Monday, July 26, 2021

God is For Us

The Bible records, Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the LORD delivers him out of them all. (Psalms 34:19) In this verse the word affliction means, adversity, calamity, displeasure, and distress. I do not know one person who desires affliction. However, affliction sometimes comes but if it does come, how will you handle it? How do you handle adversity, calamity, displeasure, and distress? What is your response when you feel as though you are ready to give up, that is, to be so overwhelmed, so troubled or worried, in severe physical pain, or even brokenhearted by something that you feel you are unable to deal with any more? These questions generally cannot be answered unless you have gone through a serious affliction or are experiencing it now. I want to share two stories with you that I believe will encourage you. The first story is found in the Bible... 

Now Peter and John went up together to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour. And a certain man lame from his mother's womb was carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple which is called Beautiful, to ask alms from those who entered the temple; who, seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, asked for alms. And fixing his eyes on him, with John, Peter said, "Look at us." So he gave them his attention, expecting to receive something from them. Then Peter said, "Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk." And he took him by the right hand and lifted him up, and immediately his feet and ankle bones received strength. So he, leaping up, stood and walked and entered the temple with them — walking, leaping, and praising God. And all the people saw him walking and praising God. Then they knew that it was he who sat begging alms at the Beautiful Gate of the temple; and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him...And His name, through faith in His name, has made this man strong, whom you see and know. Yes, the faith which comes through Him has given him this perfect soundness in the presence of you all. (Acts 1:10, 16)

This next story is not found in the Bible but it did happen to one of God's children...
Some time ago a young Pentecostal evangelist found out that he was dying from tuberculosis. He had become bedridden and was hemorrhaging from both lungs. He took his family to live on his father-in-laws farm. One day his father-in-law was out in the field plowing and his wife and mother-in-law were behind the house doing laundry. So, this young evangelist begged God for enough strength to get out of bed and make it to a clump of trees and bushes about quarter of a mile down the road. He said in his heart, "I'm going to pray until I pray through and God heals me, or until they find me dead, one of the two." When he reached the place, he fell down exhausted. He couldn't cry out for help if he wanted to, plus no one knew where he was. The devil spoke to him saying, "They won't find you until the buzzards lead them to you." The evangelist responded, "Well that's all right devil. That's why I came out here. Just as soon as I can regain a little strength, I'm going to pray until I'm healed or die at this spot." As the young man lay there he began to think, "Everywhere I had been, I had turned in prayer requests for my healing. Thousands of people had prayed. Every healing evangelist in America had laid hands on me and if all the prayers were put together, it would add up to hundreds of hours of prayer."

He finally concluded where he had missed it. He thought, "I have been trying to get a bunch of people to pray for me rather than receiving what God said was already mine. The Bible says I'm healed, so, Lord, I'm going to lie here flat on my back and praise You. I'm going to praise You until my healing is manifested." At first the young evangelist gave all that he had in him which was just a whisper. He began to whisper, "Praise the Lord, Glory to God, Hallelujah, thank you Jesus." After about ten minutes of whispering, he got enough strength to lift up his arms by propping them up on the ground with his elbows. Another ten minutes or so went by and he got enough strength to lift his hands off his elbows and at the same time his voice got louder. At the end of about two hours he was up on his feet hollering, "Praise the Lord, Glory to God, Hallelujah, thank you Jesus." His praises became so loud that people heard him several miles away.

Notice what the Bible says in Psalms 34:19 concerning afflictions, "...but the LORD delivers him out of them all." This is Gods promise to His children. This is what happened in both stories shown above. If you are born again, then you are one of God's children. As one of Gods children you must always remember that our heavenly Father is millions of times greater than any human father. We must believe and receive what He has promised us through the meritorious work of Jesus Christ. So, if affliction tries to knock at your door, "Let us hold fast the confession of our faith without wavering, for He who promised is faithful." (Hebrews 10:23)         

Monday, July 19, 2021

Faith to Move Mountains

The Abrahamic covenant is one of the most interesting covenants that God had established with man. It not only was the basis of Judaism and Christianity but it also reveals various types and symbols that are indicative of the new covenant. One of the first things to note is that when God called Abram, he did not question God but responded to the call, "So Abram departed as the LORD had spoken to him..." (Genesis 12:4) His action sets an example for all believers. As Abram separated himself from all that was familiar, in the same way, believers are called to separate themselves from what is familiar, that is worldliness, "Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him." (1 John 2:15) Keep in mind, that Abram did not have a copy of the Bible that he could turn to, to confirm what God was speaking to him or to build his faith. (Romans 10:17) He flat out obeyed God without question. This is a lesson that many believers need to learn.

Another point concerning Abram's call, is that he was seventy five years of age. You may be thinking, "Well what does age have to do with anything?" According to studies, on the average, eighty five percent of all people who accept Christ do so before the age of eighteen. This does not insinuate that adults do not receive Christ, but the older a person is, the less likely they are to respond to the gospel. Why is this? Studies reveal that people get so regimented in their life styles, that is, set in their ways, they do not see the need for a change. In short, the world system has conformed them in such a way that they can only see a worldview of life. Therefore, the negative, anti-Christ picture painted by the world is what they tend to believe concerning the church and or Christianity. Simply put, "whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them." (2 Corinthians 4:4) So, the fact that Abram was seventy five years of age when he responded to God's call is amazing in and of itself.

Although God had called Abram, He had not yet established His covenant with him. However, look at Abram's next response to God, "And behold, the word of the LORD came to him, saying, "This one shall not be your heir, but one who will come from your own body shall be your heir." Then He brought him outside and said, "Look now toward heaven, and count the stars if you are able to number them." And He said to him,"So shall your descendants be. And he believed in the LORD, and He accounted it to him for righteousness." (Genesis 15:4-6).  Abram believed God, that is, he made an unqualified, irrevocable committal to God. In other words Abraham gave himself to God in utter abandonment of self. How many believers today can honestly say the same about their commitment to God after entering the New and better covenant with Him through Jesus Christ?

Up to this point, God had not established His covenant with Abram. It wasn't until Abram was one hundred years of age (twenty five year after God's initial call) that God cut a covenant with him.(Genesis 17:17) First God changed Abram's name (exalted father) to Abraham (father of a multitude) (Genesis 17:5) and then sealed the covenant through Abraham's blood (circumcision) which bound Abraham and his descendants to God and God to Abraham and His descendants. (Genesis 17:10-11) Yet for twenty five years prior to God cutting covenant with Abraham he held fast to his commitment to God, "And not being weak in faith, he did not consider his own body, already dead (since he was about a hundred years old), and the deadness of Sarah's womb. He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform. And therefore "it was accounted to him for righteousness." (Romans 4:19-22) What a testimony of unwavering faith towards God.

In my years as a church leader, there are several things that greatly move me. One of these is the life of Abraham. Abraham, a man like any other man called by God, but one who did not believe what his flesh (senses) revealed, but believed God, period. A man of great faith in whom we can all learn a great deal from when it come to trusting God. However, there is another thing that also moves me but it stands opposed to what we should learn from Abraham. In the New Testament of the King James Version of the Holy Bible the word "faith" appears two hundred forty three time. The word "believe" appears one hundred twenty one times. The word "believed" appears one hundred fifteen times. The word "believest" eight times. The word "believeth" forth five times and the word believing eight times. However, the majority of church leaders today approach the words faith and believe as though they are obsolete or even offensive and yet "without faith it is impossible to please God." (Hebrews 11:6)

For Abraham, his faith pleased God and it is recorded, "Now Abraham was old, well advanced in age; and the LORD had blessed Abraham in all things." (Genesis 24:1). This does not say an occasional blessing here and there, but blessed in all things. The Holy Spirit spoke this wonderful words through the apostle Paul, "He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? (Romans 8:32) This sounds exactly how God blessed Abraham due to His faith and yet when talking with most Christians they see Abraham as though he was more than just a man. I believe the only thing that separated Abraham from most Christians was his unwavering faith in God. I say this because Paul also tells us, "For there is no partiality with God." (Romans 2:11)

With that said, I want to challenge you to look at the accounts of Abraham's life as revealed throughout the entire Bible. Meditate on what God's Word reveals and you will see you own faith grow, "So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." (Romans 10:17)

Monday, July 12, 2021

Enforcing What Jesus Did

For centuries we have created great divisions throughout both Catholicism and Protestantism that we call denomination. Many like to call this diversity and in some respect it is. However, division should not be a product of diversity. A husband and wife can have a family of six children consisting of both males and females and like most families there is diversity of individuals, but it does not necessitate division, but on the contrary, a richness that brings flavor to the entire family.

The Holy Spirit speaking through the apostle Paul reveals divisions in the church as the carnal acts of men due to a lack of spiritual understanding and maturity, "And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ. I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it, and even now you are still not able; for you are still carnal. For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men?" (1 Corinthians 3:1-3)  So, it stands to reason if envy, strife, and division is in the church, and this according to Paul is being canal and acting like the people of the world, then we must come to grips with one unfortunate fact. We have let the god of the world, Satan, (2 Corinthians 4:4) to deceive us and divide us.

This may be difficult to accept, but we cannot deny the fact that in most towns and cities throughout the world there are numerous congregations that do not work together to expand the Kingdom of God. In some cases, there are congregations that were created through a congregational split due to prideful, ungodly differences. I am not trying to paint a bleak picture of the church, but to reveal why the church is falling so short of upholding and enforcing the triumph that Jesus accomplished when He destroyed Satan and his kingdom of darkness.

Jesus tells us, "If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself, and is divided, he cannot stand, but has an end. No one can enter a strong man's house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man. And then he will plunder his house." (Mark 3:24-27) Now we know that Jesus said, "...the gates of hell shall not prevail against His church", (Matthew 16:18) but we need to see the importance of what He is saying. He is telling us that Satan's kingdom is not divided but well organized. This should cause us to wake up and see the reality of why the church today has lost its impact in society. However, we also see something very clearly, Jesus has bound the strongman (Satan) and has plundered his house, (Matthew 12:29) not for His sake, but for the church.

The Bible also reveals, "He (Jesus) having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it." (Colossians 2:15) and, "...Jesus Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil." (Hebrews 2:14) Jesus tells us, "Behold, I give you the authority to trample on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt you." (Luke 10:19) and "These signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons...they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover." (Mark 16:17-18) and "And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven." (Matthew 16:19) It is the church's purpose and responsibility to uphold and enforce the victory that Jesus won when He defeated Satan and stripped him of his authority once for all. This is the church's legacy.

Although Satan is defeated and stripped of his authority, the church must stop acting as though he has stopped his attacks against it, that is, believers. The church must stop ignoring him and or act like he does not exist, "Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour." (1Peter 5:8) The church must stop hanging on to ridiculous doctrines that teach that when bad things happen to believers such as sickness, disease or premature death, that these things come from God. "The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly." (John 10:10) Think about it, why would God put sin and sickness on Jesus (Isaiah 53:4-5, 1 Peter 2:24) so that we could be free from both and then use them on His children for some mysterious purpose? Do we honestly suppose that God would contaminate Jesus' Body, the church, with such things? He doesn't! Satan does! I can also assure you that God does not use Satan, His enemy, (which is also the enemy of the church) to bring these things on His children. Satan is the murderer and liar (John 8:44) he is the thief, who steals, kills and destroys (John 10:10) a deceiver and accuser (Revelation 12:9-10), who continues to attack believers. But we must remember, he is a defeated foe and the church (believers) have the authority through Jesus Christ, to stop his attacks (Mark 16:17, Luke 10:19)

Our heavenly Father is the God of life for all through Jesus Christ,  "...I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly." (John 10:10) and, "And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life..." (1 John 5:11-12) The life the Jesus has provided for the believer is life as God has it, eternal life. But we must understand that eternal life is not a destination we find when we pass from this life to the next. The believe has the life of God in them now! "...He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world." (I John 4:4) and, "But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you." (Romans 8:11)

We must understand that the church is a triumphant church, "But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." (1 Corinthians 15:57) and, "Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ..." (2 Corinthians 2:14) The church is the Body of Christ with the authority of Jesus, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth." (Matthew 28:18) and we must understand, "what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come. And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all." (Ephesians 1:19-23) In other words, the church is backed by the power and authority of God Himself. The church stands in triumph over Satan and his kingdom of darkness because they are under the feet of the Body of Christ, the church. The fullness of Christ is in His church and therefore the church lacks absolutely nothing!!! (Colossians 2:9-10)

Therefore, it is time for the church to become forceful, even militant (Matthew 11:12) and uphold and enforce the triumph that Jesus accomplished over Satan and his kingdom. As we do this we must remember, "For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds." (2 Corinthians 10:3-4) and "For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places." (Ephesians 6:12) In other words, though the forces of darkness are set against the church always remember that they are defeated! This means that all the church does to stop the attacks of darkness is exactly what Jesus did during the forty days and nights of being tempted by Satan, "It is written," we use the Word of God. The church also has been given another mighty weapon, "Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." (Philippians 2:9-11) We use the mighty, wonderful  "Name of Jesus,"  that's all. No one fights a defeated foe. They simply uphold and enforce their triumph over their foe. Believers have the Word of God and the Name of Jesus to do this.

The church (every believer) has been redeemed to worship God; to build one another up in love; to win souls and make disciples and to uphold and enforce Jesus' triumph over Satan and his kingdom of darkness. This is the fourfold purpose of the church's existence. It is up to us to put away our childish ways (1 Corinthians 13:11), have a united front (John 17:21), uphold and enforce what Jesus did to Satan and His kingdom of darkness (Colossians 2:15, Hebrews 2:14) and once again become the unstoppable force that gave the early church such unprecedented success (The Acts of the Apostles) Let us respond  to what the apostle Paul said, "To Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever." Amen. (Ephesians 4:21) Let's get back to Jesus and let Him build His church!!!    

Monday, June 28, 2021

True Freedom

The Fourth of July in the United States it is also known as Independence Day. Independence Day has been a federal holiday in the United States since 1941, but the tradition of celebrating Independence Day goes back to the 18th century and the American Revolution (1775-1783). In June 1776, representatives of the 13 colonies accessed a resolution that would declare their independence from Great Britain. On July 2nd, the Continental Congress voted in favor of independence, and two days later its delegates adopted the Declaration of Independence, drafted by Thomas Jefferson. From 1776 until the present day, Independence Day has been celebrated as the birth of American independence, with typical festivities ranging from fireworks, parades and concerts to more casual family gatherings and barbecues. Although the United States celebrates Independence Day as a day of freedom from Great Britain's oppression, one is not truly free until they confess with the mouth the Lord Jesus Christ and receive Him as Savior.

Today in the United Stated we often forget that, in declaring independence from an earthly power, our forefathers made a forthright declaration of dependence upon Almighty God. The closing words of the Declaration of Independence solemnly declares, "With a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor." The fifty six courageous men who signed that document understood that this was not just high sounding rhetoric. They knew that if they succeeded, the best they could expect would be years of hardship in a struggling new nation. If they lost, they would face a hangman's noose as traitors. But notice, their dependence was not upon their abilities, but upon Divine Providence. They knew that without divine intervention, their desire for freedom would never happen. History reveals that all the signers of the Declaration of Independence had a Christian background; 32 Episcopalian/Anglican; 13 Congregationalist; 12 Presbyterian; 2 Quaker; 2 Unitarian or Universalist; 1 Catholic.

Of the fifty six, few were long to survive. Five were captured by the British and tortured before they died. Twelve had their homes, sacked, looted, occupied by the enemy, or burned. Two lost their sons in the army. One had two sons captured. Nine of the fifty-six died in the war, from its hardships or from its bullets. Whatever ideas you have of the men who met that hot summer in Philadelphia, it is important that we remember certain facts about the men who made this pledge. They were not poor men, or wild-eyed pirates. They were men of means, prosperous men, wealthy landowners, substantially secure in their prosperity and respected in their communities. But they considered liberty much more important than the security they enjoyed. They pledged their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor. They fulfilled their pledge. They paid the price. And freedom was won.

Someone once said, "To be born free is a privilege. To die free is an awesome responsibility." Yet freedom is never free. It is always purchased at great price. Take a moment and ponder the greatest price ever paid for freedom. The price that was paid at Calvary nearly two thousand years ago by Jesus Christ, the Son of God, to purchase man's freedom. In a similar way, the forefather's of this country were also ready to pay a great price for freedom not only for themselves, but for all who would come to the United States to become citizens of "One nation under God." Little did John Adams know how significant his words would be when he spoke to his wife, Abigail, on the passing of the Declaration of Independence, "I am well aware of the toil, and blood, and treasure, that it will cost to maintain this declaration, and support and defend these states; yet, through all the gloom I can see the rays of light and glory. I can see that the end is worth more than all the means."

To those who sacrificed for our freedom, the end was worth the painful means. Where would we, who are citizens of the United States of America, be today if there had not been those who counted the cost of freedom and willingly paid for it? Where will we be tomorrow if men and women of integrity do not come forward today and once again pay the price to reclaim a dying America? The only way this can be accomplished is for the church in the United States to what the Lord spoke to Solomon, "If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land." (2 Chronicles 7:14)  We may look at the American revolution and think that it was a struggle against natural forces, but the reality is, "We wrestle not against flesh and blood." I believe the forefather's recognized this. I pray that the church in the United States would also recognize this and respond to God's call, 2 Chronicles 7:14.

I believe that a great awakening is coming that will fulfill the prophecy of Habakkuk, "
For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea." (Habakkuk 2:14) I also believe God is calling every believer to change because He wants to take us into another dimension or level of glory. (2 Corinthians 3:18) There are dimension of glory that exist that we do not of or have entered into. Areas of creative miracles where we will see body parts grow where there were none; Birth defects instantly healed; Dominion over the forces of nature; People raised from the dead; and more salvation's than the world has ever experienced. I believe a time is coming where we will enter into these dimensions of glory and they will be the norm. I say these things because like me, I want to stir you up to seek God and His glory.

But change is an individual choice. We must ask the Holy Spirit to give us the grace, that is, the desire and ability to do God’s will, to help us change. It may take some time, it may even be painful or difficult process for some, but it is worth the effort, because with God all things are possible. Food for thought: Change is not really change until it is genuine and lasting. So, let us do like the forefather's of this country who were willing to give up all and trust that God would bring freedom. Let us no longer be conformed to the world, remain stagnant and frustrated with life trying to please man? But, let us let God’s Word transform us into the image of Christ from glory to glory to please God? As we choose the latter, not only will we understand true freedom, but God will also use us to set the captives fre

Monday, June 21, 2021

Our Father

Father's Day is a celebration honoring fatherhood and the influence of fathers in society. It was first proposed by Sonora Dodd of Spokane, Washington in 1909. It is currently celebrated in the United States annually on the third Sunday in June. Father's have always play a big part in every society. Unfortunately, there is a father absence crisis in America. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 18.3 million children, that is, 1 in 4, live without a biological, step, or adoptive father in the home. Research shows when a child is raised in a father-absent home, he or she is affected in the following ways...
There is a four times greater risk of poverty; Seven times more likely to become pregnant as a teen; more likely to have behavioral problems; more likely to face abuse and neglect; Two times greater risk of infant mortality; more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol; more likely to go to prison; Two times more likely to suffer obesity; more likely to commit crime and Two times more likely to drop out of high school.

Although these statistics are real and even heartbreaking, nevertheless their is some wonderful news. God chooses to relate to us in terms we all understand, that is, terms of the family. Family is God's design for the foundation of society. Though God embodies the characteristics of both a father and a mother, yet, in a greater, more passionate way, He presents Himself as our Heavenly Father. When we put our faith in Jesus, we become children of God, "But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God." (John 1:12–13) Jesus Himself taught us to call on God as Father, "But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly. And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words. Therefore do not be like them. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him. In this manner, therefore, pray:Our Father in heaven..." (Matthew 6:6-9)

We also see in Psalm 68: 4-5 more wonderful news, especially to the fatherless, "Sing to God, sing praises to His name; Extol Him who rides on the clouds, By His name Yah, and rejoice before Him. A father of the fatherless, a defender of widows, Is God in His holy habitation." Whether we have had a good earthly father or not, we know what a good father should be and what a good father should do. God is the greatest example of fatherhood by revealing to us in His very nature, as a good, good father. In His nature we find the need to be protected, loved, guided, valued, and even disciplined. And God will fulfill that role in our lives if we let Him. There is no need for anyone to be truly fatherless, because God is the perfect Father and He made provision for everyone to become a child of His.

Our Heavenly Father offers Himself as the ideal Father not only to those without earthly fathers, but to all who will come to Him, "
All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out." (John 6:37) "In that day you will ask in My name, and I do not say to you that I shall pray the Father for you; for the Father Himself loves you, because you have loved Me, and have believed that I came forth from God." (John 16:26–27) God gave His Son so that we might become His children, "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life." (John 3:16) When we belong to Him, He expects us to call on Him, trusting His goodness. He wants us to give our worries over to Him to carry, "casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you." (1 Peter 5:7) and simply have confidence in Him as we desire to have confidence in our earthly father). God is the best Father there is, He will be a Father to the fatherless and He alone is capable of filling every void left by our imperfect earthly fathers. In truth, God is the only perfect Father and the One we all need most.

So, on this Father's Day as we honor our earthly fathers, let us also honor the greatest Father that ever was or will be, Almighty God, our Heavenly Father...

Monday, June 14, 2021

Win Souls and Make Disciples

The very heart of the LORD, especially concerning the multitudes who do not know Him, was, is and will always be, until His return, is for the church, in every generation, to engage every culture, to win souls and make disciples. It should be apparent to us that the more effective and intimate times of worship that we spend before the Lord, the more effective that we are at edifying one another, the more effective we will be as ministers of Christ bringing the good news of reconciliation to a lost world. The church is the only vehicle on the planet in which God is using to bring salvation to a lost and dying world. But just how effective is the church today in carrying out the great commission.

When we examine the workings of the early church it becomes a stark reality to the church today that we pale at fulfilling the great commission. Recent studies of the church in the USA show that approximately eighty percent of those who attend church one or more times a month, believe they have a personal responsibility to share the gospel. However, only nineteen percent of them have spoken to another person about how to become a Christian in the last twelve months. So how is the church growing today? Studies reveal that a good portion of church growth in the USA is not actually growth coming by way of reaching the lost as it is with Christians moving from church to church.  Demographic studies indicate that the percentage of Christians world wide is not increasing, but in fact, true Christianity is losing ground to false religions and humanistic concepts that have been accepted in the church by church leaders.

The humanistic approach for church growth has many names, but its purpose is to make church more accessible and sensitive to the needs of  so called "seekers." It appeals to liberal mainline denominational Christians, Catholics, secular humanists, some Messianic Jewish groups and many who have stopped attending church altogether. Why does it appeal to these groups? The central point of what they teach comes down to nothing more than pop psychology with self-improvement concepts of our day which they call, "relevant messages." They present a message contrary to the Word of God that promotes a worldview of personal fulfillment, that evil on earth is conquered through the good will of men, that there are no evil people but only misguided ones and worse yet for some, Jesus is not the only way to salvation. This is all for one purpose, so people can feel comfortable attending their services. It should be obvious why this approach attracts so many people. However, the great deception behind this approach is numbers. If there is growth, then God has to be in it. Though these congregations tend to grow very large, do numbers really mean that God is in it? Absolutely not!!! In fact Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world and I can assure you that God is not in it.

The church (name withheld) most likely recognized as the forefront runner of this method of church growth has conducted a major survey to see what the results are from this method of church growth. The major thing that this survey revealed was, there was heavy involvement in church programs and activities that contribute to church growth, but it did not translate into spiritual growth and maturity. Their approach to church was not producing solid disciples of Jesus Christ. Numbers yes, but not disciples. Findings like these have caused the church leaders to stand up and admit, "We made a mistake." Can you remember the last time a church leader said anything like that?  It certainly takes humility and courage to admit this, but they are correct in their conclusion and should be applauded. Some of the deceptions that they have come to grips with are such things as, recognizing that the Church today is into therapy and needs to teach doctrine and grow people in the faith. That the church cannot just lead people to a superficial confession of Christ and not have their lives transformed. That church leaders cannot let themselves get caught up in a "just-get-'em-in-the-doors" mentality, no matter how attractive and effective it looks. That this approach to church growth can too easily lead to the watering-down of the Gospel, to a "feel-good" faith, where the church has little impact in society. They have concluded that the health of the church is not just about the numbers. It's about the movement of people toward Christ, toward deep love for God and genuine love for others.

The most deceptive issue behind this approach to church growth is not being able to "discern the sign of the times." In 2 Timothy 3:1-5 the Holy Spirit reveals to the apostle Paul exactly what we see taking place in the church today, it's called apostasy. Apostasy is the disaffiliation, abandonment, or renunciation of one's religion; the abandonment or renunciation of a religious belief. Paul, addressing the coming apostasy tells us that it only produces a form of godliness not true godliness and that it opposes the real power of Christianity. Paul tells us, "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek." (Romans 1:16) "And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God." (1 Corinthians 2:4-5) So what about real church growth?

In order for the church to see significant growth, it must adopt, embrace, implement and act upon the words that Jesus spoke which gave the early church unprecedented success and growth as well having an incredible impact and effect on society...
"Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." (Matthew 28:19-20). The church is to make disciples, students and follower of Jesus, not converts and follower of the desires of the flesh. They are to be taught and to comply with all things that Jesus said and did. This means to be taught and comply with the Word of God, the Bible, not books filled with vain philosophy and psychology that have been authored by church leaders. Notice that what Jesus spoke is a command not a suggestion. He finishes His command by saying, "and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Church leaders must wake up and understand that if we are not obeying what the Lord has commanded, even though we may have large numbers of people, the Lord will not be with us. We will find ourselves building an Ichabod without even knowing it because we have mistaken numbers for true Christianity.

Jesus also said, "And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover." (Mark 16:17-18) Then Mark also records, "So then, after the Lord had spoken to them, He was received up into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of God. And they went out and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word through the accompanying signs." (Mark 16:19-20) Jesus will always confirm His Word with signs and wonders. If congregation are not seeing signs and wonders then only three possibilities exist. You either do not believe that signs and wonders are for today, you are not teaching and preaching the Word of God or most likely, both. The reality is, signs and wonders have always been a part of God revealing Himself to humanity in both the Old and New Testament. It was signs, wonders and the Word of God that drew the multitudes to Jesus. It was signs, wonders and the Word of God that gave the early church unprecedented success and growth and it will be signs, wonders and the Word of God that will cause the greatest church growth in the end times.

I myself almost got caught up in building church the very way mentioned above where we experienced great numerical growth but it was at the expense of true spiritual growth. However, about six years ago a tug of war emerged within me where I became frustrated with church. The Lord spoke to me and told me to preach His Word and He would reproduce Himself in the saints who would walk in His grace and power through faith in Jesus Christ. Well, as fast as we grew, we began to shrink in number. But that also happened to Jesus when He spoke spiritual truths to his disciples,  "It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life. But there are some of you who do not believe. For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who would betray Him. And He said, "Therefore I have said to you that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted to him by My Father. From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more." (John 6:63-66)  In the midst of it all I stood upon God's Word and as always He is faithful to do what He had promised.

The lost world desperately needs to see the real Jesus, and hear the real truth, God's Word. The Book of Acts reveals just how powerful the name of Jesus is as well as the Word of God. The apostle Paul knew this and considered all that he had learned his entire life as a religious leader to be repulsive to the knowledge of Christ, the truth. (Philippians 3:7-9) The lost world is depending on the church to rid itself of new age philosophies, pop psychology and worldly concepts of self-improvement and return back to the scriptures so that they can become complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work, experiencing true life as well as experience the power and glory that radiates from the life of Jesus Christ to the believer. Remember, Jesus Said, "I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly." (John 10:10) Bless the Lord!!! 

Monday, June 7, 2021

Editifying One Another in Love

The act of edifying, is to build up, especially in a moral, emotional, or spiritual sense, through encouragement and instruction.. This is accomplished by the members ministering to one another. The Holy Spirit through the apostle Paul reveals how the church is brought into this purpose, "And He Himself (Jesus) gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head, Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love." (Ephesians 4:1-16).

Notice the five wonderful gifts apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers, that Jesus gave to His church. Also notice the ministry that they bring to the church which causes growth. They equip the saints for the work of ministry, which is for the edifying of the body of Christ. When we look at church history and even look at the church today, we find that many sectors of the church reject the ministry of the apostle and prophet. Yet their purpose, (not function), for the edifying of the body of Christ is the same as the other three ministries, evangelist, pastor and teacher. Next, these five ministries are to function, till we all come to the unity of the faith. I suppose that those who do not believe that the ministry of the apostle and prophet exist today also believe that the church for centuries has been flowing together in the unity of the faith.

These five gifts are also to bring the church to the knowledge of the Son of God. The word knowledge here is the Greek word, epignosis which mean to have a full or complete knowledge. This complete knowledge would bring the church to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. But is this true for the church as we know it today? Maybe the rejection of the apostle and prophet is the main reason why the vase majority of the church is still a child being tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting. I like to say it this way, being tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine created and accepted by faithless church leaders, that operate in and through their senses.

The church is to be a related body of believers speaking the truth in love, that is growing up in all things into Him who is the head, Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love." Let's look at some of the ways the church, every member of the body of Christ is to edify itself...

  • Love one another (John 13:34-35) 
  • Comfort one another (1 Thessalonians 4:18)
  • Honor one another (Romans 12:10)
  • Serve one another (Galatians 5:13)
  • Be kind to one another and forgive one another (Ephesians 4:32)
  • Esteem one another better than yourself (Philippians 2:3)
  • Do not lie to one another (Colossians 3:9)
  • Encourage one another (Hebrews 3:13)
  • Do not speak evil of one another (James 4:11)
  • Have compassion for one another (1 Peter 3:8)
  • Fellowship with the Father, Son and one another (1 John 1:7)
This is not all inclusive of what scripture reveals concerning ways that all believers are to edify one another, but it is enough for us to get this second important reason for the church's purpose and existence. How do you suppose the world would react to the church if believers in just one denomination could live out the edification principle shown above? It is so very sad to see how congregations that seem to be concerned with the town or city that they are in do not work together because of pride and petty differences. I believe that what we call the church today will be restored to the principle that the Bible reveals which means the realization and acceptance of all the ascension gifts that Jesus gave to the church. As I have said to many pastors, success is not based on numbers but on the spiritual growth of each member of the body of Christ. I know this to be true on two levels.

Making a long story short, first, it was my passion to see large numbers in the church (it still is) but to achieve this it would come at a price. Church programs would need to be implemented to meet social needs, replacing true discipleship to meet spiritual needs. The church grew rapidly but the people did not grow spiritually.  The danger behind this is blending the glorious Body of Christ with worldly concepts for the sake of numbers. It is twisting the Word of God so people can feel good about themselves by avoiding any scripture that might sound offensive or seen as being intolerant. In other words, it's presenting a people pleasing passive gospel rather that a God pleasing life changing gospel. General William Booth said it best, “I consider that the chief dangers which confront the coming century will be religion without the Holy Ghost, Christianity without Christ, forgiveness without repentance, salvation without regeneration, politics without God, and heaven without hell.” (This was spoken over one hundred years ago)

The second part of the equation is revealed in the ministry of Jesus. He also had a "feel good" crowd following Him. (John 6:26) But when the truth was revealed many of these followers were offended and walked with Him no more. (John 6:60-61, 66) After ministering to thousands of people in the three and one half years of His ministry on earth as the Son of Man, only four women and one apostle stood by the cross. (John 19:26-26) Then after His resurrection He was seen by Peter, then by the twelve and five hundred other brethren. (1 Corinthians 15:5-6) However, after His ascension only about a hundred and twenty disciple gathered in the upper room waiting for the promise of the Father (Acts 1:4, 15). Not a very large number of disciples after ministering to multitudes of people for three and one half years.

The point is that edifying one another in the church does not mean being social only, but more important, being spiritual. The church must get back to relating on a spiritual level, God is Spirit (John 4:24) and love one another as God loves (Romans 5:3-8) for God is love (1 John 4:16) We must understand that the God kind of love in the believer is a fruit of the recreated spirit (Galatians 5:22) and for the church to truly edify itself in love, every believer must respond to the God kind of love that is spiritual and not the social kind of love that is carnal. Finally, the church must let all of the ascension gifts operate in their individual functions to fulfill the mandate of Ephesians 4:12-16. So, let us all decide to take our part in edifying one another in the God kind of love which is spiritual.