Christians Let’s Get A Hold Of Ourselves (Plea for Christian Character)

Picture1Over the last few days, I’ve seen posts to my FACEBOOK time line concerning the impeachment of president Donald Trump. One group of posts support him, while tearing down the (often in mockery) leaders seeking to impeach him, as well as those in favor of impeachment. On the other side I’ve seen posts tearing down and mocking the president and those supporting him. The bulk of these posts come from those who would proclaim to be followers of Jesus Christ. It is not my intention to question the integrity of their confession, but ask us all to consider our rhetoric and misplaced passion. We have forgotten our own history. During the Civil War, where over 600,000 Americans were killed, both sides used God as a pretext for their cause; sadly, we are seeing this again.

As Christians we are called to respect authority, not rail against it, whether it’s congressmen, senators, or a president we disagree with.

Jude 1:8-11 8 Likewise also these dreamers defile the flesh, reject authority, and speak evil of dignitaries. 9 Yet Michael the archangel, in contending with the devil, when he disputed about the body of Moses, dared not bring against him a reviling accusation, but said, “The Lord rebuke you!” 10 But these speak evil of whatever they do not know; and whatever they know naturally, like brute beasts, in these things they corrupt themselves. 11 Woe to them! For they have gone in the way of Cain, have run greedily in the error of Balaam for profit, and perished in the rebellion of Korah.

You may also want to look at Romans 13:1-7.

I was raised to engage our political system appropriately and I have strong opinions about the current governmental situation, but my responsibility is to keep my eyes on Christ, consumed by His will and command, as a soldier of the cross.

2 Timothy 2:1-4 ​1 You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. 2 And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. 3 You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. 4 No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier.

This is a very important concept: How can a soldier of Christ focus on carrying out the orders given by the word of God, through the Holy Spirit, moment by moment, if they be consumed with the affairs of this life? They cannot, no more than a soldier in the U.S. marines, should they be wasting time dropping their opinions and proving their political points. It is silly to me, but it seems we would rather be politically moral pundits arguing our points ad nauseum, then soldiers of Jesus Christ, making a difference.

Consider that an encouragement for a brother in Christ in this hour, may be undone with a cynical political post or tweet in the next hour. We Christians are called to proclaim the good news of Jesus, not our anxieties about being railroaded or run over politically.

I was reminded of this less than an hour ago in Psalm 146…

Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord, O my soul! While I live I will praise the Lord; I will sing praises to my God while I have my being. Do not put your trust in princes, Nor in a son of man, in whom there is no help. His spirit departs, he returns to his earth; In that very day his plans perish. Happy is he who has the God of Jacob for his help, Whose hope is in the Lord his God, Who made heaven and earth, The sea, and all that is in them; Who keeps truth forever, Who executes justice for the oppressed, who gives food to the hungry. The Lord gives freedom to the prisoners. The Lord opens the eyes of the blind; The Lord raises those who are bowed down; The Lord loves the righteous. The Lord watches over the strangers; He relieves the fatherless and widow; But the way of the wicked He turns upside down. The Lord shall reign forever— Your God, O Zion, to all generations. Praise the Lord!

All the things that Psalm 146 says concerning God, He Himself does. These are the very things we are expecting human political savior’s to do. Once more, we do not regard the world’s political history. There is no utopia, or Christian nation, or paradise to come, until Christ Himself arrives bodily to bring in His kingdom.

Revelation 19:11-16 Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war. 12 His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns. He had a name written that no one knew except Himself. He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses. Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. And He has on His robe and on His thigh a name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.

Seems to me that many of the posts coming from Christians, are written because of fear or anxiety about living in a world that does not resemble what we want. Reading Psalm 146:3 it becomes clear. There is no human that will save this country or preserve your idea of what it ought to be. As all nations, it is a drop in the bucket to the LORD (Isaiah 40:15). It will suffer the fate of all nations, when Jesus returns (read Revelation 19). So to all my FACEBOOK friends whether you are supportive of the president or believe he needs to be impeached…

 Do not put your trust in princes, nor in a son of man, in whom there is no help”.

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Church Be Careful of these 9 Trends (Guest Post).

Related imageDear Friends below is an article about nine trends facing Pentecostal Church’s from a British Pentecostal leader first communicated in 1973. The warning against these trends was largely ignored and really speaks to the Body of Christ as a whole, whether it it may be Pentecostal or not. To our brethren outside the United States, be careful of these trends, as they are the foundations of the apostate church, infused with the spirit of this age.

By Darrin J. Rodgers
Originally published on PE-News, 30 November 2017

British Pentecostal leader and theologian Percy Brewster, in a 1973 Pentecostal Evangel article, identified nine trends facing Pentecostals. While some of these trends were the natural result of the movement’s growth and maturation, others he ascertained as “extremely dangerous” or even Satanic in origin.

When Brewster wrote the article, there were only about 20 to 30 million Pentecostals worldwide. Over the past 44 years, that number has burgeoned to between 350 million and 700 million, depending upon how one defines Pentecostal. Today, Pentecostals would do well to heed Brewster’s advice to carefully reflect about the nine trends, which continue in many Pentecostal circles.

The first trend identified by Brewster is that Pentecostals have become “too sensitive to public opinion.” He encouraged believers to be more like early 20th century Pentecostals, who seemed “immune to criticism.” Rather than adapting to the world’s values, he asserted that Pentecostals should make the Bible their “blueprint for living,” seeking to please God in all they do.

The second trend is that some “accept the heritage of the past without a corresponding personal dedication.” This includes people who were reared in Pentecostal churches and who identify with the Pentecostal tradition, but whose spiritual life is far from where it should be. They have a form of godliness, but not the substance.

The third trend is a weakening in the area of evangelism. Brewster warned that a church which places a low priority on evangelism is committing “spiritual suicide.”

The fourth trend is to spend large amounts of money to build extravagant churches, rather than investing the money in evangelism and missions.

The fifth trend is the tendency to get caught up in the busyness of church work and committees, while neglecting the needs of spiritually hungry souls. Brewster encouraged readers to prioritize evangelism and discipleship.

The sixth trend, according to Brewster, “is an unhealthy move to segregate the young and the old.” In many churches, he witnessed that “the young people are taking over, and sometimes 90 percent of the church energy is expended on the young.” He refuted this as unbiblical, noting that “the older people need the zeal and energy of the young, and the young need the balance of the older people’s wisdom and maturity.”

The seventh trend is an overemphasis on demon power. Brewster cautioned against attributing every problem to demons, which gives undue recognition to the devil, who is “already a defeated foe.”

The eighth trend, and one of the most serious in Brewster’s estimation, is the tendency to tolerate and excuse sin. Pentecostals must clearly and resolutely proclaim truth, rather than shifting their opinions to accommodate human weakness.

The ninth trend, which Brewster also identified as very dangerous, is to think that education can be a substitute for the call of God and the power of the Holy Spirit.

How should Pentecostals react to these trends? According to Brewster, theology trumps sociology — Pentecostals should continue to proclaim biblical truth regardless of trends. However, he encouraged them to “contend for the faith without being contentious.”

When Brewster wrote the article in 1973, the charismatic movement was gaining strength in mainline Protestant and Catholic churches. This context helped shape many of the trends that Brewster identified. Many of the new charismatics either stayed in their old denominations or challenged traditional holiness standards if they joined Pentecostal churches. Instead of retreating or compromising in the face of these challenging trends, Brewster encouraged Pentecostals to continue to evangelize at home and abroad, and to fellowship with all who “recognized the Lordship of Jesus Christ” and who sought the fullness of the Holy Spirit.

Read Percy Brewster’s article, “A Look at the Worldwide Pentecostal Movement,” on pages 9 to 11 of the Dec.16, 1973, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Posted in apostacy, Assembly of God, Pentecostal, Pentecostal Evangel, Percy Brewster, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Can Christian’s be Possessed by Demons? (A response to and Article)

Related imageBelow is a response I wrote on Facebook concerning a popular Bible teacher’s proclamation that Christians cannot be possessed with demons. Please leave comments, as a healthy reasoning from the scriptures is a good thing.

RESPONSE TO CAN CHRISTIANS BE POSSESSED 

The fundamental issue with teaching that a Christian cannot be possessed, begins with a lack of understanding concerning human free will; and how it works in both a positive and potentially negative fashion.

Consider that we are “not to be drunk with wine… but to be filled with the Holy Spirit” (Ephesians 5:19-18). The “be filled” in the Greek is to “be being filled”. This communicates a present continuous progressive infilling of the Spirit. This fullness of Spirit is not automatic (as Paul’s command was for them to avoid being inebriated with wine), but must be maintained by obedience and absolute surrender to Christ; moment by moment.

Can a person who is filled with Holy Spirit still fall into sin if not careful and watchful? The answer is Yes. This “Yes” is despite the reality of the old man of sin being crucified with Christ and the body of sin being done away with (Romans chapter 6:1-11). We don’t have to sin, but when we do, it occurs as we yield to sin, rather than reckoning it dead in our lives. We know from scripture we are to yield to righteousness and not unrighteousness (Romans 6:12-13).

Even though the word of God declares that sin shall not have dominion over us, do we know of Christians who have fallen into sin, where it is overwhelming their faith. Again So how can a person who has the Holy Spirit still sin? It is a matter of how much we allow the world, the flesh, and the devil to influence us to sin.

So, when it comes to being continuously filled with the Holy Spirit it is a matter of how we yield to Christ and His righteousness, by seeking and the leading of the Holy Spirit. When we sin, it is a matter of how we are choosing to give into the world, the flesh, and the devil as they come at us. It is this yielding to sin, which opens us to satanic influence, even should we be Christian.

How does this relate to demon possession?

The most common Greek word for possession is “daimonizomai”. The English translation of this word is unfortunate, for it is translated “possessed”, yet is actually a phrase “to be exercised by” a demon. In our vernacular, this means that the unclean spirit is commanding and we are following. Simply put it means to be influenced by the commands of the unclean spirit. A better word would be demonization or the degree to which a person is being influenced by unclean spirits. Once more this follows an understanding of how much a person yields to demonic suggestion.

Take for instance the demonized man from Matthew 8:28-34, Mark 5:1-20 and Luke8:26-39. This man was almost completely demonized or “being exercised” or “worked out” by demons. I grant that he was not a Christian, but although he was almost fully demonized, he still had enough free will to run towards Jesus and bow to Him. Would not the demons have wanted him to run in the other direction? Once more demon possession is about the amount of influence they have over a person. So, can a Christian be influenced by demons?

Consider Ananias, especially what Peter speaks over him, concerning his sin…

Acts 5:3-4 But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and keep back part of the price of the land for yourself? 4 While it remained, was it not your own? And after it was sold, was it not in your own control? Why have you conceived this thing in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God.”

Interestingly, Peter declares “Why has Satan filled your heart”. The word “filled” is the same word for “filled” used in Ephesians 5:18-19, when Paul commands us to be “filled with the Holy Spirit”. The word means “to make replete, to cram to continual overflow”. My point. How is it that Ananias, a Christian, was filled with whatever hell Satan filled him with, rather than the Holy Spirit? Because in sinning he opened himself to satanic and demonic influence to the point, he was overwhelmed by darkness, rather than light.

Some would offer that Ananias was not save, or a tare among the wheat, although that is a hard sell given the contest of both chapters 4 and five of Acts of the Apostles, the argument of demonization in Christians can be made from a most troubling trend among American pastors: Suicide.

Let’s leave out the foolish debate we normally fall into, considering their final state; suicide in pastors, is rarely heard of outside of the western Christian communities (America, Canada, Australia, Europe), where as in America it is about to become tracked statistic.  With Western Christianity making up the vast minority of the world’s population of Christians, we ought to be troubled. In the last ten years, I have personally read in national newspapers, of the self-murder of multiple pastors. So many in fact I have lost count.

Why is this the case? One article I read had this to say… “There is no lack of statistics about pastors and depression, burnout, health, low pay, spirituality, relationships and longevity—and none of them are good. According to the Schaeffer Institute, 70 percent of pastors constantly fight depression, and 71 percent are burned out. Meanwhile, 72 percent of pastors say they only study the Bible when they are preparing for sermons; 80 percent believe pastoral ministry has negatively affected their families, and 70 percent say they don’t have a close friend”.

The reason I highlighted the word believe is underlined is that it signals the turning point from word of God influence to fleshly, worldly and devilish influence.  The battle for influence in fought in our mind. When pastors, begin to believe contrary to the scriptures concerning role, calling ministry focus or what is our ultimate hope, we are ripe to fall into to compromise. When we begin to fall into compromise we are ripe to fall into sin.

The Christian world we live, does not deal with sin anymore and pastors who do not, cannot help but feel the weight of the grief sin is to their soul. Compound this by ineffective word of God ministry, with little unction and churches which are cold, clueless and mired in carnality and sin; we can understand the statistics above.

Once this sets in ministers are more than happy to entertain that mental illness is a reason for perpetual depression. Add to this the lie, that a “good Christian” can commit suicide and God will forgive him and look what we have… another pastor who murders himself and destroys his family.

Everything written in the last paragraph is demonic suggestion, because it does not line up with the scriptures. Pastors who kill themselves, in my biblically informed opinion, have hearts equally filled by Satan, as Ananias. Just as His behavior was contrary to the leading of the Holy Spirit so is theirs—just as Ananias behavior was detrimental to the body of Christ, so is the behavior of suicidal pastors—just as Ananias did not get up to gain forgiveness, neither do they.

Are pastors who commit suicide demonized almost completely under the influence of the demonic?

The debate over whether Christians can be possessed is therefore a useless argument. The question, more germane is it possible for a Christian be influenced by Satan or demons to the point where they are overcome and in danger of apostasy? Yes, is the answer.

For good scriptural teaching concerning this subject look to “Spiritual Authority” by John McMillion or “Strange God’s” by Keith Bailey.

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Baby It’s Cold Outside… Rejecting a Kingdom of Comfort.

Image result for Churches at night in snowRecently there was controversy regarding an iconic winter holiday song, “Baby It’s Cold Outside”. The controversy centered around a particular artist changing the lyrics, which were originally written in 1944. The lyrical change did little if anything to change the original theme of the song: Guy tries to convince the girl he is smitten with, to stay a little longer. When she says she ought to say no, he tries to convince her to stay by saying “Baby it’s cold outside”. You are probably wondering “Mike, what are you get’in at?

A few weeks ago I was working in Fulton County, with Revive Ohio, for three days of  evangelism. During Revive Ohio events, churches from the host counties come together to take the gospel into the communities of that county. Teams of 4 bring scripture wristbands, bibles, and discipleship materials to businesses, homes, schools, and the streets; for the purpose of sharing the gospel. A key motivating factor is to unite churches of like-minded faith, in the unity of the Spirit and bond of peace, around the great commission.

My county had a Revive Ohio week that lasted 15 days. We saw about 100 souls dedicate their lives to Jesus, 60 people signup for discipleship, over 20 follow Jesus in baptism in a truck on the streets of our county, and multiple miracles of God’s power. Most of all churches and Christians from all over my county came together for the cause Christ. The unity of the Spirit and bond of peace has continued; now back to Fulton County.

In Fulton County, during my three days, I trafficked through 3 churches that were hosting morning activities and an evening service or a lunch time testimony and training church. All three churches epitomized all that an American Church building could aspire to be. The people were nice and friendly–the environment was climate controlled, with appropriate mood lighting for every place, space, and event–the sanctuary seating was more than comfortable with “essential” lighting, hip painting, and cool decor–the hallways were like over-sized hotel  hallways and decorated appropriately.

In particular, the kid’s ministry areas were stunning in their ability to catch the eye and hold the attention of both children and parents. One of the facilities children’s area had a small version of Noah’s ark, with signs with biblical characters for corresponding age groups. Another had what looked to be a giant play yard area (huge) inside. All three had very comfy and cozy coffee bar areas, with premium roasted coffee and cushy couches and chairs.

On the third day I was there, the temperature dropped drastically with a misting rain. After lunch and while praying, before we would hit the streets, we were sitting in one of the comfy coffee areas. While we were departing, even going through the doors, a thought crossed my mind and almost instantly I was convicted… “I’d rather stay in here, where it’s warm, because it’s cold outside“.

CAN  FOCUSING ON THE RIGHT DECOR DAMPEN FERVENCY FOR CHRIST?

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It does not take a heady theologian to realize that when churches take much time, effort, energy, and money to outfit their buildings, it is in an effort to hold on to the people they have. It is also an attempt at being hip and relevant enough to corral as many outsiders in as we can.

I know, I know, we are convinced we must do this , to be able to give them Jesus and advance the kingdom. I realize we convince ourselves we do this to show those outside God’s love and that we’re not so different.

If you feel I am being sarcastic, you’re right. The reason for my sarcasm is that a ministry mindset which feels it must outfit buildings and ministries to please human sensibilities and cultural standards of relevance (through decor, program, and comfort), does not resemble any biblical frame work.

How does this kind of  Kingdom of Comfort, where people are attracted to a one stop shop, cover all the bases model, line up with Luke 9:23

“Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and is himself destroyed or lost?”

Or John 16:33

“These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”

How does the desire to to make a cozy space of refuge for American Christians line up with our privilege and calling to suffer with Christ in Philippians 1:29?

“For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake, having the same conflict which you saw in me and now hear is in me.”

Or Paul’s prayer in Philippians 3:10?

“that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.”

This kingdom of comfort mentality, which is nation wide among Christians (in a general sense), is in conflict with the leading of God’s Spirit and squeezes out His plan, purpose, and will. The comfy, cozy, people pleasing DECOR, ENVIRONMENT, AND PROGRAM of many churches dampens fervency of Christ and the great commission.

Consider the conflict it created in me, for a moment, when my flesh wanted warm couches and hot coffee, over sharing the gospel. Now, I admit, I am a work in progress with many deficiencies needing overcome in Christ, but one of them is not fervency. We must not jump to the conclusion that my comments are against mega churches. my comments are for all churches.

This wrong headed mentality and practice exists in a majority of Christians in this land, both pastors and laity alike. It has arisen in a nation of unchecked greed and selfishness, where enough is never enough. It has invaded the church because we have been calling the world into  our warm and cozy, rather than reaching the lost out in the cold.

THIS HAPPENED TO ISRAEL

It has been said that those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. This is never more true than when dealing with the church. I Corinthians 10:11 reveals that what has been written in the word of God, has been written to admonish (gently warn) us not to follow the examples of those who missed God’s heart; namely Israel.

As a whole, even though they experienced periods of terrible turmoil (while God disciplined them), Israel was materially prosperous. This prosperity arose, not because they deserved it, but because God chose to bless and protect them. Israel did not do well to be thankful, but expected it was a birthright of theirs, which led to a nation pursuing comfort rather than God.

(Amos 6:3-6) Woe to you who put far off the day of doom, Who cause the seat of violence to come near; Who lie on beds of ivory, Stretch out on your couches, Eat lambs from the flock And calves from the midst of the stall; Who sing idly to the sound of stringed instruments, And invent for yourselves musical instruments like David; Who drink wine from bowls, And anoint yourselves with the best ointments, But are not grieved for the affliction of Joseph.

As we can see, God was not pleased with this loafing and self focused non-sense, which is easily seen in many of our homes and our churches. This mentality and practice led to religious entertainment, rather than encountering the living God.

(Ezekiel 33:30-33) “As for you, son of man, the children of your people are talking about you beside the walls and in the doors of the houses; and they speak to one another, everyone saying to his brother, ‘Please come and hear what the word is that comes from the Lord.’ So they come to you as people do, they sit before you as My people, and they hear your words, but they do not do them; for with their mouth they show much love, but their hearts pursue their own gain. Indeed you are to them as a very lovely song of one who has a pleasant voice and can play well on an instrument; for they hear your words, but they do not do them. And when this comes to pass—surely it will come—then they will know that a prophet has been among them.”

Finally this mentality led to pride, arrogance, and the most egregious and abominable sin.

(Ezekiel 16:48-50) “As I live,” says the Lord God, “neither your sister Sodom nor her daughters have done as you and your daughters have done. Look, this was the iniquity of your sister Sodom: She and her daughter had pride, fullness of food, and abundance of idleness; neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy. And they were haughty and committed abomination before Me; therefore I took them away as I saw fit.

Some may conjecture that these are O.T. passages and do not apply. They would be wrong. I challenge any in conflict with this truth to simply read Revelation 2 and 3, prayerfully. You will find churches that left loving God with all their heart; who ceased loving their neighbor by taking the gospel to them. In the midst of what they left behind, they became infested with methods of seeker sensitivity, pagan practice, sexual immorality, and material wealth, which lead to spiritual blindness.

The point is, our desire to make a comfortable, user friendly, and more palatable environment for those outside our kingdom of comfort, has dulled our spiritual sensitivity to the Holy Spirit. Many now see Christian practice as being in a building suited towards “us” and “our preferences”. Our “preferences” do not compel us to risk the possibility of pain or rejection for our faith in Jesus Christ (as we “Go”), but to be catered to and coddled in an environment that pleases us. In these “preferences”, “accepting Jesus”, tithing, and showing up to the building on Sunday (most of the time), are sure signs we are good with God. We need to think again and pursue a biblical reformation of mind!

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There are people lost and without God, right next door to us… It’s cold outside.

There are many in bondage to Satan who want freedom, but can’t find a Christian with any faith or power in the Spirit to aid them…It’s cold outside.

There is a generation of young people, who lack any fear and live from one hedonistic high to the next… It’s cold outside.

This is occurring, in large part, because we who are the light of the world have placed our lamp beneath a very cozy bushel we created for ourselves. NOW IT IS COLD INSIDE! Make no mistake, we are largely devoid of the manifest presence and power of the Holy Spirit, because we have stayed inside where it’s warm and cozy for too long.

Please prayerfully consider your light, child of God. Consider how hot and brightly it burns or how it has diminished in intensity (fervency)  or may not be burning at all. Consider your needed level of comfort? Consider the last time Jesus’ love was so hot in you, you just had to share Him and His truth with someone.

If the lights stay under the bushel, the cold will eventually completely come in overcoming the warmth, since those who are light and heat to the world are disconnected from the one who is a Consuming Fire. May we once more take the Light and Fire of God into the dark outside, because it is COLD OUTSIDE!

Posted in baby it's cold outside, kingdom of comfort, Matthew 5:13-16, mega church, seeker sensitivity, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

When Shining Your LIGHT Gets You Clobbered… Shine Your Light Even More!

Image result for let your light so shineI mean come on, who does not love the Beatitudes? They are fantastic teaching from our Lord Jesus Christ and we followers of the Lord Jesus Christ ought to prayerfully pursue living them out by the power of the Holy Spirit. The only problem with the Beatitudes, is not really with the Beatitudes, but what we very curiously leave out.

(Matthew 5:1-9) And seeing the multitudes, He went up on a mountain, and when He was seated His disciples came to Him. Then He opened His mouth and taught them, saying: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, For they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek, For they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, For they shall be filled. Blessed are the merciful, For they shall obtain mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, For they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, For they shall be called sons of God. 

(Matthew 5:10-12) Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. 

(Matthew 5:13-16) “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men. “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.

You may be wondering why I have sectioned off one continuous section of verses. The reason should not shock you. Many don’t understand that verses 10-12 are actually part of the Beatitudes, or conveniently under teach the importance of the heart response and life response we are to have when facing persecution.  The reality of many Christians in America is that we do anything we can to avoid unpleasant circumstances. we vote based on the prospect of avoiding suffering or the loss of rights–we will take almost any pharmaceutical on the market to avoid unpleasant physical or emotional feelings–we work to build our homes and lives into that which brings us comfort.

I’m not saying all of the above is either good or bad, but stating a fact for the purpose of illustrating why we pass over Matthew 5:10-12. Passing over this portion creates another problem for us, because verses 13-16 cannot be understood in context without our emotional response to persecution in the previous three verses. The main point: Should we live meekness through peacemaking, in the power of Holy Spirit, we will suffer persecution; Therefore we must not only count the cost but respond as Jesus commanded us. Let me explain.

ALL WHO LIVE GODLY IN CHRIST JESUS WILL SUFFER PERSECUTION

Scripture teaches that persecution by the world, against godly followers of Christ, will be a fact of  our life (John 15:18-16:3, 16:33; II Timothy 3:12).

(Philippians 1:28-30) and not in any way terrified by your adversaries, which is to them a proof of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that from God. For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake, having the same conflict which you saw in me and now hear is in me.

Since persecution is to be a fact of our lives, as well as a sure marker that we are true in our following of Jesus, we need to understand what persecution is. Persecution is any action where we are pursued (hunted) by others, for the purpose of forcing to flee from Christ and cease obeying Him in faith. This includes but is not limited to threats, beatings, abuse, lost of job, loss of life, separation from family, imprisonment, or torture.

Remember when they killed the Lord Jesus Christ, He told us we would be treated similarly and we are commanded to respond like Jesus, with joy (Hebrews 12:2-4). in the first place…

WHEN SHINING YOUR LIGHT GETS YOU CLOBBERED, REJOICE!!!

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you”. 

The word “Blessed” means happy are those who are persecuted. Persecution is a circumstance that brings happiness to the saints? That seems so unnatural; and it is. This is where we see that joy is a clear infusion from Christ in the person filled with His Spirit.

How is this happiness possible? It is possible because the one persecuted begins to see their suffering is specifically tied to their love for Jesus and His character in them. Persecution is a clear reminder of the validity of our faith. It is also the answer to Paul’s prayer in Philippians 3:10 “That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and share in the fellowship of His sufferings”. We can be happier than any other time, when getting clubbed for Christ our Lord, because we have been counted worthy to suffer for His name (Acts 5:41).

Let’s not let the cart get before the horse. Pain hurts a lot and we must remember we grow in this as we face increasing degrees of pressure against us for our faith. This means that we must choose by faith and surrender  our will, to rejoice in the pain which comes against us for our testimony of Christ. In this we must choose to rejoice and leap, when it hurts and through the hurting, until the joy of His Spirit is fully manifested. This is not automatic, as it takes our steady and consistent self denial of what is natural and inborn: our fight or flight mechanism.

Jesus does not command only an emotional response to persecution, He further instructions as a life response to persecution.

“You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men. “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.

WHEN SHINING YOUR LIGHT GETS YOU CLOBBERED… SHINE EVEN BRIGHTER

Jesus’ life response comes with a negative and positive. In the first place, He is declaring that when persecution comes upon you, refuse to let it take the essential dynamic properties out of your life of faith. Simply put, salt has some dynamic qualities, among them it melts ice, flavors things, cleans, and heals. There are direct correlation with a Christians life and faith having the empowered ability to melt the coldness of men’s hearts, make the Christ life tasty to the lost, and bring healing and restoration to humanity.

What we need to grasp is that for salt to work the way it is intended too, it must be rubbed to what it is melting, flavoring, healing, or preserving; and with force. Jesus is saying “Do not let persecution cause you to run from human contact; keep pressing in regardless of outcome.

Secondly, Jesus is saying do not let persecution cause you to hide and be a private Christian; for there is no such thing. Jesus is telling us that when persecution comes, and it will, we must press in harder and shine brighter. Why? Because in that action of faith, men truly see the reality of the presence of Christ in us.

2 Corinthians 4:7-12 But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us. We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed— always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. For we who live are always delivered to death for Jesus’ sake, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So then death is working in us, but life in you.

Let me encourage you, brethren, count the cost considering the ways of persecution and what it means in your life. Let me encourage you to prayerfully consider your willingness to rejoice and shine brighter for Christ when clobbered. There is no greater joy than knowing my love for Jesus is seen, so much, by the darkness around us that the enemies of Christ are trying to shut me up.

Let me admonish you, as well brethren. in the last days persecution of Christians will cover the earth. We are almost there, endure to the end, rejoicing and shining brighter for Christ, as that Great Day approaches.

Posted in Matthew 5:3-16, this little light of mine, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

When You Feel Worn (Encouragement for the weary)

(James 1:2-3) My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.

(1 Peter 1:6-9) 6 In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, receiving the end of your faith—the salvation of your souls.

Both passages from God’s Holy Word reveal joy unspeakable in the midst of trial. Many other passages, from God’s Word, reveal that the joy of Christ is our inward antidote to the pain we suffer in this life. That being said, we must acknowledge that this joy does not remove or block the pain; but serves as fuel for enduring the trials we face on Christ’s behalf (Hebrew 12:2; Matthew 5:10-12).

Even when not in a direct time of trial, being in a world that is contrary to Christ and getting more contrary by the day, can be draining and hinder our joy. Daily we are faced with the prospect of hearts being harder by the hour–satanic bondage creeping into every segment of culture–the marginalization and persecution of the church worldwide,–as well as many other end times realities, which press all around us.

(2 Timothy 3:1-5)  But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power.

When adding to this list from Romans 1:29-32,

“being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them”,

life can become an oppressive way suffocating our joy in Christ.

This morning while entering into prayer, having spent two days substitute teaching in the Fostoria High School, I felt overwhelmed (and crushed, useless and defeated). We want to believe that pastors are always to be “abounding in joy” and “overcoming” and overflowing with faith”, but true followers of Christ at times grieve heavily concerning the darkness abounding in our world.

Can you imagine being Noah, as the judgement of the flood approached, where the word of God declares…

(Genesis 6:5) Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.

At times, even those with great faith, are grieved and pressed with sadness over the state of the church or that of lost humanity.

This morning as I cried out to God in intercession, the Lord brought a song to mind, a prayer that gave me some perspective. The Spirit then revealed that one or more of my friends may be feeling the same way. Therefore, In Christ’s name, I offer to you the song “Worn” by Tenth Avenue North. Remember you are not alone, and regardless of what is occurring currently in your life, He is still with you.

The lyrics are included below for your continued encouragement, click play below.

I’m Tired I’m worn
My heart is heavy
From the work it takes
To keep on breathing
I’ve made mistakes
I’ve let my hope fail
My soul feels crushed
By the weight of this world
And I know that you can give me rest
So I cry out with all that I have left
Let me see redemption win
Let me know the struggle ends
That you can mend a heart
That’s frail and torn
I wanna know a song can rise
From the ashes of a broken life
And all that’s dead inside can be reborn
Cause I’m worn
I know I need to lift my eyes up
But I’m too weak
Life just won’t let up
And I know that you can give me rest
So I cry out with all that I have left
Let me see redemption win
Let me know the struggle ends
That you can mend a heart
That’s frail and torn
I wanna know a song can rise
From the ashes of a broken life
And all that’s dead inside can be reborn
Cause I’m worn
My prayers are wearing thin
Yeah, I’m worn
Even before the day begins
Yeah, I’m worn
I’ve lost my will to fight
I’m worn
So, heaven come and flood my eyes
Posted in "Worn" by Tenth Avenue North, I Peter 1:6-9, James 1:2-3, Tenth Avenue North, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

WHAT WE FEAR WILL MASTER US

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While reading Ezekiel chapter 11, the Lord reminded me of the words of the Lord Jesus Christ, “No one can serve two masters; for he will either hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon “(Matthew 6:24).

In this passage, Jesus is referring to a false god found in many pantheons of false worship around the world. His statement was part of a larger teaching, where he commands us not to worry about what we will eat or drink or wear. The reason is that worry unchecked becomes fear, which can give way to panic. In that state, it is easy to say we trust God for our daily bread and provision, while running to serve mammon (or some other idol we have made). This practice had been adopted into Judaism as an acceptable practice.

Jesus is declaring God will have no competition with mammon or any God. We must trust him alone, because whatever we fear will eventually master us. If this is the fear of the one true God, Hallelujah! But if something else, we have a definite problem.

Why did this come to mind, while I was reading Ezekiel 11? Because of what we read in Ezekiel 11:8.

Ezekiel 11:8 You have feared the sword; and I will bring a sword upon you,” says the Lord God.

Ezekiel 11 is part of a more expansive vision given to the prophet, which begins in chapter 8 of the prophecy. A little background is necessary.

Many from the Jewish nation were already in captivity; Ezekiel among them. In detail, from chapter 2 to 11, God reveals the judgment to fall on His chosen people, because they feigned trust in Him and had whored after false gods (like Baal, Ashtoreth and Mammon among others). In Chapter 8 Ezekiel is shown abominable things happening in the Temple–in Ezekiel 9 the prophet see’s the marking of a faithful remnant, but the judgment to fall on those who walked in unbelief towards YHWH–Chapter 10 which is perhaps one of the saddest in the Old Testament, reveals the glory of the LORD departing the Temple–In chapter 11 we see His glory depart the city of Jerusalem.

Into this narrative we understand, that although God has called His people to repentance, in arrogance they had rejected His calling.

In the midst of this narrative we read the passage highlighted above, Ezekiel 11:8You have feared the sword; and I will bring a sword upon you,” says the Lord God”.

How does this tie into Matthew 6:24, making it not only a revelation to Israel, but also an admonition to the Church of the Living God, purchased with Christ’s shed blood?

Quite simply, the things Jesus commands us not to worry about, are the very things that drove Israel to idol worship. Throughout her history, Israel had feigned trust in the LORD, only to panic when God did not come through when they demand he would. In their immaturity, they missed the truth that delays do not mean God will not or is not able; it means He will bring what is needed, when He deems it the right hour.

Do we have a potential for trouble in walking out that characteristic of our faith (trust in Him with all… not being wise in our own eyes)?

Far too often, out of fear of what was to come, Jewish leaders would run to another country and pay tribute to a foreign God, in money or worship; then find they were still up the creek without a paddle. At times, they would get into bed with foreign powers that had once enslaved or abused them.

It was fear of starvation, or fear of losing favor, or fear of invasion or… you get the point, which drove them away from the LORD. Now the Lord was saying, your fear of destruction has led you to idolatry, now that which you fear will master you.

The lesson for us today is: Whatever you fear will dominate your lifeit will become your master.

Should a person have the only fear allowed in scripture… FEAR OF THE LORD, their life will be mastered by the Lord Jesus Christ, as they are led by the Holy Spirit. Some want to redefine the fear of the Lord for the Christian as reverence only. That understanding is only partially true. Scripture clearly indicates that the Christian needs to reverence God almighty, but this is founded upon the truth that it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the Living God; because He is a consuming fire, who will strike at us, should we continually run afoul of His commandment and calling.

Some conjecture this point with no biblical support. Let us consider those who had little fear of the Lord and how they fared when forgetting He is a consuming fire.

  1. Ananias and Sapphire (Acts 5:1-11)
  2. Simon the sorcerer (Acts 8:9-25)
  3. King Herod (Acts 12:20-24)
  4. Bar Jesus, aka Elymas (Acts 13:4-12)
  5. 7 Churches of Asia Minor (Revelation 2 and 3)

Should Christian’s serve the Lord in proper fear, they will have wisdom and His manifest presence to delight in. Should we fear other things, we fall into mastery by another.

Proverbs 29:25 The fear of man brings a snare, But whoever trusts in the Lord shall be safe.

The fear of man is not simply the fear of a man or group of men, but fear that is common and controlling in the lives of all men, women and children. The fear of man is the basis for all the things Jesus instructed us not to worry about.

My concern is that fear is driving and commanding much of what the church is pursuing in America. Let us consider for a moment the support for the current president of the United States, as received from evangelicals.

Though he may now have shifted some of his positions, concerning issues considered non-negotiable to Christians (abortion and religious freedom), he is no more Christ-like than the last president, no matter what famous evangelical preachers tell us. We need remember that politicians are politicians and as such, often have short memories when those who support them outlive their usefulness. Far too many believers have put their trust in a president’s ability to do their bidding, forgetting that earthly power does not work that way. If we are honest we may have to admit that we are guilty of what Israel was guilty of, when it comes to making men out to be our political saviors.

A little closer to home, we may find that much of our ministry, perhaps even our outlook on our own life of faith, is being driven by what men fear apart from fearing God. Sadly men and women of God can be driven and mastered by…

  1. The fear of failure
  2. The fear of success
  3. The fear of being passed over
  4. The fear of not having enough provision
  5. The fear of not getting the credit we feel we deserve
  6. The fear of loss
  7. The fear of being irrelevant
  8. The fear of not being good enough
  9. The fear of being found out a fraud

Perhaps there are more, but let me give you a practical example of how this fear creeps in and drives us from trust of God, very subtlely.

On September 27 ReviveOHIO in Seneca County began a 15 day run, that was truly God moving in mighty ways. Scheduled for 7 days originally, we began going out in teams comprised of ReviveOHIO team members and pastors and congregation members from 27 different churches of like minded faith around Seneca County. Over the next seven days, Baptists, United Brethren, Methodists, Pentecostals, Evangelicals, Non-denominationals, trained, prayed, ministered to the lost in evangelism, ate, worshiped and fellowshipped together.

The results were amazing… multitudes saved, many physical healings encountered, several public baptisms and several commitments for one year of discipleship occurred. In addition, we experienced God weaving together the hearts of dedicated Christ followers, from many different denominational backgrounds; all in the sweetness of the unity of the Spirit and bond of peace.

As we approached day five it was apparent we needed to extend, knowing God was only beginning. After another two days we prayed, seeking the Lord if we would extend again. We were all tired and agreed the harvest was plentiful, but had not enough laborers. As pastors and leaders from Seneca County and ReviveOHIO team members gathered together privately, we were told Time to Revive (the parent organization of ReviveOHIO), had been led to bring their entire organization to Seneca County should we extend, to aid in the harvest.

What did this mean? In the first place God answered our prayers. Secondly He answered them in a huge way; 67 more full time “Time to Revive” evangelists were coming to help for at least two days. We were blown away and speechless. Someone suggested we get on our faces before God, but the fear of man crept in and began to drive us.

“Where will they stay?”

“Where are we going to secure enough food?”

“How long with this continue?”

“Where are we going to host lunch?”

“Will this cost more money?”

This normal logistical questioning is assumed allowable, but is it in the face of God’s leading to humble ourselves? This banter lasted about five minutes or less, until a very humble and wise sister in Christ from ReviveOhio spoke up “Our brother said we need to get on our face before God; I believe this is God’s instruction”.

Without hesitation, we moved in unison. Without hesitation, the LORD moved on us. We did not rise for 45 minutes, as we cried out to God in praise, joy, humility and faith. Praise the Lord for her courage, because had she not spoke up, fear would have driven us from meeting God that day in a special and tangible way, as we pursued getting our ducks in a row like lost men.

As I reflect on this, I must admit that I have allowed fear to drive me hard in my life. It was a fear of losing my children to the world, that led me at times to be overbearing with my children, as I tried to protect the call of God on their life. I am grateful that Jesus has healed the hurt that led to this, and now I am enjoying a season of trust in the Lord, that I have too little experienced prior to the last few years.

Remember, what you fear will master you. Better to have Christ as your master, than the myriad of wealth, power and provision, a fear driven life may produce. The Lord has said it best for us…

2 Timothy 1:7 For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.

Ask yourself dear saint of God “What fears may at times be driving me?”

Posted in Ezekiel 11:8, Fear becomes your master, II Timothy 1:7, Matthew 6:24, Uncategorized | Leave a comment