Consistent Inconsistency – Part 5 – Children & Church

Let us consider another inconsistency, but let me first warn the reader that it may cause some real heart searching, especially if you have children.

The scene is the same just about every week. Families struggle to get up on Sunday morning. Many have not bothered to prepare their hearts throughout the previous week, and especially the Saturday night before. This quickly becomes obvious as the rest of the morning progresses.

Breakfast is rushed and the parents are shouting at the kids to “Hurry or we will be late to church.” With a final flurry of activity, everybody runs out and jumps in the appropriate vehicle. On the way, the driver is pushing past the speed limit and hoping that a policeman is not sitting over the next hill with a radar gun. In the back, the children begin to bicker and then fight. The parents both threaten to stop the car to take care of the problem that does little to straighten out the children. The little ones are mostly immune to the threats because they have already figured out long ago that the parents don’t really mean what they say.

Every now and then, a word of wisdom may grace the conversation. One of the parents will remind their offspring that “we all need to settle down as we are going to worship the Lord.”

Arriving at their chosen place of worship a few minutes late, the parents send their children off to a little classroom. In the room, they only manage to get through 45 minutes due to the seemingly endless supply of snacks and juice. During the class, they may receive a pithy little lesson which may come complete with puppets and pages to color.

Stated otherwise, this means: Continue reading

What Happened to Revival?

It wasn’t long ago that Christians wished for revival, churches held “revival meetings,” pastors would open up the altar after services so that those who were being convicted could come forward and repent of their sins. Although there are churches that still do those things, I do not see it very much anymore. We have grown accustomed to our comfort, entertainment, a feel-good lifestyle, and we really don’t want anything to rock our boat. I get discouraged when I look around and feel like I will never see revival because the hearts of many have grown cold.

I just listened to the audio version of a book that I had read years ago titled Floods on Dry Ground. It focuses on the Hebrides Revival that took place in the late 19th and early 20th century. The stories are amazing. Often, revival began when just two or three people dedicated themselves to fervent prayer, asking God to come and save their cities. This wasn’t just, “And, Lord, if it’s Your will, would You save my neighbor?” This was crying out to God and staying on their knees until He answered. Because of their prayers, even the vilest sinners were changed by the power of God.

A while back, I could spend an hour or two with God no problem. I treasured the time and did not understand why everyone would not take that time each day. Now spending 20 minutes with Him is a chore as my mind is constantly on things I need to be doing, but I long to get back to being content to sit in His presence and hear from Him as well as presenting my petitions before His throne and knowing that He hears me.

Revival is not something that makes people feel good. It is a move of God that shows people what they are really like without Him and convicts them of their sins. They realize that no sin is small in the eyes of God and that they are worthy of judgment. They can’t think about their neighbor’s sin because their own sins are glaring. But they also know that God is faithful and just to forgive every sin so they confess them to Him and leave a different person than they were. When was the last time you have been in this kind of meeting?

If you attend a church that still focuses on holiness and repentance, thank God for it. If your church has lost that focus, intercede for the pastor and the church leaders, that they would have a greater hunger than ever before to walk with God and to challenge others to do so. Pray for a burden for your church, your community, lost souls, and then share that burden with others. You may find that you are not alone.

I think of the old song we used to sing that said, “Lord, send a revival, and let it begin with me.” That should be our continual prayer.

Consistent Inconsistency – Part 2

There are issues or practices that exist in many evangelical churches. Many are valid, while others are merely the status quo. This means the existing state of affairs. When I pastored in England, there was a saying that summed this up quite nicely. “We have been doing this since the year dot.” Making this statement referenced the reality that nobody knew how or when an issue or practice started, but it has always been that way. Therefore, we have no plans on changing what we are doing.

In the last article, we addressed three items in particular 1) the KJV-only position, 2) the rapture, and 3) The role of supporting missions.

My post is not written with a desire is to belittle a specific person who holds to a KJV-only or rapture position, nor even undermine the role of missions in a local church. My concern is to point out the inconsistencies of holding to a particular position or belief if it is not based solely on Scripture. In fact, I have friends and family who hold to both of these positions and seem to have no issue with the way that churches support missions.

My concern is the lack of fellowship and the vitriol that exists between those who claim the name of Christ. Again, before anybody questions my doctrinal position, I want to add that I have NEVER wavered on the foundational truths of Scripture. What I have changed is where I stand on positions that are not 100% clear. Some of my beliefs have been subjective at best, while others have been refined and clarified through the years.

Through the years, I have learned that some of my convictions are actually nothing more than preferences. I often heard a conviction is something a person would be willing to die for, but a preference does not hold the same value. Sadly though, I have seen many preferences become a “hill to die on” instead of remaining a preference.

But are preferences really as important as some make them out to be? Let me give a follow up example. The use of the KJV is a preference, and not a conviction. If a person were to threaten a person who holds to a KJV-only with harm if they did not read or teach one service from another version, there would be no hesitation at all. They would use the other version. That is another level of inconsistency.

Anytime the status quo changes, one of two things tends to happen. 1) People tend to ask questions and search for the truth, or 2) people get angry and upset. When they get upset, they then tend to abandon all reason. As humans, we do not like to be wrong. To find out we have been wrong in an area requires having humility before God. Yet, some are not willing to be taught.

However, there is another level to the inconsistencies found in many churches. As a pastor, the role of the shepherd is to help guide the sheep. He is tasked with the solemn responsibility of using the time afforded him to minister the Word of God. This teaching is to be such that it helps the hearers strive to become more like the Lord Jesus Christ today than they were last week.

In addition, pastors are to encourage the listener to be followers of Christ, NOT followers of the latest fads or trends in Christian circles. Pastors are NOT called to be little dictators, but to point only to Christ. As the apostle Paul stated so well in 1 Corinthians 11:1, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.”

During my 50 years of life, I have heard “sermons” preached about long hair on men, women wearing trousers, the dangers of Christian Contemporary Music, and a myriad of other preferences. These were a waste of time and only serve to show the lack of preparation time that was spent before the Lord in order to preach the truth. Pastors who do this are failing in their calling.

Pastors and elders, if our goal every week is to stand in the pulpit and harp on preferences, we are demeaning our calling. Time is short and we must be good stewards of our time.

Consider this – Every week consists of 168 hours, and if the average listener comes to a service but once a week, that means that as ministers or teachers of God’s Holy Word that we only have but 30-60 minutes to point them to Christ. To do otherwise is to be inconsistent with the duties of a shepherd.

Do we fully understand this? If people ask those in fellowship what your church believes, the answer they are prepared to give is telling on the sad demise of Biblical truth being preached and taught throughout much of western Christianity.

Many times, the situation would sound like this.

Speaker 1 – “What do you believe?”

Speaker 2 – “Well, I believe what my church believes.”

Speaker 1 – “Tell me what your church believes then.”

Speaker 2 – “My church believes what my pastor believes.”

Speaker 1 – “Please tell me, what does your pastor believe?”

Speaker 2 – “Oh that’s easy, my pastor believes what I believe!”

1 Peter 3:15 says, “But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.” This is the Biblical standard. 

Is there any wonder why people are so willing to hop from one church to another? Maybe it is because too many pastors are interested in building personal kingdoms and keeping them staffed then they are in preparing hearts for eternity!

Pastors, elders, teachers, and churches, please consider these things –

  1. This world is NOT our home. We are only strangers passing through from that which is temporal and will fade away to that land where eternity reigns.
  2. EVERY believer is to be accountable to one another. This means that pastors and teachers are to be held to God’s standard, not self-made standards. If a pastor or teacher is teaching from the book of Second Preferences or the book of Third Do-it-my-way-or-the-highway, then they have failed.
  3. Pastors and teachers – You are NOT called to build your own kingdom. It is the kingdom of Christ. He is the One Who died for sins. He is the One Who keeps His people secure. He is the One Who justifies the sinner, redeems them, and sets their feet on the Solid Rock. He is the Bridegroom Who is coming again for those who are true believers. “Well done!” is not something we will ever hear if Christ is NOT only prominent but preeminent in every aspect of our ministry.
  4. As a family, if you are choosing to listen to teaching that does not rest solely on the pages of Scripture, then you are NOT leading your family in the way of truth. You are doing nothing more than taking them to a buffet full of nothing but junk food and expecting your family to grow healthy in the ways of Christ. It will not happen. One day you will wake up and may find that your children do not care for church or the things of God. Why should they think any differently when all they may have seen was hypocrisy and inconsistencies that do not line up with the same Scripture that we, as parents, claimed to be the ONLY rule of faith and practice?

More thoughts to come –

Replacing Easter

What is society afraid of?

What is Christianity afraid of?

What are you afraid of?

Society is afraid of the truth. Christianity is afraid of being offensive. As for what you are afraid of, that is something only you can answer. My goal is that this post will have you thinking about why you do what you do.

Easter is a great time to bring this subject matter to light. Let me explain. For almost 40 days, many have been practicing the idea of “Lent.” They have no clue why they do it except that it is part of their religion. Many have not a single thought about God, but want to make sure that they cover all the bases just in case. They will live like the world every single day, except for a special day or two in the entire calendar so their “God” box will be checked. This leaves them feeling good about themselves so they can have a sense of being a “Christian.” Yet, the heart condemns those who think they can please God by pleasing themselves.

For years, I have worked with many people who can live, talk, and act like a minion of the evil one every single day. Yet, in one swift moment, as soon as they find out that you are a believer, they can and will proclaim, “Oh, I am a Christian.” The follow-up questions are quickly followed by silence until it grows awkward and the person soon finds something else with which to occupy their time. Or, in the better scenarios, you hear the response of, “Well, that is private and is just between me and the Man upstairs. Besides, who are you to judge me? The Bible says, “Don’t judge!”

What types of questions might we ask of any individual with whom we may meet? This could be another family member, a friend, a neighbor, or a work colleague.

“Where do you attend church? Where are you in fellowship each week with other believers seeking to remind the world that we are not of this world, but that we are just passing through?”

“What about your relationships? Are you married or just living in a way that goes contrary to the Word of God? Why would you want to be living with somebody who does not share your views, if you are a true believer?”

“Do your words and actions reflect that you are different, or do you strive to be just like those around you? Would your Sunday appearance give forth the reflection of a hypocrite, or a genuine believer longing to be more like Jesus Christ despite the difficulties of living a life of holiness?”

Despite the awkward silence or vocal calls about not judging, Easter and Christmas find more people claiming the name of Christ than any other time of the year. They are willing to give up things for Lent, but not for Christ. Far too many think that they are meriting favor or grace with God by giving up chocolate, meat, intimacy, or whatever.

When the forty days of Lent arrives, people flock to services for Ash Wednesday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, or Easter Morning service never to be seen again til Christmas. Yet, for all the fasting or giving up of things, nothing has changed in their lives. They produce the same cursing, same vulgarity, same illicit relationships, and not one thing to indicate that they have actually spent time with Jesus Christ and are a new creation.

As for society, just look at our workplaces. Lies, deceit, and dishonesty rules the day. Few are willing to take a stand, and when something is said as a reminder, those speaking up are quickly removed. What does this have to do with Easter time? Simply this. These same practices and philosophies have moved from universally being accepted as part of the workplace to being fully accepted in the circles of so-called Christianity.

Let me be very blunt!

Easter is NOT about a bunny that lays eggs!

Easter is NOT about furry chicken that lays candy!

Easter is NOT about egg hunts, bouncy castles, and clowns on a Sunday.

Easter is supposedly to revolve around the holy Person of Jesus Christ. The reminder of the week prior to the Sunday should be a solemn reminder of the price that was carried on the cross. The wrath of God the Father was poured upon His only begotten Son because of the sins of mankind. It pleased the Father to bruise and crush His own Son because of the cursing, the vulgarity, the illicit relationships, and all sin that separates us from a holy God.

Christianity has allowed society to tell us that Easter has nothing to do with Jesus Christ. We are not allowed to speak of Jesus Christ and His sacrifice on Calvary, but we can speak the religion of secularism and commercialism all day long. Nobody has one single problem with that. The world and the church have now merged in such a way that it is almost impossible in most circles to know where one starts and one ends.

If you are a true believer and have placed your faith in Jesus Christ alone for your salvation, then this next section is a solemn reminder and exhortation to you and your family.

This coming Sunday, we will have the privilege of celebrating the most glorious even that has ever transpired in all of human history. Nothing can top what took place almost 2000 years ago. Let me summarize what this Sunday SHOULD mean to you.

1. He laid aside His glory as the all-powerful majestic King of all Creation and came down to this sin-cursed earth.
2. He was born in a lowly stable showing the stark opposite of what He had enjoyed for all of eternity past.
3. He was welcomed by magi as well as lowly shepherds who guarded the lambs that would be sacrificed each Passover.
4. He grew in wisdom and stature and lived in obedience to the commands of both His earthly parents and the will of His heavenly Father.
5. He spent 3 ½ years walking the dusty roads of Galilee, Judea, and Samaria preaching the kingdom of heaven.
6. He was betrayed and abandoned by every one of His disciples.
7. He, the King of all Creation, was beaten, mocked, scourged into a bloody mess, and then hung between earth and heaven.
8. He bore upon Himself our sins and was ultimately forsaken even by His own Father in heaven because God the Father could not stand to look upon sin.
9. He became sin on our behalf and became clothed with our filth so that we would be clothed in His righteousness.
10. He died and was buried like a common criminal in a borrowed tomb.

But Sunday was coming!

There should be no doubt that the disciples had contacted the local businesses to ensure that bouncy castles were set up outside the tomb to celebrate what was going to happen. There should also be no doubt that the apostle Peter, having just denied the Lord three times earlier that week, was the instigator in setting up an Easter Egg hunt in order to entice the children of the murderous hordes to come to their service so that they would have greater numbers. There should be no doubt, based on what we see in modern Christianity, that the early New Testament church was prepared with the latest jokes and frivolity after having just seen the King of all Creation die and be buried.

Dear brothers and sisters, do you see the hypocrisy in the above statements? If it does not bother you to see the entertainment on any given Sunday in church, then it is time to examine your heart to see whether you are truly of the faith. If the only thing you can think of is, “Well, what you say may be true, but the Bible says not to judge,” then you have failed miserably to comprehend the solemnness and the seriousness of what this Sunday is all about. If you think that Easter is about the bunny and candy eggs, then your pastor and church have failed in their responsibility to teach you the truth of the gospel.

Easter is NOT about you and your perceived needs!

Easter is about the conclusion of the worst week in the history of mankind!
Easter is about the reality of the sacrifice that Christ made on Calvary!
Easter is about the truth Christ came to save sinners, of whom I am chief!
Easter is about the defeat of sin, hell, Satan, and the grave!
Easter is about Resurrection Sunday!
Easter is about Jesus Christ coming back to life victoriously!
Easter is about Jesus Christ one day coming for all who believe on Him!
Easter is about change and becoming a new creation in Christ!

Today, you have a choice. You can choose to continue replacing Easter with the world, or you can stop setting your affections on the things of this world, and setting your affections on the things of heaven.

My purpose is not to judge the world with my words. My thoughts are to be a beacon in the wilderness shining a light that points others to Jesus Christ, and not to Mark Escalera. My desire is to be a gentle reminder that true believers are called to be different, not the same as the world.

We are NOT replacing Easter in our home, but we will joyfully, reverently, and humbly celebrate –

Resurrection Sunday!

He is risen! He is risen indeed! Blessed be the name of the Lord!

Thirsting For God

Psalm 41:1-2 To the chief Musician, Maschil, for the sons of Korah. As the hart panteth after the waterbrooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God. My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God: when shall I come and appear before God?

The years have come and gone and I see myself not much wiser than I was when the Lord first brought me to Himself compared to actual years of a person. For instance, I was saved 25 years ago and yet I have to wonder about my spiritual growth. As I’ve contemplated life and it’s difficulties, I’ve also contemplated why it seems I’ve hardly grown in that amount of time. Yes, there have been times where I’ve been fervent and desired change but was it for the right reasons?

Not too long ago, Sony Elise posted about sin and holiness. In it she said, “I feel like, in many churches, more emphasis is placed on God’s forgiveness as opposed to His holiness. I am so grateful for God’s mercy and forgiveness, but there are often still consequences to the fleshly decisions that we make. This is one reason that it is important to walk in the Spirit so that you do not fulfill the lusts of the flesh (Galatians 5:16).” This can also be said about each true believer within their personal lives.

hart_for_god_wide

Why is holiness so important? It’s because God hates sin. If we love Him then we should love what He loves and hate what He hates. How can we pant for the Lord and long after Him if we are willing to entertain sin within our lives? Is it easy to get caught up in daily living and forget the Lord is sovereign and in control of each situation we are involved in? Yes! Is it easy to live as if we were atheists and completely shut out the Lord except for Sunday? Yes! Is it easy to get angry at those who hurt us and aren’t willing to make things right? Yes, again! And it’s so easy to fall over and over again!

We are all sinners but if we are true believers then we should seek to make things right! What if they aren’t willing to do so or even listen to us? Then we must forgive and move on! We can mourn over what happened but there comes a time when the Lord says, “It’s time for you to love me even more! Who do you have in heaven but Me? There is none on earth that you should desire except Me. Your heart and your flesh fail continuously but I am the strength of your heart. I am your Portion forever.”

My heart should respond with, “Yes, Lord! You are all that and more! My heart pants for You as the deer pants for the water and even more than that! My soul thirsts for You and I cannot be satisfied unless You fill me to overflowing with You! I want to do Your will no matter how hard it is, no matter what persecutions and sorrows I will go through, no matter who stands with me or doesn’t because I love You beyond life itself!” Yes, it will still be easy to fall and live that life without the Lord but let those of us, who are true believers, beg for God to give us such a love for Him that we hate what He hates and love what He loves.

Let holiness and grace reign in our hearts so completely that when people are around us, even though we sin regularly, they can say, “He or she has been with Christ!” They may not like us for the conviction within their hearts but we need to be like Him.

I long to be like the Lord Jesus but I fail miserably on a daily basis and yet…I want to be holy as He is holy. I want to thirst for Him to fill me in such a way that I seek to love Him and do what He wants in every way!

Let me see my sin, dear Lord,
as though I were looking through Your eyes,
My heart and the blackness that is within,
the sin for which You died
Let Your horror of sin be my heartbreak
Blur mine eyes with tears of agony
For if once I could see my sin the way You see
I would seek to hate my sin for love of Thee.

Change my sin sick soul, dear Lord,
so that I will become more like Christ
Make me pure and white within, dear Lord,
give me strength to follow You in this fight
May I stand for truth whatever happens
Give my heart holy tenacity
For Your death on the cross is what gave life to me
Now I want my life wholly given to Thee.