Is 2021 The New 2020?

Time for God

So as I write this, today is January 1st of the year 2021. The new year that everyone hopes is a refreshment, a new start, and a definitive change from last year‘s chaos and utter pain. I recognize that this is a bit late coming to publish, but pray you can forgive me…it has taken a bit to shake off last year!

Normally for the new year people will make resolutions. They resolve to do things differently or to just do something, anything. Weight loss, quit smoking, eat better, be nicer, and so much more, the lists go on! I, for one, am not a resolution maker. I don’t need to set myself up for failure! On average, only 8% of Americans who make resolutions keep them. 80 percent fail by February 1st! But if I were to make any resolution, I would think that following in the footsteps of the great preacher Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758) would be the best.

In the early 1700’s, he wrote down over 60 resolutions that covered a variety of topics. Areas such as relationships, spirituality, overall life mission, and devotion to God. He categorized things under good works, time management, and character. He resolved to a deeper self examination for sin and keeping a personal check on things like pride and honesty. He had many powerful resolutions for a better spiritual life. And with these many resolutions, he would lay them all at the throne of God declaring; “Being sensible that I am unable to do anything without God’s help, I do humbly entreat him by his grace to enable me to keep these Resolutions, so far as they are agreeable to his will, for Christ’s sake”.

He then noted that he would “remember to read over these Resolutions once a week.” That is one sure way of keeping them!

But what makes his resolutions special is that they were to address his walk with God first and foremost! If there be any resolution for a Christian, it should be made to draw closer to God and be more keenly aware of our spiritual lot before Him.

We all (preaching to myself here!), have a tendency to walk complacent. Because we don’t see/feel/hear God’s presence every moment of every day, we tend to go about our daily lives in the light of what is around us at the moment. We focus our thoughts on things that involve our livelihood, react to the things happening to us, and interact with those people and things we see and remember, but, yet, in the larger scope of things, we often forget God.

Sure, we pause and think of God here and there, maybe toss a prayer now and again, or get a spiritual zip on the Lord’s day once a week. But to energize our desire and passions to follow wholly and completely…that is something that many Christians, specially American Christians, struggle with.

When looking at how our attitude toward God in our lives should be in light of Scripture, I thing many of us can say that we are a far cry from God’s heart. Paul exhorted the Thessalonians “so that you would walk in a manner worthy of the God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory.” (1 Thessalonians 2:12). He also said to the Colossians to “walk in a manner worthy of the Lord”. And to the Galatians in 5:25 said “If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.

In the Old Testament, there are numerous examples of God’s people living in a deep reverence and fear of God. Their entire lives were God-centered. Yes, they faltered and would stray. A lot. But have we gotten ourselves to the point where we can say that we are daily even remotely God-centered in the slightest bit? When you look at the lives of the early Puritans, you have to understand that they left home and family to travel across an entire ocean just to live a life that was God-centered, Biblically founded, and completely committed to God in all they say and do. It certainly would be a rare sight in today’s times to find people like that.

People today walk a thin line with God. Having a flippant attitude and approach to His holiness is something that I’m sure will draw His wrath. And His wrath is something that many churches refuse to even acknowledge. But unfortunately for many, that doesn’t dismiss the reality that God will exact is wrath on people. Edwards is famous for one of the most powerful sermons ever given that occurred back in July of 1741, called “Sinners In The Hands Of An Angry God”. The text was a simple line from Deuteronomy 32:35 that states “their foot shall slide in due time.” The opening text states “There is nothing the keeps wicked men at any one moment out of hell, but the mere pleasure of God.”

I personally truly recognize more and more every day that by God’s grace and mercy I still exist on this planet, and that is a true testament to God‘s character and love! He holds back His wrath on us! But that isn’t forever. His patience extends only so long! Though the sermon actually speaks more about the love of God and His lovingkindness toward us than the title would give cause to believe, that doesn’t mean we can be complacent with our relationship to God.

The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.
— 2 Peter 3:9

Though I’ve studied the Word of God more last year than I had previously regarding our relationship with God, I still look inward and recognize that I, too, am complacent in my walk with God often, that I am lacking in my prayers and devotions daily, and that I tend to forget my religious duties. So, for me, I find it very simple to come up with resolutions that need to be addressed. I find there are plenty of things I preach to myself about!

Just as we are to take up our Bibles daily and study, we should also be taking time out of our lives to the devotion of our sanctification as Christians. It is written in scripture that we are to work out our salvation with fear and trembling and always be striving to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. And we can through the power of the Holy Spirit! It says in James 4:8 that we are to “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded”.

When it says in Matthew 6 to seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things will be added to you, that isn’t seeking God for benefits and pleasures, but that is seeking God‘s righteousness and holiness into our life, which means walking upright daily, the way God wants us to.

We are to use the Scriptures as a mirror to see the blemishes of our sins and continue to beseech God‘s help by the power of the Holy Spirit to strive daily to mortify the flesh. That is the meaning of taking up our cross DAILY!

Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.
— Romans 12:1

2020 was a tough year for many. People are looking for answers. It has been reported that Bible sales were at an all-time high. We can reflect Christ to people looking for hope and show them God’s peace and love by our own lives. But we need to make sure our resolutions are set with God, so as to strengthen our righteousness that we can “in the same way let your light so shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven“.

So my prayer for us this new year is that we continue to offer ourselves a living sacrifice, examining ourselves daily by diving into the Word fully, and submitting ourselves in prayer and worship of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

We all must continually take His Word that has been given to us and preach to ourselves daily! For 2021, if the Lord wills, I will continue to share with you those things that God impresses on my heart and mind as I look to His word and learn as well!

May God bless you richly this year, may His healing hand be upon you, and may you grow in sanctification daily, drawing closer to the Lord! Amen

Peter’s Principles

Do you struggle with hope? Does your assurance waver? I know that I do in my Christian walk. But what is the source of this?

Did you know that in a military conflict, one of the greatest tactics used by one side is the diversion? Essentially this is a means of causing a disturbance in one place to draw attention away from the another place. Then, the attack would occur when the forces were preoccupied elsewhere. This has been used throughout the ages as a means of tipping the scales in a battle. It is effective and quite simple to engage. The devil uses this tactic quite a bit. I have lost many battles this way.

Initially I intended to discuss just a couple of attributes to the Christian walk that I sometimes struggle with; hope and assurance. But as I was working on that writing, I ran into wall after wall. Distractions would easily pry my attention away and I’d lose track of where I was headed. I couldn’t seem to get my thoughts together. This really frustrated me and caused me a great deal of discouragement as to my ability to share these things. I really hit a dark point.

It also got me thinking about what’s wrong with me. And that’s what turned out to be my problem! I’ll explain.

I tend to overthink, over analyze issues when they come to light. For example; why I couldn’t seem to write about my struggles with hope and assurance when that was on my heart? So my solution was to evaluate the problem. Then I dwell on it, fighting through the matter, even trying to force it. And always asking God what’s wrong with me. I’d pray that He would change my mind and heart.

Often times as I was trying to address the problem, my mind would drift away and attention would be diverted elsewhere and I would forget about the original issue. Sound familiar? Do you have those moments where you get up to do one thing, but quickly lose track and start something else? I do…a lot! What it turns out that I suffer from is what I call the Peter Principle.

This isn’t the Peter Principle you may have heard about decades ago, the one based on the book by the same title that theorized that people are promoted upward until they arrive at a level of incompetence. In other words, you do well, get promoted, do well, get promoted, then next arrive at a level in the hierarchy that you are really not skilled enough to do. This isn’t what I mean when I say that term. (Though that theory could have applications regarding me trying to be something I am not equipped to be…but that’s another story!)

My version of this comes from the Apostle Peter himself. Matthew 14:28-33 tells of the encounter the Apostle had with Jesus who was coming to them walking on water as they were on a boat on the Sea of Galilee.

And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

We can easily see the application here: the storms, the waves, the uncertainties, the distractions, the annoyances, the feelings…all diversionary tactics that cause us to lose focus, take our eyes off of the goal, the prize, the direction we were headed to: our Savior Jesus!

So, are we glaring too much at our problems and missing what should be our vision? You know the words to the great hymn: Be thou my vision, oh Lord of my heart! What a prayer!

But don’t get me wrong, as I don’t want to give too much credit to the enemy. We have our own flesh nature, our own sin-filled capacity. We are, after all, a fallen being before the Throne of God. So many times we trip ourselves all on our own…without any help from the enemy! It doesn’t take much for me to get distracted in thought and I have to believe that the bulk of those issues is self-inflicted! But, giving the devil his due, he is also at work daily trying to fail our faith.

Peter had a moment of doubt. He was human. Plain and simple. We have to remember that the great Apostles were mere men who were imperfect. All the amazing faith that is ascribed to them and the forefathers of our faith (as mentioned in Hebrews chapter 11) came supernaturally from God! They were ordinary men and women who faced the same worldly issues that we do. Though the times and means have changed, the underlying issue is the same. By doubting and taking our eyes off of God, we start to sink. Then our human nature kicks in more and we panic, we start trying things under our own strength, and before you know it, we are sinking under the waves.

I think that’s my problem when over analyzing…I tend to keep my focus too much on the waves and not where it should be. So I praise God for people like Peter. He shows me that though we doubt, struggle with faith, fall into temptations, mess up, falter and even fail, yet we can be saved by God in a mighty way despite ourselves! Peter had the right answer to his sinking into the sea of doubt and fear: He called upon Jesus to save him!

Verse 30, But seeing the wind (there’s the distraction), he became frightened (there’s the fear), and beginning to sink (there’s the consequences), he cried out (there’s the solution), “Lord, save me!”

There’s the whole of every problem we face in our daily sojourn. Jesus told him why he failed this attempt; it was because of his little faith that then caused him to doubt. I can identify with the Apostle in that my struggle with little faith in my daily battle here has caused me so many sinking moments that have led to near drownings. But, thankfully, He who began a good work in us is faithful to complete it! We need to rely on that promise, trust in God’s provision of saving faith. We will struggle in the flesh, just like the greatest men of faith like Peter and Paul! But we don’t need to go under the waves when all we need to do is call out to Jesus! Verse 31: Immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and took hold of him…! What an blessed assurance in our darkness!

The great evangelical bishop J.C. Ryle wrote the perfect summary;

“Go on, and be not cast down because you are troubled by doubts and fears. You are yet in the body—this world is not your rest. The devil hates you because you have escaped from him, and he will do all he can to rob you of peace. The very fact that you have fears is an evidence that you feel you have something to lose. The true Christian may ever be discerned by his warfare—quite as much as by his peace; and by his fears—quite as much as by his hopes. The ships at anchor may swing to and fro with the tide, and pitch heavily in a south-eastern gale; but so long as their anchors hold the ground they ride safely, and have no cause to fear. The hope of the true Christian is the “anchor of his soul, sure and steadfast.” (Hebrews 6:19.) His heart may be tossed to and fro sometimes—but he is safe in Christ. The waves may swell, and lift him up and down—but he will not be wrecked.”

Amen!

Remember, we are human, in the flesh. We will be tossed to and fro on this earth. There are many storms inside and out that will cause us grief, doubt, fear, and have uncertainties, but we don’t need to live in the dark, consumed by the waves all around us. We just need to call out to the one who is always there, always ready to reach out and take hold of your hand. No longer do we need to sink in the waves of doubt. Peter’s principles showed us how we simply call on Him, Jesus.

A Word About The Word

In recent posts I’ve come across harsh when talking about certain “churches, or denominations, or various theologies within the sphere of Christianity. Some may have scoffed and labelled me as being self-righteous or exclusive. Some think that God is love and would never reject people because of the way they think, act, or live. To all of you I can only say; read the Scriptures and show me the error of my thinking.

I have been saying many of these things for a long time because it is very clear that people have redefined the God of the Bible and quite honestly, that has frustrated me. Not only have people redefined who God is, His attributes and character, but they have also rewritten the Bible itself, God’s Word, by editing clearly defined words, rewriting stories and narratives, and even challenging the validity and authenticity of the Word completely.

The Word, unchanging!

I find it interesting that for countless centuries and with hundreds of thousands of learned scholars, theologians, teachers, researchers, and preachers that have all had the Book, even the manuscripts in their original languages, and have combed every jot and tittle with every resource available to them, that they come to conclude that the Bible IS complete and true. It doesn’t even contradict itself. Many prophecies of old have come to pass. Historically it is accurate and proven without question.

So, with all that being said…who are we to question God’s Words? 

There are many disputes that come up regarding interpretations of the pages of the divine words. I’ve mentioned a couple of theological differences in the past, but I can assure you that there are more groups and ideologies that exist than there are church denominations! People for centuries have split off from one church or society to form their own because of a difference in opinion over major and minor understandings of the interpretations. Even various topics within the Bible, such as eschatology (the study of end times) or soteriology (the study of the means of salvation, including the law and the gospel, grace, justification, and sanctification), have caused great rifts, even to the extent of wars. 

First, let’s define theology. Theology is simply the study of the nature of God and religious belief. We get to know God through His creation around us, through His laws imbedded within our souls, and through His Word, the Holy Bible. As I have stated numerous times, I am not a theologian. Nor am I a graduate or student of higher learning when it comes to the Bible. Thus, my thoughts and views are just that…my thoughts and views as I believe God has impressed on me through my studies. I believe that the Holy Spirit of God has opened my eyes to an understanding that I didn’t grasp before, just as I also believe that He does this same work with others…giving people what they need to understand who He is and His Word, the Bible and apply it into their life. Still, conflicts arise!

I will go on record to say though that there is a core truth found within the pages of the Bible that is, without doubt or compromise, essential to every believer. It shouldn’t matter your doctrinal stance or theological views. This truth is clear within the pages of the Bible as the overriding message from Genesis through to Revelation, and it is this:

We were created, man and woman, within the creation of the universe to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. Since man is not perfect and holy like God, man (starting with Adam and Eve) was tempted by Satan, the enemy of God, and they sinned against God, thus separating us all from God. We try to reach God through our own efforts such as living a good life or going to church, but inevitably we fail. We cannot atone for our sins (which means to pay the price and punishment to cleanse us from guilt). But God in His love and mercy provided the ultimate sacrifice to pay for our sins…through His Son Jesus Christ. Jesus came to earth and lived the perfect holy life, which lead Him to the cross where He took all our deserved punishment from God by death. But Jesus defeated death by rising from the dead and ascending to Heaven to take His rightful place at God’s right side as King and Lord!

Where does that leave us? We must individually receive Jesus as our Savior and Lord; then we can know God personally and experience His love! We are no longer estranged from God, but can have fellowship and worship the God who created all things!

We receive Christ through faith, by turning (repenting) away from our sins and following God’s laws and ways. By our repentance, God forgives us and the blood of Jesus washes us from the blemish of sin, thus we are able to approach God. This renews our hearts and minds, giving us hope for eternal life in the Kingdom of Heaven! It is a daily walk, a spiritual battle against our flesh and human desires. The process after being saved is called sanctification. We don’t depend on our feelings, we depend on the promise of God’s Word, the Bible. The Bible, with the help of the Holy Spirit, is the only “how to” manual for the Christian, no matter what anyone else would say.

And this is where the enemy, the devil himself, Satan, gets his power. By causing dissension within the body of Christ believers. Satan trips up mankind by causing doubts and getting humans to question God and His Word. The very first sins committed were in the Garden of Eden where the devil asked “did God say…”, thus creating doubts and unbelief in God and His Word. This is where so many churches and theologians get tripped up as well. They questionthe Word of God.

I’ve found in my many years of studies that everyone has an opinion and everyone feels their way is the only right way. We know just by looking at all the different schools of thought concerning the Bible’s teachings. And with all of these ideologies and structures, it is easy to become overwhelmed and confused. Add to all that the multitude of instant media access we have nowadays and you get an exponential number of opinions and viewpoints immediately! This problem has caused many to fall away from their initial faith and also has created chaos and bitterness within the church body itself. 

So, what is the answer? The answer is to personally go to God in prayer daily, talking with Him about everything! This is the first and foremost step! You’ve claimed Christ as your Savior and Lord, which now gives you access to the Throne Room of God, so why not go directly to the Source Himself? Will you instantly hear His voice and get your answers? Not necessarily, but God is faithful and, with the help of the Holy Spirit, will lead you to the answer. And please know that His answer might not meet your expectations. Since He knows best what we need compared to what we think we need, you can be assured it’s for your best to go with God. And because our impatience these days is fueled so much with a demand for instant gratification, we need to take the time, in faith, to wait on God’s answers.  

We also need to take steps ourselves to answering the issues by going to His Word provided: The Bible. You don’t need to be a theologian, pastor, or anything else to read the Word for yourself. Prayerfully reading through the Words He has provided to us for our daily instruction gives you everything you need to know about God, Jesus, and our walk with Him! There is no simple way around this. If you are wanting shortcuts and condensed methods, then you are completely missing the point of the Bible. People now days want short, quick answers to their immediate dilemmas, but that is not how God works. You must delve slowly, methodically, and deliberately into His Word and He will enlighten your spirit with His truth. His ways drive these truths and knowledge deep within and help us when we don’t have it front of us.

Obeying God and trusting Him for every detail of our lives is the key. His Word is deep and rich, filled with more than we can comprehend in this lifetime. But it is also everything we need. I truly believe that many times people look too hard at the words within the covers of the Scriptures, trying to find and formulate things that are quite honestly not really there. Sometimes His Word is plain and true and we need to take it at face value, hide it in our hearts, and meditate on His promises to guide us every day closer to Him and His Kingdom. 

Much of the Bible is historical, some of it is prophetic, parts of it contain beautiful prose and poetry, many parts give instruction for living our lives as Christians, and there are also warnings throughout the pages for us as we sojourn through this fallen world filled with people that do not know the God of the Bible…nor do they want to know Him. No matter what, God’s word is enough for us as it stands. It is without errors. It is sufficient for us as is. 

Many men over the centuries have used the Scriptures in deceitful ways, twisting it’s meanings and causing people a lot of harm. There is no denying that the church period is fraught with charlatans and liars. They have done extensive damage to a countless number of people who relied on the teachers and preachers to share and interpret the Word faithfully and completely. Thus, this is why there have been many diligent scholars and everyday people who have sacrificed everything they have, including their own lives, to get the Word of God into the hands of the people in their own languages, so that every person of every tribe, tongue, and nation can look into the pages of the Word themselves and, like the Bereans, search the Scriptures diligently to see if what they see and hear is true!

We have the Word of God from the mouth of God through men of God inspired by the Holy Spirit of God so that we can know God, know His laws, know his truths, and once again have fellowship with Him. We have this when we hid His Word in our hearts, walk faithfully and fully with Him, and trust His promises until we can see Him high and lifted up on His throne of glory in Heaven. Amen

Take Courage!

No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can endure it. 1 Corinthians 10:13.

My prayer is for you to stand firm in your faith, strong in your convictions, trusting in God’s mercies, and able to cry out to Him during trials.

When we stumble, even if we fall, we are able to stand back up in His grace, kneel before the throne of grace, and walk in newness of life by His grace.

Even though it feels like you are alone at times, we know that God is with us by His Spirit through Christ. Not only that, but God has provided true believers to come alongside you, hold you up during weakness, encourage you in darkness, and love you unconditionally in the journey.

Look to His Word, trust in His Spirit, lean on His mercies!

If God is for us, who can be against us? (Romans 8:31 paraphrased)

All of this encouragement comes to you from the God of the universe! We tend to get frustrated over our shortcomings and falter in our faith. We don’t daily take up our cross and march forthright into the battles of life. It’s easy to give up, go home, quit the game and take an easier path. I know this personally. I’ve done it many, many times before. Walking away from God when the storms erupt around me.

Why? With all the positive that Jesus has showed us in His ministry on earth and the teachings and examples from the Apostles and Bible heroes within the pages of Scripture, you would think that we can just stand firm in the faith, knowing that our old man (character, leanings, ways) has been crucified and is dead and buried!

Because there is a negative side to the walk of faith. Believing in God doesn’t make the storms vanish. Trusting Christ comes with a cost. When we deny ourselves the way of our former lives, we are going against the grain of the world around us. We have made a decision to cast aside the societal norms and pursue a holiness. We choose to walk in a manner to glorify God, through Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit. We separate ourselves from the world, yet still live in the world.

This is a daily battle. Daily choices are made to either indulge the flesh or cling to the Spirit. It is not a simple task. Even though we have accepted the gift of Grace extended to us by God through the work of Christ’s atonement on the cross, we are still, by nature, sinful creatures. Our natural leaning is to break the laws of God, selfishly follow our own desires, and flow without ridicule and shame the ways of this world.

Yes, it is easy to lay aside the newness of salvation, walk away from the sanctification process, and return to our old ways. But we are told how this is a race, not a sprint. That the race is long and has, at times, hills…even mountains…to climb. The terrain we travel can be rough. So many snares, pitfalls, false directions, and easier paths to waylay our journey.

The race set before us takes endurance. And to endure to the end takes fuel, energy. With God’s Holy Spirit, His Word, and fellowship of true believers, we can endure and finish this race! The letter to the Hebrews tells us that we are surrounded by a cloud of witnesses, who by example encourage us to continue on, by faith, trusting that “He who began a good work in you, will be faithful to complete it”!

Take courage today, everyday!

Truth Or Emotion

I live in a country that has long declared itself a “Godly nation”, founded on “Biblical principles”. Historically, these are somewhat correct statements. The United States was founded by people that wholly believed in the Bible as the inerrant Word of God, that the Bible is to be the guide from which all life should follow. 2nd Timothy, chapter 3, verses 16 and 17 state All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.

A couple of things regarding these declarations:

First is that many people, groups, cultures, and countries have all started out under a basic and commonly held belief system. Many churches were started by a group of people who hold an identical theology. Governments have been formed based on a collective of ideologies and goals. And the United States began with people seeking out a place together where they can worship, govern, and commune together under the umbrella of Christianity.

Secondly, starting out with one philosophy doesn’t mean that the intended direction continues uninterrupted. When you look at institutions of learning such as Princeton, Harvard, Yale, and the likes, you might be surprised to know that they all started out as seminaries. Christian religion studies were so important in the early days of first settlers that many schools of Bible were created. Yet, if you look at the formats and leanings of these once great schools, you’ll find that they are almost diametrically opposite from their beginnings.

This type of falling away from initial beliefs has definitely happened within the USA. We have become a nation of godless trappings. Quick to cast aside any foundational roots that once made this a great nation on the earth. Isaiah 5:20 says “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!” I think we can look at our history and see how the tides have gone in opposite directions. Perhaps the Glory has departed? Why?

I believe that the church as a whole is at fault for this. Before the apostasy levels that we see nowadays, even differing denominations all held core beliefs that were tantamount to biblical living. People believed, lived, worked, governed, and worshiped scripturally.

Since the church isn’t a building or even a denomination, the true core of fault lies with the individual believer. The church body by definition is a group of believers, dedicated, diligent, and determined to follow the Word of God, through Jesus Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit.

That was once the way. That used to be the church. Yes, there were many many conflicts and disagreements…since the beginning…but nothing to the magnitude you see now. In fact, the vast majority of mainstream denominations have completely fallen away from scripture being the complete governing mandate. In Romans chapter 1, Paul points out this type of godlessness, where people have cast aside God and followed after their own thinking and started worshiping themselves instead.

And so it has become that being a true, Bible-believing Christian today is an invite to derision. Since the “church” has fallen to the lures of false teachings, prosperity preachers, new age thinking, social gospel and the likes, scripture is looked at as outdated, archaic, and not keeping with the times…so much so that the leaders of this new “church” mock and scorn those who hold the Bible as the infallible Word of God. Fortunately, there are still a core, though small, group of Biblical adherents in the world today.

Why have so many fallen away? Three key things since the fall of man in the garden of Eden; the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. Satan easily tempts those who don’t know the Word of God. And though many false teachers and ‘believers’ spend a ridiculous amount of time, effort, and energy blaming the devil for every evil or ignoring evil altogether and focusing only on “feel-good” theology, there is a deeper reality that most Christians forget as the source of problems in the church.

The first and foremost enemy that we face in our spiritual battle is not the devil, but it is our self. The devil has already tripped humanity. Since we have this fallen state within ourselves, most of the shortcomings and failures of our walk are self-inflicted. We spend so much time blaming everything else: the devil, the church, the government, the neighbors, et al. But now is the time to stop and reflect on our own accountability. We are sinful by nature and are a wretched people, in and of, ourselves.

I can’t account to have the fix for this speeding train-wreck that is the current “church” situation. America, as a whole, isn’t about to change it’s course either. Instead of utilizing Common Sense and logic and knowledge of the past, people run everything based on emotions. Every single person has individual emotions regarding every little facet and unfortunately, that is currently what is running every decision and thought process. Emotions are unstable, and so is the driven plight of mankind.

The Bible clearly states that the god of this world has blinded the eyes of many. They won’t see the Scriptures anymore, lest the scales drop from their eyes by the grace of God. The remnant has become smaller over time. This is actually all prophesied in the Word. We must maintain though. Keep fighting the good fight, striving to finish the race that is set before us. Keeping our eyes upon Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith. He will finish what He started.

So, this is the truth: 1) that we are NOT a Godly nation anymore. The old church has fallen away like so many before us (including the chosen nation of God; Israel). 2) The devil is not the purveyor of all evil we befall. We are fallen in nature and have our own evil momentum going and we must take responsibility for our actions. And 3) that we who do continue to call the Word of God as infallible need to be directing our every step, staying focused and uncompromising in these last days, so that the God of the universe, who is sovereign and supreme and worthy to be glorified, can tell us when we reach the shores of Heaven “well done, good and faithful servant”.     Amen

It’s All About Me Me Me

This is a minor departure from things I preach to myself about. Though this can be a preaching topic, it’s more of something that we all complain about from time to time. We observe this, yet can also find ourselves guilty of the very issue.

As we make our day-to-day travels, whether to the local store or to work, we are out and about sharing the highways and byways with our fellow humans. Because two solid objects cannot share the same place at the same time, we attempt to skillfully whisk by each other…sometimes at a “personal space” distance, sometimes too close for comfort. Either way, we try to respect the other person’s space.

But, as mankind has evolved over the centuries, we have become smarter, wiser, stronger, and more advanced exponentially. I believe this has created a greater egocentric mentality. Though not unique in human history, man seems to have grown even more ‘wise in his own eyes’ and became a chronic narcissistic in personality, even though since the beginning of time, self-exultation has been the norm.

Because of this self-adulation, people put themselves first over those around them. As a king would wave a hand to move commoners away, many have become so self-absorbed that putting others first is almost a chore, if done at all.selfish-leader-power-motive-900x400From as early as the accounts in Genesis through the final period in Revelation, the Bible has recounted stories of man’s arrogance. Not just toward God, as in man’s sin nature, but also toward each other. Many triggers are explained as to what causes men to act the way he does. From self-righteousness, greed, desire, and pride, humankind has an innate desire to ‘pat himself on the back’ and raise himself up as ‘the best’.

 

casting_the_first_stoneAll of this self-driven behavior though has caused more problems than anything else. Cain killed Able because he felt slighted by God. As in the days of Noah, everyone was wiped out except Noah’s family because of the wickedness of men…rambunctious for self-gratification. Many kings and leaders rose to power, grew egotistical, and created wars and atrocities…including their own demise…over people. Even in the end times recorded in the Bible, it’s the pinnacle of selfish pride that brings the final days of man.

Where has all this come from? If we are called to give, love, share, and ‘do unto others’, why, then, is there such a gross level of ‘me, me, me’ going on?

From the highest levels of world leaders and business greed to the simplest of people who think they have to park in three spots or cut off others in traffic because it’s all about ‘them’, humans have steadily become so selfish that even the daily commute or simple shopping trip creates such bitterness, anger, hostility, and anxiety. We all experience it, we all struggle with others and their self attitudes.

So what does all this say? It says that we need to buckle up, put on our patience-pants, learn to keep moving and stay focused! Why? Because this has been going on since time beginning and is going to continue till time ends. Absolutely nothing that you or I can say or do is going to stop the insanity of the inconsiderate egos who try to make life on this planet all about them.

You may vent until your heart’s content, but people are people, blinded by the god of this world, thinking that the more they glorify themselves, the better they will feel. They boast and puff themselves up in the hopes of gaining respect, admiration, and glory. This is exactly what the devil has been doing since the Garden of Eden. “If you…then you will be like God”. Mankind has striven for that since.

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The quickest and clearest example is: Hollywood. If ever there was a cloister of people who try to exalt themselves over everyone, it’s the ego maniacal minions of that entertainment world. They poise themselves above everyone else. They have to be first, have the best, have the most, be the biggest, be the most glamoured, be be be…me me me!

And that very mentality and existence doesn’t end there. The infection is as close as your backyard. Your neighbor, your co-worker, your children, the people we meet each and every day on those highways and byways I mentioned before.

Nothing you can do. Just be patient, love, pray, set examples, be humble, and stay focused the best you can.

Believe it or not, we all have that disease of self. With some, it shows more abundantly. But, we all have it. And until our self is quenched, we battle it inside and out every day. To overcome that problem through God, we’re taught to “put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (as stated in Ephesians 4:22-24).

But with so many who don’t seek God’s Word of redemption, the world continues to show the rampant display of selfishness, as is stated in 2 Timothy chapter 3;

But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy,heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.” (underline of verse 2 mine for emphasis)

We see that in every direction we look these days. Through the help of God, we can put off our old self, and walk in newness with love, peace, joy, humility, and unselfishness. Though we might not be able to fix others, we can certainly start with ourselves! Amen

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Ichabod: Where did the Glory go?

The safest road to hell is the gradual one – the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.    -C. S. Lewis

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As many permit themselves comfort from the woes of this world, there exists a jagged edge that they drift dangerously close to, careless to the reality of the fall that awaits them.  As gloomy as this sounds, I must persist in casting some reality toward you in the hopes of jarring your slumber!

In ancient biblical times, wars existed between the factions of believers in God and believers of everything else. Though the spiritual realm has its casualties, there was also an effect to the physical as well.  Death tolls in these wars, per the accounts of history and Bible, were in the 10’s of thousands! The followers of God, the Israelites, had won a fair share of battles, but also suffered great defeats as well.  In most cases, the stories relayed the importance of God and his following his commandments.

In one particular situation, Israel was facing one of their great foes, the Philistines. In 1 Samuel chapter 4, the Israelites had taken a beating and decided to bring up the Ark of the Covenant to the battle front. This represented God’s presence more than anything.  The wild cheers of elation rallied the troops and even the Philistines feared God showing up.  But…to no avail.  Israel got their butt kicked and the enemy ran off with the Ark.

The high priest and judge of Israel, Eli, lost two of his sons in the battle. That information, along with the Ark being taken, literally killed the poor guy.  His daughter-in-law was so despondent about the losses that she gave birth and died.  The midwife names the boy Ichabod, meaning ‘the glory of the Lord has departed’.  Great start to life! (Sarcasm intended!)

It seems historically that when a people decide on their own volition of self first, it isn’t too long afterward that their demise hits. The United States of America was essentially founded on a basis of the Bible as the core moral and spiritual compass. The founding fathers forged our first governing documents on the whole of scripture, keeping that, with God, all things are possible. But, as with any great nation, corruption seeps in…slowly, assuredly, and with a purpose of demise. Even the learned institutions, such as Harvard and Yale, started out as seminary schools teaching the Bible! Yet, now, you would be fortunate to find scripture anywhere within the walls of the university. We are on the safest road to hell!

So, how did this happen?  How did we get to this drowning point? The primary place to point out the failing is our own ‘churches’.  Now, I am not going to get all denominational or call out particular names.  That is not the intent of this.  But, I will shake a fist to any and all who claim Christianity as their faith, yet deny the Bible as the word of God.  Without the Bible, we do not have the compass of direction. Without the Bible, we do not have instructions. Without the Bible, we do not have a reference point to keep ourselves on the correct path!

All that said, when we cast aside His Words to us, we begin to wander aimlessly.  We become “I Chabod”….without the Glory. When we are travelling and feel uncertain about our direction, we consult a map. Now days, we are constantly looking to our smart phones for information and direction. Well, the Bible is our map. The Bible is our smart phone that has all the answers we need.  And without it…well, we rely on our own understanding. Our own views. Our own mess!

The father of lies, the great deceiver, has crept into the fabric of God-fearing churches and cast doubts, dissensions, and destruction from within.  And since pushing aside the Bible as the beacon of truth, these churches have turned into social clubs and feel-good parties…with no truth being taught! Whitewashed Tombs! Pretty on the outside, empty and dead on the inside!

Mark 7:9 And he said to them, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition!”

The churches today (not all) have essentially rejected the Bible as the Word and have, instead, decided that soft, gentle talks regarding social issues are more important than knowing God and His Word!  And with the disregard of God’s Word as authoritative and commanding, man has put himself in God’s place and now determines what is and what isn’t sin! What was once revered as Gospel has since become edited so as not to offend anyone! Sins are acceptable and they just avoid talking about His Words and commands!

The Glory has departed! And with His departing, so has His hand which has held back the enemies of God’s people!

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One of the greatest preachers of all time, Jonathan Edwards, in 1741 preached a sermon that shook the very core of believers and unbelievers alike. That sermon, titled “Sinners In The Hands Of An Angry God” was filled with fire and brimstone that convicted people to remedy, or assure, that their relationship with God was of utmost importance!  We have fallen so far from that reverence, passion, and belief in the God of the Bible, creator of all things, through his Son, by which we have forgiveness and restored fellowship.

There is nothing that keeps wicked men at any one moment out of hell, but the mere pleasure of God.  – Edwards

So, I ask: Why?  Why has the Word of God been rejected by the very people who claim to believe in God? Why have we allowed His Glory to depart from us? Are we so delusional as to think that God would never cast anyone into hell? Because, if we are sitting at such a comfort level, in disbelief of God’s wrath, as to think that…I really suggest you reconsider what His Words really do say!  There is no free rides to Heaven! The Bible is very clear on that! His own people, the Israelites, were destroyed in a battle because of their own complacency and denial of His Supremacy!  YOU are no different. The church is no different.

God has never promised to save us from Hell, except for those contained in Christ through the covenant of Grace.  – Edwards

The churches have rejected God’s Word.  The Glory has departed.  Man stands alone on a wayward path leading toward destruction of soul:  hell.

I guess I challenge anyone to look at their ‘churches’ and ask the question:  Do they fully accept God’s words as complete revelation from God, or are they picking and choosing what they want to keep and what they don’t?  It literally is an “all or nothing” situation.  You either believe in the Bible or you don’t. And, as Edwards based his sermon from in scripture, ‘their foot shall slip in due time’ (Deut 32:35), there isn’t a middle ground with God.  You (and the church) are either hot or cold. Lukewarm is the path that leads to destruction.

 

 

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