:3-8, Titus 3:5; which means they became a new person in Jesus), indwells them (John 14:16-17, Romans 8:9-11; which means His dynamic presence comes into their life permanently), baptizes them (Acts 1:5, 1 Corinthians 12:13; which means He initiates them into the family of God and now they are identified as God’s child), and seals them (2 Corinthians 2:2, Ephesians 1:13, 4:30; which means He forever marks them as belonging to God, and are protected by Him). Do you grasp this? If you are truly born again, you have God Himself indwelling you in the person of the Holy Spirit, and He guides you, teaches you, empowers you, and leads you through life. And because we have the indwelling Holy Spirit empowering us, we have everything necessary to live in victory in order to bring glory to our awesome God! I’m not talking about perfection, obviously, as our sin nature (the old self) hasn’t been eradicated, but a much deeper and richer walk with Jesus, and a holier life than most Christians experience.
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 1:3 states: “…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”. Isn’t that absolutely incredible? We have been blessed with every spiritual blessing and have been granted everything pertaining to life and godliness. Bottom line – we lack for nothing that will bring God glory in our lives.
Why, then do so many Christians settle for a mediocre life? First of all, what do I mean by mediocre? By mediocre I mean: a life that settles for worldly behavior instead of holiness: a relationship with God that settles for shallowness instead of intimacy; a life that is void of a deep knowledge of the Bible and theology instead of having a solid grasp of knowing what we believe and why we believe it; and a life that settles for defeat over temptation and sin instead of victory.
Why are there so many mediocre Christians today? Probably because they have never been taught the truth about what happens to us when we are born again, or, if they have been taught this, have not put these truths into operation in their lives. Well, the obvious question, then, is how do we do this, how do we put these incredible truths into operation in our lives? The answer is pretty simple but so hard for us to do – die to self and surrender totally to the Holy Spirit. We need to give Him the reins of our lives and let Him be in control of every aspect of our beings. Since God the Holy Spirit indwells us and empowers us with everything necessary that we need to live a life that glorifies God, we need to get out of His way so His power is unleashed in our lives.
But, someone might ask, since the Holy Spirit indwells me, why doesn’t He just take over? Because we must choose to surrender to Him. God doesn’t take over our lives by force. He has created us with free will, and we must choose to surrender to Him by an act of our will. To be sure, it’s what God wants for each of us, but He allows us to exercise our free will in how we choose to live. We must choose to die to self and surrender to Him. We must choose to hand Him the steering wheel and driver’s seat of our lives. We must choose to give up all rights to ourselves to Him. But, unfortunately, most Christians don’t really want to do this. They are afraid of where He may lead them, what He may want them to do, and what He might ask them to give up. So they live controlling their own lives, which leads to mediocrity – shallowness, defeat, and joylessness.
My friends, I believe that God has a specific destiny for each one of us in the life we live on earth, and this destiny will only be accomplished when we die to self and surrender to Him. This destiny will will bring Him glory, which is the only way to live a life of meaning, purpose, and joy. Let me encourage you, don’t be mediocre! It is Biblical truth that you have everything necessary to live a life that glorifies God. Don’t settle for anything less. Die to self, give Him all of you in complete surrender, and be on the journey of holiness. Remember, we exist for one purpose – to glorify Him. Life isn’t about us – our happiness, our pleasure, our success, or our fulfilled dreams – it’s about Him!! And when we truly make Him Lord of our lives, when we strive to be all He wants us to be through the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit, when we won’t settle for being mediocre in our Christian walk, then we will know Him intellectually, pursue Him relentlessly, approach Him reverently, love him intimately, follow Him unconditionally, worship Him passionately, stand up for Him unashamedly, serve Him excellently, and enjoy Him gladly. And this is a life worth living that makes a powerful difference for God’s kingdom in this dark world.
Oh my friends, in the person of the Holy Spirit who indwells you, you have everything necessary to live a God honoring, victorious life. Don’t settle for anything less. Don’t be mediocre!!
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 50 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!
The concept of fearing God is not a popular topic in churches today. Most Christians aren’t interested in a God who commands us to fear Him, they would rather have a God who is syrupy sweet, easy going, permissive and who winks and smiles at their sin and says “its okay, don’t worry about it”.
However, the Bible is crystal clear, and it is repeated often, that God commands us to fear him. But what does it really mean to fear God?
it is very common to interpret the fear of the Lord as simply having reverence for Him. But this is a soft translation. While the Hebrew and Greek words for “fear” do include the idea of reverence, they also carry with them the idea of genuine fear or dread. The word “fear” in the Old Testament is the Hebrew word yare, which means to revere or to frighten, In the New Testament the Greek word is phobos which means to be alarmed or to frighten. So fearing God includes both reverence and actual fear. Indeed, in the Old Testament, everyone who experienced a theophany (an Old Testament appearing of the Son of God before He became incarnate as Jesus Christ), or experienced a glimpse of God’ s awesome glory fell on their faces in reverence and at the same time were so overwhelmed that they were afraid that they were going to die (Exodus 33:18-20; Deuteronomy 4:33, 5:22-26; Judges 6:22-23, 13:18-22; Isaiah 6:1-5).
God is that awesome.
Fearing God, which He commands us to do, means that we hold Him in utmost reverence and respect, and knowing that He is a righteous and just God who does, and must, punish sin. Fearing God means that we walk in strict obedience to His commands, not wanting to experience His discipline if we stray from Him. To be sure, it is not a cowering terror that causes us to purposely stay distant from Him, but a healthy understanding and a keen awareness of who He is – the majestic, transcendent, eternal, righteous, just, holy One – and who we are – His creations who are sinners saved by His marvelous grace.
Additionally, and importantly, the fear of God must also be balanced with the love of God. This supremely awesome all powerful God is also our Father who loves us and cares more about us than we will ever be able to grasp. In Matthew 22:37 when Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment was, He repeated what Moses told the Israelites in Deuteronomy 6:5: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind”.
Through Jesus, we have the incredible privilege of coming to the Father as Abba, which is the Aramaic word for “father”, and is used in an endearing emotional context. The English equivalent would be “Daddy”. On the cross Jesus reconciled us to the Father, and when we, by faith, trust in Jesus as our Savior, we are adopted into the family of God and become His sons and daughters, which connotes that we have both an intellectual understanding of our relationship with Him – the fear of God – and the relational connection to Him – the love of God. Indeed, when we truly understand the theology of the cross we can’t help but pour out our love, and fear, for Him.
Yes, both fear and love are crucial in our relationship with God. If we focus on just the fear of God, it can lead to cold, mechanical legalism. But focusing on just the love of God can lead to sloppy, casual, mediocre discipleship. Both the fear of God and the love of God must be grasped and held in a Biblically balanced way if we are going to have the deeply intimate relationship with Him that He wants us to have, and will lead to a life of holiness that brings Him glory.
Unfortunately, we tend to avoid or ignore the fear aspect of our relationship with God because we think it will be a life of drudgery and misery. However, Scripture tells us just the opposite:
“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow his precepts have good understanding. To him belongs eternal praise“. Psalm 111:10
“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding”. Proverbs 9:10
“The fear of the LORD is a fountain of life, turning a person from the snares of death” . Proverbs 14:27
“Humility is the fear of the LORD; its wages are riches and honor and life”. Proverbs 22:4
“The fear of the LORD leads to life; then one rests content, untouched by trouble”. Proverbs 19:23
The fear of the Lord is not to be avoided but is to be robustly embraced because it is the path that leads to real meaning and purpose – the life that glorifies God. And, my friends, that is the reason we exist. You are breathing and your heart is beating this very second for this sole purpose – to bring glory to God. It is not about us, it is, has been, and will always be about Him. And when we bring glory to God, we experience the reality for which we were created, and experience life at its pinnacle. Nothing this world offers comes even remotely close to living in God’s presence with deep intimacy. And this becomes operative in out lives when we anchor our relationship with God on a Biblically balanced understanding of the fear of God and the love of God.
Do you love Him? Do you fear Him? These two profound foundational truths will be the catalyst in developing a deep intimate relationship with Him. And possessing this relationship with the God of the universe is life at its utmost best.
The church today has a desperate need. It’s not for more individuals with PhD’s or ThD’s. It’s not for more talented singers and musicians. It’s not or more eloquent speakers. Nor is it for more people with dynamic, charismatic personalities (those that possess the proverbial “it” factor). I believe what the church needs now more than ever is deep Christians. Followers of Jesus that leave the safety of shallow, superficial Christianity and risk it all to plunge into the depths of discipleship. Those who are not satisfied with a safe, predictable, status quo relationship with Jesus and dare to launch out to know Him as well as a human being can know Him in this life.
What is a deep Christian? Deep Christians are those who really understand the cross and have a solid theological foundation in which to anchor their relationship with God on. Deep Christians understand their total unworthiness and God’s mind boggling grace, Deep Christians have a profound sense of humility, understanding what they were and yet understanding their present position as a child of the living God only because of His incredible grace.
Deep Christians come to God in spiritual brokenness and are totally dependent on Him in every aspect of life. They die to self and surrender to Him completely, knowing that the only reason for their existence is to bring Him glory. And this brokenness, surrender, and dying to self is with gladness and joy. They don’t care what anyone thinks about them, they only care what God knows about them. Deep Christians hunger and thirst for holiness, and hunger and thirst to know Jesus more. They bear fruit for God’s kingdom, and desire that He, and only He, gets the glory.
Deep Christians are definitely not spiritually weird in that they have their heads so far in the clouds that they can’t relate to others, or are smug and obnoxious Bible thumpers who act superior to others. Nor are they perfect super saints who have “arrived”. They just live their lives in the power of the Holy Spirit and and emanate the sweet aroma of Jesus wherever they go, even if they are hated by others, criticized, or laughed at.
Deep Christians know Jesus intellectually, pursue Him relentlessly, approach Him reverently, love him intimately, follow Him unconditionally, worship Him passionately, stand up for Him unashamedly, serve Him excellently, and enjoy Him gladly.
Are you a deep Christian? My friend, don’t settle for shallowness and superficiality. Don’t be like so many Christians who are an inch deep and a mile wide. Leave the safety and predictability of the shallows and dare to plunge deeply into our incredible God. He wants you to. Dive deep, you’ll never regret it.
We enter this new year in serious trouble. Our country has lost its way and is sliding at lightning speed into the abyss. We’ve turned our backs on You, and the evidence is everywhere. We continue to slaughter babies in their mother’s wombs by the millions. Your design for sexuality has been totally discarded and its perversion is rampant – premarital sex, adultery, homosexuality, polyamory, and every other type of perverted behavior that is now called “normal”. Marriage can now be defined as whatever we want it to be. Gender is now determined by our own sinful whims instead of how You created us. Your absolute moral truth has been replaced by relativism and situational ethics. Racism, anger, and hatred define our society. Many facets of our culture have given in to political correctness instead of standing up for what is right. Greed, selfishness, and entitlement have become the prevailing mindset of our culture. We have become slaves to technology, which has actually alienated people from one another and forced us to look down at a little device in our hand instead of looking up to our Creator and out to others. Lord, we’re in trouble!
Have we finally exhausted the limits of your patience and crossed the line into certain judgment? Is it too late for America?
Father, only You know the answer to this, but would You raise a remnant of your people to cry out to you for revival in this new year. We need a Third Great Awakening! You are our only hope. We need a powerful move of the Holy Spirit in a heaven sent revival, and it must start in Your church. Father, Your bride, the church, has lost her purity and has gone after other lovers. We are to blame for many of the evils that exist in our culture because the church is the most powerful entity on the planet because we have the indwelling Holy Spirit who empowers us to do your will, and yet we have become impotent to impact the culture. On the contrary, the culture has impacted your church and we have become just like it.
The church, Your bride, has become like the Laodicean church, thinking we’re just fine when we are actually lukewarm, and wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked. We have become like the church in Sardis, thinking we are alive when we are actually dead. We have become like the churches in Pergamum and Thyatira, which compromised truth and tolerated sin. We have become the Ephesian church which had lost its first love.
We have become pragmatic instead of prayerful, entertained instead of worshipful, cool instead of holy, relevant instead of reverent, spineless instead of bold, wishy-washy instead of passionate, compromised instead of radical, and comfortable instead of convicted.
We, your bride, need to repent of our own sin and fall on our faces before You in humility, acknowledging our own sin because the most grievous sin is not “out there”, it is within the walls of the church. Break us of our lukewarmness, pride, compromise, and laziness.
Oh Father, break us of “self”.
The revival must start in the hearts of Your people, who will then be able to go out and impact the world for Jesus. It is only through a revived church that is totally sold out to You that the hearts of our nation will be transformed and our nation healed. Convict us, Lord, and may we respond to You. This is our only hope.
May 2019 be the year where we get serious, get transparent before You, acknowledge our own sin, and seek Your face for mercy and revival. Have we crossed the line? Is too late? We don’t know, so we repent and cry out to You in this new year. Oh Sovereign Lord, rend the heavens and come down, one more time.
And may the revival start with me.
I believe that one of the major deficiencies of modern day Christianity is our view of God. In order to attract more people to church and make them feel comfortable, the church has presented God as just a shadow of His true essence. We have made Him too ordinary, too common, and too plain. We have brought Him down to our level, thinking people will see Him as more approachable and more relevant. In the quest to make Him more likable, we have portrayed Him as a cosmic genie who is just waiting to grant our wishes, or “Joe” down the street who we watch football and eat guacamole with, or some cool dude who plays video games and lives on social media. In short, we have created God in our image.
How utterly tragic. Today’s Christianity has lost the understanding of the awesome holiness and majestic glory of God. In the Bible, everyone who caught a glimpse of the incredible awesomeness of God was overwhelmed beyond words. Indeed, the very nature of God– His sovereignty, omnipotence, omnipresence, omniscience, eternality, holiness, righteousness, justice, and immutability is so profound that it causes us to fall on our faces in worship of such a magnificent Being.
This unbiblical view of God is evidenced, I believe, by a couple of things. One is the worldly lifestyle and sloppy discipleship of many Christians. Since God, in our recreation of Him, is basically just a good ol’ boy, there is no need for holiness, no need for deep discipleship, no need for surrender, brokenness, or dying to self. We set the bar of discipleship too low because, after all, God is “cool” and lets us slide. However, Jesus set the bar of discipleship extraordinarily high – just read, for example, the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7, Luke 9:23, or Luke 14:26-33. The sloppy, discipleship of many Christians is a direct result of a faulty view of God.
The second evidence of our unbiblical view of God is seen in how we dress for church. Most churches tell people to come in whatever they are comfortable in – short shorts, flip flops, lounge pants, baseball caps, etc. After all, they say, God is more interested in your heart than in your attire. While this is true, I believe that this has been taken way too far. Sloppy dress has a direct correlation to a lesser view of God. Think about it – when you go to a place that requires nicer attire, it becomes more special than going to a place where you can wear your sloppy jeans and worn flip flops. Going to a nice restaurant where nicer dress is required is a lot more special than jumping in the car with your well-worn “work around the house” clothes and heading to McDonald’s. Yet, many people come into the presence of the King of Kings looking like they just finished cleaning the house. For most people, it is just not a special thing to come into the presence of our awesome God because we have recreated Him into a lesser God.
Thus, sloppy dress follows our sloppy view of God. I’m not saying we need to wear fancy three-piece suits or evening gowns to church on Sunday, but, at the very least, dress with respect for the KIng of Kings and Lord of Lords in whose presence we are coming. At the church I pastor, in the FAQ section of our church brochure regarding what to wear we say this: “Wear whatever you like as long as it is in good taste and respectful in coming into the presence of the King”.
Yet, this majestic, sovereign, awesome God who we worship is also our “Abba”, our daddy who we can have a deep intimate relationship with. Jesus died on the cross to bring justification for our sins (He died in our place to take away our sins and give us eternal life), but also to bring reconciliation between us and the Father (to restore the broken relationship between Him and us because of our sin). These two aspects of our salvation – justification and reconciliation are so crucial in our understanding of, and approach to, our awesome God. Justification reminds us of the majestic holiness of God, and that we must approach Him with reverence and awe (the intellectual understanding of who He is). Reconciliation means that we can have a deep, intimate relationship with Him as His children (the emotional connection with Him).
This Biblically balanced understanding of God will lead us to the incredible relationship that He desires us to have with Himself. Both of these – intellectual and relational – , in proper balance, are necessary because having just mental knowledge (without emotion) leads to cold legalism, and having just an emotional connection (without mental knowledge) leads to sloppy mediocrity (which, I believe, is the prominent attitude of most Christians today).
No, we don’t need to “change” God to make Him relevant to our culture. He is always relevant, and He is enough! Know God intellectually and worship Him. Love Him intimately and have a deep relationship with Him. When you have a healthy balance of these two, you will know our awesome God as He wants to be known.
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 word; Psalm 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.
Immigration is a very controversial and emotional issue. I haven’t seen too many articles expressing a Biblical world view concerning this topic, so in this post I will endeavor to present a Biblically balanced worldview on this issue that is so dominant in our society. While the Bible doesn’t pointedly address the specific immigration issues we are currently facing in 2018, it does lay down general guidelines on the treatment of foreigners, and the role of government in a society. As uncompromised followers of Jesus, we need to know what these Biblical principles are regarding this issue, understand what they mean, and then apply them to our situation. While I am aware that everyone won’t agree with me, it is hoped that this discussion will encourage Christians to take a deep dive into Scripture in order to look at the issue.
Both the Old and New Testament mention foreigners and the treatment of them. In terms of the nation of Israel in the Old Testament, this was usually in context of non-Jews living in their midst.
When the Jews were redeemed out of Egypt by God many foreigners went with them (Exodus 12:37-38, Numbers 11:4, Joshua 8:35). These folks were accepted by the Jews and received special protection (Exodus 22:21, 23:9) and were to be loved by the Israelites (Leviticus 19:34). Additionally, they were granted privileges conditioned on their obedience to certain regulations. For example they were not to blaspheme God’s name (Leviticus 24:16), engage in idolatrous worship (Leviticus 20:2), participate in acts of sexual immorality (Leviticus 18:1-26), work on the Sabbath (Exodus 20:10), eat leavened bread during the Passover remembrance (Exodus 12:19), and eat blood or flesh from animals that had been ripped apart by other animals (Leviticus 17:10, 15). As long as the foreigners followed these laws they were to be protected and were given the same civil rights as Israelite citizens. Additionally, they could even own property (Leviticus 25:47) and offer sacrifices to God (Numbers 15:14, 22-29).
If a foreigner desired to be a citizen of Israel, he had to undergo circumcision, which then bound him to observe the entire law. He was then identified with the nation and included with it (Exodus 12:48), and then would enjoy the privileges of the covenant that God made with Israel.
It must be noted, however, that there were certain people who were excluded from fellowship with the nation of Israel: the seven Canaanites nations that lived in the Promised Land were destined to destruction and thus excluded permanently (Exodus 34:12-17, Deuteronomy 7:1-4), the Edomites and Egyptians were excluded until the third generation (Deuteronomy 23:7-8), and the Ammonites and Moabites were excluded until the tenth generation (Deuteronomy 23:3; the tenth generation could symbolically mean forever).
In the New Testament, Jesus constantly interacted with non-Jews, and came to declare God’s love for all people (John 3:16). In Jesus there were no longer racial or ethnic divisions (Galatians 3:26-29), but all humanity had the privilege of participating in the New Covenant of grace through faith in Jesus. Additionally, followers of Jesus were to treat all people, including foreigners, aliens, and strangers with love and respect (1 Peter 4:9, Romans 12:13, Hebrews 13:2).
Interestingly, believers in Jesus are, in a sense, considered aliens and strangers in this world as our true citizenship is in Heaven (1 Peter 2:11). However, even though “foreigners” here on earth, we still must obey the laws of the land we live in unless these laws contradict God’s moral absolutes as seen in Scripture (an example is Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refusing to worship Nebuchadnezzar’s image in Daniel 4) just as the non-Jews were expected to obey the laws of Israel and the Jews of Jesus’ day were expected to obey the laws of the Roman empire (again, obviously, unless they contradicted God’s commands). For example, Jesus said that we need to pay taxes (Luke 20:20-26), which was reiterated by Paul (Romans 13:6-7).
The next topic we need to look at is the Biblical teaching on the role of government in society. Civil governments are established by God to preserve order in society and to protect its citizens. Governments have been empowered by God for this task, and have the mandate to punish those who break the laws of country (Romans 13:1-7, 1 Peter 2:11-17). Citizens and, yes, aliens and strangers, must obey the laws of the land. Without this, chaos and anarchy abound. Additionally, the government has the right to exclude certain people from immigrating into the country if they pose the potential of doing harm to the citizens and residents of the country (refer to the exclusion of the Canaanite nations and the Moabites and Ammonites mentioned above).
To summarize our points so far, all people are to be treated with respect, and thus we are to welcome everyone, even foreigners (aliens and strangers) and treat them with love and respect. However, all people, even aliens and strangers, must be subject to the governing authorities and must obey the laws of the land. If not the government has the mandate to punish those who break the law.
Now that we have our Biblical foundation, how do we apply it to the illegal aliens, DACA individuals, and others who want to immigrate to the United States today?
First off, all people are to be treated with respect and dignity regardless of ethnicity or country of origin, and we welcome all of those into our country who enter legally, who will not be a potential threat to our safety, and who wish to participate in our society. Secondly, we are a nation of laws, and our laws must be obeyed. If not, the government has the responsibility to punish those who break the law because there must be consequences for illegal behavior or chaos will reign. (As an aside, there are some churches today that harbor illegal aliens from the government. I believe that this is wrong because abetting those who are lawbreakers is rebelling against God’s command to obey government. Remember, we obey the governing authorities as long as they don’t cause us to violate God’s commands. Our immigration laws are not in violation of God’s moral laws).
In regards to illegal aliens in our country today, they have broken the immigration laws of the United States and there must be consequences. But what about those who have been in this country for many years, have worked hard, been law abiding citizens, and have assimilated into our society? That’s a tough question, but I believe, using a Biblical world view, that there could be an approach that balances the spirit of the law with human compassion. For example, in cases like this for such illegal aliens a possible solution might be as follows:
- If an illegal alien has committed a crime or has just used the welfare system they would be deported
- For the others, allow them 60 days to start the process for a obtaining a one year temporary workers visa
- For those who obtain such a visa, and when the one year is up, they must appear before an immigration official and prove that during the year they held the temporary workers visa they held a job, did not committed a crime, and learned enough English to be able to converse with the immigration official without an interpreter
- if they pass these, they would be given a five year provisional visa
- after the five years, they must show that they have held a job and not committed a crime
- if they pass they would be given a permanent resident alien card
- they could never become naturalized citizens because they initially entered the country illegally, and there must be consequences for breaking the law
Obviously this isn’t a perfect plan, but it is just an example of a solution that would keep consequences for breaking the law (by not allowing illegal immigrants to be naturalized citizens) while still showing compassion (by allowing them to stay permanently in the U.S as a legal resident). It would take some concerted effort to go through the process and learn English, but if they really want to stay in America and enjoy the opportunities that exist here, one would think that they would be willing to do whatever it took to see this through.
For DACA individuals who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children by their parents, the same procedure mentioned above (including the time line) could be used, with the exception that they could earn citizenship instead of a permanent resident status. Since they didn’t have a choice on whether to cross the border illegally, citizenship could be obtained..
For those who want to immigrate to the U.S. in the future, a thorough vetting procedure must be set up and only those who don’t appear to be a threat to our country should be let in.
What about a wall on the Mexican border? I see nothing inherently evil in this. There is nothing immoral about a country clearly defining its borders.
I know that my discussion on this issue is far from the ultimate solution, but I pray that it will help followers of Jesus get a better understanding of the issue and compel them to search Scripture for the questions they have. The Bible is always the final authority on all magters of theology and life. Christians must not be led by emotions, but must build a Biblical worldview on the moral issues of our day. A Biblical world view always brings the best solution.