Through Broken Vessels

“It has been well-said that before God uses a man greatly He must first break him breakly. God works best through broken vessels who have been crushed by the hammer blows of the devil. The more we desire to be used by God the greater must be our willingness to suffer for Him. There are no easy paths in ministry. Every assignment is a killing place.

This quote and brief sermon jam comes from Dr. Steve Lawson’s ministry during the 2010 Shepherds’ Conference in California at Dr. John MacArthur’s church.

During this time of trial and troubles, I would be remiss if I did not admit that I struggle with fears of my own. I fear for family, for friends, and for churches. Yet, down through the ages of church history, persecution has always given the church wings to grow and be refined as the Bride of Christ.

If you also have fears, look to Jesus and be a broken vessel fit for the Master’s use.

Persecution of Faith

Nik Ripken has lived through the reality of missions where Christ is hated. He and his wife have served in the Muslim world for over 37 years. In this message that he delivered at Liberty University in 2014, he rattles the paradigms that are stuck in the hearts of many Christians.

We have been trained, yes, and even taught in churches, to hate our enemies, especially those heathen in ____________ (fill in the blank). Is there any wonder why missions from the west has been in decline for decades?

If I could, I would edit the last few minutes of the video, because it is the first 33 minutes that need to be heard. I implore you to take just half an hour and ask God to break your heart for the need of revival and missions to a lost and dying world.

The Insanity of God

Many of you know that missions is near and dear to the hearts of my family and I. Before today, I had never seen this video, but it shows the truth of what it means to pay the price to worship and to serve Christ.

Philippians 1:21 – “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”

No Longer Normal

In the month since I posted my blogs about prayer, our world and our lives have been turned on their heads. Many of us are having to self-quarantine due to Covid-19 (or the Coronavirus). This means except for shopping for essentials or walking by ourselves around the block, we are not going out. Most restaurants are closed, schools and colleges are closed, and even shopping malls and stores are closed.

Social distancing is a concept that many could not have articulated a month ago. Now, even grade school age children understand what this means. Many parents are now forced to be home, along with their children, because many work places are also shut-down. Many may no longer have a job and multiple businesses will close forever. The government is currently considering a massive stimulus package that will reimburse families and businesses for lost time and wages.

Everything that was normal is no longer normal.

On Monday of this week, I listened to the BBC News and heard the daily broadcast given by the British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. A month ago, if the British people would have been told that police and government workers have the power to break up any gatherings of more than two people, they would have probably laughed and ridiculed you at the thought of such Draconian laws being put into place.

For those who have read or remember history, excessive or harsh laws were implemented in Europe and eventually the Jews were blamed for the problems of western Europe. Citizens were told that the laws were only temporary and in place for the “well-being” of all people. But I digress for that subject is for another day and another post.

However, the concern that I have is that the British government explicitly detailed what was to close. In the Prime Minister’s announcement, he specifically stated that all church gatherings are now banned!

Everything that was normal is no longer normal.

Local, state, and federal governments, here in America, have declared that we can no longer meet in groups larger than 10. Some are taking it even further and freedoms are being restricted beyond anything we could have imagined possible.

For almost half a century, I have read. I cannot begin to tell you how many books I have read in my lifetime, but I know they number in the thousands. From the Bible to classics to romance to modern day warfare to lawyer or military intrigue, turning pages in a book is a comfort to the soul. Yet, in all of my reading, what I see today seems like dystopian fiction come to life.

However, we in the western world now find ourselves at a crossroad. We are no longer allowed to meet for church in groups of more than 10, and some states in the USA have implemented emergency measures that allow for criminal prosecution for those breaking these new emergency laws.

This last Sunday was the first Sunday that the church where we serve closed down. We got up early and drove toward the building where our local assembly gathers. But, the services would not take place and so we turned around in a park. The day seemed to grow even more gray and dreary and I wondered aloud how much worse things could become. I realized afresh that —

Everything that was normal is no longer normal.

Yet, all that we see happening should not shock true believers. The apostle Paul wrote to a young man right before his own execution. In his short letter, he predicted that tough times would come. In fact, parts of this little epistle read as though Paul pulled his news directly from the front page headlines of 21st century newspapers.

2 Timothy 3:1-4 – “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.”

We who are true believers should remember that difficult or perilous times will come. The Bible is clear that all who will live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. I am not trying to predict that this is the final days before the time of great tribulation, but it is a possibility. What if through this time, a world leader should arise and promise to give the world a “happy ending?” What if that person were to bring prosperity, but at the cost of losing a few “freedoms”?

The truth is that the world deserves any and all judgment that may come at the hand of a holy and righteous God. We have rejected His ways and His commands for centuries and millennia. Even now in the 21st century, mankind thinks that he has been able to either destroy God or that he has re-created God is his own image.

The world mocks the remnant who have never bowed the knee to Baal. The world mocks those who proclaim that Jesus Christ is Lord, and that He will return one day just as He promised.

There are even so-called evangelical churches that no longer believe that Jesus will literally return to this sin-cursed world. It is a world that Romans reminds us cries out for redemption, along with all those who have been redeemed and bought by the precious blood of Christ.

2 Peter 3:1-4 – “This is now the second letter that I am writing to you, beloved. In both of them I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder, that you should remember the predictions of the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles, knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. They will say, ‘Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.’”

Like the prophets and preachers of yesteryear, it is important that true Christians proclaim the message of the gospel. Like Paul did to Felix, Festus, and Agrippa, we must preach about righteousness, self-control, and the coming judgment.

Be not deceived, for God will not be mocked. Whatsoever a man sows, the same he will reap. We do not know when the day of judgment will arrive, but when it does, the current pandemic known as Covid-19 will not even be a distant memory to those who live through those terrible days.

Christians, we are called to be like a Bride who is making herself ready for her Bridegroom to appear. Jesus Christ is very much alive and He is coming again. It may be sooner than any of us think. And I know with 100% assurance that He is definitely coming back sooner than the world wishes to believe.

NO LONGER NORMAL should be the battle cry of every true child of God. Through every trial, every tragedy, every pandemic, every death that occurs in this world, and especially at times like we are currently experiencing in March 2020, we should be shouting to everybody who will listen that –

Life is no longer normal!

Whether through Covid-19, an earthquake, cancer, the flu, an accident, or some other tragedy, death is coming. True believers should rejoice that our punishment was born by Christ on the cross of Calvary and there is no fear of any condemnation. For those who are not, we again plead to you to bow the knee to King Jesus before it is too late!

Pastors, if you are not preparing the hearts of your people for the return of our glorious King, then repent and humble yourself before His Majesty. He is coming and we need to live and preach like we actually believe it again!

It is no longer time for us to try and remind God of how big we think our problems are in this world. The time has come for us to tell the world how big our God is and always has been!

Only one life
It will soon be past,
And only what’s done
For Christ will last!

Ill News From New England

History has not been kind to those who refuse to submit to a state-church. Even in this country, the USA, this monstrosity of a state-church ran roughshod over those who would not bow the knee.

In colonial America, three Baptists were arrested for speaking about their doctrine over supper at a boarding house near Boston. John Clark wrote his book, Ill News From New England in the mid-17th century. An edition with updated English (shorter sentences and paragraphs, word changes) is now available in paper and digital format.

You can read more at the following Amazon Link.

Spiritual Vertigo

Vertigo is defined as “a sensation of whirling and loss of balance, associated particularly with looking down from a great height, or caused by disease affecting the inner ear or the vestibular nerve; giddiness. It can cause loss of balance, ringing in the ears, nausea, and disorientation.”

Two weeks ago, I woke up and began what seemed like a normal day. Less than an hour later, something went pear-shaped in my head. Extreme dizziness and violent retching overtook my body. By the fifth day, I paid a visit to a local Urgent Care.

After a preliminary check by a nurse, then another staff member, a doctor entered the room. They ran some additional tests for various flus and viruses. All came back negative, and the result was that I had vertigo.

There is a first time for everything. Despite having had malaria and typhoid twice while we served in Liberia, this was completely different. Every day that I wake up, my world whirls and spins as I try to recalibrate. I can now sit in my chair, but again each move has to be calculated or my stomach starts to churn and the world constantly spins.

I am disorientated. To use the medical definition for disorientation, I have a condition that causes me to feel as though I have lost my sense of direction.

As I have been pondering this new condition, it has made me think more about spiritual matters. Sometimes, the only thing I can do is close my eyes and pray for others while waiting for the world to stop spinning.

This diagnosis makes me realize that there is a spiritual connection, in that, there are some within the church who have spiritual vertigo.

They have lost their balance, or something is making them sick, or it may be that they have become disorientated. Some within evangelical churches have lost their sense of direction.

But, why or how does this happen?

First, we fail to keep sight of the holiness, majesty, and glory of the almighty God.

Listen to the words of those whose sight was not dimmed when they wrote the following thoughts.

C.S. LewisA man can no more diminish God’s glory by refusing to worship Him than a lunatic can put out the sun by scribbling the word ‘darkness’ on the walls of his cell.

John PiperIf you don’t see the greatness of God then all the things that money can buy become very exciting. If you can’t see the sun you will be impressed with a street light. If you’ve never felt thunder and lightning you’ll be impressed with fireworks. And if you turn your back on the greatness and majesty of God you’ll fall in love with a world of shadows and short-lived pleasures.

A.W. PinkHappy the soul that has been awed by a view of God’s majesty.

King DavidPsalm 93:1, “The LORD reigns; he is robed in majesty; the LORD is robed; he has put on strength as his belt. Yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved.

Jude – half-brother of Jesus Christ in his little book – Jude 25, To the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.

Second, our vision of eternity is dulled because we become too focused on the world and what it has to offer.

My dear readers, there is absolutely NOTHING the world offers that will compare with the riches that await us in Christ and in heaven. It is easy for those who are seated with Christ in the heavenlies to become dizzy and disorientated when they gaze longingly down to the mud and muck offered by the world.

Missionary and martyr Jim Elliott wrote in his diary, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.”

Third, we become disorientated when we work harder to make the church appealing to unbelievers than we do in making the church a place for the sheep to come and find quiet waters and pastures where they can feed without the fear of wolves.

This third point is a sad fact in far too many churches that claim the name of Christ today. Instead of being focused on preaching, teaching, and prayer, we have become centers for socialization or programs.

Pastors and teachers, if our time dissolves each week because of all the things we think we have to do instead of what God requires, then we cannot be surprised when our churches begin to look more like a worldly business.

True believers need to come together for worship remembering that Jesus Christ is King of kings and Lord of lords. Every aspect is to be about Him. Church is not meant to be a well-oiled piece of machinery at the expense of seeing Him who is above all.

Every Sunday, across our land, true believers gather. They need encouragement, exhortation, and edification. They come hurting physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. Like soldiers on the battlefield, they are bruised and broken from fighting the evil one and his minions. There should be one inviolable focus and goal for every person who preaches or teaches.

“The goal for every true believer is to be more like Jesus Christ today than we were yesterday, and more like Him tomorrow than we are today.”

Anything more or less than this is a disservice to the hearts and minds of true believers. When we ponder the state of the persecuted church, it becomes easier to see how far we have slipped. People in our western bastions of evangelicalism are not ready for persecution. We refuse to see it coming because the world has disorientated us to the point where we think they walk the road of life with us hand-in-hand.

May we be encouraged to stand fast and once again follow the command of the apostle Paul to the church in Colosse.

“Set your affections on things above, and not things of the earth.”

A Disservice to the Persecuted Church

My dear wife, Violet, has long been a person who spends far more time in prayer than I do. One of the areas that she ALWAYS remembers in prayer is the persecuted church.

In fact, it is through her devotion to the Lord and the concern that she has for brothers and sisters overseas that has helped me to be more consistently aware of those who are beaten, raped, and murdered simply because their faith is found in Jesus Christ alone.

A friend and past contributor, Sony Elise, writes encouraging posts, and in those encouragements often includes admonitions to pray for others. I am thankful for those who would be considered prayer warriors. These are people who give of their time and energy to remember the plight of others.

However, one of the areas in which I am often discouraged is the seeming lack of care, concern, and even love within the western church for these brothers and sisters. Too often, I have grown disheartened when I seek to remember those in places like China, Vietnam, Mongolia, and even in the heart of Muslim countries, yet most in the West live like these people do not exist.

The apostle Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 3:12, “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.”

I have many times brought the matter up for prayer in church meetings only to be ignored even by church leadership. I can only conclude a couple of main reasons for why our churches do not remember the persecuted church, or if they do, it is on the rarest of occasions.

First, remembering those who are persecuted would mean a vivid reminder that we are one family in Christ Jesus. This means that we must strive to follow the command that Paul wrote in Galatians 6:2, “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”

Second, remembering those who are persecuted would cause us to have to examine our hearts and lives. I am afraid that in the western world, we are NOT ready for persecution. Our lives are filled with plenty and many of our churches resemble the church in Revelation that was found in the city of Laodicea.

Revelation 3:17 says that the church in Laodicea said, “I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing.”

Yet, Jesus Christ said that the Laodicean church was actually wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.

How sad that we live and prosper, yet compared to our brothers and sisters who languish in prison, we are poor and to be pitied. Our barns and presses burst full of wine, yet the wine is but the fruit of sour grapes.

A pastor in a persecuted country was asked about the things for which he and his people prayed. The western individual expected that to hear that they prayed for freedom of religion, freedom from persecution, and for better lives.

The westerner was visibly shocked when the old but wise pastor, who had spent many years in prison for his faith, responded with gentleness.

“Our church prays for grace and strength for our people to endure whatever will make us more like Jesus Christ. He suffered and died for us, so is it too much if He asks us to do the same for Him?”

“We also pray for the church in the West that God will bring our brothers and sisters times of persecution so that the true church will grow in its faith. When that persecution comes, we also pray that God will show His love and mercy by providing the same grace and strength to our Christian family in the west.”

Dear readers, our brothers and sisters do not want our freedoms. When the Iron Curtain crashed down, it is said that the struggling and persecuted underground churches dreaded what would come to their doors. Pastors would send word that they only wanted missionaries who would preach and teach them the truth of God’s Word.

I personally spoke with one pastor, who had been imprisoned in Romania for many years. He spoke words that have stayed with me for almost 30 years.

“When the freedom came, all the things found in western churches came to Romania. These were things we did not want. We did not want the entertainment, the worldly music, or the sermons with no real meat. But that is what many missionaries brought to us.”

“The underground church that grew under persecution has become cold. The focus is no longer on Jesus Christ, but on what we can do to draw crowds of unbelievers. Our young people sing all the popular songs from the West, but their lives have not changed. We are no longer ready for persecution and we are the poorer for it.”

Call to Action

What can we do? For too long, the church in the west has done a great disservice to the persecuted church. The call to action comes ringing across the waves from the great cloud of witnesses that cry loudly for the Lord’s return to bring justice.

Here are four areas that will help you and I – starting today!

1. CONFESS! If you do not regularly pray for or remember the persecuted church, seek forgiveness from the Lord. Ask God to help you overcome callousness of the heart and pray to become sensitive to the needs of our far-off family.

2. PRAY! Ask the Lord that our brothers and sisters will stand strong. Pray for their captors and those who persecute them that our God will be gracious and bring even some of “Caesar’s household” to Himself.

3. STAND! Stand with our brothers and sisters. Do not ignore their plight. Find ways to encourage others, especially those who put themselves in harm’s way to go to the persecuted church and try to be a blessing. Find others to meet with who have a similar passion and share times of worship and prayer together.

4. PREPARE! Persecution is promised to those who would live godly in Christ Jesus. Pray that God would help you and I to take our eyes off of the rust, moth-corrupted treasures of this world. Pray that we would heed the words of Paul in Colossians 3:2, “Set your minds (affections) on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.”

What if Today Happened to You?

Today was a special service at our little mission. There was rejoicing, a time of prayer, and worship of the Most High. While we spent time in prayer specifically for the persecuted church, every part of our service, including the time of fellowship afterwards, was intended to bring honor and glory to the Lord Jesus Christ.

Each person that came today woke up to a dreary, grey, overcast sky and drove in a vehicle in a country that freely allows us to travel. But still we came.

Each person that came today had the privilege of coming to a building where we have freedom to worship as we see fit and not having to hide in a cave, or in the forest, or out on a dreary plain just to worship without fear of being reported to the authorities. But still we entered.

Each person that came today had no thoughts of any news that might or might not be taking place around the world. But still we worshipped.

Each person that came today had the opportunity to have a better understanding of what the persecuted church experiences every day. But still we prayed.

Each person that came today was reminded that there is an eternity to look forward where there will be no sin, no tears, no dying, no fears, and only joy in the presence of the Savior. But still we sang.

Each person that came today heard the truth of Scripture being boldly proclaimed that Jesus Christ alone saves sinners. But still we listened.

Each person that came today left after service to gusts of wind blowing across the parking lot, and a sky that was clearing with beautiful sunshine. But still we left.

Each person that came today read the news this afternoon that while we were worshipping, there were others who were doing the same but who did not go home for the wickedness of the heart of man was made evident as several in a Baptist church in south Texas went out into eternity. But still we grieve.

Tonight and in the coming weeks, there will be much soul-searching by many who go to services. Many parents will have concern for their safety and that of their children. Many will wonder if it is safe to go and worship with other believers, or will more lives come to an end. Many church leaders will face the daunting task of determining what kind of security they believe is necessary to help provide protection for those who come.

Yet, through the difficulty of following the news, these things remain true. The dangers are real. The reasons why this young man chose to kill will remain unanswered because he went out to eternity where he faced God as Judge.

Every day across this world, there are millions of Christ followers who live in danger of being harmed or being killed. Millions understand the risks of coming together knowing that it could be their last week. From places like North Korea, Somalia, Sudan, Eritrea, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Iran, and many other countries, especially in the 10/40 window, there is the cry of the persecuted church. They are being harmed or killed simply because they have called on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.

BUT still they went, still they entered, still they worshipped, still they prayed, still they sang, still they listened, still they left, and still they grieved.

The world is going to get worse. The Bible promises that this will be the case. Others will die for their faith. Others will have to determine whether dying for Christ is better than living for self. Others will have to decide if they will be bold for Christ and accept the martyr’s crown, or if they will deny the Christ who died for them and so forget that the servant is not above the Master.

What if tomorrow doesn’t take place like you think it will? What if tomorrow you are called to stand before God?

What if today happened to you?

The Church of the Future

2 Thessalonians 2:3, Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the rebellion (apostasy) comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction (ESV).

1 Timothy 4:1-2, “Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared (ESV).”

The apostle Paul provided us an insight into what the future would hold for the church. His warnings were not written because he had nothing better to do than to try and scare the believers of the 1st century. The church was in its infancy, yet the problems were already present. Just about every book revealed another aspect of what they faced, and the issues were real.

For example, in Romans, he reveals a great deal of doctrine, but he also pointed out the reality that sin in the life of the believer was real. It would not be eradicated in this life but we could be thankful that we, as believers, would not be found to be under any condemnation. Nothing would separate us from the love of God, who had adopted us into His everlasting family.

Could anything have prepared the early church for the events that transpired in Corinth? Despite the debauchery that was a part of the Roman Empire being found in the presence of brothers and sisters in Christ, Paul had to remind these precious believers that although many had participated in various sins, they were now clean. They had been washed in the blood of the Lamb and justified. Their accounts had been settled and they were no longer enslaved to the slimepits of the world in which they once loved to wallow.

The problems that were addressed were game-changers. As each scroll must have been unrolled, read, and shared, each local body of believers had to have rejoiced that their names were truly written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. Paul picked up his quill though and continued to warn each group.

persecution-1stcentury

To the believers in Thessalonica, he lovingly encourages them by pointing out that the Lord had not yet returned. In fact, one of his greatest joys was the testimony that this local assembly had before the inhabitants of the city, and yes, even beyond the region in which they lived. This was a group that did not allow their testimony to wane. Were they perfect? Were they super pious? Did they live on some spiritual plateau where they had become free from the ensnarements of sin? No, no, and no! The Thessalonians were real people facing real threats from an empire that hated the God of the Bible first.

However, Paul then gets another parchment and writes to a young pastor named Timothy. This letter is different. He gives pastoral counsel and godly wisdom for how this young man can shepherd the flock of God carefully, biblically, prayerfully, and lovingly.

In the middle of this epistle though, Paul uses a phrase to show the importance of what he is about to share. “The Spirit expressly says…” We understand the inspiration of the entire Word of God, yet, under that inspiration, his words point out a solemn truth that was meant to be a word of warning to Timothy.

When I began teaching in a ministry capacity over 25 years ago, you would not have been able to convince me that the blood-bought church would be where it is at today. Were there cults to deal with? Yes, of course. Were books being written based on, at best, shady theology? Again, we affirm that there were such books.

However, had you told me that so many churches and even entire denominations would depart from the faith in such record numbers, I would have struggled to believe such a thing to be possible.

To have been told that the proliferation of local assemblies would involve being willing for many ministers to become a Judas and sell-out their testimony and the Word of God for the purposes of entertainment or for profit, I would have told you that you were crazy.

Believers have gone from a hunger for the Word of God to having itching ears. They want to hear nice platitudes that make them feel good about themselves. Churches no longer want to hear about sin, righteousness, and the coming judgment. Padded pews keep people comfortable while they learn how to have a higher level of self-esteem. We are now so full of ourselves in many churches today that there seems to be a self-imposed moratorium on the Holy Spirit’s working in our midst.

Today, an overwhelming number of pastors and churches are more interested in hearing “Judge not!” from each other than they are interested in hearing God say, “You have been weighed in the balances and found wanting. Judgment is coming!”

Above all else, we have smoothed sin over to the point where churches are looking for ways to embrace it, instead of calling sinners to repentance. Step on board a blogsite, Facebook post, Twitter feed, or whatever medium you choose and dare to speak out and proclaim the truth of God’s Word. It won’t take more than 4 or 5 minutes before people who have never spoken to you before arise from the dark mists of the internet to shout you down. “How dare you judge?” “Who do you think you are? God?” “We are called to just LURVE everybody without question!” Et cetera, et cetera, ad infinitum, ad nauseum.

And the words of the Spirit to the church at Ephesus rings out saying, “You have left your first love. You no longer hold Christ preeminent over all others and to the exclusion of all others.”

Sadly, the clarion call to repentance has mostly fallen on deaf ears and now we have truly become closer to the model of the Laodicean church, “You are neither cold, nor hot, but you are lukewarm. I will vomit you out of my mouth.” There is not one good word that is ever said about the church at Laodicea. They had passed the point where there was no turning back. The writing was on the wall.

21stcentury

Today, I look at the 21st century church and realize that the 1st century church would not recognize us today. They would probably wail with despair realizing that we are not prepared for persecution. From the pulpit to the pew has capitulated to the world so much that some may well be willing to sit in the arena looking down on those being sacrificed to the lions.

It is heart-breaking to realize that if and when persecution comes the words of warning will fall on mostly deaf ears. Brother will turn against brother, children against parents, parents against children, and so-called believers against true believers as they ignore the reality of the dangers that were there all along.

Dear believers, if you are not willing to stand for something, then you will fall for anything. We must seek forgiveness from our Lord and with humility dust off our armor. We need to prepare for the fight of our lives and become like Christian in Pilgrim’s Progress when he was willing to face the dangers of Vanity Fair.

The world mocks our “standards” when they look just like the standards to which the world adheres. Why should they want what we claim to have that makes us special if we look the same on Sunday as we did while partying with the world on the Saturday before? If our music, words, actions, and attitudes look no different week after week, month after month, and year after years, then we cannot claim to worship and adore the only One Who has the power to make us a NEW creation in Christ.

God does not save us to leave us wallowing in our sins. That simply means that the world can change to accept all the wickedness it wants. Even, the so-called church can accept all the evils of the world and call evil to be good or good to be evil. However, the day will never come when it is acceptable to God.

To conclude, the 21st century church of the future is failing as the church for the present, and they are a far cry from the church of the past. Are there any who will mourn when our children reject biblical Christianity because of the hypocrisy they see from parents? Will any be willing to weep as did Nehemiah over the sin that surrounded him? Will those who are true believers recognize that while Paul recognized the sin within his own life that grace abounds so that we no longer have to live as slaves to sin anymore than he did?

My prayer remains that God will begin a work of revival within my own life and heart so that I will be conformed to the image of His Son Jesus Christ. Then, I want to see the Holy Spirit move in a way that helps other true believers realize that there are still 7,000 who have not bowed the knee to Baal. The end result is that when those who come after us look back, I want them to say with full confidence that the church of the past left a testimony for the true Church of the Future!

What does Pastor Saeed believe?

It is very comforting to know that Pastor Saeed is no longer in harms way of the Iranian government. Many have already spread the good news via social media and other outlets. But while we stand by and praise God for this man’s safety, do we know what he believes? Have Christians not made the same mistake before in standing by certain preachers, politicians, celebrities, or movement leaders only to have a black eye later on because we did not endeavor to know their doctrinal stance?

This article is not assuming to know what Pastor Saeed believes. As far as I know, there are no public statements that have been posted concerning this topic. However,  there is background information that may give some indication to the kind leanings that Saeed may have. DISCLAIMER: This is not a condemning post! I repeat. This is NOT a condemning post. This is purely informational, although I have my personal concerns. I do not believe that Saeed is not Christian. I do not have any evidence to make such a conclusion at this time. I am merely challenging us to always consider who we are supporting and ask ourselves if our own convictions will allow us to do so. The following is just a series of links I discovered when trying to figure out what Pastor Saeed believes. Although I found nothing on Saeed, did find other somewhat relevant information.

Pastor Saeed is an ordained minister from the American Evangelistic Association (AEA)
http://www.cbn.com/cbnnews/world/2012/december/aclj-calls-on-iran-to-free-american-pastor/?mobile=false

AEA was started by John E. Douglas Jr in 1954 and several other pastors who became independent in order to form this organization. http://wordpress.aeaministries.org/history/

What AEA believes can be found here: http://wordpress.aeaministries.org/this-we-believe/

It is possible that many of the pastors could have been affected by the “Latter Rain Movement” in the 1940’s as well as preacher A.A. Allen.

  1. http://www.encyclopedia.com/article-1G2-3274100062/other-pentecostals.html (Scroll down, find “American Evangelistic Association,” and click link)
  2. https://books.google.com/books?id=_Qtv7gJMIFUC&q=American+Evangelistic+Association#v=snippet&q=American%20Evangelistic%20Association&f=false (if link does not work when you click on it, copy and paste to the URL box)

Source 2 above reveals that Douglas Jr. was a convert of A.A. Allen who was one of the more popular “faith healers” of his day and a very controversial figure.

The “Latter Rain Movement” was one of the many baseline movements for the modern charismatic chaos witnessed today.

Douglas Jr. hired John Douglas Sr. to be radio spokesperson for AEA and started the international ministry World Missionary Evangelism (WME). http://wordpress.aeaministries.org/history/

WME is now overseen by John G. Cathcart in Dallas. Some of his writings can be read here: https://wmedallas.wordpress.com/

The Statement of Faith for WME can be found here: http://www.wme.org/statementoffaith.html

Before Douglas Jr. died, John Rienhold was made CEO and President of AEA ministries. http://wordpress.aeaministries.org/history/

Rienhold has been working with Iranian evangelistic ministry “ELAM” and believes that God is not just working through their evangelistic efforts, but is also taking “shortcuts” because of Iranians seeing “visions” of Christ. http://www.charismamag.com/site-archives/218-peopleevents/news/2373-iranian-church-growth-mind-boggling

What ELAM believes as a ministry can be seen here: http://www.elam.com/page/statement-faith And their endorsers are here: http://www.elam.com/page/endorsements

Once again, all these links are not to insinuate that Pastor Saeed is not a Christian. It is good to know those that labor among us, especially if we plan to support them. This is purely informational and is meant to bring awareness to the kinds of beliefs Pastor Saeed may hold. While I am happy Saeed is freed, I am tired of professing Christians making the same mistake over and over again and not doing their homework.

Until we go home.

Should We Pray for ISIS?

The following post from Russell Moore can be read in full at The Gospel Coalition. These are some great thoughts about the juxtaposition of justice and justification.

“Over the weekend many of us watched with horror and heartbreak as reports of terrorism came from Paris. At least 120 people were killed in what appears to be a coordinated operation by the Islamic State (ISIS), a terror organization that has murdered thousands of innocent people over the last year, including many Christians.

ISIS is one of the clearest embodiments of persecution and evil that we in the West have seen in many years. Their very existence is a commitment to wiping out political and cultural opposition through violence. They prey relentlessly on the innocent, including children. There’s no question that ISIS is a menace that must be engaged through just war.

But is justice the only thing that Christians should pray for when it comes to ISIS? Should we pray that our military, in the words of singer Toby Keith, “light up their world like the Fourth of July”? Or should we pray that, as a friend of mine posted on social media, there would be a Saul among those ISIS militants, whose salvation might turn the Arab world upside down with the gospel?

These are not contradictory prayers, and to each of them I say, “Amen.”

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Choose This Day Whom You Will Serve

Our worship leader prayed for the persecuted Church this morning and, as he did so, I couldn’t help but think of what I have heard about the persecuted Church praying for us, that we will experience persecution so that the Church here can grow. That may sound funny since it seems like there is a church building on almost every corner, but there is more to being a part of the Church than just walking through the door of a building once or twice a week.

The fact is, it is too easy to say you’re a Christian in this country. Although we are becoming a minority, many people still respect “religious” people so we’re okay. If Christianity were to suddenly be illegal, I wonder how many of us would boldly say, “Yes, I’m a Christian.”

Before you raise your hand and say, “I would,” evaluate the way you live your life. Have you truly surrendered every area to Him, making sure everything you do, say, and watch pleases Him? Sometimes I think it is easier to die for Him than it is to live for Him and, yet, if you don’t live for Him now, how do you expect to stand in the midst of persecution?

Like most Americans, I have a pretty comfortable life. My needs are provided, I have a family who loves me and, therefore, much to be thankful for. I am very grateful that I don’t have to fear for my life, or the lives of my family members. At the same time, there should be nothing that I am unwilling to give up if God asks me to. Trust in God means knowing that He knows what’s best for me, and He has a plan whether I understand it or like it … or not.

persecuted

So today, I too am praying for the persecuted Church. May God continue to encourage them and give them grace to stay strong in the midst of the persecution. May He use them to draw others to Him, and may He have mercy on America. May we use our freedom, not for our own pleasure, but for His honor and glory. If we don’t, we very well may experience the horrible things our Brothers and Sisters in other countries are going through. Then we won’t be able to live lukewarm lives. We will either be on fire for God, or we will do what we need to in order to keep our comfortable lives and, in doing that, we will lose them.

Please don’t wait until you are forced to make a decision. Decide today that nothing is more important than pleasing the Father who gave His only Son so that you could spend eternity with Him. He has given so much for you. Today, He asks you to give your life and everything you own back to Him. I pray you will say Yes.

What’s coming.

“Maybe at the present the authorities smile on the church of God; but within a while it may frown, and the storm of persecution arise. There was a time when the churches had ‘rest throughout all Judea’ (Acts 9:31). It was a blessed time. But how long did it last? Alas! not long.”

– William Gurnall
1617 – 1679

All Christians are Christians?

This may seem like a strange title, but after my comments on an article that I read this week on FoxNews, I think you will see the dilemma I am in.

However, before I continue with my comments on the article, I want to say that there are many who will take umbrage and be offended at what I will say here today. You see, we have become a nation of wishy-washy, whatever-floats-your-boat, don’t-offend-anybody, and don’t-judge-me church goers. Sadly, the transition was so gradual that most people never even noticed the shift.

There was a time that you would walk through an airport and knew exactly who the followers of Sun Myung Moon (also known as Moonies or members of the Unification Church) were and what they were trying to peddle. For those who have not looked recently, they are still around (normally older couples though) but they no longer wear their hair long in a braid. They do not have a shaved head, nor do they wear saffron-colored robes. Today, they are very much a modern organization that is still looking to attract followers to its mantra of global peace, defense of religious organizations, and extravagant marriage ceremonies around the world.

rev_moon_coronation

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Is Your Life in Line With God’s Will?

A friend sent me some Scripture verses this weekend. I have been reflecting on all of them but one she sent was Proverbs 16:2: “All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the spirit.” I especially noticed the first part of this verse: “All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes.” That is scary, Folks! The “if it feels good, do it” mentality is not Biblical. It brings to mind another equally scary verse: “Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and cast out demons in Your name, and do many mighty works in Your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of iniquity'” (Matthew 7:22-23).

It is sobering to me to think about how many people think they are serving the Lord when in reality they are simply serving self. They are living a life where all men think well of them. They shrink at the slightest sign of persecution. They are too busy serving God that they no longer have time for the God they claim to serve.

servinggodbyserving

In Luke 19:13, Jesus told a parable about a nobleman who told his servants, “Occupy till I come.” I believe this is God’s word to us today. It goes along with His call to His disciples: “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”

Just because you are doing good things does not mean those are the things that God has called you to do. It is so vital that we draw near to God, hear His voice, and obey Him. This week, I am praying over the things I am doing and trusting God to show me those things that are fulfilling my calling and those things that aren’t. This may entail a job, a relationship, people I hang out with, etc. If there is anything that is right in my eyes but not in God’s, I pray He shows me those things so that I can switch gears. It is never too late to do this.

A Perverted Rainbow

Today, America wakes up to its first full day of celebrating a law that mocks God and biblical marriage. People are faced with a choice. Do we obey man or do we obey God? This ruling is going to cause some to abandon the beliefs of the Bible. Many in a church social club, I formerly pastored in California, will be rejoicing in the diversity of America. That group of people, along with millions more, abandoned the faith a long time ago in favor of votes that kept biblical marriage from defined as one man and one woman.

However, that was just a small part of the problem. The problem goes all the way back to the beginning of earth’s history. You see, dear readers, the reality is that EVERYTHING God created was good. It was perfect. There were no weeds, no thorns, no crying, no death, and no sin of any kind. God created one man and one woman with the command to take care of the earth and to populate the earth.

Sin entered the world because of a promise that Satan made to Adam and Eve. If you just listen to me, your eyes will be opened and you will be “just like God.” He was wrong and the perversions of everything that was good began.

God ordained marriage between one man and one woman only.
Satan perverted it and said that marriage could be between two or more of whatever your lustful heart craves.

God ordained marriage to be a holy union between one man and one woman to bring forth children.
Satan perverted that and said you can shack up with whoever and whatever you want, and if you want more to your cause, recruit them from the children being born.

God ordained government to bear righteous rule over the peoples of earth.
Satan perverted that and said governments can be opposition to each other and more importantly, that they can stand against God and His Anointed One, Jesus Christ.

God decreed that a flood would destroy the world and only those INSIDE the ark would be saved from the total destruction.
Satan perverted that and said that the drinking, marrying, carousing, debauchery, and wickedness was a great way to live and to ignore the ramblings of the crazy, religious, bigoted, preacher of doom. After all, God is a God of love. He won’t destroy anybody.

rainbow_promise_genesis_9_v_13_postcard-p239124178906562053baanr_400

THE WORLD PERISHED!

After the flood, God created a rainbow to be His seal in the heavens. It was a declaration to show the mercy and longsuffering of God. The rainbow was His picture to a depraved world that while He would never again destroy the world with a flood, He would be coming again. The next time He comes, there will be no rainbows. There will only be fire and total destruction of ALL that stand opposed to Him.

The true rainbow is made up of 7 different primary colors of a spectrum. It is a beautiful reminder of the wonder that God long holds up His wrath and judgment against the wickedness of this world. Seven in the Bible indicates perfection and completion.

However, Satan perverted that sign and it is now used around the world as a symbol of “gay pride.” It has only 6 colors. Six in the Bible is the number of man. This “rainbow” is not a true rainbow, but is a symbol of perversion, debauchery, sodomy, lust, pedophilia, and bestiality – just to name a few. The one below is a perversion, and for the record, the White House KNEW what was coming and this was done deliberately. Read Psalm 2 for the conclusion.

white-house-rainbow-3

If you are one who claims the name of Christ, you cannot celebrate what took place yesterday any more than you can celebrate the mass murder of babies in America through the means of abortion. Woe to those who call evil good, and who call good evil. God will not be mocked. Destruction is coming and the world will perish.

If you are reading this and think that this is the final conclusion of the LGBT community, then you have been duped. The LGBT community will NOT stop until the next step of Satan’s agenda has been accomplished and accepted. Polygamy will soon be accepted. The age of consent will be dropped just as is happening in other parts of the world. Adherents of LGBT, PFLAG, and NAMBLA cannot have their own children and will only grow as they prey on more and more young people trying to entice them to a life of lust-filled debauchery that will never offer anything but disease and heartache for it is not what God ordained.

Soon, this blog may be taken down because it will be considered hate speech. I know that day is coming. Many companies openly rejoice in the ruling by SCOTUS. One day soon, true believers will be given a choice to conform to the world’s standards or lose their jobs.

My prayer is that each of you who know Christ will seek to love those around you. Stand fast in the faith and know that greater is He that is within us than the evil one who thinks he rules the world. Encourage your hearts knowing that God is and always will remain the Sovereign of all creation. He is coming again and whether we die by old age or martyrdom, we will be with Him for all eternity. So, let us go through each day, one day at a time, and remember that this world is not our home.

God Opposes the Supreme Court!

FOR THE RECORD — DEFCON STANDS OPPOSED TO THE SUPREME COURT!!!

No matter what the Supreme Court says, there is One Who is supreme above all men and governments, and He has stated that homosexuality is an abomination. It is a very sad day for America that the moral foundations upon which this nation were built has just been trashed and trampled underfoot. If there is no repentance and forgiveness sought from God, there will be no mercy.

Despite the horrendous news that our beloved nation has taken a huge leap toward the pit of being an amoral society, I am SO THANKFUL that there are some things that will never change.

Imed_gods-sovereignty-3_july-27

1. God is STILL sovereign.

2. God knew the Supreme Court would stand against His Word. He is NOT asleep and is not slumbering.

3. Psalm 2 reminds us that while the rulers and kings stand against the Lord and His Anointed One (Jesus Christ), He laughs at them and holds them in derision.

4. Jesus Christ is still Lord of all and one day EVERY knee will bow.

5. True believers will remain a minority because Matthew’s gospel reminds us that the gate to heaven is narrow and few find it.

6. Romans 8 reminds us that NOTHING will ever separate us from the love of God, not even persecution or death.

7. 2 Timothy 3:12-14, “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it.”

8. Romans 1:18 & 32 are still a sobering reminder that the wrath of God is coming, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.”

9. The apostles made it clear that they were going to obey God rather than man. DefCon also chooses to obey God rather than man.

10. Biblical marriage will ALWAYS be only between one man and one woman.

11. Homosexuality and lesbianism WILL ALWAYS be an abomination to God, and nobody who chooses such a lifestyle will ever be granted admission to heaven, nor will those who give approval to those who practice such deviant lifestyles.

12. So much more to say, but a last thing to remember is that there is forgiveness by grace through faith alone in Christ alone.

1 Corinthians 6:9-11,  “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”

Is Forgiveness Optional?

I have several friends right now who are going through difficult times with people they once had close fellowship with. When a friend or relative turns on you and begins to slander you or in other ways make your life miserable, it is easy to become bitter and to even grow to hate that person. These feelings are not unique to our day.

In Psalm 41:9, David says: “Yes, my own familiar friend, in whom I trusted, which did eat of my bread, has lifted up his heel against me.” Then again, in Psalm 51:12-14: “For it was not an enemy that reproached me; then I could have borne it: neither was it he that hated me that did magnify himself against me; then I would have hid myself from him: But it was you, a man my equal, my guide, and my acquaintance. We took sweet counsel together, and walked to the house of God in company.”

Seaset

Sea Sunset

It is never easy to know that someone hates you or is trying to turn people against you but it is even harder when it comes from someone you loved. Jesus Himself experienced this when one of his disciples, who had walked with him for years, turned him over to the Romans to be crucified. As bad as the physical pain was, it must have been magnified by the emotional pain of knowing the perpetrator was one who had been in his inner circle of friends.

When you are being mistreated, the Golden Rule still applies. You must strive to treat that person how you desire to be treated. This does not mean that you pretend there isn’t a problem and open your heart and home to them but it does mean that you refrain from name calling, wishing them evil, slandering them in return, etc. You do not have to let your good be evil spoken of (Romans 14:16), but you must pray for those who persecute you (Matthew 5:44; Romans 12:14) and ask God to help you to love them in spite of what they do to you (Matthew 5:44; Luke 6:27, 35).

Believe me I know how difficult this can be. I am only sharing what the Word of God tells us in regard to these things. If it were easy to be a Christian, everyone would be one. But, to whom much is given, much is required (Luke 12:48). If you are truly saved, you have been forgiven much, and along with that forgiveness comes the command to forgive others (Ephesians 4:32; Colossians 3:13).

It can be very hard to control the feelings of bitterness that arise but it will be at least a little easier if you commit that person to prayer. Ask God to save them or to convict their heart. Ask Him to give you a genuine burden for that person. Do not allow that bitterness to fester until it controls you. When that happens, you are no better than they are. Life is short, and you cannot afford to allow your time to be wasted through fretting about what is being said or done to you, and definitely not through retaliation. Draw near to God and continue to follow Him with your whole heart. If you seek Him and His righteousness, He will handle everything else for you. Your enemy may never come around but you will have peace in knowing that he or she can only speak lies about you because you have walked uprightly.

forgiveness1

In closing, I would add that, if you have hurt someone, causing them to become bitter, you must humble yourself and ask their forgiveness. They may or may not forgive you but you must repent specifically for wrongdoing on your part. Sometimes persecution comes through no fault of yours. I understand that. But before you can pray about the speck in your Brother’s eye, you must make sure there is not a plank in yours. You may even need to explain the situation to a close friend or family member and get their perspective as to whether you are even partly to blame. Only do this if you honestly want to know since you may not like the answer. As painful as this may be, I am convinced that, if you obey God’s Word in these matters, you will find that peace that passes understanding and will develop a closer walk with God than you ever thought possible.