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“What will you do in the end”? Part 2

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My last post in this series ended by asking “what nation would ever turn its back God”?

Today’s post will focus on both the identity of the nation, as well as the “blame game” being played regarding responsibility for what is taking place in America today.

Before I delve into this, I want to state up front that in no way am I trying to convince anyone that the problems that have befallen us are either simplistic or easy to fix. My goal with this series is simple: identify the root of the problem, and then point out the obvious (to me) solution.

As to the question “what nation would turn its back on God”, the answer is painfully obvious: that nation is America. Just as Nathan the prophet said to David “you are the man” when exposing his great sin, so it is that America is being systematically exposed as the nation that has forsaken its God.

The parallel between America and ancient Israel is unmistakable. The simple table below highlights just as few examples:

comparison

Though America’s approach is a subtle one, there can be no doubt that we are following in the footsteps of ancient Israel, allowing ourselves to become ensnared in a noose from which there is no escape. Just as Israel could not escape their coming judgement, neither shall we.

From a Christian point of view, I am dumbfounded that we are seemingly blind to this. Oh, for sure there are voices out there that say they know that things are not right, that they believe we are going the wrong direction as a nation. But they are painfully few and far between.

What I cannot fathom, in light of what should be so obvious, is the relative silence from God’s people! Where is the moral outrage? Instead of righteous indignation and contempt, instead of a cry from our denominational leaders for a day of fasting and repentance, what usually comes from the Christian camp is silence.

Or even worse, blame.

The Church has fallen headlong into the same mindset as the world, which is it’s easier to affix blame than it is to acknowledge the truth. And the truth, I’m afraid, is very, very ugly! Acknowledgment of the truth, you see, negates our pleas of ignorance.

There is a fundamental problem with the Church looking to assign blame for the despair that prevails in America today. That is not the responsibility of the Church, yet we have permitted ourselves to jump on the blame bandwagon so that we can attempt to defend our positions!

The Left blames the Right. The Right blames the Left. And so it goes. As long as we can assign blame to one group or another we feel content in our smug self-righteousness that THEY are the problem!

Let’s throw away our cloaks of pretense and disguise, shall we? I’ve been saying for a long time on this blog that we in America have a “God problem”. Yes indeed, our problem has become what to do about God, for we certainly don’t want Him any longer!

In part 3 of this series I will show you how that America’s “God problem” is so firmly entrenched as to be all but impossible to reverse. You will see that God is no longer part of the solution in the minds of America’s leaders. He has actually become part of their problem!

Be blessed,

Ron

Driving a square peg into a round hole

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“Not wanting to appear judgmental, we mistakenly try to make biblical truth fit the culture around us.”   A.W. Tozer

What an astounding statement made by the Rev. A.W. Tozer regarding the Christian Church. Especially so, considering Rev. Tozer passed away in 1963!

We can only imagine what he would think were he alive today, seeing as how the Church has wandered so much further into compromise and the worldliness which he foresaw as the Church’s greatest impending threat of his time.

To be sure, no one wants to hear about subjects that prick the heart, yet it is necessary to bring them to light. God has always demanded that His truths be shouted from the roof tops! If you doubt this, might I suggest a cursory read through the Major Prophets of the Bible?

With a keen awareness of how much emphasis is put upon blending in with society, the Church bends, twists, and does back flips all in the name of relevancy so that she may maintain some semblance of importance to a culture largely devoid of the knowledge of God. All in the name of not wanting to be seen as judgmental, of course.

Isn’t it strange that for nearly 2000 years the Church did not concern itself with how the outside world perceived it, while now the opposite is true? For nearly twenty centuries the focus of the Church was on faithfulness to God. Now…not so much.

This is a travesty unlike anything we have seen in recent times. For the last 50-75 years the Church has been so consumed with the process of reinventing itself in order to become more like the world, that for all intents and purposes she has ceased to be The Church.

Indeed, despite the command to come out of the world, the Church has rebranded itself to be nearly indistinguishable from the world. And this world is suffering greatly because of it.

It is no different than taking the square peg and driving it into a round hole. On the surface,these are not a match for each other. However, if you get a bigger hammer and drive the peg harder, eventually some semblance of “fit” comes into being. It isn’t pretty, and a keen eye will certainly notice that something is amiss with this “match”. But hey, we made it work!

Oh, for certain it is religious, but it is an anemic counterfeit of the once powerful Church that was founded upon the shed blood of Jesus Christ. Having prostituted itself with erroneous doctrine that tickles the hearers ear, it is unable or unwilling to stand solely upon the truth of God’s Word.

The Word, after all, is offensive to the masses. It always has been.

On that note, let anyone dare bring to light the current state of backslidden Christianity, and he will soon find himself the target of legions of modernist churchmen and liberal theologians who think that God has instituted a new plan for the Church of today.

If anyone dare mention the deplorable condition of this Laodicean Church they are immediately branded as divisive, judgmental, a bigot, and a host of other not so pleasant names.

I say this with all sincerity, but in case you haven’t noticed, the Church is under an attack of biblical proportions. No longer is the Bible considered the standard for living. No indeed, that antiquated way of thinking has been replaced with an “anything goes” mindset.

And I’m referring to the Church, not the world!

Our churches no longer proclaim the Word of God, but rather a fashionable “gospel light” that is designed to be easy on the ears and even easier on the conscience. Can’t have the Word bringing conviction to our unregenerate hearts, now can we? No indeed, not if we are to become “one” with our culture.

How in the world did things get this way? Well, the prophet Isiah had a pretty good idea what contributed to the downfall of Israel, and I think it sums up the condition of the Church as well.

There is no one who calls upon your name, who rouses himself to take hold of you; for you have hidden your face from us, and have made us melt in the hand of our iniquities.    Isaiah 64:7

When people, God’s people, fail to call upon Him the end result is what you see all around you. The Church has a form of Godliness, but lacks the power of God to do the work it has been called to do. Why does the Church not rouse itself from its slumber and call upon the name of the Lord? Read on for the answer!

Just as Paul prophesied, society, and that includes the Church, has succumbed to the Spirit of the age.

For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions,”                 2 Timothy 4:3 ESV

No longer do men of God stand boldly in their pulpits, armed with the Sword of the Spirit and the unadulterated Word of God. No, our pulpits are manned by hirelings who have not come prepared to do battle, but instead have armed themselves with the latest gimmickry in order to appease the masses who are clamoring for yet another “feel good about me” sermonette.

Throw away that outdated bible! It is a cancer in the minds of those who wish to create their own version of utopia. God is no longer needed, for we have within our ranks carefully chosen leaders who will show us a better way. After all, we have evolved beyond the need for Godly instruction, as man is now god of his own destiny.

From where I sit on the front row, I see an impending, catastrophic implosion of what we call the Church. What survives will be the last day remnant, or the real Church, that is fervently praying and looking for the return of our Lord Jesus.

Driving a square peg into a round hole accomplishes nothing. It doesn’t fit,nor are they designed to accommodate each other. It is wholly unnatural. Like the Church trying to be like the world.

Or like the Church,drifted apart from its Anchor.

If you made it this far….thank you. My purpose is not to offend, but rather to awaken the Church from the stupor that has engulfed it.

May the Lord richly bless you is my prayer,

Ron

 

 

 

What do YOU see?

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It’s been said that God sees everything, and I have no doubt that He does.

He sees the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Whether we’re at our best or worst, God sees it all.

All of it.

What do YOU see when….

*You are forced to walk around a homeless person on the street?

*You see a young girl carrying a child she is not prepared to raise?

*Yet another drug addict has fallen into despair?

*The evening news tells one horrific story after another of abuse?

*You see the line of people that stretches around the block at the food pantry?

God sees all of this. He sees the suffering and the pain of every one of these people. People that His only Son suffered and died for. People we are commanded to love.

Do you see the suffering? Do you see the pain?

Or are your eyes focused only on the cause?

Do you see fault?

Do you see blame?

When Jesus reminded us that the poor would always be with us (Matt. 26:11) he was letting us know that the problems of humanity are perpetual. That is a sobering thought isn’t it?

Now,we can choose to look at this in one of two ways. We can throw our hands up in despair at the seeming hopelessness of the plight of the poor and suffering.

Or we can choose to take the words of Jesus as a challenge to understand that these issues are not going away,therefore we must plan accordingly to do our best to alleviate the plight of the unfortunate among us.

I don’t pretend to have all the answers as to how best to accomplish this. But I am firmly convinced that it must begin with the church. Not the government. The church. Alleviating the suffering of the poor and unfortunate has always been the responsibility of the church.

It all boils down to what we see when we observe the pain and suffering of the poor.

I believe God sees their hurting.

I wonder what we,the people under the steeple, see…

 

“This work isn’t for wimps”…

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I recently heard these words from a sermon preached by a young minister named Reggie Abraham. Reggie and his family attend the same church we have been attending the past several weeks, and this was my first time hearing him minister.

The thought behind this statement was that we all stumble and fall as we journey on with Jesus, but that just as our Leader stumbled on the way to the Cross but got up and continued on, so must we.

I was struck by the irony of Reggie’s statement for a couple of reasons. For one thing, it’s true that we are often knocked down and must pick ourselves up and start again. Sometimes we have the help of fellow believers to assist us, yet there are also times when it takes the Lord to raise us up and right our ship. Either way, we press onward.

I also found it ironic that Reggie spoke about falling down, because for the past six years he has had more than his share of being down. You see, six years ago Reggie suffered a serious stroke while riding his motorcycle. His right side was paralyzed and it was a miracle that he was able to get his bike stopped, especially considering how fast he was going.

While I don’t know all of the details, having just met him, I do know that he has spent a long, long time trying to rehabilitate his body and return to some sense of normalcy. Today, six years later he is still greatly afflicted on the right side of his body and just recently was able to find employment.

What is so remarkable about Reggie, and others like him who have had to overcome tremendous obstacles in their lives, is his indomitable spirit. His smile is contagious and his sense of humor will leave you laughing along with him as he delivers the Word in a manner that is guaranteed to touch your heart.

All of us face obstacles don’t we? I honestly don’t know a single person who can truthfully claim that their life has been one without hardship, regret, illness, or some sort of catastrophe.

I’m not saying it isn’t possible, but I have yet to meet the person who lives in a bubble, unscathed by the world and all its trappings.

Jesus in fact told us that we would have trouble in this life. He said “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world“.   John 16:33.  ESV

I love how Jesus tells us to “take heart”. Even though trouble will no doubt come our way, He’s saying to us to be encouraged and empowered because He has overcome the world. Do you know that because He has already overcome, you also are an overcomer through Him?

He has gone before you and has walked in some of the same places you walk through. Scripture reminds us that “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin“.   Hebrews 4:15.  ESV

It is a faithful saying that Jesus understands your predicament. He’s been there, done that. Your greatest temptations, the ones that knock you off of your feet, the ones that send you reeling from their consequences, know that Jesus understands them because no one has ever endured the magnitude of temptations He endured.

Unlike many of us however, He successfully overcame them all, and so can you if you’ll place your hope in Him.

As Reggie said, “this work isn’t for wimps”. We all know serving the Lord brings with it unique challenges, and sometimes the journey can seem difficult at best. But the great thing about it is we don’t need to fight or overcome by our own strength or abilities.

Thankfully, God isn’t looking for perfect physical specimens to carry out His work. He isn’t concerned with our BMI, or if we have 13.1 or 26.2 decals on our car windows.

No, we have a great high priest who is leading the charge against our enemies. Our hope, our ultimate victory, is assured in Christ. His resurrection spelled defeat over Satan, over death, over Hell, and over the grave!

And besides, even if you are a wimp, it’s not your battle to fight but Jesus’s. All we need to do is get out of His way!

Be blessed,

Ron

 

How would you worship if you knew today was your last opportunity?

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Would you change anything? Would you do anything different?

Would you notice the crying baby, or the fussy children?

Would you notice what the person next to you was wearing?

Would you take extra care in picking out what you would wear, or take no thought at all?

Would the volume of the music bother you as much as it usually does, or not at all?

Would you care that your favorite song wasn’t sung, yet again?

I’m jotting all of this down very early Sunday morning as I’m waiting to start getting ready for church. I woke this morning thinking, wondering, is there anything inhibiting my worship? And how would I worship if I had advance notice that this would be my last opportunity?

Worship

To offer Him praise and thanksgiving for all He has done in our lives,to take the time to express our gratitude to God for His many blessings. Isn’t that why we assemble on the Lord’s Day?

As I thought about all of this, my mind began to drift to the different types of worship we read about in the Bible.

Ritual Temple Worship

From the priestly worship inside the Temple we find the descendants of Aaron offering up animal sacrifices as an act of worship for the people: sin offerings, trespass offerings, guilt offerings, and on it goes.

Sacrificial Worship

The people often traveled great distances to worship, and let’s not forget that travel then was very hard and dangerous. Still, they went onward, determined to worship.

We see a man by the name of Elkanah going up yearly to the Temple to make sacrificial worship offerings. Year after year his wives went with him, and God received the worship of his wife Hannah, who was blessed with a son who you might remember was Samuel.

Emotional Worship

And how could we forget David, warrior king of Israel who danced in worship before the Lord with all his might?

Holy Worship

In the New Testament we read where there is worship in heaven, glorious, other-worldly worship where twenty four elders cast their crowns at the feet of God while crying Holy, Holy, Holy.

Whenever we find worship mentioned in scripture we typically find God responding to it, because we are told that God inhabits the praise of His people (Psalms 22:3)

Knowing all these things, the thought of “what if today was my last day to worship God” is front and center in my heart. Would we permit anything to inhibit our worship,if this was truly the case? Would all the things that we get hung up on now really matter?

As I continue working on this post, church has been over for nearly three hours. During the service today this topic was never far from my thoughts. Whether during the music portion, receiving the offering, or while being taught the word of God, I purposed in my heart that I would focus only on Him.

I couldn’t even tell you if anyone had a doughnut in their hand!😉

How then should we approach worship? Is there a right way to worship? Should our worship be limited by what our particular denomination allows, or considers acceptable?

Should our worship be traditional or contemporary? High Church or Cowboy Church? Quiet or loud, exuberant or solemn? Last time I checked, the Lord wasn’t handing out style points, but was looking for sincere hearts.

I don’t pretend to be able to answer those questions for you. I can, however, offer up this thought. I believe God expects, no demands, our very best worship. And what is “best” is different for each of us.

Take the busy single mom, who after working all day comes home exhausted knowing that her day is far from over. With kids to feed and bathe, homework to help with, laundry to be done, and a thousand other daily chores that won’t get done without her, her best worship opportunity might mean bowing her head and heart in the shower during her only 10 minute respite of the day.

Or think about the business man or woman who routinely works 80-100 hours a week. The pressure and stress never seems to let up, even on Sunday mornings. The advancements in technology have made intrusions into their quiet time with God almost predictable. For them, their best worship opportunity might be fleeting at best.

As I said, I believe God demands our best worship, and I believe He will meet with us, regardless of method, place, or duration. The important thing is that we acknowledge Him as Lord, and that we connect with Him as often as we can.

So, how would you worship if you knew today was your last opportunity?

If you think you know the answer, why not try it out the next opportunity you get? After all, it could well be your last “audition”.

Be blessed,

Ron

Donuts or fat free cookies: what’ll it be?

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An elderly gentleman said something along those words a couple of weeks ago as we were visiting a new church. For some reason,it seemed he was steering me to the fat free cookies,then again I have put on some weight since I retired.cookies

I had to chuckle at this scene,the old gentleman doing his best to make us feel welcome,me on the other hand just wanting to find a seat and quietly blend in.

Have you ever thought about what really draws you to church?  

What’s the attraction?

Of course, the obvious answer is “to worship,or God”. But what REALLY draws you to church?

Tradition?  It’s the right thing to do?  You like the minister?  It’s your only chance to dress up?  It’s where we meet friends ?  You serve in one capacity or another?  We go to worship God?  Our parents drag us to church? You go to be taught the Word of God? They have the best donuts and coffee?

I confess to you that that going to meet with God hasn’t always been my prime motivation.

Sometimes,many times actually,I’ve went to church because of my responsibilities. Whether teaching a class,ministering from the pulpit,singing in the choir,after a while it can all become routine,like some part time job can become.

Plus,and I’m being really honest here now, sometimes I think it was because God was supposed to meet with me there,not the other way around. Pride does that,doesn’t it?

Funny thing about this journey we’re all on. We go to church faithfully, we support it financially, we often serve in various ministries, we try to live out our faith as best we can. We do all the right things, yet I suspect that….

knowing God

chucklarsen.com

We don’t really know God like we think we do.

We know a lot about God,but we do not know Him.

If we did,I can’t help but believe that our approach to Him would be different.

You see,I’m particularly troubled by something I’ve been observing.And no,I’m not talking about whether or not you wear a suit or shorts and flip flops. Couldn’t care less,actually. Nor does the Lord,I assume.

I’m troubled by the flippant,cavalier attitude I’m seeing in God’s house. In particular,I’m bothered by things going on around me during what is supposed to be a time of worshiping God Almighty.

How can we commune with God while perusing eBay on cell phones and tablets? Are you expecting an email from God,is that why people are checking their email in the middle of Amazing Grace? Does consuming coffee,milk,donuts,and cans of soda bring people closer to God during what is supposed to be a time of worship?

Worship of God Almighty.

This stuff bothers me. And if you say “well,you shouldn’t be looking at what everyone else is doing” you might be right. But it still bothers me. And here’s why.

Can somebody say “where’s the R.E.S.P.E.C.T.“?

respect

Is this the proper way to come before the King? In His own house?

If you were invited to Washington DC to meet a high ranking dignitary,or some other venue to meet someone very important,would you show up with a Mountain Dew in your hand? Or how about that dream job of a lifetime,think the interviewer would mind if you munched on a breakfast burrito in between questions?

If any of this would be deemed unacceptable to you,help me understand why it’s OK to do it in God’s house. Why do we reverence earthly things more than God? Does any of this seem right to you? Is this what people do who expect to meet with God? Doesn’t this say something about our perception of who God is?

I know, I know. All of this is just way too legalistic isn’t it? Some of you no doubt think ‘what a jerk. What’s up with coming off so heavy handed? Lighten up dude! It’s only coffee and donuts after all. Who are you to make the rules anyhow? At least they are in church!!’

Actually,this post isn’t really about what goes on inside a building. It’s more about what goes on inside another type of building: our own temples. But you knew that,didn’t you?

Here’s what’s really bothering me about this attitude. I think we have exceeded all expectations in bringing God down to our level. Yep,we’ve finally done it. We’ve figured out a way to treat God as an equal.

And it shows.

We treat God like He’s part of the furniture. No awe. No wonderment. No amazement. No reverence. No fear.

Just one of the guys.

We don’t really know God,for if we did we would stand before Him, in His house,awestruck at the magnitude of what He has done for us! Instead,we treat His House as though we’re hanging out at Starbucks. Or like He’s the last person we expect to show up.starbucks

If we knew God,it would show.

It would show in our attitudes.

It would show in our behavior.

It would show in our language.

It would show in our worship.

We don’t really know God,for if we did we would spend time in His Presence long before 10:00 AM on Sunday.

We cannot know someone we don’t spend time with. Did you get that?

In her book Teaching a Stone to Talk, Annie Dillard described her thoughts on how we so nonchalantly approach a typical Sunday:

“Why do people in church seem like cheerful, brainless tourists on a packaged tour of the Absolute? Does anyone have the foggiest idea what sort of power we blithely invoke? Or, as I suspect, does no one believe a word of it? The churches are children playing on the floor with their chemistry sets, mixing up a batch of TNT to kill a Sunday morning. It is madness to wear ladies’ straw hats and velvet hats to church. We should all be wearing crash helmets.”

Yes indeed.

Sometimes I wonder if God doesn’t look at us as we sit in our seats,minds a million miles away,coffee in one hand,cell phone in the other and say to Himself “do they really not know who I am”?

So to answer the question “Donuts or fat free cookies:, what’ll it be?“, I think I’ll pass this time.

Seems I have a bigger question to settle.

the_light_end_tunnel

Relinquishing Your Freedom in Christ is an Expensive Proposition

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Freedom

Just saying the word evokes thoughts of sacrifice and struggle, oppression and conflict. It also calls to remembrance our sincere appreciation and gratitude for those who have sacrificed to ensure freedom for people’s everywhere.

As children of God we know that in Christ we have been made free. Those who know the Lord as Savior know a freedom unlike any other, as “free indeed” is unlike any other freedom……”whom the Son sets free, is free indeed”. (John 8:36).

Other verses inform us of the fact that where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty, and while we are now free from sin, we have become slaves to righteous living.            (II Cor.3:17 & Romans 6:18)

All this to say that as Christians, we willingly, lovingly embrace the liberty we have in Christ. Nonetheless, this liberty is fraught with potential dangers should we be tempted to dangle our toes in unfamiliar waters.

All of us, and I do mean all of us, face temptations that appeal to our flesh. Whether we are tempted by power, drugs, alcohol, sex, or money, the fact is that any of these can quickly become our master, overpowering our senses and bringing us again into bondage.

We must remain ever vigilant to counter such temptations if we are to live in victory. Prayer and the reading of the Word are key weapons in this never ending struggle.

These points have been driven home to me again this week while reading the story of how Israel came to have a king reign over them. What started as a nation fully dependent upon and loyal to God, soon turned into full blown rejection of His leadership.

Without launching into a long, detailed history lesson, Samuel was the prophet who had the unenviable task of anointing the first king of Israel. While crowning a new king would normally be cause for great celebration, Samuel’s task was heartbreaking because he knew that in anointing an earthly king, it signaled a severing of the cord between Israel and their God.

As most of you know, throughout Israel’s history they demonstrated a propensity to wander from God. This tendency to stray eventually culminated in their demanding a king to rule over them, just like all the nations around them. In other words, they wanted to be just like everyone else.

Have you ever been told, or have you ever told someone “be careful what you wish for, you just might get it”? This is about to happen to Israel.

Even though they had received an advanced warning as to the quality of leader they would be getting, Israel was determined to proceed with having things their way regardless of the cost. And oh what a price they would pay!

If you will read 1st Samuel 8:10-18 you will see the details of what was to come upon Israel. Take note especially of how many times the word “his” or “take” appears in the description of their new king.

The takeaway I want to leave with you is just how much this new king was going to take from them. Whereas we look to new leadership with an eye for what they can do for us, Israel’s new king would be a taker, not a giver.

What’s the lesson for the New Testament Christian in all of this? The lesson is that we are called out of sin to be the Church. We are not called to be like everyone else.

We also have a Leader who is unlike any other. We are different because our King is the difference maker!

Once God has delivered us from sin, we are not to go back. Not even to look back! We have a freedom known only by the redeemed, and that freedom was purchased by the highest cost imaginable.

Relinquishing your freedom in Christ is an expensive proposition, a proposition I have no desire to entertain.

How about you?

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