Calvary covers it all
Recently posted articles
potpourri of past articles
There are several things that it takes to make a church, but they can be divided into three basic things:
- People who want to form a church.
- A pastor who will lead the church.
- A place to meet.
The most important of the three are people who have a heart to make a church and a pastor. Otherwise, what you have is not more than a large Bible Study group. There are many “bible study” groups throught the country that are doing little for the Lord Jesus Christ. This happens because it takes special people with extreme dedication to stay in such an arrangement, and there are not many of these type of people. They stay for only so long, but when they are called upon to do something to help, they are looking for the exit. This happens often because “bible study” groups are typically small and unfunded. If you examine this situation objectively, you will find that there is a group of people who are happy to “take” anything they can get, but who resist having to do any “giving.” Anyone who has been a Christian for some time knows that this theology run’s against the grain of Bible Believing Christianity, whose leader and founder did the ultimate in giving. Therefore, it takes dedicated people to stay in a Bible Study group and they cannot remain in such a situation for long before they want to either: form themselves into a church or leave and find an already formed church. If they leave, then the group dissolves rather quickly. If they stay, then a church is born. But to have a church, there needs to be more than an idea or commitment to make it happen. You need a pastor.
Generally speaking a pastor puts a face upon the church. He is a point of contact for all business related to the church. This is in addition to the task of preaching and teaching the families who ask him to come lead them. So, like the school teachers of the early American settlers day, he is given the authority to do so, in exchange for the families of the church supporting him financially. In the early pioneer days, farmers had to work hard to keep sustaining their families. They didn’t have the time or the means whereby to educate their children. But, they knew that an education was valuable and they wanted it for their children. So, they would come together as a community and hire a teacher to teach their children in exchange for some form of compensation. It was like this for the communities and the pastors as well. The difference being that the pastor addressed the spiritual education and well being of not only the children, but the entire family as well. Today’s bible believing churches are not so much different, even though times have well changed and things have become more modern in the way of doing things. All of this to say, usually when a pastor is called, money comes into the picture. Weekly collection of money begin to take place. Therefore, somebody has to manage this as well, and who has time for that? Usually this job is deligated to the pastor.
When money comes into the picture, rules need to be established in order to protect the investment of the church. So, churches form a constitution containing laws and by-laws. They establish all of the belief’s and boundries of the churches charter. All of this comes about because the “bible study” group has brought a pastor now into the picture. The Bible Study group has now become a church. There is no doubt about it; the need for, and calling of a pastor brings the bible study group into the realm of being a church. But, this is not where it ends.
A church also needs a place to meet. True, a church can be a church in “name only” without any place to meet. But, it will not last long as a church on paper. It needs a place for the general public to come and participate in the churches activities. Yes, in the Bible you read of “house churches,” but you have to realize that was a different time and place. They were meeting secretly for fear of the Jews and worshippers of other god’s. When I lived in China, our church was a “secret church.” We met in parks, the woods, the jungle, by the seaside, and in several different houses as well. Seldom did we get the entire church together at one time. On a typical day, I would first go to one house and preach to several there. Then I would go to another house, and so forth until I met with the entire church. This way, everyone was able to be ministered to. It took a lot of work on my part, but was necessary for the safety of the brethren.
It is not that way in the USA. We can still meed openly without fear of reprisal. So, when you read in the Bible about house churches, you would do well to remember the situation the church was in during that time. Churches need a place to meet. If they do not have one, then it becomes difficult to hold the church together, and even grow the church as well. People need to know the church is there.
Still, through all of this, there is always the need for dedicated people who are willing to go through the pain necessary to “birth” a new church. It is not the typical church experience as one would have if they went to an “already established” church. They have to work harder, be nicer, give more, evangelize much, and above all: PRAY.
We are fortunate here at GraceBaptistChurch. We have a dedicated group of Christians who are willing to shoulder the burden to carry the church through the entire delivery process. One day, we will see the fruits of our labor realized. Right now, we have the people; we have the pastor; we have a place to meet, but we do not have our own place where we can invoke typical church activities to help families grow in the Lord. We are ever so thankful for the Grange, but we only rent the hall for Sunday’s. We have no other place to conduct business for any other day of the week. It is difficult to find Grace Baptist, and then, when people do drive up, they think, “is this the church?” The Grange does not look like a church on the outside.
We need to pray for our own place. We need to ask God to provide for us a place to “anchor” GraceBaptistChurch. Not only that, we need to give to the building fund. Surely, people of the church could give ONE DOLLAR over and above their usual tithe for the future of the church. If everyone just gave ONE DOLLAR a week, that would only be FOUR Dollars a month. That can’t be too hard on anyone’s pocket book. Friends, if you added all of that up, together it would be a significant figure. God’s answer to our prayer for help may be, “I already helped you. I gave the people the funds necessary. If they don’t put it in the building fund, then it’s not my fault.” If the church is going to be worth something to us; if it is going to have value, then we need to invest in it. One day, we too can have our own building.
How we admire the obedience a dog shows to its master! Archibald Rutledge wrote that one day he met a man whose dog had just been killed in a forest fire. Heartbroken, the man explained to Rutledge how it happened. Because he worked out-of-doors, he often took his dog with him. That morning, he left the animal in a clearing and gave him a command to stay and watch his lunch bucket while he went into the forest. His faithful friend understood, for that’s exactly what he did. Then a fire started in the woods, and soon the blaze spread to the spot where the dog had been left. But he didn’t move. He stayed right where he was, in perfect obedience to his master’s word. With tearful eyes, the dog’s owner said, “I always had to be careful what I told him to do, because I knew he would do it.”
Every conscientious parent recognizes how difficult it is to exercise his God-given authority over his children. The delicate balance of being tough yet tender is not easy to maintain. Many parents intensify a rebellious spirit by being dictatorial and harsh. Others yield when their authority is tested. When a strong-willed child resists, the pressure to give in for the sake of peace and harmony can become overpowering.
I am reminded of the mother who wanted to have the last word but couldn’t handle the hassle that resulted whenever she said no to her young son. After an especially trying day, she finally flung up her hands and shouted, “All right, Billy, do whatever you want! Now let me see you disobey THAT!”
Where our Captain bids us go,
‘Tis not ours to murmur no;
He that gives the sword and shield
Chooses too the battlefield
Where we are to fight the foe.
One step forward in obedience is worth years of study about it.
(Men Are From Sears, Women Are From Nordstrom)
I believe that, in general, women are saner than men. For example, If you see people who have paid good money to stand in an outdoor stadium on a freezing December day wearing nothing on the upper halves of their bodies except paint, those people will be male.
Without males, there would be no such sport as professional lawn mower racing. Also, there would be a 100 decline in the annual number of deaths related to efforts to shoot beer cans off of heads. Also, if women were in charge of all the world’s nations, there would be, I sincerely believe this, virtually no military conflicts, and if there were a military conflict, everybody involved would feel just awful and there would soon be a high- level exchange of thoughtful notes written on greeting cards with flowers on the front, followed by a Peace Luncheon (which would be salads, with the dressing on the side).
So I sincerely believe that women are wiser than men, with the exception of one key area, and that area is: clothing sizes. In this particular area, women are insane.
When a man shops for clothes, his primary objective is to purchase clothes that fit on his particular body. A man will try on a pair of pants, and if those pants are too small, he’ll try on a larger pair, and when he finds a pair that fits, he buys them. Most men do not spend a lot of time fretting about the size of their pants. Many men wear jeans with the size printed right on the back label, so that if you’re standing behind a man in a supermarket line, you can read his waist and inseam size. A man could have, say, a 52-inch waist and a 30-inch inseam, and his label will proudly display this information, which is basically the same thing as having a sign that says: “Howdy! My butt is the size of a Federal Express truck!” The situation is very different with women.
When a woman shops for clothes, her primary objective is NOT to find clothes that fit her particular body. She would like for that to be the case, but her primary objective is to purchase clothes that are the size she wore when she was 19 years old. This will be some arbitrary number such as “5” or “7.” Don’t ask me “5” or “7” of what; that question has baffled scientists for centuries. All I know is that if a woman was a size 5 at age 19, she wants to be a size 5 now, and if a size 5 outfit does not fit her, she will not move on to a larger size: She can’t! Her size is 5! So she will keep trying on size 5 items, and unless they start fitting her, she will become extremely unhappy.
She may take this unhappiness out on her husband, who is waiting patiently in the mall, perhaps browsing in the Sharper Image store, trying to think of how he could justify purchasing a pair of night-vision binoculars. “Hi!” he’ll say, when his wife finds him. “You know how sometimes the electricity goes out at night and…” “Am I fat?” she’ll ask, cutting him off. This is a very bad situation for the man, because if he answers “yes,” she’ll be angry because he’s saying that she’s fat, and if he answers “no,” she’ll be angry because HE’S OBVIOUSLY LYING BECAUSE NONE OF THE SIZE 5’s FIT HER.
There is no escape for the husband. I think a lot of unexplained disappearances occur because guys in malls see their wives unsuccessfully trying on outfits, and they realize their lives will be easier if, before their wives come out and demand to know whether they’re fat, the guys just run off and join a UFO cult.
The other day my wife, Michelle, was in a terrific mood, and you know why? Because she had successfully put on a size 6 outfit. She said this made her feel wonderful. She said, and this is a direct quote: “I wouldn’t care if these pants were this big (here she held her arms far apart) as long as they have a ‘6’ on them.”
Here’s how you could get rich: Start a women’s clothing store called “SIZE 2,” in which all garments, including those that were originally intended to be restaurant awnings, had labels with the words “SIZE 2.” I bet you’d sell clothes like crazy. You’d probably get rich, and you could retire, maybe take up some philanthropic activity to benefit humanity. I’m thinking here of professional lawn mower racing.
Linda Burnett, 23, a resident of San Diego, was visiting her in-laws and while there went to a nearby supermarket to pick up some groceries. Later, her husband noticed her sitting in her car in the driveway with the windows rolled up and with her eyes closed, with both hands behind the back of her head. He became concerned and walked over to the car. He noticed that Linda’s eyes were now open and she looked very strange. He asked her if she was okay, and Linda replied that she had been shot in the back of the head and had been holding her brains in for over an hour.
The husband called the paramedics, who broke into the car because the doors were locked and Linda refused to remove her hands from her head.
When they finally got in, they found that Linda had a wad of bread dough on the back of her head. A Pillsbury biscuit canister had exploded from the heat, making a loud noise that sounded like a gunshot, and the wad of dough hit her in the back of her head. When she reached back to find out what it was, she felt the dough and thought it was her brains. She initially passed out, but quickly recovered.
Psalm 91:1-6 He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the LORD, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust. Surley he shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler and the noisome pestilence. He shall cover the with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and buckler. Thou shalt not be afraid for terror by night; nor for the arrow that flieth by day; Nor for the pestilence that walketh in darkness; nor for the destruction that wasteth at noonday.
Each of us will at some point of out life experience those “dark hours.” These are the times when we feel that no one cares; no one is listening. It is at these times when we feel all alone against the raging storms of life and there is no hope for ever being happy again. We feel like giving up and allowing the destroyer to have his way with us. But, friend, these are also the times when the saints have God protecting and shielding us from the rages of the storms of life. We have a shelter in a time of storm.
God is always our protector, but He does not only do that by soaring in the lofty heavens, looking down like the ever watchful eagle, He also is very near to us. When the “noisome pestilence” of life finally drives us mad with desire to give up, He is there, covering us with the feathers of His wings. In this way He takes the brunt of the storm upon Himself; He is our shelter and warmth until the storm passes over. He holds us steady so we won’t fall to certain destruction. Why then do we not feel His ever presence? This happens all too often and we don’t “feel” Him there because we are too busy looking on the storm instead of snuggling into His loving embrace. Like the young, we too are disappointed that there is a storm so we cannot go out into the radiant sunshine an frolic for a little while. We are looking at our circumstances instead of our situation.
No one likes to go through a trial—a storm of life. They are not fun because we can’t go out and do what we want to do. Instead, we must stay inside under shelter. And here is the key—we cannot do what we want to do! The storms interrupt our plans. They always come at the most inconvenient times. They are never on our schedule of the day; our things-to-do-list. They are most troublesome by nature. But, it is only from the place of protection that we can be delivered from the storm; that we can be shielded from the trial. AND, whether we know it or not, it is in these times that we get closer to God.
Almost always, when a trial comes in our life, do we run to God for our help. Amazingly, the unsaved, unrepentant, atheist will do so as well. They are always willing to accept prayer for them in their time of trial or despair. They want to have the protection and hope that comes from a loving relationship with God, but don’t want to stay under His wing. Like a child on a playground who wants to climb the monkey bars on his own falls off and gets an owey, when the hurt comes, when there is pain, he immediately runs to mommy. Why is that? They want protection, warmth, shelter and security.
So friends, if you are going through a trial today, if you have been going through some despairing times, the very best thing for you to do is to run to God, get under His wing, snuggle up to Him, and wait out the storm.
“Nice words preacher, but can you be a little more practical?”
Yes! Go to the word of God. Open your Bibles and read some comforting words. Passages that will often meet the needs in times of trouble are mostly in the Psalms. There is much healing and relief in these passages. But that is not all. Pray! If you cannot find your way to God, ask Him to find you. If you seek Him, He will find you. And, when He does, He will protect you, love you, warm you and shelter you from all of the storms of life.
The Seattle Seahawks football team is renowned for its fans which have earned the title: “the Twelfth Man”. This is because there are normally eleven men on the playing field at any one time, but because of the “heart” of the fans, the team considers them to be with them in spirit as well. Therefore, they are “the Twelfth Man.”
The Seattle fans are extremely enthusiastic and supportive of their team. They are wild and even border on the edge of becoming lunatic in their support of the Seahawks. Before each home game in Seattle, there is the ceremonial raising of the blue flag sporting the large white numbers: “12”. One of the largest selling items of team clothing is the jersey sporting the large numbers “12” with the name displayed proudly on the back: “Fan”. Seattle fans fanatically love their Seahawks.
Jesus too had twelve men on His team. Of all of the disciples following Him, He only chose 12 men to be on His team. Of course, I am talking about the 12 who later became apostles. They were the only twelve who were on the field of play during His battle for victory over death.
In addition to them, there were huge crowds of others who followed Jesus as well. They were His fans. Although they were not in play as starters, they were very dedicated fans. Recognizing this is what drove the Pharisees crazy with jealousy and envy. Like the “Twelfth” man with the Seahawks, these extra followers of Jesus could be called His “thirteenth man.” They were not on the actual field of play, but they were such fans that they were there in heart.
It is funny though that Seattle fans can be called “the twelfth man” where we can call Jesus’ fans “the thirteenth man.” This is because numbers have meaning in the Bible and the number 13 indicates rebellion. There were 13 American colonies that “rebelled” from their king to form the United States of America. The first time the number appears in the Bible is in Genesis 14:4 telling us, “in the thirteenth year they rebelled…” We read about Judas Iscariot in John 13:13 whose name consists of thirteen letters. John 13:13 also has thirteen words in it and thirty nine letters, which is three times thirteen. The word “dragon” appears thirteen times in the book of Revelation. Nimrod, who is the thirteenth from Adam, is a type of Antichrist. The Book of Mark mentions Satan in the first chapter verse 13. And so on… Jesus’ fans were, and still are a rebellious lot.
The thirteenth man of the followers of Jesus are those who love Him for what He can do for them, but never take a thought for what they can do for Him. In other words, they are selfish. The worst type of these are pointed out in Acts 4:33 to 5:11. There we have the story of unity in the church. The “team” is on the field and they are winning. The “thirteenth man” is supporting the team. They are fanatically cheering them on. That is all except two rebellious fans. They are Ananias and Sapphira. They are cleaver. They are sneaky. They have observed the others and patiently learned what is to be expected of them. They have not responded from their heart. With their heads, they have formulated a very elaborate plan. They would bring in some of their support of the team, but would “ACT LIKE” they were a true, blue, 100% lover of the team. They would pretend to be a fanatic supporter of the battle being waged, when all the time, deep down in their hearts, they were laying back, pretending to support the team, but waiting to see just what the team could do for them. They were evil and wicked, and for their wickedness, they were relieved from their position of being a “thirteenth man”. They were kicked out of the Jesus fan club. God KILLED THEM!
Later on, more and more of these rebels began to pop up. Everywhere that Paul went to start a church work, we see problems of people feigning a good Christian life, but their hearts are not in it as a real “fan of Jesus.” They in fact are “fans of self”, but are pretending to be Christians so they can receive the benefits of Christian life. They are like those who talk about Christ inside the church, or in the presence of other known Christians, but rarely, if ever, talk about their “team” with others. It is not that way with the Seahawks fans. They don’t care if they know you or not when they lift their fist in the air and convincingly say, “GO HAWKS!” Strangers coming away from that type of encounter know one thing if nothing else, that person loves the Hawks. But not so with the rebellious “thirteenth man” on Jesus’ team. They are watching, conniving, waiting for a way to incorporate Jesus into their life, when all the time they are supposed to be incorporating themselves into His life.
There are many fake thirteenth man “fans” that have ruined peoples chances for ever accepting Christ. These so-called fans of Jesus are the most dangerous of all people as far as spreading the gospel. They are dangerous because; on the outside they look like the right thing. They sound like the right thing. They act like the right thing. But, all the while, they are like rebellious Judas Iscariot. They are waiting to see how being a Christian can help them instead of how they can help the team. They have taught people how to “get by” as a Christian instead of “get into” supporting the team. They are proudly wearing the jersey, but the lack of fanaticism is apparently lacking. They are content to observe instead of get involved and their actions have taught others to do so as well. Like Judas, they sit on the fence because they don’t want to ruin their chances of getting the Pharisees mad at them and they don’t want Jesus or the team to get mad at them as well. Their balancing act has been intricately conceived and expertly managed, but what they don’t realize is that, like Judas, it will come to an end when they don’t realize it. All of their “playing” church; their “playing” at being a true fan will come to a crashing halt. Unfortunately for that hypocrite, they will always fall on the side of self, pleasing the Pharisees, and engulfed by the world. And with them, will follow all of those who were influenced by them and their lessons on how to be a thirteenth man. This is why they are so very dangerous.
Fans of Jesus should be like the fans of the Seahawks—They should dress up, get ready, stand in lines to see the team play, buy season tickets as soon as they come available, get their jersey, scream to the top of their lungs, and make such an impression that the entire nation knows that, coming to play our team at home is going to be tough because our team has—“the thirteenth man.”
How do I know if someone is a Christian or not?
Christians are not strange people. They are not radical fundamentalist, as some would have you believe. Christians are not someone who needs a crutch to stand on. Nor are they mentally insecure. Christians are just like any other people trying to navigate the pitfalls of this world. They are like anyone else, trying to love their families and do right by their friends and neighbors.
The government and their manipulation by “radical lobbyist” have tried to place any Bible believing Christian in the closet of society. To do so, they must show the evils of being a Christian and get the public to agree with them. It doesn’t matter if it is true or not, as long as people believe it.
They do this so they can make themselves look good in the eyes of others. To elevate yourself in the eyes of the world, you can either ascribe to greatness yourself or you can put down all others around you. That way, when you are the last man standing, you can be the king of the mountain.
Adolph Hitler understood this when he victimized the Jews, Gypsies, Communist, Homosexuals and unfit. In putting them down in society, he gave the perception that the individual common German was greater than the others. He effectively changed their class by changing their perceived position in regards to the classes and races he victimized. This is how the world is making themselves great in their own eyes today. They victimize the common Christian, putting him in an imaginary lower class of people so that others wake up one day and imagine that they have risen a few rungs on the ladder of success.
Despite their best efforts to change the class system, people are still people. We all have the same desires, goals and characteristics because we were all made in the image of God (Gen. 1:27). Yet, there are some very big differences between a Christian and a person of the world. These differences are “big” because they are matters of life and death (Deut. 30:15). Yes, I know that everyone dies, but just keep reading for once. You can learn something.
Christians are saved. I know that this phrase has been tossed around in so many ways, with so many negative connotations that you think you know all about it; But do you really? From the Bible’s point of view, being “saved” means that true Christians are saved from going to hell. Not because they have earned it, but because it is a gift given to them that they don’t deserve. Someone stood in and paid for them so they don’t have to go to hell. That person is Jesus Christ. He paid for everyone so they don’t have to go to hell, but not everyone will be saved from that destiny. Everyone who does not accept what Jesus did for them will go to hell and remain there forever. This is what true Christians mean when they say they are saved.
[pullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]Christians are sinners. They do not claim to be sinless. They know that everyone has sinned and comes short of God’s glory.[/pullquote]
Christians are sinners. Somehow the world has conditioned its lemming like followers that Christians claim to be sinless. Even Christians are mixed up on this very point. From time to time they will refer to the unsaved person of the world as “sinners”, while at the same time implying that they claim to be sinless. Real Bible believing Christians know that everyone has sinned and come short of God’s glory, including themselves. Christians are sinners.
Christians are the children of God. Yes! Everyone was created in the image of God, but when sin entered the human race, God’s image in man was removed. People get all hung up on this point. They say, “Do you mean that people like Charles Manson was created in the image of God?” Or they go to the other extreme and say, “I can’t believe that God would send that young angel to hell. What kind of God would do that?” I have spent most of my ministry explaining this over and over again to people. It truly must be a pressure point that the Devil can use to get people all tripped up. Here we go again: Man was originally created in the image of God: Body, Spirit and Soul. When man sinned, his spirit lost Gods image. Man retained his body and soul, but his spirit no longer reflected God’s spirit. When you get saved, God returns His spirit to you. You then become complete. You do this by getting born again. Your body and soul doesn’t get born again. You get spiritually born. Anyone who gets born again becomes saved. Anyone! Why? Because of God’s forgiveness. He doesn’t care what you think about it. He is only interested what He thinks about it. Because it is a spiritual thing, you can not determine a person’s sincerity. Only God can do that. Therefore, the greatest and most beautiful do gooder can go straight to hell if they are not spiritually born again. Likewise, the most wicked vile person you have ever seen can go to heaven if they get spiritually born again. God can do this because He is the creator and He has determined that salvation will be contingent upon being born again or not. He can freely forgive anyone who gets born again. Likewise, He can condemn anyone who does not. Regarding how He makes this decision, He only cares about one thing, “Did you get born again or not?”
Anyone who gets born again, He calls them his children. They refer to Him as Father. He rejects all others and He is completely fair in doing so.
Christians go to church. Although many people go to church for many reasons, Christians do so because they desire fellowship with God and His children. Even though God walks with them everywhere they go because of His omnipresence, they like to go to church because He likes to go to church. To a Christian, church is a small taste of what heaven will be like; even with all of it’s flaws, it is the closest thing they have to heaven down here on the earth. Other people go to church to see what they can get out of it. Christians go to church to see what they can put into it. It gives them an opportunity to love others in a loving and safe environment. Christians don’t have to go to church, they get to go to church.
Christians tell people about Jesus. Face it. If it were not for Christians, nobody in the world today would know about Jesus at all. If it weren’t for Christians there would be nothing for Atheist to worry about. Oh, God would still be here, but nobody would know about Him at all. But, is that the reason Christians tell people about Jesus; to make Him famous? No! Christians tell people about Jesus because they are excited about Him. They appreciate what He has done for them; and the love that they have experienced through Him. They want to share that wonderfully liberating experience with their friends, family and others. They so appreciate Him that they can hardly contain themselves from telling others. Look at it like this: If you were to win the lottery, wouldn’t you want to share that news with those closest and dearest to you? Be true to yourself now. Of course you would. Well, Christians have something far better than the lottery. They have eternal life based upon the promise of God.
Christians read the Bible. The rest of the world doesn’t read the Bible, but Christians do. Real Christians want to get their nose into that book and learn what it says. They are curious about God and what He has done. They want to know more about this love that they now have, and the person with whom it originates.
Christians are just common people with all of the same problems and struggles as everyone else. They are not perfect, nor are they sinless. But they do have hope. It is a hope that allows them to take the journey of life with a much different attitude from the rest of the world. The next time you encounter a Christian, don’t be so quick to judge them and label them as hate mongers, for in so doing, you become guilty of that which you accuse them as being.
Learn about Jesus. You just might realize you were missing something you didn’t even know existed.
Starting a new church in a community is not an easy task at all. It takes time and devotion. There will be joy as well as anguish. As it grows and is able to stand on it’s own two feet, it will take on a mind of it’s own; it will strive for independence, not from God, but from those who helped start it. This is a good sign, for then, and only then, could you say, “It is established.” But until that time, there is much to pay attention to, and much to do.
Babies are funny creatures. They are so innocent and helpless. They need to be taught everything they are going to learn except crying. Boy, do babies know how to cry! The tiniest of human beings can sure make a loud sound when they want or need something. Then we must find out what it is that they need and take care of it. Sometimes it is changing a diaper, other times it is feeding. There are even times when they are sick and we have to figure out what to do. That is the problem—figuring out what the baby needs. This is because they can’t talk to us and say, “Hey Mom, you’re a little tardy with the food this morning. Don’t you know that I am supposed to be fed on my schedule and not yours?” They just say, “WAHAAAHHHHH!” and we jump into action. In fact, the whole house jumps into action, and we quickly learn that the whole house revolves around the baby.
Babies are expensive. They need “baby things.” You can’t just give a baby an old stick from the back yard and expect them to “make believe” they have a doll or something. You have to get them “baby dollies,” and they don’t come cheap. They have to be made for the safety and development of the baby. Not only that, you have to get a whole new assortment of furniture, just for the baby. There are: cribs, changing tables, hampers, high chairs, rockers, and a bunch of other little things. There are doctor visits too. Babies need to keep going to the doctor to check their development. All of this to say, if you love your baby, you will get as many things you can to help the baby grow. Why? Because you love the baby and want it to grow up.
Now you know that you must feed a baby. If you don’t feed the baby, and ignore its cries, things for the baby don’t just stay the same—they get worse. If you don’t feed the baby, the baby doesn’t just stay in that level or growth and development until you resume feeding again. The baby begins to regress. It begins to deteriorate. If you took a 6 month old child and stuck them in a closet somewhere for a few years and then pulled them out, you wouldn’t have a healthy 6 month old baby to resume feeding and care for. That baby would have regressed until it died. This is a frightful thought to say the least. The point is, you must keep maintaining the child for it to develop. It needs a carefully managed diet. It needs lessons in things like walking, holding spoons, sitting up and many more things. If you stop the lessons, the baby begins to lose the things it has learned and does not develop. In fact it doesn’t just stay idle, it regresses. Babies must be cared for if they are to keep developing! If you don’t care for it, then it begins shrinking and getting weak.
Starting a new church is much like having a baby and raising it up. It does not just grow on its own. The first part of its growth is like the womb phase. It must be comforted in the warmth and love of its mommy’s tummy. There it knows it is protected and cared for. It grows in love, nurture and admonition. It hasn’t a care in the world except growing to its birth. It is totally dependent on its mother.
New church starts too are dependent on their mothers—that is their mother churches. The mother church is not to be confused with the Catholic Church which is often referred to as “the mother church.” It is a reference to the church that sends out the preacher or missionary for the purpose of starting a church in another place. The church that sends out the missionary is like: “the Mother Church.” Another reference to it in this day and age is: “the Sending Church.” Without a mother church, there is no “womb phase” for the starting church. There can be no church if there is no “womb phase.” This is the phase where the sending church helps the baby church get started. This usually happens by training up a preacher to this cause. Then sending some people from the mother church to go and help canvass neighborhoods to get a small group to form the church. The sending church typically supports the pastor financially in some way and helps provide necessary equipment like, pews, pulpits, etc. for the church to get started. This is the womb phase. It is a very delicate phase for a new church and it is important for them to know that they are safely snug in their mommy’s tummy; protected and cared for. Without this phase, it is nearly impossible for any new church to be born, for it can be compared with having a premature baby. When babies come pre-mature, it is a very delicate and critical time, because they can easily die. So it is with a new church start.
Once a church is born, it is still not healthy enough to walk on its own. It still needs help learning how to walk, hold its spoons, bottles, etc. It only learns this from watching others, and that is almost always its mommy. Again, this is where the sending church is crucial. As the devil would like for children to remain undeveloped, so would he like new churches to remain that way. Someone needs to gently guide, comfort and encourage the baby in its growth. So is it with a new church.
As the sending church is crucial in this roll, so do the members of the church plant have responsibility. Their responsibility is to respond to and learn the lessons being taught it. That is, if they are to remain safe from the devil’s attacks. The members of the church plant have the difficult job of learning and growing. This cannot be done if they refuse to do the things necessary to grow. If they don’t try to develop, they never will. Just like the baby who begins growing finds it new and difficult to learn crucial lessons like crawling and then walking, the church has the same difficulty. Prior to this, mommy is doing everything for the baby, but now she is beginning to make the baby stand up, or crawl. The mother church begins this long arduous weaning process. As this happens, more and more of the members have to pitch in and work. If they do not, the church will fail. The members cannot go on in their “comfort zone” forever. They must begin working, if they truly want a church.
There are times when babies need their diapers changed and need to be cleaned up. It is the same way with the church. When the baby gets dirty, all it can do at first is to just yell and cry. Amazingly, that seems to be the same way it goes in new churches. People seem to just scream and cry about the dirty condition of the church, but no one does anything about it. All they want is the loving touch of mommy to take away the problem for them, but guess what; they eventually have to learn to use the potty just like the big kids do. If members of a church plant are ever to develop to an established church, they will need to learn how to deal with their own dirty diapers; they will need to learn how to go to the potty. This equates to growing as a Christian. It means that they become proactive in HELPING each other and not tearing each other down. It takes a loving, kind and patient heart to work with a baby until it learns how to use the potty. Church members should be the same way to each other.
Many people today who are saved and love the Lord still don’t want to join a church. Their reasons are many and often true: most churches are messed up; there are many hypocrites; churches are just after your money; people do not love God like they ought to. Yet, although churches have always had problems (read the New Testament), the idea of staying out of any church is not a New Testament idea. In the first church in Jerusalem, “the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.” These were the same people who had received God’s word and were baptized. So, from the beginning, the order was to receive God’s word, get baptized and join the church.
We would all like to think that we would always do the right thing even if no one ever knew what we did. Truly, doing the right thing when no one is looking is the test of character. Yet, in reality, we all often do the right thing because we don’t want to let others see us fail. This is the power of accountability. We do right so we will not have to explain to our friends or loved ones why we did wrong. This is a motivation that God Himself uses with us. In the context of the local church, we are “to consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works” (Heb 10:24). Knowing that people at church care should help us to do what is right. It is a blessing to know that if I stray from God, my fellow church member may come and talk to me about my spiritual life.
God takes accountability one step further in His instructions concerning church discipline. Notice this passage (out of many that teach the principle). The people in the church in Thessalonica were to withdraw themselves “from every brother that walketh disorderly.” The purpose was “that he may be ashamed.” Yet, even then, he was not to be counted as an enemy but to be admonished “as a brother.” Consider what is happening. The people of the church were to withdraw from fellowship with the man who had strayed from truth. But the final purpose in his life was not to hurt him but to restore him (see Gal.6:1).
In our modern independence, we have created virtues that God’s word never teaches. One of these virtues is what we call ‘staying out of other people’s business’. Truly, God speaks against gossip of any kind. But He does not teach us to stay out of other people’s lives. Neither does He teach that people should always stay out of your life. God teaches us to confront those who are hurting themselves and to try to turn them in the right direction (Gal.6:1). He also teaches us to accept godly confrontation (Heb.10:24). Why then would people not want to belong to a church where loving people would confront them if they started down the path of immorality, idolatry or heresy? Church membership means that there are people who love you too much to let you destroy yourself without putting up a fight for your good. What should give us a sense of security has simply made us angry and rebellious. Instead of changing God’s plan, we are the ones who should change.
Start with a cage containing five monkeys. Inside the cage, hang a banana on a string and place a set of stairs under it. Before long, a monkey will go to the stairs and start to climb towards the banana.
As soon as he touches the stairs, a mechanism sprays all the other monkeys with cold water.
After a while another monkey makes the attempt with same result, all the other monkeys are sprayed with cold water. Pretty soon when another Monkey tries to climb the stairs, the other monkeys will try to prevent it. Now, put the cold water away. Remove one monkey from the cage and replace it with a new one. The new monkey sees the banana and wants to climb the stairs. To his shock, all of the other monkeys beat the snot out of him. After another attempt and attack, he knows that if he tries to climb the stairs he will be assaulted. Next, remove another of the original five monkeys and replace it with a new one. The newcomer goes to the stairs and is attacked. The previous newcomer takes part in the punishment with enthusiasm.
Likewise, replace a third original monkey with a new one, then a fourth, then the fifth. Every time the newest monkey takes to the stairs he is attacked.
Most of the monkeys that are beating him up have no idea why they were not permitted to climb the stairs OR even why they are participating in the beating of the newest monkey. Finally, after replacing all of the original monkeys, none of the remaining monkeys have ever been sprayed with cold water. Nevertheless, no monkey ever again approaches the stairs to try for the banana.
Because as far as they know, that is the way it has always been done around here. And that, my fellow monkeys, is how Congress operates – And precisely why we need to REPLACE all the original monkeys.
Today, there are more preachers than ever who are selling out on the Lord Jesus Christ. In order to accommodate worldly Christians, they begin to compromise on their convictions. In order to entice the world to come to their churches, they compromise on God. Instead of giving people what they need, they give them what they want; a dangerous thing to do indeed! Like the parent who always gives in to their child and gives them everything they want, instead of what they need, they raise up spoiled, rebellious, selfish church members, who “shop” for churches instead of letting God lead them.
When preachers sell out for what is convenient instead of that which cost, they are not acting like men. They are most probably being run by their wives. Every Christian is commanded to (1 Cor. 16:13) “Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong.” This goes especially for preachers. Why would God have to exhort Christians to be a man about things? Because some men take the timid way out. They are too afraid of the tough road of watching, standing and being strong. They capitulate into the Devil’s hands. Preachers wives are not innocent in this either. If they were standing behind their men, satisfied to be their wives instead of needing self-gratification somewhere else, then preachers would have encouragement at home. In fact, Preachers wives can be key to the success of the ministry of pastors.
I cannot think of one pastor who has been successful in the ministry who did not have his wife satisfied to be his supporter. Notice I didn’t say that she “claims” to support her husband. I mean she is a keeper at home first. A lady who takes care of the burden of the home life in a large way so he is free to give his time to the ministry. I do not mean an anchor who actually holds him back. This takes sacrifice on her part so most pastor’s wives take this on as their purpose in life and are satisfied completely in it. No man will be able to “be strong” “like men” should be when he has to be mama at the same time, but their are few exceptions to this rule.
When things get out of whack, and God has to remind us to be strong like men should be, He says it for a reason. Not only is there a “selling out” on the home front, but their is a selling out on manhood as well. This is mainly accomplished by worldly influence. This is usually seen in trying to be “all things to all men” while at the same time, NOT trying to get people saved.
The devil would like to replace soul winning with anything appealing, (or even logical), except soul winning. Charts and status and figures, all meant to be helpful, are in fact hurtful because they lead a preacher away from soul winning. I have sat in on evangelism meetings that did not mention one peep about soul winning at all. Oh, there was talk about development and planning in a logical and methodical way, but winning a soul was no where in sight. Weak, worldly, feminine Preachers allow planning and organizing to replace soul winning. As I said before, it is not bad to plan and organize, but to stop there, and not win souls, is the great demise.
It is sad that God has to remind men to “get a backbone.” If preachers did, then they would be certainly less miserable in the ministry. In this area they are actually putting themselves, their families and their churches in bondage. So God has to remind us to not only get a backbone, but to, “Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.” (Gal. 5:1).
I guess God knows our nature is to return to the worldly way of doing things. Of course, the worldly way is a way of bondage that is hard to break free of once we are weighted down with it’s burden. He knows that the temptation to return to doing things like everyone else would be so strong that He had to tell us to “Stand Fast!” Is there anyone reading this article who needs to know what that means? Is the inference not clear? Does anyone who has been truly saved not know the liberty that comes with Christ? Why then do Christians, (and even preachers), feel that the ministry is a burden? Why do they feel in bondage? It is because they have moved away from Christ. They have entangled themselves with the worldly way of doing things. For preachers, this may mean trying to do things “like all of the other churches do” so they can build a congregation of hapless drones. They want to please all of the Christian prima donna’s (def: a vain or undisciplined person who finds it difficult to work under direction or as part of a team.). They become a compromiser in the name of “being called”, but they are no more called than Jack-the-Ripper. Instead of carrying the burden the Lord has placed on them, they would rather have the burden of worldly entanglement. Preachers who are thus, are not called at all. In fact they are not even preachers. All Biblical preachers suffered persecution and loss. Some were turned on even by their own families. Some died stranded and alone. Others were tortured and killed. They certainly didn’t achieve such wonderful fates by tickling the public’s fancy.
Real preachers strive. They strive for the faith of the gospel. They strive for unity of the mind and spirit. Philippians 1:27 tells us to “…stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel.” God must have known that the ministry would not be a “bed of roses.” He must have known that it would take some fighting; a little bit of blood, sweat and tears. He must have known that the Devil would try to get preachers to “cash it in” for an easier, more elaborate and fulfilling “ministry” than the one He assigned them to. Preachers sell out easily because the going gets tough. They are constantly surrounded by negative news; people always tell the preachers the bad things that are happening in their life. Preachers are constantly being criticized and talked about behind their backs. In so doing, the “brethren” are actually tearing down everything that they worked for while at the same time “talking it up” to their faces. It is not a job for the weak man; and there are many of them who “think” they are called because all they see is the wonderful aspects of the job without ever delving into the inner workings. But, when they do, they throw up their hands and surrender.
They surrender first on doctrine. This is because doctrine divides, and it needs to be divided correctly (2 Tim. 2:15). Compromising of doctrine is the first step to a long and lonely downhill fall away from God. Most preachers give up on this first because it takes work; it takes a lot of time in the study to make sure you know what is correct and what is not. So, the preacher with a wet noodle for a backbone will depend on what someone else wrote in a book and teach it before they will put in the effort to study for themselves. It would be wonderful if they would take a pop quiz every once in awhile. I do so by asking if the congregation has any questions. That is when I am on the “hot seat”, and I have learned much about doctrine by my study for the answers to those questions.
After doctrine goes out the door, then everything else follows suit: (dress, music, interests, books, denominations, salvation, baptism, communion, etc.) they become weak, sickly “sharers” of the word; and I am not sure you can even call it that. It is ungodly (2 Tim. 2:16)! It is manly! It eats up the body of Christ all in the name of “being fair to everyone.” It is in error and it overthrows the faith of some (2 Tim. 2:18), starting with their own families especially.
When all is said and done, preachers, like everyone else, are commanded to, “…stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle.” (2 Thess. 2:15). There is a tradition (Def: The handing down of information, beliefs, and customs by word of mouth or by example from one generation to another.) to uphold. If preachers would just hold fast to that which they have been taught instead of constantly trying to improve on the plan, then the Christian world of today wouldn’t have near the problems that it does. It is good to improve on one’s understanding of self, but the plan was given by God Himself and needs no improvement. In fact, it is a perfect plan: go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. Win souls. Show people how to be saved. Train up the Saints so they can win souls as well. This is God’s plan and there is no improvement upon it. What it lacks is preachers with a backbone who are truly called to stand up and stand fast. It needs preachers who won’t SELL OUT for that which is convenient.
Motives for “getting people in.”
The modern, progressive church has failed on many fronts because they have failed to think of GOD. While they are busy changing to keep up with the times, God still remains the same. When the church changes their approach on worship they’re doing so to accommodate themselves not God. There are actually thinking about themselves. This is wrong! Since He is the creator, and man is the created, it is up to man to conform to His image, not the other way around.
God is not a god of the gimmicks. He does not need to appeal to the flesh in order to try to get some people to like Him. Man needs to satisfy the flesh, but God does not. God’s plan for the flesh is to burn it up when He burns the entire world (2 Peter 3). He loathes the flesh of unrighteousness and will give new bodies to all of His saints.
When the church continually tries new things just to “get people in,” you have to question their motives: Do they want to actually reach more people for Christ? Or do they want to build their congregations so they can be thought of as “successful” according to the world’s standards?
The only thing that God needs for people to fall in love with Him is His word: the Bible. The flesh doesn’t want to read it, and no wonder why; guess who else would not want you to read it?
We do not live in a perfect world. This is very unfortunate for all of us. It would be wonderful if everything we tried to do was easy. But unfortunately it is not. It is difficult to find the right mate to create a family with. It is difficult to bare and rear children. It is difficult to make ends meet, to struggle in the never ending pursuit of money just so that we can pay our bills, put enough food on the table for our families and to be able to have a little bit to do something fun once in a while. Life certainly is not easy the world presses in on us with all sorts of external pressures that want us to fall not only physically but spiritually and mentally as well. There are pressures in relationships, pressures about finances, pressures about health, and pressures about being able to compete and keep up with the Jones–so to speak. However all of these pursuits are pursuits that are going to one day vanish in the wind and mean absolutely nothing. As a Christian I am sure that you know as well as I do that only the things that we do spiritually for God are what remains. All other endeavors are simply to take care of the immediate needs of our lives, and they will all one day, as a vapor, vanish in the wind floating softly out into nothingness, and they will mean absolutely nothing. They will neither be a repulsive smell unto the Lord or a sweet smelling savor unto him. They will mean nothing.
With that in mind I would like to challenge each and every one of you today to try to remember that we are all in the same boat. We all have the same difficulties, we all have the same problems, and we are all struggling with one thing or another. It doesn’t matter what it is we are struggling with, we are still all struggling. Each and every one of us know how difficult it is. We know it is difficult to deal with life, we know it is difficult to deal with the world, difficult to deal with self, we know it is difficult to deal with the future; especially when we know it is certainly holding for us nothing more promising than pain, distraught and trouble. I mean we know that we call it the uncertain future but it is really not uncertain. Men only perceive that it is uncertain but it is not.
Because we are all in the same boat, we ought to be hand in hand, interlocking arms, intertwined, supporting each other, helping each other, holding each other up in prayer. We ought to be tolerant of each other because we know that the trouble that we have others have as well. Unfortunately this does not always work and it doesn’t work because there is that silly thing that always comes into the picture called pride. Pride is when we are more interested in our self than we are in someone else. At times I might be able to say that there could be great justification for that, because it is wearisome to have someone constantly knit picking you. It is wearisome to have someone constantly comparing themselves to you or to demanding their rights based on their standards and trying to place that upon you. It is wearisome trying to obey the laws of the land and then when you travel into another country for example the laws are much different so you have a whole new set of things to learn. When you travel back you find that in your own country laws have changed. So it is hard to keep up with the times in such a dynamic world and dynamic place where things are changing all the time.
But let me comfort you with this, God’s word never changes despite what the world does to attack it and make it seem like it is constantly in motion, evolving toward temporary situations that are not true. There are the basic elements of man that never change. There is always going to be jealousy, there is always going to be pleasure, there is always going to be sin, there is always going to be envy, there is always going to be strife and so on and so forth. All of these things may take different forms as we deal with different people or different cultures or different times even, but the basic tendon’s of those things never change. As Christians we need to not live on the surface where things are changing and sand is shifting all the time. We need to do what the Bible calls stand on the rock, where we know that these things never change and that envy is envy whether it was for a chariot of old or for a BMW of contemporary times or maybe some space vehicle in the future. Who knows? But envy is still envy. It is a human nature that makes up what we call sin. Love will never change it is always going to be love. We may change our approach toward it but it is still there.
Now why is it that many Christians are wrapped up in the surface issues of life and the changing demands of time? I believe it is because they have not yet learned to be content in whatsoever state they are in as the apostle Paul said. Once you become content then those things don’t really upset you. You don’t need a whole bunch of surface things in your life to make you feel good about yourself or give you something where by you can judge yourself to see how you are doing in life or not. You know it all comes down to this one little statement. The statement that my mother always said as we were growing up, I don’t know if she realized it had such a Godly principle or not, but here it is: “Que sira sira”. Spanish for meaning: whatever will be will be. We are not going to change the avalanche of fate over-running this world. We can either go along with the flow; not meaning go along with the world, but go along with what God brings into our life, and look at it that way or we can allow it to bowl us over. It will either do one or the other. Now what will it be? In China they had a phrase called “Mei guan xi”. It means, “it doesn’t matter”. They would say that about everything, “it doesn’t matter, it doesn’t matter”. That is because when they’ve lived in such a poor state all of their lives, barely having a shack to live in with dirt floors. They were completely filled with joy just to have more from their harvest than they would need to be able to last them all through the winter. When they did, they were happy to share it with others. When you get to that state, things do not really matter too much. You learn to live within the state that God has you in.
So why don’t we pick up our boot straps and look at the world like this? Mei guan xi. That is not to say stick your head in the sand. It is not to pridefully shrug your shoulders and say it doesn’t matter, as if you don’t care. You should care but you should not let it upset you. Let things just go their course.
I have found out though my life that things just seem to work out. You do not have to get all upset about things. I use to get upset about many things, little things, stupid things, dumb things. Now that I have been thinking about this perhaps it is just that people get some kind of emotional high off of being upset. When they feel that adrenalin set in, it sparks anger or interest in their life and they feed off of it. Have you ever see two people argue and they just won’t let it go? They always have to “one up” the other person. You look at it from a distance and you say, “Why don’t they just give up? What are they going to gain by it?” Many times people argue just to argue. When they are doing that, they win an argument and walk away saying I won! But what does that mean? It means absolutely nothing. Mei guan xi, it doesn’t matter.
God said the principle thing is love. Love is letting the other person be right. Love is not letting your anger boil to the surface. When you feel it coming you just realize it and you side step the pitfall that will waste all of your energy and allow you to end up at the bottom of a big hole somewhere with every body looking down on you, and you feeling ashamed of yourself. Of course you will be able to walk away with pride, holding up your head saying, “I won.” But, what does it mean? It means nothing if the outcome doesn’t have some positive result. What is it worth?
I remember a time when a friend of mine went out to eat with his wife. He didn’t have much money so he took her to Subway. A third man walked in the door. He was all upset and was making a big scene, being angry, yelling at the girl behind the counter about his sandwich. Finally she had served him and he was leaving and as he was leaving my friend with his back to him the whole time didn’t know anything about what was going on but his wife could see it all. She kind of snickered, a slight snicker, slight smile thinking my goodness people sure are terrible. The guy picked up on that and he ran over and grabbed my friend by the shoulder and said you think that is funny? My friend was just shocked; he didn’t know what was going on. The guy turned around and punched him in the face. My friend was sitting there happily eating his sandwich one moment and the next moment laying there in the seat on the bench with a big shiner. Well the guy got all angry and he turned around and went to go out the door and as he went he flung the door open toward himself, and as he went storming out he hit his head on the door and gave himself a shiner. Walked out and got in his car real angry because he beat himself up with the door. Now what did it all accomplish? Not a thing. Probably made him feel better about himself and got down the road a little ways and thought that was a dumb thing to do. Maybe his pride was so strong that it just didn’t allow him to think it was a dumb thing to do. But guess what! It was a dumb thing to do.
We’re all in the same boat concerning love too! People need to love each other. They need to have a little patience, and give things a little time. Now there are those situations where it doesn’t matter how much you love someone, or how patient you are with them, people pick up on your love as a weakness and they begin to dominate you. You feel completely helpless in a situation like that. You think I can either fight back or I can just get out of the situation. My friend that is the best advice. Limit your time, distance and shielding. My mother said time heals all wounds. She was right about that. I have learned that if you keep distance you end up shielding yourself from the effects that cause you to want to fall and stumble for the Lord Jesus Christ. Sometimes you have to stay away from things. For example, it is not good for a diabetic to go into a candy store. Why tempt yourself on something you know is going to end up making you fall.
So I encourage you all lend a helping hand to each other, be patient to everyone and if you can’t and it ends up dragging you down, don’t go in the candy store. Shield yourself. Things will work out in the end. People have to be people and people have to learn to deal with each other for Jesus Christ. We’re all in the same boat!
There are things that are important to us in life, but nothing is more important than soul winning. The soul is the part of man that lives forever. It is the part of man that feels pain or joy; happiness or sorrow. It is the center of the man.
Proverbs 11:30 says, “He that winneth souls is wise.” It is a wise and profitable thing to be a soul winner because it pleases God. He has a high evaluation of the soul winner. It is one of the dearest things to the heart of God. Consequently, it pays enormous eternal dividends. A man who turns people to righteousness is wise because he is laying up treasure in heaven.
Conversely, a Christian who is occupied with trivial matters of life is unwise. Majoring on minors is foolish. Therefore, not to win souls is to be guilty of the sin of folly.
If we are to be wise, we should actively be involved in soul winning of some kind. If we don’t know how to win a soul to the Lord, we should learn how to do so. I am sure you can ask your Pastor or Christian friend.
When is the last time you led someone to the Lord? Have you ever won someone to the Lord? There is no shortage of people that need to hear the gospel. They are wondering aimlessly through life, believing a lie that is leading them to hell. People want to be saved. They just don’t know what to do. They know there is an emptiness in their life that is not fulfilled. They know they need something, they just don’t know what it is or how to get it.
There is however, a shortage of Christians who are willing to tell the lost about salvation. There should not be, but there is. We need to be not so. The entire world is in need of the Lord Jesus Christ—and who will tell our neighbors? The Devil will have them hear all of his doctrine, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week by every means possible. The Lord left the job of spreading the gospel up to us. Not the TV. Not the Internet. Not the radio. He left it up to us.
Spreading the gospel is not doing good deeds for others. It is not living a right life or even helping the poor. Spreading the gospel is to actively tell people how they can be saved; how they can know for sure they an go to heaven.
These are the last days that we are living in. We live in a unique time. No other people the history of mankind has had so much at stake as we havetoday. We are like the anchor runner in the relay race of life. Lets not drop the baton. Lets not run out of steam on the last lap. Lets give it all we have Got. Souls lie in the balance.
In John 6:1-13 there is the wonderful story of the feeding of the 5000. The story is wonderful for many reasons. One of the biggest is the location. He led those people to a deserted place. A desert place is a place where there is nothing. Deserted places are places where you cannot find food or water. Deserted places are places where you can be alone. Nobody lives there. A wilderness is a quiet place, no computers, there is no watching TV, no radio, and no music, and there is only you and the wilderness. And so, Jesus leads people out there where they don’t have anything.
I remember one time when a friend told me “You need to go out to Blake Island and spend three days with God. Three days!” Blake Island is a small Island in the middle of the Puget Sound and you can only get there by boat. He said to me, “I want you to promise that you will go there and when you get there, I want you to pull the boat up on the shore and you don’t get into that boat to go anywhere until three days are up. You just stay right there.”
“Ok, I’ll just bring my Walkman and some other stuff.
“No! You only bring one thing, your Bible.” I was a little scared agreeing to that but I did.
I smoked a lot of cigarettes in those early days of being saved, but just before I got in the kayak to push off, Jay said, “Hey, give me those” pointing to my pack of smokes. “You’re going to quit. God is going to take them away from you. If you want them when you get back, you can have them. If you don’t I’ll throw them away.” I was shaking a little as I gave them to him, but I was in it all the way for Jesus.
“What am I going to do for three days”, I asked myself as I paddled there. I took three oranges, three cans of food, some coffee, a knife and my Bible. That’s all I took. When I got to that Island, it was early eight o’clock in the morning and I set up my tent. I sat down and read my Bible. I read for what I thought was a long time, but when I looked at my watch, I had only been there for one hour. I decided to have something to eat, so I ate. Then I cleaned everything up, washed it and got everything back together again. Now two hours had gone by. I still had two days and twenty two hours to go. Before that evening was over, I was so bored that I had eaten all my food. The next day all I had was coffee and my Bible.
Wilderness places are lonely places. And when you are in a lonely place, there are no distractions. Its easy for God to talk to you. Its easy to get something from God. Its easy to improve your relationship with Him.
I read the book of Psalms, Proverbs and almost the whole New Testament. For three days, I just read and read and read. All I had to do was read my Bible and talk with God. I soon found myself talking with God out loud. I was asking Him some really unusual things. I asked, “God, that is an incredible beautiful leaf, how did you make that? I mean, look at all the different leaves, all the different kinds of trees in the world, and why did you make this little leaf right here on this tree?” I am not saying anything mysterious happening, but it was just as if God was standing there with me saying, “Why do you think I made that little leaf right there, the one you’re looking at?”
A leaf is insignificant. In this whole wide world there are many insignificant leafs. Now I was looking at one specific leaf and having a conversation with God over it. It was as If God put it there for this specific time in history just for me. He was showing me how beautifully and wonderfully made it. He was saying to me, “I created that little insignificant leaf just for you Ron. I put all of that detail in it so you can see how much I care. I made that leaf very special and I put it here on this tree, on this Island, just for you to see.” The thought was overwhelming. I didn’t know if it was the fasting or not, but my knees began to shake.
“What about colors God? Why don’t I just see black and white like they say animals do? What is black and white anyway?” I was asking and the resounding, repetitive answer was always, “I made it for you. I did it just for you.” God made this world for me. He made the world before He made me, and put me on it. “Why is the water blue and why does it wave the way it does? Why do I see faces in the clouds?”
“I did it for you. I gave you a mind to see it.” “Why did God give me a mind so I can enjoy these wonderful things?”
“I made you in my image, so I want you to see things like I do. I want you to see me.”
This went on for another two days. I was rejoicing in God, His creation and His word. At the end of the three days, I didn’t want to leave. I was with God and God was with me. I experienced a relationship with Him. It was a wonderful experience. It was a wilderness experience, where none of the cares of this life could bring its influence to bear. God would not let them.
At the appointed time, I returned where Jay was waiting to pick me up. He asked if I wanted my cigarettes back (he had a pack in his hand offering it to me). “No, I don’t need them any more.” I had not even remembered them. I was so excited about God. God had taken them from me and I didn’t even realize it. I didn’t know it then, but I would take them up again when I turned my back on God, but right then, I had met God in a special way, in a special place—the wilderness.
Wilderness experiences don’t come without trials. For me, there were the nights of no food; there were the nights of thinking about myself; there were the decisions I had to make. I strove with God asking Him to provide for me by miraculously making oranges fall out of the sky. Finally I reached the point where I had no choice but to just accept whatever God had planned for me. I prayed, “God, you know where I am right now and you know how to provide for me, what I need, I am going to just trust you for.”
You say, “I don’t want to go to the wilderness place. How would I get back? How would I eat? What would I drink? What will I cook? What about money? What about…?” There are a lot of things to worry about.
Becoming a Christian is one thing, but being a disciple of Jesus Christ is a very different thing indeed. Will you cross the line and say, “I will give you my whole life? I want to be your servant.” Will you give yourself to be a servant to Jesus Christ? That is what it comes down to. People do not like to hear that. They don’t like to hear those words–“give myself to be a servant and slave to Jesus Christ.” Are you willing to let the Lord take you to the wilderness place if He pleases? Are you willing to concede ownership of your life to Him? Either you are going to go along, kicking and screaming or you are going to go along willingly to have a wilderness experience.
One thing which is true of all followers of Christ, eventually you will have your time on the spiritual battlefield. 2 Chronicles 32 covers the actions that King Hezekiah took in order to defend Jerusalem from the Assyrian army, and gives great examples of what we should do in order to win our own spiritual battles:
- Secure Godly support. In verse 3, Hezekiah first consulted with those he trusted. If you don’t have Christian friends who are growing, advancing and deepening their walk with Christ, PRAY for some. Proverbs 15:22 tells us, “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.”
- Stop the flow of sin. Then, in verse 4, Hezekiah stopped the flow of water which would have given strength to the enemy. There are things which we sometimes allow into our lives which give strength to OUR enemy, the devil. One of the most important strategic moves in spiritual battle is to make sure that the flow of un-Godly, unrighteous, sinful “stuff” in our lives is stopped. It can come in many different forms, including television shows, movies, music, books or websites which contain material which is counter to what God’s word would have us consume.
- Repair, Restore and fortify. In verse 5, Hezekiah began making repairs to the wall around the city. The very nature of this undertaking required first examining the entire lower wall, to find the problem areas. Similarly, it is necessary that Christians examine their own lives often, to make sure there are no areas which make us easy prey for the enemy. Galatians 6:4-5 tells us, each one should test his own actions. Then he can take pride in himself, without comparing himself to somebody else, for each one should carry his own load.
- Weapons for battle. Verse 5 also mentions the weapons King Hezekiah made for his people. You and I are blessed to possess our own “armory”, prepared for us by our King. Read and study Ephesians 6:10-18 to learn more about the spiritual armor. If God’s people go into battle without these resources, we are defeated before we even begin.
The battle belongs to the Lord! Finally, verses 6 through 8 recount Hezekiah’s encouragement of the people for battle, as he reminded them that their enemies were simply fighting in the flesh, but the Israelites had the full power of God with them. He did not simply issue orders and edicts, and tell the people “We’re going to war! Get to your stations!” This king actually took the opportunity in what was a very tense time, to encourage the people, reminding them not of who THEY were, but of who their GOD was.
There are many different verses of encouragement in God’s word which remind us that God doesn’t just go into battle with us, but before us, preparing the way for victory. My wife recently reminded me of one, when she returned from a ministers’ wives retreat months ago. It was part of the short speech David gave to Goliath before he killed him in 1 Samuel 17. He said in verse 47, “the battle belongs to the LORD.”
God’s people will certainly find themselves involved in spiritual battles throughout their lives. However, as the people of God, not only do we need not fear defeat, but we can be assured of victory when we honor our Lord, and use the resources He has given us.
Proverbs 6:16-19 These six things doth the LORD hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him: 17 A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, 18 An heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief, 19 A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren.
While God is a God of love, He is also a God of hate. We know that God loves His Son Jesus, and that He hates sin, but it doesn’t end right there. He loves many more things. As we read the Bible, we can see that He loves mercy, truth, humility and kindness to mention just a very few. But here, in this one passage of Scripture, He gives a concentrated list of some of the more important things that He hates. They are all self-explanatory and even the child can understand what they are. However, when God gets to sowing “discord” among the brethren, He is now dealing with the church only, for we in the church are: brethren.
Discord is any attempt to gender disagreement or difference of opinion. It is attempting to put at variance or opposition to the rest of the body. It win’s it’s evil victory when it produces angry passions of dispute or contest between persons. It’s method of attack is to clash; it does not disagree with a proper attitude of love and therefore seeks it’s own exaltation. This is what the Lord HATES–discord AMONG THE BRETHREN.
You cannot have a group of people where people do not talk about other members within the group. It is common and natural to do so because; well, they all have something in common–the group. Discord therefore, has nothing to do with talking about other members in the group. It has to do with talking about others with the intent to divide and hurt the group. God hates this very much and will not long abide it within the church He is trying to build. It is important to remember that because I will come back to that later.
The greatest example of attempting to sow discord amongst the group (other than the Devil himself) was Judas Iscariot. He thought he could sell out the Lord and divide the group. He was motivated by greed and self. He wanted to be and feel important. He could be up there with the big wigs setting the direction of actions for the nation, but in fact he was used. Yes, the Pharisees used him, but more so, he was used by the Devil to carry out his attack on God’s work. That is what people who sow discord amongst the brethren do today. They are being used by the Devil and they don’t even realize it. They are an instrument of his destruction, yet they cannot see it, and like Judas, the Lord will separate them from the group in His own time. Until that time, they will be continually frustrated that they are not able to gain foothold, because the Lord protects His flock.
Some might say, “Doesn’t the Bible say that we are supposed to divide the word of truth in 2 Timothy 2:15?” Well, not exactly. It says there that we are to “RIGHTLY DIVIDE” the WORD OF TRUTH. This is not for sowing discord, but in being able to interpret it properly. If you continue to verse 16, the next thing it says is that we are to “…shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness.” So, when a person is continually trying to sow discord amongst the brethren, God’s answer for this is to “shun”. This is not done in the old Quaker or Mennonite sense, but it means to don’t converse with them. Why? Because even if your guard is up, and even if you are determined to change the subject if you hear something divisive, the problem is that you still hear it. You can’t take it back. You can’t get it out of your mind. It is imbedded there and the Devil knows that. Your mind will ponder it, even if you don’t discuss it with anyone else, the seed is planted and it begins to grow into it’s evil work. So, the best thing to do is tell the person that you will not entertain any part of that subject, and if you persist, then I must leave. If there is no change on their part, and they persist in sowing discord, then it is best to not even fellowship with them. Love them, but don’t listen to someone who is saying things that are dividing up the brethren. Once it is in your mind, it will eat you up.
If you think you are unintentionally sowing discord amongst the brethren, then you need to ask the Lord for forgiveness. Then the best rule of thumb is to hold your tongue (James 3:5, 6, 8). Learn to be a good listener and not a talker. If you can’t say something nice, then don’t say anything at all.
If you are not sure if you are saying divisive things or not, you need to pray and ask the Holy Spirit to put His finger on that part of your life and identify it. You will know if the peace of God comes upon you. You will know if you are being true to yourself or not.
The vehicle of discord is GOSSIP. Gossip is a truly destructive thing. I am not talking about talking about each other. That is not gossip. Gossip is when you a person speaks idle tales; tattles; or tells destructive things about each other. You can always tell a gossip because they like to talk allot. They talk so much that it is difficult to end a conversation with them. They also like to say the same thing over and over. And, the subject of their conversation does not brag on or build another person up, it tears others down. Their conversations therefore, are usually filled with self exaltation at the expense of others. And this is where the discord comes in. To promote self, you must put down others, hence–discord.
Recently our church has come together with one common cause. The Devil does not like it when we are united. His attack will come in many forms, but all with the intention of sowing discord amongst the brethren. I trust this article will give you some insight on how to recognize it and what to do when you identify it. May God bless you richly as you serve the Lord.
There is a big move in the Christian world to build communities rather than churches. In this they are following the former example of President Barak Obama. They try to organize a community into a viable force to work with, then they can fix themselves up as leaders (or rulers) of that community.
In the roots of the word “community” can be seen the word “common.” From this word also comes the word “communism.” An “ism” is a belief of practice of a religious sort. You can see that community building is done not much differently than communism is done: do things for the people that they deem helpful to themselves in the immediate, so you can control them later down the road. For Biblical example to this, Christian Community Organizers turn to the Book of Acts where it says the believers had, “…all things common.” (Acts 2:44; 4:32). What they had in common was a result of loving God. It was not community of people having a great time together.
If you were to build a community, you could be able to accomplish this task by simply being an investor. You could buy up some land and build some houses on it for people to live in, hence–community. The people would be unified in where they lived, but not necessarily in heart or belief. It is easy to build a community by having a bunch of fun activities for people to do. Therefore, Christian community building is doing anything fun so people will come to your community activity. It is accomplished by not doing or saying anything that may be offensive to another, even at the expense of truth. Christian communities therefore side-step the job of evangelism and go straight to the fellowship aspect of a church; they are a “partial church” heavily stressing fellowship and overlooking obedience and truth. Paul warned of such deceitful activities when he said, “Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ear from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.” (2 Tim. 4:2-4) Today, that equates to having Christian communities who have fun getting together, but could care less about enduring sound doctrine. Their ears itch to have some teacher teach them how to have fun, food and fellowship only.
Jesus gave himself for the church as a husband is supposed to do for his wife (Eph. 5:25). He did not give himself for a “common unity.” Jesus plans to present the “common unity of believers”–church; to himself holy and without blemish (Eph 5:27). Not any old community. He will not present a community of non-believers without spot or wrinkle to himself. It is the church that He is working on to perfect. It is the church that makes up the body of Christ.
God called us to start churches. Churches not only encompass a “common unity of believers,” but first and foremost prepare the individual for presentation to the Lord. Churches seek to carry out the great commission first and fellowship second. Herein lies the great problem–People would rather have the fun, but not do the work of the Lord. Or, they call their service to the community “fun stuff”, their work for the Lord when it is not. Before ascending into heaven, He only gave us one job to do–win souls.
Jesus loves the church as a whole, not just when believers get together to “feel good” about themselves as some sort of modern day “AA” support group. The Christian community organizers would have you to think that the word “church” is some sort of archaic word that has negative or bad connotations. That is a lie. How can Jesus ever use a word that would go out of date? He is eternal and therefore His words are eternal, else one could easily believe that the gospel is archaic. The church does not go out of date. It is contemporary. People are easily deceived because the Devil has worked very hard to dilute and discredit the true church with alternatives (like “communities”). What has happened, is God’s people have given up on God because they are selfish. They don’t want to do anything but be entertained, unless it is something THEY want to do and not something GOD wants them to do.
An old proverb says, “When you sup with the devil, use a long spoon.” Presumably, NO genuine Christian would want to sup with the devil at all and yet many may be doing so in ignorance.
The origins of Halloween are Celtic in tradition and have to do with observing the end of summer sacrifices to gods in Druidic tradition. In what is now Britain and France, it was the beginning of the Celtic year, and they believed Samhain, the lord of death, sent evil spirits abroad to attack humans, who could escape only by assuming disguises and looking like evil spirits themselves. The waning of the sun and the approach of dark winter made the evil spirits rejoice and play nasty tricks. Believe it or not, most of our Halloween practices can be traced back to these old pagan rites and superstitions.
In the fourth century, Christians attempted to co-opt the holiday by celebrating the lives of faithful Christian saints the day before Halloween. This was a conscious attempt to provide an alternative and re-focus the day away from ghouls, goblins, ghosts, witches and other “haunted” experiences. Since that time many Christians have decided to allow their children to dress in more “innocent” costumes of pumpkins, princesses, Superman or as a cowboy. Part of this is due to the simple reality that in today’s Western culture it is nearly impossible to “avoid” Halloween.
Halloween is a real, sacred day for those who follow Wicca. In fact, it is one of two high and holy days for them. The Celtic belief of spirits being released is current, along with the worship of Samhain (the lord of death) – both are promoted as something to embrace on that day. Those who believe and follow the practices of witchcraft, Halloween represents an opportunity to embrace the evil, devilish, dark side of the spiritual world.
Halloween is still celebrated as an ancient pagan festival of the dead by witches all over the world. Unfortunately, just giving the date a “holy” name like All Hallows’ Eve or All Saints’ Eve cannot change its grisly character. Halloween is an occasion when the ancient gods (actually demons) are worshiped with human sacrifice. The apostle Paul warns us: “But I say, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils, and not to God: and I would not that ye should have fellowship with devils” (1 Cor. 10:20).
During the 8th century in the diocese of Rome, Pope Gregory III moved All Saints Day to November 1, officially making October 31 “All Hallows Eve,” some say, as a way of claiming the celebration for Christians. However, this feast commemorating the martyrdom of the saints had already been celebrated by Christians for many centuries prior to this time. Pope Gregory IV broadened the feast to include the entire Church. Inevitably, some of the pagan practices associated with the season persisted and have been mixed into modern celebrations of Halloween.
It is astonishing just how many Christians let their kids celebrate Halloween. Some churches even sponsor “haunted houses” and similar events on what is the Number One satanic “helliday” of the year. If you are a Christian parent, God has given you a precious responsibility in your children. Remember, their ability to resist spiritual wickedness is much less than yours. If you allow your children to participate in Trick or Treating, costume parties, etc., you are allowing them to play on “the devil’s turf,” and Satan will definitely press his home court advantage. You are opening up doorways into their young lives for evil by bringing them into a kind of “fellowship” with these ancient “gods.”
As Christians you and I are placed in this world to be a light in a world of darkness. There is no lasting benefit to ignore a holiday that exists around us, but it also does harm to celebrate Halloween as it has originated and grown over the centuries. My suggestion? Christians should be teaching their children (age appropriately) that: there is a spiritual world filled with goodness from God and evil from Satan (Eph. 2:1-10); life with Christ has power over darkness (I John 4:4); and those who celebrate Halloween either are unaware of its roots, or are intentionally promoting a world where evil is lauded and viewed as an ultimate power.
To counter the evil influence of Halloween, we need to join together and celebrate the reality of the heroic efforts of Christian saints over the evil in their day. Many leaders in the past — and present — have fulfilled the mandate of destroying the works of the devil through their sacrificial commitment to Christ and His Kingdom.
Too, rather than “hide” in the face of evil, we should unabashedly and boldly create an alternative that is positive and uplifting; that celebrates good over evil and the triumph of God over Satan. We need to provide an environment that also makes room for heaps of fun while using the day as a “teachable moment” to celebrate God’s protection, provision and purpose for our lives.
We are commanded not to become involved with the unfruitful works of darkness (And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them. Eph. 5:11). There have been far too many examples of how breaking this command works out in lives. Remember, while we have God’s promise of protection for ourselves and our children, that promise may be negated if we allow our children to celebrate this dark holiday. Case after case has been revealed of children in rebellion. In many of these families, the problem can be traced back to the children being exposed to parental compromise with the world at a young age. It is hard enough to raise children these days in a Godly way without exposing them to Satan’s realm.
Are some Christians trying to remove themselves from the world? Ignoring Halloween or celebrating it wth believers only is not exactly an evangelical approach. Aren’t we supposed to “become all things to all men so that by all possible means” we might save some? (1 Corinthians 9:22)
As Christians, why are we here in this world? Are we here to live in a safe and protected environment, guarded against the evils in the world, or are we called to reach out into a world filled with dangers and be the light of Christ? Halloween brings people of the world to our door step. Halloween brings our neighbors out into the streets. I can think of various creative ways to seize this opportunity for developing new relationships and sharing my faith.
Is it possible that our negativity toward Halloween only alienates the people we seek to reach? Can we be in the world, but not of the world?
Ultimately, Christians must decide for themselves and follow their own convictions regarding the observance of Halloween. Christian perspectives on the observance of Halloween are strongly divided. Some believers feel complete freedom to observe the holiday, others run and hide from it, many boycott or ignore it, a number celebrate it through more positive and imaginative observances or Christian alternatives to Halloween, and still others choose to take advantage of Halloween’s evangelistic opportunities. Many Christians believe that participating in Halloween is a form of involvement in the worthless deeds of evil and darkness. However, many consider the modern-day Halloween activities of most to be harmless fun.
Give serious thought to the appropriateness of judging another Christian for observing or not observing Halloween. We do not know why another person participates in the holiday or why they do not. We cannot accurately judge the motivations and intentions of another person’s heart. Study the matter for yourself and follow the convictions of your own heart. Let others do the same without condemnation from you.
THE LAODICEA CHURCH WE LIVE WITH
Revelation 3:14-20 And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God; 15I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. 16So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth. 17Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked: 18I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see. 19As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent. 20Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.
Today we find ourselves living in the Laodicean Church age. It is the last period of time before the Lord Jesus Christ comes to rapture out His church. Compared to the other periods of church history, the Laodicean is the worst of all and that is because of the apathy of believers in Christ. The word “Laodicean” means the “rights or justices of the people.” Literally the civil rights of the people. It is a time when the church is more interested in their individual rights and have totally forgotten the rights of God—their Creator. Unfortunately, this is the mess that the church is in when God returns to get us. AND, do not fret my friends; there will be no exercising of personal rights at the rapture for God’s rights will overshadow all. When He says, “come up hither,” will it not be with anger in His voice rather than that of the compassionate Jesus Christ Superstar that many envision Him to be? Will He not be angry at the church for lack of interest in winning the lost to Him?
The last church claims a belief in God while at the same time living a dead, skin-deep Christianity. People in this church, profess belief in the “fundamentals of the faith” while embracing ecumenical works. It is a church where you cannot really tell what it stands for or what it stands against. It is a church which conveniently balances itself on both sides of the fence; it is neither hot for God or cold against Him (vs. 15). It is the worst kind of church there can be: LUKEWARM (vs. 16)—close enough to God to be warmed by the Bible, and far enough away to be chilled by the world. It is the epitome of rotten apostate modernism.
God is an extremist. He does not believe in getting along with the world in a kind of “fake Christianity”. He “would thou wert cold or hot.”
The Laodicean church makes God sick (vs. 16)—sick enough for Him to “spue thee out of my mouth.” Why is this? Could it be because of the tremendous material assets this church has that others in history did not? Could it be because it is more interested in bragging about its busses, holdings, how much the property is worth, how much the offerings are or how many missionaries it supports? After all, this church says it is “…increased with goods, and have need of nothing.” But God sees the truth. He gets to the heart of the matter. His response to all of our vast access to resources that we are “… wretched, you’re miserable, you’re poor, you’re blind, and you’re naked.” This is the opposite of how we see our self. People today have too many churches to go to. The pastor does something that they don’t like, or another church member does something that they disagree with, they just “hop on over” to another church that more fits their need. People in this age are more interested in themselves instead of God, and God’s preacher better tell them what they want to hear or else.
The great problem with the church today is that Christians are afraid to stand up for Jesus. Oh, we sing the song, “Stand up, Stand up for Jesus…”, but that is just lip service. Christians have worked out a way to be a Christian on Sundays and just a regular guy the rest of the time. That way they can AVOID CONFRONTATION. This is a joke of a Christian who claims that he has to put on the “armour of God”, when he knows in his heart that he is not really going to use it.
This Laodicean church lives by feelings, just like the rest of the world. Like the Israelites of old, temples to Baal have been erected amongst our ranks and the only thing that can “shake the church” loose from them is some tragedy; else God will never get our attention. If there was one thing that I could make the church see, it would be the reality and magnificence of GOD. Hence, people would see how much they owe to Him. But God does not demand our deaths; He demands our death to self, so that we might be able to live the true life that He intended. It is sad that it takes hard times in our life to bring us to our senses.
God counsels that we buy of Him “…gold tried in the fire…” (vs. 18). That is to say, He counsels that we see things as they truly are; that faith in Him is worth much more than gold or riches or prestige or honor (1 Pet. 1:7). This entire world is going to be burned up and all that is contained therein. There is absolutely nothing that will survive His hot wrath. Any investment in this world is futile. I know that right about here the concept of “stewardship” is usually slipped in, but there is a vast difference in caring for things that perish verses things that do not. The only thing that will not perish will be the souls of men who are right with God. This is “stewardship” in its most correct form: to win souls, develop them and teach them how to win more souls. But this cannot be done without “CARING”.
You say, “I don’t see it that way.” I know. I know there is a problem with how you look at things. That is why God urges to “anoint thine eyes with eyesalve…” (vs. 18). This is why the Devil has so many things to look at in the world today. This is why things like TV, pornography, movies, sports, internet, etc. work so good for him. Man is curious, and his curiosity will never be satisfied. This is a good thing if it is channeled to learning about the personality and character of God. But this is not so. Man is more interested in tickling his sin nature. The “forbidden fruit” only becomes the draw to man when he looks at it (Gen. 3:5-6). We have a problem with our eyes. Therefore, we need the eyesalve of God’s Word that we can see correctly. Can you imagine the fruit of the tree looking rotten, moldy, corrupt and covered in maggots? In other words, can you imagine being able to see sin for what it is? The only way that can be done is to:
- Stay in your Bible. You need the Bible. It is your strength and your sword. Without it, you will only see what the world is showing you. Or, you will only know what the world tells you about the Bible. The cults (Mormons, Catholics, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Seventh Day Adventists, etc.) are experts at offering a candy coated glob of slop.
- Stay in Church. Don’t just “attend” church, come expecting something from God. Expect that God is speaking to you from the Bible via His messenger. Presuppose that God is real and He can do anything even in spite of the preacher or teacher. Expect God to be a blessing to you and discard the thought that you will be a blessing to God.
- Pray faithfully. Tell God how special He is to you. Talk to Him. Tell Him how much of a blessing He is to you. Tell Him what you think of His Book, His church and His preacher. Tell Him what you would request of Him, but resist the urge to give Him your grocery list of problems to solve for you.
- Witness! This cannot be stressed strong enough. You must witness for God. There are many ways in which you can do this. Use your mind and think of a way you CAN do it instead of inventing ways you cannot do it. The fact of the matter is this: if you love something strong enough, you can do things you never thought you would be able to do. Or, if you want to do something bad enough, you will figure out a way to do so.
It is time now to repent of being a lukewarm Christian. Can you truly say you are giving your all to Him? Are you tithing? Are you attending church? Are your words just more empty promises to God? God’s way for dealing with those whom He loves in this Laodicean church age is to rebuke and chasten. REPENT! Change your ways. Be zealous about Him (vs. 19). Be given over to the draw of the Holy Spirit. Be zealous for Him and the things that He loves and forget about the world. Stop comparing yourself to others who are not living for the Lord.
Do you realize that at the end of the Laodicean church age Jesus is outside the door of the church? The door has been slammed shut in His face. He is knocking to come in and who is listening? Are you? Do you hear His humble rap upon the door? Why is He on the outside in the first place? Who came to church and left the Lord outside? I do not want to be a Laodicean even though I happen to live in this age. You don’t have to leave Him outside. You can bring Him in with you. Or, you can answer the door. The problem why many do not is that they don’t even hear His voice anymore (vs. 20). They are too worried about money, satisfaction of self, offending others or becoming accountable to God’s word (they don’t want to hear what He has to say about their sin). But if YOU open the door to Him, He will come in to you and have fellowship with you, even in spite of anyone else. But until you do, until you open the door of your heart, you can not have sweet fellowship with Him. You will be a Laodicean.
Ephesians 4:1-3 1I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, 2With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; 3Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
Every Christian has a vocation; a job given to them from God Himself. In this passage of Scripture God very clearly tells us what it is and gives a Job Description so we will not be confused about anything. It is broken down into three parts:
- Walk with lowliness, meekness and longsuffering.
- Forebear one another in love.
- Keep the unity of the Spirit.
If every Christian were to concentrate on living this way, there would be happy, productive churches for the Lord Jesus Christ.
Since this is a personal vocation, it does not require, nor does it suggest that every Christian should help their brother or sister to fulfill their assigned role. Indeed! These three things are something each Christian must do on their own; they don’t depend on the reaction of the brethren to suggest success.
Each and every Christian must work on these things alone. Therefore, I ask you: Are you walking a lowly, meek and longsuffering life? Are you forbearing one another in love? Are you doing what you can to keep the unity of the Spirit? Perhaps, perhaps not. Possibly, you don’t understand what these three things mean.
Lowliness, meekness and longsuffering.
Walking in lowliness means that you put others first. This is a direct attack on the pride that tries to rule every man’s life. To put others first, you must first swallow you pride and put others first. If you like to talk, then you be quiet and let others talk instead. If you like to be the center of attention, then you give the attention to others instead. If you think in your heart that you can do better than the teacher, then you give that up and reckon the teacher is better than you. If you think about another person, “you just don’t know what I am going through”, then you think, they understand something about what I am going though. It means to put yourself down. I don’t mean to talk bad about yourself in the presence of others (like saying, “I’m so fat.”). I mean–put others first and brag on them. There is nothing like bragging on others to keep your pride in check. You can always tell a lowly church member because they are bragging on their preacher and bragging on their church.
Walking in meekness means to be mild or gentle; to be soft tempered. This speaks directly to submission. Pride thinks, “I’m better”. Meekness says, “I give up.” Not in the sense that you throw up your hands in the air and discontinue trying to do better, but in the sense that you quit striving with others. You cannot have a fight if one person just gives up. It would look silly because one person would just be swinging at the air (1 Cor. 9:26). When trying to have a conversation with someone, and another person keeps butting in overriding everything you say, just give up. Stop competing with them to get your word in. When thinking, “the pastor is just preaching that because he knows I’m…”, just give up and reckon God is working through him. When people are saying something bad about your church, and you feel tempted to say bad things too, just give up and realize that no church is perfect and you are going to do your very best to make things better. Stop waiting for the others to do it–submit to your heart’s complaint.
To walk in a longsuffering manner means to be patient. Here is where many Christians fail the most; they don’t give God a chance to answer their prayers concerning the state of their church, brethren or pastor. They want something to happen now, or at least pretty quickly. They tend to forget about the patience of God. At times they may even be giving God ultimatums without realizing it. When God doesn’t answer the way they want, or when God’s answer is NO, they think there is no answer so they need to make some change on their own–usually leaving the church for something else. Instead of telling God, “If you don’t answer my prayer by next month, then I will know you are saying leave this church,” exercise longsuffering and tell God, “You will have to take me out of this church so I will know it is you doing it instead of self.” Instead of saying, “I am going to spend my summer fishing on Sundays,” say “God, if you want me to miss church and go fishing on Sundays, you’re going to have to stop me. Be longsuffering in your walk and realize that God is doing something in your life because of it.
Forbearing one another in Love
Two things to consider in this one statement: Forebear and Love. The two go hand in hand. It is almost impossible to have one without the other. This speaks directly about how a Christian is to relate to other Christians. They are to love each other and at times that means you have to “hold them up.” Really, to love someone you have to put up with allot, but it doesn’t seem that way because you love them. To get an idea of the concept “forebear” you should think about a soldier carrying a wounded comrade off the battlefield. It is not easy to pick them up and sling them over your shoulder while the bullets are flying all around you. It is not easy to bear his weight along with the weight of your own pack, ammo and weapon. It’s not easy to feel his blood running down your back and arm. But, he rescues his buddy, putting his own life at risk, because he loves him. This is how Christians should treat the brethren of their own church. They should put their own life at risk to do the difficult thing for the brethren because they are wounded and incapable of functioning at the moment. They need to be restored. What we need in the church are “spiritual medic’s” instead of selfish back stabbers. Churches need not be full of “feel good, muckey muck, goody two shoes” Christians. They look and feel good on the surface, but underneath they have no guts. We need the “medics” who can rescue and restore their brothers in Christ. Instead of saying, “That’s a great idea, but don’t ask me to do it”, why not say, “Let me think of some ways that I can help out.” Instead of saying, “Sounds good! I’ll pray for you.” Say, “Let’s pray together about this right now.” Instead of thinking, “He should have done it this way or that way,” think, “I wonder if there is anything I can do to help him improve it. I don’t want him to think is all alone and abandoned on the battlefield. I’ll ask him as soon as he is done speaking.” Bearing the burdens of others doesn’t mean taking them away from them. It means to help them as a team would do.
Keep the Unity of the Spirit
This speaks of a common cause. the USA is full of people from diverse cultures and race. Each have their individuality, yet are united as well. On certain things, a Californian will never be able to understand a New Yorker. Still there are other things that the two will fully understand each other. I don’t like to say these are things of “common ground” as much as I would say that these are the things that make them both the same; the things that they choose to unite them–their nationality.
In the case of a Christian, and more importantly a church, these “things” are one: the Spirit of God. Corporately, all Christians have the Holy Spirit that unites us all, but there is a spirit in each church as well. I am talking about the body of Christ being comprised of individuals, all having the Holy Spirit, congregating in the same location because they are all similar. Eyes being where eyes should be; toes being where toes should be, etc. In this sense they are all of the same body, but in the right location in that broader body and God is the one who places you where He wants you (1 Cor. 12:18-20). To keep the Unity of the Spirit means to stay where God placed you in His body and not attempt to fulfill a role that you were not designed for. When being an eye, and trying to hear like an ear, you become a rogue cell and that is called cancer. The body (or church) does not need cancerous Christians. It needs Christians who are Unifying the body by fulfilling their purpose; doing what they were designed to do.
These are the jobs that God gives to every Christian. Unfortunately, many Christians are not fulfilling their designed purpose. They have either dislodged themselves and are floating around freely in the body, or they have become cancerous (not dislodged, but fulfilling some other purpose not intended for the part of the body where the Lord placed them.) Oh that churches had Christians who would fulfill their job description. We then would have strong, exciting and vibrant churches. Not places where you go to “feel good” about yourselves, but places that were strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.
The Purpose of the church-EXAMINED.
The purpose of the church is multi-faceted, but it revolves around one—only one—activity. That activity is the winning of souls. In short, it is telling others how to be saved, encouraging them to get saved, and leading them in the process of being saved. We are very plainly told in the Bible that, “…he that winneth souls is wise.” (Pro. 11:30). The activity of winning souls stands over every endeavor a Bible believing church is involved in. It is paramount, un-negotiable and vital. If you do not think so, then you are sadly mistaken.
Today, the church has evolved into some kind of conglomerate, some kind of multi-functional business venture (emphasis on “business venture). Like some Good Samaritan club, people come together to escape the harsh attacks of evil that they withstand throughout their week. It takes the place of some good, wholesome fun that can be found no place else in the world. And, it becomes an educational source where people can go and have their morals sharpened by the word of God. Of course, all of these are not wrong, but they have somehow upset the cart; the scales have become out of balance. Where at one time soul winning was the most important thing, now it has been replaced by all of the rest. Instead of being slightly off, the church has now become grossly out of balance in the area of winning souls.
In what areas do many churches weigh heaviest? In what areas do they invest the bulk of their resources? They are vast and range from small group encouragement sessions to being the vassals of the distributors of Christian books and programs. I have been to churches where they canceled meetings so they could show the super bowl. I have preached in churches that were divided right down the middle. On each side of the aisle sat the two prominent families of the church along with their supporting families. The poor pastor was stuck right in the middle of the feud. I preached at one church where I actually did no preaching at all. The auditorium was exactly like a movie theater auditorium and the “stage” was full of rock band equipment. All they did was play Christian rock music and there was no mention of Jesus, salvation or the Bible anywhere. My preaching was the privileged task of being the guest of honor in the very front row center. This is only a small sample of what some churches now call “preaching the gospel.” It is what they have replaced for winning souls. No one in any of those churches even thinks of winning someone to Christ, let alone actually trying to do it. Yet they are all “busy about the Lord’s work.” In fact, there have been some people who have left churches where I pastored who said, “I can’t grow. In everything you say, you always say something about winning souls. Could you please stop telling me that?”
Now, to have support groups, encouragement and structure for Christian growth is truly important. It is good to have classes to teach how to rear children the Biblical way. Classes of marriage and handling of finances are necessary and the Bible speaks of these subjects and many more like them. It is necessary for Christians to, “Bear one another’s burdens…” (Gal. 6:2). It is good to be glad in the house of the Lord (Acts 2:46) and to be encouraged by the singing and worship (Col. 3:16). Not every moment of the Christians life must be winning a soul. Every soldier needs time to regroup and rearm. He even needs time away from the battle to resort. The problem is, that most churches have remained stuck in the regroup, rearm and resort area and no one is actually in the battle. They have forgotten that you cannot win a war with only the rear echelon. You must have the fighters. And, in the army, every soldier is a soldier first and foremost.
One day Jesus approached Peter and Andrew while they were fishing, He did not ask them to join a fellowship. He did not offer to them a support group. He didn’t even offer them an answer to their personal problems. What He told them was, “…Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” (Matt. 4:19). He wanted to make them into soul winners. He intended to teach them how to tell others about the gospel (good news) of salvation. He wanted them to be equipped to carry that gospel to others throughout their entire life. And, that is exactly what they did, and they did it at the hazard of their own lives. They never lost sight of the main goal. They never got their number one main order out of sight. They always had their “prime directive” before them. The Jews of old would carry God’s word in little boxes strapped to their foreheads called–frontlets (Deu. 11:18). This was in command to God’s directive to have no other Gods but Him (Exo. 20:3). It was their main mission to teach this to their children and this is how they would remember. Too bad the churches of today do not have spiritual “frontlets”. Too bad they keep forgetting their number one mission.
The apostle Paul said, “To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.” (1 Cor. 9:22). Though he taught many of God’s principles of help to the church, he still never lost sight of this first command given by Jesus (Acts 1:8). He was committed to even going to the uttermost parts of the earth, and he was pretty successful about it. Even though he had all the cares and concerns of helping the different churches, making a living and dealing with the little concerns of life, he still found time to win souls.
We all know the gravity of the situation; the importance in winning a soul (James 5:20). It is a life and death matter for the one who is won. But in a certain sense, it too is a life and death matter for a church. Where the members of a church are not actively trying to win souls, the church, like a dried up piece of fruit, will die on the vine. It does so because the Christians within dry up and die on the vine. You can always tell those who are drying up because they present reasons why they cannot do it. Listen! People can do anything they want to do if they want to do it bad enough. Churches (dead churches) are filled with people who side-step the command to win souls by replacing it with a little program and then soothe their guilty souls by convincing themselves that they are really serving the Lord. It is really amazing how many churches spend more energy and resources in humanitarian aide rather than Godly aide.
So, let us end on a good note. Let us end on the assumption that you have determined you are going to do something about pleasing God in this area of winning souls. John 4:36 says, “And he that reapeth receiveth wages, and gathereth fruit unto life eternal: that both he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together.” I hope that you will receive wages abundantly for your eternal work. I pray that you both reap and sow. I look forward to that for you personally and for the church as well. It would be fantastic to have a church full of those who can rejoice together—rejoicing that can only come from laboring in the field. The church does not ever need to be a dry, dead place. The only way to keep it alive and vibrant is to win souls. This is our purpose—to win souls. There is no other way around it. Nothing can replace this God given formula for joy.
1 Thess. 5:11-23 11 Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do. 12 And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you; 13 And to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake. And be at peace among yourselves. 14 Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient toward all men. 15 See that none render evil for evil unto any man; but ever follow that which is good, both among yourselves, and to all men. 16 Rejoice evermore. 17 Pray without ceasing. 18 In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. 19 Quench not the Spirit. 20 Despise not prophesyings. 21 Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. 22 Abstain from all appearance of evil. 23 And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The SOLE business of the church is SOULS. The church is souls looking upward in praise; inward in penitence; outward in practice; and forward in promise. The church at Thessalonica was church born out of the storms of persecution (1:6; 2:14; 3:3-7). Paul gives this church a check-list for encouraging one another (5:11). How does he do this? By telling them to “Comfort” (vs. 11, 14) and “exhort” (vs. 14).
- Building up one another (5:11).
- Value and Love church leadership (5:12-13).
- Avoid Quarreling (5:13)
- Warn the undisciplined (5:14)
- Comfort the fearful (5:14; cf. Isa. 35:3-4)
- Care for the weak (5:14)
- Practice Patience (5:14)
- Do good to someone who treats you wrongly (5:15)
- Rejoice in everything (5:16; cf. Hab. 3:17-19)
- Stay in an attitude of prayer (5:17)
- Maintain an attitude of thanksgiving (5:18)
- Don’t smother the spirit’s working (5:19)
- Beware of a bad attitude towards preaching (5:20)
- Stay clear of compromising situations (5:22)