Sunday, April 27, 2014

Awake or in Slumber?

While popular churchmen are announcing the next great awakening and the latest revival, I'm noticing exactly the opposite. I'm hearing from many believers who have been to every church in town, only to find heresy in the bookstores and church events featuring religious fads and gimmicks. Church attendance is at an all-time low and desperate pastors whose livelihood depends upon tithes and offerings jump on every spiritual bandwagon to attract pew-warmers. Truth no longer sells.

Rather than an 'awakening' the church is asleep. Christendom is in a slump. Screaming loudly into deaf ears does no good. Shining a light into the eyes of the blind gets no response. Professing Christianity overall is worldly and apathetic about its own condition.

The spirit of the age seems to be in command -- calling the shots. He (it) determines the talking points in the world and the church. All are following his (its) lead onto the Broad Road that leads to destruction. The slogans? "Be all that you can be!" "The guy who dies with the most toys wins!" "The wealth of the wicked is yours for the taking!" "Live your best life now!" ad nauseum - Jesus is only the means to an end.

Pew sitters are being recruited, not regenerated. 

I see the hand of restraint being lifted from the world. Evil is now on the increase. The faith that was delivered to the saints 2,000 years ago has adapted the ways of the heathen using Christian labels. It is a repeat of how the children of Israel adopted the practices of the idolaters of that land from whom God had taken away and given to them. History repeating itself.

"And now you know what is restraining, that he may be revealed in his own time. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only He who now restrains will do so until He is taken out of the way." - 2 Thes 2:6-7

Could this restraint against evil be gradually removed as men harden their hearts against the LORD and His Word? Is God saying "let the wicked be wicked still?" Does His offer of salvation to those who repent have an expiration date?

"No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day." John 6:44

Is the LORD no longer drawing men? Is He withdrawing from those who no longer call on His name?

"And the LORD said, My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh" Gen. 6:3

As judgment on sin nears, and Jesus and the true faith are totally outlawed in our country and abroad, will He quit striving with man? 

Perhaps -- but we who are His have confidence in His mercy -- for His lovingkindness endures forever toward us who have put our faith in Him and Him alone.

"I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work." - John 9:4

"Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says: 'Today, if you will hear His voice, Do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, In the day of trial in the wilderness, Where your fathers tested Me, tried Me, And saw My works forty years. Therefore I was angry with that generation, And said, ‘They always go astray in their heart, And they have not known My ways.’ So I swore in My wrath, ‘They shall not enter My rest.’ Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God; but exhort one another daily, while it is called “Today,” lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. For we have become partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end, while it is said: 'Today, if you will hear His voice, Do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.'” Heb 3: 7-15

Sunday, April 20, 2014

When Will They Ever Learn?

A word of encouragement for those who have no place to gather today to celebrate the Resurrection of the LORD some 2,000 years ago:

"Therefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people with His own blood, suf
fered outside the gate. Therefore let us go forth to Him, outside the camp, bearing His reproach. For here we have no continuing city, but we seek the one to come." - Heb. 13:12-14

Our LORD Jesus was rejected by His own people who turned Him over to the executioner. He told His followers that in the same manner they would be despised likewise by the world, and by implication, the religious leaders.

"Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also. But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know Him who sent Me.'" John:15:20-21

We await our own resurrection -- also known as the rapture. We wait for our redemption. We abide until He comes. We weep over this fallen world. We are vexed in our souls for the wickedness we see around us. We know God's judgment on this world is near. We cry for our lost loved ones. We see this time as a time for weeping as there is only evil continually. We look forward to our celebration when our Groom catches us up.

While the world parties, we lament. The joy of our salvation is marred by the sorrow for the lost. While the worldly are seeking Easter eggs, we are crying out for the restoration of the planet. We relate more to Jeremiah than to Joel Osteen. While they are claiming the promises and saying "Peace, peace," we are reading Lamentations and saying 'Come LORD Jesus.'

Nothing has changed much in 2,000 years. Man is still killing, going to war, and lording it over one another. Male soldiers who used to kiss wives and girlfriends goodbye are now kissing other men. Women too are kissing other women on every sitcom and soap opera. Pastors and Christian leaders are being caught in adultery and homosexual trysts and the congregations complain about the whistle-blowers.

And the ecumenical voices of Christendom are leading their unthinking followers into the arms of the pope.

It's hard to get happy about Easter today-

"Happy Easter" or "Woe, woe, the end is near."

Forgive my lament.

"Now Jesus knew that they desired to ask Him, and He said to them, 'Are you inquiring among yourselves about what I said, ‘A little while, and you will not see Me; and again a little while, and you will see Me’? Most assuredly, I say to you that you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; and you will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will be turned into joy. A woman, when she is in labor, has sorrow because her hour has come; but as soon as she has given birth to the child, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world. Therefore you now have sorrow; but I will see you again and your heart will rejoice, and your joy no one will take from you.'" - John 16:19-22

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Pray For Your Enemies

Reading a psalm of David this morning and then reading the 7th chapter of Acts right afterwards, I noticed a striking difference in the prayer of the king and the prayer of the first Christian martyr Stephen. Both prayed for their enemies.

David's prayer reads: "Let their eyes be darkened, so that they do not see; And make their loins shake continually. Pour out Your indignation upon them, And let Your wrathful anger take hold of them...Add iniquity to their iniquity, And let them not come into Your righteousness. Let them be blotted out of the book of the living, And not be written with the righteous." (Ps 69:23-24;27-28)

Contrast that with Stephen's prayer as he was being stoned for preaching the Gospel of Truth to the Jews:

"But he, being full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God, and said, “Look! I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!”...And they stoned Stephen as he was calling on God and saying, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not charge them with this sin.” (Acts 7:55-56;59:60)

When praying for deliverance from our enemies, we need to remember the passage that makes both these prayers applicable for our own prayer life:

"For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places." - Eph 6:12

David's use of imprecatory prayer is not the model for our prayers about those who hate us anymore than David's propensity to 'groinitus' is a model for Christian pastors to justify committing adultery.

However, those judgment prayers we read in the Psalms are very appropriate when we're praying against the bullies in the unseen world who are laying snares for our feet and inspiring the visible bullies. I'll pray imprecatory prayers against those principalities and powers every day of the week.

Thinking the best of people who hurt us, we need to follow the example Stephen set as he followed Jesus' example when from the cross He prayed, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do."

The Bible tells us to "be angry and sin not. "Remember that "the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God." - James 1:20

Be at peace --

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you?" - Matt 5:43-46a

"When a man’s ways please the LORD, He makes even his enemies to be at peace with him." - Prov 16:7

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Mega-Pastor Let-Down

Reading about the moral failings of another mega-pastor this week leaves me grieving over the church of Jesus Christ. When a man is exalted above his brothers, he becomes the target of the enemy who throws at him diverse temptations. When the pastor becomes the attraction, instead of the Word of God, the trap for his feet is set.

Those who exalt the man and make him an idol share in his elevation of himself -- they get what they created. No more is the Bible teacher seen as an equal but has been transformed into some fictional super-hero. The image belies the truth behind the mask and his private life never keeps up with his exalted public image. He is set up for a fall. Even when such a pastor teaches from God's Word, it does not take root in people who are there for the entertainment value. I'm reminded of this verse:

“They come to you as people come, and sit before you as My people and hear your words, but they do not do them, for they do the lustful desires expressed by their mouth, and their heart goes after their gain. Indeed you are to them as a very lovely song of one who has a pleasant voice and can play well on an instrument; for they hear your words, but they do not do them." Ez 33:31-32

These mega-churches with their professional "worship" teams and concert lighting add to the facade. Such trappings attract the sort of congregation that wants Christianity at arm's length. Go to the show on Sunday, and get the feel-good message to sustain a worldly life for the rest of the week.

This is the Church of Laodicea in action. So when their leaders fall - it is no surprise. In fact, it is inevitable.

"For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables." - 2 Tim 4:3-4

"He has shown you, O man, what is good;
And what does the LORD require of you
But to do justly,
To love mercy,
And to walk humbly with your God."
- Micah 6:8